Saturday, August 28, 2010

1 Week Down!

I managed to survive my first full week back at school!  Woo-who!!!

Actually, make that "first week and 2 days"...

Last Thursday, Aug 19 was my first day back.  The morning was spent running around town to find my laptop and calling IT to get logged back on.  That afternoon, we were bussed to the High School for the all-district Welcome Back assembly and this is the best thing that came out of it:

Little boy to his PE teacher: "I can't participate in PE today."
Teacher: "Unless you have a doctor's note, you need to suit up.  But what's going on to keep you from joining us?"
Little Boy: "I have anal glaucoma."
Teacher: "Anal glaucoma???  Can you please explain that to me????"
Little Boy: "Teacher, I just can't see my ass doing anything in PE today."

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can avoid such a condition so that I can continue to get things done!

And that I have!  The school's wireless keeps dropping for approximately 5 hours every day but I'm managing to get Life Skills scheduled with the various 6th & 8th grade teachers.  Come September 7th, I'll finally be in the classrooms!

I had a fairly full plate with CASA this past week--I had several clients to meet with and a few last minute fires to put out.  But who doesn't expect that on a Friday afternoon?!  lol...Next week looks more like a "paperwork" week--ie catching up on all the things I couldn't get done last week because I was meeting with people--and hopefully that remains the case.

The home life managed to survive as well.  Laudry was washed & folded (maybe not completely put away in the closet, though...), lawn mowed, the switch was made to a new cell phone provider, more wedding stuff finalized, property survey completed and casseroles all made up in advance.  On the menu was Chicken & Polenta, Beef Stroganoff, Barbequed Beef & Beans and Shephard's Pie...all but the Shephard's Pie were new attempts and I'm pleased to say they turned out well!

And finally the last thing--the gym.  I did get there twice this week.  Not in the morning like I had hoped, but I still got there...I really wanted to make it 3 or 4 times, but I lost track of time while putting out fires and it was too late to go if I ever wanted to fall asleep that night!  This upcoming week is looking a little bit better though :-)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Wedded Bliss...Or Not???

Earlier today I was out running errands and stopped by a store to grab some candlesticks I saw there a few weeks ago.  While browsing through the other items, I could hear the two clerks discussing marriage, children and the d-word...Divorce.

Apparently the clerk has been married for 4 years and just filed the papers to end it.  She admitted she married the sweetest guy on earth but many of his daily habits drive her so crazy that she just can't stand being near him.  I can rattle a few things off the top of my head that Justin does but none of them warrant leaving him!  I was a bit puzzled by this reason for divorce and she continued to say that she wished they would have spent some time together before they got married..????  What???  At this point I grabbed my candlesticks and headed to the counter because I was too intrigued my her latest statement!

I kindly told her that I'm getting married in about a month and asked what advice she would give to a newlywed couple.  The gal was actually VERY friendly and started asking how long we have been together, if we have ever cohabitated, etc...come to find out, she & her husband had a short-term long distance relationship before taking the plunge.  Because we have known family friends over the years who dated for several months before getting married and are still happily together DECADES later, I knew that wasn't the reason.

After some more chit-chat, it became painfully clear that neither she nor her husband knew each other's expectations before getting married.  He worked long hours and liked eating home cooked meals--she HATED cooking and loved getting take-out.  He enjoyed physical contact and she hated embraces...after a few more examples, it was pretty obvious why things didn't work!

She finally ended the conversation by saying, "Why don't they have classes that tell you what to expect from marriage?!" and I wanted to say, "They do!" but took my candlesticks and politely thanked her for her advice.

Justin and I spent about 6 weeks doing our pre-marital counseling this summer.  We were very fortunate that the Head of the Marriage & Family Counseling program on campus did ours for us at no cost as his mission work for the church.  I would say it was VERY thorough and left no stone unturned...David made sure not to tell us exactly what to do as honestly, different things work for different couples.  But he did discuss all the ups & downs of marriages and he led us in conversations about the dynamics of marriage and what each of us expected.  I can't imagine it, but he said he's worked with couples who have never even discussed if they want children or not!!!

After our last session wrapped up, David wished us well and we were on our way--and without a referral to another therapist!  Since David seems to think we have a firm foundation to build our marriage on, hopefully that will remain the case.

What advice would you give a newly wed couple?  We keep hearing that communication is key to a successful marriage so that's one thing we're working hard on!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Going to Great Lengths...

When Justin and I got engaged 14 months ago, I decided I would try growing my hair out...but not to my shoulders or anything crazy like that! ;-)  Rather just long enough that a clip would be able to stay in my head...

