Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Unfairness of It All

Life isn't fair. We all know that. We even try to prepare our children for that fact. "Can I have a a cookie?" "No, it's almost dinner time." "It's not FAIR!" "You're right, life isn't fair."

I had the rug yanked out from under me in November. I'm just now feeling like I'm back on solid ground. And then. I read Lisa's blog and she has cancer. She's 35. She has a young son, a husband. It's not fair.

Maddy's great-grandfather passed away recently. She had to death with the death of a loved one again. It's not fair.

My BFF Heather told me her mother had a heart attack over the weekend. She's going to pull through. But. It's not fair.

My friend Tara is watching her once-feisty grandmother slowly deteriorate. It's not fair.

All of us deal with the unfairness of life every day, in some measure or another. If you're lucky, and I know I am, you have a circle of friends and family and community that will be there for you, no matter what. That's what got me through my dark days - I knew that all I had to do was reach out, and someone would be there for me. Someone to hug me, help me, catch me, love me.

And that takes some of the sting from the unfairness.

Whip It Up - Week 4 - Vegetarian Style

Black Bean and Rice Enchiladas with Queso Blanco

This week's hint was vegetarian. My first thought is "no meat!? I can't do that!" (and if you are a vegetarian or vegan, I salute you. I just like my steak).

I was craving Mexican recently, and decided to come up with this concoction after looking in my pantry. I was also able to use only what I had on hand. Bonus! Also, you get two recipes in one - keep reading to see how.

I also made homemade Queso Blanco, with mixed results.

Black Bean and Rice Enchiladas (with a bonus recipe!)

1 c instant rice
2 c salsa, divided
1/2 c water
1 can black beans
8-10 6" flour tortillas
2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese, divided

Mix rice and 1/2 c salsa and 1/2 c water in a 1 1 /2 quart microwave safe dish. Microwave for 2-3 minutes until rice has absorbed most of the liquid. If you get it a little dry, add a couple of tablespoons of water. (If you stop now, you've made shortcut Mexican rice. Congratulations!).

Drain the beans in a colander and rinse them under cold water (to cut down on the salt).

Add the beans to the rice and mix until combined. Place approximately 3-4 Tof the mixture down the middle of a tortilla, add 1-2 T of cheese and roll up. This will make 8-10 enchiladas, depending on how much you stuff them.

Place seam side down in a 13x9 baking dish (lightly sprayed with Pam). Spread the remainder of the salsa evenly over the enchiladas, and sprinkle with the remaining cup of cheese.

Cover with tented foil (again, sprayed with Pam), and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until heated through.

*NOTE - Spray your food processor blade or cheese grater with Pam to help with clean-up.

Queso Blanco:

2 T butter
2 T flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups shredded Chihuahua cheese
4 oz can green chiles, drained
3-4 T jalepeno juice
3-4 jalepeno slices, diced

Over LOW heat, melt butter. Stir in flour, a little at a time, until fully blended, stirring constantly. Add salt and cook over LOW heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly.

Slowly pour milk into the flour mixture, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Stir mixture over LOW heat until thickened. Stir in chiles, jalepenos and juice.

Remove from heat and stir in cheese, a little at a time, until fully melted. If it gets too cool, reheat over LOW heat, stirring constantly.

Why did I keep repeating LOW? Because cheese must be melted slowly over low heat or you will wind up with a rubbery stringy mess. I know from experience.

Now the questions:

Was it easy? The enchiladas were very easy. Maddy helped me a lot, and she said she could probably make these. You don't need to turn on the stove at all.

The cheese dip - not hard, but time consuming. You must cook the butter/flour mixture for 10-15 minutes to remove the "flour" taste and texture. I only cooked it about 5-7 minutes. I should have kept cooking it but I was impatient and getting tired of stirring. Let this be a lesson to you - bulk up your arms or enlist a helper or two. Maddy stirred for about 30 seconds then collapsed from exhaustion. Rookie.

Did it taste good? The enchiladas were awesome! Craig said they were "scrumptious!"

The cheese dip wasn't bad. I kept adding jalepeno juice to spice it up. You could taste the flour but it wasn't bad, just not like what we are used to at the Mexican restaurant. Maddy ate it, but said it was just okay. I think if I'd cooked it longer it would have tasted better, or perhaps used cornstarch instead of flour.

