Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Recipe: Limoncello Bread Pudding

A few days ago I decided I wanted to make a limoncello bread pudding. I'd been thinking about lemon-y dessert things I could do but didn't want a cake or a pie and that seemed a good idea as any. I love bread pudding and I love playing around with different flavors to do with them. I wanted to wait for a night I was actually going to cook dinner as well so I could have a nice dessert following something that wasn't Chipotle or Snappy Salads.

 So yesterday, after I got all of the food prepping for take to work lunches done for the week, I decided it was going to be a "spend a lot of time in the kitchen" kind of day. I checked over a recipe for spicy Sicilian chicken stew that had been passed along to me from a friend's mother and luckily, I had everything I needed to make it on hand. Which gave me the perfect excuse to make a (hopefully) kick ass dessert to follow up a delicious meal.


I haven't made a citrus flavored bread pudding but I LOVE lemon things. And lime things. Tart and sweet are my friends. The boyfriend also loves lemon and/or lime desserts so I figured this would be the perfect new thing to try out.

It did not suck. 

I posted a picture on my instagram account because what else are food pictures good for other than to take up space on the internet? Anyway, a few people asked if I'd share the recipe. I had already planned to put it up somewhere and this is a better place for a food post than The Book of Faces.

Limoncello Bread Pudding



Ingredients

Bread Pudding:

6 cups cubed challah bread (or whatever you prefer)
3 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup limoncello
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest

Unsalted butter or cooking spray, for buttering the casserole dish

Topping:

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp limoncello
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest

Whipped cream:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp granulated sugar

Directions:

Bread pudding: 

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, limoncello, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla, salt and lemon zest.

Butter a 2-quart casserole dish and add the bread cubes to the dish. Pour the wet ingredients over the bread and let sit, refrigerated for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, uncover the dish and continue to bake 20 minutes or until the bread has puffed up and is nicely golden on top. Allow to set for a few minutes after removing from oven.

Sauce to top bread pudding: In a small sauce pan over low heat, whisk together powdered sugar, fresh lemon juice, limoncello and lemon zest until powdered sugar is dissolved and smooth. 

Whipped cream: Place a metal mixing bowl and metal whisk into the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. 
Place the sugar into the chilled mixing bowl and add the whipping cream. Whisk just until the cream reaches stiff peaks. 


Once the bread pudding is ready to serve, cut out a piece and top with the glaze and whipped cream to your liking.

I like to put about a tablespoon of sauce on mine while the boyfriend ended up putting several tablespoons on top of his and about twice the amount of whipped cream as well. Either way it was delicious and I'm not sad that there was plenty left over.

Enjoy!

PS and totally unrelated: I'll have the final post and pictures up from the 2016 Toys for Tots fundraiser up here soon! If we're buds on The Book of Faces, the pictures are already up there for your viewing enjoyment. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

8th Annual Toys for Tots Holiday Fundraiser & 2nd Annual TFTF Prize Giveaway!

 As most of you all know by now, I got an idea to do a Holiday Fundraiser benefiting Toy for Tots back in 2009. I’ve done it ever year since then and it’s that time again this year. I really can’t believe it’s been this many years now but here we are.

This year, we’ll be doing like we did last year thanks to some amazing people and businesses donating some gift cards and items to me to use in a giveaway. The way you can donate will be the same with the addition of being able to send through Google Wallet instead of just paypal, the way I do the fundraiser in general will be the same & the prizes will work the same as they did last year, too. As a refresher, everyone that donates will be entered into a contest to win a prize or prizes. For every $5 you donate to the holiday fundraiser, you get one entry into the contest to the drawing of your choice. So $5 gives you one entry into the drawing of your choice. $20 is 4 entries into the drawing(s) of your choice and so on and so forth. If you get multiple entries, you can either put them all towards one thing or split them up between multiple things.


