• 2010 Reading List

    What I've read this year:

    "The Other Queen" by Phillipa Gregory (Rating: C)

    "The Welsh Girl" by Peter Ho Davies (Rating: A)

    "Mistress of the Sun" by Sandra Gulland (Rating: A)

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For the (snow) birds

We had a beautiful snow on Friday, and for anyone in the northeast, I’m sure you are sick of it, but we are not! Just a few days ago, Charlotte saw snow, but on our side of town, we mostly got the sleet and ice. Friday night’s snow was of the  light and fluffy variety, and was beautiful to watch (even though it quickly melted and was practically gone the next day).

Eastern Bluebird

I had made chicken pot pie for dinner the weekend before, and it turned out to be the perfect evening for a hearty and classic dinner. Alan has always sworn that he didn’t like chicken pot pie, but I was convinced that it was likely due to the fact that he had only ever had store bought, not homemade. I’ll have to share the recipe I used, but the end result was a delicious, with a thin broth rather than a thick, pasty textured filling, which you typically find in many other versions. However, today’s post is not supposed to be about food – it should be about our birds!

Taking notes

We have officially submitted our results from the Great Backyard Bird Count, and had a great time sitting by the windows on Saturday, watching and counting.

House Finches

The Peanut began working on his own bird book, drawing pictures of the birds that frequent our yard. Overall, we saw a fair number of birds for our area. Unfortunately, very few of our neighbors have feeders or baths, but we are doing our best to bring the birds back to our yard.

Mourning Doves & House Finch

We saw 4 mourning doves, 5 House Finches (apparently there is a harem nearby…we have 1 male, but 4 females…hmmmm), 1 eastern bluebird, 2 mockingbirds (one of whom is a bit of a bully to the finches, which the Peanut does not appreciate), and 1 Carolina Chickadee whom I never caught on film. He seems a little skittish, and doesn’t linger long enough for me to steal a shot of him. I hope that you also participated in the count. The Peanut is learning more and more about birds every day, and if our small, urban backyard can be a venue


Chinese New Year

Gong hei fat choi!

(Roughly translated, that means “Congratulations and be prosperous!”)

This weekend is the festival of the Chinese New Year, and although my family has absolutely no ties to the Chinese culture, I adore this holiday. A few years ago I hosted an event for work including traditional foods, dances, and gifts for the holiday. It is an amazing tradition with a long and complex history, and an endless number of ways in which to celebrate the occasion. After that first encounter, I’ve kept Chinese New Year on my radar, and have looked forward to introducing the Peanut to the festivities.

Lion Dance

Just a few miles from our home is “The Peaceful Dragon.” This is a large facility that teaches Kung Fu, Tai Chi, along with a variety of other martial arts, and it is incredibly authentic to the practices and traditions of the Chinese culture. They hosted their annual New Year celebration last weekend, and we all bundled up and headed over to participate.

The celebration began with the traditional lion dance. Two kung fu students act out the role of the lion, dancing throughout the room, and eventually eating cabbage, then spitting it back out into the audience. If you are lucky enough to get hit with the cabbage, you are looking forward to a prosperous new year! Unfortunately for us, none of our clan got any cabbage…

Dragon dance

Next came the dragon dance, along with the firecrackers that were set off, startling the Peanut, and causing him to jump out of his seat and laugh hysterically!

The school’s students conducted some incredible demonstrations, including using bo staffs, broad swords, fans, and spears. It was incredible to see how they used these weapons in such a beautiful way. One of the things that I love about The Peaceful Dragon is their commitment to the idea that Kung Fu is a personal discipline, and not something that is used to teach aggressiveness. Throughout the demonstrations, they repeatedly mentioned that the students hope to never use their skills outside of the facility, and that the greatest lesson in Kung Fu is the development of self-control. “You cannot make me harm you – that is a decision that only I can make.” What a great thing to be heard in our society – let’s spread that one around some more, please!

They also did a brief yoga demo, which I found very interesting. It was so different than the yoga I am used to, and was amazing to watch.

Yoga demo - head stand - wow!

We are hoping that we will be able to get my two guys into their program over the next year. Alan is really wanting to get into the program, having studied martial arts as a child. And we both think that this would be a great thing for the Peanut as well. He is such a loving and happy child, but he tends to crumble when he feels like he has “failed.” We are continually trying to reassure him that mistakes are good and allow us to learn, but his personality is just so loving and sweet that he is terrified of disappointing others. I can totally identify with that one, and hope that we can help him work through it. We think that the confidence and discipline that comes with martial arts would be a huge boost for him. Hopefully we will be able to swing the fees in the near future, and maybe they will be able to perform at next year’s festival!

Great Backyard Bird Count

In just about a week, the 13th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count begins! This is the first year that my family will officially be participating, but I’m really excited about it. We’ve been keeping our yard stocked with special bird treats over the past few weeks, in the hopes of attracting some new feathery friends to our space. If you’ve never participated, or don’t know about the Great Backyard Bird Count, here are the simple things that you need to know, directly from the website www.birdsource.org/gbbc/howto.html.

Also, check out the Audubon Society’s website fora couple of great bird games for the kids (www.audubon.org/educate).

1. Plan to count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count. You can count for longer than that if you wish! Count birds in as many places and on as many days as you like—one day, two days, or all four days. Submit a separate checklist for each new day. You can also submit more than one checklist per day if you count in other locations on that day.

2. Count the greatest number of individuals of each species that you see together at any one time. You may find it helpful to print out your regional bird checklist to get an idea of the kinds of birds you’re likely to see in your area in February. You could take note of the highest number of each species you see on this checklist.

3. When you’re finished, enter your results through our web page. You’ll see a button marked “Enter Your Checklists!” on the website home page beginning on the first day of the count. It will remain active until the deadline for data submission on March 1st.

Carolina Wren, Jim Lockyer, CA, 2009 GBBC

Other helpful tools and information:

  • Data form. Some people find it helpful to fill out the form before entering it on the website. By printing it off ahead of time, they know what information they need to be aware of, such as snow depth, for example.
  • GBBC Photo Contest rules

Yummmm…they’re Swedish!

What is the one thing in your life that makes you smile when it seems to be just out of reach? We all have those days when things are just too much. We feel weighted down, exhausted, over-whelmed, and broken. I’ve had a few days like that recently. Work has been exceptionally tough these past few weeks, and I am in need of a change. Unfortnately, the job market has yet to regain its momentum, we don’t have the financial freedom for me to go back to school, and I’m feeling  pigeon-holed. An opportunity may have presented itself, but I am trying very hard to not get my hopes up or put too much pressure on this one thing. So, this week, I’ve not been sleeping soundly, eating more junk than I should, and just feeling down. Until, I see this…

That is, hands down, the cutest and funniest kid on earth – and don’t you dare try to contradict me! 🙂 He brightens our days, and never fails to keep me entertained. Last night, as I sat trying to get our new camera and Skype to communicate with one another, he was in his room playing veterinarian, and singing his own version of “Marvelous Little Toy.” It was adorable, and made me step back for a moment and not worry about work, let go of the frustration with the computer, and just absorb the love that is my little Peanut.

A short while later, we were having a family movie night, and while Daddy was making popcorn, I surprised him with some Swedish Fish as a special treat, which he had not previously tried. He popped one into his mouth, started chewing, and looked at me and said, “Yummmmm…they sure are Swedish, alright!” And that is was the greatest moment of my week!

New year, new goals

Like so many other people, we view the beginning of the new year as a time to reevaluate. As 2009 was coming to a close, we were finding ourselves feeling bogged down by so many things. We were unintentionally focusing on things other than ourselves, our family, and the things that matter the most to us. So, with the opportunity at a clean slate right around the corner, we began crafting our 2010 goals. I have never been one to set “resolutions.”

