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I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Dear LOST,

I’m still having a hard time comprehending the finality of this all:  it truly is the end.  You’re leaving me…  for good this time.  In past years, it seemed endlessly miserable when you were gone for months on end, but I always had that little shred of hope to hang onto knowing that come January, you’d be back and we would have sixteen to twenty-four blissful weeks together.

I spent time by the pool, and did anything I could to keep myself busy so that I wouldn’t have to be reminded of how long it had been since I’d last seen you.  I even went as far as reading the Twilight books when you were gone last summer, which kept me occupied for five whole days (and slightly nauseated ever since).  Every wait was more arduous than the last, but you never disappointed, returning to me in a blaze of glory with confusing, frustrating, awesome, cliff-hanger-y tales that kept me entertained for months and left me with more questions than answers.

But now what?  Where do I go from here?

Oh sure, I’ll always have the memories, and come August (hint hint), the Blu-Ray collection as well, but my weeks will be incomplete without you.  May sweeps will simply never be the same.  Mangoes and peanut butter have lost their flavor.  Little Korean families make me weepy.  And what kind of lunatic cries when she sees the polar bears at the zoo?  Yeah… this girl does, so thanks for that.

Aww… Invisible peanut butter… *sniff*

I’ve tried to be mad at you… I’ve tried to be bitter.  I even tried scouting out replacement programming to fill the void I knew you’d leave, but nothing has worked.  I’ve concentrated solely on our bad times to try to talk myself out of missing you so much.  Remember that fiasco with Nikki and Paulo?  That was just awful.  And your trip with Jack to Thailand, and those ridiculous tattoos?  I was upset about that for weeks, but I still had faith that you’d prove everyone wrong and come through for me in the end.

Good thing love is blind, or I would have been long gone after this epic fail…

That was always the thing that kept us strong:  faith.  I had so much faith that you’d take me on an adventure, and even through some bumpy seasons, you’ve never let me down.  We’ve had some really good times… And we’ve been through a lot together, including the loss of some really special people.

Boone and Shannon: incestuous as they were, I still miss them.

His priorities may have been a bit off, but Mister Eko didn’t deserve what happened to him.

Alex and Rousseau, the newly reunited family that didn’t even have a chance to get off the ground.

Sun and Jin: Cue "My Heart Will Go On" from the Titanic Soundtrack

And of course, our dearly departed heroic hobbit, Charlie Pace.

I guess I just thought you’d always be there, like The Simpsons, but I was in denial.  Your story is told, and there’s no sense in dragging it out like that last hour of Return of the King… As much as I’d love to see Hurley and Miles jumping up and down on Sawyer’s bed, I know that you’re much too classy to go out like that, which is just one more reason that even though I’m upset at your departure, I love and respect you beyond measure.

I suppose there is some light in the darkness, however; I’ve known for a while now that our time was running out.  It would have been worse if you’d sprung this on me unexpectedly.  Remember the Arrested Development situation?  The end came so suddenly—I didn’t know what had hit me, and it took a long time to recover, so thank you for at least giving me time to grieve and say goodbye and make peace with this loss.

I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do without you, but I guess after Sunday, I will be forced to find out.

Maybe I won’t research spoilers on the internet till the wee hours of the morning…

Maybe I can order normal, cute cupcakes from the bakery down the street for a change (I swear those people think I’m a freak.)…

Maybe I can go one whole day without saying, “What’re ya gonna do, beat me with your Jesus stick?”

Maybe Henry Ian Cusick will sign on with Law and Order: Los Angeles.

Maybe it won’t be so bad… in time.

Sixth series premier party by Just Baked. Hardcore.

...or are you just happy to see me?

Whatever happens, just know that I am forever changed simply by having known you these past six years.  Through laughter, tears, witty retorts, tears, terrifying unknowns, really bad beards, and even more tears, we have come a long way since that bamboo field in The Pilot.  I’ll never forget you, and it won’t be easy, but it’s time to move on.

I’m ready to let go now…

…but not without an emotional goodbye.

Namaste, and all my love,

Me.

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Mr. Dish and I have known each other for many years.  We met back in 2001 through his twin brother, who was a good friend of mine, and we easily became friends too.  Back in those days, we lived on opposite sides of the Mitten, so we didn’t often see each other.  Mostly, we were the kind of friends who talked online and on the phone, sharing little bits of our day-to-day lives and dating disasters.  He would come to visit me now and then, and I visited him a few times too.  Mostly we just hung out, or went to movies, concerts, dinner, sporting events, or parties.

