Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 is Almost Over

Oh no! 2012 is almost over. What did I say I would do this year: make a quilt, run a 5K, be transparent with people, start a non-profit, and learn how to take photos in manual mode.

I bought the fabric for my quilt, and I washed it.
I ran a 5K in May.
I've tried to be me, to not hide anything from anyone.
I did not start a non-profit. That's going to take more thinking.
It came down to the wire today, but I learned how to take pictures in aperture priority mode on my camera.

Here are some pictures I took around Beaver Creek Village today using aperture priority. My goal was to get the subject in focus and blur the background. I have to work on the focus part.

Little girl waiting for her parents.

Teen boy talking into his iPhone.

Penguin ice sculpture.

Ram bronze sculpture.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Beaver Creek Mountain


A panorama from Peter's iPhone. This was taken while he and Daniel were snowboarding Larkspur trail on Beaver Creek Mountain this afternoon. It was a beautiful day. Temperatures were in the 20's, which is good for the snow.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Vitamix

Don got me a blender for Christmas. It's not just any blender, it's a turbo-charged blender that can pulverize kale.

I know it's a practical gift, but I asked for it, so it's OK. As I was opening the box, I knew Peter's eyes were bugging out. This is a toy for big boys like him. He LOVES smoothies.

He's made at least one smoothie every day since we've had it. He shares with me. When he goes back to school, I'll be able to make smoothies of my own.

My favorite so far has been the Kale and Pear Green Smoothie. It was green, green, green, and oh so tasty. Here's the recipe in case you'd like to try it:

Kale and Pear Green Smoothie

1 c. green grapes
1 orange, peeled
1/2 pear, seeded
1 fresh banana, peeled
1 c. kale
1/2 c. water
2 c. ice cubes

Place all ingredients into the container in the order listed and secure the lid.
Select Variable 1.
Turn machine on, and slowly increase speed to variable 10, then High..
Blend for 45 seconds, or until desired smoothness is reached

The key instruction in making this smoothie is the part about securing the lid. You also don't want to fill the container too full. If you don't watch it, you might end up redecorating your kitchen with bananas and kale.

The best part of the Vitamix is the way it cleans itself. When you are finished making the smoothie, you just fill the container with 5 cups of water and one drop of dish soap. Pretend you are making another smoothie, and the Vitamix becomes its own dishwasher. Rinse, and store.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!


Monday, December 24, 2012

No Cake for Riley


Riley is four years old today. I bought him a little birthday cake to celebrate. It's really just a dessert option for my family tonight since they are coming for Christmas Eve, but I was going to let Riley have a bite.

But not any more. Last night while we were out celebrating Daniel's birthday at Fletcher's Steak House, Riley was having a little celebration of his own.

I made the mistake of leaving nine Trader Joe's "Jo Joe's" cookies in several Ziploc sandwich bags on the lowest shelf of the pantry. Riley followed his nose to the Jo Joe's and ripped the bags to pieces, swallowing parts of them in his fury. He ate all nine cookies and half of three Ziploc bags.

We fully expected him to have an upset tummy last night, but other than two urgent runs to the door, he didn't seem to miss a beat.

I don't think he needs the extra calories tonight, so he's going to have to skip his birthday cake. That will teach him!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Do You Know What I Know?


Jesus has many names, some of which are: Bread of Life, Prince of Peace, Messiah, Christ, Bight Morning Star, Lord, Savior, Light of the World, Son of Man, Redeemer, and Immanuel.

This time of year, Immanuel has the most significance for me. Immanuel means "God with us." God loved the world so much that he sent his son, Jesus, to live among us. He came as a baby in a manger, a baby who was fully man and fully God.

Why did he come to be with us? He came to fulfill the prophecies in the Old Testament. He came so we could see God and realize we are not Him. He came to  teach us how to live. He came to serve. He came to give his life as a ransom for many - for those who would see him, know him and come to him.

God pursues His people. He comes to us. He knocks at our door and wants to come in. He wishes that none would turn him away, but many do.

Don't turn Him away. Open the door.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" - which means, "God with us." - Matthew 1:22-23

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Eggnog Snickerdoodles

I tasted all the cookies from Cookie Baking Day, and I have to say these are my favorite. They are Don's favorite too. They have the perfect texture, sweetness and crunch.



Eggnog Snickerdoodles 

2  1/2 c. flour
2 t. cream of tartar
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
16 T. unsalted butter, softened
1  1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1  1/2 t. rum extract
1/2 c. confectioners' sugar
1/2 t. ground nutmeg

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 400 degrees.* Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes. Add eggs and rum extract and beat until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour mixture. Mix until just combined.

Working with 1 T dough at a time, roll into balls and space them 2 inches apart on prepared sheets. Using greased bottom of measuring cup**, press each ball into a 1/2 inch-thick round.

