Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Birthday aka "The Dryer Diaries"

I recently celebrated my 40th birthday. I wasn't really scared of turning 40, but it wasn't as breezy as turning 30 was. Now I am clearly older, achier, wrinklier (and hopefully, wiser)... age has made itself known. On the other hand I don't have any 'outstandings' as I did when I was 30 (not married, no child, struggling career...) so I feel a little more settled and comfortable with where I am at. And that's a good thing. A very good thing.

As far as my actual birthday celebration  I was feeling a little down because I wasn't sure my husband got that on my birthday I wanted to be really celebrated... especially since it was a milestone. Based on some comments he made (and some previous b-day and mother's day experiences) I thought I might be headed towards a 'meh' kind of birthday. For one, he told me a couple times that I would not be receiving my gift on my birthday and indicated that it might be awhile before I got it. I'm not one that needs anything big like a party (although I am not opposed to one) - I just want to feel special. And when Jesse forgot to say Happy Birthday to me before I left for work I sorta tailspinned into feeling very non-special. He quickly apologized and wished me a Happy Birthday in a text, but by that time I was already bummed out. I sat on it for awhile as I received birthday wishes from all my co-workers, but it kept sinking down deeper. I sent an email to Jesse telling him how I was feeling, but acknowledged that he is awesome to me and that I knew it was still early in the day. I felt like I just needed to get it off my chest.

Turns out I really didn't need to worry. My husband came through and then some. Although, I could have done without the attempt to throw me off my saying I wouldn't get a gift on my birthday. Turns out that wasn't really funny nor was it a delightful surprise. At any rate, in the end it was a mighty fine way to turn 40. But before I get to my husband's part of the fun I need to talk about my awesome co-workers.

We have a system at work where we bring in a treat to share with the whole team on a team mate's birthday. Basically, whoever last had their birthday brings in the treat for the next birthday and so on. Lucky for me Ben's birthday is before mine. Ben has a wife and 4 kids so I am guessing he has some practice in the birthday department. Plus, he's an all around nice guy. Besides the fancy fonted birthday email he sent he also brought in Age Gyoza (crispy Japanese-style chicken dumplings) and edamame from Zen Box Japanese Eatery.  Zen Box is one of my favorite places to grab lunch so I was delighted to get a treat from there (and so was the team).

My team then went above and beyond by decorating my cube with cat pictures and balloons. My co-worker, Ashley, is a huge fan of cats so it was no surprise that cats made their way into my birthday somehow, but she went above expectations by purchasing a cat balloon that hovers just over the ground so it looks like you are walking a cat. A balloon cat, that is. I agreed to have my picture taken with it as I figured this was my only chance to: 1. have a picture taken of me on my birthday, and 2. document the balloons. I was wrong, but more on that later.

One of the many cat pictures placed in my cube.

As I was packing up for the day I decided to bring the cat balloon home for my daughter. I awkwardly stuffed it into a plastic Target bag with it's tail sticking out. Ashley requested that I walk the cat onto the bus, but I brushed off her foolishness. But as I got closer to my bus stop I started to rethink her request. And then this happened when I got on the bus:

Just because I am 40 doesn't mean the 14 year old in me can't be let out from time to time.

Please note that there is only one guy looking up. No one else is paying attention. DO THEY NOT SEE THE CAT ON THE BUS?! Apparently, they don't know what it took for this picture to happen. I'd like to say I am just that brave and cool, but it took a lot of self talk to get here and the luck of having my neighbor on the bus to take the picture. All in all it was so worth it as I was able to bring joy to Ashley's life and apparently made a bunch of other people laugh.

I was also hoping to bring joy to my daughter's life with the kitty balloon, but I should have known better. As soon as she saw it she said "Idon'twantthisIdon'twantthisIdon'twantthisIdon'twantthis..." until I removed it from site. I put it in the guest room and later found our cat, Lucy, sniffing it's butt. I guess to a cat a butt is a butt.

