Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nature Notes: Blue bridge and Zipp, the working man

Visit Michelle at the home of Nature Notes.

This week has been cold and sunny until today. It's snowing now. I've taken several walks at the Cox Arboretum by my mother's house. This blue bridge really stood out in the sunshine. This photo isn't touched up at all. I didn't saturate the color on the computer and the sunshine really floods all these photos with too much light.

But this bridge just pops right out, bright and cheery.

Zipp is a working Border Collie at the arboretum. He keeps the Canada goose population out of the area completely. He lets the ducks live here, though. You can't bring your dog here to walk around because they don't want anything messing with The Man while he works.

Did anyone notice that Zipp's name is misspelled at the bottom of the sign?

Here is Zipp coming at me. I was photographing the ducks. I took video because I work hard for you all, but Gmail won't let me send it to myself.

He was following a family that was visiting. It's Spring Break in Dayton, so there were kids at the park. You can see one kid in the photo below looking back to see if Zipp is still following. The kids seemed to enjoy their escort, but at first glance (and second glance, too) I wondered if Zipp was telling them it was time for them to leave.

Lastly,, this is a tree that's working hard to bloom. I hope today's snow doesn't make it reconsider!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ah-ha! Medications are good, but bad

I have been taking a proton pump inhibitor since early December when I began to have symptoms no one was sure of. I don't like medications.

I know people take meds and they're good for life, good for managing symptoms and so on. So there's no need to defend the meds you take. I think it's all good. You need to take meds, you should take them. I will admit that at first the doctor said maybe I should be on these and I ignored it. Then the doctor said I should take them as needed, so I bought some. But I didn't need them because I didn't have symptoms for the way the drug is marketed. So I wasn't sure when they wanted me to take them.

Also? Everyone was really vague and actually guessing what was wrong with me. They thought I had gastric reflux, but I don't. So you can imagine my skepticism. I didn't like taking drugs for something they were guessing at.

Then I had some targeted tests. Turns out I had a mystery illness - h. pylori, which is a bacteria that finds a safe harbor in your stomach and silently does a whole lotta damage and you can't necessarily know the nasty little things are in you. So I took them along with mega doses of antibiotics. I'm still taking them. It turns out these drugs are part of a triple-therapy regimen for the mystery illness.

Not that anyone knew what was wrong in the beginning. Are you picking up what I'm throwing down?

It was a coincidence that the drugs were the right ones for my condition.

What I'm saying is that I don't trust medications and I don't happen to like taking them. Now that I've gotten all that off my chest, here's my story about these little babies.

First of all, I laugh when I hear people say that a drug must be OK because the government has approved it. The government has approved a lot of crap over the years, so I don't believe in the infallibility of the FDA.

Second, I don't believe all the documentation that comes with the drugs.

Here's what happened:
  1. I have been taking these drugs for four months now.
  2. Three months into it, I began to have dizzy spells.
  3. I experienced vertigo for the first time ever. What fun!
  4. I called the pharmacy and they said that fewer than 1-2% of people have dizziness, so that probably wasn't it.
  5. I called the doctor and was told that fewer than 1-2% of people have dizziness and that vertigo isn't associated with this drug, so have my doctor check my ears.
  6. My doctor checked my ears and said they were fine and I was fine and who knows why I'm dizzy. She is awesome, so I'm not picking on her. But she said it would probably resolve itself. She prescribed meclizine.
  7. I keep the meclizine in my purse and have used it several times.
  8. I just got a phone call from my pharmacy checking to see how the meclizine is working out. Yes, I have an awesome pharmacy and an awesome doctor.
  9. At the end of the phone call, she said oh by the way, they just got a notice that the other drug I am taking can cause dizziness and sometimes vertigo when it is taken for long periods of time. You can't make these things up, you know?
  10. She said they define "long" as 12-months.
Guess who thinks it's less than 12 months?

