Monday, March 31, 2014

Encyclopedia of Me - E (Stacy)

Picture credits:,,,,

Eggs - I LOVE eggs. Love. It may even rank as one of my favorite foods (along with avocados, sushi, Mexican, etc.). Weird collection of foods, I guess. I think what I'm trying to say is that eggs are my food of choice for a quick snack, preferably before bed. I enjoy eating them before bed more than in the morning (I'm not a "big breakfast" person). Eggs amaze me - there are so many ways to prepare them! I like them scrambled, fried (dippy), you name it. I love when a salad has boiled eggs on it. I love eggs in my fried rice. One of my favorite ways to eat them are as Dutch Babies (or German Pancakes) - which is like a Yorkshire pudding without the meat drippings. I prefer to eat them salty (some people cover them with sugars and fruits). I'm way more into salty foods than sweets. I'd much rather order an appetizer than a dessert, if it came down to a choice between the two. I really love farm fresh eggs (they taste SO much better) and am grateful we live in a place where those are easy to get. Eggs are, in my opinion, the kind of food (like grilled cheese sandwiches and hot cocoa) that taste so much better when someone else makes them, and even though my husband doesn't like eggs (it's taken me years to be okay with this), he makes me the best eggs and he's such a good sport to do that. They are so yummy! One time, he brought me some scrambled eggs that immediately brought back so many wonderful memories of my childhood, much of which was spent with my grandfather, who made me delicious eggs. Well, when Mark brought me these particular scrambled eggs, they tasted just like my Vavô used to make them. I asked him about it right away, wanting to get the recipe of whatever he had just done while it was fresh in his mind. Turns out, Mark had accidentally let the butter sit a bit long, so it had browned. Well, that is the secret to Vavô eggs!! Those are now one of my very favorite ways to eat scrambled eggs, which I simply call "Vavô eggs." :)

Emerson - Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of my very favorite authors/philosophers/thinkers to read. I became enamored with him when I was in college. I was walking through my University bookstore and picked up a book and started flipping through it. I don't know how much time went by as I stood there reading, but I couldn't stop reading what were, to me, words reflecting my own mind and thoughts, but so poetically and beautifully expressed. It was Emerson. I know it might sound strange, but I felt a connection with him and I bought the book. To this day, it's one of my most treasured books and if I'm feeling the need to read something beautiful or to feel inspired, I pick it up, open to any page (it's a book of mainly his essays), and read. I'm always uplifted. He has such a gift. I love to study the time period in which he lived. Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott . . . all the transcendentalists and the area of Concord and Lexington (one of Mark's and my favorite areas to visit). I love their ideals and their ways. If I were to go back for a PhD, I would get it in Humanities and my thesis would have something to do with the transcendental period. A while back, I read a great historical fiction novel entitled, Mr. Emerson's Wife. It was about Mrs. Emerson and in the book, she had a thing for Thoreau. I loved it! I wrote the author to tell her how much I enjoyed it and I heard back from her, too. I love Emerson's writings.

Equality  - I have always been justice minded, even as a child. I have always felt extremely confused and saddened when I've watched people deny rights to others just because they're different than them. I have never, ever understood that. Why anyone would think of someone as lesser, simply due to the color of his or her skin or due to pigment is a complete and utter mystery to me. Always has been. Always will be. It's prejudice and racism, pure and simple. I have no patience for rights being infringed upon due to someone's gender or sexual orientation either. I think the counsel to love others is a good one and I believe in compassion. I don't believe in imposing one's morality on others, especially when those others are doing nothing to harm people. Racism is evil and wrong and there's no okay way to couch it or allow it; bigotry is no different. I believe in equality for everyone - the same classrooms for all, the same drinking fountains for all, the same rights for all. I applaud and support those who work toward equality and I won't affiliate myself with organizations who try to limit it or slow its progress. There were groups back in the 60s who were fighting for and against civil rights. We watch footage of them now and are appalled at the hatred spewed by those who fought it. They felt justified. Sadly, the same is true today. People feel justified, but someday when the tapes are played in museums and foundations for social justice, people will look back and see the same thing. I want to be on the right side of history and the right side believes in progress and equality for all. It always has. There has never been a time in history that has shown different.

Elliott - Elliott Yamin is my all-time favorite American Idol contestant. You know, I have the intention of blogging nearly everything we do - my intentions are good, the reality doesn't always match up. :P Well, we saw Elliott in concert a couple of autumns ago and it was wonderful! We got to see him, enjoy a fantastic concert (he is crazy talented!), and meet him. He is such a sweetheart! I got to hug Elliott Yamin and tell him that I power dialed for him!! It was a great night. We also got to become familiar with his opening act, a great singer-songwriter named Mikey Wax. Mikey Wax just got signed with a major label. We have liked him for years. I have something exciting to share about that, too, but it really deserves its own post. I need to do that! Anyway, I love Elliott's soulful voice and manner. He's a very talented musician.

Enchiladas/El Torito's - Ah, my dear El Torito's. It was my favorite Mexican restaurant growing up. I believe they've closed many locations and are hard to find now. My favorite thing to eat there? Chicken and sour cream enchiladas. Oh, they were delicious. I love chicken enchiladas! Theirs were yummy - the tortillas, the sauce, the sour cream . . . all of it. And they always put that little sweet corn cake on the plate, too. Yum! We've found a copycat recipe of that and sometimes make it when we do Mexican here at home. For our birthdays, we do breakfast in bed and then choose one meal out and one favorite homemade meal in. One of my very favorite meals is chicken enchiladas. When we go out for Mexican, it's usually what I order above all else. I have a legendary story from my teenage days about El Torito's. Jim used to take me to activities and he also helped teach me to drive. When we'd go out like that, we'd sometimes stop and get a bite to eat, just me and him. One time, we went to El Torito's. Okay, so you need to know that I am known for my doggie bags. To this day, when I eat out, I generally (depending on the kind of food) eat half my meal and take half home for later and make at least one, sometimes several more meals out of it. I love food and like to make good stuff last. So, he and I were done eating and they brought us our receipt and told us to have a good day and I asked where my doggie bag was (they'd taken my food back to box) and the waitress said, "Oh, I'm so sorry! I threw it out!" Noooooooooooooooo! It pains me to waste food (another thing to know about me). PAINS me. I do not throw out food if I can help it, stretch it, make a meal out of it, what have you. I think it's wasteful to throw out perfectly good food and don't understand people who are anti-leftovers. The woman must've seen the look of horror on my face and she felt so bad, so they gave us gift certificates for free meals to make up for it. So, naturally, I took Jim at a later time and we used them. I was so sad that they threw out my half meal, but so happy I got two more meals out of it!

Encyclopedia of Me - E (Mark)

Eclectic: It's a short journey from here to eccentric, but for now I've got eclectic tastes. I like a wide range of music. I enjoy a variety of movies. It's almost impossible for me to find a favorite food or restaurant because I have a very difficult time even picking a favorite. What if I don't feel like Mexican food that day (unlikely, but possible)?

Europe: The band. Yes, I have a lot of fond memories of getting out my records (yep, vinyl), both "The Final Countdown" and "Out of This World." That was fun music. Recently I rediscovered them in a sense. I thought they'd kind of disappeared after all these years, but I found a whole series of more recent recordings, including a (mostly) unplugged album called "Almost Unplugged." Picture the iconic "Final Countdown" with a string section instead of synthesizer. It is very cool. 

Emotional: Anyone who knows me knows that I am very emotional. Stacy and I are constantly looking at each other during touching movies, Amazing Race episodes, cartoons, dinner, just to know that we are BOTH crying, not just one of us. I cried in the delivery room, and on several occasions after the births of our children. I cried many times after our miscarriage. I am especially sensitive to father-child moments, incredible musical performances, people who have overcome incredible odds, people who fight for justice and equality, and those who suffer through physical disadvantages. I will also cry if the Giants win the World Series again.

Equality: That's a big deal to me. We as a society should demand equal opportunity for all of those in our nation and in the world. There are a lot of ways for us to achieve this, but however we get there, we just need to get there. No human being should feel like he or she does not have an equal chance to achieve greatness. We are all unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged by nature of our births. Some are born into affluence and others poverty. Some are born as the favored gender in his or her particular culture. Some are born as the social outcast because of the color of his or her skin or because of sexual orientation. Once we all accept the fact that some people do not start on equal footing, then maybe we can all talk about what it means to provide equal opportunities for all life has to offer.

Ellis Marsalis: The Marsalis family is legendary, and so many jazz musicians can trace their musical pedigrees back to one man--Ellis. His instrument of choice is the piano, but his four sons represent each section of a jazz band. Wynton on trumpet, Branford on saxophone, Delfaeyo on trombone, and Jason on drums. And don't forget that the great Harry Connick, Jr. spent so much time with these guys he's practically family. One of my favorite Ellis Marsalis albums is the one he did with Wynton entitled "Joe Cool's Blues." It's their take on the music of Peanuts. You know, Snoopy and stuff. It's fantastic.

Eggs: I don't like eggs, unless they've been used to create cookies or other baked goods. I'm not opposed to them as a part of a batter or delicious, yet completely unhealthy coating. I will tolerate them in scrambled form mixed in fried rice, as long as I don't get a big bite. I can usually do egg drop soup and I have even been known to enjoy it from time to time. Hard boiled eggs are the worst, with fried eggs close behind. And yet, I make really good eggs. I've never tasted them, but the egg eaters around here are pretty effusive with their praise.

Picture credits:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cast a Harry Potter Spell Tag

So I try to keep loose tabs on Kate's many blogging friends. There are so many that it's nearly impossible to keep up.

I follow Nevillegirl's most of all (and even then, I don't keep up very well, though I'd like to), but the others, I mostly check in on now and then. I randomly browse my Feedly for posts (except for Nevillegirl's, whose blog I search for specifically by name in my feed reader). I wish I could remember how I found her blog in the first place (or did TMV find it first?) - I don't remember. But it is a great blog. Straightforward and thought provoking. Plus, she's awesome at interacting with her readers and following their blogs, too. I like that.

Well, I happened to see this tag on Layla's blog (another fun blog and good blogging friend of TMV's) and my inner nerd rose up with widened eyes and arms held high - "YES! I want to do this tag!" I excitedly told our family about it and The Magic Violinist totally did it. Like a month ago. Me? Grown-up responsibilities keep getting in my way.

For example, since starting this post 3 paragraphs ago, I've received numerous texts, answered a couple of quick phone calls, found out that two different groups of people are stopping by our house (one for a check and one for some Nerf weapons), responded to some emails, worked on dinner, and addressed my ever-demanding dog's needs. Why don't I write more? It's a mystery.

Anyway, this blog tag looks like SO MUCH FUN, so here I go:

But wait! Both the home phone AND the cell phone rang at once while I was on the phone with our friend Dave who is in the hospital. Before that, I got a few texts to arrange various things going on today. And Thing 2 came to the door to pick up a Nerf weapon to go to his friend's house to play Hunger Games (not as horrible or violent as it sounds) and left with his friend's family. In a minute, Mark is getting back from a Nature Club homeschool activity with Thing 1 and her BFF who comes over every week and stays over. And my text just dinged again - Dave, who had to get off the phone to do paperwork, is now available to talk. I'll call him back. Oh wait. He's calling me. And my dog's stance at the window along with her plaintive cries tell me Mark's back with the girls. WELCOME TO OUR LIFE. We love it. :)

Be back later . . .

Several phone calls (what's funny is that we don't get many phone calls usually, but we happen to have a lot going on at the moment - yes, more than usual), messages, texts, doorbell rings, dog demands, dinner prep steps later . . . I'm ready now (though the rest of this blog took all day to write due to all-day interruptions. I'm considering becoming a recluse).

Fixes damaged objects
A book that needs some serious fixing: They Did it with Love by Kate Morgenroth was a bit of a *shrug* and an eye roll for me. Imagine the Stepford Wives having a book club and then solving a murder amongst themselves. Not my cup of tea. Not the greatest thing I've ever read. Flat characters, lame ending. 

Creates a narrow beam of light
A book that deserves more attention: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is one of the best books I've read in quite some time. It is a YA (young adult) book, but that shouldn't scare off adult readers at all. It is an incredibly compelling read - wonderful character development, sweet story. The characters have depth and dimension to them, more than most you can read in any one book, in my opinion. This is the kind of book I wish I could write. I've said it before - I love quirky, indie films and the simple-plot films of the 80s, as both tend to focus more on characters in a simple plot than on grand adventures. So often I watch those films and think about how one could capture the same kind of idea and feeling in a book. Well, now I know. Rainbow Rowell can do it! And how! She is the kind of author I'd love to be.

Counters the effects of Lumos
An overhyped book: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Yep. I agree with Kate. I think it was way too gimmicky and way too long. The weird lists of words before every chapter (random and distracting), the gimmick of death narrating (didn't work), and the sheer length of the book . . . it's too much. It's a WWII story and you would think, given the hype, that it would have something different to offer and I'm not convinced that it did. It was a chore to finish, though I must admit that once I did, I liked it overall, but it really shouldn't have been so tedious to get through.

Summons an object from a significant distance
A book you’re anticipating: Landline by Rainbow Rowell! And very, very much so!

Opens unlocked doors, unless bewitched
A book you want to be more open about: I'm not sure what this means - one I'm more open to reading? One I'm more open about in sharing with others? Hmmmm. Well, I'm a pretty open person and tend to share quite a bit of myself on here, so I can't think of any books I've not shared openly (no weird stash in my room or anything like that). I'll go with the first definition. Hmmm. Well, I'm not very closed off to reading different genres either, though I tend to stick with contemporary novels. Um, gah! Decisions. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. And to be clear, it's not that I'm not open to it, I would LOVE to read it. But I don't care for violent books (and movies) and I know it's pretty graphic. I'm fairly obsessed with Harper Lee and have been reading about her and her relationship with Truman Capote and so that one is on my mind right now. I've spent a couple of hours today reading about them both and talking with the kids and Mark about it. (Nerds). Fascinating stuff. The reason it's on my mind is that I'm reading To Kill A Mockingbird with Kate and I'm falling even deeper in love with that book. 

