Saturday, February 26, 2011

"I think I've got the black lung, Pop"

I haven't been on in nearly a week, and for that, I apologize.
I do not apologize, however, for my excuse for not being on. Cause it's legit.
Once a month, since I have started working at the school, I have come down with some sort of sinus-plugging, death-cough, alien-colored, goopy nastiness. I am rendered useless. Coughing like I'm somewhere between puking and dying, sinus pressure so that my head feels like it's imploding.
I, the  midnight-is-an-early-bed-time night owl, was unconscious by 9:30 last night. Case and point.

I'll be better by the time I go back to work. Or, at least, I should be. Usually this lasts about four days. It'll wipe me out for one or two, and then I'll suddenly be back to normal.

I blame the old building the school rents. In this sort of wet, humid environment, ANYTHING could be growing in that building. I went to high school in the basement there, and I don't remember getting this sick, but Julie does. She was sick all the first year.  I would blame the first-year teacher getting all of the kiddie cooties, but I've only come down with the same illness, and there have been at least three or four different flu bugs in the school, including Strep. Have I come down with any of that? No, just this dreadful mucus breeding nastiness.

So, yes, when I'm cured, I'll be back on like a champ. For now, I'm grading papers in bed, watching old DVDs.

Yes, I am a wimp. But, at this point in my life, when I have a day off while ill, I'm taking advantage of it. ;]
I just wish I weren't sick when my little sis is over for the weekend while the parentals are out of town. Not that she minds--staying over here means all the food she can eat and all the movies she can watch . . . after finishing her homework, that is.

Have a fabulous weekend!

P.S. Thanks for your sweet and encouraging comments on my last post--I'm not completely giving up on teaching, yet--I just have to meet with the person in charge about future employment as she sets up positions for next year, but she's been so busy getting stuff ready for the purchase of a new school building, understandably, that I haven't gotten to talk to her. It's all good :]

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

All righty . . . I'm a day behind . . . no wait, TWO days. Seriously, it's been two days?? Wow.Yes, sorry, I am now TWO days behind on The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Forgive me.
On with the show.

The Good: Last Friday, the first grade E-Zone class put on an "adorable" Valentine themed recital for parents.
The Bad: Some parents missed it.
The Ugly: So we did it ALL. OVER. AGAIN. My brain nearly imploded.

The Good: My husband brought home a new 446 page book for me to read since I've read everything we own.
The Bad: I'm a fast reader
The Ugly: I finished it in five hours.

The Good: I joined an 18-29 group at our new church to get connected and involved
The Bad: I got lost trying to find it.
The Ugly:Turns out I live five minutes from it . . . how did I manage to get lost???

The Good: I found a DVD of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" for my almost eight-year-old sister's birthday.
The Bad:  Turns out she has no interest in Charlie Brown.
The Ugly: I have lost all faith in the Hannah Montana generation.

The Good: My students love hearing stories about my crazy cats
The Bad: They've asked me to make a video of my cats in action. I complied.
The Ugly: Do you have any idea how hard it is to make cats do ANYTHING when you're filming them?

The Good: I've discovered Picassa . .. which is directly connected to Blogger.
The Bad: I deleted pictures to make room for more memory . . .which, I now realize, were directly connected to Blogger.
The Ugly: I am now trying to re-enter pictures on old posts . . . such tediousness  exhausts me. Ugh.


Collection of Confessions

Confession: I have a HUGE crush on Liam Neeson. Yes, the actor who is old enough to be my father. I have just now come to terms with this--it's not a new thing because, you see, it started when he was in Episode I waaaaaaaay back when. I knew greatness when I saw it (the actor, not the movie). And I am totally going to see his new movie. The man just can't go wrong.

Confession: Some days, I feel I am not a true artist. My political views are neither outrageous nor popular. I am not a Communist. I've never smoked anything . . . except second hand. Some days, I try to stick it to the man, others . . . I just stick. I eat meat. As hard as my haircuts and clothing try to be rad, it's just not getting there. I use words like "rad" which died out like twenty years ago. I'm behind on everything popular. BUT I love art, so I guess that makes up for everything else.

Confession: I want to move. I want to get out and try something new, go somewhere else, try a new environment, reinvent ourselves in the unknown. Not sure if we can--jobs search? home search?  But I'd love to. That and my mother-in-law has lovingly forbidden us to live far away.

Confession: I haven't painted or practiced any real form of art in over a year. Just no room for my mess in the apartment. All I get away with re slight doodles when I'm bored and can't get away from the boredom source.

Confession: BBC Ones' Walk on the Wild Side is making me laugh much harder than it probably should . . . but it's a Saturday. That's my excuse.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Project 31 Day 19: Comfort Food

Day 19.  Write about your favorite comfort food (we are women- we ALL have comfort food!)

