Our Anniversary, and a Happy Easter Too!

Good morning my friends!

It’s a beautiful, sunny Sunday, it’s Easter, and it’s mine and Michael’s TWO YEAR anniversary! I can’t believe how much time has just flown by since I met him. Since today is Easter and he has to work (he is a project engineer and his plant does installs on holidays while they’re shut down and employees are off site, so he has to be there to oversee things), we did our celebrating yesterday.

We ventured downtown yesterday morning and I stopped by Spanish Street Farmacy, a local old-timey general store and restaurant that sells locally grown items, fresh baked bread, and herbs – I picked up a chamomile plant that I’m going to plant in the herb bed later today. We had a late breakfast there, and tried their ginger turmeric tonic – which was so delicious!

After that we ran to the actual pharmacy to pick up Michael’s prescription for the steroid ointment that he for his skin (he has CTCL, Chronic T-Cell Lymphoma, which presents as dry red patches on his skin and is treated with UV light therapy and topical steroids). Then we went back downtown and browsed an antique store in search of fun items for food photography props – sadly I didn’t find anything that really caught my eye.

Then came the fun! Our favorite downtown spot, Ebb & Flow Fermentations, was having live music and launching their new menu. It was a sunny and warm 65 degree day and they have a gorgeous brick patio perfect for sipping some drinks, eating some food and listening to some music. Their new menu was loaded with vegetarian and vegan options, which I absolutely love! It is so difficult to be plant based at most of our local restaurants, because about the only thing on the menus that don’t have meat or cheese is a salad and fries.

Ebb & Flow came through with flying colors. They had a salad with edamame, apples and chickpeas. They had a chickpea wrap, two different kinds of hummus with veggies and pitas, roasted sweet potatoes, a roasted sweet potato and mushroom sandwich, and a pickle plate. Plus plenty of fun and unique options for the meat-eaters of the world too. Their menu is one-of-a-kind and diverse and I loved it! Not only did they fit everyone’s needs, they also deliver on taste and quality too. The chef who owns Celebrations, the original fine-dining restaurant in Cape Girardeau, also owns Ebb & Flow, designs their menu, and trained their chef. Their self-brewed beers are unique and fantastic as well. They definitely know their stuff!

When we finished up there, we went out for dinner. We originally planned to go to Gabriel’s, an Italian fine-dining restaurant. But with a perusal of the menu online, I quickly realized that their current entrees offered nothing that was plant based-friendly. They had a vegetarian lasagna, but of course that has cheese. So as much as we had been looking forward to that, we altered plans and ended up going to The Southerner. They had enough dishes that could be altered to accommodate plant-based eating, and I ordered the tuna poke bowl.

I had a couple of bites of the tuna, but I’ve been noticing especially here lately that when I do have meat of any kind, I can’t stomach very much of it. A few bites and then it just starts to taste undesirable to me. But the poke bowl came with edamame, so I was able to just scoot the tuna aside and eat the rest – greens, rice, edamame, tomatoes, carrots, avocado, sesame and a soy miso dressing. It was delicious!

Sadly I failed to get any pictures at Ebb & Flow…which I’m sure doesn’t surprise you if you’ve been reading my blogs for a while! Speaking of which, it’s time to move on to the weekly meal planning and prep. I’m getting ready to move to the kitchen and start whipping up some food for Michael for the week as soon as I’m finished writing to you.

I will be making the Tikka Masala today, as well as some oil-free vegan banana muffins and the stroganoff. I’ve never made tikka masala before, so I’m excited to give it a try. Michael and I went to St Louis on Thursday for his quarterly oncology appointment, and I was craving some Indian food. The Indian restaurant we had at home closed so we haven’t had Indian in quite a while. Unfortunately none of the Indian places in the area around the hospital opened until 5, and we were finished at the hospital at 3:30, so Indian didn’t happen. But we did find a place that had Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern food.

