Leftovers can be exciting!

So you know I’ve been trying to branch out by trying new flavors … not just for dinner but for bbq’s as well, hoping to prove that eating healthy is yummy! There are plenty of skeptics out there but come over to the dark side, I promise you won’t regret it 😉

My new go-to dip is cucumber salsa – people stuff their faces and about 5 scoops in I hear “what is this… it’s awesome!”. Just note that you should really use English cucumbers. The last 2 times I have but the 3rd time I picked up regular cucumbers … let’s just say it became a soup! Regular cucumbers are full of so much water; I had to drain the salsa before serving it. Even 1 day later (I prepped the day earlier), having 2 drains, and serving it up in smaller bowls … each bowl was filled 1/2 way with liquid after an hour 😦 Spend the extra $1 and buy an English cucumber.

Next on deck .. chicken wings! You don’t have to make hot wings/fatty ranch for dipping or greasy fried wings for football Sunday, check these out – no breading, no “bad for you” ingredients, just 100% yumminess! I forget the site I found this recipe on so here is the check list:
To make apprx 24 wings –
2 cups lime juice (1 large bottle)
4 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
2 tsp crushed red pepper (use more or less depending on your tolerance of heat!)
4 tsp minced garlic (I used 3 medium garlic cloves OR you can buy pre-minced garlic & measure … either is fine!)
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 cups olive oil
MIX everything in a large bowl, pour over chicken, and marinate for 30 min-2 hrs
We grilled them or you can bake them … enjoy!

Ahhhh, the pasta salad. It’s such a familiar dish that you don’t even have to tell people what’s all in it … all you say is “there will be a pasta salad” and you know it will be devoured.  I don’t know what it is about this comfort food but everyone likes it.  This version is: 1 box of low carb rotini pasta (Dream Fields / black box), 1 medium “summer sausage” log cubed into even chunks, frozen corn (microwavable steam bag, cook for 6 min & let it cool), 1 large block of cheese cubed into even chunks (use your favorite cheese!), and roasted red peppers (I had a jar in my fridge already opened, may as well use them!), and top with Italian salad dressing (1/2 at prep time and 1/2 before serving it … mix well!).
Cook the pasta FIRST, drain/let it cool … then start slicing and dicing the ingredients. Once the pasta is cooled, combine ingredients into a large bowl & stir 🙂 EASY


Now I’m just going to overwhelm you with a ton of photos … recipes will be in links!

IMG_7886 Tater tots! Toss tots with hot sauce, crumbled blue cheese, chopped celery and diced chicken.  I left the chicken out because I used this recipe as a side dish to smoked sausages … it was out cheat night 😉

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steak with french onion sauce! We have mostly red wine in our collection so I bought this cute picnic white wine cup; it was perfect for the recipe so if you are not a big wine drinker, look for one of these guys. Also have no fear if you can’t fine veal consomme … I used beef stock and it turned out a-okay 😉 Since the main dish took some extra energy (it was difficult but you have to keep your eyes on it!) I opted for canned green beans and frozen/oven baked bread sticks. An easy meal that you could order from a steak house … at your own kitchen table, LOVE!

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It was cooler last week and I busted out my immersion blender to whip …er, rather blend up some sweet potato soup. It’s from my favorite magazine, Cooking Light. Do yourself a favor and buy one of these guys! Rather than pouring hot things into a blender and risk burning yourself just keep everything in 1 large pot and blend together. I paired a yummy smoked gouda grilled cheese sandwich and the dinner was perfect. In with the new … you don’t have to use Kraft singles for grilled cheese! I love using new cheeses each time we make grilled cheese – yes, a good cheese will cost a few more dollars but it’s so worth it as a splurge meal.


Saw this on an episode of Barefoot Contessa and it couldn’t have been easier! Cripsy mustard chicken and cheesy grits (again I opted for microwavable veggie since the 2 other items took some energy). Another must have gadget, I love my pint sized food processor. It’s easy to store since it’s small and it’s perfect for our family (there’s only 2 of us) however if you only want to spend $30 and have a larger family – just make recipes in small batches & combine in a large bowl, you have to dump most mixtures into a bowl anyway! The grits will need your attention as it must be stirred every few minutes as to not burn on the bottom of the pot, it is an easy recipe though. I used those ‘5 minute’ grits – just not the instant (comes in packets), you don’t have to buy anything crazy. Trust the recipe and use 1/2 & 1/2, the grits are beyond creamy. These are 2 yummy recipes you can impress your guests with … hello, holiday season is around the corner!

