Thursday, October 29, 2009

Adventures at Home

Honestly, I do have a ton of books to blog about. I was, in fact, going to blog about one today, but then Nathaniel, Anna and I made dinner.

It may look just like a dish we've dubbed in our house 'The Great Rice-Mix Up" - basically rice with a meat and a veggie. But it's not that dish.

We made an Americanized version of a Korean dish - Kimchi Fried Rice. We're studying Korea this week in school, and this was the project that both Anna and Nathaniel decided they wanted to do.

"Great!" I thought. "Automatic eager helpers for dinner prep!"

And they were. I didn't think to take pictures of Nathaniel browning the ground beef (decidedly un-Korean), or Anna stirring in the ground beef to the rice, onion, garlic and kimchi. So you'll have to take my word for it.

I am blessed to have a cousin married to a Korean, and doubly blessed that they live nearby. So, Tuesday night we visited them and she generously shared her kimchi, so I wouldn't have to buy five pounds of it at the Korean market (which isn't local) and her sesame oil.

When the dish was ready, I thought we had made entirely too much, so called my parents in a panic, "Come over for Kimchi Fried Rice!" But they were at Wendy's getting burgers. Decidedly American.

Well, the dish was a hit! Anna gave it a thumbs up, Isaac said it was 'just OK' (thus the sideways thumb), and Nathaniel's reaction was a clean plate, which is even better than a thumbs up. (Lydia still had to finish her soup from lunch, so she's getting some leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Still waiting on Dad to come home and try it - but he wasn't too thrilled with the idea when I told him what was for dinner.)

I have to admit, it was good. I probably didn't add as much kimchi as I should have, but I added most of what I had. And, as long as none of the Kimchi Fried Rice goes to waste, I'm happy.

Mom did say she'd take leftovers...
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009


The pieces are put together (almost completely - just a few things on the tower to finish).

The swings and assorted playthings are hung (except for the tire swing and the button swing).

The children are enjoying their new-to-them playset!

Isaac asked me on Sunday, "Mom, is this an old playset?"

I am so thankful how God provides in amazing ways - even the manpower to get it put back together again! Thanks to Mark, John and Bob who gave up their Saturday morning this past Saturday to help Glen and Nathaniel put this gi-normous playset back together.

It's made my house more peaceful, in a very good way.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Morton Arboretum Adventure

We rushed through schoolwork this morning so we could have time for an Adventure - a fancy, more exciting name for field trips (thanks Aunt Carrie!).

Today, we went to the Morton Arboretum, courtesy of the museum passes from the library. My mom joined us, and as we walked in, she reminisced about the last time we were there - one Mother's Day when I was a child. She called it her most favorite Mother's Day ever.

It wasn't until we had been through the maze and were almost through the entire Children's Garden that I admited that particular Mother's Day I remembered as long, hot, tiring and oh, so boring. We laughed, and marveled at the fun my kids were having.

And they were having fun! We didn't have time to pull out our sketchbooks to draw what we were seeing, but they spent almost an hour drawing after we got home.

The maze and Children's Garden were great, and we all really enjoyed seeing the Animal Houses exhibit. Isaac's standing in front of the Pollywog Pond, created by an artist from good ol' Wauconda. They had 10 other 'houses' on exhibit - all interactive and great fun for the kids. Mom and I marveled at the creativity and work put into each of them.

The Animal Houses exhibit is only there until November 15th - so go soon!
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Murder of King Tut

I would dearly love to get my father's opinion of this book - James Patterson's The Murder of King Tut. My dad is a former junior high history teacher and an amateur Egyptologist.

So, I'd love to know what he thinks of Patterson's theories and ideas about the death of King Tut. I'm not sure what to think.

This is a non-fiction work by Patterson, a best-selling mystery writer. I don't recall reading any of Patterson's fiction, but may have many moons ago when I was single, working nights and reading lots more. (Yes, there was a time when I read more.)

In The Murder of King Tut, Patterson writes a story based on lots of research done mostly by Martin Dugard, who gets credit as his co-author. He weaves three stories into one - his theories about what happened in ancient Egypt, Howard Carter's famous life's search for a missing grave (which ended up being Tut's), and his own experience in researching and writing the book.

