Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Anna, Anna, Fabulous Anna

There's just something about this little girl. Maybe it's the overabundance of feminine enthusiasm she exhibits to counteract being caught between two brothers. Maybe it's the desire to alternately astound and exhaust her mother. But this little girl...ah. She is amazing. She is fearless. She is sweet. And she is growing up too fast.

Here is her self-portrait entitled "Anna as Singing Rapunzel." You don't have to be an art historian to know that it's simply brilliant.

She is THRIVING in preschool. She loves every moment. And the latest new development is this way to say good-bye. Darling.

And just as an example of what my mom calls her "Minnie Mouse voice", here is a clip we took at the Sea Life Center in Seward on our trip to Alaska this summer. I love the way she calls me "mommy".

We love you, sister!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Book Love

"The Big Read is a National Endowment for the Arts program designed to encourage community reading initiatives and of their top 100 books, they estimate the average adult has read only six."

Here’s what you are supposed to do:
*Look at the list and bold those we have read.
*Italicize those we intend to read.
*Star the books we LOVE.

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre** - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird** - Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner** - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility** - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities** - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera** - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary** - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte's Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes** - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables** - Victor Hugo

I know I've got some crazy reader friends out there...how many have you read??

Friday, September 26, 2008

Our Halloween Tree

So, the two big kids had the day off today and so I had the brilliant (BRILLIANT, I tell you!) idea of going to get the stuff for their Halloween costumes. Just me...and all three of them. But it has been accomplished and now we can hunker down for a fun weekend of hanging out together and watching football. My long run is tomorrow, so I even am saving last night's Grey's Anatomy to watch while I hammer it out. So don't tell me what happens.

I wanted to post some pictures of our Halloween tree. It is a 5 foot pre-lit alpine tree that I usually set up in our entry for Christmas, but I dug it out this year, strung it with cobwebs, added some mini primitive jack-o-lanterns ornies, my stars, some sprigs of orange berries, some word ornies that I made with Kristi last week, and some stitcheries from Cedarberry Stitches that I shrunk, stitched, backed with homespun and stuffed. I love the way it turned out. Josh is captivated by the lights and I love that he can see the glow of the lights on his way out of his room after his nap.

How was your Friday?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I'm not a huge Halloween fan. I don't decorate very much and usually put all my creative energy into my kids' Halloween costumes. But this year...I have seen so many cute, easy Halloween decorations floating on there in cyberspace that I have actually gotten really excited about decorating. Here is one of the ideas I came across, tweaked to my tastes.

The original idea was found here, but instead of using newspaper and printer, I used some Scenic Route Paper Co. green polka dot paper and black chipboard letters from my stash and a $1 triple photo frame from my local Dollar Tree. I already have blocks that spell "boo" so I elected for "eek". I love the way it turned out!

Monday, September 22, 2008


Nothing like a wee bit of good 'ole fashioned Nebraskan optimism.


Star Struck

My friend Jen sent me this link to the cutest idea for Halloween. And because we can't rest when we get a creative itch, we spent Saturday afternoon at Archivers picking out cute Halloween paper, metal and wooden stars at our local discount store, black pigment ink, sandpaper and a big 'ole jar of Mod Podge.

They turned out so cute that I made a set for my Halloween tree (more on that later), a big one for my front door, and a set for the ladies I visit teach.

Let Autumn begin!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Top Ten, Home Style

Laurie over at Tip Junkie is having a meme with Mr. Linky where we are supposed to share our top ten favorite things in our home. I've been working on a ton of Halloween projects that I'll be sharing soon, but I thought this would be a fun diversion. If you want to play along, link up here. (You can click on each photo for a closer look.)

1. When I was pregnant with Sam, my across the street neighbor, Carolee Gagnon was a dear friend and a gifted artist. For my baby gift, she pencil drew a picture of Sam at about 10 days old. I love, love, love it. It hangs in the boys' room and makes me smile every time I see it.

2. We have a wonderful friend (Tony's friend from high school that I was lucky enough to get to know in college) who is another talented artist. He presented his friends from high school, who have remained close, with this picture of Christ that he drew in the Garden of Gethsemane during a trip to Israel. Wow. We get comments on it all the time.

3. I'm a bit obsessive. And a bit of a collector. Not really a very good combination. This antique cheese box holds the very first of the "m" blocks that started my collection in 2001. I love the metal "1996" letterpress numbers on top that celebrate the year we were married.

4. After my children, this is perhaps my pride and joy. It is a numbered James C. Christensen The Responsible Woman canvas. I've wanted one for as long as I can remember, but it was way out of our league. But somehow, my Tony found one, spent way to much for it, and surprised me with it for Mother's Day 2007. I cried. It is the centerpiece of our formal living room.

5. Aside from "m"s, I have an infatuation with stars. I love this big star made of old painted barn wood. I love the old red window it leans against, too.

6. My side of the bed. With a stack of unread book on the nightstand. We don't get to spend NEAR enough time together, my side of the bed and I.

7. My treadmill in the little storage room alcove. We're good friends.

8. My old, green scale.

9. One of the two old 3-paned windows I bought and dragged all the way home from Nauvoo, Illinois. I love that I have something that old from Nauvoo in my home. I hung a eucalyptus wreath on it above our jacuzzi tub so that when the bathroom gets all steamy, it smells wonderful.

10. Two of my four FAVORITE things in my house...

And just for good measure, my LEAST favorite things in my house. Bruiser the bear and Anakin the antelope. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Face of Sacrifice

When it got about time for Anna be get home from preschool yesterday, I went outside to sit in my red rocking chair on the front porch and wait for her. On the way out the door, I grabbed some light reading in the form of Tony's September issue of Air Force Magazine...hey, I was desperate. I'm so glad I did. As I was flipping through, I found an article listing the 12 2008 winners of the Outstanding Airmen Award. As I read over each of these Airmen's accomplishments, I could only imagine the sacrifices that were made behind the scenes. Mothers, children, wives, days and nights of fear and worry.
When Tony was deployed to Iraq, I stopped reading the paper or watching the news, just to be able to function without losing my mind with worry. (Tony's on the far right.)

But one of the profiles really astounded me. SrA. Shawn Ryan. Being a Senior Airmen, he is most probably in his early 20's. He is a Security Forces Patrolman (a military policeman) at Sheppard AFB in Texas. This is his write-up.

"Earned Army Commendation Medal and Combat Action Badge for his actions during voluntary year-long deployment to Camp Victory in Iraq...continued to help repel enemy attack though wounded, receiving the Purple Heart...provided life-saving buddy care to wounded team member...stopped speeding vehicle-borne IED, killing terrorist...instructed thousands of Iraqi policemen...conducted nearly 200 combat patrols...detected artillery round rigged to explode, preventing injury to troops and damage to assets...shared his M-2 machine gun expertise with team members, provided gunner-down training and enhancing unit's combat capability."

Wow. When most young people are going to college, concerts, hanging out with friends and keeping their own schedules, this young man is being a hero. Literally.

I wish we weren't in Iraq. I wish we weren't in Afghanistan. But no matter what I wish, we are there. And so now we have no choice but to support our troops.

Until everyone comes home.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hand-Me-Down Love

I wish I was noble enough to say that the reason I saved my very favorite clothes from Sam's childhood was to serve as hand-me downs to my future little boy babies. In all honesty, it wasn't. As Sam grew out of his little clothes that were so lovingly given as gifts or bought and horded the years we tried unsuccessfully to have a baby, I couldn't let them all go. I'd sort, and resort, and still end up with a little pile of clothes that held wonderful memories of Sam's babyhood. So when Joshua was born, I looked forward to having him wear some of the clothes that held so much love despite their tiny size.

Maybe it was the delirium of those first months of life, but seeing Joshua in some of Sam's little gowns and sleepers as a newborn was, well, anti-climatic. Don't get me wrong. I loved it. But even now, almost 18 month later, I haven't had a visceral reaction to a Sam hand-me-down like I would have expected.

Until today.

