Tuesday, March 27

Weekend in Miami -- ULTRA





LESSONS LEARNED:

1. Don't go unless you can get on the guest list for clubs ...or go planning on dropping a grand a day and still waiting in line.

2.  Just because there's a dj doesn't mean you should wear a neon tu-tu.  Actually, you shouldn't even own one, so start by tossing anything that obnoxious away now. 

3. Wear leopard ...and a lot of it.  Miamis perhaps the only place where it's not only acceptable but encouraged.

4. You don't have to go to every single Ultra event to get the experience.  Use your time and energy wisely.  If you miss your favorite dj chances are you'll still see him 3 times at different clubs over the weekend.

5. Go to Liv. And let the fist pumping and champagne showers ensue.

6. Pool parties aren't during the day, they start at 7 pm.  Plan your drinking wisely, it is very likely you'll be just leaving the club at 7 am.

Friday, March 23

Sugar Cane Restaurant, Bridgewater, MA

Small and cozy with a burbling exotic fish tank and clean simple decor, I was very pleased with the atmosphere at Sugar Cane in Bridgewater, MA.

The menu is expanisve and virtually unconquerable.  A mix of Thai, Asian and chinese dishes, you should arrive with an appetite!

The drink menu is less than impressive, offering a few beers and house wines.  They do however have a few low priced sakis to chose from, including my personal favorite - plum wine.  


In an attempt to slow the expanding of my waist, I ordered a house salad with ginger dressing and the steamed veggies and tofu with peanut sauce.  The salad was disappointing - with a creamy dressing and dry lettuce.    I was equally unsatisfied with my meal, which came with an oily peanut sauce on the side. Nonetheless, I blame myself for trying to order healthy over getting what I really wanted - the crispy orange chicken followed by a friend honey banana sundae.

My mom ordered the lemongrass veggies with grilled shrimp in a house brown sauce over sticky rice.  The flavor was nice and not overpowering.  I also enjoyed the presentation of her dish - with small carrots cut into the shape of flowers.

I would definitely return to Sugar Cane, especially on a date, but I wasn't impressed with my choices this time around.

2 stars.

Friday, March 16

Eulogy for Kristen Jolee Gilson

How do you begin to write a 5-10 minute speech that should encompass a person's entire personality, entire life?  Being asked to read a eulogy is the biggest honor, but for me was also extremely nerve racking.  Though difficult to share, I wanted to leave this on my blog for anyone who is struggling to find the right words.

As long as I can I will look at this world for both of us.  As long as I can I will laugh with the birds, I will sing with the flowers, I will pray to the stars, for both of us.
________________________________________________________________

