11.24.2010

thanksgiving spirit

Thanksgiving is awesome.  There's great food, great friends, and it's a great chance for people to take a step back and be thankful for the things they have.  And while I'm thankful for a lot of things, I'm not going to make you read through the list.  Around Thanksgiving and through the Christmas season, its heartwarming to see people using this as an opportunity to donate, volunteer, and be all-around more pleasant, helpful people (black friday crazies excluded).  To make a difference.  It makes me think a little bit further, though.  What happens after the holiday ends?  Do we retain that ambition?

This is something I've struggled with.  I try to be an all-around more pleasant person, albiet not always successful.  I enjoy volunteering but should do it more often.  I participate in the United Way campaign and the food drive at work.  And this year around the holidays some friends and I are planning to bake cookies to donate to an agency that provides resources and support to individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS in the Twin Cities. Those are all nice, but the part that I struggle with is finding my passion. My purpose.  My consistent role in making a difference - and I hope I find it. 

The point is this: the holidays are certainly a great time to be thankful for what you have, aware of where the needs are to help others, and to donate, volunteer, support, or be an all-around pleasant person - just don't forget about the rest of the year. And even if you don't have time or resources available to volunteer or donate, simply remembering to smile and say 'thank you' to people around you or holding a door can go a long way in making someone's day.

11.21.2010

one step at a time

I usually have a rule that all things Christmas are not welcome in my world until after Thanksgiving. But the outside world does not want me to be able to keep my rule. I swear there are Christmas things in stores before Halloween now. What next, before Labor Day? Some of my friends started Christmas shopping weeks ago.  And I don't think that I've noticed the Christmas movies on TV before Thanksgiving - at least not much. But this year, they started a week ago. And I caved because Elf was on - I can't pass up an opportunity to watch it. As soon as it was over, I switched over to what was supposed to be Desperate Housewives, but the AMAs apparently take precedence tonight. Oh well... at least Elf is on again. What's a girl to do?

Speaking of which, it's hard to choose my favorite scene from Elf, because I love all of it.  But this one's pretty good.




But I digress and I'm still breaking my rule.  So, no more Christmas until after Thanksgiving.  I'm going to do my best to stick to my guns for the next few days. So, we'll come back to more discussion around our Christmas holiday favorites after Thanksgiving. For now, I'm going to focus on being thankful (and maybe the food we get to eat, a little, too.)

And in that spirit, what are you thankful for this year?

And how's that for a random thought post?

this week

This week has been busy - in and out of home.  I was excited that I tied for 2nd place in our chili cook-off at work!  I made the butternut squash turkey chili I had first tried a couple of weeks ago.  For the cook-off, I used a little less cumin (because I ran out) and added a little bit of Frank's Red Hot, but probably not enough to make much of a difference.  We also had a cake walk so I brought in some red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, courtesy of Duncan Hines.

Yesterday, Keith made a Rum Cake that was really good. For those of you who will see us at Thanksgiving, he is thinking about making it to bring there.  The interesting thing was that he made it yesterday and it was good... but today it's so much better!  The flavors of the rum have set it and it's super yummy.  Apparently sometimes old cake is yummier than fresh. :) 

I'm posting the recipe here, but must give credit because the one he found online was used almost exactly.  He cut the oil in about 1/2 or 3/4 of the original recipe. The original is posted, so feel free to do that, as well. 

Rum Cake

Cake

1 c. chopped walnuts
1 (18.25 oz.) package yellow cake mix
1/2 c. dark rum
4 eggs
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 (3.5 oz.) package instant vanilla pudding mix

Glaze
1/2 c. butter
1/8 c. water
1/2 c. white sugar
1/4 c. rum

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10 inch tube or Bundt pan (note: we used the bundt pan but didn't grease or flour it... we forgot but it turned out fine). Sprinkle nuts over the bottom of the pan.

Mix together the cake mix, 1/2 cup dark rum, eggs, 1/2 cup water, oil, and vanilla pudding mix. Pour batter over the nuts in the pan.

Bake for 1 hour. Cool, and invert cake on a serving plate. Prick the top of the cake.

To Make The Glaze: Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in 1/8 cup water and the 1/2 cup sugar. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove glaze from heat, and stir in 1/4 cup rum. Drizzle and smooth evenly over the top and sides.

Super good - I highly recommend.  We also tried spaghetti squash today, though I wasn't sure how to make it - we baked it and then sauteed it with some Parmesan, butter, and spaghetti sauce.  It was pretty good, but if you have a better way, I'm happy to hear it.  And I'm sorry I don't have a picture for this, but we tried Chipotle Chicken, too.  It was really good. 

Besides that, I spent some time last night with a couple of good friends shopping, having dinner, and then movie night -- which then turned into slumber party because we got freezing rain and it was pretty much an ice rink outside.  I started home, got two blocks, and went back.  Special thanks to KVO for giving me a safe, warm place to stay.  On my way home this morning I saw two cars in the ditch... and neither of them was mine. And I am thankful for that!

