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!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Questions of the Day

Will it ever stop raining?!?!? Between the weatherman's updates last night and the constant barrage of flood warnings running across the bottom of the screen, Jace questioned last night if we'd even be able to make the trip to Kansas City later today... "What if the highway is flooded, Mom?" It isn't quite that bad, but it has been raining for 36 hours. Let's hope the weatherman is right and we see some sunshine this afternoon.

The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize goes to... - hello!?!? Whether you like him or not, there's little debating the questionable timeline - Obama took office less than two weeks before the nomination deadline. In researching it a bit this morning, I see that the Nobel Peace Prize is typically not given retrospectively, 20-30 years later, as some of the other Nobel Prizes are. It is given for more recent or immediate achievements, issued in the same year or the year immediately following a political act. But c'mon, to nominate Obama 2 weeks after he takes office, and now put him in the company of the likes of Mother Teresa, Elie Wiesel, and Martin Luther King, Jr, and many more?!? That's all I'm sayin'.

Can anyone tell me how to get to the YMCA? - I ask that because I have fallen off the workout wagon, and haven't darkened the doors of the gym in, oh, 3+ weeks? I stopped going when I came down with that awful bug, and just haven't had the time or willpower to get back there. Bless my dear husband's heart, he hasn't said a word to me about it, even though he has continued to work out regularly. I will get back there, and soon. I'm missing it, and I can tell my waistline is missing it, too.

Ok, back to work. Happy Friday to all!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ahhhh.... Saturday morning, sipping on a mug of coffee, wrapped up in a blanket... first time the furnace has been on for several months, another sign of fall.

Davey B is up and gone, just left for the lake to go take care of some boat maintenance while I'm at work. Jace just left a bit ago with his dad, for his baseball game today. It is CHILLY out this morning, and I'm enjoying the quiet here at home before I leave for our event at work. I've already been up this morning for awhile - laundry is started, breakfast has been made and cleaned up (don't get excited, just frozen waffles for me and Jace) and beds have been stripped down.

The pot roast was yummy (thanks for asking, Lucas, and if you make it to Springpatch anytime soon, I WILL cook you dinner, girl!) but the gravy was a little too salty. The online recipe I used called for a dry packet of onion soup mix, but someone commented underneath the recipe how they liked an au jus packet better, and that sounded good to me. Note to self for next time, stick with the onion soup mix.

AND, I used fat free cream of mushroom soup (why, I don't know -- like that extra fat in the mushroom soup is even going make one iota of difference, given the cut/type of the meat and all the fat there!?!?) but I think I remember reading that sometimes fat free soups have even more sodium than the regular. Sooo, those are two things I'll remedy for next time - but all in all, it was good! Dave and Jace enjoyed it too, or they did a good job of faking it. After dinner I made some mini cobblers, a Weight Watchers recipe, 3 points each. I used some of fresh strawberrys for the fruit, and they were yummy too! Ice cream would have made them even better, but it was probably a good (i.e. healthy) thing that we didn't have any in the house.

Jace and I went to the library yesterday, and in addition to my pile of fiction I also checked out some books on cooking and handy kitchen tips (like did you know that semi-soft cheese will not stick to the grater or knife if you spray the grater with Pam? Okay, maybe everyone else knew that, but just one of many tips that will be helpful to me, if I can just REMEMBER them all!)

That's all for now, gotta hit the shower and head to work.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Ramblings

Happy Friday! I'm enjoying a few hours at home this morning, since Jace is off school today. I'm heading into the office about 11, and he's going to spend part of his day with his dad, who is also off work. I've put in my 40 hours already and still have another breast cancer awareness event tomorrow, so didn't feel too bad about letting Jace sleep in and starting the morning off slow.

Speaking of slow, today is the day I am going to make a roast and veggies in the slow cooker, before I head into work. For some of you, this may not be a big deal. But for a non-cooker such as myself, it is quite the undertaking. I've been researching recipes on the internet, and then had a breakroom conversation with some of the girls in the office on which type of roast I should buy. Rump roast, elbow roast (I think) and chuck roast were three of the suggestions. I've got to dig out the cast iron skillet so that I can first sear the roast on all sides, which seals in the juices. Then cut up the potatoes, and make the broth that goes in the crockpot with the roast, using the scrapings off the bottom of the skillet as part of the broth. Anyhoo, will report back on the outcome, keep your fingers crossed!

It is chilly in the house this morning, a sign that fall is almost here, and I can't wait! The leaves are still all green; with all the rain we've had this year, the grass is still green too. But the air is starting to get that brisk feeling, and I LOVE it. It isn't quite time to start wearing all the winter clothes out yet, but I'm still going to do my switch-out this weekend. I love my fall/winter clothes, so much more than spring/summer... the jackets, turtleneck sweaters and boots are so comfortable, and yet still dressy for work.

That's all for now, gotta hit the shower and then get my apron on (no, not really) to fix that roast! Wish me luck, I may need it!