Would I make it again? I will make the enchiladas again this way for Lent. I will also make them again and add shredded chicken or beef.

I would make the cheese dip again but I'd use pepper jack cheese instead, for some spice. And I would be patient and cook the base longer.

Flickr set here

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Prayer Request

The lovely Lisa has cancer. I just made her acquaintance at our blogger meeting earlier this month. She interviewed me for the St. Louis Blogger's Guild forum. She's a fantastic person.

Please visit her and leave some support for her and her family while they fight through this. Believe me, cyber-hugs and support really do help. I know firsthand.


Meme with a Twist

I found this on Raquita's site and thought I'd give it a try. If you do it, post a link in the comments - I'd like to see what you come up with! Enjoy!

Here are the rules:

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.

b. Using only the first page, pick an image.

c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into Mosaic Maker.


1. What is your first name? Kim (Kelli used to call me Kim Possible)

2. What is your favorite food? Steak/Filet (Doesn't that look heavenly?)

3. What high school did you go to? Camdenton High (couldn't find the school but Ha Ha Tonka was a big part of high school)

4. What is your favorite color? Pink (Isn't that gorgeous?)

5. Who is your celebrity crush? Tony Romo (*sigh*)

6. Favorite drink? Malibu Rum (rum yum!)

7. Dream vacation? Bora Bora (*le sigh*)

8. Favorite dessert? Key Lime Pie (mmmm good with rum!)

9. What do you want to be when you grow up? Happy (Don't we all?)

10. What do you love most in life? MaddyBoBaddy (My kid is awesome!)

11. One word to describe you. Multi-faceted (Aren't we all?)

12. Your Flickr name: Parachuting Without A Net (That's Me!)

Meme Mosaic

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday Musings...

The weekend projects went okay. Of course, I didn't get all of it accomplished, but I did get a major project started, and I'm very excited about finishing it in the next couple of weeks. The deck needed more than a washing, if that gives you a hint. Has there ever, in the history of home improvement, been a weekend project that actually took a weekend? Damn you, HGTV and your promise of "how hard could it be?"


I did buy patio furniture, but not what I originally wanted. Two meltdowns and four stores later, I finally found a set at Garden Ridge, of all places. I never thought to go there (thanks for the tip, Kristen!) Yesterday, I found a chaise lounge with cushion at WalMart, marked down to $98 from $228. Score!


In one week, I'll be headed to this little slice of heaven. Here's hoping and praying for safe travel, good weather and that my luggage makes it there and back in one piece, preferably as originally packed.


While I'm gone next week, you will be treated to the stylistic rantings of Kellyolgy, Roaring Through My Twenties, Little Bald Doctors, CookieBitch and FrogDancer. Please to enjoy.


Twitter needs to get itself in order. Not that I need another time suck at work. Just saying.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What Are Your Weekend Plans?

My to do list for this weekend:

*cleaning out the crap under the deck

*fixing the deck

*power washing the deck

*staining the deck

*installing lattice boards to keep crap from going back under the deck

* moving a pile of bricks back where they were before Fence Build 2008

*buying new patio furniture

*cleaning off my front porch

*weeding the front flower bed

*power-washing my a/c units

*whatever else I can think of while I'm outside wielding a hammer and a power washer

Originally this list included pulling out the grape vines from my day lily bed and trimming an obnoxious bush, but Maddy helped me by doing that last night. I gave her $5. She is an awesome child.

What are you going to do?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Whip It Up - Week 3

This week's Whip It Up suggestion was old favorites.

My good friend makes awesome Italian Beef. However, her recipe called for browning a beef roast in olive oil and garlic, slow cooking it all day, shredding it and finally simmering it in the juices for another hour. Fantastic stuff, but I didn't have that kind of time, considering I decided at 4:30pm that we were having it for dinner. And Maddy had a softball game that night.

I decided to substitute sliced deli roast beef instead. Genius! Also, I could put it in the crock pot on high for a couple of hours while Maddy played ball, and it would be hot and ready when we got home! Double genius!

So, this week's receipe is Shortcut Italian Beef. Enjoy!

1 1/2 pounds deli sliced roast beef
2 c beef broth
1 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
1 T juice from jarred pepperonicini peppers

In a crock pot, place half the beef, then pour half the broth over it. Repeat with the remaining beef and broth. Sprinkle seasonings over meat, add pepper juice and toss beef to coat.

