Monday, December 10, 2012

Birthday weekend

Hello again blog world. I'm still alive, just busy with the end of the semester and wedding plans. All of the big stuff for the wedding is done. I'll be doing a few things next week when I go home for Christmas, but it's all coming together really well.

Anyway, after the weekend we've had I thought it might be worth a blog post (and J actually suggested it). 

Friday was my birthday. I knew it was going to be a busy day at work, and I didn't even have time to go to lunch with coworkers. But it was also one of those bad news days. Most of the time the news of the day rolls off of me, but there were three fatal accidents overnight Thursday that we were reporting on. It was actually the fourth one this week, and it made for a tough day of work.

But J came over after work and gave me a beautiful watch for my birthday. 

It was his office holiday party, so we went to the Billiards Club for that. We had fun with his coworkers and playing pool. We ended the night by going out for dessert.

I've had a Groupon to go ice skating for a while, and I told J I wanted to go this weekend. The only public session was Sunday afternoon. So after lunch with church friends, we drove to the state capital to skate.

J was pretty shaky and fell a few times in the beginning, but he changed skates and was feeling more confident. After the break to resurface the ice, we went back out. On our second trip around, J lost his footing and fell hard, face first. He hit his head hard enough on the ice to knock him out. We are laughing about it now, but it scared me to death when he didn't move.

There were some great people that came to his rescue (because I totally froze), and the ice rink called 911. 

There was a pretty funny story about the guy that was the most helpful — he is actually a first responder in another county. He was trying to check J's cognitive abilities and asked J to remember his name — Ryan — and two other things. A few seconds later, Ryan asked J if he remembered his name. J looked at him, and said, "Charlie." It turns out this guy looked just like our friend Charlie who just got his EMT certification as part of his police academy training. J thought Charlie had come to his rescue, but really he just managed to make the guy helping him question his injury.

Anyway, J doesn't remember anything about the fall or the few minutes after, but he was back to himself soon enough. But he went ahead and took the ambulance ride, and we spent an hour and a half in the ER just to make sure he was OK. Everything came back clear — no broken bones and just a mild concussion. He did get stitched up and is wearing a brace for a sprained wrist. Here's the picture in the hospital after the stitches but before they cleaned up the blood on his face.

And back at his parents' house all cleaned up.

We're very glad it wasn't anything more serious, and hopefully, he doesn't wake up with too bad of a headache. But I don't think he'll be game for ice skating again anytime soon!

Monday, November 12, 2012


I have always been independent. Even as a kid I wanted to do everything for myself and had no fear. And going far away to school increased that independent streak. Since college, I've lived by myself and have pretty much been able to handle whatever comes my way. Sometimes it does require paying someone to fix things or complaining a lot to my landlord to get rid of a raccoon. But I'm proud of my ability to handle things on my own.

But the downside of that independence streak is that I can be a bit of a control freak. I don't like change, so I really like to be in control when my world is changing. I'm also afraid of being hurt, so I have tendency to try to control my relationships whether it's a friendship or a dating relationship. And by control I mean that I often put people in boxes and limit who they are to me and what our friendship/relationship could be.

But when J came along, I handled it differently. In some cases, it was intentional and some of it not, but it opened the door to much more than I expected.

The Monday after J and I's first date, it snowed a few inches. I woke up to an email from him asking if he could come shovel my driveway. My first reaction was "no way." I didn't want to let down my guard and show that I needed something. I had parked at the end of my driveway so I could get out easily and resolved the situation in my own mind. But I forwarded it to a friend, and she immediately replied and said, "Your answer is yes and have some hot chocolate ready for when he is done." I took her advice and let him come shovel the driveway that evening. He drank hot chocolate with me, and we got more time to talk and get to know each other. And it was the beginning of me letting down my guard.

On our first date, we met at the restaurant, but after that he started picking me up for our dates. He opened the truck door for me every time, and I would even wait for him to come around and open it when we were getting out. (He still opens the truck door for me, but I'm not as patient anymore in getting out of the truck.)

I always let him call me, and while I suggested a few date ideas and the occasional restaurant, he generally came up with the plans for our dates and we had (and still have) a lot of fun on all of them. There were other things where he took the initiative, and I pushed down the desire to assert my independence. Basically, I let him be the guy.

