Small Gatherings| February Valentine’s Dinner

I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day.  We celebrated with a small dinner party and in spite of my crazy work week thwarting the preparations, I think we all enjoyed the evening.  This was our first gathering in our newly reclaimed dining room (more on that later) and although it is not completely done yet, it was nice to have a more formal sitting area for this special event.

table-setting

Since I wanted to chill the salad plates and serve the food plated, I only set the table with the charger and appetizer plate.  I added the gorgeous pink roses and a few candles to insert a little romance.

pink-roses

At each place setting I had a bag of chocolates and a printed dinner menu.

candy-bag-and-menu

Valentine-Menu-Card

I am going to post a few of the recipes later but here is a peek at some of the goodies we enjoyed.  If you look closely at our appetizers, Basil Pesto and Parmesan Palmiers, they somewhat resemble a heart!

Basil-Pesto-and-Parmesan-Pa

We were also a little decadant for dessert with two choices, but hey, it was Valentine’s Day!

White-Chocolate-Raspberry-C

Raspberries-in-Chocolate-CuOur evening ended with a game of “How well do you know your Spouse?” similar to the Newlywed Game, but our guests were not even close to being newlyweds!  Then we passed around each others wedding albums and marveled at how young we once were, not to mention a few laughs at the funny hairstyles and clothes.  It was a very enjoyable evening spent with good friends.

Linking to:

Wow Us Wednesdays at Savvy Southern Style

Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch

Simple and Sweet Fridays at Rooted In Thyme

Bits and Pieces

Life has been incredibly busy for me the last month or so, mostly due to work.  The hours have been long and the days stressful.  SOMEBODY MAKE IT STOP!!!!  I joked with Dave that I think I will have some surgery so I can take a couple of weeks off.  Pretty desperate, huh!  Actually, that is really not very funny because I am scheduled for surgery in about a week and that by itself is stressing me out!

*For the most part we have all been snowbound around here for the last week.  I can not remember a time before when school was cancelled for an entire week.  I know we have received this much snow (10 inches) and more before, but I think last friday’s ice event and the brutally cold temperatures have really hampered the street crews ability to get the streets cleared.  If you can make it out of your neighborhood, the main roads and highways are good, but the side streets are just downright dangerous. I am so over winter……

Feb-2014

*In the few hours per day that I am not stuck in front of my computer or brain-dead, I have been working on my first floor update which includes switching up some tables and chairs, a new rug and mostly new accessories.  I am not ready for the big reveal yet, but I will share a sneak peek.

decorcollage

*If you know me well, you know I love to entertain.  When thinking about my personal goals for the year I decided I would like to host a dinner party once a month using the time of year to inspire the menu.    I am starting this project I am calling “Small Gatherings” with a  Valentine’s Day celebration.  This means I have been searching recipes and trying to decide on the perfect Valentine menu.  There are a MILLION dessert recipes perfect for the occasion, in fact I have found so many I have had a hard time deciding which to choose.  Here are a few of the final contenders, although not the one (or two) I finally decided on.  I am saving that to share with you later.

Valentine cookies

  Source

valentines cake

Source

I am pretty sure Boulevard’s Chocolate Ale will also be on my Valentine table since I was able to get a couple of bottles on the day it was released.

Chocolate-Ale

*Finally, speaking of surgery, my 4th and final (hopefully) surgery will be happening in just a little over a week.  Since I will be recovering over the hubby’s birthday and we (at least me) will be stuck in the house for a few weeks after,  we decided to spend the weekend before in a jam-packed two days of revelry, merriment and fun.  That means no work, no laundry, no cooking, just good times.  So far we lined up:

  •  A movie or two– thinking The Monuments Men, Labor Day and/or Lone Survivor
  • An hour at the shooting range – (guess who picked this activity?)
  • Lunch at Oklahoma Joe’s
  • Shopping for a “poor me, I have to have surgery present!”
  • Dinner at Em Chamas – A Brazilian Grill and Dave’s idea of heaven, people walking around with all you can eat big hunks of meat
  • Sunday Brunch (maybe Avenue’s Bistro in Brookside)
  • And anything else we can think of, any suggestions??