The Kentucky Coffee Tree

Every time I go out for a run I get whiny. I hope it's just because it's cold outside. I thought about running some trails at the arboretum that's really close to my mom's house, so I drove over and ended up walking. I took my camera the first time and used that as my excuse for walking instead of running. I've been there a couple times now, so I thought I'd show you some photos. Here is a tree they have growing there.

The Kentucky Coffee Tree: I hope to remember to go back when I'm in town later this year for follow-up photos. Although the sign says the tree is rare, the Ohio DNR says the tree is widely present in western Ohio where the soils are more akaline. I've added the link below because there's good information on the DNR site.

Here's the tree sans leaves, but you can see the pods hanging on. I think that means this tree is a girl!

Here's a close up of the pods. I caught some nice photos even though I had my little camera and often the glare of the bright sunshine washed out the color. I'm not complaining! If it has to be cold, bring on the sunshine.

According to the Ohio DNR page, this interesting tree "...has the largest leaves of any tree found in eastern North America, with each being up to three feet long and composed of many leaflets."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Nature Notes: Dreary Spring Day

Visit Michelle at the home of Nature Notes.

Yesterday was so bright and sunny after the threat of severe weather passed. It was humid at first, then warm and pleasant. Unfortunately, it is now 28 degrees outside! There's snow in the forecast for a lot of places today including Dayton.

I walked the dog this morning and everything was gray. According to the weatherman, it will stay that way. It would be fine if not for the wind.

Under this tree and lamp there is a nice white bench. It looks inviting in nicer weather.
This tree catches my eye every time. It's twisted and light-colored like those twigs they sell for home decorating.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Oh, Shenandoah! I long to see you...

I drove up to Huber Heights, Ohio to take a look at one of my favorite schools. I went to 13 schools, but I was here longer than any other school, including college. I didn't realize it, but I was here at Shenandoah Elementary School (it's been renamed since then to honor a late Principal) the first year it opened.

What delighted me was how much I remembered, which was everything. I remember the sinks, the classrooms without walls, the refried beans in the second grade, the wide open library where I sat at the table shaking my leg and got my first library job. I remembered every single teacher I had. I remember the book they let me write, the music instruction, using the paper cutter in the art room and getting in trouble for it. Getting socked in the eye by Gary Shoemaker's foot during gym...a highlight.

I found out three of my five teachers have passed and one of them has disappeared. No one knows where she is: Margaret Sorrells. I found her photo on a bulletin board of old staff photos. The only other teacher left was someone everyone remembered and that teacher to this day makes me mad due to her use of humiliation in the classroom. So I graciously kept my mouth shut since everyone remembers her and was glad to tell me of at least one teacher.

Instead of having a field day, we had Pioneer Days. We learned how to tie-dye using goldenrod flowers, cooking bread outdoors, sewing, making tiny dolls out of cloth scraps and clothespins.

Yep, it was the 70s.

I had a dress and a bonnet. I promise if I knew where that photo is, I would post it for you. I was freaking adorable. All along the perimeter of the vast playground were shrubs that we used for houses when we played Little House on the Prairie.

I sang in chorus, which might shock you if you have heard me sing. All our concerts were in the gym/lunchroom combo. I remember lunch boxes, one of which I have blogged about. The tables folded into the walls. Here they are in their original avocado-greenness. I just love them!

Yep, up on that stage fame and fortune awaited me. No, not really. Obviously. This is all the fame and fortune I have right now, this blog, yo?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Who in Sam Hill is Sam Hill anyway?

A few days ago I treated myself to a Shamrock Shake from McDonalds. I hadn't had one in years and I discovered they put whipped cream and a cherry on top now.

It was pretty good. Then today at lunch I ran over to McDonalds and ordered a snack wrap. I drove to the first window and paid. I drove to the second window and she said something about a vanilla shake. She had it in her hand. I smiled and said, "That's not mine" and she replied...wait for it:

"I know. Would you like it anyway?"

Well who in Sam Hill says no to a free vanilla milkshake is what I want to know.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Nature Notes: Plant a Garden

Visit Michelle at the home of Nature Notes.

