Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book Review: Between, Georgia

I've been stuck walking on my treadmill for the past two days. Have I mentioned that I HATE walking on my treadmill? The only way it's bearable is if I can read. The best way to read while walking on the treadmill, hands down, is with my Kindle. I can set the font to extra large which is necessary because of my darn aging eyeballs and the fact that I can't bring the book as close to said eyeballs as I would like, but reading glasses don't work well when the book is far away. (A lower power than I normally use works, if the font is large enough.) The Kindle is also great because it sits nicely on the music stand I have rigged up to hold my reading material on the treadmill. It's also easy to turn the pages; with a regular book or magazine page turning while walking can be tricky.

So, since I had to walk on the treadmill, I had to find a new book, which is also easy with the Kindle. I had a bunch of book samples on there from the last time I went browsing. One of them was for a book called "Between, Georgia". I started reading the sample and got hooked; I ordered the book after about 3 pages. (And the books are delivered almost instantaneously, which is great.) I don't want to give the story away, but I was riveted. I read the book in two days (so it got me through two treadmill walks) and loved every second of it. There was adventure and romance and quirky characters and mean dogs and explosions and... an ending, but I won't tell you what kind. The main characters are wonderfully human and flawed. The reviews on Amazon can give more details; I'll end with telling you I enjoyed it, and if you're looking for something to entertain you on a treadmill, go for it!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Weekend Getaway

Our Keys vacation was this past weekend. It was fantastic, mostly. The drive down was a bit long for the kids (The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, had a bad case of the "are-we-there-yets") but I enjoyed the scenery. We got there to a houseful of friends and family- there were 17 of us when everyone finally arrived, consisting of my sister in law and her husband, their kids, his extended family, and my mother and father in law. I haven't spent much time with my sister in law's in laws in the past so it was fun to get to know them a little bit this weekend. I spent time talking to my sister in law's sister in law (wow, that's getting to be a stretch to define the relationships!) about her large garden. I'm so jealous!! I want a large garden and a green thumb to go with it, but alas, I'll have to start with my little 6'x8' "starter garden" in the back yard.

We went out for a snorkeling excursion on Saturday to Looe Key, which isn't another island but rather a reef. The trip out was great. Most of us were in a big flat bottomed boat and we bounced along at a good clip. The kids and my sister in law's husband, whom I will refer to as The Pied Piper, were in a Sea Doo. They were literally running circles around us, much to the delight of the kids. Then we got to the reef and got ready to snorkel. Only... the seas were rough and the boats were rocking all around and oh, nooooo, The Wild Child started feeling ill, then oh, noooo, I started feeling ill too. He upchucked first; I wasn't far behind. Everyone said "get in the water, you'll feel better", but I couldn't look down to get my gear since that made me feel worse! The Wild Child was having issues with his flippers but I couldn't help him. I finally managed to get my gear on and left him to his grandparents while I got in the water. I paddled around for a few minutes and the reef was truly breathtaking, but I didn't feel any better, I was too uncomfortable with the snorkel, I felt very out of my element, DH had abandoned me, and so I got back in the boat. OK, I'm not a water girl. I can be a camper girl, but water? Not so much. Give me dry land any day.

The Wild Child and I weren't the only ones who got sick. The seas were so choppy that even the veteran boaters were getting sick, so my mother in law decided that was it, we were heading back. I have never loved her so much!!! Everyone piled back in the boats and off we went, thank heavens. I spent the next several hours in bed eating salty crunchy bagel chips in an effort to settle my tummy. (I polished off the entire bag, which I NEVER do normally; I'm all about the portion control. But it was lunch. Blech.) While I was languishing, everyone else (except The Eldest, who was languishing in her own bed, and one or two of the others) went out lobster hunting, including The Wild Child. I still can't believe he got back on a boat but he did, and he got in the water that time from what I hear. I didn't even know everyone was gone, but I wouldn't have cared; I just wanted to be left alone to recover.

