Thursday, December 17, 2009

Appliance Lurve

I admit that I am enamored with certain of my appliances. My Dyson and I are still going strong after two years, the steam carpet cleaner has saved my greyhound from homelessness many times, and I still get a thrill when I cook in my spankin' new stainless steel kitchen, especially when I get to use my Kitchen Aid mixer that was my favoritest Christmas present last year. It is stainless as well, because my beloved cares enough to indulge my matchy-matchy OCD.

I also admit that when I go to a store that carries major appliances, my internal radar takes me directly to the high-efficiency washers and dryers. I approach them with something akin to reverence, lightly passing my fingertips across their gleaming metallic finishes, marveling at the buttons and whistles, opening the doors and ooohing and ahhing and whispering sweet nothings and promising one day we will be together, oh yes, we will. I have actually hugged them goodbye, much to the chagrin of my shopping companions.

When we moved last year, I lobbied for a new washer and dryer. The set I owned was staying at my rental house, and husband's set, although lovely, wasn't Shiny and Steam Powered and didn't sit on a pedestal. I was vetoed.

After moving in and realizing the reason the dryer takes FOREVER to dry clothes is because we have 1.3 miles of dryer vent, I lobbied again, and I was still vetoed. "A new dryer won't solve the problem," he says. Sure, he's right and all but what fun is that?

Today I received a call from my current tenant that the dryer isn't heating up. Of course, because the new tenants will be moving in at the end of the month. The washer and dryer are probably 20 years old. They are Kenmore, made back when Sears made applicances you could count on for decades. We have had (knock wood) one repair on the washer probably 10 years ago, and replaced the heating coil on the dryer about 5 years ago. Otherwise, they run like champs. Damn it.

As my tenant was telling me about the dryer, my mind immediately began scheming to move the husband's washer and dryer to the rental house and then we could get this new set. In my mind, I could already see the set ensconced in my laundry room, washing and drying our clothes with maximum energy efficiency, while choirs of angels sang and a soft beatific glow emanated from our fluffly towels.

Wake up and smell the fabric softener - it ain't gonna happen. A - we don't have that kind of money laying around and B - there is a distinct possibility that if we empty the lint trap and replace the heat coil on the dryer, we're back in business. Damn it.

I also seem to remember that my incoming tenants have their own set, so I won't have to fix it right now anyway. Damn it.

Until then, I will have to settle for ocassional visits at my local retailer. So next time you're at Sears and you see me embracing a dryer, just do like my family does and act like you don't know me. It won't hurt my feelings.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Let's Play a Game

My office building is hosting a toy drive for Toys for Tots. The toys are being displayed in the window of the office across my mine, so when I walk through the lobby, I can see them. Among the donations of puzzles, Crayola art sets and toy trucks are board games, like Candy Land and Yahtzee.

I love board games. When I was a kid, if I told my mom I wanted a game for Christmas, I got a game - you know, a cardboard gameboard that folded in half, or quarters if it was a fancy game, dice, cards, and always little pieces we'd surely lose before Christmas day was over. Nowadays, if a kid asks for a game, it probably involves a computer or TV.

I still have my original Candy Land game somewhere, although the box is MIA and a few cards might be missing. It is a great game for little kids who can't read - just match the colors. I used to play with my little brother all the time. We'd always hope the next card we drew was the one that took you up to the Ice Cream Sea, and pray we'd never get stuck in the Molasses Swamp.

My mom used to play Yahtzee with me. She would put a kleenex in the bottom of the cup so it wouldn't make so much noise. It never failed though - I try and try to get the Large Straight filled in, and finally, just after I'd decide to give up put my total in the Chance slot, sure enough, I'd roll a large straight on the next turn.

When Trivial Pursuit came out, I was in heaven. I have so many random facts rolling around in my head, this was finally an opportunity to play a game that required knowledge and skill, and not just a random roll of the dice. I would usually win, and then people stopped playing with me. So I amused myself by reading the questions on the front, then flipping the card over and seeing if I got any right. Yes, I was a sad lonely child, why do you ask?

I think one of my favorites has to be Sorry. My brother and I would play that for hours, laughing manically when we'd send the other back to Start. My brother would take great pleasure in sliding my piece right off the board, and sometimes right off the dining room table. I swear while I was retrieiving the piece off the floor he was moving his closer to Home.

Lately I've seen TV commercials for family game nights, and I think that's a great idea. Whether you win or lose, it's not about the outcome but the memories you make.

Monday, December 7, 2009

You're Never Too Old to Believe

(A conversation between Maddy and I, last night at Sears Hardware):

Mom: Hey Mad, they have a Santa here. Want your picture taken?
Maddy: (Shoots me look of disbelief and derision) Seriously?
Mom: Oh, come on. Why not?
Maddy: Mom. Please. I am not five.
Mom: Hey, you never know. He might be the real one.
Maddy: (Again with the look) No.
Mom: (Feeling old and realizing her baby isn't a baby anymore). Okay. Let's go find the allen wrenches for your PaPa.

As we walked by the Santa, he looked, well, bored. Bless his heart, there really aren't a lot of children running around Sears Hardware at 7:00 on a Sunday night. Heck, we wouldn't have been there if I hadn't noticed the sign advertising late hours and "big savings!"

Mom: Maddy, come on. The poor guy is bored out of his mind. At least go talk to him.
Maddy: (Sighing with resignation to the fact that the sooner she does this the sooner I'll stop harassing her). Fiiiiinnnnnne. What should I ask for?
Mom: A power drill and a sliding compound miter saw.
Maddy: (Finally showing signs of excitement) Really! Do you think I'll get them? Those would be COOL!
Mom: Uh, no. Go talk to Santa.

And she did. And she survived. And I stopped harassing her. And Santa had a kid to talk to. It was a win-win all around.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Pink Tree

Last year I participated in Collinsville's Festival of Trees. I asked for ornament donations and we decorated a tree in memory of Jessica and Kelli. All the trees were then put up for auction to raise money for the local Miner's Theater. I ended up buying the tree myself last year, as it only had one other bid on it, and well, I wanted it for myelf, especially with all the donated ornaments.

We used it for our Christmas tree, which worked out as we had just moved into our new house, so it saved us some time and effort to set up the artificial tree and decorate it.

This year, I participated again. I did the same pink theme, but I didn't put any of the donated ornaments on it. I only used the pink and silver ones that I bought, along with the pink lights and pink bead garland. I did put two silver rhinestone-studded letters - J and K - right in the middle.

The dinner and auction was held last night. I checked the tree early in the night, and no bids. When I checked an hour later, there were three bids, up to $200. When I did my final check right before the end of the auction, it was up to $250. It finally sold for $265. I was so proud of my tree.

Before we left, I went to the tree and looked at it one last time. It was harder than I thought it would be to let it go. I briefly regretted not buying it, but I think I needed to let it go. If I had been a sentimental fool, I might have rubbed a branch and touched an ornament and whispered "Goodbye tree. We did good." Maybe I did, maybe I didn't. Oh, who am I kidding - I would have hugged it if I could have without knocking it over.

I hope it went to a happy home, where it will be loved and appreciated as a tribute not only to pink and shiny, but to two little girls who loved Christmas and also loved all things pink and shiny.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Rant

A recent news story about a couple who left their children in a shopping cart at Wal-Mart so they could shop on black Friday had me shaking my head and asking "what the hell?" The couple said the children would slow them down. Really? This is a reason to abandon your children in a store on the busiest shopping day of the year.

As an aside, it was a nice change of pace that the children were unharmed, as most stories do not have such a happy ending.

Last night we were at our local Kmart store. It was around 8:00 in the evening, and it was starting to get pretty chilly out. As we were getting in our car, Maddy said "Mom, there's a baby in the backseat of that car." I looked in the car window and sure enough, there was indeed a child in the carseat, sound asleep.

I wasn't sure who to call. Should I call 911? Is this an emergency, would the parents be gone before they got there? The fire department is across the street, should we go there?

One thing I did know for sure is that I did not want to be around when the parents came out. Maybe I'm a chicken but as much as I would like to get all over them, you never know how people will react. And quite frankly, if you are callous enough to leave a small child unattended in the back seat of a car in a shopping mall parking lot when it is 40 degrees outside, how are you going to react to me telling you how to parent?

I decided to go back in the store and tell the cashier at the service desk. I gave him the make and model and license plate of the car, told him where it was parked, and he immediately picked up the phone to call the police.

As we left, I kept looking back. I felt bad leaving the child, but had faith that the police would come quickly or at the very least, the driver would return. I still feel that I should have done more.

