Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween is Not Evil

I love Jesus, and I love celebrating Halloween!!! I don't like it when people try to make Halloween all about evil. It's about having fun, dressing up, getting candy, and if you need to make it spiritual, it's about celebrating God's triumph & authority over evil through mockery. Here are two articles on the subject that I just love: a Southern Baptist Halloween Rant and a historical perspective on Halloween's Christian custom roots. Not saying that either of these is the Gospel, but I like their perspectives!

On a completely different Halloween note, since our household is obsessed with wildlife, this pumpkin video was a big hit! :-)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Yogurt Surprise

Last night, I wanted to make a side that wasn't another starch, but not just plain boring veggies & something that we would ALL actually *want* to eat. Enter a healthier twist on my beloved Southern broccoli salad! Now, I can eat broccoli salad all. day. long. Salty/sweet heaven!!! My mom has made it for family gatherings for as long as I can remember, and I've always wanted to make it myself...but - as with most things I love - I don't ever make them, b/c they're all horrible for you; and I never make them as yummy, b/c I always try to "healthify" them. (Applesauce for oil, low fat/fat free dairy, etc.) I can't help myself.

But this? This was a TRIUMPH!!! It's as good as ANY broccoli salad I've ever had, and you better believe we'll be eating a lot more of it around here:

Susie's Broccoli Salad

⅓ cup fat free mayo (I used Duke's Light)
¼ cup plain fat free yogurt (I used Mountain High Lowfat Plain)
3 tbsp sugar (I used Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Blue Agave; you could also use Splenda)
1 tbsp white vinegar (just a thought: I bet if you use sweet balsamic, you could cut the sugar even more, if you wanted)
salt & pepper to taste

1 bunch (or pre-chopped bag ;-)) broccoli florets
3 bacon slices, cooked & crumbled (I just happened to have 3 left over from making my FAVE Southern Living breakfast casserole for MOPS!)
⅓ cup chopped red onion (I hate raw onion, so I put onion powder in my dressing)
⅓ cup shredded cheddar cheese (I omitted, just b/c I didn't want it)
¼ cup golden raisins
½ cup frozen peas, thawed (we looove peas, so I did a full cup)
sunflower seeds - optional
cherry tomatoes - if you love them like Annelise & I do, add a portion freshly sliced as you eat

No more guilt over eating sugary mayonnaise with a little green! ;-) Now it's probiotic- & protein-packed yogurt with broccoli!

I used that yogurt, again, yesterday in another revolutionary substitution: replacing ALL the butter in Giant Breakfast Cookies!

ANOTHER divine triumph!!!

I had to see it to believe it - would yogurt *really* work in place of 100% of the two whole sticks of butter? It is BETTER than the original!!! The original is delish, but pretty crumbly; with the yogurt, the cookies are still super moist, but they hold together amazingly well. Here's the recipe with my tweaks:

1 cup butter, melted (Nope! 1 cup of plain yogurt!)
¾ cup honey (I used blue agave, again)
2 eggs
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
½ cup buttermilk
2 cups whole wheat flour (I just used all purpose; one day I'll get whole wheat...)
2 cups whole rolled oats
1 cup raisins or chocolate chips (I used chocolate chips & dried cherries!)
(I also added a big splash of almond extract (mmmm, cherry accent!) and 3 big tbsp. of Trader Joe's Golden Roasted Milled Flaxseed with Blueberries in with the flour for omega-3′s.)

Mix butter(yogurt), honey, eggs, salt, cinnamon, soda, vanilla, (almond extract,) and buttermilk. Stir in flour, (flax,) and oats. Fold in raisins or chocolate chips. Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Allow cookies to cool 3-4 minutes on cookie sheet before removing cookies to cool on a wire rack.

[This is what I do:] To soak the grain in these cookies before baking, in order to help them to digest better:

Melt and cool butter. (Don't need to do this, using yogurt!) In a glass bowl, stir together flour, (flax,) oats, butter(yogurt) and cultured buttermilk. Add a bit more buttermilk than the 1/2 cup the recipe calls for, if the grains are not all moistened. Cover and let the grains soak overnight. Stir in the remaining ingredients in the morning and bake as directed.

So eat up & enjoy! I'm going to have some broccoli salad with breakfast cookies for dessert. ;-)

Book Worms

Annelise & I stopped by the library today; they called to let me know the book I had placed on hold came in. (Um, already??? *shuffle feet* Guess I've got 2 weeks and 6 days left...) I'm really excited for this one, though, b/c the subject matter is sooooooo me:

Sarah's Key, a New York Times bestseller, is "a haunting, riveting novel about the 1942 roundup by French police of Parisian Jews, described by 10-year-old Sarah, juxtaposed with the story of an American journalist living in France assigned to do a story on the 60th anniversary." World War II is one of my biggest historical obsessions!!!

