Tuesday, July 31, 2007

10 Countries I'd Like to Visit

Here's today's Ten on Tuesday: (in no particular order)

1. Greece - I've always wanted to go there, but after seeing Billy's pictures from his two trips there, I want to go even more! The history, the architecture, the unbelievable blue of the water, the food...

2. Italy - Since I have an Italian heritage, I'd love to visit Casale Monferrato where my ancestors lived. I'd also like to tour the ancient ruins in Rome, ride in a gondola in Venice, sample the foods of all the regions...

3. Scotland - I'd love to visit the castles there. The pictures I've seen in books look so green and calm and inviting.

4. Australia - Even though I don't know how to snorkel or scuba, I'd love to explore the Great Barrier Reef. The brilliant colors and endless varieties of the underwater life there are so exciting! Being surrounded by the accent of the people there would be fun, too.

5. New Zealand - The Lord of the Rings movies are some of my favorites. I think it would be exciting to get to see where some of the movie was filmed. And even though it's so close to Australia, the climate there is very different. Our pastor's wife is from New Zealand, and I just love to listen to her talk.

6. Egypt - It would be so neat to see the pyramids, the Sphinx, the Nile River. While I know things there are pretty modern, I just can't get the image of ancient Egypt out of my mind. I'd love to see how things really are.

7. Israel - I've heard so many people who have visited the Holy Land say that it changes the way they read the Bible, that it comes alive for them since they've actually seen where everything took place. (Billy said that touring parts of Greece has done the same for him.)

8. Kenya - A safari would be really exciting and educational. I wouldn't want to hunt the animals, just take lots of pictures.

9. Canada - The pictures I've seen of Niagara Falls are extraordinary. I can't imagine what it looks like - and sounds like - in person! It would be interesting to see how diverse Canada is, both in population and geography.

10. China - I would love to see the Himalayas and to walk along the Great Wall.

There are other places I'd like to visit for different reasons, but these are the ones that came to mind first.

Where would you like to visit? Where have you visited that you really liked?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Everything Comes to a Halt

Did you ever watch that short-lived sitcom It's Like, You Know...? I don't remember a lot about the show, except that Jennifer Grey starred as herself. It revolved around her neighbor(s) and their friends, and her attempts at putting her career back on track.

I watched the show a few times when it first came on, but it was pretty boring. Apparently everyone else agreed. The show ended after 19 episodes. (It began as a late-season entry and ended its run early the next season before all the taped episodes aired.)

Still, there was one episode I watched that I remember even today. It was titled The Getaway, and it was about how everything in L.A. shut down when a high-speed chase was being televised because everyone was glued to their televisions. I remember thinking how boring that must be, to sit and watch a high-speed chase on TV. I remember when O. J. Simpson led police on a slow-speed chase through L.A. I wasn't that enraptured by it.

But now I see it differently. Since we've lived in the Dallas area, I can think of two times recently where we sat and watched a police chase on TV. The first was last July when Dallas police followed an 18-wheeler in a slow-speed chase through South Dallas and beyond. We watched that for about 3 hours, unable to pull ourselves away for fear that we might miss something.

The second time was this afternoon. Local news stations broke into afternoon programming to air a high-speed chase through the Mesquite/Garland/North Dallas area that began around 2:00 p.m. We were transfixed as we watched the black SUV race along roads and highways we were familiar with. Then the driver took 635 East to 75 North up into McKinney. Then it turned around and headed south again. At one point, after the SUV had once again exited 75, police threw a spike strip out. Contact! The strip bounced along the road after the SUV drove over it. (Amazingly, none of the police cars drove over it.) The previously semi-conscientious driver, who had worn his seatbelt and occasionally used his turn signal throughout the chase, had removed his seatbelt. We were waiting for the jump. It was all over shortly before 3:30. The runaway driver got caught in traffic and 12 police vehicles of various styles and agencies boxed him in. They stood, guns drawn, and pulled the driver from the SUV, wrestling him to the ground. He fought hard as they worked to get him cuffed. Then he was sitting on the ground - hands behind his back, long-sleeve white shirt untucked from dark pants, grey hair mussed - while the police stood around conferring, looking at various clipboards.

Then local programming came back on. I guess I'll have to wait until the news tonight before I find out how the incident began. Apparently the driver had committed some felony, otherwise the police would have given up chase because of the heavily populated area of it.

Now I can get back to cleaning the kitchen, doing some laundry, and getting ready to cook supper.

Monday Memories: Monk

A year ago, I was raving about my first episode of Monk. Since then, I've watched almost every recent episode, all of season 1 (my new DVD collection), and several marathons. I'm definitely hooked! That's probably because I have so many of my own Monkish quirks. I must say, though - I get it honest!

If you've never taken the opportunity to watch Monk, I highly recommend you do so. You won't regret it!

What's Cooking?

Monday: Jerk Chicken with Pineapple Chutney, Salad, Yeast Rolls

Tuesday: Blackened Tilapia, Spicy Mac & Cheese, Steamed Brocolli

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: Grilled Chicken Marinated in Olive Oil and Rosemary, Roasted Italian Seasoned White and Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans

Friday: ??? (Caleb wants to go out and celebrate the end of his swimming lessons. He's done so well!)

Saturday: ??? (I'm wanting to make some specialty burgers, but I haven't decided what flavor I want to go with yet.)

Sunday: Omelets

What are you cooking?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Into the Deep

Friday was "Water Safety Day" at swimming lessons. The kids listened to water safety rules (as the do every day at the beginning of lessons) and were given their instructions for the day. They split into 2 groups and practiced "saving" the coaches.

The first exercise was saving someone who was near the pool's edge. When it was Caleb's turn, held out the pool noodle to a "drowning" coach, then pulled him in to the edge of the pool.

The second exercise was saving someone who was further out in the water. Caleb tossed out an empty milk jug, holding on to the rope attached to the handle and stepping on the end. After the coach grabbed on to the flotation device, Caleb pulled him in to safety.

Next all the kids put on life vests and sat near the deep end of the pool for more safety instruction. The coaches explained the importance of being fully strapped in to the vest. To show them what would happen if not strapped in correctly, one of the coaches jumped in with his life vest loosely fastened. He slipped right out of it when he hit the water. Then another coach demonstrated how to correctly wear the life vest. She jumped in to show the kids how it would keep her afloat.

Finally it was time for the kids to jump in. The were instructed to jump in the water, then swim to the ladder. Several of the younger kids were too scared to jump in and had to be lowered in. When it was Caleb's turn to go in, he had a look of terror on his face. One of the coaches assured him he would be fine, then lowered him into the water. When he came up, he was trying to catch his breath and wipe his face off. He wasn't sure how to swim to the ladder, so one of the coaches in the water pulled him across. After that, he was free to get his towel and wait until all the others had finished.

When he came out after the day's lesson, I asked him how it was. "I was scared," he told me. I said that I had watched him and that he had done really well.

Monday he'll be back at Station 2, getting used to front floating and back floating. I'm guessing now that he'll be to Station 3 by Wednesday. Thursday will be his last day.

I've been really impressed by this particular Garland pool's swim program and by the swim program coordinator. On the first day, when she addressed the parents, she went over the rules and explained why they were that way. She explained what would happen in different situations, from taking children to use the bathroom to discipline for breaking rules to what would happen in case of various emergencies. She's been very present during the lessons, walking around the pool and spending time at each coach's location, watching the progress and offering encouragement or advice. She's made sure the lessons ran the full time they were supposed to, that we weren't given less than what we paid for. She makes sure each child's parent or guardian is present before letting the child out of the swimming area, and if there was a problem during the lesson, she talks to that child's parent or guardian herself. She also has each coach keep careful records of each child's progress.

I've already decided that Caleb will go back there for lessons in the spring. I feel confident that he will be both taught well and taken care of. And I know that he'll be able to pick up where he left off.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Taking the Plunge

Caleb started taking swimming lessons this week. There are several kids in the "Stingray" group (ages 5-7), but they're divided into smaller groups of 3 or 4. Caleb has 2 boys and 1 girl in his group.

Monday was basically spent getting used to the water and putting his head under. To pass "Station 1", he was supposed to do 10 relaxed bobs. His bobs were definitely not relaxed. He would put his head under for a split second, then burst out of the water, trying in vain to wipe the water from his face with wet hands.

Tuesday was better. He went under more times, but still wasn't relaxed about it. Over the course of the 40-minute lesson, he got his 10 bobs in (unrelaxed). When he came to the gate after his lesson, he proudly exclaimed, "I passed Station 1!"

On Wednesday, they practiced a few more bobs, then their coach started working with them on floating. I watched Caleb wrap one arm around his coach's neck while trying to float on his back. (I remember doing that when I was learning to swim...) When lessons were over, he proudly showed me the card he had gotten: "You have graduated into Station 2!"

Today he was much more relaxed when floating on his back. I think he grabbed his coach's neck only once. The other times I saw, his arms were casually alongside his body. I caught a glimpse of him doing the front float, which doesn't last long since he hates putting his face in the water. In order to "graduate" to Station 3, he has to be able to front float and back float for 5 seconds each. He should have that mastered tomorrow or Monday.

Caleb said they're going to wear life jackets and jump into the deep end of the pool tomorrow. He seems excited about it right now, but I'm not sure that will last past putting the actual life jacket on. We got to his lessons early enough one day and were able to watch another group finishing up. He thought it was cool that some older kids were practicing diving into the deep end off the side of the pool. Maybe he'll remember how cool it was and not get too upset about it.

I've been taking pictures of his progress, but it's hard to get good shots through the chain link fence. The coach is usually on the same side of Caleb that I'm on, so I can't get a clear shot anyway. But I'm trying. I'll definitely get some pictures of him jumping into the deep end tomorrow. I'm sure Jacob will like watching that. (I think he'll be ready for swimming lessons in the spring. He's already been saying, "When I'm 5 and I take swimming lessons...")

Friday, July 20, 2007

Cooking with Rosemary

I love to cook with rosemary! I first tried it when I was given a rosemary plant at a ladies' retreat I attended over a year ago. I loved the way it smelled, but I had no idea what to use it on.

Not long after I got it, I made some delicious roasted rosemary potatoes. I was so excited that I had fresh herbs to cook with because that was something I had been wanting to do for a long time. Then I went away for 10 days. When I returned home, my rosemary was dead.

I never replaced it, but I did buy some rosemary seeds when Caleb was studying plants in science. We planted several things in small cups so we could watch them grow and record their progress in his science notebook: tomatoes, basil, mint, and parsley. (I got the rosemary seeds later and ended up forgetting about them.) Everything sprouted really quickly and started growing well, but we never got around to repotting them into something bigger, so they died.

I had some cuttings of different things that we planted also: aloe vera, jade, bromeliad, and an airplane plant. The jade and the airplane plant are doing well. The new growth on the aloe vera looks healthy, but the old growth looks yellow and sickly. (It still works wonders on burns and small cuts, though!) The bromeliad died. A week ago I finally took its soil-filled pot and planted my rosemary seeds. (I found one sprout when I checked it this morning!)

I didn't want to wait who-knows-how-long until my rosemary plant is big enough to use, so I bought some fresh rosemary sprigs at the grocery store the other day. Last night we had a wonderful meal: Grilled Rosemary Pork Chops, Roasted Sweet Potatoes (seasoned with a mix from Wal-Mart), pineapple chunks, and green salad. Jacob loved the pork "chocks" and kept wanting more; he spit out his sweet potatoes. Caleb loved the sweet potatoes and ate two servings; he ate the few bites of pork chop on his plate and said it was just okay. Billy and I loved all of it, and I decided I need to make sweet potatoes more often. I think next week or the week after, I'll make a mixture of roasted sweet and white potatoes, seasoned with salt and rosemary. I also want to marinate some chicken breasts with rosemary and grill them.

Now I need to branch out and try some other fresh herbs. Basil is next. That will be great in the Greek Pita Pizzas I make!

What Else Is Cooking?

I used to post my weekly menus on my blog, but after I while I got away from it. Since I'm such a foodie and love to share my food (ideas) as much as much as I love to eat it, I thought I'd try to start posting my menus again.

This week:
Monday: Spaghetti Warehouse (We had a surprise coupon to use and it expired Monday. We "won" a free appetizer so we chose the Sicilian Sampler. It had fried mozzarella sticks, Parmesan-crusted chicken strips, and fried ravioli. Caleb said it was as good as mine.)

Tuesday: Chili-Cheese Corn Dogs

Wednesday: leftovers from Spaghetti Warehouse

Thursday: Grilled Rosemary Pork Chops, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Pineapple Chunks, Green Salad

Friday: ??? (I had a show for tonight, but it got cancelled this morning because of the severity of my host's morning sickness.)

Saturday: Spinach Fruit Salad with Grilled Chicken and a specialty bread from Panera Bread (Jay, Allison, and Grant are coming for dinner and they're bringing dessert.)

Sunday: Tuscan Paninis, Fresh Fruit

Next week:
Monday: Homemade Pizzas with Fresh Mozzarella, Black Olives, and Portobello Mushrooms

Tuesday: Green Salad with Crab, Fresh Fruit

Wednesday: Crab Salad Sandwiches, Fresh Fruit

Thursday: Frito Pie, Green Salad (The boys have never had this delicious concoction, but I'm sure they'll love it since they like chili and cheese on their corn dogs and hot dogs!)

Friday: ??? (I have a show scheduled for that night.)

Saturday: ??? (Our small group from church is supposed to meet that night.)

Sunday: Chicken Enchiladas, Spanish Rice, Green Salad

Bon appetite!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Maybe it's gone.

Not long ago I blogged about a critter that was visiting each night and leaving a sparkly trail behind to show where it had been. We determined it wasn't a spider, but we still weren't sure what it could be. Whatever it was, it ambled in and out among some Hot Wheels and other small toys the boys had left out overnight.

I vacuumed. I sprayed heavily with bug spray. I went away for 10 days, and when I came home I only saw one trail instead of several days' worth. I thought it was gone because there were no new trails for a few more days.

My friend Amy suggested that it might be a snail, that she had similar experiences when she lived in Louisiana. Her idea sounded better to me than a lizard running loose. Plus, after examining the trail a little closer, it became clear that whatever it was had to be small. The trail was too crooked to have been a lizard's trail. It also never covered very much area, leading me to believe it must also be slow.

Amy recommended sprinkling salt near the outside doors to keep them from coming in, so after vacuuming really well again, I did. I only sprinkled just inside the door because I figured all the rain we'd been having would wash it away. I worried that the grains of salt would fall down in the carpet and not work well. I saw several grains resting on top of the carpet, so I was careful not to step there and force it down to the bottom.

I watched and waited. A few days later I saw one short trail - and nothing since. Maybe Amy was right, that it was indeed a snail. And maybe now it's gone.

Thanks, Amy!

Monday, July 16, 2007

I've been a busy little beader.

Billy bought me a pretty silver cross pendant with an amber stone in the center while he was in Greece. Saturday morning we went to my favorite bead store, Rock Barrell, so I could pick out some beads to make a necklace. I intended to get amber beads to match, but they were too large and overpowered the pendant. One of the clerks pulled some small amber beads from behind the counter for me to look at. They were the right size, but too expensive. I had been looking at some small carnelian beads and decided to go with those because of the range of colors in them. It would go with more than what a strictly amber necklace would have. I bought an extra strand of them so I could make a matching watch band.

I planned out my design and found a few larger accent beads to put with the Greek-looking silver bead caps I had bought. I had enough beads left over to make a 3-strand watch band and a choker. The choker is pretty and casual enough to wear with T-shirts; the necklace with the pendant is much dressier. I think I'll wear it to church Sunday with a dark orange shirt and black capris.

I'm feeling inspired!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

iGot an iPod!

Billy bought a new Mac laptop today, and he was able to get a free iPod with his educational discount. Since he already has one, and since iWill be going back to the gym in the fall, he let me choose the one iWanted. iPicked red!

Now iJust have to learn how to use it!

Roly Poly

Billy and I went to NorthPark Center last night. Since they've finished adding on, it's become a really great mall. It used to not be child-friendly at all - no children's stores (other than clothing stores, but boys don't like those!), no food court (only La Madeleine and other upscale eateries). The only thing of interest they had for children was the small indoor "pond" with a few ducks and turtles.

In fact, it wasn't too me-friendly, either. Most of the stores were upscale and unaffordable. The anchor department stores that I could afford were the same ones I could find closer to home, so I rarely went there. But now they've added other stores that the ordinary person can afford to shop in.

There's a great toy store there now called Puzzle Zoo. It's got a lot of the usual toy store stuff, but they also carry retro and unique items - and the prices are pretty comparable to other toy stores, too. It's going to be our new birthday and Christmas shopping place!

There's also a food court an International Food Plaza. There's the usual: Chick-Fil-A and Sonic. Then there are the really fun, unique options: Which Wich?; Snappy Salads; The Original Soup Man (the Soup Nazi!); Tin Star Taco Bar; Famous Famiglia; Panda Express; and Hibachi-San.

We couldn't pass up a chance to eat food from a Japanese grill, fast-food style. We haven't been anywhere like our beloved Shogun in Shreveport since we moved to Dallas. Our closest Japanese restaurant is just a sushi bar, and I don't like sushi. (Yes, I've tried it.) The food from Hibachi-San was delicious! (The chef, Pedro, did a great job!) Billy chose steak; I chose chicken and steak. It was served on a bed of fried rice, with stir-fried vegetables on the side. We also split an order of dumplings, which were pretty good. I ate way too much food, but it was so good I couldn't stop myself. I was truly miserable when I finally got up from the table.

For dessert, you also have many options: Great American Cookie Co.; Cold Stone Creamery; Auntie Anne's; Jamba Juice; CrepeMaker; and Peciugo Italian Gelato. I had paid particular attention to Paciugo as we walked by on our way to the food court International Food Plaza. We even turned around and went back to look over their extensive flavor offerings before we made it to the restaurant section. It looked so tempting, I was determined to try some after we ate - but the food from Hibachi-San was so good, I completely forgot! I was disappointed as we rounded the corner again and I realized that I was too full for even a sample bite of that creamy Italian treat. Billy chose his three flavors: Tiramisu, Amaretto (I think), and Cinnamon. He said they made a great combination. I don't know what three I would have chosen. There were so many! Hopefully we'll make it by there again soon so I can try some. Maybe I'll eat dessert first!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


I really enjoy watching Food Network. In fact, that has become my afternoon programming of choice. At 3:00, Paula Deen is on (Paula's Home Cooking); at 3:30, Giada di Laurentiis (Everyday Italian); at 4:00, Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa); at 4:30, Sandra Lee (Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee); at 5:00 and 5:30, back-to-back episodes of Rachel Ray (30-Minute Meals); etc.

I've actually made a few recipes from these shows, and they've turned out really good. First was Paula Deen's Corn Casserole, which I first tasted at Billy's mom's house. It's quick and easy and really tasty. I love that it uses ingredients you already have on hand. The other corn casserole recipe I use is also great, but it's a little more involved than this one.

The second thing I tried was Sandra Lee's Banana Pudding Bites. What an easy, quick, fun dessert! Billy's mom suggested using a little dab of peanut butter to stick the banana slices to the Nilla Wafers, and the taste was superb! We all loved it, especially Caleb. I think I'm going to have to start keeping Nilla Wafers and vanilla pudding on hand for whenever we have some bananas around. (We always have peanut butter!)

The third thing I made was Giada de Laurentiis' Fried Ravioli. I saw her make this a few weeks ago and was really wanting to try it. I've had fried bow tie pasta from an Italian restaurant my parents like to go to, but I thought the ravioli would be so much tastier, with the melted cheese inside. I had planned to make pizza one night this week and thought the fried ravioli would be a nice complement to it, but since we had pizza Saturday night, I switched to spaghetti and meatballs and garlic bread. The ravioli was a hit! I tasted the first one after I finished cooking them and topping them with freshly grated "Probesan" cheese (as Jacob calls it). Mmmmmmmmm! I immediately had Billy try one. He loved it, too. I put one on each of the boys' plates alongside their other food. Caleb quizzed me about it before trying it, but he loved it. He ate three of them, in addition to two servings of spaghetti and meatballs and one large piece of garlic bread. Jacob tried it, but he didn't like it. We ended up eating half of the two dozen I made, so we've got just enough for leftovers on Thursday night. To reheat the other twelve, I'll just put them on a stone and bake them. That should melt the cheese again and keep the outside crisp.

I decided I want to have a party before long and serve ethnic finger foods: fried ravioli and marina sauce, Tostito's Scoops with black bean and corn salsa (which I saw in the latest Family Fun magazine), mini egg rolls and crab rangoon...


Monday, July 2, 2007

Back in the Saddle

I've been lazy since my return home. Being tired from a trip and caring for a sick child, especially when they're a combo deal, always takes its toll, but I haven't done much toward getting back in the saddle, so to speak, since I got home last Sunday. Today is the big day, the day I get in gear and get some things done around the house. Job number 1? The laundry. And speaking of laundry, here's today's Monday Madness...

1. Do you do your own laundry or do you send it out?
I definitely do my own laundry. I wouldn't know where to send it out to, much less be able to afford it!

2. Do you laundry at your home or a laundromat?
I launder at home. Laundromats scare me.

3. Are there certain articles of clothing that you need to have dry-cleaned on a regular basis?
Billy occasionally has things dry-cleaned, but I never do. I won't buy anything that requires it.

4. How often do you do laundry? Is there a certain day of the week that you consider "laundry day?"
Nearly every day is laundry day. Mondays and Thursdays are whites (towels, underwear, etc.); sometimes I'll do an extra load of something if my baskets are full. Wednesdays and Fridays are for colored clothes and jeans. Saturdays are for whatever I didn't finish on Thursday or Friday. Tuesdays are errand days, and since nothing would get completed, I don't even start. Sundays are for resting.

Occasionally I get completely caught up with the laundry and only have to wash 3 loads during the week. I love those times, but something always happens to bring that to a short end.

I have some friends who do all their laundry one day each week. (And I'm talking about friends with 3 or more children!) I can't imagine that! I think I'd go insane if I tried to keep up with washing our stuff all in one day - and only one day each week. I guess I like to spread the misery around a bit.

5. Do you iron your clothes as you pull them out of the dryer or do you wait until just before you wear the clothing to iron?
What's an iron? I hate ironing more than I hate doing laundry. I try really hard not to buy clothes that need ironing, but if I do, I try to take them out of the dryer as quickly as possible and get them hung up. Sometimes it works. When it doesn't work, it doesn't get worn for a while.

The boys have some really cute shirts I bought at Wal-Mart for $3 each. I didn't check the fabric content before I bought them, and after I washed and dried them the first time, they looked like they'd been in a "wadding machine", as Mama would say. I keep wanting them to wear them to church, but Sunday morning is not the time to try to iron something!

6. Do you hang your clothes outside to dry or do you dry them in a dryer?
I dry mine in a dryer. I didn't think people actually hung clothes out to dry anymore, but did see someone doing it around here the other day. I was surprised, and my first thought was that I'd probably end up with bird droppings on my clean clothes if I did that.

7. Do you own things that need to be hand-washed or do you try to avoid buying things that you can't wash in the washing machine?
If I can't throw it in the washer, I usually don't buy it. I do have some things that recommend hand-washing, but I just throw them into a lingerie bag and wash on delicate/cold and hang them up (inside, away from flying creatures that drop things) to dry. I don't wear them very often, just so I don't have to go through all that.

Now that I've got my mind wrapped around laundry, I need to go sort it all out and get started. Today it's whites and probably a load of sheets or colored clothes. Or maybe all three. My hamper runneth over.