Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Family's Favorite Fish

We already know about the benefits of adding fish to your family's diet. Yet, even with all of this knowledge, somehow my best fish meal fell out of the rotation! Tonight, however, we resurrected one of our favorites which received a big thumbs up from Molly who, with first bite still in her mouth said, "Yea Mommy! Dis is deewishus!"

Aside from high praise from a three-year-old, there's much to love about this particular recipe. First, it only involves six very common ingredients if you don't count the salt and pepper. Second, total time in oven is 10 minutes, barely enough time to set the table. Third, it is very simple. Finally, it really is deewishus.

Buttery Baked Parmesan Fish:
(slightly adapted from Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely)

{Printable recipe HERE}

6 fish filets, fresh or frozen
5 Tablespoons of flour
5 Tablespoons of cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste
1 stick butter, (8 Tablespoons), melted
Parmesan cheese to sprinkle

Directions: Preheat oven to 400˚.
If your fish filets are frozen, place them in their individually wrapped plastic, into a bowl of cool water. Allow about an hour for them to thaw, but often it doesn't take that long.

In a wide shallow dish (I use a pie plate) mix flour, cornmeal, garlic powder, salt and pepper. 
Set aside. 

Melt butter and pour into a casserole dish. 

Dredge fish filets in the flour/cornmeal mixture making sure that both sides of the fish are well covered. 

Place each filet into the casserole dish, turning each over once to coat with butter on both sides. 
Sprinkle desired amount of parmesan cheese over the fish, 

and place in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Serve with some veggies and enjoy!

"Don't tell fish stories where the people know you; 
but particularly, don't tell them where they know the fish." 
~Mark Twain~

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Scenes from a Homeschooling Convention

One week ago I bid my Man and Kate a fond farewell, loaded Cole, Meg and Molly into the family van, and struck out for my destination to the southwest with a quick overnight swing towards the east. The four of us headed for my Mom & Dad's to deposit Molly at Camp Grandma and while there we picked up my sister, Becky who would join us for the adventure ahead.

The adventure ahead was the Southeast Homeschooling Convention, conveniently located in the very same town where my other sister Sudeana lives in South Carolina. Last year, I made the 9 hour drive on my own and Sudeana and I had a blast at our first homeschool convention.  Yet the whole time I was sitting in workshops and classes, shopping in the vendor hall and soaking up all of the information, I was thinking how very much my older kids would have loved the whole experience.

 This year, Cole and Meg accompanied me as well as my sister Becky who began homeschooling her two boys this August and my trip was all the richer for the additions to our family roster.

Once inside...

...we got down to business. Serious business...
Okay, maybe not all that serious...seriously big cookie, true 'nuff!

We learned, we saw, we shopped, we played...
here see for yourself!

(A little bit of bun fun...)

Friday night comedy show. We laughed till we hurt!

(Finally! A school-related use for that backpack!)

Cole and Meg with the author of one of their school books, and one of their favorite conference speakers, Monica Irvine of the Etiquette Factory.

Cole and Meg with one of their video instructors for the Institute for Excellence in Writing, Andrew Pudewa many of whose workshops we all attended. I told Mr. Pudewa that we've been using the poetry program that he authored and where the kids were in the curriculum which caused him to look at Cole and Meg and say, "So, you've memorized about forty poems so far! That's great!" Cole and Meg looked at him in surprise, not realizing that they'd achieved the 40 poem mark! (Click here to see why we're working so hard on poetry of all things!)

One of the highlights of our visit to South Carolina, outside of the convention, was getting to eat out at a few new and different restaurants. One evening, we dined at an Asian restaurant called Red Bowl and we were joined by my friend and fellow conference attendee who'd moved to South Carolina last summer!

Another evening, we ate at a local Mexican restaurant where they made a huge bowl of guacamole at our very table. It was to die for. 

The guac was followed by a burrito as big as my niece Mackenzie who got to join us for dinner. 

Quite a meal, quite a crowd, quite a conference, quite a lot of learning...about learning!
 I'm quite privileged I was able to attend in such perfect circumstances!

Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions. 
 ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

(The same can be said of one's stomach after eating a huge Mexican meal!)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

Last month Nancy Pearl, one of my favorite book recommenders, shared some of her favorite books. As she discussed books' various plots and settings I listened, scrubbing a sink load of dishes all the while. It was when Ms. Pearl said, 

"…it's called The Fault in Our Stars and it's by John Green who wrote Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines. While I don't want to give anything away about the plot, I would like to say that the two main characters are a young man and a young girl who meet and …I have not been able to stop thinking about Augustus and Hazel. I read this book about three weeks ago, and they are still so present in my life. They are just really, really, really wonderful. Its an amazing, awesome novel, it is just great."