Caught in the act

After eating the burgers Jesse picked up for dinner he and Riley gave me my card. Well, Jesse attempted to. As soon as Riley saw it she equated it with coloring and insisted on coloring it some more. We had to do a little switcheroo with a coloring book and then I was able to get my hands on this:

Riley also got me the "Mother to Daughter" book, but the card was my favorite. As you can see the first letter in the words spell out 'dryer'. Jesse and I have a bit of a dryer theme when it comes to exchanging gifts (or getting engaged). I started it, but I think that might be the only time I put anything in the dryer. He, on the other hand, has embraced the dryer over and over.

Seeing that Jesse made it clear that I wouldn't receive my gift for some time I thought he was just being cute with the card saying 'dryer' - like he was trying to work it in there somewhere. But after having some delicious cake he asked if I read my card. "Yes", I commented, "it said 'dryer'. Cute". He gave me a look that I now know meant "good lord, you are daft" and then gently nudged me towards the basement. I opened the dryer to find:

Balloons! and something white... We'd been talking about getting me a tablet for some time so I was pretty darn sure that was going to be my gift. We'd been looking at a variety of brands, but we both agreed that an iPad was more than I needed (or wanted to pay for), but when I saw that white bag I knew.

And I was a little stunned. I said something silly like "You got me an iPad" as if he didn't know. And then being the gracious wife I am I ran right past him to get my camera to capture this moment. But once the stun started to wear off I made sure he knew how grateful I was.

Since my birthday fell on a Thursday we decided to go out for a nice dinner on Saturday when grandma Suzie, and grandpa Michael could babysit Riley. We decided to go to Red Stone Grill after it had been suggested numerous times to us (one of which was my oldest sister, Judy, who just celebrated her 40th wedding anniversary there).

The food, surroundings, and company was fantastic, and I would highly recommend dining there. We had the Buffalo Shrimp appetizer, the Steak Salad, and the Wasabi Crusted Tuna, along with some fantastic wine. The atmosphere was warm and cozy and we even got a nice secluded spot in the corner. I can't wait to go back.

Jesse trying to avoid being in the picture.

In the end turning 40 was pretty awesome. And I felt incredibly special thanks to my family and friends.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book Review

I am a bit of a book junkie. I don't get a lot of opportunity to read when I am at home, but luckily I ride the bus to and from work 4 days a week which provides me with ample time to read. And sometimes, especially if I am reading a 'can't put down' book, I will sneak in extra moments at home.

I haven't always been a book reader. When I was young I rarely read except for the Sweet Valley High series which a friend convinced me to read (oh, that Jessica and Elizabeth). I often say that I rarely read then because I really needed to focus on my homework. Anytime I would pick up a novel I would devote all my time to that and not to homework so it didn't seem worth it. But it was actually more than that. Book reading wasn't really encouraged. I never saw others at home reading a book. My dad read the newspaper, but there were no novels, biographies, or even self help books sitting around the house (which there probably was a real need for). I know I had books when I was really little, but not so much as I got older. In fact one of my favorites was The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton.

Years ago I bought this book for a friend's daughter and another for my future child. I still had my copy from childhood, but wanted a fresh, new one so my future daughter or son could have their own. It has a lot of words so Riley hasn't really embraced it yet, but she did patiently flip through the whole book while I told her the abbreviated story this past week and it made my day.

I know that not everyone is a book reader or has to be, but now that I have become one I see what value it can have. My daughter already has quite a book collection and it is the one thing that I am ok with her having 'too' much of. I hope she continues to love reading books. I know I will keep reading and I hope that inspires her to do so as well.

So how did I become a book reader? Well, it didn't happen overnight. As an adult I subscribed to the newspaper and then some magazines. These were great as I continued my education and I could quickly read an article in between homework assignments. I'd read a novel here and there, but it wasn't really until I had forced time to read (such as on the bus) and found a genre that I like (historical fiction, memoirs...). A few years back I started an informal book exchange at work. Leave a book, take a book... whatever. I'm not one to want to keep books (I only read them once),  I don't want to spend a lot on them either (I have found a lot of great books on clearance shelves, thrift stores, and garage sales), and I don't want them cluttering up space at home. The book exchange has worked out great and has encouraged me to read books that I might not have originally.

