Friday, July 8, 2011

Takes My Breath Away

  I hesitate to write something so personal in such a public way for fear of judgment, the disappointment of others, and everything else that may similarly be inspired.  But then I admonish myself for allowing hesitancy to reside in my conscious thought, and berate myself for feeling as though I am wrong in my feelings.  And then it just becomes a useless cycle that ultimately fulfills the lingering self-doubt....sigh, can't a girl catch a break?

  My problem is this...I have been preparing to join the military for most of the past year and a quarter, when I wasn't preparing to move overseas or recovering from a bad accident or working full-time.  I am close to meeting that goal (with still several months of waiting for anything to open-up), and I am nearing the age cut-off....and everyday I spend moving toward and waiting for that goal, my deepest desire to become a mother gets stronger.  I have to be honest with myself and accept that doing one will post-pone the other indefinitely, and one will prevent the other from happening at all...what do I do?

  One might suggest that I simply wait until I am in the USAF, back here in Guam with my husband and settled into my military career, and then get down to bid-ness.  And I would agree, save for the fact that I have been  waiting for the 'right time' to become a mother, for a Long Time and waiting for all of those things to happen means there's no telling if it will be possible.  It is clear that joining would provide more income, more security, a college education, etc.  I don't want to Not choose this just because my husband has already established his own military career because I know I would feel better about myself if I am able to contribute financially.

.  I am 26-years-old with, hopefully, a long life ahead of me, so logically I shouldn't be worried about my biological clock quite yet.  After all, my mother didn't give birth to me, her eldest child, until she was two weeks away from turning 31.  She went on to have my sisters, both healthy pregnancies yet carried risk due to her age.  Some wise advice she gave me was to wait until I was ready to handle all of the responsibility being a mother entails for the rest of my life and theirs, yet become one while I still had the energy to keep up with them as best as possible.  I took that to heart.  She did very well keeping up with us, but to throw in the small business she and my father ran together, well it was a handful and I don't blame her for feeling like she never had enough energy to do everything she wanted and needed to as our mother.  She still enjoyed us and loved us well despite the stress, so it seems there is hope in case I have (somehow) have no choice but to wait until I'm at least the age she was...but do I want to?  No.

  The best way I can describe this feeling is not with romance novel words like Yearning or Burning, but with a simple, concise...Pull...yes, that is what I feel.  A pull, and a strong one.

  Honestly, I couldn't tell you if this is my sixth sense, gut, or biological clock sounding off...I just know that I feel it and it is strong enough to turn my focus away from what I've been working toward and hone in on the role I've been wanting.  A few women I deeply respect, who have already become mothers, have been so encouraging of my goal to join, and for that I appreciative beyond words and baking them their favorite cookies.  I know they love being Mommies (even when it's REALLY tough) and they would never choose different, so I look up to them.  I see what they have, that unconditional love with their babies (from 0 to annoying teen) and I admire it, knowing that is what I want in my life...and then I see how far I am from it and the blow is hard enough to take my breath away.

  Waiting to feel mature enough for this potential role means I've spent a lot of time in contemplation over the Why of my need to be a mother.  Never agreeing with how a lot of people seem to behave as if their children are merely accessories or that having children is 'just what you do' (especially) once you get Married! (and we have been for four years now) has led me to some rough introspection...I never know if I'm going to agree with my instincts but it's worth a why do I want to be a Mother?  I narrowed it down to this:  I have a beautiful, consummate kind of love for/with my husband because he is many things to me; lover, companion, best friend, fellow geek.  And I love him for Who he is, the sides only I get to interact with, his family sides, and the sides he shows to the rest of the world.  And then there's the warmth and love I feel for our families because they know us better than anyone, and our concepts of love began with them.  I have a deep affection, love and respect for the animal children in our family for their love of life and the love they unconditionally show us...they are magic.

  With all of this love, I feel indebted to the Universe...very thankful indeed.  But if I could experience something else just as remarkable, if not more so in my would be the love of a child.  I want to experience maternal love and pass on every bit of the love that made them so that they may find that for themselves.  I feel as though I won't truly have lived, nor have enjoyed everything I could have until I become a mother, however that is meant to be.  Every worry that goes along with bringing about Life feels as though it has lined up accordingly, allowing me to see the big picture...and the big picture is just, Lovely.

