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All About Merri and Her Musings

I’m not the best at talking about myself, but readers have asked the all important question “who the hell *are* you and why do you have a blog, anyway?!?!?” While this entry will likely keep morphing, here’s some fast facts about me and my musings.

1. I’m 39. I was, and still am, a child of the 80s. Chances are, I can tell you who sang a song in the 80s, sing you most of the words, and tell you what fashion item was in style when that song was in the top 40.

2. I was born and raised in a small town outside of Omaha, Nebraska and have never left this part of the country, although moved to the “big city” of Omaha some time ago. How did we get here? My dad was in the Air Force 21 years and had been stationed here a number of times. They decided to retire here as it was half way between Mom’s roots in New Mexico and Dad’s in Michigan.

3. I’m happily married for 10 years to Vinnie at Vince Aut Morire. We met on America Online, but ours is a story purely of fate. Through our happenstance meeting on AOL, we discovered we lived in the same city, same apartment complex, two doors down from one another. He’s the guy I had also flipped off because he almost creamed my car in the parking lot. …and yes, he remembered!

4. We have two wonderful children…a son who will be 11 in September and a daughter who will was 7 on May Day. Our lives have never been the same, thank God! Our first-born was a preemie, but we were extraordinarily blessed to bring him home after only 11 days in the NICU. Our daughter was quite timely, born exactly on her due date! Both of them are amazing - I can’t get over how smart our son is and how entertaining our daughter is. I predict, however, if there are broken bones to be had, our daughter will be at the finish line first. They are the center of my life!

5. We also have a house full of pets. Three dogs, two African Grey Parrots and a ball python snake. Well, the snake really belongs to “the boys.” They don’t scare me…it’s kind of like the Discovery Channel around here.

6. We like to go boating, tubing, jetskiing, etc. We have a boat and several tubes. I think we enjoy boating…it seems the boat costs us money but we don’t use it much. I recommended selling it, but hubby tells me we’ll use it again. Someday???

7. We also like to take yearly vacations. We’ve recently (in the past few summers) been to Orlando, Vegas (hubby and I for our delayed honeymoon) Lake of the Ozarks (in Missouri), Sarasota and the Black Hills of South Dakota. This year we are meandering around the Midwest - Chicago, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Let’s just hope gas isn’t $5.00 a gallon by July!

8. I lost my mom to lung cancer a few years ago. She had been sick a very long time between cancer and heart disease. I miss Mom terribly. Dad, while he still misses Mom, is doing great and has even found some companionship! A lot of lives changed the day she left us for Heaven!

9. I work for a major internet company as an outsourcing manager. I’ve been there quite a while. I love what I do and love the company! It will be interesting to see what the next 5-10 years bring. The internet is an amazing thing!

10. The internet. Why do I blog? Interesting story! I worked an alternate shift for quite a while so my kids could stay home versus daycare while they were very young. When I got a day shift, I missed my hubby as he was always reading, typing, and laughing in front of his computer. He was blogging and had met some interesting folks out in the ’sphere. In order to see what this was all about, thought I’d give it a try. I didn’t think I had much to say, but really liked Rachael Ray and thought it would be fun to have a website about Rachael Ray and then I could post recipes of my own or hers with my own spin on them as needed. My first site was called Rachael Ray Redux.

11. Why the change to Merri Musings? Well, let’s just say I found out that I had more to say than I thought. While I continue to talk about Rachael Ray, I continue to post recipes on occasion, there are other topics of interest that just didn’t fit with a Rachael Ray themed site. Merri Musings was inspired from that. A little play on my name, Merri, and musings to represent all of the things I wanted to say.

12. What, exactly, am I passionate about? Let’s see….

13. I’m Republican, although I first registered as an Independent (one step away from my Democratic parents. Heh.

14. I’m pro-life, whether you speak about abortion or right-to-life cases that we’ve seen within the last year. I also think the father of a child should have a say in what happens to his child. I don’t think it is only a woman who should choose whether they should get an abortion or not - she wasn’t the only one involved in creating life.

15. Except if you kill someone. Then I’m pro-death. While I believe in due process and a fair trial, I do think it’s a waste of space to house someone who will 1) never come back into society again 2) caused another person or people to die and was found guilty (and/or admitted guilt) and 3) should be an example in an effort to deter such crimes in others.

16. I cannot stand the ACLU. The founding principle was sound, but anyone who supports NAMbLA, hates the Boy Scouts, hates Christians and comes to the defense of sex offenders and other similar heathens has lost all credibility to me.

17. Sex offenders…rapists, child molesters. Those who end up back in society should be no where near our kids. In most cases they end up back in prison because they’ve harmed another person or another child. I agree with the registries, but more needs to be done. Or the penalties for the crimes should be stiffened. These people shouldn’t be walking the streets.

18. Child murderers, especially those who murder their own children, should all be put to death immediately and in a fashion similar to their victims if I had my way. They do not deserve to breathe the air they chose to take from innocent kids. I personally do not care if the words “mental illness” come up. They are still dangerous and should not be given a break. You cannot tell me that a person who chooses to murder another human being is completely sane, anyway.