So this year I decided to keep track of the books I read. Partly out of curiosity as to how many books I read in a year and partly so I can refer back to which books I'd recommend and which ones I wouldn't. The first book of 2012 was The Last Girls by Lee Smith. Apparently, Smith's best known books are often set in the Appalachian Mountains or around the time of the Civil War. This book was neither of those things and  was actually inspired by her own trip down the Mississippi when she was in college.

The book follows the tale of 4 women who travel down the Mississippi river together years after taking a raft down the river with 8 other women in 1965. Smith does a great job of intertwining present with past and a good job of creating 4 very different characters. She does focus a bit more on one of the four women which felt a little awkward and clunky at first, but then she found a decent story telling groove. Overall, I would rate this as a good read. If you don't identify with one character you might identify with another. I probably would have found this even more enjoyable if I were in my 50's or if I was a young woman in the 1960's as there were pieces that just didn't speak to me, but I would still recommend this book. Grade: B

I have to admit that my next reading selection was chosen more for it's size than anything. When I scour the shelves at the book store I usually start with the look of the book. Is it a paperback (hardcovers are often more expensive and heavier to carry around)? Is it a small to medium book? Is the cover pleasing? I know, I know... a book should not be judged by it's cover, but I have to start somewhere. There are a lot of books on the shelves. But once I get past looking at the outside of the book I read the description. Does it appeal to me? Yes? Buy the book. No? Put it back on the shelf no matter how pretty the cover is. I felt like I had been reading a lot of books that were a little heavier (in the weight department) so when I grabbed Montana 1948 by Larry Watson I gave it a second chance even though the cover did not inspire me. Why? Because it was small. A mere 175 pages.

And I'm glad I did give it a second chance. This may have been a fast read, but it was very well written. I assumed it might be lacking details, but I had a definite vision of how the house and the town looked... even if he didn't give his reader a ton of description. The story, as you might imagine, is set in 1948 in Montana. It's a tale of a family and their Sioux housekeeper where a difficult choice has to be made between family and justice. This book was clear, and concise. It didn't wander in ways that didn't benefit the story. It was clean and refreshing, and I look forward to reading more of Mr. Watson's work. Grade: A

Next book review: A disturbing, but can't put down read and another Lee Smith book.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Another winter weekend

This weekend we left the house to go to the nursing home to visit grandma Ann and grandpa Frank, but were a bit delayed when Riley decided to wander around outside. Might as well let her explore and burn off some energy before sticking her in the car... because car rides can often look like this:

Earlier in the week... upset about being in the car.

We just had a light snowfall so it was a little surprising that Riley wanted to run around as she hasn't been that fond of snow so far, but it seems that she's coming around. She kept scooping up snow and throwing it at us and wandering around on neighbor's sidewalks. I wonder what the neighbors think of us... I never see other neighbors randomly hanging out in our yard. "Don't they have their own yard to play in?".

Not our house.

When I wrote her name in the snow it led her to asking me to write a 'B', a 'P', etc. She loves to have us write letters over and over for her. B still seems to be her favorite, but she's starting to branch out with others. By this time we were down at the park and were having a bit of a challenge convincing her we needed to go home. Solution? Grab a stick and write letters in the snow for her. With each letter move about 5 feet up until you arrive home conveniently at the letter Z.

Once we got home we jumped in the car and headed to the nursing home. She had a fun time there and discovered a few new things to play with such as the singing snowman and this flowerpot full of rocks.

You can't see it, but she was throwing pebbles around.

Later in the day my dad (grandpa Frank) stopped by as he was in the neighborhood to see a friend of his. And grandma Suzie and grandpa Michael stopped by at the same time. What a treat to have all these visitors. My dad even shared stories of when he worked at Coca Cola during the war many years ago. He explained that because of the war bottle production had stopped so they had to get used bottles back, clean them out, and refill them. He said they were extremely short on bottles when he backed his truck into a large pallet of bottles and broke them all. Lucky for him it all worked out and he said he even got a new truck out of the deal. I love hearing my dad talk about these things because most of the time he talks as if nothing important or exciting happened in the past.

