Friday, July 31, 2009

So Much To Look Forward To...

I love this song....what a comfort to look forward to reunions in heaven-there are so many hugs I can't wait to pass out! I am also trying to add things to my earthly 'to do' list I'll be excited to share in heaven!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Photo Ready


I got my photos printed from Europe, and the summer (so far). I think Wolf Camera should be able to stay in business a little longer. Now....I need to get back to my albums from LAST year before I even think about opening up these boxes and sorting. Scary, but fun!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

One 'Dream' Down


I am NOT one of those people who can add something to a list that I've already done, just so I can cross it off. BUT, that doesn't mean that I can't put little things on 'the list' that are easier to do, and I can check off without a lot of effort. Jimmy's Food Store has been on that list (there are some pretty weird things on the list). I didn't really know what Jimmy's was about until a few years back. We just have always passed on the way to the Fair Grounds downtown. I guess the name was interesting b/c it's my cousin's name....and that's always attention grabbing when you are little. So....I've discovered it's a pretty famous Italian food store with authentic italian 'stuff,' including fresh pastas from New York, all sorts of italian meats, breads, pastas, wines etc. It's been written up several times in D Magazine (Dallas Magazine, for anyone outside of Dallas). AND it has a little place at the meat counter where you can order sandwiches. Holly agreed to come along. We've been going to the Dallas Summer Musical Series every other Tuesday, and we've been trying out a few new places downtown on the way. It was pretty good for a simple Dallas dream on the 'to do.' It took about ten minutes for them to make our sandwiches, and then they have some little tables at the front of the store where you can sit and eat your findings. It was worth the stop. I got the cuban-next time I'm going to cut the spice, it was too much for me-and I like spice. Holly got the chicken sub, doesn't it look good? (I love that she knew she wasn't allowed to bite into until I got a picture.)

Then we split an Italian Cream Cake (it was mini, I promise).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Left Over Strawberry Lady Bugs


I had some extra strawberries from the dessert I made earlier, and chocolate left over from my cake pops. I have been seeing these little ladybugs on blogs I've surfed lately, and I had to try them out myself. How cute would these be for snacks? I used toothpicks to make the dots. It was just my dogs and I hanging out and eating these lady bugs, but I think they'd be so cute if you have kids....or problems resisting making anything 'cute' you run across via blogs. I added a little whipped cream for eyes, and I thought about getting out the sprinkles for pupils....but I'm not allowed near the sprinkles in my house or bad, fattening things start happening.

Berry Good Stuff


I love this recipe that my friend, Jolene shared with me a few months back. It's the perfect time to make it b/c the blueberries are amazing right now. It's really low calorie (if you use 'light' everything)...for a dessert. She said this is a common recipe in magazines, and she cuts down on the number of vanilla wafers, and uses light cool whip, and cream cheese, and milk.
1. Coarsely Crush 24 Vanilla Wafers, and layer half at the bottom of 8 small cups (or the bottom of a bowl).
2. Slice 2 c. of strawberries, and rinse 1/2 pint of blueberries. Put half of the berries on top of the wafers.
3. Mix Cheesecake Pudding, 1 and 1/2 c. milk, 1 c. coolwhip, and one 8 oz. cream cheese. Layer half of the filling on the berries.
4. Repeat the layers once more, and then top with the remainder of the cool whip. Cover, and chill for several hours, or overnight before serving.
Serves 8.

Photobucket

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wet Weekend


Among a million errands that didn't involve water, I also attended Yolanda's Birthday Luau (the cupcake pops were my contribution to the menu).
Along with a day spent out at Burgers Lake with Mom, Lois, and Holly. It's about an hours drive, but a really neat place to swim. There aren't many places around with deep (and shallow) water, a sandy area, lots of diving boards, and slides, and huge tire intertubes you can rent, all hanging out in a spring fed, sandy bottomed 'pool.' We try to go out about once a summer. Check, for summer 2009!


Tonight the first of a line of storms expected for the week moved through. I love rain!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Yolanda's Lavender Cupcake Pops


I am going to a birthday party tomorrow (today) for my friend, Yolanda, and these are what I decided to bring for my side dish. As I was working with the soft chocolate trying to bag up the pops, I'd like to make a note that the end of July is probably not the best time for these-period, but an outdoor Luau Party may DEFINITELY be interesting. I had to take a picture while they weren't one melting blob of chocolate. I debated going the traditional route (the pink cupcake pops from my Valentine's gift, via the instruction on Bakerella's blog for baking, and decorating these cute little pops), but wavered with a :gasp: new color idea. The store helped me make up my mind b/c there was no pink chocolate to be had anywhere, and I wasn't planning on hunting down each specialty shop for pink chocolate. A new color means-a new blog entry. Here they are wrapped. I used some scrapbooking supplies for the ribbon (I knew it was a multifunctional hobby).

