Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Unique Picture Prop

These are the giant rocking-chair family pictures that I mentioned last fall from when we went to Bloomsbury Farm. I know you've been eagerly awaiting them, so today is your lucky day. It's hard enough to get a good family picture, so try getting one when your legs are sticking straight out in front of you. Talk about awkward family pictures!

Sam wasn't happy. This chair is a bit bigger than his rocking chair at home.

Witness the pacifying effect of a pacifier, and of a mom!

Peter's posture wasn't helping matters. 

Pretty awkward awesome, right?

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Week of Good News!

My blog friend Janae recently started doing this fun thing on Fridays where you post the good news about your week or your life and link it up to her blog, so I'm doing that today. It helped me to focus on the positive this week, which was good because there were a few days where it was hard to feel very positive because they were just those kinds of days!

Starting with last Saturday, these are some of the good things that happened in my week.

Saturday: I went to my fun ice-skating class, got a 90-minute Swedish massage, went out to lunch at a great Mexican restaurant, went out to dinner with my family at Red Lobster, and watched the final Harry Potter movie with my husband after the kids went to bed.

Sunday: I took a nice cozy nap in the afternoon (I love having church from 9:00-12:00 this year! It frees the rest of the day up so nicely!), we booked our Spring Break trip to a really fun-looking indoor water park resort in Wisconsin Dells, and I saw this on Facebook and it's still making me laugh:

Monday: There wasn't much good news on Monday, but the one bright spot was that I hired a house-cleaning company to come and do a whole-house deep-cleaning every month! As the owner of the company said to me, "You can delegate dirt." I am finally ready to do some delegating in this area, and I'm happy about it!

Tuesday: Another blah day, except that my 6-year-old was good for his doctor's appointment (an unusual but very welcome occurence), my husband wrote me a sweet note in my planner, and I took another good afternoon nap (this time out of necessity because I slept poorly the night before thanks to my 2-year-old Sam waking up three times!).

Wednesday: This day had more good news in it than the last two put together! A friend gave me a whole entire chocolate mousse cake from my favorite food store knowing that it's my favorite thing there. I fit in free book-reading time for myself during the day, which is something I rarely do. I watched the latest episode of Downton Abbey. I love that show! I read an article that said that my home state (Massachusetts), my birth state and the state I lived in for four years in elementary school (Utah), a state that I lived in for four years as a child and four years as an adult (New Jersey), and the state we lived in for four years before moving here (Connecticut) were recently ranked in the top five states to raise a family. AND my current state (Iowa) is ranked in the top ten. It's good to live in good places!

Thursday: I let Sam play outside in the snow for awhile, which made me feel like a good mom since outdoor play in the winter isn't one of my strong suits. My husband brought me home a pretty bouquet of pale pink roses, which are my favorite flower. I went to my book club meeting in the evening, which was fun! I never belonged to a book club until moving here and I really enjoy it. 

Friday: After a busy week, today I'm staying home all day, which I like since I am by nature a homebody. And it might snow this afternoon, at least a little bit. And I'm going to watch one of my favorite guilty pleasures on TV tonight, Four Weddings. And Sam has slept through the night for the last three nights. Yeah!!

So even though it was an ordinary week, it was full of good news when I took the time to find and recognize that good. It was fun to do and I'm going to try to do it more often as a matter of habit. I know it sounds cliche, but it really is so beneficial to look for the good in each day and to try to focus on the positive that is in our lives. There's so much to be thankful for, from the smallest little things to the big things.

And coincidentally I read a really good article yesterday by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf that said inspiring things on this very topic, such as "Don't close your eyes and hearts to the simple and elegant beauties of each day's ordinary moments that make up a rich, well-lived life" and "the happiest people I know...discover and treasure the beauty and sweetness of everyday moments" and don't forget about "the little things that make your lives joyful and sweet." I couldn't agree more!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My 2012 New Year's Resolutions

(That's not 2,012 resolutions...but I guess that's obvious!)

In terms of New Year's Resolutions, 2011 was a flop for me. I made a list at the beginning of the year of  eight things that I wanted to work on and accomplish in 2011. I was looking at the list the other day and saw that I didn't really succeed with any of them. Failure! So I'm keeping my resolutions a lot more simple for 2012. There are three things that I'm going to work on improving (along with the overarching goal of getting and actually staying organized). So without further ado, the three things I'm going to be working on in 2012 are:

1) Exercise.

2) Cooking.

3) Mothering.

Nice and simple! If at the end of this year I can say that I've made exercise a regular part of my life, that I've improved my cooking and food preparation skills, and that I'm a better mother to my children, then 2012 will have been a success for me. And if I'm able to keep my life organized on top of those things, that will be the cherry on top. Here's to a more successful year than last year was! (That shouldn't be too hard!)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Book Review: The China Study

What an influential, important book! This book has changed my life in some important ways and I'm glad my father encouraged me to read it (even though I used to roll my eyes when he'd talk about it). It gives convincing evidence of why a whole-foods, plant-based diet is so important in the prevention of disease and in living a long, healthy life. After years of being a skeptic, it convinced me that meat and dairy are not as good as we are led to believe. His experiences with government committees, pharmaceutical companies, the meat and dairy industries, higher education, and the medical field are fascinating and sobering to read about. This book has made me feel empowered and has greatly lessened my fear of getting diseases like cancer. My family and I will be eating much healthier from now on as we progressively cut out meat (we're down to consuming it about three times a week) and lessening our dairy intake. So long, standard American diet.

If you want to learn more about The China Study, go to thechinastudy.com and/or read this short and interesting New York Times interview with the author that was published a year ago.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Summer in Winter

It's a cold, snowy day in Iowa today, so I wanted to bring some of summer back!

I took these pictures last summer in Massachusetts at my mother's house. I love the flowers in her yard!


Can you see the bumblebee?



My day just got a little warmer, and I hope yours did too!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

This Woman Really Annoys Me

 Last week I wrote about a woman who scares me; this week I'm writing about a woman who angers me. Today in the news I read that well-known chef Paula Deen has Type-2 diabetes. She has known this for three years, yet in that time she has continued to push her unhealthy, high-fat recipes on the public, things like deep-fried cheesecake, quiche that requires a pound of bacon, and the following doozy of a creation, a hamburger with glazed doughnut buns and topped with bacon and egg:

No wonder this woman is overweight and diabetic. You can't eat garbage food like this on a regular basis and be healthy. Maybe it's because I've been reading a book about nutrition and disease that stresses the importance of a whole foods, plant-based diet with many studies to back it up, but I've been finding myself frustrated by the irresponsible eating habits of so many Americans and the industries that support them (meat, dairy, drug companies, even certain aspects of the medical establishment). We could be so much healthier than we are and the rates of certain diseases could plummet if we'd only feed our bodies better foods consistently as a way of life.

Shame on Paula Deen for promoting these kinds of recipes to the public when she knew she had diabetes that was surely caused in part by this food that she eats. She has done her viewers a great disservice. Southern-style food is probably the most unhealthy type of food in the country; the high obesity rate there is proof of that. And now she is being paid by a foreign drug company to be a spokesperson for their diabetes drug. So she cooks, consumes, and promotes foods that very likely were a contributing factor to her diabetes, doesn't tell the public about her condition for three years, and then earns money for pushing a drug to help treat a disease that she likely caused with the food that made her rich, famous, overweight, and diabetic in the first place. I am disgusted by this woman's irresponsibility, her hypocrisy, her willful ignorance, her apparent greed, and her crappy idea of good food.

P.S. I first read about this today on msnbc.com, and I also got much of my information from this wsj.com article.

P.P.S. To my family reading this: I know. I sound like Dad. Pretty scary, huh? :-)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Christmas Leftovers

These are the rest of the Christmas-related pictures that I want to put on my blog that don't qualify for their own individual posts. They're still special though! (I don't want to hurt their feelings. What? Pictures have feelings too!)

We went to a wonderful activity at the beginning of December in Cedar Rapids at the Stake Center, where there were hundreds of unique nativity sets to look at, as well as music groups from the community performing, and a cute children's room. We plan on going to this every year. Here's John dressed up as Joseph, holding/manhandling the baby Jesus. Very cute!

I found this cute little fluffy owl at Pier 1 and put him in the Christmas tree. As you may know, I love owls!

I took a bunch of pictures of the Christmas tree ornaments without the flash on (trying to be more artsy), and almost all of them came out too blurry, but these are two that made the cut and didn't get deleted.

I took the kids to a gingerbread cookie-decorating activity at the library a few days before Christmas. It was the best gingerbread-cookie activity I've ever been too. The cookies weren't hard! They were soft, fresh, and very good, and there was plenty of frosting and tons of toppings to choose from for decorations. We will definitely go to this again next year! (John had already started eating the toppings, as you can tell by the blank holes on the cookie!)

Here's our "Elf on the Shelf." His name is Brian and this was our second Christmas with him. John had fun looking for him in in his new hiding spot each morning (except for a few times when we forgot to put him in a new place the night before...oops!). He works pretty well as a threatening tool for good behavior. ("Brian's watching and he's going to tell Santa if you don't stop that right now!")

I love this view from upstairs in our house during the holidays. I took this picture on Christmas Eve night. I don't know what that white dusty light is on the left. Angel dust maybe?!

My boys at play on Christmas Day.

And that bring to an end my Christmas posts, at least for the next ten or eleven months. My next blog post will be about New Year's Resolutions, and then I'll be all caught up. Actually, not really, since there are a lot of things I want to write about from the past few months, but for all intents and purposes, I'll be caught up. Toodles for now!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Random Thoughts From the Week

I'm sorry to start this out on kind of a violent note (no, Callista Gingrich did not come after me with a steak knife...yet), but here it is (it's Friday the 13th, after all)...

At my 6-year-old son's school the kids can write letters to each other. He brought home some letters this week that some of his friends had written to him. I'm disturbed by the content of one of the letters written by his best friend, and I'm not sure if I should e-mail his teacher about it. What do you think?

This is what it says in its entirety:
"You should chop ____ (girl in their class) into little bits and eat her with a side of _____ (boy in their class). Love _____ (his friend's name. And the "love" is a cute little heart, which is quite the juxtaposition given the content of the letter.)

I was appalled! Can you believe a 1st-grader would write and envision something so violent? I know that they play with the two kids who are mentioned in the note at recess but that this friend doesn't like the boy kid. My son doesn't talk or act this way, but I'm worried that he will if this is the way his closest friend at school behaves. I don't want to get the kid in trouble, and I don't want to overreact, but he definitely shouldn't be writing and saying things like that. Should I e-mail his teacher about it? The letter was sealed so I'm sure the teachers didn't see it. What do you think? I am completely new to this aspect of parenting. Help!

On the other end of the spectrum, how cute are these sheep cupcakes?

American Idol starts next week. I've watched it faithfully for eight years, but I'm starting to get a little tired of it, probably because I'm now older than the contestants, and...I've been watching it for eight years. I don't really want to give up two nights of my week to watch it anymore. I think it's a good show, but this may be the year that it finally gets axed from my life. It's all-or-nothing with me--either I watch a show completely or I don't watch it at all. 

On the other hand, I'm excited about the second season of Masterpiece Theater's Downton Abbey on PBS. I DVR it because I don't watch TV on Sundays. I love it!

I've been wanting to take an ice-skating class for years, and I finally enrolled and started a class last week!  Every Saturday morning for the next seven weeks you will be able to find me skating (and falling) on the ice. I'm a longtime fan of figure-skating and if I could go back in time I would have taken lessons growing up. I can skate pretty smoothly but I don't really know how to stop or how to skate backwards, and I want to learn a few "fancy" moves, so that's why I'm taking the class. One of the other students in the class is a neurosurgeon, which is comforting in case I have a nasty spill and crack my head on the ice. Ice-skating ain't easy business, but it sure is fun!

Speaking of falling, I saw this on Facebook this week and I thought it was funny!

After winning New Hampshire easily on Tuesday, Mitt Romney is almost certainly going to be the nominee if he wins South Carolina next week, which would be awesome. I've been envisioning a Romney-Santorum candidacy lately and I like it. I'm looking forward to the next debate (Monday night) when Romney can defend his successful, ethical history in capitalism against his apparently socialist opponents, Gingrich and Perry.

This has been a weird winter in Iowa. There has been almost no snow and the temperatures have been mild. That all came to an end yesterday when it finally snowed and it was 13 degrees outside. I've liked the mild winter but it's nice to have snow too! (As long as I don't have to drive in it. I hibernate when it snows!)

Well, that was my week. This weekend I'm looking forward to ice-skating and hopefully finishing a book about nutrition that has been taking me over a year to read. I hope you have a good weekend!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

December Sunset


The pink sky is reflected in the glass of the living room window with the lights of the Christmas tree shining behind it. 
I love December sunsets!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

This Woman Scares Me

It's really not my style to poke fun at anyone but myself on my blog, but in the case of a certain politician's wife, I really and truly cannot help myself. I've been finding myself a little fascinated by Callista Gingrich, wife of Newt Gingrich, lately. At first it was because of her hair. I can't get over her hair. Does it ever move? How does she get that perfect wave on the side? How does it stay in place? Why does she dye it so unnaturally blond? In short, what's up with her hair?!

I couldn't decide if I liked it or hated it and finally went with the latter. It's just too fake-looking. (I think it's still overall probably better than my hair though...boo.) Then I realized that that's not all that's fake-looking. When I was searching on Google for pictures of Callista's hair, I noticed that she looks quite a bit different now than from how she used to look.

This was them back in the 90s. She looks like  Martha Stewart! 

Doesn't her face look different now? I know it's a decade later, but my investigative instincts (and the eyes on my face) tell me that there is something else going on here. You hear about Botox and plastic surgery and all these anti-aging procedures and things, and I feel like I'm seeing that whenever I see her.

The following picture SERIOUSLY startled me when I saw it. I had to minimize it on my screen because it was giving me scary visions of her coming after me with a big shiny knife with this expression on her face.

What the heck?! Too much Botox, or too much of an eye lift, or...something.

She is an attractive woman, but the facial procedures and the fake hair make her less so. Artificial appearances make me wonder about how honest and true the person is on the inside. I think presidential candidate's wives should let their natural beauty shine through. It's a good reflection on the candidate and makes him seem more real, honest, and true. A fake-looking wife equals a possibly fake candidate both personally and professionally. That of course is debatable, but it's my hypothesis and it may very well be true in some cases...like this one. (I don't trust Newt Gingrich. Or Callista. I wasn't going to bring this up, but...as most people already know, she was his mistress first, and then he finally left his wife and married her. The adultery and the hypocrisy are big things that really bother me about them.)

To be fair, these pictures of her are better (even if her hair is still way too blond):

This woman, on the other hand, does not scare me at all, and this is what I mean by being true to yourself and your natural beauty.

Ann Romney's hair color is much more natural looking (even if she does get it colored, which she probably does, but it's a nice, appropriate shade. Platinum blonde on women over a certain age just doesn't look right.). And her face looks normal and attractive and un-played-around-with.

One last thing. When I was doing "research" on Callista I came across some interesting articles about and pictures of the candidate's wives. This is Jon Huntsman's wife Mary Kaye and I love, love, love her dress and her whole outfit. This woman has some serious style, I'll say that for her (and him).

So there you have it. Me with my Ivy League degree in Political Science hard at work, evaluating candidates on the basis of their wives' appearances. But seriously, I do think the wives matter. And Callista Gingrich does scare me a little, and that picture of her is going to pop up in a nightmare at some point with her chasing after me with a steak knife. Maybe that's what I get!

P.S. Today are the New Hampshire primaries and I'm excited about it! Go Mitt!!