Thursday, December 13, 2012

Recipe--Down-Home Kid-Friendly Chili

It's time for me to find a new chili recipe, and this may be it.  Plus, you can make it on the stovetop or in the slow cooker.  I don't have kids to worry about, but I do have an aging and jumpy stomach, so it's worth a try.  Plus, sweeter chili (thanks to the brown sugar) is a nice change from the usual fireball.  Thanks to the good folks at the Sweet Tea and Cornbread blog for the inspiration!


2 lbs ground chuck
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced small
I can diced tomatoes with green chiles, like Rotel or Pace (use mild to control the heat)
1 can Hunt's Chili Fixins
1-15 oz can tomato sauce
2 cans chili beans, undrained
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T chili powder (add more for more heat)
1 t cumin
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t seasoned salt
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
dash of cayenne (to your taste)
1/2 C brown sugar (the magic ingredient)
3 C water; use 2 C if using slow cooker

Brown ground chuck, onion and green pepper.  Drain excess grease.  If you are cooking in a slow cooker, add browned ground beef to slow cooker and proceed from there.

Add all of the other ingredients in the order listed.  Bring to a low boil, then turn to low and simmer for one hour.  Stir every now and then because it has a tendency to stick at first.  After cooking for 45 minutes or so, add a little more water if needed or depending on how thick you like your chili.

If preparing in the slow cooker, set to low and cook for 6-8 hours.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Trying To Get the Christmas Feeling Again (with apologies to Mr. Manilow)

Today is December 11.  Christmas Day is exactly two weeks from today.  Usually, the house is decorated, holiday tunes are blaring, the oven is in overdrive, and I have the grown-up equivalent of a child's excitement level.

So what's wrong with me this year?

I just didn't have the heart to drag the big tree down from the half-story, so I brought down a three-footer and decorated it last night.  Not near as many lights or decorations, but when Santa comes to my house, he can put a checkmark by "has Christmas tree up".

The battery-operated candle lights are not yet in the windows.  Just the idea of checking batteries and crawling over beds and moving tables and furniture and curtains and shutters to put them on the sills makes me suddenly very tired.

The shopping is done, which is a good thing--unless my sisters come up with something else that I need to buy for someone.  I am in a serious money crunch right now and have been most of this year.  The paycheck doesn't go nearly as far as it used to, and I can't find the culprit, unless it's the new-to-me car I bought in the summer, which was a necessity.

Last year, I had love--wonderful, sweet love--in my life at the holidays.  They were the best holidays ever.  Now, I have uncertainty and loneliness and pain.  I haven't even popped a Christmas music CD in the player yet this season.  Just no heart to do so.

Maybe if it snowed, I would get a bit of spirit in me.  Maybe if I stopped feeling sorry for myself and went out of my way to make everyone else's Christmas merry and bright, I would snap out of it.  I really don't know what the magic solution is, but I hope I find it soon.  Holidays are for enjoying, not dreading.

12/8/12--Karla's Muffin Basket

Last class of the basket making season (the new season starts in January sometime), and I think it's my favorite of the bunch; Karla's Muffin Basket.  No, I don't know who Karla is, but I love her basket!

The December 8 class was the "luck of the draw" class, at which Bev brings a whole bunch of basket kits she has preassembled and you get to pick the one you want to make.  I chose this one because 1) I don't have a basket in purple and 2) I wanted to practice the technique of making the basket go up and flare and stay round--which, I am convinced, is all in the first three rows of weaving you do.

This one turned out beautifully, and I hope you like it as much as I do.  It was tasked to be a muffin basket, but right now mine is holding a potted poinsettia at my house because it is the perfect size for that, too.  I think after Christmas is over and the decorations are put away, it will be doing duty in the kitchen as a "corral" for my collection of pill bottles.  It is just the right size for that, too!

Come to think of it, I might have to go to my basketmaking supply source and order some materials to make this basket again.  It is of the perfect size and cuteness factor for a gift or two or three!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bombdiggity Women, Part IV

In my latest installment of women I consider to be absolutely fabulous, I introduce you to two cheerleaders for the Indianapolis Colts; Crystal Anne (left) and Megan (right).  They responded to the challenge of raising $10,000 for leukemia research as part of the "Chuckstrong" campaign; Megan promised to shave her head if the goal was reached.  Well, over $20,000 was raised by the deadline given, so Crystal Anne joined in the cause.

These two are not only "walk talkers", but they did this live on national TV during the Colts/Bills game on November 25.  The shaved hair was donated to Locks of Love for their ongoing effort to make wigs for cancer patients.

They started out as physically beautiful girls, and are still gorgeous even with bald heads.  Their inner beauty, however, is what shines through in this situation.  And I admire them for sticking to their guns and supporting a worthy cause.  A lot of us could learn a lesson from their tenacity and courage.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

From me to all of you---Happy Thanksgiving!  Please be grateful for the people and things you hold dear.

Monday, November 12, 2012

11/10/12--Egg Basket

Last Saturday's basket class at Morton Center produced this lovely Egg Basket.  Baskets of this type and style really were used in the "old days" to collect eggs on the farm.  You will see a few examples of this type of basket at just about any antique shop and/or mall you visit.

Once the God's Eyes were woven on each side (you have to concentrate on the first one and the second one is a breeze), the basket went together fairly smoothly.  A basket with a round shape like this one requires a lot of what is called backfilling; weaving short rows so that you finish weaving straight rows.  You start weaving this one at the sides under the God's Eyes and end it right straight down the middle.

It was very therapeutic to weave over and under the ribs.  And I think it turned out really well.  It was neat to see all the variations that occurred when others were weaving the same basket.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Truer Words...

Never watched a single episode of this show, but maybe I should have if the all the writing was this powerful:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

It's that magical night when children dress up and knock on doors in search of yummy, sugary treats and believe in everything good and fun in the scary but exciting darkness.  Let yourself be young again for a little while tonight and share in just a little bit of that giddiness and hopping-on-one-foot-with-excitement joy.

