Sunday, March 28, 2010

To My Kentucky Wildcats....

To My Kentucky Wildcats,

The Big Blue Nation is a little blue this morning. A loss is never easy to take, and a season ending loss is that much harder. But please don’t think that because you lost we are disappointed in you. Are we disappointed that we didn’t win a national title? Sure. We really do want to win one every single year. But, while the loss stings, I’ve seen enough to know that given some time things will gain some perspective. In some ways they already have.

Last night was hard, but one game does not define a season. What you gave to us was so much greater than one win or loss. Greater even, than a National Title. What you gave us was a season that we will remember for a long time. What you gave us was a season filled with hope, expectations, and pride. And I have never been more proud of a team than I am of this one.

When I think about where this team--this program really--was at this time last year and where we ended up this year, I can’t help but be amazed. If you had told me back in March of last year that this team would have finished the year with only 3 losses, SEC regular season and tournament titles, and a trip to the Elite Eight, I would have told you that you were crazy. But you did all that. And more.

So, just let me say this one thing to you all. To Wall, Cousins, Patterson, Bledsoe, Orton, Liggins, Harris, Miller, Dodson, Stevenson, Harrelson, Hood, and Krebs:

What you did as a team for this state means more than any trophy ever could. I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but one day you will understand. We all cheered with you, and we all hurt with you, because, in case you hadn’t figured it out by now, when you put on that Kentucky uniform and take the court you aren’t just playing for yourself, your team, or your coach. You are playing for all of us. The fans all around this state that have grown up with this team. The hundreds of kids that spend hours shooting baskets in their driveways and back yards on courts made of asphalt, concrete, and dirt with baskets nailed to light poles, garages, and the side of barns. You are playing for all of us who dreamed of taking the floor at Rupp with guys whose names now hang in the rafters there. We didn’t make it. But you did, and so every time you take the court, we are there with you. And what you did this year for us is something we will always remember. You brought back the swagger. You brought back the fun. And most of all you brought back the pride.

So, while it hurts right now, know that, in the great tradition of Kentucky Basketball History, this team will always hold a special place as the team that restored our program to its rightful place. We didn’t win it all this year, but the ship has been righted and we all know that one soon we will cut down the nets. Some of you may be there too. If you are, know that you have the entire Big Blue Nation with you. As we are now. As we always will be.

Thank you for a wonderful season.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What in the World Happened?'s been awhile. I went to Dad's and ate well. And then I came home and had left overs for a couple of days. And then I took off on a spur of the moment trip to New Orleans (which if you know me at all, you know that's nothing like me). The trip was a blast--exactly what I needed after a stressful couple of months at work. And I got to eat some really good food. But then it was back to the real world.

We got back Sunday night. I broke down and went out to eat (at Qdoba) that night since being in the car for 11 hours kind of makes you not want to cook. Breakfasts this week have been mostly cereal. And Monday & Tuesday I had to buy lunch at work since I didn't have time in the morning to fix anything. Dinners were just leftovers that were already in the fridge.

Today was the first day that I actually cooked again. Dinner consisted of pork chops from the freezer marinated in Tequila Lime 30 min Marinade and cooked under the broiler. I also mades some green beans (home grown and canned last summer) and some frozen peas. It was nice to have some real food again.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the money situation got resolved (some what anyway) which is why I was able to afford the trip to New Orleans (which we did very cheaply). But I still like the idea of eating out of the pantry, especially since we are so close to the end of the month already. And I never realized how much food I have on hand! It's amazing what gets shuffled to the back of the pantry/freezer/fridge. I'm kind of liking the fact that I'm making more room in my kitchen for food and I hope that once I get things kind of cleared out, I can do better about not buying too much food. And, while having a nice, neat pantry is a good goal, having a nice low grocery bill will be great too.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday's Menu--Day 6

This will be last post for the week, mostly because I'm headed to my Dad's house and won't have to worry about food or cooking--only eating. But I did have to come up with my first two meals today.

Breakfast--Pancakes (Hungry Jack Mix + Milk + Eggs + Oil +Vanilla)
I like to add vanilla to my pancakes. I think it gives them just a little more flavor. I also always add egg, even when the mix doesn't call for it because I think it gives you fluffier pancakes. And , I have to confess, that I didn't go to work today, so I got up late and ate even later, so really, this was kind of a brunch.

Lunch--Animal Crackers, Gummy Bears
Not the most nutritious lunch, I know, but I really wasn't hungry and just needed to put a little something in my stomach. I'm sure dinner tonight will make up for it.

