30 April 2009


So... I've had a couple of friend-filled days and with my ever growing list of things to do before next weekend's family events and then the May 11th departure for Europe... the truth is that I am not getting much done.

Today I have only one commitment--except the dentist had a cancellation and I get to fit in having my teeth cleaned before my trip. I head for BR's just after 11:30am. They have been finishing off an addition and she is now thinking of repainting her kitchen and dining room. She has plenty of windows, but with her tree-shaded lot and enclosed screened porch there is just not much light filtering through. She has her eye on a bright light-reflecting yellow-green for both rooms. That's a tricky color and we immediately decide we have to paint a large section of wall before she decides on any shade for sure. I promise to stop at Bella's in Woodstock (the yummy gelato place owned by the Pirro brothers) to check out their wall color and try to find out what it is.

BR is my friend who lost her wonderful mom just a few months ago. The best thing about repainting for her is that the focal point of her dining room will be the fun everyday dishes her mom bought for her last fall and for Christmas. They are a dark gold with a red-orange poppy in the center of each. No slouch, Lorraine purchased the full set with ALL of the serving pieces. What fine memories BR gets to live with each day.

I fit in a quick trip to Kohls on my way to the dentist to ask them to reactivate the $5 off coupons I scored by giving them all 4 of my email addresses, plus DM and MK's. Who knew they would expire, and so soon? I immediately use 4 of the coupons while I am in their good graces and the approving manager is on duty. Good thing, because it is still somewhat of a friendly hassle at the register. I just had time to choose a few items for the M. kids in Bratislava, but I know I need to get back to Kohls yet today.

The dentist is fine. It's always nice to have clean teeth.

I head home to pick up some Target returns and get chair-napped... Sinking into the leather recliner for a cozy nap. The only thing that gets me up is a promise of a jumbo beef hot dog with all the trimmings at Portillo's.

I first stop by Aldi's to buy the solar ourdoor lights for our front walkway--at $2.99 each. It hits me--the sun is out and I have Monster cookies waiting for the rain to go away and the sun to appear for their photo re-shoot. Again at home, I set up my back-drop and arrange the cookies in the brightly colored fluted-plastic containers which were my very first Merci Beaucoup packaging concept. I decide to include some individual cookies in the shot so that the "goods" can be more properly appreciated. The nasty truth here is that the Monster cookies I have to use for the shoot actually are too dark on the bottom for consumption because I had moved my oven rack lower to bake the apple tarts and pies and forgot to readjust it. I hate ruining wonderful food with all of those high-end ingredients. The first two trays were a waste and I need to dump these immediately so that I can forget about this failure.

That accomplished I continue on toward Crystal Lake and my errands. CA calls before I get to Portillo's and decides he is in the mood for a hot dog, also. I tell him that if we meet up he has to sit in my car and listen to Sirius's Isaac Mizrahi as he is discussing parties and good manners with a group that includes Countess (Who really uses a title in this culture?) Luann de Lesseps of the Real Housewives of NY and I am fascinated. CA is a very good sport, so we savor our dinner in my car!

I manage my returns at Target without actually entering the store and buying anything additional! Another stop at Kohls and I get a couple more items for the M kids and a ball and glove for the squishy little guy for this weekend. I still need a few more things, but will wait until Tuesday which is Senior Citizen discount day at Kohls!

We had planned to dig some lilies and hosta for tomorrow's trip to Omaha, but it is too dark by the time I am home, so we will do our duty in the morning. I find time for some junk t.v. before packing. I have promised JE that we are not bringing nearly as much stuff along as the last two trips--otherwise my basement would be empty and her's full.

29 April 2009


Love this new photo of JE.
She entitles it: when naps go bad...all day... (baby in sling)

CA and I have been procrastinating on our current NetFlix pick--The Reader. VA-VA-VOOM! This is a wonderful movie. Raw sexuality and yet it works with the story line. Ralph Fiennes and Kate Winslet. She was nominated for the wrong movie. This is far better than Revolutionary Road; a harsh, yet riveting story. Watch it now!

Great day again today. RvH comes over about 10:30am. I whip up a bacon quiche and then a lettuce and tomato salad with a watered-down lite mayo dressing--my take on BLT. CA and RvH love it! We look at family photos and then my blog roll--concentrating on the fashion and design bloggers. RvH is getting a computer--for the first time. She lost her job and realizes she doesn't want to survive without the Internet. I promise to hook her up to her very own blog roll.

After lunch we drive around Bull Valley and critique the houses and then meander into The Sanctuary. Unbelievably big houses. We are quite the snobs when it comes to architecture. Then a trip to my new favorite--Aldi's! RvH is properly impressed, but doesn't buy much this time... Just an introduction and she will return.

Can't believe she stays until 3:00pm. I send along some quiche, some raw bacon in a handy microwavable bag, a Styrofoam 6" log roll for her back and posture while she sits, and a knobby thing that she can use to massage her legs and low back. We back veterans have an endless supply of antidotes. Her increasingly debilitating osteoporosis requires she learn to care for her back and legs. One day I fear I will find her in a puddle on the floor.

After RvH leaves, I cuddle up with Chelsea Handler's Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea. I started it yesterday after I finished sTori Telling, and I have to tell you it makes me laugh out loud. She is a riot! Very, very dirty mouth and slightly (mostly) amoral lady, and she has NO FILTERS. Sounds like her father had no filters, also.

This evening CA goes out for some KFC--so, so bad but it has been YEARS since we indulged. When did they close the KFC in Woodstock? See, who knew? He doubles back to Popeye's and I change my order to include some beans and rice. Fried foods and beans--this could end up with gall bladder surgery. Am I crazy? It was yummy and I will say "worth it" unless I do end up in the operating room later tonight.

I have to settle down and work on my list--we go to Omaha Friday early a.m. and then a week from Friday head to Peoria for some family stuff, and then home on Monday, 5/11 and fly to Vienna that night. RvH brought me 3 Ambien for the trip. When JL and I land in Vienna we will immediately drive to the Austrian Alps--50 miles from Salzburg. Most everything is underway, but there are way too many details to treat casually. I need lists and timetables and proactive intentions.

Haven't introduced the idea to CA of taking the laptop away with me for two weeks... He will agree, even though it is killing him to be left behind.

I have to figure out how to add the continuation link to my blog postings as these are beginning to go on-and-on-and-on...

28 April 2009


This is not the original facade, but I love it.

