Monday, August 12, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Peanut

Book 33: Peanut by Ayun Halliday

I loved this graphic novel!  Everybody knows that it's hard to fit in in high school, but it's even more devasting when you have to up and leave your best friend and move to a new high school.  So to fit in, Sadie tells everyone that she has a peanut allergy.  She figures it will get her the sympathy vote, a little attention, some new friends.  What she doesn't count on is how hard it is to remember that you have a peanut allergy when you really don't.  You can only imagine the trouble that is about to happen!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Remembering My Daddy

My dad passed a way a few weeks ago, and I've been flooded with tons of memories from my forty-four years with him.  Here's the eulogy that I gave at his funeral about the things that he taught me:

You may have thought there were only two teachers in our family – me and Mama – but there were three. These are a just a few of the things that my daddy taught me.

Hard work is honest work and an honest day’s work makes you a better person.

If you chop weeds out of the peanut field, you will be rewarded with a mid-morning Pepsi Cola and a bag of salted peanuts.

Nothing runs like a Deere, a John Deere, that is.

If your daddy plants a row, a really long row, of tomato plants, you will be expected to have a tomato stand at the road.

Nobody ever has to be a stranger.

If you don’t know someone’s name, it’s okay to call him Calvin until you catch his name.

If you know a farmer, you know a friend.

The Da-Nite is a great place for a cheese biscuit, a cup of coffee, and good friends.

Always say ‘Hi’ to the person next to you.

A little magic goes a long way to making someone smile.

If you practice, you, too, can pull off your finger and pull quarters out of your friends’ ears.

Fast talkers are not a bad thing.

If you practice enough, you can count from one to one hundred and back again really, really fast.

There’s always room for something sweet!

Once you set your mind to it, you can lose weight.

A slice of Mama’s butter pecan cake is better right out of the freezer.

Little brown bags always have surprises in them, like Zero bars and 5th Avenues.

Always carry a change of clothes in your truck.

You can never have too many collections – train stuff, bottles, fishing poles – or too many caps.

Duct tape and wire really can fix almost anything.

Even when you think somebody is asleep, he may still be watching television.

If you can fry good cornbread, you’ll be invited to lots of pig pickings and fish fries.

Barbecue chicken cooked on charcoals is the best barbecue chicken.

Cigarettes are really, really bad.

Anybody can learn anything if you have enough patience to teach her.

Even a girl can build a bookcase, bait a fishing hook, and shoot a .22.

If you aren’t following instructions, you can burn out the clutch of a ’63 Ford flatbed truck.

If you’re gonna tell a joke, don’t mess up the punch line.

If you’re asked to emcee your high school class reunion, you should say ‘yes’.

You should always take care of your mama and your daddy.

Raleigh is really not that far of a drive to a hospital when you’re spending time with your father in his last months of life.

You should visit your mama every day and if that’s not doable you should at least call her.

Always spend time with those you love.

If you have a daughter, she will probably be a daddy’s girl.

You can learn a lot about your daddy when you go to a farm equipment sale and watch him buy a tractor.

You should go on at least one family vacation a year.

And the number one thing that my daddy taught me – when you love, you should love with your whole heart. That’s how he loved my mama; that’s how he loved me. That’s how he loved our family, especially Elizabeth. That’s how he loved his mama and his daddy and his brother and his sister. It’s how he loved all of you, his friends. And it’s how he loved his God and Jesus.

I love you. I love you more. I love you the most.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

100 Books in 2013: 11 Birthdays

Book 32: 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass

Stuck in a loop of reliving her 11th birthday over and over, Amanda Ellerby must figure out how she can stop the loop and actually wake up on Saturday, not Friday again and again.  Nobody else realizes that it's the same day over and over.  It's only after Amanda discovers that her former best friend who shares her birthday is experiencing the same thing do the two come together, mend their friendship and resolve to figure out how to make the loop stop.  Fun YA read!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

100 Books in 2013: 10 Plants that Shook the World

Book 31: 10 Plants that Shook the World by Gillian Richardson
This was a fascinating non-fiction book about ten plants that have majorly affected our lives and the economies of our countries.  The book highlights such plants as papyrus, tea, sugarcane and cotton and how those plants became big business, improving our lives and creating products the we could not imagine living without now.

Monday, July 15, 2013

100 Books in 2013: I, Emma Freke

Book 30: I, Emma Freke by Elizabeth Atkinson

It doesn't help that almost 6' tall Emma has the name she does: Am A Freak!  That's exactly how she feels.  Introverted but gifted, Emma confides in her best friend, the 10 year old neighbor, and displays a lackluster for life.  But when she receives an invitation to the Freke family reunion, she thinks that maybe this will explain why she is nothing like her outgoing Italian mother.  The summer trip opens her eyes to her family and what's important and helps her discover herself.

Monday, June 17, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Lunch Lady

Book 28:  Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Book 29:  Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

I really enjoyed these fun intermediate-middle school graphic novels!  The lunch lady and her colleague are secretly crime fighting heroes with their lunchtray laptop, spatu-copter, and other cafeteria inspired crime fighting gadgets.  Hector, Dee and Terrance are always trying to avoid the bully Milmoe and his cronies while keeping the lunch lady's crime fighting activities a secret.  Fun reads with cool illustrations!

Monday, June 10, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Eight Keys

Book 27: Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur

This is the story of Elise, living with her aunt and uncle, hanging with her friend Franklin, enjoying life, until she gets to middle school where everything changes.  She gets picked on from day one.  She starts acting mean towards her best friend.  She's just not happy.  And then on her 12th birthday she receives a key which will unlock one of the eight rooms on the second floor of the barn at her house.  Through these eight keys to eight rooms she learns about life, love, learning, and being who she really is.

