Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Works For Me Wednesday: Blogging Tips

Several tips have helped me maximize my blogging time:

1. On the days when posts just seem to be oozing out my finger tips, I've learned to just post one, and save the others as drafts. Then on busier days, I usually have a post that's been simmering on the back burner and is ready to serve up with just a bit of tweaking.

2. Likewise, I often email myself post ideas that I haven't had time to fully develop. This works great when my mind wonders at work as it is prone to do!

3. When all else fails, did you know you can email posts directly to your blog? Yep. At least with Blogger, this is easy to do:

  • First, ensure that you have this capability enabled.
  • Go to the Settings tab on your Blogger page, and then click on the Email tab.
  • Under the Mail-to address, insert the name of your blog in the blank, and then check Publish.
  • Remember this email address (it will look like "yourname.yourblogname@blogger.com), and then try sending your blog an email from any email program.
If you copy and paste text from anywhere else into your email, make sure you don't have unnecessary hard returns at the end of each line or your post will be formatted weird. To check your post - go directly to your blog page, hit refresh if necessary and voila! Your post should be there!

Blogging on the fly - works for me! For more helpful ideas, head over to Shannon's place at Rocks in my Dryer.

This Miracle Thing

I don't know why but I've been thinking about miracles lately. Perhaps this recent post by Katrina at Callapidder Days started the wheels churning in my head. Then this past Sunday, a guest speaker in our adult Sunday School class related a series of events in his ministry that were no doubt miraculous. And frankly, I need a miracle. At least I think I do. There are situations in my life that, at least from my very human perspective, only a miracle could remedy. (Fishing for the right word here - not sure if remedy is exactly what I mean.)

But then I think about the miracles Jesus did while he was here on earth. I think "I" need a miracle, but everytime he performed a miracle, it was with a greater purpose, to glorify the Father. I think "I" need a miracle, but is it really all about me? Like the speaker this past Sunday mentioned, when God brought the children of Israel to the banks of the Red Sea and then allowed the Egyptian soldiers to close in behind them, he did so that not only the Israelites, but also all the surrounding societies would know that it could only have been God that delivered them. There was no doubt.

I don't really know much about miracles. But I do see a few things from the miracles in Scripture:

  1. It's not about me. Not one tiny bit. I tend to have me at the center of all my prayers - my needs, my wants, my plans. But miracles are about God being glorified in our lives. I think God works miracles to serve his higher purposes.
  2. But then it is about me. Because Jesus loves me. Because he has a plan for me that is greater than I could ever imagine.
  3. I don't think there's anything we can do to merit a miracle. I can't picture God handing out miracles like the quiet seat prizes we used to get in junior church.
  4. I know we can't design our miracles. That's what Martha wanted to do. She had it all figured out. "Jesus, if only you'd have gotten here sooner, you could have healed Lazarus!" Isn't it funny how we actually think God is too late sometimes? Martha already had her miracle on the drawing board. She was probably planning what she'd serve at the celebration feast - "My brother was sick and now he's healthy - come and celebrate with us - free food for all!"
  5. Isn't a changed heart a miracle in itself? Isn't the fact that God chooses to be involved in our lives, to allow his Holy Spirit to work in our hearts nothing short of miraculous? Do I want a day-in, day-out relationship with him or do I just want him to show up when the going gets rough?
Well, these are just 4:00 am musings, so I apologize if you were expecting more! I don't have any great theological wrap-up to this post. In fact, I don't really have any worthwhile conclusions at all! So if you'd like to chime in with your two-cents worth, feel free to do so.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Name Game

Barb at A Chelsea Morning want's to know how we came up with the name for our blog.

Originally mine was entitled "Simply Put." Then I changed it to Unfinished Work, mainly because at the time I was feeling pretty discouraged about my habits of starting things with a bang but fizzling out soon after. So in essence, my title was kind of my cover for not blogging consistently. I mean, what do you expect from a blog entitled Unfinished Work!

