Funny stories... tales from the road... life with us.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Hits and Misses

So, here we are again! I can't believe another year has passed us by. My mom always said that they years went faster the older that we get, and I'm starting to think she was right all along. :)

I've been a negligent blogger this week; we've been busy relaxing! I'll share more about our week later, but for this post on New Year's Eve, I thought it would be apropo to share the ups and downs of 2008. Here goes...

Hits
1. Travel, travel, travel -- We've been lucky to get out and about quite a bit this year. From London to NYC to Vegas to just simple weekends at the lake, we've had fun together.
2. Getting healthy -- this year has been good to my waistline, although not without a bit of work. It's been fulfilling, and the results have been promising.
3. Blogging and Facebook -- I've loved catching up with old friends and making a few new ones too. Thanks for reading, and thanks for (hopefully) sharing on your blog too!
4. Great job -- sounds corny, but I really, really like my job. It's fun and challenging and, if I'm going to have to go somewhere every day, I'm glad it's there.

Misses
1. Alzheimer's Disease -- it stinks. If anyone you know or love is affected by it, I'm sorry.
2. Stress -- the great job, Alzheimer's and some personal health stuff has stretched my nerves to the limit, as evidenced by my shingles outbreak last September.
3. Clutter -- which comes first, the self-cleaning house or the bi-weekly housekeeper I've been looking for? Stay tuned to find out. :)

So, there you have it. More hits than misses after all. Here's to a healthy and happy 2009 to each of you!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Only a few hours until Santa! We are relaxing at Rob's parents' house after a delicious meal of cheese fondue (our every-other-Christmas tradition) and roasted potatoes. Outstanding!

We traveled today and had a smooth ride for the first hour and a half... and then we hit freezing rain. We were going through Sidling Hill (and yes, there's a cut in the mountain you actually drive through) when suddenly we hit slick roads and slid from the left lane into the right lane. Yowsah. Good thing nobody was there! We slowed it down and Rob did a great job of getting us here safely.

After it warmed up a bit and the roads thawed, I headed up to my parents' to drop off gifts for tomorrow and visit a bit, plus I stopped to see two of my lifelong girlfriends on the way back down the mountain.

Tomorrow we're visiting my grandfather at the nursing home in the morning (he isn't well enough to leave), then spending the morning with my family. The afternoon and dinner will be here with Rob's family - we are looking forward to seeing everyone.

We wish you all a very joyous holiday!

Monday, December 22, 2008

This and That...

I am SO EXCITED that it's Christmas week. Not because of gifts and loot, but because we get some time off of our crazy jobs and can just relax. I can't wait!!

Yesterday I wrapped the last of our gifts (Does anyone else wonder about the recession? I look at the number of presents I've wrapped and am not so sure!). My brother/sister-in-law and Rob and I went in on a big gift for my Mom, and the box is big and heavy, so I brought the wrapping paper downstairs and fixed it all up. Our crazy kitty AJ loves to chew on paper and ribbons, so I put it on the floor in the dining room and draped a blanket over it, with the hope that she'd be unaware. Ha! This morning, I found her sitting under the blanket with the package. That cat is a nut.

I baked thumbprint cookies and the coconut chocolate kiss cookies this weekend, plus a batch of chocolate shortbread. Rob likes those so much that he's decided that the shortbread is staying here for him only. :)

Rob and I geocached a couple of hours in Vienna on Saturday. We found nine caches! It really is amazing all of the places people have placed them. Don't tell Rob, but I actually enjoy it!

Hope you are out of the malls and enjoying the week!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Recipe Sharing: Gingerbread Loaf

I've been wanting to find a good recipe for gingerbread loaf, and I came across one yesterday that I'm going to share with you. The claim is that this is a copycat of Starbucks' gingerbread loaf, and I have to say it's pretty close. I made six loafs of this today for co-workers, and I'll make some more on Tuesday to take to family.

Gingerbread Loaf
Yield: One very large loaf pan or three minis

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 1/4 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon orange extract, optional
1 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon baking soda

Icing
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour loaf pans.
In a medium bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in orange extract. Mix baking soda into applesauce and stir into creamed butter mixture. Add flour mixture. Mix until smooth.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan(s).Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.

Icing
Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in vanilla and orange extract. Slowly beat in confectioner’s sugar. When loafs are cool, spread the frosting on top. Decorate with chopped candied orange peel, chopped pecans or candied ginger.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Traffic Court Ain't Night Court

Wednesday was my first (and hopefully, only) experience in the Fairfax County court system. I headed to traffic court to plead guilty to the crime of going 40 in a 25, and hoping that the judge's holiday spirit would reduce my fine and lower my points.

It was an interesting experience, to say the least. Court convenes at 9:30 a.m., so I showed up around 9:15 a.m., and headed inside to find a looooooong line for security. After checking in my cell phone (the judge hates cell phones, as I would hear repeatedly) and showing the guard that I didn't have any staples on my papers or concealed weapons in my Coach, I made it in to the courtroom, which surprisingly looked like a church with a big bench instead of pulpit.

The room was pretty full - probably around 150 or so. The majority were Hispanic, and a translator was making her way around the room. Around 9:25 a.m., the bailiff made a few announcements, reminded us that cell phones must be checked (lest anyone snuck one by the frisking guard out front) and told us to not chew gum.

I had taken along a magazine since I didn't really know how it all worked and didn't want to be bored, but in light of the rules of no gum, no talking and certainly no cell phones, I thought the judge might not look favorably on me reading Real Simple while he held court.

Now, I was hoping that the cop who gave me the ticket might not show up that day, and I'd have my case dismissed! No luck - when the cops all filed in at 9:29 a.m., he was first in the door. That should have given me a clue right there....

I'd asked the baliff how the whole thing was going to go down, what order people were called in, etc., and he let me know that the order is alpha, by cop. So, if a cop has three tickets on the docket, he's first. The cop with four is next, and so forth and so on.

Finally the judge came in and made all sorts of announcements... when he calls your name, come to the podium up front so he can hear you; say guilty, not guilty or no contest (same as guilty, but some people just can't bring themselves to say that word); and you sure as heck better not have brought in any phone, pager or gizmo that was going to beep. Geez.

The cops took their pledge and court began. The traffic violations were varied -- everything from passing a stopped school bus, to running a stop sign or light, to stopping on a higway. There were TONS of driving without a license violations, and most of the violaters reported in court that they hadn't and couldn't get a license (illegal aliens?). He was lenient with some and stricter with others, but overall seemed very fair.

So we are working our way through the cops... the first couple of cops had just a handful of tickets each, and then we moved to the cops with seven or nine. I kept waiting for my cop's name to be called in the handful bunch.... but no. Guess whose cop had 25 tickets on the docket?? Guess whose cop is the ticket machine??

When the judge finally called my name, I headed to the front and claimed guilty. He asked the cop if there was anything about the violation he should know, and the cop reported that I had an excellent driving record and was "very courteous" when I was stopped. I was surprised he mentioned that, but maybe people are usually so upset and grouchy with him that he rememberd me being polite? Afterall, I was the one doing something wrong, and he was just doing his job. (Although based on the number of tickets he doles out, maybe he does his job a little too well. :) )

The judge cut my fine in half and reduced the charge to 34 in a 25, which is a lower point value. I'll know in 10 days from last Wednesday what my final damage is -- the DMV assesses the points, not the courts.

All in all, it was an interesting experience, even though I would have prefered not to experience it at all! I feel like I've been even more cautious in the last few days, remembering back the list of violations I heard in court. Let's hope it was a once-in-a-lifetime visit.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I am...

I've been tagged to do the "I am" meme ... copy and paste to your own blog and play along!

*I am on the downhill slide toward the weekend!
*I want a keychain garage door opener.
*I have gotten up to walk at 5:30 a.m. every day for far too long.
*I miss my grandmother.
*I fear something bad happening to Rob, or to me.
*I hear the hum of lots of computers.
*I search for missing socks and hidden Christmas gifts.
*I wonder how long I'll be at traffic court this morning.
*I regret saying things I don't mean when I'm frustrated or angry.
*I love my crazy kitty cat.
*I forgive Rob for not being able to read my mind.
*I ache when I worry about my grandfather.
*I always drive.
*I try to come home with a smile on my face, and not in a work-induced bad mood.
*I seem to think that I have unlimited funds to spend on shopping. I don't!
*I know that Rob loves me, thick or thin, good or bad.
*I feel nervous sometimes about the economy.
*I dance too infrequently.
*I dream of chucking it all, moving to a small town and opening a coffee shop and cafe.
*I give in and say 'yes' more than I should.
*I listen to my heart, most of the time.
*I sing sometimes without realizing I'm doing it.
*I laugh a lot when old friends and I talk about high school and growing up.
*I can't do advanced math.
*I cry when I see sappy things on TV.
*I sleep less than I should.
*I am happy to have a few days off from work next week!
*I see lint or animal hair on other people's clothes, and it bothers me. I want to lint-roll them!
*I need to learn to be content.
*I should be thankful for the life I have. And I am.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Recipe Sharing: Coconut Chocolate Kiss Cookies

If you like chocolate and coconut, you'll love these cookies! My coworker shared this recipe with me, and says she got it from a Hershey Kisses bag years ago. So good!

