Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Extreme Hair Trauma Edition

Earlier this week, a horribly horrific and absolutely atrocious thing happened to me. To my very own person. To my very own hair on my very own person.

"Oh, for crying out loud!" you may say. "How bad could it possibly be?"

Um. This bad.

Do you see my eyes boring straight into you and repeating, "THIS BAD?"

Can you see me looking around sadly for help? For assistance? For a miracle? Anything?


I am very happy to report to you that even in the midst of my Extreme Hair Trauma, I didn't have a melt down or even a break down. I just said to myself, "Well, that's pretty upsetting but as far as I know the sun is going to rise tomorrow and my family will still love me. Even though I have the worst array of bangs the world has ever seen.

Sigh. Again.

The young lady who cut my hair has given me several excellent cuts in the past. I started going to her because she worked at a reputable salon and had a half price coupon in the paper. And you know how I am about a bargain.

I really liked her. And I still do. I know that all of us make mistakes no matter what our jobs are. It's just that, well, I'm a wee bit traumatized about having to wear the mistake for the next few weeks.

Actually, what she was trying to accomplish (per my request) were bangs like these, modeled for you by my lovely sister Debbie, who is seen here with a certain wild and wacky companion who shall remain nameless. (Hi, Nathan!)

I love Debbie's spikey bangs look so much that I printed off the picture and I showed it to my stylist.

And I got this.

I tried to remind myself that I am a mature, grown up person. I do not get upset over these kinds of petty occurrences. I try to look at the big picture of life. I try to appreciate how small this incident is in comparison to the large things going in peoples' lives.

But then I look at this. Again.

And then I feel compelled to not be a grown up anymore. I feel compelled to run to my room and cry. And throw something. And then follow that up with eating four pounds of chocolate.

With nuts.

And toffee. (I love me some toffee.)

Because at a moment like this, only chocolate can dig way, way down and address the traumatizing Hair Hurt that has seeped into my very soul.

And just so you know? I've never been overly particular about wearing fancy schmancy clothes or buying the latest styles; however, there is one appearance-related issue that is very dear to my heart. And that is-- my bangs. This is what they're supposed to look like.

Oops sorry. Wrong picture.

This is what they're supposed to look like.

The sad fact of the matter is that I possess a very high forehead and because of that, I have worn long bangs my whole life. In fact, until this week, it was not known for sure whether I even had a forehead, because it had never before been seen.

Folks. I DO have a forehead. And after this haircut, there will be absolutely no more doubt about that it because unfortunately, people will have to gaze upon it for many weeks to come.

And I so badly wanted to look wonderfully put together when we go to Manteo in two weeks. Oh well. I guess they can witness me at my worst now and then I'll just get better looking as time goes by.

Or not.

I'm really sorry to be laying this Hair Burden on you and I do sincerely hope that looking at pictures of my hair and my really high, alarming, never-before-seen forehead doesn't cause you to have nightmares.

But if I can't turn to you, my blogging buds, who can I turn to?

Sarah and Steve have already gone through their laundry list of compassionate, commiserative remarks but I am still really needing a few more rounds of comfort in order to assuage the massive amount of Hair Grief that I'm currently experiencing.

Anyway, thanks for listening.

I am now leaving the room.

To eat chocolate. And cry.


Alrighty this is now the next morning!

And yes, I'm relieved to report to you that the sun did indeed rise, despite the Extreme Hair Trauma of yesterday.

With great trepidation I washed and styled my hair after I got up, wondering if I could somehow "mush" my remaining hair strands around so that they would cover up the areas that are lacking. (Sort of like a "comb over," I suppose.)

Here is the result of my labors.

Not QUITE as bad as it looked last night.

