Monday, February 28, 2011

Some Things Never Change

I always found it odd when I come across people who lived in the same area of town all their lives -- well maybe not odd, exactly, but just not me.

We are living in the town I grew up in -- if the 4th largest city in the United States can be called a "town."  But that's exactly my point.  Although I grew up on the SW side of town, we've lived on the North side and in the NW, but I don't want to live where I grew up, for aesthetic reasons in addition to the fact that I don't want to run into random high school classmates at the grocery store, as I once did when I was visiting my grandmother down there.

Being back has unsettled me a little.  It feels completely different, and yet the same.  That nostalgia is a little disturbing and also homey and comfortable.

When I was away week before last, Terry told me that Amanda brought home this fundraiser permission slip and we had to sign off on her bringing home and being responsible for $50 worth of chocolate.

"Is it World's Finest?" I asked.

He confirmed that it was, and I am asserting that it is indeed the World's Finest.  I remember selling them (and eating them) at my junior high school as well.  The price is still just $1 a bar, but they are not fat and chunky like they used to be back in the day, but flatter, making them about half the size.  They also no longer have the lovely chocolate-covered almonds that I remember cost a whole $2 a box back in the early 80's (but worth every penny).

Legwarmers were back a couple of years ago (but they never really caught on, did they?), leggings are here now (the 90's were a little later than my own junior high years), but seriously, everything old is new again.

Speaking of old, I am a bit disturbed to return to my hometown and find the exact same people on the local news.  You know who you are Dave Ward, Tom Koch, Bill Balleza, Ron Trevino, Don Nelson, Mario Gomez.  It is truly odd to see the same reporters staring out of my TV on the same channels.  And if I may, HD is not doing any of them any favors.

Do you live in your hometown?  Or visit it?  How does it make you feel?


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mailbox Monday: February 27

For a while we participated in Mailbox Monday over at 5 Minutes for Books, but it got a little cumbersome to manage.  However, I do like the opportunity to interact with other booklovers and give my readers a sneak peek at books that I might be reviewing soon, so I thought I'd join in.

It can be found this month at Library of Clean Reads.


Review copies that I'll read soon:

Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food -- I've seen this on a lot of blogs. I already started it, because I have a review and giveaway coming up soon on 5 Minutes for Mom. So far, so good)

Edited Monday morning:
A Double Life: Discovering Motherhood by Lisa Harper -- This is a very quick turnaround. I received it Saturday and started it Sunday and need to post a review/giveaway on Monday. It is excellent, and I'm flying through it (Whew -- could have gone either way).

Review copies that don't publish for a while, but look really fun:


Joy For Beginners 6/2011 -- I really enjoyed Erica Bauermeister's School of Essential Ingredients (linked to my review), so I am already looking forward to reading this one (It looks like the paperback of that book is being offered at a bargain price right now on amazon.

True (. . . Sort Of) 5/2011 -- My daughter loved Katherine Hannigan's Ida B., so I can't wait to read something by this author.

Paris, Baby! 5/2011 -- This is Kirsten Lobe's memoir of her life as a single American woman living in Paris when she has a baby.

Audiobooks for review:

In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy -- I've started this already too, and it's quite inspiring.

On my Kindle:

The Little Known, a YA novel by Janice Daugherty about an African American boy living in segregated Georgia in the 1960s (off the Kindle Free list!)

Those are books that I received last week.  Here are the reviews I've posted in the last week over at 5 Minutes for Books:


The Crabby Cook cookbook  -- It's a cookbook chock-full with personal anecdotes.  Perfect for bookworms like me!  We also have a giveaway, so check it out.

A Cup of Friendship is an excellent novel set in Afghanastan.

Operation Yes is a Middle Grade audiobook that Amanda (12) and I both listened to.

I invite you to subscribe to my feed, or follow me @jenndon on twitter or on Facebook.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Are You a Crabby Cook?

I just posted a review and giveaway for the Crabby Cook Cookbook over at 5 Minutes for Books.  I thought I'd ask you to take this simple quiz included in the intro to the book and in my press materials, so that you can gauge your level of crabbiness.

