Friday, December 31, 2010
Artichoke, Spinach and Feta Stuffed Shells
Blue Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Buffalo Sauce
Roasted Root Vegetables
Cinnamon Jelly Thumbprint Cookies
Chocolate Crunch No-Bake Cookies
Yesterday I tackled the chili. It's a recipe I've used many times (and it won first runner up in the chili cook-off last year). I now have a few containers in the freezer for lunch and even included corn bread muffins! I didn't take a picture but here's the original recipe...
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely diced
2 green bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely diced
1/5 lb ground turkey breast
2 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp powdered cocoa
1 to 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/4 cup tarragon vinegar
2 Tbsp strong brewed coffee
2 14-oz cans plum tomatoes, crushed
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups cooked black beans
1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or deep skillet. Add the onion, garlic, red and green pepper; saute, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the ground turkey and saute for 5 minutes, stirring constantly and breaking up any lumps with the spoon.
2. Stir in the flour, chili powder, cumin and cocoa. Stir over low heat, stirring frequently for 3 minutes to cook the spices. Add the remaining ingredients except the black beans and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 40 to 45 minutes, until thick and the turkey is tender. Add the black beans and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
That's the recipe as written. I haven't been able to find that exact description of tomatoes so I just use the petite diced can of regular tomatoes. Maybe they are plum and they just don't say? I also add an additional red or yellow pepper as well as a jalapeno or two. And most importantly my chili is beanless. No beans for me! There are definitely two sides to the beans in chili debate and I am most definitely squarely on the no beans side. To each their own. I also will add beef that's been cooked to shreds, which helps give the flavor a bit more body. The last secret ingredient is 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter. Smooths it out just enough.
Tonight I'm making the shells and maybe some cookies. Or maybe I'll hang out on the couch and watch the ball drop in Times Square. Either way it's a pretty low key New Year's Eve around these parts.
Happy New Year to you!
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I'm realizing more and more how much I would like to do to prepare my house for a child. Is it fine if I just paint and decorate the baby's room? Probably. But, I'd really like to have a better place for toys and crafts and storage. Plus there is a whole room of furniture in the room right now. So I've decided to use the money I had set aside to landscape the front of the house to finish the basement instead. That will add much needed storage and a great place to house toys that won't have to be put away so you can walk from the living room to the bedroom. Hopefully those front stairs will last until I have enough money to finish up outside!
Since I need some help from a contractor and Home Depot for the basement, I've turned my daydreaming to decorating the nursery. It's so hard to imagine what she will like. Is she a pink and ruffles kid? An undersea adventurer? Enchanted garden? So much to choose from! Also, since she will be almost two years old when she comes home, will she still need a crib or are we already on to the toddler bed? I'd hate to spend money on a crib that only gets used for a month or so but don't want to have the wrong bed when she gets here. Anyone have advice on that?
I know I'll be doing some kind of painting on the walls. I did my first mural at my good friend Molly's house for her twins Jack and Chase. (top banner had their birthdate, which at the time hadn't happened yet)
I love the idea of polka dots...
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
I received a call late on a Friday afternoon, snow furiously falling outside and me packing up to leave work. My office is very quiet and I didn't want my coworkers to be the first to know so I ran to the conference room to talk and then ran back to my computer to look at the photos and then back and forth. sheesh. My daughter, and yet not my daughter yet. Joy, excitement, panic, anxiety, it's all there. She's so beautiful! When I saw that her recorded birthdate matches my mother's birthday I knew it was her. She's already 14 months old, I can't wait to meet her!
So now it's back to waiting. Waiting to hear when the first court date will be (March, April-ish?) and then again when the embassy date will be (July-August-ish?). Still so far away. In the meantime, I'm trying to be positive in the face of the "helpful" opinions and advice. It's kind of like when you're ready to jump out of the airplane and everyone wants to help you through it.
You know how dangerous this is?
You know the parachute might not open?
You know the plane might crash?
You know that you might just pull the wrong cord and the parachute will come off?