At the moment, if it's not hummus (my healthier choice) it's these babies:
Smothered in Peanut Butter. Oh gee oh golly. Yum yum yum.  I can feel my arteries sputtering, clogging, and choking, but golly it just tastes so good!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chicken and Feta Stuffed Portobellos

Chicken and Feta Stuffed Portobellos with Tomato Sauce

I originally found this recipe on my husband's friend, Ande's, site Broke and Healthy. She has a lot of awesome healthy, natural, and FANTASTIC dishes with how-to pics, so definitely check her out! I'm a big fan of her Rosemary and Sea Salt Potatoes, too (changed the way I eat taters). You can find Ande's original recipe for the stuffed mushrooms here.

I made this last Tuesday for dinner and a movie night with my brother (Inception, anyone? WOW).  I was a little wary of this at first, but it turned out deliciously and, for such a fancy sounding dish, it was SUPER easy. If you don't want to use the mushrooms, it would also make a great, easy Chicken Parmesan variant (which may be how I fix it next time :])

I may not be pretty, but I will make your tastebuds sing and dance!

  • Giant Portobello Mushroom(s)--one stuffed mushroom + sides (like a salad) is pretty much a meal.
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks (I used 2 breasts for 4 mushrooms, so use more chicken if you're adding more shroomage)
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp basil (roughly)
  • Salt to taste
  • 8 oz crumbled of feta cheese (give or take)
  • Parmesan and/or Mozzarella cheeses to your liking
  • Your favorite tomato sauce (I used Newman's Own Tomato Basil)
  • 1/4 cup white wine (optional)
  1.   Heat olive oil in saucepan, then add garlic, chicken, and salt.
  2. When chicken is nearly cooked, add your white wine, if you're into that . . . like me . . . I can't stand to drink it, but golly I just cannot help cooking with it :] (side note: I marinated my chicken in some Italian salad dressing for a couple of hours before beginning the recipe--it's not necessary, but it gives the chicken a little extra flavor and tenderness. It's a great idea if you have the time and the dressing, but not necessary to keep the recipe awesome).
  3. Add your basil to the chicken. When it finishes cooking, set it aside. 
  4. Now would be a good time to preheat your oven to 400*
  5. After washing, gut your mushrooms using a spoon (or any other necessary utensil). All you want is the cap, otherwise, it can't be stuffed. It's fairly easy, but the stem can be a little tricky. 
  6. Place the mushrooms on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan (I highly recommend using the jelly roll pan because mushrooms leak when they're cooked . . . my oven and stovetop were covered in shroom juice--easy to clean up, but it's just something I wish I had avoided)
  7. Stuff your shrooms! Place the chicken in first, then a sprinkle of cheeses, then sauce, then lots of cheese on top.
  8. Cook in the oven for about 10 minutes, until sauce begins to bubble and the cheese begins to brown, slightly.
  9. Enjoy! Oh my lanta!

Project 31 Day 18: Describe Your Personality

Day 18: Describe Your Personality

Balancing act--I'm calm when you're not and a nut when you're calm.
Introvert that won't stop talking.
Shy unless you are.
Helper and nurturer.
 Comedy act that wasn't
Trivia Collector
Change lover but constant dweller
Psychologist that wasn't
Punctual . . . half of the time
Organized mess

I wanna go FAST!!! Sophomore year of college, 2006

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Project 31 Day 17: Happiness

Day 17.  Write about 3 things that make you happy.

  1. The people in my life--the hubs, the fam, the pals. The lot of 'em. They bring me such incredible joy, challenges, love, and encouragement. I just can't imagine life without them.  I guess you guys are stuck with me.
  2. A good book. No really, you don't understand. A brilliant piece of written word can make my day . . . nay, my week . . . or dare, I say it? My month? Some of them just stick with you for years. I can't pick up Til We Have Faces and not fall in love with it all over again, uncovering another little nugget of wisdom. Or The Hobbit . . . or . . . well, there are lots of books that stick with me.  
  3.  Outdoor beauty. There is nothing like the perfect beach day to restore and inspire joy. Stunning forests put me in that peaceful awe that only beauty can. Then, of course, there are those fantastic creatures milling about that inspire my curiosity and spunk. I love it all. Until you step in something unpleasant. That's just not cool. 
I'm going to take this a step further and talk about three things that will just kinda ruin my day. Too much info? 

  1. People.  Especially the super popular, put-together, successful people. I have never, ever, EVER been that person.  I've had my little successes and lovely outfits here and there, but I totally clam up and break into a sweat when I encounter perfect people, especially people I knew when I was younger and happen to run into now and again. I dread seeing people from my high school years. Why? They were in, I was out, and not much has changed, except for my weight. It's ridiculous, I know. No, trust me, I know, but it's a struggle I've had from first grade on. It's a hard leech to peel off. Are we working on it? Sure. It's just a LOT of work to get rid of a boogie man who's followed you forever. What do you do without him?
  2. Failure--more really the failure to be "enough." To not make enough money, to not write enough, not cook well enough, not clean well enough, not work hard enough, not email enough, not correct papers enough, not outgoing enough, not healthy enough, not strong enough, not enough not enough not enough. Has anyone told me I failed? Nope. Do those voices whisper so a little mistake suddenly grows to a catastrophe? Oh my lanta, yes it does. 
  3.  Money. I guess this goes under the "not enough" thing. Money's been a little fly in my ear since I was old enough to recognize what it was. I shouldn't have any worries, but they are there, mostly about the future. I think my mind just gets bored if I'm not worrying. 

