Introduction to the Cooking for Kids Series

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Cooking with Kids, Life

It’s really difficult to tell sometimes when kids are ready to cook – some are extremely precocious and are able to compete like old pros on shows like Masterchef Junior, others lack the interest or even the drive to boil a kettle of water. Every once in a while, the child comes to you and asks if they can help. Believe me when I say that kids like that are a rare thing indeed, so you want to foster that interest as soon as they show it. My great-grandmother started teaching me her recipes at 4 or 5 years old, whether it was helping her with Apfelkuchen, sitting out back snapping the ends off of green beans, or what not. I was still using a step-stool when I started cooking with her.

Yahnni Cooking

Yahnni is my best friend’s daughter, (but is more like a niece to me), a 10 year old extremely intelligent, and extremely creative ball of energy who leaves her mark on everything she touches. We’ve agreed to let her pick out a dish for us all to make on the weekends, and this series will talk about those experiences, what we’ve learned (because as much as we’re teaching her, we learn from her as well), and how it all turned out. So keep your eyes peeled for some of her inventions.

P.S. If you’d like to join in, put the link to your entry as a comment. I will see all that are submitted and will edit the entry to link you all up.

New Year, New Me, New Look

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Admin, Life, Weight Loss Surgery

To say that 2014 was an eventful year for me would be the understatement of the year. We only made two posts all year, for a number of reasons. Chiefly, I took a spill down the stairs in early March that left me with a shoulder broken in four places (major dislocation made the head of my humerus break completely off at the neck, and my arm socket was cracked in three places additionally) that required an orthopedic surgeon to put it back together with a plate and several screws. My protein stores were already low, but my tendency to stop eating when I’m in severe pain didn’t help matters any. I had pretty much a repeat of 2011 – hospital acquired lung infection caused pneumonia and then ARDS again, and I ended up with sepsis and my blood pressure bottoming out. The sepsis also caused a pulmonary embolism, which if I hadn’t been transferred from Mt. Carmel West to OSU the day it happened, probably would have killed me. They put me on a ventilator, and I spent the better part of two months switching between the ICU and the PCU, except this time around they didn’t give me the luxury of sedating me, and between high doses of steroids to bring up my blood pressure and sensory deprivation in the ICU, I came down with both steroid and ICU induced psychosis, which left me extremely agitated and paranoid. Right before I got transferred to Select Specialty Hospital, they put me back on a trach.

I consulted with bariatric surgeons at OSU, and they agreed that the revision I had in 2008 was a bit too aggressive. We decided I would be put onto TPN (IV liquid that contains all elemental nutrients) until my protein stores were high enough again for me to have a partial reversal of the revision. They planned to leave the trach in until the surgery was completed, and I ended up coming home with a central line, TPN, and trach at the end of July. I had my revision surgery in mid-September, and things have been slowly back to normal since then. Initially, I had very little capacity or excitement about eating, so my blogging fell by the wayside this past year. In the past month or so, I’ve been more passionate about eating and cooking. Passionate enough to take it back up again.

So with the new year comes a new look (temporary for now – I’ll eventually be upgrading to another one once I figure out the ins and outs of customizing a theme), new posts (I’m going to try to post every day), and a new me (I lost about 15 lbs after the surgery, so I’m in the 210ish range with plans to lose another 15-20 lbs.). Stick around, new material coming tomorrow. 🙂

A New Year, A New Way of Life

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Admin, Gluten Free, Life

Happy New Year, everyone! Thank goodness 2013 is over, because this past year has been quite challenging, to say the least. But with the new year comes a new way of life, because I’ve decided to go gluten free.

To those who know me outside of the blog, you’ll remember that in the last 5 years I’ve been dealing with one setback or another. It may be related in part to my gastric bypass revision to a highly malabsorptive configuration, which in and of itself has it’s own set of challenges. I knew going in I’d have to be really conscientious about protein intake, taking supplemental vitamins and calcium every single day.