After some time, we started to become friends with each others’ friends, and much like the split-screen effect you see in romantic comedies, those friends were all telling us to ditch our current partners and just date each other, forcryingoutloud.  It went on like this for years, until one day in 2006, after my latest dating adventure had gone horribly awry, my girlfriends planned a get-the-heck-outta-town weekend trip for the three of us.  A few days later, rather than celebrating Cinco de Mayo with our usual homemade enchiladas, we all piled into my roommate’s Saturn and headed to Toledo…naturally.

Of course, the girls had ulterior motives for this trip, and we had no sooner checked into our hotel room when Mr. Dish and his brother waltzed in with the evening’s itinerary in hand.  It was supposed to be fun, something to take my mind off of the drama of everyday life, but something in life’s timing changed for us both that day, and we’ve never looked back.

I don’t think it was entirely the tequila, or the romantic atmosphere at the Bier Stube, but something undefinable happened that night that turned a friend into a love.  So even though we had spent lots of time together in the past, Cinco de Mayo has always been the anniversary of our first “date”.

Our first date: It may not have been storybook, but it was "us".

Between then and now, we’ve made a few additions:  two relocations, a new apartment, new jobs, new cars, joint bank accounts, a cat, a dog, a nephew, an engagement, a wedding, another cat, a niece, another nephew, and a wedding anniversary.

Clearly I said yes.

Mr. Dish and Remy, July 2007

Olive, April 2009

Charlie, March 2010

Just Married, December 2008

I may not always understand it, but I love my life, the places it has taken me, and the people to which it has led me.  I couldn’t ask for more than I already have, but I hope that God blesses us with a lifetime full of the same happiness we’ve been lucky enough to experience so far.

Te amo, mi amor!

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If you’re like me (and most non-Hispanic Americans), then Cinco de Mayo is probably just an excuse to get out of the house, shake off the winter funk, drink some cervezas, and eat some Americanized Mexican food at your local “On The Border”.  Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrated primarily within Mexican-American communities, and while it is not Mexican Independence Day as many assume, it is still a day rich in meaning and tradition.

Sadly, Cinco de Mayo has become the Mexican St. Patrick’s Day here in many parts of the good ol’ USA.

I’m mostly Dutch and Swedish, so I really don’t have a generational reason to enjoy Cinco de Mayo… I just do.  It holds special meaning for Mr. Dish and me, and I quite enjoy good Mexican food.  And tequila.

In the spirit of the upcoming holiday for which I have no valid reason to celebrate, I give you the easiest enchilada recipe you’ve ever made.

Enchiladas Americana

6 twelve-inch flour tortillas (unless you can get your paws on some fresh corn tortillas, in which case, go for it!)

1 16oz package of shredded cheddar/monterey jack/mexican blend cheese

2 small cans of enchilada sauce

1 small can of refried beans

1 container of shredded taco-style chicken (I like the Chi-Chi’s brand in the bright yellow tub… But if you’re a glutton for punishment, 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked, shredded, and mixed with a packet of taco seasoning and a bit of water will do.)

sour cream, tomatoes and diced green onions to garnish

cooking spray

Spray a glass or ceramic (metal just won’t do for this recipe…it reacts poorly with tomato products) 9″x13″ casserole dish or lasagna pan with cooking spray.  Be sure to coat the corners and sides well.  Pour half of one can of the enchilada sauce into the bottom of the dish.  Preheat oven to 350°.

Place tortillas on a plate under a damp paper towel and heat in the microwave for 15 seconds or just until they’re flexible.  Lay them out on your prep surface and spread 2 tbsp refried beans onto each.  Top the beans with 3-4 tbsp of chicken mixture and a very generous pinch of cheese.

I like to fold the ends of my tortillas in burrito-style before rolling them up for a less-messy serving process, but it’s not a necessity.  Place the rolled enchilada in the casserole pan.  Repeat with the remaining 5 tortillas.  Pour the remaining can and a half of sauce on top of the enchiladas, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  Cover with foil (tenting with toothpicks if necessary to keep the foil from sticking to the cheese), and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil for the last 10 minutes of baking.

*Tip:  spray the inside of the foil with a bit of cooking spray before the pan goes in the oven… Foil removal will be easier!

Remove enchiladas from oven and allow to stand at least 5 minutes before serving.  Garnish with sour cream, green onions, or tomatoes, and serve with rice.

Enjoy!




