Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thirty Years in the Making...

I was a nail biter all my life. My family tried many things to get me to stop biting them, but nothing ever worked. They soaked my fingers in lemon juice, and I still bit them...and acquired a tasted for lemons! LOL. They put the yucky polish on my nails that burns your tongue, and I ate it right off.

My Aunt Carol made a deal with me a long time ago. If I stopped biting my nails, she would buy me a ring. I couldn't have one until I had nails to go with it because a pretty ring didn't belong on ugly fingers.

Over the years, I tried and tried. I wanted to quit so badly but didn't know how. I was so embarrassed of my fingernails that I'd hide my nails at all cost. This went well into my adult life, and it became difficult to give presentations at work and hold up our parts when I didn't want anyone to see my fingernails.

On my 31st birthday this year, I had radiation therapy. There was a new technician that night, and when she saw my nails, she "tsk"'d me a few times and said how bad my hands looked. I told her about my struggles over the years of trying to get them to grow out, and how every attempt ended in failure. I said that I just couldn't do it.

She leaned down toward my face, grabbed both hands and told me that if I could lie on that table and let them shoot radiation into my body, I could stop biting my nails. I left that treatment room and never bit my nails again.

While I certainly don't need that ring from my Aunt Carol, I could sure use a manicure! I've only had one throughout this process, but I've been maintaining them pretty well at home. Though I really need a manicure, I've decided to share my nails with you. Please keep in mind that this is the best picture I could get since I only have kids at home! LOL.

What Color Crayon Are You?

I stole this from Lee, but I don't know how to link her blog.

Green is my favorite color, so I guess I'm glad to be a green crayon.

You Are a Green Crayon

Your world is colored in harmonious, peaceful, natural colors.
While some may associate green with money, you are one of the least materialistic people around.
Comfort is important to you. You like to feel as relaxed as possible - and you try to make others feel at ease.
You're very happy with who you are, and it certainly shows!

Your color wheel opposite is red. Every time you feel grounded, a red person does their best to shake you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

5 Weeks Until School Starts

Jacob LOVES school. He has been asking for at least two weeks when he can go back to school. Currently, he's attending a day camp where he can run and play most of the day. He has a lot of fun playing with the other kids, but the highlight of his day is attending the Summer Reading Program he's enrolled in four mornings per week.

I'm not sure where his drive comes from, as both of his parents LOVED summer and didn't want to go back, but he positively can't wait for school to start back up. Sorry, son. You have to wait five more weeks.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Global Economy for the Auto Industry PART 2

In my last post, I said I'd post some figures that most people outside the industry don't take into account when they talk about how bad the Big Three is. I'm not saying they are perfect--far from it, actually--but there are issues that some people simply don't think about.

Chrysler employs about 83 workers for every 2,500 vehicles sold. Ford employs 80 and General Motors 71. By comparison, Toyota only employs 33 American workers for every 2,500 cars sold. GM employs more Americans than all foreign automakers combined, and 40 percent of GM’s worldwide workforce is in the United States, compared to only 11 percent of Toyota’s.

For the sake of my "argument" I'm going to compare GM and Toyota--mostly because our company has done extensive research on both of them over the last five years. The figures below were compiled in December 2005, gathered from various sources and were reported by NPR.

Basically, what these numbers show is something I've tried to convey over the last couple years. Foreign automakers have a huge advantage coming to the US, and it isn't something that can easily be "taken care of." The American auto companies have a long history in the US, and with that comes unionized workers, higher labor costs, sky-rocketing health care costs, lots of retirees, and older plants that aren't as efficient.

If the Big Three did what people are indirectly proposing in order to become globally competitive, TENS OF THOUSANDS of workers would lose their jobs. Retirees that are too old and sick would no longer have any pension at all. Mind you, they've already lost health care and pay -- they would have NOTHING. Hundreds of thousands of retired workers would be required to survive solely on SS and Medicare. What do you think will happen to all THOSE homes?! The US economy as we know it would suffer far more drastically than it already has. And the state I live in would crumble more than it already has.

Click on this image to make it bigger so you can see the figures.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Global Economy for the Auto Industry

While I don't work directly in an automotive plant, I am very much an auto worker. I've been working in the auto industry for over ten years, and I have a lot of opinions on the current situation. If you don't feel like reading this entire post (which I don't blame you), I urge you to read the figures I'll be posting later this week. (Probably tomorrow, but no promises.)

As everyone knows, the American auto industry is in big trouble. And while people are so quick to comment that Big Three are sleeping and haven't realized that this is a global economy, I beg to differ. The root of the problem is much deeper than that. The Big Three face challenges that foreign companies just plain don't have.

One of my biggest pet peeves is that people who don't understand the way things work consistently say that "foreign" cars are assembled in the US, so they are supporting American workers. Here is a quote from a Forbes article that sums up my feelings on that:

John Wolkonowicz, senior automotive analyst for Global Insight, says to simply consider one question: Where does the profit of the car purchase accrue?

“You buy a Toyota and the profit accrues in Tokyo,” he says. “You buy a GM made in Canada and the profit still accrues in Detroit. Buyers of foreign-branded cars take delight in knowing that their cars are assembled in the U.S. But the value added in the assembly process is not all that great. At the end of the day, it’s where the profits accrue that really matters.”

One of the biggest disparities in American companies versus foreign companies comes down to one word: UNION. Regardless of how you may feel about unions in general, foreign automakers producing in the U.S. primarily assemble their automobiles in low-wage states like Alabama and Kentucky, where American-owned automakers primarily produce in high-wage union states like Michigan. Add the incentives the foreign companies get for putting their plants there, and the American auto companies are at a HUGE disadvantage.

I feel badly about not having the source of this next text, as it was in an e-mail I received during some research we were doing. The author is noted as Roger Simmermaker, though I can't find where it came from.

This text discusses the issue I just mentioned above--that foreign auto receive better incentives than American companies. I've bolded some of the points that I've said MANY times, so obviously I agree 100%.

...The point I am trying to make is that this is one of many relatively unknown facts that give foreign-owned automakers huge cost advantages over American-owned automakers. Consider the following: In 1997, the state of Alabama granted huge subsidies to Mercedes in exchange for a plant that would employ 1,500 people. What were the details of this huge incentive package? $300 million in tax breaks, $253 million in direct incentives, $60 million in Alabama taxpayer money to send fellow Alabamans to Germany for training, and a promise to buy 2,500 of the new Mercedes SUV’s at $30,000 each. Based on just the initial $300 million grant alone, those 1,500 jobs will cost Alabama taxpayers $200,000 per job. Apparently Alabama, not Mercedes, will be paying those salaries for years to come. With deals like these, it’s no wonder foreign automakers have stepped up production in the U.S. We’ll even pay their workers’ salaries for them!

In 1987, Toyota constructed an auto plant on part of the 1,500 acres of free land given to them in Georgetown, Kentucky. The auto plant was built by a Japanese steel company using Japanese steel. The U.S. government granted a “special trade zone” so that Toyota could import auto parts from Japan duty-free. Financing was handled by Mitsui Bank of Japan. Total federal and state grants and incentives exceeded $100 million. These subsidies, of course, were courtesy of your tax dollars.

Tennessee gave Nissan $11,000 per job for their Smyrna plant built in 1980. South Carolina coughed up $79,000 per job to convince Germany’s BMW to build their plant in Spartanburg in 1992. Were you aware that our government was using your money to create jobs? Or are these merely job announcements where you and I foot the bill? Job announcements do make for great rhetoric for state governors’ re-election campaigns. How many years will it take a factory worker in Alabama to pay back the $200,000+ in tax money that the government gave away? A conservative answer would be “several.” This is not to say that American companies are not granted incentives to build plants here. The most recent is $100 million in incentives for Cadillac to build their next plant in Michigan.

It is my opinion that we should not be imitating the Third World by using public money to bid for jobs. But when given the choice between foreign investment (Toyota, Mercedes, Nissan) and American investment (General Motors and Ford), American investment is much better for America.

The deal Alabama gave Mercedes makes the deal Michigan gave GM seem rather frugal. The point here is that these huge incentives that are offered to foreign companies are rarely offered to our own companies here at home. Such incentives allow foreign companies to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in costs per automobile. And American companies acquire more of their parts from domestic sources, so more jobs are created in the automotive parts industry in America. America needs more American investment, not more foreign investment.

My next post will include some figures I've come across through years of research. I hope you check that out--it should be far less dry than this post was. If you've read this far, I'm certain you will. LOL!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

He Hit the Cycle!!!

I reported this on SS yesterday, but I didn't have any pictures to share. Now I do. :)

Jacob hit for the cycle yesterday at his tournament game. It was a complete and utter fluke, and he will probably never do it again. But it's a really neat accomplishment and he's THRILLED with himself, despite being disappointed that they lost 17-20.

Here is the swing that lead to his FIRST homerun ever. :)

Here he is rounding third. (I couldn't get him on 1st or 2nd because the coach kept getting in my way. His wife is obviously not a scrapbooker.)

Home-ruuuuuuunnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!!!!! Look at the expression on his face!! He was so happy to get that homerun!

His team got up to celebrate with him, which just made his day!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The kids and I went to Ohio this weekend. We stayed with my parents, and my kids were THRILLED to go see Broderick play t-ball at the park. Jacob, especially, was very happy when Grandpa arrived. Those two have a very special bond--I LOVE that they are so close.

Saturday, we drove to Columbus for Olivia and Ella's birthday party. They had it at a small park, and the kids were excited that they could fish in the pond. Almost all the kids caught fish, and both of mine did. Fishing there made them both more excited about our vacation next month where they can fish off the pontoon boat at the cottage. I'm glad they like to be outdoors!!

Here is Jacob proudly displaying his SMALL catch. They were all small, so he didn't care. He was just very happy to catch one!
Here is a picture of my favorite brother, Mike, fishing with all the girls. Mike had his 10th surgery on his foot last month, so he had to stay seated the entire time. He put all the worms on for the girls, helped the girls cast their poles and took the fish off to throw them back after they caught them. Clare is wearing the pink skirt for those of you that can't tell.

It was a great trip, all in all. I love spending time with my family, and even though we're only 3 hours away, I sometimes miss them so much! I see my parents about once a month but only see Mike and his family four times a year or so. It's certainly better than nothing, but not near as much as I wish we could see them!!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Yummy Summer Recipes

Berry Berry Salad

1 cup nonfat or low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 tbsp. honey
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup raspberries
1 cup blackberries or blueberries
1 cup seedless grapes
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Combine yogurt and honey. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl, pour yogurt mixture over fruits and gently toss together. Makes four to six servings.

Peanut Pork

3 tbsp. unsalted peanuts
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 tbsp. brown sugar
3/4 tsp. black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 lbs. pork tenderloin or 6 boneless chicken breast halves, trimmed and cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch cubes
1 lemon cut into 8 wedges

If you are using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes. Blend the peanuts, soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil, ground coriander, brown sugar, pepper, and garlic in a food processor. Add to a bowl with the cut-up pork and toss to coat. Chill and marinate for 1 hour.

Push the meat onto one end of 8 skewers. Grill directly over medium coals for 5 to 8 minutes or until the meat is just cooked through. Serve with lemon wedges. Serves 8.

Guacamole Potato Salad
3 pounds red potatoes
2 tablespoons plus 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 ripe avocado, peeled
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
Juice of 2 limes (about 1/2 cup)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 celery stalks, sliced

In a large pot, cover the potatoes with cold water. Add the 2 tablespoons of salt and bring the potatoes to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes or until you can pierce them easily with a paring knife. Drain them in a colander and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, puree the avocado, lime zest and juice, garlic, cilantro, mayonnaise, and remaining salt in a food processor until smooth. If the dressing seems too thick, add a tablespoon or so of hot water.

Cut the potatoes into bite-size chunks (leave the skins on) and place them in a large bowl with the celery. Scrape in the dressing with a rubber spatula and gently stir it all together. Serve immediately, or cover and chill. Serves 8 to 10.

Kids' Strawberry Daiquiris
6 ice cubes
16 strawberries
1/2 cup frozen concentrated limeade
1/2 cup water

Place the ice cubes in a blender or food processor and pulse until they are crushed. Add the strawberries, concentrated limeade and water. Puree the mixture until smooth and thick. Pour into tall glasses with flexistraws. Makes 2 servings.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

He's Definitely Learning...

As some of you know, my husband and I have had some struggles over the last two years. Since losing his job and especially moving to another state for work, it's been very hard for us. Our marriage has suffered tremendously, and I'm often worried it will never be fully repaired.

That said--he hit a home run for our anniversary. And better yet, he proved that he listens to me!! Months ago during regular conversation, I mentioned that I wanted a couple things for scrapbooking when we had the extra money, but I was in no rush. I wanted a few books, some software, etc. He asked me how I keep track of my wants, and I told him that I keep a list in my scrapbook room. I thought nothing more of it.
For our anniversary, Ron bought me these:

They just arrived today, which really made him angry, but there was a small shipping snafu. I didn't care that they were late. I'm just thankful that he bought them for me!! What a guy.

And thanks to all the ladies that recommended the Stacy Julian books and especially Lee for recommending the 50 Moments book by Lisa Bearnson. I think I'm going to LOVE that one!!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

“Secrets are made to be found out with time"

8. something that is or is kept secret, hidden, or concealed.
9. a mystery: the secrets of nature.
10. a reason or explanation not immediately or generally apparent.
11. a method, formula, plan, etc., known only to the initiated or the few: the secret of happiness; a trade secret.
12. a classification assigned to information, a document, etc., considered less vital to security than top-secret but more vital than confidential, and limiting its use to persons who have been cleared, as by various government agencies, as trustworthy to handle such material.
13. (initial capital letter) Liturgy. a variable prayer in the Roman and other Latin liturgies, said inaudibly by the celebrant after the offertory and immediately before the preface.

Sarah posted on SS about having a secret that she can never tell anyone at all. I'm sure many people have these kinds of secrets, and this post is in no way a judgement on that. I agree with a post Benita made in that thread that so often people think their secret is the worst on the planet...and it turns out not to be so bad. It's all in perception, I suppose, and we're always harder on ourselves than others. We are our own worst critic.

I have a friend from high school that has a big secret and two of us know about it strictly by accident. She would be devastated if anyone else ever found out. It would change her life as she knows it. She lives in fear that it will be found out every day.

I have another friend who is gay. He is SO afraid for anyone to find out that he's done everything he can to make sure that doesn't happen, even marry a woman and have two children. (For the record, she knows he's gay -- she wanted a career and not a relationship, so this was all just convenience for her.) But he'd rather live in this fake marriage without being truly happy than let anyone know he's gay.

I am very thankful that I don't have a life-altering secret. It's got to be so hard to live that way. And I'm way too honest to live a lie--not that all secrets mean you're living a lie. But the ones I referenced above are, and I just couldn't live like that. I can't imagine not being able to be ME and be honest about my life. And I'm such a bad liar that everyone would see through me and know that I wasn't truly happy - I can't seem to hide that very well. I am so glad that I'm not held back by any kind of secret that I would never want to be told. Sure I have things that I've never told anyone...but they aren't things that I COULDN'T tell or things that would change me if someone found out. Just secrets by default because I've not talked about them.

So, do you have a secret? Is it really life-altering so that you fear someone would find out?! Or is it something you're harshly judging yourself on and really isn't that bad?

Whatever it is, have peace in knowing that your friends love you anyways.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I Made Up for My Lazy Day.

So, I was really bummed Friday night because I sat around and wasted a perfectly good day to get some work done. I had A LOT of things I wanted to get done, and all I did was sleep, cry and eat. So, yesterday, I really put myself to work.

My goal: the kids' rooms This meant that I had to clear their rooms out, clean under their beds, take old toys and clothes to the Salvation Army and then put their "new" beds together. I say "new" because they are just new to them. Jacob's bed is the bed his dad slept in as a child--just with a new mattress. Clarissa's bed was a freebie from a guy I work with, and it has a trundle bed underneath, which she just loves!!

After an entire day of work, I'm happy to say, their rooms are done. They are cleaned out and ready to go. They're in them right now, actually, so let's hope they are going to sleep! They are both tired and need their rest -- and so do I! :)

I'm irritated with myself for not taking before shots, but take my word that both rooms were just awful. I made THREE trips to the Salvation Army with my van. Yep, my kids had WAY too many toys. It was A LOT of work...but I'm so glad it's done. Here are their rooms yesterday after I finished. Sadly, Jacob is insistent on getting an updated theme in his room (Army, of course), and Clarissa really wants High School Musical sheets and bedroom coordinates. I swear they're never happy. LOL!!

Friday, July 11, 2008

What a Useless Day!

I was given a "Free Day" today, and I had so many ambitions. What did I get done...NOTHING. I sat around crying and sleeping almost all day. It was the worst use of my time you could imagine.

I've been in a funk for a long time, and I can't get out of it. I think I'm sinking deeper into it, actually. So what am I doing this fine Friday night to try and make up for today? Drinking a Pomegrante fusion Snirnoff Ice, eating nachos and cheese and watching a chick flick. HOW SAD!!!!!!!!!

I really hope things start turning around for me soon.

Free Friday

I work in the automotive industry. Our company supplies parts directly to Ford, GM, Chrysler and Nissan. It's been extremely slow for months, as they OEMs have been adjusting to decreased sales. We've had less new business quotes to deal with, and engineering has really slowed down on products that are launching and have already launched since nobody wants to spend money right now. So I've been trying to make it through each week, but it's been tough. I HATE not being busy.

So how does this translate to Free Friday? Well, our CEO was in the office yesterday, and he gave everyone the day off today. No vacation needs to be used--it's just a Free Friday. Woohoo!! Unfortunately, I've wasted the first couple hours of it, but I'm getting ready to get to work around the house. I'm very excited that I have the day off, and I'm grateful that we have it with pay. Many of our engineers and buyers were forced to take vacation or unpaid time these last two weeks, so today I remain appreciative of my free Friday.

Have a wonderful weekend!!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I Have Come to Realize...

1. I've come to realize that my boobs..
are not what they were before kids.

2. I've come to realize that my job...
is AWFUL because the auto industry is tanking.

3. I've come to realize that when I'm driving...
I like to sing LOUD...even though I'm an awful singer!

4. I've come to realize that I need...
to start taking care of myself.

5.I've come to realize that I have lost...
my sense of self a little.

6. I've come to realize that I hate it when...
I need a break but can't get out because Ron lives in KY and I can't afford a sitter.

7. I've come to realize that if I'm drunk...
it's July 4th--cuz I've drank too much that day two years in a row.

8. I've come to realize that money...
isn't everything.

9. I've come to realize that certain people....
should not be allowed to breed.

10. I've come to realize that I'll always be.....
in physical pain because of my back.

12. I've come to realize that my mom..
is smarter than I ever gave her credit for.

13. I've come to realize my cell phone...
is old and crappy.

14. I've come to realize that when I woke up this morning...
I did NOT want to get out of bed!

15. I've come to realize that last night before I went to sleep...
I was a little sick to my stomach from pain meds.

16. I've come to realize that right now I am thinking about...
how much I NEED to move.

17. I've come to realize that my dad...
is sick with diabetes and may not be around as long as I want.

18. I've come to realize that when I get on the computer...
I spend too much time on there!

19. I've come to realize that today...
is hump day, so now I'm counting down until Saturday!

20. I've come to realize that tonight...
Jacob has a baseball game, and there is no way for me to get out of it. LOL.

21. I've come to realize that tomorrow I will...
be glad the week is almost over.

22. I've come to realize that I really want to...

23.I've come to realize that the person who is most likely to repost is....
Brynn, because she's the only "regular" on my blog. :)

24. I've come to realize that life...
is in God's hands.

25. I've come to realize that this weekend...
shows what a blast my neighbors can be.

26. I've realized the best music to listen to when I am upset ...
is Christian music. Corny, I know, but it lifts me right up. Nothing else like it.

27. I've come to realize that friends...
come and go, but the ones that stick around are like gold.

28. I've come to realize that this year..
I am stronger than I ever thought I was...but it still doesn't feel good enough.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Friend...or PITA?

Sometimes, you meet people on the internet, then you drive two hours to meet them. You *think* you're friends...but then they just rip your heart out and jump on it.

Ahhhhhhhhh. The sorrows of a broken friendship.

But that's what you get for making fun of me, Diane!!!!!!!!

Monday, July 7, 2008

"No New Growth..."

Those words were like music to my ears this morning. "No new growth of tumor is present" is what the Director of Oncology told me this morning at my appointment. I could feel the smile across my entire face, and when he looked up from my chart, he noticed it, too, because he broke a small grin. He's a FANTASTIC doctor...but he never smiles. He's very serious, pretty monotone and never smiles. He's always working, which is why I appreciate him so much. He's dedicated to each and every one of his patients, and I love that. But I also love that he broke a little smile today.

He said he's quite please that there is no growth, but it doesn't mean I'm out of the woods yet. Though it hasn't grown, it also hasn't receded at all. That's not what he was hoping to see, but for now, we'll take no new growth. He has ordered another scan for December. If it hasn't receded by then, more radiation will be on my schedule. If it grows at all, another surgery could be on my schedule. Though that terrifies me, I am not going to focus on it right now. I can only handle one day at a time, so I'm not going to be consumed by something that may or may not happen. I'm going to focus on feeling well and being happy that my tumor has not grown at all. Praise God. If I could get to the rooftop, I'd shout it from there. Praise God that my tumor is not growing.

He wouldn't discuss my head MRI results except to say that I need to follow-up with the dr. that ordered it. He was concerned when he saw it as part of the MRI results, partly because he didn't order it. He turned the lights out and checked the optic nerve himself. He said there was a possibility that all this was related, so he wanted to be updated on everything that happens. He was surprised when I told him that I knew Multiple Sclerosis could be the cause for some of my problems. I guess he didn't think my doctor would tell me what they were looking for, I don't know.

I explained that with my tumor I have tingling, numbness and weakness in my legs (which he already knew), and since I've had blurred vision, double vision and weird episodes of spots and dots in my eyes (to where I can't focus or see), the dr. wanted to rule out MS--especially when the eye dr. said my optic nerve was swollen. She was also worried about the fatigue issues I've had, and when adjusting my sugar medication didn't help, she wanted the MRI done.

Anyways, my oncologist was glad I was being proactive and wants to be kept informed as to what happens next. I have to go back to my neurosurgeon for my tumor anyways, because my oncologist won't release me back to normal activity, so he was glad to hear that I'd see him in two months. I was really hoping I'd get released to get back to jogging kick-boxing because I've gained SO much weight since this ordeal started - but he told me that it's pretty unlikely the neurosurgeron would allow it yet, and he's recommending against it. I have never been one to listen to doctors...but I'm scared of paralyzation, so I'm listening. I hate being fat, though, and want to be more active to lose some more weight. Walking it off just isn't working.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Get Smart

We went to see this movie tonight. DH picked it for our anniversary night out because he loved the show growing up. I had never even heard of it. I kept thinking of that show with Joe Friday and asked DH when he came into the movie. He rolled his eyes at me and said that was Dragnet, not Get Smart. Like I would know that!

Anyways...I thought it was hysterical. I had no frame of reference, since I've never seen the original, but I laughed so hard...and I'm not a Steve Carell fan, really. It really was really funny, and I'd watch it again. I wouldn't pay for movie tickets and a sitter again, but I would rent it and watch it at home. Definitely a good movie for a nice belly laugh.
Ron and I have been married for 11 years today. I'm really not sure the last two should have counted since we're living in different states, but hey, they count for now. It's been a very bumpy road, especially lately, but we're still married for now as we try to figure out what to do going forward. Please say a prayer that we get through some more anniversaries. I'm really not sure we will, but I'm doing the best I can right now.

July 4, 2008

The neighborhood celebration was a hit, as always. We had food, fun and fireworks just as planned, and it was a pretty good day. All the kids loved playing together as usual, and the adults enjoyed time to play Euchre, talk and have adult beverages. Unfortunately, I had a few too many of those, but it was still a good night.

Here are some pictures to show that it was truly a great day.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Getting ready for July 4th!!

In the spirit of the blog challenge, I thought I'd post my food contributions for our neighborhood party tomorrow. We're bringing a lot this year, but I'm so excited about it.

I was asked to bring some appetizers, which will be Tastefully Simple beer bread, Garlic Garlic dip and Go! Go! Asiago dip. I've also got different kinds of crackers, and I have a parmesan garlic dip, a sharp cheddar cheese dip and a bacon cheddar dip.

For dinner, we're taking boneless pork chops from Costco, that are currently marinating in the Pomegrante Chipolte sauce from Tastefully Simple.

We've also been asked to take potatoes, so I chose two different kinds - cold potato salad and cheesy potatoes. Here are my recipes.

Potato Salad
I boil my potatoes with the skins on, peel them off and soak them in Marzetti slaw dressing for at least six hours and sometimes overnight. (Those are soaking now.)

Tomorrow, I will combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix well. I'll chill them to blend the flavors and then garnish with a few sliced hard boiled eggs and paprika right before I serve it.
1 cup Marzetti Slaw Dressing
6 cups cooked potatoes, cold, pared and diced
4 hard cooked eggs, chopped (plus two more for garnish)
1 cup celerychopped
1/2 cup sweet pickle relish
Salt and pepper to taste

Cheesy Potatoes
Spray a 9x12 pan with pan release. Mix all liquid ingredients together in a large bowl. Add potatoes and cheese. It's ok if the potatoes are still frozen. Scoop into baking pan. Spread evenly. Top with potato chips and melted butter. Bake 350 degrees for 1 hour.

2 lbs frozen hash brown potatoes
16 ounces sour cream
1/2 cup margarine, melted
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
Topping: 1 cup potato chips, crushed

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

SS Blog Challenge #23: INDEPENDENCE DAY

This weeks blog challenge is from Sherry, and it's a good one...

Independence Day is this Friday. For this weeks Blog Challenge, I would love to see how you spend the 4th of July. Is this a time for you and your family to get together and celebrate? Do you bar-b-que, watch fireworks at the same place every year, participate in a parade or block party? Is it a day that makes you feel more patriotic? I realize that some of you may treat it like a any other day...but write something! Most have it off from work, but if you don't, you could write about what you usually do for the Fourth.

This could even be a two part thing. Blog about past Independence Days and then after Friday, get one more in there to tell us what you actually did this year.

I hope to hear about traditions, favorite recipes, stories from the past. Maybe you could share pictures from past celebrations and/or add some more after Friday.

July 4th is a much-anticipated holiday in our house...and our neighborhood for that matter. Our annual tradition is to have a neighborhood get together. Eight families congregate to the backyards of two neighbors across the street from us, and the day is filled with food, fun and fireworks.

We start off every year with hotdogs and baked beans for lunch. Normally, the kids swim and jump on the trampoline after lunch while the adults take turns supervising and preparing foods for dinner. Each family is given a specific dish to bring, as well as drinks, tableware, etc. Every year we have beer-soaked brats, grilled chicken, hamburgers and hotdogs. This year, we are also having pork chops - marinated in Pomegranate Chipotle sauce from Tastefully Simple. YUM!!! There is always an assortment of food...and it's always in abundance!!

This year, I've been asked to bring appetizers for afternoon munching and cheesy potatoes for dinner. I'm taking an assortment of appetizers - dips and crackers, beer bread, veggie pizza squares and fruit salad. We'll also be having macaroni salad, potato salad, veggie trays, deviled eggs, baked beans, salad and a plethora of desserts. On July 4th, there is NO dieting in our neighborhood.

We normally serve hot food off the grill around 5pm, though we all hang out snacking on the dishes all day long. After dinner, the adults typically play Euchre and poker, and the kids swim more, play tag, etc. This year, we're bringing three Nerf gun sets, so the kids will have a massive tournament in teams.

This year will include a HUGE tribute to our nation's finest, as we celebrate with two soldiers that are here to celebrate with us. They've not been here in FOUR years due to deployments in Iraq and training sequences here in the states. We are so excited to have them home with us this year to celebrate not only in the fun but in the spirit of the holiday.

When it starts to get dark, we have a bonfire in the backyard and make s'mores while we chat and keep the bugs away. Around 10pm, the fireworks show starts. Three men in our neighborhood take a day off work every year in June to go to OH to buy "the good fireworks" READ: the ones illegal in Michigan. We block our street off with cars so that people can't get through, we rope off an area so that kids have to stay back and seated, and the men start the AMAZING display. Our local police dept. came four years ago because of the abundance of fireworks, saw how safe we were and thanked us for taking necessary steps to offer the neighborhood a safe display. They typically drive by each year, giving us a thumbs up on the fireworks and go on their way to find those who AREN'T being safe. All the while, our kids are ooohing and awwwing at the colors above.

Truly, July 4th ranks just behind Christmas for us. It's one of the funnest days of the summer, and we have such a wonderful community experience. I enjoy my freedom very much, and I have the utmost respect for military families. It amazes me that brave men and women sign up to protect this nation and the freedoms we cherish, despite leaving families behind. And those families are in our hearts every year, and often in our conversation, as we remember them and how difficult life is without their loved ones near.

Happy Independence Day, everyone!!!!!!