Monday, October 31, 2011

True Confessions

Somehow I tell a better story than I write. Maybe I am out of practice. Maybe it is the fact that when I verbally tell a story, I have a live audience. But I want to be able to transfer that skill to paper (or computer screen as the case may be). I thought I would give it a shot here. Try to write out the story of my day as I would verbally tell it. Maybe it will stretch me a little and get me back into the practice of writing.

My morning started like most mornings. Up by 6:00--check e-mail, fold a little laundry. Presumably I would get to exercising by 7:30. Nope. I do not like to exercise. I do not like it here or there, I do not like it anywhere. Even though I make myself actually do it 4 to 5 times each week, I do not usually enjoy it. I may enjoy parts of it, but never the full session. It is just one of those things that has to be done.

So I did not get around to exercising until 9:30--procrastination, baby! DD and DS#1 were awake by this time. They got their breakfast and got to work on the assigned school work. DS#2, still in bed. Not a bad thing for the rest of us. The house was quiet. We were all doing our thing. All of that changed at 9:45. DS#2 woke up. Within 5 minutes he was asking me for the keys to our vehicle. Why? Evidently he had left some of those teeny, tiny DS games in the truck. You know the ones. The things that are approximately 1" by 1.5" and cost upwards of $35.00+. Who came up with that design?!!! Someone who does not have children, that's who! Silly little things. Back to the dilemma at hand. I informed DS#2 that we had taken the vehicle to be washed and vacuumed the day before and that any of those little, teeny, tiny games that had been there before probably were not there now. So off he went to look. He didn't come back in the house and he didn't come back in the house. DD and DS#1 went out to look with him. They returned with empty hands. By this time I am lying on the floor trying to do my prescribed exercises and remain very calm at the same time. I did not succeed. I marched into DS#2's room with trash bags in hand and started filling them with everything I could. Visions of zero Christmas presents flashed through my head. And I mean zilch. Lucky for the son, I calmed down and I found the games during my pitching spree.

The good side to this story is that DS#2's room has needed serious cleaning for quite a bit of time. That was taken care of. Probably he will get Christmas presents. Although, his DS is now residing in my room and may be there for quite some time to come.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

News "Headlines" That Actually Made Me Smile

I typically tend to avoid the news--in print, on the radio, on television, on the internet. But occasionally I do scan the headlines and I found two clips that made me smile and brought tears to my eyes. I am SO tired of all the bad "news" out there. We have enough bad that happens I long for reports of the good and happy. These two clips fit the bill:

Elmo's Voice and Girl Calls 911

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Books I Enjoy - I'm WAAAAY Behind

I did not set out to be behind. I really did want to keep up on this quest, but life got in the way. And, really, for me, life was the point of doing the 31 Dayers project. My life, more specifically. So, I am going to throw in a random post about a book I enjoy.

Here's the thing with this particular book--I haven't actually finished it yet. I have a strange relationship with this book, and I will explain.

Last month, I had the opportunity to go to a Women of Faith event. It was my first trip to Women of Faith, and although I enjoyed it, it was a little out of my comfort zone. You see, I grew up in a church that did not really embrace such gatherings. The ins and outs of that life experience are topics for other posts. However, I did glean some wonderful bits and pieces from the event.

One of the speakers was Andy Andrews. Now I have to admit that his presence caused a little bit of distress for me. You see, one of the main reasons I decided to go to WoF was because Tim Hawkins was supposed to be there. So, on Friday morning, the hostess of the event got up on stage and launched into an introduction. What I caught was, "We do not allow many men to come to Women of Faith . . . this man is really funny and entertaining." To be perfectly honest, I missed a lot of what she was saying because I was sure it was Mr. Hawkins. Imagine my immense disappointment when it was NOT Mr. Hawkins. So I had a little bit of a let down to surmount. To the stage came Mr. Andrews. I had no prior knowledge of this particular person, I only knew he WASN'T Tim Hawkins. I tried to settle in and listen to him, truly I did. But he was all. over. the. place. In his speaking and physically. He moved around the stage constantly. He was up and down the stairs meandering around the audience who were seated on the floor. He would start up the stairs, then turn around and run back down the stairs. And his speech--he seemed to jump from one topic to the next, and he just wasn't double yourself over and laugh funny like the aforementioned Mr. Hawkins. To compound the problem, my friend, who was sitting next to me, really wasn't enjoying Mr. Andrews and that constantly reminded me that I wasn't enjoying Mr. Andrews.

I decided that during his talk would be a good time to take a bathroom break--before the crowds of ladies converged on the concourse. Mr. Andrews completed his session and there was a break. When we all returned to our seats, there was a question and answer session with Mr. Andrews and Patsy Clairmont (LOVE her!). Bless his heart, but he was still all over the place--verbally only this time as he was seated. He would start a line of thought then jump to something else, then jump again. My friend was still not happy and I was just confused. Then it dawned on me. He behaved in a manner consistent with ADD. Ahhhh! THAT I could work with. My little boy behaves in a manner consistent with ADD. And my friend has had that experience with her son. Once I pointed out this fact, we both were able to settle down. Mr. Andrews was making points that connected, it was just necessary to flush out the connection. He is such a passionate person and just has so much information he is excited to share.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with a book. I will tell you. Imagine my surprise when I found that the only book I really wanted to read from one of the WoF speakers was written by a speaker at the conference whom I did not really enjoy listening to. Yup, I am currently reading one of Mr. Andrew's books. And in hindsight, I realize that I did enjoy what he was saying, I just had to change my frame of mind. The book is The Traveler's Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success.

I am not really going to talk a lot about the book, because I think it is something each reader should experience without any prior knowledge--that is what made it interesting to me.

As far as Mr. Andrews goes, he has my respect and admiration. He really is quite the storyteller and does have wonderful, wonderful points to make. Sometimes it is good for us to have to dig through and find that nugget of information that we really need in our lives, he gave me that opportunity.

By the way, I have reserved 3 more of his books, and I am going to have to order The Butterfly Effect. Unfortunately my library does not own a copy.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Books I Enjoy - Days 6-10 Junie B. Jones series

O.K., so no more catch up. I am using the Junie B. Jones books to get caught up to the current day because the series has 27+ books. I am not going to misuse that number, but I really hate being behind and since I am a perfectionist frustrated perfectionist this is bothering the stew out of me. From here on out, I intend to post daily as planned.

Down to business . . .

I know that Junie B. has created a lot of controversy. She is mouthy, uses bad grammar and tends towards having a bad attitude. Not qualities we wish to see in our children. However, the entertainment factor is almost off my chart. My kids and I listened to Junie B. in the car. (A practice I HIGHLY recommend. Not necessarily with Junie B., but you can get some great, and some just-for-fun, literature in this way. And it keeps the drive-time bickering to a minimum.) We laughed so hard and have picked up many "Junieisims". My personal favorite is "I am a hoot I tell you!" I would like to put that saying on a shirt, but I am afraid too many people just wouldn't get it.

Ms. Parks did a marvelous job writing this series from the perspective of a child. If you can get past the bad grammar and the mouthiness, it really is worth using this book to look at the world through a child's eyes. We as adults tend to just drag our children along with us on the crazy roller coaster ride we call life. They really are good sports about it, but bless their hearts, it must be so confusing.

I will submit that these books were probably a lot more enjoyable because we listened to the audio versions. I would not have had the patience to just sit down and read them for myself. The audio version was read by Lana Quintal and she did a wonderful job creating the character of Junie.

My personal opinion about the grammar issues--if you are teaching your children proper grammar, they will be able to spot the incorrect grammar used by Junie. It is part and parcel of the character. The children know when she is misbehaving. It is my belief that they are not going to learn bad habits from Junie any more than they are going to learn to fly from Harry or command water at will from Percy.

Hmmm, I think it may be time to invite Junie in from her shelf at the library again--speedy quick, and I mean it!!!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Books I Enjoy - Day 5 Plain Wisdom

I have always held an interest in the Amish. I can't explain why. I have no desire to live without electricity or under the legalistic guidelines by which they order their lives, yet, they still interest me. I have learned a lot in recent years about the Amish by reading novels written about them, but something was missing.

I figured out what was missing when I read Plain Wisdom. What was missing was the story from the side of someone who has actually lived the life--and was happy to do so. Not from someone who was raised in this lifestyle then made the decision to live in the "English" world. Not from the mind of an English author writing a fictitious story based in that community. Miriam Flaud provided this voice. Along with Cindy Woodsmall, she has written calm, peaceful wisdom and laughter and gentle correction that is delivered to the reader in the form of a book. Amish mothers are much like English mothers. Common ground has been found and a friendship formed between the two authors. The bridge between the simple life and the life that most Americans live is not that long. Sprinkled among the tidbits of truth are wonderful recipes--none of which I have had the opportunity to try, but I know a good recipe when I hear one and I would love to dive into a few of those tummy pleasers.

The book is not written totally from Miriam's viewpoint. Cindy includes lessons she has learned during her life. It is clear she and Miriam are friends and the difference in lifestyle is not a deterrent to that friendship.