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go have some more cake.

11.14.2010

one, five, ten

Today has been one year since we lost Grandma D.  This year was also the one year anniversary of losing Grandma K., 5 years after losing Grandpa K., and 10 years after losing Grandpa D.  Big year.  I've been thinking about this and it brings a smile to remember the memories. Christmas eve's with G&G D.  Christmas days with G&G K.  Grandpa K helping the guys on the farm.  Grandpa D. with his video camera and the memoir he made.  Grandma D. with her funny poems and scrabble and cards.  Grandma K. making quilts for each of us. 

And I was lucky to have grandparents (all of them) who were so proud of me. Of us. All of us.  I started my first 'big girl' job when Grandpa K. was in the nursing home and he was so excited for me - he had me write my job title on a piece of paper that he kept in his drawer so that he could tell everyone what a great job I had gotten... and he did.  And while Grandpa D. was gone by that point, Grandma K. and Grandma D. always made a point to ask how my job and my life were going. 

I know several of you are thinking about Grandma D. today, too.  And I'm thinking about you.  We were blessed to have them in our lives and I am blessed to have you.  Feel free to share a memory here, if you'd like, of any of them.  :)

I posted these videos when I first started this blog in January, but thought it an appropriate time for a repost.


video


video

11.13.2010

snow day

The first snowfall of the year is upon us - at least those in the Twin Cities metro. I surprised myself that my reaction when I stepped outside this morning was 'Oh, that's pretty.'  It was that heavy, sticky snow that sticks to the tree branches and covers them almost completely.  The type of snow that is also good for snowballs and snowmen.
First snow of 2010 - 11.13.10 around 7:30 a.m.

A few years ago, this was not my reaction.  The first snowfall of the season during those years was not pretty.  It made me sad, crabby, and generally unpleasant.  But it was only the first snow - anything after was fine.  At some point (post-college) I started to grow up (read: suck it up/put on my big girl pants).  The feeling of this day went from pure displeasure, to annoyance, to indifference, to today's reaction: 'Oh, that's pretty.'    And while I'm not sure I'll ever get to a point where I'll wake up on this day and say 'Yay, Yay, Yay! It snowed!' it is a better life when you wake up and accept it for the beauty that it is.  And then return inside where it's warm and cozy. :)

I spent most of the day relaxing at the house and watched movies.  I saw Up, Nola, and now I'm watching Tuck Everlasting (again-it's been years...)  When they cleared the roads, I ventured to Target to get out and get a couple of supplies. And I made mom's pizza burger recipe from the church cookbook. 

Several people have asked 'how much snow did you end up getting?'  A lot.  I'm terrible at at judging amounts of any precipitation.  Instead, I'll show you - this is what my car looked like at around 11 a.m. today.  And then it kept snowing for a couple of hours - so a couple more inches maybe beyond that?  

I'll never have a job as a weather person... 

11.13.10 - 11 a.m.


11.06.2010

shrimp

We had some shrimp in the freezer I saw last weekend and decided then that I'd try making Shrimp Scampi sometime. This week was crazy, so we finally got around to it tonight. I used this recipe as a base and made some changes based on the reviews I read. What we ended up with was a good base for next time, I think. It tasted really good, but I think there's a couple of things I'll do differently next time. Here's what we ended up with tonight:

Shrimp Scampi
1 - 8 oz. package angel hair pasta
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. olive oil
7 cloves minced garlic
3 green onions, chopped
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deviened
1/2 c. dry white wine
1/4 c. chicken broth
2 Tbsp. Real Lemon juice
1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1 small Roma tomato, diced
Parmesan cheese

Make angel hair pasta according to directions to al dente.

Put the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan and melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, and shrimp cooking 3-5 minutes until shrimp is pink. Stir frequently.

Stir in wine, chicken broth, lemon juice, Italian seasoning and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. I added a little cornstarch to thicken the sauce slightly. Add fresh ground pepper.

Mix the shrimp, sauce, and pasta together and serve; top with diced tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. Serve with garlic bread.

My notes:
  • You can use 1/2 c. butter instead of the oil/butter mixture if you want.
  • I added the tomatoes on top because, honestly, I forgot to mix them in at the end. But it made it prettier, I think, to put them on top.
  • This is faster to make than you may think, so have garlic bread prepped ahead of time. If you're going to serve salads, have those ready, too.
  • Next time I think I will: add a little more Italian seasoning. I may add some crushed red pepper, too.

We had a little wine, too, and a good excuse to try out my new wine bottle stopper I got for my birthday (thanks, Holly!)

me? angry?


It may surprise you to find out that I'm not always sunshine and rainbows. Well... for those of you who know me well, you may not be shocked, I guess. :)

I mentioned at the end of my vacation post that I'd tell you about our flight experience later.

Everything was planned to be perfect. We flew through Houston where we met up with Julie to take the same flight to Florida. We left on time for our first flight. And our layover was short. ... Apparently too short. This is where things got ugly.

