Thursday, May 28, 2009

I'm free! Well, sorta... I'm on vacation!

No, I'm not at the beach, but I've thought about the beach a lot.

Nor am I in the mountains, although they do beckon.

A roller coaster ride might once have quelled my adventurous spirit... would have a trail ride up into the Rockies.

But that's not me this week. No. My vacation this week has been here. At home.

And I am enjoying ever single minute of it--even if it has included laundry, housecleaning, and a little gardening. But the best part of all, it has included writing, writing and more writing.

I get enough of air travel and road trips and hotel rooms in my everyday work world. I'm a very happy camper sleeping in my own bed at night.


And the best part is this! Because I worked solid this fiscal year without taking many vacation days, I get to do it again at the end of June and beginning of July--for TWO weeks this time!

I could get used to this.

Are you going anywhere on vacation this year?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dreams, goals, obstacles, success...

President Obama just announced his selection for Supreme Court Justice – Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Elated that a woman will sit with the ‘old men,’ I have equally been moved and impressed by her story. Near tears throughout, I came to a full-blown sob when President Obama told of her being diagnosed with Diabetes at age eight. Her dreams thwarted—to be a detective or police officer and solve crimes, like her book heroine Nancy Drew—she took a different tack and worked hard to become a judge, instead.

I could talk about the power of books and how they often help us reach our dreams. Instead, I just want to reiterate the power of the message. Diabetes didn’t stop her. People saying she couldn’t, didn’t stop her.

I have a nephew who was diagnosed with Diabetes at age three. He graduated from high school this past weekend. He’s met with a number of obstacles along the way. I was proud to hear him say this weekend that he has a goal—to be an engineer for the government, likely something to do with the military. If all goes as planned, he'll be in school in Arkansas this fall. My heart warmed when he told me that. You see, my nephew comes from a military family—his father and both of his brothers have, and are, serving our country. With his Diabetes, he cannot. As an engineer, however, he can.

I bought my nephew a book I often buy for graduates, Oh, The Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Seuss. I inscribed it with my own message. I’m not sure if it will have any impact at all, or if it will guide him anywhere along the path that is set out before him—probably not at all like how Nancy Drew was a catalyst for Sonia Sotomayor. But the words and the message are there, and perhaps, the power of books and words, and the desire to do what is in your heart, will prevail.

Good luck, Rhett. I believe in you and love you. And congratulations, Judge Sotomayor, on each and every one of your accomplishments.

Monday, May 25, 2009

My Muses are sleeping

And so am I.

Or, was. Obviously, I'm not sleeping as I type this.

I think.

Have you met my Muses yet? Yes, you have met one of them but not the other. Let me officially introduce them both to you now.

But, sh, because, as you know, they are sleeping.

Meet Calliope and Clio - my Muses.

Clio is on the left. She's been with me since last Thursday. As you can see, she and Calliope are now best buds. It didn't take long at all. Calliope came a few weeks ago and she thinks Clio is her toy.

Here is the story of their names:

Calliope was the Muse of Epic and Lyric Poetry. She was the eldest and wisest of the 9 Muses. She was the most excellent Muse of all, accompanying respectable royalties on their way. Calliope was the favorite Muse of the Greek poet Homer; many even consider Calliope being the actual mother of Homer. Another child of Calliope was said to have been Orpheus, a famous musician and poet in ancient Greece. In depictions Calliope can be seen crowned with gold, holding a writing tablet or a volume of Homer's Odyssey in her hand.

Clio was the goddess of epic poetry and history and is also considered to be the inventor of the guitar.Clio once fell madly in love with the King of Macedonia, Pierus and with Pierus she created the beautiful Hyacinth, the lover of Greek god Apollo. Clio is often depicted dressed in purple with laurels on her hair, in the one hand holding a cornet and in the other a book, the book Cleio used to write history.

I didn't plan for my muses to come live with me. They each sort of fell into my life. Calliope first, and her name rolled off my tongue one day and Calliope it was. Clio came next, and I wasn't looking, but now she's here and I can't imagine it any other way. When I polled a couple of friends about names for her, my friend Nancy immediately emailed me the list of names of Muses. And Clio it was.

