Thursday, June 25, 2015

Close to You


It's Sonic season for the Wright's and we are participating as best we can. Molly's softball season wrapped up Tuesday evening with a big win and Kate's began last night with a victory. There's lots on the calendar this week, but not nearly as much as last week and for that we are thankful. The post below is from the archives (2011), but celebrates summer and our current softball player…Enjoy.



We were closing down a full day of vacation fun with a snack at one of our favorite hang-outs. Some of us were sagging, some of us were sunburnt, and some of us were just plain starving. Plopping down on picnic-table-style benches, the six of us were comfortably arranged...or so I thought.

"Doesn't anyone want to sit by me?" a weary voice queried.


"Hey, look you and Cole got seats by yourselves, you two are big time," I said...too tired lazy to engineer a seating change and hoping to make her less lonely with mere words.

Then a much deeper voice said, "Of course I want to sit by you!"

And with one little scoot…









...all was right in her world.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Slow Cooking for Fast-Paced Crazy

We are nearing the end of "Crazy Week" and are now headed, full-tilt, into "Crazier Weekend." The VBS goers finished their activities last night to great relief and accomplishment of the workers. Today the theater campers wrap up final rehearsals and Molly's softball team continues onward in the quest for the trophy or a trophy or the end of the season in some form or fashion. Tomorrow Molly and her team play at least two games and Meg and Kate and their theater company perform two shows. As you would guess, most of these things happen nearly at the same times. Happily, they happen in the same general area which is less happily not close to home because where would be the challenge then?


The slow cooker has been the MVP of the week and one of our very favorite meals was it's opening act:
Slow Cooker Korean Beef

My first introduction to this meal was by smell when I dropped something off at a friend's home and upon opening the door the scent of warm and yummy hit my nose. I asked fourteen questions in rapid fire fashion and came to discover a meal that quickly rose to favored status at The Wright Table. It's beyond simple to prepare, it's versatile, it's different from the usual fare…perfect for Crazy Week.

Here's what you need:

{Click HERE for printable recipe}

3 pound chuck roast
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce (in the Asian foods aisle)
1/2 sliced onion
10 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar (in the Asian foods aisle)
1 Tablespoon sesame oil (in the Asian foods aisle)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more, less, or none…depending on your heat tolerance)

Now, grab that slow cooker and fill it up…

I have doubled the recipe because every time I make this we are all elbowing each other away from the slow cooker trying to fill our plates. Not a sweet family scene! The quantities pictured are for my double recipe. The ingredients as listed above are for a single recipe.


Chuck roast…


supporting cast…


…and a crazy amount of garlic but trust me here, it's the perfect amount, not too strong at all.

All you do is place beef in slow cooker and slice the onion, crush but don't chop the garlic, chop up the ginger (fresh ginger is the only way to go here, find it in the produce section of grocery store, peel off thin brown skin with the edge of a spoon, and cut it into coins like you would a carrot then chop the coins into tiny little pieces. I keep the rest of the "root" in my freezer where it lasts forever!)


…and add everything else to the cooker. 


Put the lid on and set it to low for 8 hours. 
(If pressed for time you can set it on high for 5 hours and be fine, but if you have time…go slow and low.)
The beef will be fork tender, the onions like candy and all of the other ingredients will have simply melted into a lovely broth which will taste heavenly over rice or noodles or mashed potatoes, believe me, we've tried it each way. Perhaps our favorite way to eat Korean Beef is in a soft taco shell with sour cream and a squirt of lime and maybe some shredded lettuce or cabbage and a drop or two of Siracha. 

Don't ya love options? Korean Beef is ready to provide! 

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

When Calendars Attack...

Today begins what we've been referring to as "crazy week" around here. We've known that this week was coming, we've watcher it grow closer and closer consuming larger and larger portions of our horizon. It is now upon us.

I've bemoaned our plight to all who would listen (after all, I need something to yap about now that the kitchen is complete). Earlier in my parenting career (but not very much earlier), I would have taken great pride in all of this activity thinking that ...


busy = important

These days I consider busy a sign of poor planning at worst, or an unfortunate ordering of events at best. This nutso week is mostly a result of the latter with a hint of the former. The lineup for the week includes: 

  • Theater camp for Meg and Kate (30 min away, daily)*
  • The last week of regular season softball for Kate and Molly
  • Softball tournament for Molly
  • VBS for the entire family 
  • Possible jury duty for Yours Truly 
I chose the week for jury duty my very own self way back in the winter when summer seemed like a dream. Oops! Otherwise, these events lined themselves up and squished themselves together in the week. The rest of our summer looks pretty vacant in comparison, happily!

