Sunday, January 30, 2011

Happy Birthday to Our Cowboy!

Twenty three years ago, a two-year old Shawn was given a stuffed cow at his birthday party and quickly named him "Bob the Bull."

Lil Debbie, Tawnya, Bob the Bull, Grandma Marcene, Taddy-Long-Legs, Shawn & neighbor Chad

Fast-forward to his 25th Birthday and we have an "official" cowboy on our hands.  Happy Quarter-Century, Shawn!

Since no birthday is complete without some singing, I figured I would invite Willie Nelson to the party...but when I try to think of a Willie Nelson song that is the epitome of T-Ditty, I can't settle on just one.

Even though we NEVER thought he would grow up to be a cowboy, this song definately reminds me of him!

And this next song--well, we used to take turns singing the parts of Toby Keith & Willie Nelson while driving around in his old red Ford truck...It's a perfect song for a cowboy!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Happy Birthday to an Ol' Kansas Boy!!!

Today is my dad's Birthday!!!!

Some people know him as a very serious and professional grown-up...

But once upon a time he was just your regular ol' Kansas boy...
33 years ago...Uncle Dale, Grandpa Boob and Your's Truly in front of Dad's old VW van

It is always hard to find unique, meaningful birthday presents for Dad...but this year the Kansas State University Orchestra solved my problem!

Growing up, we loved getting into Mom and Dad's music collection and playing record after record on their old stereo in the basement. Mom had her Beatles albums and Dad...well, he was more of a Rock & Roll/blues guy. We would spend hours jamming out to the likes of The Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kansas, The Grateful Dead, The Doors, Janis Joplin and Iron Butterfly.

When it was announced this summer that the University Orchestra would be performing with Kansas the day after Dad's birthday I knew I had found his present...I immediately called Mom so she could clear the date on their calendar and minutes later I was on the phone with the ticket office.  Fortunately for him, Dad is still too young to qualify for their Senior Discount ;-)

Kansas with the University of Alabama Orchestra, September 2010
Something tells me the atmosphere of this show will be a tad different than the concerts Mom & Dad used to attend in Denver forty years ago...if anything, Dad won't be rocking his long hair and beard at this show...or pulling up in his VW van!

Happy Birthday to the best Kansas boy--and best Dad--ever!!!!!!!!!!  If anyone gives you heck about turning another year older, just remind them that "61 ain't dust in the wind YET"!

Now, time to rock out!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fine Print(ing)

We ordered a canvas print for our dining room wall this weekend and my anxiety level is sky-rocketing.  It doesn't seem like a too-good-to-be-true company but it's safe to say that I'm having trust issues for various reasons...

The main reason seems to be that I have NO control over the printing process.  The company we chose let you preview what your picture would look like on the canvas before you submitted the order...some sites cropped the picture in an odd manner so I hope this company's preview is correct and I won't find any surprises when opening the box!

It is extremely hard for me to give up control when it comes to pictures and printing.  When working with our photographer for engagement and wedding pics, it was very challenging for me to keep my mouth shut and NOT suggest this angle--or that angle--to shoot from.  At the end of the day, he did a great job and my anxiety level did go down some after we were able to see the results :-)

Just the other day I downloaded a basic PhotoShop app for my phone.  And I don't know why.  I despise digital photography and all the manipulative software that is available.  In my personal opinion, the digital manipulation has taken away the true talent of photography...anybody can push a button but it takes true talent to first know what type of film is best for the situation, composing the picture, correctly adjusting the camera for the best lighting/depth and most of all making the picture interesting without adding some crazy flare effect in Photoshop.

When digital photography seemed to be "the only way to go" I made the switch from film and bought a digital SLR.  And I don't know why.  I despise that camera and that was the end of my photography.  I just want to go back to the days of Black-and-White film and the darkroom.  I thrived on the anticipation of finishing a roll, developing the film and burning-and-dodging the image as I made the print, rinsing all the chemicals off and then waiting for it to dry...hours upon hours would go into just one print.  Nowadays, if you don't like the picture you hit "delete," send one you DO like to Walgreens or print it from your home computer.  And if you have the software, you can do all sorts of things to make it look better than it truly is.  That, my friends, is NOT photography.  But rather that is knowing how to use a computer.  Am I bitter?  I sure am.