When Jessica was about 9 months old, I accidentally locked her in the car. While putting her in the car seat, I sat my purse in the floorboard. I hit the door lock, shut the door and said Oh Holy Crap my keys are in there. Of course, I did this in the parking lot of the commissary of an Air Force base. Leaving your kids in the car on base is a serious offense. I ran back to the store, babbling incoherently about keys and babies and needing a phone. I called her dad to come up with the extra key (thank God we lived on base then) and then raced back out the car to talk to her through the window. Luckily it was a mild day and she seemed perfectly content to sit there and wave at me. I just knew a base cop was going to drive by and arrest me for leaving her in the car.

Maddy told me that she routinely looks in car windows, and if she sees a baby seat she makes sure no one has left a child in the car. I'm so proud of her for being so watchful, but also saddens that she feels that she has to do that.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New Traditions

One of our long-standing Thanksgiving traditions was to drive through the light display at Our Lady of the Snows after dinner. When we started this tradition, Jessica (with some help from me) would read the boards along the way that set out the story of the birth of Jesus. As Kelli got older, she and Jessica would alternate reading, and then our last time through, Maddy was able to read some of them as well. We listen to the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack and slowly drive through the display, marveling at the beauty and just enjoying the time together.

We didn't go after our last Thanksgiving together. We had planned to go on Friday.

This year, we'll be out of town after Thanksgiving, and Maddy will be spending the holiday with her dad.

I decided this year, instead of being crabby that yet again one more tradition was ruined, we would try to start a new tradition and go through the light display early. So, we went last night. It didn't quite work out the way we planned.

I never thought I'd say I like it when it's packed, but that's part of the experience. When there are so many cars you have to turn your headlights off and idle through at a speed slower than walking, you have time to look around and see all the displays, and have time to read the boards. As we went through last night, the cars behind us that apparently wanted to go a little faster than we were, so we felt rushed. Poor Maddy was trying to read the signs as we went by, and when she came to the one about the shepherds "making haste" to see the baby Jesus, I thought, how appropriate, as that's what the people behind us are trying to do.

She did get her stuffed sheep at the end of the tour, and she decided to name it "Baaaaxter." Clever, huh?

I think we'll be going back on Sunday night when she gets home, so we can drive slow, enjoy the view, and read the signs without feeling like we have to rush our experience.

Enjoy your holiday with your family and friends.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thank You

Thank you to all who came to Applebee's last night.

Thank you to all who have attended our past fundraisers.

Thank you to those of you who have emailed, called, texted and Facebook'ed me today.

Thank you to my friends and family who help me get through every day.

Thank you to the strangers who say "I'm sorry" when they find out who I am.

Thank you. Mere words cannot convey how grateful I am.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Just One Glass


I stumbled across this on Jezebel. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, "I'll just have one glass of wine."

This glass holds an ENTIRE BOTTLE of wine. I guess if you're a red drinker it's okay, but for those of us who like our white a bit chilled, we'd have to drink fast.

I can think of several people on my Christmas list who would enjoy this.




Friday, November 6, 2009

A Good Cause

On November 17, from 2pm to 7pm, a memorial blood drive will be held at Morrison Hall on the campus of SIUE in Edwardsville. Also, since New Moon opens that Friday, November 20, we are doing a Twilight-themed blood drive - inspired, no? We will have several prizes to be raffled off, all pertaining to All Things Twilight. Sadly, neither Edward or Jacob will be present.

I think my girls would have loved Twilight. I bet Jessica would have been Team Edward, but I'm thinking Kelli might be Team Jacob, given her penchant for animals and nature.

On November 22, to mark the 2-year anniversary of their deaths, Applebee's Restaurant in Collinsville will be donating 20% of your total food bill (excluding alcohol) to The Jessica Uhl Scholarship Fund at SIUE and the Kelli Uhl Scholarship Fund. You can either eat inside or you can use their Carside to Go feature. Please stop by, grab some good food and help us raise some money for their memorial scholarships.

Two years. My God. It still feels like yesterday.

Friday, October 30, 2009

You Should Write a Book

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. Your mission, should you accept it, is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. That's 1,666.7 words per day, for those of you keeping score at home.

Some of you may have heard of NaNoBloMo, which is the easier challenge of posting on your blog every day for a month.

I had heard of NaNoBloMo and thought about doing that, but wondered if it was something I would really want to do. Post every day? How hard is that? But I believe in quality over quantity, which is one reason why my posting has been so sporadic lately. I didn't want to post for the sake of posting.

So, I have commited to writing the novel. Ironically, I have had the outline of a story banging around in my head for quite a while, but never could get it out of my head and onto the page, so to speak. This challenge has given me the mental kick in the butt that I needed to tell myself, "Self, we're gonna do this."

I wasn't going to tell anyone until I was done, but then I figured I'd be more apt to finish this challenge if I had people asking me how it was going. So, surprise! I'm writing a book.

The challenge is still open, if you'd like to join me in writing a novel, or just posting every day. Visit the links above to sign up.

This should be interesting, on many levels.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hello Again

Hello there. Yes, I know, it's been three weeks since I've posted. That's the longest, I think, that I've gone without writing here.


I don't have any good excuse or reason for not writing. It results from a culmination of a lot of little annoyances rolling up into one great big ball of bleck. You know, like being sick, the fact that it has RAINED damn near EVERY DAY in October (and no, I'm not exaggerating, this is the wettest October on record), and it's getting colder and darkness is coming earlier, and I love my job but hate the hour-long commute, and wah wah wah. See what I mean? It's just sad.

The kicker is that writing is part of my therapy - I feel better after I get it out of me, so to speak. But everytime I'd start something, it would devolve into a pity party or a rant, and I just don't want to be That Blogger Who Whines All The Time. Occasionally, it's okay to let it all out, but this was just getting ridiculous. So I didn't post it. But I did write it. And then I felt a little better.


Anyway. Onward I trudge.


Married life is good. I'm in the process of changing my name and isn't that paperwork fun? Although the Social Security office was pretty painless - I only had to wait about 5 minutes for an employee to do my paperwork. I guarantee the driver's license wait won't be that short. Boys have it so easy - they don't have to change anything.

Maddy is playing basketball on her class team. I'm happy to see her playing a sport that she enjoys and that she's pretty good at, too. She's getting so tall. It seems that over the last few months she's gotten taller and thinner, too. Not that she was fat, but she's starting to look like a teenage girl. Because I'm ready for that phase.

Overall, life is good, if I stop whining long enough to realize that it's really not all that bad.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Beginning at The End of The Rainbow


After checking the weather forecast all week and watching the forecast change daily, ranging from a chance of rain ranging anywhere between 30% to 70%, then isolated storms, and then mostly cloudy, I gave up trying to plan and just hoped for the best.

Saturday morning dawned clear, with just a few wispy clouds. I started my day at 6 am and tried to run off my nervous energy. As I returned home I could see some clouds building in the distance but the sky was mostly clear. I held out hope for a good day.

As my bridesmaids began to arrive for hair and makeup, I watched the sky go from clear, to partly cloudy, to gray, and then to black. At noon, it started pouring rain, complete with thunder and lightening. It even knocked the power out briefly, but service was restored after I looked skyward and yelled “Come on!? Can’t I have something go right?!?” Perhaps I was a little tense.

We loaded up the dresses and flowers onto the bus, ducking the drizzle and trying not to ruin our hair. As we got closer, the clouds began to thin out and the sun began to shine. As the sky brightened, so did my mood. Perhaps that was the end of it, and we’d get lucky the rest of the day.

For the next two and a half hours, we had sunshine and blue sky for all our pre-ceremony pictures. However, as I was making my final preparations before my walk down the aisle, I could see a nice big black thunderhead bearing down on us. Maybe it would hold off for about 30 minutes so we could get the ceremony in before it got ugly.

As my dad and I took our places in the processional line, I could see that it wasn’t raining yet, and that the sky still seemed clear. Once we opened the door and started down the aisle, we were greeted with a huge clap of thunder and it began to sprinkle. The sky still seemed mostly clear, so maybe we could give these nice people a wedding, then get inside before they got soaked.

No. Such. Luck. Those of us in the wedding party were up on the rocks under the canopy of trees and were spared most of the deluge. My wedding guests – not so much. A lot of them ran for cover inside, but those who stayed out were soaked.

Our wedding coordinator snagged a big golf umbrella from a guest, and the best man became our valet. I kept looking at Craig and laughing, just because it kept me from crying.

As we took the roses to our mothers, huddled under their umbrellas, I was able to see the remaining wedding guests in all their drowned-rat glory. I felt horrible but what could I do? The one detail that was out of my control was literally out of control.

