Monday, June 18, 2012

Justin and His "Forever" Birthday

Yesterday was a big day in our house--it was J-Money's birthday!  And just not any typical birthday, at that.  But rather, it was his "forever" birthday...You know, the birthday where you stop counting???  For some people, the forever birthday is their 21st--for others, it's their 30th, 40th, whatever...but this year, Justin seemed to think this was his forever birthday and he wouldn't "age" in numbers beyond this point.  From this birthday on, he is always "29" years old!

If you follow my blog, you already know that Justin got his birthday present early.  In fact, only 2.5 months early!  Long story short, the smoker I was going to get him went on a major sale so I couldn't resist ordering it...and giving it to him as soon as it arrived.  I'm the absolute WORST at keeping surprises secret!

 This year, Justin's birthday fell on Father's Day and early on, we tried to figure out how we could celebrate BOTH occasions but without making one "guest of honor" feel slighted...After hearing that there would be a free concert in our City Park the eve of Father's Day Sunday, we knew what we had to do...we would throw a Blues & Barbecue party that Saturday night and we'd show-off Justin's birthday gift!

We gathered the family on Saturday evening and chowed down on pulled pork sandwiches.  After spending 18 hours in the smoker, they had an incredible flavor!

Then, we headed down to City Park for the grand finale of the annual Juneteenth Festival.  Of all the years we've been in Manhattan, this is the first time we have made it to ANY part of the festival and I'm so glad we could enjoy it!  The third Saturday of every June, people throughout the US come together to celebrate the end of slavery.  Even though the Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1, 1863 it wasn't until two and a half years later (on June 19, 1865), that Union soldiers sailed into Galveston, Texas, announced the end of the Civil War and read aloud a general order freeing the quarter-million slaves residing in the state. It's very likely that none of them had any idea that they had actually been freed more than two years before. It was truly a day of mass emancipation. Thus, this date has become known as Juneteenth.  Only about one-half of the states recognize Juneteenth and I have to say that I am most grateful that our community has coordinated such a strong and vibrant celebration!

But back to the story!  The Juneteenth festival brought in the Daddy Mack Blues Band from Memphis, TN for their grand finale.  Daddy Mack is definitely your old-man electric-blues musician but between him and the three other guys in the band, they rocked the house!  AND the concert was free!  It's crazy to think that people travel to Beale Street to hear him play, but he was in the heart of the Little Apple jammin' for us :-)

Finally, the show was over and our guests headed home.  We called it a night because in just a few short hours, it would officially be J-Money's birthday!!!  That morning, we went to church and celebrated his big day by putting money in BESS.  BESS (which stands for Blessings Everybody Shares Spiritually) is a piggy-bank that members of our church contribute to anytime they have a blessing or thanksgiving to share--then, the money is sent to our sister-church in Haiti to help with outreach projects in their country.  It's pretty cool to think that celebrating Justin's birthday with our church family also helps out those in need!

After church, we watched the movie Acts of Valor--it was an amazing movie but I don't know how you could end that movie with a dry eye!  It really isn't the best movie to watch on a birthday because it shifts your mood from celebratory to reflective...all I could think about was how I was glad all our friends and brother-in-law have come back safe--and how I continue to pray that our friend who's currently deployed will come back safe.  In other words, don't watch it unless you have time to decompress a bit!!!

Once the movie was over, we took a quick nap and then got around for supper at Houlihan's.  Did you know that if you go online and sign up for their birthday club, they give you $15 off any entree during your birthday week?!  And as luck had it, their appetizers are discounted on Sunday nights so we ended up saving more than we spent!

Usually, we both want to face the door when we go out to eat but last night, Justin wanted to face the bar---???  Turns out, the NBA finals were on and he had a direct line of sight to the television if he faced the bar.  Go figure!!!  lol...

After Justin devoured his steak dinner, it was time for birthday cake!!!  Thank you, Coldstone, for making my man happy :-)

And to be sure that no other Justin walked out the door with our birthday cake, I made sure they personalized it just a bit more than usual ;-)

"I have frosting on my face???"

"Oh, yeah--I do!"

All in all, we had a great day and great weekend celebrating Justin's "forever" birthday and showing off his birthday present!  As the saying goes, he's another year older and another year wiser :-)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Our New Toy!!!

We bought a tractor!!!

Okay, well--it's a small tractor. 

And it's yellow.