When that sweet little girl practically screams at you to guess what she is, be sure you tell her that of course, she is a pretty purple princess.  And pretend to be scared by the pint-sized Hulks and Batmen and Scream people holding out their pillowcases and plastic grocery bags for loot.  And don't get too upset at the tiny ones who reach for more than one piece of candy.  They are just learning the Halloween ropes; don't ruin it for them--it's not your job.

Just remember your Halloweens of your past--and pray that these little goblins get those very same memories to tuck away and treasure.

"A grandmother pretends she doesn't know who you are on Halloween."--Erma Bombeck

(Thanks to Mike Pinto, principal, Cole Elementary School, for sending this quote in his daily Morning Message e-mail.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Quote of the Day...

I've been reflecting on the life and loss of a dear friend this past weekend, as well as the total waste of 2012 by me due to being depressed over the state of my life in general.  This photo, courtesy of Brave Girls Club, gives me the direction I need to go. Now, I just need to do it...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

10/17/12--Halloween Goody Basket

This basket--a Halloween Goody Basket--is the product of my basket class last night at Morton Community Center.  As always, the teacher was Bev Larson, who is great and so knowledgeable and so encouraging.  Thank you, Bev!

Halloween Goody Basket
This one tried my patience at the beginning.  I was trying to "upset" my basket too fast and too much ("upsetting" is when you start to weave upward, shaping the basket as you go).  Doing this made the weaving extremely tight and very difficult to pack.  Bev saved me and the rest was a piece of cake--or maybe pumpkin pie, since the basket is supposed to resemble a pumpkin.  My fingers are still aching a little bit this morning from all that packing work last night!

I particularly love the colors used in this basket.  I plan to use it in my house through Thanksgiving (that's why I chose not to put a little Halloween decoration on it).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Why I Am Voting For Mitt Romney

I love my country.  I am unabashedly proud to be an American.  Think of all the freedoms and opportunities we have that can be found nowhere else on earth.  Freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom to speak and write, freedom to believe in any god that we choose.

In my opinion, the last four years have been a hard lean to the wrong side of all the things we hold dear.  Never mind the fact that it is not really clear just who is running the show in DC.

I want my country back.

We cannot afford--economically, militarily, security-wise, educationally, spiritually, humanely, morally--another four years of the "leadership" we currently have at the helm of this great nation.

Who do the terrorists want to win the election?

Mitt gets my vote.

My Day With the Bridge

I spent a beautiful October Tuesday at the Covered Bridge Festival, an annual event that takes place in the towns of Parke County, Indiana, which claims to be one of the spots in the United States with the largest number of covered bridges.  In particular, I visited the town of Bridgeton, which has a rustic, charming old mill.

The Bridgeton (IN) covered bridge, which was rebuilt in 2006 due to an arson fire

First of all, I am sore from all the walking, but that is a given.  Bridgeton is in a valley and the terrain is flat, so that is nice given that you walk on concrete and crushed stone all day.  The place was packed, which was to be expected.  You just have to plan your itinerary (i.e. lunchtime) around the crowds and you will be okay.

Food?  CHECK!  My mom and I shared a Kentucky ham and cheese toasted sandwich (not quite grilled).  It is an excellent meal and half a sandwich fills you up for pretty much the rest of the day.  I look forward to it every year the way my dad looks forward to the ham and beans and cornbread meal that the Boy Scouts serve there as well.

Even though the merchandise was a bit different than last year, it still was probably a 60/40 mix of flea market to crafts.  Sadly, I didn't get any ideas to take home and try with me.  However, I was thrilled to find a woman who hooks rugs the old-fashioned way (with wool strips, not with a latch hook) had set up shop in one of the buildings, and had beginner kits on sale for $20.00.  SOLD!  I am excited to try this heritage craft (I watched the ladies hook rugs at the State Fair and got to try my hand at it there for the first time) when I get a few other projects under control.

I already mentioned it, but the weather was wonderful!  You can't ask for a prettier fall day than the one I got yesterday.  And, I think Parke County got more rain this drought summer than Tippecanoe County did, because the colors are just gorgeous down there!  The sunshine was even brighter reflecting off the leaves.

Bridgeton has become a fall ritual for me, and yesterday I grabbed the chance to renew my spirit and catch my breath from my busy daily schedule.  Cell reception is nonexistent in that valley, so I even had to wait till I got home to post photos on Facebook and Instagram.  It's a nice step back into a simpler time and I am glad I made the journey.

Monday, October 15, 2012

More When I Get Back...

Bridgeton (Indiana) covered bridge and mill, July 2010

OK, everyone, here is where I am going tomorrow--Parke County, Indiana, the land of covered bridges.  Hopefully, the weather will hold out and it will be a beautiful day for walking, sightseeing, eating, and shopping.  I will fill you in when I get back home.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Quote Of the Day

"I give and give, even when I get nothing back - and that sets me up for disappointment."--Angie Stone 
I have no idea who Angie Stone is, but she hit the nail squarely on the head with this observation.  No matter how much you give, how much you try, how much you exhaust yourself with effort.

Maybe, just maybe, I am giving and giving to the wrong people.  I don't know.  I keep telling myself things have got to change soon.  I just don't know.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Prayer For A Little Home

I know, it's not quite Thanksgiving yet, but I found this little jewel from Susan Branch that so eloquently expresses what I feel about my little home and how I want those who visit to feel.  Plus, it's got fall leaves on it, so it counts :-)  Please enjoy it!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bombdiggity Women, Part III

Jamie Lee Curtis
This girl DEFINES bombdiggity.  Jamie Lee Curtis is an everything woman, and I want to be just like her when I grow up someday :-)  She is an actress who quickly shed the "teen scream queen" image to successfully act in several movies of different genres ("Trading Places", "A Fish Called Wanda", "True Lies", "Freaky Friday").

She is also a prolific writer of children's books (among them "Today I Feel Silly" and "Other Moods That Make My Day"), some of which I have had the good fortune to read to classes of children when I was substitute teaching.

Bet you didn't know this (from Wikipedia):

"In 1987, Curtis filed a US patent application that subsequently issued as Patent No. 4,753,647. This is a modification of a diaper with a moisture proof pocket containing wipes that can be taken out and used with one hand.[15] Curtis refused to allow her invention to be marketed until companies started selling biodegradable diapers,[16] although the full statutory term of this patent expired February 20, 2007 and is now in the public domain."

Probably the coolest thing about Ms. Curtis is that she unabashedly stars in commercials for Activia yogurt by Dannon, a probiotic yogurt--yeah, the kind that keeps you regular.  Way too awesome!

Plus the fact that she is so darned attractive.  In football, they used to call that piling on.

RIP, Warrior and Hero

Freedom isn't free.  Any death in the theatre of war diminishes all of us, but when you know of the person who was killed, it hurts hard and hits hard.  Thank you, Kyle, for your sacrifice.  God bless you and may God hold your family close in this time of great pain.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Never, EVER Forget...

I still remember so much about this day; it's just like it was yesterday.  Watching the TV at work all day and trying to get on the Internet, which was almost impossible because so many people around the world were trying to do the same thing.

Going across the street at lunch to pick up a bite to eat and the sky was eerily quiet, since all airplane traffic had been grounded that day.  Seeing the faces of the people in the convenience store I went to; all grim faces, lots of set jaws, anger and fear and sadness etched in their expressions.

A few nights later, sitting in my living room, I was listening to the President speak.  Being warm that September, all of my windows and my front door were open.  All of a sudden, I heard the unmistakeable roar of jet engines to my east--many planes based at the Grissom Air Reserve Complex were headed somewhere on some mission.  That memory still gives me goosebumps.

And all the days that followed, watching the firefighters and rescue personnel searching frantically and fruitlessly (as it turned out) for any signs of life, then any signs of remains.  So gutwrenching.

The thing that sticks with me is the unfathomable hate and evil that caused all this.  Who could have that much venom in their souls and minds?  Religion is a wonderful thing, but it can be poison as well.

Never, ever forget that day or the lessons it taught us as free, civilized people.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

More Autumn Arriving Daily...

Not quite sure of the title of this piece, but it is by the artist Debbie Mumm, who also dabbles in many other pursuits including fabrics, quilting and housewares.  Visit her great website at Debbie Mumm.

Recipe--Slow Cooker Chicken and Noodles

It's September, and today happens to be a rainy, cloudy, cooler day.  Perfect weather to read over my cold weather recipes and search for any new ones I can add to my repertoire.

I happened upon this yummy dish while browsing one of the blogs, "Chaos Is Bliss", by Angela on the Facebook page Indiana's Family of Farmers.  Angela is a working wife and mom with young children, and this recipe she shared is from a cookbook published by the organization Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS).  But honestly, can't we all use a busy mom-type shortcut in the kitchen to come up with a good, hearty comfort meal?
Slow Cooker Chicken and Noodles

To that end, here is Angela's recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken and Noodles:
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thawed
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1/2 t seasoned salt
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • 1/4 t celery seed
  • 1 package frozen noodles (Angela suggests Reames brand), cooked and drained
Cut up chicken breasts into small pieces; put into bowl of slow cooker.  Mix together cream soups and chicken broth.  Add seasonings; pour over chicken breasts.  Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 7-9 hours.  Fold noodles into chicken mixture; cook for 25-30 minutes longer.

In the photo, it appears that peas and carrots have been added to the chicken and noodles during the cooking process.  I think this is an excellent way to work in the vegetables you need on a daily basis.  Try it and let me know how you like it!

50 Year-Old Divorced Single Female

The most unwanted, rejected, ignored person in the world, without a doubt and in my humble opinion, is a single female who is divorced and at least 50 years old. Like me.

What a crock of manure.

This beautiful woman, who has life to enliven, love to spare, gifts for the world to cherish, talent to share--well, just forget it.  She's got more than enough of everything--spirit, wisdom, humor, grace, experience--that any man should ever want to have, but it's not enough for the men that happen by.

Men have it soooo good; they can still go after the 20 and 30 year-old crowd and find their trophies, untarnished by age and weight and gravity and circumstances.  All that's left for the women of my age are men harboring serious issues, which is probably the reason why they are not in relationships to begin with.  And who needs that drama, seriously?

I am beginning to believe that it is in God's plan for me to be single for the rest of my life.  I truly did believe I would be remarried by now.  How naive I was!  I still happen to believe that God is not correct in this instance (God and I are not getting along too well at this point in time, and He knows it because I have told Him so plenty of times), but I am slowly losing faith in any alternative path.

If you want to see pretty, look in a fashion magazine.  If you want to see beautiful, look in my mirror.  If you want deep, true, forever love, look to the woman who has been there and done that and knows how.

Sea Glass

It's one of Mother Nature's most beautiful gifts--sea glass.  When I am at a beach, whether lakeshore or ocean, it's one of the things for which I keep a very keen eye on the sand.

Such beautiful colors that can range all the way from the most common white to the very rare reds and oranges.  The forces of nature--wind and water--create the frosted, pebbly texture and the deep, true jewel tones.  What is left for us to enjoy is the end product of Mother Nature's masterworks.

Just by staring into a piece of sea glass, I can actually visualize the water, feel the sand, hear the waves.  It's a nice, serene, comforting place to be.

BTW, I've decided that the bathroom decor plan may be changed to a sea glass theme.  I can't wait to develop those thoughts a little more and see what actually happens :-)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Is That FALL On Its Way?

"Pumpkin Hollow" by Charles Wysocki
The light quality outside is different, the leaves are starting to turn and crops are, too (probably more from the drought this summer than from any seasonal thing), school is back in session...could fall be just around the corner?  Here are a couple of compositions from one of my favorite artists, Charles Wysocki, to get you in the autumnal mood.

"Monty Minds the Store" by Charles Wysocki

Find a wonderful Wysocki gallery at Charles Wysocki Gallery.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bombdiggity Women, Part II

Julia Child, "The French Chef"
Here is the second in my series of posts on women who just impress the heck out of me by just living their lives with all they have or had and using their talents to better everyone around them. 

I happened to catch Julia Child cooking show reruns on the PBS channel Create last Sunday.  I just enjoyed so much her guests and the charming way she interacted with each, respecting their talents while injecting some of her own culinary knowledge.

I actually heard her say this on one of those reruns, too:  "Salad is for sissies and the French".  You gotta love a gal with a sense of humor like that!

Another really amazing thing about Julia was that fact that she served her country during World War II as an top secret intelligence operative for the Office of Strategic Services.  Posted at different places around the world, she did all kinds of things, from typing file cards to working on a shark repellent. 

Bombdiggity in many, many ways--that was the wonderful Julia Child.  Today's TV personality cooks are fun to watch as well, but no one (yet) matches the wit and wisdom of Ms. Child.

The Muskmelon Connoisseur

At this moment--even though I have eaten my lunch--I am salivating.

I treated myself and bought a muskmelon from a roadside produce stand today on my way back to work from the noon hour.

The thought of that orange fruit with the musky smell and the perfect level of sweetness, the juice that invariably drips down your chin and onto whatever you are wearing--I can hardly wait.  Plus the fact that muskmelons are chock full of good-for-you nutrients; that seals the deal.

I have been craving muskmelon ever since July.  Of course, when I orignally set out to get one was when the salmonella outbreak got a foothold, with many people being sickened by contaminated melons from farms in southwest Indiana.  And, in my opinion, melons from southwestern Indiana are the best. Not only a blow for me personally but for those farmers in my home state who are already suffering through a horrendous growing season.

I knew, but I asked anyway.  It was grown in Battle Ground, just a few miles north of where I live.  The TV news talking heads say that if you ask and the melon was grown locally, you are ok.  So I asked and I bought, and am now looking forward to going home, slicing it into a bowl, and popping it in the fridge for a few days' worth of meals.

Summer may be slipping away quickly, but there's still time to enjoy those simple pleasures, like cool, smooth muskmelon on a warm August day.  These are things we remember when the wind chill rears its ugly head come next January or so.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bombdiggity Women, Part I

I've decided to start a new series of posts on my blog about women who are just so stinkin' awesome that there is no hope for the rest of us.  Just kidding, just kidding; these women are such inspirations to ALL women, young and old, wherever they may be.  Here are my first two winners:

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings after winning
their third Olympic gold medal in women's beach volleyball, 2012.

Quote of the Day

I came across this quote today in the signature block of an e-mail message from the parent of one of the students that will be taking a distance learning honors geometry class this fall:

"The reward for a good deed is to have done it."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Because Love Wins"

A friend passed away this past weekend.  Not of some horrible disease, a senseless crime, or even a terrible car accident.  She evidently fell and hit her head and died of severe brain bleeding.

Terry was a beautiful, vital, intelligent 48 year-old woman with a husband, two children, a solid marriage and a wonderful life in Wichita, Kansas.  After working for General Motors, Cessna, and Raytheon in human resources management, she chose to devote her life to raising her children and caring for others through her church.

Her sister Laura Beth, who was my college roommate and high school friend (as was Terry), wrote this beautiful tribute to her on Facebook late the night she passed:

"Thank you all for posting such encouraging messages during this sad and tragic time. My dear sister Terry passed this afternoon. Her husband, Alan, my Mom, Sig, Tom, Carol and I were at her side. She suffered tremendous swelling in the brain after a fall. We will miss this amazing woman, mother, sister, daughter, wife, friend. My emotions are all over the place right now. But I do know this...Terry would want to be remembered by sharing a kind word to your neighbor, performing an unexpected random act of kindness, forgiving someone you just don't want to forgive, believing in someone no one else does, telling others you love them, making your family a priority. Life on this earth can be taken away any time. Please let's make our lives be all about loving others because love wins. Thank you for remembering and loving Terry."
Because love wins.  Rest in peace, sweet angel.  Although I hadn't seen you in forever, I miss you just the same.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Domestic Tranquility

I have read before that the relative neatness and organization of your home/living space influences your attitude a great deal.  If this is so, my 'tude is in the gutter and heading toward the sewer quickly.

One look at my house and you would think I was trying to qualify for the next season of "Hoarders".  As a matter of fact, I looked up the definition and symptoms of this disorder on the Internet and I think I have some of the traits of a hoarder.  Why, though, I don't know.  All I know is that I need to get the clutter cleared and maybe the mess in my mind will follow suit.

My new kitchen curtain valances.
"Simple Praise" by Park Designs.

When things are this bad, it's hard to know what step(s) to take first.  You know that a storage/sheving unit of some type in the family room would help with the junk buildup immensely, but 1) do you put down carpeting first before building the unit?  2) how much is it going to cost? 3) will my back hold up through all the construction? and on and on and on...

I've decided that painting over the faux brick in my kitchen is the best, cheapest solution for changing the color, preserving the drywall, and brightening my spirits.  But when am I going to fit in cleaning and prepping the brick for painting?  Can I go ahead and put curtain rods into the brick to hang the new curtains, or should I wait until the brick is painted? 

Should I wait for another community document shredding day to come around, or should I spend the $$$ on a shredder, start shredding this excess paper, and hope I don't burn out the motor on another one?  And I even have the urge after all this to repaint my living room.

And--where is all the money for this going to come from?

