Tuesday, December 7, 2010

First NYC Trip

Xan and I took advantage of his reading days to take a trip up to NYC to see the King Tut exhibit.  We left Sunday and got there just after it got dark.  I wanted to see the tree at Rockefeller Park so we ventured out to see the city.  We found the Lego store.
They had a mimic display of Rockefeller Park with the tree, ice skating rink, and surrounding buildings that was cool to look at.
We found the tree and skating rink right outside of the Lego store.
Here I am with the tree.
Here is an attempt to get a shot at the Chrysler Building.
And the building that beat it in height, but not appearance (in my opinion) : The Empire State Building.
And then we went back to our hotel and rested to get ready for the exhibit Monday morning.  My critique:  The NYC King Tut show was definitely worth seeing.  My love for Egyptology all began in the 5th or 6th grade when I did a report on King Tutankhamen.  My interest grew in 7th grade when we studied a brief bit on the mythology of Egypt.  Sometime after that, I wanted to be an Egyptologist and was looking up schools that had programs.  So, to be in the exhibit and to see all these artifacts face to face that I had since only read about in books, was AWESOME!  BUT, I was very disappointed at the very end of the exhibit.  I knew that King Tut was in Egypt, but I admit that I was expecting to see at least one of his coffins since one of them is being shown on all the tickets and brochures.  What did I get?  Some jewelry. Not even the death mask!  I'm sorry, but for the cost of the show (regardless of it being a fundraiser for Cairo to build a proper museum to house all this stuff) I think a golden coffin is kind of a must.  Good thing we're planning on going to Cairo anyway, right?
One of the security guards at the front of the entrance was nice enough to take this photo for us.
Then, we had a few hours to explore before we needed to head back home.
We found the M&M Store.
And this architectural eye candy!  This is the Alwyn Court Building which is now a series of luxury apartment buildings with a Petrossian Restaurant on the ground floor.
Can you imagine carving all this???
Then we wondered up to Central Park.
Had a hot dog from a local stand.
Watched the childless playground for a while.
Got a picture on one of the many bridges.
And found a GREAT spot for even more pictures.  Here's my handsome husband!
One of me with the skating rink.
And one of the two of us.  <3
Many stores had FANTASTIC window displays, but Bergdorf Goodman had one of my favorites.  Of course, its hard to see with the glass glare but it was whimsical and absolutely wonderful to look at!
I was surprised by how ugly the Louis Vuitton building was.  It just looked lifeless and boring in comparison to all the beautiful surrounding buildings and window displays.
And to end the trip, we had to go see the Big Piano at FAO Schwarz, featured in the film Big with Tom Hanks.
These lovely piano dancers performed the songs chopsticks, heart and soul, carol of the bells and ended with a Mozart piece.  I had thought to try the piano out myself but when we got up there, it was just a long series of little kids and teenage girls competing for attention as they giggled and ran up and down the keys.  It's really only awesome if you get full control of the piano, so we passed.  Maybe when we get a quarter of a million dollars, we'll have one installed in our own house, right?
And then we drove back home.  We stopped by Wendy's and tried out there new french fries.  They tasted wonderful to me... but then I LOVE anything potatoes, practically.  It kind of seemed like an In-and-Out fry and McDonald's fry had a baby and Wendy's took it over.  Xan didn't seem all that impressed by them.
We still have  a whole list of things we want to to in NYC: Statue of Liberty, Metropolitan Museum of Art, maybe an opera... I definitely want to hit the Lion King Broadway since its the only Broadway show Xan has said he'd go to,  go to the top of the Empire State Building... so we'll be back again!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ithaca CSA

Yesterday was the first day of the Winter CSA.  I excitedly, and a bit nervously, picked it up and brought it home.  Picking up this box means that I now have a hefty goal upon my shoulders: to use up and learn to cook with ALL the contents of this box.
Here's what I found:  The first half was a bushel of parsley, a bag of turnip greens, an acorn squash, 2 baby bok choy, and a garlic bulb hiding behind the squash.
The rest of the box holds 4 leek shoots, and a variety of potatoes, carrots, onions and beets.
 For dinner last night, I used the leeks and made a chicken and leek cheese bake.  YUMMY!  I ate over half of it myself.  I'll get the recipe up soon.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Egg-Free Cookie Dough