  I am old enough to define many aspects of who I am, to know what I want and why I want it...and I am glad I waited and took my time.  I've gotten to experience a deeper bonding with the man I love, travel as most people might not have, and listened to stories and perspectives I carry with me and always will.


  I don't know what to do...listening to my head for so long has made my heart weary in what it wants so dearly... rules, responsibility, and hard work have always led my, all I want to do is curl up with a child I'm meant to love forever.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Yummy, and the Ain't Shitty for You

  One of the big things I miss about living stateside is Costco.  I worked there and for a while I was on the front-end, loading and unloading the mountainous, Jenga-like stacks of food and wares of the wild-eyed, egocentric mothers and their shitty, demanding kids.  In the rush of these efforts, dodging the swinging fists of toddlers and babies in their basket seats (Never put your produce there, folks), I seldom had the ease of mind to focus on the contents of each customer cart, but some things would catch my eye and I would keep them in mind for later.  Thankfully, the Costco Gods smiled upon me, and for most of the time I was employed, I very happily worked as a Bakery Assistant.  Overall, I had a blast working there, and met a lot of good people I consider great friends.  It didn't hurt that shopping there was blissful, but really only in the first couple opening hours on an odd Tuesday morning.  

  This is how I happened upon one of my very favorite snacks, Mrs. May's Crunch Snacks. A pretty cool co-worker had purchased a large bag of these treats and took them up to the break room for her mid-shift snack.  I could smell their fruity flavor from across the table and she generously offered me a handful once she realized I was staring a little too longingly in her direction.  I'm sure the pooling puddle of saliva added to my inconspicuous state.  I was grateful enough for the offer since I was so hungry (forgot my effing lunch) but I was pluckily surprised!  They were so crunchy, sweet, roasty, and filling!  It amazed me that these square-cut treats made of fruit and nuts were so satisfying.  Many a handful of trail mix, not a far cry from this product, hath left me unsatisfied and munching waaay too much than I should be.  Not to mention, most commercial trail mixes provide too little actual nutrients, too much refined sugar (chocolate pieces, dehydrated and coated fruit) and they're packed with a crapload of sodium.  And I'm not sorry that because of this, I would choose a bag of Peanut M&Ms over a trail mix any day!  That might be because I come from a family where M&Ms MUST contain a peanut to even be considered worthy! No Plain Ms need apply! 

  I just can't say a bad thing about these because they're So Freaking Good and good for you.  Well, maybe the only bad thing would be that if you're hungry enough, you could scarf too many.  And unfortunately, the only cost-effective way to buy Enough of them to last, is to buy a pack at Costco, because they're a fairly frequent provider.  Of course, there Used to be a Costco here (which could have provided a transferable position for me) in Guam, but because the local population (aside from military) could not sustain enough revenue, it closed a while back and is now the island-wide Department of Revenue/Motor Vehicles.  Go figure.  The only place I have located them here is the Mobil station down the road (Yay!) and they carry several flavors regularly, but the amount is very small and the price (because Guam is SO EFFING EXPENSIVE) is $6+ on a good day (FML).

  Now, in the way of problems, this is stupid.  It does not rank with anything even mildly serious, but when you relocate somewhere so far away from what you know and love...well, finding those little things you love provide comfort and allow you some sense of normalcy and the chance to adjust to life-as-you're-getting-to-know-it.

  Having provided all of this seemingly insignificant information, this is why it is significant... As much as I LOVE me some Mrs. May's, I obviously cannot afford to buy as much of this healthy treat as I would like, let alone a bag just every now and then.  So I compromised and decided to make my own.  Well, at least something like it...

