Easy and Delicious Peach Cobbler

This evening I was looking for a little something yummy to make after dinner, when all of a sudden I realized I have all the ingredients to make my mother’s delicious Peach Cobbler. I have enjoyed this quick and easy recipe since childhood, so I thought I’d share it with you.


Ingredients

1/4 cup of butter
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
3 (15oz) cans of sliced peaches

Directions
Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees; while pre-heating oven, place butter in the 10″X13″X3″ baking pan and place in oven to melt.

Mix dry ingredients in bowl, then add milk and whisk until smooth.


Remove baking pan from oven, and pour the batter over the melted butter in pan. Place sliced peaches over batter, and then pour 1/4 cup of remaining peach juice on top.

Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake for 45-minutes to 1-hour at 350F until golden brown.

Serve warm (alone or with vanilla bean ice cream)

Enjoy!

Getting to know Me again

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my life, and one that I will now always remember, is that I can’t continually put my ideas and dreams on the back burner for someone else – no matter how much I love them. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that relationships are all about compromise, but there are some things that just shouldn’t be compromised. And the things that make you “you”, definitely shouldn’t.

Looking back, I’ve done this periodically throughout my life. I want to make my partner happy, and sometimes I didn’t think about what I wanted or what I enjoyed; but instead I hung out with “his” friends, went where “he” wanted to go, listened to “his” type of music, and did what “he” wanted to do in an effort to have a happy marriage. Soon enough I didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror.

This September marks the 5th anniversary of being single, again, following a 7-year marriage; and I have to tell you I am really enjoying getting to know ME again.

I’m writing. I’m traveling. I’m singing. I’m hanging out with MY friends again. I’m doing all those things I neglected.

In listening to this beautiful song by Mandy Moore, it seems she has been guilty of this as well.  She and Chantal Kreviazuk wrote this incredible song about taking the time to get to know yourself again. You can really hear the emotion in her voice.

Take a listen – you won’t be disappointed.  I’ve also posted the lyrics below.

Gardenia
Well, I put so much thought into getting ready
Now I know that was the best part
It’s so easy to get caught up in what I’m regretting
Forget what I got from a wounded heart

I’m the one who likes Gardenia
I’m the one who likes to make love on the floor
I don’t want to hang up the phone yet
It’s been good
Getting to know me more

I’ve been seeing all my old friends in the city
Walking alone in Central Park
Doing all the things that I’ve neglected
Traded ’em all in
To be in your arms

I’m the one who likes Gardenia
I’m the one who likes to make love on the floor
I don’t want to hang up the phone yet
It’s been good
Getting to know me more

Well, I hear my own voice
Sounds so silly
Keep on telling my story all around
Everything I lost seems so different
Well, this is how everybody gets found

American Idol – LIVE Tour 2011

Last night the season 10 American Idol Summer Tour came to Sacramento.  As a huge fan of the show, I was thrilled to be there. Overall, it was an entertaining evening and I enjoyed watching these kids live out their dream.

The excitement was palpable inside the Power Balance Pavilion as the lights dimmed and the top 5 Girls from Season 10 took the stage. Immediately noticeable, however, was Lauren Alaina – hobbling around the stage amongst her dancing counterparts. What’s that on her leg? A cast? Wow. After a little digging I got the scoop from a twitter message Lauren posted on July 10: “Good news & Bad news. It’s not broken but I have a third degree sprain and I have a boot and crutches!” I must say I am impressed that she preformed the day after her accident. She used a fancy black sparkly cane as she performed her solo’s later in the show.

Now here’s some highlights and lowlights from the show…

During the first half-hour, Stefano Langone and Pia Toscano were definitely the highlights, in fact during that time-period they performed more solos that then their counterparts. It was as if the producers are trying to push these two into the spotlight, and showcase their talent since they had less time on the show.

As usual, Pia was amazing. Her tone and pitch was spot on; and she was graceful, poised and beautiful. I wish they would have made better song choices for her, because they were a bit forgettable after a few minutes. She did the best with what she had, and it was great to hear that voice again – she was unquestionably booted from the show too early.

Stefano really shined! Great song choices, his confidence is up and he truly looked like he belongs on the stage. With dance moves and a wide vocal range, he certainly showed everyone he deserved to be there.

