Friday, July 19, 2013

Pre-RAGBRAI Excitement/Anxiety

Here I am, getting ready for the biggest bicycle ride in the country.  People come from all over to ride their bikes across the great state of Iowa and I am one of them. RAGBRAI (an acronym for Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) is an event where approximately 20,000 insane (and fabulous) individuals ride their bikes in 100 degree heat for 400-500 miles over the course of 7 days. I can not think of any better way to spend your vacation time.

We will start in Council Bluffs, ride thru Harlan, Perry, down to Des Moines, Knoxville, Oskaloosa, Fairfield and finally end up in Fort Madison. As you can see by this map, it looks like they hired a drunken sailor to plot the course for this route.

 RAGBRAI 2013 Route Map

I only have to drive an hour to the start point since it's in Council Bluffs this year. I admire the individuals who fly in, ship their bikes or rent bikes when they are here.  I feel very fortunate to live so close to such an amazing event and to have the health and lifestyle that affords me the opportunity to participate.

I've been anxious and excited for several months but for the last week, the only two words that could describe me are "hot mess". I have been busy making lists, getting everything ready and packing unpacking and repacking. I have been excited but being anxious and excited feel very similar so I don't really know which emotion is torturing me at any given moment. At the moment, I choose to call it excitement. I'm certain my family and friends are painfully sick of hearing about this ride. You would think nothing else existed.

I am riding with Team Pez for the first 4 days of the event this year. My Lincoln friend Pat has been a part of the team for years and has graciously invited us to ride with them. It will be my first time riding with this team so I will have an opportunity to make some new friends.  My brother Keith and sister-in-law Teresa are coming too and since we would normally take an air-conditioned camper trailer with us and Team Pez camps in tents as they go, we will be facing some new challenges. One of the benefits of Team Pez is that they stay at "Host Homes" which is to say that someone graciously lets us set up tents in their yards, use their water, showers, and facilities. It's kind of a spoiled version of primitive camping.

After the first four days, Keith, Teresa and I will be leaving Team Pez and joining Team Hardy Farty which consists of us, by brother's two children (Kaley and Cody) their son-in-law (Patrick). In case you are wondering, the name "Hardy Farty" comes from my maiden name which is "Hardy" and when we were little, we were called, "Hardy Farty". My brother named the team, not me. (exaggerated eye roll) I've made up a team motto that hasn't caught on yet.  I want to have Team Hardy Farty jersey's made which say Pull My Finger down both sides. I think it would be hilarious.

When we leave Team Pez, RAGBRAI will SAG (Support and Gear) Team Hardy Farty those last three days which means that;
a) we are limited to how much gear we can take, our bag (including tent) can only weigh 50lbs
b) we will be sharing bathroom, shower and water facilities with thousands of other riders
c) we will be sleeping in a sea of sweaty stinky bikers at a tent city
I have omitted items d) thru x) in hopes that you will continue reading. You are welcome.
Lets just say that it will be a whole new experience and that is exactly what we are after.

I'm sad to say that my sister-in law is leaving for a couple of days in the middle of this week to work but I must also admit that I'm excited that it will open an opportunity for it to be just me and my brother. I look forward to some one on one time with him. He is the best!  She will be joining back up with us in Knoxville when we join Team Hardy Farty.

RAGBRAI is about 2 things for me.
Riding Bikes
When you are burning several thousand calories on your bicycle, you can absolutely pig out during the week. GUILT FREE!!!

Someone asked me, "How much weight did you lose when you rode your bike across Iowa?"  I had to admit, I gained 3 pounds which in my book is a successful vacation!!!

There are some amazing things to look forward to during the ride and they mostly involved breakfast burrito's, turkey legs, pork chops on a stick, smoothies and rhubarb pies made by loving Iowa church women. God bless them all.

I can not even fathom the number of bottles of water, Gatorade and bananas that are being shipped into Iowa this week.  I think it would blow your mind!

Tonight, I will finish packing. For anyone interested, here is my list and it all fit into a 50L Kelty Backpack that weighs less than 50lbs.

Sleep Pad
Sleep Bag
Camp Chair
Inflatable Pillow
Phone/Garmin/iPod Chargers
3 Jerseys
2 Biking Shorts
2 Regular Shorts
Riding Jacket
Wool Socks
Sleep Clothes
Insect Repellent
Ear Plugs
Lip Protectant
Eye Drops
Toilet Tissue
Wet Wipes
Razor Shampoo Body Wash
Nail Clippers and Fingernail File

And last but not least...
Butt Butter for the Chaffing I hope to not get

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Whisper in the Wind

This is my church and God is with me. I know this because I hear Him whisper in the wind and he is saying, "I love you"

Friday, March 29, 2013

Are We Practicing the Virtues We Post?