Bake until edges are lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough. Let cookies cool completely. Combine confectioners' sugar and nutmeg in a small bowl. Using a fine-mesh sifter, dust cookies with confectioners' sugar mixture before serving.

* I used the convection setting on the oven and reduced the heat to 375 degrees. This way I could cook three trays of cookies at one time without rotating the sheets.
** I covered the measuring cup with Crisco once, then dipped it in confectioners' sugar every two cookies when pressing them down. Otherwise, the dough stuck to the measuring cup.

Friday, December 21, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Our Christmas tree.

Miss Moose.

Nativity Set.

Skinny Santa.

One of our Advent calendars.

Cookies.

Riley.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Got Milk?


Today was the annual Cookie Baking Day! We put together twenty cookie trays. Here's what we baked:

Pam: Rum Balls, modified Melting Snowmen
Marianne: Eggnog Snickerdoodles, Almond Logs
Katherine: Gingerbread Men, Houses, Shelties & Dog Bones
Elizabeth: Chocolate Crinkles
Daniel: Pretzel Kisses
Peter: Reese's Peanut Butter/Chocolate Brownies

Pam provided the aprons for everyone, including Riley. We worked hard from 9:00-3:00 to put together twenty cookie trays.


Riley patrolled the kitchen for anything that fell to the ground. We didn't have to sweep up the floor when we were finished baking.

Daniel, the novice baker, hard at work on his Pretzel Kisses.

Pam concentrating on her Rum Balls.

Katherine rolling out her Gingerbread dough.

Peter spooning out the Brownie batter.

Grandma sampling the food while Riley waits for droppings.

Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Practical Gifts

Don's going to kill me for telling this story to the rest of the world. I've already told it to half the world, so I figure it won't hurt to tell everyone else.

As I tell the story, you have to keep in mind that Don was a young, naive guy who grew up in a home with three brothers. He hadn't yet learned what a girl wants when it comes to gifts under the tree.

It was the year we were engaged to be married. He already lived in a house by himself, and the house had an attached garage. The attached garage had two doors, and one of the doors had an automatic door opener.

Now, his new bride would be moving into the house at the end of May, and he wanted to make sure she was well taken care of. He wanted to make sure she didn't have to get out of her car to open the garage door on her side. So he thoughtfully went to the hardware store and lovingly purchased a garage door opener for her. It was an exact replica of the one he had on his side of the garage. He was pleased.

Imagine how pleased I was to open the gift on Christmas day. I was speechless. What could I say? I could only wonder what I had gotten myself into.

The only reason I can tell this story now is because Don was a very fast learner. He learned that he could never go wrong at the jewelry store. He has since taken care of me beyond my wildest dreams. Even if he gets me a new can opener this year, I will still love him dearly.

I love you, sweetheart. (I was just kidding about the can opener.)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Meaningful Mondays

In the next five years, I will have 260 Mondays. I guess I'll have 260 Tuesdays as well. But let's just start with Mondays.

In order to make my Mondays meaningful, I am going to try to do something extra special for someone every Monday. It could be a stranger, it could be a friend, it could be a neighbor, or it could be a family member. The unsuspecting person must be delighted in what I do for them.

I may let them know it was me, or I may not. I'll record my acts of kindness in a Meaningful Mondays journal to keep myself accountable.

Look out, you might be on my list.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chagrin Falls


Don and I went on a date last night. He asked me out on a Thursday!  I was tired and didn't want to go, but the thought of making dinner made me more tired, so I went.

We walked around the town of Chagrin Falls, stopping in lovely shops like White Magnolia, The Little Monogram Shop and Whimzi. Trees and railings were decorated with lights. Even the steps to the Falls were  festive with greenery, bows and lights.

There is a special mailbox in town just for children to send letters to Santa. No other mail is allowed.

We didn't eat at Dave's Cosmic Subs. We ate at Rick's Cafe, and I didn't get a picture.

We should have had ice cream from the Popcorn Shop after dinner, but we called it a night and drove home. We both agreed we should visit our little town more often.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Charming Riley


Riley sure knows how to work a room. I had ten ladies at my house on Tuesday, and over half of them wanted to take him home at the end of the night. This was my new Bible study group. I moved to Group D this fall when I became a facilitator, so none of these ladies had met Riley before.

His initial greeting is less than friendly. When someone comes to the door, Riley acts like they are about to rob our house.  I had to assure each one of them he really was friendly.

As we stood around in the kitchen, Riley threw his ball at each person's foot until he found a taker. That lady was his new best friend. She threw the ball for him until she got distracted. He'd then work on someone else.  During dinner, he scouted around under the table trying to get someone's attention. After he placed his ball in Susan's hand, she looked down and he looked up. She was won over immediately. Who can resist him?

After dinner, when we were sitting in the family room, Riley reached into his toy box and placed his chewed- up squirrel on Rachel's knee and his chewed-up rabbit on Ella's foot. Shelly had a key chain in her pocket. The fob was in the shape of a small ball. Riley caught sight of it and tried his hardest to steal it.