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Okay these 2 dinners are buddies … one night it was garlic shrimp & potato/onion pouches and the other was meatloaf with the same pouches.  I made 2 pouches to be grilled on the same night so I could have a plan ahead dinner 🙂 Who says everything has to be cooked fresh each night?! Yeah so this meatloaf was the bomb dot com. Yes, I went there 😉 A little over 2lbs and we still have leftovers! I have found a dish that has outsmarted my husband, lol! I made/cooked the meatloaf earlier in the day (Friday morning) and reheated it for dinner; I hid the leftovers in the back of the fridge so we’d have dinner for Sunday … he had no idea! Plus we still have 1/3 of it left. Leftovers can be fun, take these open-face meatloaf sandwiches: toasted bread, thinly sliced tomatoes, meatloaf (reheated first), a fried eggs, and ketchup or gravy.

IMG_7968 Pizza night! My husband got spicy Italian sausage and I got mild … everything else was the same: sliced red bell pepper, moz & parm shredded cheese, sauce… done. I love pizza night & trying new toppings!

IMG_8023 Okay this was our splurge meal last night … a 3lb brisket ($20!) which was actually a good deal but it’s the smallest guy I could find so I took it. Into the slow cooker it went and 6 hours later, dinner was ready. We had leftover pasta salad and veggies … I love clearing out the fridge.

Last but not least … brats simmered with onions and beer. One of my husband’s favorites (that he actually cooks! I’m not allowed to help w/ this one… okay 😉 !)
Simmer for 30 minutes and throw the brats on the grill to crisp the skin … pour the leftover ‘sauce’ (beer/onions) into a large dish, place grilled brats on top, and let people serve themselves. Oh, I should mention we cooked this up for a bbq (along with the pasta salad & cucumber salsa). I also made burgers and they were devoured. We had 2 sausages leftover so of course we took the cheesy grits and cubed the sausages for breakfast the next day. I LOVE LEFTOVERS.

It’s been a good few weeks of leftovers … It was a bigger grocery trip than usual HOWEVER we had and still have meals ready to go. Whether it’s making over a dish (meatloaf turned into sandwiches) or just throwing things together (sausages in grits), don’t think leftovers have to be boring. Same for dishes that you’ve made 10 times … try a new sauce or seasoning. Making something seem “new” can make dinner or any meal for that matter, exciting!

Slowly introducing cool-weather comfort foods

Finally. It’s finally October however that doesn’t mean the weather is cooling down any 😦 We had an enjoyable weekend with windows open and the AC off… today it’s sticky-humid and 72 at 8:30am, a high of 90 is expected. Just when I wanted to start decorating for Halloween/Autumn the weather gods turn! I love heat and I love sun but I’d take a real fall before winter gets here – it’s supposed to be a doozie again this year. So with the tease of cooler temps I started to introduce new comfort foods to the weekly menu.

How about stuffing covered baked pork chops.Yes you read that right. Since stuffing is a no-no item with our new eating ways, I was missing it. I think it’s overlooked 99% of the year and then everyone goes crazy with it at Thanksgiving, it needs to be used more often and this is a great way to incorporate it throughout the year.

Egg wash, flour, egg wash, coat in uncooked stuffing – seriously it’s that easy! Bake it and cover with yummy gravy (it’s absolutely needed or else you might chip a tooth on the stuffing, lol). Add some veggies (steam bag, cheat!) and instant mashed potatoes (added lots of shredded cheese, another cheat!). I’ll tell ya once again – if you have a “labor intensive” feature for dinner then opt for easy side items, in my case steam-in-a-bag veggies and instant potatoes. Use your own extras or seasonings to add some creativity and flavor. Although 2 pork chops took maybe 10 minutes to prep but dredging is messy which is why I picked easy side items.

