the archive

I realized that the way I name my posts doesn't really lend itself to easily going back and finding something I'm looking for. The other day, I was looking for the recipe of something I had made before and couldn't find it for the life of me. So, I added a new page to my blog - if you look at the top, you'll see the "food archive."  I'll be posting the food things I made that I think are worth sharing or going back to in alpha order. So far it has everything to-date, and I'll be updating it periodically to keep it updated.

If you've seen something here you want to try to find again, but (like me) don't really understand my post naming-convention, you can click there anytime and scroll through.

There is also a comment feature on the bottom of that page, so if you have recommendations for something I should try, or comments about something on the page, feel free to leave them there.

And for fun, here's a collage of everything I've made. :)



mango bars (again)

Last August, I made these mango bars and they were really tasty. I'm not sure if it's the mango, the butter crust, or the oatmeal crumbly topping. I've made them a couple of times since, and people seem to like them. And I made them, again, yesterday to bring to Easter tomorrow. They're still good, so I thought they were worth a re-post with small modifications I've made along the way. :)

 Mango Bars

2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. butter

Sift the flour and sugar together. Cut in butter and mix well - I kneaded it a bit at the end to make sure. Pat into a 9x13 pan evenly, covering the bottom. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

4 mangoes, cut into small pieces
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. water
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
bit of lemon zest (optional)
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
3 Tbsp. water

Put mangoes, sugar, 1/3 c. water, lemon juice, and zest into a medium saucepan over medium / medium-high heat. Cook until mangoes are tender - I mashed them with a masher, as well. In a small dish, mix the cornstarch and 3 Tbsp. water well; add to the tender mango mixture and cook until thick. Pour the completed mixture on top of the baked crust.

2 c. quick oats
1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. butter

Mix oats, flour, and sugar together. Cut in butter with a fork and mix well. Sprinkle over mango mixture in the 9x13 pan (and snitch a couple of pinches while you're doing it - the topping is tasty on it's own).

Bake the whole thing at 350 degrees for 50 minutes; cool and enjoy.

Happy Easter, everyone!  However/wherever you're celebrating, I hope it's filled with great food and better people.

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April (snow) showers bring May.... wait... that's not how the saying goes.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder is SAD. Clever, though. It snowed (again) and it's after mid-April now. Back by Cal (hometown) they got 6+ inches and here I shouldn't complain because we got about an inch (that I know of) this morning, and it had melted by the time I got home.

This is what it looked like here on November 13 last year:

This is what it looked like April 20 of this year:

Can you tell the difference?  Spending 5+ months looking at that is about enough to make someone (have) SAD.

I was telling mom last night that I think it's funny (but not really in a funny ha-ha way) that snow in mid-April is so upsetting because it's not new. It's the same thing every year. It gets nice for about a week or two, we get a taste of spring and warm, and -- every year -- it snows (again).

For some reason, though, this comes as a complete shock to all of us.

People are SAD, angry, upset - and even more so confused. I like to think it's that we, from the midwest, are wishful thinkers.We have faith that some year, April will come and it will be sunshine and roses and rainbows. It's just a bummer that Mother Nature has a crappy sense of humor.

Interestingly, though, after all of this for the last 5+ months, I still thought it looked really pretty in the trees - just like I did back in November. I was a little crabbier this time, but it was still pretty.

So, hopefully this is the end and we're on our way to spring. :)

In other, happier news, I had Keith help me draw the names of the two winners of the Ghiradelli chocolates from my 100th blog post!

And the winners are:




Holly & Genni!

I'll contact you guys to figure out how to get them to you. Woot woot! Thanks to everyone for being supportive of all of my ramblings. :)


stuffed peppers

I've been wanting to try stuffed peppers for a while because I've never had them and every time I see a photo, I think they look delicious. Today, I finally got around to it and looked up a few different recipes and ended up with two - one for stuff peppers and one for Spanish rice - that I used for guidance and went from there.

So, here's what I ended up with:

Prepare the peppers
Cut open the tops and pull out the insides. Use a spoon to scrape any extras and seeds from the inside. Put the peppers in a large pan with water covering them. Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. Remove the peppers from the hot water and put into a bowl of ice cold water. Remove and drain (open side down) on paper towels.

Rice mixture
1 c. long grain white rice
1 c. spaghetti sauce
1 c. chicken broth
1/2 tsp. chili powder
Franks Red Hot sauce, to taste

Mix this all together, bring to a boil, and reduce to medium heat. Stir frequently until fully cooked - about 25 minutes? I wasn't good at keeping track of time.

Meat mixture
1 med. onion (diced)
1 jalapeno pepper (seeds removed, diced)
1/2 lb. Italian sausage
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
Salt to taste

Saute onion and jalapeno until translucent, then add Italian sausage. Sprinkle the cumin over the mixture. Cook until the meat is browned and no longer pink. 

Bring it all together
Pour the meat mixture into the cooked rice mixture and mix well. Fill the peppers half way with this mixture, then add a light layer of Mexican cheese (or mozzarella or cheddar would be good). Fill the rest of the pepper, all the way to the top, with the mixture and top with a little more cheese.  Put the peppers on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Things you should know
  • You'll want the rice to be cooked how you would normally eat it before you bake it, because it didn't seem to get softer once in the oven. I had it almost done, but not quite, because I thought it would cook up more. It didn't.
  • I used a 1/2 lb. of Italian sausage -- next time I would maybe use a full pound if I want it a little meatier. 
  • The Italian sausage I used was a half/half mixture of mild kind and hot kind. It was a good mix for us. 
  • You could probably use ground beef or turkey and spice it up yourself instead of using the Italian sausage. 
  • We only made two peppers (medium-sized) and there's a bunch of leftover mixture. I'd guess you could make 5-6 medium peppers with this amount of mixture. We're going to use the leftover either as burritos or stuffing some poblano peppers tomorrow.
It sounds like a lot of work, but it was really good! And this is what it looks like:

In my opinion, it was well worth the effort - at least for us, because we'll get another meal or two out of the mixture. I'd guess we'll get two more poblanos and a couple of smaller burritos over the next couple of days, yet.

Oh, and the weird looking brown stuff on the plate? Refried beans. We weren't sure what else to serve with it because it already has meat, veggies, and rice in it. :)

Have you made stuffed peppers? How do you do it?



Welcome to post #100! I think I've been stressing out a little bit too much about this, because maybe it's not a big deal to you, but it is kind of a big deal to me. I thought I'd use this as a reflective opportunity, so I went through all 99 posts prior to this one and picked out a "top 10" of my favorites to share with you, and why they are my favorites. It was harder than I thought, though - my initial list was 24, which is just way too much. Then I got it down to 16, which was hard. And finally, I got down to which 10 I wanted to share.

But first, let's start with a celebratory drink, ok? And if you stick around to the end, I have a surprise for you. Earlier this week, a friend of Keith's shared this "recipe" with me and it was actually pretty tasty, although I'm sure many of you won't believe me.


Tequila with a Cinnamon Orange
1 shot PatrĂ³n Reposado tequila
1 orange wedge

Sprinkle cinnamon onto orange wedge. Drink shot of tequila, bite into cinnamon orange. 

That's it and it was surprisingly good. My advice, though, is to just have one. It is tequila, after all.

Top 10
Now on to my top 10 - if you visit any of these older pages, you can feel free to comment. So, here goes (in no particular order):

1. big day & the Kruse's
I'm combining these two posts because they are so related and they are the first two posts on this blog. This was after we lost Grandma K. and Grandma D. in 2009, and we were going through lots of old family pictures, which I absolutely love. When the family was going through things at the house / apartment, I remember telling mom & dad that I didn't want much - the most important thing to me was that I just a chance to look at and scan the pictures... and I did. I took some of my favorites and put them into these videos to share.

2. mmm... food!
This was the first post I did about food, which, if you've been following along, tends to be a big theme here. And that trend had to start somewhere - and it did, with a modification of one of mom's good recipes and taking it to make my own. If you're looking for a good apple panakuchen recipe, check it out. :)

3. guest post from mom - home comfort foods
Speaking of mom, I love this post because it's hers, and if you've been following along recently, you know that this is currently the most popular post on my blog. I think it's great that she did a guest post because it's nice to switch things up occasionally and it's nice to hear someone else's story.  The invitation is still open to you - let me know if you'd like to guest post, and I'll give you the options for how we can make that work!

4. responsibility
This was about everything we tried at the Minnesota State Fair last year - and it's kind of embarrassing, but I really liked this post. I had a lot of fun, and the State Fair is an experience we only get once a year. At least I do, because my stomach can't handle going more than once! That would not be responsible. :)

vacation & family
This seems a bit obvious because it's two awesome things: vacation and family. This one was special, though, because this visit was one that we had been wanting to do for a long time - it was the first time that we visited my awesome aunt & uncle in Florida AND it was the first time that that all three of my brothers and my cousin, Julie, went on vacation together -- without parents. And it's nice to look back at on days like today when it's cold and (really) windy here.

6. things that make me go hmm... #1
This was a shorty but this is how I think most of the time. Random thoughts -- and this was me sharing one with you without going into great detail or taking any photos. If I wrote down all of the random thoughts or conversations I had in a day, it would be a bunch of stuff that looks like this.