Friday, June 7, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Little House on the Prairie

Book 26: The Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

As a kid, I loved this whole series of stories about Laura and her family growing up on the new frontier.  My daughter and I read this 3rd book in the series of Wilder's writings, and it brought back great memories of reading these with my own mom.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Drama

Book 25: Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Another fun graphic novel by this author and illustrator:  Drama is the story of Callie, who love the theater and is super excited about being on the stage crew of the middle school play.  She's also discovering she likes a boy or maybe another boy or his twin brother but one boy likes boys and not's middle school drama at its best with humor and great illustrations.

Monday, June 3, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Horseradish

Book 24: Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid by Lemony Snicket

This was a fun, tongue-in-cheek, but often true read with commentaries on all sorts of subjects such as love, literature, health, travel, school, family, home.  My favorite chapter title, though, was the commentary on "An Overall Feeling of Doom that One Cannot Ever Escape No Matter What One Does."  Daniel Handler, as Lemony Snicket, has put together a nice, make you giggle and make you think collection of truths.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Cinderella

Book 23:  Cinderella (as if you didn't already know the story) by Barbara Ensor

This is a fun retelling of the Cinderella story with some cheeky remarks thrown in by the storyteller here and there and a little twist at the end. A quick read to refresh your memory about this famous fairytale and give you some new insight.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Three Times Lucky

Book 22:  Three Times Luck by Sheila Turnage

I loved the story of Moses Lobeau, or Mo for short, as she and her friend Dale try to solve the mystery in their little small town.  The story includes lots of interesting characters, like the mother and father figures, Miss Lana and the Colonel, who are raising Mo.  The small town is all in a dither when one of theirs is found dead in his rowboat.  Who could have done it?  The big city detective is down from Winston-Salem to help solve the crime, but he won't be out done by the Desperado Detectives (Mo and Dale).  This Newbery Honor Book is a fun, exciting, and heartwarming read by NC author Shiela Turnage.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Disney Fairies Collection

Book 21:  Disney Fairies Collection #5: Tink, North of Never Land; Beck Beyond the Sea by Kiki Thorpe

I've been reading mostly children's books with my daughter lately, as she grows into an enthusiastic and avid reader.  Our latest was one of the Disney Fairies Collection books in which we followed the adventures of Tinkerbell and Beck.  Tinkerbell is determined to travel to the North Shore to collect ancient pixie dust for her friend Terrence, but she encouters some dangers along the way.  Beck really wants to fly with the explorer birds, but she also encounters dangers and pitfalls.  Both stories have happy endings, though.  Exactly what you would expect from fairy tales!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

100 Books in 2013: 101 Ways

Book 20: 101 Ways to have a Great Day at Work by Stephanie Davidson

This little book is full of words of wisdom to get you through your daily work.  Quotes from famous and not so famous folks make an impact about making your work satisfying, having the right attitude, and getting through the day.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Mercy Watson

Book 18:  Mercy Watson Fights Crime by Kate DiCamillo
Book 19:  Mercy Watson Princess in Disguise by Kate DiCamillo

Mercy Watson is the toast-loving pig of Mr. and Mrs. Watson, living on Deckawoo Drive.  My daughter and I love the adventures of this little pig as she corners a would-be burglar in Mercy Watson Fights Crime and dresses up for Halloween and trick-or-treating in Princess in Disguise.  Laugh out loud funny reads!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Ramona Series

Book 15: Ramona and Her World by Beverly Cleary
Book 16: Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary
Book 17: Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary

My almost seven year old daughter has just burst onto the reading scene, and she has most recently discovered Ramona books by Cleary.  I loved these when I was an elementary kid, so it stands to reason that my avid reader in the making would enjoy the adventures of Ramona and her family, too. We have been reading these together and having a blast, laughing and discussing how silly and fun Ramona is.  Great old and new memories!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My Words of Wisdom: Always Shine

For part of a language arts project, students have to have five adults write a paragraph of their words of wisdom.  A student asked me yesterday if I would write such a paragraph for her and here's what I gave her:

One of my favorite quotations is by Marianne Williamson.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

So my words of wisdom to you are to always remember to let others see your brilliance, your light, your talent, and your fabulousness. Always stand tall so that others see your confidence, your insightfulness, and your self-assurance. Always be an example of the good in this world by showing your light—your goodness—to others. Always remember that you are powerful: your words, your actions, and your presence affect others in ways you may never know.

Always remember to shine!

Friday, May 3, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Perfectly Perilous Math

Book 14: The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math by Sean Connolly

Talk about fun!  This book offers "24 death-defying challenges for young mathematicians" to figure out and solve.  I really enjoyed these mathematical mysteries.  I also like how the book is arranged with cute graphics and illustrations to support the challenges.  There's a worksheet at the end each challenge (but don't write on it if you checked out the book from the library).  Definitely entertaining, and it makes math accessible and fun!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Z is for Zucchini Bread

It's the last post of the Blogging A to Z Challenge, another fun April of posting items from the letters 'A' through 'Z' for the entire month.  I enjoyed my theme of food this year, and I look forward to posting again next year.  Gotta start thinking about another cool theme!

Growing up, one of Granny's favorite things to bake was zucchini bread.  She would ask everybody to save their coffee cans for her, and she would whip up a bowl of batter and dump it in those coffee cans to bake.  Now I thought this was one of the funniest sights, those coffee cans sitting on a baking sheet in the oven.  All I could think was, Who bakes coffee?, but of course, I knew that once that bread was done it would be some of the yummiest zucchini bread around town.  Yummy!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Yogurt

My typical breakfast is a cup of Greek yogurt with a banana and almonds.  I find that Greek yogurt with more protein keeps me fuller longer.  I've tried a number of different brands, but my favorite is Oikos key lime Greek yogurt.  Bon appetit!

X is for eXtra Gum

I was never really a gum chewer until I discovered eXtra gum.  Well, actually it was their apple pie flavored gum.  I saw it in the checkout aisle in the fall of 2011.  I usually avoid those last few tempting items before the cashier checks you out, but I thought, Hmmmm, that sorta sounds good.  I'll try it.

I was hooked!  And now I've discovered eXtra lemon square flavored gum.  Yummy!  My daughter asked to try the chocolate mint and the orange sherbet.  She likes them, but I'm sticking with my apple pie and lemon flavored gums!

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Worcestershire Sauce

A man walks into a restaurant for dinner.  The waiter takes his order and brings him his meal when it is ready.  The waiter also places a bottle of sauce on the table and says, "Our chef has mixed up a new sauce to use with some of our beef dishes.  Would you like to try it?"

The man says, "Sure," and pours a little onto his plate.  He cuts his meat and dips a forkful into the sauce.  "Mmmmmm," the man mutters as he enjoys his meal.  The waiter looks pleased and  leaves.

After a few minutes, the chef comes out to ask the man what he thinks of the sauce.

"It's delicious!" he says.  He picks up the bottle and looks at the chef.  "So, what's this here sauce?"

"Exactly," says the chef.

"No, what's this here sauce?" The man asks again holding the bottle up.

"Right," says the chef.

Frustrated the man puts the bottle down hard on the table and stares at the chef.  "I just wanted to know what you called the sauce!" the man yelled.

"Worcestershire sauce, sir," the chef says politely.

"Well, that's what I've been asking you!" the man shouts and leaves the restaurant.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Vienna Sausages (and Other Canned Meats)

My daddy always had a can of Vienna sausages or potted meat or some other canned meat in his truck "just in case."  As a kid, I thought those tiny sausages were just the greatest, especially on top of saltine crackers.  I'd take a little brown bag with a can of Vienna sausages, a package of saltines, a 5th avenue candy bar and a bottle of Mountain Dew out to the farm when I would help my dad in the summer.  Some days that lunch didn't make it until noon, and it became my ten o'clock snack.

A few years ago I decided that I would try those little sausages again.  It had been years, but I was now pregnant and I needed to satisfy a craving.  I thought that Vienna sausages were the answer. Boy, was I wrong!  My adult taste buds have definitely changed.  I didn't even make it through the second little wiener before I was grossed out.

Sorry, but no Vienna sausages for me now!

U is for Upside Down Cake

One of my favorite desserts is pineapple upside down cake.  My mom never made it very often, but when she did, my dad and I just loved it.  A slice of cake with the warm pineapple and the caramelized brown sugars is just ooey gooey yummy delicious!  Here's Paula Deen's version that looks wonderful!

What's your all time favorite dessert?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for Tiramisu

Isn't tiramisu one of the most heavenly desserts?  That rich, creamy filling of eggs and mascarpone cheese layered with the coffee soaked lady fingers with just a sprinkle of cocoa on top -- makes me drool just thinking about it.

Tiramisu is an Italian dessert and its name means "pick me up" which I think is just perfect.  A little bit of tiramisu is definitely a pick me up any time of the day, especially after a yummy Italian meal, too.

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Seafood

I love seafood!  Shrimp, oysters, scallops, flounder, calamari, crab, lobster, tilapia -- yummy!

We eat some sort of seafood at least once or twice a week.  When I go out to eat, I most often get a seafood dish.  I grew up going fishing with my dad, and we have had many a fish fry and rock stews at our house.  As a teenager, I worked at our local seafood restaurant.  Even the greasy, fishy smell that covered me at the end of the night did not deter me from ordering up a plate of fried shrimp and flounder.  It's just good eatin'!

What's your favorite seafood?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Reuben Sandwiches

I'm searching for the perfect Reuben sandwich.  I've enjoyed my fair share at various local restaurants and I've made my own.  I prefer my Reuben traditionally with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing, on grilled rye bread.  I've tried the healthier version with turkey, Laughing Cow cheese, no dressing or a light version.  It's just not the same.  A Reuben has to be that thick, juicy, buttery grilled hot sandwich with the dressing and kraut oozing out with just the right amount of corned beef and cheese.  Man, I might just have to make one for lunch on Sunday!

Q is for Quinoa

Well, I'm still working my way through the alphabet in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, and Friday was the letter 'Q'.  I decided to use quinoa for the letter 'q', but I admit that I've never tried this grain.  From the Wikipedia entry, I learned that it's not exactly a grain, but it's considered a pseudocereal.  I hear that it's supposed to be good for you.  Maybe I'll add it to my diet.

How do you use quinoa?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

P is for Pimento Cheese

Mmmm, pimento cheese!

We almost always have pimento cheese in our house.  Either I've mixed up a bowl of homemade pimento cheese or I have resorted to buying a container of Ruth's.  It is another staple in our house.

Pimento cheese is good with so many things.  You can spread some on fresh white bread and make your basic sandwich.  You can scoop it up on celery sticks.  You can spread it on crackers, bagel chips, and pita chips.  You can put a little on your burger or chicken sandwich.  You can warm it up and use it as a dip for chicken tenders, fried shrimp, potato chips, baguettes or crackers.  You can make a grilled pimento cheese sandwich, but you'll need a dryer version than the store bought stuff or your cheese runs out all over the place.

When I make my own pimento cheese, it's very simple:  sharp cheddar cheese, Duke's mayonnaise, and a jar of diced pimentos.  I use one of those old timey crank graters so the cheese comes out really fine.  I usually grate at least an 8 oz block.  Then I mix in a dollop of mayonnaise.  I really have no idea if it's a 1/2 cup or more.  Then I dump the whole small jar of diced pimentos, water and all, into the cheese and mayo and mix.  If I need a dryer mix, then I drain the pimentos and maybe use a little less mayo.  Either way, it's southern goodness in a spread!

How do you eat your pimento cheese?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Blue

Book 13:   Blue by Joyce Hosttetter

This is the story of Ann Fay who is now the man of house since her father has been shipped off to war in the 1940s.  Unfortunately, her brother comes down with polio and she is left alone to care for her two sisters while her mother stays with the brother at the hospital.  After her brother dies and her mother returns home, Ann Fay finds herself having to take care of her mother, too.  Then one day she is struck with polio and shipped off to a hospital where she becomes friends with a black girl.

A very moving story of family, friendship, war and sickness, racial inequality, faith and hope and perseverance.

O is for Okra

A few years ago I attempted my hand at a garden. We had bought a house out of the city with a few acres.
The previous owners had established a ten by ten section for their garden, and the little plot of land seemed to scream at me:  Plant me!  So I decided that I would attempt my first real garden on my own.

I grew up with my parents planting a really big vegetable garden which has shrunk each year as they have gotten older and less able to take care of a big plot.  So I had some ideas about how to go about planting and tending my square;  I just had to decide what all I would plant.

I decided on three things:  tomato plants, pepper plants, and okra.   I went with the tomato and pepper plants because planting those six inch plants made me feel accomplished.  I dug holes, watered, and stuck in the plants.  Ta da!  But the okra seeds were less exciting.  I would have to wait  a few weeks before they germinated and started growing.

My husband does not really like "leaves and stems" as he puts it, but he will eat okra.  He prefers fried okra, but he has been known to eat okra cut up in soup.  I will eat okra fried or stewed or cut up in soup.  I like okra.  When the okra was ready, I was excited about having those fresh vegetables at dinner.  But after two weeks of having okra almost every night, my husband and I were done.  It was okra overload!

How do you like your okra?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for Nutella

Nutella is just the most sinful thing there is in the pantry.  Whoever invented the hazelnut chocolate spread is a genius!  It's the yummiest spread to put on a bagel, toast, or sandwich.  But my favorite way to eat it is with a spoon right out of the jar.

M is for Moon Pies

Have you ever had a Moon Pie?

As a kid growing up in the South, I had my fair share of Moon Pies.  I grew up working on the farm and about mid-morning on a summer day, my daddy would bring those of us working in the field a morning snack.  We had our choices of a candy bar, a pack of peanuts, or a Moon Pie and a drink. In the South a drink is the same as a soda or a pop.  My drink of choice was usually a Mountain Dew.

Moon Pies are yummy little snack cakes, chocolate covered soft graham cookies with a marshmallow cream between the two cookies.  I'd always heard the phrase "an RC cola and a Moon Pie," but I never really liked those colas.  I'd stick with the Dew.

I a few years ago I discovered the Moon Pie Crunch, especially the yummy peanut butter filled crunchy cookies.  I could have a new snack addiction, but I'm trying to restrain myself.

What's your favorite snack?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

L is for Lettuce

Did you know that there are many different kinds of lettuce?

Iceberg lettuce was the only lettuce that I really knew growing up.  I don't remember much other than a head of the stuff, chopping it for salads or pulling off a leaf for a BLT.  At some point I discovered romaine, which is now my favorite type of lettuce.  I love chopping a head of romaine for a basic salad:  lettuce, boiled eggs, cheese, bacon, tomatoes, little dressing.  I also like making the wilted romaine salad.

Bibb lettuce is nice to use for a lettuce wrap.  Lay out a leaf of bibb and add shredded pork, a little soy sauce, chopped water chestnuts and wrap it all up.  I'm not really a fan of red leaf, chicory and frisee lettuces.  Radicchio always seems bitter to me.  I can take or leave arugula.

What's your favorite type of lettuce to use?

K is for Ketchup

I like ketchup.  I think that most people do.  It's a fairly likely condiment, sweet and tangy, tomatoey.  It goes well with French fries, hot dogs, hamburgers.

I've known folks to eat ketchup on their scrambled eggs.  Not really something that I want to try.  But I do like ketchup and vinegar on my black eyed peas, my good luck meal on New Year's Day.

What food do you like to douse with ketchup?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for Java

It took me a long time to like coffee.

As a kid, I thought I was all grown up, drinking a cup of coffee in the winter time.  You probably couldn't really call it coffee, though, since it was about 1/4 cup of coffee to 3/4 cup of milk and who knows how many spoons of sugar.  Basically, it was milk coffee and for a kid it was a sweet treat.

When I went off to college, my mama who was about a ten cups a day coffee drinker kept telling me that I would probably learn to drink stronger coffee in college.  She figured late night studying would turn me on to the java, but I probably drank less milk coffee as a teenager in college than I had as a youngster. I graduated and still didn't really like coffee.

When I started teaching, my mama who was still about a ten cups a day coffee drinker told me that I would probably learn to like stronger coffee as a teacher.  It's almost a prerequisite that teachers drink the bean, but even late nights of grading papers did not see me drinking any more coffee.  I still didn't really like coffee.

In my late twenties and early thirties, the coffee house phenomenon seemed to explode.  There were already Starbucks and Caribou Coffee, but you started seeing more small coffee shops popping up all over and my coffee drinking friends started asking to meet up at the local coffee shop.  We'd play games, talk about books, and catch up on life, and so I tried a latte or two and then a cappuccino or three and before I knew it I was drinking coffee.  Granted, it wasn't too far off from the milk coffee that I enjoyed as a child, but it certainly was more adult of me to be drinking these fancy named coffee drinks.

Now in my forties with a busy life that includes an active child, I have finally discovered coffee, real coffee, strong coffee, the kind that you must have in the morning to get you going.  I don't drink it every day, but I definitely have a few cups on the weekends, and my proportions have changed: 3/4 cup coffee to 1/4 cup of creamer.

How do you like your java?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for Ice Cream

Yesterday was free cone day at the Ben & Jerry's and you can be certain that my daughter and I were right there with about fifty other folks, standing in line to get our free ice cream cone.  Who doesn't love some ice cream, especially when it's being given away for free?!

Ice cream is like a staple food.  I cannot remember a time when there was not some form of ice cream in the house.  As a child, my mama bought the five quart buckets of vanilla ice cream and fudge ripple.  If we weren't having a bowl or cone of ice cream, we were having a scoop on top of a brownie or a piece of cake.  I remember making quarts of ice cream in the summer, adding the rock salt to the old wooden, hand cranked ice cream maker.  The best kind was always made with whatever fruit was in season -- strawberry or peach.

I admit that my supper on many nights when I was a single gal was a pint of Ben & Jerry's --Chunky Monkey, Chubby Hubby, or Peanut Butter Cup.  Back in the late 90's on Monday nights, it was just me, a spoon, my pint of ice cream and Ally McBeal

I also like the new frozen Greek yogurt flavors that Ben & Jerry's has.  The flavors -- Liz Lemon and Blueberry Cheesecake -- are just as yummy as their regular ice creams.  It makes feel like I'm eating a little healthier, too.

At any time if you looked in our freezer now, you'd probably find a container of Breyer's vanilla and a package of Schwan's ice cream sundae cones.  There may also be some single serve cups of some crazy flavor my daughter and I just had to try or a box of ice cream sandwiches.  Either way, there will definitely be ice cream ready to serve!

What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?

(Photo: Me at the Ghiradelli ice cream shop in San Diego, CA, 2011)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for Honey

I've used honey occasionally, but in the past year, I have decided that honey has to be a staple in my house.  I've been drinking much more hot tea lately, and honey is the best sweetener for hot tea.  I've also been reading more about honey as a home remedy, curing what ails you and keeping you fit.

In the past two weeks, I came down with bronchitis.  I was determined to knock it out, but I really dislike antibiotics.  In my reading, I had discovered that honey and cinnamon is a great remedy for many illnesses and diseases.  So I mixed a 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon with a tablespoon of honey and simply ate that every morning for a few days (about five days into my sickness) and my wheezing, coughing, drainage disappeared.  I've been drinking a cup of decaffeinated, citrus herb tea with honey in it once a day, too.  I'm feeling much better!

Thanks to our family friends for supplying us with some great honey!

Monday, April 8, 2013

G is for Grits

I am a southern girl.  I am GRITS -- a Girl Raised In The South -- and I love grits -- warm, buttery, cheesy, just enough salty grits! 

I've been eating grits for as long as I can remember.  In the fall and winter, the breakfast staple was definitely a piping hot bowl of grits.  Sometimes those grits were instant, pulled from a box of Quaker instant grits packets -- butter, cheese, bacon bits.  Just as many mornings, though, they were quick cook in the pot with a big ol' pat of butter, maybe a little grated sharp cheddar cheese.  Makes me melt just thinking about those yummy grits.

My daughter likes grits, too, especially the cheesy grits.  No instant for me now.  It's so easy to mix up a pot of grits, creamy smooth, right on the stove top.  I tend to make them just on the weekends and for special occasion breakfasts, such as Christmas morning.

Here's one of my favorite cheesy grits casserole recipes! Enjoy!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

F is for Frog Legs

When I was a teenager, I was a waitress at a local seafood restaurant.  I lived way out in the country, the middle of no where, and this seafood restaurant was situated in a big old barn that had been renovated.  In fact we referred to it as the red barn more often than we used its official name.

The restaurant was situated next to a business that made cement garden sculptures and birdbaths.  It was surrounded by acres and acres of farmland, and on the other side of the path leading up to the restaurant was the canal.

One of the items on our menu was frog legs.  We used to tell folks that we went gigging in the canal for the big bullfrogs, but the truth was that they came frozen in the Seaboard truck right along side the shrimp, flounder, and oysters, although the seafood was fresh.  Folks knew it was a joke. 

I only remember a couple of folks ever ordering frog legs for or with their meal, and I was curious to try them.  So one night when business was slow, the manager fried me up some frog legs to try.  I've always been willing to try most foods, even as a youngster, so I wasn't necessary disgusted by the idea of frog legs, but I was cautious.  They looked like small drumsticks sitting there on my plate. I tentatively picked one up, eyed it for a second, and then took a bite.  The frog legs tasted like dry chicken.  I remember shrugging and saying that they were okay.  I've never tried them again.

Maybe someone has a great recipe for making a more delicious version of frog legs.

Friday, April 5, 2013

E is for Eggs

I love eggs!  I could eat eggs for three meals a day.  In fact, I have actually done that a few times in my life.  I especially love boiled eggs.  They are like the perfect food.  You can eat a boiled egg with nothing on it or a little salt.  You can open it up, scoop out the yolk, mash the yolk with a little mayo and some pickle relish, return the mixture to its egg white holder and you've got scrumptious deviled eggs.  You can slice or chop that boiled egg and put it over a lettuce salad or you can mash it all up and make egg salad for a sandwich.

I also love fried eggs.  Now everybody has a different idea about what constitutes the best breakfast egg.  I want mine fried crispy on the outside, but not too hard that the yellow cooks.  I want to be able to sop up the runny yellow inside with my toast.  And breakfast anytime sounds like a great meal plan to me!

I recently had a wilted romaine salad with a soft boiled egg, bacon and Parmesan dressing that was out of this world.  Here's my attempt to recreate it:

My Wilted Romaine Salad
1 head of romaine lettuce, washed with end cut off
1-2 slices of cooked bacon, chopped
Drippings reserved from cooked bacon
1-2 soft boiled eggs, chopped
2 TBS of mayonnaise
1 TBS of Parmesan

After cooking the bacon, use just enough drippings to coat a frying pan and place the head of romaine in the pan, cooking both side for 1-2 minutes each.  Mix the mayo and Parmesan to taste (little more or less of either ingredient).  Assemble your salad:  wilted romaine topped with chopped bacon and egg and dolloped with dressing.

I sure do love to eat!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

D is for Doughnuts

I managed to make three healthy food posts in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, but today I'm thinking we need some doughnuts!

Who doesn't like doughnuts, right?!  Here's the better question:  whose doughnuts are the best?

I've always been partial to Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  Founded in Winston-Salem, NC, these are the lightest, fluffiest, melt-in-your-mouth kind of doughnuts you can imagine.  They are best when they are hot.  Just look for the HOT NOW sign and you'll know that you have to have a dozen or two right that minute!  Yumm-O!

Some folks in our area swear by Dunkin' Donuts.  I don't think those folks are actually from here, transplants probably.  I admit that I have had a doughnut from DD on occasion, but I always go back to Krispy Kreme.  The fact that the location in downtown Raleigh was open 24 hours kept us going back many a midnight when in college.  How could you not gain the freshman fifteen with a Krispy Kreme nearby?!  My husband says that he and his college buddies would each get a dozen hot ones and each eat their dozen in one seating!  Sweet memories!

Whose doughnuts are your favorite?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C is for Cauliflower

I don't really remember my mother having cauliflower in the house when I was a child.  I couldn't tell you the first time that I every tasted it.  Most likely it was raw, maybe on a vegetable platter, and I probably thought it bland.  I don't remember the first time that I actually ate cauliflower cooked, either, but I know that as an adult I prefer my cauliflower steamed until it is fork tender and served up with just a tad of butter.  That's the yummiest!

I have attempted to fool my husband, a mistake that I will never make again, by mashing the cauliflower and adding a little milk and butter and passing it off as healthy (fake) mashed "potatoes".  Once he had tasted them and turned his nose up, saying, "That tastes funny," I had to confess to trying to fake him out and forcing him to eat healthier versions of his favorite foods.  It didn't work.

With its cream cheese, Parmesan, and minced garlic, this version of "Mock" Garlic Mashed Potatoes on the Food Network will surely please!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Plum Wine

Book 12:  Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner

In February, I did a writing retreat with Angela Davis-Gardner.  I had to admit at that time that I had not read anything she'd written, but I'd always heard complimentary things about her writing.  I really enjoyed this historical fiction, set in mid-1960's Japan at the beginning of the Vietnam war.  Barbara is a visiting professor at a women's college and inherits a cabinet filled with plum wine and mysterious writings when her colleague and friend dies suddenly.  With the help of her friend and lover, she works to solve the mystery and understand her friend's history.  There were parts that I couldn't wait to read, staying up well past my bedtime to finish chapters, and then parts that I didn't want to read because I knew that meant the end of the book was nearing.

B is for Bacon and Brussels Sprouts

We have a saying at our house:  Everything is better with bacon, butter, and cheese!  I'm afraid that our waistlines can attest to that, too.  Bacon is really good on all sorts of roasted vegetables, but obviously if you are going for healthy or vegetarian, you want to skip this fatty delicacy that we love so much.

If you read yesterday's post, then you saw my recipe for asparagus roasted with bacon.  Today's recipe is the same, just a different substitute for the vegetable - Brussels sprouts.  I had never been a fan of the little cabbages until a neighbor pan roasted them with bacon. Dee-li-cious! 

Two of our downtown Raleigh restaurants do a nice Brussels sprouts side dish.  Zinda, a new Asian restaurant, does a shredded version with bacon and honey, and a neighboring restaurant, Bolt Bistro, does a teriyaki version. Both a scrumptious!

My Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

1 package of Brussels sprouts, washed and dried, cut in half
2-3 slices of thick cut bacon, uncooked, cut up / cubed / diced
Olive oil spray / cooking spray

Spray the dish with cooking spray.  Add the Brussels sprouts and bacon.  Cook in oven at 350 degrees for 20-40 minutes, depending on how crunchy or mushy you like your vegetables, stirring a couple of times during the cooking process.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A is for Asparagus

Thanks to Arlee Bird at Tossing It Out , founder of the Blogging A to Z Challenge, for getting us all to write more during April!

For the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the month of April, I decided on the theme of food.  I don't necessary consider myself a foodie, but I do like good food and I like to cook when I can.

One of my favorite vegetables is asparagus: crisp, green, young tender spears of asparagus = yummy!

My Favorite Roasted Asparagus

1 bunch of asparagus, rinsed with rough ends of stalks cut off
2-3 slices of thick cut bacon, uncooked and chopped/diced
A pinch of Kosher salt, optional
Cooking spray

Spray the bottom of a 7x11 dish with cooking spray (olive oil or vegetable oil spray).  Spread the asparagus in the dish.  Sprinkle the uncooked bacon over the asparagus.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Cook in a 350 degree oven for 20-40 minutes, depending on how crunchy or mushy you like your vegetables.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Blogging from A to Z Challenge

It's another year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge!  I had so much fun participating in last year's challenge for the month of April.  I managed to post an entry for all 26 letters of the alphabet (although I'm not sure that I actually made them all on the right day).  Last year I chose a theme for my blogging: my bucket list

At first I thought I would go with whatever popped into my head this year, but I like the focus of using a theme.  So this year's theme for my A to Z blogging is going to center around foods.  There may be recipes, cuisine and culture, history of eats, or just anything edible, but hopefully it will all be appetizing to read!

Happy blogging, friends!

Monday, March 18, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Nursery Rhyme Comics

Book 11:  Nursery Rhyme Comics by Chris Duffy

What do you get when you take 50 great nursery rhymes and get 50 cool cartoonists to provide illustrations for them?  You get a new, interesting take on your favorite childhood poems and stories in a really cool book!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Jenny and the Jaws of Life

Book 10:  Jenny and the Jaws of Life by Jincy Willett

I decided to pick up this copy when I saw David Sedaris had a quote on the front recommending the book.  It's a collection of short stories with some funny, some strange, some bittersweet moments.  I think the theme of the whole book is that no matter what happens in the world, life goes on, and ultimately we are all agreeable.  Entertaining read. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Larry and the Meaning of Life

Book 9: Larry and the Meaning of Life by Janet Tashjian

Years ago I read The Gospel According to Larry, Tashjian's YA novel about a kid who posts online sermons about life. I picked up this sequel while at our public library, but I didn't realize until I started reading that this is actually the third book about Larry.  There's enough background in the novel that I was up to speed on the gist of what happened to Larry, who's actually Josh, in the second novel Vote for Larry, so that I enjoyed the book as a stand alone, sort of sequel.  Interesting plot twists, good read.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Something Rotten

Book 8: Something Rotten by Alan Gratz

This was my first Alan Gratz novel and I'm wondering what took me so long!  I enjoyed this mystery as Horatio Wilkes spends the summer break with his boarding school classmate trying to solve the murder of the classmates' father.  A drunk classmate, a disgruntled ex-girlfriend, a greedy uncle, a strange cowboy garbed servant, and recently remarried mother keep Horatio hopping as a he works to figure out who poisoned his friend's father.

Friday, March 8, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Savage

Book 7:  Savage by David Almond

This YA novel is part traditional novel and part graphic novel with its rough illustrations and drawings of the "the savage", the creation from the imagination of a young boy who is struggling with the death of his father and the increased bullying by a classmate.  Through his writing, the boy works out his issues.  A coming of age story with a little bit of other world feel when "the savage" comes out of the boy's story and takes care of the bully.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Missing NCTIES

I have been following the tweets (#ncties13) and the Facebook postings of colleagues and friends as they connect with colleagues at this year's NCTIES conference in Raleigh.  And I'm kinda missing it.

I've attended as well as presented at this conference many times in the past.  I've enjoyed the fact that it's been booked in the new convention center in Raleigh for the past few years, much closer to my home than traveling to Charlotte or Winston-Salem. 

When the call to present went out, I considered presenting, but then the date passed.  When the registration information came out, I considered making the early bird fee.  I forwarded the conference information to three teachers, teachers who are tracked out this week so no substitutes needed and who I knew would really benefit and be invigorated from attending this conference.  They all declined, saying the $100 early bird registration fee was too much.  (To me, that's a real deal for a conference.)

So now it's the beginning of this year's conference and I'm a little envious of the gals in my library media PLT and my colleagues in our district who will be attending this week, gleaning great information from the likes of Richard Byrne, David Warlick, Marc Prensky, Leslie Fisher, and Kathy Schrock, and cruising the exhibit hall for great give-aways and deals from Edmodo, Gaggle, SEED, Discovery Education, and Mimio.

Bring back lots to share; I'm hungry to learn from y'all!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Chopsticks

Book 6: Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

This was an interesting novel.  Like a graphic novel, the story unfolds through photographs, pictures, documents, texts, and program / playbills.  It's the story of Glory, a teenage pianist prodigy, who falls in love with her neighbor, but she is on the verge of a breakdown due to the constant push by her father to perform.  The reader is left to discern what is real, what is imagined, and what happens to Glory.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Weekend Writing Workshop

I had the most fun this past weekend:  I spent eight hours writing with Angela Davis-Gardner and six other budding writers at a friend's home.  My friend is sponsoring weekend writing workshops in her home with some of the best North Carolina writers.  The published writers provide writing prompts and exercises, guiding us, the students, in our endeavors.

In this particular workshop, we talked about fairy tales and myths.  Each person was to pick a favorite fairy tale or myth, one that spoke to her, and develop it into either a retelling of the old story or a modernized version of the story.  It was such fun listening to each person talk about their fairy tale and why they had chosen it, and then to see the incredible writing that came out of the exercises that we did.

I chose the story of Snow White for my fairy tale.  I knew that I wanted to set the story in the present, to modernize it, but I had no idea where it would end up.  I like where it's going so far, and I hope to finish it soon and share it in some form.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Pearls of Wisdumb

Book 5: Pearls of Wisdumb: The Electric Verse and Shocking Scribbles of Mozz

This book of poetry for intermediate grades is very much like Shel Silverstein -- lots of cute, silly, wonderful, obnoxious short and long poems with funny accompanying illustrations.  I enjoyed reading a poetry book for a change.

Friday, February 22, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Grounded

Book 4:  Grounded by Kate Klise

The only reason that Daralyn is still alive is because she was grounded the day her father, brother, and sister went up in their dad's plane and then crashed and died.  Her mother is angry at everyone, her grandmother is reverting to childlike behavior, her aunt continues to be dramatic and showy, and her uncle has moved in next door, eyeing her mother.  But it's the arrival of a stranger in town and his enthusiasm to bring the town new services that brings everyone together, even when Daralyn figures out that something fishy is happening in her town.  I enjoyed this coming of age quick read.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Librarian's Serenity Prayer

From the great Alice Yucht -

"Grant me the serenity to delegate tasks as necessary, the courage to concentrate on what's important, and the wisdom to know when to go home."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

At the Bank

I rarely go into banks these days.  With direct deposit and online banking and ATM machines, it's rare to have to actually visit the bank. But on those few occasions that I need to cash a check or take care of a transaction either inside the bank or at the drive up outside the bank, I want the experience to be fast and efficient.

On a recent visit to my local branch, I only needed to have a check deposited.  I didn't even need any cash back, but I did want my receipt as proof of my deposit.  I pulled up to the outside window, exchanged pleasantries with the inside teller, and put my paperwork into the plastic tube.  I watched it sail up and over and into the bank where the teller deftly handled my transaction. 