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It’s cool and rainy and I really want to go fishing.  Unfortunately, however, I am stuck in my small suburban apartment complex doing laundry all day while the birds are singing their hearts out and the lilacs are perfuming the spring breeze.

Stupid domesticity.

I grew up in the woods, so playing barefoot in streams and coming home covered in leeches, building forts in trees and coming home covered in sap, and fishing in whatever body of water had living creatures in it was pretty standard for me as a child.  Since it is generally not acceptable for adults to be building forts (especially when said adults live in the city and don’t have children), these days I stick to fishing… when I can.

When I was a very awkward thirteen years old, my parents decided that we should go on a family fishing trip with another family from church.  Said family lived on a lake, and we all lived in the same, very remote Michigan town full of lakes and streams and summer fishing cottages, so it occurred to me more than once that leaving town to go fishing was a bit odd… but I suppose the trip was more about the journey than the destination.

Then again, the destination was Canada.

We left before dawn, having packed ourselves, our gear, our clothes, and our basic necessities for a week into two fifteen-passenger vans like we were on some sort of school field trip.  I had never been to Canada, but I knew that it couldn’t be that far from where we lived in western Michigan.  …right?

Boy was I wrong.

We drove for hours.  And hours.  And hours.  We drove till the roads ran out of pavement.  We drove till the road signs didn’t have names on them anymore, just bear/wolf/moose crossing warnings.

We basically drove till civilization was naught but a fond memory, and then drove further.  Finally we came to a small town called Chapleau, on a river in the middle of GodforsakenNowhere, Ontario, Canada.  They had electricity there, so that was a bonus.  We reveled in the fact that there was a small general store, and bought a bit of candy, thinking that we would be heading out to some cute little cabin in town any time to get settled for the week.

We started unloading our things from the vans… and started loading them into boats.  The horror was beginning to set in.  Our two families got into the boats, and headed off down the river.  We were on the river for at least an hour before we made landfall.

At last!  We disembarked and started unloading… again.  The men picked up the boats and began carrying them inland, and we did the same with all of the minutiae we could carry.  Portaging, I’m told, is when you carry your boat from one body of water, across some land, and put it into another body of water only to resume the trip you thought was over hours ago.  Back into the river (or lake… or Hudson Bay… at this point, who knows where we were…) we went, and traveled another hour before we finally landed on a teeny little island and set up our camp.

The tents went up, the fire was started, the latrine was dug, and the food was in the trees so as not to be attracting bears.  Now, I loved the Little House books when I was a kid, but seriously… what scrawny, bespectacled thirteen-year-old girl enjoys the thought of living outside where she may at any point on her way to the (hole in the earth covered with two logs and a toilet seat that we called a) restroom, encounter a moose, a wolf, or a bear?  Not this one, that’s for sure.

Leeches?  Fine.  Mosquitoes the size of seagulls?  Sure.  Bears?  Nooooo thanks.  “Camping” had just taken on a whole new meaning in my book.

Really though, it wasn’t so bad after that first grueling day of traversing strange Canadian landscapes, and once I became accustomed to the loons screeching through the night, I even slept well.  The fishing was good, and bathing in the lake in my swimsuit with a bar of Ivory was the most awkward thing I had to deal with all week.

The best parts were after the sun went down and we all sat around the fire for dinner.  You can’t bring a lot of perishables with you when you travel such a long way, so the only fresh food we had—other than that which we caught in the lake—was a cooler full of cubed beef, a plethora of canned goods,  and a whole lot of potatoes and carrots.  Toss it all in a big iron pot over the coals, and by the time you’d gathered extra firewood for the night, the Camp Stew was ready.

I might not be camping today, but a quick trip to the grocery store and this rainy spring laundry-day might actually produce a delicious dinner that, while also being nutritious and satisfying, always brings back memories of that trip and simpler times.

Camp Stew (aka “Clean Out Your Fridge” Stew)

2 lbs. of 1-inch cubed beef (kabob or stew style work best)

1 large onion, quartered

2 cloves of garlic, diced, or 2 tbsp of minced garlic

2 cups of diced carrots

3 cups of cubed red potatoes

2 tbsp of butter or olive oil

1 tbsp of flour

2 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce

2 cans of beef broth

1 can of cream of mushroom soup

water

salt, pepper, parsley, sage, thyme, moss, river water, and/or tree bark to taste

optional add-ins:  1 cup of frozen peas/corn/green beans

In a large Dutch Oven, heat butter or oil over medium heat; add the beef a bit at a time and brown thoroughly.  Add onions and garlic and cook till the onions are transparent.  Stir in the flour and cook a minute or two till it turns golden.

