Saturday, January 29, 2011

52 Books - Books 5 and 6

Still loving the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge. Many of you know that most of this year will be a big countdown for me and my family and in many ways this challenge puts that time into a very tangible thing for me. When another book is done, the countdown is one week closer to the big day. Awesome.

Book 5 - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

This book needs no introduction and no explanation. I chose it because somehow I managed to get through high school and college without ever having to read it and I felt like I was missing out on a piece of Americana itself.

Having read it now I can't say that it was a favorite of mine, but I can appreciate it for what it is, not just funny tales of an adventurous young boy but a brave critique of slavery.

Book 6 - Outer Banks by Anne Rivers Siddons

I dove into this book completely blind. The kids and I were in Barnes and Noble and I walked past the bargain paperbacks table and snatched one on first glance that had a name that intrigued me and wore a $4.98 price tag.

Luck was apparently on my side because this was one that I couldn't put down. The pages seem to turn themselves. I was up till the wee hours of the morning today reading until my eyes burned and turned fire red from fatigue and then began again as soon as I woke and read with very little interruption until noon when I at last reached the last period.

In my opinion it was a superb story of a group of sorority sisters who grew inseperable in college only to barely speak for the next 25 years. They reunite after all that time in a grand old house on the outer banks of North Carolina where they, in many ways, fall right back in step as if they had never been separated but in many others discover the giant chasms that separate them.

If you're a sap for the perfection yet complication of intimate friendship like I am, I suspect you would enjoy this one as I did.

Next - A Lucky Child - A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz As a Young Boy by Thomas Buergenthal

Monday, January 24, 2011

Kid Tested and Approved

I am incessantly searching for decent meals for my children. Both are picky eaters and much prefer premade nuggets of an unidentifiable substance that manufacturers pass as "chicken" to anything natural and wholesome. It's terribly frustrating for someone like me who loves to create with food and constantly try new things.

Well, this recipe can by no means be considered overly creative and certainly nothing new, but the combination of flavors made it a hit on the peculiar palettes of my offspring. My eldest, the pickiest, even ate two bowls full. That is such a remarkable happening that I felt obligated to share it in case there were others out there who share my struggles. Don't expect "healthy". Oh no. We are so far from "healthy" it's not even on the horizon, but they LIKED it and it's NOT chicken nuggets! That, my friends, is success!

Oh, and I should say that I had no trouble scarfing down a full bowl as well. Who can deny that combining the best flavors in pepperoni pizza and spaghetti is a brilliant idea?

Pizza Spaghetti

12 ounces uncooked spaghetti
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (1-lb.) package mild ground pork sausage
2 ounces pepperoni slices (about 30), cut in half
1 (26-oz.) jar tomato-and-basil pasta sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 (8-oz.) package shredded Italian three-cheese blend

1. Cook spaghetti with 1/2 tsp. salt according to package directions. Drain well, and place in a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish.

2. Brown sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until meat crumbles and is no longer pink. Drain and set aside. Wipe skillet clean. Add pepperoni, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, 4 minutes or until slightly crisp.

3. Top spaghetti in baking dish with sausage; pour pasta sauce over sausage. Arrange half of pepperoni slices evenly over pasta sauce. Sprinkle evenly with cheeses. Arrange remaining half of pepperoni slices evenly over cheese. Cover with nonstick or lightly greased aluminum foil.

4. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes; remove foil, and bake 10 more minutes or until cheese is melted and just begins to brown.

Photo and recipe borrowed from Southern Living 2007

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I love to take pictures of food, but rarely do I ever cook when it's not dark outside and we all know that photography in artificial light general stinks. It's yet another negative side effect of full time work. I am determined to one day figure out a way to avoid it. Until then I'll just take advantage of the light on the weekends.

This was our Sunday morning breakfast.


Oh dear goodness! Can you see the gooey chocolately goodness in the background?? Divine! Also the reason the treadmill and I are going to have to reintroduce ourselves to each other this week.