I did have one LITTLE mishap that involved Max lifting his head onto the counters and eat some of my pops! Argh! There are multiple stages to make these guys, and some were on wax paper with the first coat of chocolate drying. It was not a happy moment for me. I debated on making more, but I decided to just stick with what I had....left. Here's hoping it's not the only dessert at the party!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Summer Sewing

I loved making Blythe's dress a few months back, but I wasn't completely satisfied with how it came out. I wasn't disatisfied enough to remake it, she's only going to wear it one day, BUT I did take the opportunity to make a few more and practice some sewing skills with a few more friend's baby girls turning one soon. They are improving with practice, far from perfect, and I'm still going to leave the real dress making to the professionals. It's a really fun thing to be able to make for friends, and I loved experimenting with colors according to Mama's wishes, and party plans!
Kate's Dress
(Just like Blythe's, with a different color ribbon).

I flipped the hem up on each to show the fabric underneath. I love these dresses b/c there is a complete little dress underneath as well, it's all about the details!

Emme's Dress

Underneath is chocolate brown with pink dots.

Aubrey's Dress

Underneath is light pink, hot pink, and green stripes.

I can't wait to see these precious little ones celebrating their first birthday very soon. I have a few more sewing projects, but I need to ship them out before I share them. :O) I've since put the machine up, and now my focus is scrapbooking!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Le Retreat....Again


It's now an annual tradition to head up to Gainesville to Le Retreat House (www.leretreathouse.com). I went with a DIFFERENT group of friends this time, but the exact same dates....and 'this' group has already scheduled the retreat for the same time next year (we get 20% off an already incredibly, affordable price, and the owner also has a fifth night free program, so I'm looking forward to that perk next year!). This year we had a mix of scrapbookers, quilters, and readers. First, I can't say enough about how much I love this retreat house (who am I kidding, I'll be happy to say enough, words are my hobby). 4 bedrooms that sleep 4 people each all decorated in seasonal themes. 4 full bathrooms, with destination themes (Australia, Paris, Asia, the Caribbeans). Three big work rooms, and a completely furnished kitchen, and utility room (laundry, anyone?). The owner, Lisa, thinks of everything-paper goods are provided, and all sorts of fun details. Towels, bed sheets, extra blankets if you are cold, individual fans, if you are hot. Ironing boards, cutting tables, die cuts, work station lights, extension cords....you name it-she's got it ready, including a bowl of chocolate-what more do you need? Internet, and cable are provided. I also love that she uses the 'best' of toilet paper, soaps, and even has baskets of hand towels in each bathroom, did I mention there are four? What a dream. The house looks little from the front, but it's really very large! I know I described it last year, but....I just want to emphasis what a great place it would be for a retreat, and I'm so glad someone pointed it out to me! We worked on individual projects after arriving on Tuesday, with one quilt shop stop midday, and then headed 'downtown' to the Main Street Pub for dinner.
Last year we each were assigned a meal to bring. This year, we let someone else do the cooking. (Just fyi, if you go, you can have your meals catered, we got this information in advance, but we decided to paint the town red, or whatever color you paint small towns that roll up their sidewalks at 5, maybe pink?).
The Pub is one of just a few places open in the evening for dinner, but you don't need much more! The food is great, and affordable (which makes eating out a real non-issue. I recommend the Southwest Chicken meal, but nobody had any complaints about any of the food!) Wednesday we worked....again, and then headed down the street (or rather, 'downtown') to the Fried Pie Company. It was pretty hopping, and we made reservations due to a recent article in the Dallas paper totting them as the best in the tri-state area, and beyond. Again, the food was excellent (not typically my luck in smaller towns), and we each conquered the fried pies (yum). Note to self-try the coconut next time. I had apple this go round! Most of the table tried out the Apricot...