As we took our places once again in front of the pastor, I looked over Craig’s shoulder to see how the groomsmen were fairing. My brother caught my eye and made an arcing motion with his hands. I shot him a look of “huh?” and he mouthed “rainbow” and pointed behind me.

I turned to look and sure enough –there was a glorious bright rainbow…wait, there were two. Two rainbows stood out clear and gorgeous against the steel gray sky.

The rain let up just in time for us to be introduced as Mr. and Mrs. to the 14 remaining water-logged guests, and make our way back inside. As we passed, people told me that rain on your wedding day was good luck. We should be blessed, then, with the amount of rain we got.

Ironically, our first dance was “I Can See Clearly Now, The Rain Is Gone.” We had chosen that song months prior, as it was the song we danced to the night we were engaged. It wound up being spot-on.

The rest of the evening went off without a hitch. Of course.

I think the two rainbows were Jessica and Kelli’s way of saying hi. I also think the rain was their idea, too, just to make me remember that into each life, some rain must fall. It makes you appreciate the sunshine that much more.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

If I'm So Happy, Why Am I Crying?

For the last couple of weeks, I have been an emotional basket case. I'm weepy by nature anyway, but sappy commercials, sad stories, and even certain music are causing me to cry like a little girl.

Case in point - I was watching Dancing with the Stars last night, and started sobbing when Kelly Osborne ran across the dance floor to hug her dad. And then when I saw Sharon - I lost it. I'm tearing up while I'm writing this. I want to tell me SUCK IT UP YA BIG BABY!

I know that's it's probably all due to this wedding thing coming up this weekend, and the emotional cocktail I've been swimming in is finally catching up to me. (Mmmm, cocktails).

On one hand, I'm all happy and in lurve and looking forward to getting married to a great guy who has been my rock lo these last couple of years. On the other hand, planning a wedding is great fun overall, but my gawd the details can kill your buzz faster than you can say "chocolate fountain" (which we aren't having - white dress + melted chocolate + klutzy bride = dry cleaning nightmare).

And yes, I know, I shouldn't get bogged down in the minutae and but should focus on the big picture. However, certain things must be addressed, like who is sitting where and what are we eating, and we might want to pick a song for the bridal party dance.

Of course, the fact that not only will I be missing some important members of my family doesn't help with the waterworks.

I miss my mom a lot, but lately I've missed even more. She never got to see me get married. Brian and I eloped, and then we told our parents. When we went home to introduce her to her new son-in-law, she told me she had an eye doctor appointment the following week, because her eyes were starting to see double images. She received her MS diagnosis a couple of weeks later.

We didn't have a close relationship when I was a teenager, but after I was married and had Jessica, we began to get close. She told me about her childhood, and how it shaped her and affected her parenting. Having a child of my own, I began to appreciate how hard raising a kid can be. She apologized for her actions, and I apologized for not being a good kid. And then she was gone. Five years after her diagnosis. The MS attacked her brain and never relented.

So on Saturday morning, I will pin her wedding ring inside my dress as my something old, spritz on a little of her signature scent, Chanel No. 5, and walk out with my dad, missing her but knowing that I am the daughter she can finally be proud of.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Breaking News

The trooper's criminal trial date of November 2, 2009 has been postponed to March 22, 2010.



I'm disappointed that it is being continued, but am trying to take comfort in the fact that it's not continued into April or May, considering the holiday season is fast approaching.


I haven't heard if this will affect the civil trial date of October, but my Magic 8 Ball would probably return the response, "All Signs Point to Yes."


But what can I do about it? Absolutely nothing.

In the meantime, we'll remember the good times.




Tuesday, September 15, 2009

And, We're Back

Last week wasn't as bad as I expected. Quite frankly, it was a waste of lipstick. The line of questioning had very little to do with Jessica and Kelli. It was almost as if the deposition was scheduled just so it could be checked off a list. It was very frustrating, and I can't believe I burned a day of vacation for it.

There are some other actions starting to churn, but nothing concrete right now. Again, very frustrating.

So, I move on and look ahead to the near future.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Responsibility and Chocolate

I am sitting at my desk, staring a piece of chocolate goodness. I haven’t opened the plastic container, but it appears to be a brownie with chocolate frosting, drizzled in white chocolate and topped with crushed Oreos.

I don’t know why I bought it. I don’t want to eat it.

Actually, I do want to eat it, but I know won’t enjoy it. I bought it on an impulse, a fleeting hope that eating it would make me feel better. It might, for a brief few moments. After that, I’ll be beating myself up over it.

I’ve been doing so well with not gorging myself on random food, but being conscious of what I eat and when and why. Craig and I have been walking a lot, and we just joined the gym. I feel better, I’m sleeping well, and I like that I’m seeing results, both physically and emotionally.

I am an emotional eater, but I don’t always overeat. Sometimes I don’t eat at all, or limit my eating to just what I need to get through the day. When I’m nervous, I eat. Right now I’m in overeat mode, and I’m fighting it.

I’m not nervous about the wedding, at least not yet.

Tomorrow I have to convey to an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Illinois how the deaths of my daughters have shattered me. How it has affected every facet of my life.

Tomorrow I have to describe how I have struggled with anger, grief, depression, rage, sadness, emptiness and loneliness, among others. I have to illustrate Jessica and Kelli with words – their personalities, their lives, their impact on the world, and how that world is so diminished now.

I go in there tomorrow to tell this attorney that not only did I lose my daughters, but so did their father. Their siblings lost sisters. Their grandparents lost grandchildren. Family, friends, teachers, employers, community members –I am the representative of everyone who has been changed by their deaths.

I willingly shoulder this responsibility and welcome the opportunity. I know can do this.

It still makes me nervous.

I have to do them proud.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Holiday

My good friend Melody just got a job, after being out of work just about as long as me.

Our offices are now fairly close to each other, and yesterday we were making lunch plans for next week. We decided to meet on Monday.

Today, we realized that Monday is a holiday. This tells you how long we've been out of work.

I'm looking forward to this 3-day weekend, as I really don't have any big plans. I mean, I have things I want to do, but I don't have anything I need to do. I'd like to plant some mums, but I don't have to. I'd like to clean out my closet, but it's not necessary.

I feel like I've been packing my days to the limit, trying to check off everything on my list in the short time I'm alloted. But is it really an accomplishment if I'm exhausted and cranky?

So this weekend will be time for me to recharge and regroup, and do what I want to do, instead of telling myself I have to.

What are your plans?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Settling In

*Note - I accidentally posted this on my Marriage 3.0 blog, so if you read it over there already, excuse the repeat.


I'm starting my third week of work, and I feel pretty comfortable here. Luckily there haven't been any more, uh, incidents, shall we say? I also found the stairwell that goes to all the floors.


The basic job requirements are similar to what I've done before - type, answer the phone, make travel arrangements, etc. - but the industry is much different. The terms and acronyms that I hear bandied about in my area are still mostly a foreign language, but I'm picking up on them slowly. When I hear something that I can translate now, I'm pretty proud of myself. Lame, perhaps, but it makes me feel a little more connected to my job.


My commute is also much better now since I found a shortcut to work. Part of my drive winds through a beautiful residential area, and although I'm only going 30 mph, I'm constantly moving instead of sitting on the highway in traffic trying to avoid being hit by the other drivers who furiously change lanes in the hopes of finding the lane that's moving.


Jessica had a theory - roll down your car windows and turn up your favorite song, and let all your troubles fly out the window. On my drive to work now, I can open my car windows and sunroof and let out my troubles and let in the fresh air and sunshine on the way in to work. It puts me in a good mood.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Give Back, Don't Give Up

When I hear stories about children who have died, my heart aches. On my List of Things to Ask God, finding out the answer to that one is pretty high up.

In the last couple of months, there have been many stories about children in the St. Louis area who have died. One in particular was a young girl died while on vacation in Costa Rica when her ATV went off a cliff.

I found her memorial website, and read about their plans to hold an annual benefit on her birthday. I was so touched by their story that I left a comment explaining who I was and that I also hold a benefit for Jessica and Kelli. Her mother, Jennifer, responded to me. She asked what kind of benefit we hosted, and I gave her the details. She also asked for whatever guidance I could give her to deal with Brooke's death.

I told her, "I find that writing about them, while painful, is cathartic as well. By writing about them, I introduce them to a larger audience, even outside the US, and make people aware of not only how they died, but how they lived. I realize the impact that they had on their friends, family and even strangers. I pass on the good that they embodied and that I am trying to keep alive by my community efforts."

