Saturday, September 8, 2012


Catchy title huh? 

This is not a post about my need to join a gym.  
Let me explain...

Last week my daughter and I went on her school's 5th grade leadership retreat.  There we participated in activities with names like blob tag, leap of faith, bucket of awesome and gut check.  It was a blast!

Here's how gut check works.

You send your precious daughter up a 3 story tower to be strapped into a harness by a burly, tattooed man... 
...who will then push your daughter off a  platform...
...and she will fly through the air, spinning and twisting perilously...
...and she will LOVE it!

It is such a great feeling to love your kid's school and to know they are in the right place.  
We had 2 days of love, leadership preparation and laughs.  Silly songs, games, bad jokes, and smores.
Praise, pajama parties, and an amazing Colorado mountain sunrise.  

 Here's Ellie thinking, "Help me!  There's a dad on my lap!"
There were some really challenging moments like the high ropes course.
This one was tough and it was so sweet to see all these kids coaching and cheering each other on.

She was really happy to have that one over with!
I was happy to have much needed time with my growing girl.  Thanks Ellie!

Monday, September 3, 2012


I love a good dinner party!  

Saturday night we hosted a Southern Food Cook-Off and invited 2 other foodie families.
It was serious competition.  The only rules were to make 1 dessert and 1 side dish in the Southern category.  The stakes were high because the Golden Fork Trophy was up for grabs (wait till you see this thing!).  We are serious about our food and our trophies around these parts.  We lost a Bocce Ball trophy, at an Italian Night we hosted, to our neighbors and haven't been able to win it back try as we might.  It sits on their mantle taunting us.  So when it came to the Golden Fork the competition was intense.  

1 hour before the competition I called my neighbor,

"Hey, do you have any oil I can use?"

She had called me just 30 minutes before asking to borrow a cooling rack and some wax paper.
She met me in the alley with 2 inches of canola oil in the bottle.

"Darn I don't think that's enough.  I'm frying something."

"We're frying something too.  What are you frying?" she asked.

With narrowed eyes I replied "I don't know, what are YOU frying?"

Neither of us shared.

From my kitchen:
  Buckets of iced tea, hushpuppies, and blackened catfish with sunshot salsa.
My son made peach cobbler.

 At 5:30 the competition started rolling in.
First to arrive - fried okra.  I knew I was in trouble then because I LOVE fried okra.  

...then, shrimp and grits, cornbread salad, red velvet whoopie pies, and chocolate creme brûlée topped with candied peaches and pecans.  

We ate, laughed and ate some more.  Then between dinner and dessert we made a go at that Bocce trophy, even though this broke the whole Southern theme we had going. 

We lost again.

The official cook-off ballot had 3 categories: best taste, best presentation, and best Southern accent (that was the entertainment for the evening).  And the winner is...

Yes, I was beaten by a child.
But this kid rocks in the kitchen and watches way too much Food Network, as you can see by the autographed photo of Bobby Flay in the background.  His parents are so proud that he is taking home the coveted Golden Fork (which is actually an old eel spear my husband found at the flea market and painted gold!)  I think this may end up being part of a Halloween costume next month.  

He made the heavenly chocolate creme brûlée and practiced his accent by watching Paula Deen.

We had a blast! And I'm already thinking we need to do a Indian food night so I can wear the sari my husband brought me from India.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Oh my goodness!  I'm so excited about my book clubs.  I got my friend excited about The Odyssey and now I have someone to talk with in person. The main purpose of this is so we can practice sounding smart about the Odyssey before we have to participate in the on-line forum.

Speaking of smart... I've read the introduction, all xlviii pages of it (however many that is).  I've even underlined stuff!  My goal is to read the first 2 chapters by Monday afternoon since Sarah and I are meeting to discuss the book over ice cream. This may be challenging however because I just received the book for my second book club in the mail today.  While waiting at an appointment I read the introduction and I do not want to put it down!  I am determined to find someone to read this one with me too and even do an experiment of our own.

While I am buried in my books and Ellie, Jack and Molly are still enjoying the newness, and excitement of the new school year, my oldest is wandering in a stupor of boredom.  His new school begins after Labor Day and since I will not allow him to play Wii all day he has resorted to some unusual forms of entertainment...
Putting the carrot back together after he has sliced it.  "Look mama, veggie puzzles!"

It's time for school to start.

Monday, August 20, 2012


One of the motivations for me to return to my blog was to continue the literal counting of blessings that I started through Ann Voskamp's site 2 years ago.  There is something about the process of photographing, describing and sharing one's blessings that helps to redefine what "a life well-lived" really is.  It keeps me counting, aware and accountable for what I've been given.

I'm grateful to continue my list of 1000...

