I’ve seen so-called “one pot” meals that shouldn’t really be included in that category.

Sort of like how Orange is the New Black was in the running for “Outstanding Comedy Series” at the Emmys. Say what now? Great show with some good laughs, but most definitely not a comedy. It’s dark and twisty. Like Meredith Grey. Or Breaking Bad. But I digress.

The thing is—many times, these “one pot” meals still require a bunch of other dishes. But not this one. It truly is a one pot wonder. Its simplicity and deliciousness has landed it a spot in our regular meal rotation.

You chop up the veggies, you measure out the water and spices, and you literally throw it all in the pot at the same time. Heat it all up to a boil, stir it a few times, and boom. It’s done.

It’s surprising how much flavor this has, given you don’t use broth or anything, and it doesn’t cook for very long. Garlic and dried spices are amazing things. And onions.

The first time I made this, I followed the recipe exactly and it had a bit too much water to cook off. It took a long time to evaporate so that it wasn’t soupy, and as a result, the pasta was definitely overdone. The second time, I made adjustments. I kept the amount of water the same, but I added slightly more pasta and a couple of chopped broccoli crowns. I also used less garlic—the first time, it was so garlicky that it kinda burned going down!—but that was more a matter of my garlic cloves being huge than it was the number of cloves called for in the recipe. Just be careful about huge cloves of garlic. :) If they’re big, use only two instead of four. Your breath will thank me for it later!

Note: If you like your broccoli on the crunchy side, you might want to consider waiting a few minutes to throw it into the pot. I was experimenting and threw it in at the beginning with everything else (which preserved this recipe’s ridiculous simplicity). The broccoli wasn’t overly mushy, but it was definitely soft. Next time, I might wait until the pasta and stuff is 3-4 minutes into cooking, then throw the broccoli in only for the last few minutes. It’s only one extra mini step, and doesn’t dirty any extra dishes! :)

One Pot Pasta
(Source: Adapted from Annie’s Eats)

Ingredients:
- 14.5 oz. whole grain pasta (one entire box of Barilla Whole Grain)
- 12 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 2 broccoli crowns, chopped (optional)
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2 sprigs fresh basil (or 2 tsp. dried basil)
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 4 1/2 cups water
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions:
1. Combine the pasta, tomatoes, onion, broccoli (see note above), garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, basil, olive oil and water in a large stockpot. Heat over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.

2. Continue to boil, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente and the liquid has almost all evaporated. This time may vary slightly depending on the type and shape of pasta you use, so just keep an eye on it. But for us, this took about 8-10 minutes.

3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan.

 

Recently, I’ve seen comments on Facebook birth announcements that many people might just pass right over:

“Congratulations! Now you have the perfect family.”

“He’s beautiful! You’re done now, right? You have the perfect family!”

Let’s back up for a second. In case you’re wondering:

perfect family
[pur-fikt fam-uh-lee]

noun
1. a family consisting of two parents (must be a man and a woman, mind you) and two children—one of whom is a boy, and one of whom is a girl.

I’m fully aware that I might be in the minority here; maybe I’m too sensitive. But what the eff is this crap? As a society, what are we saying here? I want to be like, Oh, it’s just an old-fashioned idea from say, the 1950s, that has stuck with some people. Let it slide. But then my soul screams, BUT WHY WAS THIS EVER ACCEPTABLE THINKING?!

The people who say these things don’t mean any harm. The intentions are good, of course, and I’m sure they haven’t even stopped to think about what they’re really saying. But now that I’m a happy, fulfilled, proud mother of TWO girls (and probably done)? These comments get on my last nerve.

I mean, shit. With the above standard definition, there sure are a lot of screwed up, imperfect families out there. You have an only child? He or she must be so lonely. Two boys? Those poor parents. Two girls? But don’t you want to try for a boy? You have stepchildren? Well, they’re not really YOURS, you know. You have 3, 4, 5+ kids? What are you? Mormon? Irish Catholic? Just crazy? Two moms or two dads? OHMYGOD.

Apparently, for those of us with any family configuration other than the “perfect” one mom, one dad, one girl, one boy… SCIENCE HAS FAILED US, y’all.

It’s funny, though, because I look at my husband and my daughters and I feel lucky. Blessed. And every other family should be confident in feeling this way, too. Why are we made to feel like our families are “incomplete” because of what society believes is “perfect”?

