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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Simple Abundance - April

My first boss gave me this book about 12 years ago. I've kept the book through countless moves over the years and I enjoy looking through it every once in awhile.

The author includes suggestions for each month to help us remember to "appreciate life, in all its imperfect excellence".

Here are some Simple Abundance suggestions for April.

~~Remind yourself what it’s like to have fun on All Fools’ Day. Surprise your loved ones and co-workers with whimsy – not practical jokes that embarrass.

~~April is a wonderful month for all kinds of walks, whether in warm spring showers or balmy sunshine. The scent of the earth reawakening and the sight of Mother Nature’s brilliant display of color will rouse and remind you how wonderful it is simply to be alive.

~~Find a refreshing new scent for spring – try rose water, lilac, or lily of the valley. Wear a scent you love everyday.

~~Dye Easter eggs and hide them for children of all ages to hunt.

~~When it showers, curl up under a blanket in the afternoon and listen to the raindrops on the roof.

~~Bake a batch of hot cross buns. Eat jellybeans.

Happy Spring!

Friday, March 20, 2009

St. Louis 2009

View of the Arch and the moon from our hotel room

We had a really nice time in St. Louis this week. We visited with Elaine and Sandy Knaebel in Kirkwood and then headed to downtown St. Louis.

Gateway Arch Park

Looking up the Arch

Base of the Arch

The Arch is a Memorial to Thomas Jefferson for the Louisiana Purchase and for financing Lewis and Clark's expedition to the West

View from the top of the Arch

Another view from the top of the Arch - I liked the Arch shadow in this photo

View of the Mississippi River from the top of the Arch

Thomas looking out the Arch windows

Brennan at the top

After our tour we went to The Hill, St. Louis's Little Italy section. We had a really nice meal at Guido's. The owner is actually from Madrid so we had tapas and flan although there were Italian options too. A delicious meal and a great trip!

St. Patrick's Day 2009

We had a great time celebrating St. Patrick's Day in Mississippi this year. Brennan was concerned because the holiday fell during Spring Break. I consulted with Grandma Nan and we decided we could celebrate on vacation too.

Our very own Leprechaun

Sarah had a great post with a traditional St. Patrick's Day meal a few weeks ago. I used 3 of her recipes and one for potatoes and green beans from Paula Deen's boys. I think it was a really good meal and easy to make.

My grandmother came from Carrington Place nursing home for the event, and David's parents Carolyn and Don came too. David's favorite dish - the cabbage. Mine - the parslied potatoes. Thomas and Brennan - the mint chocolate chip ice cream with Milano cookies.

Thomas, Grandma Nan, Mawmaw

Decorating for the big day

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Irish Coffee

Well, I'd like to try this one again. Didn't go as well as planned, partly because I was also busy preparing a St. Patrick's Day meal for our family. And partly because I didn't thicken the cream before making the drink.

The original Irish coffee was invented by Joseph Sheridan, at Foynes in County Limerick, western Ireland. Foynes was next to the Shannon International Airport. A group of American passengers disembarked from a Pan Am flying boat on a miserable winter evening in the 1940s. Head chef Sheridan added whiskey to the coffee to warm the passengers. After, the passengers asked if they were being served Brazilian coffee, Sheridan told them no, it was Irish coffee.

Grandma Nan enjoying an Irish coffee.

David's Swizzle Stick Ratings:
Irish Coffee - 3 Swizzle Sticks

Irish Coffee - 1/2 cup strong black coffee, 1/4 cup Irish whiskey, 1 tsp. brown sugar, heavy cream thickened. Pour the coffee and Irish whiskey in a heated mug. Add the brown sugar and stir. Using two spoons, turn one upside down over the coffee mug and use the other to ladle the cream. Pour the cream over the upside down spoon so that the cream covers the top of the coffee evenly.

Although I used good cream, I did not whip it slightly to thicken it. My mom also thought it was way too strong - I would probably reduce the whiskey:coffee ratio quite a bit!