Coconut Chocolate Kiss Cookies
Yield: 48 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 package (3 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons orange juice
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups sweetened coconut flakes, divided
  • 48 Hershey's Kisses


Directions
Beat butter, cream cheese and sugar until well blended. Add egg yolk, almond extract and orange juice; beat well. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in 3 cups coconut.

Cover; refrigerate 1 hour or until firm enough to handle.

Remove wrappers from chocolates. Heat oven to 350.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll balls in remaining 2 cups coconut. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; immediately press chocolate on top of each cookie. Cool 1 minute; carefully remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Schmancy Holiday Party


Last night, we went to Rob's company's holiday party -- so nice! It was at the (newer) Smithsonian Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport. We hadn't been there before, so we both really looked forward to it!

It did not disappoint -- in addition to the great food, live band and cool bar, we walked nearly the whole museum and saw a space shuttle, Concord, Blackbird, etc. They showed two Imax movies, so we chose to see the one called "Fighter Pilot" -- it was a little long, but interesting.

Rob and I laughed that the party was one from the days of old... you know, when the tech companies were booming and money was flowing. We both had been to generous parties like that with past companies, but not in a long time. I have to say that last night's celebration was one of the nicest we've been to!

Today we went to a birthday party, and I wrapped about 25 presents. I got a lot purchased yesterday, but still have some gifts to buy. Plus there's Christmas cards... and cookies... and too much to do. Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Long time, no post

It's been a few days since I've posted! Lots has been going on - work is killing me, and I traveled last weekend to Ohio to see my best girlfriend and her family. It was so great to have a few days just hanging out with her and catching up. The drive was seven hours from here, but it didn't seem too bad.

I borrowed my first "book on CD" from the library for the drive, and I really liked it! I wasn't quite sure, but I really got in to the book and couldn't wait to hear how the story ended. I think it helped the time pass faster. Recommend for long drives!

A couple good things about my trip, besides seeing my friend and her family: a Sonic, where I enjoyed two giant cherry limeaides; good food and a cute little town; gas at $1.43 per gallon. Wow!

Tomorrow I'm hosting an all-day planning session at my house for my team, and we'll map our our marketing calendar for 2009. Friday is my flex day, but I think I'll be working. Boo.

Hope you are all doing well!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Catching Up

It's been three days since my last post! Things have been good, but busy.

Tomorrow, I'm heading west to Ohio. It's about a seven hour drive, so I'm going five hours after work to Charleston, WV, to stay the night with my brother and sister-in-law, then head the last two hours on Friday morning. I'll spend two days with my best girlfriend and her family, then take the long drive back Sunday morning. I might stop at my parents on the way through, depending on which way I go.

Before I leave tomorrow, I'm going to a luncheon at the National Press Club for the PR Week awards. A membership program I launched last year is up for an award! We've been selected as a finalist, and although I don't expect to win, it is a nice honor!

I've enjoyed catching up with friends' holiday blogs this week!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Last NaBloPoMo Post!

Well, 30 days later, I've come to the end of my month of a new post every day. It's been a challenge, but I'm glad to say that this wraps it up!

We are back home after Thanksgiving, and it rained our entire drive today. Ugh. Now the laundry is washing and the Redskins are playing, and Rob just brewed us a pot of coffee to enjoy with a delicious chocolate pastry. A nice afternoon. :)

My favorite part of Thanksgiving was having dinner with my grandfather and everything just seeming normal for just an hour or two, despite the drama that followed thereafter. But, it was worth it.

What was your favorite part of Thanksgiving?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Recipe Sharing: Rob's Trail Mix

Rob whipped up a batch of his trail mix a few weeks ago, and I packed up little quarter-cup servings to munch on. It's simple and delicious!


Rob's Trail Mix

2 parts peanuts (salted)
1 part almonds (roasted unsalted)
1 part M&Ms
1 part raisins

Optional add-ins are dried cranberries, Reese's Peices, butterscotch chips or golden raisins. Yum!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Phelps Phantastic

Have you ever been somewhere and bumped in to someone, but you don't immediately recognize them because they are totally out of context? That happened to me today as I was browsing a rack of coats at Gabriels, when I looked up and was face-to-face with Debbie Phelps.

For a quick second, I thought, "Do I know that lady? Is she one of my former high school teachers?", when it dawned on me. Michael Phelps mom!

(As an aside, I kind of feel like I know her in a weird way, since Rob is a cousin to Debbie's brother's wife. Strange, I know. But she's from the same area where we grew up, and still has family here.)

Anywho, I waited a beat, and quietly said, "Do you go unrecognized up here?" She laughed, and we chatted for a few minutes. I explained our very distant family connection, and wished her a nice weekend. She couldn't have been nicer!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

"What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?"
-- Erma Bombeck, No One Diets on Thanksgiving

"Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often."
-- Johnny Carson

"May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!"
-- Anonymous

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Countdown...

The countdown is on for Thanksgiving! We'll head out Thursday morning for the drive to Maryland. It's less than three hours, so it's wisest to wait and not fight tonight's nutty traffic. Although, I'm always disappointed to miss part of the Macy's parade since we'll be in the car.

My office is closing at 3 p.m. today, so that will give me some extra time tonight to get packed, make my dish and get ready to head out.

Hope your day-before-Thanksgiving isn't to hectic!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Turkey Pounds

So, making it through the holidays is always tough on the waistline. It was hard for me even when I wasn't paying attention to what I was eating! Now that I'm really working on that (it's been almost a year - and enough pounds to make me happy), I feel I'm pretty ready for this season of eating.

Here's my plan...


1. Exercise every day. This has been my plan since January 15-ish, and I've done pretty well. Of course there are days when I'm swamped or traveling or just plum-don't-want-to, but for most of the days, I've moved it. Now that's it's cold and dark outside, I hit the treadmill at 5:30 a.m. during the week, and sometime during the day on weekends.

2. Eat sensibly. This doesn't mean I can't have desserts or bites here and there of sinfully delicious food. I just really pay close attention to what I'm stuffing down my gullet. I measure lots and eat the recommended portions, and I still enjoy!

3. Don't stress. If I over-munch or celebrate too much with sweets, it's okay. I'll just work a little harder the next day and get back on track.

Wish me luck during these holidays, and I'll do the same for you!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Recipe Sharing: Hot Crab Dip

This recipe is from a girlfriend's husband, who does some part-time catering. It's a great party dish or appetizer for dinner. Serve with crusty bread rounds or crackers.

Hot Crab Dip

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. crabmeat
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/4 c. white wine
  • 1/2 c. mayo
  • 1 t. worcestershire sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped

Directions
Soften the cream cheese. Add the wine, mayo, worcestershire sauce and garlic. Mix thoroughly. Add crabmeat and gently fold into rest of mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until browned and bubbly.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday, Sunday

Today has been spent mostly unpacking, doing laundry and cleaning up. We hit the market this morning before church, and I did manage to squeeze in a nap. Soon I'll be thinking about making dinner, so I thought I'd do a quick post.

I can't believe Thanksgiving is this week! We will head up to the are where both of our parents live at some point, and spend a few days with family. Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday - it's low stress (no gifts to purchase and wrap), and it's the kick-off to the holiday season. So, I'm looking forward to it.

As I type, Rob's out sweeping a mountain of leaves off of our deck, with hopes that the grounds crew will come suck them up and take them away. (It's part of our HOA payments.) Fingers crossed.

Have a great last-day-of-the-weekend!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Going Home

I'm back at the airport... This time in Boston waiting to fly home. And I'm watching CNN!

After the conference ended Friday, I hopped in my rental car and drove out to Provincetown, where our dear friends own a B&B. I truly love it out there on the tip of Cape Cod. I spent the day going in art galleries, browsing shops and talking with our friends. It was relaxing and fun.