My mom lives next to a place that is a local landscaper's .. um, place .. it's where they have piles of dirt and all their heavy trucks. They keep the front and sides landscaped. When I arrived here it was apparent they have begun preparations. Things in the areas up front are cleaned out and new dirt has been put down in preparation. It made me think of how, in really early spring, it takes faith to plant those plants.

Spring doesn't look much like spring this early in the year around here.

Plant a Garden

by Edgar Albert Guest

If your purse no longer bulges
and you've lost your golden treasure,
If at times you think you're lonely
and have hungry grown for pleasure,
Don't sit by your hearth and grumble,
don't let mind and spirit harden.
If it's thrills of joy you wish for
get to work and plant a garden!

If it's drama that you sigh for,
plant a garden and you'll get it
You will know the thrill of battle
fighting foes that will beset it
If you long for entertainment and
for pageantry most glowing,
Plant a garden and this summer spend
your time with green things growing.

If it's comradeship you sight for,
learn the fellowship of daisies.
You will come to know your neighbor
by the blossoms that he raises;
If you'd get away from boredom
and find new delights to look for,
Learn the joy of budding pansies
which you've kept a special nook for.

If you ever think of dying
and you fear to wake tomorrow
Plant a garden! It will cure you
of your melancholy sorrow
Once you've learned to know peonies,
petunias, and roses,
You will find every morning
some new happiness discloses.

Things are not always as they seem

In my early 20s I went to a birthday party where I saw an attractive woman who glowed when she laughed. I saw her husband's eyes sparkle when he watched her. I saw him drape his arm across her chair and I noticed how he would lightly touch her now and then in a way that seemed so affectionate. She radiant under the attention she received.

I mentioned all of this to my mother who wisely said something along the lines of how things are not always what they seem. She was correct, although at the time I was sure she was wrong. In the natural arrogance of a young woman, I thought that the truth was in my observance of it.

I thought I could see for myself the ways things are.

They ended up divorced. It was a difficult divorce, although that's redundant since there really isn't any other kind.

It was a little surprising to me that my mom knew something. I was so sure she was wrong because she didn't see what I had seen. Much later I realized that she knew things I wasn't privy to.

I guess in some ways I knew even then that what you see is not always what you get. But youth has a certain predictable way of looking at life and youth's truth is one thing not always rooted in actuality.

There are varying degrees of it, of course. There are those eager to learn and those open to unseen possibilities, but there are some who continually hold fast to their version of the truth despite repeated batterings from reality.

One troubling version of youth's truth is self-perception. It tends to be skewed and it tends to hang around well into adult life. I used to say and frankly, still believe, that it's called self esteem for a reason: it's what we think of ourselves. Therefore if we think too little of ourselves, it is we who control those thoughts and can change them.

I know things are not always what they seem.

I know now that although I still believe this, there are underlying issues that can complicate our view. Some are serious issues streaming from abuse, neglect or violence and those must be addressed.

Yet...still...things are not always what they seem.

It may seem insurmountable to change one's self-image, but I believe we all have the power to shift the tide. So take a look at yourself and pick something you like. Focus on it and talk to yourself positively about it for the rest of your life.

You know that long list you can rattle off of things that are wrong with you? Think again.

Things are not always as they seem.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sleeping on a popsicle stick

What a joy, what an adventure to sleep in a hospital room. Here in Chez Ortho, the guest accommodations are marginally hospitable.

My mom's room is large. It's spacious. It's like a room at a Comfort Inn. If you got your innards scooped out at a Comfort Inn.

We arrived on Monday night. I took it all in. There's a wee couch in the room under the wall of windows. Being swift thinking as I am, I immediately deduced my berth for the duration. I looked it over with my keen, mechanically inclined mind. I spied a handle like the sort on the side of a mattress, so I pulled on it.

What appeared looked like a bed, but it sits really high and causes a huge gap against the back, so I put it back together thinking surely I was missing something.

