Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday Menu Plan

It's been a while since I've posted a menu plan so I thought in an attempt to get my life organized and continue my cooking self-study (two New Year's Resolutions I'm starting RIGHT NOW), I figured I try it again.

Tonight (Monday) - Hubby has some steaks marinating which he is going to grill tonight on his day off, mashed potatos, and my Assistant Principal's English Pea Casserole (but I'm substituting sweat peas and cutting the recipe in 1/2 - Recipe below)

Tuesday - Grilled chicken with left over pea casserol and rice (hubby's night off again so he grills!!)

Wednesday - Tater tot casserol (Recipe Below)

Thursday - Crockpot Chicken and Corn Chowder

Friday - C. O. R. N.

Saturday - Breakfast Casserole - I'm going to try to cut the recipe in 1/2 here too since it is just hubby and I and we don't need 12 servings!

Sunday - Bridal show/dress shopping with my newly engaged sister! :) I'm sure we will eat out somewhere. I'm meeting her future mother in law! LOL


Tanja's English Pea Casserole
1 stick butter
1c chopped celery
1c chopped onion
2 cans English Peas, drained
1 jar pimiento, chopped
1 jar water chestnuts, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Saute the onions and celery in butter. Combine veggies w/ peas, water chestnuts, pimientos, and soup. Pour into casserol dish topping with cheese. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until hot and cheese melts. Serves 12-15

Tater Tot Casserole
1 lb cooked ground beef
8 oz shreaded cheddar cheese
1 can french green beans
1 can cream of mushroom soup
tater tots

Mix ground beef (I usually cook mine with onions, garlic, etc), soup, beans, and 1/2 of the cheese together and spread on the bottom of a casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese then tater tots. Cook 20 minutes on 400.

With Orgjunkie's help, maybe I'll be able to handle these resolutions. Visit her blog for organizing tips, including Menu Planning Mondays!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Angels among us

I heard an older song today, Angels Among Us, and it reminded me not only of the story I posted yesterday, but also of a day many years ago (probably about 8 or so), when I flipped my car and two angels came to my rescue.

I was driving home from my parents house, about an hour drive down back roads and lonely highways, after dark. I was tired, and probably more than ready to get back home. I was about 23, and believe it or not, I don't think I was speeding. I say I don't think I was because if I'm honest with myself I'm not real sure, although the cop later said that based on skid marks he believed I was not speeding.

This particular patch of road was being repaired (No... A road in Florida that is under construction?? It's unheard of! LMAO) and was in the middle of nowhere. There were no streetlights and not even any houselights to be seen. There was also no lines painted on the black road yet making the side of the road more difficult to see.

My tire hit the edge of the road, which due to being repaved, was probably a full 3 inches above the old road which was about 4 inches wider than the new road forming a wonderful lip for my tire to hit.

Without thinking (obviously), I yanked the wheel and over corrected. Bad bad bad idea. The next thing I know, my car is flipping into the ditch finally landing with the driver's side down.

I had a cell phone, but I had no idea where it had gone to. I usually drove with it in my lap so I wouldn't have to search for it if I needed it, but in all the flipping, it had flown who knows where. I was in shock and not real sure where I was other than somewhere between my parent's house and mine. I knew that wherever I was there was very few people out this far and I couldn't get out of my car. I had unbuckled my seat belt (Thank God I was wearing it!), but because my mind was spinning, I couldn't think how to physically get out of my car. I managed to open the passenger side door but I couldn't pull myself out.

Suddenly these two guys were there helping to pull me out of my car and asking me if I was OK. They had called the cops and allowed me to use their phone to call my parents. They offered to stay with me and told me I could give my parents their cell phone number so that we could keep in touch until the cop got there. In talking with them while we were waiting, I found out that they are from my hometown too but were several years behind me in school. They know my younger brother though and even told me some things about him that he had done in school. That night, my mom called the phone number the boys gave several times having no problem getting through.

Luckily, I was OK (Due in large part no doubt to the fact that I was in fact wearing my seat belt) and the cop deemed the accident as no fault. He could see the tire marks and actually could tell me better than I could what had happened. It all happened so fast that I wasn't even sure other than that I had gone off the road and ended up on the other side, upside down, in a ditch.

A few days later, after things had calmed down, my mother tried to call the boys on the cell phone to thank them for stopping to help and staying with me. The phone number didn't work. My brother didn't recognize the names of the boys, yet the stories they told me were true. We couldn't find them in any of his yearbooks either.

My only explanation is that these to guys were angels send by God to protect me and help me that night. I don't know how long it might have been before someone else drove by on that deserted stretch of road if it hadn't have been for them nor what I might have done if a less than courteous person stopped instead.

Although I believe that God uses ordinary people to do His work here on earth, I know for a fact that He does send His angles, disguised as ordinary people, to mingle with us and help us out in our times of need. He is watching out for us, so make sure you don't forget to thank Him for it!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Christmas Miracle- a true stoy and why I run!!!

Please read this, a friend sent this to me (after the rough-tough military man stopped crying). Then I decided to post it when I finally stopped crying. It is a true story and why I can't give up. Too many people out there need the help, and more importantly, the HOPE!

Three years ago, a little boy & his grandmother came to see Santa at the Mayfair Mall in Wisconsin . The child climbed up on his lap, holding a picture of a little girl.

"Who is this?" asked Santa, smiling. "Your friend? Your sister?"

"Yes, Santa," he replied. "My sister, Sarah, who is very sick," he said sadly.Santa glanced over at the grandmother who was waiting nearby, & saw her dabbing her eyes with a tissue. "She wanted to come with me to see you, oh, so very much, Santa!" the child exclaimed."She misses you," he added softly.Santa tried to be cheerful & encouraged a smile to the boy's face, asking him what he wanted Santa to bring him for Christmas..

When they finished their visit, the Grandmother came over to help the child off his lap, & started to say something to Santa, but halted.

"What is it?" Santa asked warmly.

"Well, I know it's really too much to ask you, Santa, but .." the old woman began, shooing her grandson over to one of Santa's elves to collect the little gift which Santa gave all his young visitors."The girl in the photograph.... my granddaughter well, you see ... she has leukemia & isn't expected to make it even through the holidays," she said through tear-filled eyes. "Is there any way, Santa . any possible way that you could come see Sarah? That's all she's asked for, for Christmas, is to see Santa."

Santa blinked & swallowed hard & told the woman to leave information with his elves as to where Sarah was, & he would see what he could do.

Santa thought of little else the rest of that afternoon. He knew what he had to do."What if it were MY child lying in that hospital bed, dying," he thought with a sinking heart, "this is the least I can do."

When Santa finished visiting with all the boys & girls that evening, he retrieved from his helper the name of the hospital where Sarah was staying. He asked the assistant location manager how to get to Children's Hospital.

"Why?" Rick asked, with a puzzled look on his face.Santa relayed to him the conversation with Sarah's grandmother earlier that day."C'mon.... I'll take you there," Rick said softly.

Rick drove them to the hospital & came inside with Santa. They found out which room Sarah was in. A pale Rick said he would wait out in the hall. Santa quietly peeked into the room through the half-closed door & saw little Sarah on the bed. The room was full of what appeared to be her family; there was the Grandmother & the girl's brother he had met earlier that day. A woman whom he guessed was Sarah's mother stood by the bed, gently pushing Sarah's thin hair off her forehead. And another woman who he discovered later was Sarah's aunt, sat in a chair near the bed with weary, sad look on her face. They were talking quietly, & Santa could sense the warmth & closeness of the family, & their love & concern for Sarah.

Taking a deep breath, & forcing a smile on his face, Santa entered the room, bellowing a hearty, "Ho, ho, ho!" "Santa!" shrieked little Sarah weakly, as she tried to escape her bed to run to him, IV tubes in tact.

Santa rushed to her side & gave her a warm hug. A child the tender age of his own son -- 9 years old -- gazed up at him with wonder & excitement. Her skin was pale & her short tresses bore telltale bald patches from the effects of chemotherapy. But all he saw when he looked at her was a pair of huge, blue eyes. His heart melted, & he had to force himself to choke back tears.