I'm not sure why, but our flight that departed Minneapolis on time landed in Houston 15 minutes late. Our layover was only 35 minutes, so we hauled bum to get to the other terminal where Julie was waiting for us - so we had to run through Terminal C, take the tram to Terminal B and get to our gate. As we rushed toward the gate, I see our plane backing away. It left without us. It left 4 minutes earlier than the scheduled time. I know this because above the door to the walkway it tells you what time they left: 9:51 a.m. It was supposed to leave at 9:55 a.m. [Insert wave of anger here.]

The conversation with the guy working the gate went something like this (at least as I recall):

Me: That's our plane.

Guy: Yes, you all arrived 15 minutes late on your other flight. I already re-booked you on the next flight, though. Guy smiles.

Me: So, you knew we were late and on our way, but didn't wait.

Guy: I asked them if they could wait and they said no...

Me: But they could leave early?

Guy: ummmm...

Me: They took off early. Without us.

Guy: They said they couldn't wait. But you are re-booked for the next flight.

side note: next flight is 4 hours later. This does not please me, either.

Me: Please help me understand this. My flight on your airline took off on time in Minneapolis. Your airline got me here late. But your airline wouldn't wait for us even though you knew we were on our way. Correct?

Guy: I'm sorry ma'am.

Me: Instead of waiting, your airline decided to take off before the posted time. The time that is on my itinerary.

I give Guy a confused, unhappy look.

Guy: I'm sorry ma'am.

Me: I put my phone number in the reservation for a reason. It would have been nice if someone from your airline would have called to see where we were so I could have told you we were close.

Guy: I'm sorry ma'am.

Me: Fine. Whatever. What do we need to do now?

Guy provides re-issued tickets for next flight for me and the guys; gives me two exit row seats because I had upgraded when we originally checked in for 3 seats with extra legroom. He explains the next flight only had two available.

Me: I paid for three. I assume you will be refunding the third.

Guy explains to me again that there were only two (yes, I understand that - I paid for three) and then tells me the information desk located directly behind us should be able to help.

Julie: What about me?

Julie was on a different original flight so did not get rebooked with us automatically.

Guy: Well, you could have made it - you arrived over an hour ago.

Julie: Um. No, I didn't.

Guy: Well, you could have made this flight either way.

Me: Yeah, no. She is travelling with us and we were meeting here. She arrived just before we did. It was not over an hour ago. She was waiting for us and your airline decided to leave early.

I become afraid we will begin the cycle again and take deep breath while Guy looks at his screen again and types a bit.

Guy: Looks like I can do something for you.

Guy issues ticket for Julie on the next flight, also, with no extra fee - probably because at this point he likely doesn't want to deal with me anymore. Who would?

At some point during this debacle, I think the guys had backed away and just let me go. Then I went to the information desk and, long story short, got all three of my upgrades refunded and got to keep the exit rows. I relaxed a bit with the woman at the info desk, presented my documentation, and took a few deep breaths. Not sunshine and rainbows, but I was well-behaved.

Now, you might be thinking Whoa, Crazy Lady - I'm glad I wasn't there with you! Or you may be thinking Haha, I would have paid to see that! In my defense, I didn't yell, stomp my feet, or cry (almost, though). I like to think I held my ground and voiced my displeasure with the situation in a way that got the point across but they didn't have to call security (barely, perhaps - it's all a bit fuzzy).

I think that Belva will especially appreciate this post because she was with me the one and only other time I was that irate girl at the airport when we were delayed and then almost stranded at the airport because of a snowstorm - that was my second or third time flying ever. This is probably my... I don't even have any idea - 40th trip? I've flown a lot.

Here's the thing: I've been stranded overnight a couple of other times and have been delayed a bunch, too. It's bound to happen and it's part of flying. Given this story, you may not believe me, but I normally don't care. Stranded? Find a hotel. Delayed? Find a book. Not a big deal. In fact, the first time I was stranded overnight, I thought it was great! It was an opportunity to prove to myself that I could take care of myself because I was travelling alone and stuck overnight in New Hampshire. And on our way home we were delayed for 3 hours because of the high winds back home. I didn't really care - I had a book to read and we were still getting in that night. And Julie had a long layover so we were there with her.

So what happened this time? I put a lot of work into coordinating this vacation. My second real vacation in 5 years. I was looking forward to this, planning for this, and not only did it affect me but it affected 4 other people. And they left without us.

That being said, I probably should not have been mean to the guy at the gate. It wasn't his fault personally. So, Guy, I'm sorry. But I'm still mad at the airline.

In the end, the vacation was totally worth it, though. I had a blast and I relaxed and I was happy and nice and sunshine and rainbows. :)

 

Disclaimer: This post reflects my recollection of the events which may have happened completely differently - but this is my story and I'm sticking to it. Even though it's a bit unflattering.

and p.s. if it makes me sound any less ridiculous, we (the 5 of us) were 10% of the passengers who were scheduled to be on that flight. It was a small 50-seater plane.