Friday, September 30, 2011

Fitness Check: September 29

Today's fitness check is part physical and part fiscal.  For the physical half, I'm afraid J and I had had a busy week and only exercised once.  So, yay for 2.5 miles walked!  The other half of the eat less-move more equation is driven by the fiscal part of this check in. 

J and I usually have fiscal freak-outs this time of year (the impending holidays/only 100 days 'til Christmas nonsense probably plays into that), so this one is right on cue.  Lucky for us, this year's freak-out has actual data to support it!

Last January we signed up for  This is an awesome (free!) tool for budgeting, as it tracks every expense and every account (checking, savings, mortgage, loans, credit cards, etc.) in one place.  The other day, we pulled our monthly average spending by catergory for the year.  Most of our spending is pretty much non-variable (and mostly non-negotiable, like our mortgage, life insurance, and utilities).  Other catergories are mostly non-variable with 'emergency' exceptions (for example, gas doesn't really vary, but new shocks for my car threw a wrench in the 'transportation' average; prescriptions don't vary, but wisdom teeth removal for J and a crown for me totally jacked up our 'health' budget).  Now, we know that our emergency fund is supposed to be used for those expenses, but we aren't very good at actually taking money out of the e-fund except for when we really need to, and it takes way longer to build up than to spend it.  Anyhow, after you account for our spending in those categories, you're left with food and entertainment. 'Entertainment' accounts for our individual hobbies for which spending doesn't vary too much, but we did notice that 'joint entertainment' has had some high peaks this year (Harry Connick, Jr. and the Kentucky Dinner Train to name two), but also that we go out to eat together a lot.  Just going out for dinner is categorized as 'food', but going out with friends or going to the Movie Tavern usually gets dumped into 'joint entertainment'.  Those expenses, together with our outragously huge food spending (for two people), made us realize where we have got to cut back ("eat less-move more"). 

Hence, our new food budget to ensure we eat less.  Y'all.  We've cut out food budget by two-thirds.  We've left one or two outings a month together, plus lunch out for each of us once a week, but otherwise our food spending will happen at the grocery store, and even then it will be limited to $50 a week.  (Yikes.  We're totally not ready for our Extreme Couponing episode.)  We did a practice run the other day, and I found I was able to get quite a bit for $50 (mostly at Aldi and without couponing).  J has been cooking down his own stock for soups and making chili, which lasts for several meals, and is awesome.  We're going to try to do this for a month, then we'll re-evaluate and go from there.  Maybe we can start some healthy new habits with this shopping restriction.  Wish us luck!

How do you budget?  Do you use tools like mint?  Or the old-fashioned envelope system?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thankful Thursday--September 29

Y'all know there is just one big thing for me to be thankful for this week (Okay, not true--I have lots more to be thankful for, but today, this is what is on my mind).  Today marks four years of marriage to the best husband a girl could hope for.  Happy Anniversary J!

(I couldn't pick just one picture for the whole four years, so I picked one from our wedding day and one from each of the last four anniversary picture sessions.  Enjoy!)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fall Flowers

One of my favorite things about our church is birthday/anniversary blessings.  On the week before (or after) your birthday (or anniversary), you get a special blessing from the priest before the eucharist.  This week, there were two couples getting anniversary blessings (both of us with the same wedding day!), and after the service a member of the altar guild gave each couple the flowers from the altar.  Aren't they just a beautiful example of fall??

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Cake

I thought about making this post a How To's-day post, but I don't think I'm qualified to tell you how to make/decorate a caterpillar cake of your own.  I'll just share how I made my cakes, and if you're at all cake-decorating-inclined, you'll be able to figure it out from there. 

So for starters, the planning for this cake started in May, when Baby E's momma approached me with the theme for his first birthday party.  The theme?  The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the children's book by Eric Carle.  I immediately thought a cake with the food items the hungry caterpillar ate placed on the border would be adorable.  That day, I sketched a cake in MS Paint to share (click to enlarge).
Cute, huh?  Wait until you see the finished product!

