Need blogging platform advice

I’ve been in a conundrum lately… I have a wonderful WordPress blog that I upgraded for $99 so I could secure the domain name <eyeofmyown.com>. But since I’m on WordPress’s platform, I cannot place Google’s Adsense ads on my site to earn a little money. I’m very familiar with Matt Wolfe’s great blogging advice via LearntoBlog.com that says anyone can make a website that earns money with Hostgator. Unfortunately for me, he starts you off at Hostgator where you buy the platform space then the WordPress site gets added on with the sale of the platform.

Hostgator does allow you to buy platform space with an existing domain name but then I’d be paying two people for my website- WordPress for my domain name and Hostgator for the platform.

I’m totally in love with my domain name so I’d really like to keep it. The yearly subscription comes up in July or August so I’ve thought about letting it lapse, then quickly going to Hostgator to create it again but that may sound hopeful. I’ve also thought about having two blogs, but I can barely keep up with one and I’d still be paying two people. Hostgator does have a package that allows you to have multiple blogs so I could subscribe to that one, try keeping the two blogs and keep my fingers crossed that when my premium WordPress lapses, it’s not as hard to switch as I think it is…

Basically I’m overthinking it at this point. Does anyone out there have any blogging advice to help me?

Posted in blog post, I can do better, personal processes, try something new, writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Pecan Pie Cheesecake

This year at Christmas, I wanted something different for dessert. For Thanksgiving, I had made a pecan pie and a pumpkin pie and, though I do love those traditional tasty treats, I was looking for something to surpass even Christmas itself. My mother had made a fantastic cheesecake when I was staying with her this summer, so I contacted her for the recipe. Pecan Pie Cheesecake with Dulce de Leche sauce sounded like just the thing.

She sent me this recipe from the Spicy Southern Cooking website. After talking to my mother about the outcomes of her cheesecakes, I decided to change the recipe just slightly. My mother said the crust turned hard both times she’d done this recipe. She thought it could be attributed to the idea that the sugar of the vanilla wafers combined with even more sugar for the crust in the original recipe was just too much sugar. I’ve never had a problem with the plain old graham cracker crust, so I substituted the same amount of graham crackers for the vanilla wafers. It turned out wonderfully! It even turned slightly gooey after a couple of days, reminiscent of a regular pecan pie. Next time I make it, I think I’ll change the recipe again by cutting the cheesecake layer in half because it was SO insanely rich… But there will be a next time, for sure. This one is going down in the books as special!

My random baking notes: The original recipe called for dark corn syrup but I didn’t have any. I just used the regular Karo light corn syrup. I am a vanilla-holic so I always add more like double than what is called for in a recipe (that’s the plus in the recipe below- I’ll leave that decision up to you). I beat that cream cheese. Boy, did I beat that cream cheese. And I beat it after every addition, too. Consequently, the cheesecake was so creamy, smooth and fantastic that I highly recommended you use a mixer and whip it, whip it real good. I put the cheesecake in the oven on the rack above a casserole dish half filled with water (a lazy person’s water bath, I called it), and I also left the cheesecake in the oven after I turned it off for an hour (as stated in the recipe). The cheesecake came out with ever so slight cracks around the edges but never got the huge crack down the middle that is common.

This is the recipe I used so yours turns out just as delectable as ours was for Christmas:

pecan pie cheesecake ingredients

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup butter, melted

Pecan Pie

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ⅔ cup corn syrup
  • ⅓ cup butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ cups chopped pecans
  • 1+ teaspoon vanilla extract

Cheesecake

  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1¼ cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • ⅔ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine graham cracker crumbs and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Stir in melted butter. Press into the bottom and halfway up the sides of a 9-inch spring form pan.
  3. Combine all pecan pie ingredients in a medium saucepan.
  4. Stir well and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring continuously, until mixture thickens slightly (I think it was about 6 minutes). Pour into prepared crust.
  5. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until smooth and creamy.
  6. Add brown sugar and flour and beat until fluffy.
  7. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl to make sure everything mixes evenly.
  8. Add cream and vanilla and beat just to combine. Pour mixture over pecan pie filling.
  9. Place in oven on a rack above a bake proof container filled with water and bake for 1 hour. Turn oven off but leave cheesecake (and water) in oven with door closed for 1 more hour.
  10. Remove cheesecake from oven and run a knife around the sides to make sure they are not sticking. Let cool completely. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Serve with Dulce de Leche.