Since we've known what's been awaiting us this week, we've done our best to be as prepared as possible. One of Kate's favorite parts of theater camp is one of the things that required the most preparation: the packing of the lunch. Kate's favorite part of life in general is packing and daily packing of lunch is simply walking on sunshine for her. Just in time for this week, we discovered a fun, healthy lunch option for our young actresses…


{From Better Homes and Gardens Special Make & Take issue, 
purchased recently at SAMs Club.}


Here's our take…


Ingredients from bottom to top: honey mustard dressing (use plenty), bow tie pasta, grape tomatoes, dried cranberries, feta cheese, pecans, strawberries, spinach, green leaf lettuce.
Also, we subbed out the jar for a ziplock container because jars are made of glass…enough said.
The theater gals loved their lunches reporting that the salads were good but next time…more dressing. Easy fix and how many different options can you imagine for this? Add chicken, ham, olives, croutons, sunflower seeds…endless combinations, happy eaters. It's all good. We fixed them the night before and Kate packed everything the next morning and we were set. 

Bring on Monday!

UPDATE:

Day 1 of crazy week is in the books. 
  • Salad in a jar was a success.
  • Meg and Kate landed fun roles in the camp production of Cinderella to be presented two times this Saturday (likely while Molly is playing softball!)

  • I had time between theater and ball games to toss our favorite (of late) crock pot meal into…well, the crock pot, and there was dinner at the end of the day. 

  • Molly's team finished the season undefeated.


  • Kate's team enjoyed a nice win also…

  • The VBS crowd enjoyed frozen yogurt bananas on a stick and weathered the heat with class and also with excessive perspiration. (No picture available…I was covering the softball beat, you are welcome =-)
  • Finally, NO JURY DUTY for me! Whew! Yippee! Kazaam! 
Day 2 lies ahead…I'm off to load the crock pot (again) and wash some uniforms (again) and make sure lines for the play are being learned. 

Wishing you lovely days with full hearts and less full calendars!



Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Magic Pill

My family used to make fun of runners as we went about our days. I didn't grow up amongst fitness folks and have had, until recent years, no understanding of the benefits of regular exercise in my life. Neither did the rest of my family, so we made fun of what we did not know…runners. We made fun of them from our car, of course. As we sat strapped into seat belts, we'd say, "That lady is hardly moving! What's the point?" or we'd comment, "Did you see the look on that guy's face? He looks to be in pain! Why would you put yourself through that?"

These days, I am that woman running so slowly it might seem pointless to those in cars passing by and I'm sure the look on my face is not one of happiness and joy but one of determination. I don't necessarily love to get out there and go, but I do love having run. When I can check that box off first thing on a cool morning, my day is automatically going to be 50% better than it otherwise would have.

Nikki Knepper a mental health professional said the following in an interview recently:
"As a mental health professional, I know from what I do, I am a licensed clinical professional counselor, I always tell people your first line of defense against anything that you are struggling with is going to be taking care of your physicality, your body. You need to be on a regular sleep/wake schedule, you need to eat healthy, you need to eat regularly, you need to exercise. It's [exercise] the answer to everything, it's the medicine for everything. Now, not everyone can do the same exercise, but everyone should move, period. It is unquestionable. Even people who have severe arthritis are still told, "move". 


I'm a believer.

I was running the other morning and I saw another woman walking in the distance. She was taller than I and nearly as round. She was struggling in the heat just like me.  I wanted to say something to her to encourage her, to cheer her on for being out there and putting in the steps but I didn't want to sound condescending. I didn't want her to think I thought I was all that.

There's no way she could know that I struggled all winter to get moving once every week or TWO. She couldn't know that on the run just before this one I'd called my Man to meet me at the bottom of the last hill in his TRUCK and take me home. I wanted her to know that a few short years ago I would have struggled to be out there walking any distance at all and that she should count it a win in her day to be out and to be moving. But there was no time and no extra breath in my lungs as our paths crossed to tell her any of it.  I smiled and raised my hand in greeting and continued my slow shuffle toward home and when I arrived, I checked the box and counted it a win and reaped the happy benefits for the rest of the day…I hope she did too.


"If exercise could be packed in a pill, 
it would be the single most widely prescribed and 
beneficial medicine in the nation." 
~ Dr. Robert Butler, specialist in geriatric medicine

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Dear Neighbors…Welcome to the House Next Door!

Dear Neighbors,

Welcome to the house next door. We are glad to have you in the neighborhood. I am what in days gone by would have been called "the lady of the house," in today's language I am frequently referred to as "the mother of all those kids." I do my best to keep the chaos to a low roar around here but, fair warning, your idea of an acceptable level of chaos may be much different than mine. With that in mind I thought it fair to give you a heads up about the going's on here at the Wright Place…

  • Four kids live here but you will rarely see all four at the same time. When you keep seeing different kids hanging around the place just assume they belong here. Most often they are Wrights.
  • You will often see young girls pushing a stroller up and down the street. The logical assumption is that we have added a baby to our family. This is not the case. Fear not, the baby in the stroller, though real in appearance is a doll. In addition to the four kids who live here, we are also home to 4 or 5 hundred well-loved baby dolls. These dolls get better care than most infants and enjoy frequent stroller rides around the neighborhood. 
  • Often, if not daily, you will hear the bouncing of a ball either inside the house or outside. One of the kids here is a teenaged boy and it seems that bouncing things is more important to his survival than breathing is. 
  • There will be, on occasion, and more frequently as summer is beginning, the sound of a ukulele being played. We are not having a luau. Our teenaged daughter loves making music and we are thrilled that the ukulele and the piano are her instruments of choice. Just consider some of the alternatives!
  • Be particularly cautious when venturing into your backyard. Without warning any number of flying objects could drop into your vicinity. Softballs, tennis balls, baseballs, frisbees, and baby dolls (the ones receiving substandard care obviously) are regular intruders in your yard followed by which ever child has drawn the short straw and has been sent to retrieve the flying object. The rule is to knock on your front door and ask for permission to enter your yard. You might just want to offer blanket permission and save yourself some door answering. Every now and then I'll bake you some cookies or muffins to help make up for the hassle of living beside of us. This issue is usually not as much of a problem in the winter. 
  • Please do not be unnerved when you see a beautiful pair of blue eyes staring at you from out of the windows of our home. We have a child who feels called to the neighborhood watch. No, there is not an organization to join on our street.. Our girl is a team of one with the occasional help of one of the little girls who lives on the other side of you. It might be better said that she feels called to watch the neighborhood. We are trying to break her of this calling but honestly? Her information is quite useful to us and so, we are not trying very hard. Shortly she will know what time of day you go to work, what sort of clothes you wear to work, what time you come home from work, what your favorite way to wear your hair is, and who your friends and family are. I'm very sorry for this invasion of your privacy but take comfort in this, you are not alone. She has a scary knowledge of everyone who lives within a four block radius.
  • I should also just apologize ahead of time for what you are likely to see on our porch. We love our porch and treat it very much as another room in our home. Early in the mornings, probably as you are leaving your home for work (we won't know this until our daughter has a few days to collect the information though) it it very possible that you will see people in pajamas. They will be eating breakfast, reading books, watering flowers, or having class (more about this in a minute). We do our best to remember that we are outside and that we have neighbors but golly we like to start the day slowly out there dressed as if we were still inside. The Man of the House is always very presentable while on the porch but the rest of us…. I'm sorry if we leave a bad impression or especially a lasting one! This is only a problem when the weather is warm or almost warm. If the weather is cool, we are usually well covered with blankets.
  • OK, you might want to sit down. The reason we have class on our porch is because we are homeschoolers. We hope that eventually you will say to us like some people have, "but you seem so…normal." We realize, however, that you may never find us normal and that there could be many additional reasons for that other than our homeschooling! Because you find yourself living beside a bunch of homeschoolers, you will see our kids here all of the time. Constantly! Every. Single. Day. 
  • Because of that Every. Single. Day. reality, I often send the little girls outside to burn off some energy. One of their favorite outside activities is singing songs from movies especially musicals of the Disney variety though lately they are really into Annie. Therefore, when you hear the girls singing "It's a Hard Knock Life for Us," you can assume that it is just an Annie phase and not a commentary on the state of their existence in our home…I think. 
  • Finally, you find yourself moving in to your home during a season in our home where we have not one, but two teenagers who are learning how to drive. Beware as you drive by.
Well, I think that covers nearly everything. We remain thrilled that you are living next door and now that you are armed with the above information we hope that you will be thrilled to live next door as well. It may be a good idea for you to check with some of the other neighbors who will probably be happy to share some of their "coping with the Wrights" skills with you. There may even be a support group that meets regularly.

