Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Encyclopedia of Me - H (Mark)

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So, I've already creatively used some favorites in other posts (Like Connick, Jr., Harry and Potter, Harry) and now I need to come up with more! And what's with my collage this time? So old timey!

Hemingway, Ernest: I remember reading my first Hemingway novel when I was 21, and I loved it. It was The Sun Also Rises, and is still one of my favorite books. I then ripped through A Farewell to Arms (another favorite), The Old Man and the Sea, and The Garden of Eden. Our book club read A Moveable Feast, which was a fascinating account of the ex-pat community in Paris during the 1920s. I think his simplicity of language makes his novels compelling. He gets right to the point, which then allows the reader to get to the characters and story and deeper meanings. Hemingway is still one of my favorites.

Hughes, Langston: I'm not a huge poetry guy, but I do love slam poetry. To me, slam poetry is jazz and hip hop. Hughes wasn't a slam poet per se, but I think a lot of his work compares favorably to rhythmic expression. My first exposure to Hughes, that I can remember, was in my senior year of high school. I came across a poem by Hughes called "Trumpet Player" and I selected it to dissect and analyze for my annual poetry project. Reading it I saw references to so many great jazz musicians. I then ended up reading a whole lot more by him and loved it all. (The kids are reading some of his poetry this week for school, and when I pulled out my book, there was a post-it note on the page with "Trumpet Player.") Later I discovered his book Not Without Laughter, which I'd never known existed. What a great read. I find the whole Harlem Renaissance era fascinating and can see where the authors and artists of that period laid the groundwork for so much of what happened in the 20th century when it comes to civil rights.

Hozier: I first heard the name Hozier in a video I saw of Ed Sheeran doing a Q&A with fans. Someone asked who he was listening to at the time, and he said he was obsessed with Hozier, so I looked him up. His song "Take Me to Church" was a Grammy nominee for the Song of the Year, and it is powerful stuff. Later, Stacy and I were in a music store doing some Christmas shopping and they played the entire album overhead. First of all, yes, we were there that long and beyond. What a day! Secondly, I said to Stacy, "This whole album is really good." I was not entirely surprised to receive it as a Christmas gift. Anyway, you should really check out this album. Some of my favorite tracks are "Jackie and Wilson," "Work Song," "Foreigner's God," and "Cherry Wine."

Huey Lewis and the News: As a Bay Area boy I have to include them here. Huey Lewis was everywhere when I was a kid--baseball games, local concerts, TV, you name it. He's got a great 80s/90s pop feel, including that ever so recognizable horn section. It is distinctly different from Chicago and Peter Cetera, but no less iconic in my mind. And who doesn't picture Marty McFly racing to school on his skateboard when "Power of Love" comes on?

Home: There is nothing I love more than being home with our family. It never gets old. Sure, we enjoy getting out with friends, or as a family, but honestly, home is the best. We play games, listen to music, watch movies, share TV together, cook and eat great food. Who wouldn't want to hang out at home?

Homeschooling: This has been such a great thing in our family's life. We have two great kids who are intelligent, creative, and motivated, and having the flexibility of homeschooling gives them such great opportunities to explore so many interests. There have been times that, for a variety of reasons, I haven't been as involved as I would have liked, and I feel like I missed out on some really neat experiences. We've got a great approach and schedule for our schooling right now and I'm SO happy that I get to do so much with the kids. It's incredibly fun and rewarding to be there when they make a discovery or have something "click" for the first time. Homeschooling is not for everyone, and not everyone who would like to can, so I feel so fortunate that our family is in the right situation.

Encyclopedia of Me - H (Stacy)

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Harry Potter – I’ve read this series three times so far: once myself, once with Kate, and once with Max. I know it’s a little on the nose to say this, but it is magical. I can’t begin to say how lucky I feel to see these books come out and experience the wonder, excitement, and magic of it all. We’ve excitedly anticipated book releases; we’ve attended book release parties; we’ve turned our house into Hogwarts; we’ve dressed up as characters, including Hermione; we’ve attended midnight release parties; we’ve done Harry Potter birthday parties; we’ve read aloud together; we’ve listened endlessly to the audio version (Jim Dale, of course); the list goes on and on. We are BIG fans. I love the Harry Potter series and feel incredibly lucky to be able to share them with my kids and that we’ve been able to experience them in real time!

