"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." -- Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

We Live!


1. The end of the fiscal year looked like it was going to be easy and then things got nuts in the last week.

2. I have been crafty at home due to Pinterest driven inspiration. Made so far: fabric embroidery hoops, ceramic tile coasters, canvas/printed art. Also, I finally hung a grouping on the wall in our main stairs that included several cross-stitch samplers that my grandmother did and an old art print that Beau picked up in Spain. It looks good.

3. I have cooked a lot of good food, also from Pinterest. I'll post more of that in a bit.

4. My mother had her birthday and I cooked dinner and baked my pumpkin cake for her.

5. My kids got cuter by the day. My husband got better, too. I love my family to pieces and I'm so grateful for them.

6. We received some furniture I inherited from my grandparents - it's in the master bedroom and the receiving of it required the giving over of the beloved furniture that we had been using that I got from my great-grandmother back in the 1990s. My mother is "storing" that furniture for us - I want it back one day for Molly's room when she's ready for the larger pieces.

I'm sure more stuff happened, but those are the big things. Life is good.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Random

1. Jesse's first soccer game of the fall season was Saturday. What a difference 6 months and a good coach makes. The team actually looked like they sort of knew what they're doing and Jesse scored a goal! It was a fun morning.

2. We had Chick-Fil-A for lunch post-game. Man, I love that place.

3. Pumpkin Spice Chai is my new fall go-to on the commute. So yummy. Brew with half milk/half water for 10 minutes on low-medium heat. Strain into your mug and you have lovely deliciousness.

I have nothing much else to share. God is good, therefore, life is good.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


"Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. " President George W. Bush, September 11, 2001

Remembering ...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Busy

It's the end of the fiscal year, which means it busy at work. Although things have slowed down this week. I think we may be done spending money.

I took Friday off to get my hair cut. I think it had been 6 months since my last professional cut. I had cut my bangs 4 times in that time. She took 2.5" off of the length and layers. So much better; it was approaching Hermione Grainger for unruliness.

I then put on my crafter's hat for the weekend and created some small art pieces to finish a gallery of stuff for our stairwell. I had a nice collection of my grandmother's needlework and a nice art print that Beau bought in Spain back in his single years. Anyway, it was a nice little bit of creativity and realized inspiration.

My mother and I are working on a collaboration. More on that in the weeks and months to come. There are some details to work out still, but we think it'll be fun.

And that's about it. I don't have much else to say.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

Old news now, but we had the excitement of an earthquake yesterday. Centered in Mineral, Virginia, it rumbled through at about 1:50pm and measured 5.8 on the Richter scale.

I was at work, of course. My office location is about 80 miles northeast of the Mineral. Weirdly, at first we thought maybe a tornado was going through because the rafters in the open second story of our building were shaking. Then we felt it in our feet and legs. Before I recognized it as an earthquake, we were running to get out of the building - our thoughts were that the roof could cave in. But it turns out that we should have stayed inside, under our desks. I knew that, but it had been so long since I had experienced an earthquake like this one.

When I went back inside after a minute or so, I called Beau to see if he and the kids felt it. They had. He told me later that while he knew what to do because of his childhood in California, he was more scared and flummoxed about it because of his responsibility as Dad. He kind of forgot the training he had in his concern for the kids - Molly was napping upstairs and he had Jesse with him. He was torn about what to do with both of them being in two places.

In any case, a friend at work and I strategized what we would do in certain disaster events (tornado, earthquake, etc). And Beau and I discussed what we should do at home, too.

Now we prepare for the effects of hurricane Irene. Just lots of rain for us, fortunately. Praying for safety for my friends and family in the eye of that storm.

Friday, August 19, 2011


I have been spending a lot of my internet time perusing and pinning at Pinterest.com. There is so much cool stuff, from home decorating ideas, to recipes, to pictures and tutorials for hair-dos and nails.

I have printed a lot of recipes and tried a few of them.

I found a DIY idea this morning that I was able to implement right away (take a produce tiered hanging basket and hang it in the bath/shower for the kids' tub toys). I had one of those things in the basement not being used. I immediately grabbed it and took it upstairs to hang in the kids' bath. Perfect. Genius.

I feel like an idiot when I look around that site, too. I see great ideas for keeping kids occupied in restaurants (use the cutlery to form a tic-tac-toe grid and then use the sugar/sweetener packets to play the game).

Anyway, my head is swirling with projects that I'd love to do for and around our home, recipes that I'd love to cook, things I'd love to learn to make. Where to start?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Snap Movie Review: The Help

Usually a movie adaptation of a beloved novel is disappointing (I'm looking at you, Simon Birch). But then there are the adaptations that almost (ALMOST) surpass the brillance of the novel (I'm looking at you with adoring eyes, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy).

So where does The Help movie fit? It's solidly in the LOVE category. I love everything about the movie - even the little changes from the book.

The casting is nearly perfect. Emma Stone does a great job as Skeeter. Viola Davis is sublime as Aibileen and if you ask me, she deserves an Oscar for her performance. Octavia Spencer as Minny is perfection (she narrated that character for the audiobook, to perfection as well - she IS Minny) and she should receive a nomination, too. Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly was solid - I've read that she was the weakest cast member and I can see where they think that, but I thought she played her well. Sissy Spacek as Hilly's mother is great (hilarious) and Alison Janney as Skeeter's mother is great, too. The weakest were the men, but this movie was not about the men.

The one actor that I expect to actually get a nomination is Cicely Tyson as Constantine. She was in just two scenes, but both were so powerful, emotional. Both scenes brought me to tears. But Constantine made me cry when I read the book, too.

If you loved The Help book, have no fear of the movie. It's a very faithful adaption that will be as beloved by fans of the story.