I made the dulce de leche sauce exactly like Spicy Southern Cooking, so I’m adding the recipe link here.

Enjoy, but hopefully not too much LOL

pecan pie cheesecake just baked

Hardly any cracks in the cheesecake until I gouge it running a knife around the edges…

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My Biggest Fear

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. From my days of Author of the Week to studying Shakespeare in England, I’ve dreamed of pouring over a typewriter, letting words flow onto paper, seeing my thoughts affect another person. Staying home with the kids right now, it seems I have a chance yet being the matriarch who keeps the family standing tall may be more important than fulfilling my dream. It’s a humbling conclusion to give up something so non-negotiable in my soul for another more encompassing and greater priority. Children are the future and a strong family keeps us all on the path for betterment. It is better to be selfless than selfish but I feel I am giving up myself at times, prepping dinner rather than hiding with my words. Writing is vying for my time right along with my children. They always win because the duty of a mother will always triumph in my mind. My mother was there, hindsight says I watched her go a little crazy, but she was always there for my sister and me so I spend my time trying to find the balance between a mother’s duty to her children and the duty of a mother to herself. One cannot lead others to health when she herself is not healthy. Yet when the children call, I come. There has to be a sometime that I let them be on the side so I can prop myself up on a stand with feather, inkwell and paper. Not oblivious but decidedly choosing not to do anything about the discord around me. Shoulda, woulda, coulda, sometimes even I have to say my time is now. How am I ever going to make it without first making the time for it? I fear I will let it slip by me, I fear I will procrastinate too long, I fear I will let everyone one else’s needs come before mine. I fear I will let myself down. Not allowing myself to be someone I want to be. I want to write, I want to read, I want to play. If I consistently do everything else for everyone else, I will be nothing but a shell of a person. Nothing inside, just filler. Filled with someone else’s desires.

Posted in blog post, I can do better, life changing, real life stories, writing | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

A Mother’s Holiday Nightmare, I mean, Joy

As I was putting the kids to bed last night, my mind was racing. Go into the shed, find the Christmas boxes. Bring out the advent calendars and Zippy the elf. Fill the advent calendars, hopefully my husband picked up some candy. Stage Zippy and advent calendars for the most joy possible… And it wasn’t even December 1 yet. I’ve been stocking up on elf ideas for a while but I guess now is the time to re-find and actually read them. I think I’ve got the kids pretty much taken care of as far as presents go, but I haven’t thought of the nieces, nephews, care packages, Christmas cards or anything else for that matter. Christmas has definitely changed a little since I’ve become a mother.

I remember the first couple of Christmases that we had a child. I talked fairly freely about Christmas around our newborn and then crawling daughter. Suddenly all too soon, I saw her looking intently at us and realized her wheels were turning. Christmas had to get tightened up and STAT! Presents had to be hidden better, Santa’s mystique had to be bolstered, something for the tree should be made every year, and I really should try to get those Christmas cards out before Easter. As much enchantment that automatically surrounds Christmas, I’ve found that a mom’s effort makes it all the more better. But it comes with a price.

To create true holiday spirit, moms must use a writer’s best advice: Show, don’t tell. So there’s more than just putting up a tree and calling it Christmas? Indeed. Sights, sounds and smells, baby. Bake cookies, light those candles (safely, of course, when in the company of children and a nice house), plug in some oils, make the house smell like Christmas. String up the lights, hang some stars, find those kid friendly printables and projects because kids don’t keep themselves occupied. Bring out the Mannheim Steamroller and Sinatra classics, DVR all those vintage masterpieces like Rudolph, Charlie Brown and Frosty and, if you’re the singing type, brush up on those Christmas carols. Separately, each component says Christmas, but if artfully put together, it makes magic on our kid’s faces.