After I finally started feeling a little better, I got up and made a grocery run with my father in law. We got lost a bit, but I like getting lost in new places. I love exploring and seeing what's down the road a ways. We finally found the store and I picked up a few things I needed to make our dinner then headed back to the rental house. I got started on meal prep and hung out in the kitchen listening to everyone else talking and having a good time. I think that was the best part of the weekend for me- being around a loud, boisterous, fun family group and knowing that my kids were having fun with their cousins and making memories that will last them a lifetime. When dinner was ready The Pied Piper's sister asked me if we minded if they say grace (I guess they were told DH and I aren't particularly religious) and I said no, we would never have a problem with that. We did the big circle with everyone holding hands and grace was said. I thought it was really great, actually. Again, something my kids wouldn't normally do, but important for them to experience. There was a lot of love going around that circle.

As to the food, I finally figured out how I wanted to handle things. I realized we were only talking about four meals, not including breakfast and snacks, so it wasn't a big deal. I planned out four quick and easy main dish recipes and figured we would share in the sides everyone else had planned. I gathered all of the ingredients for each recipe and made meal kits using 2 gallon ziploc bags. The items that wouldn't fit in the bags were labeled- "Saturday dinner" or "Sunday lunch", etc. I made a menu plan that included ingredient lists and cookware lists so I wouldn't forget anything. (But of course I forgot a few things, thus the grocery store run.) It worked beautifully! I made enough of each item to share too, which supplemented the side dishes for everyone else.

I was able to walk while we were there, which is good since I missed a couple of walks before leaving. (I needed the walk time for packing!) We walked around the neighborhood where the rental house was located. It was fun to see how the other half lives for a couple of days! The houses for sale were priced in the millions. Seems kind of high for something that will wash away in the next hurricane, but they were beautiful. Actually, some of them were beautiful; a lot of them were just OK, but priced high due to the all important location, location, location.

All in all, I could have done without the sea sickness, but the rest of the weekend more than made up for it. It was a vacation to remember and I will always be grateful to my sister in law and The Pied Piper for including us.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Veg Challenges

We have a lovely weekend vacation coming up soon. We're going to a beach house my sister in law and her husband rented for a family get together. Everyone is looking forward to it; hanging out, enjoying the great outdoors, enjoying each others' company. The only issue for us is what the heck we're going to eat!

DH and I are the only pure vegetarians in the family. The girls are more flexitarian; they eat vegetarian at home and some of the time when we go out, but they'll order the occasional non-veg entree at restaurants. The Eldest can not resist shrimp. Of the three kids, The Middle Child is the most committed to going veg but she'll still waver every once in a while. The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, is full out carnivore. I have to buy him luncheon meat to eat at home or he'd starve and he ALWAYS orders meat when we go out. (I knew he needed meat when he got all cranky and peaked after we first went veg; he was so pathetic. I had to cave or I would have been the worst mommy in the world!) NONE of our other relatives are vegetarian.

So what are we going to eat? I found out that they are planning burgers for dinner our first night there. I guess we can take frozen veggie burgers but I really don't like those very much; they taste like chemicals. I was hoping DH might find some way to make fresh bean burgers, maybe put the mix together here and make the patties there, but he said the mix would dry out too much. (Sadness.) At least we know what's planned for the first meal and can come up with something that will tie in; after that I have no idea what might be on the menu. I'm going to take some quinoa. We can cook that quickly in a microwave then flavor it up with whatever is on hand. We can make quesadillas (or burritos or tacos) or a quinoa salad with it so it's very versatile. We'll take fruit, of course. We're not sure if we'll take the Vita Mix, which we use daily. We have to figure out what cookware to take. There's probably some there but we don't know what. There's a grocery store nearby so we can purchase some of what we'll need there. We have to go to specialty stores (like Whole Foods) for some of our staples but we can either take those items with us or manage without for a weekend. There's a health food store nearby but I don't know what they carry. (Some of those stores only carry vitamins; we'll have to see.)

So I have some new issues to plan for when we travel. I'm up for the challenge!