Unfortunately, Thia Megia’s lower register was barely audible, and thankfully, she only had one solo (that I remember); her higher range is much stronger and thankfully half of the song was in the higher range. She’s this seasons’s weakest link.

Naima Adedapo’s voice and dance moves were quite strong; and she adapted a Beyoncé song to include an African Tribal Dance. WOW, that girl can move!

When Paul McDonald took the stage singing Maggie Mae (and the crowd erupted) I had a premonition that soon Rod Stewart will be writing his life story for a made for TV movie, and Paul would definitely get the lead role. It’s uncanny how much he looks, acts and sings just like the superstar of the 70’s and 80’s.

The biggest highlight of the 1st half of the show came when Casey Abrams took the stage with his standing Bass and started a slow and seductive version on Smooth (by Santana), the audience went crazy! The first verse was completely amazing, and then he transitioned into the radio version of the song. It was still fantastic, although I preferred the slowed down version – he’s just an incredible talent. Soon Haley Reinhart joined him on stage (again the crowd goes wild) and they start a scatting duo to rival any Jazz singer. Following the duet, Casey continued his magic with his own version of Maroon 5’s Harder to Breathe. Simply amazing.

The 1st half concluded with a forgettable group ensemble of Forget You. The performance seemed disconnected and they definitely had sound equipment issues.  Jacob Lusk started off at lead vocal, but his microphone was either turned down, or turned off, because you couldn’t hear him for the first line or two of the song. Then, as each of the other members of the top 11 (minus reigning Idol Scotty McCreery) joined him on stage, it was difficult to follow what was going on if you weren’t sitting in the first 10 rows. This was due in part because the video camera was continually pointed at a performer who was NOT singing. The sound issues continued and finally the song just ended; so unexpectedly, in fact, that the audience needed a few seconds to catch up and applaud.

Following intermission, the show continued with James Durban entering the building from the Pavilion’s side entrance and walking through the audience singing Sweet Child O’ Mine.  He was high-fiving fans as he walked through, until he finally made it to the stage. That stellar performance was followed by another, as he belted out Uprising, the Muse song he performed on one of the last Season 10 episodes. Both songs were incredible!  It was amazing to watch this sort of talent in person.  I always thought he was fantastic on the show – but hearing and watching him perform live was stunning.  His vocal range (in full voice) is truly remarkable. He moves constantly, running from one end of the stage to the other, and he doesn’t lose his breath or his place in the song.  That’s tremendous! Following his performance, the audience applauded and stomped their feet so much, it was like we were experiencing an earthquake in Sacramento.

Jacob Lusk followed James, and again, wrong song choice and unfortunately for Jacob, pretty much bad placement. I certainly would not want to follow James, but if I did, I’d want to sing a song that people knew, that they could sing along with. His performance made me feel like I was attending a Church service – when I’m an “unbeliever” – I felt out of place.  His second song was a much better, but I was actually relieved when the next act came to the stage. Don’t get me wrong, I think he has a really great voice, I just didn’t feel the songs that he performed highlighted his abilities in the best way or engaged the audience.

Thankfully, Haley returned to the stage immediately following Jacob, and she blew us away with her rendition of The House of the Rising Sun.  Her sultry and seductive vocal stylings truly captivated the audience. She followed up with Benny and the Jets, a fan favorite from season 10.  Haley, in my opinion, should have placed at least second, if Scotty was going to win. She’s polished, poised and knows how to work the stage; unlike Lauren Alaina who is young and sweet, but who at times appears immature and lacks confident.

That said, Lauren did a great job on her solo’s. The best being her new single, Like My Mother Does – a wonderful tribute to the relationship she has with her mother.

The climax of the evening followed a video presentation from the past 9 seasons as each Season’s Winner was announced;  then they showcased Scotty McCreery’s crowning moment. The crowd erupted in anticipation of Scotty finally taking the stage – hands clapped, feet stomped, girls screamed, tears rolled down young girls faces and then you heard it – “Well, lock those doors and turn the lights down low…” – Scotty’s unmistakably low and rich voice came across even sweeter in person. Following his first song, he spoke directly to the girls in the audience (he knows his fan base) and then thanked everyone for coming out.  He followed up with Are You Going to Kiss Me or Not, and then sang his new single This Big.

