Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Movie Blog

Welcome back to a new week at Chief 187 Chatter. Since 2011 started we have been compiling an alphabetical list of our favorite movies each Monday. I am delighted with the resource that is being constructed by all of us and am always excited for Monday to come so the list can be extended by yet another letter! As this is the start of our fifth week we are brought to letter "E".

Please take a moment to write about your favorite movies that begin with the letter "E". It is always appreciated if you could also give a reason why you enjoyed the movie and who starred in the movie. The more information provided the easier it is for people to decide. I truly await your selections with rapt anticipation!

In the northeast of the United States where I am located we are gearing up for another round of snowstorms this week. Since Christmas we have experienced one storm per week at least. That is a lot of snow! My children have been home from school at least one and in many cases more than one day per week due to the inclement weather since the winter holidays. My husband has cleared our driveway and walkways countless times (he does it more than once per storm to stay on top of it) and I have made mountains of "snow day" foods to keep up his strength! And as endless as this winter has been, and it's only 1/3 of the way over, I am still enjoying it immensely! The snow is majestically beautiful, having the children squeal with glee over another (fingers crossed) snow day, and having my husband work from home on treacherous days so I need not worry about him on his commute, as well as having this blog to write and interact with you all, has made this winter tolerable and downright fun! So I say "Bring it!" Mother Nature and as long as my family is safe, my power on, my Internet connection working, and you all here to keep my company, I can certainly hold out until spring. I've just got to run to the store this morning for eggs before Old Man Winter strikes again!

I hope wherever you are spending your winter you are warm, safe, and dry. Together we can entertain ourselves at Chief 187 Chatter between creating a movie and music list, sharing of recipes, and discussing whatever is on my mind and your opinions. So, thank you for joining me today and I hope to see you back here tomorrow!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Music Blog

We've made it to the close of another week! This is the end of my twentieth week blogging at my very own site. Yesterday I posted my 100th blog, a happy milestone. With all I've got floating around the Internet I am quite sure my grand total is nearing 600 blogs! Now with my new gig at a fledgling site aimed at sports and music lovers, that total should reach 1000 blogs/articles in no time! If you haven't checked out my work there, please do. It is If you enjoy my writings, I would recommend you take a gander at what is happening there as well. The topics are different, but the writing is definitely me!

Not only did we make it to the end of the week, but we are also closing January 2011 down, adding it to the books as finished in a few short days. It has been long, snowy, cold, and, for me, filled with enlightenment, new friendships, a renewed commitment to myself. Typically a month where I flounder, suffer from SAD, and retreat into myself, the daily blogging has kept me an active and willing participant in my life. Without you here, I'm not so sure that would be the case! So thank you for showing up. I can assure you, I treasure you and do not take you for granted!

Now, on to the main event. Today's Friday Music Blog focus is songs that make you soar. I'm trying to describe songs that instantly pick you up, give you hope, elevate your mood, and offer solace. When you are down, discouraged, sad, or listless and want to change that, what songs can you reach for that make you smile, make your heart beat faster, quickens your pulse, releases endorphins, and makes you sing aloud? Everyone enjoys music in different ways, but music, from my perspective, is sometimes used to mirror a mood. If you are heartbroken and depressed over a failed love affair, you may reach for the most heart-wrenching or angry songs (think "You Oughta Know" Alanis Morrisette or "Losing My Religion" REM ). But music can be powerful enough to change a mood and lift you up. What songs do that for you?

Thank you for the prayers and thoughts for my dear friend, Bill. He is still in need of them. Bill is also a music-lover, so a long list of music to spark his interest and keep his mind occupied would be a great gift. So, please, leave your selections below and send Bill a good thought.

I hope you check back here throughout the weekend to see how the FMB is doing. Perhaps over the weekend you can check out the work I'm doing at WhooBazoo. I look forward to seeing you all back here Monday for the Monday Movie Blog and a week full of new topics to explore.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tantalizing Thursday

All month long I have been featuring recipes that were hearty and delicious but still healthier fare. I'm changing it up a bit to showcase one of my favorite cookie recipes because, as I've mentioned recently, Valentine's Day is on the horizon. I honestly believe homemade delights are often and usually much tastier than their store-bought equivalents, and are certainly more reasonable. I also believe anything made from the home kitchen with love is unparalleled. This recipe is simple, easy to roll out and use cookie cutters (heart-shapes, please), and tastes divine. Trust me, I'm usually a "chocolate only" girl when it comes to desserts, but these cookies are a favorite, especially at this time of year. Besides, who needs chocolate cookies when your special someone is definitely going to remember to buy you a huge heart-shaped box of your favorite confections?!
This recipe is from the book holiday Hearts by Pamela Sheldon Johns & Jennifer Barry  Ten Speed Press
c. 2002

Dried Cranberry Shortbread Cookies
These cookies are beautiful and rustic when cut into hearts with a variety of cookie cutters. Sprinkle with confectioners' (powdered) sugar when cooled, if desired.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' (powdered) sugar plus extra for dusting (optional)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (I prefer and use pecans)
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with Parchment paper and set aside.
     In a mixing bowl, cream the butter until softened, then beat in the confectioners' sugar. Stir in the cranberries, walnuts (or pecans), flour, and salt and mix well. Press into a large flattened disk, cover well with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
     With a rolling pin, roll out the dough on a floured work surface to a thickness of 14 inch. Cut into hearts with cookie cutters. Gather dough scraps into a ball and repeat the process until all of the dough is used. Place on the prepared baking sheets and bake 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool completely before dusting with confectioners' sugar.  Makes 2 dozen cookies.

These are scrumptious and so very pretty! Buttery, rich, and sweet cookie with chewy tartness sprinkled throughout is what you'll find in each one. Served with coffee, tea, milk, or Champagne, these cookies will delight you and your Valentine!

Please leave one of your favorite cookie recipes if you are so inclined and please let me know if you actually tried this one, especially if you liked it!

Tomorrow is the week-ending Friday Music Blog. I look forward to seeing you all back here tomorrow for an original topic and the fantastic selections you'll leave!

Today marks the 100th blog I've written since starting this site. I am thrilled to hit this milestone and so very thankful that I have a readership of this caliber! You are interactive, write witty, honest, funny, and poignant responses to my topics, create movie and music resources with me weekly, and check in regularly to see what is going on with the site. Many of you have used my Amazon link which is providing a modest but definite contribution to my family's finances. I am awed, delighted, humbled, honored, floored, overwhelmed, encouraged, and flattered by your support and interest. Hopefully you will stay with me for the next 100 topics... and beyond. Thank you so very much. You all touch my soul.

