Calligraphy for a Cause


A year ago my life changed. What started as a simple pain in my right hand transformed into excruciating surges of pain in both arms day and night. I was working on a complicated case at work and didn’t think much of it. I needed to write and the job needed to be done yesterday. So I put in the hours, ignored the pain and stayed focused on my goal. In the end, what started as carpal tunnel and a repetitive stress injury turn into a nightmare.

I couldn’t type, couldn’t open doors, couldn’t lift anything, couldn’t grasp objects and couldn’t sleep because of the pain. I could talk and walk, but that was it. If I tried to use my hands, they would scream in pain, go ice cold and start changing colors for several hours. If I tried to carry objects in the crook of my arm, then I would have pain in my biceps, shoulders and neck. If I stayed perfectly still, it was better but the pain never went away.

Three months after my injury my workers compensation was approved. I had doctors turn me away because they didn’t want to deal with the paperwork. The doctors that would see me assumed that I was making it up to get paid leave. They would do a partial job and refer me to someone else. It was absolutely horrific. All I could do was sit there watching helplessly as another doctor did nothing. This was only compounded by the constant pressure from my manager to get back to work. I tried to push my hands so I could keep my job, but only made my condition worse. The doctors wouldn’t help me and my manager constantly demanded more. It was like being stuck on a medical merry-go-round with my manager smacking me every time I went around the circle.

I had no choice but to pay out-of-pocket for all the tests that the doctors ordered. Some of it was covered by my insurance, but the co-pays were not small. Every specialist wanted to see you at least two or three times, even if it was just to tell you that the results were not conclusive and they wanted you to see someone else. Do the math. I’ve seen around 10 doctors. I pay $40 for every visit and each doctor wants to see you at least 3 times. That doesn’t include the out-of-pocket expenses for tests. To put it lightly, our finances were strained.

My husband spent at least an hour and a half every day driving me to and from work on top of his hour-long round-trip to his office. He had to drive me to all of my doctors appointments, repeated bloodwork, the two MRIs, CT scan, echocardiogram, ultrasound, EMG and chest x-ray. I couldn’t cook so we ate a lot of pizza and Chinese take-out, which we normally don’t do for health and budget reasons.

It’s been a year since my injury. I’ve gotten used to my new life. I have anywhere from 40-60% of the functioning back in my arms depending on the day. I can drive for short periods of time. I don’t have to use a straw to drink or ask my husband to cut my food for me. I can cook, which I really missed. I’m starting to feel like myself again and not a shell of who I used to be. I’m still not sure if I’ll ever get full functioning back in my arms. I may not be able to do so many things that I love anymore.

I decided the best way to help with the financial burden my injury has caused is to sell my calligraphy pieces. The medical bills are far from over. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do calligraphy again, especially not to that scale. I want my creative outlets to be more than a reminder of something I used to do. I may be finishing a chapter in my life, but it could be the start of an amazing one. Maybe my limitations could lead to something wonderful. Maybe I can sell a piece of calligraphy, pay a bill and enrich someone else’s home with something I created. Maybe one case and one decision will become something truly positive.

calligraphy 2

Please consider purchasing a calligraphy piece. The proceeds are going to a good cause. I’m happy to answer any questions, but sadly will not be able to do any custom pieces.


Lemon Chicken Linguine


I absolutely adore Pinterest. It doesn’t matter if half of the projects I try don’t work. I made my own modge podge. Just because it turned out to be only slightly sticky goo that was useless is beyond the point. I made something unique. I have two unfinished Pinterest projects sitting around the house. Mostly, because the advertised simplicity has turned into several weekends of sheer dedication. Needless to say, it’ll be a while before I finish. That’s the main reason that I look to Pinterest for inspiration, but don’t alwasy give into the temptation. I never know what I’m getting myself into.

Last night I made an exception. I found a recipe for Lemon Chicken Fettuccine, had all of the ingredients and gave into the drool worthy picture. My main reason for sharing this recipe with you today is simple – it was delicious! My husband wholeheartedly agreed and have already had to discuss who is getting the leftovers. I would make it again in a heartbeat.