It's been a long and tedious project with multiple pleas to cut it all back off--but luckily enough, my hair stylist has refused to cut any length until after the wedding.  I'm beyond thankful that she won't let me do it!

I've since revised this post because I found a pic from last July when we got engaged--talk about SHORT!  Short bangs, short spikes, short everything (but not Justin ;-)).  And since I like pointing out the obvious, Justin's hair looks like someone took a chainsaw to it!  At the time, I didn't think his new 'do looked that bad, but woah, looking back it does!  And I can't talk too much since I have a constipated look on my face in the picture...Anyhow, the picture with my dark hair was taken this past March--8 months after I decided to start growing it.  The second picture was taken this week; it's slowly getting there!

I'm now able to tuck my bangs behind my ear which is WEIRD!  I've also found that somedays my bed head is just fine with a bit of fluffing and a quick run of the flat iron...which totally beats having to do it from start-to-finish every morning!  I have no problems cutting a few minutes off my morning routine and frankly, I think I could get used to it :-)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Recipe Round-Up

In just 36 hours, I report back to school!

For the past couple of weeks of now, I find myself becoming anxious just at the thought of school starting back up.

One the positive side:  I'm beyond excited to get into the classroom and start working with the kiddos.  I know there'll be a few rough days, but I'm sure the good days will outnumber the bad...or so I hope :-)

On the negative side:  Trying to get back into a routine and working 60 hours a week!

I worked just 7 weeks at the school before summer break started--then I had almost 3 months of working part-time at CASA.  And now the inevitable is here!  I return to my schedule of being at the school during the day and then running down to my office at the visitation program for a few hours afterwards.

But here's the catch--in addition to work, there's still the fun chores of life to tackle!  I've realized that in order to get everything accomplished in a day's time, it will require me getting up earlier in the day.  Which is going to suck...I am NOT a morning person at all!  I plan on switching to morning gym classes to ensure I get a work-out in--I've been so glad to get back into working out this summer that I really, really don't want to give it up :-)

The thing that has been creating the most anxiety though is meals!  I hate fast food and I really don't like eating out all that much--I know, crazy, huh?!  It's expensive and upsets my stomach--who wants to pay for that?!  Lol...Last spring I tried to cook decent meals but I felt like my whole evening was spent in the kitchen and cleaning up.  Not fun.

I've decided the best option is slow-cooker meals and casseroles!  Sundays have always been our housework/yardwork days and we'll just add cooking to the mix.  If I can get everything prepared on Sunday and waiting in the spare fridge to be cooked during the week, Justin can throw it in the oven/crock pot and it will be ready when I get home from the office :-)

As with a lot of other people, I feel like we rotate the same 5-6 recipes...I've been looking all over the internet for easy but healthy recipes that we can throw into the mix for some variety.  If any of you have recipes for casseroles & crock pots, pass them along!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Freaky Friday

Yesterday morning--Friday the 13th--Justin clocked in to work at 6:30 am so they could beat the heat.  They got off around 4pm and we were sitting outside talking about the day's happenings...the sky was overcast and looked like it could rain, which wasn't a surprise since we had a shower come through earlier in the day.  Out of the blue, the tornado sirens started blowing so I ran inside to check the TV--just in time for our power to go out!  Go figure!  And I'm not kidding, the wind went from non-exisistent to 93mph within a matter of seconds...we got Justin's Cadillac in the garage right as the rain hit.  As I headed to the basement, I grabbed the laptop and weather radio hoping we could keep up on the storm--but, duh, no Internet if the modem/router isn't juiced up and our weather radio wouldn't turn on!!!  And, please, let me mention that while I was bunkered down in the basement Justin was running around the yard and the house watching trees blow over, yelling "we're getting called out, we're getting called out!!!"

Downed tree just at the end of our block
Right he was!  By 5:30 pm, they already had orders from Westar to meet up at the yard.  We had a chance to check out the neighborhood after the storm passed through and trees were down EVERYWHERE.  Thanfully, thankfully we had no damage to speak of.  But what a crazy way to spend Friday the 13th!

With Justin at work, I waited around to see if our power would come back on.  By 8pm I was hungry and decided that HyVee's Chinese Kitchen would be cooking supper...I came home, hung out with the animals and surfed the Internet on my phone before calling it an early night.  As the battery was dying, I realized I needed enough battery for an alarm in the morning!  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to sleep last night because the house was becoming unbearably muggy and Westar trucks were in the street off and on throughout the night.