I don't like coffee (or whiskey) but tried the drink. I'll pass. But I would like to try it again someday to see if I could get David to move his ratings up just a little!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

City Bagel with our Cousins

Ellie (4), Taylor (7), Brennan (7), Thomas (8)

Thomas and Ellie thumb wrestling

Look mom, no teeth!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sunday in MS with Family, Friends, and Basketball

MSU wins the SEC championship!

The cousins visiting their great-grandmother.

Shelly, Brennan, Thomas, Danielle (2), and Natalie (5)

Sweet Danielle

Sweet Jonah Evans (2)

After the photo shoot...

My sister Shelly really wanted to get photos taken of our kids and the grandparents. Although it was a little like herding cats, the photos turned out really well. Here's the silliness going on after the official photo shoot.

Nintendo DS with Grandma Carolyn and Grandpa Don

Santa brought Nintendo DS's to the boys for Christmas. About the only time they break them out is on long car trips. Brennan wasn't as interested in his but this trip he has really enjoyed it. (Thomas would play his all day if he could.)

It's always fun to teach someone a new game!

Could these boys be any more comfortable?

Vanderbilt Study

On the drive south we stopped for a 4 hour visit to Vanderbilt University. We are participating in a genetic study on autism. David and I spent about 2 hours answering questions about Brennan while we watched Brennan through a 2-way mirror as he was being asked all sorts of things for 2 hours. Thomas spent this time playing games on the coordinator's computer.

Brennan really seemed to enjoy the experience - all sorts of "games" that would help the researchers in their study of how genes and environment play a role in autism. He of course has no issue talking to anyone for 2 hours and loved the attention I'm sure. If the researchers felt that Brennan was indeed somewhere on the spectrum, then we knew that the next step was to have blood drawn.

I'll never forget walking into the room to collect Brennan when we finished our questions. The lead researcher said, "Maybe you already know this but Brennan is really bright. I mean really, really bright." We just smiled - yes we know it and it's always funny to hear new therapists and psychologists after they've worked with Brennan a little while. He understands a lot more for his age than you might expect. Gotta love that.

Vanderbilt Hospital

The blood draw (or "blood shot" as Brennan was calling it) was just another fun experience in this fun city of Nashville, TN for our boys. We walked across campus to the hospital with Liz, one of the researchers. Watching the squirrels, checking out the beautiful crocuses coming up, fascinated by the beautiful stone buildings. And then our own hospital rooms with ADJUSTABLE BEDS and a remote control right there on the bed for you! It was all very exciting until the needle. It freaked them both out but they did well. After it was over they admitted it wasn't so bad and would do it again if they needed to. I was so proud of them - they took 5 tubes from each of us! Brennan's main concern is that they were going to take all of his.

Funniest moment, when the very patient nurse told Brennan that his body is always making blood. He said, "yes, I know, it's made in the bones." Surprised looks all around again.

Brennan pre-needle.

We were happy to participate in the study because we know that the best researchers who are devoting their lives to this still don't have the answers they need. We've read so much on autism (David especially) and know that the best thing we can do for Brennan is to help him navigate the world he's in. He's doing so well as he gets older - it's so worth those 5 tubes (which freaked me out a little too!)

Thomas ready for his turn.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Japanese Slipper

"For a green, fruity drink, it's not bad!" ~~ David Boatwright

I was looking for a green drink, in honor of St. Patrick's Day. I found the popular Midori cocktail - the Japanese Slipper - and decided to try it out.

Midori was first manufactured by Suntory (which I remember fondly from the movie "Lost in Translation") in 1978. It's coming out party was held at the famous Studio54 club in Manhattan. It was originally manufactured in Japan, but is now made exclusively in Mexico.

Midori is Japanese for Green. And green it definitely is. The Japanese Slipper is one of a handful of typical cocktails made with Midori. Midori is so sweet that the flavors have to be balanced with something a little tart.

David's Swizzle Stick Ratings:
The Japanese Slipper - 3 Swizzle Sticks

If it hadn't been green, he probably would have given it more, which was a total surprise to me.

The Japanese Slipper - 3 oz. Midori, 3 oz. Cointreau, 1 oz. lemon juice. Chill a Martini cocktail glass. In a shaker mix the Midori, Cointreau and lemon juice with crushed ice. Place a maraschino cherry in the bottom of the chilled glass and strain the cocktail into the glass.

I liked this one as well. And really, what else am I going to do with all this Midori leftover?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Re-Purposing #2

We did another re-purposing project yesterday.

These pictures make it pretty hard to tell but we have a unique pantry. It's a closet with shelves on either side. There was a lot of wasted space on the wall ahead of you when you open the doors. In my quest to fix up the house during Spring Cleaning, I wondered if there was a way to get more pantry space.

I couldn't add shelves because they would block the shelves on either side. I thought about those half baskets - maybe to hold snacks or something? I've been looking and looking and really didn't find anything other than some shelves that were really not what I hoped for.

I gave up when David remembered these two white shelves attached to the inside of the guest bedroom closet. I'm sure no one had used them in the 12 years they'd been hanging there - certainly we haven't in the last 4 years that we've owned the house.

So David hung these and voila! Another re-purposed solution that was FREE!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Re-Purposing #1

My favorite new word is "re-purposing", also known as "shopping your own house". I see this word a lot on blogs that I follow. It means taking something from one part of your home and using it somewhere else. Like taking an end table and turning it into a bedside table (like in Brennan's room). We did a little re-purposing this weekend as part of Spring Cleaning 2009.

Underneath the two sinks in the kitchen the cabinet floors are really beat up. Gross, in fact. When we had the cabinet exteriors painted 4 years ago we didn't paint the cabinet floors. Along with light bulbs, cleaning supplies, and other stuff, we keep our garbage under the sink in the island and the floor was impossible to clean. After more than 4 years, I needed to figure something out.

Water damage and years of neglect.
Under the island sink.
Mats don't help. They shift and bunch up.

Then I remembered I had some oil-based paint left over from when I painted the shelves in the pantry two years ago. With the weather allowing us to open the windows, David got to painting yesterday.

Under the long counter. Sooooo much better.

Glisteningly clean!

I even re-purposed some kitchen baskets I haven't used in forever to keep all the extra lightbulbs. Maybe not as practical as the beat up, dusty cardboard box we had been housing them in, but pretty nonetheless.

And this project was absolutely free! And the difference is so worth it - even if we are the only people who will ever see these cabinet floors.

The Jack Rose

What's in a name? There are numerous stories for where this cocktail got its. Could be from the Applejack brandy and the rose color. Maybe it's for the infamous gambler Bald Jack Rose. Or after the Jacquemont variation of the rose. Or named for Joseph P. Rose - famous mixologist in New York City. Regardless, the Jack Rose is a classic drink, popular in the 1920s and 1930s in the United States.

Ernest Hemingway writes about the Jack Rose in "The Sun Also Rises". And Rachel Maddow mixed the drink a few months ago for The New Yorker. And in 2003 the Washington Post published "Searching for Jack; Two Guys, One Drink, 60 Bars" and the author's quest to find a Jack Rose in Washington, D.C.

I can tell you now that David didn't care for this drink, but I found it to be smooth and understated. I was SURE I wouldn't be able to find Applejack locally. Laird & Company are the only producers of this brandy. It was first made in colonial times by freeze distilling hard cider. It was George Washington's favorite drink and he helped the Laird family start their distillery in Scobeyville, New York in 1780.

David's Swizzle Stick Rating:
2 Swizzle Sticks

The Jack Rose - 3 oz. Applejack, 1 oz. lemon or lime juice, 2 dashes Grenadine. Chill a Martini cocktail glass. In a shaker, add crushed ice and the ingredients above. Shake well and strain into the Martini glass. Garnish with lemon or lime.

I prepared one with lemon and one with lime. David preferred the lime but didn't care for the drink in any event (it's still in the refrigerator after 2 sips). I think I see a trend though. All of his 2 Swizzle Sticks Ratings are pink or fruity!
Bellini, Cosmopolitan, and the Jack Rose.

This one was for you, Mrs. J-B!