March and April were awesome months for reading. I've got all kinds of good books to recommend:
This Dark Road to Mercy, Wiley Cash (4 stars). This book was hard to put down. There was lots of suspense, but at its heart, this is a story of forgiveness and family.
I Forgot to Remember, Su Meck (3 stars) This book was certainly interesting. Su Meck was going about her normal day when her kitchen ceiling fan fell on her head and she lost all of her memories.
Labor Day, Joyce Maynard (4 stars) I'm still thinking about this one. It's a story of love and loneliness and discovering what makes people happy.
Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys (3 1/2 stars) I'm still thinking about this book, too. It's about a family who is taken by the Soviet Secret Police and sent to a concentration camp in Siberia. This is a pretty haunting tale.
The Last Werewolf, Glen Duncan (3 1/2 stars) Werewolves and vampires are not really my thing, but I loved this book. It's told from Jake's (the last remaining werewolf) point of view, and it's hard not to like him and his story.
Swimming Studies, Leanne Shapton (3 1/2 stars). Wow, this woman can write. She captured so many of swimming's pluses and minuses. I adored this book and all of her paintings and sketches. I also loved all the pictures of her swimsuits. I do wish she had written a bit more of her experiences at Olympic Trials.
Blue Nights, Joan Didion (3 1/2 stars). So much grief written about in such a completely lovely way. I love Didion's writing style.
The Visionist, Rachel Urquhart (3 stars) There is a lot of buzz about this book, but I thought it was just okay. It was an interesting look into the Shaker world.
Monkey Mind, Daniel Smith (3 1/2 stars) Oh my gosh--I totally want to give Daniel Smith a big hug. Daniel shares the good, the bad, and the ugly of his battle with anxiety. He's an excellent writer.
The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Alice Hoffman (4 stars) Weird and wonderful. A fantastic story filled with all kinds of memorable, extraordinary characters.
The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd, (4 stars) Ah! I loved this big, fat, sweeping story. Unforgettable characters, unforgettable story.
I Don't Know What You Know Me From, Judy Greer (3 stars). This is a cute, fun read. Judy Greer is pretty adorable.
Have you ready anything good lately? I'd love to hear your recommendations!
I took a few weeks off from Workspace Wednesday, but that doesn't mean I haven't been down in my craft room creating magic. Right now I am knee-deep into shower planning. I absolutely can not believe that my friends have kids old enough to get married, but it's true, and I couldn't be more excited! Bridal showers are so fun, aren't they? They are definitely one of life's happy events. I am going full-out girlie-girl with the color scheme for this shower--pinks, coral, and gold. We are doing a brunch, so that opens the door to all kinds of fun menu items. I just love the little flowers on the invites:
I am definitely going to be recreating those flowers in the decorations. I will be sure to post plenty of photos from the shower after it happens.
Congratulations on your outstanding incoming class of 2018! Some of my very favorite graduating seniors are heading to your campus in the fall, not least of which is my daughter, Emily. As a proud Big Ten alumna, I couldn't be happier with her choice. I already know that Emily will make you proud. She's going to bring her smarts and talents and light up your campus--just you wait and see!
Emily is completely ready to head to college. Like most parents, I am both excited and nervous for her. I desperately want her undergraduate experience to be wonderful. I know I can't make that happen for her. I know she will have to do that for herself. I'm hoping that you'll help her, though. To that end, I've put together a few requests:
Challenge her daily. Help her to find success in the classroom, but also a few failures. Help her to learn that all good things are worth fighting for, especially a college degree. Help her to learn how to ask for help. Surround her with opportunities to learn from people who are nothing like her. Help her to find peers who feel familiar. Force her to try new things. Help her to see things in new ways. Challenge her beliefs. Remind her not to squander the opportunity you have given her to receive a degree from an outstanding university. Help her grow into adulthood. Provide enough fun moments that she will look back at her four years in Madison with a warm-fuzzy feeling. Force her take some classes that are out of her comfort zone, specifically: Ballroom Dance. Send her far away to learn new things in a different culture. Make sure she knows she has a home on your campus. Instill in her a pride for her Big Ten education. Teach her how to Dougie. Provide enough bitter days that she will truly appreciate the beauty of a spring by Lake Mendota. Build in successes. Put her in classes with people who are smarter than her. Give her a few classes that just feel easy. Offer her experiences that help her know she has picked the right career path. Keep her busy. Give her enough time to just sit on the quad and take it all in. Allow her to make mistakes. Teach her that there are consequences for mistakes. Help her find places where she can be a leader. Help her find places where she can follow other great leaders. Teach her that a college education is a privilege, not a right, and remind her that thousands of people would do anything to trade places with her. Make her feel like she is part of something special. Remind her that she is just one of many. Remind her to stay true to who she is. Force her to stay up all night every now and then. Remind her that she doesn't know it all. Remind her that she knows a lot. Let her know that from the moment she steps on campus the clock is ticking, and her four years will go by in the blink of an eye. Let her experience moments of complete joy and bitter disappointment. Teach her that life is filled with both. Let her know it's okay to change her mind. Let her get away with one, but not too many. Reinforce the idea that hard work is the only way she's going to succeed.
