Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Walk In Our Yard

It's weather like this that I wish I lived in Southern California where year-round, it's a steady 75 degrees.  This 100+ degree weather is for the birds!

The only upside, it better give our plants a much needed growth-spurt.

At last count, we put in over 125 plants as well as a salsa garden this past Spring. It was an unusually cool season and the plants just haven't grown like I expected they would. I'm an instant gratification type of person and I want to see my plants BIG and in BLOOM and RIGHT NOW!

Slowly, but surely, things are starting to grow and open...last night was surprisingly nice so Justin and I spent the evening wandering around the yard checking out the plants, talking with our neighbors and drinking mojitos & Dos Equis on our porch swing.  After 15 months of trying to create some sort of yard, it's slowly coming together and we're finally able to enjoy it!

Here's to wishing things cool off again this evening!

These day lilies were 1 of 4 plants that were on our property when we bought the house...If you look closely, you can see a hint of orange petals emerging...I didn't expect the orange to look so nice against the stained fence and khaki siding, but next year I'll be sure to incorporate more bursts of orange around the yard!

Our flowerbed is starting to grow some, especially the False Indigo, Sedum and Blood a year or two, everything will be nice and big! 

The ajuga along our concrete steps is starting to fill in and cover up our bare spots!

My first set of ferns died in the cold weather--the 2nd round is doing great!  My fern budget is wrecked for this year but I'm thinking next summer we'll hang a total of 4 ferns.  I like to tell Justin it's my way of recreating a Southern-Style porch for him ;-)

Our former bare spot by the garage now has Zebra grass (looks much more impressive & larger in person!), a different variety of sedum and more ajuga...and in the background is our *last* section of fence that needs stained...we're getting closer to being done!

The tall lilies on the right came with the house, the smaller ones on the left are ones we transplanted this Spring.  My goal is to fill in the northern foundation with more lilies this fall

One of my three clematis vines...this one hasn't grown, the other two turned brown.  I'm hoping they come back next year :-/

The deep corner of the flowerbed--hostas, heuchera, more ajuga and an Oakleaf Hydrangea...the hydrangea seems to be a mighty slow grower :-(

Looking over the fence into the flowerbed...the crazy soaker hose is giving me fits and I'm about ready to be done with it!  Anyone have any soaker-hose tricks to share???

Justin's crab apple tree that he planted.  We haven't done much to it and it's doing great!

We just have tons of shade at our house...The front yard is pretty much in constant shade while the back yard and southern section has LOTS of shade throughout the day as well.  The only area that gets much sun is the section by the alley

If you look REAL close, you might be able to see them ;-)  We planted 7 hostas and a Japanese Painted Fern at the base of our tree as it only gets a few hours of morning sun.  I really, really wanted to plant their full-grown counterparts so we'd have the immediate "wow factor," but they were $17 each.  At that price, baby plants will work!
These are the hostas we planted last summer...someday, the new ones will be the same size!

And the other hostas we planted last summer.  Wow--our grass is looking crispy.  Good thing we started watering last night!

Our knock-out roses are growing some!  The bright pink petals are a nice pop of color among all the green plants.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Why I Chose Prevention Work

Even though it's summer break, my job(s) has been on my mind a lot lately.

Our city commission is currently considering a funding cut to social service agencies in Manhattan.  This is a huge deal to me--all of my working days have been providing social services to at-risk and needy members of our community.

CASA is one of the agencies who would be affected by the funding cut.  Several weeks ago I blogged about how I got involved with CASA and how I felt when I was offered my current job at the school.

I loved CASA...I still do (otherwise I wouldn't still work for them!)...but why did I make the move to being a Prevention Educator to middle school students?

Most of the families we encounter through CASA are participating in interventions.  Whether those clients require medical care, appropriate mental health services, someone to teach them the basics of parenting, engaging in case plans to end the cycle of abuse/neglect, trying to establish steady employment, receiving treatment for substance abuse or securing adequate housing...most of our families are in Stage 2.

With some of our parents, we are merely putting a bandage on their problems.  The amazing thing is, with the guidance and love of a CASA, the children are supported and advocated for...this is what I refer to as Stage 1--prevention.  By receiving the necessary services and stopping things before they get too far, many of the children can be saved from following in the parents' footsteps.

Unfortunately, you have days in social services where you're just plain burnt out.  I'm not going to lie--I've had my fair share of those days.  When I was approached with the idea of a job that helped me PREVENT some of these issues, I couldn't resist.