The nurse came in and after all the formalities had been handled, I asked about the bed. She reached over as if to grab the handle and then she stopped and said, '' You're better off leaving it this way. So being naive I accepted that. It certainly looked like she was right. Even the nurses after her agreed.

I can't recall having a worse night's sleep that didn't involve either a floor or a tent and a monsoon.

I'm saying it was bad. I tossed, turned and even flipped. I arranged and rearranged. I swapped out pillows.

Finally at 0445, all the action began. At 0515, my aunt arrived. I put some pretty on, but that didn't hide the huge, dark bags that were gathered under my eyes like luggage waiting outside a cruise ship door.

After listening to people all day long agree that the beds are awful, I promptly pulled on the handle and put all my faith in the person who designed it. It's pretty comfortable after all.

Notice the white-on-white decor. It's all the rage; all the hospitals are doing it.

Also? I'm wide awake. Life is so unfair puting me in my snazzy bed and then keeping me up all night.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Irish dinner recipes

Since I won't be making anything for St. Patrick's Day this year, I thought I'd share some recipes with you.

Soda Bread Recipe

4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (you don't strictly need this)
2 cups buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. I run a spoon or whisk through it to add some air because I am too cheap am too lazy don't have a sifter.

Add the buttermilk to form a sticky dough. You may need a little more milk, but I do fine with just two cups. Here's a tip: I often spray my hands with Pam before I scoop the dough out of the bowl. Place the dough on the sheet and shape into a round that's about as thick as your fist. With a sharp knife, cut a cross in the top of the dough.

Bake for about 30 minutes.

The bottom of the bread will have a hollow sound when tapped. If it isn't done, it won't sound hollow yet.

Cover the bread in a tea towel and lightly sprinkle water on the cloth to keep the bread moist. This is a daily bread, so you want to eat it the day you bake it.

Corned Beef in Guinness Recipe

This one is super easy. Take the corned beef out of the package. You can use the spices or don't use the spices. Put the corned beef in a crock pot with about 1/4 cup of brown sugar (you can use up to 1/2 cup). Pour (slowly) a can of Guinness over the beef and cook on high for 6 hours. If you use Guinness Extra Stout, you might want more brown sugar. Throw an onion in there if you like onion. You can do that anytime in the first four hours.

Cabbage Recipe

This is really easy, too. Chop up some cabbage. Heat Kerrygold Irish Butter in a skillet over medium heat. Don't let it get too hot or burn the butter. Throw the cabbage in the butter. Cover the skillet and stir every now and then. When the cabbage is cooked to your liking (test it for how crunchy you like or don't like it) and throw in some caraway seeds. Stir it up and serve.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh.
St. Patrick's Day blessing upon you.

For a free lesson on St. Patrick's Day phrases in Irish Gaelic, visit Bitesize Irish Gaelic.

As long as habit and routine dictate the pattern of living, new dimensions of the soul will not emerge. Henry Van Dyke

Routine is a strange thing. Some people love it, some people fear it. Children and pets and certain occupations need routine; supper time, many jobs and relationships can falter under its weight.

One of the things about traveling that sets me on edge is the change of routine, but I know I easily slip into new routines. I become nervous as a trip approaches, but once a journey begins I settle in pretty quickly.

I've settled into nothing so far. Here I sit at one o'clock in the afternoon at my computer. I've been working steadily for the office, but I'm still in my pajamas and robe. I need to go for a run, but my cousin is due for a visit and the dog needs a walk and I just finally ate some lunch.

I hate to eat and run.

The routine that I'm missing the most is a little surprising. I didn't realize how instinctively I put things out for recycling. There's no recycling here. I don't know about Dayton overall, but here in the neighborhood where my mom is and where my aunt lives, they don't recycle. Des Moines only recently began...maybe a year or two ago.

I didn't participate in the years before that because all the cereal boxes had to be flattened, the glass had to be washed and the papers stacked and bound just so. It sounded to me like a part-time job.

