Sunday, July 30, 2006

Liam or Max?

Nope, I'm not picking names for a baby or new pet. Last night I started a Scottish epic movie marathon, seeing my husband is out of town for the weekend and he'd never watch either Rob Roy or Braveheart. I finished Rob Roy last night and really enjoyed it. Apparently it didn't do as well since it was released within the same year as Braveheart. I"m over halfway through Braveheart and so far, I'm thinking I liked Rob Roy a wee bit better. Both however satisfied my love of Scottish scenery and plenty of that soulful music. I can't pick between Liam and Max though - they're both great actors.

So what movie would you watch, given a long evening to yourself? What's on your list of favorites or want-to-see movies?

UPDATE: Rob Roy wins over Braveheart in my book. I don't really mind the battle scenes in Braveheart so much, but I thought the story, although a good one, dragged on a bit.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Biographies and Disillusionment

I have this crazy idea that, starting with the original GW, I'd like to read a biography on every president. So I hit my local library this morning, and after grabbing some CDs and gardening books, headed for the bio section. George . . . George . . . where are you. Oh, Washington - right. Washington the president, not the peanut farmer. Aha, here we are.

I'd say there were at least 15 books on old George. How in the world do I pick one? I started reading the flyleaf overviews and quickly became discouraged. Apparently the goal of many of these biographers seemed to be to dispel the myth that George Washington was a great man, and instead point out the inconsistencies and weaknesses in his character.

Needless to say, I left empty handed. While I don't doubt that our founding fathers had weaknesses, that wasn't what I wanted to read. I mean, we all have weaknesses, for pity's sake, but I wouldn't want a book written about mine. Ugh. But for some reason, for the better part of two hundred years, most Americans acknowledged that George Washington was a great man who did great things for our country. Now we must abandon all the good we've acknowledged and held in esteem as shining examples? I think not. Of course we know those men were just as human as we are, with faults and shortcomings and inconsistencies. But is it wrong to hold up their victories and strength of character as examples to the rest of us? This systematic rewriting of our country's history saddens me.

Nevertheless, I'm not abandoning my quest to find and read some good biographies. So I'm open to recommendations, and I'm sure I'll hit B&N eventually. (I can't say for certain that none of those books would suffice, but neither do I have the time to digest a 600 page tome on each of these esteemed men or I'll be an octogenarian before I accomplish my mission!)

Friday, July 28, 2006

Slow Cooked

I haven't had much to post about lately. I guess we all go through those dry spells at times. And it seems like when I do post, it's been about food. I couldn't figure that out, except that this past Monday made six years since my dear little Gram went to be with Jesus and I think perhaps she's been on my mind lately. I feel like my love of cooking is the legacy she left me. So maybe today I'll just blog about Gram a bit.

From the time I was little, I loved spending time in the kitchen with my Gram. She moved way out to the country (about 30 minutes away from us) when we were little, but we always seemed to get out there at least once a week. My sister and I just loved to spend the night at Gram's and in the summertime, a night usually turned into a week. When I was about 11 or 12, we moved right next door to her. Well, actually it was across the field on the adjoining property, but close enough to walk about 100 yards to several times a day, which is exactly what we did. I can't tell you how many times my sis and I would find a reason to sneak over to Gram's right about dinner time, because most likely she'd offer us a bit of whatever she had, which was usually much better than the options at home! (Not that my mom wasn't a good cook, but you know how it is - everything tastes better out!)

Anyways, we spent loads of time with Gram. One summer we got on an art lesson kick and we'd spend hours over there at her kitchen table, drawing at her direction, practising shading and drawing still lifes. We usually got silly and we loved to draw cartoons and comics. My gram had an amazing sense of humor - the kind that is able to see humor in the most mundane things.

If we weren't drawing, we could often be found in the "parlor" - her seemingly ornate livingroom - playing the piano or organ. She didn't have a ton of money but she always saved to buy the best in home furnishings. And her walls were covered with paintings of the Mona Lisa, Pinkie, Gainesborough's Blue Boy and other reproductions she'd painted over the years. She loved to play both the piano and organ, although my sister was the really good one. Sometimes we'd just goof off, and other times Deb would help Gram with a song she was working on. Sometimes she'd burst into song as my sister pounded out the oldies. Now that I think of it, I guess Gram never really was proficient on either instrument, except in her heart.

Where she shined was in the kitchen. To say she loved to cook is an understatement. I think she dreamed about it at night. I don't believe she ever weighed more than 110 lbs (she was barely five foot tall) so it's not like she cooked to eat. To her, it was an art. I think lots of people have a hard time understanding that today. There's a certain satisfaction that comes from the process of cooking. By process, I mean from the conception of the idea to watching someone else taste and enjoy the final product.

