Just Smile

Each morning, the tourism department and Main Street department chat a little about their night and what the day is going to look like. We vent about personal things and/or share the good stuff. For some reason, customer service came up today.

It started with me sharing what I had for dinner last night. Tim and I are on our culinary journey in low-carbing, and I bought some Nathan Hot dogs. These dogs were exceptionally good and were super big – it was the Colossal brand. We basically had chili dogs with no buns and a side of lima beans. I did not intend to purchase these super big dogs, but on Saturday morning, our Wal-Mart pick up was not complete and there were several items unavailable. One of those items were my Nathan’s (normal size) hot dogs.

Tim and I had to stop by the dreaded Food Lion to pick up the missing items. We dislike Food Lion because of their customer service. (Now we can only speak of the customer service in the Americus store.) On the other hand, we like Food Lion because for whatever reason, this particular one carries rare and hard-to-find items that say, a Publix shopper might like.

As expected, when we got to the counter, I greeted the cashier:

“Good morning.”

The lady did not even look up and she mumbled, “Mornin’.”

“How are you today?”

“**mumble**”

Still not looking up. We got done with the transaction and I smiled and said, “Have a great day!”

All she did was scowl and hand me the receipt.

Now… I would almost give her an out, considering, we never know what people are going through. However, this is exactly the same treatment I get EVERY TIME I shop there.

Ugh.

What would it kill people to make eye contact and just… smile? That’s all we are asking for. Just a quick smile. I’m not interested in getting to know you or discuss politics, I just want to give each other a little common courtesy.

Alas, it seems impossible.

One thing my team prides itself on is exceptional customer service. I feel there is a great need for more people to learn the basics: Smile, greet, make eye contact, and show you give a damn.

Is that too much to ask?

Mental Road Blocks & The Curse of Mid-Life

Here we are, another Monday morning and another day at work. And so it goes until you can barely go anymore.

Welcome to your mid-life crisis.

I never really understood why someone would have a “crisis” or mid-course correction. It seemed silly. But here I am, half of the way into 47, and wondering what should I do next. Now when I say, “What should I do next?,” I do not necessarily mean career wise, but that is not off the table. What I mean is – I am very strategic and goal-oriented and I typically knock out goals one after the next. What do you do when your inspiration has dried up and you need new goals?

That’s a tough one at 47.

I wanted to dance, so for most of my life (younger, more fit life,) I danced. I wanted to act – so there was theater for most of my younger life. I wanted to get a degree and be a journalist – check. I wanted to do a documentary – check. I wanted to travel to NYC, Paris, Egypt, and make money – double check. I wanted to swim with manatee and ride an air boat. I wanted to take a vampire tour and see the Moulin Rouge. I wanted to learn to cook French cuisine. I wanted to win an Associate Press Award. I wanted to win the Commissioner’s Award in Tourism. I wanted to run a museum. I wanted to work in tourism. I wanted to marry someone from an exotic country. I wanted to host exchange students. I wanted a German Shepherd and a Siberian Husky. I wanted to build a house. I wanted to live in a big city, as well as a tiny town.

I’ve. Done. It. All.

What is next?

That’s what is on my mind this Monday morning.

Well for starters, I went ahead and signed up for a photography class. An ACTUAL photography class with the Atlanta School of Photography. It is a four-week course. I’m looking forward to stepping up my game. That’s a start.

That is something.

What are your current challenges and how are you pacing yourself to get through the middle half of life?

KETO Garlicky Cheddar Biscuits & Gravy

It’s time to prove that you don’t have to give up flavor or taste to eat low-carb!

Let’s get to it:

For the Biscuits:

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 c. almond flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cold, hard unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 12 c. sharp cheddar cheese, diced

Gravy:

  • 10 ounces bulk sausage, crumbled
  • 1/4 c minced onion
  • 1 – 8 oz block of cream cheese, soft
  • 1 c. beef or chicken bone broth
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Pre heat oven to 400

Grease a baking sheet with coconut oil spray. In a medium bowl, whip egg whites until stiff, then gently mix in garlic. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, stir flour, baking powder & salt until well combined. Fold the dry ingredients with the egg mix. (Carefully!)

Fold in cheese. If dough is too wet to form mounds, add a few tbsps of almost flour until dough sits well together.

Dollup onto the baking sheet. It should make about 8 biscuits. Bake 11 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.

While baking… make the gravy!