The community, both local and global, has been so supportive. I am still receiving emails and donations a month after the fundraiser. I know that Jessica and Kelli would want to repay that kindness by helping others, whether by scholarships, food drives, dress donations, planting trees or giving blood.

Jessica and Kelli were smiling, happy, kind-hearted girls who loved helping others. I do things that I know they would support, and would have loved being a part of, like the prom dress donation.

So I give back. I can't give up and just let this sadness drag me down. Believe me, there are days that I physically feel the weight of my grief. And those are the days that I drag myself to the mirror, and hear their voices saying, "Geez mom, brush your hair, and put on some lipstick!" So I do. I see their pictures smiling at me and I can't help but smile back.

That's what gets me through. Creating a positive result from a senseless tragedy. It's not easy, it's not the magic cure, but it's all I've got.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Whipping It Up - The Grand Finale

This week's theme was to recreate your favorite takeout. I chose Outback's Alice Springs Chicken, accompanied by Red Robin's Garlic Parmesan Fries.

Alice Springs Chicken:

Two chicken breasts
1 tsp season salt
2 strips thick cut bacon, cut in half
1 T olive oil
1 T honey mustard
1 small can mushroom slices, drained
1/2 c shredded colby/jack cheese

Pound chicken breasts to about 1/2 thick and rub with season salt. Let them sit for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon, and drain on paper towels. Drain off most of the bacon fat, then add the olive oil. Cook the chicken breasts until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the skillet, coat with honey mustard, top with bacon, mushrooms and cheese. Return to the skillet and cover with a lid until the cheese melts.


Garlic Parmesan Fries

1/2 bag frozen steak fries
1/4 c parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1 T parsley

Combine the cheese, garlic and parsley in a small bowl. Sprinkle half the mix over the frozen fries and bake according to the package directions. Flip the fries halfway during cooking and sprinkle with the remaining mixture.


Was it easy? The chicken was pretty much a one-pan meal, which is nice for quick weeknight dinners. The original recipe called for letting the chicken sit for about an hour with the season salt, but I only let it sit about 15 minutes. It was still good and you could taste the seasoning.

The fries were pretty easy, too.

Did it taste good? Yes, the chicken was pretty tasty. I made up the fries recipe, and although they were good, I think I spritz them with some olive oil after baking, then sprinkle with the cheese, The garlic didn't stick to the fries very well.

Will I make it again? I will make the chicken again, and keep experimenting with the fries.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Co-Workers Think I'm A Snot

I started my new job on Monday. Actually, I went in for a couple of hours on Friday so the current assistant could show me around. However, my official first full day was Monday.

I like the job so far. Everyone is very nice and helpful, and it seems like a relaxed place to work. However, in the two days I've been there, I've had a few "oh good lord" moments.

Monday morning I had orientation. As my desk is on the first floor and I needed to go to the third floor, I decided to take the stairs. As I ascsended the second flight, I saw a door, but no more stairs. Oh. Crap. We don't have offices on the second floor, so I had a brief moment of panic that the stairwell door was locked. Much to my relief, it wasn't. I looked around but I couldn't find the stairwell for the rest of the floors, so I ended up taking the elevator anyway. Only I could screw up taking the stairs.

Once I returned safely to my desk, I began working on a project. As I was busily typing away, looking all kinds of efficient and professional, I crossed my ankles under my desk and my monitor went dark. I had managed to kick the power strip switch into the off position. Well. Damn. As I scrounged under my desk to turn it back on and to move it to a safe position, I heard footsteps and figured someone was coming to my desk to say welcome. As I emerged (praying I wouldn't bonk my head underneath my desk) I hit my chair and it rolled backward into the nice young man who had indeed stopped by to say hello. However, it was his last day so I don't have to avert my eyes in shame if I pass him in the hallway.

The rest of Monday went smoothly, except for the horrible awful no good very bad traffic and pouring rain that I endured on my way home. We shall not speak of it anymore.

Today, I went out for lunch, and when I returned I decided to park in the parking garage, as there was a chance of rain again this afternoon. I had to park down a level and way in the back in the common folk spots. I decided to take the stairs up to the street level, to try to make up for yesterday's failure (and to offset the bag of Qdoba in my hand). I quickly jogged up the parking garage steps, feeling all virtuous and healthy, crossed the parking lot, opened the building doors and strode through the lobby like I belonged there. Then I realized that someone had brought in potted plants and also stolen the the office door while I was at lunch. Upon closer inspection, I was in the wrong building. Oh. Good. Gawd. So, I strode through the lobby like I belonged somewhere else and crossed the parking lot to my building.

As for being a snot, I've had a cold, or allergies, or swine flu since Sunday night and have gone through an entire box of tissues. I am courteous enought to sneeze three or four times as a warning before I'm going to be blowing my nose. I do have some lovely Nectarine Mint hand santizer from Bath and Body Works that I slather all over my hands. That's all I need - to infect our CEO.

So, here is hoping that tomorrow I don't get lost, turn off my computer, run over someone with my chair, or pass my germs around the office.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Whipping it Up Week 7

This week's challenge was to make a recipe from your favorite chef. I chose this spinach and artichoke french bread pizza from Rachael Ray. I found the recipe earlier this week, and decided to use it as an appetizer for a cocktail party on Friday. I've been craving it all week. Yum-O!

Spinach-Artichoke French Bread Pizza

1 loaf french bread, quartered
2 T butter
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 T flour
1 1/2 C Milk
1 pinch nutmeg
2 boxes frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (I used 1 bag fresh baby spinach, chopped)
1 box frozen artichoke hearts
1/2 C grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 C mozzerella or provolone
2 T chopped fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place the bread on a baking sheet.

In a medium skillet, melt the butter and oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cooked until softened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the flour for 1 minute, then whisk in the milk and season with the nutmeg. Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Pull the spinach apart then add to the sauce. Fold in the artichokes and cook until heated through. Stir in the parmesan, and remove from heat.

Spread the spinach mixture on the bread, then top with the mozzerella. Bake about 10-12 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Top with the thyme.


Was it good? My stars, yes, it was good. Everyone raved over it. One friend took some home to her husband, and he loved it as well.

Was it easy? It was pretty easy. Not a last-minute recipe, since you have to thaw the artichokes and spinach, but you could use jarred artichoke hearts and fresh spinach.

Will I make it again? I might use this as a dip instead of spreading it on the bread, and add some roasted red peppers. It was fantastic, though, the way the recipe is written.

Friday, August 14, 2009

B Is For...

Bacon sizzling in the pan:


Backpack:

Breakfast for strong bodies and brains:

Bus approaching, signalling the end of summer:



Big bad fifth-grader off to school:




Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The End of an Era

My friends, it has been a great time, but now I must bid farewell to my leisurely pace of living, and bust out the pinstripes and heels.

Yes, I am once again gainfully employed. Praise the Lord.

I cannot tell you how much of a relief this is. I'm happy, so happy.

Thanks for your well wishes, prayers, encouraging words, support, and happy thoughts during the past five months. It helped so much more than I can ever convey.

I start my new adventure on Monday. I can't wait.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Whipping It Up Weeks 5 and 6

I slacked a little last week and missed my Whip It Up entry for week 5. The theme was "spicy," which came in handy when I was craving tacos and had no taco seasoning. A quick search of Allrecipes gave me a few options, but they all made 24-32 servings. As it was just the husband-elect and I, and I didn't have anything to store the excess in, I scaled it back to 6 servings.

Here is the recipe I used:

1T flour
2 T onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 T chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cilantro
1 tsp salt

Combine the spices, then add 2-3 T and 2/3 c water per 1 pound of browned ground beef. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Did it taste good? It was lacking something. At first I only used 2 T of the mix, and after monkeying with it by adding a little bit of onion or cumin, I finally added another tablespoon of the mixture. That helped. It still lacked some spice.

Was it easy? Yes, I had all the spices in my pantry, so it was just a matter of mix and measure.

Will I make it again? The original recipe as scaled called for 1/4 cup of chili powder, which I thought was excessive, so I only used 2 T. In light of the lack of spice, I may add more chili powder next time. I will make it again, once I buy an empty glass jar to store the excess mixture.

*****

Now, week 6 is "appetizers." Earlier in the week, my darling husband-elect told me about a family reunion this Sunday. I asked him if we needed to bring anything and he said he'd ask his parents. Fast forward to Saturday night, when I again asked if we needed to bring anything and he said Oh, I'll call my parents. When he told me his mom was bringing a salad, I knew we'd need to take something as well. Besides, I hate going to a potluck empty-handed, so off to the computer to find a new and exciting appetizer recipe.