So for starters, this is a lot of cake. Baby E's momma told me to plan for 25 adults and 15 children (Baby E is pretty seriously loved).  Because of the fondant food pieces on the side of the cake, I knew I wanted to make a double layer cake, and I knew I wanted to make it half-chocolate/half-yellow cake to satisfy both preferences.  To make it a little easier on me, I baked two 9x13 cakes in each flavor (rather than making a half-sheet cake in each flavor, then cutting each in half to stack),then I basically placed my two layer cakes right next to each other to make my two-layer half-sheet cake.

I frosted the cake with vanilla buttercream, and I am thrilled to report that I've finally figured out the correct timing for maximum whippy-ness in my frosting.  Roughly five minutes in the stand mixer with just shortening, water and vanilla, then another five to seven minutes with the powdered sugar added is about perfect!  (2 cups shortening, 2 tsp vanilla, 1/4 cup water, and just short of two pounds sugar)  I think it took three batches to frost the cake (including filling), fill and frost the smash cake, and do the decorating on both.  I also used some of this frosting to make the oversized cake pops that make up the caterpillar on top of the main cake.  Those were not terribly successfully, and I think it had something to do with my extra-whippy homemade frosting.

To make the food pieces around the sides of the main cake, I feel like I kind of cheated.  First, I purchased Wilton's pre-colored fondant so that I'd at least have primary colors to get started.  The pictures in the book are beautiful and textural, so I knew I'd want to blend colors in a choppy way, and starting with pre-mixed primary colors helped me do that.  Second, I used the book itself as my guide, rather than free-handing each shape.  I scanned the pages that show the fruit into MS Paint and outlined each shape.  Then, I deleted the the color and printed out outlines (I'm sure there is an easier way to do this, but this worked for me).  I sized the shapes as a group so that they would retain their scale and made the largest pieces just shorter than the height of the cake.  Then, I cut out each piece from my printout (cutting shapes apart for different colors as needed) and then placed each stencil on top of a rolled out piece of fondant to cut around. 

When it was time to put the cake together, I cut out the hole the caterpillar went through and pasted the shape onto my cake using a liquid glue made of gumpaste and water.  I waited to cut out the holes so I could intentionally put them in different places.  This was one of the few times I went totally off-script and didn't always place the holes where they were in the book.  After I'd put all of the pieces on the sides, I went back and hollowed out the hole area with a toothpick.  This way, you could see all the way down the hole to the cake, and it looked like the caterpillar was eating his way through.  (It was also a pretty useful way to see which half of the cake was the chocolate half and which was yellow!)

I mentioned above that the caterpillar on top was made of oversized cake pops (Go here to see what the heck a Cake Pop is and how to make your own).  A. You probably should not try to make them twice as big as recommended.  B.  Use store bought frosting, or add a lot of extra sugar to your frosting to make it much stiffer before making your cake pops.  C.  You might ought to let your cake dry out a bit.  Mine was fabulously moist, which probably didn't help the cake pop.   Just my thoughts.  I basically had to keep mine frozen until just before the party, and I had to give up on the 'pop' idea.  The melted chocolate and frosting mess pretty much had to be shoveled off the cake before slicing (but it looked good on the cake, and isn't that what counts?).

To cover the cake pops, I put the frosting in a glass and rolled the ball around in it.  Then, I used a knife to tap the frosting and make it stand up like the hairs on the caterpillar's back.  I formed the antennae out of an extra cake pop that I didn't think I needed on the cake.

The smash cake almost felt like an afterthought because it was so easy to make, compared to the detail-oriented main cake.  I think the idea of a caterpillar (at least, green worm) eating through an apple isn't specific to this book, but you don't often see a caterpillar on an orange, so I did that for the smash cake.  This was just a double layer 6-inch round cake that I shaped a bit at the top to make it a little more orange-shaped.  After the frosting set a bit, I went back and added dimples all over.

So there you have it, my take on The Very Hungry Caterpillar, in cake form!

Monday, September 26, 2011

MP Summer To Do List Wrap-Up

Edit:  When I was on top of posting daily, my mom would email me mid-morning to let me know my post wasn't up.  Now that I'm sort of off that wagon, I guess she doesn't know to remind me when posts don't post as scheduled.  Anyhow, here's Monday's post!

Y'all.  Summer was not a productive season around the MP.  Remember my list for the season--here and here?  Well, we crossed off some things, and added a few things that didn't make the initial list.  And there's still technically one week left of September (humor me) so maybe I'll cross something else off the list before it officially rolls over to my Fall list. 