A PhotoShop Before & After...a real photographer would know how to set the aperature the first time!  And why do they always have to over-expose the skin tones in PhotoShop?! Grrrrrrr!

I know I'm not the next Ansel Adams and I never could have been.  But when I look back at some of my prints I really miss my days in the darkroom.  And I'm telling you now--if that company jacks up the canvas print we ordered, boy howdy, God only knows that I will be fuming!

I never get my portfolio out to show people because it makes me feel too vulnerable.  I immediately see a printing/cropping/mounting flaw or see something that I wish I could go back and change.  However, since I am in COMPLETE control of this situation, I will share some of my work  :-) Unfortunately, I have not transferred many of my prints to digital files...and there are some that I really, really should get transferred.  But here are a few that have been scanned!

My friend, Tony.  This shoot was done indoors with natural light only (northern exposure).

More of Tony...he was pleased with these pics ;-)

I did a series of figure photography with this model and the shoot was amazing...but the rest are probably not appropriate for Blogger!

Eiko, a Japanese student that I knew.  She was fabulous to work with!
Another one of Eiko...I need to find the print of her that involved layering negatives and making one print!
"Sweet Dreams."  An on-purpose double exposure using slide film and a large-format camera

England, 1997--Queen of England's vacation home
The scanned image doesn't do this pic justice but I still love all the shapes.  Also in England.

My heart is with B&W portraiture, but when you have a blushing bride as gorgeous as this you have to capture it in color! 
At age 14, I took this photo of my cousin and it was printed in a lab...Can you see the qualilty difference of lab printing v. hand developing? 

Part of the Creighton campus--if done in a lab, this picture would come out horrible.  But with some dodging and burning it is amazing.  Last I knew, it was on permanent display at the Student Union.

A bicycle gang at the Gene Leahy Mall in Omaha.  Asked if I could take their picture and they posted up this way. Not trying to brag, but look at how the wildly different skin tones still came out perfectly!

The Castle Rock monument near Oakley, KS--taken during the summer I worked in Western KS & Oklahoma...Won best-of-show in a contest!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Grand Entrance

We have finally purchased all the major pieces that equate an "entry way."  My brother should be happy ;-)

I'm keeping my eye out for something with height to put in the green tray...and a pillow or throw for the chair.  At least it's a start and we'll see what the next decorating project is that Shawn decides we should tackle.  Next on our list is finding a hanging for the dining room and it will be done!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Going to Great Lengths...Revisited!

Back in August I posted a very vain post about my hair and how I was trying to grow it "a bit" for our wedding the following month.  It's snowing like crazy out right now--the school let out early and CASA is closed for the day...Since I'm not used to having time on my hands during the middle of the day and my morning coffee hasn't worn off enough to allow for a nap, I decided to update you on my growth!

As you may remember, my hair was this long when we got engaged in July 2009...

And by March 2010 it had gotten this long! 

By our wedding, it was this long...

And now it's THIS long!

Personally, the shadows in this picture make my nose or something look funny--can't quite put my finger on what it is!  But anyhow, it definately shows how long my hair is fact, it's the longest it has been since I was in grade school.  Okay, so it's not very long to most people but it is to me!  The only downside to hair this length is that it takes me 15 minutes to blow it dry...I've definately had to adjust my alarm clock to make sure I get out of the door on time now!

I had a hair appointment last night and my gal was asking what I wanted to do...I told her to keep the length and keep the blonde.  She started laughing because I've had the SAME hair color for 5 months now--it's a personal record for me!  But I like it so why change?!  Am I turning into "that girl" who never changes her hair?!  I sure as heck better not be! 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy MLK, Jr Day!!!