BUT!!! Fears and joys all together, they are part of what makes me me. Are fears things to work on? Oh golly, yes. But that just makes the journey all the more interesting, right? ;]
I like interesting.  

Honeymooning! October 2009

Ninja Blogging and Project 31 Days 15 and 16

I am totally the blogging ninja.
My husband sits unsuspecting in his game room, annihilating some pixelated mighty foe, while I am "doing the dishes." That's code for "finding every possible distraction to keep from doing the dishes." Oh no, they'll be cleaned before bedtime. Just not right now. I'm not feeling dishes now. I'm feeling blogging now. We've been apart for so long, after all--isn't it time for a reunion?
As Chris says, I am a master at distracting myself. The only person who could have done it better was my sister Catherine at age four--bedtime would roll around, and this little red-headed snippet would suddenly wander back into the kitchen with every possible excuse to not go back to bed.
I'm thirsty. Can I have a drink?
I need to go potty, now.
. . . ok . . .
You have got to be kidding me.
Tuck me in?
You didn't tuck me in right. . . .
I need to go potty again.
Oh good Lord. If you give a mouse a cookie . . .
You think I'm exaggerating? Ask my mother. 

Anywho . . .  On with Project 31 (Do ya think I'm a little behind? Just a little? Shame on me).

Day 15.  Write to encourage a friend.  Inspire her beauty.
Day 16.  Write a letter to your daughter, or a young girl in your life.  Tell her what beauty means.

All right, Cat. 
Everyone else has been featured on here, and now it's your turn. 
Brace yourself, little sis. 

 First off, you're awesome. 
You start random move-quote text wars with me. You are a worthy opponent, young Padawan. 
You know how to put an outfit together. How did you get that gene? I have no bloody clue. But I'm glad you have it. Not only do you always look super duper cute, but you help me tie my scarf correctly. Tis muchly appreciated. 
You're a great photographer and a fantastic shopping buddy. Girl date soon?

You're athletic and talented, even if you don't think you are.  Do that cross-country thing and love it. And never, ever, EVER stop dancing. You are a stunning ballerina/interpretive dancer/lyrical dancer and whatever else you did while you were in company. I always loved watching you perform. Even when you were little and all you could do was position one and wave a cute little wand while looking beyond adorable with your red curls and that gawdy little princess tutu. You rocked it. You still do. Keep it up. 

You've taken a stand for what you believe in, even when it's hard. You stuck with it, used your brain, listened to the Spirit inside you, believed the Word, and kept going, even when people were short-sighted and mean about it. Remember, in the words of the oh-so-wise Dr. Seuss, "The  people who care don't matter, and the people who matter don't care." Find the people who love you for you--which is someone EPIC--and kick the dust off your feet when people want to change you to fit themselves. Don't let them tie you down or change you just because they might like you better. They'll forget about you in a week--or as soon as you say "no." I've been there. I know.  But you've already figured that out. You're a smart little thing. I'm proud of you. 

Remember that that prettiest person can be an ogre, and the plain jane can be a princess.  Beauty is in word and action, not the clothes, the money, or the entourage. But you already knew that. You're living it, right? ;] 

Christ will love you more than any cute boy.  He has pursued you, wooed you, and is committed to you no matter what. He's there when time's are tough, and He's there when times are good. The feet who follow Him are lovely, the hands that serve Him are stunning. Even if the nails are broken, the callouses are rough, and everything's covered in dirt. The heart sings when it's serving it's One True Love. Even if there's no friends, fame, or fortune. It's better to be joyful in His work then successful and miserable in your own. 

Lastly, go buy yourself a "supa size." I think you've earned it. 



Saturday, February 12, 2011

Entering the Twilight Zone . . .

I always say shopping is cheaper than a psychiatrist.
--Tammy Faye Bakker
 I think I'm turning into a woman.
No, really. This is not a good thing.
Today, I was feeling upset while running errands. So I started browsing Target. Newsflash: I hate shopping. It's exhausting, frustrating, and everything either costs too much or wasn't made to fit my boobs and my hips. Gah. But I was actually enjoying myself? Weirdness.
I stopped to look at purses. Lustily. Bad sign numero uno.
I found a scarf. On sale. It was soft--like super snuggle-and-put-me-to-sleep-soft. And plaid. I bought it. Bad sign numero dos.
The clincher? I bought a pair of shoes. Shoes. Super cute, cheap, target shoes but SHOOOES!!! Previously, I HATED SHOES. I preferred torture to shoe shopping and now I was buying them not only of my own free will but with a smile on my face?? What is the world coming to???
I have fallen into the clutches of Retail Therapy. God save us all.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thursday's the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Ok, so this is my first "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" Thursday. Wish me luck :]


  •  The Good: First Grade Valentine's Party was an adorable success
  • The Bad: I fed them sugar
  • The Ugly: I left the room with frosting in my hair and stickers on my back.

    •  The Good: My husband supports my V-Day veto
    • The Bad: He might be the only one
    • The Ugly: And now I might almost be falling for the marketing . . . Dang it!

    • The Good: Tomorrow will be the last day I have to hear the music class's cheesy children's songs about love 
    • The Bad: 95% of the time, kid songs put me in a BAD mod.
    • The Ugly: I have to look happy and pretend I love it because parents are coming to watch

    •  The Good: Chris brought home a book for me to read about healthier, homeopathic living
    • The Bad: It's entitled What You Don't Know May Be KILLING YOU! (emphasis NOT added)
    • The Ugly: I think I'm going to go live in a hole, flee from super market nummies, and never use shampoo, bug spray, or deodorant again.

    • The Good: Tomorrow is Friday! The weekend is just around the corner!
    • The Bad: It's also extracurricular day! Super hyper children alert!
    • The Ugly: At least one--if not all--classes will be Valentine themed. More sugar? Oh my lanta.

    • The Good: I've started blogging again (Project 31 posts coming up again soon!)
    • The Bad: I spend more time on the computer now than ever
    • The Ugly: I haven't felt my thumb or pointer finger tips in over a week. Thank you, carpal tunnel.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    Holidays Invented by Card People

    Today is Valentine's Day. Or, as men like to call it, extortion day.
    --Jay Leno 

    "On Valentine's Day, millions of men give millions of women flowers, cards and candy as a heartfelt expression of the emotion that also motivates men to observe anniversaries and birthdays: fear.
     --Dave Barry

    I can't remember exactly when I decided I hated Valentine's Day. 
    It may have been the envelop glue stuck to my tongue in gradeschool, stuffing those corny little cards into envelops for kids I prayed might like me one day. 

    Maybe it was in high school, when hormones were raging, but, due to my school's anti-dating policy, jealousy and bitterness weren't necessary because NO boy walked down the hall with roses for his sweetie and NO girl was crying/giggling/smirking about how perfect her boyfriend was. Or, if they were, I was too oblivious to notice.

     I think, though, it was probably in college. Outside our dorms were sets of swinging benches, ominously called "The Lover's Swings." Every night, it was like Aphrodite slithered through our campus, drawing young couples into dark corners and those forsaken swings, right under our windows, so we could all hear the nauseating sweet nothings. I found two highly-esteemed leaders in the student body making out behind a dumpster once. Scared me more than it scared them.  A friend of mine was strategically positioned above the Lover's Swings--couldn't get to sleep for all the mushy murmurs. We had a plan to prop the window open and throw toy skulls and shrunken heads down there one night. The only problem? Her window fancied itself a guillotine.  Yes, I'm thinking college was the seedling for the hatred. 

    One year, Chris and I celebrated Valentine's Day. Just one, our first V-day together. He sent me the prettiest silk heart-shaped box filled with every white chocolate confection imagined. To top it off, he drove up a day early to visit me as a Valentine's Day surprise then presented me with one of my favorite cult TV shows: Invader Zim. How did I spend that weekend? Puking up chocolate. Poor Chris. After that, we were either too busy or too cheap or too against modern consumerism. It's our joint-effort against the card companies. 

    But then I found myself in Target surrounded by adorable-ness. I was hunting for V-day gifts for my students (I mean, come on,  I might hate it, but my cynicism shouldn't effect a child's joy, right?) , and suddenly found my cart filled with reds, pinks, glitter, and chocolate. It was as if Barbie had suddenly puked all over my shopping list. In the end, I resisted and put everything back but the classroom goodies.  Not only can I not afford it, but I WILL not be drawn in by marketing . . . even if it is covered in adorable dinosaurs holding hearts saying "Hi." 

    Ok, so I totally bought those dino plates for cupcake decorating tomorrow. 

    And why the crap did I decide I was dying to make cupcakes? Oh yeah, cause the little packaging and heart-covered paper cupcake cups were adorable. Blech.

    I think I was brainwashed. 

    Sunday, February 6, 2011

    Project 31: Day 14 Style 31

     Day 14.  Style 31.  Post an outfit pic!

    All rigthy then . . .
    Another style post . . .

    Taking pictures of your outfit by yourself is harder than it looks on stylish blogs . . . the hubs was busy taking on online test so I was on my own . . . and yes, I took it by my front door, haha.

    Stole the plaid shirt from the hub's side of the closet, with just a black tank underneath and jeans. Nothing fancy--I didn't feel fancy today. It's dreary, gray, and damp out--perfect book reading and tea-drinking weather.

    I had totally forgotten I had these shoes until I was in a rush Friday morning and couldn't find my converse. These Vans were a thrift steal about two years ago, and I love them! Nothing like a fun black shoe.

    Can you tell I'm partial to blues and black? It's not like I wear them all the time or anything . . .

    Saturday, February 5, 2011


     Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect.
    --Steven Wright

    When God made cats, he did it with a great sense of humor.

    Explanation maybe?
    • First off for the past week, our cats have been the main source of drama and income devouring this past week . . . no, actually, since we bought them  . . . 
    • Cat 1--Now known fondly as "Puke Pot"--pukes constantly for a week. So vet puts her on a healthy allergen food or something because the vet says she MIGHT have a food allergy.
    • Puke Pot decides she absolutely ABHORS healthy food. You thought people diet food was bad? Normal cat food is bad, diet cat food is . . . well . . .it's bad. We'll leave it at that. 
    • So Cat 2--fondly known as "Stink Pot"--has decided she LOVES this revolting diet stuff. No really, she goes crazy for it. But it's EXPENSIVE food meant for one kitty . . . and it affects Stink Pot in negative ways
    • You see, Puke Pot has stopped puking but Stink Pot stinks more than ever. No really. The gas she had before, has quadrupled . . . often in my face . . . or, if not exactly, very nearby (she's my snuggle buddy) . . . enough for it to burn. BAD. And when she decides to use the litter box the entire apartment smells. BAD. She's a biological weapon of mass destruction. No, really.
    • Oh, and Puke Pot left my first graders a gift. Oh, and let me know why she was probably puking. There was, I kid you not, the world's largest hairball, in several chunks, all over my stack of grammar and spelling tests. That I still have to grade. Yay me.
    And yet, I cannot get enough of these insane furballs.

    P.S. We really didn't name them Puke Pot and Stink Pot . . . we aren't that mean . . .

    Veggie Tales

     Vegetables are interesting but lack a sense of purpose when unaccompanied by a good cut of meat. 
    --Fran Lebowitz

    So the hubs keeps asking for more veggies in his dinner . . . I can understand that--veggies are good for you, most are delicious, they add color, they're good for you, they can be relatively easy to prepare, they're good for you, blah blah blah. The problem?
    I am running out of veggies. 
    No joke. It seems every week I bring home the same goodies . . . and I am so bored with it. Help? I'm trying to branch out, but it seems like either other veggies are gross (brussel sprouts anyone?), my hubs won't eat them (Hello! Big cucumber fan here, and what is his sworn enemy? the cuke), or they're too expensive or not available. We try the whole fruit thing, but we're so focused on preparing veggies we sometimes forget about the yummy fruit in our fridge . . .and then we remember . . . and it's funky colors fruit should never, ever be.

    So I turned to the ultimate source of knowledge.
    Why hello, Google. So nice to see you again. Been well? Splendid.

    This is what dear Googs gave me:

    Just thought I'd share the wealth :]

    My favorite bits?
    • SALSA COUNTS AS A VEGGIE SERVING!!! Stop the presses! My world has just been forever changed! I now have an excuse to buy all the La Mexicana salsa I can eat! I don't know if you fully understand how epically gorgeous this is! All this time I've been feeling guilty for my salsa snackage, but really I was doing myself a favor! Hallelujah! 
    • I don't have to feel guilty for serving rice or taters at dinner time--all this time I've been thinking carbs are bad, but, hey these are veggies, I'm ok! And potatoes are pretty grand. Bring on the taters!
    • Recently, I've expressed my love for hummus. Lightbulb. Snow peas and hummus? Red peppers and hummus? Broccoli and carrots and hummus, oh my! Spectacular. 
    • An ice cream scoop of steamed veggies counts as a serving. Just one ice cream scoop. We've been eating more veggies than we even realized. 
    • Chris, I continue to find evidence that frozen veggies won't kill you. In fact, they're pretty good for you. While I'm not giving up on freshies, I'm not cleaning out my freezer just yet. Thank you. I win.
    • All those canned no-added-sugar mandarin oranges I have in the pantry? Um, going to start having those in classroom snack time. They have to be better for me than those mini muffins I've been enjoying, right?
    What about you? How do you get in your five-a-day? 

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    Project 31 Day 13: Better Me

    I find it almost ironic that I'm writing about how to make a "better me" while watching a movie by the title of "Despicable Me."
    Coincidence? I think not.
    Ok, so maybe it is, but I think it's funny.
    That and a kid in my class yesterday would NOT stop quoting this movie, so, you know, I'm just following the trends . . . even if they are set by seven-year-olds.(P.S. I need--not want, but need--Gru's scarf. K, thanks).
    Speaking of seven-year-olds, today was our school's weekly extracurricular day . .. and our monthly ice-skating day . . . oh, and the kids did paper mache in class . . . So how was my day? Well, let's just say that reading World War Z made me realize how much simpler life would be if it involved a zombie apocalypse. Love the kids, love the school, not a big fan of Fridays.

    Anywho, on with Project 31.

    Day 13.  Write about something you would like to change about yourself for the better.

    Oh, the list I have . . . but I'll summarize. 
    • Develop a faithful and regular workout routine--not so I like lose a ton of weight, but so I have a healthy body and habits for before, during, and after pregnancy. I've heard the healthier you are before pregnancy, the better it is. Not that we're trying or expecting. Like I've said before, I'm just a planner. 
    • Continue to learn that the world does not end if everyone isn't happy with me--I can't please everyone, and that's normal and doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with me. Some people just don't mix, and that's okay. When I first started working as a teacher, I would cry all the time--and I am NOT a crier--because I would receive emails texts, and comments about things I was doing wrong. They weren't malicious in nature, just making me aware that I had forgotten to send home a worksheet or instructions were confusing or whatever, and I just fell apart. I love constructive criticism, even if it's hard to hear, because then I can improve, but it was just all the time and I felt like the world's biggest failure. It was a good thing because I'm coming to terms that no matter how hard I try, some people will still have issues with me. 
    • Lose some of my competitive streak . . . or at least learn to control it ever so slightly.
    • Be completely and totally content in my circumstances and live in the present. We will be totally ok if we never make enough money for me to be a stay at home mom, that's ok (p.s. if anyone has any tips on the kinds of companies that will hire you to work from home, I would be grateful). I'll be ok if we never own our own home or spend a year overseas. I don't need to worry about the future because, it's not here yet. But the now is. We're living in it, might as well enjoy it and make the most of it. Now is awesome :]


    So, because I'm a bibliophile--bookworm of the most severe sort--I discovered that my blog just isn't complete without some book reviews. I haven't been reading nearly as much as I used to when I worked for the library, but I'm making a comeback--it's one of the benefits of having a husband in the book-selling business.   So here are some delightful (this time) recent reads . . .

    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

    A coworker had recommended this book over a year ago, and I never bothered picking it up. What a simplistic moron I was. Maybe I would have been more inclined had I seen this cover (isn't it stunning?!), rather than the one featuring an ominous set of dominoes.
    The story is loosely based off of true and plausible events of WWII, but is researched and written so well that I often forgot I was reading fiction. It tells the story of Liesel, an  illiterate foster child growing up in Nazi Germany whose accordion-playing foster father teaches her to read after she awakens from horrible nightmares re-living her brother's death. Liesel's love for words drive her to book thievery--one of the most memorable being at a Nazi book burning--as she grapples with her realizations of the Fuhrer, the Holocaust, and the price of war. The characters and descriptions of every day life, emotions, and reactions to a darkening Germany feel remarkably real. My favorite part of the book? The narration/narrator (to tell you who it is would only spoil it).
    When critics described this work as "life-changing" they were right on target.  Zusak is an artist of the highest degree. His narration style is very unique, being more inclined to prose than the most fiction with some of the most fantastic, endearing metaphors and figurative language I have ever encountered.  In his author interview, he said he likes "the idea of every page in a book having a gem in it" and he accomplishes exactly that. His characters are practically flesh and blood in their portrayal--I really grew to love all of them. Even though the subject matter is dark, the book itself is filled with several beautiful and hysterical moments. Near the end of the book, I actually cried--I'm sort of a  emotionless rock when it comes to emotional reading or film, so any tears at all is a HUGE big deal and means that the story is beyond moving.  It's an absolutely phenomenal book, stunning in its words, characters, and portrayal of one of the darkest times in history. This is totally going on my favorite list, and I will be hunting down every one of Zusak's books. The man's made a believer out of me.

    The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
    Am I behind on the times or what? This book came out in like 2003 and the movie in 2007, and I'm just NOW getting to it? Silly me. As a portrayal of everyday life, and the political turmoil Afghanistan, The Kite Runner was stunning. Character development was almost tangible--Amir as a grown man at the end of the book is so drastically different as the little boy at the beginning but still the same human being. I love good character development, especially for the better. I love how the portrayal and understanding of Baba changes and deepends as Amir grows. I think Baba was really my favorite character. It's a very hard story to summarize--basically, Amir recounts his childhood with his friend and Hazaran servant, Hassan, and a devastating tragedy that affects Amir forever, haunting him as his country finds its monarchy overthrown and invaded by Russians, then further into his adult life in America. My only beef with this book? From that one event on, life just gets bad. There is so very, very little relief--it is just one tragedy after another after another after another after another after another. Well-written, fascinating, and emotional, but I just couldn't come to grip with all the "badness." I know that the real world is full of horrible things and that war-torn countries are devastating, but MY GOODNESS. It was like "Oh you think that's bad? Well how about this? Still not bad enough? Well guess what--it just gets worse . . . and worse . . . " Light at the end of the tunnel? Yes. Definitely worth reading? Totally. On my favorites list? Maybe it needs a reread before I answer that.

