Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Priceless Saturday Night

Last night....

....a Diet Dr. Pepper: $6

...parking: $20

...two tickets to see Billy Joel and Elton John perform at the Sprint Center in Kansas City: $350

...spending over 3 hours with 2 of the best performers of my generation with my 1 and only hubby: Priceless.

Sometimes, cost is no issue - when getting an opportunity to see, hear and be part of an amazing concert by two very gifted pianists and vocalists...

Thanks for the memories, "Sir" Elton and Billy.... I'm still singing songs in my head this morning. And my nose is still bleeding from the seats. But hey - what a night. :)



Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Red Ball Review

Who does this sound like?

Chores by day...a ball at night?

If you said "Cinderella", then you are spot-on! If you said "The Drama Queen" - you're even more spot-on!

Yesterday was chore day - do the laundry, pay the bills, clean the house...I somehow managed to squeeze in a fun lunch with 9 girlfriends at a local restaurant - including dessert, yum! - and then time to get ready for the big dance.

Last night was the Red Ball,
an annual fundraiser here in Kansas City for our local chapter of the American Red Cross. We were taking my parents as our guests, and so we all got gussied up and dolled up and then headed downtown to the big event.

Me and my Mom in our red...don't we look fine?!

Us and my folks - before the Ball...

Cocktails...then a fabulous dinner with the most divine chocolate auction...a program....and the music by Big Bad VooDoo Daddy, a swing band.

Hubby & I at the cocktail party

Don't the tables look fun?

A great evening...and tonight promises to be even better, as we were the LUCKY auction winners of a pair of floor tickets to go see Elton John & Billy Joel - appearing here in KC tonight. Woot! Woot!

The party weekend, I must go get ready for tonight's Billy Joel/Elton John concert. Time to clean off those glass slippers for another night!



Thursday, February 25, 2010

Crack Dip Recipe

Okay, some of you have heard of the famous “Crack Dip” – and others of you are like me, who apparently has been living under a rock my entire lifetime because frankly? I had never heard of Crack Dip....And here I thought I was cool….and hip…but alas…I missed the boat on this one. Either that, or my circle of social friends don’t deal with Crack Dip. Because not a single friend has ever brought this dip over to any of MY parties. Losers.

So – here’s the recipe that I found on the internet – but if you do a google search, you’ll find like, 100 variations of it. Which is understandable – because think about it, there’s probably 100 different versions of the chocolate chip cookie and that’s just a freakin’ cookie. Seriously - how many different ways can you make a chocolate chip cookie? So - imagine the variations on a dip....

Crack Dip

8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup ranch salad dressing

1/4 cup blue cheese salad dressing

1/2 cup buffalo sauce or buffalo style barbecue sauce

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (shredded mozzarella cheese can be substituted)

2 cans chicken breast (or if you’re uncomfortable with canned meat, you can shred up a rotisserie chicken. Snob. Hehe..just kiddin’ ya’ll!)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a deep baking dish, mix cream cheese, salad dress, buffalo sauce, and cheese. Stir until combined. Stir in chicken.
Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes, until the dish is heated through. Serve with crackers, pita chips, sliced bread or vegetables.

NOTE: Depending on your tastes and the ingredients on hand, you can use 1/2 cup ranch or blue cheese salad rather than 1/4 cup of each. Similarly, you can mix blue cheese and mozzarella, or use portions of each.




Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Shower of Smothered Potato

Sitting around the dinner table last night, I decided to engage my 10-year old daughter in conversation…specifically, I was curious as to how a recent visit to a new playmate’s house had gone the other day….The conversation went something like this:

“How was your visit the other day to Sophie’s house?”

“Fine”, she answered. Showing all the enthusiasm in her answer that tweens are likely to show when asked inane questions at the dinner table by the parents.

“Oh…well, that’s good. Did you have fun?”


Pause…..Clearly, I will have to ask better questions to get better answers….she’s certainly not helping me here….