He continued his seduction with When You Say Nothing at All; and following the first verse, Lauren Alaina joined him on stage and they sang the number as a duet. I’d say this was one of the evening’s highlights. Lauren Alaina sounded amazing, Scotty sounded like Scotty, and they looked like they were actually in love.

Lauren Alaina left the stage and Scotty concluded his performance with Gone, with a few of the female contestants on backup vocals.

The finale was, of course, a group number that included a montage of the Journey songs. I had to check my ticket, because all of a sudden it felt like I was watching a Glee concert (which is a good thing). They sang perfect harmonies and their voices were completely synchronized. It was a brilliant way to close the show.

Fake it ’til you make it!

Pain au Chocolat

Pain au Chocolat

We’ve all heard the expression “Fake it ’til you make it!” and that’s what I intend to do – live like I’m living in France, until I can make the move.

For me, the French/European lifestyle is all about working to live, and not living to work.  Taking time to enjoy life’s pleasures. Being an artist. A writer. Dining outside. 

Parisian Cafe

Parisian Cafe

When I’m in Europe, I take the train to visit different cities. I walk more. I eat bread (*gasp*). Spend hours, sometimes entire days in Museums AND Cafés. Drink Champagne. Enjoy Crêpes and Pain au Chocolat (chocolate croissants)  – a lot! So why not do this now?

Nutella and Banana Crepe

Before I leave for my French Adventure, I plan on doing the following things right here in the Good Ole U.S.of A.:

1. Take the train to another State (perhaps Denverto visit my bestie Heidi; or Chicagoto visit my brother; or just maybe travel to a city I’ve never visited).
2. Finish my novel.
3. Relax in the park with a loaf of French bread, a bottle of wine and a good book.
4. Start drawing /painting again.
5. Enjoy the local museums and galleries.
6. Dine outside as much as possible.
7. Host a French Dinner & Movie Night –  complete with French music, a French film, Champagne, Hors d’oeuvres and Crêpes!
8. Speak French daily.
9. Cook French cuisine.
10. Sit in a local coffee-house for hours and people watch.

I better get started tout de suite!

This post is also posted in my new blog: The France Project 

I have a dream

The France Project ~ Dreaming My Dreams in French!

I have a dream.

I’ve had this dream for quite some time now.

My dream is to live in France for a minimum of 6 months, but would prefer a year if I can swing it.

I’ve had a love affair with France ever since the first time I visited, back in 1996. I’ve been back a few times and each time I love it all the more.  I enjoy the people, relish the culture and feel more artistic when I’m there.

I have set a goal: Move to France by March 2013.

This may seem like a long time off, but I think it’s realistic. There is a few things I need to do to prepare for the move.

First, I need to brush up on my French. (Hello Rosetta Stone!)

Second, I need to figure out how to finance this 6 month to 1 year sabbatical. (PayPal donations?!? – LOL)

Third, research and work out the details of the move, i.e., extended stay visa, a place to live, part-time work, etc., etc.

Fourth, put my belongings in storage and get on the plane!

I’m sure I will add to this list along the way, as I learn more about making an International move, but for now it’s a starting point. If you have any experiences you’d like to share, suggestions or advice, I’d love to hear (read) it.  I will be documenting my journey as I prepare for and embark upon this new adventure; for all the details and updates, please see my new blog The France Project at: http://thefranceproject.wordpress.com/

Until next time, Merci and au revoir !

For Adam: We Will Remember You

Adam Steinbach August 13, 1981 - May 31, 2011

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. On Tuesday, May 31st shortly after 11:00pm my friend, Adam Steinbach was killed, and I’ve been in a funk ever since hearing the news the next morning. I’m finding it hard to concentrate on my work or anything else for that matter; and I know many others are going through the same thing, or worse.

I feel very fortunate to have known Adam, and I have many fond memories of the time I was able to spend with him – playing the video game Rock Band, dancing around and singing to “I got a feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas, playing darts or just hanging out and talking about life.

I feel terrible for Adam’s family, for his girlfriend Lori, and for all the friends (including me) who will miss his amazing smile and amusing demeanor. Adam always greeted me with a smile and a hug, and said how great it was to see me – every time we saw each other – no matter if it had been two days, two weeks or two months. Adam seemed to want to make sure that people were having a good time… no matter what he was going through.

