Friday, April 30, 2010

Polk Salad

I making polk salad tonight with dinner.  Some people call it poke salad.  I don't know which one is correct, maybe both are, I don't know.  I have a bunch of polk growing around the yard.  When we first moved here, we didn't have any but I dug some at my parent's house and transplanted it in one of my wildflower beds.  It is doing quite well so I've got enough to make a mess of polk salad. 

Now, if you live in the south, you'd know that a mess is a description for a platefull.  It can be used for fish or any other thing you have a lot of.  I picked a bucketful of polk You want to pick young, fresh polk because it gets tough when it gets too old.  That's why spring is the perfect time to get your polk salad fix.

Polk Salad - this is NOT LOW FAT in any way!!!!!

Pick and wash polk well. Place in a large pot and cover with water, bring to a rapid boil for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold  water. You will do this two more times.  Drain and rinse with cold water. Let drain completely.

Meantime fry bacon and save drippings; set aside. Clean and cut onion in quarters. Saute the onion in the bacon fat until translucent.  Add 1/4 cup or so of vinegar, salt to taste to the sauted onion. Serve and garnish with a hard boiled egg and bacon.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Favorite Flower

Have I said lately that I like spring?  I'm not sure that it's my favorite season, I'm not sure I have a favorite because there is something about each season that I really adore.  But spring, spring is special.  Spring is seeing new live grow before your eyes.  Spring is a robin egg blue sky with every shade of green growing all around.  Spring in Oklahoma means no humidity and cool nights so you can leave the windows open.  Spring means sitting on the back or front porch watching the thunderstorms streak across the sky. 

The other day, my daughter and I were working in the yard and gardens.  She likes to help me and mostly talk to me when we are outside.  We have some of the most interesting conversations out in the garden.  She is learning to be a very good little gardener.  I think it is special that I am passing on my love of gardening to my daughter just as it was passed on to me from my mother and grandmothers.  When she is older, I can see her coming to my house to visit and leaving with a trunkload of garden starts just as I do when I leave my mom's house!

When we were walking around the garden this week, she asked me what my favorite flower was.  It took me a while but I finally said, 'whatever is blooming'.  She laughed and laughed and told me that sounded like something her five year old cousin would say!  I told her maybe I'm not too far away from being a child even though to her it seems like I am a hundred.  My favorite flower is the one that is blooming.  I couldn't pick just one if I tried.  As spring progresses into summer and summer into fall, my favorites change.  My flower arrangement on the kitchen counter changes as the seasons change and I wouldn't have it any other way.  I enjoy the changing flowers.  I always have a favorite one blooming!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Finding My Way

I've been at home full-time since November.  Six months.  Doesn't really seem like six months.  I haven't completed nearly all I thought I would.  I honestly thought that by now I'd be twiddling my thumbs with boredom. 

I've almost always worked outside the home doing something.  When I first got married, I was in college full-time then I taught school.  Even when the kids were babies I taught part-time.  I liked it and I liked the money that I made.  Truth be told, sometimes it was easier to go to work than it was to stay at home.  Sorry working moms, but I had someone clean my house and I ate out a lot.  It was fun to go to work and sit at lunch with my friends and not have to wipe anyones face!  Sure I missed my kids, but I only worked for three hours a day, usually during nap times.  It was a nice escape.  I started staying at home full time when my daughter was eighteen months old and my son was three.  I began to miss being with them as they began to skip that morning nap.  We also were planning a move back to Oklahoma to be closer to family so it was a good time to stay home.

I really struggled after the first year or so being a stay home mom.  I'm a pretty busy person and I felt like I was spinning my wheels.  I finally realized that I was doing the most important job ever, the job that in fifty years will still be paying off, and that job is mothering.  I was a teacher to my most important students ever, my own children.  We colored, playdohed, dressed up (I'm so glad the UPS man just rang the bell and didn't expect me to answer it with all those colored clips in my hair!), sang, collected bugs (and still do) and everything else a mom normally does with preschoolers.  We made volcanoes, mento cokes, finger paints, bath salts and more to learn about the world around us. We made countless dinners for friends at church and neighbors who were going through a rough patch or had a new baby to care for. We volunteered at church to help others in our community.

 I realize that all my hard work turned my two kids into smart, caring, inquisitive young people who, I hope, learned what being a mom and dad means from my husband and I.  No other job pays less but no other job has such lasting repercussions as being a parent.  The big problem is that by the time you think you've figured out how to do it, you job of training is past. 

I still have many years to go in this job.  I'm not perfect and if you asked my kids to give me a job performance rating some days it would not be so great.  I guess you can't be perfect at a job that lasts twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for fifty years or so! Some days you're just going to be off a bit.  Oh well, I'll just keep reminding myself of that as I get through another day of teen parenting!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chicken Salad

Everybody has their favorite chicken salad recipe.  I'm sharing mine with you today because spring is when we, at my house, start having more sandwiches.  They're quick, easy to make and easy to eat outside.  April is when we start dining 'al fresco' at my house.  It's an easy way to get everybody to pitch in and clean the outside furniture.  'Gee, we could eat outside if the table and chairs were only clean!'  That usually prompts my wonderful daughter into wiping everything off!  We eat outside at least once a week.  It seems to slow everybody down and the meal becomes more relaxing.  No one jumps up from dinner after it's over.  I have old Christmas lights around the back porch and candles that can be lit if it begins to get dark.  Also, saying 'al fresco' instead of just outside in the backyard sounds more fancy too!

chicken salad

4 cups of diced chicken or 2 13oz. cans of drained chicken (I use whatever I have.  Grilled, baked, rotessiere, any will do)
1 cup real mayo, you can use reduced fat but fat-free really tastes bad!
1 cup crushed drained pineapple- save the juice to marinade chicken later!
1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup chopped celery- I usually leave this out because my husband does not like celery!
1/2 cup chopped purple grapes (optional)
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons Lawry's lemon pepper seasoning - this is really the key to the flavor

Mix all together and refridgerate for a few hours before serving.
Buy some fancy rolls or bagels to really make this special.  Serve it with lettuce to make it more of a salad.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tornado season!

I've been cleaning out the tornado closet.  No I don't call it that because it looks like a tornado hit it, sometimes it really does! It's the closet we use in case there is a tornado warning.  It's a large downstairs closet that is under the stairs.  Because we live in a tri-level home, the back wall is actually almost underground.  It needed to be cleaned out because over the winter months, it becomes a dumping ground for anything the kids either outgrow or don't want anymore.  Each spring, I have to dig like an archeologist through the layers to find the back wall!

Since we live in Oklahoma, tornadoes are a real threat.  Each spring, we have a few tornado warnings that send me close to the closet.  I say close to the closet because I've never actually had to take cover here, I did a couple of times growing up.  When the kids were younger, they loved storm warnings because that meant they got to play in the closet!  They thought it was tons of fun.  I wonder what they would think now if I said everytime it got bad outside, 'kids go to the closet!'  They'd probably be calling DHS and turning me in! 

One time, when I first started teaching in Oklahoma, a siren sounded and everybody thought it was a fire drill.  All the kids and teachers went outside.  The principal came out and said 'it's a tornado drill!'  We all laughed that the entire school had become Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz!  But in Oklahoma, the first thing you do when a storm approaches is go look outside!  Oklahomans are a peculiar lot of people.  We don't take others word for things, we like to see it ourselves.  I guess it has to do with the fact that most of us are not too many generations away from being pioneers who had to take care of themselves. So when the weatherman says to take cover, we head outside to look at the sky ourselves.  If we see that old twister headed our way, then we will take cover.  Well, I'm closet is cleaned out, my radio has fresh batteries, I even have a couple bottles of water and some snacks.  Tornado season, take your best shot!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Choosing to be Happy

I meet so many people who are unhappy.  It really is sad to think that in the United States of America there can be so many unhappy people.  I count myself as a person who, for the most part, is truly happy.  I think back to one statement our founding fathers said, " life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." One of the most famous and quoted phrases in our Constitution.  But what does it really mean?

I think most of us, Americans, confuse the words 'pursuit of happiness' with a guarentee of always feeling happy.  Since most of us have never really struggled, not really struggled, we don't understand the word happy.  Pursuit of happiness really means that you have the power within you to move toward happiness.  It doesn't mean that you will get there.  In the United States, you have the ability to work hard and achieve.  That doesn't mean you will not sometimes fail, heaven knows,  most of us have had our fair share of failure!  It means that we do not have the governing body telling us what we will become when we grow up, who we will marry, where we will live and how much we will get paid.  We ultimately choose those things whether we realize it or not. 

I tell my children that the choices they make right now, at twelve and thirteen, will decide the path their life takes.  Dad and I are trying to help them make good, solid choices but they alone will decide how their life ends up.  Will they be on welfare, living on public assistance? There are middle schoolers who are right now making that choice by doing poorly in school, dabbling in drugs and alcohol and having sex.  Will they go to college? There are middle schoolers right now who are studying hard in school and saying no to outside pressures.  Will they marry a person that will treat them with respect? They are forming and practicing relationships that will be the basis of future relationships. 

This week, my children will begin making what I call, 'THE LIST'.  My students used to get this lecture at least once a year and some still email me about my stupid list!  You see, the list is a list of things that you require in a future spouse.  I always told my students not to put anything about physical looks because your hormones will take care of that.  It is a methodical list of requirements that you want in a spouse.  I say spouse because hopefully, they will get married to this person once you find them and form a stable family for children to enter. 

Some things that were on my 'list'. 
1.  Christian ( I didn't care what religion as long as it was Christian)
2.  Never married before with no children. 
3.  Non-smoker, non-drug user
4.  Must get along with my parents.
5.  Going to college or trade school to better their education.
6.  Treat me with respect as an equal.
My students always laughed when they saw my list but I reminded them that I was twenty years old!  Not the middle-aged woman standing before them. 

The list kept me focused on the goal of finding a life-partner and I have to say that my husband of nearly twenty-two years fit the bill!  Too many times, I have seen teens, especially girls, lower their standards because they feel they are not worthy.  What they don't understand is that finding a good partner in life is one giant step toward finding happiness!  A bad match can make for a lifetime of unhappiness! 

I hope today's post finds you happy or actively pursuing happiness.  If not, what are you waiting for, the pursuit of happiness isn't just going to drop in your lap!  You are going to have to go out and find it!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Middle School Kids!

I don't remember being a prepubescent person. I seem to remember always being old, at least that's what it feels like when I spend anytime with a group of the afore mentioned people. Young teenagers are really strange. Your body is going through serious hormonal changes similar to the Incredible Hulk. You remember him don't you? I watched that when I was young. The guy would get frustrated or angry and suddenly a large Lou Ferigno would come out from behind the tree/building/closet wearing the tattered clothing. Tattered just in the arms and legs, still covering all the important places so kids like me could watch. Television used to be like that. They paid attention to the audience and common decency wouldn't let them embarrass the parents out there in TV land.