Good grief, I need to stop ADDing and do something.  Stop making excuses, stop being scared.  Take the plunge.  If it is to be, it is up to me.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Laughter In the Rain, Little Kid Style

The reunion of my mom's side of the family, which is a rather large gathering when we all get together (my mom is one of eight kids), took place yesterday at the park in Mulberry, Indiana.

One thing I love about the Jewett Reunion is the amount of little children that are there.  I think that is a given when you have a extended family the size of mine.  No little babies yesterday, but plenty of tinies from toddlers up through grade schoolers.

Yesterday, Mulberry was blessed with two very nice downpours of rain within about an hour.  It didn't take long at all for the little ones to discover the water ponded up at the bottom of the slides, on top of the merry-go-round, and under the swings on the playground.  Pretty soon, a whole horde of tiny bodies with soaking wet pants and skirts made their way into the shelterhouse to reload on cookies and other child-friendly "energy snacks".

Watching them splash in puddles made me smile and made me wish I could go back to being that carefree.  I was painfully aware yesterday of just how down I have been for most of the year and how much I wish I could get back to being me.  The craft table was equally fun, watching the little ones carry away their picture frames decorated with little precut foam shapes.  They were so proud of them, even if they did have 15 alligators with one flower pressed haphazardly all over the place.  I am so darned wrapped up with doing everything as well and as fast as I can that I miss the lesson and value of letting go and having fun.

Maybe if I sat at a picnic table soon, balanced a bottle cap on top of my head, and made silly faces--well, most folks would think I'd finally lost my freaking mind, but I think I would feel very good and partly young in spirit again.  I think I'll try it soon.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

I'm Starting To Feel Like This Photo...

Today is July 5.  The school corporation for which I work begins classes on Tuesday, August 14.  I am starting to feel like the poor little fellow in the photo above.

Many people say to me, "oh, the summers must be so nice and slow for you". HA!  There are times during the summer when I am busier than at some times during the actual school year.  There is always a record to be updated, a parent to be called, data to be analyzed, handbooks to be edited and overhauled, files to reorganize--you name it.

When the students come back--well, that is what we live for and work for.  But the preparation can stretch you in many different ways.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rest In Peace, Sweet Little Boy

"Zacary Wise, died at birth, Saturday, June 30, 2012, in St. Elizabeth East Hospital. A private family graveside service will be held in Sugar Grove Cemetery near New Richmond."

Just a few short, simple words for a life that never got a chance to begin to be lived.  I can't even try to begin to explain the grief I feel because this year I already have more questions than faith over things that have happened in my life.  This little baby's death dredged up all the pain and memories again that I thought might be packed away after almost 25 years.

Love, thoughts, sympathy and prayers to Chrissy, Andy, big brother (at three years old) Jackson, and the Dill and Wise families on this terrible loss.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Butter Is Better

This is one of those things you have experienced in your life that you could just kick yourself over.  Jeez, I could post a whole series of those things.  But, I digress...

When I was growing up, I lived in the small town of Mulberry, Indiana.  Very close to Mulberry was the farm where my Aunt Mary and Uncle John lived.  Mom would take us out to visit our aunt, uncle and their seven kids (all of whom have first names that start with the letter J, but, again, I digress...)

I loved visiting the farm!  Besides all those cousins to play with, the basketball goal in the barn, and Salt and Pepper, the two Dalmatian dogs, my favorite thing was the dairy cow Aunt Mary kept for milk.  I remember that it was a Guernsey (I'm pretty sure), but darned if I can remember her name.  She was sweet, gentle, HUGE, and had those beautiful dairy-cow eyes and lashes.

We would often be at Aunt Mary's at lunchtime, and she always had a huge spread of food on her table for her farmer husband and growing children.  One of the staples of the dinner table at her house was butter--the fresh, homemade kind that she churned herself and for which the milk came straight from the cow.

She would always ask if I wanted some butter with my meal--AND I ALWAYS SAID NO!  Can you believe it?  What I wouldn't give to be able to go back in time and say YES! and try some of that sweet, creamy stuff, right there on the farm it came from.  My mouth absolutely waters at the thought of having some of that butter on an ear of corn or a warm muffin.

I don't know if I hesitated because it didn't look like the margarine that was in my refrigerator at home, if I didn't think it was real because of the color, or what exactly the problem was.  All I know is that I missed out on a tremendous life experience.

Monday, June 18, 2012

How Does My Garden Grow?--6/17/12

Training my cardinal creeper vine to actually vine up the sides of this tomato cage.

The variegated leaves on the nasturtiums I planted are starting to get very showy and pretty.

Zucchini is getting VERY big!  Lots of blossoms, but only one baby so far.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

They Paved Paradise...Put In a Parking Lot

On my way to run an errand over my lunch hour today, I cut through the neighborhood where I grew up--because it's a shortcut and because I know about it :-)--and passed by the old community swimming pool.

Tahoe Swim Club was the name of the place.  It was located on Beck Lane in the south part of Lafayette, Indiana, on a really oddly-shaped lot; I imagine it was put there as a way to use up ground that was difficult to build family homes on.  It was a membership-only place where the kids in the Tecumseh subdivision 'hood spent every possible minute of every possible summer day and night swimming and tanning and flirting and listening to WLS turned up really loud and all those other wonderful summertime things.

My sisters both had lifeguarding jobs there.  I got many nice brown-as-a-berry tans there, and can remember getting tanned through my swimsuits; once I had swirly designs where the sun came through the white areas on the fabric.  Another year, I had stars all over the place.  Mostly, I hung with my girlfriends; the boys were either doing sports during the days or working at summer jobs.

Well, the pool is no more.  Just like the song (and the title of this post), they paved [my] paradise and put in a parking lot; or rather, an asphalt playground.  The old clubhouse, which all of us swimmers would overwhelm during those infuriating 15-minute breaks every hour, is still standing.  The property is in use as a "branch" of the local Boys' and Girls' Club, which is a very worthwhile use of the facility, considering that the makeup of the neighborhood is probably very much in need of that kind of service.