I found this at Allrecipes. It sounded intriguing, and all the reviews were at least 4 stars. It is an Italian layered cheese appetizer. After reading the reviews, I didn't use the sun-dried tomatoes, but used roasted red peppers.

Italian Torte

10 slices provolone cheese
3 oz sun-dried tomatoes (I used 8 oz roasted red peppers)
2 pkg cream cheese, softened
1 clove garlic, minced
8 oz pesto

Whip the cream cheese and garlic until well blended.

Line a medium bowl or loaf pan with a large piece of dampened cheese cloth. Layer with 1/3 of the provolone cheese. Spread with 1/2 the pesto. Pour in 1/2 the cream cheese and garlic mixture. Layer with 1/2 the sun-dried tomatoes. Layer with 1/3 provolone, remaining pesto, remaining cream cheese and garlic mixture and remaining sun-dried tomatoes. Top with remaining provolone cheese.

Pull cheese cloth around the layered mixture and gently press into a bowl to mold and remove excess oil. Chill in the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours. Remove cheese cloth and turn upside down onto a large dish to serve. Spread onto crostini or use pita chips to dip.

Was it easy? The ingredients were all readily available at my local grocery store, and the assembly was pretty straightforward. I did have to hunt for cheesecloth, which I finally found over by the paint and varnish section.

Was it good? Well, it's 9:30 am and the reunion isn't until this afternoon, so I'll have to update this section later. However, I love garlic and pesto and red peppers and cheese, so I can't imagine how it could be bad.

Will I make it again? My husband-elect looked over the recipe while I was making it, and he said "it doesn't sound like something I'd dip into." He might change his mind after he tries it. But again, since it's still in the refrigerator, I'll have to update this part.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Update

I had my final interview this morning with Major Company. I think it went really well. She did say there were two other candidates to interview. I'm hoping I impressed the VP enough to offer me the position.

So, this is it. I either did my best and they like me, or I did my best and they didn't like me. Bottom line is I did my best.

I also heard back from the other Major Company, who went with another candidate. However, they might have another legal-related position in the near future, so the HR rep said she'd keep my information on file.

I also got an email from one of my readers with a link to a Major University job website, which was very sweet of her. I'll be perusing that website, and I'll keep looking while I wait for the decision.

I'm hoping, and wishing, and praying...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Roller Coaster

I haven't been on a roller coaster in years. Even though I'm in close proximity to Six Flags, I just don't have the desire to go stand in line for 20 minutes to enjoy 60 seconds of "whoo-hoo!"

Besides, I get enough of the "whee! I'm flying...oh no, I'm plummeting!" in my day-to-day life. For example, this morning when I checked my email, I had a message from one of the the Major St. Louis Companies with which I had interviewed last week. My inbox shows the beginning of the message, which started out "Thank you for your interest in our company..." and I just knew the rest of it was rejection. I squashed my initial immature desire to just delete it, and read the email - yep, they went with another candidate. I knew they had an in-house applicant and chances are she got the job.

As I was pouting and whining (to my dogs, as no one else is home right now), my phone rang. It was another Major St. Louis Company, with which I had a second interview yesterday. They were inquiring whether I could come in tomorrow for a final interview with the bigwig that I'd be supporting. As I mentally scrambled to re-arrange a few appointments I already had, I very calmly said, "Yes, I know you are looking to fill this position quickly, so I can certainly come in tomorrow." So, I go again tomorrow morning, hopefully to impress the bigwig with my professional demeanor, mad skillz, and general "hire me you won't regret it" attitude.

And then I did the happy dance with my dogs. Who knew greyhounds were so light on their feet?

So who knows if I'll stay up on this sunny peak, or plummet back down into the black pit of despair. You can bet I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Looking for Control

I'm desperately seeking some control in my life. (I'm also seeing control for my flubby midsection so I'm not all lumpy in my wedding dress, but that's another story).

As a card-carrying member of the Control Freaks Club, the last 18 months have been pretty hard on me. Obviously I had no control over someone killing my daughters, nor have I had any control over the courts and their schedules. Although the dates are set, there is always the possibility of rescheduling. I had no control over my job being cut, and I've had no control over those who call me in for numerous interviews, only to be still sitting here with no job. Or even any control over those who never acknowledge that I've applied for the job they advertised. That is frustrating with a capital Eff.

As much as I would love to be a go-with-the-flow kinda gal, it's hard to change a lifetime habit. I am trying really hard to be less screech-y when things don't go the way I meticulously planned. I feel that I've made a little progress, but oh my sometimes it is so hard to just let it go and keep my mouth shut and remember that it's not all bad. I have so many blessings and life really doesn't suck all the time.

So I find myself being even more detail-oriented (or anal, if you will) than normal. My dime-store psychology degree tells me that my overwhelming need to organize my cupboards, pantry, closet and desk are my ways of asserting a little control over my life. Or maybe I'm just tired of looking through a jumbled-up mess for what I want.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Going Back for Seconds

My job hunting has been in high gear these past couple of weeks. I've interviewed with three separate companies, all well-known and well-respected, and all headquartered in St. Louis.

Today I had a second interview with one company in the morning, and an initial interview with a different company in the afternoon. At the end of that meeting, we were already talking times for a second interview, possibly on Friday.

All three are great companies to work for with good benefit packages. Each position would be a challenge, and each position offers advancement.

I might just become un-unemployed. Stay tuned....

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Whip It Up Week 4

This week's theme was "Healthy Choices." This pie may taste rich and decadent, but it is relatively low-cal and low-fat. Add some fresh fruit and it's almost too good for you.

No-Bake Cheesecake
2 8 oz. packages low-fat or fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/3 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 8 oz tub lite Cool Whip
9" low-fat graham cracker crust
Sliced fresh fruit, such as strawberries or kiwi

Whip the softened cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until well blended. Fold in the Cool Whip until thoroughly mixed. Pour into the crust and refrigerate at least 3 hours, but overnight is best.
Top with fresh fruit and enjoy!
Was it good? Yes, it was very good. You couldn't tell that it was low-fat, it tasted that good. It tasted better after it had sat overnight.
Was it easy? Yes, it was pretty much a one-bowl dessert.
Will I make it again? Definitely.

*The only picture I have is below, because my camera battery was dead when I was making this.


Where Have You Been, Young Lady!?!

Hi there, remember me? I used to write on this blog quite often. Yes, I know, I haven't written all week, and I'm sorry. I've been busy! Want proof? Read on....

On Monday, I recovered from the fundraiser. We raised about $2,000 which will go toward establishing a scholarship at the high school in Kelli's name. We had so much food left over, so I donated that to Operation Food Search - they were so thrilled to have it.

On Tuesday, I had a job interview - yay! I think it went well, but we shall see if I get called back for a second interview. It's in the legal department of a a major corporation headquartered in St. Louis. It would be a great opportunity to get on with this company, so fingers crossed!

I also took Maddy shopping, as she is going to Florida next week. You can't go on vacation with old clothes, right? We didn't buy the hat or sunglasses, but I think she looks cute as heck!


On Wednesday, I delivered the dresses to Big Brothers/Big Sisters. They were very grateful for the dresses - I think we had over 30 dresses to donate. She told me the girls that receive the dresses are thrilled, and that I would have to come to the next event to see what our donations do for these young ladies. I can't wait!

On Thursday, I cleaned house and cooked dinner for my soon-to-be-in-laws. I made a rich, delicious yet low-cal pie for dessert, and for my Whip It Up submission this week. Yummy!
On Friday, I took Maddy and her friend to Splash City for some fun in the sun.

Then, Friday night, I started removing the LAST OF THE WALLPAPER! Hooray! Here it is before:


On Saturday, I painted my dining room. I love this green color - it's so fresh and clean, and really makes the white trim look even brighter.

Also, while all the furniture was out of the room, I cleaned the carpet. I also dusted out the china cabinet and de-cobwebbed the light fixture. I'm a veritable whirlwhind of clean!

Today is Sunday, and I just finished filling out an application for a job interview tomorrow with a communications company in St. Louis. This job was referred to me by one of my blog readers - thanks DeAnna!

We're having company for dinner again, and tonight we are having stuffed pork tenderloin, Keller corn on the cob, new potatoes and for dessert - peach cobbler from my mother's recipe.

I still need to move the table and chairs back into the dining room, and hang up the curtains on the rod I bought back in January. I guess I better do that before my company gets here.

So, that was my week. What did you do?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Whipping It Up Week 3

The theme this week was "Hometown Favorites." I had big plans for this week and then I got busy with my daughters' fundraiser, and next thing I know it's Saturday night and I'm running to the grocery store.