Expecto Patronum
Conjures an incarnation of positive feelings
A book that made you cry, or at least want to: Oh, I cry with books. I've cried with Harry Potter, Wonder, and The Fault in our Stars to name a few very good ones. Oh, and Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. Oh, and Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.

Conjures the Dark Mark
A book you wish to mark as one of your favorites: I refuse to pick one. I have 5 favorites: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier, The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

Petrificus Totalus
Petrifies victim
A book you wish to keep forever: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Used against a boggart
A book with a deceiving synopsis: Hilarious answer for this one on Kate's post by the same name. Umm, let me think. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Irresistible? Hysterical? Marvelous? I didn't get it. Like at all. I feel like I've flunked some kind of geek class by not getting or liking it, but so it is. Granted, those are reviews and not a synopsis, but I couldn't think of anything else. Oh! I didn't like The Name of this Book is Secret either. Yuck.

Lacarnum Inflamarae
Shoots fireballs
A book you wish to burn out of your mind completely: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. I loved the title and love, love, love The Fault in our Stars, but I did *not* like this book. Thing 1 encouraged me repeatedly to stop reading it if I was disliking it so much, and eventually I did. Boy, was I glad. Couldn't get into the characters or the setting and really? A guy being dumped by 19 Katherines? C'mon!

Wingardium Leviosa
Levitates objects
A book you wish to reread: I am not generally a re-reader, but there is one book I've read a half dozen times and loved every. single. time. and that is To Kill a Mockingbird. It is a wonderful book. I fall in love with it more and more with every read. 

Avada Kedavra
Causes instant death
Worst book EVER: Wow, that's a harsh one. Well, I remember reading a book a few years ago that was so bad, I couldn't believe it had been published at all. It gave me a great deal of hope that I could one day be published (kind of a if-that-can-be-published thing . . . ). I've looked and looked, but can't find it online or remember what it was. I think it might've been by Jennifer Weiner (Good in Bed?) or some other chick lit author. I don't tend to read a lot of chick lit and it's driving me crazy that I don't remember what it was. I specifically remember a scene where the main female character goes dumpster diving and describes, in detail, a feminine product that was in the trash. It was stupid and disgusting and poorly written. I think it was in that moment I thought, "What the heck am I reading?!?" And then promptly stopped.

Puts victim in an unconscious state
A book with a chapter you couldn’t seem to get over: The Harry Potter series (spoiler alert) broke my heart when Fred died.

Causes befuddlement or forgetfulness
A book that generally confused you: Again, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Inflicts unbearable pain
A book that was a pain to read: These are hard to come up with. Thankfully, I generally like the books I read. Um, whatever that stupid chick lit book was that I can't remember. I'd put that one here.

Heals relatively minor injuries
A feel good book that you enjoyed: Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Such a beautiful, moving, inspirational book. Read it. Read it now.

Impedes target’s progress
A book that kept you up all night reading: Harry Potter - particularly the 4th book. I remember reading the graveyard scene and being freaked out, because it was creepy and I was reading it late at night and Mark was asleep next to me. I kept fidgeting and fidgeting, really hoping he'd wake up and as soon as he stirred at all, I said, "Oh! You're awake! Good!" and he stayed awake with me while I read the scary part. He's the best. Another story I have about staying up with a book also involves Mark and it's super sweet. When we first got married and were finishing up college, I had to read a book for a class and I was struggling to stay awake reading it, not because it wasn't good (it's a great book), but because I was exhausted. So, I caught Mark up on the story to that point and he read to me (he's so sweet), but after a while, I fell asleep anyway. Well, he got so interested in the book while reading it to me, that he stayed up into the wee hours to read it himself! The book? The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Such a good book. Such a great husband.

Immediate silencing
A book that left you speechless after you read it: I agree with Kate. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. It stayed with me in a beautiful way and nothing has since compared.

Allows you to delve into someone’s mind
A book with well-developed characters: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, hands down. The beauty of her books is that she develops rich, complex characters with great depth and the focus is on that, rather than some grand plot. I love it. And besides obvious gems like To Kill a Mockingbird and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I'd also add characters in The Help, Water for Elephants, One Day and All is Vanity. I loved how all of those books were presented uniquely and how they all made me think and feel things and tap into ideas and emotions deep inside of me. Inspiring! I also very much enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind and The Thirteenth Tale. I'm a huge fan of gothic novels.

A spell that turns you upside down
A book that changed your mind about a character from its prequel: Well, Harry Potter obviously. First there was Sirius. Then, of course, my view of Snape changed drastically and I think the scene with Snape's memories in Harry Potter 7 is one of the most beautiful scenes in the entire series of films. That was an Oscar snub for Alan Rickman and that is a shame.

Used to hide memories
A book with a story you can’t remember: I can't remember.

Peskipiksi Pesternomi
Useless spell
A boring book that had absolutely no effect on you: I can't think of one. Usually a boring book makes me crazy, so I'm struggling to come up with one that had a neutral effect.  

Breaks through solid objects
A book that convinced you to reconsider a certain genre: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I don't read a whole lot of non-fiction and I generally think of them as being factual and straightforward and not really reading like a story or novel, but this one is WAY different. The prologue had me shouting to anyone who would listen, "Are you KIDDING me?!? This is real?!? This is crazy!!" Seriously. Read it. True story. It will captivate you from page prologue. Other non-fiction books that I have really enjoyed include The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd (life altering) and Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks (absolutely fascinating!).

Tickling spell
A book that made you laugh: The Fault In Our Stars and Wonder. I know I listed both of those as books that made me cry, but they also made me laugh. I think it's a sure sign of a great book when it can do both. I also enjoyed the humor in Where'd You Go, Bernadette? - so funny. Oh, and Bridget Jones's Diary made me laugh at a time in my life when I was struggling to do so.

Offensive spell that violently wounds the target
A book that may have scarred you for life: It may sound cliché, but I have to say The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. I read it before it was big and it moved me. I cried HARD when I read that book as a newlywed. Beautiful love story. I've always refused to watch the movie, because I didn't want to mess with the picture in my mind from that beautiful book.

Makes you dance uncontrollably
A series finale that made you feel giddy: Believe it or not, I'm not a big series reader. I can say that A Series of Unfortunate Events didn't make me giddy. I didn't love the ending of that one. I'll have to go with Harry Potter. While I was so sad to be done with the Harry Potter series, I was mostly very satisfied with it. What a series!

Bombarda Maxima
Causes an explosion that breaks through obstacles
A book that made you explode with the feels: To Kill a Mockingbird, Rebecca, The Fault In Our Stars, Eleanor & Park, The Harry Potter series, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Help, Wonder, Bridge to Terabithia, to name a few.

Finite Incantatem
Nullifies other spells
A book you thought you’d dislike, but ended up loving: Well, I resisted Harry Potter for a while, because I thought I wouldn't like it - a boy wizard? Fantasy? Magic? Not my thing, I thought. Boy, was I wrong! Love, love, love Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling is a genius. And how appropriate, being that this is a Harry Potter Tag post. :)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

This or That? (Mark's Edition)

I gave Stacy's post a day's head start, but here is my list. I couldn't leave The Magic Violinist hanging!

Rules: Answer the questions given to you, give the people you nominate the same questions, nominate three people and let them know they've been tagged.

1. Summer or Winter?

This is so not fair since I would probably pick Spring or Fall. I'm going out on a limb and saying winter. I have a lot of fantastic memories of winters through the years. Plus, I'm not very fun when it gets too hot or humid.
2. Blue or Pink?

Blue, but real men wear pink.

3. Frozen or Brave?

I liked them both, and I like the messages in both, but I'm going with "Frozen" on this one, even if that song becomes firmly lodged into my brain and won't let go!

4. Art or Reading?

Reading. I forget how much I enjoy some art projects until I get into them, but reading is a bigger draw for sure.

5. Christmas or Birthday?

Christmas. I love the whole holiday season. See number 1 above. But birthdays around here are very special days for sure. Thank you, Stacy.

6. Flip-flops or Boots?

For daily wear? Boots. Flip-flops have a very narrow spectrum of usefulness in my book. I do like sandals, though. That would be my preferred footwear.

7. Roses or Daisies?

Daisies. When it comes to people in my life, they are more well-received, too.
8. Cat or Dog?

Dog. I'm not a dog person, but having the most wonderfully sweet and neurotic dog in the world makes me smile a lot. Plus I really enjoy the mad love she gives me.
9. Vanilla or Chocolate?


10. Europe or Asia?

As much as I love Japan, Europe has a broader appeal to me right now.

11. Raspberries or Blackberries?

Blackberries. I don't know why. I just like them more.

12. Vintage or Modern?

I like my modern conveniences, but I do like how some modern style is hearkening back to earlier periods. I'm not saying we need to go back to top hats and monocles, but a little old-fashioned flair is refreshing at times.

13. Pasta or Soup?

Pasta. I don't think soup is very filling so it always seems like an add-on to a "real" meal.

14. Elephant or Lion?

Lion, I think. I'm not very committed on this one.

15. Long hair or Short hair?

On me, short hair. On my wife, long hair.

16. Beach or Water park?

The beach every time.

* * * * * * * * * *

I'm not going to nominate anyone because I'd just end up nominating someone that Stacy or TMV have already nominated, and that's just piling on.

Monday, March 17, 2014

This or That?

I've been tagged by The Magic Violinist! These tags are just the perfect medicine when I'm feeling overwhelmed and stretched thin. They make me stop and take a quick writing break, which generally helps me feel better.