For those of you who know me, I like to play with recipes. I’ll make substitutions based on what I have in the fridge and adjust here or there. I made no exception last night. The original recipe calls for chicken, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes. I didn’t have any fresh tomatoes, so I used canned. (The recipe cooks the tomatoes so you don’t notice the difference.) I also had some fresh spinach and artichokes in the fridge that I decided to add. The flavors blended together perfectly. I also substituted lemon pepper for pepper at every opportunity. I wanted the chicken, veggies and the sauce to have a nice balance of lemon. Obviously, if I’m sharing the recipe with you then it turned out just right. My favorite bit of happiness to announce: I wouldn’t make anymore alterations. What was created last night was perfect. Paired with the right white wine it’s heavenly.

Lemon Chicken Linguine

8 oz linguine
1 lb. Chicken, diced
8 oz mushrooms
Handful of fresh spinach
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
4-6 artichoke hearts, diced
Lemon pepper
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 lemon, squeezed
1/8 tsp garlic powder
Parmesan cheese, to garnish

1.) Boil pasta while you make the sauce. Ideally, you want the pasta and the sauce to finish at the same time to avoid overcooking.
2.) In a large saute pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and warm to medium heat. Saute the diced chicken seasoned generously with lemon pepper and a dash of salt until brown. Add mushrooms. Cook 3-5 minutes and add diced tomatoes, artichoke hearts and fresh spinach. When spinach has wilted, reduce heat and add 1 tablespoon of parsley, a dash of lemon pepper and a dash of salt.
3.) Create the sauce in a separate bowl or cup. Add two tablespoons olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon, to taste. (Because you are using a lot of lemon pepper, you may not need as much lemon juice. Adjust accordingly.) Add a dash of salt, 1/4 tsp of lemon pepper and the garlic powder. Taste and perfect to your preference.
4.) When the pasta is done, add it to the saute pan of veggies and pour in lemon oil sauce. Toss to combine. Serve with a small sprinkle of parmesan cheese and enjoy!


The Ultimate Bacon Creamy Bowl of Happiness


This is the ultimate creation of creamy, bacon, curry happiness. Unlike the rest of the nation, I haven’t given in to the bacon craze. I enjoy it, but can live without it. However this is one of the recipes that always makes me whistle a different tune. All it took was one taste and I was sold. For those of you who are already bacon fans, be prepared to enter a state of bliss.

My husband introduced me to this recipe when we were dating. I had managed to catch a whopper of a cold and was stuck on the couch feeling miserable. He came over to my apartment with juice, medicine and the ingredients for Bonfire Warmer Soup. I absolutely loved it. Now whenever it’s gloomy outside, one of us gets sick or we can think of any other excuse, we make this recipe. It’s the best comfort food you could ask for. Serve it with a roll of crunchy bread and you’ll be converted as well.

I always double the recipe, but somehow never get a chance to freeze any of the leftovers. The soup disappears from the fridge too quickly. I’ve made it with turkey bacon and haven’t noticed a difference in flavor. It’s still delightfully savory.


Bonfire Warmer Soup

1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, chopped
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 Tablespoons plain flour
2 cups minus 2 Tablespoons milk
2/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock

1.) Gently sauté the carrot, onion and bacon in the butter for 10 minutes until softened.
2.) Stir in the curry powder and flour, cook for 2 minutes.
3.) Gradually add the milk and stock stirring continuously until the soup thickens and boils.
4.) Serve with crusty bread.

Homemade Bisquick with Butter

Maple Syrup on Pancakes

When I was growing up every Sunday morning my father would either make an omelet or pancakes. My favorite was always the pancakes. He’d use our trusty box of Bisquick, add a few spices, fruit or chocolate to make each round of pancakes unique. As an adult, I carry on the tradition. I use my Bisquick and make pancakes, biscuits and dumplings. It’s never let me down.