Lastly, a special shout to a dear friend who is struggling with a personal illness but has unbelievable faith and love surrounding him to beat this setback and live his best life. Bill, I'm here to entertain, encourage, and support you. Thanks for being here, supporting me, and being my friend. If everyone could send a special thought or prayer Bill's way for a speedy and complete recovery I would sincerely appreciate it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ideal Vacation

Winter is rearing its blustery head in my neck of the woods again. Although we're only a month in to this season, we've had a major "snow event" every week since Christmas! So, as I wait for the next storm to blow into town, I thought I would ask you all to help me put our collective minds into greater climes and ask you to answer, what is your ideal vacation? Since I used the term "ideal" that means the sky's the limit. Do not use lack of money as an inhibitor. Whatever your dream vacation would be is what we're interested in reading. If it is a tropical vacation, explain where you would go and what you would see there. If it is a perfect mountain top to ski down, describe where you are. If it is a European race circuit, then set the scene. Cruise, desert oasis, or anything in between, so long as you take me and my senses far away from my same old scenery here - falling snow, stir-crazy kids from being cooped up, my husband dressed as Nanook of the North to snow-blow and shovel, and me in my long johns!

I hope to read your responses today, I could certainly use the escape and always enjoy reading your comments! Please join me tomorrow for Tantalizing Thursday (no seafood this week, J.C.) and again on Friday for the ever-popular Friday Music Bog.

If you enjoy my writing and would like to read more of it, please join me at my new gig at It is a fledgling website showcasing music and sports and whatever I bring to the table. I am featuring several articles there and am proud of the work. Rest assured, I am NOT leaving this site. This is my home and you are my dear friends. But, it you are interested, I welcome the company and your feedback at that site as well.

Looking forward to reading about YOUR ideal vacation!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Eleven Months and Counting

Today is a special edition blog that's focus is Christmas. Today and each twenty-fifth of the month (or weekday closest to it) I'm going to switch gears just for the day to keep Christmas as a topic. For some of you this may be tortuous, but others may delight in the once a month reminder "to keep Christmas in your heart and honor it the whole year through". From organizing and planning, shopping to cataloguing, and finding ways to do for others, these blogs will keep Christmas a positive and enriching season, one that you are well prepared and eager to embrace.
With Christmas behind us, but still close enough in memory, it is a good idea to jot down a few notes about what worked and what did not for your family. Traditions are important to family, but sometimes traditions need to be revisited, tweaked, and decided which are truly valued and which simply are done out of misplaced and unnecessary duty. A Jell-O mold that gets begrudgingly made and winds up in the trash year after year because "Grandma used to make it", is a nice gesture, but needs to be released. Honor Grandma a different way by reading a story she loved, hanging her favorite ornaments, or telling stories about her. By keeping the information of last year's Christmas in one place, like a Gift Journal, or a Christmas Journal, you have a one-stop resource when Christmas draws near. If you, like me, have several time-honored and well-loved Christmas recipes that are scattered throughout the house, take the time to put them all in one area and label them so next year they are all in one handy place:  a folder, a recipe box just for Christmas, a cookbook, etc. This little bit of time now will save you far more time come November/December when you would normally frantically search for each and every recipe.
If you took advantage of post-Christmas sales and have bags of loot that you haven't looked at since you brought them home, this is a perfect time to get out or start a Gift Journal. Catalogue each and every purchase, even if its intent was to stay at home with you, so you can see what you bought. If the items were wrapping paper, tape, bows, and name tags for your own home, jot down where you are storing them and if you needed anything else before you start wrapping next year (i.e. new scissors, pens). If it was a gift, remember to write down the intended recipient's name and the occasion you want to give the gift. Taking the time to do this saves a lot of money in the end because you know what you have, can spot it easily, and you no longer need to sprint to the store in a panic to buy last-minute gifts! I picked up several gifts after Christmas that I'll be using for Anniversary gifts (check), Valentine's Day gifts, birthday gifts, and, yes, Christmas gifts for next year. As I inventory them in my Gift Journal, I write who they are for and for what occasion I am gifting. Truly I am saving money and have reduced my stress immensely! Not sure where to store the gifts? Storage boxes should still be on sale so pick up a few and label them so you know it's for your eyes only! Find a closet, attic space, basement area, or corner of a room to store your gifts.
Remember that post-Christmas sales may be ending or over, but throughout the year stores routinely have major markdowns at the end of every season. Scour sale racks, clearance shelves, and other sale places with an eye out for something someone you buy gifts for would appreciate and love. Of course buying crap is not what I'm talking about, but end-of-season sales usually result in excellent merchandise the stores simply have to move out to make room for the next season's items. This is your opportunity to bargain-hunt and stow for next year or later this year. Remember, too, if you are going on vacation or traveling for work, to pick up unique finds for friends and family you gift. They need not be expensive items as long as they are unique to the area you are visiting, they are cool gifts!
If all of the Christmas shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning, and materialistic slant has left you feeling disgusted with the Christmas season, even now, there is a way to combat it. By doing things for others who are needier than you, you can find peace and a sense of purpose. Many people volunteer or donate their money or time in November and December to Soup Kitchens, Shelters, and different charitable organizations, but winter is long and the donations of time and money usually stop in January. So, connect with your community and help out! Whether you do some hands-on volunteer work or simply clean out a closet to donate to the local Salvation Army, doing something for others brings the "Season of Giving" back into perspective and keeps it alive all the year long.
My goal, and it's a lofty one, is to keep Christmas a pleasant, happy, stress-free, and meaningful season that doesn't just exist for four weeks a year. I love Christmas the whole year every year and want to share that enthusiasm with YOU.
So, until next month, Merry Christmas!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Movie Blog

Week Four of the Monday Movie Blog puts the topic at movies that begin with the letter "D". When posting, kindly leave the title of the movie and anything you can report about why you liked it and who was in it. Any movie from any era fits the bill as long as the title begins with "D".

Thank you to all of the contributers from the first three weeks who have created a terrific resource of movies to watch, re-watch, rent, or add to one's queue (Netflix). From terrific classics, blockbusters, Indies, and everything in between the list is filling out nicely. Of course, the more people who contribute the longer and more well-rounded the list becomes, so please feel free to leave your movie selections even if you have never left a comment before or haven't in a long while. Winter is a fantastic time to catch up on movie watching so this will be an excellent place to find the titles you never remember!

Please join me tomorrow for a special edition blog for the 25th! Until then, leave your "D" movie titles below! Thank you!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Music Blog

Welcome back in to the Friday Music Blog. Another week under our belts into 2011. In the Northeast (USA) we are being pelted by yet another snow event followed by 'Icelandically' cold weather. School is canceled where I live (again) and the hottest thing happening here is the soup I'll be making in my Crock Pot! I desperately need relief and I find that in music. Today's focus is songs about, mentioning, and/or having anything to do with cars. Cars represent escapism to me, harken to relaxing journeys, fun vacations, and simply cruising. Cars can be sexy, well-worn tools, or the embodiment of freedom. What they aren't is boring. So, construct a list of the best songs that have anything to do with cars to break me out of winter's stranglehold and transport me to a warmer, happier place.

If you are a car fanatic, check out my dear friend, Art Tidesco's, blog here: He writes and showcases photos of cars/autos/trucks/etc. in a vastly interesting, accessible, and fascinating way. It's worth adding him to your daily fun list. He features "Ferrari Fridays" while I offer the Friday Music Blog! Two great ways to jump into your weekend!!

Thanks to all of my loyal readers and commenters who make the blogging so richly rewarding for me. Typically January beats me down with the lack of sun, frigid temperatures, and post-holiday doldrums, but the daily blogging and interaction has helped immeasurably in bolstering my mood.

Looking forward to starting a new week with you all on Monday and, God willing, finishing next Friday with what should be my 100th blog at this site!

Now, off to posting on the Friday Music Blog. I'll be check in all weekend, won't you?!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tantalizing Thursday

Welcome back to Food Day! Today's recipe I found in a newspaper magazine called American Profile a few months ago. In keeping with our lighter, healthier, yet delicious fare, I've chosen to pass on a another recipe for pasta as my family (minus the four year old) loves it in nearly every version! The recipe was sent in by a woman named Vina Lewis from Fortuna, California who developed her own, lighter version of shrimp fettuccine Alfredo by omitting heavy cream and flour. I threw this together one night when I was scouring the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer for dinner. I always keep dried pasta on my shelves, frozen shrimp in my freezer (I buy it on sale and stockpile), and some key fresh ingredients in the frig. I hope you enjoy as much as my family did; even the four year old ate his whole serving!

Quick Shrimp with Pasta
Vina Lewis

8 oz. uncooked linguine or fettuccine (or pasta of your choice) I used whole grain Rotini
2 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 pound raw medium shrimp, peeled and deveined - I used frozen cooked and peeled shrimp
2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced - I take help from the store and use packaged minced garlic
3/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream - I use store brand; reduced-fat is best, fat free is not the same consistency
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup (2 oz.) grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 Tbs. sliced green onions - I omitted this as my family does not like them

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

2. Heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When butter is melted, add shrimp and cook until opaque in the center, about 4 minutes, stirring frequently (using pre-cooked thawed frozen shrimp, reduce cooking time by about half, making sure shrimp is heated through, but not overcooked).

3. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in sour cream, salt and pepper until well blended. Remove pan from the heat and add cheese; mix gently.

4. Serve over pasta with additional cheese. Sprinkle green onions on top.

Serves 5.

Tips From The Test Kitchen:  Serve immediately after stirring in the sour cream and cheese so that the sauce does not separate.

Tips From Chief 187:  I add broccoli florets in the last 3 minutes of cooking the pasta in the same water so when the pasta is done, so is my vegetable. This method uses one less dish to clean, insures my family gets more vitamins/fiber in their meal, and makes the dish more colorful! I doubled the recipe so it would serve my family for dinner, but also provide leftovers for lunch (we had a good 4 servings left for lunches!).

This truly was a rich, creamy, cheesy, and satisfying meal. The sauce tasted sinfully good, but not as heavy as traditional Alfredo. By adding whole grain pasta, broccoli, and a tossed salad the meal was rather healthy! Of course, I also served garlic Texas Toast as well. The fact that my entire family (baby girl as well) enjoyed this meal means it will be put into the rotation. If you try it, let me know if you enjoyed and if you did any changing to the recipe like I do.

Please join me tomorrow for another Friday Music Blog. Looking forward to your reactions to this recipe and to see if we get any new ones in the comments section. Have a great day and thank you for joining me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Fine Line

To keep my sanity while I work out on my elliptical machine early in the mornings, I watch old movies on the VCR attached to our color television set from 1990. The set is still in terrific shape as is the VCR. We've tried to update to a DVD player this Christmas, but the technology didn't match up. So, in addition to dozens of years of home movies which I've written about before, I've begun to attack our collection of Hollywood movies we own on VHS. This week I've been watching Dead Poet's Society about a group of boys in a boarding school in 1959/60 who are introduced to independent thinking by their new English teacher played by Robin Williams. The movie is good, the acting the same, but the story line culminates in a tragedy due to one family's stranglehold on their son. As a parent, the first time I've watched this movie as such, this horrifies and scares me. What is the fine line between raising a child responsibly and clipping his wings?

From my earliest memories I can recall being told by my father that I can be anything I want to be, from President of the United States to a hair dresser, as long as I was the best at what I did. He tried to instill in me working my hardest to accomplish my goals. He also told me to go to college. In fact, I never considered that not to be an option. College was a part of my life. Period. Being the third child my life under my parents' roof was filled with boundaries, guidelines, and advice, but was also more relaxed than my brothers' way of life in the same house. What I know now and probably understood growing up, was that I had free will, choice, and my own decisions to make about the direction my life was to go. This is the most fortunate of circumstances. I know Hollywood can use hyperbole to make a point and create conflict, but I'm also convinced that there were and are families like the one depicted in the movie that don't allow children to reach for and follow their own dreams.

I became a teacher at the secondary level and taught history initially in high school, grades 9-12. and ended my formal teaching career in a middle school setting, grade 8. I was, in my most humble opinion, the best at what I did. I was perhaps not the best history teacher, although I was excited about and loved my subject matter, but I was the best teacher to these children/young adults. I listened to them, encouraged them, inspired them, and talked to them. We had a rapport unlike any other. I was always their teacher, we never crossed the line where I imagined myself their friends, but now that I've been away from teaching for over 8 years, I'm finding my students, who are now adults, as friends on FaceBook. And they still remember me fondly, telling me I was, without a doubt, their favorite teacher.

In my time teaching I saw some students who were too free - disrespectful not only of teachers, administrators, or other authority figures, but to their own parents. They were unable to identify when to reign in their obnoxious behavior; a problem I pinpoint to the parents' lack of discipline at home. Yes, I am one of those people who feel children need boundaries and when they test the boundaries they need to be disciplined so they understand the boundaries are non-negotiable. This starts in infancy/toddlerhood and continues through college-aged young adults who may still be dependents. I believe, from research and observation, that children desperately want, nay, crave, perimeters. They feel safer knowing what the rules are and what happens if they should be broken. I'm not the first to state this notion, I just feel it needs to be revisited by many of the parents I run in to on any given day. Parents today seem to feel their children rule the roost. Johnny and Janey decide when and what to eat, when they'll sleep and how they'll spend their days and mom and dad simply pay for it, drive them to and fro, and simply wish not to be disturbed too much. I cannot abide by that. We are turning out rude, disconnected children who feel entitled to too much in our society without earning anything. They have little to no compassion and have no manners nor respect for others. Am I generalizing? Sure. But in my daily travels and with a teacher background, I can sadly report that I see more of this type of parenting than the kind where the parent is a parent, setting a positive example for their child to live.

So being too lax with one's child/ren is disturbing to me and detrimental to society. On the other hand, not allowing your child to have free thoughts, independent decision-making skills, and a chance to live his/her own dreams is also despicable. Some parents still try to live vicariously through their children. Offering better opportunities is wonderful and noble, but keeping perspective that one's child is a separate entity from oneself is utterly vital to both lives.

My husband and I adore racing as a hobby, actually participating as well as watching. Our boys and now little girl get taken along with us as they joined our lives, not the other way around. Once our children are old enough they will be given the choice to continue to accompany us, or do their own thing. We hope they like the same things as we do, but we know that everybody finds their own passions. If they find different hobbies, sports, or interests, we are more than willing to learn what they enjoy. They do not have to pigeonhole themselves into our lives forever.

We raise our three children as best as we can. We are not perfect and neither are they. What we do try to do is instill a moral code, a set of manners, and a love/lust for life. We stress the importance of education, both formal and informal, the necessity of physical health in exercise and healthy diet, and the joy of fun! We tap interests, expose them to as much as we can, and encourage their talents. As they grow into young adulthood, I pray we can accept their choices and allow them to fly freely from our nest.

There is a fine line between clipping their wings and taking their voice away and allowing them to fall out of the nest on their faces because they are not prepared. Parenting is the hardest job on the planet. Period. End of story. Navigating the rough waters, rocky terrain, and hairpin turns is exhausting, treacherous, and stressful. But it is a job I signed up for and take quite seriously. I brought these children into this world and now it is my duty to make them productive, caring, positive and kind people in society. My job will not be done until that happens.

I'll step down from my soapbox now. I usually keep things a bit lighter, societally, on this blog. But children are a subject near and dear to my heart and always have been. I was blessed with great parents. They, like I, are not perfect, but they love me perfectly. They provided for me in all ways perfectly. Hopefully I honor them in my life's choices and pursuits. Hopefully my children will feel the same about me when they are adults. I'll know, like my father instilled in me as a child, that at least I did my best.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Less Than A Month Away

What is it? The Super Bowl? No, but I will be watching that. The Daytona 500? No, but that begins the long season of NASCAR racing my husband and I enjoy. A birthday or anniversary? No, they are all behind us for now. It's Valentine's Day! Many of you, as you read the words, shuddered, cringed, swore, or stopped reading. But my goal is to change your perspective on this day unfairly attributed to "card stores, candy manufacturers, florists, and jewelers making money off of some damn day I'm told to be romantic". No, my dear readers, Valentine's Day is so much more and it is time to start celebrating it wholly and completely.

My love affair with Valentine's Day dates back to a time before I can remember. My parents were (and are) wildly in love with one another throughout most of their college days. By February of their senior year they knew they wanted to spend their lives together. He was Jewish, she was Lutheran, and they lived in 1963. So, to avoid any friction they simply called their friends to witness, put on their best clothes hanging in their closet, and married one another - eloped - on Valentine's Day 1963. That is the stuff of romance. In my home, I, being the youngest of three children and the only girl, was surrounded by love, warmth, good feelings, and the notion that Valentine's Day was a sacred day of love. My parents, married 48 years next month, are a testament to Valentine's Day and all it stands.

As with a lot of ancient history, there is no clear cut story to pinpoint on the origins of St. Valentine and his namesake day. But, a widely believed one is the following:  In 3rd Century Rome Emperor Claudius II came to believe that single men made much better soldiers than men with wives and children. This led Claudius to brazenly outlaw marriage for young men, the group he'd need to make soldiers! Seeing the absurdity and injustice, Valentine, a priest, secretly married young lovers. When he was discovered, Claudius had Valentine thrown in jail and ordered him put to death. Legend has it that Valentine himself sent the first valentine when he wrote a letter to a young woman he had fallen in love from his cell, his jailor's daughter perhaps, and signed the letter, "From your Valentine".

From Roman origins to its popularity over the centuries throughout Europe, the observance and importance of Valentine's Day has been shown through small tokens of affection and hand-written notes. Since the early 18th Century Americans have been exchanging valentines, and, thanks to reasonable postage rates and the mass-produced greeting cards, valentine sending and Valentine's Day itself remains an ever-popular, renowned and lucrative holiday steeped in long tradition.

Humbug you say? I say you need to be a part of Valentine's hoopla! Although most think of Valentine's Day as a day solely for romantic lovers, it truly is for anyone you love and want to honor/tell. From parents to children, friends to mentors, teachers to students, and service people to neighbors, everyone enjoys receiving a valentine and knowing they mean something special to someone.

Can't find the mood? Make the mood. Decorate your space with construction paper hearts, crepe paper, and balloons with hearts on them. Buy or bake heart-shaped cookies, a heart-shaped box of candy, or a heart-shaped cake. Wear red, a tie with hearts all over it, or a pin in a heart-shape. Make valentines or buy the school valentines for a nominal price and send a valentine to everyone in your office, social network, or neighborhood. Send an entire box to your lover, one at a time, for the days leading up to Valentine's Day. Buy yourself some sexy underwear with hearts on it for your lover to uncover. Send your lover a flower for each year (month, week, or day) you've known each other. Have the money? Have a piece of jewelry made (or find one) that has the birthstone of the month you and your wife were married. Or the month you met. Or the birthstones of each of you. Or of the whole family! Or simply buy something with hearts to express how much you love her.

Winter can be dreary. Having Valentine's Day to decorate,  plan, and look forward with it's red hot colors, intensity of emotion, and elements of surprise and sincerity keeps me going. I can't be alone - check out the stores! Yes, yes, it is all a commercial racket. So what? What isn't a commercial racket in our culture? But the fact is, Valentine's Day is a fantastic way to make people pause and tell those they love, "I love you". I don't see anything wrong with that. Still not convinced? Then we'll have to spend more time on this topic as the days and weeks progress to one of my favorite days of the year - Valentine's Day.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Movie Blog

We are now finding our pace on this Monday blog. Movies are a topic many of you are passionate about and I'm enjoying the list of movies you are providing! My hope is that eventually we'll have more people contribute to create even longer queues for us to pick. In the meantime, we have terrific participation and super titles. Today's letter is "C". Please leave all of your favorite movies that begin with the letter "C". I prefer not just a title but the reason why you enjoyed the movie and even any stars who were in it. The more information we have the easier it is for us to decide if we'd like to see the movie.

For those of you, like me, who watched the Golden Globe Awards last night, what did you think? I don't get to see many (any?) movies in the theaters so I cannot comment to the movie side of things, but I do get to watch television. My favorite show currently is Glee. I was thrilled to see Glee pick up statues for Chris Colfer, Jane Lynch, and the show. This program makes Tuesday my favorite night of the week and marries two of my passions - music and high school students (I used to teach high school history)! Chris Colfer's speech was heartfelt and intelligent and Jane Lynch's speech was hilarious! I'm just hoping the show not only stays on for a few more years, but that it stays at the same caliber.

Natalie Portman, pregnant, looked ravishing in her pink confection and Angelina Jolie was as sexy as ever in her glittery green dress. Robert Downy Jr. made me howl at his presentation and Ricky Gervais as host was uninhibited with his remarks! I never make it through the whole awards show; this one is one of my favorites and would love to hear your take on it.

Looking forward to seeing the list of "C" movies we compile! Wishing you a great start to the work/school week. To those of you observing, Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Music Blog

Last week I took a bit of flack for throwing a grammatical topic at you. Although I can't guarantee it won't happen again, this week will be a reprieve! Looking over the week of blogs I wrote and posted, the ones that garnered the most interest and pageviews were the ones about my husband and my love story and the one entitled "Turn Ons". It seems the whole of my readership has a bent toward human relationships - especially when it comes to love!