7. who needs sleep?
Not sleeping the night before I fly is a consistent problem every time I do it, and this is the result that can come from those sleepless nights - a 3 a.m. random post that may or may not make sense. I also liked this one because it made me think about where I've been and brought up a lot of good memories from my travels. And helped me map out the places I need to get to, yet!

I like this post because it's a story that former roommate Abby and I laugh about to this day - it falls into the category of bonehead moves that I've made, and you have to laugh at yourself when you do stupid stuff.

9. weirdo
This was about the weird food combinations we like and I like this post because we all have them - eggs and crackers, grilled cheese and hot chocolate, spaghetti and peanut butter sandwiches. And there were some interesting responses here in the comments!

10. me angry?
I think this one is my favorite because people say that when I get angry, it's funny... and I guess it's true. I think it's a pretty good representation of my personality when I am angry (and sassy). And more importantly, it's about being able to laugh about it later - and this one still makes me smile. And based on the comments, it made some of you laugh, too!

So, there you have it!  My top 10.

And now for the surprise - I'm going to try doing a giveaway in celebration of 100 posts to thank you for visiting me and following along!

When I was in Chicago, I went to the Ghiradelli Chocolate store and picked up these two cool, old-fashioned looking tins with chocolates in them.There will be two winners.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment here, on my post on FB, or email me answering one or all of the following questions:
  • Now that I've given you my top 10, do you have a favorite post from my first 99? If so, which one?
  • What you like to hear more or less of going forward?
  • If you were to do a guest post, what would it be about?
I'll put everyone's name into a drawing - to be drawn at the end of the day on Wednesday, April 20 and I'll make an announcement here. Depending on who wins, I'll figure out the best way to get it to you. :)

Thanks for joining for me for some or all of the first 100 - and I'm looking forward to many more!


cab driver

So, I miscounted because I have another post in draft, so for real this time, my NEXT post is my 100th post - and I think I have it figured out, now.  I just need to get it put together!  Thanks to those who gave some feedback about it!

So, in the meantime, and in an effort to get to that, I thought I'd tell you about a weird experience I had today. As some of you know, I've been in Chicago for a conference for the past few days and things went very well and I even learned some stuff! One night we had sushi, one night was home-cookin' type food with a big group, and last night we went out for homemade pizza. Life was good.

I'm going to preface by saying my cab driver from the airport to the hotel was great. He drove well, chatted kindly, and got me safely to my destination without incident. That being said, my cab driver from the hotel to the airport today ... not so much.

First, we'll start with on the way to the airport. I was sharing a ride with a co-worker and we were chatting about the conference, had a few laughs, and while tired, were all-in-all in good spirits. Until we saw our cab driver start talking to someone - in another car in the lane next to us - through his open window - on the highway - at about 50 miles / hour. Co-worker and I looked at each other with WTF look, but stayed quiet because cab driver wrapped up his conversation and kept driving quietly.

We got to the airport, and co-worker got dropped off first at his airline's door. Cab driver brought me up to my airline door and I went to pay. Sounds easy enough, right?

Cab driver saw I wanted to pay with my credit card, which by regulation of the cabs in Chicago all passengers have a right to do.  This is what happened.

Cab driver: You're paying with a card?

Me: Yes, I was planning on it.

Cab driver (starts to get upset): I wish you had said something about that earlier.

Me (confused): Why? There's a credit card machine right here... (there's a machine in the back seat for passengers to use)

Cab driver (not convincingly): Well, that doesn't always work properly... it doesn't always connect right. ... I need you to pay cash.

Here I think - your credit card machine, which looks brand new, isn't reliable at one of your most regular drop-off locations. I'm calling B.S.

Me: I don't have that much cash, I was planning to use my card.

This is where it gets sketchy...

Cab driver (gets really mad): Your card doesn't help me! I have a cash flow problem and your card will not work for that.

Me: What?  insert WTF face, again.

Cab Driver: Your card does not help me!

Me: Your "cash flow" issue is not my problem. We should at least try your card machine to see if it works.

Cab Driver: Will you pay $20?

Me: I really just prefer to use my card.

Cab Driver: That doesn't work. Here I can give you more receipts.

There is some back and forth here. Please note that having more blank reciepts does not help me - I cannot expense more than one trip to the airport, so I'm not sure how more blank receipts would sweeten the deal.

Me: Fine, whatever, I have $20, but I don't have the full fare.

Cab Driver: doesn't take my money. Will you give me $10?

Me: What? omg... Listen, you just said $20.

Cab Driver (angry, and seemingly on the verge of anger tears): This is a $40 fare!!! That's only half.

