Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year's Resolutions!!!

I LOVE New Year's Eve.  NOT the celebration in the evening ringing in the new year, because, with the exception of high school parties at my friend Dianne's, and one or two fun times since then, I think New Year's Eve is HIGHLY overrated.  I mean the day of new year's eve...a time for reflection, and excitement at the year ahead and all of the possibilities therein, and the "wiping the slate clean" bit....

Unfortunately, I believe in resolutions...even though I often give up on them by about...January 5th.  It seems that I have the same ones every year, and, looking back through my blog, the text below is actually a "cut and paste" from January 19th, 2009.  I'm reposting because, sad as it is to say, I need to work on the same things I always do.  Not sure it's going to "take" this year, but they are all worthy goals, and, with a new year on the horizon, maybe THIS year, I'll achieve them!

Addendum:  I DID delete #5...the one about completing debt management, because I did, and even though I need to start "tightening the belt" when it comes to the ONE credit card I do possess, I'm doing okay.  I replaced it with one about my job...which I'm not particularly enjoying these days... are my OFFICIAL resolutions for 2013...

1). Lower my cholesterol. Still high.  Still worrisome.  Still need to work on it.

2). Lose weight. Man...this one seems to be on my resolutions list EVERY YEAR. You'd think I'd have done it by now, but, I'm a little TOO FOND of fatty, salty, junky food. I've TRIED to lose weight, and have accomplished the goal, but then put it all back on when I get busy, or stressed, or bored. I started charting my points online again a few days ago, and even though I haven't lost AN OUNCE, I'm on the right path.  My REAL test is still the two or three hours before bed...the PERFECT snacking time...but, I'm working on it...ugh!

3). Get more exercise. Haven't done much with this one yet, but hope to get to the fitness center at the clubhouse after January 1 to do some time on the treadmill.  I've snipped cardio and free weight workouts from "Men's Health" magazine, so I'm "on the path" at least...

4. Drink less wine. Okay...I admit that I'm a little too fond of wine. Not slobbery, staggery, drunk fond of it, but DEFINITELY "it helps me relax" fond of it. I'm HOPING that the whole "lose weight/get more exercise" thing will assist with this resolution. Wine is HIGH in calories, and will TOTALLY defeat losing weight, which I think I REALLY AM now committed to doing...

5. Look for the positive in my job.  Apparently, "job satisfaction" is important to my psyche.  I've been unhappy with the way my job has evolved during the past couple of years, and am COMPLETELY overwhelmed with what's expected of me.  MANY people are in the same boat, and, in the grand scheme of things, it's not that big of a deal.  So...I am going to start looking for the positive in what I do.  I DO still get to "peripherally" being a librarian, and I DO "marginally" get to work with kids, and I DO still enjoy SOME of the people with which I work (okay...this one is going to be harder than I thought...)...

6). Swear less. Okay...I admit it (although if you know me AT ALL, you already know this)...I get EXTREMELY "potty mouthed" when I drive around the cities. It doesn't HELP that 98% of the drivers up here are COMPLETE and UTTER morons, but, in an effort to "detoxify" my commute, I am stating here, for the world (or at least the three people who read my blog) that I am vowing to curtail the "blue stream of trucker talk" that seem to pop so freely from my mouth. Enough said.

7). Spend MORE time with family and friends. I don't really need to elaborate on this one. I get too busy, and too wrapped up in things, and my personal relationships end up taking the brunt of it. No more (I hope). Family and friends are what it's all about, right? Why cut time from that for all of the "crap" that fills our days??

Okay...that's where I'll stop. I don't want to become TOO PERFECT too quickly (okay...even I'M laughing at that one). Honestly, I think that's MORE than a good start...maybe a bit too grandiose, but, that's kind of what New Years resolutions are all about, right? The "stretch goals" that we make to become the person that we truly want to be??!!!

Wish me luck, and I hope that YOU are sticking to YOUR goals for 2009...AND 2013!!

Here's hoping YOU are working on those "stretch goals" too.  Self-improvement is a good thing...right??!!!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Vicarious Cinematic Vacation

Standby travel can really SUCK sometimes...

Don't get me wrong...we've visited some AMAZING PLACES, and have seen some AMAZING SIGHTS because of Duane's employee and retired employee status with the former Northwest Airlines, but, times like now...when everyone is trying to get SOMEWHERE, it can really suck to not be able to get ANYWHERE. escape the dreary, cold, snowy Minnesota winter, since we couldn't actually GET anywhere (except for Phoenix, and maybe Detroit), we decided to see a movie each day, and visit places like Middle Earth...

the North Pole...

