Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Making sense

December has never been an easy month for me. Don't get me wrong, Christmas is and always has been my most favorite holiday. When the kids were little, it was a really stressful time because they all had school programs, class parties that required baked goods and parental guidance, scout stuff, gift exchanges, etc. Add OUR social obligations on top of all that, and I was barely hanging on by my fingernails most of the time. But it was all worth it, when on Christmas morning, all three of them were sitting at the top of the stairs waiting for 6 a.m., the time when they could run down and see what Santa brought.

Then sixteen years ago (I can't believe it's been that long), my mom, who was supposed to come to our house from Minneapolis for Christmas, suddenly fell ill on Christmas Eve, and died on New Year's Eve without ever waking up. You can see how the season that I loved took a turn. While I can't say it gets easier, there are some years that are better than others.

Fast forward to 2007, when on December 5th, a gunman walked into Von Maur, arguably our nicest department store, opened fire, and killed eight people before shooting himself. Everyone knew someone who was in the store or had a brush with closeness. A friend was hiding in the lingerie department when the shooting started, and returned later to buy the robe that saved her life. Aly and Alex were headed to the mall, and thank God Aly took a bit longer to get ready, because otherwise they would have been there. That month had me at the doctor's office for a prescription for Xanax.

And then this year, well, I'm still trying to wrap my head around what happened in Connecticut. One of my favorite bloggers, Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess (who is usually pee-your-pants-funny) had a Dr. Who quote that I think bears repeating: "The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things...The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things, and make them unimportant". One of the responses was from Sarah at "Life is awesome, excepting the shitty parts".

Sorry about the tone of today's post, but I know pretty much everyone in the country is feeling the same way. I'll leave you with a little bit of happy:

My friend (and boss) at the museum, Jane, brought me these today. It all stemmed from the first Easter I worked there, in 2006, and she brought Peeps for everyone who had to work that day. I told her how much I LOVED Peeps, and there hasn't been an Easter where she hasn't brought me some. Her husband, Michael saw these and said to get them, but when Jane told him I only ate the Easter-themed ones, he said to get them anyway because they're cute!

I'm sitting home, waiting for Dwight to get here. We're anticipating our first snowfall of the year, and they're forecasting nine inches of snow and blizzard conditions. The presents are wrapped, mailed if they needed to be, we have plenty of food, and I'm about to go put on my comfy sweatpants (the Walmart ones with the pockets. Pockets in sweatpants? Really?) I believe there will be an open bottle of wine awaiting Dwight.

I hope everyone is home and warm, safe, and dry. Happy blizzard!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Just a shopgirl at heart

A few weeks ago, when Jane asked me if I would work some extra days in December to cover for one of the staff who was having surgery, it seemed like a good idea. I guess I forgot how busy Decembers are - both mine and the museum shop. Although I have to say it has been fun; the shop has been particularly busy. We're very popular in December as we provide free wrapping. (Insert clip of Rowan Atkinson wrapping the package in Love Actually).  I would insert several photos of our beautiful shop, but apparently I have used all my free Picasa storage space and don't really want to pay a monthly fee.

After a fun-filled weekend with two other couples in Vegas (insert over-the-top photos while I make you guess where I was, ending with the Bellagio fountains), I finally was able to set up our Christmas trees. We have a pretty gold and silver big one, but my favorite is my Barbie tree. Dwight has been giving me two Barbie ornaments a year since 1994, so you can do the math. Add to that Erin's Barbies of the World, and Emily's Marilyn Monroe ornaments, and it is a pretty cool tree. One of Emily's Marilyn's is lonely this year, though; her boyfriend, Jerry Rice, went to Michigan when we gave Alex and Aly all of Alex's ornaments. (Poor Aly - they will have a boy tree). Marilyn became Jerry's girlfriend when the kids started putting them in compromising positions. But Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise (insert photo of ornament) is lobbying pretty hard for Jerry's spot - he is such a womanizer. All of this would be hilarious if only I had the accompanying pictures.

So I guess this is how Google makes money off of Blogspot - give 1G free, which takes about 11.5 months, then charge. We'll see.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and joyous whatever else. I love this season!

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

But only just beginning. I haven't put up and decorated the trees yet (we do two), but I have all the other stuff done. Oh, and I may have a small Christmas tree collection...

The mantle

The reindeer's face cracks me up!
Dining room table

I'm glad that Thanksgiving was early this year, because I am not going to get to the big trees for a few days. At least I waited until after Thanksgiving, unlike the stores.

