All is not so well…

My boyfriend, Ryan, has been battling it out with his ex-wife for joint custody of their adorable 7 year old daughter, Riley.  Ryan has been working two jobs just to have his daughter during her summer vacation. Recently, things turned ugly and we’ve retained a lawyer.  Unfortunately, lawyers cost money and while we’ve absorbed the majority of the hit, we need some help. This money won’t be used for everyday things, but rather to ensure that Ryan is a part of Riley’s life.  Do you have to donate? Of course not.  Would we be eternally be grateful if you did? Of course we would. Ryan doesn’t exactly approve of me setting this up since he’s a man and has more pride then I do. But the fact of the matter is, over the years I have supported my friends in their personal endeavors and while I could have lied and said this was a fundraiser for a school or extra-curricular activity, I decided to be completely honest and come right out with it.  It never hurts to ask and worst anyone could say is no, right? So if you want to give, thank you in advance.  If you decide not to, we still love you anyway🙂

Donations are being accepted through the link on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/coutureformeonly?ref=tn_tnmn

Autumn Nights

Living on the mainland, one could always sense summer coming to an end.  The days would get shorter and the air was crisp in the morning.  The leaves turn, kids go back to school, and the holidays make an appearance anywhere people spend money.  Things have changed for me since moving to Maui.  It still gets darker earlier, but today for instance, it was 86 degrees.  Macy’s has an small but gorgeous section of boots and chunky sweaters but I can’t wear them here.  School in Hawaii is year round and the palm trees don’t turn. 

Not that I’m complaining.  Far from it.  It’s just autumn was always my favorite time of the year.  I guess it still is.  Now it’s just a little different and that’s perfectly fine with me.

After Alabama Immigration Law, Few Americans Taking Immigrants’ Work

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By JAY REEVES and ALICIA A. CALDWELL – AP

ONEONTA, Ala. — Potato farmer Keith Smith saw most of his immigrant workers leave after Alabama’s tough immigration law took effect, so he hired Americans. It hasn’t worked out: Most show up late, work slower than seasoned farm hands and are ready to call it a day after lunch or by midafternoon. Some quit after a single day.

In Alabama and other parts of the country, farmers must look beyond the nation’s borders for labor because many Americans simply don’t want the backbreaking, low-paying jobs immigrants are willing to take. Politicians who support the law say over time more unemployed Americans will fill these jobs. They insist it’s too early to consider the law a failure, yet numbers from the governor’s office show only nominal interest.

“I’ve had people calling me wanting to work,” Smith said. “I haven’t turned any of them down, but they’re not any good. It’s hard work, they just don’t work like the Hispanics with experience.”

Alabama passed its law in June and it was immediately challenged by the Obama administration as it has been in other states. Unlike those states’ measures, Alabama’s law was left largely in place while challenges played out in court, frightening Hispanics and driving many of them away.

The agriculture industry suffered the most immediate impact. Farmers said they will have to downsize or let crops die on the vine. As the season’s harvest winds down, many are worried about next year.

In south Georgia, Connie Horner has heard just about every reason unemployed Americans don’t want to work on her blueberry farm. It’s hot, the hours are long, the pay isn’t enough and it’s just plain hard.

“You can’t find legal workers,” Horner said. “Basically they last a day or two, literally.”

Horner, who runs an 8 1/2-acre organic blueberry farm, said she tried to use the government’s visa program to hire foreign workers, but it was too costly and time consuming.

She plans to stop growing organically and start using a machine to pick the berries.

“I did everything I possibly could to be legal and honest and not part of the problem,” Horner said. “Morally, I can’t knowingly hire illegal workers.”

Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican who signed the law, started a program last week to help businesses, particularly farmers, make up for the lost labor. So far, about 260 people interested in temporary agricultural jobs have signed up. About three dozen job openings have been posted, said Tara Hutchison, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations. She said the department doesn’t know of anyone who has been hired.

Sen. Scott Beason, a Republican, said he has received several emails and phone calls from people thanking him for helping them get jobs. He described one getting promoted from a part-time job with no benefits to a full-time job with benefits because some other immigrant workers left. He said none of the workers who thanked him have wanted to talk to the media.

“They are paranoid of publicity. They are like, `I don’t want to get shredded up like y’all are.’ … I really can’t blame them,” he said.

Over the past two weeks, The Associated Press has reached out to the governor’s office and other officials to provide the names of Alabama residents who have taken immigrant jobs. Either they were not made available, or didn’t want to speak publicly.

Brent Martin, an Alabama resident, started working on a tomato farm in an area northeast of Birmingham after the law was passed. On Thursday, he and two other Americans were clearing about 24,000 tomato stakes off a 4-acre plot. He said few Americans who would stick with it.

“There are plenty who could do it, but would they? I don’t know about that. I don’t see why they wouldn’t as bad as the economy is right now,” Martin said.

Relatively high unemployment rates – about 9 percent in the U.S. and 9.9 in Alabama – are not likely to push Americans toward farm work, said Demetrios Papademetriou, president and co-founder of the Migration Policy Institute. He suggested the problem may be more deeply rooted.

“This is a sector and an industry … that a long time ago, going back to the 1940s and probably before that was abandoned,” Papademetriou said. “It was abandoned to foreign workers.”

Stan Eury, executive director of the North Carolina Growers Association, said location matters, too.

“Agriculture jobs are primarily in remote, rural areas. We see higher numbers of unemployed people in the big cities,” he said.

