What a Way to Start the Year!

I can’t believe that my last post was on January 1st.  Wow! So much has happened in the last few months. Some good, some sad. I’ll try to catch you up on a little bit of it.

In the beginning of the year I was winding down after the holidays and very focused on developing my website, Traveling With Purpose. Things were going along swimmingly and we were inching closer to launching the next phase of the site when things hit the proverbial fan.

At the end of January my husband’s mother was admitted to the hospital. It’s a long complex story, but the final result was that she has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  It’s called a low grade glioma and is rare in people her age. It’s much more common in children and teenagers. She was in and out of the hospital for over a week while they did tests and a biopsy to determine the diagnosis. Then due to the fact that she was showing signs of confusion, difficulty communicating and had not been cooking for herself, the family and medical team determined that it wouldn’t be wise for her to go home to Prescott by herself.

Since I was the only one in the immediate family (in Arizona) that wasn’t working and we have a guest room, we decided that she would come home with us for the time being.  We realized that it would be best to have someone with her during the days and she has been with us since that time.

She is such a sweet woman and has always been so kind to me. It’s an honor to have her here.

This is Carole and her oldest son (my husband) on a Skype call with her sisters back east on Saint Patrick’s Day. We’re realizing that she understands a lot more visually than by talking on the phone or hearing someone talk.  She sometimes doesn’t know who we’re talking about when we mention a name, but if we show her a photo she understands, so Skype is better than a phone call. We need to do more of it.

2013.03.17 St. Patrick's Day 013 (800x530)

Mom is Irish through and through and she loves celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. So much so, that she requested that we bring down her decorations from her house so we could use them here. I don’t have a lot of St. Paddy’s decor, so it was fun to have her items to scatter around the house. As you can see she was dressed for the day as well, with her Snoopy sweatshirt and Leprechaun socks.

St. Patrick's Day socks

And of course we had corned beef and cabbage, even though it’s really an American Irish tradition.  We all love it. I always cook it in the crock pot, which makes it so easy. For the first batch, I added chicken broth to the water, and for the second I added Guinness Black Lager (brewed in Dublin). Mmmm, both were very tasty. I cooked the 2nd one a week or so later to go with the potatoes and carrots that we had leftover from the first batch. Let me know if you want the recipe.
Corned Beef and CabbageSo since the end of January we have all been busy with doctors and more tests, discussions about treatment options and how to best care for her in the coming months/years. They have a big family, so we’ve had lots of visitors to the house.  She really enjoys her visitors for the most part. She’s been eating much better and has good times and bad when it comes to understanding all that’s happening around her. She will be starting radiation treatments next week…once a day, five days a week for 6 weeks.  We’re praying that the side effects will be minimal, but we’ll see how she does with it all. The difficulty will be in explaining any side effects in a way that she can understand so that she wants to keep going with it.

Please keep her in your prayers. There is a very slim chance for improvement in her condition with the radiation, but mostly it’s just to slow down the growth of the tumor.

So this is just a part of what’s been going on since the first of the year. Am I forgiven for being away so long? What has your new year brought?

More to come on everything else…and there’s a LOT more.

The Oink Cafe – Breakfast. Lunch. Bacon.

Hey friends,

I haven’t done a restaurant review in a while and I’m hesitant to do this one because The Oink Cafe is close to where we live and a review will just mean that more people will go there.  I’m kinda liking the place and not sure I want to share it with everyone in Phoenix.  But…I think you’ll like it and my mom taught me not to be selfish, so…here we go.

The Oink Cafe in PV

When driving down Cactus Road a few months ago, I noticed that one of the retail spaces near Paradise Valley Mall had a new sign outside.  This spot seems like a wonderful location, but has been somewhat of a revolving door in the past years, not retaining businesses for any length of time.  Hopefully, this will be the exception to that rule.

Anyway, you may remember that a few months ago I won a year’s supply of bacon so that treat has been forefront in my mind lately.  While driving by this new restaurant, the tag line made me do a double take. It reads “Breakfast. Lunch. Bacon.”   What!  A restaurant that features BACON!!! Wow! I’ve got to take my husband there!

This weekend we had the perfect opportunity to try it out.  We had family visiting from out-of-town and when we described it to them they were excited about the adventure.  So, our party of 5 headed there around 9:30 on a Saturday morning.  Phoenix restaurants can get pretty busy on weekends for breakfast, so we weren’t sure what we’d find.  We checked in at the hostess station, then moments later 2 more family members arrived, which increased our request to a party of 7.

Chocolate Bacon Cupcakes

Maple Bacon Donuts

While we were waiting we noticed all these amazing looking baked goods.  We didn’t get a chance to try any, but will definitely need to do that next time.  Take a look at all the bacon options.

The staff handled our larger party graciously.  And fortunately while it was already pretty busy, there were a few tables that cleared just minutes after we arrived and we were seated promptly.

We perused the menu and ordered a nice variety from our friendly food server.  Here are a few photos to enjoy.

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One item of note:  At the time of this writing, they have 5 different flavors of bacon (applewood smoked, honey cured, sugar cured, peppered, &  jalapeno).  I enjoyed the applewood smoked bacon with breakfast and someone else at the table got an order of the jalepeno and gave me a taste.  It was delicious, especially for those who like that extra little kick of heat in their meal.

We mentioned to the server that they should have a flight of bacon that people could order to try a piece of each different kind.  She said that they have it, but upon checking the menu we couldn’t find it.  Hopefully they’ll add it to the menu or maybe to the list of “specials” so folks can check out all the different flavors.  Plus even though their logo is a pig, maybe they should consider adding turkey bacon for those who want to try to be a tad bit healthier.

Overall, everything was very tasty!  From the time we ordered till the time we got our food was a bit long, but since we were busy visiting it wasn’t too bad.  We’ll chalk that up to being relatively new to the breakfast scene and hope the timing improves.  It’s definitely a place that we’ll visit again…maybe for lunch next time.

Hey maybe they should offer an ultimate BLT with all the flavors of bacon!  I’d order it.  How about you?

What do you think ?  Does it sound promising?  Do you think you’ll try “The Oink Cafe” if you have the chance?

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving

I pray that each and every one of you enjoys a holiday filled with the love and comfort of family and dear friends.  There are many hurting in this season, so please remember those who are in need of physical or emotional support.  Our hearts are with you…

Thanksgiving Table in the back yard

This photo was taken at Thanksgiving a few years ago.  It makes me thankful that the weather in Arizona is often nice enough to sit outside during the holidays.

Perkins family

And here’s a Perkins family photo from last year.

On this day of remembering, I’m also thankful for…

  1. Wonderful family that’s always there in good times and bad
  2. Precious friends who love and encourage me
  3. God’s provision for our needs and beyond
  4. A comfortable home filled with joy
  5. Plenty of food on the table
  6. A house filled with music
  7. The gift of creativity and imagination
  8. God’s amazing creation
  9. Good health
  10. The freedom to travel this glorious planet

And soooo much more…

Blessings from our family to yours today and throughout the coming year.

47 Foods You Should be Eating on Vacation (or Anytime)

If you’re anything like me, you have a hard time making good food choices when you’re on vacation, especially when you’re eating out and have literally dozens of options, both healthy and unhealthy at your command.  This summer our family is making plans for a BIG vacation in August when we’ll be going to Scotland for a week and Ireland for a week.  And right now I’m in the process of losing some extra weight, especially before the trip, but also don’t want to go too crazy on vacation either.

So, here’s something that might help all of us make better choices both at home and away.  Today, my Frommers Travel Newsletter provided a timely link to MohrResults.com where I found this list of “47 Foods You Should be Eating“.  I’ve segmented the list into easy snacks for travel, then those with a higher likelihood of finding in restaurants, and last are the ones that you’ll probably find in the grocery store or in some cases, your local farmer’s market.