This doesn't mean I became someone I wasn't or let him control me. I just stayed away from my defense mechanism of asserting my independence and trying to take control of everything to try to avoid being hurt (which really doesn't work anyway). And honestly, those things weren't healthy on my part.

In return, he treated me better than I had ever expected from someone. He didn't play games with me. He called when he said he would call. He surprised me with thoughtful gestures and sometimes gifts. He was clear about how he felt about me and where we stood in our relationship. He took the lead in our relationship, and it gave me a picture of what he would be like as a husband and leader in a family.

A few months into our relationship, he told me that he really appreciated me letting him be the guy and giving him the chance to treat me the way he believed I should be treated. It gave him the confidence to lead because I wasn't second-guessing every decision.

But to dispel any thoughts that I came out seeming needy in all of this, J also told me that he was attracted to my independence from the beginning. He knew I could take care of myself, and it made it more of a privilege for him that I let him in my life and let him do things for me. He also said that he breathed a sigh of relief on our first date because he knew I would not be a needy girl that called him three times a day.

Of course, a couple of months ago I called him at least four times in two hours — in my defense, he didn't answer until the fourth time — because I didn't have any hot water. He kindly rushed over, and it was once he got here that I found a card that said my gas had been turned off because the company switched out my meter three days earlier. But it just goes to show that somewhere along the way I let down my guard and started relying on him.

Friday, November 2, 2012


I haven't written much about J and how we met. Mostly, I've wanted to protect our privacy and avoid the trail of the world wide web. But it has no doubt been a big part of my life for the last eight months, and it seems odd to have left it out of this blog, especially since it's how we even met. So I'm going to be filling in the blanks in some random posts over the next few months.

In case you missed it, I let my sister write about me on this blog to include on Kelly's Korner's Show Us Your Singles. J's cousin's wife clicked on the link on Kelly's blog and got in touch with me about J. She and I emailed back and forth, and then she gave my information to J. He emailed and then called, and eight days later we went on a date. I'm still in awe of how it all came about. But J and I were talking recently about how perfect the timing was.

J had left his full-time job as an engineer for a construction company in town to have the chance to go in a different direction career-wise. In the meantime, he was finishing building a house, and when I say building, I mean he built it all himself. I had been told all of this ahead of time, and on our date he explained his unhappiness in his previous job and his aspirations for what he wanted to do next. And these weren't just vague plans, he was taking a class and actively applying for jobs.

I had been back in Columbia for six months and had my dream job. Work consumed me, but I loved it. However, in the months before I left Charlottesville, I was miserable in my job. I wasn't passionate about what I did, and it really was just a job that I felt stuck in. There were times in my job hunt that I wanted to walk away from that job without something else lined up. I wasn't in a position to do that, but the thought crossed my mind. Fortunately, God had me waiting until this dream job became an option and brought me to Columbia.

So when we were on our first date, I got where he was coming from. I understood why he left his job, and I was impressed that he was in a position to do that. Two years earlier, I probably would have written him off because he didn't have a job, but when we met, the unemployed thing didn't bother me. And just as he finished his house, the right opportunity came along for him, and he has a great job that he's enjoying.

On the other side, J says one of the reasons he was attracted to me was because I was so passionate about my job. I can definitely get on a soapbox about what I do these days, and I know I did that on our first date. But it wasn't a turnoff for him. He wasn't intimidated by my job or resentful of the fact that I care so much about it that it often consumes me. Since he started his new job back in May, we've discovered that we have similar work habits, i.e. we are both admitted workaholics. But again, a year earlier, I couldn't have cared less about my job. It's not possible for me not to do a job well, but instead of talking about how much I love my job, I would have been whining about how much I hated it, which probably would have been a turnoff for J.

So God picked this exact time to bring us together. Obviously, a big part of the timing is also that I actually picked up and moved halfway across the country six months earlier. But it was more than coincidence. God had each of our hearts in the right place when we met.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The proposal story (now with video)

Updated: I've added the video!

If you haven't seen it on Facebook, J and I got engaged! I gave a brief synopsis of how he did it, but I wanted to record the full story here. I was waiting for the video, but I still don't have it so this will have to do.

This summer J and I started talking about getting engaged and getting married. During our first conversation about it, he told me, "I already know how I'm going to ask." Over the last couple of months, we went ring shopping, talked about when we wanted the wedding and had some good laughs about how many comments he got from friends and family about when he would propose.

Before we got engaged, I wanted him to meet all my siblings. So we made a trip to Tennessee for Labor Day and then to South Carolina later in September. He also met my closest friends in all of our traveling that month.

Then it was just down to him talking to my dad. I knew he had done that when they were in town the weekend before. After that I was always prepared and completely suspicious, but he promised that he would surprise me. But I just knew that I would figure it out.

But there was nothing unusual about our date on Friday, and then Saturday he called and said he was tired from working on his deck so he'd just pick me up for church. When that happened, I was just resigned to the fact that he would propose the next weekend.

He picked me up for Sunday School and church. He taught Sunday School as normal, and we went into church. It was that Sunday that comes every fall when they talk about the budget and pledge cards. So a guy from the finance committee made an announcement, and then said that J was going to make an announcement. J is head of the building and grounds committee so it's not unusual for him to go up for an announcement, but he hadn't mentioned it to me.

He started talking about planned renovations for the second half of the basement and how they were planning to raise money for it. Then he thanked people for their help completing the first phase of the renovation. He started talking about how that was a time he really had to trust God because he had given up his job. He read Romans 8:28 and said God had blessed him with a great job but more importantly God had brought a wonderful woman into his life. I started to think it was getting a little personal, and then he asked me to come down to the front.

He got down on one knee with the ring and said, "Lizzie, I love you. Will you marry me?" Stunned, I said yes, hugged him and put on the beautiful ring.

He managed to completely shock me with his proposal, and I absolutely loved it.

Our church is a small, baptist church, and there were probably 80 people there on Sunday. This is the church J grew up in, and several of his family members attend. These are people that have prayed for J his whole life. When I showed up, they embraced me and loved me and prayed for us as a couple. I never would have thought I would want such a public proposal, but I was so glad all of those people got to witness it.

The hard part was sitting through the rest of the service with the ring on and not immediately calling everyone I know. But it helped the shock wear off some.

Of course, I was curious if this was the way he had planned to ask all along. J said it was. He had decided months ago that he wanted to glorify God in his proposal and share it with this special group of people. He had a little bit of help on the inside, but only three other people knew that it was going to happen.

To top off the day, we went to lunch, and I spent most of it talking on the phone to people. But there was a guy behind us that overheard, and at the end of our meal, our waitress brought over two glasses of champagne and said the guy had sent them over and paid for our meal.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hello fall

As predicted, the last month and a half have been crazy busy. I have lots of things to share about travels and other fun stuff, but I also have two papers to write, grading and class prep, and more on my to do list. So for today I'm just sharing some pictures of how the leaves have turned in my yard.

It rained most of Wednesday, but around 5:30 p.m. the sun started to peek through, and the colors just looked perfect from my window. I pulled out my good camera and went out in the yard to capture it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Show us your singles: Andrea

Almost eight months ago, I let my sister write about me for Kelly's Show Us Your Singles. I was not expecting anything to come of it, but a week after the post went up I went on a date for the first time in at least two years. J and I have been seeing each other ever since. Even though it was through a blog, it felt more like my sister recommending me and his cousin's wife recommending him and us going on a blind date. I also know there's no other way J and I would have met even though we have so much in common and live in the same town. Since it worked out so well for me, I wanted to do it for someone else. So, I'd like to introduce you to my friend Andrea.

Andrea, 30, Virginia

Andrea and I met when I moved to Charlottesville. I was new to a summer Bible study, and she made a point of introducing herself to me as I stood there awkwardly in a group of people I didn't know. We crossed paths a few more times, and then that fall I joined a women's Bible study that she was also in. One night, she asked me for my email address, and the next thing I knew I was at a dinner party at her house meeting lots more people.

I used to call her my social coordinator because after that I was always being invited to do things, and she even sought me out to get to know me one-on-one. And at some point Andrea and our friend Katherine became some of the best friends I've ever had. They were the friends that encouraged me in my faith and held me accountable. We had a lot of fun together, but we also dealt with tough stuff together. They were the reason leaving Charlottesville was so hard.