At this point, I sincerely feel that there is a mental health issue involved, and while I'm sympathetic to that, he's started to scare me a bit with the irrational back and forth. 

Me: Listen, you have two options - take my card for the full fare or I'll give you $20 cash.

Guy:  Fine, run the card.

Me: Puts card through the machine. Your machine says my fare is $2.65.   

Side note: The reason it's only asking for that amount is because he was scamming for cash and didn't run the machine to track the fare. 

Guy: I don't remember what he said - gibberish at this point, probably.  Just angry. Then... Fine, give me your card. I'll do it manually. huff. 

Me: Listen, it's my understanding that it's my right to use a card in any cab in Chicago.

Cab Driver: You understand wrong.

Side note: I don't understand wrong... 

Me: No, I don't understand wrong. 

At this point, the cab driver gets out, slams the door, pulls my bag out of the trunk, and slams the trunk door. He charge my card manually (since he didn't have his machine connected properly and I wasn't letting him scam me (or his company) for the cash. In the cab, I took a photo of his cab number with my phone; when I got out, I checked the name of the cab company.

I signed, grabbed my card back, gave him a look, and went into the airport. After I was through security, I called the cab company and told them I had a complaint - they said "ohh, was there damaged luggage?" - I said, "I wish."

I started to explain what happened, that he was trying to scam me (and them) for cash and the person asked me to hold so she could bring in a supervisor, which I was more than happy for. I finished explaining, told them it was unacceptable, and that I felt threatened and bullied by this guy (and gave his cab number). They, in an attempt to be helpful, told me that the city of Chicago requires all cabs to accept payment by credit card so this person was out of compliance - which I appreciated the validation, but this was not news to me. I found it interesting that they also encouraged me to call 311 (which is the city's commerce bureau, I think) to report this to them, as well, because he was out of compliance with the city's regulations. So, I did. I'll be getting a letter in the mail soon outlining the report, and return it to them with any other additional information, I guess.

So, although I was flustered, I was thankful that I have the travel experience I do and know that, for whatever reason, most cab drivers are great, but there are a few who try to pull this kind of crap. And I know that many cities require all cabs to accept cards, so I know to check that out for the city when I go. Without that experience, I think I would have felt a lot more pressured to comply or to make it work with cash, or that it was my fault.

I made it into the airport in one piece and made it home fine - and I'm not going to let Cab Driver ruin the rest of the Chicago experience for this most recent visit or for the next one. Chicago is an awesome city.

So, my advice: Know your rights.  If you don't know, before you get in the car, ask the driver two things through the window:
  1. How much from x location to x location?
  2. Do you accept payment by credit card?

If you find either of those two things alarming - try a different cab. Most of the drivers I've had have been great, but watch out for the sketchy.

My other advice is to always be aware. When you get in a cab, look at the name of the cab company on the outside and locate the cab number so you can easily find it later if you need it - it should be visible on the inside and in most (if not all) cases, on the outside. If something happens that is not safe, or not ethical, have that information so you can report it. I believe that cab companies, in general, value customer service and expect their drivers to abide by not only their and the city's expectations -- and yours.

Have you had any bad cab experiences?
Do you have any travel advice to avoid a potentially bad situation?


who needs sleep?

Apparently you miss one 6 a.m. flight and you are banned from sleeping the night before any morning flight ever again. At least that's the situation I've found myself in after one mistake over 4 years ago when I missed an early morning flight to Indiana. It was a terrible feeling that I never want to have again and my body never wants to experience that type of panic again -- at least that's what I am guessing from it's reaction to having morning flights after that experience. I used to sleep a lot less and my former roommate told me that this song (Who needs sleep? by the Barenaked Ladies) was my theme song. If you haven't heard it before, it's worth a listen and is representative of my current status.

Tomorrow morning (well, actually - this morning) I'm headed to Chicago. So, because I'm just up with not a chance of any shut-eye in sight for a while, I thought I would use this as my 99th post and force myself to move toward my 100th post. Often when I'm in my "who needs sleep?" stage, I think why?  It's not that I haven't traveled enough. I'm not a nervous flier. In fact, I love flying and when I went on vacation last year, one of the highlights of my trip was that I was able to be in an airport I haven't been in before. And in most cases it's not that I'm so excited to go that I just can't contain myself.  So, it must be missing that one stupid flight 4+ years ago and I think I really do think I'm ruined for life.

The good news is that I know that about myself at this point, so I don't fully expect to get a good night's sleep before I go and I just try to catch up when I get there. Tonight, in particular, I've been thinking about all of the places I've been and decided to map it out.  I've been to the states highlighted in dark blue here:

To be honest, I thought it would look more impressive than this, but I guess I've been to the same states multiple times and I have quite a bit of work to do to hit the rest of the country, still.