I did add Philippians 1:6 as an afterthought. It's a verse I've always loved: Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (NIV). Since then, it's become a reminder to me to focus on the work God is doing in my life. Knowing that God isn't finished with me yet, but that he continues to work out his will in my life, reminds me to press on patiently with my projects, and especially to enjoy the process as well as the finished product!

So how did you come up with the name for your blog? Share it with us by leaving a link at Barb's today!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Feed Me?

Some of you who use Bloglines may have noticed that some feeds are not updating properly. Mine would be one of those, and I've noticed a problem with several others. I have a new feed on my sidebar that you could use to resubscribe. If you do, and notice an improvement, I'd appreciate knowing. And likewise, if someone makes you aware that Bloglines appears not to be working for your blog, you may want to consider burning a new feed with Feedburner as well.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, haven't noticed any problems, or don't use Bloglines to manage your subscriptions, just check back here tomorrow for a more interesting post!

Friday, August 25, 2006

274 Things About Me!


I'll wait until I reach an even 300 posts to bore you like that!

But Susanne tagged me for a weird meme - as in I have to name 5 weird things about me or my pet. In case I do a 100th post thing some day (I passed 100 a long time ago, but I don't really think I can come up with 300 things about me), I'll save the weird things about me for that potential post.

I already told you a couple things about my dog a few days ago, but there are a few more things you may or may not want to know.

1. We take him out on a leash to do his business. Every single time. That makes a total of about 5000 trips to the backyard for this purpose! And about half as many butt wipes!
2. He has this snuggle sack on our bed - like a little sleeping bag for dogs, but open at both ends. We leave one end propped up like a tent so he can get in but he will not get in it by himself! He will stand facing it, looking at it, until we come along and "open" it for him. Spoiled little guy.
3. The only thing he has ever destroyed (except for his toys) was a pencil I left on the bed one time. No shoes, no furniture . . . gotta love that. Once I had some old Winnie the Pooh slippers that had worn out on the bottom and I decided to give them to him. He wouldn't even touch them at first!
4. He hates riding in a car. He quivers and shakes and it's just pathetic. So he doesn't get out much!
5. Oops - I always forget about "the cat" (actually she's my husband's cat!) She's just weird period - but an interesting thing about her is she needs insulin twice a day. A diabetic cat - go figure.

I'll leave it up to you if you'd like to post 5 weird things about yourself or your dog! Oh come on, we'd really love it if you would!!!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Works For Me Wednesday: Half Is Nice

A little late; nevertheless I had a thought today that I thought might be of help to others so I'm passing it along.

It all started last fall when I read Mary Hunt's (of Cheapskate Monthly fame) new book entitled Live your Life for Half the Price. I was left with one major impression: the merit of reducing our requirements for living by half. That may sound radical, but as I started implementing it in financial areas, it made more and more sense to me. For example, I tend to buy in bulk when certain items are on sale. Broccoli - 4 bunches for $2 - you gotta be kidding me - can't pass up that great deal. Oops, what's this growing fuzz in my fridge? Yep, that broccoli I never used. (Now I don't have a houseful of kids like some of you, so I'm not talking about stocking up on pantry essentials). I've learned that I can get to the grocery store again, so buying just what I can use in a week or so has helped me save money and eliminate waste.

Waste. Nope - make that "waist"! Fast forward a few months. I joined Weightwatchers - the actual meetings - this past March. I did it in the past online, but I don't think I truly revamped my eating habits then.

Something clicked this time. See, I come from a long line of Italian women who know how to eat and like to eat good. We like our food! We like our Greek hummus and Italian stuffed peppers and German latkes. I wasn't cutting it on rice cakes and fat free half & half. Then it occurred to me - eat what you like, just eat half. I think this has made all the difference. A sandwich tastes much better when shared with a co-worker. Applebee's offers most of their salads in a half size, and Panera has a great "You Pick Two" option with your choice of soup, salad or half a sandwich. I'm also trying to remember that usually the small size latte or coffee will more than satisfy me.

Another area where thinking in halves has helped me is with my to-do list. I'm finally realizing I don't have to get it all done tonight! Especially not after a long work day. The laundry can sit if it has to. I don't have to make a gourmet meal every night; I can save that new recipe for another night. And it's perfectly okay to buy and serve premade hamburger patties when I'm having a picnic.