We picked up lots of yummy stuff. Michael got some kabob sandwiches, and I had a chickpea tomato stew (can’t remember what it was called). And we got a small plates sampler that had Baba Ganoush, Falafel, Makdoo and Stuffed Grape Leaves. Soooo good, and I’ve decided I’m going to try making some baba ganoush at home! But for today we’re going with the tikka masala, with a side note to start searching for some more Indian and Middle Eastern recipes to expand our recipe repertoire.

On that note, I will leave you with some snaps of the only food I remembered to photograph last week – tempeh tacos, which were not one of the planned meals, but whipped up on a hungry whim!

And with that, I’m off to make some food! I promise I will remember photos this time – I’m bright-eyed and bushy tailed, and the whole day is my oyster. Food, photos, then yard work and gardening! Happy Easter my friends!


Our Day Trip to Columbia, MO + My Thoughts on Relationships After Divorce

Dear Friends,

On the 4th of July, Michael and I celebrated three months together. Nearly a month ago we took our first little one-day getaway trip together, and things have been so busy that it’s taken me this long to get a blog post up about it! While reflecting on the trip, I’ve thought a lot about our relationship as well. Both of us have been married and divorced — my divorce being over 10 years ago now and his just at the end of last year. For me, this relationship has been a very long time coming. For him, however, it came much more quickly than he was anticipating. But regardless of the timing, we both have entered this relationship with an entirely different mindset than we had in past relationships.

A positive that comes from divorce is that, if faced and handled properly, it teaches you all of the important lessons about relationships that you didn’t know before. Every failure in life doubles as a teachable moment, and few are more teachable than divorce. We learn that relationships are more than just warm and fuzzy feelings; more than physical attraction and fun; more than dreams of wedding days and playing house and having kids (which are a lot more work and a lot more stress than most people realize before they become parents, and can wreak havoc on a marriage…just a reality that people don’t talk about enough). There are very important, fundamental parts of a relationship that make up the foundation upon which all of those things are built. And in my experience, it is so often not until divorce, or at least not until a relationship is deep in the throes of troubled waters, that we start to realize what those things are.

In the next relationship, first and foremost, we are able to choose a partner who is better suited for us, because we now know what we need in a relationship for it to last the long haul, as well as what our personal needs and our deal breakers are. You can choose a better partner for the right reasons, and you can enter that relationship with your eyes open and have realistic expectations of what’s to come. The feelings of infatuation are going to fade, that’s just the psychology of love whether we like it or not. What matters for the long term is the foundation you’ve built, the understanding that a relationship absolutely will take work by both people, and your commitment and dedication to the relationship.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that love and relationships require some amount of selflessness. A lot of selflessness, actually. Both people in the relationship have to be willing to give as much as they receive. They have to be willing to communicate openly, listen without criticizing, and give understanding without resentment and anger. Each person needs to feel safe sharing their needs and concerns, without fear of a hostile or disinterested reaction. For me, at least, that is true.

That is where I feel so incredibly blessed to have found Michael. I told him early on when I met him that I wanted a real partner. Someone who will communicate, make equal effort in sustaining the relationship, and share the responsibilities of taking care of a home in the long term since I work full time. I explained that in my last relationship I had to do it all when we lived together and it felt like I had a third child rather than a partner, and that isn’t a role I want to be in again. I also lived in a hostile, short-tempered environment in the past, where I felt that I was constantly in “self defense mode”. That is something I am not experiencing with Michael, whose personality is incredibly patient, empathetic, and slow to anger.

Not only have we done well at sharing responsibilities and meeting each others’ needs so far, but we have been proactive about the future. With both of us having been married and divorced, we understand that the new relationship warm and fuzzies won’t last forever, and we’ve been preparing ourselves for how to handle things long term. We talked about our love languages (we both share a close second-place with physical touch, but my number one is quality time and his is words of affirmation), and he even requested a list of things that I consider quality time so that he can fulfill my needs since that is not his love language and he wanted specifics about what I need so he can get it right.

We’ve talked about the importance of communication, and feeling safe to speak up.  We’ve talked about budgets and finances. We’ve shared dreams and talked about our personal values and future goals. We’ve talked about responsibilities and sharing the load. “Teamwork, baby”, is something I’ve been saying often. I just finished reading a book about relationships that a counselor recommended a while back called The Truth About Love: The Highs, The Lows, and How You Can Make it Last Forever (I definitely recommend it, by the way). He has a book at home of his own that he’s been reading as well.