Turn crock-pot to high and let cook for 1-2 hours or until hot.

Serve on toasted rolls (brushed with butter and sprinkled with garlic) with provelone cheeese. We put extra broth in a small bowl for au jus dipping.

(Also pictured - Ritz Toasted Chips in Parmesan Garlic - delish!)

*Note - If you don't have a crock pot, or don't want to wait a couple of hours, I would suggest simmering the beef in the broth and spices for 10-15 minutes or until heated through.

Now the questions:

Was it easy? Very easy. Much less labor intensive than the original recipe of browning the roast, waiting for it to slow cook, then shredding it.

Did it taste good? Surprisingly good, for using deli meat. It didn't have a fast food/processed meat taste to it.

Would I make it again? Heck yeah! When Maddy starts soccer, I will probably make this occasionally for a quick dinner.

Squeeee! A Recap

If you were driving past Riverport last night and your car windows shattered, you can blame the throngs of squealing tweens who attended the Jonas Brothers show.

Maddy's daycare goddess, Becky, managed to score VIP Meet and Greet access for us (Becky, you RAWK!) The VIP area was held under tent inside a fenced and gated area over by the concessions. So we strapped on our red VIP bracelets and got in line with the other 300 VIPs and waited our turn.

Suddenly, a group of girls on the lawn thought they might have seen something that remotely resembled Nick, Joe or Kevin, and the crowd went wild. We were immediately surrounded on both sides by girls who were jumping, screaming, crying, and shoving their way up to the fence. Lynn and I immediately went into Mom Mode to protect Tori and Maddy from the crush, and told them if it got ugly, to head for the bathroom. Maddy and Tori were a little freaked out by the madness but they were strong and held their ground.

Security was doing its best to corral the herd and get the non-VIPs out of the area. I started helping by telling girls if they didn't have a bracelet, security would throw them out of the concert. A little harsh, but efficient. It worked on the majority; however, one girl stood her ground, gave me a haughty little shrug and said "whatever." I had to give her credit for seeing through my BS, and since she wasn't encroaching on my personal space, I let her stay. 30 seconds later, Security cleared her out. Sorry, honey.
After 15 minutes of mayhem, calm was restored. We finally made it inside the fence, stood in line for another 10 minutes, and finally, there they were. Joe, Kevin and Nick, patiently waiting for Maddy and I to show up so we could all be photographed with my HAIR. Seriously - I look like I just came back from a Dallas hairdresser. Maybe it was the fan blowing on me.

After that, we headed to the lawn, which by this time was packed. We found a relatively empty spot on the side, which was in quick walking distance to the bathrooms, beer and cotton candy vendors. I have found the secret to getting rich quick - sell a $1 bag of cotton candy for $7 and throw in a fifty-cent glo stick necklace. Instant ridiculous profit.

Avril Lavigne opened, and she rocked the house. Maddy sang along with a couple of her songs, and said "I didn't know that was who sang this, she's pretty!" She really is cute, has some decent music, and has managed to not turn into a tabloid queen like some of her peers (I'm looking at you Britney/Jessica/Ashlee).

And finally. The moment arrived. The lights went out, the entrance music started, they took the stage and the place erupted with the high-pitched shrieks of 50,000 preteens. And then my eardrums exploded.

The girls had a good time singing and dancing and taking pictures. Then they decided to amuse themselves by rolling down the hill. Of course, Lynn and I had to join in the fun, and it was cool to feel like a little kid again. Until I had to stop before I puked.
We left early to beat the traffic, got home at midnight, and fell into bed.

All in all, it was a great time, and for Maddy's first concert, we set the bar pretty high, what with the VIP treatment and meeting the band. I hope she doesn't expect that all the time, but I will do my darndest to make sure she has fun, even if it means rolling down a hill until I barf.

Check out Flickr for the rest of the pics.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


OMG! My BFF Lynn and I are taking our kids to see the Jonas Brothers tonight. We are the coolest moms EVAH. They are playing at Riverport (which is actually Verizon but that's another rant), so we will spread out our blankets under the (surprisingly cool) night sky and enjoy the musical stylings of Kevin, Joe and Nick.