"As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him." Martin Luther King, Jr.

A little known fact about me:  I have always been captivated by Martin Luther King, Jr and love when his birthday comes around!  PS He "turned" 82 years old on Saturday...Anyhow, my excitement is not for having a day off from work, but rather all the past 25 years of media attention that *hopefully* reminds people of the achievements and missions of Dr. King.

As we're all educated adults, I won't bore you with all of his achievements and famous quotes because we should be plenty aware of them by now...but I did post my favorite quote of his at the very beginning of this blog.  As our society is continually changing there is a constant uproar over immigration and civil marriages--and plenty of hateful, ignorant words to go with the debates.  Frankly, it makes me sick to my stomach when people feel they have the right to say such hurtful things.  As any Christian has been taught, it is not us who shall judge but rather it is God who will judge our thoughts, words and deeds on our last day.  And it makes me even more sick when people so full of hate use Christianity as their crutch.  How hard is it to love one another?!  Whenever I hear such judgmental comments I always mentally refer myself to the quote above.

Back to the subject at hand as that's ^ a tangent that I could stay on for awhile...It's fair to say that a lot of my moral and social attitudes have been shaped by Dr. King and his works.  I have always been fascinated with how someone so young could stand up in the face of adversity and selflessly work to make a change in society's attitudes and policies.  Even though his life was stopped early, his accomplishments still live on :-)

During my Sophomore year of college, I went down to Alabama to visit my sister for Spring Break and told Mom that we HAD to go to Birmingham for a day so that I could check out all the historical markers of the Civil Rights movement.  Luckily, she was up for the roadtrip!  We spent the day touring many of the landmarks such as the capital grounds, the 16th Street Baptist Church, the diners and best of all--the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Part of the memorial was an upright semi-circle wall of black marble with a quote etched into it...and on the ground was a circular slab of marble with the words of the "I Have a Dream" speech etched into it.  All with water continually streaming over the stone.  Random fact #2: this wall was designed by Maya Ying Lin who designed the Vietnam Wall memorial in DC.

I couldn't find my other prints, but here is one of the pics that I took at the Memorial

I wish I could claim this picture but I can't! 
Growing up, I remember learning about the Civil War, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights era in school...and I think the other reason I get excited about MLK Jr Day is because it starts ushering us into Black History Month.  And I'm sure I'll get a few "woahhhhhh's" about what I'm getting ready to say...

I have heard so many people discourage Black History Month and even goes as far as to say it's unfair because we don't have a White History Month....hello, we do--in fact we get 11 solid months of it each year! How ignorant can you be? When you stop and think about the history we are taught in school, 95% of it revolves around white men of European descent and their doings.  Where are the other non-White people who contributed to our history?  I'm not talking about just Blacks, but also Hispanics, Latinos, Asians and Middle-Easterners.  They were all living beside us accomplishing their own pieces of history but we can only talk about it in February???  In my opinion, that's crap.

Be fully prepared to read--or ignore--my postings on Black History during the month of February.  I'm not claiming to be a historian by any means but there's always more that we can learn and share with each other.  With understanding comes compassion--not fear.  As Dr. King once said, "We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Killing Two Birds With One (Chipotle) Stone

For 2011 Justin and I are trying to really improve our saving the past few months we worked really hard to see where we could cut corners or what monthly expenses we could reduce.  Just bundling our TV/Internet and setting up a multiple-car insurance deal made a significant difference.

But then there are some things you just can't really touch and that's where our food budget falls.  As I've mentioned before, having a giant husband who works a manual labor job requires that we prepare hearty meals and have plenty of snacks on hand.  However, to reduce costs and wasted food I make a conscious effort to use the same ingredient in multiple ways throughout the week...Poor Justin gets tired of having things such as brocolli and rice on a Monday and brocolli in a stirfry by the week's end but we are definately wasting less food (and money) this way!