Andrea and Katherine, my best friends in Charlottesville

Andrea is one of those people that goes out of her way to care for others. She was worried I wouldn't celebrate my birthday after I moved last year, so she sent a cookie cake to my office to share with coworkers. And I couldn't even begin to list all the things she did as Katherine battled cancer last year, but Andrea made sure Katherine was cared for in every way imaginable.

Andrea calls herself a shy extrovert. She loves being in a group of people she knows but isn't a big fan of small talk in a new group of people (hence, the shy). She enjoys meeting new people, but she wants to really get to know people, not just talk about the weather. She is funny and has one of the best laughs I've ever heard.

Andrea and her best friend Sarah

She has lived in Charlottesville since grad school. She grew up and attended college in North Carolina. Even though they don't live in the same town, she is a wonderful aunt to her two nephews and loves her family. She works at the university and is an expert event planner, grant writer and keep-things-together administrator.

She loves to travel and has a goal of seeing all 50 states. She's not afraid to plan big trips on her own or with others. She traveled to Kenya to see a friend and went on a trip out west just to see North Dakota for herself. And, it's because of her that I went to Ireland this summer.

Andrea and I in Ireland

When she's not traveling or socializing, she is reading, crafting or watching a documentary (or all three, she's an excellent multitasker). 

The bottom line: Andrea is a woman who loves the Lord and wants to serve Him. She is a blessing to everyone who meets her and is an honest, reliable and encouraging friend. 

If you or someone you know would be interested in getting to know her, leave a comment!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

It's starting

The blur that will be September has already started. With three weekends out of town and one working weekend, it is going to be a crazy month.

J and I started it off by traveling to Tennessee over Labor Day weekend. I don't think I've ever made that drive to spend only two non-driving days there, but it was all we could manage and only driving half of it made it easier.

I had a great time showing off my hometown to J. For the last seven months, he has shown me everything he can think of around our area in Missouri, so I finally got my turn. We saw the tourist things (Chattanooga Choo Choo, Rock City, the Incline, the art museum, downtown, etc.), and I also showed him all of the schools I went to, the church I grew up in, and the great views just down the street from my parents' house. I did forget to take him down the W road, so that will have to be on another trip.

Seeing seven states at Rock City

J also got to meet one sister, my best friend, grandparents and extended family. And J really enjoyed spending time with my family. My extended family is smaller than his, but he still did better than me about keeping people and names straight. There are still more people for him to meet, but by the end of the month, we'll have most of them covered. I am looking forward to those two trips later this month, it's just going to be hectic.

The semester is off to a decent start. I'm adjusting to my new schedule and figuring out how to be a student again. I still can't believe it when I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m., but I might just turn into a morning person by the end of this.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pizza crust and brownies

Remember how last week I wrote about how things seemed more normal at work and I was glad the fall semester had started? I take it all back. This week has nearly killed me. On top of the chaos of a new semester and a new schedule, we attempted to launch new apps and a registration system. It's been a disaster to say the least.

But instead of writing about that, I'm actually going to write about cooking! I tried a couple of Pinterest recipes in the last week that I thought I would share.

I love making my own pizza crust and having some in the freezer as an easy dinner option. I've tried several in the last couple of years, and it felt like time for a new one: Perfect homemade pizza crust. The instructions are pretty useful, and actually included instructions for freezing. I didn't have the right mixer or attachments, so I did it all by hand. It turned out thicker than I would have liked. I rolled it out thinly, but it puffed up a lot when it was cooking. I'm not sure if that is how it is supposed to be or if I did something wrong in the process. I have two crusts in the freezer, but I'm undecided about whether I'll make this one again.

For the first day of school, I decided to make treats for work. I had some brownie mix and a recipe for peanut butter brownies on a Pinterest board. I love chocolate and peanut butter together, and this was a great combination. They were a hit with J and students in the newsroom (not that it's a tough crowd).

Lastly, I have to share about my Amish experience. J and I went out to Amish country several weekends ago. It was interesting and a fun day trip. I thought it would be more of a village where we could walk between the different stores. Instead everything was separated by about a mile of gravel road. So it was a lot of getting in and out of J's truck, but we happened on some cool places.

