Oct 30, 2010

On the road again...

The trip to the University of Georgia game in Athens a few weeks ago meant rising early to get on the  road, but that pales in comparison to the time we are heading out today, in order to get to  the Williams-Brice stadium in Columbia, South Carolina, in time for the 12:21 kickoff.

Wish us luck, and cheer for our Vols - they could use all the well-wishes they can get this season.

Happy traveling!

Oct 29, 2010

Sorry, no tricks or treats here

Disclaimer:  you may disagree with this blogpost, but please don't roll my yard or egg my house, okay?

Let me start by saying that I truly wish everyone a safe weekend of fun - I do.  But having said that, I have spent considerable time over the last few years researching the history and lore surrounding Halloween, and contemplating where my faith and I stand on this holiday.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

From early childhood, my take on Halloween was always summed up perfectly by Charles Schultz' classic story; it was an innocent children's celebration, full of nothing more than candy and pumpkins and adorable kids in cute makeshift (and sometimes even clever) costumes.

As a young mom, I sewed and purchased get-ups for my own children: they were dinosaurs, pea-in-a-pod, pumpkin, raccoon, M&M, Hershey's Kiss, Minnie Mouse, Winnie-the-Pooh, Mulan, Dorothy, and a few others I've probably forgotten.  I carried and walked my trick-or-treaters to neighboring houses to carry on the tradition of my own childhood.  Mr. Official sometimes dressed up - in his striped uniform, of course - and escorted them while I handed out candy to our visitors.

But a few years ago, I began to look at Halloween differently.  For starters, the latent accountant in me gasped at the staggering amount of money and effort that Americans expend on this holiday - the estimate is just shy of $6 billion for this year  - up a billion from last year!  (Guess that dispels the rumors of a recession going on.)   Driving down a typical middle income subdivision street on Halloween evenings, I have seen incredibly elaborate "graveyards" and "haunted mansions" interspersed with countless gaudy inflatable glowing cats, skeletons, ghosts, and other spooky characters.  Every year, the bar inches higher as neighbors try to outdo each other.

Given the part of the country I live in, it's a safe bet that most of those homeowners consider themselves devout Christians.  And my guess is that most of them have probably never stepped back to consider the historical (Catholic or Celtic - take your pick) or modern (pagan, occult or just plain sleazy) underpinnings of Halloween.  A peek into any costume aisle will quickly remind you that the emphasis is on scary, gory and risque.  A few cute and goofy costumes are still sold, but they are not among the most popular.

As Christians, we are supposed to be...well...peculiar.  Yes, peculiar, as in noticeably different. Called out of darkness into the light.  It's not about being different for the sake of being different, it's about discerning right from wrong, good from evil. It's about making conscious choices based on what we know we are supposed to do.  Doing the hard things, even when everyone else is doing the fun stuff.

To parents who are concerned that their child will "miss out" if they don't let them participate in Halloween, I suggest this is a perfect teachable moment - one not to be missed.  (Whether you do it consciously or not, you ARE teaching them something by your choice.  If you teach them to go with the flow and mindlessly follow the crowd when they are young children, how can you expect them to suddenly transform into a think-for-yourself kind of teenager in the face of fierce and relentless peer pressure?)

Every child inevitably raises the protest, "but everyone ELSE gets to [fill in the blank]."  Once upon a time, parents inevitably gave the standard reply: "If all the kids were jumping off a bridge, would you?"  Now it seems parents not only encourage their children to jump, some parents are willing to push them off the bridge, because they are afraid their child will miss out on what everyone else is doing.  (Say it with me, "Parenting is not for sissies.  Parents must be leaders.  And leaders must stand alone, in the gap, and make the hard calls.")

It's not easy, but as Christians we are not to be conformed to this world, nor are we to yoke ourselves with unbelievers.  It's a rhetorical question, but ask yourself what Paul asked the Corinthians: "What fellowship can light have with darkness?"  More pointed still was Paul's caution in his first letter to them; that we cannot partake of the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.

When I read those passages and applied them to the context of Halloween, without the trappings of sentimentality I draped around the festivities, I could no longer look at it as harmless and innocent.  As I tried to salvage the fun bits and pieces floating among the muck and mire, I had to ask myself if they were really worth fishing out and cleaning off.  My answer was no, they're not.  Or to paraphrase a metaphor familiar to most Christians (eat the meat, spit out the bones), there's just too much bone to make that fish worth eating.