Remember Disney World's Mr. Toad's Wild Ride? They shut it down a few years back, but I love to refer to my days spent with my friend as Jill Stone's Wild Ride. Jill likes to get together and do projects--usually baking, but they vary. For a couple of weeks she has been talking about making marmalade together at her house. For whatever reason we always end up in my kitchen.

We start this ride out by planning to get together at her house because she also wanted to discuss paint options for a guest room re-do and the finishing touches on another guest room. I had to cancel last Thursday as I extended my time in Michigan. So, today Jill comes to my house between a hair appointment and meeting with her mother's doctors. That's the thing with Jill--you always see her between other appointments and events as she double books and is most energized when she has 3 or 4 things to do each day.

Interestingly, Jill found her inspiration for the orange marmalade on the sale table at Williams Sonoma--a can of Seville orange marmalade base (for want of a better descriptive word) that originally retailed for over $12, but was on sale for just over $3.00. She comes in laughing as the recipe calls for 4 pounds of sugar and she is baffled about how to measure that amount. I pull at my handy-dandy culinary scale and we quickly dispatch the 4 lbs.

The instructions say to measure 3/4 pint of water and dump that and the canned orange mixture into an 8 quart sauce pan, add the sugar, and stir over a medium high heat until it boils. You continue to boil for 15 minutes, and then there is a set-up test where you put a teaspoon of marmalade onto a cool plate, refrigerate it for 2 minutes, and drag your finger across the jam. If it wrinkles, then the marmalade is ready. We get ours right the first time and it is time to decant.

Jill has gathered an assortment of baby food jars from her one-year old (yesterday) grandson, which I clean and warm while she is stirring. She begins dispensing into the jars, and I prepare some additional jam jars that CA has kindly picked up for us at Ace Hardware a few minutes prior. During the stirring I also shop in my basement and bring upstairs these adorable jam lids that I purchased many years ago and some personaliz-able labels cut in an oval shape just made to fit into the flat oval on each jam jar. We end up with 7 baby food jars, 5 1/2 pint jam jars, and a bit of overage in a French jelly jar glass for immediate consumption.

Jill has visions of decorating the lids of her baby food jars in some creative way and has brought along some baby grape hyacinth and violets, along with some elongated baby pine cones, and some decorative papers. I head downstairs again to get the assortment of papers and scrapbooking materials that RvH bequeathed to me a couple years ago after she completed a birthday project for another friend.

Jill has the best time sorting through and finds some bright pink (her favorite color) and red stripes and prints and dots that I measure and cut into large circles. I fit the circles over the top of a baby food jar and use a second jar lid to help pleat and form the decorative doily. Then, Jill glues a button on one, a silk rose on one, some pine shoots and a tiny pine cone on another. She goes a bit crazy with the adhesive paper ribbons, and we work together to tie organdy ribbons around the paper doilies to secure them.

I opt for two of the jam jars topped with the blue and yellow plaid, very French-look Ball jar lids and rings on mine. Jill goes for some grapes and one plaid lid for her three 1/2 pint jars. This recipe makes a bunch of marmalade!

In the midst of finishing up the marmalade and decorating the jars, Jill is determined to make a batch of shortbread for her meeting with her mom's doctors. Mind you, it is after 2:15 when the cookies go into the oven and the appointment is at 3:00pm. Like I said--Jill loves the frenetic energy of double booking. We quickly load up her jams and the still hot pans of shortbread into a carrying box. I include a spatula to cut the shortbread and two floral plates to serve the cookies on when she gets to her meeting.

FYI--I have a batch of Monster cookies in tins in my kitchen that were created for the re-shoot of my business card photo and offer them to Jill, but she is set on making the shortbread...

At 3:00pm I finish cleaning up the kitchen and fall into my cushy, leather recliner with a good book (still sTori Telling) and my favorite fleece blanket. And, here I sit, wallow, and sleep until after 4:30pm.

CA has a couple of soccer games tonight, so I treat myself to a grilled Bari Italian beef and Havarti sandwich grilled on Brownberry Oatnut bread (my fav) in front of junk t.v. I'm watching a combination of HGTV, Bravo Real Housewives of NY, and FoodTV. My tummy is full and I am beginning to regroup. Didn't make it out of the house again today--will have to get to Kohl's soon to finish the Europe shopping.


Stayed up too late last night. Actually fell asleep early enough, but didn't make it into bed until 1:30am. We both sleep in this morning and very much enjoy our French press coffee. I have every intention of staying home all day reading alternately with doing a few chores.

I am quite successful at staying in all day. The sun finally comes out, although I have loved the rainy overcast weather. We have had high winds, but no damage. I have flowers to plant, but don't plan that for today.

Today is for reading sTori Telling, the first book by Tori Spelling. I eat an early lunch as my stomach stapling requires smaller meals and I get hungry early. A yummy Bari Italian beef sandwich half with Havarti cheese and a combination of lite mayo and horseradish sauce.

I work a bit in the kitchen. JS is coming tomorrow to make marmalade and visit. I still have not managed to have the kitchen in shape to take photos, so maybe this will work for me. I also wade through the stacks of credit card and bank receipts requiring posting to my Excel workbook. A great accomplishment.

I bake a batch of Monster cookies so that I can re-shoot the photo for my business card for Merci Beaucoup. I neglect to check the oven rack levels--forgetting that we lowered the normal position when we were baking the apple crumb pies and tarts. Darn. Such wonderful ingredients to waste on burned cookies. I salvage about half the recipe, and hope to reclaim some of the cookie tops for ice cream topping. I hate burning cookies.

CA and I have decided to have beans and rice for dinner--an economical favorite. I have some red-orange-yellow Bell peppers that are beginning to wrinkle and don't want to waste. This is a favorite recipe that my sister-in-law originated when she was working for a state agency helping housewives learn to make inexpensive meals for their families.

1 Bell pepper, diced or roughly chopped
1 small Onion, chopped
1 T. Olive oil1 can Chili beans or black beans
1 T. Taco seasoning or 1/4 cup Salsa
Lettuce, shredded
Sour Cream
Rice, cooked

1. Heat olive oil in saute pan or skillet over medium high heat.
2. Add peppers and onions.
3. Saute until onions are translucent.
4. Pour the beans into a bowl and mash with fingers or a fork until still lumpy.
5. Add beans to saute pan. Stir intermittently to avoid sticking. Cook 10 minutes.
6. Add taco seasoning or salsa.

Serve over or alongside rice. Top with shredded lettuce and sour cream.
Taco chips make a fine accompaniment, but aren't necessary.
May also use as burrito filling or for nachos.

A wonderful lazy day. I don't intend to go too far from home tomorrow either. A trip to the library and maybe to Kohl's. I have decided I have to make a list or I won't get everything done before I leave for Europe on the 11th.

Just a few days until we see the squishy little guy and his baby sister. Today JE told him that grandpa and grandma were coming soon, and he whispered, "Presents." She asked him what he said and eventually he whispered, "Happy Birthday." He gets it...

Today he got his first guitar. No more air guitar. Hope he doesn't abandon the drums, because he is quite good, but he has been fascinated with the guitar for a couple of week--using his plastic shovel as a stand-in. JE sent CA a photo of baby LE today. She has GROWN so much in such a short time. We are counting the days and hours...

26 April 2009


Today is the 60th birthday of my childhood friends. We started 2nd grade together in Mrs. Buck's classroom. She was a harsh and demanding teacher given to whacks on the head with a wooden ruler. I was a good student and don't think I was hit more than once, if that.

KS and KL were an anomaly--fraternal twins--who moved into their new house on Renwood in Hamilton Park just in time to attend second grade at Woodrow Wilson Grade School on Forest Hill in Peoria, IL. KS was blond and blue-eyed, KL was a brown-eyed brunette. KS struggled some with school, but KL was almost as smart as me.

KS and I were the closest, but KL and I were in the most classes together in elementary school. After 5th grade the school and their parents decided to split up the twins to allow individuation. Weirdly, even for then, their mom dressed them alike and they complied all the way through elementary school. Their clothes were wonderful, as MC was an excellent seamstress.

Today I will call KS in Phoenix to wish her a happy birthday. We usually talk once or so a year and send birthday cards. KL died tragically about 20 years ago, and KS has had the pleasure and task of raising first KL's daughter and then granddaughter.

Today is also the first day of my diet and writing it here is part of the accountability that I require. I have had my stomach stapled. Not really! I am just pretending. People who have their stomachs stapled have to eat very small portions or they get very uncomfortable and sick; they have to exercise self-control because having your stomach stapled does not change your habits or your cravings instantaneously.

By pretending to have had the procedure I can escape the pain and the expense and the side effects. Let's see how this goes... I need to lose 30 pounds and have struggled with losing any for the post-menopausal years. I used to be a champion dieter, but my metabolism is fighting back and no longer desires the teeter-totter or roller-coaster ride of pounds gained and pounds lost and pounds gained ad infinitum.

25 April 2009

LEAVING - Actually leaving....

I'm tired. I noticed yesterday afternoon that I probably stayed a day too long. We have been having such a good time and our energies haven't really flagged, but by late afternoon I could feel a deep tiredness and knew I would need a lot of alone time to regroup. I was energized with BZ's visit and wouldn't trade a minute of the past several days, but I will need alone time to recover.

Before I am even out of bed JL has gotten in her fitness walk. We only made it out once together this week--good intentions, but not enough time and energy. There is coffee and I am not hungry, so I get right to the task of loading the car. We double-check the math on our financial transactions. Over the past few weeks we have purchased airline tickets, party dresses, jeans, etc. for our little girls and our upcoming trip to Europe. Good thing I started a list or we would never recover the details. Checks are written and just before I go, we decide to head down to the computer to view the latest photos of the twins and give JL a quick tutorial on a few of the finer details that escape her.

If we hadn't taken the computer detour I would have been on the road by 8:30am my time. I still hit the road by 9:15am and have a lovely morning listening to NPR. The miles fly by and soon I am near Chicago. I decide to wait until I am on the Northwest Tollway to take the Barrington Road exit and have a yummy burger and 1/2 lemonade-1/2 iced tea at Buona Beef in Hoffman Estates.

I decide to stay on the secondary roads from here as I have some returns to transact at JoAnne Fabrics on Randall Road. Second thoughts about the purchases I made on Tuesday... Big sale at JoAnne where I find the indoor/outdoor fabrics that were so pricey in Battle Creek and at the lawn and garden store on sales 50% off. And, the full price here is JUST $16.99. I call JL and she decides to get her neighbor in for an estimate and purchase the yardage she requires during this week of the sale. There are some beautiful reds--JL, like me, is partial to reds. We had envisioned a blue and yellow decor in a country French theme for her porch re-do, but can't resist the call of the reds...

CA is out and about when I arrive home. He mentioned that he was in the mood for baked potatoes topped with cottage cheese, chunks of ham, and mixed vegetables and I encouraged him to follow through for dinner tonight. I start to unload the car and he shows up to finish. We leave the plants out in the rain, and I unpack the bounty and the laundry. I am known as a procrastinator when it comes to unpacking, but lately have begun tackling the job immediately. People do change!

By 2:30pm I am cuddled in bed in my summer nightgown with the rabbit book and the intention of sleeping as much as I want. CA fields only one phone call from RvH, and I sleep until 5:00pm, staying in bed until almost 6:00pm. This seems a night for junk t.v. and I watch some HGTV and then settle in to Grey Gardens on HBO. Well done and very interesting. Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange are very gifted actors, and humble enough to allow their faces and bodies to be ravaged by age and gravity for the roles of Edie and Little Edie Bouvier Beale--relatives of Jackie Kennedy who eventually lived in fantasy and squalor in East Hampton. It is a story of mental illness, forsaken dreams, grandiose fantasies, denial, kindness, quirkiness, and triumph. Well done and I am drawn to it as one would be to a train wreck or a cannibalistic killer (I admit it. Jeffrey Dahmer was spell binding for me.).

We celebrate my homecoming with some Ben & Jerry's even though we aren't even hungry. The diet begins in earnest tomorrow.

I have had a great week! Escapism extraordinaire, with some productivity and creativity thrown in for good measure. And, I have had the pleasure of sharing my time with some very fun and interesting women. We reminisce and fill in the blanks for each other--tell only the truth and talk too loudly. It is healthy escapism and also reality check.

24 April 2009


It doesn't take me more than a few minutes this morning to decide to stay one more day. CA is tolerant, but I can tell that he is ready for me to be home. He was busy with soccer and teaching until today. He has practice mid-afternoon, but my procrastination will mean that he has a long Friday night alone.

JL and I just have too many tasks undone. We are squeezing all we can into each day, but there are only so many hours and we have only so much energy... JL remembers that our cousin BZ is free today. JL invited her to join us for a meal or an adventure during my visit, but she is an ER doc and was on duty the past few nights. JL gives her a call and we determine that she will join us for dinner on the porch--promises of conversation, laughter, and some perfect Chicago-style pizza.

I have a hankering for cinnamon rolls this a.m. and while JL is outside tending to her estate, I plunder the frig and find a can of Pillsbury. Who knew! I shower and JL scrambles some eggs and slices some bananas and strawberries. We can barely drag ourselves away from the gorgeous morning on the porch overlooking the lake.

I forgot to mention that yesterday there were swans gliding by. They live in the cove further along the lake and only come down this far before high season when the boats and lake toys overtake the serenity.

It is again early afternoon by the time we hit the road. Our first stop is Key Blooms--JL's local nursery. They're offering 20% off to existing customers and 30% off on the pansies. Their display is voluptuous. It is fun being here early on a Friday as there are just a few customers and we can ask as many questions as we have and also wander effortlessly through the rows and rows of stunning plants. I buy a huge shocking pink geranium already planted with spirea and vinca. And, I get this funny green plant that looks more scitzo than manic--Spiral Rush. And, I find some gorgeous red and green Caladium, miniature violets, and a lovely, dainty Diamond Frost which will spread and mound and bloom until frost to add to the pale pink Forget-Me-Nots that I bought at Horrocks on Wednesday.

We drop the plants at home and then head to the lawn and garden store with JLs porch cushions, intending to find replacements. We learn that new fabrics are due in soon and that all manufacturers custom-make the replacements. Sounds like an expensive endeavour and JL remembers that a neighbor is doing upholstery and making replacement cushions, so we head over to the other side of town and Hobby Lobby.

JL finds a beautiful tapestry fabric to consider for her sofa re-uphostery, and I limit myself to some more popcorn boxes. I check out the robin's egg blue linen fabric I am envisioning for the second wingback chair and again confirm it's loveliness.

By the time we head back to Indian Lake it is almost 5:30pm and BZ is due at 6:00pm. Clueless, we end up following her white SUV up the road and just before turning into the driveway realize that BZ is early and we are late. We intended to clear the kitchen table and spruce up a bit. We are all family and have seen each others houses in good order many times, so we relax and begin the evening.

JL produces a spectacular spinach salad while BZ and I snack on crackers in the sleeve and cheeses dumped into the middle of the muddle on the table. We laugh as we are very Martha in most cases--tending toward orchestrating presentation. The snacks taste just as good and it is fun to not care. We eventually end up on the porch for the salad. JL wisely set her timer to remind her when to pick up the pizza. The pizza is everything a pizza should be and many times isn't. The crust is delectable and the tomato sauce (while JL says it comes straight out of an industrial size can) is perfect. The toppings are good, but who cares once you get the perfect crust and tomato sauce in the mix.

About 8:30pm I wander inside to organize my belongings and give CA a call. I am leaving in the morning. I consider sneaking off to bed--the usual effect from a glass or two of wine--but know that is just too rude. BZ leaves before 9:30pm and JL and I spend a few minutes cleaning up the kitchen and porch. By 9:30pm I am up the stairs and into bed; a few minutes with the rabbit book.

The winds are strong tonight and lulling. I consider closing the windows in my room and the bathroom, but hate to miss out on the sounds of the night and the cool and soothing breezes.

23 April 2009


I was to head home today, but still all those fish to fry (proverbially).

Don't get quite as early a start today, but we will still fill it full to overflowing with activities and accomplishments. We head to... I won't kid you, it's all a blur-r-r-. I know that we went to Romence Gardens to check out the geraniums--spectacular. You can tell it is early season, but they have wonderful plants. We didn't buy any as we had multiple stops before heading home and decided to check out the prices at Key Blooms before pulling out our wallets. We did see a spectacular black small Pansy/viola/Johnny Jump Up that is a must have.

Because of our late start I beg to eat lunch--it is already near 2:00pm--and we find the local Panera for a yummy tuna on wheat for me and an artichoke pannini for JL. I chat up a young mom holding 6-week old Alex and she encourages us to stop by her table where there are gathered three young moms with three new babes. In addition to Alex, we meet Jenna Eileen and ____, cooing and admiring all three for just a few minutes--an appreciate grandma audience for three strangers sharing lunch and cuddling their newborns.

I coax JL into Tuesday Morning as I'm looking for small cardboard suitcases for Merci Beaucoup--envisioning a Bon Voyage packaging. I have no luck, but we do check out the garden ornaments and wrapping papers and bags. TM is the best place to fall into... Never know what you will find and while the store is a mish-mash (most garage sales and outlet stores scare me and make my skin crawl) there is something about their merchandising that brings out the hunter-gatherer in me that is never too far below the surface.

Somewhere in the afternoon, we hit Aldi's and have a great time filling our cart with not only the Asia Specialties, but also some staples and a jar of their Morello Cherry jam. JL asks me to not let her go crazy, and she does pretty well. We need to approach shops like they are casinos--allowing ourselves a $20 limit each and when it is gone, so are we.

We end up back at Indian Lake in time for some afternoon sunshine and snack on the blueberry white cheddar JL purchased in Battle Creek yesterday. We have some wonderful split-pea soup JL made while I was driving up on Tuesday.

While talking to PM around 5:00pm we hear that her daughter-in-law's water has broken--the day before the doctors were to induce labor--and the twins are imminent.

As yesterday, we end up in her bedroom to watch junk t.v.--I do manage to cut out the curtain panels for baby LE's room in Omaha, and press and pin the headers. I have decided to wait for the hemming until we can hang them next weekend and make sure of the length.

Sometime around 11:00pm Michigan time we hear that Grant Allen and Charlotte Belle have safely entered this world, and that mommy and daddy and the two precious sisters are all doing well. Pictures will be on Facebook before we are out of bed in the morning. God is so, so good!

I fall into bed after part 2 of Will and Grace; read The Pig Did It (Which, I always refer to as the rabbit book when discussing my progress with CA. He is concerned because the book is due at the Woodstock Library and I keep delaying my return. 10 cents a day is the fine...) for just a few minutes and then fall into a deep and satisfying sleep.

The plan is for me to head home tomorrow in time to miss the afternoon rush hour traffic around Chicago...

22 April 2009


We first stop at the Vicksburg Post Office to begin tracing the beautiful velvet dresses JA mailed 3 weeks ago to Bratislava--never to arrive. LG was to be surprised with a lovely new dress for her first visit to the ballet--her daddy and mommy's early birthday gift. Nice government employee lady assured us the package was probably just tied up in customs. She says there's no accounting for U.S. Customs--they randomly select packages to inspect and there's no predicting how long the process will take. She says the only international packages she knows to go astray are those sent to the Philippines.

We drive backroads and then highways for my first ever visit to Battle Creek, easily finding Capital Street and Michigan Avenue and the State Street parking lot. We had taken the time to load one of JA's chairs into the Subaru, so we unload my wingback chair and ottoman and JA's occasional chair and move ahead to meet Judy Wolford at Creative Covering who will be recovering our furniture.

I have my fabric in-hand, a lovely linen in a shade of purple I wouldn't have chosen but it was on sale at Hobby Lobby for $4 a yard! I got the whole lot for just over $40. I would have chosen the lovely robin's egg blue sister fabric, but HEY! a bargain is a bargain and this purple will work as an accent in either the master bedroom or the guest edroom at the front of our second story. The ottoman is repurposed from a different set of wingbacks which I passed on to a friend almost 8 years ago. I kept the ottoman as I knew that skirted it would made a perfect companion piece to this set of Ethan Allen wingbacks whose construction makes reupolstering worthwhile.

JA and I quickly find a fabric in cream and light blue that isn't quite a French toile, but a sweetly unique resemblance. We look at all- weather fabric but decide to look elsewhere because all the fabric here seems to start at $38 per yard. Judy W. tells us that there is a spray that is weather and UV resistant that can be added to any upholstery fabric, so we decide to go that route.

Battle Creek has a lovely downtown all spiffed up highlighting the river front. We cross an iron pedestrian bridge and have lunch at Clara's--chicken salad for JA and a spinach and bacon calzone for me. I do not remember the last time I ate a calzone, but it was the right choice.

JA had asked Judy W. for directions to Horrocks--a combination nursery and grocery store extraordinaire! WOW! What a find! Has there ever been this much cheese anywhere? They have a lovely white cheddar that's their house brand and they vary it with blueberries, cherries, horseradish, bacon, jalapeños, habaneros, caramel... Plus more other varieties that I couldn't begin to remember other than the drunken goat cheese which I must sample the next time.

Speaking of sampling--there are 30 trays of cheese to sample, but most were empty. As we walk back to the nursery to reclaim our lovely Forget-Me-Nots in pink and lavender, and JA's gorgeous pansies with bigger faces than you would think possible, I ask the clerk where all the cheese samples go. She said that the same people show up daily to eat the cheese and other samples--she calls them the cheese raiders. Tacky me had found the caramel corn, requisitioned a paper coffee cup and then meandered through the store enjoying the bounty. JA tells the clerk--maybe someone poured the cheese samples into a paper cup and horded them... I can't imagine anyone being that selfish and tacky....

Oh, I forgot to mention that this is also a book and stationary store, and they have the widest variety of international foods that I have seen outside of a metropolitan area like Chicago or NYC, LA, whatever. A very, very fine sidetrip. I plan to revisit with CA. JA has already invited our cousin BZ to drive to Battle Creek on Monday for a revisit.

We are so tired as we drive back to Indian Lake. I grab my book and head for the sunny and warm porch, but end up reading three words before succumbing to the strongest urgings and dozing with head back in the chair and sunlight--a veritable cat nap. JA says she walked out to the lakefront right past me and I do not as much as twitch.

We stir fry some chicken breast, boil some soba noodles, and steam some broccoli, onions, and carrots--add some green onions and sesame seeds and have a splendid meal of Ginger Chicken. This all starts with the Asia Specialties $1.69 box from Aldi's (My new favorite grocery store--they are owned by the same parent company as Trader Joe's.). The box includes jut the right amount of soba noodles, a packet of sauce, and a small packet of sesame seeds. Just so good! We plan a trip to a local Aldi's to restock for me and get JA a supply. They have Yellow Curry Rice, Kung Pao Noodles, Thai Chili Rice, etc. The noodles are $1.69 a box and the rice mixtures are $1.99.

We climb into JA's king-sized bed and watch junk t.v. ending the evening with an old episode of Will & Grace--the one where Karen meets her estranged mother. We plan tomorrow's t.v. viewing to include part 2.

21 April 2009


Mama Duck's litter of 15 eggs nestled in the plantings by JL's front door on Indian Lake

Decided to drive to Michigan to celebrate my independence from the transcription project. CA is busy, busy, busy with soccer and teaching this week and besides he is always happy for me when I have an independent adventure.

JL has been entertaining GJ and her husband--they are finalizing a quilting project that has been in the works for more than two years. JL is a Mary Engelbreit fan and all the fabrics are hers. The end product is a 4 x 5 quilt. I will photo it later...

Taking the Subaru this time as I have a wing-back chair and ottoman that I want reupholstered and have decided that prices will be much better in Michigan.

I almost hit my mark for leaving home by 9am, but then ditz around a bit preparing a sandwich (how uncharacteristically frugal of me when it comes to road food). Then, I get sidetracked on Randall Road because I want to use my Michael's coupon and also just take a short trip into Home Goods. As I pull into the parking lot between the two stores, I realize it is a Joann Fabrics coupon as the Michael's already expired! So, a quick run through Home Goods only allowing myself to buy from the Clearance shelves, then I decide to back-track to Joann's to use my 50% off coupon to buy a flat plastic art supply storage box. But, I also get sucked into some lime green and hot pink polka dotted tote bags for Merci Beaucoup.

All-in-all I spend about 45 minute to an hour after already telling my sister JL that I am on the road... She is very forgiving as her mind and activities tend to wander... Remember me mentioning Michigan time last Fall?

JL's good friend is waiting with her when I arrive and we sit around the seldom-sat-in living room enjoying the lake view and getting acquainted. We eventually head out for Tex-Mex and margaritas--YUM!

We watch some junk t.v.--actually I watch the Real Housewives of NYC and JL dozes and snores beside me. Then I head upstairs and fall into bed to sleep the first night away, resting up for the adventures ahead.

19 April 2009


It is finished. Finished and sent through the ether-net to it's final destination and I am free... Yes, finally free after 120+ hours of commitment to the transcription of that 11-1/2 hour Strategic Planning meeting. I did a good job!

I'm going to read a book and smile a lot tomorrow!


We did a fun thing yesterday... Normally when RvH and I get together we either go to a movie or out to eat, or both. Sometimes we see a movie or go to a gallery or housewalk, but the default is movie and food. I suggested that we cook together, drink wine, watch DVDs, and I would spend the night

I planned the menu--pan-fried steak, baked potato, salad... And then, I asked CA to prepare Martha's pate brisse and the cinnamon/sugar and crumb toppings for the Apple Crumb pie. When I got to RvH's house, we peeled and sliced the apples, rolled out the crust, arranged the filling and baked the two tarts--a small deep pan and the regular French 3" deep x 8" tart pan.

YUM-M-M! We ate just as the tarts came out of the over. RvH is the MOST GENEROUS person in the world, and she wanted to share with her wonderful neighbors so she took the small, deep tart next door just before we sat down to dinner.

The meal was exquisite... We took a breather and watched some junk TV--because we share that tacky obsession. Actually, RvH is tackier than me... Later we put in the first disk for her birthday DVD set of As Time Goes By. She LOVES anything European, especially British, and watches all that stuff on BBC, and Channel 11, etc. But, she has never seen ATGB.

Of course, she loved it... warming a bit more with each episode. We watched four. You just start falling in love... First with Jean (Judy Dench) and then with the crotchety Lionel (Geoffrey Palmer). Allister is sleazy and takes longer to love, but Judy and Sandy are young and lovely and glow with life and intelligence. RvH is hooked!

We both sleep well. I am up about 5:30am to do some more of the transcription job that just won't go away! I am down to just a few hours of work and WANT IT TO BE DONE! It will be tonight. I will email it into the ether before falling in bed tonight.

We have some very good yogurt with fruit and granola (from Target!) for breakfast and then I pack up and headed home. CA is at a soccer tournament for the day, so I decide a nap is the first order of business and allow myself to wallow in my comfy bed for three whole hours, listening to the rain and appreciating the dark grey day. A Sunday afternoon with the newspaper, in bed, and drowsing away... Such decadence...

I decide to spend a couple of hours editing and then get myself together to go to Small Group tonight. CA comes in about 3:30pm--I work until 4:00pm. So, now I will listen to John Ortberg's Flow, part 4 to prepare for tonight's Small Group, shower, and maybe even have time to spend with CA.

RvH and I had a great time. We decide that we will do this again--a real girl's retreat that doesn't cost much and we don't even have to leave home.

17 April 2009


37 years ago at 1:09pm my life changed forever. David Matthew Phillips was born at Portsmouth Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, VA to a young Navy ensign and his even younger (22) wife, ME!

Happy Birthday, David Matthew! We love you so very much!

From his earliest months DM loved balls--any size; any shape. He could swing a bat practically before he walked--and, he walked at just under 9 months old! He arrived with strength and coordination, and soon developed a love of anything sports--just like his dad, CA.

In fact, when JE was born almost 7 years later we never even considered that we might have a girl. We assumed we would have another little guy to go to practice with his dad--baseball, basketball, football (later soccer) and beg to be at every game. Of course, we had out little girl and all three of us agreed that our lives would have been lacking without the beauty, grace, and gentleness that little baby brought into our home.

DM was a high-maintenance, high-rewards kid. He bristles when I say that now, but it is true. He liked action, activity, and being outside. He was always on the move and always wanting more. He did fall into bed each night totally exhausted, so there was respite. And, he only climbed out of his crib once or twice--I always figured the crib was his safe haven. While in there, he didn't have to perform. Even when he moved into a twin bed he stayed put. He would, though, lean way out and peer toward the living room and say something like, "It really looks nice out there."

DM went to nursery school and then day care--the perfect anecdote for a kid who needs constant activity. Being in school focused him and he loved it--especially recess. He was always a great student throughout elementary, junior high, and high school--getting excellent grades and always well-like by teachers and friends.

Our yard on Kimer Court was filled with kids playing ball--from the first day we moved in when 5 other eight year-olds showed up to meet DM, and every day after. They played ball on the cul-de-sac, Risk in the garage, and all other activities requiring running, jumping, wrestling, and loud voices. I remember when DM was about 12 realizing that our house could not hold 3 or 4 of his friends--the kinetic energy would destroy it.

DM was a strong-willed child, but we were stronger-willed parents. I remember throwing my arms around that 12 - 14 year old and hugging him tight when he would be angry and flailing... I remember telling him that God gave him to us and required us to love, teach, and discipline him--we were answerable to God so he would not win... DM mostly was cooperative and loving and tender-hearted, but teenagers are teenagers are teenagers.

DM decided in high school to be a great first baseman and hitter. He loved football and played 4 years, but he really focused on improving his baseball skills, eventually winning a scholarship to the University of Virgina. While he finished his education at Wheaton College, he has always been proud of his UVA start. And, no one ever loved college any more than DM did. He was surrounded by baseball players and girl friends who loved him and appreciated his stories--some called him Goose in reference to Mother Goose.

It took DM a little bit after college to find his career path--but there was no mis-spent energy. God has used every thread in weaving the tapestry of DM's life. This pathway led him to Bratislava, Slovakia in the late 1990s, and eventually he met and fell in love with the beautiful and intelligent, loving and wise MK--marrying in a beautiful Slovak/American ceremony on December 28th 2002.

LG arrived May 17th 2005 and KF on January 15th 2008. Being grandparents has been the true reward. DM and MK are wonderful parents--loving, kind, and disciplined. They are hard workers and serve God with university students and athletes in Bratislava. They have a lovely home and a beautiful family.

We love you, David Matthew Phillips! Blessings to you and hugs and kisses for everyone. It's a secret, but I will be there soon! The adventure continues...

15 April 2009


So, CA said the very funniest thing the other day. He was looking over the gifts and clothes I have been buying for the little girls in Europe, and he said, "Why did you buy two dolls?"

I said, well, they are two different Disney princesses and LG is having a Disney princess theme for her birthday."

He said, "That's just like buying a baseball glove. You only need one." And, I said, "No, that's like buying a Matchbox car...."

That's right--men are from Mars and women are from Venus...

11 April 2009


Today we celebrate JA's second birthday. The actual date is Monday, the 13th, but Saturdays are more convenient for parties. We start the day with a trip to the Omaha Children's Museum--a most fantastic place for kids. CA and I had the best time with JA. After an hour we were all exhausted, so we took a popcorn break and made it through another 30 minutes.

After lunch most of us took naps until JA's other Nana and PaPa arrived with the teddy bear cake and a big box of Lego's. Mommy had a bunch of balloons featuring Elmo for the little squishy guy. He loves balloons! He ran with the balloons entwined with his legs and body all through the house. He was delighted!

Then we all went outside and he got the sand/water table that Mommy recommended that grandpa and grandma buy for his birthday. He played for a long time with the train and the scoops and all the various water/sand fueled devices. When Nana gave him a very large bubble blower, he chased bubbles throughout the backyard.

Eventually he blew out his two candles and we all enjoyed the homemade chocolate and vanilla cake that Nana made--with cream cheese frosting. YUM! We finished the afternoon off with California Pizza Kitchen pizzas--JA loves pizza.

LE joined us in the backyard and snuggled in the sun. She was supposed to be kept awake, but I kept forgetting and let her lull to sleep! Mommy wanted her kept awake because two days ago she slept all afternoon and then stayed up from 2 - 5:00am. We took turns keeping her awake. She is beginning to smile voluntarily--mostly so far at her mommy, but I am claiming one smile just for me, so far.

Tomorrow is Easter and we will drive to Lincoln, NE (Waverly) to the Smith family farm for a traditional ham dinner and an egg hunt. DS is an excellent cook and we look forward to the afternoon.

I am still plugging away at my transcription job. Who knew it would take so long! $$$$, so no complaints. I do really enjoy all the financial conversations and information... We are in Omaha until early Monday morning. CA needs to be back to IL for soccer by 2:00pm. And, I will continue transcribing in the car and after I get home. I have a Wed, 4/15 deadline, but have offered to do some additional editing, so may work through Friday on this project.

10 April 2009


Tonight we reflected on Good Friday and Christ's death on the cross for our sins by attending a service held by JE & MA's church and another church. Over 300 people gathered in a reception hall in downtown Omaha this evening to worship, reflect, pray, and celebrate communion together. MA gave the spiritual direction, or homily, and helped us prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christ's resurrection on Easter Sunday.

After church we stopped at one of the two gourmet ice cream shops downtown to get some cinnamon ice cream for our Apple Crumb Pie #2. YUM! It was superb--as good as the tarte tatin on Wednesday night.

Tomorrow we have cake! And there will be Easter candy soon, along with the cookie bites I brought along. Must resist... Must resist... Must resist...


Lucy, grandma and grandpa are coming! Get ready for a lot of hugs and kisses.

Jonah, Happy Birthday 2-year old! Just 3 more days and you will be 2!

See you in a few hours.

09 April 2009


This was my mom's birthday. April is a huge month for birthdays in our family:

4/1 best friend
4/2 husband
4/8 nephew
4/9 mom
4/13 grandson
4/17 son
4/20 great nephew
4/23 twin boy and girl*--Grant Allan and Charlotte Belle
4/24 friend
4/26 friends (twins)
4/28 niece and mother-in-law
4/29 niece

And, twin babies*--a boy and a girl--(great nephew & niece) will be born on 4/24 unless mommy goes into labor sooner.

Back to mom--she prayed every day for her family and our lives were infinitely blessed because of her love and faithfulness.

Now that is a life well-lived!


So... I have this idea for cookie bites using my Merci Beaucoup recipes, but making them bite-sized and selling them in 1/4 lb. increments. The above is the first go-round with Oatmeal Crisps. Labor intensive, but I figure out some time-savers for the next round. Planning to try Classic Shortbread and Monster cookies this way.

Jeff, next door, and JE & MA's across-the-street neighbors are the recipients of this batch of testing leftovers. It's going to be fun showering people with cookies as I work my way through my recipe ideas and techniques.

Stay tuned...

08 April 2009


Today CA and I choreograph a well-executed tarte tatin--or a French Apple Tart. Actually, we make an apple crumb pie and a French apple tart. Same thing, just semantics. The tart is for dessert tonight at MP's cousins house in a nearby suburb. We are meeting BK's fiancee for the first time and since we invited ourselves, we decided we should furnish dessert.

Didn't think to get a photo of the tarte tatin, but here is the Apple Crumb Pie--which is hitting the road at 7:00 am on Friday for Omaha and Easter with the squishy little guy.

This pie is actually CA's birthday "cake." He prefers pie to cake, but I have never experienced him turning down any dessert. Last week we made the German chocolate cake for RvH's birthday and had a small bundt-version for home. We decided we would save the birthday pie for Easter weekend in Omaha.

Last night's tarte tatin was scrumptious, so we are eagerly anticipating the pie.

[Better Homes & Gardens red-checked cookbook I received as a wedding shower gift in 1969)

5 - 7 Apples, tart (we used a combination of Golden Delicious, Braeburn, and Granny Smith)
1 9" Pie shell, unbaked [see above]*
1/2 Cup Sugar
3/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/3 C Sugar
3/4 C Flour
6 tsp Butter

1. Pare apples; core and cut in eights. (I slice thinner.)
2. Arrange in unbaked pastry shell.
3. Mix 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over apples
4. Mix 1/3 cup sugar with the flour; cut in butter until crumbly.
5. Sprinkle crumb mixture over apples.
6. Bake at 375⁰ for 50 - 55 minutes, or until crust is golden and
juices have thickened.

*Martha Stewart's Pâte Brisée
We used a deep 8" fluted tart pan (a deep one).
Serve with cinnamon ice cream, or alternatively sprinkle
cinnamon sugar over vanilla ice cream.


Just a word about a change in my life...

Actually, all I've changed is the photo on my dashboard and home page. I love the one that I've been using--featured above--but for some reason I could only get it to a certain size. A size that did not flatter the photo. So, I'm borrowed the new image from Mary Engelbreit.

One evening about 15 years ago a friend and I drove to an independent book shop in Libertyville to meet ME and have her autograph a few items. I believe the timing was when she first came out with The Snow Queen book. I just checked and that was 1993!

Anyway, the story here is that it was my friend and I in line with about 200 gay guys. Who knew! We had a great time in line, and Mary, "You're not just for girls!"

07 April 2009


It's Easter week and our plans include a quick trip to Omaha to celebrate the squishy little guy's birthday (April 13th) and get in some cuddling time with him and with baby Lucy.

I'm still deep into transcribing the meeting from hell... Actually, as I've said repeatedly I am really enjoying this assignment and am quite impressed with the principals of this company. Well organized, polite, and intelligent--or so it sounds! I'm not as excited about the low-talkers--the ones who sound like they speak directly into their elbows, slur their words, and drop off at the end of each sentence. And, there is more than one "you know" guy, or actually "sort of like" and "just" guys. And, the facilitator while doing a superb job says, "O.K., great" after each and every presentation. If I never typed that phrase again it would be too soon.

Back to Easter... One of my sisters--the next younger to me in age--has a definite affinity for bunnies, and people are always giving her bunnies and bunny-related stuff. She says that she also collects $5 bills... I bought her a shirt one time with the intent to have a random assorted group of people, unknown to her, photographed in the shirt and then send her the shirt and photos anonymously. The pink shirt sat in my drawer for months and years--I finally gave it to my daughter. I will check on that shirt this weekend and if it is available proceed with the previous plan.

Today I ran across the book featured above. Would it be too, too cruel to send that to PM for Easter? Sisters...

06 April 2009


This photo is actually from last week's snowfall that melted during that day and was gone by the next. It snowed again yesterday--a gorgeous snowfall, if it weren't freaking April 6th! It's not as pretty out this morning, thus the use of last week's photo.

No audio files yet today for my transcribing job. Someone is on vacation so it may be Wednesday before I am working again. O, darn! Time off with the guarantee of plenty of work for the rest of the week. What a way to live!

Stay tuned as I try to be productive around the house today...

05 April 2009


Can't resist blogging this photo of KF gnawing on a carrot! The hilarious innocence of children.

A couple more cute kiddies stories: the fabulous Sophie surprised her parents and house guests with a rousing entrance last night--she sashayed into the room wearing nothing but 12 pairs of underpants.

LG talked her way into a present from mommy and daddy on KF's first birthday. Today when I questioned whether KF would get a gift on May 15 when LG turns four, she said that KF already had her birthday and got her presents...

JA knows his letters. He was playing in the tub the other night with his Dora the Explorer foam letters--holding the monkey in one hand and the "G" in the other. He kissed the monkey and said, "Kiss monkey." Then he kissed the "G" and said, "Kiss Gomma!" Isn't he the best!

JA, again, kept repeating "chee-chee-yee-mee" to his daddy. MA kept trying to figure it out and when he finally said, "Children's Museum?" JA laughed excitedly. JA was asking to go to the Children's Museum, and he hadn't been there or heard the words for weeks and weeks! He is so smart.


Since my transcription CD blew up in the early hours of Saturday morning, I have been forced to take two days off. I am having so much fun--mostly just around home. But, I did hit the big sales at Kohls to get spring and summer clothes to take to KF & LG in Bratislava. And, the squishy little guy turns two on 4/13.

Small Group tonight using our new study format. We are each responsible for watching/listening to a John Ortberg series Flow online from Menlo Park Presbyterian Church. We download a study guide, and then when we meet for Small Group on the 1st and 3rd Sunday evening we base our discussion on a couple of those questions. It is going very well! And, Flow is one of my most favorite series that JO did at the mega church.

I took some freshly baked classic shortbread to each couple as an Easter treat--a big box for our hosts and a cutesy box for my girly friend JS. Think I should have baked it a bit longer, but we were running late. It was just fine. I just like it a bit more dry.

Still waiting to hear if I need to drive into the City tomorrow morning to pick up a new copy of the audio files. I will be working hard this week--at least 40 hours. More, if I can fit them in. Got to save up for EUROPE!

Ordered by business cards and labels last night. They will be here in about a week. Began building my web site today. So cool! Won't go live until I get back from Europe.

Merci beaucoup means thank you very much--as the old song truly says.

04 April 2009


Mary Poppins and PaPa

When we visited Bratislava last February, LG was in the middle of her very long fascination with the DVD The Sound of Music. At that point she was constantly singing, "I'd like to stay and taste my first champagne?" And now, in just a bit over a month JL and I will take LG on the Sound of Music tour out of Salzburg. How fun!

She was also very captivated by Mary Poppins, and we spent a lot of time dancing with umbrellas. She is quite the show-biz kid. We are crapping; we are crapping.

03 April 2009


So... The Merci Beaucoup ideas are free-flowing... I saw these cardboard suitcases at The Land of Nod the other day--3 sizes for $19.95, which isn't bad for TLoN. Think the small one will make a fantastic cookie box.

Then, I remembered these photos from last February when we were in Europe for KF's first days on earth. DM, CA, and I took LG to Vienna to the Spanish Riding School on a Saturday a.m. to see the Lipizzaner stallions work out. It was a very cold and snowy day in Vienna, but we had such a wonderful time. LG loves horses, and she knew the day was especially for her. As you can see, she packed her suitcase and was ready and waiting in Kangoo when we walked out the door. She usually smiles more. Traveling must be very serious business for LG.

After the Spanish Riding School, we headed to the Naschmarkt and got similar items to those we got this December. What a wonderful place!

And, I am going back! Around the 11th of May my sister JL and I are flying to London and then Bratislava; driving to Salzburg and the Austrian Alps to meet up with DM, MK, LG, and KF for a week at a beautiful resort. Then a few days in BA and onto London and several days exploring the city again. WOW! A week ago I wouldn't have guessed. Life is good. God is great!

02 April 2009


Happy Birthday, Grandpa!!!
Today is CA's actual birthday, so we are making a very special meal tonight--Macaroni Grill's Pasta De Pollo Al Sugo Bianco. WOW! Not a difficult or expensive recipe to accomplish, but lots of chopping and steps. It requires several cutting boards, at least 3 pans, and a choreography of timing.

CA grills the chicken breasts on the George Foreman while I mix the yummy asiago cream sauce and boil the water for pasta. We also preheat the oven to warm the La Brea baguette. He chops the pancetta while I mince onion and garlic, then fight with the fresh green onions (Such a sad offering for the first days of Spring. These grocery stores don't even try! A new pet peeve of mine, this pre-packaging green onions in a sealed plastic bag and then when you get them home they are overly mature, and this recipe asks only for the tops... wilted as they are.)

The butter is melted, the onions and garlic are sauteing. We add the pancetta and chicken, then deglaze the pan with cream (!). When the pasta is perfectly al dente, we toss it with that mixture, rewarm the asiago cheese sauce and toss it together. Topping it off with minced fresh parsley, we retire to the library and (for shame!) eat while watching HGTV and Food TV.

CA rhapsodizes (unless that sounds too gay?) over the pasta, calling it perfection. I love it, too, and am already planning to make it in Omaha over Easter for JE and MA.

I bought CA a black golf shirt and a very nice Calvin Klein shirt. Mr. Fashion did some of his own shopping today and exchanged the shirts for two Greg Norman golf shirts. I'm glad he got what he wanted. The shirts are very, very nice and he is happy.

CA decided that we should postpone making his Dutch/French apple pie until Omaha since we had a very fresh German chocolate bundt cake already on stage. There have been very many desserts around here lately. Good thing I haven't been too tempted. CA hasn't resisted much, but even he can't keep up with my recent production rate.

I have put in almost 40 hours already on this transcription job and am only about 1/3 of the way through the CD. They agreed to pay overtime hours through this weekend. And, I will be working away all of next week, too. I like the work, but it is killing my neck and back. I keep yoga-ing and take many breaks. Still, I have averaged 8 hours a day except yesterday when we took the morning off for our Chicago adventure.