Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Review: Hot Flashes and Half Iron Mans

A few months ago, I got a new follower on Twitter by the name of Eric,  I noticed he would tweet his wife's blog posts and thought it was so cute. I love a good blog and decided to give it a read, I spent twenty minutes reading old posts on Pamela's blog. I was hooked by her writing style, she is witty, charming, funny and a top notch writer. There are blogs and then there are blogs that are so well written, they make you want to be a better writer. I would put mine in the first category and Pamela in the second category.

Flash forward a few months and I got the awesome opportunity to read the new book Hot Flashes and Half Iron Mans by Pamela Fagan Hutchins. I had read of their trials training for triathlons on Pamela's blog and couldn't wait to read more. After training and completing for my first triathlon I was ready to read about others training and glean as much information as I could.

I had no clue what I was in for reading this book. In the first chapter, it hit home this was so much more than a book about training for races. This is a book for any woman over 30 who is experiencing changes in her monthly cycle and her body. I had been slowly experiencing some of the things Pamela described in the first chapter even going so far as to ask my doctor about them. My doctor blew me off, after reading Pamela's book I realize this is very common and there is help out there. The candor of her struggles in this book is bar none, she doesn't hold back to make herself look better and even lets the reader laugh at her expense. This candor allows you to relate to her as a person not a writer up on a pedestal who has it all together.

My favorite story from her blog makes a appearance in the book. The story of their canoe trip on a frozen tundra lake on their honeymoon is my absolute favorite. I guarantee you will be holding your stomach while crying laughing at this story. Eric is the sweetest guy and there is a story about him in running shorts in a restaurant full of cowboys that made me laugh so hard out loud. Marty was watching a movie while I was reading and I was making it hard to hear. If you buy the book for these two stories alone, you will not be disappointed!

It's no secret I have been getting fit and trying to lose weight. I am going to try the detailed step by step diet plan in her book. Not only for weight but for hormonal reasons also, its a yeast free diet. She also recommends several vitamins to help out.

Conner wants to be a bike mechanic when he grows up. This book has a whole section written by Eric who owned several bike stores detailing bike care. We already have used a tip on tire inflation that has made a huge difference.

There are so many benefits to the reader, I was soaking it all in. I had been embarrassed to ask them for advice before my teeny tiny triathlon and now I have so much wisdom to go on for my next race.

I cannot say enough wonderful things about this book. Of course, I expected it to be funny as a reader of her blog, what I wasn't expecting was to learn invaluable information for me as a women over 30 and a rider.

This book is a must for any runner, triathlete, husband of a women over 30, your friends, your sister, mom, anyone suffering from PDD or perimenopause or trying to lose weight. I can't wait to give this book as a gift  to a couple of my friends who are runners. Head on over to Smashwords and buy this book. You can also purchase other titles by Pamela on Skip Jack Publishing

I have great news and a Just Jules first. I have graciously been given a e-book copy of Hot Flashes and Half Iron Mans to give away to one of my readers. All you have to do is leave me a comment on this blog to be entered into the drawing. I will use a random number generator to pick a winner next Monday May 7th. So leave me a comment below and lets make this the most commented post ever on Just Jules.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Nutella,Creme de Marron, Strawberry Cake

This year for her birthday my daughter Elizabeth came up with a plan for her cake.  She wanted to combine two of her favorite things, Creme de Marron and Nutella as a filling for her cake. Creme de Marron is a chestnut spread our friend Fannette sends us from France. Everyone loves Nutella's hazelnut goodness especially us.  So we came up with this recipe and thought we would share.

Shopping list:
1 box white cake mix
1 jar Nutella
1 tube Creme de marron ( I will put a link to purchase at the end of the post)
1 container whipped cream or cool whip
1 basket fresh strawberries sliced lengthwise. Save several whole to place on top for decoration


Bake cake mix according to directions on box in two 8' in. round pans. Let cool. Mix nutella and creme de marron together in a bowl. Spread evenly on bottom round until covered. Place sliced strawberries on top of filling. Place second 8 in. round on top. Spread whipped cream until covered completely. Slice and serve.