If you are looking for a calming book that will speak to your soul, I would recommend Plain Wisdom. While you probably won't want to give up your computer, Ipod or cell phone, I think you will appreciate the simplicity of life and the peacefulness it brings.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

30 Gifts to 30 Strangers in Sydney

I think this is so cool!!!

I do not agree with the idea that man's first responsibility is to be happy, but I love this idea of giving out gifts to total strangers. What a great birthday for that guy.

Veggie Pasta Sauce

Have I mentioned how much I love throwing ingredients together to create something delicious? Yeah, probably I have.

Here is another creation:

Veggie Pasta Sauce

2 cans (15 oz) tomato sauce
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 white onion, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
dried oregano to taste
water as needed

Throw everything into the Vitamix and blend away. Add water until desired consistency is reached. I let mine blend for several minutes to heat it up. Toss with pasta of choice (three cheese tortellini, in our case).

The kid's tummies are full and momma is happy because of the hidden WHOLE veggies.

Books I Enjoy - Days 3&4 - Marta's Legacy

Today I play catch-up.

In my ever-to-be-humble opinion, Francine Rivers is a master storyteller. Her Mother's Dream captivated me and left me wanting more. This story follows Marta from her teenage years in Switzerland where her father was harsh and unloving toward her. She left her family to do the job her father thought best for her and started on a journey that shaped her life.

She eventually marries and comes to America. She has 3 children, including a daughter she loves so much but is so worried about that she doesn't effectively convey the love that Hildie needs to thrive. The cycle that was started with Marta and her father now finds its way to Hildie. Hilde believes her mother does not love her because of how she is held at such an emotional arm's length away from her mother.

Hilde grows up, marries, and has a family of her own, and the cycle starts to repeat itself with her daughter Carolyn. In Her Daughter's Dream Carolyn's grandmother, Marta, comes back into the picture and wants desperately to undo all the wrong she did for so many years with Hildie, but it just causes more resentment to build and drives more of a wedge between Hildie and Carolyn.

Carolyn grows up feeling just as lost and lonely and unloved as did her own mother. When she has a daughter, May Flower Dawn, once again the cycle of hurt and misunderstandings is begun.

It is not until May Flower Dawn becomes a mother that the horrible cycle starts to be broken and decades of hurt begin to heal.

These books kept me up past my bedtime for several nights. I learned so much from them. I feel blessed to be given the chance to read fiction and learn so much. Mrs. Rivers is a Christian author and weaves Biblical truths throughout her stories. These books encouraged me to speak out in my own family--to do so with love, but to let my loved ones know my thoughts and feelings so they do not get stuffed way down inside and cause me to imagine problems where there are none. It is so important to keep lines of communication open--especially within families. There are so many hurt, broken families that could have been spared so much pain if they had just communicated.

I highly recommend these books as they will be entertaining, but at the same time encourage you to form stronger bonds within your own family.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Books I Enjoy - Day 2 "Farmer Boy"

Yes, I know, this is a children's book; however, I think this is one of the books that has had the most impact on me. (Not including the Bible, but I hardly think the Bible can be categorized here.)

If you homeschool, you have probably heard of "living books". Living books are wonderful. They engage the reader in a story yet impart so much knowledge. Farmer Boy did that for me. There have been countless times I have remembered some tidbit from the book and have used that information in my daily life. Even now, as an adult. The Wilder family worked hard, yet enjoyed life.

If you know anything about Laura Ingalls Wilder, you know that Farmer Boy is just one book in her Little House on the Prairie series. All of those books are living books and they all have had a huge impact on me. I grew up without television, so the television show Little House on the Prairie was not a big part of my life; I got my information from the books. While I read and re-read and re-re-read all of those books, Farmer Boy remains my favorite. When I introduced my children to the series, this was the book we started with.

If you have read this book before, read it again. If you have never read it, please do so. Please, please introduce it to your children. Work was hard, but times were simpler, and we can all use a little simplicity in our lives, can't we?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

When life gives you bland bread make . . . fritatta

Did you know that yeast breads need salt? It's true. Salt in your yeast breads help keep the yeast from going crazy. See, yeast thinks itself to be big and bad and wants to make your bread rise and rise and rise. However, the flour can only take so much of yeast's big bad self. Salt to the rescue. Salt keeps the yeast from just going nuts by making him slow down and give a nice steady rise to the bread. What happens when salt gets left out of the party? Mr. Yeast goes nuts! He makes the bread rise like crazy then Mr. Flour says, "Enough is enough!" and pulls him back. The result is a terrible, terrible looking loaf of bread.