California-I've been to Los Angeles for work 2-3 times and I have a friend that lived in Long Beach who I have stayed with 2-3 times. Those trips were always fun, particularly the Long Beach ones because hanging out with that friend means relaxing, fun stuff (museum, author/social change leader speaker - my vacations are exciting), great (GREAT) food, and good people. She doesn't live there anymore, which is sad because the Thai place around the corner from her house had the best yellow chicken curry and we always went to this great crepes place.

Colorado-When I was young (10 or so?) my brother and I went on a road trip with our grandparents to visit family here.  Because it was a road trip, this is also when we were in Nebraska and Kansas.  I've also been to Denver a couple of times for work. One of those times, a few of us rented a car and drove up a mountain - it was 90 degrees in Denver and there was snow at the top of the mountain. Definitely a weird feeling - and a cold one, says the girl who wore her flip flops up there. I also had a late flight one of the times I was there, so had time to see a bit of the city so I went to the Capitol and to a really cool street art show. I will say that Denver is one of the few places I've been that I wasn't quite ready to go home by the end of the trip, and I would have stayed longer.

North Dakota-I went to North Dakota for the first time in college for an APO conference. I remember a few things about this.  a) it was a lot of fun; b) I drove; c) it was February; and d) my heater went out on my car - in February - in North Dakota. We had to use my ice scraper on the inside of my car, which was a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime experience.

South Dakota-When I was younger (13-14 maybe?) I went with some other teens from church to a youth conference. I remember there were two cars (one with the girls and one with the boys)
 and we went to Mount Rushmore, the bad lands, but we didn't stop at Wall Drug. In related news, I'm planning to be in South Dakota over memorial day weekend, likely some Laura Ingalls Wilder stuff and, if we're lucky, the Mitchell Corn Palace. I told you my vacations were exciting!

Texas-I feel like I've been to Dallas more times than I can count for work, with some being more interesting than others. I loved eating seafood at Landry's, we found a neat place called Hotel Za Za, and I spent a night in the ER with a co-worker watching the Golden Globes waiting for her to be seen by the doctor (kidney stones - ouch). Oh, and when you're in Texas, you have to eat steak. This is also where I fell in love with the lemon drop martini (that's a story for another time).

Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa-These are obvious because they are where I've lived, worked, and went to school (MN/WI) and I grew up so close to Iowa that for a long time we had an Iowa address, but Minnesota drivers licenses-it's like we didn't know where one started and the other stopped, I guess.

Missouri-I went to the National Volunteer Conference one year for APO (after I graduated from college) and visited the APO national headquarters in Lafayette.

Louisiana-When I was in college (a junior, I think?), we went to New Orleans for the APO National Conference. This was kind of a vacation, I guess, but it was actually an exciting one because I was there with a bunch of awesome APO brothers from all over the place, in New Orleans, over new year's. It may not be Mardi Gras, but it was fun! The first thing my friends and I did was go to the Old Absinthe House (a bar) and ask for a hurricane, which was apparently the drink to have in New Orleans. They asked Do you want that for here? or to go? Ummm... to go!!!

Illinois-More work stuff - I've been to Oak Brook and Chicago. I had good pizza and it was neat to walk around, but these were strictly work. And I'm headed there again in a few hours, I guess. :) I would like to make a weekend trip to Chicago sometime for play, though - want to go with me?

Indiana-Seems like countless times here, too, for work - we were in Bloomington (Go Hoosiers!). I have to many stories to tell about this, so you'll have to ask me in person sometime. I will say that we had to fly into Indianapolis and take a shuttle all the way to Bloomington (over an hour) and I remember one time writing down the random signs, like a building called Banquet Hall and a Real Big Guns store. A girls' gotta do something to entertain herself in rural Indiana. But once we were there, it was awesome -- and Jen, if you read this, I miss you!!!

Georgia-I wrote a little bit about my trips to Atlanta recently talking about some memories I have with my cousin/godmother, Becky, and her family. I've been there for work 2-3 times, and was there for my goddaughter's baptism. I'd like to go here, again, to spend some more time with them (but unrelated to a work trip).

[[side note: woo hoo! the Golden Girls just came on tv. Hey... it's better than watching the infomercial about pajama jeans or proactiv, again]]

Florida-Believe it or not, the first time I was in Florida was two years ago. The first time was just a short in-and-out trip to Miami for a work site visit and I was there again this past January. But I actually went on a real vacation there in October of last year in Tallahassee. I already posted all about this, but will say it was awesome and my aunt and uncle rule for putting up with all 5 of us. :)

Virginia-I was here several times for work trips at the National Conference Center, which is by far one of the most interesting bunkers buildings I've ever been in. By about the fourth time, I finally figured out how understand the naming conventions they use for their hallways/buildings/and rooms so I wouldn't get lost anymore. I also learned that it's best to use the underground tunnels to get everywhere and only go outside from the main building because otherwise you will never find where you're going. It was definitely good times, though - and what doesn't kill you makes you stronger!

