Wednesday, July 30, 2008

46 Pounds

Well, my checked bag is packed and ready, and my carry-on isn't far behind it.  I am hoping our scale is accurate enough that my bag doesn't go over 50 pounds at the airport (I'm hoping they don't use doctor's scales, which are always WAY higher than the truth!!).  I should already be in bed as I write this, trying to get at least some sleep before having to be at church at 4:15 in the morning.  But honestly, I would just be laying awake in bed thinking anyway!  Please pray our travel goes smoothly tomorrow - fly out of O'Hare around noon, then connect to our flight to Lima in Houston, planning to arrive in Lima about 10 pm.  I'm hoping to be able to update the blog as I am down there (our hotel is rumored to have internet access), or else Justin will be manning the posts till I'm home!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

One Less Key

Today was my final day working at Entree Vous.  I went in this morning and made up a few last meals for gift certificate orders, then spent some time cleaning the floors and scouring the three basin sink.  All that was left after that was to remove my key from the ring, give Ann a hug and head out the door.  It wasn't until later this afternoon that it really started to sink in.  A single key doesn't weigh a whole lot on a scale, but the fact that it isn't there anymore signals a big difference in my life.  The door to a very significant part of my world has closed and I feel like I'm floundering a bit.  At least, I suppose, until I add the next "key."   

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cookin' & Cleanin'

Well, the kitchen certainly got a workout today.  When I got home from the gym (my workout!) I made a batch of chocolate-chip-plus cookies (milk chocolate & semisweet chocolate chips, plus mini m&m's) for small group this evening.  Then to use up some pears I made a batch of mini loaves of pear bread.  I froze all but one of the small loaves.  Justin can enjoy another one (or three) while I'm away.  

The kitchen was a bit of a mess by then, so I gave it a quick cleaning.  Have you seen or tried these cleaning wipes?  They're great!  I like the "lavender" scent, mainly because it doesn't have a cleaning chemical smell.  They were in a bundle on clearance at Target, and I thought I'd give 'em a shot.  Very handy.

Then a very yummy dinner - maple soy salmon, roasted fingerling potatoes (from Saturday's Farmer's Market), and a new recipe for cauliflower - roasted with carmelized onions and Spanish smoked paprika and just a dusting of cocoa powder - very unique, but also very good!  And then Travis offered to do the dishes that couldn't go in the dishwasher (I knew there was a good reason for letting him stay! :).

After dinner I went out to check out our raspberry bushes - what a bounty!  I probably should have been checking them a few days ago, but not too many had fallen off yet.  I had been planning to bring them to small group to share, but Travis would have none of that and claimed them for his breakfast!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

"Hey Brother"

Buster, from "Arrested Development"

John and Sarah dropped Travis off this afternoon.  As you can see, Storm appreciates her new friend, even if he is skinnier than she is.  Trav will be staying the week, and then is heading out on a short train trip to Portland with a friend.  

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Potentially Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies

Two years ago when we were in Las Vegas, my mom, aunt Ruth and I went out for dinner to Bouchon.  I would list this among my top favorite meals of all time.  We didn't necessarily get a huge spread but they just had PERFECT french bread, sweet cream butter, and roasted pistachios to enjoy before our entrees arrived, and I have yet to have gnocchi that compare to what I had there.  Little did we know that we missed out BIG time by not stopping at their bakery, which is in the lobby of the Venetian hotel.  I found this recipe online, and figured if their sweets even came close to their meals, we would have a hit.  This was more than a hit.  This was a bottom-of-the-ninth-game-on-the-line-holy-smokes grand slam.  These were cookies that I had to get out of my house NOW.  As soon as they were done and I had devoured one, I called up Jane Whitford, as they were the friends that were the closest in proximity that I could take these little devils to (sorry everyone else - if you want emergency cookie drops, you'll just have to move across the street!  I even tried to think of a way to send some of these to you, Aunt Shelley, but I think you would get a package of crumbs - tasty tasty crumbs).  Make these cookies.  (I used Skippy peanut butter and roasted peanuts and note that they spread a lot on the cookie sheets!)  They are not hard and you will NOT be disappointed!!  

Kitty Chaise Lounge

We were at Target today, and I got drawn in to the "Kitty Chaise Lounge". It attached to a window sill, allowing the cats to look out the window in our new office easier. What I forgot at Target was that Storm is not a normal cat size. She is, in fact, the size of a manatee with a gland problem. She managed to squish herself into the chaise lounge alright, but it wasn't pretty.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Justin "The Cheese" Gasper

Well, he did it again.  For three years running, Justin has taken the prize for the Longest Drive at the annual Putts for Pets fundraiser for the South Wood County Humane Society.  Each year we have paired up on a team with our good friends Robert and Rachel (shown here passing us in their much faster cart).   We always have a great time with them laughing and being silly, and playing a game that resembles golf.  Robert & Rachel always manage to get to the stake to mark the longest drive first, which means they get to christen Justin with a special nickname each year.  Past names have included Justin "The Bee" Gasper and Justin "Apple Pie" Gasper.  Like I said, it is mostly a chance to just be silly!  This year the event was held at Bullseye Country Club rather than The Ridges.  We thought the course was a little bit nicer, but the food left much to be desired (though we somewhat expected this and raided the trail mix packets out of our goody bags before dinner!).  

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Here is a picture of our silly cat.  Actually, our naughty cat.  This basket used to have miscellaneous junk in it in a cabinet, but as I am cleaning out, sorting through, and organizing our office, it found its way onto the dining room table (which has become the catch-all for "things that don't have a space").  Cats don't belong on the dining room table.  Norm (typically) gets yelled at if we catch him up there.  But when I walked in and saw him sitting in this little basket, I was laughing too hard to yell at him.  Does that make him "miscellaneous junk?" :)  

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Why Justin doesn't play Basketball...

Here is a nice picture of our bed.  Look closely.  Can you find the item that doesn't belong?  Did you find it... or do you give up?

Yes.  That is a crumpled tissue wedged above my light.  Justin blew his nose last night while on his side of the bed (the left side) and then threw it (with the lights off) in the "general direction" of the garbage can, which is against the wall by my side of the bed.  That is as far as it got.  We didn't notice it until this afternoon.  I'm just glad it didn't hit me in the face!!  

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bathroom: Check

Phew.  The basement bathroom is officially complete.  I ended up not having to work today, so I came home and finished the last coat of paint.  I then worked at hanging the *first* mirror.  It really is amazing how many pieces a mirror can shatter into, isn't it?  It wasn't until after I cleaned it all up that I realized what a cool picture it could have been.  I even contemplated (only for a second) dumping all the shards out of the bag in order to "recreate" the disaster.  Anyways, after a quick trip to Menards for another mirror, the bathroom is DONE.  Justin helped hang the second (and final) mirror, as well as the picture.  I really wish I would have taken a "before" picture, just so you all could truly appreciate the difference.  

Monday, July 21, 2008

Magically Delicious!

When we were in Dubuque and stopped at the Calico Bean Market shop, they were selling little bags of just the marshmallows from Lucky Charms.  It is very funny to just see a bag of them without any of the actual cereal bits, though it is probably just about every 8 year-old's dream.  I immediately decided to get them to see how they would work in Rice Krispie Bars.  Well, I'll tell you how they work - awesomely.  I melted regular marshmallows and butter and added that to the already combined rice krispies and rainbow marshmallows.  Stirred everything up and mashed it into a pan, then sprinkled a few more of the fun marshmallows over the top.  I did add a little salt and vanilla into the melted marshmallow mixture as well to try to cut some of the sweetness.  These are probably the tastiest rice krispie bars ever.  Especially if you grew up on Lucky Charms.  And they are obviously way prettier than regular rice krispies (and luckier, of course).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Weekend of Golf

This was definitely a weekend of watching golf.  On Saturday we drove down to Milwaukee to watch the US Bank Championship.  Our friend Clay works for US Bank and has hooked us up with great corporate tickets for the last few years.  This typically gets us into a great parking lot and into the corporate tent area, which means free food, drinks, and ice cream.  Definitely a treat!  While the weather wasn't the greatest this year and rained off and on, there were a few hours that it held off and we were able to walk throughout the course and follow a number of groups of players.  Some of the names that I recognized and watched included Kenny Perry, Chad Campbell, and Bill Haas.  

Today our highlight wasn't watching golf, but meeting our friends Robert & Rachel and going to see the new Batman film, The Dark Knight.  It was ridiculously good, and we definitely recommend going to see it - though it is also definitely NOT for kids.  We were surprised it got away with a PG-13 rating with all of the violence.  

When we got home we went back to golf - watching the final round of the British Open, which Justin had recorded from earlier today.  I have to admit that Justin probably enjoyed it a bit more than I did, as I ended up nodding off a couple of times!  Watching all the golf gave Justin THE ITCH, and so after he was done setting up some new phones at church he went over to the golf range to hit a bucket of balls and do some chipping and putting.  

Friday, July 18, 2008

Two Weeks Away!

I can hardly believe that in two weeks I will be in Peru (specifically Chincha, south of Lima).  PERU!  It has gone from several months to 14 days in the blink of an eye.  I am officially in the "antsy" phase before I travel.  I am a details person when we do some major travel.  I like all my tickets and such in a certain portfolio, all my toiletries bought and packed (I LOVE mini tubes of toothpaste, mini lotions, mini everything!), and typically have an extensive list of what needs to be packed and how.  Really.  I can get a little neurotic about this - but I also love it.  I like thinking that I'll be prepared for anything.  This is never the case with missions trips.  My last trip to Kentucky my deodorant cracked open on the second day and smashed all over the floor - and it was about 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity.  And wouldn't you know it, one of the students on the trip packed an extra stick of the exact same kind I use.  Fancy that.  It all comes down to the fact that I will never be prepared for this trip and everything that will happen, but it is fantastic knowing that God will be completely prepared and can cover all our mishaps.  When you get a moment here and there, I would appreciate any prayers you can send heavenward - not only for my own experience, but also for the whole team and the Peruvian people that we hope to help a bit.  Here is a website that has some more information about what we hope to accomplish.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

Okay, a quick word of warning - do not attempt to make these bars without a BIG glass of milk standing by!!  
I absolutely could not resist this recipe.  Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars.  Our brand new jar of Strawberry Rhubarb Butter from Galena practically cried out to be made into something that sounded so perfect.  With two and a half cups of peanut butter in the dough, these bars are just a step above spooning peanut butter from the jar directly into your mouth.  The dough is amazing - it took every ounce of will power not to just immediately halt production, turn off the preheating oven, and sit on the couch with a spoon.  
The next hardest part about these crazy things, is that they need to be refrigerated for TWO HOURS after baking!  What is this - lessons in self control day??  I tried everything to distract myself - took the cats outside, washed the dishes, even ran to Target and filled the car with gas - and still only lasted an hour and a half.  I suppose I could have cleaned the bathroom too, but I'm not superwoman!  If you could have smelled my kitchen, you would understand.  
The resulting squares are fantastic, though not completely without fault.  Yes, they smell and look terrific, and they even have that "stick to the roof of your mouth" quality that can only be found in a great pb&j, but actually, I think they needed a little more "j" and a little less "pb."  The next time I make these (oh yes, there will be a next time), I'm planning to cut back on the dough a little bit and add a touch more jam.  And cook them about 5 minutes less (the recipe gave the ridiculously wide range of 45 to 60 minutes - if you make these, stick closer to 45, especially if using a dark pan).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's Raining, It's Pouring, Etc.

I think God is installing some new software updates to iWeather, and there are a few bugs in the system.  One minute, sunny and hot, the next torrential downpours with hail.  One minute clear with a slight breeze, the next a green sky with OMINOUS black clouds that spin in circles and shift up and down.  I think the majority of the storms have rolled through for now, with a slight chance for a few more throughout the night.  Our lawn and flowers happily lapped up the rain, though there are plenty of substantial puddles down the road where a drain has backed up!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Ah Ha!  Through a sneaky game of peek-a-boo with the camera constantly clicking we finally managed it - proof that Katie Snyder smiles - and when she does, watch out!!  She is just as cute as cute can be!  (Though she does manage to be cute, even without smiling - she is a baby after all!)  Thank goodness for digital cameras - we would have gone through lots of film otherwise!  

This morning we drove into Dubuque and parked near Bluff Street, where there are a number of fun shops and cafes.  One very unique thing that is there is the Fenelon Place Elevator.  Originally built in 1882 by Mr. J.K. Graves, it was a way he could quickly go up and down the steep bluff hill for his lunch hour.  It was rebuilt in 1977, and now the cable cars go up and down throughout the day.  So we rode up it, walked around the neighborhood at the top a bit, and then rode down.  Before heading out, we walked down Bluff Street a bit and stopped at the Calico Bean Market.  What a fun little shop!  All sorts of bulk spices, decorations, snack mixes, grains and pastas.  We found a number of culinary treasures, and the snack mix we picked out, the Cabin Crunch, is fantastic.  
Thanks, Angie - for entertaining us and for the fun visit!!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fun with Friends...

We have been enjoying the fantastic weather down here in the Galena, IL/Dubuque, IA/Kieler, WI area while visiting Angie, Kurt & Katie. While Kurt was working today, Angie, Katie, Justin and I drove into Dubuque and hiked a trail in the Mines of Spain recreational area. Beautiful views of the Mississippi river valley, as well as the bluffs in the area.

Then we drove up to Potosi, WI to the newly completed restaurant, brewery and museum there. We had a delicious lunch and walked around a bit, and definitely had to get a picture in front of the World's Tallest Beer Bottle. Special.

Justin and I then walked around downtown Galena for a bit, picking up some items - namely Strawberry Rhubarb Butter from The Galena Canning Company - our favorite!

This evening we had a great meal with Angie, and then tried our hardest to get a picture of Katie smiling. She is bound and determined to immediately stop smiling just before the camera clicks!

I love crazy people

I love crazy people. Without crazy people, life would be pretty stinking boring. Just look at these pictures of a field between Kieler, WI and Galena, IL. It's just a normal cow pasture, but I can totally understand what went through the crazy guy's mind before this happened. "This field is missing something. It has cows and weeds, but it needs a little extra pizazz. I've got it: DINOSAURS! Dinosaurs are like khaki pants; they go with EVERYTHING! GERTRUDE! I gotta get me some metal so we can class up our cow field!"

Pop quiz: What sort of whistling sounds can a man covered in BBQ sauce make exactly? I definitely need a recording.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I'll give you one guess...

While this may be the Chinese Year of the Rat, I think I will remember it better as the Year of the Paint.  I have moved into the basement, where I am painting a little, dark, scary half bath that we never use (because of the aforementioned reasons).  As Travis will be moving in at the end of the month and we are giving him the basement room, we thought it would be nice if this bathroom was actually usable for him.  The previous owners had painted this bathroom a very dark maroon pink with dark teal trim (yes, it was as horrid as it sounds).  I managed to get two coats of primer (light tan) on the walls, trim, and door yesterday, and it will take another two coats of the final paint to really cover it all.  It is already a pretty substantial difference.  We are also replacing the tiny old mirror with a larger one, and the old dark wood toilet seat with a new white one.  I won't be able to finish it for a little while, as we are heading down to Galena, Il for the next two days to visit our good friend Angie, her husband Kurt, and new baby girl, Katie.  We are leaving in less than an hour!  

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Golf on Friday

Yesterday Dad and I went golfing in Sheboygan Falls, at a course named The Bull. It's definitely one of my favorite courses (behind the Irish Course at Whistling Straits), so it was a treat to be able to play, especially when the weather cooperated. We ate at Firehouse Pizza in Sheboygan Falls on the way home.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mmm...more bread...

What a great (and yummy!) surprise when I opened the mailbox this afternoon (well, besides the fact that there weren't ANY bills in there!) and found a small loaf of bread from our friends Luke and Becca!  The other day we were walking downtown and were right near the Student Impact office, and stopped in and were able to chat for a few minutes, as we hadn't seen them in some time.  They are diligently working to raise support in order to move to Duluth/Superior, where they have been assigned as staff workers with Campus Crusade for Christ.  They are such a fun couple, and have a great love of, and gift for working with college students.  We will miss them greatly, but wish them the best!

Justin and I drove up to Wausau earlier today and met my mom and sister Maria for lunch at City Grille.  We usually only see Maria at the holidays, as she lives out-of-state, but she is back home for a couple of weeks, so it was nice to catch up a bit.  And Mom had a gift certificate which covered all our meals, so it was a treat for all of us!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Found: Magic

Some poor fairy out there is missing her magic wand.  It can be found at SentryWorld, in the parking lot, in case you run into her.  It did not help Justin hit his driver any better, so we did not hold on to it.  

Monday, July 7, 2008

New Recipe!

This CRAZY recipe comes to us courtesy of Jim & Jenn King.  We were at their house for small group this evening, and they shared this little tidbit with us - something Jenn's dad has made for them! Very easy and fun for the whole family (if you want to be on sugar highs for the next week!).  Just take a glazed donut - preferably at least a day old (we used one from Kwik Trip - on sale) and slice it half.  Butter the cut side (here's the funny part - we used "Take Control" cholesterol-reducing butter spread!), and toast it like a grilled cheese sandwich.  We decided to kick it up a notch by adding jelly on one half and cinnamon sugar on another.  Hmmm... verdict?  Weird.  The edges actually crisp up a bit and the sugar caramelizes just a little, but then the sugar hits you right between the eyes and makes any intelligent thought vanish.  Was it good - sure!  It was a toasted donut!  Will we ever do this again in our lives?  Heck no!  This was purely to make your day, Jenn!!  

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Summer Saturday

Pretty much another 4th of July day!  In the morning we walked downtown to the Farmer's Market, and brought home a bag of wonderfulness.  The baker from La Baguette in Minocqua came down with fresh bread, so we bought a number of small loaves, including a baguette, ciabatta, bacon & cheese loaf, a french loaf, and small pear tart.  We also bought a bunch of fresh baby bok choy to make a salad we just call "Angie's salad" afer our friend who first made if for us!  
Later in the evening we walked down to the riverfront and brought a blanket and picnic supper of our baguette, apples, havarti cheese (our current favorite), the tart, and leftover pear bread.  We found some friends (Allords and Brunners) already camped out at a spot for fireworks, and spread our blanket beside them.  The fireworks didn't start until almost 10 pm, but were absolutely fantastic!  They touted it as their "largest display ever," and it certainly was that.  They did such a good job of getting an incredible variety of fireworks, and obviously decided that bigger was definitely better!  Afterwards we walked home, thankful we didn't have to try to escape a parking lot and brave the streets in the car!

Friday, July 4, 2008

4th of July RULES

Gotta love the 4th of July. I got to eat pizza and garlic knots from Polito's and play Mario Kart Wii with Luke and Dad, and then I got to go to the Jorden's for a cookout, where more soda, hotdogs, and ice cream cake was consumed, along with Julie's awesome pear bread. I jumped on a trampoline for the first time in a couple of years, and found out that I have gained a little weight since high school, as I was able to hit the ground through the trampoline. Follow that up with bean bag tossing in Amherst before the fireworks, and a sweet glow stick, and you have just about as perfect a day as you can get, without golf being involved. Too bad I didn't have this awesome CD to go along with the glow stick.

Hodgepodge Day

Happy 4th of July!  Another gorgeous day - sunny and warm, and next to nothing on our agenda!  

We went for a walk this
morning and came by Don Price, who was out painting their house.  He wanted us to be sure to know that Julie, his wife, has been out just as much as he has, working on this big project!

I tried another new recipe today, for Pear Bread.  
An absolute hit!  Nice and sweet, moist, and the house smelled AMAZING.  This is one I will definitely make again very soon, and make into mini-loaves in order to freeze and just have a small amount at a time!  It actually worked out really well this first time to make two big loaves, as we headed over to John & Cheryl's house this afternoon for a cookout, and it was the perfect thing to bring to share!  Jane & Abi Whitford, Lincoln & Ann Brunner & their girls, Derek & Kari Leonard & their boys, Loraine Erickson & her boys, Erin Huffman, Mike McGuire, Mike & Melissa and their son all made an appearance at the Jordens, and we had a great time visiting, jumping on the trampoline, playing games, etc.  Afterwards a number of us drove out to see the Amherst fireworks, as Stevens Point is waiting until tomorrow for theirs (I know, we don't get it either!).

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Skate Park Opening

This morning we drove up to Weston for the opening of their new skate park where Justin's brother Luke was up to be a part of the demonstration team.  Justin & Luke's dad John was one of the people to encourage the town to build a high quality, challenging park that skaters would be able to enjoy and use for many years. He was often the one taking Luke and his friends to skate parks around the area and saw some good ones and many bad ones.  This new one is all concrete, with deep bowls, rails and edges.  Lots of people turned out for the ribbon-cutting ceremony and opening, young and old alike.  

On a side note, Justin and I went to Lensmire's Nursery & Greenhouse this evening, and we found the real name for our "pinkies" - Malva.  We like "pinkies" better!