Monthly Archives: September 2011

My Dirty Little Secret

You know how everyone has a secret?  When you find out, you think, “Really?  She did that?  She does that?”  I have one of those secrets.  It’s dirty.  It keeps me out late at night.  It makes me a little ashamed because it’s not something women are ‘supposed’ to do.  And maybe that’s why I do it.  I shrimp.  Not wanting to be stereotyped helped me pick my college major.  Sounds weird, but lots of people were shocked when they learned I was a chemistry major.  More colleagues and acquaintances than you’d think were surprised when they learned I owned motorcycles.  Anyway.

It all began last year after I had moved home.  I was single, tired of unpacking and working on the house, and found out the shrimp were ‘running’.  So, I borrowed my neighbor’s net, got a quick lesson on how to throw it, bought a lantern, and recruited my cousin to keep me company.  I got dirtier than I thought possible and caught a measly two dozen shrimp, but I had fun.  I laughed heartily as my cousin squealed trying to get my few shrimp in a container.  That night, I proudly shelled my shrimp and filled two skewers for a cookout with a friend.  One got dropped in the sand and the germophobe in me wouldn’t let me eat it.  Net gain: one dozen small shrimp.

Fast forward a year when I had company for a few days.  In an effort to entertain my guest, I suggested we go shrimping.  We tried it from the ‘backyard’.  No shrimp there, but we couldn’t have caught them anyway.   Then, I found this video illustrating how to throw a cast net.  Success!  So, two fishing licenses, a cast net, bait, gas and five hours later, we had 1.5 pounds of headed, small shrimp.  Only $147 per pound, but those expensive shrimp were good!

Now, we’ve been shrimping several times.  We bought a second lantern, supplies for the boat, a river-suitable anchor, multiple tanks of gas and we’re up to a total of approximately 12 pounds of medium shrimp.

But you can’t put a price tag on all of it.  The sunsets are amazing and make you really appreciate the beauty of God’s world.  Being outside for a few hours is wonderful.  You’re physically moving instead of staring at a computer.  You meet some interesting people.

The biggest pay-off is that I’m going to fix a shrimp dinner for my Grandmother.  I am temporarily living on property my grandparents bought in 1966 when there were alligators, manatee, blue crabs, water moccasins, turtles and all sorts of other creatures here on a regular basis. (Thankfully, the water moccasins have disappeared, but so have the blue crab.)  My Mother and I lived here with them when I was very young.  My Grandfather shrimped in the backyard every year and we ate shrimp all year long.  He taught me to manage a crab trap, fish, smoke mullet and shuck oysters.

I asked my Grandmother if she’s had shrimp lately.  She said she eats them sometimes.  I said “but you don’t get shrimp that come from your yard and that your Granddaughter caught’.  I think my Grandfather would be proud.  Some dirty secrets are worth the tarnish on your image 🙂


Potentially interesting links

Shrimp with Roasted Red Pepper Cream from Southern Living (not as unhealthy as it sounds)

The next throwing method I’m going to try

If you can’t catch your own seafood, but are concerned about the environment, check out these links:


Meet Ellis, My GPS Boyfriend

When you’re single and you love to travel, you pretty much have three options.

1) Wait:  to find people to travel with – usually going where they want to go or worse, go with a tour group of chatty, dull, fanny pack wearers.

2)  Never go anywhere.

 3) Travel alone. 

When presented with these options, I choose number 3. So I travel alone a lot. It took a while to get the nerve to travel alone. And though I still dread it a little, I have never gone on my own and regretted it.  

I dated a freshly divorced guy last year and I told him that I was driving across Utah by myself to hike all the awesome National Parks. He was amazed. He said, “What about when you see something totally cool? You have to have someone next to you to slap and say, ‘Isn’t that totally cool?” And I curse him every time I am traveling alone now and see something totally cool and think of that. 

But the truth is – you don’t. Is it nice to have someone to slap? Sure. Am I not going to go see totally cool things because of that? Hell no. Take a picture. Post it on Facebook and say, “Isn’t that totally cool?”

Sunset on the Big Island, Hawaii

Am I going to miss this because I don't have someone to slap?

But the reality is I am never truly alone. I love to drive.  So when driving around new places alone, it helps to have GPS.  The voice I have chosen on my GPS is a man with an Australian accent. His name is Ellis (I didn’t name him, Garmin did). I picture him as a cross between the rugged manliness of Russell Crowe with the sensitivity and dimples (and six pack) of Alex O’Loughlin from Hawaii 5-0. We vacation together often. He is an excellent travel companion. He never raises his voice or has to stop to pee. We like the same radio stations.  He always wants to go exactly where I am going.  

Not to say we don’t have our problems. We have had our arguments. Who can forget the trip from Durango to Santa Fe when he INSISTED that we take the main highway to Albuquerque and back track to Santa Fe? And no matter how many times I tried to go another way he kept bringing me back to the highway. He may not take a tone with me or use adult language, but we both know what he really means when he says, “Recalculating.” We almost went into couples counseling after that trip.