Several weeks ago I was successful in using one ingredient in two dishes without Justin even noticing...or complaining.  Hail, the almighty Chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce!!!  The first dish was a Southwest Shepherd's Pie (not even spicy) and the other one was supposed to be a meat filling for burritos.  However, it turned out super saucy--and hot--so we put it over rice and it was delicious!

If you have some extra chipotle peppers in adobo sauce or want to experiment with them, here are the recipes:

Southwestern Shepherd's Pie
*this recipe yields enough for two casseroles--we ate one and froze the other
3 lb. ground beef
1 C. chopped onion
2 cans (10oz. each) enchilada sauce
2 T. flour
2 t. chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 t. cumin
1 t. oregano
2.5 C. milk
1/3 C. butter, cubed
1 t. salt
4 C. mashed potato flakes
2 cans (4oz each) chopped green chilies, undrained
2 C. shredded Mexican cheese, undivided
2 cans Mexicorn, drained
2/3 C. chopped green onion

In a Dutch oven, cook beef and onion until meat is no longer pink; drain.  Add enchilada sauce, flour, chipotle peppers, cumin and oregano; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer uncovnered for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine water milk, butter and salt; bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and stir in potato flakes until combined.  Add chilies and 1/2 C. cheese.  Transfer meat mizture to two greased 11x7 baking dishes.  Layer with corn, mashed potato mixture and remaining cheese.  Sprinkle with green onion; cover and freeze one casserole for up to 3 months.  Cover and bake the remaining casserole at 375* for 20 minutes.  Uncover and back 5-10 minutes longer or until bubbly.

Chipotle Beef and Rice
1.5 lbs beef round steak, cut 3/4" thick (we used stew meat)
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 small chopped onion
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped (we used 1/2 a can and didn't even bother with chopping)
1 t. oregano
1/4 t. cumin
1 clove garlic, minced

Place meat in a slow cooker and top with undrained tomatoes, onion, chipotle pepper, oregano, cumin and garlic.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.  Serve over rice.  Drawing on inspiration from mole sauce, I added a large Ghiradellhi chocolate kiss at the very end--it really brought out the smokey chipotle flavor without adding any bit of chocolate-y sweetness.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Baby, what's your sign?"

If you've lived much, you'll know that one of the most infamous pick-up lines revolves around asking someone what their astrological sign is...and thanks to some astronomist everything has now changed as the Earth's alignment is now different.

As my birthday is in early November, I was naturally a Scorpio.  Back in college, I decided to get a tattoo and thought long and hard about what to get.  I didn't want anything that I would outgrow so I figured my Zodiac sign was the best choice b/c hey, it was something about me that would never change.  But guess the joke was on me!

Now this Parke Kunkle guy has gone and changed everything with the addition of a 13th sign--the Ophiuchus.  According to the modified calendar, I am no longer a Scorpio...but a Libra!

How will I ever turn this...

into this???

Something tells me that I won't be headed down to the tattoo shop anytime soon to have things corrected. I'm not about to "go under the needle(s)" because some guy decided he need to change things. Or what if he changes his mind again?!  Or someone else decides he's just a kook and reverts back to the 12-sign calendar???  Regardless, I'm sure it will make for a good story when I'm that old, shriveled nursing home resident explaining to the CNA during my sponge bath that I'm not really a Scorpio even though I have the symbol tattooed on me...

In case you haven't been following the story, you might want to check out your new sign:

Capricorn: Jan. 20 – Feb. 16
Aquarius: Feb. 16 – March 11
Pisces: March 11- April 18
Aries: April 18- May 13
Taurus: May 13- June 21
Gemini: June 21- July 20
Cancer: July 20- Aug. 10
Leo: Aug. 10- Sept. 16
Virgo: Sept. 16- Oct. 30
Libra: Oct. 30- Nov. 23
Scorpio: Nov. 23- Nov. 29
Ophiuchus: Nov. 29- Dec. 17
Sagittarius: Dec. 17- Jan. 20

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Ball of Fun

As I left the gym this evening, I tuned my car radio to NPR to see what programming they had on...and all I could hear were horses running...and running and running.