Paris (during the French revolution)...

and Washington, D.C. (during the Civil War).

LOVE the movies, and we haven't had a chance to see anything for MONTHS, so this was a GREAT way to catch up on recent releases, and see parts of the world (made up and otherwise) that we might not have had the chance to see...

I think tomorrow, we're going to London...

then Sunday we'll go on a cross-country journey with Barbra Streisand.

Monday...who knows??  Maybe WHEREVER "Wreck It Ralph" hangs out...!!!

Here's hoping YOU were able to "get away" recently too...whether physically, or just by using your imagination!!!!!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas With The Family!!

Belated Christmas wishes!!!  I hope your holiday was merry, and the big guy in the red suit brought you lots of goodies!

As has been the case the last six or seven years, mom and dad drove up to the cities, and we celebrated Christmas here.  LOVE having them here, and we were able to cram LOTS of fun into a very short time.

They arrived on Saturday (after the heavy snow and blizzard conditions that shut down large chunks of Iowa on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday).  We had dinner at Robin and Dave's, and had a great time catching up.

On Sunday, we went to City Church to see Emilie and Abigail's Christmas program, then went to Stillwater for lunch at the Freight House and spent a few hours antiquing on Main Street.

As soon as we got back to Robin and Dave's, I headed back to Eagan to get dinner ready, as everyone came over for pork tenderloin, red skin roasted potatoes, and home made multi-grain bread.  It was tasty, and we had a good time!

Dave and dad started putting together the tansu cupboard that I bought online.  I'm SOOOO glad they did.  I would STILL be working on it now, if they hadn't.  They DID have to come back on Christmas eve day for an hour to finish, but it was still MUCH quicker than if I'd had anything to do with it!!!

I headed over to Robin and Dave's so that we could go to the 2:00 Christmas eve service at Wooddale Baptist.  It was a lovely service.  I hadn't been to Wooddale for years, so it was great to be back.  The orchestra was brilliant, and the choir was beautiful.

We did our traditional beef fondue for dinner, finished with the turtle cake from Cafe Latte, and opened our "main gifts" to each other.  After that, we watched "Mirror, Mirror" (a good movie!), then, as is also tradition, I slept over, and we all went to bed.

On Christmas day, we opened "stockings" (I put that in parenthesis, because we LONG AGO graduated from stockings...we now each have a BASKET in which to put all the stuff we give each other!).  I have to admit that stockings is more fun to me than the main presents from the night before.  We do a PRETTY GOOD JOB of finding little gifts, ornaments, candy, and "stuff" for each other.

After stockings, we had our traditional brunch, and then Emilie and Davey and I went to see "The Hobbit".

After the movie, we went back to Robin and Dave's, Duane called to be picked up from the airport (he went home to North Dakota for Christmas), we had Fat Lorenzo's pizza for dinner, then he and I came home to exchange gifts.

A joyous holiday, spent with my dear family, and a good time was had by all!

Here's hoping YOU were able to enjoy a festive time with your loved ones too!!!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Snow is GREAT...

...when you don't actually have to go out and drive in it!  I don't know WHAT happened to me...I used to LOVE LOVE LOVE snow.  I would wait for it, and wait for it, and ALWAYS be disappointed that more didn't fall with each snowstorm. 

We built snowmen, made snow angels, licked holiday suckers and packed them with snow to make our own version of "shaved ice", walked down Maple Street to the golf course and sledded for HOURS between the 6th and 7th holes, walked down the frozen creek beside the golf course (way fun...except for the year that my neighbor Brian fell THROUGH the ice, and had to be pulled back to our houses on the toboggan to thaw!), and, if the snow was just right (with some meltage on top that refroze) would cut plate sized circles from the top of the snow, pile them up, and play clumsy waiter!
Somewhere along the way though, I grew up, and had to trudge across campus in it during college, and clean it off my car, and shovel it off sidewalks, and slip and slide in it on my way to work (and back), and try to see over it at intersections to pull into traffic (since it piles up so much throughout the TEN months of winter here in Minnesota).  It's gotten to the point where I can't stand it anymore!
That being said, today has been LOVELY!  I recaptured a quick moment of that long ago love. Duane and I took a walk in a beautiful snowfall, and everything is covered in a beautiful blanket of white.  It hasn't been sanded, and scraped, and piled up into big ugly mountains that won't thaw until MAY, and the blizzard force winds that are forecast for later this evening haven't yet started to blow.
Here's hoping YOU were able to recapture some magic from your past recently too...if even for a few moments!!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A ZANY Idea!!!!