And as I said at the beginning of this post, right now they are sleeping. In fact, they have slept most of this rainy and lazy Monday afternoon and evening away. I admit, I napped along with them. Perhaps the writing will come tomorrow.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Savor a moment of peace this mother's day

They started early this morning, the Mother's Day greetings. Not from my children--they had visited last weekend and left cards and gifts, knowing that they wouldn't be here this weekend--but from many of my women friends. What is new and different, at least for me, is the format for the greetings, email and text messages!

I suppose as technology grows, so goes how we greet and connect with each other. I found every small "good wish" for the day refreshing and exciting, and very soon, I was on the bandwagon, myself.

I sent Mother's Day greetings to co-workers, my sister, a friend who lives out west, and my daughter. Of course they are not my mother (I called her!) but they are mothers, all the same, and it's nice to acknowledge this special day, from one mother to another, on this day.

I loved how most of the messages reflected wishes for having a quiet and peaceful day. I suppose that is what most of us want at times. Peace and quiet, relaxation, and time to leisurely do what we want. My mother said that to me, as well. She chose not to go to lunch with my father and my aunt, taking their mother to lunch, because she simply wanted to do what she wanted, today. I think that's pretty darned cool.

Today, I chose to sleep late, linger over the Sunday morning paper with coffee, try out a new recipe for Tortilla soup, and well, yeah, do a few chores, like laundry. Later I'll mow the lawn. Still, it's my choice and I'm doing it at my own pace, and it is truly peaceful and relaxing. (oh yeah, and I'm still in my jammies! I love that.)

So here you go, all you mothers out there, have a moment or two of peace on me today. Enjoy.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

After Derby Soup

It's 8 pm on Sunday evening after the Derby. Do you know where your leftovers are?

I do.

In my soup pot!

Actually, this weekend I hosted two events. One, the annual informal Derby get-together with my kids and grandkids where I just make a lot of snacks and things for munching. The other, my daughter hosted a Silpada Jewelry openhouse this afternoon at my house--which meant she hosted and I did the food prep. That's okay, it was great having them all here.

After everyone left late this afternoon, I took stock of the leftoevers. Knowing that I'm leaving out of here at 4 a.m. tomorrow to catch a flight to New Mexico, and will be gone a week, I contemplated what to do with all the fare staring at me from table and fridge.

Of course, I always have the answer to leftovers--make soup! So that is what I did. I only used one ingredient from the pantry (besides salt and pepper) everything else was a leftover or something that needed to be either used up today or frozen (if possible, some things are just not freezable!)

So here is what went into the soup pot:

First, some olive oil for sauteing leftover vegetables on the veggie tray. Those vegetables consisted of: celery, peppers (red, yellow and green), cucumber, carrots, and a few grape tomatoes. I sauteed those for a little while with salt and pepper, then added about a cup of water to simmer.

Next, a glance into the fridge--some leftover taco meat and onions, left from a layered taco salad the day before. The meet and onions was tossed into the pot.

Next, a 32 oz can of petite diced tomatoes followed by about two cans of water. Bring all to a boil, simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste, if necessary.

Next, there were about 4 cups of leftover Sun-dried Tomato Pasta Salad left. Dare I toss that into the mix? Of course. I waited a bit until the vegetables were tender and blended with the tomatoes, the added to the soup.

Finally, I noticed a half bag of baby spinach. Knowing that would not last until next Saturday, I tossed that in last and simmered.

All I can say is, Yum. It worked. And now, instead of tossing all of those leftover ingredients, I have a pot of wonderful soup that I'll freeze in several smaller containers for future lunches.

I love when I make something out of nothing. (smile!)

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Derby Party Recipes, Installment #3

Katherine Doll's Cheese Torte (from Doll's Market in Louisville)

This one is a tradition on Derby Day at my house.

Katherine Doll’s Cheese Torte

Serves 8 to 10

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

¼ cup minced baby spinach

1 ½ t. chutney (I use Major Grey’s)

2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

2/3 c. mayonnaise

½ cup pecan pieces

¼ cup finely chopped white onion

Dash of Tabasco sauce

Combine 4 ounces of cream cheese with the minced spinach in a bowl and mix well. Stir the chutney into the remaining cream cheese in a separate bowl. Combine the Cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, pecans, onion and Tabasco sauce in a third bowl and mix well.

Layer half of the Cheddar cheese mixture, the spinach mixture, the chutney mixture and the remaining Cheddar cheese mixture in the order listed in a 2 cup mold or container. Chill, covered for 8-10 hours.

Invert the mold onto a platter lined with additional baby spinach. Garnish with grapes and strawberries. Serve with assorted party crackers.

For a spicier torte, add 1 minced garlic glove to the Cheddar Cheese mixture. You may substitute ½ cup drained thawed spinach for the spinach cream cheese layer, omitting the 4 ounces of cream cheese (but I never do that because, what is spinach without the cream cheese????)

So, today, I doubled the recipe and made two. One for today and another for tomorrow!

p.s. Son and daughter-in-law are here, still waiting for daughter and grandkids...

Derby Party Recipes, Installment #1

So, last night and early this morning I was able to do a little pre-prep. Here are two tried and true standbys that the kids will gobble up and love.

Hot Artichoke Dip and those famous meatballs that everyone makes.

First, let's talk about the dip. The recipe is oh, so simple.

1 reg. can of artichoke hearts, chopped
1 cup of Miracle Whip (I use light)
1 cup of Parmesan cheese

That's the standard recipe. I also add, 1/2 t. of red pepper flakes, I clove of garlic, minced, 1/4 t. each of black pepper and paprika.

Bake at 400F for about 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. I made mine last night, so I'll reheat to hot and bubbly before serving.

For the meatballs, I start with a 2 lb pkg of frozen meatballs. I could only find Italian yesterday so it will do. Teriyaki work well, too. Pop the meatballs into a cold crockpot. Add one 12 oz jar of Heinz Chili Sauce and an equal part of grape jelly. My secret ingredient is to also shake in a few dashes of Liquid Smoke. Let these babies cook on high for a couple of hours, turn down to low and let simmer until serving time. Sometimes I add more meatballs to the sauce the next day. (and I'm also hosting a jewelry parting tomorrow with my daughter, so that is likely what I will do!) If I need more sauce, a little more grape jelly, ketchup, chili pepper, Liquid Smoke, etc., and you're set!

The next recipe, Sun Dried Tomato Pasta Salad, will be posted in a while on SisterWriters. Come see!

Running for the Roses...or something....

And...I'm off!

Okay. (sigh) I've been up for a while.

Cleaning. Food prep. Cleaning some more. Crap! I forgot to take a shower yet. What time are the kids coming? What time does the party start?

Did my son really say last night he and his wife are coming EARLY? Before NOON?

(deep breath)

Oh, okay. So maybe they will have to WATCH me clean. And perhaps my son can help me drag that cabinet to the garage...

Did I mention I'm STILL behind on my current manuscript? Like, past deadline? I hope my editor isn't reading...

At any rate, today I plan to post about Derby food. Yes, I'll post some recipes here and over at SisterWriter's today.

(huge exhale...)

I think. Stay tuned!

(okay, please forgive the cross-post between here and sisters, but as you can see, I'm racing toward the finish....)

Friday, May 01, 2009

It's Kentucky, it's the Derby, it's a hat!

I frequently travel around Kentucky Derby time. Often I'm heading back home to Louisville a couple of days before the first Saturday in May. I did just that yesterday.

The first leg of my trip from Rapid City, South Dakota to Minneapolis was lacking in Derby flair; however, as I neared my gate in Minneapolis, I already felt like I was home. Why? Because of the hats and hatboxes!

Whether they were first time Derby goers, or a regular Derby party-er, they all had smiles on their faces and were excited to be heading to Louisville.

I was simply excited to be heading home.

I'm off work today, being that it's Kentucky Oaks Day and the fillies are running, and that the organization I work for claims Oaks Day as an official holiday. I'll be cleaning and preparing some food for tomorrow, when my family will come in to watch the race and eat. It's a semi-tradition and we have a lot of fun. So, cooking is on my agenda for this afternoon. I'll share more about that later today or tomorrow.

But back to the hats. Here's a snippet of what I observed en route yesterday.

Hats in line...

Hats perched on luggage...

And more hats perched on luggage...

Happy hat owners waiting!

Some hat owners simply wearing...

...and happy to be heading to Louisville!

Hats shoved up...

...and under.

And of course, my favorite part... the Derby gals giving away Bourbon ball candy once we land in Louisville! Yum...

For more on the Kentucky Derby and Oaks day...or on hats, please come by and visit the SisterWriters Blog this week, and also stay tuned here! I may shoot some recipes this way later today and tomorrow. :)