But now we all have big wheeled bins like our trash cans. All I have to do is throw things in the bin. Our bin at home is far likely to have more recycling than the trash bin has trash.

So here I sit throwing away plastic bottles and cardboard packages. I weep silently in the pantry each time.

No, I don't. I'm just pulling your leg. But I do keep wondering where to put it all before I realize I have to toss it.

I miss my bin!!

Now if only I can digest, change clothes, go for a run, shower, visit my cousin, walk the dog, run to UPS, work all afternoon, get supper, watch a show, drive to the hospital and tuck my mom into her hospital bed.

Sounds like a lot to do. I should get crack-a-lackin' here.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

6-mile run before a 10-hour road trip

Winter has done a number on me in terms of running. People hear about the indoor triathlon and think I stayed in great shape.

If only that were true. I stayed in shape if expanding is a shape.

There's this tiny little voice in the back of my head saying that if I'm still in Ohio the first weekend of April, I can do a low-key, local half marathon. As my sports med doctor once said to me, "Runners are stupid."

He meant it in a good way, I'm really sure.

You know three weeks isn't enough to train for a half. But I figured if I could run 6 miles, I might be able to run enough here in Ohio so that I could at least get 'er done.

It's not really a plan. It's also sort of stupid to run 6 miles with a cranky hamstring the day before an all-day road trip. Ouch.

When I run, I think about people and things. I rarely listen to music. I like listening to birds and neighborhood sounds like lawn mowers. I like to hear dogs behind creaky, leaning, 30-year-old fences.

I also think of stuff to blog about each run. I thought about blogging so much on Friday that I contemplated starting a whole other blog just so I could whine share my insight.

Mostly I wanted to blog about all my problems getting out the door in the cold weather.

In the summer last year, after I began training, I had a system in which all my gear was in a reusable bag from the grocery store. It sat in a chair in the dining room and I always had everything right there. That way I could get out the door quickly.

This year so far, the system hasn't worked so well. Cold weather demands more gear. I also can't find things like the electricity plug in for my Garmin watch or my Road ID shoe pocket.

It takes forever to get out the door.

One reason is because women's running clothes don't have pockets. I assume men's don't, either. If there is a pocket and that's a pretty big "if" although they do exist, the pocket is very small.

Too small for keys, too small for protective measures, too small for a cell phone.

I know many purists would say that you should run without all this stuff, but I think those people must run in protected environments, have an entourage or a coach to accompany them or they're men.

So I'm slow to get outside due to figuring out where to put what I have to take with me. I'll leave my cell phone behind if I have to, but then I couldn't call for help. I put my pepper spray in the waistband of my pants, which actually puts it right in a way that I can grab it quickly. I even practice grabbing it out of its pouch.

Then I get outside and it's too cold for the way I'm dressed and I go inside for a different jacket or it's sunny but windy and I need to go back inside for gloves. I wear a hat, but I get warm and need a pocket to put it in.

On days like Friday, I also think about how humbling it is to run around my neighborhood. I'm 45 with an extra 9 pounds, my face gets beet-red and I sometimes huff and puff.

If by sometimes, you mean all the time. I'm a noisy runner that way.

When I'm trained up or having a great run, my breathing falls into a steady, even pace. See? Humbling. I couldn't just leave it alone. I don't sound like I'm dying all the time. Just most of the time.

Lastly, last fall's hamstring problem hasn't gone away and that tripped me up on the run. Being in the car all day wasn't much fun, either.

Maybe it sounds like I should stop running, but that's not where I'm headed. I'm glad that after the winter I can still run six miles and although they were 12-minute miles with wee walking breaks for the hamstring, I know I can get back to 10-minutes.

But can I do it in three cold, March weeks? That remains to be seen.

A long day on the road

There's nothing like a long road trip to put a little adventure into your life.

Since I wasn't driving, I got to read a lot of magazines today. I subscribe to Smithsonian Magazine, the magazine devoted to the interests of all the scanners in the world.