Here's where we are (added items in red):
  • Have new gutters installed
  • Move the shed out back
  • Replace the deck (best case scenario)
  • Clean and rearrange the laundry room
  • Finish the library built-ins
  • Paint/Replace shutters
  • Replace doorbell
  • Address brass porch light (replace or paint black)
  • Buy/build black trellis for roses
  • Build pretty new mailbox post
  • Put down weed-preventing fabric/mulch and pavers in front beds (HALF-DONE)

 Check back next week to see if anything else gets crossed off before I introduce our Fall list!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

September Sunday

One of the things I love about living in this part of the world is that you can never guess what the weather is going to be in the fall (or spring).  A couple of weeks ago it was rainy and cool (and I loved it!).  Today, we had a beautiful warm fall afternoon (and I loved it!).  It was especially nice to have clear skies today since we had an outside birthday party (for baby E--I'll show you pictures on Tuesday) as well as our anniversary pictures (also outside). 

I probably could have gotten away with short sleeves and shorts today like most of the party attendees, but I really, really wanted to go fall for the pictures.  Lucky for me, it was one of those beautiful fall days that are warm enough for shorts, but cool enough that a turtleneck and jeans aren't entirely out of place!  J and I had a great time with our photographer (anyone in Central KY, I highly recommend J.A. Laub Photography) at the Arboretum this afternoon.  Abby photographed our wedding reception four years ago, and we've reconnected with her every year since to capture our anniversary (or some moment close to our anniversary).  I can't wait to see the results from today's pictures.  We goofed off a lot; we'll see if she got anything worthy of this year's Chistmas card!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Welcome to Fitness Friday

Hi everyone!  So back in the summer of 2009, J and I started a new exercise regime, that led to some pretty decent weight loss on my part (50 pounds over the course of a year) and to both of us feeling better about ourselves.  Then I quite my job and gained ten pounds the next month.  And then winter rolled around and I gained ten more. And then spring rolled around and I gained five more.  And then I crash dieted 10-15 pounds off.  And then they came back. 

I the meantime, J started Atkins last April and has lost 40 pounds.  He's now the weight that I was at my heaviest (though not my current weight, if you followed the second-grade-math word problem up there).  I'm more than a little freaked out about that.

Then, last week, we took a walk on the trail around the park behind our house.  For the first time in almost a year, the 2.5 mile trail totally wore me out.  Translation?  I'm out of shape.  So, since I've been struggling with my Friday posts, I decided to add a new category to Finicky Fridays.  I thought about calling it Fatty Fridays, but J tells me that's negative self talk (something we avoid here at the MP).  Then I decided on Fitness Friday (since that's what we're going for).  And I thought maybe I'd do it on the first Friday of the month (since it's all alliterative), but then I thought that maybe I should do fourth or fifth Friday instead.  Then, I remembered that since the over-arching Friday theme is Finicky, it really doesn't matter when I decide to post a Fitness Friday post.  So you can look for them on Fridays.  Next time I'll think about actually sharing stats.  Feel free to join the fun.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thankful Thursday--September 22

I've got to be honest, I've been fighting a killer headache for a few days and it's tough to focus on what I'm thankful for.  So, forgive me for not-so-thought-out thankful thoughts.  I'm thankful for J, who actually took me out on a date last night.  He's been working hours similar to last week's, so it was quite a treat to have him come home at 7:30 and offer to take me out.  In that line of thinking, I'm super-thankful for Puccini's Smiling Teeth, the local italian restaurant.  We discovered tonight that Puccini's has no-carb/low-carb options, so that means we have an Italian restaurant that J can eat at!

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Flashback Wednesday

I never connect my iPhone to my computer.  Ever.  J bugs me about it.  A lot.  Last night, I actually did it.  Result?  1300 pictures that used to live on my phone now live on my computer!  I decided to go back a year and see what I was doing a year ago--

Last year on Wednesday, September 22 I made a chocolate chip chiffon cake for a parishoner at our church.  It was her birthday, and her husband asked me to surprise her with a cake after the Wednesday evening service.  I think she liked it!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Winning Weekend

Some weekends are just good, and I think most of those happen in the fall.  Why?  Probably because it is my favorite season and I just enjoy it more.  I don't know.  But anyhow, I thought I'd share our weekend with y'all.