Finally at 6am I gave up on sleeping.  I fueled up the car, plugged my phone in and headed to the office--we had families scheduled for supervised visits and exchanges today and I was hoping to have power back on...and we did!  Next came breakfast from Dara's gas station and then watching Malcolm prepare his breakfast.

Our church, on Poyntz Ave--their poor "centerpiece" tree!
Since it was still fairly cool out, I propped the back door open.  What a stupid idea.  Next thing I know, Malcolm brought in a half-dead bird and was trying to eat it on our white area rug!!!  I was beyond freaking out because 1) the bird was still trying to fly around, 2) I can't stand the site of blood and 3) I didn't want my rug ruined!  I went outside at this point and frankly have no idea what happened to the bird or where he finished breakfast...I'm sure I'll find a pile and feathers somewhere and then I'll know!

On Fremont, northwest of our house
Eventually things calmed down in our house--Mitzy and I hung out on the front porch where there was a cool breeze and chatted with the electric crew working in our alley.  We finally had our power restored around 11:30 am this morning, 19 hours after it went out!  Justin eventually came home around 1 pm but they have to report back at 6:00...they gave the guys 5 hours to shower and catch a nap, which is GREATLY needed  since he worked 30 hours straight with only a 1-hr break. We'll see what his motivation is like when he wakes up--my guess is being the workaholic he is, he'll find a way to go back out there until they get called off for good!
My tamale from the Farmer's Market--VERY justifiable since I had no way of cooking lunch!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Another Yummy Recipe!

We made this recipe Tuesday night and it was delicious!  One of my old Creighton buddies, Kathy, had posted it on Facebook and since we've been trying new dishes lately, I thought we'd give it a shot.  I had always wanted to try a recipe with leeks (I'm a bit of a green onion lover!) so this was a perfect fit...PS They're not kidding about how dirty leeks are!  Be sure you clean them VERY well :-)

Rachel Ray's Super Herbed Sautéed Salmon with Creamy Leeks and Bacon
--Try halibut, mahi-mahi, or tilapia….chicken works too!--

3 Tbs EVOO
6 bacon slices, chopped
3 lg leeks, super dark green parts and roots discarded
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ tsp dried thyme
1 large pinch of red pepper flakes
2/3 cup white wine
1 ½ cups chicken stock
¼ cups half and half or heavy cream (we used 2% milk and it did the trick!)
(4) 6-ounce portions salmon fillet, skin removed (we used about 1lb. chicken instead)
½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
3 sprigs fresh dill, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon (we used lemon-pepper seasoning)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat a lg skillet over medium heat with 1 Tbs of EVOO, once around the pan. Add the chopped bacon and cook, stirring every now and then, until crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes. While the bacon is getting crisp, get the leeks ready.

To clean the leeks, cut each in half lengthwise, and then thinly slice each half into half moons. Fill a large bowl with cold water, transfer the sliced leeks to the water, swish and swoosh the leeks around in the water, and then let them sit without messing with them for a minute. Using your hands, skim the leeks from the water without disturbing the grunge that has settled to the bottom. Drain the leeks thoroughly, feeling them for grit. If you feel some, repeat the cleaning process with a clean bowl of water. Don’t forget to thoroughly wipe off your cutting board after chopping the leeks, otherwise the next thing you chop of the board will have sand and grit in it.

Once the bacon is crisp, remove it from the skillet to a paper-towel-lined plate and reserve. Don’t wipe the skillet out; there is lots of bacon flavor in there. Return the skillet to the stovetop over medium heat and add the leeks, half the garlic, the thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the white wine and cook for 1 minute, then add the chicken stock and half-and-half. Bring the mixture up to a simmer, then turn down the heat to medium low. Simmer the mixture for about 10 to 12 minutes, until tender and creamy.

While the leeks are cooking, start the salmon. Season the salmon on all sides with some salt and pepper. On a plate, combine the parsley, dill the remaining garlic and the lemon zest. Gently press one side of each salmon fillet into the herb mixture. Preheat a medium or lg nonstick skillet over medium heat with the remaining 2 TBS of EVOO. Once the oil is hot, add the salmon fillets herb side down. Cook the salmon about 2 to 3 minutes on the herb side, then turn the heat up to medium high, flip the salmon and continue to cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until cook through.

Add the reserved crispy bacon to the leeks and stir to combine. Divide the leeks among 4 serving plates. Top each pile of leeks with a portion of the salmon. Cut the lemon into wedges and squeeze the juice over the fish.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Our Newest "Favorite" Meal

A few weeks ago, our basil was out of control...there was tons of it and it had grown as tall as my hip!  I started scouring the internet for ways to use it in main meals and suddenly remembered the Spicy Basil Chicken at Tuptim Thai in Topeka.  Frankly, I think it's one of the best dishes I have ever eaten and I crave it all the time...however, I'm not going to drive all the way to Topeka just to eat supper.