Then it dawned on me--tonight was the "State of the State" address by our new Governor Sam Brownback. And it was not horses I was hearing, but thunderous clapping from the audience as he had just entered the chambers. Wow, talk about a blonde moment!

Anyhow, this weekend our family had a ball of fun when we attended the Inaugural Gala for Gov. Brownback and Lt. Gov. Colyer...our evening started with a cocktail reception at the Capitol Plaza Hotel...And before it was over, some old man thought he'd be slick and hit on me by "assuming" I was Dad's granddaughter--in front of my dad.  Long story short, playing dumb doesn't work!  Especially when you're already a creepy old man and you know that I am, in fact, his daughter.  And I'd be dumb to leave such a handsome face like this one...

After the reception, we moved on to the dinner and finally the dance. We saw many familiar faces ranging from the new Attorney General, Derek Schmidt, other new head haunchos and department Secretaries, to a bunch of legislators who have been around for quite a while.  And then we also ran into some of our family while we were there--such as...

My dad's sister and her husband who is now retired from many years of lobbying in Washington DC.  Even as a retiree he can't get enough of his Republican politics!

We also saw my aunt & uncle's son, Jeff and his wife, Beth. Jeff was just promoted from President & General Manager of the Kansas Speedway to President of Kansas Speedway Development Corporation. As the out-of-touch cousin that I am, I can't remember what his new responsibilities are but I do know that he is overseeing the new casino that is going in at the Speedway.  But I am able to remember that they had awesome seats at the dinner!

All in all, it was a fun night and something that we will probably never do again...but weren't we a good looking group?!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Burst of Sun

It seems like everyone around me is headed to warm climates this week...while I'm stuck in snowy Kansas.  Ick. I still haven't gotten around to taking down our Christmas decorations because 1) Epiphany WAS just last week with Sunday being the last day of the church's Christmas season, 2) the snow definately makes it "feel" like Christmas and 3) I've been freaking out b/c I have nothing to hang on the living room wall after we take down our Advent calendar...and after being in our house for 10 months, I'm sick of having bare walls in the living and dining room.

However, I found this little burst of "sun" at Pier 1 the other day and now it's warming up our living room wall above the console table!
It would be an understatement to say that I love sunbursts...I would have them all over my house if I could.

Well, I guess we already do!  We have this clock in the dining room...

And this clock in the bathroom...

To be completely honest, I wanted a HUGE sunburst clock for the living room...but then it would be pretty obvious that I have an obsession with knowing what time it is...all the time.  And having a wall clock in every single room might be a bit much (having one in your closet isn't obsessive, is it?!) I opted for a mirror instead.

I originally fell in love with this mirror when I first saw it online...but then I realized it would be well over $400 by the time I had it shipped to our house and knowing my luck the mirror wouldn't survive the trip.
But who was I kidding by even looking at it?!  Spending hundreds of dollars on a mirror is NOT in our budget and as it turns out I like our "sunflower" (as I have nicknamed it) better!  And here are a few reasons why...1) It's easier to see in person, but each ray/leaf is sculpted and brings some needed texture/dimension to the living room...2) Our console table is 50" long and with our high ceilings we needed something decent sized to take up the space...which the sunflower did!  3) I don't have a pic of our dining room chandelier anywhere, but it has these really cool sculpted leaves around the base of each light...the chandelier fit the period of our house but just needed something to compliment...then I realized yesterday that the sunflower leaves totally work with the leaves in the chandelier!  And finally...4)  the sunflower mirror was on sale for like 1/6 of the price of the mirror I originally can't get much better than that!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tastes Like Chicken...Must Be Chicken

If you know Justin very well, you will know he LOVES chicken wings...and his hot sauce.

Ironically enough, Mom called on Monday night to say the Kite's on Highway 24 has an All-You-Can-Eat Chicken Wing buffet with a bunch of sides on Mondays for just $ we already had something in the crockpot for supper, I figured we'd go another time.  But then I realized I already had a new Chicken Wing recipe on the menu for this week and figured if Justin didn't like the wings, we'd definately hit up the buffet next week to make up for it.