     I am so honored to stand up here and have the opportunity to commemorate the life of Kristen Jolee Gilson.  In her brief time on earth she has been an exemplary friend, cousin, niece, sister and daughter; and I know her spirit will reside deep inside every single person in this church long after this memorial service has ended.
     While trying to gain inspiration for the eulogy, I leafed through album after album of Kirsten and me growing up together.  Some of the pictures made me smile, others tear up, but one in particular really moved me.  It was a picture of my mom and Janis standing back to back, their pregnant bellies swollen over their 80s light wash jeans and purple wind breakers.  Kristen was more than my cousin, she was my very first friend; the closest I will ever have to a sister.  It's hard to believe that she was only with us for 24 years when you consider all the fond memories, up-roaring laughter, and touching moments we have all shared with her. 
     On December 22, 1987, Kristen popped into the arms of the two most doting and loving parents anyone could ask for.  A princess in the complete definition of the word, there was nothing Richie and Janis wouldn't do to make their little angel smile.  After enjoying a few blissful years of being an only child, Kara was born.  Now, one would think that princess Kristen would have been threatened by this new attention seeking sibling, but quite the contrary.  I truthfully believe that Kristen thought her parents had simply given her a new toy -- except this one she could play with relentlessly and it never even needed new batteries!  I have distinct memories wishing I had a Kara to idolize me and comply with my imaginations every whim. Those were the days. 
     Kara survived being Kristen's sidekick, but not without a few serious bite and pinch battle wounds.  In all seriousness, Kara was so lucky to have a sister like Kristen to look up to; someone who was so full of life, so vibrant and determined.  Kristen, with her big red curls and curious eyes, was, even at the youngest age, so full of confidence and pride; and while she did boss Kara around unceasingly, Kristen made sure that no one else even thought about picking on her little sister.While she would never have admitted it, Kristen knew she was the real lucky one to have a sister as loving and supportive as Kara.  The girls enjoyed  joyful childhoods on Christopher Drive, with winters filled with skiing trips and summers spent on the beaches of Cape Cod.  
    A perfectionist from birth, I was always amazed by how particular Kristen was, everything so organized and in its place, she never even had one chipped nail!   I mean at thanksgiving, she was the only person I know who would pile her plate with only salad and turkey, no stuffing, no veggies, just turkey and salad.  Now that's decisive.  She knew what she wanted and how she wanted it.  Kristen truly was her own person, and no one can argue that.  She wasn't concerned with how other's viewed her; she radiated a remarkable self assurance way beyond her years.
    With her mother's compassion and her father's determination, Kristen was very passionate about life, even as a young girl.  She had so much love to give and share -- even her cats were pampered and doted on more than most parents spoil their children!  I always looked forward to seeing Kristen the most at family gatherings because she was so interested in me and what was happening with my life.  She always remembered my current boyfriends name, always asked how my friends were doing, always wanted to see what my parents got me for Christmas.  She made me feel so special and so important, and I absolutely relished in it. 
     One memory in particular that exemplifies Kristen's altruism has always stuck with me.  At Richie's wake I was so nervous to see Kristen and Kara, and so worried I wouldn't say the right thing.  When I finally was face to face with Kristen I froze and couldn't speak.  Instead of letting me suffer, Kristen, at her own father's wake, consoled ME, and asked ME asked me how I was doing.  I was so taken aback. Here I was blubbering, while Kristen was so strong and so kind. 
     She truly had the most unconditional love for her family.  She couldn't wait for holiday parties and would text me about Easter before I even packed up the Christmas decorations.  I know she equally looked forward to time with the Peterson's, and in particular her aunt Karen who shared her love for fashion and style. 
     As we all know, Kristen had to have the latest and best trends, her makeup always perfectly applied, her curls perfectly smoothed.   She didn't settle for knockoffs and wouldn't hesitate to roll her eyes at my incompetence for recognizing brand names.  Really, Kristen didn't settle for anything.  She dreamed of a life of luxury and was determined to live it. 
    Kristen is in all of my happy childhood memories, and I cannot believe I have to go into the future without her.  Her death came as such a sudden shock that I don't know if I'll ever be able to sit down at Thanksgiving dinner and not be waiting for her to plop down next to me with her plate of turkey.  I'm going to miss her outlandish observations, her poking fun with Christine and Jeannie, her infectious laugh.   I was so excited to get married and have children together, to stand back to back with our bellies swollen.  To look back years down the road and giggle at our outfits and hair styles.    But I realize now, that is just me being selfish.  Kristen is finally at peace and without pain, relaxing in heaven's nail salon with her aunt Karen.  Kristen will still always be in my future, just not in the physical sense.  But now that I have her careful eye watching me, I have a lot of pressure to really live my life to the fullest- to really make her proud.  
      I know Kristen was greeted by the biggest smack on the lips like only Richie can give, followed by an eternity of bear hugs.  Both the Petersons and the Gilsons have suffered so much loss over the past few years, but now they are greeting Kristen graciously in heaven, and patiently waiting for us to one day join them.  I'm sure Kristen's rolling her eyes right now, saying I shouldn't go on and on and probably thinking I should have accessorized better.  Well Kristen, I will be looking forward to the lavish ..the biggest and best..  family gathering you must be planning for us when we all finally sit down together again in heaven. 



Sunday, March 11

The best healthy baked ziti ever!

Baked ziti.  Perfect dish to bring to a party, to a new neighbor, to a grieving friend.   But it's also the perfect dish to increase your waistline tenfold.