Friday night, we met friends for supper at a new TexMex place in town called Chuys.  This is a chain that started in Texas and is actually pretty good.   Now, it certainly won't replace our local Mexican place, but the chips and salsa were great (I think both were made fresh on-site). 

Saturday, J let me sleep in, then we headed out to the walking path.  The weather was beautiful and it's been entirely too long since we exercised regularly.  We got back from the walk in time for me to run over to church for a women's group movie afternoon (Thank goodness "everyone is welcome" at St. R, because I'm sure they'd have turned me away without my shower otherwise!).  We finished the day at Devine's Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch.  Now, I'd seen a few commercials for this farm, located about 45 minutes away in Mercer County, and was charmed by the idea of a nightly bonfire with s'mores.  The only problem was that, other than the corn mazes (yes, multiple mazes!), most of the activities seemed kid-focused.  Not a problem, we called our friend Becky and asked to borrow the Superkid for the evening.  We all had a fabulous time on the jumping pillow, tri-cycle race course, rubber ducky races, slides, etc.  In addition, a hayride and pumpkin (pick-your-own at a the pumpkin patch that the hay ride takes you out to) are included in the cost of admission, which isn't always the case.  The only problem with taking Superkid with us was that his bedtime corresponds with darkness, and the bonfire isn't lit until dark.  So, while I wouldn't trade getting to participate in any of the 'kid' activities, we might have to head back out there for a fire and s'mores!

The Superkid leading the way through the corn maze. Actually, according to him, the ear of corn in his left hand led us out of the maze!
J and me, with the Superkid, on the hay ride.
Sunday was another busy day (though not quite as busy as Saturday).  J and I each went in to work before church, then headed to Harry's for football and nachos.  I left right after nachos to head downtown for the Walk to End Alzheimers.  Two of The Girl's dad suffers from early onset Alzheimers, and one of them decided to create a team to raise money for Alzheimers research.  Several of us actually walked with her team a couple of years ago in Cincinnati.  This year, she couldn't make the Cincy walk and decided to do it in Lexington, instead.  I was so happy I could walk with her and her family again.  After the walk, I watched a little football with J, had a great trip to Michael's (between sales and coupons, I saved something like $40--more than 50%!), and spent the rest of my day curled up on the couch. 

How was your weekend?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saturday Smells like...a Bacon-Veggie Frittata

I was in the mood for scrambled eggs this morning (Actually, I was in the mood for pancakes and link sausage, but since the whole low-carb thing that's not an option for J, I feel guilty asking him to cook me food he can't eat.), and as often happens when I toss out a suggestion for a meal, J took my idea and created the more gourmet version of my request. 

Bacon-Veggie Frittata

What you'll need:
Eggs (we used four for ours)
Bacon (J sliced some before cooking to include in the frittata and also fried and crumbled some to put on top)
Veggies (Basically, we just used a bunch of stuff in danger of getting too old in the fridge--spinach, green peppers, onions)
Garlic, S&P

What you'll do:
Start frying the bacon in an oven-safe skillet, then toss in onions and peppers to cook down a bit in the bacon grease.  When that is almost done, add chopped spinach to wilt a bit.  Pour in the egg and keep it on the burner long enough to set up a bit.
Then, transfer the skillet to your oven, placing the whole thing under the broiler to cook the top, too.

The finished product:
To serve, J crumbled some bacon on the top, then slid the frittata out of the pan and folded it in half, and then he sliced it (so that we each had a piece that looked like one-quarter of the total size.  Which J says he did so it would fit on our plates.  So maybe not that necessary for you...).  He topped each piece with some of the fresh salsa he made this week using our tomatoes.  Delicious!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thankful Thursday--September 15

So for starters this week, I'm thankful for readers (mom) who don't complain when I forget a post.  I've consciously not posted this week (no changes to the house and no creativity in the last couple of weeks just made it too tough to come up with a post), but today, I just forgot.  In fact, I even forgot it was Thursday until mid-way through the day!