To make up for last week's "Songs that contain Adverbs", I'm switching gears entirely and posting the following topic for today's Friday Music Blog:  Songs that Put You in the Mood. I am not qualifying which mood that might be, that is up for your interpretation. Be as coy or as blatant as you'd like. I always prefer giving a wide open topic and see where the pieces lay. As with any music topic I post, the purpose is to get everyone who reads to leave a comment with their selections. We are trying to created comprehensive lists of great music that fits the category. And as base as the topic seems, it does open itself up to several interpretations. My blog is open for all readers and I respectively ask for appropriate content. My regulars never overstep the boundaries of good taste and respect. I welcome any and all of my readers to respond, as long as they adhere to this request.

Wishing you all a wonderful winter weekend. Tonight I am whipping up a batch of Vegetarian Chili from yesterday's blog to entertain our dear friends. Tomorrow my family is attending our oldest child's Pine Wood Derby for the third time. He is most enthused with his car that he worked long and hard on and is anxious to see how far he can take it in the competition! Good luck ML187!!

I look forward to seeing your responses to today's FMB, and am excited to begin another new week of original blogs starting Monday. Remember, Monday is Monday Movie Blog day! Have a great weekend and thank you so much for being with me this week.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tantalizing Thursday

Today's offering is a vegetarian chili. I am not opposed to meat, in fact, I adore meat-based meals, but in today's world it is health-conscious and fiscally prudent to include a meatless meal at least once a week. This meal is chock full of protein, has depth of flavor, and is simple to prepare leaving the "work" to the slow cooker. I've used this meal for weeknight dinners and for race day "get-togethers" with rousing success. I highly recommend it. As with any meal recipe I post, put in the ingredients you like, substitute or omit the ones you don't.

Roni's Easy Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili
from 1/14/2009

1 can black beans drained and rinsed
1 can kidney beans drained and rinsed
1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed
1 can corn undrained (cream or regular)
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies (like RoTel brand)
1 small can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 bell pepper chopped (I use an orange and a yellow)
1 small onion diced
1/2 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp dried cilantro

Put all ingredients in the slow cooker, stir and cook on low for 5 hours (3 hours on high would be fine).

Top with any of the following:  shredded cheddar cheese, fresh cilantro, raw onions, dollop of sour cream, tortilla chips, salsa

This is a tasty, transformable dish. Prefer spicy? Serve with hot salsa or Tabasco sauce. Like to cool things down? Some Lite Sour Cream does the trick. Want to make this a base for Nachos Grande in lieu of the ground beef? Do it! Want to pack full of even more vitamins? Add zucchini, yellow squash, or more peppers! Like the recipe but think chili needs meat? Add it by browning your meat on the stovetop before adding it, drained of fat, with the other ingredients to your slow cooker.

Freeze leftovers for up to 6 months.

Let me know if you tried and like this recipe. Any vegetarian meals you make and enjoy? Please share them with us.

Join me tomorrow for a new Friday Music Blog.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


One of my indulgences when time and schedule allow is the watching of Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton on Bravo cable channel. This program is an interview show with Lipton, as host and interviewer, asking a series of well thought out questions of star actors, directors, producers, comedians, and the like in front of a theater full of students from the Actors Studio Drama School in New York City. Taping lasts several hours and the finished product is edited down to one hour that is broadcasted. This format results in the “star” transforming him or herself into a artist/teacher. The show culminates with the star fielding questions from “his/her students”, but before that occurs he or she is asked a last list of questions by Lipton, the same for each guest. The questionnaire he uses was originated by French television personality Bernard Pivot after the Proust Questionnaire. The ten questions Lipton asks are
1.     What is your favorite word?
2.     What is your least favorite word?
3.     What turns you on?
4.     What turns you off?
5.     What sound or noise do you love?
6.     What sound or noise do you hate?
7.     What is your favorite curse word?
8.     What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
9.     What profession would you not like to do?
10.  If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Number three of the questionnaire I tapped into yesterday to create a blog topic. But today, a snowy day where I sit, with school canceled and little on my short-term to do list, I wanted to post the questionnaire for you to respond.  I, too, will answer it before the day is over. As this is usually the favorite part of the program for me, I thought it would be one of my favorite blogs if I can have my readership answer. I’m hoping you will take the time and put your honest answers down. I so look forward to reading them!
Please join me tomorrow for “Tantalizing Thursday” when I offer up another recipe and give you the opportunity to post one of your own! Until then, I await your answers to today’s questionnaire!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Turn Ons

What turns you on? This question can be interpreted many different ways, but the core is, what reaches you? What lights your fire, motivates you, and propels you? When you are feeling out of touch, frustrated, or stagnant, what tickles your fancy and brings you back to animated life?
I'm only beginning to discover the answer to this question in my own life. I'm nearly forty years old and it had never occurred to me until recent years that I, too, am entitled to find my passions in life. No one told me otherwise, but I was so busy people pleasing that I took no real time finding out what made me tick. I could spout lists of things my husband enjoyed, identify the things my parents relished, and, of course, bring pleasure to my children being so tapped into their psyche, but I could not find a way to fill an hour by myself that turned me on completely.
No everyone suffers the condition I'm writing about. Many hum along life merrily completely attuned to their likes and passions. Their 'free time' spent in happy pursuits, living peacefully with themselves. I envy them. Even now, with the personal growth I've attained, I can still be blindsided by the simple question, "What do YOU want to do?" I have interests, likes, and desires, but I have a difficult time prioritizing, taking time, and honoring them. Plus, I'm not always sure I've found all of my turn ons in life. As a stay-at-home mother to three dependent children, it is nearly impossible to single out time to dedicate to discovering all of myself. I'm not complaining, truly I'm not. I adore the life I'm living and wouldn't change it for the world. It just strikes me how out of touch I can be with my own self.
I do believe our turn ons change over time. I used to be passionate about scrapbooking. I wasn't a professional by any means, but I enjoyed the creative outlet and the journaling of special times with my family added to pictures. Now the prospect overwhelms me. I am so behind on albums, printing out pictures, and organizing years of stored souvenirs that I'm in shutdown mode. Instead of inspiring me it is dragging me down! I know, then, that this is not a good outlet for me currently. On the flip side, I'd been away from writing for so long but in recent years have been able to proudly and contentedly bring that back to my life! Exercise, which used to terrify and depress me, now enriches me, giving me strength, stamina, and energy. Taking time to laugh watching stand up comedy (at home on the television) with my husband turns me on. I enjoy the shared laugh and time spent together. The same with watching movies together.
I'd like to travel more but know that will have to wait until the economy recovers (and our coffers) and the children are older. Europe is high on my list of places to explore, but so is most of our great United States. I haven't even thought about South America, Australia, Asia or Africa! I think part of my wanderlust involves wanting to travel with a journal to provide new content, experiences, and sights to write about!
My children revive me immensely! Perhaps trite, but so true. I actually like my children. Of course I love them, but I truly like them, too. I enjoy their personalities, their senses of humor, and their compassionate natures. My kids can annoy me like no other people on the planet, but that's human nature and I'll take that with the rest because the rest is so very worth it!
My husband turns me on. He is intelligent, smart, witty, sexy, honest, loyal, multi-faceted and multi-dimensional. He has myriad interests, is handy around the house, in the garage, and other places! And he is constantly reinventing himself. The race car driver persona has been on hiatus for a while, but that is one of my favorite parts to witness of my husband!
I have a lot of work to do to find all of my turn ons in life. Luckily there is no deadline. As my life continues to change so can my passions. I am getting to know myself more each day and year - one of the benefits of aging that people do not celebrate enough.  Like other parts of my life I blog about, this is a journey, one that I have much to gain.
What are your turn ons! Don't hold back, I can take it!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Movie Blog

