Happy Goals

Kacey came home from school for the weekend. She and Connor had a wedding to attend – his uncle’s. It was a casual affair, a second marriage for both the bride and groom. The event was a  fifties-themed backyard party and Kacey and Connor dressed accordingly, to the best of their ability anyway. As college students on limited budgets, poodle skirts and leather jackets weren’t really in the cards. But I thought they looked great.


Mark and I went bowling while the kids were gone. We were home at a decent hour and the kids were already back from the wedding. They said they had fun. The food was good and there was even some dancing, which they love to do.

This morning, Mark, Kacey and I went to the farmers market in St. Paul. We bought carrots, bell peppers, sweet corn, radishes, beets, cauliflower and apples. I think Mark would have bought more stuff, but I reminded him that we had to be able to realistically eat all this stuff before it went bad. Besides, we couldn’t carry anymore in our overloaded arms.

At home, Kacey and I baked. I had a bunch of bananas going bad that we made into bread and I’d been craving some pumpkin cookies I made for the first time last year. So we did those too. I always have so much more fun working in the kitchen when she’s there to work alongside me or just keep me company.

We packed up some of each for Kacey to take back to school. She also took a little cooler of things I’d been freezing in individual portions for her. The oven in her apartment gets hotter than it should and the girls have burned a lot of food in their attempts at home cooking. So I’ve been stashing stuff in the freezer for Kacey – a couple of containers of pot roast and potatoes, some chicken and wild rice soup, pulled pork and taco meat. Kacey was thrilled. She said something about feeling a little bit bad for letting me do so much for her. I told her I enjoyed the chance to still “mother” her whenever I could. She said, “Good. ‘Cause I like it when you do.”

Everybody’s happy!

Speaking of being happy, I’ve been thinking about things I can do to promote a more positive attitude. I found a good quote to keep in mind this week. Considering where the idea of “happy goals” began, this seems appropriate.

Anger QuoteI’ve thought and thought and thought about what my specific goals should be. And I finally realized I was putting too much pressure on myself to come up with something really impressive. But then I finally realized that starting simple might be the better way to go, at least at first. So, this week I will strive to:

  1. Look for the good – There are usually more smiles, laughs and positive exchanges in my days than negative. I will choose to let the good stuff take up residence in my head and let the negative stuff roll off my back.
  2. Get outside – I spend too much time inside, at a desk, behind a computer. Fall is my favorite time of year. And I have a dog who loves to go for walks. She has plenty of room to run in the yard, but she would much rather go exploring around the neighborhood.
  3. Eat better – at least one vegetable a day. (I’m good with fruits, not so much with vegetables.)
  4. Perform a random act of kindness

In a week, maybe I’ll be willing to share how it all went. :-)

Summer Food

You know what I love about summer? The grill. I hardly even use the stove from June through September.

You know what else I love about summer? The garden. I love that I can just walk down the deck steps to the back yard and pluck some stuff off the vines to add to the dinner ingredients. The tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers went wild in our garden this summer and we are enjoying them as often as possible, knowing that soon, our supply will begin to die off.  (I say our garden and our supply, but really, Mark gets all the credit here. He’s got the farming instincts. I just like to eat the stuff.)

005bDinner tonight was simple. Just some chicken breasts sprinkled with some seasoning mix that I bought at the farmers market and some potatoes chopped up and mixed with onion, green peppers, some butter and salt and pepper. All grilled, of course, by me. (We have one of those unconventional marriages in which I am more likely to be “manning” the grill than he is.) Then Mark sliced a fresh tomato and we sprinkled the slices with grated parmesan cheese. He was practically drooling over the chicken and potatoes.

I love fall, but I am sure going to miss summer food.


Baked Concoction on a Stick

It’s state fair time in these parts. The Great Minnesota Get Together begins later this week and the hype is abundant. There are television and radio ads. There was an entire section of the Sunday paper dedicated to this year’s fair attractions. We’re even celebrating at the office. Employees could sign up to receive two tickets for fair admission this weekend (I did) and there’s a state fair themed baking contest taking place tomorrow. Since I’m all about having a little fun where the workday allows, I signed up for that too.