They don't lack for flavor options, INCLUDING sugar free pies (I can't tell you much about those, I assure you that's not where I was focused). We headed back to the Retreat House. I decided this go 'round to scrapbook, and I got a ton done, including completing my 2008 album, yay! I've also started my vacation album from last year, and a gift album for...well...a gift! (No worries I'll work more, I'm meeting a friend tomorrow for MORE scrapbooking). Everyone was very productive, which was so nice. We also had a very usual cool spell,which was lovely (82, at the end of July....in TEXAS!). We ordered pizza, and ate out on the big front porch for dinner. Side note: I love front porches, I dream of a front porch of my own. This one wraps around the front and side of the house, and is complete with a ceiling fan. I think I love this location b/c it's small town Texas, but just large enough with 'stuff' to do, and a history to lure you! I stayed up very late Wednesday night to complete my book, which means that when I got up this morning, I could be lazy, and just observe others at work. :O) Jolene and I carpooled, so we decided to drop by Whitesboro on the way home, only 20 minutes away. I've made it back, and in 362 more days, I'll recreate this trip once again. I like retreats b/c you can't feel too guilty about the things you aren't doing around the house, and ideally you get work done, but at the very least, you get caught up with old friends, and new friends! I look forward to hearing all the scrapbook pages of everyone's lives that they manage to create over this next year!

Praying in Faith

This was a forward I just received, and I really liked this commentary, and of course, I love this verse. I always want to remember, and put my faith in God's promises, and not any outside influence.
Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6, NIV

Anne Graham Lotz wrote:
Have you based your faith . . .
on what someone else has told you God wants to do for you?
on what you have seen Him do for another person?
on what you think is fair or loving?
on what you think would be in the best interest of those involved?
on a doctor's recommendation for treatment?
You and I must pray in faith, or our prayer will not be pleasing to God. If your faith as you pray is based on anything other than faith in God's specific promise given to you in His Word, then your prayer is on a shaky foundation. So ask God to give you a promise from His Word on which you can pray in faith.

Monday, July 20, 2009

30


In celebration of my oldness, my Mom hosted a lunch at the Chocolate Angel Tea Room, my favorite. In deciding what I wanted to do, I knew I wanted to keep it relatively small (less stress) and quiet, I think approaching a new decade should be a delicate matter! The Chocolate Angel has the best food, and the cutest atmosphere, and it was the perfect mix of 'old' friends. I like 'old' things, and I'm getting a little less emotional about joining that category. 15 friends and I ate lunch, and laughed.
In the evening, I went out to dinner with family. After a lot of thought, I decided I wanted to go to Kuby's in Snyder Plaza. It's authentic German food, and it reminded me of the trip we just took, prompted by the big 3-0 age change.
After dinner, we headed back to the house, and I got (more) gifts, and we had cake (from Stein's, so delicious). It was a really nice way to spend the first day of my thirties. If this is what my third decade of life is going to be like, I think it'll do nicely. :O)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I Heart Joey Joe!


Anyone who knows me at all knows that I was OBSESSED with the New Kids on the Block when I was younger...forget WAS, let's try AM! They got me through some pretty important years in my life when 'real' boys could have really been quite crushing, if I didn't have my fall back, or rather, my #1! I had allll the posters, the bed sheets, the shirts, the buttons, the magazines, the videos. Fortunately, I'm a pack rat, so I STILL have all those fun things (come over anytime if you want to watch the videos). They are in a box somewhere in my garage (hard to believe, but they aren't actually still out). Somehow I lost touch with 'my heart' late junior high/ high school. The group went away to be grown-ups...or something equally as boring, and 'other,' uninteresting boy bands came onto the scene. I was not interested-I've only had one true, great celebrity crush, it'll do just fine for life. They were my 'remember when' from youth. If you only knew.... So, 20 years after my first, and one and only concert (the best concert EVER, up until this year), I found out they were touring again! Oh my! I called up all my old pals who loved and adored them, and found LOTS of new pals that were fans, and some of us went last fall to the concert (I posted in October). We had an ABSOLUTE blast! I guess 'my' boys did too, b/c they did a second loop of the tour, a little different from the first, and in a little bit smaller venue. I had to go (again), it also happened to be on my 'Birthday Eve.' It seemed like a great way to end my 20's! (I'm, obviously, holding on with a death grip to my youth here). Last night 12 other gals and I attended the concert.

It was every bit as fun as the fall. WE originally bought lawn tickets, but some lady who worked at the venue was passing out free upgrades, and she gave us seats under the pavilions on the 40th row (awesome)! The best part....halfway through the concert the band came out into the audience and got onto platforms (there are five members, just in case you aren't a devoted fan), and three rows ahead, directly in front of my seat, 'my favorite'-Joe McIntyre got up and sang, and shook his 'groove thang.' Most of the gals in my group were 'Joe' fans. We, of course, went nuts, laughed, and screamed like 11 year olds, climbing all over the seats, and taking photos.