Honestly, I know quite a few JoBros songs. This would be due to Kelli playing her CDs over and over and over. I can actually recognize a few by only hearing the bass line thumping through the ceiling. Yeah, they may be this month's flavor of teeny bopper, but compared to some musical offerings out there (Pussycat Dolls, anyone?), they are a refreshing change of pace.

One of Kelli's favorites is below. I hope she's looking down tonight and not too upset that I let Maddy wear her JoBros t-shirt. (PS - Kelli, it's just until I buy Maddy one of her own).

Monday, July 21, 2008

This Just In....

It's frickin' hot...

(Later that day...)

Still hot.

That is all.

Friday, July 18, 2008

It's Friday...

Oh. My. God. I need this day to be OVER so I can sleep. Or at least get to bed before midnight.

Sleep in tomorrow, you say? Yeah, I wish, but I'm going to the NASCAR race at Gateway. This is an all-day event. We start tailgating at 9:30am, the race is at 8:30pm, and then we go back to the parking lot, crack open the cooler and grill a few brats while we wait for traffic to clear out, and we're home by midnight. We really should try to sell our leftovers this year to people waiting in traffic.

Last night Maddy went to the Muny with Becky and Erika, so Craig and I decided to go to the ball game. We got field box tickets from a scalper for $23 each. Not too bad. The Cardinals won, which is a nice surprise as well. Then we had Casa del Waffle - mmmmm. They have biscuits and gravy now, so it is in my top 10 favorite places on earth.

I asked Maddy about the Muny, and she said it was good "except for Bobblehead, and her sidekick, Fanarama." She explained that "Bobblehead" was the lady in front of her who kept moving her head from side to side in time with the music, and "Fanarama" was the lady next to Bobblehead who kept fanning and blocking Maddy's view. She is quite descriptive!

Oh! Go check out my first-ever blog-sitting job at Andrea's. I hope I didn't forget to lock the door and turn out the light.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Summer Camp

I went to summer camp once as a kid. I was only 15 miles from home, but it felt like 150. We slept in un-airconditioned cabins in the woods, swam in the lake, made cheesy crafts, went snipe hunting, short-sheeted our counselor's bed, and snuck junk food into our bunks at night. It was a blast.

Eventually I'd like to send Maddy to something like that. She's been tent camping, but being away from the parents, running amok in the woods, and doing pranks like hiding all of your bunkmates' left shoes, is an experience I think every kid should have.

In the meantime, I tried to get her involved in some day camps this summer. Apparently, the poor child has bad camp karma.

The first camp I signed her up for was a fun-filled week packed with horseback riding, visiting the Arch, and a picnic at Pere Marquette. She was stoked about the Arch and horses (we've camped at Pere Marquette). Alas, the camp was cancelled due to lack of reservations. So, I told her we'd go visit the Arch this summer. As for the horses, I don't ride, but I'd see if I couldn't figure out something. She was bummed, but got over it. I'm sure there was a Webkinz involved in her recovery.

The next camp was an Olympic-themed day camp, complete with a torch relay and mock games. Maddy was the only one to sign up for it, so it was cancelled. However, she now has a $60 credit at Turn 2 for the batting cages. She told me after it was cancelled that she wasn't really looking forward to it. Well, thanks for telling me that before I spent the money!

Finally, I signed her up for a softball skill camp that was supposed to be held next week. The camp coordinator called me today and said it was being cancelled due to....poor turnout. I told her that this would probably give Maddy a complex.

So, I've scheduled a day off work at the end of the month and we're going to the Arch and the City Museum. We'll make our own camp!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fundraiser Pictures

Here is the link for the photos from Sunday's event. I think these photos are fantastic. Saliba really captured the mood of the night. You've got people laughing, hugging, drinking, socializing, being serious, and a few of me doing something that might be considered dancing. I know Jessica and Kelli were thinking "seriously, mom, sit DOWN! You're embarassing us!"

Anyway, check it out, look them over, and if you are so inclined, purchase one or two or twenty. All proceeds from the sale of the photos go to the scholarship fund, which is so generous of them.