 Recently on a trip to Hawaii, I thought Ellis died. One night the device went off and would not turn back on. I was panicked. I felt lost and truly alone, my future as black as his screen.  It was dark and raining and I had just gotten to this part of the island had no idea where I was. And I thought, “How did I become so dependent on this invisible man?” I’ve had decade long relationships that were less co-dependent.

 But I held the “on” button for a long time and he came back to me. So we are together again. And until I have someone with me that I want to slap, Ellis and I do just fine.


Who needs a pastry cutter anyway?

I love having parties and I love cooking.  When I can combine the two I am in heaven. 

I have a large kitchen and every gadget I can get my hands on.  I spend a lot of time in  Marshall’s, TJ Maxx and Kohl’s kitchen aisles looking for things I don’t have.  I also buy seconds of things I love (any kind of special tongs, lemon squeezers, Santoku Knives) and share with my mom, sister and sister-in-law.  I didn’t know what a sharp knife was until a few years ago and now if I don’t have one, I’m not cooking!  Everyone else in the family has at least one courtesy of me.

Recently my good friend Jan bought the Bobby Flay cookbook, Boy Meets Grill.  I’m a fan of Bobby’s and have been lucky enough to eat at Bar American in NYC and Mesa Grill in Vegas. Love, love, love! 

Jan wanted to have a BBQ party to try a few recipes.  The only hitch is she  has no grill (which makes the fact that she bought a grilling cookbook kind of ironic).  I immediately jumped at the chance to volunteer my kitchen, my gadgets, my grill, and my hubby to do the outdoor cooking. 

We decided we wanted to do the Fish Taco Party and also the shrimp quesadillas for appetizers.  The quesadillas were a huge hit and a new favorite of mine (recipe below). We also planned to have a few snacks and make some sauces.  Jan brought cheese. Yeah!  Here’s my olive wood cheese board I brought home from Italy. What kind of cheese – soft cheese, hard cheese, do you need a cheese fork?  I have every type of cheese knife known to man.  We made marinades, cooked tomato salsa and Jan brought fresh avocados to make guacamole.  We made enough dishes that I got to pull out a lot of gadgets.  Hey, here’s my avocado gadget that removes the fruit from the peeling. Here’s my corn cutter to get the grilled corn off the cob, want the deveiner?

As Jan was chunking her avocado chunks in a bowl she asked me if I had a pastry cutter.  What?  Panic.  I don’t think I have a pastry cutter.  As I was rifling through my drawers I started sweating.  Oh my GOD! I don’t have a pastry cutter.  I’m digging – how about a potato masher, a mezzaluna….  Uhhh, what else could we use?  My friend Karen said “use a fork.”  Ahh, the voice of reason.  As the night went on I continued looking for a pastry cutter.  Surely I have one.  They enjoyed my distress and laughed every time they saw me searching yet another drawer.

I hate not having the right gadget, even when it’s not the right gadget.  A pastry cutter is for making pastry (which is Pillsbury for me) not guacamole.  By the way, with all my fancy gadgets, I would just use a fork the next time I make guacamole.  Just like I use a knife and cutting board instead of my mezzaluna to chop fresh herbs, my garlic press to mash up my garlic, or my expensive mandolin for those perfect slices of whatever I’m slicing.  So – I’m on the search for a pastry cutter.  And I’m sure I’ll never use it.  Just don’t want to get caught not having one.


Grilled Quesadillas with Sweet Corn, Grilled Shrimp and Pesto.*

3 ears corn, husked (and we believe grilled may have been left off here)
12 (6 inch) flour tortillas
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup grated white Cheddar cheese
1 sweet onion thinly sliced into rounds (we used Vidalia)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus extra for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
16 large shrimp, shelled and deveined


  1. Heat your grill to medium.
  2. To remove the kernels from the corncobs, stand the corn on end in a large bowl and cut downward with a small, sharp knife.  Discard the cobs (we grilled the corn first then used my handy dandy Pampered Chef corn cutter).
  3. Place 8 of the tortillas on a flat work surface.  Divide the cheeses, corn, onion, and thyme among the tortillas and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Make 4 quesadillas by stacking the filled tortillas by twos, then placing one of the remaining plain tortillas on top.  Brush the tops of the quesadillas with olive oil.
  5. Brush the shrimp with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place on the grill and grill just until pink and lightly charred, about 2 minutes on each side.  Remove and set aside.  Leave the grill on.
  6. Carefully place the quesadillas oiled side down on the grill and cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes.  Carefully turn the quesadillas over with a large metal spatula, close the grill cover, and continue cooking for 2 minutes more, until the cheese has melted and the tortillas are crisp.
  7. Remove the quesadillas from the grill and cut into quarters for serving.  Top each quarter with a tablespoon of pesto (he included a recipe for this but we bought it already made) and a grilled shrimp.  Garnish with thyme leaves and serve immediately.   YUM!

Serves 4.