Generally, it's easy to follow, except when it comes to the ancient Egypt part. I would have appreciated a short genealogy and/or character list in the front of the book, so I could keep track of the ancient pharaohs whose names look so similar. I am somewhat familiar with Egyptian history, with my dad's intense interest in it and having taught it to my kids twice over in our home school, but I still felt confused as to exactly which pharaoh was which.

Overall, this book is easy to read, fairly easy to follow, and with interesting theories to ponder.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Culture of Corruption

My husband enjoys politics. He could talk politics all the live-long day, if he had an interested and participating person. I, unfortunately, am not that person. Quite frankly, politics bore me. Which is really quite ironic, considering I interned in my state capitol for a semester when I was in high school. Being a page during the annual fall veto session of my state legislature probably killed what little interest I had in politics.

Which makes me quite surprised that I actually picked up this book, and even more surprised that I not only started, but finished it. I probably did because even a non-politico like me has to start getting involved in state and national politics. We in Illinois have the dubious distinction of sending one former governor to jail, and impeaching a sitting governor. Corruption is so ingrained in Illinois politics, it's hard to believe that anyone who has been involved in politics in the past 15 or so years in this grand ol' state is immune.

And considering that our current president is most recently from this grand ol' state of mine... well, you can connect the dots.

Michelle Maulkin connects the dots of corruption and 'pay-to-play' quite well in her book Culture of Corruption. This book is well-researched, well-documented, and should shock anyone lethargic about politics into action.

I will say that reading this book made me realize I am more of a big picture person than a detailed person. I completely got lost in the details of who got the job for this person, who in turn used their influence to acquire state contracts for that first person - or even more convoluted than that.

I did figure out that the big picture of Culture of Corruption is that Obama says one thing, and does quite another. As my parents always said, "Actions speak louder than words." And the actions of the current administration are quite sickening.

Let me point out that Maulkin is quite critical of the former administration too. "Pay-to-play" is not limited to the Obama administration - it's just much more prevalent and/or obvious this time around.

If you're politically lethargic like me (I want to point out that I do vote), this book will force you to pay more attention to those in power, no matter their political affiliation.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

5 Reasons to Trust Shaklee

Trust is a scarce commodity these days.

I was thinking about it because of a book I finished last night. The overall theme was that we cannot trust our government (I know - big news!).

Then with the banking & mortgage crisis, housing crisis – and remembering the Enron crisis and the ‘you-name-it’ crisis – it seems like there’s not a lot of places to put our trust these days. Especially when it comes to our money.

It’s not surprising that consumers are leery – wondering what companies they can trust, if any.

I’d like to propose that there is at least one company you can trust – Shaklee. I’ve been using Shaklee products for the better part of 30 years (my mom started me young). I didn’t really understand what a great company Shaklee is until I started investigating it as an adult.

Why should you trust Shaklee?

1. Shaklee is committed to quality. They conduct thousands of quality-control tests on their products every year. And they frequently double-check their results with independent laboratory tests.

2. Shaklee walks their talk. For over 50 years, Shaklee’s been committed to environmental stewardship – and not just making products ‘in harmony with nature’ (which they do). Shaklee’s headquarters uses the latest green technologies, and Shaklee is the first company to be certified climate-neutral, a certification it achieved in 2000. You can see Shaklee’s environmental stewardship history here.

3. Shaklee guarantees their products. Not just in word, but in deed. No company is perfect, and not every product fits every person. But you have no need to worry about wasting your money on any Shaklee product. If you don’t like something, Shaklee will give you your money back. With a smile – and without the third-degree.

  1. Shaklee’s products work. And not just because a university in Montana (or somewhere else) tested the efficacy of vitamin-C. Shaklee tests their specific vitamin-C product to make sure it’s getting into the bloodstream, where your cells can pick it up and actually use it. Then, they submit those tests to peer-review journals (read: scrutiny by many other scientists, not pay-to-publish). You can find all the references to studies published by Shaklee scientists at the end of Shaklee’s Product Guide.

5. Customers who start on Shaklee stay with Shaklee. Countless people have changed brands to Shaklee, and are still with Shaklee. The average customer has been using Shaklee for between 20 and 30 years. You don’t get that kind of customer loyalty without doing something right… OK, doing a lot of things right.

The beauty of it is that all you need to do is change brands. Most people know Shaklee as a ‘vitamin company’ or the ‘safe cleaner company.’ Shaklee is also a ‘safe weight loss,’ safe skincare,’ ‘safe make-up,’ ‘safe personal care products’ and ‘safe drinking water’ company. Products you buy every day at your local store, you can switch to Shaklee and have high-quality, safe products delivered directly to your door.

Changing brands can change your life. It has changed the lives of thousands of others. I think it’s worth the risk.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree

For the past two years, Anna has been longing, longing, longing to be a part of the Mother-Daughter book club at the library. It is for girls in 4th through 6th grade. She's been waiting and waiting and now, tonight, will be her first opportunity to participate.

She is beyond excited.

And I, her mother, almost forgot to sign us up.

That would have been very bad. Fortunately, I did remember, so the library gave us a copy of the book we're discussing this month - Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree, by Lauren Tarshis.

I'm always a little leery of book club books. I don't know why. I guess I'm a little nervous because I'm not familiar with the title, the author, or the plot.

Anna read it first and was so excited when a character in the book called Emma-Jean "Nancy freakin' Drew" because she knew that literary reference. When she was done, she told me I would really like the book.

I picked up the book yesterday afternoon, since I almost forgot that I had to read it too, in order to participate in the Mother-Daughter book club.

I discovered it is absolutely delightful! (I was tempted to use italics in that sentence too, but decided I've really already overused them.)

Tarshis does a wonderful job in this book. At first I thought it was going to be all from Emma-Jean's perspective, but there are a few chapters from Connie's perspective (a 7th-grade classmate of Emma-Jean's). The change in voice is complete, and the drama makes me giggle. Emma-Jean's helpful solutions to her classmates' problems are... well, logical if not a tad bit unethical (which she realizes toward the end of the book).

I think my absolute favorite part is the letter Emma-Jean writes to the mother of the man who rents their 3rd-floor apartment. I laughed out loud when I read it.

All in all, Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree is a great book for any 4th grader on up to read. Probably girls would like it a bit more than boys, since the main characters are girls. But boys could appreciate the logic with which Emma-Jean approaches life and relationships.

I also think this book gave me a little insight as to how to interact with my younger daughter, who is probably a bit like Connie. Bonus!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Downtown Chic

I have this stereotype of the decorating gurus. You know - single, or married with no kids, unrealistic expectations of how a home is used. The kind with houses that are always showcase, picture perfect because there are no children around to mess them up... or if they have a child or two, everyone's gone all day long, so there's no time to mess it up.

My stereotype was completely blown out of the water when I read Downtown Chic: Designing Your Dream Home: From Wreck to Ravishing by Robert & Cortney Novogratz with Elizabeth Novogratz.

This couple, Robert & Cortney, are really down-to-earth people with an awesome eye for what works. They live in New York, of course. But they have six children. And their children share rooms!

I think I love this book for that very reason. I mean, I didn't know New York had any families with six children (two sets of twins, by the way). I didn't think anyone with the kind of income the Novogratz's have generated through their business had children who shared rooms. The four boys are in one room. I just thought you'd like to know that.

Granted - it's a large house. With a roof-top basketball hoop. The rooms the children share are probably bigger than my living room.

But they share. It's so out-of-vogue in the decorating books and magazines I've seen I can't hardly get over it.

I really like this book because Robert & Cortney are so real - especially for a couple who has a vacation home in Brazil. (Honestly, it blows my mind how a family of eight can afford to travel to Brazil more than once in a lifetime - guess that shows how small my world is.) Cortney shares how they kind of 'fell into' the business of redoing houses, even entire blocks of homes, in New York. Right place, right time, right synergy. I love that they realized their passion - they love traveling, shopping, renovating, and don't mind the mess.

The end result is stunning, but I wouldn't do well with the process. The process is where they seem to thrive.

A couple of things I missed in this book - perhaps because I read Sarah Susanka's Not-So-Big Remodeling recently. I missed a big picture of each house - the blueprints, more pictures of the interior living spaces. I don't feel like I could really replicate or even begin to create my own style with their sparse tips shared in this book. I think the main message is to allow yourself the freedom to experiment, make mistakes and surround yourself with what you love.

Perhaps that is something I can start doing.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Cheer for a Rainy Day

I received this plant at a friend's baby shower.
I don't know what surprises me most,
the beauty of the blooms
or the fact that it's still alive several months later.

And, of course, I found more pictures on my camera...
I wanted to share a few.

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