For a farm girl that grew up surrounded by green tractors, this is a big adjustment for me to make!

Oh, and this tractor doesn't pull, plow or do anything else fancy.

This little guy just chugs along in our yard and waters our grass!

During the past few years, we have tried about every type of sprinkler available--except for this one.  Frankly, it was kind of nerdy and I wasn't about to have it roaming our yard.  Instead, we bought all the other sprinklers at the store.  Some sprinklers did an okay job spraying water for a while, but then they would turn into a big piece of junk before too long.  Or, the settings were all or nothing--so we either had to spend all weekend moving sprinklers OR watering the street plus the neighbor's yard.

And while my ADD is in full-effect, let me mention that the above grass is not OUR grass! Boy, how I wish it was because our yard is so far from looking like that!  I have to admit, within a year's time of owning our house, we had a pretty good lookin' lawn. We had significantly reduced the amount of crabgrass and weeds--BUT, we still fought the Bermuda grass that came with the property.

Being a natural competitor, my husband decided he was going to get COMPLETELY rid of the Bermuda--AND make our yard look better than the professionally-landscaped house two doors down.  And this is the house that he wants to beat...The natural realist in me wants to point out that we could work our tails off and end up with a better yard.  But, their house will always kick our house's arse!

Anywho, in his quest to win the very, VERY "secret" competition with the neighbors, Justin did a bunch of research on eradicating Bermuda grass.  In addition to doing his homework, my husband befriended our local Extension Agent, invited the agent over for site-visits and also made sure he befriended the staff at our local Horticultural Services store.  Long story short, we found it was best to spray Round-Up all over our yard several times in the Fall and then install sod in the Spring...if we did that, we had a pretty good chance of getting rid of all the Bermuda. 

We sat down with a pencil and decided we would kill off the yard, live with a big ol' patch of dirt, plant grass seed in the "better" spots and then lay sod in the "trouble" spots.  Justin would finally win his competition!  Which, in my opinion, I thought our yard already looked pretty good...but a good wife always supports her husband's hobbies, right?!  For those of you who are curious, this is what our yard looked like last June.

At the time I tried my best, but I just couldn't convince Justin that our yard just really wasn't that bad!  I was all about just sitting back (ie being lazy) and letting the yard take care of itself...but who was I kidding?!  I knew that I, too, would enjoy having a super-well maintained yard :-)

Well, as life usually goes, plans changed and we didn't get all of the yard killed off because we decided we'd wait until Spring to do that.  Then, Spring came and we realized that with me becoming a Realtor and all the costs associated with doing so, we weren't going to be able to re-do our yard.

Ahhh, gotta love when plans change, eh?!  And when you're consequently stuck with half a yard of dead grass!

At this point, our yard looks horrible!  The south side of our yard is pure dirt, we're missing sections of grass by our shade garden, we have a dirt patch by the garage and the northern section of the yard is very patchy.  Granted, we DO have grass in some spots--and some pretty good grass, at that.  But, overall, our grass looks awful.  Guess that's what happens when you get the cart ahead of the horse and put down crab-grass preventer before patching in your yard!

Now, the plan is to replant and overseed our yard in the the meantime, we're trying to salvage what grass we DO have and prepare the ground for when it's time to replant.  And like the rest of the state, we have had hardly any snow or rain this year so we have to water, water, water.

And this is where our little yellow tractor saves the day!

I had always noticed the little tractor driving around the yard of old people's houses and couldn't figure out what the attraction was.  Maybe, because they were old-people, they just liked the fact that it was a tractor???  And in their world, tractors were pretty cool pieces of machinery???

Again, after doing some research, we discovered that you form a path with your yard hose, attach your tractor to the end of the hose and put the hose between the tractor wheels, then it follows your hose until it hits its end-point.  Just like that--without ever having to go out and move the sprinklers--your yard is watered!  Sign me up :-)

With that, we went to the store and bought one.  And yes, they're everything they are cracked up to be!  We are able to adjust the speed and distance of the water--and it just chugs along until it's watered the whole yard!  We never have to step out to mess with the crazy thing :-)  It's seriously about the best thing since sliced bread and I can't believe I was so apprehensive (or too vain!) to buy one.  Now that we've figured out an easy way to get our grass watered, we just have to figure out a way to remember to water our yard on a regular basis!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The First 30 Days

Just a month ago, I blogged about the "new diet" that my husband and I started.  In the post, I explained that we were going wheat and lactose free after discovering that my body didn't tolerate either one very well!

Obviously, it's been 30 days since I shared that post--and at the time, we were about 2 weeks into the diet. That puts us about 6 weeks out since we went wheat and lactose free and it's going VERY well!

My husband has no problem with wheat.  He could eat a huge bowl of pasta and within an hour, he would be ready for more food.  In the past, if I tried eating a big bowl of spaghetti for supper, within an hour my belly was aching, I was nauseous and even come morning, things were still funky.  The last thing I wanted to do was eat more food and further aggravate my tummy.  My husband also has no problem with lactose--give him a pint of Ben & Jerry's and he's in heaven.  I, on the other hand, could treat myself to ice cream but within no time, well...I'll spare ya the details ;-)

Point is, his stomach is made of steel!  And mine sucks.  It's just that simple!

Fortunately, we have been able to maintain a normal diet--and it's been affordable, too.  Not only does that make me happy, but Justin's over the moon about it all!  In fact, he mentioned the other day that it doesn't even seem like we've had to make a big change.  We still eat plenty of meat (it's just not breaded or I just skip the bun if it's served as a sandwich), vegetables, fruits and we have rice/quinoa/potatoes for our starch.  On the rare occasion, I might prepare pasta or homemade bread that is wheat-free and my new cookie of choice is monster cookies.  Not only are they loaded with yummy peanut butter, chocolate and raisins, but they're something that never, ever called for flour!  Every now and then, I crave something crunchy and salty--luckily, a lot of chips are naturally wheat-free.  We're getting ready to host a Father's Day barbecue at our house complete with all the typical barbecue fare.  The cool part?  The only item that will contain wheat is the bun for the pulled pork--and who wants to waste precious stomach space on bread when you can fill up with awesome meat and homemade barbecue sauce?! 

I would say that over all, this whole "diet" thing has been super easy!  But, I have learned two VERY important lessons along the way...

1.  Forget about being "polite."  When people take the time to make or purchase special treats, I always felt obligated to take a bite so that I wouldn't come off as rude or inconsiderate.  Well, let me tell ya--I learned early on that it wasn't worth being polite and eating something I know I shouldn't eat. 

2.  Read labels.  For me, it's just not summer without the classic strawberry Twizzlers.  I remember buying them by the yard at the local swimming pool!  Well, last week they were on sale at the grocery store and I picked up several packages, came home and spent the next 24 hours snacking away.  By the end of the 24 hours, I was super sick and couldn't leave the bathroom.  The following day, I still couldn't leave the bathroom and I was in horrible bedtime that night, I was in tears because I was so frustrated with what was going on.  Ummmmmm, turns out--licorice is made out of WHEAT!   And how in the world would I have known that?!  Oh yeah, by reading the label--duh!  I've since learned that my Rolo's--another one of my favorite candies--also has a bunch of wheat in it.  Seriously?!  But at least I figured that out the easy way :-) 

All in all, the past 6 weeks have been pretty easy--and worth it!  My chronic headaches and migraines are gone, my stomach is 10x better, my acid reflux is greatly improved, I haven't had a single rash develop, I can think clearly, I don't crash in the middle of the afternoon, I'm sleeping better at night and my night-sweats have even disappeared, my joints haven't hurt any, I have enough energy to get to the gym...the list goes on and on.  I'm just glad that it's been so easy--we can keep eating normal food which means the husband is happy and now that I know what WILL happen if I eat something I shouldn't, it's pretty easy to stay on track :-)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

An Evening With The Taste of Home Cooking School

Just over a week ago, my girlfriends and I did something I had always wanted to do--we went to the Taste of Home Cooking School when it came through town!

When I was a little girl, I loved looking through my Grandma Marcene's Taste of Home magazines...the recipes always looked SO good and I loved reading the anecdotal stories that went along with each dish.

And to this day, I'm still a Taste of Home fan.  But now I don't have to flip through their magazines--I just head straight to their website!

So when Jen asked if I wanted to go to the Cooking School when it came to K-State last week, I was game!

For just $10, we received tickets to the show, a tote bag full of samples, two Taste of Home magazines, bunches of coupons and chances at the door prizes.  Oddly enough, one of the coupons was for 20% off any hair service where I get my hair done--you can bet that I'll be using that when I'm due for another round of color :-)

Anyhow, our "chef" for the evening was Jamie Dunn.  She's from Oklahoma but based on her drawl, I would have thought she was from somewhere further South than that!  But she was great to listen to and I really learned a lot of great tips that she shared as she made the various recipes.