It was a great day to say goodbye to my twenties...and hello to 30, it's not like I plan on maturing from here, I'm having too much fun. Who gets to stand 3 feet away from their celebrity crush while he sings songs from some of my very favorite childhood/early teen moments? SO FUN!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Need Work, Will Travel


Peanut needs help finding a part time job. He now owes me 306 dollars for and emergency vet bill ('regular' vet bills to follow). Tonight he started acting weird (if you've met the rest of my dogs, you'll know how odd it must have been if he was weirder than the normal weird dog quota around here), stumbling around, missing the couch when he tried to jump up, running into things, licking the air (more than usual) and then when I held him he got really...really droopy, and it was difficult to wake him up. That's when I put him in the car, and took him to the Emergency Vet. I STILL don't know what the problem is, though I do have a list of things the problem is NOT. He is still acting weird, but....hopefully he can 'sleep it off.' My best guess is Max dropped a pill he takes for seizures two times a day, and drops every blue moon. If Peanut found one, he would eat it b/c he eats EVERYTHING-just today I've chased him around pulling out a hair band, a coupon, june bug, twig, etc, etc, etc. Anyway, I've explained to him that he will need to pay me back (I figured it would be easier to get the money out of Peanut, than Jason). He seems to think that kisses, and snuggles should be sufficient, but.....no, I'll be holding out for the cold hard cash.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My First Mamm"OH" Gram

I realize a mammogram may not be the most exciting blog topic, but....it was one of my list items. I wasn't EXCITED about getting a mammogram (I know I'm not lonely in that club), but I put it on the 101 List because I wanted to make sure it was a priority when the timing was right, and that it will continue to be a priority. I made the list more than 8 years ago, but even then I knew it was something not so far down the road for me. My Grandmother had cancer at the end of her 30's for the first time (of three battles :O(), my Mom has had it twice (not an issue at the time I wrote this list item, but I knew one was one too many in the family history). I can't think of anything more important in preventative breast cancer health than regular checks, and I'm so grateful my Mom went regularly and they were able to catch it early. Of course, sometimes there is nothing you can do, regardless of how frequently you go, but if it is a simple matter of knowing and taking care of it, or not knowing and it doing more damage, the facts remain, but the results can be drastically different. The mammogram wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, the doctors were very thorough, and now (after MORE test) it's good to know I have some fibroid tumors hanging out, so I can start seeing a specialist in the future just so they don't miss anything in the years to come thinking it's more of the same old, same old (I always knew I should be hanging out with special people)! ::Hopping off my soap box, and scooting it to the side, but not too far, you never know when I'm gonna need my soap box!::

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Camping in Tyler, Texas


This weekend we went to Tyler. It's about two hours East in the 'piney woods.' It's one of my favorite places to camp (though we upgraded to the shelters when the ratio of girls to guys camping switched as the boys started dropping out of the family camp outs). I love the swimming area at Tyler, and this is where we spent most of the weekend....floating.

I did have one adventure outside the water. Oops. I'm so routine, I drop my keys into my purse as soon as I click lock. UNFORTUNATELY, I decided my car was the safest place for my purse in the wilderness. So, for the first time...ever-I locked my keys in the car. Fortunately, I had my cell phone (what girl roughs it without a cell?). I ran through my list of options, and decided to start with a call to the park rangers. Guess what? They had a box of tools for unlocking cars. I had to sign off that I wouldn't be upset if they damaged anything, and they went to work. After working at it for awhile they got my car opened. I snagged a picture with my cell. By the way, Rangers are coming in much cuter, and younger than in years past.....it was definitely not a negative experience.

A little added bonus to this trip-Holly and I were so excited to find the fudge/ice cream shop opened that we love (attached to a gas station right outside the park entrance). They have fabulous treats. Holly loves ice cream, and I like everything sugar.

I also broke in a new gift. My brother got me this pink pole awhile ago so I could share in the family fishing fun. So far I have added a pink, and purple tackle box to the mix, and Jason also bought me some smiley face bobbers, (I was looking for pink...maybe with rhinestones, no luck...yet!). OK, so I didn't do MUCH fishing with my new pole, I only wanted to catch cute fish I could throw back, OR HUGE fish that would make Jason jealous. Jason didn't feel very well, so he abandoned me at the lake the one time I joined him, and I didn't want to accidentally catch something without him there to take it off the pole. I did catch some water plants, and an old frog lure, maybe next time I'll catch something blog worthy.

We also brought along Jason's little stinker, Peanut. He's not the most macho camping dog, but he was well behaved, and if we ever run out of fishing bait....we've got back up. He was in mid-yawn in this picture, but he looks like he has much more exciting stories to tell.