Although my forehead is still very much in view, I am relieved to know that at least it's not so awfully bad that I can't go out in public. And I am relieved that I won't have to ask Steve to cancel our entire trip to Florida and tell the two churches we're scheduled at that we can no longer come because his wife had a "personal emergency." (smile)

The Extreme Hair Trauma Chapter is now coming to a close and I do believe that I will survive. I just hope my previously sheltered and non-publicized forehead is up to the challenge of being on display for the next few weeks. We'll see!

Now. Since I've already thoroughly embarrassed myself by showing you pictures of my adult hair when it is less than fabulous, I'll entrust you with some other "interesting" pictures of myself from past years. (You may laugh with me, but not at me.)

Don't you love the little curl over my right ear?

I was probably around 12 or 13 here; as you can tell, I didn't have the first clue about make up or hair styling.

My brother, Phil's, wedding. And in case you're wondering, I'm the one wearing the large green hat which was what all of us cool and groovy bridesmaids wore back in the 70's. (I know, I know. You're jealous.)

And here's an interesting bit of family trivia for you:

My mom is the only woman I know who wore the same dress to all SIX of her childrens' weddings! She never changed in size and the style was classic enough to just keep on wearing. I just think that is so cool.

Interesting hair from early in our marriage years . . .

. . . and early singing years. (That's my sisters with Steve and me.)

And finally, in an effort to exorcise all the terrible hair sights you have been exposed to today on this blog, I will close with a couple pictures of my mom.

Beautiful hair, beautiful face, beautiful heart.

When I grow up, I want to be like her.


Comment/Question Corner

Krista, the burners were just under $100 for four of them. We got ours at Lowes.

Mel, thanks so much for the packing tip! We will definitely remember that and use it. Packing tips of ALL kinds are welcome.

Mom to Ella, yes Manteo is definitely a hurricane zone, just like any town near the ocean. Thankfully, in recent years, a second bridge off the island has been built so I feel better knowing we can leave if necessary. We talked to one old-timer who's only left once in twenty years, so we'll see!


In a few minutes, we'll be packing up the van and heading out for a ten hour trip to Florida. Tomorrow is going to be a challenging day trying to recover from today's travel and also singing and preaching in a church in Orlando at 10 am, then traveling 2 1/2 hours to sing and preach at another church at 6:30 pm. It's been many years since I have had to do two services in one day with a lot of travel in between. With my recent vocal problems, it will be even more of a challenge. Thanks for your prayers; I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, we'll have lunch with Nathan on campus and do our best to find how many ways we can find to embarrass him. :-) Monday night, we are headed to his girlfriends' house (her parents are some of our dearest friends) for Nate's 20th birthday cookout. Tuesday, it's ten hours back home again.

I'll try to be in touch along the way to let you know how my forehead is faring . . . (smile)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Life and Omelets

In our ongoing efforts to make our house more saleable, Steve installed an over-the-stove microwave this week. Although we knew that one little ol' microwave would not make or break a sale, it would mean that we could remove the Huge, Gawky, Gigantic Black Box of a Microwave that we've had on the counter. And doing that would free up a lot of counter space.

Since bathrooms and kitchens sell houses, and since our master bath (with only a single instead of a double sink) is going to hurt the sale of the house, we figured we'd concentrate a little more on the kitchen. (Since installing a microwave is a bit easier than creating double sinks.)

Here is the old kitchen look. Please note, if you will, the aforementioned Huge, Gawky, Gigantic Black Box of a Microwave and accompanying junk, er, necessary items taking up half of one counter.

Now look at the difference! Pretty, cool huh?

And here is where I must insert a word about my multi talented husband. He took a look at the light/exhaust fan unit that was above the stove which had to be ripped out, and he pondered the issues of getting electricity in the cupboard above the stove in order to plug the new microwave in, and he thought about the challenges of getting a heavy microwave lifted up and mounted on the wall above the stove (all things that would have made me run away in horror) and he said, "That shouldn't be too bad of a job."

He said the same thing when he was contemplating our shower in the master bath a year ago and was preparing to install a glass shower door to replace the shower curtain. "That shouldn't be too bad of a job."

Yeah, it's not too bad of a job if you're massively talented in doing home improvements like he is.

But I digress. Back to the story in pictures we go.

Here is the Brilliant Home Repair Man unpacking the exciting new microwave.

And here is the Brilliant Home Repair Man pondering the installation directions.

And here is where I asked the Brilliant Home Repair Man to change his pose so that he would more closely resemble The Thinker. He looked at me and said, "You don't need me to take off my clothes, do you?" (Since of course, The Thinker Guy is a bit nekkid.) I said, "No, I think it would be okay for you to leave your clothes on."

You all can thank me later.

While the Brilliant Home Repair Man did his Brilliant Home Repairs, his Brilliant Wife and Daughter worked on their own Personal Home Projects.

I got going on some further sorting duties which I am attempting to get finished before we start packing for real.

Sarah took everything out of the TV cabinet and started sorting through videos and DVDs and deciding which ones to give away and which ones to pack.

After The Brilliant Home Repair Man had finished his masterful job of installing the microwave, he got to work on installing a new light fixture over the kitchen sink. In this photo, you have to be aware of the fact that he is standing with his feet straddling the kitchen sink while cutting a hole in the very hard oak thingie above him. (He would never say the word "thingie" since he is a Brilliant Home Repair Man. I, on the other hand, call just everything a "thingie.")

We also thought it would be good to change out the burners in the stove since they were about twenty years old and all crookedy. This "feature" caused the making of certain things like omelets to be a study in patience and creativity as we had to learn how to pick up the pan at exactly the right time and swirl the eggs in the opposite direction of the downhill flow.

Did that make any sense? If you've ever cooked on a crookedy burner than I know you understand. You are my Crookedy Burner Pals!

Here are the old burners in all of their crookedyness.

And the new burners. Ta-da!

Steve cooked an omelet the next morning and he said that it was quite disconcerting for him to put the eggs in the pan and just watch them sit there calmly and obediently, in a state of complete untiltedness. He hardly knew what to do with himself since he was so used to assisting his omelets through the cooking process by scientifically thought out and empirically tested tilting methods.

It's the simple things that make life (and omelets) so good.

Before I answer a couple questions asked in the comments section, I want to let you know that my next post will be about Extreme Hair Trauma. Don't miss it! (smile)

And now, from the comments section:

Q. Where does Snowy go when you travel out of town?

A. In the past, we've taken Snowy with us, but it gets to be a bit complicated--for him, and for us. So we've found a kennel nearby that he seems pretty happy at; whenever we pick him up, he always seems calm and contented. We'll take him in tonight (since we'll leave for Florida before it opens tomorrow) and he'll stay till Wednesday morning. This will the longest he's been apart from us but I think he'll be fine. He no doubt enjoys the social, yappy interaction with all the other dogs.

. How does Sarah feel about the Manteo area?

A. She really loves it. She seems to find the thought of living on an island exciting and of course, she is impressed with the loveliness of the surroundings. Sarah is the kind of gal that finds the good in just about everything and she's finding plenty of good in Manteo!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Coupla More Things

A few of you asked how our house hunting went in Manteo.

On Tuesday we saw four houses which none of us (including our realtor) liked even one teensy weensy bit. One of the houses would have needed tens of thousands dollars invested, just to make it habitable and it was alread at the top of our price range. The other three had floor plans that just weren't workable.

That was a bit discouraging for us because those were about all the ones that were available in our price range. On a small island like Roanoke--only about 9 miles from end to end--there aren't thousands of choices available like there would be in a larger city.

However, before we left town on Wednesday morning our realtor happened across a new listing that he took us to see and I am excited to report that it is definitely a contender! Square footage is almost equal to what we have now (although it's divided up quite a bit differently) and it has a huge back deck so I can take my church gatherings outside if I need to. (Since the living room/dining area is smaller than we have now.)

It has some fix its and repairs that need to be done, but Steve is very gifted at that sort of stuff. We both really love taking a house with lots of potential (even though it may not be lovely to start with) and making it fit our family.

So that's the scoop! Obviously, we won't be making any offers or putting any money down for at least two weeks until after the official vote is in but at least we know there's something out there. And of course, we have the "small detail" of needing to sell this house, too. As I've said before, I'm glad God's in charge of all of that and not me!

Someone asked where in Florida we would be this weekend. Sunday morning we are in Orlando and Sunday night will be two hours away from there. (I'll have to ask Steve what that town is called.) If you need more info on the services, please email me at

Thanks for the cheery comments left today; you all brought the sun out in my heart!

Daddy/Daugher Rockers and The Secret to the Best Grilled Steak

Um. Hello?

Is it safe for me to to stick my head back out? (smile)

Thanks for the very spirited welcome I received when I returned from our house hunting trip last night. It's always interesting to read the wide variety of opinions and thoughts represented by my diverse and wonderful family of readers.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time on yesterday's comments since I have plenty of cool stuff to write about today but I did want to briefly touch on a couple things.

First, the fact was mentioned that we don't even have the job in Manteo yet.

Yes, that is true that we haven't been officially voted on. However, since the chairman of the church board is the one who actually recommended our realtor to us and who also invited us to stay overnight at his house during our house hunting visit, we get the impression that that he feels like it's a good idea to start that process. And so we did!

Also, someone else wondered why Steve and I haven't been working the past nine months and also wondered if working "regular jobs" wasn't appropriate for a pastor and his wife. That's a great question and I'm glad you brought it up.

I actually had to smile a bit when I first saw that particular question because I mentally went back over the list of some of the jobs Steve and I have worked in past years. They have included (between the two of us) cleaning hotel rooms, cleaning houses, selling shoes, working as a mechanic, being a switchboard operator, and working as a forklift operator. Since several of those jobs were held while we were in the ministry and needing to supplement our income, I guess you could say that we don't find many jobs to be inappropriate for ministers. Of course, we really have to draw the line at drug dealing and bank robbing. (smile)

Shortly after Steve resigned last November, we both signed up at a couple temp agencies in the area; unfortunately, at that particular time, the agencies were getting slammed with twice as many applicants as usual and half as many jobs available.

Steve also put in an application at Lowe's Home Supply store and both of us put in a couple applications at other places. He spent quite a bit of time going to meetings and gathering information about being a substitute school teacher but that field (in this county, at least) is woefully overcrowded. A bad economy coupled with the fact that we were never sure how long we'd be able to work before our move didn't help us out any in the job searching process.

However, since my voice has started recuperating a bit more in the past few months, we have been able to travel a bit more to various churches to sing and preach. That has brought some income in for us, which we've been very grateful for. In the meantime, we continue to live mostly on an equity loan and we also continue to embrace all the joyful challenges of living frugally. (My family calls me the "Queen of Leftovers.")


Alrighty then! Now let's go back to our regularly scheduled programming which will first of all include a couple of "funnies" from our trip:

First funny:

As we were looking through one particular house Tuesday, I happened to glance over at the phone on the wall. Taped up next to the phone was a hand printed index card with these words:

"No, I'm sorry I can't donate this year. My wife won't let me."

We all got a good giggle out of that, including the realtor.

Second funny:

When we were driving to the chairman of the board's house on Tuesday evening, Steve decided that since he had already met his wife briefly before, he would be a helpful husband and fill me in on the few thing that he knew about her. And one of those details just happened to be that, "She used to be a man."

Steve said that sentence so casually and matter-of-factly that I really didn't quite know what to say. I opened my mouth a couple of times to reply but no response I could think of seemed quite appropriate.

After a few seconds had passed Steve continued his explanation, "You know, from the Mann Family that Mann's Harbor was named after?"

Ohhhhh! Mann was her maiden name. The light dawned!

