BAM Book Divas Meet & Greet

  

Last night marked the official Meet & Greet for the BAM Book Divas. I think we picked the name for the group because it sounded good because these women are the furthest thing from divas!! They are sweet and soulful and funny. A winning combination if you ask me!

At present, we have eleven members but unfortunately only nine were able to join us last night.  We grabbed the biggest table at Panera Bread and got settled in. I happened to bump into someone I used to work with at Edible Arrangements back when I was working two jobs. It’s always nice to cross paths with the kind people over and over. 

It was a true “meet & greet” as we went around the table and gave the full introduction. We are a pretty diverse group, but we all actually had two things in common:

Everyone has children and everyone is married. 

I was not expecting every single member to be married. I don’t know why, but it was a pleasant surprise. Another tie that binds us perhaps. 

Since not everyone was present, we decided to pick names for the first three months for book selections. We will pick the balance of the year when we are all together. I was able to select the book for February, Jodi (my newer friend through cookie exchange planning) was chosen for March and Lisa (a teacher and mother to a one year old) was chosen for April.  

I had been flipping through book selections online and came across The Rosie Project: A Novel by Graeme Simsion earlier this week. It sounded like a fun, lighthearted book, so I suggested it. Both Porsche (another newer friend from cookie exchange planning) and Hannah (a mom to two boys and originally from Texas) had both read it previously. It turns out they both liked it so much, they agreed to read it again and our February book had been chosen!  We agreed on a meeting spot and time and decided to move things over to Chili’s for drinks. 

We had a great time!  It was a little loud which kinda stinks because then I miss some of the conversation at one end of the table or the other. Our server stunk and was non-existent. But one Tito’s Punch (which reminded me of my early years mixing Very Fine Fruit Punch and Malibu) and some fun company made for the perfect end to the evening!  

Posted in 2016 Challenge, BAM Book Divas, Blogging, Book Club, Friends, Funny Stuff, It's New to Me!, Random, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Her Mama

  

I didn’t know her. Susannah’s Mama that is.  But every time Susannah writes about her or shares an anecdote, I wish I did. And then I call my own Mom. 

Here’s to fond memories… May we make them, may we have them and may we remember them always. 

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Recommitted

Earlier today, our VP came into the office and asked us to recommit to our careers for 2016. I stood there thinking about how important that word can be: Recommit. I don’t hear it used often, but when someone pulls it out, they mean business. 

Thankfully, I already had started the recommit process in all aspects of my life, so I had no trouble swallowing what she was asking of each of us. There’s always room for improvement and that includes in my work life. 

So I’ve recommitted to doing my job more effectively and efficiently. I’ve recommitted to mom-ing my Marine less and listening more. I’ve recommitted to being a good friend to anyone who seems to need one. I’ve recommitted to working on my own health and fitness. With lots of people around me doing the same thing, this one is definitely doable. I’ve recommitted to spending more quality time with my husband. Tonight, I didn’t pick up the phone once to check Facebook or look at anything else while we were eating together. This may not sound like much, but my phone may as well be glued to my hand for as much as I use it. This was a huge accomplishment. 

I’ve recommitted to me. I need to keep me as a high priority in my life, so I can be at my very best. Sounds like a good plan to me. 

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VietNow/Chicago Sandwich Run

  
Today, I finally made my way over to see what the VietNow volunteers have been up to originally under the watchful eye of United States Marine, Jim Proffitt, and now dutifully handled by his wife, Virginia, since his passing in October 2014. 

  
On Thanksgiving Day about 26 years ago, Jim took 30 sack lunches and a thermos of coffee to the city of Chicago to feed Veterans experiencing homelessness. He just wanted to brighten their day. They enlisted the help of their four children, friends and basically anyone who would listen to grow this idea into something bigger. Now, the Chicago Sandwich Run volunteers serve lunch to over 500 people weekly and they serve a hot meal at a Mission on that same night. (It blows me away how familiar this story is!)