The Monday Movie Blog looks like a keeper! The response was warm and welcoming and the movie suggestions were great! I'm hoping as the weeks accumulate the lists will continue to get longer! We begin this week with movies that start with the letter "B". As I requested last time, please post the movies that you've seen and actually liked! If you have an extra minute or two, tell who was in it and/or why you liked the movie. The more information provided, the easier it is for some to choose the movie for their Netflix queue or at the video store (do those places still exist?!). Think of this blog as a quick reference for movies you'd like to see. If you put down your favorites and others put down theirs, we'll have a rather comprehensive alphabetical ordered list of the best movies out there!

On a personal note, and with these blogs I suppose they are all personal, I want to thank all of you who tuned in yesterday, a rare appearance on a weekend, for my blog titled "The Whole Story (The Abridged Version)" which chronicled my husband's and my love story. Yesterday was our 18th Wedding Anniversary and in lieu of a card I wrote the blog for him. I had an outpouring of support from all sources and I want to thank you all. With that post and the ensuing interest in said post, my number of pageviews went onward and upward and I have now pushed past 7,000 pageviews! Thank you so much. It wasn't long ago at all that I was nearing the 6,000 mark! This is a tremendous way to start the New Year and I am delighted to continue writing! Thank you thank you thank you!!!

I anxiously await the "B" movie titles today and look forward to seeing you back here each day! Happy Monday!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Whole Story (The Abridged Version)

We met, very quickly, over Thanksgiving weekend in 1985 at my neighbor's house. He was uninterested. We met again at the start of my freshmen year and his senior year, September 1986. It was in the hallway after school. I was with a girl he had dated briefly, but his eyes were on me. He shocked the hell out of me by kissing my neck! I was intrigued. We flirted, passed notes, and eventually, although he had a tumultuous relationship with a sophomore, he asked me out on a date on a Friday night. We had a great time and kissed at the end. I was smitten. He said he'd call me. I waited ALL weekend by the phone that lay dormant. When I saw him at school on Monday he told me he was staying with his girlfriend but "can we be friends?" "Yes," I told him, but thought that was the big kiss off. True to his word he called often and we talked, like friends. We talked and talked and a friendship grew... stronger and stronger. By Christmas I was interested in another senior from a different school who wooed me. I still was friends with him, but I had a lovely diversion. Once work began on the Spring musical in January and we were both involved in the production our time was once again spent more closely together. By the end of that month he told me he loved me. Really and truly in love with me. Yet, he was still dating the other girl. By February I issued an ultimatum, her or me. He was late to school on the deadline day. I thought he'd chickened out. He showed up and broke up with her. She was rather devastated. I was relieved. We spent a most romantic Valentine's Day that solidified our relationship
He went away to college in Virginia and my parents moved to their 'dream house' in another town. We were separated. He gave me an engagement ring, a gold band, for my 15th birthday in August in front of my family. He told them he considered us engaged but thought I should date so we could one day be together and I wouldn't question what might have been. He was generous. My parents couldn't argue. They respected his odd proposal that allowed my freedom.
I was determined to shorten my time in high school and to bridge the gap between us. I took a summer school session to get my Junior year of English under my belt and was able to graduate at the end of my Junior year. I dated during those two years, but never found anyone I loved as much as him. I was accepted to a school forty minutes away from him in Virginia. He struggled in school. My first year in Virginia he spent back home in New Jersey because of low grades. We still stayed connected. At the end of my freshmen year of college I talked my parents into letting me live off campus in a lovely apartment... with him. They were nervous to let me live alone, so they welcomed the protection of the man they knew loved me and I loved in return. Finally we would be together.
We lived together starting in 1990. We hit bumps, struggled, and had the time of our lives, too. He still struggled in school but I excelled. He began working in a local McDonald's since school was no longer a viable option for him. I began my teaching career upon graduation. In November 1992 he had a minor accident at work one Sunday morning that resulted in a trip to the emergency room. He asked the staff to "call my fiance". They did, but because we were NOT married they could tell me nothing! He was, fortunately, just fine and all was well. That afternoon when he was safely home we decided to elope. Why wait? We lived together, we loved each other, time to tie the knot officially. I called my father and asked him if getting married would be complicated financially or any other way. He replied, "Kid, do you love him?" "Yes," I replied. "Then that's all that matters." Great advice, Dad.
We set a date, bought a ring, ordered some flowers, and I bought a $50 white dress at the local J.C. Penny's. We called each a friend to stand up with us. Everything was set when I started to cry one night. I wanted my family to witness our nuptials. He did, too. We invited them!
On January 9, 1993 in Roanoke, Virginia, we said our vows in front of our two families and our two friends at the Airport Marriott Hotel at twelve noon. Although only twenty years old, the Champagne flowed, the tiered wedding cake was cut, the photographer clicked away, and the music from the radio blared. We danced to "Benny and the Jets", opened wedding gifts, and celebrated all day with our families. The next day we flew to Disney World for our Honeymoon.
The years were good to us, but not without stresses, bumpy times, or sadness. We moved back to New Jersey in 1994, he enrolled in school, had a hell of a time in 1997 which led to a new beginning. Finally, in 2001 as he graduated with his first degree and bought a race car, we decided to start a family. We were blessed with a child in August 2002. Another child followed in 2006 and finally our last in 2009 created a complete family for us.
We are not "perfect", but the one thing we've always had is a passionate love for one another. Our road has been fraught with detours, road blocks, accidents, and traffic, but we always find our way back to each other.  We find that we can accomplish more and find the greatest happiness together. We are far more powerful and successful as a team.
Happy Anniversary to the man I've loved since 1986. Happy Anniversary to the man I married 18 years ago today. I love you always and forever.
Thank you for joining me on a Sunday to read our whole story in the abridged version!
See you back here tomorrow for a whole new week of blogs!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Music Blog

Welcome back in to the Friday Music Blog! One of the most popular blogs I offer, I am excited to introduce the first topic of 2011! Today's focus is songs with adverbs in the title. I know, I know, a bit weird, huh? Well, I get that. I'm odd. I adore adverbs. Completely underused in our lexicon, the adverb illuminates ideas and speech. To review for those of you who consistently slept through grammar class, the adverb modifies the verb, adjective or other adverb in a sentence. Typically adverbs are easily spotted by their "-ly" ending but not all adverbs adhere to this spelling, think "very" or "well". I'll even offer up an example song - "Truly, Madly, Deeply" by Savage Garden. Sappy? Yes. Full of adverbs? You betcha! So, do your best with this oddball topic and see how many songs you can come up with that use adverbs in their title. This is a great strategy to keep your brain sharp and ward off dementia and forgetfulness! (What was I saying?) Just doing my part to keep you mentally keen.