    World War Z by Max Brooks

    This is actually what's in my hands now as an on-going read (I'm a little more than halfway through). I find I'm growing to love it even more as I continue reading. It's set up as a series of interviews about the recent Zombie Wars in the "postwar" world. This was a little difficult for me, at first, partially because I expected it to be a zany comedy and it's not--it's a fiction nonfiction record of the Zombie Wars. Secondly, I had a harder time getting into it in the middle because it feels like it's missing key parts of a novel like an identifiable protagonist and an obvious plot. I realize now that that is part of the fun. Brooks does a brilliant job making you feel like there really was a global zombie invasion, that the world is slowly recovering from the slaughter. It's well thought out--I mean, seriously, this guy sat down and planned out what we would lose, what government and military initial reaction would be, the "Great Panic" once the public figured it all out, what a refugee camp would be like, the psychological, economical, political, and lifestyle effects. There are even records of different pharmaceutical attempts/scams. Every itty bitty detail is recorded in first person narration as Brooks "interviews" key political, scientific, and military players alongside civilians from all over the globe. Once I was able to appreciate this bit of genius, the book got much better, as it can be a little slow between harrowing zombie-encounter testimonies (the political discussions were not my favorite, but, I realize, a very necessary part of the book).  World War Z is not just another silly, frightening zombie tale. It's really a brilliantly disguised commentary on modern society. There's a fabulous moment where a body guard tells the story of the celebrities being filmed as they hide out in their fortified pad so the general public can observe their reactions to the zombie invasion while they party. Brooks also explores the government changes necessary in a complete collapse, the technical "necessities"--like laptops and DVDs--people drag with them into the frozen tundra waiting for the masses of walking corpses to freeze. The man has spent WAY too much time pondering this scenario, but it makes for a fascinating, thought-provoking read.
    Is World War Z now one of my favorites? I'll have to finish it, but I recommend this to any zombie fan and anyone interested in a wacky form of commentary on the modern man.
    The good news is that I will now know exactly what to do when the zombies really do show up. Thumbs up, Mr. Brooks. Thumbs up.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Latest Addiction

    Why oh why OH WHY?!?!?! did I not bring home Sabra Hummus sooner?? It sits there, next to the deli, calling to me, and I ignored it. Well, NO MORE! Today was buy-one-get-one at Publix, and oh golly I am currently the world's happiest woman.
    I don't usually obsess over food, but this is soooo worth a few delightful words.

    Add the buy-one-get-one Triscuits . . . in the roasted tomato flavor . . . It's a flavor explosion of epic proportions. No really.

    Yeah, I'm pretty much in love.

    It was so good, I just had to share . . . 

    Munching hummus and crackers while listening to this classic (yes I'm a nerd)--with no cat puke currently in sight --this is the good life, a fantastic way to end my day after a long, exhausting, day attempting to educate first graders . . . who were appalled to discover that ancient civilizations didn't have Pizza Hut. No seriously, it was a complete and total culture shock.

    What's your current favorite snack food?

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011

    Project 31 Day 12: What exhausts me

    Day 12.  Write about what wears you out as a woman.

    What's currently wearing me out is this to-puke-or-not-to-puke cat battle. (see previous post)

    But what wears me out as a woman? Expectations. 

    We live in the world that wants to wipe out gender roles. I can understand that. So, as a woman in the 21st century, I am expected to  take charge, put my career first,  wait to have children, wait to get married . . but wait, we've evolved beyond the primitive restraints of marriage, right? Move far away from home, travel extensively, be passionate about saving the world, be a health-food fanatic, vegetarian, or vegan, workout so I'm super trim and buff, dress like a supermodel. Because I'm a modern, intelligent, independent woman, right? 

    Then you have the other spectrum . . . As a woman, I basically emulate June Cleaver in every aspect, cook from scratch, raise oh so many children, be involved in Sunday morning classes, teach children's church classes, do Bible studies, and bring the best casserole to church pot lucks, live next door to my family, always be perfectly pressed, and have dinner waiting on husband in a prestine home so I can pamper him the moment he walks in the door. Because I'm a good, domesticated, Christian woman, right? 

    First off, I'm honestly not making fun of or criticizing either spectrum. I promise, I'm not. 
    I so admire people who are driven and committed enough to be vegans and keep up an intense daily workout routine. I am amazed by wives and mothers who are absolutely incredible at caring for their families. It's awesome when anyone finds a career they love and are committed to.  I admit, I'm jealous of the woman who makes every outfit look like a superstar. Women who are so committed to Christ and His work that they are prominent in their Church Body or even move overseas in ministry astound me. But I can't be all of those things at once.  I just feel like I'm supposed to fit in one cubby or another--not a mixture of the two, and if I can't fit, I'm wrong.

    I'm a Christian woman who wants to become involved in her new church and minister to the community, but I can't do every activity because of scheduling conflicts. Does that make me a bad Christian? 
    I want to travel all over the world, but I just haven't yet. Does that mean I'm never going anywhere? 
    Sometimes, when crunched for time, I cook recipes out of a box. Does that mean I'm poisoning my husband, that I'm a terrible cook, or that I don't believe in health or animal rights? 
    If I live only 40 minutes from my parents and 20 minutes from my in-laws, does that mean I'll never be independent?
     I was married at 22, does that mean I threw my future away for some retro ideal?

    I married at 22 because I loved a man and didn't want to spend my life with anyone else. 
    I want  a career that I love, and that may be in an office, that may be as a novelist, that may be as a stay-at-home mom. They're all fabulous. 
    I want so badly to be involved in my church and to make a difference in the world either by traveling, ministering, or donating. No little act of love is insignificant, even if it doesn't end up on CNN. 
    Home is wherever God places us, and that may be the city I grew up in, even if that's not my ideal location and I want to move across the country or across the globe. 
    I am trying to be healthier and create a regular workout routine, but it is ok if I'm not skinny or don't make everything organic. Are those things great? Yes. But they're not the only way to live a full and healthy life. 

    God made me to be only one person, and the only expectations I need to worry about fitting inside are His my own. 


    You know you love your kitty when . . .

    Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep one cat from eating the other's prescription cat food?
    Nope, I thought not.
    I'm like the new cat food body guard. I'm with the bowl every step of the way. Guard it with my life, blah blah blah.

    Don't get it? Me neither. Mostly.
    Allow me to attempt to explain . ..
    One of my two cats has been puking pretty much constantly since last Tuesday. I'm a responsible, loving pet owner, so I take her to the vet.
    Visit: $45
    Injection to prevent pukage: $35
    Fluid injection to battle dehydration: $25
    The vet telling you nothing is wrong with your cat? Priceless . . . maybe . . . as my paycheck flies away, never to return.

    36 hours later, cat begins puking again.
    Examination: $45
    X-rays: $120
    The x-ray telling you nothing is wrong with your cat? Now I think I'm going to puke.

    Vet recommends another non-puke injection and an all new prescription diet . . . before further (more expensive) testing if food doesn't fix anything . . .

    Injection: another $35
    4 lb bag of food and 2 cans of special food: $23.

    Priceless? Oh my lanta, I hope so.
    I really, really do . . .

    Sweet kitty, Navi, . . . helping with the laundry . . . I'm thinking about renaming her "Puke Pot" thanks to the events of this past week.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    Project 31 Day 11: Recipe -- Almost White Chili

     Ok, so today we're supposed to post a new recipe . . . I'm kind of on a soupy trend, so we're just going to keep that going. Why stop when you have a good thing?

     Unfortunately, my camera died just as I set up the prettiest little bowl of chili you've ever seen . . . so, alas, no pic on my end, but if you would like to see photos and the original recipe, look here. Original recipe by Jenna from Eat, Live, Run. 

    Ha! I did get a picture! Recharged the camera and snapped a quickie of next night's leftovers! :]

    Almost White Chili

    • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
    • 1 medium onion, small diced
    • 1 T vegetable oil
    • 1 can black beans (or 2 cans if you love them like I do--Chris is not a bean dude, so we compromised)--or 2 cans cannellini beans for a true white chili
    • 14.5 ounces chicken broth
    • 1 4-ounce cans chopped green chilies
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp oregano
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 pint half and half
    • 8 ounce reduced fat sour cream
    • Grated Parmesan to taste (optional)
    • 1/4 cup white wine (optional)

    1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the chicken and chopped onion and saute for about six minutes, or until the chicken is seared and the onion is translucent. 
    2. If you like, add a splash of white wine--I pretty much never cook chicken without it because it gives it a nice little kick while keeping it moist. I'm probably breaking some culinary rule, but my chicken is always oh so yummy! And it smells FANTASTIC cooking with wine.
    3. Add the garlic and cook for another three minutes.
    4. Add the beans, spices, chicken broth and green chilies and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for thirty minutes.
    5. Turn off the heat and add the sour cream and half & half. 
    6. Serve with cheddar cheese and additional sour cream to top. Tortilla chips are a must :]
    This was way spicier than I had anticipated . . . but that was mostly my fault--I read 1 tsp cayenne pepper and not 1/4. Ai yi  yi! HOT!!! But, I added a little milk and some grated Parmesan--if something is too spicy, dairy is the best way to battle it, so I dairied away! The result was absolutely FABULOUS!!! Rich, creamy, spicy, and oh so filling.

    Chris loved it, despite the fact that it contained beans and green chilis (not his fave), which, you might say, is a big deal :]