This is an oldie, but a goodie. We used to make "Dump Cake" in girl scouts. You can make it in the oven, and people love it just the same, but it's also really yummy on a campout. You take two large cans of pie filling (apples for us, but I've done cherries, and heard of peaches, blueberries etc). You dump the apples into the bottom of a Dutch Oven. Then sprinkle one box of dry yellow cake mix over the cake. Last take one stick of unmelted butter, chunk it, and drop it all over the cake mix. Place it on the coals, or as close to the coals as possible, and then stick about 10 coals on top of the pan, and it bakes for about an hour. (If you bake it in the oven, just watch it until the crust looks done). It's fabulous.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I'm the New Owner....

....of my 6 year old Trail Blazer! I finally sent off the final payment(s) this month. I actually paid the next three months because I had some savings from all the fun Saturday Schools I participated in this past year, and I was tired of thinking about 'when' I paid it off,it felt GOOD! And then, today the sky opened up and it hailed marble sized pellets on the old girl! Luckily, this story is not nearly that exciting b/c, to my knowledge, there is no damage, but as I was watching it come down, I was thinking-I JUST PAID THAT OFF! I appreciate God's sense of humor at times like this! So now that I'm rolling in extra teacher money (hold on while I pause and appreciate MY sense of humor at this statement), I'm paying off my summer vacation....this could take awhile, and then, I'll try something smart and start putting away funds for another car....hopefuly a LONG way down the road b/c A) I like my 'ride.' and B) I don't like car payments!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

List

I like to make list.
I like to make list of my list.
I like to make list for other people.
I like to make list about other people.
I like to make list of list I need to make.
I like to make list about things I like, like list!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Pandamonium


Today a few of us gals got together to test out a cupcake pattern from Hello, Cupcake. Kristin is throwing her little gal, Aubrey a Panda Bear Party for her 1st birthday because she loves them. Did I mention I LOVE this cupcake book? We used half a black M&M b/c I couldn't find the chocolate covered sesame seeds, and we used grape fruit loops-I'd definitely get the Oreo Cereal it calls for b/c they are bigger and black, but you get the idea. Our last addition was sticking a toothpick to hold the two cupcakes together to avoid any beheadings on the rides home.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Cookie Cups


I saw this recipe awhile ago on the familyfun website, and I wanted to try it out when more than myself would be partaking in the treat....it was just one of those 'rational moments' in life when I thought-you know-a WHOLE dessert probably isn't the best idea for an evening at home alone. So...July 4th's dessert seemed like a good plan. Since I've been baking and cooking with "me" for awhile now, I knew it was also important that I provided an alternative dessert in case my experiment didn't work out....I tend to get distracted easily and I can mess up ice cubes if given enough outside stimuli. Basically, the recipe for the cookie cups is the same premise as the chocolate chip cookie, but it's a lot firmer so the shape holds (or maybe it was firmer b/c I did mine wrong?). I also could not fit 1/4 of the flour into the mix b/c it was already getting so dry. I could only make six cookie cups, not the number they listed using these measurements (if I had pressed harder with the rolling pin, maybe one or two more could have been squeezed out). I just sprayed pam on the foil covered muffin tin bottoms (instead of shortening), and the cups slipped right out after drying. Here is the recipe.
http://family.go.com/food/article-ff-230821-ice-cream-cookie-cups-t/
They turned out pretty good, and the nice thing was that the ice cream gathered in the 'bowl' instead of slipping all over the plates (and your cake, if you were using this for a party). The cookie was a little hard to break, and not as good as a regular cookie, but interesting. I bet you could jazz it up with some more interesting flavors, and toppings. You could also definitely smooth the edges out around the sides of the bowllike their picture shows, and work on the shapes....I was just very tired (it was 2 am when I started baking b/c I had to finish Uncle Sam first) and this was about an eating opportunity, not aesthetics (despite my original purpose, it's funny how plans change at 2 am). The bowls out of the oven:

Fireworks for the Fourth


What's the 4th without fireworks? Today I had family over for dinner, then headed a mile down the road to where the city was shooting off fireworks....and two other shows were visible as ours were launched right over our heads to synchronized, patriotic music. At the end of the night I was thinking "Another 4th, in the past...." and then I thought...and next will be Halloween, and it will be gone, and it'll take the fall with it, then Christmas, and I'll be sitting there on the night of the 25th thinking....where did this season go?....and then I'll snuggle down to hibernate for the winter, and before I know it, the countdown to summer will start......ahhhh...I will live in each of these moments with all of the people I'm gifted to be with on holidays, and all the days in between....I WILL!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