I give The Help 5 stars out of 5.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Stuff and Such


1. Movies: Saw Cowboys & Aliens in the theater when it opened. I liked it. My favorite part was Daniel Craig and his perfect and consistent American accent.

I'm going to see The Help with my mother and sister-in-law tomorrow evening. Looking forward to it, especially since the reviews are solidly good.

2. Books: Finished Full Black by Brad Thor on the drive home last night. Tenth in the Scot Harvath series, it's a fun read/listen.

Speaking of The Help - I highly recommend the audiobook. Read by three wonderful narrators, it's the best way to read this particular book.

3. Facebook: There's a trend in "You know you're from ..." groups floating around FB. Someone opened one for my college. At first the folks posting memories were from more recent years so I didn't ask to join. But then my sister joined and others from her group. We had some overlap there for a couple of years, so other folks I knew started chiming in and then the flood of alumi from my era took over and it's hilarious to remember funny random things and also to see what we all look like now. It's a complete time suck.

4. Pinterest: Speaking of time sucks, Pinterest is huge. Too many fun recipes, creative ideas, inspirational decorative bits.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Room Redo: Before and After

Here's the before shot - sports themed bedding, space theme vinyl wall art. Such a weird mix.

Here's the after shot. Grown-up plaid patchwork quilt, coordinating blue wall with stripes.

Yet, to come - the rest of the superhero vintage-style tin posters for the wall. We're waiting for Iron Man and Batman to arrive (hoping they come on Monday).

We all like it. I'm very pleased with how it turned out.

Here are some extras:

A peg rack behind his door. I kept a few of the space vinyl things for him. They work, I think.

[EDITED to Change:] I found two storage cube things in Molly's closet. Flipped them on their sides, stacked, and put the blue one on top. Took three of the fabric bins that went in the storage cubes and put them into the blue piece. Fills that space better.

What's awesome is that it occurred to me to use the fabric bins in the blue piece while I was in the shower this morning. While I was putting on my make-up, I could hear Jesse saying they should be used in his room (they were on the floor in Molly's room overnight). I went in to find them in the exact place I had thought of, too. He's a bright boy.

[Edited to Add:] Here's the finished poster wall. Forgive the poor quality - it was a quick shot taken with my Blackberry. There are better pictures on the real camera that's upstairs, still.

Happy boy. Happy Mama. *whew*

And with that, this project is complete. I'll post a few more pictures tomorrow.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Boy's Room Redo

A couple of weeks ago, Jesse reluctantly went into his room (after jumping on Molly's bed with her) for bed time. As he climbed into bed he said, "Mama, I hate my room!" I asked why, to which he replied, "It isn't special. Will you paint my room red?"

So out of left field, the things our children say sometimes, right? Although, really his request was not too far out of left field. He's expressed his love for Molly's room before - it's painted green with all of the finishing touches that make it complete. His room was not complete - the mirror that goes with the dresser was still on the floor leaning against the wall.

We had a brief chat about his room in that moment and I offered to paint one wall, but not red. Some conversations on FB about it resulted in my sister offering her son's last bedding set - it's a patchwork quilt of light blue and red plaid, stripes, and denim. What's great about it is that it isn't childish, so it can be used for a long time with different motifs through the years to come (unless he decides he wants an orange room someday). And I have sheets to go with it already, too, so that saves the budget.

I'm going to paint the long wall where his bed goes a pale blue and do a red chair-rail stripe with a thinner red stripe about 2" above it. That way he gets the red, but not a whole wall. And he gets some wall color, but Mama doesn't need to move furniture out of the room to do it (his room is tiny and there's no way to remove the pieces in order to get access to all walls. Moving his bed is the easiest thing.

I had the thought to get some superhero posters - Spider-man (of course), Superman, Iron Man, etc. - to hang on the painted wall. He liked that idea a lot. The picture is one of the posters I found for him - in all there will be 5 - Spider-man, Batman, Superman, Captain America, and Iron Man.

And then I remembered this little shelving unit that I had found at a yard sale years ago - it's blue (slightly darker than the intended wall color) and perfect to hang on his wall. So that will get hung, too.

The last thing is his ceiling lamp, which is one of those DIY hanging lamps made from the cord kit and a lampshade. The shade is plain right now, but I'm thinking to paint the edges in a darker blue.

I'll take before and after pictures and post them on Monday. This is a full weekend project, I think. And now it's time to head to Walmart to buy paint.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Books: Against All Enemies by Tom Clancy

Finished listening to Against All Enemies this morning while working shipping out a jewelry order from my Etsy shop - love audio books!

Clancy gets a lot of negative reviews and this one is no exception. I didn't like the last couple of his books that I read. But I liked this one. I think it's a good reboot with a new hero and keeping current with the times.

I especially enjoyed the narrator, Steven Weber. While he'll always be Brian Hackett from Wings to me, he is an excellent narrator with a pleasing voice.

One thing I will say - I think Clancy's torch passed on to Vince Flynn. He's the best political thriller writer out there today, imho. Brad Thor takes a solid second place.

I give AAE 4 stars out of 5.

Next up in the player: Full Black by Brad Thor.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Random Bits

1. Saw Captain America on Saturday. Awesome. 4 stars out of 5.

2. My kids are the sweetest and most hilarious people.

3. There's a bunch of stuff I'd love to say about politics, but I'm keeping mum. It's hard to remain mum. Really.

4. That said, I have to say that I heart Allen West.

5. Folks who know me know that I abhor bureaucracy. Today I am bringing the red tape bureaucracy to my peeps at work. It's horrifying and satisfying all at once.

6. I married the best guy ever and I adore him.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Food Stuff: Apple Nachos

Take a look at the picture. That is some yummy goodness right there. You can find the recipe here.

