Tuesday, August 31, 2010


One thing that scares me. Everyday. That's a tall order, Eleanor. But today, I felt up to the challenge.

At lunchtime I went to my first yoga class at the gym, alone. A small step for some, a much bigger deal for me. This morning I donned what I felt was a cute, yoga-friendly outfit (when approaching an intimidating activity, I find it helps if I know I'll at least look cute while making a fool of myself). I fueled myself with a comforting slice of yesterday's banana bread. I walked across the street to the gym and into the studio. And then I stood there, looked around, and smiled shyly until a nice older man picked up on the fact that I was new and had no idea what to do, where to go, or what all those props were for.

I think I'll go back on Thursday and give it another go. I felt silly. I felt self-conscious. But now I feel nice and limber and relaxed, and proud of myself for being brave.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Miscellany Monday

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters

(1) autumn stirrings
Yesterday the hubby and I visited Morton Arboretum to get our nature fix with some hiking. While there we browsed the gift shop, which was bursting with new fall decor items. I get giddy just thinking about the ever increasing proximity of autumn. At present I am also quite pleased with our new dining room table, acquired via Craigslist, which came with a matching Lazy Susan. The moment I spied a round precision-cut leaf place mat yesterday, I new they would be perfect companions. It went on the table the minute we got home. Never mind that it's still August, and that tomorrow the temps in Chicagoland will return to the 90s (see below). In this house, autumn is stirring.

(2) peak day alert
Dear ComEd,
Thank you for notifying me, once again, that tomorrow's low 90s temps will result in peak demand for electricity. I know you mean well, but rather than inspire me to greater energy conservation, your suggestion that I "set my thermostat to 78 degrees" inspires angst instead. I would love to have a thermostat. I would be delighted if it was 78 degrees in my apartment. Alas, I do not have a thermostat. I have a couple of circa-1982 wall-mounted air conditioning units that guzzle power and run constantly on the highest setting, which produces a modest output of moderately cool air that reduces the humidity tolerably but rarely gets it below 82 in here, which my landlord describes as "working great." So, thanks anyway for the notification.
Sweating Suz
(3) banana bread
Sometimes I'll buy a bigger-than-necessary-for-two-people bunch of bananas, simply because I know the really ripe remnant will give me an excuse to make banana bread. And so, early this morning, I bustled around my kitchen and produced this delicious loaf of chocolate chip banana bread. Is it breakfast? Or is it dessert? Today: both. (My apologies for being too lazy to take it out of the bag for a pic. I should be starting dinner right now.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sam's Elvis Face

My niece Samantha is now two months old. Baby faces are home to a multitude of expressions. During our visit this weekend, I captured this one. My SIL tells me it makes a regular appearance on Sam's little mug. I think it's adorable, don't you?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Year of Deer, Episode 19: Gorgonzola & Dried Cranberry Slow-Cooker Meatloaf

After an unintentional hiatus from the realm of venison cookery, I am back with a new episode! Going into the preparation of this meal, I was both excited and skeptical. I've only made and/or eaten meatloaf a handful of times, but I'm familiar enough with the dish to know that cheese and fruit in meatloaf is not normal. However, when I found the recipe, something about the combination of Gorgonzola and dried cranberries and meat really appealed to me. It sounded fancy; gourmet even. I also wasn't so sure about making meatloaf in a loaf pan, in my crock pot (I've always made it as a free-form lump/loaf in the oven). However, Stephanie told me I could do it, and she has yet to steer me wrong. I made some modifications to her original recipe to accommodate what I had on hand, and here's what I came up with:

Gorgonzola & Dried Cranberry Slow-Cooker Meatloaf

1 lb ground venison (you could use lean ground beef or turkey instead)
1 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 Tb dried minced onion
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1 Tb chopped fresh basil
1 large egg
cooking spray

In a large mixing bowl, combine meat, salt, pepper, onion, bread crumbs, cranberries, cheese, basil, and egg. Mash it all together with your hands until the ingredients are well incorporated into the meat. Spray an 8x4 inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Press the meat mixture into the pan, and place the pan into the stoneware of your 6-qt oval crockpot. (According to Stephanie, if you have a 3.5 or 4 qt round crockpot, you can plop the meat in a large round blob directly into the stoneware that's been coated with cooking spray.) Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 7-8 hours. The meatloaf is done when it is cooked through and has browned on top and darkened along the edges. Lift the meatloaf out of the crockpot and let stand on a cutting board for 15 minutes before cutting.
The Verdict: This is like no meatloaf I've ever had; it's so much better! The gorgonzola gives it a little tang, while the cranberries add a little sweetness. I served it with a salad of baby greens, diced apple, grapes, dried cranberries, sliced almonds, and gorgonzola, tossed with a cinnamon-pear balsamic vinaigrette, a side of wild rice, and some rosemary bread. (In retrospect, aside from the salad it was a rather monochromatic plate. Oh well, it tasted good!) It's been a while since I've been this excited about a meal I've prepared. For dessert I made Stephanie's Blueberry Buckle recipe in my 2-qt mini slow cooker - served a la mode, of course. A perfect ending to a super easy and yummy meal.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Summer in the City

On Sunday our friends/small group leaders had people over to watch the Chicago Air & Water Show from their rooftop patio. Of course, from our vantage point we could only see the air portion of the show, but we had a great view of the city skyline as well. I also had plenty of opportunities to snap photos of their pug, Milo, whose bug eyes and perpetually protruding tongue put him in the "so ugly he's cute" category.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I came across this poem today and loved it.

For every breath. For sunshine on your face.
For a child's laughter. For God's grace.
For peace of mind. For joy of heart.
For love. For the gift of life.
For good friends. For sweet memories.
For pink bubblegum. For silliness.
For red shoes. For blue skies.
For the kindness of others.
For family time. For understanding souls.
For kindred spirits. For true forgiveness.
For good music. For dark chocolate.
For a place to call home. For warm hugs.
For quiet time. For the freedom to dream.
For snowflakes on your tongue.
For raindrops on your face.
For colorful sunsets. For animal-shaped clouds.
For a believing spirit. For a forgiven soul.
For inspiration. For sand between your toes.
For smiles. For tears. For mercy. For Jesus.

                            - Bonnie Jensen

What are you grateful for today? Have you told your Father?
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dancing in the Minefields

One of the things I love about attending weddings is getting to watch the older couples dance - you know, the couples with wrinkled faces and gnarled hands who have weathered decades together as husband and wife, who may be a little stooped or whose once-smooth moves may be reduced to a shuffle, but who nevertheless move as one and portray in their shared gaze a depth of comfort and understanding that inspires awe and makes you yearn for the same. Couples who have danced in the minefields and sailed through the storms. They're someone's grandparents, or great aunt and uncle, or neighbors. They're my heroes.

Of course, dancing couples needn't be geriatric to garner my attention and respect, and weddings aren't the only place to witness dancing. Case in point: while wandering around Granada during our trip to Spain in June, we came upon a plaza with a stage, a band, and a collection of couples dancing to the music in the heat of the day. To us it was unexpected, unexplained, and magical. We joined the crowd gathered around the perimeter and watched, with grins on our faces and the promise of a lifetime in our clasped hands.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In the Company of True Friends

I spent this past weekend in New York City, where I was joined by 6 of my dear sister-friends (of the 11 total) from college, who came in from Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to join Lynn, who lives there. The occasion was our annual girls weekend, the 8th since we graduated from Taylor.

It "just so happened" (as in, God miraculously arranged) that girls weekend was also opening weekend for Redd Tale Theatre's Triumph of Love, the show in which Lynn brilliantly plays the lead. The weekend also included pedicures, street food, a leisurely afternoon in Central Park, a "homemade" baby shower for Becca, and lots of time sitting around together, sharing the highs and lows of the previous year. My heart feeds on these weekends and I always come away with a renewed awareness of how blessed I am by these friendships.

In the company of true friends...

...it's perfectly acceptable to go from laughing to crying in 10 seconds flat.
...it's safe to confess our fears and anxieties, our longings and frustrations, our hopes and dreams.
...it's okay to ask those vulnerable questions we can't ask anywhere else, and to wrestle with the answers.
...I am inspired to trust, to hope, and to believe.
...I am moved to give God glory and turn to Him for help.
...I am most myself.

To my friends: 
Thank you for loving and encouraging me. You are beautiful and strong and brave. I would not be the woman I am without the reality and promise of your presence in my life, year in and year out. I thank my God for you.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

What's Up?

A quick little glimpse into my life on a Tuesday afternoon: 

What's done? A 288-piece mailing that went out today, the office expense report for June & July, plus some other little office odds and ends
What's made? The bed
What's for dinner? Zucchini and Basil Frittata
What's playing on my Pandora? A station based on the Appalachian Picking Society
What's in progress at the moment? Laundry, this blog post
What's lurking in the back of my mind right now? What I'll pack for my trip to NYC this weekend
What's making me thankful? That we had enough money in savings to cover new tires for El Cuervo, and that we caught the leak before I was stuck with a flat on the side of the road in the middle of the day
What's making me a little sad? Travis leaves early Thursday morning for another week away