Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rufferee


I haven't tortured Riley like this since last Christmas, so it was time. Even though Trick or Treat has been postponed until Sunday because of Hurricane Sandy, Riley is ready to go. He's also ready to go to the CVCA soccer game tonight as they play in the regional semi finals.

Monday, October 29, 2012

What $10 Will Buy


I went to the Dollar Store today, and as usual, I found some great deals. Here's what $10 can buy:

1. A four slot picture frame.
2. Toilet bowl cleaner.
3. Two sets of plastic serving spoons. I like to use these for pot-luck dinners so I don't have to worry about taking my spoons back home.
4. Lays Stax chips. Peter says they are better than Pringles.
5. A squirrel toy for Riley.
6. Three chip clips.
7. Holiday money holder envelopes.
8. Glass bud vase.
9. Package of pretty paper clips.
10. Three washcloths. I bought these for my next European trip. They don't believe in providing washcloths for their guest, and I like my washcloths.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Easy Garlic-Parmesan Chicken


This recipe is so easy, and it was so good!! I think it came from a Gooseberry Patch cookbook.

Easy Garlic-Parmesan Chicken

3/4 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. Italian seasoning (I used Paula Deen House Seasoning because that's what I had)
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 c. Progresso Panko plain bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil for easy cleanup and spray the foil with PAM.
Mix mayonnaise, cheese and seasonings in a shallow bowl. Coat chicken with mixture; cover with bread crumbs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper if you wish. Arrange chicken in pan. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Serves 4-6.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Day I Became a Mom



Twenty-four years ago today I became a mom. It was the first snow of the year. I woke up at 6:00 a.m. feeling some contractions. I told Don he better not go to work because it was time to go to the hospital. Katherine was born that afternoon.

That's me in the picture looking kind of pregnant. That's not Don beside me. It's my big brother, Michael. Don't you just love his outfit? It's about as cute as mine.

I always tease Katherine because she was born on her due date. I tell her it was the only event in her life in which she arrived on time. I was thankful she did that for me. The boys, on the other hand, were both late.

Happy Birthday, Katherine!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

It's Not Safe Out There!

How's Riley supposed to go potty before bedtime? I'm afraid to let him out by himself, and I'm more afraid to go out with him.

Last night, it was so warm we had the bedroom windows open, and at 1:00 a.m. I was startled awake by coyotes howling nearby. It's such a frightening sound. The high-pitched howl goes on for a long time, and then when the pack is assembled, there is utter chaos, probably when they are eating up some poor, innocent critter. Then there is silence, and you know it is all over.

I couldn't get back to sleep after that. All I could think about was Riley out in the backyard earlier, going potty all by himself.

To make matters worse, a 200 lb. black bear has been spotted multiple times this week at a development two miles up the road. The bear has been seen tearing apart a bee hive, feasting from a bird feeder and relaxing on the dock in someone's backyard.

Tonight I took Riley out on a short leash for his late night piddle. I stood there shaking in my boots the whole time. Who knows what lurks out there in the woods!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Confessions



I needed an idea for writing today, so when I came across this message and saw that many other people blogged on the subject earlier this year, I thought I'd give it a try. I'm a little shy, so I won't spill my guts completely. I know you are all thankful for that.

1. Sometimes I get lonely and feel like I don't have a friend in the world. I know this isn't true, but once in awhile I get an overwhelming sensation of isolation, like the rest of the world is carrying on without me and I am watching through a window screaming, "I'm in here! Can't you see me?"

