Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Iowa Visit

I am finally getting around to posting about our visit to Iowa a few weeks back. We went over the weekend of May 17th to visit family. The weekend was packed with activities, but we also got in some relaxation.

Even though we didn't get in until about midnight on Friday, I decided to run a local race Saturday morning. I did the local YMCA 4-mile run, which was a fun and low-key race. There were no race bibs or timing chips. Instead, I was given a popsicle stick with a number as I crossed the finish line. The number matched the time they recorded for you. I ran it in 34:22 - not too bad. I won my age group, but that isn't hard when only three people my age ran the race. Afterwards, we met up with Todd's parents and went to a local pancake breakfast where I ate back all the calories I burned while running! :) Before we left the downtown area where the race and breakfast were located, we walked around an outdoor craft fair and bought a few handmade things.

The rest of the weekend included a lot of baseball! Our two nephews (7 and 8) are both very into baseball and on the same little league team. So, we played baseball with two of our nephews Saturday night and had a cookout with family. The nephews also stayed overnight, so we got to play even more the next morning and talk more baseball. On Sunday, we had a quick lunch right after church before rushing off to see our niece play soccer and watch our nephews' baseball practice. Of course, when not watching the soccer game, the guys were playing baseball. (Like I said, there was a lot of catch going on throughout the weekend.) We ended up back at Todd's brother's house for another cookout.

We left Monday morning and stopped to see my grandma on the way home. We ended up staying with her for the whole day. We took her on several errands since she is not able to drive, took her to lunch at her favorite restaurant, and helped her with a few things around the house. In the next few weeks we will help her move into an "independent living" apartment at a local place called Parkway. We are very thankful for this since her health has been declining and she hasn't been able to keep up with her house. We arranged for her to have nursing care in her home, but it is very expensive and you never know who will be coming and going. Not all of the nurses provided the services they were supposed to, like helping her with meals, etc. So, the new apartment will be a relief to us. Plus, there are nurses on duty all the time, the staff is great, and if anything happens, she can be moved into the more assisted living part of the complex. We saw an apartment similar to the one she will be getting and even ran into some of her friends. Turns out a lady she has known for many, many years lives just three doors down. So, she was happy about that. I think the whole move is terrifying her. She is moving about three blocks away from her house to Parkway, but she has lived in her house for over 30 years. A change like this for someone who is turning 90 is major. I tried to tease her and make it sound like she was young and likened the situation to a college dorm. I think she thought it was a funny, at least for a few minutes. Anyway, it was a long weekend and we were exhausted when we got home, but it was good to see family. Below are just a few of the pics we took!

We ate lots of morrell mushrooms!!

Baseball in the orchard.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Rhubarb Bread

In order to use up some of the rhubarb we brought home from Iowa, I decided to make rhubarb bread. It is awesome! I like it much better than the rhubarb cake. I think Todd agrees, even though he had his share of both. So far I have made four loaves of bread and put three in the freezer for later. I still have some some frozen rhubarb to bake with at a later date, too.

I read through some of the reviews and made some changes based on that and my own preference. I used egg substitute, skim milk, light butter, and replaced half of the oil with applesauce. It turned out well and I will save this recipe for the future!

The Great Outdoors

Well, the yard is complete! We'll at least the parts visable to those going by. The mulch is all in, the flowers are planted, the hanging baskets are up, the garden is in, and we finally have fruit on our three fruit trees (apples and pears). Todd has been nurturing them for about three years -they are his pride and joy, so he is extremely pleased to say the least. Now we have to start on the backyard. We desparately need a new deck and some landscaping. Although, Lucy is quick to ruin most of the landscaping we have attempted. So, I'm not sure what we will do about that. Thankfully, the privacy fence hides the distaster that is the backyard from the rest of our yard!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Rhubarb Cake

Last weekend we went to visit family (more on that later) and brought back a ton of rhubarb from Todd's parent's garden. It was literally taking up the whole refrigerator, so I decided it was time to cut up the rhubarb last night. Two hours and 13 cups of rhubarb later, I tried my hand at my first rhubarb recipe ever - rhubarb cake. I did some research online and found a recipe that had a lot of good reviews. The cake turned out pretty well. The flavor is perfect - not too sweet and not to sour. It was a lot like a cobbler when I first took it out of the oven, but once it cooled overnight it was very much like a cake. It is best served with ice cream! Next up is rhubarb bread. I'll also freeze some to use later. Heck, I doubt anyone could use up 13 cups of rhubarb at once!

(As a side note, I don't recommend cutting up 13 cups of rhubarb in one evening. My wrist is still sore and I probably now have carpal tunnel syndrome.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gas Price Differentials

What is the deal with gas prices in Indiana? We continue to be above the national average price for a gallon of gas. I am confused as to why this is. I mean, it is not like we live in a major metropolitan area. Now, I don't know how all the state taxes work for gas, but last Friday we left after work to go and visit family in Iowa. We got gas here for $3.95/gallon before leaving town. When we arrived in Clinton, Iowa 5.5 hours later, gas was $3.58. Now, approx $0.40/gallon difference is a lot of more!!. What the heck!?! I just don't get it. Todd chalks it up to regional pricing, but aren't Indiana and Iowa both considered Midwestern states? The only thing that provides any logic is that there is more corn grown in Iowa. They have more ethanol plants and many stations carry E-85 or gas with a higher ethanol content. Since we, the tax payers, are currently subsidizing the cost of ethanol, maybe this is driving the price down in that location? If so, can we get some of that here!?!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cubbies at Cincy

We couldn't resist! The Cubs were so close and even though we have been so busy, we decided to take a short break and head over to Cincinnati to see the Cubs play on Tuesday night with our friends Lana and Tristen. It was a long night, but totally worth it! We cut out of work at 3:30 and headed to the game. We bought some great seats from a scalper, got some ballpark food, and settled in for the game. The weather was perfect - it never dropped below 60 and the rain stayed away! Plus, we got to watch Zambrano get another win! Although we didn't get home until 12:45, I would catch another night game anytime given the chance. We have been to Great American Ballpark several times, so we didn't get to check one off our list, but it is still a great place to catch a game!

Monday, May 5, 2008

DC Visit

This post is a little overdue! It always takes me longer to get up the posts with pictures since it takes more effort to get the pictures off my camera. Anyway, the weekend before last (April 26th and 27th), we took a quick trip to Washington, DC. When I say, quick, I mean less than 48 hours! But, we got in a ton of stuff for such a short trip. We stayed with our friend April, who took us to the Eastern Market, the Library of Congress (twice), and the Cubs vs. Nationals baseball game -- all on Saturday. We were exhausted, so we slept in Sunday and grabbed lunch with another friend, Tracy, on Sunday before flying out.

Friday night
We had a bit of an issue getting boarding passes to fly out of Indy to DC on Friday night. Thankfully we got to the airport in time to get those issues worked out since it took them 30 minutes to print our boarding passes at the ticket counter (thanks to a guy with a name similar to Todd's being on the no-fly list). When we arrived in DC at 8:45pm, April picked us up and took us to a fish restaurant so Todd could get his fix of fresh fish being so close to the ocean.

We stared the day of with April's special recipe buttermilk pancakes. They are so good! (Thanks to George for passing down the fabulous recipe, which I may have to try even though they are not low-fat.) After breakfast, we checked out the Eastern Market in DC in the morning. We have been there before, but it is always fun to explore and see what is at the market. We saw some interesting items and I had to keep Todd from buying a bead necklace (why he likes this stuff is beyond me). On the way back to April's apartment, Todd asked if we could go to the Library of Congress. We had never been, so we went in and checked out all the touristy things - Thomas Jefferson's library, several exhibits, the cool interior of the building, and general nosing around. But, Todd was on the hunt for a book on the Royer ancestry. We tried to go look at the book, but it required an actual library card. They sent us across the street to an annex building where Todd was able to get a card in a matter of minutes by just providing his Indiana Driver's License. By then it was around 1pm, so we decided to grab lunch before hunting down the book. When we went back to the Library of Congress (for the second time), we found the Genealogy Room and filled out all the paperwork to get the book on Todd's family. Unfortunately, it was going to take an hour or more to get the book from the stacks. Who knew - we would have gone back before going to lunch. So, we missed out on the book, but now that Todd has his card from the Library of Congress, we can always go back and look again!

Saturday night
Check Nationals Park off the list! One of the main reasons to visit DC, besides to see our awesome friends, was to go to the Cubs game Saturday night. In our journey to visit as many MLB stadiums as possible, we had to get to DC to see the National's new stadium and the Cubs being in town made the trip even more worth it. We got awesome seats and had a generally great time at the ballpark. The tickets we had included a $35 food/souvenir credit per ticket. So, we were running around the stadium buying food and trying to use up the money. I tried to buy some food at one point, but the cashier did something wrong and my ticket came up as invalid. I was so mad because they refused to try to scan the ticket again. Seriously!?! I told the guy there was money on there, but he refused to try to re-scan. So, we had to pay a little, but Todd spent the rest of the leftover credits on a Nationals t-shirt before leaving (my ticket credits scanned just fine at that point - ugh!). In the end, the Cubs won and Big Z had an awesome outing, which made it extra fun! The rain held off for the entire game, too. April and looked at each other because we felt drops starting to fall during the last out of the game. Of course, the downpour came as we ran through the streets of DC trying to get on the metro back to April's apartment in Arlington. We were soaked when we got home, but at least the game was dry.

We slept in Sunday morning after running around all day Saturday. Around lunchtime, we met up with my friend Tracy from college and her boyfriend John. We went to Cheesecake Factory for lunch and helped John through his first experience there. It is amazing he lived in Chicago forever before moving to DC and had never been to the Cheesecake Factory. Of course, we ate too much and still managed to eat cheesecake for dessert. After that, April took us to the airport to catch our 3:30pm flight home. The flight home was just as eventful as the flight out. We arrived in Indy, but the electronic arm they swing out to the plane door was not working, so we could not de-board the plane. So, we sat for 45 minutes at the gate while that figured out a way to get us out.

Many thanks to April (and her roommate Adam) for hosting us and hauling us all over DC. It was a fun time to get to see friends, catch a game, and see some more of the DC landmarks. We'll definitely be back soon!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Indy Mini Race Report

Race Details
Going back to my original goal of just finishing the mini - I did just fine. My expectations for the race were low when I started out this morning. I couldn't sleep last night for many reasons and only got 2 hours of sleep prior to the race. I feel awful because in my tossing and turning, I kept Todd up most of the night. Instead of staying in downtown Indy as I did with friends last year, I was on my own and decided to carpool up with two women from Bloomington. In order to meet them in time, I had to get it up at 4:30am. Among other things, I was worried about sleeping through my alarm, worried about the race, and worried about riding up with people I didn't know (I found the ride on a listserv of runners I am on). But, I made it to meet them in time and we got to Indy with no problem. They seemed to want to run together for the race and since I rode with them, I felt slightly obliged to do so. I was bummed because I had a starting spot at the beginning of the race in corral F, while they were in corral Q. How it works is that you start the race based on your corral A-Z. People with an earlier corral number can start at the back with friends, but people in the back cannot move up corrals. So, I started in Q with them. Unfortunately, there were a lot of walkers to dodge in our corral, where I would have not had this problem up front. We ran together for the first 10 miles. One of the women who was doing the run hadn't trained over 6 miles, so we slowed our pace for her a bit over the 10 miles. She decided to walk at mile 10 and we all split up at that point. I finished in 2:15:23, which is not great compared to my 2:02 in the last half a month ago. But, I have lots of reasons for the slowdown - I was running on little sleep; I slowed my pace a bit at the beginning; we took two bathroom stops (only one for me, but I stopped when they did); I had no headphones with music to help pace me; and no matter how good of a runner you are, it is very difficult to navigate the crowd in this half. There are so many people and I never broke out of a pack the entire race. I was dodging people the whole morning and even taking elbows at the finish line. Last year it seemed like after I got past mile 8, the course was not that packed and I was able to run without constantly jumping around people. I cannot say the same for this year.

Post-Race Observations
The interesting outcome of the race is that I have a new-found interest in actually running with people, which is hard to do over a long-distance race. It's not that I don't like running with people, you just have to find someone who is your pace and comfortable staying together. Also, people typically wear headphones, so there is little conversation. It was nice to have people to talk to during the race even though we stopped more than I would have liked. We actually got to know each other a bit over the course since none of us had headphones on. We saw a lot of interesting sites from the entertainment, to the outfits some runners were wearing, to someone getting medical assistance at mile 10. Overall, I think running with people and having a conversation actually made the race a little more fun and more relaxing. I have a competitive side, but I am also liking the idea of running a long distance in a more leisurely fashion like today. Honestly, I really wouldn't have done that much better if I started on my own in corral F vs. starting with them in Q and running as a group for 10 miles. So, it was definitely worth it to start with them and I am glad I did. The company was nice.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Pet Signage

I don't mean to offend any of my friends that are non-pet people with this post, so please don't take this personally. I just couldn't resist because it is rather funny! Plus, it gives me an out when I don't have time to clean and there is dog hair everywhere (especially now during shedding season)!

To All Non-Pet Owners Who Visit & Like to Complain About Our Pets:
  1. They live here. You don't.
  2. If you don't want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. (That's why they call it 'fur'niture.)
  3. I like my pets a lot better than I like most people.
  4. To you, it's an animal. To me, they are adopted children who are short, hairy, walk on all fours and don't speak clearly.