But, alas, I'm ready for home and my own bed. Oh, and Rob too. :)

Recipe Sharing: Sweet Potato Smash

I love this recipe, and with Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought it was a good time to share. This is super easy and rather nutritious, while still delicious. It's great with pork chops or scallops, or probably anything at all. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Smash
Yield: 8 (3/4 c. servings)
Note: I never make this much, but just adjust the other ingredients below accordingly. I usually use two large sweet potatoes, or about 2 lbs.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. sweet potatoes - washed, peeled and cut in to 1.5 inch cubes
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2/3 c. low-fat milk
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • dash of cinnamon or other spices, to your liking (I always add a splash of vanilla too)
Directions
  • Bring potatoes and enough water to cover them to a boil. Cook until fork-tender, about 18 minutes.
  • With a few minutes left to cook on the potatoes, melt the butter over medium heat. Swirl around the pan so it doesn't scorch, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Drain potatoes and return to pot. Add melted butter, milk, salt, pepper and other spices of your choice. Mash until your desired smoothness.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cold

Today was the coldest day in Boston since February 19. Brrr! Luckily I've been in the convention center most of the time, but getting to a fro', and to dinner, has been freezing.

And since I've been eating a ton, I've been hitting the hotel gym every night. It's a pretty nice facility, and never crowded.

Hope you are having a good week!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Boston

It's late and I'm tired. Boston is good and COLD! Conference is great so far. Desmond Tutu was they keynote today, and I hit every booth in the exhibit hall, plus two sessions. Tomorrow is four more sessions.

Did dinner tonight with a coworker and our boss. Had a great Italian meal in the North End, then a ridiculous cannoli. Mmmmmm!

Just hit the gym to walk off some of that good food, and off to bed!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Recipe Sharing: Chicken and Corn Chowder

I'm not sure where this recipe came from, but it's a delicious chowder for the cold weather. It's not super waistline-friendly, but sometimes you have to live a little. Enjoy!

Chicken and Corn Chowder
Yi.eld: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 10 bacon slices, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 3 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped red bell peppers (about 2 large)
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 9 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 16-ounce bags frozen corn kernels
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 4 cups diced skinned roast chicken
  • 2 cups chopped green onions
Directions
  • Cook bacon in large pot over medium-high heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.
  • Pour off all but 1/4 cup drippings from pot. Add butter to pot; melt over medium-high heat.
  • Add onions and 1 cup bell peppers. Sauté until onions are soft, about 10 minutes.
  • Add flour; stir 2 minutes.
  • Mix in broth and potatoes. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until tender, about 12 minutes.
  • Add corn, cream, and 1 cup bell peppers. Simmer until corn is tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Add chicken and 1 cup green onions. Simmer 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Airport Ups and Downs

I've spent a lot of times in airports this year, so the ups and downs, good and bad, and hits and misses are pretty relevant to me these days. Since I'm sitting at Dulles now, awaiting my flight to Boston, thought I'd share a few highlights from each list...

Ups:
TVs in the waiting areas. Instead of staring at my fellow travelers, I can watch CNN. This was especially good for football the Sunday Rob and I sat in Atlanta!

Starbucks. Yes, I know they are overkill since there are two on every block anymore, but if I'm going to have to get here two hours early, I'd enjoy sipping a skinny vanilla whilest I wait.

Online check-in. At least at Dulles, this is a must. No matter how empty the airport, the United line is always 200 people long. Checking in online keeps me out of that line and a little less stressed.

Downs:
$$$. Why do I have to pay $15 for my suitcase, or $5 for head phones or $150 if my suitcase is 51 lbs.?? Haven't I already paid enough? Will they soon charge me for the privilege of going through security? And speaking of security...

Slow people at security. Hello? Is it news to anyone that we have to take off shoes and coats to go through security? Don't all laptops have to come out of bags? Who thinks they can carry through their bottle of water or giant bottle of shampoo? These are not new rules, people. Be prepared and stop holding up the line with your wide-eyed wonder at these facts. Move it.

Timing. Maybe it's just me, but I can never seem to time it right. I'm either waiting forever or running to the plane. The variables (parking, security, Starbucks lines (!) ) are too much. How can we make this easier?

That said, I'm thankful for watchguard security and safe travels. Next update, live from Beantown!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Too Soon


"A winter storm warning posted by the National Weather Service predicted up to a foot of snow for far Western Maryland and up to 9 inches by Tuesday afternoon in nearby lower elevations, including Allegany and Mineral counties."


This is where both mine and Rob's parents live... and it's way too early for this much snow!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I guess I'm a Geocacher

Rob is addicted to geocaching. Basically, this is a treasure hunt to find hidden containers using global coordinates. He uses our GPS to pinpoint the site, and then searches the area until he finds it and signs his name to the scroll inside. Then, he logs his finds on to the official geocaching Web site.

So, Rob being addicted means I have to tag along. Afterall, I'm the supportive wife, right? :)

Saturday we headed to Reston to find some caches there. We had the coordinates and clues from the Web site. Sometimes the containers are big in size (like a peanut butter jar), and sometimes they are tiny-tiny-tiny. We've found them hanging from trees, and in magnet boxes attached to guardrails, and attached to the bottom of a park bench.

We attempted to find a total of six, and we only found three. Rob's been doing his research so we can go back and find the ones where we didn't succeed!

It's not my favorite thing to do, honestly, but I like spending time with Rob and he has a lot of fun on these hunts. So, with him I will go!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Favorite Snacks...

It's the weekend, which means I'm likely snacking and grazing all day. That's the bad part of being home! I'd be in big trouble if I worked from home often.

And since I often blog about food, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite snacks these days. Here's what I grab when I am hungry and in need of a snack:

What are your favorites?

Have a great weekend!

Let's Keep Dishin'

Rob and I went to Let's Dish last night to do a meal preparation. It was kind of last minute - we found a good coupon online that was expiring, so we signed up quick and went over to make up a bunch of meals.

I've blogged before about how we split all of our meals, either in to twos or threes. That really stretches our dollar, and we end up with more meals. Here's what we got this time:

  • Chicken in cranberry chutney, with egg noodles = 3 meals
  • Sage chicken with golden rice = 3 meals
  • Skewerless chicken satay, with cous cous = 3 meals
  • Thai-style shrimp and noodles = 3 meals
  • Country French flank steak = 2 meals
  • Pork tenderloin with chili apricot glaze = 2 meals
  • Roasted apple pork chops = 3 meals
  • Three-cheese spinach lasagna roll-ups = 2 meals
So, for $170, we came home with 21 meals, plus leftovers for lunches. That works out to $8.09 per each dinner for two.

I imagine that it's things like Let's Dish that get trimmed out of people's household budgets when times get tight, so I think they'll keep on offering good coupons to get people in the door.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Blogroll Wrap Up (part 4)

Wrapping up my blog roll list with the last three on my list. It's been fun thinking back about how I know each of these friends!

Sandi Haustein -- I didn't know Sandi well at Harding, but I knew her husband through the social club where I was a "queen". Weird, I know. Sandi and I had lots of friends in common, and now her family lives in Missouri. She is raising three adorable little boys. I like Sandi's honesty in her blogs, plus the great recipes she shares. She is super-organized and shares her weekly menus, which often gives me dinner ideas too.

Shellie Salza -- Shellie and were both PR majors at Harding, so we shared lots of classes. Shellie is kind and thoughtful and passionate. She lives in Colorado and blogs about her life and funny son Adison. Always a good read!

Stephanie Schwieter -- Stephanie and I had lots of friends in common at HU, including her husband Eric who was in Delta Chi Delta (where I was a queen). Stephanie's blog is much about her little girl Hayley and life expecting baby girl #2 next year! Stephanie is a great mom.

Wongology -- I met Nita through Jeff, who is good friends with Rob. They live across the Potomac in Maryland and have an adorable son, Cameron. Nita has fabulous style and is chronicling life with her two great guys.

That does it!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Blogroll, Take 3

Today is part 3 of my short blogroll... here goes!

Lilac's Shack -- This is the photo blog of my friends Heather and Darrin Shephard, who have two of the cutest kids ever. The name Lilac's Shack comes from the combo of their kids' names Lillian and Isaac. Funny photos and crazy kids.

Maria Roberts -- Maria and I roomed together in Searcy Hall, and then were in a potluck group on Thursday nights after she moved off campus our senior year. Maria is very funny and very kind, and I love reading "All About Aidan" on her blog.

