All Good Things… My Final Day in the Kitchen

All Good Things… – My Final Day in the Kitchen

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)

The following clichés are true… All good things must come to an end… and guess what?  You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

I set reasonable goals for my education, and while they had to be tweaked midstream due to unforeseen circumstances, I can proudly say that I have achieved what I set out to do…engage and better my brain, while giving myself  an improved chance at finding a lifelong career.  Not a job…a CAREER.

My journey as a student blogger for Fox in the Kitchen is ending, but my journey toward a successful life is far from over, and it’s highly unlikely that this is the end of my educational training.  I’ve had a heck of a time with this old brain, but I have thoroughly enjoyed being inside the walls of Fox Valley Technical College.  The instructors, the staff, my mentors and peers… there really isn’t much to be said but glowing accolades for the school!

Every day, new doors are opened for me, revealing new opportunities.  Some of them appear terrifying, so I slam the door and run back onto the road.  Others are “wolves in sheep’s clothing”, trying to entice me to enter and follow the wrong course.  Fortunately, my education and life-learned wisdom (mostly through trial and error) has helped my discernment. My faith has kept me on course…and I know with all of my heart that I’m right where God needs and wants me to be at this point in my life.  Each and every breath I take gives me the chance to be a better person and make the world a better place for others, and that’s just what I intend to do…one smile, one good deed, and one cupcake at a time.

I’d like to publicly acknowledge and thank all of the wonderful people in the FVTC marketing department who have allowed me the opportunity to bring you these posts.  It’s been a source of great joy for me to do so.

My next goal is to continue to use my personal food blog and website, “It’s Yummilicious”, as a means to provide great food tips, grocery savings information, and recipes to my readers, but I also plan to start writing a book about my adventures in food and life.  I am hopeful that within the next several months, my physical health will improve enough for me to return to work, at which time I will launch an Internet storefront where I can sell my baked goods.  I hope you’ll join me there.  I’d love for you to see what God does with me next.  I’m about to spread my wings and soar!

I wish you all the very best…always-


My good friend, Gina and I, after the ceremony. We made it!


An Incredible and Inspirational Man

I believe a smack across my hand with a ruler may be in order! I’ve been penning this blog for two years and although I’ve mentioned his name before, I have never once told you how much this man means to me:

Wait a minute… that picture is FAR too prim and proper to be Chef Jeff Igel…. HERE’S what my mentor REALLY looks like:

Or perhaps he’ll approve of THIS pic.

He’s in his second favorite environment. All that’s missing are a bag of his beloved Cheetos and an ice cold brew!

Why do I adore Chef Jeff (or CJ, as he’s permitted some of us to call him)? Without turning this post into a mushy affection fest, let me count the ways.

First, there’s CJ the family man. I find it incredibly inspirational that he makes room in his ϋber busy schedule to attend his son Jake’s athletic events, spend time with his daughter Cassie (who also attends FVTC), and to take his wife Paula out on a date night. As he’s said many times to his students, a successful life is about making a perfect balance of work, family, and personal time. CJ seems to be talking the talk AND walking the walk very well.

As if his ethics and moral character aren’t enough, he’s got an overall snappy happy Monday morning attitude, too. Aye carumba! I don’t know what kind of happy pills are being thrown into his Wheaties in the morning, but the man has a spring in his step and a smile on his face regardless of the nasty a** attitude that his cost controls students bring into the classroom with them on Monday mornings. He always seems to find a way to make his enthusiasm infectious. When the class starts at 8:30, we’re all grumping and bitching, but by 11:30, we’ve laughed, learned, and left MUCH better people than when we walked in the door.

I love (yes, I’m going to use that big “L” word, because “I have a fond affinity for him”, just doesn’t cut the mustard) Chef Jeff for his insatiable appetite for bringing out the very best in his students, and his talent for possessing the perfect timing to help us become better people. I’ve experienced it first hand, and I’ve also seen him do it with even the most unmotivated and stubborn of his students. He’s got a gift and he’s using it well! There have been times during this educational experience when I’ve felt defeated and was sure that I’d never make it through the semester, but Chef always knew what to say or do to keep me encouraged and pushing forward. Like last year, when he showed an incredibly inspirational video to us in his ethics and professionalism class. He gave me a heartfelt challenge to ponder what I wanted from my life and to continue chasing my dreams….so I did!  Besides that, he’s constantly making me laugh. Like the time I helped him with some administrative phone calls for the FVTC Cultural Cuisine event and he nicknamed me his “call girl”.

It’s been said that success in life is rarely achieved without first having a passion and willingness to work at making it happen.  While I believe that to be true, I also believe that an equally important step in the process is to find someone who encourages us and nurtures the seeds of self-confidence and enthusiasm that are surely needed along that long and winding road to the finish line!

Over the past two years, Chef Jeff has been an incredible source of knowledge, inspiration, and motivation to me.  He’s been my cheerleader when I needed one the most.  He’s helped me to dust the cobwebs from my brain, weed out my self-doubt, and begin to grow a beautiful garden of knowledge in my brain and happiness into my soul.