How many of those live to see a day in February or beyond? Most fizzle out and die before the end of January. We want these goals to be things that will make us a stronger family, increase our contentment day-to-day, and help keep us focused on the values we really want to be teaching our son. I’m sure many of these will see ups and downs throughout the year. Very few of these will be scratched off and marked as complete. The majority are not things to accomplish, but rather mindsets and long-term goals. So, to help with accountability, here they are!

2010 Family Goals:

  • Eat minimum of one vegetarian meal per week
  • No cable/satellite for one year
  • Make 3 monetary donations to a charity (We’ve made our first donation to CARE, helping educate a girl for a year. For more info, go to   https://my.care.org/site/Donation2?df_id=4183&4183.donation=form1)
  • Take a beach vacation with our extended family
  • Plan and/or make ahead meals – plan our weekly/monthly menu
  • Take a family vacation to a National Park, Historical Site, etc.
  • Resume weekly game/craft/reading nights
  • Stick to daily cleaning (We have one thing that we are supposed to do each day to help avoid Saturdays turning into a day of work.)
  • Freeze/preserve Farmer’s Market produce during the appropriate seasons
  • Add allowance options to the Peanut’s responsibility chart
  • Plan budget for the year, using the “envelope system” to reduce wasteful spending
  • Build vegetable garden on back hill
  • Make a conscious effort to love eachother the way we to be loved
  • Organize the garage (this is the only one that I’m not looking forward to…)
  • Plant one or two additional trees in yard
  • Take 2 or 3 day weekend trip as a couple
  • Write our wills
  • Focus on buying used rather than new
  • Sit down together at the beginning of the month to review last month’s spending

I think that we’ve been realistic about our goals, and we are feeling really positive about the things we’ve decided to emphasize this year. One more thing that we’ve decided to do is to have a “Thought of the Week.” These will be things that help us maintain our focus on the truly important things, and add a little more appreciation to our daily life. I’m posting the thoughts in the kitchen, where we spend the majority of our time, so that I can glean a little wisdom while washing dishes, making lunches, etc. I’m going to try and remember to share these thoughts with you in the coming weeks and months. That being said, here is the thought for the week…

Blog pulse check

Yes, I have been missing from this space for quite awhile. I knew that it had been awhile, but looking back, my last entry was the beginning of September. Wow…that was a long time ago, yet at the same time, it feels like just a few short weeks.

Our family has spent the past four months getting adjusted to being in school, and the incredible number of changes that has resulted in for us. The experience has been positive overall, but also a lot to deal with. My hubby and I both work outside of the home, and, as I’ve mentioned before, my hours can fluctuate greatly week to week. On average, I’m home around 6:15. That makes dinner, bath & bed a rapid process, as we try to have the Peanut in bed by 7:30-7:45. Needless to say, there were many nights that we were feeling frantic, not really communicating with each other, and overwhelmed with our new reality.Over the past month or two, we have been focusing on ways to reduce the stress and increase the quality family time.

Now that we are feeling a little more put together, I’m thinking that I may be able to return to this place. Not only have I missed sharing my world, but I’ve missed reading about yours. I’ve been completely removed from the blog world for four months, and am eager to return to catch up on what so many of you have been doing. So, forgive me for my absence (if any of you are still out there), and be prepared to forgive me if I disappear again a week or two at a time. I am going to make a conscious effort to take the time to visit you weekly (and more, if life allows), but I am sure that there will be ups and downs throughout the coming months. I’m okay with that, and I hope you are as well!

Although it is a little late, happy holidays, and I wish you all peace and happiness in 2010!

We survived…and maybe even had fun

Breakfast before school

Breakfast before school


No, really, try to look excited!

No, really, try to look excited!


Arriving at school

Arriving at school


Leading the line to the classroom...and away from the crazy lady with the camera

Leading the line to the classroom...and away from the crazy lady with the camera