Even though we are still in the early stages of our relationship, because we’ve both had the experience of failed relationships, we are being proactive so we can make sure this one survives the challenges that we know will eventually come — because they do in every relationship. He is exactly the man I have been looking for in character and values, and have spent years holding out for in my refusal to settle. He has all of the qualities I needed in a partner, and none of the qualities that I consider deal breakers.

I’ve never been treated so kindly, so thoughtfully, or with so much respect as I am with him. He is a great fit for me. And because of that I  am both committed, and dedicated to our relationship. As independent as I am, I have gladly handed over some of that independence in order for us to work as a unit. Because that is really what a relationship is — the union of two people. A relationship is essentially a separate entity that you create together, and it needs nurturing and care to grow, much like a child or a pet.

Commitment seems to have lost its meaning in dating these days, but for a relationship to stand the tests of time, you have to be fully committed to working at it rather than bailing at the first sign of trouble or change (because people change over time, that is just a fact of life). It isn’t about a feeling, it’s about making a choice to be together and put the relationship and your partner first, and making that choice over and over again for years to come. Feelings come and go, but commitment will breed longevity. As for making that commitment after divorce — it’s all the more important after having first-hand experience with how relationships fail.

Now, on to our Columbia adventure!

The second week of June I took my vacation from work. That weekend Michael had to pick up his daughter for the next two-week visit with him. So he took the day off on Friday, we booked a hotel room for that night, and we made the trip to Columbia a day early so we could have a day away to spend together. We got a room with a Jacuzzi tub, I packed the bottle of wine my friends Zach and Jenny brought back to me from Italy for pet-sitting while they were gone, and we left without any other plans beyond doing some hiking.

We left Friday morning and made it to Columbia in early afternoon…just in time for a rain shower…imagine that this summer in Missouri! So we put hiking plans on the back burner and stopped at Starbucks to grab some coffee and so Michael could login to his work computer and send something a coworker was needing. Then we decided to grab a late lunch at Shakespeare’s Pizza, a classic staple in Columbia that I always hear about but have never been to…and it was pretty darn good!

By the time we left there the rain had passed, so we decided to go get checked in at the hotel a little early, then do some hiking. In the meantime he had asked Mia’s mom for some suggestions for dinner places, so I checked out her recommendations while he drove us to the hotel. We picked a place for dinner, we took our bags to our room, then went out for some hiking at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. It was getting late in the day thanks to the rain hijacking our plans, so we chose a short and easy trail that included a really cool cave.



That was right during the prime of when I was having tightness in a muscle in my hip/butt, and while I was bent over walking through a low spot in the cave, it cramped up on me. I got a straight Charlie horse to the butt, and Michael didn’t miss the opportunity to snap this gem of a photo (what he doesn’t know is that I retaliated by getting a video yesterday morning of him snoring!):


After the hike he drove me around a little and showed me where he lived while he was there for college. Then we went back to the hotel and changed clothes for dinner. We went to 44 Stone for dinner, where the food was delicious and surprisingly inexpensive! We each had a meal, a drink, and shared an appetizer and a salad all for $45!


After dinner we made a quick trip to Mia’s house so she could show me her room, since we were meeting her, her mom and her stepdad for lunch the next day so I wouldn’t get to see her room. Then we made a stop for a couple of bath bombs and headed back to the hotel to soak in the jacuzzi and drink some delicious Italian wine. I wish we could end every day in that same fashion, but time just isn’t that forgiving back in the real world!

The next morning we had breakfast downstairs — and the breakfast at Hilton Garden Inn, if you’ve never had it, is really yummy! We had a smorgasbord of just about any breakfast staple you could’ve asked for, plus we shared a custom-made omelette with spinach, bacon, cheese and jalapenos in it. Of course my favorite part was the biscuits and gravy…one of the least healthy breakfast foods around, but my favorite nonetheless.