If you bear with me, I'm getting close to answering my question of "Why I chose to be a prevention educator?"

Witnessing what I have with CASA is obviously the first part of the answer.

The second part of the answer is harder to explain and stings a bit.

Growing up, I had the best uncle ever.  And I'm not kidding.  Okay, I may be biased...but really, he was the BEST uncle.  He was the funniest person ever.  We LOVED getting to see our uncle any chance we got.  He was the best :-)

Long story short, my uncle fought a hard battle with addiction.  It was scary not knowing where he was and if the unknown meant he was dead.  There were times that we were scared for our own safety and had 'what-if' plans in place. I remember the shock of walking past him in our local gas station and not even recognizing him due to the physical toll the drugs had taken...and then I found myself wondering if my own uncle even recognized me?   I remember the stints in rehab and wondering if it would really work "this time?"  I missed our time together--spending the holidays together and laughing nonstop, checking out his horses or climbing around in his semi trucks...I missed getting to see my cousins, too.  Time with the extended family just wasn't the same as it was impossible to ignore the elephant in the room--where's our uncle and what's going on this time? We had already lost our grandma at a young age and now we had to lose our uncle, too.  But the hardest part was knowing how it tore at our mother.  My uncle's addiction just wasn't fair. 

The emotions I experience are still very raw and it's hard to think about those years without tearing up.  When you love somebody so much, addiction hurts.

In Life Skills, we discuss the addiction process.  I'm honest with my students. 

Addiction is not a choice.  I do recognize that the choice comes when a person decides to experiment with a substance.  As my 6th graders say, "You can't be addicted if you never try it!"

But let's get real.  We know people who drink.  We know people who smoked a blunt once upon a time. It sucks that one person can socially drink...while another person can't drink because of the relapse that would result. It sucks that some people can engage in casual drug use and walk away from it...but one hit of a drug and another person could be addicted.

Addiction is physical.  It's psychological.  It's neurological.  We cannot predict the way our neurotransmitters, namely the dopamine receptors, will respond when a substance is introduced into the body.  Unfortunately, there is no crystal ball that tells ya whether or not you will end up an addict.  Of course, none of my invincible tweens or teenagers seem to think it could happen to them...but that's when I bust out my 10-minute, basic discussion on the addiction spectrum and all the above mentioned components.  If anything, I just want them to realize that it COULD happen to them.
My uncle is now in Stage 3--Recovery.  He has an amazing and super fun wife who I am beyond grateful to have in our family.  I feel like we have our uncle back. The entire family was "stormed in" together last summer and it was the most fun I had had in a long time. It was almost like old times...My uncle and his wife were able to attend our wedding this past September.  Even though it was our "special day," deep down I was beyond excited that my uncle had survived the addiction and we could celebrate as a family.  It's with every bit of energy that I pray both my uncle and his wife can remain in Recovery the rest of their lives.
So why did I chose prevention?
They say families of addicts become addicted to the addiction. However, I don't feel that's necessarily me.  I realize that I cannot keep every 12 and 14 year old from picking up the bottle or picking up the pipe and risk getting hooked.  All I can do is educate them and give them the tools to make the best decisions possible.

Honestly, I don't want anybody to go through the things that our family did. I don't want anybody to experience what my uncle went through.  Some people aren't lucky enough to enter Stage 3...instead, addiction takes their life.  Or some people get stuck in Stage 2 and as a result, find themselves receiving intervention services from our local social service agencies.

This entry has come a long ways from potential funding cuts--and I'm still not sure if I answered my own question very well.  One thing I do know--I'm proud of the work that CASA and all of our cooperating agencies do.  I hope I make a difference in the lives of my students...and I do know that I'm proud to have my uncle back :-) 

Last but not least, I owe a big thanks to "Uncle" and his wife for letting me write this post and share my experience with his addiction. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Coleslaw Crazy

How do I know that I'm getting old?  I have suddenly found a liking for cabbage.  Really, there are a bunch of other signs that I'm becoming "more grown-up," but this sign--it took me by surprise!

I have NEVER liked coleslaw.  All the farmsales, church suppers, summer potlucks we went to as kids had coleslaw and boy, did all the old people get excited over it!  Oh, coleslaw!!!  You would hear them talk about how creamy it was, how it wasn't too sweet, their-recipe-this, their-recipe-that.  Just hearing the conversations was enough to steer me clear of it.  If old people liked it, there is no way I was trying it!

