Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday Movie Blog

Welcome in to the Monday Movie Blog! We are chugging along with the alphabetical list of our favorite movies. Today’s letter is “H” and I’m hoping to see an endless supply of films to add to our ever-growing list. I request you leave the title of the movie(s) and the actors who starred as well as why you liked the movie so well. The more information we have, the more informed choices we can make from the list. Full participation is always the goal so we can compile the most comprehensive list of the movies.

Last night was the eighty-third annual Academy Awards or Oscars. This is one of my favorite events of the year. Although on too late for me to enjoy in its entirety, I definitely spent a good deal of time before the airing of the show watching red carpet arrivals, listening to bland interviews, and enjoying the glamour and pageantry that accompanies the event. For those of you who watch and ogle, who were you favorites and what did you enjoy the most? Did your picks win? Personally, I thought Anne Hathaway did a superb job in her role as host. James Franco to a lesser extent entertained me, but it was Anne Hathaway who stole the show when she was on air. I think the lady has true talent, comedic chops, a lovely voice, and is an all-around terrific entertainer.

Thank you for helping to create this movie resource. Please come back each and every Monday as we continue to fill out the alphabet with our favorite movie titles. In the meantime, I encourage you to join me tomorrow for what is quickly becoming arguably the most popular feature of the week, Simple Joys.

I look forward to reading the movies you list that begin with the letter “H”.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Music Blog

Welcome back in to the Friday Music Blog. You have made it to week's end and can now spend a few moments answering today's FMB question. Today's focus is "favorite songs from movies" as this Sunday is the 83rd Annual Oscar Awards airing on ABC at 8p EST. You may list your favorite popular songs, scores from films, Oscar-nominated and/or winning songs (whether we've heard of them or not), or songs inspired by movies. The movies could be great or terrible, but the songs should be terrific according to you.

This is the last Friday of February and already I have written half the blogs I wrote in 2010 as I started this project in September last year. 2011 is rolling along at a rapid pace and I am still enjoying writing here! I feel so incredibly lucky for the opportunity to speak my mind freely and have people like you to read, comment, and identify.

I wanted to let you all know what else I am doing with my writing and other talents. Last month I was brought on at an up-and-coming site called WhooBazoo. They focus mostly on music and sports. I write original content for them daily which runs the gamut from NASCAR news to off the top of my head ideas. I am proud of my work there and am trying to build a following for myself and the site. Recently the sports radio program produced by WhooBazoo brought me on the air in their program "Around the Cooler" which airs from 8-10p EST each and every Tuesday. I talk about NASCAR with the hosts and have a terrific time! I was told this week that my guest spots may be taking a more permanent turn. I'll keep you apprised, but, in the meantime, I'd appreciate it if you checked out my writings on the site and the program on Tuesday nights as well. It is a sports program that covers most (all?) sports, not just NASCAR.

I am now connected to another great site called Skirts and Scuffs, a female run and staffed NASCAR site. It is a very cool site that offers up-to-the-minute NASCAR news and articles of interest from women's perspectives. The site is not "feminist", it's just a place for women to prove that NASCAR fans come in the female form and are smart, knowledgeable and committed to the sport! I was given a column slot and developed one that will run weekly on Mondays. Women and men are welcomed and encouraged to read all Skirts and Scuffs puts out. They are professional and connected with journalists in the media center. I look forward to hanging a shingle there as well.

Of course I still do some writing at Rowdy where I began my writing career. And, I will continue to write here because this is where my heart lives. I thank you all for your continued readership, friendship, and loyalty. If you are at all interested in the rest of my doings, I'd be honored if you check them out. Everything I do is free for the reading/listening. All websites are on my sideboard to the right. Lastly, I still have the Amazon link also located on my sideboard to the right. That costs you nothing but offers me a little something for my family if you shop through my link. So, if you are shopping Amazon anyway, please use my link. It is much appreciated!

Have a great weekend, enjoy Phoenix and all of its races, and then have fun on Oscar night! Meanwhile, don't forget to leave your "favorite movie songs" here. I'll be back on Monday so I hope you will be, too!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tantalizing Thursday

Here's what I'm whipping up - reservations! That's right. Well, not for tonight but for Saturday night. I'm finally going on what is called "Girls Night Out" and I am excited about it. I've been on such excursions in the past, usually associated with my MOMS Club. Those nights were fun involving a random mix of moms who were nice, but typically not my close-knit group of friends. We'd always have a good time, go on some adventure, and I'd be more relaxed and better for it. This Saturday night I'm dining with two women who are not only good friends, but tremendously smart and funny women who make me break out in hysterical laughter until the tears pour down my face. I am looking forward to the conversation and banter so much I can hardly contain myself!

I am not one of those women who gets out all that often. I'm not complaining, having the family I do was a conscious choice and I feel blessed to have them. My husband, the wonderful man that he is, always encourages me to escape for an afternoon here and an evening there, but I rarely do. There are various reasons why - no one to go out with, no money with which to shop, it's cold, or, my real reason, I just want to stay home with my family whom I adore! But getting out is vastly important to one's sanity. It's also healthy for the marriage. As I spend all day and night with my children it is imperative that I get a 'night off' to recharge my overworked batteries.

So I've got reservations for three at a fondue restaurant and I will bask in the glory of going to a restaurant without diapers, toys, and crayons in my purse. I will revel in the fact that I won't have to cut anybody's food, take anyone to the bathroom as soon as the meal is served, and carry on a conversation without being interrupted myriad times. I'll laugh, be witty, and wear an outfit without drool plastered on it. When I come home I'll be so grateful to my husband for affording me this little bit of luxury. And, in the morning, when the children awaken, I'll be most grateful for all of things I didn't miss the night before. Because, even a few hours away makes me miss them and appreciate them all the more.

It is Tantalizing Thursday. I highly recommend everybody make a reservation somewhere for dinner in the next few days. It is a blissful thing to go out to dinner and not have to worry about preparation, execution, and clean up of dinner. I know eating in is more economical, healthier,and even more intimate, but every once in a while, leave it all to someone else and enjoy, guilt-free, being served. In fact, it would be great to read the best restaurants you've frequented in the town/city/area where you live. Then we'd have yet another resource, this one for travelers! Please take a moment to list the area you live and your favorite restaurants in that area - include the restaurants name, style of cuisine, and your favorite dish(es). Looking forward to reading this!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Books

Normally I sit down each morning and compose my blogs at the computer before I post them. On Friday night I was compelled to write this.


Friday Night, February 18, 2011

I love to read. It is a passion born long before memories kick in and I am grateful to my parents for instilling a love of reading in me. I read often and anything I can get my hands on; books, magazines, e-articles, even cereal boxes! I believe my calling to write is in direct correlation to my passion for reading. I read therefore I am. When I became a parent I knew that reading to my child(ren) was of paramount importance. From Day One I started reading board books to my babies. As they grew so did the books. My goal, other than raising good people who are caring and compassionate, is to raise readers.

Tonight I had one of the most amazing nights of my reading life. My eldest child and I have been reading several books together. The first one we were also reading with my middle child and was entitled The Karate Mouse (Geronimo Stilton, book 40). This is a terrific animated chapter book for young readers with a cast of characters, mostly mice, who have human qualities and personalities. We are a Karate family so the title drew me to purchase this story for my children. After reading a few minutes each night before bed we finished this book. We all loved it! After I kissed my middle child good night, my oldest child and I continued our night of reading.