I would recommend posting the list in the kitchen, adding it to your smart phone or iPod or carrying a physical list around with you until you have it memorized.  Then on your next trip (or even your next local outing) when you’re sitting at a restaurant trying to decide what to get, look for one or more of these items in your food choices.  And of course, when you’re at the grocery store, make it a game to see how many of them you can include in your weekly menu.

I took my own inventory and discovered that I actually had 23 or the 47 items already in the kitchen!  Yeah!  I guess that means we’re off to a good start.  Plus I picked up a few more at the grocery store today.  Woohoo!

Also don’t be afraid to try some foods on the list that may be new to you.  Yesterday, (before I saw this list) I was at True Food Kitchen in Phoenix and tried their Tuscan Kale salad as a side dish and it was DELICIOUS!  I’ve always been leery of kale, thinking for some reason that it would be too bitter, but this was amazing with a light sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and a wonderful lemon dressing.  If there were places like True Food all over the planet, then we wouldn’t have to worry about eating healthy.  They make it easy and scrumptious too!

So today when I was at the grocery store, I decided to broaden my horizons and picked up some kale in the produce section.  Then when I got home I did a little more research on this AMAZING super food.  Check out this summary of the benefits of kale.  Wow!

Now here’s the cool part.  When I was researching, I also came across the Kale Salad recipe from True Foods here.  So I made it for dinner!  Here’s the picture of MY Tuscan Kale Salad (below) with the addition of cucumbers and a few minor changes (I added some lemon zest and Queen Creek Olive Mill  Meyer Lemon olive oil (instead of EVOO) to the dressing) because I LOVE lemon flavor.  Be sure to watch the short video showing how easy it is to make.  

In addition, when I googled “Kale Salad”, near the top of the list was another recipe from the food blog, “Oh She Glows“.  The strange thing about that was that I had just finished reading my daughter’s blog post about her Top 5 Food blogs and she had mentioned this as one of her top five favorites.

So here’s the list as promised.  I hope it helps you to take a step toward healthier eating.  For me summer is always a better time to eat lighter when the temps are higher and the produce is fresher and less expensive.

47 Foods You SHOULD Be Eating

Snack options:

  1. Pistachios
  2. Almonds
  3. Apples
  4. Blackberries
  5. Sardines  (if you don’t have to worry about the odor offending your neighbor)
  6. Carrots
  7. Red, yellow and orange bell peppers
  8. Blueberries
  9. Red grapes
  10. Nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, etc)
  11. Coconut (either fresh, where you crack the shell or unsweetened, shredded)
  12. Tomatoes, cherry or grape tomatoes make great snacks (for meals – raw and cooked both have unique benefits)
  13. Cherries
  14. Pineapple
  15. Raspberries
  16. Strawberries
  17. Plain Greek yogurt
  18. Green tea
  19. Black tea

Look for these in addition to those above on restaurant menus:

  1. Wild salmon (fresh and/or canned)
  2. Whole eggs
  3. Spinach
  4. Lean red meat (we prefer grass fed beef)
  5. Cauliflower
  6. Avocados
  7. Garlic
  8. Beans (black, kidney, chick peas, red beans, etc)
  9. Sweet potatoes or yams (technically not the same, yet they’re often used interchangeably)
  10. Broccoli
  11. Red and green cabbage
  12. Onions
  13. Cinnamon
  14. Mushrooms (all types)
  15. Barley
  16. Canola and olive oils (replace other less healthy fats with these, don’t simply add these to the diet)
Add these to your grocery list and try them at home if you can’t find them in a restaurant:
  1. Swiss chard
  2. Quinoa (pronounced “keen wah”)
  3. Rolled oats
  4. Barramundi (often called “the sustainable sea bass”) can be found in the frozen section of Whole Foods & has half the calories, yet equal omega 3′s to coho salmon)
  5. Pink grapefruit
  6. Turmeric (benefits)
  7. Kale
  8. Pumpkin (we often add canned, unsweetened 100% pure pumpkin to our smoothies)
  9. Unsweetened cocoa powder or cocoa nibs (also often added to smoothies or Greek yogurt)
  10. Lentils
  11. Oat bran
  12. Beets (try this Summer Salad Recipe with beets)
Let me know which of these are your favorites already or any ideas for ways to incorporate them in your daily routine.