Baked fish was on order as well this past week, I’ve made it once before – it’s a Rachael Ray recipe. Giving another nod to comfort foods I whipped up a mushroom & orzo dish, this one I’ve made 2 times before (1st time grand reveal at Christmas), the 2nd time I used whole wheat orzo and it was disgusting … the texture was not appreciated by myself or my husband, it was like cardboard! SOGGY CARDBOARD! I went for regular orzo this time and it was just as yummy as I remember the 1st time was. It’s a keeper.  I’ve also started using frozen pearl onions, do yourself a favor and copy me. Peeling a pearl onion is a pain in the neck x 12 (how many I originally used).

I had to turn it in to a casserole because I cooked it in the morning and reheated it for dinner.


Who’s up for a 2 pot meal? EASY CLEAN UP!!! I heart the Pioneer Woman and her yummy creations. This recipe was on her show a few weeks ago when it was still 90 degrees and I was waiting for the right time to make this. Friday it was beginning to cool off and I knew the weekend would be nice as well; we always have leftover pasta so I wanted to enjoy it over the weekend too; anyway it was perfect! We got comfy on the couch with this piled high in a bowl, then there was silence. A sure bet that the meal is delish. Ok so back to the easiest dish ever; the pasta is cooked in 1 pot and the sauce/chicken/moz cheese goes into another. The cutest thing EVER at the grocery store were these mozzarella balls – you could either fight with the huge ball of moz and slice/dice it into small pieces to scatter around the sauce OR buy these lil fellas! Same price and none of the fuss. Yes of course it made plenty of leftovers which we enjoyed on Sunday, we needed a meal to comfort an embarrassing Steelers loss … while it didn’t make us feel any better about that game our stomachs were at least satisfied.


At the beginning of last week since it was bea-u-tious and I figured to make a fun, tropical inspired steak. The sun was shining and screamed “MANGOES!”. I found the most amazingly juicy mango and was incredibly pleased with how much “meat” was on that sucker. I’ve finally figured out how to slice mangoes the right way, thanks to The Kitchen (TV show).


Here it goes – I used the mango mixture on top of the rice and steak, 2 for 1 deal.  All it is, is mango/jalapeno/cilantro/lime juice. DONE.  While the rice cooked I tossed in cilantro and lime juice to boost the flavors.  Once plated I topped the rice with mango and same for the steak, add a side salad and it really looks like something you’d pay a good penny for at a restaurant. Hubby is home for dinner for the next few weeks due to a training class he’s in right now so he actually has “normal” work hours. I love it and am living in the moment each night we get to have dinner together – no planning what can be reheated and not turn in to rubber, it’s pretty fantastic.

Is fall really around the corner?

This past weekend was a tease of fall weather; it was 95 on Friday and Saturday morning – a shocking 60! Talk about a drastic change. It remained cool through Sunday thanks to some rain and a slight breeze but Monday morning, BAM, right back up to 87. Of course people of this city freaked out and I saw some scarves, fuzzy boots, and velor track outfits. I mean really… scarves? I don’t mean cute or fashionable scarves I’m talking bulky winter scarves. *face palm*

With the reminder of fall being around the corner I was excited to see a slow cooker feature in a diabetic magazine while waiting in the check out line at the grocery store. I picked up a copy because honestly I have about 4 slow cooker recipes that are my ‘go to’; it’d be nice to add some variety and find some new ‘go to’s’. There are some breakfast recipes which look interesting, the only down side is that they take 2-3 hours so you can’t cook them overnight. I don’t see myself waking up at 5AM to start breakfast so I can eat at 8AM. Maybe if we have overnight guests I’ll cook something the night before and reheat it in the morning however who likes rubbery, leftover eggs? I’ll have to find a way to create those meals. There were also great tips if you whip up your own recipe; protein to liquid ratio, % of starches to liquid, etc. Overall I’m ready to use and abuse my slow cooker this coming fall season.