“So…..what did you girls do?”

“We made crack dip.”

“WHAT??!!!??!!” Okay, clearly I have misheard her, right? Of course, it didn’t help that I had just taken a big bite of a baked potato…which was smothered in butter, sour cream – and – I confess - bacon bits. So – a shower of bacon bits, wrapped in butter and encased in sour cream go spewing out of my mouth as I react to her answer….

“I’m sorry,” I said, recovering slightly. “I didn’t hear you…what did you make?”

“Crack dip.”

“Don’t you mean crab dip?” I asked….

“I dunno. I thought they said it was crack dip.”

And actually, there is such a thing as “crack dip.” I had to google it to confirm it. Huh. Who knew? The things I’ve learned from my daughter….I just wish I didn’t have to learn them with a mouthful of a smothered baked potato…as that makes for a rather messy education.



Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Where's My Teleprompter When I Need One?

Tomorrow should be a barrel of fun. Tomorrow I am supposed to go to a local elementary school and do a presentation for several 1st-graders. It's through the guise of the American Red Cross, and when the teacher set it up, she said the topic is "Severe Weather."

Well, that certainly narrows it down, huh?

Does she want me to talk about how the Red Cross responds in severe weather? Does she want me to talk about how to be prepared in severe weather? Or - am I supposed to talk about what severe weather IS?

I have no idea.

As I said - it should be a barrel of fun when the speaker has no idea what they're really supposed to be talking about.

Thank God for my fantastic talent of bull-shitting. It really comes in handy sometimes.



Monday, February 22, 2010

Snow Days & Ponies

Snow day, schmow day.

Today is yet another snow day for the children in our school district....this makes five so far this year. Five days to make up at the end of the school year. Geesh.

It began lightly snowing Saturday night...nothing major, though...and it had turned to rain by Sunday morning. The salt trucks were out in force yesterday, and we had no problems with the roads on the way to church yesterday.

Speaking of church, you should see my kids start praying when the first snowflake starts dropping. For kids who somewhat grumble at the nightly dinner blessing, and who grumble about getting up on Sunday mornings for church - they sure develop a lot of faith when the snow starts falling.

"Please, oh, please, oh, please, God...please let us have a snow day tomorrow." This, coming out of the mouth of my 10-year old daughter - repeatedly echoed by my 16-year old son - yesterday afternoon.

"Why do you pray like that? God has nothing to do with whether you have a snow day tomorrow or not. It's strictly up to the school superintendent," I replied, trying to be logical about the whole thing.

"My Sunday school teacher says that God answers all prayers..." my daughter solemnly states to me.

"Well, the roads are just fine." I said. "Don't get your hopes up - I'm sure you'll be going to school Monday morning."

Imagine my surprise this morning when my kids' prayers were answered and school was canceled. My daughter shot me a somewhat "gloating" look this morning, as in "Ha! Ye of little faith.....!" Now, imagine my amusement when later I heard her whispering,

"Oh, God...please let me have a pony. Please, oh, please, oh, please."

Dream on, sister. Dream on.

Of course, who can blame her for trying? Hey, she got her snow day - so why not shoot the wad and go for the pony? She just doesn't realize that I'm praying just as hard - if not harder - for no ponies. And I think even God will concede on this one.



Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bubonic-Plagued Brownies

Every Monday - rain or shine - for the last 7 or 8 years - I have baked a batch of brownies for the kiddos. (Who am I kidding? I bake them for myself. But it sounds so much better to say they're for the children, right?) The only time I've missed a Monday is when I've been out of town - or sick - but otherwise, you can expect a batch of fresh-baked brownies in my house by Monday afternoon.

Normally, by Tuesday afternoon - the brownies are vanished. Gone. Snarfed down by voracious, starving children in my house who act like they haven't eaten in three years and the brownies are the Tree of Life fruit and if you get in their way while they're eating, you could lose an arm. I sometimes wonder why I even bother baking the brownies when they're gone so fast.