And speaking of Thanksgiving, we had such a nice time! Emily and Tony came over on Tuesday in time for dinner, and had to leave on Thursday afternoon, but we crammed tons-o-fun into the few hours we had. Emily and I were planning on doing a turkey trot run on Thursday morning, but Wednesday night was just a bit too much fun - sleeping on the couch for several hours after waking up and taking some Advil was in order for one of us...

I hate it when this happens

I would post a picture of our Thanksgiving feast, but I bet it was pretty much what you had: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberries, corn, sauteed shredded Brussels sprouts (okay, maybe you didn't have those), pumpkin pie, and blueberry pie.

With the holiday season upon us, I counted up the number of days where we have events or are out of town, and it amounts to seven. Well, six-and-a-half. I know I will indulge on those days, but I can be in control the rest of the month, so here goes. Lunch yesterday:

Two-egg scramble with leftover Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and a side of seaweed salad

I had a handful of almonds for a snack:

Dinner was a Big Salad with red leaf lettuce, krab-with-a-k, pomegranate arils, purple cabbage, and radishes. And toast.

Breakfast today:

Mmmmm.....raisin bran......

Lunch today was a reprise of last night's dinner, only I added two tablespoons of Trader Joe's corn salsa (love that stuff). I used a splash of balsamic vinegar as my dressing.

Dinner tonight was an I-give-up. I spent the morning decorating, the afternoon Christmas shopping, and Dwight had a dinner meeting, so I just opened the freezer:

And added an apple
So my goal for this holiday season is to get four days of exercise in each week, eat more veggies, and drink more water. All doable. Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Time to organize

When we went to Michigan the other week and saw Alex's and Aly's brand new house stocked with their brand new wedding gifts, I was motivated to come home and organized all the tired old sh*t we have around here. Is there anyone else who thinks that after you've been married for several years decades you should be able to get all new stuff? Don't get me wrong - I want the same husband, and I'll keep my Kitchenaid, Cuisinart, Calphalon, and - well, that's about it. Just donate it all and start over with a new toothbrush holder, sheets, Tupperware, placemats; things that match - you know what I'm talking about.

Aly wrote about how she is organizing her life (check it out; she's pretty amazing), and one thing that really struck me is she talks about doing the little things that take less than a minute but will make your life so much happier. For me, it is coming down to a clean kitchen every morning. I am the worst about leaving stuff scattered about surfaces - there are magazines, mail, the calendar, and 2-3 pens on the kitchen table most of the time. I've made the effort to clear all the surfaces, wipe down the countertops, and empty the dishwasher before bed, and it really has made a difference. (Another bad habit is that I don't put my shoes away, but that's for another post).

Step one to organizing my life was to fix the pantry. It's just a little 24" (I measured) closet pantry, and I clean it out every six months or so. By cleaning it out, I mean doing one shelf at a time and hoping there is a food drive coming up because really, how many cans of refried beans does one family need? This time, I took everything out and rearranged items in a way that made sense. (Which means I'll probably never find them). For example, I have about seven different kinds of rice - arborio, sushi, regular, white, basmati, red, and a few packets of 90-second rice - which are now on the same part of the same shelf. (I swear that I was Asian in a previous life. I can do without pasta, but I LOVE rice). In addition to reorganizing, I took some of the staples that had been in ziplocs or boxes and put them in labeled containers. (A + A have all nice new matching containers; I just used what I had).

Next step was the Tupperware cupboard. I took everything out and made sure that each bottom had a matching top and vice versa. Any part that didn't have a mate went into recycling.

Then it was on to the island, the repository for bowls, small appliances, and baking stuff like muffin tins, springform pan, angel food cake pan, tart pan, etc. You'd think I do a lot of baking, but I don't. I just have the stuff.

Why yes, those ARE two waffle irons on the upper left. You never know when you'll be in the mood for Belgian or regular waffles.
My spice cupboard and drawer were next. My friend Debbie laughs that I have my spices alphabetized, but seriously, how can you not? While they've been alphabetized forever, they were not easily accessible; now they are, thanks to the two little baskets I've had since the early '90's, when that color was popular. 

The herbs and small bottles get their own drawer
So that's what I've been doing the last few days because I didn't want to be seen in public with this eye. The worst part is the scab on the underside of my eyelid from the cauterization. We found that the semi-cure is to put a daily contact in so that it protects my cornea. It is actually way better (Dwight doesn't recoil in horror anymore), although I carry around a kleenex in my sleeve like a grandma because I keep having to dab the tears. My favorite optometrist has been checking in frequently. If you're in Omaha and need someone to take care of your eyes, go see Steve. In addition to Steve, these guys have been taking care of me:

My lap was full!
Okay, now for some food. Breakfasts:

Oatmeal with golden raisins, almond-coconut milk, and PB. Coffee was also involved
PB bagel thin, strawberries, 1/2 diet cranberry juice and 1/2 Trop 50, and of course, coffee
This hot and sour soup is so good. I do love me some carbs. By the time I was done with the bowl, my nose was running, just as it should with a good hot and sour soup.