July 4th Decorations

I went over to hang out with my crafty friend, Terry. (I mean 'crafty' in a nice way....today ;o)). She had made the cutest Uncle Same for her porch, and so she let me come over and use her pattern, and her jig saw/scroll saw, and some 'new saw' it may take me awhile to learn it's name) to cut out my wood. (Can I just say-this is not easy when it's 100+++++ outside, but we did it). I also convinced her to add some fireworks to her yard display (her husband is going to thank me for that one, I'm sure), so that's what she worked on while I cut. I later painted my pieces (later meaning, I started at about 11 PM....ooops). After lots of painting, and nailing, he's ready for the holiday! He won't stay on his base, and he's only tentatively nailed together b/c I couldn't find the wood glue, and didn't think Jason wanted to get a call at 1 am asking about it, but I'm going to worry about that when I pick him up.

My new door decor (because I don't have enough decorations in my garage to store throughout the year).

P.s. Ella, I was going to make a wreath, but then I saw this metal pouch, it reminded me of the white one you shared a year or so ago on your door. I LOVE that one so much, so I went this route instead, thanks for sharing your ideas!

Martha's Barbeque Sauce

Here is my 'Welcome to July' post!
I am constantly in awe of all you Mom's (and dads) with families, and busy lives who do this cooking 'stuff' multiple times a day. So....I'm trying a few more times a WEEK to cook....I got an Everyday Food magazine in the mail (I don't know how or why I've been getting this magazine). I've been working through the magazine recipe by recipe. I've had some misses, but I had to share this one recipe for BBQ Sauce that was a complete hit. It was DELICIOUS. So far, I marinated chicken in the mix, and then brushed the top of the chicken once it was almost complete on the grill. This July 4th I'm marinating a brisket in the rest. I can't find the recipe on the site yet, so I've typed it up.
Here it is, the recipe....
Classic Barbecue Sauce from Martha Stewart
Ingredients:
2 T Vegetable Oil
1 small onion, diced small
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
2 t. ground mustard
1 can (28 oz) tomato sauce
1/4 c. molasses
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
3 T. white vinegar
2 t. salt
1 1/2 t. ground pepper.
Instructions:
1. In a med saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add onion and cook until completely soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 min.
2. Add tomato paste and mustard. Cook, stirring constantly, until paste turns a brick red color, about 5 minutes. Add 2 c. water, tomato sauce, molasses, Worcestershire, vinegar, salt, and pepper and stir until smooth.
3. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and partially cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 2 hours (thin with water if sauce becomes too thick). Season to taste with vinegar, salt, and pepper. Let cool completely before using. (Store up to 1 week in the fridge, or freeze up to 4 months). Makes 5 1/2 cups.
OK, so then when I was trying to just find a link to this sauce, I came across this really cute gift idea. Maybe you'll get a jar from me that looks something like this soon, but practice your look of 'shock' when you get it, OK?

Friday, July 03, 2009

My Europe Online Albums

Here is a links to all of my Europe Photos (well, the ones I put on Shutterfly at least).
Europe Trip Part One:
http://share.shutterfly.com/share/received/welcome.sfly?fid=a8e10d9cf40c5b046cdd16a80fdf8c46&sid=0AZMmrNw0YsmLIcA
Europe Trip Part Two:
http://share.shutterfly.com/share/received/welcome.sfly?fid=0c0543df255ae80bcf4ab00f16ca9e1e&sid=0AZMmrNw0YsmLIvA
Europe Trip Part Three:
http://share.shutterfly.com/share/received/welcome.sfly?fid=309bdf4c1eb8f0af&sid=0AZMmrNw0YsmLI-A
Europe Trip Part Four:
http://share.shutterfly.com/share/received/welcome.sfly?fid=1ca91f32585888a66d9889752d9a603c&sid=0AZMmrNw0YsmLJBg

Day Sixteen: Home, Sweet, Home!


