Sunday, August 30, 2009


We all went to see a family movie yesterday, Ponyo. It's a Hayao Miyazaki film from Japan, released here by Disney. My kids have been in love with this particular film maker for many years now, since The Eldest discovered My Neighbor Totoro when she was little. Some of his other titles are Kiki's Delivery Service, Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. He's the most famous here in the States for Spirited Away, which won an academy award (beating out Lilo & Stitch, which totally should have won IMO). (Not that Spirited Away isn't fantastic, it is, but Lilo & Stitch is my most favorite animated movie ever so I think it should have won.)

The movie wasn't his best but it was beautiful. Miyazaki includes environmental messages in many of his films and this one was no exception, but it wasn't the central part of the story. I don't want to give too much away; American audiences not familiar with his work need to go in and let it unfold. As I was watching I kept wondering how a friend of mine and her daughter will react when they go see it, which they said they would. We're kind of used to his movies and themes, but someone else seeing this movie would probably find it totally bizarre! It's so... out there. The animation is exceptional; even the clouds were full and rich with pastel overtones. Absolutely breathtaking. And oh, the voices! They had a cast of heavy hitters, including dreamy-voiced Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett, Betty White, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, and on and on and on.

If you haven't seen it, GO SEE IT!!! Then get the rest of his movies as soon as you can from whatever your rental source. They are all well worth watching.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Photo Shoot

The kids and I had a unique afternoon yesterday. We went to a photo shoot for Girl Scouts (yes, even The Youngest, my son) at their local camp. Our council is entering a photo contest that carries a hefty cash prize hoping a win will let them use the money to revitalize our camps. I had to reshuffle our schedule to clear the way but I'm glad I did since we all had a lot of fun. One of the Girl Scout employees brought her dog, a Yorkie named Latte, to participate and the kids fell in love. Another family brought a Bearded Dragon named Zippy, also a big thrill, but ultimately not as interesting as the dog. (Lizards don't do much.) There were a couple of boys there about the same age as The Youngest, and just as rough and tumble as he is, so he was in heaven. Lots of room to run around, other boys, a campfire, all the marshmallows he could eat, a Bearded Dragon, AND a dog; it was about as good as it gets for him.

The girls enjoyed themselves, too. There were other girls there for them to hang out with and, like The Youngest, they loved playing with the dog. Every now and again all three of them would be called over for pictures, but that was a minor disruption to the fun. ;) I got to be a pyro-maniac for the afternoon; I was the only camp trained person there so it was up to me to get the campfire started. Luckily a fireman arrived later (one of the dads) with all of his gear. He took one look at the pathetic excuse of a fire I'd started (with the help of one of the other dads) and said well, we can fix that, and pulled on his fire gloves. He got in there and shifted some of the logs around and had a gorgeous roaring fire going in about a millisecond. He said if you need a good fire, call a fireman!

He got geared up to get into the pictures, too. The Eldest got to catch a marshmallow on fire and he put it out with his extinguisher; it was foggy and stinky, but very cool to look at. I think that picture is going to be really cute.

We were there for about three hours all told. The kids had so much fun but I'm wiped out! I tried to help out as much as I could with the fire and clean up and so forth, which meant lots of walking from the camp house to the area where they were taking pictures, plus it was hotter than blue blazes. It's a good kind of tired, though since it came from a day well spent.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Baby's in, wait, COLLEGE!!!

The Eldest started her first college class today, which is also her first class... ever. She's been homeschooled all of her life so this is her first day of school. Oh, the jokes were flying from DH. Did I remember to give her milk money? Did I pack her lunch? You get the drift. ;)

I did help her as much as I could. I helped her pack her book bag and made sure she had a number 2 pencil, which she won't need until the first test. I gave her as many tips as I could think of for how to be successful in the class. I feel a little better about things since she's taking the same class I just finished, with the same professor. He's a people-person; very warm and caring, so I'm sure he'll look out for her as he does all of his students. I can help her get through her first class for now then she'll be on her own for the next semester, when she'll take more than one class.

The program she's in is pretty neat. It's a dual enrollment program for high school juniors and seniors where they can take college classes for credit and FOR FREE. This is open to public school students who meet certain criteria as to GPA, completed classes, and so forth. As a homeschooler, The Eldest had to take a brief placement test the college offers and that's it. The school board even covers her books! She has to return them in mint condition at the end of the semester, but she doesn't have to buy them. (I already bought the books for this class so we won't need to take advantage of that part of the program.) Oh, and I had to get a form signed by someone in the school board to take to the college to prove eligibility.

It's serving so many purposes for her. She's establishing a GPA now and can earn college credit at the same time, plus she's gaining experience with classrooms, taking notes, completing projects, and taking tests, all of which will help when she applies for her college of choice. She was getting anxious for some social interaction in addition to her Girl Scout troop so this will help out with that as well. (I gave her the option of regular high school but she said she wasn't interested, so this is a good alternative for her.)

I was pretty proud of her as she walked away from the car towards the building. I know she'll get through with flying colors, and I'm pleased DH and I were able to prepare her as much as we possibly could for this new step in her life.

PS: We took a picture of her for the scrapbook of her first day in school. :)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Oh, My Achin' Back!

I've undertaken a HUGE project, on the magnitude of scaling Mt. Everest, I'd say. I waded into it fully aware of the horrors, but I knew it had to be done.

I started cleaning the Middle Child's room.

Pity me, for I've taken on the task of Sisyphus. If you haven't seen her room let me enlighten you. It's like a "before" shot on Clean House or one of the other organizing shows, you know, the kind that makes you go "how could they LIVE like that?" See, DH and I have this consistency problem. We make proclamations like "we're going to have clean up time EVERY DAY", and that lasts all of about, oh, two days before we throw up our hands in despair. I used to be better about going in and cleaning up every now and again since I know the job can get overwhelming and the mess isn't totally her fault. The Youngest gets in there and dumps things, and right after the last cleaning a couple of years ago she had a friend over who also dumped things everywhere and left them. (See, I told you it's been a while.) (And that friend doesn't come over anymore; whew.)

It's just such a nightmare of a job because children's toys have 42 million parts... EACH. Polly Pockets and Littlest Pet Shop and My Little Pony and the ever popular Barbie with about a gazillion shoes and other small accessories and Legos and American Girl and art supplies and books, and, and, and... it all has to be sorted. Every little teeny tiny piece has to be sorted into the appropriate container, which makes me ask myself why? Why do we have separate containers for all of these things? Why not take DH's suggestion and throw it all in one big bin? Well, we don't have one big bin big enough for everything, unfortunately, or I'm totally there. So we sort and sort, and now my back is killing me from sitting on her bedroom floor sorting. I'm happy we got to the point where we can sit on her floor, though, because it wasn't possible before I went in yesterday!

Then there's the issue of purging. All the organizing shows say when it gets that bad (actually, to keep it from getting that bad) you should purge. The Middle Child doesn't like that theory. She can not let go of ANYTHING. If she's made the least little bit of a mark on a piece of paper it all of a sudden becomes "SPECIAL" and she can't let it go. It's major trauma to throw out anything for her! I wouldn't let her in the room with me for the first few hours, in fact I snuck in there when she was busy in another part of the house, because I didn't want to fight with her about what I was getting rid of. She's got baby toys in there she won't let go, for goodness' sake. I filled two garbage bags and got them out to the trash can before she realized what I was doing. (And our Goodwill pile has grown larger as well.)

Well, to give her a little credit, she is somewhat better about letting things go, I've noticed. She actually threw a few things away herself, so I'm quite proud of her progress.

Sigh... but this isn't helping me finish. Back to it!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Julie and Julia

I went out with a friend to see Julie and Julia yesterday. I loved it! I've read some criticism that the "Julie" parts aren't as good as the "Julia" parts but I think Amy Adams is adorable so I enjoyed every bit. Yes, I can also agree with the critics that Meryl Streep could handle an entire movie about Julia Child without the Julie bits, but that's not the movie that they made, so I'm happy with it. I really enjoyed the interplay between Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci. They had some chemistry going on as Julia and Paul Child; wow! I think the relationship between the two of them was my favorite part of the movie. Oh, and Paris; there's always Paris.

After the movie my friend and I were discussing the Julie/Julia Project web site the movie is based on. The parts I've read, some at the beginning and a few of the last posts, are all text. (She made some attempts to put pictures in one part but they wouldn't load for me.) Wouldn't fly in today's food blog world, let me tell you. I mean, have you seen the food blogs that are out there now? I had a link to Dutch Girl Cooking for the longest time on my blog roll but I just switched it out for Cannelle et Vanille. The Pioneer Woman Cooks is another one I particularly like, along with Use Real Butter and 17 and Baking, and these don't even scratch the surface! (Check out the top 50 food blogs article for more.)

The food bloggers are the Renaissance women and men of our time. Not only can they cook, but most of them also develop recipes. Then they write about them, typically in an interesting and witty fashion. Then there's the food styling and photography skills. Good heavens, it's absolutely mouth watering food porn. (Not my term, but oh so appropriately descriptive of the food photography. Check out Food Gawker if you really want to salivate.) They can do it all! I am in total awe.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Book Review: Mindless Eating

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think
by Brian Wansink, Ph.D.

Dieting? Thinking about dieting or trying to control your weight? Do you want to make smarter, healthier food choices? You'll want to read this book, even if you are an avid Weight Watcher or South Beacher or Atkins Advocate. Whatever your diet, the information in Mindless Eating will help you do it better and easier. I'm pretty much at my maintenance weight (four more pounds to get the rest of the Europe weight off) but even so, I still found a lot of fascinating food information in this book. I discovered why my mini-plate technique helped with my weight loss and maintenance success, for instance.

The majority of the book reports on how the author, his students, and various research associates created several scientifically sound studies, some of them downright hilarious, to figure out why people eat the way they do. They conducted studies involving self-filling soup bowls, North Dakota wine, and stale popcorn, among others. The conclusions are enlightening and helpful for anyone wanting to lose weight or maintain a current healthy weight. The end of the book includes recommendations on how to apply the study results to real life to achieve effortless weight loss. Additionally, it's darn readable. The author has a great sense of humor reflected in the book. The Eldest and I were stuck waiting for bureaucracy this afternoon and she wound up reading and chuckling along with me; she's planning to read the whole book as soon as I hand it over to her.

*I purchased this on my Kindle but there were some charts comparing diets in the back of the book that were almost unreadable due to their small size and my aging eyesight. You can normally change font size for text but I wasn't able to make the charts bigger.

**Disclosure: I bought this book for myself. I'm not a commercial blogger so I don't get paid for any reviews. If I'm reviewing it, you're getting my unbiased opinion.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cooking Class

At the urging of a friend, I went to a cooking class yesterday. Or, actually, umm, more of an UN-cooking class! I've never taken any kind of cooking class before and this one was a lot of fun, even if it was a cuisine I was almost completely unfamiliar with prior to walking in the door. The cuisine in question is raw food. WHAT? RAW FOOD? What in the world? You mean like salads and fruit, right? Well, as I learned, not exactly. There are real recipes involved and you can make a lot more than just salads. The only thing different from, say, vegan cooking is that the food isn't heated above 112 degrees. (I think 112 is the magic number.) Other than that, the sky is the limit and the creativity is endless. I was amazed at what we made during the course of the 4 hour class! I didn't like everything, I have to admit. I'm not a fan of the two "green smoothies" we made; blech. I loved, however, Mock Salmon Pate, Broccoli Soup, and the Date/Nut Torte. Broccoli Soup! You'd never know it wasn't loaded with cream and all sorts of unhealthy ingredients, and it was served slightly warm since the friction of the blender blades provided a small amount of heat. The creaminess was courtesy of almonds and avocado, which you couldn't taste in the finished soup, and a variety of seasonings. I'm not posting the recipe (sorry) since I don't want to violate any copyright laws, (the class recipes are from Alissa Cohen) but if you click on the link for the "Homemade" blog on my "blogs I like" list, Shira has some raw food recipes on there. (I found Shira's blog before I took the class but didn't pay much attention to her recipes- sorry, Shira!!- until my eyes were opened to the possibilities of this type of food in the class. Tasting is believing!)

This doesn't mean I'm going raw or even vegetarian, but it does mean I have a wider variety of healthy recipes to choose from when I'm writing out our weekly menu plan. (And just because I'm not posting my plans doesn't mean I'm not still planning; I am! It's an essential component to maintaining my weight loss.) So, if someone mentions a raw food diet, don't roll your eyes like I used to do, ask for recipes!!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why Family Manager?

I use the title of family manager. That's what I do. I'm not a housewife or a stay at home mom; I'm not married to my house nor do I stay at home very often, but those are frequently the titles used by our society. Although I don't get a paycheck I do have a more than full time job. (In fact I'm on call around the clock.) I've been paid to be a manager before and I do a lot of the same things for my family- I hire contractors (lawn care, tree trimmers, repairmen, housekeepers, etc.), pay the bills, keep track of expenses, handle purchasing, plan our activities, maintain a calendar, schedule appointments, handle documentation of our events, and so forth. I also do quite a bit of volunteer work and take college classes every 5 years to maintain my teaching certificate. We homeschool our children as well. It's work as much as anyone who draws a paycheck. I do have a number of perks. I can set my own schedule to a certain extent, picking and choosing which activities we will participate in. I have fibromyalgia so when I have a flare up I can rest as I need to without getting fired or having to answer to anyone. I have a heck of a great relationship with my fellow manager (my husband, who happens to be the one to bring home the bacon). It's a good gig, I have to say; best job I've ever had even if the monetary compensation is the pits. ;)

I first heard the term family manager on Oprah when she had Kathy Peel on as a guest and I thought it was great. I'm so surprised it hasn't caught on more fully since it is so much more accurate than the current stay at home mom. I am the manager of our family and I hope more women AND men will stand up and make the same declaration. Titles can mean a lot in this world, so taking on one that more accurately conveys what we do can be a step towards earning the respect we deserve for our work. Plus it's gender neutral, and now that more men are leaving the paid workforce to raise their kids it's also more accurate in that respect. We lived next door to a couple for 11 years where the mom earned the paycheck and the dad stayed with the kids, which I think is great. There are daddy bloggers all over the internet who are also going the family manager route. My husband has a larger earning potential and found a job he likes so in our family he's the one to work at a company, but I think it's up to the individual couple to make that determination. It should never be something forced on anyone due to societal expectations. That's the true meaning of gender equality to me- either member of the couple could be the one to give up the paycheck, or they could both work for pay if they choose, and would be equally respected no matter what their work status.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Yes, We're Back, But Here's Something Interesting

We're back from our Disney vacation (more on that later) and I'm back to my internet stumbling. I ran across an article on the Time website about diet and exercise with a novel slant. Researchers are finding that people who exercise don't necessarily lose weight! There are a few caveats, of course; the writer isn't saying stop exercising since it has significant health benefits other than weight loss, but they are rethinking the recommendations about using it as a weight loss tool. It seems that people who exercise more also wind up eating more calories than they burn off, which defeats the purpose. The type of exercise is also seen as a factor; the x-number-of-times-at-the-gym per week thing is less effective than having a generally active lifestyle. The article discussed several research studies, among them one where the test subjects in one group worked out and the subjects in another group didn't. The researchers found that the exercisers had their spurt of activity then spent the rest of the day chillin' and lazing around; the non-exercisers were more evenly active the whole day through, resulting in a net calorie expenditure that was about the same for both groups.Connect this with the recommendations of Dr. Perricone (I heard him once on a PBS special) who says you shouldn't exercise more than 40 minutes a day, 6 days per week, and my own personal success with walking 30 minutes (almost) daily, and I kind of agree with the article, with caveats. (After googling Dr. Perricone, I found an article that says he's pretty much a quack, and I have to admit his book was out there in terms of the supplements he recommends, but I think his ideas about exercise fall in line with the article in question so he might just be ahead of his time in that one respect.)

So, what does that mean? To me, it means that when you exercise you should do so with moderation and that you also have to be generally active throughout the rest of the day; take the stairs, park far from the building, etc. (Which is hard sometimes with fibromyalgia; I do the best I can!) Additionally, you have to be very careful about portion control. If exercising increases your appetite, then you have to really watch it and keep weighing and measuring for every meal. The combination of moderate exercise and eating wisely is what led to my weight loss. Continuing to walk, control portions, and make healthy food choices is what's keeping it off. (But we won't talk about what I ate at Disney World...)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Busy Days...

Time flies when you're having fun! A cliche, but so true. It seems I just started my Art Appreciation class a few days ago and here it is, 6 weeks later, time for the final exam.

Which means I'm not going to post anything else since I need to go review!!!

Well, I will add this one last part- after the final WE'RE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD! :)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Here's What Happens...

When a seven year old has access to scissors.