  
On Saturday, they prep the lunches (everything but the sandwiches), sort donations and get ready for the Sunday run. Then on Sunday, they whip up just over 1,000 sandwiches (two per lunch), pack the box truck with lunches, coffee, juice, clothing, blankets and toiletries. They hit the road in their mobile unit and make sure to visit all of the same spots every week as there are people who have come to appreciate and expect their arrival. They even make sure to make their way over to Maxwell Street where two men wait every week. This was Jim’s original hotspot and so it stays on the route even with only two men waiting. 

  
I learned so much today. More than I can even remember to be able to share with all of you, but Virginia gave me the grand tour and shared tons of stories in the few hours we were together! They have a small warehouse setup in Lombard that could definitely use some organizational wizards (although I think trust will need to be earned to be able to help with that part). Much of what goes out the door is self funded from the family’s own pocket. When I originally spoke with her and asked what I could bring, I was told that she “didn’t want to put me out”. I showed up with bologna since that’s their main protein source. They use cheese (a real luxury, right?) and they have a bread guy who delivers right to them. 

 

Jim Proffitt is shown in red.

 
They have a handful of volunteers on Saturday (it can vary from one to twelve) and there are about six of them that handle Sunday’s because there is only so much room on the truck. It’s a lot of Veterans helping Veterans. 

  
As I was leaving today, I asked if I could grab a few pictures for Michael because I wanted him to see the legacy that Jim left behind in the hope that he will want to volunteer the next time he’s home. I was snapping away and noticed an interesting item sitting on a shelf and asked Virginia about it. She told me to bring it over to her. I did and it kinda looked like a homemade “award” of some sort. She laughed and told me that it was a gag gift from someone to Jim. Basically it’s a heavily decorated paper towel holder. It’s kinda cheesy, but absolutely awesome! She wanted another Marine to have it and so it was sent home for Michael to enjoy. I was really honored to be able to bring this home for him. 

  
I’m planning to go back on January 23rd. Virginia does not have a Facebook page for their work or keep a webpage updated. It’s all by word of mouth. I promised to share what I learned today and let her know that I was going to ask for donations. Here’s what they could use on an immediate basis:

Blankets (new or used)

Socks (new or used)

Men’s underwear – any size (new in package)

Adult Tshirts and sweatshirts (new or used)

Adult pants/jeans (new or used)

Large heavy duty brown paper lunch bags

Zipper and/or fold over sandwich baggies

Bologna

Snacks – basically anything. They will put it into smaller baggies if the packaging is too big. 

Homemade treats (cookies, brownies, etc.)

All used clothing donations should be freshly laundered and in usable condition (zippers work, no holes, has all buttons, etc.). 

You can drop off in Lombard on almost every Saturday or Sunday from noon until 2pm (Reach out to me for the address) or I will take any donations you would like on 1/23/16.

Posted in 2016 Challenge, Air Force, Army, Blogging, Coast Guard, Family, Friends, Homeless, It's New to Me!, Marine, Military, Navy, Random, Uncategorized, United States Marine Corps, USMC | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BAM Book Divas

The BAM Book Divas are forming and I felt the need to get involved. I know, I know. Stop shaking your head at me. I will strictly be a member. I’m not making any decisions or taking on any additional responsibility. It’s going to be a form of fun for ME!  

It’s a book club that will read one book every month and meet one evening a month to talk about the book, eat and drink wine. Sounds easy enough. And like a lot of fun. We have 11 women committed at the moment (none of which have any book club experience) and we are all going to attend a meet and greet where we suggest a book to read and then meet in February to discuss. 

Herein lies the issue. I haven’t picked out a book to read in many years. I read The Fault in our Stars at a friend’s suggestion last year and then we went to see the movie. I enjoyed both. I’ve read some random John Grisham and James Patterson novels over the past ten years mainly due to grabbing a book while walking through an airport on my way to a business event. 

So what do you suggest? What should I suggest? I need to come up with something within a week for this local meet and greet. The only genre that appears to be off the table is anything overly risqué aka no 50 Shades of Anything. By the way, I haven’t read that yet. Do I bother? I will anxiously await your suggestions!

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My 2016 Challenge

2015 was really a notable year for our family. My son turned 18 years old and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He graduated from high school and just a few short months later from Boot Camp. Mid-year, my husband accepted a new management position within his field. I supported them through all of this change and was their biggest cheerleader. 

