Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Snow Day

We had our first real snow today. It was really just a dusting, but it was so pretty Katherine and I had to go outside and take some pictures.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Joy, Joy, Joy!

My children do not like it when I spontaneously burst into song. It happens so spontaneously I catch them off guard. Or it might be because I'm off key. I belted out "Joy, Joy, Joy" this weekend when we were decorating the house for Christmas. We have three wooden blocks that spell the word "Joy", and it made me think of the Christmas carol, How Great Our Joy. It's a very catchy tune.

I was reading on the subject of Joy this morning. Joy, unlike happiness, is feeling content no matter what my circumstances happen to be. I can be happy today because all is going well with my relationships and the stock market, but tomorrow that may not be the case. Then what happens to my happiness? I can be joyful no matter what is going on. Joy isn't tied to what's happening. It comes from the inside.

My joy is in knowing I only have to please God, not other people. It is in not worrying about the past or the future. It is in being thankful for what I have and not dwelling on what is missing from my life.

“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” Psalm 16:11

Monday, November 28, 2011

What Were We Thinking?

I'm too old to wear uncomfortable shoes or shoes with higher than a one-inch heel. Who cares if I don't look very stylish. I must keep my toes happy or they will scream at me.

This wasn't always the case. I've owned platform shoes, spike heels and pointy-toed wonders. But the least practical shoe I have ever worn is the black and white saddle.

Back in the day, when I was a cheerleader, we did not wear tennis shoes. We wore saddle shoes. Saddle shoes are stiff, completely flat, and contain no cushion whatsoever. Who thought this was a good idea?

I can remember cheering on Thanksgiving day at the Akron Rubber Bowl for the high school turkey bowl in weather that was well below freezing. My toes were so cold I couldn't feel them. That's because my leather shoes were so cold they wouldn't bend.

Years later, while at a high school football game, I noticed the cheerleaders wearing Nike tennis shoes with arch support, cushion and insulation! I think I just figured out why my feet hurt.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chicken Parmesan Penne

There's only a short list of foods that make me gag: lima beans, portabella mushrooms, oysters and blue cheese.  If I accidentally order a salad that contains blue cheese, I will not eat it. Even before I knew how blue cheese was made, I didn't like it. My aversion worsened after I found out innocent cheeses were being injected with  mold spores to create the smelly blue stuff. I learned over time that blue cheese can be disguised by using names like roquefort and gorgonzola.

Why do I bore you with this cheesy introduction to my recipe post? The Chicken Parmesan Penne recipe used to be called Penne Gorgonzola with Chicken until I got hold of it. If you love blue cheese like Don loves blue cheese, go right ahead and use that cheese. Otherwise, substitute parmesan. It works just fine.

I'll warn you, this is a heavy dish...not the kind of thing I normally eat. However, Don loved it, even without the blue cheese.

Chicken Parmesan Penne
1 (16 ounce) package of penne pasta
1 lb. boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 T. olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 c. white wine
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1/4 c. chicken broth
2 cups (8 ounces) Parmesan cheese ---or Gorgonzola if you desire
Salt and pepper to taste
Minced fresh parsley

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, brown chicken in oil on all sides. Add garlic; cook one minute longer. Add wine and stir. Add cream and broth; cook until sauce is slightly thickened and chicken is no longer pink. Stir in cheese, salt and pepper. Cook just until cheese is melted.

Drain pasta; toss with sauce. Sprinkle with parsley.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Stocking Stuffers

In our house, the stockings are hung on the chimney with care. We have six of them (Riley has his own). I love to stuff the stockings with little treasures to be opened on Christmas morning. Here are 30 ideas for stuffing stockings:

1. Candy
2. Pens
3. Lip balm
4. Golf balls
5. USB Drive
6. Tickets to an event
7. Ear buds
8. Christmas ornament
9. Mittens
10. Gift card
11. Jewelry
12. Makeup
13. Small book
14. Socks
15. Luggage Tags
16. Key chain
17. Camera memory card
18. Card game
19. Small picture frame
20. Recipe cards
21. Love letter
22. Roll of quarters
23. Vitamins
24. Hot chocolate packets
25. Return address labels
26. Hair accessories
27. Postage stamps
28. Perfume
29. Gum
30. Five dollar bill

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Feast Highlights

Place setting


Pam's homemade knotted rolls which I must learn how to make

Dessert table: pumpkin pie, apple pie, hazelnut cakes, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, buckeyes

Don carving the 22 lb. turkey

Gifts from Pam: Official Thanksgiving Chef apron and Bless the Cook wine bottle. I think she is just thankful dinner isn't at her place.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I had one sip of coffee when I was 20 years old. It was black coffee, bad coffee, bitter coffee. It was enough to turn me off from coffee the rest of my life. The same thing happened when I took a drag of one of my dad's cigarettes. I coughed and gagged and never went back.