But when I drive by the old place, I still see multicolored beach towels hung to dry over the chain link fence, smell the Hawaiian Tropic suntan oil, and feel the gravel cutting into my feet when I would walk home barefoot.  Tahoe Swim Club will always be a summer paradise to me, even if it is under asphalt now.  That's the nice thing about memories; they can't be paved over unless you want them to be. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Help Not Wanted

I am having a terrible, terrible time reaching out to someone I love so very dearly, someone who loves me very dearly, too.

This person is suffering.  He is mentally and physically suffering.  He needs help.  He needs a different kind of help than what he is currently getting.  He won't ask for it; he won't ask ME for it.

How do I feel about that?  Frustrated, angry, embarrassed, less worthy, stupid...all of those and more.

I DO NOT want to abandon this person.  My friend needs someone.  I was taught by my parents and my religion to not give up on and lose hope for those in need, especially those I care for and love.

Is it embarrassment?  Is it stubborness?  Is it habit?  Is it all three of these things and more?  I have offered my assistance on many occasions, and it's just not good enough or just not enough or something.

I don't think I am being pushy, although I could be.  I have made it known that I am here for him.  I would prefer to talk to him one on one, but he doesn't even want that to happen anymore.

It threatens now to drive a wedge between the two of us, which is the LAST thing I want to happen.  But I can't control outcomes any more than I can control the rain or the sun.

Maybe I should save myself and stop trying.  Maybe that would be the best support I could give this person.  I don't know; I am confused.  If someone doesn't want your help, they are not going to take it until and IF they are good and ready to do so.  And even then, will they find their way back to you to ask you, or will they just wipe their hands and be done with you?

Love is pain as well as butterflies and rainbows.  He asked me to put that in my blog once.  Well, there you go--it's in there :-)

God, please help me determine the best thing to do.  And please love him with all you have and watch over him day and night, because he needs You right now more than ever.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Love Chooses You

Love comes unbidden, can't be forbidden
It takes you and shakes you right down to your shoes
It knows heartache and trial but accepts no denial
You can't choose who you love, love chooses you

In the wink of an eye, love looses an arrow
We control it no more than the flight of the sparrow
The swell of the tide or the light of the moon
You can't choose who you love, love chooses you

Tell me now if I'm wrong, are you feeling the same?
Are your feet on the ground, are you calling my name
Do you lie awake nights?  Please say you do
Cause you can't choose who you love, love chooses you

Love cuts like a torch to a heart behind steel
And though you may hide it, love knows how you feel
And though you may trespass on the laws of the land
Your heart has to follow when love takes your hand

And it seems we're two people within the same circle
It's drawn tighter and tighter till you're all that I see
I'm full and I'm empty, and you're pouring through me
Like a warm rain falling through the leaves on a tree

Tell me now if I'm wrong...
No you can't choose who you love, love chooses you

(Written by Laurie Lewis, performed by many including Laurie Lewis and Kathy Mattea)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Don't Bite, Kick, or Pick Your Nose

My job with a local school corporation periodically allows me to work one-on-one with students--mostly the primary grade variety--by administering tests at parent request for our high ability classrooms.  It absolutely is one of the highlights of the position I hold, just because I love the interaction with their world.

Problem is, I am a sucker for each kid that comes through the door.  They are all as cute as buttons, but more wonderful is the outlook they have on life and the fact that they are not afraid to share that point of view with anybody and everybody.

Case in point:  I had a little guy in here this morning to complete the first part of his testing.  He was a chatterbox and focused fairly well on the task at hand for his age.  But he would just blurt things out; whether he was trying to be friendly, work off some Grade 1 nerves, or maybe a combination, I don't know.  One thing he said to me, though, made me laugh out loud:

"This has been a pretty good week.  I am learning not to pick my nose and so far this week I haven't done it."

Add that to my cousin's spunky preschool-age toddler, who, when she came home this week and her mother asked her how school was that day, replied: "I didn't bite anyone and I didn't push anyone".

Just being reminded of those things--the little, most important things--made it a pretty good week for me, too.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Recipe: Snickerdoodle Muffins

Snickerdoodle Muffins
At the risk of giving away my trade secrets (!), I just had to post this recipe for Snickerdoodle Muffins.  I believe, if these turn out reliably good, they will be my muffin exhibit at the county fair open show this summer.  They are gorgeous and hopefully I can find four uniform muffins for my exhibit.

My Dad is my test subject for my culinary creations, so I hope he is ready to eat because I am ready to practice! :-)

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 C sugar
2 t vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 t baking soda
3/4 t baking powder
3/4 t cream of tartar
3/4 t nutmeg
1 1/4 c sour cream
2 1/4 c all-purpose flour  
  • Sugar mixture for rolling: 1/2 c sugar, 1 T cinnamon mixed together in a bowl
  • Lightly grease 12-14 muffin cups in a muffin tin. 
  • Cream butter and sugar until soft, 3-5 min.  Add vanilla.  Add eggs one at a time and mix till each is incorporated. 
  • In separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, cream of tartar and nutmeg. 
  • Add flour mixture and sour cream alternately to egg-butter mixture .  Start with flour and end with flour.  Scrape bowl occasionally. 
  • Using ice cream scoop, scoop muffin batter one at a time and drop into cinnamon/sugar mixture in bowl.  Roll muffin around in mixture until it is covered completely.  Place muffin into muffin tin.  Bake 20-22 min at 350 degrees F or until golden brown.
Enjoy--and let me know what you think and how they turn out for you!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I Am...Enough

Took a big step today.

I am hoping that this will be as liberating and good for me as getting my divorce almost six years ago was.  I remember I felt better than I had in years in only two weeks.  Hopefully, that will happen again this time.

I loved him with all I had.  And was willing to love with all I had for the rest of forever. But he didn't want me, want that.  What the hell are you supposed to do about that?