Give away prizes this year include:


$50 Hand and Stone Spa gift card

$50 Adrift Float Spa gift card

$20 LUSH gift card

$25 Game Stop Gift card

$20 Amazon.com gift card

$20 Target gift card

$20 Paciugo Gelato Caffee gift card

$20 Twisted Root gift card

$20 Starbucks gift card

$25 Sonic Drive-In gift cards (5 up for grabs)

OPI Breakfast at Tiffany’s 4 piece mini nail polish set

NYX Cosmetics Liquid Suede Lip Cream trio

ULTA Macaroon Bake Shop Bath Fizzers Gift Set

3 month Nerd Block subscription (choice of either Classic box or Arcade box)

The Small Gift Box by Lucky Scruff (Original Beard Oil, Original Mustache Wax and the Lucky Scruff Wooden Beard Comb)

6 sets of Cinemark movie passes (2 passes per set)

Handmade soy candles trio

Handmade soap set. Soap scents are Citrus Punch, Cinnamon Oatmeal and Spearmint.


Some of these gift cards are to local businesses so only people that live locally will benefit from trying to win them. And of course the physical items will be fine for anyone to try and win.

Drawing will be held after the fundraiser ends in mid-December and items will be shipped out to the winners in January.

Once you donate, I'll need to know which item you want to be put into contention for and you can do that by emailing me or holler at me on the Twitter machine @AshlyStar and then letting me know which item (or items depending on the amount of entries you get) you want to be entered in for.

A lot of people often say, "I just don't have time to do anything even though I'd love to." Which is the truth for some people. Which is how I got the idea to do the holiday fundraiser. I will take all the money that gets donated and go buy as many toys for Toys for Tots as I can. I keep them all in bags and then go deliver them to the main Toys for Tots drop location in the area. That way, you can do some good but you don't have to really do anything aside from donate to the cause. For proof that I'm doing what I say I'll be doing with the donations, there will be pictures of the toys as I buy them and pictures of all those toys being loaded into the car and more upon being delivered to a Toys for Tots location.

I know some people see this and think about donating but think they only have $5 or $10 to spare and think that's not worth it. Well, that's not true because through the years I've received tons of $5 and $10 donations! Every little bit adds up to something bigger!

With $5 I can buy an action figure, toy cars, Legos, a stuffed animal, various kinds of dolls, PlayDoh sets and various other things. $5 will buy a toy and in some cases more than one toy. I can get 8 or 9 Hot Wheels cars on $10 so no amount would be too small. If 15 people donate 5 dollars, I have $75 and that will buy quite a few toys to brighten a child's day. You can do something to help and leave all the work up to me.

And yes, I know Christmas isn't about the toys and other presents but imagine being 7 and not looking forward to waking up Christmas morning because Santa couldn't bring you anything this year. It's a bummer.

To donate via paypal or Google Wallet, send whatever amount you want to amorousrocker [at] gmail [dot] com.

Every little bit will help. If you don't have the ability to do paypal but want to donate anyway, let me know and we'll work something out. A few people last year just gave cash or sent me a check since they didn't have a paypal account and didn't want to create one either. Other people have sent me Amazon gift cards to buy toys that way and other people just purchased toys and dropped them off to me to add to the pile. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. ;)


I started buying toys this year in January.
Just 2 or 3 out of every check, so I have a nice
little stash going already.



If you want to see pictures from the last 6 years of holiday fundraisers, you can see the photo albums below:
2009 Pictures: HERE


2010 Pictures: HERE
2011 Pictures: HERE
2012 Pictures: HERE


2013 Pictures: HERE

2014 Pictures: HERE
2015 Pictures: HERE
I need to have the donation turned into the Toys for Tots warehouse by December 16th so they have plenty of time for sorting everything out and delivery. So we have around 5 weeks this year to get going! I’ll probably go shopping for toys on December 15th so I’ll need all PayPal donations and checks in to me by December 13th at the very latest. Then the 16th I’ll be taking everything out to the warehouse for delivery. Let’s go! :)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Reaching out is hard.

Reaching out to people is hard for a lot of people to do. It's scary just to think of being that vulnerable with another person. It's scary to open up and let another person see raw emotions, especially when those raw emotions are pain and sadness or anything that's generally seen negatively. It's even harder to reach out when you're struggling with mental illness.