Yesterday I would have told you that I didn't care much for pancakes but these beauties changed my mind. The kids slathered on the syrup. I ate mine straight off the griddle and can't imagine them being any better.

I adapted these from the following recipe using a tad less sugar but lots more chocolate chips. We're all about the chocolate.

Chcolate Chip Pancakes

• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 2 tablespoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 eggs
• 1 1/2 cups milk
• 1/4 cup vegetable oil
• 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Perfect Saturdays

I love Saturdays. My kids call it "the day off". I may be guilty of wishing my life away by counting down each week until Saturday, but at this time I just can't feel guilty about it. They are just too perfect.

Take today for example. We slept late, made breakfast, stayed in our pjs until nearly lunch, and then ran to town for lunch and a few errands. When we got home we had the whole afternoon to do exactly as we pleased.

Luke spent a few minutes reading his current AR book. To be honest, this was an enforced reading period. He's not that dedicated. These pics were taken while a timer in the kitchen was counting down the minutes until he could play the Wii again. Hey, we do what we gotta do. He's a typical boy. :-)

He and I have a strange affinity for being curled into a near fetal position. This is comfort at it's best!

Oooh! Harry Potter must be in a fix. Check out the furrowed brow.

In the past week Mia has declared herself a "big girl" and has begun to voluntarily perform tasks that no normal child enjoys. Believe it or not she asked if she could unload the dryer and fold the laundry.

Pause for a supermodel shot.

One of our errands today was a stop a Barnes and Noble. Mia's quite excited about her purchase. We love our Ramona! Oh, and can anyone notice what is missing in Mia's smile? Can't believe she's old enough to have lost a tooth!

And where do the kids find Mom? Curled up in her favorite spot doing her favorite thing. Mia's proving to be pretty handy with the camera as well. I think she only took about 20 shots before she finally got my head in the picture and from the looks of it I was in the middle of giving instructions when she snapped it. :-)

Saturdays...if you only came more often!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

52 Books - Book 4 - The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir

Following a string of fiction pieces, I decided to go the non-fiction route this time and chose this funny little gem written by Bill Bryson. I first fell in love with Bryson’s humor in A Walk in the Woods a few years back and was pleased to discover that this, tales of his childhood growing up in the 1950s in small town America, was wonderfully entertaining as well.

Bryson not only spins fabulous, and no doubt slightly exaggerated, yarns about he and his friends’ childhood antics, but he also gives a great history lesson of what it was like to live in the 1950s. He tells of the world’s newly-found fascination with atomic bombs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the revelation the smoking was bad for your health, the invasion of television to the average middle class household, and describes the effect that all of these happenings had on the lives of the average American family.

It’s certainly not a thrilling page turner, but if you’re looking for something light and humorous that will make even someone not born until 1979 (me!) long for days gone by, this would be great.

Friday, January 14, 2011

52 Books - Book 3 - No Country for Old Men

It’s a terrible thing when you are glad that a book is finished. To me a great book is one in which you turn the last page wishing there was more. No Country for Old Men, alas, did not fit that description for me.

I write that knowing that literary scholars all around would probably tar and feather me for that opinion, but it is just that…my opinion. Before I give any more opinion though, let me give a quick synopsis of the story for those of you who have not either read it before or seen the movie.

This is a modern day western about a man named Lewellyn Moss who, while out hunting in West Texas one day, comes upon several vehicles riddled with gunshot holes and filled with several dead or barely alive Mexican dope runners. Mr. Moss inspects the scene and finds a briefcase filled with $2.4 million which he decides to take home as his own. You could say that it’s all downhill for Mr. Moss from that point. We come to learn that several parties want that money not the least of which is a psychopathic killer by the name of Anton Chigurh. The remainder of the tale describes their hunt for Moss.

I was at first intrigued by the story line. Typically, I am a sucker for a thrilling chase. However, I was immediately put off by McCarthy’s writing style. Some will argue that his use of “artistic license” in not using proper punctuation is an example of his brilliance, but I found it distracting at best. Most of the story is conversation between characters and his decision to use no quotation marks struck me as a ploy to simply make himself unique rather than something that actually improved the flow of the text.

