Thursday, December 13, 2012

Blessings or Crutches

To pray "Lord, bring me to my knees in hardship that I would learn about your goodness" isn't normal. That is how God works, though. I heard some lyrics by Laura Story come through my Pandora station recently and its lack of sappy sentimentalism struck me. They reminded me of my prayer for my mom many years ago. I prayed that God would do whatever it took to open my mom's eyes to Him. But that was before she was diagnosed with cancer; I wanted to rescind my prayer after the dismal diagnosis. She lived three more months and God did open her eyes.

I didn't become a Christian until I was 30 and although I sought truth, I didn't expect to find it in Jesus Christ. But, there He was. I spent most of those 30 years thinking Christianity was a crutch for the weak or for people with nothing better to do. But the last twenty-something years, God has shown me that real faith means throwing away the crutches of materialism and self-sufficiency and living an exhilarating life of adventure with the God of the Bible. The things I have done in the name of faith would never have been undertaken without a deep-seeded trust in the Creator. Although my imperfect faith is often mixed with fear and anxiety, it is faith nonetheless.

Here is a recap of my life in the name of faith:  I never wanted children but I trusted God and now we have five. God has made me rich beyond description through this experience and is working in my children in spite of me. I thought happiness and fulfillment would come through a career in interior design. When our first child was born, I left design and became a full time mom and wife, something I never, never would have done BC (before Christ or children). I've moved at least 15 times in 23 years, including 4 states and 2 countries, watching and waiting to see what God was up to the entire time, often in utter bewilderment.

I immersed myself in bible study via radio broadcast since I was home so much and, to my surprise, all those years of listening and studying have stuck so when times are hard,which they always are, those wonderful verses fill my mind and heart. When my husband asked me to consider working from home, while schooling the kids to help put him through seminary, I said yes. Four years later, I had learned enough about Internet publishing and became familiar with online business that this year I was hired by a large church to be part of their broadcast ministry. This was not part of my original plan, but it sure seems to fit into what God has been doing all along.  It is my hope that the ministry of which I am a part will help people who listen via broadcast/ Internet know their Creator.

These last twenty-some years have been incredibly difficult and often painful and I know the journey isn't over.  I've learned to pray for strength above all else and I seldom pray for things, probably, because most of the "things" I pray for don't receive a "yes" from the giver of all good things. People close to me have died, fortunes have been lost, children have rebelled, and friendships have gone by the wayside with all the moves. But, in the end, I know that I am an alien in a foreign land and I wouldn't take back those crutches for all the world, after all, my home is in heaven.

Here is the song I was listening to that inspired this post.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Culture Wars

Sunday has always been my favorite day of the week. If the truth be known, I love the idea of a sabboth, a day of rest. With the pace of life in general, and the demands of my life in particular, I appreciate that the Creator of the Universe gives me one day off every week. I prefer to worship my Lord and God in a beautiful and relaxed setting. Churches that do not seek to conform to our modern, loud, and fast paced culture appeal to me.

Our adult children are in a season of their lives where they're seeking to understand the connection and relevance between life here and now, and their faith. Most of the churches that address these questions for young people also play "young people" music complete with booming bases. Personally, nothing will make me run and take cover faster than loud drums or base guitar. So, for good or bad, David takes the kids to a "culturally relevant" church while I stay home and watch Alistair Begg on-line.

One great part of Sunday which we've managed to reimplement is our Sunday family lunch. Last year Justyn and Andrew usually worked weekends but they, too, decided that the Sabboth is worth observing, and take that day off. Today was Andrew's day to finish the dishes after lunch so, as is customary, he listens to his Ipod while he works. Unfortunatly, it's spewing rapp through my entire house. Picture this, I'm upstairs in the loft working at my computer doing household accounting while enduring his disturbing music... but there is a limit to my patience! The rapp has got to go, or be drowned out.

