Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

We celebrated our Christmas with the kids last night; it has been great to see Paige a couple of times this week, now that she is home from school for a month. We will all be going to see Dave's mom for lunch tomorrow - wanted to get some pics of the kids to put in the cute holiday frame we bought for her. I realized a few weeks ago that we wouldn't have an opportunity to take pics until Paige was home for Christmas break, so our family Christmas card didn't happen this year - I may do a New Year's card to send out- better late than never!

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is going to Christmas Eve service at our church, and last night Dave, Jace and I attended the 9pm modern worship service. It was some great music, all traditional carols with a modern edge. The service ended with the congregation lighting candles and singing "Silent Night" - it is so easy to get caught up in all the flurry of the holiday, and this always brings me right back to the heart of Christmas.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful day, and you were able to be with those you love. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Looks like Maxine and I have something in common this Christmas... (At least I didn't post one of her cynical male-bashing quotes, or something about middle age and saggy boobs)

Merry (almost) Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

I'll Be Home for Christmas...

Bing Crosby's recording of this Christmas classic is truly my absolute favorite holiday song; it was recorded in 1943 during war-time, when many soldiers weren't able to be with their families for Christmas, and the line "if only in my dreams" was their difficult reality.

I think we must have had a recording of this particular song when I was growing up, as well. I have a memory of sitting by myself in the living room, with just the Christmas tree lights on (all green lights that year), listening to and singing this song. It makes me nostalgic, and even a little melancholy, to hear it every year; makes me think of Christmases past, and all of the memories over the years.

I'm fortunate to be able to see almost all of my family every year around Christmas, since we all get together the weekend before the actual holiday. Christmas 2009 with my parents, siblings and our extended families was a wonderful time. We missed Thom, who was working, and also didn't get to see as much of Susan and her family because of Landon's basketball tournament that kept them away until Saturday evening.

Saturday night we ate a wonderful dinner, opened presents and just generally enjoyed each others' company. Here are some of the highlights of Gasaway Family Christmas 2009:

Now we're back home and I'm enjoying this short work week! My Christmas shopping is complete, and we're ready to celebrate Christmas with the kids in a few days. Happy holidays to everyone, and more Christmas updates soon.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Julie and Julia (and Nancy... ha!)

In my post yesterday I mentioned that I rented the movie "Julie and Julia"; I really enjoyed it, one of my favorite movies in the past couple of years. If you haven't seen it, be prepared for a typical feel-good Nora Ephron flick (think You've Got Mail or Sleepless in Seattle) - but who doesn't like to feel good sometimes? I do!

The movie bounces back and forth between Julie Powell's story and the story of Julia Child, and how she came to be one of America's most beloved culinary figures. Julia Child's story takes place in the 1940s and 50s, while Julie is a late-20-something in current day NYC, who had grand ambitions of being a journalist but has instead ended up in a thankless job as a customer service rep for a local government office.

Here's the story in a nutshell - Julie is a foodie, and loves to cook as a stress-reliever. So, she decides to embark on a year-long quest to make every one of the 500+ dishes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in only 365 days. She starts a blog to detail her daily cooking experiments, and over the year she amasses a huge following, which leads to instant fame and multiple book, TV and other offers! And really, in this day and age of instant reality celebrity, is it that surprising? Anyway, cute movie, and now I'm looking forward to reading the book (yes, that's her book, the one this movie was based on, in part) as I had some unanswered questions about the movie.

Anyhoo, the story captured and held my attention in a new way, since I've started coming into my own (somewhat) in the kitchen! Of course most of what she did was way over my ability level - lots of extravagant dishes that had many, many steps, any of which would almost certainly cause a disaster in my kitchen. But it was a great movie, very interesting. Did you know that Julia Child, one of the most well-known cooks/chefs of our time, did not learn how to cook until age 37?!? Ha! I'm only a year behind her, at 38; who knows what I'll accomplish!

But seriously, I have a long way to go, even to master cooking for my family and a few friends. Although I have learned how to prepare several yummy main dishes over the past few months, I really have not yet attempted to orchestrate an entire MEAL at one time. Dave is a wonderful cook, and as he has said many times, it is the timing of everything that is really one of the most crucial things about preparing a meal. Watching him in action is pretty impressive - he is very natural at prepping, chopping, sauteing, and all those things that look so easy until you TRY it. But I'm getting there, with continued practice! You know, practice makes things perfect - or at least makes them edible!

I've found all kinds of recipes on the internet, and I may be getting a cookbook for Christmas, from our family gift exchange at my folks' house this weekend. That was one of the suggestions I gave on my list. Hopefully it isn't a Julia Child cookbook, I don't think I'm ready for her yet. Anybody have any favorite cookbooks that you would recommend I buy? I'm open to suggestions. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things...