As you all know, I enjoy finding ways to make something homemade that’s cheaper and easier than the store bought option. I was thrilled when I found a homemade Bisquick mix. It was so much cheaper than the store bought box I was shocked I’d never made it before. My only problem – every one of these mixes uses shortening. Shortening is a chemically created lard that is one molecule away from plastic. It’s popularly used in baking and icing because it holds its structure in high temperatures. If you still think shortening isn’t a problem, the next time you’re baking cookies put a thin layer of shortening on your pan. When you’re cleaning your pan, you’ll notice that the composition of the shortening never changes. It doesn’t melt. It just stays there and glistens. When you’re trying to keep your cookies fluffy, it makes sense, but I really don’t want something like that in my body. It’s a personal choice at the end of the day.

Any how, for a year I have gone without my beloved Bisquick. I’ve tried butter based pancake recipes and they couldn’t hold a candle to the original. I tried the Heart Healthy Bisquick that doesn’t have any shortening, but the flavor isn’t right. I was about to give up when I found the perfect recipe thanks to Kitchen Simplicity. It’s very similar the to popular shortening based Bisquick mixes, but it’s made with butter. I made some pancakes yesterday and it was delicious! No more guilty feelings and more pancakes in our household. It’s definitely a big win!


Homemade Bisquick:

5 cups flour
1/2 cup baking powder
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter

Place all dry ingredients in a food processor. Slice the butter into pieces and add to the mixture. Pulse food processor until butter is pea sized. Do not over process. Store in an airtight container for 6 weeks or keep in the freezer.


2 cups homemade Bisquick
1 cup milk
2 eggs


1 cup homemade Bisquick
1/3 cup milk

Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Easy Tips to a Stress Free Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is only a few days away and the tension is building. People are getting nervous about traveling, creating the perfect feast or are simply frustrated with cranky people. Take a deep breath everyone. The holidays don’t have to be another reason to grumble. Here are some simple ways to enjoy your holiday and not feel trapped in the kitchen.

1.) Pick Recipes You Already Know

The most important thing for surviving the holidays is knowing what to expect. Pick recipes you already know are good and that you’ve made before. If you really want to try something new, pick only one recipe. New recipes are so easy to mess up and no one wants to bring a dud to the table.

Example: My office decided to throw a Christmas party and I wanted to try making homemade eggnog. The problem was the milk boiled and the whole thing curdled. I was stuck with chunky eggnog pudding. I didn’t have a pretty dish to put it in so I could pretend it was intentional. So, I brought in my pitcher of thick eggnog goo to the potluck. Needless to say, no one ate it and I haven’t tried to make eggnog since.

2.) Go Grocery Shopping Early

We all know that the closer it is to the holidays, the worse the grocery store becomes. I know that if I want to stay in the holiday spirit, I have to avoid grumpy stressed people trying to run you over to get to the checkout lane. Take the time now to put together your grocery list and get to the store while it’s still relatively quiet. It also gives you plenty of time to grab any last minute forgotten items.

Example: Last year I realized that I had forgotten to purchase the sweetened condensed milk I need to make my amazing pumpkin pie. Thankfully I realized this out early enough in the day and could make my own. It took a long time, but I was able to make my pumpkin pie without anyone realizing my mistake. So before you rush to the store, do a quick online search for possible substitutes. You might have something on hand you can use instead.

3.) Make Your Sides and Desserts Ahead of Time

You can make your pumpkin, apple, pecan or mincemeat pie several days ahead of time. Just bake them and keep them in the fridge until the big day. If you really want to plan ahead you can assemble your pie, not bake it and keep it in the freezer for several weeks. The day before your feast just pop it in the oven and give it plenty of time to cool. Most of your sides can be treated the same way. You can assemble, keep in the fridge and wait to bake or freeze and bake later.

Example: I try to make as much as I can before Thanksgiving day. It’s nice to wake up in the morning and just have to pop things in the oven. I always make my spinach pie, cheesy potatoes, pies, stuffing and small breakfast casserole ahead of time. Look at your recipes a second time. Your green bean casserole can easily be put together the night before.

