Happiest

What was the Happiest moment of your life?

I have been really blessed in my life and I have had lots and lots of happy moments.  When I was growing up, things were always fun and happy around our house.  The funny thing is, I know my sister and I used to fight. I can remember my mom saying, “I wish you girls would get along. It hurts me so much when you fight.”  I know we could be mean, I know we could really make each-other cry, but I really can’t remember any of the things we fought about.  (Well okay, I still remember the argument over who the pink scissors belonged to [they were mine!!!!] but that is it.) However, I do remember tons of fun and happy stuff we did.

Amanda and I made up the goofiest games.  This was back in the days before video games and the internet when kids actually played outside.  We had “cooking rock” where we would mush up berries and nuts we found in the woods to make pretend food.  We made up silly songs while swinging on the swings.  We played cowboys and indians by the pond with a bow we made from a stick and a string and an arrow we found in the woods.  We caught bugs and snakes and hid salamanders in the watering can to freak out my mom.  We followed the stream for miles and found “treasures” in the woods.

I remember one day we had had a bag of “Funions” those fake fried onion rings.  We were playing by the pond and a few fell in.  The next day we were by the pond and we were FREAKED out by the nasty “worms” that were all over in the water.  We were just about to run and tell dad when we realized it was the Funions and they had soaked up water and swelled up to look like worms.

We had picnics out by the big tree in the back yard. We climbed the stonewall looking for praying mantis bugs.  We caught fireflies and put them in jars.  We collected cans from the side of the road and cashed them in at the Jiffy Mart.  We would then spend our earnings on Blue Slush Puppies, Slim Jim’s and candy! Lots and lots of candy.  We loved the Mike and Ike’s, good n’ plenty, Boston baked beans, Lemon-heads, and all those little boxed candies.

When the weather was such that we couldn’t go outside we had lots of inside games too.  Amanda used to line up her stuffed animals and play “library” with them by reading them books.  We would make up dances to popular songs and give impromptu recitals to our parents in the sun room.  We also gave them band concerts and choir concerts.  We must have sounded horrible but they always watched and so would anyone else who happened to be visiting.  We even played “olden days”.  We would turn off all the lights, light candles and pretend we were in the olden days.

Amanda and I really enjoyed playing together.  We had separate bedrooms in our house.  Since we enjoyed each others company so much some times it was hard to be in separate rooms.  We decided we were going to come up with a way to communicate when we were in our own rooms.  Our plan was to take a long string and string it between our windows.  The plan was to thread the string through the windowscreens and then tie a bell at both ends.  When one of us wanted the other, we could tug on the string, causing the bell to ring and thus alerting the other sister. I don’t remember if it worked. But I remember we spent a lot of time working on the plan.

Amanda and I had lots of other great memories but I would be writing for days if I tried to fit them all in here.  We were apart for 2 years when I first went away to college.  This was a REALLY difficult time for both of us but I think it was really hard on my sister.  She was alone at home and had to put up with a lot of changes that I didn’t really appreciate or understand at the time.  Mom and Dad sold the house we had spent most of our lives in just a few weeks before I went to college.  They moved at the same time I left.  I didn’t go to school a few hours from home either.  My family was in Vermont and I was going to school at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.  Any trips home required a 27 hour car ride or an airplane flight with at least one layover, if not two!

Amanda endured a move from a 5 bedroom/ 4 bathroom house in the country to a tiny condo in town.  Less than a year later they moved again to a small house in town.  At this time I was “SO IN LOVE” with a guy I had met at summer camp and suddenly my little sister didn’t seem so important to me.  I was gone not only physically but I was so wrapped up in myself I think I kind of checked out on my sister emotionally as well.  When the relationship that I was so sure was “the one” ended abruptly and unexpectedly Amanda was right there beside me consoling me and caring for me.  That long summer ended and it was time to go back to school.  Fortunately my sister was going with me! We were even rooming together!  Our year as roommates was a lot of fun and I really needed the strength of my sister to get me though that really difficult year.

As time went on we found our own groups of friends and eventually moved into other housing without each-other.  It was a tough transition but we still hung out on occasion and were friends with each-others friends.  I was getting close to graduation and we knew there were big changes in our futures.  Amanda had started dating Josh kind-of off and on.  I had started dating Richie.

Richie and I had actually met a few years earlier via that “summer camp guy”.  After “that guy” and I broke up I bumped into Richie in the Benson Auditorium on the first day back to school.  Of course he had to ask about “that guy” and I had to painfully relive the story.  Richie was really sweet though and went on and on about how stupid “that guy” must be.  He mentioned if I ever wanted to hang out I should give him a call.  Truthfully though, I hated guys at the time.  I laughed and said sure but there was no way in God’s green earth I was calling him.  Sometime in November I think Richie called me and asked me out.  After a semester of feeling sorry for myself I was ready for something different so I said yes.  Richie took me to the Dixie Cafe and then we went to Little Rock to watch “You’ve Got Mail” with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.  It was fun and Richie was a really nice guy but the whole thought of dating really freaked me out.  Richie must have had a good time too cause  a few days later he called to ask me out again.  Amanda and I weren’t home at the time and he left a message.  When I heard it I was scared to death.  I just couldn’t see myself in a relationship so I ignored the message and never called him back.  In some respects I was really enjoying not being tied down to anyone and the freedom I had to do whatever, whenever.  Richie tried calling a few more times. I continued to ignore the calls and he eventually quit.

The school year ended and Amanda and I went home for the summer.  Having been “boyfriendless” for almost a year I had really found out about myself and had really grown up a lot.  This was the point when Amanda and I had decided to no longer room together.  Amanda kept our old room and I moved into an apartment.  Late in the semester I was leaving a class in the Olen Hendricks building on campus.  I was walking down the stairs carrying a big poster-board I had created a project on.  Richie was at the bottom of the stairs.  He greeted me like a friend and completely ignored the fact that a year earlier I had totally given him the shaft.  We stood there talking, he made fun of my project, I laughed a lot.

Later that night, the phone rang. The voice said, “I didn’t get to flirt with you enough today, so I though I would call and see if I could take you out on Friday night.” Wow! What a DORK!  But he had caught me hook, line and sinker! I am not sure what the change was but I was ready to give it a try.  And boy did I test him!

Richie took me to Chili’s and to a Hockey game in Little Rock.  I think I did everything I could think of to scare Richie away.  I flirted with the waiter at the restaurant, I ordered a huge meal and ate it all (no salad for me, thank you!), I acted like a crazy person at the hockey game, yelling and screaming and drawing attention to myself.  Richie smiled though it all and even tried to hold my hand on the way home. I had the time of my life and he didn’t seem fazed in the least.

Richie called me the next night and we talked on the phone for hours.  Unfortunately the semester was only a few days from being over and Amanda and I were headed home to Vermont for the holidays.  Back home, I couldn’t get him out of my head.  Richie called me a few times over the break and every conversation seemed to last longer and longer and we had more and more to talk about.  I was really looking forward to getting back to school so I could get to know Richie better.  Richie even offered to pick Amanda and I up from the airport when we got back to Arkansas.

From the day we landed back in Little Rock, Richie and I were practically inseparable.  We hung out all the time.  It didn’t take long at all for us to realize that we had something special and we didn’t want it to end.  Somewhere around Valentine’s day, just over two months from the day we first went out, Richie asked me to marry him and I of course said YES!  We immediately began planning our wedding and were married on July 29, 2000.

We celebrated out 7 year anniversary this last July!  All of these moments fall into that category of happiest moments in my life.

My sister Amanda and my husband Richie are my best friends.  Both of them play such a huge part in my life.  Granted there are times of struggle and disagreement with both of them but the good times definitely prevail.  It is so hard to pick any one moment as the happiest moment in my life but any time spent with my sister or my husband is certainly a really happy time.

Amanda, Josh and Silas

My Husband, Richie! (Isn’t he cute???!!!)

Listening is an Act of Love

I just finished this most amazing book that my friend Dee lent me.

This book is a compilation of some of the stories told in the booths of the StoryCorps project.  The idea behind StoryCorps is to preserve American history through the spoken word of common everyday Americans.  StoryCorps has several permanent booths and several travelling booths around the country.  You can take someone to a booth and for 40 minutes you get to share your story, whatever it is!  The booth is equipped with microphones to record your story.  At the end of the time you get a CD copy of what you recorded.  A second copy is placed in the Library of Congress.

The stories in the book are funny, emotional, heartbreaking and heart warming.  This is truly one of the most inspirational books I have read in a long time.  This book will make you want to preserve the memory of your own family.

The stories can also be heard every Friday morning on NPR or you can link to the podcast from the StoryCorps website.

In the back of the book are some questions for you to consider that will help you preserve the memory of you and your family.  Look for me to answer these questions in several of your upcoming posts.

It’s a Kenmore!

Having to turn on all the burners on the stove in order to keep the oven working is great when it is 32 outside.  It keeps the kitchen nice and warm.  Having to turn on all the burners on the stove in order to keep the oven working when it is 100 outside stinks!  That is exactly what I have had to do for the last 10 – 11 months.  My oven quit working about last February or March.  The burners would no longer light without the assistance of a match.  The oven wouldn’t warm up unless you lit all the burners and then it would cool off as soon as you shut them off.  A tank top and shorts became my cooking “uniform” everytime I had to spend any amount of time in the kitchen.  Even in the winter months the kitchen would average around 95 if the oven and all it’s burners were on and well over 100 if you were right beside it.

I dropped hints, begged and pleaded but it always seemed we had other things we “needed” to spend money on and the stove got pushed down to the bottom of the list. Well FINALLY at Christmas, my mother-in-law said she knew how much I had wanted an oven and, as my Christmas gift, was willing to pay for part of it!!!! YEAH!

So on January fifth this beauty arrived:

It’s a Kenmore!

My new stove is GREAT! It has FIVE burners! Each of the burners are different sizes to optimize them based on the type of cooking and the amount of heat needed.  It has a broiler inside the oven! My old on was under the oven and I had to crawl on the floor to get to it.  It is self cleaning and even has a Sabbath feature. I am not Jewish so I have no clue what that is for but it’s still cool that it has it.

I also got some other great Kitchen related gifts for Christmas.  I got a really nice bamboo cutting board and a roasting pan from my parents.  Amanda got me a MicroPlane and I have been zesting everything in site! Richie (actually me) got me 2 new chefs knives and a sharpener! I bought myself a new griddle and grill pan! I feel like a REAL chef in my new kitchen!

Here is a yummy pancake recipe to celebrate my new oven and griddle. But don’t tell Richie they have sour cream in them or he wouldn’t eat them!

Banana Sour Cream Pancakes

Courtesy of Barefoot Contessa, www.foodnetwork.com

 

1 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
2 extra-large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Unsalted butter
2 ripe bananas, diced, plus extra for serving
Pure maple syrup
 
 

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, mixing only until combined.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat until it bubbles. Ladle the pancake batter into the pan to make 3 or 4 pancakes. Distribute a rounded tablespoon of bananas on each pancake. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until bubbles appear on top and the underside is nicely browned. Flip the pancakes and then cook for another minute until browned. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, add more butter to the pan, and continue cooking pancakes until all the batter is used. Serve with sliced bananas, butter and maple syrup.

 

Happy Belated Birthday "Pa" and Mary!

I am a few days late on this post. (You know how life gets in the way sometimes?) But I couldn’t go on without posting a special Happy Birthday message to “Pa” also known as Charles Ingalls and his first daughter Mary!


Charles and Caroline Ingalls

Charles Ingalls was born on January 10, 1836 in Cuba, New York.  When Charles was still a boy his family left New York and moved westward to the Campton Township which was just west of the area that is now know as Elgin, Illinois.  This move instilled in “Pa” and “itching foot” that kept the family moving.  His marriage to Caroline Quiner in 1860 began in Wisconsin and they lived there about 8 years before moving to the Indian Territory in Kansas.  Unfavorable circumstances in the Indian Territory kept the family moving and they moved back to Wisconsin, to southern Minnesota, to Iowa for a year and then back to Minnesota.  The family was struggling in Minnesota and a job opportunity in the Dakota Territory presented itself.  Caroline was supportive but asked Charles to promise this would be their last move.  She was fearful her children would not receive a proper education.  Charles agreed and the family settled in De Smet, South Dakota where Pa eventually died and was buried in 1902. Charles Ingalls died of heart disease at the age of 66.