Home – I love being home. I love hanging out as a family. I love having a place that’s ours, that represents us, that houses us. I like to travel, but I love being home. It’s seriously one of my very favorite things. I love to look at the calendar and have nothing scheduled and know that we can chill at home as a family and eat good food, play games, talk, dance, read, listen to music, watch movies, whatever! Of course, having moved this past year, we are especially enjoying our new home very, very much. To be fair, I have loved every home in which we’ve lived. I like making a house a home. I like putting our personality into it. I love BEING home. I am a homebody. I have friends who go stir crazy at home, but that so isn’t me. I can be home for weeks at a time and not feel one bit of cabin fever. There’s no place in the world that I love more than being in my home with my family. We really try to be smart financially and save money in many ways, but if there’s one area where it makes sense for us to splurge a little, it’s home. It’s where we spend most of our time. We’re happy here, so we don’t go out and spend much money other places! Home, home, home. I love it.

Harper Lee – The author of my all-time favorite novel, Harper Lee, fascinates me. She has published one book (so far, for now). ONE! And a fabulous one at that. To Kill A Mockingbird is such, such, such a beautiful book – it’s beautiful; it’s hilariously funny; it’s spunky; it’s sweet; it’s heartwarming; it’s kind; it’s enduring. I love the characters and I love the story. I’m fascinated by this reclusive author who speaks little, eschews public appearances and interviews, and felt the need to write only one amazing book. I’m not one to reread books, but I’ve read TKAM many, many times, most recently with Kate. I’m so excited to read it with Max when he’s a little older, too. I have mixed feelings about her forthcoming book – I’m mostly excited, though I hope fervently that they are not in any way violating her wishes by publishing it. Also, not to be morbid, but she’s older and has health problems and is frail and I feel like I’m bracing myself for hearing of her passing. I get emotional thinking about her and that beautiful book she’s given us. What a gift! I’m very grateful to Harper Lee for her moving, inspiring work of art and literature.

Homeschooling – We are a homeschooling family. Never in a million years did either Mark or I think we’d choose that for our family. Yet, here we are. And we could not be happier. We really enjoy spending time as a family and we enjoy learning and flexibility and playing games and reading and computers and writing and on and on. This is a natural fit for us. Of course we were nervous to start and of course we had some preconceived ideas.

Growing up, we’d mostly known homeschooled kids to be “weird.” But you know what? There are all kinds of kids in all kinds of educational settings. There were “weird kids” in my public high school – was it because of school? No. You don’t hear people say that, though. You don’t hear people say, “That kid is weird. He must go to school.” Even though there are “weird kids” in school as well as out. Lots of factors go into personalities, and education and social lives are only part of it. We’ve had people say things to us like, “Your kids are so social!” or “Wow, your kids are really great!” or “I’m really surprised at how normal your kids are!” It betrays their judgments. Why would it be surprising that our kids are social, “normal” (whatever that is), and “great?” Oh, because we homeschool? Then those statements say way more about the ones uttering them than they do about us. I get that there are stereotypes and, believe me, I’ve seen many examples of them both in and out of school. We know hippie homeschoolers, weird homeschoolers, super smart homeschoolers, ridiculously creative homeschoolers, super-achieving homeschoolers, relaxed homeschoolers . . . you name it. See? Variety everywhere. There is no “normal homeschooler” or “normal kid.” And anyway, what’s normal? I don’t want our kids to be like everyone else or part of some kind of factory output. They’re individuals like everyone else! And they’re not one bit socially awkward. They’re fine and can hold their own with anyone. Kate hangs out with kids and adults alike with no problem whatsoever – she is hilariously witty, interesting, well-read, funny, thoughtful, and has incredible insights! And, as you already know, she is an amazing writer and story teller. Max talks to anyone. And I mean, anyone. He is very social and makes friends easily EVERYWHERE we go. He is empathetic and a natural leader and younger kids especially gravitate toward him. He is crazy good at logic games and is a deep thinker. He is always, always, always making up games and tweaking games and creating games. He’s got a mind for looking at things differently and approaching stuff in an out-of-the-box way. I love it!

I thought we’d do “school at home” and that it would be a ton of work, but it’s really not. Honestly, my friends who are sending their kids to school spend FAR more time in that than I do “doing school” with my kids. We don’t really “do school.” We did, at first. But over time, we do less and less formal schooling and more and more natural learning. It’s evolved over the years for us. School isn’t a separate event from everything else. Learning is life! We love it. I credit homeschooling and its inherent freedom and flexibility with helping our kids love learning and be creative. It’s amazing to watch them find their passions and develop them (writing for Kate and game design for Max). We’re able to pursue their interests through contests, camps, classes, and more. By approaching learning in this way, we don’t have to know all the answers and do all the teaching. We learn together! Yes, we were nervous at first, but the kids consistently test well beyond their grade levels and they are thriving. We can tailor fit their education – it’s awesome!

I was worried, before starting, of the risk of being socially isolated. Well, we’re so so not! If anything, it’s often a bigger challenge to fit the academics into a busy social calendar! I started a homeschool group about 10 years ago and that has helped tremendously, but even aside from that, we are involved with things around us and in our community. Our kids get tons of time with friends and with people of all ages and walks of life. It’s very natural and how life is really. I think school, while a good option for many including myself and Mark growing up, is not a terribly social place, so it’s kind of funny that people worry that kids who don’t attend school miss out socially! Kids are constantly being told to be quiet in school. I know I was always getting in trouble for talking in school. :P We try to make sure our kids have a variety of mentors in addition to us. It’s good. It’s healthy. We don’t homeschool to keep our kids from the world. We homsechool to give them the world.

We all spend a lot of time together, too, so we work well together (we kind of have to! How else could we do this?!?) and there are next to no power struggles or arguments or frustrations among us. Yes, sure, of course there are times here and there when there are – that’s normal. But it is in no way the norm. We’re happy. We’re respectful of one another. We like hanging out. We like learning together and playing games. The kids have a say and a hand in everything we do. They get good sleep. They eat well. They have tons of free time. They aren’t constantly being told what to do or to be quiet. They’re encouraged to explore, to ask, to question, to do, to try, to create. We all cook together, learn together, read together, fold laundry together, go to the movies together, exercise together, attend concerts together, travel together, shovel snow together. We visit presentations on college campuses. We take classes at science centers. We volunteer in our community. The kids work jobs. We visit the library. We all belong to several book clubs. We do a ton of social stuff. We play at the park (a lot!). We get together with friends. We research stuff. We watch movies and documentaries and videos and TED talks and TV shows. We listen to music. We study music. Mark and the kids do taekwondo. They learn instruments, play sports, swim, ride horses, go star gazing, you name it. We have so much flexibility that we get to visit lots of places and do lots of interesting things whenever we want! We talk A LOT. We’re always in the thick of conversation – anything from books to current events to gaming to ethics to healthy eating to pets to any subject whatsoever. There are no limits! I love, love, love homeschooling and am so grateful that we have this option – it is a great fit for our family and I’m sincerely thankful for that. I do not take it for granted. I don’t think it’s necessarily better than other options out there for everyone, but for us, it’s great.

Happiness – One of my favorite emotions (no duh, right?). I love feeling happy. And I am, generally, a very happy person. I like to laugh and joke around. I love to enjoy myself. As someone who has had some very real struggles with depression and anxiety over the years, I treasure feeling happy. I don’t have to feel happy all the time, but I do enjoy feeling happy. I am someone with VERY simple pleasures. I don’t have a lot of grand wants or desires. I like simple things – dinner as a family, playing games, watching favorite TV shows, reading, listening to music, my family, laughing, talking, friends, Scout . . . I love happiness. (By the way, that song “I’m Happy?” It irritates the crap out of me!).

