Friday, October 31, 2008

NOOOOO!!!!

Well, today is the first day. The first glorious day that I don't have a work crew in my kitchen and laundry room. You remember the water heater disaster recently...well that turned into 3 weeks of clean up and repair (taking a break when we went to Chicago). Our insurance was great and covered the professional drying company, and all the repairs which included quite a bit of wall repair in the house and garage, replacing moulding and painting the laundry room and all its many cabinets. All to the tune of over $7000 (we only had a small deductible -hooray!) Yesterday morning was the final day which was the 4-hour power wash of all the tile floors. After the final crew left, I spent the rest of the day putting everything back into place and cleaning my entire house. Ahhh. I took a deep breath, lit a few candles, brought in a vase of roses, and sat back to admire the order and cleanliness that I hadn't had for some time. After all the stress and mess, there was finally peace.

It didn't even last one day.

So Emma says to me this morning, "Mom, my bathroom SMELLS." Today was bathroom cleaning day so I just dismissed it to being dirty. And besides, workmen have been using it. She then opened her shower door and said "What is THIS?" Gunk was strewn on the shower floor. Have you ever forgotten to run your garbage disposal before running the dishwasher and came back later to find yukky, dry, encrusted food particles in your sink? Well, that is exactly what was on her shower floor. So obviously there is some problem between Emma's bathroom and the kitchen sink - some blockage that occured after running the dishwasher last night backed up in her shower. I made a post it note that said "Emma's shower" and put it on the counter for Rich to see when he came home. He'd probably just reach his strong muscular arm into the drain, pull out a big hairball and we'll be back in business. Fast, cheap and easy. That's right.

Then Rich called after lunch and Emma answered the phone. She told him about her shower situation, and then I got on the phone and he sounded somber.

Him: "Honey, did you call the Rooter man yet?"
Me: "No, dear." (kind of sheepishly).
Him: (kind of surprised) "This is a problem. You need to call the rooter man."
Me: "Noooo, I don't want to!!" (can you hear the whine in my voice?)

You see, I wanted to get some errands done this afternoon. I didn't want any more work done on the house. I didn't want any more home repair bills. I just wanted to close my eyes and have it all go away. Can't Emma just use our other shower for the rest of her life?

So, I conveyed my distress to Rich. And my sweet husband's response? I'll be home soon and I'll take care of it. Fortunately, he was planning to work at home this afternoon after lunch with someone in our area. So, he's on his way now, and he's gonna call the rooter man.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chicago!


We just returned from 5 wonderful days in beautiful Chicago. What a great place! It's kind of like New York, but more beautiful. As you probably know, the whole city burned down in the great fire of 1871, and when it was rebuilt it was much more intelligently designed than before. New York, on the other hand, has much older buildings, and the way the city is set up is much different. Chicago is called the "windy city" and there has been much speculation about how it received that nickname. While a lovely breeze does blow from Lake Michigan, the term "windy" most likely refers to long winded (boastful) Chicago politicians!


Me looking very serious by Lake Michigan...
I did not know Rich was including me in the picture but it is the only one we got of the lake!

Well, speaking of Lake Michigan, it was my delight to see my first Great Lake. Did you know that Lake Michigan is the only Great Lake completely contained in the United States? (the rest spread into Canada). Also, the Chicago River flows from the Lake right through the middle of the city - so interesting. We happened to be there at the time people are dry docking their boats for the winter from the lake, and they raise all the bridges in town to let the boats come through. It's a neat sight!


Boats coming through on the Chicago River

We flew in on Wednesday afternoon, and what is our tradition when landing in a big city (such as New York)? Going to get pizza, of course! In this case, Chicago style deep-dish pizza, something neither of us had ever tasted. So we checked into our hotel on the the Magnificent Mile and set out on foot to indulge!

We went to the oldest and original deep dish location-
Pizzeria Uno. It's an old pub type place, and it's good thing that we hit it at before the dinner hour. We got right in around 4:30 - other times that we passed by there was always a line out the door. And deep dish pizza takes time - 45 minutes. I can't imagine waiting two hours in line, then another 45 minutes for my food. I'm a foodie, but no food is worth that long of a wait! We ordered the sausage and pepperoni - it was so good! The crust is very unique - almost like a pie crust as it goes up the side of the deep pan it is baked in. The next layer is cheese, then the toppings, then the sauce goes on top. It is absolutely delicious! It was so big and rich, we could each only eat one piece (bummer!) With happy bellies, we went out to Michigan Avenue and browsed a few shops. Our big purchase was a warm hat for me - temperatures were in the low 50's and I had left mine at home!







The next day (Thursday) Rich had a meeting all day, so I walked a couple of blocks for breakfast at the Corner Bakery. I had the BEST oatmeal ever, and a lovely cup of coffee, and leisurely read the morning paper. Boy, did that make me feel urban (or as Rich would say, "culturally relevant"). I wasn't sure how I would like venturing out on my own in a big unknown city, so I booked a ticket on the double decker tour bus. For one reasonable fare, you can hop on and off the bus all day long, or just ride the 2 hour loop, and they give you a narrated tour as you ride. Rich gave me written directions on where to pick up my bus (and the address of our hotel in case I couldn't find my way back). I actually caught a cab (by myself) and got myself to the bus stop. I think this surprised Rich- and me as well! Rich is always the leader and I am the follower, so it was different for me for sure to be on my own! Rich will tell you I am not the best with maps and orientation...and I have NO idea which way is north, south, east or west in a new place...

I enjoyed the tour of the city - the architecture in Chicago is magnificent! It was really great to hear of all the wonderful history of the city. Did you know the brownie was invented in Chicago? Or that is where they filmed the Batman movies? Or that the largest U.S. post office is located in Chicago? You do now! I got off a couple of times to see some sights, do some shopping, have a nice cup of tea, and I even took myself to an IMAX movie. I think that was the first time I've ever been to a movie all by myself! I got only a little lost getting back to the hotel...but I made it. That night we had dinner with the other meeting attendees and some of their wives, at a good place called Rock Bottom. Below are some of the photos I took on my day alone...


Hershey's store...it smelled heavenly inside




Wrigley building...yes, as in the gum

Navy Pier...


Shopping...

First multi level mall in America, anchored by Macy's and American Girl

Fall flowers...


Water Tower Station - one of two buildings that survived the great Chicago fire

The next morning I returned to Corner Bakery for more of that oatmeal - and read a good book there for awhile. I was starting to really like my routine- sleep in, go out to breakfast and leisurely read for awhile. Works for me! I then came back and packed up our things to move hotels. We were now on our own dime, and we preferred to go to the Marriott Courtyard for the rest of our stay. Funny thing was, it was right next door to the hotel we were staying at! Easy. Rich finished up his business by noon, and we were free to roam the city. We grabbed lunch at the Billy Goat Tavern - a below street level (scary) place that has been slinging burgers for 70+ years. It's the place that Bill Murray made fun of on Saturday Night Live many years ago- do you remember "Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger? No fries...cheeps...coke no pepsi!" Well, that's the place. Probably one of the lamest burgers I've ever had. I guess it's all about atmosphere! We then took a long, enjoyable walk down to the lake and decided to visit the Shedd Aquarium. It is the nation's 2nd largest aquarium (the largest is in Atlanta). We had a good time looking at all the beautiful sea creatures, though I must say that I like the Monterey Bay Aquarium better. They are adding on - maybe they'll bring in some neat things like penguins!



Shedd Aquarium on Lake Michigan


Some shots near the lake looking back at downtown


Beautiful red fall foliage...



Millenium Park- Cloud Gate Sculpture



Do you see us in the sculpture reflection?

Millenium Park from above (taken from their their website)


Panoramic view of downtown

One of the nice places Rich took me...(not!)

Total dive...


Cheeseburgers...


Saturday Night Live fame


Wishing this tasted good...

Earlier in the day, I had mentioned to Rich that it might be fun to play the Wicked lottery. We had no plans to see any show while in town, so why not? He was game, so we went and entered our names for the 6:00 drawing for the 8:00 pm show. There were at least 100 people competing - would you believe we won tickets? And, on the very last draw. We were shocked! So, after a quick bowl of soup (at, you guessed it, the Corner bakery again) we found ourselves in front row seats. Wow! It was a great show, a superb cast, and how cool is it to say you've seen Wicked in L.A., New York, and Chicago! Pretty cool indeed. I didn't know people spit so much when they sang- you find out when you sit in the front row!

We won!


Front Row seats...


Me posing by one of the many Wicked "balls"


On Saturday, we had a full day planned. First, Rich shlepped me to one of his faraway "dives" for breakfast. After a couple of lengthy subway rides, and several blocks of walking in the wind and rain (through a not so nice neighborhood), we arrived at the Cozy Corner. And it was cozy indeed. And there was a line. The clientele was interesting indeed. The restaurant is on the border of a run down, impoverished part of town and an area where Yuppies live, so it was a mix of both. After a few minutes, we got a cushy booth and the coffee started flowing.

Another nice place...hee hee


Rich recommended the "skillet breakfast" (because he did his homework about this place) and he did not steer us wrong. Your breakfast arrives in a small heavy skillet. On the bottom are delicious hash browns, then layered are your choice of toppings (I chose ham, mushrooms and onions, Rich went for bacon, ham and sausage), melted cheese, and eggs any style. It was mighty tasty indeed - and cheap!


I cannot tell you how tasty this was! Supersize it to see the grease!

Waiting for the train to come..brrh

We quickly hopped the train back into town and boarded ship for a cruise on the Chicago River. It was a tour that highlighted the city's history and architecture and was extremely interesting. I might mention that it was also extremely cold - 45 degrees outside to be exact. We were bundled up to the max, but it was still a bit cold for us Californians. After awhile, it didn't feel so cold anymore...that's of course because we were numb! After the 1 1/2 hour cruise ended, it was hard to move but we made a beeline for the nearest Starbucks! It literally took 15 minutes to warm up inside sipping my latte. After the cruise we headed to the Sears tower, the tallest building in North America and the 3rd tallest in the world! What an amazing view of Chicago we got. It was totally worth the $18.50 each - and it sure makes you feel like a tourist. Better than the Empire State Building!


Amazing view from the Sears tower

We then quickly booked out of there and caught a train to a little town called Oak Park to visit and tour the home of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Running late, we walked very briskly through town, hoping that we could make the 3:20 tour (they were gracious enough to let us join the group late). We just love touring places like that - and I just went with my friend Jocelyn last summer to one of Wright's works, the Hollyhock House in Hollywood. We then wandered through town, admiring the neat homes and grabbing a homemade cookie and hot apple cider at a cute little bakery. Tired, we took the train back to our hotel to rest a bit and freshen up for dinner. We had a special dinner planned at Morton's of Chicago, and it didn't disappoint. Bacon wrapped scallops, iceberg wedge salad with house made blue cheese dressing, rib eye steak, baked potato and creamed spinach...not to mention Hot Chocolate lava cake with vanilla Haagen Dazs ice cream for dessert! Morton's is very elegant, very clubby, and very delicious. And a total Chicago landmark. It's a don't miss.

Walking near the Frank Lloyd Wright home

Typical midwest home...but you didn't see too many McCain stickers in this blue state!

Typical apartment building

The next morning we went to breakfast (can you guess where? Yep, the Corner Bakery), then headed to the Gold Coast, which is Chicago's wealthiest neighborhood and the 2nd wealthiest neighborhood in the nation (after Manhattan). There we met up with a Culinary walking tour. Fifteen of us were lead by a cute perky tour guide through 3 different neighborhoods, stopping along the way to learn more about certain food and to taste it! Is that not right up our alley? It was great fun eating a latke at a Jewish deli, tasting tea at a loose tea leaf/teasane store, learning about different cinnamons and browsing at a spice store (and buying dried lavender- so hard to find!), tasting olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars at an oil & vinegar store, eating delicious butter toffee at a chocolatier, tasting cheese at a cheese store, and lastly ending up at a landmark pizza parlor and having some more of that delectable deep dish pizza! At each stop, our tour guide, Emily gave us an informative talk as well. It was very enjoyable. The tour covered about 2 1/2 miles and took around 3 hours.

Gold Coast neighborhood where we began our tour


Our tour guide, Emily, talking to us about cocoa beans at our chocolate store


Emily serving up the deep dish pizza!


L. Frank Baum, wrote the Wizard of Oz in this Chicago town - a park is dedicated to him

Well, sadly, it was now time to make the journey back to O'Hare airport, and leave the city we had come to love the past five days. That's OK - 43 degrees and snow flurries were predicted for that afternoon! On the airplane, we watched Batman Begins on Rich's laptop, which was filmed right in Chicago. What fun it was to see all the places we had just visited! It was great to get home and see the kids, who had five fun filled days at the Dempsey's house. Thank you, God, for the wonderful time and safety for everyone in our family!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

WDW - Oven-baked Favorites

As you read this, I'm in Chicago! I got to tag along on a business trip with Rich. Perhaps as your reading, I'm eating a steak at Morton's of Chicago, or enjoying the view from the Signature Room on the 96th (!) floor of the John Hancock building. I can't wait to taste Chicago deep-dish pizza and go on a culinary walking tour of the city. I'm sure I will inform you of all things food-related when I return! For now, I will leave you with two great recipes where your oven does all the work for you.

These recipes are more stand-bys of mine. One convenient thing about these kinds of recipes is that the ingredients are readily on hand. If you’re like me, apples, potatoes and garlic are always staples. The Roasted Potatoes is a frequent go-to recipe for me that works well for dinner or breakfast. These potatoes are wonderful with any meat, chicken or fish, and the perfect accompaniment to scrambled eggs and bacon. It is another simple yet wonderful recipe from my favorite chef, Giada de Laurentiis. The Scalloped Apples recipe is one I clipped from a magazine many years ago, and is a big family favorite.

For the potatoes, you can use any kind you like. I prefer Red Rose, but Russets work just fine too. This recipe is so easy- you don't even peel the potatoes. The key here is the fresh garlic. Do not try and substitute garlic powder here. Herbes de Provence are also used in this recipe, which I had never heard of until my dad turned me onto it years ago. It has become one of my favorite dry herb blends from
Penzey's -a beautiful French blend of herbs and spices: rosemary, fennel, thyme, oregano, marjoram, basil, lavender and more. I love it and use it so regularly that it sits next to my stove top with my olive oil bottle. If you don’t have herbes de Provence, you can just substitute some rosemary, basil, and thyme. But it is probably found at your grocery store- try and get it- it's really special.

I guarantee that your kids will go crazy for these apples. They basically taste just like pie filling! They are so easy to prepare, you can put one of your younger kids to work making these (well, at least the peeling the apples and mixing it all up, if you don't quite trust them yet with a knife!). I like to use Fuji or Gala apples, but Granny's work well too. I recently served both these recipes with pork chops - the perfect accompaniments for a perfect fall dinner.



Roasted Potatoes
with herbs and garlic

¼ c. olive oil
1 Tbsp. herbes de Provence
3 fresh garlic cloves, chopped

2 lb. potatoes –russet, red, or white – unpeeled and cut into 1”cubes
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk the oil, herbes de Provence, garlic, salt and pepper. Add the potatoes and toss to coat. Transfer potatoes to a baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with non-stick spray. Space potatoes out evenly. Do not clean bowl – set aside.

Roast the potatoes until they are tender and golden, turning them occasionally, about 1 hour. Transfer the roasted potatoes to reserved bowl and toss to coat with remaining oil/spices in bowl (this is a key step). Season potatoes with more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6



*******



Scalloped Apple Casserole

9 baking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/2” thick
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup melted butter
¼ cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place apples in a large mixing bowl. Toss with lemon juice. Dump in all remaining ingredients and toss with apples. Transfer to a greased 9 x 13 pan; cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove foil last 20 minutes of cooking time.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Blogging about a blog

It's kind of funny when you happen on a total stranger's blog, and find yourself reading for an extended period of time. I "blog-hopped" from a friend's site the other day, somehow landing on this woman's blog, and was captivated. Her name is Rebekah and she is a delightful young Christian woman, and a talented homemaker. She is dealing with the difficulty of barrenness and suffering repeated miscarriages, and her godly response was such a great encouragement to me. She writes in a way I only dream of writing and has a wonderful way of sharing her heart. So, if you have a moment, brew yourself a nice cup of tea and settle in for an edifying read.

I read all her entries, but if you only have a few minutes, I encourage you to read
this entry on taking up your cross and her testimony. I trust you will find them as inspiring as I did.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

WDW - Bacon Broccoli Quiche

Here's another of my go-to recipes that I got from my friend, Kari. It is so easy and so delicious. I think everyone loves quiche - even men! I know my hubby does, anyways. But, then again, he'll pretty much eat anything with bacon in it (and so will I). This dish works easily on a Saturday morning or a weeknight dinner. And it's totally easy to double the recipe for two quiches. It's also fantastic if you are having company for breakfast, such as Christmas morning. You can mix all the ingredients except the eggs together the night before, and then just throw them in at the last minute, pour into the crust, and bake.

Since this recipe is so easy and quick, I don't bother making my own pie crust for it. For this one, I just grabbed a whole wheat frozen crust (they're excellent-I love 'em) at Whole Foods. I even had some pre-cooked bacon in the freezer (a little trick of mine) so it was even a bigger snap. Instead of sauteeing the onion and bacon together, I just sauteed the onion in a little butter, then threw in the bacon the last few minutes just to let the bacon render off a little more of its yummy fat.

By the way, this is an extremely flexible recipe. You can substitute any meat for the bacon-not sure why you'd want to do that- but anyways...sausage, ham or smoked turkey chunks would be delish as well. You can also make a substitution for the broccoli using any vegetable you like. Asparagus would work very well, or some mushrooms (the mushrooms should be sauteed with the onions if you are using them - I'd use 2 heaping cups sliced mushrooms since they shrink down so much). I had a sausage-mushroom quiche at a restaurant lately and it was a divine combination indeed.

Mmm....what could be better than crust, bacon and cheese?

Bacon Broccoli Quiche

½ cup chopped brown onion
4 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup grated cheese (half sharp cheddar/half mozzarella is good)
1 cup cottage cheese
½ tsp. each salt and pepper
4 eggs, beaten well
1 cup raw broccoli, chopped finely (can use frozen without thawing)
Unbaked pie crust


In a small skillet, cook bacon and onion until bacon starts to crisp. Drain.
Combine bacon and onion mixture with cheeses, salt, pepper, eggs and broccoli. Pour into crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes, until set in center.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jody Frankfurt tribute

I wanted to share this beautiful tribute to Jody Frankfurt, posted by Scott, her husband, and his new wife, Sharon. For those of you who didn't know Jody, she was an amazing woman at our church with great faith, who went to be with the Lord a little over two years ago. She was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer about 8 months before she passed away. I certainly wasn't considered a friend of hers as I only had the privilege to talk with her on a couple occasions, but her life and music were such an inspiration to me.

I followed Scott's blog daily during Jody's battle with cancer. It truly ministered to me and helped my heart heal much after losing Brady. The Lord has now blessed Scott with a new wife and the tribute above was written by the both of them. It is truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.

Just wanted to share. Grab some kleenex before you start!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Whatever - another appliance bites the dust

If you follow my blog, you are well aware that appliances have a vendetta against me. In the past few months, I've lamented about barely five year old refrigerators, washers and dryers keeling over. Well, just when we thought we had the whole appliance thing taken care of, we were dead wrong.

So last night, we returned about 10:00 pm from a few days in the desert. It was a lot of fun hanging out with four other families and letting the kids (and the dads, too) enjoy some fun dirt bike riding. We spent two nights sleeping in the trailer in gusty winds which made us feel like we were in an earthquake simulator all night long. So, on the trek home, I dozed off in the car. When we pulled into the driveway, I was groggy and planned to just kind of stumble into bed without waking myself up too much.

It wasn't going to happen.

As I entered the house through the laundry room, my foot hit the floor and water splashed. I was then very alarmed to see WATER everywhere! Quite a bit of water. Sometimes when we've been gone a few days, the cats have a heydey and spill some water and food on the floor, but this was way too much water for that. I then looked into the kitchen, and there was more water. Then I heard the disturbing sound of trickling water. I began screaming for Rich...and then ran down to the dining room and was relieved to find that the water had not made its way there yet. I checked the wood floors in the hallway - dry. I breathed a sigh of relief that the water was contained somewhat.

Rich immediately identified the problem as the water heater in the laundry room. Yes, sometime while we were gone, that sneaky little water heater decided to spring a leak and begin flooding the house. We came in the nick of time before it got to the carpet and wood floors. Thankfully we have tile in the laundry room and kitchen.

Rich quickly stopped the water and grabbed the shop vac - he sucked up gallon after gallon of water. He then had to move the washer, dryer, and stove to get the water that had seeped into there. Of course, now we had no hot water and had just returned from camping in the dirty desert...thankfully we all got a decent shower out in the trailer!

So, today we got the pleasure of going to Lowe's for a new water heater. It was a very unpleasant deja vu. It was kind of funny though, when the checker asked us if we wanted to buy the extended warranty for 9 years. The water heater we bought had a built in warranty of 12 years. She wasn't too amused when Rich pointed that out to her. I also probably snickered a little which didn't help.

So, the insurance has been called, and a crew is here as I write making tiny holes in places and inserting fans to dry everything out (to avoid mold). Tomorrow someone else is coming to go under the house and dry that area (some water dripped there somehow). The fans will be here for 3 days- what fun! Then the adjuster comes and decides if anything needs to be replaced. Hopefully, just the baseboards will have to be replaced, and not all the cabinetry in the laundry room. I am not in the mood for a laundry room remodel right now. I'm really not. The house is in the middle of being painted, and the porch is in its final weeks of getting finished. I'm quite done.

Well, my friends, after this, victory should be in sight. We will be left with only one more possible culprit - the stove. It came with the house and is 11 years old...I joked with my sister that it will probably catch on fire someday and burn the whole house down!! I guess that is probably really not that funny.

Whatever.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fireproof

Our family went to go see the new movie Fireproof Tuesday night. This is the 3rd feature film from Sherwood Pictures (a ministry of a baptist church in Georgia) and the new Kirk Cameron movie. Not that I'm one of those diehard drooling K.C. fans leftover from the 1980s, but Kirk is an evangelical Christian that attends our church frequently. A friend of mine highly recommended it, so we took the fam down to the Americana in Glendale. It's not showing in that many theaters.

First off, let me say that I really enjoyed the movie. Actually, all of us did. I honestly cannot believe that a movie like this could make it to the big screen - especially with its clear and bold Christian message. It's actually heading for #4 in the box office this coming weekend and Yahoo movies gives it an "A"! It does have that low-budget feel (it was made for only $500,000 with an all volunteer crew and cast). It feels like a slight notch above a Hallmark channel movie, but nevertheless, I'm glad people will be seeing it. I heard in an interview where the directors responded to criticism that the movie could never win an award, that they said that wasn't even their goal at all. They just wanted to get the message across. Some of the acting left something to be desired, but Kirk Cameron was excellent. But the cutest part is the fact that Kirk refused to kiss the woman who played his wife in the movie, so his real wife, Chelsea, stood in for her in a scene. Awww, that's just so cute, not to mention a great stand to take. He said he pledged to his wife he would never kiss another woman, on screen or off. For more about that,
click here. Right on, Kirk!

I think one of the best parts of the movie was to be able to sit back, relax, and not worry about what you are going to see (of course, I mean, once the previews are over. We saw the absolute worst ones ever). I would say this is a great movie for ages 13 and up - it's clean but it has a mature theme. I was really glad that we took our kids - I thought it had a great message.

So, whether you wait for this to come to pay-per-view or opt to see it in the theaters, I really do think it's a don't miss. With so much out there that is SO bad, this is a breath of fresh air. This would make a GREAT date night!

To watch the trailer,
click here.