Staying on top of it all requires a list that would make Martha Stewart glow. Keeping the secrets secret while shamelessly dropping the jolly man’s name at every possible moment makes Caitlyn Jenner’s personal assistant’s job look easy. Scheduling shopping trips without the kids but also making sure the kids aren’t home when you need to hide the goods cannot be done without distraction and sleight of hand better than Santa himself. Promoting a person who has never been seen before yet is the most talked about person after Halloween is like creating a person who already exists but doesn’t. Talk about magic!

I tried making sugar cookies with the kids one year. I didn’t even get to chill the dough before I was thinking, “I’ll wait a few more years to do that again!” I thought about how easy hot glue makes ornaments come together, and then thought of dollops, streams and trails of burning glue all connected to my son. I’ve left that in the closet along with the glitter. I know there must be a way to ultra prepare a way out of disaster with these activities because I see evidence all over the internet but I am still trying to put pictures in the ornaments I bought during last year’s Christmas clearance sale.

Maybe I’m trying to put too much into the twenty five most talked about days of the year. Maybe I’m trying to keep up with the Jones’s. On some level, I know I can, but then reality kicks in and all I can do is pour a glass of wine, settle back and watch the magic displayed on the kids’ faces from my half assed attempt at Christmas.

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Anniversary

On this day of our anniversary, I’m thinking of who I’ve been able to become because I married my husband. I know three things for sure- I wouldn’t be living in Hawaii, I’d probably be living in a city apartment rather than our rural custom house and I would not have had our two beautiful children. If I had not married my husband, I may be farther down a career-oriented path but I would not have the love and support that surrounds me now. Because of my husband, I have learned much about family, acceptance and making it work. I’ve learned that it’s hard creating the home and life you want but no matter how difficult it becomes, the strength of two is better than one when you work together. And the joy of two is exponential when true. Happy anniversary, my love.

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And They Call Me Crazy…

On Friday, she comes home with the backpack. She packs it full of overnight clothes and hops in Dad’s truck to go to Grandpa’s. I go to Black and White Night with the ladies.

On Saturday, Dad goes to Grandpa’s to pick her up. As they are leaving, she has her backpack on but she takes it off when she puts on her shoes. Grandpa gives the backpack to Uncle to give to Dad at work figuring that will be the fastest way to get the backpack back to her.

Monday. She realizes her backpack is at Grandpa’s. I call Grandpa and he says he gave the pack to Uncle. She goes to school with no planner or folder and a temporary backpack. She brings home a temporary folder but no planner. Dad and Uncle forget the backpack.

Tuesday. Dad and Uncle forget the backpack.

Wednesday. No school because of Veteran’s Day. Kids have a playdate at Grandpa’s. Dad brings backpack home. I unpack all of the clothes that Grandpa sent back home. There is no planner or folder. I assume both are at Grandpa’s. I put the temporary folder we’ve been using in the backpack and put it in Dad’s truck just in case kids stay the night. I check Grandpa’s house for planner and folder. No planner or folder.

Thursday. Dad leaves super early with backpack and temporary folder still in his truck. I tear the house apart, looking for the planner and original folder. Find nothing. I empty out my car. Find only anger, frustration and too many toys. On the way back to the house with two armfuls of crap, I see the dog has chewed up yet another toy. More anger. Resisting the urge to throw everything away, including the dog, I now demand she remember as much as she can about her planner and folder. Every time she replies, the answer is ever so slightly different. I finally admit, FUCK IT! She’s in the second grade, I’m trying to teach her responsibility not how to freak out, and a missing planner and folder are not the end of the world despite what I’m feeling right now. I hustle her into the car with the temporary backpack and no folder and no planner. On our way to school, she is still giving me possible scenarios of what happened. Five minutes from school, she says she will look for her planner in her desk and in other people’s desks. I tell her she cannot just start looking in other people’s spaces for no reason. She says they did an exercise at the art table yesterday (remember yesterday was a day off from school) and when they were done, she remembers seeing someone else take her planner.

