Monday, December 29, 2008

Manic Monday

This is a homemade demotivator that someone created just for those of us who live in the Land of Lincoln. Enjoy!

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Nativity According to Kinley

Kinley has always called her brothers "Guys".

She does this because that is the way Brian and I refer to them. We say things like, "Come on guys, let's go." or "You guys need to cut that out!"

For a while there I think she thought their names were "Guys" least that is how she addressed them. Even if she was only talking to one of them she would say, "Hi, guys!"

She now calls them "Gykie" and "Kayga" when she is addressing them individually, but she still calls them "guys" when she is talking to both of them. To her "guys" is a synonym for "brothers".

Anyway...I say all that to say this....we shouldn't be surprised then when Kinley describes the characters of the Nativity like this....

Baby Cheesis (Baby Jesus)

Daddy Cheesis (Jesus' Daddy, Joseph)

Mama Cheesis (Jesus' Mama, Mary)

Guys Cheesis (Shepherds and Wisemen....Jesus' own personal "guys")

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Feliz Navidad!

Merry Christmas from the Grove Family!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

At Grandma and Grandpa's Place....

We always got together on Christmas Eve.

We did NOT open presents. Christmas Eve was a time for two things:

Singing Christmas carols around Grandma's old upright piano and listening to Grandpa read the Christmas story from the Bible.

Aunt Susan would play the piano and we would all call out the songs we wanted to sing. We would stand around sharing old church hymnals and signing every carol we could think of. As always, those of us who knew how to play were asked to do a couple of special numbers after the sing-along.

We also drank eggnog...the real stuff with raw eggs and pounds of sugar in it...and had some Christmas goodies like cookies and fudge.

The funny thing is my Grandma made awful cookies. They were always burnt. She was a wonderful cook, and almost everything I know about cooking I learned from her, but she couldn't make a decent cookie. I think it was her oven. I think the temperature just wasn't regulated properly.

She did make some really good fudge though. She had a fudge recipe that called for coffee. Not a single soul in the family (except a couple of in-laws, including my mom) drank coffee, so Grandma just brewed up some instant in a sauce pan on the stove. One year (I think it was actually on Christmas Day) we were all in the kitchen preparing the meal. In the midst of making the stuffing, apple-banana salad and mashed potatoes we were also making the fudge. My Aunt Susan (a notoriously bad cook, but a funny one) got the coffee and poured it into the fudge mixture. It wasn't long before we realized that she had actually grabbed the pan of drippings and onions and stuff that was supposed to go into the stuffing. Needless to say no one ate that fudge.

But anyway, back to Christmas Eve....At the end of the evening we would all crowd into the living room and sit down to listen to Grandpa read. He would read from Luke 2 and then skip over to Matthew to read the story of the Magi's journey. It was quiet and simple and sweet.

This year we are going to do it again. Grandpa passed away last year just before Christmas and Grandma had to move out of the house and in with my uncle. But tonight we are going to open the house up again and meet there (maybe for the last time) to carry on the old traditions.

I'd better start practicing my piano solo.

I think I'll bring the cookies.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nuptials in Narnia

Brian's cousin Rachael got married this weekend. We made the 6 hour trip to Ohio for the wedding. When we arrived we discovered that the whole area had experienced a major ice storm the night before. Luckily all of the roads were clear but everything else was covered in ice.

It was actually really beautiful and it made a fairy tale-like setting for a wedding. Cainan looked out on all of the sparkling trees and said, "It looks like Narnia!" He was right. Every inch of every tree, blade of grass, and sign post was encased in ice.

After the wedding we all went to the reception site and awaited the arrival of the bride and groom. They had plans to arrive in a horse and carriage so the bride had a white fur stole wrapped around her arms. She looked beautiful getting out of that carriage in her gown and fur, surrounded by a world of white.

When we saw her Cainan said, rather loudly, "It's the White Witch!!"

I hope she didn't hear.

Friday, December 19, 2008

F is for........

We are constantly reminding our kids to have good manners.

Ryker is often too shy or too spacey to remember to be polite but Cainan is catching on quickly to situations in which he needs to respond with "thank you", "please"or "your welcome".

Yesterday at school one of Cainan's little friends kindly gave him the graham cracker gingerbread house that he had made. Cainan was so excited to receive the gift. He immediately ran up to Brian and showed him the milk carton creation.

C: Look what Logan gave me!

B: Wow! That was nice of him.

C: Yeah, and don't even say it.

B: Say what?

C: (proudly) I already did it.

B: Did what?

C: I said the "F" word.

B: Which "F" word?

C: You know which one.

B: (with fear creeping into his voice) Ummmm....why don't you tell me which "F" word you said.

C: (exasperated) Fank You!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Goodies Galore

This week's theme for the Holiday Expo is Christmas Goodies.

Well, they came to the right place.

I love Christmas goodies....actually any kind of goodies...which is why I have to work out like a maniac....but I digress.

I already shared my new favorite holiday cheesecake recipe with you all, so I'm going to give you the recipes for three other great Christmas desserts.

By the way, have you ever seen anything but a dessert recipe on this blog Oh yeah, there was the soup made with HEAVY WHIPPING CREAM. Anyway, eat up and work out. That's my motto.

Recipe #1: Oreo Truffles

One of Brian's co-workers gave him some of these and I fell in love with them. They are super delicious and super easy.

1 pkg. Oreo cookies (or generic works too)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
almond bark

Scrape filling out of cookies. DO NOT EAT IT! Put it in a bowl with the cream cheese. Mix well.
Crush cookies. (A food processor works well, but I use a Ziploc bag and a rolling pin.) Mix cookie crumbs with cream cheese mixture.

Form into 1 inch balls. Place on a wax paper lined baking sheet and chill until firm. Melt almond bark in a double boiler. Dip Oreo balls in almond bark and place back on baking sheet to dry.

*Variation: I am going to try making these with the new Peppermint Oreos. Yummy!

Recipe #2: Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

Everybody (maybe not) knows that St. Louis is famous for it's Gooey Butter Cake, but this dessert combines all the rich goodness of the STL classic with a traditional pumpkin pie. Cut it in to small pieces or none of your guests will have room for any of your other desserts.

1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 Tbsp. butter, melted

8 oz. cream cheese
3 eggs
8 Tbsp. butter, melted
15 oz. canned pumpkin
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
16 oz. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Combine cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 X 9 pan. To make filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to over bake as the center should be a little gooey, but not runny.

Recipe #3: Cranberry Bars

I received these treats and their recipe at a cookie exchange one time. I've made them every Christmas since. If you like cranberries I think you'll love these bars as much as I do.

2 c. whole cranberries
1 c. chopped walnuts
4 eggs, beaten
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. butter, melted
2 t. almond extract, divided
2 c. confectioner's sugar

Mix eggs, flour, sugar, butter, and 1 t. almond extract. Spread into a greased jelly roll pan. Sprinkle with cranberries and walnuts. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Cool in pan. Spread with glaze made of confectioner's sugar, 1 t. almond extract and enough water to make the desired glaze consistency.

I hope you enjoy these Christmas Goodies. If you try them come back and let me know what you think.

If you'd like to get dozens of other great recipes head over to Internet Cafe Devotions and follow the links for the Holiday Expo.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Girl Genius

We are in the midst of potty training.

By "we" I mean Kinley and I. No one else seems to be too affected by it. Brian just puts her in a pull up when he is around.

Anyway, she is doing great, but she still has a few accidents. I don't mind the honest to goodness accidents but I must admit I get a little angry when I ask her if she needs to go, she says 'no', and then proceeds to go in her pants 10 seconds later.

When that happens she has to sit on the potty anyway. I make her stay there for 2 or 3 minutes as a punishment. She hates it and wants to get down after just a few seconds, but I don't budge.

Recently I put her on the potty and gave her the lecture about not getting up until I say so, etc, etc, and then I went off to get her some clean clothes. As I'm in the laundry room digging through the only basketful of clean clothes in the house I hear the electric train start running in the toy room. I shot out of there already making threats about getting back on that potty, blah, blah, blah. But as soon as I turned the corner into the toy room I stopped in mid-sentence.

My brilliant daughter had simply taken the potty with her. She was sitting on her little potty chair happily playing with the trains on the train table.

What could I do? She didn't leave the potty, after all.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hard Rock Candy

In our younger days we gathered with our college friends annually on the Saturday after Thanksgiving for "The Cow Chip Bowl", a rousing flag football extravaganza that took place in, you guessed it, a cow pasture. The wives of the "athletes" tried out new recipes and crafts while the boys were out playing in the freezing cold and mud.

Several years, and knee and ankle surgeries, later our husbands are too old and feeble to play football anymore so we gather on New Year's Eve and play board games in to the wee hours of the morning instead. But I still remember a lot of the recipes and craft ideas I learned during those years. One of my favorites is the recipe for hard rock Christmas Candy.

It really isn't as hard as it sounds and it is a super cheap and easy gift idea for those hard to buy for people on your list. Who doesn't like candy? The only special tool you need is a candy thermometer. Do not attempt to make this candy without one.

Hard Rock Candy

1 cup white corn syrup
1 cup water
3 cups sugar
1/2 bottle flavoring*
1 tsp. food coloring
powdered sugar

Fill the bottom of a large sheet pan at least one inch thick with powdered sugar. In a large saucepan, cook sugar, syrup and water to 300 degrees, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add flavoring and coloring. Pour hot candy into prepared pan making sure that candy touches sugar only and not the bottom or sides of the pan.

At this point you have two options. You can let the candy cool completely and then use a clean hammer to bust it in to bite sized pieces OR you can let it cool until it is barely cool enough to touch but still pliable, and use a pair of kitchen shears to cut it into bite sized pieces. I prefer the second method because you can better the control the size of the pieces and the edges aren't quite as sharp.

You will now have some beautiful hard candy pieces coated in a very thin layer of powdered sugar. Yum Yum!

*The flavoring I use is called a 'highly concentrated flavoring oil' made by Lorann Oils . Each bottle is 1 fluid dram or .125 fluid ounces. Half of a bottle is just the right amount for this recipe. You can find them at Wal-Mart, but only around Christmas time. Some pharmacies also carry them (don't ask me why). I'm sure you could order them online also.

For more great recipes and tips head over to Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays at Lana's and Lisa's. They are having a great giveaway today ONLY, so don't miss it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

365 Days

Well, I've officially lived on this planet for one whole year without my Grandpa.

I still miss him every day.

I still have fond memories every day.

I'm still glad he never spent a day in the hospital or nursing home.

I still wish he was here.

I still miss him every day.

Manic Monday

Our Governor's motto:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Cookies

This week's Holiday Expo theme at Internet Cafe Devotions is the "home tour". Well, there isn't much to see in my home. I usually don't decorate for Christmas until after my annual Christmas production at church....and that just happens to be this weekend. house is pretty blah still.

However, I did host a little holiday party last weekend so I felt like I had to have a few decorations up. It was a cooking party (we made our own hard candy) so I just focused on decorating the kitchen.

The ornaments I hang in my kitchen are some of my favorites anyway. They are the faux gingerbread cookie ornaments made of colossal amounts of cinnamon and a little wood glue. They are special to me for three reasons.

#1 My sister Jill made them for me. She was on her own for the first time ever after graduating from college. She had her first job at a private school that paid next to nothing and she was living with my parents, but she was determined to go out on her own for Christmas gifts for everyone. She was on a tight budget so she made a lot of gifts. I don't know how long she slaved over these in my mom's kitchen but it must have been a while because she made me 12 ornaments and a garland out of 18 more. I know she made several more sets of these that she gave to other people too. So I appreciate the hard work she put in to the gift.

#2 She made the ornaments using my mom's cookie cutters. So each ornament is shaped just like all of the sugar cookies we made growing up. They remind me of how the angel's neck was always too thin so her head would break off and how the little tips on the holly leaf would always burn and get crispy. Just looking at the ornaments reminds me of the cookies of my youth.

#3 I always laugh the first time I pull them out of the box each year because I remember the story of the day they were made. My Dad, who inherited a sweet tooth from my Grandpa, was outside working as usual while Jill made the cookies. On one of his trips in to the house he smelled the delicious aroma of cinnamon and decided no one would mind if he had just one cookie. Yep, he took one all right, but he didn't eat much of it. After one mouthful of wood glue he had had enough of these particular cinnamon cookies.

To see some pics and videos of homes that are actually decorated head over to the Cafe and follow the links.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

And the Winner Is......

Hands down, the winner of the worst Christmas present ever is Janelle from At Home with My Monkeys.

She wrote:'s a REALLY bad Christmas gift!!! After the birth of my first child, my mother decided to give me a LOVELY Christmas gift - a gift certificate to the local hemmorhoid treatment center!!! Can you even imagine opening that in front of the family??

Now don't you think she deserves to win??

Honorable mention, and my sympathies, (but sadly no prizes) go to:

Estermay who received a 2007 calendar on Dec. 25th, 2007,

Betsy who received a package of light bulbs from her brother-in-law,

and finally to

Amydeanne who received a big ol' block of swiss cheese.

Thanks for playing everyone and Merry Christmas!!

One Bethlehem Night

Well, its production week here so you know what that blogging.

I'm spending 12 hours a day at the church getting the set ready and rehearsing for our Christmas musical, "One Bethlehem Night"....while potty training and entertaining a two year old. Its a joy, as you can imagine.

I'll still post the "Tour of Homes" for my entry in the Internet Cafe Devotions Holiday Expo tomorrow but that will be about all for me this week.

See you next week when my calendar is amazingly blank!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Manic Monday

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Deep Theological Question

Ok, here's the deal.

I work out. Very strenuously.

In the afternoons.

Therefore, I do not shower until the evening.

It's winter, we're in a garage, I don't sweat that much.

What I'm trying to say is....I don't smell.

Anyway, I have to run errands, etc. in the morning while Kinley is awake and happy.

My hair looks horrible from the working out and then sleeping on wet hair.

I would like to wear a hat so as not to frighten young children I might see coming in and out of shops.

But can I wear one in the post office?

What about the library?

The church?

These are place I often go in varying degrees of dishevelment (if that's a word).

Is it inappropriate for me to where a hat inside those places?

What do you think?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bring on the Prizes!!

The next installment in our Holiday Expo sponsored by Internet Cafe is a giveaway.

I am *gasp* re-gifting. It isn't because I don't like these ultra comfy and warm, not to mention stylish and Christmasy slipper socks, that I want to give them away. It's just that I don't need another pair.

Don't worry they've never been worn and still have the tags attached. Won't your feet look all festive on Christmas morning if you win these?

So leave me a comment telling me the WORST Christmas gift you ever received. The person with the worst gift (as judged by a panel of my non-blogging friends) will win the slipper socks. Deadline for comments is Tuesday December 9th.

