Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chocolate Turtles.....slow and messy but YUMMY!

OK, I had this fantastic idea.....or so I thought (rolls eyes). I found this new product that I am quickly falling in love with, Diamond Glazed Pecans. I have been putting those in everything from salads to my Christmas confections. Yesterday I decided what could possibly be better than combining them with caramel and chocolate......ahhhh, heaven (at least until you get on the scales!) As with all recipes, I have several adjustments I would make the next go around but the consensus of my office lab rats (ESSDACK co-workers)  is that they are delish - not pretty, but tasty. I will tell you what I used and then the changes I plan on making the next go around.

Chocolate Turtles Recipe First Draft

Chocolate Almond Bark -yep, it quick and easy, I like that
1 package of Diamond Glazed Pecans-a bit pricey but sooooo worth it or make your own (pecans, egg whites whipped until frothy then coat pecans and shake in brown sugar and cinnamon bake at a low temp for a while, stirring frequently) <------that was just a bonus.
1 bag of caramels (Kraft has these available now in caramel balls that you don't have to unwrap, YAY!)
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Melt 1/3 of the almond bark, drop in small spoonfuls on wax paper, then sprinkle a few pecans on top of that. While that is setting up, melt your caramels and butter and sweetened condensed milk in the microwave (used a stick of butter but would recommend less perhaps a 1/2 of a stick, because it took FOR-freaking-EVER for the caramel to set up). After the caramel is melted and a bit stiffer, drop on top of the half-made cluster. Go do your taxes and then when you return the caramel should be set up enough. Melt the remainder of the chocolate bark and drop a spoonful over the top of each one. Allow that to  time to dry. Remember these are somewhat a pain to make so only share them with people you truly like or are super special - for instance your wonderful co-workers. wink wink.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A little more about Savannah- AESA

OK, soooo many cool things happened in Savannah at the AESA conference, but I would be remiss if I didn't at least give you guys opportunity to SEE some of it yourself. I mentioned earlier that ESSDACK's own Kevin Honeycutt got called upon at the last minute to deliver the keynote and what an awesome job he did. I had seen snippets of his presentations before but was totally blown away. He had the audience eating out of his hand, they loved him. His message was timely and the delivery was fantastic. He was entertaining enough to keep the attention of his audience, yet it was filled with nuggets of motivational and educational information. I could tell you more but I'd rather you check it out yourself, it's worth the few minutes you'd invest to watch.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's beginning to look alot like Christmas!

Christmas, what a time, tons of things to do, lots to see, soooo many places to go and be......I can see how some people might just get the bah humbug spirit. But me? I LOVE Christmas, I love the feeling inside me, I love the sights, the smells and I love the meaning. I mean without hope what is the point of being here anyway?

So the hope, the joy that warm and fuzzy feeling, that pretty much sums up the feeling of Christmas but what about the other things? For instance the sights.....yesterday I was in Lawrence, Kansas home of University of Kansas, (you know ROCK CHALK) for my oldest son's graduation, his first leg of collegiate journey completed. And Lawrence is a very ........ahhh, different city, I will probably never be shocked or amazed by what I might encounter and see there. Yesterday though I did see something that made me chuckle. A group of Santas walking down the sidewalk, heading into a bar. I think I actually laughed out loud at the sight!

And then today.......finishing my Christmas decorating, I think I finally am satisfied with what I've done. Not nearly my usual but will be sufficient. I think I have at least a little decorating in every room in the house. Didn't put up the big tree, elected to use my 3 pencil trees instead. I think Santa will still get the idea. And I have this thing......I don't like to see underneath the tree, I think it looks sad and have to get something wrapped and under it immediately. I also have a thing about my packages.....the paper needs to match the decorations and the package itself needs to look like a decoration......(can you say neurotic?) anyway, done and done.

Now on to the smells....I love to make tasty treats, no matter what the holiday. Friday we popped popcorn in the office for a meeting and had quite a bit left over.......I brought it home and made the first batch of the season of caramel corn. Turned out to be quite delish! My co-workers will enjoy my little gift tomorrow.