Washington D.C.-I went once on a day trip with a friend when I was in Maryland for work and we spent some time in Georgetown, which was very cool, and we got to meet up with a high school friend for dinner, which was even better! The other time was just an overnight work trip for a 1-day conference we were hosting.

Maryland-Went here a bunch of times (5? 7? 10? - well, probably not 10, but probably 5-7). Mostly for work at our office there, but have spent a couple of weekends hanging out there, as well. I posted already about the last time I was there and spent some time hanging out over the weekend.

New York-I've been here twice and I loved New York City. You can get anywhere you want to go by subway and walking and there are so many things to do and see. Friends Abby, Shannon, and I went one time for a few days and had a blast with friend Greg. The other time was an overnight trip when I was going to be in Maryland for work that week and it was a lot of fun! It seems like you could live there for years and not run out of stuff to do/see. I'd like to go back - want to come?

And finally, New Hampshire-This was another work trip, but the interesting thing about this one was that on my way out, my flight was canceled out of Manchester, so I ended up having to find a hotel and stay until the next day - that was the first time that had happened when I was by myself. And, no, I did not become that angry girl this time. Instead, I looked at it as a challenge to show myself I could take care of myself in that type of situation. Turns out, it's not that hard. Get cab. Book hotel. Eat dinner. Sleep. Get cab. Get on flight. Somewhere in between, you call the travel agent and tell them to re-book you. Worked like a charm.

Outside of the U.S., I've only been to the Bahamas for my cousin/godmother's wedding when I was a freshman in college and that was one awesome trip. Singing "We are family" and dancing at the reception, going to the Zoo, the very interesting booze cruise, my first time being in a casino, and touring the Atlantis hotel that you see on the travel channel all the time. :) Good times.

And there you have it - this is what happens the night before I fly out in the morning. No sleep and now you're subjected to my long rambling post. If you made it all the way to the end, kudos and thank you for reading.

Now... on to post #100!  Bear with me, please. As you know, I'm headed to Chicago for a few days and may not have a chance to finish it up until late next week or next weekend.


help, please...

OK, so I'm only a few posts away from my 100th post on here... and while I'm not sure, I think that's a big deal. Seriously - this means I've spent a lot of time on this, for over a year.  I'm a little stressed out - I feel like that post should be something great and momentous, but I'm at a loss. What do you think? I need some suggestions. How shall we celebrate?

I'm sitting here thinking about all of the possibilities, but am not sure what to do... I need something that will make me more popular on my blog than my mom is (see the last part of my previous post).

And just so I don't waste one of the few I have left before I hit the big 1-0-0, here's some meatballs that I made.  It's the Meatball Nirvana recipe from allrecipes.com.  My notes:
  • I reduced the oregano by 1/4 tsp. and the Italian season by 1/2 tsp.  
  • I used a meatloaf mix of meat from the store instead of just ground beef - I think it had some ground pork and ground beef -- I saw on a food show once that it's better if you do that.  I'm not sure about better, but they were pretty darn good! 
  • I've been keeping them in the freezer so I can take a few out at a time for spaghetti or meatball sandwiches.  That's working out pretty slick!!!

UPDATE: My mom is officially more popular than me - she's now in the #1 slot on my blog. Go mom!  ... but apparently I suck. :)


I see you.

I added this new feature to my blog recently that shows my most popular posts, measured by the number of page views for each - you can find it on the right hand side of my page, under my recent posts. Interestingly, it seems that the most popular posts are the ones that are not just around food. Maybe it's because a lot of the posts are primarily about food and those were something a little different. Maybe it's because food is boring ... no, that can't be it. But maybe in addition to the really interesting food, it's more fun when it's about more than that. That, I can see.

That's just one of the ways I can use technology to analyze my blog. I've been using Google Analytics for almost a year, and it tells me all kinds of neat things.  No, it does not tell me who your name, address, age, credit card number or any other identifying information, so don't worry! :) But it does tell me how many visits my blog gets each day, and how many of those visits are "unique", meaning if you visited my blog 10 times today because it's super interesting (or you were super bored) it would tell me that there were 10 visits, but 1 person. It also tells me approximately where people are checking in from - based, I think, on where your internet service provider is located (no, I am not able to track down your house and unless you're the only person I know in Montana, I don't know it's you.  ... I made that up, I don't know anyone in Montana).