Sounds easy, right? Of course it is.

Here is my worst Christmas gift ever as an example.

My husband values quantity over quality and likes to boast that he gets me 3 or 4 times as many gifts as I get him. Which I guess is technically true, but I like to think that mine are a little more valuable and well thought out.

Anyway, one year in an attempt to put as many items in my stocking as possible (with the help of Santa, of course) he decided to get me a personal mosquito repeller. This is a small black, battery operated device about the size of a tube of chapstick. You clip it onto your clothes and it emits a high frequency sound that humans can't hear but apparently drives bugs....well buggy. Needless to say I never tried it.

So there you have it. Top mine. I know you can do it.
Now head on over to the Cafe and sign up for a bunch more great giveaways. I know I will.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


The Holiday Expo giveaway starts at midnight!!!

Be prepared.

The Rarotongans (1-20)

West. Monte went west. I guess he had to find out what happened to Glendon, but I really wanted him to go home to Susannah and Redstart. I think he was showing his new braver, more adventurous self by starting out for parts unknown all by his lonesome. And I was thrilled that he found Glendon relatively easily.

Poor Glendon. I understand Blue’s position completely but I do feel sorry for the guy. I think he’s kind of soft hearted for an outlaw. Blue doesn’t have to forgive him, but stringing him along so that he can work her orchard for her? That’s a little cold-hearted.

I do like Claudio, of course, and I enjoyed the interaction between Monte and Claudio. In the end I thought it was totally fitting that Monte should move his family to the orchard and work there alongside Blue. It just seemed fitting. They had nothing waiting for them back in Minnesota and there is still a beautiful river to live beside in California.

Monte becoming a boat builder (is there a technical term for that, like ‘barketer’ or something?) seems fitting also. He always admired boats and owned one. He loved his time on the boat with Glendon and later helping him make them. Of course the side benefit being that not worrying about writing allowed a story to come to him…his own story or adventure.

If I have to admit it, Glendon willingly going away with Siringo is probably fitting too. He accomplished his purpose (apologizing to Blue) and no longer had to fear being locked up. He could pay for his crimes with a clear conscience. I guess that is all he really wanted. I have the feeling that Siringo dumped him at the nearest sheriff’s office and then drove out in to the dessert and dropped dead. I think he was only living long enough to see Glendon in custody. He’s walking up to those black gates by now, I’d bet.

So why is the book entitled “So Brave, Young and Handsome”? Is it all in reference to Hood Roberts? He seems to be too minor a character to warrant a title. Although when you look at the book as written by Monte about his adventure you have to remember that Hood meant a lot to Monte and weighed heavily on his mind. Maybe Monte sees the whole trip as he and Glendon both reaching their destinations but Hood, the brave, young and handsome one, coming to a tragic end. I don’t know.

Maybe he is referring to the deeds of the brave, young and handsome. Glendon, Siringo, Hood, and even Ern all had crazy and exciting lives (when they were brave, young and handsome) that ultimately led to sorrow. Maybe this is the chronicle of what happens to the brave, young and handsome ones later on. Monte of course was young once but I don’t think he was either brave or handsome…at least not until he reached California and started building boats. Then he had developed a spine and some character. Maybe he should be glad it came to him later in life when he was capable of making good decisions…unlike the others in the story. What do you think?

Overall, I loved the book; maybe not as much as “Peace Like a River” but it was close. I’d gladly read anything else Enger writes. Now I’m moving on to something else from my list and I’m starting a real life, in person book club too. I hope to see some of you there.

Handy Tip of the Week

If you're like me you run out of tape (and all other adhesives) pretty often. With holiday wrapping season coming up we can't afford to be left high and dry. But I've found an amazing substitute.

Soggy Fruity Pebbles Cereal!

Yesirree. These colorful little devils go on easily and harden like concrete in minutes. I've tested their sticking power on terry cloth, tile grout and toddler hair. It takes some real elbow grease to get them loose. They'll adhere denim to wooden chair seats and have no problem sticking to the rubbery sole of a shoe....that is at least until they come in contact with the surface they are most attracted to....carpet fibers.

For the low, low price of just $4 a box you can have an almost endless supply of emergency adhesive, in a rainbow of beautiful colors, that will keep you wrapping (or cleaning) until the wee hours on Christmas Eve. Go out and buy a box TODAY!!!

That's what's (NOT!) working for me this week. For more Works for Me Wednesday tips go to Rocks In My Dryer.


To those of you who followed this link in the hopes of seeing a real tip, I apologize. But I'll make it up to you with a giveaway. How's that?

Tomorrow join me right here at for a Holiday Giveaway Carnival hosted by the girls at Internet Cafe Devotions. There'll be plenty of great giveaways to enter and lots of wonderful prizes. I can't reveal what mine is until tomorrow so be sure to come back and see.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fiery Siringo (1-20)

Well! All I can say is that Glendon should have been a little less cryptic when he told Monte to “stay out of Siringo’s grip”. We should have known the old geezer wasn’t as feeble as he pretended. And yet, even with a bitten hand and a broken finger why wouldn’t Monte just leave him along the side of the road? I knew that over-active sense of duty would come back to bite Monte in the end. If only he could be as cold-hearted as Siringo he could be back home with Susannah by now. But would Susannah want him in that condition or would she cease to see him as Siringo’s wife had?

So now Monte is traveling with Siringo, aiding him in his hot pursuit of Glendon or Hood Roberts or both. Who saw that coming? Certainly not me. I do admire his half-hearted attempts at escape and his refusal to stoop to the tactics of his captor. Unfortunately, Siringo can read Monte like a book. Even when the poor guy manages to convince the bank teller that despite his manacles he is not a fugitive but a kidnapping victim, Siringo is one step ahead of him already signing books and spinning tales with the local law enforcement. At that moment I thought Monte might cry. I felt so sorry for him.

More than dislocating his finger, or biting his hand, or popping his finger back in to place, or breaking his collar bone I think Siringo caused Monte more pain by telling him about his visit to the Davies’ and Emma’s subsequent disappointment in Monte and hurling of his book. I think that crushed Monte’s spirits more than anything else.

Enger seems to be examining the themes of life and death, heaven and hell again. He describes Ern Swilling’s death as his “turn at the infinite”. Then in this section Monte wonders if Siringo…

“…had died already, during the night, and was up anyway, making coffee in the normal fashion, and that I would be compelled for some time to be the companion of a dead fellow who refused to acknowledge his condition.”

Siringo acknowledges the fact himself when he says,

“I was human but now I think I am changing. It’s a change for the better. I can sleep or not as I will. I feel no anger. I am not thirsty. Hot and cold have no purchase on me.”

I agree with Monte that Siringo is describing death. His own death. At least the death of his soul if not his person. I think we’ll see him dead before the end of the novel. At least I hope so…and hopefully before he kills Hood and/or Glendon. Somehow I’m not afraid for Monte. I think he’ll make it home to his wife and son again. Despite his many faults, Siringo won’t harm the innocent. Of course, that’s assuming Monte stays innocent.

I guess I’m glad that Monte didn’t shoot Siringo when he had the chance. At least he was brave enough to fire the gun and give Hood a fair warning. Why am I rooting for the bad guys here? Even though Hood didn’t murder Swilling he still stole a car and food and a horse and a mule. He even burnt down an entire town and killed a man in the process. I have no idea what crime, if any, he was running from in the beginning when he joined up with Monte and Glendon, but I’m almost positive there was one. He is a “bad guy”, and yet I want him to escape cleanly to Mexico with his pretty girlfriend. Well, that is if he didn’t kill Ericcson. If he murdered Ericcson in cold blood than I’m afraid I can’t be on his side anymore.

I still want Glendon to escape though. Maybe it’s because he seems genuinely remorseful for his life of crime. He doesn’t claim that he would do things any differently given the chance, but at least he seems sorry that it turned out this way. He wants to make amends with Blue. He wants to help out Darlys again. (By the way I think it is hilarious that Glendon uses Siringo’s money to pay for Darlys’ trip.) He even wants to go after Hood and prevent him from make some of the same tragic choices that Glendon himself made in younger days. He is a caring and gentle outlaw, that’s for sure.

How nice it would have been if this sentence were true.

“And so it came down to a farmhouse. As it so often does!”

But, it didn’t come down to a farmhouse, after all. Hood escaped…again! I couldn’t have been happier. I like it anytime something happens that Siringo isn’t planning on and doesn’t like. But, of course it couldn’t last. It was so sad and anti-climatic that Hood just walked in to the street and right in to the face of Charles Siringo. Siringo shot him and he died. It was awful. I think the dramatic farmhouse show down would have been better; more appropriate for a romantic boy like Hood.

“Death arrived easy as a train; Hood just climbed aboard, like the capable traveler he was.”

Blanks. Blanks. Of course, it had to be blanks, but I wanted to believe that Siringo was bullet-proof, rather than face the knowledge that Hood had stood no chance from the beginning. How ludicrous that he would go back in to town for a pastry! A cinnamon doughnut? You’ve got to be kidding me. To think that he got killed for a doughnut. What a sad ending for him.

At least Siringo suffers a little bit from his encounter with Hood. He has a stroke, apparently. That's fitting, but I'm sure it won't kill him. At least Monte finally decides to leave him behind. But is he going home or on to find Glendon? East or West? Somehow I don't think he can go home at this point. I'm not sure I would either...knowing Glendon isn't the letter writing type.

I'm anxious to finish the last section "The Rarotongans". What in the world, or who in the world, is a rarotongan? I have no idea, but I'm eager to find out. I'll post my final thoughts on the book tomorrow.

Until then I leave you with me new favorite phrase that I picked up from good old Charlie.

“I think I’ll pass on that bag of snakes.”

Spinach Artichoke Hot Dip

Well, it's Kitchen Tip Tuesday and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday so of course I have another recipe to share with you all.

This is a great appetizer. I took it to our Thanksgiving gathering and it was gobbled up in minutes. Serve it hot right out of the oven with crackers and you've got a hit.

Spinach Artichoke Hot Dip

1 bag spinach leaves
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 jar artichoke hearts
4 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated paremsan cheese
minced garlic (to taste, I used 2 cloves)
cayenne pepper

Cook entire bag of spinach and minced garlic in a hot skillet with olive oil. Spinach will reduce to just a small pile of goo (that's the technical term). Set aside. Can be made several hours or a day ahead.

Dice artichoke hearts and mix with remaining ingredients. Add spinach goo. Mix well.

Bake at 375 for 10 -15 minutes or until edges are crispy but center is still soft.

Yum! Yum!

For more great recipes and tips check out Tammy's Recipes and Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Hey, just a head's up.

There is going to be a give away going on here on Thursday December 4th.

Don't miss it!

Manic Monday

In case you can't read the small print, it says,

"Hundreds of years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove...but the world may be different becasue I do something so bafflingly crazy that my ruins become a tourist attraction."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Hundred and One (1-16)

I love Enger’s descriptions of The Hundred and One. If you’ve ever seen the Broadway musical “Annie Get Your Gun” or the more recent movie “Hildalgo” then you know what the old west shows were reported to be like. Apparently The Hundred and One was just such a show; sharp shooters, monkeys and elephants, saloon brawls and indian attacks at 6 pm nightly. What a place! No wonder Hood was determined to get there.

Speaking of Hood….why is he using an alias? And how old is he? Do we know? Did I miss that line? At first I thought he was 13 or so, but I don’t think they would’ve taken someone that young with them. Maybe he’s 16. I don’t know. He’s obviously old enough to be a skilled mechanic and old enough to fall in love. But he’s immature in many ways too. His desire for praise, his sullenness and his amazing ability to lie without compunction or premeditation show his youth.

I can imagine how exciting that underwater ride in front of his girl and all of the vaqueros must have been for Hood. What teenage boy wouldn’t want to pull off the most dramatic feat in Hundred and One history? How quickly he went from hero to goat after that, though. Why did he run after punching Ern Swilling? No one would have accused him of murder had he stayed. They all saw the action and knew that the fall, not the punch, broke Ern’s neck. Maybe he ran because he was already running from something else?

Poor Ern. I love these lines about the ill-fated German actor.

“…nature had been ridiculously kind to Ern Swilling—besides his marquee appearance he was strong as a bear with the easy world-beater genetics we were
all to encounter in coming years.”

And then after the accident.

“…he got his first grip on the transformed world; on the fact that he was no longer a sought quantity or screen actor but a handsome young paralytic with no prospects whatever for fame or wealth or for that matter much of a lifespan.”

Medically speaking, I don’t quite understand the whole bit about helping someone breathe by tying a tube around their neck, but nevertheless I think we were all a little relieved when that tube slipped and Ern was released from a life of institutionalized agony.

The Hundred and One seems to have misfortune clinging to it. After Hood’s unfortunate accident and Ern’s untimely demise the entire place is flooded. Buildings are destroyed and livestock killed. Everyone is marooned inside the damp boarding house….including Charles Siringo.

I can’t say that I was surprised the he showed up, but I was shocked that he was Jip, Darlys’ old beau from the Hole in the Wall. How does Glendon keep running in to these people? Texas is a big place, but Glendon runs in to old friends every other day. Apparently he had (and maybe still has) a soft spot for Darlys and not much love for Jip. I don’t know if Siringo really doesn’t remember Darlys or if he does not want to reveal that he and Jip are one in the same. So is he really an outlaw that became a Pinkerton agent or a Pinkerton agent that was undercover as an outlaw named Jip? I don’t know but I suspect that he is 80% outlaw and 20% law man.

As a matter of fact, he isn’t a law man at all anymore. He has no authority whatsoever to arrest Glendon, but I doubt that makes Glendon any safer. Siringo probably wouldn’t hesitate to shoot him on sight, or at least detain him and turn him over to the local authorities in hopes of a large reward…or some major publicity. Maybe Glendon already knows this. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does.

I wasn’t sad that Darlys shot Siringo and I love how the narrator (Monte) just assumes that we know Darlys was the shooter. I fervently hoped that he was dead, but I knew he wouldn’t be. I never suspected that Monte would become Siringo’s personal nurse though. In some ways I’m shocked that Monte could sit there day after day and care for the old man, but on the other hand I know that Monte has a big heart and an even bigger sense of duty and honor…almost to a fault.

That sense of duty leads him to even offer Siringo a ride to the train station. I can’t help but think that that is a big mistake. We’ll see.

Thoughts on “The Fiery Siringo” coming tomorrow.

Friday, November 28, 2008

What's In a Name

I recently found this site that will tell you what your name means. Here are my results. As you can see it isn't 100 % accurate.