When suffering from anxiety and/or depression, I have no idea how many times I've typed out a text message when I needed someone around or needed someone to talk to only to end up never sending it.





Messages just like these.

I'd type them out and then I'd re-read them checking for spelling errors or autocorrect mistakes. Then that voice in the back of my mind would chime in.

"Why are you bothering them with your nonsense? They have enough going on without you adding more to it, you know."

"You know how stressed they are right now, why do you want to make it worse?"

"You know sitting there watching TV with someone won't fix anything so why pretend?"

"You know they have better things to do than come sit with you."

"You're just being dramatic."

"Why make them worry about you like that over nothing?"

"Do you really want them to see you like this?"

"Of course they're going to say they're not busy and can talk, they'd feel guilty otherwise."

"They have their own problems, what makes you think they have time to deal with yours, too?"

"What if they say no? Won't you just feel worse then? Why do that to yourself?"

"They're probably busy and don't have time to deal with you right now."

I could go on and on with 100 other ways I've talked myself out of reaching out to someone when I was struggling and needed help. That little voice was all too happy to always come up with a long list of reasons not to press send or to put the phone down and not make that call.

Then I always felt worse than I already did because now I'd convinced myself that I couldn't reach out to the people that care about me for whatever various reasons that little nagging voice decided to throw out. Which usually brought on feelings of hopelessness, loneliness and isolation.

I couldn't stand to be struggling through things alone but I couldn't bring myself to ask anyone to help me either. It was a painful cycle to go through and never failed to make things worse. I'd type out a message and then I'd talk myself out of sending it. I'd go to a person on my contacts list and stare at the little green phone that would make the call and then I'd talk myself out of it. Not because I didn't want to but I felt guilty for putting myself and my needs over the feelings and needs of the people in my life. I'd think about how they were doing and I'd decide I could wait, that I didn't need to put this, me, on their plate of concerns, too. Other times I'd look at how well things were going for them and couldn't be the one to bring their spirits down. I always worry about myself second. This is great for depression and/or anxiety because it makes it easy for the illness to convince you to keep things to yourself. 

I'd gather my courage up and prepare myself to reach out, to be vulnerable and then that nagging voice that tells you all those lies when you're struggling through depression or anxiety would beat me back down. I'd end up either feeling numb, like an empty shell and feeling so unbelievably broken. I'd sit there just staring off and wondering how I could be so dumb. Or I'd end up feeling too much, getting overwhelmed, and I'd wind up sobbing on the floor because even sitting up felt like it required too much energy. I'd cry until my eyes hurt, until I was shaking and sick at my stomach. Then regardless of either response, I'd be angry with myself for being so weak. I was weak for not being able to ignore the nagging little voice, for letting it talk me out of anything. I was weak for having no response, for feeling broken. I was weak for having such an emotional response, for curling up and crying until I couldn't cry anymore. I was weak for letting my mind get the best of me. I was weak for not being able to send a text or make a phone call. I was so angry at myself for not being able to do more and do better that I ended up feeling a lot of resentment and self-loathing.

None of that is reality. I am not weak now and I wasn't weak any time I was struggling with these things. It takes a great deal of strength to battle with mental illness every single day and keep doing it every single day. It beats you down, day after day. I wasn't weak and no one else is, either. It's hard battling an illness every day. It's hard battling an illness every other day or once a week or however often it happens. I was stronger than I ever realized or gave myself credit for and if you're struggling right now, so are you.

The people that care about you are never too busy to be there for you when you need them. Depression and/or anxiety will try to tell you they are but they're not. They're not too busy. You are not bothering them. Yes, they might be dealing with some stuff too but that doesn't invalidate what you're struggling with. Their good day won't be ruined because you needed someone to talk to or to be there for you. There is no "perfect" moment. There is no "better time." You are not a burden. You are not a hassle. You are not "another problem" or "more stress" for them to "deal with." You don't need to feel weak or guilty for needing help. You don't need to feel angry or loathsome because you can't do it on your own. You are not hopeless, broken or beyond helping. Don't listen to that nagging little voice in the back of your mind telling you how broken you are or how much you're a burden to those that care about you because that voice is lying and so unbelievably wrong.

