Friday, September 30, 2011

Dadadada, dadadada...The Addams Family!

Tonight Jim and I saw The Addams Family at the Fox Theatre. It was a fun show, with some really strong voices in it. The set design was awesome, as were the costumes. Well, except that Morticia wore a dress so low cut and revealing that I was positive we were going to see a wardrobe malfunction. They must have had the dress glued to her boobs. I haven't seen that much flesh since I was in New Orleans for Mardis Gras. To me it was a little distracting and I thought they could have done a low cut dress without also cutting across half of her breasts. But I'm sure the males in the audience would disagree with me. There was also more than a bit of sexual innuendos in the script, which didn't necessarily bother me. But I felt sorry for the dad in front of me as he was trying to explain to his pre-teen daughter what some of the lines meant. Maybe they had some sort of disclaimer out there about the play perhaps not being suitable for children - I'm not sure. Those of us who remember the television show would have imagined that this play would be fun to attend as a family. I guess that wouldn't sell too well on Broadway though, huh? Too bad.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Scary Time

The first thing I do every morning is open up my iPad and review the headlines on Yahoo. The first thing I saw yesterday was that there had been an afternoon subway train accident in Shanghai. The article stated that 260 people had been injured! Calculating the 13 hour time difference, I realized that Katie takes the train about that time to get to her internship. I have no idea which line she takes from the campus to the business, but my mother's mind immediately assumed it was her line.

I checked my email next, and saw that I had gotten an email from Katie. Whew! But then I checked the time and saw that it was before the train accident. I sent her an emergency email asking her to email me ASAP. And then I waited. I realized that people in the dorm would not miss her for hours because of her internship. I decided to try calling her cell phone, which I had not attempted to do before now. The number wouldn't go through. I googled placing a call to China from the US and realized you need to enter a code to get you out of the country first. I tried the code and the number to no avail. Further research indicated that Katie might have given me the wrong country code for China, which is a little hard to believe since she is very detail-oriented. Regardless, I tried the number again with the alternate country code and got the recording of a very fast talking Chinese gal. I immediately hung up. But then I wondered, could that have been Katie? She probably does have her voice mail in Chinese while she is there.

While I was pondering that, Katie sent me an email. She was safe! In fact the train accident occurred on the one she normally takes, but she took a cab Tuesday for whatever reason. Her angel was definitely looking out for her! She had not heard about the accident yet, but her train ride back to campus from the internship was very delayed, and she had been annoyed by that since she didn't know why it was late. So thank you, God, and the little guardian angel you sent as well.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Ulimate Vanilla Cupcake Finale

In an earlier blog post I mentioned that I was one of 50 Explorers chosen by Stef at The Cupcake Project to test vanilla cupcake recipes in her search for the Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake. After the Explorers tried baking each recipe we completed a survey in an effort to find a cupcake that at least 80% of us deemed good enough to be called the Ultimate. The first recipe, which my husband, daughter and I disliked so much that frosting couldn't even save them, was given the Ultimate approval rating by only 29% of the Explorers. We eagerly awaited the arrival of recipe #2.

The second recipe required the use of a vanilla bean. This was a new experience for me, so I watched a YouTube video to see exactly how one harvests the vanilla from inside of a vanilla bean. It is a bit of a tricky process, with the vanilla sticking more to my knife and my fingers than I was prepared for. Regardless, this recipe was amazing! All three of us loved these cupcakes, and the highest compliment I can pay is to say that they did not even need frosting. And I love my frosting! I was certain that this recipe would be IT. Imagine my surprise when only 36% of my fellow Explorers agreed with me. I wondered how in the world Stef was going to improve on perfection with the next recipe.

For the third recipe we again used a vanilla bean, which was great because I had ordered a package of six beans online and had no idea what I would do with all of them. Katie had already left for South Korea at this point, so only Jim and I did the taste testing. While the cupcakes were very good, we did not feel like they held a candle to recipe #2. Again I was surprised when 66% of the Explorers thought that this recipe was the Ultimate.

At this point Stef had to decide whether she would ever get 80% of us to agree on a recipe. Considering that we all have different pans, ovens and brands of ingredients, not to mention taste preferences, perhaps 80% was an unrealistic goal. In the end she decided that if 2 out of 3 of us thought this recipe was the Ultimate, that was good enough. Recipe number 3 was crowned as king of vanilla cupcakes, and you can find the recipe here. While I am disappointed that my personal favorite was not selected as the best, I am very happy that I participated in this search for a great vanilla cupcake. Cupcakes from scratch no longer intimidate me, and I am eager to try some of the other fantastic recipes out on the Internet.

So for now, Wolter the Explorer signing out.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Nothing to Bark About

Every Thursday during the growing season they have a farmer's market in my town. This is only the second year so there are not a large number of booths yet, but it has grown some since last year. Today was doggie day at the market, with promises of treats for your pooch. Kirby and I walked up to the area of the market, which is a nice distance from our house. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but there was not too much going on. In addition to the regular booths, a groomer had a booth set up with a doggie bag for each four legged visitor. And an animal hospital had a vet available to answer questions. That was it. There were a couple of gals taking pictures, so Kirby may end up with his 15 minutes of fame somewhere. As cute as he is though, most of the camera time was going to a tie dyed dog at the groomer's booth. He was a pretty docile little guy, mostly hanging his head in shame at looking so ridiculous with his four colors of fur. We didn't hang around long. In fact we spent more time walking there and back than we did at the market. The dog days of summer it wasn't.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Who am I?

I have been feeling a little bit adrift lately. After my career in the insurance industry flowed seamlessly into working full time (or at least as full time as I wanted it to be) with our company Organic Resource Management, Inc., I was able to have my cake and eat it too. I worked out of the comfort of my home office and was available to our two children for carpool, field trips, being a room parent, Girl Scout leader, etc. It was perfect, and as the kids got older I was able to pursue my interest in researching and writing a book. Now our son has been married for four years and our daughter is in her senior year of college. And we sold our business last year after operating it for 18 years.

I love the fact that I can focus on my writing and publishing business now. But it is always a little awkward when we are out and someone asks me what I do. "I am an author and a publisher", I try to say with authority. And I know that I am! I guess I am just not feeling all that successful right now. Part of me has just a little built of guilt that I am not out seeking a full-time "real" job. Whatever that is. Sometimes I feel so invisible when we are at a gathering and the other people in the group are discussing the goings-on at work. Face it, not many people can relate to what I am doing. I guess I just need to hang around with more authors.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11

Like most Americans I recall very distinctly what I was doing when the planes crashed into the towers in New York City. I had taken the kids to school, and had just sat down in our breakfast nook with a bowl of cereal. I had turned on "The Today Show" to catch up on the news before beginning my day. Katie Couric was reporting on the plane hitting the first tower, and they were speculating as to whether or not it had been pilot error. But as we watched live footage of the second plane hit the remaining tower, we all knew that the unthinkable had occurred - America was being attacked on its own soil. Like the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, it was a day etched forever in my memory.

It is hard to believe that ten years have elapsed since that fateful day in American history. This significant anniversary brought with it renewed fears that our enemies would capitalize on the media coverage of the day and launch another attack. I watched a bit of the news coverage this morning, but then had to turn it off as the media once again began to sensationalize everything all in the name of ratings.

My niece chose today to celebrate her daughter's upcoming 16th birthday. She thought about the date, and decided that we all needed something positive and happy for this day, instead of letting the terrorists win by hiding from our own shadows. In the midst of all the fear and negativity we live with right now, it was refreshing to enjoy the laughter of the teens and the innocence of all of the Hello Kitty gifts that Molly received.

But on our way home, Jim and I stopped at Forest Park to view the 9-11 memorial that had been created there. Nearly 3,000 flags, each bearing the name of a victim from September 11, 2001, dot the hillside in front of the St. Louis Art Museum. It is an amazing and moving site, and having a visual such as all the flags helps you to comprehend just how many people lost their lives that day. God Bless America!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hunting Dead People

Today I traveled to Springfield, Illinois to attend the Federation of Genealogical Societies annual conference. I have never attended FGS before, but since it is being held within driving distance of St. Louis I decided to sign up this year. I have also never been to Springfield, except to fly past it on the drive to Chicago. It is kind of a drag to be here by myself, but when I entered the lobby of the hotel I found the Beldons from St. Louis. I have known them for nearly 30 years as Bob and Jim used to work together at HOK. We are going to have supper together tonight, so that will be great.

After I walked next door to the convention center to pick up my registration packet, I headed off with my map to do a little sight-seeing. I saw the old capital building as well as the new one, the Lincoln Presidential Library and the Lincoln Presidential Museum. I didn't get to Lincoln's boyhood home, but hopefully I can fit that in before I leave.

The genealogy sessions start tomorrow morning with a keynote address by the head of the National Archives, which should be very interesting. The meetings go all day, as well as all of Friday and Saturday. I will head home after the last session on Saturday, unless I am really dragging in the afternoon. In that case I will load up on caffeine and hit the road early. Looking forward to learning a lot!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

All in the Family

Labor Day weekend has been a lot of fun so far. On Saturday our daughter-in-law's parents came over to spend Saturday and Sunday with us. We are so blessed that we enjoy every member of Megan's family! We decided to grill hamburgers and brats for lunch since we were going to the Cardinals game which began at 3:15. I tried a new macaroni salad recipe that suggested you make it the night before. I appreciated that hint since I prefer to have as little as possible left to do once my company arrives. We also made an ice cream pie for dessert and that, too, could be made Friday night.

Saturday morning I was able to put together the french toast casserole that I wanted to serve Sunday morning, because it also is best made the day before and refrigerated. So all we had left to do was assemble the condiments and grill the meat. Of course the day would end up with high humidity and a temperature of 100 degrees at the ballpark. Whew! Fortunately our seats were in the shade by that time of the day. We ended up getting rained on though, which was a welcome relief from the heat. The temperature dropped and the Cards won the game - so, perfect!

Following the game we went to McGuirks for supper, and were actually able to score a table in their lovely patio area. It was a very pleasant night to eat outside. Then we headed back home for some dessert.

Sunday we had the french toast casserole, fruit and Canadian bacon for breakfast, and then decided to see what the crowds were like at the Missouri Botanical Garden. The Japanese Festival is going on this weekend, so I expected it to be packed. We did have to park in the far west lots, but once we got inside it was really not all that crowded. With a temperature of 68 degrees, what a difference from the day before at the game! Cheryl and Allen had never been before, so they very much enjoyed themselves. We definitely need to take them back in the spring or early summer when so much more is blooming, but the chance to see the festival was an opportunity that we didn't want to miss. We had a late lunch and then they had to hit the road for home. It was so wonderful to see them as we hadn't had a chance to visit since Christmas.

Tomorrow we also have tickets to the ballgame, so our friends are coming over for lunch and going to the game with us. With a predicted high of 75 degrees, it will be a wonderful day for the game. But I must say that I have been doing quite a bit of laboring on this Labor Day weekend. I'll be tired tomorrow night!