The contest rules stated that entries could be purchased or home-baked. Bribing of the judges is highly encouraged. (I didn’t attempt any bribery, only because my workload simply didn’t allow it.) Extra points are awarded for foods “on a stick” since the Minnesota State Fair is all about foods on a stick.

My creative juices began to churn. Since my company is a new subsidiary of our parent company, this contest is all new to me and my coworkers. The contest organizer explained to us that past entries have been as simple as Twinkies (still in their wrappers) taped to a stick. No way was I going to take such an easy way out. I had a few vague ideas over the past few days. I purchased baking items here and there. But I wasn’t sure until I began baking tonight, what I was actually going to make. That’s when it hit me. What do you think of these?


Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar/Brownie Sandwiches on a Stick!

The filling is made of chocolate and butterscotch chips. I added a dollop of caramel on top of the frosting, just to make sure the sticks would stick and the whole concoction would hold together when a judge picks it up.

I tried a bit of one. I have to admit, it was pretty good, though I wouldn’t recommend eating a whole one all by yourself. You could go into sugar shock eating one of these babies! But I seriously think I could make a profit if I sold these things at the fair… with a side of ice cream! I think I’m gonna win tomorrow’s contest! And if not, oh well! Win or lose, it was fun to play along.

The Mystery of the Mint Oreo

It was a dark and stormy night.

Okay, so it was dark because the sun went down. And it wasn’t exactly stormy but it was probably raining off and on because it did that a lot last week.

Mark and Jake had already been gone for a few days, off fishing with Brad and a group of other dads and sons. It had been a long day at work and I was happy it was Friday with an entire weekend stretching out ahead of me. Kacey was off on a date with Connor and I had the house and the Netflix menu all to myself.

I was immersed in an episode of my latest Netflix addiction. This one has eight or so seasons, so no chance of running out of things to watch anytime soon. I was prepared to watch until I could no longer keep my eyes open. Suddenly, as so often happens in the evenings when I’ve settled in and relaxed, a sugar craving struck me. The food supplies had dwindled. They don’t last long with an extra kid home for the summer along with her boyfriend who all but lives here. But I was pretty sure there was still a package of Mint Oreos hanging around. I paused my show and wandered into the kitchen to go forage in the snack cupboard where I discovered there were, in fact, a good supply of the mint-creme filled sandwich cookies.

Mint Oreos

I grabbed a few and headed back to my comfy chair in the living room, diving right back into my show. I enjoyed my first cookie in two bites. YUM! I do love Mint Oreos. And very quickly after the first was gone, took a bite out of the second cookie. As I was immersed in the drama on television, it took me a moment to realize that something was not right with the cookie. It didn’t immediately break apart as I bit into it. There seemed to be a reluctance on the part of the creme filling to separate in half. It was almost as if the filling had hardened into a leathery, fruit roll-up type substance. It occurred to me that something wasn’t right and I lunged out of the chair and straight to the kitchen wastebasket, spitting the remains of my cookie into the trash. I was vaguely aware that I should probably throw the remainder of the package away too, or at least inspect the cookies to see if we got a bad batch, but I was lured back to my show and the cookies went forgotten for the time being. Sometime later that evening, I awoke in my comfy chair having fallen asleep in the midst of another episode. I dragged myself to bed and didn’t think about the cookies again.

Saturday arrived and I was busy. I started my day with a walk outside with Lucy. Then I cleaned house and did laundry and finally showered sometime after noon. I was just getting ready to dry my hair when Connor arrived to hang out with Kacey. As boys his age often are, he was hungry. He knows where to find the frozen pizza and he took one out and preheated the oven.

Connor was finishing his pizza just about the time my hair was dried and I was presentable to leave the house. I announced that I was going to pick up a few necessities at Target. Kacey said, “I’ll go with you.”