Lately, however, I have noticed a rather curious thing in my house. Take this week, for instance...I baked the brownies on Monday - and yet today - Sunday - the brownies are still on the counter. Virtually untouched. Hmmmm.....I have noticed this rather rare and odd phenomenon more and more lately, and I couldn't quite put my finger on why the brownies were being ignored.

Now - I must insert here that hubby does the grocery shopping - for the most part - in our house. I LOATHE the grocery store. Seriously. I'd rather sit and brush the dog's teeth than grocery shop. Heck, I'd rather sit and brush the cat's teeth than grocery shop. Hubby loves to grocery shop - and so I give him the list and he gleefully goes into "Hunter" mode and heads to the store to gather up needed supplies. Now, when hubby shops - he is not loyal to name brands - but he is always loyal to whatever is on sale that week. So - we have had some interesting brownie mixes over the years, to say the least.

Seeing those untouched brownies on the counter last night got me to thinking...and so I did an experiment this morning. I cut out a big hunk of brownie and approached my 16-year old son with it, waving it under his nose and saying, "Yummmmmm....a delicious, chocolatey-brownie just for you.....!"

He backed up so fast out of the room, you would have thought I was offering him a piece of Bubonic plague wrapped in chocolate.

"Get that away from me!" he shrieked.

"What's wrong with it??!!" I asked. This is all so very...curious....

He looked at me like I was the most stupidest creature to ever walk the planet (which, upon reflection, my teenage son looks at me like this every single day of the year anyway - not much difference) and he says, "It has it!"

Things? It has things in it? I peered at the brownie to do my own inspection, and all I saw was chocolatey-fudgy goodness with a few walnuts thrown in it for some texture...and then it hit me.....

EUREKA!!!! Walnuts!!!!

My children, it appears, will not eat brownies if the said-brownies have nuts in them. Huh. Who'd of thunk it?!

Now that I have this invaluable piece of information stored in my memory bank, you can be assured that all future grocery lists given to my hubby will say, "Brownie Mix WITH nuts. No exceptions."

More for me, you know.



Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Seeing-Eye Parakeet

What do the following have in common?

A parakeet as a service animal....

A cat-smuggling elderly woman...

A confused, old man who loves Andy Griffith on TV and wants to sit by the window by day and wanders at night...

Give up?

These are all scenarios from an American Red Cross exercise that I participated in yesterday - and what a fun & interesting exercise it was!

We have 28 counties in the state of Missouri all participating in this exercise - some did it yesterday, while others are participating today. The exercise is practicing and honing our "Sheltering" skills - which could be needed during a major storm, an earthquake, a flood - who knows? But what we DO know is that we want our volunteers to be prepared - before the time comes - and hence the call yesterday to come in and report to "duty" at a shelter.

I had about 10 or so volunteers come in, where I observed and guided them in setting up the shelter....Once they had the shelter set up, I pulled a few of the volunteers out and designated them as my "actors." They were given different scenarios, or roles, to play - and I watched & evaluated how our other volunteers responded and reacted to what was being thrown at them.

It was fun - and yet educational - all at the same time. I encouraged my actors by telling them the Academy Awards were coming soon - and I would be handing out Oscars for the best performances of the day. They really, really got into their roles - thereby earning the titles of "Future Meryl Streep" - or "Wanna-be Al Pacino."

I had an enthusiastic "cheerleader" show up with $200 she wanted to donate to the shelter - how do we handle that? I had a vivacious woman show up with a dozen "cupcakes" she had baked and decorated and wanted to give to the residents of the shelter - what do we do with food that the public brings? I had fights break out, accusations of weapons, drunkenness, bratty children, a pushy television reporter, a bed-wetter - if you can think of it, we probably did it! All in the name of fun - but all designed to have our volunteers ready if they were ever faced with the same - or similar - situation in a real shelter. The American Red Cross has protocols that we follow - and this training helped the volunteers by reinforcing the protocols in a simulated situation....