Getting back to the teenagers, middle school is a tough time. I used to teach middle school and mentored a new, very young teacher one year. She was really struggling because she didn't seem to be able to connect with the kids. I had to observe her because the principal thought maybe I could help. After the observation, I sat down with her and explained a few things about middle school kids. The first being, you can not tease a middle schooler. I know that most middle schools are very similar to Lord of the Flies, but kids don't like or understand teasing by an adult. Secondly, they don't get sarcasm. They are trying but most of the time fall really, really short. They don't get it when adults hand out sarcasm either.

Now, if you now me personally, you'd know I was pretty much the queen of sarcasm. So much, that when my son was younger, I would say something and he'd say 'was that sarcasm?' He has me in his cell phone as a saying, 'Sarcasm, it's a way of life!'. My kids got it quite early, but most don't. Don't waste your time on middle schoolers, they won't get it, some adults don't get it either.

I used to tell my middle schoolers that I never wanted them to put down each other. If they felt the need to put someone down, they could get me. I didn't care, I was an adult and I wouldn't spend years of counseling trying to out do the damage they did to my psyche. They could tell me my hair was bad, I didn't care. They could tell me that my outfit was hideous, I wouldn't go home and cry. Put downs don't encourage middle schoolers to like you either.

After the meeting, she really took those two things to heart and I'm happy to say that by the end of the year they kids in her class loved her! She is still teaching and has received Teacher of the Year Awards numerous times. Having two middle school children now, I can say that I look at their friends with compassion. I may not remember ever being a middle schooler but I know this time won't last forever and with a lot guidance they will grow up to be great adults!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I love spring! I love the green-ness of everything.  All the plants have new shiny leaves that aren't worn out and tired looking like they get in August.  I love the bright blue of the sky in the spring.  I even love the dripping of the water off of everything during a spring rain shower. 

There is one thing, however, I do not like about spring.  ALLERGIES! Me and tree pollen do not play well together.  Those little pollen grains get in my nose and cause my head to feel like it's going to explode.  My nose drips, my eyes itch.  It's just not fun!  But, that being said, I refuse to stay inside when it's pretty outside.  There is simply too much to enjoy to sit inside.  So I dutifully spray my nose and take my pill and revel in spring.  I love to open the windows and let that freshly mown grass smell in the house.  Out with the stale woodstove smell, in with the wonderfully fragrant smell of grass and flowers. 

I guess I'm really pretty lucky, my allergies don't bother me year round, just a few weeks in the spring and then again in the fall.  They also don't bother me enough to force me to give up my favorite season. Soon the honeysuckle will be filling up my backyard with wonderful fragrance and I'm planning to be laying out in the hammock daydreaming and breathing deeply!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How Green Grows the Lilac!

The play Green Grow the Lilacs was written in the 30's by Lynn Riggs.  He was from Claremore!  It was eventually adapted into the musical 'Oklahoma' by Rodgers and Hammerstein.  They were not from Oklahoma but I'm glad they made Oklahoma one of the most famous musicals ever to grace Broadway!  We have a small museum downtown Claremore that gives tribute to Lynn Riggs.  It's pretty cool to visit.

We actually have several famous people that grew up in this town or around the countryside in Rogers County.  The most famous is probably Will Rogers.  My kids used to love to visit the free musuem because it has an awesome play area downstairs in the basement and we spent many a rainy afternoon tucked away underground. 

Getting back to lilacs, which is where this post is supposed to be going, mine are in full bloom as we speak!  They are prettier this year than any year I can remember.  My Grandma Shaw used to say, 'the colder the winter, the prettier the lilacs!'  She said they liked cold weather.  I always thought she just said that so she could stand a cold winter thinking about how pretty her flowers would be!  Both my grandmas loved flowers and I have many cuttings and starts in my yard now that came from them.  It's funny, both of them passed away years ago, but every spring when I see the forsythia bush and lilacs in full bloom, I think of them. 

Have you ever eaten some spring blooms?  Each year about this time, I make a spring salad and put some edible blooms in it.  My kids love it, my husband not so much.  He tolerates salads and is doing better than when we first married about eating them, but adding flowers is maybe pushing him too far!  I put chive blossoms, redbud blooms and pansies in the salad and dress it with a little vinegarette.  Makes me happy just looking at those pretty blooms and they taste pretty good too!  There are a bunch of non-edible blossoms that will make you sick so do an internet search for edible flowers if you want to suprise someone with a special spring salad.  

Don't eat the lilacs, just smell them and hum 'Oklahoma'!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cheeseburger Soup

We had a cold, dreary, rainy weekend.  Don't get me wrong, there is nothing like a cool spring day with occasional drizzle. It seems to make everything greener and I really like green.  It always feels like these are winters last try before the hazy days of summer are upon us here in Oklahoma.  I always cherish these days to eat the last of the winter soups before I tuck them away into the recipe box until October. 

On Saturday, I hosted a garden swap.  That's when I dig and divide all my plants and set them out for others to come and give them new homes.  I feel like they are my little children that I am sending out into the world!  We had a good time, ate lots of chocolate and other snacks and gabbed like we hadn't seen each other in months and months! When in actuality, we mostly saw each other Wednesday night at church! 

After church on Sunday, the family decided that we needed to eat soup for dinner.  I had planned a frittata but I moved it back on the menu and inserted a cheeseburger soup.  I needed to big batch cook some hamburger anyway.  Some people tell me that they can't menu plan because they don't know what they will 'feel like eating' on any certain day.  I usually tell them that by the time they figure out what they 'feel like', go shopping for the ingredients and actually prepare the meal, they will be too tired to eat it?  Menu planning doesn't mean that you can't move things around on the calendar, it means that you have a plan for at least the next week and have the ingredients on hand.  Meal planning is kind of like laying out your clothes the night before, it saves you thought on days when you can't decide.  No, we aren't eating what is on the calendar on Sunday, that just means that I have an extra meal to insert on another night! 

I make this soup in my slow cooker but I will give the directions for stove top cooking.  If you have a slow cooker, you can use that also. I also am pretty loose with the measurements on the meat, veggies and broth. 

Cheeseburger Soup
 1/2 to 1 pounds hamburger, cooked and drained
3/4 to 1 cups chopped onion
3/4 to 1 cups chopped carrots
3/4 to 1 cups chopped celery
1 teasp. dried basil
1 teasp. dried parsley
4 tablespoons butter, DIVIDED
3 to 5 cups chicken broth
4 to 6 cups diced potatoes
1/4 to 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups diced Velveeta, can be low fat
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 teasp. salt
1/2 teasp. pepper
1/4 cup sour cream, can be low fat

Saute the onion, celery, carrots, parsley and basil in 1 tablespoon butter - I microwave this.  Place cooked and drained ground beef, the sauted veggies, broth and potatoes into a 3 quart pan and simmer until the potatoes are tender.  I will mash these occasionally on the side of the pan to make the soup thicker.

If the soup is not thick enough, this step will thicken it.  If mashing the potatoes are enough, just leave the flour step out.  If you are cooking in a slow cooker, be skimpy on the broth and you can skip this step. In a small skillet, melt 3 tablespoons butter.  Add the flour, cook and stir constantly for 3-5 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly.  Add it to the soup slowly while stirring. Continue stirring for about 2 minutes.  Then add the cheese, milk, salt and pepper.  Cook and stir until the cheese is melted.  Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream. 

This makes about 8 servings.  I serve it with wheat rolls and a fruit salad.  This soup will freeze if there is any leftover.  I don't have to worry about that!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Easy Sloppy Joes!

Tonight is soccer practice.  Today I'm prepping for the garden swap that I'm hosting on Saturday.  Oh, did I mention, I also homeschool my son?  There are a thousand things going on today and I don't have time to cook.  But for some reason, my family thinks they need to eat! To quote Eeyore, my favorite Winnie the Pooh character, Oh Bother!!!

I just visited the freezer, my handy-dandy freezer, and it coughed up an easy dinner.  Thank you freezer for saving me! I'm making sloppy joes. They are super easy because I keep cooked seasoned hamburger meat just for these occasions.  I've got to do some big-batch cooking next week because it was the last package.  I've been busy buying lean hamburger when it is on sale so I've got it ready to cook.  Next week.  I promise!

Easy Weeknight Sloppy Joes

1 1/2 lbs ground beef, I have already added garlic and onion when it was cooked
1 can tomato soup, undiluted
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar, this can be omitted if you are watching sugar intake
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard

Heat the ground beef until it is frying in the skillet. If you don't have precooked meat, you will need to cook with about 1/2 cup chopped onion and a clove garlic until brown and then drain.  Stir in the tomato soup and the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring often.  Serve on hamburger buns. This will make approximately 8 servings. 

It can also be dumped into the crock pot and cooked on low for several hours.  Sometimes, I will double this and put part of it in the freezer for those nights when you don't have 15 minutes to cook!  Just dump it in the crock pot and eat when you get home!

I'll serve this tonight with carrots and celery and low fat dip, cut up apples and oranges. 

Quick, easy on the budget and a sure kid pleaser!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

When I Grow Up!

“You know mom, when you grow up, you should open a sandwich shop!” This came out of my almost fourteen year old sons mouth the other day between bites of his very large hoagie I had made him for lunch. Now there are several things wrong with that sentence. Firstly, the part about ‘when I grow up’. I think I’m pretty much fully grown. All five foot three inches, one hundred fifteen pounds of me. It’s not much but I’m pretty sure the only growing I may be doing in the next few years will be out and down as I begin to morph into a perimenopausal middle-aged woman. I have already had several careers too. I have been a cashier, a secretary and a teacher to name a few. I also have completed college. I’m pretty sure I’m as grown-up as I’m going to get!

Secondly, opening a sandwich shop is not something I have ever dreamed about doing. Don’t get me wrong, I like to cook and do a darn good job of it. I could probably do a catering and party business because I am a very good party planner. But a sandwich shop? Nope. Can’t see me doing that!

After I picked myself up of my completely clean floor, I had just mopped, I had to consider the source. To a fourteen year old boy , food is pretty much the only thing he thinks about. Well, maybe food and girls. I don’t need to go into that. TMI for the mom! My son has friends that I think just come over to eat. And to those boys, I am the Sandwich Queen. I make a mean hoagie, wrap or panini. I can take orders; do you want black olives or roasted red peppers on that? What kind of cheese, cheddar, provolone, swiss or munster? Ham, turkey or beef? You see, I keep all the fixings for a great sandwich in the fridge. That’s my secret, I keep a sub shop in my fridge. Doesn’t take much to impress a fourteen year old boy......

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I'm Not Crazy! Maybe......

I want to start by saying, I'm not crazy. There are some that would say otherwise, friends, family, people who I meet on the street. I don't think I'm crazy but if I am would I know it? Do crazy people know they are crazy? I'm not going to be one of those women who when their husband is found in the freezer tries to plead insanity...I think that would qualify as crazy but I don't think the women with the husband in the freezer thinks she is actually crazy. To quote my grandma Shaw, 'Everyone else is crazy and I'm an airplane!" Bless her soul.

Have you ever wondered why we say, 'bless her soul', and then we say something really bad about that person? I think it is the southern way of throwing salt to keep the bad luck away because we are gossiping about that person. But we're not really gossiping because we are telling someone a persons problem and that's not gossiping right? We're getting help for that person by getting a group of women who truly care for them to come to a consensus about what they should or should not do. I don't know one person though who ever was 'blessed' that had a group of women come and tell them what they should do after it was discussed all over town! I wonder if men say 'bless their soul'? I haven't really heard any of them say it.

I’m not saying that men don’t gossip, I really think they gossip more than women. They just don’t call it gossiping, at least women call it what it really is. I know a few men that know everything about everybody in my town. If I want to know the skinny on something, I just have my hubby run into one of them at the barber shop or sit by them in sunday school. He comes home with more knowledge than I really want to know.

I’m not big on gossip mostly because, well to tell the truth, I don’t really care that much about what everybody else is doing. I don’t want to know who’s getting divorced, who’s sleeping with whom, who’s kid got arrested, etc. I don’t want to know anything about anybody that is going to make me think less of them. I used to tell my kids in class not to say anything in my room that would make me think less of them. It really bothered some of them when I said that but I was dead serious. I like to think that most people are good people deep, down inside. They just occasionally do really stupid things and I don’t need to know all about it. I know I’ve done things that I really don’t want anybody to discuss over lunch or at the beauty shop or anywhere for that matter. I just want to forget about it.

I know that in our society, I may be considered crazy. It seems that most of us want to know every, nitty, gritty detail about someone’s dumb moves. “Give it to us, we deserve to know”, we yell. Well, I don’t think it’s anybody’s business for the most part.

I’ve told my husband that his chances of holding a political office was shot the day he married me. I’m too free with my opinion and make too many mistakes out in public. I’m also brutally honest and in today’s political climate, that would make me a definite liability. He says he wouldn’t have me any other way. I think he’s just saying that so he doesn’t wind up in the freezer!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I've been hatching butterflies! I grow many different kinds of butterfly host plants and food plants so I can I can entice them into my garden. When I find butterfly eggs, I collect a few, hatch them out and feed them until they go into chrysilis. Usually, after about two weeks or so, they hatch and I let them go back into my garden. I sometimes also provide teachers and parents a few so they can enjoy the wonder of a butterfly!

Last fall, we had so many late caterpillars that I began to worry they would freeze. I collected as many as I could and put them into my container. They went into chrysilis but didn't hatch before winter set in. I had always read that some would overwinter and not migrate but I had never had any do it.

A few days ago, I began cleaning off the backporch and found my container. I almost dumped the container but got busy and forgot. In the last six days, I have released eight  black swallowtails into my garden! I am so excited I could just bust! I guess this confirms the fact that I am just a hopeless science nerd but I don't care!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Doing Nothing

Very rarely do I find time to do nothing. Usually, I can always find something to do so I'll sit down for just a moment and then jump right back up and do it. It drives my kids crazy because they can always seem to find time to be completely idle.

I have gotten better as I've gotten older at purposely doing nothing. Spring is a good time to do nothing in my backyard. I love my backyard. When we moved her almost eleven years ago, I felt like we had hit the lottery. Four acres of land, land where the kids could run and fly kites. Enough room to have bonfires and volleyball games. We could yell and scream and not disturb anyone. I remember the first time I sat on the back porch and drank my coffee. I told my husband that I felt like I was on vacation. I still feel that way. Even though sometimes it seems like the work will never end, I still feel that same joy at the end of the day.

Today I worked really, really hard and it felt really good. Good physical work. I planted most of my garden. All that is left is the okra, corn, squash, watermelon and cantelope. I'll probably wait another week for those because they need really warm soil. I transplanted plants from inside the house to outdoor pots. I cleaned off the backporch so I can enjoy dining al fresco soon. I was really pooped by the time I finished all that but I knew I still had to cook dinner.

I decided that I needed a twenty minute do-nothing rest. I went to one of my favorite places, my hammock. My hammock hangs between a pecan tree and a big old hackberry tree in the backyard. It overlooks the garden, the kids playset and trampoline and the woods behind my house. In those woods live a little bit of everything. We've seen deer, turkey, foxes, birds, squirrels and rabbits just to name a few. I enjoy laying in the hammock, doing nothing, listening to the animals exploring the woods or my children playing out in nature. Doing nothing for me takes work. I have to purposely put all the things I need to do out of my mind and just focus on enjoying the moment.

After my twenty minute sway in my hammock just listening to nature all around me, I felt refreshed. I felt like I could go on and cook dinner and get all the things that needed to be done, done. Nature had refreshed me. I think we all need green time. When we get too disconnected from nature we lose our focus. Sometimes I just need to get refocused.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Looking at Beauty

I was driving home this morning from taking my daughter to her grandparents where she meets the bus and really began to see the beauty around me. I have always prided myself if being able to stop and see nature around me. Sometimes though, I get so busy that I forget to really see the fragile and fleeting beauty that is all around me on a daily basis.

I love flowers. I always have. I have a very large flower garden and enjoy just going out and communing with God in my flower garden. I pray and sing as I pull weeds and just putter around out there alone. I always know that most of the time, everyone will leave me alone because they don't want me to put them to work. My kids can always find me because they just listen to where the singing is coming from. I usually sing old hymns like the ones I sang as a kid in church and I usually sing quite loudly.

I could never be Amish. I like the idea of saving so much money by not having an electric bill, cell phones and cars but I read somewhere that they do not sing for joy. No music, no instruments, and you can be kicked out if you sing a lot. I wouldn't last five minutes. I'm always singing something. Even when I was a little kid. One of my earliest memories is of me swinging on the swingset early in the morning as the sun was coming up singing some song I had learned the night before at church. When I was young, my dad was a music minister so I hung around during choir practice and listened to the music. I could usually sing every song they ever did and knew it by heart. If I couldn't pull up a song about a topic, I'd make one up. My sister said once that I could make up a song about a lid and a straw. Maybe I missed my calling, I should write jingles!