I got a very nice response to my email to Saliba thanking them for their coverage of the event. Here is an excerpt:

"Please don't thank us, we should be thanking you. The few hours we spent with you proved there is a lot of good left in this world, and we all need to be reminded of that. Thank you for reminding me. I went home that night a different person than when I left the house. I feel lucky to have met you, and I hope you know what an inspiration you are, at least to me. I will not forget that. "

Thanks, Grady.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Whip It Up - What to Do With that Pesky Leftover Cheese Ball

My recipe this week for Whip It Up is something I came up with after perusing several different recipes for stuffed pork chops and comparing them to what I had in the refrigerator. One recipe called for gouda cheese. I wasn't sure if I even liked gouda. Then I remembered I had a leftover smoky cheese ball and figured - what the heck? If it doesn't work, we order pizza.

I was in the mood for grilled pork chops. There is a butcher shop in Troy, IL, called Kelly's 4-0. Actually, it's a gas station with a butcher shop and deli in the back. I kid you not, this place has the best meats. I also wanted to get Keller's corn. Keller's are the big corn farmers around these parts. They pick it and then sell it the same or next day at roadside stands. This corn is so sweet you don't need butter. But it doesn't hurt.

Anyway, today I stopped at Kelly's to get thick center cut pork chops. The Keller stand, right across the highway, was closed. Wah! I told Maddy we'd have to do baked potatoes. She was slightly bummed but she cheered up at the thought of butter, sour cream and cheese on a hot potato.

Lo and behold, the butcher shop had Keller corn on the cob for sale. Hot diggity. Crisis averted.

So, for the recipe. I didn't measure the spices, so draw your own conclusions. However, other than overcooking these chops, I don't know how you can mess this up. So, without further adieu, I give you Yowza Pork Chops. (My daughter named them after describing the taste).

Yowza Pork Chops

3 center cut pork chops, approximately 1 1/2 inches thick
1/2 8 oz smoky cheese ball (the kind you get in the deli case rolled in slivered almonds)
4 slices bacon, cooked and drained
Garlic powder, onion powder and cracked black pepper, to taste

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium heat (350-375)

In a small bowl, set the cheese ball out to come to room temperature.

Cook the bacon until crispy; drain. Let cool and crumble. Mix the cheese and bacon together. Divide into three equal portions.

Slice a pocket in the pork chops, from the edge to the bone. Place a portion of the cheese ball into the chop and flatten, staying slightly away from the edge of the chop. Pin the chop back together with a piece of uncooked spaghetti broken into the size of a toothpick. (Spaghetti won't burn like a toothpick)

Sprinkle the chops with garlic powder, onion powder and cracked black pepper.

Place the chops on the grill and cook for approximately 12-14 minutes per side, depending on your grill heat. The chops are done when the meat is white and the juices run clear.

Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Now, the questions:

Was it easy to follow? Well, considering I kind of made it up as I went, I think so. It's three ingredients, plus spices, so I'd call it easy.

Did it taste good? Yes, it did. Craig and Maddy loved them. I liked them too, but I think I cooked them just a bit too long as they were slightly dry. These chops were HUGE, so next time I think I'd get some smaller chops to avoid overcooking.

Would I try again? I think if I make them again, I will brush them with a garlic marinade as they grill. I might experiment with different cheeses, too.

Hope you enjoy it! Picks on Flickr here.

I'd Like to Thank....

I'd like to thank everyone who came to the benefit; who donated silent auction and raffle items; who sent donations to us; who bought bracelets and magnets; and who supported us in our planning. We're already making lists for next year's event.

We estimate we had over 350 attend. We raised a little over $10,000. Holy. Crap. At 6:45 we had a line down the sidewalk of people waiting to get in. We had to set up extra tables, but we didn't run out of food. The Brooks and Dunn guitar went for $500.

It was a great party. Jessica and Kelli would have loved it. There was laughing, there was crying, there was dancing, there was fried chicken. The tables was covered with bright colored tablecloths. We used pineapples, big bright flowers, fish and pompons for the centerpieces.

Pics will be posted soon, I promise. The laptop should be fixed in the next day or two and my Flickr account will be updated.

Saliba Photography generously donated their coverage of the event. Pics will be posted on their website soon, and I will update with the login information. All proceeds from purchased photos will go to Jessica and Kelli's fund as well.

I am overwhelmed by the support that we have been shown. I cannot begin to express my thanks.

UPDATE: I have a few pics on Flickr now.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Almost Famous

From the moment the Illinois State Police and St. Clair County Coroners arrived on my doorstep at 5:30 on Friday, November 23, until this past Wednesday, I have not spoken to the media about my daughters. I understood the media had a job to do; however, this was personal - these were my daughters, not a news story. This was a very devasting event - we had enough to deal with without having to deal with questions and cameras and spotlights.

