Saturday, October 25, 2008

Oh, To Be Nine Again

Yesterday our youngest had two boys over for dinner and a sleepover. Since it was Friday night, it was easy-on-the-cook night. We had beef tips and noodles from the illustrious Banquet Chicken Company. I know we were living on the wild side with that beef...
Hubby went to the store to buy a second box, some cheddar cheese and some salad. The kids devoured the beef tips in record time and only nibbled at the Chardonnay Cheese Bread I made. We dined in opposite proportions. The bread was incredible, especially paired with that glass of wine!

The kids ran off to play for about 15 minutes and reappeared for more food. Off to play, more food, more play, more food...
Is it just boys???

We all settled into bed about 11:00 p.m. The three young men decided to sleep in the living room, just outside our bedroom door, rather than the downstairs family room. For the first fifteen minutes my husband and I were treated to an at-length discussion of farting and food, interrupted periodically with hysterical giggling. A brief rumble ensued with much more giggling and just when I was ready to get up to ask them to settle down, they became suddenly quiet and we heard not from them again.

I remembered I had this picture of the same three dudes from this last spring.

Oh, to be nine again!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

100,000 People gather in St. Louis

Wow! That's what he said... I say, Wow, too. This photo was taken from a vantage point under the Gateway Arch with the Mississippi River behind and downtown St. Louis in front. An estimated 100,000 people gathered in my home town to hear Obama speak. I wish I had been one of them.

Monday, October 13, 2008

That Just Right Piece of Furniture

This house of ours had a deep, painful void. A place of emptiness... cold, vast and unpleasant. Yes, that's the only way to describe it! Oh, not really, but it makes the story more interesting, don't you think?

In our eating area of the kitchen, we had a wall with a nothingness quality to it. We tried to fill it with plants and then commenced to ignore it's unfinished appearance. We looked for just the right hutch for more than two years. Who knew it could be so difficult to find the right piece of furniture! What we found was either of the wrong style or, more often, the wrong price range. You know that range...way too much!

I had a little time recently and secreted myself away to Topeka and I saw her. At first my mind could not, would not register what I was seeing! There she was and she was perfect. She was newly made in an old style using salvaged wood. So she has a comfortable, well-used patina. I fell deeply in love with what would my husband think?

To my deep satisfaction he loved her, too. At least he humored me with, "yes, honey, it's perfect". I know he cares for her about as much as our cats. So we bought her and pulled our previously readied van around back. To my frustration we found that only her bottom would fit in the van. I know usually it's the bottom that has trouble squeezing in, but you see, she's very tall. We explained we would return with a truck. With one last look, we said goodbye and promised to return as soon as possible.

If she had known the state of her chariot, she may not have agreed to come home with us. Our truck is a classic, a 1975 Ford that was once used to deliver monuments to the local cemeteries. It must have had a life before stone deliveries that involved emergencies judging from the light on top?!?

It's not safe to drive this particular truck more than 55 miles an hour, but we were in no hurry. My boys refuse to ride in it anywhere beyond town for fear a door will fall off. We brushed all this aside because our hutch needs to come home.

A moment to talk about the store where we found this hutch: Gallery Classics. It's a wonderful store filled with Belgian antiques and all manner of gorgeous house decorating accessories. If you are in Topeka or even the state of Kansas, you may want to stop in at this store. I know it's not the first time I've told you to drive for hours for something, but if you've taken my advice and had some Ted Drewes custard, you'll be loading up this weekend to visit Gallery Classics. I just know it!

We gently laid her better half in the truck, carefully strapped her in and headed home. We nearly killed me carrying her into the house. I'm kind of a wimp when it comes to carrying furniture, even though my incredibly patient husband has the heavy end.

Once we got her positioned, we stood back and thought...just right. It will probably take years to fill her shelves, but that's ok, as I imagine the collection of keepsakes will eventually tell our family story.

"Honey, about those curtains."

I think I heard groaning.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Happy Friday!

With all the seemingly never-ending rotten news of the economy, what we need is a little sunshine and beauty! Thank heavens for the spectacular weather of the last few weeks. It's been alternating between mild, sunny, breezy days and days of soft, steady rain. A few days of howling wind have made an appearance, too, but overall it's been lovely. My husband and I are starting to think we have been magically transported to a resort town.

Shhh... please don't tell this profusion of flowers it's darn near the middle of October!

And what of these beauties...they've been fooled into thinking it's still August.

Those tall grasses! They're just too smart, spurting out their fall seed pods. Yet they are unmistakably retaining a summery green glow.

We had dinner on the screened porch a night ago and yes, this morning is gorgeous. This weather is what I'm talking about! I hope you have it, too. Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Comfort Food Season - A recipe for that last Garden Zucchini

I love comfort food! That sentence has many, many, many meanings. Your comfort food is probably different from mine. It's most certainly in the mind of the beholder. I suppose the concept can be taken too far. Having a special treat every once in a while to say "job well done", "I'm glad that's over" or "that cranberry-spice scone sounds soooo good" is ok. I sure hope so 'cause that's the conversation I had with myself yesterday before I ate the scone from Bluestem Coffee House following my test. To use food to comfort ourselves daily or fill a void may not be wise. I suppose what we select is important, too. A pound of fudge, five candy bars or whole bag of chips... probably not-so-good. Anyway, back to loving comfort food...

You may have noticed a trend in my cooking...lots of pasta, red sauce and fresh ingredients (where possible). It's because these foods are comforting to me. Strange, I know. They come warm out of the skillet or the oven (in the case of the dish below), they taste great, they're filling and they're healthy. I can't help it...knowing I'm responsible for feeding the four men in my house leads me to spend a lot of time trying to find healthy, tasty foods.