This fall I came across a recipe for Asian country style ribs that I posted here at can't get enough of the ribs when we make the dish and unfortunately it's a greasy, greasy calorie-laden recipe.  Justin loves having rice with his meat dishes (pretty obvious he's not a meat-and-POTATO boy from the Midwest!)...I was trying to find a way to lighten the dish and read somewhere about substituting cabbage for rice.

I gave the cabbage a try and was hooked!  And I immediately realized I was getting old...

I'm still not much of a creamy mayo-based coleslaw person...I'm not sure if it's the taste or the flashbacks of the old people chatter that turns me off.

I have found two coleslaw recipes this summer that are actually pretty decent.  If you're anything like me and try to avoid using a hot stove/oven/microwave during the warm months, these may be up your alley!

Spicy Taco Slaw adapted from Semi-Homemade by Sandra Lee
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Chipotle hot sauce (I used Tabasco brand)
2 teaspoons chili lime seasoning (Mrs. Dash has a Fiesta Lime blend that is perfect!)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 (16-ounce) bag coleslaw mix

In a small bowl combined the sour cream, mayonnaise, chipotle sauce, chili lime seasoning, and lime juice. Mix well until blended.  In a large bowl add the coleslaw and pour the sour cream mayonnaise mixture over top and toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
*This slaw is the closest thing I can find to the spicy slaw that So-Long-Saloon (in Aggieville) serves on their fish tacos.  It's very versatile--we tried it with grilled steak tacos, ground beef tacos and even pulled pork sandwiches.  Justin and his coworker absolutely loved the slaw on the pulled pork!
If you're in the mood for a lighter--not so fatty--slaw, try this one:

Mexican Coleslaw adapted from Eating Well magazine
1 (16-ounce) bag coleslaw mix
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Whisk cilantro, vinegar, oil and salt in a large bowl. Add coleslaw mix; toss well to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Toss again to refresh just before serving.
*If you feel up to it, add a dash of cumin for a nice smoky flavor.  This also makes a perfect topping for chicken tacos but is great as a side salad as well.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Bedroom Re-Do

I totally pulled a "Marcene" this winter...

When my Grandma Marcene's health started to fail, the family suggested she and my Grandpa move to an Assisted Living facility.  The stubborn woman she was, Grandma Marcene was adament against moving to Country Place...until she realized she would have to buy all new furniture for her new place.  Grandma LOVED buying furniture and she was quickly on her way to Country Place.

When it came time for us to get a new bed, I told Justin we were redecorating our bedroom.  For me, it was a perfect excuse as we were getting a larger bed...which meant larger frame/headboard, more proportional nightstands, etc.

To be honest, the furniture we brought over from Shirley Lane just did not look right in a bungalow!  And all the brown was just too dark with the wood floors...I couldn't stand "The Dark Dungeon" that it had become.

Since February, our new bed and bedding arrived...I refinished an old wash stand that is now a night stand...hung new curtains...and found a different dresser.  The only thing we didn't change was the paint on the wall.  I'm burnt out on painting and I thought the blue would actually serve as a fun backdrop of color.

And this is what it all looks like so far:
Our old lamp just doesn't look right...still looking for the perfect replacement!

I'm hoping to make some throw pillows this summer.  The ones made for the bedding set were almost $200 a piece.  No joke.  Who buys pillows that cost more than all the bedding combined?!

I can't figure out what...but there needs to be something on each side of the window.  I'm almost thinking a willow-y decal of some sort that "stretches" across the window???
The spot between the door and corner is driving me nuts.  I feel like it needs something...maybe a couple of funky hooks hung in a vertical row???

Our new-to-us dresser and nightstand that I scored for only $150...I'm trying to decide if I should leave them as-is or paint them and refinish the hardware???
Looking into the hallway.  That big white square is an "after market" shadow box that some fool decided to install (oh, and it's also wired for electricity!).  It drives me NUTS!!!  Hopefully we'll get around to dry-walling over it sooner, rather than later.

The bedroom has come a long ways from where it was and it's ten times cozier.  But it still needs some accessories and a rug--walking around on a cold bedroom floor is no fun!  Plus, I think the color/texture of a rug would break up the darkness of the dresser against the floor in the event that I decide not to paint the dresser.

One thing that I have no idea what to do with is that huge wall with the shadowbox...If we ever get around to covering up the shadowbox, I'm really tempted to switch the layout of the room as I think it would be a better use of wall space.  But if we don't get around to it, who knows what we'll do!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Super Easy Chile Verde

As the school year was winding down, I promised Justin I would put the slow cooker away for the summer. 