Ironically, the media had been covering the accident all day on the local channels. I never saw it, because I was getting out the Christmas decorations so we could decorate when they got home, and I was watching a What Not To Wear Marathon. When I started calling people to tell them about their deaths, many asked if it was the accident they'd seen on TV.

However, because of the upcoming fundraiser, I decided, after consulting with their father, that I would do an interview talk about the girls and fundraiser. The reporters agreed to not question me on the accident or the trials.

I'm glad that I did the interviews. I was able to personalize Jessica and Kelli, and it gave me a venue to tell people just how fantastically fabulous these children were while they were alive. I don't think I would have been able to do it any earlier. I guess the timing was right.

I'm thankful that Maddy was included too. I don't want her to feel excluded because the focus is all on Jessica and Kelli. She was so excited to see herself on TV. She told her daycare provider that since I was famous because I was on TV, that she should be famous too. I love how her mind works.

I just wanted to say that Leisa Zigman from Channel 5 was wonderful (and soooo thin!). She put me at ease and I was so comfortable with her. Ray Preston from Channel 4 was very kind to me; Shirley Washington from Channel 2 told me I was gorgeous (bonus!) and Jeff Bernthal from Channel 11 was taller than I expected. The camera guys from these channels also did a great job of making me look less pasty and moon-faced - thanks guys!

You can see the full interviews on the websites for Channel 4 and Channel 5. They are long, but the shorter newscasts stories are on there as well. The response from the interviews has been great - I've had a lot of people visit the website and request tickets or donate items. Please try to make it out - we still have tickets available.

I'll be talking with KMOX today, which will be broadcast around 3:45 today. Give it a listen if you can.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Whipping It Up - Redux

My earlier recipe, although delicious, did not meet the criteria as it was not a new recipe to me. Oopsie.

So, even though this week's hint was pasta, I am going to submit the dessert receipe I tried over the Fourth holiday. When dessert is the hint, I'll do pasta. Because I'm a dork like that.

This recipe is slightly adapted from Stephanie at the Cupcake Project. She makes her cupcakes from scratch. I use our old family recipe passed down from Aunt Betty (Crocker).

Again, I will post pictures when my laptop stops threatening to crash. For now, enjoy Stef's. Her husband is a professional photographer. I highly recommend him.

Grilled Orange Cup Cupcakes

6 medium navel oranges
Vanilla cake mix
Your choice of frosting (I used reduced-fat chocolate)

Slice oranges in half and scoop out the pulp. Leaving some juice and pulp in is okay, the flavor will be a stronger orange flavor.

Place the orange cups into a muffin pan.

Mix cake mix according to package directions. Spoon the batter into the orange cups, filing to just below the tops. (You will probably have enough batter left over to do another 6 oranges. I baked my remaining batter in an 8x8 cake pan at 350 for 30 minutes).

Preheat your grill to medium (350-375). Place the muffin pan on the grates (I put a disposable aluminum cookie sheet under my muffin pan to reduce the charring of the pan).

Grill for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool, then frost as desired.

Was the recipe easy to follow? Yes, it was. Stef's original recipe indicated she was able to bake hers in about 10 minutes. Mine took longer, but I kept opening the lid to check them, and maybe because I had the aluminum cookie sheet under it.

Did it taste good? Yes, I got a lot of compliments, especially when I told people they were made on the grill. Using a gas grill, I did not have a smoky taste. I think if you used a charcoal grill, you might get a little more "outdoorsy" taste.

Would I try again? Yes, although it was a lot of work to scoop the oranges. Next time I would juice the oranges for fresh OJ, instead of scooping out the insides. I would also try it with chocolate batter and leave a little more pulp in the oranges.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Whipping it Up

I've joined the Whip It Up challenge and will be posting new recipes here for the next few weeks. I will post the pictures on Flickr later - I need to replace the hard drive on my laptop so I'm not downloading any pictures until I get that fixed.

This week's challenge was pasta. I decided to share my basic pasta salad recipe with you. This recipe is so easy, and you can really get creative with it by adding shrimp, chicken, vegetables, or using different cheeses and different shapes of pasta - whatever you want. I have used it as a side dish for barbecues, or added chicken and peppers and used it as a main dish for dinner.

