Friday, December 23, 2011

Gifts in Small Packages


My whole life, I was told that toddlers were/are difficult.  I've heard stories about the "terrible twos" as long as I've lived.

To be honest, I knew this was true.  I was twelve years old when my sister was two years old.  She got into unimaginable little dilemmas quite often.  Most of these dilemmas involved the destruction of something beloved. 

When Amelia was a baby, she was cute and cuddly.  Part of me dreaded her growing up, because I knew (and because I had been told) that toddlers are/were difficult.  I didn't want her to become a smelly, messy, crazy toddler.  I wanted  her to stay little, compact - sweet.

Today, my toddler girl is wide open.  She's into everything.  She's crazy, she's hyperactive, and she's gloriously messy.  Nothing is safe from her reach.  And yet, despite the whirlwind that is toddler hood, I feel like some people (including myself at times) often miss the point.

Because despite all I was told, I wasn't told was how a toddler loves.  Amelia has a heart as big as the sun breaking open on a winter morning sky.  She loves unconditionally.  There are few things more extraordinary than her constant kisses, her sweet little "I luh loos" and her hugs filled with "mmm-MMM!"   Yesterday, my friend Kathi told the sweetest story about her little 2 year-old telling her that she was his "BEST FRIEND!" My heart melted.  Toddlers totally get it.  They love their parents with a passion that I rarely see in...well, anyone.

Despite what I was told, I also wasn't told what a joy it is to watch a toddler experience.  Everything is wonderful and new to a toddler.  Watching Amelia this Christmas, I feel like I'm re-living Christmas again for the first time.  Everything is enchanting, fun, delightful.  I can't help but to buy her extra treats or take her on special little trips because she loves everything!  She oohs and ahhs over lights, she yells "Tanta!" when she sees the man in the big red suit, and she dances around Christmas Trees filled with presents.  A few nights ago, Kathi, Kim, and I took our crazy babies to Dahlonega to look at the lights.  It was insane and exhausting!  Yet, when we got in the car, Asher told his mama that it was "mac-ig-cal!"  All of my regrets about bringing the kids subsided.  That night, they had an experience.


There are so many little wonderful things about Amelia that no one ever told me about children before I became a mother.  I hear so often about the bad, the tough, the mundane.  I rarely hear about the precious, the "mac-ig-cal," or the memorable.  I want to change this mentality within myself - I don't want to sugarcoat my life by any stretch of the imagination, but I want to make sure I enjoy my sweet girl in every stage of her life.

Children are such a blessing from God.  This Christmas, I wish for all of my friends with "tough toddlers" the ability to sit back and take in the love our children give us - and to experience Christmas with them.

They won't be little forever.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

St. Nik(ki).

St. Nick came to visit my school this year.

However, this St. Nick wears eyeliner and has a perfectly cropped and highlighted head of hair.  She's petite and gorgeous, and doesn't have a bowl full of jelly (even when it has a baby in it).

Our St. Nick at school is otherwise known as Nikki, who works in the Language Arts department in 8th grade.  Nikki is so fun-spirited and cute that it is very hard to ignore her pleas for fun and excitement.

Our dear little Nikki Claus decided she was going to spread some holiday cheer to the 8th grade wing this year, and she planned theme days and a Secret Santa gift exchange.  The gift exchange called for very small, inexpensive gifts (one dollar each day and five-dollar gift on Friday) and asked everyone who was interested to meet up to exchange names.

When I showed up for the name exchange, I was taken aback - almost every single member of my grade level was there!  They were all laughing, smiling and talking about the fun to be had in the next week.  I knew, deep down in my heart, that Nikki Claus performed a Christmas Miracle.

Each day was so much fun.  Amy, our grade level chair, decorated a cute little Christmas tree in our workroom.  I played Mission:Impossible with my gifts by hiding them in my lunchbox and I and tried to be as nonchalant as possible.  I attached little poems to my gifts (which, I'm sure, revealed my identity right away...).  My poor secret pal obtained amazing necessities like chapstick, a dollar planner, and a lint roller (yes, a lint roller -you wouldn't believe how linty it gets around EHall!).
Our very small and cute Christmas Tree!

Each day, Nikki called everyone in the workroom around the little tree and distributed presents.  We all opened them and oohed and ahhed in excitement.  Some presents were very exciting (Snickers bars do that to some people) and some left people rolling in laughter (like the sleeve of faux tattoos that Wes got from his Secret Santa).


Reindeer Day
The "theme days" were loads of fun, too.  We had Reindeer Day, Christmas Sock Day, Snuggie Day, Crazy Christmas Scarf Day (I couldn't find a crazy scarf to save my life - what's up with that!?) and "Vintage" Sweater Day.  Vintage Sweater Day was mostly sponsored by Susan, our instructional coach, loaded us up on her lovely assortment of Christmas sweaters.  The only thing that would have made these days a little better would have been a slight chill in the air.  It's difficult to wear a Snuggie/scarf/sweater when it is seventy degrees outside.  I was surprised, yet again, at how many people decided to contribute to the fun.  Nikki Claus really worked her magic.
Snuggie Day, Part II: Revenge of the Blanket with Sleeves

Vintage Sweater Day - that's Nikki Claus holding the Starbucks swag!


I'm thankful for a friend like Nikki.  Her infectious spirit helps me through the rough days and helps me make memories out of the best days.  She reminds me that sometimes 8th grade teachers are truly just 8th graders at heart.


Christmas melts even the most Grinchy hearts...teehee.







Monday, December 5, 2011

The Weary World Rejoices

Earlier this year, my church discussed giving money to a program.  It offers former female prisoners rehabilitation, counseling, and stability.  I have heard about this program for months, but yesterday, I was able to view a tangible expression of what this program entailed.

The women - perhaps fifty or more - took up the first several rows of our worship center.  Before the offering, a couple of them told their stories and shared their experiences with the ministry. Their lives were compressed into brief segments of time - a mere glimmer of the addiction, abuse and depravity each faced.

The pain resonated in their words and their faces betrayed their emotions as they spoke of the life they once lived.  These women told of the hope they found through our church, through the program created - and through the life of Jesus Christ.  How He changed their lives forever.

After the clapping and the little awards given to these women, our worship leader and one of our musicians came back on stage for a haunting rendition of "Silent Night."

In my seat, I just melted into a puddle of emotion and tears.  It hit me like a ton of bricks -

This is a part of the beauty of Christmas.

The fact that God Himself stepped into flesh to offer hope and redemption.  It is a splendor I cannot describe with enough words, a love I can never fully explain.  The fact that despite our dirtiness and depravity, He loved enough to restore.

We speak of gifts, we search for gifts, we make lists of gifts.  But no gift will ever be greater than the Gift of Jesus Christ.  Nothing will ever undo like the depth of his love. 

And, though those women never mentioned Christmas, I found such comfort in their simple, easy stories - I remembered the beauty of Christmas.  This is the Christ who I serve.  This is the Jesus I love.  He loves enough to redeem, to give himself in the form of humanity - so that in this world full of darkness we could turn to face it with His light. When we fall, when we fail, when we are distressed, when we feel defeated, "He gives more grace."

Amen.


"Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace, Hail the Son of Righteousness!/Light and life to all He brings, Risen with healing in His wings/Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die/Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth/Hark! The herald angels sing, 'glory to the newborn King!'"

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Belle in a Box

Amelia decided a few weeks ago that she is obsessed with Princesses.

This is a recent turn of events.  Before that, she was perfectly content with a truck and a slide.

We watched "Beauty and the Beast" for the first time a few weeks ago.  Parts of the movie definitely scared her, but she absolutely loved the movie.  At Target, I got her a small, plastic Belle doll (she calls her "Beh-ewl"), and she's just become enamored with all things Belle.  This is fine with me, since I find Belle to be the most intelligent and pragmatic of Disney Princesses.  To be honest, I don't know if that is saying much for Belle.  Aurora has the personality of a doorknob and  Snow White kind of creeps me out.

We watch "Beauty and the Beast" at least once a week now.  Amelia is starting to understand the concept of the television a little better. However,  Dora has corrupted her concept of the "third wall," so she doesn't really understand why Belle won't talk to her.

This was her conversation with Belle the other day:

Belle:  Little town, it's a quiet village....

Amelia: Hewo, Beh-ewl!  What doing?

Belle:  Every day, like the one befooooooooooree....

Amelia:  Beh-ewl!  Heeeeeeeeeey! (Waving hysterically at the television)

Belle:  Little town, full of little people.......

Amelia:  Beh-ewl!  I luh loo!

Belle:  Waking up to saaaaaaaay....

Amelia: (Turning to me) Mama, what Beh-ewl doing?

Me:  She's singing, Baby.  She's a little busy.


Despite the fact that Belle may be a little uncommunicative, I feel like Amelia has made a friend for life.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Recipes

I've taken my old food blog, "Food Farr Thought," and merged the postings with this site.  I'm going to go through the monotonous process of labeling my blogs so that you can find the recipes on here.

I'll still post recipes on here from time to time.  Honestly, I'm just not a proficient enough cook or writer to maintain two blogs.  I hope you understand. :)



Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kroger Confessional

About ten years ago, my little hometown got a Kroger close to my house.

I worked at Ingles around that time period.  Actually, one of my major memories of September 11th involves me standing in Ingles the night President Bush gave his famous speech.  No one was in the store.  We just stood around the small television in the front as the fear and panic crept into us.

To this day, I can't go into Ingles.  I did not enjoy my foray into cashierhood.  I didn't enjoy the way Ingles made their cashiers pick up all the items - including forty pound bags of dog food - to put them on the conveyor belt.  Yuck.

My Ingles-Phobia leaves me with only once choice:  Kroger.

Boy, my Kroger is terrible.

Want the reasons?  I like lists.  Here they are:

1.  Kroger was okay a few years ago, but then they added a huge expansion to the store.  The expansion created a section of rows RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STORE that just contain random crap.  Yeah, I said it.  It's true.  I don't want to have to walk through an aisle of beach chairs to get to the butter.  I don't need seventeen different brands of Snuggies in my grocery store.  I don't want the latest, greatest, thing found on an informercial.


2.  The produce.  It's terrible.  I'm sorry if you know the produce manager at the Kroger, I really am.  But I should be able to keep a package of salad two days, find strawberries fresh in the store, and keep an apple for a week.  A couple of weeks ago, I bought a package of tangerines to look cute in my wooden bowl at my book club party.  About four days later, they were literally rotting in the bowl.  I've never heard of tangerines going bad after a couple of days.  It was quite depressing.  I can go to Publix across town and have my produce last twice or even three times as long.

3.  You can't always get what you want, but sometimes I need some dang yogurt.  I love the new Stoneyfield Oikos Greek Yogurt with honey.  It's the best and some of the healthiest yogurt out there. I'm willing to pay extra for the health benefits and protein I get from it.   Stoneyfield adds just the right of sweetness to it - it kicks Chiobani's tail (I could do a whole post on yogurt, by the way...haha).  Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks so.  Kroger never ever has this yogurt.  NEVER.  EVER.  Usually, if I need something or want something, this Kroger will be out of it.  Things that are pretty basic - like bananas.  Cereal.  Milk.  It's annoying.  


4.  Stuff doesn't make sense.  I don't want to shop for cookies next to hand sanitizer (it's not that bad, but it doesn't make sense).  I don't want beans next to bread.  By the time I had finally figured out the convoluted arrangement of this store, Kroger just recently moved everything around again.  So now, I have to figure out why the potato chips are by the vinegar, why the butter is near the coke, and why Kroger chose this arrangement.  I should have it figured out in six months or so.

5.  The lines.  Kroger will have approximately 3.5 million people within its massive monstrosity of a store, and will maintain two cashiers.  Sometimes, the manager (again, sorry if you know one - I'm just being honest) will leave his post of standing directly in front of the Capri Suns to open up a register to help out.  Three lines does not an efficient store make.  Many people opt to do the self-checkout.  I'm still relatively quick at this, thanks to my aforementioned Ingles experience, but when it comes to produce, I've forgotten the numbers (besides bananas - 4011!)  and it takes me a little time.  Of course, this makes the anxious Kroger shoppers behind me in line a tad bit irritated ....which leads me to...

6. The people.  Sometimes, I have to park at the Mexican restaurant at the end of the shopping center complex just to get to Kroger.  When I get into the store, there are people, people everywhere.  Some of them have crawled out from under a rock in Murrayville.  They come with the sheer intention of flaunting their redneck ways at their big ol' trip to Kroger.  They yell, act insane, butt you out of the way to get to the Easy Mac on sale, and get in front of you in the Starbucks line to order stupid things like seventeen mocha frappuccinos.   One time in the self check-out line (when I seriously had no other option), a fellow behind me yelled, "hey, I'm not in a hurry - you just take your time, sweetheart!  You just taaake your time!"  I gave him one of my Anne Cain looks.  He got the point.  But seriously, who says stuff like that to people in a grocery store?!

I realize that not all Kroger stores are like this.  I know people who thoroughly enjoy their Kroger.  I know people who work at other Krogers and they are wonderful, nice people.

I'm just telling you that my Kroger stinks.

There are redeeming qualities.  The pharmacy usually has good deals.  There is a Starbucks inside with a nice barista who can make me a caramel macchiato as well as any barista at a "regular Starbucks."  There's a redbox there. They're the only store around that sells Amelia's diapers, so I have to go there whether I like it or not (and this is usually the reason I go ahead and get groceries while I'm there).

But the Hour of the Kroger is upon me.  I know I'm going to have to suck it up, go there, pick up my thanksgiving groceries, and deal with the madness.  I seriously might try out some Publix diapers and drive across town to Publix.

I just wish I had a better, closer option.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dear Mrs. Westmoreland


I cried the day I left you.

Summers were normally welcomed with an impolite yell, an excited dance down the halls of elementary school, and plans full of sleepovers and video games.

On the day I left you, the melancholy slammed into my ten year-old heart. As I sat on the bus to my friend's house, unable to control my tears, I thought about how I was leaving something I couldn't explain, something very real.

Something very indescribable.

I had teachers before - many wonderful ones.  But none of those teachers made me want to spend time in a classroom more than you.

To this day, I think about you.  I think about the day you cried when you heard about the student in class being abused.  I think about the day you told us that the father of one my classmates died - and the way you told us in your still, gentle voice.  Your eyes filled with tears.  I remember thinking, "she really cares about us.  She really does love us."

I think about how you chocked up the day we watched Charlotte's Web.  I think about the time you couldn't finish the end of the "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" without tears sliding down your face.

I remember all the books - tales of Fudge, a ghost named Helen, and a hurt, abused girl named Laurie.

No one could draw an image in my mind like you did.

I think about how you acted flat-out crazy, made me laugh hysterically, and encouraged me to be myself.  You embraced my quirkiness.  You gave me the "Best Actress" award in your class, and I felt like I won an Oscar.

The last day of school, when I handed you my bowl of homemade ice cream, you smiled and said you loved it, despite the fact that rock salt had somehow manuvered its way into the turbine.

I thought about this - all of this - as I sat in a heap of tears and misery on what should have been a happy, wonderful last day of school.

Though my childhood heart could not determine what it was about you that was so special, my adult heart grows more and more understanding each day.

You gave me the gift of a compassionate teacher.

I spent one of the best years of my life with you as my guide.

Each day, as I walk into a classroom filled with young teenage children, I think about my role in their lives.  I think about how one teacher, despite the cliches, really can make a difference.

I think about you when my students stress me out, when they talk back to me, and when they come to me for comfort.  I think about you when I sense an intangible moment - one where I know I can make my students think and learn.  You are, undoubtedly, one of the reasons I am the person I am today.

See, Mrs. Westmoreland, I didn't get to be an actress.  But I do get to stand in front of an audience every day.  Those two-hundred eyes look to me for a different show.  And despite my loud mouth, my impatience, my quirkiness, and my sassy side - I know how to be a good teacher because of your example.

I pray I give my students a Mrs. Westmoreland - a teacher who loves despite deficiencies, inspires beyond circumstances, and moves the hearts of students years beyond the reach of school.

Thank you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Want to see my real life? Get on Pinterest.

Hello, my name is Dana, and I'm addicted to Pinterest.

If you haven't gotten on Pinterest yet, be glad that you haven't gotten drawn into its time-sucking vortex of crafts, recipes, and all sorts of other ideas.

It's a way to feel crafty without actually having to be crafty.  To feel useful without really being useful.  To categorize ideas without ever using them. 

Unfortunately, if there's one thing in this life that I am decidedly NOT, it is crafty.  I cannot cut in straight lines, draw anything, or make even the most basic crafts.  I got a frowny face on my papers in Kindergarten when I couldn't trace the curved lines.  When I "model" projects for the kids at school, my artwork is usually lampooned by my students in articulate fashion ("Dang, Miss!  You cain't draw!").   I am not one of those people who can look at a blank room and put together a furniture arrangement.  Honestly, the only things I like to arrange are words.  In sentences.

I'm basically on Pinterest to look at food, clothes, ideas, and to pin the things that look "pretty."  If it's a craft, I usually tag one of my other friends in it with the thought, "Kathi or Jennifer could make that."  It is really a glamorous representation of my not-so-glamorous life.

Apparently, I'm a very good at representing my Pinterest interests.  I must click on the right pictures.


I'm a Pinterest celebrity, yo!


I started a board to post cookies on for my annual cookie swap this Christmas.  What turned out to be a cute little board for my friends has turned into a pretty popular board.  It gains ten or more people a day.

Let's be honest: I couldn't count 278 people who actually like me, so seeing this board always startles me.

I also realized that it brings up other issues, namely:  1) who are these people?  and 2) do they expect an invitation?  I don't think I could make enough food to feed that many people.  I mean, I've got a big yard, but not quite that big.

Despite these odd little instances with Pinterest, I've actually used a couple of the things I've found on there.  I made sweet potato biscuits.  I did one of the "home help hints" and was able to unclog Jeremy's bathroom sink with baking soda and boiling water.  It was my greatest Pinterest success to date.

I haven't decided if Pinterest is a Martha Stewart-decried "good thing" yet.  I'm on the fence.  It is either the best or the worst thing ever.

I'd let you know more, but I really need to go start a Christmas board.

It's important.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Lil' Pumpkin

Fall 2009:











 




Fall 2010:
















Fall 2011:















What a big girl.  Sigh.

Earthquakes and Aftershocks

I've had a lot of responses to my "risky post."

It was a little overwhelming.

I don't like to be "the bad guy."  I don't like to cause drama/trouble.

But I don't regret the post.  I don't regret questioning something, even if I wrong.  I want to be a thinking believer.  I don't want to simply follow everything Christian Culture tells me to follow...and I won't.  I guess that's one of those skills that I learned as a historian and a teacher:  it's okay to question..  It's okay to investigate.  It's okay to search for a better understanding.

I'll give my thoughts on the movie when it comes to Netflix.  Until then, know that my prayer for believers is for us to be sustained by the person of Jesus Christ, to be sustained by grace and not works, and to be sustained by the word of God.

This youtube clip says what I pretty much wanted to say:

What is the Gospel?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Poor Nelly Baby

Amelia has learned a lot of things in the past two weeks.

In the midst of my teeth-induced pain, she's learned 1) how to turn on light switches (and, conversely, how to turn them off)  2) how to climb onto our island in our kitchen 3) how to find every candle in the house and 4) how to crawl onto our bed and jump on it.

This has not made my recovery easy.

Through all this, I've learned that while two year-olds are very skilled, they trip often.  Well, maybe just my kid trips often.  Maybe this has something to do with her size seven (no, I'm not kidding - true story) feet.

Yesterday was one of those days.

Amelia fell on the playground at the school near our house, and ended up with an unfortunate boo-boo.

While she's learning stuff, I'm learning things, too.

I learned I can't keep a two-year old from tripping, no matter how hard I try.

Today, I learned that Amelia has allergies.  The allergies have brought on a miserable cough.  Sorry for that little genetic gift, Amelia.

And, I've learned that I never feel good enough as a parent...is that normal?

(FYI - Just in case you were wondering, Amelia did not fall on purpose to make a mark so she could protest a relative in jail.  Thank you.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bebop the Tooth Fairy


I went today to get my lovely wisdom teeth pulled.

(Hold up.  I would like to take a Zack Morris "Time out!" here and mention that I am breaking away from a very riveting episode of House Hunters: International to write this.  The couple on the show is in Kent, England.  I know that House Hunters is fake and all, but it is very hard not to watch people in Kent.  I mean, that's where Lady Catherine's hizzle was in Pride and Prejudice, you know.  Oooh...tea and scones...)

Ahem.  The teeth.

I went today to get my teeth pulled.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Tooth was pulled almost exactly a year ago.  That left Shredder , Rocksteady, and Bebop.

Yes, I named my teeth.  I still remember the names from Ninja Turtles.  If you are just now realizing that I'm weird, you obviously do not know me.

Shredder came in sideways and is lodged against my other teeth.  Despite his accommodations in my mouth, he's actually not been too painful.  Rocksteady is huge.  Recently, he's become quite a nuisance, cramming my teeth together tightly and making my veneered teeth super achy.  Then, there's Bebop.

Oh, Bebop.
Doesn't my artistry astound you?

Bebop is a little tooth, and I gave him the name because Bebop sounds like a name one would give a little, harmless tooth.  Bebop never even broke through my gums.

Despite his small stature, Bebop has hurt on and off for the past couple of years.  Last night, Bebop woke me up due to the pain.

When I went to my dentist today, he informed me that Bebop was a little sketchy.  In fact, Bebop is somehow partially in my sinus cavity.

The dentist (La Dentista?  El Dentisto? I hope my dentist doesn't know I blog about him.) decided he didn't really want to take Bebop out under his watch.  He wanted to leave him in my head, lodged against my top molar.  "I can go ahead and pull the other two," he said.

I thought about this.

I thought about the yuck, the nausea, the dry socket.  I thought about little Bebop, still stuck in my head, causing ache and pain.

I thought about my rambling blog post about my first tooth removal.  I wrote it to be funny, so I would laugh at it later, so my kids would say, "hey, Mom's kinda weird."   I also wrote that blog to remember the sheer mess of it all.  I didn't want to go through that mess three times.

Most importantly, I thought about the time.  Time is precious for me as a mother...not to be forsaken. 

"I want 'em all out at the same time," I said.  "That little tooth hurts, and I want it out."

After a very brief discussion (and after making the dentist realize that teachers are not like dentists and can't just show up for work at anytime and tell the sub to go home) with my dentist and my aunt, who works with my dentist, we decided what was best.  I was ushered next door to an oral surgeon.

I became very antsy.

Surgery makes me shudder.  I had surgery at fourteen and it did not go well.  I reacted to the anesthesia.  Of course, thinking back, what ever went well at age fourteen?  (It was the worst year of my LIFE.  But that's another blog entry.)

Sitting in the midst of the 80s decor - away from my aunt and the familiarity of my dentist's office-  I started to kind of freak out a little.  I appreciated the surgeon's willingness to help me, but the nerves began creeping into my stomach, making me wretched.  I watched the video where some Dr. Oz-ish looking fellow told me about wisdom tooth extraction.  It didn't help.

Then, I started to freak out a little about the cost.  I remembered that life was so much easier when my parents gave me money for my teeth. Even though I didn't believe in the whole "Tooth Fairy" thing (which is okay, the Tooth Fairy is dumb), I got money under my pillow.  And that money bought me a sweet Little Mermaid doll back in the day.

After my consultation, the oral surgeon (El Dentisto Grande?) calmed my nervousness, my hesitance about anesthesia, and my general stupidity.  I felt better.  Not great, but better.

Then, I was told the good news:  my health care was covering everything but a co-pay.  I was so excited.  It turns out Bebop, the little impacted tooth, probably served as my tooth fairy. 

I'm not looking forward to tomorrow, but I'm ready to end this dilemma that's been going on in my mouth for ten years.

Tomorrow night, my pillow will probably have some blood on it.   Probably some of my tears will rest there, too.  My flair for dramatic tendencies, I'm sure, will overwhelm me.

Eventually, however, maybe I'll rest easy, knowing my pain will finally, FINALLY be over within a week.

There won't be a five-dollar bill under my pillow, but hopefully I'll take comfort in the fact that these teeth didn't bankrupt me before my property tax bill is due.

Perspective is vital to one silly enough to name teeth.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Moment for Memory

As a history teacher, I'm prone to remembering the past.

It's what I do for a living.

On the tenth anniversary of September 11th, I can't help but think about George Santanya's haunting words that grace the front of my classroom: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

I think I can speak for many of us when I say September 11th was and is a painful reminder of a country long gone.  For me, the reminders of that day are put aside, like an old waffle iron placed into storage, a blanket in a far away closet, pictures in the attic...

What Santanya never told me is that it is much more difficult to tackle an event that lives in my memories. The past is easier...distant.  I cannot fathom how the Greatest Generation managed to distance themselves from the Great Depression and the terrors of World War II - and yet their reflections on life and war have often seemed so graceful, so fitting.  They remembered because they knew it was important.  There is still so much to learn from them, and they are slipping away from us.

Santanya understood.  If I am smart, I'll heed his words.

So, bear with me as I'm taking a moment for memory.  I'm going to push past the desire to leave the past in and remember September 11th as someone who experienced it.

The computer lab was full of students that fateful day. I remember the instant message I received from a friend - "the towers are crumbling - everyone is crying."  I remember the student center crammed with students - wordless, terrified students.

I remember standing in a grocery store void of customers.  I was working there, waiting on the president to speak and subdue the untenable fear I felt. I feared for my country, the people within it, and my own life.  I shuddered as I watched image after image - horror after horror - unfold on my television set.  I gasped at explosions that took the lives of hundreds in seconds and the desolate collapses that took the lives of thousands.

I didn't lose a family member.  I didn't lose an acquaintance.  I only saw what most others saw.  I only experienced the experience of an average American.  But despite my youth, I was able to understand that something died that day.  In addition to the lives lost, America lost something heartbreaking, nameless - precious.  I can't identify what it was, but I'll tell you that the world hasn't been the same since September 11th.

I processed the event like so many others did.  I scribbled down stanzas for poems that seemed never-ending.  I discussed, analyzed, and processed the event in my political science classes.  I made conjecture about the future and pushed past the pain of the past.  I listened to Caedmon's Call sing, "my faith is like shifting sand/so I stand on grace," and clung to the fact that my stability did not rely on the strength of man.

While my memories are obviously and rightfully eclipsed by those who experienced true pain and loss, I hope this message speaks for so many of us.

Us.  The survivors who stared at the television set, the simple American wondering, "why?"  Us.  The ones who cried when Bono raised his American flag at the Superbowl to say, "I'm sorry.  I care."  Us.  The ones who realize we've kept things too quiet for a generation of ipod/ipad/facebook loving children who have no idea of how richly they've been blessed....of how quickly the world can change in an instant.

Us.  The 9/11 Generation.  It's up to us to never forget.

Because those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Girl Learns About Jesus

Amelia looked super cute before church this evening.  She wore her little Georgia Bulldog shirt (that was a dress two years ago), jean shorts, and her gold sandals.  Her hair was put in a ponytail with a matching bow, because I do want her to look presentable in the house of God.

All of this effort was to no avail, however.  Amelia came home from church tonight looking like this:
She was a big pile of marker marks, snot, hair, and mess.
 
She got to color her "I Love Missionaries!" poster to her heart's content.  She did a great job.  She just happened to color herself along with her portrait.

"We cleaned her three times!" the nice ladies who kept her said.

I felt bad for them.   I hope they understood that I sympathized with their plight.   Amelia with markers is like Pandora with a box.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the idea of Amelia at church because she's such a handful (remember the lady who told me that keeping her was like keeping multiple babies?), but then I remember the bigger picture.

I'm not sure Amelia understands missionaries, or church, or the fact that I leave her in the Duck Room when I go to sing in choir or attend the big service.  I'm fairly certain she doesn't understand the allusion to C.S. Lewis when Brooke Fraser croons, "Walking, stumbling, on these shadowfeet..." on my radio, but her face lights up and she claps her little hands.

What I do know is that Amelia gives me hugs.  She says "dank do!" when you offer her something.  I know that when I give her a hug, she says "ohhh, sweet!" She dances to almost any song.  I know she points at her baby Bible and says "Jee-dus!" and sings, "Jee-dus ove me dis I nooooooooo!"

It's a small brush of paint onto a big picture, this little trip we're taking to church every week.  But between the markers and the chaos, my girl learns about Jesus.

And, because of Him, she learns about love.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Yeah-Yeah's Second Birthday Party

Yeah-Yeah (that's Amelia's name for herself) turned two a few weeks ago.


We had a huge party last year, filled with candy buckets and craziness.  I loved it, but it was just too much for me to pull off this year.  Big parties are en vogue right now, but there's something simple about a family party that I like and that keeps my sanity intact.  We decided to forgo the bigness this year for a simple family pizza party and it turned out great.



Our family really enjoyed the party, too.  Well, okay.  They enjoyed the pizza.  And the cupcakes.  Well, Mama didn't like the cupcakes.  But everyone else thought they were good. :)



My Dad got Amelia a cute little outfit to wear, and she looked precious in it.  She got all sorts of toys that she didn't need (I'm about ready for our first clean-out and trip to Goodwill). 

Amelia did pretty well.  She didn't smile a whole lot (she's starting to understand crowds and confusion) but she loved it when people sang to her.

Kathi and Asher invited us over for a little party for Amelia, too!  We swam, had cupcakes, and had a little bath at the end!  It was perfect, and Amelia had so much fun.

She's two.  She's really two.

Wow.

Friday, August 5, 2011

So big.

From six pounds to twenty-six pounds...

From one day, one week, one month, one year - to two years...

From twenty-one inches to thirty-six inches...

From saying nothing to saying hundreds of words...

From barely being able to hold a head up to being able to run, jump, and leap tall buildings in a single bound...

My girl is so big.

Happy 2nd Birthday to the best baby girl in the whole world.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Oceans and Mountains

Our little family went to St. George Island last week to get away and relax.

I was worried about how Amelia would do traveling and how she would like the beach.  She did really well in the car, however, and she really enjoyed the beach!

I love St. George.  It's a part of what is called the "forgotten coast," and it isn't as crowded or noisy as other beaches.  It's for people who just want to enjoy the sun, sand, and the ocean. St. George is the perfect place to curl up with a book (or two...or three).  The state park is especially nice - you can enjoy a whole chunk of the beach to yourself.

The beach situation worked out really well for me.  Jeremy and I would play with Amelia for a few hours and then she would go inside for lunch and a nap.  While Amelia napped, Jeremy stayed inside with her.  That meant that I had the beach and a book to myself.  The few hours of solitude and waves were just what I needed.  Heaven.

And, due in part to my Native American ancestry (if you don't believe me you should see my grandmother), I got a little darker.  I'm not really interested in getting tan anymore - I'm too concerned with the plight of wrinkles and skin cancer - but I got a little sun to abate my pastiness.  Poor Jeremy, however, spent a couple of hours in the sun to find himself miserably burned and red beyond imagination, even though we put sunblock on him.  The worst part of the trip was probably his sunburn (well, that or our dirty beach house..ugh).
He's wearing the long-sleeved t-shirt here for a reason.

We had fun building sandcastles (that Amelia destroyed), playing in the waves, and walking down the beach.  At nighttime, Amelia and I would walk into "downtown" St. George, which consists of a few restaurants and shops.  We got ice cream one night at the famous Aunt Ebby's, did a little shopping, and enjoyed the sun setting gloriously over the bay behind the island.  I honestly enjoyed our nighttime walks just as much as I enjoyed our daytime beach activities.


Like all good things, our trip came to an end before we knew it.  I do enjoy the beach, but I'm definitely a Georgia girl at heart.  The night of our return, we headed to Dahlonega to grab a bite to eat.  After we crossed over the big bend with the "Welcome to Dahlonega" sign, I saw the amazing Blue Ridge Mountains.  Their beauty just called to me.  It spoke of home.  There's just something so earthy and almost mystical about where I live...I enjoy the beach, but I belong near the mountains.

I'm thankful for our trip, glad to be home, and enjoying the last few days of my summer.  Time is running quickly through this sieve of life, and my summer will soon be over.  In the midst of oceans and mountains, however, I've been able to get some wonderful rest, and I'm grateful for it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Falling Action

Summer, very quietly, will come to a close soon.  The heat may not go away for some time, but the work will slowly maneuver its way back into my life, filling my hands with papers, my time with the newness of school, and my mind with all the preoccupation that comes with my...well, my occupation.

Very soon, I will go back to being a working mother.

And it is this time, this upcoming dusk that is approaching, when I start to ache, when I start to see the full scope of what I miss when I don't have this precious gift of time. 

People told me when I was pregnant that I would not get any sleep, they told me that I would have a hard time, and my own mother told me that my child would probably be as crazy as I am (she's right), but no one ever really and fully explained the ache.

It's the ache of missing your child - even if she's just gone for a few hours.  It's the ache of seeing her bloom and grow.  There's such conflict and bittersweet feelings attached to watching her grow - I feel so proud to see her progress, but so sad to know she's moving, inch by inch, away from being little.  It's the ache of hearing her say, "byyyye," and "nigh-nigh!"  at the end of each summer night, knowing that I'm one day closer to summer's close. 

And oddly, I'm taking on the philosophy a biscuit at this stage of life.  I'm determined to sop up all the goodness that I can while I still have it with me.  I want to enjoy this summer with my baby girl while I still have the time.  Because soon, I'll be back at work, and our long, lazy summer days will be gone before both of us know it.

I've got a special girl.  I might tell you she's destructive (true) and crazy (yup), but she's beautiful, outgoing, silly, funny, sweet and absolutely wonderful.  I'm so blessed to have her.



"And somewhere past the quiet/
I think I heard you growing up/
And I, well I don’t think I’ll ever be the same" - Bebo Norman

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chicken Fried Rice

I do not profess to be a Japanese steakhouse chef.  Those chefs make some awfully mean and pretty incredible fried rice. But, this is one recipe I've been making for years and I feel like I've gotten close to a yummy fried rice that comes close to the stuff you'd find in a restaurant.  I feel like restaurant rice is "slicker" than homemade, and that mine is definitely more "sticky," but I attribute that to the GOBS AND GOBS OF BUTTER in restaurant rice.

That being said, this is my version of chicken fried rice.  Jeremy loves it.  It is probably his favorite thing that I cook.  Amelia loves it, too - although it can get pretty messy for a toddler.  Amelia had to run through the sprinkler after her encounter with the fried rice...heh.

This fried rice isn't difficult to make, but it does require a bunch of ingredients.  I will say that once you have some of these specialty items (rice wine vinegar, etc), they'll last you for a long time and that you can make relatively inexpensive chicken fried rice after you've gotten the stuff to make it.

I make the chicken separately from the rice because I want to actually taste the chicken I'm making.  I think that's important.  For what it's worth, you could take the chicken recipe, make up some extra "sauce" on the side, add some corn starch to it, and serve it with some broccoli on top of some steamed rice.  It'd be pretty close to the Ginger Chicken with Broccoli I've seen at some restaurants. 

Fresh ginger makes this.  If you omit anything, please don't omit the fresh ginger.  It's cheap, easy to grate, and adds so much flavor.  I also add more soy sauce, because I eat an unhealthy amount of it.  It is soooo good.

I keep my rice pretty basic, because I live with my hubby, who is a Mr. Picky Pants.  I like veggies and would include lots of them (snap peas, carrots, broccoli)  if I was making this for veggie eaters...but, alas...
 
Chicken Fried Rice
Serves 4

For the "ginger" chicken marinade:
3-4 chicken breasts, sliced thin
2 tablespoons, fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons (or more, if desired), brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon, rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon, sesame oil
Dash of garlic powder

Place all ingredients into a bowl and marinate for at least one hour.

For the fried rice:
4 servings, "al denti" rice (you can make instant, regular..white, brown - whatever)
2 tablespoons, sesame oil
2 eggs
3 cloves, garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon, fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon, crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons, butter
1 teaspoon, toasted sesame seeds
two or three dashes of rice wine vinegar (about a teaspoon)

several dashes of soy sauce (to taste - two or three tablespoons)
pepper, to taste (No salt!  You will regret it!)

Heat up a wok or a large pan.  Drizzle a little sesame oil in the pan (you will know the pan is hot because the oil will literally "move" in the pan).  Saute the chicken pieces in the pan until brown on both sides.  Remove the chicken from the pan.

Add another drizzle of sesame oil to your pan.  Scramble the eggs and cook them in your pan.  While the eggs are still soft, add in the rice, shallot, ginger, and garlic.  Add the soy sauce to the mixture and toss the fried rice around gently (as to not break up the rice too much).  Once your shallots and garlic are translucent and cook through, add in the red pepper flakes and the butter.  Once the butter has melted, add the chicken back in to the mixture and toss lightly.  Garnish with sesame seeds and serve immediately.

This picture makes me hungry.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Peaches 'N Cream Oatmeal - the Real Stuff

A lot of people don't really like oatmeal.  I blame this on those little packages.

Remember those little packets of oatmeal called "peaches 'n cream?"

I do.  I still eat them when I'm at school.  There, I'm forced to succumb to (mostly) quick and convenient eating habits.

Those little artificially-flavored boogers don't really taste like peaches.  Or cream.

But this does!

I had a small portion of rolled oats leftover from making strudel bars and granola, and I had some fresh peaches, so I thought I would give the old Quaker a run for his money with some real stuff.

I cooked my oats separately from my peaches.  I sauteed my peaches in a mixture of brown sugar and honey.  Then, I added my peach mixture to my oatmeal, added in some cinnamon...and topped it with some whipped cream.

Yes, I did it.  Beto, my Zumba Master, will not be happy with me.

Because, honestly - what is peaches 'n cream oatmeal without cream?

Amelia and I loved this.  I made the "one serving" portion on the back of the oatmeal package, but it'll easily make two servings (it'll make even more servings if you're serving it as a part of a big breakfast) or more.    Amelia and I will probably have enough left tomorrow for one of us.  I've found this with grits, too - the serving for grits and oatmeal is huge - I can make a whole casserole with two cups of grits.

This is real oatmeal - and I think you'll find the texture and taste much better than that of the little packages.  The little packages will do when you're in a hurry or working a job, but this is great for a Saturday morning or a happy holiday. 

Here's the recipe.  I hope you enjoy it!

Real Peaches 'N Cream Oatmeal

Ingredients:
1 cup, rolled oats (not instant)
1 3/4 cups, milk
2 peaches, pitted and sliced into small cubes
1/3 cup, brown sugar
2 tablespoons, honey (or agave nectar)
1 teaspoon, cinnamon
1 teaspoon, vanilla extract
whipped cream (optional, yet necessary)


Directions:

Cook one serving of oatmeal according to the package directions (usually one cup of oats and 1 3/4 cup of milk).  Add a splash of milk or more while it is cooking if the mixture tastes underdone and you are running out of liquid.

As oats are cooking, saute your peaches with the brown sugar on medium heat in a small saucepan.  Once the brown sugar melts down, add in one tablespoon of honey.  Cook the peaches until they start to brown a little on the edges and "puff up" and absorb the sugar mixture, about five minutes.  Once the peaches are done, lower the heat on the peaches to and allow them to simmer while the oatmeal finishes.  Add in your teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Once the oatmeal has finished cooking (it will take 6-10 minutes), add the peach mixture.  Add in the cinnamon.  Top with a large dollop of whipped cream, and stir the mixture in.

Serve and top with a drizzle of honey if desired.  
The final product...with the cream added.

Monday, July 4, 2011

"Wat id dat?"

See this book?



About two years ago, when I was nine months pregnant and insanely hormonal, a sweet college-aged kid came to my door selling these books to help him with his tuition.

"These books are, like, really cool," he said.  "And they hold up really well.  I mean, I think they're awesome."  He gave a nervous, semi-surfer dude laugh while showing them off. 

I took a few books from him and started scanning.  What struck me about them was that I had the same books when I was a child.  As I flipped through the books, I remembered the words and pictures.  These books didn't have a lot of frills.  They had basic, yet memorable pictures.  For some reason, I just thought it would be "awesome" to have Amelia read the books from my childhood.  I loved them.

I bought the whole set.  The college kid was so excited.  When Jeremy came home, his eyes popped out of his head when he saw the bill.

"These are educational books," I told Jeremy.  "They'll help Amelia."  I also thought to myself that they'd help  that nice college kid earn a little money for his tuition.  It takes guts to sell stuff to complete strangers.

Since Amelia was born, she and I have been reading through our little collection of these books.  We mostly read the number, shape, and color books.  (I'm holding off on the child dictionary until she gets a little older.)

And, as many of you know, Amelia's saying of choice has always been, "Wat id dat?" when asking questions.

Our reading of the books usually went like this:

She'd point to a lime.  "Wat id dat?"

"It's a lime.  Limes are green," I would reply.

She'd point to a heart. "Wat id dat?" 

"It's a heart.  Hearts are red," I would reply.

I'd work with her on the little page that introduces all the colors.  She'd point to all the little swatches of color and say, "Watiddatwatiddatwatiddatwatiddat?"  Then, I calmly told her the colors.

If you can't tell, the "wat id dat?" process went on for a long time.  And this process was frustrating. 

For the past few weeks, I was discouraged.  I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere with Amelia.  I'm a teacher, for goodness sake.  I just felt like I needed to have Amelia actually point to something and say what it was instead of "wat id dat?"  I knew (and know) she's young, but I just felt like we weren't making the kind of progress we needed to make.

Last Sunday before church, Amelia brought in her color book to the bathroom while Jeremy and I were getting ready.  She opened it up to some of the pages she hasn't destroyed (she loooooooves her books - but she still retains the title of Baby Destructo, regardless of her desire to read them). 

She turned the book to the "blue" page and pointed to the blue splash of paint.

"Wat id dat?  Booo!"  she said.

She turned the next page to the "green" page.

"Wat id dat?  Geeeen!" she said.

She turned the page to the "yellow" page (well, what's left of it).

"Wat id dat?  Yeh-ohhh!"

Yes, people.  My child was answering herself.  It was as if a light switch turned on...as if someone told her  she could answer her own questions.

Breakthrough.  We had a breakthrough.

I got so excited.  I stopped in mid-primp, carried her to my bed, and sat down with her, anxious to see what she knew.  She got excited seeing me excited.  She flipped back through the book, laughing and smiling at me as I rejoiced over her correct answers.

Amelia knows most of her colors, a few of her letters, a few numbers, and she names all sorts of animals (she even attempts the noises).  Turns out, her daddy has been working with her, too.  When they go upstairs to play, he's taken the time to teach her all the animals.  Her favorite thing right now is to say, "Cow!  Mooooo!"

All of this to say, I'm thankful that college kid knocked on my door.  I'm thankful for these simple, yet uber-helpful books.  I'm thankful that Amelia had her first big "learning" moment.  Of course, I'm also thankful for Amelia's Daddy, who wants her to learn as much as I do.

There are still goals to accomplish and things I want Amelia to learn (of course - I guess that's a given), but I feel better knowing that we're making progress.

PS  Think this company has books for fractions?  I'm going to need some help in a few years.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

So Thankful

I'm so thankful that I have friends.  I mean, aren't we all thankful for that?

In turn, I'm thankful that that my friends have kids who are friends with Amelia.


Amelia has a great little group of friends.  I hope they'll all be lifelong pals.

(Picture stolen from Kathi.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Groovy Granola

I love granola.

This stems back to my college years, where I went through a granola phase.  I didn't wear make-up (I didn't wear make-up on a daily basis until I started teaching), I wore Chacos with everything, and I wore Bohemian clothing.  I ate lots of Nature's Valley granola bars.

Granola is a fun and yummy snack.

I thought about making some granola yesterday, and started skimming through my cabinets to see what I had to make it.  This granola is "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants" kind of granola.  Just throw what you have in your pantry into the mix, and it should be fine!    You can't go wrong with nuts, dried fruit, and rolled oats.

Here's my simple recipe for homemade granola.  I don't know if it's healthier than the stuff you buy in the grocery store, but it's yummy and a little is filling and goes a long way.  It tastes yummy on top of some good Greek yogurt, or it'd be great on top of some fresh fruit.

Like I said before, this is just a template - add what you'd like to your granola and take away what you wouldn't like.  (Read my post below if you'd like my further feelings on making recipes your own.)

Groovy Granola


Ingredients:
2 cups, old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup, dried cranberries
1/3 cup, vegetable oil
1/3 cup, honey
1/3 cup, brown sugar
1 tablespoon, vanilla extract
1 teaspoon, cinnamon
1/2 cup, almonds
1/2 cup, pecans


Instructions:


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Mix together  vegetable oil, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon together in a mixing bowl.  Add in cranberries and rolled oats and fully coat the oats and cranberries with the mixture.  Spread the mixture in a very thin layer on top of the parchment paper.

Bake the granola for ten minutes, then remove it from the oven and gently toss the mixture with a spatula and re-spread it.  Place the granola back in the oven and bake it for fifteen minutes, and then remove it.  Add your chopped nuts to the mixture, and coat them fully with the honey/oil/sugar mixture.  Bake this mixture for fifteen more minutes (this makes your baking total forty minutes).  Remove from oven, and gently toss the mixture with a spatula.  Leave on a baking sheet to cool.

Once the granola has cooled, break it into pieces.  It will make around eight servings.  You can put it into little plastic bags...

or you can serve it immediately on top of yogurt or fruit (or both)!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Moment

Sometimes I need a moment.

A time when I can see beauty.  Artistry.  A collage of clouds that cascade across the sky.

I need a little glimmer of time where I can be reminded that there's beauty in storms, no matter how fierce they may seem.


I love how nature reminds me of the promises of God.

Mission: Kind of Accomplished...

Well, my anniversary was last Sunday.

I did Zumba every single day until my anniversary.  I met that part of the goal. 

Here is the photographic evidence.  Woo.  Hoo.
I didn't lose a single pound.

In fact, I might have gained a pound or two.  I'm trying to convince myself that I was building muscle, but I'm pretty sure that the mantra "muscle weighs more than fat" might be an urban legend of sorts.  Maybe it was started to help people start working out.  I do know from working out and dieting that it is a process that takes a while to start seeing results.

To be honest, however, I'm much more likely to blame the lack of weight loss on the fact that I'm actually eating a full lunch at home (as opposed to school, where I'd eat a salad or a bowl of cereal) during the summertime. What can I say?  I like Turnstile.

I guess on a positive note, Jeremy did tell me that my arms look more toned.  I mean, I could honestly care less about my arms (I want leg results), but I guess it's something.  Something is better than nothing.  I'm pretty sure C.S. Lewis said that.

We went to Mellow Mushroom on our anniversary.  We planned to go out somewhere nice.  I actually ironed "the dress" and put it on.  But I just didn't feel up to it.  I had a killer sinus infection that I had been fighting for over a week.  It was a Sunday night, Amelia couldn't spend the night with my mom, and we needed to be back before it got too late. I changed clothes, put on something less pretentious, and settled for a piece of pepperoni.

We're going to try Anniversary 2.0 tonight.  I'm still not feeling fabulous (thanks to the antibiotics - antibiotics are a double-edged sword) but I'm hoping to be able to enjoy myself and have a little fun.

I'm starting to think that anniversaries and goals are overrated.

Answer: Everything

Question:  What does Amelia get into?

Seriously.  Seriously.  She's into everything.  She doesn't stop unless she's asleep.
"What, Mama?"

In the past month, Amelia has ascertained all sorts of mischievous knowledge.  She's learned how to pull things down from the cabinets (for example, the box of Dunkin' Donuts pictured above).  She's learned how to open and unbolt all the doors, even the doors with child-proof knobs.  She's learned that if she lifts the lid off of the toilet, that it has a nice bowl of water for her to play in.  She's learned how further destroy books and dvds to the point where they become useless.

She's a regular Dora the Explorer, my child.

Well, except for the fact that her map leads her on a path of destruction...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Takes a Lickin' and Keeps on Tickin'

Amelia had her first big "boo-boo" last week.

She fell out of Mom's swing at her pool.  Face first.

She screamed.  She cried (she doesn't cry in pain much).  She bled.  Goodness, did she bleed.

I did what I could to stop the bleeding and keep the cuts clean.  I slathered her entire face with Neosporin.  I wanted to cry.

At least she's smiling, I guess...?

When I took her to nursery yesterday, the workers noticed her boo-boo.  I mentioned to them that it was her first big accident, and they said, "Wow, that's amazing considering how active she is."  (On a side note, one of the ladies also pointed to Amelia a few weeks ago and said, "This baby?  This baby is like FIVE babies.  Girl, are you tired?  I bet you are TIRED!")  For some reason, that really did make me feel a little better.

Amelia had a rough week, so of course, Mama had a rough week.    We took away the paci a few days before her accident, so sleeping was/is/will continue to be been an issue.  The accident, along with teething (and runny nose) made her a pretty whiny baby.  Anyone who knows me knows that my capacity for tolerating whiny-ness is almost nonexistent (hence I do not teach children younger than 13), so it's been tough.  This too shall pass, however.  I'd rather deal with the paci issue now in the summer while I can...I may live to regret it.

For now, however, Amelia looks much, much better.  A combination of Neosporin and youth have greatly helped her face.  This morning, she smiled, asked for "Woah Bubba Bubba!" and scarfed down a banana like it was no one's business.  Here's hoping for a better week...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Our Semi-Famous White Pizza

I say "Our" Semi-Famous White Pizza because 1) it is only famous in our family and 2)I have a partner in crime for this recipe:

I know you are mesmerized by his shirt/skills/arms of steel.













Jerm.

He used to work at a pizza place, so he can toss pizza dough and stretch it out really well.  If  he was gone, I'm sure I could roll out the dough with a rolling pin all by my lonesome.  Since he's usually around, however, I use him.

White pizzas, obviously, do not have red sauce.  Jerm and I began making white pizzas when we had a request from Jeremy's father, who despises red sauce.  Some white pizzas have Alfredo sauce on them and some white pizzas have a garlic/olive oil base.  Jeremy and I make our pizza with the garlic/olive oil base, but we saute the garlic in the olive oil and then strain the cooked garlic out out of the oil.  What's left is a heavenly concoction.  Not to brag too much, but I think the "sauce" is what makes our pizza different.  The sauteed garlic sauce complements the pizza and doesn't overwhelm it like I've found in many white pizzas, which are full of chucks of crunchy, stinky garlic.

And then, of course, there's the cheese.  Never forget the cheese.  High-quality cheese is the secret to good pizza.  Use fresh mozzarella, good Parmesan (not from a green can), and a little cheddar and you're guaranteed success (p.s. Aldi has really cheap and pretty decent fresh mozzarella).
 


We normally top our white pizzas with ground beef (ground sirloin, actually -those two jive really well), but before we made these pizzas, my Dad sent us a lovely chicken that he grilled on his Big Green Egg.  We topped one of our pizzas with it, and the results were really good - the chicken had a smoky taste that was really yummy.

Mmm....chicken...


 Here's the recipe for Our Semi-Famous White Pizza.  It is very, very simple.  It does not have a recipe for dough.  (We usually go buy our dough at Publix...there's a foodie confession for ya right there.)

Our Semi-Famous White Pizza

Ingredients:
1 dough ball (homemade or store-bought)
1 8-oz package, fresh mozzarella, sliced
2-3 oz, Parmesan cheese, grated
1-2 oz, sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup olive oil (preferably extra virgin)
salt and pepper
1 pound ground sirloin (optional) OR
2 breasts of rotisserie chicken, shredded (also optional)

Directions:
Preheat to 450 degrees

If you are using ground sirloin, cook it first, sauteing it in olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Drain and set aside.  (Likewise, if you are using rotisserie chicken, shred it and set it to the side.)

In a skillet, heat up the olive oil on medium heat.  Once the olive oil is hot, throw in your minced garlic (Throw in a few pieces to make sure the oil is ready.  The oil is ready when garlic pieces will bubble up and float to the top.)  Cook your garlic for a couple of minutes until it turns golden brown.  Watch your mixture carefully, as burned garlic ruins the oil.  Strain the cooked garlic away from the oil and throw the garlic out.  Set your container of oil to the side.

If you do not have a husband to throw your pizza for you, roll out your pizza dough (turning the dough ball as you roll it out) and place it on a study pizza pan (preferably one with raised sides to catch any oil that may drip).

Brush the entire pizza crust with your oil base.  Be careful not to let the oil fall under the pizza crust, or your crust will stick to the pan and could burn.  Make sure there are no pieces of cooked garlic on your pizza - they can make the pizza bitter.

If you are using meat, place the meat on the pizza next (if you are using pulled chicken, brush some of the chicken with the olive oil mixture to keep the chicken from drying out).

Top the meat and crust with the cheese.  Start with the mozzarella, then fill in the gaps with plenty of Parmesan and a little bit of cheddar.  Top the entire mixture with salt and pepper.  Make sure you leave room for the crust at the edges.

Bake the pizza for about 12-15 minutes, or until the sides are golden brown and the center is bubbly.

Here is the pizza topped with the ground sirloin:

I left too much room for crust, but I wanted the mixture to stay in the middle.

This is our classic white pizza.
And here's the chicken pizza:




Now, being the artsy pseudo-foodie I am, I would probably add a little thyme or basil to these pizzas if I was eating it by myself.  I might even add some Southern Girl Pesto to the chicken pizza.  However, since Jeremy is kind of picky, we kept these two pizzas pretty basic.