As for me and my house, we now choose to focus on other aspects of the fall season - and there are many causes for celebration during the next several weeks.  I am thankful I live in a democracy where I can practice my right to vote on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, and help determine my country's leadership.  I am thankful for our veterans and try to honor them every day, but most especially I stop and remember their sacrifice each November 11.  And I am thankful for those who made the pilgrimage to this land nearly 400 years ago, enduring so much to gain the precious freedom to practice their faith.  Because of them, we live in the land of the free.

And as in all things, we are all free to choose where we stand in this matter, and I respect that the choice rests with each of us.  It is my simple hope that other Christians will reconsider this holiday and see there's nothing really happy or hallowed about it.

Happy weekend,

Oct 27, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Creamed Macaroni

This is a curious pasta dish, or at least a dish with a mysterious past. In our family, we know it as a simple, comforting side dish; sometimes it's even the main dish if I'm fixing a quick meal-for-one.  One friend pointed out it tastes a little like alfredo sauce (but much lighter and thinner...no Parmesan cheese, and contains much less butter than the classic Italian pasta sauce.)  We jokingly called it "poor man's alfredo."

Over the years, I've never come across this recipe anywhere else.  Digging deep, I found a few random blog posts from several years ago describe something similar, but even they are not an exact replica of this dish that my mom made for years, (and now, so have I.)  It's possible it is a derivative of a rather obscure Swedish dish; all I know is that it goes great with salmon or tuna patties, hot dogs, meatloaf, breaded fish fillets, or chicken strips. (Read:  your basic lineup of quick-fix dinner basics.)  And the kids slurp it down. 

If you don't have Lawry's Seasoned Salt in your spice cabinet, I highly recommend getting some (at least get a small bottle and try it.)  It's MSG-free and you'll find it goes great on hard boiled eggs, deviled eggs and in creamy macaroni salads, to name a few favorites.

Mom's Creamed Macaroni

1 1/2 cups dried elbow macaroni
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
salt and pepper
Lawry's Seasoned Salt

In 2-quart saucepan, bring water to boil; add macaroni and cook until al dente; drain.  In the still-warm saucepan, combine evaporated milk and butter until butter melts.  Add back pasta and stir to coat.  Lightly season with salt and pepper (go easy on the salt); serve and lightly dust with Lawry's seasoned salt on each serving.

This recipe makes 3-4 generous side-dish size servings.  The recipe can be cut in half (use a 5-ounce can of milk), or double it if your crew is really hungry.  Leftovers will reheat, but do it gently  - overheating will curdle the milk.

Happy cooking!

Oct 26, 2010

Time to Strip!

My kind of stripping is exciting and a little dangerous:  it involves slowly peeling off layer after layer, until you get down to bare...wood.  Using chemical solvents and a palm sander.  (What were YOU thinking I meant?)

What am I stripping?  Dressers and bureaus and chester drawers, oh my.  (Hey, who knew they all mean the exact same thing?)  For whatever reason, throughout our marriage we have always crammed ourselves into one shared dresser, (plus closet space for hanging clothes, of course.)  I'm not sure why we've always scrimped on dresser storage. At various times, our bedroom has been too small for much furniture, but even when we have had plenty of room, we've always been constrained to 4 to 6 drawers. Which means the closet is often crammed full of things that would be better relegated to a drawer.  Things like t-shirts and sweaters. And socks.  Yeah, even socks.

When we finished our bathroom addition two springs ago, an added bonus was trading the wall closets for a walk-in, and gaining a blessed additional 28 inches of floor space along one wall - and it is usable wall space at that, no longer taken up by mirrored closet doors (shudder). Finally, this master bedroom was master-bedroom-sized.

I frugally shopped for a new platform bed (actually it's a faux platform - our box springs are nestled within its frame) with a seriously comfy leather headboard. It was worth every penny I paid for it at S&E Consignment...and it wasn't all that many pennies. The next bargain I scored was two night stands from World Market. (Another store that is near and dear); they were marked down and a coupon arrived just in time to knock another nice chunk off the tab, too. With those pieces, the room began to take shape - an eclectic mix of modern and East Indies, dark woods and green and fawn shades. Relaxing and streamlined. A heavily discounted Tommy Bahama duvet cover and shams (Overstock.com, you are da bomb); a man-sized brown slipper chair, new lamps and drapes completed the transformation from this:

to this:

Then it was time to consider storage. I searched high and low for a set of dark wood low and tall dressers.  I found a few I loved, but gasped at the sticker price. I found a few that were within my self-imposed budget, but they were flimsy. (Dear Target, You do many things well, but please understand that real furniture does not contain laminated plastic "wood grain" finishes or glorified cardboard anywhere in its composition. Hugs, Terry)

The 4-drawer tall bureau in the photos above has been our one-and-only for several years.  By my best guess it's a circa '30s or '40s vintage piece, which we snagged from my grandparents estate sale. Nothing flashy, nothing trendy...just a very well-made, solid wood, mahogany-toned, clean-styled piece...and then the epiphany struck. What I was looking for was here all along!

AND we had the matching low 6-drawer dresser in our storage shed. That piece is a little more scuffed up than the 4-drawer tall bureau, but it is repair-able.  A few bucks for stripper and sandpaper, a quart of stain and a bit of wood finish, and voila.

And...that's as far as the idea.  For the past year, the low dresser has sat in our garage, patiently waiting for me to start working on it. But last weekend, I decided the time had come.  So I suited up with ratty clothes and protective gloves, and slathered on the stripping gel.

As I finish each piece, I'll post some before, during, after shots.  Maybe somebody can help me figure out the correct name for the style and period of these two pieces.

Happy (and safe) stripping!

Oct 25, 2010

Week 2 Without Running

I am really hoping that my calf injury is going to heal in record time - like in 3 weeks instead of 5 to 8.   Sheer force of will, mind over matter, and the massages, courtesy of my amazing, wonderful, awesome husband help a lot. (And I hope my over-the-top flattery will result in more massages.) But a quick dash after an escaping Sadie this weekend proved the injury is still there. It just doesn't hurt as bad as it did when it went "pop" but there's no way to run on it.

So what can I do in the meantime?

Mondays, I  am resigned to yoga/tai chi/pilates with the old geezers. (A seriously geriatric crowd shows up for this one. I'm thinking the instructor has had her AARP card for quite some time, too. To say there is any trace of pilates in this class is a mental stretch.) But it is peaceful and there is some gentle stretching going on.  And I feel like Ronnie "Sunshine" Bass in Remember the Titans.  (Except I'm not a guy, a blond, or outside on the grass while I'm crossing my arms and moving my feet.)

Tuesdays is a true pilates class. My abs are finally recovered from last week's class, so I'm ready to go round two with the instructor.

Thursday offers a full hour of yoga. Not as good as a run, but it offers some good stretching. And I think I might try the abs/swimming class at 5:45 a.m. this week. It'll be almost like my regular routine, except no treadmill.  And I'll have to swim.  Sniff.  Lip quivering.

Wednesday and Friday might have to be take-the-dogs-for-a-walk days. At least the weather is good, their harnesses make it easy to maneuver with them, and the greenway is an awesome resource that is nearby.  Who knows, maybe that's a routine I'll stick with even after I can run again?

Happy Monday,

Oct 23, 2010

While the boys are away...

the girls will play.  (The "boys" are headed to Knoxville for the UT-Bama game.  Fingers crossed we can keep the score close. Or just get on the board. Yes, we have low expectations, so anything we get is a gift.)

So what's on our agenda today?  We're puppy-sitting Sadie, and I was reminded why you don't buy one toy for two kids.  Little dog enthusiastically snagged the new toy (a cat-like tennis ball with rope legs), much to big dog's chagrin.   I think this look and howl can be safely interpreted as "Mom, make her share with me!"

 As soon as we pulled the pumpkin gooey butter cake out of the oven, we girls took "the girls" for a puppy walk at the greenway.  

Now that the pooches are exhausted from the brisk 3-mile round trip, we will leave them to nap and take the gooey cake to a painting class this evening at Faithful Strokes.  Yes.  Me.  Painting. Artistically.  With something smaller than a roller or 2-inch wide trim brush.  Using more than one color.

They promised me anyone could do it, so we'll see...

Happy weekend!

Oct 21, 2010

Be careful what you ask for

Earlier this week I mentioned UT's bye week (and whined a little about how busy we were on the "off" weekend.) I even joked about how maybe I would get my own "bye" day on Tuesday.  I'm not superstitious, but...

During fall break, I took a week-plus off from my daily runs to allow a pesky calf muscle some time to heal.  As soon as we were back home, I started my early mornings with a run once again, but by Wednesday of last week, I had to admit the twinge was getting worse after each run.  So, I hit "pause" again and took almost a full week off again for healing, this time with the addition of daily Ibuprofen and a quick DIY calf massage each morning.  On Tuesday morning this week, I hit the gym bright and early, hoping everything would be back to normal.

Even though I stretched extensively, the calf was still tight. I hoped it would loosen up as I got further into the run - instead, less than a quarter-mile in, I felt a "pop" in the calf, followed by excruciating pain up and down the muscle.

So it was off the treadmill, hobble out to the car, and ice it down when I got home. A pilates class later in the day helped somewhat, or maybe it was just doubling up on Ibuprofen throughout the day that made things feel better.

Mr. Official (who loves to diagnose injuries - especially sports-related injuries) was kind enough to give it a deep tissue massage. Here's hoping he will take pity on me and repeat it nightly while the calf heals fully.

I guess I got what I wished for - according to the experts, a Grade Two strain can take several weeks to recover from.  So for now, it's yoga, tai chi and pilates, but no running for me - looks like my wish for a "bye" week was granted, right on schedule.


Oct 20, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Cheese Biscuits like Jim 'n Nick's

Jim 'n Nick's Bar-B-Q  is a regional chain that makes some good food, including this short list of my personal faves:
  • yummy fresh fried green tomatoes in season (a compliment I don't hand out lightly); 
  • terrific smoked turkey (their pig-in-the-garden-patch salad with smoked turkey is my usual choice all year 'round); and
  • delectable cheese "biscuits" (really more like muffins) which they serve up hot and fresh while you're waiting for your entrees to arrive.
It's a good thing they're generous with those muffin-biscuits, because our family tends to devour them as soon as the server plunks down the basket.  If we're feeling bold, we just ask for a double portion to start with and save the waiter a trip.

This make-at-home version is a pretty decent rendition.  (A copycat recipe can be found on several recipe sites, but I prefer a less-sweet version, so here's my homage to Jim 'n Nick's.)

Cheese-y Biscuits/Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup milk (or half milk and half buttermilk)
1 egg, beaten well
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400.  Generously grease 24 mini-muffin tins.

Mix dry ingredients together, then quickly fold in wet ingredients just until moistened.  Spoon into muffin tins; bake for 10-15 minutes or until top springs back or toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Do not over-bake.  Serve warm.

Happy biscuit-baking!

Oct 18, 2010

What Really Happens on Bye Weeks

The Vols finally had a Saturday off, so that meant ours was a focused, productive weekend, working around the house. Bright and early Saturday morning, Mr. Official and I ran several errands and then got down on hands and knees for some yard work - nothing like pulling crabgrass shoulder-to-shoulder with your spouse to bring you closer (if you're familiar with Love & Respect, that one should ring a bell.) Then we parted ways - he headed to Lebanon to close his mama's pool for the season, and I and my crockpot headed to a charity chili cook-off.

Sunday afternoon was dedicated to readying the house for the 2HYMs monthly devotional.  Success:  they came, they grazed on pizza and cookies, they precariously juggled lit candles as part of an exercise...and by 9:30 they had all disbanded, leaving our house reasonably intact.

But it was definitely not a "bye" weekend for me.  And now it's Monday, again.  In addition to real work, today's schedule includes a dental check-up, pilates, whipping up some no-bake cookies and packing them to send to a special young lady, post office, then picking up our swimmer from practice and heading home for dinner.  Hopefully we'll eat before the Titans kick off at 7:30 tonight.

Maybe Tuesday will be my "bye week" day.  Hey, a girl can hope, can't she?

Happy Monday!

Oct 15, 2010

What a Beautiful (?) Mess

Life happens.

Stuff happens.

But organization doesn't just happen. At least not at our house.

Two weeks ago today, I packed up the Highlander and headed south for a week in the sun. I left behind a freshly vacuumed and dusted abode, with clean sheets and towels in place, laundry caught up, and the refrigerator, freezer and pantry in reasonably good shape.

The night before I returned home, I heard the words I dread to hear from left-behind family members: "Well, I guess we should run the dishwasher before you get back tomorrow." That is an ominous portent of what awaits me when I get back.

Aside from the atrocities in the kitchen, my clean desk is suddenly less-than-pristine since my docking station has died and I can't get my monitor hooked up directly to the computer (long story...) The net result is my laptop is sitting smackdab in the middle of my blotter until I get a new docking station. It's a process.

This week has been a time of catching up on work and after-school swim practice has cut into my evening hours. Those are my excuses for not tackling the neglected areas of the house or laundry as quickly as I would have liked. Today brought me face to face with a crisper of mushy vegetables, which now must be tossed to make room for the fresh produce I lugged home from the grocery store (another postponed chore that was badly overdue.)

There's no time like the present to dig in and get caught up; I'm making chili for a benefit cook-off tomorrow evening, then Sunday will bring us a houseful of high school youth for their monthly devo. (I'm thinking takeout pizza...no prep, no worries, just toss the boxes when they're done.)

As for the rest of the house? This too shall pass. But not without some elbow grease helping it along. Here's hoping the laundry fairy and cleaning fairy show up soon.

Happy homecoming,

Oct 13, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Pasta e Fagioli

Soup weather has arrived, and that's a good thing - afternoon swim practices start this week, keeping us at the pool until 6 pm, four nights a week.   Soups, stews and slow cooker recipes will dominate our weeknight menu until sometime after the holidays.

I first sampled Pasta e Fagioli at Olive Garden and it is still my favorite when I opt for their soup-and-salad-and-breadsticks.  For the uninitiated, this soup's name means "pasta and beans" and is pronounced "pasta fa-ZHOOL."  Traditionally a meatless peasant stew, the modern renderings have introduced meat and tomatoes, making it a little more like American chili, but with a definite Italian twist.  This recipe is a copycat version of Olive Garden's and is incredibly easy to make with a few pantry staples.  It can be tailored to your preference for a spicy or mild taste (just choose hot, medium or mild Rotel) and leftovers reheat nicely. Serve with some good bread sticks, a little fresh-grated Parmesan cheese on top, and enjoy!

Pasta e Fagioli

1 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced (1-2 tablespoons)
1 can white beans (Canellini or Northern), drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 jar mushroom and pepper pasta sauce (any brand will work)
1 cup chicken broth
1 can Rotel tomatoes (mild, medium or hot - your choice)
1 cup celery, sliced
1 cup julienned carrots (I cheat and buy the bagged julienne or matchsticks)
3/4 cup uncooked ditalini or other small tube pasta

In large stock pot, brown beef with onion; drain.  Add garlic, beans, pasta sauce, broth, tomatoes and celery.  Bring to boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for an hour or until celery is tender.  Add carrots and continue simmering.  At the same time, cook pasta separately until al dente.  Drain and add pasta to soup just before serving, stirring through to mix well.

Additional notes:
Like most of my recipes, I've experimented with the scale and cooking methods for this soup.  I found it can easily be doubled for a crowd, and/or it can be prepared in a slow cooker (brown the beef and onion in a skillet, drain, then add everything to the crockpot and simmer on low for 4 hours, or high for 1-2 hours.)  The flavors meld better if it's made ahead and refrigerated overnight before reheating to serve, but the pasta can get mushy.  So if you're making it the night before serving, hold off on cooking the pasta until you're ready to reheat and serve, or at least keep the cooked pasta separate and add to the soup just before serving.

Happy soup-ing!

Oct 11, 2010

When You Bleed Orange

With apologies to Thomas Paine...
"These are the times that try men's souls. The fairweather fan will, in this crisis, shrink from loyalty to his team; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. A losing season, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value."
It is great to be a Tennessee Vol...but admittedly, it's not very fun this year.  It took me a long time to warm up to Tennessee football, and even longer to instantly break out in song whenever I hear "Rocky Top."  But having been grafted into a Vol family, I now have orange blood coursing through my veins too.  So through thick and thin, I will continue to sport orange nail polish on my toes, wear orange shirts and dresses, and carry an orange purse and wear my "T" earrings with pride. 

And looking on the bright side:
  1. Lane who?
  2. Any win from now to the end of the season will be a happy surprise.  Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is to beat Vandy. (And Kentucky, if that isn't asking too much.)
  3. Alabama fell.  I'm not adding the Spurrier family to my Christmas card list, but the enemy of our enemy is our friend.
  4. True fans quietly persevere.  Losing seasons help thin the herd of the blowhards and bloviators that give the rest of us a bad rep.
  5. The UT team we know and love will return.  There are countless talented young men out there, practicing and playing their hearts out on Friday nights, and dreaming of a chance to run through the T.

Happy Monday,

Oct 8, 2010

Homeward bound

Leaving for a trip has its mix of excitement, anticipation, and worries (What did we forget? Will the weather be good? What if the condo is a dump?) Last Friday was smooth sailing, once we got out of town.  We arrived to discover we had all the important stuff (except my Kindle and camera battery chargers), the trip down was (mostly) uneventful, the weather was sunny but a tad cool, and the condo was beautiful and spacious, if understocked on some basic items. Like a can opener.

The week slipped by too fast, as it always does. Any minor bumps and mishaps along the way are soon forgotten, and the memories distill into a warm blend of sweet and funny moments that will stay with us until the next trip rolls around.

Preparing for the trip home is always bittersweet but has fewer unknowns: just make sure everything gets packed up. The extended weather forecast is no longer important and sleeping in our own beds again sounds pretty sweet.

Happy (and safe) travels!

Oct 6, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Monster Cookies

This recipe was given to my mom (and me) many years ago by a friend who baked them for her teenage daughters and friends to enjoy on high school game trips. These monster-sized cookies are flourless (good for those who are looking to eliminate or reduce gluten in their diets), but they are definitely not diet-friendly.

The batch of cookie dough is so large, I splurged on a huge Tupperware bowl just for them.  Mine is identical to this one except it has a bright pink lid (all the better).  It has come in handy for other things but it is still used when I make a full batch of monster cookies.  

When we return home from our annual "last dance with summer" on the white sand beaches of Florida, it will be a good time to usher in fall with some of these scrumptious, oversized treats.

Martha's Monster Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups white sugar
2 cups brown sugar
3 cups peanut butter
6 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 teaspoons baking soda
9 cups rolled oats
1/2 pound M&Ms (plain)
1/2 pound semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large bowl, cream butter, sugars and peanut butter. Add eggs one at a time, then stir in remaining ingredients in order given.  Drop by large spoonfuls (or a small ice cream scoop), 6 to a sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly, then transfer to a rack to finish cooling.  Store in an airtight canister (can be frozen).  Makes 6 dozen cookies.

Since getting this recipe, I have figured out it can be cut in half fairly easily, although we rarely throw away uneaten cookies.  If you happen to have an empty oatmeal canister due to this recipe, you may find it works great for stacking these huge cookies and transporting them.

Happy baking!

Oct 1, 2010

So how do YOU prepare for a trip?

For me, preparing for a trip has at least two major components:  readying the house to leave it for the duration (I hate coming home to a messy house or unfinished laundry), and packing/planning for the trip itself.

Depending on the state of the house when I start the preparations, that part might actually take more time than packing for the trip.  But not this time - I let those staying behind know that I'm simplifying things.  (I've finally learned my lesson:  they're adults, they will eat if, when and what they want, and whatever I try to make is likely to remain frozen or go bad.)  All this trip demands is a quick pass through the bathrooms, run the vacuum and dust, a little laundry and I'm free to roam around the countryside, guilt-free.

As I counted down the days to our road trip to Florida, I tried to do as much ahead of schedule as possible (although some things still got put off to the last minute, as happens with us procrastinators.)

So my week went something like this:

Sunday:  check the extended forecast for the area.  Pray fervently for safe trip, good weather and NO HURRICANES. Check. Repeat daily until we leave.
Monday:  take car to get tires rotated, balanced (and aligned - ouch).  Check
Tuesday:  get toenails painted (very important part of preparations); plan menu and grocery list for condo (because I really hate spending wasting hours at the local grocery as we try to devise a menu and grocery list on the fly.  That is always an expensive and wasteful effort - we inevitably forget something, and buy way too many items that we don't really need.)
Wednesday:  take car for oil change, emissions test and tags.  Wash & vacuum car. Check and check. Plan route with Google and TomTom.  All done.  Post pictures of the weather report and route on Facebook, because my enthusiasm knows no bounds.
Thursday:  final grocery run (okay, I bought those staying behind *some* snackage), tidy the house, pack my suitcase. (Yeah, these rather important things got put off until the very end.)  Check with condo manager to get door code and parking info. Check.
Today:  pack grocery staples I'm taking, put suitcases, camera, laptop and paperwork in car, and get last-minute work and a final load of laundry done before school lets out and we hit the road.

So, how does everybody else count down to leaving?  Is this routine pretty typical, or do you have a better way of getting everything done? Don't be shy...I'd love to hear your ideas!

Happy vacationing!