Ok, so it isn't really a Christmas song, but it does speak of winter, snowflakes, mittens and all those things that make you think of this time of year. I have had a great week so far, and it is only Wednesday!

There's nothing big to report, life is just plugging along. But as I sat at home last night I realized that some little things have made me happy this week, and I should take the time to make a list of them. I'm a worrier by nature, and my first inclination is to worry about things that might not even happen! But I try not to do that, and sometimes I just need to take a deep breath and time to be thankful for the small things. Here are a few of mine that I thought of last night:
  1. Candy Cane Hershey Kisses - Have you tried these little delightful pieces of Christmas joy?? Yummmm. I meant to stick a few in my lunch box today, to enjoy at work. Now I guess I'll just have to eat double when I get home tonight. Ha!!
  2. Guilty pleasure magazine subscription - I just received my second issue of Rolling Stone, and I am so excited! The only thing I've subscribed to in the last few years is SHAPE magazine, and let's face it - that's not a guilty pleasure, that is me thinking if I get this &*#% magazine every month it is going to compel me to thumb through it and actually DO some of the routines! I love music, and always read our friend Garry's RS issues when we're visiting their family. So when Jace had a magazine fundraiser a couple of months ago, I decided I would just subscribe to it myself.
  3. Alone time and a chick flick - With Dave traveling a bit more each week, and Jace at his dad's a couple of nights a week, I rented "Julie and Julia" last night and watched it while cleaning the kitchen and doing laundry. Great movie (more on that later) and just a relaxing evening.
  4. New camera - I received an early Christmas gift, a new Canon camera! My husband won some award points through work, and generously split them with me (what a sweetie!) so I could get a new point-and-shoot camera. It arrived yesterday, and I am so excited about the quality of pictures, so much better than the ones I've had.
  5. Christmas classics on TV - One of my favorite childhood memories of Christmas is the television specials - Frosty the Snowman, the Burl Ives' Rudolph special, with the Bumble, the Land of Misfit Toys, etc. I love those, and always like to try to catch them each year. This year Dave turned me on to some old black-and-white Christmas classics for the first time as well - "Holiday Inn" (Bing Crosby and Danny Kay) and "White Christmas" are the two I've watched so far.

Just taking time to think about those little things puts me in a good mood. I have so much to be thankful for - yep, all these little things, but more importantly my family, friends and health - and this year more than ever I am committed to keeping that in mind.

Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Deck the Halls

Ahhh, it is that time of year- in addition to the shopping crunch we also have to squeeze numerous parties into a three week time frame, all the in the name of holiday cheer- and this year is no exception. Last week's hectic schedule included two midweek work-related parties, and then both my and Dave's work parties were on Friday night! Ack!

Dave dressed extra casual for our Christmas parties this year; he, his boss and two other coworkers had seen KISS (KISS Alive: Thirty-five!) in KC the night before, and had made plans to don their attire for our evening's Christmas festivities. I was glad they got to go to the concert, sounded like a great time and KISS put on quite a show. (Plus now I won't feel too bad about plans to go see a concert with friends in March!)

Dave's boss has a great basement, equipped with all kinds of games, and this year we had a blast with Rock Band - like Guitar Hero, but with lead guitar, bass guitar, drums and vocals - big fun!

Saturday night we enjoyed dinner at friends' Carl and Pam's home, with other dock friends Tom and Christy. Dinner was scrumptious, conversation was hilarious (between Carl and Tom's stories, we spent the evening holding our sides!) and Dave got to see his buddy, Jack the wonder dog!

In addition to a delicious dinner, Pam also had a ton of desserts, including MY favorite, cannolis! YUM!!

I'm back to work full-time tomorrow, and hoping to be back to working out again soon as well. All of this holiday food is not conducive to weight maintenance or loss! That's all for now, lots to do before heading back to work tomorrow.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Shop 'Til You Drop!

Well, it is less than 20 days before Christmas and I'm happy to report that I've already completed a lot of my shopping. I wish I could be more like those people who shop for Christmas throughout the year, finding bargains and tucking things back- but, I'm not. I'm more the type to wait (procrastinate) until a week or two before Christmas and then rush around getting things at the last minute. But this year has been better, due in part to a couple of things.

First, since I've been off work for the last three weeks, I've had plenty of time to plan and follow through on all of my "to do's", including Christmas shopping. I've done a little bit at a time, here and there, and it has been so nice to check things off the list and know that I still have 2-3 weeks left in which to finish the rest.

Second, my shopping hasn't been dependent on waiting on a particular paycheck to buy things, as it has been in the past. With our new budgeting system, we have a "gifts" fund that I can shop from, and not worry that I'm spending money that we might need for bills, etc. Because we put so much into each fund/category each month, the money is already there and is allocated just for gifts. It has made it a lot less stressful, having money set aside monthly for these once a year purchases like Christmas gifts.