4th of July Ideas – Part 1 – Beverages

In looking for some refreshing summer beverages for the 4th of July, I was reminded of a delicious pitcher of Sangria that we had recently with some friends at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Tucson.  If you haven’t visited El Charro Cafe in Old Town Tucson, it’s a place that’s well worth your time.  This is a view of the welcoming courtyard. When the weather’s nice (as it is for over half the year in this part of Arizona) it’s the most relaxing place to enjoy dinner or even just a drink with friends.

El Charro Courtyard - Tucson AZ
El Charro Courtyard - Tucson AZ

Ryans and Hanns

We happened to be in Tucson for Terry and Bob (aka The Catfish Hunters) to play at the Tucson Folk Festival and we had a chance to enjoy a wonderful dinner here with Bob & Helen.

But I digress.  This post is supposed to be about beverages and one of the sweet parts of the evening was our Summertime Blackberry Sangria. Doesn’t it look delicious!  I can taste it now.  Imagine washing down your chips and salsa with that colorful concoction.

So to bring this full circle.  I’ve been enjoying Sangria at a variety of spots this year and thought I’d share a patriotic version and eye-catching recipe for serving a group without having to make individual drinks for everyone.

Check out this Red, White and Blue Sangria from Recipe Girl!  (and she’s having a giveaway too)

She used pineapple for her stars, but I think I’d try star fruit since it already has the shape you need.   I LOVE the red strawberries, “white” (kinda) pineapple or star fruit, and blue-berries to carry through the patriotic theme.  Just imagine your giant glass beverage dispenser filled to the brim with all these summery ingredients.  It’s a party waiting to happen.  In case you haven’t seen it before, this is what star fruit looks like and here’s some more info about it too.  Hey, think about adding star fruit to your salads on the 4th as well!

…now where are the fireworks.

Let me know your plans for the 4th.  I’d love to hear how you celebrate.

Stay tuned for parts 2 (food) and 3 (DIY crafts and decorations) for the 4th of July series in the coming days.

Happy Anniversary Andy & Julie!

Just wanted to give a shout out to our precious friends, Andy & Julie and wish them a happy happy anniversary!  I don’t normally do this, but I just happened to be going thru some old photos on Saturday for a different project and came across this one, which is one of my favorites of them.  And it just HAPPENS to be their anniversary today.

The photo was taken in Sedona in 2004 in the Fall (as you can tell).  Sedona is one of my favorite places to be in Autumn, since it has some amazing color, especially considering you’re in Arizona after all.  And since Andy & Julie are one of my favorite couples, it makes the photo that much more special.

So, I hope you two have an amazing year ahead!  Thanks for being such great friends.

We love you guys!

Better Blog Content 2.0

O.k., so its clear that you’re probably not getting much inspiration from me lately, but I do have a recommendation for you to check out someone who is a prolific blogger.  And this week, she’s running an online Blogging Workshop on “Lemon and Raspberry” called Better Blog Content 2.0.  You can find all the details here.

Full disclosure: she happens to be my daughter, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have great stuff to share and to help you in the blogging world.  In fact this might just inspire me to start posting again.  See, this post is proof that it’s working already. 🙂  I love this picture of her from some recent “outtakes” at her  home photo shoot.  Note the raspberry lemonade in the photo for her “Lemon and Raspberry” blog.  Clever huh?

But, it’s getting more and more difficult for me to choose what to blog about.  We just added a few more events to the list.  Last week I helped my dear friend, Linda on a photo shoot with her daughter-in-law and granddaughters, which was a blast!  I’ll post more on that.

Then I went with my husband and the Ryans to Tucson to hear my husband and Bob perform at the Tucson Folk Festival.  I promise, soon I’ll post about that trip, as well as an awesome Mexican restaurant that we visited there.  It’s a place that you won’t want to miss if you’re in the Tucson area and are hungry for Mexican food.  Stay tuned for all that and more to come.

Thanks for hanging in there with me during this busy time of life.