Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dinner Time (With Recipes)

So, this happened today.



Depending on your television/movie preferences, this is Annie from Father of the Bride, Dana from According to Jim, or Peggy from Nashville.

Or, if you're AC, she's "Brad Paisley's wife."  I tried to tell her that she was famous before Brad Paisley, but whatever.

She was so kind...and so tiny.  In Nashville we generally pride ourselves on not accosting the  celebrities, however, the girls couldn't help themselves. I'm not going to lie- if it wouldn't have bordered on creepy I would have asked for a picture too.  She was very kind; she even offered to put down her raw chicken so it looked less like we hawked her down in Whole Foods.

We had originally planned on being out of town this weekend, but as the week progressed, life became much busier than we expected, and one child fell ill last night.  So.  Here we are.

And because we were in town and a little on the puny side, I thought it was about time to right the ship on our eating habits.  We've been in a busy period.  We're averaging one night a week at home.

That's a whole lot of Chik-fil-a.

So tonight I made a real meal with vegetables, and fruits, and whole grains, and chicken.



All of the recipes are 24-Day Challenge approved.  There is a little bit of dairy on the chicken, but you can absolutely leave the cheese out.  If you aren't doing the 24-Day Challenge but you want to hear about it just send me an e-mail.  We'll talk!  It's how I lost 30 pounds in 8 weeks last summer.  The menu is here- you can click on the dishes to go to the recipes:

Prosciutto and Fontina Chicken with Mushroom Sauce
Wild Rice Salad
Green Beans Tossed with Garlic

See Y'all!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hard

Sometimes in the middle of our lives we just look at each other and laugh.

And I think that as long as the laughter is there we will be okay.

Boston is weighing heavy on me.  I walked across the campus at my school today and saw the flag at half-mast and I couldn't breathe.  I had to sit down and concentrate just to make the breath come.  The involuntary became VERY voluntary.  I don't know why.

Maybe because there were people watching their loved ones finally accomplish a goal only to find themselves at the beginning of another grueling and unexpected race.  And why?  Who knows.  Random acts of violence and a misunderstanding of Grace and Mercy.

Life is hard.  Kids are hard.  Work is hard.  Marriage is hard.  A long time ago a teacher once told me that life wouldn't be so hard if we didn't always expect it to be so easy. It was a catchy platitude in 1989.

Today it was breath; the reminder that it can always be worse and it will very likely be better one day.  Life is cyclical- sometimes you see the sea and sunshine and sometimes you see the pavement and gravel.  Whatever the view, it's always better than darkness, and darkness is ALWAYS a choice.

Yet we still expect it to be easy.  And it never is.  And we are constantly amazed at the difficulty of breathing.

Except for a moment here or there, and that's when you laugh because you know that the moment of sweetness won't last forever.  The kids will grow up.  You'll get bad news at work.  The dog will get attacked.

It's always something.

And there you are.

In the middle of your life thankful to God that you can laugh, and that He delivered a person who totally gets your laughter.



Because, sometimes in the middle of the muck and the mire you just have to fling off the mess and laugh a while.

I'm thankful for Grace and Mercy today.  And always thankful for Coach; without him I'd be chest deep in my own mire.



See y'all.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Photo Book Comparison

Digital photos are awesome. I love how you can just delete them (even though sometimes you don't when you really ought to). But I just don't go through my digital photos very often. Part of the problem is that there's too many of them; the other part is that there's not really a convenient way in most programs to say "Show me all the photos of Sapphire" or "Show me all the family pictures from 2003-2007" or "Show me 2005 in 5 minutes". So I thought I would print one photo book every year for the past year so we have a durable, tangible way to peruse family memories.

So I wondered, "Where's the best place to buy photo books?"  That question has caused me to order from from several places, so I thought I would share the results with you in case you find yourself in a similar situation. I mostly ordered 8.5x11 20-page landscape photo books, so YMMV with other sizes.

Photobin - There was a Google Offer for $18/book that I bought a while back (they are regularly about $40). Their interface was a little slow, and required a lot of manual fussing to get the pictures exactly how I wanted them -- but, on the other hand, I did have the flexibility to have photos and backgrounds and text and colors exactly how I wanted them. These are nice, hardback books with photo wraparound covers, and the quality is quite good.
Shutterfly - Here I bought an 8x8 book, but I imagine the 8.5x11 is similar (regular price is $35). The interface was easy to work with - they have both an auto mode and a manual mode. I like to start with the auto and then move things around. The interface was snappy and well-designed, without a lot of lag like some of the other sites. They also have the hardback books with photo covers.
Walgreens - Cheapest price at $19.99, but you kind of get what you pay for. I ordered the cheapest one with the linen cover, and it really looks like they printed out the pages, stuck them between linen-covered cardboard, and fastened them all together. I'm not sure how long it will last. The software was alright, but didn't do everything I wanted. They do have sturdier options that are more expensive that maybe are higher quality. The coolest thing about Walgreens' photo books is that you can have them printed at your local Walgreens and pick them up the same day (which also means no shipping).
MyPublisher (Costco) - Costco gives you a 20% discount at MyPublisher (which stacks with other coupons, BTW). For their photo books you have to download and install software, which only runs on Windows, so that was kind of annoying. In addition, even though it was running locally, it didn't seem much faster than sites where you run the software in your browser. But, if you don't have a fast internet connection this might be a good way to go. The software was fine - it had an auto-fill that worked pretty good, and then you could customize that if you wanted. They also had a lot of different options for book format - lay flat, leather bound, different colored linen covers, etc. Shipping was expensive, about $10 (which, of course, you don't find out until after you've spent an hour or so on your book!).  The actual book was pretty nice, but I think I like the wraparound photo covers better than the linen covers.
Lulu - I didn't actually order any photo books from them, since they didn't offer the size I wanted. Prices when I checked were in the average-high range, and I do photo calendars with them every year, for which they have a good interface and good quality.