Place onions, sausage, & garlic in a large cast iron skillet. (I prefer cast iron!) cook 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until sausage is brown. Gradually add cream cheese, broth, and heavy cream – stir constantly, until a gentle simmer, and it begins to get thick and smooth. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 2 minutes. This will thicken the gravy further. Season to taste with S & P.

How do you pray?

Are you a person of prayer?

That’s a question I get a lot in the South. Our faith and how we practice it or not practice is of the utmost importance to most of our neighbors and friends. There appears to be a genuine concern for our salvation and almost every person you meet will powder you with a few basic questions after a few minutes of conversation:

  • Where do you go to church?
  • What is your denomination?
  • Will you say Grace for us?
  • Are you saved?

As a Roman Catholic, many of these answers can throw my acquaintances off.

  • I did go to St. Joseph’s but I have not found a church around here.

Which then leads the person to invite you to their church.

  • I am Catholic

Which is typically the answer I give after being invited to say.. a Baptist or Evangelical Church.

  • I am not overly interested in saying Grace. I’m sure someone else more qualified should

Which is always nice – because typically people want to showcase their skills in prayer. However, they definitely begin to size me up.

  • I do believe Jesus died for my sins, however, I don’t necessarily use the terminology that I am “saved.”

Which usually brings a whole slew of questions.

Anywhere else, these series of questions would be considered rude and intrusive. Down here – it is the norm.

Which brings me to the very question that often makes me uneasy or break out into giggles –

How do you pray?

I am uneasy because my prayers are very, very personal. Private, even. Sure – I pray for our nation and my family and for our leaders, however, I spend more time praying for wisdom and patience and sometimes, even a sign. As a Catholic, we have a lot of prayers. Pre-written, perfect little prayers that many of us memorize over the years. They say everything we need to say and I try to say them with gusto! Some people or rather, some denominations, are not a fan of pre-written prayers. Except for one: The Lord’s Prayer.

It is rare to encounter a single Christian that does not know the Lord’s Prayer. Did you know that the last line “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever” was added by King Henry the VIII? Yep. You will notice in many Catholic churches that we do not say that final line. (For obvious reasons. If not so obvious, it is time to brush up on your history! You can read about that HERE.)

I mentioned earlier that sometimes prayer styles make me giggle. Not that the prayer isn’t heartfelt or beautiful, it is the repetitive nature of calling on God or “The Lord.” Sometimes people will say, “Father God, or Lord” over and over within the prayer. Or the super passionate way some people pray.

Here is a great example:

Very passionate example

Some of these prayers are culturally different than what I am used to. No judgement, since prayer is a very personal choice. Different styles work for different people. Some are more passionate, some are somber, and some are very conversational.

On this Sunday, I began to contemplate prayers. I definitely believe in the power of prayer. I, as it is written in the bible, pray without ceasing. But more importantly, I live the words that St. Francis of Assisi shared hundreds of years ago:

Pizza Casserole – Low Carb

As promised, I want to share with you some of the incredible recipes my family and I are experimenting with.

If you will remember, on Memorial Day, I began eating a low-carb diet. As of today, Saturday, August 15th, I am down 17 pounds total. I’m not hungry, I’m not foggy, and I feel incredible.

If you are unsure if your kids or even YOU would enjoy the recipes, I am here to tell you, try THIS one. I have made this pizza casserole about once a week. It reheats like a charm and is extremely tasty, you won’t miss the crust (or have to eat that terrible cauliflower crust.) **Look, I don’t care what you think or have talked yourself into, cauliflower tastes like cauliflower.

Okay, let’s get to it:

You will need the following:

  • Casserole dish
  • Coconut Oil Spray
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • Italian seasoning
  • salt & pepper (I used coarse sea salt)
  • 1 can tomato sauce 29 oz
  • 1 block cream cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1 bag shredded mozzarella
  • 1 bag shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions (options)
  • 1 bag pepperoni

Preheat the oven to 350.

Spray the casserole with the coconut oil spray. Then drizzle the olive oil in a skillet. Heat it to medium-hi. Add onions and cook about 3 minutes. Then add garlic and stir.

Place the ground beef in the skillet and sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Then sprinkle some salt & pepper to taste. Use a meat chopper or spatula and break the beef up (as if you were making taco meat.) Brown the ground beef.

Then add the block of cream cheese & 1/2 of the can of tomato sauce. Sprinkle again with Italian Seasoning. Cook this and mix well until the cheese is melted.

Remove from the heat.

In a medium bowl (and you can do this while the cheese is melting,) combine the beaten eggs, 1/2 bag mozzarella, and heavy cream. It will be fairly thick.

