24 Jul
2010
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Stranded…For An Hour

Last week while having dinner with a few friends in downtown Huntington, the heavens opened up for at least half an hour and dumped inches of rain on the sleepy little town. After waiting it out for a bit in the restaurant, it appeared to have let up so we made a dash for our cars. We still got thoroughly soaked. My friend Brittany and I both headed east toward our respective homes when we were foiled by floodwater in all the underpasses out of town. We headed on through town for the only way out heading east that doesn’t involve an underpass (the town was named after a railroad tycoon, after all), and were stopped by more than three feet of standing water in the main street out of town.

We stopped to come up with another plan, and decided to head several miles west to get on the interstate. We headed out and Brittany ran over a giant branch in the road that ripped the plastic piece under her car that protects the underbody, so we pulled into a gas station on the corner. Which was a good decision, because as it happened, the street heading west was chock full of water, too.

So there we were, stranded at the gas station, looking like a couple of drowned rats on our hands and knees under the front bumper of her car. And would you believe nobody stopped to help us? Where is chivalry? Not in Huntington, West Virginia, I assure you.

All in all we were only at the gas station about 30 minutes before the water began to recede a bit and I was able to get us out using a few back streets that were on high ground.

Here’s what I learned. Had I been in this situation alone, I would have been frustrated, beyond annoyed, and ready to scream. I likely would have been nearing panic attack territory being trapped alone. But with Brittany by my side, we were cracking up at the absurdity of the situation. (“Look! Everyone is driving the wrong way down the one-way street!”) Not only that, but I got home and felt like I’d participated in some sort of mid-life adventure. My evening ended up nothing near like what I had anticipated. Next time, I say let it rain. Just stop and ask if I need help the next time I’m up under a car, ok?

22 Jul
2010
Posted in: Books
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Night

What can I say about this book. It is sad. Devastating. Heartbreaking. Serious.

Night is the account of Elie Wiesel during his captivity in concentration camps during World War 2. I read it quickly because I felt like if I lingered over the words too long, my heart might break in two and I might lose any hope I had remaining in humanity. I do not exaggerate. Yet his story needed to be told. His writing voice was relatively detached and void of excessive emotion even in the midst of unimaginable circumstance. I’m not sure if this was deliberate or because of the difficulty in translating the work into English.

The book is short – just over 100 pages. And while I can’t say I enjoyed it, I felt like I honored Mr. Wiesel for hearing his story. And it is certainly a story that deserves honoring.

The verdict: Read it if you don’t mind crying at least

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half a dozen times.

20 Jul
2010
Posted in: Food
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Ode to the BLT

Believe it or not, I used to be quite the picky eater. I still have a few things I don’t like (mayo, anyone?) but in general, I’ll try just about anything now that I’m all growed up.

Which now includes a BLT. Hold the mayo, of course.

Oh, BLT, where have you been my whole life?

While in Arkansas last week, we had peeled, sliced, fresh, ripe, red tomatoes on the table every evening for dinner. Because we were in the south, and that’s what you do in the south. There, and at my Grandmother’s house and Aunt Allyn’s house here. But I digress. Anyway, one day we were planning for lunch and I thought… tomatoes, bacon, toast, lettuce – that sounds delicious! And by George, I was right.

You see, I used to be averse to raw tomatoes. I’m not sure what was wrong with me, really, but I couldn’t stand the taste. Then they started sneaking into my salads, but only if they were chopped very finely. Once I had mastered the small chopped tomato, I didn’t so much mind bigger chunks. Then pico de gallo and bruschetta became my amigos, and all of the sudden last week I was putting a sliced tomato with salt on my plate and gobbling it up.

So, listen, BLT. I’m really sorry I stiffed you all these years. It wasn’t you, it was me. I hope you’ll forgive me and we can remain friends for a long, long time.

14 Jul
2010
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The Introvert Advantage

‘Tis no secret: I’m an introvert. I can remember as a child playing for hours alone, and not minding it a bit. A rarely remember feeling lonely. Anytime I’ve been in a crowded room full of people I don’t know well, I look for a way out to find some peace and quiet. If that’s not possible, I find one person who I can engage in conversation with until I can escape.

When I heard about The Introvert Advantage, I was curious. I had never thought about advantages or disadvantages to an attribute of temperament, although I’ve long been fascinated with all aspects of temperament. I found the book generally interesting, although I was already familiar with much of the facts presented (I have a master’s in counseling), but for anyone who is introverted and not as familiar with personality theory would likely find it quite informative.