I looked at Connor, wondering if he would tag along too, but he informed me he would stay at the house and keep Lucy company while we picked up what we needed. I’m sure his stomach needed a rest anyway after he had eaten almost an entire pizza on his own. Kacey and I weren’t gone long and were back home again within a half hour. As we were unpacking our purchases, Connor watched a ball game on t.v.

“Hey,” he said, getting our attention. “Did either of you two happen to eat a Mint Oreo that tasted kind of funny?”

“No, why,” Kacey asked?

“Maybe,” I said, eyeing Connor with suspicion. “I had a couple of cookies last night. One of them didn’t feel right so I spit it out before I could taste it.” As I was talking, it was dawning on me that Connor definitely knew something about the funky cookie. He loves to play practical jokes, especially on Kacey and Mark.

“Connor, what did you do?”  I was suddenly very creeped out with the fear of what he could possibly have done to that cookie. I had put it in my mouth! I couldn’t even imagine what he might have done and why, but I was assuming the worst.

“Connor Dane, YOU TELL ME RIGHT NOW!” Connor was looking sheepish while simultaneously trying to hide his smile and I couldn’t help but laugh. I was hit with the full realization that Connor had somehow tampered with one of the cookies. He must have checked the package of cookies while we were gone and saw that someone had fallen victim to his prank.

Connor was fast-talking now, trying to justify what he had done. “I thought Mark was the only one who ate Mint Oreos…”

Kacey interjected, “My dad is probably the only one who doesn’t eat Mint Oreos!”

Connor continued, “So I opened up one of the cookies and squeezed toothpaste into it. Then I put it back together and stuck it in the middle of the package.” (The cookies were gone just about to the middle of the package when I had taken a few. I definitely got the toothpaste cookie.)

“CONNOR,” I yelled with mock indignation. “You are SO lucky I didn’t actually eat that cookie!”

“Yeah, Connor,” Kacey chimed in! “What were you thinking?” My dad’s gone for five days! Next time you try to play a trick on him, you might want to make sure he’s actually here to be your victim.”

Clearly, Connor is not a very smart practical joker, but we love him so I’ll forgive him. Mark got a good laugh when he heard how I’d become the unsuspecting victim of the ridiculous prank. As for me, just as soon as I can figure out how to make Connor unknowingly eat a brussels sprout, I will consider us even!

My Parents’ Old Stuff

One thing I noticed about my parents while spending time with them in Arizona – they each tend to discount many things the other says. I suppose this is partly due to being together for so many years. I guess after so much time, people tend to get on each other’s nerves a little bit and argue just for the sake of arguing.

Mom said it was a good thing we “girls” were there to help go through their belongings and decide what to pack and what to throw in preparation for the move home. If she and Dad had to do it on their own, she said, he wouldn’t get rid of anything Mom thought wasn’t worth packing. My sister helped Dad go through his clothing. She kept running from the bedroom to the living room to toss old worn out t-shirts and such in a big trash bag. Mom suggested she just take the trash bag back to the bedroom. Cori whispered conspiratorially, “No way! If the bag is in there for him to see what’s been thrown, he’ll have second thoughts and start rescuing things from the trash again!”

Mom and I agreed she made a good point.

swim trunksThese swim trunks went into the trash. I remember Dad wearing them when we were little kids when he would take us swimming. All these years later, he brought them to Arizona because he thought he might use the community hot tub. Swim trunks were required attire in the hot tub. Dad never did go take a soak in it. Good thing too. The elastic in his swim trunks was brittle! Indecent exposure averted!

We came across other old things too. Mom had brought some of her favorite recipes and cookbooks to Arizona so she could make some of their favorite foods and have a little bit of  home-away-from home.  I’m sure my grandma’s lemon bar recipe has been transferred to many a recipe card over the years. Mom’s version is looking a bit worn.

Lemon Bars

But it still makes delicious lemon bars, especially when those bars are made with the fresh picked lemons that are abundant in Mom and Dad’s Arizona neighborhood.

lemon bars yum

When I tasted these, it brought back memories of family gatherings when Grandma almost always brought her famous lemon bars. Some old stuff is worth hanging on to through the years.



