Ms. Toody Goo Shoes

Ms. Toody Goo Shoes

I've hung up my dress-for-success clothes, and pulled my domestic "genes" out of storage.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"I'd Rather Do Anything But Cook"

A Super-Fast, Super-Easy Recipe For Fennel Slaw



I’d rather do anything other than spend my time cooking.  It’s not so much that I dislike the act of cooking, it’s just that there’s always something else I’d rather be doing. In order to get something on the table for my family, I try to find the easiest, fastest and healthiest recipes I can. 

Even I’m kind of laughing to myself right now that I’m posting this recipe, because if you would have asked me a few weeks ago how I felt about fennel, I would have said, “Not feh, exactly, just meh.” Translation: I don’t dislike it, but I can take it or leave it. I’m not even sure that I could have identified fennel in an herbal lineup.


But when I sampled this fennel slaw at Trader Joe’s last week, I really, really liked it. I even went back for seconds, which, I know, is breaking the unwritten code of ethics for free sampling, but it was that good.  The vinegar and the lemon juice mellowed the strong anise flavor, which is probably why I enjoyed this more than any other way I’ve eaten fennel.

The woman passing out the samples gave me a little speech extolling the virtues of fennel, and handed me the recipe.  When I saw how easy it was, I tossed the fennel into my shopping cart, and decided to make it the very next day.   


The entire process took about 15 minutes. It was so easy, and so tasty, that it will now become a part of my regular repertoire, since two-thirds of the family gave it a thumbs-up.  I’ll be honest with you…Junior Goo Shoes wouldn’t go near something called fennel with a 10-foot fork, but Mr. Goo Shoes thought it was "Pretty Good."  After 19 years of marriage, I know that is as close to a rave as I will ever get. I think this has something to do with the fact that he’s from Brooklyn, but he just doesn't talk in superlatives when it comes to food. 

When I looked up the health benefits of fennel (I wanted to know if the woman in Trader Joe’s was telling me the truth), it had quite an impressive resume.  It’s supposed to aid in digestive problems, respiratory infections, eye care, and menstrual disorders, as well as strengthening hair, sharpening memory and curing bad breath, to name just a few.  But there are also some important things to know about fennel, such as that it is possibly unsafe for pregnant or nursing women; or for people who have hormone-sensitive conditions. 

I suggest that you make this in the morning, so that it has a chance to absorb the flavors (I used apple cider vinegar, not the orange muscat champagne vinegar).  One fennel bulb was enough for about 6 side dish servings. Slice it the way I show you here; otherwise it you will get ugly-looking chunks instead of match-stick slices. The granny smith apple and the fennel should be uniform in size. After three days in the fridge, the slaw still tasted fresh. A double recipe would be a nice thing to bring to a barbeque this summer.


 



TRADER JOE’S FENNEL SLAW

1 Fennel Bulb
1 Granny Smith Apple, peeled
Juice of one lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
2 Tablespoons Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar (or Apple Cider Vinegar)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt to taste
Dried Thyme to taste (about 1/8 teaspoon)

Cut tops and bottom off fennel. Rinse and cut into match-stick slices. Cut granny smith apple into match-stick slices.  Toss fennel and apple together with juice of one lemon. In a separate bowl, whisk together vinegar with olive oil; add salt and thyme. Toss with fennel and apple.  Chill.


What other ways do you use fennel? Is this something that you'll try? If you do, please let me know how you like it!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Slice Of Life: Sadie and the Ping Pong Balls

We were wondering why all the ping pong balls were missing. Seems that Sadie has been snacking on them. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Around My House: Deck-orating (Part 1)



What a difference a day makes. Today it's going to be sunny and 72; yesterday, I froze my tush off because it was 30 degrees cooler.  I know the weather can be iffy in April, but even still, it just doesn’t seem right…especially with all of the outdoor spring projects we’ve got in motion. We’re re-doing some landscaping in the backyard, making a small modification to our deck, and my personal mission will be sprucing up our outdoor living space.  

Yesterday morning, we were walking around in our fleece jackets at the garden center, looking at trees and bushes for the backyard.  By the time we got back, I was chilled to the bone, and all I wanted was hot chocolate. Instead, I decided to think spring thoughts, and headed off to look for some decorative pillows for my outdoor furniture. I have yellow cushions for the dining chairs, sofa and comfy chairs, but I wanted to make it to feel a little more "deck-orated," by adding some throw pillows. I’ve been looking for the past two summers to no avail, because I think I waited until too late in the season. This year, I'm determined to succeed, so I'm getting an early start. 


