Friday, April 29, 2011

Why I Care About the Royal Wedding

Over the past week, Facebook and Twitter have been bursting with comments, both good and bad, about the Royal Wedding. And it seems the US of A is split down the middle. I have a LOT of friends who couldn’t care less about today’s Royal nuptials. But I have just as many who, like me, got up hours before the sun to watch Wills & Kate tie the knot.

For me, this is a deep seeded "fascination" if you will, but not just of Prince William. It’s an obsession with Britain as a whole. I’ve always found the English to be so romantic and proper. I “mastered” the British accent in elementary school and often pretended I was British. (Yeah, I know, that’s probably weird. But I wanted to be an actress, so to me, practicing accents was tooootally normal.)

BUT, back to Wills. My bedroom walls were plastered with posters of “cute boys” from an early age. But none lasted the test of time like Prince William. Just ask my Mother. I think I was 11, maybe 12, the first time I hung a poster of the dashing Prince. And the collage à la Wills grew, updated and changed continuously until ALL the posters in my bedroom came down when I moved into my first apartment at 19. See, my 12 year old self truly believed that *I* could be Prince William’s wife someday. And come on. What girl doesn’t dream of being a real life princess when she grows up! I mean, his mother made it look so rewarding and glamorous to be a real princess. She got to do amazing charity work AND go to balls?! Sign me up!

This leads me to my next point. I LOVED Princess Diana. LOOOVED. In 3rd grade, for our annual “Parent’s Open House”, my teacher told us all we were to choose an icon in history and learn everything we could about that person. Then, for Open House, we would be dressing up like them, and doing presentations for the parents. I’m going to go ahead and let you guess who I picked - that’s right, Princess Diana. I poured over books about her, marveling, studying. My Mom let me wear my fancy Easter dress (complete with matching hat and gloves), my Sunday shoes and even took me to get my “hair done” like hers for the big night. I was SO proud as I told all the parents a million things they probably already knew about the Princess. Five years later, I also remember my Mom letting me get up in the middle of the night, and cry my eyes out, watching her funeral on TV. My love for William grew as I watched him walk in that tragic processional, being so brave.

But this is about a WEDDING! The happiest day of a girl’s life! (Until the birth of her children, I’m told.) I think by now I’ve proved my love for all things Royal and British. Even though I’ve never met Prince William, and probably never will, I still feel invested in his life somehow. (In Harry's too.) Like we’ve grown up together! So this morning, as I groggily turned on the TV just in time to see the gorgeous Kate take her first step into Westminster Abbey, I almost felt like I was at the wedding of a lifelong friend. And that, my friends, is why I care about the Royal Wedding.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Idol Wrap-Up

It was weird watching Idol last night without Stefano. I had several contestants I really liked, but I didn't have that same excitement or commitment to one person. It was also a weird Idol night because I have some positive opinions about a couple of contestants I've not really liked much this season.

Jacob - I am still a fan. But I can certainly understand why people are starting to grow tired of him. He is not for everyone. But I thought he did a great job last night and I totally agreed with the judges that it was great seeing him let loose on stage.

Lauren - My Mom is not going to be happy. She is probably going to read this as a Lauren bash, but I assure you all, it's not. I still really love her. I still think she has the most potential to be great of any girl, maybe even any contestant, this season. However, her young age is becoming more and more apparent. Poor girl is terrified of taking risks. I felt like her performance last night could have been so much more, if she'd just jumped over her fear.

Scotty - I am SO glad he changed it up a little. While it was still true to his country roots, I loved the "softer" side of his voice. And can I point out that he DID NOT hold his mic like a flute?! YAAAAY! ;)

James - I really loved the first 1/2 of this song. I loved hearing his beautiful voice singing totally a cappella. I wasn't as crazy about the second 1/2, mainly because I felt like this was going to be the song when we'd get a "shriek free" performance, but alas, we did not.