Off to a Decent Start

Two days into January and I’m happy to report that I’m making good on all of my resolutions so far this year! I only hit the snooze on the alarm clock one time this morning. Resisting the temptation to give in to the desire for an extra hour of sleep, I ventured out from under a pile of warm blankets and warm dogs and braced myself for the cold morning air. I got dressed in my workout clothes, pulled up my hair, grabbed the iPhone and some ear-buds and drove off to the gym.

There is typically only a handful of vehicles in the gym parking lot when I arrive at 5 am. Today there were many more cars than usual. Normally, I recognize the same familiar faces during my early morning gym visits. Today there were new and ambitious faces. Said my friend Scott, who chats with me for ten minutes or so while he warms up on an elliptical near my treadmill before he heads off to the weights area, “It will be interesting to see how many of these people come back tomorrow or even next week.”

I knew he was probably right in his expectations but I secretly hoped that the New Years Resolutioners would stick it out. I remember how hard it was for me to keep going back at first. Some sort of encouragement would have made it a lot easier. I think everyone should have a friend at the gym to help keep them motivated. Maybe there should be an online service to match people up with a gym buddy. You know, you never feel as awkward trying to figure out how to adjust a foreign piece of weight training equipment when you have someone there to feel dumb with you or to laugh with you as you give it a go and realize just how out-of-shape certain muscles are.


I'm here to PUMP you UP!

I’m here to PUMP you UP!


I didn’t run today since I’m still nursing a pinched nerve or muscle strain or whatever it is in my back that I am impatiently waiting to move on. So far the ache has only moved down the back of my leg. But it felt good to move while I was moving, even if it felt tight and painful again as soon as I stopped. I hope I’ll be running again soon. And since I’ve yet to try out my new racquetball racquet, and since my pal, Lori just got one for Christmas, we’re both anxious to get back to our new sport.

As for doing more reading, I read a good bunch of a new book before going to sleep last night. My blog pal, Kimberly McKay recently published her second book, Facing Redemption and kindly sent me a copy to read. So far, I’m loving it and plan to post a review here when I’ve finished reading it.

And I cooked! Well, technically I cooked. As we drove home from our joint chiropractor appointments this evening and spying the golden arches, Mark said, “Should we just swing through McDonald’s and grab something to eat?”

“Eh,” I said as he turned the corner.

“Do you want McDonald’s,” he asked?

“Not really,” I replied and so he drove on by.

At home, without a meal plan and it already being dinner time, I offered to make pancakes. He turned me down. I offered to make omelets. He turned me down. (All this turning me down and yet he offers up no suggestions as to what he would actually like to eat. Typical. And what is wrong with breakfast for supper? I love breakfast any time of the day!)

But since Mark was turning up his nose at all my ideas, I went to the downstairs freezer to browse the selection of foods within. I spied a container of White Chili that I’d made and frozen a while ago. I hollered to Mark, “Do you want chili?”

“I would eat chili,” he agreed.

“You’d better,” I warned him! And so I cooked heated up the chili, sprinkled on some shredded cheese and added some heat and eat dinner rolls smeared with butter on the side. And it was way better than McDonald’s, I’ll just say.

Two days down. Only 363 to go!

Christmas Activities

Wow, this blog has been sadly neglected. The Kitchen Aid, however, has been getting a workout. Kacey and I have been baking Christmas cookies.

Chocolate Crinkles

Chocolate Crinkles

Peanut Blossoms

Peanut Blossoms

Spritz Cookies

Spritz Cookies

The Spritz cookies were made with my grandma’s cookie press. It worked like a charm!

Old-fashioned, but still works great!

Old-fashioned, but still works great!

And we used Grandma’s recipe too.

A TYPED recipe card!

A TYPED recipe card!

And we used Mark’s grandma’s recipe for these Sugar Cookies…

Frosted Sugar Cookies

Frosted Sugar Cookies

We’re almost done with our baking. I’m almost done with my shopping. There is still much wrapping to be done. And then hopefully I’ll have time to write about a really important event. If you’ve got connections with Santa’s elves, please send some my way. I could use a helping hand.