611.  sunsets that look Photoshopped 
612.  summers in the New York countryside
613.  toothy smiles
614.  hair flying
615.  sister secrets
616.  when they still love to dress alike
617.  holiday hair bows
618.  live music
619.  hushpuppies and iced tea
620.  a happy young man
621.  summer camp adventures
622.  new friends
623.  acceptance when you desperately need it
624.  North Carolina beauty
625.  refreshment after a long journey
626.  boys who conquer 
627.  who are silly and skinny and surprisingly tenderhearted
628.  when you can still see the babyface in your baby
629.  sunlight on skin and golden hair
630.  southern beauty that reminds you of your childhood
631.  raindrops on glossy leaves
632.  a husband who knows what you love 
633.  and gives good surprises
634.  chocolate for dinner
635.  cowgirl feet
636.  horse camp
637.  summer's end
638.  teachers you know make a difference
639.  new school shoes, backpacks, and pencils
640.  fresh starts


Sunday, August 19, 2012


I shared in my birthday post a few days ago my desire to "read, read and read some more".  Well I didn't waste any time on that goal and I've signed up for two online book clubs.  The first is a classical book club that will be starting with...(gulp) The Odyssey by Homer.  Truth be told I'm a little intimidated but since my oldest will be starting 7th grade in a few weeks at a school that requires The Odyssey as part of the 7th grade curriculum I must put on a brave face. 

Edie's beautiful blog  life{in}grace  is the home of this classical book club.  I love that she said  "I can hardly even believe the response to the book club. You people are as crazified as I am.  I thought I was the only person I knew who could get so excited about reading The Odyssey.  You validate my nerdiness in the best kinda way."

The second book club I joined at the (In) Courage blog.  When I read the description of the book "7" by Jen Hatmaker I knew it would be a good challenge.  Jen took seven areas of excess in her life (food, wardrobe, media etc...) and made changes over a 7 month period as a experiment with her family.  You can see a really great video promo here.  

My husband thinks its pretty ironic that someone who will NOT read a novel on an e-reader would then sign up for on-line book clubs.  I just tell him the on-line part is a convenience for me but the paper book is an an experience.  As a bookworm I feel I have an  obligation to my dear books to see that they don't go the way of the dinosaur.  
In addition to the 2 book clubs, I have this stack on my nightstand.  Just discovered Tasha Alexander and her historical mysteries, love Kate Morton, have wanted to read Mayflower for years and it seems like a good back to school read, some greats like C.S. Lewis, some practical books on child parenting and yes, even a cookbook I found this summer in North Carolina.  I might be overly ambitious thinking I can get through all this but I will enjoy trying.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012


January 1st does not mark my new year.  My new year starts with the school calendar.  I guess it's that way for most families with school age children.  In fact I just ordered my new day planner that begins with September.  It is a customized, colorful, weekly, bound paper calendar.  My husband will never convert me to a digital calendar try as he might.  I love my pens and paper and the act of writing and crossing things off my list.  I can't wait to sit with a mug of tea and fill in all the activities, projects, and plans for the school year.  
On the calendar for tomorrow?  The first day of school.  As you can see we are prepared.  Homework station ready, pencils sharpened, new backpacks hanging on their hooks.  

New school years are like new years with their resolutions, hopes for the future, and do-overs for the mistakes of last year.  Of course I want to be more disciplined with homework, bedtimes, structure and  healthy meals this year.  As I type this the lunchboxes are on the kitchen counter waiting to be packed with healthy snacks, the first day outfits are laid out, teeth have been brushed and we are on target for bedtime.  But I know ahead of us we will have those mornings.  The mornings that the kids got out of bed late, the lunchbox still holds yesterday's trash, one of the kids can't find shoes and another one just remembered that homework assignment that was due today.  Those mornings will come.  My hope is that I can be calmer about them!  

There is something promising about a fresh start, a freshly sharpened pencil, a freshly made bed.  So I welcome this new school year and hope that mom and kids alike can try our best to do our homework, eat our vegetables, and show each other a little grace on the "not so fresh" days.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Today I turn 40.  It's no big deal really but I've been contemplative the last few weeks.  You see my 40th coincides with my youngest child entering 1st grade this week, and it comes on the heels of a really rough year with my oldest.  It also marks the 2nd anniversary of our move to Colorado.  We have never lived anywhere longer than 2 years so this grounded feeling is really foreign to me.
I've been telling myself that 40 is going to be a new chapter in my life.  "I have plans for my forties," I told my husband last night.  I'm going to start blogging again.  I'm going to read and read and read some more.  I'm going to exercise.  I'm going to take a class in something.  There are other things too.  Things I don't know about yet.  I catch glimmers of new in my mind as I drift off to sleep each night.  Possibilities of things to come.