That's it for the first week of eating out of the pantry. See you on Sunday night, and LET GO BIG BLUE!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wednesday & Thursday's Menus (Days 4 & 5)

Wednesday was an interesting day. I thought lunch was taken care of (due to a luncheon at work) but it turns out the luncheon was on Thursday. That threw a wrench into things, since I didn't take anything with me to work. So.....I ended up coming home for lunch and fixing something, which then meant that I wasn't as hungry as I normally would have been for dinner. Anyway, here is what the menu looked like:

Breakfast--Cheerios w/Milk

Lunch--Grilled Cheese Sandwich, French Fries, Dill Pickle (very very yummy)

Dinner--Microwave Popcorn (maybe not so nutritious, but I wasn't too hungry so it worked out)

And then, for today, there was very little cooking. In fact, a large portion of the food I ate was free. We had a seminar this morning at work which meant free bagels, donuts, and coffee. And then there was the previously mentioned luncheon which had some wonderful food. I did cook dinner, however, even if it was just macaroni and cheese (the good homemade kind, not the out-of-the-box kind).

Breakfast--Yogurt (at home) and Donuts and Coffee (at work)

Lunch--Chicken, Potatoes, Green Beans, Salad, Chess Cake (work luncheon)

Dinner--Macaroni & Cheese (recipe follows)
  • 1 small box cooked elbow macaroni noodles
  • 1 small block of sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
  • 2 tbsp margarine
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 cups milk
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Mix the noodles, cheese, and margarine in a greased casserole dish.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, milk, salt, & pepper.
  3. Pour the milk & egg mixture into the casserole dish with the noodles/cheese/margarine.
  4. Bake at 350 for 40-50 min. Let sit for about 10min before serving.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tuesday Menu--Day 3

So today's menu was as follows:

Breakfast--Cheerios and Milk

Lunch--Leftover Meatless Taco Salad from Monday night

Dinner--Frozen Chicken Enchiladas (made previously and frozen)
Mexican Rice (Lipton's Rice Sides)

Back before Christmas, I boiled a couple of chicken breasts, and then shredded the meat. I mixed the shredded meat with a can of enchilada sauce and some shredded cheese and rolled it up in four tortillas. Each tortilla was then wrapped in saran wrap and placed in a freezer bag and frozen. Last night I simply pulled the bag out of the freezer, removed 2 of the enchiladas, put them in a greased casserole dish, poured another can of enchilada sauce on top of them, and then sprinkled the whole thing with more cheese. The dish went into a 375 degree oven for 20 min, and was ready to eat.

All in all, it was a yummy meal, with plenty of leftovers again for a lunch this week. The rice was good, if just a bit bland, but the enchiladas might have been better frozen than they were fresh. If nothing else they were a good, quick meal. I still have 2 more in the freezer, so expect to see them on the menu again this month at some point.

Tomorrow's dinner: Chicken Nuggets and French fries.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday's Menu....Day 2

Today's Menu

Breakfast--3 Chocolate Chip Muffins leftover from yesterday, Green Tea

Lunch-- Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich, Chips (all from pantry)

Dinner-- No Meat Taco Salad
2 cups White Minute Rice
1 can Kroger Black Beans
2 Taco Salad Shells leftover from last week
Salsa, Sour Cream, Mexican Cheese

I was pleased by how well the taco salad turned out. I didn't have any meat, but the beans were protein and the salsa gave it some flavor. Not too bad. I had enough for leftovers for lunch tomorrow as well. So far, the total grocery bill is still at $39.66.

On tap for tomorrow: Chicken Enchiladas from the freezer with some Enchilada sauce from the pantry (I've apparently been stock piling the stuff).

Turning Lemons into Lemonaid

So, due to some unforeseen tax circumstances, my monthly budget is gone just 7 days in to the month. This means no more spending--or at least a s little spending as possible.

Now, this presents me with a dilemma. How do you eat without spending money?

At first, this seemed like a tall order. Then, I decided that this would be an opportunity to see what I could make from the food currently in my pantry, freezer, and fridge. So, we are going to see how little I can spend on groceries this month.

To be fair, I'd already bought a little food before this crisis set in, although not much. Some chicken nuggets, fries, and ketchup. A veggie tray, pop, chips and dip for a party. And milk and bread. So far, my grocery bill for March comes to $39.66.

Now, yesterday here is what I ate:

3 Chocolate Chip muffins made from a muffin mix an 1/2 cup milk
Leftover Tortilla Chips and Queso from the party Saturday
Dinner at my Sister's House
A piece of Blackberry Cobbler that I baked last week

So, from now on, I'm going to try and keep up with what I cook and eat and where it comes from. I'll also track my grocery spending through the month and list what I buy. It should be an interesting experiment. I want to see if I can keep my grocery bill below $75.00. We'll see.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Mother's Eyes

It is a truth universally acknowledge that every woman becomes her mother as she gets older. Not that I’ve ever been too unlike my mother.

