Friday, December 31, 2010

Twist Your Noodle...

"In our new knowledge economy, if you haven't learned how to learn, you'll have a hard time."
---Peter Drucker

         So far my kid loves to seriously, she does. If there are toys on the floor and a pile of books, she picks the books. She'll grab one of the books and hand it to me, nodding her head, while quietly and passionately saying, "Yes, yes". We read to her at night and well, frankly anytime she wants. She loves books that have animals, and Seussian sentence structures and princesses...I can't wait until she starts reading the Serendipity books. We watch "Super Why" where you learn that if you have a problem you 'look in a book'. This genius cartoon teaches theme, rhyming patterns, spelling, phonetics and has caused my kidlet to sing, "ABCDEFG" over and over...I know she doesn't know that these are letters, but isn't it a start?
          I don't know how to keep this passion for books going, I don't remember not loving books, nor do I remember ever being told to read, so I don't know how to fan the flames. My mother read to us at night, something from the Bible and then something that we wanted like a chapter from the Laura books, "The Purple Pussycat" (Kim's favorite), "Popcorn" "Sheldon's Lunch" et cetera. On the rare occassion that I got in trouble and was told to go to my room, my mother would say, "No radio, and no reading". For as long as I can remember I have had a book in hand, in brain and/or in head. There was one night, just a couple of weeks ago, that the my whole tiny family was reading. Lila with her books on the floor, Chris with his Nook and me with my book. No television, just books and the occasional grunt of happiness...over books. We do this often.
            The men we have married are readers, sure it's non-fiction, sports books, man magazines or, in the case of my husband, "The Grumpus Under the Stairs"...a book he still wishes he had, by the way...a book that I can't find for sale under $100, but it's still reading. In our different ways, all three of us girls have become avid readers...sure Kim reads boring books like the manual to my car and Marissa reads scary books or VC Andrews, but we are ALL readers.
            Of course, my sisters and I had the same upbringing and, because we grew up in the world's smallest town, we had the same wonderful teachers, all of which did their very best to instill in us a love for reading. One teacher I remember especially, her name is Mrs. Coday, because she had a reading bathtub. It was one of those claw toed tubs that she painted some sort of obnoxious lime green and she had this tub sitting off to the side by the bookshelves. It wasn't attached to water or anything, there was no swimming involved, it was just an empty tub. But, during reading time (if you had been good) you and 2 or perhaps 3, I don't remember exactly, of your classmates got to sit in the tub and read. These times were the best times ever. In 5th grade, I got to be in the 8th grade-level reading class. Even then I understood that splitting kids up by their reading level and challenging them to read, at no matter what level, made them better readers. I understood this because my sister was in her grade-level class and she learned as much and had as much fun with reading as I did.
          We had Book-It goals (free pizza was way cool, Book-It was not tied to our passing our respective grade-level) and SSR, we did not have AR.
          In our own different ways, my sisters and I have figured out that reading is essential to life and understanding. We understand that the power to read and process information is stronger than monetary assets and we do not take this for granted.
          Being a high school teacher has also shown me the pitfalls of people who don't have a love for reading and I have also seen to what lengths students--smarts students--will go to NOT read (I can't even get all of my honors kids to read books in the summer--something I still assume every honors kid should just do by nature)...I do not want my kiddo to be one of these kids.
          How will I be able to make sure that my kiddo has teachers who instill in her a love of reading and how will I make sure that these teachers are more concerned with her learning than they are test scores and AR scores and MAP scores?
          How will I make sure that I teach my tiny person a love of reading without killing, in her, the joy of reading?