Annelise was a little disappointed, b/c the book she ordered from another branch hasn't arrived, yet. (She flipped out over Presenting . . . Tallulah when she saw it at her school book fair week before last!) So I told her we could look for something else for now. We found a treasure! Strega Nona was one of my most beloved books growing up, [to all of my Italy-loving friends: GET THIS!!!] and I didn't know there were any other Strega Nona books other than Brava, Strega Nona!: A Heartwarming Pop-Up Book which came out 2 years ago. (My mommy gave it to me for Christmas, and the kids fell in love!) Sissy & I both did a double-take when we saw Strega Nona's Harvest displayed on the shelf today. Hooray!!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

WHAT Grade?!

Will's 1st grade pic came home today. OH. MY. GOSH. *HOW* did he DOUBLE his age in front of the camera?!?!

I feel like middle school is staring me in the face...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halloween Clifford

Will's 1st grade homework this weekend was to "design & cut out what Clifford will be for Halloween." I can guarantee you that no one will have copied Will:
He came up with the whole herpetology thing all by himself! All I did was cut out Clifford, the snake bag handle, first aid cross, snake heads, and the hook tip (all the "round stuff"). Ms. Scott said it was a "family project" so I asked Will if I could help. He said, "Sure, Mom. You can be my assistant." ♥


This was Will & Annelise's last Saturday of flag football & cheer. Let's start with Will. His poor team did not win a game all season. Yeah, yeah - I know "winning isn't everything," but this just plain sucked. The boys were not bad; they were given bad plays by a coach that was *SUPER DUPER NICE*...but not quite ready for the head job. Again, I know this is *kids* football; but when every other coach in the league is so hard core, their kids have plays on their wrists & team spirit out the wazoo? "Super nice" alone doesn't really measure up. (Again, did I mention what a super nice, great guy our coach was? He is so nice!!! :-)) But finally, FINALLY yesterday [of course, the last day] our team got together, got some plays down for real, actually completed some pass plays - including one to Will that I got on video!!! :-D - and didn't get stuck with the one awful ref who lost two or three games for us himself with bad, conflicting calls. Will was a tackling machine, with 10+ tackles; he caused two 3-and-out series himself on defense! It was a defensive battle: 0-0 with just a few minutes to go...and our team scored & got our extra point!!! We thought we had it in the bag, until the other team scored on the 2nd to last play. Nooooooooo!

So it came down to last play. If we held them, we won. Will lined up on defense, the ball was snapped...and after the hand off, Will got this kid in his sights. He was NOT going to let this kid score!!! Will took him out, legally launching himself at that kid's flag. Will saved the game and gave our team THE WIN!!!!! You would have thought we'd won the Superbowl, the way we all cheered!!! :-D Will said to me the day before, "If we win the last game, we will win the whole championship!" :-P I was proud that he didn't think they didn't have a chance, and they truly felt like they ended the season as champions. :-) One dad (probably rightfully) said, "They're only going to remember the last game, anyway." :-)
The final icing on the cake? Will got a trophy. The boy is OBSESSED with trophies. This was better than a cash prize. :-P

Annelise then cheered her last game - nowhere near the drama, but lots of fun; and I have to say, I'm really proud of my coaching the squad. :-) It may not seem like a big deal, but it was to Sis & it was to me. :-)

SO PROUD of us!

Top off our sportacular weekend with a soccer win today:

And a Redskins win this afternoon!!! It's a weekend of VICTORY, and I make no apologies that  it. feels. good!!!

Dancing Girl & Damask Pumpkin

Wednesday was Annelise's last dance/gymnastics day of this session. That means nothing really, b/c everyone in her class is in for the whole year, (not just "trying it out" for 8 weeks); but we parents did get to come in for the last ten minutes to watch what they've learned. Oh my heart...
As a dance teacher myself, I feel like I'm generally hypercritical of Annelise's classes, but this teacher is WONDERFUL!!! She has such solid technique and truly makes it fun & engaging. They've really picked up a lot quickly! (Teaching dance sidebar: I'm on the sub list at this studio. They'd use me, if I could teach evenings, but we can't rely on JB to make it home two nights a week every week; but that's OK. I'm content in that respect. :-)) 

Sis & her BFF have gymnastics for 45 minutes after dance, and Annelise ate it up that she got a ribbon ceremony on the podium at the end!

After class(es), my BFF & I go out to lunch with the girls - my favorite part of the day during the week! - and you'll never guess what I found for sale, esp. in light of my last post:
Best. Décor. Ever.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Damask Dreams

I am completely captivated by damask. If I could splash it everywhere, I would!