This week I'm excited about going back to work; I worked half days last week, and started catching up on things there. I'm also looking forward to Jace's and my participation in our annual bike celebration at church this week. They asked for donations of $50 to put towards buying bikes, and then we will all gather on Tuesday night to help assemble the bikes with some kids from the local Boys and Girls Club. When we're done assembling the bikes, the kids each get to take one home. I think our church has done this for the past three years, but this is the first year that we've donated/participated in this project.

On the cooking front, I fixed a pot roast this weekend; it was the second time I've made one. Substituted onion soup mix for the brown gravy mix that I used the first time I made it, and it was much better (less salty) this time. We had roast and mashed potatoes for dinner last night, and polished off the remainder today. Great comfort food on a cold and rainy December day!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Here's to you, Mom.

Another year has rolled around; I think of you often, but especially today, November 30th, the anniversary of your death. I think about what we've missed, without you in our lives. And this year I've thought of you more often, as I've stepped out of my comfort zone and started making my way around the kitchen. At age 38, it was "better late than never" as they say; but it was just one of the changes I've felt compelled to make in my life this year. If I'm honest with myself, I guess I've worn my "non-cook" badge throughout my life with pride (i.e. "I'm a liberated, non-traditional woman") but also with some resignation. When people would ask, "What do you mean, you've never learned how to cook?" I would joke that I knew how to make the basics - a hearty bowl of oatmeal, a frozen pizza, a few appetizers for gatherings -- just enough things to get by.

But sometimes, with friends and coworkers, I would find myself talking about how my mom was an awesome cook, and I tell them about your homemade bread and doughnuts that you made for us every week, and your amazing garden with all the fruits and vegetables. I would go on to explain how you died when I was 11, before you could teach me how to cook. And how my stepmom, although a very strong and courageous woman (taking on 4 stepkids in addition to her own 3-year-old daughter), was just not much of a cook, by her own admission. So, there were my excuses. Then during my adult/married life, I have been fortunate to have a spouse who liked/likes to cook - and that just made it all the easier for me to avoid the kitchen!

One of the changes I've made this year was to face the notion, the self-perception, and yes, even the cop-out that "I'm not a cook" and start trying some things that I've basically avoided until now. The first time I really cooked a full meal was on Easter weekend, with everyone in St. C for the holiday. I made Dave's spaghetti recipe, and it actually turned out pretty good - and everyone was very surprised that I could cook!

I've continued to try new recipes every week or two, and some of them have been great, while others have just been okay. But I find that I'm enjoying the process as much as the end results; I find myself thinking of you many times while I'm going through recipes or gathering ingredients. One of the first things I made was a pot roast, with carrots and potatoes, because that was always one of my favorite meals that you made. I'm proud of myself, and I think you would be proud of me, that I'm learning to cook after all this time. Making wonderful meals for your family was one of your specialties, and I know you would have loved to have been here to pass on that knowledge and skill to all of us. So here's to you, Mom - miss you and love you, and thinking of you today, especially.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Turkey Day '09

It was a hectic (as always) holiday with my family; great to get together and see my parents, grandparents, siblings/in-laws and, of course, all the kiddos. We missed youngest brother Thom, who had to work, but everyone else was able to make it home.

Just a few pics to post, for the family members that read my blog. I'm so excited that I will be getting a new (and improved) camera for Christmas this year. My current one really doesn't get the job done, I had lots of pics that were too blurry to post.

We headed home Friday and have enjoyed the rest of our holiday weekend getting some things done around the house. I'm hoping to start back to work next week with a few half-days, I'm ready to be back up and going.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Doggone Bored...

I wish I had something exciting or even halfway interesting to write about, but alas, I've been pretty much homebound and life is darn boring right now. I could tell you all about the annoying women on The View yesterday, or about the hours on end of HGTV I've been watching... I could not stay at home all the time, I would die of boredom. Of course if I were feeling better, there are many things I could be doing - I could finish painting the deck, paint the spare bedroom, clean out the loft, trim the ivy in the front garden/walkway - but if I were able to do all those, then I should already be back at work! That's what the doc said - that I may want to go back to work sooner than the 4 weeks, because sometimes home and all those things I "should be doing" can be more taxing than work, especially since my job is mostly sitting anyway.

I have a follow-up appointment with my doctor today, and I'm driving there- woo hoo! No driving for the past week and a half, so I am ready to go! Technically the doctor said no driving for two weeks (ok, 2-3 weeks) because any sudden movements (slamming on the brakes, etc) can tear the stitches, but hey - it is just two days shy of two weeks, so I'm gonna go with it!