Speaking of my slow cooker, a classic in this house was Wednesday’s meal, stuffed cabbage. I followed that recipe for ingredient purposes only but I also added 1 large can of crushed tomatoes and 1 more can of tomato soup. To the meat mixture I added maybe 1/2 cup of crushed tomatoes (strained w/ a slotted spoon), I didn’t want the meat to dry out since I used lean ground turkey.  To the slow cooker I poured 1 can of soup, placed the cabbage rolls, poured the 2nd can of soup and the remaining crushed tomatoes (including all liquid).  They turned out so good! My house smelled amazing and dinner was super yummy 🙂

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We had shrimp fried rice …er… quinoa! Last Monday I cooked most of dinner that morning! I have 1 hr from the time I get home from teaching lessons to leaving for band rehearsal, clearly not enough time to prep and cook an entire meal. When I got home I threw the egg rolls in the microwave (hey, if the cooking directions offer oven and microwave instructions, opt for the faster one when time is not on your side), pan cooked the shrimp (which takes maybe 4 minutes?), and dinner was ready! Oh yeah, microwave the quinoa for a few minutes and cover it with a damp paper towel to create steam. A quick and healthy dinner, a much better option than fast food!


I’ve been on a mushroom kick and last Thursday I found this yummy recipe. I had a leftover mixture of mushrooms/bacon from pork chops the week before and when I saw a honey-dijon chicken recipe topped with bacon and mushrooms, it was like the recipe was waiting to be found.


Who can resist a good burger? I’m going to dub this one as the Thanksgiving burger. At first I wasn’t really sure of the ingredients and how it would taste but hello, it’s a Rachael Ray recipe so you know it’s gonna be good! I forgot to take an ‘after’ pic but click on the link and you’ll see it there 🙂 . These were super easy to prep and I cooked them on the stove. Also don’t be turned off by the grainy mustard (as I was) – I cut the amount in half so there would just be a hint of it in the cranberry sauce. Basically, it was delish. This is a keeper! Oh, english muffins are the buns (toast them so they don’t become soggy!), so fun! It kept the burger light.


Last night’s meal was on point! Again, having only 1 hr to eat on Monday’s means getting dinner ready in the morning. These chops were so easy to put together, maybe 20 minutes to prep and cook (totally doable if you need a quick dinner after working a long day!). Since I’d be working when things would need to be reheated I left detailed instructions for my husband to get dinner going, at 4:20 he preheated the oven to bake roasted red potatoes (from the freezer section), after a few minutes he put in the pork chops, the remaining 6 minutes were used to steam veggies in the microwave. I love those steamer bags but these are plain veggies, no extra fatty or sodium filled sauces. Sprinkle some seasoning on the veggies and boom, a lovely side dish. Dinner was ready by 5:05 (I get home at 5pm) and devoured by 5:40.

Don’t ignore the freezer section, you can find some yummy things in those aisles.

I think I forgot to write about these mini taco cuties last week. So easy and perfect for game days! Use won ton wrappers (I used 2 partially layered on top of each other, for each mini taco), fill with browned/seasoned meat (I used regular ground turkey + chili seasoning + diced onions), top with shredded cheese, and bake for 8 minutes (or until won ton wrappers are golden brown) at 350 degrees. Top with salsa once they’re done! These were scooped up so quickly so if you’re the chef for the day be sure to taste your creation before serving to guests!

Go ahead, judge my cart!

I’m baaaaaack … with new recipes too!

Let me start with an inspiring story first – while grocery shopping last week an older man in a wheelchair (one of those motorized ones with a basket) stopped me in the produce section and asked for my help. At first I thought he just needed me to reach something for him but then he informed me that he figured I was a good person to ask about eating healthy considering my cart had no junk in it and I’m skinny. His back story, he was a bit overweight and went into the ER for shortness of breath, found out he was experiencing congestive heart failure also tested for pre-type 2 diabetes, ended up staying in the ER for a week. So wow, right? He then handed me the grocery list his daughter made for him apparently food suggested by his doctor – it was a good start but not informative; he literally had what the doctor suggested (individual items, nothing that made a meal), this man honestly didn’t know what to look for on nutrition labels… this is where I proved useful. I gave him my back story, really my husband’s; then I helped him put together healthy lunches and snack options. Of course I suggested my blog for dinner recipes 🙂 I told him to find a nutritionist or a dietitian with his doctor’s office so he can be educated on what to buy because eating lettuce wrapped sandwiches is going to get old real fast; he needs to know how to grocery shop. I gave him a little pep talk but also warned him that my first shopping trip was 2 hours after reading all of the labels; he understood it’d be a learning process.

