Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Skimm

It's been a challenge my whole life to stay on top of the news. I don't watch TV, and I rarely read the newspaper. I catch most of my news while driving in the car if it is news break time on the radio. Once in awhile Don will update me on the latest stories.

So I was so excited to find a news service call The Skimm that's been around for two years. Why am I just hearing about it now? Not sure.

Two young women in their late 20's founded The Skimm in 2012. They keep up with the news and create a daily digest that gets delivered to your email each morning, Monday through Friday.

They didn't just walk off the street. They have impressive credentials --  both were former producers at NBC News. When Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg realized that their friends and family were constantly asking them to keep them informed, the idea of The Skimm was born.

Here's today's Skimm. It is easy to read, formatted in small bites, and witty.

It is free to subscribe and it has no advertising that I can see. I'm not sure how they make money, but I'm happy they enjoy their jobs.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Good Friends

Daniel and Brian have been friends since grade school. They seemed to always end up in the same class. This made Daniel mad at first because Brian always won the Field Day ribbons for their class. That didn't stop them from becoming buddies, and I love when they have the opportunity to get together like they did this weekend.

Prom - junior year

In the Dominican Republic

Christmas break (just after Brian had his wisdom teeth out)

High School graduation

After the Columbus Marathon in 2013

Friday night at the soccer game

Friday, September 26, 2014

Wanted: Riley

I thought oatmeal was safe on the second shelf of the pantry. What dog would eat oatmeal, dry? I thought the potatoes were safe on the bottom shelf of the pantry. What dog would be interested in raw potatoes? Just Riley!

We try to remember to close the pantry door when we leave the house, but sometimes we forget. Today, Riley got into a bag of mini yellow potatoes and batted them around the family room. Apparently, he thought they were little balls. At least he didn't eat them.

He got into the oatmeal last week. After opening up the bag and tasting a few flakes, he decided to leave the rest for me to clean up.  A couple days later, he got a piece of cornbread from the kitchen counter.

Tomorrow's project is a total reorganization of the pantry. The bottom shelf will contain things like extra trash bags and paper towels. The next shelf up will be canned goods. Anything edible will be on the fourth shelf or above.

This dog cannot be trusted, but he sure gives us a good laugh once in awhile.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pumpkin Time

Don and I lived in Kirtland, Ohio when we first got married. And in the town of Kirtland was a place called Pumpkinville. When Pumpkinville began to be populated by pumpkins, you knew it was fall. I love this photo of Katherine walking around Pumpkinville when she was two years old. She looks like she owns the place.

I love pumpkins and anything made from pumpkins. Pumpkin Soup, Pumpkin Bread, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, and most recently, Pumpkin Muffins.

One of the recipes I've tried from the 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook is Whole-Grain Pumpkin Muffins, which turned out great.

Whole-Grain Pumpkin Muffins

1 1/2 cups whole spelt or whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur white whole wheat flour, which she recommends if using whole wheat flour)

1 T. pumpkin pie spice blend
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with liners and set aside.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, salt and baking powder.

3.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and drop in eggs, honey and melted butter. Mix together until smooth, but don't over mix. Fold in pumpkin puree just until combined.

4.  Divide the batter among 12 cups. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Store at room temperature or freeze for later.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Home Workouts

There is no need to join a gym to get a good workout. There are so many things you can do right in your own home to burn calories.

If you live in a house that has a basement and a second story, you can climb stairs for aerobic conditioning. Begin at the bottom of the basement stairs and walk all the way to the top of the second floor. Repeat as many times as you can. Rest in between if needed. Riley especially likes this exercise. He thinks something exciting is going to happen. I'm waiting for him to catch on.

In just 17 minutes, doing the At Home Cardio HIIT workout, you can burn about 200 calories. This workout involves doing six exercises for 60 seconds each with a 20 second rest in between, repeated twice. This workout can be modified for low intensity to begin.

Step outside and go for a walk. Thirty minutes in the morning and thirty minutes in the evening is not difficult at all. It just takes discipline. It helps to have a dog who lives for this.

To firm a flabby upper body, invest in a pair of light weights and do the Six Weeks to Sleeveless workout.

Last but not least, don't forget about planks to tighten your core.

Don't think I've mastered all this. I need this more than anyone. Let's all get motivated!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

37 Years Later

At Katherine & Josh's wedding, I had a photo taken of my high school cheerleader friends since five of us were there. Here are two photos of us. The names in parenthesis were not cheerleaders or were not at the wedding.

From left: Cindy, Patty, Peggy, Marianne, Debbie, (Carla) - 1977

From left: (Carolyn), (Marge), Cindy, (Lisa), Peggy, Marianne, Patty, Debbie - 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Simplifying Dinner

Oh how I hate to think about dinner! I'm terrible at planning what we will eat. Most nights I decide around 3:00 what I will cook, and if I don't have food in the house, I quickly run to the grocery store. I have quite a repertoire of throw-together meals.

In order to make life easy for the next month, I am going to try something different. Every Monday will be Chicken Florentine Roll-Ups, every Tuesday Mediterranean Pasta, and so on. This really simplifies shopping. I plan to keep all the non-perishables on hand so I only need to pick up the meat and fresh food each week. Also, each of these meals is made up of healthy, real food ingredients. Another benefit will be that I will become an expert at all these meals. After a month I will select new recipes. Sounds so simple!!

I don't think Don will mind. He's very easy to please when it comes to meal time.

So here are the recipes I will use for four weeks:

Monday: Chicken Florentine Roll-Ups with a tossed salad

Tuesday: Mediterranean Feta & Tomato Pasta

Wednesday: Perfectly Grilled Steak, Asparagus and Redskin Potatoes

Thursday: Baked Salmon, Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli

Friday: Chicken Chili, Grandma's Buttermilk Cornbread and Tossed Salad

Saturday: Date Night! Out to dinner.

