Monday, December 31, 2007

Music Monday: Casting Crowns

I am always so skeptical of Christian Rock Music. I just have never really liked it much. I know it has come a long way in the past few years, but when compared to current pop music, it usually is years behind.

However, over Christmas break I got a chance to really listen to the CD Lifesong by the group Casting Crowns. One of my younger brothers likes them and had it playing while we drove and talked and I have to say that I was pleasently surprised. My personal favorite right now is Praise You in This Storm, here is just the chorus:

And I'll praise you in this storm

And I will lift my hands

For You are who You are

No matter where I am

And every tear I've cried

You hold in Your hand

You never left my side

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm

Thanks Jay, everytime I listen to this CD I will remember a long drive and great conversation!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Should We Be Happy At Work?

As I was swapping out the guts of a computer yesterday on the job, a very unsettling thought crossed my mind; I don't like to chase down computer hardware problems.

This train of thought led me to really start thinking that I am perhaps in the wrong career. I then eventually had to ask my self if that even mattered.

There are many great sites out there to get one thinking about careers and being happy at work. I ran across this sort of fun quiz on Monster today "Discover Your Perfect Career." I think that is a really silly name, but the quiz did get me thinking and actually all of the careers it mentioned at the end are things I have dreamed of doing.

The quiz said that I am an ENFP (Extravert, Intuitive, Feeler, Perceiver). I actually think this is pretty accurate. And some of the careers it recommends are Career Counselor, Journalist, Graphic Designer, Copywriter, Corporate Team Trainer and Psychologist. As I said, these are all things I have thought of in the past.

But do we have to be happy at work? Does work have to be meaningful and fulfill me? Or is this a bunch of touchy feely crap that we have bought into? I am not sure that our parents, that would be the baby boomers, gave this a bunch of thought. I have a very hard time imagining my dad sitting around wondering if being an insurance agent completes him. I don't think he worries too much about whether or not he is happy at work. I also have a hard time picturing my father-in-law, a very logical practical Dutchman, wondering if he is happy enough at work.

What do you think? Do we need to be happy at work, are just somewhat content?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Blessings on this Christmas

As I sit here thinking of this Christmas and of Christmas past, I am so very thankful for this time of reflection. Time to remember good times of the past and to anticipate future blessings. It has been a rough few months, but I know we will get through. And as I wish I had taken more time in the past few weeks to just sit an enjoy the season, I am reminded of the simple truth in this time of year.

I think Linus has it right, and all I want to do is enjoy this Christmas classic with those I hold dear and make memories that will bless me in years to come. I don't want to forget to ponder the real reason for the season.

Blessings. . .

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cafe Thursday - Crescent Wreath

I can't wait to try this adorable, yet quick and easy to make crescent wreath! I just love the shortcuts from Pillsbury.

2 cans refrigerated crescent rolls
1 container pineapple cream cheese spread
1/3 cup chopped ham
1/4 cup yellow pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup green pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup broccoli, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon red onion, finely chopped
6 cherry tomatoes, quartered

Heat oven to 375°F. Turn 10-oz custard cup upside down on center of ungreased large cookie sheet.Remove dough from 1 can, keeping dough in 1 piece; do not unroll.(Keep remaining can of dough in refrigerator.) Roll dough in one direction to make 12-inch log.Cut log into 20 slices. Arrange 16 slices, slightly overlapping and in clockwise direction,around custard cup on cookie sheet.

Repeat with second can of dough, cutting log into 20 slices. Arrange remaining 4 slices and slicesfrom second can (total of 24 slices) slightly overlapping each other and in counterclockwisedirection, close to but not overlapping first ring. Remove custard cup.

Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown. Gently loosen wreath from cookie sheet;carefully slide onto cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Place wreath on serving tray or platter. Spread cream cheese spread over wreath. Sprinkle withremaining ingredients. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours before serving.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bonding via TV

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right? Last night DD and I did some bonding while watching Clash of the Choirs. Now, usually, I hate all of those reality shows. My life has enough reality in it. I want to be entertained when I watch TV, you know, good fiction. Give me a murder mystery, gory though it may be anyday over one of those who can survive this stupid island like adventure longest by being a creep shows. However, DD's main passion in life is music, so this seemed like a show we may both enjoy, and I like choirs, so I figured we would give this new show a try.

I am so glad we did! I don't know if this show would interest me as much if it weren't Christmastime, but it was very enjoyable. The celebrity hosts are fun (to look at with Nick Lachey and Blake Shelton) and the music is actually really good.