And how many times did I see this process in action. We'd go to a restaurant and taste something she thought was out of this world. She'd go home and think of nothing else for the next few days. I'd find her poring over cookbooks in search of a similar recipe, until she thought she had the idea. Then she'd make it - over and over and over again - until she felt she had it just right. I remember her doing this with croissants, pizza, egg rolls - so many things. Oh, and nut rolls. This was a yearly effort on her part to master the elusive perfect nutroll recipe.

Gram would never had been caught making anything from a box. Everything was from scratch. (She could even tell when a cake or something she had at a restaurant was made from a mix). Again, it was all about the process. The snapping of green beans, chopping of vegetables, cutting up chicken - all of this was enjoyable to her.

I think this philosophy of cooking summed up her entire life. She knew how to enjoy the journey. She wasn't just in a rush to reach the destination. She paid cash for everything, because the time spent saving for something made it worth the wait (something I'm just starting to learn). She wasn't afraid to tackle huge projects that sometimes took her months to complete, because the end result was worth her daily bits of time and effort. She didn't allow life to rush her on through; she truly took life one day at a time and lived her life for all it was worth.

Even though I don't have nearly as much time as I'd like to, I try to carry this over into my everyday life as well as my cooking. Granted, there are so many quicker ways to do things today, and I'm fine with that. I'd gladly accept a dishwasher if someone gave it to me. I love my dryer and not having to hang my wash on the line. Cooking is one area where I like taking my time. Sometimes my husband doesn't understand this when the kitchen is a mess at 10pm because I just had to try a new recipe! But I think he's learning it's just something I enjoy doing.

But I often find myself impatient, especially in this stage of my life. I have certain goals and desires and I want them all now. (I'm not really talking about material things here.) And I know sometimes I'm not enjoying the journey. Time flies when you're not paying attention. I want to remember it's about the process - about God working on my life one day at a time, knowing He already knows the outcome.

I know this is a rambling, disjointed collection of thoughts here. Perhaps this is a tribute to my Gram today. Or maybe it's just a reminder to myself of how I want to live. If you've made it to the end of this post, thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Thirteen Things On My Someday To-do List

I looked around my house and thought of all the things I've bought with good intentions, hence this list, which excludes all the places I'd like to visit someday and all the other things I'd like to do. These are mostly fun things; my house will not fall apart if I don't accomplish these. But I think it's good to have these kind of projects on the back burner.

  1. Make my own dog treats for my dog. Yes, I have a set of doggie cookie cutters!
  2. Go back to Ireland and while I'm there, I may as well visit Scotland and England. (Okay I slipped this one in here just for fun!)
  3. Watch all MacGyver reruns on DVD. I own the first 2 seasons, compliments of my husband for my birthday last year.
  4. Read all of Jane Austen's books. I keep buying these, reading a chapter or two and never seem to finish them.
  5. Have my entire house entirely cleaned, inside and out, for one day. Oh, I have many many cleaning & organizing gadgets for this purpose.
  6. Make yogurt cheese. I keep buying yogurt but I eat it before I get around to making the cheese!
  7. Organize my photos somewhere. I have several albums and boxes of photos waiting my attention.
  8. Master Photoshop and put together a DVD of each of my nieces and nephews. That's why I got a laptop with a DVD burner. So far I haven't burned a thing but time!
  9. Collect the rest of Jan Karon's books (must be Penguin imprint) and make dinner from herMitford Reader & Cookbook. So far I've just managed to read the excerpts from the book and imagine myself sipping raspberry tea on my back porch.
  10. Find a really good salsa recipe I can make and put up in jars. This is a must-have around our house - I think my husband could go through a jar a day if it were available. He is pretty picky though - whereas I love fresh salsa with lots of garlic and some jalapeno, he prefers his cooked, mild and with more onions. Am open to any tried & true recipes here.
  11. Make my own pasta. Oops. Dunno if this one belongs here. I inherited a pasta maker from my gram but I think I got rid of it because alas! I never got around to using it. Well, you don't need a machine to make pasta - or so the TV chefs say.
  12. Make my own granola recipe. This counts currently as I have a bag of dried cranberries I bought for this purpose, but if I don't hurry up and make it, I'm likely to eat them all in my oatmeal.
  13. Finish a crosstitch project for my gameroom.
I know - most of the items listed above have to do with food. What can I say? I love to cook! And think about cooking. And read cookbooks. And talk about cooking . . .

