Turkey Enchiladas


Believe it or not, I’m still defrosting turkey from Thanksgiving and incorporating it into our recipes about every other week (we had an obscenely large bird). One of the things that I’ve made several times since the annual turkey glutton fest are these Turkey Enchiladas (recipe courtesy of my mother via the Ladies’ Home Journal). They take about an hour beginning to end (20 minutes of prep time), so I tend to make these on a Sunday and then serve up the leftovers on Monday. Here’s the super simple recipe:

Ingredients:

2 cups shredded, cooked turkey
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15. oz. can black beans
3/4 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
1/2 cups salsa (whatever you have on hand)
1/2 cup light sour cream
3 scallions, sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I’ve subbed 1 1/2 Tbs. of the dried stuff before)
1 tsp. ground cumin
8 flour tortillas
1 tsp. hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste

First, heat your oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, stir together your turkey, half the can of tomatoes, beans, 1/2 cup of salsa, 1/2 cup cheese, sour cream, cilantro, cumin, salt and pepper. Mix it together until it’s well blended and then spoon about 2/3 cup of filling onto each tortilla.

Roll the tortilla up and place it seam side down in the baking dish. Once you have all of the tortillas rolled, it’s time to make your sauce. In a separate bowl, stir together the remaining tomatoes, salsa and hot sauce. Spoon the sauce over the enchiladas, cover the dish with foil and bake it for about 30 minutes.

Take off the foil, add the last of the cheese and bake it for another 5-10 minutes, or until your cheese is melted. You can garnish the finished product with cilantro and scallions and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Then, move out of the way of the baking dish and allow your family to devour this with relish (make sure you snagged an enchilada or two for yourself in advance). Enjoy!

The Power of “Thank You”

In wrestling matches, there is often a point where one wrestler has been put into a hold that he cannot get out of. When this happens, he “taps out” in an attempt to get the other wrestler to release the hold. Often times, the referee has to run over to break it up because the wrestler applying the hold is so caught up in the match that he doesn’t realize his opponent is trying to give up.

For the last two weeks, I feel like I’ve been tapping out, but the referee is not paying attention. Of course, I have brought most of this on myself, but I’m hoping that I can bend far enough in the next handful of days to not break before I get some relief from the pressure (that would be a mental break, naturally).

As you can imagine, I’m juggling more balls than a jester in the royal court. The only problem is that I’m not doing a very good job of it. In fact, it’s generally the Irishman who has been having to pick up the fallen balls and bail me out. A lot. He’s been handling Parker’s “bath time” and “bed time” and “pack the lunch for tomorrow time” as I’ve been parked in front of my computer plowing away at work hour after hour. I can tell that after a number of weeks of this, his level of patience with my workload has grown very thin.

I have to admit that my normal reaction to this would be anger and that anger generally comes out of guilt (for being a temporarily absent wife and mom). But last night, when I noticed the tell tale signs of his mounting impatience, I tried a different approach. Instead of getting angry and defending my position, I thanked him. For stepping up to the plate to pick up my slack. For being an awesome dad. For letting me have this sometimes crazy career where my work day extends for weeks without end. From the bottom of my (very tired and guilty) heart, I thanked him.

And instead of fighting, he gathered me in his arms and reassured me that we were in this together and that he was happy to be helpful.

Huh. Who knew that a simple and heartfelt thank you could be all that someone needed to feel appreciated and loved?

Life…Interrupted

Hi folks. Well, it’s certainly been a week. I was at a conference last week, pulling my hair out trying to finish writing grant applications in between attending sessions and fulfilling work obligations.  I was frazzled, beyond exhausted and generally feeling pitiful and quite sorry for myself. Then I got a call on Sunday (or rather I called my brother and got the news) that my yia yia (my Greek grandmother and last remaining grandparent) had died an hour prior to my call. Funny how life has a way of putting everything into perspective.