I am going to focus as much as possible on this weekend and not the days that will be following it.  So NOT looking forward to doing this again!

Happy Friday!

Budweiser does it again…

Remember when I wrote about visiting Warm Springs Ranch last fall and seeing the majestic Clydesdale’s?  Besides touring the pristine ranch we met Hope who was the star of the 2013 Budweiser Super Bowl commercial.  You can see that post and the 2013 commercial here.  Well, it looks like Budweiser has scored another touchdown (pun intended) with their 2014 Super Bowl commercial that was just released this morning.  See for yourself.

2014 Budweiser Super Bowl Commercial

Obviously I am a sucker for cute animals.  Since my Chiefs did not make the cut this year, I am far more interested in the commercials than the game.  Although someone did suggest to me I should root for the Broncos (which gives me hives just thinking about it) because maybe then Manning will retire and our Chiefs might have a chance next year!  Something to consider…..

No bootable device!

If you follow me on facebook then you might remember on Dec 31 when I turned on my laptop and saw the message, “no bootable device.”    This is usually not a good sign, it means your computer can not read your hard drive. The cause could be corrupted boot files or it could mean a hardware failure.  My first reaction, as with any computer issue is to scream for call my personal help desk IT guy with whom I just happen to live.  My hubby got out his bag of IT tricks and tried a few things.

Bag-of-IT-Tricks

First he inserted a bootable CD with Linux to determine if it was just a corrupted boot file.  When that did not work he confirmed it was a hard drive failure.  The next step was to remove the hard drive, not always easy to do on a laptop, but my HP had a nice little access point.  Once the hard drive was removed he put it in the freezer for a few hours.  The thought behind this procedure is that sometimes there are bad solder joints on the circuit board and if that was causing the failure, this could cool it down and make a connection again so you can at least salvage the data.  This did not work either

At this point he told me a brain transplant was in order, in other words I needed a new hard drive.  That is easy enough, a quick order on amazon and the hard drive is here in two days.  (love Amazon Prime!) At $65 that is much cheaper than a new laptop.  However, the most critical item in this whole event was getting my data back; all my pictures, my Word and Excel documents,and my Quickbooks data.  This is where I have to say that this little box and my  hubby saved my virtual life.

WD

Dave uses Western Digitals My Book Live, a 2 TB personal cloud storage devise to back up our home network (This is not a paid advertisement by the way, just a thankful user!).  This device connects via the network router and is configurable over a web page.  You can choose to back up specific files or by category and you can either specify continuous or scheduled back-ups.  They even have a free mobile app that allows you to download your photos directly to your personal cloud using your smartphone.

mybooklive_v2_02

    Source

Before we get ahead of ourselves though, the data is not useful if you do not have the applications to use it.   Here were the steps we took to load the software applications and the data on the new drive.

1.  The first thing is to get the operating system back on the hard drive.  In my case that was Windows 7.   Dave tells me that some pc manufacturers are now putting a recovery partition on your hard drive and letting you copy it one time to a recovery disk for future uses such as this, but of course you have to make that copy before your hard drive lose’s its mind.  Since we did not do this on my laptop, we were able to order recovery disks from HP for $15 and restore the operating system.

Loading-software

2.  The next step was to get Office 2007 installed.  My favorite IT guy always keeps the original install disks, including the license key and was able to get Office onto the new hard drive with no issues.  The license key is critical here.  It is that really long series of numbers and letters that is included in your original software.  Much of the time it is printed or tagged on the software box or disks.  Without the key you can not install the software the first time or any time after.

3.  Re-installing Photoshop was easy because I still had the box it came in and the key was printed on the box.

4.  Re-installing Quickbooks was a little tricker because it is an OLD version that I bought when I was doing accounting for clients.   Back then I could justify the $500+ price tag but since I am only using it for our personal finances now I have not updated to a newer version.   I did not have the original box that the software came in and since I was the one who originally installed it, unlike my eagle scout husband, I did not save the license key information.  After a few panic filled moments, the hubby suggested I log into Intuit (the maker of Quickbooks) where I had an account.  I had not been in there in ages so remembering my password was a miracle, but once I was in, they knew me.  Since I had originally registered the software I was able to obtain the license key that allowed  us to reinstall it.  BIG SIGH OF RELIEF!!

5.  Finally we were able to restore the data from the Western Digital device.  This is as simple as accessing the Smartware software that comes with the device and clicking on restore.  Not one picture, one document or one financial transaction was lost in the process.

Now that life is back to normal, I will do like any good systems analyst worth their weight in documentation does, and that is to reflect on the event and share lessons learned.

#1.  Marry an IT guy (or gal)!  OK, if that is not feasible at this time in your life, at least take note of lessons 2-4.

#2. When you buy a new computer, find the recovery disks or copy from the recovery partition and put them in a safe place.

#3. For any software you load to your computer, keep the original install disks and the license key.  Again, keep them in a place you will remember.

#4.  Find a way to back up your data!  There are many ways to do this, even if you do not have a home network.

Thank you favorite IT guy for taking such good care of me!

Three highly anticipated movies of 2014 (by me!)

Have you see the trailer for the movie Jack Ryan – Shadow Recruit yet?  As a HUGE Tom Clancy, Jack Ryan fan, I just about fell out of my chair when I saw they were making another movie about Jack Ryan.  For those of you who live under a rock are not familiar with Jack Ryan, he is a character created by Tom Clancy, portrayed in four of my all time favorite movies, Hunt for Red OctoberPatriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and Sum of All Fears.  Tom Clancy wrote several other books featuring the CIA agent Jack Ryan who eventually becomes the President of the United States as the book series progresses.

In the movies mentioned above Jack was played by three separate actors, Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford two times and Ben Affleck.  I loved these movies so much I probably could not even tell you which actor I enjoyed the most.  In Shadow Recruit, Jack Ryan will be played by Chris Pine who I really enjoyed in the latest two Star Trek movies as Captain Picard.  The movie opens January 17 and you can bet I will be seeing it soon after!

JackRyanShadowRecruit

The second movie I am excited about is Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. scheduled to be released in theaters in October starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.  This page-turning, sometimes dark suspense thriller is set in Carthage, Missouri which is not surprising since the author is from Kansas City and a KU graduate.   Flynn adapted the novel to the screen play herself so hopefully the movie will stay somewhat true to the book.  Flynn has written two other books, both dark suspense novels,  Sharp Objects and Dark Places.  I can remember someone asking me when I was reading one of those if I liked it and me saying, “I am not sure, it is so dark!”  I must have like it though, because I could not put any of the three down until I was finished.    I just saw where Dark Places is also being made into a movie to be released in Sept 2014.  I read an article once that quoted Flynn’s uncle as saying how surprised he was that his sweet, normal niece could come up with such dark stories.  The books are good, I hope the movies are as well.

Gone Girl_

And the final movie I am eagerly anticipating in 2014 is The Giver, a novel by Lois Lowery.  This was a favorite book of my daughters when they were young.  Although it starts as a children’s story about a perfect world with no violence, prejudice or injustice, it quickly becomes a contemporary statement on society, applicable still twenty years after it was written, illustrating how taking risks and diversifying will enrich this life we live.  Apparently there was much controversy when it was first published about the subject material not being appropriate for children, however it went on to win the 1994 Newberry Medal which is awarded to the most distinguished contribution to American Literature for Children.  I recently read Lois Lowery’s acceptance speech for the Newberry award and was fascinated by her inspiration for the book and also the revelation of who the picture is of on the front cover.  This speech is worth reading even if you have not read the book.  Click here to read it.  The release date for the movie is Aug 15.  I can’t wait.

The_Giver_Cover

Have a great weekend friends!

2014 Version – Menu Planner and Grocery List to Download

One of my most popular posts since starting this blog has been the menu planner and grocery list downloads.  You can read that post here.  Because I love playing with photoshop and new fonts, and because I love to change things up a bit, I have created a new version for you to download.  You might be able to tell that I am a little smitten with polka-dots since they appear in both versions.  I am also totally loving this seafoam blue-green color and have plans this year to use it in updating my living room and dining room.  Here is the 2014 grocery list.

seafoam dots grocery list

For the menu planner I decided to go with a two week version since that is typically how I plan our meals anyway.

menuplanner

If you would like to download these, just click on the pdf file below and print it out.  Hope you enjoy!

seafoam dots grocery list

seafoam dots menu planner

Linking to Metamorphosis Monday

A new countdown begins.

It was close to four years ago that I got the word from my orthopedic surgeon that there was not much left to do (after ten years of trying) for my hip and knee joints but to get replacements.  The news hit me hard, although I am not sure why since I had been battling arthritis for a long time.  I think it was the thought of having all four joints replaced that scared me.  Sure I know lots of people who have had one or two replaced but I have never meet or even heard of anyone who has had all four replaced.  Still haven’t for that matter, but Dr. L assures me he has other patients with all four joints replaced.

Having to endure four surgeries and four recoveries frightened me enough, but the unknown of what life  would be like after those surgeries scared me more.  How much would I be able to do?  Would I be trading off pain relief for a life of limited mobility?

I started this blog two and half years ago to chronicle my journey through the four surgeries.  At the time I was about three months out from surgery #1 to replace my left hip and I was preparing for surgery #2 to replace my right hip.  You can read about those experiences here and here. Those surgeries went extremely well and left me with so much more mobility that I just wanted to enjoy life for awhile.  I was able to do things I had not done in years, ride my bicycle on trails, get back on the motorcycle with the hubby, go shopping, go site-seeing,etc.

TKG-on-bike

I was able to go about two years before I knew it was time to start on the knees.  My left knee was replaced last April.  Everyone told me the knee replacement was a more difficult surgery to recover from and they were correct.  It took about four months before I stopped thinking about my knee with every step.  It is better all the time but there is still some swelling and occasional pain. I have been told by both my doctor and physical therapist that the healing process for a total knee replacement is about one year.

post-knee-surgery

The interesting thing is that this replaced left knee is now definitely my good knee.   It is funny how that happened without me really thinking about it.  The constant arthritis pain is now only in my right knee.  So in about six weeks, on February 18, I will undergo what I hope will be my final surgery, the total replacement of the right knee.  I am so NOT looking forward to that recovery, it is painful and seems to take forever.  Patience has never been a friend of mine.  I also hate relaying on everyone to take care of me, especially Dave.  He has been through as much as I have, with just a different source of pain :).

However, I am looking forward to the possibilities that the future holds, walks, hikes, bike riding and who knows what else.  The final countdown has begun.  Just one more time!

Bits and Pieces – Christmas Edition

I worked at a feverish pace this past week both for my day job and in trying to get ready for Christmas.  As an accountant/systems analyst/project manager this time of year is crazy insane.  Not only do I have two projects being implemented in the next two weeks, but I am also preparing the system for year end and building new reports for next year.  I have several other projects I am managing plus I attended a kick-off meeting for a new project on Friday.  At the end of each work day this week my mind was mush.  However, last weekend I had laid out a plan (the thing I do best!) to tackle all my Christmas tasks this week and nothing was going to stop me from getting those things done.