As he sent the plastic tube containing my receipt back to me, he thanked me and asked if there was anything else he could do for me.  I politely said no thank you and proceeded to retrieve my receipt.  Well, he started in on the latest bank program, asking me if I had online banking or if I'd like to open up an IRA and telling me about other programs available through the bank.  Was I interested in applying, signing up, filling out the paperwork?

I was a little dumbfounded that the teller was actually soliciting someone in the drive up!  Really?!  Did he expect me to listen to his spiel, agree to whatever the bank was selling, and then complete the paperwork through the plastic tube while sitting in my car?  I just found it extremely odd to be solicited at the drive upand it sort struck a nerve with me.  The whole idea of the drive up is for that fast and efficient experience, not to be hit up about new programs, new products, a sales pitch.

Anybody else find solicitation at the bank drive up window a little much?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Notes from the Midnight Driver

Book 3:  Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick

I really liked the story of Alex who is having to do community service in a nursing home for drinking and driving under age.  His assignment is working with cantankerous old man, who in the end turns out to teach Alex a thing or two about life and relationships.  I really liked Alex's just a friend, Laurie, and loved the fact that Stephen and Annette from Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie show up in this novel.  Nice read!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Get Over It!

My recent revelations and epiphanies:

I'm never going to have a clean house.

I'm never going to get a solid eight hours of sleep.

I'm never going to be model thin.

I'm never going to be filthy rich.

I'm never going to read 100 books in a year.


I am going to have a comfy, livable home.

I am going to rest and relax and enjoy time snuggling with the family.

I am going to be healthy and happy and a role model for my daughter.

I am going to be frugal and thrifty and provide for our basic needs.

I am going to keep reading and reading and reading so that I can share all the great stories out there with my family, friends and students.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

100 Books in 2013: The Second Life of Abigail Walker

Book 2:  The Second Life of Abigail Walker by Frances O'Roark Dowell

The beginning of this book just really didn't hook me, but I was determined to stick with it because I have enjoyed all of Frances O'Roark Dowell's books that I have read.  So it took me three or four chapters before I really got into the story of Abby, who tries to stay out of the popular girls' line of fire and her parents' constant nagging about her weight.  Only when she discovers the family on the other side of the creek does she realize what makes life important and she accepts herself and gains confidence.

Another good one by Dowell, if you can get past the first few chapters to eventually understand the whole thing with the fox.

Friday, February 15, 2013

100 Books in 2013: The One and Only Ivan

Book 1: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

This book got a lot of hype through the year, so I had it pulled pretty early on to read.  But for some reason, it just kept staring at me from the pile and I never really made my way into it.  When it was named the 2013 Newbery winner, I knew that I definitely had to read it now.  So two nights after the recognition was bestowed upon Ivan, I read his story.  It was a nice, heartwarming story of a gorilla, Ivan, in a mall zoo and his companions - both animals and humans - and where he ends up.  It was a story about stories, perseverance, heart, caring, love.  It was a nice story.

But I still think Wonder by R.J. Palacio should have won the Newbery.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Twelve Days of Christmas Vacation

At some point, I realized that I had twelve days of vacation (that was including weekends) and I had been posting my activities as my Facebook status.

I always have high hopes for breaks: books to read, closets to clean, shopping to do, folks to visit. But my husband reminds me to relax, no need to plan. (How we are both Capricorns is beyond me?!) Doesn't he know that the need to feel productive outweighs the need to relax?

So during my twelve days of Christmas vacation, here's what I accomplished, (and much of it was relaxing, dear):
  • Gingerbread houses - both edible and non-edible - with my daughter.
  • Lunch with a friend. It was so nice to catch up with folks we hadn't seen in awhile and to enjoy yummy southwestern food.
  • Last minute stocking stuffer shopping - The Dollar Store rocks!
  • Laundry! So I did have to catch up on the dirty clothes that were piling up.
  • Traveling to his side of the family which involved lunch at the cafeteria (a favorite spot for Grandma Sarah) and watching the delight on our daughter's face as she opened her Barbie Dream House (thank you, Nana and Gaga)
  • Visiting with my family at our home, so they could see all that Santa brought
  • Celebrating our birthdays (mine and hubby's)
  • Attending Christmas eve services, reminding me of my childhood church
  • Enjoying girls' night out at a favorite restaurant, Gravy - yummy!
  • Organizing my clothes closet
  • Playing board games with the neighbors to ring in the new year
  • Eating black eyed peas with ham for good luck
Overall, a wonderful twelve days!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Answering Your Texts: Minding Your Manners

Recently I've been struggling with the idea that an answered text is just like a non-returned phone call.  If I text you a question, then I expect a response. Is that too much to ask?

I certainly don't expect it right away, but within twenty fours I hope you have returned my communication, be that by text, voice, email, whatever.

A few weeks ago I texted three friends about getting together.  No answer.  After two days, I decided to Facebook message them and added this note:  Since I didn't hear from you via text, I'll assume that you are either 1) way too busy to respond, 2) just plain unresponsive, or 3) ignoring me.

While it mind sound as if my feelings were hurt, they really weren't.  I'm much more concerned with manners than feelings at this point, and it's just plain good manners to return your communications, isn't it?

Monday, February 11, 2013

100 Books in 2013

A new year means a new pile of books to read.  For the past few years, I've attempted to read 100 books in a year. That's only two books a week, a very attainable goal for a woman who used to be a voracious reader. 

So many things seem to be time suckers for me now, but I'm still committed to attempting to read 100 books in a year!  Last year I managed to record 31 books that I read.  I'm sure that I read a few others that just didn't make it to the blog or on the Goodreads list.

So happy new year and happy reading!  Send recommendations!