I immediately went to and they had so many versions of the Spicy Basil Chicken to pick from.  I chose the one that looked fairly simple but still had flavorful ingredients--I have to admit that I was leery of the fish oil at first, but trust me, that's the key to unlocking the recipe's yumminess!
We have now made it several times and there's hardly any leftovers!  It's now our go-to dish when we can't think of anything else to cook.  We've been having egg rolls on the side but one of these days I want to make my homemade crab rangoon instead--last time I made them I about burnt down Aggie Village but I would make sure alcohol isn't involved this time around!!

For those of you who might want to try it sometime, here's the recipe!

Spicy Thai Basil Chicken

3/4 cup coconut milk (I was able to find lite coconut milk which was awesome for the fat content)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce (I've only been able to find this at Dillon's thus far)
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into 1/2 inch strips
3 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
5 green onions, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh basil leaves
* The last time I made it, I put the mushrooms/onion/basil in the food processor and it did an awesome job in no time at all

1.In a bowl, mix the coconut milk, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, and red pepper flakes.

2.In a skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Stir in the onion, ginger, and garlic, and cook until lightly browned. Mix in chicken strips, and cook about 3 minutes, until browned. Stir in the coconut milk sauce. Continue cooking until sauce is reduced by about 1/3. Mix in mushrooms, green onions, and basil, and cook until heated through. Serve over cooked rice.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Mole Mania!!!

Just a couple weeks ago, we started noticing ant hills randomly located throughout our yard.  We weren't too surprised considering summer is a primetime for ants.

THEN we noticed a hole within the ant hill.  Suddenly we realized we weren't dealing with ants, but MOLES!!!  Personally, I would rather observe the moles on my body than ground moles tearing up our yard...but hey, they can't make it look much worse!

Mom and Dad have battled moles in their yard for years and they're always trying to find something that works.  At one point, they had this bazooka looking thing that you stuck down the mole hole and it shot fire balls into the ground...Unfortunately, that method was not successful and I got a good laugh out of it b/c I never thought we, as "townies, would ever have to deal with them.

This afternoon, we headed to Tractor Supply for some repellant supplies...and this is what we found!

Apparently, it runs off of solar power and shakes every 30 seconds to drive the moles away.  They only had 1 in stock, so believe me, we'll be meeting the supply truck when it comes into town on Wednesday!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A New Face to Facebook

I heard the most ridiculous thing the other day--there's a dog who has its' own Facebook page!  Turns out, this dog is quite popular, too.

Since she's not one to be out done, Mitzi has created her own Facebook account as well.  In our household, we get a kick out of winning unannounced competitions, so we'll see if she ends up with more friends than this other pooch has!

If you want, you can follow her at Mitzi Taddiken-Williams!  And since she knows no stranger, all friend requests will be accepted ;-)

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Gift That Waited 18 Years

Last weekend, Justin and I were back in Clifton to attend a wedding shower that some of our overly generous family friends hosted in our honor.  We were beyond thrilled by the opportunity to catch up with the other guests and I must say, they picked out some very lovely gifts!

As we were opening presents, my Granddad's wife Pat explained that there was another present waiting for us and they chose not to bring it to the shower.  Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm....maybe it was one of those you-might-want-to-open-this-crazy-gift-in-private type of things or maybe it was easier left for another time.

We returned to my parents house and they had the gift waiting for us. After taking the wrapping off, a postal mail box was revealed. No clues there!

Once we opened the flaps, we found TONS of tissue paper! 

The detective in me concluded that it must contain fragile items...I should get a job with the FBI, huh? ;-)

Drumroll, please.................It was my late Grandmother's wedding crystal :-)  I'm not the best at dates, but I would guess they're almost 60 years old!!

Talk about perfect timing!  We had just been laughing that night about how we HATED leaving Grandma Barb's house after our summer "vacations" with her...we loved going to Mankato because we knew it would involve golfing--or mostly just driving the golf carts around--drinking Shasta pop, watching Casper the Friendly Ghost movies until the Golden Girls came on and just tons of spoiling!  Then Mom had to ruin the fun by coming to pick us up and we would bawl our eyes out for hours until we got home!!!  I just hope our future children don't do that to us after they go visit Grandma Little at the farm!