I honestly don't remember if this little Gap oxford and sweater vest were a gift from my mom or a set I purchased in the months leading up to Sam's birth, but Joshua wore them to church today for the first time. I literally teared up as I buttoned the little shirt and pulled the sweater over his blond little head. It reminded me of some of the most precious memories of Sam at one of my very favorite of baby ages...18 months. Those little running feet, the first baby words, the point and grunt, and the spontaneous kisses.

Almost exactly 6 years later, Joshua is doing those exact same things. And looking just as handsome.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Racing in the Rain & A Block Party

Sorry it has been so long. I have been grumpy. Seriously grumpy. But a nice 5K today with my friend Kathleen sure helped to improve my mood. It was her first road race and she did AWESOME. And I have a new personal best by 15 seconds. And that is even after another week with a very sore quad. Thanks for hanging out in the rain with me today, Kathleen!

This afternoon the sun came out and we had our annual block party. SO much fun. They blocked off a section of street and the kids got tours of a fire engine and a Sarpy County sheriff cruiser. They even spent a little time in a pair of handcuffs (and I hope the experience will be the total of their entanglement with law enforcement. Ever.). I've said it before, and I'll say it again...we have the best neighbors!

Here are a couple of recipes for the goodies we took to the potluck.

Easy Raspberry Brownies

1 box dark chocolate fudge brownie mix (and ingredients to prepare them)
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup raspberry preserves
1 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate
1 Tbsp. butter

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Make and cool brownies as directed for 9 x 13 inch pan. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar and preserves on medium speed until smooth. Spread over cooled brownies. refrigerate for 15 minutes. In microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate and butter uncovered on medium power for about 1 minute or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Refrigerate about 1 hour or until chocolate is firm before cutting.

And what says love in Nebraska like a Corn Bake! I saw this over at Weasel's Journey and Eloise was gracious enough to share the recipe. It was an absolute hit.

Corn Bake

3 eggs
1 c sour cream
½ c butter, melted
4-oz. can chopped green chilies
8-oz. can creamed corn
2 15-oz. cans whole kernel corn, drained
1 box Jiffy corn bread mix
1 c. grated cheddar cheese, for top

Stir together all ingredients except cheese until well blended. Pour into casserole dish and bake at 350ยบ for 30 minutes. Add cheese and bake 15 minutes more.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Car Pool Joy

I love the conversations I overhear during carpool. Like this gem this morning on the way to school.

Ashley: "Did YOU know there is a new Little Mermaid movie? There is and WE have it. It's all about Ariel when she was a baby and then her mother died and then her family was sad and then King Triton made a new law and the new rule was that nobody could sing. Ever."

Anna: "Never, EVER??"

Ashley: "Never."

Sam: "Well, they can sing when they're in love."

Poor kid. I guess he's been forced to watch one too many Disney princess movie.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Apple Orchard Pancake Mix

Here are our visting teachings gifts for the month of September. I wanted to do something with apples...and since the cooling weather makes Fall my favorite time to cook, I came up with this idea.

Here is the recipe:

Layer in quart canning jars: 2 1/2 cups flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. salt, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 3/4 cup chopped dried apples, 3/4 cup golden raisins.

I used some homespun fabric between the canning lid and ring and attached the recipe for the pancakes with twine. I'm gonna make some up this week for my family, too!

Apple Orchard Pancakes

1 jar Apple Orchard Pancake Mix
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. butter

Place contents of jar in a large bowl. Beat eggs in a medium bowl; stir in milk and oil. Add egg mixture to pancake mix; stir until just blended. Lightly coat griddle with butter. Heat over medium heat until griddle is hot. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto griddle for each pancake. Cook until bubbles form and bottom of pancakes are brown; turn and cook about 2 minutes more, or until cooked through. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve pancakes with maple syrup, if desired.

Makes about 20 pancakes.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Little Red Retail Therapy

I've had a hard week. My kids are growing up too fast. I'm grumpy because I pulled a muscle in my thigh and can't run. I haven't slept well all week. So tonight, after curriculum night at Sam's school, I went shopping.

And bought this little lady. I know, I know, I already have a red handbag but I bought it anyway.

