Friday, August 8, 2008

Finally Friday Fun - Stephen King's N.

I am not sure exactly how I stumbled upon it, but I have found another site that I just HAVE to check daily; the nishere site. If you are a Stephen King fan at all, you really should check it out. It seems he has written a bunch of short stories that will be available in September, and in what can only be described as marketing geneous, he has released one of those stories in a short mini-series comic book video format. You really have to see it to believe it, but it is really well done and actually quite captivating.

For more information on this series, you can check out the Press Release here. The series began on July 28 and will continue to realease at the one per weekday rate until August 29. Be warned, if you like Stephen King, this will be quite addicting.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bikes and Bonfires

This past Saturday was darn close to a perfect day for me. It started by being a Saturday, which means I got to sleep in till 8 am, and on this particular Saturday, I awoke to a hotel rooom, where DH and I had spent the previous evening after attending a wedding. We lounged around for a bit then hit the streets to find a cozy river front cafe where we enjoyed a leisurely cup of coffee and made some plans for the coming month. Plans shored up, we were then off on the motorcycles to visit an Uncle of DH's to sit and catch up on a beautiful deck surrounded by family. After lots of stories and catching up, we headed south to pickup our children and hold some baby nephews for a while. We did cuddle for just a bit and were then back on the road to visit my family, again on the motorcycles. The picture on the left shows us tired, but very happy after a day of riding.




I think the perfect ending to our day was the bonfire (and toasted marshmallows) that gave us that "camping" feeling without having to share a bed with bugs and such. Does it get better than this?



Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Fun Ride - Bear's Camp


As the summer progresses, my dear family and I are taking lots and lots of road trips on our motorcycles. One night last week we decided to go check out the Chicago Bears training camp down in Bourbonnais, IL. Here are some pictures that we got while we were there. . .Go Bears!!



And here is the actual practice that we saw. . .they look so small up close. . .



Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I LOVE Eating Out!

I sure have had writers block lately. I haven't known quite what to post on, and with new hobbies at home and new projects at work, there isn't much time to develop anything that interesting. I have been working on something though that I hope to start tomorrow. . .but I better wait and see if I get my ducks in a row before I announce anything.

My DD and DS are out of town this week on their first mission trip with the church youth group. I had hoped to post some pictures here for my most loyal readers (hi Mom and Dad), but I can't quite get the pictures off the youth group site like I had hoped. Anyway, kids are several states away and DH and I find ourselves with some VERY blessed alone time this week, which has lead to many nice motorcyle rides. The past couple of nights our rides have lead to dinner. Monday at Joe's Crab Shack and last night to Rock Bottom Brewery, both establishments are fantastic places to enjoy with a loved one by the way. Beer and a bucket of crab legs. . .can the week possibly get any better than that?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Book Review - The Shack by William P. Young

My mom bought me a copy of this book and said I just had to read it. As usual, Mom was right! This book is amazing, and it is right up there with Randy Alcorn's books on the same theme. I was drawn to Randy Alcorn's books after my first reading of Deadline. Randy is a Christian author who takes what I have found to be a somewhat unique perspective on Heaven. None of us knows for sure what Heaven will be like, but how many of us have really considered what it may be like? Revelation reveals to us what the end of this Earth will be like, but does it really explain what Heaven will be like before the end times? After the end times? I can't answer that, but I have learned from Randy that challenging preconceived ideas of Heaven can be a rewarding exercise that usually brings me to a deeper appreciation for the God of the universe. Like Randy Alcorn did with Heaven, William P. Young has also encouraged me to go back to scripture to check out his assumptions, and mine, about who God is and what he expects.

So while I may not agree with every idea William P. Young puts forth in his book, I think that it is a very good book for adults to read. I think that people who will read this book, and then go back to scripture and look for answers to questions that it will raise will really enjoy it and get a lot out of it. I am even going to encourage my DD to read this book, as I think she has a deep enough theological basis to read it from. But be warned, some of the ideas in this book are not traditional. I believe that the main point of the book is very scripturally sound and is therefore good for instruction and has redemptive value.

One more word of caution; have plenty of tissue handy.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Snakes Are Lucky - Tales From VBS


So DD and I (and a couple of days DS too) spent last week volunteering as “Crew Guides” for the Vacation Bible School program at our church. For the most part it was a lot of singing, listening to Bible stories and doing cute crafts. We also had a community focus this year, and we got to see our Mayor, create some things for use in our community and we even got to meet one of our town's firefighters, which was a huge hit with the kids.


It was during our Question and Answer time with our local firefighter that I was reminded of how hilarious kids can be. The Question and Answer went something like this:

Church Boy: What do you do when you get to a house and you break down the door and go in and see all the people with their shirts nailed to the ceiling?

Firefighter: Ahhhh, what do you mean? I have never seen that.

Church Boy: Well, you know, in a fire the best air is up high, so the family would be there.

Firefighter: NO, the best air is down near the floor, in a fire, crawl on the floor and do not stand up.

Church Boy: (long pause) Snakes are lucky.

Friends, you can’t pay for that kind of humor! I don't know if this story translates well via blog, but let me tell you that the retelling of this story has caused hours of laughter for DD, DS and I. If you haven’t volunteered with kids lately, it may just do you some good.

Monday, June 30, 2008

I Am Going to Quit. . .

I am going to quit taking myself too seriously, instead I am going to be silly and embarass my children and learn to really live.

I am going to quit looking over my shoulder to see who may be watching me and instead live my life and make my decisions based on what I think.

I am going to quit always looking forward to tomorrow to be better, more fun, more perfect, and instead marvel at the glory of today.

I am going to quit eating like there is no tomorrow and dieting like I need to loose 50 pounds. I am going to eat in moderation and exercise to make up the difference.

I am going to quit going home to sit on my sofa and watch the fascinating lives of those people on TV who will never be like me or have a life like mine. I am going to start spending more time with people I know and care about.

I am going to quit putting God last and wondering why He always feels so far away. I am going to start putting Him first again and then marvel at the relationship that develops.

Today is Monday, and I am gonna quit writing and get out and live!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Documenting a First

I did something last night that I have never done before, as a reward to myself for two weeks without a cigarette. I got a message! I haven't done this before because to be honest it has always seemed sort of extravagent to me, but I have been saving a first time special price coupon for a couple of months just waiting for the perfect opportunity to use it.

I went to a place called Message Envy, and they still have the coupon available for first time visitors. They have many locations in many states, so have a look to see if there is one by you. A word of warning, they will try to sell you on their monthly membership when you are done, but that wasn't a bit deal and a polite not today was enough. Regular price is $78 for an hour, but with the first time coupon this is a treat you should try if you can.

From the soft music, to the dim lighting, everything you need to relax is provided, and everything is done to your comfort level. Beverages are offered, soft meditation type music plays over the speakers in the building, the therapist talks softly if at all and the bed and blankets are warm and inviting. I was worried that the 50 minutes would go by slowly, but it was over before I knew it and I felt relaxed and comfortable. Unfortunately, it helped me sleep so deeply that I overslept this morning for the first time in years, but it was worth it!

While a monthly membership may be much too extravagant, I can certainly see myself asking my family for this nice perk once a year on birthdays or something. . .or saving up just a bit myself for the chance to go once a year!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cafe Thursday - No More Smoking Section

I was a smoker. I smoked on and off for about 12 years, and have decided that I will no longer be a smoker. I have cowered in shame in my garage and hid from my friends at church and even my family members because I was ashamed of my habit. Wisdom has finally come and I have decided that I will no longer live that life.