I have always sounded a lot like her--people used to confuse us on the phone all the time. And I’ve been old that my mannerisms--the way I stand, the way I move, the way I talk--are very much like hers. And, while my personality trends more towards my Dad’s (Jenny got Mom’s personality), I am getting more and more like Mom as I get older.

I look like her. I look a lot like her. I have her tall, lanky frame, her long limbs, her long fingers. And no one would ever call either of us “curvy.” I didn’t inherit her coloring--my hair has stayed much lighter than Mom’s dark brown and my skin borders on albino while hers had more color to it--but I did get her propensity for freckles. I have her nose, her ears, and, most noticeably, her eyes. The one thing that people always remembered about Mom were her eyes and now, when I look in the mirror, I often see her looking back at me.

But there is one thing that I hope my mother didn’t pass on to me--her ovaries.

I know it seems like a silly thing to say--after all, it was those ovaries that produced me. But it was also those ovaries that left me motherless at 20. You see, Mom was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer when I was just 17. She was 43. She fought hard for almost 3 years, but before I could finish my junior year of college, she was gone. She was only 46.

The statistics say that chances of a woman suffering from ovarian cancer in her lifetime are 1 in 71. The majority of women who are diagnosed are over the age of 60. In fact, unless you have a family history of the disease, they don’t even screen for the cancer until you are 50. For someone with no family history to be diagnosed as young as Mom was is very rare. It happens in only 8% of all cases. The 5 year survival rate is less than 50% but 68% of all cases are diagnosed after the cancer has spread to other organs (like Mom’s) which drops the 5 year survival rate to a paltry 30%. And for someone like me, who has a family history of the disease, the risks are tripled.

I’m not going to pretend that I spend every second of every day worrying about the future, but it certainly crosses my mind. I have the symptoms of ovarian cancer (such as they are) memorized--bloating, abdominal pain, feeling full quickly, digestive tract issues, rapid weight gain or loss. Every weird twinge, every bout of diarrhea, every time I lose a few pounds for no apparent reason I wonder if this it. I oscillate between wanting to run to the doctor for every little thing and not wanting to know. And, while I hate feeling like a hypochondriac, I recognize that the second option is potentially the fatal one. Luckily, I’ve found a doctor who understands my neurosis and takes all of my complaints seriously.

I also know that I’m doing everything I can to reduce my chances of developing ovarian cancer. As soon as I turned 25, I got myself into UK’s Ovarian Cancer Screening Program which means that I get a free ultrasound at least once a year. I’ve been on birth control pills since Mom died. I try to limit the amount of animal fats in my diet (which may be linked to a higher incidence of the cancer). I run and try to maintain good overall health. And, while I have not yet been tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (since my insurance won’t pay for it), I will get tested one day.

But all of that doesn’t mean that I don’t worry about what might be lurking in my body. I realized the other day that by the time my mother was the same age I am now, her life was more than half over. In 16 years, I will be the same age she was when she was diagnosed. In 19 years I will have out lived her. It was a sobering thought. And a scary one.

There are so many things that I wish I had asked her. So much that I just don’t know. Was she as insecure about her height as I am? How did she know that Dad was “the one?” What was it like when she and Dad started their family? Did she know something was wrong before she went to the doctor? Was there anything she overlooked?

And of course, there are the things that she won’t ever get to experience with me. She didn’t get to see either of her daughters graduate from college. We never got to take our Europe trip the summer after graduation. I will never get to introduce her to the man I will marry. She won’t be in the hospital when I have my first baby. She will never know her grandchildren.

But then I look back over the years that I got to spend with her, and I have to smile. We had a lot of fun. There was a lot of love. And I can only hope that one day I’m half as good of a parent as she was.

So, I am proud to say that I am my mother’s daughter. When people mention how alike we are, I smile and nod. I know I have my mother’s eyes. But in one way at least, I hope I am different.

Monday, February 1, 2010

How Do I Love Thee....Let Me Count the Ways (John Wall Edition)

It’s coming up on Valentine’s Day (which I usually ignore) and love is in the air, so I thought I’d expound a bit on why I love John Wall. To set the record straight, I also love Patrick and Boogie, but Wall has been in the media a LOT in the last few days and so, naturally, he’s on my mind.