Second, I'm thankful this week for J's job.  It's been one of those weeks that he's worked several long days (he came home around midnight Tuesday and after ten last night, then left again this morning at five).  In the beginning of our relationship, I hated when he worked long hours.  Since the recession started, though, I've really learned to appreciate long days.  In the world of billable hours, short days (or even your average 9-5) is a bad thing, because you'll never hit the targets that way.   We've had a lot of average weeks the last couple of years, and that makes for a stressful J, so I've learned to look at long days in a whole new light.

Finally, I'm thankful for Sunday football at Harry's.  J and I kicked off our seventh football season together on Sunday at a local bar (We did watch the 2005 Super Bowl together, but since that is the only game of the season that we watched together, we don't actually count it).  In the fall of 2005, J mentioned wanting to go somewhere to watch football (J roots for the Colts, and they often aren't on TV here, so you have to out to a place that plays all the games to catch them). For some reason we went across town to a sportsbar that J knew had several screens.  When we arrived, we discovered that the place had closed and was re-opening as Harry's.  (Side story--there's a really good steakhouse in Lexington called Malones.   The folks who opened Malones have expanded their offerings and Harry's is a horse racing themed sportsbar that they own.  This Harry's is the second one in town and the first on the side of town where we went.).  The Harry's is actually in a building with a Malones and Aqua (their Sushi bar), but neither of those had opened yet.  In fact, we entered the bar through what is now the emergency exit because the main entrance was still under construction. We discovered a line of tables that parallelled the bar and found that we could sit looking at the bar (and the three screens of football games) in front of us and (if we got the right table) watch the two games on the wall behind us reflected in the bar mirrors. 

J fell in love (with Harry's.  Not sure he was there with me, yet).  We settled into a routine of heading to Harry's just before 1:00 on Sundays, ordering an order of nachos to split, then grazing our way through the rest of the early game (and sometimes the late game if the Colts didn't play until 4:00).  I usually didn't last that long.  In the first years I took homework with me.  Later, I took work-work.  The Sunday before our wedding, we took bluegrass seed and tulle to prep the toss favors for our reception.  We got to know waitresses and managers.  Then, a few years ago after the football season ended we discovered St. Raphael's.  By the time the next football season rolled around, we were regularly attending and the drive across town after services made it tough to arrive in time to get a good table.  We stuck it out for most of the season, but last year we were in search of something else.  Lucky for us, the folks who own the whole Malones/Harry's/Aqua company had opened a third site--conveniently located between church and home!  So, making a very long story not too much longer--I'm so thankful for Harry's and a new season of memories with J!

So what are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Sign of September

Among my favorite things about September (first day of Autumn, first day of professional football, traditional first day of school and all the awesome back to school supplies that comes with that season) is my anniversary.  One particularly nice thing (of the ten thousand particularly nice things that made up our wedding celebration/receptions) about our wedding was the blue eucalyptus wreaths that were hung on the front doors of the chapel, then again on the front doors of the Bell House, where we had our Lexington reception.  J and I kept the wreaths, and each September I hang one on the front door as a little month-long reminder of the very special day that comes at the end.  Especially now that we have a working storm door, the scent of the eucalyptus when I open the front door in the morning is still so potent--I love it!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We Remember

It seems odd not to post something about 9/11 today, particularly since my Sunday School class reminded me that not everyone alive today actual remembers that day.  Instead, what they mostly know is what they've been told, by family, teachers and the media.  Their understanding of the events that day, and the events that followed, is influenced and framed by the thousands of different perspectives they encounter.  I realized that I may not always remember that day in the clear snapshots that still come to mind when I think about that day, and that perhaps I should record them here.

In the fall of 2001, I was in my last semester at Murray State.  I still had that year left before I would graduate, but I already knew that I was headed to Frankfort for an internship that spring and was totally in 'wrap-up' mode at school.  Most of my friends had graduated the previous May, I'd already gone 'alum' in my sorority, I'd joined a community scrapbook group, and I worked at a local job center for men and women who were anticipating layoffs as the Fisher Price plant prepared to close later that year.  For the first time in my college experience, I didn't have a roommate that semester, and I'd settled into weird in-between existence in my duplex on Northwood Drive.

Every morning, my alarm went off at 7:45 (central time), and I would get up, turn on the television as I walked through the living room, and take my new puppy (yes, Zeppelin) out back for a walk.  That morning was no different than any, and as with every morning, I walked back inside just before 8:00 a.m. to catch the end of the local news before they went back to New York for the 8:00 hour of the Today Show.  That's when I learned that there were reports of a plane hitting the World Trade Center.  At the time, we still didn't know what kind of plane, and I think the local newscaster suggested that maybe it was a small plane, a terrible accident.  They through it back to New York and I sank down onto the couch.