You don't have to struggle alone. Even if you don't have anyone or don't feel comfortable reaching out to someone in your real life, there are so many online resources available for you to connect with someone. Therapy chats, apps like 7CupsofTea, groups, message boards, text message help/support and helplines you can call. Once you get passed the fear and uncertainty the first time, it's easier to ask for help and reach out when you need it. 

Please just know that you're not your illness, it doesn't define who you are. No matter what that little voice tries to tell you and no matter how loudly it tries to tell you it's lies, you are worthy, you are strong, you are capable and you are brave. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out Day. I came out as pansexual this Summer after the Pulse nightclub shooting. Most people in my life already knew that I'm not heterosexual but then there was a big handful of people that didn't know.
A lot of people don't understand that coming out in any capacity is still a big deal. A lot of people think "it's 2016, who cares, it's so common now no one cares whether you're straight or not!" In theory that's a lovely thought but it isn't reality.
Since coming out pansexual in June to everyone that didn't already know, I've faced some derision and negativity from people I had in my life that I didn't expect it from. From 7 different people that decided I'm no longer welcome in their lives just because they found out I'm attracted to and have had relationships with other females.
Most recently on Dallas Pride Day, a person I've known for 10 years "didn't realize" I wasn't straight. He blocked me because he's so vehemently against everything LGBTQ+. I knew he had issues because his religious beliefs have him believing it's wrong but I didn't know he was so hate filled that he'd accuse me of being a bad person, of being "wrong" for just being who I am. It hurt and even though I know absolutely that I'm better off without someone like that being part of my life in any capacity, it still hurt that this person I considered a friend for so long could just say "eww you're disgusting" and be done with me just like that.
I recently participated in the Walk To END Alzheimer's. I send emails as well as posting on social media to gain donations. A couple that has supported my Walk fundraising efforts every year until this year as well as helping with my Toys for Tots fundraiser for the entire time I've done that, responded to my final email to let me know they hadn't in fact deleted their Facebook accounts but had blocked me after my coming out post. "You're a great person but we didn't know of your sexuality all these years and unfortunately we cannot continue supporting you in your fundraising efforts for the Alz Walk, Toys for Tots or anything else as we deeply disapprove of your lifestyle. We can't in good conscience continue giving money to you for these causes as long as you are a part of the gay agenda. If this ever changes, feel free to contact us again. This is hard for us and I am sorry it came to this." No paraphrasing there, I copied that directly from their email.
My third and last recent instance (although I have 3 more but this is so long already) came from a female friend that decided that despite the fact I've never once flirted with her that she couldn't be near me anymore because she could no longer "trust my intentions." Which if I might remind everyone, being attracted to more than one gender doesn't mean you're indecisive or greedy or just want every person you see. So not true, please stop associating this way.
Like I said, I know I'm better off without these people in my life but it was still hard to deal with when it's so unexpected from people that have been part of my life for years. From people that supported me and seemed to care about me. Usually in years passed (since I was around 15 when I first started tentatively telling people) this type of negativity comes from people I don't know well so it's never really bothered me since I had nothing emotionally or mentally invested. But, I thought better of these people and had connections with them. And I thought I was strong enough to not let any of it get to me so I was angry with myself ob top of everything else every time I let one of these recent instances hurt me. It's okay to be hurt, though. It doesn't make me weak to be hurt when someone does something upsetting even if that person is being toxic toward me. In these cases I think the letting myself be hurt once I got passed being mad at myself helped to let go.
Even if a person faces zero negativity or falling out from coming out, it doesn't make any fear or apprehension they felt prior any less valid. You don't get to belittle the emotions they felt because you personally don't think it's a big deal. For them, it likely was. For them, it was likely scary and unnerving.
You also don't get to out a person if they're out to you but not everyone else. You don't get to tell a person they need to "just come out already" because they will when they're ready, in their own time, when they're comfortable doing it. Or they won't and that's fine, too. Do what's best for you. It's never wrong or selfish to put your well-being first & take care of you. 


Monday, October 10, 2016

World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day so please remember your mental health & emotional well-being are just as important as your physical health is.

