Friday, July 5, 2013

Ye Olde Snack Egg Trick

A long time ago, our family acquired a two small envelopes from some gift shop on one of our family vacations.  These small, 3x5 manilla envelopes had a rather large (and intimidating) picture of a rattlesnake.  Labelled "ONE DOZEN RATTLESNAKE EGGS," across the bottom it also read "CAUTION:  Keep in a cool place to prevent hatching ..."


 A little background before I explain the intricacies of this quirky little practical joke.  Our pastor had one of these little envelopes which he kept in his desk drawer.  Once when we'd stopped in to see him, he asked if he could show me something he'd picked up on a trip out West.  He pulled out the envelope and handed it to me.  I opened it, looked inside, and proceeded to scream loud enough to bring in the church secretary.


In this envelope was a clever little device made out of a washer, a rubber band, and a piece of metal that looked like an untwisted paper clip.  The rubber band was wrapped around the washer and metal piece and then twisted in such a way that it stayed flat in the envelope; however, once you open the envelope, it unwinds and sounds disturbingly like a rattlesnake.  Your head says that a real  snake couldn't be in there, but the noise and movement cause you to think otherwise.


This afternoon, while cleaning out two of our junk drawers in the kitchen, my youngest found the two envelopes.  Very wary, she took it to her older brother, hoping he could explain what it was.  He shook the envelope and acted startled.  Her response:  top of the lungs screaming, stomping up the stairs, and slamming the bedroom door.  Who knew that she was so afraid of snakes?  I tried to calm her down, but I didn't hide my chuckling very well.  It helped when I explained my reaction to the same trick.

A number of items from the junk drawers were relegated to the garbage, but we decided to keep these.  You never know when they might come in handy.  Want some of your own?  You can buy them here or here.  Or you could make your own,  Or maybe you just want to watch some cute kids.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Graduation Party Menu

This year, we tried something new for our graduation party -- a Thai-themed meal in part because Ryan is going to Thailand next year.  Below is the Menu with links to the recipes.  Many commented on how good the sauces were, how nice it was to have fresh vegetables, how interesting and different the selection was.  I think I'm a pretty good cook, but when I come up with something really yummy, I'm as excited about my food as anyone else.  The sauces I "invented" after researching the internet for some ideas.

Ryan's Graduation Menu
* follow the links for the recipes
Thai Tacos
     Diced Chicken with pineapple/peanut sauce
     Large Romaine leaves
     Jasmine Rice
     Lentils & Quinoa with pineapple/peanut sauce
     Crushed pineapple
     Coconut
     Chopped peanuts
     Chopped green onions
     Chopped red, yellow, orange, green peppers
     Shredded carrots
     Pineapple- Ginger Sauce
     Peanut Sauce
Snack Mixes
     Scrabble (Chex Mix)
     Goldfish Mix
     Gorp
     Puppy Chow
Desserts
     Brownies
     Chocolate Chip Cookies
     Scotcheroos
     Snickerdoodles
     Mini-cheesecakes with blueberry and strawberry sauces
Beverages
     Soda
     Mineral Water
     Lemonade
     October Ale (grape juice made with ginger ale)

Snack Mixes for the Graduation

Gorp
*Is a recipe even needed for this??
Mix to your own satisfaction:
Raisins
M & M's
Peanuts

______________________________________________________________

Goldfish Party Mix
2 bags fish crackers, cheddar and Parmesan
1 #  bag oyster crackers
4 qt. popped corn
1 c. melted margarine
1 pkg dry Ranch Dressing



Mix the goldfish crackers, oyster crackers, and popped corn in a large roasting pan.  Pour melted margarine and dressing mixture over the cracker mixture and mix well.  (It helps to pour a little at a time and mix in between.)  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 - 15 minutes.

_______________________________________________________


Puppy Chow
9          cups Rice Chex®, Corn Chex® or Chocolate Chex® cereal (or combination)
1          cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2       cup peanut butter
1/4       cup butter or margarine
1          teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2    cups powdered sugar 

·         Into a large bowl, measure cereal; set aside. 
·         In a 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter uncovered on High for 1 minute; stir.  Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth.  Stir in vanilla. 
·         Pour mixture over the cereal, stiffing until evenly coated.  Pour into a 2-gallon resealable food storage plastic bag.
·         Add powdered sugar.  Seal bag; shake until well coated.  Spread on waxed paper to cool.  Store in an airtight container in a cool place.



Sauce Recipes for the Graduation Party

Pineapple-Ginger-Peanut Sauce for Chicken & Lentils
6 cups pineapple juice
3 T. grated fresh ginger
3 T. tamari sauce
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 T. chili sauce (I used spicy thai chili sauce)
3 t. salt
3/4 cup vinegar
3/4 lime juice
1 T. dried onion
1 T. garlic
------
2 cups cold water
1/3 cup cornstarch
3/4 - 1 cup peanut butter.

Mix the ingredients above the line and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes to reduce liquid.  Mix the cold pineapple juice with the cornstarch.  Warm the peanut butter to soften it.  Add the pineapple juice/cornstarch mixture to the pan.  Add some of the pineapple juice to the softened peanut butter, then add back into the pan.  Heat the pan until the mixture bubbles and thickens.

Mix the sauce with meat.  Serve with lettuce leaves, rice, or noodles.

_____________________________________________________

Pineapple-Ginger Sauce
2 cups pineapple juice
1.5 T. grated fresh ginger
1 T. tamari sauce
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 t. chili sauce (I used spicy thai chili sauce)
1 t. salt
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 lime juice
2 t. dried onion
2 t. garlic
------
2/3 cups cold water
3 T. cornstarch


Mix the ingredients above the line and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes to reduce liquid.  Mix the cold pineapple juice with the cornstarch. Add the pineapple juice/cornstarch mixture to the pan.  Bring the pan back to a boil and cook until it thickens.

Serve with lettuce leaves, rice, vegetables, or noodles.


_________________________________________

Thai Peanut Sauce
3 T soy sauce
1 T. ginger
1 cup peanut butter
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
2 T. vinegar
1 can coconut milk
1 T. lime juice
1 t. chili sauce
-------------------------
3 T. cold water
3 T. cornstarch

Mix the ingredients above the line in a pan and bring to a very gentle boil over medium heat stirring constantly so that it doesn't scorch.  Mix the cold water with the cornstarch and add to the hot peanut mixture.  Continue to head until the pan bubbles and thickens.


Desserts for Graduation Party

Italian Cream Cheese and Ricotta Cheesecake
*Gluten-free mini cheesecake version

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 (16 ounce) container ricotta cheese  (I use my home-made ricotta cheese)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
7 tablespoons cornstarch
1 pint sour cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Fill muffin tins with parchment paper muffin liners.
  2. Mix the cream cheese and ricotta cheese together in a mixing bowl until well combined. Mix until light and smooth.  Stir in the sugar, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla, and cornstarch. Add the sour cream last and stir. Pour about 1/3 cup in each compartment.  The cups can be full.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven 40 minutes.  Turn the oven off and let it sit for 10 more minutes.


Berry Sauce
2 cups fresh or frozen berries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
--------------------
2 tablespoons conrstarch, mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Mix the ingredients above the line in a pan and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer until the fruit softens.  Add the cornstarch/water mixture and cook until the sauce bubbles and thickens.

Tis the Season for Graduation Parties!

A friend who grew up in New York, said that she didn't realize that graduation parties were such a "big deal" here in the Midwest.  When I was growing up in Iowa, we had simple cake, mints, dollar bun sandwiches, and potato salad receptions.  Everyone had their little parties right after the graduation ceremony and people made the rounds.  Graduates rarely attended the parties of their classmates because they were playing hosts for their own parties.

I don't know what the rest of Minnesota, or even Northfield, does, but the Prichard family has had fairly large parties.  Our oldest children homeschooled, and the party was an opportunity to celebrate their achievements. Family, church friends, other homeschoolers, and friends in the community filled our yard and our house.  

In all honesty, I love throwing parties.  I like getting the house cleaned and set up; I like planning and executing an interesting menu; I like decorating; and, most importantly, I love having people in my home.  The more the merrier!!   We've had a variety of menus, color themes, and decorations.  For one, we made, individual, layered green, orange, and yellow jello to match the plates, bowls, and napkins.  For another, we had a full table of unusual appetizers, hors d'oeuvres, and desserts.  One daughter worked at a daycare, so we rented an inflatable castle for the day.  



This year's party was just as fun, and the menu was just as tasty!  We thought it might rain; in fact, the weather report forecasted rain showers for the very hours of our party.  We set up a couple of canopies, complete with rows of Christmas lights, but the rain held off until the middle of the night.  Our driveway, garage, yard, and kitchen were buzzing with conversations and laughter.  I loved it.






One of my favorite parts of our graduation celebration is the poster board that I make for my graduating senior.  A wonderful trip down memory lane, I sort through envelopes and shoeboxes of photos looking for representative snapshots of my child's life.  Often, the whole family gathers around the kitchen table, sharing the fun stories behind the pictures.  This year, we also displayed some of my son's art work.




The menu was so good that I've had a number of requests for the recipes.  I'll post the menu and the recipes in the next post.







Tis the Season for Graduations!

It the end of the school year, and for some it's the end of a high school career.  I remember my high school graduation -- I was excited and apprehensive at the same time.  My high school days were, in a sense, my "glory days."  I was a cheerleader and involved in all kinds of extra-curricular organizations; I had lots of friends, good grades, and a bright future at a good college.  Little did I know how quickly the "glory" of teenage days fades.  It's a good thing because I'd hate to think that those years were the best it gets.





This year my son graduated, and it was a particularly significant one.  Of all my children, he is the first to graduate from a public school.  My other five graduated from our home school.  My son's school career has been a bit varied.  He homeschooled for grades K, 1, 6, 7, and 8.  For the other grades, he attended two different charter schools, Prairie Creek Community School and Arcadia Charter School (previously ARTech).  Arcadia has a thoughtful graduation ceremony.  For each student. a staff person gives a short tribute, pointing out unique traits and characteristics.  A wonderful quality of this school is how well they know and relate to their students.  The graduation is always touching and heartfelt.  Having Ryan there was a good choice.  We're grateful for Arcadia!




Friday, March 22, 2013

"A Pair of Silk Stockings" by Kate Chopin

My Writing 2 classes have read this story for the past three years.  And every year, I have been solitary in my personal  interpretation of the story.  My students have always seemed  to read it from a different perspective.  The primary question seems to center on whether or not Mrs. Sommers deserved her little splurging or was overly careless.  Read it for yourselves, and let me know what you think.  (taken from the Electronic Text Library, University of Virginia.)





"A Pair of Silk Stockings" by Kate Chopin
Little Mrs Sommers one day found herself the unexpected possessor of fifteen dollars.  It seemed to her a very large amount of money, and the way in which it stuffed and bulged her worn old porte-monnaie gave her a feeling of importance such as she had not enjoyed for years.

The question of investment was one that occupied her greatly.  For a day or two she walked about apparently in a dreamy state, but really absorbed in speculation and calculation.  She did not wish to act hastily, to do anything she might afterward regret.  But it was during the still hours of the night when she lay awake revolving plans in her mind that she seemed to see her way clearly toward a proper and judicious use of the money.

A dollar or two should be added to the price usually paid for Janie's shoes, which would insure their lasting an appreciable time longer than they usually did.  She would buy so and so many yards of percale for new shirt waists for the boys and Janie and Mag.  She had intended to make the old ones do by skilful patching.  Mag should have another gown.  She had seen some beautiful patterns, veritable bargains in the shop windows.  And still there would be left enough for new stockings – two pairs apiece – and what darning that would save for a while!  She would get caps for the boys and sailor-hats for the girls.  The vision of her little brood looking fresh and dainty and new for once in their lives excited her and made her restless and wakeful with anticipation.

The neighbors sometimes talked of certain ‘better days’ that little Mrs Sommers had known before she had ever thought of being Mrs Sommers.  She herself indulged in no such morbid retrospection.  She had no time – no second of time to devote to the past.  The needs of the present absorbed her every faculty.  A vision of the future like some dim, gaunt monster sometimes appalled her, but luckily to-morrow never comes.

Mrs Sommers was one who knew the value of bargains; who could stand for hours making her way inch by inch toward the desired object that was selling below cost.  She could elbow her way if need be; she had learned to clutch a piece of goods and hold it and stick to it with persistence and determination till her turn came to be served, no matter when it came.

But that day she was a little faint and tired.  She had swallowed a light luncheon – no! when she came to think of it, between getting the children fed and the place righted, and preparing herself for the shopping bout, she had actually forgotten to eat any luncheon at all!

She sat herself upon a revolving stool before a counter that was comparatively deserted, trying to gather strength and courage to charge through an eager multitude that was besieging breastworks of shirting and figured lawn.  An all-gone limp feeling had come over her and she rested her hand aimlessly upon the counter.  She wore no gloves.  By degrees she grew aware that her hand had encountered something very soothing, very pleasant to touch.  She looked down to see that her hand lay upon a pile of silk stockings.  A placard near by announced that they had been reduced in price from two dollars and fifty cents to one dollar and ninety-eight cents; and a young girl who stood behind the counter asked her if she wished to examine their line of silk hosiery.  She smiled, just as if she had been asked to inspect a tiara of diamonds with the ultimate view of purchasing it.  But she went on feeling the soft, sheeny luxurious things – with both hands now, holding them up to see them glisten, and to feel them glide serpent-like through her fingers.

Two hectic blotches came suddenly into her pale cheeks.  She looked up at the girl.

“Do you think there are any eights-and-a-half among these?”

There were any number of eights-and-a-half.  In fact, there were more of that size than any other.  Here was a light-blue pair; there were some lavender, some all black and various shades of tan and gray.  Mrs Sommers selected a black pair and looked at them very long and closely.  She pretended to be examining their texture, which the clerk assured her was excellent.

“A dollar and ninety-eight cents,” she mused aloud.  “Well, I'll take this pair.”  She handed the girl a five-dollar bill and waited for her change and for her parcel.  What a very small parcel it was!  It seemed lost in the depths of her shabby old shopping-bag.

Mrs Sommers after that did not move in the direction of the bargain counter.  She took the elevator, which carried her to an upper floor into the region of the ladies' waiting-rooms.  Here, in a retired corner, she exchanged her cotton stockings for the new silk ones which she had just bought.  She was not going through any acute mental process or reasoning with herself, nor was she striving to explain to her satisfaction the motive of her action.  She was not thinking at all.  She seemed for the time to be taking a rest from that laborious and fatiguing function and to have abandoned herself to some mechanical impulse that directed her actions and freed her of responsibility.

How good was the touch of the raw silk to her flesh!  She felt like lying back in the cushioned chair and reveling for a while in the luxury of it.  She did for a little while.  Then she replaced her shoes, rolled the cotton stockings together and thrust them into her bag.  After doing this she crossed straight over to the shoe department and took her seat to be fitted.

She was fastidious.  The clerk could not make her out; he could not reconcile her shoes with her stockings, and she was not too easily pleased.  She held back her skirts and turned her feet one way and her head another way as she glanced down at the polished, pointed-tipped boots.  Her foot and ankle looked very pretty.  She could not realize that they belonged to her and were a part of herself.  She wanted an excellent and stylish fit, she told the young fellow who served her, and she did not mind the difference of a dollar or two more in the price so long as she got what she desired.

It was a long time since Mrs Sommers had been fitted with gloves.  On rare occasions when she had bought a pair they were always ‘bargains’, so cheap that it would have been preposterous and unreasonable to have expected them to be fitted to the hand.

Now she rested her elbow on the cushion of the glove counter, and a pretty, pleasant young creature, delicate and deft of touch, drew a long-wristed ‘kid’ over Mrs Sommers's hand.  She smoothed it down over the wrist and buttoned it neatly, and both lost themselves for a second or two in admiring contemplation of the little symmetrical gloved hand.  But there were other places where money might be spent.

There were books and magazines piled up in the window of a stall a few paces down the street.  Mrs Sommers bought two high-priced magazines such as she had been accustomed to read in the days when she had been accustomed to other pleasant things.  She carried them without wrapping.  As well as she could she lifted her skirts at the crossings.  Her stockings and boots and well fitting gloves had worked marvels in her bearing – had given her a feeling of assurance, a sense of belonging to the well-dressed multitude.
She was very hungry.  Another time she would have stilled the cravings for food until reaching her own home, where she would have brewed herself a cup of tea and taken a snack of anything that was available.  But the impulse that was guiding her would not suffer her to entertain any such thought.

There was a restaurant at the corner.  She had never entered its doors; from the outside she had sometimes caught glimpses of spotless damask and shining crystal, and soft-stepping waiters serving people of fashion.
When she entered her appearance created no surprise, no consternation, as she had half feared it might.  She seated herself at a small table alone, and an attentive waiter at once approached to take her order.  She did not want a profusion; she craved a nice and tasty bite – a half dozen blue-points, a plump chop with cress, a something sweet – a crème-frappée, for instance; a glass of Rhine wine, and after all a small cup of black coffee.

While waiting to be served she removed her gloves very leisurely and laid them beside her.  Then she picked up a magazine and glanced through it, cutting the pages with a blunt edge of her knife.  It was all very agreeable.  The damask was even more spotless than it had seemed through the window, and the crystal more sparkling.  There were quiet ladies and gentlemen, who did not notice her, lunching at the small tables like her own.  A soft, pleasing strain of music could be heard, and a gentle breeze, was blowing through the window.  She tasted a bite, and she read a word or two, and she sipped the amber wine and wiggled her toes in the silk stockings.  The price of it made no difference.  She counted the money out to the waiter and left an extra coin on his tray, whereupon he bowed before her as before a princess of royal blood.

There was still money in her purse, and her next temptation presented itself in the shape of a matinée poster.
It was a little later when she entered the theatre, the play had begun and the house seemed to her to be packed.  But there were vacant seats here and there, and into one of them she was ushered, between brilliantly dressed women who had gone there to kill time and eat candy and display their gaudy attire.  There were many others who were there solely for the play and acting.  It is safe to say there was no one present who bore quite the attitude which Mrs Sommers did to her surroundings.  She gathered in the whole – stage and players and people in one wide impression, and absorbed it and enjoyed it.  She laughed at the comedy and wept – she and the gaudy woman next to her wept over the tragedy.  And they talked a little together over it.  And the gaudy woman wiped her eyes and sniffled on a tiny square of filmy, perfumed lace and passed little Mrs Sommers her box of candy.

The play was over, the music ceased, the crowd filed out.  It was like a dream ended.  People scattered in all directions.  Mrs Sommers went to the corner and waited for the cable car.


A man with keen eyes, who sat opposite to her, seemed to like the study of her small, pale face.  It puzzled him to decipher what he saw there.  In truth, he saw nothing – unless he were wizard enough to detect a poignant wish, a powerful longing that the cable car would never stop anywhere, but go on and on with her forever.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Literary Love Letters



Last week, when my classes met the day before Valentine's Day, I assigned the students to write a "love letter" that had a literary connection.  Some of them were fun and fascinating.  I thought others would enjoy these.  Read and have fun ....







Dear Long Words,
Thank you for helping me confuse people into thinking that my intelligence has sprung from a kindergartener's level to a mensa genius.  You make a boring story sound entertainting.  All my love to you.


To my favorite punctuation --
My Dearest Period,
     My heart is full with immense love for you.  My life has change because of you.  It is as though the former sentence of my life has ended and a new one has begun.  You have also abbreviated all the pain in my life and filled me with new purpose.  Because of this I felt an urgent need to write and tell you of my affection.
With all my love,
An Anonymous Word


Dear Rhyming,
Thank you for making things so awesome,
Whenever I am using you, my poetry seems to blossom,
You make rap music bounce with every single word
Because without you that music would be absurd.
I love your way of appearing in almost every book
And without your presence in it people wouldn't care to look.
Thank you so much for being in my life
And thanks to you I will never have grammar strife.


Dear Hunger Games,
You are fantastic.  I live in the Capitol, so I never get chosen.  The excitement and glamor surrounding the tributes is unbearable.  This year marks the 74th Hunger Games.  The male tribute from District 12 proclaimed his love for his fellow tribute from 12.   This should be interesting.  Last year was pretty lack-luster, so I'm expecting this year's games to be riveting with pulse-pounding expense.


Dear Period,
I have wanted to get together for a long time now, but you have been away at the university teaching all the "i" dots how to climb up the pole to reach their designated spot.  I hope I may see you again, my love.  Perhaps we can make a semicolon together.
Yours forever,
Comma


My dear, dear pencil,
Oh how I love you.  I could not function without you.  My life without you would be bland.  To think of typing my assignments, oh man!  My homework is too hard to type out.  School might be too easy to flunk out.  My dear pencil with 9 mm lead, I never would choose a pen instead.  I used you to write out this paper.  And my love for you will never waver.


Dear Little Lovely 'Literation,
Words while wonderful will fatally fail for your funniest fan.  As all A's allow alphabets a start, so start a sheet in my life.  Throughout the time these tributes take to write, I have tought about how wonderful your letters are.
Yours truly, trustingly, traditionally, traversingly, truly, once more,
Papers plus poems


My Beloved Pencil,
You have been my helpmeet for quite some time.  When I found you, you had been left alone in the bottom of the pencil box.  At first sight I knew I loved you and your way of keeping me organized.  We have written a lot together, subjects about Patrick Henry, the French Revolution and gas prices.  I hope we'll never be apart.


Oh my dear "There is,"
Your radiance glows.  How wonderful you are.  Truly, truly you are so correct, so fine.  Lovely "There is," please be mine.  I can't wait to use you constantly in papers. Oh "There is," how I hope our love never vapors.  What's that?  You are being taken away?  By whom?  Where?  Are you leaving to stay? By golly, by folly, darn diddley flum -- it's that grammarian Mrs. Prichard on the run.  She took you?  She destroyed you?  Well that's just too bad.  I'll just look back and smile on the time which we had.


My Dearest Semicolon,
I love using you in sentences and papers very much; you join two sentences together that I want as one without using a period or comma and coordinating conjunction.  Mrs. Prichard says you are like a Reese's Peanut Butter cup; you are like having the best of both worlds -- chocolate and peanut butter together.  In the end, you are my favorite part of grammar, but I cannot over use you and abuse you.  Less is more.
Love,
TB


To my dearest darling, the comma,
All my life, I have been mystified by your power to make a wrong sentence right.  The world could not function as it should without you.
Always yours,
A Student

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dr. Ben Carson at the National Prayer Breakfast

Dr. Ben Carson spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 7, 2013.  He spoke eloquently about values, education,  and compassion while throwing in some thoughts about political correctness and our financial troubles.  I had taken my children to hear him speak at Carleton College a number of years ago and was struck with his integrity, strength, and drive to see others succeed.  In his speech he shared the same qualities as he spoke about our nation.






This is a MUST SEE!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I Love a Mystery


I LOVE MYSTERIES!!!!!  I've never really liked doing jigsaw puzzles, but I love a good literary puzzle.  I've read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories, everything by Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Erle Stanley Gardner, and a variety of miscellaneous unknown authors.






I'm sure it began with my favorite childhood series of books about the protagonist, Trixie Belden.  I remember staying up late into the night with a flashlight under the blankets and reading until I couldn't keep my eyes open.  I did not read Nancy Drew books or the Hardy Boys series.  They seemed too corny.  But tomboy Trixie and her rich friend Honey held my attention for book after book.  I even developed a little bit of a crush for Trixie's brother Brian and the orphan, Jim.  Growing up in small town Iowa, their adventures at Crabapple Farm in New England seemed somewhat exotic.


