Thursday, June 20, 2013

The OCD Guide to Vacation Planning

It's usually around Christmastime every year that I begin to plan our summer vacation...and so it was last December, when I began planning - with approval from the family - for a summer trip to Colorado Springs. It's a place we've visited numerous times in the past, and we always have a great time.

However, about three months into my planning, Hubby threw a kink into the was after my visit to New York City, volunteering on behalf of the American Red Cross, when Hubby decided that we should ALL go to New York City. This summer. For vacation. As he and our daughter have never visited before, and they decided THEY wanted to see and experience what I'd had a chance to do.


For an OCD-planner like myself, this had me scrambling a bit, but I've managed to put together a battle plan that would make General Patton proud.


We leave tomorrow, for a 10-day trip to the Big Apple, and it will truly be EPIC.

I hope.

Anywho, here is how an OCD/Type A/Master Organizer - such as myself - puts together a vacation....are you ready for this???!!

First, we begin with an Excel spreadsheet, color-coded, no less, that has the entire vacation at a glance - down to the hour:

Green for food, grey for travel, pink for Broadway - et cetera, et cetera, et cetera....

This will be printed and taped to the mirror in our hotel bathroom, so we can see what the plan is for that day - and any day, for that matter - as we get ready each morning. Cool, huh?

For each day of our trip, I have a designated, labeled the morning, I grab the folder for that particular day, and drop it into my messenger bag, which will be my "purse" for the trip:

There's TEN of these babies!!!

Inside the folder, we begin with a detailed itinerary - again, color-coded - for the day:

For each event that we're doing, I have a printout, from Mapquest, of either walking directions - or subway directions:

First, the written directions...

...and then the mapped directions....

There is then detailed information about the event itself - perhaps tour information, trivia, tips, or reviews from Trip Advisor:

If I've paid for a tour, I'll include the confirmation email - or receipt - for that tour, as well....

For restaurants, I've printed out copies of the menu - which we can peruse, perhaps, while riding the subway, or waiting somewhere - which will save us time once we're actually seated at the restaurant:

For Broadway shows (and we're going to see four!! Woot!), I have the tickets sealed in an envelope, which have then been fastened into the folders, so they can't fall out while I'm fumbling with the folder:

Once we arrive at the theater, I can quickly open the envelope for the tickets...voila!

So...there you have it - the OCD's Guide to Vacation Planning.


I'm sick.

We leave tomorrow for our epic adventure, and I am bouncing up and down like Tigger, as I can't wait for Hubby and Daughter to experience everything I've planned....

In the meantime, I have to get to packing...and we won't even GO THERE on my organization for packing...that's a whole 'nother post for another day!!! (And it's just as sick as well...I can't help it. I was born this way.)



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: Starker's Restaurant Birthday Dinner

"Though it seems like just 'another day'
to us it's special - a special day!
A beautiful day has begun,
so terribly sorry it means you're 51."


This is what I woke up to yesterday morning - my birthday morning - as it was written on colored index cards and posted on our bathroom mirror, just waiting to be discovered after I had woken up and Hubby had long gone off to work...a beautiful (???) poem composed by my beloved Hubby.

He apparently later came to the belated conclusion that it was somewhat of a slam - so he hastily texted me a revised last line of the poem while he was at work...the NEW version of my custom-designed birthday poem said, "You're too CUTE to be 51."

Ha. I like that one better...for obvious reasons.

And so began my birthday day...a day filled with errands and sunshine and birthday messages and phone calls and texts and Facebook greetings...making me feel very special, indeed. Even if I was turning 51, and my Hubby was sorry about it. Hee.

For a special birthday dinner, Hubby whisked me off down to the Country Club Plaza, where we dined at Starker's Restaurant, a beloved Kansas City institution since 1972.

There, on our table, were some beautiful birthday flowers - although they might as well have been "suck-up" flowers, after the Slam Poem from the morning:

Beautiful, spring-like flowers...and in a vase low enough that Hubby and I could still see each other and converse...he did good.

Our pre-dinner drinks consisted of my usual, a chocolate martini, which was outstanding - smooth, creamy and perfect - and a "Libido Lifter" for Hubby...he liked the name, really, and could care less what was in it. Although he declared later that it was pretty good.

After we had placed our order, we were surprised with a complimentary amuse bouche from the chef - a "shot" of warm pea soup with a hint of mint:

I'll admit...when the waiter first set this down in front of me...I was skeptical. Pea soup? Really? With mint? And it's warm? However...I took one sip...

...and I died. Nom. Nom. Nom. It was SOOOOOOO freakin' delicious! Who knew??!!

