Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cell Block, uh... Spell Block Tango

 The first has a favorite as Cap'n Hook, the second has my favorite villain. How to choose?

Either way, enjoy some Disney magic from Chicago.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Plus One Report

I planned to write this blog yesterday, but I was distracted by a breadstick. It just goes to show me, that a distraction doesn't have to be shiny!

So, on with a few comments on the HyVee Employee Recognition banquet.

I learned some interesting facts about the company (waving to the social media watchers!) and enjoyed the CEO's talk. A room with nearly 800 people can raise a lot of energy. And this was only one of many recognition events. HyVee is a big company.

Jennifer--with her 5 year flowers
The sister tends to be a little shy, and I know the recognition part of the evening was a bit of a trial. She stood in a LONG line waiting her turn to cross the stage, and get her picture taken with the CEO shaking her hand. While being shown on two huge screens. I complement the organizers for, well, their organization. Getting that many people organized and across the stage in a relatively short amount of time was pretty impressive.

My hands hurt from clapping for each and every one of those recognized. In a world where people tend to float from one job to another (been there, done that), I'm impressed with the number of folks who've worked for HyVee for 20, 30, 40, 45 years!

yum, blurry lettuce
Of course I critiqued the meal. Hey, I'm a cook. It's what I do.
The salad was crispy and delightful--a lettuce wedge with bacon and bleu cheese crumbles, although the accompanying bleu cheese dressing made it a bit heavy.

For the main dish there was the requisite chicken breast with a fresh salsa. The chicken was well cooked and juicy--kudos. Three medallions of beef were okay. I do take issue with the potatoes. Mashing purple potatoes makes a grayish, gooey mass. They tasted okay, but...

Three wilty, overcooked asparagus dressed up the plate.

Dessert--chocolate cake. Well, half of one. With the other half a mass of whipped cream that tasted like a pre-made product with just a bit more vanilla and sugar. There was a tiny bit of sauce, I suppose vanilla, but I couldn't really tell. And a half strawberry for garnish. Now, if it were me, I would have put the strawberry so the pretty side shows, rather than the cut side.

    All in all, it was a delightful evening that I enjoyed sharing with my sister. Thank you to HyVee for the grand event, and especially for hiring a bus so I didn't have to drive! It's the small things...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

All It Takes Is A Little Dough

To make a common breadstick into something... else.
Or is it only in my mind?

And no, I didn't serve this one at lunch today.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Plus One

This evening the sister is one of many being recognized by HyVee for years of service. The fun will take place in another city, in a huge venue with a grand number of guests. I'm her plus one and delighted to be there to support her.

Besides, we'll be riding a bus with other employees. I don't have to drive!
There will be a meal that I don't have to cook or clean up after. Of course, out of professional interest, I will critique said meal and service. No matter where I go...

We need a relaxing evening and some sister time. So being the plus one is a good thing. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

National School Lunch Week 2014

At my DDJ (Delightful Day Job) it's National School Lunch Week. We're joining in with schools across the nation in celebration of healthy and tasty school lunches. This year's theme is, as shown in the picture, School Lunch Across the USA. After dividing the nation into five regions, I've planned lunches that feature foods and dishes from each area. Hey it worked out great--five regions, five days, five fun meals. (If you're interested in the menu, you can hop over to the lunch lady blog and see what's for lunch each day.)

National School Lunch Week facts--

Created in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy, NSLW is:

**A celebratory week of events and activities promoting the benefits of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
**The NSLP began in 1946 and is the largest of the federal child nutrition programs.
**In 180 school days, 5.2 billion school lunches are served in 99,000 schools— that is approximately 32 million healthy
meals per day!
**95% of U.S. elementary and secondary school students are enrolled in schools that participate in the NSLP.

The wild and colorful board in my lunchroom.

So, even though the government is shut down--and yes, that does affect school lunch programs--we're havin' some great food this week and celebration the diversity of our nation.

But tell me...what was your favorite lunch when you were in school? (Chili and cinnamon rolls is still a favorite here!)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The WIld Life

I had to go to my hometown today to pick up a chair my aunt and uncle have been storing for me. They're restoring a Craftsman Foursquare house and finally took down the windows and door enclosing the wide front porch. Gone is the storage space for a number of items. 

But that's not what I wanted to post in this blog today.

As the brother and I were leaving town, we drove through part of Wilderness Park. An animal crossed the road in front of us.

We both leaned toward his window and shouted, "What does the fox say?"

There was no answer.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Every Book...