Don doesn't drink coffee either, at least not when he is at home. Whenever we had company,we would pull out the little coffeemaker my mother-in-law handed down to me. That is until the Keurig was invented. They invented it just for folks like us.

It's the perfect coffeemaker for the household that doesn't drink coffee. Guests can make their own coffee. We have K-cups of regular coffee, decaf coffee, caramel vanilla coffee and hot chocolate, too. In two minutes, it's ready, and brewed perfectly. Who needs Starbucks?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Say Yes to the Dress...Please!

This is what you look like after trying on 35 wedding gowns...all of which look beautiful on you...but none of which are the right one. I won't even show you a picture of what the mother of the bride looks like.

It's a big decision. You're going to wear the dress for eight hours. And all eyes will be on you at least for 30 minutes.

All the dresses are beautiful. That's what makes it so hard. Don't worry, Josh, this isn't the ONE.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Play Date for Riley

Maybe all dog breeds recognize their own, but Riley knows another Sheltie when he sees one. On the hiking path, he's usually not very friendly with dogs we pass. One time we came across another Sheltie, and Riley seemed to know right away the dog wasn't going to hurt him or me.

On Friday, Riley and I went to Becky's house for a visit. Becky has a Sheltie named Buddy. He's a little older than Riley, and a little more laid back too. When Riley walked into their house, Buddy seemed happy to have a visitor. They spent about 20 minutes doing a doggie dance, which I guess is how they establish who's in charge. Since it was Buddy's house, Buddy was in charge.

They ran around the house for about an hour until Buddy had to take a break. Riley would have gone on forever. As soon as Buddy caught his breath, they were at it again. We even let them out the back door to play in the yard. Riley stayed right with Buddy.

I think Riley would like staying at Becky's house when we go on vacation. He would like it much more than the Barkley Hotel. If Carolyn is ever unavailable, I know who to call. And Buddy is always welcome at our house too.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pet Hotel

Peter was hoping I'd never find out about the Barkley Pet Hotel and Day Spa. His in-car driving teacher told him all about it. I had no idea until this morning when Daniel asked me if I'd go with him to check it out. His Marketing class group project for the semester has been to develop and market a pet hotel for Four Seasons.

Daniel wanted to visit a real pet hotel to get ideas, but he didn't want to go alone. We went under the pretense that I was looking for a place for Riley to stay when we went on vacation. They give tours at noon and two on Saturdays.

So we went, and Peter tagged along because he had to see it too.

Here's the lowdown. The hotel is located on Miles Road in Orange Village. The place is impressive, with the feel of a real hotel. On one side of the building there is a Day Spa where grooming takes place. On that side is also Kitty City where all the cats have triple level condos. Some face a large fish tank and other have window views of the outdoor bird feeder.

On the dog side of the building, there are four levels of stay. The Leisure section looks like a regular dog kennel. Each dog has its own large crate or kennel. In the Barkley Park section, the rooms face a "park" complete with artificial grass and bushes. Each room is fitted with a plasma TV and hidden cameras on the ceiling which allow you to use your smart device to see your dog while away. The Executive suites provide more privacy with a view of the swimming pool. Each room has a small couch for the dog to jump on and sleep. These are equipped with TV's and cameras as well. There is one Presidential room which is very large, has three couches and all the other amenities.

Room rates at the hotel range from $29-$75/night. This includes basic care such as feeding and three potty breaks a day. If you want additional services for your dog, they are willing to provide them. An additional 20-minute play time/walk is $9, a bedtime story/tuck-in tummy rub is $6, and a swim in the pool is $30.

You can let your dog ride the limo to McDonalds for a hamburger, cheeseburger or nuggets for $25. Other options include Skype with your pet, vacation photo, nature walk, relaxation massage and gourmet biscuit. Also available is doggy day camp in which your dog can join about 40 other dogs in a large indoor/outdoor play area during the day. This costs an additional $20/day.