Now the sounds.......I have the new Lady Antebellum Christmas music and am loving it! but I also have a few other tried and true Christmas tunes I am listening to and then there is always the sound of football on tv........ and soon my boys will be home and the laughter and joking and stories from their adventures at school will fill the rooms once again.

So as I get a little teary-eyed just thinking about the joy of the Holiday Season, the simple things that bring such great pleasure, I can't help but thinking of those that will be facing this time of year that will instead of happiness will be dealing with hurt or loss. My heart goes out to them and hope that somehow, some way the season or fellow man will heal the pain and mend the broken hearts. Wishing a happy and joyous season full of hope and wonder for you and yours this holiday season!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Savannah in retrospect

Tuesday-Wednesday -Where to start? I did my own version of Grease at the Atlanta airport.........but instead of the drive-in it was stranded in the terminal. Nice airport to visit, but definitely didn't want to live there, arrived at about 9:30 AM finally left about midnight. Found myself falling exhausted into bed about 2:30AM. Got up and got myself around to rehearsal (for AESA conference) about noon. Love those guys with the stage crew.....Freeman AV, very nice and a pleasure to work with. Worked alot with a gentleman named Lee Warne also, he writes the scripts and keeps everything moving on time, a great guy. Anyway that day seemed to go off without a hitch except for the lack of sleep part. Went to dinner as a group that night at a place called Vic's on the River, had a great platter of fried shrimp. Let me go on record as saying as a person who doesn't really like seafood, Savannah is a tough place. The ones that do like seafood said the food can't be beat but I was hard pressed at times to find something that wasn't fishy.

Thursday - showed up to rehearsal to discover Ian Jukes, our keynote for Thursday had come down with food poisoning and wasn't going to make it to the conference. They moved our Friday keynote to Thursday and picked ESSDACK's own Kevin Honeycutt to step in for Friday. Thursday went fine and ended the evening going to Paula Deen's restaurant, Lady and Sons for dinner. Awesome, just awesome.

Friday - Kevin rocked the house with his keynote, I felt honored to be able to say he is one of the ESSDACK team. The day went great, then after the afternoon session we hosted a special Digital Jam and it went well. The temperature in the space was quite warm and all the windows made it a big challange to see the screens but we managed, as with everyone of these we do, we learn and grow and make adjustments for the next one. Then went to two receptions at the Westin and ended the night about 10ish.

Had a strange thing happen on Saturday morning about 5am, got up to go to the bathroom and before heading back to bed decided to get a drink of water. The last thing I remember was turning toward the sink in the bathroom and the next thing I know my room mate is standing over me saying my name and shaking me. I must have passed out and then hit my head on the vanity because I am sporting a pretty good bruise to the side of my head and later that day found another small knot on the back of my head. No blood, and I don't think I was out longer than about a minute but scary none-the-less. Went to the last session of the conference and then headed to the airport......uneventful and now home again safe and sound.

---a quick explanation of my duties and responsibilities at this conference. I am backstage with all the crew. I have keynote (powerpointish) slides that correspond with the program, I create those ahead of time and another person takes pictures of all the activities during the conference, each day I try to get some of those infused with the other slides, sometimes only having a few minutes to get that adjusted before people are walking in.....  So I sit in the dark which I have affectionately starting referring to as the troll hole and listen on headphones to the cues being sent to make it all run like a well-oiled machine. Those guys (and girls) are amazing, the amount of expertise they have is mind-boggling. They also are a hoot, a fun group to work with for sure. I appreciated how they never make me feel like I'm in their way or don't roll their eyes when I ask a silly question (thanks Dan and Dave), I truly enjoy being back there in their domain. I also was responsible for a station at our digital jam - mine station in Second Life and a short demo on that. The other stations included, ipads, ipods and droids and applications, digital dumpster diving(free or nearly free apps that can used in the classroom), sing snap, wii and one other I can't remember. It's a kind of hands-on opportunity for people to come experience some things they may not have tried yet.

and now just a few random pics from the week:
Mike Cook - bestest boss ever, doing his thing at the podium

Kevin Honeycutt - giving his keynote (so serious)

Dave the AV man backstage

Kevin rocking out during the keynote - yep, play that funky music!