One thing to remember with this recipe is my measurements for spices are approximate. These are merely a starting point and feel free to add or subtract to your own tastes. Mangia!

Pasta Salad:

4 cups dry pasta (I use tri-colored rotini, but you can use a mix of shell or rotini)
Bottled italian dressing (your favorite, I use Kraft fat-free house italian)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic power
2 tsp italian seasoning
2 tsp dried parsley
8 oz brick cheddar/jack cheese, cubed
1/2 C shredded parmesan cheese (can use grated if you prefer)
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Boil pasta until al dente; rinse under cold water until cool. In a serving bowl, toss the pasta with the dressing and spices until moist. Add cheese and additional dressing to moisten. Season with fresh ground pepper to taste. Chill for 1-2 hours before serving. Add more dressing if needed before serving.

Variations - to serve as a hot main dish, do not rinse. Add cooked chopped chicken, shrimp, chopped red and yellow bell peppers, sliced mushrooms, and toss with dressing and cheese as above.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Burning Down the House

Last night I was sitting on the couch watching Secret Diary of a Call Girl when I smelled something burning. It was an acrid smell, electrical and hot. I sniffed around the TV and lamp but that wasn't it. I thought maybe my air conditioner was being stupid again, so I smelled around the vents, hmmm, not there. I decided to look out the window at the outside unit to see if it was running. As I went into the dining room the smell was stronger, but the a/c unit was whirring along. Hmmm, what is it?

I headed into the kitchen and OHMYGOD IT'S IN HERE! WHERE? WHAT? DID I LEAVE A CANDLE BURNING? DAMN 100 YEAR OLD HOUSE WIRING! I opened the oven, but that wasn't the source. The refrigerator was fine. I opened my bedroom door - nope, no candles. I looked in the bathroom - not there either. I smelled outside but no, it was in my house, and definitely in my kitchen. I could see a slight haze in the air. My mind is racing - where is the fire extinguisher? I need to put on clothes (I was in my pj's), I need to get Maddy, I need to get the dogs, I need to grab the silent auction stuff off my table, oh hell oh crap oh dear God are you KIDDING ME? You're going to burn down my house? Seriously? What the hell did I do to deserve this? You take my kids, now you're going to make us homeless? I can't BELIEVE this!

As I'm alternating between anger and outright fear, I open the dishwasher and discover that the lid from Maddy's sports bottle had fallen on the heating element and had melted. Mystery solved.

I was so upset by the experience I had to sit down. My knees were shaking, my heart was racing, and I was a little dizzy from the adrenaline rush. My mind was still running a mile a minute through all the What If? scenarios. What if it was on fire? What would we do? Where would we go? What would I save? I know the experts say don't save anything, just get out. I say to hell with that. The pictures, books, papers, and personal items of Jessica and Kelli are the only tangible things I have left. I couldn't stand there and just watch them burn.

When I finally calmed down, I opened my back door to let out the burning smell. I stood on my deck and looked up at the stars. I took a few deep breaths to get some fresh air, and said a silent Thank You to God for not burning down my house. I also apologized to Him for thinking the worst.

I also turned off my dishwasher's heating element.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

This 'n That

Just a few random blurbs before the holiday weekend (and fun with bullet points!):

  • The fundraiser preparations are going great. It's nine days away, eeek! I think I'm pretty much prepared, with the exception of a few last minute details I'm working on. If you haven't already, please email me with the number of tickets you'd like, and I'll put on you the "pay at the door" list. Thank you to all who have RSVP'd already. We're gonna have a great time!
  • We have additional auction/raffle items now - an autographed Blues hockey puck from Andy McDonald; an autographed football from Tory Holt; a Hannah Montana basket; wine baskets galore; a movie basket, complete with DVDs and popcorn; two more sets of Cardinals tickets, and *drumroll* an autographed guitar from Brooks and Dunn. So Boot Scoot Boogie your way to the fundraiser for a chance at this gorgeous guitar.
  • As for holiday weekend plans, I'm taking Maddy to see Wall-E tomorrow afternoon. Craig and I are going to the Cards/Cubs game tomorrow night. I'm so excited! The weather is supposed to be gorgeous too. High in the 80s and the rain is supposed to move out by the afternoon.
  • Saturday we're having a barbecue, complete with a homemade slip and slide fashioned from a painter's tarp, baby shampoo and a hose. Can you say redneck? We'll be lighting fireworks once it gets dark. I should go ahead and put 911 on notice now.
  • Sunday we have no plans, so far. Maybe I'll take Maddy to Splash City, and I can work on my tan.
Have a safe, happy, and healthy Fourth of July! I leave you with some Japanese fireworks.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Play Ball!