Add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and carrots; stir, cover, and simmer at medium-low heat for 2 hours.

Add the potatoes, cream soup, seasonings, and any optional add-ins.  If water is needed to thin out the mixture, add that as well; stir, cover, and simmer at medium-low heat for another hour or until potatoes and carrots are both fork-tender.

Serve with a big chunk of toasted, buttered Amish bread, and enjoy!

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My husband really loves iced tea.

I really don’t.

He buys cans and cans and cans of it at the market (and the gas station, and the party store…).  The packaging says things like “home-brewed!” and “with natural flavorings!” and every can has a picture of some ancient golfer holding a lemon.  I really don’t get it.  I do get the feeling, however, that this is not what the British had in mind when they brought their national beverage of choice to the New World, but in some places more than others, tea has really caught on.

It is my understanding that in the Deep South, tea is always sweet, and is served over ice with nearly every meal.  Here in the Great Lakes region, however, tea is either served in a tiny gauze bag next to a hot cup of water and a limp lemon wedge, or artificial-raspberry-and-high-fructose-corn-syrup-flavored and straight out of spigot number three on the Coke© dispenser.

Perhaps one day global warming will bring some tropical temperatures up to the Mitten, but I think the likelihood of the southern tea tradition making its way north is a little more realistic  …Sorry, Al Gore.

Me?  Like I said, I’m not much of an iced tea drinker.

Okay, so I love a good book and a hot cup of black tea on a cold afternoon, or a chilled bottle of green tea with honey for a refreshing alternative to boring old water, and nothing is better than a steaming chai latte on a crisp fall morning, but iced tea just doesn’t really do it for me, especially with all the other bolder beverage options out there.

Sorry, Iced Tea… You’re the boring, sweet-but-not-so-special, plain-looking middle child that doesn’t really command my attention in a room full of stronger drinks.

Don’t be mad, you’re just not my type.

Mr. Dish loves you, however, and I can’t just let the man blow our childrens’ college funds on cans of processed sugar-with-artificial-tea-flavoring all the time.  I worked hard last summer to come up with an iced tea recipe that suited his fancy, both to protect his waistline and our budget.  This one makes about a week’s worth of summery tea goodness… not too sweet, not too citrusy, and no need to be left resting in the sun to breed bacteria.

I’ll even venture as far as to say that I gave it a chance, and while it won’t be upstaging my chai latte habit any time soon… it wasn’t half bad.


Home-Brewed Iced Tea

12 cups of water

1.5 cups of sugar

8 Luzianne teabags

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Bring the water to boil in a large stock pot.  Add sugar and stir till completely dissolved; bring back to a boil.  Add lemon juice and teabags, give a quick stir, cover and remove from heat.  Steep for 30-40 minutes.  Remove teabags and allow to cool.

Pour mixture into a clean gallon jug and add cold water to fill.  Shake, refrigerate, and serve over ice.

Enjoy!

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You’ve gotta love Michigan in the spring.  The birds are singing, the trees are blossoming, the road construction is humming along at the speed of molasses…  My favorite part is having to scrape my windows and turn the heat on in my car in the morning, and then cranking the air conditioning on the way home.  I don’t know why Michigan is called “The Wolverine State” when “The Bipolar-Weather State” is so much more accurate.  I mean, have any of you ever actually seen a wolverine?  …Outside of Ann Arbor or the local zoo, I mean.

Anyway, in honor of the unexpected cold snap we’re currently going through, I figured I’d give the oven some exercise and do a little baking.  Now, I love to cook, but I’m not much of a baker, so when I attempt to apply heat to flour and sugar, I try to stick to the basics.

Banana bread is a people-pleaser.  You can whip it up quickly, take it to family gatherings, bring it to work and treat your coworkers, or wrap it up in some foil and ribbon and give it as an inexpensive and delicious housewarming/get-well-soon/congrats-on-the-baby/new job/negative paternity test gift.  Kids love it because kids love bananas, and adults love it because it reminds them of being a kid.  It’s also a great way to use up those over-ripe bananas that you know no one’s going to eat, but you’re too stubborn to just throw out.  My favorite application for banana bread, however, is its use as a vehicle for butter consumption… mmm… butter.

It’s a versatile, simple recipe that everyone should have in their repertoire.