At the store, I passed by a display of homegrown peaches from a local orchard. I love peaches. They taste like summer to me. I remember spending summers with my grandparents in Texas, and going to my great-aunt's house to pick peaches. After dinner, my Mammaw would slice them up in aluminum pie pans, and we'd sit outside on the front porch in the dusk, listening to the Rangers ballgame on the radio, eating peaches still warm from the sun, and drink iced tea.
I must stop this reminiscing, because I'm drooling on my keyboard.

*blots*

I decided that Peach Shortcake would be our dessert tonight. The recipe, as invented by me tonight in the produce section, is as follows:


5 peaches
1 container peach glaze
1 angel food cake
Whipped cream or whipped topping, if you like



Slice the peaches and cover with glaze; refrigerate for about an hour. Slice the angel food cake, top with peaches and a dollop of whipped topping.

Was it easy? Quite.
Did it taste good? Oh my yes.
Will I make it again? As long as the local peaches are in season.

Enjoy!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Last Minute Prep

This morning I was running some last minute errands for the fundraiser, one of which was to pick up the tablecloths and the supplies for the centerpieces. I am using tissue-paper pineapples on half the tables for Jessica, and the half for Kelli will be multi-colored leis in these really cool bowls made of old record albums (courtesy of the awesomeness that is Courtney).

I arrived at the carnival supply store, loaded up my basket with bright colored table covers, found the cool pineapple cups that Maddy wanted, and then wandered over to where the leis were. I saw a few leis laying loose in a basket, but I needed more than that - a case of them, to be exact. I asked the clerk if they had any more in stock, and she said "oh, that's all we have, until our truck comes in on Monday." MONDAY?!?

Inside my head I could hear Kelli saying "oh sure, Mom, you got JESSICA'S stuff, but for MY STUFF you wait until the last minute! Jeez!"

In my defense, when I stopped in a few weeks ago, this store had boxes of leis for sale. Apparently the luau theme is popular, because today? 37 lonely leis remained. I bought them, then wondered how I would conjure up 107 additional ones.

The clerk gave me a couple of suggestions of alternative retailers, and I lucked out with the first guy. He had 5 cases in stock. Now he has 4. He is my hero today. Kelli would be so happy.

My dining room is Fundraiser Central right now, covered in donations, papers and other assorted what-not. I'm trying to line up everything so I can be as expedient and organized as possible on Sunday. However, I'm sure something will go wonky and I'll be running amok at the last minute as usual.

But it's for an awesome cause and I just can't get too upset.

The local paper is running a story about the fundraiser, and I will be doing an interview with KMOV Channel 4 on Saturday. I am so grateful for the publicity for this cause. I'm hoping for a great turnout, not just to benefit the scholarship funds, but also to benefit the food pantry and the prom dress drive.

The more the merrier, so stop by if you can.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cooking For a Cause

I recently met a lovely woman named Rachel, who is a Pampered Chef consultant. She asked if I wanted to do a Pampered Chef party as a fundraiser for Jessica and Kelli.


If you are interested in purchasing products, visit this link here. From this page you can order your products, with 10-15% of the total going to their scholarship funds. If you book a party, I will get a $3.00 bonus as well.


The pizza stone incident notwithstanding, I love Pampered Chef products. My latest "how did I live without this?" product is the Pineapple Wedger. It's like an apple wedger, but made larger for pineapples. Genius!

The link is good until July 31, 2009.

Thank you in advance for your purchase.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

120 Lives and Counting

Yesterday was the memorial blood drive at SIUE for Jessica and Kelli, which collected about 40 units of blood. Considering each unit can possibly save up to three lives, we potentially affected 120 people.

The cable barriers along I-64 are being installed to prevent crossover accidents. Who knows how many lives will be saved by preventing cars from crossing the median and injuring or killing others.

Something I hear a lot is, "I don't know how you do it." How do I keep going, every day, knowing that a senseless act took two of my children? How do I keep living when two of my beautiful babies are dead? How do I keep from curling up in the fetal position, crying my head off?

I keep moving forward and doing positive things in their memories. It's all I can do. I don't know why they were taken. I hope there will be a reason or a meaning revealed to me eventually.

I do know that the more I can do to keep their memories alive through blood drives, scholarships, tree plantings, fundraisers, food drives, and looking at their pictures everyday and smiling back at their faces - that's how I make it through.

I draw on the positives especially after reading something like this. Even though it's nothing I didn't already know, it still hurts.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Putting the "Fun" In "Fundraiser"

This Sunday is the Second Annual Jessica and Kelli Uhl fundraiser, to raise money for their scholarship funds. I have silent auction donations ranging from Cardinal tickets, autographed Rams footballs, to handmade Christmas stockings and an adorable doggie-themed basket. I can always use more items, so if you have anything you'd like to donate, bring it on.

I'm so excited about the Pineapple Paradise prom theme. I found a Cinderella-style ball gown that I might be more jazzed about than my wedding dress. We found a vintage tux for Craig that you will have to see to believe.

I have several prom dresses donated already, and the Collinsville Food Bank was thrilled when I told them I was collecting food for them.

Tickets are available at the door on Sunday. Please take a few hours out of your Sunday to come by, get some fried chicken, drop off a few canned goods and contribute to the memorial scholarships for my daughters.

We are also having a blood drive on Tuesday from 3pm to 7pm at SIUE. This is our first blood drive, and I hope to have a great turnout. Jessica volunteered for The Red Cross, and I thought it was a great way to raise awareness about the scholarship funds and also contribute to the community and possibly save a life.

Need more info for the fundraiser or blood drive? Visit the official website of Jessica and Kelli here.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Whip It Up Week 2 - Guilty Pleasures

This week's Whip It Up theme is Guilty Pleasures. Man, is that a wide open category or what?
My weakness lately is anything deep fried. I'm trying to be calorie-conscious so I fit into my wedding dress, but sometimes you've just got to splurge a little.
When I went to my brother's house in Tennessee last weekend, we popped into a local tavern for some shuffleboard and a few beers. When I saw that they served served deep-fried pickles, I immediately placed an order. Man, these are my favorites. Kosher dill spears, breaded and deep fried - is there anything better? Well, I suppose if you're not a pickle fan, probably.
I decided to try to re-create these little slices of heaven in my own kitchen. Here is the recipe I used (scaled down to serve 2 people):



1/2 c Italian bread crumbs
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 egg, beaten
5 kosher dill spears
Oil for deep frying

Preheat oil in a deep fryer to 350 degrees.

Drain pickle spears and pat dry with paper towels.

Mix bread crumbs and spices in a shallow dish. In a separate dish, beat the egg.


Dip pickles in egg, then in breading.

Fry pickles for 2-3 minutes or until the breading is lightly browned. Drain on paper towels until slightly cooled.


Now, the review:

Was it easy? I think so. I had all the ingredients in my pantry. Ordinarily I wouldn't have dragged out my deep fryer for only 5 pickles, but I was also frying tater tots for dinner, so it was worth the effort.
Did it taste good? It didn't taste like the ones in the tavern. I need to adjust the seasoning. These were kind of bland. I might use cornmeal instead of bread crumbs, and use more cayenne. I didn't have garlic powder so I used dried minced garlic. I think the garlic powder would have given a better flavor. Or maybe I need a shuffleboard table, a jukebox and a few beers.
Would I make again? I will keep experimenting with the spices, or next time I visit my brother, I'll stop in and ask Tommy, the proprietor, for his recipe.

If you find yourself on Highway 641 South, just over the Kentucky/Tennesse border, looking for fried pickles, stop in to the 641 Club in Puryear, Tennessee. and tell Tommy that Travis's sister sent you. You won't regret it.





Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Keeping It Clean

I try not to use bad words on this blog. Mostly because Maddy reads it, but also because I've read that using swear words indicates a limited vocabulary.

I think I have a pretty good vocabulary; however, in some situations, there is nothing like a good stream of expletives - a full-blown blue streak that would make a sailor blush.

Lately, I feel like my life has gone from the occasional "Damn It!" to an hourly use of the F-word. Honestly, it's one *&^% thing after another. Just when I think one fire is out, another one pops up in its place. Most of them are minor inconveniences, just enough to peeve me off, but they're coming faster and harder. Suffice it to say that recent events occuring between last Thursday and today have left a thick haze of obsecenties lingering over my head.

In my past personal experience, when it rains, it pours. I've learned not to ask "What next?" because all I have to do is wait a few minutes, and the answer will show itself, and usually require time, skill, or money that I don't possess.