The next book on our list was a juvenile biography of Jackie Robinson. I knew very little about this baseball and civil rights giant. We chose this man as the topic of my son’s book report and have been riveted by the history, excitement, injustices, and accomplishments this man achieved. I particularly enjoyed reading this with my son because my father was (and still is) a loyal Brooklyn Dodger’s fan. Jackie Robinson was the player who broke the color barrier in the Major Leagues and did so on the Brooklyn Dodgers. He played during the time my father was a fan. While doing a project with my son I found a new connection with my father. Thank you again, reading. We had been reading this book, a few chapters at a time, throughout the week, and finished it tonight as well. Not satisfied with finishing just two books, my son begged me to finish the other book on the nightstand. I reluctantly relented. My son has to get up early on Saturday mornings to attend swim lessons with his brother and sister and, on this particular Saturday, we also had to attend his Cub Scout’s Blue and Gold Awards Ceremony; there was a lot going on and a well-rested eight-year-old boy was required. Still, I just couldn’t say no to my son who wanted to read.

The last book of the night was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. This, the first in the immensely popular Harry Potter series, was our first foray into the world of Harry Potter. Well, actually, my son was drawn into the world when he received the Wii Lego Harry Potter video game for his birthday last summer. Familiarity with the books/movies allows for more successful play. This led to an interest in Harry Potter and good friends lending us their collection of Harry Potter movies. He watched those throughout the fall and we even started listening to Book 7 on CD (read by the unparalleled and amazingly talented Jim Dale) in preparation of seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I in the theaters in November 2010. For Christmas I asked for the entire series of Harry Potter books from my mother-in-law, a long-time Harry Potter fan. She delivered handsomely with her copies of the hardcover books she owns. My son was overjoyed on Christmas morning and we began the first book that night. When we read the last lines of Book I tonight, he quickly ran to his bookshelf, put it away, and took out Book II, Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. I’m so thankful and relieved my son is embracing reading! I’m equally looking forward to reading the books in this series and look ahead to all the literature that waits, with this child and the other two who follow!

Books enrich my soul, educate me, nourish me, and strengthen my resolve. I feel like the luckiest woman/parent in the world that my children adore books as much as I. I also marvel at how, in one night, thanks to books, I became closer to my father and my son. Thank you, books.



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Simple Joys

Tuesday brings what is now one of the most popular features of the week, Simple Joys. I must admit, it is by far one of my favorite to write! All week long I think in terms of what I get to write on my list for this segment. I am truly blessed to have so many from which to choose!

Valentine chocolates in heart-shaped boxes are near the top of my list. We were sent several for each child from the grandparents and a dear aunt for Valentine's Day. Each night after dinner the children ask for some candy and we open a new box to share. We each have our favorites and delight in the little treasures. Even the baby, who is on the verge of talking, communicates her desire to eat some chocolate!

Attending the Cub Scout Awards and Dinner on Saturday night called the Blue and Gold. This event is the culmination of a year's worth of work and service and is a lovely tribute to the boys. The dinner portion of the evening is only for the scout and his parent(s), no siblings are allowed. As I am not just the mother but also a Den Leader, my husband stays home with our two younger children and I get to be escorted by our son to the dinner. He is dressed in his Class A Cub Scout uniform and I am in a version of mine! The dinner is catered by the local Italian restaurant, and the time spent together is invaluable. Throughout the night the Cub Master gives out awards the boys have earned throughout the year. My son, early in the evening, was presented his blue ribbon for placing First in Den in the Pine Wood Derby that was run last month. Once dinner is finished family members are encouraged to join the Scouts and their parent(s) for the formal awards presentation. My husband met us there with our middle child dressed handsomely and our daughter dressed to the nines! Our son was given his Bear Badge he had earned this year and was awarded a trophy for his second place finish in Pack for last summer's Rain Gutter Regatta. He was so proud as were my husband, his brother, and I. My middle boy was getting a bit restless and sad that he was not winning anything. I told him he was not the scout so not to expect anything. Almost immediately after those words left my mouth the Cub Master introduced the winners of the Sibling Race for the Pine Wood Derby. My middle child was called to the stage for placing second in the Sibling Race! Both of our boys were awarded "hardware" for their achievements in the Pack! The night was long but joyful. We enjoy the camaraderie, competition,  good times, and education that scouting offers our family.

My cousin. I have a cousin who is several years older than I who lives in Texas. I, living in New Jersey, haven't seen him in years. As we are not close in age we were never able to hang out much as he was in college before I was even in high school. I always had fond memories of him and, when Facebook entered my life, my cousin did again through it. We've seen each other's family pictures, keep tabs on one another periodically, and chat. We happen to share a passion for NASCAR! When he told me two weeks ago that he'd be attending Daytona from the Duels through the 500 and would I like him to be my on-the-spot correspondent, I jumped at the chance! YES! So, true to his word, I received emails, texts, pictures, and reams of information throughout the entire weekend. We even spoke on the phone and truly caught up which was the highlight for me! NASCAR may be just a sport to some of you, but to me it is so much more. It gives my husband and me something in common and now it has brought my cousin back into my life. Now that he's back, I'm not letting my cousin go! Thank you, Steve, and I'll be in touch!

The unsolicited massage my husband gave me last night. That's all I've got to say about that.

So, it's your turn. Take a moment to share what Simple Joys have elevated your life since last week. It's easy to complain about more snow, colder temperatures, high bills for heating oil, and the like, but finding the good in your life each and every week (day) is a far healthier way to live. Happy Tuesday and Cheers to the Simple Joys!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Movie Blog

Welcome back in to the Monday Movie Blog. We had a little break from our alphabetized list last week in honor of Valentine's Day. That list of romantic movies was a lot of fun to create and is a great sub-category to have on file. Thank you to all who left their selections. As I'm writing this, winter's strong hand still has my region firmly in its grip and the white stuff is falling again. We are well ensconced in the type of weather that encourages sitting home, popping some corn, and snuggling to watch a good movie.

Today's focus is on movies that begin with the letter "G". Search your collections, your minds, and your databases to find all of the movies that begin with the letter "G" that you loved. Please tell who was in the movie and a reason or two why you loved the movie so. Remember, the more information provided, the easier it is for people to make an informed decision.

Slightly off topic, but to continue last week's NASCAR thread, a huge congratulations to long-time NASCAR team owners the Wood Brothers on winning the Daytona 500 with their phenom twenty-year-old driver Trevor Bayne. It was a fantastically exciting race from start to finish, and showed that NASCAR is the most entertaining sport around! NASCAR's history (Wood Bros.) and its future (Trevor Bayne) sped us into the 2011 season and ushered in a new era, one where we can let Dale Earnhanrdt go and concentrate on the here and now. And the here and now is completely exciting!