Wait. What? The planner is at school? And now that I think about it, there are a few other things… Like, I don’t really know for sure if her planner or folder actually came home on Friday. I never saw it. The temporary folder might actually be the original folder with every additional thought I put into this whole merry-go-round. And if her folder and planner were at school the whole time, WHY AM I STILL LOOKING FOR HER FOLDER AND PLANNER?!?!?!

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My Choice

I set up an appointment recently to get my reproductive tubes tied. Yes, maybe that’s a little too much information about me than you wanted to find out, but I believe it brings up a subject that concerns most of us- children. Whether you have them, want them, are trying for them or want nothing to do with them, the idea of having children crosses our minds at least once during our lifetime.

When I was in high school, I figured I’d never have children. With the environment going downhill, countries warring with each other constantly and a few less than favorable genes my family tree would inevitably pass down, why bother bringing an innocent child into the world to inherit all the negatives? I was happy with that decision.

Well, life goes on, and I met a wonderful man. We built an awesome home and, just like that, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to have a family. Alongside my husband, I wanted to teach our children all the great things about our world, to help our babies grow, perhaps to even solve those negatives I saw in high school, and to experience the literal miracle of life. So, we have two- a girl and a boy.

They have really defined the words joy and amazement for me and have brought some of the best moments to my life. They have also brought helplessness, confusion, fear for the complicated ages to come, anger and depression. They are a blessing and a curse.

I yearn for the alone time I used to have. I miss taking care of only myself. I’d love to go shopping in peace, clean my house without worrying about what my kids are getting into while I’m knee deep in cleaning solutions, or skip a meal and not worry about starving my kids…

Now, don’t go getting your panties in a bunch and call Child Protective Services on me- I am a mother, first and foremost, and will protect them to my dying day. As crazy as they make me, I can’t even think about life without them. I love seeing their developing minds connect dots that weren’t connecting yesterday, hearing them laugh, and growing into people with their own ideas and attitudes.

So, to allow myself to experience the ups and downs of parenting and childhood without pushing my personal envelope of sanity, I believe the decision to have my tubes tied is one of the smartest since deciding to have children. I’m thankful for my two happy and healthy babies but I also know that I’m not equipped to take care of any more.

I challenge my readers to think about your own relationship with children. Be the best mother or father you can for the children you have. Be active in your niece’s and nephew’s lives. Keep trying. Or sit down with a doctor about the many choices available for your reproductive system so a child does not come into the world as a burden. They deserve more than that. And so do you!

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Affirmations

It lifted me up,
Made my heart swell
And breathed a smile on my face
To hear praise from a friend about my writing.
She talked about flow and
How she wants to read more
And just reconfirmed
The ideas gathering in a storm
Around my head.
Ever since Author of the Week,
High school English with Mr. Swett and
The search for a greater voice in college,
I’ve wanted to write.
To create words from my thoughts
That create thoughts in the reader,
The fuss over a word that doesn’t feel right
And the power that comes with a thesaurus,
That stereotype of a hunched over figure
With a typewriter and a side of whiskey
In a flurry of paper and flourish,
It’s all I’ve ever wanted.
Due to over modesty or
Most likely a lack of drive,
I’ve never pushed but
I haven’t let go of the dream.
At times it’s felt like I have yet
The years have made a great cocoon
Of family and friends and place.
The time is coming though
And I’m subconsciously preparing.
A blog, an article, a query letter.
I’m writing and that’s quite simply it.
I want to write, I think about writing, and
Tonight I’m writing instead of watching a movie.
I wanted to do that, too,
But I’ll take the win for me this time
And apply myself harder every time.

Posted in affirmation, I can do better, poetry | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Try What You Don’t Know

Every once in a while, I get bored with the regular. For instance, malbecs are great, but I can only drink them for so long before I want a different taste, and not just a different brand of malbec, but a whole different wine. I’ll drink whites for a while, but that sauvignon blanc that was way too grassy pushes me away, too. When I’m in a funk like this, I go off the beaten path. I find a wine that is hard to pronounce upon first look and upon first taste, it’s indescribable. I don’t think it should be any more scary to pick a wine for its label than to pick it for its unknown name. Here are a few of my favorites:

Uvaggio Vermentino: Vermentino grapes originally flourished in Italy but have found in a new home with this wine in California. Personally one of my favorites, I drank it at my wedding reception back in 2006. It is floral and slightly sweet without being sweet. Perhaps it’s a little bit more rich or creamy or “fat” as one tasting note added than what you might find in the Old World Italian or Sardignian drier style vermentinos, this is one wine I believe the New World’s California did right.