In these days of internet surfing and social media, there are fewer and fewer people having original thoughts. They endlessly repost from these dandy little apps and websites on their phones or computers and they know that what they are reposting is admirable and virtuous but are we practicing the virtues we post?

It’s as if to say, “I would have said this if I’d have thought of it first.”

Are you the person you know yourself to be or are you under the illusion that you are the person saying the quotes?

I know that there are good, kind people of integrity out there but I don’t think they are reposting quotes with rainbow pictures in the background. I must say though that I enjoy the reposts of Johnny Depp quotes, not just for the sayings but also for the picture that accompanies them. (sideways winky face) 

What an unlikely source for quotable comments, don’t you think?

Do you ever wonder why there are so many Johnny Depp quotes? Who would have known that he would have so many interesting things to say? The mere fact that he has all these original thoughts proves to me that he spends very little time reposting cute pictures of a kitten hanging from a branch saying “Hang in there baby”.

This is a man who spends time with his own thoughts; a man who, probably because of the trials and tribulations of his own life, has come to understand himself and the world around him. We should all hope to find ourselves with this kind of wisdom.

I challenge you to unplug from social media and the 700 friends you think you have. Social media is not giving you something to do it is taking you away from something to do. Look around you, you have your face glued to a computer or phone screen and even if there are people around you, you are disconnected from them.

Disconnect to reconnect.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bows and Headbands

My darling friend Emily gave birth to a beautiful daughter last fall and since I'm going to be the grandmother of a granddaughter in May, we decided we'd better put on our crafting hats and learn to make bows.

I don't know any bow making terms because I'm just winging it on the construction of these things but I can tell you how to make the "corkers" that are the curly cues in the center.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Wrap any grosgrain ribbon around a 1/4" dowel (I use a 1/4" wide ribbon) and bake for 30 minutes. I secured the ends of the ribbon to the dowel with wooden clothes pins. I can show that in another blog if anyone requests it.

My First Bow/Headband Creations

This is the first bow I made. It's not perfect for two reasons:

1. It's my first bow

2. It's a "Husker" bow (Please forgive me, I live in Nebraska now)

Husker Bow

This is the second bow I made. I actually couldn't wait to make this bow just because I love these colors together.

My first "official" order came in for one of these bows and I was ecstatic to fill it.... ok, ok, so it was Emily that wanted one but I was honored and excited so I just gave her this one and it was SOOOO worth it.

This is Avery in the bow...perfection!

Avery's 3 month pictures...delicious!

Then, I decided to attach some silk daisies to a white headband because I saw a similar headband and just loved it.
 Because I was afraid the stems would poke the baby in the head and be uncomfortable, I disassembled the flowers, cut back the stems and pokey things and reassembled them with fabric glue. Then I just tacked them to the headband using small invisible stitches with needle and thread.
This all white one was cute but since my favorite color is green, I decided to attach a slightly "softer" looking flower to a green headband and loved the result.
In fact, I was so pleased with the result that I made another one for little Avery...doesn't she look pleased too?
She's thinking, "Thanks for the headband Auntie Liz"
If you are going to make a handful of sweet headbands, you need a way to store them so, on the suggestion of Emily, I took an empty oats container and covered it in wrapping paper and voila! A headband holder!!!!

Hope you enjoyed!

Gotta go, we are going to spend the afternoon making headbands and bows!!!

An Aunt's Advice

Don't expect people or things to complete your life or you will always be left wanting.
Instead, look to the power in you.
Find joy in setting and achieving goals; living a dignified life of forgiveness and self-realization.
By doing that, you will find infinite happiness.
                                    Aunt Liz

Kady and me at Arbor Lodge in Nebraska City
(Dec 2010)

My niece Kady, in an attempt to pursue her dreams, has decided to move to Syracuse, New York to go to college.

The sensible part of me supports this move because I would never want to get in the way of her future but the selfish aunt in me wants her to live close so I can talk to her over a cup of coffee in a basement coffeehouse while an amateur guitarist sings John Denver cover songs.

Last week, I sent her a copy of one of my favorite books, "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein and highlighted some of my favorite Enzo quotes.

Along with the book, I sent her a card and what you see above is what I wrote in it.

I don't want to diminish the importance that I wrote it for Kady but I think it's good advice for anyone so I want to share it with you too.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Walking Dead Party

For anyone who has not watched Walking Dead on AMC, you will not and can not imagine the excitement of the mid-season premier which aired on February 10, 2013. 

My 26 year old daughter, after spending months trying to get me to watch it, all but gave up on me. I have a vivid imagination so when I watch something scary, I have nightmares and can't sleep. It takes months to get it out of my head and I have to watch Disney movies before I go to sleep to keep the nightmares away.

I was determined not to watch the series until one day, during a birthday party for a three year old, the grandfather of the birthday boy mentioned Walking Dead to another party goer and wouldn't stop talking about it. He talked about how amazing it was and that he just, "...can't understand why I care so much about this group of zombie killers."

Seriously?!?!?! This is the kind of guy who falls alseep in the chair after a big meal. In bed by 9, cool calm cowboy type and he watches Walking Dead... I thought, "Maybe I need to give this series a chance.

The first night I tried to watch the premier episode, I got through the first 20 minutes and was so scared that I had to shut it off. I proceded to have a nightmare that people have told me should be made into a movie. I won't go into it here but it would be a funny zombie movie.

I say "zombie" loosly because you will never hear the word "zombie" in the series. They are called walkers, geeks or biters, anything but zombies.

After several episodes, I became desensitized to the whole gorey zombie thing that was so frightening to me in the first place and got into the characters and the plot. After finishing the 1st and 2nd seasons on Netlix and finding out that we were in the middle of the mid-season break, I quickly watched the first half of the season thru internet streaming. I'd formed a crush on Daryl Dixon and could not wait to find out if he would survive a one on one battle with his evil brother Merle.

I asked my daughter and her boyfriend if they wanted to come to dinner and then watch the show. I figured I'd make meatloaf and put some fake teeth and eyes in it to make it fun.  They asked if they could invite a friend so it was four for dinner.  Four turned into eight and zombie meatloaf turned into a full on zombie meal.

First I made zombie appetizers...

Zombie Fingers
(Idea Borrowed from Pinterest)

These were simple: Using pretzel rods, green colored white chocolate discs and Almond Slivers. I dragged a toothpick thru the chocolate to make the knuckles.

Prosciutto Cheese Eyeballs
(Idea Borrowed from Pinterest)

These Zombie Eyes are actually cheese balls wrapped in prociutto. I cut out a space for a sliver of Olive with pimento to slip into. I served this in a bed of Chipoltle Rojo Salsa to look like blood. This personally wasn't my favorite for taste but it did make a cool dish.

Eyeball Apple Slices

This was my favorite flavor. It was a green apple slice where I removed the seed star from the center, put a glob of strawberry glaze in the middle, dragged a toothpick to bring the glaze to the edges of the apple and then put a peeled slice of kiwi in the center. These were delicious! Great appetizer or dessert.
Deviled Egg Eyeballs
I used Garlic stuffed olives for the iris and pupil

Deviled Eggs are easy if you boil and peel them right. What I do is, put the eggs in shallow cold water, just enough to cover the eggs, and then turn on the heat. I bring the water to boil and let the eggs boil for 15 minutes then I turn off the heat and cover the pan. After 10 more minutes, I drain the water and put the eggs in a bowl of ice water. After a few minutes, I peel them and the shells come off perfectly every time. Here is my recipe for deviled eggs...
  • 12 Eggs
  • 1/4 pkg of softened cream cheese
  • 3 tbsp Mayo (not Miracle Whip)
  • 3 tsp Mustard (Dijon is best)
  • 3 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • Salt to taste
Then I served the meatloaf. We never named him because I don't believe you should name your food although I have unwillingly eaten a pet rabbit before.

Zombie Meatloaf
(unappealing but incredibly delicious)

I don't know if you have a good meatloaf recipe but mine is the best I've ever used.  You are welcome to use it. Let me know what you think.

2 lbs Lean Hamburger
2 Eggs
1 1/2 C Bread Crumbs
3/4 C Ketchup
1/4 C Warm Water
1/4 C Dill Pickle Juice
1 Pkg Onion Soup Mix

Mix thoroughly in a large bowl. I like to bake it in a sprayed/preheated cast iron skillet but you can use a loaf pan. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Add a thin film of Ketchup and bake another 15 minutes. Drain the grease, let sit 5 minutes and serve. You will not be disappointed.
(Gumball Eyeballs and Teeth optional)

This zombie was served with good old fashioned Green Bean Casserole, Mashed Potatoes and Brown Gravy. It was described as homestyle comfort food by one of my guests and I would have to agree.

After dinner, we watched the last episode of the Walking Dead series and then watched the new mid season premier.  We continued to eat the zombie fingers and eyeballs but I also served this yummy dessert.

Red Velvet Eyeball Cupcakes

These were simple and I cheated by using premade red velvet cupcakes. I offer no apology for this because the rest of this meal was an all day project.  My daughter helped with this tasty treat. We simply drizzled strawberry glaze over the cupcakes. I took yellow gumballs and used black and red sharpies to make them into eyeballs.  Delicious and easy.
On the healthier dessert side, I served this brain made out of a peeled and carved watermelon.
Watermelon Brains
(Idea Borrowed from Pinterest)

Thanks AMC for your incredibly entertaining series. You make it easy to host a fun party at my home. Thanks to Whitney, Thomas and his friend Brian for attending.  Thanks to Chris for inviting yourself enough times that I finally said yes. Thanks also to Travis, Jeff and Michelle for coming and sharing the evening with us. You all were a joy and I will never forget the enjoyment I felt by having you in my home.

A Goal Should Scare You a Little and Excite You Alot

In the fall of 2011, during a flat 20 mile bike ride that nearly killed me, my brother Keith and his wife Teresa asked me if I would drive their truck and camper while they rode their bikes across the state of Iowa during RAGBRAI (the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa). The thought of this did not appeal to me since I would end up using a week of vacation time just to drive a vehicle 100 miles each day, turn on crock pots and wait for bicycles to show up.

They really tried to sell the idea to me by describing all the fun places they go and how the host towns where the cyclists camp have concerts, food, shopping and all kinds of entertainment and fun. As we rode our bikes, they would tell stories of the rides and all the things they had seen and done and it did not make me want to drive their camper and SAG for them. (SAG stands for Supplies and Gear) Instead, it made me want to join them on the bikes but I knew there was no way I could ride almost 500 miles over rolling hills in 7 days.
My brother Keith and his wife Teresa on my first "big" ride
August 2011

At the time I started riding my bike, I was more than 100 lbs overweight. I was on beta blockers for high blood pressure and could not walk more than a couple of blocks without sweating and needing to rest. I had been riding a Mongoose mountain bike that felt like I was riding through sand and I had no idea what a "real" bike felt like. My knees would ache after the first couple of blocks, my muscles would cramp and I could hardly breathe. My face would get beet red and I know I looked like I was on the verge of a heart attack but I continued riding. I thought everyone with my level of experience was enduring this agony until one night when my sister-in-law asked me if I'd like to ride her Trek 7.5FX.

First ride with my Trek on the Mopac Trail from Lincoln, NE to Eagle, NE.
October 2011

I was in love with that bike and within a few weeks, she sold it to me. It has changed me and quite possibly saved my life. The next time they asked me to drive their camper on RAGBRAI, I told them I'd rather join them on the bikes. They loved the idea.

I was scared and I still don't know what made me think this goal was something I would achieve. I heard once that courage is not the lack of fear but the ability to move forward in spite of it. So I mustered up some courage and started training.

Since we'd had a mild winter, I basically rode my bike whenever the weather would allow. At the time I'd decided to participate in this bike ride, the most I'd ridden on any day had been the 20 miles I talked about earlier and when I'd done that, my legs had cramped severely for several days after the ride and I'd nearly thrown up several times. To do this ride, I knew I'd have to ride 60-80 miles a day and it wouldn't be cool like it was during January in Nebraska, it was going to be hot since the actual ride was the last week in July.

In early July, while at work, I suddenly got the feeling of vertigo and every time I opened my eyes, I vomited violently. My mother had a stroke at 42, my brother, a heart attack at 40 and since I was 48 and already on blood pressure medications, I was certain that this was my stroke. I can remember feeling like my blood pressure was bottoming out and there is a dentist office in my building so I asked a co-worker to go get a blood pressure cup. They checked and it was 80/50 or some low number like that. That is about the last thing I remember before I got to Emergicare who sent me directly to the hospital emergency room.

The ER doctor ordered several tests including CT Scans and echo imaging. All the time I was there, I worried and told them was how afraid I was that I would not be able to ride RAGBRAI which was only 2 weeks away. At the end of it all, it was determined that I was too healthy for my blood pressure medicine. I'd been exercising, losing some weight and eating right and suddenly I was enjoying something that had always eluded me...I was healthy.

My Della used to tell me, "Right Actions, Right Results"

Within a few days, I felt stronger than I had all summer long. I was riding harder and better than ever.

For months, I'd been adding more hills and more miles to each ride until finally it was time to ride for real. I didn't feel 100% physically trained for the ride but I had faith that if I just started riding, my tenacity would get me through and it did. On July 22nd I got on my bike in Sioux Center, Iowa and for seven days I rode, ate and didn't do much else. After 471 miles, I arrived at the Mississippi River in Clinton, Iowa.

With tears in my eyes and the hugs of my family, I realized I had achieved my goal and so much more. I certainly didn't lose the 100 extra lbs that I have carried for so long but I've lost some of it and I feel certain that if I continue as I am, I will most certainly lose more. I no longer take any medications for heart disease, cholesterol or blood pressure. I spent years feeling like my body was a time bomb and I was waiting for it to go off while I sat in the recliner with a bag of chips. I don't lead that kind of life any more. I'm stronger, healthier and happier than I've been in decades.

Dipping my tire in the Mississippi River in Clinton, IA

RAGBRAI is right around the corner and I'm going to do it again. This time, no camper or air-conditioning; we are taking tents and backpacks and going to rough it like thousands of other do. Again, I am afraid and I lay awake at night, dreaming and wondering what the ride will be like.

My goal scares me a little and excites me alot.