Welcome to the neighborhood! 


We make our friends; we make our enemies; 
but God makes our next door neighbor.
G. K. Chesterton

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Runner, A Race, A Revelation

I watched my Boy run a mile or two this weekend.



Actually, I didn't see him run even one complete mile but rather I saw him pass by from various locations on the course as he was in the process of running those miles.

It was one of my favorite days...

...but it caused something deep in me to begin to wiggle a bit loose.

My Boy is highly motivated by a goal. I was on the edge of the conversation when he decided to train for the half marathon. I might even have suggested that he look at a few training plans...or that might have been his father. Other than making sure there was enough food around to fuel his training, I had very little to do with this event in his life.

Every now and again I'd tell him he was doing a great job sticking to the training schedule but never did I have to tell him to get out there and go.

{Pinning on race bib.}

 His dad made sure he had a good pair of running shoes in time to get them worn in before race day but never did the Boy have to be reminded to go and wear them in.


He's a normal teenage boy...if the case can be made that teenaged boys are normal. He has to be told to do plenty of things...normal why-am-I-having-to-tell-you-this-again things. He picks on his sisters, gets sick of doing school work, and I suspect that his teacher frequently gets on his last nerve.

He's good with a goal though and it was so fun to watch him see it through to the end.

{Cole, on far left in tennis ball yellow shoes. Photo Credit: Wheeling Intelligencer} 

My Man and I were waiting for Cole to appear at the top of a big hill and I was talking to my Mom on the phone. She, in typical grandmother form asked, "Can you see him the whole way?"


"Well, no," I answered, "I'm only able to see him here and there as we follow him around the course and then only when he passes by."


It struck me shortly after— and here's where that something inside me began to get a little shaky— it was going to be that way more and more with my Boy. He's going to be running his own race very soon. Less and less of the time will I be in constant view of him.


I'll be somewhere on the course cheering him on, knowing where he is but not being able to be with him as he takes each step as I has been thus far in our partnership. Sooner than not, I'm going to have to rely on the training that has already taken place to carry him from one point to another, from one goal to the next, across the finish line.



It was encouraging to watch him set a goal and chase after it. It was exhilarating to watch him succeed. It would have been so great if I'd gotten a picture of him crossing the finish line...but I missed him. I didn't see him coming down the block until it was too late to aim the camera…I was looking for my Boy and missed snapping a picture of the Young Man running the last block of the race.

Happily there were other camera's than mine at the finish.

One half marathon down…the rest of his life to go!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Stormy Weather Ahead...

It's pretty simple to tell that the how-much-longer-do-I-have-to-do-school blues have set in at The Wright Academy...

"PLEASE somebody tell me WHEN I'll ever in my LIFE need to know how to figure out how far away from me lightening is striking!!"

Teenager at work. CAUTION.

"Well," said I with level headed logic, "of all of the goofy things they ask you to know, that one does have some life application. You could use that information the next time you are watching your sisters play ball when a storm kicks up."

"Really?!" she said, "if I'm on the bleachers and it starts storming, how about if I just avoid standing under trees, or get in the car and leave? Probably if a storm comes, the last thing I'll be doing is pulling out a calculator to figure out how far away the lightening is!"

My Man, as usual was grinning and trying not to, "You sorta had to see that coming didn't you?"

I did not.

Is it summer time YET?!!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

What I'm Reading This Summer (2015) ... A List

It's nearly time to break out the summer books. The Wright Academy is cruising toward the end of our official school year and all of us are eager to "read for fun" after a long year of "read for learning." I spent some quiet moments listing a few books that I wanted to read in the coming months of summer and I thought I'd share some fun finds.



The Nightingale ~ a few months ago a friend texted, "Are you going to read The Nightingale?" I admitted to her that it had not even been on my radar. Well, it's on my radar now. I was reading the Big Mama blog earlier this week in which she asked her readers for suggestions for good summer reading. The Nightingale was hailed as THE book to read by what seemed 80% of the commenters. It has over 5000 five star review at last count. One reader said that this book was so good that since finishing it she had as yet been unable to enjoy any other book. That's a book I want to read, even at the risk of the book slump that may follow.


Go Set A Watchman ~ Have you heard that a second book has been discovered which was written by Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird? "Whooo hooooooo," I say. Sign me up. It will, of course be necessary to reread To Kill a Mockingbird before hand just to get into the spirit of the whole event, don't you think? Perhaps I'll listen to it. The audio version, read by Sissy Spacek is supposed to be the gold standard in audio books.


Flash: The Homeless Donkey Who Taught Me about Life, Faith, and Second Chances ~ I first saw Flash peeking out at me from the Publisher's Weekly summer booklist and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the book is endorsed by some of my favorite blogger/authors Sophie Hudson and Melanie Shankle. Melanie writes of Flash, "This book made me laugh at Flash's antics and cry as I identified with the lessons he has taught her family about the way God loves us and sees us." Honestly though, this one had me with the cover alone! I've already begun reading it and I'm confident that it's going to live up to its reviews.


Emma ~ I attempted my first Jane Austen book many years ago and abandoned it 1/3 of the way through. I liked it a lot but other books worked their way into my world and I forgot all about Emma. Meg so enjoyed reading Pride and Prejudice for school last year that she suggested we read Emma together this summer. How could I say no? Plus Alexander McCall Smith has just published a modern-day Emma and I'd like to read the original and then the new one.


Until the Harvest ~ "I'm going to give this a try," I said to my Man holding this book in his view, "even though I've been a bit snobbish about..." 

"...books?" he sorta joked.

"...about Christian fiction." I finished. Over the years I'd grown weary of the genre but the blurb at the top of the cover drew me in and then I read the first chapter and the setting was in my home state and... I hope this book lives up to its cover.

While we are discussing Christian fiction...


Church Ladies ~ was a book I read years ago (before my Christian fiction cool off) and can still remember the feeling of. It's about a pastor's wife in particular and the women who surround her all of whom have pasts to deal with and  futures to face. I'd call it Christian fiction with an edge. I plan to read more of Lisa Samson's work this summer starting with, appropriately...



Quaker Summer ~ Reviews say... "Unlike many Christian novelists, Samson does not tidily resolve every single problem her heroine faces, but instead paints an emotionally and spiritually luminous portrait of a soul beckoned by God." 



Life from Scratch ~ My Man found this in the bookstore this evening and was pretty sure I'd be all over it. He was Wright, as usual ;-). The author, it seems, set out to cook dishes from around the world but somewhere along the way the story of her life came to the forefront in a fashion reminiscent, says one review, of "The Glass Castle but with more food. And not just any food: We're talking cinnamon raisin pizza."  Plus... that cover makes me hungry for pie.


Bon Appe´tempt: A Coming of Age Story (with Recipes!)~ It's a memoir with recipes and pictures of food magazines and cookbooks on the front...the subtitle might as well have been "buy me now Gretchen Wright." I'm already a bit charmed by the authors voice and the reviews promise a bit of humor which is always welcome.

To balance the humor, I've decided to read the book that seems to be popping up on podcasts and on blogs and everywhere I look...


The Girl On the Train ~ the book most likely to creep me out and completely counteract my melatonin. It's a book of suspense that is purportedly "un-put-down-able." 

 “Nothing is more addicting than The Girl on the Train.”—Vanity Fair

The Girl on the Train has more fun with unreliable narration than any chiller since Gone Girl. . . . [It] is liable to draw a large, bedazzled readership.”—The New York Times

An addicting chiller with an unreliable narrator...here goes nothin'!


Finally...the book I wish I'd not yet read so that I can read it again for the first time...


The Blue Castle ~ You may recognize the author as the writer of the Anne of Green Gables books but The Blue Castle (1.99 for Kindle) is not a children's story...it is an old fashioned story that holds it value even today. I read this slim book quickly over the last two days because of its heroine Valancy. 

Amazon.com says: Valancy lives a drab life with her overbearing mother and prying aunt. Then a shocking diagnosis from Dr. Trent prompts her to make a fresh start. For the first time, she does and says exactly what she feels. As she expands her limited horizons, Valancy undergoes a transformation, discovering a new world of love and happiness. One of Lucy Maud Montgomery's only novels intended for an adult audience, The Blue Castle is filled with humour and romance. 

Many recommendations of this book tout it as a favorite and often the reviews said that they read it over and over. I'm not a re-reader normally, but this one would certainly be early on my list if I were to begin rereading my favorites.


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