Mental illnesses are as real as physical ailments & just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean a mental illness doesn’t exist.
I talk about mental health a lot because I want others to feel like & know that it’s okay to talk about it. You’re not alone, not a freak, not weak, not broken, not a burden, not useless, not crazy, not less worthy as a person in any way because you’re struggling with a mental illness. It’s a disease, not a character trait or flaw in your personality.

It’s hard finding courage to speak up & reach out but YOU CAN DO IT. If you can’t face to face tell someone, do it over a phone call. If you can’t find the words to vocalize, write it out. If you don’t feel comfortable or safe talking to anyone you know, there are helplines you can call & online chat services you can use.

Mental illnesses can make you feel like no one understands, no one cares, no one will miss you, the world would be better off without you & your problems & all of that is so very wrong. I care & I’ve met so many other people like me out there that care & we care even if we barely know you because we know how painful, isolating, heartbreaking & damaging it is to feel like no one cares or understands. We know what it’s like to battle our own thoughts & feelings & we just don’t want to see anyone thinking they have to go through it alone.

Also remember that you’re never being selfish for putting your health first & taking care of you. You need to fo that the same way you need to breathe and eat to keep on living. Anyone that tells you you’re being selfish for taking care of you in whatever way you need to is not someone you need to listen to.

People who make life changes to physically better themselves are praised for it while people who have depression, anxiety, ptsd, bipolar disorder, eating disorders & other mental illnesses are told to get over it or told to not talk about it at all. It shouldn’t be that way & I’m fighting to see a change made in how mental illnesses are seen & treated. The more we talk, the more we break down the barriers of stigma that surround mental health & the people struggling. The more we break those barriers down, the more we normalize what should be a regular topic of discussion for our own health and well being. The more we do that, the easier it will be for people to open up without the fear that they’ll be judged, ridiculed, dismissed, labeled, written off or ignored.

Lastly, remember if you think someone you care about is struggling, reach out to them & ask how they’re doing. Kindness is free. Sometimes just knowing someone cares helps so much.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I Drove

I sat at home feeling trapped. These walls felt like anxiety and containment instead of comfort and peace.

I got in my car and I drove. To where, I had no idea. I had no destination and no where to be.

I drove with the windows down letting the warm evening air tear through my hair, leaving my short locks tangled and wild.

I turned the music up loud enough to drown out every thought in my head. They couldn't scream louder than the music and I took comfort in that.

I drove far away from home watching as the tall buildings and shopping centers lessened until there were no more.

I drove until the crowded roads thinned out as the cars around me were fewer and fewer.

I drove and watched as the evening sky turned from a pale blue to shades of orange, red and purple.

I drove until the houses around me turned into nothing but fields and farmland.

I drove until I had no idea where I was and then I kept going.

I drove until I could see nothing around me but darkness and stars. I let that darkness wash over me, let it envelope me wholly.

Some people don't like the night but I do. The dark, star filled sky feels like home more than my own home does sometimes. I feel free instead of trapped in my own skin.

I don't have to smile in the dark. I don't have to think of things to say in the dark. I don't have to pretend in the dark. In the dark, I can just be myself, even when who I am feels heavier and darker than the blackest night sky.

Monday, July 11, 2016

I exist.

CN: Harassment, assault.
Very long post.

I'm so tired of seeing people say things such as "but what was she doing that caused the man to harass her" or "she probably provoked or lead him on in some way" as if provocation is an acceptable reason for harassment and/or violence against another human. As if there's reason to blame the victim. As if there's any way to justify a person harming or threatening to harm a human being that isn't doing anything to harm another.