Casey - I am still a huge Casey fan. I still think he is incredibly talented. And I liked his performance last night. I loved the scating, loved the showmanship, loved the jazzy feel but I wish he'd do his angry-barky-growly thing a tad bit less. Maybe he's been spending too much time with the Queen of the Over-Growl? ;)

Haley - Speaking of Haley...STOP THE PRESSES! No one is going to believe this...but I actually enjoyed Haley last night. I LOVED her duet with Casey (though Casey had a lot to do with that) and I actually didn't hate her solo performance. I do think she had some trouble hearing herself, though. I'd still be okay with her going home tonight, but I think it will be Jacob.

(On a related note, I am LOVING The Voice.)

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's Just What You Do

Ryan started a new job at the end of March. He worked from 7am to 3pm. It was early, but he seemed to be handling the 5am wake-ups with ease. Well, at the end of last week, they announced that they were going to mandatory 12 hour days for a while. So, here's how our typical day would go:
Ryan wakes up at 5. Rachel rolls over and goes back to sleep until 6:30.
Ryan leaves for work at 6.
Rachel works from 8-5.
Ryan works from 7-7.
Ryan gets home around 7:30, showers, shovels dinner into his mouth.
Around 8pm, we finally get to sit down on the couch together and talk, watch TV, SEE each other for the first time all day.
Ryan goes to bed at 9pm.

Yeah. I was getting ONE HOUR of face time with my husband every day. That wasn't really enough for me. See, I enjoy his company...I did marry him, after all. So, I started getting up with him at 5am. I feel like we both start our days off better after getting a little time in the morning to talk, hug, have our coffee together. I was telling a friend that I'd started doing that and she asked me "Why would you do that?", seeming baffled that I would willingly get out of bed at 5am. I shrugged my shoulders and said "An hour a day just isn't enough for me. So, it's just what you do."

The plus side? I can get a lot of my chores checked off before the sun even comes up.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Idol Wrap-Up

Not just a few weeks ago, there was a night on Idol where I thought pretty much everyone was amazing. This week was quite the opposite. I think it was one of the most underwhelming, boring nights of Idol this season.

Let me start by saying, the "cast offs" performance of "So What" was train wreck. For a second I thought, this has to be a joke. It wasn't.

Scotty - Wow. And I don't mean that in a good way. SO BORING AND PREDICTABLE. I get that every teenage girl in America is voting for him a bazillion times each but...I'm really over him. He refuses to branch out. The only positive? They poked serious fun at him for holding his mic like a flute.

James - Oh James. I just don't need all the shrieking. It's not the same as singing. I was okay with his performance (though no one can sing that like Matthew Bellamy) until he decided to take the octave during the chorus at the end. What was he thinking? Not good. On a related note, he always coughs a lot right after he sings which makes me think he is really wrecking his voice with those shrill screams. I'd really like just one week where he doesn't do that.

Haley - I texted my bff with the following words when Haley started to sing: "Dude. She is gonna get" *Disclaimer: I do not condone punching Idol contestants in the face...unless they ruin songs by Adele. Which is what she did. It was terribly pitchy and she just doesn't have the chops to take on a song like that. I think the thing that bothered me the most was that she didn't seem to "get" what the song was about. She performed it like a light hearted up-tempo jam. Maybe she's never gone through a break-up?

Jacob - The song he chose is another one that is extremely personal for me. I cried through the whole thing...but not necessarily because of how he sang it. Really, that song just makes me cry every time, no matter who is singing it. I thought Jacob was just okay this week...nothing special, but also not the worst of the night.

Casey - Several of his fellow contestants commented in the little pre-performance interview that he is "a genius". I agree. I think he does things with music that NONE of the others have the aptitude to do. Period. This week was no exception.

Stefano - So.Adorable. Oh, and he sings like a champ every week. I truly don't understand how he keeps landing in the bottom 3. He is so much better than a few of the others who are still around. I thought last night showed he has the full R&B package. Singing? Check. Dancing? Check. Stage presence? Check. Swooning fans? CHECK CHECK CHECK. Someone enlighten me...why isn't anyone picking up the phone for him?!