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

Meet more Thursday Thirteen participants!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Works for Me Wednesday: Reusing Ziploc Bags

THIS JUST IN: Rinsing and reusing Ziploc bags (I know - there are many brands!) is apparently not an unheard of idea. I found this picture posted on Plow & Hearth, where you can find all sorts of things you don't need for your home!

I know there's some germophobe out there who will not like this tip but for the rest of us, here goes. This is something I learned from my gram who grew up reusing foil, paper bags and even paper towels. I always remember her keeping plastic Ziploc bags in the freezer and now that I have my own home, I can't bear to toss a Ziploc bag until it's served me well.

I buy the best quality Ziploc bags and believe it or not, a box in each size usually lasts me almost a year. I wash them well in hot soapy water after use, slip over a serving spoon in the dish drain and let them dry, then fold and store on my freezer door. Now mind you, I never reuse any in which I've had any kind of meat or liquidy food substance. Mostly what I reuse them for is to store things like bags of coffee beans, graham cracker and bread crumbs, and herbs. They're also useful for storing unused portions of bacon and hot dogs, wrapped first in plastic wrap. This keeps my meats handy and organized in the freezer. Oh and overripe bananas get cut in half and tossed in a bag (unpeeled) for later use in banana bread (hint - if you try this, do not take the bananas out of the freezer until you're ready to peel and mash them).

Here are a few other uses for those plastic marvels! I use tomato paste in a lot of recipes and always hated opening those cans and having leftover past. Several years ago I got the idea of buying it in large cans, and scooping it onto a cookie sheet with a small cookie scoop (line the sheet first with wax or freezer paper). After the scooped portions freeze, I store them in a - you guessed it - Ziploc bag. Each portion equals a tablespoon and about 3 of them equal a 1/4 cup.

I also buy grating cheeses in bulk (usually a pound lb. each of Parmagiano Reggiano, and Asiago) at the Strip District downtown, cut into 1 inch square pieces and store these in a Ziploc in a freezer. It's easy to grab one or two and use in my table grater for always-fresh taste of good cheese.

Perhaps one of these tips will work for you - they work for me! If not, check out the tons of other good tips posted at Shannon's site on Works For Me Wednesday.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Amazing Ribs

I don't get to cook as near as much as I'd like to, but this weekend, my aunt came for dinner and I wanted to go all out for her. Gone are the days when I actually spent an hour or so each week planning my menus. So I headed for the meat market that had baby back ribs on sale. THEN headed home and looked for a recipe. Seems a little backwards, eh? Thankfully there's always where I found this recipe for ribs. I had neither whiskey nor liquid smoke, but the recipe turned out just fine. The trick seems to be slowcooking the ribs in the oven first, which worked out perfectly because that's when I ran around making my house presentable. I never made ribs before, and I'm sure they're downright unhealthy but wow, these turned out great. I also made some steamed green beans in a light sweet-n-sour sauce, grilled potato planks and that spinach & strawberry salad that seems to be so popular right now. Topped it off with some fresh strawberry shortcake.

We ate on our newly remodeled back porch (of which I really need to post some pictures - Mike did a great job on it) and enjoyed a nice peaceful evening outside. Later on we headed in and watched Beyond the Sea, the life story of Bobby Darin. I'm a big Kevin Spacey fan, and my husband is a big Bobby Darin fan, so this movie will likely be one we watch again. The smile on my aunt's face (actually she's my great-aunt) as she tapped out the beat to Hello, Young Lovers and Mack the Knife made our night!

If ribs don't tickle your fancy or you're looking for something health - try these banana-blueberry muffins at Stacy's site. They're actually on my list to try this week.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Where Have All the Grasshoppers Gone?

I try to make it worth your while if you take the time to read my blog. So I apologize if this seems a little bit fluffy and self-serving but I just have to ask - is it me, or are grasshoppers dwindling in number?

As a youngster, I was privileged to grow up in the country, on ten acres of wide open space, next to my gram's ten acres of wide open space. Mmmm. Even now I can close my eyes and pretend I'm at the top of our hill, gazing down on our houses and the winding road leading to the sheep farm down the way. If I listen carefully, I can still hear the buzzing and chirping of insects and birds a-plenty. Ahh. Summer in the country - there's nothing like it.

As much as I am a bit Monkish, I am not at all afraid of bugs. On the contrary, my sis and I were guaranteed the best grades on the yearly bug collection required for our science classes. We loved spending a morning collecting all sorts of creepy-crawlies in a mason jar, with holes punched in it for air. Having no luck with dogs, cats or the occasional sheep or chick we tried to raise, we usually had a toad or cricket as a pet. It was kind of gross but fun when you caught a grasshopper and it spit its "tobacco juice" on you, or better yet, on someone else! I always thought of grasshoppers as Jiminy Cricket's Irish counterpart. I don't remember naming any of my little critters, but something like Mick or Ian just seems to fit those bright green little characters. It would always startle us when one of the monster ones would fly up in our faces as we'd walk across the field to see what Gram had for dinner. Yep, grasshoppers were certainly a big part of our country upbringing.

But seriously, when's the last time you saw a grasshopper? Tonight my husband (a definite bug-o-phobe) flicked something off himself as he worked outside and I said it was probably a grasshopper. That got me to thinking. Have I not seen grasshoppers because there are less of them? Or am I not where they abound?

Isn't that how it is with God's blessings? Sometimes I feel like they're dwindling, like I can't see God at work. But usually it's because I'm just not looking for them, or I'm not in a place where he can bless. I didn't mean for this to turn into an spiritual analogy - that just came to me as I pondered my little green buddies. But now I want to go looking for both!

Works for Me Wednesday: Be Kind to Your Car

I thought I'd share a few tips from my "I should have been a mechanic" husband today. Over the years, I've learned a lot from him about taking care of my car. Even though he's on something like car #14, that's because in his teens and twenties, he used to buy beaters on their last leg with like 80K on them and drive them until the last leg fell off. Now though, we both buy newer cars and drive them, well, until they die! But they last a whole lot longer these days!

1. It's always a good idea to not allow your gas tank to get too low. He recommends keeping it at least half full, especially in the extreme cold and hot weather. In the cold, a fuller gas tank will add weight to your car, a help on icy roads. In the summer, the additional gas acts as insulation to keep your fuel pump from overheating (something like that - he makes me recite this maxim several times a year!)
2. Whenever possible, drift as you drive. That's right - keep your foot off both the brake and gas. You'll be surprised how easy it is to do this when you learn not to over-accelerate. Instead of jamming on your brakes, you'll find you've already slowed the momentum of the car enough. This is especially useful for residential driving. You'll save wear and tear on your brakes and get better gas mileage.
3. This is my own tip I learned from teaching cable installation - from the driver safety section. When stopping in traffic, get in the habit of ensuring you can see where the rear tires of the car ahead of you touch the pavement. Allowing this extra room provides a buffer in the event of a rear-end hit to your car, and if you accidentally snooze or become distracted at the light, and your foot slips off the brake, you'll most likely NOT rear-end the car ahead of you.

These tips work for us - hope they help someone else today! Happy Driving!

Friday, July 14, 2006


So I painted some garden furniture tonight, pushing myself to finish with the reward of a relaxing hour of Monk at 10 pm. Did I mention I'm really repainting them, after deciding I didn't like the first shade of green?

At 10pm, I tune into USA Network and catch a few seconds of Monk before it breaks for commercial. Perfect timing. Or so I thought. No one told me Monk was moved to 9pm.

Anyways, I'm evaluating the new show Psych - about a guy who doesn't want to be a detective but gets hired by the police department as a psych but really he's not - he's faking it. He just has a well developed sense of observation. I'm not sure I get the point of the show yet but this is my TV time and I gotta do something.

On commercials, I'm checking out the USA website and thought some of you should check out this Monk quiz to determine your level of obsessive compulsiveness (or complete lack thereof)! There's several other fun games on the USA site while you're at it!

Happy Friday night to all my blogging buds!

The Kindness of Strangers

Sometimes I'll see a young mom at the grocery store, hands full with kids and packages, struggling to make sure neither get away from her. If I can, I'll try to give her a hand - unloading groceries or returning her cart. I don't know why I feel compelled to do this for absolute strangers. Perhaps it's because I'm thinking of my sis somewhere on the other side of town, four little kids in tow, and I hope someone will stop and help her if she needs it.

It's certainly nothing I ever expect to be reciprocated, since I don't have kids and usually don't have a problem managing my packages.

But a few weekends ago I was blown away by the kindness of perfect strangers. After a particularly rough week at work, I was headed for the store on Sunday evening, chatting to my sis on my cell phone. I continued talking with her as I headed into the store and part way through my shopping trip. About 45 minutes later, I emerged from the store with a cart full of groceries and noticed several people gathered around my car. Gulp! Believe it or not, I'd managed to leave the car running, unlocked, with the keys in the ignition the whole time! I swear this one concerned couple was just there standing guard over it! I guess the woman noticed my complete embarrassment, because she began helping me unload my packages and tried to put me at ease with a few stories of her own mishaps. She made sure I was okay before taking my cart from me and returning it to the cart area.

I can't tell you how touched I was by their kindness. So why am I blogging about this today? I guess because I learned something very valuable that day. The system works both ways. I believe everyday there are opportunities for us to be kind to others. They may be little things such as a smile or returning someone's cart for them. Or they may require a bit more time and effort on our part. But they're there - if we're looking for them.

On the other hand, sometimes we may need to just be the gracious recipient of the kindness of others. I hate when I'm so overwhelmed by my own personal circumstances that I'm oblivious to the needs of those around me and yet, even in those times, God extends his love to me through the hands of others, sometimes strangers. If we were on the receiving end all the time, I think we might tend to become self-centered. And yet if we're always on the giving end, the well will eventually run dry. Are we willing to be both instruments and recipients of grace?

For those of you who know my husband, I have not mentioned said faux pas to him. I can't think of many things in our nine years of marriage that I haven't disclosed to him but I can't risk having my shopping or driving privileges revoked - it's not like I'm eighty years old! So don't rat me out, okay?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

My Blog is Bugging Me

In honor of the 2nd episode of the new season of Monk to air tomorrow night, I must tell you that my blog is bugging me for several reasons. (If you've never watched Monk - the obsessive compulsive detective, it's definitely worth staying up late on Friday nights for)

1. I know it's not able to be viewed properly in IE. I think everyone should use Mozilla Firefox but I don't have control over that so it bothers me that someone is seeing my links all cockeyed on the side.
2. Yesterday's Thursday Thirteen was in Courier font. I couldn't figure out how to change the font, even in the "Edit HTML" view.
3. Some of the link sections are totally left justified; others are over a tad to the right. Grrr. I have not been able to figure that one out. I've compared my old template to my new one and I can't see where the alignment changes.

Speaking of Monk, is it me, or does everyone get noticeably more obbsessive compulsive as they get older? Is it just me or does everyone:
1. Feel the urge to straighten the shopping carts in the return corral?
2. Hate touching handrails and doorknobs in public? (Our company has signs in the stairwells "Think Safety, Use the Handrails" - I always say "Think Sanitary - Who touched them?")
3. Need to finish reading the chapter before they can put the book down for the night?

I could go on but it's getting late and I must finish on an odd number!

Thursday Thirteen: 13 Things about Me

Thirteen Things about Dianne

I don't have to start work until later this morning so I thought I'd give Thursday Thirteen a try. This is pretty generic for starters.

1. I would rather read than eat.

2. When I do eat, my favorite things are actually vegetables. Yes, swiss chard, zucchini and fresh peas are some of my favorite foods.

3. I was involved with cheerleading for over fifteen years; six in high school, one in college and then as either a coach or cheerleading camp instructor. Guess you could say I loved to cheer?

4. My sister and I both started dating our husbands in September, got engaged in February and were married in October. And we both retained the same initials (from DK to DP).

5. On our first date, my husband just picked me up at my house and we rode with friend to an amusement park. When we got there, there were many other single girls in the group, I figured there was no way he intended to spend the day with me. I truly thought he just gave me a ride to be nice. I kept moving away and he kept sticking to me like glue!

6. I've never been farther west than Chicago and that's perfectly fine with me.

7. If I were to travel anywhere I could, I think I'd go to Prince Edward Island.

8. The ideal vacation for my husband is a week at the beach. For me, it's a week of non-stop reading! No, seriously, I like to visit historical sites.

9. I'm on my fourth car. I think my husband's on his fourteenth!

10. I just started reading Pride and Predjudice for the first time. I have to, because I want to watch the movie and I always like to read the books first.

11. One of my all-time favorite books is Moby Dick.

12. We live four doors away from my in-laws and we all get along pretty well.

13. I've been to Ireland.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Works For Me Wednesday: Hamburger Helper

My husband loves meatloaf (well, mine anyways). I love a good Italian meatball. And we both enjoy good hamburgers on the grill. But I hate - despise - getting ground meat under my fingernails. My trick: I buy meat in 3lb. packages and divide it equally with a butter knife. A 3lb. pack of ground beef or turkey should yield 12 burgers. Once divided, the sections are easy to pick up and form into patties of uniform size. I form them all, then wrap two at a time in plastic wrap. I wash out the styrofoam tray the meat came in, stack the burgers in that and head for the freezer. Meatballs are equally easy. I just divide the meat into more sections and quickly form each into little balls to be dropped into sauce or baked in the oven and individually frozen. Lastly, I never use my hands to mix a meatloaf. After adding all the ingredients to the meat, I use my potato masher to mix them together and then turn into a baking pan. (I usually use a 11x7 pan because a thinner meatloaf cooks much more quickly).

Meatloaf, hamburgers, meatballs and clean hands to boot - Works for me!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Give Me That Map!

My husband and I travel very well together, especially when he drives and I serve as his navigator. He amazes me. He is completely content to entrust the details of the trip to me. He doesn't even ask to see the map, except on those rare occasions where he suspects we may be going the wrong direction. That doesn't happen often, but once on our way to the beach, we spent the night in Virginia, got up the next morning and promptly headed homeward. After about an hour we realized our mistake and turned around! Generally though, I can navigate my way around anywhere - as long as I have that map.

Turn the tables though and put me in the driver's seat - no way, unless I've got in my a picture in my mind of where we're going.

Lately I've been struggling with some things in my life. Quite frankly, sometimes I find myself arguing with God over my lack of understanding his plans for my life. Today after I finished reading Esther 4 in my NIV Quiet Time Bible, (a great resource because it combines scripture reading with some directed questions for reflection) Jeremiah 29:11 came to mind and so I flipped over to Jeremiah and read the entire chapter, along with the devotional questions provided.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD (Jer 29:11-14a) [emphasis mine]

Hmm. My first thought was to again be comforted by the fact that God knows the plans he has for me. The fact that he does have plans for me should be enough. The fact that he knows those plans should be even more reassuring. But today as I read, it occurred to me that God never tells me that I need to know those plans. I don't need to grab the map and figure things out for myself. Instead he tells me my part is just to seek him. That's very hard for me, a control freak, to grasp. I really think I need a glance at those plans. I could tweak them, make them even better. I could plan ahead, knowing where I'm going. It just makes so much sense to me.

But God knows the plans he has for me. Isn't that enough for me? If I did get a glimpse of those plans, what would I do? I'd no doubt mess them up. And seeing those plans, would I focus more on him? I doubt it.

It's hard for me to just go along for the ride, instead of being in control. But after reading these verses again today, I'm going to try to give up that urge to see the map and focus on the one who "knows the plans." I can rest in the fact that God's plan for me is all good. My job is to simply come, call on him, pray and seek his face.

I hope this isn't being too transparent but I think that's part of what community in Christ is all about - sharing the struggles as well as the victories.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Wonderful World of Books

Always a sucker for anything to do with books, I eagerly snatched up these questions from Jennifer at Snapshot who got them from Joshua at Quieted Waters.

What book(s) sparked your interest in reading? Meaning, what books first took reading from being a forced activity to being an enjoyable pastime for you?

My mom will tell you I was reading by age 4. Perhaps years later, when I'd excuse myself from the dinner table to use the bathroom but would really hide out reading in there, she regretted her encouragement. Nevertheless, I do remember loving books from a very early age. From my Little Golden Books to booksale finds during college to the myriad of books lining my shelves now, books have always been a part of my life.

Which three books have most changed your life (in a practical, tangible way)?

A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle
Will the Real Phony Please Stand Up by Ethel Barrett (based on the book of James, given to me by a HS teacher I very much respected)
Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley

Which three books (outside of the Bible) have most shaped your thoughts on God?

I have to say that Bible study, reading and studying God's word on my own, that have enlightened me most about who He is. But here are some Bible studies that I have really enjoyed:

  • Discipleship Journal Magazine - I know, not a book but this magazine revolutionized my spiritual outlook. I highly recommend a lifetime subscription!
  • One Step Forward, Two Steps back by Charles Swindoll
  • Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur (a really excellent book that helped me realize my freedom in Christ
Which book(s), if any, have you intentionally read more than once?
  • The Mitford Series by Jan Karon--Like Jennifer, I love these books and am always up for another readthrough
  • The Well-fed Writer by Peter Bowerman (trying to devour this now as I just launched my own writing and editing service)
  • Poetry by earlier American poets such as Oliver Wendell Holmes and Longfellow, also Tennyson and William Blake
  • The Lord of the Rings series
  • I rarely reread fiction but I think I could read anything by Lisa Samson again
Which three books would you recommend to a brand new Christian?
  • The Gospel of John covers the basics, even for new Christians who have little Bible knowledge
  • Probably something by Max Lucado. He really knows how to put the jelly on the bottom shelf.
  • It's embarrassing but I can't think of a third book to recommend. Probably since it's been so long since I've been a new Christian and as a young child, I grew in the faith under the leadership of good teachers more than books.
Which three books do you plan to have your kids read? (Or - "Which three books were most exciting to read to your kids / to have your kids read?" - for those of you who already have children)
  • I'm sure I'd want to read the Narnia books with them
  • EB White books such as Charlotte's Web and the Trumpet of the Swan
  • Lucy Maude Montgomery books (Anne of Green Gables series) for girls and the Sugar Creek Gang series by Paul Hutchinson for boys
  • The Secret Garden and other books by Frances Hodgson Burnett
If you choose to answer these questions on your blog, why don't you head on over to Jennifer's blog at Snapshot and leave a link there? And check out her post on the Family Book Club while you're at it for a great idea to instill a love of reading within your child.