19. People. I’m passionate about people. I love people and at the same time many drive me crazy. Us human beings can do amazing things (cures for disease, medications to slow down cancer, take care of hurricane victims or victims of other disasters such as 9/11) but at the same time some do stupid stuff (Cindy Sheehan, Hillary Clinton, Michael Moore, Paris Hilton, Obamatard) and earn lots of money doing it. This all fascinates me.

20. I’m proud to be American. I stand behind our troops during war and think the war on terror is the one choice we were forced to make in order to keep our country free ultimately. Is it an easy choice? Hell no. But neither was any other war. 9/11 will be burned into my mind forever. When you have a 4-year-old wondering who Osama Bin Laden is and whether he was going to send a bomb to kill us, it makes you solid in your resolve to purge such filth from existence.

21. Yes, I’ve been passionate about Rachael Ray, and cooking in general. I found her when I worked nights. I didn’t have a lot of time to watch TV during the day, and there really wasn’t much on, so I got hooked on the Food Network. I really like Alton Brown and Tyler Florence as well, but there were a lot of concepts I learned from Rachael Ray in order to speed up my cooking. I’ve cooked all of my life and she just “fit in.” Yes, there was a lot of luck and fate involved in her being discovered. But look what she has accomplished! I know some hate her, but I find it hard to understand why other than sheer jealousy. I own her knives (although her original Wusthofs are my favorite), I subscribe to her magazine, I still TIVO her shows, I own almost all of her cookbooks and I use EVOO, and some of her cookware. I get the most hits on my site by men looking for her photo spread in FHM. I think it’s funny that some think *I’M* Rachael Ray. Boy - if only for a day…how fun would *that* be?

22. On a side note, as Rachael Ray’s talk show is in its second year, I’m discovering more and more that she’s a screaming liberal. I’m getting a bit disappointed in that. Vegan meals, partnering with Bill Clinton with charity work, her constant barrage of “living green” is all getting a little old.

Anyway…that’s enough for now. I may add more later. If there’s anything you want to know about me, don’t be afraid to ask. I may just add it here!

New Year’s Eve Finger Foods and Booze

One of my favorite holidays is New Year’s - more specifically New Year’s Eve. With two children in the house, we are fortunate to know other couples with younger kids so we can all gather together to celebrate and not have to get a sitter. We traditionally get together in a hotel, and the kids can swim and play while we play cards, etc. Everyone (okay, not the kids) has their beverage of choice and we don’t have to worry about driving. Oh, and there’s lots of food - typically finger food. This year will be no different - no posts for me New Year’s Eve for sure, and it’s a little fuzzy for New Year’s Day (also known as the day of recovery…hehehehe).

I thought it would be fitting to post a couple of fun appetizers and a drink recipe in the spirit of New Year’s Eve. Enjoy!

The Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
recipe courtesy of Alton Brown

1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup prepared chili sauce
4 tbsp prepared horseradish
1 tsp sugar
few grinds fresh black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
32+ tiger (jumbo sized) shrimp, fully cooked with tails on

Place all ingredients, except the shrimp, into a food processor and blend until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve. (hint: the day or the morning before, I put the can of diced tomatoes into the fridge - as long as the other ingredients are chilled as well, you will have ready to eat, chilled shrimp cocktail sauce the minute you pour it out of the processor!).

I typically buy my shrimp frozen, ready to eat. Another hint, from Alton, is how to thaw the shrimp. Place them in a strainer inside another bowl and run cool water over them. This thaws them quicker than any other method. Once they are thawed, be sure to drain well.

No matter where I bring this shrimp cocktail - it’s one of the first things to go. YUM!

Mini Pizza Bites

2 Boxes Mini Fillo Shells (something I discovered last year!)
small can of pizza sauce
20 or so pepperoni slices, chopped fine
bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
garlic powder

The ingredient list is a ballpark - depending on how much you use in each bite, you may use more or less. I basically layer the ingredients into the shells as I would layer onto a pizza, then I bake in a 350 degree oven for about 5-8 minutes (until cheese is melted). This would be perfect for a toaster oven as well. My kids love these things hot or cold (just like regular pizza!). You can vary the ingredients to suit your own tastes, too. If you don’t have access to these little fillo shells, you can certainly take regular fillo dough and cut into small squares that will line mini-sized muffin tins. The shells really save on time, which is at a premium this time of year.

Merri’s Amaretto Sours

My favorite drink is an amaretto sour - and I’m particular about how they taste. I fill a cocktail glass about 1/2 to 3/4 full of ice, then pour on a shot of Di Saronno Amaretto (Sure, you can use other brands, but I won’t use anything else!). Then take sour mix and pour a couple of glugs in (you will probably use less of the sour mix than the amaretto). Following this, pour enough diet 7-Up or Diet Sprite to top it off. Put a couple of maraschino cherries into the glass, and splash in just a bit of the juice from the maraschino cherry jar, mixing in with one of the cherries. I LOVE this drink! YUM!

Best wishes to you and yours for a prosperous, safe, and joyous new year. May 2005 bring you the best!

    December 2004
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