University of Wisconsin, I hope you will be so awesome that Emily will want to put a Bucky Badger sticker on the back of every car she owns for the rest of her life. Be awesome, University of Wisconsin, and be there for her. She's something special. With your help, I know she can make magic.
1. I had the best, and I mean the best weekend up north with my friend, Tricia. We laughed and talked and talked and scrapped and talked and scrapped. It was exactly what I needed. I'm kinda-sorta in love with Fort Wilderness. The setting is perfection, and the staff is top-notch.
2. John's parents are back in Wisconsin! We won't get to see them until next weekend, but it's always great knowing they are near once again.
3. I spent two hours working in my strawberry bed yesterday. It felt unbelievably wonderful to be outside in the sunshine.
4. It's opening night! Emily's last show as sound crew manager opens tonight. It's also Maddie's first show as stage manager. I am so thankful that both girls found such a special place to call their "home away from home."
5. My parents are coming up for the weekend! I have packed the weekend full of fun activities (including going to the girl's show tomorrow night).
6. The lady in front of me paid for my chai latte this morning because I let her go in front of me in line. Kindness for the win!
7. The very last of our snow disappeared on Tuesday afternoon. Hooray for spring!
8. I have a meeting with next year's captains this afternoon. It's time to start planning for the fall!
9. I have a waiting list for my summer swim team. What?!?
10. I found my favorite laundry detergent at the store the other day. I hadn't been able to find it anywhere for the last four months or so--I thought it was gone forever.
Happy April Fool's Day! I didn't plan any April Fool's Day pranks, but Maddie sure did--she went off to school today with a pack of Oreos stuffed with toothpaste. Yuck and yuck. In honor of Maddie's prank, I dug out a much better way to use Oreos from my blog archives. I used to bake cookies to send overseas to a friend serving in Afganistan. They all loved these Oreo-stuffed Chocolate Chip cookies. Enjoy!
Feel like baking today? Well, have I got a recipe for you! Last week I spent a whole bunch of time in the kitchen being a baking goddess. Whenever I bake for the troops, I try to take into consideration what will travel well and taste good once it arrives (it usually takes around 2 weeks for packages to arrive). Things like lemon bars and other gooey/soft things don’t ship as well as cookies and chocolate covered pretzels. I always send a big batch of my *famous* chocolate chip cookies (because everybody likes good old American chocolate chip cookies, right?!?), but this time I decided to make some stuffed chocolate chip cookies, too. I’m not sure who came up with the idea of wrapping two chocolate chip cookies around an Oreo cookie, but I’m pretty sure whoever it was is pretty much a baking goddess, too. : ) These cookies are not for the faint of heart–they’re literally a triple-decker cookie wrapped into one. On the other hand, if you’re serving our country in the middle of a desert in Afghanistan, you probably deserve a big treat every now and again, right? : )
Here’s a peak at the inside:
I pulled three of these big boys aside and put them in the cookie jar for my kids. I didn’t tell them about the Oreo hidden inside. Of course, they were kind of stunned (and delighted) at the sheer size of the cookie, and then they were a little puzzled about why there was an Oreo in the middle. The stuffed cookies got a bunch of thumbs up, and now everyone is requesting all kinds of other things to be stuffed inside. John wants me to try a clump of peanut butter next. I’m not sure how that will hold up, but I’m willing to give it a try.
Want to make your own? Here’s my *famous* chocolate chip recipe, which you can just make on its own if you’d like.
Vicki’s Super-Good Chocolate Chip Cookies
Preheat oven to 375
In your mixer bowl, combine:
3/4 C sugar
3/4 C. packed brown sugar
1 C. butter flavored Crisco
Beat on high for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy.
1 tsp. vanilla
Beat for 2 more minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine:
2 1/4 C flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
Add flour mixture slowly to sugar mixture. Once all the flour is in, beat the whole mixture for about a minute.
Stir in 1/2 bag of chocolate chips and 1/2 bag of mini chocolate chips.
Drop by scoopfuls (I use my Pampered Chef medium scoop) onto greased cookie sheets.
Bake 9-11 minutes until golden brown. Let cookies sit on sheet for 2 minutes after you take them out of the oven. Remove to cooling racks.
Now, if you want to make the stuffed version, you make the dough, scoop out two balls and gently mold them around an Oreo cookie. I kind of pinched the ends together until they were sealed. It took a few extra minutes to bake the stuffed cookies. Plan on 11-13 minutes or until they are golden brown.