Me at Digital Jam at the Second Life station

Glenn Wiebe and Brenda Druecker, my fellow ducks

Digital Jam - Second LIfe

Digital Jam- welcome

Digital Jam- ipad station

Digital Jam- Glenn Wiebe at the Wii station - (yes, surrounded by a bevy of women)

Digital Jam- Second LIfe Station

Digital Jam- Wii Station

Glenn and Santa

Brenda and Santa

Dan at his AV Kingdom

Kevin at keynote rehearsal.....wowing the techs

Dave and Kevin at keynote rehearsal

Oh yah, no explanation

Lori and Santa

Sweet Potato Creme Brulee, sounds yucky but it was YUMMMYYYY!!!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Savannah-Highlight far.....

Ok, I hope to write an overview of this whole trip when I'm not absolutely exhausted but wanted to share my adventures of today. After having a somewhat stressful couple of days here in the great state of Georgia, today I had quite a pleasant surprise. I had been talking to the others here with me about how I would like to go to Paula Deen's restaurant and I knew that was probably not going to be possible. Well, this evening Glenn Wiebe, Brenda Druecker and myself went on a little exploring trip, walking around with no clear intention of what to do. When suddenly what to my wondering eyes should appear? but a restaurant, Lady and Sons! I asked if we could at least go into the store and look around and then when I happened to see the podium and happened to ask what the wait was and they just happened to say.........wait for it........NO WAIT! I just looked at them with pleading eyes and they took pity on me and said they wouldn't mind if we ate there. I was so happy, I'm not so sure why, except I wanted to say I'd eaten there. Well, we went and it far exceeded my expectations. They start you out with the fluffiest best biscuits ever and pancakes (who knew pancakes were considered an starter for a meal?) Then they had a seafood dip and bread and Glenn had some sort of seafood combo, Brenda had crab stuffed shrimp wrapped in bacon and I had chicken pot pie. OMGOSH it was soooo good. It had a croissant type lattice style crust and huge chunks of chicken inside. We decided the chicken was probably leftover fried chicken from the buffet. It was Deelish.  We were too stuffed to eat dessert but did not let that stop us, we got some to bring back to the hotel. We got a piece of Key Lime Pie (which oddly enough had the consistency of soft butter, sooo good). We also tried the chocolate chocolate chip flourless torte and the gooey butter cake with toasted coconut. Overall, kinda pricy but not any more expensive than the other nice restaurants around this area. Here are some pictures from our adventure.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sigh....Holiday Baking.......Big Smile

Holiday baking and cooking. People seem to fall into two camps, either they love it or hate it. I fall into the LOVE IT category. I could bake 20 different kinds of cookies and bake pies (although not very good at that one) make all kinds of snacks such as party mix or spiced nuts...and I'd be happy as a clam. However might have to take out a second mortgage on the house to be able to cook like that. Making sweet treats and culinary delights can be expensive...while you are taking a bite of that Caramel Apple Cheesecake, the grocery bill is taking a bite out of your wallet.

I haven't gone crazy and still have not decided what to take for Thanksgiving to - ....homaaaaa where the wind comes sweeping down the plain........... sorry... anyway so far just baked Sugar Cookies. I'm sure my mother will have made some too and I will have to tip my hat to hers being better. Why is that? Moms always make better anything....and we use the same recipe! Grandma Sanderson's and I'm almost sure I helped bake them more than my mother ever did, perplexing thought... I will most likely go ahead and throw together some Snickerdoodles as well. And the piece de la resistance will be either the Caramel Apple Cheesecake or Gooey Butter Cake or Peanut Butter Pie. Orrrrr, perhaps all the above. Yes, my goal is to roll everyone out after the day. A round of belly aches for all!

But holiday baking and gathering also brings back to mind people that have passed before us, the happy memories, smells bringing vivid pictures of days gone by, standing in kitchen laughing voices, hugs all around, catching up  with those once-a-year or less people in our lives. But holidays also give us a chance to meet new additions to the family and start new traditions. So although they can be a little somber at times, holidays are the time to look forward to enjoy good food and good company. Now, let the good times roll and the baking begin!

Grandma's Sugar Cookies

1 Cup Butter                 2 TBSP. Milk
1 1/2 Cups Sugar         1 tsp. Baking Powder
2 Eggs                           3 Cups Flour
1 tsp. Vanilla                 1/4 tsp. Salt
Dust lightly with sugar and nutmeg

You can use stick margarine instead of butter. Chill dough at least 3 hours but preferably overnight. Roll out on lightly floured surface adding flour as you roll out to prevent sticking to the rolling pin. Bake at 350- 375 for 8-10 minutes or just until done.

(Optional) Cool completely then ice with canned frosting.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Carnival Dream - Rock Me Like a Hurricane

Ok, so we weren't in the MIDDLE of hurricane Tomas but we definitely felt the effects. Rough water,  rain, high winds and fluctuating temperatures we had it all, but we also had sunny warm weather and friends to share it with, so who can complain?

Our cruise was on a Carnival ship, called the Dream. We started out heading to the problem, however- woke up in the not-so-sunny or warm Bahamas. Decided to go check out Atlantis and it was quite a tour. Lots of huge aquariums and a glass tunnel.. interesting at the very least.

The next day was a sea day and it was sunny and beautiful (although always kinda rocky). Followed up by our dining room experience where the guys took complete advantage of the multi-course menu and main dish selections. Although some of the food was kinda funky for me, there is always some sort of "normal" food available. Loved our waiters, Eduardo and Remaldo both from the Philippines. There was also a roving magician that kept the at our table entertained.  One thing about being on a rough sea, the boat does rock you to sleep, we all had great sleep during our time aboard.

The next day was St. Thomas went on a sky gondola ride to the top of a mountain where you could see a good portion of the island. It was very beautiful up there. We were told before we went to try the bushwacker (a drink) and we did, it was quite yummy, like a milk shake, kind of but -not. wink wink.  Then Greg and I went to do our snorkel trip and the others went to the beach. Now, it was sunny and  clear at this time but the weather changed quickly.....started getting cooler and cloudy and then the sprinkles....we joked about how rain doesn't affect snorkeling - oh my the gods of sea were laughing at us it seems! Once on the boat the winds picked up and the skies turned very dark, but no lightening so the show was still on, we forged ahead and I can't really explain the ride other than if you have ever watched Deadliest Catch and seen the boats tossed about and anything not tied down flying around the boat and large waves crashing into and INSIDE the boat, then you have some idea of the wild ride we had. I will say when they passed out the inflatable life vests for snorkeling, everyone just went ahead and put them on......just sayin..... Not sure if anyone was actually fearing for their lives but it was a tiny bit frightening. Everyone laughed and joked and it was a fun time, not many pictures though because there was way too much water to get out the camera. Finally made it back into a cove where although the sky was still dark, the water was much calmer. The first stop was ok, some fish but not alot, could really tell the ocean was churning everything up. The second stop in another cove though......sting rays, sea turtles...made the Captain Nemo roller coaster ride worth it. Afterwards they served us some sort of staple on the snorkel tours - rum punch and pirate dark ale and off we went back to the mother ship. The single most wild thing I've ever done.

The next day was St. Maarten and we opted for a beach day......a little shopping, a little beach time, was very nice. However the remnants of Tomas could be seen on the beaches as they were somewhat littered with seaweed and sea debris, but still very lovely.

Then two days at sea......uneventful except I did notice they attached sea sick bags by the elevators.....the deck party was canceled two different times but the fun and party atmosphere continued. This was my 7th cruise and largest boat but I felt the most movement on this one. I, being one that gets motion sickness in a car, was very diligent about taking my preventatives.....a drug recommended by my doctor called meclizine. Never once did I feel sick. YAY!

Saturday morning bright and early they start kicking people off the boat, one of the crew were saying that if they are lucky, they will have one hour with no passengers on board. They are definitely a well-oiled machine. All in all - having been on several different cruise lines......this was the best. The crew of the Carnival Dream did an excellent job. The food was good, the boat was spotless and the crew was wonderful.  It might very well have been a "dream" vacation.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity

 In this day and age it is no surprise that we are a nation of fake anything and everything. Our pride and vanity and just general human competition causes us to want to improve the physical attributes we find less that appealing. Most of us have heard of fake fingernails, dyed hair, implants of all kinds, botox, enlargements, reductions, peels, and weaves. We find products to help us push it in, lift it up, support it, suppress it, and redirect it but I what I have found myself doing is something that is still not a popular process here in the middle of prairie country. However, I have the feeling when women (ok, those of us that are simply vain creatures) figure this out, it is gonna bust loose.

I cannot wear false nails....many of my friends have them and they are gorgeous, but I simply cannot type with long nails,.....something about needing to feel the keys under my fingertips.  I've always been a bit jealous of those with long beautifully painted talons making the wearer ooze with femininity. But now I have found the wonder of eyelash extentions. Yes, you heard me...

Eylelash Extentions-

I say what?The extensions are single strands of synthetic eyelashes that are curved to replicate a natural eyelash. They provide length and thickness to your own lashes and are available in varying lengths and thickness. They are applied to your individual eyelashes, one lash at a time. There is no need for mascara even though a water based mascara is fine to use. The result is thicker, longer, eye opening eyelashes that are safe in the shower, while swimming, sleeping or exercising.

Now, some might say, you fool, fake eyelashes have no doubt been around since the time of Rahab the harlot, but have you ever tried to put them on? I am not sure what kind of octopus arms are needed but when I tried I looked like a bad chucky movie character and almost glued my eye lids shut......bad experience. But I swear after I first had extentions put on, I heard harps and angels singing. It was beautiful, I would have cried but needed to keep them dry. The process itself is painless and I simply love the result. I have a great beautician named aptly named Hope that is simply -mahvelous dahlink. 

So, if you need a little beauty pick-me-up or are just lazy, this is a great option. I no longer have to wear mascara on my upper lashes and when I went to Grenada this summer, I didn't wear make up at all, it was great and people still could actually see my eyes! So if you live around here call Hope and schedule an appointment. Tell her I sent you, she will laugh as she remembers me taking pictures of myself during our last appointment.....(she is a great sport!) 

Faircrest Salon
Hutchinson  (620) 669-0621

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Staff Picture Day

Yes, these are the people in my (work) neighborhood. And yes they are as crazy as they look!

It was staff picture time and I wanted some funny pictures and pictures depicting various emotions to keep on file to use in different projects. Everyone really let loose and were great sports and we laughed.......ALOT! I've said it before and I'll say it again, I LOVE MY JOB!

Each person got an entire slide show of just them, some will probably post to their individual blog pages. (If they dare)

And here are mine:

yipes! I had someone take mine everyday I was shooting someone else........can you say never satisfied? Oh well, it is what it is.......

And my final staff picture -

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New Media Team Focus Day

Today we had a meeting of our new media team (John Jones, Jaime Hendricks, Kevin Honeycutt, Chris Lock, Jerry Butler, Jake Fisher and myself) here at ESSDACK. We focused on Kevin Honeycutt and all that needs to be done to keep him up and running across the country doing his thing. His "thing" is presentations to schools and communities regarding Online Safety, Cyber-bullying and Bullying and Digital Learning. The guy is literally jetting back and forth across the US weekly, I don't know when he manages to sleep, much less put together new and exciting presentations all the time!

Today we pulled out specifically a couple of resources we want to get out and going,
1) a DVD titled - Raising Digital Kids

2) a book on bullying, titled Don't Stay Under the Couch, which features Starbuck the Cyber Safety Dog.

We also focused on building some apps for some of the presentations.....I don't know what that means, I don't have a smart phone - *glares at husband..... but my part is to produce the myriad of different graphics for the apps such as the splash image, header and app icon.
Jake Fisher, Kevin Honeycutt

John Jones, Jake Fisher, Kevin Honeycutt

Jaime Hendricks

Jake Fisher

John Jones, Jake Fisher, Kevin Honeycutt

Chris Lock

Chris Lock

Kevin Honeycutt

Jerry Butler