From The Crabby Cook cookbook by Jessica Harper:

Read the following six statements.  If any of them sound like something you might say or think, then I'm sorry, but most likely you do not qualify for crabby cook status.
  1. I can't think of anything I'd rather do at five o'clock than cook dinner.
  2. I'm always one to read a recipe thoroughly before I begin cooking.  You never know when, say, a unique browning method might be called for, and you'll need to run down to Home Depot to pick up a blowtorch.
  3. I never curse while cooking, even when the recipe requires that I chop seven vegetables and flour and sear fifty cubes of beef.  I also do not curse when, in mid-recipe, I am distracted by a phone call from the PTA lady and I burn my finger with the blowtorch.
  4. When the PTA lady calls to ask me to contribute food to their annual luncheon, I love the fact that she entrusts me with making a chicken entree for forty, instead of one of the no-brainer donations like bottled water.
  5. If a family member doesn't care for what I've prepared for dinner, I thank them for their feedback and offer them an alternative entree.
  6. After dinner, I love the solitude of kitchen clean-up, while my family scampers off to watch American Idol.  It gives me precious time to consider what I'll cook for dinner the next day, and the next. . . .
Did any of these ring so true that you were laughing and shaking your head?  I have to say that my two crabbiest responses are probably in regards to 5 and 6. 

I am not a short order cook, and I don't cook things that I think will be "gross."  I know that everyone may not like everything, but I truly feel it's my responsibility as the homemaker to serve relatively healthy food and expose them to a variety of different types of foods.  I honestly wonder about this generation of kids.  At 28, are they all still going to be constrained to a diet of peanut butter, cheese sticks and chicken nuggets??

As for 6, I'm fairly fortunate in that Terry is great at kitchen clean-up, and tackles it fairly readily.  However, I find that this particular issue rears it's head when we have company.  Meal after meal, dish after dish, can get a little tedious when the rest of the group is having fun.  Fortunately, most of my guests are usually helpful.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Go Texan Day

Kyle is ready for Go Texan day, wearing his denim, bandanna and what he calls his "Cowboy Smile."

Houston is known for the rodeo.  It's a big 3 week extravaganza of livestock shows, bull riding, a carnival, and an arena full of people (some of whom are there only to see the big concert that is part of the rodeo competition each night).

The other day Kyle said that we just have to go to the rodeo.

"I'm surrounded by the rodeo," he explained in an overly dramatic exasperated tone.  "At church, and at school my friends talk about it at lunch, and even my teacher talks about it, and on the bus -- wait, no -- on the bus is the one place I have a break.  But I just have to go."

He's right.  Preschools, churches and public schools are doing all sorts of cowboy-themed activities, and today at Kyle's school is Go Texan Day.  Kyle was hoping for "one of those rope things" to complete his ensemble, but I don't think a lasso in the hands of a rough 6 1/2 year old boy is a good idea.

Even before that impassioned plea, we were planning to go.  Amanda went one year with my parents when we happened to be here visiting, but it's been many years since Terry and I went.  He's buying our discounted carnival passes and rodeo tickets today at work.

*********

As cute as Kyle looks, I may have to revoke his Native Texan visa.

We were in the car on the way home from their church activities Wednesday night, and I told them I wanted to start singing when they could join in.

The stars at night 
(silent)
Are big and bright
(still silent)
Clap clap clap clap
(no sign of any recognition)
Deep in the heart of Texas.

Oh boy.  Amanda should know better.  She was 6 when we left, and she participated in many a Go Texan Day in her time.

Even on the second or third run-through, they were still not with me.

They'll learn.

It's a good thing that we didn't stay away from the Homeland much longer.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Five for Five

On Saturday, I posted that I'd like to start blogging at least five times a week.  This post makes number 5 (with a whole day to spare).

As an aside, do you remember years ago when we were all convinced we had to post daily or our blog would die?  I'm glad we've found some balance and realized that life will go on.  For me, the reasons for making that goal were personal.  I looked back in my archives and an old post summed up exactly why I enjoy writing (and why my inspiration had dried up to an extent of late).

Check out I am a Writer! (from September 2006).