My hospital stay in 2011 was directly related with my trying to “diet” after my surgery, because I hadn’t been satisfied with the weight loss so far. Because of depleted protein stores, my whole body went into metabolic collapse, and compounded with a hospital acquired infection that gave me sepsis, well you all know how that story ends.

At my lowest weight after my hospital stay (195 lbs) I looked extremely sickly, was extremely pale, had all of my hair falling out, and my teeth were so brittle that they broke left and right, and I finally got most of them pulled and got dentures. I was happy to be under 200 lbs, but in my case I was weak, and still had a long way to go to be fully recovered. Ever since then, I’ve eaten as normally as possible. No dieting, despite my packing on an extra 40 or 50 lbs, because I didn’t want a repeat of 2010/2011. I ate as much protein as possible, like 4 eggs at a time, or a 1 lb. steak in a sitting, etc.

But lately I’ve been feeling sick again. I’m dealing with an indescribable amount of inflammation and joint pain, I’ve been feeling weak, I’ve got sore spots on my tongue that mean it burns like hell when I eat or drink something with the least bit of acid in it (like ketchup, or orange juice, for example). Over the past few years, it has seemed like one medical crisis after another – we’d treat the problem, and in it’s place came two more. So now I have to swallow more pills than an old lady – everything from thyroid medication to painkillers to muscle relaxers to depression and anxiety drugs to medicine for neuropathic pain to sleep medicine for insomnia.

I’ve believed for years that all of this is connected to something that is autoimmune, but I’ve never been able to pinpoint it to one particular thing, and neither have my doctors. And usually my labs are good (not counting the super-low Vitamin D levels that are darn near impossible for me to get the values to a normal level. So for these god knows how many years, I’ve been treating the symptoms rather than the underlying disease. I don’t how, but somehow when I was researching the anomalies in my labs (high Alkaline phosphatase, low Vitamin D, low calcium, low iron, low total protein and albumin, a clotting factor abnormality (in my case, Factor V Leiden)) and I came across the NIH website on Celiac disease. Not only do my lab results almost mirror the markers attributed to Celiac disease, but all these disease processes I’ve been struggling with all these years (abdominal pain and issues, lactose intolerance, bruising easily, depression and anxiety, fatigue, hair loss, a rash that just won’t go away, mouth ulcers, infertility, joint pain, and peripheral neuropathy (which I’ve never understood why I had it, since it’s most closely related to being a side effect of diabetes, which I have never had). Everything just clicked in place, and now it all makes sense. Maybe the reason I’m having so much trouble keeping my protein and vitamin levels up have absolutely nothing to do with me and maybe everything to do with this underlying disease process that on top of surgery-induced malabsorption, is further malabsorbed because the intestinal villi are damaged to the point where I absorb almost nothing, no matter how many supplements I take.

My primary care doctor seems to agree with me. At least as for as ordering the lab tests, and getting me in touch with a gastroenterologist that can do an endoscopic intestinal biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. Or I can go to the dermatologist and have them biopsy the rash (which looks suspiciously very much like dermatitis herpetiformis (a rash that is only present in those with Celiac disease). I’m still waiting for answers. I had the blood drawn Monday to check for antibodies that show how my body reacts to gluten. If that is positive (and sometimes it doesn’t show up on the blood screening, even if you do have Celiac diease), at least that will give me answers. I’d much rather deal with the underlying disease head on (and one that can in almost all cases be managed by a gluten free diet), than continuing to treat the symptoms by throwing drugs, drugs and more drugs at the problems.

I’ve decided that, even if either the blood or biopsy tests come back as negative, I’m going to adopt a gluten free diet. No matter what, it can’t hurt and it can only help. And truthfully? I’m willing to try anything to keep myself from the road of malnutrition and all its ugly side effects I had in 2010/2011. I’ve been told to keep eating gluten throughout the testing and diagnosing period, and it’s been tough because I want to hurry up and get better. So expect (hopefully within the next couple weeks) that many of my posts here may be trying to navigate my way in a world that has gluten everywhere, even in hidden sources. In the meantime, I’ll be posting some dishes I’ve made over the past year or so, that I’m dying to talk about. It’s great being back. 🙂

Are Food Blogs Trying to Kill You?