After we looked at a few houses on Tuesday, we took an hour or so just to wander around the waterfront area.

Then there was the daddy/daughter walk down the pier

To the rocking chair area . . .

The daddy/daughter rocking chair area

After that, we decided we could use a little snack so we drove a mile or two to the Front Porch Cafe. As soon as I walked in and saw the interior, I fell in love. Cool, creative, artsy, whimsical, plus it smelled great and played Jack Johnson music. What's not to love?

Well, besides the fact that I hate coffee and they mainly serve coffee. But still, it was a wonderful place!

From there, it was on to the home of our hosts to meet the lady who "used to be a Mann."

This is a picture of Steve's and my sleeping area. Lovely and peaceful.

We had two arrangements of fresh flowers from our host's garden.

One in the bathroom . . .

Another in the bedroom.

And outside our bedroom door, we had this lovely view.

For dinner, they served us grilled steaks and I must say that they were very close to being the best steaks we have ever had.

And because you all are such wonderful and lovely blog folks, I got permission to share the secret recipe with you. It is "beyond words wonderful."

Part of the secret seems to be to always let steaks come to room temperature before grilling so that you don't "shock the meat." Sprinkle the steaks with meat tenderizer and then let them sit out on the counter for a couple of hours in a bath of Worcestershire sauce. (Of course, you could also add whatever spices you like.) Turn them every once in awhile and sprinkle with more tenderizer. And grill.

Absolutely amazing steak!

We got home last yesterday afternoon, pretty well exhausted. Steve had just a short while to catch a cat nap before eating a bite of dinner and heading right back out the door to speak at an area church. (He's doing their Wednesday night teaching for the month of September.)

I went to bed pretty early, slept well, and am now gearing up for our trip to Florida where we will have a service Sunday morning and a service Sunday night. Yikes. My little ol' voice will get quite a workout with two concerts in one day.

Well, that's it for now! I hope you all have a wonderful day and as always, thanks so much for stopping by. I appreciate each one of you!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fighting With Myself

I didn't grow up wealthy and I didn't grow up living in large and luxurious homes.

In our family, there were three boys and three girls (in that order) and we always lived in smallish houses with three bedroom and just one bath. I even recall one house that we lived in briefly where we used an outhouse and took our baths in a galvanized tub in the kitchen. (Helloooo, Laura Ingalls!)

So. No silver spoons in this particular mouth!

And I was good with that. Waiting in line for the bathroom taught me patience. Co-existing peaceably with two younger sisters in a small bedroom taught me forbearance; in fact, it imbued all three of us with a dollop or two of unselfishness. (Which didn't mean, of course, that my lovely little sisters and I didn't occasionally have a disagreement or two.)

I was basically happy as a child and didn't think much about the fact that maybe we were living with too many people in too little space. But when I got into my late teens and started looking ahead to adulthood and marriage and family I would occasionally think, "Someday I would really love to have a little extra living space."

And so what did I do about that wistful dream? At the age of nineteen, I married a fella who, like me, was called and gifted to minister in music. On the road. Full time. For over fifteen years.

And where did we live during those years? Well, for the first three years we lived in 275 sq. feet of space. Which isn't much for two people.

It's even less when you add a baby. And, um, also add a sister and brother-in-law. Who were newlyweds.

But we did it. Quite happily, may I add.

However, every once in awhile, I would look around at our cramped quarters and my little ol' heart would yearn for space, for extra footage, and for room to stretch out just a little.

After those first three years, our ministry was able to provide Randy and Debbie with their own RV so then it was just Steve, Nathan and me in our wee bit of space. A few more years passed, Sarah joined us and we moved into a new RV featuring a glorious 475 square feet of space. Wow! Mammoth livin'!

And that's where we lived for a very long time--a family of four (and one dog) in less space than the equivalent of many peoples' garage.

Back then, I was quite creative in my use of space; for instance, I kept my breakfast cereal boxes in the oven and then when I had to use the oven, I moved the cereal boxes to the bathtub. A bit cumbersome, but it worked.

And not only did we have regular household items to make space for, we also had home schooling materials in addition to all the stuff (printer, lap top, office supplies, posters, mailing materials for promo) that were needed to maintain the business side of our ministry.

Of course, whenever we moved the rig (about twice a week) all the things on the counters and shelves had to come down and be stored securely. Because of that, I tended to be a bit thin in the decorative knickknack department; I didn't want a surplus of delicate little things to have to secure whenever we hit the road.

I remember once when I was in a store and saw some Willow Tree figurines which I absolutely love. I stood and stared longingly at one particular piece for a long, long time and thought how much I would love to buy it. In fact, I actually remember crying over that little figurine because I so longed for a day when I might have a house with more space and lots of shelves and no more Cheerios boxes stored in the oven.

Those little fits of angst were few and far between though, because as a rule, I loved the way we lived; it was something I had wanted to do since was I was a child. But that still didn't mean that it wasn't occasionally challenging and frustrating to live within such limited parameters.

Fast forward with me to 2002 when Sarah was diagnosed with cancer. We left the road. We sold the RV. We rented a house for a while during Sarah's treatment and then we moved here to Smithfield.

Ahhh. Space. For the first time in my life, plenty of space!

Our current house is 2150 square feet. Not huge by some standards but a whole lot roomier than the 475 feet we were used to.

The house has four bedrooms. Four! Which means that we have space for guests to stay overnight and we have a room set aside just for an office. No more sharing our tiny RV bedroom with all of the office equipment. Living here has been a blessed balm to my space-starved soul.

Now we're getting ready to move again. In fact, in just a few minutes we'll be leaving for an overnight trip to Manteo. We're going to spend part of today with our realtor there, looking at homes for sale and then we'll spend the night at the home of the chairman of the church board and his family.

There's just one little ol' problem. The houses in Manteo are at least twice as expensive as the houses in Smithfield, mainly because of the cost of land. Which means that buying the equivelant of our current home would cost us a whole lot more in Manteo than we could afford.

And this is where the "fighting with myself" part comes in.

As I just said, I have spent many years of my life living full time with my family in an amount of space that most Americans can't even imagine. I have done it happily and with gladness and most of the time, I didn't even think twice about it.

But now? Now I have experienced the wondrous joy of having space. Steve and I have had thirty people at a time over for meals and have had room for them all; in fact, over the 4 1/2 years that we were at First Assembly, we had at least 200 people from the church come over. When we've had overnight guests come to visit, they've had their own bedroom to sleep in. (Well, it was actually Nathan's bedroom but he gave up his room and slept on the couch.)

And now I'm facing the very good possibility of living in a whole lot less space than I've gotten used to; a place where I might possibly be squeezing ten people in for a party instead of thirty and putting overnight guests in much more cramped and less private quarters. And for someone who loves opening her home to a lot of folks, that's kind of tough.

But it's okay. Really it is. Because I know very well the statistics which say that even someone living in a 700 square foot house in the U.S. is fabulously wealthy compared with the average world citizen. In Manteo I will have running water, electricity, garbage pick up, refrigeration, a soft bed, a working stove and a flushing toilet. Those things mean that I will be incredibly and luxuriously rich.

I understand that. And yet the fight with myself continues.

I know full well that we can still entertain people on a smaller basis and that overnight guests can sleep on a pull out bed in the living room and that I can sit in a closet when I need a writing nook. Kitchen tables make good desks and home school areas and if anybody can make do with living in a smaller amount of space, surely I can after all those years of living in my "little house on the freeway."

But my heart still longs for space. It longs for room to entertain, room to have a writing nook, room for a piano, room for living beyond the confines I've experienced for so long.