So, who visits me?  Obviously you (thanks!!). 

What I can tell you is that I've apparently had visitors from the following countries:

  • United States
  • Canada
  • Brazil
  • Panama
  • United Kingdom
  • France 
  • Spain
  • Czech Republic
  • Greece
  • Haiti
  • Vietnam
  • Hong Kong
  • Poland
  • Sweden
  • South Africa
Crazy, huh?  I can identify that many of the international 'hits' are from friends who have been traveling or live internationally and checked in, but there's some that I am not really sure about. In the U.S., I've had 'hits' from 31 states (but not Montana -- see, I don't know anyone there) and Washington D.C.

The number of hits isn't completely accurate, because it's been counting mine the whole time.  I may  have figured out a filter to leave me out of it going forward, but I'm not sure if it's working yet. But it shows me these neat graphs that depict my blog traffic as a roller coaster of ups and downs.  Probably because I don't have a huge following and my posting is sometimes sporadic. Since I started this, my traffic pattern looks like a bad lie detector test, or an alarming EKG:

I can definitely tell when I haven't posted for a while (see gap of low activity near the end -- that's the month of March when I was MIA).  But I wonder if I did have time to post every day if you would even want to read what I have to say every day.  Would I have a more steady flow of people?  I guess that's one thing we may never know unless we try.  I'll think about it. :)

Maybe this is boring to you, but I think it's interesting.  And, again, I'm not stalking you so please don't stop visiting me.  It doesn't share with me your name or any other really identifying information - unless I meet someone in Montana.  I might know it's him/her then because they'd be the only one.

In other, but related news, I've added a new feature to my blog and it appears to be working properly.  Below the posts and in the upper right hand corner, there is a link that allows you to subscribe to my blog via email.  This means that whenever I make a post, you'll get an email at the end of the day letting you know I've made an update.  If you're interested in something like that feel free to subscribe.

So, what do you think? Is this interesting? Did I scare you? What do you like hearing from me?  Personally, I think Mom needs to new another guest post... she's #3 in my most popular list. Go mom!

UPDATE: Mom has now moved into the #2 slot.  Before too long, she'll be more popular on my blog than I am. I'm not sure how to feel about that... haha!



Tonight is boys night, so the guys are over.  One of Keith's friends brought his 5-year old daughter, Gracie, with him until his wife was able to pick her up.  By the time I got home, they had already had dinner (there was a leftover pork chop for me - yeah!) and they were watching Megamind.  When it was over, I thought it would be nice to do something fun with her and I have had this bag of m&ms sitting around for a few days, so made some cookies and had Gracie help decorate them.  They're pretty good!  I used an m&m cookie recipe I found online.  I made a couple of changes:
  • I was low on brown sugar, so used 1/2 c. brown sugar and about 3/4 c. white sugar
  • Since I wasn't mixing in the m&ms, I mixed in some mini chocolate chips and let Gracie put the m&ms on top
She did a great job!

At the end, I just made the last of it into two big cookies - and she wanted to take them home, but they weren't baked yet... so I told her I'd send at least one of them home with her dad.  Maybe I'll send both.  Maybe I'll keep one for me. :)

What are some fun things you like to make with kids?

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food & memories

Tonight was relaxing - movies and take-out Indian food. It was grand. We watched The Fighter, which I thought was great, although there were a lot of f-bombs. And for a movie about a boxer, the movie didn't have a ton of actual fighting, but a good amount. We also watched The Tourist, an impulse rental.  Note to self: do not impulse rentReviews and plots are important.  The best part of the movie is that Johnny Depp is in it, but unfortunately I thought that's about all it had going for it. 

The Indian food was great and I got my favorite dish, chicken makhani, Keith got the beef josh, and we got some naan (flat bread) to split.

The sauce on the left (greenish) is the beef josh; the one on the right (orangish) is the chicken makhani.

Sometimes food will trigger memories - at least it does for me. I was telling Keith that the first time I had Indian food, I was in Atlanta for a work trip and my cousin/godmother Becky took me out to an Indian place for dinner.  That first experience was fun - I even remember having Indian beer - but mostly remember that it was SOOOO spicy hot. It was really good, but so very hot. Since then, I've had it a bunch of times and from a bunch of places.  I just ask for a more moderate level of spicy.

That led me to think further about this and I realized (and I'm not sure she knows this) but she is the reason I've had a couple of other food firsts.

When I was there for her daughter (my goddaughter), Sierra's baptism, Becky and Corey took me and Mary (Corey's sister and Sierra's other godmother) out to a sushi restaurant for dinner.  That was also a fun and interesting first time experience for me.  I remember someone (I think it was Becky) telling me that sushi is one of those things you don't want every day, but once you've had it, you'll someday down the road find yourself craving it.  She was right, because it was a while before I went out for sushi, again, but then the craving hit and now I love it.  It's still not something I want to eat every day, but every couple/few months I find myself wanting it now. Here's a pic of some sushi rolls I had last fall in Baltimore.

at Ra Sushi in Baltimore

Another time I was there for work, we went to a tapas restaurant.  Be careful when you tell someone you went to a tapas place for dinner, because it often comes across sounding like you went to a topless place for dinner.  There's a pretty big difference.  Anyway, we went there with Sierra (she was so little back then!!) and for some reason I remember that was the first time I had bacon-wrapped dates that were stuffed with some kind of cheese (feta, gorgonzola, or goat, maybe??) and they were delicious, even though I am typically not a fan of foods wrapped in bacon. The only other one I can think of that I like is the 'lil smokies with bacon.

But I digress... the point isn't really the food. It's the memories that they can trigger.  I had a lot of great times with Becky over some really great (and sometimes new) food and hope to have many more.  And I can credit her with broadening my horizons to try new things in my life - so, thanks Becky! 

What foods trigger memories for you?

Has someone in your life helped broaden your horizons (food or otherwise)?



As I was starting to put this post together, I realized that I had to use this song -- if you haven't listened, yet, please do.  I'll hold.


Done?  OK, good deal - and don't judge because that song is awesome.  Now, let's get started.  I didn't really used to like blueberries that much - not plain or in other stuff.  But I have found that as I've grown up and the older I get my tastes are changing with a lot of things.  I had a conversation recently with someone about this because we were talking about something that was sooo good in college and I told him that I'm pretty sure it would probably taste gross now, so I'm just not going to eat it again because I don't want to ruin a good memory.  Salmon, too.  Hated it until about 5 years ago.  Has that happened to you? 

The good news is that I love blueberries now - plain and in stuff - and they make me think of spring and summer.  The time of year when you start eating more fruit, veggies, salads, and other healthy stuff that is good when it's warm outside.  Since they've been on sale on and off recently, we've tried a few different things with them.

Blueberry Buckle
Kind of like a blueberry coffee cake, and this was Keith's idea.  He found this recipe and made it as it's posted - no alterations - and it was great!  The thing you need to know if you try this recipe is that when it says to "pour" the batter into the pan, it's not going to pour because it's too thick - so you kind of just empty the bowl of mixture into the pan and pat it down evening.  And that's OK - we weren't sure if the consistency was right, but it turned out great!  Looks like this:

Blueberry Banana Muffins
This was a nice change from regular blueberry muffins - I used a recipe for blueberry banana bread and made it muffin tins.  I followed the recipe pretty closely, with the only change being using almond extract instead of vanilla.  When it came to the baking part, it was about 13-15 minutes to do them in muffin format (at the listed heat).  And instead of the topping in the recipe notes, I used something I found in the reviews and modified slightly...

1/2 c. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 Tbsp. butter (melted)

Mix.  I used half of this on some of the muffins and then added 1/4 c. chopped pecans to the mixture so I could have some with a nutty top.  I ran out, though, so in the end had some plain, with streusel topping, and some with streusel pecan topping. These were a hit with my colleagues!  I accidentally left some uncovered at home, though, and they got hard.  I put them in a plastic baggie with a piece of bread and they softened back up, though. :)

Blueberry Breakfast Sauce
I saved this one for last because I think it was my favorite - and the most simple - using this recipe I found online.  My friend Kim was kind enough to let me come to her house last weekend and have brunch with her family; since I don't have a waffle maker, I was happy she did so we could make them.  I brought the blueberries to try this sauce, but honestly wasn't sure how it was going to work because the recipe seemed too easy. But it was awesome!  And don't be fooled by it being called a breakfast sauce, because I would bet money that it would be delicious as an ice cream or cheesecake topping, too.

1/2 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. corn starch
1/3 c. water
2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries

In a 2-qt. saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch; gradually stir in water. Add blueberries; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

That's it.  Seems too easy, doesn't it?  I didn't think that the blueberries would soften up enough in just a minute, but it was true - and then we turned down the heat until our waffles were ready.  This is how it works:



My plate

Up Close - mmmm.....

I will warn you though, that if you have kids to be careful... because I accidentally stained Kim's kids. Especially James. :)
That's gonna leave a mark. Sorry Kim...
I hope you still let me come again :)
What about you?  Have you ever
  • found that your tastes have changed over time? with what?
  • tried an awesome blueberry recipe you want to share?
  • stained your kid?  or, like me, your friend's kid?
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