Now, let's refocus and start our list of "G" movies! That is, movies that start with the letter "G", not rated "G" necessarily! As always, I look forward to seeing your lists. Thank you!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Death of a Legend - 10 Years Later

February 18, 2001. Daytona Beach, Florida. The Speedway. The 43rd running of the Great American Race, the Daytona 500. Dale Earnhardt Incorporated (DEI) drivers Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are first and second respectively as they come around to take the checkered flag. Richard Childress Racing (RCR) great Dale Earnhardt, fending off the field, gets into trouble and hits the wall a split second before his driver takes the checkered flag winning not only his first Daytona 500, but his first Cup race. Although fans would not know for hours later, Dale Earnhardt died upon impact, never seeing his team driver make it to Victory Lane. The only thing the fans knew was that a celebration was going on and Dale had an accident, a seemingly fine one because there were no stupendous flips, wild rides, or the like. It was a head-on smack to the wall – short, hard, and powerful. Darrell Waltrip, calling the race and voice dripping with pride and emotion over his little brother’s win, gave the viewership their only sense of uneasiness of Dale Earnhardt’s condition. He said, “I hope Dale’s okay” in a quivering voice that still haunts those who remember. If Darrell was worried, then we should be, too.

The rest of the day was awash in fear, panic, unknowingness, and sadness. When the announcement finally came Mike Helton’s strong, tall, and authoritative presence was visibly diminished as he reported that Dale Earnhardt was dead. The NASCAR Nation howled “NO” and a sport mourned one of its greats. If you weren’t a NASCAR fan in 2001 you still knew who Dale Earnhardt was. He was an ambassador for the sport. He was a mastermind of marketing and put his name on everything. His name, like King Richard Petty, was nearly synonymous with NASCAR. And, at the height of his career, he was gone.

If you want to know why I love NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt is the reason. King Richard Petty, as much as I like and admire him, was my daddy’s racecar driver. Dale Earnhardt was mine. With one foot, hell, both feet firmly planted in NASCAR’s roots, living a hard life to make it week in and week out, failed marriages due to his mistress, RACING, and a hunger to win unparalleled by any around, Dale Earnhardt was the poster boy of hard work paying off. Sure he was vastly successful when I started watching NASCAR in earnest in the fall of 1990, but he was still a farmer, a grease monkey working on the car, and a man’s man, hunting, fishing, practical joking. But put a helmet on him (open faced) and strap a racecar to him, and Dale became the Intimidator to his very core. He was the master of the psychological game on the track. Hi car was wider than the track, he could move through traffic effortlessly, and could and did make his racecar do things that are still legendary.  His interviews were colorful, his passion for his wife visible, and his love of his son, Dale Jr., and little girl Taylor Nicole completely evident. Dale helped people, including fellow racers. From rookie Jeff Gordon, who learned a mountain of information from Dale, to Michael Waltrip who was revived by Dale, and even Ernie Irvan who was walked around with Dale’s arm draped over his shoulder being taught the ‘rules of conduct’.

Dale Earnhardt was Everyman to his fans. He was kind, funny, caring, intense, and hard working. He expected a lot from others because he himself did so much. He was, however, not loved by all, and that was more than fine with Dale Earnhardt. He even told Jeff Gordon that he never minded the “Boo’s” he received during driver introductions, because the fans were passionate. Cheer or jeer, it didn’t matter to Dale, but if the fans were apathetic, it was over. That advice certainly helped Jeff Gordon over the years! So, no, Dale Earnhardt was not loved universally, but he was loved by me and countless others. The number “3” flag still flies proudly at every NASCAR event. His merchandise still sells. I, for one, when asked who my driver is, still say Dale Earnhardt. I still put me three fingers up on the third lap of every race, and I still ache when I watch programs about or featuring Dale Earnhardt. Ten years later and I’m moving on, NASCAR has moved on, and life goes on, but he is still a huge part of the sport.

My cousin is lucky enough to be in Daytona this week. He’s been terrific about sending me continuous news and pictures of all he sees and witnesses. There is a carnival-like atmosphere in Daytona. But, he does relay that there are indeed many tributes taking place in honor of the 10th Anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s passing. He said they are poignant. Today will be a rough, emotional day for Dale Earnhardt fans and NASCAR fans alike. “A Day of Remembrance” in your heart is taking place from 9-12n in honor of Dale Earnhardt. Any time I think of NASCAR I think of Dale Earnhardt. Today it will be most acute. If you have a connection to Dale Earnhardt, join me in this tribute.

Racer 187 donning Dale Earnhardt hat and jacket 2009
I chose to think of Dale in some sort of NASCAR Heaven where he gets to hang out with those who passed before and after him – his daddy, Neil Bonnet (his best friend), Adam Petty, Davey Allison, Alan Kulwicki, and scores of others. They all get to race whenever they want to, drink, tell stories, hunt, fish, laugh, and, when they get the hankerin’, look down to see how NASCAR is doing. I hope they’d be pleased.




Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tantalizing Thursday - Daytona 500 Edition

The time is now race fans! The wait is over and soon the forty-three cars will take the newly resurfaced track at Daytona to officially start the 2011 Sprint Cup Season! Historic, iconic, and emotional, Daytona is commonly referred to as the Super Bowl of NASCAR, but I don't think that is accurate or appropriate. The Daytona 500 predates Super Bowl, and, for that reason alone, the comparison is ludicrous. Also, the Daytona 500, as all race fans know, is a hugely popular and important race, but no more so than Talladega, Watkins Glen, Bristol, Texas, or California. In NASCAR Sprint Cup, each of these races, and all of the other on the schedule that are points races, all count the same. The pageantry is more evident at the Daytona 500, and we race fans adore that the offseason is over and the long season that is NASCAR Sprint Cup is beginning. What can be connected to Super Bowl is food. When watching that event people tend to roll out impressive menus easy to consume in front of the television. The Daytona 500 is just as worthy of a 'game day" affair, but we call it "race day". So I'm offering up ideas for easy, satisfying, and delicious fare to enjoy while watching the 53rd running of the Daytona 500 this Sunday, February 20th.

The first order of business is to have the food ready to serve and easy to access during the entire race. Having to stop watching to "prepare the next course" is not the phrase I want to hear or mutter in my home, so I'm staying clear of intricate recipes, and foods that have to be served piping hot. Convenience, do-ahead, and instant gratification are what the goals are. If you enjoying cooking/prepping foods, make a few submarine sandwiches (grinders,hoagies,heroes) before the race begins as they are portable and one of the foods you are likely to see advertised and thus will, at some point, grave throughout the day. Pick a long roll, slather it with your favorite dressing (Mayo, Miracle Whip, Italian dressing, mustard, etc.), pile on your favorite luncheon meats and cheeses, add lettuce, tomato, onion slices, banana peppers, pickles, et al, and wrap it in waxed paper.. This sandwich is ready when you are.

Next, open a bag of chips. In our house  tortilla chips are King. You may prefer potato chips, but the tortilla chip can also be made into Nachos, so don't underestimate its versatility and appeal. To make the easiest nachos you simply need your favorite tortilla chips, shredded cheese(we prefer extra sharp cheddar in our house, but any melting cheese will do), and salsa. Layer chips, then cheese, then dollops of salsa, and microwave until cheese is melted. This shouldn't take longer than one commercial break. Highly enjoyable and fast if you require sinfully gooey hot food during the race.

Cold beverages of choice is next. Beer is, of course, popular with the NASCAR crowds, but too often too many beers leads to sleeping through the race. If you're hardcore, you don't want to be missing out, so lay off too many beers and switch it up with caffeinated soda. You need to stay sharp so you can identify debris when cautions are thrown, analyze racing incidents, and criticize driving styles. As a NASCAR fan/spectator, this is not only your job, it is your duty. Give yourself extra points if you find yourself saying what the announcers do several seconds BEFORE they do. My husband is a whiz at this and, if points were given out for it, would be the undisputed champion of "premature announcing"!