After Vivienne was born, we started getting the questions almost immediately. Admittedly not a ton, but several peppered here and there—”Will you have a third? To try for a boy?” And to Michael in particular, they ask, “Don’t you want a boy?” as if a dad isn’t a dad unless he has a boy. And as if it’s a given that the third would even be a boy!!

Again, I say… what.the.eff.

I’m of the mindset that “trying for a boy” or “trying for a girl” is not a good reason to add a person to your family. I think it’s fine (and natural!) for some people to have a preference about what they’re having, or to hope for one or the other, but are you really going to let chance dictate your family planning? And why put that kind of pressure on yourself and/or your unborn baby? What happens if you have another girl? Or another boy? My mom once had a friend who kept having babies because she wanted a girl so badly. She ended up with eight boys. EIGHT CHILDREN, simply to keep trying. I don’t think she originally set out to have that many—in fact, I know she didn’t—but she was so desperate for a girl, they kept going back for more. In these instances, I believe it’s not about trying to achieve perfection, but trying to give ourselves the opportunity to experience a certain type of relationship (e.g. mother/daughter, father/son, etc.) that we otherwise would not have. But you know what? None of those things are ever guaranteed, even if you do end up with the “perfect family.”

For those of you out there with one boy and one girl—I’m not saying you aren’t actually perfect. You’re wonderful. But maybe you’re actually NOT, because you plan to add another baby to your family. *gasp* Imagine that. Don’t you worry… the decision about when you’re “perfect” is in your hands. Only yours.

All of our families are perfect. Perfectly imperfect, actually, because realistically, I know we all have our challenges. But if you’re happy, your children are happy, everyone loves each other and is doing their best to live life, surviving the daily grind… your family is perfect. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Can we please agree that there is more than one definition of a “perfect family”? Expand your horizons, open your eyes, and look around the world. That “one boy and one girl” thing is bullshit. So let’s stop saying it. Stop perpetuating it every time someone gives birth to a boy after a girl. Or a girl after a boy. Think about what you’re really saying.

We have two girls. If we do by some chance opt to have a third baby some day, we’ve already discussed how we wouldn’t have a preference. Another girl? Awesome. Truly. Another sister to add to the bunch. A boy? Wonderful. We’ll have a brother in the mix.

Embrace the imperfection. I think you’ll find it’s perfect.

 

I’m a little late with my monthly essential oils post for October—oops!

I usually put this info at the end, but since I’m placing my October order tomorrow (Tuesday) night, I want to make sure it’s seen. If anyone is interested in trying anything—an oil here or there—I am more than happy to extend my wholesale discount to you by adding oils for you to my own order. I can mail them to you when they get here, so you don’t even need to be local. Email me at heatherdriveblog at yahoo dot com if you are interested or want to ask questions. But if you want in on the October order, you need to be quick! :)

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In September, I ordered a few new oils, but also a couple of refills on some favorites. I knew that I definitely wanted to get a couple of oils with “fall-like” scents for diffusing in the house. And surprise, surprise, these ones have been some of my most-used oils the last few weeks.

doTERRA has a number of essential oils with scents that are wonderful for fall, including Cassia, Cinnamon Bark, Cedarwood, Ginger, Clove, Rosemary, White Fir, Citrus Bliss and Wild Orange. Throw any combination of these into a diffuser and you’ve got a recipe for a house that smells like the season. I love it. And the best part is that all of these oils have therapeutic properties as well, so you’re not just burning a candle full of synthetic ingredients.

I’m still working on adding all of the above listed oils to my collection, but I did order Cassia and Cedarwood this month—and I already had Clove, Citrus Bliss, and Wild Orange—so I’ve been playing around with some new combinations.

Cassia and Cedarwood are a great pair. For diffusing, I sometimes like to throw a couple drops of Clove in with them, too. I’ve also used Citrus Bliss and Wild Orange in combination with Cassia or Cedarwood as well.