A light summery cake perfect for your 4th of July picnic or summer birthday.

inside filling

before frosting

Finished product

Creme de marron on Amazon

Friday, April 27, 2012

Happy Birthday Elizabeth

It's hard to believe Elizabeth is 12 years old today. I think to myself, "Where has time gone?" it has flown by in the blink of a eye. Seems like just yesterday we were anxiously awaiting her arrival and bringing her home from the hospital.

Now she is twelve, her personality hasn't changed much since she was born. She is still the same fiery, strong, independent girl. I think the biggest change has been her sense of humor, she is hilarious! She is always coming up with funny jokes,stories or characters for us. Just last night she had Marty and I laughing with one of her characters "Gospel E" which is hilarious. She is smart, driven and knows what she wants from life. We are excited to see where she is going and what she will do in the future.

Here are a few pictures from the past year so you can see how she has grown up right before our eyes

She still is B.A. after all these years

She loves her "Moo Moo"

Joking with her Dad

Always silly

Loves stuffed animals

Our Beautiful girl

Friday, April 20, 2012

Umami Burger Smooshed Potatoes

Umami burger smooshed potatoes on the left
Last weekend, before the NKOTB Town Hall, we went to dinner at Umami Burger in Santa Monica. Fabulous food in a quaint environment attached to Fred Segal. It's almost hard to find its so simplistic in decor and signage.

I ordered the truffle burger with truffle oil and hand crafted truffle cheese. It was mouth watering perfection, hands down the best hamburger I have ever had. We each ordered a different side to try, even the "secret" off menu cheesy tots.

I order something called "smooshed potatoes, I asked the waitress "What are they?" she said they took red potatoes and cooked them, smashed them down and then fried them again. I wasn't so sure but ordered anyways. They were fantastic! I fell in love and immediately thought about replicating them at home.

Definitely hope to go back to Umami burger again. Great food, excellent service and great pricing.

I came home and on Monday did a Google search for Umami Burger smooshed potatoes. I found this blog with smashed potatoes and figured out the main cooking steps. She recommended using malt vinegar but I wasn't so sure that was a ingredient in the potatoes I had. So I followed her cooking instructions and then seasoned them to my liking.

before baking

the finished product

Here is the steps I took:

preheat oven to 400 degrees

Boil 15-20 small red potatoes

Lay on a paper towel to cool

when potatoes are room temperature take your palm and smoosh them down, careful to not completely mash them.

on a lined baking sheet lay them out and drizzle with olive oil

then salt with kosher salt, parsley and pepper

bake until golden brown and crispy on the outside. About 20-30 mins.

Makes a great side dish for your dinner or a great snack. You could pan fry these in oil. We are trying to be more healthy and so I baked ours.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

NKOTB Town Hall Los Angeles 4/14/12

Dear 12 year old Julie,

24 years from now, you will meet New Kids on the Block in the most unimaginable way ever. Sometimes you may think it may not happen and you will have to go through a lot of really hard stuff to get there. Don't give up because dreams really do come true. Love, your 35 year old self.

13 year old Julie. Yes, its the worst picture ever posted on Facebook! courtesty Jackie  Moulton

A week ago, I wrote Andrea a email telling her we wouldn't give up our dream of meeting Joe together. On Thursday via the kindness of the Twitter Blockheads our dream was suddenly a reality once again. I left my home yesterday morning at 11 am and drove 220 miles to Andrea's house full of adrenaline and anxiety, would this really happen?

We quickly made a sign in hopes we could catch Joe's attention and set off to meet up with our hostesses for the night Andrea the second and Lindsay. Needless to say, our husband's were leery of us meeting strangers off twitter. We got to the hotel and my instincts were correct, these were great ladies. Andrea and I were immediately excited to find out Lindsey was English because we are both huge Anglophiles!