What Crystal Means

You are very open. You communicate well, and you connect with other people easily.

Yes, usually.

You are a naturally creative person. Ideas just flow from your mind.

Well, that's true.

A true chameleon, you are many things at different points in your life. You are very adaptable.

Very true. Only Brian knows the real me. I'm good at being what other people want me to be depending on the situation.

You are wild, crazy, and a huge rebel. You're always up to something.

BUZZ! Way off the mark.

You have a ton of energy, and most people can't handle you. You're very intense.

I do have a lot of energy but I don't think I'm intense.

You definitely are a handful, and you're likely to get in trouble. But your kind of trouble is a lot of fun.

BUZZ! Still wrong.

You are a free spirit, and you resent anyone who tries to fence you in.

You are unpredictable, adventurous, and always a little surprising.

I'm somewhat adventurous but I don't think I'm unpredictable or surprising.

You may miss out by not settling down, but you're too busy having fun to care.

BUZZ! This is the opposite of me.

You are the total package - suave, sexy, smart, and strong.

I'm only two of those four. You guess which ones.

You have the whole world under your spell, and you can influence almost everyone you know.


You don't always resist your urges to crush the weak. Just remember, they don't have as much going for them as you do.

Well, that is way off. I almost always resist my urges to crush the weak.

You are a seeker. You often find yourself restless - and you have a lot of questions about life.

To a degree.

You tend to travel often, to fairly random locations. You're most comfortable when you're far away from home.

I do love to travel, but I like being home too.

You are quite passionate and easily tempted. Your impulses sometimes get you into trouble.

Wrong again.

You are usually the best at everything ... you strive for perfection.

They've obviously never seen me bowl.

You are confident, authoritative, and aggressive.

Am I aggressive? Am I?! Hey, I'm asking you a question!

You have the classic “Type A” personality.


You are relaxed, chill, and very likely to go with the flow.

Ummm...isn't this the opposite of the previous statement?

You are light hearted and accepting. You don't get worked up easily.

Sadly, no.

Well adjusted and incredibly happy, many people wonder what your secret to life is.

I hope that's true.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Advent Conspiracy

This year I am thankful that we are simplifying our Christmas and focusing on what really matters.

You can too.

See how here.......

Happy Thanksgiving!!
To see more expressions of gratitude head over to Internet Cafe Devotions and follow the links.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Holiday Cheer

{Pssst.....don't forget to join me tomorrow for a day of gratitude with the women from Internet Cafe Devotions}

You've got to see this hilarious Thanksgiving E-Card I got from my cousin.

My kids made me play it three times in a row for them and they laughed and laughed and laughed.

Now they are running around quoting it.


These Are A Few of My Favorite

Do I have to pick just one?

It's not possible.

I'll just have to submit...well...several.

Bread Pudding (and more recently Chocolate Bread Pudding) is probably my favorite dessert of all time, not just because it is warm and moist and delicious...mostly for sentimental reasons. My Grandma taught me how to make it and it was one of her favorite desserts too.

I'm not much of a cake eater usually but this Tuxedo Cake makes me swoon. Who wouldn't faint over 3 layers of made from scratch chocolate cake filled and covered with real whipped cream and then drenched in ganache?

But the dessert I make most often and enjoy the most is cheesecake. I've already share the recipe for Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars so today I'll share the recipe for the cheesecake I'm taking for our Thanksgiving meal.

Cranberry Cheesecake

1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup cranberry juice
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. butter, melted

4 pkgs. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. flour
4 eggs
1 cup eggnog
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

In a sucepan, combine the first four ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook and stir over medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; set aside.

In a small bowl, combine cracker crumbs and sugar; stir in butter. Press onto the bottom of a greased 9 inche springform pan. Bake at 325 for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add four and beat well. Add eggs; beat on low just unti lcombined. Add eggnog and vanilla; beat just until blended. Pour two-thirds of the filling over crust. Top with half of the cranberry mixture (cover and chill remaining cranberry mixture). Carefully spoon remaining cheescake filling over top.

Bake at 325 for 60-70 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight. Remove sides of pan. Spoon the remaining cranberry mixture over cheesecake.

Hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Jack Waits (1-17)

Finally, a nice meaty section to examine.

Well, this time around we find out that Glendon was a foster child, for lack of a better term, and a thief.

"No, it's what I always was, it just weighs more, this time around."

Monte seems to want to believe that Glendon is a good person and can atone for all his former mistakes but Glendon keeps trying to make it clear to him that he is indeed not a good person at all. Monte is reluctant to give up his romantic notions about Glendon's past and his future. Maybe the fact that Glendon prays...even over stolen food, is what gives Monte hope.
In fact, the description of Glendon's "salvation" experience pretty much says it all.

"He [Glendon] uttered the prayer a number of times and cried several times, feeling the mercy of God pour out like a cleansing oil upon his limbs, and late in the day he arose and ate a sustaining meal of frijoles with side pork and rode out from the Hole with his friends and robbed the Union Pacific as it climbed the Wyoming foothills."

He wants to change but he feels powerless to do so. He is just one of many who are repentant but lack the real devotion to makeover their lives.

The series of events with the snapping turtle was interesting. First of all hauling a snapper around in a small boat, even if he is surrounded by rocks, does not sound like a smart thing to do. But I guess it paid off in the end, as the snapper drug one of their pursuers down to a watery grave. (And by the way who was that? Not Siringo. But who?) Maybe the snapper was paying them back for not cooking him alive (as Monte suggested) and giving him the chance to be free.
I loved it when, after seeing the "bad guy" drown in the river with the turtle pulling him down, Monte says,

"Belatedly it seemed my finest virtue was the distance I had maintained from
death; now I had this freight to carry and no place to lay it down."

I feel exactly the same way, although I didn't come to the realization belatedly. I've always known how blessed I was to never have experienced the death of someone close to me. My Dad's best friend was the closest person to me to have died (and young and tragically, at that). I always knew that I was, fortunately, missing out on a normal human experience. But when my Grandpa died last year I joined the club; the gang of people that travel the earth with only a portion of their hearts because some small (or maybe large) segment has already moved on to heaven. It is a weight to carry that can't be laid down and it makes death seem closer and ready to strike again at any minute.

At the beginning of this section Monte says that he crossed the line when he stepped off the Davies dock to follow Glendon once again, but I disagree. I think at that point he was still just following his curiosity and was swept up in a sense of adventure. After all several times after that he considered turning back. I think it was when he saw his reflection in the window at Revival that he crossed the line. When he identified himself as someone who looked, "capable", "wary", and "of dubious intent", someone that Grace Hackle would admire instead of the "well-meaning failure, a pallid disappointer of persons, a man fading" he was hooked. He could never go back to be being a struggling author after seeing the fugitive outlaw hidden within himself.

As with any line written by Leif Enger there were several great descriptions in this section.
If you've ever driven through Kansas you immediately identified with these passages:

"Plain describes it nicely, both as grassy tableland and unadorned prospect. It's wide and there you have it. To one born amid forest and bluff on the upper Mississippi, Kansas is so wide and its sky so flat it's disturbing."

"I still hungered for a hillside or building to break the tedium. Sculptors call this relief and they are right. I learned to take pleasure in the windmills spinning bravely along the route, announcing farms."

"Before the windmill there wasn't no Kansas."

I'm uncomfortable with all of that open land too. And no radio stations for miles. I'm also uncomfortable with the dry West. Driving for miles and seeing only the smallest bit of dusty olive green in an endless see of brown is disconcerting. I need green in my life. Even in winter there is still some green around here.