To continue the saga of our Dallas trip, after perusing the livestock, hitting the bar and two-stepping, we piled into the truck and headed for Arlington to see the Texas Rangers play ball.

I love this stadium. It is about thirteen years old and was one of the first to adopt the "old-time" ballpark look, similar to how the new Busch Stadium was constructed. The new Texas Stadium, where the Cowboys play, is currently under construction near the ballpark. Hopefully the City of Arlington will be more successful at implementing their business and condo construction plans than St. Louis' Ballpark Village turned out (fishing in Lake DeWitt, anyone?).


Anyway, as you enter the stadium, they have games for the kids to play. Of course, Maddy tried them all. We also had our picture taken with the Nolan Ryan statue. He's my favorite ball player. I named my greyhound for him. Ironically, Nolan Ryan owns a minor league team named The Rockhounds. Coincidence?

We headed to the seats, which were on the second level, second row, overlooking first base. They were decent seats. My Uncle Tony was eyeballing a group of better seats over on the third base side, so after the third inning, we headed over there. We're seat pirates, we're not proud.

He has a "connection" into the Jose Cuervo Club, so after the fourth inning, and before the imminent rain started, we headed to the club. Luckily we grabbed a table just as another group was vacating it. I was hoping they all hadn't decided to head to the bathroom at once. That would have been awkward.

My uncle also knew one of the ushers in the VIP section, and she was kind enough to let Maddy stand over out of the way and watch the game through the big window. Eventually, the VIP seats started to clear out and Maddy was able to sit in the leather recliners up on the glass. I even brought her a soda. Such service for the princess!

After the game was over, (we lost), they had fireworks. We went back down to the seats and ooohed and ahhhed over the fireworks. I need to learn how to photograph fireworks, because out of the 945 pictures I took, 5 were clear. Craig asked if I'd like to watch the actual fireworks instead of seeing them through the viewfinder. I am a dork.

We were hungry post-game, so my uncle took us to my favorite place, Whataburger. Sadly, they're only in the South. Dang it. They are fantastic. I don't know what makes them so special, other than I don't eat them once a week, so maybe that's the attraction.

We headed back to the house, ate our Whataburgers, and hit the hay. It had been a long day.

Tomorrow, Sunday's trip to the Galleria and our flight home. Good times.

Pics up on Flickr.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Boots and Chaps and Cowboy Hats

While in Texas this past weekend, we went to the Ft. Worth Stockyards. In all my years of living near and/or visiting the Dallas Metroplex, I have never been there. I highly recommend going, if you're in the area. These are the actual stockyards that the longhorns were herded to and loaded up on trains headed to St. Louis, Kansas City and Chicago. They have restored the holding pens, the train depot now houses restaurants and shops, and most of the there businesses on the boulevard date from the early 1900s, like the Stockyards Hotel and Fincher's Western Wear, where there is a bar in the store. I may do all my future shopping there.

Let me tell you - it was a blast. It was also like a blast furnace - it was HOT. The high on Saturday was 98. But there was a breeze, so if you did burst into flames they'd be blown out by the wind.

What did we do? I think the question is what didn't we do:

Maddy rode a longhorn; rode a horse; ate some mesquite-smoked ribs; saw a cattle drive; got a cowboy hat; got a charm bracelet; got a western shirt and boots; two-stepped at Billy Bob's; sat on a saddle barstool and had a drink at the bar of the Stockyards Hotel; and, had a good ol' time.

Meanwhile, I took her picture on a longhorn and on a horse; ate barbecued bologna (yes, it was good); bought her a cowboy hat, bracelet, shirt and boots; danced with her at Billy Bob's; sat on the saddle next to her at the bar, and watched her have a good ol' time.

And that was just Saturday during the day.

Watch this space for Saturday night and Sunday's festitivies. I'll be uploading the 9,487 pictures on Flickr later tonight.