 We drove to Umami burger in Santa Monica for a quick dinner before hand. I highly suggest going there, the food is amazing!

Joe, There's always room for you in our  Full House...
front to back, left to right: Julie, Andrea, Lindsey and Andrea the second

We arrived at Santa Monica high school at a quarter to six and quickly lined up. This was when two things happened both Andrea's started getting swarmed and Lindsey and I became purse/picture takers.  Which was hilarious because Lindsey a Brit had no clue who Andrea was! Apparently, Andrea the second is very well known in the Blockhead Nation and we had absolutely no clue. We couldn't have been more fortunate in who picked us to go with them. You know when you meet someone and just click? The four of us clicked immediately.

 We had fun meeting some new people in line ( Hey, mswrightstuff) and had fun people watching. We were let in at 6 pm and quickly found aisle seats on the rightside in the center aisle. It was held in the Santa Monica High School auditorium which  holds 550 people. Andrea the second told us where to sit and why. We also had been given great tips by KTsummer via her blog on the Greenwich Town Hall. After sitting down, Lindsey and I quickly realized we picked the wrong seats, the two Andrea's kept having people come up and want to talk with them! We met a lady from Andrea B and I's hometown which was really cool. During our wait, they handed out posters, buttons and large signs

Yes, it got trampled

The nervous wait began. Finally around 8 pm, Joey Mac took the stage as Campaign manager. This event was held for the Block Nation members, it was a thank you and a way to hear feedback on what these ladies would like to see at concerts and events. Joe immediately informed everyone that he had two margaritas and was a bit tipsy. He introduced Jordan as ambassdor, Donnie as candiate for president, Jon as secretary of housing and development and I can't remember what he said about Danny because there was so much going on at that point! Each one gave a speech before sitting down.

They next fielded questions from the audience. Lots of questions about different topics ranging from lots of cruise related questions to a cute 13 year old boy asking them for tips on picking up girls! Our friend Andrea asked for more events like Brunch with Jordan on the cruise. When she asked her question, Jordan said, " Hey, I know you, your my mistletoe girl. Hey guys, do you know who this girl is?" and then leaned down to give her a hug then Donnie said, "Yeah, I know who she is!" Apparently, even the band knows her!  As they were fielding questions they were hugging the fans and signing various items. One fan asked for more fan interaction on stage during the concert and Jordan called her up and broke out in a  "I'll Be Loving You" duet with her. It was so sweet! The lines were pretty long and I was a bit sad we didn't try to go up and felt like we may not meet them. These Blockhead ladies spend lots of money and travel all over the world to see them. So nice the band respects that and wants their input.

Next they said they had something special and started playing the Fenway concert video. They started up the aisle to the left of us. Joe started heading our way and we were waving him down. He pointed to his friends waiting and went down the aisle in front of ours. I literally shoved Lindsey and Andrea, " GO!! GO!! Let's GO down there." as the seats were empty. We ran/walked and immediately he saw us! I smiled and stuck out my hand and said, " This is my first time meeting you, a twenty four year old dream come true." Then he hugged me and I said, " I haven't seen you since 1990" and he said, "Wow, that's cool" and then proceeded to hug Lindsey who had never met him either and Andrea. We sat down right behind him and started watching the video. Andrea the second stayed in our seats with our stuff which was trampled in my mad dash for Joe!

Andrea and I were hugging, overjoyed our dream had come true. We met Joe together!! It really happened!! Then out of the corner of our eye, Jon Knight walked up behind us, sat down long wise across the arms of the chairs and started talking to a couple of fans. He talked to them for about twenty minutes with us anxiously peeking back to make sure he didn't leave before we talked to him. I had fans crowding me on the left trying to get a glimpse of Joe in front of me and Jon behind me. We sat and watched Joe watch himself on screen. It took every ounce of energy we all had to not reach out and touch him, for some reason we all felt compelled to do so but didn't want to lose our sense of decorum. He didn't move or interact with any other fans for the entire video. We sat and watched him watch it the whole time. In fact, two fans came in front of him and he wouldn't even speak to them. He had people he knew with him and was enjoying watching!

