Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What's on My Nightstand - February 2012

This month, I find myself with a LOT of non-fiction on my list (check out other lists at What's on Your Nightstand at 5 Minutes for Books)

Fortunately, I've really enjoyed the non-fiction books I've read recently. I have a big list in general, but I'm also looking forward to Spring Break at home with no schedule, no agenda, and with Amanda off on a mission trip, Kyle and I will truly just be able to chill, so I'm hoping for vacation-level reading!

NON-FICTION (for review):

The Source of All Things: A Memoir by Tracy Ross
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke
Just a Minute: In the Heart of a Child, One Moment ... Can Last Forever by Wess Stafford

All of those are for review, and in light of my reading goals***, I stumbled across a great deal on the Kindle for Mitali Perkins' Ambassador Families: Equipping Your Kids To Engage Popular Culture, so I downloaded it, and have actually started reading it!

FICTION (for review):

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen
The Rebel Wife by Taylor M. Polites
These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen

FICTION (just for me)

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers -- I've been wanting to get to this, but I think I will read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins first, a re-read in preparation for the movie's release in March. I listened to the audiobook the first time, years ago, and I'm not sure if I'm going to listen again, or if I'll read it. I did borrow the book free, thanks to the amazon prime kindle lending library, so I can do whichever. I did enjoy the audio version, but I wonder if reading it might be a different experience.


Jordan Sonnenblick is one of mine and my daughter's favorite new (to us) authors. Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip is his newest release, and I can't wait to hear it.

I just started The Night Swimmer by Matt Bondurant. I haven't gotten into it yet, but I hope it picks up. I think it will.

***How are my reading goals going, you ask?

My two primary goals were to read at least 12 books this year just for me, and to better catalog the books I've read, and I'm doing great with both of them.

I just finished Run Your Butt Off!: A Breakthrough Plan to Lose Weight and Start Running (No Experience Necessary!), which I loved; as well as finally getting to Tim Challies' The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion, which was also interesting, and I'm almost finished with A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman by Joan Anderson (which isn't as depressing as it sounds). I had already read one personal pick in January, and as I mentioned above, I've started another, so I'm on my way to completing five, with 2 more on my list this month.

I think that making the goal has freed me up a bit, and it's accomplishing it's purpose.

And the reason I can remember all this is that I do indeed have a Google doc set up where I'm tracking my reading. I had a good reading month:

3 audiobooks (2 YA and one memoir)
2 novels read
3 memoirs -- started and finished one, started 2 others to be finished in March
2 nonfiction books started (still in progress), and finished a 3rd and 4th, both of which I started in January
2 middle-grade novels -- finished 1, another one recently started

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What are we, the Worst Cooks in America?

 (image from dailypainters.com)

Amanda made some brownies last night after dinner. They were cooling, and I asked Kyle if he wanted to wait for a warm brownie, or if he wanted something else before bed.

"How many eggshells are in them?" he asked.

"Eggshells?" I wondered.

"Yeah. Sometimes there are shells in there. Or other hard things."

Needless to say, Kyle did not get a brownie, and while I'm pleading the 5th about whether or not mine or Amanda's baked goods ever have a bit of shell in there, we certainly aren't among the Worst Cooks in America.  We have been watching, and I'm enjoying Bobby Flay as Anne Burrell's challenger as team lead, but we aren't taking cooking tips from the contestants.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Go Texan Day 2012

One of the lovely things about living in Houston is Go Texan Day.

 Last year, I posted Kyle's picture (and oh my goodness, has it only been a year?? He looks like a baby). But this year, being the big 2nd grader that he is, he opted not to dress up, and I'm sure that's going to be the majority consensus among the boys.

 But since I am scheduled to help at the library today, I decided to get into the spirit.

 (Dark blurry picture taken by aforementioned son with my phone. You get what you pay for).

Monday, February 20, 2012

We call him Skipper

When I think of "Skipper," I think of  either Barbie's cousin (sister?) or some preppy pedigreed twenty-something ne'er-do-well. I'm not thinking of either in this case.

Skipper, n.  -- one who skips

My sweet son Kyle exudes joy and energy. That exuberance can sometimes be a bit much for a parent or teacher to take. Lately, that glee has worked its way from his head and heart all the way down to his feet.

He skips everywhere -- across the living room to the stairs, from the parking lot into church, from one store to the other at the mall.

Skipping is the epitome of happiness. I don't know if he knows that, and I'm not even quite sure what he's so happy about, but I have to document this for posterity so that in 5 years when he's a quiet, sullen, withdrawn adolescent I'll be able to remember that it hasn't always been that way (and probably won't always be).

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Bitter Buds -- Do you have them??

I am not a science gal. I didn't excel in my high school or college science classes, but I always loved our genetics lessons. Increase your understand of humankind with a degree in biology.
Image from U of Utah, click for the whole study
Did you ever have to do the taste test for bitterness using the PTC papers? I clearly remember doing the taste test. Some people cringed in horror at the bitter taste, while others who tasted only paper looked at them like they were crazy.

The new study that I wrote about at 5 Minutes for Mom explored Why Don't Kids Love Their Veggies.  The study suggests that those bitter buds might be responsible for kids spurning vegetables, but the good news is that kids eat more vegetables when paired with creamy Hidden Valley Ranch dressing.