Rules: Answer the questions given to you, give the people you nominate the same questions, nominate three people and let them know they've been tagged.

1. Summer or Winter?
Summer. Hands down.
2. Blue or Pink?
3. Frozen or Brave?
Frozen. I like Brave, but the whole mother-bear thing was a bit weird for me. I love that both have strong female protagonists, though. 
4. Art or Reading?
Reading. I'm not terribly craftsy. I do love studying art, though!
5. Christmas or Birthday?
Both. I love the feel of Christmas time and I love that birthdays celebrate people simply because we exist and not because of any specific accomplishments or awards.
6. Flip-flops or Boots?
Sandals. I hate flip-flops (soooo uncomfortable) and boots mean cold.

7. Roses or Daisies?
Daisies. My favorite flower - beautifully simple.
8. Cat or Dog?
Dogs, for sure. I'm horribly allergic to cats. Plus, I love our dog's spunky and cuddly personality!
9. Vanilla or Chocolate?
Chocolate, though I very occasionally crave a vanilla shake. 
10. Europe or Asia?
Europe. Lisbon, Paris, Rome . . . someday we'll all go as a family when the kids are older.
11. Raspberries or Blackberries?
Hmmm. I like both, but I'll go with raspberries, since they're a little more tart.
12. Vintage or Modern?

13. Pasta or Soup?
Probably pasta - I'm a sucker for noodles, but no marinara sauce (yuck) - creamy or pink/vodka sauces, please. And with soups, I also prefer a creamy base rather than a thin, broth base.
14. Elephant or Lion?
Elephants. I agree with Kate - they are so cute.

15. Long hair or Short hair?
Long hair.
16. Beach or Water park?
Beach. Beach. Beach!!
I nominate . . . 
Thanks for the tag, Magic Violinist!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

February Wrap-Up

Well, since I just barely posted January's, this one is coming out soon afterward . . .

Books I've Read 

So this section is pathetic this month for a couple of reasons: one, I should've put The Giver this month instead of on January's; and two, I haven't finished many books this month (February). That being said, I'm in the middle of several books that I'm reading myself as well as with the kids and as a family. (You should see Thing 1's February wrap-up on her blog - yowza, that kid can read!).

I should also add that I read tons and tons and TONS of news articles. I'm a total news junkie and love to read up on world happenings, pop culture, mental health topics, general interest articles, food and nutrition articles, opinion pieces, blog posts, and more.

Movies/TV Shows I've Watched

In addition to marathon watching "Parenthood" (all caught up now and LOTS to say - that will be in another post), we've also been watching some of the Olympics; we've started up Amazing Race (LOVE that show);  and have kept up with "The Goldbergs" (love, love, LOVE that show), "New Girl," "Modern Family," and "The Big Bang Theory."

"Freaks and Geeks"


Okay, so I TOTALLY love this show. Like LOVE. Every time I watch it (this may be my 5th time, I think), I am amazed and impressed by the writing and characters and music and how well they capture the feel of high school (for the rest of us) in the 80s. I'm marathon watching this show with Thing 1 and we are loving it. I love sharing things like this together with others, especially my family!

So, movies. Apparently, I think I can watch movies by osmosis or by simply borrowing them from the library or putting them in our Netflix queue. Here are the movies we've actually watched in February (and like The Giver, "Saving Mr. Banks" should've been on this post since we technically saw it in February - that's what I get for taking forever to write a blog post (and for copying Thing 1's post! :P):

"The Lego Movie"


Saw this one at the movies as a family and with some friends of ours.What can I say? Everything is awesome. Don't be fooled. It only looks like a kids' movie. It has a ton of great references that kids raised in the 80s will enjoy.

"Silver Linings Playbook"


Mark and I love this movie and saw it at the theater when it came out. This time, we borrowed it from the library and watched it with Thing 1. It was just as good the second time. Great film. Incredible acting. It is important to us to watch quality films - great writing, great acting, great cinematography, etc. This movie does not one bit disappoint! Highly recommend. Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert DeNiro are all incredible in it, and they realistically portray what it's like for people who struggle with mental illness, whether it's them personally or whether it's those supporting loved ones who have it. And they manage to do this while being absolutely hilarious, too. Now, that is a feat.



We watched this documentary film with some friends of ours. It is a heartwarming and inspirational film about a group out of Massachusetts - the Young@Heart Chorus. The minimum age for joining this group is 73. It is entirely made up of older retirees. While they are a group of mostly elderly people, they sing mainly current pop and rock hits. They visit prisons and schools and sell out crowds for concerts, including places they go on their European Tours! This movie will make you laugh and cry and I cannot recommend it enough.