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Admin, Life

I came across a really interesting post on Eater today, about how a study was done on recipes posted on a half dozen or so popular food blogs, and how the nutritional data run on these recipes (not provided on the original blogs) showed unhealthy numbers on some of the recipes, so the author of the paper came to the conclusion that unhealthy recipes on food blogs may be a contributory factor to bad health.

Show of hands….how many of you actually don’t know that a recipe (for example) for pound cake that uses 2 sticks of butter in the recipe isn’t something you should be eating every day?

Everything with moderation. Even a person like me, who even at my lowest adult weight has been considered obese and who has a raging eating disorder that I struggle with every day, get that. You can’t eat quinoa and kale and leave everything else out.

People ask me why I haven’t had a blog entry for a few months. Truth of the matter is, the last year has been a struggle for me, and I didn’t think it was fair to bring other people along for the roller coaster ride that has been my life. Alternating with feeling guilty when I ate (because I regained some weight due to some bad choices) and not eating, then remembering that when I stopped eating before my health suffered badly. So then I’d eat, and because food is like a drug or alcohol is to others, I wouldn’t know when to stop because I don’t get the same signals (of fullness) that other people get to tell me when to stop. So I overeat, feel guilty, hate myself for it, and then the whole cycle starts again. But unlike drugs or alcohol (things that you can choose to do or not do), food is something you need to do in order to survive. Sobriety for a person with an eating disorder isn’t not eating – it’s finding a healthy way of eating and sticking to it. The key to my “recovery”, so to speak, has been finding the root cause of my messed up relationship with food and starting from there.

So instead of blogging, I’ve been in therapy. I’ve found that the root cause of everything is based in my childhood. My great-grandmother showing me love by feeding me until I almost burst, with high fat, calorie laden German food, and my mom making me go without when I was back home (FWIW, I think she has her own issues with food, and I think that they way she rationed food with me was just an extension of her own issues – like alcoholism, eating disorders can be a multi-generational thing). So food became all about security for me, feast vs. famine, love vs hate, safe vs. danger. And because my husband has similar issues with food, we’ve been feeding each others addiction – so we both had to get help in order to even begin to heal.The time I would have spent blogging I’ve instead spent in therapy. And for the first time in many, many months, I feel that I’m back in the drivers seat.

I’ve always thought that people were smart enough to know the majority of Paula Deen’s recipes are unhealthy. That’s common sense. That’s why I feel that most food bloggers aren’t doing a disservice to other people by compromising their health. What I’ve found to be far more insidious, far more dangerous are the fit bloggers who make it all about avoiding whole food groups at a time, who make it more about numbers on a scale, more about the size of their clothes, more about how they’re far more disciplined than you because they can run a dozen miles before you even wake up in the morning. These are the people who make judgment calls on other people’s worth based on their size, where they choose to buy their food, what food they decide to eat, people whose own eating disorders are on display in a way that young girls, looking for ways to fit into a society that judges their worth on unrealistic standards of a fashion industry made for a size 0, a size most women will never reach because the price (your health) is far too high. But girls, looking for acceptance in a world where a size 8 is considered plus sized, read these blogs and take their nutritional advice and foster eating disorders of their own. I’m not saying that every person who has a healthy living blog is like this – but there’s a sizeable enough majority that I didn’t want to become one of them. I didn’t want to be that person that caused someone else to do something stupid like not eating, or engaging on a month-long juice or master cleanse that sends your body into starvation mode, where the weight loss is really lean muscle loss, where the number on the scale is dropping but so are you because you lack the strength or stamina to pull your carcass up a flight of stairs. I’ve already been there, I’ve already learned that lesson the hard way. It doesn’t mean that my disordered thought patterns don’t tell me to do that any more. They do, all the time. And that’s a big part of why I’ve avoided going out in public or going to any food related functions for the last year and a half – because part of my regaining a healthy relationship with food meant I had to be abstinent from the things that triggered me. I’ve never lost my passion for blogging – I’ve been keeping an offline (pen to paper) journal that has filled that need, I just didn’t want to be that irresponsible person that caused someone else to try to emulate me right into the hospital. Protein energy malnutrition (kwashiorkor) is not pretty, folks. Those who saw me right after I got out of the hospital may remember the wheelchair, or the fact that I looked like Gollum because almost all of my hair fell out and my teeth were breaking left and right.