After coming back empty-handed on some previous searches, today I found three possibilities: from Pier 1 - an orange-y reddish floral, and from Pottery Barn - a yellow and white cabana stripe, and a watercolor floral. 


I dragged a few yellow cushions outside to try to get a feel for how the throw pillows would look.  My neighbor must have thought I was wacko to be setting up pillows while it was 45 degrees outside, but I was on a mission. Speaking of neighbors, we never had to worry about them before, because our house used to back up to woods.   Unfortunately, that land got sold, and now there’s a new house behind us.  This will be our first summer without backyard privacy. That’s a sad tale for another day…and the reason we need to do some landscaping in the backyard.  But I digress…

All three pillows appeal to me for different reasons. I love the yellow and white cabana striped pillow for its casual, beachy feel.  I’m kind of drawn to its simplicity. 

 

The floral watercolor pillow is just so pretty.  I like it because it’s not your run-of-the-mill outdoor pillow. Pottery Barn has a huge selection of gorgeous watercolor pillows this season, but my specific color needs helped me to narrow things down. Otherwise, I’d still be standing in the store trying to choose. 



   

The dark floral from Pier 1 is a little ordinary-looking, but it has the most "pop."  I also like that it comes in two different shapes.


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The deck is still so bare, that it's hard to really visualize what it will look like once there are a lot of plants and flowers around. What do you think? Do you like any of the pillows? Should I keep looking? I’d love some opinions, since I want to make a decision before the stores run out of stock.  I’ll let you know what I decide in next Wednesday’s "Around My House" post.

Amy

Monday, April 22, 2013

"So... what have you been doing since you left your job?"


I almost toppled off my platform sandals when it occurred to me that it’s been 200 days since I left my job. 200 DAYS!!! That’s a pretty good chunk of time.  Thinking about it, I realized that 200 Days is:

                  Just over two trimesters of pregnancy.
                  Twice as long as my maternity leave.
                  Equal to four summers at my son’s sleepaway camp.
                  The length of an entire NFL season.
                  Eight years worth of vacation days at my old job (ouch, that one hurt.)

That certainly puts “200 days” in a new light.  Considering that an average healthy adult could walk from New York to California, and back again in about that period of time, I feel a teensy bit of pressure to report that I’ve actually used these seven months of unemployment productively.  After functioning for the last 32 years in a goal-oriented, results-driven mode, I still tend to judge myself in a kind of quantifiable way.

My list of things to do post-retirement is massive, and includes such things as taking piano lessons, photography courses, tennis lessons, volunteering, coming up with at least one way to make millions, writing a book, cleaning out all my closets, and doing a multitude of projects around the house. The sad reality is there’s been very little that I’ve actually crossed of my To-Do list, and, in fact, I keep adding to it rather than subtracting. This realization makes me feel pretty crappy…no, a better word might be guilty…that somehow I’ve wasted this gift of time. 

Of course, some days are more productive than others. There are those that I’ve spent hunched over the calculator trying to solve the national debt, and then others when I’ve  given my dog a pedicure. But then I think, who really cares how I spend my days? And why am I approaching this 200-day milestone as if it’s some sort of mid-year self-performance review? 

Fortunately, just before putting myself on Oral Warning, I recognized that the only one putting pressure on me to be accountable for what I’ve been doing…is ME. Rather than dwell on what I haven’t accomplished, I thought it would be better to make a list of 
“Ms. Toody Goo Shoes’ Best Things About The Past 200 Days.” Here goes.

          I’ve been exercising five days a week.

          I may have put on a few pounds, but I’ve stopped weighing myself on 
          the Work/Life Balance scale.

          I am a shadow of my former stressed-out self.

          I now know where the early-morning drop-off spot is at school.

                    I’ve been burning through books on my Kindle Fire.

          I've kicked my "Sunday Night Dreads" Ambien habit.

          I have had time to notice the buds.

          I don’t have to use vacation days to go to the mall.

          I started this blog!

And the best thing about the last 200 days?

                   I’m home every day when Junior Goo Shoes gets off the school bus.


So, for this mid-year review period, I have decided to rate myself “Exceeds Expectations,” not in recognition for what I’ve done, but for allowing myself the right to take pleasure in doing nothing. True, I haven’t used my time to solve the teenage bullying problem, or created a new iPhone ap that will make us gazillionaires...Yet. But I’ve got time.

And, if the only thing I’ve gotten out being home for the last 200 days is simply having more time to spend with the Goo Shoes family, well, then, I’m good with that.