2. I don't like being an apple. You know, an apple vs. a pear. I wouldn't want to be a pear either, maybe just a stick.

3. I work best surrounded by piles and piles of paper. Just ask Don.

4. I'm afraid of bees.

5. I won't walk alone in the dark, even if Riley is with me.

6. I like to make lists, but I rarely follow them.

7. Sometimes I eat way too much chocolate.

8. I'm jealous of those who have an amazing talent and they focus all their energy on that one thing.

9. I miss my kids.

10. Even when I'm watching TV, I'm not really watching it. Don't quiz me.

Monday, October 22, 2012

To Do List Circa 1982

I was looking through an old notebook tonight, and out fell a "To Do List" I had made sometime during my junior or senior year of college. It took me back 30 years to a time when I was concerned about fulfilling my obligations as a campus organization leader, student, friend, and job search candidate. Here's the list of ten things:

1. NAA Bulletin Board - apparently I was responsible for decorating the National Accounting Association bulletin board.

2. Call firms to set up Career Sessions - I was an officer in the Accounting Association and therefore responsible for setting up sessions in which representatives from accounting firms like Arthur Andersen, Price Waterhouse and Ernst & Young would meet with us and tell us about their firms. I remember pizza being involved.

3. Get a list of people in NAA - not sure why.

4. Go to Placement Office to research firms - I needed to start thinking about a job.

5. Call Mary Lou - needed to keep up with friends.

6. Call Kathy - this is my cousin.

7. Buy tax book - I remember taking Tax Accounting - yuck!

8. Think of a speaker for Beta Gamma Sigma - another officer position.

9. Take clothes to dry cleaner - must have had an interview.

10. Pick grape leaves - I know this sounds very random, but my grandma (Sito) always wanted me to take her along the road sides to pick wild grape leaves. One of her specialty dishes was stuffed grape leaves.

Yes, I was an Accounting major! Just one of those things that never got used in my life.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Martha's American Food

I have never thought much of Martha Stewart's cookbooks. She tends to create complicated dishes with strange ingredients. I'm the kind of cook who likes straight forward recipes. She's usually not that way.

However, I brought this book home from the library last week, and to my surprise, I found it to be filled with great down-to-earth food. This cookbook is organized by U. S. region. Foods popular in each region are featured in that section.

There were so many good recipes in this book that I am considering buying the book. Here is a sampling:

Hot Crab Dip, Chicken Pot Pies, Blueberry Pancakes, Creamy Cole Slaw, Strawberry Shortcake, Baked Artichoke Dip. There are simple things like Hamburgers, Roast Turkey, Lasagna, Mashed Potatoes, Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese, Tuna-Noodle Casserole and Pot Roast.

I highly recommend at least borrowing it from the library. It would make a great Christmas gift or first cookbook for someone starting out on their own.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Slow Cooked Pork Tenderloin

I had just stepped into Giant Eagle the other day when I heard my phone beep, signaling a new email. I try not to be one of those annoying people who walk around the grocery store sending text messages and talking on the phone, but I just glanced down to see who the email was from.

It was a message from Pam with the words, "Good Recipe Attached," in the subject line. It was perfect! I was in the grocery store, and a good recipe was on my phone.

I picked up the ingredients, and made this yummy meal last night. It's easy, very easy, and tastes great too. The recipe comes from allrecipes.com and is called Amazing Pork Tenderloin in the Slow Cooker.

Slow Cooked Pork Tenderloin

2 lb. pork tenderloin (I had to cut the pork into pieces to fit in my round slow cooker)
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
1 cup water
3/4 c. red wine
3 T. soy sauce
3 T. minced garlic
freshly ground pepper to taste

Place pork tenderloin in slow cooker. Mix water, wine, soy sauce and onion soup mix together in a bowl. Pour over pork. Turn to coat. Spread garlic over pork, leaving as much of it on top during cooking as possible. Sprinkle with pepper, cover, and cook on low setting for 4 hours. Serve with cooking liquid on the side as au jus.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Riley's Reward

Riley's eyes about popped out of his head when Becky handed him this treat. It was his reward for putting up with puppy Jake for five days.

Riley's going on four now, so he isn't as keen on running circles as his new friend. Each night, both dogs were pretty pooped out, but I think Riley might have been at the point of exhaustion more than once.

Since Riley is the type of dog who would eat this entire treat in about 15 minutes flat just so no one else would get it, I let him take a few bites. Then I placed it on a high shelf until tomorrow.

I told Riley, "don't let me forget it's up here." Ha, Ha! There's no chance of that.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hospitality

This is not what my front door looks like. I wish it did! Doesn't it look inviting? I'd like to visit the person who lives here. I bet her home is a welcoming place.