After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and went to hit some stores. He was needing a new suit for his sister’s wedding coming up in the fall, so we stopped and picked one out for him. While we were waiting on the stores to open we even made a pit stop at a little pop-up farmer’s market for some produce to take home. There was also a Father’s Day sale going on where I found a couple of new shirts for the boys. Then we went to get some coffee Lakota Coffee while we waited for Mia, Rachel and Trey to meet us for lunch.


We had a little more time to kill, so we stopped next door at Boone Olive Oil Co. Oh my goodness, that has to be my favorite discovery of the weekend! They had every flavor of olive oil and vinegar you could possibly imagine! I love to cook, so it was a special kind of Heaven for me. It was definitely a little pricey — the one small bottle of white balsamic vinegar I got was $14 — but it is so smooth and flavorful, and it was the perfect pairing for the tomato salad I made the next day for Father’s Day.

After that it was time to meet the others for lunch at International Cafe, a little Greek restaurant that was right on the other side of Lakota Coffee Company. The food definitely did not disappoint! Although I admit…while the Spanakopita at International Cafe was the winner, the Greek Salad at Zoi’s back home in Cape Girardeau is still the front runner for side dishes. After lunch we did a little shopping at a couple of boutiques, then it was time to hit the road back to Cape. We were equal parts exhausted and refreshed, and excited to get back and prep for our Father’s Day plans the next day.


It was short, but enjoyable and it left me feeling fulfilled for days afterwards. Memories were definitely made, and I can’t wait to explore more new things with my favorite sidekick. Until our next adventure….


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I Took my Sons Out for a Traditional Christmas Shopping Weekend

Dear Friends,

This past Saturday, my boys and I did something that we never, ever do–we went to the stores to do our Christmas shopping. Every year I shop online, mostly through Amazon, because it’s easier and they usually have the best prices. This year I was feeling all festive for the holidays and decided I would really like to go shopping the old-fashioned way–at the mall, at retail and department stores, surrounded by pretty Christmas decorations while the subtle notes of Christmas carols ring throughout the store. Let me tell you this cheery, idealistic vision in my head was so far off base from reality!

Socials Café Hot Chocolate Bar

But before I get into that, our “all things Christmas” weekend started off Friday night with a hot chocolate bar and some beautifully decorated sugar cookies downtown at Socials Café. You should really check out their Instagram page, because their cakes and cookies are so beautiful that you almost don’t want to eat them! The hot chocolate bar had a ton of toppings and I couldn’t resist the mint chocolate chips and peppermint bark for mine!

Hunter & Logan at the Theater

After we practically made ourselves sick on sugar, we headed off to the theater. Our town theater was redone a year or two ago, and it was upgraded with comfy leather recliners, plus a bar and on-site restaurants. There is even the option of a full-service dinner in one of the theaters. Of course all of those fancy food and drink options come with an overzealous price tag, so we smuggled in some snacks for our 7pm showing of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It was such a great kick-off to our shopping weekend!

Vintage Cameras at Pastimes Antiques

On Saturday we started off downtown because I needed to pick up a few things from a couple of local boutique stores, plus Hunter wanted to peruse Shivelbines, our local music stores, and Logan wanted to browse a couple of antique stores. I also really wanted to take some test shots with my new camera. It was frigid cold outside that morning, walking between shops, but the experience was much more peaceful than what was to come.

Ornaments at Annie Laurie’s

It was holiday open house weekend downtown, so the shops had little treats set out for customers. Bloom Studio and Gifts was hosting an event that my friends Zach and Jenny went to, so we met up with them for a few minutes and had some cookies and cocoa while we were there. Then we walked down the street with the icy wind whipping at our noses, to Pastimes Antiques. We spent a good amount of time browsing there, before heading back to the car and making one final stop at Annie Laurie’s, another antique store, on our way home for lunch. I got in lots of fun test shots on the camera, and Hunter fell in love with a guitar.