Here is my healthy version to the classic baked ziti, and truthfully, you won't miss the calories and fat - it's delicious!

INGREDIENTS: 
  • 1 box (1lb) of whole wheat pasta (i like using half a box of spirals and half of penne, but whatever you have works) 
  • Olive oil
  • 1 diced onion
  • 3 tsp minced garlic (or fresh garlic finely chopped, or if you must 5 tsp of garlic powder)
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • 3 medium size mushrooms, very thinly cut
  • 1 Zucchini & 1 Summer squash, cubed 
  • 1 jar of flavored tomato sauce (i like Classico spinach and cheese, but any sauce and and brand would work)
  • I can flavored diced tomatoes (hunts garlic and herb will do perfect)
  • 3/4 cup fat free sour cream
  • 3/4 cup fat free cottage cheese
  • 1 cup italian blend of cheeses -- shredded (really whats best if you buy a block of really sharp romano, block of parm and some fresh mozzarella, but if you must, then the shredded bags of cheese will be ok)
  • 1-2 cups of Mozzarella 

DIRECTIONS:
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil & cook the pasta 8-10 minutes

2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet and add diced onions, zucchini and squash. Add minced garlic, rosemary, thyme and oregano, stirring until onions are browned.

3. Add in spaghetti sauce, tomatoes and mushrooms and simmer on med-low heat for 10 minutes.

4. In a bowl, mix together the sour cream, cottage cheese and Italian blend shredded cheese.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease your baking dish.

6. Add cooked pasta to the pot of simmering sauce and thoroughly mix together. Taste the sauce, you might need to add some more garlic and here I like to use some fresh ground pepper too.

7. Add half the pasta/sauce mixture to the baking dish and cover with the sour cream/cottage cheese blend. Layer the remaining pasta/sauce on top and evenly cover with shredded mozzarella.

8. Bake for 25 minutes, then turn the oven to broil and brown the top -- no longer than 2 minutes! Let cool 10 minutes, and serve with fresh grated parmesan cheese!






Wednesday, March 7

Happy Birthday Papa

My best friend turned 62 today. 

Born into a dirt poor family comprised of a single mother, 4 siblings and dozens of cats, chickens and rabbits, Dennis didn't last more than a few days past his 18th birthday before moving out.  

That year, he watched his number flash across the television screen... and spent birthday number 19 in the rice paddies of Vietnam.

The next few birthdays were in Colorado, followed by a birthday sailing the Greek isles before settling in and spending every birthday since in Mass.  These birthdays were sometimes parties with friends, sometimes quiet dinners with his daughter and wife and sometimes, sadly, forgotten. 

Which brings us to birthday number 62.  The number seems insignificant, especially after I completely forgot the big 60, but sixty two years of living is no feat to shrug off with a card and hug. 

Papa drove into the North End, where I treated him to Antico Forno.  Eggplant rollatinis, wood plank grilled swordfish, shrimp salad, wine and a fluffy tiramisu with 1 candle.  The meal was cooked to perfection and served in a cozy yet elegant environment, but the real enjoyment was sharing a very special birthday meal with my dad. 

As we strolled over to Mike's Pastries for a cannoli or three, I couldn't help but shake my head in amazement.  His 63 year old eyes have seen nearly every crevasse of the world.  He's got more gumption, more heart and soul, than anyone I have ever met.  Groaning and creaking about with not a colored strand of hair left on his head, there is really no denying Papa for the senior discount.  Yet despite his bafflement at the "world wide web" and insistence that white bread is nutritious, he still has a youthful fire burning strong in his heart.  

Though he will probably never learn how to use the internet well enough to read this blog, I want to dedicate this post to him. Thank you for being an inspirational role model and my biggest and most supportive fan. Happy 62nd Birthday Papa, I love you.



Monday, March 5

Baked Garlic Lemon Tofu

As a workout-aholic, i'm always looking for new ways to add protein without depleting my wallet.  If I could afford to, I'd fill my blog with salmon, swordfish and lobster recipes.. but tofu is going to have to cut it.  I buy tofu weekly, and usually just grill it stove top with my veggies, scramble it with cheese and onions, or toss it in a store bought thai sauce and throw it in the oven. The nice thing about tofu is that it soaks up any flavor and is incredibly versatile.

