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!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Styles of Dress

I feel like I keep up on the times pretty well. I am busy and work and don't get all the reading done I would like, and I do miss the news some days. I work with different technologies and I do my share of online networking, so I feel like I know what is going on. But lately, I have been confused about different styles of dress, though I should mention I have never been that info fashion. For example, last weekend we went to a dinner and dance event. My husband came home and told me the dress was "evening informal." What the heck does that mean?? We learned from others this meant that guys should wear a coat, but a tie was not required. Okay, great, but what does this mean for the female attending the event?!?! I ended up wearing a dress and made him wear a tie. If I have to wear a dress, he needs to be equally uncomfortable. :)

Anyway, today we received an invitation for a fundraising event this weekend. It is an evening dinner event, no dancing at a local restaurant. The style of dress is "snappy casual." What the heck?!?! Again, I have no clue what this means. Is this like the new way of saying business casual? Or, is that some style that means you can wear jeans if they don't have holes and look nice?!? I am clueless.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Shoes = Motivation

I ordered a new pair of running shoes last night in hopes of motivating myself to get out and run more. I have been such a slacker. Between injuries, sickness, traveling, and the crappy weather, I have not been out much. So, I am hoping some new shoes will give me a reason to run and get ready for all the spring races. I hope the shoes get here soon and I hope it works...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Random Sightings

I had several random sightings this week. Some made me laugh, some made me sad...

  • A girl in white heeled boots. Yes, completely snow white heeled, dress boots. My initial thought was that no one should wear white shoes after Labor Day. But, is that really still a rule and does that count for boots?
  • A book called "Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude: How to Find, Build and Keep a YES! Attitude for a Lifetime of SUCCESS" byJeffrey Gitomer sitting in someone's car window. It was sitting on the dash showing through the driver's side windshield of some minivan in my parking garage. I found it completely humorous, mainly because I wasn't sure if it was meant for the passerby to see or if the driver was reading it as a self-help book.
  • An old Honda Accord with cut-out metal spikes bolted on from the top of the car to the rear of the car. I saw this in the parking lot of the grocery store the other day. Not that I am trying to stereotype anyone, but I imagined some student into grunge driving this car. I would have totally taken a picture if my hands hadn't been full of bags.
  • A casket draped with the American flag. I don't typically take a lunch as I have too much work to get done, but I ran home to check on the dogs one day. As I was driving through town, I noticed a hearst with the rear curtains open carrying this casket covered by the flag. It wasn't part of a funeral procession, so it made me wonder where they were going and who the person was that passed away.

Chocolate Cake!!!

I found a really great and super easy chocolate cake recipe that I made for dinner tonight. It is adapted from Iowa Farmer Today, which is a weekly newspaper Todd gets. Anyway, I lightened up as much as I could by using light sour cream and egg substitute. It turned out so awesome. It is definitely better frosted. I just used a container of Betty Crocker Vanilla, as that is what I had on hand.

  • 1 C. light sour cream
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1 C. egg substitute
  • 4 T. cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 C. flour

Mix ingredients together. Bake in a greased 8x8-inch pan at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Frost, if desired.

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

Since I got my awesome KitchenAid mixer for Christmas, I have been baking different things. Some are better than others, but you have to weed out the good recipes from the bad. Of course, only the best recipes make the blog. (We won't go into the new sugar cookie recipe that failed miserably - the cookies didn't even make it to the oven and I threw out all the batter!)
Anyway, one new bread you have to try is Blueberry Zucchini Bread. I needed to use up some blueberries and zucchini, and this was the perfect combination. I only had about 1.5 cups of zucchini, so I threw in some extra blueberries. As always, to make my baking a little healthier, I used 1 cup applesauce in place of the oil and also used egg substitute to replace all the eggs. It turned out so moist, we couldn't stop eating it! This recipe is a keeper! Thank goodness we have a few loaves in the freezer to have later.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Christmas Memories

I feel like my last post was a little negative. There were lots of great things about Christmas, although I was not about the drive time. Todd's brother and family from Texas did have a longer trip than us and encountered bad weather as well, so can't complain too much. Texas is a longer way from Iowa than Indiana!!

Anyway, we did have a lot of fun! Some highlights include:


  • Getting to see Todd's brother and family from Texas. It had been way too long since we last saw them.
  • Getting to play with the nieces and nephews, which is always a blast. Everyone got lots of cool toys for Christmas. Let's just say the kids are well on their way to having the entire Star Wars Empire in legos.
  • Sledding in the tons of snow up North! Well, I didn't sled, but did get some good pictures.
  • Eating lots of good food. This year the family was so big we graduated to having a kid's table.
  • Getting to see my brother's house for the first time and meeting Wrigley, their new puppy. Murphy and Wrigley had a great time playing together.
  • Watching to dogs run around and under my brother's massive Christmas tree. This thing was totally Clark W! It was at least 12-ft tall and probably as big around.
  • Getting my KitchenAid Stand Mixer! I finally got one (thanks Mom and Dad!) and have already used it several times.

There is so much more I am missing, but we did have a good time. Below are a few shots from the festivities.

Daniel and Lizzie. Two cuties we wish we could see more often. Shockingly, I think they are both fully dressed for this picture. Daniel's preferred outfit is mesh basketball shorts, no socks, shirt, or underwear. :)

Max, the master snowboarder! Todd tried using his board, but it doesn't work so well for a full grown adult to use a kid's board. I won't post the pictures of that! (In his defense, Todd is a great snowboarder given the right gear.) :)

My brother's Christmas tree. This this is real and HUGE!! Just look how big it is compared to the people, furniture, and fireplace. They have an awesome great room to hold this thing, too. Please ignore the bedhead when viewing this photo. :)

Christmas Travels and Weather Mishaps

Spending time in the car driving is my least favorite thing to do on the planet. I would rather be doing just about anything else. I consider a 2-hour drive to be too far, so packing up and heading out of town for the weekend or a long trip, like seeing family for the holidays, is a big ordeal. We survived, but it was a long journey that included a lot of added stress due to the weather. But, we did have a good time visiting family, although it seems we were never in one place for too long.

Tuesday 12/23 - We attempted to leave for Iowa, but an ice storm decided to keep us from leaving town. We tried to drive through it and around it, driving three different routes (37, 46, and 231). But, everything came to a grinding halt and each route we tried, we encountered traffic backed up for miles and at a complete standstill. It took us over 2 hours to go 20 miles. So, after hours of fruitless driving, we decided to stay home and try again in the morning. Total driving time: 2.5 hours.

Wednesday 12/24 - We left at 6:30am and found traffic to be light and moving really well. The temps had actually risen overnight, so the ice had all melted. Who-hoo. We were making good time until we hit Peoria, IL. The Northern part of IL had received a ton of snow and the wind was blowing so hard, Todd could barely keep the car on the road. The interstate was drivable, but it was not clear by any means and blowing snow made visibility near zero at some points. We saw tons of cars in the ditch and witnessed some go off the road in front off us. The normal 6 hour drive took several extra hours of white knuckle driving and arguments about front seat drivers (which, by the way, I am not - am just a nervous passenger in bad weather). Total driving time: 8 hours.

Thursday 12/25 - Merry Christmas and more driving. Ugh! I just wanted to rest and play with the nieces and nephews. But, we went to pick up my Grandma and take her to Todd's family Christmas. The roads were less than stellar and it was freezing cold, but we made the trip. Total driving time: 2:5 hours.

Friday 12/26 - Of course, we had more driving to look forward to! I was completely stressed by this point in time. I think a combination of lots of driving, little sleep, no running (Iowa had like a foot of snow, the roads were awful, and the sidewalks buried), lots of bad for me food, and dealing with lots of people. We headed back to my Grandma's to get her and take her to see my family. We were all meeting up at my brother's house in the very Northern Chicago suburbs. To make things worse, we were about 2 hours behind schedule in getting there. Total driving time: 3.5 hours.

Saturday 12/27 - We thought about staying a extra day at my brother's, but decided we needed to get home and gain some sanity back in our lives. We were essentially living out of the car and needed to get back to a routine, including some fresh veggies and a workout. We headed home early afternoon and drove through a driving rain almost the entire time. But, we made it safely and collapsed in bed. Total driving time: 4.5 hours.

Total holiday driving time: 21 hours. Not to disappoint anyone, but we may stay home next year!

Setting Goals, not Resolutions

I realize I need to update the blog with our holiday adventures, which weren't exciting unless you include lots of time in the car and being sick on the fun list. I don't. Anyway, I have been thinking about what resolutions I should make for 2009 and I can't come up with much. Is this bad?!?! I think the reason is that I am not much of a resolution person. I have lots of friends that make lists and recap how well they did the previous year. But, I don't want another list of stuff I should be doing to worry about or make me feel guilty. I already have lists of stuff I want to do that I can't get done. Plus, the word resolution has a strong meaning of determination, consistency, and willpower to do something, hence the guilty feelings for failing to follow through. Also, I have read some articles about how making resolutions can actually be bad for your health.

So, this year I am not making any resolutions. I might set a few goals for myself. Goals are less worrisome because if you don't reach them the first time around, you can always try again. Also, I feel like you can change and adjust goals over time. I guess I am going for the softer approach to the new year. Maybe this will to help me reach a goal of being less stressed out. :)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Five Years...

We have been married for five years today. It seems unbelievable. We have moved to two different states, bought two houses, and aquired two dogs among other things. I can't believe all that and more has happened in five years. Thankfully, this year's weather is very mild compared to the blizzard that ended our reception early just five years ago today. We celebrated by eating out and watching the Colts game.