29 February 2012

Day 29 - Hopes, Dreams, and Plans for the Next 365 Days

Whew.  Project and predict one year into the future.  For someone who lives pretty much just into next week (maybe month), this is a difficult concept to fathom.  But I shall try...

1. I hope to go confidently in the direction of my dreams, and enroll in a culinary arts program at the local community college.

2. I also hope to stay encouraged and excel at said culinary arts program.

3. Spencer will return to public school next year, and I hope he acclimates well.

4. I hope Kirby will have a seamless transition into middle school.

5. I hope Brent and I will transition (seamlessly) into being parents of a preteen girl.

6. I plan to write another novel in November.

7. Brent and I hit 15 years in August and I plan to travel somewhere exotic (British Virgin Islands to visit an Auntie, perhaps)

8. I plan, hope, and dream of living a life with purpose...where I make every minute and every person matter.

28 February 2012

Day 28 - Handbag Contents

I keep it pretty simple, really.

* Keys (house, cars, office, gym)
* Wallet (typical fare: cards, receipts, cash license, Black-Eyed Peas concert tix stub)
* Two tubes Burt's Bees Lip Balm (Acai Berry and Mango Butter)
* Checkbook
* Gold Bond Ultimate Restoring Skin Therapy Cream
* "Books Checked Out" slip
* Baby fingernail clippers (see yesterday's post)
* Boston Rewetting Eye Drops
* Ibuprofen
* A pressed powder compact
* Tube of Revlon ColorStay (Overtime Wine)
* Tube of CoverGirl NatureLuxe Balm (Clove)
* My daughter's turquoise wristwatch
* 50k NaNoWriMo button
* Tube of Campho-Phenique
* Six pencils
* Five pens
* One Sharpie marker (brown)
* Cell Phone

It looks like I've got a thing for writing instruments and lip implements.

27 February 2012

Ugh. Do I really want to talk about this?

Or more importantly, do you really want to know?

My worst habit?

Ugh.  Okay.

Whenever I go to a nail salon, I get a pedicure.  I love pedicures and having my feet pampered.  Inevitably, the pedicurist asks if I want a manicure.  And I'm flooded with a sense of shame as I say, "No, just the pedicure today."

I am embarrassed to let the nail technicians work on my hands, because I'm positive they are the most disgusting hands on the planet.  Iowa's dry, cold, chafing winter weather is the worst...my skin dries, peels, and drives me insane.

To top it all off, though, I am a picker.  If I'm prepared, I've got nail clippers handy and I can easily remedy any wayward cuticle or flap of skin without any pain.  However, often enough, it happens that I don't, and then I pickpickpick the little annoyances away. 

That's when it usually hurts...when I peel skin too far (not Black Swan too far, though).  Then, the next time I wash my hands, I'm in agonizing pain.

Obviously not enough to learn my lesson though.  It's a mindless habit, I'll do it when I don't even realize I'm doing it.  It's terrible, and I've got to get it under control before I even think about any kind of degree in the culinary arts.

26 February 2012

Day 26 - My Week

How mundane is this?

Since early January (and the start of a new term), my weeks have been roughly the same.  I've settled into quite a lovely routine.

Mondays: I wake about 6:30 to shower, caffeinate myself, prepare breakfast, and herd children off to school.  I also get Spencer started on his schoolwork for the day (Logic, Foreign Language, Reading, Vocabulary, History, Math, and Writing/Blog).  Usually from about 8:30 to 10:30, I work on my own schoolwork (grading or reading or lesson planning) or meal preparation (usually a crockpot something or other).  At 10:30, I toodle off to the college, where I usually make copies or get other things in order for my 11:15 class.  From 11:15 to 1:05, I'm teaching.  After class until 3:00 are my office hours, where I usually grade, read/annotate, or plan.  I pick up the children at 3:30, and I might either go work out or come home and finish meal prep.  We eat an early dinner on Mondays because I go to yoga at six (unless there's a community theater board meeting or special event - Mediterranean dinner, etc.), and Brent has bowling at 6:30.    Beyond 7:00 pm, I return home to read or hang out with kids until they go to bed at 8:30 or 9:00.  Then, I either blog, read, write, surf the Net, grade homeschool work, or spend time with my husband.

Tuesdays: Same morning ritual, but I have the whole day free from teaching/office hours.  Tuesdays (and Thursdays) are for bread-baking, laundry, light housecleaning, or extra schoolwork.  I'm able to grade Spencer's work immediately (his schedule: Geography, Writing, Math, Reading, History, and Science).  In the afternoons, I try to get to the YMCA for a half-hour workout.  Then, it's home with the family and various supervision of homework and meal preparation.  At 6:30, I'm off to writing group at the library...and then, there's a repetition of evening events when I come home.

Wednesday: Same as Monday.  Except the only evening commitment is yoga at six.

Thursday: Same as Tuesday, except I get Land Transfer/Marriage/Dissolution information from the courthouse (it's a side job I do for the local newspaper).

Friday: Similar to Monday and Wednesday except there's no yoga.  Usually, we'll do something as a family (watch a movie, go out for dinner, play games).  Sometimes (this is becoming more frequent), Brent and I will go out by ourselves for a couple of hours (dinner, movie, etc.).  Kids stay home to watch a little TV, play Wii or Starcraft.

Weekends are pretty open.  If there's no obligation, we stay home in our pajamas, hang out, do various odds and ends around the house, etc.  Usually, the groceries get done sometime on a Saturday.  For my recent Saturday, refer to yesterday's post.  Sundays are sometimes church days, sometimes Dungeons & Dragons days, sometimes whatever strikes our fancy days.  After dinner, kids get bathed, and prepare for the week ahead. 

And then we start it all over again!!!!

25 February 2012

My Day (In Extraordinarily Great Detail) - Day 25

Today was an atypical day.  Usually, Saturdays are rather laid back...depending on the time of year.  Fall and spring we are cheering on the children at their respective soccer games, but winter is bereft of any such crazy weekend activity. 

But, like I said, this was an atypical day.

We enjoyed the luxury this morning of being able to sleep in.  To 7:30 am.  The kids, however, had been up, reading, since 7:00.  After a breakfast of pancakes, my husband played the best prank ever on me (in the shower), and then he and I did the week's grocery shopping.  We packed a lunch in the cooler and we were off...

to Iowa City to watch our foreign exchange student compete in the State Robotics competition.  While the boys were enthralled with the robots' antics and such, Kirby and I snuck away for a little girl shopping at one of the best consignment stores ever, Stuff Etc.  A new pair of khakis and a couple of tops for me, and a flouncy pink skirt for Kirby.  But the shopping wasn't done...

we visited TJ Maxx, where Kirby was lucky enough to come across a new swimsuit for the summer (a non-bikini two-piece!) and a cute top.  After that, our energy levels flagged a bit, so we stopped at Bruegger's Bagels for a bagel and cream cheese (Blueberry and Honey Walnut for me, Pesto Cheddar and Onion n'Chive for Kirby).

Then, we were ready to return to the University of Iowa Memorial Union for the semi-finals (both of the high school teams made it).  And about forty-five minutes later, both teams had been eliminated from the competition.  Thus, we left and made our way to HuHot for dinner before driving home (a hour and a half).

Now that we've arrived, kids are getting shuttled off to bed.  Naturally, I'm updating things here, but I should probably grade some papers.  We'll see how *that* goes...

24 February 2012

My Hometown - Day 24

Aren't I lucky?  The town I live in happens to also be my hometown.

Oskaloosa, Iowa is the gem of Mahaska County in the heart of...

Okay, okay, enough with the touristy babble.  I live in the town of nearly 11,000 people.  And, it's certainly small enough to be able to:

1. Know 75% of the time whom someone is talking about when a "You know, the *---------* family?"

2. Drive across the entire town in about 10 minutes with traffic lights, 15 without, 30 when the train's coming through.

3. Enter any of the three grocery stores on any given day and be able to recognize and say 'hi' to about 50% of people I encounter (this increases significantly when I'm with my dad).

4. Have access to sufficient shopping without sprawling mall configuration.


1. Everyone does not know everyone else's business.
We have two grocery stores and a SuperWalMart.  Retail is basic, nothing fancy.  Churches outnumber restaurants, which outnumber bars (barely).  We have a nice coffeehouse and bookstore, but I wish we had a upscale, classy "bar" and a Target.

Religion is pretty conservative around here, which causes me to miss the Universalist Unitarian church in Minnesota.  Many of us are tolerant of others, but many are stuck in their old ways and aren't as much.

There are no clubs, not much nightlife to speak of, which the college students here in town lament widely.  Oskaloosa is home to William Penn University, a small liberal arts college of maybe 900.  Education is pretty linear: one elementary (huge), one middle school, and one high school.

Culturally speaking, there's not excitement here.  Mostly Caucasian, ruralish population, and our businesses reflect that.  However, our state's illustrious capital is less than an hour away, and it is possible to get away to a play, nice dinner or evening out, or place to shop.

23 February 2012

Day ? Something - A Youtube Video

I can't say I access the youtube very often...but when I do, it's usually to watch "My Drunk Kitchen".   It's a "weekly" program that is now in its second "season".  Essentially, the woman (Hannah) attempts to cook something, but she drinks alcohol as she does it.  

So.  It's a combination of things I really like: wine and cooking.  I find Hannah hilarious, and I am amazed how she is able to maintain some semblance of lucidity in the kitchen even when it's obvious she's "had a few".

Enjoy this most recent video - the first episode of season two - in HD, too, no less!

22 February 2012

Day 22 - A Website

Hm.  Websites I visit everyday include Facebook, Yahoo, and Google.  But...I don't think I'll waste your time talking about those sites.  :)  There's also the NaNoWriMo board I visit every now and then, but again, there's not much there that would be of interest (unless you're going to write a novel this coming November, in which case, go sign up there right now!).

Instead, let me point you to a food website I visit often.  www.allrecipes.com

I've had a very good success rate with recipes here.  I can search by recipe or by ingredient, depending on my need and situation.  Personally, I love reading the reviews and how each cook tweaks the original recipe.  Favorite recipes can be stored in a 'Recipe Box', and there's an interactive 'Menu Planner' that looks useful - but it charges a monthly fee, which eliminates that option for me.  Also, poking around there just now, there's a fun Nutrition Search option.  So, I can click the Nutrition Search button and immediately I'm given the calories, carbs, fat, protein, cholesterol, and sodium information for that food I'm looking for (chili, chocolate cake, etc). I guess so I can walk into my choice, with my eyes open, as it were.

Two successes I've had there include: Cheese's Baked Macaroni and Cheese and Jenny's Black Forest Cake.

21 February 2012

Day 21 - A Recipe

I am currently (really) in love with this book:

"To Thine Own Self, Be Food" will contain a book review at a later date, but for now, suffice it to say that the recipes I've done so far (eight, maybe?) have been simple and tasty.

Some are downright kindergarten simple - for example, Pizza Potatoes?  Baked potatoes with pizza sauce, mozz cheese, anything else that might go on a pizza.  Hardly qualifies as a "recipe"...but yet, it was a huge hit here at my house.  So, then, who cares if it's a real recipe or not?

I've taken two recipes from this text for today's blog; one has awesomely, pleasantly surprised me, and one is on the menu for tonight.

Last Thursday, we prepared Pork Medallions in Mustard Sauce (my apologies - no pictures).  Don't shy away if you're a mustard-hater, but instead skimp on the mustard measurement I've given here:

1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. chicken bouillon
1 tsp parsley (I love my herbs, so I measure with a heavy hand)
4 tsp spicy brown mustard

Combine these four and set aside.

1 pound pork tenderloin (fat trimmed and sliced into half-inch slices)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Season sliced pork and brown it in the oil (medium-high heat in skillet).  After pieces are light brown, remove into a separate dish.

3 garlic cloves (again, another ingredient that gets a heavy measuring hand)

Saute garlic in skillet for a minute.  Stir in mustard mixture, loosening any brown bits in the pan.  Bring to a boil, before reducing heat.  Simmer uncovered for 5-7 minutes.  Return pork slices to pan, cover and simmer over low heat for 4-5 more minutes (or meat is cooked through).

1 tsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp water

Combine these two in a small cup, stirring until smooth.  Add to pan, cooking and stirring for another 1-2 minutes until thickened.

This recipe here makes four servings, so of course, I doubled it to feed my brood.

I was perfectly content to ladle extra mustard sauce over my medallions, where the kids simply ate the meat plain.  The flavor was excellent, and the meat tender.  I'd definitely consider making this for company...I think it's fancy enough.  It's certainly tasty enough!

Tonight's meal (and recipe) is Linguine with Gorgonzola Sauce (four servings).

12 oz.  linguine
1 bunch fresh asparagus (trimmed, cut into 1 inch pieces)
1 cup half and half
4 oz. Gorgonzola cheese (or blue cheese)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Pretty simple here.  Cook noodles, adding asparagus during last four minutes.  Meanwhile, combine half and half, 3/4 cup of cheese, and salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 3 minutes, uncovered (stir often).

Pour melted sauce over cooked noodles, toss gently to coat, and sprinkle with remaining cheese and walnuts.

I will provide pictures and a judgment later on tonight!

Later on tonight:

YUM!  Everyone liked!  It's definitely got an Alfredo taste to it, but the asparagus is a nice, springy touch.

20 February 2012

Day 20 - A Hobby

Here it is:

This picture is a symbol of a hobby I have come to love in the last year.  Baking, cooking, anything to do with food.

In fact, it has become such an integral part of my life that I may be making a foray into food as a career sometime soon.

19 February 2012

A Talent? Hm. (Day 19)

Over halfway through with this 30-day blog challenge, and honestly, this one's tough.  I mean, what exactly does it mean by talent?  Something I feel I'm good at?  Something I've been actually told I'm good at?  Something I've actually received an award or accolade for?

No matter what criteria I go by, you (as the reader) get an inaccurate picture.

For example, I feel that I am good at singing (relatively), but I've never received any corroborating testimony or evidence from any quarter.  Thus, I would not consider it a talent.

Though I've received no prizes or multi-million dollar book deals, writing is another thing I feel I have a flair, a talent, for...even if I don't measure up to society's "standards".

I distinctly remember beginning to write as an elementary-school-goer, when my parents let me get one of those blank, color-it-yourself journals from the Scholastic Book Club.  My seventh-grade English teacher wrote "Keep Writing!" in my junior high yearbook, and I wrote scads of love poetry through high school (probably semi-plagiarized, no doubt...I was highly impressionable).

College was a bit more of the same, although the poetry slowed down a bit.  I found being in love much more preferable to writing poetry about it.  Per the requirements for my major, I took Creative Writing.  I distinctly remember one group writing exercise.

Teacher: In your group, write a "description for the senses" of the word I give you.
Group: Okaaaaay.
Teacher (to Heather's group): Your word is 'Lust'.  Who's tackling what sense?
Heather (after much jockeying around): I've got smell.

Minutes later...I'd written four words to describe what Lust smelled like: sweat, wet heat, and monkeys.  Surprisingly, my teacher thought it was great!  Evocative, she said.

But then, I left the fun, carefree bubble of college and entered the real world.  Career, kids, marriage.  Writing came in a distant fifth...sixth, maybe?

Until I began blogging here, oh, about six years ago.  Then, three years ago, I did NaNoWriMo...and well, the rest is history (documented somewhere here on the Internet, no doubt).

People had always said they admire the "voice" I write in.  It's casual, believable, and genuine.  Also, people will comment on how I use humor in my work...and it's true.  It's quite difficult for me to write a wholly serious piece without some humor.  I do really, really wish, though, I'd taken more classes about writing, kept in touch with it during the lean years.  Then, I wouldn't feel like such a noob at times.

18 February 2012

The Day

Look at us crazy kids from August 1997.  Boy, if I could redo my wedding, I certainly would, but only because I'm more certain of my preferences and wishes now than I was as a 22-year-old college student, dependent on her parents' income.  In fact, I really would have done a Justice of the Peace ceremony, and then spent all the money on a kick-ass reception-party.

Ultimately, though, I do not regret the actual act of getting married...I'd say I feel pretty good about that!  :)

17 February 2012

Day 17 - Art

What I know about art could fit into a teaspoon.  I know that I generally prefer the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Art over modern stuff like Cubism, etc.

However...my favorite piece of art is an Expressionist piece...which is probably closer to the modern than not.

This is called "Bride of the Wind" or "The Tempest" by Oskar Kokoschka.  The colors are gorgeous, but I really like the wide strokes that somehow emulate a storm...in which a couple lay, calmly relaxing.  But...I've always wanted to know...why is the woman sleeping, and the man wide-awake?

16 February 2012

Day 16 - A Song That Makes Me Sad

Despite racking my brain, I couldn't think of a song that made me cry.  However, there is a song that overwhelms me with its themes of time and hope and despair: "100 Years" by Five For Fighting.

The idea that time doesn't wait for us, and that we should make the most of our days here, is quite powerful to me, and touches that really, deep, sad part of my psyche...the one that worries about getting old and living an unexamined life.

Here's the lyrics:

I'm fifteen for a moment
Caught in between ten and twenty
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are
I'm twenty two for a moment
She feels better than ever
And we're on fire
Making our way back from Mars
Fifteen there's still time for you
Time to buy and time to lose
Fifteen, there's never a wish better than this
When you only got hundred years to live
I'm thirty three for a moment
Still the man, but you see I'm of age
A kid on the way
A family on my mind
I'm forty five for a moment
The sea is high
And I'm heading into a crisis
Chasing the years of my life
Fifteen there's still time for you
Time to buy, time to lose yourself
Within a morning star
Fifteen I'm all right with you
Fifteen, there's never a wish better than this
When you only got hundred years to live
Half time goes by
Suddenly you're wise
Another blink of an eye
Sixty seven is gone
The sun is getting high
We're moving on
I'm ninety nine for a moment
Dying for just another moment
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are
Fifteen there's still time for you
Twenty two I feel her too
Thirty three you're on your way
Every day's a new day
Fifteen there's still time for you
Time to buy and time to choose
Hey fifteen, there's never a wish better than this
When you only got hundred years to live

And here's the youtube video (dunno, couldn't get it to embed, and wasn't willing to spend the time):

15 February 2012

My (Barbie) Dream House

In the whole thirty-some years of my existence, I've lived in four houses, two apartments, and one dormitory.  My dream house is a patchwork quilt of those things I've liked (or wanted to change) about those places I've lived, plus things I've seen in magazines or on TV shows, etc.

The house I grew up in was a tiny two-level home with a dark, semi-unfinished basement.  There's really not a whole lot I loved so much about that house that I want to duplicate.  The first house Brent and I bought in Minnesota was a split-level.  That house instilled in me a love for natural light, so my dream house was have plenty of that!  Also, that split-level had vaulted ceilings, which I didn't appreciate until I no longer had them.

Our second house purchase was a two-story (three, by the time you count the finished basement).  The best room was the master bedroom, complete with a spacious full bath and huge walk-in closet.  On the other hand, that house was too spread out...I hated hauling my heavy Kirby vacuum up and down two flights of stairs.  That house was also a lot less open, which was a problem with three small children who ran around at various speeds and ferocities.  I determined that our next house purchase would need to be more open, so that I could easily keep track of the little people. 

Which brings me to the house we currently live in.  It's a ranch style, which I do like.  However, the kitchen, dining area, and living room are all in one, long room, and I don't care for it much now (although it was great when our kids were younger).  Also, the natural light is on the scant side, and I miss that.

For the next house we buy, there's only two things I can think of that are non-negotiable:

Lots of natural light and a huge, roomy kitchen with lots of counterspace. Natch.

14 February 2012

Day 14 - A Non-Fiction Book

Well, I've got two I'll talk about today.

Part of the major requirement in college was a Women's Literature course.  Because I was just *so* busy with whatever I was busy with, I did not read the assigned books at the time I was supposed to read them.  I ended up reading them the semester after...and do I regret that.  I missed out on a good classroom discussion, probably.

"Stone Butch Blues" is what I called fictionalized non-fiction.  The book is a thinly veiled autobiography of Leslie Feinberg, a transgendered lesbian who grew up during the sixties.  The reason I loved that book is that it was a riveting look into a culture I knew NOTHING about.  And, I think in part, that book planted the germ of that mantra I now hold near and dear: All I really know is nothing.  That book started the idea within me that there's so much I don't know...but I am willing to learn.
More recently, another book that has revolutionized my life is Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle".  She chronicles a year in which she and her family eat only what they can grow or produce.  The first time my eyes were opened to the insidious dangers of high fructose corn syrup was during the reading of this book...and things for me haven't been the same since.  I have not gone back to give this book a second reading, but her work led me to those of Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle and others.  All of these authors, along with my own growing awareness, have impelled me to make changes in my diet, and maybe even my career.

13 February 2012

Day 13 - A Fiction Book

Before Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or even before Jane Austen, I loved L. Frank Baum.  It all began with The Wizard of Oz.

But then, I discovered that there were more.  Books after, beyond, and before Dorothy ever touched down in the Land of Oz.

And that's pretty much my childhood (middle school hood, even) in a nutshell.  Checking out the same series of books out, over and over again, from the public library.  Dorothy was independent, resourceful, courageous...everything I wanted to be.  Ozma, the girl ruler, was graceful, kind, beautiful...everything more I wanted to be.

Oz (and its environs) was an amazing, fantastical place where, yes, evil lurked, but it would never triumph over good.  Bad witches and wizards were few and far between, and mostly Oz was populated with talking rabbits and patchwork dolls, paper dolls that were alive, and other incredibly creative creatures.

I loved the Emerald City, and especially the description of the kind, loving people who worked for the benefit of others as well as their own.  Of course, I didn't know it at the time, but there was a socialist element to city living - people distributing their goods and services to those in need (and since everyone was doing thus, everyone was satisfied and content).

Being such a wonderful place and welcoming to humans, I wanted nothing more than to wander within the borders of that country and become a guest.  I grieved for many, many months (even now a twinge of sorrow remains) upon reading Dorothy's announcement at the end of "The Emerald City of Oz" that a spell had been cast by Glinda - a spell that would prevent anyone from ever reaching or even seeing Oz ever again, and because of that, Dorothy would be sending no more word of her adventures to L. Frank Baum for publication.

The Wizard of Oz movie with Judy Garland taught me a very valuable lesson, early on in my life: movies most often are NEVER as good as the books.  And in this case, it was very true. I thank the stars that Hollywood has only made two of the Oz books into movies.

12 February 2012

Clean Sweep

Something I am OCD about, eh?

That would be sweeping.  I run the broom across my kitchen floor at least three times a day (morning, night, and sometime in between).  In fact, I actually never put the broom away because I use it so frequently.

I dread the first snowfall/ice storm of winter (and subsequent ones to boot), because after that event (and the salt/sand trucks that come after that), I am sweeping, sweeping, sweeping grit all the time. 

And here's the thing.  I know I'm never going to be able to sweep up every single little speck.  I know I'm going to pad across my floor every day and feel the grittiness underneath.  I know there's really nothing I can do about it.  Except sweep.  I guess that makes me feel like I'm doing something in the battle against ground dirt.

I don't know where this obsession to sweep comes from.  My mom keeps a clean house, but she's not a perfectionist about it, so I don't think I can attribute my habit to her.  I've even been known to pick up brooms in friends' houses, unbidden, and begin sweeping their floors.  It's just what I do.

So, yeah, there's my idea of hell....being invited to your house and your floors are filthy gritty dirty and you have no broom.

11 February 2012

Day 11 - Me, Recently

Although I'm the one behind the camera mostly, I happen to have a few recent photos of myself.  This one is just over a month old, and was taken in New Orleans.  We're in the French Market, shopping, and I stopped to try on some of the elaborate headpieces (although this one is pretty tame).  Notice the masks in the background...they were for sale EVERYWHERE!

10 February 2012

Me - A Long Time Ago

Okay...well, my husband and I started dating in the late fall of 1995, so the picture I've included here for Day 10 (right?) is probably Valentine's Day 1996.  We're dressed to the nines in the photo below, getting ready to get down at a semi-formal dance being held in our dormitory complex.  Big time!!

My husband's first comment upon scanning in this pic for me? "Look at my baby face!"  Well, dear, you are only 20 years old in that picture!  Personally, I love my lipstick color, and wish I could find a tube of it now.

09 February 2012

Day 9 - A Photo I've Taken

My photography skills are pretty basic.  However, here's one I do happen to like.  And this time, it is of my kids.

I took this at the Cedar Valley Arboretum near Cedar Falls...that lush, colorful setting in itself provided many wonderful photos.  But, I really, really happen to like this one because:

1. Elliot's expression of joy at "catching" a butterfly.
2. His sister's face over his shoulder of an emotion very different - "Eww." Or something similar.

Pictorially speaking, it's a clear, well-framed shot as well.  Personally, though, it just captures the pure, unadulterated essence of children.

08 February 2012

Day 8 - A Photo That Makes Me Angry

Okay, fine, I know this isn't a photo.  I don't care.  It's the last graphic I can remember seeing that elicited some kind of anger response.

And just to clarify, the table above is infuriating NOT because I'm a raging Democrat or anything.  It enrages me because of how obviously, intentionally misleading it is...and that somebody out there is calling himself or herself a "journalist" because of it.

The information above looks to portray Obama in the worst possible light...by connecting various increasing statistics to his time in office.  You, as the reader, are supposed to assume that these increases happened because Obama was our president during that time.  Any sensible, logical person would understand, however, that many factors contribute to such increase in statistics, and that Obama's being in office is only one of those factors.

The same sensible, logical person would also understand that to make a final judgment on Obama's presidency would require another table: "good" increases (number of jobs, employment rates, etc).  Here, only one very, very skewed view is given.

Finally, a sensible, logical person would rightly want to know: from where do these facts and figures come?  Usually, researchers who've done the job they're supposed will tell you where they got their information.  They don't hide it, because it's nothing to be ashamed of.  You'll notice here, there is no such footnote or references.  That makes me wonder: is someone making some of this up?

To me, this graphic up to is the epitome of everything that is illogical and irresponsible.  And that makes me mad.

07 February 2012

Day 7 - A Photo That Makes Me Happy

I suppose my kids should be the no-brainer here, but nah....instead...

This is the Black Forest Cake I made for my husband's birthday just this last weekend.  BFC is a cake that holds special memories for us - it was a dessert our college cafeteria made very, very well.

But, in particular this picture makes me happy because being in the kitchen and making such things makes me very happy.  I am grateful to have a husband with a good-paying job, who is okay with me working part-time and encourages me to pursue my culinary happiness.  Of course, when he has to eat such concoctions like this, he realizes it's a win-win situation.  :)

You'll notice my first attempt of a Black Forest Cake is far from perfect.  In fact, I stacked the cake layers wrong, giving it the weird hourglass shape.  I also applied the whipped topping too early, as it went runny within minutes.  But - the important thing is that it was attempted.  And it was devoured.

06 February 2012

Channeling Julie Andrews Today - A Few of My Favorite Things

Right down the line, no explanation, no justification!

1. Diet Coke
2. Coffee
3. Wine
4. Pink
5. Scarves
6. Sex
7. Chocolate
8. Cake
9. Bananas
10. Garage Sales
11. Cookbooks
12. Autumn
13. Blue Skies
14. Shopping
15. Shoes
16. Walking
17. My iPod
18. Books about Food
19. Being with People
20. Clever authors

Wow.  That went fast. 

05 February 2012

Whoo! An Easy Entry, Today!

Day 5 - Favorite quotes.

Now, that one is simple. 

"All that I really know, is that I know nothing." - Socrates

This has been a favorite of mine for many years.  There is no person, situation, or idea on this planet that I cannot learn something from.  I hope, hope, hope to never act as if I do know every thing.

"All that is gold does not glitter. All those who wander are not lost."  - JRR Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring

I have the last seven words tattooed on my foot, as a constant, always-viewable, reminder that even if I don't see the path at my feet or know every twist and turn, I am not lost.  I am a wanderer, and that might be the best experience of all.

And a new one:

"Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry."  - Mark Twain

Yes, it's a variant of the "Carpe Diem" mantra, but Mark Twain says it more eloquently (and cleverly).  Get busy livin' or get busy dyin'.

Damn skippy.

04 February 2012

Q: What's the Worst Question to Ask a Bibliophile?

A: Their favorite book.

Again, I get very wrapped up in criteria when it comes to discerning these things.  Sure, I could give you a great long list of books I like, or love.  But favorites?  That's narrowing it down to a microscopic thing.

So, I've got three.

Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice".  I have lost count of how many times I've read this book over the last twenty years.  I used to enjoy the complicated romance of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, but as I grew older, I appreciated other things: the genuine description of Regency England, the rules and standards in place for women and men of the time, the sort-of-sad-sort-of-not story of Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins.  To me now, this book is like a comfy pair of sweatpants - totally old and familiar, but still a great source of joy and comfort.

Alice Walker's "The Color Purple".  Though it's been awhile since I've reread this book, it's quite a powerful story of love, loss, redemption, friendship, and life.  Okay, yes, racism is a significant component, but it doesn't eclipse the other themes.

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's "Good Omens".  Most of the books I read are either deep and written as such or fun and written as such.  "Good Omens" is what happens when a book is fun and deeply written.  The topic is religion, namely the coming of the end of the world...but you know, done in a fun and extremely clever way.  Trust me, you'll want to be one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (albeit a marginal one) too.

03 February 2012

Day 3 - My Television Viewing History

Another tricky blog topic to write about....but maybe not for the reasons you think.

I can remember a time when our family (namely Brent and I, toddler children notwithstanding) watched a significant amount of TV.  Our weekly favorites included Dharma & Greg and Spin City.

Then, January 2001, we attended a Super Bowl party, and after the big game was over, everyone opted to stay and watch a much-hyped reality TV show called 'Survivor: The Australian Outback'.

From there, Brent and I tuned in weekly.  Religiously, as it were.  Remember, this was long before DVR or even TiVo, so if we missed it, it was VHS all the way.  And then the show ended, and remember feeling let down.  I also remember hating the feeling of being tied to the TV on those nights.

Then, in 2002, both Dharma and Greg and Spin City ended.  And that seemed to be the sign from the universe.  We never found replacement shows, and the TV was on only for episodes of "Blue's Clues" or "Go Diego Go" (during the day).

Mostly, we kept ourselves to movies...until the advent of Netflix, and particularly, the streaming component.  Nowadays, I'd say my favorite TV show is The Office.  For some reason, I get a kick out of Dwight Schrute.  Steve Carell's character (before he left) was funny, but more often than not his stupidity drives me crazy...and the great thing about Netflix streaming is that I can fast-forward through his scenes.  I often wonder, if nearly the entire season of The Office weren't available on Netflix, would I still watch and enjoy it?

Every now and then, I catch something on the Food Network, like Rachael Ray or Barefoot Contessa, but not often enough to say their programs are my favorite.

02 February 2012

Just One Movie? I Can't!

Day two and already I'm racking my brain into exhaustion.  My favorite movie?  What does that even mean?

Once upon a time, I would have said 'Lord of the Rings'.  However, when I watch it now, there are certain parts I fast-forward through, just so I can get to what I call the 'good parts'.  Is it still my favorite movie then?

These are the things that keep one up at night.

I asked my husband what his fave movie was, and he answered 'Hoosiers' without hesitation.  Someone asks me, and I've got to really think about it!

But ultimately, I think I've got two.

"Pride and Prejudice" - Not the newest one with Keira Knightley, but the 1995 BBC TV mini-series with Colin Firth.  Roughly six hours in length, I am captivated by the scenery and the costumes.  Of course, all of the characters are well-played too.  Some say there's too many shots of Mr. Darcy brooding (:D), but he is experiencing some serious inner turmoil - going against the norms of the time, by being in love with a woman beneath his station.  I love Austen's book of the same name, and I feel this version captures the spirit of the book the best.

"The Gamers: Dorkness Rising" - Not a mainstream film, but one that I'll actually watch over and over.  It's a light, comical film that depicts a group of people roleplaying a Dungeons and Dragons adventure.  Because I play D & D too, there's a lot of references and jokes that I understand.  I do love the nerd factor as well.  And there's even a hint of romance, but nothing that overtakes the story. 

01 February 2012

Day 1 - Favorite Song

In these times of practically unlimited choices, it's quite hard to narrow down my favorite song.  I mean, there's lots of songs I like, depending on my mood or where I'm at.  There's also many popular songs I really like listening to right now, but I may be tired of them in a couple of months.

My criteria for favorite song goes like this: it's one that no matter where I'm at or what I'm doing, I'll listen to it happily.  I also get a little smile on my face and leap in my heart when I hear the first few bars.

And if I go by those parameters alone, I get it down to three songs.

1.  "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd.  My blog is named after that song, and that should tell you something.  I was turned on to PF in college, and this quickly became a favorite.  It's slow, it's sad, but it's provocative.  I vividly remember spending the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college in Ames, and as I entered the computer lab one night, a guy was sitting on the steps, playing this song on his acoustic guitar.  I stopped and listened, and I will never forget that moment.

2.  "As I Lay Me Down" by Sophie B. Hawkins.  Anything, really, by Hawkins takes me back to my and Brent's first summer as a couple (summer after the one mentioned above - 1996).  We listened to a lot of SBH, and her songs always remind me of those fond, carefree memories.

3.  "I Gotta Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas.  This more recent song never fails to lift my mood.