I do not stand in any kind of judgement of others, but for me, I must quit and move on with my life in a much more healthy pursuit. I want to be healthy. I want to be around for my kids as much as it is in my power to do so, so I am quitting.

It has only been 6 days and about 18 hours since my last cigarette, so I really do have a long way to go, but I will do it. I ran into withdrawl symptoms yesterday that I did not anticipate because I have been weening myself for months, but that will not deter me either (although. . .the past 48 hours has been the worst by far).

If you are a regular here, or a family member, keep me in your thoughts and prayers for the next few days if you can. It is challenging. . .but I will do it. . in God's power I will not smoke again.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

She Loved NYC!






I may have created a monster this past weekend by taking my DD to New York City; she loved it.

We saw some shows:













Saw some sites:










And did some shopping:










And now she is hooked, wants to go back, and wants to live there. What have I done? I am kidding, sort of. We had a great couple of days in New York City and have a great drive there as well. I am so glad we did this! Even though we drove, which was long, it was a great opportunity to talk and share and see a few really pretty states. If you only get a chance to do weekend road trips with your kids this summer. . .DO IT!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cafe Thursday - Pasta Salads

I love pasta salad. Well, actually, I love all salads. My friends know of this passion of mine, and so I am always the dedicated salad girl. And I must say, that of all the recipes I have tried, I make the same two salads most often.

My favorite pasta salad, and the one that I make the most often is one I saw a while back on the Food Network's Everyday Italian show. The dressing for this is more like pesto than your average Italian Dressing based salad, and it is just delicious. I can't recommend this recipe enough. I tend to add some things like green olives and other veggies that I have on hand, and you can certainly make this one your own too. My advice though, do not skip the smoked turkey or the fresh cheese in this dish. I know both are expensive, which is why I only make it on special occasions, but this combination is really out of this world. Here is the recipe for Antipasto Salad.

The second pasta salad recipe that I regularly make is like this Springtime Pasta Salad, except I make a couple of modifications. I always add at least half a packet of Italian Dressing seasoning and a squeeze of bottled Italian Dressing for flavor. I also always add tomatoes and some parmesan cheese in addtion to using whole wheat noodles.

Try them both if you can and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Road Trip - NYC or Bust

DD, my mom, and I are all headed to NYC for the weekend! I am so excited. I haven't been since moving away from that area over 10 years ago now. We are headed to Broadway to see a show for sure, the rest is still being decided. With the cost of airplane tickets, it will actually be cheaper for us to drive, so it is a road trip for us. Besides, getting there is half the fun anyway. I LOVE to drive, especially from state to state. I get such a sense of accomplishment and adventure from driving long distances. I also really enjoy stopping along the way to eat and see the local sights, you know, be part of a bigger picture.

We will be going to see the show Curtains while we are in NYC. My DD also wants to see Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, do some 5th Ave shopping, visit Times Square, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art . I am hoping to get to the New York Public Library, as that is the one site I have not seen yet and I want to see the lions. I would also like to go back to South Street Seaport, as this was a favorite spot for us to visit and take family and friends when we lived in NJ. It is a big list and we will really only be there 2 days. . .so we will be doing much walking and quickly taking some photo ops before moving on to our next destination. However, it will be fun and I can't wait to share this experience with DD.

NYC. . .he we come. . .

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

It's Coming - Momma Mia

One of the most entertaining musicals I have seen recently is coming to the big screen. Momma Mia is a light musical that features the 70's hits of ABBA. The story line revolves around the hits, so it is fun to watch how they weave a story around a bunch of unrelated songs. The story does end up being a bit predictable, but the music is so much fun that I hardly noticed.

I am worried about some of the casting in the movie, as the traveling show we saw was just so perfect that it will be hard to see others in those roles, but it should still be a lot of fun to watch on the big screen. Here is a preview. . .


Friday, May 30, 2008

Book Review - Thunderhead


I really enjoyed Thunderhead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child! I didn't get through it as quickly as I would have liked, but I did enjoy the journey. I found the setting, characters and plot of this book all very refreshing and well done.

This is my first Preston/Child adventure, and I have to say that I will indeed be back for more fun. Although, I supose that the word "fun" may not be quite correct, as the setting for this mystery is a bit darker than the lighter mysteries I had been reading. This book is set mostly in the "redrock canyon country of southwestern Utah" and deals with the darker side of the local Native American life, like death and witchcraft. It is the setting, which is so wonderfullly done though that first sets the standard for this fascinating page turner.

I also found the depth of character development so well done in for such a short book with so many interesting characters. There are several secondary characters whose personalities are just so strong that the reader feels drawn into their struggles and can easily understand their struggles and triumphs. There are several heros and a few villians and the reader is lead to identify with each of them in interesting ways. I really enjoyed the journey through to understanding each character and what made them tick.

I believe it is the mix of mystery and adventure, teamed with spirituality and culture that make this book such an interesting read. I was really drawn in by the mystery at first, but then I got wind of the adventure that was forming, only to be further sucked in by the culture and sprirituality of the Anasazi people. I just can't overstate here how entertaining this book was. In fact, I am now adding the rest of the books written by these authors to my "Must Read" list.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Weekend Update

What a weekend! We had beautiful weather here in the Chicago area, so we got a lot of outside work done. This means we ought to be able to have lots of motorcycle road trips in the weekends to come! Next on my list of things to do is to plot out some trips that can be accomplished in a day or two for the weekends to come.

Here is a picture of DD's new flower bed. We finally decided on a blue hydrangea and some other plants that she thought would look nice. We mostly planted perennials, but I added some Gerber Daisies because they are just too pretty. DD also got a beautiful orange rose plant that we will keep in a container on the front porch to spruce that up a bit.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cafe Thursday - 5 Somewhat Healthy Snacks

My DD and I are trying very hard to adopt a new healthy way of eating and snacking. After years of unhealthy habits, it is hard, but there are a few really delicious snacks that help us stay on track. I thought I would share them here, some are healthier than others, so eat at your own risk. . .

1. Veggies with Ranch or Veggie Dip - I know, the dip is a bit questionable, but come on, as long as we all are getting more veggies in us. . .let them have the white goo.

2. Chips and Salsa - Meijers has an organic blue corn chip with sesame seeds that are soooooo good, and relatively good for you. Put some salsa in a bowl with some diced alvacado and you have a healthy snack with lots of antioxidents.

3. Fruit - All the kids I know have at least one favorite fruit, so go ahead and fill up a bowl of their favorites and set it right in the middle of your table.

4. Smoothies - Now that summer is here, it is so easy to find fresh, ripe fruit that a sweet smoothie is super easy. I use 100% juice, yogurt (regular or soy), a banana and whatever fruit I have handy. If you add some whey protein to this it can even be a healthy meal replacement.

5. Nuts & Raisins - When I was growing up my Mom would mix peanuts and candy corn together for my dad and I love that snack. Now that I am older, I try to stay away from candy and don't let my kids have it much either. But I have found that adding raisins to any healthy nut is a great snack that fills me up when I am out and about.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Happy Hump Day Shopping - I LOVE Zappos


These are my new motorcycle boots. Yes, yes, I know, they aren't motorcycle boots as much as they are cowboy boots. Each member of my family already made it quite clear that these are not motorcycle boots, mostly because they are pink. They are cute though, and they fit my personality more than any other shoes I own. These are also already some of the most comfotable shoes I own. What I am looking for in a motorcycle boot is actually the traction on the bottom, but comfort is always important and these have both. I just love these new boots.

I also LOVE Zappos. I finally got the courage to order these boots Monday night after talking to a girlfriend. Now, I have ordered from Zappos before so I know that you often will get next day turn-around, but since it was already 4:30 Chicago time I figured it would be Wednesday before I saw the new boots. I was wrong. My new boots arrived yesterday, before noon! So not only were my boots seriously reduced in price, but they were shippped next day for free. Seriously, you can't beat that!

Graduation and Wedding Season Gift Giving

I have to admit, this time of year brings out the worst in me. A girlfriend just asked me how much money she should send to her nephew who is graduating high school. This put me through the roof and now I am on a bit of a tirade.

My friend says that she heard on the radio that she should give between $50-100. Who says I have to give the grocery money for this week to a distant relative? Or worse, an aquaintance? Are we all nuts? Where does this come from? Is this really what is expected? And furthermore, I have a couple of friends who recently suggested to me that when I attend a wedding it is expected that I will give at least as much money as I think my meals cost the bride and groom. Again. . .I tend to start to get hot under the collar at this point and ready to go to war.

So this morning, I started looking around the internet to see what was really expected, and do you know what I found? I found MANY etiquette sites stating that not only is there no expected amount for weddings or graduations, but that it is completely inappropriate for the graduate or bride and groom to expect gifts. Certainly they should not expect guests to pay for or help defer party costs. Wow. . .was my friend ever wrong. Here is a quote from Emily Post:
There is no rule, so it is entirely up to you. Let your affection for the bride and groom and your budget be your guide.

So it seems we have invented these expectations of one another. Each site I visit says that gifts should not be expected (although we should take something). What do you think?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Y-ME Walk In the Rain and a Quick Ironman Review


We did it! We did the Y-Me Walk for Breast Cancer yesterday and here is a picture (yes, I am the shorter of the two, and no, I am not standing in a sink-hole). It was very rainy on Chicago's lakefront, but spirits were high and DD and I and our friends had a nice walk. If you get a chance to participate in one of these events I highly recommend it. The event was well done from beginning to end and everyone involved was a pleasure to work with.

I also got to celebrate Mother's Day with my favorite activity, seeing a movie in the theater. After much debate we decided on Ironman and we were not disappointed. I have to agree with the reviews that I read that said this was a smart movie. I thought everything about this movie was well done, and I had no idea that Jeff Bridges could play such an awesome villian! If you get a chance to see this one on the giant screen with surround sound, do it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Book Review - The Hamptons Diet

I read this diet book in just two sittings, which is a new record for me. For while I can devour fiction books, especially mysteries, it usually takes me months to finish most non-fiction literature. I really wanted to get to the recipes in the back of this book, but found much of the medical information very informative.

I am not new to the whole low-carb diet craze. About 5 years ago I lost 45 pounds and have kept most of it off by doing the Atkins Diet Plan. The thing about the Atkins plan though that has always bothered me was the huge emphasis on fatty meat and dairy. I also found that many of the meal replacements were my only option for times when I was away from home and these foods are loaded with additives and preservatives and all things man made.

I am finding that as I get older, I desire a more natural diet. I will no longer tolerate fake sugar of any kind, high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils. I think I liked this book so much because it agreed with me on the status of these foods and explained why they are so bad for us. I like trying to find new ways to add vegetables into my diet and this book has some nice recipes to help do that.

There is no magic pill, diet or surgery. The key to weight loss over the long haul really does seem to be a balanced approach; cut down on caloric intake and increase the excercise. This book is no miracle cure, but if you are on the road to a healthier you, it is worth a peek if only for the recipes.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy Hump Day Shopping - Flowers and Plants


I can't help it, this beautiful sun-shiney weather here in Chicago-land today has me dreaming of summer gardening, and all that I want to do and plant this year. So I thought I would share those dreams and also just keep a list for myself of what I want to do.

First and most importantly, I need to fill in my new flower bed with, well, flowers. I thought I would be easy on myself this first time out so I ordered a pre-planned garden from Spring Hill Nursery. It includes Bellflowers, Daisys, Climbing Clematis and Dragon's Blood Sedum and I absolutely can't wait for these plants to arrive so I can plant them and watch them grow.

I was crusing some gardening blogs and came across some really helpful ones. Over at In the Garden Online, I saw a link to the Michigan Bulb Co. My intention was just to compare prices, but I find myself today trying to talk myself out of buying some Blue Moon Hydrangea plants as well as some Everbearing Strawberries. Both are so nice though, and I am so determined to develop a green thumb. . .and for $20 can I really go wrong anyway?!

That will probably be all for my in-ground planting this year, but stay tuned, I am planning a container veggie garden that I will write about in the coming days. . .

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My New Flower Bed


It was a wonderful weekend. My DD and DH created our first ever flower bed. We have decided, finally, to landscape our yard. We have only lived in our house now for 8 years, but better late than never. It also helps that DD has taken some landscaping lessons from school due to a project she was working on for student government.

Have a look at the picture of my new flower bed, complete with a light for night enjoyment! For a 16-year old, she did darn good (and thanks for the help dad)! I can't wait to fill this new space with flowers for the summer.

We have a ways to go, but this is such a nice start, perhaps I can become the gardener I have always wanted to be.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cafe Thursday - Hobo Dinners


My family and I call these packets, but my mom first started me on these, calling them Hobo Dinners. When we used to camp in the summers when my brothers and I were young one of the things we looked forward to the most were making these Hobo Dinners. These simple dinners are basically meat and any veggies you want, wrapped in tinfoil, and baked till the meat is cooked through and the veggies are soft.

Now that I have a family of my own, I realize how very difficult it is to feed several people who all have their own likes and dislikes. That is where the true goodness of these Hobo Dinners lies. Each one of us can create our own ideal dinner of meat and veggies. The hardest part of this recipe is the chopping of the veggies, but I recommend you include everyone and really have fun with this.

Recipe:
Take one large piece of tinfoil. Coat it with plenty of Olive Oil. Add the meat of your choice, raw (chicken, fish and groundbeef are the best we have tried). Pile on all the veggies you like (potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, peppers, and zucchini are all delicious). Add the seasonings of your choice, depends mostly on your meat choice (we like steak seasoning best and salt and pepper) Fold in tinfoil so that no heat escapes your pile (DS makes a hershey kiss sort of shape, I usually make more of a big square packet). Bake on a baking sheet at 450 for about 35 minutes, but test for doneness after 30 minutes.

Let cool a bit. CAREFULLY open your packets, the steam will be HOT. Add steak sauce or katsup and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Our Earth Day - Solidarity and Tech Free Week

It is Earth Day, and while we probably should have planned to plant a tree or a garden or something, my family has decided to focus on other areas of our lives that are out of whack.

First, we have decided to join with our sisters and brothers at Willow Creek Church and take the Five-Day Solidarity Challenge. This means that for 5 days this week we are eating either oatmeal or rice and beans for our meals. The purpose of this challenge is "to stand alongside our brothers and sisters living in poverty across the world, [and eat] what they eat,” said Willow Creek’s Compassion and Justice Director Heather Larson.

Believe it or not, my kids are actually the ones that are pushing us to do this challenge. It is a great thing, and something I am anxious to do to. I have become increasingly aware over the past few weeks that I spend entirely too much time thinking and planning what I am going to eat. If I took just half that and made it more productive I would gain hours of time. Perhaps I could even be more organized.

Would you like to do your part in getting more rice into the hands of needy people? Go on over to freerice.com and play a vocabulary game while you donate bowls of rice to those who need it. Find yourself with some extra cash? Why not be a sponsor? It doesnt' take much to help feed those who are less fortunate.

In addition to our menu challenge for the week, my husband further challeneged our family to give up technology for the week as well. We are trying to live like the other half of the world does, and already it is hard. Of course, since I can't give up technology at work (a network admin can't easily do that), I am takign this lunch break to blog our progress. Tonight I am hoping to spend some time chatting with the kids, then suggesting a game of tennis or cards and then a long soak in the tub! I may just get used to this yet.

Book Review - The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I have had this book on my "to-read" list for over a year now. I first saw the hardcover in the bookstore and thought it sounded interesting. Being a book lover, mystery fan, and a historical fiction fan, I thought I would really enjoy this book, but I am not sure that I did. I will compare this book to others that are like this one to explain why I liked them more.

The first author that came to mind as I was reading The Thirteenth Tale was P.D. James. Most likely it was the setting that brought one of my favorites to mind, but I believe it was the tone also that had me thinking of books like The Murder Room and Cover Her Face. The main difference here is that with a James book I have to make sure I have several hours to spend, as I can't put her books down. I did not have this problem with The Thirteenth Tale. It was not until the very last couple of chapters that I found myself wanting to keep reading, and that was really to be done and able to move on to my next book.

Another book that came to mind was The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which I really enjoyed. I read a review that said the reviewer hadn't liked a book so well since Zafon's, and I realized that indeed, I liked the latter much better. While the general tone of both books is very similar, I did not guess the ending in The Shadow of the Wind, and I found interesting diversions throughout. That is not to say that The Thirteenth Tale doesn't have its own interesting twists and turns, but most of them can be seen coming.

Finally, another reviewer I read compared this book to The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I would agree that the tones are similar, but Kostova has a genuine purpose for the dark undertones in her book; she is writing about vampires. Both heroines have a strange family life with only a father present, and yet Kostova's book seems to have so much more light and hope. Not to mention the fact that there is true horror in The Historian while in Setterfield's book there is only the suggestion of horror which does not pan out in the end.

In short, I found the book The Thirteenth Tale to be an adaquate diversion. I was not enthralled in the storytelling, the mystery was a bit predictable, and the overall depressed feeling of this book made it drag on for me just a bit. Having said that, if this author does write another book it is very likely that I will read it, as I have a feeling that she will improve greatly in time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

All Natural Diet Favorites

My DD and I have been dieting/fasting for over three weeks now, and I have to say that we are having a bit of fun. It turns out that we actually like the health food store, and we both like the challenge of finding the healthiest, most naturally made foods. It is especially exciting when they taste great. So I thought I would share with you today some favorite staples from the last few weeks.

1. For me has to be veggie chips. My favorite brand so far is EatSmart Veggie Crisps, but I also really enjoy the Good Health Veggie Chips. I have many more brands to try, but these are great, eaten in moderation of course.

2. My brother turned us on to another natural snack that is fantastic, but you have to try different brands to find the one you like best. Blue corn nacho chips are super good and can be made even better with some homemade guacamole. The brand we liked the best was the Meijer Organic Blue Corn Chips with Sesame Seeds.

3. Our local health food store has a smoothie bar and bakery in it, and they make some delicious little date ball things that are very good and great for the sweet tooth. You could make these yourself by taking some ground nuts, dates and raisins, smushed bananna and rolling them into a ball and then dropping them in coconut.

4. Fresh fruit. I can't say it enough, I love fruit. After being on the Atkins Diet on and off for over 7 years, it is such a joy to pick up an apple, orange, bananna or grapefruit and dig in.

5. Fresh vegetable stir fry. To me, it matters not what seasonings you use, stir frying fresh veggies with some oil and spices is pretty close to heaven. Add these veggies to a plate of brown rice and one could really feast quite happily.

Have any great fresh or all natural food favorites? I would love to hear them, we are trying to make this a healthy lifestyle change and need all the ideas and tips we can get.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Finally Friday Fun - Vacation Planning



I have started saving for a vacation. I am planning to go sometime next spring I think and will be taking DH, DD, DS and a DB. Now that I have put my savings plan in place, we need to decide on a location and go about getting passports.

I originally thought that Paris, France was at the top of our list, but it changes for me from moment to moment. I read one article yesterday on the top 10 cities to visit and I think that after considering Paris, I have decided on some where in Italy in Tuscany. I think we are going to rent a house for a week, one with a pool close to a little village.

This of course will all cost a small fortune, but it is a once in a lifetime trip for my husband and kids that I want to take before they fly off and are on their own. I also wonder if this is a bit slow and too low key for DS and think he may want more of an adventure, in which case I will have to consider another option I heard about this morning.

There is a place in sunny Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where you can swim with dolphins, go whale watching, or even do a canopy tour. I think DH and DS would actually like this option much better, but I am gonna go for Italy first.

Of course, I will probably be out-voted and we will end up in Florida, again, but I will get to Europe. and Mexico . . .eventually.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What Is Your Favorite Candy?

I occasionally read the blog Inside Mo's Mind, as there are often book reviews that I enjoy posted there. Yesterday, she had posted her response to Beccagirl's Give Me Five Monday meme which was "Give Me Five favorite candies, of all time or currently." Well, it didn't take me long to start drooling over memories of candies enjoyed in the past. What fun. So, here is my list of five favorites, with one honorable mention because I just had to:


1. Kit Kat Bars - I used to just LOVE these. I think it is because it always felt like I was having two snacks, a cookie and chocolate bar.



2. 100 Grand Bar - I used to love rice krispy treats, and carmel is one of my favorites too, so this was always a real treat to have. They used to give these out when we would go trick-or-treating.

3. Bit-O-Honey - Another favorite from my days trick-or-treating as a kid. They used to give out the big bars. I tried eating one of these recently and had to stop, I think my teeth are too old for this golden oldie.

4. Boston Baked Beans - We used to get these before going to the movies or to the drive in. They also sold them in my high school cafateria. . .back then, I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight.

5. Sugar Babies - Another movie favorite and one that actually still shows up in my kids trick-or-treating bag. I guess I really had a thing for those "stick to your teeth" candies, it explains much actually.

Honorable Mention: Vanilla Bullseyes - My DD now shares my passion for these little goodies. They make them fresh at a candy store just down the block from work, a fact I try to forget.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Cafe Thursday - Home Cooked French Fries

If you are a regular reader of my blog then you know that I am currently smack dab in the middle of a 3 week fast that has me eating only fruits, veggies, beans and oats. So how can I possibly post a decent recipe you may ask? Well, the truth is, I have actually been more creative in the kitchen in the past week and a half than I have been in a good long while.

Now, my brother thinks that this little recipe is cheating, but I think that since the ingredients are allowed, it is fair game! So here is the recipe for the only meal I have really enjoyed since being on this fast: Home Cooked French Fries.

Ingredients:

2 - 4 medium sized potatoes, quartered and then cut into strips

4-6 cups of Canola Oil

Dash of Emeril's Essence

Directions:

Put oil in a sauce pan or deep fryer and heat. Add potatoes to pan until they are golden brown (took about 15 minutes for mine). Remove potatoes from the pan and place them on a plate covered with paper towel and sprinkle with Essence.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Music Monday - I LOVE Online Radio

I will admit it, Iam easily bored with repetitive music. I can not listen to the same old CDs over and over again. I need variety, spice, something different from time to time.

For that reason, it seems more economical for me to find ways to listen to the radio than to try and buy enough CDs to keep my interest. I have found two sites recently that I absolutely adore and so I thought I would point them out here in case anyone else needs something to listen to.

First, if you find yourself easily annoyed at the pre-fab radio stations that play one song you like for every 5 you can't stand, give Pandora a shot. This online radio station allows you to pick an artist or even a single song and build a playlist around it of songs or artists that you enjoy.

Next, if you are feeling that you need a bit of a spiritual boost, Moody Radio is doing some neat things. They have 3 new audio channels; Inspiration, Majesty and Conference. I have been listening to the Inspiration Channel an find that it puts a gentile happy spin on my day when it is quietly playing in the background while I work. The songs are great and incredibly uplifting. I have not tried the other two audio channels yet, but am anxious to do so when I have some more free time.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Book Review - Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Wow. . .great book for sci-fi fans! My first taste of the wonders of science-fiction came when I saw Star Wars as a kid. I went to see it when it first came out camped in the back of my parents van at the drive-in. Since those days, I have enjoyed the occasional sci-fi book, television show or movie but don't usually seek them out. I plan to read this entire series.

I actually had this book setting around on a shelf for just as bit, as it came when I was in the middle of about 3 other books. Since I was already reading other books, I recommended this to DS who needed something to read in his 4 hour detention, and he read it all in a day. Not only did he read it in a day, but he immediately asked for the next book in the series.

I would bet that if you enjoyed the Matrix, Star Wars, or either Battlestar Galactica series, you will enjoy this very easy to read book. Ender is one of the youngest heros I have read, but he is interesting and very engaging. I found myself sucked in and invested in the characters and the games they played.

Although it can be read on a very surface level, this is also a very smart book. I found myself really amazed at the depth of deception of the adults in this book and started thinking about all the ways the tactics described in the book may be used on people. And for a sci-fi book, I was amazed at the depth of feeling I experienced while reading. My emotions went from deep sadness over Ender having to leave his family to intense outrage over the war situation.

This is one award winning book (1986 Hugo Award and the 1985 Nebula Award) that I highly recommend to readers young and old.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Fasting for Healthy Mind and Body

A few weeks ago my DB challeneged me to take part in a fast with him. I wasn't excited about it, but told him I would do it. DD is also doing it, and her only stipulation was that we wait until after her birthday and Easter to start.

So it is that I find myself this morning beginning a 20 day fast. We are doing the Daniel Fast, which is basically only fruit, veggies, nuts and water. No animal products, yeast, or caffine, of course it is the latter that has me the most sad this morning. I LIVE on coffee, I drink it all day long in fact. I guess anything I am that dependant on must go, before it becomes some kind of idol, but boy this is harder than I thought it would be and it isn't 9 am yet!

I am interested to see if I feel any healthier or if some of my bad sugar and wheat addictions are cured after this fast. I did the Atkins Diet 5 years ago and stuck with it for a couple of years and lost 50 pounds, and I know from that experience that once you get a week in, the cravings for sugar and carbohydrates do leave. I am also taking this time to try and become more spiritual. I want to focus on my faith and my family just a bit more. I will be documenting my spiritual journey in my daily devotional blog.

Here's to a quick and successful 20 days!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Thankful for the Moments

Driving in to work this morning I found myself a bit misty over a song on the radio. DD is a country music fan, truth be told, I can take it or leave it, but she had the dial tuned to the country station and I didn't feel like lifting my arm and changing the station. I found myself listening to the song "Moments" by Emerson Drive and tearing up a bit.



I found myself thinking back to those "moments" in my life and wanting to document and remember and celebrate them. I found myself wishing I had a picture for each of those moments in my life that I need to take time to reflect on and remember. I found myself smiling and for one small moment, shutting out all the negative voices in my head and focusing on the positive. I found myself thinking of and thanking God for the blessings in my life. . .my faith, my family, my friends, my house, my job. I found myself very thankful for another day and another opportunity to mean something to someone. I found myself this morning in a country song.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Another Birthday Post


Since DM and DF are still my most regular readers, I am posting one more Sweet 16 birthday pic for them.

After a full weekend of partying, I believe we are finally done celebrating DDs birthday. We gave her a present last night, jewelry seemed most appropriate, (since a car was out of the question) and took her to dinner at the restaurant of her choice. She said that only Bennigan's would be decorated and festive enough so off we went. DH was happy to have a green beer to celebrate the day and we all had their new appitizer, the Monte Cristo Egg Rolls and each ordered a sandwhich. All in all, I think that even though DD won't be able to drive on her own for several months, she had a very nice birthday and is feeling pretty special.

It may just take DH and I a year to recover and be ready for the next one.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy Sweet 16 DD!


It is hard to believe that 16 years ago today at this time (7:50 am CST) I was welcoming into this world one of two really amazing kids. It is also pretty amazing how fast time really does fly! 16 years of great times and great memories.

We partied all weekend. We started on Friday night with a sweet 16 slumber party. There was a theatrical theme, complete with movies and popcorn. The girls had a good time, and Mom and Dad even got some sleep.

Yesterday we took the kids and in-laws to Medieval Times. We had more fun than any of us expected. If you get the chance to visit this display of a time long gone, I highly recommend a visit. Of course it is a bit cheesy, but even my too cool DS had to admit to a good time. The horses are great, the actors are ok, but the fight scenes while obviously fake are better than I expected and were well done. Also, DH had warned us that the food would be small and not very good, and while it wasn't great, it was not horrible and no one went home hungry.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Cafe Thursday - Cooking a Whole Chicken

I sometimes forget how easy it is to cook a chicken that is delicious for my family.

I bought a very nice, all natural, non-antibiotic whole chicken at the grocery store last week and we enjoyed that chicken for dinner last night. I had planned to roast it, as I found a couple of really nice recipes on blogs that I read regularly, one at Cheap Healthy Good and one at All Recipes.com. However, I knew that my Wednesday evening was going to be pretty hectic, so I decided to give the old crock pot a try. Am I ever glad I did.

I took my 5 lb whole chicken, threw on some salt, pepper, seasoning salt, onion salt, garlic powder and a carton of chicken stock all in the crock pot, covered it, and set it on low for about 8 hours. The smell in the kitchen when I got home from work was almost better than the chicken itself. I simply washed and cut up a few potatoes and set them to boil while I nuked a can of corn and we had a darn quick meal that was not too shabby.

I am on a mission today to find some more cheap and easy crock pot gems that will make my life easier. If you have any great links or blogs or posts, send them my way.

Book Review - One For the Money

I have been wanting to read one of these books for a long time, I just keep forgetting to pick them up. But I found myself in a long checkout line at the grocery store and they had this book right there, so I dropped it in my bucket. I am glad I did.

I knew as soon as I read the back of the jacket and found out that the heroine, Stephanie Plum, was from Newark, NJ that I was going to like this book. I was not wrong. I knew lots of "Jersey girls" when I lived there, and Stephanie Plum fits the description of all of them. She is so similar to many of my friends that I was picturing them as the lead through most of the book. From the high hair to the biker shorts, Stephanie is as real as they come.

In summary, the characters were believable, even likeable, the plot moved along and the setting was perfect. I really liked this little mystery and am already looking forward to reading Two for the Dough. . .

Finally Friday fun - With the Flu?

I have the flu today, and it is really kicking my behind! I got it last night after I got home from work and it had me in my bed by 6:30 pm. I felt like a truck hit me! I did not have any stomache trouble, it just started with a scratchy throat and by 6:30 had progressed to full body aches and a pounding head and feeling like I needed an ice shower.

I quickly took some medicine and went to bed. One dose didn't do it, but after taking another dose this morning and a nap I am much better. I feel like I have a head cold now, but the debilitating body aches are gone. What medicine did I use? The one that always seems to cure me within 24 hours, Vicks NiQuel Cold and Flu. I have been using it for years and it has never let me down.

A friend of mine wanted me to try some of her Colloidal Silver, but I was a bit skeptical. Even more so after reading about Paul Karason, you know, the blue guy, on some news sites.



How about you? How do you fight colds and the flu?

Restaurant Review - The Stray Dog

I have found another winner in the restaurant department and impressed DD at the same time. . .a perfect win/win situation.

We were travelling from the Chicago area to the middle of Michigan, and stumbled upon a wonderful little place that will now be a regular stop for us on these trips. Located right off of Exit 1 in New Buffalo, Michigan along US94, The Stray Dog is the perfect place to stop for food and drink if you are taking this popular route. I suspect that on summer weekend nights this is quite the place to hang out, as it is located right on Lake Michigan. On a cold winter night however, it was the perfect place to catch a drink and a fish taco.

On a recent trip to Florida my DS fell in love with a little place called The Old Salty Dog, and it could just be a coincidence, but I find it interesting that indeed this new place in Michigan also has a deep fried hot dog. It is a good thing I have taken up running again or there is just no way I could eat a fried hotdog. . .but well. . .sometimes a little splurge is ok.

Book Review - Bag of bones by Stephen King

Bag of Bones is only my second Stephen King novel, my first thriller, and I liked it far more than I expected. The only other King novel I have read is On Writing, which is hardly comparable. However, it is because I loved On Writing so much that I dared to give one of his other novels a chance.

I should start by explaining that I have always been a chicken. Since I was young I have had an almost unnatural fear of the dark, and the only horror movie I have been able to watch with my eyes open has been Jaws. So while I have wanted to read a King book for sometime, I have only found the courage recently to actually dive in and give it a shot. And, while the book did not keep me up at night, I did find that I was listening for strange noises in the silence a bit more than before I read the book.

Overall, I really liked this book and found enough mystery, suspense and "things that go bump in the night" to keep me wondering and turning pages until the very end. I also like that in both books I have read by King he treats the reader like an old college friend. I feel as if I know the author and I trust him enough to hang in even though the number of pages seems like more of an investment than a cheap thrill.

Also, while I really like how King includes lots of references to other works of literature and fiction, I can understand why someone who does not read much may not enjoy a King novel as much as the avid reader. These references, while not critical too understanding the story or main plot, add so much flavor to the writing that it would be a real shame to not understand them.

I am anxious now to add other Stephen King novels to my reading list, so if you have any recommendations about where to start please let me know.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Career Advice From Steve Jobs

I am not a Steve Jobs fan, I am not a hater either, I just don't think about him much at all either way. I was a bit surprised to find this speech, and even more surprised to listen to it realize that he is quite profound.

Steve tells three great stories to illustrate his point, that you must do something you love and pursue it with passion. Anything less is simply a waste.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Review - Mimi's Cafe

DD and I were out shopping one evening and we were both trying to skip dinner, but as both of our stomachs were growling, we simply had to stop for some food. I saw a cute little place by the side of the road that I wanted to try but DD was pretty skeptical. She is like her dad and really only likes to eat at 1 or 2 places and is certainly not very adventerous when it comes to food. I did finally talk her into stopping, and yes, perhaps I did mention is was Mimi's Cafe or nothing, but that is hardly the point.

We were quickly glad we had stopped. Not only did the place smell amazing, but we could tell by a quick look around that people were quickly being served and were very happy with their food choices. You know what I mean, how many times have you gone into one of THOSE franchises only to see many other customers fuming or barely enjoying their food? Mimi's was not like that.

DD was hooked the moment we were seated and given a basket of assorted breads, rolls and muffins. Among them was a low-fat blueberry muffin that tasted like cake, which we split and ate as slowly as we could manage. DD then ordered a beef sandwich that she swears is the best she has ever tasted while I enjoyed a cup of corn chowder and a fried chicken salad. The food was just great, and the atmosphere was charming as well. If they have a Mimi's by you, try it. If they don't have a Mimi's by you, I am so sorry, perhaps you could open one?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Music Monday - Over The Rhine

A couple of years ago some college friends of mine recommended I listen to an album by a group called Over the Rhine. The album was titled Ohio, and I was immediately captivated by the title song. It is haunting in a way that somehow transported me back to my childhoood and long autumn days that went on forever.



Shortly after that I purchased another OTR album, Drunkard's Prayer which never grew on me in quite the same way, but was still a great album to read or work by and has a few haunts of its own.

If you enjoy soulful piano ballads, give this group a try. There newest album seems a bit more up tempo and jazzy, which is fine, but I LOVE the older stuff.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Finally Friday Fun - Book Review


I picked up the book Deja Dead, by Kathy Reichs, because of its affiliation with one of my favorite TV shows; Bones on Fox. I had read that the book is not much like the show, and I will have to agree. Other than the main character’s name and the fact that she is a forensic anthropologist, there aren’t too many similarities.


Having said that, I admit that I did like this book and I really liked the main character Temperance Brennan . I liked this original Tempe much better than her TV version. I find the made for TV Tempe a bit shallow, and pretty unbelievable. I found the Tempe in the book, however, to be all too real. As with many really well done protagonists, this one comes complete with a fatal flaw that she realistically struggles with throughout the book. Not only does she possess this flaw, but I find that she struggles with it much the way I think a real person would.


If I have a complaint about this book, it would have to be the setting. I have only been to Canada once in my life and it was not Quebec that I visited, so it was very hard for me to relate to the scene the author setup. Luckily, much of this book takes place in the lab and in an apartment, so I was able to place Tempe in a more familiar place in my mind.

Let me also note that this book is not for the squeamish or faint of heart. It is a murder mystery, and actually, this particular book has to do with a serial killer and many of the scenes are pretty gruesome. I didn’t find the gore to be gratuitous in any way, and the story would have been much less real without it.

I find that in my two favorite pastimes, TV and reading, that I am looking for escape. I am not interested in real crimes, or reality TV . . . I want fiction baby. This book probably won’t win any awards, but then, not many of my favorite reads have. If you are looking for a CSI like read for a long winters day, this just may be your book.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Happy Hump Day Shopping - Great Green Shop


I have made several purachases from an Earth friendly shop, and I just love what I have gotten. Their service is great, their products are great, and their prices are really very fair.

The store I like to frequent for all of my "green" shopping is reusablebags.com. Don't let the name fool you, these guys have much more than just alternatives to plastic bags. In fact, my favorite purchase is the stainless steel thermos that you see to the right. I honestly use this every day, and often will get to my last cup at 4 pm, and it is just as hot as the cup I first had at 7 am. I love it.