Tomato farmer Wayne Smith said he has never been able to keep a staff of American workers in his 25 years of farming.

“People in Alabama are not going to do this,” said Smith, who grows about 75 acres of tomatoes in the northeast part of the state. “They’d work one day and then just wouldn’t show up again.”

At his farm, field workers get $2 for every 25-pound box of tomatoes they fill. Skilled pickers can make anywhere from $200 to $300 a day, he said.

Unskilled workers make much less.

A crew of four Hispanics can earn about $150 each by picking 250-300 boxes of tomatoes in a day, said Jerry Spencer, of Grow Alabama, which purchases and sells locally owned produce. A crew of 25 Americans recently picked 200 boxes – giving them each $24 for the day.

It may make sense for some to sit on the couch. Unemployment benefits provide up to $265 a week while a minimum wage job, at $7.25 an hour for 40 hours, brings in $290.

Spencer said the Americans he has linked up with farmers are not physically fit and do not work fast enough.

“It’s the harshest work you can imagine doing,” Spencer said.

Foodie Fridays

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Sunday night dinners in Albuquerque were always a big deal whenever Follyanna* & I would cook.  (*Name changed because she’s awesome)

Our friends would stop by, the wine would flow, and we would cook our tooshies off.  On one such Sunday, I decided to try out a new mac & cheese recipe courtesy of ole’ Martha Stewart.  The dish was a hit.  Since moving to Maui I’ve been missing my personal effects, which are still in storage, but was super excited to see the recipe posted by another blogger.  The recipe is slightly labor intensive but the finished product is so worth it.  I give you now the best friggin’ macaroni & cheese ever.

Martha Stewart’s Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 12
6 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated pecorino Romano
1 pound elbow macaroni

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

2. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

3. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.

4. Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer’s directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup pecorino Romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.

Cooking Notes per Martha:

It is important to use pungent cheeses, such as sharp cheddar, mixed with a little Gruyere or pecorino Romano for extra bite, since the white sauce and pasta will absorb a lot of flavor. The type of cheese used will also affect the sauce’s texture: Sharp white cheddar produces the smoothest result; yellow and extra sharp cheddars can become grainy.

A good Italian brand of dried elbow macaroni will have the best consistency. Undercook your pasta so that it is the slightest bit crunchy (very al dente) in the center, then rinse it under cold water. This stops the cooking and washes off the excess starch. You might think that starch would be useful in further thickening the casserole, but it isn’t; as it bakes, that extra starch merely expands and lends a mealy texture to your sauce.

The pasta will finish cooking as it bakes. The sauce will bubble, seeping into the hollows of your macaroni. When the smell of butter and browning cheese makes your stomach growl, you’ll know the dish is ready to eat.

You can easily divide this recipe in half; use a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish if you do.

http://www.marthastewart.com/271998/perfect-macaroni-and-cheese

Silence, I say!

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I arrived an hour and a half early to Lahaina, the small tourist town I work in, to enjoy breakfast on the beach this morning.  Sitting at my quiet table, reading “Committed: A Love Story”, something struck me.  I realized how much I love silence.  Even when I read to myself in my head, its in a hushed whispered tone.  It became even more evident to me that one of the reasons I left Facebook was my adoration of quiet.  Needless chatter overwhelms me.  Not to say that reading my friends’ posts were needless nor were they chatter.  On the contrary.  Rather, the excessive pages, businesses, etc.  I “liked” were constantly updating with new posts, day after day, hour after hour.  Facebook had become the chore I hated to do so I axed it.

Which brings me to another conundrum.  Children do not equal silence.  Not even a little bit.  Yet I still have that maternal yearning.  It’s not as loud as in previous years but it still has a way of whispering to me ~ even occasionally yelling at me.  In fact it whispered to me two days ago while window shopping at a local store on my break.  I was leisurely strolling along the jewelry counter, admiring the delicate handmade necklaces and bracelets of local artists.  The lighting was just so against the shimmering gold and silver pieces when out of no where, I suddenly found myself knee deep in the baby section.  I looked around and was somehow surrounded by a barrage of onesies, soft blankets, & stuffed animals.  The “Maui Baby” onesie in pink whispered to me as I stopped dead in my tracks, “Hey there…don’t get too comfortable with all this silence…I would look super fab on that baby girl you don’t have but know you still want…”  I slowly backed out of that part of the store.  I’m sure when the moment presents itself in my life, I’ll be able to reconcile silence & children.  That’s what husbands are for…right?  For now, I enjoy my quiet breakfasts on the beach and in that, all is well.

Committed

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I recently saw Eat, Pray, Love with Julia Roberts based on the book by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I absolutely loved the movie and, on some level, felt as though I could relate with Liz and the journey she went through during her ill fated marriage & her self-discovery.  So it came as no surprise that when I realized she had a new book out, “Committed: A Love Story”, I had to read it.  I’m almost entirely through the book and came to find myself relating to her again in so many ways. Having been through one marriage, I’ve found myself skeptical of going through the whole mess of it again.  Her story has thus far been enlightening and heartfelt.

Synopsis: Told with Gilbert’s trademark wit, intelligence and compassion, Committed attempts to “turn on all the lights” when it comes to matrimony, frankly examining questions of compatibility, infatuation, fidelity, family tradition, social expectations, divorce risks and humbling responsibilities. Gilbert’s memoir is ultimately a clear-eyed celebration of love with all the complexity and consequence that real love, in the real world, actually entails.

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