After lunch is when things went chaotic. We ventured out to finish our shopping, starting with Barnes & Noble inside the mall. We pulled into the parking lot, and I couldn’t believe the number of cars. I had never in my life seen it so busy, and I was immediately dreading going inside. We parked half a mile from the building and went into Barnes & Noble. It was relatively peaceful inside the store, but that changed once we ventured out into the mall.

We bounced off of people like pinballs as we made our way up to Bath & Body Works. The three of us somehow managed to make it without being separated, but inside Bath & Body Works was even worse! We could barely get to the products to browse for all of the people. I thought I would be able to go, look, spot something and just know it was the perfect gift for the person I was looking for. But there were so many different products, in so many different scents, and I can’t remember the last time I had such a hard time making a decision!

We finally had gifts for two people picked out and went to get in line. “Wait…where the h*** is the end of the line?” It wound from the checkout counter through the store like an unraveled yo-yo, through the first section of the store, around display tables, through the second section of the store against the wall displays, finally stopping at the doorway to the store’s third section. We found the end of the line and looked back up to the front. I looked at Hunter and Logan. They looked at me. “We’re going to be here til we die.” I paused for a moment, then turned, plopped my items down on the nearest shelf and said “let’s go”, squeezing past people and praying to sweet baby Jesus that the boys didn’t get lost behind me on our way out.

We bounced between more people making our way to JC Penney. The checkout counter at the store entrance was full with cashiers, and the line of customers waiting was narrowly better than Bath & Body Works. We gave it a big fat “nope”, and made a beeline for Barnes & Noble, our safe place! Reading must be a dying hobby in our community, because Barnes & Noble was just like any other day. Quiet. Calm. Welcoming. Logan went to use the bathroom while Hunter and I browsed some bargain books. Logan picked up the puzzle lock box he wanted, and I scored a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook marked down from $24.99 to $8.95.

We walked the half mile back to our car, not even attempting any other stores in the mall. Then we took the back way across the interstate to avoid the traffic on the main highway that was like rush hour in the city on a Friday afternoon. We went to Walmart, whose parking lot was just as bursting at the seams as the mall. Yet somehow inside was fairly tame. We found the sections we needed right away, there were few other people in the aisles, and we used a self checkout since we only had three things, with only one person in line ahead of us.

From there we went to Target to pick up a gift card and some candy. By the time we left there it was getting dark, and even the back way was getting crazy with traffic. We missed a turn lane because the line of cars was backed up so far that I couldn’t get in, and I had to turn around in the Menards parking lot, where I got stuck behind a driver who either couldn’t see, or was drunk, I couldn’t tell which. Once I got back to where I needed to be, we headed to Hobby Lobby to pick up a rain check order that had come in that day. We were resigned once again to parking at the back of the lot, then waiting in long checkout lines just to pick up an order. By this point I was more than ready to be home, in my pajamas, with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a glass of wine, and no evidence of the outside world!

We had two more stops to make, and they both turned out (thankfully) to be painless. My dad restores classic cars, so even though I’m going mostly anti-gift cards this Christmas, I still opted to get him a gift card to O’Reilly Auto Parts because there is no fathomable way I could pick out things he could actually use! I wish I could’ve just gotten everyone on my list gifts from O’Reilly’s because the store was completely dead. There was not a single other customer in the place. Which was a good thing, because it took all four employees working that night to figure out how to load my gift card! Entertainment for the night = check!

Finally, we stopped at Walgreens to pick up some photos I had printed of Hunter and Logan to give our family members on Christmas Eve. While we were downtown earlier that day I managed to get some pretty decent photos of them…actually frameworthy photos! So I had some 4×6’s printed and they were ready for me as we made our way home. Here are the shots of the boys:

One more stop for gas, and then we were home, where my light-spirited, dreamy ideas of peaceful Christmas shopping gave way to reality. I had envisioned myself all merry and bright, with paper-handled bags in hand spinning happy circles in front of a beautifully decorated Christmas tree at the mall center, with Bing Crosby singing White Christmas in the background. I ended up haggard and stressed, with my hair falling from its bobby pins and a slight limp because my knee was done with the shopping long before I was, and alternating exclamations of “I’m bored” being sung by my children.

For future years…give me Amazon or give me death!