Mom’s Banana Bread

2 cups of sugar

1 cup of margarine, room-temperature

6 very ripe bananas

4 well-beaten eggs

2.5 cups of flour

1 teaspoon of salt

2 teaspoons of baking soda

(Optional add-ins:  1 cup of walnuts for the traditionalist, or 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips if you want to be the coolest aunt ever next Thanksgiving.)

Cream the sugar and margarine together, and then slowly add the eggs and bananas.  Combine the dry ingredients separately and sift or whisk to incorporate (if you’re adding walnuts or chocolate chips, add them now to coat them with flour so they don’t sink to the bottom of your loaves); add the dry ingredients to the wet slowly, folding together till completely combined. 

Do not over-mix!

Divide mixture between two greased loaf pans, or four greased mini-loaf pans.  Bake at 350° for 55 minutes.  Remove loaves from pans and cool on a baking rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

Enjoy!

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Speaking of weddings, if anyone you know is in the process of planning their big day, allow me to suggest a great way they can get the wedding cake of their dreams and save a boatload of cash at the same time!

…Ever heard of renting a wedding cake?

The husband and I did, and highly recommend it!

From the time we started talking about engagement, I was planning our wedding in my head.  It would be an understated, elegant event set in the winter, with simple color schemes, lots of candles and Christmas trees with twinkle lights—and a photo booth, of course.  It was going to be one seriously classy affair.

When prodded, Mr. Dish didn’t have much input other than, “Sounds great, honey.” and “Whatever you like is fine by me, sweetie.”  So, with his blessing, and with the help of Lynn Lucas at W.E.D, I went ahead and planned out every last detail without much consultation from him.

our wedding decor courtesy of W.E.D

The one thing he was adamant about having, however, was a wedding cake.  I had always planned on some sort of sweets table in lieu of the traditional cake option, but since marriage is all about compromise, I figured it wouldn’t kill me to give him this one element of the planning process.

Traditional isn’t my bag, so we talked about doing something a little out-there, something that really spoke to the couple of 80’s-born geeks we really are, and came up with the idea of a Super Mario wedding cake.  We were excited and started researching bakers who might be able to create our masterpiece for us… Unfortunately, we didn’t have $1500 to throw around.

Right around that same time, my college roommate/bridesmaid/all-around awesome friend Heidi asked if we had ever heard of CakeRental.com.  She had come across the idea on a local news segment; I had never heard of such a thing, but immediately began looking up the information on the company.

As it turns out, renting a wedding cake is not as dubious as it sounds.  You simply choose from a large collection of pre-designed cakes (or submit a design of your own for creation), pay a small deposit, and FunCakes Rental sends your fondant-covered Styrofoam wedding cake to you in specially-designed shipping containers just in time for your big day.

FunCakes Rental is the brainchild of Kimberly Aya, and is headquartered in Grandville, Michigan.  Kim has been trained in Europe, and is a constant student of new and exciting cake decorating techniques.  She can honestly drop names like Colette Peters and Duff Goldman, and her designs have been seen on The Today Show and featured in huge box office hits like “The Hangover”.

FunCakes Rental wedding cake design featured in "The Hangover"

Clearly, Kim was our cake-budget savior; what we didn’t realize however, was just how pleased we were going to be with her design.  We had submitted a photo we found online of another couples’ Nintendo-themed wedding cake, and asked for something similar for our own big day.  When the wedding week rolled around, it was finally time to see our cake.  We opted for the pick-up option, rather than having the wedding cake shipped to us since we were in West Michigan for a holiday party anyway, and when she unveiled the cake, we were blown away!

She far surpassed our expectations in terms of design, but the functionality of the cake itself was an added bonus.  Kim has created a design in the back of her cakes where a small section of the fondant can be lifted off, revealing an open spot in the construction just big enough for a small piece of cake, allowing the newlywed couple to have their cake-cutting moment without giving away the “fake-cake” secret!  It was perfect.  We bought a handful of delicious sheet cakes to be cut and served to our guests, who were fully in the dark about the actual ingredients of our Super Mario wedding cake.

The cake design was a hit, we were able to spend barely a fraction of that original $1500 bakery-design price quote, and we had a happy wedding day secure in the knowledge that we had not been seriously overcharged for flour and sugar and eggs.

We would recommend Kimberly Aya with FunCakes Rental to anyone out there planning a wedding, whether they’re on a budget or not!

our Super Mario cake, courtesy of FunCakes Rental

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