I know that I was more than enough for him.  I know I was the right one.  But he chose otherwise and I will go on.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Who Plants a Seed...

"Who plants a seed beneath the sod
And waits to see, believes in God." --anonymous

I cross stitched this saying once.  Darned if I can find the finished piece now, but that's another story.

I got the 2012 garden plot planted a couple of weeks ago, and every evening when I get home from work, I make the trip out to the backyard to check for progress.  I was rewarded a couple of nights ago when I discovered sunflower, cardinal climber and green beans sticking their tiny heads up above the soil.  Only the nasturtiums need to make their presence known, and everything I planted will be accounted for.

I can't even begin to describe the joy and excitement and accomplishment I feel when I see a seed just starting to live its life as a plant.  Obviously, I did something right, and now I am responsible for helping that seed reach its fullest potential.  Quite like being a parent of a child.  I will be watering and weeding and hoeing and hopefully harvesting the fruits of my labor, all courtesy of the energy and determination of those little seeds planted beneath the sod.

It is so hot right now in Indiana (weekend forecast is for 95 degrees both days) that I will be watering about every other day until some rain decides to fall.  But I don't mind because I know what the payoff will be.  Around August, when I am eating a freshly-picked tomato from the garden and the juice is dribbling off my chin--well, my early-season efforts will have been worth it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Different Kind of Mother's Day Tribute

Those of you who know me know that the biggest tragedy in my life is the fact that I was never able to carry a pregnancy to term.  No problems getting pregnant; it was just carrying them past the first trimester that was the problem.  At that time, there were no surgical or in vitro options that would have helped me achieve my dream to be a mother.  I was stuck without options and with a husband (now ex) that didn't want to create a family with me via adoption.

This "guest blogger" column by the late Erma Bombeck, the wonderful columnist, has always been one that I have held dear and close to my heart.  I am posting it with no intentions of it being an "oh woe is me" post; it is just a tribute to those of us that lost our dream through no fault of our own.  Please enjoy it and enjoy your Mother's Day this coming Sunday, May 13, 2012.

Mothers who have lost a child - Erma Bombeck, May 14, 1995
If you're looking for an answer this Mother's Day on why God reclaimed your child, I don't know. I only know that thousands of mothers out there today desperately need an answer as to why they were permitted to go through the elation of carrying a child and then lose it to miscarriage, accident , violence, disease or drugs.

Motherhood isn't just a series of contractions. It's a state of mind. From the moment we know life is inside us, we feel a responsibility to protect and defend that human being. It's a promise we can't keep. We beat ourselves to death over that pledge. "If I hadn't worked through the eighth month." "If I had taken him to the doctor when he had a fever." "If I hadn't let him use the car that night." "If I hadn't been so naive, I'd have noticed he was on drugs."

The longer I live, the more convinced I become that surviving changes us. After the bitterness, the anger, the guilt, and the despair are tempered by time, we look at life differently.

While I was writing my book, "I Want to Grow Hair, I Want to Grow Up, I Want to Go to Boise", I talked with mothers who had lost a child to cancer. Every single one said death gave their lives new meaning and purpose. And who do you think prepared them for the rough, lonely road they had to travel? Their dying child. They pointed their mothers toward the future and told them to keep going. The children had already accepted what their mothers were fighting to reject.

The children in the bombed-out nursery in Oklahoma City have touched more lives than they will ever know. Workers who had probably given their kids a mechanical pat on the head without thinking that morning are making phone calls home during the day to their children to say "I love you."

This may seem like a strange Mother's Day column on a day when joy and life abound for the millions of mothers throughout the country. But it's also a day of appreciation and respect. I can think of no mothers who deserve it more than those who had to give a child back.

In the face of adversity, we are not permitted to ask, "Why me?" You can ask, but you won't get an answer. Maybe you are the instrument who is left behind to perpetuate the life that was lost and appreciate the time you had with it.

The late Gilda Radner summed it up well: "I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned the hard way that some poems don't rhyme and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what is going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.".

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Love and the Chambray Shirt

When I was a seventh grader at Tecumseh Jr. High in Lafayette, Indiana wayyyy back in the mid-1970's, I was at best a nerd.  Nowhere NEAR popular; I was bookish.  Ooooh, and I had glasses, too.  How gauche!  Oh, how I wanted to fit in with the "in" girls!  I adored them, especially their clothes.  They were stylish and beautiful and I just knew they had gotten them at Paul Harris at the Tippecanoe Mall.  Now, I had nice clothes and plenty of them, but nothing near this special (so I thought at the time).

That year, one of the big fashion trends was chambray button-up-the-front shirts with embroidered embellishments all over the place--the button placket, the yoke, the corner of a pocket, the points of the collars.  I admired them in the stores, but the prices were just simply out of my family's league, especially with three girls who all wanted them.

My very clever, resourceful mother was able to scare up, in her limited price range, three plain chambray shirts at Block's Department Store at the Mall.  Knowing that my Grandma (her mother) was an expert embroiderer, she showed the shirts to her and explained what she was looking for her to do.

In no time flat, Grandma had whipped up three amazingly beautiful embroidered shirts, one for each of us.  Mine, I remember, was a snowflake design that Grandma had stitched up.  All sizes and types of snowflakes danced upon my shirt in various places.  On all three shirts, she had stitched a longstitch-dot pattern in contrasting colors over ALL of the topstitching.  I remember mine was red with white.

I was so ungrateful back then; I remember not being happy with mine because it didn't have a floral motif.  But I wore it to school anyway, thinking all the time that I was still going to be disappointed and I was not going to fit in with the crowd because I didn't have a FLORAL embroidered shirt.

That all changed during one class period passing change in the hallway, when arguably the wealthiest girl in school (her father was Ryan White's first lawyer in his fight against the Western School Corporation to attend school even though he had AIDS) came up to me out of the blue and said, "Laurie, I absolutely love your shirt.  Where did you get it?"

