Saturday, July 31, 2010

Elephant Dung

Did you know that elephant dung is turned into paper? Well now you do. Elephants secrete 50% of what they eat, and what they eat is mostly full of fiber, so their waste is perfect for making a papyrus-like paper. Don't worry, it's not smelly and does not contain germs.

What made me think of elephant dung? I was fascinated by the trail of piles in my yard this morning. The trail began by the house and continued all the way down to the street.

Now that I compare my piles with real-life elephant dung, I can see that the elephant who might have dropped the piles would have been gargantuan in size.

Besides, I know what made the piles in my yard. It was left over cement from the concrete poured around our pool yesterday. When they cleaned out the pieces of the chute that carried the concrete up our driveway, they left piles for each section. Because it is easier to clean up the piles after they have hardened, they left the piles overnight to dry. I am glad the deer were careful last night. If they stopped with their feet in a pile too long, they would have become a permanent fixture in our yard.

Before I close my post on elephant dung, you must see what a very creative artist did with his elephant dung. It was crafted into a pair of high heel platform shoes. Someone thought that this artwork was worthy of display in Britain's Tate museum.

Friday, July 30, 2010

It's Not About Me

The kids at school loved a game I would play with them. I would recite first lines from books, and they would have to guess what book it was from. The most obvious one was, "Where's Papa going with that ax?" from Charlotte's Web. Most of the older kids would get that one.

It's not often I remember first lines from books, but there is one that sticks with me. It haunts me all the time. The first line from The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren is, "It's not about you." He starts out the book asking the question: What on earth am I here for? And the first thing he says is, "It's not about you." The reason that sentence haunts me is because I am painfully aware of my selfishness. I don't want to be selfish, but if I am honest, I have to work very hard to put others first.

If I am to pattern my life after Jesus, whom I confess to be my Lord and Savior, I need to serve others as He did. All the hours in my day cannot be spent on myself, doing things I want to do.

I have been thinking a lot about this as fall approaches, and I am not going back to work. Where will my extra time go? I don't want to make it all about me. There's nothing wrong with enjoying life, but I want to keep my eyes open for opportunities to be there for others.

First off, I want to help my sister-in-law take care of our mother-in-law. For the past couple of years, Pam has been doing that by herself. It's not an easy job helping someone who doesn't want help. Pam has had amazing patience with her, and she deserves a break.

I don't have to look far to find someone who could use a hand: a single mother who needs a break from her kids, an older couple who can't get their trash to the curb, a chemo patient who needs a ride to the hospital, food for a someone who had a death in the family. I can find all these situations right here in my neighborhood. I can't be of assistance if I'm spending all my time on myself. I won't even know there's a need if I don't get out of my house and talk to those neighbors.

Fear sometimes stops me from reaching out. I am a cautious when approaching other people. I'm afraid I might offend them if I offer help. I remember a quote I once read, "Fear is the enemy of love."

Two goals: Get over my fear and stop being selfish with my time.

"It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for." Ephesians 1:11a MSG

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book Stack

My friend Diane gave me this gift a few years ago. It had a little lamp on the top instead of the lady's head, but otherwise, it is the same. I thought it was a very clever idea, so I made one for Katherine that year for her birthday.

It is easy to make. Think about the person you will be giving it to. What are her interests? What do you know about her? Then go to used book sales and try to find books with titles that describe the recipient or her interests. Remove the dust jacket to make sure the title is printed on the spine the way you want it before you buy the book.
Stack the books in a pile and hot glue them together. Type on a small sheet of paper the book titles along with the reason you chose them. Put the list in a small acrylic picture frame and glue it on top of the stack.

 Diane's stack for me had these books:

The Christian Family
Going the Distance (I walked a marathon)
One Step at a Time (also for the marathon)
You Might As Well Laugh (I laugh a lot)
Patchwork  (I love quilts)
The Traveler (Don did a lot of this)

The one I made Katherine has an Eiffel Tower lamp on top along with a little box with ruby slippers on the lid.

The books I chose for her were:

The Piano (You bring joy to all who hear you play)
First Born (A special place to be in the family)
There Was a Little Girl (You'll always be my little girl)
No Place Like Home (When you're far away, always remember)
I Love You, I Love You, I Love You (Don't ever forget this)
The Reader (Born to enjoy the written word)
Katherine (Her name)

It's a simple, thoughtful gift, and it's fun to put together. You could even make one for your own home with books that represent people in your family.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

So Many Books

It's a good thing I'm a librarian. Otherwise, I might have a hard time organizing all the books that have accumulated in my house. I don't know how they got here. Well, actually, I do know how they got here. They came in the door with me. I spend an inordinate amount of money on books. This I can't help, and I'm not going to stop.