McCain Auditorium was transformed into a cooking stage for the night!

They projected the cooking area onto the large overhead screen so we could see everything Jamie did

Speaking of recipes, over the course of 3 hours, Jamie made a total of ten recipes.  Now, that's some really fast cooking!!!  Being the space-cadet that I am, I already recycled the magazine and I can't remember the proper names of the dishes, but I'll still try my best...
Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

Taco Casserole

Johnsonville(R) Italian Meatballs

Mexican Shrimp Bisque

Asparagus Strudel

Gallo(R) Chipotle Lime Chicken

For the life of me, I couldn't find the other three recipes that she made that evening--and at this point, I can't remember what the names were, either!  Regardless, I do remember that when Jamie made them, they looked GOOD!

All in all, it was a great evening!  If you ever have a chance to attend one of their Cooking Schools, you definitely need to go and make sure you take your girlfriends with you.  When you combine great friends and good food, what could be better?!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Mothers DO Know Best...The Pajama Edition

Every now and then, I have to admit--mothers DO know best...sometimes it's my own mom who proves me wrong, sometimes it's other moms who prove me wrong!

Last summer, I posted an entry about how my mom proved me wrong about one-piece swimsuits.  I used to LAUGH at the women at the pool who would cover up the entire body...But guess what?!  There finally came a point when I knew I couldn't traipse around the pool in a two-piece for fear of running into my teen-age students or professional contacts.  And before you knew it, I was in LOVE with a bunch of one-piece swim suits.  BUT, it's also safe to say that they weren't the most traditional suits in the world...regardless, though, Mom knew best and I was in the market for one-pieces!

For as long as I can remember, my mom always had "real" pajamas...and it seemed that she always expected us to have "real" pajamas as well.  As children, we had matching sets but once I left the house, real pajamas were LONG gone!  I was free :-)  Why would a person spend money on separate clothes to sleep in when you could just sleep in a pair of Nike shorts and a t-shirt???  Or, the clothes you went out in???  Okay, soooo, yeah, I may have done that once or twice during my college days--and I still do it every blue moon if I lay down for a late-night "nap" after a long day at work!  But at least I don't wake up smelling like a smokey bar the next morning!

Anywho, back to the point I'm trying to make...I remember a few years ago when I was a guest at the local hospital.  After I was moved out of ICU and into a regular room, I could wear my OWN pajamas!  I told Mom to grab my Nike pants and t-shirt out of my bag and I could tell she was not impressed with my choice of sleeping clothes...and before you knew it, she left the hospital and returned with a pair of pajama pants and a bath robe.

I remember thinking, "Really?! What's wrong with what my Nike pants?!"  But then, I put on the pajama pants...and WOW...they were soft...and comfy!!!

It was at that point that I figured out, maybe moms do know best about pajamas...

In the past few years, I've added a few pajama pants to my collection--but I still can't justify spending money on something that I wouldn't wear in public!

Well, I take that back.  Maybe I would wear my pajamas in public if they looked like the pajamas below! The other day I ran to JCPenny's to return my wedges (yes, my favorite wedges started to fall apart after wearing them only twice!) and I saw some super cute dresses in the sleepwear section.  And then I realized--they weren't "dresses," they were for-real pajamas!  Sign me up!  If I wanted, I could drink my morning coffee on the front porch and almost look like I was dressed for the day...and I could make a trip to Walmart (but that would require me to actually be willing to go to that place!) in my pajamas and not end up on their People of Wal-Mart website!  Maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to muster the courage to spend some money on real pajamas and I'll be wearing a fab maxi dress when the mailman is at the door with a package at 2:00pm on a Saturday afternoon!  Oh, but I never said I'd have my hair and make-up done ;-)

I can't stand the matching pants, but maybe you could pair the top with the As-Seen-On-TV Pajama Jeans and be super stylin' ;-)  Just Kidding!

I'm not crazy about the tank-top, but the leopard print tank at the bottom would look great with the leggings and could almost pull of morning-coffee at the local coffee shop with this look ;-)

If you added some accessories and a cute pair of shoes, you could walk around town all day in your pajamas!  Ha!