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And now, for something completely different …

There are lots of things I want to see and experience in my life. I don’t maintain a written bucket list as some people do, but I have a loose list in my head. Learning Tae Kwon Do was not on that list. Nope. Not even at the bottom.

Yet, in mid-February I found myself standing in the back row to the far left (the least experienced class member’s spot) wondering just what I’d gotten myself into as I listened to Chief Master Tom Crecelius bark out orders in Korean. I watched the black belts in the front row smoothly perform intricate movements and frantically tried to follow along, without much success.

Late last year, Hays decided he wanted to learn Tae Kwon Do. From a friend we’ve made at the Crawford County Public Library, we learned of the Ohio Valley Tae Kwon Do School. It came highly recommended, although I had no basis for judging a good school from a poor one. The main selling point for me was that it’s just two miles from our home.

It was all my driving that drove me to commit to learning this martial art along with Hays. As I observed Hays’ first couple classes, I noticed the adults were breathing heavily and sweating after completing a series of movements. My commute has put an end to my previous exercise routine and my body is showing the effects. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “I might as well get out there and exercise instead of sitting on my behind.”

And so I did. Or, I do.

Master Crecelius talks a lot about how there is no pressure to advance, one can go as far as he or she wishes and is willing to work for. Quite frankly, when I joined I could’ve cared less about what color belt I wore around my waist. I wasn’t in this to become a first degree black belt, much less a ninth (the highest) degree.

The problem is, I’ve always been a highly competitive sort. I want to win. I want to be the best. Learning to compete against myself instead of anyone (everyone?) else will probably be a lifelong process for me. I …   More

Tuscan Lasagna

While Self.com suggests this recipe’s “spinach and lowfat ricotta make it hearty — and good for you,” it’s important to remember this hot, cheesy, perfect square of pasta, cheese, veggies and sauce still packs more than 450 calories per serving, 20 grams of fat and 38 grams of carbs.

Like most good Italian recipes, this lasagna is a labor of love. Emphasis on the labor. This is not really a quick, weeknight meal, though, if you have a Saturday free, you can make multiple pans of this recipe and freeze them, making them perfect for a slip-in-the-oven-after-work dinner that, depending on the size of your family, will leave you plenty of leftovers for the next day (and let’s be honest, Italian food gets better with age ­— within reason, of course).

You’re going to start with the meat/cheese sauce. Cook ground beef, mushrooms (these do not need to be cremini mushrooms — portobello or even white mushrooms work just fine), onion, garlic, parsley, salt, Italian seasoning, fennel seeds (not necessary, but throw ‘em in if you’ve got them) and pepper until the meat is cooked through. Dump this into a mixing bowl and add the ricotta cheese. After this, cook your noodles and rise with cold water.

Now you get to start your layers. Coat a 9x13-inch pan (I’ve never seen an 8x11-inch baking dish, to my knowledge) with cooking spray and place a layer of noodles in the pan. Top this with a third of your meat/cheese mixture, a third of the marinara sauce (which I mixed with the spinach rather than adding the spinach in all in one layer at the top, because why not?) and a third of the mozzarella. Place, top, repeat until you’re out of ingredients. Top this with some grated Parmesan cheese and cover the lasagna with foil and bake for about 30 minutes in a 375º oven. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes, to let the top get nice and golden.

Now, as hard as it may be to let it cool after you take it out, this is important because it …   More

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Take a look at the pictures here. There’s about a twenty minute difference between the two.

Being a Baptist means potluck attendance and my church hosts one once a month. This means I can flex my cooking muscles (and create material for this blog) without being stuck with fattening desserts for days on end. I brought this pumpkin cheesecake to church one night and it was snapped up faster than probably anything else I’ve brought.

Better yet, it’s not too terribly hard to make.

Start with graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar and pumpkin pie spice (homemade — there’s a recipe on the blog post on which I found this recipe — or store-bought). Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with foil and grease it. Dump the crumb/crust mixture into the pan and push it into place, about an inch up the side of the prepared pan. I found there to be plenty of crumb mixture, so the crust could go up higher if need be. This cheesecake was well over one inch in thickness. Bake this for seven or eight minutes and let it cool.

The next step in the recipe is to boil water for the water bath. Here’s the deal. I don’t have a pan big enough for my springform pan to fit into, so I forwent the water bath and this cheesecake turned out just fine. I hear the water bath helps to keep the cheesecake from cracking, and while my cheesecake didn’t really crack, that’s not to say my next one (or yours) won’t. I said all that to say if you’re like me, without anything big enough to use for a water bath, you can still make this cheesecake and it will still turn out all right. If you need to cover up cracks, just arrange some whipped cream over the top of it and no one will know. They’ll be too busy eating the thing. If you do use the water bath, you’ll put your cake in the water until the water is half-way up the pan.

Now, for the filling. Mix room-temperature cream cheese and sugars, either in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer. You could feasibly …   More

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Reliving my teenage years

When I think about my teenage years, I automatically think of John Cougar Mellencamp. The albums, “American Fool” and “Scarecrow,” contained songs that spoke to my generation and probably more so because “we live(d) in a small town” and so did John.

Many of my friends attended the taping of his video in Little York. I’m not sure how I missed out on that but I did. I attended his concert in Louisville with my boyfriend, Duane (who happens to now be my husband) and best friends, Tony and Kelly. It was my first concert and it was awesome. We sang and danced to every song.

Then when I attended Indiana State University and was chairman of the Homecoming committee, John Cougar headlined the homecoming concert. The entire committee and myself were invited to watch him and his band practice and then we got to meet him. Well, of course, that just cemented my love for him and I swore I didn’t wash my shaking hand for 6 months or so.

We also had really sweet seats for the concert, where once again I sang and danced to every song.

As I entered adulthood and married life, he entered his outspoken political phase. I still deep down loved him but wasn’t always fond of his comments. I held on to his youthful and iconic songs as my favorites, as his new music at the time didn’t appeal to me much.

Well, my love for him has flared up again as one of my best friends (and high school buddy), Jennifer asked if I wanted to go with her to his concert. How could I turn down such an offer? An evening out with a bestie and John Cougar to top it all off, I had to say yes.

With the tickets she received a free download of some of his newest music from the album “Plain Spoken” so she shared it with me. I began listening in preparation for the big day and it turns out I liked most of the songs. My favorites were “Troubled Man,” “The Isolation of Mister” and “Blue Charlotte.” He sang the first two at the show.

The show was in Bloomington in …   More

Sledding … it’s as fun as I remember

Sledding … it’s as fun as I remember

Our driveway is long – a quarter mile – basically uphill all the way. It’s a steep climb and more than one person has become stuck trying to traverse it during dry conditions.

So, you can imagine that the recent snow and ice could give one pause when negotiating it. We actually made it through the snow week unscathed until Thursday. As I returned home from work, I made it up the steepest section only to get stuck at the very top. It was my own fault; I just didn’t have enough speed up. Darin helped me get out and all was OK.

When he returned from work Saturday morning it was a slick, slushy mess. The Subaru slid on the flat part so he wisely parked and walked up. A while later, the kids were out playing and I decided to join them. I walked down to the car to get my camera (only to discover the battery was dead). As I walked down, I realized that, while coming up the driveway might be a pain, that going down it – on a sled, that is – would be a blast.

The tracks made by the car and truck tires would hold the sleds and there are no trees right on the edge of the drive, so it was safe. That was a biggie - I knew the kids would fly down that hill!

And fly they did. It was awesome! Since my camera died after a single picture, I got the video camera and made some movies of the kids.

“Mom,” Hays suddenly called, “Why don’t you sled?”

Now, I hadn’t been on a sled in years. I have great memories of sledding as a child, but as I’ve gotten older I’m less inclined to venture out in the cold. As it was above freezing Saturday, I was game.

“Why not?” I asked myself. “Because you weigh a whole lot more than the kids and consequently will go a whole lot faster,” I answered. “But it would be sooo much FUN!” I argued. I couldn’t resist.

The kids each wanted to ride down with me, but I said not on the first try, until I got a feel for it. I positioned the sled, climbed on and …   More

Lemon Blueberry Muffins with Lemon Butter Glaze

“Sometimes we try to disguise the fact we’re eating cake. ‘It’s breakfast, so I can’t have cake. I’ll have a muffin!’ You know the difference between a cake and a muffin? Nothing. A muffin is a bald cupcake. And we know it. Have you seen the mini muffins? How much denial are we in when we’re eating mini muffins? ‘Oh, I’ll just have, like, one or twelve. There’s so small, they don’t really count. They’re like muffin vitamins. When I eat them, I feel like an astronaut. That’s why I have them for breakfast.’” -- Jim Gaffigan in Beyond the Pale

Remember this past summer when blueberries went on a beautiful sale, with pints of blueberries selling for 99¢ at JayC? I don’t remember being that excited over produce, probably ever. I bought about $15 worth at a time. I couldn’t fit any more in my freezer.

This left me with about three gallon-sized freezer bags full of blueberries (I ate some fresh and froze the rest). Some went into pancakes. Some topped the magic cake from a few months to a year ago. I can’t be bothered to check because some went into these delicious muffins I found on Pinterest and had to make right now. The rest are languishing in my freezer because, while I love blueberries, I want to make sure mine last until they go on sale again. I’ve still got most of two bags left and it’s now February 2015.

This is a pretty basic recipe — it’s the glaze that makes them special. Also note, there will be much more glaze than you’ll need. Feel free to cut the glaze recipe in half, double the muffin recipe or use it as pancake topping (another form of breakfast cake, if you recall from the next part of Jim Gaffigan’s cake bit).

Start with your flour, sugar, baking powder salt and the rind (I’m guessing it means the zest — I don’t think you want the white peel part) of one lemon and stir this together. In another bowl, beat an egg, milk and melted butter together and then add this to the dry …   More

812 Woes

Is anyone else out there having trouble adjusting to the new rule of dialing 812 before making a local call? I am going to go out on a limb to publicly announce that I am not crazy about the new rule. It’s not that the phone company did not warn me because they have been warning me it was going to happen for some time now.

But I guess I am a creature of habit because I cannot get used to dialing 10 digits when all my life I have only punched in six numbers. And believe you me I have done plenty of dialing and talking on the phone during my lifetime. I’m sure my parents will attest to that fact, especially during my teenage years.

Most of you reading this can recall pre-cell phone days when you were stationary when having phone conversations. Unless you had a cordless phone and could walk a couple of feet outside the door without losing connection and carry on a conversation.

Cell phones have eliminated a lot of things and actually have made dialing a number on a phone a dying art. When I asked my younger co-workers if they were having trouble adjusting to dialing 812, they just shrugged their shoulders and said no. They use their cell phones for everything and when they need to call someone, the number is preprogramed. (Obviously with the 812 area code!)

Every time I make a call and hear silence on the other end, I hang up and more often than not cuss the 812, as I know immediately what I forgot to do. Maybe I’ll get used to it, I guess I will or I will be doing a lot of fussing about it in the meantime.

Let me know how you are adjusting to this change or if it is not affecting your daily life. I welcome any and all comments. But remember my mental state is very fragile at this point, so please be kind.812   More

Strange new world

I’ve fallen in to something that I wish I hadn’t and I told myself I never would. But it’s gotten a hold of me. I’ve become addicted to college football recruiting news.

It all started last week when top QB prospect Kyler Murray tweeted a photo of a Texas jersey he received when on a visit to the University of Texas. You see Murray has been a Texas A&M commit for almost a year now. And there was almost little to no hope of him becoming a longhorn; till he tweeted out that picture, from a visit that almost nobody knew he was taking.

This set the college football world ablaze, especially in the state of Texas. The thought of getting this prospect excited me. And not just him, but several other top prospects of different positions have shown considerable interest in coming to Texas.

Since that tweet I have been almost glued to recruiting sites, and message boards awaiting any and all the information I can get. National Signing Day is finally here and thus far it hasn’t disappointed, at least not for Texas fans.

Murray ultimately chose to stick with the Aggies, but that was considered to be a long shot anyways. Texas picked up another QB commit that might turn out to be a better pro prospect.

The recruits are still coming in today, and although the dust hasn’t settled; there has been some talk of this class being just as good, if not better, than the 2002 class Texas pulled in. You know that class because of Vince Young and the class that won the 2005 National Championship game.

The real recruiting buzz started with the commitment of Malik Jefferson, the top rated linebacker in the country. He was long thought to be an Aggie commit but on signing day he announced he would be signing with the Longhorns. This sent shockwaves throughout the Aggie fan base and has since resonated with many recruits who are now considered favorites to join him in Austin.

It really took a big turn with the visit of Murray. Murray’s father Kevin, was a …   More

It’s not perfect, but it is

It took me a year (I know; ridiculous!) to get our favorite family photo enlarged and ready to hang. It’s a 20 x 24 canvas and when we pulled it out of the box, it looked gorgeous.

Darin hung it (yes, perfectly) in the stairwell. It’s a nice big wall and I love that I can see our portrait when I’m in the kitchen, which is where I spend most of my time at home.

“What’s wrong with that corner?” I asked as we stood back to survey the photo. Closer examination revealed it was a bit smooshed. Darn. I got the shipping box and sure enough, the bottom left corner was smashed in.

“Guess I’ll have to take it back to Sam’s Club,” I said. The return would have to wait, however. This was the week before Thanksgiving and my whole goal had been to get the photo up before we hosted the holiday.

Guess what?

It’s now the middle of January and the canvas still hasn’t been returned. It’s looking like it’s not going to happen.

No, it’s not because I don’t have the receipt; I do. I also have the box, which seems to be pretty good evidence the damage occurred in transit. It’s more that a new canvas with four perfect corners, somehow, wouldn’t be the same.

I attach whole strings of memories to objects. Maybe that’s why I tend to have a hard time getting rid of things that I have positive associations with.

Like the family photo.

Whenever I look at it, I don’t just remember the beautiful fall afternoon in 2013 when Kate Wehlann came and spent several hours doing a family photo shoot. I do remember that and how much fun it was. She did a wonderful job.

But I also remember everything about the day we picked the print up.

It was Sunday, Nov. 16. The kids and I had gotten up early and driven to Salem to attend the first service the New Beginning Baptist congregation held in their building, repaired following a fire months earlier. I like taking the kids to services of different denominations. I believe they need to be …   More

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