As a high schooler, I took brief breaks from my mysteries and forayed into American literary classics.  F. Scott Fitzgerald, Upton Sinclair, John Updike, and Mark Twain were better at holding my attention in those days.  In college, I developed a new literary love, Victorian novels, which displaced mysteries for a long season.  However, once children came into my life, I rekindled my love for detectives and crimes. I could pick up these shorter works of fiction (remember, Victorian novels are loooong!) and read them between diapers, laundry, and meals.  Rocking a baby to sleep took long enough to read 1 or 2 chapters.  While the plots might be complicated, I could usually turn off my "literary analysis" switch that I had carefully developed as an English major.  Who cares about themes, symbols, motifs, or characterization?  What you really want to know is "whodunit."



With the introduction of Neflix to our family, I now have a number of mysteries to watch with just a few clicks of my mouse.  I'm especially fond of solving British crimes. I've probably seen every mystery that Miss Marple, that "goddess in sensible shoes," has solved onscreen.  I have definite opinions about the various women who have played her; as far as I'm concerned, only Joan Hickson "nailed it."  I also have a soft spot for David Suchet as Poirot.  How can you not love that egg-shaped man?





I've found a way to further indulge myself -- I teach mysteries as a part of my high school language arts classes.  This semester we're reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which is not a bona fide crime-solving detective novel, but has puzzle to be solved and a secret that needs exposing.  In another class we're reading six Sherlock Holmes stories, a lesser-know Russian short story, and Poe's "Cask of Amontillado."  Finally, in my third class we're reading 39 Steps, a novel of mysterious intrigue rather than a classic detective story, at the end of the semester.  My hopes are that I can pass along this obsession to the next generation.






Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Even Moms Need a Break

Following the Christmas season, I'm usually one toasted lady. Between the Christmas-related food and gifts, I've put in a lot of hours.  I've finished planning and buying all of the gifts for my children, husband, and extended family.  It takes a lot of careful planning to stretch our dollars to cover 7 kids, especially since 2 of them this year are out of the country.  Black Friday, coupon codes, and internet offers help me find the best deals on that perfect gift.  Our early ancestors who were hunters and gatherers have nothing on me.


When planning meals, I mix convenience meals with special "from scratch" foods.  We had frozen pizza one night and hand-made spring rolls another.  I peeled 10 pounds of potatoes for Christmas dinner, but I fixed cheap refrigerator cinnamon rolls for breakfast.


When all of the planning, cooking, baking, buying, coupon-clipping, list-making, and gift-wrapping and -unwapping are done, I'm a tired mamma. Usually I spend the 26th and 27th in a kind of stupor watching movies and reading books.  I refuse to fix any meals or do laundry.  My brain and body take a brief hiatus from any responsibilities related to the "lady of the house."  You aught'ta try it?


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions. Too often these resolutions take the form of promises you know you can't keep.

However, at the beginning of every year during the first week of January, I ask the Lord about priorities and changes.  My birthday is January 7, and in my mind that's when the new year begins.  I have a few days before that date to be reflective and think about the months behind me and the months to come.  Any time can be a time for change, but the beginning of the calendar year seems an excellent opportunity to make changes to our schedules and our habits.

Rather than making "resolutions," I prefer to call these fresh focuses "goals" or "priorities."  A resolution has a bit of a business and legal ring to it.  If I officially bind myself to some plan of action, then it's either completed or not completed with not much of a middle ground.  On the other hand, a goal speaks to a process.  For example, if my goal is to finish the race, as long as I stay engaged, I'm headed towards that goal -- regardless of the pace or distance.

I usually have some ideas about goals, etc., but I've learned over the years that it's much better to pray and to take time to hear what God might have in mind.  Maybe it's my age, but I really don't want to spend energy chasing after something that God never intended.

So for me, these next days are for listening .......