I’m okay with my new reality now. I’ve been pretty loquacious on Facebook, and those who have been true friends through thick and thin (you know who you are, I ♥ you all dearly!) have known how to get in touch with me and have actually done so. I also found out that all of a sudden when you can’t or aren’t promoting someone else’s stuff on your blog anymore, or providing them with free advertising, that you find out very quickly who your friends really are. You also know who you are, and that’s been noted as well.

I’ll be back to blogging soon, I promise (and I really mean it this time). I’ve had enough therapy (and am properly medicated now) so that I don’t need to self-medicate with food any more. I’ve still got enough issues to know I’m not a 100% well, but I also know which of my thoughts of food are disordered and which ones are healthy. Part of that meant my becoming comfortable with the new, higher number on the scale, or not being able to fit into some clothes. But now I can walk unassisted, have grown back enough hair to be able to pull it back into a ponytail, and can stand in front of a stove long enough to cook a meal. I’m slowly venturing out into the real world again. It’s been a slow process, but I’m getting there. I’m really glad that some of you have stuck around long enough to be reading this. It means more than you know.

Menu Plan Monday: Jan 14-20, 2013

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Food Blogging Event, Life, Meal Planning, Recipes


Well, that deadline definitely went out the window – updating the theme isn’t as easy as I originally intended (since I’m installing a completely new framework, and behind the scenes getting everything to work with everything else is a bit harder than I thought. Luckily, I’m married to an IT professional, but at the moment, he’s married to his job, so I only get visitation (and help w/ the upgrade) on weekends now. I’m excited about the new look, though – I’m getting there slowly but surely and it will definitely be easier to update when I don’t have to go line by line through the code and by extension, getting a crash course in CSS.

We’ve made lots of new dishes in the past few months – becoming a hermit has done wonders for getting us to cook at home since going out to eat isn’t an option at the moment (hopefully that will change soon – I’m getting a bit stir crazy after confining myself to the house since July).

One unfortunate side effect of getting on the right medication is that I’ve managed to pick up a few (uh, like 35-40) unwanted pounds along the way. It’s difficult to tread the fine line between disordered and healthy eating, and I’ve started taking small, gradual steps to dropping the weight, adding in some exercise and cutting out the obvious culprits (way too much fast food, and highly refined sweets). I really need to find something I can stick with, but finding moderation is a challenge.

I’m a day late with our menu plan for the week – but feel good about the fact that we had most of the ingredients for these dishes on hand. We just got a Ninja Cooking System (we got one for my sister and she raved about it, so I got one for myself). I’m going to adapt a few crock pot recipes (including the Transylvanian Goulash we’re making later this week) and see how they turn out.

So, here’s what’s on board for this week:

Monday: Lemon Chicken with Orzo, Green Beans

Tuesday: One Pot Spaghetti, Garden Salad

Wednesday: Bacon Fried Rice

Thursday: Tofu Tortilla Casserole, Authentic Street Style Elotes

Friday: Transylvanian Goulash (in the Ninja)

Saturday: Oven Fried Chicken, Roasted Garlic and Tomato Risotto

Sunday: Manestra with Lamb, Spinach Feta and Mushroom Crustless Quiche

Breakfasts: Meyer Lemon Ricotta Pancakes w/ Blueberries, Slow Cooker Peaches and Cream Steel Cut Oatmeal, Fried Egg & Sliced Avocado Open Face Sandwich

Desserts: Apple Strudel, Mississippi Mud Pie

What do the rest of you have on deck this week? Are you all hating winter as much as I do? Take a second to check out what other Meal Plan Monday participants have on their minds…

Brief Hiatus – Back Soon with a New Look!