Amy

Friday, April 19, 2013

Five Favorite Fotos: Best Hotel Room Views




How important is a hotel room with a view?  Sometimes, it's surely not worth paying for, but there are times when I think a great hotel view has definitely enhanced our vacation experience. I'm a big fan of the Starwood Preferred Guest program, since one of their many benefits is that they will upgrade your room whenever possible. This was the case on our recent vacation in Grand Cayman, where an upgrade to an ocean view room made our hotel stay much more enjoyable.

Here are some of my favorites, where I think "view matters." Forgive me for having six photos in my "Five Favorites" -- I just had to include two from Vancouver -- the views from both directions were stunning!

Westin Bayshore, Vancouver, Canada

Westin Bayshore, Vancouver, Canada
 
Locando Orseolo, Venice, Italy


Santa Marina, Mykonos, Greece


Dan Carmel Haifa Haifa, Israel

Westin, Aruba (a Starwood Hotel) Aruba

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Restin' At The Westin in Grand Cayman


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We just came back from our week-long spring break vacation. Not a lot of thought or research went into planning this one, as we pretty much were headed wherever our Starwood Preferred Guest hotel points would take us.  The ground rules for this trip were that it had to be a non-stop flight not longer than four hours, the hotel had to be located on a great beach, and no rental car was needed. It would be an added bonus if it was someplace we’d never been before.  We plugged in our requirements, and out popped the The Westin Seven Mile Beach Resort in Grand Cayman.  After a few cursory checks on Tripadvisor, we booked our reservations. 


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The hotel and the island did not disappoint.  The world-renowned Seven Mile Beach was glorious.  Soft white sand and calm turquoise waters were just as the pictures promised.  The Westin’s beachfront was probably the nicest of any in the area. There was plenty of room on the beach to spread out, but there were surprisingly few beach umbrellas available.  Rumor had it that they were all claimed by 6:00am.  I don’t know about you, but for me, it kind of ruins the vacation mojo if you have to set your alarm for 5:30am, and do a mad dash in your pajamas to lay claim to some sandy real estate.  We decided to bite the banana and rent a cabana for the week.  Ah well, whatever money we had saved by using our hotel points, we plunked down for a guaranteed, daily patch of shade. 

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The hotel itself was as we expected – comfortable, but not fancy.  The beds were not quite as heavenly as in other Westins, but good enough.  Thanks to our SPG gold status, our room was upgraded to Ocean View.  Had it not been, we would have had a lovely view of the street. That would have been a big downer for me.  After all, half the joy of a tropical vacation is sitting on the terrace, looking at the sea.  And this particular terrace came with sunset views.  Perfection. 


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Although we’ve been on many Caribbean island family vacations, this one was unique in a few ways.  Not unique in the physical sense of the island, but more in the way of my own personal mindset.  This was the first beach vacation we were taking since I left my job, so for once, I wasn’t high-tailing it down to the Caribbean with a brain and body more burned than out than a California wildfire. I found that I had pretty much unwound by the time Happy Hour had arrived on Day 1. 

And… it was our first tropical vacation with a TEENAGER in tow. 

It used to be that we’d go on vacation and try to find a “friend” for Junior Goo Shoes to hang out with, so he wouldn’t be bored.  We were almost always successful, especially the time in Aruba when we met a wonderful family from Pittsburg, who we are still in touch with.  But now, he seemed to be content hanging with us on the beach, working on his tan, and entertaining himself by reading or watching a movie on the iPad.  He did find ways to escape the presence of his parents, by heading up to the room in the afternoon, or down to the lobby at night for some ooVoo with his friends.  If we happened to invade his space, he’d snap that laptop shut faster than an alligator’s jaws on its dinner. His phone was a constant companion, but we insisted that he shut it during meals so we could have actual conversations.  I don’t know why I found this surprising, but entire families sat glued to their own personal devices in restaurants, without a word between them, and I was damned if we were going to be one of those. 


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Speaking of restaurants, OMG, were they pricey! The value of the US dollar was comparable to being in Europe, adding on about 25% to everything we spent.  Prices for taxis and restaurants were not for the feint of heart.  We did go to a couple of restaurants worth mentioning.  Calypso Grill had a real Caribbean vibe and great food; The Wharf had a beautiful outdoor setting on the water, complete with a school of tarpons swimming just below. It was a perfect choice for our last night. By the end of our one-week stay, I’d eaten conch (say it like a local – it’s “conk”) in every imaginable way – conch chowder, conch fritters, conch stew, conch muffins, conch ice cream…I’m conched out!