I feel so very fortunate that these glasses have been passed down to me!  Grandma died from lymphoma 18 years ago at the age of 60 and it's an understatement to say we miss having her at all of life's milestones.  But luckily Granddad Hooley married someone who truly values family and is more than willing to make sure us grandkids have momentos from Grandma Barb.  I don't know if there was a rhyme or reason to it, but of all the things Granddad & Pat could set aside for me, these glasses were absolutely perfect!!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lil' Green

This little green chair was "rescued" from my Grandparents' old basement. The green paint appeared to be original, especially when the chair was turned over and all the wood was still natural on the bottom side! The cushion a vinyl pink print and I'm sure that back in it's day, the chair was gorgeous...
I ended up repainting it and replacing the cushion fabric--I guess that's pretty obvious! The ivory color seems a bit stark to me so I'll have to figure something out...maybe a patina or leafing??? If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Demo Day

When we went into escrow, the inspection reports revealed that 1 of the 2 railings on our front steps was bent... really??? Because it's pretty obvious when you first approach the sidewalk! But at least we knew the inspector was providing a thorough report...Both of the railings were just tacky--bent metal piping that's been painted white--that distracted from the front of the house and I've disliked them from day one.
We are in the process of improving the front yard...the section of grass between the house and sidewalk is in constant shade. Combine that with a crazy slope and erosion issues, and we can't keep grass alive in there. Due to the erosion, the dirt washes onto the brick sidewalk and is now piling up on the opposite side--after a nice rain or an evening of sprinklers, the sidewalk is one muddy mess. Finally, as you walk down the steps you're greeted by the lovely bent railing. Ahhhh, yes, our front yard needs lots of TLC!
The geniuses that we are (or would like to think we are), we came up with the very-common idea of a retaining wall. Now we have to make the big decision--save up like crazy and let the professionals do it or spend a little by doing it ourselves and hope that it stays in place.
Either way, I should mention one of our steps was chipped and slightly buckled upon inspection...once again, one of those imperfections that you can see from the very beginning. Now that the soil is eroding, though, we can really see just how much concrete has shifted/chipped and it has become quite the eyesore.
This throws another wrench in the idea of a retaining wall. Do we hire out a concrete company to pour a new step (assuming we go the DIY route) or do we pay the landscape company a bit more money for an attractive step that matches the retaining wall? I can guarantee you that we can demolish the step ourselves but we just don't know how to rebuild it...
Our solution--cut down the bent railing!!!! It still doesn't solve the issue of the retaining wall and step, but I feel like we've at least made ONE decision! Nothing like avoiding the big, expensive issue that keeps hitting you in the face :-)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Gone Junkin'

Tawnya and I--plus our other halves--were back home earlier this weekend and she mentioned seeing old window frames at the grandparents' Yellow House several years ago. Tawnya explained that she wants a decorative one but that they're going for several hundred dollars a piece in the Lawrence/KC area. Since we had some extra time, we all piled up (6 adults + 1 dog in the little Ford truck) and went over to the house so she could pick one out.
Well, it turned into a junkin' expedition! Before we even got into the house, Tawnya & Adam picked up the old red aluminum chair that had been left behind on the patio...then we went down to the basement and the fun really began.
I found an old Art Deco chair (with original paint!) that was purchased by either my grandparents OR my great-grandparents at a furniture store in Linn, KS--it still had the original information on the bottom of the seat! Next, I found a cool metal basket for Mitzy's toys--turns out, it's just a basket from an old deep freeze but I love it :-) Then I found a window pane that had the original stickers on it...we asked Dad why they had brand new windows that were never installed and he didn't have a clue! I'm not much for the country look, so I'm hoping to modernize it somehow...maybe mirrors in the panes rather than glass??? I also picked up Grandpa's old coat & umbrella stand--it needs a little love but it has so many great memories associated with it that I couldn't let it go.
And my most exciting find from the Yellow House--an old vintage desk fan colored in the retro turquoise! I've always LOVED the old style but reproduction ones cost an arm & a leg...Granted I don't trust the electrical components and we'll never actually use it but it will be a great decorative accent.
Finally, we loaded up our stuff & went back to Mom & Dad's...where Justin and I loaded up 2 of their aluminum chairs! I remember hating them as a child because everyone else had "normal" lawn chairs and our stuff was "different"--with an updated paint job, the chairs will look new again and we didn't have to pay $100+ per chair from Crate & Barrel!
Eventually we got back to Manhattan and unloaded our stuff...just in time for me to find a snowman sticking out of our neighbor's trash can! They just moved so I figured it was free for the taking. As I got closer, I realized it was the kind you stick in your landscaping and even better--it was decked out in K-State ribbon! How perfect for our household!!!