Drum roll please.

Chelsea's incredibly easy and delicious Lemon Pepper Tofu

Ingredients:

  • Firm tofu - I like Nasoya light, because even if I ate the entire carton I'd only tally up 160 calories.  Best part, at 40 cal per serving you get 7 grams of protein. Unbelievable!
  • Juice from a full squeezed Lemon - Fresh is always better.  I used the squirt bottle for this one though and squeezed a little bit of fresh orange.
  • 3 tsp Honey Mustard - I like helmans.  at 10 cal/tsp and 1 g of sugar, it's not too bad.  I like the real sweet flavor.  if you don't have any honey mustard, do 2 tsp of mustard and 1 of maple syrup & a sprinkle of brown sugar if you're using real maple syrup over the fake high fructose corn syrup kind. 
  • 2 tsp fresh ground pepper - if you're using regular table pepper use 3 tsp
  • 2 tsp of garlic powder 
  • 1 tsp of onion salt 
  • 1 tsp of basil - if you're using fresh basil, only use a sprinkle
  • Sprinkle of rosemary
  • Optional: a few pearl onions, mushrooms, or halved shallots




Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Remove tofu from package.  wrap in paper towels and place on a plate with a heavy pan on top to drain all the excess water.  Flip tofu after 10 minutes, repeat on other side. 
  3. Cube tofu into 1x1 squares or 1x2 rectangles
  4. Whisk all other ingredients in a small bowl.  When blended pour 1/3 of the mixture evenly on the bottom of a baking dish.
  5. place tofu into dish and cover evenly with remaining mixture. Add onions, mushrooms, etc into dish.
  6. Sprinkle top with garlic powder and pepper.  I sloppily added a little more honey mustard to experiment on a few pieces.  They actually came out really good, but I think it was because of the sweetness of the helmens honey mustard.  If you don't have any honey mustard, sprinkle some brown sugar on top! Just a pinch. 
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, take out, flip and sprinkle with garlic, pepper and basil. 
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes longer, or until firm and browned. 
  9. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. 
Best accompaniments: 
*Grilled asparagus with a balsamic reduction glaze
*Sauteed green beans with slivered almonds, shaved parmesan and olive oil
*Honey glazed carrots

Enjoy :)

Thursday, March 1

Observations from train car 3, row 8

Plopped in the same purple bench seat, in the same train car, drinking the same weak dunkin donuts black coffee, I can't help but wonder if this is real life. This sinking feeling of doldrom and continuity that might make others feel secure and give a sense of belonging, but that make me stir crazy and filled with wanderlust.

I am so blessed. So thankful for two loving, ridiculously entertaining, and healthy parents. I feel so lucky to have a job that I genuinely enjoy going to, that excites me and affords me a sense of accomplishment and pride. Not to mention how lucky I am for coworkers and a boss that I consider my best friends. I have over a dozen friends I could call crying and 6 dozen more I could call for a drink. I landed a boyfriend who defines the perfect catch and is more sincere and thoughtful than anyone else I've ever met. Plus he puts up with my endless squaking and relentless whining!

I feel so guilty complaining and feeling discouraged when I have so very much to be thankful for, but perhaps I'm so antsy in life because of my strong support system. I have this sinking feeling that each passing day is time running out and that I'm not living up to my potential. I've always been pushed to give 100 percent and I've always succeeded in achieving whatever my goals may be, but the feeling of accomplishment is fleeting and soon after I'm on to the next challenge.

Is it me? Do I have to find my own inner peace and learn to be happy with my place in the world? Or should I be spending everyday tiring myself out to leave a legacy and make something of myself ...with the constant fear that even if I made it, I still would never feel satisfied.

Or is it our society? This never settle for less, American dream mentality that is so embedded in my generation. Maybe what I really need is a relocate to Spain where days are eaten up by siestas and nights by dancing?

Either way, my itch to explore and travel ..to leave my fingerprints across this globe.. Is insatiable and becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

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