Murphys in American Samoa - Hands-down one of the best written and funniest blogs I read. Philip was sports editor of The Bison at HU when I was editor, and we spent some late nights cranking out that rag. Now Philip and family live in American Samoa, where he is an attorney and he and his wife Jaime are raising three kids. This blog is full of funny stories about life somewhere new.

Robin Kernodle -- I knew Robin at HU too, and she and her husband lived in D.C. a few years ago. Now they are in Texas and raising two beautiful kids. Robin's blog is thought-provoking and fun - she writes about everything from her own personal happenings to her kids' favorite stuffed animals. Always a good read. (private blog)
Wrap up tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blogroll, Part 2

Here goes part 2 of my blogroll run-down...

Gina Savage - Gina and I were in the same wing of Kendall Hall our freshman year at Harding. We had a great crew! Now Gina and Luke are raising three little ones, and she blogs with photos and fun kid updates.

Jennifer Rackley -- Jennifer and I were roommates at Harding during our freshman and sophomore years. Great roomie and tons of memories together - from making signs for our dorm windows to our three-man basement room in Pattie Cobb. Jennifer and her hubby have three sweet little girls, and Jen blogs about the crazy happenings she faces daily as a mom. (Private blog)

Jenny Box -- Jenny is another Harding friend who blogs about her three girls and the beautiful cakes she bakes! Her writing has a great wit.

Leann Alwood -- I met Leann at church, and she's become a staple in my blog and Facebook reading. She is truly a sports fan and passionate about everything from the Indianapolis Colts to Alabama football to North Carolina basketball. Leann has a precious nephew and a rockin' tatoo. A great read.
Still more tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Blogroll, Part 1

I have seen many friends explain who is on their blogrolls. So, although mine is short, I thought it would be appropriate to introduce who's who. Here goes Part I:

Andrea Bishop - I met Andrea my sophomore year at Harding, and we were roommates for a semester in Searcy Hall during my junior year. One of my favorite memories with Andrea is the night that the smoke detectors kept going off in our apartment, and Aunt Bee (affectionatly called Beezer by yours truly) called the Searcy Fire Department. We spent a good chunk of the night singing "Fight the Fire" to the tune of "Light the Fire". Andrea actually reminded me of this memory when we reconnected online! Her blog -- all about "good F words" -- is insightful and fun. She's raising two sweet boys.

Carrie Brown
- Carrie and I were in the same social club at Harding, and we had lots of friends in common. I always thought Carrie was one of the nicest girls around campus. We reconnected on blogs last year, and I've loved keeping up with her family. She's moving to Canada soon!

Coffee Break
- This is a great online bible study and discussion, led by Carrie. It's a nice mid-day refresher -- I check in when I'm eating my lunch at my desk.

Danna Ramsey
- Danna is another friend from Harding. I got to know her when she joined a bible study with a lot of my HUF friends. Danna is genuine as she can be, and she's raising three funny girls, who she chronicles on her blog. Apparently she's quite the smocker too!
More tomorrow....

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Squeaky Wheel

I'm the kind of person who can't just complain about something without trying to change it. I'm a letter writer -- better to kindly share my complaint than to stew in my own frustration!

In the past couple of weeks, I've been on the letter-writing trail again...

Do you shop at Wegman's? Have you noticed their new policy to WAY overpack the bags?? Seriously. They aim to put at least eight items in each bag... which isn't bad when the items are light and non-smushable. But when my bread ends up under a can of crushed tomatoes, or my fruit is packed in a bag so jammed that it all ends up bruised, I get irritated.

A few weeks ago, our bags were so ridiculously overpacked that I'd had it. I took photos of the bags, weighed them, and fired off an e-mail to customer service. Nuts, right??

Our bag weight was about 16lbs each. One bag had a half-gallon of OJ, a half-gallon of grape juice, four cans of something, two cartons of strawberries and a few other random items. All in one bag!!

The manager from the store called me at home, apologized and offered a gift card. I was impressed with his follow-up, and now my policy is to ask the cashier to pack my bags normally, not heavily. Seems to be working!

CoCo Loco

Love chocolate. Eat here. Co Co Sala.

Seriously. Three-course chocolate course. I had the Co Co Grown Up:

AMUSE
mini boston cream doughnut / cappuccino panna cotta

MAIN DESSERT
milk chocolate, pb & banana foster split / mini co co. cupcake / malted shooter

PETIT FOURS
mint chocolate chip cone / strawberry cheese cake lolly with pop rocks

Next time, I want to go for brunch!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Birthday Club

Pretty much, I'm a member of every birthday club out there. $10 off at DSW... free burrito at Qdoba... $15 off at Ann Taylor... free burger at Red Robin. We celebrate the whole month of November!

Last night we cashed in on the Silver Diner. I like that place, and they give their loyal Blue Plate Club members a free entree and dessert. Perfect! During our time there, we heard some funny things from the staff. Here are two of my favorites...

"The special tonight is vegetarian chicken stir fry."
What's vegetarian-chicken mean???

"Most people don't like the apple pie because it's made with fresh apples."
Hmmm. I really prefer fresh apples over any other kind. What other kind would be used for pie???

Language is a beautiful, crazy thing.

Oh - I realize that I blog a lot about food on here. Is that strange?! :)

Friday, November 07, 2008

Addicted

My name is Kathryn, and I'm addicted to Chocolate Goldfish crackers.

Seriously, these are delicious and not too-bad-for-you, snackwise. Serving size is 51 Goldfish (140 calories).

I picked up a bag at Target the other day, and now I'm hooked. Recommend!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Ready for the Weekend

Is it bad that I'm four days in to this NaBloPoMo and I have nothing to write?? Maybe it would help if some of you would comment. I know you are reading - now comment!

We are super ready for the weekend! I'm working on finishing up the laundry now so that this weekend will be amazingly laundry-free. Our plans include a swanky dinner out on Saturday and lots of sleep. My 5:30 a.m. alarm really takes its toll by Friday.

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I haven't blogged much about the election here, mainly because I respect everyone's right to have their own opinions and to vote the way that they feel they must. That's the beauty of democracy. I will say that I'm pleased with the outcome, and I have a tremendous amount of hope in the days to come.

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I just received my first issue of Cooking Light magazine. I've browsed their recipes online for a year or so, and my co-worker's son was selling magazines for school, so I bought a subscription. I'm looking forward to all of the goodies I plan to make!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Shows I'm Watching

Last spring, I made an effort to cut back on the number of shows I watch. Thanks to the writers' strike, I lost interest in some shows and never picked them back up when new episodes started.

That being said, I do spend a fair amount of time with the tube on, whether I'm working around it, walking on the treadmill or crashed on the couch. Here are a couple of shows I'm really enjoying this season...

  • The Mentalist -- this is new on CBS, and I love love love Simon Baker as Patrick Jane. The storylines are good and the premise is cool. Recommend it.
  • ER -- an oldie but a goodie. I'm liking Angela Bassett as the chief, although I miss Dr. Pratt and Abby. Should be interesting to see how the series wraps up.
  • Grey's Anatomy -- still a fan, although the show has gone through its ups and downs. My favorite is Miranda Bailey - sassy and smart.
  • 30 Rock and The Office -- the two best shows on TV. Watch both.
And here are a few that I have dwindling interest in: Pushing Daisies, Criminal Minds, Numb3rs and My Name is Earl.

What are your favorite shows?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Casting our Vote

We headed to the polls after work today. The head of my office either let us come in a little late or leave a little early, so Rob and I opted to go vote around 4:30 p.m. No lines at all - we were in and out within about 10 minutes. Now we are parked in the living room watching the returns. I love this stuff.

Did you vote? How were the lines? Are you watching the returns?

Vote!

"Those who stay away from the election think that one vote will do no good. 'Tis but one step more to think one vote will do no harm."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, November 03, 2008

NaBloPoMo

I've seen this on many friends' blogs, so I thought I'd give it a try! It's National Blog Posting Month - make one post every day for 30 days. Since it's November 3 and I'm starting this three days behind, I'll try to catch up.

This weekend is kind of a blur, even though I had my extra flex day off and we gained an hour of sleep. The heating repair man -- who was supposed to arrive by noon -- showed up at 1:30 p.m. ... and then he didn't have the right part with him! (Puzzling, since Rob had told them what needed replaced when we called Monday.) Anyway, he had someone bring him the part, and 45 minutes later he was finished. Hallelujah - heat again!