For an appetizer, we chose the Fried Green Tomatoes...which were lightly dusted in corn meal, and came topped with some succulent Gulf shrimp and a spicy remoulade:

This was amazing...just the right crispiness, and just the right amount of garnish with the shrimp and sauce. I seriously could have made a meal off this by fact, Hubby and I agreed that THESE fried green tomatoes have now spoiled us for any that we eat in the future - and we are HUGE fans of fried green tomatoes!

For our salad course, we chose the baby greens salad with Maytag Blue Cheese, Spiced Walnuts, Granny Smith Apples and a Pommery Mustard Vinaigrette:

Now. I have to admit - I have a serious love affair with blue cheese. However - the blue cheese on this salad was excessively STRONG. Almost overpowering. And I don't know that I've ever felt that way about blue cheese before, as I can sit down and eat it straight. But this? Whew. So - I would say my salad was so-so...but...I didn't sulk for TOO long, as they brought out the soup:

This is the "famous" Bookbinder Soup - Starker’s Classic Soup with Steamed Fish in a Rich Sherry Broth. If you go to Starker's, you HAVE to get this soup. Slurp. It was yummy.

For our entrees, I chose the Filet Oscar - a Grilled Filet Mignon with King Crab Meat, Asparagus, Whipped Potatoes and Sauce BĂ©arnaise:

Holy Carnivore, Batman - this was good. The filet was seasoned to perfection, while the potatoes were so creamy and yummy. When I start humming while I'm eating, then you KNOW it's delish.

Hubby chose the Almond Crusted Rainbow Trout with Minnesota Wild Rice, Haricot Verts, Oyster Mushrooms and Lemon Garlic Brown Butter:

He loved it. He offered me a bite, but I didn't want to interrupt the perfection of my filet, so I declined.

As if we hadn't eaten enough at this point, we decided that we MUST have dessert. My stomach was trying to go into rebellion mode at this point - "TOO MUCH FOOD!!! STOP!!! ENOUGH!!!" - but I ignored it. How can one pass up dessert on one's birthday??!!

Hubby chose the Chocolate Pecan Pie with vanilla ice cream:

Of course, I HAD to sample this, and I agreed with was fabulous. Not too sweet - and not too heavy - with just the right hint of chocolate flavor.

I chose the Creole Beignets with White Chocolate and a hint of Dark Chocolate Ganache:

...and I chose wrong. Bleh. These were dry dough balls, smothered in powdered sugar, which made them even drier...and there was NOT ENOUGH CHOCOLATE SAUCE. (I'm shouting, as if the pastry chef at Starker's will HEAR ME and correct this catastrophe in the future.)

However, I liked my birthday candle.

Wait. Not that I ATE it - but I liked the decorative touch. Just wanted to clarify that.

All-in-all, a very good dinner. Not perfection - the blue cheese and the dry dough balls kept this meal from being perfect - but pretty darn close.

Flowers...good food...and a wonderful Hubby who spoils me rotten, even when he slams me in poetry.



Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Of Birthdays Past

It's my birthday! It's my birthday!


This year’s birthday has been SO much easier to swallow than last year's – as I’ve had an entire year to come to terms with the fact that I’m in my fifth decade of life. And then some.

Through the years, I’ve celebrated my birthday in various ways, but always involving cake (usually chocolate) and always involving family. When I was much, much younger, my FAVORITE way to celebrate was to beg and plead to go to a Kansas City Royals baseball game…which was a big deal for our family, and was most likely the ONLY time we’d attend a game all year. I loved nothing more than spending my birthday in the ball park, armed with a baseball glove in one hand and a hot dog in the other.


The one thing that wasn't bliss were the inevitable photos of me blowing out candles. I HATED these photos. Always. Because, really, who looks good with their cheeks all blown up like a chipmunk??!! Does anyone ever truly take good photos while blowing out candles?? honor of my's some FABULOUS (not) photos of birthdays from the past...beginning with a baby photo:

I was obviously so cute then that Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons wrote a song about me...perhaps you've heard of it? "Sherry Baby"? (Of course, they spelled it wrong - but still...great song.)

I'm not sure how this was EVEN possible, but I was even cuter when I turned five:

Yes - I was rockin' those 'pig tails' for sure....

At nine, I went for the more sophisticated look:

This was the first (and only) year that my folks veered from my traditional chocolate cake...they opted for strawberry shortcake, of which you can see a HUGE helping there beside me in the photo. That was an even HUGER (is that a word??!!) mistake. I got SOOOOOOO sick on that shortcake, that to this day, I refuse to eat it. Period. Never again. Bleh.

I turned fifteen in 1977, when big hair - and big glasses - were all the rage:

Big dogs were also the fashion, as seen by our pet German Shepherd in the well as the "big dog" decoration on my cake.

I turned 21 in 1983, and although I have no photos of that momentous event, I do have memories...I spent the evening in Westport, an entertainment district in Kansas City, hitting up as many bars as I could with my sorority sisters and fraternity friends. I was SO looking forward to "being carded" - and yet, I wasn't asked for my I.D. all night. Gah.

By then time I turned 32, I was a respectable (hah!) mom:

That was 19 years ago...unbelievable. The small child in that photo is now my 6'5" 20-year old son...and if he were to try to sit on my lap at this point, he'd squish me.

Yes...birthdays come...they go...there's cake, candles, presents, food, family, love and fun.

Most of all - there are memories...and that's what make birthdays the best.

Thanks, everyone, for spending my birthday today with me, walking a bit down Memory Lane.



Monday, June 17, 2013

Separated At Birth

For many years, I've been a HUGE fan of Jeff Dunham...the comedian who uses his various puppets to express his biting humor.

Watching Jeff on Comedy Central (and in person, actually), we've enjoyed the likes of Peanut, Achmed the Dead Terrorist, and Bubba J.

However, it was always "Walter" - the grumpy old man who is disdainful of everything and everyone - that's always held a special place in my heart.

And now I know why.


My Dad (Taken just yesterday):

Obviously, separated at birth.



Saturday, June 15, 2013

Lunch With the Ex

For the last two years, Son #2 has worked part-time at a local sandwich shop, where he's diligently worked up the ladder to assistant manager.

Yes. We're proud.

Anywho - yesterday, I was in his neighborhood, and so I decided to pay him an impromptu visit at his shop...because, as everyone knows, it's always a thrill to have your mom pay a visit to your place of employment. Especially when you're 20. And I'm evil like that. Bwahahaha.

It was after the lunch rush hour, which was nice as it gave me a few uninterrupted minutes to chat with him and ask how his day had gone. As we were talking, I see him glance towards the restaurant's front door and then suddenly a rather impish way...and muttering, "Oh, THIS will be interesting."

Of course, I HAD to turn around myself now to see who had just walked in.

It was my ex-husband.

Oh, joy. all wasn't too bad. Although ex-Hubby and I divorced over 15 years ago, we've always kept it amicable, for the sake of our two sons. This has worked out well, as we live in the same small neighborhood - so the odds have always been great that we would inevitably bump into each other. As we did yesterday.

I'll admit, though, that in the first few years after our separation, it wasn't easy - as he had some pent-up anger and wasn't happy about the impending divorce. But we both realized that our boys were our priority, ahead of any feelings of resentment harbored towards each other - and that has always served us well.

This bore out yesterday, when our son took his own lunch break, and the three of us sat at a table, enjoying our sandwiches and each other's company. I hadn't seen Ex-Hubby in over a year - so we had a lot to catch up on.

Many years ago, I used to teach a Divorce Recovery Workshop - and the one thing I stressed was how important it was to keep things civil with the ex-spouse - if there were children involved. I'd like to think that my ex and I have set a good example for our OWN sons; I like to think that, although they're the "product of divorce" (I hate that saying, by the way), they've had a healthy and happy and loving upbringing. No sparring. No fighting. No parental alienation.

Because you just never know when you're going to bump into your in the lobby of a sandwich shop on a Friday afternoon.



Friday, June 14, 2013

The One In Which I Die From Too Much Sugar

I blame the sugar.

Yes, it’s all the sugar’s fault that I’ve been in absentia from my blog the past week.

Oh, it began innocently enough, when Hubby and I attended a friend’s Open House last weekend….Upon arrival, we were greeted by a beautiful and plentiful bounty of delicious food – including pulled pork, brisket, cheese and sausage, savory dips, and other nosh-worthy delights.

I put together a beautiful plate of nibbles that would do a Food Network critic proud, and was about to join the other guests out on the porch – when suddenly – I stopped in my tracks. There, sitting on a tray, scattered amongst the other dessert offerings, were some little puffs of heaven.

Cream Puffs.

O. M. G.

I have to insert a backstory here – as you will never understand my love for Cream Puffs (and yes, they DO deserve capitalization, because, they’re totally so amazing), without first hearing about my dear, departed Grandma.

Grandma was a baker. Not an amateur baker – but a PROFESSIONAL baker…as in, she actually worked at a bakery and made real money for her incredible creations. My earliest memories of my Grandma are of me, standing on a stool by her counter, watching her roll out homemade pie dough, or scooping out balls of cookie dough, or dropping giant biscuits on a cookie sheet.


As wonderful and delectable as all those were, her BEST creations were her Cream Puffs. Unfortunately, she would ONLY whip these up once a year – in honor of my dad’s birthday – so after wolfing down my allotted limit of two Cream Puffs – I’d have to wait an agonizing 364 days before savoring them again.


As Grandma got older, she eventually quit making her Cream Puffs, and life, as I knew it, was never the same again. Since then, I’ve been on a quest to find the perfect Cream Puffs – that taste like Grandma’s – to no avail.

So, I had to – HAD TO, I tell you – sample these. I tried one – and it was definitely delicious. Not quite sure if it was as good as Grandma’s, I had to – HAD TO, I tell you – sample another one. Yes, definitely delicious. But not Grandma’s.


After spending a delightful time at the Open House, Hubby and I then whizzed across town to attend my niece’s Sweet Sixteen Party. I was a bit uncomfortable, after nibbling and noshing and devouring pork, brisket, and Cream Puffs – and there might have been some other things, as well.

Entering the party, which was in full swing by the time we arrived, I stood there in a state of shock.

My initial thought was that I had accidentally stumbled onto the set of “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” – as I had never seen so much SUGAR in one place in my entire life.

Seriously. Not one, not two, not three, but FOUR long tables, piled high with every imaginable sort of “sweet” there ever was. Cookies and cakes and cupcakes and cheesecakes and cake pops and pies…and in the center, a fountain of chocolate, gurgling and oozing a cascade of sweet deliciousness.


I’d found the Garden of Eden.

Who knew that's what the "Sweet" in "Sweet Sixteen" refers to??!!

I half-expected to see some Oompa Loompa's come around the corner, singing one of their creepy songs.

Shoving aside numerous small children who were literally bouncing off the walls induced from their own sugar comas, as well as disregarding my own discomfort of being rather full, I dove into those tables of goodness…immediately picking up a skewer, stabbing an innocent marshmallow, and plunging it into the cascading chocolate.


Chocolate-covered marshmallows are delicious anyway, but EVERYTHING tastes better when eaten off a stick. Trust me.

And if not one, not two, not three, but FOUR tables of sugar weren't enough – I eventually discovered a table covered with CANDY.


I don’t remember much about that evening. I DO know that I when I woke up on Sunday morning, I pretty much felt like I had a hangover. No joke. A sugar-induced hangover that’s lasted pretty much all week.

Yup. That's me.

Was it worth it?


Yes, it was.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

My Improv Act at the Theater

I’m pretty certain that in a previous life, I was a world-famous Shakespearean actress.

More likely, a court jester…but it’s preferable to my ego to think that I was more dignified than a jester.

I know this, because if you get me within 100 feet of a stage, I pretty much begin morphing into a combination of Robin Williams and Bette Midler. Granted, not a pretty picture, by any means – and yet, an almost overwhelming compulsion to “be funny” overtakes me and I am pretty much helpless to control it.

Take last night, for instance.

I was volunteering as an usher at a local outdoor theater in town, which was putting on a production of “Spamalot.” Starlight Theater is pretty large – it seats approximately 8,000 people – so sometimes, while escorting patrons to their seats, you can find yourself pretty much traversing what seems like half the distance around the equator.

While walking people to their seats, I found myself wanting to make small talk to fill in those awkward silences – and I began improvising a comedic routine, desperate to get a laugh out of the guests. I liked to think that I was the pre-show warm-up talent, who are probably paid big bucks to warm up an audience in Hollywood, and here I was, doing it for free.

At one point, I found I had three young men – perhaps in their late 20’s – who needed help finding their seats. Glancing at one of their tickets, I saw that they would be sitting waaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy over on the other side of the theater from where we were standing, so I began my comedy schtick to fill in the time as we began our marathon trek.

“Good news, bad news,” I began.

The young men looked at me a little questioningly…not really sure where this was going.

So, I explained.

“The bad news is, we have a very long trek ahead of us…but the GOOD news is, I’m going to give you a FREE personal tour along the way…and not just ANY tour…but the special, VIP tour – just for YOU!”

Well. A FREE VIP tour??!! They were onboard with this.

So we began our trek. And I began their “tour.”

Pointing to some seats that we passed along the way, I explained, “These are theater seats.”

The men snickered.

I continued, pointing to some seats further along the way.

“See those over there???”

They looked over there, expectantly.

Deadpan, I said, “Those are more theater seats.”

They were really getting into this tour now, because they could obviously see how special of a tour it was. And I was sure to point this out to them as we walked.

“Yes, you don’t get this special, free VIP tour with just ANY usher. Just with me.”

We walked further, and I pointed to the stage and said, “That’s the stage.”

They made appropriate appreciative sounds here, as well they should. I mean, it was the STAGE. Where all the action would be taking place later. The whole reason why I had morphed into an ugly Robin Williams/Bette Midler clown.

A light mist was falling from the heavens at this point, and so I told them, “Feel this? This is our misting system that we provide our patrons tonight – free of charge.”

That impressed them.

We passed a clump of guests who had decided to stand RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WALKWAY to have what appeared to be an impromptu family reunion – GAH (and why do people do that?? It drives me NUTS when people block the aisles!!!) – and maneuvering our way around them, I pointed to them and explained, “See this? This is traffic congestion. And here you thought you only saw this on the roads.”

We were getting closer to their seats (thank goodness, as my legs were about to give out…we should really have first-aid & water stations set up midway throughout the theater to provide relief for the long marathon hikes we have to make, but I digress), but before we got there, we had to climb up a very steep asphalt incline. I’m sure my calves will appreciate this incline in the days and weeks to come, as they’ll be all sleek and svelte, but last night, my legs screamed and protested every time I had to climb that darn thing.

However…it was another spot of the tour.

“You probably thought that Kansas City is completely flat. This incline proves you wrong…you can now tell your friends that you went mountain climbing in Kansas City.”

We’ve now arrived at their seats…of which there are…two.


I have three guys. I counted again, just to double check.

Yes. Three bodies.

Two seats.


“Uh, Houston…we have a problem.”

THIS is every usher’s nightmare…what keeps us up at night. The dreaded “Musical Chairs Disaster” syndrome – where you have more guests than available seats – which means that someone – somewhere – is not where they are supposed to be. And you get to straighten it all out.

Oh, joy.

Seeing the look of panic that was plastered all over my face, as I’m not really good at masking my feelings, one of the guys quickly said, “OH! Don’t worry! I’m not sitting with them.”

Okay – now a look of confusion quickly plastered my face.

He explained, “No, I’m in the cast. These two are my friends. I just wanted to make sure they got seated correctly.”

“Oh....checking up on me??!! I see how it is,” I joked.

One of the guys now stuck out his right hand, and said, “I HAVE to know your name.”

Shaking hands with him, we introduced ourselves to each other, as I told them I hoped they had enjoyed their special, free VIP tour. They assured me they had LOVED it, which is why they had to know who I was. I’m sure they wanted my autograph, as well, but seeing how modest I am, they knew not to ask.

But wow. I met one of the CAST!!! How cool was THAT??!! I was giddy. I was breathless. I quickly turned from famous Shakespearean actress into a groupie. Just like that. I quickly skipped down the steep incline and the 3,299 miles back to the gate to pick up my next victims tour participants.

It was a joy last night, meeting Daniel, Buddy, and the third-guy-who’s-name-I-can't-remember-no-offense, as well as having fun with all of my other guests.

On a drizzly, chilly evening – I hope I warmed them up – just a bit.

I'm tellin' ya''s all about the stage.



Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

If you wonder why I haven't blogged much recently, I have several excuses reasons...

To begin with, when I try to compose a coherent thought - or sentence - suitable for writing, my post-surgery brain comes up with THIS brilliant masterpiece:


Yup. That pretty much sums up what's been swirling through my head for the last six weeks.


Secondly, I've been pretty busy. So, since my writing creativity has been reduced to words consisting of "XOWNGJWMXYQQXOTPLMV", I'll let pictures tell you what I've been to:

...going to not one,

...not two,

...but three baseball games in town:

...enjoying a fishing party-turned turtling party- with the family:

...enjoying shopping with a personal stylist, so I can dress oh-so-fashionably in my confused state:

...watching our dock flood with the recent heavy rains in the area:

...enjoying my furry children and non-furry children play with each other:

...attending numerous violin concerts with this little virtuoso:

Throw in appointments with ENT's, dentists, dermatologists and well as volunteering with the Red Cross and church...and I have been one busy girl.

BUT. In all honesty...and really, a blog should be all about the honesty, right? Because otherwise, it just turns into a giant piece of fiction, and we don't want that...right?

In all honesty...

I haven't been blogging lately because I've been just too darned lazy.


There you have it.

I've become a SLOTH.

So...I'm going to sloth away here and get back to what I do best.