Hot Weather – Oh, yes, I love hot weather. I do not like being cold. I like feeling the sun on my skin. I love going out in the summer. I love not having to worry about a million layers and boots and scarves. Putting on sandals and going out the door? Easy peasy! And sunshine and warmth make my heart happy. I love summertime. I love sunshine. I love summer music. I like visiting the beach. I like when the temperatures are 75 and higher. I love, love, love hot weather! I know so many people prefer colder weather and they say things like, “You can always put layers on! You can only take so much off!” But for me, I hardly ever feel “too hot.” I get cold easily, so hot is fine by me. I hate feeling encumbered by layers. I’m short, so all those clothes are too much for my liking. Warmth and sunshine? Much more to my liking! 

Okay, so the extra H-words I wanted to mention: I’ll spare you more about Harry Connick, Jr. as well as great Peter Cetera songs that start with “H” like “Have You Ever Been in Love?”. I’ve already mentioned our new house. I also love my long, dark hair. One of my favorite things to eat at our local Japanese place is a discovered treat: Hamachi Kama – it’s cooked yellowtail with a great dipping sauce and it’s delicious! Also, nostalgia factor here – I remember researching and writing about Harriet Tubman when I was a student in grade school and I also remember, growing up in the 80s, learning about and writing a paper on HIV and how especially scary that was at the time.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Encyclopedia of Me - C (Mark)

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California: Let's get the obvious one out of the way. I grew up in California, spending most of my time in the San Francisco Bay Area, not far from the Napa wine country. I love it there. The climate is great--four seasons, nothing too severe. The food and diversity are unrivaled. And besides where I grew up, the entire state is like a mini country with a little of something for everyone. One big drawback now is how crowded and expensive it is.

John Coltrane: Yes. This is my jazz reference for this list. C'mon. You knew it was coming. I don't play the saxophone, but any jazz musician worth anything should know Coltrane, and should own "Giant Steps." His work was groundbreaking, and there has never really been a jazz saxophonist that has touched him since.

Harry Connick, Jr.: OK. One more jazz reference. (but no baseball reference this time, so it's fine). I'm sure he shows up on a lot of my lists, but he's one of my favorites. I first became aware of him after Harry put out his "We Are in Love" album, which is great. It's a great throwback to Sinatra and the other jazz vocal greats. But he didn't stop there. Funk, bebop, New Orleans style jazz, standards, Broadway tunes, whatever. He can do it all. Plus, I feel like he's one of the big artists on the soundtrack of my life, especially life with Stacy.

Christmas: I love it. I love the music, the snow, the chilly temperatures, the excitement in the air, the lights, the decorations. I've always loved winter and the holidays, but especially after meeting Stacy and falling in love during that season. As much as she hates the cold, I feel like the holidays are "our" time of year. We were even married just before Christmas. I love seeing how excited the kids get about it now, too. And the dog is just crazy for presents!

Children: We've got two great ones. We talk about them a lot, and I don't know what else to say than I feel so lucky to have such a wonderful son and daughter. I'm blown away by their creativity, intelligence, kindness, and every other good adjective I can think of. I feel so honored to get to be one of their parents.

Canada: I lived in Vancouver for about a year when I was 8. I still remember a lot about it. I remember taking skiing lessons, which I enjoyed. I remember having an incredible neighborhood in the woods that we could explore. I remember epic backyard baseball games with my brother Doug where the Milwaukee Brewers were always the butt of every joke and never the winners. I remember not singing "O Canada" before school assemblies because I was American and didn't know the words. I remember singing "Bloody Mary" in our school's production of "South Pacific." I remember Doug coming home with a Canadian accent. And I remember seeing the Canadian Brass perform in a school assembly and thinking to myself, "I have GOT to play the trombone." I think I remember really liking Canada. I also remember a great band trip to Victoria, B.C. to perform in the Victoria Day Parade. That city has the look and feel of London and is a really cool place.