I had planned to have the afternoon to run some errands, before Rob and I headed out around 3 p.m. to see my parents. No such luck. I scrambled to do a few things in the short amount of time I had, and we actually ended up leaving around 3:45 p.m. Rob can't shake his cold, so I drove and he slept most of the way up. Lucky for us, yummy beef stew and apple cranberry pie awaited us on the other end of our journey!

Saturday we went to visit my grandfather in his new Alzheimer's assisted living place. I had some severe reservations about putting him there, and for my own peace of mind, I wanted to see it. The place seems nice, and not much like a traditional nursing home. It's very "homey" and the people seemed okay. Pop-pop wasn't having a great day, but it was good to see him.

Of course, Mom and I hit the mall (thanks for my coat, Mom!) and we had an early birthday celebration of steamed shrimp and ice cream cake. A terrific combination, if you ask me. :) We came back early yesterday since Rob is still feeling less than perfect, and I hit the market, walked and took a nap myself.

All in all, we had a nice weekend and really enjoyed catching up with my Mom and Dad!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Bone Cold

I am chilled to the bone! Our heat has been out since we returned home last weekend. We've been making do with extra bed blankets and comfy sweatshirts, but I am more than ready for the repair man to get here today. They told me he'd be here between 9 a.m.-noon.... it's 11:25 a.m. and no sign of him yet. Am I the only on this ever happens to??

In the meantime, I've been productive. A couple of loads of laundry have been washed, clean sheets are on the bed and the car is loaded up with five bags of donations to be dropped at the thrift store. I'm catching up on my Tivoed shows!

Hope you have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Livin' It Up in Vegas

Just a couple shots from our days in Vegas. before my conference began...

In the limo on the way to THE Hotel at Mandalay Bay ... and they worked the "THE" in front of everything (i.e., THE Store, THE Cafe, THE Water-no joke!)


After dinner at Mario Batali's Enoteca San Marco, on the way to see Cirque du Soliel's Love



Our ridiculous tray of pastries at Bouchon Bistro in The Venetian. I could have eaten the whole tray. Seriously.



View from The Foundation Room on the top floor of Mandalay Bay.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Back in Town

As fun as it is to travel, it's even better to be back home. We arrived home late Sunday night, ending my nine days of living in hotel rooms and eating out every meal. I am grateful to be home!

Our visit to Harding was terrific! It was so fun to show Rob the campus and see old friends. Our HUF group enjoyed breakfast and dinner together, as well as a great visit to the Mitchells home for delicious brownies. :)

Here are photos from Harding. Photos from Vegas coming soon. Enjoy!

HUF and Harding

Friday, October 24, 2008

Celebrity Sighting

So I'm sitting in the Little Rock airport waiting for Rob, whose plane from Atlanta is super delayed. Guess who I see waiting for her luggage? The actress Mary Steenbergen, wife of Ted Danson. I knew they had a home here, but it just seemed odd. One week in Vegas and my celebrity sighting is in Little Rock??

The airport here has been upgraded. I had a Starbucks and now I'm sitting in a little cafe near baggage claim listening to a live jazz quartet.

That 3:45 a.m. wake-up call is starting to take its toll.

From Vegas to Harding

This morning, I got up at 3:45 to get ready, check out and make my 6 a.m. flight from Vegas to Little Rock. Right now I'm in Denver waiting to get on the world's smallest airplane for part two of my journey. Not a fan.

The rest of the week in Vegas was great. The Elton John show was amazing, although I have to say he's getting a little old. My coworker and I thought he looked like he was almost cripping across the stage. And we could see that really well, since we were on the FIFTH ROW. The seats were incredible! His music was great, as was the theater decor and the videos that showed in the huge stage screen. Before dinner, we had a fabulous meal (and margaritas!) at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill. I recommend both!

Last night, a couple coworkers and I enjoyed a final Vegas meal at The Mix, the restaurant at the top of THEHotel at Mandalay Bay. The view down the strip is crazy, and the food (I had spicy seared tuna) was delish.

Maybe I should clarify that I did work - a lot! - in Vegas. These blog posts make it sound like I just played! I gave two presentations and directed four sessions. It was a great meeting.

I am excited about visiting Harding this weekend, seeing friends and showing Rob around!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Viva Las Vegas

Today marks my fifth day in Sin City. Rob and I arrived here Friday, in advance of a conference for my work. We had a good bit of time during the weekend to play, peoplewatch, penny slot and eat. We squeezed in a bunch!

Our conference hotel is all suites and the rooms are awesome. I actually have two bathrooms in my room - insane.We were picked up at the airport in a limo and have been livin' large. :)

Friday night, we ate a great meal of artisan cheeses and pizza at Mario Batalli's Enoteca San Marco, and then saw Cirque de Soliel's LOVE-the show based on Beatles music. Awesome.

Last night, a couple coworkers and I went to the House of Blues and saw The Killers. It rocked, and I felt young again as my shoes stuck to the beer covered floor and I screamed lyrics at the top of my lungs.

Too bad for me that Rob's gone home and my conference has begun!

Monday, October 13, 2008

iTune Me

I have about $14 in credit with iTunes... any suggestion for good music? Something to walk/run to, relax to or just plain sing-along to?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

When life hands you lemons...

... make lemon trifle. Huh?

My cooking experiences this weekend have been a disaster. I don't know if it's just because I'm hurried and am not paying attention, or if I'm trying random substitutions in an effort to reduce fat and calories. Either way, it ain't working.

Our Sunday pot roast ended up a little too much like stew, thanks to me adding an extra can of broth (not paying attention). Not that pot roast stew is bad (it tasted great!), but it's just not what I had in mind.

The chocolate angel food cake was a total mess. First, I forgot to put the cocoa in the cake. So I figured instead I'd just do a regular cake with chocolate icing. But I bought light cream instead of whipping cream, and it wouldn't whip at all. It made a lovely chocolate cream sauce, but no where near frosting. Sometimes saving calories doesn't help!

So, I cut up the baked angel food cake, whipped up a pudding/cream cheese/lemon yogurt mixture and diced up some strawberries. Wah-lah! Lemon strawberry trifle. (I found the recipe online - if it's tasty, I'll share it!)

Maybe this week's cooking adventures will be better...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Working on the weekend...

Hooray for the weekend! Rob and I were so whipped last night that we went to bed at 8:45 p.m.... are we old or what?! We both read for a bit and were lights-out by 9:30 p.m. We woke up early this morning since we'd been sleeping so long. We headed to the market and got stuff for the week (and the ingredients for a Sunday pot roast - mmmmm!), and then I went into the office for about four hours. We are gearing up for a big conference next week, and I had to get some things finished. It was a productive few hours!

I stopped at the mall on my way home to return a dress and a blazer. The gal at Ann Taylor was totally stumped, but thank goodness she finally figured it out. Tonight is a hot date at Chick-fil-A and a trip to Target. We are really living it up this weekend!

Right now I'm baking a chocolate angel food cake... kind of. After it had been in the oven for 20 minutes, I remembered that I hadn't added the cocoa into the mix. Ooops. So it will be a regular angel food with chocolate icing. Friends are hosting us for dinner Monday night, and I'm bringing dessert. I figured the cake can cool this evening (upside down, which is always wacky) and I could ice it tomorrow.

Hope you are having a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Recipe Sharing: Italian Beef

This is a good recipe for the cooler weather. I got this from a college friend's mom. She would make it when I'd visit, and I always loved it. Super easy, and makes plenty for leftovers. Hope you enjoy!


Italian Beef

6-8 servings

Ingredients
2 cans beef consomme
2 cans French onion soup
2 envelopes Good Seasons Garlic & Herb salad dressing mix (dry)
2 envelopes Good Seasons Italian dressing mix (dry)
2 jars pepperoncini (can be spicy; I don't always use these)
4-6 lb. rump roast

Directions
Mix together soups and seasonings. Put beef and mixture together in crockpot. Cook on low for at least 8 hours, until tender. Serve on hoagie rolls with all the toppings (lettuce, tomato, Swiss cheese, sliced onions, etc.).

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Hikers Are We

This morning we headed about 25 miles south to hike at Wildcat Mountain. Thankfully we didn't see any wildcats!

We chose the 2.9 mile loop (there is a 5.6 mile loop too), and the first half-mile was a pretty tough uphill section. No scrambling or rock climbing, just up up up at a pretty steep angle. We saw a few deer and squirrels on the way. We'd packed a picnic lunch, and stopped at Bull Run Park for lunch. Rob proposed at this same park during a picnic three years ago last week!

We just enjoyed some Ledo's pizza and are watching the Maryland football game. Go Terps!

