My Vanilla Is Better Than Your Vanilla. And Other Things I’m Thankful For.

I don’t remember how old I was when I realized the vanilla we used in recipes at home was “adult vanilla.”

Maybe it was when we found out our housekeeper was stealing it and getting wasted off of it while she ironed our clothes. That was probably it.

For all my life, there has always been a fancy bottle with a hand written label on it in one of our cabinets. My mom would add little bits of liquor to it every now and then – sometimes it was bourbon, other times it was brandy. When she got crazy, it was rum! When she found vanilla beans on sale, she would buy some and slip them down into the bottle and remove the old ones.

She would pull out the fancy bottle when a recipe called for a teaspoon or tablespoon of vanilla. I never knew there was anything called Vanilla Extract.

You can call me a vanilla snob if you need to.

Anyway, a few years ago, for Christmas, I believe, my mom gave both me and my sister fancy bottles with hand written labels on them.

She passed down bottles of her own vanilla.

The label read:

Yes, that says “Originally bottled in 1983.”

This was one of those gifts that brought tears to my eyes because it was a childhood memory that was ever present. Every time I reached for (crappy) vanilla extract, I longed to have “real vanilla.” Vanilla out of the pretty bottle in the pantry.

I’m thankful that my mom saw fit to pass this on to us now instead of later. Life tastes better because of it. Silly? Yes.

But whatever.

The only downfall to this magnificentness? You can’t make ice cream with it. BECAUSE IT DOESN’T FREEZE! (Lesson learned the very hard way.)

Time and persistence taste delicious.

I’m thankful for time. Time that helps heal wounds, physical and emotional.

I’m thankful for persistence. Persistence to train, to love, to pick up my feet day after day.

I’m thankful for the obvious. My husband, my son, my Guardian Angel with a name. I’m thankful for my parents and sister and her beautiful family. I’m thankful for my house and my health and the ability to do most things I want without much effort.

I’m thankful for my job and my coworkers. They are a great group to work with and I never could have imagined being excited about going back to work. See also: Benefits.

I’m thankful for my Disney Half Marathon training team and the Ronald McDonald House.

I’m thankful for my friends, the ones I’ve had all my life, the ones who only live in my computer, and those in between.

I’m thankful for the freedoms that our country allows us. I’m also thankful for the freedom to keep some of my opinions to myself.

I’m thankful for pretty fall colors, bright spring flowers, light dustings of snow and refreshing summer showers.

But most of all, I’m thankful for fancy bottles with hand written labels that are full of memories.

What are you thankful for?

Farmers Marketing

It’s been well documented that I have a grocery problem.

“Problem” meaning I could spend $1000 a month EASILY at the grocery store. I mean, if the budget (and income) allowed it. I buy, for the most part, good stuff. We eat a lot of fresh stuff, but also a bit of crap. In comparison

I’ve toned it down some. I’m better. I’m in recovery.

But now I’m obsessed with Farmers Markets. Sweet Lord Have Mercy!

Last weekend we hit Your DeKalb Farmers Market. It was heavenly as usual. We came out with a ton of stuff and only spent about $65. Henry was so very excited about picking out funny shaped and colored fruits and vegetables. And *surprise* he ate a lot of it.

Fresh foods for lunch and supper every day. Lots of choices that, unfortunately, Publix doesn’t offer. (Or Fresh Market and Whole Foods, sadly) It was a week of delicious eating.

(side note: why do they call it YOUR Dekalb Farmer’s Market? Is it really mine? I think not.)

Anyway, today we decided to hit up the Buford Highway Farmers Market.

DUDES. Why didn’t you people tell me about this?

It’s close to my house. It’s easy to get to. It’s clean.

It’s like a real grocery store on performance-enhancing drugs.

I… I… I was left speechless.

The aisles were wide. There was a ton of each item. People actually smiled at you and said “excuse me” when they were in your way (I’m never in anybody’s way, but say “scuse me, sorry” all the time.)

The samples… we should’ve just eaten lunch at the sample tables. Henry tried a bunch of new stuff he would have NEVER tried before.

We have a fridge and freezer full of things like live blue crab, dragon fruit, unusual mangoes, seafood dumplings, some sort of Mexican cookies, queso, fresh mozzarella, yellow tomatoes, bread that I don’t know what it’s called but it’s delicious, and all manner of other crazy awesome stuff that I can’t pronounce. For $138.

I know lots of you will disagree with me on this, but in my mind this is how the Atlanta Farmer’s Market analogy goes:

YDFM : WalMart as BHFM : Target.

I’m not sure I need to go to the real grocery store again. I think I’ll be landing at the Buford Highway Farmers Market for food from now on.



Shark: It’s What’s For Dinner

Shark: It’s What’s For Dinner

I briefly mentioned the fishing trip my boys took while we were at St. Simons last week in my post on Monday.

They went out with Captain Tim of Coastal Georgia Inshore Charters last Wednesday for a 4 hour trip. To say they had a great time is an understatement. They fished the Hampton River at the north end of Sea Island using a baitcaster reel and they found a treasure trove of fish. Sharks, in particular.

That’s what Henry they went for, and that’s what they got!

Tim wrote more about their trip on his blog, including their score (shoutout Capt. Donut)!

After they got back to the marina, Capt. Tim expertly filleted three of the sharp-nosed sharks for us to take home. I may have gagged a little thinking about eating shark, but whatever. Henry was all, “I’m gonna eat shark” and coming from my kid who eats very little meat (my kid) this was huge.

So I talked to Tim about what to do to it to make it delicious. He promised me that we would love it.

We got home and I took the fabulous knife out that I won on Adam’s site from Ree and first of all, you ALL need this knife. It’s the best thing to slice bread since sliced bread.

I cut the shark meat into small bites for Henry and smallish pieces for us.

Still… skeptical. I mean, it looks like white fish but it’s shark.

Jason picked up a Fish Fry breading from the Farmer’s Market and I thought it was a little flimsy so I added some panko crumbs to it. I would say it was half and half.

In oil, I fried them up. It smelled like a good ole catfish joint up in here, y’all!

Look how crispy they fried up.

But still? Skeptical.

I plated them up with some fresh Silver Queen corn we got at Poppell Farms on our way back from St. Simons. (Followed a Georgia AgriTourism sign off Hwy. 341 around Odum.) I also made some roasted cabbage and I knew it would be delicious.

So if all else failed, we had some edible food.

But the verdict was:

SIX THUMBS UP. Two thumbs from each of us, obviously.

We’ve had shark three nights since we got home. It’s been fabulous each time, and I have to tell you… I’m kinda sad that there are only 4 more pieces in the freezer.

Henry has devoured it. And asked for more. I’m not sure if it’s the novelty of catching it and eating it or if he really just loves it, but you can be sure I’m going to be calling a lot more stuff “shark.”

Thanks, Capt. Tim, for a great day and for fixing us up with some good eats!


May The Fourth Be With You (alternate title: When do they give out mother of the year awards?)

May The Fourth Be With You (alternate title: When do they give out mother of the year awards?)

I know. It’s #FineChinaFriday. I’m not celebrating. Why, you ask?

We’ve been celebrating nerd-style today for Star Wars Day! You know, May the Fourth Be With You.

I plan on giving a how-to on the food, dress and other details but right now, I’m going to just let you enjoy a few pictures.

Death Star Melon (put me over the edge for that Mother Of The Year Award, I think)

Tie Fighters, Han Solo in Carbonite, Yoda Soda and Yoda plates

Endor Trail Mix, Wookie Cookies, Thermal Detonators, Leia’s Buns, Tie Fighters.

The Gang in their Luke and Leia outfits with their homemade light sabers.

They wanted to *cheers* with their Yoda Soda!

The battle is on!

And on.

Jason got the mess beat out of him!

My favorite picture! Little Leias.