My love fest has to begin with the disclaimer that while I agree that Wall’s basketball skills are AMAZING, they aren’t the reason (or at least the main reason) why I love him. UK has been privileged to be the alma mater to a number of highly talented players over the years, but most of them don’t make my top five favorite players (Chuck Hayes, Tayshaun Prince, Travis Forde, Tony Delk, Cameron Mills). What you might notice about my all-time top 5, is that while 3 of them made it to the NBA, 2 didn’t, and one (Hayes) is relegated to mostly a back up role for his team. What made me love these guys wasn’t their on the court skills, rather it was a list of off the court qualities like attitude, team spirit, and emotion. (And the fact that Hayes cried on Senior Night.)

You might also notice that every one of those guys was a 4 year player at UK. I don’t really like the idea of One-and-Dones. I’ve never been a fan of players who come in highly regarded and stay only a year or two (Rondo, Morris, I’m looking at you). While I recognize their benefit to the team, I never really take to them for the simple reason that I don’t want to develop a relationship with someone who is going to leave early. So I was predisposed to hate Wall from the moment he signed his Letter of Intent.

I also tend to dislike players that come in with lots of hype. They rarely seem to live up to the expectations, and often come with egos that outstrip any talent they might have--can we say Rashad Carruth? (Carruth, Carruth, Carruth is on fire!) Yet another knock against Wall. How could a kid that was as hyped as Wall was not come in with a huge ego? How could he possibly live up to the hype? How much trouble would he cause?

What I found, almost from the first moment Wall set foot on campus, was that he wasn’t what I expected at all. First off, he was humble. Despite being asked about himself constantly, he rarely gave an interview where he didn’t mention at least one, if not more, of his team mates. He praised Cousins, Bledsoe, Patterson, everyone else on the team. And, surprisingly enough, the rest of the team didn’t seem to mind that Wall was getting the lion’s share of the attention--and they seemed to genuinely like Wall. Already I could feel my dislike beginning to crack.

He also went to class and studied hard (rumor has it that he got a 4.0 during his summer session and at least a 3.5 during the fall). For a kid who would be spending at most 3 semesters on campus to care that much about his school work seemed--well crazy. But he does care. And being a bookworm myself, that certainly made me love him (at least a little).

On the court he was even better than advertised. Did he make freshman mistakes? Sure. But after watching him play a few times, I was willing to give him a couple of stupid passes a game in exchange for some of his thrilling break away dunks and fabulous passes. And watching him take over games (but only when we needed him to) made me realize just how talented he was.

But what has cemented my love for John Wall is how he has handled the pressure cooker that is being the most talented freshman to play college basketball this year for the greatest college basketball program of all time. He has done amazingly well for a kid who is only 19.

Take, for example, this latest dust up about Wall and Cal not getting along. Did he make a rather ill-advised comment Saturday after the game about being unhappy and frustrated? Yeah. But he’s 19. Most 19 year old kids don’t have to deal with swarms of media every time they step into public asking about everything from his choice of shoe to why he isn’t smiling. Most 19 year old kids vent all the time to all kinds of people via Twitter, Facebook, and text. As far as I’m concerned, all Wall was doing was venting. His coach had gotten on him, and he was mad about it. He felt wronged. Most teens do at some point. So he said something he probably shouldn’t have.

What impressed me about the whole thing wasn’t that he slipped up and made the comment (although that did prove that he’s human). What impressed me were the comments he made today. He admitted that he was wrong about how well he played at USC. He admitted that Cal was right when he said Wall hadn’t played well and that he and Cal were “good.” And he admitted that there were things he wanted to work on.

What, might you ask, does Wall think he needs to work on? His scoring (17 points per game)? His rebounding (3.6)? Steals? Blocks? No, the thing that Wall thinks he needs to work on most is his assist per game average (6.8). He isn’t worried about the stats that most guys focus on, he wants to make sure he is getting the ball to his teammates enough.

For a little perspective, the all time assist leader at UK for a single season was Roger Harden who had 232 assists in the 85-86 season and averaged only 6.4 a game (over 36 games). Roger Harden also holds the record for the highest Assists/Game average in a single season. Wall already holds the single game assist record (16 vs Hartford). And the only other freshmen to ever lead the team in assists were the great Rex Chapman who averaged a measly 3.6 a game over 29 games and Liggins last year with an even more meager 2.8.

So, for Wall, arguably the best player in Division I basketball this year, to want to improve on his 6.8 assist per game average says a lot about this young man’s character. He wants to make his teammates happy when he has every right to think of them simply as “those other guys on the floor.” And so, despite the fact that I was predisposed to dislike him, Wall has wormed his way into my heart. Will he become one of my all time favorite players? Probably not. It is going to take a lot to crack my top 5. But he has certainly made himself one of my favorites on this team--and it has little to do with what he’s been doing on the court. Keep it up, John.