Saturday, January 30, 2010

Frankenmuth Snowfest

We decided to go out and have a little winter fun today.  We went to the Frankenmuth Snowfest.  If you're unfamiliar with the town of Frankenmuth, it is Michigan's "Little Bavaria", because it resembles a Bavarian village.  It also has the world's largest Christmas store.  It's a little touristy, but still a fun place to visit.

We had no idea that this was such a popular festival, but it was really crowded.  It took us 30 minutes to drive through town (a total of about 2 miles).  We had to park on a residential street because every lot in town was full.

The first thing we did was stop by the Frankenmuth Brewery Restaurant.  It was only 4:00 and we thought we might catch an early dinner a little bit ahead of the dinner rush.  We couldn't have been more wrong!  The estimated wait time was 65 minutes.  We knew it would be the same in every restaurant in town, and that it would only get worse as it got later, so we waited.  When we were finally seated, we got a great table and great food.  It was worth the wait.

Looking down from our table over the first floor and bar.

After dinner we shared a decadent dessert of deep fried Oreos served with ice cream, chocolate sauce, caramel and whipped cream.  It was amazing!


We left the restaurant just in time to see the fireworks.  It was a nice display and went on for a long time.

Then we headed down the street to where the snow sculptures were displayed.  Some of them were amazing.  Some of them, well, we just couldn't figure out what they were supposed to be (you can click on the pictures for a larger view).

I have no idea, looks like a whale and some other sea creatures.

Something sleeping.  A dragon, maybe?

After we were done viewing the snow sculptures we stopped at a candy store.  We were greeted by this guy when we walked in the door.
He was holding a tray of toffee samples.  I didn't want to hurt his feelings, but the toffee wasn't very good.

This guy was in front of another store.  I didn't pay any attention to what they sell.  I think he's a little creepy.

We saw a few horse drawn carriages on our way out of town.  It would have been fun to ride in one, but there were all full.

To top off the evening, we saw this lovely sight on our way back to our parking spot.  The view is little obscured by some trees, but I'm sure you can still see what it is.....

.....a full moon.  I hope you found something fun to do this weekend, too!

A side note:  I found out about this festival when Pure Michigan (a tourism page) on Facebook posted it.  I didn't know until recently that they had a Facebook page.  If you are a Facebook user, check and see if your state has a page that you can join or check their website to find events and activities you may not know about.  It's fun to be a tourist in your own state.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Still Talking About Food

Like I said yesterday, we've been eating a lot of salad lately.   I never get tired of salad.  There are so many ways to change it up and make it different.  Different dressings, different toppings, different varieties of lettuce; you could probably make a different salad every night for a year and never have the exact same thing twice.

When my daughter was in the hospital, I used to have lunch in the hospital cafeteria.  They had a really great salad bar, so I got salad pretty often.  I happened to notice one day that all of the nurses who were getting salads were putting raisins on them.  Day after day, I would see them so I asked one of them about it.  I couldn't imagine that raisins combined with any sort of dressing would taste good, but the nurse I asked assured me that it was delicious.  She suggested I add just a small spoonful and try it.  "It's surprisingly addictive" she said.   I took her advice and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. 

I would have to say the most unusual thing I like on my salad is hot, cooked rice.  Plain or flavored rice, I like to put a little over my salad before I add the dressing (I see you shaking your head at the idea of it!).  It's not usually available at salad bars, but I like to do it at home once in a while. 

I've seen a few new salad recipes I'd like to try.  One has a hot bacon dressing, grilled chicken and feta cheese (not the healthiest choice, but it sure sounds good).  Another has candied walnuts and dried cranberries.  I'd also like to perfect a classic Caesar Salad.

How about you?  Do you put anything unusual on your salad?  Do you have a favorite salad?  What about dressing, creamy style or viniagrette?  If you wouldn't eat a salad if it were the last food on earth, feel free to tell me that, too.  I want to know!


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chasing Away The Winter Blues With.......Produce?

This is the thermometer on our back porch. 

The temperature has climbed about eight degrees since I took my daughter to school this morning.  It wouldn't be all that bad except for the fact that it's very windy.