So there you have it - Half is Nice. It works for me!

It's All in the Approach

I was thinking today how much I love my local library. Except it's not really my local library. It belongs to the next borough over, but it rocks compared to my little local dinky one. The only drawback for me was the dimly lit parking lot, excessive amount of stairs leading to the main door, and lack of easy access to the book return. Until I discovered . . .


Hard to believe a little thing can make such a difference but I have doubled my library time since discovering this other entrance. I feel much safer going at night now. I don't have to worry about accidentally parking in the Township Auditor's parking space. I don't have to climb icy stairs in the winter and the drop box is right around the corner from where I park. The library didn't change one bit, but my approach did and that has made all the difference.

Skilled athletes of most any sport will tell you the key to success is all in the approach. In golf, a sport in which I do not excel, in spite of having taken lessons and hit gazillions of buckets of balls, I know that your stance is everything. If you don't take the time to set up properly, you're a gonner before you ever swing. The same holds true for baseball, basketball and football. I could never quite execute a lay-up in basketball, mostly because I couldn't master the footwork leading up to it. My approach was more like "step, step, trip, hoist the ball up towards the basket in one last desperate attempt" than the symmetry of motion by someone like Michael Jordan. By the way, of all athletic moves, I can't think of anything more beautiful than a well-executed lay-up! It's why I sit fixated to the TV throughout March madness.

Anyways, it's occurred to me recently that our approach is key to success in every area of life. Recently I was assigned to a new position at work; same job, different region, different tasks, different partner. Honestly, I hated it. I dreaded going in every day. I wondered what problem is waiting to jump out and scare me. What customer was going to rip my lips off. What customer I've neglected to bill or what I did wrong on the billing I did remember to do.

While I still don't LOVE the job, and quite honestly am about maxed out on my stress level, I'm learning something. Coming in to work expecting things to go wrong just about guarantees something will go wrong. I don't get it, but I'm learning that if I approach the day with an open mind (which for me basically equates to listening to praise & worship music on the way to work instead of thinking about work), my day goes much better. Besides that, listening to some of the complaining that seems to come with the territory is teaching me to just SHUT UP! Amazingly enough, complaining never seems to change anything anyways!

I know - approach isn't everything. Follow through is just as important, in sports as well as our attitude. Some days I feel like it all starts going downhill about 9:00 am, but hey - at least my day started off a bit better, and we can always work on follow through, right?

How about you? How's your approach? Do you dread holidays and dealing with the in-laws? Are you stressing prematurely over the start of your child's new school year? Maybe, like me, it's time to work on your approach!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Look Away - I'm Hideous!

My husband's been saying that lately - I guess it's from a weird sci-fi movie or something. That's what I feel like tonight though. If you even have the guts to read this - my blog looks truly hideousl That's what I get for being so proud of myself for creating my own banner graphic. When I copied the template over from my practise blog, something went terribly wrong and this is what I get - my posts pushed down to the bottom of the page. I am not a patient person, nor am I one who can endure the least bit of imperfection if I think I can fix it. But right now I am too doggone tired to mess with the template any longer, so my apologies and check back later for a better looking blog, I hope!

(mumbles to self, "Serves ya right!")

A Glorious Day

Quite unexpectedly I find myself off work today. My to-do list looms large in front of me, but I had to stop and blog, in thankfulness, about this glorious morning.

When we're on vacation, I love nothing better than to find myself a little quiet scenic spot to sit and read. Well, since dear hubby spent all summer turning our back "room-to-nowhere" into a nice open porch, I feel like I'm on vacation everytime I'm out here! The bugs are still buzzing in the trees, the birds are chirping noisily, happy that someone remember to fill the feeders, a few deer just scampered across my backyard and MacGyver is enjoying the chance to roam freely in the midst of all this! Aahh - glorious indeed.

And I get to sit out here and work. A lot of my to-do list today is writing stuff, so thanks to technology, my office can be anywhere I want to be! Yippee!