It was a busy, busy day, so all I have for you today is a picture. But, it kinda says it all.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Taco Chips? Chicken? Cheese?

Sometimes, being a lunch lady is a thankless job. Especially when trying a new recipe. I suppose some of the kids might think I'm mean because I try to make a casserole once a week--partially because casseroles are an oddity to many kids. And because, although I'm sure they'd like it, I can't serve chicken nuggets every day.

Yesterday I made one of those new casseroles. My projected count was low--as usual for a casserole day. However, way too many of my young lunchers chose the alternative main dish (a chef salad or the ever too popular peanut butter sandwich).  And many of those who had casserole on their trays, wouldn't even try a bite. Not one bite!

However... some brave little souls did take a bite. Then came back and told me...
"If I could get seconds, I'd have thirds." 
"I really liked your casserole."
"The casserole is great" (with a thumbs up)

Those are the moments that warm a lunch lady's heart.

The casserole the kids were leery of was, however, a hit with the teachers! And many have asked for the recipe, so here it is... (returned to an at home size.)

Taco Chip, Chicken and Cheese Casserole

 3 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1 cup sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup minced onion
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1 medium size bag of taco chips, any flavor, crushed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Spread the bottom of the pan with half of the chips. Reserve one cup of cheese. Mix together the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Pour this mixture over the chips. Top with the remaining cheese and chips. 

Bake 30 minutes or until bubbly.

*use a rotisserie chicken to make this even easier
*for the casserole at school I used a cheddar/jack mix of cheese 
*depending on how salty your chips or seasoning on the chicken are, cut back on the salt to taste
*if you like cumin, just a bit in the chicken mixture would be tasty

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Music For Thursday...I'm So Sorry...

If you haven't heard The Fox, enjoy.
And I dare you to keep it out of your head.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hero's Journey Explained by Glove and Boots

One of the ways an author plots and plans what happens to a character and how that character reacts is through The Hero's Journey. According to Joseph Campbell, (The Hero With A Thousand Faces) the myths and legends from around the world at many different times in history all share common stages and fundamental structure. The Hero's Journey.

There's actually 17 steps in this journey, but not every hero takes all of them. Some tales only contain a few elements. It simply depends on what the character needs to learn and discover--in their own heart and head. For authors, The Writer's Journey by Chris Vogler, discusses this mythic structure for writers.

It's fun and educational to pick out the different stages in the hero's journey in movies and books. But first, you have to know what to look for. Glove and Boots have a quick and delightful explanation.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tuesday's Tasty Teaser

Instead of teasing you with a bit of fiction today, I thought I'd introduce you to a recipe book created by my local writers group--Romance Authors of the Heartland.

Fork and Pen
 Authors--and their families--have to eat!

Join Romance Authors of the Heartland for a culinary journey from the quick and simple (perfect for those days when time is at a premium), to more involved dishes sure to wow your family and guests.

And celebrations? No Worries! There's plenty of sweets and libations in these pages to satisfy the most discerning of reader.

Our recipes include such delectable delights as Goat Cheese Mousse, Awesome Apple Salad, Whatever Swims By Chowda', The Best Coffee Cake Ever, Chicken Couscous, Sweet Potato Mash, Hummingbird Cake, and of course Apple Cider Sangria. We even have a couple of recipes for your canine friends!

I'll even share a recipe with you--although this one isn't in the book, but it is one of my favorites.

Cream Cheese Bacon Crescents

1 8 oz tub Chive and Onion Cream Cheese
3 Slices bacon--cooked and crumbled
2 tubes refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix cream cheese and bacon in a small bowl until well blended

Separate each tube of dough into 8 triangles. Cut each triangle in half lengthwise. Spread each triangle with 1 generous teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture. Roll up starting at the shortest edge of the triangle and roll toward the point. Place point side down on ungreased baking sheet.

Bake 12 - 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 16 servings--2 rolls each.

Interested in Fork & Pen? Here's the links for purchase.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Phone and the Milk Cooler

Today when restocking the milk cooler...

I discovered something more than cartons of milk and empty milk crates. 

Now, often I'll find bits of toys or games that get stashed in the cooler. (I guess that's one way to keep someone else from playing with them.) From time to time, a pen or sheet of paper slips inside when the top is opened. 

But I've never found a phone.

Options considered... The phone was hiding from it's owner for one reason or another--probably instigated by a 'friend'.

The milk delivery person left it there.

The milk was trying to phone home.

Uh... that was about as far as I got.

Then the phone rang during lunch. Since I was serving, one of the teachers answered. And the mystery was solved.