Spread beef mix in the casserole dish. Then pour the egg mix over it. I typically sprinkle a little more salt & pepper & Italian seasoning. Then sprinkle the bag of cheddar cheese over the top. Layer pepperoni.

Then sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella over the top and layer again with pepperoni.

Bake 15 – 20 minutes.

Take the other half of the tomato sauce and mix with Italian seasoning. Heat in the microwave for 2 minutes.

When the casserole is finished, cut into squares and pour a little homemade marinara over the slice. DELISH!

Nicole’s KETO Pizza Casserole

Let Me Rock You, Chakra Khan

By now, most of you are familiar with chakras. And I am sure many of you, like me, have thought of it as a bunch a malarkey.

Well… I stand corrected.

During this pandemic, and specifically during the quaruntine, I decided to explore the chakras a little more closely. You see, when I went to Valdosta back in February for a conference, my friend and I decided to go see a psychic. Yes, I went to one of those houses that have a big sign out front that says, “Palm Reader.”

To be perfectly honest, I was not really into it. I went for my friend, who really believed in this sort of stuff. I just wanted to have a little fun and like always, I like to try new adventures. When we got there, I let my friend go first, so I was asked to sit in what I assume was the living room and just wait. I could hear the murmurs and some laughter, but for the most part, it was super quiet.

While waiting my turn, I looked around the room and saw a wide variety of things. Palm posters outlining your pathways and a big Buddha on the middle of the table. (I actually own that very same Buddha!) Then I noticed this wall with the rainbow colored chakras. Many, many years ago, when I first began studying meditation (in college,) I had this very thorough book on chakras. I remember thinking that it was just a little too “out there” and sometime over the years I must have donated it to a Goodwill. However, I was familiar enough to know what most of the different point were called.

Also while waiting, I decided to look this psychic up. I read the reviews then read her price point. Holy moly, am I in the wrong business! To have your chakras balanced or cleansed or whatever, it was around $600. What I was going for was a cool $60.

I finally got my chance and the psychic told me all of the things you would probably know by talking to me for a few minutes or looking at me. If she has an ounce of intuition like me, I could equally read her. She did tell me a few things that I thought, “Yeah, right.” But I went along with it and we left. My friend and I had a good laugh and that was the end of that.

Until it all came true. Seriously. Even the far out stuff.

Okay… made me rethink the whole thing… and those pesky little chakras.

I ended up ordering a great book on chakras called: Chakra Healing: A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Healing Techniques That Balance the Chakras

This book was incredible! I was able to truly understand how they work and why things are the way they are. None of it was malarkey and none of it was hokey.

One of the main things I was trying to tackle was my panic disorder. If you have followed my blog for a while, you know I have lived with a panic disorder since I was eight years old. Getting the to the root of the problem is where I am now. I understand how to deal with it, but what were my triggers and what was the main cause. And I finally understood – My root chakra was blocked.

As I took time to work through some meditations I had from a different book, I was able to uncover some of those triggers and I now firmly believe that my need to feel safe & more importantly, secure, was out of whack.

So what did I do?

I bought some sage and I saged my house. Interested in how to do it?

Click here:

https://clairedobson.com/wellness/mindfullness/sage-cleansing/

I also practiced some specific meditations and yoga poses that I learned in the book. And finally, I entered another world I always joked about: Crystals. Yes, those sparkly little rocks.

I’ll explore those more deeply later, but I did invest in some root chakra crystals.

I realize all of this seems a little strange, and yes, even I sort of scoffed at it for a while, but there is some good psychological benefits to some of this. For one, recognizing that fear and need to be safe and secure was key to understanding my triggers for a panic attack. Anything that appears to shake that in my world, will definitely set me off. So what if we call it the root chakra and assign a space in the body for it. It makes sense. Then when it comes to the crystals, I do believe in energy. Rocks are natural and contain energy (ever held a swinging quartz over a rock? You’ll be a believer.) What does it matter to have something that God made as a reminder to stay grounded?

I’m still learning and I am still exploring. I plan to share a little more about what I am learning in future posts. However, for today, I wanted to share with you a little about my new found chakra interests!

Tell me what you think in the comment section!

Recipes: Cheesy Chicken Casserole

Before I give you this recipe, I need to warn you, this is NOT low-carb. This just happens to be one of the easiest and biggest hits at my house with the family (back when we were not exactly eating low-carb.) If you are in a hurry or you need to take a dish to someone’s house OR you need something that is great reheated for a couple of meals, THIS is your dish!