Chicago/Peter Cetera: I always liked Chicago. How could I not? They had a great horn section. But I really gave them and Peter Cetera a closer listen after meeting Stacy. The summer after our freshman year I went out and got all three Cetera albums that were out at the time and wore them out. Both he and Chicago have a great sound, and the songwriting is great. If you're into great 80s/90s power ballads, you can't go wrong with either one. Also, Peter Cetera kind of looks like David Rasche, star of TV's "Sledgehammer," a gem from my childhood that is too often forgotten. Maybe it's because it was so ridiculous, but I still liked it.

I could do this Stacy style now, where I list a bunch more words that start with C and overwhelm myself trying to list them all, or I could just list one bonus item, which I'm fairly certain will show up on all the other lists in this house. Calvin and Hobbes. So many reasons to love this comic. I'll just leave it at that.
Stacy, anything to say about this one?

Encyclopedia of Me - C (Stacy)

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Chicago/Peter Cetera – My all-time favorite band growing up. To this day, the sound of their brass section combining with their electric guitars and drums and Peter Cetera’s unique vocals can take me back and give me all kinds of warm and fuzzy 80s memories (I think Chicago 17 is the soundtrack of the 80s for many of us). I have always been a huge fan of voices with that quality that Peter Cetera’s has – a higher man’s voice that’s kind of raspy/kind of clear, and one you can totally pick out in group and recognize in about one note (other voices like this for me include Sting’s, Adam Levine’s, etc.). My mom used to call him “lockjaw” because of how he looks when he sings. Mark and I listened to a lot of Peter Cetera during our dating years and newlywed years especially. I introduced him to a lot of Peter Cetera’s stuff and he got all the CDs, so we have two copies of some of them. Our wedding video of pictures of us set to music has this song on it ( as well as a few others. The summer after my freshman year at college, I got to see Chicago in concert (post-Peter-Cetera-as-lead-singer) with my best friend growing up (Cathy!) and a friend of mine from high school. The crowd had such a mix of ages! There were older people there, middle aged people, and young people. This group has been around a long time and spans generations. I was hoarse the next day – we had a great time.

Harry Connick, Jr. – This is the other side of that tape that is the main soundtrack of our relationship. If Chicago is Side B, Harry Connick is side A. I may have introduced Mark to Peter Cetera, but Mark (and my freshman roommate in college) introduced me to Harry. Oh, Harry. Dreamy Harry. You should really read my introduction in this post here, because it sums up my early love of Harry quite well ( The soundtrack for When Harry Met Sally reminds me of our early dating years. Harry is another singer we listened to a lot while dating and as newlyweds. Truth is, we haven’t ever stopped listening to Harry (or Chicago and Peter Cetera). We own most of Harry’s albums (and there are a lot of them!) and we love them all for different reasons. While his big band stuff is my all-time favorite stuff he does (well, that, and his piano playing), I’m a huge fan of his funk album, “She.” Funny story. When I went to that concert in college (referenced in that link), I fully expected Harry in a suit leading a big band. When we walked out in black leather pants and a t-shirt, I thought it was a gag. Then they played funk all night. I had a really great time and tried not to focus on my slight feelings of disappointment at the lack of big band music. Funny how that album has grown to be one of my favorites. Mark has seen him in concert. I have seen him in concert. And we’ve seen him in concert together (at the Newport Jazz Festival). We’ve also met him! We all went to Bethlehem, PA for a book signing where he visited a local book shop and signed his Happy Elf book at Christmastime. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, but we were so excited to meet him and he was great with the kids – way more interested in talking to them than to us. Another song on our wedding video is “I Could Write a Book” by Harry Connick, Jr. (as referenced in our previous Encyclopedia of Me post). Love Harry!