Friday, October 03, 2008

A Find

Last year, I really wanted this green wool coat from Banana Republic. I looked at it... tried it on... and walked away several times. It was just too much money to spend on a trendy coat. Toward the end of the season, I visited the store again to see if I could pick it up on clearance, but no luck.

Today on my flex day, I decided to head to the outlets in Leesburg. I finally made my way down to the Banana Republic outlet and was sorting through racks of all sorts of clearance, and guess what I found? The green coat! I nearly fell over. I grabbed it quick! Exact same coat, only $100+ less. I wonder how it got there and stuck around from last year?! I was thrilled!

Oh - and I got my haircut this morning. It's pretty short, and I like it. I'd actually envisioned it a little shorter, but the fantastic gal who cuts my hair suggested baby steps. :)

Hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Random

I heard from the doctor yesterday that my insurance decided to cover my prescription. Hooray! I headed over to Target and they refunded my $283. Oy. The good news is that my shingles are much better - and now just itchy!

**********

Tomorrow is my flex day off! I'm getting a new 'do and pedicure, then heading to the outlets. In the evening, I'm going to a Tastefully Simple party. It should be a good day.

**********

Rob fried up some leftover corn tortillas tonight, and we had chicken tacos. Delicious!

**********

I am watching the debate. I am ready for Sarah Palin to answer a question. She hasn't so far - just prepared statement after statement that she just blurts out, mostly rambling. I don't get it. It's embarrassing and dangerous for our country. I'm not saying Obama/Biden is perfect, but I'll take experience over charm any day.

Note: I know many of you support McCain/Palin, so please don't think I'm judging your selection. It's just not for me.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Importance of October



October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Awareness of, prevention of and a cure for breast cancer is near and dear to my heart. In 1999, my Mom was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. She was told she had less than a 50% chance of being here in five years. Thanks to the best care possible at the National Cancer Institute at the National Institute of Health and an amazing attitude, she's here and better than ever.

However, not every woman has access to the best care, or great doctors who work miracles, or even the knowledge to do what she can do to protect herself. Since 1991, I've made it my mission to support breast cancer research and Foundation programs that contribute to finding a cure. I know it's impacted many of your lives too, and I hope you'll join me in supporting great organizations that benefit survivors, victims and women everywhere.

Here are a few bits of information...

  • There are 182,460 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in women in the United States each year (and 1,990 in men). Of these an estimated 40,480 women and 450 men will die from the disease.
  • With the exception of skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, no matter your race or ethnicity. It is the most common cause of death from cancer among Hispanic women, and the second most common cause of death from cancer among white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native women.
  • It's never too late to adopt healthy behaviors that can reduce your risk... be physically active, maintain a healthy weight, cut down on “bad” fats (saturated and trans fats) and consume more “good” fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, like olive and canola oil), take a daily multivitamin with folic acid.
  • Do your research and know your stuff about early detection, diagnosis and treatment.
Breast cancer doesn't discriminate against age, either -- it's not reserved for older women. You've seen Christina Applegate's story recently (which could potentially change the face of breast cancer). Statistics show that there are more than 250,000 women age 40 and less in the U.S. living with breast cancer, and more than 11,100 young women will be diagnosed in the next year.

Getting tested regularly is the best way to lower their risk of dying from breast cancer. Screening tests can find breast cancer early, when it’s most treatable. If you are a woman with a family history, start testing no later than age 35.

Be your own advocate. Support groups that search for a cure. Hug your mom.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Recipe Sharing: Zucchini Bread

This is my all-time favorite recipe for zucchini bread. I got it a few years ago from a co-worker, and it's excellent. I don't know if it's the addition of the crushed pineapple, but it has a sweet and savory taste. Enjoy!

Zucchini Bread

Ingredients
3 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 c. finely chopped walnuts or pecans
3 eggs
2 c. sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. coarsely shredded zucchini
1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained

Directions
Combine flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nuts. Set aside. Beat eggs lightly in large mixing bowl. Add sugar, oil and vanilla. Beat until creamy. Stir in zucchini and pineapple. Add dry ingredients and stir until moistened. Spoon batter into two greased and floured 9x5x3 loaf pans. Bake at 350 for one hour or until done. Cool on rack for 10 minutes. Turn out on rack and cool completely.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hail to the Redskins!

It's Sunday night and we are watching the end of the Redskins vs. Cowboys game. Can't believe the 'Skins pulled out a victory!

Today has been pretty easy. We headed to the market before church to pick up what we need for the week (although we forgot two important items - oh, well), then headed to church. Our minister has been doing a series on Christian families, and we've enjoyed it.

After church, I headed out for a walk, and then started on five loads of laundry. Now it's all finished and put away. I also managed about an hour nap on our comfy couch! :)

We intended on grilling some bbq chicken and pork for later this week, but as Rob headed outside, he realized we were out of gas! So we improvised and used our inside grill pan. Turned out great!

Now we're getting ready to watch The Amazing Race (I think Rob and I should try to get on there and race!) and spend the rest of the evening relaxing. I'm thankful for a nice weekend, and hope you had one too!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Good Day

It's been a good day. I slept in and got some rest, then Rob and I walked over to Panera Bread (about 1.5 miles from our house) and enjoyed a quiet breakfast. I enjoyed the exercise and time with Rob. I spent the rest of the day running a few easy errands and watching some of the shows I'd DVRed this week.

Tonight, we decided to head to Reston Town Center and check out the new restaurant by the folks who brought us Sweetwater Tavern and Coastal Flats. The menu has some of the same goodies as their other restaurants, but some new choices too. I had the steak frites (grilled flank steak and delish fries, plus a salad), and Rob had the mahi mahi with three pepper polenta. Both were great and the place was hoppin'.

After dinner, we walked around RTC, checked out Williams Sonoma (my fave) and split a strawberry/chocolate swirl at Pinkberry. Mmmmmmmm.

Tonight's dinner and time spent with Rob definitely helped me move toward unwinding and stressing less. Tomorrow, let's hope for more of the same!

(P.S. - Bonus good news today? 30% off everything at Banana Republic for their anniversary sale. Go!)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Stress City

Welcome to Stress City! Mayor, me!

I'm stressed to the max - work is crazy (big conference in a few weeks), too many meetings of our HOA Board (I volunteered why?) and family stuff is a roller coaster (grandfather with Alzheimer's at the tip of that iceberg).

That means I work late, run home, scarf dinner and either head to a meeting or log back on the computer to do more work. I can't relax and I'm being a grouch to the one person who's been the nicest to me. Rob deserves a big shout out for keeping me around. :)

So, besides sleepless nights and a constant headache, what else has this nutso stress benefited me with? Shingles.

Yes, that's right. I have shingles. I thought only old people got shingles.

I noticed the breakout Monday morning while I was showering, and figured that I'd been repeatedly bitten by some creepy-crawly during our last lake weekend. But, it didn't itch and continued to get redder and more uncomfortable.

So yesterday, I went to the doctor to have it checked out, and I nearly fell off the little table when she pronounced that it was shingles. "Get out!" is what I'm pretty sure I hollered. You may know that it's the same virus that causes chicken pox, and it remains dormant in the body forever. Guess what's a main trigger? Severe emotional stress. Go figure.

I headed to Target after work with my prescription, only for the pharmacist to tell me my insurance won't cover it. Whatever. So, $250 later I left the pharmacy and have since followed up with my doc to have her convince the insurance company that I need this instead of the generic. I don't know how the uninsured do it. And, this is an issue I'll be looking in to as I'm researching our two options in November.

I need the weekend. I need to sleep and stay off of the computer and be nice to my husband. I'm ready... and only two hours until it begins.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Want some Fiber One Goodies?

I'm not usually one to pass these along, but since I'm a big fan of Fiber One products, I thought I would!

Free! Fiber One Samples and Coupons
Want some free Fiber One cereal and a Fiber One bar? Eat Better America is giving them away! Go here to sign up to get a few samples and a coupon booklet for $3 off Fiber One products.

My favorite is the new Oats and Strawberries bar. Mmmmm... enjoy!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Recipe Sharing: Praline French Toast Casserole

This is a great breakfast recipe! It's another great "make-the-night-before" dish that's perfect when company visits. Probably not waistline-friendly, so enjoy with caution! :)

Praline French Toast Casserole
Serves 8

Ingredients
8 eggs
1-1/2 cups half and half
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
10 to 12 slices soft bread, 1 inch thick

Topping:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup maple syrup
2 cups chopped pecans

Directions
Generously butter a 13 x 9 inch casserole dish. Mix the eggs, half and half, maple syrup, and sugar in a large bowl. Place the bread slices in the prepared casserole dish and cover with the egg mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let soak overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350º degrees F.