One week under our belts in this new year. I am thrilled with 2011 so far, intrigued by the mystery a new year guarantees, and excited by the new topics I'm introducing this year - the Monday Movie Blog and the Tantalizing Thursday food blog. I'm always curious as to your thoughts about the topics I write. Comments? Critiques? Requests? Let me know!

Join me on Sunday for a special (and rare) blog entry for a very special reason. It will not be posted as early as my week day blogs, but it will be posted for public consumption sometime before I go to bed that night! I hope you can check back for that and, of course, continue to check back for the FMB posts that accrue. And then, I invite your to join me to start the second week of 2011 with me at Chief 187 Chatter! Happy Weekend!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tantalizing Thursday

Among the categories I'd like to explore this year, food is near the top of the list. Last  year, whenever I posted a food-based blog, my numbers exploded! It seems that not only do I like food, you do, too! So, I'm trying out a weekly spot in my repertoire for recipes - mine, yours, others'. My plan is to pick a theme for the day and offer up a recipe or two with the hopes that I'll be rewarded with the same. But even if you just like to read the blog to salivate and not reciprocate, that's fine, too!
Today's topic is decadent foods reworked to be healthier. I don't like to skimp on taste, texture, or pleasure, but if food can be remastered using less fat, sugar, or grease and still taste great, I'm in. I road-tested this recipe before the holidays with positive results - my family and I loved it! I simply substitute or omit things based on my family's tastes and urge you to do the same. This entree was simple, rich, and elegant! Add a tossed or Ceasar Salad and a scrumptious baguette and dinner is served!

Recipe from REDBOOK Magazine in their "Restaurant Redo" section (October or November 2010 issue I believe). This recipe was retooled from a Cheesecake Factory staple.

REDBOOK'S Spaghetti Carbonara
(makes 6 servings)

1 lb. spaghetti (I use whole wheat or whole grain)
3 extra large eggs (use 3/4 c. liquid pasteurized egg if egg safety is questionable)
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 tsp. each hot red pepper flakes and salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil (I used evoo)
4 oz. diced pancetta or thick-cut bacon
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a large pot, cook spaghetti according to package directions, about 8-11 minutes.  Drain noodles reserving 1 cup pasta water.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together  eggs, parsley, pepper flakes, and salt.
3. Add oil to a large, deep skillet and cook pancetta over medium heat, stirring frequently, about 6 minutes or until lightly browned. Add garlic and black pepper and cook 1 minute more, then reduce heat to  medium-low.
4. Add pasta, egg mixture, and peas, plus half of the pasta water, to skillet with pancetta. Stir and cook 1 to 2 minutes, adding more pasta water if necessary, until sauce has a creamy consistency. Mix in grated cheese; serve immediately.

Each serving (about 1 1/2 cups):  449 cal, 17g total fat, 18g protein, 54g carb

I'm anxious to see how "Tantalizing Thursday" is met by you. Let me know if you are interested in a weekly recipe blog. Looking forward, as always, to hearing from you about anything and everything. Join me tomorrow for the first Friday Music Blog of 2011.

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year New Happiness

So much is made of the New Year. From people determined to quit vices - smoking, over-eating, not exercising - to others promising to live "better", good intentions begin on January 1st and are usually forgotten about by January 15th not to be dredged up again until the next new year. I've been sucked into that in the past and refuse to buy into now. Change is gradual; I have to want to change to make it stick, and there is no magic date on the calendar that can make change occur. This year I just want to concentrate on what I started in the old year; I want to live each day a little healthier, both mentally and physically, a bit more confident, and with a lot more love and FUN!
Last year I finally became sick and tired of not taking care of myself the best way I can. I know exercise is the healthiest thing for my body and mind and yet I always fought getting into a routine that makes exercise a part of my daily life. No more striving for 2-3 days a week, now I strive for 5 and if I'm off one I'm still exercising the majority of the week. If I take a day off, I don't parlay that into 2, 3 days, or all week off. I do have an arbitrary goal - to lose a specific amount of weight before I turn 40 (less than two years to go!), but now it's all about health, lifestyle, and a dedication to self, as opposed to "diet", self-control, and depriving myself. I don't react well to those harsh tactics so I had to cut them out. The way I'm living now, although not "perfect", is creating a calmer, happier, more nourished, and stronger me. It is "progress not perfection" I am involved and that is making all of the difference. Since the end of August 2010 I have been waking up in the early hours of the morning to work out on my elliptical machine. My blood pressure is normal (hypertension runs deep in my family), my weight is starting to come down, I have more energy to play with my kids, and even for my husband! Best of all, I still enjoy the time. Even today I thought I might just workout for an abbreviated amount of time, but I ended up making my entire goal! This is progress. I am pleased with my progress. Mostly I'm relieved that I'm not watching the "Weight Loss commericals", cereal adds telling me to lose weight in two weeks by eating their products twice a day, and gym ads promising "bikini-ready bods" by Summer. I am on the right course and do not feel immense guilt and depression that I'm not doing anything. I feel liberated that I am in control of my health. Do I still eat chocolate? Yes. Do I still indulge in a nice meal? Sure. Have I lost a ton of weight? No, but I am slowly and consistently seeing the scale numbers go down. That is success.
As we put the Christmas decorations away for another year I become acutely aware that I like the house in its more sparse state. Before I return the "dust collectors", as my husband calls my various collectibles and decorations, to the shelves, I appreciate the lack of clutter, the flow of space, and the potential of what could be. I am ruthlessly going painstakingly through our belongings to see what is a must and what must go! My space must provide a place for creativity, a neat presence to inspire calm, and less stuff to make dusting easier! It is difficult at best (I do adore most of my 'stuff') but I am dedicated to the task. Stuff has encroached my desk that doesn't belong. I am waging a war to win my desk back! Toys are everywhere, and I am drawing my line in the sand to win back a "Detoyized Zone" or DTZ. We have children, three of them who are 8, 4, and 1. These children, it would seem, thrive on clutter; chaos is  their order. But when I introduced a system of organization for their toys, something I do periodically for my own sanity, the eight-year-old was thrilled! After living with me his whole life he sees the wisdom of "a place for everything and everything in its place", he just doesn't always act on it! I am planting seeds and nurturing these children's brains to find clarity through neatness. My desk will never be pin clean or clear, but when I can find things like a surface on which to write I am a very happy woman.
Overall I just want to use the new year to dedicate myself to a better me. Without setting lofty goals with timeframes, I am encouraging myself to live fuller, happier, healthier, and calmer. I am trying to "smell the roses" while not letting "life pass me by". I am saying yes to new things but saying no to things that drag me down. I am taking responsibility for my own health, well-being, and happiness, because I'm finally understanding that I alone am in charge of those things. I'm also aware that some days will still plainly suck. Things break, children cry, tempers flare, homework is left at school, and I can't always find my calm, but now I have some tools to get through those rough patches. And I know if I keep trying to do "the next right thing" eventually I'll feel better. Using this blog as a bar to encourage myself, keep me honest, and inspire me, I am already far ahead of the game in 2011. Hopefully you can join me on this journey of living the best we can on any given day. What better gift to give ourselves in this New Year or any year?
Happy 2011! Looking forward to experiencing this year unfold with YOU!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Guardian Angel