I turn on my Scottish Philharmonic CD of the Psalms and blast it back while trying to concentrate on my numbers. In the middle of a transaction, my Quicken software roars out a "" and the sound of money plays in harmony with my Scottish Psalms. I laughed as I wondered if this was God's way of reminding me, in the midst of my frustration and impatience and not being able to focus on my "treasures on earth," to store up treasures in heaven?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Cool Breeze

A gentle breeze.


As I opened the door to take a walk this morning, that is what I felt.

After a long, hot Texas summer the breeze was a welcome change.

Whether I live on the California Coast, in the woods of Maine, or in the Canadian Maritimes, feeling the wind always reminds me of The Holy Spirit.

Maybe it's the sensation of experiencing the intangible, yet something I see the affects of.

I came across this song that touched my soul, just like the outside breeze touched my skin.

If you like, take five minutes from your busy day and refresh your soul.


Monday, August 20, 2012

No Time or No Time

With all five kids returning to school next week (3 to high school, 2 to the local college), and my new job starting the same day, I'm attempting to coordinate 7 schedules, 4 drivers, 3 cars, and numerous destinations. Husband and I have regularly emailed each other schedule updates, finding that we forget less when stuff is in writing. Phone calls and verbal communication don't seem to be as effective as it used to be, maybe because we have more talkers than listeners in our family.

Well, today my Outlook and Google Calendar are in sync and sent to all the family members. This means the world is a better place, right? I'm cautiously optimistic. Yup, it's the best I can hope for. But, honestly, I don't know how else to communicate so many schedules to so many people.

Listening to a sermon yesterday, I was reminded that the "New Heavens and New Earth" will have no time. That's a difficult concept to grasp. Right now, "no time" is a negative thing as we constantly battle the clock, but in eternity, "no time" may be what makes eternity "heaven."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer Fun

Last week I rode shotgun with Husband on an overnight business trip to Austin. Since it was raining cats and dogs in Houston, it was good to get out of Dodge for awhile. Austin is so different from Houston. Rolling hills dot the landscape and a "hip" feeling prevails, reminding me of parts of San Diego. Anyway, on the way home we remembered to stop at the watermelon truck we saw on our drive into town the previous day. The thing set us back $8 but it was worth it since, after putting it on the bathroom scale at home, we found it weighed 45 pounds.

As you can see from the photo, Husband has a unique way of dealing with melons, as he does with so many things. He removes the rind with a knife, then cubes the entire thing. So far the monstrosity has lasted 6 days and we are still enjoying its delicious sweetness.

The Twins returned from camp safely but were so tired from the 13 hour drive that I almost forgot they were back home. They did mention they had been in a talent show but didn't go into great detail. It was only after a phone call from Sister#1 that I got a peek via FB exactly what they had been up to. Here, have a peek!

Well, there, now you have it. My shy, introverted Twins doing what they do best... Entertaining the troops.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

re·pent1    /rɪˈpɛnt/
1. to feel sorry, self-reproachful, or contrite for past conduct; regret or be conscience-stricken about a past action, attitude, etc. (often followed by of ): He repented after his thoughtless act.
2. to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one's life for the better; be penitent.

I realize this isn't a word we hear much about these days, but after my ranting yesterday about the Supreme Court's decision, I need to say I'm sorry. Actually, I'm not sorry for being upset, but for my response to the news. Sundays are a great day for me personally because I listen to the pastor remind me how great God is and how not great I am. In light of the fact that I spend all week deluding myself that I'm always right and I'm captain of my own ship, I ultimately love truth, even when it hurts. It's my weekly dose of a reality check.