The more I discipline myself to write, the easier it is, the more creative I feel.  That's what I was looking for, and I'm delighted to feel that old surge.

********

The other place that I'm five for five this week is cooking meals.  I had been approaching that in a haphazard way of late as well, which had also resulted in a lack of inspiration.  We also have been reveling in the abundance and low cost of restaurants and take-out in our area, which has resulted in us going out to eat more often.  Eating out is a source of enjoyment and quality time for the family, so it's always something that's going to be part of our weekly routine, but this week I have already cooked three meals from scratch, today's is underway and tomorrow's is planned and ready to go as well.

Part of this inspiration is a new cookbook.  I had already told myself that I should commit to trying one new recipe a week from either my Cooking Light or Everyday Food magazine, to which I recently re-subscribed.

But then I got a pitch for The Crabby Cook Cookbook: Recipes and Rants, and I wanted to try out some recipes before I reviewed it.  Monday's and Wednesday's dinners came from there as will Friday's (and one or two next week that I've already planned).

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- if you don't have a target, you are sure to miss it.  Setting a target in my mind in these two areas (not to mention another area I've been struggling spiritually) has made all the difference in the world.


Have you set some targets or personal goals lately and are you hitting them?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Midnight Handyman

Last week when Terry was out of town, I awoke at 3:00 a.m. to the distinctive chirp the smoke detector makes when it's battery is running low. I remember that it freaked out the dog who invited herself up into my bed, and I remember that it beeped at least twice. I put the pillow over my head and thankfully fell back to sleep and remembered nothing else about the night.

It remained silent throughout the day, but I mentioned it to Terry when he returned that day, and he said he'd take care of it this weekend.

"It's awfully high," he said of the smoke detector on our 12 foot ceilings. Even his 6 foot frame would need more than a stepstool to reach it, but he promised to take care of it this weekend. I did my part by making sure that we had some 9-volt batteries so that when he was inspired, he'd be properly equipped.

That night, at almost the exact same time, the chirping began.  It chirped once.  It seemed almost immediately to sound the warning again.  And again. 

I heard Terry get up, which left me in charge of keeping the freaked out dog off the bed.  He came back in, tennis shoes shoved onto his feet, carrying the ladder from the garage. I got up and gave him a new battery (which he was surprised that I actually had on hand).

A few minutes later the dog was on her bed and we were back on ours, ready to face the threat of smoke and fire for another 6 months or so.

I'm sure that there's a moral to the story. I'm not sure what it is.  Perhaps you can tell me.  I can only hope that the next time the battery runs low, it alerts us on a Saturday at 2:00 p.m. -- prime "honey-do" hours -- instead of in the middle of the night.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What's on My Nightstand -- February edition

My goal for this year is to be more balanced in my reading choices.  I definitely want to read more books that will encourage me in Christian living (and boy, I might just fill my goal for half the year in this one month alone!!).  I also want to read more personal picks, perhaps as many as one a month.  I have some awesome books just sitting on my shelf!  I've finally gotten the hang of being particular in what I choose to accept for review, so that helps.


In progress:

The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy -- This is a perfect combination of a personal pick and a review copy.  After falling in love with Pat Conroy, memoirist, when I listened to the audiobook The Water is Wide (linked to my 5-Star review), I definitely wanted to revisit this book which I read years ago.  Then I was contacted by Open Road letting me know that they've recently released much of his early work in e-book format.  I'm halfway through this book.  More to come. . . .

Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Woundss -- I am reading this with a friend, which will insure that I will fully digest it. I don't know that I would say I have complex questions or deep wounds, but this book is hitting the spot.

Both of these books are on my Kindle (Read the post I just wrote about my renewed love of my little e-reader).

Also on my Kindle: In Leah's Wake -- a novel for review

The Lens and the Looker -- a dystopian/utopian futuristc/time-travelling YA novel (we'll be featuring a giveaway in March)

Those That Wake -- Another YA thriller (that has unfortunately been given some bad reviews by other Amazon Viners. I shouldn't even look. . . .

Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food -- I've heard a lot about this book. I don't feel like it's a spiritual issue, but I do know that my junky food habits are out of control! Also, I would love my relationship with God to be something that I crave each day. I'll be reading this for a 5 Minutes for Mom giveaway.

The Life Ready Woman: Thriving in a Do-It-All World -- I think that we are going to do a giveaway of this one, too.  I really felt when I moved that I could sort of do a "reset" on my life -- my commitments, my priorities, my attitudes.   I thought that made this book particularly relevant.


The Three Weissmanns of Westport  -- Only one of two novels on the list (aside from some YA), so depending on how all that goes, I might dig into some other novels that should be on their way.  I gotta go with what I crave.

Zero-Sum Game: The Rise of the World's Largest Derivatives Exchange -- I got friendly with Redblog writer Erika Olson when I interviewed her for our Books on Screen column (here and here), then she interviewed me (and Dawn) on Redblog.  Then I found out that not only is she a Redbox movie afficianado, she's a super-smart Harvard grad finance type and was writing a book about -- well, you can see in the title.  I bought it for my husband (another super smart finance type) for Christmas.  He's finished it, and I'm determined to read it.  Erika claims that it's totally readable and accessible.



As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto  --This is a huge chunk of a book. I was reminded that it was sitting on my shelf when I was talking Julia Child (and specifically my absolute love of the Julie and Julia movie) at my Love Your Veggies Mom Panel kick off meeting last week.  I may not finish it this month -- perhaps it's a book to be savored?? -- but I'd like to make some good progress.

Maybe:
The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie   -- How fun is this?  It's only a maybe for timing purposes.  It doesn't release until mid-April (and yes, another giveaway is in the works!), so I won't start until at least the end of March, unless I clean my plate of the other books (like that would EVER happen).



With Amanda -- I'd like to start Plain Kate
With Kyle -- finishing The The Trouble with Chickens: A J.J. Tully Mystery, an early chapter book by Doreen Cronin, and perhaps picking up Little House in the Big Woods again (I think we got about 1/2way through it, and I remember the first three books being full of boyish fun like building barns and hunting bears and whatnot).

On Audio: (sharing with Amanda since I lost my ipod)  Agency 1, The: A Spy in the House and I was 1/4 way through The Four Seasons, so if I find/get a new ipod, I'll probably finish that this month.  I also have Sean and Leanne Tuohy's book In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving on the way. I saw them speak at a banquet, and they were both hilarious and inspiring, so we'll see if the audiobook hits both of those targets.



Read in February:

In 2009 and 2010 I tried to keep a reading journal.  I liked it, but I sort of got behind.  Since one of the lovely benefits of a blog is the ability to serve as a record-keeper, I thought I'd chronicle the books I finished each month here.  However, since I am old and apparently now it's my habit to lose things and I didn't write them down, I could be off here.  They are all linked to my reviews on 5 Minutes for Books, and some have giveaways that are still open if noted!

This was a VERY light reading month for me, but I was really working the audiobook (while I was unpacking boxes), and I am halfway through 2 different books (listed above).


The Iron Queen (with a fabulous 3 book giveaway and ipod nano as well!)
American Idol (what a surprisingly delightful read, with giveaway--last day to enter!)
A Cup of Friendship


On audio:
The Devotion of Suspect X and First Grave on the Right (both linked to my reviews, with giveaways!)
Operation Yes MG fiction (review set to post later this week at 5 Minutes for Books)

Thanks for stopping by for some bookchat!! I love it and I love those who love it too.  Find other booklovers at 5 Minutes for Books' What's on Your Nightstand carnival.

I invite you to subscribe to my feed, or follow me @jenndon on twitter or on Facebook.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lost

I don't consider myself a scatterbrained person, but I seem to spend a lot of time looking for things or replacing things I've lost these days.