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Travelling with our teenager turned out to be just fine. We didn’t once hear him say he was bored. He had a great time swimming in the sea…that is, until he got stung by a jellyfish or something.  Then it took some cajoling to get him to go back in, but eventually he did.  He and Mr. Goo Shoes went out for a couple of spins on a jet ski, and we all headed out on a short tour of the area, the highlight of which was a trip to the world’s only turtle farm.  And then, just for the hell of it, we went to Hell and back on a tour bus. Seriously! It's a tiny town in the West Bay area that boasts a jagged formation of rock that looks like it's the remains of a hell fire.  And what would Hell be without a post office and gift shop?  Not surprising, it was hot as... I could go on and on with the Hell jokes.
   

As for the island itself, it is one we would definitely go back to.  Seven Mile Beach…well, it’s not world-renowned for nothing.

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Have you been to Grand Cayman? What is your favorite Caribbean island? I'd love to hear!


Linking With:
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Our World Tuesday

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Bombing: Talking To Our Kids…Or Not



When I was working in the television industry, as head of program scheduling, if a national or world-wide tragic event occurred, it was my responsibility to decide whether or not to pull any regularly scheduled programming content that might be deemed as inappropriate. Were there any movies that showed gratuitous bombings? Were any comedians joking about terrorist acts that, in the wake of a tragic event, might come across as insensitive? Although I won’t be involved in that exercise today, I have decided that some sort of personal editing of my blog content is necessary. Not, certainly, because the content itself is inappropriate, but rather, to take pause, as a show of respect…to yesterday’s horrific bombing in Boston.

These tragedies seem to occur with such regularity now. It was only four months ago that we heard of the unfathomable massacre of children in Newtown, CT; less than a year has passed since the Aurora, CO theater shootings.  Do these events penetrate just a little less deeply with each occurrence? Do we risk becoming hardened to national disasters as they become more commonplace? And what about our children, who, with some frequency, listen as their parents try to find the right words to tell them about yet another scary thing that bad people do?

This time, I just couldn’t do it. I took the cowardly way out, and did not tell my son what happened.  I should have. He’s 13, and will surely hear about it from his friends, teachers, or Facebook, if he hasn’t already.  I don’t know why I chose this route, but let me tell you, this is not something that gets easier to do as your kids get older.  You think it should, because they have the capacity to understand, and it’s not the first time they are hearing that bad things happen in this world.  For me, it gets harder because awful things happen with such regularity, and I hate to keep reminding my son that this is the world we live in.  Part of me wants to continue to shield him from society’s atrocities, yet I know I can’t keep him in a protective bubble of goodness, either.  We need to be aware that bad things happen, in order to protect ourselves against them, either physically or emotionally, and as difficult as that is, it’s a parent’s job to prepare their kids to live in the real world.  Yesterday, I failed.

When I dissect my decision, I think it was my own weariness that held me back.   
We had so recently sat down with our son to tell him that 20 children and six adults were murdered in their Connecticut elementary school.  When that tragedy ensued, we didn’t have to think twice about whether or not we should tell him. This involved children, inside the safe haven of their school, only 60 miles from home, and there was no question that this devastating act had to be positioned to our child in our words, in our way. So why was dealing with yesterday’s incident in Boston so difficult to address? Honestly, I just didn’t have the heart to once again, say, yes, the brutal reality is that the world we brought you into is a scary place…where planes fly into skyscrapers, and children get massacred in their classrooms, and bombs can go off anywhere, anytime.  Just this time, I wanted to protect my boy from the bad guys.  I think it was the wrong decision. I know it was the wrong decision.  But I’m tired of having to do this so often.

So, as I think about sending my son off to school today, I imagine he’s hearing the news from the kids on the school bus, or a teacher discussing it in class.  One thing is for sure…before the end of the day, he will have heard. 

I will make sure that we discuss it at dinner tonight. Yet, I will still feel the need to soften the edges.  I will tell him about the quote by Mr. Rogers that I have seen all over the internet since yesterday:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.”

I wish I could be as wise as Mr. Rogers’ mother. I wish I always had the right words at the right time.  Next time, I will try do a better job.  And the sad reality is, that, unfortunately, I'll be given another chance.

Prayers for Boston. Prayers for our country. Prayers for the world we live in. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Five Favorite Fotos: Tulip Season in Amsterdam's Keukenhof Gardens



It's Tulip Time!




