Monday, February 28, 2011

365 Project - Day 59 - Mmmm...Cadbury Eggs

I am addicted to Cadbury Eggs. I'm not ashamed of it. I don't try to hide it. I don't buy them in secret and eat them in dark, windowless rooms where no one can see me. Instead,  I wait impatiently for them to show up on store shelves every year, usually the day before Valentine's Day when the stores are moving all the Valentine's candy to the 75% off bin to make room for the Saint Patrick's Day and Easter decorations.

I had a crush on my husband when I first met him in college and fell in love with him long before we even crossed the line from friends to officially dating. One of the little quirks that really sealed the deal though was the fact that he shared my Cadbury Egg obsession.

Since we've been married, we've started a tradition of waiting until the day after Easter and then hitting the stores to stock up on as many intact Cadbury Eggs as we can find. We box the bulk of them up and put them in the pantry, but always make sure there are a few in the refrigerator. The goal is to ration them until they show up on the shelves again the following year. The longest our stash has ever lasted is three months. But hey, at least we have goals.

Today, Steven brought home our first box of 2011. We will spend the next few weeks indulging in the delightful sweetness of these little concoctions, until it's time to stock up again for the long Cadbury Egg drought. I wonder how long we will last this year. If anyone would like to place bets, I will award a special prize to the winner. Leave your guess in the comment box below.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to our sweet obsession. Mmm...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

365 Project - Day 58 - Enter At Your Own Risk

While Cadence and I spent the week in Arizona, visiting restaurants to write about for upcoming issues of WVHL magazine and hanging out with family, Steven was at home with Electra, working all day and then coming home to tackle the daunting task of trying to organize our basement.

God bless my anal retentive husband.

Most men left home alone for a week without their wives and children would spend their free time doing all the things they wouldn't normally be able to do--watching a lot of sports on TV, playing lots of video games, eating too much junk food and drinking too much beer, etc. While Steven does admit to sitting down and playing God of War for a 5-hour stretch, it was only after he'd already spent three days in the basement going through boxes and organizing.

When Steven was offered the job here in Nebraska back in November, we began packing immediately, because we knew it was going to be quite a chore. What we didn't realize was how much crap we had accumulated since moving to Arizona in 2007. Back then, we had enough stuff to fill an entire POD, and we thought that was a lot. Yet somehow, since that move, we managed to more than triple the amount of crap that we own.

 How did this happen? We've been asking ourselves the same question. The only logical explanation we've been able to come up with is that our stuff somehow managed to mate and reproduce without our knowledge, probably at night while we slept, or during the day while we were both busy at work.

We were packing right up to the moment we left Arizona. By then, it had become a panicked packing frenzy. We were either throwing things haphazardly into boxes, tossing them in the garbage, or giving them away to anyone who would take them. Even after a garage sale and a couple of trips to drop stuff off at the Salvation Army, we still managed to pack a 26-foot trailer from floor to ceiling.

We came to the conclusion then that we simply have too much stuff. In a previous 365 post, I wrote about hoarding, and wondered just how close we might be coming to crossing that very fine line. We have old toys and knick knacks from our childhoods, old magazines that we've already read, old clothes that no long fit, old pens that don't work, and a hundred other things that we probably don't even know about hiding in boxes. Here, in our rental house, we have neither the space, nor the desire to unpack all of our stuff. So, all those things that we simply don't want to deal with yet have been banished to the basement.

This past week, Steven did manage to go through some of his share and begin making piles of things to keep and things to get rid of. The rest of it, he stacked as neatly as he could in the two spare bedrooms and laundry room. One of these days, we plan to go through the rest of it and finally let go of some of this crap that we have been hanging onto. Until then, it sits, waiting patiently and taking up space.

Today's 365 Project is dedicated to all those things we hold onto. Our goal now is to get rid of some of ours. We'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Our collection of books, CD's, DVD's and magazines that fills an entire room.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

365 Project - Day 57 (part 2) - Show Me The Way To Go Home

And the answer is...

365 Project - Day 57 - Show Me The Way To Go Home

Such a great trip! Our flight was delayed, but we are finally on our way home. Any bets on whether this tired girl sleeps on the flight?

Friday, February 25, 2011

365 Project - Day 56 - Exhaustion

I spent a whole lot of time staring at this exact view this week. Perhaps that is why today is officially my lamest blog post. I've been on the go since Monday, visiting restaurants, doing interviews and trying to spend as much time as possible with my family before I leave to go home tomorrow. Limited internet access has made posting my daily blog difficult. After a long week and a whole lot of driving, I am worn out. Good night all!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

365 Project - Day 55 - I Love Football

I love football. I always have. Back in elementary school, I was one of the few girls who would rather play football with the boys on the playground during recess, than to sit in the shade with the rest of the girls taking teen magazine quizzes and making friendship bracelets. I wasn't one of those girls who would ever actually try out to play on the football team--I just had fun tossing the ball around, and I always loved watching the game.

Living in the Midwest, Friday night football games are always played in front of a screaming, sell-out crowd. I enjoyed my place in the drumline, playing upbeat pep band tunes and marching in the field show at half-time. When you're born and raised in Nebraska, football is just part of your genetic code (and if it's not, you're considered something of a freakish anomoly).

There's something about watching a well-orchestrated offensive play unfold. There's something about the crack and thud of helmets and pads colliding on the field. There's something about seeing a member of your team running toward the end zone so fast you'd swear he was flying. There's just something about football.

While my absolute favorite team to watch has been and will always be the Nebraska Cornhuskers, I have to say that tied for second place are my brothers' teams. While living in Arizona, we were lucky enough to get to see Beau, Eddie, Tanner, and Kolter all play. Steven even helped coach and keep stats for Beau's pop warner team.

I was lucky enough to schedule my visit to AZ this week just in time for Beau's first playoff game, and tonight's 365 Project entry is dedicated to the Florence Gophers Junior High football team. They played their hearts out on the field tonight. Unfortunately, they fell just a little short of a victory. Chin up boys! You should be proud of your effort tonight, and of your great season. Better luck next year!

Beau (#25) making a good run and leaping for extra yards.

Beau and Mark on the sidelines.

Beau's first night playing Defensive End. Poor #55 was sore after this tackle.

Heading off at half-time.

Half-time pep talk. We're only down by 4 boys! Let's get 'em!

Beau and Oscar pancaking the Quarterback. Ouch!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

365 Project - Day 54 - Food Coma

It was quite by accident that I fell into writing restaurant articles and doing food photography. It started with an assignment to write a feature article on a restaurant called Calico Jack's in Glendale, AZ. We needed photos for the article as well, and since I was just starting my photography business, I volunteered my services. Steven, Cadence and I headed to the restaurant one Sunday afternoon. The chef sent half a dozen gorgeous plates filled with scrumptious food to our table, and I spent the better part of an hour snapping photos from every angle I could possibly think of.

When I got home, I was pleasantly surprised at how well they turned out. Up to that point, I'd spent all my time shooting portraits and landscapes and sporting events. I had no idea how much fun (and how delicious) it could be to do food photography. I submitted my article and photos, and got rave reviews from the magazine. I was assigned another restaurant article for the following issue. Soon after, I was asked if I would be interested in covering the restaurant articles each month and being a photographer for the magazine.

I never even gave it a second thought.

When Steven and I moved to Lincoln in December, I was fortunate enough to be able to keep up with my writing and photography for the magazine. This week, I headed back to Arizona for a working vacation to see my family here, and to visit several West Valley restaurants. These past three days, I have met some incredible people, and have had the opportunity to eat some really incredible food.

I'm saving the formal sneak peek photos for my StoriTyme Photos blog when I get back and get them uploaded from my camera, but I just had to share this one from tonight. It's not the best photo in the world, since I had to snap it with my camera phone in the dimly lit restaurant. I'll be heading back friday for the official photo shoot, and I can't wait.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to the amazing Chef Brian Cooper and staff at Litchfield's Restaurant. If you're ever in the Phoenix area, head over to The Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park and have dinner at Litchfield's Restaurant. Believe me, you will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

365 Project - Day 53 - Top 5 Reasons We Love Our Aunt Jen

1. She has cool shades, and she let's me wear them when it's too bright out for my baby blues.

2. She feeds me my Cheerios one at a time, just because she thinks I'm so cute.

3. She looks just like those celebrity Momma's the Papparazzi like to take pictures of when she pushes me in my stroller. Foxy lady!

4. She has the sweetest, most well-trained pets EVER! This kitty is named Herbie Husker and he let me pet him and chase him all around the house today.

5. Even after waiting years to finally get her Iphone, she loves me enough to let me play with it.

Today's 365 Project is dedicated to our fabulous Aunt Jen, and to her sweet furbabies we love so much--Herbie, Sid, Bodie, and Roo. Thanks for the amazing day! We love you!!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

365 Project - Day 52 - You and Me Baby, We're Stuck Like Glue

Today was officially the longest stretch of time that I have been away from my daughter since she was born. I had two restaurants to visit in Glendale, so Cadence spent the day hanging out with her Nonna Dawn. According to Nonna, Cadence did really well. She had a great time playing and walking all over creation.

There was only one meltdown during the day. Around the time the sun was going down, Cadence apparently began to notice just how long I'd been gone, and suddenly started throwing an all out I-don't-want-anything you're-trying-to-give-me-I-only-want-my-Momma fit, which lasted until Nonna and Poppa took her for a drive in the truck, up and down the canal, until she calmed down again. Thank goodness the tantrums never seem to last very long.

It was strange being away from my girl today. I was busy with the interviews and photo shoots, but even the distractions couldn't keep me from thinking about her, and really missing her. I found myself trying to finish up as quickly as I could so I could hurry back to see her. It just feels like there is something missing when she's not around. It makes me wonder how my husband is really handling having us both gone for a week.

After waking up at 7 and only having two short cat naps during her busy day, you'd think that Cadence would be ready to conk right out tonight...

No such luck.

After two bottles, and a whole lot of rocking, singing, humming, whispering, swaying, and pleading to please please please go night night, Cadence was hell bent on making sure I didn't put her down. Even when she would fall alseep and go limp in my arms, the minute I tried to put her in her bed to sleep, she would wake up flailing and clutching my shirt with an iron grip. She wrapped her little legs around my arm and screamed bloody murder. After trying to lay her down a dozen times with the same result, I finally just lounged back on the bed and decided to call it a night.

Looks like this is how we'll be sleeping tonight. Night night my baby.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to all the parents whose children are stuck to them like glue. Enjoy it while you can.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Project 365 - Day 51 - Anything You Can Do...

Growing up as an adopted child, I often wondered how much of my personality was predetermined in my genetic code, and how much of it was shaped and molded by my environment. I don't know if I will ever know for sure, because there are so many things about my biological and birth families that are so eerily similar. For instance, we are all pure Nebraskans, born and raised for generations smack in the middle of the Heartland. My birthmom and adopted parents all loved horses and rodeos. My birthfather and adopted dad were both very athletic, and participated in sports throughout high school and college. My birthmom is artistic. My adopted mom is musical. My birthfather is easygoing and quick to laugh. And my adopted dad is always quick to make friends with strangers and share a joke. Somehow, I seemed to inherit the best from all of them.

The one thing that was always uniquely mine, though, was my writing. It was an addiction that started early and has continued to consume my life in one way or another since I was a child. It doesn't matter if it is something as simple as a letter or a journal entry, or something as difficult as finishing my Master's Thesis, I love watching every word form beneath the tip of my pen, from beginning to end. I take pride in my writing, and always try to continually improve and make it something worth reading.

It seems, perhaps, that I may have passed my writing addiction along to my daughter. All kids, at one point or another, go through the phase where they want to write or draw on things. How else would a company like Crayola stay so successful? What caught my attention though, as I watch my young daughter, is the intense focus that takes over the minute she gets a writing utensil in her little hand. Suddenly, all of her movements seem to take on an absolute deliberateness. She will spend several minutes studying the pen or crayon in her hand, rolling it around, trying out different grips, until she finds the one that just feels right. Then, and only then, will she press the tip of it against the pure white paper, pursing her lips intently as she "writes".

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to my little writer. I can't wait to read all of your amazing stories.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Project 365 - Day 50 - Flying the Friendly Skies

Flying with children should be an Olympic sport. Or at least a professional sport where the salary truly reflects the time and effort and skill it takes to pack, transport luggage, and entertain a toddler in a cramped, confined space with limited entertainment and no comfortable way of napping. If somehow you make it to your destination and back home again without any permanent emotional or psychological damage, you have earned a well-respected spot in the Family Vacation Hall of Fame.

So far, I have been really lucky traveling with Cadence. She has been on over half a dozen flights and has only had one official meltdown. It was August in Arizona and we were one of the first to board the plane. With the temperature outside nearing 115, the inside of the plane was a sauna. Cadence's frustrated whining became an all out scream of rage about the time she began to sweat, and continued until we finally began taxiing for take off and the pilot turned on the air conditioning. Other than that incident, she has been good as gold.

The worst part about flying with such a small child is the amount of crap you have to take with you. My entire week's wardrobe and toiletries are shoved into approximately 1/3 of the suitcase. Cadence, on the other hand, occupies 2/3 of the suitcase, an entire backpack, and every pocket in my jeans. Barely a year old and she already overpacks! She's got to have regular diapers, overnight diapers, baby wipes, a spare container of wipes, teething rings, teething gel, teething tablets, gas drops, two bottles of milk, a sippy cup, two plastic spoons, several bibs, her baby doll, three books, a stack of onesies, several pairs of pants and shorts, two blankets, two pairs of shoes, a week's worth of socks, some crayons and paper, a pacifier (not to actually suck on, just to play with), lotion, diaper rash cream, sunblock, a hat, two jackets, several toys and games to keep her busy, and a large assortment of snacks. We needed a packmule and an assistant just to get out of the house on time. Making it through airport security in one piece was a damn miracle!

My one request to Cadence as we boarded the flight today was to please, please, please not poop her diaper during the flight, but the fact that she hadn't had a dirty diaper yet that day wasn't such a good sign. Lo and behold, about halfway through the flight, she started grunting and groaning and turning a little red in the face--all tell-tale signs of the impending disaster. I waited just long enough to make sure she was finished, and then headed to the lavatory for a fresh diaper before we managed to asphyxiate the rest of the passengers with the stench.

Whoever designed airplane bathrooms should be forced to live in one for the rest of his/her life, or dropped out of the plane midflight without a parachute. Even when I am just traveling alone, I do everything I can to avoid having to use the restrooms on the flight. I am not usually a germophobe or claustrophbobic, but airplane bathrooms can bring out those traits in anyone. After wiping everything down with several baby wipes and the covering every inch of the tiny cubicle bathroom with a layer of fresh paper towels, I laid Cadence on her changing pad to do away with the her foul-smelling diaper. It only took a minute, but it was long enough for her to cry and fuss and even squeeze out a few crocodile tears for good measure.

Victorious, we emerged and returned to our seats where we enjoyed the rest of our flight into Phoenix. I guess this time, we won the battle. Until next time...

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to all the traveling parents. May the Force be with you.

Friday, February 18, 2011

365 Project - Day 49 - Invasion of Privacy

When you become a parent, you should count on giving up every last shred of privacy. For us mothers, it begins with the doctor's appointments during pregnancy. Each month the examinations seem to get just a little more invasive. By the time you head to the hospital to deliver, you can kiss whatever modesty you have left goodbye.

From the beginning, the word Steven and I used to best describe our daughter, Cadence was "nosy". Even as a newborn, she was so alert. Those big blue eyes just never seemed to miss anything. These days, as a mobile toddler, her nosiness keeps her moving all day long. As a work at home Mom, I keep her occupied with toys, books, music, and just about anything I can find. Somehow, in the midst of all of it, I try to get as much done as I can. It's not easy though, because Cadence wants to be in the middle of whatever it is that I'm working on.

When I have to take a break and head to the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee or start making lunch, Cadence toddles along behind. She always gets a little irritated when I put the gate up to keep her at a safe distance. Obviously the separation anxiety is starting to kick in again because as soon as there is more than five feet separating her from me, this is the reaction I get:

My favorite though, is when I have to use the bathroom. These days, being able to relieve myself takes an elaborate diversion.

"Ball. Cadence, where's your ball?" I ask.

"Bah, bah, bah," she says, pointing to the ball popper toy she got for her birthday.

"Yeah, ball. Go push it. Push it," I say.

She runs over and pushes the button. Music blares and brightly-colored plastic balls begin popping out and bouncing across the floor. She flashes her open-mouth surprised face for a moment before bursting into excited giggles and chasing after the balls.

As soon as she's occupied, I bolt for the bathroom. She's never more than three steps behind me.

"Mamamama!" she squeals, thinking it's time to play chase.

I'm never able to close the door all the way, because those tiny fingers are always poking through the crack in the door before I get a chance. So, I take my bathroom break, and this is my view:

Today's 365 Project is dedicated to all the parents out there who have learned to pee with an audience. Rest assured, you're not alone.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

365 Project - Day 48 - And the Dumbass of the Day Award Goes To...

...the moron who thought he would be cool and tag a section of the fence along the Mopac West Bike Trail.

I will only say this once: If you can't spell it correctly, you have no business spray painting it on a fence for everyone to see.

That is all.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Project 365 - Day 47 - Adventures on the Bike Path

Since we first moved to Lincoln in December, Steven and I have been itching to get on the Bike Path that we noticed just half a block from our rental house. We were intrigued by this seemingly endless trail that cut through the neighborhood and stretched out of sight both east and west. After doing a little research, we learned that Lincoln currently has over 128 miles of such trails running through and around the city, with plans for more on the horizon. No wonder Lincoln was named one of the healthiest cities in the U.S. by Men's Health magazine!

After all the snow in December and January, we have finally been blessed with some great weather this week. With temperatures in the 60's and 70's, we decided it was high time we emerged from hibernation and hit the bike path to see where the trail would take us.

Poor Electra was overwhelmed at first. Too many new sounds and smells and strange people and dogs and squirrels. She pulled at the leash, eager to go. We headed west.

We got a bit of a late start, so we only made it as far as the 27th Street bridge, but we saw plenty of interesting things along the way. For instance, this pay phone. That's right kids. A pay phone. Insert enough pocket change and you'll be able to call your mom to tell her that you'll be home late. This is what we old fogies used to use before we had cell phones. Believe it or not, pay phones used to be everywhere. Then, one day, they all just seemed to vanish. This one still stands proudly, but upon closer inspection, Steven determined that it is, in fact, out of order. Too bad. We thought it might be fun to call someone just to tell them that we were calling from an actual working pay phone.

Just beyond the pay phone, we passed the busy skate park, which Steven and I also love. Neither of us has ever used one ourselves, but we think they are totally cool, and wish they'd been around when we were younger. It's always nice to see kids actually outdoors enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, and skate parks are a brilliant way for kids to stay out of trouble and get some exercise. Electra wasn't too keen on all the noise, but Cadence was intrigued, and had a few good laughs at the boys doing tricks as we passed by.

The Bike Path that runs near our house is the Mopac Trail West--a 5.08 mile stretch that goes from the UNL City Campus to the East Campus, past Peter Pan and Bethany Parks, and on west to 84th Street. It literally runs though neighborhoods and behind houses. A few homeowners got creative and thought maybe the people on the Bike Path would appreciate some artwork. Here is one of the beautiful handpainted fences we passed on our way.

Darkness was falling quickly as we headed toward home. We'd been walking for nearly an hour and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Suddenly Electra pulled hard on the leash behind Steven. He stopped and looked back, expecting to see her eyeballing a squirrel. No such luck. She was dropping a big, steaming pile of poo smack in the middle of the path, and like idiots, we'd forgotten to grab any plastic bags on our way out.

One of the best (and worst) things about having kids is that you never really travel light, no matter where you're going. Hell, once you have a baby, just walking to the end of your driveway to get the mail requires a fully-packed diaper bag and pockets filled with overflow--extra pacifiers, tissues, a teething ring, etc. Luckily for us, a couple of baby wipes and a diaper worked brilliantly to clean up Electra's handiwork, and after tossing it in the nearby garbage can, we were on our way home.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to the geniuses behind Lincoln's Bike Paths. Thank you for making exercise a much greater adventure!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Project 365 - Day 46 - Headache

Headaches suck.

I can deal with a run-of-the-mill headache pretty well. Usually I don't even need to take anything for them. It's the migraines that ruin my day. They started in high school and still come every so often--some days without warning, and some days building from a relatively minor throbbing to the sharp piercing pain that makes me nauseous and dizzy and unable to do much more than curl up in a ball in a dark room and pray for it to stop.

In college, I visited a few different doctors and neurologists who ran a battery of tests and tried several different prescription medications, but nothing ever worked. The pills either made me sick, sleepy, or slightly loony. So, my only other option was to try and prevent the pain from reaching the ridiculous level and manage it as best I could with over the counter medications. The doctor suggested rotating them to keep my from building up a tolerance.

The migraines don't come nearly as often as they used to, which is good because it's much harder to deal with the pain when there is a busy toddler in the house. Today was a rough one. Luckily, Cadence took a long afternoon nap, so I was able to take a couple Ibuprofen and bury my head beneath the blankets for a bit to take the edge off.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to those awful headaches and all the innocent people they afflict. I'll say it again...headaches suck.

Monday, February 14, 2011

365 Project - Day 45 - Won't You Be My Valentine?

Truth be told, Valentine's Day really hasn't been exciting since elementary school. Back then, it was one of the best days of the year, trumped only by Halloween, Christmas morning, and your birthday, in that order.

For children, Valentine's Day is about two things--getting candy, and exchanging fun Valentine's Day cards with friends and classmates. Back then, the biggest stress of Valentine's Day was deciding whether to make your own Valentine's cards or buy pre-made in the store, and figuring out what card to give to whom. You couldn't just pass the cards out willy nilly. You had to be careful what message you were sending. Accidentally address a card that says, "Be mine" or "You hold the key to my heart" to the nerdy kid who has a crush on you, and you may need to think about joining the Witness Protection Program. Hand a lame generic "You're swell! Happy V-Day!" card to your best friend, and you might find yourself uninvited to her next slumber party.

Nowadays, a lot of school kids get the shaft with Valentine's Day. Back at Cheylin East Elementary the Valentine's Day card exhange was legendary. The week leading up to the big day, we spent several hours in class designing and decorating our "card catcher" boxes. While we did do some work on Valentine's Day, it was never anything too challenging, and then we spent the afternoon enjoying our Valentine's Day party. We ate pink frosted cupcakes, drank red fruit punch, and pored over every card left in our boxes, tucking the attached candy into our desks or backpacks to eat later.

Most of those old Valentine's Day cards ended up getting tossed out shortly after the holiday was over. I did hold onto one though, and still have it tucked behind my 3rd grade class photo. It was from a boy named Jason. We were good friends all through school. His uncle lived just one house down and across the street, and we used to play basketball in his driveway. We had crushes on each other on and off throughout elementary school. In Mrs. Antholz's 3rd grade class, he gave me a special Valentine's Day card with a "song" (a short 4 verse poem with musical notes drawn around it), and a short note telling me he liked me and asking me to write him a note back, but to make sure Teacher didn't see me.

Somehow, between elementary school and adolescence, Valentine's Day become a whole lot more complicated. Suddenly, it wasn't cool to hand out valentines to everyone in your class. Instead, you made a statement by delivering cards and candy to a chosen few--usually your close circle of friends, anyone you wanted to be in your close circle of friends, and anyone you happened to have a crush on. Reaching the age when we began "going out" and having boyfriends or girlfriends meant a whole new level of Valentine's Day pressure. Gifts began to get more elaborate and more expensive. The front office at Holdrege High School was packed from wall to wall, floor to ceiling to with flowers and chocolates and cutesy stuffed animals every Valentine's Day, and the assigned office aides spent the entire day delivering them.

By that time, having someone to spend Valentine's Day with was the most important thing, and anyone unlucky enough to be single was something of a social pariah. Suddenly, Valentine's Day just wasn't any fun anymore. Instead of being a nice holiday where you give out small tokens of your friendship to those who matter most to you, Valentine's Day had turned into a sickeningly phoney competition. It was all about who loved who the most and who got the coolest gift. Don't get me wrong, I've gotten some nice Valentine's Day gifts over the years, but it doesn't much matter when the person only treats you that nicely one day a year.

I won't say that I am anti-Valentine's Day, because I'm not. I think it's a great holiday for kids, and I enjoyed spending my second Valentine's Day with my daughter and my husband today. We didn't do anything "special" to celebrate. Cadence enjoyed eating a chocolate-covered animal cookie from her Grandma Jayne and Papa Duane, and I got some great Valentine's Day photos of her with both the cookie and a lollipop I bought for the occassion. When Steven got home from work, we enjoyed a rib eye steak for dinner. I gave Cadence a bath, then gave Steven the haircut that was long overdue to get rid of the mullet he's been sporting since Christmas. Steven gave Cadence her bottle and rocked her to sleep, and now he, Electra, and I are just hanging out on the couch and enjoying a quiet evening together. We don't need flowers or chocolates or fancy dinners. We don't need mushy cards or chilled champagne. We just need each other, every day, and that's more than enough.

Today's 365 Project is dedicated to Valentine's Day 2011. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

365 Project - Day 44 - Red Robin...Yummm!

Before finally deciding to have dinner at a Red Robin restaurant, I knew nothing about place, other than the fact that they had some really lame commercials.

"Red Robin...Yummm!" 

That little ditty can get seriously stuck in your head if you're not careful, and it's just the type of annoying little tune that would keep you up at night if it did.

Out running some errands and shopping, Steven and I happened upon a Red Robin in South Lincoln, and decided to give it a try. It was packed, but we still only waited about 5 minutes for a table. It's definitely a family friendly place. There was at least one child at nearly every table, and the employees inflate an unending supply of helium balloons to give out to the all the kids as they entered the restaurant.

The menu is full of some of your typical restaurant fare--chips and dips, soups and salads, sandwiches and wraps. Red Robin's claim to fame is the "craveable" gourmet burgers that they have been serving up since they first opened in 1969. Reading through the descriptions in the menu, it certainly seemed like they would have something to satisfy just about every taste. For those wanting some spice, they have the Burnin' Love Burger--a cayenne seasoned beef patty topped with fried jalapenos, salsa, pepper jack cheese, and chipotle mayo served on a jalapeno-cornmeal Kaiser roll. Or for those looking for something a little sweet and sour, there is the Banzai Burger marinated in teriyaki sauce and topped with grilled pineapple, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo.

Reading through the menu, it was tough to decide which one I wanted try. Then, I saw the Royal Red Robin Burger, and the debate was over. A juicy, medium rare, all beef hamburger patty topped with crisp applewood smoked bacon, American cheese, fresh shredded lettuce, mayo, and a fried egg.

That's right. A fried egg.

I never thought I would say that the key to a delicious bacon cheeseburger is a fried egg, but ladies and gentleman, I wonder now how I ever ate a burger without it. Before you scoff, try it yourself. There's just something about the subtle richness of the egg that enhances the rest of the flavors. Of course, there are probably more calories in that one burger than I need to eat in a week, but hell, you only live once, right? And what good is living if you can't indulge every now and then?

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to some delicious burgers that are definitely craveable. Red Robin...Yummm!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

365 Project - Day 43 - The Wide World of Roller Sports

I still remember my first pair of roller skates. They were yellow and blue plastic Fisher Price adjustable skates that velcroed on over my shoes. They weren't exactly designed for speed. In fact, the orange plastic wheels hardly seemed to move without a considerable amount of effort. The only time I ever really got the things going was when I put the leash on our black lab, Cricket, and let her out of her pen, thinking it would be fun to have her pull me down the street. We barely made it to the end of the block before I tripped and fell. Cricket ran another 30 yards, dragging me along behind and erasing the skin from both my knees.

I upgraded eventually to a pair of rollerblades. My first pair were awful (though at the time I thought I was hot stuff rolling around the streets of Bird City, Kansas in them). They were standard black with fluorescent yellow laces, and no matter how hard I tried, I could never seem to get them cinched up tight enough. I never wore a helmet or any other sort of protective gear, and it's a wonder I didn't break my ankles trying to do tricks and land jumps off curbs.

When my family moved to Holdrege, Nebraska, I had my first experience with a roller skating rink. was really just a bunch of kids skating in circles beneath a disco ball to thumpin' Top 40 Hits at the City Auditorium, but it was all we had. It was one of those crazy, middle school mating rituals, much like the traditional school dances. The boys and girls would separate themselves into two distinct groups, and then slowly begin to mingle in the middle of the floor. Mostly, we just tried not the crash into anything or do a faceplant and embarass ourselves in front of our classmates. I can't say I ever really got into the whole skating rink thing. I much preferred to be roller blading in the fresh air and sunshine, than to be skating in circles on a crowded gymnasium floor.

I upgraded again to a newer pair of roller blades that actually had good solid latches. I put a lot of miles on those blades, especially in college when Steven and I used to go on roller blading "pseudo-dates" around Bronxville, back when I had a big ol' crush on the boy...funny how things turn out, isn't it?

Out running a few errands, Steven and I pulled up to a stoplight at the corner of South and 48th, and were surprised to see the sign for the National Museum of Roller Skating. I was immediately intrigued, and I'm hoping we can make a visit one day soon. Even better, I found out that Lincoln hosts several USA Roller Sports events throughout the year--from figure skating and speed skating to rink hockey and roller derby. Oh, I am so there!!!

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to our favorite roller sports. Strap some wheels to your feet and the fun never stops.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Project 365 - Day 42 - Our Dog, the Food Whore

99% of the time, our dog, Electra, is a model citizen. She is the dictionary definition of the Dog Whisperer's "calm submissive" mantra. If it weren't for her food addiction (and the separation anxiety I wrote about in a previous blog post), our sweet Electra would be the perfect dog.

Going through the Arizona Beagle Rescue to adopt her, we knew what we were getting ourselves into. Both beagles and basset hounds instinctively follow their noses, and that often means following it right into the garbage can, the refrigerator, the counter, and even right up to your plate on the dinner table. Poor Electra got hit with a double genetic whammy.

It took several months for us to get her into a routine at mealtimes. When we first brought Electra home, trying to feed her was like suiting up and trying to play with an NFL team. The minute she saw the food, smelled the food, even saw us walking near the container we kept the food in, she would come running, leap in the air, and hit us with the full force of her 40-pound frame.

Steven and I joke that Electra really only has one facial expression. Whether she's happy, sad, excited, angry, nervous, playful, or frustrated, she looks like this:

One of these days, we'd like to make a poster titled "The Many Faces of Electra" to hang on our wall. Let her get a whiff of something, or ask her if she wants to eat, though, and you'll get a glimpse of Mrs. Hyde. She starts to resemble a junkie looking for a fix. Her eyes bulge and thick saliva begins to drip from her mouth like long, gelatinous shoelaces.

When we first adopted her, Electra had been fed all sorts of different treats. We weren't sure which it was, but one of them wasn't agreeing with her stomach. She had, hands down, the most noxious gas I'd ever smelled coming out of a dog, and that's saying a lot considering I'd once owned a dog that my family nicknamed "Stinky". Those first few months, Steven complained that Electra was constantly crop dusting him. He'd be alone in the office, working on the computer or paying bills. Electra would walk in, take a slow stroll around him, sometimes even stopping to be petted for a moment, and then walk back out again. A moment later, the stench would hit, and Steven would be forced to evacuate.

Determined to try and combat her deadly flatulence, I went in search of some all-natural dog treats. Anything meat-flavored seemed to be the worst culprit, so I steered clear of those treats all together. I stumbled upon a company called Three Dog Bakery, and decided to give them a try. Not only did the Three Dog Bakery treats solve Electra's gas problems, she absolutely adores them.

Electra's favorite of all the Three Dog Bakery treats are the Lick 'N Crunch cookies. Basically, they are peanut butter Oreos, and Electra would do anything for one. Anything. I tested it one day and even got her to walk on the treadmill for a cookie. Sure, she only lasted about 20 seconds (the time it took her to eat the cookie), but it still counts. I think if I could somehow make her one of those harnesses that would dangle the cookie about a foot in front of her nose, she would probably be content to walk for hours.

Our only problem now is that Electra likes the treats so much she tries to con us into giving them to her all day long. She'll stare at us with that pathetically forlorn expression on her face, hoping it might prompt a sympathy treat. And when that doesn't work, she scratches at the door to go outside, thinking she'll be rewarded when she returns. We've even watched her pretend to go potty just to get a treat. Little does she know it was the snow that exposed her carefully planned hoax.

On the news this week, I saw a story about a border collie named Chaser who has learned the names of over 1,000 different toys, and will retrieve any one of them on command. If you have yet to see this incredible story, click here and check it our for yourself. I've always believed that we humans grossly underestimate our pets, but even I was amazed watching Chaser's story. Looking at my droopy-faced hound as she sleeps on the couch beside me, I wonder what sort of untapped potential we might find if we could just get her motivated. Maybe one of these days I'll have to start another blog, and I'll call it...What Electra Will Do For a Cookie.

The possibilities are endless.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to our dog, the food whore, and to the treats that keep her happy and gas free!