Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

Today is the last day of 2013 (in case you haven't noticed), which means it's time to set some New Year's Resolutions! There are two big resolutions I want to set for myself this year:

Resolution #1:  Be Financially Responsible

One of the biggest changes for me, moving to Ohio, was leaving my full-time teaching job in Boulder - and the salary that had sustained my lifestyle for the past 5 years. It's been harder than I had anticipated to adjust my spending accordingly.

Sure, there were some unforeseen expenses such as rabies shots and computer replacement, but there are some day-to-day expenditures that I need to adjust as well. One that I've already made is ending my latte-a-day habit. I estimate that brewing coffee at home rather than buying lattes at the coffee shop has  saved me at least $100/month (and that's a conservative estimate since I'm not factoring in the tips I leave for my favorite baristas).

Next habit to end in order to be more financially responsible:  shopping for clothes online. Raise your hand if you're with me here.... I recently realized that I buy the same types of clothes over and over, and I never buy the things that actually need replacing. For example, I love buying fun shoes for work and play - high heels and boots (yay!). Yet I haven't bought a new pair of (desperately needed) running shoes in about 5-6 years.

One of my January 2014 goals is to do an inventory of my closet and figure out exactly what I need and what I can consign. Once I buy those things I need and get rid of the things I don't wear, I need to sit on my hands and not buy anything else online!

The last step in becoming more financially responsible is to track grocery spending. I think we do fairly well, but groceries are definitely one of our biggest expenses. I like to shop at our local co-op and farmer's market, which is pricier than the giant Kroger, but I think it's worthwhile in meeting my second goal of 2014...

Goal #2:  Live a Healthier Life - Physically and Mentally

I would say that in general I'm pretty healthy, but there are some tweaks that can be made to make my life more enjoyable. I have a bit of a vain motivation, too, which is a vacation Ted and I are taking over Spring Break (end of March). I can't say where we're going because we're traveling with a friend who wants to be surprised by the destination, but I will say this:  I definitely don't want to have a bloated tummy and flabby legs on this trip!

So here are the things I want to focus on in 2014 in order to be healthier:

1. Continue to cook at home. We've gotten pretty good at this in Ohio since there are few restaurants in town that we really love. To take it even further, I want to find some staple recipes that can be adapted with seasonal ingredients to reduce cost and provide variety. This will also help us to buy local produce - good for the environment and the local economy!

2. Find some healthy, hearty breakfasts that are low in fat. We love cooking eggs and turkey bacon for breakfast, but I don't think we should have that every day. The winter is the hardest time for healthy breakfast, in my opinion. Last fall we had lots of healthy green smoothies for breakfast, but a cold smoothie just doesn't do it for me on a dark winter morning!

3. As much as I hate to say it, cut down on coffee.  **Long siiiigh....**  I love drinking coffee, and it does wonders for my mood. BUT, it does give me the jitters, and long-term, it makes my body ache.

4. Do. More. Yoga. I love the way yoga makes me feel, and I've been to enough classes that I know I can lead myself through the vinyasa flow at home. I just have a hard time actually getting down to business. So in 2014, my goal is to do yoga, either at home or in a class, 4-5 times a week. I shall even make myself a schedule.

5. Cut down on technology. The number one thing that is going to get me moving and more productive is limiting my technology use. I need to do a little experimentation to find out what the right number of hours is for TV and computer time, but I think I need to aim for 2-3 hours per day. Setting a limit for myself will help me to get off the couch and do all the other things I want to do - especially on the days I don't teach.

6.  Last, but certainly not least in living a healthier life, is to be more positive. You may remember that this is an ongoing goal of mine. Ever a work in progress. But I really believe in the mind-body connection, and looking for the good in other people and myself can only serve to make me feel good!

So there's the long-winded version of my main resolutions for 2014. What are your New Year's Resolutions?

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Anyone who knows my husband knows that we cannot go on vacation without stopping at a historic site or two. Being in Washington D.C. right now, we are surrounded by opportunities for this pastime.

On Friday we ended up at Ford's Theater, the site of President Lincoln's assassination. I say we 'ended up' there because we hadn't planned on going. We were just going to lunch downtown before visiting a Van Gogh exhibit at the Phillips Collection museum, or so Ted claims. I have my suspicions since the Phillips Collection ended up being nowhere near the restaurant where we ate lunch. But wouldn't you know, Ford's Theater was right around the corner. ;)

Anyway, tickets were free and it wasn't crowded, so what the heck. Just look how happy it makes my husband:

We saw the place where Lincoln was sitting when he was shot by John Wilkes Booth and heard about the events of that evening from a volunteer in the theater.

After that we went across the street to Peterson House, the boarding house where Lincoln was taken to be tended to by doctors. We found out they took him there because they worried that a long ride to the hospital over cobblestone streets would do more harm than good to Lincoln, given his head wound.

The room and bed where Lincoln died.
The bed is 6 feet long, and President Lincoln was 6'4". You do the math.

Next door to Peterson House is a fairly new museum devoted to the story of Lincoln's burial and the eventual capture of John Wilkes Booth. Upon exiting the museum, we descended a spiral staircase that wrapped around a giant column of books about Lincoln:

"Books serve to show a man that those original
thoughts of his aren't very new at all."
-Abraham Lincoln

I think the point was that there have been many books written about Abraham Lincoln. Yes. Point taken.

For Ted, it must have been like exiting Disney World.

Overall, this ended up being the highlight of the day - not the Van Gogh exhibit that was our original destination. Huh.

So if you're ever in the DC area, we suggest this small but worthwhile side trip to Ford's Theater to learn about this momentous historical event. It gets the stamp of approval from Ted and Mackenzie.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Please Excuse My Hyperbole

Who has the BEST husband in the world?

This gal.

Yes, I also grimace when people post statements like this on Facebook and Twitter ("I have the best husband in the world!" Gush, gush, barf.), but today I am feelin' it. :)

While out shopping for the nieces and nephew yesterday, we stopped into the Apple store, and my dear husband spent his Fantasy Football winnings on a new computer for ME!

All together now: "Awwwwwwww!!!"

We decided to go with the same laptop I had before, the 13" MacBook Pro, since with his educator discount he could save $200. I mean, you can't turn that down. BTW, if you're an educator with an ID, Apple will give you a few discounts... check it out.

I couldn't be happier with this Christmas gift. It's just what I have been wanting and needing, and most importantly, it allows me to get back to blogging!

So this Christmas, I am giving thanks for being married to the best husband in the world. Yes, the very best.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Red & Black Chili

As most parts of the country are experiencing freezing temps right now, what better time for a hot chili recipe? I've been trying out some new recipes, and we have a couple winners - one of which is Rachel Ray's Touchdown Chili. I've changed a few ingredients and coined it Red & Black Chili - red for the chiles, black for the Negra Modelo beer.

I'm not sure what the rules are about sharing other people's recipe ideas on the internet, so I want to be sure to give credit where credit is due. I found Rachel Ray's chili recipe in her latest book My Year In Meals, which I happened upon at the library.

Side note: Our local librarians are really good at creating New-Non-Fiction book displays. I'm constantly catching my eye on something interesting there.

In this book, Rachel documents many, many of the meals she made over the course of an entire year. The book is divided into months, with pictures and notes from Rachel. If you flip the book over, her husband has added My Year in Cocktails, which includes lots of fancy cocktail recipes for the aficionado.

This is not a traditional cookbook, with easy-to-find recipes. You just have to browse through and see what looks good.

The chili caught my eye because it was a chilly day...   Bu-dum--ching!

One of the things that makes this recipe great is that it's easy to make substitutions where needed/wanted. Here is the recipe as I make it (just slightly different from Rachel's original recipe):

Red & Black Chili 
(adapted from Rachel Ray's Touchdown Chili in My Year in Meals)
(Serves 6)


3 dried Anaheim peppers (sometimes labeled as Mild New Mexico chiles), stemmed and seeded

2 dried chipotle chiles, stemmed and seeded

3 cups beef stock

1/3 pound good-quality bacon, finely chopped (or 1/2 pound fresh Mexican chorizo, if you can find it, casings removed - it's better with the chorizo, so take the time to search for it)

1 TB extra virgin olive oil

2 pounds good-quality ground beef

Coarse salt and coarse black pepper

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1 large onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 fresh jalapeño chile, seeded and chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons oregano

1 TB ground cumin or whole cumin seeds

1 TB ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (depending on how 'warm' you want your chili to taste)

1 (12-oz) bottle Negro Modelo beer

1 TB honey

3 TB masa harina or (finely ground cornmeal)

Optional Chili Toppings: cilantro, lime wedges, minced onions, hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), grated cheese, sliced pickled jalapenos, sour cream, tortilla/corn chips or soft tortillas


1. Place the dried chiles in a pot and cover with the stock. Bring to a low boil and reduce the heat to low. Simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, until the chiles are soft, then puree the chiles and liquid. (If you want to make this a one-pot meal, do this in your Dutch oven then start the chili once you've transferred the chiles and stock to the blender and wiped out your pot.)

Chiles and beef stock being pureed

2. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat. Add the bacon or chorizo and begin to render.

Pat the ground beef dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Add to the pot and develop a nice brown on the beef. Break up the meat as it cooks.

3. Add the Worcestershire, onion, garlic, fresh jalapeño, oregano, cumin, coriander, cloves, and cinnamon. Cook until the onion is soft; deglaze the pan with the beer.

Not pictured: Chopped garlic, because I forgot it this time.
Here's a little flavor tip: Don't forget the garlic!

4. Stir in the chile puree, honey, and masa harina/corn meal; reduce the heat and simmer 45 minutes over low heat to thicken and develop the flavors.

While the chili is simmering, have a beer and wash the very few dishes you've used:

5. And when that timer goes *ding!*, bowl it up and serve with the toppings of your choice! We like cilantro, shredded cheese, sour cream, and tortillas or tortilla chips.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Official Technology Report

There has been an interesting development in the case of the water-logged laptop. Minnie, our little black kitty, was caught red-pawed getting into the vase of flowers in the bathroom. Suspicion has turned its ugly head toward her. Milo may not be the culprit after all.

Whatever happened the night the vase tipped, the outcome remains the same:  My laptop is kaput. Broken.

It needs a new logic board and repairs, which in the end will cost me almost as much as a new computer, so.... I'm thinking of just getting a new computer. Maybe a desktop this time:

The year of exorbitant expenses continues!!

Needless to say, there will not be many blog posts in the interim. At least not with many pictures. I'll try to get things up and running again as soon as possible - I have so many posts I need to catch up on.

Hopefully you've subscribed by email or bloglovin so you'll get an update when these intermittent posts appear.

Until we meet again - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Little Like Christmas...

As the autumn decor comes down and the Christmas decorations go up, I am reminded of an age-old adage (not really, but it should be):

Cats and tinsel shall not co-exist harmoniously. 

Cats and seasonal decorations of any kind, really. You can substitute many words in place of "tinsel": Christmas trees, strands of lights, tissue paper, delicate ribbonfresh-cut flowers... The list goes on.

So I've learned to hang enticing things high with strong tape or tacks and leave the ornaments in a box. I had planned to show more of the Christmas decorations I'm putting up around the house, but then my computer got fried. So here are just a couple photos of the entryway that I had the chance to upload before my computer was so unceremoniously flooded:

Paper snowflakes in the windows

I picked up this wreath at a local grocer/Christmas decorations shop in Seven Mile.

Merry Christmas time, y'all!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Like a Phoenix From the Ashes...

... my computer did not rise.

Blogging may come a little less frequently and with less photos until I get my laptop repaired. It's dead. Dead, dead, dead. No signs of life but a faint flicker of orange light on the charging cord when I plug it in.

So perhaps there is hope yet.

Meanwhile, I am at one of the University computer labs re-writing my final exams, both of which were saved on the desktop of my laptop. Both of which are to be given tomorrow morning.

Also lost (hopefully only temporarily) are all of my photos from the past 5+ years, the draft of our 2013 Christmas letter, and many other important documents, passwords, and files!

This cat is in deep doo-doo.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Cat's In the Dog House

Feel free to tell your version of the story in the Comments:

Posted by Mackenzie (from Ted's computer)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Serenity Now!

You've probably heard this prayer before, especially if you've attended or know someone in AA:

It's a good one, applicable to anyone, whether they are struggling with an addiction or not. 

But today I need a different prayer. Something along the lines of:


Grant me the willpower to 

not adopt every homeless cat in Ohio, 

Abandoned by my students' neighbor!

The strength to still my heart
when I pass a poster advertising 'Free kittens', 

Survived a coyote attack (mostly intact)!

And the faith to understand that 
loving the two cats we already have is enough!

(I still might bring that white one home.... That face!)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Make Your Own Cranberry Sauce

Mom, Dad, and Brother arrived yesterday, and Thanksgiving preparations are underway!

Today we made a pilgrimage to Jungle Jim's international grocery warehouse - more to come on that when the pictures are downloaded. I think we got everything we need for a stupendous meal, but if history has taught me anything, it's that we'll be making an emergency trip to the grocery store for something tomorrow!

So here's what's happening today:

The turkey brine is brewed...

The pumpkin has been roasted and pureed for the pie...

Jarrahdale pumpkin - the type I got for pie this year!

And the cranberry sauce is thickening up in the fridge...

I know it's not the most flattering picture, but I just couldn't be bothered
with "staging" this afternoon. :)

In case you haven't made your cranberry sauce yet, here's a recipe that I love from the December 2007 issue of Cuisine at Home. It's quick and easy, and it tastes so much better than the canned stuff. :)

Honey-Lemon Cranberry Sauce with Rosemary
Makes 2 1/2 cups; Total time: 15 minutes + chilling

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cupe fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Pinch of salt

1 bag (12 oz) fresh cranberries

Boil honey, sugar, lemon juice, water, rosemary, and salt in a saucepan over medium high heat.

Add cranberries and simmer until berries burst and sauce thickens, about 8 minutes; remove rosemary. Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

I hope you give it a try sometime!

Friday, November 22, 2013


By Ted

Mackenzie is resting with her two nurses (Minnie and Milo) after a successful surgery. She will be resting for the rest of today. Then we head back to the eye institute tomorrow morning for a post-op check-up. Here's a photo of Mackenzie and Milo:

Today Is the Day!

I couldn't fall asleep last night. I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve. :)

Today is my scheduled LASIK surgery, and if all goes according to plan, I'll be having my eyeballs lasered in about 5 hours. Ted is coming along so he can drive me home, but we've already agreed that he is not going to video-tape the procedure. It's just a little too creepy, I think.

So take one last look at these:

You won't see them again!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Good News!

Today I had my final consultation appointment at Cincinnati Eye Institute (CEI), and my eyes are in good condition and ready for laser correction... this Friday!

The doctor called me "the blind child" during my checkup, and I had to laugh when the assistant wanted to do an eye chart exam without my glasses. You know the one:

Except now they only show you one line at a time. The assistant kept increasing the letter size on her screen (I'm assuming) and asking if I could read any of them. That was an easy, "Nope," each time as I couldn't even see the letters.

On the final screen, when I said I absolutely couldn't read any of it, she replied with a bewildered, "Really??" After that, she had to resort to the grade school game of holding up fingers and asking how many.

When I got to put my glasses back on, this is what I saw on the eye chart:

Yep. That was the only letter, taking up the whole screen. And I couldn't see it.

I could not stop laughing.

So anyway, the rest of the appointment went well. And on Friday I get my vision corrected!! Woo hoo!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Fort Ancient

By Ted

Last Saturday, we visited Fort Ancient. About an hour east of Oxford, Fort Ancient is a State Memorial perched above the Little Miami River in the town of Oregonia, Ohio. On the way we stopped in Lebanon for lunch; we passed up The Golden Lamb--Ohio's oldest hotel, with guests including John Quincy Adams and Mark Twain--for Doc's Place, a hole-in-the-wall sports pub with a killer bloody mary bar. 

After lunch, it was on to the Fort! A quick history: the complex was constructed by the Hopewell culture around the time of Christ. (Other Hopewell sites in south-central Ohio include Mound City outside of Chillicothe, part of the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park.) Fort Ancient was originally thought to be, well, a fort. This thesis has been revised based on recent archaeological work; now the site is thought to have served a ceremonial purpose. 

At Fort Ancient, there is a well done museum with a history of native American and colonial settlement in southwest Ohio. We also hiked along the bluffs above the Little Miami, just below the walls of the Fort. 

Some photos!

A map(!) of the earthworks
Looking north over the Little Miami River 

Looking back towards the Fort as we descend towards the river 

 An action shot of Mackenzie!

One of the portals in the Fort

Another view of the walls of the Fort