On Friday, a few days after Adam died, Mike (a long-time friend of Adam’s) and I went to visit the site where Adam died. We layed some flowers down for him and then Mike went around to speak with some of the people who live in the area, to try to get more information about what happened.

Later that afternoon we went to visit our friend Lori, Adam’s girlfriend. We all shared stories about the times spent with Adam. We laughed, we cried, and there were many hugs. We downloaded songs by Cold Play for the funeral, because that was Adam’s favorite band. It’s so strange to think we had all just spent an amazing day together at a Memorial Day weekend BBQ on Sunday, just two days before he died – and now he was gone.

The funeral was on Monday, a week ago. It was eerie walking into the church knowing this was for Adam. The auditorium was filled with heartbroken family members and friends trying to make sense of this tragedy. We all sat there wiping tears away as the Minister gave the memorial talk trying to bring comfort to all of us mourning this great loss. Then, family members and friends went to the podium to say a few words about this young man taken before his time. Adam was only 29 years old.

It was so difficult to watch as his father, Mike, and his mother, Janet, tried to contain their immense sorrow as they spoke about losing their only son. As a parent myself, I can not even imagine the pain or what they must be going through.

Following the funeral, our group of friends went to a local watering hole, propped a large picture of Adam up on the bar where we were all sitting, and we toasted our friend. The manager let us play the Cold Play CD on the jukebox and we honored Adams memory with drinks, stories, laughs and tears.

This past weekend a group of us went out again to the site of Adam’s death, to visit a memorial that had been built for him.

Memorial to Adam

Lori brought some of the flowers from the funeral that still looked good and we placed them beside the cross that had been erected for him. It appears that other people had been by and had also left flowers and even a stuffed animal. We stood in silence, our heads down, our hearts in pain. Each of us deep in our thoughts, prayers, or silent conversations with Adam. Soon a few passersby stopped and expressed their condolences for our loss. Those of us who hadn’t yet signed the memorial wrote our last words to him on the cross that marked the place Adam took his last breath.

The most difficult part about Adam’s death is that he was murdered. Adam was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Detectives believe Adam was parked on the side of the road sleeping in his truck’s camper because he was between residences at the time. They suspect a man named Dawayne Lawrence tried to burglarize his vehicle, which woke Adam, and a confrontation occurred. During the altercation, Lawrence (allegedly) stabbed Adam multiple times, and then left him to die. A man who was riding by noticed Adam lying there. He called 911; then sat with Adam and held his hand until Adam took his last breath. The ambulance and police arrived soon thereafter.

The District Attorney’s Office filed charges against Lawrence on June 14 and he was charged with murder. It brings a little comfort to know that they have arrested someone for this heinous crime, but it doesn’t bring back our friend, or Mike and Janet’s dear son.

Adam and me at Pop's in the Park, June 2010

Adam we love you and miss you. We will always remember you!

Traveling Solo

I love to travel. I enjoy experiencing different cultures and meeting new people. For the most part, I’ve traveled with family or friends, and I truly enjoy sharing the experience with them. However, there have been occasions when I really needed a vacation but the timing just didn’t work with other people’s schedule or finances.

This left me with two options; wait for a friend to be able to go with me, or head out on my own. From time to time I’ve opted to fly solo. Sure, at first I was a bit nervous, but once I got going, I found the experience quite liberating; I’ve even made a few new friends along the way.

If you ever find yourself about to embark on a solo adventure, here are a few tips on making the most of traveling alone.

1. Speak the language. If traveling out of the country by yourself you might want to choose a country where you speak the language. This will help eliminate some of the culture shock.

On my first truly solo trip out of the country, I chose the UK because its an English-speaking country, and I wanted to make things as easy on myself as possible.

2. Know where you are going. Make hotel reservations in advance and at a hotel that is easily accessible, i.e., near a train station or other public transportation. Map out your transportation in advance, so you do not feel completely out of sorts upon arrival.

I made my hotel reservations for the first few nights at the Paddington Hilton Hotel because there are trains directly from the airport to the hotel (the Hilton actually sits right on top of the Paddington Train Station); also from this station I could get to most of the London attractions via the Tube.

