Friday, January 30, 2015

Recipe: Pasta with Sausage & Mushrooms

There are so many times when I get unexpected company for dinner.
That is not a complaint!  I love to have guests.
That being said, I feel the constant need to be prepared.
That means, always having bacon in the house just in case someone stops by for breakfast.
That also means, always having a good bottle of wine and necessary ingredients for a yummy dinner on hand.

This recipe for Pasta with Sausage & Mushrooms is something I invented on accident.
…and am I glad I made that mistake!  It’s a family dinner time favorite and very quick to prepare.
I’ve made it for several different guests on different occasions, and I always get sincere compliments.
This is a definite do for unexpected dinner guests.
Just don’t forget to take the sausage ring out of the freezer as soon as they show up!

Pasta with Sausage & Mushrooms

(1-1/2) Pounds Cheese and Parsley Sausage Ring (Cut into bite size cubes.)
(2) Packages Cleaned & Sliced Baby Bella Mushrooms
(1) Can Diced Tomatoes
(1) Cup White Cooking Wine
(1) Large Onion (Diced)
(1) Cup Olive Oil
(1) Tbsp Garlic Powder
(1) Tbsp Dried Basil Leaves
Salt & Pepper to taste
(1-1/2) Pounds Barilla Medium Shells Pasta
Pecorino Romano Grated Cheese

In a large skillet, heat up half of the olive oil.  Add the onions and cook until they are translucent.  Add the mushrooms to the onions and cook until half the natural water evaporates (about 10 minutes on medium heat).  Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat up the second half of the olive oil and brown the cut up sausage.  Shut off the flame and let sit on the side.  Add the white wine to the mushrooms and let cook for about 2 minutes.  Mix the sausage into the large skillet and add the can of diced tomatoes (drained) and all of the listed seasonings.  Let cook for an additional 15 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.

In a separate pot, boil the pasta until it’s al dente.

Mix together and serve.  Garnish with a sprinkle of Pecorino Romano grated cheese on top.
Hint:  Scoop from the bottom of the serving bowl to evenly distribute the juices.

What is your go to meal for unexpected dinner guests?
Wednesday, January 28, 2015

List: How to deal with change.

I am one of those people that does not deal with change well.
You all should remember my anxiety issues from this post.
I get excited for the idea of change, but when it comes to acting on it, I panic!

Currently my life is all about change.
I recently resigned from my place of employment and will begin a new career venture next week.
I also started a new class last week that will be taking up massive amounts of time.
Not to mention, I’m on my way to becoming a married woman in less than half a year!!  Gasp!
These may all be positive adventures, but change is still overwhelming.

How To Deal With Change Well Better

1.  Take a deep breathe.
This sounds simple enough, but a lot of anxiety stems from simply forgetting to breathe.
I mean, think about it!  You get so excited over something that breathing is no longer priority.

2.  Change with the change.
Everything is a little less scary when you're in control.  Gain control by changing what you can.
New job? I dyed my hair and got a more professional wardrobe.  I changed for the change!

3.  Prepare for an easy transition.
Being proactive is such a vital trait to adopt.  It helps prevent mistakes and makes change easy.
The longer commute is sure to stress me out.  I'm preparing by having dinner pre-made and frozen.

4.  Talk it out.
Sometimes all you need to relax is to be able to hear the situation out loud.
Say it to yourself in the mirror, to a friend, or even to a counselor if it helps.  Talk, talk, talk!

5.  Distract yourself from unnecessary worry.
Your brain can develop crazy theories and scenarios that will freak you out if you let it.
Read a book or put on a TV show to help distract your thoughts before you sky rocket your anxiety.

6.  Make a list of all potential positive outcomes.
Most people initiate change for a reason.  Make a list reminding you why the change is good!
Changing my career may be scary, but it means more money and more room to grow.

7.  Remember the constants in your life.
Just because one thing is changing doesn't have to mean that everything will change.
I take comfort knowing that at the end of the day I'll still be coming home to my amazing family.

8.  Celebrate the change.
Setting a positive mental outlook on something will help eliminate anxiety and welcome the change.
I think a new job should mean a congratulatory dinner with a nice bottle of wine.  Yum! 