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Admin, Life, Meta

Postings have been sporadic around these parts – part of it for reasons that are personal (getting on proper meds to treat my PTSD/depression/anxiety – the difference before and after is like night and day). A big part of it is technical reasons – wanting to switch over to a new theme that will actually work the way it is supposed to, won’t have to be designed to work around the limitations of the ad network I had belonged to. There’s tons of things to write about – so definitely no writer’s block – but don’t want to make it any more frustrating than it already is now. Part of it is because I need these last couple of weeks to get things organized, to get pictures processed, to divvy up the writing between Paul and I. Due to some ongoing dental issues I’ve been dealing with, Paul has picked up my slack and will be the outward face of Columbus Foodie – he’ll be doing restaurant reviews, attending and covering events, judging, the farmers market reports, while I’ll be here at home gardening, organizing, cooking and writing. I think it’s a step in the right direction, and a direction I’ve been pulled in for quite a while now. It’s just a little difficult, when you’ve built your identity around a hobby you can no longer be relaxed enough to enjoy, to make the decision either to keep going with it or letting it fall by the wayside.  There’s enough left to write that neither he nor I are ready to hang it up for good quite yet. But it has become very clear that it can’t quite continue the way it was going: sporadic, inconsistent, and untimely. It does no justice to either the words or the reader, and it just isn’t fair to anyone.

So, the next 3 or so weeks, I’m going to find and then configure a new theme – not sure which one yet, but I do know that I want it to be on a white background so it’s easier to read, navigate the links, etc. It will also integrate social media right into the site to make it more usable. Once I relaunch (on January 1st), I’ll strive to update everyday, but at the very least 3-5 times a week, depending. Maybe more. I’m so far in the weeds with old drafts that I could write nothing but and have a new entry for every day of 2013. I’ll try to consolidate where possible (for example, rather than going week by week for 2012 farmers market reports, I’ll just post a link to a Flickr slideshow that shows our pics from the whole summer, with weekly reports starting again in the spring.

So, thanks for reading, and thanks for continuing to read. I’ll be back before you know it!

I’m also going to implement a better system for getting my additional pages organized (food blog directory, events in Columbus and elsewhere in Ohio, menus for local restaurants) – it’s hopelessly outdated, and I’m hoping to use Outlook Tasks to get the updates done regularly.

So, one last time – I’m so sorry for being a sucky blogger in 2011 and 2012. I so don’t have my crap together right now. Now that I can finally think clearly again (because the panic attacks have stopped), the Herculean task of redesigning/relaunching seems like something I can handle.

Admin: A Candid Note About the Past Year

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Admin, Life

Admittedly, it’s been ages since I’ve posted – between a flurry of medical and dental stuff I had to deal with, somewhere along the line I got hacked. And bad. I closed the security holes they were exploiting, but cleanup after it all is long and slow, and requires going into each individual entry (and I have 1,100ish) and stripping out bad code. I’ve been working on this a couple of weeks now, and I’m still only up to September 2009. At this rate, I’ll be done…probably mid-August.

But I really need to talk about the elephant in the room. Even though my body has completely healed from the trauma of the last year, my mind hasn’t. I have been dealing with tons of depression and anxiety in the aftermath of what I went through. Even though life is slowly getting back to normal, I still can’t go a single day without reliving at least part of it in my mind. A lot of things have happened due to my illness – almost all my hair fell out, so I ended up shaving it all off. So much calcium was leached from my bones when I had malnutrition that I now have osteopenia (weakening of the bones, precursor to osteoperosis) and my teeth became so weakened that I broke two down to the gumline in the span of 4 months. Since these were front teeth, I decided to cut my losses, save the ones I could, and get the rest pulled before they had an opportunity to break. I did this with the intention of getting immediate dentures, but the dentist I went to was so bad that they took more teeth than they were supposed to and the dentures they provided me were unusable (didn’t fit in my mouth at all, had missing teeth).