Make the topping: Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the sugar and maple syrup and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the pecans. Pour the mixture over the bread and bake for 45 to 55 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Last Lake Weekend

This was our last weekend at the lake! We packed up our room this morning before heading home. It's been a great summer of lots of lake time. Let fall begin!

I was in Chicago last week for a work meeting, and we took in a Cubs game on Wednesday. Lots of fun! I don't know much about baseball, but it was an experience.

Not much to write... lots going on, just not much to say about it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Another Weekend Down

This weekend has been easy and relaxing. We haven't done much, which is a nice change.

Last night we had dinner at Eat Bar, the casual, "gastro pub" part of Tallulah in Arlington. Rob had been there before with a buddy, and I'd been wanting to go since Washingtonian magazine said they had one of the best burgers around.

The decor is cool - old lights from a church, cozy booths, chalkboards above the bar with specials and drinks. And the food was good too. The only really weird thing is the service and how they bring out the food. Basically, there's no rhyme or reason to it... my salad and onion rings came out together, my burger a few minutes later, and Rob's meal showed up 10 minutes after that. The waitress told us "as the food is ready, it comes out," but we thought our main meals would at least come together! Really not a big deal, since we'd already planned to split the burger and share Rob's hanger steak, but just a little odd. The onion rings were excellent!

We ended up running our errands on the way home from dinner, getting groceries for the week and picking up some stuff at Target. That meant that today, we only had church and time at home. I love lazy Sundays filled with Redskins football ... and the SNL premiere we Tevoed and are watching right now. Phelps didn't do too bad, and Tina Fey is always a hoot.

Hope you are having a great week!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Happy Birthday, Pop-pop

Today, my Pop-pop is 93. He's lived a great life and has always been special to me. I have millions of memories of our time together... from visiting his office when I was little and sitting in his big chair, to riding on the cart at the golf course, to him showing up at Girl Scout camp with my Mom to pick me up one summer... in his coat and tie. I can still picture it.

Pop-pop has Alzheimer's now and life isn't so easy, but he does okay. My grandmother is a saint to take such good care of him. We all know it isn't simple.

So, join with me in wishing him a wonderful day.

The Pledge of Allegiance

I heard this on the radio yesterday and thought it was great for September 11, so I'm sharing it with you.


When the popular American comedian Red Skelton was a young man, he learned the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance from one of his teachers. The lesson became so meaningful he remembered the explanation of his teacher, Mr. Laswell, throughout his lifetime. In 1969 (when there were only 48 states), Red Skelton made a recording of an explanation of the Pledge Of Allegiance. It goes like this:

I: Me; an individual; a committee of one.

Pledge: Dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self-pity.

Allegiance: My love and my devotion.

To the Flag: Our standard; Old Glory ; a symbol of Freedom; wherever she waves there is respect, because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts, Freedom is everybody's job.

United: That means that we have all come together.

States: Individual communities that have united into forty-eight great states. Forty-eight individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose. All divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that is love for country.

And to the Republic: Republic--a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people; and it's from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.

For which it stands,One Nation: One Nation--meaning, so blessed by God.

Indivisible: Incapable of being divided.

With Liberty: Which is Freedom; the right of power to live one's own life, without threats, fear, or some sort of retaliation.

And Justice: The principle, or qualities, of dealing fairly with others.

For All: For All--which means, boys and girls, it's as much your country as it is mine.

It's amazing the meaning you can derive when you think about the depth of the words, huh? You can read more about it here and here, and listen to it here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's Been a Long Week

I can't believe it's only Wednesday! This week has definitely seemed longer than normal. How long until the weekend?!?

Not much to report... life just keeps moving on! We had been thinking about going to the lake this weekend, but we enjoyed last weekend at home that we might just do that again. Hopefully we'll enjoy a nice dinner together at Eat Bar in Arlington. Rob went there with a friend recently and has been promising to take me!

I am excited that fall is staring to make an impression here and there. It's cool outside today. Fall is my favorite season, so I'm in a hurry for it to get here and stay as long as possible before winter takes over.

My big news today is that I bought two pair of pants on clearance at the Gap during lunch - $14 each. Can't beat it. Kind of sad that it's my big news of the day. :)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Recipe Sharing: Breakfast Casserole

Many friends have asked for this recipe, so I'm sharing it here! I'm planning to make it tonight for a staff breakfast tomorrow, so I thought it was a good time to finally drag it out and type it up.

I like this recipe when we have house guests or during the holidays because it can be fixed in advance, refrigerated overnight and ready to pop in the oven the next day. For a work breakfast, it serves a lot of people, especially when paired with fruit or bagels. It's a basic variation on many similar recipes that are out there, so it's nothing unique. Just delicious!


Breakfast Casserole


Ingredients
1 lb of pork sausage
4 1/2 cups bread, cubed
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
10 eggs, slightly beaten
4 cups milk (recipe calls for whole milk, but I always use 2%)
1 tsp dry mustard or 1 squirt of yellow mustard
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp onion powder
Optional ingredients: sliced mushrooms and diced tomatoes

Directions
Chop and brown bulk sausage until cooked. Drain to remove fat, and crumble more if needed.

Spray 9x13 baking dish with PAM, and put cubed bread in the bottom. Sprinkle with some of the shredded cheddar.

Mix together the slightly beaten eggs with the milk, green onion, mustard, onion powder, salt and pepper. Pour evenly over the bread and cheese. Sprinkle sausage, remaining cheese and optional ingredients on top of the egg mixture.

Cover and refrigerate overnight. (If you don't do this in advance, let it sit at least 15 minutes before baking.) Preheat oven to 325 and bake uncovered for 50-60 minutes. Tent with foil if top begins to brown too quickly.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Home for the Weekend

This has been a relaxing weekend! It's the first one that we've actually been home in a month, so that makes it especially nice. Plus, I had the bonus flex day on Friday so it's been like a three-day weekend for me.

Friday was a great day for running errands and getting the house ready for our guests Friday evening. Tortilla soup, a Mexican salad and homemade guacamole were on the menu. Mmmmmm. We played spades and talked and had a great time.

The rain from Hurricane Hannah started last night and continued through this evening. It finally tapered off around 6 p.m., and Rob ventured out to pick us up some dinner. He's been wanting to try the McDonald's southern chicken sammy for weeks, but I've been resisting out of my loyalty to Chick-Fil-A. A BOGO coupon came yesterday in the mail, so I caved. Verdict? Not as good as CFA, but okay.

Now we are watching some more college football (what's wrong with WVU?) and just hanging out. I managed to do five loads of laundry today-whew.

Oh, and I'm writing this blog on my new laptop! Since I've been doing a lot of work from home, we decided to get a laptop that I can load up with graphics programs and other work-related loot. Plus, Rob and I can surf the Web in the same room (as we are doing now). Bonus- it's green!

Tomorrow is church and the market and a nap! Hope you have a great weekend -

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Mmmmm..... Edible Computers

Love, love, love this commercial that aired tonight during the Redskins vs. Giants game.



The only thing better than a football game is a football game with funny commercials. Kind of like the Super Bowl, only five months earlier!

A Case of the Blahs

I'm not sure why, but this week I've just felt pretty crummy. Maybe work is stressing me out, or maybe it's something else, but I haven't felt myself and I don't like it. I can't blame it purely on exhaustion since we did just come off of a three-day weekend!

Luckily, I have tomorrow off too, since it's my first flex day. Hopefully I'll enjoy the day at home, making chicken tortilla soup and getting ready to have some friends over Friday evening. The weather-nuts are going crazy with expectation that we might get heavy rains from one of the incoming hurricanes. I ain't skeered.

************

Has anyone else been watching the convention this week? I watched Sarah Palin last night, and I'm still not sure what to think. She's a captivating speaker for sure, and seems fun and approachable on some levels. But I'm not convinced she's presidential material, and unfortunately, she only has about 60 days to prove that she really is.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Recipe Sharing: Italian Mac-n-Cheese

I'm not sure where this recipe came from (maybe Rachel Ray?), but it's delicious. Enjoy!

Italian Mac-n-Cheese
Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients
1 pound ziti rigate, penne rigate or cavatappi
1 pound Italian bulk sweet sausage
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 or 4 cloves garlic, chopped
12 crimini mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 (10-ounce) sack (2 1/2 cups) shredded Italian 4 cheese blend
1 can diced tomatoes, drained well
1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
1/2 cup Parmesan

Directions
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water and cook pasta to al dente, about 8 minutes.