There isn't much snow on the ground.
You can still see the grass through it, and the sun is starting to melt it just a little.

It stills seems pretty bleak, though.  Look at how sad the patio set looks sitting in the snow.

You see that wooden box on the table?  In the spring and summer that becomes an herb box.  Now it's just a box of frozen dirt with some dried up, brown stems that used to be herbs.

Look how dirty and dingy the pile of snow on the end of my driveway looks.

It's full of leaves, grass and dirt.  It looks so untidy.  I wish it would melt.  Snow is only pretty when it first falls.

I can't think of too many good things to say about winter.  I'm practically counting the days until spring arrives.  On the bright side, though, we went shopping yesterday and found some beautiful produce. 
Fresh fruits and vegetables always cheer me up in the winter because they remind me that there are places in the world that are warm and sunny even if my little corner of the world is a frozen tundra.  It reminds me, too, that winter is only temporary.

Apples may be associated with fall, but I find them cheerful in any season.  Arranged in a bowl, they are practically a work of art.

I like them every bit as much as having fresh cut flowers.  Maybe more.  Apples taste better.

I love bananas.   These need a day or two to ripen before they can be eaten. The great thing about them is that you can create something with a tropical flavor, and what puts you in a warm weather state of mind than something tropical!

A Banana Daiquiri would be nice.  Just for the potassium, of course.

I buy grapes year round, but they still remind me of summer.

An ice cold, juicy grape is so wonderful on a hot day.

If your monitor had a scratch and sniff feature, you could scratch this picture and practically smell summer.

  If you grow your own tomatoes or shop at roadside produce stands, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  Tomatoes just smell like warm summer days.  I was lucky enough to find some still on the vine.   We've been eating a lot of salads lately and what's a salad without the tomato?

Speaking of salad, we also found some great asiago cheese (not springish or summery, but delicious).  If you're not familiar with asiago, it's a hard cheese similar to parmesan.

Just a little bit of this fabulous cheese grated over a salad takes it to a whole new level.

I got some broccoli, too.

And do you see what's in the bowl with the broccoli?  It's sun!  What a surprise when it came streaming through my kitchen window this morning.

Only 49 days of winter left....


Monday, January 25, 2010

Give Me What You've Got!

I glanced through the magazine supplement that comes with the weekend paper, this morning.  I noticed that there were two pages of tips for managing your kitchen and giving your home a mini-makeover.  Excellent, I thought, I will read them when I get home from taking my daughter to school.  I might find a little gem of inspiration over my morning coffee.  I'm crazy about household tips.

After reading both pages, I was sorely dissappointed.  The kitchen article gave such insight as "throw away anything past it's expiration date".   Um, I think I already knew that handy hint.  It also encouraged readers to "shop at a time that's convenient for you".  Seriously?  These were the best the author could come up with?

On to the home mini-makeover, which was no better.  In a nutshell, it said to paint your front door, and buy new linens for your bedroom.  Those are obvious, although legitimate, suggestions, I suppose.  But the tip for choosing sheets left me scratching my head.  It said "solid colors or striped sheets work best".  What does that mean?  Best as in more comfortable, more esthetically pleasing, less expensive, more durable?   I guess if you prefer plaid or paisley, they won't work as well.

I think my favorite of all, though, was the number one tip for brightening a dark bathroom.  "Increase all light-bulb wattage".   Not only does that strike me as more a bit of common sense than a helpful tip, it's also a little irresponsible.  They didn't bother to mention that most light fixtures are labeled with a maximum bulb wattage that you shouldn't exceed.  If you're already at the maximum wattage, you need to add another source of light.

I didn't get any of the great tips I was hoping for.  No great ways to use left-overs, or recipes to make in 20 minutes.  There were no hints for getting perfect miter cuts on crown molding or inventive window treatments.  Cleaning tips, one of my favorite categories, were overlooked altogether.

So here's where you come in.  Since I didn't get my "tip fix", I want you to leave me one (or more) of your favorite tips in my comments.  Any category is fine; cooking, cleaning, decorating, budgeting, energy saving....I want to see them all!  Give me what you've got!


Friday, January 22, 2010

Absolute Perfection

I love houses. My house, your house (you knew I could see your house through the computer, right?), any and all houses.  I like touring model homes, going to real estate open houses, browsing real estate websites and watching real estate shows on television.  The floorplans, different material choices, architecture and decorating are all of interest to me. 

If I had an extra 1.2 million dollars hanging around, I'd buy a house I saw on the internet today.  It's on the coast of North Carolina, close to where we take our family vacation every year.  Here's the description:
A grand waterway estate on 2.59 acres with approximately 3886 sq. ft has many stunning details. A stately stone fountain and manicured grounds compliment the appealing character of this property. Interior details feature the finest custom work, brazilian cherry hardwood floors, built-ins 10' ceilings, 8' doors and more! This fabulous home is perfect for southern living and outdoor entertaining. A guest house offers a kitchen and bath. Enjoy the pier, 18,000 lb boat lift and floating dock.
I think my family and I could live there comfortably. With the guest house, I would even have a place for my fabulous blog buddies to stay when they came to visit (you would come, wouldn't you?). It's pretty close to perfect.

But what if it weren't? Would I still be interested in it? Let's say that instead of Brazilian Cherry hardwood floors, the living room had orange carpeting. And maybe there was an ugly light fixture in the master bathroom, the front hallway was covered in an unattractive purple flocked velvet wallpaper and the refrigerator was avacado colored. The answer is yes, I would still be just as interested. I may hope to pay a few dollars less, but I'd still buy it in a heartbeat. All of those things are easy and fairly inexpensive to change.

I'm constantly amazed, and sometimes irritated, to hear the comments buyers make on shows like House Hunters on HGTV.  I've seen people dimiss houses for things like unattractive carpet and paint colors.  I recently saw a couple pass on a house because the appliances were not stainless steel.  I couldn't believe that the color (or more precisely, material) of the appliances was a deal breaker in a house that, otherwise, met every item on their list.  It was a gorgeous place.  I just don't get it.  Would it really be so awful to have to live with white appliances until you could buy new ones?

What do you think?  Have you bought or could you buy a home that wasn't absolutely cosmetically perfect?  What would be a deal breaker for you?


Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Thank you so much for the wonderful comments you left after my last post.  I'm feeling much better now.  I still have a little congestion in my ears, but other than that I'm pretty well recovered.   Hopefully, I've said my final farewell to the "Swine".

I wanted to post a new blog today, but I'm busy catching up on all the household tasks I neglected while I was sick.  Instead, I'm bringing back a post from February, 2009.  I hope you enjoy it.  It still makes me laugh.  I'll be back soon with a new post.

You Can't Do That

It's been a while since I've shared a stupid story with you. I have so many that's it's hard to choose, but I think something food related would be a good one for today.

This happened a little more than 16 years ago and I was pregnant with my son at the time. My parents took Mr. Willoughby and I out to dinner at a buffet style restaurant. This was toward the end of my pregnancy so I was pretty big and standing or walking for any length of time was incredibly tiring.

I went up to the buffet and put some side dishes on my plate, but when I got to the meats, the fish was gone. I wasn't interested in any other meat, I just wanted some fish so I went back to the table and sat down. A few minutes later a server was refilling some of the bins in the meat area so I went to check and see if the fish had been replenished. It hadn't so I sat back down. Again, we saw someone come out with bins of food, so my husband asked if I would like him to get me some fish. I said no, I'd do it myself. I went back to the meat area to find there was still no fish so I asked the guy who was at the carving station if they were going to bring any more out. He said yes, it should only be a minute if I wanted to wait. So that's what I did.

I was standing next to the empty fish bin waiting when a man came up behind me. I told him I was waiting for the fish and he could go around me. For some reason he seemed angry at this. He told me I had to move on and that waiting wasn't allowed. Again, I told him he could go around me, I was going to wait. This angered him to the point that he started to complain about me to other customers who were getting their food. "She's holding up the line. There's no fish but she's going to wait and hold up the line." Say what? I told him twice he could go around me. It got kind of ugly from there, and we were having a pretty heated argument. I may have even pushed up the sleeves on my maternity sweater. Other people around the buffet hurried back to their tables and away from us; the short bald man and pregnant woman who were arguing about fish.

Before we came to blows (I'm sure I could have taken him), a server brought out a full bin of fish. For just a moment I considered taking not just a few pieces, but the entire bin and heading back to my table. I could even see myself reaching past the sneeze guard, prying the pan out of the steam table and running (waddling) through the restaurant while laughing maniacally. If I hadn't thought it would be too hot for me to lift I probably would have. Instead, I took a few pieces and went back to my table. My husband and my parents hadn't even noticed what had been going on. While I was telling them about it, the man returned to his table on the other side of the dining room. He was obviously telling his family what had taken place because he was pointing at me. My husband was ready to go ask the guy to step outside, but I didn't want him to. I was all hopped up on watered down Coke, soggy steam table vegetables and 8 months worth of pregnancy hormones. I could take care of this guy myself.

I unwedged myself from the table and waddled over to his table. "I hope you choke on your food!" I said. He was speechless. I think I made my point. Oh, and the fish? It was okay, but I've had better.

Originally posted February 20, 2009


Monday, January 11, 2010

Public Service Announcement

I'm not quite ready to come back yet, but I wanted to take a few minutes to post my version of a Public Service Announcement.  As many of you already know, I've been away from blogging due to illness.  However, what you may not know is that the illness is H1N1.  Yep, the Swine Flu.

I can honestly say that I've never felt so terrible in my life.  I had heard that for most people, H1N1 is no worse than the regular seasonal flu.  I guess I'm not most people.  After 15 days, I'm only now beginning to feel slightly human.  I was unable to get vaccinated because our area ran out of vaccine months ago.  I understand that it has recently become available again, but it's too late for me.  It's not too late for you, though.  If the vaccine is available in your area and you haven't gotten it yet, I beg you to drop what you're doing and take your family to get vaccinated.

If you ignore my advice and decide to develop your immunity by getting the H1N1 flu, you may have the same experience I did.  It starts with a dry, scratchy throat that rapidly develops into a cough.  By the end of day one, the coughing is almost non stop.  You won't be able to complete a sentence or sleep for more than 5 minutes at a time without coughing.  The dry cough will morph into a combination sinus/chest congestion gagging cough.  Your sinuses will go into overdrive and you will be blowing you nose every second that you aren't coughing.   You will run a slight fever and have constant chills.  Every inch of your body will ache.  You will lose your appetite and struggle to eat more than a bite or two of food per day.  If you are able to sleep at all, you will only be able to do so by sitting upright.  Lying down will leave you coughing and gagging.  You will lose your voice.  By the third or fourth day, you will experience fatigue so severe that walking from one room to the next will leave you exhausted.  The fatigue may also be accompanied with feeling light headed or dizzy.  Your doctor and your local health department will likely advise you to treat your symptoms with over the counter decongestants and ibuprofen and seek medical attention only if you experience trouble breathing (although you may benefit from Tamiflu if you are diagnosed in the earliest stages of H1N1).  Lastly, the congestion may also effect your ears, making it temporarily difficult to hear.

If you do happen to come down with this nasty flu, I can tell you a few of the things that helped me feel somewhat better.  Sudafed (or the generic equivalent) helped my sinus congestion quite a bit.  I tried Mucinex for the chest congestion, the jury is still out on whether that really did much for me.  Nyquil seemed to work the first few nights that I took it, but after that it seemed to have the reverse effect and left me wide awake instead of putting me to sleep.  Ibuprofen definitely helped with the fever and achiness.  Last night I decided to try the much criticized approach of putting Vicks VapoRub on my feet before bed.  I can't explain why it works, but it does.  I slept soundly for almost 4 hours before waking up coughing (it was time for another dose of sinus meds).  That is the longest continuous sleep I've had in nearly two weeks.  I wish I had tried it sooner.

So please, take it from me, if you haven't been vaccinated, do so if at all possible.  You don't want to put yourself or your family through this terrible illness if you don't have to.  I did everything you're supposed to do by frequently washing my hands, using hand sanitizer, etc. and I still managed to get it.

I hope you're all enjoying the new year, I look forward to catching up with you soon.