The Story of New Life (and the Uphill Battle Getting There)


** Friendly Disclaimer: This post is going to include some minor graphic details about the birth of our daughter Lily. For the mildly squeamish, and with consideration to my gentlemen readers in particular, I have tried to be as vague as possible without leaving out important details. Just a head’s up, but I do hope you’ll read it. It’s quite the story. **

Greetings, everyone, from the Steinway!

Current population – One husband, one wife, one cat, and one brand new human being. Yes, after a long and mysterious nine months, our little mystery baby entered the world after one of the longest days (and nights) of my life to date. The nights are still long and tiresome, but we’ve made it through the first month of parenthood and we still have a baby and we’re still surviving. Not sleeping, but surviving :)

After my last entry, I didn’t know what to expect from the coming week. I know what I wanted to get out of my birth experience. My doctor knew what my hopes were, and being the wonderfully considerate man that he is, he was going to do his best to help my labor and delivery be as close to my plans as he could help make them. Of course, the best laid plans of mice and doctors often get thrown off by mild preeclampsia. The entirety of this pregnancy, I have been struggling with high blood pressure. I had seen the same problem when I was still on oral contraceptives, and it had improved when I stopped them. In this case, the high blood pressure could only be *hopefully* cured by delivering the baby. A surprising number of maladies are cured this way – swelling, heartburn and of course, pregnancy.

Thursday morning, the hubby and I had our 39 week prenatal appointment. Based on the protein levels in my urine and my high blood pressure, my doctor was concerned that keeping the pregnancy going could be risky for the baby’s health and my own. I was about 2 cm dilated. We set up an appointment for some testing at the hospital later that afternoon, as well as a 24-hour urine screening. We both called work and by 2:30 in the afternoon, I was down in radiology at the hospital having a routine ultrasound to check baby’s position, vitals and fluid levels. Other than a very still, sleepy baby who was head-down and ready to meet us, the ultrasound revealed nothing of note.

Next, we went up to the maternity ward and I was hooked up to two monitors – one to monitor contractions and one for baby’s heartbeat. Every 15 minutes, the machine automatically took my blood pressure and recorded it on a printout. We watched TV and quietly waited for the test to end when one of the primary physicians from our office came in to see how we were doing. She looked at the printout and smiled widely.

“Congratulations! You’re contracting! Can you feel those? You might have a baby before you know it!”

Needless to say, I felt nothing other than the occasional kick from our kiddo. The nurses informed us that our doctor would be at the hospital soon if we wanted to wait for his opinion on the situation, so we waited. And waited. And another hour passed. Our patience was rewarded  by a breathless doctor who had run up four flights of stairs to keep us from waiting longer. After reviewing my vitals and the printouts from the testing, he was thrilled with how regular and strong baby’s heartbeat was, but still concerned about my blood pressure and excited at the fact that my contractions had begun, even if I couldn’t feel them. He recommended some exercises to jump-start natural labor and gave us a few options for induction if the next day yielded no further progress and  my 24-hour panel results were poor.

Fast-forward to Friday, my due date. This ended up being a very, very long day indeed. Not surprisingly, I felt no different than the day before. I was hoping for a quiet, peaceful day at home with Matt, but I was in an awful emotional state all day. I was anxious about my test results, terrified about the future, thrilled at the prospect of meeting our baby before the weekend was up and seemingly upset about every tiny thing that was going the slightest bit wrong. In the midst of all of this, the clinic processing my urine test had crossed wires with the doctor and wanted my sample as soon as possible. This would either mean waiting for the courier to come pick it up from diagnostics, which might take 4-5 hours, or driving a half hour to drop it at the hospital.Amid tears and frustration, we drove out to the lab and then stopped at Wendy’s for dinner. It was our last dinner together before we became parents. Peaceful, reflective and a little melancholy. I began to feel selfish – I was going to miss having Matt to myself, miss having the time to spend pursuing my own interests, miss being “just us”. I also began to feel anxious – what was going to happen? One day we were alone and watching TV and eating dinner together. The next time we blinked, all that could have changed. All that did change. It just took longer than I thought.

On our way out of town headed back home, I received a call from my doctor. He had gotten my results from the lab and wanted to get me to the hospital to induce labor as soon as possible. He wasn’t alarmed, but since I wasn’t getting better he wanted to be on the safe side. We would head home, get ready, and return to the hospital in two hours once room opened up in Labor and Delivery. Weekend staff is short, so we were really being squeezed in. Once home, I was suddenly overcome with a burst of thrilled excitement and stressed efficiency. I showered, finished packing my bag, posted a quick update to Facebook and finished folding my laundry. Things were suddenly happening – after waiting and preparing and worrying and imaging, we suddenly had a set deadline. We were taking home a baby this weekend, one way or another.

We arrived at the hospital and finally found registration. We checked in, and I was wheeled up to our room. Immediately, I was handed a gown and robe and settled into bed. Our doctor greeted us tiredly and briefed us on his thoughts. Since my labor was not progressing naturally, he wanted to first try inducing labor with a drug called Cytotec – while being a medication for stomach ulcers, it is also used for ripening the cervix for delivery. I trust my doctor wholeheartedly, and he encouraged me that results of using Cytotec were positive. I signed a consent form and was administered the pill. After that, it was all a matter of waiting. We got some sleep while we waited for the drug to take effect.

Two hours later, my mom and dad had arrived at the hospital and I began to feel some contractions as we chatted. It was around midnight when my doctor returned to check on my condition. Very little progress had been made, so we decided the next step was to start me on an IV drip called pitocin. Pitocin kicks the uterus into high gear and is supposed to start contractions at an intense rate. I had read some encouraging articles on women who went through labor without pain medication while using pitocin – it can be very difficult. Natural contractions build up and grow in intensity, whereas even when administered in gradually increasing amounts, pitocin can cause contractions to be very frequent and very painful very quickly. Dr. Fernaays acknowledged that he knew this wasn’t what I wanted, but that we would do our best to stick to my plan. My heart was as set as possible on natural birth and no medication, but I was starting to open myself to the alternatives – including C-Section. The thought of surgery terrified me, and I felt that after nine months of waiting and taking care of this baby, I wanted to bring it into the world with as little intervention as possible.

We took some supplies and shuffled down to the suite where I would be for the remainder of my delivery.  I was hooked up to an IV of saline and pitocin on one arm, monitors across my stomach and a suffocating blood pressure cuff on the other arm. Tucked into bed, I tried to get some sleep while the cuff inflated every few minutes and the monitors beeped away next to me. I fell asleep to the sound of my baby’s heartbeat. Four hours later, we did an internal exam and there was still very little progress in my readiness for delivery. I had dilated maybe another centimeter, but I could no longer feel the contractions that had been present hours before. With some frustration and consideration of the options, the doctor stopped the pitocin drip and prepared to put me back on another round of Cytotec. That was when miracle number one happened – the monitors registered strong, frequent contractions that had not been present while I was on the IV. We all practically danced – maybe our intervention had only delayed everything and there was still hope of “sticking with plan.” My poor exhausted doctor had to leave for a while to tend to his family and his farm, but he encouraged us in his absence to do everything we could to keep labor going. We walked the halls, bounced on a birthing ball (imagine an exercise ball shaped like a giant peanut), watched TV, talked, ate a tiny portion of lunch (since I was now technically in active labor) and drank more water than I thought I had room for. This went on for a good portion of the morning and into early afternoon.

At around 3 o’clock, my nurse on rotation, Jay, did another internal exam. I was close to four centimeters dilated but still not much further along. Her opinion was that resuming pitocin would get us where we wanted to be. She confirmed with my doctor, and in his absence the medication would be given under the supervision of another doctor on call. They also had begun discussing breaking my water if contractions continued. We got  back into my room and back onto the IV and resumed our sitting and talking and monitoring. Matt and I even tried playing a few hands of Rummy in the waiting time.

I want to say it was an hour later – after that many hours of no sleep and not much happening, I lost track – my dad was sleeping in a chair in the corner and we were all joking about his ability to sleep through anything. I had begun feeling mild contractions at this point, and was using deep breathing exercises to work through them. I was sitting in a rocking chair and talking with my mom when there were what felt like two sharp blows to my pelvis, like someone punching me on the inside, and my water broke. Somewhere in this commotion, Dad woke up and we filled him in on all the fun he’d missed. It was then he kissed me goodbye and made his exit – the next part of the show wasn’t really his favorite (I love you, Dad!) I had no idea that those two jabs were going to be the start of the longest (and simultaneously quickest) hours of my life.

For those who have not experienced or never will experience labor, imagine having a bad stomach or gas cramp. Then imagine someone took that pain, applied it to all of your main internal organs from the lungs down, and squeezed them in a vice. It doesn’t do the pain justice, but it’s the closest I can come by. I couldn’t anticipate how quickly the contractions would ramp up – but they did. Rather than just breathing through them halfheartedly and being able to make some conversation, I found myself needing to close my eyes, center myself and really focus on how to get through the pain. Matt did a special compression exercise by squeezing my waist to help open up the pelvic area and my mom would tell me to grasp her hands as hard as I needed and remind me to breathe.

After what felt like only minutes, the weight of all of the pain and sleepless hours began to take their toll. Each contraction would start as a small clenching and then quickly broaden, full force, and last anywhere from only a few seconds to a minute or slightly longer, and then gradually ease off. I would collapse, half-asleep, as soon as I was able to stand it. I had no concept of time passing – only that it was. I didn’t know how long I was asleep. I only heard my mom telling me to rest, and then telling me when the next contraction was coming so I could throw myself out of my chair and stand or squat or lean across my hospital bed and breath and cry out through them. I never actually cried, but I did shout out in frustration to vent my pain. I was terrified of having to get back in bed to be examined or being stuck sitting down while contracting. I didn’t want to be caught without some outlet to work through them.

After what seemed like an eternity, I felt like I couldn’t go on any more. In a delirious state of exhaustion, I only had a vague idea of who was in the room. I remember my mom bathing my head with a washcloth, being fed ice chips off a fluorescent green spoon, having my lips smeared with chap stick… It was the second closest thing to an out-of-body experience that I’ve ever had. Finally I felt the slightest inclination to start pushing. I didn’t know what that meant exactly. It’s more of an instinct than anything, but I did know it would mean we were closer to the end than we had been all day and night thus far. With some hesitation, I crawled back up into bed so my doctor could check my dilation. We were set and ready to go.

Pushing, as many mothers will describe and agree with me, is probably the best part of an un-medicated labor. After hours and hours of seemingly endless contractions and pain and fear, you are suddenly handed an outlet for all your pain and frustration. While fighting labor pains is very difficult when you’re trying to remind yourself to work with your body, pushing allows you to actively do just that. It’s finally the time to have all the parts sync up and come together to do what you’ve been trying to do all along – bring a baby out into the world.

The downside of pushing is that you are required to put all of your earthly strength into attempting to move a baby down the birth canal in the time of your contractions. It doesn’t sound like such a challenge, but when you’ve been at it for an hour and you can’t feel your legs and you know your eyes are swollen shut, you might as well have been trying to push a concrete truck through a snow storm. It was hard not to start feeling hopeless – I kept pushing past the end of the contraction and then collapsing back on the table just wanting to quit. Our doctor pulled Matt aside at one point to let him know that it’s not unusual for first-time moms to push for anywhere from an hour to three hours. I think he was worried I was going to run out of steam. It was only by the grace and strength of God that I was able to keep going. I was so weak and shaky and exhausted – I felt like only a fraction of a human being.

Two hours passed, and the doctor and nurses started suggesting alternative positions and ideas for pushing. At one point, they had me try getting on my knees and holding on to the top of my hospital bed. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep that up for very long. It was just too tiring to not have the support of the table. Seeing my weariness, it was also suggested I didn’t have to push and could just work through the contractions. That idea was very quickly thrown out when the pain came rushing back. I wanted to keep this baby moving, despite my own weakness. The longer I catered to my own needs, the longer it would take for it all to be over.

By the time we got to hour number three, both my doctor and I were very tired and running out of options. I was starting to think I was at the end of my rope. Everyone kept encouraging me to push down, push the baby out, keep her moving, but I just couldn’t seem to find where I was supposed to push. Baby’s head had been sighted, but she was stuck behind my pubic bone. Every contraction, we were supposed to be almost there and I would push for my life, and then the contraction would pass and I would wither, discouraged and worn out, feeling her slip back to where she was. The dreaded conversation began – what would we do if baby wouldn’t move? The doctor informed me he was calling the surgeon in to be on hand in case we needed to use vacuum suction to help the baby along since her head was swollen and stuck. Nervously, I inquired as to the option we would have to resort to if that didn’t work. Again, we brought up C-section. At this point, all I heard was “put her back where she came from and start all over.”

Something lit in my subconscious. In my fogged, delirious mind, I just needed to meet this baby. I was not going to have done all this hard work to then have to be cut open. With the next contraction, I pushed from some new center. Excited shouts of affirmation came from the end of the bed. I was doing it right – I was conquering labor. Matt, my mom, my doctor, the new nurse who joined us for the night shift, all of them were there cheering me on, holding me, feeding me ice, telling me that they finally all meant it – we were almost there. The worst part of the whole night came when the baby’s head was finally free, but I was forced to reduce my pushing so we could preserve the perineum and keep me from tearing. Blinding, white hot pain was all I knew, and it was almost unbearable. The gentle reassurances of my doctor kept me holding back – we had discussed this in our appointments and he was doing all he could to keep my body together. At long last, he told me I could be strong again, and in a flurry of plastic sheeting and surgical instruments, out came my sweet baby, squalling up a storm. Just like that, like we’d just started, our child was out in the open and ready to be cleaned up. After nine months of mystery, we finally knew that we had a daughter. A sweet baby girl.

My eyes were so swollen that I was seeing double, but as my baby was placed on my chest, I couldn’t believe how far we had come. One day, she was just a speck on an ultrasound and a line on a pregnancy test. Now suddenly, finally, she was a fully realized and fearfully and wonderfully made little human. Now at one month old, I’m watching her sleep in her bouncy seat as I type and all I can do is marvel at how beautiful she is. The best parts of Matt and I, brought together by love and created by a wonderfully loving and almighty Heavenly Father… all in the being of this tiny little girl.

26 hours of labor, 3 hours of pushing, and no medication for pain. By far, one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. And I couldn’t have done it without my beloved husband, my amazing mother, my wonderful doctor, the nurses and the support of all our family and friends.

We are so very blessed, and what a long journey it was. This is just the beginning of our adventure together!
Thank you so much for reading and for sharing my experience with me. Keep a look out for my next entry!

The Battle for New Motherhood


Well readers, after many months of infrequent updates and poor accountability, here I am.

Oh yes, and I’m pregnant.

Oh yes, and I’m due on Friday.

For those of you just joining us now, I apologize for this mind blowing announcement. What kind of blogger posts about breakfast sandwiches but then neglects to tell her readers that she’s expecting a baby?

Frankly, it’s the work of a girl spoiled and corrupted by social networks. I fear I have very little readership outside of my personal relationships, so naturally I just assume you all know what’s going on in my life and don’t want to overwhelm you with details from too many sources.

This is horribly closed-minded and selfish of me. Even when you feel alone, it’s necessary to embrace outside readership and write to an audience who you could reach, not just the audience you’re sure you’re reaching. How can you ever expand your horizons when you’re focused on the line on your dashboard?

With that said, I hope that any readers who don’t know me and may never meet me will enjoy my work, participate in my life and accept my apology for inadvertently closing them out.

Onto my original post ;

Anticipating mommy-hood is scary. Less than five years ago, I was starting college. I had just “graduated” from being a kid living at home to being a semi-child off in the world trying to figure out what kind of adult she would be. I made mistakes, came home for the summer and got reintegrated into my family’s routine.

Less than a year and a half ago, I was a naive new bride preparing for married life. Still living at home, still eating meals with her parents, still borrowing a room in their house that was temporarily my own. That start of adulthood I’d begun in college was still blossoming. I was heading out into the great wide world with a husband and responsibilities of our own.

Suddenly, out of what feels like nowhere, I’m about to become a mom.

I’m thrilled at all the possibilities. We decided not to find out our baby’s gender, so this upcoming surprise of new life is made even more exciting by unknowing. Each day moves closer to our introduction of this new member of our family, and we have been preparing for so long. We are as ready as we think we can be and simultaneously totally in the dark. We’ve never done this before. We’re going to have to learn how.

The most difficult thing I’ve faced thus far was not any aspect of the pregnancy. Without intending to boast, I must praise the fact that I’ve been blessed with a very easy pregnancy. With the excepting of a few weeks of morning sickness, some carpal tunnel (which is buzzing my hand as I type), and sore feet, I have not suffered much with physical symptoms.

No no, my greatest adversity has been being a new mom in an old-mommy world.

I am choosing (with my fabulous husband’s support, I might add) to cloth diaper our child. Between saving money on disposables, saving space in our landfills and saving my baby’s body from the harsh chemicals and fillers of modern disposables, I am thrilled at the opportunity to continue a tradition moms have stuck to for years.

Unfortunately, many veteran mothers are close-minded and deeply rooted in cynicism. Many of the wonderful ladies I work with have openly told me I’m crazy for wanting to do anything other than the “easy” way. One woman in particular got caught up in a conversation about laundering diapers and how I was deliberating over which detergent to buy since I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on something that might not work for us.

“Oh my gosh! Just pick a friggin’ detergent. You’re freaking neurotic! Your kid is going to be neurotic!”

And God bless the gentle encouragement of near strangers.

Does wanting to make good decisions for my wallet and my baby make me neurotic? To a stranger to the concept of sustainable living and a desire to do the best one can, I could maybe start to see her point. But why do we spend so much time driving the ambitious away from ambition? Especially in parenting, every one will learn in their own way. No one knows what kind of child their kid will be until they start to raise them. Yes, women have learned the same lessons over and over, but if all that offhanded and blunt advice that is shelled out by every mother EVER was taken to heart by half the women with children out there, we wouldn’t have horrid parents and horrible kids. Everyone would be the same. There are ideals to strive for, but not everything works for everyone.

I’m also going to do everything I can to have an un-medicated delivery. I feel it’s important for my own reasons, one of which being that I really do want to experience birth for all it is. It’s not some naive earth-mother philosophy. It’s just the plain fact that God designed my body to do this, and if I can get through it without needing medication, I want to accomplish that feat. I don’t need drugs to make me succeed. I have no shame in accepting or asking for them, but I want to do my best without.

“No you won’t. You’ll ask for the drugs. Everyone does. It’s hell. Get over it.”

What is so wrong about letting me do this myself? Tell me a big, fat “I told you so” afterwards, but encourage me in my ambition. I’m not striving for complete impossible odds. I don’t want to deliver my baby while skydiving or teach my kid to change it’s own diaper. I just want to try.

All those horror stories people share are just because they’re a good story. For example, two elderly women came into work at the same time to pick up medications. One woman was impressed I was still working and commented about how I would be just fine in delivery – her labor lasted only an hour or so, and she spent most of it at a diner down the street nursing a cup of coffee.

The woman next to her gaped incredulously. After guessing that she had a completely different experience to share, she expressed her tremendous jealously and proceeded to share about her earth-shattering and horrendously long twenty or so hours of painful back labor. Side by side, these two women gave me perspectives from both camps: pure martyrdom vs easy-breezy delivery.

She don’t mind. She’s short and skinny, but she’s strong. Her first baby come out sideways. She didn’t scream or nothing.” -Planes, Trains and Automobiles

There’s nothing wrong with telling me your worst tales of blinding pain, breached babies and last-minute c-sections. But especially from the perspective of someone who has never done this before, there is nothing worse and more discouraging than to be told that this event that I can’t prevent, that I have been anticipating and doing my own worrying about for nine long months, will be the worst hours of my life.

You’re not saving me. You’re only making things worse for everyone around you. You’ve taken the miracle of birth and put it on an episode of Jerry Springer. Let’s include some hair pulling, shall we?

As for cloth diapering and making my own baby food and carrying my baby and breastfeeding and any other “alternative, new-age” (traditional, people) methods of parenting, let me make my own decisions. Yelling at me about my apparent neuroses will do nothing to change my mind. You think that in those few minutes of you shoving your experiences from previous children down my throat that I’ll suddenly change my mind and do it your way? That the hours I’ve spent every day thinking about my baby and our budget and our beliefs will be suddenly cast aside by one person telling me I’m nuts?

While this isn’t the bouncy baby announcement I’d hoped to write, it’s something that I’ve been battling this entire pregnancy and has been on my mind as we near the close of this particular stage of life. Rather than try and tell new moms how it should be done, wait to offer advice until asked for. Just like reaching out and touching a pregnant woman’s stomach, hold back your way of doing things until the opportunity arises to assist a helpless new mom in adjusting her ways to better suit her needs and her family. Use more grace, and win more followers to your opinions.

Before you all get the wrong idea, I have been greatly blessed by the support of many veteran moms and new moms alike. My own mother has been a great cheerleader and encourager this entire pregnancy, especially in trying to support my offbeat endeavors. New moms have been some of my best friends because they’re still going through what I will be and have the fresh knowledge and experience and are able to share what works for them. I am a strong enough woman that the negativity camp will not shut me down. They can look at me later and say what they like about my successes and failures, but I will take heart in the fact that they were MY successes and MY failures, not some other mom’s.

We are winding so close to the end of this pregnancy. While I hope to share more thoughts (and particularly on a more positive note) before this little person greets the world, there is a chance I may not get around to it. If that is the case and this is the last you hear of me until after my baby is eighteen and out of the house (just kidding), I hope old moms will take it to heart and that new moms might have a hearty “amen” in response.

Otherwise, let’s plan on more words soon, shall we? We may be due on Friday, but that doesn’t mean baby is quite ready to say hello.

Pregnancy has been a fantastic and life-changing adventure, and the best is yet to come. I’ve embraced it!

From one terrified, thrilled mommy-to-be to the world,
we’re almost there!

Behold the Breakfast Sandwich!


As an apology to you,  my dear readership, for my almost 6-month absence from blogging, I bring you something that will most certainly cause you to heap forgiveness on me without a second thought. I’m diving right in because while I do have much to tell you and many words in which to say those things, it’s also a bit of a crazy day. That’s just how much I love you. No beating around the bush!

I love the breakfast sandwich. When you think about it, it’s what breakfast is all about. Some brilliant chef somewhere (or perhaps someone with the munchies who was brilliant enough to do some experimentation) took the four most common breakfast elements in American culture – protein (or fat-laden meat with lean strips of protein), eggs, dairy, and carbohydrates – and slapped them all together in a glorious chorus of flavor and melted cheese.

While not for the calorie-conscious, a breakfast sandwich has the brilliant versatility of allowing for endless combinations of tastes and personal preferences while also being portable and filling. You can make them healthier by substituting egg whites for egg or low-fat turkey bacon for sausage. Today, of course, I didn’t do either of those things, but the possibilities are there.

To begin, my dear hubby and I took a quick jaunt over to our local grocery store – one of those places that has what you need when you need it at low, low prices. We picked up all of our main players – bagels, one pound of ground pork, locally-sourced eggs and cheese.

For this specific recipe, we found some excellent asiago cheese bagels to serve as our carrier for the rest of the sandwich. Why asiago? They’re hefty, soft bagels with that tangy cheese baked right on top. They also provide a lovely complimenting contrast to our choice of sweet sausage. For our cheese, we went with basic smoked provolone – nothing fancy, mostly because of our small selection (and small budget).

Some of our key players, lined up and ready to go

After slicing our bagels in half, we put everything else aside to focus on the wonderful and satisfying joy of mixing up our own sausage.
The best part about making your own is not only the cost – compared to buying some preservative-filled, overly-priced box of Jimmy Dean or Bob Evan’s patties, you can save a good chunk of change and personalize the recipe to your tastes or to the specific type of breakfast you have in mind.

Our chosen few seasonings (brown sugar and pepper not pictured

Maple syrup is one of our passions here at the Steinway, so I decided on a basic maple sausage recipe. Put your one pound of delicious pork meats into a bowl. Then, I added two tablespoons of maple syrup. Don’t get me started on that fake-o pancake goop. It’s GOT to be the real deal! NO FAKERS HERE! They’re not even TRYING to be vaguely maple-flavored! PAH! PAH I SAY!

Rant concluded. I then added almost a teaspoon of ground sage, a teaspoon and a half of salt (more or less to taste), a teaspoon of granulated garlic and a teaspoon of granulated onion, about a tablespoon of brown sugar (for a little extra glaze), and a few dashes of black pepper. I occasionally will add a little crushed red pepper for heat, but not today. If you like spicy, make it spicy!

After adding all your seasonings, it’s time to mix it all into a glorious mash of meat and spice. You can mix with a spoon if you wish, but if you really want to blend it up and get down and dirty, do what I do and get your hands in there and squish and mash until thoroughly combined and ready for shaping. If you’re wondering how to tell if your sausage is seasoned to your liking, put your skillet on the stove over medium heat and fry up a small piece. That’s really the best way. Otherwise, you can just cook them up and tweak them for the next time. It’s a learning process.

Once mixed, make about four-4 oz balls of meat (about the size of a billiard ball) and flatten them into patties. It may take a little shaping to get them to look beautiful and disk-like, but they’ll get there. Make sure they’re relatively thin.

Glorious pork, aglow with sunlight!

Since DH and I were the only ones eating this morning, we decided to freeze the extra patties for a later time – just layer them in wax paper and stick them in a freezer bag. To defrost, either leave in the fridge overnight or defrost in the microwave before frying up the next morning.

Eat them now or save for later :)

Now that our meat is prepared, we wash up and get ready for the whole ensemble to come together!
Start by giving your bagels a little pre-toast. You can do this in a toaster if you wish, but lacking a toaster big enough, I chose to use my oven broiler on low. Keep the door cracked open an a careful eye – they can go from delightfully light golden brown to burnt in seconds. One advantage to doing this method is the bagels are ready to go on a cookie sheet for when your sandwiches are ready for assembly.

Toast away!

With bagels toasting, start preheating two skillets for the eggs and sausage. For the eggs, throw about a tablespoon of butter (more or less to your liking) in the pan and let it start to melt and get a little bubbly. For the sausage (especially when using non-stick cookware), no grease needed. The little guys will produce enough fat of their own. Put the heat to medium for both pans.
In the meantime, take out your bagels and set them aside. Ours were a little more well done than I wanted, but still delicious and ready to be layered with morning joy.

Mmm, toasty!

Now your pans should be ready to rock – for the sausage, cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until brown, sizzling and reaching an internal temperature of about 160 degrees Fahrenheit. I love using my cooking thermometer because so many recipes call for checking to see if the meat is still pink – who wants to tear about their lovely sausage to see if it’s done?
Once cooked, just set aside on a small plate lined with paper towels and let it rest.

Brown, delicious and maple glazed.

Now, onto the eggs – my DH was my sous-chef and helped me on this part to make the time go faster. Fried eggs are a new chefs best friend. Easier than scrambled in many ways, all you have to do is crack them into the skillet (trying not to break the yolk, but in the end, it all tastes the same) once it’s heated and let them sizzle away. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper, or a little seasoning mix like Penzey’s Mural of Flavor, and occasionally spoon some of the melted butter in the pan over the yolk. When the egg white has all turned opaque and the yolk starts to set, carefully flip the egg with a spatula and cook on the other side, again sprinkling with a little seasoning. The egg is done when the yolk is cooked to your liking and the white has a little bit of brown along the edges – not too well done, just right.

It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be an egg (made by our chef-in-training)

As your eggs finish up, go ahead and put the sausage on the bottom part of the bagel. As each egg is through cooking, you can move them right from the pan to on top of the sausage.

As it all comes together….

Once both bagels have sausage and egg, lay your cheese on top and put everything under the broiler on low until your cheese gets melted and starts to bubble. Again, keep a close eye. The last thing you want is overdone cheese. I also flipped the bagels over so the asiago topping could get warmed up and reheated. Good decisions on my part!

Almost there….

Finally, cheese melted and the whole gathering reheated and toasty, remove from the oven and firmly put the top half of the bagel over all the layers to complete your sandwich. Voila! A breakfast fit for some budget-conscious hungry non-royalty! :D

Delicious!

Besides being delicious, these sandwiches end up saving us a good deal in our budget. We love getting breakfast sandwiches from the restaurant just around the corner from our apartment. Those end up costing us about $3.50 each, or $7.00 if we both want one, and they’re about the size of a McDonald’s Jr. Cheeseburger. For these babies, we add up our ingredients:
Eggs: $1.81 a dozen, or 15 cents an egg,
Sausage: $2.48 a pound, or 62 cents a patty
Bagels: $2.29 for 4, or 57 cents a bagel
Cheese: $2.50 a package, or 25 cents a slice
—————————————————————
Add that all up, and for two of us can have a hefty breakfast sandwich each for $1.59 – $3.18 spent altogether on breakfast. How cool is that?

Best part is that we now have all the components in the house so we can make them anytime – and these were so filling, we both had some leftover that we saved for this morning. I love cooking, I love saving money, and I love sharing my passion with my friends!

Pair with a good cup of coffee, and nothing could be better

I hope this little sidetrack into the Steinway kitchen has thoroughly made up for my blogging laziness over these past few months. Happy cooking, and enjoy your good eats!

-H-

Recipe Notes:

- Be creative! Instead of asiago, use onion, everything, or plain bagels. If feeling a little soft, use kaiser rolls, english muffins or just some good hearty artisan bread! For any of the non-bagel options, consider spreading with a light layer of butter and toasting in a skillet.

- Feel free to purchase any of your pre-made sausage favorites in a pinch! I love the satisfaction of making my own, but I also appreciate convenience and reduced mess.

- On a similar meat note, don’t stop at sausage! Try bacon, ham, Canadian bacon, turkey bacon, your choice! I used to make super quick breakfast sandwiches to go in college using lunch meat (usually ham), shredded cheese, a well-seasoned fried egg and normal whole grain sandwich bread. Adapt to what you’ve got!

- Spices can vary immensely – if you don’t like sweet, try adding some crushed red pepper or Tabasco for a kick. Or, stick to your garden herbs and make a savory breakfast companion. Much like my beef breakfast sausage, there’s no rule as to how it should taste!

In short, get creative or stick right to the recipe. Have fun, and enjoy what you eat!

Pharmacy People – Forever Young


There are definitely certain advantages to working at a pharmacy. And before we start making methamphetamine jokes, I mean for those who enjoy their jobs and perform them legally.

For example, I can go in any day of the week and get a free consultation on my current medication, on potential future medications I may need to take, or the risks of mixing loratadine with over-the-counter pain killers like ibuprofen (there really aren’t any).  I can learn exactly what my grandfather’s medication does to help him, what insurance companies are really doing when your co-pay is over fifty dollars, and how many drug reps it takes to sell one box of lancets to a stubborn haggler. I can even learn the per-pill price of every medication we carry and realize just how much good health costs these days, at least for some.

I also have the advantage of getting to know my community (Houghton students, gimme a C!) and its members quite intimately  While some of that intimate interaction does involve hearing play-by-plays of colonoscopy preparation and being shown horrendous rashes in order to diagnose a creeping ailment, not all of it  is disease and horror. Occasionally it just involves a hello and a chuckle with the same man who comes in at noon every day to buy his newspaper. He scatters two quarters, a nickel and a dime into my hand with a sprinkling motion and emits a the manliest “tee hee hee” you’ve ever heard before wandering back out into the afternoon.

Or perhaps it’s the elderly woman who met me when I first started working, and even though she’s been confined to bed rest for some time, she is always so thrilled when I answer the phone to write down her RX numbers. “Is this my special friend?” she asks before laughing and demanding I let her know how I’m faring at the job and what’s new with the bustle of Akron.

There’s also the regular Lottery players who exchange small talk and success stories while I print them their usual tickets, and who never leave before slipping me a dollar to share their good fortune. Lottery creates a split atmosphere, as some people are obnoxious with half-hour that passes with them at the scratch-off table or how much change they need from me before they’ve run their luck out for the day. But they spend money, and in the business of making money you take any and all who are willing.

Growing up in a relatively large city outside of Cleveland, I never understood the “small town atmosphere” that so many novelists encapsulated in their stories. I never understood the characterization of citizens like I do now that I’ve been living in a town with a population of 2,856 and working at a local business. There are many, many characters and many, many plot lines.  There are categorized villains and jokers and nomads. It’s quite easy to learn names and begin recognizing people when I see them lined up in front of me daily and I can see just how different they all are. Being at the pharmacy, however, has also made me very self-conscious of my good health, happiness and youth. Almost every day, I have elderly people shuffle through their bag of many drugs, sigh wearily and look at me with narrowed glances .

“Never grow old. It’s just awful. Stay young forever.”

What in the world am I supposed to do with that? It puts me in the most awkward position. What’s my best response to that? Let’s see…

1. “I will, I will! Curse your age, I shall defy it and stay young for ALL ETERNITY.”
2. “Ok, thanks for the tip. Did you want your receipt in the bag or with you?”
3. “Uh… well… how do I stop it?” 

I just become exceedingly aware of the fact that I am young, fit and not on any regular medication.

I do my best to relate to everyone who comes in my door, but there are times when I don’t know what I can do except accept them where they are at and give them at least one smile in their day.

Today in particular, I was sent on the delivery to a few of our residents who are unable to get out to pick up their medications themselves. One woman began to relate to me the regrets of her youth and her poor choices and her failing health and while I tried to encourage her, all I was thinking  was “not me, never me, I won’t regret and I won’t want to do it all again.”

These people are lonely. Most of them live with either a disabled spouse or no spouse at all. I do my best to enjoy my brief visits with them when I can, simply to remind them that while they may not have much around them, they do matter. And since they can’t do it all again, we’ll make the best of where they are at now.

I know we all grow up with this sentiment of every children’s book or television program tattooed on our brains – the one that says “Be the best you can be! Reach for the stars and follow your dreams!” Most of us can’t appreciate that sentiment. Either we keep trying and are blinded into non-retrospection or we let it fall apart and live the depressing reality of a dead-end street like so many of the kids I grew up with.

However, when you’ve seen the people who didn’t live lives to be proud of and who really don’t feel like their life led anywhere good, you begin to find the sincere motivation to wake up each day and say “I will live a good life. I will stay healthy and have everything in moderation, I will do well in my marriage and find joy in all things and happiness when possible.”

Like New Year’s Resolutions, we can all be good liars. But let’s strive not to lie and not to cheat. We can be human and fail and not do our best some days, but the difference is found in the will to get up and do better next time. You can’t really regret those choices you’ve made in life because then you can never learn from them. We all wish things had never happened, but if we’re always wishing things had never happened, we’d never have grown and learned the way we have. We would not be the people we are.

I want to look back at my life when I’m eighty and not want to trade those spent years for anything in the world.

I said there were many advantages to working at a pharmacy – like being constantly reminded of how other people live and how you can learn from their example, both good and bad.

One day at a time. Just one long youthful day at a time.

 

Life, Post-Wedding Style


In this week’s episode, Hannah finds out that being an adult is not a box of chocolates.

Adulthood is more like dumping all of your money into buying the world’s most expensive, hand-crafted, artisan box of chocolates using the world’s oldest recipes from the birth of Historic Record, and having someone eat them, when you’re not looking, on the bus.

For the bum who ate them, they were fantastic, but it’s just not at all the fate you imagined for your precious dreams.

Marriage is excellent. Between the happiness and wholeness it brings and the cost of ending, it’s hard to conceive why people could even dream of divorce. But I know everyone has their reasons.

Moving was great. After college and my family home being sold and living out of suitcases most of the past four years, it was so refreshing to come back from our honeymoon to a home. Our stuff was in it, our cars were in the driveway, and our mail found its way to the box at 2:30 p.m sharp.

Working minimally from home was great until a woman realizes how bored she can get and how much money this “adulthood” thing requires. Thus, a job (part-time) was found.

Bills and loans are the devil’s coloring book.

Being a Stein? Probably the best move I could have made as an outdoorsy, adventurous lady. I’ve got my hunting license and a tree stand and I got my two extra doe permits. I’m helping to conserve and control wildlife populations while eating like a queen. Plus, the wood stove and a hot cup of coffee after waiting in the rain two hours for no ducks makes the whole experience complete. Beards are in.

So thus far, it’s all checking out okay. The Ideation Post-Marriage Update is a winner.

 

Oh yeah, and then being asked to leave your new home because you asked for a repair that was three months late… That part was not so much fun.

But finding a newer, better, warmer home a week later? We’re back on the blessings list.

The house which we had found for the first two months of our marriage was nice enough. It was an old house with no central heat, slanted floors, cracking ceilings and a few mice, but it was colorful, cozy, and had a backyard that overlooked cows. However, after the brief and dwindling heat of a New York summer starts to fade and the residents can see their breath inside in October, a chill (far more than literally) starts to set in and you realize that the justifications you made for loving this house so much don’t apply when you have to keep from freezing all through a long and unsympathetic winter.

To avoid divulging more information than would be proper for this circumstance, all I will say is the lack of insulation had been overlooked by all parties connected to this house. Then, when we needed that warmth most, we were thrown out into the cold.

With 30 days notice and bills and loans to pay, there was brief panic. I had just finished adding a tapestry over our bed and putting up our movie cards to bring some life to the living room. It seems that only a day after I begin to truly feel like the house is our home, we’ve been told that not only is it no longer our home, but we’ve brought this upon ourselves. Fighting feelings of immense injustice, we pushed on with the search for something better, owned and maintained by better people.

Less than a week later, we find a place we like. A day after viewing it, Matt and I had a conference and realized that in our own separate times, we realized we loved this place. It was smaller, but newly renovated, quiet, warm and right in town. It is (quite literally) a thirty second walk from the place I’m working for now. And the people who own it are sweet and on the ball.

Put a rambunctious tortoiseshell foster kitty named Tinker, some good friends and some great culinary adventures, and you have two Stein peas in a cozy center-of-town pod :D

That’s the moderately brief, mostly upbeat summation of 5 months of married life. On one hand, I feel like we’ve just settled in, and on the other hand, I can’t believe we haven’t been here forever. We’ve dealt with our share of sorrows, frustrations, confusion and chaos, but it’s all been tangled together in a nest-web-ball-tangle of overall blessings and good.

So after a long time away and a few nudges, I’m back. I can’t make any promises about my consistency, but at least I’m still around.

And that’s enough for now.

montage

Unforeseen Circumstances


Note – I know it’s Monday, but when you have unfinished posts you want to complete, you find a way. Roll with it!

Wednesday is the new Friday and man, today is one of those days.

Wednesday has never been my favorite day. I won’t subscribe to any of that “hump day” business, especially due to a flagrant dislike of the Black Eyed Peas song.  In general, Wednesdays remind me that the tough start of the week may be over, but we still have half of the days to finish up. When a Tuesday feels like a Friday, Wednesday is the worst because in your mind, it should be Saturday… and instead, you have 3 days of work remaining. It’s a similar feeling to waking up and, thinking you missed school, tearing around the house at six a.m to get ready. Then, just as you’re walking to the bus, your mom stumbles out of her room, bathrobe clutched together in one hand, to remind you it’s the weekend, and why can’t you ever be ready on time every other day?

To begin, my car is much like a celebrity. To all outside onlookers, it looks healthy, soundly built and pretty handsome. It even has tiny flame decals. However, when one gets to know my car better, it starts to show signs of wear and instability – indicator lights coming on, strange noises, a spongy delay to the breaks, a slow leak in the tire. We take it and put it through gentle rehab and it looks ready to face the world again. Give it two weeks to a month and it’s back to the same drama – new parts and time. I thought I happened to own the world’s most high-maintenance car based on the number of repairs needed in such a short time. My dad informed me that, much like celebrities, the issues and drama are normal and my car is really no worse off than any other. It just likes all the attention and in another few years, it will just accept the fact that it’s not hot stuff anymore and will resign itself to running errands for old ladies and puttering kids off to school.

In other words, Nicholas Cage and Disney. It’s going to spend all our money and then finally work well for us when it has no other choice.

So on this fateful Wednesday, the car was in the shop. It needed a lot of replacements – fuel lines, brake lines, ball joint, power steering fluid. Under the impression that the shop would be done with it this morning, we drove into Solon from our new house in Cleveland. The people I work for expected me to be late, but when I called them and told them it would be close to noon, they weren’t the happiest. I am blessed to work with very flexible, understanding people, but I also work with animals who can be a little less understanding, especially when hungry or needing to pee. We’re working with what we’ve got. Along with some unusual personal issues, dealing with businesses and people connected to the wedding, there have been a lot of unforeseen circumstances muddling up my month.

“The Unforeseen” have been teaching me a lot, though. Order things months in advance. Make sure you’ve got all the right information from the start. Make sure you do everything you can so that you aren’t to blame when “circumstances” become “facts of life”. And make sure you are prepared to do what must be done to fight biting disappointment and clean up the messes left behind when people (mortal as they are) let you down. TIP: NEVER PUT FAITH IN MORTAL BEINGS. They will find a way to take that faith and do bad things to it, much like Dolph Lundgren to magical unicorns (see hilarious Norton commercial here).

I’m getting married in two weeks to the love of my life, my best friend and confidant, my “tough with the scruff”. I have been hoping to share more about my summer, but between the end of work and wedding planning and my silly “s” key still acting up, blogging has been one of the last things on my mind. I’m planning on sharing my entire wedding band fiasco (another “unforeseen”) with you all at some point, mostly to serve as a consumer warning against the “big dogs” of industry and economy. In fact, one of the only things thus far that has gone wrong with wedding planning was Kay Jewelers, a Stirling Jewelers company, royally screwing up my wedding band and giving me the hardest time about getting my money back.

Weddings were once sacred. They have now become a giant, sucking black hole of burning cash and frills. You would think that people working in an “industry” with emotional, needy, selfish women (think the worst of the worst Bridezillas) would be a little more considerate and tactful when dealing with mistakes. No such luck, my friends, and for that Kay Jewelers will never get my money for any piece of jewelry, no matter how big, small, or encrusted in shiny stuff. However, before I start my big business rant early, I must redirect and say that in this minor case, the grand Unforeseen almost had me beat, but due to love and support and a stellar local jeweler, all’s well and Kay’s awaits my scathing internet review. Soon… *finger pyramid of doom*

When we least expect it, the Unforeseen can be those situations that bring us joy. People who I didn’t think would be available accepted my wedding invitation with excitement. Others who I would have loved to see and share my joy with were inhibited by life circumstance and travel. I know my wedding only needs to be Matt and me and our beloved officiant (flying in from the Great White North) in the sight of God, but I am so excited to share my one and only wedding with my loved ones, family and friends alike, overlooking the lake that is so close to my heart.

In closing for now, I have had people have mentioned the one “unforeseen” that Matt and I have banished from our list – Divorce. I have watched too many young marriages of people I know die within the first year because of laziness, misunderstanding and an unwillingness to accept the responsibility of the marriage commitment and God’s expectation for that union. This is a one-time event, baby, and once we say “I Do”, there will simply be no going back.

Looking at the man I’m going to marry, I’d say I’m perfectly all right with that. I’ve waited my whole life for him to come along, and now that he’s here I’d be a fool to chase him away. Twenty-two years is a long time to have otherwise wasted waiting for love.

I’ll do what I can to write a couple posts before the wedding, but in case of unforeseen circumstances, I look forward to reporting to you from Akron, New York as Mrs. Hannah Stein. I’ll have adventures and travels and stories to share, and we’ll finally be back on track!

Two years ago, I would never have imagined that I would now be in the throes of preparing to marry my best friend. Now that it’s only two weeks away, I can’t imagine a future without him. Funny how things change, isn’t it?

Be well, everyone!

Itsy-Bitsy Teen-Weeny Update Since You Haven’t Seen Me…


There’s always a reason for why bloggers don’t update for weeks.

Good Reason: Kidnapped by Vikings and taken on a three-month pillaging voyage against their will.

Bad  Reason: Bag of Doritos was obscuring the keyboard.

Good  Reason: Ravenous wolves ate my hands while camping and was waiting for dictation software to arrive.

Bad Reason: Netflix wouldn’t load with so many tabs open in Chrome

Good  Reason: Graduation, selling childhood home, moving to new house and starting a job took lots of time and energy.

Bad Reason: My “s” key won’t type unless I hit it like a semi crushing a water bottle on the highway.

In case you somehow haven’t figured it out, the last two reasons are my own. Yes, I graduated Cum Lade from Houghton College in May, and then moved home and immediately started with some home/animal care work. Within a month of being home, we were frantically packing belongings, setting up a garage sale, throwing away piles of trash and useless accumulations from our past, and moving. My parents moved into our new rental house, and I moved enough stuff to get me through summer. The rest of my worldly belongings are packed neatly into a 10×15 storage unit, waiting to be moved to New York in August.

As for the “s” key dilemma, it’s taken me a while to get through even this short post, but it’s time for me to get past my irrational fear of slow typing and excessive use of my backspace key. I’m back on the internet, and I’m really excited to share all the activity that this summer has seen thus far.

It’s good to be back.

Look for my return to the blogging game on Friday!

Hidden Blessings


Readers, a month goes by in a flash when the life you’ve known for four years is almost at an end.

I’ve got a lot planned for you all in the near future – more recipes, updates on the end of college life, anticipation of marriage. In the meanwhile, I’ve been caught in a whirlwind of hidden blessings scattered like tiny seeds throughout my week. When I stumble across them, they burst into bloom.

The most recent that I would like to share involves the selling of my childhood home. You can read up on my original feelings on the matter in my post here. Since that post, I have come to terms with this change in life. However, with the house on the market for over a year now, we’ve all become a little more than detached and worn out with this worldly object that we have to hold on to until someone else wants it. It’s burdensome to live in your home like it’s already owned by another person.

Well, things change. We had our first offer.

The reason this is a hidden blessing is a wonderful story. Four years ago, my parents first began talking about a new life in the country where they could build an earth-sheltered home, have animals, dig a large garden, go off the grid. In a desperate wave to keep home close, I begged them to not sell our house until I was out of college. My sister was able to always “go home” from school, and I should also have that chance. They agreed.

Then, last year, my father lost/left his job and we were faced with a self-imposed ultimatum. We had to sell the house or we would be in serious trouble for numerous reasons. I was ripped in half, but I agreed it had to be done. I agreed, but I wasn’t ready to lose the only house I had ever known.

That was a year ago, and in that time we’ve had lookers but no one willing to settle down. I got engaged and have a set day that I’ll be on my own. And even though it’s not set in stone yet, a first offer on this house is a serious offer and bounds from where we were. Over an entire year and a couple months, we only have an offer just now?

Just as I’m two weeks from graduation?

Just as I’m getting ready to get married and leave home?

God works in wonderfully mysteriously and ironic ways.

If this all goes through, the transition is perfect. My parents are beginning an adventure in a new home as empty-nesters and I’m beginning the adventure of marriage. Just like the transition of my sister getting married was eased by my moving to college, we meet that glorious ideal crossroads again. Only this time, my parents will have fulfilled their promise and all the pieces fall into place. No word was broken, even by necessity. And we’re now all ready to let go.

Call it what you will – coincidence, irony, chance, but God is always faithful, especially in that dark hour just before the creeping calm of morning light.

It’s another hidden blessing, wrapped up in the vines of a tangled time away.

Two weeks until graduation, and I’m doing my best to stay strong.

Sisyphus’s Kitchen – Beef is a Breakfast Food


Nota Bene: Many of my friends and readers have suggested that I share some of my recipes and cooking experiences. While I don’t want to be one of those bloggers with twenty blogs on twenty subjects to a million different audiences, I really want to share what I am learning with my readers. The encouraging response has been wonderful! Therefor, I am starting a new blog segment entitled “Sisyphus’s Kitchen” to share some of my cooking experiences, favorite recipes, one-serving cooking tips and helps for people looking to make great food on a budget. Stay tuned and good eating!

Being a fortunate student who has no early morning classes this semester, I will often wake up and have the urge to cook. Sometimes, it may just be baking some muffins to go with my coffee. I’ve ventured into the exciting realm of pancakes and bacon, breakfast sandwiches, baked oatmeal and even the simplest scrambled eggs and toast with a cup of Caribou Coffee’s Obsidian. I really enjoy starting the day with a solid breakfast, especially when I can eat slowly, savor my food and watch the sun rise… or just get higher in the sky.

The other night, I was getting ready for bed and felt the familiar prodding in the back of my brain. Hey Hannah, said Brain, you haven’t broken fast in a fancy fashion in a while. How about we do something traditional, like a scramble or sausage and eggs?

Brain was on to something. Early rising sounded like a plan! Only problem with this delicious decision – I had no sausage.

One thing that cooking on my own on a budget has taught me is how to be creative with the resources available to me. So, I started searching for recipe ideas online. I knew I had three pounds of ground beef in the freezer and, thus far, no ideas for their use. My inquiries led me to Allrecpies.com where a user had submitted a recipe for Beef Breakfast sausage.

Beef for breakfast? Beef is traditionally thought of as picnic-and-burly-American-man dinner fare. Steak, hamburgers, sloppy joe’s, spaghetti and chili are where beef belongs, but not at the breakfast table. Thanks to creative substitutions, beef can  be a wonderful, flavorful alternative to pork as a breakfast meat, and it can be enjoyed by those who are unable for whatever reason to eat pork with their morning noshing.  Since beef was what I had, I gave it a try.

In order to let the flavors blend, this may end up being as long as a two-day process or maybe just overnight. For the sake of time, I defrosted one pound of ground beef the night before and mixed in my seasonings so everything was ready for the morning. An alternative method would be to let the beef thaw one night in the fridge and then put the mixture together and let it rest for another 24 hours.

Homemade Beef Breakfast Sausage
adapted from papadooka’s recipe

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (originally marjoram)
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pounds ground beef
  • 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)

—-
Stir the brown sugar, sage, salt, basil, black pepper, onion powder, oregano*, and red pepper flakes together in a small bowl. Place the ground beef in a large bowl; Drizzle with maple syrup and add spice mixture. Mix beef and seasonings thoroughly with your hands until well mixed and seasonings are evenly integrated. Depending on when you’re making the mixture, refrigerate up to 24 hours to allow flavors to blend.

Divide the ground beef mixture into balls and shape into patties. Depending on how much beef you use and the size of patty you prefer, the number may vary from 6-10. The beef will shrink up as it cooks, so if you like thinner patties, flatten them more as you shape them and press on them gently with a spatula as they cook.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the patties until firm, hot, and cooked in the center, 5 to 7 minutes per side. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 160 degrees F (70 degrees C). If you don’t have a thermometer, check one patty to make sure the inside is fully cooked and no longer raw and pink. Be careful of overcooking as these can get dry. Serve warm.

—-

I really enjoyed this recipe. Served with a poached egg and homemade wheat toast with jam, it was a good morning indeed. I made about eight patties and I ended up freezing the extras (one disadvantage to living alone – I’m often freezing my many leftovers so that they won’t go to waste). A few notes to consider:

  • If you don’t like spicy sausage, either cut the red pepper down significantly or remove it. I do suggest you replace it with another seasoning for some flavor and heat as the patties have the potential to be bland without it. I did notice a lot of spiciness in mine,  so for personal preference, adjust as you see fit. It’s a savory sausage more than it is sweet. If you like it sweeter, add more brown sugar.
  •  Adapt this recipe for a maple sausage – reviewers recommended adding some imitation maple flavoring or more syrup to enhance the maple flavor – something to try and experiment with. Do NOT use pancake syrup – it’s not the same as real maple syrup.
  • *Spice is nice – I had no marjoram, which I’m sure would be delicious in this recipe. Instead, I used oregano and doubled the amount (from 1/4 tsp to 1/2) to make up for the intensity of flavor.

Finally, don’t be afraid to try a few small batches to see what you like best. The difficulty with raw meat/egg recipes is that it’s not recommended that you add spice to taste before you cook – yuck. This is one of those times where you can add and subtract and find the perfect combination of ingredients to suit your tastes, but you’ll only know it worked after cooking – it may just take some time to get it just right!

Eat well and read on!

For Weight Watchers Points Plus, each patty is 2 points.

Note – I will also be changing my WordPress username to SisyphusFalls. It’s my username for most other sites that I am part of. Nothing about the blog will change, just the name you see with my account :)

A World of Pure Culination


I refuse to be a starving college student. College gets played up as being the place where penniless kids escape from home with only drier lint and gum wrappers to line their pockets. Ramen is a food group, sleep is non-existent, and food sent from home and Chinese take-out leftovers stolen from friends are the only reasons half the campus is still alive and semi-conscious. The college diet should properly consist of coffee, toast, noodles, cookies and canned soup. If an entire daily serving of vegetables is not cut into perfect cubes and soaked in watery chicken stock, life as we know it has jerked to a halt.

Those aren’t vegetables – they’re tiny little salty cubic lies.
 Bruised café apples are a luxury. Daily vitamins are a must.

Call me crazy, but I like making waves. I have never wanted to be that college kid.

I was spoiled rotten growing up with a mother who was such a fine chef. “Cook” seems to imply occupation and mediocre skill, but “chef” has an air of authority and respect. My sister and I occasionally wanted to go to McDonald’s or eat Lucky Charms, but it was never a first choice or a last resort. Mom always had food (and good food, mind you) on the table, hot and flavorful and ready to eat right when Dad got home. With a mom who can cook, really cook, you stop believing that fast food is actually edible. Sure, I sometimes enjoy going out to eat cheap grease-trap fare, but with a mother like my mother… let’s just say any other culinary offering is a step down from the best.

If we're going to be honest, Mom and I do enjoy the rare lunch of sweaty, overweight champions (aka White Castle). Shame.

Despite my well-fed upbringing, I had the impression that college was all learning and friends and had nothing to do with food. Living in the dorms, as I did my first three years, I did some dabbling in cookery in my spare time – the occasional ramen stir fry with my roommate or dressing up cafeteria leftovers (they looked great in little ties and hats). This was a step ahead of most of my friends.

Is it roast beef or shoe leather? Dressed up with mushrooms, onions and some soggy broccoli, it's edible. That's all that matters.

However, with work and a meal plan and itty-bitty kitchens with smoky electric stoves, as well as a lack of proper cookware, I refrained from doing much culinary exploration through junior year. The most adventurous I got was hand-kneaded homemade bread, and that was on Tuesdays when the only class I had was Philharmonia. Overall, I was content to eat bland cafeteria dinners and occasionally go out on the town to China Star or Subway. This pattern broke a little during summers at home when I would offer to help with dinner.

Form follows function follows an empty plate.

I also love to bake. The problem at Houghton is that, just like all the guys seem to play guitar masterfully, all the women bake. The ones who bake the most are praised and adored, and I just got tired of trying to fight them for attention even though I was confident that we were matched in skill. Baking was mostly set aside. I suppose I was a “typical” college student, but something inside me sang like Belle and plucked dandelions on hillsides and yearned for something more than this non-glamorous diet of carbs and processed cheese-flavored substances. Then, one day, it walked into my life. Rather, I walked through the front door.

My apartment was waiting.

In the frantic rush to escape from screaming girls and bipolar plumbing, I applied and was accepted for a Campus Living Option apartment (CLO) for the 2011-2012 school year. I had no roommate and was thrilled to be situated in a third-floor house apartment overlooking the woods behind campus. I have my own deck and back entrance, a spacious bedroom and bathroom, comfortable living and entertaining space. And then, there’s the piece de resistance; a medium-sized kitchen with wrap-around counter, cupboards, walk-in pantry, full-sized fridge, oven, 4-burner stovetop and sink. It also has a table for four. Compared to the card table and mini-fridge that had once been my entire cooking space, this kitchen is like a Grecian temple. On a college budget with a college mindset, this is a place of extreme luxury and ridiculous amounts of space. In reality, it’s a modified kitchen with the exact model stove from the dorms. But it’s my kitchen, full of my dishes and spices and ambition. This is my five-star experience.

Best seat in the house - having only seen a little of the house below me, I shouldn't judge. But I will anyway.

I have made more full meals in this kitchen that in my own kitchen at home. I have hosted many different guests for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. I’ve baked and sautéed and fried and boiled and chopped and mixed and folded and kneaded in this kitchen. I’ve made soup and stews and bread and casseroles and salads and desserts and three-course meals. Out of all of my cooking adventures, I’ve only ever had one clear failure of method – Brethren Cider Pie. The flavor was outstanding, but it’s just too hard to fold egg whites into cider that has not yet been reduced to syrup. Despite this one occasion, I have carried on with determination and, according to my enthusiastic fiancé, resounding success.

Beef "Stewp" - I wanted to call it "Stoop" but it looks too close to "oops", which this meal certainly was not. Don't forget the homemade rosemary garlic bread.

One of the greatest successes that I have had while living here was not solely being able to cook “real” food. It’s the fact that I’ve been able to cook and eat healthy, balanced meals. I started Weight Watchers in May of 2011. In three months, I lost approximately thirty pounds, shedding all of the weight I had gained in the previous school year and more. It’s possible to be living as a full-time college student and still eat well. One of the beautiful things about WW is the ability to eat what you want, but in balanced moderation. I have loved trying new recipes, tweaking old ones and continuing to cook my little heart out.

Like this, for example... From a WW recipe, it's Brazilian Chicken with Lime-Cilantro Black Beans and Rice. Ole!

Especially in this place, full of “typical college students”, I have had plenty of feedback and opportunities to share what I love doing with people I love. I’m prepared to start a home with my better half in less than six months, and ready to test my skills to the max when I have a constant food critic in my house. The beauty of this whole experience is that it’s not just about the cooking – it’s about learning, growing and bringing myself and others joy and a delicious outlook on life.

Honey Wheat Quick Bread. Who knew "sandwich" and "quick bread" could be in the same sentence? I do now.

And everyone keeps asking themselves over for dinner.

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