And then Mama had to have a Jar Jar Beer.

And now I must collapse until tomorrow when we will go to the museum with a friend, drink mint juleps all afternoon until the Kentucky Derby and then eat Mexican to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

I’ll be on the sofa waiting for that invitation to the Mother of the Year Awards.


Giveaway: Kidfresh Meals

Giveaway: Kidfresh Meals

I received an email the other day titled, “Looking for nutritious, convenient kids meals for Henry?” and of course I was like OHMYGOSHYES!

You see? My kid who wants to be a chef and own his own restaurant isn’t very adventurous in the food department.

He eats what we like to call hors d’oeuvres plates. The food should be separated so it doesn’t touch. It can’t be pasta because that makes him gag. He will eat raw vegetables but don’t dare give him cooked ones. He’ll eat his weight in bread and crackers if I would let him. But I try to keep that in check.

We eat out a bit, but not fast food. He very rarely gets McDonalds because YUCK!

So anyway, back to the story. I get this email and I’m all WOOHOO! Nutritious AND convenient? That’s cool! I should check it out. I first scanned the Kidfresh website and was sad because all I saw were pasta meals and it appeared they all needed to be microwaved. That’s a double whammy. He gags eating pasta and we haven’t had a microwave in two years. (I KNOW, right?) (No, you don’t need one to live.) (Seriously.)

Later I found out that Kidfresh offers a quesadilla option. AND it has instructions for cooking it on the stove or in the oven. In fact, it’s better on the stove. Who doesn’t like their quesadilla a little crunchy?

So I took my coupons for free Kidfresh meals* and headed to Publix to buy some quesadillas. I expected them to be with the other kid frozen meals, but they were with the organic and natural frozen food, which I thought was great.

We came home and cooked.

Stove top instructions (though I didn’t really need them).

There are two quesadillas in the package. I only made one for Henry. He was also having a salad and tomatoes.

Do you see the words ALL NATURAL? The Kidfresh products are 100% natural. There’s not a single drop of anything artificial. They’ve also incorporated the latest findings and nutrient-deficiency assessments from the USDA and CDC.

Look: SNEAKY! There is up to a half cup of veggies pureed and snuck into every meal! Each meal is around 300 calories and has moderate sodium and fat.

Other goodness? The containers are BPA-free and phthalate-free and completely recyclable (made of recycled materials, too).

I mean, can it sound any more delicious? They’re an earth-friendly, healthier option than other meals that cater to our kids. With close to 1 in 3 children being overweight or obese in the US today, less than 10% are eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Kidfresh is doing what they can to make affordable, convenient, all natural, healthy meals available to the masses.

And then the quesadilla was ready. Crispy, melty, full of cheese.

And it got a thumbs up from Mr. Picky himself! (It also got a thumbs up from his mom!)

They have six choices right now to choose from. Head over to their page and browse their choices. Then come back and let me know which one you would like to try if you win the giveaway!

They aren’t available in every store yet but are available in the stores below.

What is being given away?

Three (3) vouchers for one free Kidfresh meal. (so you’ll get three free Kidfresh meals)

Two (2) $1 off coupons for a Kidfresh meal. 

To enter the giveaway:

  • Leave a comment saying what you would love for your kiddo to enjoy eating and tell me which of the meals you think your child will love.
  • Follow Kidfresh on Twitter. (optional, leave a separate comment saying you follow them)
  • Like Kidfresh on Facebook. (optional, leave a separate comment saying you like them)
  • Like Jana’s Thinking Place on Facebook. (optional, leave a separate comment saying you like me. Also, WHY WEREN’T YOU ALREADY LIKING ME?)

I will choose a random winner on May 8 at 9pm Eastern. 

* Disclaimer: I was provided coupons for free and discounted product to use and review and to give away to a lucky reader. The opinions here ARE my own and cannot be bought for any amount of money or food. Ok, well, maybe for a million dollars or a lifetime supply of pizza, but nobody’s offering me that. 


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