I don’t do well dealing with (or not dealing with) grief, so please do not feel slighted in case I didn’t call to share our sad news. I generally just retreat further into my shell and wait for the worst of it to pass before tentatively examining those feelings. I think “denial” is an appropriate term for it, but at least I’m aware of it, right?

I got to speak with yia yia Stella last week when my mom was over in Greece. Parker and I called via Skype and as luck would have it, we caught her on her last “good” day. She was smiling and laughing at Parker, her only great-grandchild, and we were talking about our baby girl who will be joining us here shortly. It was good to see her face again and I cherish all of the summers that we spent together even though we lived thousands of miles apart.

Summer will certainly not be the same without her laughter and her presence, but I feel blessed that we got to have her around as long as we did. I’m also glad that Parker will have some memory of her, however faint. Farewell for now yia yia Stella. We’ll miss you.

2/15: The Morning After (Lessons About Love)

Yesterday as I was wrapping up my classes, my students wanted to know if I had any big Valentine’s Day plans. When I told them that for me, it was just like any other day, they seemed deflated and wanted to know if marriage = boring. I laughed and told them, on the contrary, life is a bit too exciting these days (albeit in ways they wouldn’t understand) and I tried to explain that life (and love) in general is about more than getting roses.

These thoughts stuck with me and as I tossed and turned last night at 3am (my customary pregnancy insomnia wake up time), I couldn’t help but think about the lessons I’ve learned about love, life and loss. Being on the brink of raising a little girl, I started mentally drafting a list of the things that I hope she learns from me, but that I know she’ll probably have to learn through experience. While I’ll certainly add to this list over the next 20 years, here are the basics.

5. There is no happily ever after. When I was a girl and soaking up every Disney princess movie in existence, my mother warned me about Cinderella Syndrome. Cinderella Syndrome is when you wait around for Prince Charming and expect him to sweep you off of your feet and to subsequently transform your life. Someone suffering from Cinderella Syndrome believes that they are the only person in the world whom Prince Charming could possibly love and both of their lives would have been barren if they hadn’t met each other. That sounds lovely in theory, doesn’t it? You’ll notice one thing though. All of those movies end with the wedding. In reality, your life with your spouse begins at the wedding and generally gets infinitely more complicated once you add a mortgage, children and years of cohabitating. Every marriage has problems and disappointments and frankly, we’re doing our children a disservice when we pretend like everything is (or should be) perfect. Perfection does not exist, but hard work and perseverance do. So, will I let this baby girl watch Disney princess movies? Of course! I’ll just make sure that she knows they are as fictitious as Pinocchio and the Lion King.

4. There is no Mr. Right. Boy, do I cringe every time I hear someone throw around the phrase “soul mate.” Are there people who fit perfectly into our lives at one point in time? Sure. Do we heave a sigh of relief when we recognize kindred spirits who share our values and passions? Of course. Is there only one person on this earth that you could possibly find “true love” with? NO! All we have to do is to think back on our own lives and our past relationships to realize that we can love many different people in many different ways. How sad would life be if there was only one person put on this earth for you? What if you didn’t find him (or her)? I prefer to think that there are many different wonderful people on this earth and each has something to offer someone else. The other aspect to this is that we are each many different incarnations of ourselves over our lifetime and the person who may be perfect for us in our early 20s may not be quite so perfect a decade later AND THAT’S OKAY. Keep in mind also that we may be seeking a certain “type” of person so intently that we may completely overlook someone worthy of our love who is already right beside us. I wrote about my own journey to love here and I tell ya, it was certainly not what I was expecting.

3. The Honeymoon Phase is just that…a phase. Every relationship has a honeymoon phase. During this honeymoon phase, you only exist for each other. Each moment away from one another is torment and everything your significant other says and does is absolutely adorable. The honeymoon period might last 6 months or a couple of years, but eventually, the newness will wear off and you’ll be left with the reality of the person you’re with. While this real version of your love is not a bad thing at all, some people are addicted to the feeling of falling in love and may mistake the transition to “settling down” as falling out of love. The crazy, sweep you off your feet passion that we’ve been told is love is such a small part of what a long term relationship is really about.