Something I need to work on is inviting people over to my house without worrying about how many dust bunnies are running around the floor. That's why I'm sad that I missed the ladies luncheon at church this Saturday. It was all about easy ways to invite people over.

Open Hearts, Open Homes: Practicing Hospitality in a Hectic World was the name of the event. Over 200 women attended the luncheon in which a panel of ladies from church presented ideas on how to open up your home without stressing out.

I was happy to find the booklet used for the luncheon on the church website. It contains ideas, menus and recipes for each season of the year. I hope to use this as a guide and invite more people over in the coming months.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bedtime for Shelties


Becky told me to give Jake a puppy Milkbone biscuit at bedtime, and he would willingly go into his crate. He did.

The problem is that Riley, never one to miss the opportunity for a treat, goes in with him.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Paris Wife

I had coffee (tea, really) with my friend, Amy, before leaving for Spain. The two of us always end up sharing good books we've read before we part. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain was one of the books Amy recommended. I had written the title down on a scrap of paper, intending to pick it up from the library upon my return, but to my surprise, Amy dropped by a couple days before I left just to lend me her copy. I was delighted to take it along on the trip.

So, between Chicago, Madrid, Seville and Barcelona, I squeezed in pages when I could. This book was a great read. What made it interesting was the time period (1920's), the setting (Paris, among other cities), and the characters (Hadley and Ernest Hemingway).

The story is told from Hadley's point of view. She was Ernest's first wife. They met in St. Louis when she was 28 and he was 21.  They fell in love somewhere between St. Louis and corresponding with each other long distance.

The author, Paula Mclain, used this correspondence and Ernest Hemingway's two books, The Sun Also Rises and A Movable Feast to write a historical fiction book about their relationship and his early career.

Life was not easy for this couple as they struggled to live above the poverty level during the Jazz Age in Paris with friends like Gertrude Stein, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Joyce. Hadley loved Ernest to the core and stood by her man through thick and thin. He, however, wasn't so faithful.

When all was said and done, I think he regretted his choices. In Ernest Hemingway's memoir, A Movable Feast, written at the end of his life, there is a line about Hadley which says, "I wish I had died before I loved anyone but her."

Now I want to read A Movable Feast and The Sun Also Rises. In addition, there is a 1996 movie called In Love and War which ties together some of the other pieces of the story.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Jake & Riley


Remember Becky's little puppy, Jake? In just over two months, he grew bigger than Riley. He's six months old and weighs 32 lb. Becky and Tom went away for six days to celebrate her birthday and their anniversary, so we agreed to keep Jake at our house. What fun!


These two dogs have only stopped to relax for about ten minutes during the past six hours. I took them on two long walks, ran them around the backyard three times, watched them run around the house for hours, and they still haven't settled down for more than three minutes at a time. They've gotten their second, third and fourth wind. I don't think they will stop until Jake is in his crate for the night.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pumpkin Bread

It's pumpkin time! Every fall I get in the mood to make Pumpkin Bread and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies. This recipe came from my long ago friend, Cindy Allen. It is the best pumpkin bread in the world.



Pumpkin Bread

2 2/3 c. sugar
4 eggs
2/3 c. Crisco
2/3 c. water
2 c. canned pumpkin
3 1/3 c. flour
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 t. cinnamon
2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two large loaf pans. Cream Crisco, sugar and eggs. Mix pumpkin and water together in a small bowl, then add to creamed mixture.

Mix dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Blend dry ingredients with rest of mixture.

Pour batter into loaf pans. Bake one hour. Test with toothpick. When toothpick comes out clean, remove from oven and flip out of pans. Cool on rack.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

VBT Comrades

One of the best things about taking a VBT vacation is meeting so many nice people from around the country. We are stuck with each other for many hours a day, so it's easy to get to know each other. Below are the people we met this year:

Adraina from Vancouver, BC. I call her the "off-roader" because when she got bored with the path we were on, she'd ride into the olive trees to vary her scenery.

