Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Holidays always conjure up childhood memories and Halloween is no different.  As a child, I remember trick-or-treating with my older brother.  We would use pillowcases to hold our candy and he would make me run from house to house to get as much candy as possible during the two hour time limit.  Afterwards, we would dump out our candy on the living room floor and see what kind of loot had we collected.  What a great holiday!  Candy on demand.

Fast forward twenty years to when I had children of my own.  Since I'm not a seamstress, I hated Halloween.  Coming up with costumes for three children was a nightmare for me.  My poor kids had the worst costumes in the neighborhood.  As adults, they probably suffer from some kind of disorder because of it.  Thankfully, they are grown and I don't have to worry about it anymore.

Annie as Big Bird.  
It was cold out and I made her wear her jacket.

Now all I have to worry about is where to hide the candy for the trick-or-treaters so my husband doesn't eat it.  For years, I would buy candy (usually M&M's) well ahead of the holiday.  But by the time the 31st finally rolled around, I would have to buy more.  I tried hiding it, but it was no use.  I swear he's part bloodhound as he could sniff it out no matter what.  After 29 years, I've finally eliminated the problem.  I buy microwave popcorn to hand out.

Last year was the first year for popcorn.  My husband was totally indignant when the first trick-or-treater came.  "I'm not handing that out," he said, "it's embarrassing."   The little tot's reaction when I opened the door was, "Ooh, popcorn!"  You can guess who had a smug look on her face after that.

So this year, it was popcorn again.  It's actually a good thing on two fronts.  I don't have to hide it and I'm not tempted to eat the leftovers.

The first trick-or-treaters tonight. 

No running for these kids.  This is the way to go.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

When Not to Brush Your Teeth

I recently had to teach a class on the complications of diabetes and in doing research for it, found out something that I had never heard before.  It's been life changing.

When we eat acidic foods, it softens the enamel on our teeth.  And if we brush our teeth right after we eat, we can damage the enamel.  It is recommended that we wait 40-60 minutes to brush after eating.

For years, I've thought it was best to brush as soon as possible after noshing.  Doesn't it prevent cavities?  After all this time, I'm shocked to find out my mother was wrong.

On the positive side, I no longer take a swig of chocolate soy milk or have a bite of something before getting ready for bed.  I'm eliminating who knows how many calories from my diet because I don't want to have to stay up for another hour to wait to brush.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I Love Pasta

My husband gets so excited when I make this pasta recipe.  If he was keeping track of his daily "three good things" (see blog from yesterday), this would definitely make the list.  Unfortunately, we don't live near the ocean, so I use canned clams instead of fresh, but it still tastes great.

Linguine with White Clam Sauce

1     clove garlic, minced
2     tablespoons butter
2     tablespoons flour
2     cups bottled clam juice
1/4  cup minced fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/4  teaspoon salt
       pepper to taste
2    cups fresh minced clams or 2 10-ounce cans clams
12  ounces linguine, cooked al dente and drained

In large skillet, saute garlic in butter over medium-high heat for 1 minute.

Whisk in flour until smooth.

Add clam juice.  Whisk until mixed. Add parsley, thyme, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until sauce is reduced by 1/3.  Add clams and heat through.  Place warm linguine in heated serving dish.  Pour sauce over linguine and toss gently.  Serve immediately.

4-6 main dish servings

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Three Good Things

I just returned home from spending 3 1/2 days with 20+ incredible women.  My boss nominated me for the Michigan Institute of Nursing Excellence and amazingly, I was chosen from our hospital to go.  So 20 nurses from around the state met at Crystal Mountain resort for a time of pampering and encouragement.

When I left home on Sunday afternoon, I assumed the highlight would be the spa treatment we were going to receive.  Although my facial was wonderful, the best part was meeting other nurses from all over the state of Michigan. We had a gazillion laughs, heard wonderful speakers, and learned so much from each other.

In preparation for the institute, we were asked to read the book Three Good Things by Erika Oliver.  The subtitle is "Happiness Every Day, No Matter What!".  The premise of the book is to change your perspective and focus on the good things in your life rather than the negative.  One of the things she mentioned, when she spoke to us on Monday morning, was to keep track of your "three good things", and see if there are any patterns.  (For instance, she noticed that every time she had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it ended up as one of her "3 good things" for that day.  So she started having a PB & J for breakfast everyday.)  It's simple, but it takes discipline.

It's going to take me awhile to process everything I took in over the past few days.  In the meantime, I will start with three good things.  So for today:

  1. Woke up in the hotel room to a pleasant alarm clock that didn't rudely jolt me awake.  (I am ditching my 25+ year old clock/radio and upgrading.)
  2. Listened to an amazing speaker talk about the problem of backbiting that made 2 1/2 hours seem like 10 minutes.
  3. Had dry weather while driving until I was only 10 minutes from home.

The Official Picture  
These ladies are amazing.

A few of us drove into Beulah to do a little shopping.
They fed us so well everyday, we were too full to try out
the Hungry Tummy restaurant.

Crystal Lake
It's a beautiful lake, but not a Great Lake.

Wildflowers I happened upon while hiking up one of the ski hills.

We had a bonfire Monday evening after playing "Nursing Jeopardy".  
It looks like the losers took it pretty hard.
Ignore those wine bottles.

Our fearless leaders introducing one of the speakers.

The view from the top of one of the ski runs.
Some of the leaves were still colorful.

I am so blessed to have been part of this institute.  Thanks to everyone who was involved.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tempting Tables

Tempting Tables is an event that is held in our community to raise money for breast cancer research.  Volunteers decorate tables with different themes and there are also personal collections on display.  My mom and I went to it this afternoon, and here are a few "tablescapes" that we saw.

Irish Eyes Are Smiling
The Children's Table

The Irish Adults' Table.
My mother-in-law would love this.  Her parents emigrated from Ireland.

This table had a rooster theme.  

The volunteers for this table made unique looking chargers
 and votives using decoupage.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The Seventh Day of Christmas - Seven Swans a Swimming

This table was decorated for a garden tea.

"Shabby Chic Champagne Brunch For Two"

This pottery is made in Ada, MI.  

Kentucky Derby
The jockey silks were on loan from Churchill Downs.

This was a cute little gingerbread theme.

Alice in Wonderland
Alice is a little grumpy looking.

Mad Hatter's Teapot

Apparently, four best friends got married together, and 
this was a replica from the reception of the head table.

This china is from 1900 when the volunteer's grandparent's got married.

A decorated ostrich egg.

This is a collection of Hermes scarves.

I was so tempted to try one on.

Lunchbox Collection
I loved watching Lassie as a child.
Lassie was so much smarter than my dog.

This collector has over 400 different Twas the Night before Christmas books.

 Since they only have 33 tables each year, there is a waiting list to decorate a table.  There are so many creative people around and I'm not one of them.  This always gives me some good ideas for setting the table.  

Of course, I could do what my friend's sister, Libby, did when she was a little girl.  She asked her mother what those "napkins" in the bathroom were for.  Her mother answered, "Those are special napkins for special occasions."  So when Libby had to set the table that evening, she decided it was a special occasion and used the special napkins.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Potato Suprise

I love making recipes that disguise healthy ingredients.  My husband doesn't like cauliflower and I usually end up tossing his portion down the disposal.  And since he's an adult, I can't threaten him with no dessert if he doesn't eat his veggies.  He eats dessert anyway.  It's amazing that he's still alive with the scant amount of fruits and vegetables that he eats in a day.  So to remedy this, I made "mashed potatoes" for dinner tonight.  He had no idea what hit him.

Cheesy Smashed Potatoes

1    lb. red potatoes, cut into chunks (with skins on)
1    cup cauliflower florets
1/4 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt to taste

Place potatoes and cauliflower in large saucepan.  Add enough water to cover.
Bring to boil over high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Drain.
Add sour cream and mash until vegetable mixture is light and fluffy.  Stir in cheese.

Makes 6 servings, 1/2 cup each.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Must Have Kitchen Gadgets: Part 5

A strawberry slicer.  It sounds like something you can't live without--at least that's what I thought when I saw this little number on the shelf at Williams Sonoma.  My oldest daughter was with me and gently reminded me that if I had it, I wouldn't be able to plop the last strawberry slice in my mouth.  I have a habit of doing that when I manually slice strawberries.  The last slice of every strawberry ends up in my trap and down the hatch before I know what's happened.  I just can't help myself.  And the last time my girls were both home, I noticed them chuckling about it while I was slicing strawberries.  (I didn't realize anyone had ever noticed.)  Anyway, I put aside her advice and purchased the slicer.  After all, this might help me break that nasty little habit.

I was less than thrilled with the strawberry slicer.  It seemed to smoosh the strawberries.  Plus, unless you have them aimed into a large bowl, they seem to fly all over.  To me, it seemed easier to slice them by hand.  Rats!  Another useless gadget to sit unused in my cupboard.

But wait!  Last night, I decided to try it with mushrooms and it works like a charm.  I love it.  It's much easier than trying to hold onto the mushroom, especially for those last few slices.  Just cut off the stem and pop it in.  Voila!  Nice evenly sliced mushrooms in a nanosecond. 

I'm sure there are other things I can use this on, although at the moment, I can't think of a thing.  Oh well, there's nothing like a great mushroom slicer.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Spectator Sports Day

I know I talk about Lake Michigan a lot, but I can't help it.  It's such a great lake!  Today, the winds were blowing at 25-35 mph with gusts over 40 mph.  We could hear the roar of the waves at our house, which is about a mile from the lake, as the crow flies.  There were gale warnings out, so during half time of the Michigan/Michigan State game, I talked my husband and our friends into riding down to see the waves.

When the waves are high, the whole town drives out to see them.  It's bumper to bumper through Pere Marquette Park.  (We enjoy simple pleasures here in West Michigan.  Actually, it's just that there isn't a lot to do when the weather turns colder.)  There were kite surfers out in the water (in wet suits at this time of the year).  I love to watch them.  It looks like so much fun, but there is no way I could ever do it.  Besides the fact that my balance is poor and I would never be able to stand up on the thing, I'm a chicken when it comes to catching air.  

(I have to confess.  I didn't take this picture.  I had forgotten my camera, so this is from the internet.  It was taken at Pere Marquette Park, though.)

Later in the afternoon, we walked out to the lake from our house.  It always amazes me how much erosion takes place when the lake is rough.  The beach was probably 20 feet smaller than it was a week ago.  As our children's eight grade science teacher always said, "Water always wins."

Now it's off to more spectator sports.  Baseball--GO TIGERS!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Necessary Agility

Once a month, we do quick-look EKG's on all of our patients.  We obtain this by placing the defibrillator paddles on our patients' chests and printing a six inch strip of their EKG.  By doing this, we can ascertain whether they have any major EKG changes that need to be watched or treated.

This past month, as we were doing EKG's, we had a slight mishap.  One of our male patients stepped up, slipped his suspenders off his shoulders, lifted up his shirt and as he pulled his tummy in, his shorts dropped to the floor.  Unfortunately, my co-worker and I didn't act very professionally.  We laughed before we could stop ourselves.  Amazingly, he had his shorts pulled back up in a nanosecond.  His agility at 88 years old was unbelievable.

It makes me wonder what amazing feats I could accomplished in a time of need.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Biker Girl

Today was the last "shorts day" of the season and my friend, Jayne, and I had planned on doing a hike after I got off work at noon.  But since my hubby and I had just hiked on Sunday, I asked Jayne if she would want to ride bikes instead.  Our city has a bike path that runs along the shoreline and I've been curious about it.  Here was my chance.

Now, Jayne rides bikes a lot--sometimes 60-70 miles in a day.  I was a little nervous about riding with her, since I've only ridden ~15 miles in the past eight years.  She reassured me that she would stick with me through thick and thin.  I decided to give it a go.

I dug my biking shorts out of storage and hoped they still fit.  (I've only worn them once and had forgotten about how thick the essential padding is.  It brought me back to my toddler days with diapers.)  Once I had the shorts properly adjusted, I got my bike down.  (My husband has a pulley system rigged up in the garage to hang the bikes from the ceiling. It was a bit of a trick to get it down--I had to call him for instructions.)  I pumped up the tires, got my Camelback filled with water, strapped on a helmet (thanks for loaning it to me, Jayne) and was ready to go.

A side note:  The whole helmet thing is new to me.  I never considered wearing one in the past, due to the fact that I didn't think I needed one and also, but more importantly, I don't look good in hats.  However, four years ago, our son was riding his bike at night and ran into a pole.  He flipped over the handlebars, hit his head and after a $5000 trip to the ER, ended up with 15 staples and 25 stitches in his scalp.  Helmets are necessary.

The aftermath of Dave's helmetless bike ride.  
His head was pretty much healed at this point.

Jayne and I rode about 4 miles to get to the trail.  It runs along Muskegon Lake, past downtown, and up to North Muskegon, where we turned around.  It was beautiful.  When we got back to where we started, we continued out to Lake Michigan.  (This part was the same route that I ran last week.)

 Muskegon Lake

One of the many houses along the lake.

I had no idea these condos existed.  
They can't be seen from the road.

The Muskegon River where it empties into Muskegon Lake.
This was the turn around point.
Note the towering Muskegon skyline in the distance.

The river flats. 

 One of the many marinas along the bike path.

Moi, riding across one of the cute bridges.

The opposite end of Muskegon Lake from where we turned around.

The channel that connects Muskegon Lake with Lake Michigan.
The Coast Guard station is at the end of the sidewalk.

All in all, we road around 42 kilometers (it sounds like so much further than 26 miles).  I know I'm going to be sore tomorrow, especially the area on my body that was touching the bike seat.  (It's the same area that was sore after giving birth to my three children--although they were definitely worth it.)  Whatever happened to cushy seats?  Thankfully, cold, rainy weather is moving in tomorrow, and I won't be riding a bike until next year.  I'm going to need that long to recover.