Sunday: Surprise! Something new and adventurous each week.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Back in the Day

Several weeks ago, I sent about 1,000 photos from boxes in my basement to a service called Scan My Photos. For a set fee, they will send you a pre-paid USPS box to fill with as many photos as you can fit in the box. After scanning the photos to a digital file, they return your photos and a DVD which contains the images. I was very pleased with the turn around time (2 weeks) and the quality of the images.

While browsing through the images on my computer, I came across this adorable one circa 1979 or so. My siblings and I are standing in my grandmother's backyard with our mother. What caught my attention in the photo was the fact that my hair, which is relatively straight, was curly (I must have tried a perm) and my mom's hair, which was extremely curly, was straight ( she must have tried a straightener).

This photo was taken before any of us were married and our mom was still alive. We all got along so well together, and we still do. I just love my family!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Message From Riley

I got a text message from Riley this afternoon. He has been staying with Katherine and Josh for two weeks, and he needs his mommy. Don't worry, Riley, I will see you tomorrow!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Last Stop Versailles

 After breakfast this morning, we took a three hour bus ride to the Palace of Versailles. Louis XIV built this chateau to escape the busy life in Paris and to keep the nobility under his control. This grand palace served as France's official royal residence from 1682-1790.

 We took a audio-guided tour of the palace in which we saw the state apartments of the king and queen and the Hall of Mirrors where the Treaty of Versailles was signed to end World War I.

There were many handsome busts in the halls of Versailles. I asked Carol to take our picture by this one but she chopped his head off.

Our group was then shuttled to our last hotel near the Charles de Gaulle airport.

 But we didn't stay at our hotel long. At 7 p.m. we met up with Jean-Francois again in Paris for a final dinner. First we walked around the artist's square.

 Then we went inside Sacre Coeur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart).
That's Carol, aka the Flying Nun.

We ate dinner at Le Grand Colbert, a lovely little brasserie, that was featured in the movie Something's Got to Give  (2003) starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Villandry and Azay-le-Rideau

 Before heading out to cycle today, we remembered to take a group photo! The people we have met on this trip have been especially nice. Everyone looks out for each other, and there are always interesting stories at dinner. Our group includes people from Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, New York, Missouri, Utah, and of course Ohio.

 A bus took us to our first destination this morning: Chateau de Villandry. It was the last of the large chateaux built during the Renaissance on the banks of the Loire River. It was completed around 1536.

 Chateau de Villandry is known throughout France for its meticulous, terraced gardens. Ten full time gardeners take care of the grounds year round.

Our group of four became known as the "Cleveland Cousins." The only real cousins in our group were Carol and Don. From Villandry, we rode 15 miles on a beautiful bike bath along the Loire River to Azay-le-Rideau where we walked around and enjoyed a pizza lunch.

After lunch, some of us, including me and Don, rode another 15 miles along the Indre River. Others, including Pam and Carol decided to call it a day and return by van to the stables (our hotel) and relax.

At the gift shop in Villandry, Pam picked up colorful pinwheels for all the ladies on the trip. The rest of the day, our pinwheels twirled in the wind, and I'm sure they made the people smile as we passed them in the streets.

 The Chateau de la Bourdaisiere, where we are staying, is known for its tomato and dahlia gardens. They grow 650 varieties of tomatoes...

  and 240 varieties of dahlias.

We had the farewell dinner tonight since it was our last day of biking.

We were very sad to say au revoir to our guides Michel and Valerie...they were the best!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tour de Tours

On Tuesday morning, we rode the "Loire & Soils" bicycle path on the northern banks of the Loire River for 17 miles. We passed through  the town of Vouvray where much wine production takes place.

Along the way, we were surprised to see camels grazing in the meadow with some horses. Apparently there was a circus in town.
We arrived in the town of Tours by lunch time. I was ready to hop off my bike and get in one of these smart cars.

 Cathedrale de Tours

 After biking 9 more miles in the afternoon, we arrived at our hotel in Montlouis. Our hotel was at the top of a big hill. Pam and Carol cheated and jumped on a golf cart. The rest of us had to walk.

 I was so excited to see the chateau that was our hotel for the next two nights. However, when we got there, they showed us to our rooms in the stable! Fortunately, the horses and cows no longer live there.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Amboise to Chenonceaux

 Today we cycled 17 miles to the city of Chenonceaux.

 The chateau du jour was Chateau de Chenonceau which sits on the Cher River. This chateau was built at the end of the Gothic period and the start of the Renaissance period. It was built for Diane de Poitiers who was King Henry II's mistress. But when King Henry II died, his widow, Catherine de Medici, wanted it for herself and forced Diane out. The inside of the chateau is set up just as it was during the 1500's. Fresh flower arrangements were in almost every room, and we found out the flowers are changed daily!

The gardens at Chenonceau were beatuiful.

After touring the castle, we had a picnic lunch in the park. Our guides put together a spread of local food for us.

In the afternoon, we biked 9 miles back to Amboise to tour the Chateau du Clos Luce, which is where Leonardo da Vinci lived. There were replicas of many of his inventions and we also saw his living quarters which were preserved from that era.

Back at our hotel, I was a little worn out from the three days of biking. I took a little nap on the floor.

 The girls in berets. Don refused to wear one. Pam put the hat on my head, and I think she pulled it down a little too far!

 Our guides took us to a local wine cellar for a wine tasting before dinner.

The proprietor specialized in the wine aging process. Here are a few samples of his work. There must be a few spiders in the wine cave.

Bonsoir until tomorrow!