You know kids are expensive? and need a lot of love? and need constant attention? and you won't know what to do? and you won't get any sleep for the rest of your life? and...and...and... You need to do this and this and this or you won't be ready.
Yes. I know these things. I know that I won't be fully prepared. As is any new mother, whether she carries her baby in her womb or in a picture in her wallet. And while I know that everyone means well, I don't need the doom and gloom of how hard it's going to be. I'm thinking enough of that in my head. And I will be as ready as I possibly can be, with or without the "help". So forgive me if I don't write down everything I'm told. I have to filter or the anxiety might just break me.
Countdown begins. So many firsts to come in the new year. Yippee for early Christmas presents!
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I feel slightly bad that I missed most of it. Friday night, before it started, I headed to St Cloud for the USAG Level 5 and 6 State Meet. I volunteered to drive a few judges up and we were all told that we had to stay up there on Friday night. Report time was 7:30am and it was clear earlier in the week that if you didn't go up early, you'd be stuck. From the sounds of it, only a few kids out of a few hundred competing didn't make the trip. Amazing. Weather wasn't too bad up there but the reports from home sounded like the end of the world! Then we saw the video of the Metrodome collapsing
Then I got home and saw my fabulous cousin and neighbors had taken care of the snowblowing and shoveling. Thank you thank you thank you! All that was left was to make a path for Riley to go outside.
What it looked like when I got home late Sunday night...
Tomorrow is the annual shopping excursion to the Mall of America for me and my mom. This year cousin Lexi will join us. I hope she's up for it! :-) We always have a good time and I treasure having the time to spend with my mom. Oh and we get to shop too! Next round of snow doesn't start until tomorrow night. Only another 2-3 inches predicted. Not sure where we'll put any more snow!
Looking forward to springtime already...
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Instead, I choose to be thankful for everything else. I have my health (I could actually stop here, that's how thankful I am for that). I have a wonderful, mostly not disfunctional, loving and supportive family. I have a great circle of friends, a job I like with co-workers who rock and a warm and welcoming home. And of course there's Riley, who loves me no matter how Scroogy I get.
Safe travels and don't forget to hug your loved ones today!
Monday, November 8, 2010
On my return home, I took a taxi from the airport. My cab driver was brand new. As in, I was his first fare. He came to this country last week from Ethiopia! I wish I could have talked to him a bit more but he was having some trouble driving (hope he gets better soon!) and his accent was very strong. Still it seemed like some kind of a message that I really would have a real connection to Ethiopia soon.
I also received a lovely packet from my home study agency with forms to update. Apparently that doesn't change anything in my dossier. I have until April until my fingerprints expire. I made a promise to myself that I would move to plan B if I didn't get a referral by the time my paperwork expired. I think I will not count this as expiring. Just not quite ready for plan B yet. My agency still seems hopeful for a referral soon so I'll go back to waiting waiting waiting. And remembering all those ocean breezes and drinks-of-the-day...
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
So, I waited. The idea was that I would leave Wednesday night, spend two days at my sister's house and then the whole family would board the ship on Saturday morning. I'd thought about packing, even gathered a few things over the weekend and gotten my costume prepared. My plan was to leave work at 11am, have until 5 or so and the head to the airport for a 7pm flight. Only the flight left at 5:20. I realized this over the weekend but did that help speed things up? Not so much.
Monday night, I puttered around the house, cleaning up, watering plants. Didn't pack. Tuesday comes and I work both jobs, getting home from coaching at 8:30. Packing yet? Nope. Watched some TV (hello, it was Biggest Loser night!) and basically did nothing. Finally at 10pm I got off my lazy ass couch and got onto the computer. I had to print my boarding passes and everything, right? That led to checking emails, catching up on blogs...you know, the important stuff. At 10:30 I log on to the Holland America site to print my documents.
And at 10:32. The power goes out. Out out, as in pitch blackness. W.T.F.
Apparently it was a windstorm to end all windstorms, causing the lowest barometric pressure in the state ever recorded. Not sure why that was a big deal but the weather people sure did. My side of the block has a history of being the only ones without power in storms and sure enough, I could see the warm glow of happy families across the street but nothing on our side. So I drag out every candle I have, all the flashlights I can find and start to pack. In the dark.
*A quick note about candles, I realize now it's important to have unscented candles on hand. After two hours my house smelled like Bath and Body Works exploded in it. ugh.
The thing about packing is it's not really that hard. The trick is to have a list. And to know where things are. Since it's been so warm, my transition from summer to winter clothes in the closet has been slow. That means there are summer clothes in practically every closet. All of which are dark dark dark at 11pm on a stormy night with no lights. And of course I had not made a list. All in all I thought I did pretty well! I mostly have clothes that match, enough options for dinner and bathing suits for the pool. I figured there are stores here and on the ship if I really forgot something important. Unfortunately there aren't any stores to buy what I forgot.
Fast forward to Friday, one day to departure. I'd spent the last two days pretty much just on the couch, enjoying the quiet of not being at work. I'd realized by then I'd forgotten to bring the tshirt transfers I was in charge with for our custom cruise shirts. No worries, I had my laptop with the file! Whew. All is well. We run last minute errands (including one to buy transfer paper) and we're set to have dinner and finish up any last minute stuff before leaving in the morning.
I'm not even sure what made me think of it. It hadn't even crossed my mind the entire time I was at home, during packing or all the time I was here.
I forgot my frickin passport.
Yes, my passport. The one thing that will get me on the ship that they do not sell at stores. It's 4:30pm (pacific time which means 6:30 at home) and I rush to the phone to call Lexi who is dog/house sitting. THANK GOD she was home and willing to save my ass. THANK GOD I knew where my passport was. THANK GOD FedEx has a 7:30 overnight deadline. Waiting for it to arrive could possibly be the most stressful thing I've done in as long as I can remember.
If I thought the last seven months of waiting for a referral was stressful, the last day was all seven of those months rolled into one day. My stomach was on fire and I was practically shaking. No, not practically, actually shaking. All night I kept thinking about that expired passport that I keep in the same place as my current one. And hoping that Lexi didn't grab that one instead.
You can bet I will never do this again. I will repeat before every trip now...
Put your passport out with your luggage
Don't wait until the last minute
Lists are your friend
Don't wait until the last minute
Passport arrives, the FedEx man didn't want a kiss but I thanked him profusely. We board the ship and now we're on on our way. Someday maybe, I'll look back at this and laugh. But for now, I board the ship and try to shake it off. I'll have to think of something amazing to bring back to my angel of mercy Lexi!
Thursday, October 28, 2010
That's all I have for today. A little whine, a little foot stomping, not much else. I'll get back on track after vacation :-)
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Until last Wednesday. Something to do! I received a letter from the agency. Apparently they let their Ethiopian attorney go and hired a new one. Good because I had heard stories that he was tough to work with but bad because he's still a man with a family and it's hard to see anyone not being successful in their work. Good because now maybe things will go more smoothly in country but bad because now there's a new form to attach to the dossier. While I didn't really enjoy the thought of the process maybe being delayed while I got more paperwork done, it felt good to be doing *something* more than twiddling my thumbs.
So here's how it went down...
12:00 received email with new form
12:30 went downstairs to the notary and got two copies notarized
1:00 meeting (it was during work hours after all)
2:00 at Secretary of State across town for authentication
At this point, after waiting my turn in line we realized the forms weren't stamped. $#!+
2:00-2:45 drive back to work, get the forms stamped and then back to SOS
3:00 at the bank for the money orders
3:30 at FedEx sending overnight. done.
Ok so I probably didn't need to send it overnight but I just couldn't stop myself. I was so jazzed at being productive and also probably had too much coffee.
So now I'm back to waiting. The email from the agency also stated that they were starting to sponsor two additional orphanages as well as a foster care system. Hopefully that means there will be referrals coming soon? I have heard others who've been waiting the same amount of time as I have that have received theirs so who knows!?