The main spot on my list was the bulk foods store. I stocked up on dried spices (a whole tub was $1), pepitas (aka shelled pumpkin seeds), sprinkles for baking and some other cooking staples. They were also selling packaged mixes for buttermilk biscuits and pancakes. I bought a bag of each. It wasn't until I got home that I realized there were no directions on either one. I just had this flour-type mix with no idea what to add to it to actual make biscuits or pancakes. I let them sit in the cabinet for weeks, and this I finally did some Googling and found out I just needed to add water, and I eventually figured out the right proportions and cooking time. I just felt so dumb for not asking about that when I bought it from the girls working at the store.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Returning to normal life

Well, the semester has started, and things are crazy but yet feeling more normal at work. I told J the other night that I think this has been the best summer of my adult working life. Ireland and London probably would have put it on top anyway, but it wasn't just that. J and I got to do a ton of fun things that I didn't even know existed around here and I wouldn't have done alone. I spent the better part of a week at home with my family, which was long overdue. And the change in the rhythm at work made it more relaxing. Yes, I was really busy when I was at work, but when I left, I was able to walk away. There was no grading or planning for class, and the level of drama with students seemed less.

So on Sunday I was pretty bummed about getting back into a new semester. But what I found is that I was actually ready to be back in the rhythm of teaching and interacting with lots of students instead of the same dozen I worked with all summer. There are a ton of students in the newsroom this semester (more than 100 reporters), and I love how loud the newsroom is all of the time. In fact, I feel like I work better under those conditions. I spent last week hiding in my office, prepping for class stuff, and by Thursday afternoon, I was dying to be out in the newsroom instead of in my quiet office.

I realized that the semester is what is normal to me, and the summer was a nice break that was just the right amount of time. I'm glad all of my co-workers are back in the office, and we have a regular schedule so there is less complaining about how much everyone is working.

Of course the change in my schedule has been pretty dramatic, and I'm still getting used to not only getting up at 6 a.m. but also going to bed earlier. I realized that I've never had a job where I worked only days. I have always had to work at least one later shift a week. And the last time I consistently got up before 7 a.m. was high school. It's a big adjustment for me, but I am loving walking out the door at 3 p.m. It feels like the day flies by.

And I just have to add in an unrelated small world story. I posted a picture on Facebook of J and I at the state fair on Saturday night. A friend that I was in journalism school with commented that she knew J. It turns out she not only grew up going to J's church, but her grandfather was the pastor there for several years and her mom still attends. I tell myself constantly that Columbia is J's Signal Mountain because everywhere we go we see someone he knows, but what I didn't consider is that his Signal Mountain is also my collegetown and there is obviously some overlap I didn't realize.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Not always joy

A lot of my friends from different parts of my life are in the having kids stage. I love seeing pictures of their little ones and often find it hard to believe that someone my age has a kindergartner. I got to see a good friend from high school while I was at home and meet her 18-month-old daughter. It is so wonderful to see my friends as parents.

But this week I realized that the having kids stage is not always filled with joy. A friend from college and a friend I knew from an internship both delivered stillborn babies in the last two weeks. When I found out about the second one on Sunday, tears spilled down my cheeks. Both of the couples are fully relying on God for strength in this and trusting Him in the hardship, but my heart just breaks for them. I know the nurseries were ready, names had been chosen and showers had been thrown, but there's no baby to bring home.

And then another friend I know from my first job is waiting to find out if her 3-week-old son has cystic fibrosis. Whatever the diagnosis, I know that little boy is lucky to have my friends as parents, but I just ache for them as they wait for news and could have to navigate a difficult disease.

I know that God is in all things and is comforting these friends, but it is still hard to see them walk these hard roads.

This is a depressing post, but this has just been on my heart for the last few days.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Quick update

Well, it's the week before classes start, and things are going about 100 miles an hour. But here's a quick update on what's been going on.

J and I went to a Zac Brown Band concert in St. Louis a few weeks ago. We met up with a friend of mine from college and had a lot of fun. It was great to hear them live.

And then I headed to Tennessee last week to see this precious girl.

I hadn't seen her since Christmas, and I couldn't believe the way she had turned into a little person. She talks and talks and has such personality. I wanted to bring her home with me.

But I returned to reality and the craziness of the week before classes start. Campus has come to life again, and the traffic has returned. I'm spending the week hiding out in my office and preparing for class. I still have a long to-do list, but I'm already much more prepared for class than I was this time last year.