One of the things I found interesting is the author repeatedly makes reference to the fact that many introverts feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or like an outcast for their introversion. I never felt any of these things. I do remember during high school thinking it would be more desirable to be extroverted (or sociable – that having a wide circle of friends meant I was more accepting and caring than having a few intimate friends). Otherwise, I’ve always been fine with how I was wired.

Also of note, I found the writing style frequently dry, even when the information was pretty interesting. I think it was written in the style of many of my college textbooks – informative, but bland.

The verdict: If you’re interested in personality/temperament, or if you’re an introvert and curious about what that means, it’s worth the read. Otherwise, pass.

10 Jul
2010
Posted in: Life
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Ark-N-Saw

My mother-in-law hails from Arkansas, land of Bill Clinton, soybeans, fried food, the ivory-billed woodpecker, and The Wal Marts. Therefore, my mother-in-law, the kids and I loaded up in the car Thursday and made the 14 hour trip to Arkansas.

Ok, so it’s normally more like an 11 hour trip, but we were traveling with two kids. And maybe we stopped in Tennessee to stay with my aunt-in-law (is that a real title?) to split the trip a bit. Either way, we’re here. We made it.

We’re spending the entire week with family. I’m so appreciative of the hospitality, and that my kids have the opportunity to get to know their extended family. I’m also appreciative of air conditioning, as the high is well into the 90s every day this week. I’m looking forward to learning new phrases while I’m here. They have entire sayings I’ve never heard before!

I’m

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hoping to finish a book and start a small sewing project while I’m here, so I it should be good blogging fodder. Until then – so long from The Natural State.

5 Jul
2010

Zucchini Dill Salad

I may have mentioned a dozen times or so we planted our first garden this year. I knew we’d have more vegetables than we’d be able to eat at once, and have plans for making homemade marinara when (if, at this point) our tomatoes come in, bags of frozen corn in August, and a couple cans of banana peppers to put away. What I hadn’t planned on, however, is all this zucchini. I feel like Bubba in Forrest Gump going through all the ways you can prepare shrimp.

Grilled Zucchini
Fried Zucchini
Zucchini Bread

That’s about as far as I got on my own.

Then I ran across a zucchini salad  recipe in Real Simple and thought – a ha! I can make that! So with a few adaptations here is a delicious, fresh, and light zucchini salad perfect for getting rid of at least two medium sized gourds. (Original recipe is here.)

Zucchini Dill Salad
2 medium zucchini
8 oz. orzo pasta (half a box/bag)
1/4 cup chopped dill
1/2 cup chopped pecans
8 oz. Feta cheese (crumbled)
3 T olive oil
1 lemon, juiced (and zested, if desired)
Salt & Pepper to taste

In a pot, bring water to boil. Cook orzo according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, quarter zucchini lengthwise, then cut into thin slices. In a large bowl, combine zucchini, dill, olive oil and lemon juice. Allow to marinate for at least 20 minutes. When pasta is finished, drain and rinse with cold water until cool. Combine with zucchini mixture and add feta cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Place in refrigerator until ready to serve. (This is a great dish to make ahead!)

Enjoy!

30 Jun
2010
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Simply Links – June

This month’s installment of some of the things I want to tell you about.

Weighty Matter
Our bathroom scale was a gift – I think from my mom – and it looks nice. Really. It works perfectly well for Evan, but for some reason it is absolutely inconsistent with me, to the point that I step on it at least twice every time I weigh myself to see if it’s telling the truth. Let’s pretend I weigh 125 (HA!). My morning routine would go something like this.
Step 1: 129. Feel bad for eating that large dinner last night.
Step 2: 120 . Feel temporarily giddy at the thought.
Step 3: 125. Getting annoyed at the scale, but know this number is likely correct.

In other words. We need a new scale. I like this one from Target, but am tempted to get an old-fashioned kind with a dial to avoid this trouble again. Suggestions? Recommendations?

Better Than Girl Scouts (Cookies)
When it comes to Girl Scout Cookies, Thin Mints are my cookie of choice. I can scarf down an entire sleeve in five minutes flat. Up until now, any attempts to duplicate Thin Mints has fallen noticeably short. But along comes Back to Nature with their Fudge Mint cookies, and I am not kidding you, they are better than Thin Mints. At least in my mouth. They’re found in the health food section of your local grocery store, or around here at Healthy Life Market. I also recommend their Honey Graham Sticks and Organic Stoneground Wheat cookies. I’m sure their other products are delicious, too, I just haven’t gotten around to them yet. But I will.