John Cusack – There is a running joke that he is at the top of my laminated list (Friends reference) and Mike King has teased me that John Cusack is listed on there all 5 times. So many of my friends don’t get it, but I don’t care. I loooooove John Cusack. My heartthrob from the 80s. Yeah, yeah, I know. He wasn’t ever considered a “heartthrob” by traditional heartthrob standards. I know. But he’s my kind of cute. I’m not into the Channing Tatum types – to me, they’re the equivalents of the female Sophia Vergara types (interestingly enough, a type that Mark doesn’t find attractive either). It’s too . . . much, too on the nose. John Cusack is tall, dark, handsome (in my opinion). I love his character in Say Anything – so sweet and kind. Kind of geeky and awkward, but good. The best friend type, you know? I follow him on Facebook – he is crazy smart, involved, and an activist. I love that. He writes for the Huffington Post and is choosy about his movie roles. He backed away from being type cast as the romantic lead all the time and has done such a variety of things. He cares about films and he eschews the Hollywood lifestyle. He spends more of his time in Chicago than Hollywood and kind of always has. He loves his sports teams. He has an easy manner, a great voice, and a laid back personality. Wait? What’s this you say? Oh, so many qualities I list here are qualities my husband has? Why, yes, maybe that should say something – tall, dark, handsome, sweet, smart, politically active, a best friend, and passionate. Must be my type. :)

Catan (Settlers of Catan) – This is my favorite board game. I love playing it. I enjoy all the versions. I love getting together with friends to play it. I like that every time we play, it’s different. Just writing this has me wanting to play right now. I love the strategy of it. I love that it’s both competitive and cooperative. We’re big fans of tabletop gaming, especially European-style board games. This one is so cool, because the board is different every time. This and Ticket to Ride are two of the first of that style games that have gotten us into collecting and playing LOTS of these kinds of games. We watch Wil Wheaton’s “Tabletop” show. We play games together as a family. We play with friends. We do game nights. It’s no exaggeration to say that we play games quite often. Reading and writing are big around here. So are games. You know how Kate is always writing stories? Well, Max has been playing and designing games since the age of about 3 (not kidding). I have pictures of him as a toddler collecting parts of different toys and sets and creating games out of them with the various pieces. We love games and Catan is one of my very favorites.

Cookies – Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m more about salty treats than sweet ones. I don’t really have a sweet tooth and I much, much, much prefer savory food to desserts. In fact, I’m often frustrated at restaurants, because so many of them serve big, huge desserts and I mostly want a small taste of something sweet (I like that some places are now offering dessert “shooters” – a few bites in a small shot glass, much more my size). So I prefer food food. But if there’s a sweet treat that I really like, it’s cookies. To be fair, I also love donuts. But let’s focus on cookies. I grew up eating mostly store-bought cookies, my three favorites being Chips Ahoy (my very favorite), Oreos, and Nutter Butters. I didn’t grow up in a home where cookies were homemade. My mom is a great cook, but hasn’t ever enjoyed baking. I remember that once in a blue moon, she’d make homemade peanut butter cookies and they were really good, but that was a rarity. We were all about the store-bought cookies. I remember we had a lazy Susan in one of our cupboards where we’d keep our cereal boxes as well as our cookie jar. It is a cookie jar that our family continues to use today. My mom gave it to us when we got married and I love it. It has a screw-on top and it’s made of plastic. It’s OLD and has an avocado-green (or it was at one time anyway - it has faded) lid. The golden-line design on the front is mostly worn off, but we don’t care. It houses our cookies. We do a mix of store bought and homemade, though we mostly make our own cookies (I now prefer homemade to store bought). When I went to college and lived in apartments, I had roommates who would bake cookies and I was entranced. They always smelled so good and I was amazed at how delicious homemade cookies were, especially chocolate chip ones. After our freshman year of dating, Mark sent me MANY packages of homemade chocolate chip cookies. He knew I loved them, so he’d bake for me in California and package them, lined with paper towels, and mail them to me in Massachusetts. I loved getting them! At Christmas time, I love getting trays of lots of different kinds of homemade cookies – what a treat! Mmmm, homemade cookies. Kate has been baking most of our cookies for us since the age of about 11. I love when she gets in the mood to make cookies! Some of our favorites include Extraordinary Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Cookies with Peanut Butter Chips, and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. Mmmmm.