All this to say that even though I’ve been extremely self-conscious about my appearance before this, now I’m so self-conscious that I refuse to leave the house except for doctors and dentist appointments. I get panic attacks even thinking about going out. I don’t even go to the farmers markets anymore, which is one of my favorite things in the world to do (Paul goes in my place, and is great about taking pictures). I have tons of things to write about – hundreds of drafts, literally. But I’ve just been so overwhelmed by negative emotions lately that I’ve been avoiding blogging because I don’t want them to bleed through to my writing. Many would say this is the time where I should stop blogging, when all of the joy I took in cooking/gardening/travel/going to restaurants is gone.

But that’s not it, really. Somewhere deep within, I’m still passionate about those things. I *want* to cook, to travel, all of those things. But before I can find joy in anything again, I first need to deal with the demons that are left over from almost dying. I need to seek professional help, because I realize that there’s something there that I need to deal with so I don’t become a prisoner in my own home, in a jail of my own making. I’ve seen what PTSD has done to my loved ones who suffer from it, and I don’t want to be an emotional cripple full of regret 20 years from now. There’s a price to keeping people at arms length – you save yourself the trouble of being hurt, but you also become very, very lonely with no real friends to lean on when push comes to shove. I’ve found strength where I least expected (by repairing the relationship I have with my father – the first time we’ve talked, really talked in 40 years), and found the courage to end relationships with family members who not only didn’t have my back. But I could have not made it through the past year without my sister & best friend, Maurya, who quite literally uprooted her entire family to move in here to help me out when I first got home. Her kids added joy to my life like you wouldn’t believe (and my biological clock is pretty much shot, with me turning 40 in like 3 weeks). They’ve since moved on to their own place, and the fact that they’re not here anymore makes this huge ass empty house seem even emptier.

The point being – forgive me for not posting often. Bear with me, please. As long as you see me on Twitter, or Facebook, or Pinterest, things are OK. I’m going to try to deal with my issues professionally, so I can figure out what’s wrong and fix it. I want to be better, I want to have confidence, I want to be around people and not feel uptight and self-conscious and uncomfortable because I feel like I don’t fit in, or that what I’m saying or my opinions are stupid. People tell me that I’m a much harsher critic of myself than other people are, but I no longer feel comfortable (did I ever, really?) in my own skin. So uncomfortable that it’s a barrier to living a normal life.

Food brings people together, I’m convinced of that. But I don’t know the art of conviviality. I invite people to do things, 9 times out of 10 I can’t get even a single person to go with me. The few times that I’ve invited people here, they either stand me up or criticize something about where I live, how I keep my house, etc. I see colleagues in the food blogging world have relationships with each other outside of public events, and I feel left out because I’m not invited or included. I don’t get invites to weddings, or showers, or anything like that. Not a fault on the part of the other people – I understand that it’s something about me that I need to work on.

But I’m tired of superficial relationships. They do take so much energy to maintain, energy that I don’t have to give right now. And I don’t understand the value of going through the motions when I feel like I’m losing ground when I try. The world went on without me when I was ill and afterwards, and it continues to go on without me. I’m still trying to catch up with the things I did in 2010, let alone stuff I’ve done in 2011 or 2012. It really is a lot to process, and I’ve barely even scratched the surface.

All to say, bear with me as I try to venture forward. Sometime in August, I’m going to be introducing a new look to go with the venture back into the food blogging world. As easy as it would to be to quit right now, I need to keep going. I need to keep writing to stay sane. You’ll see a lot more posts from Paul, since he’s going to take over some of the posting while I work through all this. He’s judging at the Rib-Off tomorrow at the Ohio State Fair on behalf of the Columbus Foodie team. He’s quite psyched about it, it should be fun for him and I look forward to his report of it (as he photographs/blogs about it, and all the other sights at the Fair, since I probably won’t be going this year since I’m less than a week post-surgery and still waiting on those darn teeth. I’m glad that issue will be resolved by the time Taste the Future comes along (more about that, soon – in the next couple of days I’ll be writing about last year’s event and offering up three pairs of tickets to be given away here on the blog).