Aside from that, the entire work came across to me as a tale of enormous brutality and very little redemption. There is nothing edifying or uplifting. In fact, even my favorite parts of the work, the reflections given by the kind-hearted sheriff, Ed Tom Bell, are simply thoughts of remorse at how evil the world has become. They are wonderfully written and thought provoking but depressing, nonetheless.

It’s remarkable, however, that even in a book that I disliked I found several gems to savor. Here are a couple of quotes that resonated with me:

“Anyway, you never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.”

“My daddy always told me to just do the best you knew how and tell the truth. He said there was nothing to set a man’s mind at ease like wakin’ up in the morning and not having to decide who you were. And if you done something wrong just stand up and say you done it and say you’re sorry and get on with it. Don’t haul stuff around with you .”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bust a move

Allow me to tell you a short story. Christmas morning a gift was unwrapped at our house that no one had requested. I can only suppose that Santa, in his infinite wisdom, saw that this would be a great fit for our family.

Well, it just so happened that the mother in our little family was quite a bit more excited about the gift than the children were so she tore it open and began to bust a move. Yes, Santa gave us Just Dance 2 for the Wii.

Oh, did the mother dance. She laughed and she danced. She sweated and she danced. She sang and she danced. Tina Turner, James Brown, Jackson name it, she danced to it. She exclaimed during the dancing that it was the most fun she had had in a long, long time.

All the while the children refused to even attempt to dance! We'll never know whether it was from fear of embarrassment or disinterest or what it was exactly that kept them from joining in the fun. All we know is that after one song the eldest son pleaded with his mother to stop dancing saying, "Mom, you're kinda scaring me. Please stop."

Unphased, the mother continued to break it down until she had nothing more to break and apparently it was contagious. Lo and behold, a few days later these pics were captured.

Strike a pose
Oh yeah!

I'd say he's converted! We're now hosting dance parties every Friday night. Come on over and cut a rug with us!

Monday, January 10, 2011

52 Books - Book 2

I became a huge fan of Ken Follett after reading Pillars of the Earth, World Without End, and lately Fall of Giants, so when searching the library for something interesting to read for book 2 of this challenge I took the safe bet and grabbed another Follett item.

Jackdaws tells the story of a female British spy who is sent into France just prior to the Allied invasion during World War II to destroy a German communications hub. It's a tale of covert operations, danger, murder, and of course, just enough romance to have you begging for an "and they lived happily ever after" ending.

Lest I mislead you, this book is NOTHING like my other favorites of Follett's mentioned above. This is more of what seems to be his older style, more military focused books. It was very similar to Eye of the Needle, and I'll admit it didn't capture my undivided attention right away. It took several days and several stops and starts before I was fully invested, but midway through I was hooked and the last half passed in a flurry of quickly turned pages.

This one won't go on my list of favorites, but I wouldn't hesitate to fall back on another Follett title when in doubt of what to read. He's proven himself to be a master of historical fiction.

Snow Day 2011

Friday, January 7, 2011


We've had something terrible happen here in Taska.

Horrible, really.

So bad that I wondered if sharing it here was prudent.

After all, I have survived the trauma, but I can't be sure that those who stumble across this blog have the intestinal fortitude to overcome the shock.


I was casually putting away laundry tonight when I walked upon this...

I'll give you a moment to regain your composure. The image is disturbing, I know.

Considering the severity of the carnage, you can imagine my utter fright when I discovered that the perpetrator was still in the room! I barely made it out alive, but the good news is that I got photos to give to the authorities before she escaped.

Notice the raw determination. Frightening!

And just before she fled she did this!

Hide your Barbies, folks. She's currently at large.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

To the boy I love

Oh, how I love you...

That wonderfully contagious giggle of yours...

Those amazing blue eyes that you and your sister share...

How incredibly silly you are...

And what a handsome young man you are becoming.