Cooking – I really enjoy cooking. Mark enjoys it. Kate enjoys it. Max enjoys it. Quite honestly, most of the cooking that happens around here, happens as a group. We all help chop, sauté, stir, cook, bake, set the table, etc. I think we’re quite a team! Between all of us, food gets made, the table gets set, and everyone thinks of things like seasonings, serving utensils, drinks, etc. It’s awesome. We like ethnic foods and we like to eat healthy, too. We’re not super strict about it or anything, but in general, we try to avoid preservatives, artificial colors, high fructose corn syrup, etc. We cook a variety of things, rather than the same old thing all the time. Most of our meals are not your typical. We rarely eat the same thing twice in a given few months (to clarify: we eat leftovers no problem – in fact, I *hate* food waste and “hate” is not a word I use lightly. It really bothers me to waste food. Mark dubs me “The Queen of Leftovers,” because I can take a variety of leftovers or little bits of food and create some brand new, totally different, delicious meal out of it all. So what I mean by this one is that we rarely cook the same thing twice in a few months’ time). We love to try new recipes and play with them. We love good food and get bored by “regular meals” – we hardly ever eat “normal” stuff like spaghetti, mac-n-cheese, meatloaf, etc. It’s not that we refuse to eat that stuff – it’s that we’d rather eat other stuff. We eat a wide variety of foods. We often eat vegetarian or seafood meals. We’re not opposed to eating meat, but we don’t eat much of it. We like to “eat the rainbow” (making sure to get a variety of natural colors in our diet- it helps you get variety and different vitamins). A few years ago, I gave Mark a surprise gift of an all-day cooking class with a professional Mexican chef and that was really fun. He and I took a cooking class together this past fall at a local kitchen gadget shop – we learned all about Indian cooking. We love our new house – the set up is such a joy for cooking! In fact, since moving here, we are cooking at home far more and eating out far less (in the farmhouse – the kitchen is the farthest room away from everything, whereas here it is open to the living room, and at the farmhouse, the kitchen would get VERY cold in the winter and VERY hot in the summer, often forcing us to eat in the living room, order in, or eat out). Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE to eat out, too. Probably one of our favorite hobbies - along with books and games - is eating out, but we do love to cook. We are very lucky that we get to eat all of our meals together (we have our own business and we homeschool). Our lunches are usually simple – quesadillas or lots of veggies and hummus or fruit smoothies or salads or green smoothies or soup and sandwiches. We participate in a CSA and use the organic veggies in our meals. We often use leftovers for our lunches, too. Just for a totally random example of how varied our foods can be: yesterday for dinner, we had a variety of new recipes and old standards on the table for dinner (think Bento Box): Edamame, sticky rice, browned, Thai-stuffed tofu (filled with veggies and spices like red cabbage, jalapeno, ginger, garlic, carrots, etc.), Korean potstickers (like mini egg rolls filled with cabbage, onions, tofu, spices, etc.), sushi, teriyaki sauce, sriracha sauce, cauliflower pakoras (Indian-style), and roasted carrot fries. I’m not saying that kind of meal is typical around here – but it’s typical in that it’s atypical: every day is different! Thankfully, no one is picky. We all love to try new foods! We all pitch in. When Mark’s really busy, I cook. When he’s really busy, I cook. We all help out. We play with spices. We make things up. Cooking is fun!

So, here are other C-words that I thought of but will throw in this additional paragraph, because that seems to be how I do these things. I love castles. Hat tip to Max for coming up with this one for me. In Portugal, one of my favorite activities was exploring and hiking Lisbon’s beautiful castles. Like I said in the first paragraph, my best friend growing up is Cathy. A quality I appreciate is compassion. I love getting comments on my blog. And we’re big fans around here of Calvin and Hobbes. We read it, we share it, we quote it, we’ve watched documentaries about Bill Watterson, Kate owns the entire collections, Max reads them all the time. Such a great comic! Oh comic! I love comedy. Sit-coms are my favorite kind of TV show. I love to laugh.