Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Book Report

I just finished reading Cage of Stars, Jacquelyn Mitchard's latest novel. It's the story of a girl, Ronnie, who is about 12 when the book opens. She is witness to a horrible tragedy when her two younger sisters are killed, and the book is about her life growing up and learning to deal with the emotional aftermath. She lives in rural Utah and is Mormon, and I found it very interesting to read the detail Mitchard went in to, showing how Ronnie's faith and religion affected her life and the decisions she made.

I am intrigued by Mitchard's choice of topic. Her first big book was about tragedy involving a young child (Deep End of the Ocean) and this one also centers on the loss of young lives. She is the mother of 7 and lives in Wisconsin. I don't think that I, as the mother of young children, could write about topics so emotionally trying. I never read Deep End of the Ocean because it came out when Ben was young and the little boy who was lost was also named Ben and it just hit too close to home. This book was hard to read, but was also so incredibly good - I do recommend it. You don't know how it is going to end - there is foreshadowing, but not enough to give anything away. I ignored my sons while I finished it - it was that engrossing!

I am hoping Calandria will read it and share her thoughts on how Ronnie's being Mormon shaped the story, and how Mitchard did representing the church. It seemed to be well done to me, but I realize my ignorance. Mitchard clearly thought it integral as it is such a central theme throughout the entire book. So, Calandria, let me know!

This is a sign at a hotel in WIlliamsburg, VA. Apparently the pool is strictly ornamental?

Found this and more at this great website of signs ... when you have a minute and want to giggle, browse through!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Happy Birthday, Steve!

Tuesday was Steve's birthday (August 22 - he turned 43) and we celebrated with a cake ... complete with candles carefully placed, and then lit, by Ben & Ty. Once all the candles were lit the heat thrown off was quite impressive ... had it been a cold winter night, we would have been just fine!The light was strong, too - here's Steve with out a flash - it's almost campfire-ish, isn't it?
And finally, with a really big from-the-side blow, he got them all out! Guess his wish will come true!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

More (final) Cabin Pictures

We can't end the cabin photo posts without including some of our friends who joined us for the final days. We had a great time on the sand bar walking around, finding clams and shells. Colby enjoyed exploring the sandbar and reeds, too.

All was great - until it was time to leave and the boat wouldn't start! Steve eventually walked back to shore (thankfully we were on the sandbar so this was an option, it would have been a long swim!) and then walked to the cabin, where he got the other boat to come get us. He threw us the waterski rope, and we tried our best to hang on -- it took a couple tries, though, to get the stranded boat deep enough where it could easily be pulled. The boat worked fine the next day (figures) but we got some good laughs and memories out of the experience!

Ben and yet more Frogs

This summer has been the time to catch and study frogs for Ben. While at the cabin, he found 3 more. He made them a temporary home in a bright orange sand toy, and was just fascinated watching them closely. Maybe he'll be a herpetologist someday?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

More Cabin Pictures

Well, blogger seems to like it if I only upload two photos at a time, make new posts for each two new photos, sit up straight, say pretty please, and blink three times during the process.

Who knows.

It's working right now so I won't change a thing. (I wore my Twins sweatshirt the entire World Series - every single day - [I did wash it at night] - in 1987, and they won! So whatever works ....)

Above is Shawn ready for her first ever innertube ride. And then there I am, ready for my first in a few years innertube ride. We both had a blast!
Gretel the Greyhound loved riding on the boat! She kept her nose in the wind for quite a while, then went and relaxed under the table - the only shady spot - when she got too hot. She did not, however, go swimming.

It was really windy this day on the boat. That's Ben & Ty and our friend Hannah with windswept hair.

Cabin Fever!

We spent a relaxing week at my in-laws' cabin west of the cities earlier this month. Here are a few photos ... is being hinky again so I have been trying for days to get any photos at all to post. I don't know yet how many it will accept this time, but I'll keep trying!

Down the shoreline a ways from our cabin is a spit of land that becomes a sandbar extending most of the way across the lake. Here's Ty in the middle of the lake!

We had a lot of fun at the sandbar. We would get out of the boat and dig for clams - yes, there really area few and no, we didn't try eating any (or even opening for pearls - I made them put them all back safely and unharmed). Even Colby was brave enough to climb out of the boat into the shallow water!

And here is Ty again, in the same place ... hee,hee, this time he is STANDING! (he thought that was pretty funny!)

The lake is quite large, with a lot of open expance for skiing and innertubing. Every year when we go up we are astounded at the number of cabins that are being replaced by McMansions ... sometimes year-round housing, sometimes "just" very luxurious cabins.

We did a lot of boating and innertubing. Here's Ben about to go on a ride.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Recipe Challenge

So Steve sent me this recipe he found online ... I don't think I will be making it any time soon, though you just never know ... the longer I look at it the more appealing it sounds. Thought I would share the recipe, in case one of you is brave enough to try it!

Chocolate Pistachio Stuffed French Toast

1 1-pound loaf unsliced French bread
2 1 to 1-1/2-ounce milk chocolate bars
1/3 cup chopped pistachio nuts
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
8 beaten eggs
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Maple syrup or sifted powdered sugar

Cut French bread into 12 slices, each approximately 1-1/2-inches thick. Cut a pocket in each slice of bread by starting from the bottom crust and cutting horizontally to, but not through, the top crust.

Break candy bars into 12 pieces. Fill each bread pocket with 1 piece of candy and 1 rounded teaspoon of nuts.

Place graham cracker crumbs in a shallow bowl.

Beat together eggs, milk, and cinnamon in another shallow bowl. Dip bread into egg mixture; letting bread remain in egg mixture about 15 seconds on each side. Then dip bread into the graham cracker crumbs, turning to lightly coat the other side of the bread.

Place coated slice on a greased baking sheet. Repeat dipping remaining stuffed bread into egg mixture and graham cracker crumbs.

Bake in a 450 degree F oven about 6 minutes or until golden brown. Turn slices over and bake 5 minutes more. Serve warm stuffed toast topped with maple syrup or powdered sugar.Makes 12 slices.

Make-Ahead Tip: Place the baked slices in a freezer container; seal, label, and freeze up to 1 month. To serve, place the frozen stuffed bread slices in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Heat, uncovered, in a 400 degree F oven for 15 minutes or until the slices are hot.

If someone dares try this, be sure to take pictures (when it's fresh from the oven) and tell us all how you liked it!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

My friend Calandria has the delightful occasional habit of posting recipes that she has tried - sometimes they are family favorites, sometimes something new. She talks about the process of cooking, and almost always has the presence of mind to prepare a plate like a food editor with distinctive tableware or perhaps fresh flowers. I love reading her cooking posts, so was inspired to put in a new recipe that I tried for the first time at the lake last week.

Thai Spiced Barbeque Shrimp

3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp curry paste
1 pound medium shrimp - peeled & deveined

Mix together all ingredients except shrimp in a resealable bag. When mixed well, add shrimp and let marinade at least one hour in the refrigerator.

Preheat grill for high heat. Lightly oil the grate if using skewers, otherwise use a lightly oiled grill basket.

Transfer excess marinade to small saucepan and heat to boiling. Boil 3-5 minutes.

Grill shrimp approximately 3 minutes per side, basting with marinade.

The recipe was quick and easy, and oh-so-delicious! Ben especially loved it as it has a spicy flavor.

Now for the photo. Here's where Calandria has me beat, hands-down.

I forgot. Until after the meal. So, for what it's worth, here is the plate of a satisfied diner!

Monday, August 14, 2006

2006 Relay for Life

A week ago, we spent our Friday night wandering in circles ... seriously, we were making laps at the Bloomington Stadium as part of our city's Relay For Life - a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Along with our friends the Johnsons (and quite a few others, too!), we spent 12 hours walking ... dancing ... singing ... playing ... remembering ... and sleeping a little bit, too.

If you have never been to a Relay, you ought to come see. For months prior to the event, we collected donations and made luminaria in memory or honor of those we know who have fought cancer. All the luminaria are set up to ring the track, and then at dusk they are lit.

This year there were about 1500 candles, each representing someone who successfully battled cancer, or currently is dealing with it, or who has lost their life to the illness. Once they were all lit and the stadium lights were dimmed, the power of the love represented by those bags was overwhelming.

The first lap after the opening ceremonies was for all the cancer survivors present. That's our friend Shawn at the end of the banner, waving.

Throughout the night there were a variety of activities and mini-events like tugs-of-war (all the kids vs one firefighter was pretty fun! It took 3 firefighters to beat the team of kids), pie-eating contests, a duct-tape fashion show, and musical chairs. Ty and Ben found a place where you could win Beanie Babies.

The Bloomington Firefighters had a dunk-tank, and they themselves were very inspiring as they made their rounds in full fire-fighting gear, complete with oxygen tanks. We were sweating in our t-shirts and shorts - we can't imagine how they felt. One strong fighter even did a lap in full gear plus his daughter on his shoulders! When the night got a little slow, they took a quick trip over to the Bloomington Ice Garden and brought back enough snow to make a snow man firefighter!

At one point a group of our neighbors came over to say hello - we are all celebrating one neighbor's successful bout with cancer, so here we all are by the bags with Marty's name on them.

In the wee-hours, they played a lot of great music from the 70's. I could sing along to everything! They played songs from Grease which really got Shawn and I moving, then Ben had a blast trying to capture me dancing to Footloose - the one song in the world that I absolutely cannot stay still to.

I haven't heard yet how much money was raised, but we had a great time - both at the event itself, and in the knowledge that we helped raise funds for this important cause. Thanks to all who supported us - and if you didn't this year, we will most likely be doing it again in 2007!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Books Worthy of Re-Reading

After I wrote about My Antonia, one response I got was that it was a book my friend plans to re-read every so often for the rest of her life! That made me think ... what books do I re-read? And I have to admit I can't think of any off the top of my head.

What books do you re-read? Or what books do you plan to re-read, even if you haven't done it yet?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Calandria, were your ears burning?

This week we are at my in-laws' cabin for a mini-vacation. I am home right now for a class in the morning (and to get my computer fix!)

Calandria, I thought of you a lot over the past couple of days ... I read My Antonia by Willa Cather, and can't believe I have never read any of her work before. Now I know you prefer British authors, but I still thought about you as I read this one. Then I was just at your site and you mentioned Cather in another context, so I feel justified in having you on my mind!

I assume Calandria and Carla have both read it. The rest of you - if you haven't read this book, read it. (especially you, Laurie, you Nebraska girl!)

When I head back out to the cabin, I have more Jane Austen waiting for me...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Thanks, Steve!

My husband alerted me to the presence of an exciting experiment going on RIGHT NOW in Australia. I pooh-poohed him at first, and didn't even want to look at the live video clip because I was too busy doing other things. Finally, though, I did look ... and now I am hooked.

Here's the link.

This is an experiment that was started in 1927. Nearly 80 years ago! It's one of those "who in the world thought of that and why?" type of things... Pitch, which used to be heated up and applied to boat bottoms to make them waterproof, is quite solid at room temperature - so much so that if you hit it with a hammer it shatters (and there is, indeed, a video of just that at the link I posted earlier.) However, one Professor Thomas Parnell got fixated with proving it is really, in fact, a liquid. He set up an experiment - took him 3 years to get it set up properly - to see how quickly pitch would drip. And, wow, if he wasn't right! In 76 years, 8 -- yes, EIGHT - drops have dripped!!!! (or should I say 8 drips have dropped?) And the 9th one is set to drop ANY MOMENT NOW!!!! (don't be confused by reading the website where it says only 7 drops have dripped - that text was written a few years ago. Another whole drop has dripped since then.)

Now the real kicker is that no one has ever witnessed a drop actually dropping. So there's the challenge. They have a live video cam set up watching the drop about to drip, 24/7, so that all of us out here in cyberspace can watch to see what no person has ever seen before.

So, I admit, I will be watching - or at least checking in frequently. Go stare at it a while. It grows on you. As the website says, thankfully people occasionally walk past the background of the live feed, so it is more exciting than watching grass grow.

Thanks, Steve, for giving me one more thing to do each day!

Oshkosh Air Show

Last week, my Dad, my Grandpa, and I went to the Oshkosh Air Show. I have been there before, maybe 5 or 6 times. Usually we camp on the landing site area, but this year we only went for one day, so we just parked the plane in a different town and rode the bus over. This picture is at the main gateway to the actual air show.

The air show was awesome! It had many airplanes and most of them did either loop-de-loops or spirals, or flew upside-down. It was really fun to watch and I enjoyed it a lot.

Some planes flew in tight formations, while doing tricks. Occasionally the planes would separate and each one would do a few treicks seperatly, and then re-form in formation and fly around.

There was a big military tribute, where there were old military plans and military vehicles on the ground. This is a tank which pretended to be shooting, and actually fired a blank with the big cannon. They were trying to recreate what it was like during World War II. It was cool to see, but when you really think about it, it would have been very scary if you were in the real thing.

It's not all airplanes at the Airshow -- there are also a lot of tents that different companies set up to show their new products and technologies. Anything that pilots or people who like airplanes might like can be found. I tried sitting on a new Honda Scooter which was really cool. It actually wasn't that expensive, about $2000 (I think.) Maybe when I have my driver's license I will try to get one. It's a lot less expensive than a car.

(text and photos by Ben - except for the ones he is in, those are by Dad)