Saturday, December 31, 2011

Balance//Reflections on my One Little Word 2011

Hi Friends!

This time last year I was all excited about starting 2011.  I can't help it--I love beginnings (endings, however, are not my favorite).  I had big hopes for 2011;  I was going to get it all together in 2011.  It was going to be amazing.  I spent a whole lot of time deciding what my "One Little Word" was going to be, and I finally chose "Balance".  Twenty-Eleven was going to be the year I learned (or at least was aware of my need for) balance.  John was all for it.  He loved my OLW choice.  In fact, he reminded me of my OLW several times during the year whenever I tried to take on too much, or seemed too frazzled. The truth is, I think I did an okay (but not even close to fabulous) job finding balance this year.  I narrowed down my volunteering;  I stuck with the ones that brought me joy, and dropped the ones that didn't.  I let go.  I didn't raise my hand for each and every opportunity that came my way. 


New opportunities came my way in 2011.  Opportunities that were awesome and hard to say no to:  a coaching job on Emily's high school team, a teaching position at the Tech, a head coach position with FCYST, an opportunity to help one of my friends who lost his entire high school down in Joplin.  Oh, and then there was that "little" family reunion I was chairing with Uncle Ken.

My OLW, "balance" was put to the test in 2011.

Along the way, I used my OLW to help me make choices.  Regardless of what John thinks (and he should know...he's been watching me do this for the past 20 years), I do not like running around like a mad woman trying to get everything done.  So I said "no" to the FCYST job:  I wanted it, but I knew it would take away all my family time.  I finished out my position as Staff Appreciation chair at Jack's school.  Not because I don't love the teachers at Clayton (they're awesome), but because I had done it for the past two years and knew it was time to let someone else take over.  I let go.  Really. 

I did say "yes" to the coaching job on Emily's swim team, and the job at the Tech.  Doing those two new things together at the very same time did tend to create some balance problems.  And the fact that my big Joplin fundraiser was the week before the big family reunion created a few balance problems, too.  But here's the truth:  I do not regret those choices at all.  In fact, coaching NHS, teaching at the Tech, planning the Joplin fundraiser and chairing the family reunion were the four very best parts* of 2011.  Seriously. 

So.  I'm not sure that I found perfect balance this year.  But I took some steps in the right direction.  They might have been baby steps, but they were steps nonetheless.  That counts, doesn't it?  : )

And now... on to 2012!!



*The other best part of 2011:  Christy and Michael's engagement!  2012 is going to be a great year!!!

The Best of 2011//Soft Pretzel Tots

Hi Friends!

In the spirit of "Best of 2011," I give you this year's absolute *best* snack:  Soft Pretzel Tots.  I spotted this recipe over on Melanie's You Are My Fave blog and knew I needed to give it a try ASAP. (As an added bonus, she made cute bags to go with them.  Yummy snack + cute packaging = best treat ever!). 

I have made this recipe several times, and it is, hands down, my family's favorite new snack.  Nothing lifts my status to "Super Mom" faster than when I whip up a batch of these tots.  Even John is crazy about them!  : )  It took me a good long while to find pretzel salt, but I finally scored some at The Wire Wisk.  (Do they have those all over, or are they just a Wisconsin thing?)

Soft Pretzel Tots
Recipe originally from: A Cozy Kitchen

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt or coarse Sea Salt

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 4 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 22-inch rope. Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces; using your two hands, one-by-one, roll them into circles. Place the balls (or tots) onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels tots into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel tot with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt (or coarse sea salt). Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Get ready to be "Super Mom," or "Super Wife," or just "Super!" 


Friday, December 30, 2011

The Best of 2011//Books

Hi Friends!

Well, it's that time of year again:  time for my big "Top Ten" list.  Those of you who have been around for a while know that I have been keeping a book journal since 2005.  I record each and every book I read throughout the year and then write a little review and give each book a rating of 1-4 stars.  At the end of each year, I send out my "Top Ten" list of the year to my friends and family.  My mom usually reads most, if not all, of the books on my list.  Sometimes she likes my choices (Straight Man), and sometimes she doesn't (The Girls).  It's always fun when people let me know what they think of my choices, so if you end up reading some of these, please let me know!

Without further ado, here are my Top Ten of 2011(in no particular order):

Rules of Civility, Amor Towles, **** New York in the 30's.  Martinis, 3 swell pals and lots of mischief.  Need I say more?
Auschwitz, Miklos Nyiszli, ****  A Jewish doctor's eyewitness account of his time at Auschwitz.  Haunting.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs, **** I don't usually like books from the fantasy genre, but this one was pretty darn awesome...and peculiar.

The Paris Wife, Paula McLain, ****  I just gushed about this one, so you already know how much I adored this book.

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, Tiffany Baker, ****  Oh, Truly, you big-hearted giant.  I'm still thinking about you and your story.

Lottery, Patricia Wood, ****  I still have a little crush on Perry Crandal.  You will too.

If I Loved You, I Would tell You This, Robin Black, ****  Gorgeous set of short stories.  I'm still thinking about the one about the neighbor with cancer.

Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, Danielle Evans, ****  Another set of amazing short stories.  Fabulous.

The Dirty Life, Kristin Kimball ****  Oh, Kristin;  you had me at your vivid description of the ecstasy of eating fresh deer liver.  Who knew? : )

The Leisure Seeker, Michael Zadoorian, **** Two elderly folks decide they're going to go out on their own terms.  Loved the character of Ella.

Leaving Atlanta, Tayari Jones, ****  Haunting story based on the Atlanta child murders of 1979-1980.  This one made me hold my breath.

Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand, ****  I couldn't leave Louis Zamperini's brilliant story off of my Top Ten list.  The man is a true American hero.

The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson **** Quirkiest book I've read in a good, long while.  Loved it.

And there you have it!  And yes, I realize that I have 13 books on my Top Ten list.  I always have a hard time narrowing it down to just 10 books.  : )   Here's the complete list of what I read in 2011.

1. The Blasphemer, Nigel Farndale, **½
2. The Unlikely Disciple, Kevin Roose, ***½
3. Honolulu, Alan Bernard, **
4. Bloodroot, Amy Greene, ****
5. Half-Broke Horse, Jeannette Walls, **
6. Mathilda Savatch, Victor Lodato, ***
7. How to be Good, Nick Hornby, ***
8. Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, Danielle Evans, ****
9. The Bucolic Plague, Josh Kilmer-Purcel, ***½
10. Up From the Blue, Susan Henderson, ***½
11. An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin, **½
12. The Dirty Life, Kristin Kimball, ****
13. If I Loved You, I Would tell You This, Robin Black, ****
14. Amaryllis In Blueberry, Christina Meldrum, ***
15. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien, ***½
16. Lottery, Patricia Wood, ****
17. Rescue, Anita Shreve **
18. Caleb’s Crossing, Geraldine Brooks, **½
19. The Uncoupling, Meg Wolitzer, **½
20. If You Follow Me, Malena Watrous, ***
21. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror & An American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, Erik Larson, ***½
22. Bossypants, Tina Fey, ***½
23. The Constant Princess, Phillippa Gregory, ***
24. The Boleyn Inheritance, Phillippa Gregory, ***
25. A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness, ***
26. The Little Giant of Abordeen County, Tiffany Baker, ****
27. Tree of Codes, Jonathan Sofer, ***
28. The Leisure Seeker, Michael Zadoorian, ****
29. Room, Emma Donoghue, ***½
30. My New American Life, Francine Prose, **½
31. Anthropology of an American Girl, Hilary Thayer Hamann, ***½
32. Shut Your Eyes Tight, John Verdon, ***½
33. The Borrower, Rebecca Makkai, **½
34. The Stolen Child, Keith Donohue, ***
35. The Hypnotist, Lars Kepler, ***
36. My American Unhappiness, Dean Bakopoulos, ***
37. Angels of Destruction, Keith Donohue, **½
38. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand ****
39. The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides, ***
40. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs, ****
41. Happy Accidents, Jane Lynch, ***
42. The Paris Wife, Paula McLain, ****
43 Auschwitz, Miklos Nyiszli, ****
44. It Looked Different on the Model, Laurie Notaro, ***
45. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson, ***½
46.A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan, ***
47 Rules of Civility, Amor Towles, ****
48. Leaving Atlanta, Tayari Jones, ****
49.  I Knew You'd Be Lovely, Alethea Black, ****
50 The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson, ****
51.  A moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway, ** 1/2
52. The Likeness, Tana French *** 1/2