  In doing this, I also could not afford to just run out and buy all of these desired ingredients at once.  I put my Big Girl Panties on and added 1-2 ingredients to my bi-monthly grocery trip.  I already had a few of these on-hand, thankfully, so it only took about a month (PSH, Only...) to collect everything I needed/wanted in my experiment.  I knew I wanted the result to be crunchy, maybe a bit chewy, with some sweet and a little savory/salty flavor (I said a Little, because savory items can lend the illusion of a salty flavor).  The result needed to be satisfying as a snack-y treat without the accessibility of becoming over-consumed (it's texture and taste had to be complex enough that it makes your mouth work to enjoy it but not overwhelm it, i.e. Potato Chips, Caramels).  Plus, it had to be versatile...what kind of a damn Gemini am I, if I can't make food that's just as versatile as my personality?!

  So here we go...

Chocolate, I Can See Your Berry Nuts

preheat the oven to 350 

2 cups dry roasted peanuts 
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup ground pistachios
1/2 cup shelled, whole pistachios
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup dried pomegranate 
1/2 dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsweetened flake coconut
2 cups frozen blackberries
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp corn starch
2 tbsp sweetened condensed milk 
1 tbsp agave nectar

  • Line a 9x13" baking pan with parchment, set aside.
  • In a large sauce pan, combine the blackberries, vanilla, corn starch, sweetened condensed milk, and agave over medium-low heat. Mix well and remove from heat after 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Pulse coconut in processor or coarsely chop.  Combine this with all nuts and spread on a cookie sheet. 
  • Roast the pan of nuts and coconut in the oven for 5-10 mins, keeping a close eye on them...don't want them too roasted.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before combining with dark chocolate chips, pomegranate, and blackberry syrup in a large bowl. 
  • Mix it well, the chocolate should have melted a bit.  Spoon into the four corners of your parchment-lined dish and spread it firmly and evenly.
  • Put it in the freezer for about an hour.  Lift the bars out by the parchment and use a large knife to cut into the smaller sizes you want.  I cut mine into 1" squares to maximize use and even out portion size.
  • Pluck your snack pieces from the paper and toss 'em in freezer bag.  They'll stay formed, crunchy, chewy, and fresh in the freezer.
  I described some ingredients in bold because I don't  want these items to be underestimated  Buy the frozen fruit to save your money and get the same nutrients and flavor.  It doesn't matter what kind of berry you use, but there definitely needs to be some berries here.  Do not, I REPEAT, Do Not get the Fat Free Sweetened Condensed Milk!  I used to buy this thinking I was all fat-conscious....sigh...if you buy this fat-free version, you'll be substituting Way more sugar, so what's the point?  I bought the Craisins brand of dried pomegranate to save some moola, and I don't feel like I lost out at all, they're just as yummy.  I keep a bag of ground pistachios in my freezer to add as a savory filler in quite a few dishes, saving myself calories and adding protein/good fats without employing the crunch of a whole pistachio.  In this case, we want all the crunch we can get, so that's why I had to make the distinction.  And lastly, I splurged on a $5, 16 oz. bag of Bob's Red Mill Unsweetened Flake Coconut for added fiber, flavor, and no sugar added, in place of the too-sweet Baker's coconut.  I encourage you to experiment with the frozen and dried fruit, the kind of nuts you use (so long as some of them are ground-up for binding) and the accompaniments like the coconut and chocolate.  If you experiment, please let me know what delicious combinations you end-up with!

  The beauty of this savory sweet confection (because it really does taste and feel like a treat to me) is that it fulfilled that versatility I was looking for.  Not only have I cut these into a snacking size for the random handful I'll grab on the go, but they will accompany my ice cream and popcorn.  Because they contain such a large amount of protein and fiber, they are the perfect answer to my before/after workout energy boost, and they'll be the pleasantly small, nutritious snack that will tide me over 'til an actual meal is needed.  Pretty excited to keep these on hand for when I need a little chocolate fix...which is often enough...what can I say, my husband  prefers me Sane... o.0  

  I don't think I've created anything that will indefinitely replace my love of Mrs. May's, but I am happy to have created a more reasonably priced, just-as-tasty replacement for the time day in the future, I will be grateful to enjoy both nutritious in the pantry, one in the freezer!  (And I'll have a deeper appreciation for places like Costco too, despite the crowds of crazy peeps.)