Duane and I LOVE to go to grocery stores!  We visit them on trips across the country (and world!), and it's part of our weekend ritual...stocking up for the week.

The problem is that I ALWAYS find stuff to buy/try/eat.  As a result, my cupboards, and my refrigerator, and my freezer...are FULL.  I've actually resorted to storing things on the COUNTER.

A few years ago, I had a thought...why don't I USE all of this stuff up before buying anything else?  OF COURSE that only lasted until our next trip or the next time we went to the grocery store. an experiment, I'm going to try to do just that...use everything in my cupboards/refrigerator/freezer before finding other things to fill the space.

A caveat...some of the items I've purchased need "additional" ingredients to make them, so I am going to attempt to buy ONLY stuff that I need for a recipe, or to complete a sauce/box/mix.

Over the years, I've found several websites on which you can list ingredients that you have on hand, and they provide recipes that you can make with them.  Super Cook looks good, as does the "Ingredients on Hand" window at What's For Dinner?  I will have to play around with them, and see if they work.  Otherwise, I'm going to have to "ramp up" the creativity, and figure it out on my own!

I'm SURE this will only last as long as the next trip to the grocery store, but, I'm intrigued by the concept.  Perhaps I'll start slow now, and buy SOME stuff that I need to complete a recipe, or make a box mix, but add a few ADDITIONAL items too.  My goal is to start "officially" on January 1st...a cooking New Year's resolution, if you will!  I'll post as the year progresses, and let you know how it's going.

Here's hoping YOU have a goal for the New Year that will clean/organize your life as well!!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Grown Up" Mac 'n Cheese

Happy THREE DAYS after Thanksgiving!!  Mine was AWESOME...hope yours was too!!

As I get ready to launch back in to work, I found that I'm in need of "comfort food".  Found the following recipe online, and made it tonight...YUM!!!!

Martha Stewart's Macaroni and Cheese

Adapted slightly from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook:  The Original Classics (Clarkson Potter, 2007):

4 T. unsalted butter, plus more for dish
3 slices whole wheat bread, crusts removed, torn or dices into 1/4 - 1/2 inch pieces
2 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 1/4 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese, or 3/4 cup Romano cheese
1/2 pound elbow macaroni

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter an 8 x 8 inch baking dish; set aside.  Place bread in a medium bowl.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter.  Pour butter into bowl with bread, and toss.  Set breadcrumbs aside.  Pull out 3/4 cup of grated cheddar, and 1/4 cup Gruyere or 1/8 cup Romano, and reserve.

Fill a large pot with water; bring to a boil.  Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer's directions, until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone.  Transfer macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk.  In same pot you used for boiling the pasta, melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat.  When butter bubbles, add flour.   Cook, whisking, 1 minute.

While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk.  Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

Remove pan from heat.  Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, and 3/4 cups Gruyere or 1/2 cup Romano.  Stir macaroni into the cheese sauce.

Pour mixture into prepared dish.  Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup Gruyere or 1/8 cup Romano, and breadcrumbs over top.  Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes.  Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool 5 minutes.  Serve hot.

WOW!  Really creamy...really flavorful...I HIGHLY recommend this the next time YOU need a little "comfort"!

Here's hoping YOU tried a tasty recipe recently too!!!!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Let the Hoarding Begin...

SOOOOOO not happy to hear that Hostess is calling it quits!

Duane and I are taking appropriate action...

Here's hoping YOU have fond memories of Twinkies, Ding Dongs, and Ho Ho's too!!!!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Another Show Ended!!!!

I haven’t had a chance to post for awhile because of the musical I finished performing in yesterday.  I just completed my FIFTH production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”!  I was NOT going to do this show again, but, as fate would have it, I did NOT get cast in Woodbury Community Theater’s production of “Into the Woods”, which I really wanted to do (sore subject…enough said), so…had some time on my hands. 

Actually, I didn't, but needed something to take my mind off my completely overwhelming job…and all the stress there, so auditioned. I have to say here and now that having been Joseph in THREE of the five productions was thrilling, and wonderful, and…AMAZING! The last time I did the show, I got cast as Napthali. It was not pleasant…I was surly and crabby…and I think my actual response after seeing the cast list was….”What?! There are BROTHERS in this show?! What do they do? Who are they? What??!!”

