Saturday, February 11, 2012

I'm in Washington DC!

So.  My friend, Ann, and I have been planning this trip since September!  She is here for work and I get to tag along!  YAY!  We are here at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference).  She works for Congressman Steve King's campaign and, therefore, that is why we are at CPAC! 

What do you get when you combine the excitement of CPAC with one of the most interesting cities in the world?  Awesomeness!

We left Omaha on Wednesday...
with Jeff and Lindsay King (silly kids in the background:)  As soon as we got to DC and checked into our hotel, we headed to one of our fave places to eat...
Need I say more?  But I will.  Not only does Old Ebbit Grill have fabulous food but it is soooo historic!  It was opened in the mid 1800's and people like Teddy Roosevelt and Ulysses S. Grant just hung out there!  Cool!  The must-have on the menu.....Oysters!
and mussels!
I already can't wait to go back some day!
Thursday and Friday were full of CPAC activities!
Congressman King speaking!
And, Rick Santorum!
Senator Santorum was joined on the stage by his wife, Karen, and kids John, Peter, Elizabeth, Sarah Maria, William and Patrick.  They were all wearing Bella pins because their little sister has been sick and could not join cool!...not that she is sick but that they wore pins for her!

And, then Ann Coulter...always a hoot - not a lot of substance.  It's fun to hear her speak.  Believe it or not, she does tone it down when she is interviewed on tv because she is definitely filter-free when she is talking to a room full of conservatives!
Okay....a break from CPAC and a trip to Georgetown AND drumroll, please!  Georgetown Cupcakes!  Aaah!!

Are we in heaven?  No, this is Georgetown Cupcakes! 
We are happy girls and these are the happy workers!
Well, they really were happier than what they look in these pictures!

And the prize - 6 cupcakes!  Red Velvet, Chocolate-Vanilla, Coconut, Lemon Cream, Chocolate Lava and Chocolate Ganache!  
So pretty!  Which one do we eat first?

Actually, today would have been just about a perfect day except for a tiny little trip to the ER.  Yep - you heard me right!  Ann cut her finger a few days back and it was definitely getting infected.  The nurse practitioner she called told her she better get to an ER because she may need IV antibiotics!  Turns out, she did not.  However, she did have to have her finger x-rayed, numbed, cut open and all the gunky stuff squeezed out of it.  You would have all been so proud of me!  I watched the entire thing and did not fall over!  The rest of the adventure was finding a 24 hour pharmacy to get her antibiotic prescription filled.  Finally found one - in Dupont Circle!  She is much better today and we are very happy we acted when we did:)

This morning, we got up at o-dark thirty (as Ann would say) and headed to our scheduled tour of the White House at 8:00!  It was a lot of fun!  Saw the East Room, Green Room, Blue Room, Red Room and the Dining room where all of the state dinners are held.  I thought maybe we'd get to see more but I guess the Obamas weren't accepting guests today in their private residence.  Dang!  I can say I have walked where some pretty powerful and amazing people have walked. And, when I say amazing, I mean Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and George W.  (you can take that as Washington or Bush - I'll keep you guessing!) 

Later, we are headed to the Old Post Office and the National Archives.  I am making it a personal goal that whenever I am in DC, I need to make a pilgrimage to the Archives.  Nothing is as awe-inspiring as the actual Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. 

More later! 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Happy Friday!

Did this seem like a long week to anyone else?  I mean the days flew by due to the many projects at work but looking was a long week!  So glad it's finally Friday!  Not that there will be a lot of time for relaxing this weekend but it is all filled with good stuff... my dad's birthday is tomorrow so we'll head there tomorrow afternoon to enjoy supper at the Pizza Ranch.  If you have never been to a Pizza Ranch (and if you are outside of Iowa, chances are you haven't), you need to try it.  They serve not only pizza but also broasted  chicken!  No counting Weight Watchers points tomorrow night...wink, wink...

Then on Sunday, we are headed to DesMoines to work with Joppa Outreach.  Joppa serves the homeless in DesMoines.  Each Sunday, they reach out to the many unsheltered in DesMoines by bringing them food and necessities.  However, they deliver much more than that.  They offer friendship and unconditional love - no judging.  Just meeting these folks where they are at.  It is an awesome organization and Dennis and I and our church are honored to support them through our donations of time, food, necessary items and money.  Since we live about 2 1/2 hours from DesMoines, we have agreed to participate in Sunday outreach about 4 times a year.  It will be a day very well spent!

By the way....things that have brought me joy lately...