I didn't move for the next hour, watching as the second plane hit the World Trade Center, then as Jim Miklaszewski reported about the explosion (we later learned that that, too, was a plane) at the Pentagon.  I had class that morning, and didn't know what to do, but figured I shouldn't miss it.  As I got in my car to head to campus I heard the announcement that all flights had been grounded.  I remember looking around and feeling the incredible silence. My professor, Dr. Umar dismissed class almost as soon as we arrived.  Dr. Umar, an Iraqi native, was as interested in getting back to a television set as we were.  I remember someone asking if he'd heard from his family back home in Iraq.  He hadn't yet.  I stopped for a moment at the classroom next to ours, where Dr. Rose had pulled in an old radio from his office to listen.  Then, I walked with a classmate over to the Campus Coffeeshop for a sandwich.  There, everyone crowded at the counter as we watched the second tower collapse.  Together, we walked to his fraternity house where friends crowded in the TV room watching in disbelief.  At some point I went home.  My afternoon class was cancelled. 

I spent the afternoon on my couch watching the news.  I remember getting up at some point to take Zep for a walk.  I called my sister-in-law to ask what the events of the morning would mean for my brother.  She didn't know, but acknowledged that it meant something.  (He left six weeks later for Afghanistan and didn't come home until Easter 2002.)  I called the scrapbook shop to see if we were still meeting that night, as we had just started a recipe swap group and had our first dinner planned for the evening.  The owner told me that she thought people needed to be together, and that it might as well be at the shop.  I still remember gluing 'onions', 'peas', and 'tomatoes' to my recipe pages that afternoon, with the soundtrack of NBC news in the background.

I don't remember much of the following days.  I remember that Dr. Umar's sister got through to him the next morning to let him know that his family was okay.  I remember our PR classes totally changing the order of the syllabus to discuss how to deal with crises so we could discuss the advertising and corporate response to that day.  I remember blood drives and money drives for the American Red Cross.  I remember how HGTV, which I'd really just discovered, went off the air for a few days, as did many cable channels, as we all turned our attention to the networks, looking for some sort of reason.  I remember being glued to the television again on the morning of October 6 when our troops went into Afghanistan, thinking things would be over quickly.  I remember my mom and my sister-in-law tearing up at Thanksgiving, when my dad suggested my three month old nephew might one day jump out of airplanes like his daddy and granddaddy before him  (If you know Jackson now, you might laugh at that suggesion).

What strikes me most, ten years later, is how much of my life, my family's life, has been effected by September 11.  I met a family today who lost a son/brother in the Pentagon.  Ed Earhart was 26 on September 11, and for his family, as for thousands of families, September 11 was a defining day in their families as the day everything changed in loss.  For me, September 11 wasn't itself a day of loss, but it was the pivot point that altered, at least a bit, the direction of our lives. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saturday smells like... Hot Dogs and Hamburgers

Okay, so if I'm being completely truthful, Saturday (today) only smells like hot dogs.  Oh, and chili.  But we had some seriously delicious hamburgers earlier this week that I took a picture of to share with you, so it just made sense to put the posts together.  Prepare to lick your screen.

First up, mexi-burgers--

Last weekend, J used a bunch of our tomatoes to make fresh salsa, and for some reason, that put me in the mood for hamburgers with salsa on them.  No, I've no idea why, but it sounded good.  Anyhow, J mixed the following into the ground beef:  an egg, diced onion, panko breadcrumbs, taco season, garlic, and S&P.  Then, he made two huge patties. While those cooked, I sliced lettuce and onion and diced a jalapeno pepper.  When the burgers were mostly cooked, he put a slice of cheddar cheese on to melt (Tip J taught me--put a little water in the skillet and add a lid.  The steam will totally melt the cheese!).  When the cheese was melted, we put the buger down on the bed of lettuce, tossed on the jalapenos, added the layer of onion, and topped with the salsa.  Needless to say, we ate the hamburger with a fork and knife.

Next, Chili Dogs--

We still have a ton of tomatoes, so while I was at a DAR meeting today, J started to make spaghetti sauce with some of them.  By the time I got home, the hearty red/meat sauce was cooking down nicely.  Then, I remembered that pasta isn't really on J's diet (he was thinking about buying fresh pasta to eat it with, rather than our usual standby spaghetti squash) and asked if we could turn the sauce into chili.  J accomodated, and added beans, peppers, and a variety of seasonings/rubs that made it more chili-like.  While he was cooking it down even more, I suggested that perhaps we should go buy hotdogs (In JE world, chili is best when eaten on a hotdog!).  Fresh grated cheddar and diced onions rounded out this delicious meal.  (Oh, and for the record, J sliced his hotdogs and added them to the chili since he couldn't eat the bun anyway.)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Finicky, Flaky, and in a Funk

I really think that I might need to rename my Finicky Friday label to Flaky Friday, as more often than not, that's what I've turned into by the time Friday rolls around.  Not only did a blog post completely slip my mind last night, it slipped through so quickly this morning that I forgot again!  Anyhow, here's to a slightly flaky blog post, just the same!

I'm not sure what the weekend has in store for the MP.  We'd hoped to have J's folks, but illness is keeping them in Western KY.  I can't lie, I think J's in a bit of a funk about that.  Or maybe it's just the typical 'end of the fiscal year' funk settling in right on time... :)  Actaully, we're both in a bit of a funk.  Sandy thanked us for her many trips as a pick up with a trip of her own to the shop for new struts yesterday.  I have to say, she's sitting much taller today!  I think we're going to have to initiate our annual $100 challenge game again to pay ourselves back for that one!  We've offically missed the opportunity to canoe through the lock on the Kentucky River for the year (Remember how I said we'd have to do it on Labor Day, if we were going to?  Well, it turns out they needed four people to do it and we were the only two to sign up...), and while I have two trips to Frankfort scheduled this weekend, I don't think either of them will include canoeing Elkhorn Creek (though I think we've finally had enough rain that at least we would float!). 

Any suggestions for free or super cheap plans on a cool and damp weekend? 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thankful Thursday--September 8

This week's Thankful Thursday is going to be a quick one, since I'm attempting to immobilize my right hand (and typing doesn't help it).  First, I'm just so thankful for cool temperatures.  I love wearing long sleeves and drinking hot chocolate, and this time of year totally facilitates that!  Second, I'm thankful for J, who is totally being an awesome husband this week.  Finally, I love the sound of the lights turning on in the hall outside my office.  They make this tinkly little sound, and it has become a favorite part of my morning to listen for them.  I'm so aware that many people in the world are not allowed moments like this in their day, so I am consciously thankful that I am.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I mentioned in yesterday's post how excited I was that cool air had finally made an entrance.  I had to share this picture with you.  Now, I realize it isn't a very good picture, but basically what you're looking at is the view from my shower yesterday morning.  I love to push open the window and feel the cool wind blow in while I'm taking a hot shower.  Yesterday morning, together with the cool wind and rain, leaves started blowing off the trees that border our property line with the park.  You can't really see them in the picture, but they were such a welcome sight from my morning shower.

Oh, and the extra grainy look of the picture is the window screen.  Keeping it real for you!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Turns out Mother Nature is talented, too!

Last week, I mentioned how excited I was about the first day of meteorlogical autumn.  Well, wouldn't you know, it turned off HOT for those first few days of summer.  I'm not certain, but I think we may have experienced the hotest days of the year.

As it turns out, Mother Nature was waiting for the end of the USA's cultural summer to bring on the fall weather!  Who knew she could flip the switch right on schedule like that??  Actually, truth be told, I'd havve preferred a dry, warm Labor Day.  J and I might have gotten some work done around the MP.  Instead, we took full advantage of the day off (and that first cool, rainy day of fall) to hang out inside, cook, read and generally be as non-laborious as possible.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A labor-full weekend

Labor Day is a day off for many, and it will be for me, too, this year.  Unlike many, I didn't actually have a three-day weekend free of work, though.  I think I've mentioned that my new job at our parish is multi-faceted.  Day-to-day I'm doing admin kinds of things with about two-thirds of my time.  The other one-third or so is devoted to cultivating our programs for children and youth.  Then, with a bit of left-over, extra time, I've been asked to help promote our parish as a place to get married.  Given that it is a beautiful facility with an even more beautiful gardens and landscaping, this is actually a pretty easy part of the job. 