Lauren - I wish the glowing reviews could continue...but Lauren let me down a little last night. She is SO DARN TALENTED but last night's performance felt a little karaoke to me. It becoming clear she is really scared to take chances. Not that I blame her...she is only 16. But that's why she needs to stay on the show...because the longer she is around, the more she will pick up on.

For the first time since the season started, I'm really only worried about three (maybe four) people being safe. I voted, I did my part...we'll see what happens.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Taco Sense - My BIG Blog debut

Something amazing has happened.

In the form on tacos.

The brilliant site Taco Sense asked me, yes ME, to spotlight from time to time with some of my Latin inspired recipes!!!!!!! (I could use about 20 more exclamation points there.) I am so honored, and SO stoked, to present my first post (of hopefully many). Check it out, then poke around the rest of the site...especially if you're a fan of tacos. And really, who isn't?! (Hey Lindsay - there is even a vegetarian writer!)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Turkey Taco Chili = WIN!

It's been a little while since I've posted a recipe, so I thought it was high time! This is another circumstance where I found a recipe that looked good, then sort of...tweaked it. The was originally meant to be more like a soup than a chili, but I thought it would be better (in our house at least) with more of a chili texture. And I think I was right. Ryan and Frankie agreed. ;) And it could not be easier, which is a huge plus.

Turkey Taco Chili

1 lb ground turkey
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 can rotel tomatoes with green chilies, drained
1 can corn, with 1/2 the liquid
1 can dark kidney beans, rinsed and drained
8 oz tomato sauce
1 can fat free refried beans
1 packet taco seasoning
1 can low sodium chicken broth (add 1/2 c at a time until you've reached the chili-ish consistency you like)
Adobo** seasoning to taste
Cayenne to taste

In a large pot, brown turkey on medium heat, breaking it up as it cooks. When cooked through, drain and set aside. Add a pad of butter into the pot and add onions and pepper and cook 2-3 minutes. Add meat back in. Add tomatoes, corn, beans, tomato sauce, refried beans, taco seasoning, chicken broth and seasonings. Bring to a boil and simmer about 30 minutes.

**I've had a few people email/Facebook me asking what, exactly, this "Adobo" seasoning I often use, is. I attached a link in the recipe, to show you the exact brand I use. They make many different types, we just stick with the original, which has a red top. Ryan has been cooking with Adobo for as long as I've known him, and I'd never heard of it before. Now, I LOVE it. It's just a really well balanced, very flavorful Latin-type seasoning that really brings any dish to the next level. And no, they aren't paying me for this...though I'd totally let them. ;)

Anyway, this turned out really, really delicious. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Idol Wrap-Up

I've really enjoyed this season because no two contestants are alike! Everyone this season really has their own vibe going on, and I dig (most of) that! So, here's where I stand on Movie Week:

Paul - I love Paul. This is known. And I liked his performance, but I don't think he will win. I don't think enough of America really "gets" him. That being said, I'm not worried for his future. Like so many before him, I think the importance here was for people to see him and launch his career.

Lauren Alaina - I love her. Ryan doesn't. He hates most of her song choices. I think she is young, but really, really talented. I hope she stays around for a while because I think she could learn SO much from Idol.

Stefano - It seems like America is really split over him. After reading all the comments last night on Twitter, I've come to the consensus that you either LOVE him or your really, really don't. And like Paul, everyone knows where I stand. I think he is awesome. I think he is a classic R&B guy and I think he brings solid vocals every week. Lately, I feel like his showmanship has really improved and I do not understand why he keeps landing in the bottom 3.