While one of the paras was getting milk for the kindergarten snack, her phone slipped from her pocket. Unfortunately, she'd already run home to see if it was there. It wasn't. 

It was simply chillin'.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Ministry of Silly Walks

I know how the Ministry of Silly Walks came about.
Someone had to be watching Kindergarten and First graders 'walk' to their lines after leaving their lunch trays in the dishroom.

There's a variety of different side-steps, hops and skips, jumps and slides. Frontwards, backwards and to the side. Not to mention the swirls and twirls. At times, there's even musical accompaniment. 

In all honesty, I've never seen so many different ways of getting from one place to another. It's a great way to end the lunch period with a smile. As long as they don't get caught and told to go back and walk correctly.

I learn so much from the kids at school.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Oh, That Song In My Head

You know how you often start the day with a song in your head? Usually a stupid song. One you just can't shake. And way too frequently, it's not even the whole song. Just a line or two. Over and over...and over...

One night in Bangkok, makes a hard man humble...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Living In Faith, Not Fear

Today I'm sharing a post by Sue Thornton who has some thoughts on making the best of this time of concern for Americans. Her eloquent words strike deep.

"We all live in a state of fear at some point. As I have caught bits and pieces of the news regarding the government shutdown and listening to people talk, I can feel the vibration of fear that is resonating throughout the community. I just got an email on emergency crisis preparedness. Nothing like feeding people’s fears. I don’t mind being prepared in case of an emergency, but let’s not bring one on by concentrating on and building the fear.... To read more, go here.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Platte River in September

I grew up in central Nebraska and it seems like I spent a lot of time on the highway between Hastings and Grand Island. So I've seen the Platte River a lot. I've waded in the meandering channels, and canoed the faster spring waters. There are certain places along the highway where the water table is just below the surface, so any rain will grow ponds.

The recent rain and flooding in Colorado sent high waters to Nebraska as well. Unlike those in the paths of the raging Colorado rivers, folks here had time to prepare. And watch the river.

After the food show I attended in Grand Island last weekend, my brother and I stopped along the interstate for lunch, right along one of the channels that usually has some water in it this time of year.
I had only a little power left in my phone, but got a few pictures of the rushing water. It doesn't show well in these photos, but the water was dirty, reddish brown--still carrying soil and things I'd rather not mention downstream.
My first sight of the river when I stepped from the car. Way above the bank!
There's a highway bridge to the left of this picture...the water was only about
four feet below the bottom of the bridge.

This branch of the Platte is much wider than usual!

The rapid current...waves and white water on the Platte?

There was a log causing the disruption in the water.
A worker at the restaurant said that the log
 used to be a fair distance upstream.
I wonder where it will end up.

Behind the hotel at this interchange.
If there's any rain or flooding, they get a pond.'s a lake!

By the on ramp. The flooding went on for a couple of miles, and I have no idea how far south it continued since there's a couple of river channels. See that line of little high spots that look like little islands with trees? There were cattle trappedon those little islands. As we passed, each one looked no bigger than perhaps the lot your house is built on.
Poor cattle...

Of course, my thoughts and prayers continue for those affected by the floods.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Tuesday Teaser

Uh oh. Tuesday's winding down and I haven't done my challenge blog yet. So how about an excerpt from the book that started my journey.
By Keltic Design

She turned around, lifting her eyes to his. There was a moment of strained silence between them before she covered her mouth with her hand, squinted at him and giggled.

Jaye took a swift step back, his arms dropping to his sides with a soft slap. Consternation drew his brows together. “Look, Allyn. I meant what I said. I don’t think this is a laughing matter. I...”

Apology swept before her as Allyn closed the distance between them. “Your hair is sticking out all over your head. What have you been doing?” She giggled again and the sound filled a place within Jaye he didn’t realize was empty, didn’t even know was there. She smoothed the hair on the top of his head and let her hand slide softly down behind his ear and onto his shoulder.

Jaye couldn’t resist the invitation lurking in the depths of her eyes any more than he could deny the desire rising below his waist. “My hair is not important,” he growled and pulled her against him. Her startled gasp was a feather light touch against his cheek. Her fingers traced their way back through his hair to disturb the waves she had just smoothed.

His hand at her waist drew her closer. The other cradled the back of her head, where Jaye curled his fingers into the silk of her hair. He tilted her head back gently to look again into her remarkable eyes. The invitations within their violet depths become the willing acceptance of her desire, and her eyes burned with blue flame.