In a nonstick skillet, brown and crumble the sausage. Drain cooked crumbles on paper towel lined plate. Return pan to heat and add extra-virgin olive oil, butter, garlic and mushrooms. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Saute 3 to 5 minutes, until mushrooms are lightly golden.

Preheat broiler to high.

To mushrooms, add flour and stir, cooking 2 minutes. Whisk in stock, then stir in cream. Bring cream to a bubble, then stir in 2 cups of 4 cheese blend. When cheese has melted into sauce, add tomatoes. When sauce comes to a bubble, remove from heat and adjust seasonings, adding hot sauce if desired.

Combine cheese sauce with sausage and pasta, transfer to baking dish, casserole or oven safe serving platter. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of 4 cheese blend and the grated Parmesan over the top and brown under hot broiler.

Is Summer Really Over?

Can't believe Labor Day is behind us and we are heading full-force into fall. Summer went too fast!

We headed up to the lake (of course) for the long weekend, since we know our days there are numbered for this year. Hopefully we'll sneak in one last visit before it gets too cold and the docks and boats are all pulled out of the water. We spent Friday night with my parents and had a great meal at Giuseppe's, a local favorite.

For the rest of the weekend, we just hung out, ate too much good food and relaxed. I managed to have a couple of nice naps that I thoroughly enjoyed! We headed out yesterday and stopped to visit my grandparents on the way back. That leads to a blog post all unto its own, but I would ask that you keep my sweet grandfather in your thoughts. Alzheimer's stinks.

So now we are back to work. Lucky for me, this is a three day work week! We had Monday off, and Friday is my first "flex work" reward day. I'm planning to spend it cleaning the house and making dinner for a Spades card tourney we are hosting this weekend.

Hope you have a great week!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Long Night...

Last night was one of those evenings that just wasn't long enough to get everything done, but yet seemed like it dragged on forever. Have you ever had one of those?

I went to a going-away-lunch for a co-worker, so was completely full and thought I'd just make Rob something easy for dinner before starting in on the tasks I had on the list in my head (am I the only one who makes lists in her head?!). Those included:

  1. Make spinach dip for Thursday's work potluck
  2. Make peanut butter torte for Thursday's work potluck (my mom taught me to always bring two things to a potluck, because there is invariably someone there who brings nothing and eats a lot!)
  3. Walk - preferably outside, but likely on the treadmill
  4. Feed the hungry husband with the (easy) dinner of his choice
  5. Wash, dry, fold and put away a load of whites and the load of jeans
That seemed like an already busy night, especially since I've just switched to the "flex work" schedule at work and am getting home an hour later each night (the bonus is that I get every other Friday off).

So as I'm driving home, I called Rob to complain about my busy night ahead and ask him to throw in the load of white clothes. "No problem," he replies. "But we also need to go jump my car. I left my lights on today and my battery died, so I just walked home." Ugh, I say. Add it to the list. Oh- and make your own dinner. :)

That he did, and I made the spinach dip while he ate and the clothes washed. Then we loaded up our portable car jumper/light/battery charger my parents got us and headed the 1.5 miles to Rob's office. Luckily, the car jumped easy and we headed home. I tossed the dip in the oven to cook and spent 30 minutes on the treadmill. I also managed that second load of laundry.

Next up, peanut butter torte. I'd never made this before, but had a sample of it when my mom made it for a church potluck. Delicious! I'll share that recipe soon. It's not difficult at all and looks great. Let's just hope it comes out of the springform pan okay.

After the laundry and car charging and dip making and walking and torte making, I was whipped. At about 10:30 p.m., I headed up to bed and watched Joe Biden's speech at the Democratic Convention in Denver. I had no clue on his back story - it's tragic and you can read about it here.

So, that was my busy night. Needless to say, I'm ready for the weekend!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Recipe Sharing: Coconut Kisses

My good friend shared this recipe with me, and it's delicious. The only trick is getting them off of the cookie sheet. I haven't tried them yet with one of those silpat mats, but next time I will. Enjoy!

Coconut Kisses
Yield:24-ish cookies

Ingredients
1 c. brown sugar
2 stiffly beaten egg whites
2 c. corn flakes
1 c. moist shredded coconut
½ c. chopped California walnuts
½ tsp. vanilla

Directions
Beat sugar into egg whites. Fold in corn flakes, coconut and walnuts. Add vanilla. Drop by teaspoons onto well-greased cookie sheet. Bake in 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Place pans on damp towel, remove cookies immediately with spatula. If cookies stick, return to oven to soften.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I Need a Good Book

Any recommendations? I read "Same Kind of Different as Me" last weekend and absolutely loved it. I have a couple of reads in my stack, but nothing is calling out to me.

Read anything lately that you'd recommend?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Recipe Sharing: Potato Gratin with Asiago and Bacon

This is an absolutely new favorite recipe! It's an awesome side dish for grilled steaks. I made it a few weeks ago when we had a small dinner party, and it was a hit. Plus, it looks (and tastes!) way more impressive than the true effort, which is always a plus. Hope you enjoy!

Potato Gratin with Asiago and Bacon
Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds peeled Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 teaspoon salt, divided
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups 1% low-fat milk, divided
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Asiago cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°
2. Place potatoes in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes or until potatoes are almost tender. Drain. Sprinkle potatoes evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt; set aside and keep warm.
3. Heat a medium saucepan coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add shallots; cook 2 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Sprinkle flour over shallots. Gradually add 1/2 cup milk, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Gradually add remaining 1 1/2 cups milk, stirring with a whisk. Cook over medium heat 9 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in 3/4 teaspoon salt, Asiago, chives, pepper, and bacon.
4. Arrange half of potato slices in an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Pour half of cheese sauce over potato slices. Top with remaining potato slices and cheese sauce; sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned. (I put it under the broiler for about 2 minutes, just to crisp the cheese on top.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Social Media

Despite your politics, you have to admit that this presidential campaign has taken advantage of social media more than ever. Maybe it's because online networks have exploded during the last couple of years, or politicians are realizing that Gen Y spends more time online - for leisure or work - than watching TV.

Forrester Research says that 72 percent of Gen Y mobile phone owners send or receive text messages, and 42 percent of online Gen Yers watch internet video at least monthly.

In case you haven't heard, Obama is expected to announce his running mate any minute now. And, instead of telling it to Brain Williams or Matt Lauer, he's going to the people first and sending it out via text message. You can be one of "The First to Know" by signing up here. I signed up out of curiosity, just to see how he did it. Of course this means I'll be getting Obama e-mails for the rest of my natural life. :)

John McCain is using online tools too - his online ads are effective and attention-grabbing, and his Web site is full of opportunities to engage.

For me (maybe I'm just a communications nerd), it will be really interesting to see how these two candidates rally and motivate the online world to support them through November and beyond.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Another Weekend Down



It's Sunday evening, I'm still blissful about Michael Phelps and we are home and relaxing. The only bad news is that we have to go back to work tomorrow!

We headed up to the lake early Friday afternoon. It was cool, but nice. There is some strange seaweed-thing going on in the lake - something about not having enough rain this year. Whatever it is, it's gross. I don't care to swim in seaweed!

Rob's sister and her husband came down on Saturday, and we just hung out. Matt brought the beach family photos, and they are great!


Saturday evening, we went to a wedding reception for my best girlfriend Tessa's brother and his new wife. They were married in Virginia a few weeks ago, when Rob and I traveled to babysit. It was a really nice dinner and we enjoyed catching up with old friends, including three of my teachers from elementary and high school - so fun to see them! I added a few photos from the night on the right.

We stayed Saturday night with my parents and headed home today. Waiting on our front porch and mailbox were my Longaberger order and Rob's new Xbox game. We were both happy!

Hope everyone has a good week!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Eat My Words

Believe it or not, my treadmill is fixed. The oh-so-friendly repairman called to tell me he was here--not that he would be here in 30 minutes, as promised. To boot, he yelled it me like it was my fault he didn't call! Regardless, I hopped out of work, came home (Rob came too, given the gracious history we have with this company), let him in and he did his thing.

He wasn't pleased that as soon as he turned the treadmill on, AJ the cat hopped up to walk. He yelled, "Down cat!" and pushed her with his foot. Easy, repairman. I picked her up and put her in the bedroom downstairs. Probably should have done that as soon as I got home, but honestly, what can a cat do to him?

I'm glad it's fixed and am off to walk on it now -- hope I don't see any error codes!