Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I love it here!

More in Tuesday's trip later.

It is so nice here. Our hotel room rocks! The only downside is that this appears to be the Minnesita fan hotel, so we are a little out-numbered. But this hotel us fabulous!! Tempe Mission Palms! Our room is huge with the most comfortable king bed ever, flat panel tv, and French doors that open to overlook the courtyard. The courtyard is full of palm trees and orange trees. Todd picked an orange to eat, but said it was a bit sour. The fitness center is unlike any other I've seen in a hotel.

We are right on the ASU campus. This place is beautiful. Why again did I stay in Illinois for school?? :) The stadium is just 3 blocks from our hotel and one block off the main campus eating/shopping strip. Green St and Kirkwood have nothing on this place. It is amazing. We ate pizza at a local brewery last night. It was the coolest place. I need to take more pictures.

I went for a 5-mile run on campus today. So beautiful. Running through palm trees with sun and 50 degree temps doesn't hurt either. Amazing! I didn't have any troubles with the elevation either. A little tight in the chest, but otherwise fine! It is funny because the locals all appear to be bundled up in ugg boots and coats while all the Minnesota and Iowa fans are laying out by the pool in swimming suits. Too funny! Supposed to be mid 60's today. We might have to go shopping for shorts - it is too warm fir jeans. :)

I told Todd I would gladly move here. Too bad one of his top competitors is actually at ASU. Boo!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday adventures

On Monday night, we stopped in Santa Fe, NM. Todd loves this city and we wanted a break from driving. We arrived and got a room at The LaFonda hotel downtown. The hotel is a historic one. The rooms were small and older, but definiely cool. The room numbers outside the door were hand-painted tiles (locally done, I'm sure), the bathroom was almost all tile, too. Everything matched the Indian/Southwest theme in the room. The headboard and wall paintings all had the same flower motif. We took some pics, but I'll have to post those later. The workout room was small but nice and Todd used the outdoor hot tub even though it was only 30!! The hotel gave us a deal on the room because we said we looked at prices on priceline.com, which was awesome!

We did some research and picked a Mexican restaurant to eat at that had received tons of great reviews. It was horrible! The service was bad and very slow. The food was only average and pretty expensive. Plus, it was freezing in the place. Even Todd was cold, so that says it all! The worst part was the guacamole, or lack there of. I LOVE guac! Tons of the reviews went on and on about their amazing and fresh guac, which was another reason I was all for the place!! They ended up running out of it by the time we got our food (1.5 hours after ordering). The waitress offered to bring me some avacado. Seriously?!?! If you have avacado, make me some guac! Ugh! And this was a Monday night at the place, not even a weekend night! I felt bad for the family with kids as they waited a long time and were definitely restless. The only good thing this place had going (IMHO) was the live music. My negative review is already up on tripadvisor.com.

Surprisingly, there is no 3G in Santa Fe even though it is the state capitol. Also, because of all the pubelo-type buildings with thick walls, a signal was hard to come by. But, it was better than the "no service" words that kept flashing on my phone as we drove the interstate across the entire Texas panhandle. Thanks AT&T.

Monday, December 28, 2009

On the road again

Spent the night in Tulsa last night. This place did get a lot of snow! Driving through Missouri there wasn't much snow, so we were thinking there was no way Oklahoma was pretty much shutdown over Christmas. But, there are huge piles of snow all around Tulsa. The hotel check-in lady said they got about 7 inches in 3 hours. Crazy!

They do not know how to plow roads here! The interstate only had one lane cleared with the second lane only partially cleared of ice and snow. The exit ramps were dangerous - snow piled in the lane and covered in ice. Seriously? This is two days after the storm moved out. Maybe they are low on salt and sand? Who knows. The good news is the roads to Oklahoma City are better.

We are back on the road headed west again. At least it is cold out. It is unbearable for me to travel in the summer! I sit in a windowless office all day, so to be in the car when it is so nice out is very hard for me. Definitely less difficult in the winter! We stayed in a Hampton Inn, which we are both fans of! Not too expensive, decent beds, free breakfast, and a workout room. Nothing fabulous but a good deal for the price!

I missed the photo op, but there was a sign on the tollroad for Free Restrooms 14 miles ahead. Too funny! Apparently, if you pass the free toliets you may have to pay. LOL

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Heading south

We are definitely getting south. Just finished off some pulled pork, corn, and fries from Buckingham's in Springfield, MO. Somehow I got the spicy instead of the sweet sauce. My mouth is still in fire! Apparently, this place has the best BBQ in the area, including the Ozarks. Todd saw the billboard a few miles outside of town and was sold. He is a fan of trying the loacal places. It was good, but the best BBQ award (in my book) still goes to Smokin' Jack's Rib Shack in Bloomington! Awesome meat, cornbread, and mac n' cheese. Mmm. Now, I need to find us a hotel with some sort of fitness room...

Quote of the Day #1

There are a lot of Ohio State fans on the interstate going to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. My fav quote of the day so far:

CMR: I can't even imagine driving to Pasadena. That's like a whole day of driving paste Tempe.

TVR: Trust me, you'll know what it feels like by the time we get to Arizona.

LOL! He's probably right. I'm already bored.

The rental car let down

We are suffering from rental car let down! Had we been on time, we would have had one sweet ride! But, no such luck!! We lost our chance after a series of events.

We were home a whole 15 hours from Chicago before heading out to AZ. Just enough time to do laundry, re-pack, sleep, and rake the dogs to the boarding place. Of course we were running behind from being gone for four days and leaving again. Plus we overslept out of exhaustion from being gone (and probably eating too much food). We got to the airport to pick-up our one-way rental and leave our car to have when flying in. We parked in the long term lot and couldn't find the walkway to the terminal since neither of us had flown out of the new Indy airport. So we waited in the freezing cold for the bus to pick us up. Thank goodness for heaters in the shelters (see pic below). That featur rocks!! We got on the bus and the lady dropped off some people flying and said she would take us to rental cars. She missed the turn and ended up circling around and dropping us at the main terminal where she dropped the original people. Turns out the rentals weren't too far
and we should have gotten off to begin with.

Our rental time was set for noon, but we were about an hour late to pick-up the car. Originally we were told they were out of one-way rentals so we were getting a car typically used locally. We got everything loaded into a fully-loaded all leather interior with heated seats, onstar, and xm radio Buick lesverne. Who-hoo! The car was started and we were pulling away when someone in the garage flagged us down. Apparently, someone had just returned a one-way rental while we were loading our car and we needed to switch cars. Boo! So, we are on our way in a Chevy Malibu. Not horrible, but definitely a letdown from the original car. I can't complain. We ate renting through Alamo and everything has been smooth so far. Definitely better than some experiences with Enterprise!

Let the travels begin...

Today begins our trip to Arizona. This is Todd's trip. I get to pick the next one and it will definitely not involve this much travel!! We are driving one-way in a rental car to Pheonix and flying home one-way on Friday. Yup, 25 hours in the car sounds fun, right??

Iowa State is playing in the Insight.com bowl game in NYE in Tempe. He was willing to skip Christmas for this game, that's how badly he wanted to go. I would like to point out that when I REALLY wanted to go to the Illinois Final Four game and then the Rose Bowl, I watched on TV. He owes me!!

For my friends and relatives in AZ, I am sorry to say we won't get to see you. We'll be traveling more days than we are actually there, which is not exactly my idea of fun. But, Todd HATES flying (I am not a huge fan) and this route was way cheaper than flying round trip. So, my week off work begins I'm the car. The good news is I have five movies downloaded to my iPhone, I set my blogger account for mobile access, and our rental car has two outlets to plug into, so I am good to go!! (Well, for at least a few hours. I am definitely one of those "are we there yet" kind of people.)

Christmas 2009

We where in the Chicago suburbs for Christmas. The weather and me having to work on my day off changed all of our driving plans, but we still had a good time. Lucy and Murphy ran around with cousin-dog Wrigley. They managed to stay out of trouble most of the time minus an ornament Murphy's tail got ahold of from the tree. Not too bad for three dogs all 50 lbs or more!

I was exhausted since I have been working so much lately. I spent most of my time watching Christmas movies (Four Christmases is my new fav), getting food ready, and eating food.

Todd got me a necklace for Christmas. It is small, but pretty. I am not much into jewelry, so it is perfect for me. After all of the eating, my brother and I went on a five mile run on Christmas day. The snow and ice were starting to melt, so it was the wettest run of my life. Some of the puddles were several inches deep. In many place is was an ice rink on the trail. My shoes and socks were soaked. My face was sore from the pelting rain/sleet. I already rotated those shoes to my backup pair (after they get done drying). But, it was good to get out since I'll have few workouts but lots of eating this holiday season!

We had a good te although we wished the weather had been been better to get out more and make the travels less stressful. We passed at least one major accident. I am hopeful everyone is okay and thankful we got there and back with no problems!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Another Murphy Disaster


Here is why we had to have the carpets cleaned downstairs last week. We left Murphy and Lucy inside on 9/24 when it rained all day. Everything was fine when I checked on them at lunch and let them out to potty. But, disaster struck sometime in the afternoon. I think Murphy got bored being inside. The plant used to be about 6-ft tall and was sitting in the corner between the window and the couch in our office downstairs. Apparently, he also needed to destroy a few magazines from the crock, too. The plant wasn't enough??

It took about an hour or so to clean up. I used a dust pan to scoop off the top layer of dirt, the shop vac to get off the next layer, and the vaccum to get the pieces down in. Then we had the carpet cleaners come in to get up all the stains as some areas where really ground in.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Baseball Contracts

I was listening to the Cubs game on the radio the other night and heard a question someone emailed in to Ron and Pat. The question was directed to Ron and went something along the lines of questioning if the players in past years (specifically the 1960's and early 1970's when Ron played) where better conditioned than current day players as they spent less time on the disabled list and played in more games. Ron's response was interesting. He said that the baseball contracts back then were one year deals. So, even if you were injured you had to be out there playing day after day so no one could come up and take you job. In today's world of guaranteed and multi-year contracts, it is not as big of a deal. Players can go on and off the DL as needed without worrying about their playing status the rest of the season and next year.

It was a really good question. I find sports contracts like this interesting. It's almost like we baby the players of today. They get more conditioning, better medical care, and yet they play less often then players in the past who probably didn't even get free aspirin. Whatever happened to no pain, no gain or there's no crying in baseball. I understand if you can't play due to a broken foot (Johnson - foul ball off foot), but some other injuries like a left calf strain (Blanco - not considered a serious injury) put someone on the DL for 15 days. That's like me calling in sick for soreness in my left hand - can't type work related emails for the next 15 days. Don't I wish. I understand the need to be cautious, but it sometimes seems to go too far. We need more players that keep playing through the pain and manage their injuries and pain (Lee - bulging disk in neck). Just sayin'!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Celebrations and Old Friends

I love when I get to go somewhere and see old friends and acquaintances I haven't seen in years. It is always fun to see what people are up to these days. Yesterday, I was in the Chicago suburbs for my friend Tracy's wedding shower. I got to see several friends from college and celebrate her upcoming wedding. It was a lot of fun!
There were a ton of people at the shower, so Tracy got a ton of great stuff. One of the gifts was a really cool creative gift. I am not good at coming up with stuff like that, so I'll have to steal it for future use. It used candy and little sayings for clever thoughts on marriage. Like the Almond Joy bar with the saying for the joys in life you will experience. Very cute. I had never seen that before and definitely want to use at some point! The room the shower was in was decorated so cute with flowers on every table and a brunch/lunch buffet. The favors were adorable, too! But, the best part of the shower (for me, anyway) was getting to see Tracy and catch-up with old friends from college. Granted the time was short, but it was fun to see everyone!


Tracy, me, Kendra, and Sarah

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Cell = The Worst

US Cellular Field is the worst baseball stadium I have ever been to. Period. Each year we try to see a new stadium or two. We have seen most of the ones in the Midwest and a few East Coast stadiums, too. Out of all he ones I have been to, The Cell is the worst by far. I am glad we went to check it off our list and to never go back!

We decided to catch the Cubs at the White Sox, so at least we could see a game we would like. That was probably a bad idea in hindsight, but who knew at the time! Not me! I don't know the Southside very well, but there is nothing there. We tried to park, but had to use White Sox parking. They had us going around in cirlces through neighborhoods to a community college parking lot. We had no clue where we were, so had to follow the crowd to the stadium. Since there is nothing there, people just tailgaited at their cars. I seriously felt like I was at a football game and not a baseball game.

We finlly got to the stadium about an hour or so before game time hoping to get tickets. There were none because the police don't allow scalping around the stadium. Interesting since the same Chicago police department allows it on the Northside. We searched high and low, even coming up with a plan to catch one of the museums to make our trip worthwhile. We finally found someone who sold us the worst seats ever in the upper deck. But, at least he admitted before we bought them they would be crappy. Kudos for the honestly, but these seats were horrible. Upper deck near the top and also near the tunnel to the concessions. So, we never really saw the game since we were so high off the field and had a stream of people walking in front of us. I got hit in the head with peanut shells, had beer spilled all around me, and saw the police escort many people out for fighting in the stands. Literally throwing punches fighting. Oh, I felt bad for the guy next to us who brought his kid. Not only could they not see the game, but the people behind us were using inappropriate language the whole game. He finally left about half-way through. I probably would have, too. Actually, we did leave a few innings early. The Cubs played horrible the entire game and lost.

The thing I hate most about the stadium is all the advertising. Every place they could put a sign, sponsor, or flashing light, they did. You would never see this at Wrigley. You just watch and enjoy the game, not all the crazy advertising. Also, they played music all the time. Before every batter, between innings, during pitching changes. People we up doing the YMCA and dancing to other songs. Horrible. It is a baseball game, not a drunken party people!

I can promise, I will never be back to US Cellular Field again.


I'll take the ivy at Wrigley anyday for a REAL baseball game!

Friday, July 31, 2009

To Chicago via Iowa

This past weekend we went to Chicago for the day via a trip to Iowa. We left Friday night right after work to start the 6 hour drive. It was pretty uneventful until the last 45 miles. We drove through some serious thunderstorms. Not only was the rain so heavy it was hard to see, every lightening strike would illuminate the clouds. I looked like a tornado might drop down at any time, but we kept driving (of course) and finally got there around 11:30pm.

I was up around 6:15am the next morning to run the Bix 7. The Bix is 7-mile race in the Quad Cities during an annual jazz festival honoring musician Bix Beiderbecke. It is a fun race and I have done it for four years now, but I forgot how hilly the course was! Just over 15,000 people ran the race this year and while the weather was slightly cooler than normal this year, the course was still tough! But, I finished (after getting a cramp with only 0.25 miles left - ugh!) in 1:02:57. My time was a little slower than I hoped, but compared to my race times over the last several years, this time was great. After that, we spent the day by the pool and ate smoked ribs for dinner.

Sunday morning we were up early again to head into Chicago. Todd has been wanting to take his niece and nephews into Chicago, so we decided on a game at Wrigley! Todd had on some old sandals as we left and forgot his shoes to walk around in. So, we stopped to get shoes in Wrigleyville at 10:00am on Sunday morning. After that we parked and got tickets for the game. It was very important to get the tickets as we knew it would be hard to get 5 together and also because our nephew Max was concerned about going to the game without tickets. We promised him we had been many times and gotten tickets outside of the stadium, but we definitely needed tickets in hand to make everyone happy! We grabbed lunch, bought Sharpe #1 for possible autographs, lost Sharpe #1, and made it to our seats. Thankfully the Cubs won, so the kids got to sing the Go, Cubs, Go! song. I think they enjoyed the game and we definitely kept the cotton candy guy busy. After the game, we saw the bucket drummers, bought Sharpe #2, got Ben some Cubs baseball cards, and waited for Cubs players to get some autographs.

We waited near where the players park their cars. It is kind of crappy because they all leave and never sign anything. They should at least sign for a few kids. It only costs them a few minutes of time to gain fans for a lifetime. We waited and watched Lee, Dempster, Fontenot, Soriano, and other players leave. Rich Harden, the winning pitcher came out and was talking to others inside the gated parking lot. Finally, after about 10 minutes, he came over and started signing autographs for people. It was awesome of him and all the kids were excited. We were trying to get in for our autographs. Todd held Ben on his shoulders so he could reach over the top of other people to hand in his Harden baseball card for a signature. Max climbed up the side of the fence and hung over the game program open to the page on Harden. Both got signatures (of course, we didn't need the Sharpes #1 and #2 as he used the same pen for everyone).

After that, we headed downtown for a quick tour of tall buildings, a stop an Millennium Park, and some Chicago-style pizza. We didn't get home until late, but had a lot of fun! Next time we'll hit a few other attractions. I think all the kids are ready for the aquarium.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Todd is 40!!

I already know what is coming at me. Todd will be so mad I am posting this and putting up a picture. I am so in trouble, but it is such a big occasion, I couldn't skip over it. I mean, this is The Royer Report, a whole blog about us!

At the beginning of June, Todd turned the big 4-0. I spent months planning a big surprise party for him, but nothing really turned out as I planned. I guess in the end, a good time was had by all, so that made it worth the effort.

Party Planning - I called so many different places to reserve a room, but nothing was available or I couldn't get places to call me back. I finally reserved the back bar area at Yogi's, a local bar and grill, and ordered an appetizer buffet. They were so accommodating! I would completely recommend anyone who wants to host a casual party and not worry about having at your home. They were great to work with and even adjusted food to make my order smaller up to two days before the party. So great! They were also great when I arrived to great guests and put up a few decorations. I will be using them again for my future party needs.

Guest List - I invited about 80 of Todd's friends and family. A few were from out-of-state, so I knew not everyone would come, but I was disappointed that only about 25 people could come. I definitely wanted a big surprise bash, but I guess I picked a bad weekend. It was after the semester had ended and the same weekend as several local high school graduations. Oh well, those that came had a great time and like I said, Yogi's was great at changing the food orders up to the last minute.

Surprise Effect - So, everything was a complete surprise up to the last week. About a week before the party, Todd decided he was going to take a trip to do a dog hunting test with Murphy in Illinois. That would require him to leave right after work on Friday. Ack! The party was set to start at 5:30pm that Friday night. I tried to come up with all sorts of different suggestions, including leaving Friday morning and making up a fake party that we had been invited to and he needed to attend with me. Of course, he didn't really buy any of those schemes and kept his plans to leave after work. I finally had to tell him about the party. At least we didn't have to worry about our plan to actually get him there for the party (that was prearranged with a friend of his). His comment to me was that he was definitely surprised I had planned something for him and would have never guessed anything. Nice. Needless to say, I was bummed about having to tell him, but everyone at the party gave him a hard time about ruining the surprise so that made it a little better.

The Gifts - Lots of people got him great gag gifts and some useful things, too. He got lots of black and 40 balloons. We came home to a nice present on our front porch (see picture below), so he was happy about that. Of course, the gift I got him was a flop! I ordered a book for him on Chesapeake Bay Retrievers that is no longer in print. I search high and low for this book and finally found a copy on ebay that was listed in good condition. I paid for expedited shipping to get it here for his birthday and they failed to ship it until five days after I place my order and paid the extra money! I definitely was not happy, so they refunded my full shipping cost and sent it out. Well, the book arrived in horrible condition, two weeks after his birthday. I had to send it back and complain about the shape it was in - broken spine, stained back cover, torn front cover. Clearly not in good condition! But, I was able to find a better copy and order that, so I did redeem myself three weeks after his birthday.

The Cake - I did get us two pieces of cake from Blu Boy. We love their cake! So good!

New Decking

Well, we finally decided to put on a new deck this year. We had always known the deck on our house was not well-built and it was falling apart. The previous owners never stained he deck, so the wood was water damaged and cracking. We stained it twice in the last four years, but the damage had already been done. I didn't really want to spend money on a new deck, but during the demo you could see how horrible it was, how pieces were falling about, and how it could have pulled away from the house. Lovely. The posts were not even sunk in with concrete! So, I guess it was needed for safety reasons.

We spent months decided what type of material we wanted to use and finally decided on the composite wood - no maintenance and more difficult for the dogs to tear up. Overall, I like the deck, but it was not built without drama.

First of all, let me mention that I will NEVER spend any of my hard earned money at Lowe's EVER again. Horrible. It took us days to get the materials delivered, and then they were not delivered on time. From Thursday through Sunday we waited to start building and trying to organize getting the materials from them. I even tried to rent a truck to pick everything up myself. First they told me it was okay and then they said it wasn't because the wood was too long to fit on the truck and it would be a safety hazard. Okay, you know my order, so why did you say it was originally okay and make me wait an hour to hear it was not possible?!? Parts of the order were not correct or missing. Then, when we tried to return some spare pieces (about $200 worth), we were not allowed because of how THEY ordered it. We ordered 6 posts, but they put it in the system as 2 packs of 3. So, since we weren't returning the how package, we couldn't get our money back. But, they will sell them individually and can look up an individual price, not too mention we did not ask for the materials to come as a package, we asked for individual pieces. UGH! Let's just say that I had to leave Lowe's so I wouldn't go over the counter ate strangle the stupid people working there.

It is nothing spectacular, just a 12x12 deck. We only increased it by about 2 feet in width. The railing is a lot better than before. But, the stairs are an issue for me. I do not like the stairs. We originally wanted an octagon shaped stair that would come off the corner of the deck. At some point, we changed our minds and decided on regular old steps coming straight off the deck down to the grass. But, I didn't realize until the stairs were under construction what was going on. Todd had decided to go back to the octagon shape, but they are not symmetrical. In my opinion, it does not look right. Also, because of how the yard slopes, we had to add an extra step to one side because it would have been too dangerous of a step down to the yard. So, we have two sides of the stairs with 3 steps and one with 4 steps.

Another issue is that we have nothing going around the bottom of the deck. We were going to put up skirting and we have also talked about the trellis-type material. So far, we have nothing. I would like to put something up. We would have to leave an opening for the dogs as they like to hang out under the deck when the weather is bad. They stayed outside during the recent 90-degree days and stayed cool laying in the dirt under the shade of the deck.

The other problem is that half of the patio was torn up to put in the new steps for the deck. I have been wanting to get rid of the patio and just replace it with grass, but for now, everything is just sitting there waiting for us to do something with it. Great, another project.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Blueberry Peach Crisp

I think I may have found the crisp recipie I will use from now on. I made a peach crisp a few weeks ago and it was good, but it wasn't spectacular. Well, last weekend I came across another crisp recipe that looked really good and tried it the same day, although I adapted the recipe for our tastes. I had some peaches cut and frozed, but not enough to actually make the crisp. So, I decided to use half blueberries (also needed to use up some of those) and half peaches. Todd has declared this my best crisp yet and this should be my go-to recipe for fruit crisps. So, I guess it has been blessed. :) It was gone so fast, I didn' get a chance to take a picture.

Fruit Crisp
Topping:
½ cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup all purpose flour
¾ cup old fashioned oats
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Filling:
About 2 lbs. (4-5 cups) fruit (I used 2 cups peaches and 2 cups blueberries)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium size bowl, mix together brown sugar, flour, oats, baking powder and cold butter with your hands, until mixture is well combined and crumbly Lightly toss almonds into mixture. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together cinnamon, brown sugar and cornstarch. Set aside. In a 8x8 dish sprayed lightly with cooking spray, combine your fruit. Drizzle with lemon juice and almond extract. Stir in cinnamon/sugar/cornstarch mixture and combine. Crumble crisp topping over the peaches. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve warm or cold with whipped cream or ice cream.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

So behind

I am way behind on blog posts. Many are started and saved, but I haven't gotten around to finishing and publishing them. I really have great intentions and then get sidetracked by so many other things. I am hoping to catch up on life this weekend since I'll have an extra day (yay holiday weekend)! I feel like such a slacker, but at least we have been out doing things, hence the delay. I have yet to post about Todd's 40th party, the finished deck, more recipes, our trip to Chicago for a couple days at Wrigley, and our last minute trip to US Cellular field this past weekend. Ack! So much to catch up and so behind. My mid-year resolution is that I will be better at posting and not a month behind! :)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Kool Dogz

Late last year I bought this thing at Target on clearance for $5 called Kool Dogz. We finally had the opportunity to use it and the dogs love it! We have been freezing treats in this for them every day since it has been sooooooo hot! They stay outside in the morning and one of us comes home at lunch to let them cool off in the AC for 30 or 40 minutes and then they go back out with the Kool Dogz contraption. It has worked out well on all accounts! And they seem to share without fighting. Amazing!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hobbies Prioritized

So, I haven't been baking as much lately, or maybe I am just making the same old standby recipes. But, I did try a few news things in the last few weeks and I bookmarked like 50 new recipes to try. If only I had more time to spend on my second favorite hobby...

First, I made a peach crisp adapted from allrecipes.com. I bought a 5-lb box of peaches, definitely way more than we could eat. So, I decided to try my hand at a peach dessert. I am not a huge peach fan, but they are okay. I mean, given the choice, I would choose apple or some other fruit over peach. But, the crisp turned out pretty well. Todd says it was better the next day, so it probably needs to sit and gel for awhile. But, we ate it hot out of the oven with vanilla ice cream. Next time I will add some sugar to the peaches since I used fresh instead of canned.

Second, I made Little Blueberry Upside Down Cakes. These were a hit with Todd. The recipe made eight "cakes" and I think they were all gone within 24 hours of when I baked them. I got one, maybe two. Again, I bought way too many blueberries for us to eat and wanted to use them in something really yummy. This recipes caught my attention right away. I had to cook a little longer than the recipe said, but they turned out great. This is on our list of new favorites.

I didn't take any pictures of my creations. While I love recipe blogs and would love to have my own someday, I am not good at pictures of food. Some people are so good at it, but I have never been that great a photography and I don't really have the time to spend practicing on something that doesn't fully interest me. However, several blogs I follow have amazing pictures and some even have tutorials on food photography. Maybe one day I will get a decent camera and take up photographing our baked goods. But for now, I am happy to have running as my main hobby to burn off all the calories for my second hobby and the photography can wait until another day.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Vacation Bound...soon!

Outer Banks, here we come!


Finally! The vacation is booked. We can't go until July this year even though I desperately need a vacation now! But, at least it gives me something to look forward to. It really isn't that far away considering how fast the summer is going. I mean, it is already mid-June. I feel like the summer is usually long, but unfortunately it seems to be going by crazy fast this year! Usually by this point in time we have been to visit family, spent a long weekend in Iowa, been to a Cubs game or two, and taken some weekend trips. But, nothing this year and no days off work. I think that is why I am really looking forward to being away. We have just been too busy with work and home projects (please, please let our deck be done soon!) to be gone. Todd is going up for tenure and has to have everything turned in before we go on vacation. So, he'll be working on that a lot between now and then.


Until then, I look daily at the picture of the view from the deck of our oceanfront rental house to keep me going...

The Wrath of Murphy

I am eating my words that Murphy is good in the house. He was fine being free in the house all day Tuesday and Wednesday. I went home at lunch and after work to no problems at all. However, he must have reached his max indoor time Thursday. Todd went to check on them at lunch and found this…

Picture 1 – Plant in living room torn completely out of planter.

Picture 2 – Basket of random paperwork and computer supplies in front office that was sitting in the bookcase. The basket was completely shredded (you can see the wooden base left in the picture). Some of the paperwork was a lost cause, too.

Picture 3 – Todd’s version of Super Nanny punishment for dogs. Murphy had to sit in the corner in timeout while listening to Lucy get lots of treats.

It turns out Murphy somehow has a massive ear infection and got a shot and four medications at the vet Thursday night. Since he usually stays in the house without any problems, we think it was a combination of being inside for so many days and the pain from the ear infection that led to the destruction. Poor Lucy was shaking in her boots the whole time. She is the “sensitive dog” in the family and knows when someone is about to get in trouble and never wants to be the one to get it. Murphy had no clue he did anything wrong at all.




Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Coolest Gift Ever!

What a cool and creative gift! My friend and running/half-marathon training partner, Mandy, made me the coolest gift ever. It is a framed collage page of our running events from this past spring -- post-race pics, a pic of us finishing the IU Mini together, and the train we got stopped by on the way home from the Indy Mini packet pick-up (which was so funny, but you had to be there). I tried with and without the flash, but the picture does not due justice to the page she she scrapbooked. (Meaning, ignore my bad picture-taking abilities.) I love it! Of course, I am not creative at all and wish I had half the talent to do something like this. Thanks, Mandy! Here's to the fall running season!

Quilt Square

Our friends, Chris and Rita, are adopting a baby from South Korea. While they wait and prepare for their new little one (we hope comes sooner than later), Rita is creating a quilt called the "100 Good Wishes Quilt." They asked friends and family to send meaningful fabric to create a quilt for the baby. It is so cute and a really great idea to welcome the baby home!

I had a hard time trying to come up with something clever, but finally decided on Cleveland Indians fabric. We used to go to baseball games with Chris and Rita, and Todd has been known to talk crap with Chris over their favorite teams. Chris and Todd also played on the same softball team, while Rita and I cheered in the stands. Rita is a huge Indians fan (much like us - they are our minor league team) and Chris is a Cardinals fan (boo!). I tried to find some of each fabric, but couldn't find any cotton Cardinals fabric and only found the Indians fabric after some searching. Anyway, I sent them our fabric and good wishes. The squares they have received so far, including our creation, are all shown on their blog. So cute! I am excited to see the final project and pictures of the baby with the quilt!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Coach Hep 5k

I don't usually blog about every race I do. I do way too many and have all the t-shirts to prove it. So, I only blog about the cool or challenging ones. Since finishing up the spring half marathon season, I have been wanting to cut back on the running a bit. My legs are still sore from months of training and I kind of want a new challenge. Maybe something like a triathlon, although I cannot swim, so that may be a barrier. Anyway, this weekend was the Coach Hep Cancer Challenge. There are different categories of events, but I ran the 5k. It was a cool and rainy morning, but humid and I honestly was not in the mood to run. I looked at the course map and I knew it was hilly, but didn't realize how hilly until after the race started. The whole first 1.5 miles were completely uphill. It was insane! Thankfully, the whole second half the the course was the course reversed, so it was all downhill. Because of the hills, my legs definitely hurt and I didn't have the best of my 5k times, however I still managed to win 1st place in my age category! I have never done that before. Pretty cool! We got a plaque and a gift certificate for a Road ID, which are very cool and definitely worth looking into if you don't already have one. I guess getting older does have its benefits. :)

Stats:
Overall time: 26:34.0
30-34 Age Place: 1/23
Female Place: 9/117

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Homemade Weekend

Last weekend was the first weekend in a long time that I didn't have anything planned. No races, no-out-of-town trips, no events to attend. Since the spring running season is pretty much over, I am not training for anything either. It was both refreshing to have no obligations and weird to not be out running. So, I started working on my to-do list. I did knock several things off the list, including a couple of recipes I have been really wanting to try. So, over the weekend, I made cinnamon banana cake, 2 loaves of cinnamon swirl bread, and homemade pizza dough from scratch (yeast and all). The bread is something I make often, but the cake and dough were new. Both turned out amazing. Definitely keepers (well, usually only the keepers make the blog)!

The banana cinnamon chip cake is sooooo good and good for you! I have been wanting to try this one for months. Seriously! I hunted around town and could not find cinnamon chips anywhere. So, I ordered them online. It felt really weird to be ordering baking goods online, but it turned out perfect (although I may have ordered a few too many bags of cinnamon chips if anyone needs to borrow some). I made two changes to make it healthier: I substituted egg beaters for the eggs and used whole wheat flour. It was amazing. There is no oil in the cake and it stayed moist for days. I ate it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The best was heated up in the microwave for 30 seconds paired with some vanilla ice cream. Oh, so good! I highly recommend this recipe. I think I will be making it as often!


My other endeavor was a new pizza dough recipe. Much like sugar cookies, I am on a quest to find a really good pizza dough. This recipe tops the list by far. I have tried many dough recipes and this was really good and really easy to make. Making dough from scratch can be time consuming. This went quickly and didn't require much work or kneading. I followed the recipe as stated, but I used my KitchenAid mixer with dough hook. I will say I used a little more flour than mentioned in the recipe. The bottom was crisp, and the sides were soft, not chewy. I want to make this again and see if it works as a calzone crust. We baked one pizza on a pizza stone and one in a cast iron pan. I think it turned out better on the stone, but that was "my" pizza. I will also be trying this one again! It is highly recommended as well!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lucy & Murphy Brave the Elements

It rained, poured, and flooded today. We got about 2.5 inches of rain throughout the afternoon. Todd was out-of-town and I had an previously scheduled engagement after work, so I left the dogs outside knowing it would rain, but knowing I couldn't leave them inside. There was no way for me to get home during the day. They were caught in the middle of monsoon-like weather and were muddy and soaked when I got home. Poor babies are probably traumatized forever. Lucy is so scared of thunderstorms as is it. She shakes and pants. She tries to get a close as possible and snuggle down or hide under something until the storm passes. I can only imagine her hunkered down under the deck today. Murphy, on the other hand, is oblivious to storms. I feel so awful, but there was nothing else I could do. Here is a pic of Murphy from when I got home. You can't see all the mud, but I think he face provides a good example of how dirty he was. I actually had to hose off all the mud, so he got even more wet before coming in the house. Lovely.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Indy Mini Race Report....Finally!

In my life it seems like Saturday mornings = another half-marathon. I think I went a little overboard this year and signed up for three half marathons in five weeks. Crazy? Yes! My legs are screaming at me to take a break. But, after all the hard work of training, the races went so well! I am very happy with how I did at each race. Here is another loooong race report about the Indy Mini, which was this past weekend. I ran with a good friend and fellow half-marathoner, Mandy. Skip to the end to read just about the race!

Training
This past Saturday was the Indy Mini, the world's largest half marathon. Mandy decided to transfer into the race and run it with me. I was excited to have a running partner. The race fills up quickly, so I usually sign-up in the fall on my own and hope that I will find someone to run with at the race. This is my third year of using that method and I finally got a friend to run with me! It is much more fun than running alone! We ran the IU Mini at the beginning of April, so we had spent a lot of the winter training. Because of a leg injury, I didn't run a whole lot right before the Indy Mini, though. Both Mandy and I had signed up to run the local YMCA Running Classic, which is a 5k directly followed by a 10k to get in one last long run the weekend before the race, but after the 5k I knew I couldn't do the 10k. My hamstring hurt too much. So, I only ran a couple of miles before about four days before the race. I was a little bit nervous going into Saturday wondering if my leg would be okay and if I had run enough to make it to the finish.

Race Expo
I planned to go up to pick up the race packet and catch a few minutes of the expo Thursday night before the race. It is about a hour drive up to Indy, so I left right after work with the intent of grabbing the materials and heading back home for a late dinner. However, Mandy decided to drive up with me at the last minute and we ended up having a blast. After we got the packets (where they would not exchange a size M for a size S shirt for me - boo), we headed through the expo. There was tons of cool stuff and we each bought an Indy Mini shirt and running magnets for our cars. We checked out booths on charity running organizations, athletic gear vendors, and other random companies. Got some free stuff, too, which is always good! I think we ended up at the expo for over an hour. After making a return I had to a downtown store, we grabbed dinner before heading home. We ended up going a little cross country after getting stopped by a train on the way home. After watching the train move forward, sit, and then back-up over and over again, we decided to find an alternate route home. Seriously, the train was crazy. We were just sitting there laughing while watching it go forward and then backward. Suffice to say, we didn't get home until 10:00pm after leaving at 5:30pm.

Race Day
I am not a morning person at all, so leaving at 5:40am was my least favorite part of the day. I actually got up around 5am to eat something and get ready to go. Apparently, I over pack on gear for every race I go to. What I can I say? I like to be prepared for any kind of weather with short sleeves, long sleeves, pants, shorts, capris, rain jacket, etc. I also pack a change of clothes for after the race, just in case. So, I think I ended up hauling three bags of gear up to Indy and only used my jacket to put on after the race. Oh, well! Anyway, once we got up to Indy, parked, and used the restroom, we headed to our coral starting spot. I started back with Mandy and almost as soon as we got in there, they took down the ropes separating the different corrals and we all started moving forward towards the start line. It was nice to start further up in the race this year, it definitely helped to avoid people walking. No offense to the walkers, but with so many people at the start, it does suck to get behind a group of walkers. It took us about 8.5 minutes to actually get to the start line from our starting spot and we were off! We maintained a really great pace for the first 10 miles. It was funny to see all the different things going on around us. I am such a people-watcher when I run. Guys were running off the course around mile 2 to pee in the bushes (must be nice as we women have to wait for the porta-potties). There was a couple running together. Her shirt said "Just" and his shirt said "Married." Too cute! She even wore a little veil. Around mile 7, a guy running in the race carrying a box of Krispy Kremes offered us some donuts. I don not know how people eat while running - crazy! The other new and cool thing this year is that they had a hot air balloon at the same time as the race. So, we rounded a corner around mile 3 and the entire skyline was filled with hot air balloons. I wish I had my camera for that moment. I may have to carry it next year. I could go on and on about the interesting things we saw on the way. The actual race conditons were near perfect! It was a cooler morning, but not cold. The sky was overcast until around mile 10, so the sun was not beating down on us, there was no wind, and the rain held off. I honestly don't think I have ever run a race in better conditions. It was amazing!


So, we were doing good and then we both hit a wall around mile 10. My leg really started hurting and Mandy started to get tired. I tried to give us a pep talk, but she wanted none of it. Seriously, she told me to stop talking. :) It was all good. I've felt that way before and she apologized fifty times over after the race. When you are running and you hit a point where you don't think you are going to finish, you just need to concentrate and block out everyone around you to keep going and make it through. I completely understand - been there, experienced that. After three slow miles (at least compared to our pace the rest of the race), we finally crossed the finish like at 2:04:29. The greatest part was we smashed the time we ran a month earlier for the IU Mini (2:08:58). After we got pictures and some free food, we headed back to the car for the camera. After running 13.1 miles we took the elevator up one level to the car. We hurt bad. Seriously bad. Both of us. Neither of us wanted to walk three blocks back to the post race party, so we got a picture in the parking garage and headed home. Despite being sore, we started talking about the next race. It doesn't matter the distance, let the running continue...


(Note the cool running magnets on the car - 13.1 rocks!!)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Illinios Half Marathon Race Report and PR!!

On Saturday, April 11th, I ran the Illinois Half Marathon with my sister-in-law Susie. It was an amazing race, definitely one of the most fun I have ever done. I can't wait to run it again next year. I am so pumped to say I set a personal record at this race. I don't know that I can ever beat it, but I finished the half in under 2 hours. So excited! I apologize for the long post, but this was a very memorable race for me for lots of reasons starting with the hotel we stayed at the nigh before until finding out my finish time about 24-hours later. :)

The night before...
I am always nervous he night before a big race, but I think I had so much going on that I didn't have time to think about being nervous this time. I was so busy at work that I worked a half day Friday although I had the whole day off. So, by the time I got to Champaign and got my race packet, it was dinner time. I met up with Susie and we ate at a local pasta place. It took us about 45 minutes to get pasta because it was packed with runners! After the race we went back to the hotel room we shared and I headed up to visit my college roommate Jamie for a bit. The hotel was interesting. Our non-smoking room was definitely a smoking room in it's former life. I cringed every time I had to touch the bedspread as it looked like it had seen some better (or interesting) days. Let's just say I went to Target to buy a pillow at 10pm. As we went to bed, the volume next door seemed to get louder. We still aren't sure if it was a domestic dispute or what, but we heard lots of yelling and slamming of doors. I finally fell asleep around 2:30am only to have my alarm go off at 5:30am.

The morning of...
We headed to the race a little early as Susie was running as an American Cancer Society Charity Runner and wanted to stop by the tent they were hosting for the runners and their family/friends. They had breakfast (tons and tons of food), a private gear check, and private port-a-potties for the Charity Runners. It was amazing. After talking with some different people and showing my interest in being a future participant, I was convinced to run the race as a Charity Runner and continue to fund raise after the race was over. It was crazy. Five minutes before the start, I threw on my Charity Runner singlet and we took off for the start line. I about lost Susie before we even got to the line. There were people everywhere and we heard they finally capped the race at 10,000 runners!

The race...
It took us around 6 minutes to actually get to the start line after the official start. We quickly got started and Susie immediately started pacing us. Her goal for the race was to finish in under 2 hours, which is a 9 min/mile pace or less. I typically run a 9:20-9:30 pace, so this was really pushing it for me, but I decided to try and keep up. It was a little rough, but we settled into a pace and Susie was the task-master at keeping us on track. I was a little more laid back and pointed out the cute kids and puppies along the course. I am more content to finish the race and less competitive about my time. So, while I struggled keeping up, I tried to make it more fun (also so I wouldn't think about a painful right hamstring that had bothered me for a few days before the race).

The course was pretty good - the flattest course I have ever run, which really helps with time! There are a few areas that could be changed or improved, but overall is was a great route. The most amazing thing was the crowd. People were out in full force cheering on the runners, giving high fives, ringing cowbells, handing out water, and even tailgating at one house. Seriously, it rocked! There wasn't much entertainment along the course (although Elvis was pretty funny), but the crowd really kept the runners going. Even in the large races I have run (bigger ones than this), the crowd support has not been this good. This is the first year for the race, too. I can only hope it will get better every year.

Still smiling at mile 7.

My brother Ben met us around mile 7 to say hi and take some pictures. He missed us at mile 3 because we were running too fast, but we were excited to see him at mile 7 and at the finish. :)

We both hit a wall around mile 9. Susie was worried we might not make it in under two hours and I was worried I might not make it at all! But, we both made it through by giving each other pep talks and slowing up the pace a bit. I had a side stitch/cramp that wouldn't go away. I made it to mile 11 before I finally had to stop and stretch it out for a few seconds. Susie ran ahead and while I could see her ahead of me, I never quite caught up to her at the end. The finish was so cool because people were lining the streets and filled Memorial Stadium where the race ended at the 50-yard line.

After the race...
After the race, it was hard to say what my finishing time was. Susie was under 2 hours, but I wasn't sure how far behind her I was and I wasn't even watching the clock as I came it. I was just happy to finish and finish in a decent time. It wasn't until later in that night when they posted the finish times that I got really excited. I came in under 2 hours at 1:59:53. It might not be by much, but there is a big fat 1 in the front! I was excited to say the least!

On being a Charity Runner...
Being a Charity Runner for the ACS was so fun! Not only did they provide the pre-race breakfast and amenities, they also provided a post-race lunch and massages. The staff was so nice and so thankful for the money that was raised, no matter how large or small the amount. During the race, we had other runners and people in the crowd yelling at us and thanking us for running for charity. The ACS had people stationed at different areas to cheer on the runners, too. Such a great experience for a great cause!


Post race we are all smiles (mostly thankful it is over)! :)

If you would like to donate to the ACS through my Charity Runner page, you can do so at http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/CharityRunner/CRFY09Illinois?px=10555256&pg=personal&fr_id=18804. All donations are appreciated and they are tax deductible, too!

To see our pictures from race day (thanks to Ben, our personal photog), check out my Picasa page at http://picasaweb.google.com/cmroyer/IllinoisHalfMarathon.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

USATF Relaxes Headphone Ban

Thank goodness! Those of us that like to run with music can now do so without being disqualified from races. In December 2008, the USATF officially relaxed their ban on headphones during races. It seems others had the same rant as me and enough complaints got them to reverse their decision for non-competitive runners. Only those competing in a Championship for prize money (i.e., elite athletes, which I am not) are still banned from using headphones during races. Although, the rule does leave it up the the race director to allow or ban headphones from the race, but it appears they will be allowed while being strongly discouraged. The office press release is at:
http://www.usatf.org/news/view.aspx?DUID=USATF_2008_12_22_10_22_16

Now, I am all for safety during races, but I have not had a lot of problems with people who could not be communicated with during a race, which is why I had a problem with their initial ruling. Most people have their headphones on, but at a decent level to still hear things going on around them. At least I know I do and so do others I run with. Personally, I think the start line is more dangerous than running with headphones. I have seen people trampled when the start gun goes off and everyone is trying to get out of the gate. So, while I see the USATF point, I don't necessarily agree with it. There are lots of areas where safety could be approved. I'm just glad to have my music back to keep me moving.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Review: 3M Scotch Fur Fighter

I was skeptical, but willing to try anything at the same time. So, I purchased the Scotch Fur Fighter last time I was at Target to try removing pet hair from furniture at home. I vacuum it often, but for the times in between or for the hard to get places, I have been looking for something to pull pet hair off quickly. This thing is amazing! It really works well and meets my high expectations for a product of this nature. You literally attach a microtrap gripper sheet to a handle and brush across the furniture. It traps all the hairs in the gripper sheet, which you can pull off the handle and throw away. The downside is that the microtrap gripper sheet does fill up with hair quickly. I had just vacuumed the day before, so the hair on the chair I tested this on was fairly light (I guess this depends on your definition of heavy vs. light shedding. My definition changed after Murphy!)

The initial investment includes a handle and five disposable microtrap gripper sheets to attach to the handle. The cost is approximately $10. After that, the refill sheets cost $5. So, it might be somewhat expensive, but I won't use it everyday, just periodically. For more information, see the Fur Fighter website at http://www.3m.com/brands/scotch/furfighter/index.html. For a $2 off coupon, go to http://static.oprah.com/images/ads/ffighter/ffighter_web_coupon.pdf. (I wish I had the coupon, but didn't find it until after my purchase!)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Pizza

We are used to spending Easter with family and friends, but this year due to our schedules and other weekend events, Todd and I ate pizza for Easter dinner. It was weird to not to see our nieces and nephews or have a spread of ham and cheesy potatoes. But, we did enjoy some Papa Del's pizza and watch the Cubs game. A couple of relaxing hours after the busy weekend!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

IU Mini Race Report

I still get nervous every time I run a race, especially a long one. I think about all the whatifs. Like, what if I have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the race, what if I get a side stitch I can't get rid of and have to walk, what if the weather is crappy the day of the race? All sorts of things go through my head and I never sleep well the night before a race. Thankfully, the IU Mini turned out great despite my nerves and lack of sleep.


The weather the day of the race was about as ideal as possible. It was cool, sunny, and clear. Honestly, the weather several days before and the day after were horrible, so the good conditions were a relief. I like this race in that it is pretty small, so even though the course is not the greatest, you aren't weaving through crowds of people or getting stuck beind a line of walkers. However, the hills are killer. They changed the course this year to make it supposedly less hilly. Supposedly is the key term here. I would still rate this a very hilly course and my legs can vouch for this - still sore the day after! But, I had practiced parts of the course, so knew what to expect, which was helpful.


The cool thing this year is that I ran with my friend Mandy. I have run other races with people, but not people I really knew. In fact, all were people that I met the day of the race. Mandy and I had trained on longer runs together, and it was good to run with a friend to motivate each other the entire way. Trust me, long distances are boring and usually happen at a slower pace than when running alone. Headphones keep you going, but finishing with someone is more fun. The funny thing was we actually met a another girl in the port-a-potty line before the race(yes, we were nervous and needed to go one more time). We invited her to run with us and she thought she would be slower than our pace and trained less miles, but we told her to join us anyway. Yeah, she ditched us by before mile 2 and finished 10 minutes ahead of us. Nice.


Overall, it was a great race. We may try to run the Indy Mini or some other long distance race together soon. The hard part will be training in the warmer temps, although that does not appear to be a problem with the snow expected tomorrow. Ugh!


Best Friends or Foes??

The dogs have a love-hate relationship with each other. They are often jealous of each other and fight for attention. But, they also love to be together, too!

After playing in the lake (and general misbehaving when one dog got to retrieve and the other had to wait a turn).


Napping after playtime!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

February Update #3 - On Turning 30

There are just some things in life that you just don't want to do. Turning 30 was one of those things in my life. While I don't feel any older, it just seems like 30 is old. Well, compared to 25, it is old (at least in my book) and I don't want to get old! It's like when you are young, you can't wait to be older - 13 to be an official teenager; 16 - to be able to drive; 21 - drinking (if you are into that); etc. But 30...there is no fun associated with this birthday. It just means another decade of life has past. Kind of freaky.

Overall it was a good day. I had lunch with a friend, another friend sent some balloons to me, and Todd took me out for dinner, got a cake for me, and brought home flowers. It was a massive cake that took us a week to eat even after pawning half of it off to his graduate students. I did have to work a little late and also wasted an hour at the BMV trying to straighten out the license plates for my car. But, I received several cards and lots of emails. I was secretly hoping for a party of sorts, but that never really happened.

The cake, flowers, and balloons. My friend April tried to arrange a signing telegram, but it turned out to be a singing phonegram. I got a message on my voicemail from some random person who started singing to me. It was rather humorous!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Candy Corn!!

I found it!! I have been seaching for weeks, high and low, making special stops at different stores, and I have finally found my Easter pastel candy corn!! Who-hoo!! The big question now is whether it is a fresh bag or leftover from last year. I bought the bag tonight when I ran to the store up the street. I never go to Buehler's Buy Low, but I was out of something I needed to make brownies, so I thought I would run in and grab it. The Buy Low is questionable. It's one of those stores where you have to check the expiration date before buying any dairy products and where I would never buy meat. But, if you are out of a dry good item, it is a quick stop.

So, I bought the candy. I haven't opened it yet, so only time will tell. If no one else is carrying the candy for the Easter season, it really makes me wonder. I can only hope it will be as good as I am imagining...

Muddy Murphy

Oops! Murphy and Lucy got rained on one evening when we left them outside and went into town. Lucy wasn't too muddy when we got home. She usually hangs out in her dog house (about the only time she uses it) or gets under the deck to stay dry. However, I think Murphy found the muddiest spot in the middle of the yard and decided to dig in the middle of the pouring rain. He was just covered in mud and it took several towels to clean him up! :)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring = Hot Air Balloons in the Street

I couldn't figure out why Murphy kept barking and barking until I heard a familiar sound. It was the sound of a hot air balloon fuel tank. We often have hot air balloons come over our neighborhood as there is a field near our house where they can take-off or land. I glanced out the window to check them out and realized they were landing in our street! It was crazy! I yelled for Todd and we grabbed the camera to run out and see the balloon land. I guess there wasn't enough wind to keep them going to get to the field, so they maneuvered to land in the middle of our street. It was pretty awesome and the whole neighborhood was out watching.

The funny thing is that our next door neighbor works for the FAA and sort of busted them. They shouldn't have landed in the street and they didn't do anything to keep people back the proper distance. So, while we were all taking pictures thinking it was cool, she was taking pictures for evidence and flashing her FAA badge. One of the balloon operators was working the crowd handing out business cards which she was busting the second operator. Too funny!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

An age-related complement

Todd and I went to Scotty's, a local sports bar and restaurant, last night to eat and watch some basketball games. The wait was several minutes, but the bar was fairly open so we decided to sit there. The bartender came over to take our drink order and leave us menus. After a few minutes he came back and looked at me funny. He proceeded to ask if I was over 21. I just started laughing at him. I don't know why he asked - maybe the water I ordered made him nervous. After I gained my composure, I thanked him for the complement and told him I actually had just turned 30 this year. He looked a little shocked and said he wouldn't put me over 23, but that I could definitely be younger. Wow! I felt totally awesome. I thanked him for the complement and I offered to show him my ID, but he said not to worry about it and wished me a Happy Birthday. Maybe 20 is the new 30. I can only hope!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

February Update #2 - The House

We haven't done too much work on he house this winter, we did re-finance. That was a project in itself to keep on top of all involved in the process! But, we were able to lock in a great rate and re-finance the house for a 15-year mortgage. Thanks to the drop in the rates, we will save a ton in interest over the years and pay more towards the principal each month. Now, we just need to figure out what to do with the deck, which is falling apart around us thanks to shoddy work and two dogs!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

February Update #1 - The Dogs!

I don't know where February went! It is March and there are lots of things that didn't get done in February, including keeping up on the blog. The dogs definitely need an updated blog photo.

Murphy is huge! He is nearly 9 months old and still eats 7-8 cups of food per day. It is hard to tell in this picture, but he is getting taller and his legs are very thick. He loves to go running with me and can easily do up to 4-miles. He is my new late night running companion since I haven't been getting home from work until 7pm or so. He completes basic training this week and Todd has been informed by other members of the class that Murphy is the star student. He must have selective hearing because he doesn't listen to me as well as Todd. Murphy is also starting to work on hunting skills for an upcoming hunt test.

Lucy has had a rough start to the year. We noticed her limping a lot in early January. Our local vet put her in cast for about a week, but it didn't help at all. So, we took her back up to the canine orthopedic specialist in Indianapolis. Unfortunately, the x-rays showed a broken bone in her foot. So, after multiple office visits, x-rays, and a surgery, she is recovering. The bone shattered into four pieces, so the surgery involved cutting through a tendon on the top of her foot to clean out the bone fragments. The bone will not heal, but to prevent arthritis and other issues down the line, the surgery was the best option. She would hardly put any weight on her foot and was hopping around on three legs prior to the surgery. Two weeks post-surgery she is out of her bandages and putting some weight on her foot, although still hopping occasionally. Her leg has atrophied, so we expect it will take some time for her to regain strength and walk or run normally. The other downside to this is that she has gained some weight due to lack of activity. She gets upset when Murphy gets to play, but she doesn't due to activity restrictions. So, we have had some jealously issues.

It is funny how the dogs are best friends. The wrestle and fight each other one minute and then lay in the dog bed together the next minute. Murphy was a wreck when Lucy was at the vet for the surgery for two days. He wandered around the house looking for her and whining.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Lucy & Murphy Update

Murphy has been growing a ton. That happens when you eat 7-8 cups of food per day. Lucy is doing better although she has an appointment with the orthopedic vet specialist in Indianapolis this week. She has been limping a lot lately and not putting much weight on her left front leg. We are hoping it is not fractured again and it heals quickly. But, we are pretty sure we will have to deal with her getting a cast. Such a pain. Here are some recent pics!

Snow dog Lucy!

Murphy and his Christmas bone (he finally got it in February)!

Just relaxing (which is unusual around here)...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Winter driving tips

So, driving in the snow isn't really that bad if you know what you are doing. What makes me uncomfortable driving around here when it snows is all the other drivers. To all those drivers out there, here are a few tips that may help you when you venture out in all this snow.
  1. If your car sat outside while it snowed, clean it off before you drive. Not only is it safer for you if you can see out of your rear window, but it is safer for me. I don't appreciate wads of snow flying off your car and hitting my windshield while driving at 55mph.
  2. If you drive a 1995 Chevy Cavalier, please do not try to park on the road in a spot that has not been plowed. I promise you will get stuck.
  3. If you need to park on the street on a one-way street that is narrow, it is best not to park towards the middle of the street, thus blocking all thru traffic.

You have to love the drivers around here...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Day!

For the first time in three decades, IU was closed for the entire day. We got a little over 13 inches in a 24 hour period, so the plows were not able to keep up on clearing the roads. It was nice to have a day off, although I can't say I did much. I baked a rum cake and tried to make sugar cookies. (Anyone out there have a good cutout recipe for me because I have tried several to no avail!! The dough always turns out too sticky to roll.) I also watched a movie I have been wanting to see. Seriously, that is it. We were under a snow emergency, so we were not supposed to be on the roads, which was fine with me. I am not excited about taking my new-to-me car out on the snow-packed, slippery road. The picture above is the table on our deck. It is actually pushed up against the house and sits slighly under the overhang on the roof. Yet, it is still covered - amazing!
Below is a short clip of the dogs running in the snow last night. You can see Murphy run off at the end. The neighbor's dog came outside and Murphy made a break to play. He is not supposed to leave the yard, so I had to stop filming for a little scolding.

video

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sunday = Bakeday

This past Sunday was cold and overcast, which is a perfect day to spend baking in the kitchen! Outside of a short run, I spent most of the day in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of my creations. I'll have to remember for next time!

I started by making my grandma's Special K Bars. I've heard a lot of other people refer to these a Scotch-A-Roos or Special Cereal Bars. However, in our family we prefer to use Special K as the base cereal for these bar cookies because it turns out better than using any other kind. The recipe is online here. I do make a few changes to make these come out just perfect! I use butterscotch chips instead of peanut butter ones. I also use 1-1/4 cup of chocolate chips and 1-1/4 cup butterscotch chips to coat the top so there is enough (or a little extra) for coverage. Finally, I increase the amount of cereal used to 8 cups so the bars are firmer! It it best to let these stand and set-up for an hour or so before cutting into them.

Then, I moved on to making homemade bread with yeast and actual kneading. We have a bread maker, but I have been wanting to use my new Kitchenaid stand mixer to make some real dough. I found a great recipe for Earl's Home Made Bread online. The bread turned out great, although it took a lot of time to make. I kept letting it rise and kneading over and over. I was also a little nervous letting my mixer run for several minutes at a time, but it seemed to work just fine - no mixer engine overheating. The loaves tasted best the day of and got a little less soft each day. Oh well, it was a good experiment and a bread I will definitely make again! I'll probably half the recipe in the future because we can't really eat two loaves in one week.

After running with my friend Mandy, I helped her make an apply crisp to take to a dinner party. She was in a crunch for time and I had spare time to help cut up apples. I always get nervous recommending recipes I have never tried but she needed one with no corn-based ingredients, eggs, or milk. I found this apple crisp that seemed to fit the bill and she decided to make it! Although I did not get to taste this, she did get rave reviews for the dessert! This is now next on my list to make!

I finished up the day making a vegetarian pasta bake. I sauteed fresh veggies - mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, zucchini - and some minced garlic in olive oil. Then, I added spaghetti sauce (just the jar kind from the store) and stirred in some basil, oregano, and parmesan to give it some flavor. I let that cook up for a few minutes before I mixed in cooked pasta. I put it in a 9x11 pan, topped with shredded cheese, and baked for about 25 mins at 350 degrees. It turned out awesome! I make a lot of different pasta bakes (usually with whatever we have around) and this one takes the prize! Not only was it great tasting, it was meatless! I think my new trick will be to add some parmesan to the the sauce before baking. It really gave it some flavor.

It was definitely a relaxing Sunday in the kitchen. I love being in the kitchen when I have time. I just wish I had more time to be there more often!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

NYE Recap

I have been meaning to post about our New Year's Eve festivities for some time. I figured I better get to it before the month of January is over! We had grand intentions to spend a few days in Chicago over NYE and meet up with friends and family while catching a few of the tourist sites we have yet to see (mainly the Art Institute, which is one place I have never been but always wanted to go). Anyway, we got the dogs into the boarding place at the last minute and decided to head to Chicago Tuesday and stay until Friday or so. We were off work and didn't have specific plans, so it sounded like an adventure. And it was, until I was so sick I could only lay in the hotel bed and wish I were home. We got downtown much later than planned Tuesday, so we grabbed a late dinner at Murphy's Pub. Whatever I ate did not sit well with the stomach the next day, which was the first problem. The second problem was that my cold worsened to the point where my throat was throbbing and I could barely talk. But, we decided to head out in the freezing winter temps Wednesday morning to shop a little and go up in the Hancock tower. We also ate at Pizzeria Uno. Of all the pizza in Chicago, this is not at the top of my favorite list, but it was good. After that we headed back to the hotel. I kept feeling worse, so I decided to forego the Art Institute and take a nap. I was in bed almost the entire afternoon. We had already made dinner plans and purchased Blue Man Group tickets with my friend April. So, we met up with her for dinner. Our reservations didn't work out as planned, but we still had a good time out (rather April and Todd did as my stomach was still not feeling well so I only ate bread...lovely). Blue Man Group was awesome, as usual. This is my second time to see the show and I highly recommended for everyone. I don't really know how to describe it, but I definitely think the show is worth the price of admission. It is artsy, funny, and interesting all at the same ime. They even did a special NYE after-show thing with a champagne toast, hats, and noisemakers, which was fun. I felt bad because the whole time I was trying not to touch or breathe on April and Todd for fear I would make them sick.

I woke up Tuesday morning and didn't even shower. I packed up my suitcase and told Todd I needed to go home - I was sore and achy, I could barely talk, and all I wanted to do was sleep. We left our hotel by 9:30am. So, we did not get a chance to meet up with anyone else, which I was bummed about (sorry people - I really did want to call you up). Maybe next time as we hope to get to Chicago again soon. Regardless, we still had a fun NYE with April!

New Used Car

It all started last week in the form of an email...

From: Royer, Christan Michelle
Sent: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 1:52 PM
To: Royer, Todd V.
Subject: Honda dealer

Two things:
  1. Put on your calendar that we have to take the Accord in for the 150K service on Tuesday 2/3/2009.
  2. They have a 2005 Accord, all leather, loaded on the website for $15,995. It doesn’t list the miles, but if not too high, that would be a really good deal. Plus, it has heated seats which is on my list to have in my next car someday.

cmr

From: Royer, Todd V.
Sent: Thursday, January 15, 2009 9:38 AM
To: Royer, Christan Michelle
Subject: RE: Honda dealer

Why don’t we just buy the Accord for your birthday. Then you’ll have heated seats.

I have been interested in upgrading my 1999 Honda Accord with 145,000 miles for awhile. Over the last year, I have been casually looking and checking out cars around town and at the dealership. I pretty much narrowed down what I was looking for, so it made the search easy. I am a fan of the Honda Accord, but I do not like the new 2008 body style. In terms of upgrading, I wanted to do so by several years, so that left me with a used Honda Accord between 2004 and 2007. I knew I wanted one with low miles and as many options as available. When I called about the 2005 Accord I was sad to learn it was above my threshold for miles, but the salesman told me about a newer 2007 Accord they had and it sounded perfect. Low miles and heated seats! Sign me up! I drove by and looked at it, test drove it multiple times, and did a lot of online research. Although my 1999 Accord was running just fine and I didn't need a newer car, I decided to upgrade. I figure this is my way of stimulating the economy. Plus, Todd is lacking in birthday present ideas and I will gladly take this one!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Seasoned Oyster Crackers

Seasoned Oyster Crackers are one of our favorites. I meant to make them at Christmas time, but never got around to it. I had already had all the ingredients on hand, so last weekend I decided to make them and checked into some recipes. It is amazing how one pretty common snack food has so many variations in recipes. Anyway, I combined a few recipes to come up with my own concoction. I must say the crackers were quite tasty! Definitely not too oily or too seasoned, but a good mix of flavors coated each cracker. This one is a keeper!
  • 14-160z bag oyster crackers
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 pkg Hidden Valley ranch dressing mix
  • 1/2 tsp dill weed
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Mix oil, dressing mix, and spices together. Pour over crackers and mix in large bowl until crackers are coated. Heat in over for 10 minutes and 300 degrees.

So easy and so good!