Jesse asked me to destroy this picture, but it's so rare that we get a picture together as a family I couldn't help but keep it.

Grandpa Michael was a good sport playing with Riley. It was fun to see him crawling around on the ground with her. And she was loving it.

There was a family on the ice skating and sledding around. It was fun to watch and think that this may be us in the near future.

The rest of the weekend was pretty uneventful except for Monday when I had the day off, but Riley had daycare and Jesse had to work. I ran more errands in day than I have since before Riley was born. It was pretty exciting to get that much done in one day. I almost forgot that was possible. I spent part of the day planning for Riley's birthday party which is coming up in February. We've decided to keep the party somewhat small... some family, some friends. I hope no one is offended if they aren't invited, but we have such a huge family we needed to keep it manageable for her age. I have been debating birthday party ideas (owls, abc's...), but decided that the one consistent thing that she has been interested in is books so we are having a book party (and we can include the alphabet easily with this). The invites I made are bookmarks and have a little rhyme explaining that books are a great gift. She got so many toys for Christmas that she doesn't even know what to do with them, but she always loves her books. I can't wait for it to all come together.

And, to be honest, I can't wait to get her some new books!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I was looking through some recent pictures I took and realized I'd like to share them, but really don't have a  topic to write about that would tie them all together. So I shall proceed with a very random post.

Here my child lovingly demonstrates her solidarity with the cat by eating with him. We are pretty inconsistent about eating together as a family (something I would love to do more often) so perhaps she is sending us a message here "you won't eat with me, then I'll eat with the cat".

I got this owl t-shirt for Riley for Christmas. She was obsessed with owls for awhile so I thought this would be the perfect item for her. Turns out as soon as I hit 'submit' and ordered the shirt owls went out of fashion with her. Oh, she still likes them, but her love for them has waned a bit.

This was the first time I gave her pizza (I also fed her apple slices for those food police type people). She loved the pizza and proceeded to get it everywhere but her white shirt which was AMAZING. At any rate, I walked out of the room for a moment only to come back to this scene - foot on tray. Guess she was done with her food and just wanted to touch her toes.

Another trip to the Children's Museum. There was a new exhibit that revolved around books. She absolutely loved it, of course. This was the first display we came to. When you opened the doors music played. Here she is clapping and dancing to the music. It was a little hard to convince her that there were other things to check out as she found this so awesome.

Later at the museum we checked out the water area. Nothing that exciting happened here except that she had fun and looked cute in her pigtails.

First official ponytail. On the back on her head, that is. I've been debating whether to get her hair cut or let it grow some more. Her hair is still pretty fine, but seems to be thickening up. Her hair is nothing like my thick, wavy hair, but perhaps mine wasn't either at that age.

New Year's Eve dinner from Christos Greek Restaurant. We thought about going there with Riley, but she seemed pretty wound up. I knew that we wouldn't be able to enjoy our meal there so we ordered it to go. This worked out way better. Riley got to run around and play once she ate and we didn't have to pay for spendy wine at a restaurant. The food turned out perfect. They really do have the best Greek food around.

So that pretty much sums up some of the random moments of the last couple weeks. Christmas and New Years are done, but my 40th and Riley's 2nd birthdays are right around the corner. More fun to come...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Merry Christmas again... sorta

This past weekend we had a couple opportunities to exchange more Christmas gifts. My birth dad, Leo (I'm adopted) has been trying to coordinate a day and he and his family could all come visit us. They live a couple hours away so it was nice that they made the trek up to see us on Saturday. (We're still working on Riley tolerating car rides - some days are better than others.) Leo came with his wife, Debbie; my birth siblings, Lindsey and Derek; and their respective spouses, Jeremiah and Tara. It's been quite some time since I saw them in person so it was nice to see them even if it was only for a couple hours.