It's going to be a busy semester. I'm taking a graduate class, and the weekends are filling up with really fun things. Of course, all that to say I might not be posting much.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Olympics

You probably knew this post was coming.

I am a huge Summer Olympics fan. Soccer, women's gymnastics and diving are my favorites, but I'm also enjoying swimming. I was dreading being at work and knowing everything before it was on TV, but keeping things updated on the website at work has actually been a lot of fun. I follow what the wire service posts, but I also watch a lot of it live online.

On Tuesday, I had three screens going — iPad, desktop and laptop. On the iPad I had the live NBC feed, on the desktop I had the wire service and the administration for our website, and on the laptop my Twitter feed and email. And I do the same thing at home, but add in the TV and phone.

And even though I know everything that happens and have usually watched everything on primetime, I still watch it all on primetime when I get home.

So I know a lot about what is going on at the Olympics every day. In a work meeting on Tuesday I questioned some of what we were doing in print related to the Olympics and revealed how closely I follow everything. So later on, there was a debate about something Olympics-related in the newsroom, and my co-worker sided with me, saying I'm the mid-Missouri expert on the Olympics. I wouldn't go that far, but I will admit I'm Olympics-obsessed right now.

Some of my favorite things:

1. I love how unpolished and real most of these athletes are. When I watched Missy Franklin on the podium Monday night, I could see in her watery eyes that this has been her dream for most of her 17 years. It was real emotion, not manufactured. With all of the reality shows on TV, everything feels manufactured and fake. But these athletes are the real deal. They aren't always going to be eloquent or "quotable" in interviews, but you know they are speaking from the heart.

2. Gabby Douglas. She is the Shawn Johnson of this Olympics. She is so good, and you can't watch her without smiling. And she meditates on Scripture.

3. The Lochte/Phelps rivalry. This is manufactured by the media. But on Saturday, I made a bet with the sports editor that Ryan Lochte would win more medals than Michael Phelps, purely because I'm tired of the hype around Phelps. Neither one is really proving to be as great as expected, but I'm ahead by one gold medal at this point. The bet — I have to admit to him that I was wrong if I lose — is keeping things interesting and is probably why I care about swimming in this Olympics.

4. Twitter and the Olympics apps. There's a lot of complaints about NBC and the tape delay. NBC has definitely had its moments, and the tape delay is frustrating, but since I'm watching online and on TV later, their plan must be working. But I've loved following everything on Twitter and seeing the athletes tweet. I also have the NBC Olympics app on my phone, and I've really enjoyed the primetime companion. There are facts, photos and trivia updated during primetime. J loves trivia and is really good at it, so we've had fun answering questions while we watch.

5. Soccer. It's so rare that I get to watch soccer, I have to find a way to watch it when it is on. I had it on my iPad at work on Tuesday (so glad I can use work as an excuse for watching soccer). And I'm really looking forward to being on vacation and at my parents' next week for the finals.

And my one complaint: The Olympics can really make a 28-year-old feel old. These athletes are sometimes a little older than half my age. Some of the girls on the gymnastics team weren't even born when the U.S. won the gold medal in 1996. I vividly remember watching the '96 team practice at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. And I'm only a year older than Michael Phelps, but the TV people make it sound like 27 is 40. I hope these athletes are able to move on and able to enjoy the rest of their lives when they leave their athletic careers. Your life is definitely not over at 28.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Things that happen when I have cable

I watch episodes of Gilmore Girls on TV with commercials even though I own every season on DVD and could watch it without commercials.

I discover a Grey's Anatomy marathon. And I sit and watch it despite the fact I could watch every season without commercials on Netflix.

I find all the terrible TV shows I didn't know existed. Who gave Bristol Palin her own reality show? It was such a train wreck, I couldn't look away or change the channel for 15 minutes. And these reality shows: The Glass House? I don't even know what the point is or at least I couldn't figure it out in the 10 minutes I stayed on it.

I realize that it's never enough. I was looking at the TV schedule for the Olympics and found that a lot of it is on the NBC Sports Network. Guess what channel I don't get. Yep. No soccer for me on my TV.  The good news is I'll be at my parents' house for the soccer finals, and I'm assuming they have better TV than me and they have DVR.