I got this catalogue in the mail, and the cover just made me want to burst! I would *love* to ask for this damask stationary set for Christmas, but I really don't want it right now, b/c I don't want the address stamp until we're where we're going to stay for more than just a year or so. I'm not depressed about that; I'm hopeful, b/c I know it's going to happen...but it's just not right now, so no dreamy monogram & damask address stamp for me...yet. ;-)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pork Buns (Cha Siu Bao)

I have been utterly infatuated with these delectable, delicate little steamed buns filled with a sweet barbeque chicken mixture at Ginger, our fave local Asian restaurant. Everyone in our house laughs over Mommy's obsession with the "chicken buns". Well, imagine my shock when - as I approached the sample table today at Trader Joe's - I saw their sample was MY BUNS!!! :-D These are pork (even better!) and bigger than the bite-sized ones at Ginger - sooooo excited! I actually called JB at work right from the frozen aisle, so he could chuckle at my frenzy. :-P They're brand new, and they BETTER not get discontinued anytime soon!
I found a recipe for them online, (they're so good, they'd certainly be worth the work!) but as long as I'm within a day's drive of a Trader Joe's, I'll buy them. ;-)

Happy Haircut & Pumpkin Patches/Muffins/Chai

Even with all of the lugubrious news I've received, we still have happy stuff to share. :-) Friday after pizza dinner, Will *FINALLY* got a haircut! This may have been the longest his hair had gotten & the longest he'd gone w/o a haircut since he was a year and a half old! He had been BEGGING to get it cut (haircuts are a reward for him! he loves them!) for over a month, and for whatever reason, this was just the first time we actually got around to it.

Here he is Friday morning on his pumpkin patch field trip:

And post-cut Saturday afternoon getting our family pumpkins:

Yesterday after church, Grandma & Grandpa Blake took Annelise to a fun Halloween play while we went to Will's soccer game. Our team was in need of a little ego boost, and we surely got that yesterday, winning 9-0: So. Much. Fun. And Will scored the first two goals!

Will & I also made *the* famously easy pumpkin chocolate chip muffins (a half batch with 1 box mix, 1 15 oz. can, & 1 cup chips = made 36 mini muffins & 6 big ones) and Will was so proud. He mixed everything and felt like a chef. They truly are so delicious and not even "that bad" for you, with no eggs, no butter, no oil, and all that vitamin A from the pumpkin! They live up to the hype!!!

Finally, my new favorite drink in the whole wide world is a skim pumpkin spice chai latte. It's a normal skim chai latte with an extra pump of pumpkin spice that rocks it to a whole new level!!! It is AMAZING, the depth of flavor and major cinnamon/nutmeg/ginger/clove tingle it adds! Color me in love. :-)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Avett-Exacerbated Ache

After the lachrymose news I've gotten from friends & fam recently, and between being home two weeks ago, transporting myself South reading The Help last week, and even discovering the Southern section of the foreign food aisle last Friday, my already-delicate emotional balance has toppled me toward a flash of homesickness.

“So far from forgetting the blessed place, I think my picture of it grows clearer every year: it was as close to magic as I've ever been...” ~Novelist Thomas Wolfe re: Carolina (He was referring to UNC, but he'd agree re: NC as a whole, as well. :-))

The Avett Brothers are becoming a fairly well-know band nationally, and get this - they're from my hometown! They went to a different high school, but I'm in b/t Scott & Seth age-wise, and their older sister, Bonnie, not only took dance at my dance school, but she was the senior assistant in my classes a few years. :-) It's cool to be one degree of separation from national fame. :-P Of course, everyone at home goes (justifiably!) nuts over them, and my mom sent me this one of their songs with the message, "This will make you cry."

It did.

I am now a bawling mess...but in a beautiful, shared experience kind of way. Their emotions over weary touring echo mine re: moving everywhere so far but home.

Click here to listen and here for the complete lyrics.

The last stanza is what truly pressed my wistful button:

"Changing the plans that I’ve been setting on
I’m scared by the way that my life is getting gone
Carolina one day I’ll, someday I’ll come home
Carolina one day I’ll, someday I’ll come home"

Fragile Life

I've heard a lot of bad news the last two days. Thank You, Lord, that only one affects us directly; but my heart still breaks for everyone touched, and I'd like to ask for prayer for all of these. (Fair warning - this is a lot of heavy stuff.)

Someone close to us is being diagnosed this week with congestive heart failure. We feel confident that it will be managed successfully & for years...but it's still real, serious, and a big bummer. :'(

When I kept my journal for seven years on a private site, I became acquaintances with a girl named Heather. (We weren't BFFs, but we had many mutual friends, and after seven years of sharing our lives, you can't help but feel connected. Our conversations crossed daily.) Our old community just found out that she died on Thursday. She was sitting there typing, like I am right now, and she just fell over. Nonspecific heart failure. No heartbeat, not breathing. She leaves behind a husband and three young boys. My heart aches not only for her family, but for the pain I see my friends who were closer to her going through. Most hadn't seen her in person in ages, live nowhere near her, and are really going to struggle with finding closure. She was brassy, vibrant, & embodied the phrase "mama bear" with a vivacious love for her sons. It's a shocking reminder of how we are not promised tomorrow...

A friend of mine's sister was in a bad relationship. The guy was arrested a couple months ago for assaulting her, but through a horrible slating of cases, he was released on bail. My friend's sister was scared (with good reason) that he would try to see her. The upside is, that shouldn't happen now. The tragedy is why: he killed an off-duty cop by throwing a piece of concrete at his head during a petty argument in a parking lot last night. Jaw. On. The. Floor. The cop was celebrating his 38th birthday, which would have been today; he was married and also had three children. His wife, three kids, & whole police force are now in mourning, all b/c a judge didn't take my friend's sister's story of abuse seriously. Please pray for the cop's family and for my friend's sister as she works through the reality shock of what he could have been capable of with her. Major healing needed!

Another friend of mine & her husband were out walking and came upon another tragedy: one of her neighbors & good friends accidentally ran over her 18-month old child. I just got word that the little girl has passed... Please pray for remarkable comfort and the kind of healing that only God can bestow. God will be the only one who can help the mother deal with this accident. Please also pray for my friend who stumbled onto the scene mere seconds after it happened; she has a new baby son, herself, and I know it's not an image that's going to be easy for her get over, either.

I know all of this is a lot to take in. (Trust me, it's been a lot for me to take in & hear the last 24 hours with all the personal connections!) But I know that God will be able to bring healing, comfort, & justice in His timing, if we ask Him. Thanks for standing together with me in prayer!

Edited to add: I just opened my daily devotional email. Psalm 90:20. Wow.
Edited to add a day later: more prayer to ask for in the wake of tragedy - one of my BFFs at MOPS & church here's husband's sister committed suicide yesterday. Pray for their family, especially the 8 year old son she has left behind...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Southern Foreigner

Y'all will never believe this:

on the *FOREIGN* food aisle at the local megamart!!! My feeling like a foreigner up north has just been 100% validated!
For a split-second, I frowned with disapproval...but then I came to my senses and felt pleased as punch. ;-) If we had a flag pole on this house, I'd dig our Bonnie Blue flag out of the basement.

It was just hysterical. The "Southern" section is in b/t "Mexican" & "Asian" - they had a ton of Sylvia's Soul Food seasonings & canned goods (silly, b/c Sylvia's is in Harlem, *not* Dixie), lots of cajun spices, hot sauce, and hush puppy mixes. Oh, they had roux in a jar, too - ewww! I did look twice at a bottle of Louisiana-style remoulade, but then thought better of it. :-P

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Discuss "The Help"

I did it! I finished The Help!!! (I am a very slow reader, and I usually have a book sitting around for months/years before I crack it; but once I do, I don't linger. It's like the race has started, the clock is ticking, and I can't have peace until it's done.) Now I want to discuss it with whomever I can! I found these discussion questions, and even though they seem pretty surface & light topic-wise, I thought they might bring deeper jumping off points into focus:

1. Who was your favorite character? Why?
How can you not adore Aibileen? But honestly, I may have loved Johnny Foote the most - he loved Celia no matter what, he cared about how she was really doing, he went along with the charade not only w/o getting mad but happily to make her feel good & adequate, he showed Minny respect & gratitude, and his emotions were genuine.

2. What do you think motivated Hilly? On one hand she’s so unpleasant to Aibileen and her own help, as well as to Skeeter once she realizes she can’t control her. But she’s a wonderful mother. Do you think you can be a good mother but at the same time a deeply flawed person?
I think Hilly is a natural overachiever & leader; we've all heard of people who don't care who they step on or have to manipulate to get to the top, and "the top" for her was League president & Senator's wife. She's a natural control freak, but perhaps that plays into why she is such a good mother - she can, and in fact is supposed to at this age, completely control her kids, so good hands-on parenting comes very easily.

3. Like Hilly, Skeeter’s mother is a prime example of someone deeply flawed yet somewhat sympathetic. She seems to care for Skeeter – and she also seems to have very real feelings for Constantine. Yet the ultimatum she gives to Constantine is untenable. And most of her interaction with Skeeter is critical. Do you think Skeeter’s mother is a sympathetic or unsympathetic character? Why?
Like most things in life, both. Her love is genuine, but she is an immovable product of her upbringing. For example: if you've been taught all your life that eating pork is unclean & that is the "law" for your kind of people, even if other people eat it, you will never be able to deem it acceptable. The laws she grew up with for her kind dictated life to be this way, and as a natural rule monger, they were more important to keep the order of life than individual circumstances. For her, rules = comfort, safety, & peace of mind.

4. How much of a person’s character do you think is shaped by the times in which they live?
80% - I used to give nurture 99% over nature, but I've seen a couple examples in life that show certain people are going to be nothing like the rest of the people they grow up with, no matter what! But for the most part, I still believe what you experience growing up certainly molds & manipulates who you are.

5. Did it bother you that Skeeter is willing to overlook so many of Stuart’s faults so that she can get married, and it’s not until he literally gets up and walks away that the engagement falls apart?
Not one bit. It was real. Who doesn't want to make it work when they're in love??? That's life! This is kind of an extreme tangent, but why do you think so many people stay in abusive relationships? When you love someone, you want to do whatever you can to make it work.

6. Do you think Minny was justified in her distrust of white people?
Absolutely! In those times and under those circumstances? How could she NOT be??? Until Skeeter, no one had given her reason to think otherwise.

7. Do you think that had Aibileen stayed working for Miss Elizabeth, that Mae Mobley would have grown up to be racist like her mother? Do you think racism is inherent, or taught?
No, not with Aibee's influence esp. bolstered by the full force of the civil rights movement coming during her elementary years. She may have still had feelings of inequality, but certainly not to the degree of her mother by those years. A generation before? Yep - just like mama. I believe it is taught and esp. through first-hand observation. (Hello, South Pacific: "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught")

8. From the perspective of a 21st century reader, the hair shellac system that Skeeter undergoes seems ludicrous. Yet women still alter their looks in rather peculiar ways as the definition of “beauty” changes with the times. Looking back on your past, what’s the most ridiculous beauty regimen you ever underwent?
Ha! I've never been into extreme beauty stuff. I dyed my hair auburn red summer b/t 11th & 12th grade, but that was just to be rebellious. (Yeah, I was so extreme! :-P) The one way I felt not beautiful was my weight in high school, but dance/stress/weird eating worked that one out beginning of senior year.

9. The author manages to paint Aibileen with a quiet grace and an aura of wisdom about her. How do you think she does this?
Magically! I loved how she showed how educated Aibileen truly was; consciously or not, it gave her thoughts more credibility. Juxtaposing her with Minny also reiterated & magnified that she was more even-keeled, older, wiser, & more experienced.

10. Do you think there are still vestiges of racism in relationships where people of color work for people who are white? Have you heard stories of someone who put away their valuable jewelry before their nanny comes – so they trust this person to look after their child, but not their diamond rings?
Yep. 1000% yes.

11. What did you think about Minny’s pie for Miss Hilly? Would you have gone as far as Minny did for revenge?
Is it bad that I knew exactly what the Terrible Awful was the first time it was mentioned? Maybe I'm a lot more spiteful that I realize... ;-)

Please post YOUR thoughts & answers, too!!!

Quotes I loved:
Re: power of prayer - "Cause that's the way prayer do. It's like electricity, it keeps things going." Pg. 23
Re: relief from the summer heat - "...they standing under the sprinkles with they eyes closed like they being baptized." Pg. 389
Re: anxiousness in waiting - "Feel like we been waiting for some invisible pot a water to boil for the past seven months." Pg. 391
Re: being "repressed" - "If they feel something, they might not say a word. Just hold they breath and wait for it to pass, like gas." Pg. 391

Re: waiting for news -
"We linger on the line like the answer's gone change if we breathe into the phone long enough." Pg. 394

Yeah, I get the hype. I really was "that" good. :-)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Oh, Happy Day!

Last Night:

My MOPS group had dinner out. Bread, spumoni, laughs, old steering friends, & connecting more with a new one.

JB took the trash out, so I didn't have to!

We got ghosted! This is the 2nd neighborhood we've lived in that "ghosts", and I think it's really cute!


My husband made my heart sparkle with the best FB post on my wall! ♥♥♥♥♥

I was instantly productive, cleaning the stove, sink dishes, & sheets before I got sucked into anything else. WHEW!

I then made the choice to READ MY BOOK ;-) until it was time to pick up Annelise, instead of catching up on last night's Glee. (Those of you who really know me understand what a dramatic choice this was! BTW, I am watching it now while I type, and Breadsticks makes me think of our pizza place here with all-you-can-eat free soft breadsticks! Mmmmm...)

At dance/gymnastics, I relished uninterrupted girl talk with my BFF.

I had butternut squash soup for lunch & then a pumpkin spice chai latte (praise for a Starbucks giftcard!!!) = perfect autumn flavors tickled my taste buds!

I kept $3 set aside all week to go back to The Cupcake Station today and get their "Fall Into Pumpkin" cupcake that I've been dreaming about. The kids have gone to bed, and it is mine.

A box arrived on our porch containing my signature perfume. I am NOT a big scent changer - smell is a very intense memory-maker for me & I do not like switching it up. I've only ever had 3 signature scents - Curve by Liz Claiborne in college, Weekend by Burberry most of the last decade, and L L.A.M.B. by Gwen Stefani the past 3 years. I flipped out last month when I found out L was discontinued in April, but luckily I found it on Amazon, got the $70 bottle for $30, and had enough Amazon gift credit to get it "free". I'm excited to smell like "myself" again for a while. (I want it to be *my* choice to switch; not b/c I can't find it anymore.)

Another friend who shares my pumpkin adoration posted the easiest pumpkin chocolate chip muffin recipe I have ever seen in my life. SUPER excited to try it next week! THANK YOU!!!

Watching the Chilean miners each reach the surface is making me cry tears of joy for their families being reunited and for the proof for God's gargantuan miracles. ¡CHI, CHI, CHI, le, le, le! ¡Los mineros de Chile!


I had a lot of fun with a LaLa's Girls hair bow order recently. A friend of mine is a rep for Kelly's Kids clothes, and she wanted me to make ponytail streamers to go with the clothes in two of their fall collections.

For this "Crazy Daisies" line:

For this "Crazy Navy" line:

These are my favorite projects, b/c they are custom & 100% personalized. I would never be happy cranking out tons of just a few styles on a large scale. I like making certain ones specifically to go with this or that.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"Help" Me

I am being FINED!!! The 2nd time in YEARS I check something out at the library for *me* and I'm already fined...and I never got to read either of the 2 books. Grrrr... I thought checking them out would motivate me to get through them, but when I've got hours of TiVo waiting on me from vacay that I don't have time for, I surely won't be dropping everything & ignoring the world to read first. (I ♥ TV. I can half-watch TV while doing other things - cooking, picking up, kid wrangling, blogging, FBing, etc. I do not ♥ the act of reading; although I feel guilty like I should, so sometimes I get on a kick of trying. It truly stresses me out, though; I like the sense of accomplishment upon finishing & the knowledge gained, but it is NOT a fun process for me.) I don't read enough to be a checker-outer; I really should stick to 2nd hand buying, so they can sit on my table for a year before I touch them...

I feel bad just giving these 2 books back today (& paying for them!) w/o having cracked page 1; I really DO want to read them, but they are 2nd & 3rd on my list after The Help, which I put in a library request for back in August & just got last week. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay and The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen will just have to wait, b/c "everybody" is talking about & telling me to read The Help.
But now I need y'all to help me finish The Help. If I post here that I'm reallyreallyreally reading it right now, I'll be held accountable. I'm on page 108 of 451...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Devil's Art Project

I thought I was going to sit down tonight and write a short little praise post. I praise God today for it being 80°F, that Peter Schriemer (Will's local hero & wannabe BFF - he works with animals & makes nature shows like this - get it!) brought a snake (a little boa) to Sunday school for Will, that I got to wear a sundress today, that I actually got sun out at Will's warm, sunny soccer game, that Buffalo Wild Wings was delish, and that the REDSKINS WON!!!!

All I had to do was switch the laundry & get the kids to bed; then I could come post my praises. But my evening had another idea...

After 6 years of doing kids' laundry, it finally happened: crayons in the dryer! *insert horror movie shrieking* Blue, yellow, & green didn't wreak as much havoc as RED. Sigh. Thank goodness 1) JB was home & could get the kids down, 2) it was a load of darks (since I washed in cold, they didn't melt until the dryer), 3) the internet gives speedy solution ideas, and 4) JB could run pick up the one magic ingredient we didn't have on hand (borax) while I stayed with the kids and scrubbed the dryer drum.

Everyone online sang the praises of this miraculous concoction, so I'm currently giving it a whirl:
2 max caps of detergent
1 cup Oxiclean (we didn't have quite that much left, but I used it all)
1 cup borax
1 cup Shout
1 cup distilled white vinegar
I set it for hot water on the heavy duty cycle, let the washing machine run for a couple minutes to mix everything, and let the load soak for about 30 minutes. Now I'm letting the wash cycle finish...

OMG!!! And now the toilet just overflowed!!! BY ITSELF!!!!! JB posits that when the super-potent magical cleaning potion drained just now, it created some kind of gas build up in the line. (No clue, but the powder room is right beside the family room, and we jumped up, b/c we heard big glub glubbing!) But again, it could have been worse: the water spilling out was clean, and yes, JB was here! WHEW!!!

So, I stand firm in praise, refusing to let the devil's art project ruin this great day. :-P

Edited to add: IT WORKED!!! There is not a bit of crayon on ANY of those clothes!!! I can't believe it!!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Elementary News

Will took his first standardized tests this week. Some parents might feel weird about this as early as 1st grade (I remember taking the CAT test already in 1st grade, though) ...but *I* loooooove tests! And apparently, Will does, too! :-D We didn't even know they were going to be this week, (all the info was sent home last week while we were on vacay,) but Will came home Tuesday so excited: "Mom! I got to take a test on the computer! It was math, and *I* was AWESOME! It was so much fun! This is the thing at school I am the best at!!!" :-) I'm not sure when or if they'll send home any results, (yep - I'm a grade monger, too :-P) or if they just use the info to tailor individual teaching; but I'm really just excited that Will not only had zero test anxiety, but that he actually thought it was fun. :-)

I get to chaperone Will's class field trip next Friday to Three Cedars Farm, (HA!!! - there is no one up here who talks like that video guy in the link! Should us Southerners be offended...or flattered? ;-)) where we'll get to take a hayride out to the pumpkin patch, pick a small pumpkin, and have the requisite MI apple cider & doughnuts. (I wasn't kidding about the pervasiveness of cider & doughnuts around anything autumnal up here!)

Today was Will's turn to bring home his class' scrapbook. (Remember Will's "All About Me" scrapbook layout?) Everyone in his class did one, (Will's is particularly awesome! ;-)) and it is so interesting to "get to know" the people he spends the majority of his days with now, to get a glimpse of their families & their lives.

The saddest: we parents have received two letters home this week from the principal. A 3rd grade girl (they live in our neighborhood!) died this week from an inoperable brain tumor; her little brother is in 2nd grade. As if that weren't awful enough, the mother of another 3rd grader passed away yesterday from Lupus complications. I'm thankful that my kids have a very honest grasp on death & Heaven for their ages, and Will doesn't have any personal connections with either of these families, so we haven't made a big deal about these cases; but as a parent, how can receiving these notices not break your heart to bits and even make you think, "What if...?" Please pray for comfort for these families and for everyone touched by this grief.

September & Vacay Digiscrapped

I finally uploaded the 8 pages I digiscrapped from the beginning of September through Tweetsie last Friday. (You can click on each one, if you want to see it bigger.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fall Perfection

Growing up in NC, fall was my *favorite* season - pumpkins (I am obsessed), football (I am obsessed), Halloween costumes (dressing up for candy!), and a little relief from the summer heat. Living as an expat up north for the time being has stolen a lot of my former fall joy and regurgitated it as pure dread for the coming winter. I cling any to shred of warmth above 65°F and take all dips into the lower temps as a personal affront & the end of the world. I've tried to change this about myself, but I just cannot shake it. I hate dreading fall instead of reveling in it, but my idea of fall fun is NOT freezing my derrière off at a pumpkin patch in weather under 60°F. [I don't care what those of y'all who have been melting in over 90°F all summer think - you would NOT want this in exchange! TRUST ME. A few years ago this same week there were snow flurries. (You can imagine the freak out I spiraled into!) Can we agree that ideal fall highs should be above 60°F? I'm all about long-sleeved t-shirt weather.]

That said, today we were blessed with the most perfect fall day I could imagine - even up here! The sky was amazingly clear CAROLINA blue! (Yes, even up here - for me. ;-)) The morning was cold, but the sun warmed us, and thankfully there was no wind. It was Annelise's Montessori field trip to the local apple orchard. (I must say, I do LOVE how many apple orchards, u-pick pumpkin patches, & corn mazes there are up here. We have literally 10 within a several mile radius of our house!) Coming out the side entrance to our sub, we actually had to stop in the road for a doe to cross, which delighted Sis to pieces. :-) At the apple orchard, we took a tractor ride out to each pick an apple. The smell was A.MA.ZING. Not that I've never picked apples before, (yay, Carrigan Farms!) but I was just extra intoxicated by them today. So fresh!

Up here, having cider & spice cake doughnuts is a HUGE deal at apple orchards September-October. I mean, HUUUUGE! So we also had our requisite cider & doughnuts before checking out the petting zoo & leaving.

Field trip side bar: I overheard one of the moms speaking German, and my heart leapt! It took me brushing past her seven times to get up the courage to say anything, (I am PAINFULLY shy re: actually speaking German; I love hearing & understanding it, but I have no confidence whatsoever that I can make any of it come out of my mouth correctly, anymore.) I finally nervously sputtered, "Woher kommen Sie aus Deutschland?" (Where are you from in Germany?) and we actually chatted for about 5 minutes auf Deutsch with random bits of English thrown in where I couldn't remember words. Personal triumph!!!

After the beautiful morning orchard outing, we went to dance/gymnastics, and I had the best part of my whole week: hanging out w/ my BFF (whose daughter - Sissy's BFF - is also in the class) for an hour & a half of adult convo and then all four of us going out to lunch together - just the girls. It is honestly one of the most precious times of my week. Today at lunch, I got the most divine pumpkin bisque soup - pure autumnal heaven! It was just a faceful of fall, :-P pureed pumpkin, cream, cinnamon, caramelized onions, chicken stock...& I don't know what else. Mmmmmmm... After lunch, we walked around the cute downtown, relishing the perfect weather and window shopping. (I'm now obsessing over marshmallow stuffed, maple cream cheese icing topped pumpkin spice cupcakes, and I wish *I* ever needed a lunchbox, b/c I am in love with these KOKO lunch bags we found in a specialty shop!) We topped off our comfortable stroll with tea (chai latte = my fave, other than bubble tea ;-)) before we parted ways to meet our 1st Graders back at home.

It was a perfect day of bright sunshine, clear blue sky, WARM sun taking the chill out of the air, delicious fall-flavored foods, and fabulous friends. :-)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

BFF Tweetsie, Makoto's, & the Ghost Train

Since the kids & I just polished off our chocolate caramel apples from the Fudge Works, it's perfect timing for our Tweetsie recap from Friday. I've blogged twice before about Tweetsie & why it is so special to us. After having gone so many times, could there possibly be anything new to do?

OH, YES!!!

My best friend & her son rode up with us, so not only did we get a WHOLE DAY of extra girl time, but we also got to share one of our most treasured traditions with them. (BTW - I cannot believe in 20 years of being BFFs, we'd never gone to Tweetsie together! The mountains tons of times, but never Tweetsie!)

We've both been through a bunch of changes this last year, and this time together - away, relaxed, kid-pleasing - was a MAJOR blessing! I am so thankful we had this time together & with our kids. [Side note: even the ride up was super special - she had found a tape of a Christmas concert we sang together in high school, and amazingly enough, I remembered almost all of my parts! We've got to find someone to convert it to mp3s for us!]

We showed them all of our favorite things,

but we also found new ones. I can't ride the Tilt-A-Whirl w/o getting major motion sickness, but we discovered Will & Sis are tall enough to ride it alone, and now it is their new fave:

I've also never gotten to ride the Ferris wheel, b/c no one who usually comes with us wants to; but my BFF jumped right on with her under-2-year-old son, so I had no qualms:

[The other bonus of going with a BFF? Taking pics for each other, so we're actually *IN* our own family photos for once! :-P]

My BFF's mom & niece drove up to the mountains to meet us for dinner when the park closed after 5:30. We went to another super special place for my family: Makoto's - the first Japanese steakhouse I ever experienced when I was little! (Mmmmm, shrimp sauce...) They left for their cabin, and the kids & I went back to Tweetsie on our own when it reopened at 7:30 for our final BRAND NEW (to us) Tweetsie adventure: the Ghost Train Halloween Festival!

Since we got season passes this year, they each included one free admission to the Ghost Train festival, and we were NOT going to pass that up. We didn't know if the kids would be too young, (several things are advertised as best for ages 8 & up,) but our train engineer friend, Scott, was pretty sure they'd be fine; and since we got in "free", I figured it wouldn't matter if it was too scary & we had to leave after 10 minutes. They've been begging to go since last year...

...and it did NOT disappoint!!! We decided to bite the bullet and ride the train first thing - it was the first ghost train ride of the night and of the whole season, (Friday was opening night,) so it was packed & exciting! Truly, the ride was actually relaxing & beautiful at night! We stopped twice for "scary" stuff that really wasn't (thank goodness) and both kids kept saying over & over, "That wasn't scary!" We disembarked feeling like we had conquered all fear and explored the rest of the park's Halloween makeover. :-) There were 5 trick-or-treating stations set up, which of course were the kids' favorite, and we also rode the Ferris wheel, again, which was gorgeous at night! The sky was full of stars & so clear that you could clearly see the Milky Way.

We found our buddy, Engineer Scott, (with us by the engine 2nd pic from top) and boy, was his make-up amazing!

He was the reason the kids weren't the least bit scared: we know who these people are during the day, and they understood that all the players were just the same people we'd seen earlier. :-) We didn't leave until after 10 PM, (Sis finally fell asleep on the last train ride; even the guy trying to be scary when we stopped with a chainsaw & strobe lights didn't wake her! HA!) and we are so glad we got to go! Happy [early] Halloween!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Taste of the Beach

You know the comprehensive scrapbook pages will be forthcoming, but as our vacay ends, here's a taste of IOP last week:

What is dreamier than football on the beach with Daddy?

Best. Picture. EVER.

Our most accurate family photo