I thought SERIOUSLY about dropping out, but stayed in the show to get on the “good side” of the choreographer who does lots of stuff at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater. I was hoping for an “in”… but to no avail. I DID meet some fun people, survived the experience, got to sing “Benjamin Calypso”, paid my “dues” with that theater company…and never went back.

This time, I had HOPED for one last shot at Joseph, but it wasn’t meant to be. I think I’m out of the “age bracket” now (although I will not admit that out loud to ANYONE!). I was cast as Reuben…”the ELDEST of the children of Israel”. I should be glad, I guess, that I didn’t get the part of Jacob (which is why I’m NOT auditioning for this show ever again…it’s only a matter of time…!). 

It's actually a fluke that I got this part at all. The theater company that produced it gives actors the option of choosing which parts they’d like to be considered for. I ticked the boxes for “Joseph” and“Napthali”. LUCKILY, the director (and a friend of mine) asked at the audition if I’d accept any other roles. I hadn’t considered the other brother solos, but told him I didn’t like “One More Angel in Heaven”, but would be open to doing “Those Canaan Days” (even though I’m a terrible dancer, and am afraid of the whole Apache dance after the solo).

I'm SO glad he asked, because it was an AMAZING number, we DIDN’T do the Apache dance, and it was an ABSOLUTE HOOT to perform! I got a fake cigarette (the coolest thing ever…filters made with varying degrees of nicotine to help people quit smoking, but nicotine-free filters (which I used) as well that create water vapor that LOOKS like smoke, but doesn’t have the smoke smell or taste…awesome! They charge by plugging them into the USB port on a computer, and the tip lights up when you inhale…), a wine bottle (from which I pulled the cork with my teeth every night and spit across the stage), and a sound engineer who knows my voice, and knew JUST when to punch the audio to make the high notes ring throughout the theater...AMAZING!! The brothers and Jacob as my “back up” were ASTOUNDINGLY awesome, and it was an audience favorite every night! 

Here's a bootleg video, shot during the second weekend of performances, should you wish to watch:


Now that the show is over, I’m taking a break from performing for a little while.  I went straight from eight months of Fringe rehearsals/performances for “A Cappella Love” directly into Joseph rehearsals.  Adding to the exhaustion…rehearsals began the week before school started, and started each night at 6:00…so I spent LOTS of time in rush hour traffic and…I’m tired!  I would REALLY like to have auditioned for their next show (Damn Yankees!) as many of the members of the Joseph cast did, but they start rehearsals for that show TONIGHT…oy!

The theater company is doing a 15th anniversary concert/performance in May.  I’m HOPING to be able to be a part of that!!!

Here’s hoping YOU were part of something musical and AMAZING recently too!!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I LOVE Charlotte, NC!!!!!

Duane and I were able to take a quick and MUCH NEEDED getaway to Charlotte, NC during the middle of MEA (Minnesota Education Association conferences...where it's "officially" days set aside for teachers to go to workshops and a big conference, but on which most just take a long four day weekend to get away and relax...). 

SOOOOOO needed it (see previous blog post).  The show opens next weekend, so I now launch into five hour rehearsals every night in which lights, costumes, makeup, props, orchestra, and microphones are added to the already frantic mix of singing, choreography and staging.  Oy!

Anyway...we headed out bright and early Friday morning. The airport was it WAS MEA (even though it officially started the day before, and we figured everyone would already be gone).  It took about 45 minutes to get through security, and we RAN to our gate (which, of course was at the other end of the airport).  We got there about three minutes before they closed the door....ugh!  Duane got first class.  I got coach...SUCKY!  The flight was uneventful, and we arrived in Charlotte at 10:30 A.M.

Not sure WHY we chose Charlotte, but we hadn't been there before, and knew some people who MIGHT be in town, so took the chance.  As it turned out, our friend Gary (from the Baltic Sea cruise) WAS in town for the weekend, so were able to hook up with him a couple of times.  It's kind of funny that he's in Minneapolis every week on this long consulting job, but we had to fly to Charlotte to have dinner with him!

We stayed at the Hyatt House on Tryon Street.  It was a GREAT place, and centrally located, so it was very easy to get wherever we wanted to go. 