I'm a scanner.

Barbara Sher coined the word to describe people in her work as a life coach. Scanners are people who have a lot of interests either in sequence or in cycles through their lives. So since I'm one of those interested in lots of stuff, I like Smithsonian Magazine.

Not that you can't like it without being a scanner. Oh, boy. This post isn't about my personality.

Obvious, isn't it?

Back to the adventure. There really wasn't any adventure, simply a mishap. Just west of Peoria, my window rolled down, but wouldn't roll up! It sounded as if something was coming undone and I shrank away from the window thinking something might fly up and hit me, but nothing happened. It just wouldn't go up at all.

Using Google and OnStar, we called a dealership near Peoria, but the service department wasn't open. We called another dealership about 50 miles east and the guy there at Worden Martin Buick GM was so kind. He knew right away what was wrong, verified that he had the part and gave directions. Then he had a mechanic get right on it while we got a bite to eat and in no time at all it was finished and we were back on the road.

That was fun.

I had a hot pastrami sandwich at a dirty little place called Atlanta Bread Company. The sandwich made the dust and dirt OK. It wasn't filthy or nasty; it was just dirty.

Arriving near my mom's, I went to Arby's to get a little bite to eat. I had all sorts of restaurants to choose from, but I decided to splurge and went to Arby's so I could get a Jamocha shake. Yum!

Did I ever tell you about the time I went to the Arby's on 100th Street? They had just opened and there was very little on the street back then. I ordered a roast beef sandwich at the drive-thru speaker. There was a pause. The girl came on and said they were out of roast beef.

I laughed! She laughed! How funny. I moved on.

Tonight I ordered a small Jamocha shake. The shake machine was broken.

Oh, Arby's, you slay me.

I'll be in Ohio for some time. I hope to blog quite a bit. I'd like to do a little running and little sight-seeing. I'll take photos for you.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Eating well during my eat down

"I have such good news for you today," she said sarcastically.

Although I went to bed at a decent hour, I awoke early from a bad dream. I think I should be more awake than I am, but I feel sleep creeping dangerously closer and concentrating on work is difficult.

And so it's the perfect!time!to!blog!

What I have done all day (Ahem. It isn't even noon yet) to help me focus and stay awake is eat. I've eaten breakfast and lunch already. I'm not really hungry.

It must be true what they say about not getting enough sleep leading to obesity. I keep thinking it will help me wake up.

It doesn't.

For breakfast I had pancakes because I am tradition-bound and today is Shrove Tuesday. For lunch I had leftover oven-baked chicken and big, thick egg noodles with sweet corn from last summer.

I've been eating really well for a few weeks now because I'm hosting an eat-down at my house.

"Host" is such a strong word. I haven't invited anyone over or cleaned the house.

I just decided to clean out my freezer, but usually an eat-down is when I stay out of the grocery store and eat as much of what is in the house as I can stand. This is often accompanied by a sort out of the pantry. If it's expired, I toss it and if it isn't but I am not doing anything with it, it goes to the food pantry. I try hard to keep from throwing food away. I also try not to buy too much, but sometimes the canned goods and the freezer get away from me.

So cleaning out the freezer, which you know, takes time, turned into an eat down. Here's the current state of the fridge:

I may have cheated a little and not shown you the entire thing because I haven't cleaned it.

I've been too busy thawing, cooking and sorting to clean anything.

I often don't have very much food in the house these days. I look in the refrigerator and it looks OK, but there are three jars of jam and a carton of sour cream I had forgotten about and so it goes. It looks like more than it really is. I always sort of figure if I have a couple eggs, I won't starve to death.

[edit] You see the blank space to the left where the Swiss cheese is lounging all the live-long day? That's where the eggs belong. I just realized I don't have eggs. Can't make corn pudding. Does it count if I borrow eggs from a relative?

Anyway, the sour cream turned out to be just fine. I love food that lasts forever.