It was great to have my parents both visit last week; true to form, my dad spent an entire afternoon cleaning out the garage. He loves to organize, and went to work on the shelves, organizing the tools, and sweeping every nook and cranny. I emailed Dave and told him we'd be able to eat off the floor in the garage when Dad was done. Seriously, the man cleans like no one else I know. Then before he left Saturday morning he gave me a walk-through of where everything was, so we would know when we needed something. (Thanks, Dad!)

One of the best things about their visit was just the chance to relax and talk, and spend some time together here at our home. The majority of our gatherings are at my parents' home, with 6 siblings and all of our families; those are some of the best times, and I treasure them, but this was nice to just visit one on one. And here at our house, my parents had a chance to spend some time with our dogs in their own environment too, and see just how calm they are here at home. Usually the dogs are all keyed up when our big family is together; with several dogs outside at my parents' home- it is a zoo!

But here at home they are quiet, and I think Mom and Dad both got a kick out of how well-behaved they are in the house. Of course Rocky wasn't going to give up his chair for anyone, but he was happy to share with them:

We are heading to my folks' house later this week for Thanksgiving, and it will be a great time. I'm trying to figure out just how we're going to get the dogs in the Liberty, since it has a much smaller rear space than the 4-Runner did. But we'll make it, somehow! Better close now, and get to work on those desserts for Thursday.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chick Flicks, Thanksgiving Recipes and other Stay-At-Home stuff.

Today was the first day that I felt pretty darn good all day. Of course it may be because I didn't try to get out and do anything, like I did on Monday and Tuesday. We made an impromptu trip to Sam's yesterday with Gail, and I quickly found myself planting my butt right on the lawn furniture while Mom and Gail chattered and shopped. I was dizzy and feeling like I might fall down if I didn't sit down, so after we cut the shopping trip short I spent the rest of the day napping. I've received several funny cards from friends and colleagues; it has been a nice surprise to walk down to the mailbox the last couple days and find that they're thinking of me!

Ok, on to the other chick flicks, per my sister Tara's reply to an earlier post:
1) The Ugly Truth (Katherine Heigl) - as already reported, it was indeed UGLY.
2) My Life in Ruins (Nia Vardalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding) - cute but predictable
3) Last Chance Harvey (Dustin Hoffman/Emma Thompson) - sweet romantic flick about a second chance at life and love; great characters; a little slow, but a good story.

The one I haven't watched yet is "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" with Matthew McConaughey; will have to watch it tomorrow before my dad gets here.

The good news about being off work is that I have ample time to prepare for Thanksgiving at my parents' home, as in what I'm going to make and bring. Dave is doing his fabulous stuffing, that has pork sausage, Granny Smith apples, walnuts and more - it is wonderful. And I think he'll do some sweet potatoe casserole as well, even though he doesn't like it - he knows it is one of my favorites! I am going to bring a dessert, a couple different types of bon bons, or truffles. Both of those sound snooty, but really they're not. The first one is an Oreo Bon Bon, which our friend Laura in KC made, and I had to have the recipe. They are cream cheese and crushed oreos blended together and made into little balls, and then dipped in melted chocolate almond bark. Soooooo yummy, and I know they'll be a hit with my chocolate lovin' family!

The other one is a Cookie Dough Truffle, which was sent to me by a friend who is a dietitian and now going to physician assistant school. She had made them for a physician gathering, and said they were so delicious it was sinful! If they're both good, I'll post the recipes on here. (If they turn out bad, then we'll assume it was the cook and you won't hear another word about them!)

Off to bed, tomorrow I have an outing of necessity - time for a visit to the hair dresser!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Happy Birthday, El Tigre!

Ok, I've found something far worse than my awful Percocet-induced dreams; Katherine Heigl's latest movie on DVD, "The Ugly Truth". We've rented four chick flicks to watch over the next few days, and I wanted to watch one of the "lighter" ones last night since we started it fairly late in the evening. Blechhhh. Let's hope the other three are better, don't know that they could be any worse.

Happy Birthday to my dad, who is 73 today and celebrating on his own since Mom is here visiting me. We talked to him this morning, and he said he has a busy day - getting the laundry caught up, (they don't let clothes accumulate for more than half a day, and it is worse now that my dad is retired. He does not adhere to the sorting of laundry by color, and I swear he runs a load if there's just three or four things, and then hangs EVERYTHING on the clothesline out back. Bath towels at my parents are like sandpaper, but more important than basic comfort is the fact that they're saving electricity, as my dad likes to remind anyone who has a comment.) feeding the horses, and just taking care of things around the house. Whatever his secret is, though, I hope all of us kids have inherited it - he's a very youthful 73.