...I am exhausted from reliving my trip through post! I can't believe how many it took to really feel like I captured it, as best as I could, via words (and limited descriptions, I'm sure I used the same five words to describe every sight, but expand their meaning, and that's what I MEANT to say!), and pictures. Each day ON the trip, I could never imagine all the things we saw and did, and the history we encountered, and I had those same feelings all over again as I sorted through pictures, and days. My next step is to print off the pictures, and then....someday, scrapbook. It will be awhile. I also feel obligated to say I blogged the trip for a little form of a living diary for me before the memories and details get lost in the pages of my past! I always go back and revisit periods in my life, and I have kept a diary since I was young....and now...I blog. I have some traveling friends, and some of them have visited these sights, and some have not. We love to exchange stories, give advice, and suggestions for travel, and here is another way to capture some of that to share. It felt a little...scratch that a LOT obnoxious to post five times a day, if I were anyone different, I could have savored it, posted every once in awhile, but there is this little monster that lives inside me. She makes list, and she has task, and she makes me finish them NOW. I am the most obnoxious person about finishing projects ASAP. I was one of those people that would write all my papers for the semester (if possible) in the first week or two of school, it's not that they were fabulous, but they were finished. (I'd take quality over fast any day, but I can't drag it out and savor it without wanting to crawl out of my skin with boredom). I'd spend an entire weekend working on any project and paper I could as soon as I got the semester's syllabus. I LOVE to finish things....and so, five post a day were necessary to tame the bratty monster in me that needs to move on to something else (I also like to take the long route in any explanation, I bet that was hard to pick up). That same little something in me also likes to compartmentalize things. So, I couldn't move on and discuss anything else in the blogging world until this line of post was finish, so who knows what else I did in June ;o)....I was a girl on a mission. OK, apology extended...I'll try to be a little more sane the rest of the summer. And now, the grand finale-we left Paris EARLY....we left for the airport sometime before five. Our flight took off without any hiccups. We landed in Heathrow, then caught a flight a few hours later for DFW (I am SO glad I don't have any stories to share from these flights!). We passed over Iceland, and Canada (pictures above) and then flew down through the middle of the country, and over the Great Lakes (the area I hope to start researching for next summer's destination vacation). And now, I'm home, in the land of free refills! I'm still tired. I can't even begin to say what a great time I had, I feel so fortunate. There are many things I have not done in the last 30 years, but now, this isn't one of them! I would recommend traveling through Europe with a tour company to anyone planning to visit. Our coach hit all the major sights, our tour guide gave us all the good information about each location, and more, and was so helpful explaining all the little things that are quirky about the different locations, which was so helpful (I don't like surprises, I'm thinking about hiring a guide to host the NEXT 30 years of my life!). It was so nice to arrive somewhere, and have our luggage 'delivered' upstairs without any effort, or elevator issues. In the morning, we just left them outside our door on the way to breakfast, and they were again carried to the coach by the 'coach ferries.' The hotels were also carefully selected by the company to please the travelers. They were all clean, well staffed, great views, safe locations, filling, and tasty meals. It was low stress, and there was very little wondering. It was also fun (...and maybe a little annoying at times) to travel with such a diverse group of people. We made some dear friends, and there is comfort in being in new places with people you know and can talk to, and share experiences with for the first time. And might I add, I had the best travel partner EVER, thanks Mom!

Day Fifteen: Paris, France-Trois Times the Fun

Day Three in Paris-The Day I REALLY fell in love. I was softened on Day Two with the fabulous Louvre, and Notre Dame, but Day Three is when I got to experience the charm of Paris, it was a great finale. We woke up and took a metro back to the Island Notre Dame is anchored on, and where the city was birthed. We arrived, and I got in line to climb the bell tower (the line was too long the day before). There were already about 15 people in the line, but they let people in by groups of 20, about every ten minutes. You can start climbing at 10 am. There are over 400 steps up to the top of the tower. These stairs are tight spaces circling in tight spirals. There have been so many visitors who took this journey before me and the stone steps are indented because of the feet brushing past each one over the years. On the way up there are two stops-the first is at a gift shop (what's a famous landmark without a gift shop?), level one of the bell tower, and then, about four more flights up, the top! The pathway is narrow, and between the first and second tower you wait again next to a walkie talkie armed employee until enough of the 'other visitors' leave that area for you to move up. On the way BACK down there are no stops....and I was dizzy after the fast descent. You are at the mercy of the people before, and after you to determine the pace as you make that climb together. My Mom chose to stay down below due to knee problems, and exhaustion. From the top you can see the city as the gargoyles do, and it's pretty neat. I think I'm still caught up in thinking about all the people that climbed before me....LONG before me, what they saw, what they didn't see, what they experienced along with those same Gargoyles. Were I a writer, I'd write those gargoyle's tales...oh....wait, I think that's been done. :O) It's worth a visit if your knees will take it!

Our next stop was Montmatre and the Sacre Coeur. This is the ONLY hill in Paris, so the view from the top is stupendous. The church is pretty fabulous itself!

