Friday, April 29, 2011

Helicopters, chainsaws, and obliteration

I made the journey to my hometown today because I just needed to see my loved ones. I've been a wreck since the tornado hit Wednesday evening, and I hoped seeing them and hugging them would make me feel better. Thankfully, it worked wonders.

After I visited with them, I headed into town. I needed to see it myself. Sure, I'd seen videos on the news and pictures on the internet, but my eyeballs needed to see the city for themselves.

I was rendered speechless. Several parts of the city are literally obliterated. I couldn't get to the worst parts: 15th Street past the McFarland intersection and Alberta City. There is so much debris everywhere that it's hard to get in and out, and those poor folks need help, not sightseers.

The area was eerily quiet. No traffic. No horns honking. No blaring radios. The only noises were chainsaws cutting through fallen trees, helicopters surveying the damage, and firetruck sirens.

It's just hard to take in. I hardly recognize the place where I grew up.

(on 15th Street approaching the intersection with McFarland Blvd.)

(intersection of 15th Street and McFarland Blvd...a shell of its former self...there's my favorite car wash {Tide Clean} destroyed on the corner)

(looking towards the hospital)

(looking down 15th Street...wiped off the map...about a mile down this road is where Olivia lives and where she and Daniel rode out the storm {you can just make out the apartment buildings at the very back}...God was looking out for them)

(We used to get our film developed here, and then it became a yogurt/ice cream longer.)

(Daniel lives up the hill in the right corner of this picture.)

(across the street from Daniel and Curtis's house...the boys have a massive tree down in their backyard, but it blessedly missed the house)

(No trains gettin' through here anytime soon.)

(There's absolutely nothing left of this house on Holt-Peterson Road but its slab. Completely annihilated.)

(The trees on this hill used to be so dense that you couldn't see those mines carved in the hill. Now, they're all in splinters. The smell of pine was intense.)

(Cars and trucks thrown into the trees, and another vacant slab on top of the hill.)

(the entrance to Arcadia from Alberta City)

(This took up two pages in today's paper. I'm so glad The Tuscaloosa News is helping out this way since there is no cell phone service or electricity in the city's center. I cannot imagine not knowing where my loved ones were days after the storm.)

The day was not without its bright spots. I was amazed at the number of people chipping in to help their neighbors cut trees, haul limbs, and drape tarps. I saw smiling faces. I heard singing. I heard more than once, "Hey there! How ya doin' today?" Folks putting their own cares aside long enough to ask about passersby.

Tuscaloosa and all the other affected areas in Alabama will be fine, one day. In the meantime, your prayers are most appreciated.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thankful Thursday, from the bottom of my heart

I'm not dealing with this beautifully. I keep seeing that tornado in my mind and cringe thinking about all the lives and property lost. I dreamed about it last night. I've been jittery and on edge all day. My stomach's been tied in a knot. I need to get my hands on my people and not let go.

Today I am thankful for...
  • the incredible grace of God, the protection He provides, and the strength He gives us to get through such hideous times
  • my family and friends, and that all my Tuscaloosa people are safe and accounted for
  • that blessed moment when I finally heard that my Bubba was okay...utter relief
  • early weather warnings
  • resilience and strength
  • James Spann and his absolute willingness to put in 20-hour days on a regular that guy
  • the first responders who put their own lives at risk to save others
  • the Alabama Power people who've worked 'round the clock to get power back on
  • President Obama making a trip to Alabama tomorrow...the more publicity this gets, the better
  • the call to postpone Auburn's National Championship trip to the White House...I've been excited about that, but I'm glad everybody has their priorities straight
  • an early dismissal from school yesterday so that we didn't have to deal with this with the schoolbabies
  • hearing from lots of friends I haven't talked to in a while
  • Daniel and Olivia being kept safe at her apartment while the neighborhood across the street was leveled...praise the Lord!
  • Mr. Bill Remmert being kept safe in his store...although the Montgomery Woodworks building didn't survive, Mr. Bill did...praise the Lord!
  • Daddy being kept safe at work and Mom being kept safe at home...praise the Lord!
  • Mimi and Grandad being kept safe while the tornado roared within a few miles of their house
  • hearing from Brody, Haley, David, Jenny, the Hanninens, and many, many others...praise the Lord!
  • the Meadows family being alive, even though they lost their home and Mrs. Meadows is seriously injured...please pray for them
  • my Neeley and her family being kept safe as a tornado tore through Cullman...praise the Lord!
  • the tornado coming late enough in the afternoon that Alberta Elementary School (which was completely destroyed by the storm) was empty of schoolbabies...praise the Lord!
  • the Tuscaloosa/Pleasant Grove/Cullman family members and friends of everyone at work (that I know of) being safe...praise the Lord!
  • realizing that one of two buildings still standing in Alberta City is Mimi and Grandad's church...Grandad said it's barely standing and will probably have to come down, but how awesome that of everything, a church was left standing! Praise the Lord!
  • realizing what's really, truly important in life