I also loved the description of Siringo's demeanor.

"...[he] propped himself in the position of Visiting Bard and told stories."

So, who was in the boat that tried to run them down? What do you make of the name Jack Waits? How do you like the book so far?

Oh, I guess I didn't event mention Hood Roberts, but I like him and he's now my number one suspect for "so brave, young and handsome". What did you think of him?

Potato Dumpling Soup

One of my favorite sources for recipes are the Midwest Living and Southern Living Magazines. My aunt subscribes to both of them and hands them down to me when she is finished. I didn't realize for a while that they often have the same recipes. I had actually cut out and saved the recipe for this soup twice. Once from each magazine.

It sounded good on paper and it is good. As in rich and creamy and delicious good. It is a meal all by itself and is perfect on a cold winter's day. The magazine says that it is a favorite of diners at Kroll's restaurants throughout North Dakota. I can believe it. They need stuff like this to get them through the winters up there I'm sure.

I hope you enjoy Potato Dumpling Soup.

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
2/3 cup milk
1 Tbsp. butter
1 med. onion, chopped
2 med. potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 14 oz. cans low sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 1/3 cups whipping cream, half-n-half or light cream
1 1o 3/4 oz. can condensed cream of chicken soup
1/4 tsp. pepper

1. For dumpling dough: Stir together flour, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl mix egg and milk. Add to flour mixture and mix well. Cover and set aside.

2. For soup: Melt butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. Add potatoes, broth and bay leaves. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Drop rounded teaspoons of dough into the soup (don't worry if dumplings touch). Return to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes or till potatoes are tender and dough floats when done.

3. Combine cream, chicken soup and pepper; add to potato mixture. Cook and stir 5 minutes or till heated through. Remove bay leaves.

Makes 6 side dish servings or 4 full servings.
For more great kitchen tips and recipes head over to Tammy's coming to you from Seattle, Washington.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Old Desperate (1-6)

"Why was I a slave to sentiment when it failed me so reliably?"

Its kind of nice to hear a man feel this way. I feel like sentiment fails me daily because the people around me (mostly males) don't get it. It is sweet to see how much Monte and Susannah love each other.

I must say that I was pretty surprised when Franco recognized Glendon on the train and told the policeman. I thought they might get a little further on their journey before the law caught up with them. I had already assumed that Glendon was a former train robber from the riddle he told Redstart in the first section. He said that he had been on 10 (?) trains that had been robbed but he had never had a single thing stolen. That screams train robber to me.

I was equally surprised when Glendon jumped from the train and left Monte alone. I didn't see that coming. Nor did I imagine that Monte would go home with the detective and enjoy his time there. I see that we are getting a little of the same idea that was present in "Peace Like a River"; the idea of a policeman as someone that you naturally dislike and run from but the realization that they can be very charming and kind men if you just get to know them.

I loved Monte's review of "The Pestilence of Man".

"...a number of momentous ideas, namely that war is difficult, and that poverty
is difficult too; in fact, that much of human experience is marked by
difficulty. I don't remember who is at fault."

It sounds like a few books I've read; so preachy that at the end of it you can't even figure out where it all began and what you are supposed to do about it. It kind of makes me think of "The Grapes of Wrath". The basic point of that book seems to be that governments are cruel and life is crueler, with no hope of change. Sounds rosy doesn't it?

Well, that's it for this section. More on "Jack Waits" coming up soon....maybe tomorrow. Let me know what you thought.


My sister already finished the book and said she liked it more the further along she read. She also said she didn't like Glendon's character and that the parts of the book that don't' involve him are the best parts. She also said she wasn't sure who "so brave, young, and handsome" refers to. So keep an eye out for those ideas as well.

Manic Monday

Friday, November 21, 2008

This is What I'm Talking About

Several of you have asked me how teaching Sunday School is going.

Well....I'm in my 6th week now teaching on materialism and stewardship and it's going.....OK.

I enjoy it and preparing the lessons has really helped me to examine my beliefs and firm up my position on certain topics. But I had no idea people would be so resistant to the idea of using God's money for His purposes instead of for their own.

I related how I hate my master bedroom because it is incredibly ugly and not completely finished and mismatched and stained, etc, etc, etc, but that I can't justify remodeling it when that money could be used by God to do so much for His kingdom. Having a nice bedroom would only benefit me and my husband, for a while until it went out of style, but God could use that money to change someone's life for ETERNITY. Who would choose the bedroom?

Well, apparently all kinds of people. I got arguments like, "But you'll rest better and feel more relaxed if you have a nice bedroom" and "As long as you aren't going in to debt to do it and you aren't taking food away from your kids to do it I don't see anything wrong with it". I even had one lady say, "Look, I've got a bunch of left over paint from my family room in my garage. You can have that and at least paint it a nice color." Some people seemed down right upset that I was "suffering" with an ugly bedroom and said flat out that I should paint it.

Apparently all of the discussion about the difference between wants and needs went in one ear and out the other. A child in Haiti needs vaccinations. I want a pretty bedroom. Which do you think God cares about more?

When I got to the lessons about Earth Stewardship and the way our greed for material possessions adversely effects the world God gave us to sustain us it got even uglier. I was pretty discouraged after last week. I wasn't getting the point (the point being that we need to be appreciative of the money and resources God has given us and use them, but not overuse them, being sure to provide as much as possible for those less fortunate instead of just stuffing ourselves) across and frankly I felt a little bit attacked. I have one more lesson to sum it all up and show the class how seeing money, oil, electricity, wood, etc as gifts from God not "certain unalienable rights" meant to be consumed as fast as possible, makes us more grateful and giving people.

And then this morning I came across a link to a real life story that completely sums up what I have been talking about all along. Read this story of how one family helped the poor at great personal sacrifice and became rich in the process. (Note: Pay attention to the amount given by each family in the church.)

I couldn't have said it any better.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Holiday Traditions

If you've noticed the flashing button on my sidebar you probably know by now that today kicks off a months worth of posts about the Holidays.

I'm participating in a Holiday Expo sponsored by Internet Cafe Devotions. Every Thursday I will be sharing another aspect of the holidays here in the Grove home. If you want to check out the tips, stories and recipes from the other contributors just click here and follow the links.

Now, to get started....

Before I begin I must tell you all that I am doing this post in secrecy. My husband considers Thanksgiving to be the best holiday of the year and feels that it gets majorly overlooked because of it's position between Halloween and Christmas. He does not allow us to acknowledge the Christmas season in our home (no decor, music, etc) until after Thanksgiving. So....I have to do this post on the sly and hope he doesn't find out about it until it is too late. Sorry, sweetie.

Now, to really get started....

One of my favorite traditions happens way before December 25th. Every year on the first or second weekend of November I gather with 20 or 30 other friends from church and we make our own homemade Christmas cards. And I'm not talking about 10 or 15 cards here. Some years I've made 80 or 90 cards! And here is the best part....its all FREE. Yes, completely, totally, 100% FREE!

A wonderful lady in our church offers these card making days as a ministry. She provides all of the stamps, ink, paper, envelopes and tools you could ever need...and she doesn't just do it at Christmas. We meet for one weekend every other month to make cards to our heart's content. I make all of my own birthday, get well soon, sympathy, Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween and Thanksgiving cards too. (I'll obviously use any excuse to send a card.) But the Christmas weekend is special.