And please, if you’ve tried reaching out to me before, but I haven’t been receptive, or if it’s some kind of signal I’m putting out that seems standoffish, please let me know. It’s not you, I promise.

Thanks, as always, to all of you still reading. It’s a lot to process, I know, and much more personal than I usually get on here. But I felt as if I owed you all an explanation. It’s not fair of me to disappear and not explain why I’ve been gone. I’m going to be blogging a lot of pretty old stuff, but I need to get through all of that before I can get to doing new stuff.

Franklin Park Conservatory February 2011

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Admin, Columbus, Life

For Christmas 2010, right before I got really sick, I bought myself something I had been wanting for years, but had always just stopped short of buying – a really nice DSLR camera so I could step up my game as far as food photography. People always asked me what kind of camera I use for my photos, and seemed somewhat surprised when I told them it was a fairly inexpensive point and shoot. So, Nikon D5000 in hand, I took an introductory class at Cord Camera, and part of the class was a trip to the Franklin Park Conservatory here in town so we could take pictures there. Here’s the best of what I walked away with that day:

Franklin Park Conservatory February 2011

Franklin Park Conservatory February 2011

Franklin Park Conservatory February 2011

Franklin Park Conservatory February 2011

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use the camera right away (or much at all last summer) because I still lacked the strength to lift the camera and hold it steady enough to get good pictures. But I’m making a commitment to trying to get a good mastery of the camera by the end of the year – between planning to take lessons with a very talented photographer friend of mine, reading camera-specific books outlining all of the features, and lots and lots of practice shots, I’ll get the hang of it, I’m sure. In the meantime, you’ll see a mix of both types (DSLR and point and shoot) of pictures on the blog, with the eventual goal of going to all DSLR in the near future.

What resources did you find invaluable when trying to learn photography? Luckily it’s one of those fields that allows you to *always* learn something new, and I’m curious to find out what worked for others in improving their own work…

Event: MSHS '90 Reunion

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Life, New Jersey, Travel

To start off my series of posts about my last two trips to New Jersey, I thought I’d start by talking about my reason for making the first trip – my twenty year high school reunion. Technically, I didn’t graduate from any high school (I got a GED many years later), but since I had to pick one, I went with the one where I would see the most familiar faces – Millville (NJ) Senior High School Class of ’90 Reunion. I went to private school until 6th grade, but I’ve known many of these people since my junior high days (7th grade onward). Many others I met when I started high school (9th grade at Memorial). But good God, did those 20 years since 1990 go fast or what? I’ve lived a whole other lifetime since then, and strangely enough, even though this reunion was a little over a year ago, it feels like I’ve lived a whole other lifetime since then. Who knew so much would happen during 2011?

Here I am with my friend Amy.

Me & Amy at MSHS '90 Reunion

The memorial they put together for classmates who have passed was touching, especially for me since two of my very close friends were among them. Strange that only me and one other person from my core group of friends have survived. But the world is a less bright place without these people in it.

Gone But Not Forgotten - MSHS '90 Reunion

The food? Let’s just say that it was a bit underwhelming. There was an open bar, though – with a bartender with a heavy hand, so I don’t think people really noticed the bad food, LOL.

The toasted ravioli? Seemed straight out of a food service box, but probably one of the better things I ate that night.

Toasted Ravioli at the MSHS '90 Reunion

The same goes for the chicken, which was served on skewers.

Chicken at the MSHS '90 Reunion

The rest? Well, take a look for yourself. None is really worth mentioning separately, except the roast beef, which was so overdone it wasn’t funny. It was one of those “what did that poor cow ever do to you to deserve this?” kind of moments.