Happy 8th birthday, baby boy. I couldn't be more proud to be your mom.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

They make me smile

These things we call blogs are quite odd, you know. Some think they are trivial, self centered drivel. I've heard as much. Others think they are only for those of us with way too much time on our hands. I'll admit there are probably legitimate arguments for all of the above.

Despite all that I tend to love spending time reading blogs. It's fun to keep up with the lives of friends and family that may be far away, seeing their photos and reading about the latest adventures in their families. Even moreso, however, I love blogs because of the veritable pantheon (shout out to Iron Chef fans!) of ideas that I glean from them.

I cannot begin to list all of the things that I have read about on blogs and then incorporated into my life. Anything from ideas for recipes, to favorite products to try, to best ways to organizing house cleaning chores. I figure it would be wasteful to have access to millions of other people's experiences and knowledge and not to at least attempt to make use of a bit of it.

It's in that vein of thought that I share with you today a few of my favorite things. They are things that I adore and who knows, something on my list may just be something you would love too. How cool would that be?

Without further ado, here are a few things that make me smile...

My husband and children picked out this adorable necklace for me for Christmas. I haven't yet figured out who Henry and Anna are but it's lovely nonetheless. Don't you think?

Badum ching. I crack myself up. Mine really says Mia and Luke which makes quite a bit more sense. Anywho, I love its' simplicity and smile every time I notice it around my neck.

You do watch this, right? I'll admit it's a fairly recent discovery for me, but I'm not sure there's another comedy out there that can match Big Bang Theory. Brilliant, highly intelligent humor...tha antics of this totally nerdy group of physicists have me rolling with laughter without fail. Got seasons 1 and 2 for Christmas which is now in the running for best all time gifts. Yep, it's that good.

And lastly, nothing makes me happier than a good smell and I happen to find this lotion absolutely intoxicating. Everyone has their preferences about perfume/cologne aromas but I love this so much that I find myself smelling of my wrists all day long just to get a whiff of it. Yes, I realize that probably says much of my mental state. Before you judge however, you may want to drop by VS and test a little yourself. You may find yourself unable to resist constantly sniffing your own wrists too.

Until tomorrow...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I'm Alive and 52 Books in 52 Weeks

Finding myself with a good bit more time and opportunity for blog upkeep these days so we'll give this a shot again and see if I can't do a bit better than posting once every six months.

We can make a deal. I'll post when I can and you read when you can. I'll do my best to make it something that someone out there in the blogosphere might want to read. If you happen to be that one person you can leave me some comments and this might just be a fun little place.



It's a deal then.

Now, let's kick this new era off with a challenge. If you've perused the blog world any at all in the past year you have undoubtedly heard of the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge. I admit I'm a little late to the party, but I figure I gave the challenge a pretty good run for its money without even trying last year so why not actually keep count this year and see if I can't win something nice.

What? You didn't know there were prizes? Sure there are! Well, at least there are for me. A successful completion will earn me some serious bragging rights (although I'm not sure to whom. the few friends I have could care less) and a totally awesome handmade bumper sticker that I plan to make for my car. It's gonna look so cool on my VW station wagon!

So let's get down to business.

A Rope and A Prayer by David Rohde and Kristin Mulvihill - I read this technically the week prior to beginning the challenge, but it was so interesting I couldn't bear to not mention it here. This is the true story of a NY Times reporter, David Rohde, who was kidnapped by the Taliban while reporting in Afghanistan and held captive for 7 months before he escaped. The book is told both from his perspective and from the perspective of his wife back home in New York. Wonderfully educational regarding current day Afghanistan as well as the history that has made it the place it is today. Not to mention the nail-biting suspense of his capture, captivity, and escape. Loved it!

Hell's Corner by David Baldacci - Set in Washington, D.C. like all good gov't conspiracy theory books, this is the newest of the Camel Club adventures by Baldacci. It's fun and easy to read, but nothing that will leave a long lasting impression. If you're short on time and looking for something that will keep your attention for a couple of days or just need a starter book to get into the groove of reading, this (and just about any other Baldacci book) would be great though.