After unpacking, and regrouping, we headed out to explore.  I Googled "Diner's Drive Ins & Dives in Charlotte", and got several good possibilities for lunch.   We settled on Bar-B-Q King, and I'm REALLY glad we was AWESOME!  The place has been around for decades, and their speciality is barbecue fried chicken (click here to see the segment on "DD&D"), which is an AMAZING breaded, fried chicken, dipped in a vinegar-y Carolina sauce, and thrown on the grill...YUM!  I also had coleslaw, hush puppies, and a really good dinner roll.

Not only was the food amazing, but so was the staff.  As we were being TOTALLY touristy, walking around outside taking photos, one of the servers came out and invited us in to take pictures inside.  He invited us to sit at one of the two tables inside, and kept coming back and offering us samples of other things (like their onion rings and tartar sauce).  We got to talk to the owner, and his brother (who flies to Minneapolis once a year, it turns out, to watch the Vikings play), and they even gave us a free t-shirt as we were leaving.  What a FABULOUS place!

After a sticky, messy, DELICIOUS lunch, we headed out to do more exploring.  We decided to drive to the University of North Carolina campus and explore the botanical gardens.  It was a long drive, but we found a Baskin Robbins on the way to break up the tedium!  It was well worth it.  Even though it's fall, and most of the flora is dying, there were some beautiful trees to view, and rustic paths to walk, and unusual sculpture to enjoy.

After the gardens, we spent WAAAAAY too long looking for a place called Antique Kingdom.  Turns out it was bulldozed and a care center went up in it's place several years ago (go Trip Advisor...).  After driving around for awhile, we went back to the hotel, recouperated from the day thus far (days beginning at 5:00 seem REALLY long at this point...), then made plans to meet Gary for dinner.

He picked us up (after waiting outside the "other" Hyatt House in Charlotte), then gave us a great tour of the city.  We learned about it's history, saw some of it's trendy neighborhoods, and explored the heart of the city.  What a cool place...small town-ish (he calls it Mayberry), yet trendy, with good restaurants, museums, and parks.

After the tour, we headed to one of his favorite rib places...Midwood Smokehouse.  Yum!  I had the pulled pork, with macaroni and cheese, hush puppies, and coleslaw (I'm REALLY glad there are no cholesterol checks in my near future!).  We got to meet Gary's friend Larry, and I THINK we all decided to try to go on another cruise sometime next summer.  I hope so...I'm sure it would be a BLAST!!

After dinner, Larry went home, and Gary, Duane, and I went downtown to look around.  Beautiful downtown area, and one of the buildings was lit in pink lights for breast cancer awareness.  On the hour the lights changed color for a few minutes, so we watched that, then walked through a really cool park that had sign posts and sculpture centered around road/distance signs and books and authors.  RIGHT up my alley! 

Gary then dropped us off at the hotel, and we dropped GRATEFULLY into bed!

Saturday morning, we slept in, then got ready, and headed out to see more sights.  OF COURSE we found a grocery store (Hi Low) to look around in, and I found some great "Southern" stuff to bring back to Minnesota...spicy meat breading, and cheese biscuit mix...yum!

We then went to the Sleepy Poet Antique Mall (which Gary had pointed out the night before).  It was huge, and we spent several hours there.  I found a Charlotte area cookbook from the 50's, and a children's book about chickens from the 40's that I couldn't live without...!

Outside was a food truck called "Papi Queso", so we check it out for lunch.  WOW!  I had the "Pig Mac"...a grilled cheese sandwich with pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, and Bourbon onions.  It was toasted to PERFECTION, and was unbelievably good.  Their home made potato chips (with truffle oil, rosemary, and sea salt) were also amazing!

We continued our sightseeing with a trip to the Charlotte Speedway.  Not my particular cup of tea, but it was interesting to see all of the NASCAR stuff.  We took a tour, and got to go to the center part of the racetrack, and even got to take a zippy van ride around the track between time trials of some of the drivers.  I must say it's unnerving to be riding in the back of a van at 90 MPH around those angled curves at the ends of the track...oy!

After the racetrack, we met Gary at Amelie's French Bakery for some quick pastries, then headed to the airport, and back to Minneapolis (in coach...again....).

On the flight back we were treated to a LOVELY sunset... 

A MUCH needed break from the "crazy" here, and I have to admit that I REALLY like Charlotte!  They say you only visit Charlotte once, and then you move there.  I don't think I'm quite there yet, but am eager to get back there again, and check out more of "The Queen City"!!!

Here's hoping YOU had the opportunity for a quick escape recently too (and that YOUR cholesterol levels are lower than mine are right now)!!!!