4.) Know What You’re Doing with the Turkey

Almost every Thanksgiving horror story I read involves cooks who have never made a turkey before or want to try a new method. If you want to try something new, whether it’s roasting, frying, brining or smoking you want to test it out first. Buy a frozen chicken and try the method you prefer. Practice before the big day instead of running the risk of ruining the star of the meal.

Other Turkey Tips:
– Thawing your turkey can take days. Make sure you have enough time.
– When you’re estimating how much time you’ll need to roast, always double the time. I’ve never cooked an 8 lb. turkey in under 3 hours. You can always reheat the turkey, but you can’t serve it raw.
– If you’re brining your turkey, make sure your container is large enough to fit the bird, brine and ice. (5 and 10 gallon containers are best)
– Measure your oven before buying your turkey to make sure it will fit.
– Use a meat thermometer to avoid over or under cooking.
– Make sure you remove the giblets before roasting.
– Cook your stuffing outside of your turkey to avoid salmonella.
– Let the meat rest 15-20 minutes before carving.
– Keep animals out of the kitchen and away from the turkey!

Example: The first time I made the turkey for Thanksgiving I decided to brine it. I used a five gallon bucket I had cleaned out and added ice periodically. I put something heavy on the lid to avoid any canine investigation and I roasted the turkey to perfection. I did however have to transport my bird to my mother’s house. I covered it with tin foil and left it in the roasting pan. I was afraid it would move too much on the floor, so I put it on the passenger seat and drove very carefully across town. The turkey did survive the trip, but my car seat did not. It had a stain from the turkey drippings until the day I sold it. The moral of the story: whoever cooks the turkey hosts the party. You can transport it, but it’s a pain. Turkeys are best right out of the oven and it’s easier to make the gravy with fresh drippings.

In case you were wondering, I haven’t brined a turkey since that year. It was a lot of extra work and it only tasted good. I find that fresh turkeys are worth the extra money. They taste better, absorb the subtle flavors you toss in the cavity nicely and have a lot less salt injected into them which keeps them from tasting too dry.

5.) Plan an Appetizer or Pickle Tray

If you’re serving your Thanksgiving feast at 4:00 and having an early breakfast, expect to have a few rumbling tummies. Having a quick appetizer to pass around will give your guests something to hold them over but won’t fill them up. It will also keep the pressure off of you while everyone waits for the turkey to finish roasting.

Example: One Thanksgiving I made spinach artichoke roll-ups as a nice appetizer. However, they had to be baked and the oven was spoken for. Thankfully, there was a small convection oven on the countertop that I could use. The only problem was that it took longer to make everything because I had to work in batches. By the time everything was ready, half of the plate had cooled off. I learned my lesson after that and stick to a simple olive and pickle tray. They’re so easy to put together, don’t take up a lot of precious space in the fridge and are delicious. Any reason to have pickles works for me!

6.) Clean Your House Ahead of Time

Don’t wait until the last minute to put everything away, mop, and clean the bathrooms. The day of you should only have to vacuum and light a few candles in the bathrooms. It’s one less thing you have to worry about.

Example: Holidays are stressful for me because that’s always the time of the year that everyone is hosting a party and work is chaotic. I get home and the last thing I want to do is make a pie. Instead of grumbling or skipping this homemade festival, I normally set aside a schedule. On Friday I’ll do my grocery shopping, Saturday I’ll make my pie, Sunday I’ll take off and Monday I’ll clean the bathrooms. I find that if I chip away at my To Do List it’s easier to face the holidays. The most satisfying moment every Thanksgiving and Christmas is driving home the night before the big day. The grocery stores are packed, cars are bumper to bumper and everyone around me is grouchy. Instead of feeding into it, I get to sit back and smile. All the hard work is already done and I can enjoy my holiday.

Holidays are the time of the year you get to spend with close friends and family and have a delicious feast. It’s a chance for old traditions and making some new ones. Whether you’re hosting your first Thanksgiving or bringing a dish for Christmas, there are some simple things you can do to enjoy the season instead of dreading it. Plan ahead, kick back and relax. Enjoy your holiday instead of feeding into the stress and frustration.