Do you see why Peter didn't want me to find out about it? He doesn't trust me. He thought I might sign Riley up for the limo ride.  The truth is, I don't think Riley would be very happy at the Barkley. There is too much isolation time. He loves being with his people. Not to mention that I think most of the amenities are silly. I am soooo glad that Carolyn and her family are willing to watch Riley when we go away! He couldn't be in better hands!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wedding Gown Hunt

The search is on for the perfect wedding gown. This is the fun part of wedding planning. So far we have been to two shops with another planned on Monday. On Wednesday night, Katherine's cousin Elizabeth (who will be a bridesmaid) met us at a boutique near Akron. Yesterday, Pam joined us for a session in Mentor.

Before the search began, Katherine studied gown after gown trying to figure out which style she liked. Would the neckline be sabrina, sweetheart or square? Would the fabric be satin, chiffon, damask or tulle? Would she look better in an a-line, mermaid, ball gown or fit & flare?

Well, you really don't know until you put the dress on. That's what we found out. It's hard work to slip in and out of 15-20 dresses weighing 18-30 lbs. each. I would have been dripping with sweat. Katherine was cool as a cucumber. Some of the dresses were too big and had to be clamped to fit. Some of the dresses were too small and had to be held up by the mother of the bride (that's me).

The wedding will be outside in the middle of August, so it might be a tad warm that day. Katherine wasn't worried about how hot the dress would be. This is a girl who spent ten days in Haiti one summer and didn't sweat a drop. She didn't get those genes from me.

Just looking at my little girl all dressed up in tulle and lace brought tears to my eyes. Lord help me on the wedding day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sweet Potato Casserole

I'm starting to think about Thanksgiving. Dinner is at my house, so I have to plan ahead. Pam said she'd bring the rolls, mashed potatoes and coleslaw. All those things are pretty neutral in color, so I need to liven it up a bit with sweet potatoes, green beans and cranberry sauce.

A few years ago my friend, Nancy, shared her recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole. I didn't grow up eating sweet potatoes, and have only recently come to love them. Her recipe is easy (which is a requirement for me) and tasty (always a nice side benefit). It is also very heavy on the calories...but it's Thanksgiving!

Sweet Potato Casserole
2 cans sweet potatoes (40 ounces each), drained
1 t. vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 c. melted butter

For topping:
1/3 c. butter
1/3 c. flour
1 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. walnuts

Mix the sweet potatoes, vanilla, sugar, eggs and 1/3 c. butter in a large bowl. Pour into a 9 x 13 pan. Mix the topping ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour on top of sweet potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Puppy Album

A look back at Riley when he was the most adorable fluff ball ever. This makes me want another one!

Ten weeks and not potty trained.

A rare moment - catching him asleep

A miniature version of his current self

So sweet!

With Peter - March 2009

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hostess Gifts

Party time is just around the corner. Plan ahead and gather a few host/hostess gifts to present to friends who invite you over. Be more creative than giving a bottle of wine or a bouquet flowers. Here are some suggestions:

Board game
Illustrated holiday picture book
Favorite holiday DVD
Christmas ornament
Set of guest towels
Christmas CD
Stack of cocktail napkins tied with a ribbon
Homemade cookies
Festive napkin rings
Collection of candles
Jam and bread
Basket of nuts
High quality bottle of vanilla extract
Boxes of tea

Chili and Cornbread

Last night Don and I played tennis with our friends, Greg and Merry. The last time we played tennis together was in 1987. Greg and Merry are both very athletic, so we didn't know how we'd hold up against them. Turns out, we were very well matched. It came down to a tiebreaker. In the end, Don and I won. But who was keeping score?

While we were at the tennis club, I had dinner cooking at home. I was in the mood for chili. I hate to admit it, but Wendy's chili has always been my favorite. I told Don I was going to pick up four large chili's from Wendy's and put them in the crockpot for dinner. He said that would be fine as long as I didn't tell Greg and Merry where it came from. He shamed me into making my own.

I looked on and found a slow-cooked chili recipe and while I was  there, I also found a homemade cornbread recipe too. Both recipes were outstanding, and best of all, they were both EASY!

Slow-Cooked Chili

2 lb. ground beef (I used ground chili meat from Heinen's)
2 (16 ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 medium onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. chili powder
1 t. pepper
Shredded Cheddar cheese for topping

In a skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Transfer to slow cooker. Add the next nine ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4 hours. Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese.