In the meantime, I'm well underway on the Christmas stockings (well ok I'm halfway done with one anyway) and my moneymaking selling opportunity is almost ready to unveil. It's looking good and I can't wait to see if there's anyone out there who thinks the same and wants to buy one. Check back again soon for a cool Christmas gift!
Friday, October 1, 2010
Actually, I've been using that room to work out! Shocking, I know. I broke down and purchased the 30 Day Shred, since my 25th high school reunion was in 30 days. Haven't missed a day yet and I'm on day 16! So I haven't seen any difference yet but I did get fit enough to move from level one to level two. Not sure level three will come soon but who knows! It is perfect for my short attention span, being only 20 minutes long and each exercise less than 1 minute. You can do anything for less than 1 minute, right?
I've been enjoying the lovely fall weather and the dahlias that are now blooming in full force. This is the garden as of a week or so ago...
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Saturday was a big day in many ways!
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
This weekend I
We also scored tickets to the Vikings preseason game against the Seahawks. Seats were upper deck but pretty good and we won! It wasn't as loud as the end of the season games. Hopefully we can go to one of those games to get the full effect of the Metrodome.
Today we got to sleep in, well ok, she got to sleep in and I got to get up to let Princess Riley out (and in, and out, and in). Then a nice walk for coffee and then some browsing at Target and the Container Store to see what kind of storage options one has for a tiny living space. Lexi moves out on Wednesday and I'm very excited for her! We only had a few weeks to live together and I'm definitely going to miss her being here. Her new place is going to be perfect for her, I hope she loves it!
Sunday, August 22, 2010
We needed to record the proof that we are doing well and not having just popcorn and cereal for dinner!
Today Lexi and I picked up some great produce at the farmer's market. We mixed up some red potatoes, carrots and onion with garlic and rosemary. I marinated a flank steak with Dave's tri-tip marinade and grilled it. We also mixed up some of Kathleen's mango habanero salsa (although we use a bit less pepper than she does).
We will shortly be enjoying a rustic berry pie with the last call blueberries (amazing), raspberries and strawberries. And ice cream of course.
It's a fitting celebration meal I think as tomorrow Lexi starts college. You rock Lexi! Now I need a nap...
Check out the other snapshots over at Ni Hao Y'all...
Thursday, August 19, 2010
The first shows my existing hosta garden, which had some weeds and shadows and crud in the bird bath (can't seem to keep up with the crud!).
The second set of Before and After is not a virtual one. I neglected to take a before shot so the first shot is from last fall. The ground cover has dramatically taken over since it was taken so it's not a real comparison. You get the basic idea anyway.
Savory's Gardens which is a local place that I discovered recently. It's not the cheapest place to buy a hosta but WOW do they have a cool selection! And be sure to check out the garden in the back. Amazing.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
But without any fanfare and only one little needle poke for lab work, I heard 'normal, normal, normal'. Gotta love being 'normal' for at least something in life! Looking back, it was a long summer of doctors and driving and needles (ugh) and then it was over. Just like that. In the blink of an eye. I wish I had started my blog before treatment because I've forgotten so much about what it felt like to go through it all (yes Susan, you're right again). But then again, I'm not sure I could ever be as eloquent as others I've followed like Suburban Matron. I remember bits and pieces. Like wondering how bad it was going to get and then finding out it wasn't as bad as I had imagined in my head. Not that it was wine and chocolates but it wasn't months of bed rest either.
I remember feeling off. And so tired it was like someone opened a hole in the bottom of my feet and drained every ounce of energy out. Not sleepy, just not. I remember driving. a. lot. Not only for doctor's visits and chemo treatments but 35 days of radiation (but not on the weekends because cancer doesn't grow on the weekends, duh) and the nice lady who ran the ticket booth most days. She tried to learn all of our names and usually got it right! Sadly, her name is one of the things I've forgotten. Also, all of the wonderful nurses who swept in and got me breathing again when my body decided that Taxotere would just. not. do. Debra, who came over with groceries and Connie who drove me home after said non-breathing chemo event. And all my friends who walked, ran and biked for the cause, you rock!