Some friends at church have a pool in their backyard. They have been hosting weekly gatherings for folks on Monday afternoons/evenings and it includes finger foods since it occurs during the dinner hours. Beau and Jesse wanted to go yesterday, so I went on the hunt for a fun finger food they could take.

These apples were a hit, especially with my kids before they even left the house. Jesse was calling it apple candy. And I have to admit that I ate that plate in the picture all by myself after my dinner last night. I had planned to share with Molly, but she was more interested in plain old marshmallows.

I used the caramel apple dip to save time. It worked well enough. I plan to make them again using Nutella. Also, I think the marshamallow cream needs to go on last because when I did it first it ended up in a sticky puddle on the bottom of the plate. A gooey, yummy, slightly nasty looking puddle of marshmallow cream, caramel, and chocolate. Mmmmmmm.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Snap Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two

I was crazy enough to go see the last Harry Potter movie on Saturday night. I went by myself to the 9:30pm showing, which if you know me, is way past my normal bedtime. I paid for it yesterday, as did my family. I don't think I'll do that kind of thing again.

In a nutshell, I thought it was a strong finish and I enjoyed it thoroughly. 4 stars out of 5.

I have to add two things:

1) Ads before the movie are always annoying. However, there was one commercial that was surprising and totally inappropriate given the target audience of Harry Potter. Cynical Nymph over-analyzes the commercial just a tad (in terms of the overarching theme of it), but sums it up pretty well. From the Facebook comments (and the comments at the CN's post) I've seen, it looks like this ad was shown at all showings of HP. Bad form.

2) This is awesome. The pictures/captions accompanying it are fantastic. Hilarious.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The First Movie: Winnie the Pooh

We took the kids to see their very first movie in the theater this morning: Winnie the Pooh.

Jesse found me in the basement at 6am this morning, "I'm ready to go to the movie!" He was just a little excited. Molly was excited about the popcorn.

We got to the theater, bought our requisite jumbo bucket of popcorn (the gal behind the counter gave us little trays, "I've worked with kids, you'll need these." Awesome! I got one for me, too), Twizzlers and a too large soda for Beau and I to share.

We wondered how full/empty the theater would be for the first showing of the day. Turns out it filled up to about 3/4 full. We were in one of the smaller theaters in the multiplex, though. I'm sure the larger rooms were all Harry Potter-ed.

We saw a few cute trailers and then the magic happened. The movie started and Jesse moved to the edge of his seat, where he stayed for most of the short movie. Molly was enthralled for longer than I expected given that she's only 2. I think she matched Beau for popcorn consumption, too. That girl loves popcorn.

As for the movie, it was the ultimate in sweet and perfect for the littles. I love that it was true to the books in look and spirit. The voices were perfect. The musical numbers were fun. Judging from the reaction of the other kids in the theater, I think they enjoyed it. I know that my kids did.

I give Winnie the Pooh 5 stars out of 5.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bible Study: The Last Days

I'm in the final days of my study of Daniel (by Beth Moore) and I have to say it lived up to my expectations and hopes. First, I have to say that I was fortunate to be able to borrow a copy of the DVD set (the Leader Guide came with it, but I never opened that since I was doing this by myself). I bought the workbook since it's a workbook and it's expected that the participant will do the homework and actually write in it. I did. I'm grateful, because it's expensive and also because the DVD sessions are crucial for getting everything out of the study. There's so much that Moore speaks about in each week's session that to try to do this study without the DVDs is kind of ridiculous.

As for the work, I expected it to be a little harder, to be honest. Not that it wasn't challenging, but I expected it to require a bit more time each day. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the self-study homework days only took about 20 minutes. I broke up the DVD sessions into 2 parts of 30 minutes each. It made it very manageable from a time perspective, but also content-wise.

The content is good, in-depth study of some complicated prophecy. What I most appreciate is that Moore carefully broke up the book into two halves - looking at Daniel's life of integrity and then looking at the prophecies revealed to him. And then she broke things up into each chapter and within each chapter she tackled the smaller nuggets. She used commentaries and historical documents to open up the prophecies revealed to Daniel as the history that it is for us (except with regard to the end times, which is still prophecy for us).

I'm grateful for what God revealed through His Word and Moore's teaching. I'm reminded of His overwhelming power and His loving grace.

I highly recommend this study, whether for personal Bible study or for a women's small group.

On deck is Abide by Jared Wilson. I was fortunate to receive a leader's kit for this study. I plan to do the study myself and then donate the kit to my church as a resource for our small groups ministry.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Reading with Jesse: The Hobbit

Now that Jesse is closer to 5 years old than 4 years old and starting to learn how to read, I thought maybe it was time to try reading a chapter book to him at bedtime. A friend posted on FB that she's been reading The Hobbit to her daughters (who I think are ages 6 and 4) and that they were loving it.

I had already downloaded the Kindle version some time ago, so a few nights I ago after getting Jesse into bed I went to get my Kindle and sat down to read. I explained that I was going to read a book that has no pictures and he said OK. That particular night he was very tired, so I attributed his quiet while I read to that. However, in the nights since his quiet when I read the story of Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the wizard, and the 13 dwarves has been remarkable. Usually he fidgets and mutters, playing with some toy or his blanket while a story is read. But with this story, even with the lofty prose and poetry, he seems fully engaged.

I knew he was hooked when he asked me to read "the goblin story" to him last night after he finished brushing his teeth. I almost ran to get my Kindle in my excitement.

I'm so looking forward to enjoying Bilbo's adventure with Jesse, to revisit this great story through the eyes and imagination of my son.

By Wire

This is a long story, but I'm going to try to keep it concise. Our office ships a lot of expensive equipment around the country. A couple of months ago, a pallet was shipped and when the pallet arrived at the destination the plastic wrap around the boxes was ripped and one box was missing. The value of the stuff in the box is in the 5-figure range, so we filed a claim with the shipper for the loss and they initiated an investigation.

Turns out they couldn't recover the lost box and because the federal government is self-insured, the shipper is not going to reimburse us for the lost goods. We did receive a small reimbursement for the pro-rated shipping amount (less than $10).

I emailed our HQ to inquire about what we need to do to recoup the loss and I was told that there is a fund for this kind of thing. In researching how to go about filing a claim, I was reading some of the federal regulations about shipping losses. I'm wondering when this code was last updated because nothing resembling our equipment was in the lists of items deemed "valuable" by the government. Also the instruction said to send the claim report by wire.

By wire?

My first thought was that I could hitch up my pony and hand deliver the report. Let's bring back Pony Express.

Nowhere in the instructions was there an email address, phone number, or fax number. A PO box address was listed, but were telegrams ever delivered to PO boxes?

I'm half tempted to send this to my Congress-critter as an example of inefficient and wasteful government.

I later found a phone number on this agency's poor website. I plan to call today to get more information about filing our claim.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Book Reviews: A Test of Wills and Unbroken

I managed to finish two books last week. One was a paperback that I had been reading (a page or two at a time at bedtime) for MONTHS. The other was an audiobook that I finished early because I ended up with a stomach flu on Friday-Saturday, which allowed me to have extra listening time.

First is the paperback - A Test of Wills by Charles Todd.
In 1914, Ian Rutledge left a brilliant career at Scotland Yard to fight in the Great War. Now, in 1919, he is back, burdened with a heavy secret: he is still suffering from shell shock. With him almost constantly is the cynical, taunting voice of the young Scots soldier he was forced to have executed on the battlefield for refusing to fight.

In a desperate gamble to salvage his sanity, Rutledge takes up his duties at Scotland Yard. But a colleague, jealous of Rutledge’s pre-war successes, has learned his secret and maneuvers to have him assigned to a case that promises to spell disaster no matter what the outcome. In a Warwickshire village, a popular retired military officer has been murdered, and the chief suspect is, unhappily for the Inspector, a much-decorated war hero and a friend of the Prince of Wales.

Rutledge, fighting his malady and the tormentor in his head (who is the personification of his own doubts and guilt), doggedly goes about his investigation. He digs into the lives of the villagers: the victim’s ward, a young woman now engaged to the chief suspect; a local artist shunned because of her love for a German prisoner; the reclusive cousins whose cottage adjoins the dead man’s estate. But the witness who might be able to tell him the most is a war-ravaged ex-soldier who chills Rutledge with the realization that if he loses control of himself, he could become this man.

I have read Charles Todd's Bess Crawford novels and enjoyed them very much. As such, I thought I'd go back to read the Ian Rutledge series, too. The story was interesting, the characters were fully developed, the dialogue believable. I like that Rutledge is deeply flawed, yet determined to find the truth.

If you like a good mystery, this will work. I plan to read all of the Ian Rutledge mysteries at some point. 3.5 stars.

The second book completed was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.

Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he'd been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man's journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.
This is my favorite book of 2011 so far. I can't say enough about it - the true story is compelling - at times unbelievable, harrowing, depressing, informative, and inspiring. Having it read to you is amazing. (Aside: I'm finding that the books that are narrated by actors are more enjoyable - not only do they read well, they act the parts.) You MUST read this book. 5 stars.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Snap Movie Reviews

I managed to see/watch 3 movies while on vacation.

In the theater, I saw Green Lantern. I was worried because it got mediocre reviews, so I lowered my expectations going in. First, I have to say that Alamo Drafthouse rocks. We need one in our location. Best. Movie. Theater. Ever. I find it mildly hilarious that there's only one outside of Texas and that one is in Winchester, VA. Random.

Anyway, Green Lantern - I went with my Dad. We both liked it. It's a set-up movie. If you go in knowing that, then I think you'll like it. It sets up the subsequent sequels well, imho. 3.5 stars out of 5.

On DVD, I watched two movies:

1. Secretariat - it's not the best quality movie. It was weirdly filmed - part regular film and part hi-def and the editing couldn't hide the switch back and forth. However, the story is remarkable. How is it that even when you know how the story ends, you still get tense? I give it 4 stars mostly because of the story itself and because the horse racing parts are great.

And in honor of that amazing horse, here's his Belmont Stakes record-breaking race:

2. The King's Speech - Wow. I've long wondered how horrible it must have been to grow up a royal child. To live with the pressure of knowing you are not your own person, to be in the public spotlight all the time, no sense of normal. There's a small window into that in this wonderful movie. Colin Firth was brilliant and deserving of his Best Actor win. Geoffrey Rush was equally brilliant as Lionel. I love the movie, everything about it. 5 stars.

And in honor of King George VI, here's the now famous speech:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Bit of Random

1. Snap Movie Reviews

Red (DVD) - hilarious. 3 stars
XMen First Class (theater) - awesome. 4 stars

I plan to see either/both Thor and/or The Green Lantern while on vacation, if I can work it out (see #3).

2. Snap Book Reviews

Evidence, Jonathan Kellerman - loved. 4 stars
Deception, Jonathan Kellerman - also loved. 4 stars
To End All Wars, Ernest Gordon - harrowing, inspiring. 5 stars

Next up is Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. My Kindle is loaded with the audiobook and the ebook, so I'm hoping to get some read on my way out to my parents (see #3) and while at my parents.

3. Vacation!

We head out for separate vacations tomorrow. The boys are flying west to visit Beau's parents. The girls are driving west to visit my parents. Good times to be had by all.

4. Modern Medicine

I went to the dermatologist yesterday to have a suspicious spot looked at. It is not cancer. However, he removed it and will biopsy it to be certain. That spot is on my waist and hurts every time I move because the waistband of my pants is right at that spot.

The other skin news is that I have rosacea. That tidbit came out of left field (and right after I was told that I look 10 years younger than I am, which was the best part of the visit.) Turns out that flushing/blushing problem is a chronic issue that will only get worse. Woo!

And that's all I've got for you. Exciting stuff, I know.

Flag Day

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Efficiency At Work

My job requires a clearance. Back when I transferred to this office/position in March 2010 I was granted an interim Top Secret until the actual TS was blessed by the powers that be.

I got a weird email with a .jpg attachment today. It looked official, but the .jpg was odd, so I sent a direct email (not a reply) to that person to inquire about the validity of the weird email. She then called me in response. Her email is real. The .jpg is a copy of the letter to notify me that my TS was granted. The letter is dated today, my job title on the letter is my previous job title, and the two pooh-bahs CCed are my previous management.

Turns out about 300 files have lain fallow while the HQ powers replaced the person who previously held the position of clearance blessing. Wow.

My boss came to my door when he got the new email with the updated, current information. He had a good chuckle that it took 15 months from when I transferred over. In reality, from when the OPM investigation began in September 2009 to today it took 21 months to receive my clearance.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Parenting: The Toilet Edition

Incident #1: Molly decided that playing with the powder room toilet would be fun. She took the shape blocks and tossed them in. You know that bucket with the lid with the shaped cut outs? Yeah, those blocks got baths. I noticed there were a bunch of those blocks in the sink and asked Jesse why they were there. He mumbled something about Molly playing with them in the toilet.

I also noticed that one of the hand towels was missing. Jesse has been filling up the sink in there to play with a water toy he got from Burger King (evil kid's meal), so I figured it got soaked and Beau tossed it down the basement for the weekend laundry. Little did I know - she put that into the toilet, too.

So before bedtime, Jesse decided to use the powder room potty before heading upstairs. He flushed and then called to me, "Mama, the water isn't going down!" I went to investigate and help him wash his hands and found the water was not flushing. I made a mental note to ask Beau about the toilet playing and to take the plunger down (it gets stored in my bathroom).

Beau got home from his small group and I woke up long enough to tell him about the toilet. That's when he informed me about the towel going in there. I told him I'd try plunging the toilet in the morning and went back to sleep.

This morning I remembered to take the plunger down. With the first flush and plunge, I managed to bring up two more blocks (red triangle and blue circle). I grabbed the triangle, but couldn't get the circle before it went back down the hole. I plunged a second time and didn't see the circle. Plunged a third time and it didn't seem to be working. Plunged a fourth time and the circle shot out of the plunger. I grabbed it. By that time the water had finished the cycle so I flushed and plunged again. It still ran slow, but it did go down some. Nothing plunged out. At that point I gave up and washed my hands.

Beau tried when he got up and managed to get out another block and the water shot down the hole. His and Jesse's mission is to keep Molly out of that bathroom without supervision by Daddy.

Incident #2: We had an intentional diaper breach this morning. Molly must have needed to go potty when she woke up. She pulled the changing pad off of the dresser, took off her diaper, and we think she then pooped in the corner behind the door (that's where we found the poop). When Beau got up there, she was laying on the changing pad and trying to clean up with wipes. Fortunately, she didn't seem interested in the finger painting that her brother did when he pulled off his diapers at this age.

I guess it's time to stop playing at potty training and to get to the intensive work of getting that girl to go on the potty. She seems more than interested. Oy.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Weekend Recap

The weekend was a good one. Nice and long and restful, until yesterday. But yesterday was a wonderful day, so the tired today is worth it.

We went to visit Beau's friends at their mountain farm in West Virginia. It was a gorgeous, if blisteringly hot, day. In addition to us, one of their kids' family was there and some church friends. I think there were 9 adults and 7 kids.

These friends are the folks from whom we bought a side of beef (with my parents) a couple of years ago. We signed up for a side of beef this year. We're keeping all of it this time, which means a lot of beef, so we'll need to make sure the freezer is empty in November when it's time to pick it up. Also, we're making the list now of the cuts we want so that when the butcher is ready to do his thing we're prepared.

Here's a picture of the steers they raise. It's hard to see through the window screen. My apologies on that. We forgot our camera and I took that shot with my Blackberry through the upstairs window when I noticed the cattle had moved up close to the bard.

The kids had a fun time running around free on the lawns. Molly was enthralled with the cows and would have stayed there staring at them staring at her all day if we'd let her. Jesse loved having other kids to play with and the large scrape on his knee only slowed him down a little bit.

I think these pictures tell the tale of how their day went?

We got home, both kids crashed into bed and then we crashed, too.

It was a lovely day.

Friday, May 27, 2011

In Memoriam

On this Memorial Day weekend, we remember those brave men and women who have given their all for the cause of freedom.

Thank you to all veterans and their families for your sacrifice.

We remember. Always.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tragedy and Small Helps

The devastation of the tornadoes around the south and midwest is overwhelming. The pictures of whole towns blown to rubble and sticks is incomprehensible. The loss of life is horrible.

It's times like this that I hold my husband and kids a little tighter, kiss them a little more often, tell them that I love them as often as the thought comes to my mind. And as a worst case scenario thinker, I work out solutions in my head should we be faced with similar circumstances.

I wish there was more I could do to help, but really what these people need is money given to organizations who are equipped and on the ground to lend aid. And so, I am using my small business to do just that. For all of May and June, any sale in my Etsy shop will help the folks impacted by the tornadoes. 10% of all sales revenue will be given to Samaritan's Purse, who has been helping in the south after the tornadoes hit them in April and now in Missouri and other parts of the midwest in the wake of the tornadoes this month.

For the month of May sales have been sparse, but I've been able to give $14.00. And I am matching it with personal funds, so that means an additional $14 has been given. It isn't much, but every little bit helps.

So if you're looking for gifts for teachers or birthdays, consider buying some jewelry knowing that part of your purchase will go to help the victims of this tornado season. Thanks in advance.

EDITED TO ADD: SP is in Joplin, MO.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

QotD: Godly Parenting Edition

I think I'm going to have to get this book:
‎"We are not, nor can we be, the saviors of our children. He is the Savior. When we forget this, our parenting will be pockmarked by fear, severity, and exhaustion." - Elyse Fitzpatrick, Give Them Grace
As my mother commented to my posting of this on Facebook, "Psalm 78:1-8 should be emblazoned on the hearts of all parents." Amen.

[Via Jared on FB]

The Weirdness of Dreams

It's disconcerting to wake up from a vivid dream wherein I'm reliving 9/11. I have no clue where it came from - I haven't been thinking about that dark day any more than normal. I don't know why my subconscious put me and my family on the roof in New York, but there we were and I was terrified. There was smoke and noise and fear, and then I woke up.

The clock read 3:13am.

I started praying, asking the Lord to remove the images, and managed to doze off until they came back and I woke up again. 4:05am.

Since the alarm goes off at 4:27am, I got up.
With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD!
I will keep your statutes.
I call to you; save me,
that I may observe your testimonies.
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I hope in your words.
My eyes are awake before the watches of the night,
that I may meditate on your promise.
Hear my voice according to your steadfast love;
O LORD, according to your justice give me life.
They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose;
they are far from your law.
But you are near, O LORD,
and all your commandments are true.
Long have I known from your testimonies
that you have founded them forever.

-- Psalm 119: 145-152 (ESV)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Littles

Here are a few recent pictures of the kids.

First up, Jesse with the tadpoles he and Daddy killed.

The two of them together. They're very sweet to each other - lots of spontaneous hugs and kisses and snuggles. I hope they're always so loving with each other.

This was taken this morning on the way home from church. After a long day yesterday and then some serious playtime in the walkers' room, I guess Molly Ann was tired.

A Fine Meal

Last night we had a low key belated Mother's Day/Birthday dinner. My parents and my Uncle Bill came over for a little family time. Mom and I didn't get to celebrate Mother's Day since my parents went to Disney World that weekend. Then we delayed celebrating my uncle's birthday because that day occurred on the weekend that they returned from Disney.

We had a Scotch-English-Irish meal, inspired by a throw-away request from Uncle Bill for colcannon sometime. I had to do the research on colcannon - I had heard of it, but wasn't sure what it was. Turns out is is a delicious mashed potato, cabbage, ham/bacon (I used bacon) dish of Irish tradition. Here's the recipe I used. Of course, with Beau's milk intolerance and my weight loss work, I tweaked the recipe. I used Smart Balance instead of butter (and I reduced the quantity by half!) and I used rice milk. Also, I used bacon instead of ham since it was a side dish. Using ham would make this a lovely one pot meal.

The main dish was this Steak and Guiness Pie. Oh. My. Goodness. This is so good. I pretty much followed the recipe exactly except that I did use beef stock instead of chicken stock. Next time I may add more radishes. I'm not a fan of radishes, but these turned out tender and almost sweet. Delicious. Also, this will be how I make a basic beef stew, with radishes and Guinness.

Since our meal was on the heavy side, I wanted a lighter dessert and opted not to do a birthday cake. Instead, we had Pavlovas with Custard and Berries. I've made these before, when we had dinner with the Sleepy Family. I made the meringues last weekend and stored them in the freezer. Last time, we all decided they were a bit too sweet, so I cut 1/2 cup of the sugar. They were perfect - not too sweet at all. We had both vanilla-coconut pudding and also a chocolate-coconut pudding. And a mixed berry combination of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries that macerated for several hours with a teaspoon of sugar and lemon juice.

I had a blast planning and preparing the evening. It was fun to be in the kitchen again. Not as much fun to clean the house, but Beau did the motherload of cleaning so mega-props go to him for that. Thank you, Beau! It was a good meal. It was a good time with beloved family. The kids loved seeing their Marmie and Pop and Uncle Bill, too.

Until the next time...

Only You Give Life and Breath...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

When Is a Love Triangle Not A Love Triangle?

Before I read The Hunger Games novels, I had heard a few complaints about the love triangle between Gale-Katniss-Peeta. So I went into them cautious about that aspect of the story, maybe with a jaded eye. I came out of it thinking that there really wasn't as much of a love triangle as readers may have thought.

***The following is spoilerish to all three of the novels. You have been warned. Also, those who have not read the books can move along - most of this will make no sense to you.***

In the first book, Katniss and Gale are best friends with nothing romantic between them. She is aware of Peeta only as the boy who gave her bread and then as her fellow tribute in the arena. We the audience are made aware of Gale's potentially not so platonic feelings for Katniss at the station before she is on her way to The Capitol - when he yells out at the last minute, "Katniss, I l--." It's broken off. We assume he was going to declare his love.

Then she and Peeta are thrown together in a sense, but things take a turn when he declares his love for her in the interview with Caesar Flickerman before they go into the arena. She's completely taken aback by this news. And also suspicious because it could be a game tactic he can use against her. That Haymitch encourages it doesn't help.