Jon eventually turned my way and I stuck out my hand and said, " Hi, this is my first time getting to meet you" and he shook my hand and leaned forward to hear me. He flashed a huge grin and listened to me tell him how I hadn't seen them since Dodgers Stadium 1990 which he said "Wow. That's crazy. Next year is your turn!" and then I told him he should meet my sister Andrea. He said to her, " Where do I know you from?" and she proceeded to explain. He was so excited to meet her and asked her what she had been up to which led to a conversation on college and he discussed the weather in London with Lindsey. We have always been strict Joey girls but Jon stole our hearts with his kind, intelligent, caring personality. One of those people who is just good people.

After that we saw Donnie quickly going up the aisle, I called out "Hey Donnie, I've never met you!" and he stopped and shook my hand then the other girls hands. He said, " I would stay but you are surrounded by New Kids and I am going to talk to other ladies." Then Andrea the second came and sat down by us and we watched the video.

10 minutes later, Jordan comes and sits right next to Andrea. So we had Jon behind us, Joe directly in front of us and Jordan at the end of our aisle. Jordan waved to us and we waved back. Then we finally settled in to enjoying the Fenway concert video. Watching Joe watch himself sing "Please Don't Go Girl" was really touching and I was starting to get emotional.

In the video when Jordan sings "I'll Be Loving You" I looked down the row. He is singing out loud, Andrea the second is beaming and I lost it. I started bawling and clearly heard, " Remember all those times you had to say "No" you couldn't go see New Kids and your heart was broken? You did the right thing and took care of your husband and this is your blessing" Dreams really do come true and sometimes your wildest dreams come true. Lindsey saw me crying and she started crying, I hugged her and told her, "Thank you, I am remembering all the times I said no" Andrea asked if I was okay and I told her I was so happy.  It was a beautiful moment, I will remember forever.

Andrea the second motioned for me to come over. I then proceeded to throw caution to the wind and crawled over my friends Andrea and Lindsey. I had my posterior in their faces as I shook Jordan's hand and he turned his head for me to talk to whisper in his ear. I told him this was a dream come true and thanked him for this night as I was talking he was holding my hand tightly. I crawled back over Lindsey and Andrea, groping my way back to my seat ( sorry ladies) and literally was in a daze. I don't remember them meeting Jordan which they later assured me they did. The video ended and I dragged Lindsey down the aisle trying to reach Danny. We got about two feet from him when their bodyguard said they had to leave.

We made our way out of the theater with more Andrea and Andrea mobbing. Then we happenstance walked into the area the boys were getting into their cars. Donnie drove by and called out, "Goodbye Mistletoe girl" to Andrea the second and waved to us. Then Joe walked right by us and got into his car. We then floated back to our car and drove off. We spent some time over coffee discussing the evening with huge smiles. We parted, forever friends bonded together by a truly magical experience.

I am proof, dreams really do come true. When you do the right thing, you reap what you sow and blessings abound. Meeting Joe was the cake and meeting the other three was the icing. I never imagined meeting them, let alone sitting in a dark theater watching them watch themselves sing. It's hard to believe it truly happened!

Thank you Lori for tweeting Andrea. Thank you Andrea and Lindsey for the kind gesture of letting us be your plus one's. Thank you Andrea for saying you wouldn't go without me. Thanks Marty and the kids for letting mom go out! Thanks NKOTB for putting on such a wonderful event for your fans!

four very happy, excited women, forever friends!

A/N NKOTB fans, if you would like more details leave a comment and I will answer back. Or find me on Twitter @MomCycFan.
*I've been asked Why I said "no" all these years to the reunion? My husband had renal failure and was on the transplant wait list since the reunion began. Thanks to a our donor Jerry and his mother Debbie, I am now able to say "yes" once again! Donate life and be a hero!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Kindness of the Twitter Blockheads

Tomorrow, I will do something I haven't done in 23 years. At the same time, a 25 year old dream of mine will come true all because of the kindness of a complete stranger. If you haven't learned the power of pay it forward on this blog, you hopefully will after reading this. Also, if you haven't learned the power of Twitter by reading this blog, maybe you will once again see and learn the amazing nature of that site.

I have been a New Kids on the Block fan for almost 25 years as well documented on this blog. The last time I saw them live was in September of 1990 at Dodgers Stadium with my friend Jackie. Of course, as a young girl I could only dream of meeting the band. When they reunited in 2007, I was beyond giddy ( there's a blog on that) at that time Andrea and I had become friends and discovered our common affection for Joey Mac. Sadly, Marty had just been diagnosed with Renal failure and our life was in turmoil. Andrea bought extra tickets for my cousin Rissa and I to go see the first reunion show with her and I had to turn her down. There was no way I could even travel 200 miles and leave Marty. He promised us that once he was well, we could have a zany adventure.

Last summer, Andrea once again had a opportunity to get tickets with a friend. Unfortunately, she missed out on getting me a ticket by hours. These tickets came with backstage passes too! We were heart broken. Then the day of the concert, the person who got "my" ticket backed out. Unfortunately it was only four hours before the show, I was a sweaty hot mess, had plans with Marty and couldn't make it in July 4th traffic. I sadly had to say no. We were heartbroken but determined to make it happen someday.

Last weekend, Andrea and I had another shot at meeting Joe together at the marathon. Unfortunately, he was just too sneaky and fast and we missed him. It doesn't even matter, given meeting Joe or just cheering on Andrea, I would pick Andrea time and time again. We met a wonderful blockhead Trish outside the Hard Rock Cafe. She kept telling us about this "Town Hall" the next weekend, Andrea and I were stumped as to what she was talking about. Step in Lori aka Blanco Diddy on Twitter yesterday, she is a huge source of NKOTB info and asked Andrea if she was going to the Town Hall and did she want to go? Very sweetly my SotH said, " I can't go without Julie, sorry ladies" and we highly doubted my husband would be up for this after following me to LA last weekend. Within twenty minutes, two sweet girls Andrea and Lindsey had offered to take both of us with them!

I asked Marty and he very kindly agreed to let us have this zany adventure! I was so emotional. Blown away by the kindness of these strangers. Within minutes I was flooded by replies from Blockheads all over the country. Just thinking about how far we had come? When Marty was sick and we had to say no to thing, people would tell us "Someday, you will be able to do those things. Someday it will happen." in the darkness sometimes it was hard to believe that. They were right, thanks to Debbie our donor mom and Jerry our donor, I can leave and do this. Thanks to Andrea and Lindsey, we can go. All strangers with big hearts and giving spirits. This is the second time, via the power of Twitter I have been able to do something extraordinary. That also doesn't count my Fit Tweeps who are helping me lose weight and encouraged me to do my first triathlon.

So tomorrow, not only my dream but Andrea and I's dream together will come true. This is a Q and A that New Kids are hosting for their fans. It's very intimate with around a thousand people. We are told they walk around and this is like a huge meet and greet. I just can't believe this is happening! Dreams really do come true.

I will update you with the outcome on Sunday!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Easter Weekend Blessing

A few weeks ago, sister of the heart Andrea told me she needed me. She was racing her second half marathon in a the span of two months and wanted me to come watch. I immediately told her no because I had no plans to travel to So.Cal and it was Easter weekend. Then I remembered back to several occasions over the past few years where I desperately wanted to come to things she invited me to and couldn't because of Marty's health. During that time Marty had promised us both that when the next occasion arose and he was well, I could go. Little did I know what blessings would await because she asked me to do this. In the end, I was the one blessed by this trip.

 I messaged her back later and told her, "Okay, I am coming" and called my family to tell them I would be there for Easter. It was a tough decision because this is most likely our last Easter in California and at our church. So I was waffling for that reason alone. Last weekend as I raced my triathlon, I realized how nice it would be to have a friend at the finish cheering me on. If I hadn't run the tri, I may have thought about doing the race with her.