Bob from Cape Cod, MA. He was a strong biker who planned to walk the El Camino Santiago Trail after the bike trip was over.

Anne from Rochester, NY. Anne was my biking buddy. Even though she passed me up on ever hill, I still like her. She takes great pictures.


Amy and Ken from Vancouver, BC. We are jealous of them because they stayed in Barcelona until Monday and got to go to the FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid soccer game.

Jeff and Tammy from Grand Rapids, MI. These two were the most athletic people in the group. They biked the extra miles every day then came back, changed into running clothes and went out running six or eight miles before dinner. They put us all to shame.

Russ from the Upper Peninsula. He was the senior member of our tour group. When he realized how good Don's sense of direction was, he never left his side.

Dianne and Andre from Old Saybrook, CT. These two are both veterinarians. They were pretty good troupers out there on the bikes.

Karen and Frank (sorry, no picture of Frank) from Seattle, WA. Karen was my biking mentor for the week. She was so encouraging and fun. She taught me how to pack for my next VBT trip. All her clothes fit into a carry-on bag, and she and Frank spent ten days in Portugal before they came to Spain!

Peg from Vancouver, BC. Peg liked to sleep in, so she missed every morning route briefing. No wonder she had to be rescued by Jose and Juan Carlos multiple times. She provided comic relief for the group.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

FC Barcelona

Our last day in Barcelona was spent touring the city on the "Hop On, Hop Off" double-decker bus. The city is too big to see it all on foot in one day. We went with our VBT friends Karen, Frank, Amy and Ken.

We hopped off at Barcelona's most famous cathedral, La Sagrada Familia. It was designed and started by architect Antoni Gaudi in 1882. He supervised the building project until his death in 1926. The building is still under construction, and it is scheduled to be completed some time in the first third of the 21st century.

La Sagrada Familia
 
While on the bus, we saw all the Barcelona landmarks and learned quite a bit of history. Among other things, we saw the beautiful waterfront beaches and the location of the 1992 summer Olympics.
 
The next place we hopped off was Camp Nou, the official stadium for the FC Barcelona soccer team. Their biggest game of the year will be held tomorrow against Real Madrid. The stadium holds 100,000 people. If we had been able to stay one more day, we might have tried to get tickets.
 
Camp Nou
 
Don standing by one of FC Barcelona's European Championship trophies.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Barcelona

On the way to breakfast this morning, I ran into a glass door. My right shoulder hit first, then my forehead. It knocked me silly for a minute. My forehead recovered, but I can't lift my arm very far in any direction. I'll be heading to the prompt care for an x-ray when I get home. Until then, I am keeping my arm closely tucked to my body so the millions of people in Barcelona don't bump me.

We flew from Granada to Barcelona, arriving around 11:00 a.m. After plotting our course, we headed out the door to a street called La Rambla. On either side of the street, there are shops and restaurants. The street leads all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. One of the main attractions is Mercat de la Boqueria, a market similar to the West Side Market in Cleveland.

I lingered by the chocolate stand...
 
and hurried by the fish stand.
 
When we reached the harbor, the first thing we saw was the Monumento a Colon, a monument to Christopher Columbus built for the universal exposition of 1888. Barcelona is the city where Columbus met Queen Isabella and Ferdinand to report after his famous trip.
 
Monumento a Colon
 
Later in the day, we walked to Casa Batllo. This house is an architectural masterpiece designed by Antoni Gaudi. The Mediterranean Sea inspired the design of the exterior and interior of the house.
 
Casa Batllo
 



Thursday, October 4, 2012

Granada

This morning (Thursday), we took a 2-hour bus ride to Granada. Our first stop was Alhambra Palace, built in the 10th and 11th centuries by the Muslims who conquered Spain. Alhambra means "red castle" in Arabic. The palace is built on a high point in Granada in which the whole city can be seen.


I'm standing in the unfinished part of the palace. King Charles V began the project in 1533, but construction was abandoned in 1637. This part of the palace was never finished and never used.


Private living quarters of the Sultan's wives.
 
 
Later we stood in the throne room where Queen Isabella gave her personal jewels to Christopher Columbus so he would have the money to sail to the new world.
 
 
In the garden were many pomegranate and fig trees. Pomegranate is "granada" in Spanish.
 
 
Alhambra from Mirador de San Nicolas (the best viewpoint in the city).
 
 
Sunset at Mirador de San Nicolas.

White Village of Zuheros

Today (Wednesday) was our last day of biking. I took the easier route to lunch, and Don opted for the more moderate trail on the road. The scenery was very pretty, as we are at a decent elevation.

We stopped for lunch at a local organic farm. The lunch consisted of a delicious salad that reminded me of the salads my grandmother (Sito) used to make, as well as bread with olive oil and cheese. Yummy!


After lunch, we rode up to the town of Zuheros and sat in the plaza right next to this castle. We relaxed for awhile before heading back down to our hotel.
 
 
 
In evening, Luis, the owner of Hacienda Minerva gave us a history lesson on the olive oil business in Andalusia. We found out that there are 45 million olive trees just in the area where we are staying. There are another 90 million trees elsewhere in Andalusia. The olives are still green right now, but within several weeks, they will be turning a deep purple color and will be ready to harvest. The best olive oil is from olives taken directly from the trees in early November.

 
 Before our farewell dinner (time to say good-bye to Jose and Juan Carlos), we got to taste olive oils from the region. This was my favorite.
 


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hacienda Minerva

Tuesday morning, we left Cordoba on a bus and arrived in the wine country of Andalusia (the Montilla-Moriles hills). We started riding out of Aguilar de La Frontera passing many farms where grapes are grown and collected. We also passed millions of olive trees. At a few points along the way, it smelled just like we had opened a fresh jar of olives and put our noses to the juice. The terrain was very hilly as usual, including a 4-mile climb at the end of the morning ride.


We reached Lucena for lunch at the Bodega Torres Burgos winery. They served way too much food, and we had a small wine tasting too. I didn't drink the wine since I wanted to be steady on my bike in the afternoon. After resting up, we hit the Via Verde, an old railway converted into a bike path. I thought it would be nice and level, but the railroads around here can climb. I was doing fine until about the halfway point. My body ran out of gas right in the middle of the path. The last time I felt that exhausted, I had just given birth to a child. I rode back a half mile to meet Juan Carlos on the road. We then had to rescue three people (including Don)  with flat tires before the short trip to our next hotel.

Our hotel is absolutely amazing! It is called Hacienda Minerva. It is located right along the Sierra Subbetica Park off the bike path. It is on a hill, surrounded by centuries old olive trees, facing the white village of Zuheros.

By the pool.
 
One of the courtyards.
 
Before dinner, the owner of the Hacienda gave us a tour and demonstrated how he makes seafood paella, which was the main dish for the evening.
 

Cooking demonstration.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Cordoba

No biking today. We spent the whole day in Cordoba, a very interesting Spanish city. In the morning, we took a tour of the Jewish quarter where our hotel is located.

The most famous monument in Cordoba is the Mezquita. It is a mosque built between the 8th and 11th centuries. It contains 856 columns and 19 aisles. When it was in use by Muslims from the 8th to 14th centuries, it held over 20,000 people at a time. In the 14th century, Catholic kings conquered Spain and built a cathedral in the center of the mosque. Mass is held here today every morning at 9:30 a.m.

This is a picture of the Mezquita from the outside. We are standing on the Roman Bridge, looking back at the city. The center, tall building, is the cathedral. The outside walls are the mosque.

In the early afternoon, we all went to an Arab bath called Hammam. It was similar to an old Roman bath. There were tepid, hot and cold baths in which we relaxed. Our group got multiple scoldings for talking too loudly. Included in our tour was a massage. My legs were very happy. Sorry...no pictures were allowed at the bath.


In the late afternoon, Don and I took a long walk. We bought some Doritos and Coca Cola Lite (Diet Coke) and sat down on a park bench to relax. It was comfortable, so we stayed awhile. People watching was very interesting....

...and educational.
 
During our wanderings, we happened upon the remains of a Roman temple.