Crios Torrontés: I always sought this wine out at any wine tasting I attended. Made by an Argentinian winemaker Susana Balbo, she also makes a damn good malbec. She persevered in a male dominated wine world to create a portfolio of top of the line wines that are also sustainable from vineyard to bottle to community. The Torrontés could be best likened to a Viognier, but that is yet another unusual name for some. Amidst some dramatically flowing language from the website, I do think they describe it best as “fruity, floral and yet still quite dry.” It smells like flowers, it tastes fruity, has a great length and a lot of flavor but it’s never overpowering.

Feudi Falanghina: An awesome Italian wine that is as fun to say as is fun to drink. The vineyards and winery are on the same grounds along with a Michelin rated restaurant. The abundance of fruit and olive trees, rosebushes and gardens supply the restaurant as well as providing great biodiversity for the vineyards. On the drier side of the scale, this wine smells of flowers but has fruit and minerals on the backbone. This wine isn’t over the top yet has enough flavor to stand up in the meal. Elegance in a glass.

Michele Chiarlo Gavi: Michele Chiarlo is another great producer relying on sustainable agriculture to make fantastic wines. Grown in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy, Gavi is made from 100% Cortese grapes. Upon my first taste of this wine, I wanted sushi. It has a subtle reminiscence of sake but is definitely wine. There is a certain amount of mineral without being a sauvignon blanc and it is fruity and dry but not a pinot grigio. If you’re having fish, especially sushi or whole fried fish, this is an exceptional pick.

Salneval Albariño: From the southern wine growing region of Rais Baixas near Galicia, Spain, this wine has leanings toward a sauvignon blanc. Made from an owner/grower co-op, this 100% Albariño wine is delicious. With notes of pear and honey combined with a slight minerally-ness, this is a perfect pairing with fish or spicy Asian cuisine. The website also recommends having it with barbeque ribs which blows the normal “white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat” motto away but at least one other tasting note concurred.

Feudo Maccari Saia: Yet another Italian wine, this wine is made from the Nero d’Avola grape. It is a rich and hearty wine that has come from the earth but is soft at the edges to keep you reaching for another glass. If I had to pick one country to drink wine from for the rest of my life, I would have to choose Italy and this wine is just one of the reasons why. It is definitely a grilled meats, heavy meal kind of wine because of its full flavor but worth just drinking anyway.

Brachetto and Lambrusco: The Lambrusco I have tasted is from the Italian winery Zonin and sells for less than $10, but for the life of me, I cannot remember the brand of Brachetto. Both wines are similar in that they are sweet and they are sparkling but they are red and are best served chilled. Of the two I have tasted, the Lambrusco is lighter in flavor, perhaps a bit more tannic but still very fruity and slightly sweet. The Brachetto was like drinking an incredibly flavorful and bubbly raspberry with just the perfect amount of sugar to make it sweet but not coated in simple syrup. Plus it came in a beautifully spiraled bottle worth keeping. Before drinking these two wines, I had never heard of a sparkling red nor a red that should be chilled. What an experience to be had. I would recommend these as an aperitif perhaps with a simple bowl of red berries or with dessert, namely chocolate. I could also see these being a great accompaniment to turkey, much like Beaujolais is good at Thanksgiving.

With warmer weather coming up, I’ve provided more wines that pair nicely with a lighter fare. A savory salad would pair with the Albariño, the Vermentino could cut the spice in a mild curry nicely and the Gavi is excellent with sushi. For those who love a good red wine, you can’t go wrong with Feudo Maccari, but you’ll want to adjust the meal choice accordingly to match its richness. Personally, I don’t believe you can go wrong with the bubbly. It’s sparkling, it has a bright berry flavor and it will bring the sweet mother in your life even more sweetness this Mother’s Day. Next time you’re stumped in the wine aisle, apply a hint of Robert Frost’s advice to your choosing adventure and take the bottle less known.