Lastly, if your taste buds require it, have something sweet for dessert. I highly recommend keeping that heart-shaped box of candy handy to nosh on while the race is on. If you are already done with yours, then pick up your favorite store-bought cookie or candy. This is not the time to try a complicated dessert, so don't, period. For those of you who must bake, make cupcakes up to a day in advance, and then decorate with frosting (icing) and candy numbers of your favorite driver(s).

Racer and Chief187 in Feb. 2009 in our Valentine's Gifts from that year
Dale Earnhardt (our driver) for him Jeff Gordon (my kids' favorite) for me
With these tips, food suggestions, and processes, you should find the Daytona 500 to be the most enjoyable sporting event to watch and dine. While sporting your driver's team swag, watching the race, eating these foods, and Tweeting constantly, I hope you think of me and how I helped you get prepared for the Daytona 500. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tricks of the Trade

As parents know, raising children is the hardest job on the planet.  Children come with no manuel, and what works with one child in a home doesn't always work with another, and what works one week (day, hour) doesn't work the next, it is on-the-job training constantly. I am always picking the brains of parents I know and admire for their "tricks of the trade" for getting through difficult situations. From babies who don't sleep through the night to toddlers refusing to eat, pre-schoolers suddenly afraid of the dark and school-aged children who hate homework, how have you handled these and other scenarios? I'm looking to create yet another resource, this one being the best "tricks of the trade" to help get through the hurdles faced raising children.

When my four year old decided he was afraid of the dark last month, I was perplexed how to ease his nerves and keep him in his bed to get a good night's sleep. My friend reminded me that her daughters had gone through similar feelings at his age and told me her trick; "monster spray" she said. She simply took a body spray from their favorite store in a pleasing scent (vanilla) and would spray it each night before bed to "keep the monsters away". In desperation I told my son that in addition to a nightlight to ease his fears I would spray "monster spray" all over his room so no monsters could attack him. He listened wide-eyed, smiled when he smelled the grapefruit melon scent (it was all I had!) and, in the glow of the nightlight, he drifted off to sleep almost immediately. Now, each night, we preform our quick ritual and he is off to sleep in no time. Priceless.

My husband and I knew when we were beginning our family that we wanted to continue to travel, race, and go on vacation. We wanted our children to be able to adapt to strange sleeping environments and have sleep cues that calmed and soothed them allowing them to sleep away from home. Knowing we'd be sleeping in hotel rooms as a family at times, it was important we used the same sleeping techniques so there was never a conflict. Starting with our firstborn we played the same classical music CD to encourage sleep. It lasts only an hour, but the music is the sleep cue needed to create a sleep environment for our children. Our three children have all responded to this and it is one less thing we have to worry about when traveling.

Recently our two oldest children have been exhibiting the worst cases of brotherly fighting. They argue, bicker, and even make slight physical contact. They are 8 and 4 respectively. We have tried reasoning, time outs, suspension of privileges, and even swats, but nothing is stopping what I know is a bad case of sibling rivalry. Any suggestions or "tricks of the trade" in this situation is welcomed and appreciated.

I'm always anxious to learn more "tricks of the trade". Like teachers, parents share a wealth of information and reuse and recycle it. I would be much obliged for your comments on your child-rearing successes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Simple Joys

Thankfully I'm having an easy time writing this piece for the last few weeks. I've also had rousing support for it's weekly appearance so, until further notice, "Simple Joys" is going to be found on the Tuesday slot! What makes this topic so great is I'm able to do my thing as usual, but you all are much more apt to comment. Finding things that make you happy week in and week out and telling others about them is a terrific way of keeping a positive perspective. Here's this week's list for me:

Whether we're in the depths of winter or in the blazing summer, Blistex Lip Med Ex is my nightly lip application. This little round ointment keeper with it's clear balm with a tingly feeling has kept my lips moist and healthy for years and I am addicted to it! I keep several going so I NEVER run out. I highly recommend the product and swear by its positive effects on one's lips. If you suffer from chapped lips, dry lips, or any other lip ailment, try this amazing lip soother. This is not only a Simple Joy for me, it is also a Simple Necessity.

For Christmas my husband surprised me with a pair of LL Bean suede and shearling lined moccasin-style slippers. They have an actual sole, fit perfectly, and keep my once always-cold feet as warm as toast! We don't believe in wearing shoes in our house as it cuts down on spreading germs and dirt, so slippers are a must. I'd had good pairs before, but these are the best I've had to date. The best part? He ordered them in red, my favorite color! Having warm feet every day and night I am in my home is a priceless Simple Joy.

Recently I stumbled across a terribly delicious new candy bar. I say terribly because it is so freakin' delicious I can hardly stop eating these bad boys. Made by the Mars Candy Company, the new Snickers Peanut Butter Squares are quite possibly the best candy on Earth. Listen, I've done a ton of research (all unofficial, of course, but hardcore) and tasted a multitude of chocolate candy bars. I am not even a diehard chocolate peanut butter fanatic, but this concoction is easily as near to perfect as a chocolate bar can be. Run, don't walk, to your nearest grocery store, convenience store, mini-mart, or discount store and find these candy bars dressed in a distinctive yellow (more mustard than sunshine) wrapper. When you do, drop me a comment about what YOU thought about them. During one of our last snowstorms when I had time to hit the grocery store before the inclement weather hit, I drove with my two younger children to the store and through 3 bags of this candy into my cart... and nothing else. True story. I didn't want to be snowed in without the Snickers Peanut Butter Squares. This is addiction is unfortunate and needs to be fixed, but, in the meantime, YUM. This Simple Joy is simply not to be missed!

My oldest child is now old enough to enjoy J.K. Rowling's masterpieces known as the Harry Potter series. For his eighth birthday in August he was delighted by the Wii Lego Harry Potter game. He loved it but having not seen the movies nor read the books he was at a disadvantage on how to play successfully. Dear friends lent him all of the movies as they are huge Harry Potter fans. One by one our family watched and was drawn into the world of Harry, Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, Dumbledore, Voldem... He Who Shall Not Be Named, and a host of other fascinating characters. For Christmas my son received the Harry Potter books one through six (hand me downs from his Grandma and Grandpa) and we set out reading the series from the beginning. Each page is filled with the most wondrous settings and characters, and sumptuous details. I was teaching when these books came out and was thrilled that someone was writing literature for children that was universally resurrecting the love of reading. I, however, was not on the bandwagon so rather 'missed the boat'. Now, being a mother and opening my mind to the world of Hogwarts and beyond, I am just as engrossed, taken, and drawn into the books as my son and countless other readers! The Simple Joy here is sharing a story with my son nightly that we are both enjoying immensely. I am thrilled to know we have thousands of pages to go before this series will end for us and look forward to each page with him. Then I get to do it with my second son and my daughter. Hurray!