Note: Hilariously, I just looked at our "Recently Watched" list on Netflix and looked up everything we've been watching in February and I saw this message: "NOTE: Only the most recent 100 movies and TV shows are shown." And I couldn't see all of February, so that tells you how much we've all been watching! Thing 1 in particular has been marathon watching "Dr. Who" like crazy! And there is a lot of "Parenthood" on there (we're all caught up now) and a spattering of "Freaks and Geeks." And now that "Clone Wars" is on Netflix, Thing 2 is in on the marathon-watching action (he's seen them all before except for the lost episodes). Apparently Netflix is a great investment for us. We do use it A LOT. There are tons of great documentaries and TED Talks, too, that we use in our schooling and learning as well.

Games I've played

We reorganized our game closet in February and that was a lot of fun. It's one of our favorite places in our house, filled with games, DVDs, and music. :) I'll post pictures below. As we cleaned it out, it made us think of all these games we wanted to play, so we did! Everyone chose one game to play and we played them all to celebrate being done cleaning the closet. Our homeschool group also has a couple of game days every month where we meet at a book/game store and play games together for hours in their game bunker. Again, I'm sure I'm forgetting some, but here goes:

Yahtzee - I chose this one, because it's a simple and fun game and different from the kind of games we usually play these days.
Smallworld - This is Thing 2's pick. I play it with him a lot when Thing 1 volunteers at the library.  
Harry Potter Sorcerer's Stone Trivia Game - Thing 1's choice. It covers the first book and is a lot of fun to play in our family since we all love the books so much.
Boom-O - Mark's pick. A fun card game we hadn't played in a while. It was really fun to pull out some oldr games we hadn't enjoyed in a while.
Chronology - We like this game and use it quite a bit to help us in our history study together. It's simple and gives a good sense of, well, chronology.
Mario Kart - a great standby that we all enjoy playing together quite a bit 
Pit - a discovery of an old classic! So fun with friends!
Catch Phrase - we had a lot of fun playing this together at our game day. Fun for a group!
Chess - a classic, especially fun when you're trying to beat Ivan the computer!
Pizza Dice - an easy, quick, fun game where you try to roll the pizza toppings dice and make a pizza first. A fun game!
Dominion -  We played this with the Johnsons on our Folson Anniversary. Fun, fun game.
Candamir - Pretty addicted to this one. We got it for Christmas from Mark's parents and we really enjoy playing it a lot! Probably one of my new favorites for sure.
Folson Family Vacation Game -  THIS. GAME. IS. AWESOME. But you can't get it in stores. Know why? Because this is the awesome gift the Johnsons gave us to celebrate our 3rd friendship anniversary together (yes, we do that and love it). Happy February 23rd! I'll post pictures of it - it is so IMPRESSIVE to see all the time and effort they put into making it and it is filled with fun references to things about us all and things we all enjoy! A big hit!

Other Things I've done, Places I've visited, etc.

* Complained about the stupid polar vortex cold (keeping this one in the rotation this month, because well, cold)
* Had lots of kids over, particularly Thing 1's BFF and Dave's boys during Dave's hospital stay (another hold over from month to month, it seems!)
* Peeked in on my daughter as she participated in a virtual book launch with some of her co-authors
* Played games with friends
* Stupid groundhog
* Caught a matinée at our favorite, indie theater in our cute little town - "Saving Mr. Banks" as a family
* Snow stopped Mark and me from seeing two movies (in theaters) we tried to get to ("American Hustle" and "August: Osage County"). Redbox or Library it is.
* Did our awesome dinner co-op with friends (love that!)
* Looked at houses for sale
* Game day with homeschool group
* Cleaned out our game closet
* Celebrated our Folson Anniversary with a full day of food and fun by recreating the first day we all met as well as some other favorite memories - Dave has saved me the trouble of recounting our adventure that day - read his post here to understand why we did what we did that day
* Had a lot of people over to dinner
* Went to the dentist (make-up date from when I couldn't go due to my hurt neck in January)
* Hosted various homeschool events at our house (no stolen food this time!)
* Dealt with snow, snow, and more snow (this winter has been ROUGH).
* Sent a barbershop quartet to the hospital when Dave went in (read about that here). Seriously. Read it. It's hilarious.
* More people to dinner
* Attended birthday parties
* Yet more people to dinner
* Went out to dinner with a long-time friend of mine (Denise. Denise!)
* Mark took the kids and the Johnson boys sledding!
* Got $5 burritos for dinner during a great deal
* Watched some (but not much) of the Olympics
* Read a lot of news (that's ongoing)
* Went to a surprise party for our dear friend Sherri - she ADORES Scout (and I love that she does!) and Scout is who surprised her first!
* Attended a surprise party for a friend of ours who just turned 70. He was genuinely surprised and it was a really fun afternoon
* His party switched locations on the fly, so we were near our friend's house in a neighboring county and let them know - we went over and visited, always for longer than we intend, because we all enjoy one another so much! We had just seen them the night before, too!
* Hosted our book club (monthly)
* Saw the Lego Movie with friends (Max had already seen it at a friend's birthday party and was VERY excited for us all to see it - everything is awesome!)
* Made serious progress on some business changes we've been talking about for quite some time
* Had some friends to dinner and had a lovely time. Their adult son (I believe he's 26), whose wife and baby were out of town, then hung out and played games with Max for hours! They both had a great time.
* Got a haircut and color - happy birthday to me.
* Our daughter planned a surprise date for me and Mark and our son helped her pull it off. She told us she had a Twitter chat about writing and publishing and that we needed to be home for that (to make sure we didn't make any other plans) and then she surprised us by having arranged for them to go to a friend's house (the Johnson's) while Mark and I enjoyed a dinner out! She had wanted to do it on Valentine's Day but then figured out that we'd have the Johnson boys here since Dave went in the hospital that day, so she arranged it for a different day. She said it was the ONE free night all month -that's just nuts. We had a great time out. Thank you, kids! Thanks especially for the idea, Kate!
* It took me months to get around to it, but I charged our new home phones! The other one had been dying for a LONG time.
* Did a double mother-daughter date with Kate and her BFF and her mom (and her little sister)
* Dealt with a broken washing machine and Mark did half a dozen loads of laundry at the laundromat on a VERY cold night while I watched kids (and friends' kids) here at home
* Accepted a job to be the mental health workshop teacher at some local summer camps - I'm very excited!
* Attended a murder-mystery dinner with our good friends Ron and Sherri - it was SO MUCH FUN and we're totally doing it again and taking the kids (it truly deserves its own blog post)!