Some crummy stuff happened too. Our first dog, Katie, got sicker early in the year and we had to send her to wait for us at the rainbow bridge. Then, our new puppy, Cali, had a neurological disease and we had to make the tough choice for her too. My Aunt/Godmother passed away after a lifetime of fighting illness. And finally, Sack Lunch Sunday came to an official end in November. 

This morning as we looked at a new year in front of us, I challenged myself to keep doing things to help other people. I thought about someone I had heard about a couple years ago who dedicated his life to helping others and decided to learn more. His name was Jim Proffitt. Mrs. P, a teacher from my high school, had mentioned him to me a few times and so I reached out to her to see what she could share with me. She suggested I call his wife, Ginny, as Jim had passed away in October 2014, but she still heads up the weekly Sandwich Run for the homeless with a focus on our Veterans. 

I called Ginny and I think I startled her. Apparently strangers call her Virginia. Well, I won’t be a stranger for much longer because I am going to volunteer at their warehouse tomorrow morning to learn about their mission and how they do things. They meet every Saturday to make lunches – 1,000 of them weekly – and then a small group meets on Sunday to deliver the lunches. They’ve been doing this for 26 years and it turns out it that Mr. Proffitt was very concerned with veterans transitional housing as well. He actually has an apartment complex/housing unit named after him. 

I am nervous and excited. I know I cannot commit to do this every weekend, but I am very interested in what they do and how I can help. So I will show up with my ten pounds of bologna tomorrow ready to lend a hand. 

I challenge you to do something outside of your comfort zone to help other people. It doesn’t have to be huge. It doesn’t have to be photo worthy. It just needs to warm your heart and affect someone else positively. I guarantee if you do things like that enough times that you will miss it when the opportunities don’t seem to be in front of you as frequently. You will scout them out. And you will show up with bologna somewhere to try and make a tiny difference. 

Posted in 2016 Challenge, Blogging, Homeless, It's New to Me!, Marine, Military, Random, Uncategorized, United States Marine Corps, USMC | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2015 Christmas Cookies

Christmas cookies. For easy reference, I think it’s important to document what I made, what I thought and what I loved and want to make in the future.

So, way up high on the yummy scale were these Butterfinger Fudge Cookie Bars. I made them a few times and the husband loved them!  My only concern is that either I was overbaking them or I should have made them in a 9×13 pan to have a thicker bar with less likelihood of overbaking the base. These are definitely in the rotation going forward. 

  
I tried a brand new (to me) chocolate chip cookie recipe and after I botched up the first batch by forgetting the eggs, I quickly fell in love with the unique flavors behind this cookie. The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie uses Butter Crisco, cinnamon and even nutmeg to taste just right. I’m guessing my oven may not be calibrated right or I can’t measure flour because these tasted fabulous, but it didn’t matter what I did…they ended up a little dry. The first day they seemed perfect, but on the second day, I wanted to warm them in the microwave before I ate them. I used the Medium Scoop from Pampered Chef and baked them about 9-10 each time. I also should have taken a better picture, but it is what it is at this point. 

The recipe that worked out best for me was the Pistachio Pudding Cookie. I used the same medium scoop, but split every cookie in half and rolled it into a ball before baking since I didn’t have a small scoop. These are still soft from last week and they’re really good!  Loaded with white chocolate, pistachios and dried cranberries, I would say these are a must have for next year!

My vote for least time consuming and longest lasting treat would be the Wicked Chocolate Caramel Bars. Easy to make and the caramel stayed ooey gooey!  The next time someone asks me to bring something sweet and I’m short on time, I will definitely go with these bar cookies.

I opted for a No-bake Butterscotch Haystack to fill in the gap a little. I cheat and use the lightly salted peanuts from Aldi’s rather than the Spanish Peanuts the recipe calls for. Other than that, I stuck to the rules and these turned out just right!

Finally the two must tries for my next baking extravaganza are these Brownie Cookies and these Chocolate Toffee Cookies. My cousin Barb brought both on Christmas Eve and I wish I wouldn’t have been so full and could have indulged a bit more!

Posted in Baking, Blogging, Cookies, Family, Friends, Funny Stuff, Holiday, It's New to Me!, Random, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment