Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Updates on Life

- I am so so so so so excited after receiving a call a couple days ago from Colleen. She has decided to fly in the weekend of the alumni race!! Stebby is also coming, and they're both staying at our house! It's going to be like so many weekends we spent together in college, especially all the super memorable ones from our senior year. I can't wait!! When you get to see your best friends every few months, you have to make the most of it!

- If you haven't already heard, Gearry's restaurant deal has kind of fallen flat. For a lot of reasons, far too many to get into here and more than I am willing to discuss. But I think it is for the best. He actually has a couple different opportunities at the present time, and both are good, so he is trying to make a decision. I will keep everyone updated with the -- hopefully -- good news to come.

- I took another promotion at work... I am not sure if I wrote about this in any past entries, but I was promoted to a position in Rooftop Publishing, a small, traditional book publisher. My title hasn't officially changed yet (Press Release Specialist) but I am essentially a public relations person. I act as a sort of publicist, from writing the press releases to scheduling book signings and author talks. So, still getting to write, but some added responsibilities.

- Bailey is doing great. Gearry and I absolutely love our little teddy bear (he's really fuzzy right now... he needs a hair cut!). Below is a pic from this past weekend at my mom and dad's house. He likes to sit on the back of the couch like a kitty (his other nickname, in addition to Teddy Bear, Squirrel, and Frijole Negro, in case you get confused) and look outside.

Things right now are stressful for a lot of reasons, but overall still good. I'm learning a lot about post-college life... some of it good, some of it not so good, but all of it necessary to be learned. I don't really like change, and I definitely like things to be set. When big stuff is up in the air, it's a challenge for me. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a steady course taking hold sometime soon. Then I feel like I'll be able to get some direction in my life and kind of hammer out the plan that's been missing.

Enough about that, though... I must return to work! I hope everyone is doing well, and I am getting excited about the holidays approaching so that I'll have the opportunity to spend time with many of you who I don't get to see very often!

- Stacey

Friday, October 19, 2007

Autumn Eats

With Thursdays's warm stormy weather, it felt more like spring than fall. But yesterday it was once again dark, breezy, cool and getting more and more colorful, and today bright, breezy, cool and even more colorful, much more as I envision autumn. In honor of the perfect football/tailgating/pumpkin-carving/cider-drinking conditions, I thought I would share a few of my favorite recipes for the season. Technically, I make most of them year round because they are so tasty, but they are particularly enjoyable when cold weather starts to roll in. I love fall!!

Easy Vegetarian Chili Uno-Dos-Tres

- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 3/4 cup chopped onion (about 1 small-medium onion)
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
- 1/2 cup medium bell pepper (any color), diced
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsp. chili powder
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 (14 1/2 oz.) can ready-cut tomatoes, undrained
- 1 (15 oz.) can red kidney beans, drained
- 1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained

1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper; saute 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently.
2. Add the water, chili powder, cumin, tomatoes, kidney beans, and garbanzo beans. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; gently simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Ladle into a bowl and serve with cornbread if desired.

Baked Potato Soup

- 2 large baking potatoes
- 3 tbsp. margarine
- 1 large white onion, finely diced
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 cups water
- 4 tbsp. cornstarch
- 1 1/2 cups instant mashed potatoes
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3/4 tsp. pepper
- 1/2 tsp. basil
- 1/8 tsp. thyme
- 1 cup plain soy, rice, or dairy milk or non-dairy creamer
- Bacon bits, shredded cheese (if desired)

1. Bake the potatoes at 4oo F for 1 hour. Allow to cool.
2. Melt the margarine in a large saucepan and saute the onion until transulcent. Add the flour and stir to make a roux. Add the stock, water, cornstarch, instant mashed potatoes, and spices and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Cut the cooled potatoes in half and scoop out the contents. Discard the skins. Chop the potatoes into bite-size chunks and add them, along with the milk or non-dairy creamer, to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, until thickened.
4. Spoon the soup into bowls and garnish with "bacon" bits, cheese, etc., if desired. (Personally, I think the soup is great without either.)

There is something about fall that screams "soup!" Both of these are awesome. The chili is a lot quicker and easier, but the potato soup is also worth it if you have a little more time.

Love you all... have a great rest of the weekend!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Just Another Day in Paradise

"Just Another Day in Paradise" is a relatively lame country song with a relatively un-lame point: even considering the mundane, everyday aspects of life, life is still pretty great, and there is no place better than home, with your loved ones. So that's my title for today, which is just an ordinary day surrounded by a lot of other ordinary days.

Sometimes I definitely feel like I am living in paradise. Moving to the lake was definitely a wonderful decision... I can't imagine now not being able to walk down a trail and find myself at the water. I've seen in morning, noon and night, and in a variety of seasons, and I can never decide which time of the day and year I prefer it. It's always gorgeous. I captured this picture recently as Bailey and I enjoyed an evening walk:

My cell phone camera doesn't pay it nearly enough justice. I hope that all of you who haven't had a chance to drop by the house yet will be able to come and check it out sometime. We love having guests and showing off our place!
Mom and Dad dropped off Luke yeterday evening. They left for vacation this morning and will be in Lake Cumberland and the Smokies until Sunday, so Gearry and I are dog-sitting. Bailey and Luke get along well, except that Bailey has about 10 times more energy (seeing as he is almost 7 years younger and 70 pounds smaller!) and sometimes wants to play when Luke is more than done. But Luke is such a sweet boy that he tolerates all the nibbles on his ears and his legs, and even when Bailey jumps off the couch and dive bombs him.
For all my far away friends who read the blog, I miss you! I just wrote another letter to Hillsley in Zambia yesterday, read Kath's blog from Poland, and have been thinking a lot about Colleen in Maryland and, of course, Stebby & Hill over in Ohio. It's really hard to have so many amazing friends and have them all so far away. But this is a "hello" and "I love you" to all of you!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A Fantastic Weekend: In Review

This past weekend was the best I've had in awhile... albeit most definitely the busiest I've had in awhile. It was pretty much non-stop, but -- most importantly -- quite enjoyable.

On Friday I left work around 3:30 to head to Columbus, Ohio, for Hillary's birthday! The best part: Hillary had NO clue I was coming. I'd been planning the surprise all week with the help of Stebby and Chris, so I was pumped that the day had finally arrived. Hillary had arranged for a night out on the town, and Stebby made plans to meet up with her at the first bar. When she arrived I was waiting with a cupcake, some candles and a lot of excitement! I have a hard time pulling off surprises, so it was nice that it all went as planned. Hill was super surprised, and we had a great night in the Short North/Arena District in downtown Columbus, hitting up Adobe Gilas, Mynt, and a short-stop at Brother's to close out the night.

The next morning I felt... HORRIBLE. Apparently I did not drink enough water the night before. Blah. But I had to get back to Indiana pretty early, so I found the strength to drag myself out of bed, grab some quick breakfast at Northstar with Stebby, and make the four hour drive back home just 17 hours after I'd arrived. A long roundtrip for a short amount of time, but completely worth it.

Saturday night, Gearry and I had plans with my friend Andy (from work), his wife Becky, and our other friend Elizabeth (also from work.) We all met up for dinner at Trojan Horse, then attended a play at the John Waldron Arts Center that was written and directed by another person who works at AuthorHouse. The play got over around 10:30, and our group headed to the Irish Lion for drinks and snacks and good conversation. It was a great night.

Sunday, I INSISTED on sleeping in. Mom called and woke me up at noon (Gearry was already at work) and I was not a happy girl. But I had hoped to be up by then, so I quickly showered and headed down to Mitchell to hang out with Mom, Dad, and Josh (who is home from Purdue for fall break). We watched the Colts game (we won, of course) and Mom made some homemade lasagna. Mom and Dad had also been watching Bailey all weekend since Gearry and I were so busy, so we were reunited and spent a lot of time playing and cuddling on the couch. Not to mention napping.

I definitely couldn't be on the go like that every weekend, but it is nice every once in awhile. Lots of stuff going on in my life right now. Nothing particularly exciting, but lots of little things. Kind of a good break from the doldrums of the predictible work-home-sleep schedule.

Tonight, I have to go to the Bloomington Animal Shelter for a quick dog-handling tutorial, as I officially start volunteering this Saturday. Afterwards, it's La Charreada for dinner with Mom and then we have tickets to see Annie at IU Auditorium! This was one of my favorite musicals growing up (probably my only favorite, as I'm not typically a big musical person) and I am excited to see it on stage for the first time.

Have a great one, everyone!

- Stacey

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Saturdays are Changing...

Last night I had orientation at the Bloomington Animal Shelter for their volunteer program. It went well and I will be volunteering on Saturday mornings from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., for at least the next six months. Sacrificing my one morning to sleep in was a bit of a bummer, but with my schedule that is simply the best time for both me and the shelter, since they are closed most evenings. So, I will be dragging my booty out of bed on these crisp and cold fall/winter Saturdays, but I know it will be worth it.

I have wanted to volunteer at the shelter for awhile now, but everytime I started to fill out the volunteer application, one thing or another stopped me. Usually it was an emotional thing... I would start thinking about how hard it would be to be around all the dogs, knowing that some of them were probably going to be put to sleep. Now that I have dealt with euthanasia on a very, very personal level, my feelings towards it have changed a bit, and I know I can handle the fact that sometimes it just has to be done. Plus, Bloomington does a great job of almost always euthanizing for behaviorial/temperament issues (aggressive, unsafe dogs) and health issues. If a dog is reasonably healthy and friendly, or at least not vicious, chances are that it is going to get a good home.

The people there are all very concerned about animal welfare, and I like that. It is nice to be surrounded by a group of people who love and care for animals as much as I do.

I will be a dog walker, so I will mostly be either walking (duh) or playing with the dogs, just to give them some time to be out of their kennels and be social with a human. There are a TON of dogs (if you've ever been to the shelter, the room of dogs that you can visit and adopt is only about a quarter of the dogs on the grounds... the rest are either strays waiting for to see if anyone claims them, special needs dogs (sick, aggressive), and dogs awaiting their temperament tests or just waiting for room in the main room. I can't wait to play with all of them!

- Stacey

Monday, October 1, 2007

There's No Question... We're in Love!

Bailey has been with us for about five days now, and Gearry and I have fallen... hard! He is such a sweetheart and so ridiculously cute (I mean, look at this picture). Although I was very happy to get him, I didn't feel much of a personal connection at first. I remembered feeling the same way with Colby in the beginning, so I wasn't worried. But after Bailey fell asleep in my lap Friday night after an hour-long walk, he started to get to me. And after a great weekend with him, I am completely and totally in love.

Let's see... fun Bailey facts? He's about a year and half old, but that is at best guess by the vet. He is probably more towards the year side of things. He's a terrier mix, but he has a bushy, curly tail... that must be the "mix" part because we have no idea where that might come from! He is very, very fast... last night Gearry and I played with him on the golf course and he had a blast chasing a golf ball that we threw for him. For such a little guy, I could not believe how quickly he could go after it. He loves all kinds of treats, but of course we try to give him only the healthiest if possible. On special occasions he gets a "snausage" or a beggin' strip, but generally his favorite treat is baby carrots. I've never met a dog who liked carrots, but he loves them.

Today I am, of course, working all day (probably 7:30-4:00), but Gearry is off so he is taking Bailey to the dog park later, which should make for an entertaining afternoon. Bailey really enjoys meeting (aka "sniffing") other dogs and rough-housing, so hopefully there will be some fun friends for him at the dog park.

In non-dog-related news... oh wait, there is NO non-dog-related news. The only other thing of particular interest at the moment is that I have orientation and start volunteering tomorrow with the Bloomington Animal Shelter. This is something that I have wanted to do for a long time and am finally taking the opportunity. I wanted to volunteer with rowing this fall, but I'm finally realizing that my schedule really isn't conducive to it. I'll be working at the shelter a few hours a week, which is manageable, either dog-walking or doing special events which take the dogs out into the community. Volunteering is very important in my life... I've always done it, and it's been hard missing that over the last year or so. If everyone would volunteer just a couple hours a week to a good cause, I can't imagine how much better this world would be. So, this is my contribution, for now, and I am excited to get started tomorrow!

- Stacey