9.  Make a schedule.
Change is scarier when it's a surprise.  Work a schedule or appointment that's comforting to you.
Having an actual "start" date is way easier for me than not knowing when or if i'll start.

10.  Focus on what actually matters.
Anxiety means worrying about every little thing that doesn't even directly effect you.  Don't do that!
I need to focus on what effects me directly:  My paycheck, my family, and my life!

How do you deal with change?
Monday, January 26, 2015

Jax Seal of Approval: Cream Cheese & Guava

My family background is 100% Sicilian descent.
That means lots of meatballs and even more pasta…
My fiancĂ© was born and raised in Cuba.  He proudly became an American about 5 years ago.
That means lots of beans and truck loads of rice…
Mixing both cultures together has turned my kitchen into a fun Italian-Cuban fusion café!

Some of the things he introduced to me I loved and others I didn’t like at all.
I think yucca is one of the yummiest things I’ve ever had and I love me some fried plaintains!
…but flan is something I will never understand.  Bleh…

I thought that I tasted the majority of the different Cuban flavors, until he showed me this.

Cream Cheese & Guava


Before him, I've never heard of guava.
In fact, I'm still not even sure what it looks like as a whole fruit!

It has a sweet taste but a different consistency than anything I've ever had before.
Smearing some cream cheese on top compliments the fruit so well.
I'm giving cream cheese and guava the Jax seal of approval on the grounds of being so yummy!

Have you ever had or will you try cream cheese and guava?
Friday, January 23, 2015

List: Reasons to consider a career change.

As I have previously mentioned on R&W, I have been on the job hunt.
My current job is being centralized and I will soon be reassigned to something tedious; collections.
I used to manage a credit, and collections department.  When did my career start the nose dive down?
I immediately began to apply for jobs and interview.
That’s when I learned how employers discriminate against mothers as discussed here.

Recently I got a job offer for a position that is much different than anything I’ve done before.
While I thought I would be ecstatic to get an offer, I found myself in the midst of an internal debate.
$10K salary increase, more time off, and job security?  Helllooo, Jax, wake up!
Instead of thinking positive, my anxiety kicked in and filled my brain with all the negatives.
A much longer commute, more expensive healthcare, and I’ll be a whole county away from my Mushy.

That’s when I decided to put my big girl pants on and focus on all the reasons why I should do this.
After thinking long and hard, I ultimately decided to accept the offer.
I bet you’re all wondering what changed my mind!  And, no, it wasn’t all about the money.

Reasons to consider a career change.

1.  You are no longer challenged.
If your current job doesn’t challenge you, that means that you have potential to grow.  The perfect job should always make you think a little.  If you can do your job blindfolded, maybe it’s time to utilize those learned skills and move up the corporate ladder.
Who doesn’t want a more notable title with a closed office and a significant pay check!?

2.  You think of work as a form of torture.
I’m not saying everyone is going to love what they do, but you should at least be content with your position.  If you find that you need to force yourself into the office every day, maybe it’s time to find a similar position elsewhere.  If it’s the job itself you hate and not your employer, then maybe it’s time to consider a complete career change.
Once you pinpoint what it is you dislike, it’s so easy to make a realistic plan for change.  I promise.

3.  Your bills are always late.
If you eliminated all the “extras” from your budget, and your income still doesn’t cover your expenses, it may be time to job hunt.  You can always ask for a raise, but fact is, the biggest raises are usually received when moving into a new position.
Please don’t wait for your lights to be shut off to start moves.  Be proactive!

4.  You can pay your bills, but you want more.
If your current job is paying the bills but doesn’t allow you to move out of your one bedroom apartment, maybe it’s time to let your career grow with your dreams.  Maybe you are happy with your lifestyle but are lacking the extra cash to travel or to enjoy nights out on the town.  Whatever the reason, you shouldn’t let your job limit your life.
My dream is to own a house one day.  If I don’t increase my income, that will be just a dream forever.

5.  Your job doesn’t let you live.
Unless you want your job to be your life, you need to find a company that is sensitive to its employee’s needs.  If you feel that any type of restraint isn’t for you, maybe a proposal to open a successful business should be in your future.
Evaluate your priorities and see how much of your life you are willing to give.  It is your life after all!