*We made our traditional Candy Cane Cookies.

candy-cane-cookies

I  have been making these cookies since before Dave and I were married and it would not be Christmas at our house without these.  Usually I have a daughter or two, or even a son-in-law to help but this year we were on our own.  As soon as they cooled I threw them in the freezer so I would not eat them all before our Christmas Eve party!  If you are interested, I have attached the recipe.

Candy Cane Cookie Recipe

*I finished our 2013 Christmas Card.  I am having so much fun learning new things in photoshop.  This year’s card started with a photo I took at our house last year after a snowfall.  I added some falling snow then applied a watercolor effect.  Here is the before and after.

House-in-Snow

2013-Christmas-Carda

*I hosted the first of two holiday gatherings we are having this year.  We started with Candy Cane Cocktails (click here for recipe) and antipasta inspired by The Barefoot Contessa.  Then we feasted on salad, pasta and finished with multiple desserts.  Fortunately our guests each brought a dish so I was able to spend more time enjoying myself at the party then actually cooking.  The best kind of party!!!

candy-cane-cocktail

antipasta

*I finished my shopping and spent three hours Friday night wrapping while I watched the “I Love Lucy” Christmas special.  Did anyone else watch it?  I thought they did a great job colorizing it.  It was specially fun to watch the classic Italian movie episode where Lucy was stomping grapes…this was the only part that I really noticed the coloring did not look totally natural.

*We woke up Sunday morning to a blanket of snow, just enough for a white Christmas.  It was the perfect morning for cinnamon rolls and hot tea.

Breakfast

snow-outside

Now I feel ready for Christmas, not to mention a few days of rest and relaxation.  Merry Christmas everyone!

Middle Redefined

Erika over at the Middle Redefined blog is sharing a few of my Christmas photos today.  She and her collaborator Jill blog about design, DIY solutions and inspired living all on a middle class budget.

MiddleRedefined

Recently they posted a tutorial on making a DIY Thankful Board that was adorable!  Check out their place here and get inspired by this talented twosome.

Happy Saturday!

In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas.

Name that song!   I think I have finally found my Christmas spirit this year and I am ready for the festivities to begin including non-stop Christmas music.  Usually I have started my shopping and thought about my Christmas decorations well before Thanksgiving, but this year I am a little behind.  Last night we went with a group of friends to dinner on the Country Club Plaza and a limo ride to look at the Christmas lights.  With the temperatures plunging into the 20′s and all the beautiful light displays I could not but help to get into the Christmas mindset.

plaza4

Plaza2

We topped off our night with a drive through Christmas in the Park which is an antimated Christmas light display only about a mile from our house.  The Jackson County Parks department transforms a camping ground next to Longview Lake into a spectacular drive-thru attraction featuring 175 displays and 300,000 lights.  The display is free but donations are accepted for local charities.

CIP1

These pictures do not capture how amazing these displays are, but to get some perspective, the teddy bear above soars 20 feet high.

cip2

Each year new displays are added and this year a lighted birthday cake celebrates 26 years of this event.  We have attended each one of those years and watched the display grow larger and larger.

cip3

cip4

cip5

The skates below were just added a couple of years ago but have become my personal favorite.

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cip7

A few corporate sponsors help defer the cost of powering these displays from Thanksgiving night through New Year’s Eve.

cip8

The following sponsor is a favorite of many since they provide a handful of candies when you donate to charity at the end of display

cip9

It would not be Christmas at our house without driving through Christmas in the Park.  If you live in the area I highly recommend a visit.  Here is a tip….DO NOT GO ON THE WEEKEND unless you enjoy sitting in your car for a couple of hours winding your way on dark roads just to get to the entrance.  We have found the best time to go is on a weeknight, the later the better.  We drove through at 9:00 pm last night and there was very little traffic.   This display is open from 5:30 until 10 pm, Sunday thru Thursday.  On Friday and Saturday it is open until 11 pm.

By the way, do you know what song includes the title phrase of this post?

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