Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - The Best Saturdays

I actually had a completed post of a series of photos to share today and then this happened this morning:

This is not the best photographic submission ever...but this is the kind of Saturday morning I LIVE for!!!

My oldest is in the front...she lives in the dorm and decided on a whim to come on home late last night.  My middle child is on the right and the youngest is on the left.

Please don't miss Layla way off on the left...caught her mid jump so she has a funny look on her face :):)
And, last but not least, PLEASE don't miss Lizzie...she's in the very back of the photo in between my youngest and oldest...sitting in the recliner wondering what it the world is going on :):):)

For your entertainment pleasure, they are all dancing to this song:

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce @ At Home with Books

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Schizophrenic Reading Life

I used to read one book at a time.  
I remember being in awe of people who could read numerous books at one time...thinking I would never be one of those people.
And, then, I became one.

My sidebar holds the book on my Nook, one on my Kindle, one on the nightstand, one in the classroom, one for my new book club, one in the car, one with the youngest, etc., etc.
I've never in my life been accused of only doing something halfway...if I'm going to do it, it's going to be done completely and to the very best (most exhausting) extent possible.
Essentially, I went nuts with the reading more than one book at a time thing.

The youngest and I read every night...but only a chapter or that read is an extended but ongoing one.  My goal is not to "complete" these reads...just enjoy them :) We switched last night from Junie B.  (review link) to some Hank the Cowdog.

Hank reminds me of the houd-dog Lafayette in the movie The Aristocats in the following clip:

Tina Fey's book Bossypants can be read in snippets...and I wasn't a Saturday Night Live fan at the time of her involvement with the while I've enjoyed her humor, I don't feel like I "can't put it down."  Hence, the "in my car" thing...
Parents do the strangest things in the pick up line, don't they?
At least I don't fall asleep like one mom did one afternoon...yes, really, this happened.
The rest of us just drove around youngest said please, please, don't ever do that, Mommy.  I promised her I would try.

I remember vaguely where I am with my Nook book, Sworn to Silence, ...but from the very first pages, it was intense and probably needs to be read alone...without distractions from others.  There's a sadistic and violent murderer on the loose...

My nightstand book, The Children of Henry VIII, feeds my Henry VIII addiction, and I like to savor it...a chapter at a time, then thinking, looking up stuff on the internet, etc.  Alison Weir is incredible with presenting history in narrative form...the text is deep, but it never feels muddy or clogged...No telling when I'll finish it...and I don't really want to ;)

I'm ashamed to admit that I joined my new book club 2 months ago...Townie was last month's selection, and Freedom was this month's...I've missed both meetings :(  I don't know what next month's selection is, and I'm almost embarrassed to ask.
I'm such a book club slacker. :(

The two books I'm focusing on right now are The House of Seven Gables and Cold Mountain.  I began The House of Seven Gables as a group read...but missed the group discussion.  I'm still reading it though bc it's a great Fall read...spooky, gothic, creepy and cold...I'm about 1/2 finished with it and can't wait to see what happens next to Hepzibah, the old maid who lives alone in her family's ancestral home until Phoebe, her young, pretty, happy cousin comes to live with her, and her damaged brother, Clifford shows up out of the blue one day...Last night while reading, I got my first clue as to who might be the instigator of something sinister...cue the eerie wind whistling through the trees....

My students in Comp II and I are reading Cold Mountain together...after doing the same old same old routine in this class semester after semester, I either needed to make some extensive changes or just go ahead and bash my head into the desk.
I decided (thank goodness) to make the changes.
Our research project spanned until midterm, and after midterm, we began our contemporary literature project. Cold Mountain was my selection; I've never read it and never seen the movie.  I wanted something like this so that I could have a genuine exploration of the novel and first responses right along with my students.
This class is a hybrid class with only 15 students remaining...we moved into one of the conference rooms today so that we can have nice cozy discussions on the pre-decided sections over the next four weeks (the class meets on Wednesdays only).
Since it is a class and they do get a grade, I let the students help me come up with the criteria for the discussions and the structure we'll follow...just in case there's a slacker I haven't spotted in the bunch :)
I've only read the first section of the novel so far...I've been introduced to Inman and was reminded of the novel March  (review link) by Geraldine Brooks.
I'm excited about this project and will be updating next week after our first discussion :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wannabee More Organized Wednesday - My Budget

I've never made it a secret that I'm not an effective money manager.
My friend Missie, however, is the money manager from Hell...and I mean that in the nicest way.
If you want it managed, tell Missie, and all will be managed.  You may not like it when she says, "No, it's not in the budget," but at least you'll have money for groceries the last week of the month.  

The Head of My Household and I are both professionals...I guess we'd be considered middle class...but in today's economy, even those of us with good jobs and college degrees are having to follow a budget carefully and stretch every dollar.  That doesn't work out too well for those of us who've never been very good at just that kind of thing.

The Head of My Household, on the other hand, is a very effective money manager, but in order to stay married, we decided to split our money and budget several years ago.  Truthfully, money is the only thing we actually fight about.  I've been running out of money at the end of the month here lately, and that drives him bonkers.  When I run out, he has to take up the slack, which depletes his reserves, so of course, he acts all grumpity until the next paycheck.

I've crunched and crunched my budget to figure out where the majority of my $ goes, and as much as I don't want to admit it, I have no control over myself when it comes to one particular category.
Beginning immediately, I've decided to accept the fact that we spend entirely too much $ on food...including lunch money, snacks, eating out and groceries.  Yes, food is a necessity, but I get so distracted by all the other nice things in the, I seem to find myself in the grocery store on my way home every. single. day.

When I plan our meals and we eat at home, we spend much less.  Duh, right?  While there may not be that much difference for a family of 2-3 in eating out compared to eating in, there is a huge difference when you're feeding 5 and sometimes 6 people each night.  
I've always been a couponer as well, but that too takes organization...sometimes I coupon well, and sometimes...well, I just don't.  
Many weeks I end up in the grocery store on my daily trek, asking my flustered, exhausted, aggravated self, "What are we going to eat tonight?"
I don't have a plan, a list, a coupon...nothing.
Those are the trips where I end up leaving with over $100 worth of stuff...but still nothing to eat for dinner that night or any other for that matter.

My friend Missie says enough is enough.
I shall from now on show up at work on Friday mornings with a list...a list of meals and groceries for the weekend and upcoming week.  
I shall leave work as early as we are allowed and take a field trip to the local (20 min. away) Wal-Mart.
Once there, I will stay focused on my list.
I shall not look all around me and be easily distracted by all the shiny things. 
I shall not buy $5 DVDs.
I shall not buy doggie duds or extra treats...and
I shall not browse the magazine section.
I will, I honestly swear, only buy items that are on my list.

I will also stay within my allotted grocery budget.

I will also use Wednesday as my accountability...I will admit to myself whether or not I was able to stick to my budget or not and how I managed to do it...or not. 

This past Friday I made a trial run and spent $17 over the amount I've allotted myself per week (I'm actually going to put the cash in weekly envelopes from now on though).
The Head of My Household is doubtful that I'll have enough willpower not to open the envelopes until the week they're allotted I've asked him to hide them from me :/
That may sound like a cop-out to some folks, but to me it's a system of checks and balances.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up, and I don't want to worry about how I'm going to pay for the food related to each holiday.  Missie says I need to add the ingredients for the special meals to each of the other weekly lists so I don't overburden any particular week.  Sounds good to me!

Except for my $17 over tab I've done ok this week so far.  Here's the run-down of this week's menu:

Saturday:  store bought pizza (Great Value was ok in a pinch :/)
Sunday: Pumpkin Trifle at church for lunch and Pizza Casserole for dinner
Monday: 5 ingredient parmesan tilapia (Rachael Ray recipe)
Tuesday: crock-pot barbeque chicken
Wednesday: church night supper
Thursday:  Baked Potato Soup
Friday:  Payday, November Budget Planning and Grocery day (GULP, GULP and GULP)

**I'll share the recipes for Pizza Casserole, the tilapia, barbeque chicken and Baked Potato Soup in upcoming Weekend Cooking (hosted by Beth  F. Reads) posts on Sundays :)

So far so good this week...I've made everything except the Baked Potato Soup, which I will put together Wednesday night before I go to bed.  I'm LOVING have the main portion of our meal ready when we walk in the door in the afternoons!

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Top Ten Books to Read During Halloween

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the ladies over at The Broke and The Bookish...and is one of my most "favoritest" memes ever :)

This week's theme is "The Top Ten Books to Read During Halloween"

I am a much more gothic reader than "scary" reader...I'll be posting some "scary" stuff next week on Monday since my children as well as my students are so caught up in the newest scare at the movie theatre...scary to me is just not scary to them...there's enough real life stuff in this world to scare our pants off...why would we want more out of books??

When I want scary, I want a cold chill down my spine; I don't want so much action that I can't keep up.  I want more questions than answers at the end; I don't want the formulaic ending that leads into the next book in the series.  I want to feel the story...I want to wrap up in it, close my eyes and see it.

1.  Dracula by Bram Stoker 

If you're a vampire fan and you've never read the original, please, stop whatever it is you're doing and read...the dark, damp, cold castle...the animals, the minions, the history, the's all right here and has been long before Twilight, Sookie Stackhouse or that Vampire Academy stuff...all others are imitators.  

2.  Affinity by Sarah Waters

Affinity left me with many more questions than answers...when I first finished reading it, I decided I didn't like it.  I almost felt like I'd been duped in some way...not by the author though, by the characters...
Was she insane?
Was there a Peter?
Were they really friends or was it all a trick masterminded by a evil sorceress of some kind?
I honestly have no idea.
I don't have the energy to re-read this one yet.

3.  We Have Always Lived in a Castle by Shirley Jackson

I've always loved Shirley Jackson's The Lottery so I was excited to find this novella last year around Halloween...I loved it! So typical of Jackson to bring you into the life of this family so deeply that when the pinnacle scene occurs, not only are you frightened, but you are also disgusted with the villains.  Jackson's description of the house and of its inhabitants and their dark past is what kept me on the edge.

4.  House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

I'm reading this one now and enjoying every minute of it.  I actually wait until night, after everyone else in my family has gone to sleep, and curl up with my laptop (my Kindle charger has been chewed up by one of my dogs :/)...another old house, filled with many generations, births, deaths, sickness, tragedy, happiness...alone in the world is its mistress...until others from her past begin to appear one by one.  I'm sitting on pins and needles to see where this is gonna go.
Good stuff.

5.  The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

This one is a whopper...and I read it with a group of bloggers in a Read-A-Long...which was perfect.  That format enabled us all to read and digest, discuss, process, write and then read again.  I loved every minute of this one...another history filled tome of vampires, Transylvania, geography, a long lost relative of Vlad himself name it; this one's got it.  I LOVED the way it ended as well...well worth the time I spent with it.

6.  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

This one makes me sadder than scary...although there are definitely some scenes that I read quicker than others.  Another one to read if you've never read the original.  There is no green square faced man with bolts in his head in this novel.  There is a "monster" but you are left wondering just exactly how to define that term.

7.  A Christmas Carol by Charles  Dickens

Do you think I'm weird now?  Yes, this is a Christmas book...but that Christmas cheer only comes about in the last page or so...the rest of it is downright spooky.  An old crotchety stingy man who hates  everybody and lives alone in a dark old cold house...dark because he won't even light the coals in his own lanterns or furnace bc of the cost of coal.  This book will make you cold to your bones...especially once the spirits begin to arrive.

8.  Misery by Stephen King

I was an early Stephen King reader...haven't read anything of his in a long time...but this one...whoa, Nelly...this one'll get ya.  A writer held prisoner by his "number one fan" who tortures him into bringing her favorite character back to life.  Annie Bates is one of the craziest villains out want chills up your spine?  Annie'll give them to ya.