  1. My coffee cup -- I usually have the opportunity to drink 1/2 to 3/4 of my first cup of coffee in peace.  Then the morning routine begins when Amanda comes down for breakfast at 6:30 and doesn't end until Kyle leaves at 8:20.  That means that there's a lot of multitasking going on, and I spend a lot of time looking for my coffee cup.  It has ended up on my bathroom vanity, on the shelf in my spacious closet, on the shelf in Kyle's room, in the pantry, and on the dryer.  I usually find it, but I've occasionally resorted to pouring a fresh cup in a new mug.
  2. My keys -- Like the above example, searching for my keys is such a waste of time.  Unlike the coffee cup which does get carried around, my keys almost always turn up in my purse -- often in the very pocket where I try to keep them, in which I've searched numerous times.
  3. My shopping list --  I am in the middle of a shopping trip and all of a sudden my list is gone.  Sometimes it gets shoved to the bottom of my purse, other times I set it down as I'm shopping.  I often go back and look for it amongst the Charmin I wasn't squeezing or the apples I was selecting and usually find it.  After taking the time to carefully write down what I need (and in many cases like today I had also written my meal plan for the next 10 days complete with page numbers for the recipes I am trying in the new cookbook that I'm reviewing). This is a perfect example of something that is of high value but no financial worth.  
  4. Pictures -- and I could probably extend this to memories as well -- fit in this category as well.  I am still kicking myself over dropping and thus frying a portable hard drive with 2 years of family pictures on it.
  5. My ipod touch -- Oh, I'm really kicking myself over the stupid stupid stupid careless act of leaving not only my ipod but my beloved BusyBodyBook planner behind on an airplane.  Now that 3 days have passed, I've pretty much given up hope of getting them back.  The planner has both worth and value as does the ipod.  I feel at a loss over the planner and already double-booked myself for one night next week and had to change something around when I realized my mistake.  I just ordered a replacement.  I'll wait a while on the ipod, but probably not too long.  I use it several times a week to listen to audiobooks and podcasts.  It's what gets me through my housework and chores!  I probably will not buy an ipod touch, when I can get the new Nano for 1/2 the price, but I feel like it's a "need" at this point in my everyday life, not just a "want."

What memory of a lost item or habitual loss annoys you the most?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Stories to Tell

One of the beautiful things about having a blog is to be able to give life to everyday events and extraordinary people through these little posts.  I started a blog because I wanted to hone my craft.  Writing brings out a more reflective side of me that I want to cultivate. 

In the last year or so I've blogged a lot less, and even when I have, I feel like I've just slapped something up.  I've had valid reasons for this, including reading and writing a lot more at 5 Minutes for Books, and other outside freelance writing and editing, and in the more recent months, getting ready to move a family cross-country.

But I want to be accountable to share my stories and there are so many that I've stored up in my mind or in tiny seed drafts here on the blog.  I've wanted to, but I haven't given myself the time to flesh them out.

But I will.


I'm going to commit to post at least 5 times a week.  I might do some reprints, digging into the archives of my first year or two when I feel like I was really writing, as opposed to just slapping something up. I will also be more conscious about linking over to other writing I'm doing at 5 Minutes for Mom and 5 Minutes for Books.

I am thankful to those of you who have stuck with me and encouraged me with your comments.  If you liked mediocre me, you'll love the new and improved committed me.

I invite you to subscribe to my feed, or follow me @jenndon on twitter or on Facebook.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Troubadour


I love you my sweet Mommy. 
I love you with all my heart. 
I will always love you, my sweet Mommy.
And Jesus too.

Kyle sings.  He sings a lot.  He makes up songs and words and melodies  on all sorts of occasions or none at all.  Many times the music is hummed without words, and it too can be original or borrowed from Super Mario or his sister’s trumpet tunes.  As was the case with the above song that he sang as he bounded down the stairs this morning at 7:00 a.m., the words were better than the melody, which was sung in a falsetto – not something that would catch on, unless of course you are THE mommy in question.

I also had to wonder about the last line.  Did he mean that he would always love Jesus, too?  Or that in addition to his love, Kyle was assuring me that Jesus loved me and would always love me too?  Either sentiment is fine with me.

Do all six-year-old boys feel so deeply or is mine exceptional?  All mothers think their children are special, myself included, but I think that the recognition of Kyle’s gifts is more a result of the fact that unlike all other children, he rarely has a thought or emotion that goes unsaid (or unsung).