And yet, I am bound and determined to be grateful for whatever the Lord provides because I remind myself again how blessed I am to live in an abundant land like America. And I also want a truly thankful heart, not just for myself but also for my daughter who will "catch" whatever attitude my heart exhibits.

Just when I think that I've won that hard heart battle, that little ol' voice pops up again and screeches, "Space. I want space!"


I'm just being as honest with you as I know how to be. And I wonder if any of you ever struggle with this sort of thing? Anyone else occasionally deal with unthankfulness? Wanting more than you have? Like me, do your yearnings sometimes outpace your earnings?

This morning we'll head out and take a look at where our future will probably unfold; we'll possibly even find a house today at will shelter our hearts, our lives, and our family for years to come.

And whether it's 1,400 square feet or 3,000 square feet (be still, my heart!) there will be plenty of room in that home for thankfulness.

Which is good. Because I plan to take plenty of it with me when I go.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Alphabetized Spice Rack;
Lunch With A Kennedy

One of my first items of business when I got up this morning (At 5:30. With the dog. Sigh.) was to educate myself about Labor Day. (Since it occurred to me that I was just slightly lacking in information on that particular subject.) And because I'm so very nice, I have decided to pass the information on to you so that you can sound especially impressive at your cookout of choice tonight. (From How Things Work)

For a lot of people, Labor Day means two things: a day off and the end of summer. But why is it called Labor Day? Labor Day is a day set aside to pay tribute to working men and women. It has been celebrated as a national holiday in the United States and Canada since 1894.

The workers' unions chose the first Monday in September because it was halfway between Independence Day and Thanksgiving. The idea spread across the country, and some states designated Labor Day as a holiday even before the federal holiday was created.

So there you have it!

The rest of this Labor Day post is going to be dedicated to giving me a break from the (happy) labor of writing and will instead feature some recent pictures.

I'll start with a photo of the worldly belongings of our son as he was preparing to leave once again for college. Every year I ask him him if he is really quite sure that he needs to go and every year he tells me that he really does. And so I sigh and hug him and tell him I'm proud of him and I watch him drive away. Again.

On the way out door and into the car, he was doing his usual funny stuff. I guess he thought it was better to leave behind a laughing Mom rather than a crying Mom.

Nathan will turn twenty on September 18 and we will actually be in Florida a few days before that singing and preaching at a couple churches in the area. I'm happy that it worked out that we will be able to celebrate a really big birthday with our really fabulous College Dude!

The following photo is of Steve with Rev. Randall Woodard, a long time acquaintance of our family. What's especially cool is that when Steve and I were youth pastors here in Smithfield back in the early 80's (when dinosaurs still roamed the earth), Randall was a member of our youth group. Last Sunday, Steve went to Randall's church to hear him preach, which was very special for both of them.

And speaking of Steve, here is a picture of him with Snowy that proves that Sarah is not the only Smith that Snowy deigns to hang out with. (Although I think he loves her best because she's needed him the most.)

He actually loves to spend time with whichever Smith Person is not moving at any given time. Whether the person is lying down, sitting down, or standing still, Snowy has "A Smith Person Is Not Moving" radar which enables him to show up and commence to lying, sitting, or standing with the aforementioned person. Nice to have such a companionable little doggie around.

I guess I could call this picture, "Lunch With A Kennedy." Steve had made his little meal of a sandwich, water, and a pickle; I snapped the picture when he stepped away for a minute. I just thought how nicely this little tableau illustrates Steve's simple tastes in life--give him peanut butter and a magazine at lunchtime and he's a happy fella.

And finally we come to the most wonderful of all pictures--the one that features my alphabetized spice rack. (I know, I know. Getting to see a picture like this makes it worth getting up in the morning, doesn't it?)

I once had a friend say, "You alphabetize your spice rack? You have way to much time on your hands!"

In my defense, I have to say that having an alphabetized spice rack is actually for people who have too little time on their hands. When I'm cooking in a hurry for a big group of people, or even trying to get dinner on the table for my family, I can't tell you how delightful it is to spend one second looking for the tarragon instead of three minutes.

