Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Special Exposure Wednesday

One of my favorite memories of the season-- out walking through a big light display.

Christmas evening with Nana and Baby Sister here.

I can't remember a Christmas that I SO did not want to end like this one!

Check out more Special Exposure photos here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Gotta Love an Appreciative Eater

I love an appreciative eater. After all, if you go to the trouble to cook something, you don’t want there to be silence about it. We have fun imitating Bob (Bill Murray’s character) from the “What About Bob?” movie, who groans over and over throughout the meal about his yummy fried chicken. This is a joke that N often pretends to grow tired of, but, in truth, he never does. Sometimes I provide my own commentary of my own meal and he frowns disapprovingly at me.

Baby Sister visited over Christmas, and I don’t think she knows about Bob or our imitations of him. She is a single girl who subsists on Chinese take-out, Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks. She does not mind cooking; she just does not have the time and energy. So, she is one of my favorite appreciative eaters who does not give a solitary courteous compliment, but often goes on throughout the whole meal with lots of exclamations that I love! N, however, watched her suspiciously each time she enjoyed her food, as though she would give away her secret love of the Bob movie. She never did.

“What About Bob?” made its way under our tree this year and we watched it last night. Maybe we have seen it too many times, but the only part that made me laugh was that scene at the table! The foods to keep on the menu for next year for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the ones that made Baby Sister exclaim in delight (at least three times each): marinated flank steak, twice baked potatoes, cranberry crunch, Bobby Flay’s shrimp grits and chocolate cake with praline icing.

What did they appreciate at your house? (We are still appreciating over here.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Back when A was an Angel . . ."

I am loving these gift tags that I turned into ornaments years ago. When I pull them out each Christmas, it is a gift to me all over again! This first one though, was made by my older in Sunday school. When N saw it, he said, "Oh . . . back when A was an angel!" It made me laugh so hard. Back when . . .

Beneath are some angelic photos of little N. First grade has him showing a little gap-toothed smile, second grade reveals a haircut that was a little too short (related to me), and third grade . . . well, that is when he got a cool necklace which made him WAY too cool to smile! Love them all.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

If you can't stand the heat . . .

Now I remember why I stopped all the Christmas baking about 4 years ago. Well, not all. I had to make one batch of each family member’s favorite. We had homemade Heath bar, peanut butter balls (or buckeyes), and decorated cookies. Enough, right? Well, for some reason I felt the compulsion to start it all up again like I used to. I am glad I do not like sugar as much as I did, but it still has a firm pull on me!

I looked up how to make pralines, something that has seldom turned out for me, and one reviewer of Paula Deen’s recipe said these tasted just like her grandmother’s. My result might have tasted like somebody’s grandmother’s, but not like my grandmother’s, which is the gold standard. That lady could churn out shirtboxes by the dozen, full of the most beautiful variety of homemade candy. I can do peanut brittle almost like hers, but the rest . . . well, I need some tips. My attempt at divinity today looked promising. Then it got all dry at the end. What did I do? Beat it too long? Cook the second half of the syrup too long? Oh, too many factors. Besides, I need to go back to the one batch of each person’s favorite. The trouble is, I can’t choose a favorite! Maybe that’s why I am attempting all of the contenders that would make it to my top choice.

Tonight I was doing several things at once in the kitchen and enlisted N’s help in doing a few dishes. He has taken several batches of chocolate mint brownies to school for different ones who have helped him so much. So while I was cutting into another pan of those, he was rinsing a plate on which I had mixed spices together to sprinkle on chicken. He asked if he could taste it, and I warned him he would not like it but he could try if he wanted. (Paprika, garlic, pepper, salt, red pepper, thyme, etc.) He put his finger in and licked it, then said, “Tastes tingly. I like it.” I was surprised. A few seconds later, “Is it hot in here or is it just me?” It is cute when he is waiting for my laugh.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Possible Result of Inclusion?

I would certainly hope that auditing a college class would be an option for anyone with a disability. The fact that classmates stood up for this young lady thrills me!! Go, students! I wonder if many of them had the privilege of being in classes with kids with disabilities while in elementary, middle or high school. Perhaps they just knew it was the right thing to do.

Now all we need is some "people first" language in the title of this article, and we'll be set! (It would put the person first by wording it "Classmates of student with Down syndrome protest withdrawal".) But the actions in this story speak louder than words!

Classmates of Down syndrome student protest withdrawal

Posted: 2:35 PM November 18, 2010

About 20 students demonstrated today at Ashland's Southern Oregon University to protest an administrative decision to withdraw a student with Down syndrome.

Twenty-year-old Eliza Schaaf, a graduate of Ashland High School, was auditing a ceramics class as a way to share the college experience with her friends from high school, her parents said.

She had completed two-thirds of the class when she received a letter Nov. 8 notifying her she would be withdrawn from the class because she was not qualified to meet academic standards and disrupted the class. The letter also said the family would be given a full refund of tuition and fees.

All 19 students in Schaaf's class have signed a petition stating that Schaaf did not disrupt their learning in the class and was a welcome presence.

Mollie Mustoe, one of Schaaf's classmates who spearheaded the petition, said administrators didn't consult students before making the decision.

Student organizers gathered about 40 more signatures today from students who oppose the decision to remove Schaaf from class.

SOU's Student Senate voted unanimously Tuesday on a resolution asking the administration to allow Schaaf to remain on campus and to give Schaaf due process.

"The fact that it was unanimous is overwhelming for us," said Eliza's father, Ron Schaaf. "It's so gratifying to know other people believe in Eliza, other than her parents. We hope this will lead to a good conclusion."

— Paris Achen


If you want to go to the article yourself, click here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

You Are Wonderfully Made

I keep having a message subtly impressed on me. It comes from a verse in Psalms that came up a lot after my son was born. It confused me a little at the time, because I could not reconcile this with the fact that my newborn had an extra chromosome. I had fallen into the trap of questioning whether someone with a disability could be wonderfully made. (I am embarrassed to admit that now.) Yet, we as parents trusted that it could be true and used it as our chosen verse for N’s baby dedication. “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well." Psalm 139:14

I have since come to see how my son is most wonderfully made. The world may see his extra chromosome as a fluke or accident, but this teary eyed parent sees it differently. It is so hard to put into words how I feel for him. I regard him as a hand-made gift, especially designed for the good of our family. His nature is beautiful, sensitive, and kind. He is indeed wonderfully made, and so is each person on this planet.

I have believed this now for several years. As I have gotten older I have even dared to believe it about myself. Lately, I struggle to learn and remember some things new to me at a very part- time job I have. Since I work so infrequently, I often have to ask for help and feel conspicuous and awkward. As I was regretting my lack of experience a few weeks ago, I glanced up and saw a banner for sale in the store. It simply said, “You are wonderfully made”. It was almost like an audible voice. I can’t tell you the surprise I felt and the confidence it gave me. I might mess up several times more that day and need reminding over and again, but the fact remains—I AM wonderfully made. It is true and each time I look at that proclamation, it makes me smile, treasuring this personalized wink from my Creator.

The banner also reminds me of all the worth my son and others with disabilities have, simply because they exist. We base our worth all too often on our accomplishments and the things we are proud of. News flash: You are wonderfully made. Because you were made.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cooking up some minestrone

minestrone soup Pictures, Images and Photos

What’s in my Crockpot today:

Minestrone Soup!

I am searching for the perfect minestrone but cannot find it. As this one cooks, I am somewhat satisfied, but am still scouting for the elusive, ultra tomato-y recipe. If you have a good minestrone recipe, please do share. I cannot remember where I had what I have in mind because it has been so long and I have tried oodles since. (At least that is my story; it is not that I am o-l-d.)

For this recipe, I backed off of the thyme and sage a little, added another can of broth and some spaghetti sauce. I know, probably not what the originator had in mind! Here’s today’s version (plus what I added):


  • 3 cups reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can white (cannellini or navy) beans, drained
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 cups cooked ditalini pasta
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen spinach, defrosted
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • Basil sprigs, garnish, optional


In a slow cooker, combine broth, tomatoes, beans, carrots, celery, onion, thyme, sage, bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.

Thirty minutes before the soup is done cooking, add ditalini, zucchini and spinach. Cover and cook 30 more minutes. Remove bay leaves and season, to taste, with salt and black pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle parmesan cheese over top. Garnish with basil, if desired.

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's Beginning to Look (Less?) Like Christmas

I have decided that I have changed with regard to my Christmas decorating approach. We have accumulated a lot of decorations over the years, and not all of it do I love anymore. Some of it gets drug out and put up out of nostalgia. Not this year. I actually took a peek in a box that Ted brought down from the attic and removed ONE thing out of it. When I told him I was through, he said, “That’s ALL?”. If I don’t love it, I am not putting it up out of obligation. What will I ultimately do with all the tired decorations? I don’t know. I’m not committing. One year I labeled a box “Ugly Christmas Stuff I don’t use anymore.” Seems that box is going to have company.

It is liberating to scale back. And not nearly as much work! I am focusing on the small things. Literally. Like red hots. I went to a few places to find the small candies for some candle holders. I thought the color would show up nicely. I wound up in Wal-Mart today and found some “Red Gems” for $3. I have been obsessing about this and now I am pleased with the results.

I also have some ornaments that were my grandmother’s and they are special to me. I usually put them in a bowl, but this year they make up a centerpiece that really makes me happy. Yes, less is more, I do believe.

Can you see the "Red Gems"in the globes?

Ornaments that belonged to Grandmother