We have wassail and lots of treats to eat. There are door prizes every hour and we stamp cards for 6 hours on Friday night and 8 hours on Saturday. We try new ideas and copy out of magazines and off of each other. We laugh and joke and work our fingers to the bone. I usually make several different styles because I get bored making 60 of the same card.

Here are three of the nine styles of cards I did this year:

At the end of the weekend my back is killing me but I've got all of my FREE handmade Christmas cards, complete with decorated envelopes, ready to go. It is really an awesome tradition and my friends and family enjoy getting my special cards every year and I have a blast making them. What could be better?

Come back next Thursday to share in our day of Gratitude.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Persecuted Church Update

There is another update on The Persecuted Church up at We Are THAT Family.

If you've been following the story of this family from Uzbekistan and their ministry you'll want to check it out.

If you haven't read the story yet you really should. It is amazing. You can find links to the entire story over on Kristin's blog.

A Thousand A Day (Chaps. 1-11)

By the end of the first paragraph I could tell this was a Leif Enger book. The voice coming out of the pages reminds me so much of the narrator of Peace Like a River. He even uses the word "pard", which I think came up several times in the cowboy story in that novel as well. And did this sound familiar to any of you who read Enger's first novel:

This [novel] was about a boy who shoots two intruders in the dead of night and straightaway flees the Law. I had it in mind that the boy become a dangerous western hero along the pattern of Tom Horn. His would be a life of wild horses, of slender escapes, of comrades laid in shallow graves!

I love Monte's descriptions of himself and simultaneous jabs at other authors who may indeed be living "in a hospital for the insane or on a tramp steamer or in Madrid", and therefore consider themselves more literary.

Common blots aside, I have none of the usual Big Artillery: I am not penniless, brilliant, or an orphan; have never been to war, suffered starvation or lashed myself to a mast.

It reminded me of that line in "Singin' in the Rain" where, upon learning that he is fired, Cosmo, the pianist, replies, "Oh good. Now I can start suffering and go out and write that symphony."

I also already like the relationship between father and son that is apparent in this novel as well. The name Redstart is certainly strange but I'm betting it will have a significance later on. It almost seems like an Indian name to me. We'll see if being named after a bird has any significance in the boy's life or not.

Why do you think Monte was so eager to talk to the man in the row boat? A complete stranger. Would you ever stop a complete stranger and let him in to your house? Or have supper with a complete stranger that your son brought home with him...a grown man at that? I can't say that I would ever consider such a thing, but maybe that's why I don't have a very adventurous life.

I was surprised to find that Monte had sold, and is still selling, a successful novel. He describes himself as such a...well...loser. Why was Martin Bligh such a success and why can't Monte repeat the process with a second book? I'm assuming we'll discover the answer to that as we travel along with Monte and Glendon.

It was interesting to see how easily Monte was swept in by fame and flattery from his publisher. (What does it mean that his diction was described by some to be "purple"? I didn't understand that.) I also found it ironic that one of the symbols of his success was his boat. Isn't that so true? People today think that owning a boat that they take out twice a year is a status symbol. Although, I doubt many of them are content with just a row boat, but the idea is the same.

Susannah and Monte seem to have such a nice relationship, but I was sad to find out that he was lying to her about his book. She seems like the type that would understand his writer's block. Why do we hide our failures from the people that we love the most...the people that will undoubtedly overlook them and love us anyway?

From reading the jacket of the book I knew that Monte would "run away" with Glendon but I was shocked that it was Susannah's idea. See? She did accept Monte and show him a way to get his writer's brain going again. I really like her. I hope the story continues to follow Susannah and Redstart as well as Monte and Glendon.

What do you think Glendon's vision of his wife on a horse across the river means? I'm sure it will have a significance later on, as will the boats. I actually think that rivers and boats are going to be very central to this story throughout, but I could be wrong.

Based on the dedication of the book "to the brightest colors I ever saw" and to Monte's description of Susannah's moods and their corresponding colors:

You should know this about my wife: colors are as strong spirits to her. Yellow makes her insouciant, reckless, caustic. The brighter tints of orange render her nearly dangerous. It it's a quiet, confiding talk you're after, by all means wait until her palette is stocked with cooler, more seafaring shades.
I think colors may be a recurring theme as well.

So let me know what you think about this first section and then let's read on and see what happens. A post on "The Old Desperate" coming in a couple of days.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Let the Master Teach You How to Multiply

My sister got Ryker, my 9 year old, Yahtzee for his birthday. He had never played the game before, but he was eager to try it.

That first night we played it three times because he loved it so much...and so did my 5 year old....well for that matter so did my 2 year old, but for different reasons. She's in to anything that involves making lots of noise and thowing small objects.

Anyway, Ryker was really getting into it and starting to catch on to the stategy. The longer we played the more self sufficient he became, and I realized that he was learning something even more important than game strategy. He was really learning his multiplication tables. He started out by asking me what his score would be for 3 sixes and when I stopped answering he resorted to adding 6 plus 6 and then using his fingers to figure out what 6 more was, but after a while I heard him shouting out, "4 fives. That's 20 points."

Since that first night we've played three more times and he's got the multiplication tables 1 thru 6 down pat. If he can just remember what a full house and a large straight are then he'll be a Yahtzee expert...just like me.

Umm....actually I've come in dead last in all 6 games we've played so far. Yes, even behind the 5 year old. I've never been a strong math person, but really, this is ridiculous. Maybe I'll hit my stride when we play with the whole family over Thanksgiving Break...or at least maybe I won't completely embarrass myself. No trips to Vegas for me, that's for sure.

Using Yahtzee to teach the multiplication tables work for me. For more great Works For Me Wednesday tips go to Rocks In My Dryer.

Interesting LInks

Here are some interesting posts I thought you all might enjoy:

Pink Paper Peppermints: Building Cozy (you won't believe it)

Keyka Lou: You Can Recylce Anything....Even a Dog Collar (for thrifty pet lovers)

Rocks In My Dryer: A Letter to the Paparazzi (it'll just make you laugh)


Sincerely, Crystal (owner of a baby "mountain" since 1999)*

*You'll understand that if you check out that last post.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

I've had several requests lately (since we made homemade pizzas at Ryker's birthday party) for my whole wheat pizza dough recipe. I actually got the recipe from a Weight Watchers Cookbook. It is simple but does take some all yeast breads do. Here it is:

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough


2 tsp active dry yeast

1/4 cup lukewarm (105-115) water

1/4 cup flour

Pizza Dough

1/2 cup fat-free milk

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1. To prepare the sponge, in a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the water; when the yeast looks wet, add the four and stir hard. Cover loosely with a damp towel and let stand at room temperature about 40 minutes.

2. To make the dough, stir the milk in to the sponge. In a medium bowl, combine the flours and salt. Add to the sponge and stir to blend.

3. Lightly sprinkle a work surface with flour. Turn out the dough; knead until it becomes elastic and resilient, 10-12 minutes.

4. Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray; place the dough in the bowl; cover loosely with a damp towel and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in volume, 45-60 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Punch down the dough; lightly sprinkle a work surface with flour. Roll out the dough to a 14" circle; transfer to a pizza pan or large baking sheet. Arrange the toppings of your choice on the crust. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

For more tips and recipes head over to Tammy's Recipes.

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's Here

My copy of the book has arrived.

Review and discussion on "A Thousand a Day" (parts 1-11) coming later this week.

Stay tuned.