Mary Ingalls

Mary Ingalls, the first child of Charles and Caroline shares her fathers birthday! She was born on January 10, 1865 in Pepin, Wisconsin.  Mary lived the life of a typical child on the Prairie until the age of 14.  Laura’s books describe an incident where Mary became quite ill with “scarlet fever” and “stroke”.  The illness eventually caused permanent blindness in Mary.  Mary and her family, who supported her love for education, saved money and she attended the Iowa College for the Blind from 1881 to 1889.  After graduation, Mary returned to South Dakota where she lived with her parents until their deaths.  The television series Little House on the Prairie depicted Mary as having married a blind man and eventually opening a school for the blind.  This was a fictional representation as the real Mary Ingalls never married.  She died at the age of 63 from pneumonia and a stroke.  She is buried near her parents in De Smet, South Dakota.

Prairie life certainly was not an easy one.  Fortunately, Laura Ingalls Wilder realized that the nation was changing and prairie life was becoming a thing of the past.  Laura’s journals, books and extensive collection of letters have helped to preserve the memory of not only the Ingalls but of the many brave and courageous settlers whom, against all odds, participated in Westward Expansion.

Images taken from www.wikipedia.com.  Information stated was gathered from www.wikipedia.com, the Little House on the Prairie Books, and personal research of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s memoir, letters and biographies.

Back to it!

School started back yesterday!  I always kind of dread going back but once I get here I realize why I love my job!  We started a new semester yesterday so I got a new group of 5th graders, a new group of 8th graders and my semester long Survey of Art class (High School) switched out too.

Currently my art room is a small old house.  I get the whole house to myself which is neat but there are some problems with the building.  This house is probably close to 75 years old! There is little to no insulation and there are actually cracks where the walls meet the floor where you can see outside!  So when it was only 16 degrees yesterday we never could seem to get warm!  The house has it’s charm too.  I get the whole thing to myself which is nice and peaceful.  We can be wild and crazy here in the art room and not bother anyone. I have a big porch which is great for when we do tie-dye cause I can string a big clothesline across the porch to dry our goods. Yet on the flip side there isn’t any good storage.  We have only one small sink in the room which was the kitchen.  The room is L shaped which creates blind spots.  Of course the naughty kids always try to sit in that back area!  Still I have truly enjoyed being in this room!

About a year and a half ago the superintendent of our school informed me that we would be getting a new building on campus and I would get a brand new art facility! At first I had mixed feelings about the project.  I would have to give up my space that we all affectionately refer to as “The House of Art”.  Despite it’s drawbacks, it really does have a special charm.

Construction on the new facility began on the last day of the 2006/2007 school year.  The summer was spent preparing the site which involved removing an old house and the current playground.  The pipework and foundation were also layed.  As the new school year began we saw the walls and roof come up. The exterior brick work was put in place and by Christmas Sheetrock and other internal work had begun.  Yesterday the water department connected the new building to the town waterlines and as we speak Entergy is putting new light polls in place and preparing the building to receive it’s own electricity!  As this work is being completed I am starting to feel the stir of excitement.  The quirky nuances of the “House of Art” are starting to become annoying nuisances and I am itching for the new building to be done!

The new Fine Arts Facility now has water and electric but there is still quite a bit of interior work to be done!  The finish of the project is slated for mid March! We should be moving in before the end of the school year!  So much of my time over the next few weeks will be spent purging my room of stuff that is no longer usable so that I don’t have to move it to the new building!

I believe that change is always met with a bit of hesitation but once we learn to embrace it we can discover joy and happiness in the newness that life and living has brought us.  So it is nearing the end of an era and the “House of Art” will soon cease to exist.  So to honor it’s memory here are a few shots of my space.

      

New Years Day Dinner and other thoughts

Well, Happy 2008! 2007 sure seemed to go by in a hurry! I didn’t even manage to stay up til midnight! I fell asleep on the couch somewhere around 11:30 and hubby didn’t want to wake me and let me sleep til he went to bed sometime around 1:00! Oh well!  As a teenager I never went to bed before midnight and then I would sleep late into the morning. As I’ve gotten older I have enjoyed turning in a little earlier and waking earlier as well.  I RARELY sleep past 7:30 on a day when I am “sleeping in”!