He'll be down later this week to stay for a couple of days; they didn't have anyone to care for the horses while they were gone, so they had to split up their visits. I actually enjoy this more, since I get to spend a few days with each of them on their own.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I've been trying to describe to Dave how this pain medication is making me feel; yesterday I told him that it makes my dreams all weird and vivid. But that didn't really describe it, because I always remember my dreams, and lots of times they are very detailed. But then I woke up in the middle of a bizarre dream about 5AM this morning, where I was performing an Italian aria "Se Tu M'ami" (that's not necessarily the weird part, I really did sing in college, it was one of my favorite performance pieces when I was a vocal major) with TOO MUCH GUM in my mouth. I was literally mouthing the words as I woke up, trying to chomp through the gum! Ok, time to quit the Percocet.

My stepmom is coming to stay with me for a few days this week, she will be here later today. I have so many things I really need to do, between now and Christmas, it is hard to think that I really just need to SIT and let my insides heal for the next couple of weeks. Of course with the Percocet the pain is gone, so that fools me into thinking I can do more than I should. Today I'm just going to stick with the Motrin and get an idea of my real pain level.

I'm just going to enjoy the morning- a cup of coffee, wrapped up in a blanket on the sofa, with a book and the doggies.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Home Again

Surgery went well, and I enjoyed a long night's rest at home after spending Thursday night and a half day Friday in the hospital. It has been 11 years since I've been in the hospital, and I'd forgotten how impossible it is to actually sleep for any stretch of time. Between checking vitals, changing IVs and all the noise in the hallway, I didn't sleep for more than an hour at a time. But oh, the drugs, the drugs. Man, they zonk you out; a morphine pump while in the hospital and now Percocet at home... it makes the pain go away, but also sends all logical thinking on a vacation as well - so if this post is a little nonsensical, blame it on the drugs.

The hospital stay was great, and true to form (yes, I could talk to a brick wall) I befriended several awesome people on the floor during my brief stay. I recruited one of my nurses, (who is pregnant and due in late March) to model for our maternity fashion show at our annual baby event in early March; apparently there are 9 people on their floor alone who are pregnant, so she is going to talk a couple others into modeling with her.

The other fun and informative conversation I had was with my night nurse, Lee, who is orginally from New Hampshire and loves the Red Sox. She was telling me about wearing her green Red Sox hat on a vacation she took with a friend, to Savannah, Georgia over St. Patrick's Day, and how there were several Yankees fans giving her a hard time. But the best part for me was hearing all about her trip, and what she loved about Savannah. They rode the trolley tours all over the city, learning about the different homes and the movies that have been filmed in Savannah; the St. Patty's Day celebration is huge, with a 4-plus hour parade. She said it was one of her favorite vacations ever, and she can't wait to visit again. That's one place that is on my list to visit, and her stories just move it further to the top of the list.

Today I'm just taking it easy on the sofa; what beautiful weather! Dave has the door to the deck open, as he prepares to smoke a turkey. The crisp air and the smoking wood smell wonderful, and I think I'll close now and enjoy a little cat-nap now.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Catching Up

I had the best intentions of updating the blog before today; it has been more than a week since I last posted, and what a week it has been. May I just say that the new Liberty is a fun little SUV to drive, but my first week in it was less than stellar... Made a quick stop to return a DVD last Tuesday night as I headed from Jace's parent/teacher conference to a community volunteer meeting that night.

Pulled up to the movie store, hopped out of the car to walk the five steps to open the door and hand the movie to the clerk. Walked back to the car and it was LOCKED. All four doors, with the motor running, and my purse, phone and the second set of keys in it as well. 45 minutes, 28 dollars and several curse words later, Pop-A-Lock arrived and took 30 seconds to jimmy the back window and unlock it! I was so mad at myself, I've done that a million times with my 4-Runner, and have never locked the keys in it!

Then on Friday I took off the side mirror on the Liberty. No need to go into specifics on it, let's just leave it that a steep driveway ("space shuttle launch pad", as Davey B likes to call it), a narrow garage and a hurried, inattentive driver all converged to cause my second stupid driver act of the week! I have to confess, I have taken off the side mirror once before, about five years ago on my Bravada, pulling out of the garage (while my dad was visiting- how embarrassing! Don't think I escaped without a lecture on that one!). The garage is so narrow and the driveway is so steep, it is surprising that it hasn't happened since, quite honestly. Glad the Liberty has the black trim/mirror etc, so it will be much easier to replace than the paint-to-match mirrors and trim on the 4-Runner.

No pics to post from our weekend with Paige and Garry/Heather; it was a great weekend, wonderful to see Paige again and to hang out with Garry, Heather and their kiddos for a couple of days. Dave made his famous 8-hour spaghetti sauce on Saturday, and it was absolutely delish! The five of us (adults and Paige) played a couple different versions Trivial Pursuit Friday and Saturday night, and just enjoyed a quiet weekend with family and friends. Jace had a blast with Garry/Heather's kids, and can't wait to head back up there for our next visit after Christmas.