Last night, Valentine's Day, my family exchanged cards and a few gifts. My middle child made a handmade Valentine for his entire family out of construction paper, stickers, and his own hand-writing. It is a treasure beyond measure. My oldest child is mastering cursive writing and used his best hand to write cards to my husband and me. My daughter loved the opening of envelopes and the sweet little items her grandmothers and I picked out for her. I, not expecting anything as we are tightening our belts to ride out this sluggish economy, was remembered with two awesome gifts from my family. My husband bought me an iHome docking station/alarm clock for my iPod and I adore it! I already used it this morning because he set it up last night. It is "the bees knees"! Then, from our children, he purchased a movie we, as race fans, had always wanted to see and now are the proud owners of called Red Dirt Rising. The movie is self-described on the box as "A true story of love in a time when racing legends were born...". I am anxious to watch it and then offer my review! Spending a relaxing night with my family on Valentine's Day and receiving such beautiful, thoughtful, and meaningful tokens of love are fantastic Simple Joys I am most blessed to have.

That's my list for this week. Now I wait impatiently and anxiously for you to read and post yours! Simple Joys need not be expensive, overly meaningful, or understandable/relatable to others, it's solely what makes YOU happy. So, do me the favor and honor of posting your Simple Joys for me to read this week. Have a great day!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday Movie Blog

Happy Valentine's Day!

Today's focus for the Monday Movie Blog is shifting away from the alphabetized list we've been constructing so I can bring you this topic in honor of this holiday. Today we will be making a list of the "Most Romantic Movies of All Time". The movies should be ones that resonate with you , not just ones you heard were romantic or that other people thought fell into the category but you did not. As with each of the movie topics I post, unless you liked the movie, I do not want it on the list!

Romantic movies can have all types of endings - happy endings where guy gets girl and all is right with the world (my husband's favorite kind), sad endings where the two lovers do NOT wind up together, or, I suppose, even disturbing endings where one of the characters dies or something equally as devastating occurs. Whatever the outcome, if you find the movie romantic, entertaining, and full of emotion, please include it in your list of "Most Romantic Movies of All Time". As always, it is helpful if you include the stars of the film and a reason why you enjoyed the movie.

Today also marks my parents' 48th Wedding Anniversary. Forty-eight years ago today my parents, both seniors in college, took one witness apiece and , wearing their nicest clothes, he a suit and she a green skirted suit she had received for Christmas, drove to the Justice of the Peace to elope. Three children, four grandchildren, and forty-eight years later they are still happily and blissfully married to each other and enjoying a wonderful life in Florida! Happy Happy Valentine's Day Anniversary Mom and Dad!!

In their honor and in honor of lovers and those who want lovers everywhere, please help me assemble a list of the "Most Romantic Movies of All Time" today. Thank you!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Music Blog

Valentine's Weekend is upon us. You know it because I've been yammering about it for weeks now. From decorating ideas to gift offerings and from cookie recipes to a list of sinfully delicious aphrodisiacs, I've been stressing the importance of preparing for and enjoying this most romantic and love-filled of holidays. We are in the home stretch before the big day arrives this Monday. It seemed most fitting, then, to dedicate today's Friday Music Blog to the following topic:  "Your Favorite Love Songs". That's right, the songs that make you smile to yourself, make your heart go pitter patter because you are thinking about her... or him... The songs that make you long for a date in your past, a kiss from a special someone, or the intensity of a moment you shared yesterday.

Love songs work on so many levels - they offer hope to those looking for love, a 'knowing feeling' for those in love, and wistfulness for those bereft of love. But most are optimistic, a bit sappy (who isn't when they are in love?) and genuinely emotional. This may be your least favorite genre of music, but please indulge me; I couldn't, in good conscious, let the Friday before Valentine's go without a nod to the greatest love songs. So, I need your help compiling a list. Remember how affective "mixed tapes" used to be to declare your love? Well, now it's playlists made on iTunes but same diff! Help a hopeless romantic out by crossing the styles, genres,and types of music to scour your collections and favorites to create the most unbelievably complete resource of the world's best love songs. It's a challenge and I think you all are up to it.

I most anxiously await your replies so I, too, can create a 'perfect' playlist of the best love songs available! Thank you in advance for your contributions!

Happy Valentine's Weekend! Don't forget to use these blogs as your source for all things Valentiney to help you prepare, plan, and implement the best Valentine's Day yet! Enjoy!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tantalizing Thursday

We are now in the final countdown before Valentine's Day. This is the time to make your plan and be ready to execute it to ensure a most memorable day. We've discussed decorations, Valentine's cards, gifts, and baked goods. But now it is dire to discuss the most important part of Valentine's Day, the menu. This is no ordinary menu; this menu requires to be filled with aphrodisiacs. Yes, that's right! We don't have time to be coy and beat around the bush, so let's delve into the topic.

An aphrodisiac is a food, drug, potion, or other agent that arouses sexual desire according to my trusty dictionary.com. As I know not about drugs, potions, or "other agents", I will stick to food today. Some aphrodisiacs are well-known such as oysters, but others are quieter and less touted as such a remedy. Let's take a look at all of the options you have to woo your Valentine with food.

Almonds, a symbol of fertility, are an aphrodisiac. The scent is believed to induce passion in a female. Try almonds as a meal starter with a cocktail, or in dessert as a marzipan (almond paste) in shapes of fruit. Even a bag of Hershey's Kisses with Almonds could do the trick!

Avocado also has a long history of being associated with sex as the fruit grows in pairs and resembles a part of the male anatomy. With its sensuous texture the avocado would go beautifully in a salad with a dash of Balsamic vinegar and freshly ground pepper. Not a fan of avocado? Make a salad from arugula, an aphrodisiac since the first century A.D. Serve it with some pine nuts and double the potency as they, too, fall into this category.

Basil and Garlic are both in this category. Together they could pair up nicely in a pasta dish. Tomatoes are enhanced immeasurably by basil, and garlic is a must in cooking for an aphrodisiacal meal. So a simple, reasonable, yet impacting meal for Valentine's Day would incorporate these readily available ingredients.

Both Broccoli Rabe, a mustard green, and Asparagus have been long heralded as aphrodisiacs. Asparagus, with its phallic shape, is supposed to be more potent if eaten for three days in a row! Broccoli Rabe, it seems, just got the label to induce people to eat more of the better vegetable! But, cook it in garlic and you're adding another layer of aphrodisiacal content!

Many fruits have reputations as aphrodisiacs. Strawberries and raspberries, which can be hand-fed to your lover, are high in vitamin C and have a history in erotic literature as being called "fruit nipples". Bananas, aside from their phallic shape, are high in potassium and B vitamins which are essential for sex hormone production. Pineapple, also high in Vitamin C, is known as a homeopathic treatment for impotence. Figs' history of being an aphrodisiac can be traced to its emulation of the female sex organs and is traditionally thought of as a sexual stimulant.

What to drink with your aphrodisiacal Valentine's meal? Wine, of course! But take heed, one or two glasses are all that are needed to reach the desired affect, any more and the reverse reaction occurs! This is not the night for over-imbibing. If wine isn't your thing, try a rum cocktail with some of the aforementioned pineapple as garnish. Or a "mock-tail" made from the berries from above. Alcohol should be used in moderation only, and, if you prefer not to drink, utilizing ingredients such as honey or nutmeg, both aphrodisiacs, can give you desired results. And coffee is an aphrodisiac, but, again, in moderation only. It acts as a stimulant, but too much of it and it can become a depressant. So, serve coffee in demitasse cups and be prepared if you are both up for an "all-nighter"!