Actually, my spices are not in complete alphabetical array: on the very front row I have my most used spices: paprika, parsley, garlic salt, onion salt, cinnamon. And in the very back, I have large containers of re-fill spices. But other than that, the ABC's rule!

However, about every six months or so, the spices have to be re-ordered and whipped back into shape because I tend to get in a hurry and just start flinging bottles back onto the shelves. And so, in light of the fact that we'll be moving soon, I took all the spices out, wiped down the cupboards and then re-arranged them.

It was just way too much fun. And I highly recommend it as a way to spend a Saturday afternoon. And no, I don't get out much.

Alrighty then. I know that this post may have contained a bit more excitement than you're used to, what with peanut butter sandwiches, a college student's belongings, and a story of cinnamon lined up neatly in its place. You may have to take a little rest when you get done reading to let your heartbeat settle back down to normal.

But before I leave you to do that, I'd like to show you one more picture; it's one I found of my mom and dad taken a few years ago and it sums up so well their loving relationship.

My dad has been gone to heaven for just seventeen days now, which in "heaven time" is probably only half a blink of an eye. He left behind him pictures, a faithful wife, laughter, music, family, love--and a daughter who alphabetizes her spice rack.

I think he did okay.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Recipe and Fitness Group Info

Since it's a busy holiday weekend, I won't keep you real long. I just wanted to share a recipe with you and also give you a quick update on the state of our Fitness Group Discussion Forum.

First, the recipe. Sarah and I made this together last night and it turned out really well.


16 jumbo dried pasta shells, prepared according to directions, rinsed and drained
1 lb ground beef (or ground turkey)
1 pkg. taco seasoning
1 C water
1 16 oz. can refried beans
1 C shredded cheddar cheese (2% is fine)
1 16 oz jar salsa (mild, medium or hot, depending on your preference)
1/4 C sliced green onions (optional)
Sour cream (optional) (Lite is fine)

1. Cook beef in large skillet; drain. Add taco seasoning and water. Cook over low heat for five minutes until thickened.
2. Add beans and 3/4 C cheese; mix well
3. Spread 1/4 C salsa over each of the 8-inch square baking dishes
4. Fill shells with beef mixture; place half of shells in each baking dish, filled side up. Spoon remaining salsa over shells.
5. Cover baking dish with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until heated through.
6. Sprinkle with onions (if using) and remaining cheese; serve with sour cream.

The really great news? This can be made ahead! I LOVE make ahead food.
If freezing: Cover one or both baking dishes with plastic wrap, then over wrap with foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. To bake frozen shells: Place baking dish in fridge overnight. Remove plastic wrap; recover with foil. Repeat step 6.

Happy eating!

I guess this would be a great place to segue into a review of the conversation we've been having here over the past few days about food, weight gain, weight loss, fitness and Little Debbie Cakes.

We had talked about having a place to discuss those topics and that place is here! If you'll scroll down the right column and click on the "Visit My Community" button; you'll see that I've started a heading there called, "Food, Friends, and Fitness."

This is a place to come and hang out for those of us needing support, advice and encouragement in the area of fitness. If you have a healthy recipe to share, or if you've lost ten pounds and need someone to celebrate with, OR if you've gained ten pounds and are rather disconsolate--this is your spot!

Head on over and jump on in!

We've had some good discussion in other areas of the Community last week, too; it's been exciting to see more of your names, faces, questions and opinions pop up. Also, if you become a part of the Community, your blogs will show up in that area. Visit the Community for more info.

In other news, we'll be going on two overnight, out of town trips this week--one to Manteo and one to Florida. I'll have plenty of stories and pictures to share.

For today's travels, Steve is heading out the door to Duke to visit a neighbor of ours who just had a heart transplant.

Thanks for stopping by; enjoy the rest of your weekend.