Scotty - I might make some enemies with this one...Meh. I was not impressed. I did NOT hear the same thing the judges heard. Like, at all. I thought it was borderline terrible, in fact. There, I said it. BUT, I do think he'll be a successful country singer. I think its time for him to leave Idol and get picked up but a country label. And maybe someone at said label can tell him how ANNOYING it is when he holds his mic like a flute. Yup, I'm still on that.

Casey - This is a very, very personally emotional song for me. I was really excited to see what Casey was going to do with it. I wasn't loving it until about 55 seconds in. Then, all the sudden, he fell into his zone and it was fabulous. He is really so immensely talented. I've said this before, and not to toot my own horn, but I started vocal training at like 7 or 8 years old. I learned about all the techniques and theory and singing in majors and minors. He NAILED that. My worry? Because of my "trained ear", I fear America may not have seen the amazing talent I did. My own mother, who raised two kids with musical "abilities" had to watch it more than once to grasp that.

Haley - I don't even think I need to talk about her. Everyone already knows my opinion here. I hope she goes home tonight.

Jacob - Like Stefano, America (via Twitter) is really split over Jacob. I think he's fabulous. But I worry he is starting to be a little predictable, like Pia was. However, I think he, too, will be just fine. A gospel label will scoop him right up. That doesn't mean I want him to go home yet, though.

James - He's another one that I think is going to be just fine post-Idol. He really did own the stage last night, and I think he has proven that he knows who he is. I still could go without all the screaming but, apparently that's just me. ;)

To sum it up, I'd say there are a handful contestants that could go home TODAY and I think they'd be fine. Someone would sign them, and they'd put out a record...that I would probably buy. But...that doesn't mean I WANT them to go home yet.


Monday, April 11, 2011


I. Love. Breakfast.

It's been my favorite meal for as long as I can remember. Pancakes are at the top of my list, followed by scrambled eggs with cheese, and bacon. And waffles. And biscuits. And bagels, oh bagels! I even love cereal, especially in bed - morning or late night. I love brunch and breakfast for dinner. I seriously love breakfast.

Breakfast is also an important meal for me. Being hypoglycemic, making sure I eat the right things in the morning is essential. Too sugary, and I fight glucose spikes all day. Not enough protein, I get shaky within an hour. I've worked for a long time on trying to find the right balance. In the past few months, I discovered that eggs are really great for starting my day/blood sugar off right. I looked for healthy recipes that I could make ahead of time and just heat up in the morning. I found one, and then (of course) I modified it to fit me! I give you...

Broccoli, Egg and Cheese “Muffins”

2 stalks worth of broccoli florets
4 whole eggs
5 egg whites
1/4 cup reduced fat medium or sharp cheddar
1/4 cup good grated Parmesan (the kind you shake from a jar won't melt well)
1 tbs olive oil
A shake or two of garlic powder
Kosher/sea salt and fresh pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°. Steam broccoli with a little water. (Or do what I do and cook the broccoli in a Zip-loc steamer bag.) When broccoli is cooked, mash into smaller pieces and add olive oil, salt and pepper and garlic powder. Mix well.

Spray cupcake pan with cooking spray and spoon broccoli mixture evenly into 9 slots. (I made it in all 12 and they didn't have enough egg in each "muffin".)

In a medium bowl, beat egg whites, eggs, cheddar cheese, salt and pepper. Pour into the greased pan over broccoli until a little more than 3/4 full. Top with grated parm and bake until cooked, about 20-25 minutes. (I turned my pan halfway through.)



Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Idol Wrap-Up

Jacob – “Man In The Mirror”. First, I am a HUGE MJ fan, and this is one of my all time favorites from his discography. Second, Jacob did a really good job. And to have the lady who co-wrote it sing with him? Super cool.

Haley – “Piece of My Heart”.  I LOVE this song. But dudes, I’m sorry, I just don’t like her. I haven’t from the beginning. Ryan gets a weird vibe “from” her, and her growls bugs the crap out of me. So…there ya have it, haha.