Most of my life I haven't been able to look at another person and see me. My mom and dad (the people that adopted me) had features similar to me, but I could never say "I have my dad's nose"... but now I can. The first time I saw a picture of someone who resembled me was when I was in my 30's. Finally. It was pretty cool. I always thought the first time I would experience that would be looking at my child, but it turns out that when she finally came around she looks just like her daddy. Lindsey (above) and I share different mom's, but we look a lot alike. The cheeks, the crease down our nose (affectionately known as 'butt crack' nose), our worry lines...

Riley got a couple more gifts from our visitors. She had a fun time playing with her new grocery scanner set, but needs a little time to warm up to the doll with the big blinking eyes. Riley's never been a huge milk drinker, but has become a little milk junkie lately and was asking for it above. See the blur around her hand? That's the shakes from not having enough milk to her liking... I'm sure.

For most people this picture won't make sense, but I had to include it. Derek, keep your feet to yourself.  You're grossing out your sister. Nothing more to say about that.

Riley was a little hesitant about getting too close to all these people she wasn't very familiar with, but Lindsey figured out a way to get Riley to sit on her lap... she showed her pictures on her phone. That kid likes her pictures, especially ones that include her in it. It took her awhile, but in the end Riley gave everyone a hug and kiss goodbye when they left.

This picture is pretty amazing... first and only shot and everyone looks great. It's like a miracle occurred. A big thanks for the gifts and the visit. Hope to see everyone again soon.

On Sunday I went to my mom's nursing home to visit with her and my dad. My sister, Judy, happened to be visiting so we got to catch up with her as well. This was the first time I was able to see my dad since mid-December. The stomach flu ran through my mom's nursing home twice and my dad spends a portion of each day there so he was concerned he could have the bug too. Finally, we had the all clear so we could not only visit, but I could finally give my dad his Christmas gift.

Every year I make my dad a calendar with family photos. He always posts it in my mom's room at the nursing home so everyone can see the pictures.

I also made my dad a bunch of food. He has pretty much everything he needs and then some so I know he appreciates the food (at least I hope he does). I made him some meatloaf with lots of onions, Easy Crockpot Fiesta Chicken, Banana bread, and some nuts. Ok, so I didn't make the nuts... but you get the idea.

I totally forgot that I was going to put this outfit on Riley the day before because Leo and Debbie bought it for her last year. She was really excited about putting the tutu on herself - I didn't have to help at all, but then she wanted it off. OFF. After awhile she apparently forgot about it - plus I pulled her shirt over it a little bit so she wasn't reminded about it constantly.

Now Christmas is over. Oh wait, I still have one more gift I need to drop off to my friend, Josie. Every year I get Josie Almond Roca... except last year when I bought it, but never got it over to Josie's... and it ended up in my belly. It would be a shame for that to happen again. : )

Friday, January 6, 2012


So I've created another chore for myself. It's not something that needs to be done like bathing or grocery shopping. And it's not really one of those things like cleaning that should be done, but you can get away without doing it for stretches of time. I mean, it is like that, but not exactly. It's writing. Yeah, writing. You may say "but you write here, Jo" and, of course, you'd be correct. Part of the reason I started this blog was as an outlet for writing. It might not always be that great of writing, but I assume most people can stomach to read one of my posts. I will also be the first to admit that many of my posts are more pictures than writing so I'm not sure it truly satisfies as a writing outlet as I thought it might.

Recently a friend introduced me to 750 Words. What is 750 Words, you ask? A site that is focuses on helping you write every day. You go to the site, write 750 (or more) words about whatever you want. It's private so you don't have to worry about what others will think. You can write in complete rambling fashion or write the word "pickle" 750 times and you will meet your goal for the day. The site really encourages you try write at least 750 words EVERY DAY. To do so they give you points for writing - although it appears that these points don't get you anything except internal satisfaction.  But they drive you to write (you get extra points if you write on consecutive days... kinda like bowling a strike after getting a spare). It also provides you with a ton of metadata (using such tools as Regressive Imagery Dictionary, and the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count system) so you get feedback to understand your writing (and you get to compare your stats to the 'average' person).