He is definitely one of a kind, and I will forever be grateful to him for what he’s done to help me along this amazing journey.
CJ, I am now and will forever be grateful to God for bringing you into my life just when I needed you the most…

In celebration of all things Chef Jeff, I think it only fitting that I share with you one of his grilling rub recipes. This rub brings the perfect flavor to a piece of brisket or flank steak and it’s the perfect treat to chow down on while watching your favorite ball game!

Chef Jeff’s Big Money Rub

Paprika Spanish                ½ Cup

Brown Sugar, light           ½ Cup

Salt, Kosher                        ½ Cup

Chili Powder, light           ¼ Cup

Black Pepper, coarse ground            ¼ Cup

Garlic, granulated or powder            2 Tablespoons

Onion, granulated or powder            2 Tablespoons

A Student’s Guide to a Successful Semester

“It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy of life lies in having no goal to reach.” Dr. Benjamin E. Mays

Photo credit:

This is truly a historically significant moment in my life! August 26, 2009…Two years ago to this very day, I was a non-traditional college student who decided to put on my big girl undies and wade out into deep, dark waters… in pursuit of higher education. Mind you, it had been 27 years since I had last set my eyes onto the insides of a school textbook. Thoughts of failure were lurking, but I had goals to achieve and a dream to live, so I refused to let them stop me.

“Consider the postage stamp:  its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there.” – Josh Billings

As I opened the doors at entrance 10 of the FVTC campus, I was timid, fearful…and truthfully, a bit nauseous. I was afraid of swimming with the barracuda… classes like Business Math and Culinary Applications, and downright terrified at the thought of bumping into the ravenous sharks -the younger generation of students who would surely tease, point, and poke fun at my expense as I fumbled my way through cooking rotation classes.

Despite my fears, I was incredibly excited at the opportunity to learn and hone skills that would help place me back into the workforce, but still… I silently sobbed inside. The inner tapes of my mind were playing ancient messages. (The “voices of the devil” as I would later learn to tag them.) The tapes were blaring negative messages at me, telling me that I had no place or right to sit in a classroom and learn. They told me that I had been given an opportunity for a successful life…but that I had blown it. I had mapped out a life of failure for myself through my past actions.

“The cycle of God, the good, is broken by a single act of negativity. The cycle of negativity is stopped by choosing the good — not just once, but again and again until it is goodness that prevails in your life and in our world altogether.” – JOHN MORTON; “The Blessings Already Are”

This is for all of you new students out there…The ones who are afraid to try, or who are fearful of change. This is also for those of you who are facing difficult challenges in your life. You know who you are…You’re secretly wanting to give up that dream of yours. You’re afraid of embarrassment and/or failure, so you’re about to quit. I’m pleading with you to keep your dreams and goals alive!

As I’ve stated time and time again, (at times more for my own heart to hear than for others)… life is for the living. Make the most of EVERY day you are blessed with. Set goals for yourself and then act upon them. Use baby steps if you must, but start the adventure now…before it’s too late.

Here is my tried and true method for goal-setting:

  • Set weekly, monthly, and term-length goals – Make sure to set goals for effectively managing the time needed for classes, studying, family time, and work commitments. Oh, and don’t forget to plan for some social time, too. All work and no play quickly leads to stress and burnout. If you don’t own a day planner or have a calendar program on your computer or Smartphone, now would be a great time to invest in one. I happen to love Evernote. The best part: It’s FREE!
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Keep your goals achievable and realistic so that you won’t be disappointed if/when you can’t achieve them.
  • Reward yourself when you accomplish a goal. This doesn’t have to be anything expensive, and it probably shouldn’t be…base the size of the reward on the size and depth of the goal. When you finish a small goal, rent a movie, treat yourself to your favorite coffee drink, spend some extra time in a bubble bath, or take the family out for dinner. When you make it to the finish line of a long-term goal, then it’s appropriate to go all out with a big reward.

Please learn from my mistakes and don’t waste any more precious days, weeks, months, or years. There will never be a “perfect” time to do anything. Just DO it! The kids will always come first and you will always have commitments that are seemingly more important that bettering yourself. Your significant other will always need you, and there will always be bills to pay. If you’re worried about finances, you should be, but there is a large amount of scholarship money just waiting for someone to ask for it. Before I started school, I used every excuse in the book to avoid going. The excuses got old as I started regretting my life more and more.

NOW is the time to make time for YOU! Mistakes are never failures if we learn from them. Live and learn from every experience. Jump in to the deep end and start swimming toward those goals. NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS! Don’t let anything stop you…especially yourself.

I’m forging into my final semester of an educational experience that has been nothing short of miraculous and wonderful. In a million years, I would never have guessed that little old me would be embarking on graduation. But I persevered and decided to swim below the murky, dark waters. Once I did, I found that there is a beautiful sea down there to behold. Jump in my friend…the water’s warm and wonderful!

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: