My online journal.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Amazing Roasted Tomato Sauce

Hi gang!
Listen, I know Lucy turned 6 and I haven't posted, and Jean got married and I haven't posted... but I made this tomato dish tonight and NOW I AM POSTING. Make this, and you'll see why.
It's from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver -- I discovered it when our CSA (crazyboyfarm.com) posted it on their website.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

8 cups tomatoes coarsely chopped
1 cup onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic whole (I used minced)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (I used a diced jalapeno pepper)
1/2 cup olive oil

Mix together in shallow baking pan, and roast at 450 degrees for 35-40 minutes. As it cools mash with potato masher or fork and add 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil.

It honestly ought to have a warning attached -- you can go ahead and plan to freeze some for later, but it'll be really hard to keep it out of your mouth first.

I served this tonight over penne pasta and the kids devoured it. But my FAVORITE way to eat this is hot or cold, on top of a toasted slice of crusty bread. It's RIDICULOUS how good it is.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The blog is dead; long live the blog

I just like saying that. Thank you to the four of you who continue to check this thing despite my completely sporadic postings.

First, business: Congratulations to my cousin Bridget, winner of a copy of The Weight of Shadows by Alison Strobel! Bree, your book will be in the mail. Eventually. Everyone else, thanks for your interest -- you can borrow my copy!

And a note from Alison:

Hey there! I just wanted to say thanks to my fine blog hostess and to her readers. I have been really excited to see how many people are thinking of picking up the book because of the reviews they read during the blog tour. And thank you to everyone who entered the contest! I'll be drawing a winner on July 18 and posting it on my blog. If you haven't stopped by my blog or website yet, I hope you'll pop over sometime and say hi in the comments or on the guest book. Also, if you're interested in hearing about my next releases and any other exciting news that happens to come up, please sign up to receive my announcements--the sign-up is on my website. I have another novel coming out in September, two more next year, and two children's books that my husband and I wrote (the first of which comes out August 1), so there will be plenty of news coming, and I try to host contests now and then on my blog, too.

Thanks again! And if you do decide to pick up The Weight of Shadows and give it a read, please come tell me what you thought of it. I mean it. :)

~Alison

Now back to the personal stuff. Our summer has been wonderful so far, if super-hectic. I'm happy to say it's... well, I was about to say "slowing down" but I'm not sure that's accurate. Today was a perfect, lovely day: got up early, walked with my mom, kissed her and Gpa Books goodbye after a great long visit, went rollerskating with the kids and my friend Sherry and her son Marty, kissed my kids goodbye as they went off to gymnastics class with the Dalys, taught a quick dance lesson, made my kids' lunch, took a teensy nap, mowed the lawn, washed the sheets, took the kids to the library/community garden/free snack at the rec center, then home for dinner, baths, and bedtime. And the All-Star game is on! Sorta a perfect day.

Except it fell on the heels of several heavy-exercise days, all coming on the tail end of an icky cough, so now I can neither walk nor swallow without 12 daily ibuprofen. I sure do like to walk and swallow. God bless ibuprofen.

So anyway, last 2 weeks Lucy participated in Ashland's theatre camp -- they put on a production of Tom Sawyer. LUCY LOVED IT. And it was a great experience for her. She got to be at camp all day, got to practice eating lunch with other kids. And she got to be ON STAGE. Which she loves. The grandparents and aunties all made it out to see her and it meant the world to her. She has not stopped singing the songs, and she KEEPS ASKING ME when she can be in another show.

Yesterday my friend Rob and I auditioned for "Joseph" at the Ordway (the biggest pro theatre in St. Paul). We learned a difficult but fun dance combo, and we both were asked to stay and sing ... we sang... then they asked us to stay again(!) and then we learned another, more difficult (but also more fun) dance combo. Then they sent everyone home so it seemed like they just really wanted to give us a superlong, free, mostly awesome dance class. Which it was!

So also, yes, I am in a recreational roller derby group. I do not have a fancy name, and I've only been on my skates once, but I think it's going to be super fun.

I am also going to be in a Minnesota Fringe Festival show! Every summer the Fringe Festival is a massive bunch of short theatre pieces that are ... well ... on the "fringe" of mainstream theatre. I'm dancing in the opening act of "Kathy Jensen is Pretty" (a one-woman show about an LA nude model). So that's in August.

And I'm going to be teaching dance again in the fall -- young kids' pre-ballet and musical-theatre dance in Maplewood, Inver Grove and Shoreview. I'm excited to have a paycheck again! Gotta support the new derby habit -- skates are spendy.

Off to check the All-Star score. Later!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Win a copy of Alison Strobel's "The Weight of Shadows"!

You've maybably heard me mention my friend Alison, who I met back in high school and who has gone on to become a fabulous published author.

Here she is:


Alison has been a Christian since she was a little kid -- her dad was a journalist, and then a pastor (and is now a very well-established author himself). Alison was the first Christian I'd ever met who had a personal relationship with Jesus. My family had always gone to church, and I went to Catholic school for 8 years, but I was intrigued about this different kind of spirituality. After college, I read her dad's first couple of books and they really blew my mind. (I recommend those to you, as well -- but I digress.)

Alison is the author of novels Worlds Collide and Violette Between, and has written a children's book, That's Where God Is, with her husband Dan.

Her latest book, The Weight of Shadows, has just come out, and I devoured it in just a couple days -- and mind you, I am a sloooooow reader. The tagline goes like this:

Kim finally found a release for her guilt--but is her penance more important than her daughter's life?


Sounds a bit melodramatic, but it's totally not. Which doesn't mean it's not gripping! Because it totally is! Argh, I am the worst book-reviewer ever. Anyway, I read a review of "The Weight of Shadows" that called it "an important book" and I totally agree. I read about domestic abuse in the papers all the time... yet how is it that I've never before read a novel about it? Alison intertwines a small handful of storylines involving very real, sympathetic, flawed characters. And the Christianness of the book is so natural, so integrated, that I hesitate even to call it a "Christian" book. It's just a book about people -- some of them know Jesus, some don't, some find Him, some don't.

The way Alison writes it is very realistic, I think -- sometimes some of the characters burst into prayer. (People mock musicals because, they say, "People don't just burst into song!" But I assure you: They Do. Same thing with prayer.) Reading the book, it struck me how little faith of any kind is portrayed in most of the books we read. Why is that, do you think? I mean, I know in lots of books the characters dash off a quick prayer before heading into one dramatic situation or another -- but rarely do you read real characters, of ANY faith, actively practicing that faith. OK anyway. The Weight of Shadows is not just a character study, although the characters are indeed compelling. I grew to love the characters in all their damaged humanity; I cried in several spots. And the storyline is also fascinating and engaging. It's a very well-written book that I highly recommend, and it's my birthday and I'm tired so I'm just going to leave it at that!

And TWO Contests!

First, from me (Meg):
If you comment on this post (below), I will send you a FREE copy of The Weight of Shadows. Seriously! And I know I'll get, like, one or two comments so your chances of winning are exceedingly high. Comment!

And second, from Alison:
On July 18th, which is one week after the close of the tour*, I'll choose one commentor from a randomly selected blog to receive either autographed copies of my first three books or a gift card to their favorite bookstore.
*Meg again: I didn't do a good job of explaining that I'm part of a "blog tour" Alison has put together to get the word out about her book. Basically lots of other bloggers are also writing about The Weight of Shadows. Who? Why, funny you should ask -- click the "Who else is blogging..." link below.

So there you have it. It's a great book, and you can get it for free. Comment now!

LINKS:
Alison's website
Who else is blogging about this book?
The Weight of Shadows at Amazon
The Weight of Shadows at Christianbook.com

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Eating... GOOD

Hey there! Got back from out 10-year anniversary trip to Holland and Belgium and it was awesome! All my pics are on facebook -- I'm hoping to put my journal up on here but I can't really see that happening any time soon. It was a great trip -- loved experiencing how they do things across the pond, loved the challenges and surprises of travelling.

Joel and I brought home about 5 pounds of cheese: Gouda, Emmenthaler, and some delicious, mild variety that was served every morning in our B&Bs. What a difference REAL cheese makes! Wow. Anyway, we also got our first box of organic produce from our CSA: mustard greens, pac choy, mint, rhubarb, and a couple kinds of spinach. And it, also, is awesome.

AND we've been getting farm-fresh eggs for the last couple months. I think they're from part-time free-range hens. And Cameron bought me some wild rice! ANNNNND being gone for a week earned us a couple extra bucks in our grocery budget, which I'm hoping to put toward the occasional grass-fed-beef and free-range-chicken purchase. Joel likes to have meat every day for dinner, and even though the food experts say meat is one thing that it's really important to buy organically, it is truly prohibitively expensive. I mean, I can get 90%-lean ground beef at Aldi for $2.99/lb. or I can spend almost three times that on the good stuff. So I don't know. I think we can do the occasional splurge, especially if I can cut back on the meat -- like, for example, I made spaghetti last night and just didn't put the sausage in (all right, if you're really curious, I forgot to defrost it) and the kids actually preferred it that way. Incroyable! Of course, tonight I made a fab egg bake (with wild rice and mustard greens sauteed in soy sauce) and the kids hated it. Win some, lose some.

Hey, I turn 34 tomorrow at 8:47 am. Watch this space early-morning June 25 for my review of Alison's book (and a chance to win free books! Plural!).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Soupy-cute-a-saurus!

Tonight, Lucy and I had our dress rehearsal for our dance recital this week. I'd gotten my costumes ahead of time, but I hadn't even seen Lucy's yet. And, I'll be honest, I was thinking, hmm, little girls in dinosaur costumes -- how will this work?

But, can I just say, she has The Cutest costume in maybe the whole show.

They're dinosaurs!


Rrrraaawwrrrr!!
The tail is totally the best part.


The face of a Gronau; the shoulders of her mama.

Tomorrow, we add makeup. Craaaazy fun!

Hmmm.

Lucy came home from school today with a book from her class library, entitled:

Yes... that's right. I mean, really. I believe someone at Rigby publications is having a BIT too much fun choosing their titles.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

More teasing about Alison's book

Watch the trailer for The Weight of Shadows by clicking here.

Or going here:
http://www.alisonstrobel.com/trailers/

Friday, May 21, 2010

Teaser! Win a free book (for serious!)!

Way way back in 1990, my freshman year of high school, I met my friend Alison Strobel. Skip ahead 20 years and she's a published author! Her third novel, The Weight of Shadows, has just been released, and I am part of Alison's "blog tour" to help promote this latest offering.

So... WATCH THIS SPACE on Friday, June 25 for my review and your chance to win a free copy of The Weight of Shadows, delivered to your very door. You'll have to figure out how to leave a comment here in order to enter the drawing for the free book, so if that's been difficult for you, I suggest you practice. Like, starting now.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Rain, rain go away

...come again periodically throughout the rest of the summer, even once a week would be great, mostly overnight and early mornings, but once or twice on a sleepy afternoon wouldn't be so bad, either.

Or, as I sang in elementary school:

Rain rain go away; come again another day
If you don't, I don't care, stick it in your underwear.

This is sort of what it has come to -- Dear Rain, you may STICK IT IN YOUR UNDERWEAR. I said last Friday that I felt I would never be warm and dry again... and it's nearly a full week later. Still soaking wet and freezing cold.

But still, is this worse than hot and windy? I can't decide.

Our school-year activities are all dropping off, one by one. Yesterday was Lucy's last dance class; this morning was our last Bible study. Next week is the end of gymnastics and swimming (well, except for a makeup for last week's puke-in-the-pool cancellation). It's all sorta weird because Nokomis and ECFE still have four weeks left. I know it'll be a busy time, regardless -- I've still got 6 dates down at Hastings, plus Lucy's and my recital, and prepping for our June vacation... not to mention all the end-of-the-year picnics, meetings, field trips etc.

Huh, I guess this might be a short update. Ummm, let's see. Well yesterday I found out that not only does Ed know most of his letters, but he also knows the sounds a lot of them make! Lucy was playing on pbskids.org  but had to leave for school, so Ed got a chance to use it, solo, for the first time. I was really surprised by how much he knew -- he was choosing the right letters for words like sled, big, and wag. Really fun. He's starting to get excited for school in the fall, too -- he asks all the time if he's still four and when he'll be turning five, and I'm taking him in today to get his registration completed for Nokomis.

Sample conversation with Eddie:

Ed: "Can I watch a movie?"

Me: "No."

Ed: "AAAUUUGH! No! I decided to watch a movie! Mom! I DECIDED TO WATCH A MOVIE!"

And yesterday he asked me what "migration" meant, and I told him, and this morning he explained to Joel that lots of animals migrate, birds and sharks and dinosaurs, and that it means to move around to get more food. And then he yelled "THEY'RE HERBIVORES!!!" completely out of context.

OK I have to go read him a book to get him to stop asking about the movie.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Well, THAT didn't go so well

Alas, I guess 2 hours of writing per week is more than I can currently handle! In my defense, Joel's sister Julie is getting married next weekend and Joel, Lucy and I are standing up in it... plus Jean and I are doing the ceremony music. I'm a bit consumed. I remember planning my own wedding and being super-grateful for my lackadaisical office job (online editing for Consumers Digest; don't bother to look, because the web site is basically a 2-page advert for the magazine, which is NOT A REAL MAGAZINE but possibly some sort of Mafia shell organization -- anyway, the work my cohorts and I did there is looooong gone), which allowed me to give the appearance of doing work while, in reality, spending hours each day on theknot.com.

I love weddings -- I love the pageantry, the drama. I love dressing up. I'm a completely hopeless romantic, which really surprises me because I'm not the sort to moon over Joel, posting sappy things on Facebook or writing lengthy tributes to him on Father's Day. Maybe I just love the idea of true love, and the overwhelming optimism of a wedding. In a weird way, it's the same feeling I got when I saw the baby trees lined up along 3rd Street, waiting to be planted to replace the tall, shady ash trees that they chopped down last month. "Hope springs eternal" is the phrase that popped into my head when I saw the baby trees. I feel the same way at a wedding, and it's a comforting, warm feeling, like stepping out into the sunshine on a spring day.

Speaking of sunshine, what a lovely weekend we had! Joel and the kids and I got quite a bit of yard-readiness stuff done -- weeding the strawberries (that I SWEAR never turned brown or hibernated over the winter -- is that even possible?), planting the measly remains of last year's seed packets, mowing the lawn, busting out some of our homegrown compost, etc. Joel is, I'd say, completely sold on the composting -- thanks to our 2 heaps, we've got so many worms in our garden that he and the kids are skipping with glee (and I grit my teeth and try to grin; Lordy, do I hate creepy-crawly things). Joel's thinking he *might* even try to convince his parents, the staunch non-recycling plastic-burners, that they ought to compost up at the lake. There would be SO many advantages for them: for one, it'd be WAY less garbage they'd have to haul back to Monti every Sunday; for two, they'd have a neverending supply of worms to fish with. The number of eggshells, fruit rinds, and coffee grounds alone would make a huge difference. But it's so hard to change people's minds -- and I know they're worried about raccoons. Any ideas, blogosphere?

On Saturday Lucy and I had a really lovely Girls' Day together. We hit the post office, a couple garage sales (I scored a pair of hockey skates for JG for $5), then Herberger's, to try to find a better-fitting suit for Eddie for the wedding (Donna bought him a suit set at TJMaxx for $30, hard to beat, but the jacket, shirt, and tie are all a teeeensy bit too small). Well, all Herberger's had was CK jackets for... egads!... $78. They did have some super-adorable boys' ties that zip instead of clip... but not practical enough for this Mama. Lucy did get a dress for $15; I got a training bra for $12, and we knocked off a needed birthday gift as well. We roamed the mall for about 20 minutes (I may be able to have remarkably grown-up conversations with the little lade, but we're still dealing with that 5.5-year-old attention span), then hit McDonald's so we could redeem her coupon for a free Happy Meal for reading 10 books all on her own. Her teacher has a "book bag" program for students starting to read, where she gives them a little tote with a book in it and a log for me to sign after Lucy reads it. The books are VERY simple (I pack my bag. I put in my shirt. I put in my socks. I put in my pants. I zip my bag.) but, ladies and gentlemen, the girl is READING. It's just the coolest thing. I'm so proud of how hard she works, sounding things out and flipping through her "sight words" (the teacher also sends home a ring of flashcards with words on it that Lucy doesn't need to sound-out but can recognize on sight, like "as," "was," "in," "were," and so on). She made it part-way through Goodnight Moon this morning, and it's really interesting reading it through her eyes -- I would have though that was the simplest book ever, and yet words like "telephone" and "mouse" that we just KNOW, she has to really work through.

Sidetracked! OK so then Lucy and I went to SuperTarget -- NOT the place to go when you only need 4 things, let me tell you. We got into a very in-depth discussion about why white tights would look better with her white-and-red flower girl dress (with red shoes) than pink tights. She almost won, too -- I'm usually the first to remind dancers how pink tights are generally more flattering than white. After our shopping trip (and subsequent nap), Jean came over and she and I went for a run before practicing our songs for Julie's shindig. I believe we are ready... I believe we're going to sound fine (if not maybe even pretty good in spots!)... but that's not going to stop my bowels from loosing themselves this coming Saturday. Must remember to stay hydrated.

Lucy and I then caught the evening performance of Willy Wonka at Ashland. I think she totally loved it (with candy as the subject matter, I'm not surprised), and it was so great to see so many people I know on stage and in the audience. Can't believe how much some of the kids have grown... their bodies along with their talent!

Going backward, I spent Friday night babysitting for a dear ECFE friend who had not had a date with her husband in... well, it sorta sounded like forever. They have 2 kids, age 4.5 and 1.5, and it was really fun seeing another family's bedtime routine. Plus it was nice to get some time alone to myself, with no guilt about housework. Plus they have cable so I got to watch the Twins game! Plus Laska and I got to talk (very briefly) about writing. Good stuff.

This week I'm starting my spring gig choreographing for Hastings HS's spring choir concert. Today I choreo'd "Da Doo Ron Ron" for the sophomore girls' group -- I teach it Tuesday. It's a nice, simple one to start with -- not like getting tossed right in with the 200+ boys like I was the first year! The boys, btw, are doing "Seize the Day" from Newsies, plus a Bon Jovi medley. There's so much pressure for the boys' group to be the highlight of the evening -- and I'm under strict instructions to keep their movement MANLY, plus their director is the main director, Lin Warren. He's been getting quite a bit of press following the success of Hastings varsity show choir, Riverside Company, and of course because of the size of Hastings' choir department. Anyway, Newsies will be fun but a serious challenge (I want the dancing to be especially athletic, but we're limited on time), and I'm guessing it'd be gauche to steal the Bon Jovi choreo (not mine) from the Hastings show 2 years ago. Though it totally rocked. So I have my work cut out for me.

Well, my hour is up! See ya!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Flashdance!

For those of you on the moon, I got to be in a flash mob yesterday morning. I stink at posting videos, so here are a couple links.


Supershort clip (but this site will have a fully-edited, "super cool" clip on Monday, so check back: http://www.youtube.com/meetminneapolis

The FULL video (including 2.5 intro minutes of "crowd milling about," featuring me (in orangey pants and a navy Mauer t-shirt, carrying a big red bag) attempting (desperately, unattractively, and in vain), to untuck my undershirt from my underpants. Also you can see me during the dancing:
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/news_cut/archive/2010/04/flash_mob_at_the_twins_game.shtml?refid=0

I'm told this one is of better quality: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDQPPtIS6-0

I'd read about auditions for the flash mob (which were not true auditions -- they took everyone, I believe) online and I went, tried out, and went back for 2 rehearsals, then just showed up on the plaza at Target Field for a quick rehearsal (at 8am Thursday... groan...) and then wandered around for 90 minutes until they started playing the music. I dunno... what else do you want to know? It was crazy fun, I got crazy nervous, and I met a whole bunch of crazy-cool people. Many of whom are working actors here in the Cities, so it was great making some connections.

Monday, April 12, 2010

One hour of writing

Well, here I am lying in bed at 6:25 AM -- and if you're reading this you know me well enough to know that I am not typically up at this hour. But after a dayful of dance rehearsals yesterday, and putting the kids down at 6:45 last night... well, I zonked out at 9:30 and then I was wide-awake at 5:30 this morning. I'm guessing this is part of aging. I hate it. I'll probably never get to sleep until 10AM ever, ever again and I miss it already!

We've been able to sleep with the windows open the last several nights, which is pretty much my favorite thing ever. Except the birds are LOUD at 6AM! We've got this massive, gorgeous pine tree outside our bedroom window (it would make a really lovely municipal Christmas tree) and there have got to be dozens of birds trying to mate in there, not to mention a mess of squirrels, too. The cacophony is really quite beautiful; I'm not complaining. I wish I knew bird-calls better -- or could even explain them better -- there's one song I've recognized since I was a kid but I don't know which bird makes it. It's 2 very clear notes, the first one higher than the second. Then there's a return-call that's 2 notes lower. I know, super-descriptive, right? If I could play it on the piano it would ... well, I'd have to get up and go to the piano to work that out for you, and I'm tucked REAL snuggly into bed... plus Joel just brought me a steaming cup of coffee, so you'll have to wait.

So a couple days ago at breakfast Lucy said "Mama I had a dream," and I encouraged her to talk about it, and she replied that she wouldn't, because then it wouldn't come true. Which means the dream was definitely about her becoming a princess and wearing the same dress every day with no shorts underneath, and then getting candy for breakfast and never having to brush her hair ever again, and also about finally being able to swallow her toothpaste. Anyway, Cinderella, the old '50s Disney cartoon version, is to blame for this notion of "Your wish won't come true if you tell people about it," And (and this just occurred to me the other day as I was talking with Lucy) it's HORRIBLE! If you have a wish you want to come true, you must TELL AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE, because A) They can help hold you accountable, and B) You never know when someone will be able to help you achieve your dream. I remember watching Cinderella as a kid, and I remember that line, where Cinderella won't tell her little bird-friends about her dream. And I swear this is why I never dated in high school -- I honestly thought if I kept my hopes and wishes to myself, they were more likely to come true. Ah, the wasted time! Of course, for Cinderella, wonderful things magically came to her, but this is not realistic. We must share our goals, our hopes, our dreams. So we can work toward them, allowing others to support and guide us on our path.

OK so this is part of the reason I'm here writing at 6:47 AM -- my life coach is encouraging me to do more writing, so Step 1 of that is, strangely enough, Doing More Writing. Because I've always thought I could be A Writer, and I know I need to write to make that happen, and I haven't been writing. She's holding me to 2 hours per week of writing and I need to get it done by Tuesday and here it is Monday morning and it was a crazy weekend so now I need to find another 90 minutes to write before 10AM Tuesday. I work well under deadlines, but I've got meetings and rehearsals and phone calls and grocery shopping to do, and I'm starting to panic. Just a little.

The good news is, it was a remarkably productive weekend, and because this blog is not only a way for me to Do Some Writing but also a journal-of-sorts, I ought to record here what a FABULOUS spring we're having. Not a flake of snow in March, for the first time since 1878 (and March is typically our second-snowiest month). We haven't had wintry weather to speak of since late February, and that, my friends, is simply delightful. It's done wonderful things for my mood, AND my green onions are already more bountiful than I know what to do with. At the rate we're going, we'll have rhubarb pie before May. Mmmmm!

Joel went on a spring-cleaning rampage the last couple of days. He emptied out much of the garage, mowed some of the lawn, put some fencing up around the garden, and tidied up the entire main level of our house. I hemmed my dress for Julie's wedding, took up the straps on Lucy's dress (and tacked the front so it lays flat), cut Ed's hair, and tried curling Lucy's hair (it REALLY doesn't want to curl, and she REALLY doesn't care to sit for the curling process, so I think it's just going to be straight for the wedding, which is just fine by me). We got a bit of laundry done -- I even dried some stuff on the clothesline (in April! Wheee!), and we also had Jean and the Dalys over for dinner-and-margaritas-on-the-deck. I'm SO glad we get to do that kind of thing with people we love. Jean and I got to practice the music for Julie's wedding -- less than 2 weeks to go! My stomach churns at the thought. Today, my goal is to get Eddie to try on his wedding outfit. That might not sound too challenging, but I promise you it will be a feat of epic psychological warfare.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hey Grampa Books!

Dad, did you teach Eddie to say "Fee, Fi, Foe, Fummin', I smell the blood of an EnglishWOMAN!" 

... because it's hilarious!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

In which I atone for my absence

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Wow, it's been so long since I wrote -- three weeks!! -- that "blogger.com" doesn't even pop up in my navigation bar when I start typing. That, my friends, is what you call "sloth."

Except I haven't been slothing! I swear! I got sick right before Ed's birthday and I feel like it's been an uphill battle since then. Add in Joel going on two separate trips, plus 2 more b-day parties for Eddie, plus 2 wedding showers for Julie, and I feel like I've been running on fumes for all of March. Which is a shame, because it's been a particularly lovely March, weather-wise: sometimes chilly but often quite fantastic. I've been able to snuggle Eddie into several wonderful afternoon naps, even though he hasn't napped regularly for at least 6 months. And I've been remarkably un-busy in the dance-teaching department. This was by choice, for Lucy's first year in school. It's been a successful experiment on some level -- there have been Zero afternoons of flying around like crazy chickens, trying to arrange childcare and choreography at the last moment -- but we have been missing the money, and I'm also missing the work. I'm looking forward to diving back in ... maybe in a couple years. I would love to be able to honor Ed's first year in school (this fall! Already!) in the same way, but 1. I don't see myself sitting idle every afternoon, and 2. I'm just getting a little... itchy. A few stay-home moms I know are taking a "Year Of Mom" for their youngest child's first year in full day Kindergarten (which is all that's offered here in St. Paul, and which would be the 2011-12 school year for me). Basically, trying not to overcommit during that first year when I'd have an Entire 7-Hour Stretch All To Myself Every Weekday. I kind of can't even imagine the freedom.

I've been meeting with a Life Coach lately -- she's a doll and is supposed to help me figure out what I really want to be when I grow up. So far we've figured out that I love change/variety, deadline/project-oriented work, and teaching/service/helping others. Fortunately, that lines up well with itinerant dance-teaching. Another thing that popped up is becoming a doula -- an assistant to an expectant mother during labor. I'm doing some research, and I'm blessed with some wonderful doula friends who are happy to share their knowledge and experiences. Joel and I rented "Up in the Air" last night -- loved it!! The movie makes the point, along its way, that life is too short not to do what you love. I've heard the phrase "Do what you love, and the money will follow" -- it kinda sounds way too good to be true, but part of the faith journey I've been going on in my Bible study this year has also led me to the same conclusion. What if the reason a super-steady, stable, boring office job feels so wrong to me is that it's not what I'm meant to be doing? What if there really is a bigger plan -- some work I'm meant to do that can make a difference? Well I dunno. I'm working on it.

Kids have been SUPER cute lately. I drove Eddie into the Subway parking lot to check out prices on their loooong party subs (astronomical, btw), and Ed took one look at the storefront and said, "Mama, is this Five Dollar Foot Longs?" and then when I got back in the car he muttered "Subway. Eat fresh!" Take heed, marketing people -- whoever's doing Subway's ads is a GENIUS.

Lucy asked me the other day if she could make something "All by myself, with no recipe." Here's what I do know was in it: cheddar cheese, mustard, mayo, fennel, cinnamon (lots of cinnamon), salt, chicken bouillon, green food coloring, and an egg. She did microwave it long enough to cook the egg, but HOLY HECK was it uneatable. She tasted some, offered me some (I did try it), and then insisted we save the rest so Daddy could join in the feast when he got home.

Last night we convinced Ed and Lucy to TRY ONE BITE of the spinach/walnut/craisin/bleu cheese salad I made. We told them it was just like in Ratatouille, when the rat eats a bite of cheese along with a strawberry, and the flavors mix together and make something wonderful. They both ate more than one bite (wahoo!!) and Eddie said "I think I'm getting a flavor.... Hmmm. It makes my shoulders go up, and I shiver." Score one for bleu cheese.

And: you know your kid is reading too many books about sea animals when you're eating shrimp for supper and your son asks you to "Pass the krill." Also the other day Ed hugged me and said "Think big, Mama, and you can do great things!" And also, Lucy has been using "whom" correctly. As I said in my Facebook post documenting some of these, I'm pretty sure God has given me exactly the right kids.


And, sorry, one more random reflection: I know I've said this before, but as I suck down the final dregs of a Cherry Coke (and oh, how delicious it was!), I'm reminded how healthy eating begets healthy eating, and unhealthy-vice-versa. I had a couple handfuls of Cheez-its this afternoon and I immediately craved a Coke. How terrible is that!? If I could've left the Cheez-its alone, I would have been soooo happy with water and some avocado slices... but noooo, I had to go and Cheez it up. Grrrr! Anyway, if anybody's having trouble making healthy food choices this early spring (with Easter candy rearing its ugly head, and farm-fresh produce still a few months out), Take Heart! Be Strong! You aren't alone. 


And, OK, listen, I'm really sorry, but here are some Facebook statuses I've been posting which I now would like to document in some format I am hoping I'll actually be able to print out someday. You know, for posterity. Anyway: 

1. My dance teacher told me I have "great feet for yoga." By which I'm pretty sure she means "chimpanzee feet."

Yeah, see, some of these things are better with the comments that get added. For example, my friend Sherry (a yoga teacher) explained that "your toes have some separation, and they support your feet on 'all four corners,' as we yogis say." 

2. Things I'd Never Imagine Would Come Out of My Mouth #416: "Lucy doesn't mean "a boyfriend," she means "a boy toy."

OK, now this one, people laughed but nobody asked for an explanation! And so I give it here, where you are captive. So, you know how little kids anthropomorphize their toys and call them their "friends"? I assure you, they do. Lucy was talking about how Eddie has boy "friends," while she prefers girl "friends." Lucy then added "Someday, when I have a boy friend..." and Joel shot her A LOOK from across the room, and I jumped in, trying to clarify, by saying "She doesn't mean 'a boy friend,' she means 'a boy toy.'" Which, as you can see, actually sounds much worse.


All right, I'm outta here.

 

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Happy 4th birthday Eddo!

Something about the late-afternoon sunshine streaming into my kitchen window brings on waves of introspection and nostalgia for me. And if that late-afternoon sunshine is accompanied by any sort of public radio programming -- Prairie Home Companion, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me... even All Things Considered (the theme music for which is inextricably linked (within my brain) with the sound and smell of Italian sausage cooking) -- my wiping and bustling and swishing and chopping can be brought to a complete standstill. And sometimes I even cry.

I have a long and varied relationship with late-afternoon sunshine. As a pre-teen I recall the first of many migraines exacerbated by the unremitting bore of late-afternoon sunshine. I have other memories of watching dust float through the sunbeams in one living room or another... of pre-dinner TV shows like I Dream of Jeannie or The Andy Griffith Show (if the Cubs game had ended but Mom hadn't yet come in to switch off the tube).

When I stop to think about it (as I now have), that kind of sun, that specific angle, happens at very different times throughout the year. Now, March 7 in the Twin Cities, 4:30 PM is exactly the right time. But around Christmastime, it's pitch-black at 4:30. And this kind of sunlight comes looong after dinnertime, maybe even 7:30 or 8 PM, at the height of summer. It's one of the wonderful, interesting, and ever-changing things I love about Minnesota weather.

I feel like I'm still shaking off the cobwebs in my brain and body after the last three days. On Wednesday, Joel went to Jamaica for his soon-to-be-brother-in-law Jeff's bachelor party, and my dad came in for a visit... and I promptly came down with the most debilitating fever-thing I have EVER had. Honestly, I could not prepare myself a Neti Pot on Thursday without having to sit and rest for several minutes in between steps. It was brutal. I missed dance class, a funeral, Bible study (including a fellowship session I was FINALLY going to get to attend since my dad was in to babysit), morning workout, volleyball, lunch with a friend-from-out-of-town... and my poor 68-year-old dad took the brunt of the childcare responsibilities for nearly three days. AND I was pretty much a zombie when my mom came in and we took Jean shopping for wedding stuff (she bought a dress!! eeeeeek!) and for Julie's bachelorette party. UGH. And I have been up coughing the last 2 nights, after being up the previous 2 nights with dreadful body aches. I am a sad, sad panda -- who also happens to be extremely grateful for my wonderful support network, especially my super-dad.

And today... TOOO-DAAAAY... Eddie turned 4! My little baby. He's as tall as Lucy was at 4.5 -- and Lucy herself has grown, I swear, even since we measured her on her half-birthday 5 days ago. Ed asked for Bakugans and "fighting guys" for his birthday and got both (among assorted other treasures), much to his adorable little-boy delight. He's been playing by himself and with Lucy nonstop, narrating little dramas and negotiating conflicts like the mostly-sweet soul he is. Jean's fiance Cameron also made Ed his requested "brown -- I mean chocolate -- Nemo cake." And it was adorable and delicious, which is why Cameron's so right for this family.

I have to go prepare a meal, solo -- first time in several days. The freedom is bewildering.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Parents make the difference... again

Went to a really cool presentation last night given by a local organization called Doing Good Together, through ECFE. It was called Raising Compassionate Children and talked about the why, how, and obstacles of raising children who have empathy and who care for other people.

One statistic she quoted was that volunteering is just as good for your overall well-being as quitting smoking. That was amazing to me... and THEN she added that volunteering is actually BETTER for you, physically and mentally, than exercising 4 times per week. That really blew me away.

Just somethin' to think about. Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Thank the Lord for the WiFi

... to paraphrase Neil Diamond.

I'm totally obsessed with the Olympics -- I get SO EXCITED every 2 years, and last night during Apolo Ohno's silver-medal win Joel thought I was being attacked by bears or something -- evidently I was making very strange, urgent-sounding noises. Anyway, except I have a hard time focusing because I've got sisters getting married (wheeee!) and trips to the Dells and Amsterdam (WHEEEE!!) on the horizon. All of which involve silly amounts of time on the computer. Also Joel and I keep on trying to squeeze in viewings of Flight of the Conchords Season 2 and The Tudors Season 2 from Netflix. Basically we all stay up very late and my computer is about to catch on fire.

Had a really lovely Valentine's Day weekend -- I just have to say, having kids makes holidays WAY SO MUCH FUN. The kids and I toured Lucy's school on Friday (mostly because Ed is going there next year too, and PreK and K share a classroom, so we have to make a decision on whether the kids will be in the same class, only I hadn't met the other PreK/K teacher yet, nor seen her in action, so I kinda wanted to kill all those birds, plus I hadn't spent too much time getting to know the principal, so I got to do that, too) and the Entire Student Body was crazy-keyed-up for the V-Day celebrations. Every teacher apologized for the wildness of the students, but it was very cute. The other tidbit I got out of the visit is that 6th-graders are GINORMOUS.

Oh, so Valentine's Day! Right, so Lucy was BEYOND excited to give and get Valentines at school. Plus she had 2.5 playdates with friends on Friday, and Eddie got pizza and playdates too... plus the Dalys came over for dinner, and Jean too... and the Olympics started... it's a wonder we didn't all start crying. Oh, wait, we did -- that Morgan Freeman Visa commercial about the Moms would have been the last straw, if it hadn't already been for that video of the luger who was killed. I'm glad NBC isn't showing the video anymore, and yet I am glad I got to see it. Don't get me wrong, it was totally horrible -- but in some respect I feel like I understand more about how quick and terrible it actually was, because I saw it. I don't want to be a gawker -- I can't stand the braking and rubbernecking when there's an accident on the highway, for example -- but seeing the video made me understand the weight of it, more. It made me FEEL more. Well anyway, I think feeling things is good for me.

OK so Valentine's Day. On Saturday Joel took the kids to Menards and then sledding, so I could have some non-child-time. Also good for me. I seriously just need to recharge my batteries -- unglue the kids from my legs, demagnetize their hands from my arms -- by the time the weekend comes around. I got to do that Saturday -- got caught up on BSF, got to go grocery shopping, got to make dinner and an AMAZING blackberry/lime cheesecake (if I do say so, myself). Sunday I was treated to breakfast in bed by my darling husband and sweet, adorable children (who took turns sneaking upstairs to see whether I was awake yet, then padding back down declaring "She's stirring!" -- So. Cute.). We had french toast, nummy coffee, the newspaper, and a grand opening of Valentine cards and gifts from the Bookses. It was glorious. We actually went to church (at St. Pascal's up the street), then hit the mall where I got my makeup done (by MAC -- then I spent an icky amount of money on cosmetics, I think much of it's going back, though I did look good. *shrug* Kids and I rode the Maplewood Mall carousel, then the four of us got linner (late lunch/counts as dinner) at Red Lobster. It was quite affordable; we had a coupon -- and the kids got their crab-leg fix (Lucy has been asking for crab legs every three days since her birthday IN SEPTEMBER). We were able to give our extra coupon to an adorable, ancient couple at the next table, who then complimented us on how well our kids were behaved during the meal. Yessss!! The firstborn in me CRAVES pleasing the elderly.

Joel bought me a generic-brand snuggie as a gift, which I always thought was stupid until I got one and realized how terribly cozy it is. The kids and I like to all cuddle up under it and read books. I'm not completely ready to believe it's anything more than a larger, less-flattering robe, but I sure do like it. He also had the kids buy me some Peeps. I always feel guilty because I'm not so good at buying gifts. I wrote Lucy, Ed and Joel each a lovely long love note, and I told Joel to get another month's membership at the Y... and there was the cheesecake... but I still feel a little like I didn't quite do my part.

I'm pretty sure it's almost midnight, and I've got an early playdate in the AM. Plus it's going to take me a week to wash off all this eye makeup. Good night... go USA!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Violating copyrights for fun and... well, just for fun I guess.

I just joined the FB group "Growing up in Rolling Meadows" and found this awesome ad for homes. I'm SURE "the Whites" was an actual name of an actual family... I sure hope.
Click to enlarge (again... I hope)

I gotta get video of Lucy singing "Don't Stop Believin'"

Convos with the kids:

SCENE 1
Joel (after dinner): "Eddie, wow, you must be full! Your belly is so big!"

Eddie: "DON'T CRITICIZE ME!!"

Also, along with the rest of the free world, we went to a Superbowl Party on Sunday. We actually had Lucy convinced it was a "Soup or Bowl" party, to which she replied, "Well then I'll take the bowl." Smart girl.

SCENE 2
Joel (to the kids, on the way home from the party): "Wasn't that fun? Lots of kids, good food, and Eddie got to hold the baby!"

Lucy (and I wish I could fully convey her sincerity in delivering these lines): "WWAAAAAAA!  Sad -- SO SAD!  IT AIN'T FAIR!!"

And just this morning, over breakfast:

SCENE 3
Lucy: Mommy I want an egg in a hole.
Me (in a quite relaxed and casual way): Hon, I just made you the smoothie you asked for, and you haven't even started eating it yet. If you're still hungry when it's gone, then I will make you an egg.
Lucy: Mommy CALM DOWN.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Perfect gift

It's funny, because I often disparage the time I spent working in a cubicle -- I say how it sucked the life out of me... I say how wrong I was for that kind of life.

But sometimes magic comes from there.

When I was last full-time-employed, I worked with a gal named Renie Howard. She died last month of cancer. She was a proofreader in our office... but her title really ought to have been Beautiful Soul; Gentle Presence. Renie was what Joel would affectionately refer to as "fruity" -- linen-wearin', peace-talkin', natural eatin', makeup-eschewin'. My friend (and former coworker) Michelle sent me this poem Renie wrote, and I share it with you, because it is magic.



Perfect Gift

Go naked
before God.
Stop looking in the mirror
and messing with your hair.
Don't worry
what everyone else
is wearing
or whether you look fat.

Go naked
to the Beloved
in full daylight.
Make a love-offering
of your
entire
roly-poly
self.
It's the only thing you have
to give
so give it joyfully.

Hold nothing back.
Place the whole absurd
and precious package
in the palm of the
Divine
where Love will receive it
with infinite
tenderness
and delight.
Sweetheart
don't you know?

You are the perfect gift.
 
-Renie Rae Howard

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

BNL and TTT

Anybody know the Barenaked Ladies' song "Grade 9"? There's a chunk of it that goes:

They called me fatso, they called me chicken-legs
They called me 4-eyes, they called me Buckwheat
They called me Eddie.
And it sounds just like The Ting Tings' song "That's Not My Name." Did one of these come from the other -- or just a coinkidink? Help me out; it's really bugging me.

Just trying to kill some time before my dryer buzzes -- it's 11:12pm (wait you can tell that from the time stamp) and I'm still a little wired after dance class (we're dancing to Dianne Reeves' "Endangered Species" and it's SWEET!). I have to get up eaaaarrrrlllyy (5:45, I know, it's criminal!) to go work out and then bust into my busy Thursday (Bible study - Lucy to school - entertain Ed - make dinner - volleyball - drinks - rehearse with Jean). Hmmm, it doesn't really sound that busy when I write it all down. Making dinner -- it's making dinner that's the killer. I've gotten so unbelievably lazy, I know, but for some reason I always wind up with gobs of leftovers and, well, they DO need to be eaten... it just means I haven't cooked much at all in the last couple weeks. This cold weather really slows me down and kills my motivation. Example: I was supposed to make white chicken chili today, and instead it was ham/bean leftover soup from the freezer. It's REALLY GOOD but everybody hates it except me. How did I wind up in a family of soup-haters?!

I feel like my metabolism is sllloowwwing down too. As I am sitting here I gaze down at what could easily pass for a four-months-pregnant belly. It's just super-hard to lay off the white-chocolate/macadamia cookies... and the Cheez-Its... and the chocolate-chip/orange cake.

BUZZZZ! OK gots to run.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Do I drive you CRAAAAAA-ZY!?

I know, I know, I'm like eight years behind the times -- I realize that was a hit song, oh, four years ago. Please remember I have been raising babies for the last 5.5 years and my brain is absolute mush. Delicious, white-chocolate/macadamia mush. Next thing I know you'll be telling me I can purchase music online. Horrors!

So I was talking to my mom today and I realized I've seen an obscene number of movies lately, and so I review them for you.

Avatar
Revolutionary Road
4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
Inglorious Basterds
Gone Baby Gone
District 9
Le Danse
Duplicity

Wait, I just remembered that the only ones who read this are my parents, and I just reviewed all these for my mom on the phone. OK, so I can still review 'em for you, but let me know which one you want to hear about, OK?

Also I am excited to tell you about this life coach I've been working with. She's a friend-of-a-friend and she's in training, so she is Free To Me which (and this should come as no surprise to you) is the only way I could afford such a luxury. And I assure you that having someone, a completely objective, out-of-the-loop someone, come over once a week and chat for 45 minutes about ME and MY DREAMS and MY IDEAS is a fabulous luxury. Anyway she's a doll and she's helping me figure out what I want to be when I grow up, oh wait I'm 33. I do know that once the kids are both in school, I really want to continue teaching dance/choreographing. I'd also eventually like to be paid to write something. I'm exploring, I guess. I'm the kinda gal who sort of just likes to be told what to do -- I'm the first-born, the people-pleaser -- so having to start up something on my own is extremely daunting.

Lucy decided today that she wants to make a movie, so she and I developed a script (I use "we" loosely -- she talked and I wrote it down) and now we just need to organize ourselves (meaning I need to charge the video camera) and we can start shooting. I think it might be a cult classic; just wait 'til you hear her rousing rendition of "kleenex on the ground." She has several scenes where we "all go together" someplace (like, to the swimming pool in the living room, or driving to Monticello in the love seat) and she's really concerned about who's going to press Record if we ALL need to be in the scene. I'm going to bust out my tripod and blow her mind.

Lucy is also very distressed about Eddie's upcoming birthday: "Why can't MY birthday be in March!?? What if our birthdays were BOTH in March?!? What if Eddie doesn't want to invite ANYBODY?!?!" She's also starting the guest list for her own birthday, which -- need I remind you? --  is still 8 months away. She wants to invite One Boy. From Her Class. I'm hoping none of you know who it is: Nolan. Except she says it "NOHHH-lan." I wanna know the deal; guess I'd better volunteer in class more.

Ed's a riot too -- last night Joel and I were at his Annual Work Party and Jean was babysitting and she says Ed sprinted into the kitchen hollering: "I'M GOING TO HOLLYWOOD!!!!" Stinker.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Some pictures for you... and sneaking in some verses, MUAhahaha...


Lucy in my wedding veil and high school show choir dress.
  


Never, ever does Lucy look more like Joel's sister Julie than when they're crying!
(Here, Lucy is doing so because her "tiger face" was getting washed off before school. Her choice to wash it off -- but she REALLY wanted Daddy to see it.)






He's three!


Ed loves himself some Dollar Store.



 Just a regular ol' Daly day.
 

Working on my Bible study today, I came across Mark 8:38 ("If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes"), which emboldened me and prompted me to share this other verse that really struck me:

John 12:36
"Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light."
Today reading this, it reminds me of the ups and downs of believing in Jesus. We all have good days and bad days -- good and bad hours and minutes, even! Today, to me, this verse means: Trust and believe when you are moved to do so, during the good, happy times. Go with it, embrace the love of God, and live in that moment. Then some other time, when you are feeling dark and despairing, remember (and lean upon!) that faith you had in that happy moment. It'll buoy you even when your faith is shaken, or when you're not feeling the love you should.

OK and because I'm on a roll:

Galatians 2:21 "If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"
Such a relief, isn't it? Takes off all that blasted pressure to be a good person.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Call yo'self a cool cat?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nsv2LrdXf1Y

You just gotta watch. Oh, you already saw it? Watch it again, it'll make your day. AGAIN.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ham Ring!

My mom's been making this recipe since I was a kid. It's yummy and super-easy, and sorta fancy-looking.

Broccoli-Swiss Ham Ring

A pile of cooked ham, cubed (maybe 1/2 or 3/4 lb?)
A pile shredded Swiss cheese (about 4 oz?)
A pile of diced broccoli (about the same size pile as the other two)
About 1/4 cup mayonnaise
A squirtle (maybe 1 Tb? 2?) yellow mustard
1 package refrigerated crescent rolls (I recently successfully subbed a pre-made pie crust; I bet you could also use pizza dough).

Mix the first 5 ingredients (everything except the crescent rolls) in a mixing bowl. Make sure everything's well-distributed; set aside.
Unroll the crescent rolls and separate so you have 8 odd-shaped triangles. Arrange the crescent triangles, overlapping, in a ring-shape on a cookie sheet (I use nonstick -- you might want to use parchment or cooking spray). The triangle bases will overlap in the center, and the points to the outside. (This is the tricky part -- I can't exactly describe how to do it. I muck it up every time but it CAN be done beautifully with a bit of patience.) There should be about a 3-inch diameter circle in center. Spoon the ham-broccoli-cheese mixture evenly over the crescent rolls (so the filling will also be in the shape of a ring). NOW, gather up the points of the triangles over the filling and tuck under base at center. The filling will not be completely covered.
Bake according to the directions on the package of crescent rolls, or until nice and golden brown.



Now here's what I've noticed with this recipe -- it would be a LOT easier to assemble the sucker if you use 2 packages of crescent rolls. However, I find that the buttery-goodness of the crescent rolls is really overwhelming -- as it is, I usually want less crescent-roll and more filling. But do what you wish!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

You're not lost!

I tried changing my blog skin, but I completely stink at it. Anyway, you're not in the wrong place.
-Me

Joy, gratitude, hope and energy for every day of this new year!

Happy New Year, gang! I know 2009 was a rough year for lots of people. I can't personally concur with that -- Joel, so far, remains employed; I have managed to keep the children alive for another year; and we have received many, many blessings. But I hope for better things in 2010. Back in September or October I was moved to write down these 4 words as a reminder to myself: "Be a safe haven." And I hope to continue that in this new year. I want to be a better mother, wife, friend, daughter, sister, citizen. I want to be a "happy place" whenever I can; I want to be a comfort, a balm, a joyful presence. In 2010 I pray for my words and actions to heal, not hurt. I won't succeed; I'm human, after all, and what a flawed, imperfect, fallible thing to be. But I can try.

We spent New Year's Eve at Aaron & Kary's new house in Minneapolis, near Tricia's old neighborhood, with much of our coed softball team. It was great to catch up with everyone, though I'm really aging out of late-late parties. Highlights for me were chatting with a first-time-pregnant teammate, hanging with Julie Gronau's German friends, Chelsie's Buffalo Wing dip and passing Chelsie's extremely rigorous are-you-sober-enough-to-drive-home test.

Friday night Stu and Julie (with Wini, Dash, and Rufus the Good Dog Who Makes Poor Choices in tow) swung by on their way home from Monticello, and we had a lovely visit with them on Saturday. Stu helped me back up the photo and music files I had stored on my computer, and we solved most of the world's problems while subsisting on coffee, leftovers, and Christmas cookies. We miss them.

Last night Joel and the kids and I were invited to my friend-from-ECFE Priya's apartment for an Indian Programme. One of the moms is a classically-trained Indian dancer and she's been working with a group of seven young girls on an Indian dance. The girls all wore traditional dresses and jewelry and they did a fantastic job! A couple older kids played the piano, and one of the dads played some traditional Indian songs on the violin. Then we all had Indian potluck and chatted (and Joel and I scored an open-door invitation to stay with Priya's parents the next time we're in southern India -- Priya said it was because her dad thinks I'm pretty), and the kids ran around like recently-uncaged animals. It was a really wonderful and unique experience for a crazy-cold evening.

Each year Joel's mom gifts me a "Daily Guideposts" book with a short inspirational essay to read to start each day. (I typically peter out in March, pick it back up around my birthday in June, then skip to the holidays when I sporadically pick it back up again. *shrug*) I really liked the January 1 message, which included a quote from Dr. Lew Smedes:

"...Be blessed with
Joys deeper than any sadness,
Gratitude happier than any regrets,
Hopes brighter than the shadows of any discouragement,
and the vitality to make of every day what God on Christmas Day made
for all days."


Warm wishes for this chilly start of 2010!