Needless to say, I think Justin liked the new recipe.  He ate 4 pounds of wings.  Yes, 4 pounds.  I only had 5 wings myself before he wiped them out!  You know those people who blog about feeding a family of 4 on $10 a day?  Well, that will never be us!  I bet you he could easily eat $10 worth of home-cooked food at breakfast alone.  Justin definately burns off anything he eats at work the next day, but there's times I think he may want to get his cholosterol checked :-/

If any of you out there are chicken wing fans, you may like this's super simple and yummy! It doesn't have an overpowering Asian flavor,'s just different from your typical hot wings and would be great for those who aren't into Buffalo sauce.  I had mine with brown rice and it went well together!  Some food for thought--After removing them from the crockpot, I usually put the wings under the broiler to crisp them up a bit...or you could go super unhealthy and fry the wings rather than slow cook them, then top them with the sauce!

5-Spice Chicken Wings
1 C. Plum Sauce
1 t. Chinese Five-Spice (more or less to taste)
2 T. Butter, melted
3 lb. Chicken Wings

Spray crockpot with non-stick cooking spray.  Stir together plum sauce, 5-spice and butter.  Place frozen wings in crockpot, top with sauce.  Cook on low for 5-6 hours.  If desired, garnish with orange or pineapple slices.

(We had tons of chicken wings, so I just filled our crockpot to the top and went heavy on the 5-Spice...I also added some cayenne pepper for a bit of heat and even though we didn't have quite a full cup of the plum sauce, things balanced out well!)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Perfect Marriage

First and foremost, I will not waste your time trying to convince you that Justin and I have a perfect marriage.  Because ummmm, yeah--it's not perfect.  We have our days of total love and giddiness, the days where he's driving me up the wall (and I'm sure the feeling is mutual at times!) and many more days of learning + patience ahead of us.  Heck, we've only been married 3 months so we obviously have a few things to improve yet!

However, I have chosen to waste your time by blogging about something that I do know is a perfect marriage...our new cookware set!

Ever since we got engaged, I had wanted a new set...I had some old Calphalon from college that was NOT non-stick and even though it did a great job of cooking food, I hated the clean-up.  Justin had some mixed pieces from his college days as well and we made due. 

Last week I hit my breaking point with our cookware.  Maybe some pictures will help you understand why!  It's a bit embarassing to even have such worn cookware in our house--but in defense, we still only used the piece in the middle picture (still embarrassing!).

One handle, and one loose one at that, just doesn't cut it anymore!

All the scarred Teflon just screams, "Hello cancer risk" :-/

After multiple soaks and scrubs, this skillet just wouldn't clean up anymore

I absolutely LOVE the Caribbean Blue by LeCreuset and knew it would be a long time, if any, before we could afford it...heck, the 4 pieces below cost almost $600!  But isn't it gorgeous :-)  I have to admit that I had a weak moment this past Spring and "accidentally" bought a stockpot in the Caribbean blue. Or that's what I tried to convince Justin of at the time. However, we love it. The non-stick is terrific and it's about time that we have everything non-stick and non-cancer causing.

I wanted a cookware set that would compliment our stockpot and the Paula Deen spackled aqua color seemed to fit the bill.  My grandpa's wife was talking about her new set at Christmas and really liked it--I figured it fit our price range so why not give it a try?!

And I'm happy we ordered it!  The set was on our porch when I came home for lunch today so I have no idea how it will cook...but it looks great!  It's a great compliment to our tall stockpot and is a bit more fun in our kitchen than a traditional black or steel style would have been.

Paula Deen on the left, LeCreuset on the right...

Doesn't it look great together?!  And there's 10 more pieces of it for me to drool over :-)
Now if I can keep Justin and the metal utensils away from this set, we'll be one step closer to having a perfect marriage!  Ha!