Amazing how so few words can change your outlook on something!  After that, I was proud as a peacock to wear my shirt that my Grandma had made for me and my mother had thought to create.

The sad part of the story--I'm sure that shirt is long gone.  Mom is good at getting rid of stuff, so I'm sure it found its way to Goodwill after I had outgrown it.  What I wouldn't give to have that shirt back--the memories and the love that were sewn into it, with two pairs of amazing hands, are two of my proudest possessions.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Must Have Flowers

"Must Have Flowers" print by Kathy Davis

A lovely print for sale at Kathy Davis Studios.  It captures the very essence of what is so lovely about spring and summer for me.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Thrill of the Hunt

What is it about me and those darned dollar bins at retail stores?

Is it the love of a bargain, the thrill of the hunt?  Dollar bins to me are like riding your bike to the drug store in the summertime and buying all of those different flavors of Bubs Daddy bubble gum for 5 cents apiece (I am relatively certain we will never see prices like that again in our lifetimes).

I went to the drug store the other day to buy my mom a Mother's Day card.  That was it; Mother's Day card.  I needed absolutely NOTHING else at that particular moment.  But somehow two $1 microfiber cleaning cloths found their way into my shopping bag at the checkout counter.

Don't get me started on the cool stuff bins at the Michaels arts and crafts supply store in my town.  Pencils, notepads, recipe cards, nail files--OMG.  I cleaned up there on my Christmas stocking shopping for the ladies on my list last holiday season.  My coworkers can always tell when I've been at Michaels during my lunch hour because I come back bearing gifts of pencils.

And the trial size bins--good grief, there's trouble with a capital "T".  Not only can you try out new stuff, but buy just the perfect size of shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, whatever for a trip at a really cheap price.  Great gifts for dirty bingo and the like can be found in the trial size section--last Christmas, one of my 20-something nephews got a trial-size box of Hello Kitty Bandaids for a prize that I found in the trial size bins at Walgreens.

It probably is not even close to economical to buy products from the trial-size bin, and most of the dollar bin items, especially the plastic ones, tend to break or become nonfunctional in a very short period of time.  But I think it's the thrill--the thrill of spending very little money to get something you "need", the thrill one gets from finding something really cool and really inexpensive.  Long live the dollar bins!

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Greatest Athlete That Ever Lived

Secretariat winning the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown, 1973

Love you and miss you, Big Red.  You were the best.  The horse with the heart bigger than it should have been.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Discuss Amongst Yourselves...

Is it possible to love someone too much?

This has been an off/on, but very passionate, discussion among my friends and acquaintances on Facebook.  It brings up some very personal and very probative issues.

What do you think?  I'd love to know and read your responses.  Feel free to drop me a line and tell me your feelings.

Recipe: Easy Chicken Enchilada Crescent Bake

Easy Chicken Enchilada Crescent Bake

Has anyone noticed the recipe kick I seem to be on lately? :-)

Anyhoo, I was looking for enchilada recipes the other day on one of my very favorite food found a recipe for Easy Chicken Enchilada Crescent Bake that I thought sounded 1) really yummy and 2) inexpensive on the wallet in the grocery store, so I pinned it to my Pinterest board titled "Food, Glorious Food".

Much to my complete surprise, it was repinned 24 times in less than an hour after I had pinned it.  So there must be lots of folks out there looking for good, healthy, inexpensive meal-at-home options.  Even though I haven't made it yet, I am going to soon.

Here is the recipe.  Try it out and let me know how it turns out for you:

  • 2 C shredded cooked chicken
  • 1-10 oz can red enchilada sauce
  • 2-8 oz cans (each) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls (Pillsbury also makes a refrigerated "Crescent Recipe Creations" seamless dough sheet that might be worth a try)
  • 1 1/4 C (5 oz) shredded Mexican cheese blend 
  • In 2 qt saucepan, mix chicken and 1/2 C enchilada sauce.  Heat to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Separate or cut dough into 8 long rectangles (if using crescent rolls, press perforations to seal).  Spoon chicken mixture and 1 T cheese onto one long side of each rectangle.  Roll up; pinch edges to seal.  Place seam side down in 13" x 9" (3 qt) glass baking dish.  Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas, and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  • Bake at 375 degrees 15-20 minutes.
YIELD: 8 servings.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lumberyard Memories

My dad and I went to the lumberyard this past Saturday.

The purpose of our trip was to buy more lumber to make replacement railing sections for my front porch.  The ones that are there are rotting away, so Dad is constructing the railing and I am helping and I am also in charge of painting them.

Wandering around the home improvement center and the lumberyard took me back to my childhood, when Dad would pack up the three of us girls and tote us off to Wolohan Lumber on Saturday mornings.  What a treat that was!  Wolohan Lumber always had free peanuts in the shell and a self-dispensing Coke fountain on Saturdays, so that was the first stop once we got inside the door.

Note to any self-respecting store: do NOT provide a self-dispensing Coke fountain on Saturday mornings when children are present :-)

I can remember sitting on top of the giant rolls of carpet, pretending I was on a horse riding across the prairie, my grub in tow.  I think every bathroom vanity, kitchen cabinet, and toilet seat was opened and closed when the Jones girls were in the store.  We would daydream and plan and pick out our future kitchens and front doors and paint colors. Of course, you can't daydream with your sisters without doing it out loud, so we probably provided the entertainment for the other customers.   And that great smell of fresh lumber.  It was everywhere. I truly think that all of those wonderful sights, sounds, and smells sparked my creative spirit even further and helped me hone in on the things I like to do.

Dad took us girls lots of places (no sons, so what's a guy to do?).  Not only the lumberyard, but the dump, the Farm Progress Show, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Such a wonderful education for us and girl time with Dad. 

So very thankful for the time with my Dad this weekend.  Hopefully, I'll get asked again :-)