2. Love is more than just romantic gestures. I think that this is my main problem with Valentine’s Day. It’s a single day of the year devoted to romantic gestures, which in my opinion are generally superfluous. Why do we need these gestures to “prove” to us that our significant other loves us? To me, thoughtfulness and love do not come in the form of flowers, cards, chocolates and jewelry. Thoughtfulness is my desire to have dinner ready for my husband when he gets home every day of the week, not because he expects it, but because feeding people is how I show love. Thoughtfulness is the Irishman getting up 4 times last night to rock Parker through his bad dreams because he knows that I haven’t been sleeping well. It’s having coffee ready in the morning for your spouse even though you don’t drink it yourself. It’s changing the roll on the toilet paper if you use the last of it. Refilling the Brita water container regularly. Cutting each other some slack when you’ve both been having a bad day, etc, etc, etc…. So every year, I kindly tell my husband to skip the flowers (which will die), skip the card (which I’ll feel guilty throwing away), skip the chocolate (which I’ll have to burn off later at the gym) and to skip the jewelry (which I won’t wear anyways) and to please just continue to be thoughtful on a regular basis in our regular lives. I won’t think he loves me any more if we get a sitter and fight for reservations at an overpriced restaurant. I’m certainly not judging people who do these things, I just don’t see the need for it myself.

1. Happiness begins and ends with you. I think that this is the most important life lesson of all and it took me until almost 30 to figure it out. We spend so much time during our youth trying to be a different version of who we are that we overlook the fact that while we’re questing to be thinner, funnier, wealthier, etc, life is passing us by. If you are unhappy in your own skin, there is not a soul on this earth that can step in and make you feel better about yourself. In fact, you’ll probably drive your partner (or potential partner) crazy with your feelings of inadequacy. No one sees your flaws as clearly as you do, I promise you. When you learn to love yourself exactly as you are, it will radiate from you and that in and of itself will bring love to you in all forms. People generally like happy people. So instead of waiting for romantic gestures to make you feel worthy, buy your own flowers, and realize that while we can strive to be the best version of ourselves, who we are at our core will never change and THAT is the person whom we need to love. Just be true to yourself, consistent in your values and find the peace that surrounds you.

Well, I think that’s about it for now. While I realize that this list might look cynical at first blush, I don’t think it is at all. I think it’s hopeful instead. Love is not this elusive mountaintop that we may or may not reach in this lifetime. Instead, it’s all around us. We just need to be open to it in whatever form it may come in. You may not end up with who you expected to, but for most of us, that’s probably a good thing.

Finding Balance: My Monday Morning Confession

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I have a problem. That problem is that while I love all of the components of my life, there isn’t enough time or energy in the day for me to squeeze it all in and to do a good job of it. As a result, I find that when I’m excelling in one aspect of my life, the rest suffer for it. I can’t be alone in this conundrum, can I?

At the moment, I’m putting all of my eggs in the work basket. I have literally been working on research, lectures and publications non-stop for the last 6 weeks. I don’t think that a single day has gone by in that time that I haven’t put in at least 4 hours in front of my computer (with 12-15 hours being the norm). Even with all of that work, I still feel woefully behind. Inadequate. Desperate for the light at the end of the tunnel. Part of the reason that I’m full steam ahead right now in the work arena is that I want to happily put all of my eggs in the family basket from the middle of April until the beginning of June. In order to do that, I need to get the work stuff disseminated so that I can sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labor.

There’s just one problem. I’m not having much fun right now. While I normally love my doing research, I have officially taken on too much (and those of you who know me realize how hard an admission that is to make). Usually, I would sacrifice on sleep at this point to get it all done, but being almost 8 months pregnant, that’s simply not an option. Without decent sleep, I would be a drooling, eye-twitching mess huddled in the corner. (Nice imagery, no?) I also feel like a big-time absentee parent and wife. While I’m meeting the basic needs of my boys, I don’t feel like I’m present in the moment. At all. Worse, I feel like I’m wasting time when I’m not working and that is just not acceptable.