Garden Salad at MSHS '90 Reunion

Caesar Salad at MSHS '90 Reunion

Bread at the MSHS '90 Reunion

Rolls at MSHS '90 Reunion

Butter at the MSHS '90 Reunion

Roast Beef at the MSHS '90 Reunion

Pasta served at MSHS '90 Reunion

Desserts at MSHS '90 Reunion

Fruit Skewers at MSHS '90 Reunion

Mystery Fluff at MSHS '90 Reunion

So, all in all, it wasn’t about the food. Not in the least. It was about making the effort to say hi to everyone (even those who were less than nice to me in high school), it was about some people changing so much they were unrecognizable, about other people being exactly the same (nice people and douches alike), and it was about realizing that people that I thought had it all together and leading perfect lives living anything but. I misjudged a lot of people back then, in the same way that many people misjudged me. Most of all it was about new beginnings – making new friends, reconnecting with old ones, and everything in between. So how many of you attended your high school reunions? And how many of you had your expectations turned around on you as well?

Rapide set to be made in region.(Features)

Birmingham Mail (England) June 10, 2011 Byline: Edward Stephens THE exotic four-door Aston Martin Rapide is to be made in Britain three years after it became the first of the company’s cars to be built overseas.

Aston chief executive Dr Ulrich Bez has announced that from next year the car will be produced at the firm’s headquarters at Gaydon in Warwickshire. go to site aston martin rapide

Since 2009 the pounds 150,000 supercar has been made in Austria at a purpose-built facility at the Magna Steyr factory near Graz.

“In 2008 we had facility restrictions at Gaydon which indicated that production of Rapide at Gaydon would likely compromise production of our other cars,” said Dr Bez. “We were not prepared to do this.

“Now, three years on things are very different – Gaydon is more established, more flexible and more efficient.

“While our overall volume has not changed significantly, we now produce a far richer model mix – eight model lines (plus five variants) compared to three model lines (plus two variants) in 2008 – so Rapide production is now possible.” The Rapide is the first fourdoor, four-seat car Aston Martin has made. Last year the company sold 1,080 cars, down almost nine per cent on 2009 sales. here aston martin rapide

Work on the transfer will start immediately and the first Rapides should be built at Gaydon by the second half of 2012.


The four-door Aston Martin Rapide is to be made at Gaydon in Warwickshire.

Just a Jersey Girl at Heart

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Admin, Life, New Jersey, Travel

First things first – I’m one of Columbus’ biggest fans. Even though I am her resident by choice, not birthright, this not-so-sleepy burg in the center of Ohio has always meant a host of things to my life: new beginnings, coming into my own, learning to trust myself and others again. In many ways, I’ve watched the growth of the city parallel my own over the last almost two decades. No matter where I go in the world, I’m always one of Columbus’ biggest ambassadors. I truly believe we have something special here, and I endeavor to bust the stereotypes of our flyover state image on a daily basis.

Still, no matter how long I’ve been here, no matter how long I stay here, it will never be “home” for me. South Jersey, will always, and I mean ALWAYS, have that dubious distinction for me. Warts and all, it’s the place where I was born and the place I spent the first 23 years of my life. It’s the place where I know ten ways to get anywhere on back country roads within a half hour, the place that even though is eerily familiar, it never ceases to surprise me each time I visit. It’s a place where local has been a way of life longer than I’ve been alive.

If your image of New Jersey begins and ends with Snooki and Co. and involves a punchline about an exit off the turnpike, prepare to have your preconceived notions busted. That’s not the New Jersey I know. Even though I’ve talked about New Jersey before in my blog entries, I don’t think I’ve ever gone into great detail about why I love it so. I’ve just returned from a very cathartic two week trip (thus the radio silence on my end, as I’ve been out living life to its fullest rather than experiencing it from the periphery). This time around, though – I took pictures, and lots of them. So, in the upcoming couple of weeks, expect a bunch of entries about my trips – both this one, and my visit to New Jersey in late 2010 for my reunion (right before I got really sick). And in the upcoming months, I’ll probably be making another substantially long visit as well during the summer months, one where I’ll talk about the real Jersey shore, what Jersey Fresh really means, and about one of my favorite Jersey pastimes – fishing and crabbing.

I really feel as if I’m at a crossroads. Almost dying changed almost everything about my life, and the pull of home gets stronger each time I visit. It’s like a tug of war with the best of each world pulling me in that direction. This year will be about the ties that bind me to each locale, and about figuring out what’s most important in my life. Thanks for taking the journey with me. 