I give credit to this guy for taking action on wanting to become a healthier version of himself. He had a fantastic sense of humor and I could tell that he loved his family, it scared him to be in the ER for that long. So after swapping out orange juice (his orange juice was like my husband’s Kool-Aid; multiple gallons each week) for the Crystal Light squeeze packs we continued with a few other items and I introduced him to bread thins – his daughter told him ‘no carbs’ so I let him know our brains need some type of carbs, just don’t go eating an entire loaf of Italian bread with your spaghetti 😉 Everything in moderation.

I’m not looking to change people’s lives but it felt great to help that man (he gave me permission to write about our meeting). It also proves that people really do judge your cart, ha! Take a minute and judge your cart; is it full of junk? If so, what can you swap out? I challenge you to swap out at least 5 items for a healthier version (i.e. white bread for whole grain thins; or fatty ground beef for lean ground turkey). Eventually you’ll go straight to the new version and never look back!


Ok, my recipes for the last week!


Panko/paprika/s&p baked chicken with cheesy rotini & peas (left the bacon out)


tortilla chicken casserole (I marinated chicken breasts OVER NIGHT with Fiesta chicken rub)


Sirloin burger (a tasty cheat!) with red/green peppers & onions + Worcestershire + dijon mixed in; topped with guac + tomato + cheddar


chicken Parmesan + spaghetti


Philly cheesesteaks + veggie salad (grape tomato, corn, ice burg + dijon/EVOO/s&p)
— there were supposed to be red pepers on that cheesesteak however upon taking the “lid” of 2 peppers I had purchased, I was greeted with:
If you see this the pepper is moldy! Even if the pepper doesn’t look moldy, the bacteria is already there – don’t just slice out the seeds and then eat the pepper… YUCK!

Also a reason as to why you should save receipts, the peppers were purchased 1 day prior which means they were already bad in the store; fresh produce typically lasts for a week if stored properly (by the store & by you).






I ran out of ketchup.


My parents would be shocked.

I was saddened by the discovery.

My husband just laughed.

At 3:30pm yesterday I realized I didn’t have enough ketchup to make a bbq sauce; I didn’t even have enough to make 1/2 of the recipe. I had maybe 2 TBSP of ketchup remaining and that surely wasn’t going to cut it. There was a day when my mother always had a back up bottle in the pantry because I literally drank ketchup.  I too began stock piling ketchup, buying the mega 4 pack at Sam’s however as of lately with all of my new cooking adventures, I find myself using less and less of this fabulous condiment. I mean, to give you an idea of my ketchup addiction: I wouldn’t even touch a steak without ketchup – I don’t care if I was at home or at a 4 star restaurant. I could give a hoot about the eye rolls in my direction. I LOVE KETCHUP. My favorite dinner is chicken nuggets with too much ketchup for every bite.

You know you’re obsessed when:

This is the first time I’ve ever run out of ketchup and I’m sure it’ll happen again but it made me stop and think – I hardly buy ketchup anymore, it’s not on my weekly shopping list anymore… maybe monthly if that. Wow, what a difference a year makes. Yes, in 1 year I’ve almost kicked my addiction of ketchup. I still use it but as sauce bases or for the obvious hot dog dinner.

I digress; hubby picked up an emergency bottle on the way home from work and dinner continued.

burger recipe here                                                                       green bean salad recipe here

A ‘montage’ of pictures for the last 2 weeks of meals …
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slow cooker ribs                                                       meatball subs – leftover from a spaghetti & meatball night 😉

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mac n’ cheese & pork chops w/ caramelized onions/apples               slow cooker stuffed peppers


potato salad (Martha, you disappointed me… this was not very good; from her “Great Food Fast” book)

IMG_6521 PIZZA NIGHT! No recipe… just used my imagination 🙂

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stuffed portobello caps (George Foreman recipe)                                pork chops … try this yummy marinade
goat cheese, evoo, black pepper, pesto, & I added tomatoes

no clever title

Friday was put off until Saturday … I knew Sunday would be a waste (FOOTBALL!) … so bacon crab cakes were made on Monday.