Happy Sparkly Halloween

Grandma (Nona) reading to Lila Jane


Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Recipe for Success

I love recipes and I don’t care where they come from. I’ve found some of my best recipes online, sure, but I’ve also acquired recipes from magazines, books, church fundraisers, friends and their parents.
Some of my favorite recipes come from this really cool recipe box that I got at an estate sale. In this recipe box are notes and coupons dating as early as 1930. This lady cut out recipes from magazines, the backs of boxes and containers and collected them from friends (I know because she dated these recipes and wrote down the name of the person from whom she got the recipe). I’ve made several recipes from this box; one cup salad, peanut clutters with condensed milk and sour cream cake to name a few. It’s amazing to think that this woman’s family considered this box unimportant and sold it with a pile of other junk for about $5.
As I’ve been looking through my recipe books for something to make for New Year’s Eve, I’ve realized that I’m also a collector of recipe books. This all started when my friend was cleaning house and gave me a box of her old recipe books. In this collection were a set of Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks dating from 1967, our favorite to use is titled Favorite Ways with Chicken, Turkey, Duck and Game Birds. Its recipes detail using bone in chicken and the book tells how to cut up chicken (p35), how to have an elegant dinner; complete with menus (starting on p57) and “Wine Cooking and Serving Suggestions” (p63).
I’m also a sucker for the people on the Food Network and own many cookbooks from my favorite TV show hosts. Sure I know that you can get most of their recipes free online, but you don’t get cute informative introductions and sidebar comments online. Our favorite Paula Deen is The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook (I just got my sister a copy for Christmas, so she wouldn’t steal mine, since college she’s been stealing my cookbooks J), which we use soooo much some of the pages stick together, our favorites seem to come from the dessert pages like Better Than Sex? Yes! (not sure what we’ll call this cake when the tiny tot gets older--this lady calls it Heath Bar Cake). I also have every Rachel Ray recipe book. Our favorite is Rachel Ray 365: No Repeats A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners. I think it would be daring if we tried each of these meals all in one year, so far we just stick to the ones we like such as Mac-n-Cheddar with Broccoli.
A cookbook that I treasure (from the same lovely lady who brought me the box of cook books ) is from a now defunct bed and breakfast called Andy’s Catch and this book is full of delicious, wonderful breakfast and brunch foods (side note:  I can eat B&G every day of the week and any time of day is the perfect time of day for breakfast) including breakfast casserole and breakfast pizza.
My latest find is a cook book I received from a friend for Christmas Are You Hungry Tonight? Elvis’ Favorite Recipes. I’ve already tried the infamous or should I say notorious Fried Peanut Butter sandwich and am looking forward to rockin’ the kitchen trying out all his favorite breakfast recipes. This book also has the recipe for his 6-tiered wedding cake and a meatloaf recipe I can't wait to try, as I have not met a meatloaf I didn't like. My favorite meatloaf recipe comes from Reader's Digest Kitchen Secrets (p237).
Well, gotta go whip myself up something to eat all this talk of food has made me hungry.
I’m looking forward to digging through all of these recipes for the perfect New Year’s Eve foods! If you have any suggestions feel free to send them my way.

Just a Handful of my Cookbooks...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Nookie, Nook, Nook

          Over the summer my husband and I bought ourselves Nook eReaders from Barnes and Noble, we got the 3G WiFi version. Yes, we knew the NookColor would be out by Christmas, but we didn't want to wait and knew that we'd need a color eReader as much as we needed 'a new hole in the head' (thank-you very much grandpa for that little phrase).
          Um, to be quite honest, my husband uses his quite a bit...but, I rarely touch mine. You see the thing is I like books, I like the feel of the spine and cover, the weight of it as it sits in my lap...I like to turn the pages, but most importantly, I like to write in my book, the way that Mortimer Adler says, I like to own and possess my book, and you can't do that with an eReader!
          What I find I do like about my Nook is that books without spines and covers and actual pages are wayyyyyy cheaper than their archaic brethren, so my Nook holds all my b-list books. This list includes any book that I want to read, want to own, but don't want to pay $24.95 or $14.95 for, it includes books that I can't wait to own (sure, this sounds like the opposite of b-list, but it also means that I don't care enough about them to mark them up and I don't want to go to the bookstore to get them) like the latest in a series and it includes books that I already own, but can get free or cheap on the Nook. I have yet to finish a book on the Nook, as I only read them when I'm waiting for planes, in a hotel room and there's some down time or when I have nothing else to read.
          Now, I can tell you right now, my husband loves the Nook (he won't actually say that and when I talk to him about it he always gives some technical answer as to why he uses it, but I know it's sweet, sweet love). You see he takes that thing wherever he goes, he even took it to Las Vegas were he attended a friends wedding. He puts, on the Nook, books that he really, really wants. He has read all of Michael Lewis on the Nook, more financial books about, um, financial things...non-fiction type stuff. AAAAnd, he doesn't take notes, he doesn't understand why I feel the need to take notes, he doesn't understand why the little notes option with the Nook isn't enough for me...I show him examples of book markings...he still doesn't get it.
         So, our library (we share an account) in our his and her Nooks (his is the no nonsense, 'why waste money on a cover' subtle black cover and mine is the 'look at me, look at me, I've got a Nook inside', memorable lines from books adorable cover--he wouldn't let be get a Kate Spade), looks something like this (examples of the latest downloads): the complete Sherlock Holmes, The Big Short, all the Oz books, the latest Chelsie Handler, the latest Pat Conroy, the latest Bret Easton Ellis, more Michael Lewis, The Wall Street Journal, Eat, Pray, see I'm the downloading fool, he's the actual ereader.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