In summary, Walgreens is good if you are in a hurry, MyPublisher is good if you need to work offline, and Shutterfly and Photobin are both great quality (and prices are reasonable if you can get a deal).

Wherever you decide to get photo books, they almost always have a special deal or coupon out there somewhere that can save 20-50%. If you are flexible about when you order your book, you can make your book and save it, and then order it whenever they have a good deal running.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Sippy-Cup Years: 3 Children's Books and a Series We Loved

It's weird that Kelly is doing a children's book post today because yesterday I found myself at my alma mater standing on the very same track watching my youngest child run the very same races that I used to run with the very same ponytail bobbing in the very same way as she made her way around the track.

Oh it gets weirder. I was standing with the very same girl that ran those races with me 25 years ago. She was watching her child run too. Turns out my dear old friend who had three children when we were all having children about 16 years ago had a run-in with the Lord and she and her husband have adopted two more little boys. Her children now range in age from 16-year-olds to 18-month-olds.

Not. Even. Kidding.

And y'all? She was dressed with both of her shoes, she had earrings, her nails were done, and all her children were present and accounted for. I call that a pretty good day.

Anyway, we talked about teaching toddlers manners and sippy cups and runny noses and books just yesterday. It was relevant, and terrifying.

The sippy cup years are hard years. A lot of shoe-tying, nose-wiping, pants-zipping, dirt-removing, bath-timing, chicken nugget-making years.

Sweet years, but man those years are HARD.

And as one is likely to do when you stay a tad too long on the island of nostalgia, I have ended up a blubbering, hot mess of nostalgia with a side of maybe-we-should-adopt-a-baby.

Because you know what I miss about the sippy cup years? Freshly bathed kids that smell like baby shampoo and warm jammies.

And storytime.

The books that were favorites of my kids were favorites of mine as well.

G loved this one

Tough Boris by Mem Fox



Oh, it looks like it would be very scary, but it's not.  It's about a pirate with a soft spot for his parrot.  There were tears shed on a couple of occasions, which is totally fine because that's the main lesson of the book.  It's okay to feel sad when sad things happen, especially when parrots are involved.

Both kids loved this one...

I Love You the Purplest by Barbara M. Joosse


Siblings wanting to know which one their mother loved best.  One she loves the reddest.  One she loves the bluest.  Together they are purple.  I have a blue kid and a red kid.  They know who they are, and together they make purple.  The pictures are beautiful, the language is lyrical, and the message is so good.

And AC loved this one...

A Snowman Named Just Bob by Mark Kimball Moulton


For us, this book knew no season.  We read it in the middle of July.  AC has lovingly been called "Bob" by our dearest friends since she was a toddler.  She thinks the book is about her.  Except she's not a snowman.  Or a boy.  Or named Bob.  She's almost 13, and she still loves this book.

As they got older (I started with G when he was 4) I read them two chapters a night from The Magic Treehouse series...


These are fantastic.  They incorporate history into really exciting adventures that a brother/sister duo take when they open books in their magic treehouse.  As an English teacher these are my favorites.  My kids knew all about King Arthur, Shakespeare, Pompeii, and so many foreign cultures all before they finished preschool.

They also learned to be really good story tellers.

There are so many more, and maybe I'll do a sippy-cup series where I go back through the things that worked and didn't when we were in living color.  Like the one time when G learned to say the "f" word, and not the milder of the two, after we took him to a football game.

See y'all!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Some News and Stuff


Speaking of makeovers.  This happened.  Momsense received her own anti-aging makeover.

I'm a fan of change.  Actually, that's not true.  I hate change, but I do get bored looking at the same things for long periods of time.  So, the blog got a makeover.  Or make-under.  It's crisp and clean and hopefully better organized.

Let's take a tour.  The navigation bar above has all sorts of new stuff.  I updated the About Me page, because as I spend more time with me I learn some new things.  I also had a dream that I was supposed to run 1000 miles.

Normally I would just blame the Lunesta and move along, but then there were other signs and a very specific church sermon.  So I felt like God was going to be pretty persistent on this one and I figured I had just better start while I still had some smidge of control over the situation.  My experiences with God is that if you ignore the signs you end up on a 1000 mile death-march, and, well, I think I've learned by now to make a move when the urgings are mild and dream-like.  No need to be forced into anything.

And seriously?  1000 miles.  If nothing else, it will be entertaining.  My family is placing bets on when my first ER visit will be.  You can read all of that over here.

And finally, I moved the gardening and recipes here.  I'm almost positive there was a better way to do this, but I know just enough about technology to be dangerous.  So for now this will be home-base and I'll try to keep the recipes (which are currently being transferred to the Garden to Plate page) and garden  information over there.

You can like the Facebook page to get updates, or simply subscribe to e-mail to get the updates.

See y'all!