Grandma's Buttermilk Cornbread

1/2 c. butter
2/3 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 t. baking soda
1 c. cornmeal
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square plan. Have all the ingredients out and measured before you start.

Melt butter in a large skillet. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Quickly add eggs and whisk until blended. Combine buttermilk with baking soda and stir into mixture in pan. Stir in cornmeal, flour and salt until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Big Plane, Little Plane

I almost passed out when we got on our plane in Vancouver this morning. We were sitting in first class because Don was on business, and I was a companion upgrade. It wasn't first class that made my jaw drop, it was the "lie-flat" seats.

I had never seen anything like it...well maybe in a commercial once. Too bad it was a morning flight. I could have used these seats on Monday when we flew overnight. They were so private and cozy.

I wanted so badly to push the button that would put me in the prone position, but I wasn't tired! Drat. I did watch a man a few seats up disappear for the duration of the flight.

Contrast this with our second leg of the journey home. In Toronto, we boarded a Bombardier Dash 8 Turbo Prop Plane. These are the kind Don doesn't like. I asked him why not. I wish he hadn't told me. They are the planes with the highest crash record. I tried not to think about that during our 57 minute flight.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Vancouver Day Two

It's a lot nicer touring a city with the one you love. Today I had no rules. I didn't have to look like I knew where I was going, I didn't care if I made eye contact with others, and best of all, I could leave Robson Street.

Shot of downtown Vancouver from the water.

Here's how we spent the day. We enjoyed a nice quiet breakfast of eggs, toast and tea (for me) orange juice (for Don). Then we headed out on foot to the Granville Island ferry.

The ferry was a little toy boat you might sail in your bathtub.

Granville Island was filled with shops selling locally made artwork. There was an amazing array of pottery, jewelry, clothing, sculptures, etc. all made my Canadians.

Another treat on the Island was the Public Market. It was similar to the West Side Market in Cleveland. Don was happy to find some maple fudge.

A local woman we met on the ferry told us we had to eat lunch at Tony's Cafe. We were not disappointed. Don had a bowl of clam chowder, and I had fish and chips. Not that I've had a lot of fish and chips in my life, but these had to be the best ever.

Late in the afternoon, we headed down Richards Street to the Vancouver Convention Center. Today was the opening of the 38th annual Circle Craft Christmas Market. Don was awfully nice to agree to go. The Convention Center was filled with booth after booth of local artisans selling paintings, pottery, jewelry, clothing, etc. All the crafts for sale were very high quality handmade items.

When we were totally pooped out from walking all day, we walked some more to the Historic Gaslight district where all the streets are cobblestone and the streetlamps are lit up on both sides of the road. We didn't really care where we grabbed dinner, so we ended up at The Old Spaghetti Factory. We head home early in the morning, so lights out for now.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Vancouver On My Own

Here I am in Vancouver, accompanying Don on a QA trip for Accenture. He had to do actual work today, so I was on my own in the rainy city.

The thought of being on my own in a big city terrifies me, but I put on my brave face this morning and headed out the hotel room door. I started out by eating breakfast all by myself in the hotel restaurant. I enjoyed a peaceful meal of scrambled eggs, toast and tea while reading the local paper, The Globe and Mail.

After breakfast, I collected a map from the front desk and headed into the fresh, misty air. I had three rules: 1.  Look like you know where you are going. 2. Don't make eye contact with anyone. 3. Don't leave Robson Street. I figured no one would bother me if I followed the first two rules, and I wouldn't get lost if I followed the third rule.

Within five minutes, a young Japanese girl asked me for directions. I guess I looked too much like I knew where I was going. I told her I had just arrived in Vancouver, but I had a map. I pulled out my map and pointed her in the right direction. Not long after that incident, I was accosted by three different homeless men. I wasn't making eye contact, but it didn't matter. One of the men yelled at me for not saying good morning. I thought he was going to chase me down the street. I didn't mean to offend him, but I was on a mission to protect myself.

I walked for hours on Robson Street. I went both ways as far as I could go. Here are a few sights worth sharing:

If I hadn't eaten a late breakfast, I would have tried a Japadog. The fillings in these Japanese hot dogs were extremely unusual.

This 70-year old lady drove the most unusual car I have ever seen. She hot glued McDonald land toys and Lego-like blocks all over her ride.

This is a close-up on the roof.