50 Books in a Year: #1 Grace is for Sinners

          So, thanks to my friend Julie (thanks Julie!) I've been reading all about this 50 books in a year challenge and thought to myself, "Self...a) you really need to read more and b) you missed posting on Monday (and you're trying to post every day but MAJOR holidays). Why not dedicate Mondays to 50 books in a year?" So, now, while I can't sleep I will post for Monday, so when I wake up for Tuesday, I can post again.
          The first book I would like to talk about, is, ironically enough, a book I started reading yesterday (on Monday) called Grace is for Sinners by a little tiny sniplet of a girl Serena Woods. My sister first turned me on to the book over the summer and my friend Kathy bought it for me for Christmas. Frankly, I'm a little curious about it because my sisters and I went to high school with this girl--then Serena Walker. Actually, I've been on many an adventure with this girl (getting stranded in Perryville, MO when her car broke down, spending whole weekends at her house at a time in the summer...I remember this because we had to go visit her, not the other way around--you'll see why if you read the book, and finding a love of Ozzy Osbourne through her obvious love for him). I also remember getting totally out of touch with her and hardly knowing her by my senior year, and then hearing about her and feeling guilty about not talking to her or only chit-chatting with her when I saw her at the mall. I am guilty of hearing about what was going on with her and instead of trying to find and talk to her, I just let those rumors spread and thanked the Lord it wasn't me.
          While reading yesterday, I couldn't help but think about a) all the things that go on in someone's life that we are totally unaware of, because we listen to the rumor-mill not the actual person b) people only let us know what they want to let us know--I knew about her early life, not the life she must have been living right under my nose while we were in high school and going to the same church and c) I like that this girl is brave enough to talk about a subject that has stopped me from going to church and made it a hard time for me to see that there are good die-hard Christians. So, I'm going to finish this book during the week and then I'm going to pass it on...and, on...and, on...unless, of course, you don't want to wait and just want to buy one for yourself.
          It's not everyday that Christians meet other Christians who understand you can be a real person, I like that Serena is trying to get the message across that grace is the reason why we are here in the first place and it is grace that saves us not the amount of times we go to church, not what we wear to church or what we've done in our lives. We don't save ourselves, actually it seems that we do the best to destroy ourselves. I also love that this book is chock full of scripture, my mother has always said, and I believe it, that if you can't find it in the Bible than it's just your personal beliefs not something God wants you to do.
          So, feel free to join me on Mondays to talk about your book as you read 50 this year. I've been reading whole blogs dedicated to this project, not sure if I have time to go all out like that, but I can do Monday, hope you can too, how else am I going to find good books to read?!

Off to bed...ish...

PS. these are not going to be reviews, per se...I'd rather talk about how these books are shaping me and you decide if that makes it a good book or not.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Work-Life Balance at Its Best...

