Friday, December 31, 2010

Year in Review: 2010

*We held our annual New Year's Day party with friends. (Thankfully no one was sick, so we didn't have to cancel like in 2009!)

*I got the boys started with their own blogs. Unfortunately I didn't follow through with encouraging them to use it. They blogged a few times each.

*I resigned my position as a Pampered Chef consultant. Very freeing!

*Memaw passed away from Alzheimer's complications a few days after her 83rd birthday.

*Jacob celebrated his 7th birthday on the 6th. Billy celebrated his birthday on the 16th.

*Caleb participated in the Kaufman County Spelling Bee.

*We got about 7 or 8 (or more?) inches of snow. It was nice the first day. The second and third days, not so much.

*Caleb celebrated his 10th birthday on the 13th.

*The boys took turns passing some fever virus back and forth, postponing their spring break twice.

*I did several things while the boys were gone for spring break (finally): got my teeth cleaned, got my hair cut, colored it, planted shrubs in the flower bed, went to Dallas Blooms for the first time, ate at Ali Baba (Mediterranean buffet), and discovered the Mediterranean Wrap at Jason's Deli, among other things.

*I blogged my 300th post with this site.

*Billy got a new Mini Cooper. We traded in my van, so now I'm driving the Rendezvous. It felt big at first, but I quickly got used to it. I don't miss the van at all.

*Jacob had a bike wreck that left me feeling woozy. It turned out to be minor scrapes. Adrenaline rushes are not my friend.

*We took a field trip to Grapevine, TX, to see glassblowers and a metalsmith. We got lucky and were able to visit a bronze sculptor, too!

*We took a road trip to Louisiana for Mother's Day (and so Billy could break in his new car). We visited Yvonne and the boys at their farm/ranch and played with the miniature horses.

*The boys spent a few days with Billy's parents. We met at Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, TX, so I could bring them back home.

*Since we got a later start beginning school, we finished up a week or so into June.

*The boys took a quick trip to visit my parents.

*The boys spent a week with Billy's parents.

*Mama and I took a wire-wrapping course in Tyler, TX, from a master artist from Hot Springs, AR. Fun! It opened up new doors of jewelry-making for me and left me with a desire to learn more about the process.

*We were too busy for me to blog in July!

*We met some other moms and kids from the neighborhood at the pool!

*The boys took swimming lessons from Kathy Self again this year. She does wonders with them!

*Mama came for a visit so we could practice more of our wire-wrapping.

*We had a week of cowboy-themed VBS. I was in charge of games this year instead of just helping with them. It worked out well, but I was exhausted every day. Thankfullyl the boys' swimming lessons were still going on, so I was able to get in the pool and cool off.

*Caleb went to pre-teen camp - and LOVED it! Jacob was beside himself the whole week because his brother and best friend was gone, but we did some special things with him so he didn't feel so left out.

*The boys spent another week with Billy's parents.

*We started back to school - on time - and got into a really good routine.

*We spent lots of time at the pool.

*We went to the Smoky Mountains for a later summer vacation. We visited Chattanooga and Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg for a week. Our days were jam-packed and we were exhausted when we got back home. The boys said it was their best vacation ever. Their favorite thing was riding the rides (especially the bumper cars!) at Dollywood.

*We began a two-month period of hosting our home team and leading it in a discussion of various themes in The Lord of the Rings. We had some great discussions and some fun LOTR-themed snacks!

*We went back to the Fort Worth Zoo for their annual Home School Day.

*We took a field trip to Cici's Pizza. Fun and tasty!

*We finished our two months of hosting/leading the home team.

*We also hosted the missionary dinner, part of our church's annual International Missions Conference. The Spaughs (Guatemala, with CAM) were our missionaries for the evening.

*I celebrated my 41st birthday on the 11th.

*I went to a SWIM seminar on Bible study methods, led by Dr. Howard Hendricks himself.

*I learned how to make baklava. Delicious!

*The boys started playing basketball with Lake Pointe Sports.

*I finally got to taste the much-raved-over (by Billy) roast that Dave makes every year for Billy's office's annual Soup Day (the week of Thanksgiving). I must have more!

*We traveled to Louisiana for our annual family Thanksgiving gathering. It was a lot of fun, but the crowd was smaller. Hopefully it'll be back up again next year.

*I made a sweet potato cheesecake - the first real cheesecake I ever made. It looked horrible because I didn't realize it needed to refrigerate for more than an hour or two before serving. It fell to pieces! It tasted great, thougn - and it was even better the next day! I can't wait to make another one.

*I made lots of handmade/homemade things for Christmas gifts this year: wire-wrapped pendants, a ring, an afghan, 17 caps for my Cubbies, and baklava. The boys painted some ceramic mugs at a local shop to give as gifts.

*I read 44 books this year!

I wonder what 2011 has in store...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Report Card

In keeping with tradition, I set goals for myself again for this year. They didn't seem as lofty as last year's goals, but after those epic failures, I thought I needed to go a little easier on myself. Let's see how I did this year...

1. Lose some weight!
Seems I set this every year. It's something I really want to do; I just like food too much to be very successful... Two areas I need to work on: moving more and portion control.

Success! I didn't lose as much as I would've liked, but I did lose 10 pounds this year! Woohoo!

2. Get my jewelry business off the ground.
This includes settling on a business name (still not too fond of "Ashley's Bead Box"), getting a jewelry blog up and running, and having a few shows. Valentine's Day is practically right around the corner. It's the next big jewelry sales event, but as far as promoting my jewelry goes, I'm not prepared for that just yet. I'm setting a goal of having a show in time for Mother's Day.

Mediocre. Well, I kept "Ashley's Bead Box" because I couldn't come up with anything else I liked. I didn't get my jewelry blog going or host any jewelry shows, but I did sell some pieces. And I learned wire wrapping, which was a big accomplishment - and something I'd like to learn more about.

3. Blog more.
I'm not talking about the jewelry blog here, but this personal blog of mine. I averaged two posts a month last year. I hate that! I love to write! I blame my lack of time/interest on Facebook. :o) I'm already doing better than last year!

Success! I had more than 3 times as many posts this year as I did last year. Many of them were weekly menus, and several were answering memes, but there were a few posts that were all my own. I enjoy blogging and I want to keep it up regularly.

4. I'd like to do something more with my photography.
I realize this statement is really open, but so is my goal with it. Yes, I'd like to participate more in the weekly Photo Friday challenges - but I want to do more. I bought Tom Ang's book Digital Photography Masterclass to help me learn more about my camera and how to take better pictures. Next on my list is his book How to Photograph Absolutely Everything.

I'd also like to sell some of my photographs. I've been looking into stock photography websites to see what that entails. Amy, a friend of mine from high school, sparked my interest in this. She listed some of her photos just last year and has already sold one.

Another thing I'd like to do here and there is to take local road trips for the sole purpose of photographing what's there. Billy and I want to make a photo wall in our entry, full of photos we've taken. Since our house has earth tones throughout, we want to have the pictures done in sepia tones, matted in off-white, and framed in dark brown. I have an idea of the types of photos I want to showcase, but we need to get out and take them!

Last year I started my Project 365, but it stalled after just a few weeks - if that. I'd like to have some sort of photoblog, but I don't know to what extent. Maybe another time, I'll try the project again. I love the idea of it, but it's a lot harder than I thought it would be. Especially for a stay-at-home mom who only gets out a few times a week.

Fail! I didn't do much at all with my photography this year. I took tons of pictures, but I haven't done anything other than download them off my cameras since March. Yes, that's going to be one major project next year.

5. I'd like to make some decision about my future as a Pampered Chef consultant.
I've found other things that I'd rather do than set up kitchen shows and worry about keeping my consultant status. Holding the shows is fun, but calling people to host them is the part I don't like. I'm not a phone person, and once I got out of the habit of making my nightly business calls, it's been nearly impossible to get back into doing it. And I'm not the go-getter type to recruit people to join my team.

Success! I made the decision to get out of Pampered Chef, and it was extremely freeing!

Overall, it was a good year, goal-wise. I've been thinking about my goals for 2011 and am looking forward to sharing them soon.

December 2010 Book List

40. Oogy by Larry Levin

Once again, another animal book caught my eye - and stole my heart. When Oogy was just a few months old, he was used as a bait dog for dog fights. He was found abandoned in a cage in an old building, half dead, his face torn, bones broken. The police took him to an animal emergency hospital where he was patched up and left alone. One of the nurses there found him a few days later, fell in love with him, and insisted that her veterinarian friend do everything he could to save his life.

The Levins met Oogy when they had taken their dying cat in to be euthanized. A vet tech was taking Oogy outside for a bit, but when he saw the Levins, he rushed over and loved them like they were old friends. Thus began Oogy's new life. The Levins adopted Oogy into their family, where he now thrives. (Larry Levin gave Oogy his name, a play on "ugly", which aptly describes Oogy's lopsided appearance.)

41. The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry

Every year around Christmas, I like to find a few short holiday novellas to read. Time is short, so I need something quick - and this was one of the quickest I've ever read!

Doug Barnes, a junior high student in the early 1960s, humorously recounts how his family came to get Walter, a dog to "replace" their recently deceased dog Frank, who died on Christmas Eve, right before their church Christmas pageant.

It's fun light reading with a few laugh-out-loud moments.

42. The Paper Bag Christmas by Kevin Alan Milne

When I picked up this book, I wasn't sure what I was getting. I read part of the inside flap and thought it looked interesting. It turned out to be one of those rare holiday books that has quite an impact. It's not fluff. This one is hearty and it will stay with you for a long time.

Molar, who tells the story, and his older brother Aaron are taken to the mall the day after Thanksgiving to meet the new Santa - a friend of their father's who tells them he's going to give them the best Christmas present they never wanted. The catch is they have to help him on the oncology ward at a local children's hospital, where "Santa" is a doctor.

The boys come to know and love the children in the oncology ward, becoming fast friends with some of the patients. Molar and Aaron are given the special task of reaching out to two children in particular: Madhu, an Indian boy with a failing liver, and Katrina, a lonely girl who wears a paper bag over her head to hide the effects of a brain tumor.

I won't give away any more of the story, but the boys do indeed get something beyond their wildest dreams for Christmas - as well as seeing the Christmas wishes of Madhu, Katrina, and a few others come true.

This story could be true, and I often wonder how much of it is based on someone's actual experience. It's heartwarming and will bring tears to your eyes. This is a book to own and reread every year.

43. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

Dr. David Henry delivers his wife Norah's twins in the middle of a snow storm. Paul is perfect; Phoebe has Down syndrome. He gives Phoebe to his nurse Caroline Gill to take to an institution, then tells Norah she died. Caroline decides to raise Phoebe as her own daughter and leaves town. And so begins a series of lies that drives a wedge between everyone involved.

Norah, caught in the midst of depression, changes her life in ways no one expects. Caroline, secretly in love with David, keeps him informed of Phoebe's development. David, wanting to spare his wife further pain, keeps knowledge of Phoebe's life with Caroline to himself. Paul, aware of the growing distance between his parents, feels things are his fault.

Plot twists throughout the book kept me from guessing what would happen next. Just when I thought I "knew" what was coming, something totally unexpected would happen.

The story is sad and beautiful. Inspiring and eye-opening. Even though it's not one of my favorite books, I had a hard time putting it down.

44. Have a New Kid by Friday by Dr. Kevin Leman

I had seen this book before, but I decided I needed to read it after we started school this year. Jacob started throwing fits before science and history each day. I was tired of dealing with it, and I thought Dr. Leman might have some suggestions. Boy, did he!

Basically, I had to look in the mirror and see if Jacob was emulating my actions (albeit magnified). Was I treating him with respect, or was I demanding that he do what I said when I said it? Was I being responsive to him in a positive or a negative way? Dr. Leman doesn't believe in coddling kids and catering to their every whim. Rather he believes in reality discipline - but I have to look at myself first and change what needs changing. Then I can start to work on my sons. (Yes, they both need some attitude adjustments here and there...)

The text of the 5-day "program" is short, easy to read. After that follows suggestions on various trouble areas families encounter and how to tackle them. Like I said earlier - reality discipline. I've been threatening and reminding, doing nothing to help my sons grow responsibly. Instead, I need to let reality be their teacher. If I say for them to do something and they don't, they need to learn from the consequences of their actions.

It's hard to do sometimes. Sometimes I just want to move on from the problem onto something else - but then they aren't learning anything and I'm just reinforcing bad behavior. (No, they aren't that bad, but there's room for improvement.)

Thankfully I have a lot of these suggestions in another Leman book, Making Your Child Mind Without Losing Yours. Great book! Now I can return this one to the library. I'm sure there are some other parents out there who need to read it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Christmas Tag

From Cindy at Notes in the Key of Life:

1.What is your one favorite dish to see on the table at Christmas dinner?
sweet potato casserole

2.Do you have a Nativity scene or a creche? How many pieces does it have?
I have a beautiful Fontanini set that I leave out year-round. I have several pieces (not really wanting to count them...), but there are many, many more available. I just don't have room for them all. Well, maybe I do have room for a few more... I could clear the few books off that bottom shelf and put a second grouping of pieces there. I'd love to have the wise men and the camels. Maybe I'll put that on next year's wish list - unless I can find a good sale!

3.What is your favorite Christmas movie?
A Christmas Story, followed closely by Christmas Vacation. More of a modern traditionalist approach. I like some of the old b&w classics, but they just aren't my favorites.

4.If you and your family could spend this Christmas in another country, where would you go?
Greece. I just want to go there anyway, but I think it would be wonderful to see what Christmas in a Greek Orthodox church is like.

5.Does your grandmother usually knit you something for Christmas, or does she give you something different — say, a Wii?
Both of my grandmothers are in heaven. Mamaw would sometimes give me something handmade (I remember getting Barbie clothes from her a lot when I was little.), but sometimes I'd get things she'd bought from infomercials. Memaw always bought us different kinds of things.

6.Have you ever gone out of the house wearing a reindeer headband? What about a Santa hat?
No, I don't believe I have. I wouldn't mind wearing a Santa hat one day...

7.Do you usually make or buy your Christmas gifts?
It's usually a combination of both. I've made afghans for almost everyone in my family. All the ladies have gotten handmade jewelry and crocheted scarves. My parents and my in-laws received scrapbooks I made of the boys one year. I even wrote a poem for my mom one year and framed it with a buffalo nickel. (The poem was about my grandfather's buffalo nickels that she had found and spent when she was a little girl.)

8.When do you set up your Christmas decorations? When do you take them down?
We usually start decorating shortly after Thanksgiving, though we've been as late as 2 weeks before Christmas. Things usually come down the week after Christmas, but last year I left everything up for our New Year's Day party. I think I'll do that again this year.

9.What kind of activities does your church usually have at Christmas?
Lighting Advent candles each Sunday, Christmas Eve services, community outreach projects for each of the adult Sunday school classes to participate in

10.Did you ever believe in Santa Claus as a child?
I don't know if I really believed in him or not, but I played along. It's fun to take part in the tradition, and it irks me when people are radically anti-Santa because they think it's a lie.

11.Which of the Gospels gives your favorite account of the Christmas story?

12.Have you ever acted in a Christmas pageant? What part did you play?
I don't remember; childhood was a long time ago. :o)

13.Do you buy Christmas presents for your pets?
I probably have once or twice, but it's not something I generally do.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ho, Ho, Hum...

Christmas is right around the corner. Just 11 days away. And what have I done? Not much. The tree is up, lists are made. That's about as far as it gets. Well, I have done a little shopping, but not near the extent of what I need to get done. I just can't get motivated to do any of it. Either someone is sick or there's basketball practice or games or there's a party to prep for and attend... There's too much busyness, as usual, to enjoy the holiday season.

Maybe tomorrow I'll have a new outlook - and some motivation to tackle the things on my list. The clock is ticking.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Basketball Blues

Early last spring, after the boys found out that some of their friends were playing basketball through a church league, they wanted to play. It was too late to get them signed up then, but I promised we'd look into it this fall.

In October I registered the boys to play basketball with Lake Pointe Sports, an outreach program of Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall. In November I was notified that the boys' teams did not have coaches yet, but we would be notified as soon as they were in place. (Since it's a church-run activity, coaches are generally parent volunteers instead of hired.) A week or so later, I got an email from Caleb's coach, and things got under way. He's already had one practice and has another one scheduled for tomorrow night. His first game will be Saturday.

Two days later I still hadn't heard anything about Jacob's coach, so I emailed the program coordinator. Two days later, on a Friday evening, I received a reply that I should've heard from the coaches already. She cc'd Jacob's two coaches and asked them to contact me. It's now 10 days later and I still haven't heard anything. Since Thanksgiving was in the midst of that, I allowed for extra time, but now there's been a full weekend on either end of the holiday.

This morning I emailed the program coordinator again, and I cc'd the two coaches she'd included in her reply to me. I told her that we still haven't heard anything from either coach. I mentioned that Caleb has had one practice and has another one tomorrow night, just for emphasis that things have been taking place with other teams. Then I asked her if I needed to try to get Jacob's jersey when we pick up Caleb's this Tuesday night or if I need to formally request a full refund of his registration fees. I softened that a bit by asking if there was another team he could be fit in with.

I really want Jacob to be able to play. He's had his heart set on this since the spring. After receiving confirmation of his registration, he's been ready to play. I'm willing to give Lake Pointe Sports a shot this year, but if things don't improve with Jacob's situation, this will be our last time to do anything with them.

This morning I got a reply from the assistant coach. He apologized that we hadn't heard anything, but the only information he got from LP Sports was a list of players, no contact info. He isn't sure if the other coach is another assistant coach or the head coach; he hasn't talked with him, I guess.

This afternoon I got a reply from LP Sports. The coordinator said this is not normal, that they had to find new coaches since many of the ones from last year haven't stayed on. (I wonder why...) She said we should have a practice day/time set tomorrow. (We'll see...)

Tonight after we got home from Caleb's practice, I had an email waiting from Jacob's head coach. Apparently he never got a list of his players' contact information or any kind of practice/location schedule. Thankfully that's all worked out now! Jacob's team will have practice one hour before Caleb's team at the same gym. That makes things easy!

Unfortunately Jacob's team will not get a practice in before their first game Saturday afternoon. I think it's going to be madness - and a hoot!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wednesday Hodgepodge - November 17

Just when I was getting started with the Random Dozen meme, the author got swamped with life and stopped posting questions. Thankfully another RD participant, Joyce at From This Side of the Pond, stepped up and took on something similar. Here's what Joyce wants to know this week:

1. What is the most amazing weather you've ever seen?
"Amazing" as in wonderful: The weather we've been having right now! The days have been bright and sunny, the breeze has been light, and the temperatures have been cool - just enough for a long sleeve and a light jacket. Ahhhh, bliss.

"Amazing" as in astonishing, surprising: Last winter's snowfalls. Yes, that's plural. Although we weren't home every time it happened, I think snow fell in the Dallas area three times last winter. The most abundant one happened in February, dropping about eight inches or so in our neighborhood. It was nice the first day, okay the second day, and by the third day, I'd had more than my fill. In fact, I'd be happy if I saw not one tiny snowflake this year. :oP

2. What is a sound or noise you love?
my boys laughing
wind chimes
gentle, rolling thunder

3. Do you like seafood? What's your favorite seafood dish?
I like boiled shrimp and fried calamari. That about does it for me. I can't stand seafood gumbo. The smell sickens me.

I love boiled crawfish, too, but that's technically not seafood. It's more like ditch food.

4. What part of your day requires the most patience?
home school time

5. What's your favorite shade of blue?
Navy. I tend to lean toward darker colors: forest green, chocolate brown, burgundy, black.

6. Do people underestimate you?
Probably. Sometimes I underestimate myself. I think most people really don't know me since I tend to keep a lot of things to myself.

7. When was the last time you had butterflies in your stomach?
It would most likely be the last time I had to speak in front of a group, which I try not to do often.

8. Insert your own random thought here, and remember...I have a wooden spoon and I'm not afraid to use it.
I know how hard it is to keep a meme going because I tried several years ago. It was called Food for Thought, and the 5 weekly questions were food related. Sometimes I'd have a theme, say soup, and all the questions would be about that one topic. I enjoyed it, but I never got a following. Maybe one person answered occasionally. That's not very encouraging... Maybe one day I'll start it up again.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - November 15

We enjoyed having our week's supply of grilled meat last week! I hope we can do that again before too long.

On to this week...

Chicken Pot Pie

Portobella & Olive Farfalle
Caesar salad

Applesauce Meatloaf
Four Cheese Risotto (from a box)
Caesar salad



Biscuits & Jelly

We'll be having our annual "Pie & Praise" night at church this Sunday after AWANA, so we'll eat dessert for our meal and top off with something quick and light after we get back home. The boys love this!

Next week, the only thing on my menu is Taco Soup (and leftovers). We'll be enjoying my mother-in-law's dressing and other delectable Thanksgiving foods for the end of the week. Yum!

For more menu plan ideas, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Flashback Friday: Veterans

From Mocha with Linda:

Were/Are either of your parents or other family members active military personnel or veterans? What branch? When did they serve; was it during wartime or peacetime? Did they share much about their experiences with you or others? When you were growing up, was the USA (or your country, for those outside the US) involved in a war? What do you remember about it and how did it impact you? Are you, your spouse, or any of your children veterans?

Neither my husband nor I have served in the military, but both our fathers did, many of our uncles did, and we have many friends who have served or are serving now.

My dad served in the US Navy during the Vietnam War. On July 7, 1967 - less than two months after he and Mama were married - he received orders to report for an "Armed Forces Physical Examination" to determine if he was qualified to serve in the military. On August 28, 1967, he received orders to report for induction into the US Army on September 7. Because he wasn't keen on the idea of ground fighting in Vietnam, he tried to join the US Air Force, following his father's footsteps. They had reached their current limit of inductees. They could've taken him later, but that would've been after the September 7 deadline. The Navy recruiter's office was just down the hall, so he went there instead.

Daddy started boot camp on September 5, 1967 - just two days before he would've been required to report for induction into the Army. After several months of boot camp and radio school, he was assigned to the USS Noxubee, which shuttled fuel from large oil tankers to fuel bunkers onshore. Since the ship's home port was Pearl Harbor, it was a shock to find out he was being sent directly to Vietnam. The USS Noxubee had been deployed. He reported to the ship on the evening of June 27, 1968, and was released from shipboard duty three years and one day later - June 28, 1971.

He was a radioman, sending and receiving messages in Morse code, audio, and teletype. His unit was also responsible for patching communications networks, if needed. It reminded me of that scene in Down Periscope where the guy patches two networks together and gets shocked because he licks his bare fingers before holding the ends of the wires together with them. :o)

During his time on the USS Noxubee, Daddy was stationed both stateside (Pearl Harbor, HI, twice; and Little Creek, VA) and internationally (Da Nang Harbor/Cua Viet, Vietnam), and he had the chance to visit many different cultures (Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines, and Guam, as well as France, Spain, Italy, and Greece while his ship cruised in the Mediterranean).

Probably the most harrowing experience on board the USS Noxubee was when a couple of Viet Cong swimmers managed to plant a magnetic mine on the hull of the ship. Since it was night and the water was murky, a team of underwater demolition divers wasn't able to tell anything from their inspection. The ship was taken five miles from the base until morning, when the team would inspect everything again. Around 2:00 a.m., there was an explosion on the ship. Thankfully only one mine was planted - and it was attached a little forward of the cargo hold. The ship's damage control team went to work and was able to contain things until an auxiliary repair ship could make temporary repairs. Then they headed to Manilla, Philippines and went into dry dock for repairs.

Daddy received his Honorable Discharge from the US Navy on September 4, 1973.

Incidentally, I was born while he was on one of his tours in Vietnam. He was on duty and received the Red Cross message regarding my birth as it came through.

I am immensely proud of my daddy and how he served his country when called upon. He is my hero.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November 2010 Book List

37. God, the Devil, and Harry Potter by John Killinger

I initially chose this book because I thought it would give me insight into how Christians who like the Harry Potter books view the series. It started out nicely, though there were numerous summaries of some of the plot lines of the books. That led me to believe it would be a good book for Christians who are curious about Harry Potter but don't feel inclined to read the books. The further I read, the more I realized that Killinger often mixes his Christian perspective with a worldly one. It didn't bother me that he points out similarities between Rowling's characters and those of the mythology of different regions. What concerned me was he not only quotes from the Bible, but he also relies heavily on other gospels as well as the Apocrypha. To evangelical Christians, that's a huge red flag, and that would put off many Christians who question the series.

I don't recommend this book to evangelical Christians who want to know more about the Harry Potter series, but I'm sure there is a book out there written by an evangelical - for evangelicals.

38. Making Rounds with Oscar by Dr. David Dosa

I'm a sucker for a good cat story, and this one was a gem! Dr. Dosa is a geriatrician who makes rounds on the dementia floor of a large Rhode Island nursing home. Rumor was that Oscar was always present for residents' final hours of life. Dosa was skeptical and began a quest to find out just what Oscar's "gift" is - how does he know when it's a patient's final hours, and how is he always right?

As Dosa talked with past patients' families about their experiences on the floor and with Oscar, he began to realize Oscar's importance to both the patients and their families. Generally aloof, Oscar would curl up on the bed beside a dying patient, would purr and allow himself to be petted by grieving family members. More than one family member called him a comfort. Dosa's appreciation of Oscar grew, as did his understanding of what his patients' families needed. He learned how the medical community was failing families of patients with dementia, how families felt a range of emotions but had no help, and how he could be a better doctor in bridging those gaps.

Dosa never really found answers to his questions about how Oscar "knows" the end is near. There have been scientific explanations about a "sweet smell of death" and animals having a keener sense of smell than humans, but none of those explain why only Oscar makes his rounds. He does realize the importance of animal therapy for the elderly, especially those with dementia. There's something about animals (and music, as he also learned) that reach into the deepest parts of a person.

Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic

I can't count this book because I didn't finish it. It's good, but not what I want to read right now. I was expecting an autobiography with some inspiration thrown in, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. It's a Christian "self-help" book with short biographical highlights included every so often. Needless to say, I was disappointed.

39. Family Organizing Handbook by Amy Knapp

The subtitle is "314 Mom-Tested Super Tips, Tricks and Secrets to Take Care of Everything with Time Left for What Really Matters". (An older version has only 312 tips.) Quite a mouthful, but an overall quick read.

I don't think each numbered tip should've been a tip unto itself, since many of them piggy-backed on a previous one. Still, there were some good ideas here. The biggest thing that was emphasized for me was the importance of two things: calendars and lists. I already knew that, but this just drove the point home a little more, especially where lists are concerned.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - November 8

I don't know what happened with last week. I think the cooler weather slowed my brain! I do remember having Baked Potato Soup and homemade bread on Tuesday, and we had steaks, Caesar salad, and some seasoned sugar snap peas and potatoes (from a frozen package) on Saturday, but everything in between is a blur. Oh, yeah! I had a broken kitchen faucet so we dined on sandwiches, served on paper plates.

We finally got around to grilling Saturday evening (after my handyman hubby replaced my faucet!), so we've got our meat for the first part of the week.

Hamburgers (a grilled chicken sandwich for Caleb)
Bush's Grilling Beans
Caesar salad

White Beans & Rice (with some diced grilled hot link thrown in for extra heat)
*I'll be using my Red Beans & Rice recipe, but since ALDI didn't have red beans and I didn't have time to run by Wal-Mart for them, I decided to go with Great Northern beans. I'm sure it'll be great!

Sweet Potato Fries

leftover White Beans & Rice

Caleb will be at a pre-teen fall retreat, so we'll be doing something special with Jacob. Oh, the woes of being the younger sibling...

It's home team night again, and the day will already have been busy with a baklava cooking class I'll be taking, entertaining Jacob, and picking up Caleb from camp. I need easy!

AWANA night. Enough said.

I've got a little more variety planned for next week, so stay tuned!

For more menu plans, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

30 Days of Thankfulness

I'm a little late getting started on this, but it's been a weird week. The cooler temps have me moving much slower in the mornings, then the days get busy...

1. I'll come back to this post and add something for each day of the month, but I might not get around to doing it each day.
2. I'm not going to put obvious things I'm thankful for. Those go without saying. This is more a list of the smaller things in life. On certain days there might be a more obvious "bigger" thing, so I'll include it as well.
3. I will provide explanations of most things - a story about why that particular thing came to mind that day. To me, that's more interesting than just a list.

November 1 - Laughter
Jacob can be a jokester at times, and he provided me with quite a laugh Monday morning. Each morning as we're finishing our breakfast, the boys and I take our medicines together: me, my vitamin, and them, their allergy pills. This time, Jacob took his early and saved back a Rice Krispy from his cereal. When it was time to take our medicine, he popped his into his mouth and crunched down on it. I thought it was Zyrtec, and I kept waiting for a look of disgust to come across his face. "Does it taste good?" I asked him, to which he replied, "It was cereal!" He got me, and we all laughed about that for a long time.

Biggie thing: Mama. Happy birthday!

November 2 - Soup
Even though we've been having soup nights almost weekly for nearly two months, the weather has finally cooled down enough to make it "necessary". Tuesday was very fall-like with gray skies, gentle rain, and temps in the low 50s. After a quick trip out to vote, it was nice to sit down to a hot bowl of homemade Baked Potato Soup.

Biggie thing: the right to vote

November 3 - Sandwiches and Paper Plates
The kitchen faucet started dripping several days ago. On Tuesday, I noticed water had started leaking from around base the fixture. Billy checked under the sink and found that it was leaking underneath as well. (Thankfully we caught it before it got to be a huge mess!) Then as I was trying to get the last few dishes washed up today, water started spraying out the back of the fixture and I lost pressure in the actual faucet. I managed to get everything washed, then I turned off the water under the sink. It took a few dish towels to clean up all the water that had sprayed behind the sink and spread along the counter. Needless to say, I didn't do any cooking for supper. We had sandwiches on paper plates, saving me a big mess to have to clean up at a sink elsewhere in the house.

November 4 - Growing Boys
...even though I don't like having to go through their clothes every season. The sudden cool snap has me going through their closet and drawers today, seeing what fits and what doesn't. First I go through Jacob's. What doesn't fit him goes in one of two piles: Once Upon a Child (resale) or Goodwill. Then I go through Caleb's and move what doesn't fit him over to Jacob's side. Then I make a list of what's needed so I can buy that when I get a chance. In spite of that hassle, though, I'm so glad they're healthy and growing at a steady rate.

November 5 - Public Libraries
I love to read, but I don't have the space or the money to buy books all the time. It's so nice to be able to check out what I want whenever I want it. I also have a Sony book reader, so I can download books, too! Today I found a perfect reading spot in the children's area: in a big comfy chair in a patch of sunlight. Well, I moved the chair so it would be mostly in the sun, but still...

November 6 - SWIM
I was heavily involved in SWIM (Seminary Wives in Ministry) while Billy was working on his master's degree, and I've missed being a part of it since I left the board a year and a half ago. While I don't want to be involved to the extent I was back then, I am glad that I can still go to the seminars they sponsor - like today's "RX for Spiritual Sleepyheads". Prof. and Jeanne Hendricks taught on Bible study methods, based on Prof.'s book Living by the Book. Great presentation from two great people!

Biggie thing: my handyman husband who fixed my sink!

November 7 - Cubbies
This is my fourth year working with the Cubbies in AWANA and I love it! Every year I get a table full of the sweetest little girls. This year I have Lilia, Caitlin, Hannah B., and Ella. They warm my heart, and I love getting sweet hugs and notes from them.

Biggie thing: godly pastors at my church who effectively teach the Word of God.

November 8 - Stay-Home Days
After busy weekends (or even not-so-busy ones), it's great to have a day or two that I know we can count on being home. It's a good way to kick off our school week and for me to get back on track with housekeeping since I only do the basics on the weekend. Usually.

November 9 - Crock Pots
It's so nice to be able to just put everything in in the morning and leave it to cook all day. And it makes the house smell great, too! I want to find some more great Crock Pot recipes so I can use it more often.

November 10 - Candles
Yankee Candles are by far my favorite, especially their "Thankful" scent. Since I don't have one of those right now, I've been burning one of my Shiraz (Vintage Wine) candles that they've discontinued. Luckily I found some at an outlet last summer in Branson, so I bought 3. :o)

November 11 - Music
I've loved music for as long as I can remember. I used to play the piano, but it's been ages. I've had a guitar for almost 9 years now, but I never really learned to play it. Whenever I hear beautiful music, whether it's classical, rock, or somewhere in between, I always wish I could play. Today I took my guitar out of its case for the first time in well over a year and started relearning a few chords. I don't think I'll ever be good enough to play in front of anyone, but if it gives me pleasure, then that's enough.

Two biggies: life (It's my birthday!) and veterans who have served and are serving our country.

November 12 - Fall Color
Seeing the beauty of the changing leaves each fall is one of the highlights of the season. I love the brilliant hues in all the reds, oranges, and golds. And it's usually right around my birthday that the colors start showing themselves. Thank You, God!

November 13 - Good Food
I learned how to make baklava today, and I can't wait to do it myself soon. At tonight's home team, Deb had made some scrumptious - and rich! - sopapilla cheesecake. Yum! And last Saturday at the SWIM event, I ate some of the best granola I've ever put in my mouth. It was homemade, and my friend gave me her recipe. :o)

November 14 - Rest and Relaxation
Well, I didn't take my nap today, but I did enjoy spending time at home with Caleb this morning. He was exhausted from his weekend retreat, and a late-night dose of Benadryl to offset a sudden allergy attack did nothing to help get him going Sunday morning. I stayed home from church with him so he could rest up, and it wasn't until nearly 11:30 that he perked up. While he rested and read, I did much of the same.

November 15 - Netflix
We just signed up for Netflix, and the few days we've been using it have been great! I got to watch an old favorite movie of mine - The Man from Snowy River - without having to borrow it from the library or drive to a Redbox rental to get it. It just streamed right through the Wii onto our TV. The boys have enjoyed watching several episodes of some of their favorite cartoons, and Billy has enjoyed watching old episodes of Pawn Stars. Today for science, the boys and I watched the National Geographic Explorer documentary Sea Monsters, about prehistoric marine animals. I can't wait to explore Netflix some more!

November 16 - Afternoon Walks
I finally got out to walk again after I don't know how long. It was nice to be out in the crisp, cool air. My iPod is a great companion when I don't have someone to walk with me. I really need to make this a regular thing!

November 17 - Calendars
Staying home a lot often leads to me getting my days confused. My calendar is a necessity, not only for helping me keep track of what day it is, but also for anything coming up that we've planned to do. Every year after Christmas, when calendars are on sale for 50% off, I choose one to get me through the next year. When I'm transferring important dates (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) to my new one, it's always fun to see all the things we did the past year. And it helps me with my annual "Year in Review" blog posts. :o)

November 18 - Writing Opportunities
I've always loved to write, but I've never done much more than the usual drivel (and an occasional good post) in this blog. In August, I took on the task of editor of my Sunday school class newsletter. I'm responsible for planning the content of each month's issue as well as layout and design, contacting people for submissions (with the help of Deb Chisholm, the assistant editor and proofreader), and occasionally writing something myself. So far we've put out 3 issues and have gotten some great feedback. Last month, one of my former students contacted me about an online magazine she's putting out. I pitched an idea for her December issue that I'm currently working on; submitted an article for January's issue; and am fleshing out an article for February. It's not a paying gig, but it's good experience - and good practice.

November 19 - Short School Days
Every Friday is a short day for us since we have errands to run in town. We typically do language and math, then head out for lunch, the library, grocery shopping, and whatever else we need to do. I like only having to get out (usually) once a week.

November 20 - Good Sales
I'm not much of a shopper. When I need to buy something, I know what I want and where I need to get it - and I'm in and out and done with it. Christmas shopping is another matter entirely. No, I don't like it, but I can't go out armed with a list most of the time. I have to see things to spark more ideas on what to get for the people I'm buying for. After Billy's parents left with the boys earlier today, we went to the outlet mall to check on a few ideas for the boys. Not only were we able to get some good things on sale ($5 fleece vests for the boys!), but I was able to come up with a few more ideas to add to my list of things to buy. Maybe I can get this year's Christmas shopping done quickly...?

November 21 - Quiet
The boys have gone with Billy's parents for their Thanksgiving break. Today Billy and I vegged out in the living room and did pretty much nothing but watch a Pawn Stars marathon all day. I did a few loads of laundry, but it was mostly a do-nothing day - except for AWANA.

November 22 - Dave's Italian Roast
The IT Dept. has a soup day the week of Thanksgiving every year, and every year Billy has come home telling me how wonderful Dave's Italian Roast is. This year I finally got to go and taste it for myself. It's the best roast I've ever had. Well, I love roast with mushroom gravy, but this is different. It's a little spicy and a lot tasty. I went back for a little more - and I found out the recipe. I'm definitely going to be making this soon!

November 23 - Haircuts
It's been since March. Need I say more?

November 24 - Hair Color
Ahhhh, Sangria. It's been too long!

November 25 - Family Time
Every Thanksgiving, my parents and sisters meet us and my husband's aunts and uncles at his parents' house for an afternoon of feasting, visiting, and playing games. It's the perfect way to relax with everyone before the busyness of the Christmas season begins.

November 26 - No Shopping on Black Friday
I almost hate to shop. Need I say more?

November 27 - Naps on Long Rides
Put me in a moving vehicle for more than 30 minutes (sometimes less!), and I'm a goner. Within ten minutes of leaving Billy's parents' house, I was nodding off.

November 28 - Christmas Decorations
I like the bright little LEDs on our tree and the hodge-podge of ornaments hanging on it.

November 29 - Rain
Even though I'd rather drift off to sleep to the sound of rain hitting the roof, it's not too bad a sound to wake up to. It rained off and on for ahout 3 hours this morning. We desperately needed it!

November 30 - Christmas Music
I enjoy the decorations, but it's really the music that draws me in.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - October 25

Okay, I'm a few days late on this. I'm also a few meals short. Last weekend's bad weather led us to cancel our planned grilling night. Thankfully I hadn't thawed out the meat yet! But since I had already done my grocery shopping and didn't feel like getting out again, I'm making do with what we have on hand.

Genghis Grill - We had another coupon for two free kids' meals with the purchase of one adult meal, and Billy had accumulated enough "punches" on his card for one more free meal. With our water to drink (since their soft drink prices are outrageously high), the four of us ate for the price of one! Score!

Biscuits & Jelly
Not creative, I know, but after our long day of flu shots, getting glasses for Caleb, finding Halloween costumes, and other things, I didn't have the desire to do anything more than that. I didn't even feel like microwaving precooked sausage patties...

Even though the boys and I are taking a field trip to Cici's Pizza this Friday, it's necessary to make pizza this week. I bought mushrooms to saute with onions for our steak Saturday night, so now I have to find something to do with them. I have pizza sauce, cheese, onions, peppers, and the ingredients for dough, so I might as well use them up. Unfortunately we're slap out of black olives. :o(

Lasagna, homemade Italian bread, salad
Well, this was planned for at least! A friend of mine from church had spinal fusion surgery and our class is supplying them with food for a few weeks. I'll be splitting my lasagna in two and taking half to them on Friday.


sandwiches/hot dogs
This is our final night to host the home team for our LOTR series. Since I'll be busy preparing the evening's snacks (taters!), supper will have to be quick and easy.

We'll be at church for our annual Harvest Festival, so we'll probably pick something up while we're out. Otherwise we'll just have a quick sandwich when we get home.

So, it's a blah week around here as far as food is concerned. I have several things on my list that I'd like to make before long. Maybe I can get them all worked in over the next two weeks.

For more meal plan ideas, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Random Dozen - October 21

Linda at 2nd Cup of Coffee has gotten a little help from Linda at Mocha with Linda for this week's Random Dozen. Sounds like a good collaboration just from their names and the names of their blogs! :o)

The first seven questions were posed to me by Mocha with Linda in a tagging meme, which I answered here. Since you can click over and read them there (if you want to), I see no need to rewrite all that here.

1. Do you prefer to read the book or see the movie?
2. What is your favorite holiday and why?
3. Which do you like better - the mountains or the beach?
4. If money were no consideration, what vehicle would you drive?
5. What is your favorite cold-weather beverage?
6. How do you communicate most often with your friends: phone, email, text, face-to-face, or Facebook?
7. How do you receive your mail? Mailbox on the porch, at the end of the driveway, down the street, or post office box?

Now for the new stuff!

8. Of the four basic personality types - sanguine, phlegmatic, melancholic, and choleric - which is your strongest? Which is your least evident? (See definitions at the bottom of this post.)

First off, I have to say I don't like the names of those terms. They sound like words to describe the sick or the depressed.

Now that's out of the way, I'll go with phlegmatic. *cough, wheeze*

9. What do you miss the most about being 20?
When I was 20, I was in college, still living at home, and working part-time for spending money. Being carefree and spending time with my friends was fun, but I don't miss arguing with my sisters (who were 10 and 12 at the time and knew how to push my buttons), keeping up with my studies (in the several majors I kept changing to), or dating. I'd definitely rather be where I am now than go back.

10. How long from the time you get up, does it take you to get ready to walk out the door in the morning?
Since I'm a stay-at-home mom, I'll answer this as a Sunday morning question: an hour and 45 minutes. That includes showering, washing and combing out my hair, dressing, putting on makeup, getting the boys up, preparing breakfast, and eating. On days I don't have to wash my hair, I can be ready to leave the house in an hour.

11. Who handles the car maintenance and pays the bills in your family?
Billy does most of that. I take the car in for oil changes, inspections, etc., but if the check engine light comes on, I let him know. He also has his own system worked out for paying bills.

12. For those in the US, how many states have you visited? For those outside the US, how many provinces/other countries have you visited?
Hmmmm... I'm going to have to check a map for this one... That would be 21. Or 22 if I've ever been to Illinois. Or 23 if I've also been to Wisconsin. I'll have to ask Mama.


Personality type definitions courtesy Wikipedia:


The Sanguine temperament personality is fairly extroverted. People of a sanguine temperament tend to enjoy social gatherings, making new friends and tend to be quite loud. They are usually quite creative and often daydream. However, some alone time is crucial for those of this temperament. Sanguine can also mean very sensitive, compassionate and thoughtful. Sanguine personalities generally struggle with following tasks all the way through, are chronically late, and tend to be forgetful and sometimes a little sarcastic. Often, when pursuing a new hobby, interest is lost quickly when it ceases to be engaging or fun. They are very much people persons. They are talkative and not shy. For some people, these are the ones you want to be friends with and usually they become life long friends.


A person who is choleric is a doer. They have a lot of ambition, energy, and passion, and try to instill it in others. They can dominate people of other temperaments, especially phlegmatic types. Many great charismatic military and political figures were cholerics. They like to be leaders and in charge of everything.


A person who is a thoughtful ponderer has a melancholic disposition. Often very considerate and get rather worried when they could not be on time for events, melancholics can be highly creative in activities such as poetry and art - and can become occupied with the tragedy and cruelty in the world. A melancholic is also often a perfectionist. They are often self-reliant and independent; one negative part of being a melancholic is sometimes they can get so involved in what they are doing they forget to think of others.


Phlegmatics tend to be self-content and kind. They can be very accepting and affectionate. They may be very receptive and shy and often prefer stability to uncertainty and change. They are very consistent, relaxed, rational, curious, and observant, making them good administrators and diplomats.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

October 2010 Book List

35. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

I read The Hobbit a few years ago and enjoyed it immensely. My original plan was to read it, then follow it immediately with The Lord of the Rings, but by the time I had finished, I needed a break from Tolkien's writing. I've seen the movie trilogy several times, but what spurred me to finally read the book was that Billy and I were going to lead a discussion of LOTR with our small group. Some parts of the movie still confused me after multiple viewings, and I thought the book would clear things up for me. It did, but I also realized how different the movies are from the book. A few characters were left out altogether, some minor characters had bigger roles in the movies, and part of the end of the book was omitted. Another big issue the movies don't show is the passage of time throughout the story. Seventeen years passes between the time Frodo receives Bilbo's ring and he begins his quest to destroy it.

The book begins with Bilbo Baggins preparing for his eleventy-first birthday. During his party, he disappears from the sight of all, then shortly leaves the Shire forever. At the grey wizard Gandalf's urging, he leaves behind his precious ring, the One Ring wrought by the evil Sauron thousands of years earlier, the one ring he found when he was lost in the caves with Gollum.

Gandalf is suspicious of the ring, and after many years of studying its history, he realizes how powerful it is. Sauron's evil is growing, and the threat of doom for all of Middle Earth is looming. Sauron knows where the ring is, and he's determined to get it. The only way to defeat Sauron is to destroy the ring. The only way the ring can be destroyed is for it to be thrown into the fires of Mount Doom where it was made. And so begins Frodo's quest.

Three hobbits join him: two relatives, Merriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck and Peregrin "Pippin" Took; and his gardener, Samwise Gamgee. Along the way they are joined by a ranger known as Strider, who they later find out is Aragorn, the heir to the throne of Gondor. After Frodo is seriously wounded by one of Sauron's Ringwraiths, the group travels to the elvish village of Rivendell, where Frodo's wound is healed and he is reunited with his Uncle Bilbo. Before they continue on their journey, four more join them to form the Fellowship of the Ring: Boromir, a captain of the steward of Gondor; Legolas, an elf and close friend of Aragorn; Gimli, a dwarf; and Gandalf.

The rest of the book chronicles the Fellowship's breaking, Frodo and Sam's continued journey, and the efforts of the remaining Fellowship members to draw Sauron's attention from the whereabouts and final destination of his ring.

I enjoyed reading the book and seeing where/how it differed from the movies, but it also provided a good reinforcement of the story in areas I had been confused. By the time I was about one third of the way through The Return of the King, the final "book", I was ready to be finished. The copy I have is 1008 pages, and I was weary of it. Once the story reached a certain point, it seemed to go on too long, but the very end was interesting. The movie doesn't show what finally happened to Saruman, the once -white wizard, and his minion, Grima Wormtongue. You'll have to read the book to find out. :o)

36. There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale by Sean Astin

I guess I needed to decompress from The Lord of the Rings slowly since this was my next book. :o)

Astin is brutally honest, almost to a fault, in this book about his struggles with acting before, during, and after his role in the amazing Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. At times he seems unnecessarily hard on himself, but he's honest about his flaws and how he feels about them. He's also not what one would expect a grown-up child star to be like. His childhood wasn't glamorous as people would like to imagine. It seems he was brought up in a relatively "normal" home in spite of all the trappings of Hollywood and fame.

He also provides in interesting look into the lives of his fellow LOTR costars as they lived together in New Zealand for so long. They were all each other had and their bonds, some stronger than others, grew to be like that of family. Astin was the only actor to bring his wife and young child along, and while that tended to separate him from his fellow cast mates, it also provided him with support the others didn't have - and it allowed him a unique relationship with Peter Jackon and his family since their children often played together.

In spite of the movies' successes, Astin still struggled with his feelings worth as an actor. He describes his conflicting emotions as he was nominated for awards, then didn't win. He seems to have come to terms with who he was and who he is, and he's working on developing who he wants to be.

September 2010 Book List

I haven't read any new books this month, since I'm still plugging away at The Lord of the Rings. Hopefully I'll finish it soon!

Tag! You're It!

I've been tagged! Linda at Mocha with Linda tagged me to answer 7 questions she came up with.

1. Do you prefer to read the book or see the movie?
While I do love movies, I almost always like the book better.

2. What is your favorite holiday and why?
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because mine and Billy's families come together at one place and spend the day together eating, talking, playing games, etc. It's a relaxing way to spend time together before the busyness of Christmas sets in. (For us, Christmas is a whirlwind of traveling to spend time with both families and getting back home in time to rest up before the "normalcy" of life sets back in.)

3. Which do you like better - the mountains or the beach?
I definitely like the mountains better. The beach is okay, but I don't like sand in my hair and clothes or the feel of seaweed between my toes. I prefer the scenic mountains with its woods, streams, and waterfalls. It's a perfect place for seclusion for an introvert like me.

4. If money were no consideration, what vehicle would you drive?
This is easy - a maroon 2010 Chevrolet Camaro!

5. What is your favorite cold-weather beverage?
Last winter I found and fell in love with Nestle's Chocolate Caramel cocoa. It's perfect topped with a large dollop of whipped cream. (I'm not much of a tea drinker, and then I only like iced sweet tea. I can't stand the taste of coffee.)

6. How do you communicate most often with your friends: phone, email, text, face-to-face?
It's a sad fact: email (and Facebook). I don't like the phone and rarely use it. I don't know which of my friends text, but I do text a lot with my parents and sisters. I prefer face-to-face, but being a homeschool mom who lives at least 20 minutes away from my friends, we're not able to get together whenever we want to.

7. How do you receive your mail? Mailbox on the porch, at the end of the driveway, down the street, or post office box?
We have a mailbox at the end of our driveway. Several years ago we had one in a large postal unit box in a cul-de-sac across from our street. That was inconvenient, though I know it made work easier for our mail carrier. A friend of mine gets her mail delivered through a slot on her door. It was quite a shock when a small group of us was visiting her and we heard the mail drop to the floor behind us.


Now I'm supposed to come up with seven different questions and tag seven people. If I tag you, you're not obligated to participate; if I don't tag you and you want to answer the questions, feel free to do so in your own blog or in my comments section. I'd love to read your answers!

Here are the questions:
1. What hobby do you most enjoy, and how did you get involved with it?
2. If you had to spend one month in any area of service at your church, what would you choose?
3. Sweet or savory?
4. What is your favorite soup?
5. What was your favorite school subject?
6. What was your college major? Do you use it currently, or do you work in a different area?
7. If you could compete on any game show (either traditional like The Price Is Right or Jeopardy! or "reality"-based like The Amazing Race or The Biggest Loser), which would you choose and why?

I'm tagging the following people:
1. Cindy at Notes in the Key of Life
2. Lindsay at Larsita. Random Thoughts. - I know you have some time! Get back to blogging, girl!

Hmmmm... That's all I can think of! Cindy still blogs, but Lindsay hasn't in quite a while. All my other blogging friends have quit, most likely because of Facebook...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - October 18

Last week went mostly according to plan. Then Wednesday, when I finished mopping, I sat down for a quick break and completely forgot to cook my chicken for that night's gumbo. Since we were at the state fair all day Thursday, I didn't feel like cooking when I got home - plus after the corny dog and the funnel cake and all the samples, I needed something very light. Friday night Billy surprised us with dinner out - at Jason's Deli. I got my new usual, the Mediterranean Wrap with a side of fresh fruit. Perfect!

This week I'm hoping to get back on track, but I'm going to have to revise the menu I made out last week. I forgot to add certain ingredients to my shopping list...

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo - finally!

Popcorn Shrimp
(Knorr) Parmesan Noodles

Breaded Chicken Tenders
Fiesta Corn
Green Beans

Turkey Club Sandwiches


We've been waiting for the weather to cool down enough for Billy to grill meat for the week, and once it did we were too busy on weekends to do it. I'm so excited to finally grill our steaks, burgers, chicken, pork chops, and hot links!

Lunch: Burgers & Sweet Potato Fries
Supper: sandwiches

I'm really looking forward to planning next week's menu around our grilled meat selections! I even have a new recipe or two I want to try.

For more menu plan ideas, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Flashback Friday: Show Me the Money!

Linda (Mocha with Linda) wants to know about money in this week's Flashback Friday.

How was money handled in your family when you were growing up? Were your parents savers or spenders? What are examples of ways they saved or splurged? Who paid the bills? What, if anything, did they teach you about money? Did you have an allowance? Whether received as an allowance or through other means such as gifts, when you had your "own" money, were there restrictions on how you spent it? Were you paid for making certain grades on your report card? Did your parents tithe or give money to the church on a regular basis? What about other charities? How old were you when you got your first checking account or credit card? How has the way you were raised impacted your handling of financial issues today?

Ooooh, the "M" word! Thankfully I had good role models growing up. My parents were both savers, though Mama spent more than Daddy. My sisters and I never lacked for necessities, and we frequently got new things like clothing, games, dolls, books, etc., but big ticket items like game systems, bicycles, etc., were saved for special occasions like birthdays or Christmas.

Daddy paid the bills, handed out the allowance, etc. I remember when I was in college, he would give me a certain amount of money per week. That included money for eating out, for gas, etc. When it was gone, it was gone. He even went so far as to figure how many miles per gallon my car averaged, how many miles it was to and from school, and any errand mileage I might use. I also had extra money from babysitting that I'd use for special things - a new outfit, an extra night out with friends, and so on.

Mama bought most of my clothes, but there were limits on what I could get. If I wanted the current "in" pair of blue jeans, Mama would pay what a "regular" pair would cost and it was up to me to pay for the rest. I don't think I ever owned a pair of the hottest brand because I didn't want to give up my money for that. I survived just fine wearing the less popular brands of clothing. Thankfully I wasn't a popularity hound, or I might've spent my high school years broke.

I'm pretty sure my parents tithed regularly. When I was little, Daddy would hand me a little money to put in the offering plate as it was passed. I don't know what charities my parents gave to other than the usual church programs: the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Now Mama sponsors a child or two through Compassion International, and she helps work their booth at concerts and other events. I think she also participates in Samaritan's Purse's Operation Christmas Child.

One thing that stands out to me about Daddy is his Christmas list. He always puts something practical on there like socks or a belt, but he also wants us to spend the money we would normally spend on him and buy something for someone in need - making a donation to the Salvation Army, buying something for someone on an angel tree, sending a soldier a care package, etc. All he wants is a card with a picture of what we gave. I have yet to remember to do something like that. I get so caught up in the busy-ness of the season that I forget. It shames me. Since I'm thinking about it right now, I should go ahead and put that under his name on my list for this year.

I was in college when I got my first checking account. Daddy helped me set it up, taught me how to keep a check register, and showed me how to balance my checkbook when my statement came each month. It wasn't that I was stupid about those matters, but he wanted to be sure I knew how to keep myself out of financial difficulties. I'm happy to say he never had to bail me out of anything. He also gave me a lot of cautious advice when I got my first credit card later on. Of course I waited until I had a job other than weekend or summer babysitting. I knew I needed some steady income for that privilege.

I'd like to say that I've been as cautious as Daddy taught me to be. Unfortunately I do have debt, but it's manageable and my credit score is high. I'd like to be debt-free one day, but it'll take a while. I read Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover a few years ago, and I really liked his approach. We've done a few things to start reducing our debt, but not to Dave's extremes.

I'm in the process of getting my own jewelry business set up. When I resigned from The Pampered Chef in January, I had a few hundred dollars in my business account. I turned that into a jewelry business account and have used what's in there for my supplies, replenishing it with money I've made on sales. I'm trying not to use my credit card for anything, but if I need to, I'll transfer money from my business account to our personal account to cover it. It's worked well so far, and I plan to keep it that way.

In my personal life, I'm pretty frugal. I save (and save and save) my birthday money until I find something I absolutely must have, and then I only spend a little of it. I'm very choosy. I started clipping coupons and shopping sales, saving a little money that way. Planning a weekly menu helps me save, too, since I plan the next week according to the current week's sales and only buy what's on my list. Okay, sometimes I buy something that's not on my list, but that's infrequent. When ALDI opened, I started shopping there, just a little at first until we could see what their quality is compared to their savings. It only took a few weeks before I was doing the bulk of my weekly grocery shopping there instead of Wal-Mart. The savings are incredible! I'm still brand loyal on a few things, so I do still shop Wal-Mart (and Brookshire's when they have exceptional sales - like this week!).

I also clip restaurant coupons. When we want to eat out, we look through my coupons before making a decision. One great coupon we used recently was from Genghis Grill, where two kids eat free for each paid adult meal. I have one more of those coupons, which expires on Oct. 31, and we "earned" a free bowl on our next visit. Since we'll all order water to drink, the only thing we'll be paying for is one adult meal!

Another way we're saving money is by switching our cell phone plans. Our AT&T contracts for our iPhones recently ran out and we were going month-to-month. After a little research, my husband found a better deal with a different carrier. We still have our iPhones, but now they're more like iPod Touch gadgets with all the Internet capability - as long as there's a wireless connection. That way I can still play my games, use my grocery list program and calendar, take quick pictures, etc., but we're paying almost $100 less for service on two less fancy phones. Every little bit helps!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Multitasking Mama

A friend of mine recently blogged about taking a Monotasking Challenge. What? A monotasking challenge, where for one day (or hour) you put your complete focus on the tasks at hand, each in its own turn.

After reading that post, I started thinking about it. I thought a little about it while I played a game on my iPhone. I thought about it some more while I was loading the dishwasher after supper, between segments of The Biggest Loser. I thought about it even more while I was brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed. And it was still on my mind this morning while I was getting the boys' breakfast ready, putting on a load of laundry, and preparing their books for school.

I've been multitasking for so long, I don't know if I can monotask! I do know if I monotask in my rocking chair, I'll go to sleep. It happens every time. It's almost like I must keep my hands busy while my brain is busy (or pretending to be) or I'm not functioning.

Let's look at my average day:
*I pray (usually) while I shower.
*I read while I brush my teeth.
*I check my email while I make my bed.
*I read/answer emails while I scan news headlines on the Internet.
*I read in the mornings before the boys get up - between rounds of Words with Friends on my iPhone.
*While the boys are getting up, I'm fixing their breakfast, getting the day's laundry going, and putting away clean dishes that dried overnight. Between bites of my breakfast, I'm wiping the counter and getting the boys' school books ready for the day.
*While the boys are working on independent work, I load the dishwasher, keep the laundry on track, do any other chores, and help with any problems they have with their assignments. Then they play while I check their work and get their next subjects ready. This same pattern continues throughout the school day.
*After they've finished with their work, I sit down for a little while to rest and read or play a little on my iPhone. Then it's back to work on whatever is on the agenda for the day: vacuuming, sweeping/mopping, dusting, cleaning bathrooms, etc. All while that is going on, I'm thinking over what I'm blogging, what I'm reading, the next week's menu and grocery list, plans for the weekend, etc. I stop here and there to email someone or check Facebook or grab a quick snack or blog a bit (like now, while the boys' bathroom and entry are ready and waiting to be mopped).
*In the evenings, I cook supper and grade the boys' afternoon work or play a little Words with Friends. After supper, I usually watch something on TV while I clean the kitchen. I'll read while getting the boys rounded up for showers, homework, and bedtime.

And on and on and on. It's "normal".

I'm so tired when I go to bed at night that I usually drift off immediately - even if I ended up taking a nap sometime that afternoon. If I happen to wake during the night, I'll usually go back to sleep. But on those occasions when I just can't, I'll start thinking through my prayer list and praying for whoever comes to mind. Before long, I'm off in dreamland again. Too soon, it all begins again.

So, in contemplating Leslie's "Monotasking Challenge", I keep seeing where I could monotask, but I wonder if I'd ever get it all done. Then when I think about it a little more, I think how much a better job I'd be able to do if I would just focus on that one thing and not divide my attention.

I might take her up on her challenge. Not for a day just yet, but I think I could do it for an hour.

Now it's time to mop those floors while I think on this some more...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Random Dozen - October 12

More randomness from Linda at 2nd Cup of Coffee.

1. Is there a word which you initially mispronounced? Were the circumstances in which you made the faux pas embarrassing? By the way, that's not "foax pass." (I know you know that. Just jokin' with ya.)
I'm sure there are some words I mispronounced accidentally, but I can't think of a specific example. I know of one I probably mispronounce on purpose - and that's because I don't like the way it's usually pronounced: hydrogenated. I hate hearing it pronounced hy-DRAH-gen-a-ted. I think HY-dro-gen-a-ted sounds much better, so that's how I say it. If it's wrong, so be it. That doesn't embarrass me. I know there's another word in that category, but I can't think of it right now...

2. How do you feel about the use of texting shortcuts and trends? (ex: "I've got ur notes. Get them 2 u 2morow.")
Being a former English teacher, I can't stand texting shortcuts. Too often, that carries over into actual writing. When I see those shortcuts and typos, I cringe and take out my mental red pen. I refuse to use them. Okay, I will use LOL and BTW. They aren't gross misspellings or shortcuts. They're acronyms. :o)

3. Tell me about your high school senior picture. Please feel free to post.
My high school senior picture was probably the best school picture ever. I wasn't wearing glasses and my hair wasn't cut Dorothy Hamill-style. :oP I know I have a copy around here somewhere...

4. This was accidentally left out of the list.

5. Share a high school or college homecoming memory.
Homecoming... Well, I wasn't much of a social butterfly in high school, and our small commuter college campus didn't have homecoming. I guess my best homecoming memory would be just going to the games and cheering on our team. Watching the homecoming court was always fun. I never really wanted to be on it until my senior year, but I knew it wasn't likely.

6. Linda at Mocha with Linda wants to know: "Do you prefer sunrises or sunsets?"
While I'm up before the sunrise most days, the only window that faces east is the boys', and they're usually still asleep. (We homeschool and they don't have to get up until 8:00.) For that reason, I'd have to say sunsets. I especially like them now that we live out of the city. We see panoramic sunsets now!

7. What is something you have not done that you desire to do?
I'd like to take a photographic tour of Europe. I'd like to go on a photo safari in Africa. I'd like to take cooking classes for different ethnic cuisines.

8. If you could come back [in another life] as an animal, which would it be?
Definitely a giraffe. :o)

9. Where were you 10 years ago? Please feel free to elaborate more than just your physical location.
Ten years ago, we were living in Bossier City, LA, in a fairly new house we had built. I was a new mom, and I was teaching 8th grade science at Evangel Christian Academy, after teaching all subjects for 5 years at the much-smaller Trinity Heights Christian Academy. That was a year of many adjustments. I'd like to say I've grown a lot since then - physically (LOL!), mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

10. When you are proven to be correct in any contentious discussion, do you gloat?
It depends on who the discussion was with. In most cases, I'd say no, but there are some people I can't help but gloat in front of. That's so wrong.

11. What is your favorite food which includes the ingredient "caramel?"
There's no one favorite, so I'll mention the ones I really like. Caramel is great with apples. I love Snickers candy bars, caramel ice cream topping, and turtles.

And speaking of mispronouncing, it drives me nuts when I hear anyone say "carmel".

12. From my 17 year-old daughter to you: "If you could be part of any fictional family, which family would you choose and why?" (She's so cute. And clever.)
I'd have to choose Karen Kingsbury's Baxter family from the Redemption, First Born, and Sunrise series. Those were some of my favorite books because the characters we so real to me. They could've been my own family. My second family choice would be the Ingalls family (even though they were fictionalized) of Little House on the Prairie because I felt like I could fit right in with them when I read those books. Not surprisingly, my choices of families are from books, not television.

I'd love to read your answers! You can leave them in my comments section or link to them in your own blog.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - October 11

Last week was a little crazy and the few things I had planned got pushed over to this week, making this week very easy to get ready for.

Chicken Lo Mein
Mini Egg Rolls
Crab Rangoon
ALDI had several Asian food items on special the week before last. If these are good, I'll probably pick up some more for Sunday evening's International Missions Dinner. Our class was assigned Asia, and since I have AWANA that afternoon, I need something quick and easy!

Dirty Rice

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo


Biscuits & Gravy
Scrambled Eggs
This was Caleb's breakfast supper request from two weeks ago that I never got around to cooking. I have since been to Wal-Mart, though, so I have frozen biscuits and a country gravy mix on hand and don't have to try making any of it from scratch.

We're hosting a missionary family for our home team dinner that night. They requested Tex-Mex, so Paula and Deb are making enchiladas, and Deb is going to bring some bean dip and chips. I have a good recipe for Spanish Rice, so I'll make a double batch of that and provide some guacamole, salsa, and drinks. One other couple might be coming, in addition to our missionary family, so I guess they'll be responsible for dessert.

International Missions Dinner Buffet, provided by the different adult Sunday school classes at church.

For more menu plan ideas, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Flashback Friday: Games & Puzzles

Linda at Mocha with Linda has posted another great set of questions! Are we soul sisters? :o)

Did you play many games when you were growing up? What were they? (Include outside games as well as board & card games.) Who did you generally play with? Did your entire family play games or just the kids? Were there any traditional games your family always played? What were your favorites? Are they still around today? What about puzzles? Was that a popular pastime at your house? Were puzzles saved for holidays or did you do them any time? Were they set out for anyone to work or just one person?

Boy, did I ever play games growing up! You name it, I probably had it - except for Mousetrap. :o) - or played it. Candyland, Monopoly, Yahtzee, Scrabble, Pit, Uno, Skip-Bo, Trivial Pursuit, freeze tag, hide & seek, bike races, tug-of-war, hopscotch, jacks, jumprope, softball, volleyball,...

I'm sure I played board games with Mama & Daddy before my sisters came along. As they got older, we all played games together. Even now, we play games when we get together. Oh, and we play Words with Friends with each other on our iPhones all the time now. When a group of church friends would come over, we'd almost always end up playing Uno, and sometimes my parents would join in. I remember playing a lot of outdoor games with my neighborhood friends when I was in elementary school.

I also played softball with a city league for two years. I spent most of that time daydreaming in right field, but I learned a lot about the game anyway. I turned out to be a pretty decent player when I was a young adult. I didn't play - or want to play - on a college team or anything, but I could hold my own with the other church league ladies. I graduated to left field, center field, and eventually to short stop, which I loved! The worst position I ever played was catcher. I hated squatting and I had an irrational fear of getting my head knocked off by the swinging bat. I haven't played softball for probably 11 or 12 years now, and I really miss it. I'd love for our church to get a team up next spring. I'd play, but I don't want to organize it.

When I was in college, Mama and I would go to garage sales almost every weekend. I'd always look for games and jigsaw puzzles. I remember I had a huge stack of puzzles in the top of my closet. Since they took some time to work, I only did them on school breaks when I could spend hours at a time working on one. I've never been able to just put together a few pieces at a time. When I got married, I got rid of all my old puzzles. I just didn't have the space for them. Since then we've gotten some for the boys, and I always end up spending too much time poring over them.

Billy and I had quite a collection of games before we moved to TX, but since we were moving from a house to a much smaller apartment, we had to get rid of some. Since we were planning on being away for only 2 years, the ones I couldn't bear to part with went into storage. Seven years and more space later, we're still in TX. I'm not sure if we've gotten them all out or if some are rotting away. I've gotten new games to replace the old ones, though.

Some of my current favorite games are Apples to Apples, Scrabble, Scattergories, Balderdash, Loaded Questions, Words with Friends (iPhone - my user name is ch4pterfour if you want to play), Nines (cards), Phase 10 (cards), Phase 10 Dice, Farkle (dice), Mexican Train (dominoes), and various types of solitaire. I'm sure I'm leaving something out!

The boys have quite a love for games as well. I'm not sure how many games they have on their shelves in their room, but there's not much space for anymore. We've recently gotten rid of some of their games for younger children like Hi Ho Cherry O and Candyland, but they're always being replaced. Some of my favorite games of theirs are Blokus, Whoonu, and Apples to Apples Junior. I'm so glad they like to play games as much as I do!

What are your favorite games?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Random Dozen - October 5

This week, readers supplied Linda at 2nd Cup of Coffee with questions for the Random Dozen. Except for the two bloggers I read regularly, I've deleted the blog names of those who sent them because links weren't provided, and I didn't have time to look for them. You can find them on Linda's post, though.

1. If you had a theme song that played whenever you walked into a room full of people, what would it be?
Honestly, as much music as I listen to and enjoy, when someone asks me a question about music, I draw a blank. I can't think of anything to answer this question. I'll come back to it if anything comes to mind.

2. Which of your shoes are your absolute favorite, and which are of the object of your most painful shoe-buyer's remorse?
This one seems familiar... Favorites are determined by the season. Spring/summer: flip flops. Fall/winter: boots. Worst shoe purchase: cute brown high-heel slip-ons. They didn't fit right and my feet hurt after about 10 minutes. I no longer own any heels.

3. Tell about your favorite birthday celebration that you've personally experienced.
Unfortunately what I tend to remember most is that someone is almost always sick on my birthday, so going out to eat always happens late. One year it didn't happen at all. (I'm talking about the dinner with just Billy and the boys and me.) Still, I love when family comes in town to visit and we end up going out to eat together to celebrate.

4. If you were a flavor of ice cream, which would you be?
Chocolate Peanut Butter Chunk. I don't think that describes my personality, nor do I see how a flavor could describe anyone (other than maybe vanilla), but it's my favorite flavor.

5. Cindy Swanson of Notes in the Key of Life asks: Have you ever had a crush on a movie star? Who was it, and are you still crushing?
Of course I've had crushes on movie stars! Who hasn't?!? Let's see... Orlando Bloom, Shemar Moore, Josh Holloway, Alex O'Loughlin,... Oh, and Johnny Depp! I only crush when I watch. Out of sight, out of mind.

6. Glasses or braces--if you had to wear one, which would it be?
I'll keep my glasses, thank you. I'm so used to wearing them, it's almost (almost) like they're not even there. Plus, I have some really cute ones now. :o) Thankfully I have straight teeth (without the help of braces), and I wouldn't want that pain.

7. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I'd live somewhere quiet and peaceful, but not too far away from the city where I could have access to whatever I need/want. I'm partial to mountains.

8. If money were no obstacle, what would be the perfect birthday gift to receive?
I have no idea! I have a hard enough time coming up with birthday ideas for my family - and with spending any birthday money I get from them.

9. What is your favorite birthday meal?
Anything I don't have to cook for myself! I like too many different kinds of food to choose just one favorite. But I do have a favorite dessert that I rarely get - and this year I'm going to make it for myself for my birthday. (Yeah, yeah, I know what I said...) Coconut Cream Pie!

10. Do you still send hand-written thank you notes?
No, though I should. I don't take the time to hand-write much of anything. I know people who do, and I admire them for it, but I'm not motivated enough to do it myself.

11. Linda from Mocha with Linda poses this question: What is something you've done that you never thought you'd do?
Well, I never thought I'd like living in Dallas. In fact, when we were getting ready to move here, I was dreading it. Now I love it and I can't imagine living anywhere smaller.

12. Mount Rushmore honors four US Presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. If you could add any person to Mount Rushmore, who would you add and why?
Any person or any other president? Honestly, I don't know who I'd honor from either group. This is another deep thinking question that I'm drawing a blank on. I don't (usually) like to answer these flippantly. I'm going to "borrow" another answer I saw and say Billy Graham. (Thanks, Linda! Great answer!)

Some of these were tough! But I really don't want easy questions, so they were good. Do you have answers - or suggestions - for any of them?