HAPPY WEEKEND, friends, and please keep everyone in Alabama (and the Southeast) in your prayers. They are sorely needed.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Be still, my heart

I have never been so scared in my entire life, and I hope to never feel this way again. That tornado weather that I referenced earlier today? You know, the one I arrogantly said was inconveniencing me?

Well, it spawned tornadoes. Lots of them. Big ones. A mile-wide one hit my hometown of Tuscaloosa and absolutely leveled much of the center of town. You know, a couple of blocks from where my brother lives. I saw that one approaching the city on James Spann's SkyCam and nearly threw up. And then I immediately jumped in my car, headed to Wal-Mart to take shelter, and prayed like a crazy person.

It hit Tuscaloosa. Power is out there. Cell phones aren't working. Taco Casa? Destroyed. Krispy Kreme? Gone. An entire block full of stores and a whole shopping center? Leveled. Neighborhoods full of old people and college students? Wiped off the face of the planet. Alberta City? Doesn't exist anymore.

WHAT happened to all those people in those neighborhoods and stores and restaurants??? Were they in a safe place? Do they have anything left?

It was into the evening before I finally heard from Daniel and Girlfriend Olivia. I had seen that monster with my own eyes and I watched it pummel its way through their part of town. And then? My dozen or so phone calls all went straight to their voicemails. I pride myself in being level-headed and reasonable, but I very nearly had a panic attack. Heart pounding. Nausea. Sweating. Deep breaths. Pacing the floor. Lots and lots of praying on my knees.

We finally heard from him and I know next to nothing except there's a tree on his car, and he and Olivia are fine. As far as I know, his roommate is still unaccounted for. (Edited to add @ 10:20---Roommate Curtis is fine. Praise the Lord!)

We're less than an hour away but were thankfully spared. Praise the good Lord above that everyone I know in Tuscaloosa is accounted for. Please pray for all those in Tuscaloosa and throughout the state who have been affected by this. Twenty-five deaths have been reported in the state so far, and I'm sure that there will unfortunately be more.

I hate these evil things and never, ever want to do this again.

(This is the monster that tried to destroy my hometown and those I love. This is the video I watched on the TV at Wal-Mart, live, as it tore through town just yards from my brother, while I prayed and fought back the urge to vomit. I still can't believe this thing was on top of Daniel and Olivia and that they're okay. And I can't believe anyone would be fool enough to sit that a car...filming that thing. It's like something from a movie.)

An open letter to tornadoes

Dear tornadoes,

Your presence in the springtime is nothing new 'round these parts. We're kinda used to you. Lately, though, it's too much. Way too much. You're crampin' my style!

In the past three weeks, I've had to post about you three times. Remember this and this? I do. In the past three weeks, I've had to spend more time in my bathtub, armed with a flashlight and prayers, than I ever care to again.

In the past three weeks, we've dismissed school early twice. Today was one of those days. Tornadoes, have you ever tried to dismiss a school of nearly 900 kids early??? Mayhem. Absolute mayhem. It makes this teacher very tired.

I woke up this morning because the sound of flying tree branches pelting my window was...I don't know...a little distracting. I turned on James Spann and immediately heard my parents' tiny hometown called out. Coaling isn't usually (or ever) a hotbed of excitement, but James was reporting trees down, power out, and a few houses destroyed. Thankfully, my family is fine, but that's much too close for comfort.

And now, dear tornadoes, there's more coming in a few hours??? Let's let this be it for the year, 'k? You're scary, and I'm over it. I'm ready to get my blog back. And really, I'm mostly just ready to get out of my bathtub!

Love (not really at all),

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Camp Carrie

I've never been a gigantic fan of Carrie Underwood. I think she's beautiful and have always thought she was talented, but I've only loved a few of her songs. I've been a lukewarm fan...until now. I've officially set my tent up at Camp Carrie. My work friends have been passing this video around like crazy on facebook, so I thank them for introducing me to one of the most spectacular vocal performances I've ever been fortunate enough to witness. Holy can't tell me her voice is not a gift from God. Amazing. I love how Vince Gill (who is just splendid in his own right) steps back and lets Carrie shine.

Our ESL teacher Cindy said this morning, "I want this sung at my funeral, just like this. And I want Carrie to be there to sing it." Let me know if you're as wowed as we are!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter rundown

What. A. Weekend.

I actually had a 3-day weekend, but it sure doesn't feel like it! I needed to go back to work today to catch my breath. This weekend was a complete whirlwind but was filled with family, food, and faith. I loved it.

*1...the number of Easter pictures I took, and it wasn't even of a living creature. Sigh. Maybe next year.

*3:30...the time our Easter meal was served. Sidetrack with me for just a second, okay? Tell me this. What would you call a meal that starts at 3:30? Since it's between lunch and supper, we came up with lupper and (my personal favorite) slunch. Yes, I think I'll go forward with slunch.

*14...the number of attendees at the Easter Slunch 2011. I love all of them greatly.

*2...the number of significant others making their first appearance at Easter Slunch. Our big ol' family may be getting even bigger someday...hint hint, wink wink...

*1...the number of weenie dogs in attendance

*10...pounds of potatoes for potato salad. I'm not kidding. Ten whole pounds. Daddy boils, Mom peels and chops, I mix it up. We're like a machine. And we love potato salad like it's a family member.

*13,471...the number of times I used my NetiPot in order to get through this pollen-filled weekend. This is morphing into an addiction. NetiPot is my life.

As fabulous as all of this was, my favorite part of Easter, always and forever, is spending time reflecting on why we actually celebrate. Because Jesus gave himself as a sacrifice, we no longer have to fear death. We no longer have to worry every moment about securing a spot in Heaven. He took care of all of that for us. What a gift. What a reason to celebrate, on Easter and every other day of the year!

Enjoy your week, friends!


PS---My "followers" section is driving me crazy. Sometimes it shows up, sometimes it doesn't. I've noticed that on some other blogs, their followers don't show up either. What's going on? I want it back in my life and on my blog. Any ideas? If you help me fix it, I'll give you a virtual high five. know you want one!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Thankful Thursday...Friday-style

Alas, Thankful Thursday didn't happen yesterday. I was too busying wallowing around in self-pity due to the declining function of my sinuses. I don't feel much better this morning, but my pity party is over.

Today I am thankful for...
  • the tremendously huge sacrifice that Jesus made so that all of us sinners, including me, could live with Him forever and ever
  • forgiveness and second (third, fourth, seventy-ninth...) chances
  • my family and friends
  • my simple little life
  • my grumpy as I am that I'm not feeling great, I am blissfully healthy compared to many folks, and I don't ever want to forget that
  • the opportunity to celebrate Easter in peace and freedom
  • sunshine and blue skies and a break from the rain
  • the 10 hours of sleep under my belt this morning
  • a much, MUCH-needed day off today
  • my job, students, and coworkers
  • a renewed desire to speak only encouraging words to others
  • summer break approaching in a little over a month
  • a fun return trip to D.C. to look forward to
  • some great new recipes that are just begging to be made (see Suzy's here and Ashley's here)
  • some great new sewing projects that I'll have time for once summer arrives
  • a nice, long chat with my Bubba yesterday
  • enough money to take care of my needs and just a bit left over every now and then for fun stuff
  • clean, running water whenever I want it
  • electricity, cable, a roof over my head, a dependable car, shoes on my feet, clean clothes, more than enough food
HAPPY EASTER, friends!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Say it ain't so!!!

I risk portraying myself here as a geeked-out allergy phobe, but I care not. I have bum sinuses. I come by it honest, though. Everybody in my family has bum sinuses...dadgum genetics. I'm overly sensitive to the following things: grass, leaves, flowers, plants, trees, pollen, dust, cats, sunshine, clouds, oxygen. You know, just everything on this fair planet of ours.

I've had more sinus infections than I can even begin to count. My conversations at the doctor should go something like this: "Alright doc, let's cut to the chase. Save me the copay and that obnoxious throat swab. I've got a sinus infection. You can keep your steroids...I'll never sleep again. I'll need an antibiotic shot and a round of antibiotic pills, stat. See ya again in 3 months."

It's taken me until this year to come up with my plan of attack. This is my arsenal:

(And yes, I just now lined these up in my bathroom and took a picture. This is important stuff!)
(Why is my Wal-Zyr bottle all marked up? It served as a stencil for my springy wreath. Make do with what ya got, friends!)

What else is a girl to do? Seriously, I want advice! What. Else. Can. I. Do? Wear a surgical mask? Avoid breathing so much?

I ask all this because I'm getting a scratchy, sore throat. That's always my sign that sinus trouble is around the corner. Go away! Shoo! I've got too much to do at work! Easter's almost here! I just got over my latest crudfest a few months ago! I'm leaving on a big trip soon! I've got too many exclamation marks to overuse to be sick! (!!!)

I'm hopeful that my arsenal will kick in soon and remind my sinuses what they were put in my head to do. I'm also planning to go to bed, mmmm...about 20 minutes ago, to see if that'll help. Wish me luck!

Oh, and thanks for not judging me for putting a picture of my Neti-Pot on the internet. This is not one of my prouder moments.

Monday, April 18, 2011

His mama must be so proud...

I have seventy bajillion pictures saved on my computer, and I'm working to back them up in case of some catastrophic hard drive failure. I neglected to do this with my old desktop before it passed; thus, I still have all sorts of goodies forever stuck on it.

Consequently, it sits on my kitchen floor since I can't bring myself to get rid of it with all my precious documents and pictures on it.

Therefore, when you visit, you'll have to step around it. Sorry 'bout that. No storage space in my little home, you see.

I backed some more up the other day, and just knew I had to share this one with the world...

(spring break '07, my senior year at Auburn...Florabama)

If you've never visited the Florabama, you owe yourself at least one visit in your lifetime. I would try to describe it for you, but this picture tells you more than I ever could. And for bringing this into your life today, you are most welcome.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Babies, blackberry french toast, and BRRRRR!

After waiting out the tornadoes and apocalypse-esque rain yesterday night, I arrived in Madison, AL around 10:00 PM. I made the journey to visit with the lovely Stamps family and take part in the Hunstville March of Dimes "March for Babies". I always welcome the opportunity to stay at Casa de Stamps. A visit there promises good food, good conversation, and plenty of fun. They're such gracious hosts and treat me like one of their own when I'm with them.

We headed to Huntsville early this morning for the March for Babies. We marched for this little fella, and in memory of his twin brother, Graham.

You can read Will's story of resilience over at Anna Claire's blog.

As you can probably tell by the picture, Will was not pleased with the weather at start time. The morning was gray, cloudy, windy, and COLD. Not freezing cold, mind you, but colder than any of us was prepared for. Unseasonably cold. And unnecessarily windy.

Will made no bones about voicing his displeasure and, since we were all going numb, ended up bailing on the Baby March about 15 minutes after the start. "A" for effort, least we showed up and walked for a while!

(We were trying to show how cold we were. I clearly missed the memo that we were supposed to look cold but still human. Egads.)

Once back at the Stamps homestead, we enjoyed a multitude of breakfast casseroles and fruit. Mrs. Rhonda made a blackberry french toast casserole that required a moment of silence to regain my composure. I forgot to get the recipe, but this one sounds close. Definitely leave off the maple won't need it.

Kate and I spent the afternoon wandering around Madison and Huntsville, in search of all things old and artsy. She showed me a house (1850s Greek Revival) she recently discovered through her job.

(Respectful of private property lines, we took creeper shots through the trees. 'Cuz that's not weird or anything.)

We strolled past these beauties in downtown Madison:

I'm pretty sure I need to live in an old house when I grow up. If you know of a low-maintenance, inexpensive, front-porched, lace-curtained, ghost-free historic home, you be sure to let me know. This little area of Madison is just perfection. Huge old trees, white picket fences, wraparound front porches...made this girl a happy camper.

To cap off this cold, windy day, we drove to Lowe Mill in Huntsville. Kate explained that it's an old textile mill that's now used as studio space/stores for local artists. Very cool concept.

Inside, we found a treasure trove: painters, sculptors, musicians, jewelry makers, quilt makers, photographers, glass blowers...

(The floors. Look. At. The floors. Holy heavens. They were worn and creaky and just delightful.)

The trip to the old mill made me think about what it must have looked like when it was filled with workers and machines. It brought to mind one of my favorite books by Rick Bragg. If you're looking for something new, this is a great, if gritty, read.

After bidding everyone farewell, I had to stop and take a picture of the sweetest spot along the interstate between Birmingham and Huntsville:

(This pretty barn and the rolling pastures around it never fail to make me smile.)

This time away was good for my soul. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, friends!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday sirens

It's springtime, and James Spann is talking tornadoes. James Spann is always talking tornadoes in the springtime.

See that brightly-colored, tornado-filled blob over Tuscaloosa?

(radar source: James Spann's blog)

My family lives there. They don't like tornadoes. I don't like when tornadoes chase my family. I don't like when James Spann says there's a tornado on the ground and starts calling out places I  know. Places that are closer and closer to people I know.

See that city right there in the middle, where all the roads come together? That's where I live. I don't like tornadoes, either. I don't even like getting out of school early, like we did today, for tornadoes. Because when you let out early for tornadoes, tornadoes are sure to come. I don't like this day at all. I don't like hearing the sirens. It scares me when you can see the tornado on the ground on the skycam and it's minutes away from everybody you love. And then, after that, it's headed my way.

Prayers would be fantastic!
7:00 PM---edited to add: Aside from a few scary moments, we are unscathed. Not everyone in the area was, though, so I'm sure they'd appreciate your prayers. Let the weekend commence!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Thanks a hundred times over for the sweet words of encouragement left on my post last night. I was having a nice little pity party and invited yall to it...lucky you! Today was a much, much better day.

Today I am thankful for...
  • the grace of the good Lord, and the serious attitude adjustment He gave me today...much-needed
  • my family and friends, and their health and happiness
  • my job
  • my students and coworkers, and the challenges and joys they bring me
  • my health
  • the weekend, roaring into focus as we speak
  • getting to participate in a March of Dimes "March for Babies" this weekend...such a great cause!
  • a weekend to be spent with a dear, precious friend
  • my new tennis shoes...they (almost) make running easy!*
  • feeling less and less like this when our (now) "jalking" club meets
  • Frank...such a full-efficient little fella that I've only had to fill up twice a month...absolute bliss
  • XM radio...Frank came with a 3-month trial, and I'm sopping up every second of my free satellite radio
  • getting to see my mama at the truck stop today...she was so gracious to meet me halfway so I didn't have to make the hour-long journey
  • the tray of roasted broccoli I made tonight...I think roasting is one of the most beautiful things you can do to a vegetable
  • Suzy's new recipe of the week...sounds PERFECT for a party!
  • Ashley's Thankful Thursday post...I love hearing about what other people are thankful for
  • 20-something days left in the schoolyear (if you don't count the DC trip, the whole last week of school, etc)
  • Paul McDonald's run on American Idol...even though he bid it adieu tonight (sad!), he did an amazing job and got tons of publicity. I've been a fan since we were in college, so I feel like I've been there since the beginning. Can't wait to see where this experience takes him!
  • Jason Aldean on American Idol tonight...I have a crush of the largest variety on this fella...goodness, goodness, gracious me

*What do you call those shoes you wear on your feet to exercise? I've always called them tennis shoes, although I'm not a tennis player. Everybody I know calls them tennis shoes. I'm just now realizing that "tennis shoes" (actually pronounced "tenny shoes") may be a southern thing. Your thoughts? Enlighten me. I need to know these things.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I almost didn't post this because it's not sunshiney and cheerful, but that's not real life. I don't want my blog to be one of those where I only share the fun, happy things. Life's not always fun, but I still want to be able to share it here.

Everything I was involved with today fell to pieces. Nothing worked out the way I wanted it to. I'm usually pretty good about rolling with the punches, but today, all the punches hit me right in the face. I didn't handle it well.

I was grumpy with everyone who was unfortunate enough to seek me out today. I quit grading the papers on my to-do list tonight...I mean, just absolutely refused to do any more. Cute little protest and all, but you know what? The papers still have to be graded. Guess I'll start a new to-do list for tomorrow! I went on a walk designed to clear my head, and jumped headfirst back into my funk when I got back home. I've been wallowin' around in it like a pig in slop ever since.

I've acted like a she-beast today.

Just bein' honest.

I'm thankful, though, that I'm (hopefully) getting a new day tomorrow. That my family and friends still love me and will forgive my occasional grumpiness. That typing all this out makes me put my dumb ol' bad day in could have been way worse. That tomorrow is Thankful Thursday and I can't wait to see how many items I can get on my list!

I am blessed...all day, every day. I just need (not-so-gentle) reminders every now and then!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Creamy Asparagus Soup

Holy good. So. Good. I'm trying to eat less processed and more natural foods (you know, things that come from the Earth...novel concept!), so I've been searching for some creative ways to cram in the veggies. This soup is absolute perfection. It's a great way to use up some of that beautiful spring asparagus which seems to be on sale everywhere.

Creamy Asparagus Soup (recipe source: Tasty Kitchen)
(I adapted the recipe a smidge.)

2 tbsp butter
1 whole onion, chopped (Don't worry about getting the pieces're going to blend it all up anyway.)
2 lbs asparagus
1 can white beans, drained (I used Great Northern beans...any white beans would work.)
6 cups chicken stock (I had only 4 cups of stock, so I supplemented with 2 cups of broth. Worked like a charm.)
2 pinches cayenne pepper
1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
1 whole lemon
salt & pepper to taste

*In a large pot or Dutch oven (the same one you'll use for the soup), saute the onion in butter 2-3 minutes.
*Cut the tips off the asparagus and reserve for garnish. Cut off and discard the tough bottom ends. Cut the rest of the asparagus into small pieces and add to the pot. Saute 3-5 minutes.
*Add beans, chicken stock, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Season to taste. Simmer uncovered 20 minutes.
*Remove from heat and use an immersion blender to blend it all up. Add the yogurt and blend until all is smooth. Add a squeeze of lemon (to taste...I used the whole dadgum lemon 'cuz it tasted so good with the asparagus).
*Return to heat. Add in the reserved asparagus tips and simmer for a few minutes. Eat it up!
(A couple of notes):
*The original recipe calls for bacon and tells you to cook the asparagus tips with the bacon and garnish. I thought the bacon was unnecessary so I left that step out. Do whatever you wanna do!
*You could add the asparagus tips at the beginning and blend up with the rest, resulting in a completely smooth soup. I personally like a little somethin' to chew on when I eat soup, so I like having some whole asparagus tips in mine.
*If you don't have an immersion blender, you could always let the soup cool a bit and throw it in your blender. The purpose of this step is to blend up the beans, which makes the soup thicker.

*I was surprised, but this soup is very filling. Must be the beans.

*I like yall too much to share the pictures I took of this. For a non-repulsive picture (you're welcome), head to the linked site.

*If you're looking for a tasty way to undo all this healthiness, head right on over here. Joanna puts my dinky little recipes to shame. If these are the kind of treats she brings, I want to be in her next Bible study!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Human Planet

I watched something last night that changed my life just a little bit.

"Human Planet" on Discovery...did you watch? Oh my heavens, incredible. It's very similar to "Planet Earth" from last year (or was it year before last?), but its focus is humans instead of animals.

I loved the whole concept of "Planet Earth", the breathtaking scenery, the creative videography...but I couldn't watch it. The reason? I don't like to watch animals kill and eat each other. I really don't like it. I know it's natural and I don't have any problems at all with it happening...I just don't want to see it.

"Human Planet", though, is a mostly different ballgame. Only minor animal killage...I can handle that.

Two episodes aired last night. One featured people who live near water, and the other profiled mountain cultures. What I found most striking was the struggles of daily life. Gathering food, transportation, making a living, literally journeying to school...amazing. Humbling. Sobering.

I felt so spoiled as I watched this. I have so many conveniences at my disposal, and I still find myself complaining about life on an embarrassingly regular basis. For many of these people, life is, really, really hard. Every day. I often need to be reminded just how good I've actually got it.

This show is great for a reality check. If you're not in need of that (lucky you!), watch for the scenery. Isn't our Earth a glorious creation???

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Puppy breath and ranch dressing

I'm not a fan of morning breath, garlic breath, or peanut butter breath. But puppy breath? Now there's something I can get on board with. Where there's puppy breath, a sweet, brand-new little pup can't be far away.

Meet Zoey, my new little puppy-niece. She's a six week old miniature dachshund and is easily the cutest puppy on the planet. She belongs to Olivia, my brother's girlfriend, and she completely stole the show at our family eating yesterday. She showed off her hot pink rhinestone collar. She growled and barked (for the first time ever, according to her mama). She chased feet under the table. She wagged her tiny tail off. And then, she crashed.

She crashed hard.

I have a feeling this sweet girl is going to have these two completely wrapped around her fingers (er...paws). Oh, wait...she already does.

Bless her heart...this little girl has such a hard life!

Although Zoey was the main attraction, I made some from-scratch ranch dressing that wasn't too shabby, either. The measurements weren't exact, so mine actually didn't taste super ranch-y and was much more green than white. It had more of a green goddess dressing taste to it, which was fine by me! It had a really nice, light flavor and was perfect for dressing up our salad.

Ranch-ish Dressing (recipe source: adapted from Annie's Eats)
3/4 c mayo
3/4 c sour cream (I used light)
1 c buttermilk (I made my own by measuring out almost 1 c regular milk and mixing in 1 tbsp vingegar...let sit 10 minutes)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 small bunch chives
1 small handful parsley
1 clove garlic, chopped (left this out since I had none, and we honestly didn't miss it)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

*Combine all ingredients in a food processor/blender.
*Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Try to make it ahead of time so the flavors have time to get to know each other and fall in love before you serve it.
*Pour all over your salad, making sure you pour enough that some will puddle on your plate. Then, you'll be forced to scoop it up and eat it even after your salad's gone. Waste not, friends! :)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Know what's cool?

*getting to meet your 6 week old puppy-niece for the first time

*living close enough to family to visit whenever I want

*fun plans to look forward to

*waking up early on a Saturday and just being thankful that you woke up another day

*friends who invite you along on a fun outing, just because they want to spend time with you

*friends who call just because

*accidentally falling asleep on the couch after work and not feeling like a zombie afterwards

*spending $100 a month at the drugstore and realizing how much more it would cost without insurance

*blog friends (Check 'em: Annesta...Ashley...Darcy...Joanna...Lauren...Leesha...Sarah Barry...Val) It's been fun getting to know people that I've never actually met in real life. (Well, I've never met them except for Ashley and Lauren...I met them here.)

*new blog followers...I smile every time I see a new little picture box pop up under my followers list

*no rain on H-Day, despite the heavy, gray clouds

*figuring out that I generally feel better when I eat real, healthy foods (Hey, I've never claimed to be a quick learner!)

*a clean bathroom


What's on your cool list these days?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thankful Thursday

I just realized I completely ignored Thankful Thursday last week. It wasn't that I wasn't thankful...I was. Last Thursday was just one of those "I have a 7:00 DC trip meeting at school and I'm not going to get home until 8:30 and then I've still got stuff to do and oh, look! it's bedtime" kinda nights. Sorry if it completely ruined your week. Feel free to fuss at me if it did.

Today I'm thankful for...
  • the grace of God, and my prayer every single day is that I'll be a reflection of His grace...I hope I succeed more than I fail
  • my family and friends
  • my health
  • my little life...simple, nothin' fancy, but it's mine and I enjoy the heck out of it
  • my job
  • H-Day (field day) coming up of the best days of the schoolyear! Shaved ice truck this year...we are PUMPED!
  • just enough money to take care of all my needs and buy a few extras
  • Monday morning prayer group
  • the two great days in a row I've had with my students
  • some tasty new recipes I've been able to make lately
  • Suzy's new recipe o' the week feature...I'm always looking for good new ones, and her post today didn't disappoint! Check her out.
  • spring weather
  • my NetiPot
  • the new shoes I was able to buy first pair of Merrells, and I'm in love...IN love. If it's possible for feet to smile, mine are doing that right now.
  • making it through our walking club meeting today with less struggle than yesterday
  • a successful DC trip meeting last Thursday...I think we've got a fabulous group of folks on our bus
  • a little bit of freedom and wiggle room now that testing is finished
  • the safe arrival of healthy, handsome Will Huckabay this week...Ellen & George, I'm glad your "Huckababy" is finally here!
  • summertime fast approaching
  • figuring out how to embed videos on the ol' blog
  • Paul McDonald's performance on American Idol last night...he absolutely TORE the place down! I'd be lying if I said I didn't get up and dance. He's made such a name for himself since our college days, and I'm so proud of him. Hope he makes it to the next round! (*Edited to add---He made it through! On to next week!)


Wednesday, April 6, 2011


That's the sound of me trying to catch my breath. Our walking club met today.

This is me, right after our meeting today. Okay, well it's not exactly me, but it's as close a rendition as any. The sweat? Flowing. The breathing? Heavily labored, at best. The legs? On fire, and weighing in at 37 lbs a piece. And not quite as stubbly.

"Walking club" sounds awfully official. The club has two (sometimes three) members and walks a paved path...nothin' fancy. It's just a nice way to clear our heads after work, enjoy some conversation, and get a bit of exercise. We trek at least three miles every meeting, and I can handle that. In fact, I'm all over it.

Here's something I'm not all over: jogging. This girl was not designed to jog.

We've added a little jogging into the mix, so I guess we're now a jalking club. I've handled it fine the last few meetings, but today? Not so much. If we jogged one more 1/4 lap, I was planning to crawl to my car on my belly. We'll see how the ol' legs hold out tomorrow. Right now they're just daring me to pull that stunt again.

It gets easier, right? Right??

Monday, April 4, 2011

It's gonna be one of those nights

(photo source: James Spann's blog)

See that big ol' line of scary stretching all the way across the state? No escaping that one. It's headed our way. Bleh.

You could feel it coming all day. Unseasonably hot, humid, and the sky was that ominous shade of greenish gray.

Tornado weather doesn't usually scare me too bad, but it does make me put my game face on. The area where I live is surrounded by hills and trees, so I reckon you couldn't see the tornado until, well...until it showed up at your door! I want to make sure I'm ready if one pays us a visit.

I'm off to gather up my flashlight and candles and "tornado freak-out" supplies and wait for the sirens to wail. I also need to figure out a way to shield Frank from the hail. I might have to use my body if I can't figure out a better solution; it's a sacrifice that just may be necessary!

If you're in the midst of this now or in the path, stay safe! Happy tornado season to all.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A minefield of randomness

A minefield, I'm tellin' you. Watch your step!

1. I need somebody to come do lesson plans for me. Somebody...anybody. I've got 28 sweeties showing up at 7:30 tomorrow expecting something to do, and I'd rather go outside or take a nap than plan. Help a sista out!

2. The 2011 "Take A Bunch of Fifth Graders and Their Parents to Our Nation's Great Capital for a Week" trip is rapidly approaching, and this teacher is excited about making trip #2. Catch up on last year's trip here: (the "I'm too tired to recap right now", Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5). I'm completely aware that this may not be interesting to anyone but me; humor me! This truly is a magical trip, and I am PUMPED about going again. Last year I spent most of the week battling a sinus infection and suffering as the antibiotics waged war on my poor stomach. I'm hoping to be functioning at more than 46% this year! I'm also thrilled to be able to take my new (well, bought in November) camera along. I got two of my favorite shots ever last year, and I'm not sure if I'll be able to top these:

3. The weather this weekend has been sunny and breezy in the high 70s. Absolute perfection. I've practically lived outside, only coming in long enough to use my NetiPot (and, you know, sleep). Pollen is the bane of my springtime existence, and the NetiPot is my weapon of choice. Bring it, pollen.

4. I watch this video at least once a day. The baby's reaction is so very precious. If you think I wouldn't blow my nose all the time if this were my baby, you are sorely mistaken.

5. These little jewels are my new favorite snack.

I like Greek yogurt better than regular yogurt because it has more protein and calcium. These three are the best, in my opinion, but the lemon is my all-time favorite. It's like sunshine on a spoon. Really, really, ridiculously good. I've got a mango flavored one hanging out in the fridge, so I'll report back on that. Try not to lose sleep over it until I do!

6. Does anybody know how to move my categories, followers, and archives up closer to the top of the page? Right now, they're close to the bottom where you can't see them until you scroll way down. I just taught myself how to embed a YouTube video, but can't manage this one. If anybody knows, I'll give you a virtual high five for helping me figure it out. Who doesn't want a virtual high five?!

7. We sang "Amazing Grace" at church this morning. Not much lifts my spirits on a Sunday like singing "Amazing Grace". Delight.

8. I still need someone to take care of my lesson plans. See #1.

Happy new week, yall!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes

I found this recipe on a blog I frequent, and made it tonight to partner up with baked chicken breasts with green chile sauce and whole wheat rolls. It was a HUGE hit.

I even feel like it "undoes" the frozen yogurt with M&Ms and KitKats somebody made me eat when we climbed Yogurt Mountain this afternoon. Asparagus cancels all that out, right? Right??

Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes (recipe source: Taste & See)
I adapted this a bit from the original.

1 lb. asparagus, trimmed (just cut off the ends...if there are 2 rubber bands, I usually cut right above the bottom one)
2 tsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups halved grape tomatoes
1/2 tsp. minced garlic (I just used 2 big cloves because garlic makes my spirit soar and my soul sing.)
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. crumbled goat cheese (or feta...didn't measure this, just crumbled until I was happy with it)

*Cook asparagus in boiling water 2 minutes (longer for more tender asparagus...I like mine on the crunchy side). Drain.
*Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and garlic; cook 3-5 minutes. Add vinegar; cook 3 minutes. Stir in salt. Remove from heat, and add asparagus. Stir until asparagus is coated.
*After serving on plates, add cheese and black pepper to taste.

This was so good, I even had seconds. Easy, healthy,, the colors are pretty. Who doesn't like eating pretty food??

*Next time I make it, I'll cook the tomatoes a shorter amount of time or on a lower heat. I wanted them to be more intact, and I sorta cooked 'em to a near mush. Still good, but not the texture I was shooting for.

*I substituted feta cheese for the goat cheese. It's cheaper and you get more in a package than goat cheese. I buy the whole block of feta instead of the pre-crumbled. I got a solid 8 oz block of feta for $2.00, and the 3.5 oz container of pre-crumbled was $3.50. I'd rather get more for less money and crumble it myself!

*The recipe source link contains a wonderful picture if you want to see one. See this for why I didn't include my own picture.

If you make this, I'd love to hear about it. Go forth and eat frozen yogurt with candy piled on top, and then make this. Remember, they cancel each other out. It's all good!