Below (from left to right) the old "room", the new open porch, and my view from the porch!

More Than Meets the Eye

Our first clue was the last thirty miles as we approached our getaway destination. It looked absolutely desolate, not even a gas station in site. We pulled into our hotel parking lot and just looked at each other. The parking lot was full of contractors' pickup trucks. Hmmm. And the room was just as disappointing, lacking in cleanliness. (And this was a major chain hotel, not your little independent dive).

My husband and I both put our game faces on and decided to make the best of it. We picked a little place for dinner called Biscotti's. And it was everything we hoped for - a cute little Italian restaurant with paintings of happy chefs decorating the walls, candlelight, and soft romantic music playing. The owner took the time to chat with us and give us the lowdown on the local area. She told us where the best beaches were, where the best view of the lake was, and, when we told her where we were staying, mentioned a few other hotels we should try.

The next morning I woke up early and made some calls and found a room in a different hotel. Wow, what a difference! (Okay, the in-room jacuzzi helped a lot!) Suddenly the place didn't seem so desolate, and we were on our way to a great weekend.

Sometimes when we first start a job or move to a new community or meet new people, things look pretty bleak. Our natural reaction is to resist our new surroundings. But if we hang in there, we often find the best memories are to be had when the situation starts out kind of rough. If we can be patient, we may be pleasantly surprised to find there's more than meets the eye.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Thirteen Things About My Dog

Actually this post should be entitled "Thirteen Things Someone is About to Learn About My Dog"

My uncle is spending the weekend at our place while we head for Ohio. He's in for a treat. Actually, since he lives at St. Vincent College, where the Steelers conduct their training camp, he's actually viewing this as a retreat for himself. I hope he feels the same way on Sunday!

1. MacGyver, our Boston Terrier, is six years old but acts more like six months.
2. He loves to play.
3. Specifically, he loves to play fetch.
4. But tug-of-war will do.
5. But if no one will play with him, he's quite content to rip a toy to shreds as consolation.
6. He can destroy a cheap vinyl toy in about 15 minutes.
7. But he doesn't eat the million little pieces he rips it into.
8. If he's not playing with a toy, he wants to be beside you.
9. Or on top of you.
10. He's lazy. He'll sleep as long or longer than you do.
11. He snorts.
12. He farts.
13. He sleeps in bed with us. (oops - forgot to mention this one to Uncle T. Guess he'll find out soon enough!)

You can visit other Thursday Thirteeners here or get the TT code here!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mechanically Separated Turkey?

HUH? That's exactly what I said when I turned over the package of "these ought to be better for us" turkey franks to check out the nutritional info and calculate WW points. Mechanically separated turkey? I don't want to go there. When I was a kid, my gram used to make turkey roll. She could get the skin of a turkey in one complete piece. She would then remove all the meat from the bones, tuck it into the flattened piece of skin and roll it into a nice 5-6" diameter roast. Mmmm. It was the best of both worlds - a bit of white meat, a bit of dark and no bones to mess with. She used to do this for my senior class when we did our fall turkey dinner fundraiser.

I seriously doubt that diligent little women are separating the turkey used in these turkey franks though. Except for the too-high sodium content, I was familiar with most of the ingredients, which were few actually. I just can't get past that mechanically separated turkey. What's next - nuclear tomatoes?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Little of This, A Little of That

My posting have been a bit more intermittent than usual as of late. I finally decided it's time to get off my blogging rump and create a website for my fledgling writing business. Of course, most of the effort expended to date has been finding the cheapest route to my goal. So far I've decided to use Mozilla Composer (free website creator/HTML editor) and I ordered a copy of Corel Paint Shop Pro X, which conveniently, the book that I just bought on website creation, happens to recommend. The book was $20 (well, actually $17.50 with my B&N discount) but so far, pretty easy for a newbie like me.

I know very little about HTML, but am pretty good at the ole' copy, cut and paste, and not to bad when it comes to deciphering a bit of code (once I put my mind to it). I have the barebones of 3 pages done so far.

Eventually I'd like to spiff up my blog as well, and I think Paint Shop Pro will come in handy for that.

We're headed for Conneaut in Ohio later this week for a few days of R&R so my blogging may continue to be scarce. My dear uncle is coming to stay at my house and I really need to get my house presentable before he comes. You'd think I'd get everything done this weekend but that didn't happen so now it's crunch time. Hopefully I get through this week at work without too many stressful fiascos.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Thursday Thirteen: Thirteen Accomplishments

So earlier this year I got the bright idea to start my own writing business. (This is a side thing; I work full time but am aiming for the day I can quit and do something from home instead). It hasn't exactly been "booming business," but when I look back over the past several months, I can see each little accomplishment being an important step in the process.

  1. Prospected a client (on a writers' board I belong to someone was looking for a writer).
  2. Drafted a business plan
  3. Learned about confidentiality agreements
  4. Created my own brochure in MS Publisher (NOT the software of choice for this!)
  5. Designed my own business cards
  6. Worked with a printer to get my stuff printed (the guy is dragging his feet a bit - grrr)
  7. Figured out my rates
  8. Put together a proposal
  9. Downloaded and set up billing software
  10. Completed several batches of work for a client
  11. In the process of putting together a marketing plan/mailing
  12. Set up my own domain and business email
  13. Most important - sent out invoices!
So there you have it! Thirteen things down, many more to go.

I'm too lazy to grab a cute header today but if you enjoy Thursday Thirteen, you can check out others here. And here's the TT code. If you're kind enough to visit my blog today, I'll be around to check out yours later this evening.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Don't Rush the Washing Machine

I arrived home late from work today and was thrilled to see the fall issue of Backyard Living waiting for me on the kitchen table (I'm a bonafide magazine junkie). I ripped open the plastic and started to peruse the pages. Wait a minute! It's only August 8th! I'm not ready to think about fall yet. I closed the magazine and tucked it away in my bookbag. Maybe I'll crack it open when we go to the lake next weekend. Perhaps I'll hold off until after Labor Day.

Doesn't it just kill you how our commercial society is so geared towards the next big thing? This is especially true with seasons. I know that, no sooner have I devoured the last bit of my fall issues sometime in September, the winter issues will be in my mailbox, and along with them, all sorts of holiday catalogs.

When I was in college, a pastor preached a sermon entitled "Don't Rush the Washing Machine." Addressing his thoughts towards thousands of teens at a conference, he encouraged young people to enjoy whatever season of life they're in. If you skip just one wash cycle, you've ruined the load of wash. You'll either have wet but dirty clothes, or clean and soapy clothes. Each cycle has its place, as does every season of life.

Twenty some years later, I find this ever more pertinent. Right now I'm not tempted to cruise through junior high school so that I can drive, or get to college in order to be on my own, but I am tempted to over-anticipate the events of the next month, or season. But in doing so, I miss today. And that's where I need to be. Today. Fully enjoying the weather of today. The events of today. The people whose paths I cross today. Not that I can't anticipate tomorrow. Make a few plans, etc. But I can't live there. And I have to resist society's lure that tells me tomorrow's where it's at.

"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Getting Back to Me

One thing I don't like to think about is being lost. Once when I lived in northwest Indiana, I had to drive home from a friend's house late at night. They lived somewhere between Gary and Calumet City, neither which of were great neighborhoods. I had to take all back roads to get home and it seemed like around every bend was another "Y" or "T" and I got totally disoriented, not having driven in that area before. I was tired and getting scared. All I wanted to do was get to someplace that looked familiar.

Usually people get lost trying to get to their destination, not trying to get home! How silly would it be if we got lost on the way to vacation and just decided to give up and head for home? Most of us would never get anywhere.

Yet sometimes, when we're going through difficult times in our lives, all we want is for things to get back to normal. But is that where God is trying to take us? Back to what we were? God tells us he desires for us to be transformed into the image of his Son. That's what this Christian life is all about - that's the destination.

Lately I know God's been working on me about some things and, until recently, my thoughts have been, "I just want to get back to being me." I don't think I realized this time in my life is just another segment of the journey. As the saying goes, (actually I guess it's the title of a novel by Thomas Wolfe which I have never read), "You Can't Go Home Again." Our nature is to seek out that which is familiar and comfortable. Well, I can try, but it won't be the same anyways. The choice is up to us. Will we resist God's work in our lives, or allow him to have his way with us?

II Cor 3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Thursday Thirteen: Thirteen People I Admire

Over the years, I've been influenced by many great people. Some straight out of the pages of books, many I've never met. Some are no longer living, others I just don't get to spend as much time with. It's not really fair to rank these but I am going to save the last few spots for those I hold in highest esteem, hence the countdown from thirteen.

13. My 7th grade and 9th grade Civics teacher (one and the same) was a dear man named Barry Witt. I think it was Mr. Witt who inspired me to be a teacher. He just loved teaching and you could tell how excited he got about the subjects he taught. I still keep in touch with him (via Christmas cards) to this day.
12. My high school history and English teacher. Man, did Mr. Collins know his stuff. But he really didn't teach. He told stories in a Seinfeldian sort of way, with a touch of dry humor that kept us begging to know more. It was he who assigned Moby Dick during our senior year, in his class called Novels, and it was then I decided to be an English teacher.
11. Mark Rasmussen was my college history professor, and later boss of sorts. He was the fastest talker I'd ever met. I took notes non-stop in his classes, even jotting in the margins all the little anecdotes he told. I wish I'd kept those notebooks!
10. Helen Keller. I read her autobiography several years ago. And then I read any other book by or about her I could get my hands on. Her passion for learning was only heightened by her lack of sight and hearing. The amount of effort that woman put forth to learn was phenomenal. But she was not content to just soak up knowledge like a sponge; she was committed to taking action to change her part of the world.
9. My Uncle Tom is another person who inspired me to learn and in particular, to love words. His book "Word Origins and Their Romantic Histories" just fascinated me. But the greatest thing I love about my uncle is his passion for people. To know him is to be loved by him!
8. My friend Andrea at work inspires me for her commitment to excellence. It's only fitting she was just made manager of our group.
7. Robin Lee Hatcher was one of the first author's blogs I discovered when I began blogging, and I couldn't believe what a down to earth person she was. Her blog is less about her life as an author and mostly about her life as a follower of Christ, which of course rings loud and clear in her novels as well as her blog.
6. Not only do I love Jan Karon's novels, I marvel at someone who left a flourishing career to do something she really wanted to do - write.
5. My Aunt Dee Dee. She and her husband were our favorite aunt and uncle when we were kids. In spite of the fact that she lost her husband almost 30 years ago, and never had children, she always has a positive outlook. She's gotta be approaching eighty but you'd never know it, the way she runs about helping others. When she's not helping somone, she's most likely cooking or planning her next trip with girlfriends. Talk about a go-getter!
4. My good friend Katrina has been blogging pretty consistently since early this year, and what's more amazing, she does it with a newborn. But it's not just her consistent blogging I admire so much as her deep love for the Lord and her commitment to her friends.
3. Of course, where would we be without our moms, and mine did her best to see that we turned out right. Along the way, she also saw to it that we made many memories (some intentional, some quite by accident) so that we always have much to laugh about when we're together.
2. My sister is raising four great kids and I'm just so proud of the great job she is doing with them. She was always my "little" sis and I saw it as my job to take care of her. Even in college, I tried to look out for her. Now I just look up to her - she's a totally devoted mom and still my bestest friend.
1. Gotta save the last spot for my gram. To this day, I sometimes find myself asking "what would Gram do" when I find myself in a sticky situation (like halfway through baking a cake when I realize I'm out of eggs!) or when I'm tempted to open my mouth and insert my foot. She was friend, teacher, neighbor, confidante, Gram, cook, artist and poet all rolled into one.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here or visit other Thursday Thirteeners here! And please forgive me if I don't get around to reciprocating with a visit to your blog - I usually write and post before work and don't get time to blog-hop until later in the evening.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Works For Me Wednesday: Shake 'Em Up Salads

An obvious part of our family's quest this year to eat healthier was to eat more salads. Surprisingly, me being the veggie-lover, gets bored quickly with salad. But I knew it was important nevertheless, and so I've found ways to make salad interesting, and come up with a variety of different tastes.