Truth be told, we busted it out again last week. 

We were both craving Chile Verde.  Justin had a softball game Tuesday night and I had a ton of stuff to do around the house that was going to take an entire day so honestly, there wasn't much time for a home-cooked meal.

I found this recipe this past winter at  The blogger had a recipe for homemade salsa verde but considering tomatillos can run around $18.99/lb, I skipped the recipe for homemade verde and was thrilled when she offered a much more simple version.

It's as easy as this...

A person can serve Chile Verde in a variety of ways, but our favorite way is just pouring some chile verde over steamed rice and having tortillas on the side.  It's a great meal for those days where you don't feel like eating any vegetables ;-)

Chile Verde traditionally uses pork meat...however, we most always use a beef roast of some kind and it's delicious (and a bit greasy but that definately contributes to the flavor as well).  For the best flavor, use only half the salsa during the cooktime and add the last 1/2 right before serving.

This has honestly become one of our most favorite meals...and it makes great left overs, too!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Justin's BBQ-d Birthday

Justin turned the big 2-8 on Friday!

Just like everything else in our house, I decided it was only appropriate to make him a "supersized" cupcake for his birthday.

And he was barely in the door from work when I gave it to him!

Friday afternoon, we headed to Kansas City for some BBQ...first stop was at the Gate's in Leawood.

The food was good, but the company was even better!  I forgot to take a picture but Justin's two old roommates and one of their girlfriends joined us for supper.  Justin had a great time catching up and laughing about old times together in the dorms and at their house on 17th Street.

After Gates, we went to a local bar for a few drinks but called it a night around 11pm.  Ya know you're getting old (or had a long work week!) when you're heading home as everyone else is heading out to the watering holes...

I had made reservations at the Hyatt in Leawood for Friday night.  I'll be honest--the hotel was not anything like the Hyatts I've stayed at but hey, it kept us dry from the storm that rolled through town later that night.

On the upside, Justin slept in Saturday morning (something he never does) and laid in bed watching TV until the very last minute we had before checking out.

The room had a sectional which was kinda cool...

It also had a wet bar actually made the perfect drying spot for all my cosmetics.  My facial toner spilled ALL over my overnight bag, soaking my clothes and everything else in it.  Nothing like drying your clothes with a hair dryer!

We've heard from several people that they like Oklahoma Joe's bbq better than Gate's...and since we were in town, Justin just HAD to try Oklahoma Joe's for lunch on Saturday!

After eating an entire Hog-a-Mania platter and an order of fries, Justin declared that Oklahoma Joe's was 10x better than Gate's!

Granted, we did not drive downtown to the "original" location but the food WAS good.  However, I like the Gate's atmosphere better.  There's something about incredibly rude people yelling at you that just can't be replaced ;-)

I never thought we could eat so much bbq in just 15 hours, but we did and Justin loved every bite of it!

But the fun didn't stop we went to Mom and Dad's to celebrate Father's Day.  Mom had made Justin's favorite--a caramel cake--for his birthday!  I didn't get a picture of that either, but she found candles that spelled out 'Happy Birthday.'  The cake was delicious and she tried a new marshmallow frosting on it--super yummy as well!

All in all, it was a good weekend and Justin had a great time turning 28 :-)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Malcolm's "Meetings"

We decided a while ago to make our house kitty an "outdoor kitty."

After all, we thought he was marking up our area rug and I was not about to have him start marking the couch, our new Tempurpedic, whatever struck his fancy.  Justin was ready to send him to the animal shelter (much against my dismay) when I realized, we could let him outside!

Malcolm was a feral cat when we got him at 6-months old.   When we lived at Shirley Lane, he occassionally, and I mean OCCASSIONALLY, wandered around our backyard for a few minutes here and there.

We moved to our current home and one day we decided to let him out.  And he ran out of the yard as fast as he could.  He was FREE!

His roaming never lasted very long as every day over my lunch hour he would come back to the house to eat.  Then he'd be back by bedtime to eat some more...

Then the flea fiasco of Fall 2010 was more than we could handle so we decided he would never see the outdoors again...that lasted until he started marking on the area rug.

He's been outside ever since.  It started out pretty typical, he'd be gone in the morning and back at night.

Mid-May rolled around and Malcolm disappeared for 48 hours...2 entire days.  No sign of him at all.  I decided he was flat as a pancake on a street somewhere OR he took it upon himself to leave us.  Regardless to say, the sensitive side of me hoped it was the latter of the two.