So, I’ve given myself an ultimatum. I can continue at this pace for 2 more weeks (when a number of deadlines are due), but come Spring Break (March 1st), I’m officially slowing down to a normal schedule meaning that work needs to get squeezed in Monday through Friday from 8-5pm and nights and weekends are for kicking back and having a bit of fun. Something’s gotta give and that something will have to be my work productivity because life is too short to not enjoy these last 2 months with my boys before we eagerly welcome our baby girl.

**This concludes my Monday morning confession. Please excuse me while I find some chocolate to atone for my sins.

I’m Dreaming Of…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. sticking my toes in the sand on a tropical beach…

2. feeling the sun beat down on my eyelids and the warm breeze on my skin…

3. wearing flip flops….

4. eating tropical fruit that has not previously been frozen…

5. grilling on the back deck with Jimmy Buffet in the background and kids playing outside…

6. not putting on gloves, scarf and heavy jacket before leaving the house…

7. seeing leaves on the trees…

8. swinging on the porch with a baby girl in my arms…

9. watching the sunrise while everyone is still sleeping…

10. complaining because I’m sweating.

The beauty of winter is that it gives you a serious appreciation for spring. Without the cold and dreary days, we would never realize what a gift the warm breeze of spring is. As I sit here and look at the cold beauty of snow on our trees, I can’t help but dream about the coming days when the world outside becomes accessible once again to bare feet and hands. The beauty of our corner of North Carolina is that while the rest of the south is sweltering, we’ll still be basking in the beauty of mild weather all summer long.

The Three Things I Miss the Most

While there are a ton of things that I love about pregnancy (feeling the baby kick, not having to suck in my post-dinner belly, feeling justified in putting my feet up for 6 minutes each night), there are three things that I’m eagerly anticipating once this baby girl makes her big debut.

1. Sushi. Whenever I see a platter of sushi or sashimi, I groan with longing. Being a pescatarian, sushi is absolutely my favorite food (as in I could happily move to Japan and eat it daily). So for me, going cold turkey on sushi is like a chain smoker cutting out tobacco or an alcoholic passing up a drink. It hurts. Bad.

2. Beer. Speaking of alcohol, I miss beer almost as much as I miss sushi. I have quite the stash going of brews that I want to try once my alcohol allowance is more than 2 ozs. at a time. For those of you who may be new to the dailycynema, please let me clarify lest you think that we live in a frat house. My husband is a huge beer connoisseur and one of things that we love to do together is to try new beers and go to beer festivals. Our formal dining room has been converted into our own personal tasting room and we have a 2-tap kegorator that we keep filled with local microbrews. I think part of what I miss has to do with the ritual of it all. Picking a beer, picking a movie, settling in the sip and enjoy…

3. Mega Workouts. I greatly miss working out until I hit total exhaustion. I am pretty good at exercising moderation in most areas of my life, but the one place that I move purely by instinct is in the gym and on the pavement. Working out for me is like going to church, therapy and to a day spa all rolled into one. I take all of my aggression, stress and frustration and I fuel it into my effort when I exercise. More importantly, I leave all that bad stuff there on the gym floor and come out on the other side feeling tired, but at peace.

I think that this is the one thing that I miss more than anything else. It’s pretty obvious to everyone who has to deal with me on a daily basis that I’m missing my daily dose of personal ass-kicking. As much as I try for zen and calm, I’m definitely more agitated and stressed out than I would be if I didn’t have to hold back during the few workouts that I still manage to get in. To make matters worse, I’m definitely hitting the point where no exercise is comfortable and walking any more than a mile or two is incredibly taxing.

So while I’m trying to bask in these last two months of my last pregnancy, I’m quite looking forward to having this baby girl in my arms instead of in my belly and once again finding the balance that I so desperately need to feel “normal.”