Ingredients:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken (From any major grocery store (pre cooked)
  • 1- 10 3/4 oz chicken & mushroom soup
  • 1- 8 oz container of sour cream
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1- 8 oz package sharp cheddar, shredded & divided
  • 25 round Ritz butter crackers

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Remove chicken from the bones. Shred it.

Then pour the soup, sour cream, pepper and 1 1/2 cup of cheese onto the chicken. (Use a medium bowl.)

Combine 1/2 cup of cheese with crushed crackers.

Pour the chicken mix into a greased casserole. Sprinkle the cracker/cheese mix on top.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Cool 5 minutes

Let me know if you try this!

Healthier Living Done Better

I’ve done it you guys! I’ve stayed on a “diet” for almost three months now! 16 pounds down and going strong.

It started on Memorial Day. I woke up and saw my husband walking through the house in a t shirt and his boxers. It is no secret he has been doing KETO for going on three years now, however, I really saw the weight loss. Like REALLY saw him. He has lost almost 70-something pounds and looks fantastic. As most mornings go, I shuffled to the bathroom and came face to face with the scale. I thought to myself, “Why not? Just check.”

Dear Lord in Heaven.

I weighed more than I have… like EVER.

I mean, I realize I started purchasing 3xl shirts and that was sort of new. I should have known there was a reason. lol

I walked out of the bathroom sort of shell shocked. I made my way to the bed and sort of sat there. Tim looked at me like I had three heads and asked what was wrong. I said, “This has to stop. I’m going to do it.”

“Do what?”

“Low carb. I’m serious, Tim. This is it.”

He replied, “You know you have my support.”

And that was the beginning.

Best. Decision. Ever.

When I truly make my mind up to do something, I go full force. I ordered some cook books:

  • Southern Keto
  • Air Fryer Keto
  • Keto Comfort Foods
  • Keto Dairy-Free
  • Keto Soups
  • Keto Desserts

I even went so far as to purchase an air fryer and ice cream maker. And my new culinary journey took off.

I’ve tried a variety of recipes and honestly, Pinterest has a ton to choose from. If you are interested in seeing my Pinterest Low Carb list, click HERE.

I’ve had many friends ask what I am doing and what I am buying. You have to know, I am doing a sort of low-carb dirty KETO diet. I still eat dairy, though a heck of a lot less and I continue to eat my bananas, etc. But what I thought I would do is share some of what I buy each week.

Breakfast:

I typically get up and have a cup of coffee, maybe two at the most. I used sugar-free Coffee Mate French Vanilla creamer and 2 Stevia packets. Sometimes, when I want to jazz it up, I put a little sugar-free whipped topping (out of the can) on top and top with cinnamon, ginger, or pumpkin spice.

When I get to work, I will drink an Atkins Caramel Cafe Latte. Some days I might actually make a scrambled egg with a slice of cheese. And then there is a morning or two where I will cook 3 pieces of bacon in the air fryer. It really just depends on how much time I have and how hungry I am.

Lunch:

Lunch is a little different. I have discovered these fantastic “wraps” that are made of cheese. I will add a little Hidden Valley Spicey Secret Sauce and grab a few slices of deli ham, cajun turkey, or bacon and wrap it up. I might eat one or two. I usually have a banana or some unsweetened apple sauce. Then I add either strawberries or blueberries to my bento box. I’ll have a diet soda or bottled water.

If I go out to eat, I just stay away from fries or breaded foods. That leaves a wide variety of options.

Dinner:

Now dinner is the most fun! We’ve tried everything from ribs (with a dry rub) in the air fryer, to brats, to almond flour “air fried” chicken, to so many other delicious options. My goal is to actually share my favorite recipes with you each week.

For dessert I’ve been making sugar-free ice cream, flourless cakes, and sugar-free/crustless cheesecakes. My desserts have been a hit! I use everything from almond & coconut flour, SWERVE and Stevia, and almond milk.

Here are a few pics of choices we’ve made over the past 3 months.

Peel & Eat Shrimp from the Fish House in Americus

We are not afraid to pick up dinners from our local restaurants and low carbing is a cinch! Seafood, not fried, is always an easy and delicious fix!

Homemade Cloud Bread

I was missing my bread options and made something known as cloud bread! Ever heard of it? It is super easy and I promise to share the recipe soon!

Sausage Gravy & Biscuits

Don’t be fooled – the above sausage gravy and biscuits are KETO! Almond & coconut flour & almond milk. It is sooooo filling and delicious. See? I didn’t have to give up much.