6.  You are being harassed, demeaned, or disrespected at work.
No matter what your job title is, there is never any excuse for you to be put down.  You deserve respect.  Don't let your job make you think low of yourself.  If this is your situation, stop reading this article and start applying for other jobs.  You deserve better.
Bullying and harassment does not end in school.  I see it all the time in the workforce.

7.  Your pay doesn't match your work load.
Employers will always want to get the most out of their employees, and that is 100% understandable.  It's when employers want more than what they are willing to pay for that it becomes a problem.  If you find that your boss keeps dumping new tasks onto your lap but isn't reciprocating with dumping more cash, it's time to look elsewhere.
Years ago, I saw 3 people quit.  Their work was dumped on me without any extra pay.  Um, not ok.

8.  There is no room to grow.
If you look around and see nowhere to go, then you should consider moving to a place where you aren't pigeon holed.  People should never limit themselves.  Most people want to grow in their careers, but choose not to because they are comfortable.  Some people feel like they can't better themselves because their education or skills limit them.  Don't limit yourself unless you believe that you reached your maximum potential.
As long as you are willing to make moves,  your career will move with you!

9.  You have no job security.
There is nothing worse than living with the constant fear of not knowing how long you will have a job for.  When a company starts to downsize, outsource, or centralize their jobs it may be time to start worrying.  There is never a guarantee that you will keep your job forever, but there are certainly companies that are way more secure than others.
Pay attention to the career red flags.  The red flag system is for more than just relationships!

10.  You just want better.
There is no shame in being perfectly content in your current position, but still wanting more. 
I mean, who doesn't want to go from happy to happier!?

What would make you consider a career change?
Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Happy Birthday: The Viking

Today is The Viking's birthday!
Or, tomorrow, depending on what day you're reading this.  It's January 22nd.

He will enjoy one of our favorite recipes; Rachel Ray's Super Shrimp Scampi with pasta.
You can find the recipe here.  It's all done in one pot.  So quick, easy, and yum!

We will be celebrating with an ice cream cake from Cold Stone Creamery.
...and, oh, how I love me some Cold Stone...
I invited friends and family over to enjoy the cake.

Happy Birthday, Viking!
Monday, January 19, 2015

Discussion: Selfie Stick

We are currently living in an age where people do and have things that I just don't understand.
I mean, do you remember planking or owling??  No?  You must read into it!

The newest fad that I don't understand to hit my generation is the art of a “selfie”.

Selfie:  A close up picture of yourself taken at a flattering angle typically via cell phone.
Because, you know, cameras are so out of date!  Sigh…

My cousin is obsessed with taking selfies.
She snaps them every chance she gets and loves to share them on social media.
If we plan a girls night, she will respond with, "We have to take selfies!".
I hate taking selfies.  They are never flattering for me and usually make me want a nose job!

For Christmas, my uncle (Cousin's father), bought her the best gift ever!
He bought her a selfie stick.
Yes, that has really been created!

Selfie Stick:  A long stick with a handle on one end and a clasp to hold your phone on the other.  Its purpose is to take selfies with maximum flatterization*.  All you need to do is adjust the clasp to fit your cell phone, set the camera on a timer, angle the stick, and smile!
*Yes, I know flatterization is not a real word, but neither is selfie!!!

I've walked through Manhattan and seen groups of people blocking walkways huddled under a selfie stick.
I've seen girls sitting on benches posing for their selfie stick like paid models.
I've seen my cousin making kissy faces to her inanimate selfie stick and giggle at the result.
I'm all for capturing memories, but this is just way too funny!

What do you think about the Selfie Stick?  Is it a selfie do or don't?
Friday, January 16, 2015

List: Important Lists

R&W visitors quickly learn that I have an ongoing love affair with lists.
There is nothing I enjoy more than the neat and organized means of communicating via a list.
Not to mention my OCD seal claps every time I see one!

Despite the fact that some of history’s greatest accomplishments were lists, I still get smack.
I mean does The Ten Commandments or People’s Sexiest Man Alive list ring any bells?  Sigh…
At the ripe age of 26, I decided that it’s time to stand my ground and defend my lists.
Since so many of you like to poke fun, I’d like to make a bet that you all utilize lists frequently.

Jax’s List of Important Lists
Yea, I went there…

1.  Grocery List
This is my favorite type of list!
A grocery list is the best tool to use to walk out of a store with only necessary purchases.

2.  Pros & Cons List
I do this all the time!  In fact, I just did it yesterday when deciding between two job opportunities.
This is a wonderful tool to use when making difficult decisions. 

3.  To Do List
You just have to make sure your To Do list doesn’t end with writing the list…
Making a To Do list helps people to remember and to prioritize the tasks at hand.

4.  Budget List
Everyone should have a budget otherwise you’ll never know where you stand financially.
A budget list could be anything from a simple list of your expenses to a detailed financial summary.

5.  Medication List
My anxiety believes that a list of all medications a person takes should be accessible in case of an emergency.
Your medication list could be noted on an index card in your pocketbook or wallet.

6.  Invitation List
This is the first step to planning a party.  Then you create your food list, to do list, etc…
I have a list I keep handy with names and addresses to the people I invite for my baby’s events.

7.  Emergency Contact List
My anxiety feels the same way about this list as it does the medication list.
You should have two people briefed with your medical history that can be contacted in an emergency.

8.  Packing List
This can mean either a list of products in a shipment, or a list of things you need to pack.
Before traveling anywhere, everyone should make a list of things they need.  Then check it twice!

9.  Christmas List
This is a real fun list!  I mean, who doesn’t love to brainstorm all the things they want?
Every year I create an excel sheet with a list of all the people I need to buy for and what I plan to get them.

10.  Bucket List
Everyone has a list of things they want to do or places they want to see before they die.
There is no better way to celebrate your life’s hopes and dreams than to put them in a list!

What are your favorite lists?
Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Link Up: How to keep germs away.

My favorite rhyming cat and I are doing a link up today.
…and by favorite I mean the only rhyming cat that I know…
Believe it or not, him and I actually have something in common.
We absolutely hate germs, if not actually have a fear of them.
A while ago, a lady cut me at the nail salon.  I lost many nights sleep with nightmares of hepatitis.

How to keep the germs away.

1.  Car Keys
Make it a weekly routine to spray these germy things down.
My keys are no stranger to Lysol!

2.  Cell Phone
Every morning when I get to work, I spray my cellie down with Windex.
Good bye diseases and GOOD BYE finger prints!  Double win!

3.  Light Switches & Door Knobs
Wipe those suckers every single week with the Windex vinegar spray.
Don’t forget about the fridge handle and the cabinet knobs.  Those are bacteria collectors!

4.  Vitamins
It’s impossible to stay 100% germ free, so take daily vitamins to help fight sickness.
I swear by Emergen-C.  Every time I start to feel run down or Mushy is sick, I drink one.  

5.  Keep the Temperature Down
A colder house, is a healthier house.  Keep the thermostat low and open some windows.
There’s a reason why surgical rooms are always ice cold.  It kills the germs!

6.  Squat, Don’t Sit!
Never, ever, EVER sit down on a public toilet.  Squat and hover like a space ship to avoid germs.
Not to mention it will totally give you killer buns and thighs!

7.  Hand Sanitizer
Don’t ever leave your house without hand sanitizer!  I always have a bottle handy in my car and bag.
Besides, they even have ones that smell yummy now.

8.  Public Doors
Try your hardest not to touch those handles!  Have someone else open it, or use a paper towel.
Those things skeeve me to no end.  How many people with snot touched it before you did?  Bleh gag barf!

9.  Wash Your Hands
Everyone should wash their hands several times a day no matter where they are or what they’re doing.
Don’t forget to sing the alphabet to make sure they’re squeaky clean!

10.  Nail Salon
Make sure you bring your own tools to the nail salon.
That way if you get cut, you have no risk of getting hepatitis.  Hello good night’s sleep!

What are your tips for keeping the germs away?
Monday, January 12, 2015

Jax Seal of Approval: Rio & Rio 2

My little Mushy is rapidly growing in size and mentality.
It’s becoming very difficult to find activities that she can do alone and still stimulate her brain.
While she enjoys drawing scribbles and reading picture books, she still likes to have an audience.
As much as I love spending time with her, I need to straighten my hair in the AM…

That’s when a saint from my job passed me along the DVD Rio 2.