9.  The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

Washington Irving's story which is also very short...uses description to freak you out (as my kids would say).  I think description is what the classic writers did better than some of the contemporary writers do today.  Contemporary writers depend on a widely traveled or even widely read reader who can be reminded of things he/she has seen whether in real life, on tv, or on the Internet.  Classic writers didn't have that luxury...they had to use their words to draw the reader into the story.  The reader feels like he/she IS Ichabod Crane, running from the horseman through the night...eerie no doubt.

10.  Anything by Edgar Allen Poe...particularly The Tell Tale Heart or The Cask of Amontillado.

Poe had to be the Wes Craven of his time...of course well all know he was an alcoholic and probably so much so that he was delusional.  Just the idea of a heart beating under the floor in a killer's mind or the evilness of leading another person to his death by bricking him up and leaving him underground to starve to death...a slow painful death...add an evil laugh as the killer ascends the stairs and you've got a Poe story Yikes.

Next weeks list: The Top 10 Books I had very strong emotions about...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Movie Monday - The Husband Picks a Winner!!

The Head of My Household and the youngest set off for a Sunday afternoon expedition at the movie store where I fully expected them to return with SpongBob Squarepants, Scooby-Doo and  Eloise.  They did return with the old standbys, but they also returned with Secretariat.
The Head of My Household tried to get everyone to sit down in the den and watch...but well, you know what happens when you suggest things...

Anyhoo, not far into the film, I started hanging around the corners as I folded and put away laundry, and the youngest stopped riding her scooter up and down the halls and just went round and round the couch...wasn't much longer after that and we were both sitting on the couch cheering on Secretariat as he became the first Triple Crown Winner in 25 years in 1973.  What a horse.  What an animal.  What an athlete.

The story behind Secretariat is a heartwarming life story.  Winning Secretariat by the flip of a coin, Penny Tweedy put everything she had and all of her faith in a save her father's farm and to save her own legacy.   Labeled as a housewife gambling with her husband's money...Penny defied the odds and refused to accept defeat.  

My heart was pumping as Secretariat raced first at the Derby, then the Preakness and of course finally at Belmont...winning by 31 lengths (the longest winning stretch ever, still to this day).  I knew how it was going to end and I STILL was nervous!

I can't say enough about Diane Lane's performance in this all fairness I am a Diane Lane fan...except for the unfortunate movie, Unfaithful...shudders.  
She is believably strong in this movie but also has believable cracks...she truly love the animal, she loves her family and she loved her childhood and the memories that she still held deep inside her.  These are the kinds of characteristics that many see as weaknesses in women...but for Penny, and for many of the strongest women I've ever known, it is these very characteristics that drive them harder and further than anyone ever expects them to...they are true to the bone.

If you're looking for a feel good, defy the odds kind of movie that leaves you ready to take a run...or ride a horse through the pasture with the wind in your hair...this is the one :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekend Cooking - Pumpkin Trifle

I do most of my cooking on the weekends since that's the time that most of my people are actually home at the same time.  This weekend our church hosted a Casual Sunday where everybody came to church casual, comfortable, and we ate lunch  afterwards together pot-luck style.  
These are my favorite church meals without a doubt, and the casual, everybody in blue jeans (even the preacher) just added that much more family laid back feel to Sunday in the South.  
Have I mentioned that I love my church?
Have I mentioned that I love the South?

Lots of times I use pot-lucks as an excuse to try out a new recipe.  This week's recipe was Paula Deen's Pumpkin Trifle.

The recipe is very easy and quick...except that it's actually supposed to sit in the refrigerator overnight and I didn't read that far ahead :(
I made the gingerbread the night before so it could cool completely, but didn't make the pudding until the morning of.
The recipe calls for cooked pudding and I used the instant kind...I honestly could not find the cooked version?
I also go through trifle bowls like most folks go through those disposable zip-lock containers :/  so my dessert looked a little different than Paula's.

My Pumpkin Trifle was well liked, but I was beaten out by a young blonde mom who made a silly dessert called White Chocolate Bread Pudding...can you say Holy Smokes??
I even voted for her.

Click on the link above for the exact recipe and enjoy!

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth F Reads.