Some of my garden plants this summer were teeny, tiny compared with normal growth. My zucchini plant was one and it didn't produce any harvestable veggies until the very end of the season. After sauteing a couple and a few chilly nights, it was time for some comfort food!

Pasta Bake with Zuccini

1 16 oz. box of Ziti, Mostociolli or Penne (I only use about 3/4 a box)

1 lb. ground beef

Red Sauce (in a hurry, Newman's Own Basil and Tomato is delish)

4-6 oz. Mozzarella Cheese

1/4 cup Parmesian Cheese

A Zucchini, chopped (size based on how well your family likes zucchini, my theory is smaller is less noticeable...)

Start your pasta a-cookin'. As you can see I throw in whatever I've got.

While the pasta is cooking, brown the ground beef, pour off the grease and add your tomato sauce. Spice her up if you like. Add your zucchini for a minute or two, just to soften. The zucchini will finish cooking in the oven.

Mix the sauce together with your noodles.

Dump the whole she-bang into a casserole dish.

Shread some mozzeralla over the top and sprinkle with Parmesian. Cover with foil and pop in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until slightly bubbly and serve. Yummmmm-O.

Now that's comfort food!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

On Being a Woman

I was sharing with a friend the other day how it seems at times my tendency towards absent-mindedness and being a scatter-brain rises to epic proportions. She explained that she read somewhere or other that as our hormones bottom out each month before, well, it has many names, I call it my monthly "friend", the female mind has a hard time putting two thoughts together.

It's possibly a hormonal imbalance??? I'm so relieved. I was beginning to think I had early brain atrophy. As I've mentioned before I'm taking some classes at a nearby college and I've been studying for a midterm. I read a practice problem, calculate the answer and check to see if I'm right. My forehead is beginning to hurt from thunking it down on the table after each wrong answer. In almost every case, my reasoning has gone haywire and I've left out a step or two.

Well, that dreaded end of the monthly cycle has passed, so I'm hoping my hormones and my brain power are on the upswing... and fast. My test is tomorrow. Please root for me gals (and guys)!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

William Allen White Children's Book Awards Celebration

On a crisp, clear October morning a sea of little urchins waited patiently to climb aboard two yellow buses. 64 urchins and 20 grown-ups to be exact. Where were they going? On an adventure to learn about the 2008 William Allen White Award winning authors. The yellow cruisers bumped and bounced into Emporia State University just after 9:00 a.m. The kids flowed out and joined children from around the state.

As they waited to have their newly purchased books signed by the authors, the young (and old) ones met a variety of creatures. Fascination filled their eyes as they reached out to touch an armadillo, snake and iguana.

After lunch a little time to play outside gave way to lining up for a parade.

A parade filled with chants of books, novels and reading.

The merry group walked down the mainstreet of Emporia to the auditorium where the honored authors would speak. Speak they did. Weaving tales of childhood days curled up with wonderful books, early attempts at writing and finally success. The authors added stories of the "real" people, animals and places that inspired the books they've written.

Winner 3rd-5th Grade
A Dog's Life
by Ann M. Martin

6th-8th Grade Winner
Airball: My Life in Briefs
by Lisa D. Harkrader
*A huge KU fan who lives in Tongonoxie.

What did these now weary creatures think over as they returned home on the great yellow buses. Reading can wrap you in an enchanting story - I hope. Writing may allow you to invent interesting characters, develop captivating stories and express yourself - for some. Going on a field trip, shouting one's lungs out with great chants, running at full speed to avoid being tagged and getting to drink soda is a blast - possibly every single one.

2008-2009 Nominees

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The First Days of Fall

Last night the thermometer dipped into the 30s. No denying it now, the seasons are a-changin'. We've had a month of what my husband and I have been calling "resort weather". High in 70-80s, low in th 50-60s. Pure heaven. It's funny though how living in the midwest, with it's distinct seasons, leaves you restless if one goes on a little too long. Here's a sweet adieu to summer.

With much anticipation we put in a vegetable garden complete with raised beds and a wind-blocking wall. We've marveled all summer at the bounty.

The first signs of warm weather brought out the neighborhood buddies to wrestle around.

An early season basketball game got the boys fired up.

More fun was had this summer in the canoe on the backyard pond. Not only this hual of fish, but swimming, splashing and general mayhem. Oh, and how could I forget...the leeches!

It was a summer of learning with Oldest and Middleman mastering kneeboarding. Youngest also jumped into the fray fighting for his next turn on the tube.

Aaaah! The evenings of baseball have now been replaced with evenings of football. I have a deep appreciation for baseball's non-contact element. It's also noteworthy, in that it's reminiscent of my youth, when I frequently attended Cardinal Baseball games in St. Louis. Now, it's my boys playing which beats watching the pros ANY day.

We enjoyed watching our nephew, Marshall, play Lacrosse. Youngest longingly watched and wished to move in with his cousins so he, too, could play.

As for me and enjoying a summer evening with my girlfriends, no worries there, we'll just move those antics right inside!

How can we not enjoy the dog days of summer??? However, in the meantime, we turn our attention to those unique cold weather activities that conjure memories, comfort and fun. For me, it's making hearty foods like soups and stews, and anything requiring the use of the toasty oven. It's fires in the fireplace. It's seed catalogs in January and of course, the holidays and all the tradition and...craziness that goes along. Summer, until we meet again...