Though his eyes were riveted upon Sarah's face, he could hear the gasps & quiet sobbing of the women in the room. As he & Sarah began talking, the family crept quietly to the bedside one by one, squeezing Santa's shoulder or his hand gratefully, whispering "thank you" as they gazed sincerely at him with shining eyes.

Santa & Sarah talked & talked, & she told him excitedly all the toys she wanted for Christmas, assuring him she'd been a very good girl that year. As their time together dwindled, Santa felt led in his spirit to pray for Sarah, & asked for permission from the girl's mother. She nodded in agreement & the entire family circled around Sarah's bed,holding hands.

Santa looked intensely at Sarah & asked her if she believed in angels."Oh, yes, Santa... I do!" she exclaimed."Well, I'm going to ask that angels watch over you," he said. Laying one hand on the child's head, Santa closed his eyes & prayed. He asked that God touch little Sarah, & heal her body from this disease.He asked that angels minister to her, watch & keep her. And when he finished praying, still with eyes closed, he started singing softly, "Silent Night, Holy Night.... all is calm, all is bright."

The family joined in, still holding hands, smiling at Sarah, & crying tears of hope, tears of joy for this moment, as Sarah beamed at them all.When the song ended, Santa sat on the side of the bed again & held Sarah's frail, small hands in his own.

"Now, Sarah, "he said authoritatively, "you have a job to do, & that is to concentrate on getting well. I want you to have fun playing with your friends this summer, & I expect to see you at my house at Mayfair Mall this time next year!"

He knew it was risky proclaiming that, to this little girl who had terminal cancer, but he "had" to. He had to give her the greatest gift he could -- not dolls or games or toys -- but the gift of HOPE."

Yes, Santa! "Sarah exclaimed, her eyes bright. He leaned down & kissed her on the forehead & left the room.

Out in the hall, the minute Santa's eyes met Rick's, a look passed between them & they wept unashamedly.Sarah's mother & grandmother slipped out of the room quickly & rushed to Santa's side to thank him."My only child is the same age as Sarah," he explained quietly. "This is the least I could do."

They nodded with understanding & hugged him.

One year later, Santa Mark was again back on the set in Milwaukee for his six-week, seasonal job which he so loves to do. Several weeks went by & then one day a child came up to sit on his lap."Hi, Santa! Remember me?!"

"Of course, I do," Santa proclaimed (as he always does), smiling down at her.After all, the secret to being a "good" Santa is to always make each child feel as if they are the "only" child in the world at that moment."

You came to see me in the hospital last year!"

Santa's jaw dropped.Tears immediately sprang in his eyes, & he grabbed this little miracle & held her to his chest.

"Sarah!" he exclaimed. He scarcely recognized her, for her hair was long & silky & her cheeks were rosy -- much different from the little girl he had visited just a year before.

He looked over & saw Sarah's mother & grandmother in the sidelines smiling & waving & wiping their eyes.That was the best Christmas ever for Santa Claus. He had witnessed and been blessed to be instrumental in bringing about -- this miracle of hope.

This precious little child was healed. Cancer-free. Alive & well. He silently looked up to Heaven & humbly whispered, "Thank you, Father. 'Tis a very, Merry Christmas! Thank you for making Miracles like this come true.

Merry Christmas

PS. If you have a Miracle, story of inspiration or hope please reply and share it.

Friday, December 26, 2008


This isn't mine, but it is too funny to not post. The OP is an US expat that is currently living in Japan. Having been to Japan, I have to laugh as I read it...because it is so typical Japanese! I only wish that I had a handy list lke this when I went to Japan!! :) It was sent to me so I'm not sure who the OP is in order to give credit. My comments are in red.

I'm going back to the US for Christmas tomorrow! Yay!My travel agent has, thoughtfully, seen fit to provide me with a pamphlet of helpful tips to make my overseas travel less of an anxiety-filled social minefield riddled with white people and guns. I got such a kick out of these that I wanted to share. (I picked most of the fun ones. There are a lot of boring tips too.)

  • The yen is very strong against the dollar right now. This will make goods in America seem very cheap -- an excellent opportunity for shopping! However, remember to be polite in your use of money -- America is in the middle of economic malaise right now, and Japanese people with wads of money in their hand might be looked on with envy. Besides, if you are obviously wealthy in an American city, you may be robbed.

  • For our valued customers who work in the automotive industry, we advise discretion. If you must say where you work, the preferred phrasing is [English] "I work at the car company".

  • Most Americans are very polite, particularly outside of the big cities. However, outside of the big cities, everyone owns guns. Inside the big cities, almost everyone owns guns. Let's be polite together! Japanese don't own guns. Even their riot police don't carry guns so guns are taboo and a bit scary to them. It's hard for them to understand why a law abiding, "nice" person would need to own guns.

  • If you go shopping at an American department store, they will ask you if you want to open a credit card account. They are *not* asking whether you want to use a credit card. This may seem strange but it is an American custom to offer customers a credit card, in order to make them spend more money. We suggest politely declining offers of credit cards. You may have to politely decline several times. Don't think of this as rude, the Americans have to do it too.

  • Most Americans think we look like Chinese or Koreans. Try not to be too offended. Asians generally do not like to be mixed up! There are differences in the physical features between them and even though to "us" they "all look alike" they think the same about us. We all look alike to them too!

  • Most Americans will think that a Japanese person standing on the street is an American, unless they are holding a camera. If you are not comfortable speaking English, you might try bringing along a camera to say "I am a tourist, please don't expect me to speak English." Except, don't try this in the big cities -- tourists get mugged in big cities. We are used to being a big melting pot society where the Japanese aren't. 90% of the people in Japan are native Japanese so it is easy tp pick out the tourists or the non-natives who may not speak Japanese.

  • Americans have a social institution called a "gratuity". Basically, the price on the menu at any place which serves food is not the real price. The real price is 20% higher. You have to calculate 20%, write it under the subtotal, and sum to arrive at the real price. Taxis work the same way. It is considered very rude not to pay the "gratuity". You DO NOT tip in Japan. In fact, it is considered rude to tip. If you leave a tip, to them, it is equalivent to saying "I don't think you have enough money, here, let me help you."

  • In general, Americans consider it impolite to discuss politics. However, this January Obama will become the new president, and many people are excited! If they ask you what you think of him, a safe answer is [English] "Obama is really cool." or [English] "Obama speaks so well. Not like me. Hehe." Be very careful when pronouncing his name. O BA MA, just like Obama City.

  • Most big cities have Japanese food available. You may have to look hard, though -- ask your hotel for some place to eat tempura. Restaurants which say they serve sushi probably only serve makizushi, like California rolls. (Americans think California rolls are [English] "sushi".) If a restaurant says [English] "Asian" they really mean Chinese. They are probably not really Chinese, either. On the same note, in Japan, "American" food doesn't always mean what we think of as American. You probably won't get a bun on your hamburger for example!

  • Ladies: if you shop for clothes, ask for where to find [English] "petite". It means normal sized. Ladies who are petite may have difficulty finding clothes which fit in America, except at specialty shops. From experiance, it is difficult to find clothes for a 5'8" average weight woman in Japan. Physically, they are smaller. An Extra Large jacket I bought simply because I was cold and it was rainy, is still too short on my arms and a little snug.

  • McDonalds: Has no teriyaki burger in America. Portions are bigger and food is cheaper. Sometimes the person taking the order does not speak English. Please relax! They probably understand the set menu, although it is called [English] "combo", and you can hold up the number with your hands as shown. [Snip of chart for how Americans count on their fingers, which is actually different than how Japanese people count on their fingers, hence the need for a chart.] Mmmm Teriyaki Burgers.... why oh why can't American Micky D's have them??? And as for the counting, they count all on one hand putting fingers DOWN as they count 1-5 (starting with the thumb and going towards the pinky) rather than putting them UP as we do. 6-10 is counted on the same hand but in reverse order putting them up.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to finish work and start packing. Toothbrush, shirts, camera, bullet-proof vest, wad of monopoly money, you know, the bare necessities.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Christmas Wish List

When I was little, I loved Christmas for all of the gifts that we got as well as all the cousins that came over that I could play with. Christmas was about getting gifts and being with family to a little girl's eyes. But as I have grown older (and hopefully wiser), I've realized that Christmas really isn't about giving either. It's about wishing. Unfortunately, I as a person, am unable to give most people what I want them to have. Not because I can't afford it, but because there is no price tag on the items I wish them to have. So here is my revised Christmas Wish List:

To all my friends in the armed forces: My wish for you is peace. Peace of mind, peace and quiet, and a peaceful holiday. Not everyone understands your sacrifice or what it is you must do. You sacrifice not only your physical life, but your emotional life and family life as well. You have my respect, my love, and all my hopes for the future. Keep your head down and always come home safe.

To other military spouses: I also wish peace upon you. A peace of mind that only comes when you know your loved one is safe. It is a difficult life we have chosen and those we love couldn't do what they have to do without the love and support from the home front. Raise your chins high and know that you hold a very special position in the military and that you are admired for your sacrifices as well.

To my friends in other service jobs; Cops, firefighters, EMS, security, etc... You also risk your lives on a daily basis for those you don't know and those who may not be appreciative of your sacrifice. I wish for you safety and much deserved appreciation. You have my respect and admiration for your job well done.

To my fellow educators: I wish patience. We have a stressful, yet highly rewarding job that often requires more patience than we actually have to keep our sanity in tack! Have a restful, relaxing, and rejuvenating holiday break and come back fresh in January ready to take on the world... or at least a classroom full of very important lives!

To my friends/family in other countries: Most of you are away from home doing the Lord's work while others are serving our country in one way or another. I wish for you success in whatever your endeavors and that you touch and affect many lives for the better. Know that you are missed but loved and everyone "back home" is proud of the amazing work you do.

To my "online" friends: Some of you I only know through your blogs or other means of computer communication such as a chat room or forum. I've hooked up with you for various reasons. Some perhaps on my journey to learn how to cook, while others are military wives who have helped support me when Hubby is gone. Other are there for me on my weight and running journeys. You've helped me tremendously and I thank you for that. My wish for you is that I or someone else out there in cyber world be as helpful to you as you have been to me...oh and may your modem always be fast!

To my "real life" friends: You have been there for me when I was lower than low and helped me to stay grounded when I was high on life. You've picked me up and encouraged me to go out be it with a girls night out, a girls night in, or just a long in depth phone call at odd hours of the day or night. No one could make it in this world without friends and I have the best of the best. I wish for you the energy to continue to do the things you love, the light of God to help you along your path, and of course, a few rounds of Chocolate Martini's!!

To my family: Thank you so much for all of the love and support you have given me in my life's journey. It hasn't been an easy one and I have fallen many times. I praise God that you have been there to pick me back up again. I wish for you love, happiness, grace, and peace as well as the patience to continue to put up with me! :)

To my husband: I love you more than I could ever express in words. You have helped me in more ways than you can imagine, both physically and emotionally. You are my best friend, my love, and my hero. I wish you happiness, love, plenty of time to go camping, lots of ammo, and of course... bananas and grapes :) I love you!

I asked my family not to worry so much about gifts for me this year, but instead t donate to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society via my donation page. Several of them did and I am so grateful to them for that. he greatest gift in the world that I would wish for myself, my family, and anyone else who has suffered due to cancer is to find new treatments and hopefully a cure for cancers like my father's, my brother's, my friend Dominic's, Alex's, and little Gracie's. As of this morning, I am only $121.10 short of my Christmas goal of raising $3000 for LLS. Not too shabby if I do say so myself! If you'd like to help make my Christmas wish come true, check out My Reason to Run and donate a few bucks if you are able.

My wish for everyone is to have a Blessed Christmas season. Live, Laugh, Love!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Camping

I love camping! Being in the middle of nowhere with nothing around but the river, the woods, and the creatures (and family and/or good friends) is one of the best feelings in the world. So relaxing and peaceful. For just a little while, you can forget all the troubles of the world, the economy, the stress, everything but how wonderful this life can be.

This is the first Christmas in 3 years that Hubby has been home for Christmas, yet he still isn't going to be able to take part in the family Christmas activities because he has to work. Instead, we went camping for a couple of nights with his parents. As a Christmas gift for them, I put a few of the pictures together in a digital collage and will grab a few matching 8x10 frames to put them in today. Here's what I came up with:

Here are a few more pictures that didn't make the collages but I think are worth showing.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The ups and downs of a 20 mile run.

It is still amazing to me how many highs and lows one goes through in a long run such as the run I had this morning. Today was make-up 20 mile run, which is the longest training run we have prior to the Marathon in January. Last week was the official 20 miler but I was SICK and a few others missed it too so we made it up today.

Usually we wouldn't "make up" a missed run, just catch up with whatever the group is doing the week we come back. However, while a 20 mile run isn't physically necessary to train for a marathon, often it is mentally needed. First time marathon runners can get pretty freaked out by the mention of these longer miles and 20 seems SOOO much further than 18 for some reason.

I've done marathons before so I know what it feels like to go 20 miles (and 26.2 also), but I still wanted to do it, plus one of my running partners was unable to finish the 20 miler the week before and wanted to do it so I decided to go ahead and do it with her.

The first few miles SUCK. There is no easy way around it. My body is screaming in protest. "Why are you awake this early on a Saturday? Why aren't we comfy and cozy in bed or at least on the couch? What the heck is this repetitive jarring motion? OMG...ARE YOU RUNNING!?!?!?!"

Once my body has given in to the fact that yes I'm awake, yes we are out of bed, and yes I am running (and will be for a while), I am able to settle into a comfortable pace and actually enjoy the running. This finally happened around mile 3 or so and carried me through until about mile 11 or 12. There are of course a few small ups and down within this time but they are still to be considered more up than down, even if the water stops are the best sights in the world.

For some reason mile 12 seems to hold a sort of a wall for me. Not THE WALL that is made out of brick and takes a bulldozer to get through, but a smaller, shorter wall, more of a hurdle, that I still need to get over. This is where the aches and pains first start showing up. Not screaming ones, just little annoying pings of dull pain at this point.

Again, a mile or two later, the dull pinging pain is gone (or I'm numb to it) and I'm doing OK again. However, near the end of the run, in this case, mile 18 is the ever-present, daunting WALL (yes, this is THE WALL). Everything hurts and your body as well as your mind is screaming "WHY OH WHY!?" In an actual marathon it seems to come around mile 20, but for some reason, when you are only doing 20, it hit around 18. Nothing wants to move. It hurts to keep running, however, completely different muscles hurt to walk. At this point it hurts just to be alive and short of changing that state, you must decide which muscles hurt more, the walking or the running ones. It usually changes so you go back and forth between running (shuffling) and walking (dragging your feet) until you get your second wind.

Once you realize that you are actually very close to the end and you CAN make it, spirits lift and the aches and pains seems to dissipate a bit, not completely - they don't completely go away for a day or so haha - but they seem to pale a bit in your pure joy of being almost done. This carries you through the finish line where you can happily collapse amongst cheers and congratulations of your teammates who only did 14 miles (yes, ONLY 14), because they completed their 20 mile run the week before.

It's all for a good cause, it's all for a good cause, it's all for a good cause, it's all for a good cause...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas decorations

I thought it was about time I made a new post! I took a little break after my 31 posts in a row, then I got sick and didn't feel like even looking at a computer screen. I finally got around to putting up a few decorations so I thouht I would share what I have done so far!

(The magic key that lets Santa inside on Christmas night since there is no chimney!)

(Over the bar)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


2nd anniversary of my 29th birthday (plus a day) or not, yesterday I ordered a martini at dinner and was carded!! haha! YAY!! What a way to make you feel good about yourself again. "This total stranger thinks there may be a CHANCE that I'm under 21"

Ahhh... :) Happy feelings!