My sweet boy is such a Casanova. Nothing could be better than a room full of ladies for him. When it was time for everyone to get up and leave, Riley almost tackled Shelly. He didn't want her to escape. I assured him they would be back another time, so he said goodnight as they filed past.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jingle Bell Run


I'm so proud of Katherine! She completed her first 5K race in Indianapolis last Saturday. A friend of hers from Grad School joined her in training and running. It was a little chilly (in the 50's) but it could have been much worse. Her time was 27 minutes. That's 20 minutes faster than her old mother.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Quick Appetizers

Don't be afraid to invite people to your house. You can be ready for a party in under an hour with these easy appetizers. Serve these six appetizers with some drinks and everyone will think you slaved all day.


Personalized veggies & dip. Your guest won't be afraid to double dip because their dip is a personal cup. Add two large spoonfuls of Heluva Good dip to small hard plastic cups. After cutting celery, carrots and red peppers into sticks, place them into the dip. That's it. You're finished with appetizer number one.


Pineapple-grape nibbles. Buy one of those pineapples that's already out of its shell. Cut the pineapple hunk into rings and then bites. Place a grape on top and secure with a toothpick. That's appetizer number two.


Pour some festive M & M's in a fancy bowl and call it appetizer number three.

Put a chunk of Gouda and a chunk of Brie cheese on a cheese board or platter with some crackers. Appetizer number four.

Defrost a bag of frozen shrimp and put them on a plate with Al's Cocktail Sauce (must be Al's from Heinen's) and call it appetizer number five.

Open a container of Heinen's Crab Dip and put it in a cute little reindeer bowl along with some crackers. That's appetizer number six.

There's something for everyone here. Enjoy!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas Tea


My niece Elizabeth invited me to her church's Christmas Tea. She volunteered to host a table, which involves choosing a theme, creating a centerpiece, arranging the place settings, and providing favors and cookies.

She chose an Indian theme. The colors on the table were beautiful. In addition to the traditional reds and greens, she incorporated blue, yellow and purple. She wore a sari to complete the look.

Elizabeth was also part of the entertainment. She sang several songs and led Christmas carols for the group. My nephew Patrick was our table waiter.

It was a very nice afternoon with my sister Carolyn and her kids.

 Elizabeth in her sari

The beautiful table

Friday, December 7, 2012

Good Stuff

It's time for a few of my favorite things:

Skinny Pop Popcorn 
I've only found this two places: Heinen's and Costco. It's popped popcorn in a bag that claims to be "guilt free" and "no artificial anything". I can eat a cup of it when I really feel the urge to eat something crunchy and a little salty.

I Love You Postcards
I bought these several years ago at Barnes & Noble and haven't seen them since. But never fear, you can buy them at Chronicle Books. There are 40 very clever cards on nice weight cardstock. Each one says "I love you" in a different way. I write love notes on them for Don and leave them in unsuspecting places.

Wilton Melting Pot
This is the best way to melt chocolate. You can put the chocolate in the pot, turn it on "melt" and go do something else for 15 minutes. No need to worry that your chocolate is burning. It even has a "warm" feature on it to keep the chocolate from hardening up again after it is melted. Very handy this time of year.


Lint Lizard
No more picking lint out of my dryer's lint catching space with tweezers. The Lint Lizard attaches to my vacuum cleaner to suck all those dirty fuzz balls right out of there. My lint catchers has never been so clean. I did not see this on TV. I saw it at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dear Santa


I've been a really good girl this year.

I never lost my temper, not even when the lady in front of me at Giant Eagle redeemed 300 coupons.

I shared my possessions with family and friends. Well, you can't expect me to share my Diet Cokes. I'll get germs.

I didn't buy too many books. That's if you don't count the ones on my Kindle.

I did eat too many cookies this year. But I promise next year I'll do better.

If you have something in your bag that will help me sleep, I'd appreciate that very much. I'd also like to look like that girl on your lap. Oh, that's right, you're not the one who performs miracles.

Sincerely yours,

Marianne

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bowling


Peter was pretty excited Friday night. After he bowled the game of his life (a 193) he sent me a text message. I was happy that he was out bowling on a Friday night rather than doing any number of other things college kids do.

A 193 is nothing to sneeze about. I was astonished he did it without his SpongeBob bowling ball and without bumpers on the lanes.

He claims it was his experience in the mother-son bowling league he was in during his fourth grade year. I was the mother half of the team.

I used to know how to bowl. Back in my younger years, kids did things like bowl in bowling leagues on Saturday morning. We had nothing better to do. I got pretty good at it. My all-time high game was 210! So I insist he gets his bowling gene from his mother.`


This was my bowling team. I'm in the back left...the one with the lovely long hair. My cousin Kathy is in the front on the right. Circa sixth grade. I was tall for my age.