And I knew I wasn't getting HBO with this deal, but all this chatter about The Newsroom makes me feel like there is something else I'm missing.

So I'm starting to wonder what everyone thinks I've been missing during the last year without cable (and really without live TV at all for much of that). I'm hoping football season and the fall TV lineup make it worth it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Zucchini recipe

The other day I came across this article: Top 10 Things to do with too much Zucchini. I thought it was going to be recipes, but it was a really funny list about getting stuck with a lot zucchini.

I can't say I've been overloaded with zucchini. I have a decent supply (not from my garden), but it hasn't been too much. I have used it in my favorite things: zucchini bread and pie.

And then I tried one of the dozen zucchini recipes that I've pinned on pinterest. I wish I had the mini muffin tin that the recipe called for. In the larger tin, they didn't stick together as well, but did OK. Here's the recipe:

Recipe adapted: The Naptime Chef
yields: 12 mini muffins

1 cups zucchini, grated
1 egg
1/4 yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup cheese (I used sharp cheddar)
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Salt and Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a mini-muffin tin with non-stick spray, set aside.
2. Grate the zucchini and then place in a dish towel to squeeze out the excess water- like when using frozen spinach; if you skip this part, the middle of the zucchini tots will be really soggy while the outside gets crispy and no one wants that.
3. In a bowl combine, the egg, onion, cheese, bread crumbs, zucchini, salt and pepper.
4. Using a spoon or a cookie scoop, fill the muffin cups to the top. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the top is browned and set.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A change in perspective

I had great plans to actually write a post with recipes in it, but something came up at work and I wanted to write down my thoughts.

My first job out of college was at a newspaper in south Georgia in a community that likely wouldn't exist without a large Army post in its backyard. (Well, there is the whole Aflac thing, but...) When I got there, I had considered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be a distant conflict that didn't really affect me. But moving into a community full of soldiers and their families changes that. The war becomes real.

At the newspaper, we ran an Associated Press story on Iraq every day and on Afghanistan a few times a week. Frequently, those stories were put on the front page. I knew a lot about what was happening, why it was happening, where it was happening and how it was happening.

We had regular updates from the units that were deployed from our area, and deployments and homecomings were front-page news. And when a soldier from the post was killed in action, the story always went on the front page.

As real as the war was for me (someone I was close to was there for 15 months), those deaths and the subsequent stories still became routine. In most cases, those soldiers were just stationed at the post in our town for a few months or maybe a couple of years. The funerals were rarely held in town, but in the soldiers' hometowns. I was always detached from it all. Yes, I read about them and occasionally saw a picture, but it was part of my job.

Fast forward a few years. Last week we found out a soldier from Columbia had been killed in Afghanistan. There was some scrambling to get it confirmed and a lot of back and forth about when to call the family, etc. I stayed in my detached mode. I was thinking to myself, why are we scrambling? The Associated Press will put it in their daily update the next day. But I kept my mouth shut.

A few days later, another co-worker was telling me how she wished she had been soliciting memories and stories about the soldier from readers. I know I had a confused look on my face because she went on to say, "This is a hometown boy; this is a big community thing." And I realized this doesn't happen every week here. It probably doesn't even happen once a year. And I had never been in those soldiers' hometowns where people were mourning much more than a soldier. I didn't see a community's reaction to all of those deaths I read about in Georgia.

But I'm getting a glimpse of the community response now. Friends and neighbors put flags all along the neighborhood streets. And on Thursday, there was a processional that went all through town, and people gathered on the streets and overpasses and in his family's neighborhood to honor him. We received picture after picture from people that watched it. There is a movement to get as many people as possible to make a human wall around the funeral to block the protestors planning to come. 

As a journalist, I read about a lot of tragedies and death. There's plenty of good news stories, but the bad news can wear you down. A lot of times the best way to deal with it is to stay detached.

But as I looked through the pictures from the procession that showed a community standing together, I realized I missed the human element of it. In Georgia, those soldiers were a number to me. In Missouri, that soldier was a son, brother, friend, student, role model, neighbor, Eagle Scout and much more. And even though it's hard, I'm glad I've taken my blinders off to see that.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tour of mid-Missouri

J and I have had some fun dates. J grew up here, and it's really fun to see the area through his eyes. Plus I had no idea some of the places he takes me even existed, much less how to get to them.