This is a puzzle Erin made for us during a hall activity at college.  Molly and I put it together a couple of weeks ago.  Obviously, we had the pieces a bit mixed up and I was sure that Erin gave us a defective puzzle but the next night I came home and the pieces were mysteriously sitting in a way that I could see our mistake....mmmm....Molly and Dennis both say they had nothing to do with it.  Howie?

Dennis' man the garage.  Yes, that is an entertainment center with a tv and library of dvds.  He has two very comfortable chairs out there and a fridge :)  I'm not saying that I'm happy he is out of the house.  I'm saying I like to go out there and sit with him!  Yes, it's heated....and yes, my car gets to occupy the other stall!

Finally, my Kuerig coffee station!  I got it for Christmas from my family and I am in love with it!  In the morning, I brew Caribou coffee and in the evening, I brew green tea!  I need to experiment a little with other kinds of coffees and teas.  It just makes me a very happy girl!

Speaking of things that bring me joy, I had a good week of work-outs!  Yesterday, I wasn't sure that would be the case!  I usually work-out over my noon hour where I work at Buena Vista University.  The students are on winter break that started yesterday and will run through next Wednesday.  Consequently, the fitness center will be closed during that time.  Now what? 

I decided to run on the indoor track.  I was a little hesitant....there are student athletes in there practicing and I'm not what you would call a great runner.  But I sucked it up and did it anyway.  And it was GREAT!  The students ignored me, of course...exactly what I wanted!  Yesterday and today, I ran just under 3 miles in about 30 minutes...Yay ME! 

Wednesday night, I put together a few different work-outs that I had read about on other blogs into one.  Yep...I was feeling it yesterday.  Here's what I did...
100 jumping jacks
90 crunches
80 squats
70 leg lifts
60 jumping jacks
50 crunches
40 squats
30 leg lifts
20 jumping jacks
30 push-ups
20 tri-cep lifts
30 bi-cep curls (with two cans of corn)
30 arm lifts (also with two cans of corn)
100 jumping jacks
It was a sweat-producing 20 minute work-out:)

Finally, I wanted to share a new scripture verse (well, new to me!) that was in my devotions this morning.  It is from Nahum 1:7 (wow...I never get to Nahum!)  "The Lord is good, refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him."  Simple...but it pretty much sums it up.  Why do we think we have to make trusting in God so complicated? 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Remember Me? are you?  Been awhile since I checked in, right?  Sorry!  It's not that I've been sooo busy.  Basically, I didn't know what to say.  What!?  You say.  Didn't know what to say?!  It happens.

But I'm all better now:) In fact, I'm a happy girl!  I've started running again!  My last (at least it better be) surgery was December 13th.  I am all reconstructed now!  After a few weeks of taking it easy, I started walking and about ten days ago, I added in some running.  This rare beautiful Iowa winter allowed me to run outside last week a couple of days.  However......we are now experiencing typical Iowa weather so I have moved my running the gym where I work on the treadmill.  As many of you know, this can be very boring! 

How do you beat the boredom?  I've found a couple of ways. Nothing earth-shattering but it's working for me.  First off, I love adding new music to my i-Pod shuffle.  The best way, though, are treadmill work-outs.  Today, I did this 3-2-1 work-out...
2 minutes @ 3.5 mph (walking)
3 minutes @ 5.5 mph
2 minutes @ 6 mph
1 minute @ 6.5 mph
3 minutes @ 5.5 mph
2 minutes @ 6 mph
1 minute @ 6.5 mph
3 minutes @ 6 mph
2 minutes @ 6.5 mph
1 minute @ 7 mph
3 minutes @ 5.5 mph
2 minutes @ 6 mph
1 minute @ 6.5 mph
3 minutes @ 5.5 mph
1 minute @ 3.5 mph
30 minutes and about 2.80 miles.

It felt great!  Follow along...only 9 months until the DesMoines Half-Marathon.  My hope is to record my journey between now and then.  Wish me luck!

Check this out!

For supper tonight, I made Barley, Grape Tomato and Arugula Saute.  It was in my weekly Weight Watchers flyer.  It was awesome!  The best part is that it can be re-heated tomorrow for lunch or can be eaten cold.  Looking forward to that!
1 1/2 cups water
salt and pepper
1/2 cup uncooked pearl barley (not instant)
extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
2 cloves minced garlic
3 cups arugula leaves
lemon zest

Bring water and a pinch of salt to a boil in a small sauce pan.  Add barley, cover, reduce heat to low and cook until water is absorbed and barley is tender but still has a nice bite to it, about 35 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat about a teaspoon of olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add tomatoes and garlic; saute until tomatoes start to soften and release their juices, about 1 to 2 minutes. 

Add barley, salt and pepper to taste; reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring, until tomatoes soften further and barley absorbs tomato liquid, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in arugula, toss over medium heat until wilted, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat, stir in about a teaspoon of olive oil and some lemon zest.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Oh, by the family did not eat this.  This is just a little too out-there for them.  They ate scalloped potatoes and ham.  Baby steps....

What is there beside running and eating?...well, lots!  But, this week in addition to my full-time job, I will be filling in for our pastor this Sunday.  I've been working on my message and I have it almost done.  When I sign off here, I'll be working on that a bit more.  My message is entitled "Modern-Day David" and gets into the story of David and Goliath - looking at it from a bit of a different angle than it is usually looked at. 

There you have it.  I truly hope that it is not 2 months before I check back in.  Let's put it this way.  It will NOT be that long.  I have to keep you updated on my half-marathon training journey after all!  See you soon!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mission Impossible

My mission, if I chose to accept it (and I did), was to make 7 meals and a batch of cookies in one afternoon.  I almost was successful!  What I did do, was make 6 meals and the cookie dough Saturday afternoon.  While I was one meal (and the actual baking of the cookies) short, I thought it was a very productive afternoon!  Here's what I made:

- Chicken enchiladas
- Salsbury steaks
- Beef Pot Pie
- Chicken Pot Pie
- Leftover Roast Beef casserole
- Deep Dish Pizza (this was supper last night!)
- and the dough for my Mom's spectacular chocolate chip cookies!

The Leftover Roast Beef casserole and the Chicken Enchiladas are in the fridge for tonight's and tomorrow night's suppers. The rest of the dinners have all been put in the freezer for later this week and weekend!  I feel so prepared, so ready for the week now! Plus, almost all of the dinners (not the cookies) are figure-friendly (low-fat)  meals!   However, I don't think I could do this every Saturday.  It was a lot of work!  I was "pooped" when it was all over!  Wow!  That's why one of the intended dinners had to wait until today. 

This morning, I made Banana-Chocolate Chip Pancakes and turkey sausages for brunch.  Molly and I decided they were "all that!" 
This also, a figure-friendly meal!  Yahoo!

After getting my tummy full on pancakes and sausage, I made the final meal in my Mission Impossible project. I call it Barbara's Alternative Mac & Cheese with Ham added.  Yep. That's kind of a long name but it's all I could come up with at the time.  It is named after a co-worker who brought it to me when I was recovering from surgery last month.  I LOVE it and there is spinach hidden inside so Dennis gets his vegies...Sshh...don't tell him! 
Doesn't it look yummy!  And, it hasn't even been baked yet!  Can't wait! 

Then I baked the cookies!  As I mentioned earlier, this is my mom's yummy recipe and for some reason, they come out like hers only about fifty percent of the time.  This time, they came out perfect!  YES!
So, have you all started your Christmas shopping yet?  I have a very small start thanks to a whole lot of school fundraisers of co-worker's kids (and my own!)  I figure "Well, I want to support them and I have to Christmas shop anyway..."  This is how I decided to take care of some of those little gifts for people I never know what to give! 

Another thing that has me more excited about Christmas shopping is my Scribbless list.  If you are a list maker, you need to check this out!  It is a great website for making, organizing and accessing your lists!  "And you can find it on the World Wide Web".  (I just had to say that....I listen to a show on the radio and the host always says that....makes me laugh!) 

Okay...a few more cancer ramblings.  For the record, I think that cancer bites.  A friend from college designed a t-shirt for the school that she teaches at.  She was good enough to send me one!

It sums up my feelings about the subject in two words.  Period.  Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a woman who had battled pancreatic cancer for about four years.  I was reminded, once again, how many truly wonderful people are stolen from us thanks to this awful disease. 

My friend, Ann, asked me a week or so ago "How is it (my cancer diagnosis and everything since) with my soul?"  Wow...that is a deep question and really got me thinking.  This question was a result of all of my thoughts, observations and memories  I wrote about in my lost blog entry.  After some thought, I decided that all in all, it is well with my soul.  I am okay...even though I think that I could have been provided more and better support from my professional care givers at the time, I am okay with it now.  My last surgery will be a month from today. It will be the last step in my breast reconstruction and I'm hoping - NOW - I will be able to really put this behind me.  (By the way, four surgeries in 14 months is something I'd like to forget.)  However, while it is all well with my soul, my soul is not okay with the knowledge that there are women who are being diagnosed every day and who might not be getting the support they need.  I was fortunate to have the support of family and friends.  What about those women who might not have that?  My heart hurts for them. 

So, while I can't change the world, I do hope to be able to do something in MY little world....starting with our local hospital.  I don't have a plan (wow!  that's a first) but God does.  Quoting my pastor from church this morning (who was quoting someone else) "God does not call the equipped. He equips the called."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cancer ramblings....

It's been awhile...I know....and it was not my intention to take so much time.  While I felt like I had so much to write about, I also felt like I had nothing to write about.  I became overwhelmed with the amount of "stuff" I wanted to say!  This past week, I received an email from the Susan G Koman Foundation.  In the email, it linked to a study done by the Cancer Support Community's Research and Training Institute. The study showed that women diagnosed with breast cancer felt that their social and emotional issues were not adequately addressed by the professionals who treated them.  Wow!  A flood of emotions came rushing back to me! 

On September 28, 2010, my doctor from the breast care center that I had been going to for my annual mammograms for several years delivered the news that I had breast cancer.  Due to the nature of it, she recommended a double mastectomy.  She asked if I had a surgeon in mind to do the surgery.  I did and that was the last time I talked to her.  I was passed off to my surgeon who performed the surgery on October 14th.  After my follow-up appointment with him, I was passed off to an oncologist. And, then after a year's time, on to a plastic surgeon for breast reconstruction.  Each time, I felt like I was starting all over again; telling my story, giving details that I felt they should already know, and feeling like the whole process was very disconnected. 

This study described a Survivorship Care Plan (SCP) that is a tool that was introduced in 2005 and recommended for all people diagnosed with cancer.  However, in a study of 1,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer, 90% never had an SCP.  Plus, 87% of women diagnosed with breast cancer described experiencing moderate to severe social and emotional distress after their diagnosis, surgery and during treatment.  I was not given an SCP but I have no doubt in mind that much of the depression and emotional distress that I experienced after my mastectomy and during the weeks to follow could have been eliminated had I been given one!

While in the hospital after my mastectomy, I was flooded with love and support from family and friends.  I'm sure that is what got me through those days of recovery during the hospital stay.   While the nurses and my surgeon did a fine job of taking care of my physical needs while in the hospital and of course, I was asked the question "how are you?", no one really came to talk to me about how I was doing.  I left the hospital feeling scared about the future and physically mutilated.

I remember on our way home from the hospital, we stopped at the pharmacy so Dennis could run in and get the pain meds and anti-biotics that were prescribed to me.  I called my mom to tell her I was on my way home.  The minute I heard her voice, I broke down.  I recall saying "I have no idea why I am crying."  And she said, "I feel violated."  That was it.  I felt violated and I was completely unprepared for these feelings.  After I got home that day, if I was not sleeping, I was crying. 

One of the main reasons I think I was unprepared for these feelings is that I never thought I had any kind of attachment to my breasts.  The minute I received the news that cancer was found in them, I wanted them gone.  So why, after they were gone, did I miss them so much?  I was not ready for how I would look and I was not ready for drain bulbs to be hanging out of me for two weeks.  I was not ready to spend the next month on the phone daily just trying to get answers....when do I need to see the doctor for a follow -up visit (yep - BIG suggestion for anyone having any kind of surgery...don't leave the hospital without a follow-up appointment scheduled with your surgeon!), when can my drain bulbs come out, when will I get my results, when do I see the oncologist, do I need treatments, and on and on.  Phone calls were all made to a number of different receptionists and nurses.   It would have been divine to have one person - who knows the process - who I could call to get answers and to just generally talk with. 

My thoughts have been going back frequently to those days, asking myself how things could have gone better. What could have been done to decrease the social, physical and emotional distress at the time of diagnosis, surgery and the months following?  Why aren't women who are diagnosed with breast cancer being offered the Survivorship Care Plan?  While I was somewhat relieved to hear I wasn't alone in my experiences, I was also very saddened to hear that it is common.  I don't want anyone to experience what I did.  So, right now I am brainstorming ideas on what I can do?  I feel that my past experiences should be able to help women diagnosed in the future. 

More later.....

Monday, September 5, 2011

We did what?

Five days ago, my husband and I decided we wanted to go camping this weekend - Labor Day weekend.  But not the whole weekend - we just wanted to camp Sunday night.  If you know anything about camping, then you know that getting a decent camp spot in a campground over Labor Day weekend that late in the game is next to impossible.  Plus, Dennis and I are just not into the huge crowds of people that the holiday weekends bring. So, what to do?....what to do? 

It just so happens that we have a friend who owns some ground near to where we live.  Dennis said "it's really nice - near a river - with a campfire ring and everything!"  I wasn't so convinced but I was willing to try anything. By the time we rounded the last turn on the narrow, winding river road and I laid my eyes on the spot where we'd be spending that night, I was sold! 
We set up camp and started relaxing....aah!
Howie loved exploring....and made a friend with a deer stand that had been set up out there by the land owner:)
Campfire!  Yes, even out here we couldn't totally escape from the world.  We had a visitor...oh, well!  It was great to share our fire and some conversation:
 When we left the camp spot on Monday morning, my question was "Can we come back?" 
 When we got back home, I made us an amazing breakfast!  It was inspired by a breakfast that I read about on Iowa Girl Eats.  Kristin and her husband had gone to San Diego for the BlogHer convention and ate one morning at Cardiff by the Sea.  Kristin had the Vegetable Scramble and I fell in love!  Here is my version!
Scrambled eggs with green peppers, onions, mushrooms, tortilla strips (and a dollop of cream cheese right at the end for creaminess).  Eggs go on top of a bed of home-style hashbrowns and everything is smothered with sharp cheddar cheese.  Served, of course, with a side of Tiefenthaler Meats medium-cut bacon. Yummy! I think we have a new favorite breakfast choice!

What did we do with the rest of the weekend?  Thank you for asking!  It was wonderful!  On Saturday, we (meaning me, Molly and Ann) painted Miss Molly's room!  She wanted pink...and SHE GOT PINK!
Isn't it cute?  Waiting on some new blinds for the windows and we'll move a desk in there for her and it will be a done project....CHECK! 

Sunday morning, we went to Sioux City and took Erin and her boyfriend, Josh, to church at Grace United Methodist Church which is right by Morningside's campus.  Small-world story - the usher who showed us to our seats grew up in the town where we live!  We knew his mom before she passed away - she went to our church!  I love it when stuff like that happens!  After eating together at Perkin's Restaurant, Dennis and I went home (so we could go on our big camp-out) and Molly stayed the night with Erin at Morningside!  She was so excited to spend the night as "big college student!" 

Now - it's nearing the end of a fabulous Labor Day weekend - getting myself mentally ready to "labor" again tomorrow at work....sigh....if only we didn't need that little thing called "money."   Ha, ha!  Have a great week everyone!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Jimmy Johns!

I lead a sheltered life...

I have never eaten at a Jimmy Johns before!  I have driven by their restaurants and not given them much thought until recently when I read about the love that Dave and Sarah from 1 Cup Awesome have for their sandwiches - the best gourmet sandwiches, I might add! 

Earlier this week, I was fortunate to have to (I know, the drudgery) go to the Iowa Great Lakes to visit one of our college's alumni for work.  After the visit, I searched out a place to have lunch....Jimmy John's!  I thought, "Why not?"   Looking at their menu board, I was struck with "Yes, this IS gourmet!"  Oh, the choices!  I finally settled on #6 - the Vegetarian.  I'll be honest; it was the promise of avocado spread that pulled me in.  However, the sprouts, tomatoes, cucumbers and provolone cheese were ALL good! 
Now whenever I am in the Lakes area, I have to at least drive through Gull Point State Park.  I grew up camping there with my family on the weekends every summer.  As I drove into the park, it was like (once again) coming home...
This is such a beautiful state park and I have always been intrigued and awed by this shelter house that sits on West Lake in the park. It's so rugged and grand and is absolutely gorgeous when decorated for a wedding.  I sat here and ate my Jimmy Johns sandwich:)  A little bit of heaven.

And another new love...
Schwan's Tilapia Loins with a 7 herb/spice packet.....
The package gives several options for using the herb/spice packet but I chose to mix it with olive oil and lemon juice.  Spread it over the loins and bake them up....easy and so yummy!  I served it with Minute Rice Ready to Serve brown & wild rice and some cole slaw...
And score!
My local grocery store does not carry Chobani pineapple Greek yogurt (they carry other flavors but not pineapple and I LOVE pineapple) but I found it yesterday at Target!  Yay - Target!  Thank you!

Have a great weekend everyone!  We are going camping again at Lake View - smile:)