We took the metro, and when we exited, we wound our way to the funiculaire that took us to the top of the hill for the price of a metro ticket. Mom was ready to avoid these intimidating stairs, and it didn't take much arm twisting after my adventure in Notre Dame's belltower. At the top we took in the view of the city, and then we began walking through the streets. This part of Paris was left alone when 'the renovations' were done, so it retains the old charm, and it's the Paris I always expected to find (I also found this authentic feel in the Latin Quarter, across from Notre Dame). The buildings are each a little different, the streets are steep, and cobbled, and there are large windmills still resting atop their homes from their days of service many years ago (include the famous Moulin Rouge!). There are artist sitting under umbrellas in the squares sketching visitor's portraits, and painting scenes from around Paris. There are also some fun little shops, and cafes with great views of the city from the sidewalk tables. We stumbled upon one with the best food, a sweet waitress, and an even better view of the city below. We walked our way down off the hill, and took a Metro to Hotel des Invalides. We passed it the day before on our driving tour, but I wanted a closer look. It's many things, including Napolean's resting place (his tomb is directly under the gold dome).

Next, I wanted to walk under the Eiffle Tower.

We made the mile plus walk to the park that lead up to the tower, and walked around, I grabbed another crepe by the river (did I mention I like them?), and then we decided to walk to the next thing on my list-The Statue of Liberty. It was a much longer walk than I thought it would be (no surprise-despite all the sweets, and bread-I lost a few pounds at the end of this trip with all the walking and stairs.)

She wasn't as big as 'ours' (which I knew), but she is indeed an almost exact replica....go figure, the brochures don't lie. We then just stumbled upon a bus route next to the statue that led us to our final stop for the day, and so we felt adventurous and decided to take it, which was neat. We got to experience the people coming and going from the bus, and the city shutting down for the work day on the 45 minute trip. The last stop was the Museum of Modern Art-not for the inside, no, that didn't interest me, it was the fountains on the outside simply because in French Class this was the scene of many of the 'greetings among friends' that we watch to learn the language, so....it's the one spot I remember....at least I remembered something from all those years of French!

...and then, we shopped around, caught the metro back to the hotel, grabbed some bread (because I hadn't had enough), and got to sleep relatively early in preparation for our early morning trip to the airport. Paris was the hardest city for me to even like, it wasn't initially a very warm, and inviting place when we entered it through the large boulevards, but even those started to appeal to me after I got the chance to see some of the character that lies in the layers around the city. I think a must are the Eiffle Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, Montmatre, and the Latin Quarter-they are a great representation of all the city has to offer, but had I not visited the last two-I would have left a little disheartened. HAVING visited those two places, I feel like there are so many more stones to upturn, and it's a place I'd love to visit again someday!

So I don't end with my trip down the toilet, I'll post this now....

One of the first things people told me when giving me European travel advice was about the 'pay toilets.' I think there are probably places you have to pay for these sort of things in the US, but....I've never been there. (I'm fulfilling the obnoxious American stereotype that other countries share about 'American's who always say things are better at home....' by writing that, but I was also assured by the other people on our tour from all over the world that toilets were free pretty much everywhere else if I ever chose to visit those lands). In London, this issues was never raised, but as soon as we drove away....it was a new concept to grasp. We were eased into the process gently. In Belgium, and Germany, you paid to use the facilities, but then....you were given a 'coupon' you could use in their store, so at least your price didn't go to complete 'waste'.

Also, in comparison with other countries, these toilets were worth the fee. In Germany, everything was machine operated, including, once the toilet flushed, the seat spun and was washed off by some sort of sprayed chemical in the back of the seat.

...and then....came the rest of Europe. Prices went up from 30 Euros (the dollar to Euro ration is 1/1.5 right now, so it's more expensive that 30 cents) to as much as 2.25 (these were around the big sites in Venice). You might slip your Euro's into a machine (so keeping this change around was necessary), or you might hand it to an attendant. As the prices went up, the 'quality' went down. Often there were no seats, just the rim, they were dirty, there were many coed bathrooms, some bathrooms had windows open to the streets with multiple windows with a view in. It also often took a moment to locate the 'flushing' device. It might be a button, or a handle, or a matter of waving your hand in front of something, a little bump on the floor, a little square indention on the bowl....I could go on....and then...there were the holes in the ground...

Our hotel room offerings were nicer, and free, and we discovered 'the bidet' also taking up room in these hotel bathrooms. I'll leave it at that in regards to the bidet. OK, I realize if my blog had a rating, it probably just went down to at least PG, but I think this was the most 'different' thing I experienced, and so, I'm jotting it down so I remember, and sharing it in case you go for your first time to Europe. I also realized I have just opened up a whole world of responses because, yes, I took pictures. How could I not take pictures of something that was such a big learning curve on this trip? That's not really a question, I sort of already have the answer, so....feel free not to speculate long on why pictures are necessary.