My treatments were all done at the Frauenshuh Cancer Center which had just recently opened. The treatment rooms all look out onto what was to become a healing garden. When I was there it was dirt. Then it was dirt with a tree. Then trees, shrubs and still dirt. Finally, right around the time of my last radiation treatment it was done. It's beautiful and I hope that it helps the people in those same treatment chairs rest a little easier. I took some pictures today because it was too nice of a day to forget.
And now, my one year all clear happens to fall on the same day as my five month marker of wait time for my referral. Two very good reasons to celebrate I think! It's all about getting on with life and man am I ready.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Congratulations Lexi, you rock!
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Lemonade Angel Cakes with Creamy Lemonade Frosting
1 pkg (16oz) angel food cake mix
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup thawed frozen lemonade concentrate
Creamy Lemonade Frosting (below)
16 lemon drops, crushed
1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners. IMPORTANT NOTE: Use light colored pans because dark ones will burn and your house will smell like burnt sugar for days! (that's what I heard anyway)
2. Place the cake mix, water and lemonade concentrate in a large mixing bowl (note the 'large' - the mix expands as it mixes together). Blend with electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should look thick and well combined. Spoon or scoop 1/3 cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it three quarters of the way full. Place pans in oven.
3. Bake cupcakes until golden and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 20 to 22 minutes. Remove pans from oven to wire racks, cool 5 minutes. Remove cups from pans and place on racks, cool 15 minutes before frosting.
4. Place heaping tablespoon of frosting on each cupcake and spread with spatula to cover top completely. Sprinkle with crushed lemon drops. Makes 24ish
Creamy Lemonade Frosting
1 package (8oz) cream cheese, room temperature
8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter
3 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
3 Tbsp thawed lemonade concentrate
1 tsp grated lemon zest
Place butter and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. Blend with electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Add sugar, lemonade concentrate and zest. Blend on low speed until sugar is incorporated, 1 minute. Increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more.
Doesn't that sound easy?
My frosting came out a bit more glaze-like than I liked but it could be because I substituted reduced fat cream cheese. Or I could have added more sugar I suppose. In any case they were delicious.
And maybe everyone who makes cupcakes knows this trick but the ice cream scoop is perfect for portioning out the cupcake batter! Just the right amount and the little metal lever drops it out without a mess. Why didn't I know this sooner?
Next time I think I will use margarita concentrate or maybe some other fancy lemonade flavor. Yummy.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
**update: They do taste delicious, if you don't look at the bottom of the cupcake. Yes, dark pans really do make a difference. Unfortunately the house smells like burnt sugar and the bottoms of half of the cupcakes are black. ugh. The ones baked in the light pans are great!
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I started another crochet project, this time a dinosaur. I'll post a picture when I'm done. I'm looking for a policeman bear pattern to match the fireman bear I made for baby Max. Might have to make one up. Still have to figure out how to knit Christmas stockings to match the family stockings. Not being an advanced knitter, I'll probably have to get someone to make me a pattern. At least there's a few months before Christmas!
On a much more depressing note, I find out today that I failed my judging exam. Again. Fourth time was not the charm. Humiliating. I know I'm a good judge. I know I can do it. I've practiced at meets and watched videos and I do just fine. Stupid test. Always the same thing. Balance Beam. My favorite event even. How many expletives can I have in a day before the swear jar overflows? Today I might find out. At least, knowing that the season doesn't really start until January, I won't feel too bad about quitting because I was planning on cutting back after we get home from Ethiopia anyway. There's always time to go back to it. I know gymnastics will never be out of my system. Who knows, maybe my daughter will take a liking to it too?
I'm excited that my cousin Lexi will be here in a week or so to start her grand adventure of going to college in Minneapolis. She'll drive across the country with her dad all the way from southern California. I hope we'll have a few good months of fall so she'll fall in love with it here before the winter hits. :-) Any tips on where to find good roommates for new college students in Minneapolis would be greatly appreciated!
On to month five...