I’m glad I moved them because this dinner took some time; be prepared to spend a few hours in the kitchen. The recipe wasn’t so much a difficult one but I found it was a pain to actually make/form the crab cakes.  That’s the step we lost our cool (Josh and myself) … I yelled at my Rachael Ray book. This is the furthest from her 30 minute meals, it’s full of recipes she made for an entire year at her house.  Don’t get me wrong, the crab cakes were really delicious but for some reason they didn’t want to stay together while coating them with their flour/egg/panko bath. Josh’s idea: dump those ingredients in the bowl and mix like a meatloaf. Whatever, I was hungry and about 5 minutes away from heating up leftovers! His idea worked pretty well actually; I think we used too much crab meat (who knew it was possible?!) so it was rather lumpy. This is why 2 heads are better than 1 … I also told him that I loved cooking but I was beginning to not want to eat what I prepared. So he’s been helping out when able and it’s made a huge difference just in the last few dinners already.


I chopped what I could before teaching on Monday night which proved to be a good idea considering how long everything else took.

IMG_3302  I sported my beach themed apron (courtesy of mama H); Josh sported his mainly HD apron, bottle holder & opener included.  Parmesan coated asparagus and fries were tasty and easy sides. The fries were actually leftover from our Saturday outing; put them in the oven/broiler and reheat for 5-ish minutes. Oh, we followed the green box for baking the crab cakes. I can’t stand frying on the stove… such a mess & not healthy.

IMG_3303 These are scenes from various steps in the recipe. Finished product on the bottom right. Yes, we used the fake crab meat; sorry but at $12 for 6 oz of the real stuff… our budget didn’t allow for that. Deal with it.

Last night was a special treat; we were given ground venison as a thank you for watching a friend’s dog so I wanted to incorporate that ingredient to this week’s menu. We contemplated a meatloaf but as Josh informed me, venison is a very lean meat so in a large amount like a meatloaf, it would be pretty dry.  We decided on venison burgers … really tasty! I’ve had venison steaks before but never burgers. It was interesting because I like burgers on the moo-ing side; you can not cook venison like that, it has to be “done”. So as far as “doneness”, it was a little tough for me but still had good flavor. Josh cooked them on the grill because he said it’ll smell funny in the house for days if we use the broiler.

IMG_3304 Bacon was a good call on this one, since venison is gamey tasting, bacon added a “meaty” flavor.  We used turkey bacon as a healthier (and cheaper!) option.  Potato wedges again for a side, I needed to use them before they went bad… and who doesn’t love a potato?! Geno NEVER smiles and he was doing a lot of it last night (I think he was trying to be cute and hopefully get a taste of that venison!). Josh pulled out the mega grill tools, brief case included!

IMG_3305Josh getting the ground venison ready. This was a new scent for the sous chefs and they clearly wanted a taste! They like to linger in the kitchen but last night they were attached to Josh’s leg in hopes that he’d drop some.

IMG_3306Finished burger! Top them with all the fixins’… onions, pickles, tomatoes, etc.  The glimpse of a salad you see in the corner is from the deli counter. Don’t forget about the tasty options you can buy prepared from the store. Listen, we don’t eat those salads every week but they are nice treats to sporadically enjoy; most of them are made with a mayo dressing, clearly not the healthiest choice. I know we have 2 more for this week’s menu: cole slaw and a macaroni salad. We probably won’t visit the deli counter for another year, I don’t think we’ve purchased any since we moved here in November ’12.



Where were you? I was in my senior year of HS in government class … we just sat in awe at what we were watching on the TV (it had already been on since homeroom just let out) … soon after when it was announced that the Pentagon was hit, I think that’s when it really dawned on us … what we were watching was real.  My mom came to find me (she worked at the school) and let me know my dad’s work building was being evacuated due to a fire in a stairwell (later we found out it wasn’t related, just a freak accident), however he could see the smoke from the Pentagon from his building. It was scary. The rest of the school year wasn’t the same. Students who were of Middle Eastern decent didn’t come to school for a few weeks; the girls who did eventually start showing up came to school in their religious attire and would then change into “American” clothes for the school day; changing back in last period.  I don’t know what their thoughts were but these events affected every student for one reason or another. I lived in the Nation’s Capital which was supposed to be the “strongest” place in America yet it took weeks, months, and years for us to begin to recover. A few months later, I remember taking a band trip into New York and as we drove into the city, looking at the sky line of where the towers once stood, you could hear a pin drop on that coach bus. Every student was pressed against the windows just staring because it was the first time that most of had seen an essential part of NY was no longer there. Now that, was surreal.