Cassia
Cassia is a relative of Cinnamon Bark—they’re extracted from the same plant, but one is from the stems and one is from the leaves. Cassia smells very similar to Cinnamon; so close, in fact, that when you buy “cinnamon scented” things at stores, they are oftentimes made with Cassia (NOT Cinnamon!). Go figure. The two oils have some similar therapeutic benefits, too, but Cassia is less expensive. Cassia is helpful for digestive problems, like stomach ache, diarrhea and constipation, and also can be used to clean and disinfect living areas and surfaces for cold and flu season. I know which oil I’m using in my next batch of my homemade all-surface cleaner! It’ll be perfect for Christmastime/winter, too.

Cedarwood
Cedarwood smells like… well, cedar. It reminds me of the cedar closet my mom has in her house. I’ve also seen people say they think it smells like freshly sharpened pencils. In either case… ahhh. It smells good. Aside from its ability to bring the smell of the outdoors inside, it can also be used to help with skin and respiratory issues. Also, as you can imagine, it’s an insect repellent. There’s a good reason we use cedar to keep moths out of our clothing. :)

Last night, I pulled out a few fall decorations. I love how this old potpourri looks layered in a vase on our kitchen table, but when I opened the ziploc it was stored in, I noticed it had completely lost its scent. I grabbed my Cassia and Clove oils and put 8 drops of each inside of the bag, then shook it well. It made the potpourri smell really good again! Upon Googling, I found out that essential oils are a “go-to” solution for renewing the life of potpourri. And again, they’re natural, not synthetic, which is even better!

Clove
Speaking of Clove… I’ve been using it in my fall baking! Did you know that you can cook and bake with essential oils? When I was whipping up my first batch of pumpkin-y goodness a few weeks ago, I went to my spice cabinet only to find I was out of ground cloves. Rather than forgo the flavor, I grabbed my bottle of Clove essential oil and added just 1 drop. I’ve since used it in everything I’ve been baking, instead of buying more ground cloves. I used 2 drops in my apple spice cookie bars a couple of weeks ago and you could definitely taste the spice! You don’t need much.

Juniper Berry
Juniper Berry was 10% off in September, so I took the opportunity to snag it. If you ever loved the scent of Bath & Body Works’ Juniper Berry lotions, body sprays, hand soaps, etc., you’ll love this. And Juniper Berry is touted for its diuretic abilities—it’s often praised for helping with urinary tract infections (UTIs). It’s also recommended to help with inflammation, so it can perhaps benefit those who suffer from arthritis. I spend a lot of my days typing, which sometimes results in sore joints in my fingers from overuse. I swear, I am afraid of what my hands are going to look like and feel like when I’m old! But I’m going to give Juniper Berry a try the next time I have a flare up to see if it helps relieve the pain.

Immortelle

Immortelle
There was a special promo going on in September for Immortelle, an anti-aging blend. As you can see from the image above, it has some pretty amazing ingredients and properties.

I’ve been using it on some spots on my face, as well as on my appendectomy scar. It’s only been a couple of weeks so I’m not ready to proclaim any miracles, but there are some spots on my face that seem lighter. I’m still working on the scar. :) I think it probably would’ve helped more if the scar was new—but since it’s an old wound at this point, and was SO DARK (it was seriously almost black!) because of the way my skin was stretching with my pregnancy, it’s a tough one. It’s already come a really long way, and I’m trying to help it out by applying Immortelle every night.

I also LOVE the way Immortelle smells and it has been really relaxing to put on at night before bed!

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What’s Old is New Again

Now. New uses for “old” oils? Well, I’m pretty sure I’ve already sang the praises of Melaleuca for canker sores. Maybe more than once, I don’t even know. But this month, I’ve accidentally the inside of my own lip not once, but twice. For me, an injury like this means an automatic canker sore on that same spot within a day or two. So with the first bite, I actually had two small canker sores forming from the two little abrasions from my teeth. As soon as they started getting sore, I put Melaleuca on them a couple of times a day. They never progressed to the big, painful sores that they can sometimes be, and were instead completely gone in a couple of days. Same goes for the second bite (I couldn’t believe I did it again!).

Also new this month, I’ve been adding a drop of Lavender and a drop of Frankincense to my facial moisturizer each morning. I love the way it’s been making my skin feel! I have a friend who said her skin was an absolute mess with pimples and psoriasis after having her babies, and she started putting Lavender in her moisturizer (she said she uses Cetaphil) and it helped clear it up. Go figure! Now it’s part of her skincare regimen. I actually ran out of Lavender about a week ago so I have more on its way to me… I need to get back on track!

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Hey, Teachers!

There were a couple of really interesting features on the use of essential oils in the classroom in the Fall issue of doTERRA Living magazine. One of them has been reposted on the doTERRA blog here: Can Essential Oils Improve Classroom Behavior?

And this is also a great series on the doTERRA blog that gives you some ideas: Essential Oils in the Classroom. This one is three parts (this is a link to Part 1), so make sure you click on the links in the post to read parts 2 and 3!

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As I mentioned at the beginning, if you are interested in trying essential oils, I’m your gal. Email me at heatherdriveblog at yahoo dot com and we’ll work out the details.

If you want to browse, here’s the link to my doTERRA store, but I promise that it’s better for you to email me to start because I can get you better deals than if you buy retail through this site. I don’t want you to pay more than you need to for oils—my primary motivation has always been to share them with people!

For those who might be interested in getting started with one of doTERRA’s “starter kits,” there is another good wholesale account enrollment promo going on for October. The wholesale account gets you wholesale pricing on all oils orders, and makes you eligible to earn a bunch of freebies and rewards as well. The account is free, and there are no obligations. If you’re interested in learning more, I can tell you all about as well.

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Check out all of my previous posts about essential oils here.

 

I’m going to Ft. Lauderdale for work, not with my little family. BUT if I have to be away from my family for a few days, my boss and coworkers are pretty awesome. And it’s a retreat, during which we have quite a bit of free time and fun “team building” (see: shopping, laughing, eating, etc.) planned, so it’s not your typical work travel.

We go in a few weeks, and my boss gave us our preliminary itinerary this morning. We have a few holes to fill. And since all of you have been so helpful with travel suggestions in the past, I figured I’d throw it out there to see if anyone has any ideas for us.

(Image Source: Trip Advisor)

First, we’re looking for a fun “team building” activity. My boss said that if your typical HR person would plan it, it’s not for us. So no ropes courses or trust falls will be happening, my friends. To give you an idea—one of my teammates wanted all of us to go sky diving. Thankfully, I have another mom on the team who nipped that one in the bud with me. When I was 18? Sure. When I have two little kids at home? No. Parasailing has been mentioned, but… meh? It’d be cool, and I’d do it, but I’ve been before. We’ve tried Googling but it’s not turning up anything overly exciting. We did get a good laugh over potentially taking a group Segway Tour, though. Sweeeeeet. Any ideas?

Secondly, restaurants. Always looking for restaurants. Looking for a mix of more casual, fun places and maybe one or two “fancier” places as well. Recommendations?

And if there’s anything else I should know about Ft. Lauderdale, lay it on me. I’ve never been!

Definitely looking forward to putting my toes in some sand…

 

Michael and I took a little road trip over the weekend. We headed back to our college town. Just the two of us, without kids. It’s where we met, almost 13 years ago now.

It was an extended “date”—we grabbed lunch together on our way out of town, sharing a sub before we hit the road. The weather was rainy and chilly, but thankfully, by the time we arrived, it had improved. We first went directly to campus to explore a bit, as we hadn’t really been back (except for a quick drive through) in the 10 years since we graduated. We parked and got out, walked around everywhere to see all that had changed, and all that remained the same.

The feelings of nostalgia were overwhelming at times.

I don’t think I will ever forget how it felt to arrive on campus as a freshman. To be dropped off by my mom, to not really know anyone. To realize that I only HAD to “be somewhere” for 2-3 hours of every weekday, and beyond that, it was up to ME how I wanted to spend my time. And then once friends were made, the ability to hang out and have fun together for such a huge portion of every week. It didn’t involve scheduling dinners and drinks and play dates weeks or even months in advance. We were just… together. It was easy.

College, man. What a life.

Michael and I marveled over the new bookstore, and its vast array of merchandise available. All of the COLORS! Pink, purple, green, blue, black, white. Chevron, stripes, mascots and slogans. All of the BRANDS! Nike, Under Armour, Columbia. Seriously? This was fancy shit.

I overheard a girl saying to a friend, “I love this sweatshirt, but I don’t want to get it because EVERYONE has that sweatshirt.” I had to stifle a laugh, because when we were students? We literally had TWO choices for everything. Gray sweatshirt or blue sweatshirt. Gray t-shirt or blue t-shirt. Gray sweatpants or blue sweatpants. We all wandered campus looking like a bunch of clones.