Lastly, I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't mention these ingredients, vanilla and chocolate. The scent and flavor of vanilla is supposed to increase lust. Whether you add a rich vanilla bean to a glass of sparkling wine or a scoop of vanilla ice cream to your dessert of choice, don't leave this ingredient off of your menu. Finally, chocolate. Any man who has ever loved a woman knows that chocolate affects the brain like no other food. Studies have shown that eating chocolate makes the brain react in much the same way it does when it falls in love. Seriously, are you going to miss out on THAT? So whip up a chocolate concoction at home or spring for the big heart-shaped box of chocolates at the store. When it comes to chocolate, don't skimp!

I hope this information is timely and useful to you. There are still several days left before Valentine's Day so you should have ample time to plan your menu, buy your ingredients, and delight your Valentine with a homemade meal that is sensuous. Just be sure if you make these grand gestures you are prepared for the possible and likely outcome it may induce! Happy Valentine's Day!

(All information was found and taken from http://www.gourmetsleuth.com)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rebirth

Winter has had an unusually long stranglehold on my part of the country and I know it is affecting most of the other regions the same (be quiet Florida). I'm starting to wax nostalgic for Spring and its newness, the rebirth that takes place all around. I need to watch, feel, and immerse myself in the rebirth and let the floodgates open on the change that rebirth begets.

Have you made a change recently? Have you set your sights on a lofty new goal and feel frustrated by the lack of immediate results? Are you impatiently waiting for your big break, healthier self, or better situation? Like newborns, change occurs both rapidly and agonizingly slowly depending on your perspective. Breaking down your wants, intentions, and desires keeps you centered. When our minds wander to dangerous places we find doubt, frustration, and consternation. The best thing to do is refocus, relax, and revel in the rebirth of you. We are ever-evolving creatures with the amazing capacity to learn and change. Yet all change takes time and staying the course is the only way to realize the change.

There are times I feel I've hit a wall. I get in my own way and hamper my progress. I allow the demons in my mind/past to interfere with my goals. I can talk myself down from success at any given turn, but I'm learning to stop the self-doubt, ease up on myself, and try to continuously move forward - not an easy task for me! But learning to believe in yourself is the paramount approach to success. If you don't believe in yourself, no one will. 

So I look to the horizon for the goals I've set, I visualize the results I want, and I set to work on the path to get there. To achieve big I must work hard. To experience rebirth I must allow change. To fully succeed I must close my mind and heart to the doubts  that try to invade. I want to be the Phoenix who continuously rises from the ashes.

Wishing you the best in your change, your goals,and your rebirth. I am always interested in reading about yours. Mine is the path to becoming a professional writer. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Simple Joys

I posted last Tuesday with this same title. I intended it to be a one time offering, but as soon as I posted I felt the topic take off. Simple Joys are the key to living a happier, more serene life. Although dream vacations, huge purchases, and awesome experiences are all wonderful to anticipate and collect in one's life, they are usually so far flung that they cannot keep one going during the day to day drudgeries we endure. The Simple Joys are the ones that pop up unexpectedly or are pleasantly there regularly that make life worth living day to day and hour by hour. I am choosing to open this topic as a regular feature because I keep thinking of more and more I'd like to include, and I know my readers do, too! So, expect to see Simple Joys appear to help us focus on the positives in our life. A redirected perspective can be refreshing but sometimes hard to attain. Hopefully this feature will assist.

This week my Simple Joys are once again numerous. They begin with Legos. We have a colossal amount of Legos in our home. I have two sons ages eight and four and for several years the Legos have been accumulating for birthdays and Christmas. From Aqua Raiders to Star Wars, Bionicles to Harry Potter we have an exorbitant supply of Lego building bricks and sets. And I cannot get enough. I adore the sets we have, but like my sons, I pour over the Lego catalogue, stare at the shelves at the toy stores, and wait feverishly until my one year old daughter is napping so we can "go into the Lego room".  Recently my boys were being disciplined for a reason that will not be aired publicly. Their punishment was banishment from the Lego room. How tortuous for me! I was not banned, of course, but, although I did go in the room once or twice to play, it just wasn't the same without the boys. They are Lego savants. I can hold up a piece we received three years ago and my eight year old can tell me what set it came from. He can reconstruct things beautifully, and now my four year old is showing signs of the same talents. It thrills me to no end. What fun combing through the storage boxes we have looking for this piece and that. I could lose myself for hours in the Lego room and have! Yesterday I lifted the ban for the four year old and while my daughter was napping we played, rebuilt a set from the Toy Story series, and simply had the best time. Legos definitely make the list, but mostly when it's with one or both of my sons playing with me.

Music is another great yet Simple Joy for me. I do not have tens of thousands of songs on my iPod, but what I do have I relish the time I get to listen. I have hand-picked my favorites and can pinpoint exactly what I want to hear when I'm in the car, just getting out of the shower, or while I'm typing. I will tell you unapologetically that my iTunes reads like a who's who of love song recordings. Well, throw in some Broadway and Seventies rock and you've got nearly the full picture. There are some more modern hits, some edgier stuff (I love Tull), and other surprises, but pretty much if it is about break-ups or love, I own it.  I must be hitting a nerve with others, though, because I started a YouTube page to corral my favorite songs in video form. In four short months it has garnered over thirty-four hundred hits! I guess I'm not the only one who likes this type of music!

Along the lines of music, Glee is another Simple Joy for me. I am a Gleek! I am not ashamed nor embarrassed. This show is highly entertaining, purely hysterical, utterly moving, and filled with terrific versions of music that spans genres, decades, and styles. This former high school teacher, former Choir member, and current lover of music cannot get enough of this show. The reality is, it is a preposterous look at a show choir in an Ohio public school. They've tackled teen pregnancy in an unrealistic way, have over-sexed teens displayed, and run past decency at every turn, but couple that with the most realistic look at teen homosexuality, bullying, and teen relationships. The dichotomy keeps me enthralled. I can laugh at the hyperbole and characterizations, but cry at the poignant depictions of what I know firsthand to be accurate accounts of teen life The music, my favorite part, keeps me coming back week after week. Glee is for me, and, for the record, my husband, too. This Simple Joy we share.

So that's the list for this week. I would love to read the Simple Joys that are keeping you humming. When we force ourselves to find the positive it is hard to stay mired in the negative. I find the weeks, days, and hours much easier to get through when I have a positive attitude. Join me in making your list of Simple Joys and take a step in a more positive direction.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday Movie Blog

Welcome to a new week! We are well ensconced in February which means March and Spring are right around the corner. That groundhog promises an early Spring, but the weather forecasts in my area don't belie that fact. So, with the Super Bowl behind us (congratulations Packer fans) and the NASCAR season on the verge of beginning we are in a holding pattern for a small while (unless, of course, you are watching NHL, NBA, or any other sports I'm not well versed). As Mondays have been since the start of 2011, it is time to return to the Monday Movie Blog and fill in the titles of movies that begin with the letter "F".

Please feel free to list the movies that begin with "F" whether you've been a part of this since week one and letter "A" or are a newer reader and want to jump in and add your selections. When listing your movies that's title begins with the letter "F", please try to list the actors and a brief reason why you loved the movie so. As the title accumulate I'm seeing a truly precious resource being created. When my husband and I are stuck for which movie to add to our queue we look here to find the best of the best. Thank you to all for your contributions. We look forward to watching the titles that fill in the rest of the alphabet as the weeks and months add up.

Wishing you a great day! Stay with me all week for more original blogs. And please, leave your comments, I truly enjoy reading them.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Music Blog

It's happening this weekend, the event that cannot be ignored, unless you are one of the people who glues themselves to Lifetime television on Sunday! It is Super Bowl Sunday this weekend and Team 187 will be participating in the hoopla by attending a Super Bowl Party, eating deliciously unhealthy fun foods, watching the commercials intently, and talking through the game! It's tradition!

As you dig out from piles (mountains?) of snow, chip away inches upon inches of god-forsaken ice, and run to the grocery store for more eggs, bread, and milk that you used up during the storm (did you make French Toast for every meal?), take a few minutes to devote to today's Friday Music Blog. It is certainly far more entertaining than freezing outside dealing with all of that wintery crap! Let that stuff stay until the Spring thaw and stick with Chief 187 Chatter for all of your entertainment needs. Well, short of that, at least before you go leave your selections for today's topic. Keeping sports in mind, the topic is songs that you would use to introduce yourself if you were a professional athlete. Many of you know that baseball players, racecar drivers, and football players are usually introduced with a snippet of a song that they have chosen to represent themselves. If you were in that position, what song snippet (or songs) would you use for your introduction. This is for fun, not for grades, so stop sweating and getting nervous about picking the "right" song! Just choose the one that makes sense to you and you love right now! You could always come back and add to your answer as I did say you could use songs plural. The announcer on television builds to your name and as he's talking this music is playing in the background. What is that song?!

It's tough, deal with it. They can't all be easy. Check back regualarly and often to see how the comments shape up. I can't wait to read the selections for each of you! Today YOU are the star so choose and post.. and post again if it makes you happy!

Happy Super Bowl Weekend. I'll be checking in here throughout the weekend. I'll also be celebrating Chief 187 Chatter's over 8000 pageviews thanks to all of you. We had a really responsive week and I am already looking forward to see what next week brings! Thank you!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tantalizing Thursday

Now that Groundhog Day is behind us, I'm getting into full Valentine's Day mode. To be honest, my home has been in full Valentine's Day mode for weeks, but now I'm catching up. Between now and V Day time goes inordinately quickly, so it is time to make a game plan (throwing in a little Super Bowl terminology to be timely) for the big day.
I like to show the people I love how much I love them through acts of love! Did I really just type "love" 3 times in one sentence?! My motto is go all out on Valentine's Day - decorations, foods, cards, and gifts, as well as romantic movies and love songs galore! My husband might even say I live in my own private Valentine's World, but that's our issue. Instead of one recipe today, I thought I'd concentrate more on simple tips to beef up your Valentine's Day so you can go all-out in the love/romance department.
First, if you haven't already, it's time to decorate, yes, decorate for Valentine's Day. This sets a tone and keeps a romantic/loving feel in the home more than just "one day". To me, Valentine's is a season. Decorations need not be elaborate nor expensive, just a few hearts, store-bought or handmade, scattered around a couple of rooms, say the dining room and the family room. Add some crepe paper or balloons, a Valentine's sign or banner, and the job is nearly complete. To go all out, add some fresh cut flowers from the florist or grocery store and replace them as they die. I'm not talking roses, but any fresh, colorful flowers will add a terrific dimension and lift everyone's spirits in the house. Carnations or daisies are perfect and usually quite reasonable. Put the flowers all around - bud vases, large vases, milk container, pitcher, etc. The point is to have something fresh, pretty, and, hopefully, that smells delightful.
Second, go out now and buy your Valentines for your loved ones. The selections are best now. Fill the card out and seal the envelope. Then, put it in a special place for your loved one(s) to see so they can start anticipating. Remember, one of the fun part of school celebrations was seeing your shoebox 'mailbox' fill up with Valentine's from your classmate. Don't underestimate the power of anticipation. And, spring for more than one card! Do a funny one, a sweet one, and a sexy one! Just have them all there for your Valentine to see and wonder about. This can be done, of course, with handmade cards, too. Just make sure they can't be peaked at before February 14th. Feel compelled to get a gift? I'm a jewelry girl, but budgets are tight for most still. For a truly couple-pleasing gift, I say go for lingerie! Let's not lose sight of the fun reasons we celebrate Valentine's Day!
Next, plan a Valentine's menu. Going out on this day is not nearly as romantic or as fun as it sounds. Restaurants usually go price fixed with a narrow menu and the food and service and usually not as good. Dine in, save money, experiment, and, for those of you in relationships, dessert can be served elsewhere! Starting with breakfast, bring on the hearts! French toast, pancakes, and waffles can all be made in heart-shapes without much trouble. Use a cookie cutter for French toast or pancakes and, if you are inclined, buy a heart-shaped waffle iron! The morning toast can also be cut into heart-shapes! Serve with strawberry preserves and the red is taken care of, too! Don't forget a little chocolate in the morning - hot chocolate, chocolate chips in the pancakes, or a quick bread dotted with chocolate chips. If presenting your lover with breakfast in bed, add a single flower in a bud vase.
For lunch, use that heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut the sandwich bread, to cut a tortilla, or to make jellied cranberry slices into hearts! Buy or use red plates, disposable or your own, and plates with hearts, to serve everything. Use red juice or strawberry milk for the beverage. Anything pink, red and/or chocolate are the color schemes for Valentine's Day. It's once a year, stop counting calories; dive in and enjoy!
Dinner is the perfect time to put a couple of extra dollars into a special meal; you're still saving a ton by not going out, so splurge a bit. Buy a beautiful steak or some amazing seafood. Whatever you and your lover/family enjoy. Pick a couple of easy-to-make but sinful side dishes, and take help from the grocery store if you don't have the time, energy, or desire to cook. From mashed potatoes to prepared salads, the grocery store has it all and even though it is more expensive than making it yourself, it's still cheaper than going out! Pick an amazing dessert (or a few for a 'sampler') to make or buy and you are finished. If you drink, get some wine that goes with dinner and some sparkling wine for before and after the meal! If you don't drink, create a signature 'mocktail' for the day. Fruit juice and club soda is always a fun spritzer!
Set the table with the best dishes, fine stemware, and pretty napkins. Get out the candlesticks and holders and set the tone of the evening. Kids at home? Feed them first and put them to bed early - it is a school night! Older kids? Enjoy the family portion of the evening; remember, you wanted those kids, so try to enjoy them. Like Thanksgiving when you go around the table to say what you are thankful for, on Valentine's go around the table and tell why you love everyone individually, there is no greater gift.
Finally, say good night to the kids, clean up from dinner, and spend the remaining time with your partner. Really enjoy one another and rekindle the reasons you chose to be together. This is a night for romance, appreciation, and declarations of love. I hope you plan for and spend this year's Valentine's Day well. Imagine the good well credits you'll be storing up! A little effort can go a long way. Valentine's Day need not be expensive nor annoying. You can celebrate in an uplifting way keeping in mind the true point of the day, telling your loved ones how much you love them!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What Era Do You Feel You Belong?

Do you feel you were born in the wrong decade? Is there a persistent feeling that the era you live in is not the one you most identify? When reading about a different time period, do certain things resonate? Do you long for a time long ago... or not yet here? When you think of the ideal time period to live, when is it? These are the questions I thought about yesterday when I shoveled endless amounts of snow onto mountains of snow from previous storms. Take a moment to read and give your answer to the question, what era do you feel you belong?