Because I felt like I needed some protein
Basmati rice, grilled tofu, and leftover roasted B. sprouts
I haven't cooked much lately; Dwight has had meeting this week, so last night was the first time I didn't have popcorn for dinner. I had made a Costco run, which means rotisserie chicken:

And grapes and Brussels sprouts as well....
Now for some finds. You know how I said I needed to eat yogurt while I'm on an antibiotic? Emmy reminded me of probiotics in pill form, and while I was looking for them at Target, look what I saw:

Probiotics in CANDY FORM!!!!!
Yogurt and the best almonds ever for a snack
I'm on to my next organizing project: the cupboards in the basement where I store all the serving pieces. I bet there will be pictures!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My day as a pirate

Well, I got the eye patch I had wished for:

You can tell the Novocain hadn't worn off; I was still smiling
The whole procedure to remove the chalazion was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated. After reading some forums (my first mistake), I was worried that the Novocain shot in my eyelid would really hurt. The ophthalmologist first numbed it with a topical so I barely felt it. I kept waiting for the worst so when it didn't hurt, unclenching my fingers and toes was the hard part.

My second mistake was watching the YouTube video of the procedure. In my mind, I kept picturing the sharp and pointy tools coming DIRECTLY AT MY EYE, but I didn't even see them. It was over in about fifteen minutes. Dwight took me home, I changed into comfy clothes, and went to bed. 

The kids checked up on me throughout the day, but this is what made me snort:

Thank you, Erin!
The eye patch came off after six hours, and that's when it started to get unpleasant. I had a screaming migraine, my eyelid HURT, and it felt like there was sand in my eye - no doubt because the incision was on the underside of my lid. Luckily my optometrist is a really really good friend and he kept checking up on me and letting me whine to him. When I felt my worst, Steve told me to use a cold compress in addition to the handfuls of Advil I was taking, and that saved me.

I need to take an oral antibiotic for the next few days, and since I know how my body reacts to antibiotics, I also need to eat yogurt each day to avoid unpleasant side effects. I love yogurt, so that's not a problem. My friend Jane has been telling me about Icelandic yogurt; I tried it quite awhile ago and didn't really like it, but thought I'd give it another chance. I think when I tried it before I was still doing regular yogurt instead of Greek. This is thicker like the Greek yogurt, and not nearly as sweet as regular. If you're looking for something a bit different, give it a try. I got this when I was at Whole Foods last week, but I know our Super Target has it.

I actually feel much better today, except for the headache. But I don't think the public wants to look at my eye, so I'm staying home from the museum and knitting. What I'm planning today is:

Since my food yesterday mostly consisted of chocolate chip cookies that I had hidden in the freezer to make them more inaccessible (worked so well) and Doritos, I needed to start today off healthy:

HB egg, strawberries, and a Vitatop. And coffee.
Okay, time to go do as little as possible.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Book chat

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday was long walk day, and the temp was 66 when I went to the lake and 77 when I came home. There were a few guys running in only shorts; I wore running capris and a short-sleeved dri-fit shirt (pretty much my uniform, except when it is really hot - then I wear a tank. I could have worn one yesterday). Today when I woke up it was 28.

I had a really, really tough 7.5 miles yesterday. I almost stopped or turned back numerous times: when I was done with the little lake, when I was a mile into the big lake, and then when I got to the parking lot halfway around the big lake I almost called Dwight to come and get me and take me back to my car. I really don't know why it was so difficult. I guess every time can't be great. And I was s-l-o-w. No endorphins to make it all worthwhile even. Ugh.

So let's switch it up and talk about books! I have devoured a few in the last month and thought I'd share in case anyone has read them and has comments, or else needs something new to read. There are no spoiler alerts; I won't say anything you won't find in any of the reviews on-line or even the book jacket. And really, even though I have two English teacher daughters, I don't think I know how to read a book with any of the literary analyses they teach - as one of my favorite quotes goes, "Deep down I'm really very superficial". (Ava Gardner). If you're still interested, here goes:

(All of the photos are from Amazon. There is probably a way to get them so you don't see the "look inside"; I'll work on that).

Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. This book kept popping up on various must-read lists I've seen, and it appealed to the nerd girl in me. The earth's rotation has started to slow, making the days and the nights longer. How does society deal with the changes? Do you follow the government-mandated clock time, even though the sun might be directly overhead at 2:00 a.m. or you might be going to school or work in the dead of night, or do you follow "real time", being awake when it's light and sleeping when it's dark? And what about agriculture? Gravity? Radiation danger? Set against all these world changes is the coming-of-age story of a girl in California with all the normal changes that occur. Very thought-provoking.

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova. The author has her PhD in neurobiology from Harvard, so she knows whereof she speaks. Her first book, Still Alice, deals with early-onset Alzheimer's, and is one that, even though I read several years ago, I still think about. Her second book, Left Neglected, deals with a rare brain dysfunction, left neglect, that may occur after traumatic injury, such as accident or stroke. (When Alex was in medical school, one of his classmates witnessed this first-hand. He was interviewing a patient, and all of a sudden this patient could see NOTHING on his left side until it crossed the center plane of his vision). Love Anthony deals with autism, both from a grieving mother's side and also that of the child. Lisa Genova can take these brain conditions and totally humanize them. She is a gifted writer.

Wonder by RJ Palacio. Jeanie told me about this while we were doing our half-marathon. (Did you know I did one?!? Have I mentioned it?!?!) She said she started it an couldn't put it down. While I wanted to read it, in my head I pooh-poohed the "couldn't put it down part". Until I started reading it, that is. Wow. The story is of Auggie, a 5th-grader with severe craniofacial abnormalities who is starting school after being home-schooled his entire life. As if fifth grade isn't traumatic enough. (Erin came home in tears on day in fourth grade, and when I asked her what was wrong, she said, "All the girls turned evil!" Who doesn't remember that happening?) It is told from several characters' points of view, and I found myself wanting to know all of them. It was an amazing story, and I know I'll be thinking about the characters for quite some time. For me, that is the mark of a good book - if I wonder what the characters are doing now and how their lives are unfolding.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Both Emily and Aly told me about this one. It totally played with my mind. A wife disappears, and as usual the husband is the main suspect. At first I thought he couldn't have done it, then I was sure he did it, then I had doubts, then..... Well, you'll just have to read it to find out. I wanted it to end differently, but the ending as it happens is one that makes me think.

And lastly, The Round House by Louise Erdrich, which I just started last night. Jeanie and I were talking about the author, and Jeanie said she finds her difficult to read. I feel that being a Dakota girl and having a dad who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs gives me somewhat of an understanding, of the environment if nothing else. But I know what Jeanie is talking about; I could not get through The Master Butchers Singing Club. (Side note: if you're looking for a good read about the Indian - er, Native American - life, read On the Rez by Ian Frazier. I first read an excerpt in Sports Illustrated, and was intrigued enough to buy the book. It's a true story, and when I gave the book to my dad, he knew several of the characters, and certainly the reservations and the landmarks talked about).

And since this is ostensibly a healthy-living blog, I'll leave you with some food. I tried a few new recipes, all of which I will make again.

My breakfasts, while I love them, were starting to bore me: PB toast / English muffin / bagel thin with fruit, protein pancake / waffle, or oatmeal. It was time to change it up. On one of the blogs I read, Carrots-n-Cake, Tina has been talking about her sweet breakfast scramble. It never really appealed to me, but then I had a banana which was past the point of eating (I like mine on the green side) and a can of pumpkin in the pantry, AND I needed something new. Ta-da! It was delicious!

With a tablespoon of peanut butter - heaven in a bowl
While I've had these before, I don't know if I told you about them:

They are crunchy, sweet and delicious, and are a perfect side dish for my favorite new soup for lunch:

I had this the other week and kept thinking about it so had to go get more. Mmmmm.....
Add a salad with with some pomegranate arils, and it's pretty much perfect
Snack time. 
Both of the dinner recipes I tried were from Cooking Light. The first is creamy spinach-mushroom-chicken skillet enchiladas. It doesn't look particularly appetizing in the photo, but trust me!

My new favorite, however, is one I somehow forgot to take a picture of. Stop reading right now, click on this link for a photo and the recipe and go to the store to get the ingredients for black-eyed peas with rice and andouille sausage. The only change I made to the recipe was to substitute one packet of Uncle-Ben's 90-second rice for the boil-in-bag. It was easy and oh-so-delish! Again, sorry for the lack of photo....

Being that is is such a cold windy day today, I'm making comfort food. Lunch will be grilled cheese and soup, and then I'm making a pot roast for dinner. I'm pretty sure reading, knitting, some cleaning, and a nap will be involved, while all the while the house will be filled with amazing aromas.

Think of me tomorrow - I'm getting my eyelid bump removed at 8:30 a.m. I kind of hope I get an eye patch...