I never used to think in terms of Angels. I called my husband and later my children "Angel" as a term of endearment and I used to think of my maternal grandmother who passed in the summer of 1991 as "an Angel sitting on my shoulder", but I never put much thought or credence into Guardian Angels. That was until recently.

A couple of months ago I was rushing around after dinner to get my oldest child and me out the door to make our respective Karate classes. This entails leaving the dinner table in a mad dash, changing into our individual gi (Karate uniform), maneuvering our heavy gear bags down the stairs, loading the car, and fleeing to make it on time. This night in question my daughter was acting particularly needy and wanted Mommy so I took the one year old upstairs with me. My son was changing in his room and I in mine while my daughter played nearby. My son and I met at the top of the stairs to confer on a plan. I decided to open the gate that shields our daughter from flinging herself down stairs so I could quickly grab my bag and her and get my son's and my exodus underway. I opened the gate, turned to find my daughter and pick up my cumbersome bag, and I heard a noise. I devastating noise of something falling down the stairs. My heart stopped beating. My brain went into overload. I turned to see my daughter at the bottom of the stairs, on the hard, cold tile floor, crying. I emphasize that word because she was alive. We have sixteen steps that go straight up and down - no landing - and my daughter had flung herself down the steps in the half second it took me to open the gate and look for her. I was almost comatose. I was in a panic. My husband, who was already downstairs cleaning up from dinner, got to her first and picked her up. He looked up the stairs bewildered and searchingly. I almost died again and again. I was so worried it was a physical sickness I was feeling. My daughter, still crying, seemed outwardly fine and unhurt. I rushed to be with her. I begged my husband to let me hold her. I hugged her while he did a once over to see what the damage, if any, she contracted. She seemed no worse for the wear. He checked her pupils' reaction to light - fine. He checked for cuts, scrapes, or bumps and bruises - none. We made her walk - she did. We even were able to make her laugh. She seemed... perfectly normal! After several tense minutes, a call to the pediatrician, and an all-clear diagnosis, we were able to exhale. Our daughter was going to be fine. In fact, she was virtually unscathed. How could that be? I know she is a baby and thus rather pliable. I know she did not "tense up" like adults or older children might have done realizing that they were falling and could get hurt. But to live through that unscathed? My husband and I both feel she was nestled in the hand of a Guardian Angel. We see no other possible explanation. Someone/thing reached out and cradled her to safety. We are forever grateful and I am 100% more cautious than I ever was before.
My story does not end here. In the last few days I was given more proof that Guardian Angels exist. This time I was the beneficiary of life saving efforts. I was in our dining room cleaning up from our New Year's Eve festivities. I was stowing noise makers, party hats, and taking down a "Happy New Year's" banner that hung on our china cabinets. We have two cabinets that are fitted to connect on the top by a facade piece. On that piece I sat three pitchers for decoration. As I was putting the sign in my storage bag from that piece of furniture, my daughter entered the room from a different entrance opposite the room from me. I turned to smile and talk to her. She was being particularly cute walking around with the little pink purse she was gifted for Christmas. Suddenly she dropped her purse and it made a loud noise so I moved a step or two towards her (and away from the china cabinets) to see what it was she was caring in her purse. The moment that happened a thundering noise startled me from behind and the sound of broken class followed. I hunched my shoulders and was a bit in shock, confused by the events. The last thing I remembered was my daughter's purse hitting the floor with a thud and now there was mass chaos behind me. The exact spot where I had been occupying only moments before! My daughter, untouched, but scared by the noise and broken pieces behind me, began crying loudly. She was visibly shaken, put her arms up to reach me, and I went to her. When I turned around I saw that the facade piece had gotten off it's perch and, under the weight of the decorative pitchers, had given way leading to the crash. Everything underneath the piece was demolished - a candy dish for Christmas was a casualty. My husband, cool in the face of disaster, ran to the basement and brought up gates to secure the two entrances to the room. He instructed me to get my daughter and me safely out of the room. She and I were thankfully spared any damage from the accident. My husband surveyed the situation, cleaned the dining room completely from broken glass and debris, and even cleaned and mopped the floor to make sure no glass splinters would harm his family. I wanted to help but my daughter was clearly shaken by the event so any time I'd try to put her down she'd cry and make the "up" signal. We were attached the rest of the night until bedtime. But here is another instance where I could have been injured, but someone/thing protected me. I was right there until my daughter dropped her purse and pulled my attention. I can't tell you how many times I ignore her when I have chores to do. Why did I let her distract me at that instance? My only explanation, like why my daughter survived her fall unharmed, is we have a Guardian Angel watching over us. And for that I am very very grateful.
Do you have stories that you feel contribute to your beliefs in Guardian Angels? I would love to read them. Leave your story below. Thank you for reading mine.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday Movie Blog

Happy 2011! With the new year I'm launching several new ideas. The first I am implementing today and it is the Monday Movie Blog. The Friday Music Blogs are huge hits so I wanted to extend the idea to cap the weekend with a movie blog. Last year when I posted a movie topic we had record responses so I know movies are important to a lot of you.
To keep the topics fresh I am guaranteeing no repeats for the next six months of Mondays. We are starting today with movies that begin with the letter "A". This includes the articles "a" and "an" but is not limited to those titles. Any movie that begins with an "a" word is allowed. The purpose of the blog is to inform people of your favorite movies. It's intent is not to have you create a long list of movies you have never watched simply because the name fits the category; just list the movies you've seen and enjoyed that fit the focus. If time permits, post a blurb about who is in the movie and why you liked it so much. My husband and I are always looking for movies we haven't seen when searching Netflix, but don't want to waste our time with duds. Compiling these lists week after week will help us all seek out movies we'd like to add to our "queue" while giving us a forum to rave about our personal favorites. Won't you leave your selections today and each week?
I'm absolutely thrilled to continue "Chief 187 Chatter" in 2011 and am dedicated to making this new year one of great health (mental and physical), intensity, honesty, introspection, and a ton of FUN!
Let me know how you think I am doing, if you like the new blog ideas (i.e. today's Monday Movie Blog), and anything else on your mind. I've always wanted my blog to be an interactive one. Please feel free to leave your comments!
Now, get on with leaving your favorite movies that begin with the letter "A"!