KETO Pizza Casserole

This is one of our family’s favorites! It is a KETO Pizza Casserole I found on Pinterest. Super easy, super rich tasting, and low carb!

When we were traveling to Chicago and had to take a bathroom break and to get snacks, I opted for the cheese and little cured meats as a high protein, low carb snack. Any major truck stop carries this.

Omelette with a side of fruit

When eating out and ordering breakfast, just ask for a side of fruit versus hashbrowns or grits!

Fajita in a Bowl!

Our friends wanted to eat Mexican, so I opted for the Steak Fajita with no tortillas!

Chicken Casserole with Broccoli

Casseroles are still a thing. Here is a chicken casserole that is a hit and it is completely keto. Made with cubed chicken, cream cheese, heavy cream, cheddar, onions, & bacon.

All in all, I am doing this. Not going hungry, actually thriving, and the weight is just coming off, a little each week. I do plan to incorporate exercise soon, but I have been nursing an injured knee and it is not easy!

What are you doing to stay healthier? How are you feeling during the pandemic? Who wants to join me on this journey?

Stay tuned for more tips and recipes as the weeks go on!

Things I’ve Learned During Covid

  1. People are incredibly selfish. The fact that someone would say that they don’t want anyone telling them what to do and that is why they DON’T wear a mask tells me everything I need to know about a person. Yes, I am judging.
  2. I am beginning to not want to play any reindeer games. You know know I mean? I am actually enjoying not having to go anywhere and do anything. Plus, we all have a great excuse to stay home without the guilt!
  3. I have used this time to really indulge in my cooking addiction. I do like going out to eat, but the older I get, the more I realize I am a really good cook and I enjoy my own food.
  4. The relationships that actually matter to me are being cultivated. I don’t have time or the need for small talk and I have filtered out the riff raff. I am spending time with and keeping up with those who matter the most to me.
  5. I don’t feel so weird anymore. Aka – you are ALL germaphobes with me!
  6. The Earth needed a break. Did you see how clear the waters got and how clean the air was when the world took a pause? Good job, God.
  7. My family, my close friends, my pets, and my home are all that really matter to me right now.
  8. That people are rabid when it comes to politics. That our leadership (from Federal to State) is incredibly weak and we totally messed up with COVID. THIS could be almost over. Yet here we are….
  9. God knew we needed this. We needed the pause. We needed to help one another. We needed to listen. I’m afraid many of us are failing this test.

Until next time…

Celebrations During Covid

Yesterday, I shared how we figured out how to celebrate Tim’s 50th birthday a little over a month ago. It is possible during a pandemic, but not always easy. I’ve been invited to several celebrations over the past couple of months and for obvious reasons, I have had to decline. I’m just not a risk taker, especially when it comes to my health.

However, there were a few carefully calculated risks I took.

Well, it was family! My glamdaughter, Cotton, turned 5 years old! We gathered at my MIL’s home to celebrate. Her theme was Rainbow Sparkle! Check out that beautiful cake!

Her mom put so much work into the party. Cotton was thrilled to be celebrating her birthday and it seemed like she finally understood what all of the fuss was about. As soon as we walked into the house, she would ask, “Did you come to celebrate my birthday?” It was really cute.

Before I go any further – there is a HUGE update with Cotton’s little family unit. They are getting a house and moving out of Tim’s mom’s home. BIG happy surprise for them and the rest of is us!

To say Cotton is a little spoiled would be an understatement. She received costumes and mountains of toys.

A couple of weeks before Cotton’s birthday, I met up with a few friends (some of the same folks that were at my birthday party) and had cocktail hour at the Windsor in the Lobby.

We had nibbles and wine and talked about peace and change to our community. Big plans to make our county a peace certified community! Not an easy feat, but I am on board! Why? Because #peacematters & #kindnessmatters

Do you know who the lady is to my left? That’s Jeni Stepanek. She’s pretty cool. Want to know how cool?

Yep, that’s my friend Jeni.

Another great tiny get together was for my Rotary Club. It was our prize party, where basically\, everyone gets a prize! I won a $50 gift certificate to the Cantebury Kitchen. We gathered at my friend, Susan’s home.

Again, a small group of 5! We all got on zoom and had the party with the other small groups!

A few times during quarantine, Tim & I had happy hour with a few friends on ZOOM and once or twice we had a couple over to socially distance outside and sit by the fire at night.

Over all, we have found ways to still live our lives and come out of this corona-free!

How are you celebrating life’s little awesomes and staying safe at the same time?