Inside the Vancouver Public Library. Along with over 1.5 million books, etc., the library includes several coffee houses, restaurants and shops. The library itself runs a gift shop with all proceeds going to the library.

Don came to my rescue around 5:00 p.m. and took me out to dinner. We walked to a restaurant called Glowbal Grille in Yaletown. Don couldn't resist the Apple Fritter dessert. I'm so glad Don will be with me tomorrow!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Holiday Bread Class

Last night, Pam and I attended a Holiday Bread class at the home kitchen of Chef Jennifer Brush. Jennifer is the owner of The Pastry Brush. She is currently teaching classes at the Western Reserve School of Cooking in Hudson.

We made three breads: Swiss Brioche, Stollen (a traditional German cake), and Chocolate Hazelnut Cake. All three of these breads/cakes were delicious, but my favorite was the Chocolate Hazelnut. Not only is it scrumptious, but it is easy to make...and I like easy.

In the process of making all these treats, I learned a few things about baking. For instance, you MUST weigh your ingredients! That's something I've never done. Also, you MUST have your butter and eggs at room temperature. King Arthur flour is the BEST, and bread needs to have an internal temperature of 190 degrees to be done.

I'd like to share the recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Cake, which you can see to the left. We put scoops of the dough into "tulip papers" which can be purchased from King Arthur Flour.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

1 c. (200 g) Granulated sugar
9 T. (125 g) Butter, at room temperature
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 t. salt
2 3/4 c. (200 g) Hazelnut flour
1 c. (120 g) King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t. (9 g) baking powder
1 c. (150 g.) high quality bittersweet chocolate chunks

Cream sugar, salt and butter.  Slowly add eggs until light and creamy in color. Fold in hazelnut flour. Sift flour and baking powder. Add half of the flour mixture and fold together into above.  Add remainder of flour with the chocolate chunks and fold together. Fill loaf pan or muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 325 degrees for 60-70 minutes in a convection oven (for loaf) or bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes in a convection oven (for muffins). When cool, lightly dust with Snow White non-melting confectioner's sugar.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cheer on!

When I saw this photograph in Real Simple magazine, it made my day. You're never too old to be a cheerleader. There's hope for us yet, girls!

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Daniel gave me a technological update yesterday. He clued me in on how Pinterest can consume half my day, and while he was at it, he changed my internet browser default to Google Chrome. I then spent the other half of the day moving all my bookmarks from Internet Explorer to Google Chrome. I sure hope it works out. If not, I will be one unhappy camper.

Back to Pinterest. The word itself is a combination of two words: Pin and Interest. Basically, here is how it works:

1.  As you come across a photo, idea, recipe, etc. on the internet, you click a "Pin it" button to post it to one of your bulletin boards.

2.  Your bulletin boards, which can have themes like food, books, wedding ideas, crafts, gift ideas, collect your pinned items.

3.  Other people can follow your boards. Whenever you pin something, they can see it on their main Pinterest page.

4.  You can see things that lots and lots of people have pinned. If you like one of their pins, you can repin it to one of your boards.

Does this make sense? It may sound confusing until you try it. The hardest part was getting the Pinterest "Pin it" button to appear in my Internet Explorer favorites bar. It wouldn't work. Hence Daniel's suggestion to switch to Google Chrome.

Here are My Boards so far. I've collect a few good food, wedding and craft ideas. It is fun, but like anything else, I must be careful not to let it take over my day.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Extra Credit

My kids will do anything for extra credit. Sometimes it's the additional challenge that gets them going, but mostly it's the opportunity to boost a grade.

When Katherine was a freshman in high school, her biology teacher gave extra credit to students who baked  AND ate cricket cookies. Cricket cookies are created by replacing live crickets for chocolate chips in the standard recipe. How this was educational, I do not know. But Katherine did it. She and her friend Clinton went to the local pet store, purchased live crickets, put them in the freezer for and hour to lock them down, then baked them in their cookies. And yes, they ate them too. At least one bite.

Peter is currently working on an extra credit assignment. He has to memorize and recite several paragraphs of the play Macbeth. I was trying to read the text aloud last night without tripping over my tongue. I'm sure Shakespeare was brilliant, but these words made absolutely no sense at all to me.

"If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly: if the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success; that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all here,
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We'ld jump the life to come. But in these cases
We still have judgment here; that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poison'd chalice ..."

This is only one third of what he has to memorize. Bless him.