So while I am very excited to have found this site... and I have written every day since finding it... I am a little hesitant to take on something that feels like an obligation or a chore. I am going to do my best not to think of it in those terms as it really had been freeing to just write. So far I've tried to think of one thing that might interest me that day. I start writing... and it keeps flowing. And I easily go over the 750 word mark. Sure, it might not make me a better writer. It may just be a place that I can dump all the extra stuff that gets jumbled in my head and I'm ok with that. As far as I can see it will benefit me one way or another. That's the point, isnt' it?

Ps. This post is NOT 750 words.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Food Stuff

Not long ago I did a post on meal planning. Well, actually, it was more like a listing of all the cream cheese food I made that week. I noted that up next I planned to eat more fish and I did, but I never posted about it... so that leads me to finally write this post. Following my cream cheese extravaganza I was really looking forward to eating healthier food.

One of my staple fish dishes is Tilapia with capers. I used to work at Christos Greek Restaurant and this dish was inspired by one of their specials. I used to lightly bread the fish in flour and then pan fry it with vegetable oil and white wine, but now I have been baking it with just a little olive oil and salt and pepper. It's not quite as scrumptious, but it's easier and healthier. It's a pretty simple recipe and once cooked I put it on a plate with rice and steamed veggies... and, of course, some warmed capers on the fish. Tilapia is a pretty mild fish so it needs a little kick in my opinion. An alteration I've made to this is baking the fish with seasoned diced tomatoes, but I am partial to the capers.

Another fish dish I've made recently was introduced to me by my friend, Joanna, who is all about the healthy eating:

Thyme Roasted Salmon with Cucumber Salsa


1/2 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped up
1/4 cup quartered or chopped grape tomatoes
1/2 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 tbsp snipped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp finely chopped red onion
1 tsp lemon juice and some lemon zest
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

Mix together in a bowl and set aside.

I omitted the onions since they don't like me.

Preheat oven to 350.
Line a baking sheet with foil and spray or pour a little olive oil on the foil (about 1 1/2 tbsp).
Rinse Salmon and pat dry.
Rub both sides of the salmon on the oil on the foil.
Sprinkle on the salmon:
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Bake for 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Transfer to a plate and top with a scoop or two of the salsa.

I didn't have any thyme when I last cooked it, but it was still tasty and delicious

Often when I make dishes that only require half a vegetable I try to plan another dish where I can use the rest. I didn't do that with all the items in the recipe so instead I chopped up the rest of the green pepper and put it in the freezer to use later. In fact, the rest of this green pepper went into a meatloaf I made weeks later.

I did make another recipe that did have similar ingredients, however. My co-worker, Delena, brought this in one day and it's become one of my feel good staple items. And my kid LOVES it too... except when I put jalapeno in it so we've cut that out.

Mango Black Bean and Tomato Salad

1 large mango, pitted, and flesh diced
2 limes, juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 (14 ounce) canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked long-grain rice, cooled
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
Pinch kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Add all ingredients above to a bowl and toss. Cover the bowl and let sit in the refrigerator for 1 hour for the flavors to develop... or serve immediately because you won't want to wait to eat it.

Lately my go to item when I want something fast, but don't have anything easy to make is shrimp. I can easily thaw the shrimp in water while I start some rice. By the time the rice is cooked I've also prepared the shrimp and a side of veggies. I usually just saute the shrimp in a little butter, but used to always make it with lemon juice and lemon pepper. Tasty.

You may have noticed that I pretty much mentioned rice with each of these recipes. I used to eat white rice a lot when I was in my young 20's, but that was because my roomie made it with every meal. It was through her that I learned how to measure out rice and water using my knuckles. I don't actually measure that way anymore, but she did teach me a thing or two about making rice. The last couple years I've started eating rice a lot more again as it is one of the food items that doesn't upset my delicate digestive system (white, brown, wild... I love them all). In fact, I just bought a rice cooker as a Christmas gift to myself. It was actually the only thing on my Christmas list, and while I got a lot of great gifts no one bought me the rice cooker so Merry Christmas to me... from me. 

