Thursday, March 31, 2011

CO to NJ: Day 4: Iowa: Grandmother's House

Hands down, the best part of this road trip was visiting my Grandmother in Iowa yesterday. It has been way too many years since I have been to her house in Iowa and I missed it. Everyone needs to by spoiled by the Grandmother once in a while, right?

My grandparents bought their house in 1958 and raised my dad, aunt and uncle in the house -- and I don't think it has changed much. It certainly hasn't changed since I was a kid. It still smells the same, feels the same and has all the same treasures throughout. Everything I remembered was still exactly how I envisioned it.

When I woke up in the morning the table was perfectly set with a delicious breakfast waiting. Fresh fruit salad, fresh coffee and fresh bagels. It was like I had died and gone to heaven.

Her kitchen is my favorite room in the house because of the glass bottles. I love the color and light the bottles bring into the room.

She has glass bottles lining the windows across the living room too. I remember thinking as a child that they were the most beautiful colors I had ever seen.

I finally asked her where they all came from and she said that the bright bottles were from a monthly flower club she had belonged to. She explained that once she had a few bottles, she got hooked and started collecting them and eventually other people started contributing also.

Anyway, once we all done with breakfast we finally ventured out of the house. First stop? Isabel Bloom, of course. Remember when I wrote about my family's huge collection?

The store was full of fun statues but check out Mr. Owl. My Grandmother is a smart lady -- she got Marissa the brand new owl design, aka the gift of wisdom. (which she desperately needs)

Grandmother hooked my up with a new design too, called Forever and Always. Aren't the birds cute? It's like me and The Canadian with wings. And feathers.

This is Bubbles. He's next on my list of Isabel Bloom's to purchase. (ps - my birthday is coming up...hint, hint)

Right down the street from Isabel Bloom is another Quad Cities landmark. Lagomarcino's is a family run business that has been serving fountain drinks, homemade candy and delicious ice cream sundaes since 1908.

We stopped in for lunch but only so we could justify ordering ice cream.

Ummm, that's right. I had a Strawbunny Shake. Don't be jealous of my marshmallow ears.

Grandmother had a hot fudge sundae. You can't see it but there is a mini pitcher of fudge too.

Marissa had a real, live banana split. She figured the fruit cancels out the calories. (see the pitcher of fudge?)

And where did we go after Lagomarcino's? To Whitey's, the other ice cream parlor in town.

What?! We needed ice cream to take home for a midnight snack! Don't judge. It's the best ice cream you'll ever eat.

So, next time you're driving through the Quad Cities in Iowa be sure to stop in and grab some ice cream. And invite my grandmother along while you're at it. You'll be glad you did.

Bye, Grandmother!!!! I miss you already!
(fact: every time you leave she stands in the driveway and waves her apron goodbye.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

CO to NJ: Day 3: Driving Nebraska and Iowa

The day started out with nice weather as we drove through eastern Colorado.

Boring but nice.

As we entered Nebraska the weather got nasty.

Nasty and boring.

What is one supposed to do with oneself when not allowed to drive, not allowed to DJ and not really allowed to talk?

How does one entertain oneself?

Well, one looks at random dinosaurs on the side of the road.

One informs the dog that there is no drinking and driving in this car!

One tries to count the rows of crops...

Then one tries to count all the windmills in Iowa. (do you see a pattern here?)

Finally one stares at the alien-looking red lights on the windmills and wishes the aliens would zap one out of the car to rescue one from the out of control sing-along and deposit one at Grandmother's house where there is a bowl of ice cream calling one's name and a warm bed to crawl into.

Pray for one...

Monday, March 28, 2011

CO to NJ: Day 1 & 2: Denver

God bless America! My home sweet home. It's so good to be here. The sunset was beautiful yesterday morning as I landed in Newark for a quick layover on my way to Denver. On top of that, customs was kind enough to let me right through with no hassle and no waiting.

I made it to Denver without any incident and my sister, Marissa, actually remembered to pick me up at the airport. And on time too. Put that in the record books.

For those of you who aren't down with the Colorado terminology, these are not mountains. They are the Flatirons. I guess they're supposed to look like old school irons on their side. I don't see it. It must be all that hippie stuff they smoke out here.

Straight from the airport we headed down to Pearl Street right in the heart of Boulder. It's a super cool outdoor mall full of people, shops, food, and performances. I was starving and while it was morning in Denver it was late afternoon on my internal clock that was 3 hours ahead and had been awake since the wee hours of the morning.

On our way to lunch we came across this street performer; a crazy contortionist from the Caribbean island of St. Christopher. 

He shamlessly yelled at passer-byers to, "Stop and watch so I have a crowd and look professional!"

He then proceeded to bend himself in half and dive into a 14 inch diameter tube. Think about how small that makes his waist. 

He slid the tube over his entire body and then announced, "I am back, I am better, and I am sober!"

Then he twisted himself up like a pretzel and wedged himself into a 22 inch box. But before he did that he informed us not to call 911 in the event of him getting stuck because he doesn't have insurance. 

Marissa and I would have hung around to witness more of the spectacle but my blood sugar was plummeting by the minute. 

Did no one get the memo that we were in a hurry to find lunch so we could get back to Marissa's apartment and start cleaning and packing? Why must this man be so entertaining on his ladder with no hands? Seriously, I couldn't watch. I had visions of broken necks and ambulances.

Eventually we made it back to the chaos that my sister calls an apartment. Several hours of dismantling and unclogging but the vacuum was finally back in business and the cleaning commenced. 

I don't know where on Earth she scrounged up a grocery cart but we used the hell out of it. It's carried trash to the dumpster...

It served as a ladder so I could reach to spackle the curtain rod holes. At $5 per hole I figured it was worth the risk...there were a lot of holes. About 2 per object hung -- someone needs to learn proper measuring techniques.

And the trusty, albeit ghetto, cart carried clothes to the car. Yes, those are clothes in the trash bags. Not to be confused with garbage. Straight K.L.A.S.S around here.

Marissa was not all that impressed with the amount of work that had to be done. Manual labor and cleaning just isn't her thing.

But we did have fun making shadow puppets when we were supposed to be packing the car. That is our shadow version of gangsta life.

Although she hired a moving company to haul the furniture off to the East Coast, there is still a ginormous amount of her crap that needs to get in the car. The solution? A Roof Bag -- Simple, durable, rubber, and reasonably priced ($125 new). The perfect roof top carrier. Thank the Lord is was easy to attach and pack because someone decided to act like a 10 year old and climb inside it and fool around.

Alas, all is well and everything is packed. We're heading to Iowa tomorrow for the first leg of the trip...stay tuned!


Saturday workout: Does sitting on an airplane count? 

Sunday workout: Cardio - 45 minutes, Weights - biceps and shoulders

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thanks Dad!

Do I not have the cutest Dad ever? This is back when he used to have hair. These days, he's bald. By choice. A few years ago he had a bet going with his staff over some boring work related thing. Something silly, like making their quota for whatever it is they sell... Anyway, after years of making the same bet and never loosing, he finally lost -- and shaved his head. Finally, some pour brunette was spared bleaching her hair. So, he shaved it, loved it and has been bald ever since.

I know he's this big, bad boss man to a lot of people but to me he's just my dad. I have spent my entire life trying to wrap him around my little finger. It's a never ending battle.

I have had some success over the years. When I was about 8 years old I did talk him into buying me a pink 10 speed bike. Ha! My mom was not impressed with that one.

And I continuously talked him into sending me to camp every summer. Although, he may have done that for my mother's sanity.

When I was really little I put my duckie stuffed animal in his suitcase when he traveled so he wouldn't forget who I was. And you know what? He always brought me back a present.