While I don't typically work on Saturdays, and don't work much on Sundays, this weekend was different.  For starters, I coordinated my first wedding on Saturday.  This was a small, simple wedding that I was actually involved with from start to finish since the couple called during my first week.  The bride adopted a little girl four years ago, and I was completely taken with Lucy.  She was very excited that "We're going to be a family!"  She had a bit of trouble standing up with her parents during the ceremony, and I was thrilled when she took right to the coloring sheets I'd printed out to distract her just in case.  What an amazing experience to share in someone's wedding day!

Then today, I had a completely different, but equally cool, experience.  Today was my first youth group outing, which involved recruiting, transporting, and keeping alive a dozen middle- and high-schoolers.  Given those requirements, mission accomplished!  Oh, and I think they all had a good time, too!  My co-teacher sails and mentioned last year that we could take our kids sailing on his boat.  Add in a few more kids and the adults to drive them, and we ended up with two sailboats and a pontoon boat.  I even managed to coordinate the car assignments so that my kids were all together (so I could work a Sunday School lesson into the drive to the lake).

I think I've totally earned my Labor Day off this year (of course, it falls on a Monday which is my day off anyhow...).  I was so happy to work both Saturday and Sunday, though.  I got to make a difference and improve someone else's life.  I enjoyed myself, and I enjoyed others.  It's silly, maybe, but these are things I didn't always have in my previous work experiences, and they make such a difference.  Something to be thankful for.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Flashback Friday: What a difference a year makes

I realized last night that it has been a year since I left Girl Scouts.  J asked me how I felt about it, and it go tme thinking.  My first thought (and the thought that always comes to mind when I talk to folks who are still there) is one of being thankful I left.  The council has roughly half the staff it had a year ago; many of whom left on their own, but many who were downsized.  Of course, the workload has not decreased, so those left behind are even more overworked and still underpaid.  Then, my second thought was how long this year has been.  Maybe because I've documented most of it on a daily basis, or maybe because I actually took the time to notice most of it, but I wished away the last months of Girl Scouts, and I've not had to do that this year. 

A quick review of my facebook statuses from the weeks surrounding the decision to leave reminded me how I felt about my job before I left.  Phrases like "a weight has lifted" and "Sunday night anxiety" crop up.  I realized that I've not felt that weight (a physical pressure on my breastbone that settled in particularly as I turned onto Fortune Drive, a mile or so from the office) in a year.  I've not been that anxious about going anywhere. 

What a terrible thing to voluntarily put oneself through.  And what an amazing thing to set oneself free.

Thankful Thursday--September 1

If you know us, you know that Autumn is our favorite season of the year.  And if you know me really well, you know what I'm thankful for today--September 1 is the first day of meteorlogical fall!!  Now, we're heading into a couple days in the mid-90's, so I'm not actually expressing thanks for crisp, cooler mornings or anything, but I am thankful for the promise of those cool days!

In related thankfulness, I'm thankful for my friend Cooter, who is a farmer in Western Kentucky.  When I commented to him the other day how hard it is to drive past a tobacco farm on my way to work and know that this type of tobacco isn't going to be fire cured, it makes me miss home so much.  He knew exactly what I was talking about and shared with me how to re-create the smell I miss so much this time of year (For those of you who don't know, dark fired tobacco is cured this time of year in Western Kentucky.  In Central Kentucky, they hang the tobacco in huge barns to air cure.  But in Western Kentucky, they pack it tight together and hang it in very small barns.  Then, they close up the barns and light a fire on the floor that kind of smokes and smolders while the smoke cures the tobacco.  It smells delicious, especially on a foggy fall morning!).  And if all goes as I hope, I'll be thankful for my husband who has promised to run over to a tobacco store on his lunch break to search for the kind of tobacco that I can use to re-create the smell here at the MP.

Finally, I'm thankful for my new job and co-workers (both the paid and volunteer variety).  I am officially one month in at this point, and it has passed so quickly and easily!  I was nervous about going back to work, but I know that this was the right decision for us.  I'm pretty thankful for the opportunity.

What are you thankful for this week?