Imagine my happiness when just a week or so later a query from BlogHer Book Club landed in my email, did I want to review a book entitled The Fault in Our Stars?

Yes please.

Usually books for review aren't yet available in libraries or in bookstores, however, this one had been out for a bit already and so alerted my fiction-crazy sister about the title and invited her to read along with me. 

She got her copy from the library about a week before my book arrived in the mail. Unable to resist, she began reading and texting me...
"Just finished chapter one, this is gonna be a doozy!"

Followed by...
"Just finished chapter five"
"seven...must stop soon and feed my family"

"Almost finished. You may need a tissue or two...towards the end."
"finished! What a book!"

Three days had passed from the opening of her book to its completion. 

In the meantime, my book had arrived and I too had fallen in love with the teenaged Hazel and Augustus. These characters, the major ones and the minor ones alike were well drawn, and real, the dialogue smart and funny, and the plot...well, it was fantastic, compelling, and perfectly paced. I found myself waking each morning wondering what Hazel and Gus were going to get into that day.

"Gus and Hazel are on the plane." I texted to my sister when I was about halfway through the book.

"Oh, if they could only just stay on the plane...You are gonna need a tissue at the end." she texted back.

"Stinker." I shot back.

I did in fact need a tissue or two at story's end buy not for the reason I thought I would. I hate to cry. I especially hate to cry over a work of fiction, after all, life can be sad enough without inviting pretend sadness into it. However, can I just tell you what this story and these characters were worth?

Every. Single. Tear.

I promise. 

Below are a number of resources associated with this wonderful book. Just click on the colored links for more information.

An excerpt from the book with a video: here
BlogHer Books discussions of the themes of The Fault in Our Stars here
Information about John Green, author: here
Nancy Pearl talks about her favorite books INCLUDING The Fault in Our Stars: here

I read this book as a reviewer for BlogHer Book Club, the opinions, as usual are completely, wholly and souly my very own!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The UPS Man Cometh…or Maybe NOT?!!

I'd been listening for it all morning. While the dishwasher repairman was here, while I washed the breakfast dishes (the dishwasher...a lost cause), while Meg's piano teacher was here, over the scaling notes, I listened.

Just after lunch I heard the familiar sound, my heart skipped a beat or two. I wondered if the children had heard it as well. Smiling to myself, I went on about the day, just waiting.

"MOM!!" Meg came into the room, "I heard the UPS truck and I went to the door but it was going down the hill without even coming on our street!! Do you think maybe he'll take our stuff to the church?"

The he in question was, of course, the UPS guy who detests delivering packages on our little curvy, narrow, dead-end street. Imagine his glee when one day he discovered that my Man was accessible at the church just across the main street from our home, the church with the big parking lot with two entrances and exits apiece where the man in brown could, with grand ease, deliver our family's packages to my Man.

Generally, we try to be easy going folks and we normally don't mind the ease taking of our delivery guy,  but today we minded JUST A BIT!! Our hard-earned loot was on that hill-descending brown truck and we wanted it sooner than later, thank you very much!!

Last week my Man went to a conference in sunny California. Yessir, up and left us all at home and went gallivanting' about the country with one of his buds. While he was away...we stayed home {queue pitiful violins} and carried on with stiff upper lips. Actually, our upper and lower lips were pretty busy eating lots of really colorful and interesting food while he was gone...but that's for another post altogether.

Back to the loot. Since he was on the other side of the continent it was necessary for my Man to ship our I-got-to-go-to-California-and-you-guys-didn't gifts back home to us along with lots of books from the conference. We had no idea what he'd selected for us, but we did have it on very good authority this morning that the loot was in the area and would surely arrive this very day. We were all a'twitter.

A'twitter or not, there went the UPS truck down the hill and out of our lives. Maybe tomorrow?


It just so happened that Meg had a meeting of sorts down at the church. Into the car and down the hill we went, pulling into one of the church's two parking lot entrances just in time to see the UPS man loading a dolly back onto his truck. Waving to us, he drove away...again. Meg was off to her gathering and I headed to my Man's office where I found him unboxing quite a number of books amidst a flurry of packing noodles.

"Ah," I said, spotting a beautifully covered Bible journal, "that looks like mine." Smiling, my Man picked up the journal and handed it to me then reached back into the stack and pulled out a book shaped box in which was a beautifully bound Bible and handed that over as well. Then he handed me a box from that I had also been awaiting. It was a good delivery day after all…

I agree with the prolific author Garrison Keillor when he says, "A book is a gift that you can open over and over again." Happily, it only has to be delivered ONCE!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Catchin' a Whiff

My son was recently given a gift. When this happens, Cole gives his new gift quite an inspection, turning it over and over in his hands, looking at it from all angles, even giving it a sniff, if appropriate, to further acquaint himself with the new item.

Today, during the gift inspection process I heard, "It smells like Dad's office!"

"Son, you are a nut."

"No, Mom, really! Smell!!

And so I did. 

And it really did smell exactly like my Man's office at church.

I know of folks who particularly love the names of the colors of new cars which are named things like Lunar Mist. Others are fond of the names interior paint colors i.e., Urban Putty. Still others get excited about the names of fingernail polish colors like "Kiss Me On My Two Lips" (It's a beautiful bright spring pink!). My girl loves the name of her perfume Hailey, and I adore both the name and the scent of my Foglifter coffee. 

I'd often wondered how to describe the scent that meets me at the door of the "Inner Sanctum," (the name the kids and I use for my Man's office since we are not often encouraged to enter). I'd been thinking that it was the smell of order, and right angles, of peace and quiet, of sanity and deep thinking, if any of those things could actually emit a scent. 

My son, however, had finally solved the mystery, he with his nose somewhere between Proverbs and Malachi within the pages of his new study bible sniffing away and calling it like he smelled it. The scent was New Bible and, like an apple not far from its tree, he loved it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Knowing Stuff

Elizabeth George, pastor's wife and writer of one of the most practical books on being a woman of God A Woman After God's Own Heart, speaks of the need for women to have fat files, five fat files to be exact. Fat files are what might be called areas of expertise that Mrs. George encourages women to possess.

The idea of those fat files made quite an impact on my newlywed self and I have taken up and simplified the idea to make it more my own over the last 17 years. My theory is perhaps an oversimplified nod to the five fat files way of living, but it works for me. Here it is:

 I believe that everyone should...

Know Stuff.

I'm a simple gal who is a bit overwhelmed with idea of keeping up-to-date on five whole categories of information all at the same time. I have instead taken on one topic at a time and then, when I've learned all that my brain can handle on that subject, I move on to the next thing that either interests me or lands in my lap. My local librarians can attest to my cyclical interests as the books I request on one subject at a time begin to pile up under "W" on the shelf behind their desk. In the past year I've researched various areas of technology, Mexican cooking, baking, and collections of essays. 

I do not think that this method of taking in information is unique to me, however, I know folks and they know stuff too!

I have a friend who knows pie. She makes me want to know pie too! Her pie crusts are simply amazing especially when filled with peanut butter pie filling!

I have another friend who knows how to train for and run in races. She does NOT cause me to want to run long distances, but she does make me dream of being in much better shape, (and of being tall and thin...but I digress).

Another of my friends, knows how to work with children, who are and who are not her own, in the public school system, so that they stand a better chance of achieving success in their studies. She makes me want to be sure my own kids are achieving as much they should be as well. (She also knows how to make this killer orange cake with white icing that makes me want to forget about my earlier wishes to be tall and thin.)

And then there is my friend who knows science--lots and lots of science. When I met her I asked her if she worked "outside of the home." A strange phrase which seems to assume that if you work outside of the home that you don't also work your tail off inside the home too. It turned out that she did both. She  said that she was a teacher and she would have left it at that but I asked what she taught and where. It was then that I learned that she taught college students and that she had special letters before her name! Wow!

This friend, while I do need to know some science, does not make me want to know biology on a college level, she makes me want to know how to know stuff without being arrogant about it. She knows stuff, tons of it, but you'd never know it by the way she handles herself. I want that too.

I have another friend whom I've known for merely 5 or 6 years, but I feel like she's known me forever because of her unique talent.  Her talent is asking and listening. She seems to know just what to ask and then listens intently to the answer and I suspect she hears all of my answer, both the spoken part and the unspoken. This dear friend makes me want to be a better listener, a better discerner of the hearts of those who choose to spend their words on me.

I sat down at the computer tonight to attempt to communicate the importance of knowing things, the importance of continuing to grow in knowledge even when it's not required of us. We need to know things just because the knowing is good for us. 

As I finish recording these thoughts on knowledge, I find I've learned something else...

It's not just the knowing of stuff that benefits a person, it benefits a person tremendously to have friends who know stuff too! 

"...the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it."   ~Proverbs 7:12
"Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." ~Proverbs 13:30

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Intangibles

They each required something of him this afternoon. Each wanting tended to in his or her very own way. Meg wanted his attention to show him a new website that she'd discovered. Kate, her savings effort topped off this week by her grandparents, was eager for him to place an online order for a new doll accessory. Molly, weary from a long morning in church had selected him and only him to tuck her in for her afternoon nap. Cole stopped him on his way to one of the girls and refocused his attention on a tied-up basketball championship on TV that was entering its final minute and could he please watch to see what happened.

Their Daddy had been gone for what was, in reality, less than a week, but in time measured differently....he'd been gone for much longer. As the children grow older, it has become easier get from day to day when my Man is traveling. Parenting tasks that used to be so difficult to handle on my own day after day, bath times, bed times, middle-of-the-night times, in the early morning times, and meal times are not nearly as difficult these days I suspect because of generous amounts of assistance by the older children or because I've got a year or two more experience under my belt. 

These days when my Man is away, we miss him in a slightly different capacity.

We discovered that when Daddy's away, everyday events still happen, but with half of the notice. When Daddy's away, there are still conversations to be had, but with half of the added perspective. When Daddy's away, there's still a big bed that invites early risers in first thing in the day, but it is only half occupied. When Daddy's away, corny jokes still get bantered about, but with half of the laughter. When Daddy's away, kids still do the amazing things that kids will do, but with half of the applause. 

Seems we all acutely missed the presence of our fearless leader last week in the intangibles

Happily, Daddy is safely and tangibly home and we have decided that...

...we just might love him TWICE as much!

I'm linking up with Write it, Girl today!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Just the Kind of Family We Are...

It had the makings of a wonderful day. My little gang had been looking forward to it far over a week. We were taking Monday off with my Man who was set to leave us for the rest of the week for a pastors' conference. Our goal was two fold, first to spend some unscheduled time together as a family and second, to meet up with my Mom so that she could take Kate home with her for the rest of the week. My sister, Becky, decided that her schedule allowed her to join us as well as her two boys! Family time, Grandma, aunt and kids were on cloud nine. So was I! It had been years since I'd had the opportunity to go shopping with my Mom and sisters...Easter 1992 perhaps! 

We shopped for a bit, each of us looking for our own items, some successful some not, but that hardly mattered as we enjoyed our time together. After a lunch of delicious burgers and sweet potato fries, my Mom with an eager Kate in tow, headed home for Grandma camp, and my sister and her boys left for their home as well. The Wright gang made quick tracks to various bookstores about town, and then headed home as well.

On our way home, basking in the glow of our lovely day, this text arrived from my sister who lives in South Carolina…

Poor kid! Her hubby would arrive home shortly also sick. 

Later that night, Sudeana's third daughter would become ill as well with the stomach flu! 

Becky and I decided to lighten the mood by making up perspective blog titles for our poor sister's use later when and if she chose to record her day for posterity. 

Cole, Meg and I all contributed suggestions, but Becky proved to be quite the wordsmith, coming up with what had to be the winning entry...

My bucket-slinging sister in South Carolina laughed right along with us, thankfully and characteristically. We had lots of fun at her beleaguered expense! 

I'm thrilled to report that my southern sister's gang seems to be on the mend which is a good thing as we three sisters have a big adventures planned in the very near future!

There can be no situation in life in which the conversation of my dear sister will not administer some comfort to me.  ~Mary Montagu

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Brown Sugar Chicken- Really? Brown Sugar?

Sometimes it's just a challenge to tear open yet another bag of frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts! It's been such a challenge lately that I've not bothered...until I remembered a recipe that only calls for 4 ingredients, all of which I usually have in my kitchen/pantry at any given moment AND only takes 15 minutes to prepare and another 15 to cook.
Can anyone say "Winner winner chicken dinner?"

Brown Sugar Chicken 
{Printable Recipe Here!}
Adapted from Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely which I HIGHLY recommend!

1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil (plus a sprinkle more for the dish)
6 cloves of garlic, smashed (or 1 Tablespoon of minced garlic)
3 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
4 giant boneless skinless chicken breasts like the ones in the big freezer bags, 
   (or 6 regular sized boneless skinless chicken breasts)

Preheat your oven to 500˚ (this a great meal to make on a cool gray day so that your oven warms the kitchen!). 

Line a casserole dish with foil and give it a coating of oil. Cut chicken into serving sized pieces and place in casserole dish.

Next heat the oil in a small skillet over low-medium heat. 

While the oil is heating, grab your garlic cloves from the head of garlic. 

Don't waste your time peeling the garlic. Find something in your arsenal with a flat surface and smash each piece of garlic. The papery skins should simply fall away with minimal effort. 

I like to use a measuring cup. 
After removing the skin, whack each piece of garlic once more and place it into the heated oil. Allow it to heat for 1 to 2 minutes. 

You need to be vigilant with it however, you do not want to let the garlic turn brown which will cause it to taste strong and bitter. 

Once you've completed this step, you've accomplished something very fancy: you have made garlic infused olive (or canola) oil. Fancy I tell ya!

Remove from heat and, add the brown sugar to your fancy pants garlic infused oil and stir well. 
Almost finished, now just smear the brown sugar and garlic oil over the chicken pieces as evenly as you can and put it in the hot oven for 15 minutes. 

Add mashed potatoes and a veggie and you are done! 
Like I said...





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