Will it get better? Probably.

In the meantime, I'm going to need a thesauraus, because I'm about at the end of my list of approved adjectives.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Whip It Up Week 1

I was having a bad day earlier this week. I needed chocolate. A quick search of my pantry revealed chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. But how to combine them in a new and exciting recipe that would satisfy my cravings and my Whip It Up requirements?

I went to my favorite recipe site, All Recipes, and used the ingredient search tool. This tool is awesome if you have a taste for something particular, or are trying to use the random ingredients you've scrounged from your cabinets.

I picked this Butterscotch Cookie Bar.




1 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup butter
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

DIRECTIONS
Place butterscotch chips and butter into a glass bowl. Heat in the microwave for about 1-2 minutes, stirring at 30 second intervals until smooth. Set aside to cool until firm, about 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13 inch pan.

In a large bowl, beat the butterscotch chip mixture with eggs and vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the batter until evenly mixed. Mix in the brown sugar, chocolate chips, walnuts, and raisins. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, just until the bars begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cut into squares while warm.

Now, the review:

Was it easy? Yes, very easy. With the exception of melting the chips, this could almost be a one-bowl batter recipe. I did bake them in a pan lined with greased parchment paper, as I wasn't sure if they'd come out of the pan easily, but they will. I also baked them for 28 minutes, let them sit about 15 minutes, then used my pizza cutter to cut into squares. I did omit the walnuts and raisins, but I might try adding pecans next time.

Did it taste good? Well, let's just say that I made them on Tuesday and today is Thursday, and there is one left. Craig took one bite and said "oh my good god make these again." He has also suggested that I take a batch to all my job interviews.

Will I make them again? Definitely. If it was up to Craig, I'd make them every week. However, I do have a wedding dress to fit into.

All in all, I highly recommend this recipe next time you're looking for something sweet.



Monday, June 22, 2009

Observations On A June Summer Night

Does your house have a front storm door? Mine doesn't, and it's so foreign to me not to have one. I really thought it was standard equipment on homes.

As a kid, I remember my mom spraying Windex on our front storm door at least once or twice a week, especially in the summer. As soon as I finished my Rice Krispies, I was in and out of that door dozens of times, sometimes alone, often trailed by most, if not all, of the kids in my neighborhood. The handprints weren't just mine, and I probably left my mark on many other doors within a bike ride of my house.

Speaking of bike rides, my friends and I would roll up our beach towels with a dollar tucked tightly in the middle, and convoy up to the local pool. That dollar would buy me an afternoon's swim, a Suicide (a shot of every fountain soda flavor in one cup) and a Zero bar, and I'd still have fifteen cents left over to put in my dad's change jar. Occasionally I'll run across a Zero bar in the candy aisle, and immediately I smell chlorine and Coppertone and hear Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover."

After we came home and dried off, we rushed through dinner so we could all meet under the street light to play TV tag or hide and seek. Our parents would sit on the porch and watch, or all congregate at one house or another while we ran amok. We could always tell whose back yard they were sitting in, by looking for the cloud of cigarette smoke and listening for the clink of ice in highball glasses.

Finally, when it was good and dark, we'd get our jelly jars with holes poked in the lids, or if you were really cool (like me) you had an official bug catcher jar, and catch so many lightening bugs you could use it like a lantern. Of course, we also took the glowing parts off the bugs and smeared them on our faces like indians, or wrote our names on our arms. PETA forgive me, I knew not what I did.

And now I watch my daughter ride her bike up and down the street with her friends, bang in and out of the garage door, and take her cool bug catcher jar and stalk lightening bugs. I do have to drive her to the local pool, but I hope that when she's older, sitting on her back porch watching the fireflies light up the yard, she fondly remembers her childhood summers.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hey Good Lookin', Whatcha Got Cookin'?

Last year I participated in the Whip It Up challenge. Maddy and I had a great time finding and preparing new recipes. The best part is always the eating! For the most part we were successful and didn't ever make anything that required us to order pizza.

This year's challenge begins June 28, and I'm already looking for new and exciting recipes. I want to try new grill recipes, other than the basic steak and chicken. Maddy is looking for desserts.

I love that Maddy is into learning about cooking, and also isn't afraid to try new foods. It's a fun and educational way to do that quality time parenting thing, you know?

Stay tuned for our experiments. Maybe we'll cook something you'll want to try, too.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mark Your Calendars

The Second Annual Jessica and Kelli Uhl Fundraiser will be held July 19, 2009, from 6-11pm, at the KC Hall in Collinsville, Illinois.

Our theme this year is Pineapple Paradise. I'm encouraging everyone to dress in prom attire - especially vintage! Also, if you have gently used prom or bridesmaid dresses, please bring them for donation to Big Brothers/Big Sisters for their Diva for a Day event. Young girls are given a dress, a hair and makeup session, professional photograph shoot, and then can keep the dress for their prom. Jessica and Kelli loved playing dress-up, so this event is something they would be proud to be associated with.

We are also collecting non-perishable food items for the Collinsville Area Food Pantry.

Of course there will be dinner and dancing, as well as a silent auction and various raffles. If you have any items for donation for the silent auction or raffles, please let me know.

Prior to the fundraiser, we are hosting a blood drive in honor of Jessica and Kelli at SIUE on July 14, 2009, from 2pm to 7pm in the Conference Center, 2nd Floor. If you can donate, the Red Cross would certainly appreciate it. Supplies are dangerously low right now.

Tickets can be purchased ahead of time by contacting me, or can be purchased at the door the night of the event.

Thank you for your support in memory of Jessica and Kelli.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Well, Damn!

I didn't get the job.

I'm okay. It wasn't meant to be, there's a better opportunity just around the corner, when God closes a door he opens a window, etcetera etcetera etcetera! (said in my best Yul Brynner voice)

Thanks for all your support and prayers.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Working and Waiting

I'm temping this week, and really enjoying it. Maybe because I know it's just temporary, maybe it's because I don't have to fight too much traffic on my commute, or maybe because I don't have to make sure Maddy is up and dressed and fed and has her backpack/art project/library book and do the "come on we're late" dance with her.

I have to admit, I've missed working. I've missed the sense of accomplishment I get when I turn off my computer. Not to say this has been a cakewalk - I spent 15 minutes yesterday looking for a file, which is frustrating enough. However, I also managed to open a file cabinet drawer too far, which caused it to get off its track. Of course, if one drawer is open you can't open another one, (stupid OSHA rules) so how was I supposed to open the next drawer to find the missing file? I finally got it back on track and managed to grease on my hand but not on my suit. I also found the file, which was not in that cabinet. Ah well, lesson learned - don't do the filing.

Back on the permanent job front, I had my second interview earlier this week. I met with two of the attorneys I'd be working with, and I think it went well. However, they have another interview on Thursday, so I won't find anything out until Friday at the earliest. It's driving me crazy, as I am not a patient person.

I really want this job. I have the skills and the ability they need - I just hope I was able to convince them.

I'll keep you posted....

Friday, June 5, 2009

Looking Ahead

I've got a busy week coming up. First, I will be temping for a friend of mine while she is on vacation. She works for an attorney in Belleville, so this will be good practice to get back in the swing of that work habit. You know, like getting out of bed, putting on pants and lipstick, that kind of thing.

Speaking of work, I have a second interview next week as well. Hot damn!! I might just mess around and get a job.

Also, Maddy will be going to stay with her PaPa next week for a few days. She is very excited about the prospect, because my dad lets her mow with his riding lawn mower. I'm glad she's going. I have great memories of spending time with my grandparents in the summer.

If you don't have plans for next Thursday night, stop by The Royale for the Girls Guide to the Galaxy Relaunch Party. We will have giveaways, various demonstrations, and probably just a real good time. I will be giving away a $300 makeover - all you have to do is leave a comment on my post here at Girls Guide. So what are you waiting for? For more information, click here.

As for today, Maddy and I will be going to the local waterpark, then coming home and getting ready for the church picnic tonight. We walked by yesterday to scope out the rides. Once she discovered there were bumper cars, I knew my money would be well spent.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Decades

I was shopping today for a birthday. It was never easy to buy for her to begin with, and now it's even harder. What do you give a girl who can't have anything?

I read over the cards but never find the one that says I miss you. I settle for one that says "Once a princess, always a princess." That's about right. I will sign it and laminate it so it will withstand the elements for a while.

I find some pink silk flowers, some pink balloons and ribbon to tie them down. At the checkout I grab a bag of Skittles, her favorite candy.

As I flipped through the albums looking for a picture to share with you, I found myself remembering all the scenes, the clothes, the toys. I still have a lot of her things that I hoped she'd use for her children.

