June 28, 2007

good things | item of the week | june 26 - july 3

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June 18, 2007

Learning to Swim

For the past month, we have been fortunate to spend our Sundays swimming and picnicing with Rich's family. I have always loved hanging out at the pool, but as I've gotten older, it has become more difficult to make time for this indulgence. I am so glad to now have a weekly 'appointment'.

My neice, Josie, is such a joy. She really is such a sweet and pleasant child. It is a rare occasion when she is in bad spirits, so spending time with her is always a good time. She is one month away from her first birthday, and she is getting bigger and stronger everyday. For the past several weeks, she as been perfectly content to float around the pool in her little froggie float. But this week, she wanted to be in the pool with the rest of us. I caught her as she was trying to climb out of the frog.

I happened to have a pair of water wings that I had used a couple years ago when my nephew came for a visit. So we put them on her and it wasn't long before she had figured things out. As soon as she learns to keep her mouth closed, she'll be a pro! Here is one of my favorite photos of the day. She was really having a great time swimming over to me. And I love how you can see her mom cheering her on in the background.

June 14, 2007

Flag Day 2007

O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave

On the shore, dimly seen thro’ the mist of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream
’Tis the star-spangled banner. Oh! long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation,
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our Trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
-Francis Scott Key

June 13, 2007

good things - item of the week - june 13-19

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June 12, 2007

SPT - As American as Apple Pie

This week, Lelly challenged us to look to our surroundings to find bits of Americana. Over the weekend, I took a fun little get-away to the birthplace of Rock-n-Roll. It doesn't get much more American than that!

Graceland Mansion

I have not spent much time in Memphis. I think I've been there 3-4 times throughout my life. It is honestly never high up on my list of places to visit. I have been wanting to go to Graceland for several years, but just never made it there... until now.

A few years ago, a photo from my childhood reminded me of my love of Elvis. As soon as I saw that photo, I was remembering the hours and hours I spent in my room listening to my Elvis records on my little record player. I would jump and dance around on my bed getting lost in the music.

My visit started by waiting in line for tickets. I was by myself, while Rich was playing in a golf tournament. As I was waiting, they made an announcement that there would be a 90 minute delay from the time you purchased tickets until you could take the shuttle across the street to the mansion. For a split second, I thought about leaving... I didn't want to spend my entire afternoon there, but I stayed and I am so glad I did. I purchased the Platinum Pass and convinced the person at the ticket counter to honor my $3 off coupon even though I had left it in the car.

My ticket gave me access to some other exhibits that I am really glad I got to see. First, I went to see the airplanes. The Lisa Marie was the larger plane and what he used to travel on tour. I walked through the plane. (Flash photography is not allowed in any of the exhibits on the property, so I have a lot of blurry photos). Lots of cool stuff in there... 24K gold plated seat belt buckles, one room with blue faux suede bedding.

From there it was off to the car museum. This was a really nice exhibit... definitely a walk down memory lane. I found two vehicles that instantly reminded me of Kristi C. I wonder which one she would choose? A little trivia about the Pink Cadillac... Of all of his car's that was the one his Mother loved best, so he never sold it.

1960's Willy's Surrey Jeep
Elvis purchased this Jeep on July 12, 1960. It was used
by they gate guards to drive around the property.

1955 Cadillac Fleetwood
One of the few cars Elvis kept from his rise to stardom.
He often referred to it as Gladys' car (his mother)
because it was her favorite.

The last exhibit to see had many of his be-dazzled stage costumes on display. My first reaction upon seeing them was my surprise at how thin he must have been. I have since read that even at his heaviest, he was around 250 pounds... which sadly, isn't much these days. Each of these were hand-made and the beadwork was really incredible. I couldn't believe how many different costumes there were - and they knew when they were worn and for what concerts. I wonder who was responsible for keeping up with that?

Surprisingly, it was time to head to the Mansion. It sits directly across the street from the rest of the property. They load about 20 people up on a small bus and away you go through the famous gates. From the other side of the street, the brick entrance looks like it had been painted and then sand-blasted, but as we drove through the gates, I could see that they had actually been written on with paint pens. Fans had written messages on the bricks. I wish now that I had walked down to the gates to get a photo.

I got off the shuttle, put on my little audio headset, and headed up the steps and through the front door, which is where I saw this photo hanging to the left just as you entered the home.

Seeing this brought things full-circle for me. Seeing the photo of Lisa Marie, hanging there - in the same place that her Father last saw it made everything real. This was about a real home, and a real man whose life came to a quick and early end nearly 30 years ago.

The second floor of the home, which has remained the same since he died, is not open to the public. I learned that Elvis did not allow guests onto the 2nd floor. He would entertain them anywhere else in the house, but the 2nd floor was his private area and they have kept it that way all these years since his death.

For the remainder of the tour, I tried to really take it all in. From the green carpet ceilings in the jungle room, to the mirrored ceilings in the TV room, to the walls lined with Gold Records, I was reminded one thing for sure. Elvis definitely had an interesting sense of style.

Yes, this really is the ceiling.
Can you believe that I picked this same color for my bedroom
when I was four? I blame it on the 70's.

Not wanting to be outdone by President Nixon, Elvis had
three televisions on in the TV room at all times... so he could
watch all three channels at once. My how times have changed!

Just a small glimpse of a few of the gold records that hang in the "Hall of Gold"

My favorite part of the tour was seeing this piano. On the morning of his last day in this life, Elvis sat at this piano and played and sang. Seeing this as I was hearing him sing How Great Thou Art was a powerful experience.

Final part of the tour is a walk through what Elvis called Meditation Garden. This is where Elvis is buried alongside his parents and other family members. Fans from around the world continue to bring and send flowers. What an incredible impact this one man had on our World!

If you are ever planning a trip to Memphis, and want to visit Graceland, here are some suggestions.

  • Look online to see if the Visitor's Bureau has any coupons.
  • Parking is $6 and they only take cash (I had to leave and go find an ATM)
  • Make reservations at the ticket counter - you bypass the long lines.
  • Definitely do the larger tour - otherwise you are stuck killing time in the half-dozen gift shops.
  • Prepare to spend at least three hours. You can take as long as you like on the tours.

See the rest of the pics here.

June 10, 2007

Beer Bread

1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle beer (can use any carbonated beverage)
3 cups self-rising flour
3 tablespoons white sugar

1. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and flour. Add beer and continue to mix, first using a wooden spoon, then your hands. Batter will be sticky. Pour into a 9 x 5 inch greased loaf pan.
2. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees ) for 50 for 60 minutes. The top will be crunchy, and the insides will be soft. Serve topped with butter or cheese spread.

Corn Pudding

5 eggs
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 (15.25 ounce) can whole kernel corn
2 (14.75 ounce) cans cream-style corn

1. Preheat oven to 400 Degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease a 2 quart casserole dish.
2. In a large bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add melted butter, sugar, and milk. Whisk in cornstarch. Stir in corn and creamed corn. Blend well. Pour mixture into prepared casserole dish.
3. Bake for 1 hour.

Fruit Tea

2 family size tea bags
½ C sugar
1 can frozen orange juice
1 can frozen lemonade
1 can 12-14 oz. Apricot nectar (or pineapple juice)

Bring 4 cups water to bowl, add tea bags and steep for 10 minutes. Remove tea bags. Add sugar, stirring to dissolve. Pour sweetened tea mixture into one gallon pitcher. Add orange juice and lemonade mix, stir until well blended. Add apricot nectar, stir. Fill pitcher with water to measure one gallon. Mix well. Serve chilled or over ice.

Blue Cheese Ball

4 ounce crumbled blue cheese
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese...don't soften much
½ cup apricot, peach or pear preserves (I use peach)
1 tbsp onion powder
1 cup sliced almonds

Combine first four ingredients using stand mixer with paddle attachment until smooth and well blended. Drop onto large piece of plastic wrap to form ball. Put almonds in separate bowl. Unwrap plastic from ball and roll it in the almonds to cover. Wrap in plastic, chill for 1-2 hours before serving. Serve with a variety of crackers.

Hearty Chili

2 pounds lean ground beef
2 cans Del Monte chili style diced tomatoes
2 cans chili beans
2 packs chili seasoning (hot or mild)
1 medium onion chopped
1 bottle beer (may substitute with 1½ C water)
½ C chopped cilantro
1 finely chopped jalapeño pepper (optional)

Stove Top Instructions
Brown ground beef and chopped onions in large pot. Drain grease. Add beans and tomatoes, stir. Add chili seasoning and beer, mix well. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add cilantro and jalapeños. Continue to simmer for at least two hours before serving.

Serve with sour cream and shredded cheese.

Crock Pot Instructions
Brown ground beef and chopped onions in large pot. Drain grease. Transfer meat and onions to crock pot. Add beans and tomatoes, stir. Add chili seasoning and beer, mix well. Add cilantro and jalapeños. Set crock pot to medium heat and allow to cook for at least 4 hours.

Santa Fe Soup

2 lbs Ground Beef
1 lg Chopped Onion
2 pkg Ranch Dressing Mix (dry)
2 pkg Taco Seasoning Mix
1 can Black Beans
1 can Kidney Beans
1 can Pinto Beans
1 can Rotel
1 can Diced Tomatoes
2 cans White Corn
2 cups Water

Cook meat and onion until meat is browned. Drain off grease. Put in soup kettle and add seasoning mixes. Add remaining ingredients (including juices). Stir well. Simmer for two hours. If your mixture is too thick, you can add more water to desired taste & consistency.

Sparkling Lemonade

1 can frozen lemonade
2 Two-litre bottles Ginger Ale

Combine lemonade and ginger ale in large punch bowl. Stir until well-blended. Toss in ice cubes and sliced lemons if desired.

Strawberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

½ cup sugar
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
½ tsp dry mustard
1 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp strawberry jam (May substitute raspberry, blackberry or blueberry jam.)

Combine sugar and onion. Mix Well.
Add dry mustard and salt to sugar & onion mixture. Mix Well. Allow to sit for a few minutes to allow onions to start to break down.
Add red wine vinegar. Mix well.
Using a food processor (or blender) puree mixture for one minute.
Add strawberry jam. Puree for two minutes.
Keep pureeing while slowly pouring in canola oil until the dressing has emulsified (oil & vinegar no longer separate). This should take 2-3 minutes.
Keep in refrigerator in air tight container. Mix well before serving.

Chilled Broccoli Salad

1/2 C Red Onion (finely chopped)
1/2 C Celery (finely chopped)
1/2 C Raisins
1/2 C Pecans (chopped)
1 C Mayonnaise
1/4 C Sugar
3 T Red Wine Vinegar
8 slices bacon, crisp-fried and crumbled
Florets and tender stem portions of 1 bunch broccoli, chopped

Combine the bacon with the broccoli, onion celery, raisings and nuts in a large bowl and mix well. In small bowl, mix mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar, pour over broccoli mixture and mix well. Chill covered for one hour or longer before serving.

Serves 6-8

Note: I typically make this the day before so the broccoli becomes a little more tender and the flavors mix together.

June 07, 2007

Walking in Memphis - The Preview

Rich and I are heading out Friday morning to spend the weekend in Memphis. This weekend the PGA is there for the St. Jude Classic. My company sponsors the tournment, so I am going to represent the company while Rich plays in the Pro-Am. This is the first semi-vacation we have had in well over a year.

I have a list of places to see while Rich is out playing golf on Saturday. This is perfect timing for this week's SPT Challenge. What could be more American than Elvis Presley? Hope to have many pics to share. Have a great weekend!

June 06, 2007

good-things * item of the week * june 6-12

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June 05, 2007

SPT - The Colors of My World

This week's challenge: What's your favorite color?

For those of you who are familiar with my business, you have probably realized that when it comes to color, I love them all. It really is true. I love color. Because of what I do, it is important for me to follow trends in color, what's hot, what's not, which colors can be used together, which one's can't. These trends are constantly changing, so I find myself falling in love with colors all the time. They inspire me to create.

But, I do have a favorite. It is one color that I can honestly say, I have loved all my life. That color is RED. True, rich, red. The photo above is from my wedding... where everything was red or ivory.
Here are the results of a color preference poll online. Here is some of the history and meaning behind the color red.

June 04, 2007

The Day the Music Died

Today I'm mourning the loss of a dear friend. He was my constant companion through countless hours of rush hour traffic jams, relaxing drives through the country, quick trips to the store and long road trips to places near and far. It's sad, but true, my iPod is gone. All that is left is a lonely dock/transmitter, standing by, just waiting to push the sweet sounds of Neil Diamond, Patsy Cline, or Pearl Jam (I have very eclectic taste in music) through my Bose speakers.
At some time late on Saturday night, a mean and selfish individual got into my car (hubs and left it unlocked... nice!) and stole my iPod. I was so mad when I discovered it yesterday morning, but now I am just sad.