I also purchased a lunch bag for DD, which she thinks is too "cutsey" to take to high school, so I use it instead. She does use the stainless steel water bottle I got her everyday though, and thinks it is very attractive.

With all of the craze over the environment, this store has come along at just the right time! They sure are getting some good press, I hope their prices don't go up.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Music Monday - Herbie Hancock

Today is the perfect day for Herbie Hancock. It is cold and dreary outside, and I am in a fairly mellow mood today for a Monday.

I am a new fan and a new listener. I have heard his older stuff (Cantaloupe Island) of course when I have listend to the jazz station here in Chicago, but this new CD is one I think I can even get my teenagers to listen to and appreciate. It helps that there are some familiar names here helping him out with vocals. Tina Turner, Norah Jones and Corinne Bailey Rae to name a few are all featured on this album, and they are great.

I like to listen to new CDs while I work for a day or two and then once I have a feel for the songs, I like to blast the music in the car while I drive and just focus on the music and really hear it. And while I am only on the first part of this process, I can already tell this is going to be a fast favorite. This is the perfect music I think for reading, working, cooking or just sitting by the fire sipping wine after the kids are in bed.

Friday, February 15, 2008

It's Happening Again - Corporate Restructuring

So it is happening for me for the third time in my somewhat short career. The company I have come to work for is undergoing "corporate restructuring."

I think the worse part about these situations is the speculation, rumor, and of course, the unknown. Not to mention the fact that these things generally begin one day completely out of the blue, and then continue on for months and even years.

Am I worried? Of course. I completely agree with the old saying that sometimes the evil you know is better than that you don't know. In one of the previous restructurings the results were better at first, and then unbearable as time went on and it took years to fix the problems that resulted from the initial restructuring. In the other one, the results at first were also better, but as time wore on, old problems and new ones came and again, the situation became unbearable.

However, I know that it doesn't do any good to worry, what will happen will happen and there is little I can do to change anything. And I have also learned that keeping loose and being willing to change and adapt usually makes the going much easier.

Here's to change!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Y-ME for Mother's Day

I signed my DD and I up today for the Y-ME national Breast Cancer walk. We will be doing the 3 mile walk, not the 5k quite yet. This is the first time that we have participated, and I am so excited to be doing this.

My focus for this year is loving others, my kids, my family, my friends, and others. This seems to be a great step in that direction. Not to mention the fact that it is hard to wallow in self pity when you are focusing on how to help others, when you are trying to think of ways to reach out.

This even is way out of my comfort zone, as I don't like crowds and I don't like going downtown, and Sundays are for resting and relaxing. . .but I just can't wait for this event.

I encourage everyone to pick and event, pick a cause, pick a person and get involved. Love someone else a bit more today. I think you will find that in the end, in spite of yourself, you will be happier too just because you tried. I challenge you, if you are reading this, to think of a way today that you can get involved with a person or a cause and what you can do to beging helping.

If you are a friend, and feel like donating, please do. If not, just think about the challenge above. Here is my personal site for donating to my walk.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Review - Disney on Ice


This weekend DD and I did something neither of us has done before. We went to see a Disney Ice Show. When the kids were little, there was never enough time or money to do this. I was a bit afraid as I was buying our tickets that my DD would perhaps be too old and think I had gone off the deep end for taking her as a teenager. I was also a bit afraid that the show would be too cheesy and we would both end up hating me for having wasted a Saturday afternoon.

It was cheesy, the acting was horrible, but we had fun! Disney's High School Musical: The Ice Tour is what it is suposed to be, a cute ice show. We liked the costumes, the skating, and the music. Yeah to Disney for having the music be the original music from the movies. It was basically a musical review of the first and second High School Musical Movies. We had seen the first one on the Disney channel, and there too, the acting is horrible, but the music is good and the story is light and funny.

We paid $10 for a bucket of popcorn and $12.50 for an Icee in a souvenir cup so if you do go to one of these shows, I recommend that you not buy anything there, but then again, isn't that part of the fun?

Overall, we decided that we would definitely do this again, even if it was the Disney Princesses Show! It was a great way to spend a very cold Saturday afternoon in Chicago. Besides, a trip to the United Center is always fun.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Why Are There So Many Depressed Teenagers?

I have worked with teens and young adults is a few different settings both in my jobs and in my volunteer work, and I have met many who are being medicated for depression. The more I hear about it, the more I wonder if we haven’t all gone just a bit crazy. I just talked to a friend who is in her early 20’s who has her whole life ahead of her, knows what she wants to do with her career, is very talented in her field, and she is “clinically depressed” and taking medication.

Why are our kids so depressed? What does that even mean? What is happiness and does it really come in a pill? Or, as I suspect, have we raised a generation of people who only know want and have no sense of what contentment is? Is happiness always that next thing away?

I think it is time for me to interview some of the 50-60 year olds that I know and ask them about this seemingly recent phenomena. Were they depressed as teenagers? Do they remember going through times when they just couldn’t be happy? Did people talk about needing to be happy in the 50’s and 60’s?

Our kids are sad. I know that, and yet, I want to know why. I don’t want to give my kids some pills and expect everything will be ok. I want to know why they are worried and stressed out. I want to make behavior and attitude changes that will make their lives easier. I guess I am showing my bias here, but I really do think that drugs should be a last resort. And I also think that we have a responsibility to find out what is different and what can be changed in their environments to help them.

Can all these kids really be so depressed? Or have our standards changed? Do we judge happiness differently than we used to? I really want to know. Off I go to gather some information from some older folks I know. . .and attempt to answer some questions.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Book Review - The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

I think I read this book one paragraph at a time, not because it was boring or bad, I just have so little time right now for reading. Evan read this way, this book is worth it.

My son had this book assigned in his high school English class, and I am not sure that forcing kids to read this is a great idea. This book is written for women, as it is a beautiful picture of the grace and goodness of sisterhood. The characters here are warm and full of life. They are the kind of well developed entities that make you long to be able to pull up a chair and chat with them a while.

I loved August, and June and May from the very start. It took me a while to warm to Rosalee, as she was less refined and harder to like, but like her I did. And Lily is like so many teenagers I have met.

I appreciate so much the different portrayal here of race relations in the South in the 60s. I don't think I have read a book set in this time period before that makes the entire book about race relations, and yet makes it not at all about skin color. The deeper truths here of love, life and our intense desire for family becomes a way to level the playing field.

I don't read books twice, however, I will be taking this book along on my next vacation to really read this again and highlight favorite parts. I can't recommend this enough, especially to women and girls.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Finally Friday Fun - Snow Day!


I made it. I am alive and the car is in one piece.

Today in Chicago the weather is treacherous, and the snow is coming down too fast for the plows to keep the roads clear. On a normal day I have a 30 minute commute to work, however, today that commute took 90 minutes. Luckily, I came in early to work on some computers so when I was slipping and sliding all over the road I was all by myself. But, I was all by myself on the road so I was mighty thankful when I got to work without getting stuck anywhere.

I will be heading on out early this afternoon, in hopes that I can get home before the rest of the people get on the road. I am also headed home early to enjoy a snow day with the kids. If you are going to live in Chicago, you may as well enjoy the weather when it is as crazy as this. Know of any good sledding hills?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cafe Thursday - Skillet Chicken Stew

I raised some picky eaters. And my punishment for this? I am condemned to high frustration and endless complaining every night around 6 pm. My dear sister-in-law did this right, she had her kids eating veggies and fruits from the time they were small and now she actually has a child that loves tomatoes and broccoli. Me, I have children who love bread and sugar. I think I am going to have to learn to be more cleaver if I am going to get my kids to eat better. Time to pick-up a copy of the book Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food.

I know I almost never find recipes that all 4 of us will agree on, but if I can hit 3 out of 4, I am pretty happy. For that reason, I am adding Rachel Ray's Skillet Chicken Stew to my bi-weekly line up of dinner menus.

This recipe is right up there with our chicken pot pie, chicken alfredo, and salmon nights. I also have a taco night, a frozen pizza night, and usually a spaghetti night. For Sundays, I try to get a bit more fancy and will try to make either a homemade soup, pot roast, or pork chops.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Happy Hump Day - Shopping at Cafepress

My daughter and I have found a site that we just love. We can buy clothes and mugs and pins and bags that say just about anything we want.

Cafepress is really a great idea for anyone interested in designing and selling promotional type products, or anyone just interested in buying them. Their slogan is "shop, create or sell what's on your mind," and we sure do. I really like the motorcycle stuff, and DD loves all of the flute and band shirts. And while the boys in the house are not real big shoppers, DH and DS spent a couple of hours one night designing their own picture to place on the front of a T-shirt.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Netflix Feature to Check Out

The forcasters predicted a snowy, chilly weekend, and Chicago did not disappoint. With the weather outside so unfriendly, we needed some ideas to keep us occupied inside so of course we looked to the internet for a solution.

I had heard about the new instant movie viewer from Netflix a few months ago, but hadn't had a chance to try it out. We tried it over the weekend and were quite pleased with it. Not only is it easy to setup and use, the quality is great, and with most Netflix subsciptions it is free. You can't beat that.

We were able to watch both The First Howie Mandel Special and The Italian Job. My kids didn't even know that Howie Mandel got his start as a standup comic and sadly, they had never seen Bobby's World either. I was able to enlighten them and provide hours of laughter as well.



If you haven't seen The Italian Job, I highly recommend it. There is only a bit of violence, no gratuitous sex, and just a few "bad" words sprinkled in. If you are a fan of the "Ocean's" films, you will like this one as well. I have been a Mark Wahlberg fan since his Calvin Klein ads in the 80's . . . what, I'm human.

Don't you just miss the 80's?!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cafe Thursday - Easy Chicken Alfredo

We had a cheap, easy, delicious meal last night, so I thought I would share it here.

Easy Chicken Alfredo
2 cups chicken cubes
1 Tbls Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Emeril's Essence seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
1 jar of Alfredo Sauce (I have tried them all, Bertolli is my favorite)
1 pkg of linguine, cooked (Dreamfields is the best tasting, low carb option out there)

Cook pasta to desired consistency. In the meantime, in a skillet, heat oil, then add chicken chunks and seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook chicken until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. To the skillet, add the jar of alfredo sauce and let simmer. When the pasta is done, drain and add to the sauce.
Add a veggie and a salad for a half-way healthy meal.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Any Speed Racer Fans?

I guess I lived under a rock growing up, because I didn't get introduced to Speed Racer until I met my husband when I was in my 20's. My kids, however, love Speed Racer just like their Dad. And my young nephews and their Grandpa all seem to love this strange cartoon as well. Proof of that was that there were lots of Speed Racer themed presents under the tree at my in-laws house this year. So it must be that with the recent surge in popularity of NASCAR there is a whole new generation of fans for all things speedy.

For that reason, I thought that I would include this link to a picture of the Mach 5, which is on display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. I know my kids and DH will want to see it, and I will have to forward it to my nephews also. I got this link on the Kim & Jason site, so thanks Kim!

I also am super hyped myself now that I have watched the trailer for the upcoming live action version of Speed Racer. It looks amazing, and it was done by The Wachowski Brothers, the directors of The Matrix trilogy so it should not only be fantastic quality, but may just stretch the limits of film making. Keep in mind, it was this duo that first made popular the "bullet time" visual effect that has been copied in everything from Michael Jordan to the Max to Shrek. And while I try to never approach a new movie with too many expectations, least I be disappointed, I am hopeful that this movie will again stretch our imaginations.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More Game Reviews


Before Christmas I recommended some board games, and that post was so popular, that I thought I would add some more recommendations here.

First, let me say that conversations with my kids may not always be easy, but I find if we play board games and laugh together, we have an eaiser week than if we don't spend time bonding somehow.

We have played two games in the past couple of weeks that we adore, one a board game, and one a family Xbox game.

1. Quelf - This is an awesome game! I can honestly say that my DD and I laughed so hard we had to excuse ourselves from the table, if you get my meaning. Be warned, this is not your typical, average, passive board game. You will get up and move, and do things, but I promise the investment is worth it. Learning to play is easy and straightforward, winning is anything but.

2. SceneIt for Xbox - Now this is how a play at home game should be. Have you ever played the family fued home game or the jeapordy home game and been disappointed because you realized that without the buzzer the game just doesn't work? Well the guys over at Xbox have changed all of that. This game comes with a game and 4 controlers so you can buzz in. We have had more fun with this game than any other console game out there. If you have an Xbox, get this game. If you don't have an Xbox, get one for this game, really, it is that much fun. Of course, if you don't watch movies, you may not like this game, but watch for others like it to come out soon.

Monday, January 21, 2008

MLK Day 2008 - Have we made progress?

I attended a church service yesterday where we reflected on this question. . . How far have we come?

Not far enough was the answer my minister gave. His argument was that basically, it is in education where there is still a huge rift between the races. White students get a better education, due mostly to funding, than African American students do.

I don't know if this is true, I believe it is, but I know almost nothing about this argument. What I do know is that I am in a working-class neighborhood with more African American neighbors than white ones, and our school is on probration and about to undergo restructuring due to poor test scores.

The population of their school breaks down this way: 85% African American, 10% white, and 5% Hispanic. I don't think that the education they are getting is equal to that of kids in more afluent neighborhoods, but I am not sure I understand why that is, how that is, how it happend, and how it can be fixed.

We constantly struggle at our school to keep programs running. The band program is so underfunded that each year band parents have to pay $600 for their children to participate. I am told that many teachers have taken pay cuts, and I know that activities have been cut.

WHY? I will be looking into this over the coming weeks and plan to blog about it here. I have many questions and few answers right now. I am hoping to change that.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Beginning Runner

I stared running daily recently, and thought I would share some helpful links and tips for starting a running routine.

1. Start small and slow. I am running at a slow speed for 20 minutes at least 5 days a week right now. I don't expect to loose weight or be able to run a marathon anytime soon, but I am doing something good for myself that will payoff eventually. Right now, I can run/jog for 20 minutes so that is what I am doing. I did find another plan that I would use if I wasn't already well on my way with my own workout at the Cool Running website.

2. Warm-up! I didn't do any warm-ups (I know, I know, very bad) the first two days I was running, and my back quickly reminded me that I am not in my 20s anymore. I was able to find a routine that does work on my sore areas.

3. I check the Runners World website regularly for inspiration. I would someday like to run a race or something, but for now, I will just read about others who do and enjoy their stories and use them to inspire me to keep it up. It is also a great place for finding running gear and the latest gadgets.

4. I read my Women's Health Magazine religiously. This is a great magazine, really. It has great articles, recipes and tips. There is a new workout each month that you can do right at home, and there are also great articles on ways to be more healthy. Check out their website to get a pretty good feel for the types of articles and tips they have.