A friend of mine accepted a challenge from a food web site to clean out freezers and she wondered if I would do it with her. As a matter of fact, I had decided to take some things out of the freezer that very same day. So I said yes and now I report to her every day or so what genius things I've created.

I removed some beef, a whole chicken and some sweet corn from last summer. I've used pork, a ribeye steak, meatballs, noodles and freshly squeezed-by-me lime juice. From the pantry, I've made the soup and will make corn pudding this week. I'm down to four cans of beets (who buys this stuff? not me), three cans of creamed corn and one can of sauerkraut.

The beef turned into soup, the chicken went into the oven and was devoured and the corn got eaten along the way. I put the beef into the crock pot. It was a roast of some sort, but really small. I added salsa and when I got home, I added a little more fresh homemade salsa, a can of red beans and a can of creamed corn. It was delicious. Some thinly cut shoulder steak went into the crock pot with teriyaki sauce. Later I added a can of cream of mushroom soup and some mushrooms. I had that over potatoes.

It sounded like a mixture that may go radioactive at the table, but the teriyaki sauce and cream of mushroom soup behaved remarkably well together.

The only thing that didn't turn out is a recipe for a green bean side dish. I substituted Vidalia onion salad dressing for milk and used one can instead of two cans of beans and some Cream of Whatever was involved and although I ate a little I threw the rest away.

That's our secret.

As you can see from the photo above, I have the cutest Crock Pot ever and I buy meat at Target. I wait like a vulture for the end of the day when the meat gets little stickers on them for $3 off and I [*[pounce]*] on it.

Then I throw it all in the freezer when I get home so it doesn't expire and kill me. Who loves herself?

Oh and hey? I bought a DOZEN packages of Wholly Guacamole for 50 cents each over the weekend. They also had to go directly into the freezer, but that stuff is so delicious that if you put a bowl out and leave the room, angels will visit and sing.

Try it. It's very good.

There are still homemade pork tenderloins to be served and currently sitting in the fridge looking foolish is a pound of ground beef. I haven't any idea what to do with it when it thaws. I'm trying to stay out of the store and am making do with what I have. The corn pudding needs milk, so I may relent and buy a quart because I'll be using up eggs and some bread that needs to go before I leave town on Saturday.

Oops. See previous [edit].

I need to use the pound of ground beef without purchasing anything. Meatloaf maybe?

I've also been sorting and organizing cupboards, closets, drawers and all other storage areas. I've been ruthless about throwing things into a pile for our church's garage sale this summer.

My house feels a thousand pounds lighter and I just love walking into my dirty newly organized home. Only, like I said, I'm leaving it for a couple weeks on Saturday.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand

I just got the voting results from the company-wide first ever cookie bake-off.

I tied for first place with Crispy Oatmeal Cookies from Heidi! Yay!

Never able to make the decision between the two cookies and completely booked for last night so I couldn’t make more of just one batch, I brought both of Sunday’s batches in this morning.

I made Homemade Oreos (pain in the back) and Oreo Cookie Cookies (thank goodness I have a KitchenAid). The Homemade Oreos don’t look or taste like Oreos, so the name stinks. I love the Oreo Cookie Cookies, but they got cracky since Sunday.

They’re still really yummy, but when you first bite into them, they shatter and crumbs fly. But then…they get a little chewy and they’re wonderful. It’s a chocolate chip cookie with crushed Oreos throughout.


Anyway, I couldn’t decide which to enter and that doesn’t bode well for my future as a contest cookie baker because I think the choice was actually pretty clear.

Surprise development: The HO (PITB) cookies improved upon storage.

The day I baked them, they were awful. They tasted like a Little Debbie snack cake only… if you like Little Debbie snack cakes, you would like those better than these cookies. On the day. Day-of-cookies, not so much.

Still happy with the Oreo Cookie Cookies, I got home from work on Monday and I ate a HO (PITB) to see if I could make the decision and I was surprised that they tasted so different. The chocolate cookie wafer I had so painstakingly patted into existence hunched over the counter for hours with wet fingertips had taken on a little sparkly ‘snap’ without exploding into a million pieces. It was snappy and soft at the same time. The filling, which at first tasted like crap cheap Little Debbie knock-offs from the Dollar Store had become subtle and tasty.