Example: I was at a club with my boyfriend and a friend. I left them at a table to go to the restroom which happened to be upstairs and on the other side of the club. I was at the elevator waiting for it to come down when a guy at a table near the elevator got my attention and motioned for me to come over to him. I stayed where I was and he tried to call me over again. I was a little drunk and for some reason thought he must have thought I was a waitress. I informed him I didn't work there and willed the elevator to hurry the hell up. He got angry. "Bitch I know you don't work here. Get the fuck over here." I declined and told him to leave me alone. He stood up and said, "bitch bring your ass over here" and started moving towards me. The elevator finally came down but I nearly ran in my heels back to our table so I could get my boyfriend so I could hopefully go back and get safely to the restroom. As I walked back up to the elevator this man stood up again and started to address me again before he noticed Shane standing there. He sat back down and left me alone. Later, this man followed us out to the patio and didn't address me. He apologized to Shane because this guy didn't realize I was there with a man already and said he wouldn't have said anything to me had he known. Shane told him I was the one that deserved the apology. The guy mumbled at me before going back inside.

Another instance. I was at a BBQ. A guy I had only met when I had arrived with a friend to this BBQ came to sit next to me on the bench I was sitting on. My friend was on the other side of the yard playing volleyball and I was just relaxing and people watching. We talked for a little while mostly about sports and music. He said something funny and I started laughing. Then his hand was in my hair and he was sitting much closer to me. I told him to stop touching my hair. He did but then put his hand on my knee. I told him not to put his hands on me at all. He asked me if I wanted to go to his car and "have some fun." I told him I didn't and told him he had the wrong idea. I told him I was not interested. He put his hand on my thigh and asked if I was sure and told me we've been having a good time so far. I removed his hand for him and told him not to lay a hand on me again. I got up to go join my friend and he grabbed my arm to stop me. He asked if I was seriously leaving him there after he had just spent a whole twenty minutes talking to me. I again told him I wasn't interested and didn't want to continue spending time with him and told him to let go of me. "If you see me naked, you'll change your mind" was his response to that. He tightened his grip on my arm and I remember leaning down quickly, pressing my other arm into his throat and telling him to let go of my arm. He immediately let go and called me a crazy whore before shoving me away from him and moving away.

Another instance. I was walking through an outdoor shopping center when two men tried to call me over to them. I ignored them. They continued catcalling and yelling at me. I told them politely that I'm not interested. They started following me. They don't stop when I tell them I'm really not interested and request they leave me alone. They still follow me and started insulting me, angry that I wouldn't give them time and attention. I ducked into a large retail store, scared and looking for security. The two men didn't follow me into the store but they loiter around outside on the sidewalk while I figure out what to do. I call the police. No one ever came. I didn't go to another store and started shaking once I got back into my car and locked the door.

Last example. I was in a bar with a group of friends. I was dancing with one of my friends while our other friends played darts and pool. A guy that was friends with one of my friends older brother came up behind me and started dancing. I had met this guy before at a house party but didn't really know him. Dude started grinding up against me immediately. I put space between us and told him I didn't want him touching me. He responded with, "well you're in a club dancing so you're basically inviting people to be on you." He tried to close the space between us and I again moved away telling him to stop and telling him to leave me alone. He said something about me playing hard to get and was back on me. I shoved him away from me. He grabbed me by the hair and spat in my face. I grabbed his wrist and twisted his arm around hard to get my hair released from his grasp. He cursed at me and started screaming. A bouncer came over to seperate us and then my friends and I are kicked out of the club 2 minutes later. Creepy guy happened to be friends with the man that managed that club. We left and dude followed us outside to call us names and taunt us for a moment before his manager buddy came out to collect him. I was 18 when this happened and it was the first time I'd experienced something like that. Unfortunately it wasn't also the last.

I have dozens upon dozens of stories of men yelling at me, men catcalling me, men threatening me, men getting angry because I wouldn't give them the time and attention they felt entitled to, men harassing me, men stalking me, men reacting violently and men ignoring and disrespecting me and the boundaries I set.

And there are people that still want to ask, "well what did you do to provoke them?"

Exist. I exist and that's enough. People have it in their heads that men NEED some kind of provocation, some kind of reason for doing things like this. Maybe because it's easier than accepting that it can happen to anyone and without provocation, just because. Because someone felt entitled to time and attention from another person. Because someone felt they'd earned something they were being denied. Because someone simply wanted to.

There is no excuse for harassment and violence. Stop making excuses and placing blame on anyone and/or anything that isn't the person comitting these acts as they're the person that should be held accountable for their actions and choices.