Posted in brachetto, Crios Torrontes, drink, enjoy, Feudi Falaghina, Feudo Maccari Saia, lambrusco, lesser known varietals, list, Michele Chiarlo Gavi, mother's day, red wine, Salneval Albarino, sparkling wine, try something new, Uvaggio Vermentino, white wine, wines | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Wines for Valentine’s Day

When the most romantic day of the year is upon us, I always buy an extra bottle of wine. Maybe it’s the expectation that the day must be perfect that give me the jitters, maybe it’s the realization that Valentine’s Day is uber-capitalized and I feel the need to buy a box of chocolates that is over $20, maybe I know that showing our love shouldn’t be shoved into just one day… Whatever the reason, I know I’ll have wine in my glass earlier than later.

In no particular order and in no way an end, here is a list of wines that I think would be great for Valentine’s Day (or any other day, for that matter):
1. Charles de Fere Jean Louis Blanc de Blanc: This hidden gem of a sparkler is my go-to for the bubble. Made in France but not within the boundaries of Champagne, I think it’s the perfect balance of flavor and fizz. Grapes sourced from both the north and the south of France give this blend a tropical flair in a dry body with elegance that lasts through the bubbles.
2. Tilia Malbec: A sustainably grown Malbec from Argentina, this remains in my top choices for any occasion. For more than four years, it hasn’t let me down yet.
3. Green Truck Organic Petite Sirah: from the Red Truck family of wines, this organic bottle has everything one could want in a busty red wine. It is a great balance of heavy berry flavor, dry tannins that won’t turn your tongue into sandpaper and lasting grace that waits for the next sip patiently.
4. Clean Slate Riesling: From the motherland of Riesling, this one is worth the pick. Not too sweet but sweet enough and backed with plenty of flavor, this wine fits the bill as both fruity and stony. Grown on hills made of slate, the terroir or the earth that the vine receives its growth, nourishment and taste from, is so important that any fallen stone will be put back.
5. Lucy, Rosé of Pinot Noir- A beautifully pink wine with a beautiful backstory, this wine redefined rosé wines for me. Before tasting this wine, rosé wines were a lackluster middle ground being neither red nor white nor something tasty in between. Lucy blasted beyond the perimeter by being fruity, light, refreshing and crisp without any loss of flavor.
6. Girl and Dragon Malbec: One of my new finds. It is a wonderful wine with a healthy dose of tannins and dark red jammy berries that I found at Target once and have yet to find again. I was a little bummed to find out that this wine is part of the Canopy Management family of wines (Wine Sisterhood, Middle Sister, Promisqous, Monogamy, etc.) because I like to stay away from the larger incentive- driven portfolios of wine, but I’m still thinking about it so I’ll bring it home next time see it anyway.
7. Broadside Chardonnay: There are two un-oaked chardonnays from Broadside and both of them are awesome. The catchphrases native fermentation, bio-organic viticulture and minimalist, refined approach paint the picture of healthy vines, less messed with winemaking and wines that are true to nature. This isn’t the typical rich and heavy chardonnay but rather something silky and round, fruity and refreshing. If you’re a chardonnay adventurer, make this a stop.
8. Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia: If you have the funds and you find this wine before Valentine’s Day, you’d be losing an opportunity if you didn’t buy it. I’ve been very lucky to try this wine a couple times. All I can say is, Chocolate and wine. Chocolate and wine. And I didn’t have any bar of chocolate at hand…

Reading and re-reading this list makes me happy. I have tasted all of these wines and I would not go anywhere for a long while if they were all displayed on my table. There are definitely other wines that I have tried, loved and could blurb on about, but who needs more than eight bottles anyway? I’ll leave some of the tasting adventures to you. Cheers!

This article is also running in the February 2015 edition of the Big Island Chronicle.

Posted in holiday help, list, Valentine's Day, wines | Tagged , , | Leave a comment