Manic Monday

For more great demotivation go to

Friday, November 14, 2008

America Recycles Day

As promised I have a very special post for today.

My own recycling mentor, Linda, is guest posting on my blog.

She has recently launched her own blog, How to Be Green in Greenville, and wrote this great post on the positive impact recylcing can have not only on our planet, but on your own life.

So I hope you enjoy her post and go check out her blog for more great recylcing and green living tips and encouragement.

Lately I have been reading some very negative view points about recycling and how it really doesn't save much of anything. Some nay sayers comment on how much contamination goes into recycling facilities and ends up costing more time and effort than its worth. For example, a contriband plastic bag or shredded paper gets caught in the machine, and it causes the facility hours of work to free up the trapped waste, costing the facility more money than they will ever receive.

Other negative views state that the companies that sell us products packaged in all these containers that need to be recycled, are footing the responsibility to us, the consumers, to clean up their mess. They say, "don't recycle," then maybe these companies will take more responsibility for their messes.

I say this. A lot of people can spend a lot of time griping and arguing about many details pertaining to recycling. One could spin endlessly trying to decided, "should I, or shouldn't I," and never get a black and white answer. Like everything, the system is not perfect. There is contamination in recycling facilities, and people do waste a lot of time and money dealing with the "glitches".

I don't think, however, that these negative friends are taking into consideration the ripple effect that recycling can have on a person's life. By choosing to take action, and to "just start," despite all things that point to why you shouldn't, you will make a difference - for the planet, for yourself, and for others.

Personally, I can attest to this. Our recycling has had profound effects on our lives. We became more mindful of the waste in our lives, and of our own indifference. We live, as Americans, a very shallow, consumeristic lifestyle that says, "it's ok if it's not just right, or too old, or broken, or just outdated - throw it out. You can always get something else". Just seeing the mountain of "trash" that would have been going into our trash cans, was enough to give us pause. "Where is all of this cardboard coming from?" We had no idea that we threw out so much cardboard. "Are we really buying all this stuff?" Lots of children's things are packaged to death, with lots of excess cardboard.

Another example of this was with the cans. "Why are there so many cans? When did we stop eating real food? What does "fresh" taste like? What does our money support if we are not buying locally? Are our eating habits supporting unethical practices abroad?"

Well, I could talk a lot here about this road, but I will keep it short as not to sound too preachy. That's not my intent. Here is a little of our road. Recycling led to less spending... led to realization of consumeristic lifestyle... led to putting God back into first place in our lives... led to releasing our money to God... led to giving like never before... led to relief of poverty over seas and locally ...led to greater desire to give... led to realizing how our actions impact the poor globally... led to wanting to change more...led to composting...led to gardening... led to desire to can our own food... led to greater thankful perspective on the bounty that the earth provides us all... I could go on.

The point, recycling is so much bigger than the actual act. It's that, plus a lot more. Then, when you add the other two Rs of Reduce and Reuse, the impact is even greater. December will be the end of our year of buying nothing new. Another result of the road afore mentioned. Our spending is unrecognizable. We reuse more, and we reduce our trash just by buying less- less packaging.

Yes there are problems with recycling. Yes you could argue that it's not worth it when you throw in all the glitches. But when you look at the global picture of the change that occurs within yourself and your actions, and the impact that you have on friends, family, and biggest of all, your children, there is no question that it is effective, transformative, and in fact, DOES make a difference.

And if you don't buy any of that, buy this---It's just the right thing to do. We don't trash our homes, why would we trash God's earth, the very thing that gives us life and sustains us?

Please join with people all over our great country and make November 15th, America Recycles Day, the day that you begin your journey on your own road. See for yourself what a difference you can make!

Teaching Compassion

Ahhhh, Christmas approaches.

The season of peace, joy and love "I want", "I want", "I want"......

This year we are not playing that game. We are turning our focus away from ourselves and on to God and his work, his plan for us. In my continuing effort to emphasize giving more and wanting less to my kids we are doing a few different things this holiday season.

#1: We aren't exchanging Christmas gifts with my family or each other. We decided just to spend time together skiing as a family. The kids were a little disappointed at first, but the closer it gets to the actual trip the more excited they get. They know that they will still get presents from the other side of the family, so that probably softens the blow a little bit.

Most Christmas gifts are fun but they are also useless. Someone spent a lot of time and money buying us something that, while we will enjoy and appreciate it, we don't really need it. We have more toys and clothes than we could ever use, and aside from food, that's all we need. So Christmas gifts just become another symbol of our selfish desires for unnecessary junk in our lives. We are simplifying here and that is the first step.

#2: We are filling an Operation Christmas Child shoebox. We are having fun finding things from around the house (new, not used) to put in the shoebox, like toothpaste, soap, a shirt, some socks, etc. I also found an unopened can of playdoh and several brand new pencils laying around that we put in the box as well. We've taken one small shopping trip where we spent $3.20 on some small toys for the box as well. We plan to include a note and a picture of our family in the box, too. We're also including a self-addressed stamped envelope so that our new friend can write to us if he wants to. (As an added bonus, Samaritan's Purse is also providing a barcode that you can put on the top of each box so that you will receive notification of the final destination country of your particular box. Isn't that cool?)

If you've never participated in Operation Christmas Child you should. It is a great way to help children around the world through an organization you can trust. It is also a super way to teach your own kids about poverty and our responsibility as the wealthy members of the planet to help those less fortunate. I use this time as a way to emphasize giving instead of receiving. The kids are going to have to give away 2 of their stuffed animals (barely used) to put in the box as well....they just don't know it yet.

#3: We are reading the stories from the Compassion Bloggers that just returned from the Dominican Republic. Compassion International sent a group of bloggers to the Dominican to observe the organization there and interact with the children in the program. These people then write about their trip and let the blogosphere know about all the good that the organization does. There are dozens of heartwarming stories and hundreds of pictures from all of the bloggers, but the one we are reading was written by a child. Nick Challis went on the trip and wrote his own blog about his experience. It is clearly a child's voice coming through the screen and my boys can relate to his feelings and experiences. I hope that this will be yet another exposure to the poor and needy in our world that we need to pray for and help in any way possible. I hope that it makes my children see how incredibly blessed they are to have all that they do, and grow in them a spirit of compassion and giving.

If you'd like to read any of the accounts of the trip here are the sites to check. (In most cases these link just take you to one post in a series so look around for more posts on each site.)

Melanie from Big Mama
Mary from Owlhaven
Marlboro Man from Pioneer Woman (yes, THAT Marlboro Man)
Jennifer from 5 Minutes for Mom
Brian from A Simple Journey
Shaun from Shaun Groves Shlog (yes, THE Shaun Groves)
Nick from Challies Jr. (our child correspondent)

#4: I am signing us up for a time to ring the bell for the Salvation Army. Standing in the freezing cold collecting 59 cents in the course of an hour in front of our small town grocery store will hopefully show the kids how hard it is to support benevolent organizations and how important it is to give to charitable works so that they can reach out to the people that need it when we can't.

I hope that all of my efforts pay off and my kids ask for less realizing how much they already have. My goal is to make them content with what they have....or less than what they have. When they see that lived out in us and in other people around the community and around the world I think they'll get the message.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Get Started!!

Saturday November 15th is America Recycles Day!

If you have been considering joining the recycling bandwagon this would be a great time.

Start reducing, reusing and recycling along with a bunch of other Americans on November 15th.

And don't forget to check back here for a special weekend post about recycling on Saturday too.