Monday, May 31, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - May 31, 2010

Since today was a holiday, we decided to grill - and grill enough to eat through the week. Last time we grilled, we only did a few burgers and two chicken breasts (for Caleb, who doesn't like burgers). Billy said we needed to take advantage of all the extra heat the next time, so we did. This evening we grilled burgers, pork chops, chicken breasts, hot links, and hot dogs.

Bison Burgers
Bush's Grilling Beans

Rosemary Pork Chops
Suddenly Salad (Greek style)
Steamed Broccoli

BBQ Hot Link Sandwiches
(Chicken Sandwiches or Hot Dogs for the boys)
Suddenly Salad (Original style)

Bison Burgers
Chuck Wagon Corn


Caesar Salad
Homemade Italian Bread

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

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

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hot Soup

I love a bowl of hot soup in the fall or winter. Campbell's had it right. Soup is good food.

We have soup nights once, sometimes twice, a week from October through March. Granted, some of the dishes aren't truly soup, but for us, they fall into that comfort food category: chicken & dumplings, red beans & rice, gumbo, chili,...

The one soup that brings back bad memories of childhood is chicken noodle soup. I always equate it with being sick. To this day, I can't eat it.

The one soup that brings back wonderful memories of childhood is Vegetable Soup. That rich, red tomato broth is chock full of bright colored veggie goodness: carrots, corn, green beans, potatoes, and green peas. (I ignored the lima beans, and now that I make it myself, I leave them out altogether.) Oooh, and sopping up all the leftover juice with a piece of hot homemade cornbread... Not Jiffy, but the real stuff, made from scratch. Second night soup is even better, after all the flavors have had time to blend...

One of my favorite soups is Baked Potato Soup. It's perfect with some crusty French bread for dipping. Or maybe it's Broccoli Cheese Soup. It's perfect with some crusty French bread for dipping. Or give me a baked potato smothered in Broccoli Cheese Soup. Crumble a little bacon on top and it gives the best of both.

Now that the weather has warmed up, I can't bring myself to eat hot soup. Cold soup doesn't sound right. I can't think of any cold soup I'd want to try. Well, maybe Strawberry Soup. I don't remember who told me about it, but I remember they loved it and had good family memories associated with it.

Hot soup days are only 4 short months away.

Classical Music

Classical music always reminds me of Memaw. When I was a little girl, I would spend Friday nights at her house. I'd often wake up on Saturday mornings to the sounds of classical music playing as she'd clean house. I didn't like it then, but as I grew older, I developed quite an appreciation for it.

When the boys were babies, I'd play classical music in their rooms when they would go to sleep at night. Studies supposedly showed that doing that would sharpen the logical, mathematical parts of the brain. Both of the boys are strong in math - above their grade levels. But I'm not so sure it's because I played classical music for them when they were infants. I think it has more to do with the fact that Billy and I are strong in math.

I recently took the boys to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. I wanted them to experience seeing a symphony play, to see the instruments being played, to hear the individual sounds they make. I wanted them to begin to develop an appreciation for classical music at an earlier age than I did. They enjoyed it, but I think I enjoyed it more. As I'd listen to some of my favorite pieces being played, I'd find myself tapping my hands or feet, smiling a goofy smile as I enjoyed the music.

I'd love to go back one day, but without the boys. They were very well-behaved on our field trip, but they admitted they had started getting bored. I don't want it to be drudgery for them. And when I go back, I want to be able to enjoy all of it and not worry about trying to keep two bored boys still and quiet.

Writing Exercises

I've mentioned several times that I'd like to write a children's book. In fact, I started one a few years ago, but once I got stuck, I put it away indefinitely. I've gotten it out a time or two since then and tried to work on it, but I'd hit that wall again and put it away. I'd think about it for a day or so, trying to work out the kinks, then I'd get busy with other things and forget about it again. Recently I've wanted to take it up again, but I know I'll see those difficult places again and put it away to ponder a while. Then I'll forget. Again.

While on one of our weekly library trips, I wandered into the section with writing guides. There are guide books for all sorts of writing: drama, comedy, stand-up, poetry, etc. I just wanted some practice. As I kept looking along the shelves, A Writer's Workbook caught my eye. I took it off the shelf and glanced through it. It looked promising, so I dropped it into the abyss of my library bag, along with several books the boys had chosen and a few other random things I had picked up.

Two weeks later, I finally opened it and began reading. Author Caroline Sharp talked about how you can't stop when you get stuck in your writing. You can't put it away and think the words will flow more easily the next time you put your pen to paper (or your fingers to the keyboard). Just as gymnasts and swimmers must practice before competitions, just as musicians must tune up before playing their instruments, writers must practice writing - finding the right words, getting into a flow of brain activity, etc.

Hmmm... There's something to that, and that's something I haven't been doing. Yes, I blog, but not consistently and not about anything of consequence. The writing I've been doing isn't doing anything to move me forward on my book.

So, I'm going to make an effort to follow through with the writing exercises in A Writer's Workbook to get my mind sharpened again. I'll post some of the exercises, but probably not all of them. In fact, the first "assignment" focuses on honing the power of description by writing about a circle, the color red, a bench, and 27 other random things. My first impression is that these won't make for interesting reading. Then again, they might. I'll post what is post-worthy and keep the rest hidden away.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - May 24, 2010

I was so busy the last two weeks, I didn't get around to posting my menu. Last week the boys were testing, and the week before that we were out of town. Half of it, anyway. The other part of the week, the boys were out of town, so I didn't do much in the way of cooking.

This week I'm back in the game.

Black Bean Quesadillas
Chips with Salsa and Guacamole

Mediterranean Salad
Italian Herb Bread

Dirty Rice
Garden Salad

Pancakes & Sausage



Chicken Spaghetti
Garden Salad

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

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May 2010 Book List

20. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larrson

In this is the second book of the Millennium trilogy, Mikael Blomkvist is back to work at Millennium, working with a stellar journalist who threatens to expose police officers and other higher-ups involved in a sex-trafficking ring. Lisbeth Salander, who has kept her distance from Blomkvist for nearly a year, has secretly relocated to an upper-class apartment. After the journalist and his girlfriend, who is also working on uncovering the sex-trafficking ring, are brutally murdered, Salander is the prime suspect. Knowing what kind of person Salander is, Blomkvist can't believe she's guilty. He reestablishes contact with her and races against time to put the pieces of the puzzle together - not just to prove her innocence, but to save her life.

This book was just as gripping as the first one, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Though I found parts of it to be boring, the story generally flowed quickly and was full of twists and turns. Parts of the ending were a little predictable, and the readers are left hanging as the second book ends. It makes reading the third installment almost a necessity.

Unfortunately I'll have to wait a while before I can read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. It won't be released until later this month, and since it's not a book I'd buy (see the note on the unsavory themes in the first book), I'll have to wait for my library to get it. I'm number 15 on the list, so depending on when it comes in, maybe I won't have to wait too long.

21. Miss Julia Delivers the Goods by Ann B. Ross

This is the 10th book in the Miss Julia series. Hazel Marie goes to Miss Julia after she gets so worried about her health she thinks she's dying. After Miss Julia gets her to a doctor, she is horrified to find out that Hazel Marie is pregnant. The worst part of it is that she's not married. And to make matters even worse, Hazel Marie informs her that she broke things off with Mr. Pickens and that he's not to be told about her situation. To top it off, Hazel Marie is threatening to leave town and possibly take Lloyd with her. Miss Julia can't bear the thought of losing Lloyd or Hazel Marie, so she takes it upon herself to come up with a plan to put everything right. A break-in at Sam's house/office prompts the return of Mr. Pickens, and Miss Julia is beside herself with worry about how things will work out. Unable to stand the lack of progress between Mr. Pickens and Hazel Marie, Miss Julia takes matters into her own hands.

The Miss Julia books are one of my guilty pleasures. The characters are fun, and Miss Julia always gets into some sort of trouble while she's trying to sort out trouble of another kind. The situations, while far-fetched, are always humorous, and I often find myself laughing out loud. I'd love to see these books made into a movie or series. I can easily see Shirley McClain in the lead role.

22. Miss Julia Renews Her Vows by Ann B. Ross

In this 11th book of the Miss Julia series, she and Sam have been invited by Pastor Ledbetter to take part in a marriage workshop at the church. Once Miss Julia finds out Dr. Fred Fowler will be leading the sessions, she does everything she can to avoid going. Her "illness" keeps her home from the sessions, but it also worries Sam, Lilian, and Lloyd. When Francie Pitts returns to town, widowed for the 5th time and looking for husband number 6, she frets over Miss Julia's poor health and sets her sights on Sam. Not one to take anything lying down, Miss Julia rebounds from her sick bed to take matters into her own hands. Again.

23. Mr. Monk Is Miserable by Lee Goldberg

Immediately following Mr. Monk Goes to Germany, this book finds Natalie blackmailing Monk into taking a vacation in Paris. Things start off on the wrong foot for Natalie when Monk solves a murder that happened on their flight. After things get settled, Natalie leads Monk on a tour of the sewers of Paris and the catacombs. While looking at the piles and piles of bones, Monk discovers a skull that's a recent addition - and a victim of murder. As Natalie fights to enjoy her vacation, Monk ends up pulling her into two murder investigations - and an adventure in Paris that's beyond her wildest dreams.

Mr. Monk Is Miserable is the 7th book in the series. Since the television series ended, I'm not sure how many more books will be published, but there are at least two more that follow it.

The Monk books are another of my guilty pleasures. These make me laugh out loud, so I have to be careful if I'm reading in public.

24. The Time of My Life by Patrick Swayze & Lisa Niemi

After being diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer, Swayze wondered if his life meant anything. With his wife of more than 30 years, he wrote this incredible memoir that gives insight into the real man behind the many powerful Hollywood roles.

Swayze always felt pressure to achieve a lot, and to do it well. From high school football to gymnastics to dancing, Swayze was on the rise to stardom. Unfortunately injuries prevented him from achieving each of those dreams. With a determined spirit, he pushed on from one thing to the next.

As an actor, Swayze worked to be better with each role, to learn everything he could to make his character real. In his memoir, he provides a behind-the-scenes look at life on a set. He shares his experiences in Namibia, India, and other places he filmed. He recounts the horrors of incidents that nearly took his life.

One surprising theme that played through the book was Swayze's lack of self-confidence. None of that ever showed through in his work, but he dealt with those demons in every aspect of his life: his dashed dreams, his hopes, his love for Lisa, his acting.

Swayze also had a fighting spirit, which carried him through 20 months of surviving cancer after his initial diagnosis.

Thankfully, the photos in the book never reveal the toll cancer took on his body. I saw some internet pictures of him a little over a year after his diagnosis and he was just a shell of the man he had been. Better to remember him as he had been in his prime.

I was never bored by the material in this book. I came to appreciate all his hard work even more, and it makes me want to go back and watch some of his movies again.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - May 3, 2010

Most of last week went according to plan, but Jacob got sick (again!) Friday night, so the weekend changed. Apparently he has the same thing he had last time - sudden high fever that comes down quickly with Motrin (thus a virus), which spikes again after the meds have worn off. He had minor coughing before this started, but it's gotten more frequent, especially at night. Again. It's not to the stage where it sounds "wet", but I'm sure that's coming. If he follows suit like last time, today should be his last day of fever... Then Caleb will probably come down with it tomorrow...

Jacob was able to attend the AWANA Awards Program at church. Billy sat in the back with him so he wouldn't spread his germs to all his friends. He went up to get his award, but hung back from the rest of the group, then went back to his seat. His junior leader came back to shake his hand, but Jacob wouldn't do it. We had to explain that he was sick and we had told him not to touch anyone. He was good about remembering!

Instead of the AWANA picnic, we picked up supper from Taco Bell and brought it home to eat. At least the boys didn't have to eat sandwiches on their special night.

Last week I made a loaf of Cranberry Walnut Bread so I'll be having Jacked-Up Turkey Sandwiches for lunch every day. Woohoo!!!

On to this week's menu.


Somehow we didn't eat all the leftovers from last week. I think we had more than we realized. We'll finish those off tonight so nothing will go to waste.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

Spaghetti & Meatballs
Green Beans
Homemade Italian Bread

Panko-Breaded Baked Chicken Nuggets (w/ KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce for dipping)
Chuck Wagon Corn (frozen package)
Bush's Southern Pit Barbecue Grillin' Beans (I had bought these to take to the picnic...)


??? A friend of ours is graduating from DTS and will be having an open house celebration that afternoon - a come-and-go affair. If we've decided to stay in town, we'll drop in there and maybe grab a bite to eat out.

Sunday - Mother's Day!
OUT! (Whether we're visiting family or in town...)

Hmmmm... I think we need a breakfast supper next week. It's been a while since the last one.

For more menu plan ideas, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.