And now, I feel just a little better.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Growing Up

This morning was Anna's first day of pre-school. And because she misses the kindergarten deadline by a mere 12 days, she is going every morning. Wow. She is excited. I'm still getting used to the idea.

And as if that isn't enough to TOTALLY convince me that my children are growing up too quickly, when I met Sam in the kitchen this morning, he said,

Sam: "Mom, I had to throw away something very special today. It's in the trash now."

So I opened our trash drawer and inside, at the very top was Blue Blanket. It is his comfort object...the one that he sleeps with every night. It goes with us on every road trip. On every plane ride. He loves Blue Blanket. So I scooped it out of the trash and said,

Me: "Sam, why did you decide to throw Blue Blanket away?"

Sam: (with just a glimmer of tears in his eyes) "The time has come. I'm getting older now and I don't need it anymore. And it's getting so HOLEY!"

So I told Sam we would carefully wash Blue Blanket for the last time, tie it up with ribbon and put it in his baby box. He agreed.

But I'm not sure if I'm ready to part with Blue Blanket. It seems to embody the spirit of that tiny baby that I snuggled with it and of the little boy that had to have it to sleep.

Go ahead. Rip my heart out.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Zucchini Side Dish

One of the wonderful ladies that I visit teach each month sent me home with a gorgeous zucchini and a yellow squash this past week. I really wanted to try something different so I scoured the internet and found what looked like a recipe with yummy potential on cooks.com. I made it as part of our Sunday dinner and it was a HIT.

Zucchini Side Dish

1 small onion, chopped
2 or 3 small zucchini, cit into pieces
1/4 cup grated cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tbsp. butter (plus additional butter for saute and for topping)
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. paprika
1 beaten egg

Saute onion and zucchini in buttered pan until tender, set aside. Stir next five ingredients over low heat until cheese melts and then add the beaten egg. Combine all ingredients in a casserole dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and dot with butter. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

It has rained all afternoon and is gloriously cool outside. My house is airing out and I might even have some hot chocolate tonight before it heats back up later this week. Mother Nature is a cruel, cruel woman.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Alaska Girls ROCK!

I've contemplated writing this post since the big announcement last Friday about Gov. Sarah Palin being selected as the running mate to presidential candidate John McCain. To be honest, I hesitated for a couple of reasons.

1). I really don't know very much about her, although I voted for her (absentee, of course).

2). I hate for the readers of our blog to be force fed my political views.

But my friend Emily and my husband have both encouraged me to share my thoughts so I'm going to. I should also mention that Scribbit posted about Gov. Palin last week and had a great discussion in her comments... from BOTH sides of the issue.

I know that Gov. Palin has spent almost all of her life in small town Alaska. She was a typical "hockey mom" (which is what we call soccer moms in Alaska) and decided to get involved in the PTO. From there, she was elected to serve on the Wasilla city council. She was elected Mayor of Wasilla. She was appointed to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission after her terms on the city council, where she chaired the Commission from 2003 to 2004, and also served as Ethics Supervisor. She resigned in protest over what she called the "lack of ethics" of fellow Republican members. She became Alaska's first woman, and youngest Governor, in 2006 soundly defeating an extremely popular Tony Knowles.

I like a lot about her. She is no-nonsense. She gets things done. She fights frivolous spending in government. She is well spoken. She is the mother of an enlisted Army soldier. She opposed same-sex marriage. She is a life-long member of the NRA, but also strongly supports gun-safety education for children. She is pro-life, in word AND in action. When she and her husband discovered that her youngest child would be born with Down's Syndrome, they welcomed him with love into their family. Her husband, a commercial fisherman who also is a foreman on the North Slope, stays home to care for their family.

The only mar I can find, is that she controversially fired a Public Safety Commissioner after some people allege he refused to fire her sister's husband (who was a state trooper) for using his issued taser on his 11-year old child. Hm.

So there you have it. She's an Alaska girl, and she rocks. I don't really know if she will help John McCain in the long run, but I know she makes my ballot choice a little easier to swallow.

I hope we can all still be friends.:-)