About two months ago, I came across this magical site with a recipe for chocolate chip cookie dough balls.  Now for someone like me that LOVES cookie dough but is not a hug fan of them once they're baked... this concept made me ecstatic!  So, I made some.  Unfortunately, I never finished them (the covering in chocolate part) because they were consumed before we reached that step.  The picture on the left is from me enjoying a nice big bowl of it last Sunday.  You also can see that I skipped the whole cookie dough BALL idea this last time and just had at them...
If you like cookie dough, you'll LOVE this recipe I got from Joy the Baker.  She has some DELICIOUS looking recipes if you want to browse her site, too!
OH!  And if you're worried about eating raw eggs, DON'T BE!  That's the best part!  It doesn't use any eggs.  Apparently, one can substitue 1/3 cup of Greek yogurt, peanut butter, or applesauce for every egg the recipe calls for in most cookie recipes.  DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS???  Fridge time for cookie dough has been extended!  While dough made with raw eggs might only be good in your fridge for 2-3 days... THIS cookie dough will be good for OVER A WEEK... if it makes it that far.  :)
I must leave you all now.  I work this morning at 8am and still need to have a good nutritious breakfast of a bagel, orange juice, and cookie dough.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Natillas (Lemon Pudding)

I just updated this recipe.  I tried making it a couple of months ago using the exact measurements I posted and realized I was way off on the vanilla.  There was very little flavor in it.  So I've played around with it and have determined a much better amount.  :)

Serves 6-8 people
Preparation Time: 5-8 minutes
Cooking Time: 5-8 minutes
Total Time: 10-16 minutes


8 egg yolks  (use the whites for scrambled eggs OR Bake a Cake from scratch!)
4 tbsp corn starch
4 cups milk
4 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 - 2 tbsp vanilla (depending on how strong of flavor you're looking for)
5 tsp grated lemon rind
In a medium sauce pan, combine the eggs and about half the milk (no need to be precise).  In a separate bowl, add the cornstarch and the rest of the milk and whisk until thoroughly mixed.  Add the cornstarch mixture to the saucepan.  Add the sugar and vanilla then bring to a boil.  Add the lemon rind. While stirring constantly, simmer the pudding until it thickens.  It won't thicken past a certain point which is how I know it is done.
Either serve hot or cool in a fridge.  Stays good in fridge for around a week.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Letter to Obama

I was reading some edition of Reader's Digest while at the laundromat yesterday.  It was really interesting but a bit on the depressing side.  It interviewed doctors and nurses about their mistakes that they've made while practicing medicine.  You know, like not catching tell-tale signs of serious illnesses only to have the patient return to the hospital a day later and not make it, or other mistakes they've made and have to live with.  I won't depress you with the details because that is not my point.

My soap box for the day is the common theme that most, if not all, of these doctors were expressing in their attempts to explain how it happened:  "I was feeling pressure from the hospital to get through more patients."  or "We were running out of beds so we were trying to move patients through as quickly as possible."  or "This happened near the end of my 36 hour shift."

Dear President Obama,
You are working on reforming our health care system.  I agree that many changes DO need to be made, although don't agree with many of your proposals.  Here are some suggestions.  Unfortunately, I don't understand the system and therefore can't give you an economical and useful plan of how to carry these out, but the following are some ideas for you to think about.
1)  The ER is getting jam packed.  Problem:  What do you do when you have a health problem that you know is not life or death but the nurse on the phone advises you to seek medical attention right away... but wait!  It's Friday night.  Urgent care and regular doctor offices are closed for the weekend.  Do you wait until Monday??? No... you go to the ER.

I propose that more clinics and urgent health care be opened during the nights and weekends.  It would be like having two ER's.  There's the ER at the hospital for those moments you think you are dying or need some SERIOUS medical attention.  And then there are the clinics that can help take care of broken limbs, blood testing, minor weekend setbacks, nosebleeds, ect.  They can be close to each other so that if a minor problem does turn into a serious one, the patient can be quickly transferred.

2)  Doctor and nurses are frequently working over 12 hour shifts extending into 36 hour shifts.  Excuse me for saying, but I do not want a doctor working on me who has been up all hours of the night and is probably on a huge coffee binge.  These are not healthy hours to keep so how are we expecting our doctors to not make tiny, but very costly, mistakes every now and again since studies have shown that sleep deprivation is very similar to being drunk in reaction times and problem solving skills.  Are too many hospitals understaffed?  Or what is the problem?

I propose you fix this.  Provide more support for people to become nurses.  Support more students through medical school.  If our nation is getting more sick... then by golly, provide more health support.  Again, I don't know the system and I don't know how to fix it.  But if you want fewer mistakes and more patients getting better health care, reduce the amount of sleep deprived doctors on the floor.

3)  In this same issue of Reader's Digest, they showed chart comparison.  One was showing your dietary guidelines:  You know, the one that says to eat more vegetables and fruit than meat?  Interestingly enough, the other chart showed where your financial support was going to answer the question to why a Big Mac is cheaper than a meal full of fresh veggies.  Would you like to know why?  Because over 70% of your food funding is being given to the dairy and meat industry.  Those are near the top of the pyramaid!!!

I propose you start helping out more farmers dealing with our produce.  If you truly want a healthier nation, than make it more economically feasible to eat healthy than simply grabbing the over processed junk food at the grocery store or from a near-by fast food joint because the poor man's budget doesn't allow for more.  Prove your sincerity in reducing childhood obesity by reducing the prices of vegetables and fruits even if it means raising the prices of processed food.
4)  I have a friend who is a nurse who constantly laments that she doesn't have time to care for each patient.  She tries so hard everyday to keep these patients as individuals instead of charts, but she can't always do it because she has too many patients on her plate. Although, I think she is awesome for all the times she finds time to fit it in anyway.  (Love you, Becca!)

I propose staffing non-medical people in the hospital.  They can act as many volunteers do in hospitals.  They can take patients out on a walk, read them stories, paint their finger nails, report sport statistics, ect.  You wouldn't have to pay them like a medical personnel.  You could even do minimum wage for all I care.  But think of the morale boost and rising recovery rates if these patients felt like they had someone who cared.  If you can't find a way to lower the nurse:patient and/or doctor:patient ratio, then bring some people in to do the job that doesn't require a degree.  And the big BONUS to this proposal is that you'll be able to provide more jobs to Americans.  That's also on your agenda, right?  Two birds... one stone.

5)  When I make an appointment in advance concerning a medical problem, I expect to be given my proper amount of time.

I propose that every office follows the following procedure:  If you are running behind and do not feel that you will be able to provide me with a full and attentive visit, please offer me the option of either taking the shorter appointment or making another appointment a different day.  Chances are I will prefer to schedule another day and you've just freed up your schedule for everyone else.  Maybe you could add an incentive as an apology, like, "Sorry we had to reschedule your appointment but we'll waive your $20 co-pay to make up for it."  Airlines offer incentives for delays ALL THE TIME!  Why not at the doctor's office?

There are so many more problems but I just lost my hyper focus on this subject so I'm going to have to close the letter.
Good luck,

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Third Step to Organized

My sink is clean.  My routines are getting done 90% of the time.  And I'm ending week number 3!  If I can keep this up for just another month, this will be the longest new habit I've ever purposely gotten myself to learn that I can remember.  (Yeah... that's how bad I am!)  Or maybe its a problem with my memory....     anyway...
What's next?  Tossing junk out and de-cluttering the home. What do we do to minimize all the clutter?  A few things.  First we start with the rules.
1.  Form a new habit of getting rid of it before it starts. Anytime you buy something new, throw out a similar item.  If you buy new sneakers, immediately throw out the old ones you are replacing.  If there is nothing old of a similar item, then throw out two unrelated things.  (I make the exception with books, movies, or anything where we are adding to a category that we WANT to grow.  But that is just us.  I don't think we have enough stuff to get rid of to not have exceptions to the rule.)  NO EXCEPTIONS IF YOU HAVE ROOMS THAT HAVE NO FLOOR BECAUSE THEY ARE PILED WITH STUFF!!!  That defeats the whole purpose.
2.  Know where the nearest donation centers are and what types of things they accept. This will help you know what to throw straight into the trash/recycle bins, or what to put in a box to take out to the car.
3.  Don't think too hard; when in doubt, throw it out... or box it for the season and see if you can decide later. Have you used it in the last 6 months?  Does it still fit?  Do you still like it?  This method goes with those unwanted gifts, too.  You know all those things over the years that people have given you that don't fit the decor of the house, doesn't fit, never read, broken,  so you have it boxed up... yeah, those!  If you aren't going to hang it, wear it, or use it for its purpose... THROW IT OUT!  Those you're afraid to offend are not going to see it sitting in the box either*  (And people, don't be too offended if someone doesn't like your gift.  We've ALL done it.  Most of the time it is the THOUGHT and EFFORT that counts more than the gift itself.)
Not too many rules, right?  Easy to remember. But, wait!  What do we do with the clutter we ALREADY HAVE???
If your house is really bad than I would recommend what she calls the 27 Fling Boogie.  Basically, everyday grab a box or trash bag and quickly run through the house and collect 27 items to trash or donate.  This shouldn't take more than 10 minutes!  If there is a room that you can't even enter because it has THAT much stuff in it, don't stress.  Include it in your daily throw-out with a minimum of 5 items each round.  It may take a few months, but you'll have that room back for use with very little effort on your part.
If your house is fine but could use a little work than I would recommend sectionalizing the place.  Choose 1 spot a week or month or however often you feel is necessary and declutter that one area.  Choose small areas that you can go through in less than 20 min. You could choose the computer desk, your craft drawer, the kitchen table, the pantry, pots and pans, movies, ect.  If those areas are really bad, break it down even further.  If your craft drawer is more like a craft center, then choose a specific craft or specific drawer, and JUST do that.  Set a timer to make sure you don't get carried away.  Unless you have the whole afternoon to kill.  Then, GO FOR IT!
Remember! The whole point of the exercises is to do a little here and a little there.  We are learning habits.  If you go too big and get it all done too quickly, it will just build up again because you didn't have enough time to make it a habit.
So far, for me, I've gone through my shoes, my clothes, and rearranged where I put my cooking books (back in the kitchen, thankfully).  Next stop:  I'd really like to organize my study space.  I don't really have ONE place.  This has resulted in my 'study materials' to be spread all over the house.  Some by the bed, some on my desk, some in a few corners, some on the kitchen table...  Talk about clutter, right?  I'd like to keep everything by my computer but I only have one of those small computer desks.  SUGGESTIONS???
*Disclaimer:  I apologize to whoever has given me gifts that I no longer have.  That includes all those cute little Valentines from elementary school, or mass Christmas presents from middle school.  I'm sorry.  I really am.  But each of them was very appreciated!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Spooning Cats

Toad and Mimsy are ABSOLUTE best friends.  They LOVE spooning!  This picture below is not uncommon even though it makes me smile every time I see it!

But the other night, they took their cuteness up a notch and as I was just about to crawl into bed, I noticed them spooning with their heads curled around one another on the couch.  I couldn't help it!  I ran and got the camera!  Unfortunately, I'm still a bit slow using it and they had woken up and started bathing each other before I could get any shots.  But these are still cute, too!

Don't you wish you had these two adorable creatures?  Seriously!  How on earth did I use to hate cats???

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Xan's camera is old.  Like back from '03.  Mine is decent but the battery life is about one minute before the camera rejects the brand new batteries and shuts off.  We decided we needed a new one.  We splurged and got ourselves a fairly early Christmas present in time to capture Ithaca in the Autumn!
We've done this walk before many times.  I posted pictures from our Spring walk here.
There's a turtle in the shot above.
I'm turning into my dad.  Most of the close-up nature shots... mine.
We also were a bit adventurous with my hair today.  I had washed it and left it down, and we tried out a few head flicks.  More like major hair swings, I think.
The one above makes me look like I'm powering my hair forward.
These are the shots that turned out the best.  We have MANY that didn't turn out well that I'll leave behind.  :)
I like the one above.  My hair looks like a flower.
Xan's favorite is the one above.  He says he likes the lighting.
Here's my photo shopped one.
If I'm going to have long hair... I'm going to enjoy it.
Let's not forget some photos of Xan!
I LOVE walking through Sapsucker Woods and LOVE that the trail is less than 5 minutes from our front door.  Makes me want to go running more often.  I haven't been for a while and had forgotten how beautiful and peaceful it is.  I better enjoy it before the trail is covered in snow, ice, and/or slush!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Second Step to Organized

I can say, honestly, that I see a difference in just 2 weeks of reading This book and following its steps.  I modify them a bit as I go, but its working.  Where did I leave off last time?
First Step to Organized
Oh yes.  The first 4 steps.  How am I doing with that?  I give myself A for effort and A- for performance.  Not too shabby, I would say.  I've noticed a few things.  I'll mention one.  My counters stay significantly cleaner and the dishes usually immediately go in the dishwasher or get washed and dried because I am focusing on keeping the sink clean.  She suggests wiping it down with windex and making it really shine so you can see your face in it.  Sorry!  I'm not into that.  I just like the way it looks when there are no food scraps and I know I've recently swished it around with our dish scrubber w/soapy water.  Clean and sanitary.  That's enough for me.  That way, if I drop a grape in the sink while washing them off, I don't have to throw the grape out.  Just rinse it off and plop it in my mouth.  I would NOT have done that before with my sinks even had you paid me!
The second step that I've taken from the book is setting up a morning and an evening routine.  LOVE IT!  Why?  Because Xan suggested that I do this when we first got married and every time in between that I complained I had no habits and no routines and why was I so incompetent at routines???  Unfortunately, the routines never stuck.  In retrospect, my routines were too elaborate and time consuming.  But her steps, are easy and already polished through thousands of user's trials and suggestions.  They've been working far, far better for me.  Here's what I have set up:
Bedtime Routine:
start tomorrow's to-do list
check calendar and menu board
kitchen: sink, sweep, swap towels
straighten: couch, mail, put stuff away
vitamins, brush teeth, wash face
lay-out tomorrow's clothes and anything else I need in the morning
read, pray, sleep
Morning Routine
No snooze button when getting up
shower, wash face, brush teeth
dressed, hair, make-up
scripture/conference study
empty dishwasher, clean sink and counters
check on cats (food, toys, litter)
check calendar, update to-do list
breakfast, vitamins
dinner prep (if needed)
e-mail, facebook, blog
Sounds kind of lengthy, I know.  But a lot of these stem from all my previous attempts so I thankfully didn't have to start from ground zero.  I've been using the routines for about a week now.  HUGE DIFFERENCE!  Mostly from simply feeling like I have a bit more control over the day.  And when emergencies hit, like our car getting locked in 4 wheel low and needing to go to the shop, or realizing we're out of clean darks or whites, I'm ready to take care of it THEN.
PROOF???  2 things.  1)  Last Tuesday, one of my days off, I had one of my depressed days.  You know those days that you feel tired, sad, and uninterested for no apparent reason at all?  It was one of those.  Yet, I still found myself slowly pushing through my routines.  I even did a few loads of laundry!  And while I still felt sad, I didn't feel down on myself for not doing anything all day... because I DID do something.  It wasn't a lot.  Most of it WAS just sitting around watching tv or whatever.  But it WAS something.  2) I have most of today off.  Normally, I put off ALL errands, cleaning, laundry, ect to do today because I rarely find time to do them on workdays.  But, NOT TODAY!  Which means that I have time to do larger projects.  Like clean the mold off of our bathroom ceiling and watch the episode of Big Bang Theory I missed from being at work.  I actually have GUILT-FREE FREE-TIME!!!
*Disclaimer*  My house isn't perfectly clean yet.  The desk and many other corners and surfaces are still cluttered.  Larger cleaning projects, such as mold in the bathroom I mentioned, still need tackling.  And budget and other tasks still left months behind.  But those steps come later.  For now.  I'm learning habits.  Something my mother DID try to teach me.  I just didn't realize that she wasn't simply trying to torture me with daily chores and lists and check offs.  LOL!  Thanks for trying, though, Mom!  You're the best!

Mom dreaming of retirement!