After Jaye lowered his eyes to her slightly parted lips, his mouth was drawn to hers for the softest of touches. She quivered beneath the caress.
A crescent of lashes lay against the soft curves of her cheeks and her lips parted to whisper his name. He had been wrong. The chains binding him were not silver. Instead they were forged of sparkling blue flame.

Savoring the feel of her in his arms, Jaye teased her lips with his tongue and nipped at the fullness with gentle teeth. He groaned when her small hand trailed heat to the side of his face. He sought to slow the desire, but when the heated silk of her tongue met his, uncontrollable wildfires raged though him. Like an arsonist, he craved fire and stoked the flames with the deft dance of his tongue, until the heat was too much and he tore himself away, gasping for breath.

Allyn’s eyes popped open. Her fingers flexed, trying to ease Jaye’s mouth back to hers. Their ragged breathing was harsh in the quiet room and his chest rose and fell against her sensitive nipples. When she leaned into his arms, he eased away.

Startled, she took a shaky step back. Jaye’s eyes were closed, his face tight as he fought for control. But control was the last thing Allyn wanted. “Jaye?”

He rocked back on his heels and took her hands in his when they slid from his shoulders to his chest. Holding her fingers over his heart, he kept his eyes tightly closed. Allyn tipped her head to one side and looked past him to the wall where her awards hung. Glaring in the spotlight of her fear was the certificate he had asked about earlier. The reason he knew how much older she was. Panicked, she struggled to move away.

“Don’t.” Allyn froze at the soft word. Jaye’s hands gripped hers more tightly. Easing closer, she tried to read the emotions behind his closed eyelids. It was minutes, hours, or heartbeats later when Jaye opened his eyes and smiled tentatively, looking so like a hopeful little boy she couldn’t restrain a smile in return.

The moon’s reflection glistened in his eyes when Jaye turned his face to the window. She knew the decision had been made.

Expecting nothing more than good-bye, she held her breath. She was prepared. Although she tried again to slip her hands from his, he held them firmly for a moment before he let them go. Her palms flattened against his chest just over his racing heart and tried to imprint the feel of him into her memory, storing it away before he left her.

His voice remained rough and husky even after Jaye cleared his throat. “If we were in a movie this would be where I carry you off to the bedroom.”

Allyn didn’t understand; she couldn’t have heard him correctly. She must have given him a strange look for he stepped back, disappointment filling his face and dulling his eyes. Allyn took a deep breath and an even bigger chance. “That would be foolish.”

Despondent, the faint hope still lighting his face faded and his shoulders slumped. Allyn thought her heart would break. Stepping close to lay one hand on his shoulder, she leaned into him, pressing her breasts against his arm. The soft stubble on his cheek tickled her lips as she brought them close to his ear. “I can walk.”

Allyn took Jaye’s hand and led him from her workroom. Changing expressions flew across his face while she directed him through the front parlor.

First, he was bewildered, as if having difficulty putting the meaning to her whispered words. Then, astonishment dawned in his eyes, pulling his somber lips into a grin. By the time they reached the top of her narrow staircase, desire had once again darkened his eyes to midnight black.

Allyn led him to her bedroom door and paused. Was this really what he wanted or was she reading her own desires into his actions? How could she consider this? How much pain was she setting herself up for?

Placing his hands on her shoulders, Jaye moved her gently, bringing her back into his embrace. By smoothing his hands up and down her arms, he created tremors that threatened to fully collapse her already watery knees. Kisses were pressed into her hair. She felt him inhale deeply then exhale with a sigh, his breath stirring her hair softly.

“Your hair smells like...” Jaye nuzzled her hair. “It’s indescribable, like nothing I’ve smelled before, yet so very familiar.”

Allyn canted her head to one side. Jaye’s lips traveled from her hair to her neck. She could barely speak. “It’s a rinse made from flowers and herbs. Your mo...a friend blends it just for me.”

The reply was muffled against her neck. “It’s perfect.” His hands slid to her waist and eased their way slowly to her ribcage. She couldn’t catch her breath, every muscle tensed, waiting. Jaye’s fingers traced the underside of her breasts and tickled their way to the sensitive tips. Arching her back pushed her pebbled nipples into his palms. Her head fell back against his shoulder; her eyes closed.

Jaye kissed the corner of her mouth. His lips rested against her cheek while his palms drew tiny circles of fire from her nipples. She felt him smile.

Mischief warred with desire in eyes dark as a stormy night sky when he turned her to face him. The smile grew sultry and he waggled his eyebrows. “Is this where I sweep you off your feet?”

Interested in more? You can read the whole of Chapter One here. Buy links are there as well.