Kids these days.

(And yes, I DID have to walk to school. Uphill both ways. Barefoot. In the snow. So stop it.)

We visited old classrooms and lecture halls, peeking through windows to see that those had not really changed. The building’s smell took me right back to those days. It’s strange how it can simultaneously feel just like yesterday and like another lifetime ago.

We noted that they had STARBUCKS and TIM HORTONS peppered around campus, instead of the nondescript little cafes we had. They had pergolas and outdoor couches with comfy cushions and mood lighting where we used to have cold metal benches.

Those drunk and/or hungover kids have no idea how lucky they are.

We walked back to Hemingway Hall, the dorm where Michael and I both lived sophomore year, when we met. I lived upstairs, he lived down. We had mutual friends that we hung out with regularly, but we somehow managed to get through the entire first semester of that year, and more than a month into that second semester without knowing that each other even existed. It’s funny how things like that happen.

It was fun to walk past our old dorm room windows, visit the old gyms, the hockey rink, the dining halls… remembering it all.

After we had our fill of campus, we got back into the car and went for a drive through the village. We stopped by our old houses, where we each lived during our junior and senior years. I was a little surprised to see that mine had not changed one bit, considering what a shithole it was, even 10 years ago. I know it’s student housing and there’s only so much a landlord can do, but our landlord was a special brand of cheap. Our house had a Blair Witch basement in which we sometimes hosted parties, games of beer pong, you know. People were always amused to see that our house was literally held up by a couple of tree trunks, fashioned into “supports” under the old floor joists.

We finally drove to check in to our room at a local B&B. A place that wasn’t even in business when we were students, but a house that we had certainly driven, walked, and stumbled past on hundreds of occasions.

It’s fun to revisit the old, while discovering the new.

We relaxed for a bit, enjoying the peace and quiet offered by 4 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. That’s not typically how our life plays out at this stage, so it was… weird. But enjoyable. We had a nice room with a high canopy bed (there were little steps at the end to get into it!), a gas fireplace, a TV, a big bathroom. We brought a few beers with us so we sipped them while flipping through the stations.

Just before 6:00, we ventured out, walking downtown for dinner. WALKING! We often walked everywhere in college, for obvious reasons, and this little town certainly made that a lot easier. Michael and I talked about how we—and most of our friends—were all pretty damn responsible for stupid college kids, back in the day.

I think these types of conversations are probably par for the course when you’re old.

We had a decent dinner at one of the only decent restaurants in town (haha!) and then walked to the bar at which we first officially met, on 2/22/02. We settled in for a drink, two of probably only 10 people in the bar at that hour. We had arranged to meet up with one of my favorite former professors, who has always continued to be a mentor and good friend. She came strolling in not long after we arrived, and it was fun to take some time to catch up with her. She helped fill in the gaps in our memories—what did that bar used to be called? what was the kid’s name who used to work the door?—and in our knowledge—what’s that new building up front? is that dining hall closed? where did so-and-so move to after retirement? and we caught up on life for a bit.

After we parted ways, Michael and I moved on to the next stop. We walked to another little strip of bars and walked into two of them, only to walk right back out. One, we discovered, didn’t even have beer on tap (say WHAT?), so that was not going to do. (Two beer snobs, at your service.) The second used to be a favorite, but it now goes by a different name, and had a distinctly different vibe. After we sat at the bar for several minutes without being served or even acknowledged by the bartender (and we were two of only five people in the bar!), we gave up and walked out. We found a much more comfortable spot at a tiny bar across the street, where we drank and watched sports for a while. It was weird not having any place to be, or really anything to worry about during those moments.

It was fun.

One thing we noticed during our “bar crawl”? We were never once ID’ed. In a college town, where underage drinkers try to get away with it ALL.THE.TIME!! Talk about depressing.

We called it a night early. Earlier than I care to admit, but I will say that it was well before we even saw any actual college students venture into the bars for the night, which should say something.

It says we are old.

We enjoyed a nice leisurely breakfast on Sunday morning, made for us by our hosts at the B&B. It was lovely and I would absolutely go back there to stay again. We soaked up the last hour or so of relaxing in our room before we packed up the remainder of our things and headed home to our beautiful girls.

I missed them. But it was nice to visit our roots.