Pictures from the Month

But I have to admit it is beautiful!

The view out our kitchen window

Our clothesline and grapevine

Our side yard and barn

Love the way the snow sits on the branches

Our Wisteria

Our red wagon

Our bird feeders

Big red barn

Our backyard

The view behind our local library

Warming up with coca and a cute puppy

Playing in the snow


It is beautiful how it coats everything

Icicles on our Wisteria

Icicles on our power lines

Closer up

Beautiful gate

Our Cherry Blossom trees in winter

Bird Feeders in ice

The Johnsons brought us flowers and candy for our Folson Anniversary

And they made us this awesome game I talked about above

Individual playing pieces in our favorite colors and with our pictures on them!

Sushi lunch out (again, see Dave's post for more info on why we did what we did - it's a cool story)

Roller skating at the rink where we met

This is the booth where the bonding began . . .
 It was kind of funny to watch us try to recreate the day and find the right booth at the roller rink. A guy saw what we were doing and tried to help and we laughed and said we were recreating a memory. He proceeded to tell us where he had been sitting 10 minutes beforehand in order to help us and we clarified, "Oh, we're recreating a memory from three years ago!" This intrigued several people around us who all liked our story. :)

Friendly's for ice cream - a go-to place for us

Playing the Folson Game!

More food - Red Robin this time

Thing 1 is at that age where she goes back and forth between the kids and the adults

This is a picture of what our kitchen looks like as it awaits Kate's cookies coming out of the oven

Our organized DVD/game closet!

Cold and dry = static electricity
Mark got everyone Valentines - Kate's BFF was here that morning, so she got one, too!

Thing 1 made a Valentine surprise for Scout

Seriously, she is the CUTEST!!

Mark also did Valentines surprises with the kids while Dave and Christie were at the hospital

Kate and I took her to Petsmart (we're all cooped up this winter) and got her a toy

I charged them! I did it!

Sledding with friends

We've had a FULL February aside from books, movies, and games. We've had a TON of social engagements. We've had a lot of people over to dinner. We've owed many of them dinners for quite some time and have been trying to reciprocate the generosity of those around us. We've had game nights. We've had outings. We've had the Johnson boys during Dave's hospitalization. We've had art classes and dentist appointments and birthday parties. A very full month! 

I often struggle with depression around this time of year, but this year has been pretty good! I credit that to family and good friends (could be from the Johnsons moving here?). I will say my anxiety has been kind of high (could be from the Johnsons moving here? Just kidding - this has been a running joke this winter . . . ) and sometimes it seems I've traded one for the other, but overall really, it hasn't been a bad winter that way. And that's saying something seeing that this has been an awful winter weather wise. The weather has messed with our business and personal and family plans multiple times. Stupid polar vortex and non-stop snowstorms! 

January and February tend to be rough leading up to and beyond my birthday. I turned 40 a couple of days ago (ahem, I got sidetracked AGAIN while writing this, so now it's been over a week since I wrote that) and I haven't been stressing about it at all (several people asked if it was bothering me - it really wasn't and isn't). I like my life and feel pretty good about it. :)
How was your February?