Happy Reading!


Christmas 2011








Hooray for good times with wonderful families!



Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Just Give Me a Second

Well, Hello There!

We are back from the whirlwind of fabulousness, aka Christmas 2011!  It was filled-to-overflowing with special moments, family fun, and lovely gifts.  I am beyond giddy to be the new owner of a Cannon Rebel T3!  I threw it in "auto" (I have no idea how to use it yet!) and captured Christmas in all its glory.  And just as soon as I can see my kitchen counters and all the laundry is clean, I promise I will sit down and show you what I saw through my lens.  Until then, enjoy that photo taken by the super-talented Meg over at Whatever (swoon-worthy!).

More soon, I promise!



Saturday, December 24, 2011

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Hope your Christmas is filled to the brim with lots of love, laughter and good memories. 



Friday, December 23, 2011

A Terrible, Scary Story With A Happy Ending

Hi Friends,

Oh!  My little world was turned on its ear the for last 2 days.  One minute I'm posting pictures about silly mini journals, and the next thing I know I'm flying down 294 trying to get to my dad who was unexpectedly hospitalized on Wednesday afternoon.  My dad had been complaining about shortness of breath since Thanksgiving.  Apparently it got bad enough that that he actually took himself to the doctor. The doctor said he needed to immediately go to the hospital.  Scary stuff, friends.  Scary stuff.  Turns out he has a "significant" blood clot in his lung, and one in his leg.  They put him on Heparin and Coumadin and lots of oxygen.  He was told to lay flat on his back. He wasn't allowed to even get up to go to the bathroom, because when he did, he would set off all the heart alarms and come back so out of breath it took him (literally) 30 minutes to get his breath back.  Yesterday was a really long day.  My main job was to just be there with him. Fill his cup with ice.  Track down a Diet 7Up.  Talk.  Try to make him laugh (which I did, usually at Mom's expense [sorry mom!]).  It's not a lot, but it was all I knew to do.

Today he turned a corner.  I'm absolutely positive that he willed himself better;  he really wants to get home in time for Christmas.  I knew when he was allowed to use the restroom and he came back without wheezing that things were going to be okay.  There's still a lot of taking-it-easy and even some self-administered shots in his near future, but if all goes well, he'll be released tomorrow.

Christmas came early this year.

Thank God.



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

They Were a Hit!

 Hi Friends!

I just got back from dropping off 5(!) custom mini albums to a nice lady I met at the craft fair.  She was thrilled with how they turned out (yahoo!).   Of the 5, I'd have to say my favorite was the book journal I made for her niece.  I kind of wanted to keep it for myself!  : )

I used some new book-themed paper, but also just a lot of fun vintage-looking papers and some old ephemera that I had in my stash.

She also had me put together a album for her aunt, who they visited in Oregon.  She told me the theme should be "road trip".

The trip included a birthday celebration, some beach time and a trip to the Oregon Ducks stadium.

She also told me that her aunt loves vintage things, so I added some fun vintage paper at the end, too.

Three of the albums were going to her nieces and her 9-year-old daughter.  She told me she wanted "glitzy" and lots of pink.  She said the girls would use them for "fashion journals."

I loved putting these little albums together.  I hope they fill them to the brim with fun pictures and good memories.

I hope you have a creative day!