My favorite had to be Patti LaBelle's Philadelphia choir, they brought the house down, and the talent was amazing. I personally thought Nick Lachey's was second, but I would guess there will be lots of debate about that one.

If you missed the show last night, you have another chance tonight, or tomorrow, or Thursday. It will be on NBC all this week. Let me know if you watched and what you thought. We sure had fun rockin with the bands.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Finally Friday Fun - A Great Wine Site

I can't even remember why I ended up on this site, I think I was looking for a gift for a friend. But this site is really a lot of fun. It is an educational wine site by a guy that may live next door to you.

Wine Library TV is hosted by Gary Vaynerchuk who is a typical Jersey guy. If you don't know any Jersey guys, he is loud, opinionated, but somehow endearing. He is the Director of Operations at a wine store in New Jersey, which seems to be a family owned business. He has gotten som nice press recently, and been on Conon O'Brien and the Ellen Degeneres Show.

The best part about his site is that it is a video cast, instead of being a bunch of writing I have to try and make time for. He does a daily show, and I have only seen a few, but they are pretty good, and I have found that the information is worthwhile.

If you are looking for a gift and need some wine advice, or you just wish you knew more, check out this great site. I recommend starting with the link on the right under "things to check out" called "New to wine?" Enjoy!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dealing With Christmas Stress - Part 3

The last thing about Christmas that usually stresses me out is the thought of having to decorate the entire house.

Not this year. I have listed a couple of tips below to make holiday decorating quick and easy.

1. Add Christmas tree lights to mirrors and doorways. I know, the sprigs of evergreen and lights looks so nice, but I find that a cheap set of multi-colored lights around a mirror or door frame can quickly decorate a small room (like the bathroom).

2. Place baskets of ornaments on tables and countertops. We all have baskets lying around, and most of us probably have old ornaments that we don't hang on the tree anymore. Put them in a basket for an instant centerpiece. Add some ribbon and you have a very nice new decoration. If you want to do more, paint the basket to match the bulbs.

3. Add handmade snowflakes to windows and mirrors. My kids actually love to make snowflakes and tape them to the windows. Here is a great site with some patterns to use.

4. Another thing I do is decorate pillows with ribbon from past Christmas presents and wrap wall art and pictures like presents.

5. All you need to complete this look is to decorate the tree with traditional ornaments, bows and lights.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dealing With Christmas Stress - Part 2

As promised, today I will share one of my secrets for dealing with Christmas stress this year. I am cheating.

That is right, the second thing I stress out about most years is all of the baking I have to do in order to take cookies everywhere I go. I am not gonna slave in the kitchen for hours upon hours trying to make the perfect cookie this year! I am going to start with some dough provided by good old Pillsbury, and go from there.

In fact, over at the Pillsbury site they have some pretty darn good looking recipes that I plan to use, as well as some of my own editing of their dough. Why reinvent the wheel? Most cookies consist of sugar, butter, flour, I think that is what is in the Pillsbury stuff . . . right?

And instead of making 30 different kinds of cookies, I am going to narrow in on a couple and do them really well.

Bonding With My Teenager

I sit here this morning, typing in pain.

In order to bond with my daughter last night, I participated in an activity I really didn't want to. I got my nails done. And do you think she would settle for mom getting a nice plain old manicure? No! I had to get these darn acrylic nails put on. I got them as short as I could, but I am still having a tough time this morning. It was all I could do to convince her that I just couldn't possibly get a design too.

So, here I sit, a system administrator who can barely type, let alone be able to take a hard drive out of a computer. They look great, but come on, they have no practical purpose at all. I am just waiting for the ridicule from the guys here to start.

So, was it worth it? Absolutely! I am convinced that it is these small little memories and shared experiences that really matter. We wont remember what color we got, or what salon we went to, but we perhaps now have a new Christmas tradition that we will share in years to come.

What crazy things have you done to bond with your teen or parent?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How I Keep Stress Away at Christmas

I was thinking on my drive to work today that the folks on the radio are special. The woman on the morning talk show was going on and on about how stressed she was and her shopping is almost done, as is her baking and decorating. I was thinking how I had barely started those things and yet for the first year that I remember, I am not at all stressed.

Then, upon arriving to work and checking Christine Kane's blog as I do each day, I saw that she was also blogging about how to destress, and I figured I may as well add my $.02.

There are three things that usually get me stressed out around Christams time; gifts, baking, and decorating. I will spend the next three days telling you why I am not worried about these things this year.

Gifts: All I had to do to not stress about this is two things. First, I asked myself to quickly list what I received last year. I couldn't do it. I remember what my thoughtful husband got me, but for the most part, I couldn't remember the gifts. I am guessing that many people are like me; they remember that they were thought of by friends and relatives, but can't remember the actual gift. As long as you make the effort, there is absolutely no reason to stress over picking the perfect gift. It doesn't exist.

Second, I made a list of all the gifts I need to get. I have 22 purchases to make. Now, I don't know about you, but there are many days, at the outlet malls usually, where I can easily make 22 purchases in a matter of hours. Why is it that we insist on spending several weeekends at the malls this month of the year? Come on ladies, we can do this in a day or less. Again, the key is to quit looking for the perfect gift and instead do the best you can.

Do not let others stress you out, and please realize that none of us have the perfect home, gift, kids, husband, family. Enjoy whatever you do have!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Encouragement May Be the Key

I wanted to write an update to my post on Parenting Teens from last week. I also wanted to thank those who responded, I read all you had to say and visited many of your blogs. I was so encouraged by all you have written and by your advice.

What came out loud and clear by many is that my DS may need some encouragement, and DD needs time to heal. We have made significant progress on both fronts.

DD seems to be healing quite nicely. She is interested in so many things, and has so many accomplishments that it is hard to have much time to sulk or nurse a broken heart. Also, it did help that she noticed someone else at church this weekend. Another boy, more trouble no doubt, but she at least has to acknowledge on some level that Moms reminder that other boys will come along was correct.

DS and I may have had a bit of a break-through this past week also. I noticed that for his last detention he had to write out some goals for himself. It seems that one of his goals is to attend a college in the Midwest that has a good reputation and therefore hard to get into. Upon discussing this, I realized that although he put it on his list, he really believed he could not get in. I encouraged him and explained that actually, if he quickly turned things around he could very well get in. He was shocked and amazed, and seemed to actually decide to try. Now, I know the personality of this little adult, and he will need CONSTANT validation and reminders of what his goal is. I am ok with that though, as I see that as a major part of this parenting gig anyway. To encourage and encourage and encourage until they no longer need it . . . and now that I think about it . . . my mom is still encouraging me when no one else believes.

I know, another post about the kids! Who cares? But here is hoping someone needed to hear that each day brings its own challenges and blessings.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Finally Friday Fun: YouTube Style

This has been a really long week. Lots of ups and downs with the kids, snow here in Chitown and we are in the midst of Christmas craziness. So, it is no great surprise to me that I somehow ended up over on YouTube watching videos this morning.

I started watching a StarWars Helpdesk parody, mostly because I am very familiar with what is known as "Helpdesk Hell." I watched a few of these StarWars shorts, but ended up stuck on this Muppets video that I remember all too well from when I was younger. This is just plain fun, now if I just had one of those cocktails from yesterday's posting . . .


Thursday, December 6, 2007

5 Christmas Cocktails

Ah yes, the weekend is coming, and I am preparing for it ahead of time. It has been a very long week both at work and at home, and I have been thinking all morning about some of the fun Christmas Cocktails I have seen and how I can't wait to try them.

Before the mad cow kicks in (yes, I am a closet Boston Legal fan, and I know it is a terrible show but it is just so darned entertaining and impertinent that I LOVE it) I thought I better jot a couple of these down.

1. I first want to try a Candy Cane Martini. I found this yummy sounding recipe at my new favorite Christmas website; Combine the following: 3/4 oz Peppermint Schnapps, 3/4 oz Creme de Cacao, 1/4 oz Grenadine, 1/4 oz Half & Half, and a splash of 7-up.

2. How about a White Christmas? This recipe comes from the folks over at Fine Living: combine 4 oz of Eggnog, 1/2 oz of White Chocolate Liqueur, and 1 oz of Southern Comfort.

3. Next, I may have to try Emeril's Candy Cane recipe. To make this, add the following ingredients to a large bowl filled with ice cubes: 3 candy canes, crushed , 1/2 bottle vodka, 1 1/2 cups cranberry vodka, 1/4 cup Grand Marnier, 2 cups macerated cherries, 2 quarts cranberry juice, and 2 tablespoons grenadine.

4. My Grandpa used to make Grasshopper parfaits for all the adults at Christmas when I was a kid, but I had to settle for the fudge parfait instead. This recipe for a Frozen Grasshopper will no doubt be good, and also bring back childhood memories. You blend the following ingredients: 3/4 oz green creme de menthe, 3/4 oz white creme de cacao, and 2 cups vanilla ice cream.
5. And just in case it is as cold by you as it is by me these days, I thought I should add at least one hot drink. How about a Hot Nuts: pour 1 oz of Amaretto almond liqueur and 1 oz of Frangelico hazelnut liqueur in a coffee mug, then fill with hot chocolate. Top with whipped cream and pour 1/8 oz of Cherry Brandy carefully over the whipped cream. Top with a cherry.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Today is an UP Day!

After such a down day on Monday, I was afraid of what Tuesday may hold, but things were good yesterday, and I will take it. A day at a time, I will make it through with my two teenagers, a dd and ds.

DS Had his first swim meet . . .

and it went quite well actually. I had never been to a swim meet and was not sure what to expect, but other than the humidity of the pool area, I enjoyed it very much. He competed in three events and did quite well. I had to put this picture up for his grandparents, they will love it.

DD had fun in the snow . . .

and I was once again amazed by her strength and courage, so unlike her mother. She told me God had answered her prayers for snow so she was going out in it to enjoy the first snow of the season. Quite a change from the night before when she was nursing a broken heart. She is healing quickly and I am just so thrilled that she is grounded somehow . . . where did that come from??!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Parenting Is Hard

I think I have always known that parenting is hard, but it is the teenage years that are killing me.

I have a boy and a girl, and they have very different issues, but both hurt my heart today.

My daughter has just lost her first love. She is such a great person, smart, fun, cute, and lovable, but this boy has left her doubting her self worth and that makes me sad. I hate that we women often let the men in our lives have that power over us. As if we need their acceptance or that their opinions are the only ones that matter. I am trying to teach her to be independant and to think for herself and to march to the beat of her own drum. . .but she is a teenage girl. She likes boys. I will have to think up some interesting ways to pump up her ego a bit. Any ideas?

My son is a whole other person. I don't understand him. He is very smart, and is a generally good athlete, but he can't ever remember to bring his homework home, and therefore never does it and fails his classes. On top of that, he is late for classes and is now serving his thrird detention of the school year. . .as a freshman!! I don't know what to do. We have punished him, taken away his gadgets, no activities with friends, nothing to do at home but sleep and eat and it doesn't do any good. I am at a loss, and at this point, I am tired of crying myself to sleep.

My husband thinks this is typical parenting stress for those with teenagers. I would love to hear from anyone with teenagers. . .advice. . .or even just an "amen" we have that problem too would be very much appreciated.

How do you make it through the teenage years?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Review of The Historian

I finally finished The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, and I think this is the first book that I have read for pleasure that took me so long to finish.

I liked this book overall, and I certainly liked the idea of the book, but I think the thing is that the action never really took off and made this book one I couldn't put down. There were many details about monks and monistaries and not enough character development I think. This book read more like a history book than most historical fiction novels I have read. Unfortunately, I loved Dan Brown's Davinci Code. That historical novel had detail, but it had enough non-stop action to keep the reader involved and interested. His characters we more believable I suppose.

Even the love stories in this book, and I believe there are two, were weak and not well devoleped. There is little passion in this book at all, except perhaps the auther has for the old monistaries. I just kept feeling like something was missing. I was able to finish the book, but I won't really be adding it to any of my Christmas lists this year.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

5 Things To Do on a Blustery Chicago Day

The weather here in Chicago is treacherous today. There was snow, then rain, then more snow and some more raining. Needless to say, the roads are a solid sheet of ice.

So, I found myself looking for things to do to pass the time on this cold, slushy day and I ended up having quite a good day in spite of myself. I thought I would record what I did, so the next time the weather acts up this way I can immediately beging the fun.

1. Read. I always have two or three books that I have really wanted to get to and just never find the time for. Brew a pot of coffe or cup of tea and you have hours of entertainment.

2. Play video games with your children. Don't have children? Call a friend or get online and meet some friends.

3. Bake. This can be a lone activity or in my case, a chance to turn the gadgets off and talk to my children while we create yummies to consume.

4. Take a bath. Come on, when was the last time you sat down in a tub and really let the heat and some fun bubbles carry you away to warmer thoughts and climates?

5. Catch up with friends. You can pick up the phone, jump online and send an email or IM, or even walk to the neighbor's house for a quick visit. I touched base today with some friends I had not talked to in a while and was reminded of just how important those relationships are. I smiled and had warm fuzzies all over just connecting to others and catching up with them on all the happenings in their lives.

Enjoy the weather!