This week has been especially busy because I'm preparing to be off work for several weeks after having a hysterectomy tomorrow. Not that anyone needs to know all my female business, but let's just leave it that after some ongoing issues it will be nice to have the surgery. It is only a partial hysterectomy, so I won't go into menopause early. I didn't need or want to have everything removed, since I am several years away from natural menopause and all the hot flashes, etc that accompany it. I'll be there soon enough, thank you very much!

So I've been busy wrapping up loose ends at work, and getting ready to be gone for 3-4 weeks. In addition, my parents will be down to stay for a few days on Sunday, since Dave will go back to work on Monday. I'm looking forward to them visiting, but now I've also had to work on getting things in order at home, in addition to work.

Dad is the type that always has to have something to do, and that will mean cleaning out the closets or any other thing he can find to organize. But Dave and I have already scoped out a couple of projects for him, if he wants them; we've been staining the deck but have left the rail spindles for Dad, AND some of the ornamental cornices under our kitchen counter/bar need to be stained to match the cabinets. There ya go, Dad! Plenty to keep you occupied.

That's all for now. Will be back next week, when I'm home in bed and bored, surfing the channels with only Oprah and Ellen to keep me company for the next couple of weeks!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dave Says "Sell the Car!"

No, not my Dave -- Dave Ramsey. And so, we've sold the car. He also says to sell anything and everything you don't need... sell, sell, sell!! Sell SO much that the kids think they're next (and some days I wonder about it... hmmm... anybody want an 11-year-old moody pre-adolescent!? Kidding!!).

Anyway, back to the car. That's one thing that D.R. hears most on his radio show, apparently - people calling in and wanting to get out of debt, and they're driving a car that is WAY more expensive than they need. So his first suggestion is "Sell the car!" -- Drive something that is reliable, will get you where you need to go, but won't kill your bank account. Get it paid off, and drive it until you save enough to buy a newer car outright, without a payment. And the more we discussed it, the more it made sense for us.

I must confess, I've been spoiled with my luxury SUV.... goodbye, my heated, leather seats... my 6-disc CD changer.... with controls on the steering wheel... I will miss you! But I won't miss the big payment, or the gas guzzling, or the debt we're gonna cut out by trading down to my new-to-me little silver Jeep Liberty.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Trick or Treat '09

This year's costume for my 11-year-old:

At least we did deviate a bit from the standard black hood/cape, scary monster mask and weapon... Jace liked the silver wolf mask, so I found a flannel (well, just plaid- they didn't have any flannel) shirt at Good Will and he and I cut the sleeves off and cut holes in it.

He had a fun evening with friends Connor and Sam; we (Gail, Dan and I) accompanied the boys and Caitlyn around the neighborhood. I have to admit that in previous years we adults enjoyed a little wine in coffee cups as we walked, but this year it was so chilly that we decided that coffee would taste wonderful and keep us warm!
Quiet weekend otherwise; now Dave's out of town in KC all this week, and my big project of the week is to stain our deck. He powerwashed it today before he left, and we picked up 5 gallons of stain. The weather forecast is calling for sun all week, so hopefully I'll have a bit of daylight after work each night to make a good dent in things over the next few days.
That's all for now.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall Fun!

Gotta start things off with these pics:

That was last Saturday, during one of the few sunny times we've had over the last couple of weeks. Jace was outside playing (have I mentioned how much I love the fact that he is an outside kid? It is great that there are so many times he would rather be playing around outside than on the sofa with the video games!) and peeked his head in the front door to ask if he could rake up the leaves and jump in them. So I just had to grab my camera after he'd been out there for a few minutes... I love fall!

Later that night Dave and I headed to our friends' house for dinner, with a dozen or so friends from down on our boat dock; what a fun evening it was.

The evening's dinner was cajun, which had been decided when a few of us met for cocktails a several weeks ago and the conversation shifted to talk about fun rips, and the FOOD, in New Orleans (not me, I was the only one of the six who had never been!). I have to say "Thanks!" to friends Pam and Carl, (who sometime read this!) for having everyone over to their gorgeous home and serving an absolute feast of jumbalaya, rice, salad, some awesome crusty bread and to-die-for desserts! We all laughed because it was one of the first times we had all been together with clothes on --- as opposed to LAKE WEAR! (Get your mind out of the gutter!) Here are a few pics from the evening, starting with our hosts:

Carl goofing around!

It was great to see everyone, especially since the cold weather has hit and we really won't see each other down at the lake again until springtime. We talked about getting together a few more times over the winter; I hope we all make time for it, despite the busy holiday times that are coming up.