One weekend, it was really hot, and we decided to drive to Jefferson City, the state capital. J showed me a couple of projects he worked on, and we got some excellent ice cream from the dairy that is based there. We also saw the governor on a walk.

On the way back, we drove through some very small towns. And he showed me the farm where his grandparents lived and his mom grew up. There's even a town and a street named for his grandfather.

Another weekend we had tickets to see Camelot in a town called Arrow Rock. First we stopped so I could pick out some cowboy boots.

And then we got to Arrow Rock and explored the little town. There is a theater there that puts on pretty big productions, and the town obviously capitalizes on the tourists headed to the shows. But there are a few historical buildings, including the old newspaper, The Saline County Herald. Of course I needed a picture:

And there is actually a rock in the shape of an arrow.

We had some wonderful fried chicken at this tavern, where the waiters dress in costume. And then the show was also really good. I couldn't believe how great the actors were.

This weekend the tour of mid-Missouri is taking us to Amish country, where there is a bulk food store. I'm hoping it's as good as Yoder's.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Back at home

The adjustment back to normal life after two weeks away is never easy, and jetlag doesn't help. But my flights went smoothly, and these were waiting in my kitchen:

The next week I worked the late shift, which might have been the best solution for the jetlag because I got to sleep in every day. But I felt like my co-workers all disappeared, and I was a little stressed covering for a lot of people. Still it was good to be back, and when you think that after a vacation, you know you're in the right job.

J kept my water gardened while I was away. He picked a couple of squash and a zucchini, but there wasn't a lot of stuff. And there still isn't. It's been miserably hot and extremely dry. The squash and zucchini plants are holding their own, and I've picked a few cherry tomatoes and two green beans but that's about it. No signs of anything from the peppers and okra. I'm still hoping for some big tomatoes, and the watermelon plants have grown so maybe I'll still get something from those. I'm not completely disappointed, but I was hoping for more. We'll see how the rest of the summer goes.

And then it seems as though J and I are touring mid-Missouri this summer with fun trips to different places in the area. More to come in a separate post.

Friday, July 13, 2012

London in pictures

Part of the fun of going back to London was visiting with someone who has never been to London. I know I wore her out walking around all over the place, but I just loved being in my city again. The first day we had the best weather, and I wanted her to see the big sights. We took the tube to Buckingham Palace:

Then walked to Parliament Square to see Big Ben, the London Eye and Westminster Abbey:

We continued to Trafalgar Square:

And then to Leicester Square and caught the tube to dinner at Piccadilly Circus. After dinner, we walked to Kensington Gardens and saw Kensington Palace and the Albert Memorial:

The next morning we returned to Westminster Abbey for a communion service, and then spent some time around Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. We also stopped in Fortnum and Mason, a department store:

We stopped in Covent Garden, where they have these random recreated phone booths:

We ate lunch and then went to the British Museum to see the Olympic gold medals.

Then we stopped by the Tower of London and Tower Bridge before heading to the V&A Museum.

From there, we went to dinner and then to see Mousetrap. We slept in as much as possible with the construction at the hotel and then headed out to Greenwich. We visited the National Maritime Museum, saw the equestrian track for the Olympics in progress and stood on the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory.

Then we did a bit more jumping around to see the Olympic rings, Shakespeare's Globe Theater, the Millenium Bridge and St. Paul's Cathedral.

We stopped at Harrod's, the big department store, and then I had a brilliant plan to walk to this place for dinner that really wasn't a restaurant and was much farther than I thought.

We crashed early that night and slept in again. On Saturday morning, we made our way through the crowds at Portobello Market and found some cool things, including scarves for 1 pound. We also stopped at the Notting Hill Bookshop from the movie.

From there we went to Trafalgar Square where there was a big festival showcasing all of the West End (Broadway equivalent) shows. The performers from each show performed a song or two. It was extremely crowded, and they were counting people going in so it was pretty backed up. But we found a decent spot outside of the crowd on the steps of the Canadian Embassy. And War Horse was right in front of us. The Motor Museum had famous cars on display right where we were.

Then I said goodbye to London and flew back to Dublin for the night before my flight home.