While I was on maternity leave I became the woman I secretly desired to be..."A Stay At Home Mom". I took 10 whole weeks of slow it down ‘bliss’. It was only when I started going back to school to teach the beginning of a unit, grade and import grades, give test or explain a concept that I realized that I didn’t really want to be a SAHM, I just wanted to make my own hours. J
I had a lovely routine going during this time, however, and it was this theme that afforded me the privilege of watching some day time television. It was during one of these days of getting up early, breast feeding, grading, breast feeding, “Today” show, feeding myself, 4th hour or “Ellen” that I stumbled upon this delicious read, Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom.
Kristin van Ogtrop was on the “Today” show talking about her book and about how to simplify some aspect of your life if you have a busy life with kids and a husband and they’re always hungry and wanting something from you while your job is also hungry and wanting something from you…I don’t know what it was she wanted us to do… I just remember liking the title of her book, the way she laughed at herself and the feeling I had; the feeling that I was listening to a woman who could teach me a thing or two about work-life balance.
I bought, in hard cover, and read her book. She talked about being tired in a way that I was only beginning to understand, and about husbands who try, but just can’t sometimes (for all those clich├ęd reasons, and more reasons you realize are unique only to you and your family situation) and about families who help and hinder and for the first time I was beginning to relate to a woman who just years, heck months before, I perceived I would have had nothing in common.
Now, I’ve tried to read books about achieving a life balance,  Eat, Pray, Love comes to mind, that just didn’t cut it because they were too religious, or not religious enough, or too wishy washy or too exacting. It wasn’t that this book was teaching me how to have a life. It was and still is showing me how my life will be.
I’ve been sitting here trying to think about my favorite word she defined and I can’t come up with one (trying not to look at the book to search for a word), but I can tell you that I read it in a week, between ‘sleep[ing] when the baby sleeps’ and learned that, while my life is not unique and while the over the top gush I feel for this woman, van Ogtrop, is not original in any way, I am and will succeed at being a mother without turning into Chopin's dreadful 'mother-woman'.  I can tell you that I have taken many deep breathes, yelled at my husband when he doesn’t help and am unforgiving about the fact that sometimes he has to watch the kidlet while I grade, or go to a conference for a weekend or go to a meeting that last past 7pm. On the other hand, I feel no guilt about leaving a meeting early to pick up my kiddo at 4.30p, or about spending a whole weekend outside on the swing set not looking at a single essay that needs to be graded or lesson that needs to be written, or about being too tired to cook and vegging out, tiny tot in my lap as we watch Brian Williams and the husband cooks (after all he is faster at it and gets hungry first).
From the 1,691 word count introduction, she had me hooked. This book, silly as it is, has become one of the many books that are my foundation, without it, I’m not sure that I would have survived being a mother, a wife and a member of working society. I find it interesting that I have become that woman, I have become a ‘working mom’ and I'm not worried about being perfect at anything. I'll just work my best at all the facets of me.

The word I came up with after reading the book:

Tiny Person the person who has your ears, hair and toes, but your husbands’ eyes and nose. She makes you laugh just by being and your world…well it’s no longer your world, but hers, everything is hers…is aglow because of her laughter, her smile and her ability to mimic you in the most personal of ways. The person you’d quit your job for, the person who has taught you to breath and slow down. And, although this person is less than half your height and just now walking without looking like a drunk orangutan, she towers over you and commands you to the task at hand, the task of being ‘mommie’.

What’s your word and definition? It can be something totally made-up or a word that you’ve commandeered and made your own…

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Sparkles

Ok, so my kiddo is really into sparkly things ("What 14 month old girl isn't?", I'm told. I'll just have to take everyones word for it). She is also a voracious reader...ok, ok, I know she doesn't really read, but she does point to words and babble and then looks over or up at me to make sure that I'm paying attention. She'll read a page, I'll read the whole book, she goes back to the pages that she likes, and, the pages that she goes back to always have sparkles and bright colors. Yesterday, I finally got out all the board books for the holidays and we started reading those...there's one about an angel, one about the baby Jesus that plays "Silent Night" and one about a special star...the one that she's most drawn to, however, is one that got into the pile on's called Happy Sparkling Halloween, and she can't get enough of it!!!

Happy Holidays Everyone!!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it's too dark to read." ~Groucho Marx

This is it. My first ever official blog post and what is it that I want to talk about, well it's books, of course. The other day I was thinking about the first book I ever chose to read on my own, Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski, not about the storyline as I don't really remember it...there's a girl, she picks strawberries, there's some sort of turmoil everything turns out happy in the end...but about how I felt reading it quietly to myself on the bottom bunk of our bed. In an apartment full of noise, there were, after all, three girls, reading alone in the semi-darkness of a room lit up only by the sunlight coming in from the corner of the shade was the way I survived and it is the way that I've survived up to this day...reading a good you remember your first read?


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