Fast forward, After watching my friend Heidi's son on Friday, we left town at 5:30 and got there at 10pm. I quickly tried to get to sleep for my three a.m. wake up call. I arrived at Andrea's house at 4 a.m. and found a very nervous Andrea. Immediately the effort was worth it. Seeing her cross the finish line was truly a wonderful moment, probably the best ever in our friendship. As we drove home, a joy came over my heart and I thought, "This is what true sisterhood is like. These are the kinds of things sisters do together." then I got to go spend some time with her family at her house. It was truly a blessed day, a day that made my heart full of joy. Later as I ate a late lunch with Marty, I told him, " I am so glad I came. I am the one who ended up blessed. My heart is overfilled because I got to have a day with my sister. Something that is special and just for us." I had also gotten to spend time with my SoH Heather earlier in the week at the park. So I was feeling very renewed and refreshed already, so twice in one week was icing on the cake.

I stopped by my high school friend Jenni's house to see her and her Mom Irma. Irma recently had a heart attack and I wanted to see them both. It was nice to catch up and see another sister of the heart.

Later that night, I went to my cousin Marissa's house for a BBQ. Rissa recently became a mom and this was the first time I was able to see her baby Drew. What a wonderful moment to sit and hold my cousin's baby. I held her for close to two hours straight, just looking her over and snuggling. My cousin's are my first sisters of the heart, they are my lifelong best friends and everyone knows they mean the world to me. I was able to spend time with family and catch up. Doubly blessed!

I had made plans with my Mom to go watch cycling and have breakfast on Easter morning at the crack of dawn. That way we could have a few hours together before my other family had their celebration. We sat ate a wonderful breakfast and watched cycling. I had forgotten that my ex-brother in law lives with my mom and that my nephew Blake may be there. So when Blake emerged from the bedroom and did a double take at me, my heart just burst. He ran up to me, climbed on my lap, put his head on my shoulder and was crying. We were both so overjoyed to see each other and I was crying too. I sat and rubbed his back as he told me he loved and missed me. It's the kind of moment you want to remember forever. So special and moving, I really can't describe the emotion. I told him the story about his birth and how I asked God to let him be born on my anniversary. It was fun to share that with him and not have to wonder anymore if he even knew who I am?

Later in the day, I got to go spend time with my cousins, aunts and uncles at my Aunt Maggie's house. We played games and laughed together. It was a beautiful weekend and such a amazing blessing for me. I am grateful to Andrea for asking me, little did she know the impact it would have. I am grateful to Marty for enduring running around all weekend non stop.

I often feel a deep sense of shame about my relationships with my blood sisters. It's a deep hurt that I carry and work very hard to overcome. It's something I have no control over and that will more than likely never change. Something I talked at length about on the car ride home from Saturday's race when Andrea asked if I would see my real sisters. I even had mentioned how it hurt I never got to see my nieces and nephews. I may not be able to change things but God has blessed me beyond measure and shown me reality. I am so blessed and have more sisters of the heart who are my real sisters. What a joy to experience that this weekend. I came home so uplifted and overjoyed, its a amazing feeling.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

What TV Personality Describes You?

The other day my Twitter friend Anita said "If people ever wonder what I'm like in real life, they could watch Designing Women. They could be my sisters" I started thinking, what TV personality best describes me? I loved being able to figure out what someone I've never met is like. What a great idea for a interactive blog!

So as I was thinking two things came to mind. I am a cross between Pollyanna and Gidget. Eternally optomistic, always getting in a scrape and a naive California beach girl. I think you could throw in Winona Rider's character in "Reality Bites" for my quirky, offbeat, alternative girl side. What do you think?

This brings me to the question? Which television or movie character best describes you? Leave me a comment and let me know. My aunt Alison will also want to me to mention, that if you want to know my height, I most resemble a member of the Lollipop Guild in the "Wizard of Oz"