I knew enough to know I had a decision to make. I also knew enough to know I needed someone to make the decision for me.

I was too close to the action.

I had fallen in love with my cookies. The toil! The labor! The struggle!

Tuesday night, co-worker and competitor John had written on Facebook that his cookies weren’t turning out. I formulated my plan.

This morning, dragging all the cookies into the office, I saw John. He was right near the entrance, which was good because I was in no mood to have to hunt him down. I said, “To my office!” even though I saw he was leaving for a client location.

In my office, I forced him to eat one of each cookie.

He said there wasn’t much of a choice – it was the sandwich cookie all the way and since I had already made up my mind that he was going to make the decision, that’s the one I put out.

He voted for my HO (PITB) cookies, too. Well, sure. He had some stock invested now.

After the contest, he sent me an email that said, "You're welcome. Just saying, you needed that vote." Then he followed it up saying 'Sabotage!'

Co-workers. Bah.

For the most part and in the midst of cookie fever, I didn’t do much of anything all day here at work. Why is that? I hear you asking.

I’ll tell you why.

Because Heidi, my tied cookie baking co-worker, was hovering and harassing people at the cookie display table, which was right outside my office door. I would pop up and tell her Stop canvassing at the polling station! Stop buying votes! Don’t stuff the ballot box!

When the vote count was in, I was called into someone’s office with Heidi. An account manager asked why we were being told before others and I said to him as I made my way that most likely it was a tie and they wanted to see the fight break out.

It was a tie. We high-fived, disappointing everyone in the office about the fight.

Word travels fast, you know.

On a similar note, did I ever tell you that in a random sort of conversation one day my boss said that in a fight between me and Heidi he was pretty sure Heidi would win?

I think he's right on that one, so I high-fived her and in my typically gracious manner, full of sportsmanlike conduct and all of the good cheer and happy manners I possess, I said,

“Thank goodness you didn’t win first place alone. You’d be unbearable the rest of the week.”

It was awesome! We joked around and smiled. Then we realized the glory had passed rather quickly. There was no prize, no ribbon, no accolades, no trip to Disney World, no cheering crowd, no speech from the Queen of England and no phone call from the President, so we went back to our offices and back to work.


Also, in yesterday’s breaking news, I won the local library’s Love Your Library contest and guess what I won?

A dozen cookies.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Nature Notes: Bald Eagles

Visit Michelle at the home of Nature Notes.

Saturday morning, I went for a walk at Red Rock Dam over near Pella and I let some eagles look at me. They were beautiful soaring overhead and ignoring me. At the end of the morning, we were all walking along (4 adults, a 3-year-old and a dog) when we spotted two eagles in a tree along the path. I went ahead alone and they stayed put. They were just up in the tree above my head.

Looking at me.

Like I was dinner.

They're strong, you know. Don't laugh.

I had just read a headline about starving eagles dropping from the sky in Canada. That stuff makes me sad. They should come to Iowa.

Their nests are huge. This is a zoomed shot, but it is on the other side of the river. You can spot their nests from quite a distance.

For information that is actually interesting and educational, check out the National Geographic website here.

It says, in part: The bald eagle, with its snowy-feathered (not bald) head and white tail, is the proud national bird symbol of the United States—yet the bird was nearly wiped out there. For many decades, bald eagles were hunted for sport and for the "protection" of fishing grounds. Pesticides like DDT also wreaked havoc on eagles and other birds. These chemicals collect in fish, which make up most of the eagle's diet. They weaken the bird's eggshells and severely limited their ability to reproduce. Since DDT use was heavily restricted in 1972, eagle numbers have rebounded significantly and have been aided by reintroduction programs. The result is a wildlife success story—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has upgraded the birds from endangered to threatened.