I love Borders, Berean,, Half-Price Books, Family Christian, Used Book Sales, Books Are Fun,,, and any other place that sells books. The cheaper the better.

My sister once sent me an article she clipped from a magazine. It was called The Book Keeper: confessions of a self-professed bibliophile by Liz Curtis Higgs. On the top of the page she wrote "This is so you!! In the article is suggests that you are a bookaholic if you...

                1. Buy a book, take it home, then discover you already own it. (This just happened to me last week.)
                2. Read ten chapters of a book, then realize you've already read it.

                3.  Seldom go more than two weeks without a bookstore "fix."

                4.  Carry frequent reader cards for two or more bookstore chains.

                5.  Cannot visit a bookstore without buying something.

                6.  Have activated the "1-Click Ordering" option on

I can say yes to six out of six. I also have library cards from three different libraries. I am blessed to live at the corner of three different counties: Geauga, Portage and Cuyahoga.

My "To Be Read" stack, if piled end to end would be taller than the Empire State Building. I know I'll never be able to read all these books in my lifetime. Fortunately, I regularly donate books to friends, family and charitable organizations. Otherwise, I think Don would have left me by now.

If any of you out there have more books than you can keep track of, I have a great website for you to check out. It's called

For $25, you can have a lifetime membership to your own online book catalog. You can enter the ISBN from all your books and it will look them up on the internet, pop in a picture of the cover and give you all the catalog data you would find at your local library. You can sort them by author, title and subject. You can print out a list. The best thing is you can search to see if you already have the book before you buy it again!!  I'm in the process of entering my collection. When I am finished, I'll give you the link so you can search my library. I'll even let you borrow a book if you promise to return it in three weeks.   

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I Am Addicted

I have admitted it before, and I'll admit it again. I am addicted to Diet Coke. How do I know? Because I have a very hard time going a day without it. Just ask my family. They all know how much mom likes her Diet Coke.

Peter once challenged me. He said, "I bet you can't go six weeks without it." I did prove him wrong on that. I went six weeks without it. But what did I do when the six weeks were up? Did I say to myself, " can do without it?" No, I went out and got a Diet Coke the first chance I had, and the cycle began again.

I have never liked the taste of Diet Coke from plastic bottles, so those aren't a temptation. It used to be that I would drink Diet Coke from a can purchased from the grocery store. I no longer like Diet Coke from a can. Once I lost my taste for canned Diet Coke, I would only drink it from the fountain (usually from McDonalds).

It was one of the happiest days of my life when I discovered that Steak 'n Shake had "Happy Hour" between 2pm and 4pm every day. This is when they offer all drinks at half price. I always left work between 3pm and 4pm, so it was the perfect time to pick up a Diet Coke. Now I have gotten so picky that I really prefer Steak 'n Shake Diet Cokes. The guys know me over there. Every day between 2 and 4, I am sure they say to themselves, "here comes that lady who just orders a Diet Coke." Steak 'n Shake serves their Diet Cokes in a Styrofoam cup, so they stay cold the longest.

Do you see where this is leading? Do you see how sick I am??? Call the doctor!

You would think all those warnings (some true, some false) about drinking Diet Coke would stop me: "it will give you cancer," "it will make your bones brittle," "it causes weight gain," "the artificial sweetener was originally developed as rat poison."

Why don't people who smoke stop? It most definitely does cause cancer, bone loss and other bad things? Because it's addictive. So is Diet Coke. I don't care what anyone says.

So what can I do about it? I really do want to stop. Anything in this world that has this much power over me can't be good.

OK, you read it here. I am no longer allowed to have Diet Coke. Water and tea are it for me. If you see me with a Diet Coke in hand, you are officially allowed to smack me or take it away from me. You may have to see me cry, but it's OK. I will forgive you.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers

Tigger's Song
"A wonderful thing is a Tigger;
A Tigger's a wonderful thing.
Their tops are made out of rubber,
their bottoms are made out of spring
They're bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy,
fun, fun, fun, fun, fun,
The most wonderful thing
about Tiggers is:
I'm the only one!"
Riley's name wasn't always Riley. When we got him, his name was Tigger. The breeder had named him that because he was always bouncing up and down. He loved to jump.
Some members of our family wanted to keep the name "Tigger". I won't mention any names. And other members of our family wanted to change it. I was in that camp. So for the first couple of weeks we battled over his name. In the end, the one who would most likely be taking care of him won, and his name became Riley.
As you can see from the photo, he still jumps. Katherine was flicking water in his face to get him to jump for me. Other things that get him to jump are: setting a rotisserie chicken on the counter, getting his food bowl out, pulling the blinds up on a window, and sneezing.
We have to warn people who come over not to sneeze if they can help it. Riley attacks sneezes. If you are sitting on the couch minding your own business and you sneeze, Riley will be in your lap in a second. If you are downstairs while he is upstairs and you sneeze, he takes off like a bullet to find you, barking all the way. Then he jumps until you make him stop, and sometimes he'll hang on to your leg for awhile.
Once in awhile a certain someone in our family will say, "we should have kept the name Tigger." But I say, "Riley has a better ring to it."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Identical Cousins

One of my favorite shows as a kid was The Patty Duke Show. I had a cousin who lived right up the street, and even though we weren't identical in looks, we did everything together. We were the same age, went to the same school and had the same relatives. On the The Patty Duke Show, Patty's cousin Cathy comes to live with her. They are identical looking (supposedly because their fathers were identical twins.) They helped each other bungle their way through their teenage years. The show reminded me of me and my cousin Kathy.

I can recite the lyrics to the theme song from memory. Actually, I cheated and looked it up. But I still know the tune:

Meet Cathy who's lived most everywhere,
from Zanzibar to Berkeley Square;
But Patty's only seen the sights a girl can see from Brooklyn Heights — what a crazy pair!

But they're cousins, identical cousins all the way;
one pair of matching bookends, different as night and day.
Where Cathy adores a minuet,
the Ballets Russes, and crêpes Suzette;
our Patty loves to rock 'n' roll, a hot dog makes her lose control — what a wild duet!

Still they're cousins, identical cousins and you'll find
they laugh alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike.
You can lose your mind ... when cousins are two of a kind!
I feel awful that my cousin Kathy and I don't see each other very often any more. I love being around her. But life always gets in the way. We've only seen each other three times in recent years (at my dad's funeral and the two Dunphy reunions, one of which was yesterday.) We keep promising to get together and just have some fun. I take a vow right now that it will happen before 2010 is over!!
Here is a picture of us about 30 years ago and a picture of us yesterday at the reunion.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fudge Topped Brownies

I had to make a dessert for the Dunphy family reunion, and I felt like trying something new. So I looked through a couple of recipe books, and I found this one that looked very tasty. It's always risky making a new recipe when you don't have much time, but I am pleased to say that these brownies were quick and turned out great! I got the recipe from a cookbook called Best Loved Food of the '50's. These were in a section called "Kookie Cookies".

Fudge Topped Brownies

2 c. sugar
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, melted
1 c. flour
2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa
1/2 t. baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 c. milk
3 t. vanilla extract, divided
1 c. chopped walnuts (optional)
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 (14 ounce) can EAGLE BRAND Sweetened Condensed Milk
Dash salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine sugar, butter, flour, cocoa, baking powder, eggs, milk, and 1 1/2 t. vanilla; mix well. Stir in nuts (optional). Spread in greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Bake 40 minutes.

Just as the brownies come out of the oven, start making the fudge. In a saucepan, over low heat, melt chocolate chips with EAGLE BRAND, remaining 1 1/2 t. vanilla and salt. Remove from heat. Immediately spread over brownies. Cool. Chill in refrigerator. Cut into bars. Store covered at room temperature.

Makes 3 dozen brownies.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Dunphy Family Reunion

Tomorrow the Dunphy family is having a reunion. This is my dad's side of the family. We had a reunion two years ago, and it was so much fun, they decided to plan another one. There are about a gazillion people in the Dunphy family. This is largely due to the fact that my grandparents had nine children, and each of their children (except the priest) had an average of five children each. Then of course, those children got married and had children. The oldest of those children are having children now. You get the factorial picture.

Both of my grandparents on this side were Irish. Dunphy is a very Irish name, by the way. I've got cousins named Coleen, Kathleen, Ellen, Tara, Patrick, Ethan, Ryan and Kevin. Someone in the family did an extensive geneology which was on display at the last reunion. I'm going to have to pay more attention to it this time.

This is a photo of my grandparents, who are long deceased. They would be proud of the large clan that will be gathering tomorrow. My grandma loved a lot of the same things I love (sewing, crafts, poetry, and dogs). She used to make the most intricate Barbie doll clothes for us. She even made me a faux leather jumper in a light blue color. I remember wearing it to school in 4th grade. It was difficult to sit down in it, but I thought I was the fashion queen. The only thing I remember about my grandfather is that he loved to smoke a pipe. He smelled like pipe smoke all the time. I am sure he had other interests. I just can't remember any of them. I was too busy hanging out with grandma.

There will be more to report on the Dunphy family in later posts. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

School Supplies

Why does Target put their school supplies out before the 4th of July? I cringe when I walk by the isles with notebook paper, crayons, pens, pencils, glue and rulers. I have been avoiding those school supplies this year more than ever. It used to be that it made me sad that summer was almost over, and I'd be going back to work soon. Now they remind me that I'm not going back to work, and that makes me sad in a different way.

It's got to be even more difficut for students to see school supplies in July. Peter goes back to school in a little over three weeks. I can't even mention the word "school" to him. He just says, "I'm not listening."

It's no different than seeing Christmas decorations in the beginning of October.

I say we boycott school supply shopping until mid-August. Let the kids (and teachers) enjoy themselves a little!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bert's Clay Creations

I know it's only July, but I have to share a website about Christmas ornaments. The woman who owns Bert's Clay Creations (Bert Proster) used to live in Bainbridge. She was a good friend of my next door neighbor, so that's how I found out about her ornaments. I have purchased several just about every year, and I give them as gifts. They are very unique and can be customized.

The website for the Christmas ornaments is:

She has lots of ornament categories like, Ohio Fans, Southwestern, Reason for the Season, Westward Ho! Ho! Ho!, Tropical, Occupations, etc.

Here's a photo of an ornament you can give to someone who is expecting a baby. It is called "No More Silent Nights".

The reason I thought of Bert today is because I received an email this morning for the launch of a new business endeavor. She's now making wine toppers. Her ornament business is seasonal, but this would be a year round business for her. The website for the wine toppers is:

Just had to share!

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Golytely Day

If you are over 50, you probably know what Golytely is. If you are over 50 and you don't know what it is, you need to see your doctor right away!

I was up all night because I couldn't convert metric liters to U. S. ounces. I was worrying about how many cups I was going to have to drink. I knew I had to swallow 4 liters of the nasty stuff in 8 ounce portions, so I was trying to figure out how many times I'd have to muster up the nerve to swallow. I was thinking it was probably about 8 times. But now that I got on the internet and went to a metric conversion site, I found out that 4 liters is equal to 135 ounces. That means I have to drink 17 cups of a liquid that makes me want to throw up.

You don't forget the pain of colonoscopy prep like you do the pain of childbirth. By the time the next child comes along, you've long forgotten how much it hurt, and besides, what comes out is pleasant. I had to do this three years ago, and I can remember it like it was yesterday. I have been dreading it ever since the doctor said I'd have to repeat the procedure in three years.

Don thinks I'm a sissy. He says I shouldn't think about it until it's time. Well, today is the day. I will be indisposed by 4pm. If you don't hear from me tomorrow, you will know why.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Where Have All the Pumpkins Gone?

Our family favorite cookie is Pumpkin Chocolate Chip. I got the recipe from a girl I worked with 24 years ago, and I've been making them ever since. Don loves them, the kids love them, and pretty much everyone who tries them loves them.

2010 has been a bad year for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies. The reason is last year's pumpkin crop rotted. Libby's 500 acres of pumpkin patches near Peoria, Illinois were hit with heavy rainfall right before the harvest. These pumpkin patches produce 95% of the canned pumpkin we buy in our grocery stores. You only get one shot at pumpkins, and that was that.

I've been dealing with it. The only kind of canned pumpkin available is the organic variety. It's probably healthier,  but the consistency isn't the same. It tends to make the cookies a little crispier than normal. That doesn't stop anyone from eating them, though!

Hopefully this year's pumpkin crop will flourish, and we'll be well supplied in 2011. Here is the recipe for the best cookies in the world:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. canned pumpkin
1 t. vanilla
1 egg
2 1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. salt
6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (or more if you want)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with Silpat or parchment paper (or butter them). Cream butter and sugar. Add pumpkin, vanilla and egg. Mix dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Add to pumpkin mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Place on baking sheet by teaspoonful. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Visit to Tammy's Farm

Katherine and I stopped by Tammy's farm yesterday. We had to see how the goats were coming along. They are cuter than they were the last time we saw them. Their names are Moonbeam and Prancer.

Every time Prancer had a chance to hop up on you, she would. I squatted down, and in an instant, she was standing on one of my legs. She has amazing agility. Prancer loved Katherine's hair. She just had to chew it.

Tammy still feeds them with bottles. She says it is hard to wean them because they love it so much.

The two market goats aren't quite as cute. It's a good thing, because they will be sold at the Geauga County Fair in August. The market goats have tags on their ears for identification.

Moonbeam and Prancer are definately part of the family at the farm. They are just two more kids!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Middle Name

I don't know why my parents didn't give me a middle name. All my siblings have middle names: Michael Jerome, Patrick Terence, and Carolyn Marie. I'm just Marianne. This always bothered me in my growing up years. Everyone else had a middle name except me. My best friend in grade school had three middle names: Tina Marie Christie Prudence. It was hard for me not to be jealous of all those names.

As I got older and began filling out forms, I had to put a line through the spot that asked for middle name or middle initial. When I started my first job out of college, everyone needed a middle name. We had to use our three initials to identify ourselves. Whoever set up the system did not account for those of us without a middle name. At about the time I was having this problem, I met Don. He came up with a solution. I would be "MAD". My maiden name began with a "D", and Marianne would become Mary Ann. From that point on, he referred to me as MAD.

When we got married, he changed me to MAR. He'll write down "pick up flowers for MAR" or "don't forget MAR birthday".  He is DJR. Our children are KLR, DSR and PDR. Over the years I've gotten used to using these acronyms. It's faster than writing out the whole name.

I still don't have a middle name, but it doesn't bother me anymore. Since I'm now MAR, I blend right in.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

He Can Read My Mind!

My Dog May Be A Genius by Jack Prelutsky

My dog may be a genius,
and in fact, there’s little doubt.
He recognizes many words,
unless I spell them out.

If I so much as whisper “walk,”
he hurries off at once
to fetch his leash... it’s evident
my dog is not a dunce.

I can’t say “food” in front of him,
I spell f-o-o-d,
and he goes wild unless I spell
his t-r-e-a-t.

But recently this tactic
isn’t working out too well.
I think my d-o-g has learned to s-p-e-l-l.

Riley can spell as well, but I think he can also read my mind.

About once a week I take Riley in the car to a park in Stow. We meet my friend Becky for a two-mile walk. Riley loves to go on walks, but he has never liked riding in the car. When he was little, he would throw up every time I took him in the car. As he got older, he would drool profusely, foaming at the mouth. He's now gotten to the point where he doesn't even drool anymore, but apparently he still doesn't like to ride in the car.

I put my shoes on this morning, and I went out in the garage to do something. When I came back, Riley was nowhere to be found. I called him, but he didn't respond. This is so unlike Riley. I finally found him at the top of the stairs. I told him we were going for a walk. He wouldn't come. We go for walks in the neighborhood too, so he knew we were going in the car. I had to go upstairs, pick him up and put him in the car! How did he know we were going in the car instead of  just walking in the neighborhood? He can read my mind!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Seven Favorite Picture Books

I have read many picture books to my children and the children at school. I truly love them, especially the really good ones. These are just a few of my favorites:

The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack

Ping is a duck who works on a fishing boat on the Yangtze River. The master of the boat calls the ducks at the end of the day, and to keep the ducks moving, the last one over the bridge gets a spank. One day Ping doesn't hear the master's call, and he realizes he's going to get a spank if he goes, so he hides. Hiding gets him captured and almost made into duck soup. So the next day when he hears the call, he goes running even though he knows he will be the last one over the bridge. 

Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss 

 Horton gets tricked into sitting on an egg for a lazy bird named Mayzie who wants to take a vacation. Horton is an elephant who is faithful 100%, so he sits on the egg through thick and thin. Mayzie never returns, and Horton is captured and taken to a circus. Mayzie accidentally runs into Horton at the circus, and she wants her egg back. Just then, the egg begins to hatch, and the bird that emerges looks a lot like Horton.  

When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant

The author, Cynthia Rylant, spent a few years growing up in the mountains of West Virginia when her single mother was attending nursing school in another state. She stayed with her grandparents in a cabin without running water. Her grandfather was a coal miner, and their lives were very simple. This is an accurate depiction of life in Appalachia during the 1960's.

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion

When the story begins, Harry is a white dog with black spots who hates getting a bath. After he runs around the town getting into all kinds of messes, he comes home as a black dog with white spots. Harry's family doesn't recognize him because he is so dirty. He tries everything to convince them that he is Harry, but they can't see it. As a last resort, Harry digs us the scrubbing brush he had buried in the backyard. The children recognize that the dog wants a bath. Once they wash him off, they realize it was Harry all along.

Kermit the Hermit by Bill Peet

Kermit is a greedy Hermit Crab. He collects everything he finds and stores it in his hideout. One day when he is going after a shiny object he thinks is worth something (it turns out to be a useless tin can), a dog decides to bury him alive. A little boy is walking by on the beach and rescues him. This changes Kermit's heart. He knows he'd be a goner if it weren't for the kindness of the little boy. Kermit spends the rest of his time working to repay the boy instead of hoarding things for himself.

Round Robin by Jack Kent

It's fall, and all the robins are getting ready to fly south for the winter. When they take off, Round Robin can't join them because he has eaten too much during the spring and summer. He decides to hop his way south. It takes him all winter to arrive, and by the time he gets there, he has lost his extra pounds from hopping and he can fly. He spends the rest of the winter overeating again, and when it is time to fly north in the spring, guess what? He can't lift off the ground again!

Be Nice to Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham

A little boy drops off his pet spider at the zoo because he can't take care of her anymore. The spider (Helen) moves into the lion cage and eats up all the flies that are bothering the lions. When there are no more flies there, she moves to the elephant cage and eats up all those flies. By the time the zoo inspector makes his visit, Helen has cleaned up all the cages. The zookeeper doesn't know how the zoo got so clean, but he orders his workers to get rid of the spiders. This causes Helen to go into hiding. Before long, the zoo is full of flies again. Helen hides until she is so hungry she can't take it anymore, and she stays in the lion cage, eating all the flies. The zookeeper notices that the lion cage is the only cage that is free of flies. When he notices Helen in the corner, a light bulb goes on, and he orders the workers to "be nice to spiders".

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sun-Dried Tomato Artichoke Chicken

I tried this recipe last night, and it was a winner! It's my kind of recipe: easy, tasty and fast. I got the recipe from Mazzulo's Market in Bainbridge.

Sun-Dried Tomato Artichoke Chicken

6 boneless chicken breast halves
2 T. olive oil
1 pkg. Knorr French Onion Soup Mix
1/4 c. white wine
2 T. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 c. julienne cut sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil)
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, undrained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange chicken flat in a baking dish. Mix all other ingredients together in a bowl. Pour over chicken. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

I served with rice and peas.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Youngest Child

When I woke up this morning, before I even opened my eyes, my mind asked a question: what day is it? I often do this in the summer because I lose track of the days. When I concluded it was July 12, I asked myself if it was an important day. The only thing that came to me was "this is the day Peter was supposed to be born" - sixteen years ago, mind you.

He was actually born July 15, only because the doctor forced him out. It wasn't an easy pregnancy. I had gained way too much weight, and Peter was pretty hefty himself (10 lb., 2 oz.).  It was all I could do in those last days to sit back in the recliner and watch the O. J. Simpson murder trial.

Now my baby (the youngest) is turning 16. He's no longer a boy, but a young man. He's handsome, charming (when he wants to be), and he'll hold a door open for his mother. He can cook, do laundry, and take out the trash. He is chomping at the bit to get his driver's license, which is both a relief (not so much chauffeuring) and a nightmare (worrying about him).

Yes, it is bittersweet to see my youngest grow up. Try as I might, I can't stop him. God's got plans for him that I don't even know about. Who am I to stand in the way.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My Take on LeBron

Call me naive, but as I sat glued to the TV on Thursday night waiting for "The Decision" I felt sure that LeBron was going to say he'd stay in Cleveland. I thought he wouldn't be able to leave his home, family, friends, etc. When he said he was going to South Beach, my heart sank. Why would he want to live there when he could live in Akron, where he grew up (and where I grew up)?  What a contrast in cities. Akron is so simple and South Beach is so complex. I told you I am naive.

But, I understand. I know he didn't make the decision on where he would live. I don't condemn him like so many others. I'd never think of burning a LeBron jersey. Of course I don't own a LeBron jersey. I guess I could have burned Peter's.

He has a right to live his life. He put on a show, but that's what people want, so he gave it to them. It was the ultimate in Reality TV.

A couple of months ago, we rented the movie "More Than a Game" from Netflix. It's the story about LeBron James and how he became a basketball superstar. If you watch it, I guarantee you will have more compassion for the guy. I hope he does win a championship. But after that, I hope he learns that life is truly more than a game.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Salmon It Is!

Until this week, I didn't realize how much Riley loved his salmon flavored Purina food. He had always eaten the salmon food because that is what his breeder started him on. However, the last time I ran out of dog food, they didn't have salmon at the store, so I got the chicken flavored Purina. Riley, being the undiscerning eater that he is, ate the chicken food without complaining.

This week when we ran out of the chicken food, the store had salmon, so I bought that again. As soon as I brought the bag of food in the house, Riley claimed it. He sat next to it for about an hour while I worked in the kitchen. Then I moved it to the pantry and closed the door. He sat by the pantry door and cried. I opened the pantry door and let him in. He sat by the bag again. When Peter tried to move him away from it, he growled at him! That's the first time he's ever growled at anyone.

When I opened the bag to feed him the next day, he went crazy. His cry was pitiful. It sounded like he just had to have it or he would die. I'm not sure if it brings back good memories of when he was a puppy or he just like salmon. I guess I'll never substitute chicken Purina again!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Perfect Breakfast

For the past two years, I have been trying to eat like a diabetic so I don't become one. The goal is to keep my blood sugar as stable as possible. It means watching how many and what kind of carbohydrates I eat at any given time. It means eating high fiber foods and protein with every meal and snack.
The hardest part has been what to eat for breakfast. Most mornings I am not in the mood for much food. I'd love to just have my cup of tea and what I used to eat (several pieces of toast with butter or something sweet like a muffin or pastry.) Now, I actually have to think about what to eat. If I don't do it right, I'll feel it.

If I'm in a hurry, I'll have a piece of whole grain toast with natural peanut butter and some fruit or a bowl of high fiber cereal and a cheese stick. But most mornings, I need to eat the perfect breakfast, which according to experts is: eggs, oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon, and berries. The eggs give me just enough protein to slow down the digestion of the oatmeal and berries. The oatmeal and berries have lots of fiber, which stabilizes blood sugar. The cinnamon also helps lower blood sugar.

I can  have my cup of tea...but not just any should be chamomile or cinnamon tea. Oh, so complicated, and way too much to think about before I even get my eyes open!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My Three Huskies

Don and I doubled our family the day after we got back from our honeymoon. We drove an hour south and picked up two Siberian Huskies from two litters that were 7 and 9 weeks old. The puppies had the same father but two different mothers. We hadn't planned on bringing the puppies home that day. We were just there to look. But you know how that goes. We weren't even going to buy two puppies. We had planned on getting just one. But you know how that goes as well. Don fell in love with the little blue-eyed runt that was 7 weeks old. I fell in love with the pudgy 9 week old with one blue eye and one brown eye. We named his puppy Nicholas and my puppy Alex.

 As time went on, we were glad they had each other. They were best buddies. When Alex was six, he almost died from kidney failure. He had major surgery and had to stay in a doggie hospital for a week. He survived and managed to live six more years. When Alex died, Nicholas was distraught. He wouldn't stop howling in misery. So I looked in the classified to try to find him a friend. A woman in Euclid was giving away a 3 year old Husky named Stoli.

I had her bring him over to meet Nicholas. They seemed to get along ok, so we took him. That's when the war broke out. Nicholas wanted Alex back, not a stranger. They fought for six straight weeks. I thought one of them was going to be dead in the end. After they got to know each other in the ways dogs do, Nicholas established himself as the boss of Stoli, and they tolerated each other. Nicholas lived to a ripe old age of 17, and then Stoli was alone. He didn't mind the fact that Nicholas wasn't there any more. He rather liked it. Stoli was a great dog, but he had some problems. He wasn't house broken, so he didn't know how to tell us he wanted to go outside. He was also terrified of thunderstorms. But his worst trait was his claustrophobia. He couldn't even be in the house by himself without going nuts. We nicknamed him Houdini because he would find a way to escape if he was behind bars or doors. Stoli was with us until he turned 13.

Those were my three Huskies. They were wonderful, sweet dogs.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Over 50 Texting

I don't have to worry about texting while driving. There is no way! I can barely do it when I am not driving. I can't see the keys without my reading glasses, and I don't usually wear those while I am behind the wheel. If somone sends me a text that is long and complicated, I will just break down and call them rather than try to type a long reply.

I hope my friends don't think I'm rude when I send them a text message. I am so bad at it that I try to answer questions in as few words as possible. I am blunt and to the point. Therefore, I worry about the way the message comes across.

I am very good at saying "OK". I like the button that figures out the word you are trying to type, but I am not very good at going back to check that the word it found is the right word. Peter gets all over me for that one. I can't tell you how many times I have sent him this message: "I an here."

So to all my friends who text me, I apologize in advance! It's not going to get any better.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Food Critics

I've got a bunch of food critics in my house. Any time I make a new dish, we spend the entire dinner conversation talking about the food. Yesterday I slaved in the kitchen for three hours making spare ribs and scalloped potatoes. The sauce was different and the cheese was different. Here's how the family responded:

Daniel: Could you pass the salt? He shakes it all over the potatoes.

Peter: The ribs are OK, but there's too much fat on the bones.

Daniel: Pours the Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce over top of the sauce I made from

Peter: You know I don't like cheese. Doesn't eat the potatoes.

Me: How do you like the ribs, Hon (to Don).

Don: The ribs are good, but the sauce is a little bit too sweet.

Me: How are the potatoes?

Don: Potatoes are good.

Daniel: The dinner was good.

Immediately after we took our plates to the sink, I saw Peter opening an Easy Mac from the pantry.

Me:'re going to eat an Easy Mac?

Peter: I'm still hungry.

Me: Well, you didn't eat much of the dinner I slaved over.

Peter: It wasn't that filling.


Monday, July 5, 2010

They grow up so fast!

I don't mean my kids, although they grew up fast too. I mean Riley. I was thinking about how he doesn't get into waste baskets like he used to. He doesn't tear up paper towel rolls or chew shoes either. When he was in the middle of all that, I thought I would lose my mind. "No more puppies around here!" I don't know how I made it through that year. He's only alive because he was so darn cute.

He's still so cute I want to pick him up and kiss him. He's just matured. He'd rather do other things than chew paper and shoes. Things like chase chipmunks and eat bananas. He's my constant companion...always by my side. I'm not sure if he is protecting me or if he doesn't want to miss anything I do. I am thankful for him. He makes me smile. I always tell him "you're the best boy," and I mean it.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Bee War

The bees couldn't wait until after the 4th of July. They chewed through yesterday. Don was sitting right below them, so he saw it right away. I called the bug man and found out he went to Florida for a 2 week vacation! How could he go on vacation right smack in the middle of yellow jacket season? A man named Jerry was covering for him. He was a very nice guy, but he has a weekend job at a restaurant, so he said he couldn't make it until Monday. I asked him what we should do. He said to duck tape the hole until he got there.

I got off the phone and told Don the news. He wasn't about to get on a 10-foot ladder and duck tape a yellow jacket hole. They were coming out slowly but steadily, but if they saw a threat, I am sure they would have attacked. It's a good thing Don had some engineering classes in college. He thought fast about a better solution.

If this ever happens to you, here's what to do:

1. Find a very long pole (ours was from the pool cleaning stuff).

2. Attached a dustpan to the end of it.

3. Rubber band a kitchen towel to it.

4. Spray the towel with bee killing spray.

5. Wedge the contraption against the hole.

This way you don't have to get anywhere near the hole to close it off. As the day went on, a few bees still squeezed their way through. They must have been very determined little buggers.

Looks like we are going to have to repair our ceiling once again, but more importantly, we need to repair our roof where they are getting in from the outside!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bee Invasion

I'm bracing myself for another bee invasion. It's just a matter of time if we don't do something. Last summer we woke up on a Saturday and found 50 yellow jackets flying around our family room.  We hear them again. Tap, tap, tapping inside the wall above our couch. Don said it sounds like there are hundred of them in there.  I can see a brown spot in the peak where we had the ceiling repaired from the last invasion. They are chewing their way through.

While we were on vacation, my two nieces stayed with Riley. They told me they found eight bees in the family room one morning. Not good.

Don and I went out on the deck and watched the roof for awhile today. We could see bees flying in and out under some shingles. We think this is where they are getting in.

This is a job for the "bug man." His real name is Dale, and he isn't afraid of bees. He's the one who told me to put dryer sheets in my grill, so he's a smart man.

He probably won't be able to get here until after the holiday. I'll be praying the bees stay content inside the wall until then!