I used to think I was misplaced in the generation I was born. My thoughts, ideas, and perspective seemed far off from those of my peers. I'd fantasize what life for me would have been like in the 1950s, married, raising children, staying home, and living an idyllic life. In fact, I have been so completely fortunate to be a stay-at-home wife and mother, leaving a career to do just that. I still wear dresses and, yes, have even vacuumed in my pearls! But, the longer I'm on this planet the more I learn, about it and myself. I now know how truly fortunate I am to live in this time period. The 1950s may have seemed like an ideal time in our country, but when I look how far we've come technologically, emotionally, and socially, I'm elated that I'm from "now".

Yes, I am a stay-at-home wife and mother, but I did have a career, one that I could go back to at any time. And, not only that, I am embarking on another career, from home, while raising my family and keeping house. I can do that from my office chair on a thing called a computer. My writings can be read by hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people worldwide (or, at least tens of people!). I can write about social issues without the fear of becoming a social outcast. My husband is my partner and we are a team. There is no distinction of bread winner vs. stay-at-home, and I'm fortunate, again, that he knows how very hard I work and contribute to our family. I have a state-of-the-art washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, microwave, and hair dryer cutting down the time I do my chores considerably. I can buy pre-packaged foods at the grocery and not have to make everything we eat from scratch! Even my salad comes pre-washed and  ready-to-eat in a bag! I don't have to sit at home waiting to see if the nurse from school calls to have me pick my sick child up, because the school has my cell phone number and I am "reachable". Whatever my interest there is a cable station on television to feed it and when I tire of that I can listen to any of my favorite songs on my iPod. Meanwhile, I can 'surf the 'Net while my children watch a DVD or stream something from Netflix on their Wii. I know how to drive and have a car to get me and my three children around in comfort. And, because I do not wish to have more children, there are endless choices for me to employ to ensure I won't have more! And they are very reliable! Are there problems in my era? Absolutely. But every era had problems and every one will, it's just part of life. I wish terrorism didn't exist, children wore their pants to cover their bums, and authority was respected more. I wish racism, religious wars/persecution, and hate crimes ceased to exist. But these problems, ageless and universal on our planet, do exist. Still, I believe this era is more enlightened, knowledgeable, and forward-thinking than any that came before. From annihilation of disease, global health initiatives, and relief missions, to our ever-smaller world, this is the time I feel is best. But perhaps we all feel a kinship to the era in which we live, even when we think that another age would have suited us better.

What say you? Do you feel you belong in a different era? Which one and why? Play along, ice is treacherous so you don't need to be going anywhere. Take a moment to tell about the era you belong!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Simple Joys

Life can get overwhelming, difficult, stressful, and, at times, depressing. I can fall captive to these oppressive feelings and mire in my own agony, but I'm trying to choose not to any more. Yes, I'm choosing, instead, to find my "happiness" amidst all of the negativity I encounter throughout the day. To do this I take the advice from scores of people and the score of the Broadway musical Pippin and find my "Simple Joys". As diverse as the American population, what provides me 'Simple Joys" changes from day to day and even hour to hour, but being able to find and keep the joy in my life for as long as possible is the goal. Finding "Simple Joys" is far more rewarding and spontaneous than waiting for one huge planned joy. Here are some of my favorite joys of the simple variety of late.

On Christmas morning my oldest son handed me two packages to unwrap, both having come from his Holiday Boutique at school prior to the winter break. The first was a stunningly beautiful pair of blue stone "gem" earrings. The child knows his mother enjoys jewelry and wears it all of the time. Blue is his favorite color; it was a very touching present. The second gift was a combination pen and bookmark with a special message about Mom. Clearly he had taken time and thought to lovingly pick out these items for me. He was proud, at eight years old, to hand me these packages and see the delight when I unwrapped them. I was touched to the core to see my son really knows me and values me. I am still riding that 'joy wave'!

Yesterday my second son who attends Nursery School and is four years old, told me upon pick up that he made me a "bracelet but long enough that it will fit and you can wear it as a necklace but I made it as a bracelet and it's all red and you can wear it with your red heart ring everyday." I asked the dear child if this was to be a Valentine's Day gift and he said yes. We left school, had lunch together (another joy dining out together at his favorite restaurant that rhymes with McBonald's) and came home where upon he took this well-crafted and exceptional red bead necklace out of his book bag and presented it unceremoniously to me. I told him how gorgeous it was and he seemed pleased but more interested in watching television. I told him it was perfect for Mommy to wear as a necklace (and it truly is) and slipped it on immediately once he assured me that it was not to be saved for Valentine's Day but to be worn and enjoyed starting now. I'd be lying if I said I was just being nice about gushing over the piece and stating how gorgeous it is. The kid is a real talent and made an incredible necklace. I will be wearing it often and proudly, mixed in with my jewels and strutting like a peacock. This kid is going to excel at whatever he decides to do when he grows up! This was a definite joy yesterday.

My daughter offers myriad joys to me, as do my sons. She, on the other hand, is nearly sixteen months old and those of you with children know this is a most trying age. Inquisitive (read "into everything"), able to understand but refuses to heed instruction, and stubborn, one-year-olds are, in my opinion, the "terrible twos" as it is their second year of life. But even with all of the endless "no's" I repeat hourly (minutely?) and the boundary setting I'm doing constantly, there is still so much joy to be found in one's own precious child. At night, after I brush her tiny baby teeth, we look in the mirror of the medicine cabinet at each other. I wave to her and she waves back (usually). Then I say, "Night night" and sometimes she mimics me. Then I always follow up with "Love you" and kiss her. She's said that, too, although now that she knows I LOVE when she says it, she rarely offers it up anymore. But, whenever I say, "Kiss", this beautiful, willful child nearly always bends her head to me so I can kiss her. I must admit, I melt each and every time she does this. Being a "third-time Mom" hasn't jaded me to this most simple yet powerful joy!

Finding old and new friends on Facebook is a definite joy for me. When a "blast from the past" reenters my life I am exhilarated and compelled to reach out to the person. And, when a new friend is made, it is so gratifying to know my social circle is still expanding and I am able to "make friends" as easily as I did in school. Facebook has expanded not only my "social network" but also my horizons. I find endless joy in connecting with my many friends from all parts of my life on Facebook and count it as another one of my "Simple Joys".

Spending time with my offline friends in a casual an fun setting is another joy that has made all seasons in my life more rich and rewarding. From dinners at home to family vacations spent together, holiday celebrations and children's birthday parties, and phone calls and text messages, my friends are cherished and needed. They lift my spirits, support me, and make me laugh until I cry. I look forward to seeing them and relish the time we get to just hang out together.

My husband, I must admit, is always first on my list of "Simple Joys". He is the person I most want to spend time, connect, and hang out. We still enjoy one another and are happiest together. But this may be the secret to "Simple Joys". Knowing what you have, appreciating it, and not looking beyond where you are and what you have seem to be the winning combination on how to get through any crisis life throws at us. Perspective can be so difficult to find and maintain, but allowing yourself to refocus at any given time to find the joy around you is most powerful. I've often been told, especially by that wise husband of mine, to "Keep It Simple, Silly" (KISS). What's more simple than finding your "Simple Joys"?

Care to share some of your "Simple Joys"? Music, sports, wood-working, racing, painting, running, or anything else that creates "Simple Joys" are what I'm looking for here. Maybe your joy can inspire others... and it would make me smile. Send me a smile today. That's another one of my "Simple Joys"!