By the afternoon, when I was exhausted, my actors and volunteers were exhausted, and we had sat around and discussed what went well - and perhaps what could have gone better - I asked them if they had found the exercise helpful.

Without a doubt, they all agreed it had been wonderful - and they had found new confidence in their Sheltering skills. In fact, one participant chirped, "I would love to see us do this, like, every 2 months or so."

Yikes. Better get my creative hat back on and come up with some more scenarios. Besides actors, perhaps I'd better start hiring script writers.....but even the BEST Hollywood script writer wouldn't have come up with a scenario of a woman trying to pass off a parakeet as a service animal....!



Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Fragments I the only person in the world who has not seen "Avatar"?

...why are the Olympics on a tape-delay when the last I checked, Vancouver is just north of us - and not halfway around the world? It really sucks when I already know who won what before I even watch that night....

...why is it that my children still won't wear a coat to school when it's 20 degrees outside and a wind chill in the teens?

...if we can have a show as inane as "The Jersey Shore", can we have a show based on where I live called "The Kansas Plains"? Do you think it would fly?

...why does my cat have nothing to do with me until I sit down with my laptop in my lap - and then he insists on sitting right on top of the keyboard? I alone in thinking that Lady GaGa is very courageous in her wardrobe choices? I don't always agree with them - but I give her credit for her courage.

...would anyone care if "Jon & Kate Plus Eight" resumed filming again on TLC? Would anyone watch?

...why does it always snow the day after I wash my car?

...why do 16-year old boys always smell a little like a gym locker room?

...just wondering....


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kicking the Tires

The last few weeks have certainly been eye-opening - after being married to the same man for over 10 years now, I really, really thought I knew him well. Boy - was I wrong.

I have been seeing a whole new side of him lately that - frankly? Scares me.

Yes...a very, scary side of him that is totally freaking me out and leaving me lying next to him at night, wondering who this Frankenstein is - and how did I not see this before...?

What is it, you ask?

Hubby and I have been doing that joyless task these last few weeks of car shopping. We have been on a quest to find the "perfect" car for me, and wow. What fun. I should actually clarify that sentence. HE has been on a quest to find the "perfect" car; because as for me? One car is pretty much just as good as another. Frankly, I don't think the perfect car exists and would be quite happy to settle for "good enough."

But - not hubby. He shakes in horror at the mere mention of "good enough." It has to be perfect. Every single night, he has come home with new research that he's been doing - and with excited plans to go test drive his newest and latest find....and once we're in the car, he begins to tear it apart - nitpick it to death - down to the stitching on the seats. Nothing has met his extremely high expectations lately when it comes to cars...and yet...I detect a somewhat sadistic pleasure in him in this quest.

Not me. I'm just tired of the whole process and want it over.

And thankfully, yesterday - it is. I put my foot down and said, "This is it. We're buying this car today. No more shopping." And we bought a car.

And the look on his face - it was like I had taken away his favorite toy. No more kicking tires. The agony. The defeat. Argh. I had squelched the "hunter" in him and he is not happy.



Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sunshine On My Shoulders


I love the sunshine – and I can get downright cranky when I don’t get enough of it or I go too long without it….

It seems – and this is just my observation – that this winter has had more than its share of gray, cloudy days…those days where it’s just “bleh” and you go through the whole day, feeling rather “bleh” to match the weather.

Today – a bright, glorious sun is shining down on us here in the Midwest - and it feels sooooooo good. It is a promise of the spring that is sure to come soon – and I, for one, can hardly wait.

Spring – new beginnings – new life….and warm sunshine blanketing the earth…life is good.



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Who Knew?

Who knew? Here are some interesting (or not-so-interesting!) bits of trivia I learned while in Belize...take them for what they are....!

Supposedly it is illegal to bring Pepsi into Belize - and offenders can face a huge fine PER CAN! Supposedly, some big head honcho in the Belize government has a share of Coke - and so don't go to Belize if you're expecting to drink Pepsi products. I can handle Diet Coke, but I sure did miss my Diet Dr. Pepper.

There is an abandoned plane on the runway at Belize City - our taxi driver told us that years ago, the plane was confiscated when it was caught trying to smuggle drugs in from Columbia. The government meant to auction off of the plane but never got around to it - and now it won't "start."

Rice and beans is a very traditional dish of Belize - and sure enough, we ate a lot of rice and beans. Thankfully, it was good.

The national beer of Belize is Belikin - and it is surprisingly good. The women of Belize will cut it by 50% with Sprite - making it taste (supposedly) just like champagne. Hmmmm....I never tried that - but it sounds interesting.

Belize's money is also called "dollars" - but it runs about 50% of the value of our dollar. It was nice to divide everything by half to get the U.S. price. I like easy conversion.....!

I couldn't understand why I had never heard of Belize growing up as a child - until I realized that when I grew up, it was known as the "British Honduras". It didn't become "Belize" until 1973. It's the only country in Central/South America where English is the primary language.

The barrier reef on the coast of Belize is the 2nd-largest in the world - only the Great Barrier Reef of Australia is bigger. It's a great place to dive and snorkel - lots of marine life.

I loved Belize - it was nice to not have to use my basic Spanish to communicate with the children. And the weather? Awesome - absolutely beautiful. I also felt very safe while in the country - which was nice. Perhaps we'll visit it again one day on a future mission trip.



The Children of Belize

One of the best aspects of this recent mission trip to Belize was the children - as I've already previously posted. We got to interact with the children during recess - and while some of our members played volleyball, soccer, frisbee, or other games with the kids, I used my camera to interact.

I carry a Nikon D50 camera, and the children LOVED playing with it. They would literally line up to take turns taking a picture - after I would show them how. With some of the older children, I got into more details, such as zooming in and out, changing the settings, "framing" the subject, etc - and some of the photos that the kids took turned out pretty good!

Here are some of the photos that the kids took:

Here are some "sneak" photos I took with my zoom lens so the children didn't know they were being photographed:

Aren't the children beautiful? I think kids - no matter their nationality, culture, color, etc - are wonderful, and I enjoy nothing more than interacting with all of them. It was tough to say goodbye to these kids - I was bawling - but I hope to go back some time in the future. Maybe for more photography lessons - as some of these kids have some real talent!



Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Bumps of Belize

Bumps...bumps everywhere....

That is my impression of Belize...

Mosquito bite bumps (all over me - geesh, I swear every mosquito in a 5-mile radius knows the minute I walk out the door!), goosebumps (it's been rather chilly here in Belize sometimes)...

...and speed bumps.

Lots and lots of speed bumps.

There are so many of them, that I've given the speed bump signs "names" - depending on their personality. You may have to use your imagination on this - but just look at the pictures I've taken of the signs, and think about it for a minute.

We have the triple bump, also known as the "Alien" Bump:

Then, we have the four-bump sign, also known as the "Puppy Litter" Bump:

Next, we have the no-bump sign, also known as the "Unibrow" Bump:

And last, but not least, we have my favorite, known as the "Dolly" Bump, for obvious reasons:

Yes, I'm still in Belize - and just having some fun....we finished our project today and tomorrow, we head to San Pedro in Ambergris Caye for some fun in the sun....

Peace. And don't let the bumps in life get you down - have some fun with them, like I did. :)


I Love Me Some Field Trips!

When you put me with hundreds of children - and in a classroom - you have created Paradise for me. Seriously. Crazily enough, I love children - hundreds and hundreds of them - and I love being in school. This mission trip is Nirvana for me - I can't imagine a trip being better as far as the project that we have.

Today, we performed our "bratty" skit in front of the children of Corozal - and this time, I got a round of applause! :) It may have been when I mentioned we were giving them gifts - and not so much for my acting skills - but hey, appreciation is appreciation, and applause is music for the soul for any actor!

After our skit in Assembly, it was time to work...but today, my work was in the classroom. I got put into a pre-school classroom of 33 children (yikes!) and I did Kindergarten screenings all morning with the children. I set up a little table outside (bliss!) and brought the students out, 1 by 1, and went through the series of questions and activities with them.

Sometimes, it was difficult due to the language - although English is the primary language in Belize, we are so close to the Mexican border that some of the children speak Spanish primarily. One of the questions I had to ask was, "What is this table made of?" One child answered, "Mesa." I said, "I know it's a "mesa" - but what is the "mesa" made of?" And she rattled off a Spanish word I have never heard of - I had no idea what she said....hmmmm.....does she get credit or not??!

Another activity involved drawing a person - and the child needed to draw 5 identifiable parts to get credit. One little boy drew the stick figure (which is what most kids drew - very basic) and he added the eyes, nose, arms - but then only one leg. He sat his crayon down - and he was done - and I couldn't help but notice that his figure only had one leg. This was interesting - of course, I had to delve further....

"Who is this a picture of?" I asked.

"My father", the child replied.

I hesitated for a moment, and then plunged right in...."Does your father only have one leg?" I asked.

He looked at me like I was crazy, and said, "No."

Oh. Okay. Maybe he's an Impressionist artist or perhaps he's a future Dali or Picasso???!! I just thought it was funny.

At lunch time, I was on the front porch of the pastor's house, eating some delicious barbecue, when a Belize Red Cross van went whizzing by....

"Oh my God!" I screamed.... "I SO wish I could have taken a picture of that van to show my American Red Cross friends!"

But it was too late - it was long gone....

Later, during recess, I was playing with some girls when a little boy came running up to me, and said, breathless, "Sherri!!!! The Red Cross truck is back!!! Don't you want a picture of it??!!!"

Wow - I couldn't believe that little boy had remembered that I had said that at lunch - and had then made the effort to run and find me so I could get my photo...that's why I love these children!

I got my necessary photo and then had an opportunity to talk with fellow volunteers - which was pretty amazing.

Now, we've all determined that the best word at school in the English is "recess" - followed by "lunch", perhaps...but there are two other WONDERFUL words that I always loved to hear when I was at school, and those words are:


Yes, dear readers - my pre-school class had an afternoon field trip planned and the teacher graciously invited me along. We boarded up the school bus with 2 pre-school classes and dozens of parents and two teachers - and then went about 10 minutes down the road to the Santa Rita Mayan Ruins.

The children spent about 10 minutes looking at the ruins and then another 35 minutes running around a nearby park - isn't that the way it always is??!!!

A great day spent with the children - and an evening with devotional messages from fellow team members - and then a long, pleasant stroll through the streets of the village - with perfect weather and a faithful dog named "John" following us the entire way.

Again - life doesn't get much better....



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Being A Brat Comes Natural

I love it when I get to play the brat.

Of course, my hubby would tell you that playing the brat is an every day occurrence - and that it comes naturally to me. But I would disagree, of course. I only turn on the "brat" when I don't get my way - or when I'm in a skit being performed by our mission team in front of hundreds of Belizan school children.

We visited a small village yesterday, Libertad, where we put on our skit - which we acted as students in a classroom with a teacher. I was the bratty, disruptive kid who didn't show "patience" - the theme of our skit. I had the kids giggling - which is an actor's dream....and actually, it really did come easy for me to be the brat. Hmmm......

After the skit, we headed back to Corrazal, where we went back to work on painting the new addition to the school. Recess at 9:30, lunch at noon, and recess again at 2:30 gave us opportunities to drop the tools and play with the children again.

Yesterday was very hot - very sweaty - but so warm in the love oozing from these children.

It is going to be very hard to say goodbye tomorrow - I am already dreading it....

But in the meantime, I plan on having as much fun as I can - recess is great!