*Flay, Bobby, Boy Meets Grill

The travel twitch

I’m a bit of a travel junky.  If I don’t have a (fun, non-work) trip in the works I tend to get a little skittish (I have a bit of a travel twitch and find myself consumed by planning trips that aren’t happening any time soon) .  Unfortunately, I’m a travel junky that needs to work and only have 20 vacation days per year (which according to makes me lucky) so I constantly feel like an inadequate travel junky.  My gut tells me I should be exploring somewhere new at least every other month (that’s when the travel-twitch starts) but instead it’s more like twice a year.

I’m not sure when it started exactly.  My first trip out of the country was just in 2004 (note: I had been to Cancun but I don’t count it if they pick you up from the airport and drop you at a resort that you never leave).  I went to Ireland.  It was awesome, but after just visiting again recently I realized that I didn’t have a clue where I had been and really had very few memories about the trip. I think it must have started to build slowly, and then started to get out of control about 5 years ago.  And now I’m obsessed.

I subscribe to 3 travel magazines.  I save said travel magazines and revisit them often, especially if I’m going to (or considering a trip to) one of the places they’ve highlighted.  I have a map in my living room of the places I’ve been and the places I want to see, and examine it every time I walk up my stairs.  I’m constantly buying books on travel and planning trips, and my latest obsession is doing the Trans Siberian railroad trip.    I could go on, but I won’t (you’re welcome).

My parents, on the other hand, have never left the country (other than to Cancun – see note above).  Until recently, my dad didn’t seem to have any interest in even going anywhere, which completely blew my mind.  I took a trip with my girlfriends in 2008 to England, went to Stonehedge, and when I came back with pictures my dad finally admitted he’d like to see that some day.   I immediately told him I would plan a trip for our family.  I figured Ireland would be a great starter-country for traveling – minimal language barrier (I say minimal because even though its English, some of those guys talk reeeally fast), gorgeous landscapes, and our roots are almost all Irish.

Fast forward 3 years, and we are finally off!  I started ‘officially’ planning this trip in April of this year (that’s when I booked our first B&B) and we just got back last week.  The result: SUCCESS!! (for the most part).

How I rate success:

  1. We all came home… alive.
  2. We are all still talking.
  3. We really did have a great time.
  4. My parents are talking about renting a house in Dingle for a month when they officially retire.  If you’re ever going to Ireland, I would suggest you do the same – it’s freaking gorgeous.

So at dinner one of our last nights’ there, I ask them whether they will now start exploring on their own… and where they’d like to go next.  The response: wherever I’ll plan for them to go (in a nutshell).

They loved the trip because they had to do NO planning – never had to worry about where we were going, how to get there, or what we were going to do once we arrived.  But if I’m not doing the planning, they likely aren’t doing the traveling.

And I have now added trip planner to the list of things I want to be when I grow up.  Already on the list: barista, florist, furniture refinisher, lottery winner (all have the same odds of happening.)

–          Erin

Cher got me out of bed again this morning

Alright so you and I both know it’s important to exercise regularly (boosts mood, improves sex life, etc.)… you are likely as bombarded with this message every day as I am. That said, I am an absolute believer and more importantly, I have to confess that I’m addicted.

I work out on average 5.5 days a week… some weeks 6 days, some weeks 5 days. While my obsession hasn’t yet propelled me to everyday workouts, I have been known to try to pull off as many doubles (two exercise sessions per day) as I can per week (when work was slower).

On top of all of that, I’m a morning person… that is right, usually really early morning. (Luckily, apparently morning people hold all the “important cards” when it comes to business success). But regardless, I can’t help it.

I love the morning, the quiet, the calm, the coffee, the productivity… I could go on and on, but I’m sure all you night people are just about ready to click away from this blog.

So let’s get back to exercise… even being a morning person, that isn’t to say that I don’t suffer from motivational issues from day to day. You look at any exercise mag cover and you’ll see loads of articles on how to motivate your lazy bones to get moving

The reality is, it is hard.. really really hard. The pillow pulls you down, the warmth of the blankets and the cool air feel soooo good. What is a person to do?

Channel Cher. That’s right… channel Cher.

I read an interview with her years and years ago… so many years that I can’t find it on the web anyway (likely 15-20 years so pre-web.. yikes!). An intrepid interviewer was asking her how she stayed motivated to keep such a rockin body… and she said something to the effect of:

I make a promise that if I start, I can quit after 10 minutes

The genius of it! The point is that any morning I am struggling with it, I get to the place where I channel Cher and promise that I’ll just start my workout and if within 10 minutes, I can’t do it anymore or want to go back to bed, I can. After all these years, I haven’t ever quit after 10 minutes.

It is cher sheer genius!

And I’ll tell you what… it routinely gets my butt out of bed in between 4 and 5am to get through a workout in time to get to work and bust my hump. You may be reading this asking why I don’t just exercise in the PM. Tried it.. just can’t make it work for me. I’ve come to learn it is because of decision fatigue (fascinating article on this), but by the end of any regular day, I’ve made too many decisions to make the somewhat challenging one of getting my lazy bones through a workout.

So there you have it… all you need is a little Cher and you’ll be rockin your workouts. Seriously, get your Cher on!

– Michaela


Update: check out this article that advises getting in the game and early morning workouts! yeah!!