So how did my family react to the paper? I tried it first, and could taste it, but it wasn't overly strong. My husband didn't taste anything (and wondered what I was up to, looking at me like I was crazy or had just slipped him some poison-laced paper).

I tested the kids separately the next morning before school. My 13-year-old daughter tasted the paper and looked at me like I was crazy when I asked her if it tasted like anything.  My 7-year-old son licked it, made a face, and grabbed for his hot chocolate to wash the taste away.

Being the genetics nerd that I am, I figured out what that meant for my family. Since bitter taste is a dominate trait, it means that both Terry and Amanda are tt, recessive. I therefore must be Tt, and I passed along my dominant bitter taste gene to Kyle, also Tt.

Was I surprised? A little, honestly. Kyle and I are probably the biggest vegetable eaters in the family, so it definitely hasn't stopped us.

Be sure to check out that link at 5 Minutes for Mom for a cute dip vehicle as well. . . .

Do you have bitter buds? Do your kids? Does the fact they might change your insistence on them eating their veggies?

**Hidden Valley Ranch sent me the test strips to use with my family and report the findings. I am a compensated spokesperson for them, serving on their Parent Panel sharing my experiences and helping others Love Your Veggies. Some links within the post are affiliate or sponsored text.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Superbowl Snacks

When I was asked to select a recipe from the Hidden Valley Ranch recipe section to endorse as part of my Parent Panelist duties, I was surprised at how many I found that I loved (check out a few of my favorites in this previous post), and I committed to trying others on a regular basis.

This morning I had some friends over for lunch, and I made the Bacon and Cheddar Cheese bread (pictured above). Just about everyone who was here asked for the recipe. Another keeper! It would be a perfect snack food to make for Superbowl Sunday. So easy, and absolutely delicious.

You can follow the link for the recipe, but I made a few changes, which made it easier to prepare and I think easier to eat. Instead of cutting the loaf into slices as above, I sliced it in half crosswise. Then I just spread the two halves with the cream cheese mixture, and topped with cheese and bacon, and broiled that way (watch it -- it didn't take long!).

This Heluva Good dip that was on sale at Kroger this week caught my eye as well:

 I served it with tortilla chips, but I think it would be great with Fritos or Ridged Potato chips as well. Oh, yes, it's good. In fact, I'm hoping that it will disappear soon, or else no amount of jogging in the world is going to save me.

Do you have some favorite dips or appetizers that you make when you have a party?

Thursday, February 02, 2012

I'm Pretty Sure I'm a Zealot

I was going to title this post "Making it Happen," and give some updates and strategies I've used while trying to start up my running (jogging/walking) habit, but then it occurred to me that I'm feeling a little over-zealous about this whole running thing.


[zel-uhs] Show IPA
full of, characterized by, or due to zeal;  ardently active, devoted, or diligent.

Thank you, dictionary.com. I don't know that the word diligent would be the first to come to anyone's mind to describe me, but I do tend to be a little ardent. When I find a new love, I want everyone! to! know! about! it!  And I want them to agree with me and check it out.  Some examples that come to mind that have recently inspired my passions:
  • hummus
  • exercise DVDs
  • my Bible study (BSF)
  • my Roku (in addition to running, my latest must-have love)
  • my cheap pre-paid cellphone plan
  • audiobooks
  • podcasts -- seriously, why don't more people listen to audiobooks and podcasts? They are so interesting, a great way to inform or entertain yourself, and utilize otherwise "dead" time like 
Okay, I'll reign in the zeal. But you get my point, right? I fall head over heels with something, and if I like it, shouldn't everyone?

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not really zealous about running, like "Oooh, I love it so much and there's nothing I look forward to more than getting out there for my 33 minute workout." No. I don't love it. To be honest, it's a little boring to me.

But what I do like is that I'm doing it. I am actually learning to run. My heart has not once leapt out of my chest, my lungs haven't exploded, and my joints and ligaments are still basically intact.

So, as initially promised, I will offer some of my success techniques:

  1. Schedule your workouts --  This goes with any type of exercise plans, but each week I look at my calendar and actually schedule 3 or 4 times when I can run. I don't stick to it religiously, but it helps it happen.
  2. Find a plan -- There are billions of Couch to 5K type plans. One I had used that I liked because I could put it on my ipod and it walked me exactly through it is Personal Running Trainer. But what has really worked for me is the plan and great advice and encouragement of Budd Coates in Run Your Butt Off!: A Breakthrough Plan to Lose Weight and Start Running (No Experience Necessary!).
  3. No excuses -- just do it -- I write this ironically as I've only ran once this busy and rainy week. It probably means that I'll stick on this week's rotation for another week, but that's okay. Being a girl with lots of hair that requires some maintenance, the "no excuses" mentality has meant getting over the hassle of showering. I still shower, don't worry, but if I can't workout first thing in the morning, I don't let that stop me. I just deal with having to take a late afternoon shower. I learned that when I was working out regularly last Spring. It's sort of a pain, but it's not the end of the world. And is why you might just find in my PJs with wet hair at 5:00pm.
Are you zealous about certain products or activities? I'd love to give you a forum to proselytize in the comments.