That's all for now, more soon on my latest at the gym (a cycling/cross training class, a FIRST for me) and some more cooking - I'm just breakin' outta my comfort zone all over the place!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pork and Swine

Tuesday night's pork roast turned out fabulous; I was a little worried, when I put the recipe in the slow cooker that morning. It was an apricot glazed pork loin, (which sounded yummy to me)and called for a whole onion, a jar of apricot jam, two tablespoons of dijon mustard and a can of chicken broth. Once the mixture was in the slow cooker, it smelled overwhelmingly of the onions and dijon mustard, and I was very worried that it would be way too oniony (like my chicken casserole of a couple weeks ago). But after 8+ hours of cooking, I came home to a sweet-but-tangy smelling sauce and a tender, juicy pork roast. Threw a little cornstarch in the sauce to thicken it, and we had a main course that was to die for! The only downside is that I'm sure it was not Weight Watchers' low cal guidelines; but we didn't have any potatoes or bread that night, just a healthy helping of steamed green beans to go with the pork, so hopefully that did help somewhat!

The other "pork" that's been NOT so fabulous this week is that dang H1N1, or swine, flu. Working in a health system (in a building that is connected to our hospital) we are on the front line for all the CDC breaking decisions, updates, etc. Our county health department is receiving small shipments of the vaccine in weekly, and hospital staff are one of the first phases to be vaccinated. Since we see infants in our office, we were in phase two this week. With the shortage, there wasn't enough vaccine for all of my staff to be vaccinated yet, just the ones that have the most contact with patients. I've heard so much discussion of the H1N1 and the vaccine - the discussion in my hair salon last week was predominantly that they would NOT be getting the vaccine, because who knows if it is safe, it hasn't been tested enough, etc.

I shared my thoughts on the subject with them, and suggested that they might check out the Greene County and the CDC website. This flu vaccine is made very similarly to every other year's seasonal flu vaccine, and the risks and outcomes of contracting the H1N1 flu (particularly for children/teens and immuno-compromised) FAR outweigh the possible and minute risks of the vaccine. I've taken the seasonal flu vaccine for the last several years, although I've never been one of those who has sworn by it. The reality is, the CDC looks at the multiple strain possibilities each year and then gives an educated guess at which one will be the most common. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they don't.

But the secondary illnesses (in particular, pneumonia) that can follow the H1N1 virus are affecting children and teens, which is something that rarely happens with the seasonal flu virus. So, as soon as I can get the vaccine for Jace, the better. Chances are that he won't get terribly sick if he does get the H1N1 virus, but I'd rather get him the vaccine for added protection against getting it at all. What are your thoughts? Lemme hear your thoughts on what you've decided and why.

Today was our 17th annual Pink Ribbon Rally at the local mall, and it was a great event, with several breast cancer survivors telling their story and some great entertainment by a local musician. Tonight we're heading to friends Carl and Pam's for dinner; it will be a Cajun feast, with several other couples. Paige is in town and hanging out with us this afternoon, and Neil/Jace are looking forward to a parent-free evening of movies and pizza!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Whew. What? It's only Tuesday!? Life's been a little busy this week, and I was hoping maybe it was closer to the weekend. Dang. I had a volunteer committee meeting that lasted until 9:30 last night, sandwiched between two days from h*ll here at work, and you know what I'm looking forward to!? Dinner. Is that a bad thing?

With my burgeoning culinary skills (ok, I know the slow cooker may not qualify as a culinary skill, but still!) dinner this evening will be an apricot-glazed boneless pork loin, with steamed green beans and a baked potato. I'm counting on it being wonderfully, deliciously yummy! I'll let you know. Well, if it's not, then I won't let you know. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Oh, and I'm hoping I will have the will power to get to the gym before enjoying the yummy dinner. Maybe posting this will make me feel more inclined, since I'm saying I'm going. Ok. Back to work, coffee's almost done brewing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bookworms Unite!

I've traveled the world twice over,
Met the famous; saints and sinners,
Poets and artists, kings and queens,
Old stars and hopeful beginners,
I've been where no-one's been before,
Learned secrets from writers and cooks
All with one library ticket
To the wonderful world of books.
(Author Unknown)

I enjoyed a vacation day Friday, and went on Jace's first field trip of the year that morning, to Missouri State University. As a working mom, I know I miss out on the parties, room mother duties and other things that some moms are able to do. But one thing I've made a point to do with him every year is to attend the majority of his field trips. Last year's were to the Discovery Center and to Jefferson City, and both were a lot of fun. Friday's field trip was their first this year, a trip to the 29th annual Children's Literature Fest of the Ozarks, and I think I enjoyed it as much as Jace did!

I'm a reader, to the extreme. I know that, and it is both a blessing and a curse. Give me a good fiction book, and you may not see or hear from me for hours. If I'm honest with myself, I know that sometimes reading can definitely get in the way of all of the other things I need to do in my life, and that is where it can become a problem. Sometimes I have to consciously stop myself from picking up a book so that I can get stuff done! I've been like that most of my life; our mom took us to the library every week in our hometown, from the time I was old enough to read. I remember that my favorite place as a child and then a teenager was in my bedroom, sandwiched on the floor in between my bed and the wall, with a pillow under my head, my feet propped up on the wallboard heater, and a open book on my chest. If my parents were looking for me, that's where they headed first!