So Katniss and Peeta go through their time in the arena, trying to survive against the other tributes, pretending to be in love to help their case with their mentor, the game makers and the audience, and ultimately prevail by surviving together. Then they're thrown back to reality at home, grappling with what occurred in the arena still, and the expectations of the people to whom they have returned. But they are not the same people who left. Everything has changed.

Now we get to the second book. I believe it is in this one that Katniss states clearly and more than one time, that she never intends to marry or have children because she doesn't want to bring kids into that world, ensuring their chance of being reaped for the hunger games and certain death. But she's now dealing with the complicated feelings of and for Peeta from their time in the arena and also from Gale, who has made it clear that he loves her, too.

So here's where we get to a sort of love triangle in the story. Peeta loves Katniss. Gale loves Katniss. Katniss loves who? She loves both, differently, but I believe equally. And while it may read to some as a love triangle, I don't really believe that it is in the classic romance novel sense. First, she isn't interested in a mate. Second, she is in survival mode and has been since her sister's name was called in the reaping.

As I read the story, I didn't really care if Katniss ended up romantically tied to either one of the boys. I liked them both and thought they both were important to her. Each has a role in her life. To me the story was more about their battle for survival and victory over the evil of The Capitol, which is where the third book, Mockingjay, took me. For me, The Hunger Games was more about good versus evil than Gale versus Peeta.

Of course, then we get the epilogue, which wraps up the romantic bow neatly (for some). But I would have been fine without that postscript, too.

Burn Us Up

It's a familiar Bible story from childhood. The Veggie Tales folks made it a kitchy cartoon (that I love, by the way - it's one of my favorites of the VT videos). But I have never really studied it. How can that be? It has been rectified and I'm grateful.

It's the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (or Rack, Shack, and Benny in VT parlance) in Daniel 3. Go read it. I'll wait.

Isn't that a great story? There's a lot to take away from it - the fury of King Nebuchadnezzar; the appearance of the 4th man in the furnace (many have said he's an angel, I believe he is pre-incarnate Jesus); the utter faithfulness of the three who disobeyed a king to obey the King.

Lord, may I be as faithful as Rack, Shack, and Benny in the face of fire. Help me to trust You to deliver me whether it's from the fire, through the fire, or in the fire. Thank you for your amazing mercy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Books: Catching Fire and Mockingjay

Being sick had one serious advantage for me this week. I was able to listen to two whole books while lounging around in my bed. I was able to lay there, resting with my eyes closed, and just let the stories be told to me by a lovely-voiced narrator. How awesome is that? (I highly recommend the audio books - the narrator is very good and it really brings Katniss and the Panem world to life.)

The first one finished was Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. This is the second in The Hunger Games trilogy. I liked this stage of the story, but not as well as the first book. If it's possible, the story gets darker. The love triangle gets dragged out a bit, which could annoy, but the conflict was in keeping with Katniss' character - it's not just about choosing which dude to love, it's a deeper conflict than that.

Having read the final book immediately after this one, it was clear that Catching Fire is the book used to propel the story forward. Put all the books together into one book, and this one is the stuff that keeps things moving, explores things deeper, increases the mystery. I'm OK with that. As a stand-alone, it's fine. As the middle part of a longer story, it's good.  4 stars out of 5

Last night I managed to finish Mockingjay. This the darkest of the three books, if that's possible. There was a time while listening to the middle portion of the book that I was completely depressed, wondering if there would be redemption, happiness, resolution. It finally got there, but it was a long slog - it reminded me of Return of the King by JRR Tolkien - Frodo continued to be possessed and haunted by The Ring, but continued on his quest to Mordor. Not that The Hunger Games novels can really be compared to Tolkien's genius world and story, but that is what came to mind. So I stuck with it and I'm glad I did. It is my least favorite of the books, but it's a good wrap-up of the story. 4 stars out of 5

I give them both 4 stars as part of the entire trilogy. Neither of these books should be read alone, imho. They are part of a larger work and that's how I reviewed them. Of the three, The Hunger Games is my favorite of the parts.

EDITED TO ADD: I need to add a warning for parents. Mockingjay is not for the faint of heart or for younger teenagers. I warned similarly for The Hunger Games and that warning is the same for Catching Fire, but the violence and adult themes in the last book are such that it may be hard for younger tweens and teens to process it well or to come through it without nightmares. The imagery is vivid and if your child has a strong imagination, then they may need to wait until they're older to read Mockingjay. As such, I'd give this trilogy a strong PG-13 rating.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I've been laid up with a cold for most of this week. Molly and Jesse came down with it over the weekend. As Monday progressed I could tell that I had it. I got home from work and immediately went to bed and that's where I've been for most of the past two days.

I'm headed back to work today, though. I'm not 100%, but I'm feeling strong enough to get back to it. I'm just going to hunker down in my office, try to keep my germs to myself, and try to conserve enough energy to be able to take care of the kids tonight while Beau is at his small group.

The good part was that I was able to finish Catching Fire and get more than halfway through Mockingjay. Review coming up...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Reading Room: The Hunger Games

There's something in me that resists bandwagons, but if I'm honest I have to admit that I hop on-board many without hesitation. However, the one area where I really resist is books. I don't know why exactly, except the Oprah Book Club thing usually comes to mind. I think I can name maybe 3 books that were recommended by Oprah. I refuse to read the rest. Anyway...

Cut to the huge wave of readers of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Young adult science fiction? I'm not so sure about this. But I couldn't get past the plot - it did sound interesting, different, provocative.
Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don't live to see the morning? 
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by 12 outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. 
16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before -and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
My sister had downloaded all three of the audiobooks (it's the first of a trilogy), so I had it easily available in our shared Audible.com account and I decided to give it a try.

I was not disappointed. From the first words I was hooked. Told in first person, having the book read to me by a lovely voiced narrator made it seem as if I were being told her story. It was engrossing, from the post-apocalyptic (sort of) world, to the concept of the games, to the actual games. The characters were well-written - full people, fully fleshed out. The dialogue was good, realistic. The plot was detailed, solid, moved forward well and grew the tension at a steady pace.

I so enjoyed the book that on Friday when I got home from work I had only 45 minutes left to listen to, so after the kids were in bed, I went to bed and finished it. And I promptly started the second book, Catching Fire (I listened to that some last night, so I'm already 90 minutes into it and loving that one, too).

This is supposed to be young adult fiction. This is something I would have read and enjoyed as early as 6th or 7th grade. I can recommend it for mature kids that age, but if your young adolescent is sensitive to death and violence, then they may need to wait until they're a bit older to read it.

The Hunger Games gets 5 stars out of 5 from me.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bible Study

Back in December, prompted by a post by Amy at P2P, I accepted a challenge to read through the Bible in 90 Days. It was challenging, but I accomplished the mission and actually finished the Bible in 89 days. By far it was one of the most rewarding spiritual exercises of my 30+ years as a Christ-follower. Around Christmas and New Year's it was a struggle to get in the hour of reading for that day. I fell a bit behind, but managed to catch back up by reading extra for about a week.

The best thing was getting the big picture of God's plan and work and seeing how Jesus was weaved throughout. I loved the experience so much that I plan to do it again and often. Even now, just mere months out from completing it, I'm considering when I'll do it again. Sometime this year or early in 2012 for sure, I think.

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His steadfast love endures forever! -- 1 Chronicles 16:34 (ESV)
I'm grateful for the renewal of my interest in God's Word as a result, too. For too long, any time I spent in Scripture was somewhat stale - not because the Bible was stale but rather because my heart was closed and my spirit was wrapped up in false idols. Over the past few months, the Holy Spirit has reopened my heart, revealed the idols for removal, and caused my spirit to reignite with fire for my Lord. It's humbling to realize how much lip service I paid to my spiritual life. But I know that God was faithful where I was unfaithful. He was loving, merciful, and gracious where I was not. And He still is, daily.

Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments. Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name. Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep your precepts. Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes. -- Psalm 119: 129-135 (ESV)

Blogger Burps

So most folks know that Blogger experienced some issues this week - posts and comments are missing. I'm kind of bummed about the ones that went missing; to replicate that content may not be possible. I'm hoping that they'll come back.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Books: A Game of Thrones

I'm not one who reads much fantasy or science fiction. However, I saw so many friends on Facebook mention A Game of Thrones as the HBO miniseries start approached that I thought I'd give it a try. I checked the reviews on Audible.com and they were glowing as well so I downloaded the audio version and started listening.

I couldn't get past the first 6 hours. I can tolerate a lot in what I read, but one thing I absolutely cannot is incest. There's plenty of it in A Game of Thrones, at least in that short first 6 hours. I figured that was more than enough so I stopped listening.

I haven't not finished a book in years.

0 stars. Hated it. Do not recommend it - just had to put that out there since it's currently showing in my reading list in the sidebar as completed. That isn't quite true.

Recipes: Mexican Rice with Black Beans and Corn

I started Weight Watchers a couple of weeks ago. I married a guy who likes to eat. I like to eat. We eat well. Very well. It has gotten out of control. And being over 40 and having given birth to two children late in life on top of always already struggling with my weight, maybe you can imagine the problem.

So, I'm counting points. It's rather annoying and also invigorating. But mostly annoying. That said, it works. And it's a plan I can live with long term, which is basically for the rest of my life as long as I'm disciplined. But that's a whole different issue.

Anyway, I'm on the hunt for flavorful, filling, and low points recipes. This one is about 3 points per serving - a serving being 1/2 cup. It's meant to be a side dish. Add some grilled chicken to make it a meal.


2 cups uncooked white rice
2 cups low-fat, low sodium chicken stock
2.5 cups water
dash salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
1 4 or 7oz can diced green chilies
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 Tbsp cumin
1/2 Tbsp paprika
1 15oz can black beans, drained
1 11oz can corn

1. By whatever method you normally use, cook the rice with the chicken stock, water, and salt.

2. Warm a large saute pan over medium heat. Add oil and allow to get hot. Then add the onions and garlic, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Cook until the onion is translucent.

3. Add the tomatoes and green chilies, including their liquids. Mix a bit and then add the chili powder, cumin, and paprika. Mix all together well, making sure any lumps of the spices are broken down and everything is incorporated.

4. Add the black beans and corn. Include the liquid with the corn. Mix well.

5. Add the cooked rice. It will take some muscle to incorporate the rice with the mixture - you may want to transfer it to a large bowl to mix.

This makes a large batch that will serve maybe 20 half cup servings. I think.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Out with the Old, In with the New

My regular blog is dead, at least until I can gain access to the back room via FTP. Since I was unable to log in this morning, I fear it could take a while.

When it went kaput, I was sort of panicked - I mean, think about it. There's nearly 8 years of crap stored there. My thoughts on nothing; my thoughts on Beau in the early "we're not dating" days, my wedding planning, the wedding itself, my pregnancies and my kids (and the separate blogs that resulted); hundreds of photos; dozens of recipes. All of it inaccessible because I was too busy with life to do the work of maintaining the software. Two years of neglect resulted in a major compromise and down she went.

So in the past week I have been considering letting it go. I'm considering figuring out how to gather the data to keep for myself, but letting the domain and those blogs go. I spend most of my online time on Facebook, but there are times when I still wish to flesh something out further than a short FB status post. But this means starting over, starting fresh, building a new audience. Is it worth the time?

It's something to ponder.