  1. My husband's nighttime snack: a bowl of lettuce topped with salsa and a bit of shredded cheese.
  2. After a taco dinner, I'll use the leftover chicken or ground meat for taco salads the next night.
  3. My current favorite: an all-leaf lettuce salad, with a handful of cherry tomatoes, a bit of vinegar and oil and a sprinkle of rosemary-garlic dipping spices (You know those mixtures you can buy to add to oil for bread dipping - works great on salad).
  4. Of course there's always the chopped salad: lettuce chopped fine with as many veggies as you can come up with - mushrooms, celery, tomato, cucumber . . .
  5. Caesar salad: Romaine or leaf lettuce topped with grated parmesan cheese. Ken's Steakhouse lite Caesar dressing or Northern Italian lite dressing both go well with this.
  6. Speaking of dressing, it helps to have a variety on hand. I used to be a one-dressing girl (we MUST use this entire bottle before we open another) but at any given time you'll find at least 3 different bottles in my fridge, and there's always vinegar and olive oil within reach.
  7. For an oriental flair, mix in mandarin oranges and those crunchy noodles. Someone makes a yummy lite ginger dressing that works well with this (never bought it but someone keeps a bottle at work and we all enjoy it).
  8. For a Greek spin, toss in some black olives, cucumbers, tomatoes and feta cheese.
  9. Sometimes when I indulge in the salad bar at work, I'll make a little chef salad, lettuce with some turkey or ham, green olives, hard-boiled eggs and a bit of cheese.
  10. I've been making spinach salads for us this summer. With or without chicken, the baby spinach salads is a nice change from lettuce. All you need is a few sliced mushrooms and hard-boiled egg. I do use bacon if I have the time, but the hot bacon dressing I use is pretty light (email me if you'd like the recipe).
  11. Believe it or not, dried cranberries, toasted pecans and feta cheese make wonderful mix-ins!
As you can see, salads now take center stage on our dinner table. I splurged and bought an Oxo salad spinner, which has really made it easy to keep lettuce nice and fresh and ready to go. Occasionally I'll make a dinner out of salad by adding meat to the options above - taco salad, caesar salad, etc. Actually I've found that just about all the gourmet salads that you pay $9 for at a restaurant (doesn't that just kill you! - the only one worth it to me is a steak salad) can be recreated without meat at home.

So if you're dragging your feet in the salad arena, shake things up a bit! It works for me! Be sure to check out all the other great WFMW at Shannon's site.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Summer Night Sounds

While the rest of you are blogging about funny things like kid's conversations, yours truly is blogging about bugs. That's right - bugs.

Ever since I've been a kid, I enjoy nothing better on a summer night than to sit outside and listen to the summer night sounds. Growing up in the country, miles away from shopping centers and busy streets, we'd often sit outside late into the night, gazing up at the night sky and enjoying nature's serenade. Even today, those night sounds still thrill me. Tonight I sat out on our newly remodeled back porch (which is actually a porch now, with an open view to our spacious backyard which is surrounded by woods, instead of a steamy room) and enjoyed a private concert.

I have no clue which insects make what noises, but apparently I am not alone in my love of these night musicians. Check out this site where someone has actually documented the different songs of the different species - hey, I went to a lot of trouble to find this site for you all! And apparently during the blackout in New York City a few summers ago, some people had nothing else to do besides listen to these bugs I apologize for the one swear word used at the end of the article but it was interesting nevertheless).

You know, those bugs can make quite a racket. But as noisy as they can be, it's in the midst of that noise that I find I can best "be still" and know that He is God. I wonder why it is that during my busy days, I sometimes am unable to remember that. He doesn't say "be quiet" but just "be still." In the midst of chaos, He is there, if I just stop long enough to rest in that knowing.

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10