Back to the Supreme Court. On my drive home from church, the situation became clearer. As a little girl, my younger sister and I once fought over a doll's dresser. She insisted it was hers and I insisted it was mine. My mom had always taught us to come up with solutions on our own but on this issue, we were stuck. We continued to fight over the toy until one day, she grabbed the dresser from us and broke it in half, handing one piece to each of us. "There," she said, "I've fixed the problem." She solved the problem in one sense, but it wasn't quite the answer we wanted. I think this may be what the Supreme Court did on Thursday regarding healthcare. For the last 25 years most people acknowledged the healthcare industry was, and continues to be, a mess. Unfortunately, the private sector never came up with solid, viable solutions. So, guess what? Mom stepped in and we don't like the answer.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Obama's Affordable Care Act

Exactly one month ago I devoted my blog to all things that make me happy. So today I will be happy by ranting about the Supreme Court's recent decision on Obamacare. In this wonderful age of the internet, the supreme court's slip opinion is available for one and all to see.

So what if it's a few hundred pages. Turn off the T.V. and find out for yourself where this country is headed. The first 59 pages are Justice Robert's opinion. Justice Ginsburg's opinion is another 61 pages. Finally, we read the dissenting Justice's opinion. I'd like to throw out a little teaser for you about what the dissenting Justice's opinion contains. There's a little something called "The Act's Minor Provisions," beginning on page 62. "It spends government money on, among other things, the study of how to spend less government money.42 U. S. C. §1315a." This is taken directly from the dissenting opinion. Studying frugality is one thing, implementing it is, apparently, quite another!

Laurel and Hardy, a 1930s comedy team springs to mind. One regularly says to the other "Here's another nice mess you've gotten me into."

If this weren't a tragedy, it would be a comedy!

BTW: Another good read: "Amusing Ourselves to Death" by Neil Postman.
The book is a bit dated, but the content is still great.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Never the Twain Shall Meet

"It is food for my soul." These were the words I spoke to Youngest Daughter as she lay recovering from the dentist's handiwork. Mission accomplished! No more wisdom teeth. I wasn't talking about teeth, though, but of rose bushes, shrubs, and flowers the gardeners were unloading from the trailer. The landlord promised for almost a year to replace the plants and shrubs that died last year during the heat and drought. Well, it is now June and the temps are already in triple digits. Which means if these new arrivals are to survive, I'll be watering dusk and dawn.

In my last post I shared my amazement with the human brain and its ability to bring things to the forefront of our minds. Today, "Never the Twain Shall Meet" came to mind as the mosquitos, no-see-ums, and I fought for the same turf. Apparently this is a phrase from Rudyard Kipling's book titled Barrack-room Ballads published in 1892. The stanza goes:

"Oh, East is East, and West is West,
and never the twain shall meet"

Here Kipling laments the gulf in cultural differences between Britain and India in the 19th century and their inability to unite. What's my point? In my love of gardening, I've always battled with both plant eating and man eating bugs. East and west have met, and fought, and continue to stand their ground. The bugs win their little battle by eating me alive and I win mine by having beautiful food for my soul.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

I've always been amazed how the brain works. My amazement doesn't stem from a scientific, technical knowledge but from first hand experience. It's similar to my view on electricity. I have no clue how it works, but the concept amazes me. It seems that when words are set to a rhythm, our brains retain them almost effortlessly. Wednesday was the first day of summer. Instantly, The Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer, an old Nat King Cole song from the 60s popped into my head.

Recently, I read a book titled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking . The author, Susan Cain, introduces her reader to a series of people, artfully drawing out their individual characteristics while correlating the uniqueness of their brain's responses to behavior. She cites several experiments using MRIs and the results as they relate to two very different types of individuals, introverts and extroverts.

To put it simply, extroverts draw energy from people and introverts draw energy from solitude. For this reason, their environment affects them in opposite ways. Extroverts usually love parties, introverts are usually most comfortable observing, watching, and listening, or not going to the party in the first place. Extroverts often give introverts topics to write about, research, discuss, and ponder.

Have you ever heard of a composer's hut? It is exactly what the name implies. A hut built in a quiet place, allowing composers such as Gustav Mahler and Edvard Grieg the solitude and brain space to compose beautiful music, out of ear-shot of their hectic homes. These men must have been introverts, according to Susan Cain, innovators and artists often are. I think I'll ask Husband if he'll build me a painter's hut on top of the garage so I can escape there with my oil paints and canvases, away from the crazyness of our large and electrifying family.

Speaking of quiet, the twins left for camp this morning. They'll spend five days in Georgia having a great time with friends from church and I will spend five days at home enjoying the quiet. But, no matter how much noise these boys make in my life, I'll miss their witty remarks, warm conversation, and good company.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Few of My Husband's Favorite Things

Among "happy things" today were the
I made Husband for Father's Day.

First, I'd like to state that, although I like chocolate as much as most other foods, I am not a choco-holic. That title belongs to Husband and Eldest Daughter. I'm a sushi-aholic, but that's a story for another day. When it comes to gifts, staying in the "food and chocolate" realm is a sure hit. Husband's hobby is cooking so I occasionally find new cookbooks on the shelf. Green & Black's Chocolate Recipes contained this decadent, but very simple truffle recipe. After a quick visit to Joann's to pick up small candy boxes, tissue, and ribbon, the end result looked like something from Godiva Chocolatier. But one thing was decidedly different. No sugar. I used stevia instead and replaced the Green & Black's 70% chocolate with 100% chocolate which also meant using more sweetner to offset the change. This resulted in a completely sugar-free but naturally sweetened truffle. Oh, I almost forgot to mention, the chocolate was infused with fennel and lavender.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lupin Lady

Yesterday I did my civic duty and voted. Today I am sick to death of politics, it makes me grumpy. Working in the yard makes me happy. So I am devoting my blog to things that make me happy and allows me to live out whatever is good, whatever is praiseworthy, and whatever is true. Planted For Good is my attempt to share my desire to be planted for a while and make my world a beautiful place. No longer will I post information just for the sake of information which in this 21st century is too numerous and too little valued. In college, I studied art and design and loved it. I still love it. But as every struggling artist knows, you can’t make much of a living from it, so artists learn to live with less so we can live with what truly feeds us, beauty.

I love books. No surprise I have an search bar on my blog. Children’s books are among my favorites. Miss Rumphius is one of my favorites. As a small child she tells her grandfather her dreams of travelling the world. Her grandfather tells her there is something else she must do. She must make the world more beautiful. Without telling you the entire story, at one point in her life she plants lupin seeds wherever she goes. With our many moves and the many gardens I’ve planted and tended from the northeast to the southwest, Miss Rumphius is still very dear to my heart.

While in high school I announced to my mom my desire to study horticulture, she laughed and thought I was kidding. I was not. Although California is an agriculture mecca due mostly to the Central Valley, Orange County in 1975 was not. By this time most of the orange groves had been replaced with suburbs, strip centers, and malls. Not that it mattered to me. I had no intention of staying in Southern California with its Hollywood weirdness and in-your-face billboards. I wanted to go somewhere and make the world beautiful and, in my eyes, Southern California was too crazy to transform. Eventually I did escape from California but it took me over 30 years, although I still have not settled anywhere. So wherever the good Lord puts me, I plant a garden, nurture, and care for it and try to make my corner of the earth a more beautiful place.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Informational Interviews and Internships: The Missing Pieces

Yesterday, I posted an article on FB that addressed the difficulty 20somethings are having finding employment after college in this economic climate. There are a lot of opinions as to what the real problems are but none of them really offer a solution. At one point, the article states "...well-educated young adults with the resources to muddle through unpaid internships or low-paying jobs until they land better ones seem poised to ride out the lingering effects of the recession." This isn't unique to the 21st century. I, and many of my peers, had to travel this path before we landed the job of our dreams.

"Internships" is a buzz word that, during the past four months, keeps flying by me. First, in the paralegal program I attended. Then, in a book Husband brought home for our teenagers entitled All Work, No Pay: Finding an Internship, Building Your Resume, Making Connections, and Gaining Job Experience . This may be one piece of the puzzle about which recently graduated young people need to gain a positive perspective.

Another important component not mentioned in the article is the information interview. In one of my old posts about job hunting, I briefly mentioned this excellent tool. My personal experience in just how these have worked for me follows... all positive stuff!

While in design school, we were required to conduct such an interview. In reality, I chickened out and ended up interviewing one of my instructors who happened to own a design firm. However, the importance of topic didn't escape me. A couple of years later, after living and working in Orange County and wanting to work with a well known designer in Los Angeles, I made a cold call to her firm, with sweaty hands and palpitating heart. To my surprise, she granted me the interview. By the time I had returned home from our meeting, I'd received a call offering me a job, although only in an administrative capacity. I accepted and viewed it as completely positive because I had my foot in the door.

Jump forward a number of years to 2011 to Eastern Canada. Undecided as to whether to pursue interior design or make a career change, I contacted another designer and asked her for 10-15 minutes of her time to discuss interior design in the Maritime Provinces. We ended up meeting for lunch where we spent 1 1/2 hours talking about the industry and getting to know each other. Four months later she contacted me to "help out" on some projects. Within six weeks, she offered me a permanent position once I obtained necessary accreditation, which she would help me acquire. Again, another very positive experience. I am confident I would still be there had we not taken a transfer to Houston for Husband's job six months later.

Job hunting is always stressful and unnerving. However, using these interviews and internships allow us to make decisions about our careers based on solid information while also allowing us to experience "a day in the life of..."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Financial Aid Maze

If you could read the bottom of this picture, the little box says "Department of Education's financial aide delivery system as illustrated by Jay Leno on the Tonight Show." Husband and I recently attended a FREE workshop entitled Paying For College Without Going Broke. Remember, we have two in college now and three coming up from behind and we're supposed to be saving for retirement *grin.* I think the chart is a joke, but only in part. Here are some startling facts.

* Only 5% of families have a college savings plan.
* "Average" cost for a state college/ university is $20,000.
* Private Schools average $25,000 and up per year.
* The "average" student now takes 6 years to graduate, because they're working their way through school.

How did C-Span know this was a current event in my very own home?! In an attempt to avoid wearisome newscasters, C-Span has become my go-to for news these days. This week the Senate is discussing a bill aimed at stopping student loan interest rates from virtually doubling on July 1, 2012. HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!

Actually, the news from the workshop was fairly encouraging, but only in the same way that you're excited when gas prices drop from $3.72 to $3.65. Apparently, private schools are ramping up their own scholarships in an attempt to compete for students and reduce costs for families. This is money that most of us aren't aware is available. It's mind blowing to hear the amounts of some of these university endowments. Harvard's endowment is worth $50 billion dollar. Yes, that's BILLION! Here in Texas, Rice's endowment is estimated at $4 Billion. In other words, private schools have their own private bank accounts so if you know how to "market" your students, they have a chance of receiving substantial funding.

If all goes well, Husband and I will be through the college "maze" in 2020. At that point, maybe I'll write a book entitled "How We Sent Five Kids to College Without Going Broke" to help offset some of the costs!

Monday, May 7, 2012

College Finals and Playtime

Although I completed the paralegal course about 6 weeks ago, job hunting is still only a part time occupation. This is a direct result of having a large family who still needs "Mom" to fill in and do what she does best... everything nobody else has the time or inclination to do. I learned a long time ago that love requires sacrifices, and for me, it came in the form of my career. Now, mind you, I'm no longer a student but I do live with (among other persons) two college students and this week is finals week!! The stress is high, the nerves are raw, and some of "us" are just plain cranky. Eldest Daughter (who drives) had no classes today, just more studying. So I elected to take Eldest Son (who is still racking up driving hours) to class.

In between drop-offs and pick-ups, I popped into a clothing consignment shop. These are among my favorite places on earth. You can take the Bohemian out of Long Beach, but you can't take Long Beach out of the Bohemian. Today, I hit the jackpot again in the form of an entire outfit for $20.30. Ann Taylor linen/rayon blend slacks, Jones New York sleeveless print blouse, and a great purse (I'm not into purses so I wouldn't know the "designer" name if it hit me in the face.)

As I'm living the stress of college students without being one, a trip back through memory lane helps keep things in perspective. The Twins had a school project for which they needed a photo of them in babyhood. Yes, it's Robin Hood and Friar Tuck in the flesh!

When people used to ask me if having child #4 & 5 as twins was difficult, my instant answer was "Are you kidding me? They were among the easiest." Can you guess why? They were live dress-up dolls for the older three and the twins loved every minute of it.

Now, in the midst of the teenage years, I need to remember...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Break Time

This is going to be a short post because my right hand has gone "on strike" again. After two weeks I managed to get an appointment with an ART provider to get my hand back in shape. Basically, the nerves are strangled through overuse of particular muscles. This happened back in the fall when I opened, unpacked, and put away 160some boxes of stuff after our move. This time the cause is too much time on the computer. Maybe I need to invest in a computer station! For any of you out there who have been diagnosed with carpel tunnel, this is a technique/ treatment worth looking into. It's a unique type of therapy, often used for athletes. You can read the link, watch their video, and find out more.

Well, wish me luck as they put me back in working order! It can actually be quite painful but as my son used to tell me "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

One Bite At A Time

See the eyes of this elephant? Well, that's what my eyes look like as I'm scanning the computer screen looking for jobs. Remember the saying "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." Well, that is what I'm trying to keep in mind as I'm attempting to enter the Houston job market. Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada was the first place I utilized my job hunting skills since I reentered the job market, and actually landed a great job. A job that wasn't even posted anywhere! Information interviews were the trick there and I'm sure it's the same here. However, Fredericton has a population of about 75,000. The population of Houston is around 6 million. So, how do you find a job? One information interview at a time, but unlike Fredericton, my target is a much larger elephant and may take a bit longer to eat.

Bon Appetite!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Abundant Life

"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. You are my friends if you do whatever I command you." John 15:13,14

Today is Easter, the reminder that the God who sacrificed his life for us did not stay dead. He was resurrected, and he gives us that same hope, a hope that is sure, so we can live a life of joy here and now.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Old and Familiar

"Florida woman, 93, reaches end of the road after 576,000 miles in her 1964 Mercury," was reported in an April 2, 2012 news article. These are the kinds of headlines I enjoy reading. Read on:

In an age of disposability and mass consumerism, hurray for her! I call it getting your money's worth. One of our sons recently stumbled upon my husband's somewhat aged engineering calculator and shouted, "Hey, retro! Cool." I totally denied the "retro" thing but after a quick Google search, I had to eat my words. What do you think?

So, back to the 93 year old woman. I love her attitude. After all, why get rid of something that works perfectly fine when a little tender loving care and maintenance will keep it running? Case in point is my Amway CMS1000. 23 years ago, it was the first and last vacume cleaner I ever bought. Does anybody remember Amway? It was the lifetime warranty that sold me. You can completely disassemble, clean, and buy replacement parts for it so, hey, why would anybody ever need a new one?

But there may be something more here than getting one's money worth. I call it familiarity. Sort of like an old pair of jeans that you refuse to throw out.

Personally, I love old, familiar things which is definitely not a result of my upbringing. In Southern California, everything seemed to be new and trendy, but I always gravitated to the old, even if it wasn't familiar. In my teens I started collecting antique furniture. In my early 20s, I had my heart set on a 1967 250SL Mercedes, which, of course, was way out of my price range. Recently one was posted on eBay for a mere $54,770, and I'm no closer to it now than I was then.

As I got older, I thought buying and fixing up an old house would be the best thing ever, until I actually lived in an old 1908 unrenovated farmhouse in Old Town Orange and changed my mind.

Well, enough talk about old stuff. On to the 21st century and pricing out the latest software updates for my computer and checking out the latest i-gadget.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Homes vs. Purses

This morning at our Sunday breakfast table, I casually mentioned to my husband that I walked into Sears the other day and the store seemed so sad, empty, and eerie. I immediately left. He quickly remarked, "Yeah, my Dad was born in a Sears Roebuck house." So, with that fun historical comment, I decided to do a bit of research.

From 1908–1940, Sears, Roebuck and Co. sold about 70,000 - 75,000 homes through their mail-order Modern Homes program. My husband recognized this plan as his grandmother's house in Colorado, the place where his family has lived for generations. This particular plan had no indoor bathroom, by the way.

This was a sharp contrast to a website I recently visited featuring the project on which David and I worked together, The Fillmore Center in San Francisco. This is an apartment complex on a grand scale which was completed in 1991. At that time, a studio rented for $700 per month. Now, that same apartment rents for $1,900 to $3,400 PER MONTH for 510 square feet. Insanity!

I guess Sears just hasn't kept pace with the times. Unfortunately, on December 27, 2011 carried an article about Sears Holding closing many of their stores. I just hope they're not replaced with Neiman Marcus selling purses for $850. That was about the same price of a home just a century ago.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Cheesecake

With the twins away at their first "camp" this weekend, I have a bit of time on my hands so I made one of my all time favorite desserts, Lemon Cheesecake Squares. There are three great things about these delightful bursting bites. The cheesecake itself is incredibly easy to make. The lemon curd gives the bites that extra zing. And finally, being the perfectionistic person that I've been cursed to be, I cut them into 2 x 2 squares, just like the photo shows, put them into decorative cupcake papers, where they get stored in a plastic container in the BACK of the frig. Betcha can't guess why!? So, I can grab a quick sweet snack from the frig and fewer members of my family find them, which may be good or bad!

Regardless, aside from Mascarpone Cheesecake, this is the best recipes ever!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Food, Glorious Food!

In the same way that Texans apologized for the weather when I arrived last August (109 degree), I will apologize for my constant reference to food and recipes. Although, honestly, how many of you spend a fair amount of your life pursuing food. If you're lucky you occasionally eat out. But for those of us who do most of our eating at home, the story goes like this. If you're not at the grocery store buying the stuff, your at home cooking the stuff, or worse yet, your staring into an empty refrigerator trying to decide what to eat. And it's been my observation that the less food in the frig, the more time you spend staring, go figure!

When I met my husband 23 years ago, I loved that he enjoyed cooking and, better yet, was (and is) a great cook. Within the first month of our short dating history, we dined on his fabulous Chicken Marsala in my lovely Victorian San Francisco flat. Sounds like something from a romantic movie, doesn't it? Well, it was. He also cooked some other fancy beef dish whose name currently escapes me. Now, I love good food. Therein lies the problem. If the food isn't good, and I mean exceptionally good and fresh, I'd prefer not to eat at all. To solve the no eating problem, my husband and I attempt to keep good, fresh, healthy food at home as much as possible. Buying the ingredients is one thing, but cooking it is another story. Although my husband loves to cook, he does have his limits both in time and energy. So occasionally the kids have to fill in when I'm not up to the task.

This recipe from Fine Cooking Apr/May 2012 was the perfect solution to the ongoing issue of "whose cooking tonight." The make ahead dough keeps in the frig for up to two weeks. Armed with a pizza stone, pizza paddle and plenty of toppings, everybody can have a custom made pizza, any way they like, within 30 minutes. Combined with a quick salad, you have a delicious, healthy dinner that anyone can throw together.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Signs of the Times

I thought California was the only state arrogant enough to put bumper stickers like this on their cars. Perhaps, this is why I feel so at home in Texas.

While delving into all things Texan and searching the radio stations in my car, I stumbled across "Classic Country", also known as and was shocked how many songs were familiar. Well, okay, they were a bit more than familiar. I actually knew the lyrics. What I'd like to know is, how did this happen!? Somewhere in my California life, I was exposed to country music, and it STUCK. Upon returning home, I turned on our satellite radio, DirectTV, and tuned into the bluegrass station and, wonder of wonders, I love this stuff. Please don't tell my kids, Andrew and Olivia would be mortified! Now, mind you, 90% of my CDs are classical and romantic period composers with a smattering of Smooth Jazz. There is no, I repeat, NO country music or anything remotely close.

Do you think we could be genetically predisposed to like certain types of music? My parents were from the mid-west, Kansas and Missouri, and although my Dad passed away 12 years ago, I do remember he liked folk and country music. Maybe he played it when I was little because I do remember a fair amount of Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot (for my Canuck friends). Well, another fun discovery of things past. So, as I drive down the Texas highways listening to Kenny Roger's "You Decorated My Life", I'll be thinking about you Dad.

I miss you Mom and Dad.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Oyez Oyez Oyez

If you would have asked me three months ago what oyez oyez oyez means, I might have said it is the sound a pig makes when he's hungry and not been at all embarrassed by my answer. But now I know better. It is used three times in succession to introduce the opening of a court of law. The origin of the word Oyez is Middle English, from Anglo-Norman, hear ye, imperative plural of oyer, to hear. from Latin audire. -- Source: The Oyez Project - Northwestern University. Alright already, enough etymology! This is the kind of information I learned at the University of Houston's Paralegal Certification Program from which I recently graduated. Yes, I warned y'all (this is my Texas immitation), that I may be returning to school and with a resume like mine, I had a few diving boards to jump from.

I've always loved design work but pursuing a design career with constant moves is sort of like walking into a kitchen to prepare an original, gourmet meal (with budget and time constraints) and discovering that somebody has rearranged your cabinets and pantry and, frankly, I just wasn't up to doing that again. So... What next?!

First, assess my strengths. Organized, methodical, analytical and enjoy reading, writing, and researching. Second, and this is where the research thing comes into play, research the U.S. Board of Labor Statistics website. With so many people unemployed and job trends continuing to change, I wanted to be sure I was shooting at a target that wouldn't disappear in ten years. Ah ha! Job forecast for paralegals is excellent, demand continues to grow, and my strengths are well suited to the job. Third, sign up for a course. The closest and most reputable one was through the University of Houston so I signed up and began classes January 21. Thus began the most intense 9 weeks I've ever experienced. Having 5 kids and a set of twins was, by far, easier!

Since I don't watch TV, I had never seen the shows like Law and Order or The Practice, so this was a decision based on the written word, namely, research. In a way this was good because I didn't have a Hollywood view of the legal system or court room setting but it was bad in the sense that I didn't realize the level of drama involved in legal machinations particularly as it relates to family, criminal, and juvenile law. I think I'm best suited for corporate law, estate planning, immigration, intellectual property, or in-house counsel. But, like any good program, one is exposed to it all, like it or not. My two favorite areas were the study of the American Constitution and anything business related.

So now, here I am, on the back side of the program which ended last Saturday.

Then to Pappadeaux Seafood Restaurants (Andrew's employer) for, yet, another celebration. One great thing about having a big family is perpetual celebration is a continual thread that weaves us together!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Opening my pantry is still a de ja vu experience. Just when I think I'm getting used to the idea of living in Texas, something jumps out of my kitchen pantry which sends me right back to Canada. In this case, it was the corn starch and baking powder, displaying their Canadian labels which aren't available in the U.S.

Then, as though I had suddenly become Flat Stanley upon reading the Houston Chronicle this morning, I was instantly transported back to California. So what brought on this sudden transport, you ask?

Take another peek.

Yes, Two-Buck-Chuck fans, Trader Joe's is on its way to my backyard in The Woodlands. And what, you Texans may be asking, is Two-Buck-Chuck? It is the most inexpensive, and somewhat decent, California wine on the market, made available only at Trader Joes. A bit of the California Coast in Texas!