Etsy Find
Block Printed. Linen. Turquoise. Pillow.

What’s not to love about this item, and really the entire Jewelweeds store on etsy.Featuring tea towels, clutches, coasters, and adorable mini wallets. I am really digging this stuff.

Fabric Lust
One of the handful (ok, dozens) of crafty blogs I read on a regular basis is Sew, Mama Sew, which also features a fabulous selection of fabric in their online shop. Fun, modern, fresh and colorful, there’s always something to look at, er…drool on my keyboard over. Like this fabric pack. Or this print. Or, thinking ahead, something like this.

For the first time in months, I’m sans an Anthropologie link. I promise not to make a habit of it.

29 Jun
2010
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Stringing Beans

My dad and stepmom like to buy loads of produce anytime they visit family in Tennessee. This past weekend was no exception, and I carried home armloads of beans and tomatoes. Fine with me, since our own garden is pregnant with loads of zucchini, a handful of peppers, but nothing much in the way of anything else just yet.

So this morning I figured it was as good a day as any to get to work on the beans. I carried out a couple bowls – one for the strung, snapped beans and another for the scraps. The kids sat by me and I attempted to teach them stringing techniques and gave that up in favor of having them break my already strung beans. It is a beautiful day here, plenty of sunshine, hot but not too hot. The birds were chirping, and the kids, while taking breaks from “helping” me were turning cartwheels in the yard and pretending to be trains.

I suddenly realized I was, in fact, turning into my great-grandparents. This is no bother to me at all, because they epitomized the “simple” portion I strive for in my own life. I could write a 20-part series about them on this blog, but all you need to know for this post is that I vividly remember stringing beans on my great-grandmother Lena’s back porch, with the scratchy green outdoors carpet under my feet, the birds singing, my hair sticking to the back of my neck in the humid summer afternoons, and wondering how they didn’t get bored with all that quiet they seemed to pipe into their little hollow. (Now I wonder if I can’t pipe some into here.)

Put plainly, their house was my favorite place on earth. And if I can pass that along by teach my kids the joys of stringing beans on the porch in the middle of the summer, you bet I will.

28 Jun
2010
Posted in: Books
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Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

Last week, while patiently waiting for my prescription to be filled, I was browsing the books near the pharmacy at my local Target. (If you’re a local, I love my Target pharmacy. They’re the best.) Anyway, I happened across this book cover. And despite any cliché’s regarding judging books thusly, I was pretty sure I would like it. 1) It was a memoir. 2) It seemed funny. 3) The cover was turquoise.

Ok, so that last part might not be as much of a guarantee as an enticement, but my hunch was spot on.

The general idea is that the author’s husband left her for another man he met online, and a week later she was in a terrible car accident. She returned home to stay with her parents while she recovered, where they lived in a California Mennonite community.

I certainly don’t want to give more than that away (you can gain that much from reading the back cover), but it was a great read. Janzen is a wonderful storyteller, with bits and pieces unfolding as the story moves forward. Her humor is spot-on, and a breath of fresh air in the midst what would otherwise be a heartbreaking tale. I read it in three sitttings. (Unheard of, since I typically fall asleep after approximately five pages – not because books are bad, but because I’m worn out from chasing my kids around all day.)

If you enjoy memoirs, and want something upbeat, funny, and just plain enjoyable, don’t pass this one up just because the cover is cute.

23 Jun
2010
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So Long, Gallbladder

This past Monday, my gallbladder was evicted. It had been a bad tenant for the past several months, and its time was up.

It was my first real surgery, with the exception of having my wisdom teeth out back in 1999. And honestly, I can’t get over how easy it was. In fact, I was out of surgery by about 1:30, and they sent me home at 4:00. I kept thinking – don’t you think I should stick around here a bit longer? I mean, are you SURE it’s ok for me to head home? But I trusted they knew what they were doing better than I did, and home I went.

All this week I have help with my kids, which are the only thing I can’t really handle on my own. Well, that and full baskets of laundry. I’m on a lifting restriction for another week. It feels almost like a vacation. I’m always thankful for my friends and family who consistently pitch in when I need it.

I guess I’m just writing to tell you that I’m ok, and to apologize for the slow posting lately, as I haven’t quite been feeling my best. Which means fun things like cooking creatively, crafting, reading, and anything else tied to leisure have been put to the side. I’m hoping that will all change soon. And also to say that I really do have the best friends and family a girl could ask for. You guys are the berries!