So, guess who forgot the salt in the yeast bread today? Yup. That would be me. I made wonderful dough and rolled it out. I sprinkled one loaf with cinnamon sugar and the other with mozzarella and garlic powder. All of our mouths were watering. But something was terribly wrong. When I went to put the loaves in the oven to bake they looked really weird--like they didn't rise all that well. Once they were out of the oven and I sliced into them, I quickly discovered the reason--NO SALT!!!

O.K., so it wasn't the bread's fault. It deserved to be eaten. So what's a airhead baker to do? Change dinner plans.

On the menu was a fritatta. The base was supposed to be diced potatoes, but I am nothing if not versatile. I changed out the potatoes with bread cubes.

Grilled Zucchini and Ham Fritatta

Layer in a 9"x13" pan:
*Bread cubes--Enough to cover the bottom of the pan. This took just about my whole homemade loaf.
*Grilled zucchini--I diced up 5 zucchini, drizzled them with olive oil and salt and threw them in my grill pan on the grill. Can I just say, "YUM, YUM, YUM!!!!"
*Diced ham--Amount to your liking
*1 dozen eggs--I made these like our family makes scrambled eggs. We use water, garlic powder, salt and pepper. This time I threw in dried basil because that is my herb of choice and dried oregano because that is my budding chef boy's herb of choice.

Pour eggs over bread, zucchini and ham. Pop into a 350ยบ oven for 35 minutes or until eggs are set.

Books I Enjoy - Day 1

The first book I want to talk about is The Help. I first learned about this book when watching a movie. The previews included the trailer to the movie based on this book. My ears perked up when the announcer said that the movie was based on a book. I came directly home and reserved the audio book at my local library.

You have to know that a book is good when you are inventing housework to do at midnight just so you have an excuse to keep listening. That is exactly what I did.

The whole slavery issue has always hit a sour cord with me. Not that it doesn't with most people, but I am just in such awe (in a bad way) that people actually thought it was o.k. to "own" people. The setting for this book happens many, many years after slavery was abolished, but the attitudes people had towards African Americans is just unbelievable.

The characters in this book who portrayed maids had such wonderful, sweet, strong spirits. They accepted their "station" in life, but had to do so against such strong feelings of wrongdoing. And they were totally justified in feeling that way. These ladies loved and cared for the families they worked for, then they went home and loved and cared for their own families. All they while, they lived in a community where the majority felt they were little more than lower than dirt.

The white character who wrote their story was so brave in that she wasn't afraid to voice the words that many were feeling but dared not speak aloud. She wasn't the one suffering and I don't consider her to be the heroine of the book, but she was the gateway for those women who suffered so much.

This book is guaranteed to make you laugh. It is highly capable of bringing you to tears. And definitely will make you look at the world through different eyes.

Be kind -
Consider your fellow man.

Be smart -
Stand up for what you believe in.

Be important -
God made you that way--you are the only you there is. He does have a purpose for you.

31 Dayers

Day 18 (yes, I am behind) The Traveler's Gift
Days 6 through 10 Junie B. Jones series
Day 5 - Plain Wisdom
Days 3 & 4 - Marta's Legacy
Day 2 - Farmer Boy
Day 1 - The Help

I am so excited! When I saw the 31 Dayer challenge, I really wanted to participate, but couldn't think of what to blog about. Last night as I was drifting off to sleep, I thought of blogging about books that I have really enjoyed. I am a couple of days behind, but I think that is o.k. Maybe I will play catch up.

As much as I want to get started now, I have to wait because my duties as homeschooling momma have to take precedence. So, I will concentrate on those books for a little while, then come back to this.

I can't wait!!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tortellini Primavera

A Desire to be Heard

Do you use your blog to store stuff you want to remember? I do, and this is one of those posts.

I love it when lunch comes together with bits and pieces.

Bits & Pieces Tortellini Primavera

Trader Joe's dried 3 cheese tortellini (I used the amount for four servings)
Sliced carrots
Chopped zucchini
Leftover broccoli
Or whatever vegetables you have on hand
Leftover cooked chicken breast
Alfredo sauce (I used a mix from Azure Standard and had to substitute olive oil for the butter)

Cook tortellini in boiling salted water for 6 minutes. Add uncooked vegetables (carrots and zucchini in our case) and cook until pasta and vegetables are tender. Drain. If using a mix to make Alfredo, make that in the same pan you cooked your tortellini in. Add in your pasta, vegetables and chicken. Cook through.

Enjoy happy, warm, full tummies!