----

**Awesome family photo credit from Blue Castle Photography.  I've got friends in high places.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Be Mine

We bought Kyle's Valentine cards for his class party over the weekend, and he immediately went to work addressing them.  His particular box of Starburst cards had 3 varieties.  I noticed him going through them and picking who got what card, particularly focusing on the "Be My Friend?  Sweet!" ones, and musing aloud** to himself, "Hmmm.  Who in my class isn't my friend yet?"

I myself remember doing that, and discussing it with friends. There was always a card that could be interpreted as sort of mean that we'd give to the annoying boys in the class.  Conversely, there were cards that we could hide hand-written hearts on that had messages that if read closely would indicate our secret crushes.

When we were perusing the aisles looking for the cards, all of the candy reminded me of the primo Valentine's Gift that I always hoped I would find awaiting me on my desk from some secret (or named!) admirer:  the giant Hershey's Kiss.  I never got one.  I still don't think that I've ever gotten one.

I like Valentine's Day, and generally I'm all about the whole "my marriage is as/more important than my relationship with my kids" mentality, but for some reason Valentine's Day brings out the mushy mom in me.  Maybe it's because my man is not much of a gift/holiday sort of guy and my kids are.  I'm not sure why, but I'm glad for the opportunity to be able to let them know how much I love them (the kids AND the man).

I will probably prepare a special Valentine's Day family dinner along the lines of the one for which I posted the menu in 2007.

Do you celebrate Valentine's Day?  Do you expect gifts, dinner, flowers?  Do you buy gifts and cards for others?

**Footnote:  Most of his musings are aloud.  A lot of sound comes out of his little body, not always in sound volume but amount volume.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

I HAVE been blogging -- need proof?

I know that the posts here have been few and far between.  That sort of makes me sad, but life is going on.  I've been trying to keep up with stuff elsewhere, including a fun new gig on the soon-to-be announced Mom Panel for Hidden Valley Ranch.

These are all posts I've written in the last 2 or 3 weeks.  See why it's so quiet around here????

  • Contrary to the subject line that was edited for me (I am NOT a minivan mom!!), I posted my much, much needed Suburban Car Clean Out today in Tackle it Tuesday over at 5 Minutes for Mom.
  • I have been really impressed with Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series.  The 3rd book just came out, and I am pleased to be let you know about an awesome giveaway for the first 3 books AND an Ipod Nano.  Read my review of The Iron Queen and enter the giveaway over at 5 Minutes for Mom.
  • Another review WITH giveaway: Invasion, is a fun sci-fi YA novel suitable for younger YA readers.
  • I posted two more sets of Cybils Middle Grade fiction reviews, both suitable for younger MG readers:  Alvin Ho and Sophie Hartley and Two Mystery Series.
  • Check out our Cybils Challenge if you want to read some quality Kidlit along with us over at 5 Minutes for Books.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed a short story collection, all with the theme of military families in Ft. Hood, Texas:  You Know When the Men are Gone.
  • I wrote two pieces for the "On Reading" column -- The One Place I Don't Have Books and Super Bowl or Super Book? both of which got lots of fun comments weighing in.
Finally, if you are a Houston Area Book Blogger, or know of one, check out the get together that Sherry of Semicolon and I are planning.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Houston Weather

"If you don't like the weather in Texas, just wait a minute and it will change."

That is true, especially in the fall and spring and winter.  Summer is pretty much just hot and humid, with some days being not so hot and some days being rainy.

The temperatures have ranged from lows in the low 20's to highs in the low 70's in the month we've been back.

We are having legitimately cold weather now.  I don't think it's been warmer than 40 since Monday, and tomorrow might get just above that.

The normal high this time of year is 64, so it's understandable that people are COLD.  Those who know we've moved from Connecticut have said to me, "This must be nothing to you." 

No, 35 and windy is unpleasantly cold no matter what else you've endured.

But when I say the weather here is crazy -- that unpredictable is the norm this time of year, this is what I mean.  The forecast for Saturday is sunny and 56 and Sunday is sunny and 67.  That's a temperature variance of almost 50 degrees over the week.

How's your winter weather treating you?