I had given up on him when the next morning, I got up for the gym and lo and behold, Malcolm was on our backporch at 5am!  I let him in for "treat time," told Justin the exciting news and then put him back out before I left the house.

The day went on and well, Malcolm was no where to be found.  He had definately just used me for some food.

Later that afternoon received a text message from my boss stating her husband had seen Malcolm down by the Chamber of Commerce...what the hell was he doing down there?!   He's not the friendliest of cats and is easily spooked--and he picked a fairly busy part of town to prowl?!  Jezzzzzzus...

I thought about sending Justin down there as I had to be home with the floor guy but we later gave up looking for him (aren't we nice kitty parents???).  If he wanted to come back, he could.  After all, during his absence a super friendly yellow kitten decided to grace our porch and he could easily be replaced!

I still don't know why Malcolm decided to visit the Chamber of Commerce...I like to tell people he was "attending meetings."  He is, after all, quite the serious cat.

Malcolm finally showed up the next day and has stuck close to the house ever since.  He's either in the garage (even though he refuses to come out half the time when we call him) or laying on one of our porches.  It's kinda nice...I don't worry about him being a flapjack...

However, sometimes it's a bit much.  The other day I locked myself out of the house *again* so I decided to kill time by weeding the flowerbed.  Malcolm had a blast rolling around in all the wood chips--but everytime I reached down for a weed, he would force himself under my hand so I would have to pet him.  This charade went on for about a good 30 minutes before he decided to be a good kitty cat and go people-watch from the porch.

On the upside, when Malcolm disappeared for nearly three days, not once did we ever once suspect that someone took him.  One, he won't get near strangers even if they call his name and two, when you're missing half your facial hair, you're just not very appealing...

His hair had started to thin some before we initially let him outside...I didn't think much about it until one day he had NO hair above his eyes. We took him to the vet and turns out, he has Athlete's Foot. On his face. Now we have to put Athlete's Foot medicine on his face and ears twice a day...the hair is slowly coming back but it still looks gawd-awful in person. It's going to be a while before it all returns as 10 -minutes after I put the cream on, Malcolm starts wiping it off. For an outdoor kitty, he's sure become high maintenance!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Music Maniacs

It seems that all we did this past weekend was check out live music!

It started on Friday evening with BeauSoleil at our City Park.  BeauSoleil, French for "Beautiful Son," is a Cajun band from Louisianna...with Justin being from the region, I thought it would be fun to check them out!

Little did we know that they're a Grammy-award winning band...and there was no charge for admission!  I have to give some props to our city for being able to bring them in time and time again in recent years.  Even though most of their songs were in what I assumed to be French or Creole and we had no idea what they were signing about, we still bought a CD to take home with us.

The newspaper misprinted the start time of the event, so we were a bit early...but it gave us a chance to sit back and admire just how pretty our pavilion and stage is!

Live with BeauSoleil!
Then last night...well, it was entertaining!  And a bit risque!

George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic were the headlining act at the Smoky Hills River Festival.  It had been close to 20 years since I had been to the River Fest, Justin had never been AND he had never gone to a real concert before.  Therefore, it became absolutely necessary that we go!

The man is 70 years old...and STILL getting down!  If you saw him from the back, you'd never know he was 70...but then he turns around and the eyes tell it all.  Pretty obvious that he's seen some fun in his day...
We were lucky--we scored admission buttons for just $10 AND we sat in the fourth row.  For a first-time concert experience, it was a great one for Justin!

I do have to wonder what some people were thinking when they brought their small children along...Maybe they're not quite familiar with George Clinton and the P-Funk???  There were some sights that would have made my grown brother blush!

That said, I'm hoping I can post some videos from the concert...but until I figure that out, here are some pictures!
Justin doing his silly "#1" before the concert started...I jokingly told him it would be our way of remembering it as his first concert!

The musicians slowly entering the stage

The man himself!!!  He took off his hat to reveal a wave cap...there is NO hair on this man's head!  Quite surprising considering he's known for his outrageous dreads

This dude was killing about an emaciated body, visible ribs and all!  And he strapped on a handtowel to form a diaper!

George Clinton and his back-up vocalists

Their tambourine man on vocals

This gal was George Clinton's granddaughter.  She came on for one song where she both sang and rapped...She was pretty good!

Two of the guitarists were featured at the very end

Georgie Boy did a quick cap change at the end of his show and gave the red one to the audience before leaving for the night