Until the last couple of years, Jace has not seen the allure of reading. He would much rather do a myriad of other things than pick a book up and read for 20-30 minutes. But things started changing last year a bit, when he discovered that there are some great fiction books/series, and is starting to open up to the idea that reading can be enjoyable! He also has a great Communications Arts teacher this year, who works hard to make reading and writing fun for the kids. I try to keep him engaged with it at home too; we go to the library every few weeks, and he looks forward to picking out some of the Harry Potter-esque books, or other similar series.

But I'm hoping that the Lit Fest on Friday opened up some new interests for him, as far as books go. We heard two Midwest authors speak, and they were very different, but equally interesting. June Rae Wood was the first author, from the small Missouri town of Versailles. The auditorium was filled with middle school children, and she used pictures and props to tell the story of growing up with 7 siblings, including brother, Richard, who had Downs Syndrome. June had written a short story about her brother that was published in a monthly magazine, but then later thought that she should write a children's book about the same subject, in hopes that kids "might better understand people who are different". She went on to write several more children's books, and has won many awards, including the Mark Twain Award for her book about Richard, titled "The Man Who Loved Clowns".

The second author, Anna Myers, talked about several of the 18 books she has published over the last 20 years. A former 6th grade teacher, she kept the kids engaged as she became the character telling the story in each of her books, complete with accent, mannerisms and some props. Most of her books were historical fiction; she gave the kids a preview of a few of them, including one about the race war in Tulsa in the 1920s, another on the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts, and perhaps the most interesting one to Jace and me, on the assassination of Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth. Jace was ready to go right to where they were selling the books and buy three or four of them. We weren't able to stay and do so, since his class had to get back to the bus. But I'm taking full advantage of his enthusiasm, and we'll be heading to the library this week to see if they are available!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Go Cards!

No, not those Cards, darn it... we didn't even watch them lose game three on Saturday night, just checked the score intermittently and shook our heads! But we did root for another Cards team - it was Homecoming for the William Jewell Cardinals this weekend, and I'm just now getting a chance to upload pictures of our weekend with Paige and with our Kansas City friends. We headed up Friday night, and again stayed with friends Garry and Heather. Paige took a break from studying to join us for a couple hours that night; she had a BIG paper due on Monday morning.

Pizza at "The Dish" in Liberty... yum!

We made plans to meet Paige for lunch Saturday and then head to the football game. Boy, was it cold -- brrrrr!!! At 40-something degrees, we toughed it out for the first half of the game and the half-time celebration, and then we headed back to Paige's dorm.

Go Cardinals! (Brrrrr!)

What a cutie!

Our "tradition" -- a picture in front of the
WJC phone booth each time we visit!

After the game we said goodbye to Paige, since she and Neil were spending the rest of the weekend with their mom and stepdad. Our Saturday night was spent at Garry and Heather's, celebrating Heather's birthday (the real party was Friday night, but we arrived pretty late in the evening!); Dave and Garry cooked a dinner of pasta and salad, with a bruschetta appetizer... yum! Garry's mother and some extended family joined us for dinner, but before that we had a chance to see Brent, Laura and their kiddos, Carter and Brooklyn.

Guess I don't have many pictures of our kids, other than at the game on Saturday. Jace and Neil had a great time with Garry and Heather's kids, Christian and Rileigh; we didn't see much of them either night, they were in the basement with the music, computer and video games!

The night ended with a spirited card game between Dave, Garry and Garry's mother, grandmother, aunts, and cousins; Dave had fun teaching a few of them how to play Texas Hold'em. Heather and I opted out (way too many people around the table, and Dave would've been teaching ME too!) and after finishing the dishes we relaxed in the living room.

It was a great weekend, loved spending time with Paige. We hope to get up to see her again before her Christmas break, since we won't see her for Thanksgiving. A big THANKS to "Geather" for opening your home to us, if you're reading this! We appreciate the hospitality, and look forward to seeing a lot more of you guys when we come to see Paigey over the next four years!

In other news, I tried a chicken recipe last night - baked chicken breasts, in a cream of chicken/mushroom sauce with red/orange sliced peppers and a red onion. Thumbs down on that; not sure if it was the recipe or the cook, but way too oniony, and just not very good at all. Just tossed out the majority of the sauce after I baked them, and kept the breasts for later in the week with pasta, etc.

Tonight I'm baking a pork tenderloin, with some bread stuffing, apples and sweet onion... it is smelling good! Time to go take it out of the oven!