Monday, September 13, 2010


The Eldest hit a new milestone today, luckily only figuratively. She's learning to drive. After over 2 years of resisting ALL parental pressure to get her learner's permit, I prevailed! (Muahahahaha.) Once she had the permit in hand I signed her up with a local driving school; her first lesson with the very brave instructor was today. From the information they gave me when I signed her up I knew she would need a little bit of time behind the wheel before her first official lesson so I took her out to an abandoned parking lot over the weekend. I jumped in the passenger seat and she drove us around and around and around, just getting a feel for the car- where the controls are located, (wipers, blinkers, that kind of thing), braking without causing whiplash, and so forth. She did well; it didn't take her long to catch on. She was making some pretty wide turns at first, but she got better by the 100,000 time around. Well, OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but we both got bored and called it quits after what FELT like 100,000 times around.

The instructor picked her up today in a VW Bug with "Student Driver" plastered all over it and put her directly in the driver's seat. (WHAT! IS HE TOTALLY CRAZY!?!) Off they went, right into traffic. I'm so glad I wasn't here; her dad saw her off. (I was at my book club meeting.) I thought there would be more parking lot time, not directly into traffic! I am so glad I found out after the fact, but I still have more gray hair now. Parenting teenagers is NOT a job for the faint of heart.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Farmer's Market

We have a real live, bona fide farmer's market a couple of cities away from here. (We live in a county packed end to end with adjoining cities so a couple of cities away isn't very far at all.) I'm so excited! We live in an agricultural wasteland around here since our growing seasons are backwards, but they had some good stuff. It wasn't all local; strawberries from California, bread from Canada, that type of thing, but there was a good selection and it was all organic. We'll get more local produce over the winter. (I can't wait for STRAWBERRIES early next year; my favorite.)

I picked up some collard greens, kale, and romaine lettuce. I also found a bunch of gorgeous, colorful carrots; I didn't know they came in purple and yellow! DH is cooking up a batch of Sandra Lee's Southern Style Beans with Greens for lunch as we speak, our favorite way to eat collards. I'm not sure what we're going to do with the other ingredients; I have to go thumb through my cookbooks.

I think we're definitely treading into "foodie" category around here, even with the switch to a vegetarian diet. It's fun to experiment with new recipes and find food that is so delicious you can't stand it when you take the last bite. Food is one of life's pleasures; why waste a single bite on anything that is less than fabulous? When you can get food that both nourishes your body and tastes like heaven on a fork... that's a win.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Busy Days

The school year has begun, even for homeschoolers, and we're off to the races. I set up a schedule for the little ones for academics and we're doing a good job of sticking with it so far. The Eldest is taking her college courses so I consider myself pretty much done as far as directly teaching her goes. I'm still driving her around quite a bit which takes huge chunks of time out of my days, however. I'm leading/advising two Girl Scout troops, one for The Eldest and one for The Middle Child. I've helped at two Girl Scout round ups (recruitment drives) this week, too. The round ups are a tradition; I think I've helped at almost every round up since The Eldest joined Girl Scouts, oh, 12 years or so ago. I enjoy helping at round ups, seeing all of the new girls and their parents, telling them about the fun we have in Girl Scouts, and working with other troop leaders, but I sure could have skipped it this time since I've been sick. Blech.

It's like I have this half cold that's sticking around twice as long as a regular cold. It's not as miserable as a full blown cold but I still feel lousy. Lots of sneezing, coughing, and fibro-like fatigue. I'd think it was allergies but it's contagious; The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, got it too but recovered more quickly. Now DH seems to have it; ha! He didn't think I was really sick and didn't understand how freakin' miserable I was, but NOW he gets it.

But life goes on, cold or no cold. Our summer routine is no more and we are adjusting to our new schedule. The little ones are surprising me with how they are handling their academics! I fully expected The Middle Child to sail through her work every day but she's been resistant, at least for the first few days. The Wild Child was super cooperative at first, which blew my mind, but he started fighting me again the last few days. He has a tendency to be lazy about things other people want him to do so I am trying to improve his work ethic. He is praised not for his smarts (he's very bright) but for working hard. I talk to him all the time about how our family is a team and he needs to do his part. Sometimes I feel like I'm beating my head against a wall, but then I'll see some progress, some glimmer of improvement in his behavior, and that gives me hope! I guess that's something that holds true for all parents- we hang on for those little glimmers of proof that we're doing our jobs well.