3. Safety First. Before you depart for your trip leave a photocopy of your passport and itinerary, along with a list of your Travelers Cheques serial numbers with a family member or close friend.

While traveling, always be aware of your surroundings and if anything or anyone makes you feel ill at ease immediately walk into a store or restaurant and strike up a conversation with the shopkeeper until the issue has passed. If you feel you are in real danger, ask the shopkeeper to phone the police. For more tips on travel safety, visit the Travel.State.Gov website at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/safety/safety_1747.html

In addition, touch base with love ones back home via email or a phone call on a regular basis; this will help them feel more comfortable with your travels, and assure them that you are safe.

4. Always carry some cash. Be financially prepared by stopping at the bank or a currency exchange shop prior to leaving for your trip. Plan to have something comparable to US$100 in the local currency for your arrival and any incidentals that you may incur before you make it to your hotel. It’s also a good idea to use Travelers Cheques when traveling aboard as they are insured in case they are lost or stolen. Once you are settled into your hotel, you can exchange some of your Travelers Cheques for more local currency. You may also use your ATM at various kiosks around the city and pull out local currency as you need it. Be sure to advise your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling aboard, so there are no issues using your cards.

5. Stay connected. Temporarily change your cell phone to an international plan or purchase a prepaid local cell phone when you arrive and email your new phone number to friends and family. There are cyber cafes in most large cities, and these are usually very economical to use. I’ve been in some cyber cafes where computer use was complimentary if you purchased a drink or pastry. Email makes it very easy to stay in touch with the people back home while you are away.

6. Plan out the first few days in advance. It makes traveling solo a little less daunting if you know what you would like to see, and how you will get to those destinations. Most travel guidebooks have maps of the area and include public transportation schedules and maps. Use a highlighter pen and map out your journey.

7. Take a guided city tour. Taking a guided city tour, especially on one of those hop on/hop off tour buses, is a great way to familiarize yourself with the city before heading off on my own.

8. Don’t dine alone. I find that if I sit at the restaurant counter or a community table instead of taking a table by myself that I meet new people and end up having a lot of fun. I have met locals as well as people who are on holiday. The other important part in this is – don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and start a conversation with others sitting at the table. People are generally friendly in these situations, and you might even get some great “locals” tips and recommendations.

In addition, if you frequent a cafe or restaurant near your hotel a few times while in town, you are sure to meet some of the same people again and again. You can strike up a conversation and soon you may have a few new friends.

9. Leave some space in your itinerary for options. I find that once I have met some locals or people who have been traveling, and I ask for their recommendations on must see attractions or locations, that there are some great things to see or do that I didn’t know about or plan for. So I leave a couple of days in my itinerary unplanned, so that I can fit in these treasures.

10. Friends of Friends. Before you leave for your trip, ask your family and friends if they know anyone who lives in the cities where you will traveling; and if so, ask if they will make an introduction via email or telephone. Many times these friends of friends will welcome you to their city by sharing a meal with you or taking you sightseeing one afternoon. They may even introduce you to other locals while you are visiting. Don’t wear out your welcome by asking for too much of their time; and be sure to return the hospitality by inviting them to visit you in your city.

11. Take lots of pictures! You will want to document your trip by taking photographs of the sights you see and the people you meet along the way. After returning home, follow-up with the people you met on your journey by sending them a note or email and include a few snapshots from the trip that has both you and the other person in the shot.

When traveling alone it’s nice if your camera has a timer, that way you can prop it up on something, aim it at the scene you are trying to capture, set the timer and have enough time so that you can be in the shot. Of course, you can also ask a bystander if they would take the picture with your camera so you can be in the photo.

Here are a few shots I took while in London, Oxford and Bath, England – traveling alone.

Me in Oxford.

Children playing at Hyde Park, London.

Snap shot of me with my new friend Kelly.
We met at the lunch counter at the Hard Rock Cafe in London on my first day in town.
Then kept in touch throughout my trip, and even after returning home to the US.

Taxi Driver in Paddington, London.

Flower shop on the Pulteney Bridge in Bath, England.

Street musician in Oxford, England.

People enjoying coffee at a Cafe in Oxford, England.