I never had a favorite spring flower, until we went to The Netherlands exactly two years ago. That's when I became completely enthralled with those iconic Dutch blooms...the tulip. We spent a day at Keukenhof Gardens, a stunning park about 30 minutes outside of Amsterdam, where,

Friday, April 5, 2013

Five Favorite Fotos: Beaches


Has this winter been endless, or what? I'm grateful that soon we'll hopping on a plane for a much-needed beach vacation. I can hardly wait to put my toes in the sand and my parka in storage! Think I'll get in the mood by making myself a fruity cocktail with one of those paper umbrellas, and looking at my FIVE FAVORITE FOTOS of beautiful beaches around the world.


Trunk Bay, St. John USVI
Mykonos, Greece

Long Beach Island, New Jersey

Santorini, Greece
Santa Monica, California

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Happy Vitamin C Day!


Did you know that today is Vitamin C Day? I don't recall hearing about this before, but perhaps I was too busy working. Now that I am home, I have time to look up all kinds of things. Apparently, April 4 was the day Vitamin C was discovered back in 1932. 

Here are some interesting ways to help you boost your immune system, and your spirits. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Shaking It Up At Zumba




“How was zumber today?”
"What?"
"Zumber!"

Oh – Zumba! You have to understand…Mr. Goo Shoes is from Brooklyn.  After 18 years of marriage, I still can’t understand half the things he says.  Like the time he told me he was going to pick up "a hoover", I assumed he meant a new vacuum cleaner.  He was talking about his friend, Ahuva.  As Junior Goo Shoes always says, “Dad, you’re SO Brooklyn!”

If there was one thing I was absolutely going to do on my “Things To Do After I Leave My Job” list, it was to exercise more. I just couldn’t seem to squeeze enough work-out time into my work week.  Just being at a job eight hours a day, and commuting back-and-forth to New York was enough of a workout for me, thank you very much.  I was very fortunate that my company had a beautiful, state-of-the-art gym right in the building. I didn’t use it, but, still, I felt healthier just knowing it was there, right next to the cafeteria, which I did use.  Actually, I used to work out in the gym for many years, but once my job responsibilities began to weigh more than I did, I had to give it up. That, and the fact that I wasn’t willing to undress in the locker-room with the 20-somethings who worked for me.

I'm happy to say that exercising is one thing I have been doing religiously since I'm home.  I have been working out on my elliptical, and doing free weights five days a week, but I wanted to try something a little different to shake up my routine.   I had no idea just how much shaking up I was in for, but quickly found out when the first class I took was a Belly Dancing/Zumba combination. Belly Dancing? WAY out of my comfort zone! The instructor handed out pretty scarves with the jingly things on them, to tie around our butts.  I couldn’t move my butt fast enough to hear any jingling. As she made the rounds to everyone, the teacher said to me, “Make sure you feel something jiggling."  “I feel lots of things jiggling, but I don’t think that’s what you mean.” At least I gave her a good laugh. OMG, I never felt so ridiculously uncoordinated in my life. I looked around the room in the mirror until I found someone that was worse than me.  And then I realized she was me.

As bad as I was, I forced myself to go back, but I’m steering clear of the Belly Dancing Zumba, and sticking to just plain vanilla Zumba classes. I’m still pretty terrible, but I do get a little more coordinated with each class, and it is FUN. 

As soon as I get this Zumber thing down, I’m gonna try that Hot Yogurt class I hear everyone talking about. 



Monday, April 1, 2013

Sunday Papers and the Expanding Universe

 
























Is there anything better than lounging around on Sunday mornings, reading the paper and drinking and endless cups of coffee? During my working days, there were so many Sundays that I had to forfeit this pleasure, because I just couldn't spare the time. Weekends were for catching up on all the things I had to do, which left little time for things I wanted to do. But now, I can usually take all the time I want to read about 36 Hours in Bangalore,India, who's wearing what "On The Street," or the $125 million apartment for sale at the Pierre. And if, for some reason, I don't have time on a Sunday, well...there's always Monday!  It's just another thing to add to my list of "Things I Love About Not Working."  

You can tell a lot about a person by the newspaper sections they read. In my house, there's no fighting over who gets what.  We are at polar opposites of the Sunday newspaper section spectrum, so we pretty much split the New York Times into two distinct piles, and never the twain shall meet. I'm a "Travel, Arts & Leisure, Styles" kind of girl; he's a "Business, Automobiles, Week-In-Review" kind of guy.  If that doesn't give you enough of an idea as to how different Mr. Goo Shoes and I are, imagine the following scene: