Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

No Bake Graham Cracker Cheesecake

After all the craziness of the past month, I needed comfort food, something sweet and creamy. But since I've been eating a bit too much lately (stress does it everytime!), I also wanted something low in calories and fat. I found this recipe on one of my favorite websites, Sparkpeople. A former instructor at my gym recommended the site. She is a member and it helps her keep track of her eating habits. I joined (it's free) and I enjoy the heck out of the tips, articles and especially the recipes. This recipe was no exception. Even my kids, who didn't even know it was low calorie/low fat, loved this dessert. A definite make again in our house.

No Bake Graham Cracker Cheesecake

Two packets of low fat graham crackers
8 oz. fat free cream cheese, softened (I used low fat)
1 cup cold skim milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 small box instant vanilla pudding (can use sugar free)
8 oz. fat free Cool Whip
1 can lite cherry pie filling (or any flavor prefer)

Line the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish with graham crackers. Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the milk and lemon juice to the cream cheese and beat until smooth. Stir in pudding mix, then fold in the Cool Whip. Pour mixture over the graham crackers then spread the pie filling over the top. Eat right away or refridgerate overnight to soften the crackers.
Makes about 20 servings (or in my case 5 large servings ;)
Fat: 0.3 grams
Calories: 80

"....I can dream away a half-hour on the immortal flavor of those thick cheese cakes we used to have on a Saturday night."
-Mary Antin, 'The Promised Land' (1912)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Roanoke Addendum

Well, Roanoke County did call again. On Thursday of this past week. It's just not the news we wanted to hear. I, of course, got myself all excited seeing the county's phone number come up on my husband's cell phone (he was home, off for Veteran's Day so he was with me). "Oh boy, they didn't forget about us and they are calling to offer the job!" was exactly what went through my head. Ha! Who was I kidding?

As Kurt listened to what the caller was saying to him, his expression changed to worry and strain. He mouthed the words, "What?!" and then said a few "Ok's" to the caller, said he call back in an hour and got off the phone. His first words were, "I don't believe this". Then he explained they wanted him to come down for another interview, an all day one this time, and meet the staff. They also wanted him to meet with the other candidate and compete with him during questioning. They explained that they couldn't decide on which candidate to pick so this was their solution. They named a day next week and said it was non negotiable.

So Kurt spent the next hour stressed trying to find a way to work around their demands. He was already scheduled with two important mandatory meetings at work that day plus he had his class to teach the night before. There were no direct or indirect flights to Roanoke and driving was out of the question since his class the night before didn't end until 9 pm. To add to the fun, Roanoke County refused to move his start date of mid December so if he did land the job, he would only be able to provide two weeks notice at his current job to make the Roanoke start date. That is just not something you do when you are a manager of an important social service program. Talk about burning your bridges.

We talked about the options, got upset about the options and finally decided the option was to call back and ask for another date for the interview. After another phone call back from Roanoke, Kurt was told that the administrator was not willing to compromise. It was over for real this time. No job, no moving. Kurt told them goodbye and that was it.

It was meant to be, nothing was going to change that. It was tough having hope again after I was just settling with the idea that it was done with before, but at least we knew now for sure what had happened.

Given the job situation, the economy, and the luck we've had so far getting calls on resumes we send (read: no calls at all!) I don't see us moving anytime soon. But hope springs eternal and that's what I've got now- hope. Like I tell my husband, and myself on bad days, it's not the end of the world. It's not like one of us is sick, our house burned down, or we have no jobs. It's just a dream I have. And though it may stay a dream the rest of my life, at least we tried. And to me, that counts for a lot.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Job That Wasn't

It was close. So close. But it didn't happen. Moving back home just wasn't meant to be.

About three weeks ago, after sending an untold number of resumes over the last few years, my husband Kurt finally got the call. Roanoke County wanted to interview him for the Director of Social Services position they had available. I couldn't believe how great the job fit Kurt's experience. We both believed he had a great shot at the job.

After "the call" we went into big time prep mode. We looked up everything we could about the County, researched our butts off about everything and everyone and went over and over possible interview questions. After an intense phone interview and a series of written questions from the County in the first week, it was time for the face to face panel interview in Roanoke. By the time he left for the interview last Monday, Kurt was prepared. My stomach was in knots, not over how well I thought he would do (because I know him- he was prepared!) but how much of a shot he had at the job.

After the interview, Kurt called me on the way home. He was very happy with how it went, mostly because everyone seemed to love his answers during the interview and afterwards, the director of human resources told him he did a fantastic job. I couldn't believe it. Finally, a shot at going home. Raising my kids where I grew up. Man, I was on cloud nine.

Although the administration let us know there were more interviews and the competition was tough, they still gave us encouraging signs. Kurt heard a lot of "good answers", "thanks for being so quick with your response", "you did a great job with that problem" kinds of things. The immediate director seemed to really take to Kurt too. It all seemed to fall into place.

I started getting excited. It was really hard to not start planning our move. We got a little ahead of ourselves, but we also felt we wanted to be prepared in case he got the job. We looked up schools, apartments (for Kurt to stay in while we sold our house here), homes for sale, stores, gyms, and all the general information about Roanoke we could find. We loved everything we saw. Even the kids got into it when they saw the new Green Ridge Rec Center. What a cool place! I couldn't wait to take them.

Then last week, Kurt got a call saying they had more questions. After an hour and a half panel interview, we were perplexed at what more they could ask! But ok, it was a big decision they had to make. They asked a lot of questions that didn't make any sense. Then they started calling Kurt's references, asking odd questions about his faults. Things started looking bad. The final decision on the candidates was going to be this past Friday or Monday. They said would let Kurt know by then. As the days passed and no one called, we knew it was over. Not even a call to say, sorry we decided on someone else. Just nothing.

I got a little down in the dumps about the whole thing for the past few days. But I realized that in all the bad things that can happen to people, this one doesn't even register. So no hiding in bed with covers over my head. It's back to square one. Maybe someday I'll get back home, maybe not. Either way, it won't be the end of the world and it won't be for lack of trying. It was worth it just to know someone paid attention to one of the resumes my husband spends a good portion of his time every week filling out! Maybe someday someone will pay attention. All it takes is one time.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chocolate Mint Cake

It's been a very busy couple of weeks. Every time I wanted to get back to blogging, something new came up. I've been itching to share this great cake recipe I found last week too. Again, my kids came up with the suggestion of making a mint cake out of Andes Candies. Like my kids need more sugar in their diet after Halloween, but hey, someone asks can we bake, I'm in! I have to say, out of all the cakes I've made, this one ranks up there as one of the tastiest. I literally could not stop eating it. You have got to try this one.

Chocolate Mint Cake

1 (18.25 ounce) package chocolate cake mix
1 1/3 cups water
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I substituted applesauce)
1 tablespoon melted butter
3 eggs
1 cup chopped chocolate mint candy pieces (Andes Candies)
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened (I used low fat cream cheese)
1/2 to 1 tsp. peppermint extract
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup light cream (I used skim milk)
2 drops green food coloring, if desired (I didn't use this ingredient)
1/2 to 1 cup chopped chocolate mint candy pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray with flour (I just used the spray without the flour, liberally). Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, water, oil, melted butter, and eggs. Beat for 30 seconds on low speed, then increase to high and beat for 2 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the candy pieces and pour into the pan.

Bake for 28 to 34 minutes until top springs back when lightly touched. Cool completely.

For the icing, in a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, extract, salt, butter and 1 cup of the powdered sugar. Add remaining powdered sugar alternately with the cream until frosting is fluffy. Beat in food coloring.

Frost cake. Top with remining mint candy. Store in fridge. Serves 16.

"It is the destiny of mint to be crushed."
-Waverley Lewis Root