2007 was a pretty good year.  We began 2007 in Orlando, Florida watching the Razorbacks play in the Capitol One Bowl.  Most of the winter months were spent driving back and forth to Little Rock where Richie was finishing up some classes he needed to get his School Administration Certification.  He had class every Tuesday and 2 Saturdays on, one Saturday off.  The month of March brought us the birth of our first nephew Silas who is absolutely adorable. The month of June finally afforded us some free time and being teachers, we were able to enjoy staying up late, sleeping in, swimming in the pool and a weekend trip to Branson.  I managed a trip out to my sister’s in Nashville before they moved back to Illinois. July was a very interesting month! It found us back in school again. I was taking my final 2 classes that would add a Gifted and Talented certification as well as a Master’s Degree to my repertoire.  Richie also began taking the last two prerequisite classes he needed before beginning work on his Doctorate of Education degree.  July also brought a film crew from Hollywood, California to our house to film me for an episode of HGTV’s That’s Clever! Which is scheduled to air sometime during the 2008 season!  August came and we found ourselves spending the days in workshops to prepare for the beginning of school in mid August.  We were able to squeeze in another short trip to Branson though before school got back in full swing.  September through December were really pretty uneventful and FLEW by in a flash!  We saw the Broadway production of the Lion King in Memphis with our good friends Dee and Randy in mid September but that was really the excitement of the fall!  We spent a quiet Thanksgiving at home where I cooked for the three of us (Richie, myself and his mother) like I was cooking for 15! We still have leftovers in the freezer!  Christmas was highly anticipated as we were travelling to my sister’s beautiful house in Illinois.  So we battled snow and wind to get there because I was very excited to see my sister whom I hadn’t seen since June.  My mom and Dad were also going to be there and I hadn’t seen Dad since him and mom came down last Christmas.  I hadn’t seen mom since March when our visits to Nashville overlapped by a few days.  However, I was very excited to see my nephew who is now crawling like crazy, getting teeth and even managing a few cute sounds that could be the starting formations of the words “this” and “Cleo”. Yes my 9 1/2 month old nephew is already mastering blends and digraphs.  What can I say he is a genius just like his aunt Julie!  Christmas at my sister’s was wonderful and too short.  I hope to get out to see her again sometime this summer.  The last weekend of 2007 we were able to catch a great TSO concert and then spent a fairly quite New Years at home.

So even though we weren’t able to go on any amazing vacations this year, the trips we did take (to Nashville and Illinois) were much more meaningful.  The year brought us good health, good fortune, a lot of fun, new life, time with family and time with each-other. 2007 was a great year.

Soooo….that brings us to 2008!  Everyone knows I like a good meal and I especially like to cook a really great meal! So the first day of 2008 was celebrated around the table enjoying this:

New Years Day Menu

Orange Balsamic Rock Cornish Game Hens
Jacques Pepin Yukon Gold Potatoes
Winter Carrots
Black Eye Peas with Hog Jowl (I don’t know what Hog Jowl is and I don’t eat it!
Richie’s mom makes these for him and he
can’t have new year’s with out them!)
Hot Rolls
Pumpkin Roll (made by Judy)

And here are the recipes:

Orange Balsamic Rock Cornish Game Hens 

Recipe Courtesy of Rachel Ray on www.foodnetwork.com

6 hens, rinsed and pat dry
Coarse salt
Coarse black pepper
1 cup defrosted orange juice concentrate
1 cup aged balsamic vinegar
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
7 to 8 stems rosemary, chopped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line 2 baking pans with foil for easier cleaning. Set a baking rack in each pan. Split hens and butterfly open and place 3 hens in each baking pan. Season the hens with salt and pepper liberally. Mix the orange concentrate, balsamic vinegar and olive oil and pour evenly over the hens. Sprinkle with rosemary and roast 15 minutes at 425 degrees F and 30 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Yukon Gold Potatoes: Jacques Pepin Style 

Recipe courtesy of Rachel Ray on www.foodnetwork.com

3 pounds baby Yukon gold potatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons butter
2 to 3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves

Place the potatoes in a deep skillet and add salt and pepper, to taste. Cover potatoes halfway with chicken stock, about 3 cups, add the butter and cover skillet with a lid. Cook the potatoes in the stock until almost tender, about 5 to 8 minutes, depending upon the size of the potatoes. Remove the lid and allow the stock to evaporate, about another 5 minutes. Once the stock has evaporated pop each potato using a ladle or large spoon, creating a small crack in each, but do not smash. Allow the potatoes to brown on each side, another 5 minutes, and re-season with salt and pepper, if necessary or desired. Remove the browned potatoes from the skillet and place onto a serving platter, garnished with the parsley.

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