This list is by no means exhaustive (although it was exhausting to think of just a few favs out of the hundreds of books I've read during my lifetime) but just a smattering of some books I've met along the way that have become good friends.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Blog Redesign

Inspired by all the new and fancy blogs I'm seeing these days, I decided mine was due for a makeover.

They say the best way to learn is by doing and so I have learned to: upload files to my ISP provider's server, how to reference images in HTML and am learning a bit about HTML along the way.

I think this needs some tweaking but it looks so much brighter now. Yippee!

ABC Meme

Susanne at Living to Tell the Story has tagged me for a fun meme. I didn't tag anyone else but feel free to participate on your blog and leave me a comment if you do so I can check out your answers.

None that I know but I could listen to an Irish brogue all day long!

BIBLE BOOK THAT I LIKE: James and Philippians have always been favorites of mine. I love the rich descriptions of God's power in Job too.

CHORE THAT I DON'T CARE FOR: Cleaning out the sink strainer and folding laundry have to be lowest on my list, although I try (at least with laundry) to remember to do it happily! The sink strainer - ugh, I usually leave that for him to empty because it grosses me out.

DOG OR CAT: We have one of each but I'd be happy with just a dog. (Said cat was husband's before we got married).


FAVORITE MOVIE: Hmmm, I think my all time favorite must be The Princess Bride, followed by Finding Forrester, Sense & Sensibility, Nicholas Nickleby and (haven't finished watching it yet) Pride and Predjudice.

GOLD OR SILVER: Gold please.

HANDBAG I CARRY MOST OFTEN: I have a khaki-colored canvas knapsack that I just love because it allows me to sneak a book everywhere I go.

INSOMNIA: way too often

JOB TITLES: Customer service rep (at our lovely company the official title is "Customer Service Expert") but have also been teacher, cheerleading sponsor, coach, and admin. assistant. Do wife and homemaker count? Oh and thanks Katrina for reminding me: I'm a writer and an editor! (Seriously, I even have my own business!)

KIDS: none, unless you count my husband!

LIVING ARRANGEMENTS: Suburban ranch. I'd prefer to live in the country but our spacious backyard makes suburban life bearable for this country girl.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: My wedding day when I stood on my dad's arm at the back of the church and finally realized, after coordinating so many weddings for others, that this one was for me!

NAUGHTIEST CHILDHOOD BEHAVIOR: My sister and I got into my mother's Avon products and rendered them unsaleable! Oh, and once we were pretending to be the Hardy boys and of course boys go shirtless in the summer and we answered the door (for my mom's Avon customers) sans shirts!


PHOBIAS: Small tight spaces, anything having to do with underwater - fish, etc., especially deep sea creatures. Feeling like I won't be able to find my car in a parking lot!

QUOTES: The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time. Abraham Lincoln

RELIGION: Knowing Christ as my personal savior, not because of anything I've done to deserve his grace but simply on the merits of his love for me.

SIBLINGS: One sister who is also my best friend

WAKE UP TIME: Usually about 6:00 am., if not earlier.


VEGETABLE I REFUSE TO EAT: Probably okra, but then I've never had it - it just looks gross. I can't think of any other veggie I'd refuse.

WORST HABIT: Forgetting something everywhere I go. This gets to be embarrassing after a while.

X-RAYS: Hip and lower back

YUMMY STUFF I COOK: Meatloaf, grilled kebabs, blueberry poundcake, stuffed shells, lasagne


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Works for Me Wednesday: Gift Cards-R-Us

Okay, this is my first time to officially participate in WFMW. I'm getting in with just hours to spare!

Have you noticed lately that when you return something, many stores now give you gift cards to use as merchandise credits? I find these incredibly better than the old paper slips, which always managed to get lost or mangled in the wash.

Anyways - here's my tip. It probably sounds terrible, but I often end up using gift cards on gifts for others throughout the year.

I have no less than 6 gift cards in my purse right now, with well over $125 on them. I'm planning to start my Christmas shopping this month, using these cards to get a jump start on the holidays and take a bite out of my budget. Some of these are the result of returned gifts and others were given as gifts I haven't gotten around to using. I just don't have that "it's burning a hole in my pocket" need to spend them on myself. Okay, I kind of need clothes but since I hate shopping for them, that's kind of out.

Don't get me wrong - I do love getting gifts. But last year I got one of those George Foreman grills which was just a bit big for the 18 square inch bit of counter space near the only outlet in my kitchen. I returned it, bought a smaller one that we absolutely love and still had store credit remaining. And if my husband gets one more XXXL flannel shirt . . . well, you get the point! Hey, it works for me!

P.S. Lest you think I don't know how to enjoy gift cards, my favorite way to spend them on myself (especially to bookstores) is to hang on to them until my sis and I can sneak away on a little shopping spree together!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Always Blog On A Full Tank

I saw that saying on another blog today. It was actually an advertisement for a website I'll probably never visit, but I couldn't help thinking how appropriate it was for my blogging in terms of my relationship with Christ. Not that every post I write is devotional in nature, but if I'm not walking with Him and in the Word daily, I won't have much more than fumes as far as my writing goes. I'd never think of driving around on an empty gas tank, so why do I think I can write or just go through my day without being filled with the Spirit?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Looking For Wood

There's no metaphorical meaning to the title of this post. It is what it appears to be - a post about Looking for Wood. Because that's exactly what I found myself doing today.

My husband tore off the rotted wood on our back porch and we're ready to install new posts, hence a trip to the local Home Depot. Did you know that you should never buy wood until you're ready to use it? The reason is it can warp. And we don't want that! So today the moment arrived. It was time to go Looking for Wood.

Warning to all my fellow female bloggers. Looking for Wood differs from a run to the grocery store. If you should embark on such an endeavor, be prepared to allow at least three hours of your day. Don't leave dinner on the stove. Don't make plans for the evening. And you may want to take a book or magazine along. But don’t worry, Looking for Wood is not something that your husband will ever ask YOU to do. It is an art form, reserved for the male species.

We went to the local Home Depot, where all budding home improvement experts spend many a weekend and thousands of dollars. Most people there were buying grills and patio furniture, in anticipation of the 4th of July holiday, but we made a beeline for the lumber department. It was there I observed my husband doing what he does best, Looking for Wood.

The first rule of Looking for Wood appears to be that you never select the top piece. No, you must carefully move the top layer aside so that you have access to pieces never touched by any other shopper. A visual inspection points you to a good looking piece, which you must hold up at an angle and peer down the length of it. It seems to help if you assume the position of a ship’s captain looking out to see through his looking glass. This is serious stuff, I realized, as I looked down the aisle and saw several other men Looking for Wood in much the same manner – a scary sight indeed.

After eyeing up the piece to see if it is straight, you must turn it over in all directions, looking for knots and other unsightly imperfections. And then lay it down flat and see if it rocks at all. If it does, it’s an indication of warping and that’s what we don’t want. This process must be repeated for every single piece of wood needed, and it goes without saying that the first piece will never be selected.

After looking through the pile at Home Depot for a good ten or fifteen minutes, my husband decided that Lowe’s probably had a better selection. Ladies, never feel bad for searching the entire mall for that perfect pair of shoes with your husband in tow. Believe me, it can’t be half as painful as Looking for Wood, and you’ll have something to show for your efforts! Anyways, we headed for Lowes, a twenty mile drive in the opposite direction, thankful that we don’t drive a gas guzzler.

Once at Lowes, after a brief stop to drool over reciprocating saws, we headed for the lumber piles and my husband assumed his Looking for Wood stance once again. This time we hit the jackpot - well, after the top row had been set aside, of course. After about fifteen minutes but what seemed like an hour, we had six choice pieces loaded onto our cart. After a brief look at rails and posts (not to buy, mind you - remember, the first rule of Looking for Wood: never buy more than you can use that day), we headed for the checkout.

Unfortunately, Lowes did not have the brackets we needed, so we headed for the Home Depot down the road. Selecting brackets is nothing like Looking for Wood. My input on bracket selection was even welcomed and soon I had ten brackets stacked neatly in my arms, leaving my husband’s hands free for the last item on our list: Liquid Nail.

Liquid Nail really warrants its own post but I’ll be succinct here. Just be prepared; Selecting Liquid Nail is almost as painful as Looking for Wood. Do you know how many types of Liquid Nail there are? There’s Liquid Nail for concrete, for paneling, for wood, foam, plastic and even for mirrors. It comes in super adhesive, super-duper adhesive and ultra super-duper adhesive. Liquid Nail has it all over Duct Tape.

It was while I was watching my husband tediously choosing the best Liquid Nail for his project that I realized yet another benefit of being a writer. While other wives were moaning and groaning and tapping their feet impatiently, I was mentally writing this post!

Tags: Home Improvement