Thursday, November 26, 2009

Decadent Peanut Butter Pie

While it's not a traditional Thanksgiving pie, my in-laws are starting to rely on me bringing this pie to the feast every other year, anyway, when we're here in CT for Thanksgiving). And the good thing is that in addition to being super tasty, it's really easy to make! I don't know if it helps nutrition-wise that I used reduced-fat peanut butter and cream cheese...probably doesn't matter when the pie includes an Oreo crust and a whole jar of hot fudge. Oh well.

I didn't get a picture of the inside, but the Jif site with the original recipe shows a slice of the peanut-buttery goodness.

Decadent Peanut Butter Pie (from Jif)

1 prepared chocolate cookie pie crust
1 cup creamy peanut butter
8 oz cream cheese (at room temp)
1/2 cup sugar
12 oz container Cool Whip
1 (11.75 oz) jar hot fudge, divided

Drizzle: 2 tbsp hot fudge and 2 tbsp peanut butter

In a medium bowl, beat together the peanut butter, cream cheese, and sugar. Gently fold in 3 cups Cool Whip. Spoon mixture into the pie shell. Using a spatula, spoon mixture to edges of pie. Reserving 2 tbsp hot fudge, place remaining hot fudge into microwave-safe bowl or glass measuring cup. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir. Spread hot fudge over pie to cover the peanut butter layer. Refrigerate until serving time.

Just before serving, spread the remaining Cool Whip over hot fudge layer, being careful not to mix the two layers. Place the 2 tbsp hot fudge in a small baggie and knead for a few seconds. Cut a tiny hole in the corner of the bag and drizzle over pie. Do the same with 2 tbsp peanut butter, going in the opposite direction of the hot fudge.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Work has been crazy lately. The biggest event of the year in our industry is a major trade show that takes place in Chicago at the end of November, so from October on, we're busy signing up for on-site exhibit services, creating press releases, packing and shipping a bunch of equipment, and lots of other fun stuff. It always gets especially hectic this week leading up to Thanksgiving. I stayed late tonight editing and printing some marketing materials, and when I went out to my car, thought to myself, "Well, at least the traffic will be light." And then I got to the highway, which was completely stopped...and if that wasn't enough, my fuel light went on, so I had to go get gas and get back on...not one of my best commutes in recent memory. But enough traffic griping for now.

Anyway, I get to go to the trade show this year, for the first time since I started this job. I do think it'll be interesting, but I might be looking forward to it more if I didn't have to leave the morning after Thanksgiving. No sleeping in, watching football with friends, leisurely decorating for Christmas...I'm not too thrilled about missing out on that all weekend. Combine that with some other work issues I've been dealing with (which I may or may not talk about another time...I just try to be careful with what I say in a "public" place), and it's made me a little bummed out.

But, in the spirit of the week, I'm trying to look at the good things. Shaun and I will hopefully see some friends tomorrow or Thursday night before I leave - and squeeze some decorating in there too, so he can enjoy the tree while I'm gone. I have some friends in Chicago and am going to try to meet up with them in the evenings. And my parents and sister are spending Thanksgiving in Iowa, so last week they bought train tickets for the quick trip into Chicago and we'll get to spend some time together Friday and Saturday night. I'll see them at Christmas too, but this will be a much appreciated bonus visit and I'm looking forward to it.

And that paragraph pretty much sums up what I am especially thankful for this year - my husband, my family, and my friends. They're always there to listen to me vent (and I'm sure it's seemed like a lot lately) or make me smile, and that makes me happy*. Enjoy the holiday.

*On a slightly less serious note, pie also makes me happy. So if I'm feeling ambitious on Thanksgiving, I will try to take a picture and post the recipe for the quick and easy pie I'm making. Either way, I'll be back on December 3!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Quad Cities - The Fun Part

During the weekend between my consultation and surgery, I had a nice couple of days to spend with my mom and dad. My mom is currently working in Iowa, so I stayed at her condo there. My dad came down from Minnesota to meet up with us on Saturday and brought little Ruby.

She likes the fuzzy chair in the guest room.

Aww, look at that face! She was really sweet, sleeping in my bed most nights I was there and resting with me (and not bugging me) when I was sleeping after my surgery. I missed her after I left...if the condo complex Shaun and I lived in allowed dogs, I might be bugging him for one now instead of waiting until we get a house.

I did something on my trip that I hadn't done in a few years - carved a pumpkin! Here it is out on the deck on Halloween. I was a little rusty, and one of the teeth fell out when I cut too far in, but I think it still turned out kinda cute.

On Sunday morning we drove out to Le Claire and walked around the little downtown area. We stopped at some cute shops, including My Sister's Coffeehouse. The shop itself was fun, but I was intrigued by the rabbit outside. It was just hopping around loose in the yard, so it seemed like it could be wild - but it was so tame it hopped right up to us and let me pet it.

The rabbit's cute little living quarters.

We ventured back to Bettendorf to walk Ruby along the river. This is "Skipper", a statue who looks like he's skipping stones across the Mississippi. Ruby apparently barks at him every time she walks by (and didn't fail to do so this time either).

Our animal encounters continued... We saw this groundhog as we made our way down the path, and we expected it to run away as we got closer...but it didn't. In fact, it didn't move at all. It was pretty weird, and we didn't want to take the slim chance of being attacked by a rabid groundhog, so we turned around.

Ducks or geese? I wasn't sure. Either way, it was fun and nostalgic to see them. My grandparents lived in Bettendorf for many years, and lots of times when we visited, we would come down to the river with some remnants of bread loaves and feed the flocks.

Ruby plots her attack. (Not really...she was actually surprisingly calm, considering how much energy she has.)

The I-74 bridge over the mighty Mississippi. It was nice to be back in the Quad Cities. In addition to tons of visits there when I was a kid, I lived and worked there for two years just after graduating. So while I consider Minnesota my true home, Iowa isn't too far behind.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Where I've been...

I've been busy lately...last Monday, November 2nd, I got LASIK! I didn't broadcast it too much beforehand, because when I went to go ask for the time off, my boss gave me a hard time and told me I shouldn't do it, so I thought other people might say the same. I know that's incredibly silly, especially when most people I talked to had only had good things to say, whether they or someone they knew had the surgery. But that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Regardless of my brief hesitation, I decided that after 18 years of wearing either glasses or contacts, it was time to make a change. The ophthalmology practice I used to go to when I lived in the Quad Cities was offering special pricing and financing this fall, and the doctor that performs the surgery there was recently ranked one of the top five in the country. Even with the airfare to get there, it was a better deal than my current practice here, and they also offer a more advanced technology - blade-free LASIK. Everything just seemed to line up and I decided to go for it. I had to wear only my glasses for two weeks prior, as even soft contacts can change the shape of the cornea. I used to only wear glasses before bed so I hadn't bothered to get them updated in that was a little rough. I did plenty of squinting in that time. Me in my lovely glasses:

I flew in Thursday night and had a consultation the Friday before I was scheduled for surgery - the technicians put in several sets of drops and ran a bunch of tests involving staring into various machines and not blinking. I also did more sets of, "Which is better, one or two?" than I've ever done before. The dilating drops they used were very strong, so there had to be at least 48 hours between the appointment and the surgery. It was a nice look for Halloween:

I slept well all weekend and really didn't start to get nervous until a few hours before the surgery. Fortunately, they prescribed a Xanax for me to bring with me and take shortly before the procedure. When I got there, I again received many eye drops, including numbing drops, and I took the Xanax. Just a few minutes later they said I could go into the operating room, so I leave it up to you whether the pill had already kicked in or it was just my own bravery that got me through the surgery...ha. I did have a tiny moment of, "what am I doing?!" as I climbed onto the chair and looked at the machine, but the assistants in the OR struck up a conversation to relax me, and a technician gave me a little foam football to squeeze if I needed to. My parents were behind a window and they were also able to watch the surgery on closed-circuit TV - they probably had a tougher job than I did!

Heather provided a detailed account of her LASIK a couple years ago and her description helped me know what to expect from a patient's point of view. The flap creation was definitely the most painful part because they use suction to keep the eye in place, and even with the numbing drops it was strong enough to make me feel pain below the surface - not to mention I briefly lost vision. I was definitely squeezing the football at that point.

After that, one eye at a time, they taped my eyelashes back on the top and bottom, put in another device to keep me from blinking, folded the flap back, and used the laser to reshape the cornea. It was very weird being able to tell all that was happening yet not feel it. All I had to do was focus on one red light as the blue lights of the lasers flashed for around 40 seconds per eye. They smoothed out each flap when it was done, putting plenty of drops in my eye, and like that it was over.

Immediately after the surgery, I could see, but it was very cloudy and hard to tell how much improvement there was. My doctor briefly examined my eyes in another room and said everything looked good. He put goggles on me (sorry, didn't get a goggle picture!) and then put some sunglasses over those (another lovely missed photo opportunity) since it was a bright day. We were in and out in 35 was kind of unbelievable.

I went back with my parents and slept for a couple hours, as recommended. The drops wore off during that time, so anytime I woke up briefly, my eyes stung. When I got up to have dinner though, I felt pretty good - still cloudy, but no light sensitivity and no more pain. I started my regimen of antibiotic drops, anti-inflammatory drops, and artificial tears - the first two so strong they left an icky metallic taste in the back of my throat.

The next morning, before flying home, I had a follow-up appointment. I had worn the goggles through the night, which was a little difficult, but the doctor told me I didn't have to wear them every night for a week (as my instruction sheet said), because the chance of "flap dislodgement" is much lower after 24 hours - lovely, eh? I had a quick vision test and I was already somewhere between 20/25 and 20/20, and they said it would only get better.

For about five days, I felt like I had a permanent eyelash in my right eye, but fortunately that's gone away. I also came away with some "eye hickeys" from the suction:

But those are continuing to fade, just like a bruise. My only remaining side effect is seeing halos around lights, especially at night, but that is normal for awhile, and can likely be corrected if for some reason it doesn't go away. I'm going to swing through both the Quad Cities and Twin Cities over Christmas, so I'll be able to have another follow-up then and make sure I'm on track.

For now, as I keep telling people, I'm just training myself not to automatically squint when I roll over in the morning and look at my alarm clock! It's just unbelievable - I don't think I can comprehend yet that I'll never again wake up not being able to see, and never again have to mess with contacts when I'm traveling. It's pretty awesome. If you have questions or want any more details, let me know!