Since I mentioned meatloaf earlier I should mention I recently made this as well. I have several meatloaf recipes in my cookbooks, but this recipe is the one I always go back to.

Heinz 57 Meatloaf

1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef (we've been using grass fed beef or ground turkey)
1 slightly beaten egg
1/2 cup seasoned dry breadcrumbs (I recommend Italian bread crumbs)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup Heinz 57 Sauce
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
Heinz 57 Sauce for topping
*Since I don't do onions I add other veggies such as peppers and mushrooms.

Combine ground beef and all ingredients except the sauce for topping.
Shape into a loaf (8"x4"x1 1/2) in shallow baking pan.
Bake at 350 for approximately 1 hour (depending on your loaf size it could be 45 minutes).
Allow meatloaf to sit for 5 minutes before slicing.

With mushrooms and red peppers

So that's what I've been eating lately. All relatively healthy... except for that frozen pizza I didn't mention. : )

Monday, January 2, 2012


I wasn't planning to post a 2011 year in review because not much happened. Oh sure, Riley did a lot of new things. Tons, in fact, but I didn't really want to do a year in review post that was all about her (what would I write about when she turns 2). I adore her and all, but it made me a little sad that there weren't more momentous things just for me, or for the hubby and I... or for us as a family. But when all was said and done I decided to do a post because it was a year filled with laughs and new experiences (even if they mostly revolved around kid's things). And even though there was one thing that I wish never happened it was a pretty fantastic year.

1. It was colic free! This was huge for all family members. And it turns out that she is am amazingly happy kid. Sure she had her fussy times (terrible two's here we come), but she's made up for the colic a hundred times over. Besides appreciating the value of sleep and sanity I'm just glad my baby girl isn't crying all the time.

2. Riley finally started sleeping through the night (and did a whole crapload of other amazing things). Wow, kids sure amaze me with how fast they pick up on things... from walking to talking to a million other things. We've also done a lot of things we don't normally do like going to the zoo, the children's museum, the indoor park... and had loads of fun.

Made her first trip out of state - to Wisconsin!

3. Jesse got to go on a 2 day camping/hiking trip on the North Shore of MN which he's been yearning to do for a long time. Ok, so he cut his trip short by a day (someone missed his family, and realized his body was older than he remembered). He used to go hiking a lot and when we started dating I joined in. One day we hope to bring Riley.

Unfortunately, the fall leaves report was wrong... most leaves had already fallen off.

4. I got to go on a girl's weekend to Bayfield, WI with my homegirls from high school. This was the first time I spent more than one overnight away from my kid. Sure, I missed her (and my husband), but I sure needed some girl friend time. Not only did I laugh ALL weekend, but I also got to learn some belly dancing moves, how to make sushi, and was led in a yoga session. Can't wait until the next girl's weekend.

Some of the most entertaining women I know.

5. Jesse's mom got cancer (which was awful), but she's now cancer free so we are super grateful about that (plus her family threw her an impressive benefit and bike run).

Cancer free and fabulous!

Participants of the bike run

6. We remodeled our kitchen (sure, it's not quite done, but it's close and I love it). Goodbye 1940's, hello 2000's.

We've done some more updates since this picture, but it's pretty close to what we're working with now.

7. We traded in our lemon car and got something I really like to drive... and feel safe in.

8. My dad (and step-mom) turned 83 (momentous since my mom died at 66). He still works harder than anyone I know and I am lucky to have him in my life.

With my step-mom and dad celebrating their birthdays in February which are 3 days apart.

9. Uncle Richie came to visit multiple times. Unfortunately, he was visiting so much because of his mom's diagnosis of cancer, but we were grateful to have family visit. Riley really digs him so that's an extra bonus.

I'm sure I could add more things to this list, but I thought I would just highlight a few moments. I can't wait to see what 2012 brings, but I know we plan to take Riley camping and see Jesse's brother and his family off as they move out of the country... just to name a couple things. It will surely be an interesting year.