Sunday, February 27, 2011

Extra Storage

When we built our house 17 years ago, I wanted a space in our laundry room where the kids could work on projects. So we had a counter put in with space to sit on a stool. As it turns out, the kids worked on their projects in the kitchen and we ended up putting the dog's bed under the counter in the laundry room.

Now the kids are grown and we had to put the dog down a couple of years ago, so we have this empty space. I decided I wanted to make it my gift wrapping station. My husband and I talked about putting some shelves in, but I know him. It would takes months for it to happen and I wanted to organize this area now. I decided to take matters into my own hands.

First, I measured the area--approximately 32" wide x 34" high x 24" deep. While I was at the grocery store (Meijers), I took a gander at the bookcases, storage units, etc. I found exactly what I was looking for and it measured 31 5/8" x 33" x 18". Perfect! It would fit with room to spare. I next went to the containers area. I found several baskets-both woven and cloth in different sizes and colors. I grabbed a few that I liked and brought them back to the bookcase area. I tried different baskets in the model and chose the ones that looked and fit best. All my husband had to do was put the unit together.

He came home from work that evening, and after dinner, even though he was tired, put my storage unit together. After about an hour, he had it finished and all he had to do was slide it in the empty space. That's when I heard him call my name. When I entered the laundry room, he had a perplexed look on his face. "It doesn't fit," he said. What? How can that be? I thought it would be a little small for the area. Oops. I didn't allow for the baseboard. Even if he took the baseboard out, the unit was still a smidge too big. My space was actually 31 1/2 inches wide, not 32 inches. (I guess approximate measurements don't work all the time.) Now what was I to do? I couldn't return the unit as it was already assembled with glue. Rats!

My saint of a husband thought about it and decided he could take it apart, cut down the shelves, and reconstruct it so it would fit. Of course, that defeated the whole purpose in my buying the thing. I didn't want him to have to do any work on it. Bless his heart. On Saturday, he worked his plan and I'm delighted with the results. I can now organize all my ribbons and gift wrapping supplies. Thanks, Sweetie. You're the best!!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Eyebrow Pencil Maintenance

It's time to sharpen my eyebrow and eyeliner pencils. I've found if I put them in the freezer for several hours beforehand, they are easier to sharpen. They are harder and don't break off while sharpening. (Why does everything in my life somehow involve the kitchen?)

Thursday, February 24, 2011


We all know that soybeans are good for us, but how exactly do they help? Soybeans are a great source of protein. Also, they are a good source of iron, calcium, phosphorus and fiber. They help lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein or our "L"ousy cholesterol, as opposed to our HDL or "H"appy cholesterol) and also triglycerides. Soybeans are also thought to lower the incidence of breast and prostate cancer, and they reduce coronary artery disease.

Since these little puppies are such a miracle food, I've been looking for some good soybean recipes. Here's one that's worth trying:

Colorful Vegetable Saute

1 T. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. frozen edamame, shelled
2 c. corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
3 T. finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/3 c. fresh basil, sliced
1 T. fresh lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds more. Add the edamame. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Add the corn and cook until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Stir in grape tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove from heat. Stir in basil and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.

4 servings

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, Anne

Twenty eight years ago, at 9:42 a.m., I became a mom for the first time. I had worked until midnight, went to bed around 1:00 a.m., and woke up in labor at 3:45 a.m. After only six hours, I was holding a little girl in my arms.

Motherhood has been an incredible adventure. Here are just a few memories of the past 28 years with my baby.
One day old (St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Ann Arbor)

Going for a hike in the Arboretum (Ann Arbor)

Strolling in Gallop Park (Ann Arbor

Second Birthday

Three years old

Pere Marquette Park (Muskegon)
I love how she's holding her little sister's hand.

Disney World

Cannon Beach, Oregon

St. Patrick's Cathedral, NYC

At the set of Regis and Kathie Lee

High School Graduation

Tigers Game with the fam

Wedding Day

The Big House

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart. I hope the next 28 years are even better.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Energy Sappers

As a child, I'll never forget watching the Ted Mack Amateur Hour on television. At some point in the show, Ted would ask the question, "Do you feel tired due to iron poor blood?" and then do an ad for Geritol. It was guaranteed to give the afflicted person more energy.

Of course being anemic can make you feel drained, but so can other things, like bad stress, depression, inadequate sleep, a pessimistic attitude, or dehydration. This list is not all inclusive, but they are things that can be easily fixed. I want to focus on the easiest one to eliminate--dehydration.

Most of us don't drink enough fluids in a day. Most experts recommend eight 8-ounce glasses of water or water-equivalent beverages a day. When we become dehydrated, it can deplete energy, make us emotionally irritable (add PMS or perimenopause to it and a serious explosion could occur), cause constipation (another explosive situation), or lead to possible kidney stones. When I start feeling tired, I tend to drink caffeinated beverages, which cause more dehydration. (We need to add an extra glass of fluid for every can of pop or cup of coffee that we drink.) I also start snacking, thinking it will give me more energy, when really, all I need is a glass of water.

Start keeping track of how much you're drinking. Increase your fluid intake and see if it makes a difference in how you feel. A big bonus: You are guaranteed to get more exercise. You'll definitely be making more trips to the bathroom.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Peer Pressure

There's nothing like a little peer pressure to keep one motivated to eat healthy and workout. Our community has come up with a way to inspire people to live healthier lives. It's called Healthy on the Shore. Corporations encourage their employees to form teams of four and enter the Corporate Challenge. You track activities, how many 8 oz. glasses of water you drink, and how many fruits and vegetables you eat. You enter your team's points weekly and at the end of the session, a winner is announced. The top team wins bragging rights.

Being part of this challenge has inspired me to go a little farther with a healthy lifestyle. I already drink a lot of water and eat a fair amount of fruits and vegetables, but I've added a little more of each to my diet. As far as exercise, you get points for working out but also for activities like shoveling snow and cleaning house. You even get 20 points an hour for playing with children (if only I had some grandchildren--maybe I could rent some). You can also earn extra points for parking further from entrances or taking stairs instead of the elevator (the only problem is Muskegon doesn't have buildings tall enough for elevators).

Yesterday, in order to earn a few extra points for the team, I decided to shovel a path on our deck from the house to the grill. Part of my motivation was a fear that the deck was going to collapse because of all the snow on it. I worked for about 90 minutes and finally had a path cleared.
I wasn't in the house for more than 10 minutes when an avalanche of snow and ice came down from the roof and covered my handiwork.

I could've been killed. But it was worth it for the team. I got 48 extra points.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Favorite Pasta

I know I've probably posted my current "favorite pasta" recipe before, but this really is my favorite pasta. I alter the recipe according to what fresh vegetables I have in the fridge, so play with it and make it your own "favorite pasta".

Bow-tie Pasta with Chicken and Spinach

2-4 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
8-12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 1/2 cups chopped broccoli (asparagus works well, too)
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 t. dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup white wine
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 T. butter
8 ounces bow-tie pasta, cooked according to package directions and drained
Grated Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.
Saute the garlic for about 1 minute, until golden, stirring constantly.

Add the chicken and saute until white and almost completely cooked.

Add the broccoli and spinach; saute until the broccoli is crisp-tender and the spinach is wilted. Then add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Add the wine, then add the broth and butter. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until heated through, stirring occasionally.

Toss the freshly cooked pasta with the chicken mixture. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fun Day Off

Tuesday is my day off from work, so it's usually a day to run errands and get a few things done around the house. Today, however, my friend Jayne and I decided to go skiing. I figure at my age, I need to do it at least once a year so I don't forget my skills (or lack thereof).

Michigan has a number of ski "resorts". We decided to ski Caberfae Peaks, a hill, I mean, a resort about 2 hours away. A couple of people had recommended it because it has longer runs. The one and only time I skied Caberfae was when I was about eight years old. It was my first time skiing and my mother was my instructor. (My mother had been skiing only once prior to her stint as my teacher.) She skied behind me calling out, "Snow plow....snow plow," all the way down the hill.

Jayne and I arrived at the resort around 11:15 a.m. The sun was shining and it was going to be a great day. By the time we got our gear on, purchased our tickets, and browsed at the Ski Shop, we didn't hit the slopes until close to noon. We did two runs and decided it was time for lunch. We needed to fuel up before we got down to some hard core skiing.

By 3:30 p.m., we had skied every run at least three times and headed to the car. Neither of us had fallen or bruised or broken anything and we didn't want to push our luck. We were safely home by 5:45, just in time to make dinner for our hubbies. Fun day!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

I have always loved Valentine's Day. In grade school, I would painstakingly make out my Valentine's for the kids in my class, giving the biggest ones to my best friends and whatever boy I had a crush on. There was always one for the teacher and then the decision of which ones to give to the boys who had cooties. Valentine woes.

My most memorable Valentine's Day, however, was 1981. I was living in Ann Arbor (Michigan) at the time, and Katie, my friend from college, was having a party. Her boyfriend, Joe, invited his new neighbor. I remember walking into Katie's apartment and seeing the neighbor standing in the living room. I strolled over (more like made a beeline over), introduced myself, and started up a conversation. He asked me out for the following Tuesday.
We were engaged by August and got married the following March. It was 30 years ago today that we met and as I write this, I am wearing the sweater that I wore on our first date.

The Sweater

I feel like it was yesterday and, yet, here we are with our children raised and an empty nest. It's been a great adventure.

Happy Valentine's Day, Sweetie!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Budget Friendly Home Gym: Part 5

The Exercise Ball

I love this piece of equipment because it's cheap and so versatile. Not only can you use it for exercises, it can be a piece of furniture. One of my co-workers uses an exercise ball as a chair to help build core strength while sitting at her desk. (If you do this, make sure you don't let your back slouch forward as this doesn't help your core and it hurts your back.)

An exercise ball can be found at most discount department stores (i.e. Target, K-Mart, Walmart) as well as sporting goods stores. They run about $25. They come in different sizes according to your height. If you are average, I'd suggest a 24 inch ball.
As far as exercises, you can add a core workout to most of your normal free weight exercises just by performing those exercises while sitting or balancing on an exercise ball.
Add a little zest to your push-ups by balancing your legs on the ball rather than on the floor.

The exercise ball is great for abdominal work. You get the extra range of motion by stretching backwards on the ball.

If you are a senior citizen or have balance issues, you can start out by placing the exercise ball on a stand. This will help stabilize the ball until your balance improves.

There are websites that have workouts for exercise balls. One that I've found helpful is It's free and has videos to show the exercises.

Exercise balls add a fun dimension to any workout. The only downside is storage, unless you get it in a color to match your decor.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fresh Baked Cookies at a Moment's Notice

I love homemade chocolate chip cookies. I especially love them warm from the oven. Actually, as I think about it, I love them any way I can get them--warm, room temp, frozen, and even raw (as in dough form). I have a recipe that I've used for over twenty years that is the ultimate. It has oatmeal in it which, technically, makes it heart healthy. This recipe makes a huge batch (7-8 dozen), so I like to bake a dozen or so. I then scoop the rest of the dough out by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a cookie sheet and freeze them.
Once frozen, I but them into a ziplock bag and leave them in the freezer. I can then pull out a few, place them on a cookie sheet, let them thaw, and then bake them whenever I want or need them.

There is one caveat. If my husband knows they are there, he will eat them raw and frozen until they are gone. I try to only make them when he is gone. I then hide the frozen dough in one of the freezers. Unfortunately, he has a sixth sense about the it. He can sniff out the dough no matter what. He recently ate about three dozen raw cookies in a little over a week. I keep trying to outsmart him, but it's no use. Maybe next time, I'll try disguising them in a frozen brussel sprout bag.

Big and Luscious Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 pound butter (no substitutes)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
5 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup oatmeal
4 cups (24 ounces) chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350.
Cream butter and both sugars well.
Add eggs and vanilla; mix well.
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture.
Stir in oatmeal, chocolate chips, and nuts.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. (Dough should be the size of golf balls. Flatten slightly.

Bake 10-12 minutes.

Friday, February 4, 2011


Friday is always a long day at work. I'm up at 5:00 a.m. to get ready for work. (I'm not sure why it takes me an hour to shower and beautify on Fridays, when every other day it takes less than 45 minutes, but that's just the way it is.) I arrive at work by (hopefully) 6:45 and never sit down until lunch. The afternoon is similar to the morning, so by 5:30, I really don't feel like going home and cooking. All this is to say my husband and I go out to dinner on Friday nights. I usually meet him someplace on my way home. Tonight it was the restaurant "Courses".

Our small town has a culinary institute and the students staff a great restaurant. The prices are unbeatable. Tonight, I had salmon with quinoa and pico de gallo. It had an ancho chile butter (that I opted to omit since I don't do heat). They have homemade rolls (tonight's choices were garlic and basil, or herb) and great salads (I had spinach with chevre, pears, and dried cherries). My salmon entree was...are you ready?...$9. The mocha cheesecake we had for dessert was only $3. The waiters are all learning, but they do a wonderful job. It's especially fun to talk to them about their dreams and aspirations. It almost makes we want to enroll in the program. Maybe I could be the next Julia Child--umm, not possible. Besides, how on earth do they keep those tall hats on their heads.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


My boss called at 5:30 this morning to tell me we were closing the HEART Center today. (Our elderly patients would try to come if we were open.) I was already on my spinning bike, so no going back to bed. I didn't realize how much snow we had gotten until my husband went outside to blow off the driveway. I thought I'd help and shovel off the steps. The amazing thing was that the snow plow had already been by. (Normally, they don't come for several days and then, I swear, they sit around the corner and wait until you just finish and then they plow a big mess in front of the driveway. He must have taken a wrong turn and plowed us by mistake.) Here are some pics:
Aah. All done. Time for lunch.