20 years ago she looked like this. I never dreamed I wouldn't have her anymore.
Happy birthday, Jessica.




Monday, June 1, 2009

300!

Wow, this is my 300th post. Who knew I was so prolific?
The job interview went great, and I'm cautiously optimistic I'll be called for a second interview. I've enjoyed my time off and I'll be sad to leave Maddy, but right now a paycheck would be a welcome sight.

My new writing gig over at Girls Guide to the Galaxy is going well. Note the pink badge on yonder sidebar - mark your calendar for the Relaunch Party on June 11 at The Royale. Stop by and say hi, and you might win some fantastic prizes! Like what? Well, stay tuned and check me out at GGTTG - more details coming soon! While you are there, take a moment to enjoy one of their signature cocktails, such as my favorite, the Subcontinental. Bombay Sapphire, cucumber and lime juice and a splash of Cointreau - delish!


Today was Maddy's first full day of summer vacation. Nothing says summer like a slip 'n slide!




Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Twelve Days

Holy crap I had no idea it had been twelve days since I posted. Of course there was a 3-day weekend in there too but dang! So sorry!

For those of you still checking in on me, things are looking up (which I say with some caution). I have....a job interview on Friday. It's with a law firm looking for a legal assistant with the litigation and intellectual property experience that I have. Well, color me qualified, and hopefully hired!

If you don't mind, please wish me luck, cross your fingers, and pray to your personal deity. I will be doing the Dance of the Job Hunter, which goes something like this:

Friday, May 15, 2009

Face to Face

One of my Mother's Day presents was tickets to the Billy Joel/Elton John concert (or Elton John/Billy Joel - depending on where you live).

It has been a long long time till touchdown brings me round again... sorry, got a little distracted there. Anyway, I like to go to concerts where I know at least half the songs. Sometimes you go see an act that is promoting a new album, and that's usually when all but the die-hard fans go get a drink and use the facilities. Not last night. I knew every song and so did 99% of the audience.

The piano men took the stage around 7:45, and played and played, ending around 11:15. They started together, did a few songs, then Elton John took over for about 45 minutes more. The lights went down for probably 5 minutes, then Billy Joel came back and played for about an hour. The lights went down briefly again, and then they played the final songs, ending with Candle in the Wind for Elton, and Piano Man for Billy. They also threw in some Beatles with Birthday Song and Back in the USSR.

The songs brought back so many memories for me. I remember my babysitter bringing over her Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album (yes, album - those big black round things), and playing it while I memorized the lyrics. Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting was my favorite - we would dance around the living room and act like we were tough. Crocodile Rock, Daniel, Levon, Yellow Brick Road, I'm Still Standing, I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues...all made an appearance last night.

I wasn't into Billy Joel too much at first, but once he started dating Christine Brinkley, we all wanted to be Uptown Girls, Keeping the Faith and hoped some day our guy would Tell Her About It. An Innocent Man was my first Billy Joel record, and remains one of my favorites.

As I got older I began to appreciate the earlier Billy Joel songs. Scenes from an Italian Restaurant always reminds me of me and my friend Heather (Bottle of red, bottle of white...). Only The Good Die Young - well, that's got a whole new meaning for me now. I was hoping for New York State of Mind, but it was not to be.

All in all, wow. Just...wow. They still can rock out, they sound fantastic, the light and stage show is fabulous, but never overwhelms the music. And at the end, when it's just Elton, Billy, and the pianos - that's when the talent of these men really shines through.

If you have a chance to catch this show, do it. You will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gone With The Schwinn

A couple of years ago, I decided to buy a bike. And by bike I mean a pedal bike. I have a motorcycle license but that's another story altogether.

There are some awesome bike trails around me, and I've always wanted to bike the Great River Road. Maddy and Kelli used to ride their bikes all over the neighborhood. I recently found out that Kelli took Maddy on a pretty long ride once upon a time, involving ice cream and riding where I told them not to. But hey, what am I supposed to do now, ground them?

Kelli and Maddy's bikes have gears and hand brakes and pegs and all kinds of whatnot. I wanted a bike - wheels, pedals, handlebars, and maybe a basket for my water bottle. I found a very lovely little red basic bike, and was told in no uncertain terms that if I rode that, they would not ride with me. I would be an embarassment and all their friends would point and laugh. I'm sure they meant they would point and laugh. I was also called Pee Wee. Pee Wee had a pretty cool bike, as I recall.

Anyway, things happened and I never bought the bike.

Now that we've moved, Maddy is tearing around the neighborhood on one of her three bikes (hers, Kelli's, or Craig's old Dyno). She asked me when I was going to get a bike, and I said, soon.

Apparently "soon" came on Sunday. It doesn't have a basket yet, but we'll get one. Perhaps also a horn and a lion's head light to complete the ensemble. It's not red, but a lovely shade of turquoise blue, with fenders and whitewall tires.

I love it. It's one of the best Mother's Day presents I could ask for.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Judgment Days


The civil trial date has been set for October 19-20, 2009.
The criminal trial date has been set for November 2, 2009. Here is the article.
The day I will be this happy again is yet to be determined.




Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I Could Get Used To This

This week starts my third month of unemployment. I've had a few interviews, sent out scads of resumes and online applications, met with temp and placement agencies, and....well, here we are.

The weather is starting to be more sunny and warm, less rainy and cool. I was thinking about last year when I would wake up, drive to work with my sunroof and windows open and think, "I wish I didn't have to work when it's nice out." Looks like I've got two wishes left.

As much as I miss working, this time off has some upsides.

I was able to go on Maddy's class field trip last week. She had been asking me for weeks prior, and at first I had to say no, because I couldn't take off work. Then I had to tell her I'd go unless I got another job. As we got closer, I didn't want to commit, in case I had an interview. Of course, on the Tuesday prior to her class trip on Thursday, I got a call about a job I was really interested in. And of course the only day I could interview was Thursday. It did work out that I could interview at 9, then run home, change out of my suit, and meet up with the class just in time for lunch. She was so thrilled I was able to go.

Last week she had a half day, and after I picked her up from school, we enjoyed a nice lunch out before going to see The Hannah Montana Movie. (Which was actually pretty cute). We were two of eight people in the theater. Then we hit Kohl's for a little summer shopping.

Right now I'm sitting on my couch in my sweats, watching the Today show, typing on my blog. After I wrap up here, I'll go put on my tennis shoes and take a walk around my neighborhood. Then I'm going to meet a friend for lunch, do some grocery shopping, pick up my baby from school, and make some chicken enchiladas for dinner.

Life ain't so bad.

Monday, April 27, 2009

It's Deja Vu All Over Again

I was sent over the edge today by a pizza pan.

Today was not a good day. As usual, it's a culmination of a lot of little annoyances that pile on top of me until one seemingly small incident sends me headfirst off the Cliffs of Sanity into the Fits of Hissy. Although throwing a fit (and a spatula) does make me feel better temporarily, the fallout isn't worth it. People who live with me are left bewildered and confused as to what exactly my problem might be. If they comfort me and tell me it will be okay, I don't believe them, and if they give me wide berth and leave me alone, I feel neglected and start to pout.

(Hello, my name is Kim and I'm two years old).

We all have our breaking points - some of us break fast and furious, then get over it. Some of us are slow burners who eventually explode, spewing forth every injustice they've encountered for days, weeks, even months. Some of us are a combination of the two, depending on the day. I mean, I'm not going to waste a good stomp/slam/throw over something trivial. Most days, I can laugh it off. Sometimes, I can laugh it off after about 10 minutes. But today was not one of those days.

And if I stop for a minute and do a little deep breathing and soul searching, I know exactly what it is. It's not because my pizza stuck to the stupid baking stone.

It's that there is a huge hole in me and it will never be filled again. How do I articulate this and make people understand why I go all black mood at the drop of a hat, when I don't even understand? I'm tired of feeling this way, I'm tired of apologizing for behaving so childishly, I'm tired of giving off the "leave me alone" vibe when I just want someone to hug me and pat my head and tell me it will be all right, and I want to believe that it will be all right, I really do.

I do not want to live my life this way, but as much as I try to bury my feelings of cynicism and distrust deep down and focus on my many blessings, Deep Down is giving them back me saying "yeah, good luck with that." Undeterred, I shove them back down and slam the door in their faces, double-locking it. I dust off my hands and say, "there, that'll show them." But like cockroaches and leggings, they refuse to go away quietly. Slowly they churn under the pressure, little tendrils of black start to seep out through the cracks, and KA-BLOOEY!

And so we have come full circle.