Casey – “Have You Ever Seen The Rain”. What a GREAT song choice for him. I loved it. And I LOVE when he plays his upright, and I totally agreed with judges – he’s making the upright cool!

Lauren – “Natural Woman”. To steal Randy’s phrase; she “slayed” it. I think she is incredible.

James – “Why My Guitar Gently Weeps”. In my top 10 favorites EVER. I think he did a really good job with it, though I could have done without the scream at the end. He was clearly very emotional during the song, and I think that always lends a lot to the performances. 

Scotty – “That’s Alright Mama”. He holds his mic like a flute, and that bugs me. But, I thought he sang it well and I loved seeing him kind of all over the stage, really putting on a show.

Pia – “River Deep Mountain High”. The minute I heard her say she was singing this I got really excited. I turned to Ryan and said “She’s gonna KILL IT!” Aaaand I was right. ;)

Stefano – “When A Man Loves A Woman”. Goodness gracious I LOVE HIM. I am a serious sucker for R&B and Soul…and this dude delivers. I would stand in line for his album today.

Paul – “Folsom Prison Blues”. YES, YES, YES, YES, YESSSS! I’ve been waiting and waiting for Paul to do something totally amazing (cause I could see he had it in him)…and this was it!!!!!

Seriously, I really liked everyone by Haley tonight!! Now…how do I ever decide who to vote for?!


Monday, April 4, 2011

The Letter

Growing up, my Mom worked really hard at teaching Frankie and I what it was to be a good friend. She taught me to befriend the new kid at school, to talk to the "uncool" kid on the play ground, that if you aren't going to invite all the kids in your class to your birthday party that you don't hand out invitations at school. She taught me that being a loyal friend meant that you were there even when it wasn't convenient. She taught me that to be "popular" meant that you had as many friends, from as many different social circles, as possible. For a few years of my life, I hung out exclusively with the "in crowd", until I realized that I was forgetting everything my Mom worked so hard to teach me...and that I was really missing out on some amazing friendships by limiting myself to one crowd. (One crowd of people who weren't even very good at being a good friend, looking back.) And as I got older (and got married) she taught me that staying close to your friends was almost more important once you started a family of your own, because they help you remember who YOU are as you get lost in the day to day.

So, what's the point of this? Well, it may appear to be a humble brag, but I assure you it's not. Today I got a beautiful letter via email from a friend who has always been present, but we're not as close as we were years ago. I asked the author of this letter if I could share it, and she agreed, as long as she stayed anonymous. And, while this letter is an overly-generous thank you to me for being there for her during a tough time she had recently, this letter re-instilled some really valuable lessons.

"Dear Rachel,
We hadn't talked in a long time other than the casual Facebook happy birthday salutation when you saw my status. And there you were back in friendship overdrive making sure I was okay. I don't even know how to say this the right way, but I'm going to try. You are a "crisis friend". You're the person everyone can trust and depend on to step up in the time of crisis. And you always do. Without thinking you helped pick up my pieces and without judgment allowed me to pour out my heart to you, then you did everything in your power to try and help me put my pieces together again. There aren't many people like you in this world, you know. The friend who walks directly into the fire instead of away from it. But that's what you do, and I really just need to thank you for that.
But the thing about being the "crisis friend" is that when the crisis is over, sometimes I am too quick to fall back into my routines and forget that you are just as awesome as an "everyday friend" as you are a friend in crisis. I imagine I'm not alone in that fault. I can't do anything about anyone else but I can say that I am going to try and be a better friend to YOU, because maybe someday you'll need a friend to walk into the fire, and maybe it can be me."

I must have read the email 5 (or 10) times. I might have cried through it once (or twice). All I could think about was the lesson(s) my Mom taught me. And then I thought...maybe I, too, should work harder to be a better "everyday friend". And that maybe if we all work harder to be better "everyday friends" this world would be a happier, less lonely-feeling place - not just on the bad days, but on the best days too.

 And to my "anonymous" friend, thank you, again. You've inspired me to be a!