Part of me singing is because I think I am a joyful, happy person. I usually see the humorous, happy side of any situation. I just always remember that it could be worse and am thankful that it's not. Most of my piddly problems are self-inflicted and if I really take a good look at them, they won't be a problem tomorrow. Someone wise told me once, 'if it won't matter in five years, it's not a real problem.' That kind of makes you stand back and think doesn't it? Each little problem that bogs us down now will not even be remembered in five years time. And it might just have been a blessing in disguise because it prompted us to get off our duffs and change the situation we find ourselves in for the better.

Thinking back to the flowers, one of my greatest joys in spring is seeing a purple yard. I love to drive by and see a yard filled with so many little wild flowers that the yard is purple! It makes me so happy! Yet, if I get out and walk into that yard, I notice that each of those little purple flowers is attached to what most people call a weed. Weeds are just plants that are growing in the wrong spot! Sometimes, what gives us the most problems can actually also give us the most joy......yet there are those who miss out of the joy of a purple yard because we are so focused on each little weed, missing the big beautiful picture entirely.

Take time to really see the beauty around you today.....remember that sometimes your weeds cause others great joy!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rescuing Toad!

I was spring cleaning this morning and decided that even though my allergies are driving me crazy with all the Oak pollen in the air, I'd open some windows and let the spring air come in. The first window I opened looks out over my neighbors pond and I was met with the sweetest sound I've heard in a while. Frogs croaking! That means they have left their mud burrows for the winter and are looking for love! Croaking frogs to me, mean spring!

Since I have a biology degree and spent more years than I care to admit teaching Biology to middle and high school students, frogs have always been something that interests me. While I've spent my fair share of cutting dead ones open to teach internal anatomy, luckily virtual dissections are taking over, frogs actually tell us a lot about our environment. When you have a lot of frogs, that is a signal that your water quality is very good and there are enough insects and worms and such to support a large number of them. Apparently, we have a great, healthy water system and are blessed with enough food for several species of frogs, lizards and salamanders on this little spread of land!

I went out today to take a sample of pool water and when I opened up the skimmer, a toad was barely staying afloat. He looked very much like he had given up and had moved onto the big toadland in the sky. I try to check our skimmer several times a day and rescue whatever has had the unfortunate experience to fall into the pool. I draw the line on snakes, that is left to the hubby! I have rescued not just frogs and toads, but baby mice, lots of spiders and even a salamander!

When I picked toad up out of the water, I could tell he was still alive but very, very cold. Frogs and toads are what you say in elementary school, cold-blooded. They cannot regulate their own body temperature like we can. So when it's cold outside, if they can't get someplace above freezing, they are toast. They, like other amphibians and such, usually burrow deep into the earth during the winter. This unfortunate guy or gal had fallen into a very deep, very cold pond and it slowed him/her down so much, they were close to death!

I held the toad in my hands to warm him up. He croaked a bit at first to show he didn't like being held but as my body heat began to warm him up he began to actually move back further into my cupped hands to benefit from it. I tried to sit him down a few times in my flower bed but he wouldn't budge! He realized that even though at first it didn't seem like a good idea for a giant to pick him up, I was actually saving his life with my warmth. I did finally get him to sit on a sun soaked log by my flower bed and he now is happily living under the hedge by the deck.

As I watched this take place, it struck me that is how I sometimes do God. I think I can go my own way and do it my way and end up in the deep end of a very cold pool. He scoops me up and holds me in His hands, sheltering and warming me back to health. I don't like it sometimes at first because this means that I actually must admit that I can't do it all but He never puts me down, He just keeps holding me close until I regain my strength. Most often than not, once I'm back to normal again, I jump out of His safety and warmth and hop away, never thanking the God who takes care of me!

Today, I'm thanking my God and Savior who watches and keeps me safe from all the trouble I seem to get into!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


A very windy Day!
I told you I would probably ramble about meeting Anne for at least three days! It was very strange have a total stranger sitting in a place of honor at my table. Someone who up to just a year ago, lived a vastly different lifestyle and could not imagine how someone like me lived. She envisioned America as a country with nothing but big, tall buildings everywhere. Was she suprised to land in Claremore, Oklahoma where we have lots of green, open spaces and not-so-tall buildings. She said Claremore was a good size town, not too big, not too little. I told her we were pretty proud of it too! A place big enough to get the things you need but small enough that where ever your kids go, there is always someone you know!

Thinking back to Easter dinner, I wonder how odd it was for Anne also. She grew up in a mud hut. Sleeping and eating on the ground. I had her sitting in a nice brick house, sitting at a table with table linens and flowers on the table, eating off my good dishes. Eating foods that were very foreign to her. We had ham, they don't eat much meat. We had spinach salad, they don't eat greens. Their diet mostly consists of milk in various forms. They are just now beginning to grow crops like maize and rice. We eat way too much sugar. She did eat my tropical cake and said it was good! We are planning to invite her over some sunday afternoon and have her show me how to cook a meal like she would eat at home. She was really excited about this! I am too, it will be fun to make a traditional Maasai meal.

My husband asked her what was the most astounding, fascinating thing she found when she first came to America. I figured it would be the internet or television or something technological. Well, kind was a machine, a vending machine! She laughed when she described putting money into it and it having just what you wanted to eat or drink. If you decided that it didn't have what you wanted, you also pushed a button and your money came back out! That was most fascinating! A machine that held food for you! There are also machines that you put money in to do your laundry! Such luxuries we have in America!

I can truly say that meeting Anne has changed my outlook. I'm so glad that God placed this young woman in my path!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Incredible Easter Experience II

I said yesterday that my heart was saddened when I heard Anne gush on and on about how the people in my country understand that hard work and education are the key to success. You see, she also turned to my daughter and told her that she needed to work hard for what she wanted and never give up. That she lived in the greatest country in the world and could continue that but if the young people do not continue to work hard and build on what the old people built, then her generation would lose it all.

Anne pointed out to my daughter that she would need to earn the things she had. That she was so blessed and she needed to know that. That she was blessed to be born in America and because of that, she had a great responsiblity to the rest of the world.

I try really hard to keep politics out of this blog, but on this Easter Sunday afternoon, I felt like driving Anne to Washington DC and set her up with a microphone on the front lawn of the White House. I'm seeing people wanting things that they do not deserve simply because they want it. They believe they deserve it simply because they were blessed to born in the United States.

We are becoming a nation of gimmes instead a nation of hard-work and determination. We want things that we didn't work for and are too lazy to get off our butts and get it. In America, like Anne said, it's all here. You just have to be willing to sacrifice to get it. No one said it would be easy. Anne understands this, she doesn't own a car, she walks. She sacrificed living with her family to a country where she knows no one in a city where she didn't even know existed until a year and a half ago to go to a university so she can get a nursing degree.

Very few Americans are willing to sacrifice these days. We want everyone else to sacrifice for us. Give it to me, we say. Our constitution says we should get everything our hearts desire. Anne seems to understand the American dream better than most of us. No wonder our immigrants are doing better than so many of our citizens. They understand that although America offers great opportunity, no one ever said that reaching your goals would be easy. It would require hard work and sacrifice.

I really enjoyed having Anne for Easter and plan to invite her many times into our home. And she was right when she told my daughter that if our young generation does not work to achieve greatness, it will be taken away, especially the freedoms that our forefathers fought and died for. The freedoms to succeed and achieve our dreams and goals. It was bittersweet to hear someone who is not American understand the American dream better than most who sit in Congress and freely walk our streets.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Incredible Easter Experience

I have so much to say today, I may take up two or three days to say it! We had the most incredible Easter experience today that I'm not sure where to start! It started, I guess, last Sunday morning at church. I'm in the choir at church and we presented our Palm Sunday worship program. Because we sang throughout the service, we sat in the choir loft the entire service. Most of the time, our worship pastor lets us go down to sit with our families. I like to go down because I get distracted looking at the people out in the audience instead of listening to the pastor. Yes, I am looking at you, while you play with your i-phone, you grown-up! I see you!

Anyway, I tend to get distracted but I was really trying to pay attention to our pastor. He's really good so I didn't do too bad but occasionally, my mind would get to wondering. On one of those wonders, I saw a college student that my son really adores sitting on the front row. He does our multi-media things at church and had been taking photos during the program. I began to wonder where college kids go when they can't go home on short breaks. Do they get a home cooked meal for Easter dinner or is it spaghetti-o's?

Now, hopefully, you've gotten to know me over the last few months enough to know my mama gene runs deep and long. I used to laugh and tell people when my daughter was about two, I really, really wanted another baby but realized that my husband wasn't too keen on another child. He was already pushing thirty-five and felt that he really didn't want to be retired by the time we get them all out of college! Although my mama gene was on high, I knew another baby was out. I wasn't too excited about the whole baby phase either so I did the next best thing. I went back to teaching when she started preschool! Nothing like being the school mama to over a hundred high schoolers! Loved it and still take care of some of them.

After church, I contacted Tonya, who teaches the college and career class and asked her if she knew of anyone who wasn't going home for Easter. Tonya could only think of one young woman, Anne. Anne didn't go home at all, not Thanksgiving, not Christmas, and not Easter. You see, Anne is from Kenya and going home isn't an option. She had been invited to church members homes for Christmas and Thanksgiving but Tonya didn't think she had plans for Easter. Well, I just jumped at the chance to host her! I got her phone number and gave her a call. Explaining that Tonya had given her blessing, I invited her to share our meal. She graciously accepted and we made plans to meet after church on Sunday.

I went to Tonya on Sunday and asked if she would direct me to her after service and she said, 'oh, you'll see her as soon as we get in the loft. She's wearing her traditional Kenyan dress this morning for Easter.' Sure enough, as soon as we were in the loft, I spotted her in a beautiful red dress. She was a beautiful woman. I was so excited, I'm not sure what our pastor preached on, I was just wishing it was over so I could get down there before she got lost in the crowd!

She had explained where she lived to me on the phone because I wanted her to be able to change out of her Sunday best and get casual so my husband and son went to pick her up in the afternoon. It wasn't in the best part of town but only a few blocks from our church. She told us that when she first lived in our town, she rented a room in a cheap hotel so this move was a step up. She was quite proud of her house and said 'it is a nice clean house'.

I had told her to get ready to tell us everything about her homeland because we were interested in learning all about her. She was very eager to share. One thing she kept telling my daughter, mother-in-law and I was that we were very blessed to live in America. Women in her country are not valued for anything except hard-work. The busier a woman is, the more clever the others think she is and she is very popular. If a woman rests, she is lazy and people do not want to be around her. Woman, cook, clean, get water, tend the animals and basically everything else. She has three step-mothers and twenty-three siblings. They do not differentiate between step-brothers and sisters. She is very blessed, she said, because her father values education even in the girls and wanted her to come to America to study. Many families disown their daughters if they want to go to school.

Many families still circumcise the girls. If you do not know what this is, just google it. I'll not go into it here, it is quite gruesome. Anne said many young woman are beginning to not be circumcised and are choosing to go to school. She understands that education is the key to her peoples success. She said that her step-mothers didn't do much beadwork anymore because so many of the girls have gone away to school that they are needed to keep the household up and running.

Her family is Masai. They live in southern Kenya but her father has several houses in different areas so he can move his cattle around. They live in mud houses close together to many other family members. She told us girls, as we were cleaning up about being around when her grandmother died. It was very interesting because even though many of the traditions are different, many were very similar to our own traditions here in America.

Her family didn't have an outhouse until a few years ago. She could never understand why you needed a building to go in, you just wondered into the bush and did your business! She was amazed that every house in America had water and not just water, but two knobs, one that had ice cold water and one that had hot, hot water. Amazing! Especially since, we lived in the interior!

She is studying to be a nurse so she can help her people back home. AIDS is a very real disease and everyone knows many people who died and are dying from it. She doesn't think the disease should be able to kill people who don't understand it. She said that many people think it is only for town people and she tries to explain to them that village people sometimes go to town and get it and pass it on to the rest of them.

As I was taking Anne home in the afternoon, we were caught by a train. Now, in Claremore, this is a very common occurance. About every two hours, a train comes through Claremore on one of the two crossecting rail lines. I asked Anne if she had trains at home. She laughed and said, 'we don't have these things in such an interior place.' She wondered how the people of America worked so hard to get all the things we have. I told her that many immigrant hands helped push the railroad across our country. How those people understood that working hard would get them the dreams that caused them to come here in the first place. Anne told me that she understood that struggle and was proud to be in America where if you worked hard enough, you could achieve great things. As she was gushing over and over about my country, I began to get a saddness in my heart.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter Dinner

I am a traditionalist when it comes to holiday dinners. I grew up knowing exactly what would grace the dinner table on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Thanksgiving and Christmas meant turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes, a relish tray of different kinds of pickled things, green onions in a washed out jelly jar and every kind of pie imaginable. Easter always meant baked ham, baked beans, either potato salad or a green salad of some kind, deviled eggs and some sort of coconut cake or pie, sometimes both if you were real lucky!

You will find at our house now very little has changed. When my husband and I married over twenty years ago, we melded together both of our families traditions and now I have sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving, ham on Christmas, I've added a cherry sauce to die for, and thank heavens Easter for both sides of the family included deviled eggs! My kids believe that only nana and nanny can make deviled eggs just right! Mine are ok but if a grandmother makes them, then they are perfect. When my son was about three, he decided that he didn't like deviled eggs. That Easter, we went to my side of the family for Sunday lunch. As usual, my mom had made a tray full of deviled eggs because all three of us kids love them. My brother was chowing down and noticed that my son didn't have any. That simply would not do! He gave him an egg and my son proudly, anything Uncle Jon did was perfect, put it all in mouth at once and loudly exclaimed, "I now love debiled eggs!" He hasn't changed his mind in the eleven years since.

This years Easter dinner will be at my house with my in-laws this year. It will include a spiral sliced ham with a glaze, baked beans, a strawberry spinach salad, nanny's deviled eggs and of course, a coconut cake! Supper will be leftover ham on the leftover rolls and whatever else happens to be leftovered! Mama only cooks once this day!

Here's my recipe for poppyseed dressing. I always get asked when I take this to potluck. It's super easy and extremely healthy because it has flaxseed oil in it. You'll need to get this at a health food store if your regular grocery doesn't carry it. It will be in the refridgerated section.

Poppyseed dressing
1 Cup flaxseed oil
1/2 cup sugar or splenda
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon grated onion (I crush dried onion flakes)
1 teaspoon salt ( I usually omit, who needs it?)
1 teaspoon dry mustard

Mix all together and store in the refridgerator. It will keep for several weeks, if it stays around that long!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Practical Jokes

I don't like practical jokes. I don't like them at all. I think people who pull them are more than slightly twisted. Spending all the time it takes to think them up and actually set the plan in motion is a waste of good energy in my book.

I think what I really don't like about practical jokes is the look on the other persons face when they've realized they've been had. It is a look of sorrow. They trusted you and you lied to them to get a laugh. I don't trust people who pull practical jokes. It's like tickling someone until they cry.

April fools day has never been a holiday that I've ever celebrated in my house. If you know anything about me, that says a lot about how much I despise practical jokes. I celebrate everything! My parents used to tell us that we were late for school or something silly that day. We never fell for it. I tried that on my kids one year, they didn't fall for it either.

I had a class one time that wanted to pull a prank on me even though I said time and time again not to do that. I walked into my classroom one day as the bell was ringing and my entire room, my desk, my computer, my chair, their chairs were all turned around in the opposite direction. I had only been patrolling the hallways for five minutes! Unluckily for them, it had been a day from hell. I had broken up a fight, a parent called me and cussed me out for not sending a progress report home ( I had, the darling teenager had taken it out of the mailbox the parent found out later), another teacher was talking about me behind my back and a student tattled to me, it went on and on. This was last period and I was in no mood for a joke. I walked into the class and looked around and calmly stated, 'I will give you another five minutes to get my room back into order before I come unhinged right here and now' and walked out into the hall. You could've heard a pin drop in that classroom! I don't know how they did it but silently they got it all back in order!

When I went back into the room, they all apoligized over and over. I explained that it had been the worse day on record and was not in the mood. We all had a good laugh about it and years later they still rib me about that day! They truly thought I was going to walk back in and kill each and everyone of them in a painful way!

Did I tell you, I don't like practical jokes?

Have a Happy April Fool's Day! and that is no joke!