I popped it in the DVD and it was love at first sight!

I mean, do you see the hearts floating from her big eyes to the TV screen?

Between the Brazilian samba music and the catchy tunes, my Mushy was hooked!
She dances throughout the movie and likes to repeat the word “Bird” and “Bug” at the TV.
I would definitely say these flicks stimulate her brain and entertain her while I do chores.

Rio:  The first movie is about a pet bird and a wild bird.  A Brazilian scientist believed them to be the last two blue macaws in the world.  He wanted them to mate before it meant the end of their species.  Before they could get to know each other, these two birds got abducted by poachers.  They quickly escaped and made plenty of friends along their way back home.  Unfortunately, they had a to fight against an evil cockatoo and some pesky monkeys before they would be able to gain their freedom.

Rio 2:  The second movie begins with introducing the families of those same two blue macaws.  You could see right away they adapted to civilization and were living like humans.  This time their two care takers get captured by poachers.  It’s up to these two birds and their loyal friends to save their care takers and a surprise flock they meet in the amazon.  Our favorite evil cockatoo returns to get revenge against the heroic birds, but he was a small battle to fight compared to the poachers.

These two movies get the JAX SEAL OF APPROVAL!
Or should I say, the MUSHY seal of approval?

Not only does my baby girl really enjoy these two movies, but it’s fun for the adults also.
I’ll admit that I totally shook my tushy several times to the music in the film.
I’ll even admit that I find the cockatoo’s voice sort of sexy.  Is that wrong?

What movies do you find best to help entertain a young child?
Friday, January 9, 2015

List: Store Brand Items That Rock or Stink

As you all remember from this post, Jax loves to stretch out her dollar.
Especially this time of year.  Broke much after the holidays?  Yes, mam!
One great way to save money is to purchase the store brand twins to your favorite products.
If you do that on top of using coupons, the Target Cartwheel app, and browsing through the weekly circulars, you should be in for a huge pile of savings.  And who doesn't love to save money?

There is just one problem with purchasing store brand products.
Some items are legitimately the same, but others are horribly not.
Luckily for you all, Jax already did some of the experimenting!
Since I have a love affair with Target, let's use their products as the guinea pigs. 

1.  Facial Moisturizer
Your skin doesn't get more sensitive than mine, so you can take my word on this one.

Up & Up Sensitive Skin Facial Moisturizer VS. Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Facial Moisturizer
While the Target brand wasn't as "light" as the original brand, the end result was almost identical.  The best part was, my sensitive skin didn't get a bad reaction afterwards.
Jax says this swap is a definite DO!

2.  Dish Soap
I enjoy the soaps with the added moisturizers so they don't dry out my sensitive skin.


Up & Up Hand Restore Dish Soap VS. Dawn Ultra Olay Hand Renewal Dish Soap
The fragrance in the Target brand soap was barely existent and it did not suds up as much as the Dawn brand.  The Target brand also left a slippery residue that was very difficult to rinse off.  The only positive was that with both brands, my skin remained equally moisturized.
Jax says this swap is a definite DO NOT!

3.  Glass Cleaner
It's funny how no matter what glass cleaner I use, I will forever refer to it as "The Windex".


Up & Up Glass Cleaner VS. Windex Original Glass Cleaner
Both products left behind a streak free, clean surface.  They both have that same, pleasant Windex-y scent.  The only difference I could detect was the price!
Jax says this swap is a definite DO!

4.  Oatmeal
Every morning I eat a cup of Maple & Brown Sugar oatmeal for breakfast.  Yummy!

Market Pantry Instant Oatmeal VS. Quaker Instant Oatmeal
The oats in the Market Pantry brand were larger and thicker.  The difference in size did not allow for the same texture after cooking, in a negative way.  The flavor was also not as delicious as Quaker.  
Jax says this swap is a definite DO NOT!

5.  Garbage Bags
I love how garbage bags now have scents!!  We like our garbage smelling good.

Up & Up Lavender Trash Bags VS. Glad Lavender Trash Bags with Febreeze
Both the Glad and the Up & Up brand were very strong.  They both had a light, pleasant scent.  The handles on both brands were similar.  I don't think many people would be able to detect a difference between the two.
Jax says this swap is a definite DO!

6.  Fabric Softener
Anyone else sniff their warm, freshly laundered clothes like a drug addict? I do!

Up & Up Lavender Fabric Softener VS. Downy Lavender Fabric Softener
The Downy brand left a distinct scent that made me smile.  The clothes also came out baby soft and without any static.  The Up & Up brand left a light scent that you could barely smell.  After use, the clothes were soft and static free.  The Up & Up brand did give me a slight allergic reaction.
Jax says this swap is a definite DO NOT!

7.  Frosted Cereal with Marshmallows
Try the chocolate Lucky Charms.  Oh so yummy!

Market Pantry Frosted Bites with Marshmallows VS. Lucky Charms
The frosted cereal was more frosted in the Lucky Charms.  Lucky Charms also had a lot more marshmallows than the Market Pantry brand.  On a side note, I've had other Market Pantry cereals, and they were great!
Jax says this swap is a definite DO NOT!

8.  Diapers
Diapers have to be good quality otherwise you'll wake up to a wet baby and a stinky crib!

Up & Up Diapers VS. Luvs Diapers
The Luvs diapers seemed to poof up quicker on my poor baby's bum than the Up & Up brand.  There was also a few nights that she slightly leaked through.  The Up & Up brand was strong and had much better coverage than the name brand.
Jax says this swap is a definite DO!

9.  Macaroni and Cheese Dinner
I make this once a week.  I mean, it's a quick side dish after a long day of work!

Market Pantry Macaroni and Cheese Dinner VS. Velveeta Shells and Cheese Dinner
The pasta in both brands were identical.  The cheese in the Velveeta brand was a little tastier than the Market Pantry brand, but the difference wasn't drastic.  Both brands had the same creamy consistency.
Jax says this swap is a definite DO!

10. Paper Towels
If paper towels aren't a good quality, you end up using more of them to make up for it.

Up & Up Paper Towels VS. Bounty Paper Towels
Both of these brands were equal in every way!  They were both strong and thick.  They both passed the rinsing under water, ringing it out, and then reusing test.  Neither brand ripped or shredded when used during a heavy cleaning.  They also didn't leave behind obnoxious little dust particles.
Jax says this swap is a definite DO!

What products are a store brand DO or DO NOT for you?
Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wedding: 7 Month Marker

We are officially one month closer to my big day.
…and I really have not done much more planning…
This past month I was so busy playing Santa Claus, that my wedding planning had to be put on hold.

That being said, I do owe you all a huge thank you.
Instead of posting a 7-month confession saying that I have'nt done squat, I made sure I did something.
…or, heaven forbid, I just skipped right over my 7-month post!!  That would be way too scandalous…
In other words, you all were my motivation this month.


Invitations:  We wrote the wording and confirmed the style for the invitations.  Finally, the invitation proofs have been ordered!  Once we agree that we actually love them, the invitations can be paid for and ordered.  I'm hoping to have them mailed out at the beginning of May.
Oh, how I'm dreading the collection of the addresses that I will need.  Ug!

DJ:  I'm in the midst of a debate about this.  A co-worker friend of mine agreed to DJ my wedding for a fee of $400.  In NY, a DJ can range from $1,200-$2,000 for just a basic package.  To hire my friend would mean saving a huge sum of money.  The problem is, he doesn't MC to the extent of a real MC.  He does DJ well, but people think I really need an MC/DJ.
My family/friends are dancing people, but do you think I still need an MC?

Bridesmaids Gifts:  I thought long and hard about what to give my amazing bridesmaids for a gift.  Originally, I intended to get them a gorgeous pair of earrings that they could rock at the wedding.  Unfortunately, that was too far out of my budget.  I settled on getting them a killer pair of Michael Kors shoes to wear with their dress.  Hopefully they think the heels are as hot as I do!!!

I got heels for my whole bridal party, except for Sis.  She prefers flats and I was happy to oblige considering Michael Kors was so kind as to make matching ones.  The gold sparkles will compliment the ballerina pink dresses with a pop of sexy!  I also think these shoes are nice enough to wear out or home in the future.
Would it be inappropriate for me to wear the gold heels with my wedding dress?!

Where do you think wedding plans should be at the seven-month marker?