Somehow I even convinced him to let me stay in college when I brought home dismal grades. That took some major convincing. I had to play the I'm-your-first-born/favorite-daughter card.

Oh, and then there was the matter of my wedding. It was a small (read: BIG), simple (read: EXTRAVAGANT) affair. But to my knowledge, he didn't say a word. Right when we were about to walk down the aisle I decided I wanted to take off my VERY expensive shoes and go barefoot. I had already tripped in my shoes and was feeling very wobbly. When I told him this he gave me his look and told me to not be ridiculous. I don't think he thought my mother would appreciate a barefoot daughter. Then I really started to panic as the last bridesmaid walked away and I looked at him and said, "I can't wear these shoes!" And he said nonchalantly, "Okay, take them off." And then I made him swear not to tell my mother.

Anyway, he has decided my sister needs some chaperoning on her move across the country. So he's sending me to Denver tomorrow. Me, the mature, older, level headed, responsible, calm, drama free child. He's tried to make it out like it's going to be a vacation for me, but I'm no fool. I know that I'm being sent because no one else is crazy enough to attempt four days in the car with my sister.

Today she wrote this on my Facebook wall:
     Roses are red,
     People walk on feet,
     I'm in charge of the music,
     And you can sit in the backseat.
Case in point.

Please start praying for us me.


Workout: Cardio - 75 minutes, Weights - back, legs, abs

Chicken Soup for the Never Ending Winter Soul. And Other Nonsense.

I decided to make chicken 'n rice soup for dinner tonight. I know, I know, its "spring." But that doesn't mean anything to me anymore. It snowed all morning and it's snowing again tonight. Did Mother Nature not get the memo? I would appreciate it if someone could let her know that the snow is supposed stop now. Suddenly -2 degrees outside is freezing. Two months ago I would have killed, I mean killed, for -2. Compared to -20 is sounded like heaven. But now it suddenly requires a parka. So, because it is still winter I decided to make soup. Because I can't get warm. Ever. Unless I'm in the shower.

It's just your run of the mill soup, the same recipe is found on every website on the planet. Nothing fancy, but holy moly was it ever delicious. I'll put the recipe at the bottom, just in case you're still cold too.

Plus, Maple enjoyed cleaning up all the renegade carrots.

I don't know how all the posts this week have been about food. I don't mean to be all Kitchy McKitchen. I guess there hasn't been too much going on around here.

Unless you want to see what it looks like when a Newfoundland gets brushed.

It's not pretty. It's an obscene amount of hair. This is probably why I found a dog hair in my chicken 'n rice soup tonight. Don't eat at my house. I can't guarantee sanitary conditions.

Or maybe you want to see how freakin' cute our niece that she doesn't scream at the sight of us. She spent months running to her mom whenever we walked in the door. But finally, for whatever reason, she has decided that her uncle and I might not be so bad after all. Thank God, its was starting to get awkward.

Next week will be exciting -- don't you worry. You won't have to hear about my amazing culinary skills at all. In less than 48 hours I am departing for the great state of Colorado. My sister and I will then be embarking on an epic road trip across the country. Destination: New York City. Actually, Jersey City. I just like to say NYC because it sounds way cooler. My goal is to make it to New Jersey without throwing myself out of the moving car. You see, my sister is crazy. Even when we were little and it was MY birthday she still insisted on stealing the show and raising hell. Nothing has changed.

The Canadian gives us a 60/40 chance of survival. Wish me luck.


Chicken 'n Rice Soup

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours in crock pot

In crockpot, combine:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts into small pieces
1/2 c. carrotts, chopped
1/4 c. green onions
3/4 c. celery, chopped
5 c. water
5 vegetable (or chicken) bouillon cubes
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. ground sage
1/2 c. uncooked rice
Cook 7-8 hours on low or 4 hours on high in a crockpot.


Workout: Cardio - 60 minutes, Weights - triceps, chest, abs