Saturday, December 28, 2013

Music and Memories

Reflection and the sunset...

It's been a whirlwind Christmas week with friends and family.  And the music and memories linger on...

Starting with Mike's work party last Saturday with other chemical engineering professors and their families, when Mike sat down and began playing Christmas music on the keyboard, it was as if he was the Pied Piper.  The kids gathered around and began singing along.

On Monday evening we had a lovely dinner with friend Atanas and Elena that ended up in their music room with Mike playing piano.  It is  amazing what live music does to a small dinner party!  Smiles everywhere, singing along, playing drums and generally acting crazy!

Mike and mom

Since he was now in the swing of providing entertainment, he took his Yamaha keyboard to mom's.  We enjoyed our own private concert when Mike set up in the living room.

Christmas dinner

A wonderful Christmas dinner at mom's was followed by opening gifts and playing a board game that had us laughing like crazy.

Dane and Adam opening white elephant gifts

Mom and Adam

Rhys, Jeff, Dane, Adam and Angie

The great potato chip experiment
And I got quite the kick out of watching mom and Mike try to make potato chips with a fancy new kitchen gadget.  Let's just say that after experimenting with several potatoes, I still prefer potato chips that come out of a bag in the grocery store.

Alice, Andrew, Diane and Ron
We were excited to see my sister Judy and Ron, Diane, Andrew and Alice when they stopped by earlier this week.  

Judy picking fabric

Chuck and Mike

And we have a tradition of spending Christmas Eve with our friend Chuck and his family.  It's a wonderful time catching up with  our second family.

Hope you are enjoying the music and memories!


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Health: a subject I never planned to talk about

Photo by Mike
First of all I want to say that I'm grateful that I am healthy, have health insurance and can afford medical care and prescriptions.  I felt like I needed to say this because I'm sure the rest of this blog might be slightly whiny.

In my 30's and 40's, I remember wondering why older people always talked about their health.  And swearing I would never do the same.  Well, this past week proved otherwise.

During the holidays we love connecting with our friends.  And I just now realized how the subject of health is part of many conversations.  This past week we've had conversations about the following health issues facing a handful of friends:

  • Back problems
  • Diabetes
  • Cholesterol
  • Calcium deficiency
  • Breast cancer scares
  • Calcified tendonitis
  • Gout
  • Inner ear problems
  • Cataract surgery
  • Falling in the shower (or in my case, on hickory nuts)

It seems we've become the older people.  When did that occur anyway?  It's as if someone turned a switch, and we went from young, carefree, never-concerned about health to people who always have some health concern facing them.  The world of doctors and specialists and new prescriptions definitely moved to the forefront.

Although relatively healthy myself, I too deal with health concerns.  My cancer prevention drug causes bone loss. So now I have to take a drug that strengthens bones.  My recent crazy fall on a hickory nut has me in physical therapy and heading to an orthopedic doctor on Monday.

I guess the upside is that we are more concerned than ever about staying as healthy as possible.  I walk several times a week outdoor or on the treadmill when it's cold, and I am trying to stay a constant weight or drop a few pounds over the holidays (like that is humanly possible).  And a friend with diabetes watches her carbs and walks daily on the treadmill.  And she has dropped 40 pounds over several months. And another friend had the cataract surgery and sees better than he has in years.

So possibly when that switch was turned, we went from young, carefree, never-concerned about health to older but-maybe-wiser older people who realize they have to face whatever health problems come their way.  And now we don't take our health for granted.  And maybe we understand a bit more that life is precious. And that may be the best gift this holiday season.

I hope you are taking time for the important people in your life during this busy holiday season.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Donuts in a snow storm.

No, we did NOT eat all 6 donuts! We have leftovers...

Joy. Donuts in a snow storm.  

Our latest holiday tradition is to head out for donuts if there is a snow storm overnight.  So when we awoke this morning to several inches of snow, we were compelled to jump in the Jeep and head to Dunkin' Donuts.

I guess it's kind of like school kids getting a snow day.  You don't have to go to school (or work), you get to play, have fun and eat snack (junk) food.

Now the only problem I foresee is the frequency of  snowstorms this winter.  We've already had two donut trips and it's only mid-December...

Here's a quick tour of our world on Saturday:

Gotta love a Jeep in snow!

Lights and snow

Front yard

Armillary in snow


Where have all the flowers gone?

My newest flower bed, planted last summer...

Ho! Ho! Ho!  What's up with the snow?

We enjoyed our snow day with hot tea and coffee at the kitchen table, addressing Christmas cards and watching the beautiful snowfall.

I hope you can take a moment to relax with a hot beverage and enjoy the beauty and peace of the season.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Colts, Bengals and Orangutans, OH MY!

A new holiday tradition?

Colts-Bengals game in Cincinnati
In early October, when it was still warm and felt like summer, we decided to get tickets to a Colts-Bengals football game in early December.   And we didn't give much thought to an outdoor stadium, or how cold it gets in Cincinnati in December.

Last weekend we attended the game, and we got a good taste of December weather with a wind chill of only 10 degrees. We dressed for this chilly day in many, many layers.  I wore 2 pair of socks, my Ugg boots,  a turtleneck, fleece jacket and winter coat, tights, bike tights and winter walking pants.  I had to waddle my way to the game, but fortunately everyone else was dressed the same way.

As strange as it seems, we really enjoyed the whole experience of watching football in cold weather. It felt like we were part of a REAL football game with other with hardy, hard core fans.  And let me add the word CRAZY, especially those Bengals fans  with their "Who Dey?" chants.  Unfortunately the Colts lost, but we still had fun!

Pam, Alex and George

And it was a good opportunity to visit my sister and her family at the Hoffbrau House. Good German food, a few steins of beer and live Polka music made for a great evening!

Indianapolis Zoo Orangutan Exhibit, under construction

And then there were the Orangutans...

The Indianapolis Zoo is building a new state of the art Orangutan exhibit which will house 9 orangutans when it opens next May.  We had a wonderful opportunity to take a behind the scenes tour of the new facility which is still under construction.

Ok, so it was one of the coldest days in the last 3 years, but we dressed in our football game attire and headed to the zoo.

The building is amazing! It has numerous areas where the animals can be together as well as areas where they can be alone.  We saw food prep areas and walkways through areas of the building.  We learned about the zoo's research and how intelligent these animals are.   In this facility when the orangutans learn something new, they will be rewarded with tokens which they will use to get treats out of a vending machine.  And the LED light display on the outside of the building will be operated by the orangutans.   It's really kind of mind boggling!

The outdoor area includes 70 foot towers the animals can climb and hang out.  This is similar to their native habitat in Indonesia and other countries where they live in the tree tops.  Indianapolis is fortunate to have such a world class orangutan exhibit, and we can't wait until the opening next Spring!

With friends Chuck, Melanie, Brian, Stacy and Pat

And last night we girls got to attend the annual Boys Night Out event at the Red Key Tavern!  December is the only time we are invited to this auspicious event , and after appetizers of barbecued pork rinds, we feasted on cheeseburgers and chili and of course a few beers.
It's a great event we look forward to each year.

I hope you are enjoying the holiday season with some old and new traditions!


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Winter wonderland

Handmade tree from Pam and George

As we decorated for the Christmas season this week, nature added it's own decorations. We received our first major snowfall this week with six inches of f white powdery snow blanketing the area.

 I thought you might enjoy a view of this beautiful winter wonderland...

Front yard

Friday was a day robbed of color.  The world was black, white and shades of gray...

Back yard unspoiled

First snow for our "saved" park bench

Pansies' last gasp

Backyard texture

Sentries guarding the tree. We found this scene as we drove through the countryside. 

Our house during the snow storm

I hope you are finding time during this busy season to enjoy the beauty of the lights (and yes, the snow).


Monday, December 2, 2013

Diane's excellent cooking adventures

Because we celebrated Thanksgiving with family earlier in November, we decided to have a low-key Thanksgiving evening meal with our friends Chuck and Melanie.  And we all agreed in advance that we would venture away from the typical menu and create our own "alternative meal".

By now I should know better than trying out new recipes when entertaining friends, but I admit I'm not always smart about these things...

So I tried a couple of new recipes on Thanksgiving morning...

BAD pumpkin cake.  
The first recipe for pumpkin cake was an abject disaster.  I thought it sounded like an interesting alternative to pumpkin pie, but while I was making it I recognized it did not include any leavening agents like baking soda or baking powder.

 Of course, did I stop and look up alternative recipes to see if this was an oversight?  NO, I just forged ahead using the recipe verbatim.  Yes, stupid comes to mind...I even commented to Mike that the batter seemed awfully heavy.

Baking seemed to be the problem.  50 minutes, then 60 minutes then 70 minutes in the oven.  Still RAW INSIDE!  Being energy conscious, I finally decided to turn off the oven and consider this a loss.
After cooling this lump of pumpkin cake, I broke it up and threw it in the yard for the birds, rabbits and squirrels.  And yes, I'm still a bit worried I will look in the back yard and see dead carcasses...

After several hours elapsed and Mike badgering me to try again, I found another pumpkin cake recipe that included major amounts of leavening agents:  2 teaspoons of baking powder AND 1 teaspoon of baking soda.  So I trekked to WalMart to buy more pumpkin around 3pm on Thanksgiving day.  I must have been the most dejected looking shopper in the aisles.   And hey, what's another couple of hours baking anyway?  I guess it was worth it when the new pumpkin cake turned out amazingly good.

Cranberries "popping"

The rest of our "alternative" meal of spicy jerk turkey in the crock pot, garlicky grilled asparagus and baked Au gratin potatoes turned out great!

And of course we had to include the one traditional dish of cranberries...

Yummy cinnamon rolls

And then there were the cinnamon rolls.  This new recipe was from one of my favorite blogs, Iowa Girl Eats, and it uses frozen bread dough as the base.

And these cinnamon rolls were fantastic on Black Friday morning.

So, hey I was 50-50 on the new recipes...

And then we enjoyed a lovely weekend with family in Southern Indiana...

Nephew Dane going up for a rebound. Love those yellow shoes. (photo by Mike)

Mom, Angie, Eric and Dane
Beautiful sunset

And I am so thankful for family and friends...

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend!