Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My cat strikes again

Somehow my cats become uber-talented when they stay with my parents. Either Grandma inspires them or the fresh Michigan air brings out their bright sides. Whichever it is, I got an email from my Siamese this morning....



When are U comming bac to grandpa and grandma's house?  Tia is embarrrraaassing me.  I hear things R a little roug where u're, at but things R worrs here.

Tia and I decided2 take a nap on  sofa and all thhe sudden that biggger girl (I think her name is Cinder) let out a screech.  I just got offff the sofa & went 2 your room and hid.  Tia hissed at that girl & then startted to run at herr hissssing and grandma and grandpa thought she wa going 2 bite Cinder.  Grandma gave Tia a time out and I'm glad.  Shhhe deserved it.  I, onn the other hand, hav been the perrrrrrfect house guest.

Maybee u could write tooo Tia and tell her hat you're putting her in a report like you'''re doing to tha "kid" where u r at this week.

Your most affectionate and lovable cat,

Mr G

PS  Please exuse my typ  ing.  U know how  MY paaaws are toooo  big for the keys and I M drooping litter all over it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

As a Juicy Reward Insider, I'm telling ya...

Tomorrow Tropicana is having one of their Limited-Time Promotions, the chance for Juicy Rewards members and newly-registered members to win a 13" MacBook Pro.

Wouldn't you know it? I just bought my 13" MacBook Pro three months ago... Which probably won't matter cuz I rarely win sweepstakes anyway. But I will say, I love my MacBook Pro. Everyone should have one! So enter!

Anyway, for only four Tropicana points, we can enter to win the MacBook Pro tomorrow, October 7, from 12:01 a.m. to 11:50 p.m. Central Time. No purchase necessary, but there will be Official Rules for more details, including how to enter by mail.

*Apple is not a participant in or sponsor of this promotion. MacBook is a registered trademark of Apple Inc. All rights reserved.*

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My nephew Zack gets it

My brother-in-law Dick sent an email this morning about an answer my nephew Zack gave in his homework this week.

The email....

"Every once and a while your children say or write or do something that make you stop, think, cry, praise, and wonder.

Jenn [my sister] was reading over Zack’s homework assignment this morning, and this is what she found:

Thy will be done? May the next generation continue God’s purpose?

Hit me right in the heart.

His spelling may need assistance, but his spirit soars above mine.

He is just like my father. Richard Sr. and Zechariah John are soul mates. These words could just have easily come out of my 69-year-old father as my 11-year-old son. I feel as if I am generationally sandwiched between two unusual men of God.

I am SO proud of them both!


Monday, August 30, 2010

A Turns 1!

My second niece, the youngest of my four nephews and nieces, turned 1 last Saturday.

She's so sweet and cute! And I can't believe it's been one year already!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Who's the Savvy Auntie? That'd be me.

My brother came home this weekend from his business trip to the annual Snap-on convention at Disney World in Orlando. He bought a "Cinder" beach towel for his 4-year-old daughter (my niece) and a Tinkerbell plate for his 1-year-old daughter (my other niece).

He said that the 4-year-old, E.Anne, felt slighted because A. got a Tinkerbell item. (E.Anne recently added Tinkerbell to her collection of Disney princesses. She even went to a fairy day camp a few weeks ago; I need a picture or two from that outing). So even though she got a Cinderella beach towel, which she is thrilled to use, she still pouted that her sister got Tinkerbell. "Big ol' bottom lip," my brother said.

My brother noted that the Tinkerbell plate was the only item he could find for A. He knew it was going to be an issue (what a perceptive dad!) but he said that was all they had for A. that wouldn't get "broke, swallowed, soiled or spoiled."

Luckily for all parties involved, Aunt Jackie is going to Disney World in three weeks for a work conference as well. I told my brother I'd find E.Anne a Tinkerbell item of her own. And something un-princesses related for A.

To this my brother noted that E.Anne is not looking forward to the party for A. this weekend (it's her first birthday on Saturday). He said it's hard for her to see her little sister get all the attention and presents, and asked if I could help out. Duh. I asked if he thought he was dealing with an Amateur Auntie. He said, "No! I know we roll with the best of the best!!!" I told him that I bought books and stickers months ago for this very special day; it's all under control.

This is about transitions through some difficult stages in a 4-year-old's life (i.e. sibling rivalry). Do I see it as spoiling the 4-year-old? No. It's about keeping some peace so the cheers for the 1-year-old's celebration can be heard. The 4-year-old will be kept in the party for the 1-year-old but with a couple $1 items to keep her hands busy so the 1-year-old can tackle her own pile without help (hopefully). Things will change as the years go by and both are able to comprehend and understand the importance of each celebration. For now, we work with the 4-year-old's level of understanding.

Blueberry Cobbler

I have a bunch of blueberries I need to use. And I need a dessert for tonight's birthday dinner for my friend Beth.

This is what I'm making.... Picture of final product to come....


2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 T. vanilla extract
1/2 lemon, juiced, OR 1 1/2 T. lemon juice
1 C. white sugar
1/2 t. all-purpose flour
1 T. butter, melted
1 3/4 C. all-purpose flour
4 t. baking powder
6 T. white sugar
5 T. butter
1 C. milk
2 T. sugar
1 pinch ground cinnamon


Lightly grease an 8 inch square baking dish. Place the blueberries into the baking dish, and mix with vanilla and lemon juice. Sprinkle with 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of flour, then stir in the tablespoon of melted butter. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 3/4 cups of flour, baking powder, and 6 tablespoons sugar. Rub in the 5 tablespoons butter using your fingers, or cut in with a pastry blender until it is in small pieces. Make a well in the center, and quickly stir in the milk. Mix just until moistened. You should have a very thick batter, or very wet dough. You may need to add a splash more milk. Cover, and let batter rest for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Spoon the batter over the blueberries, leaving only a few small holes for the berries to peek through. Mix together the cinnamon and 2 teaspoons sugar; sprinkle over the top.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the top is golden brown. A knife inserted into the topping should come out clean - of course there will be blueberry syrup on the knife. Let cool until just warm before serving.

From [Full recipe here]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Recycle already, will ya?

I did change a few of my ways during my 18 months living in California.

Recycling, for one.

I lived in graduate housing at Fuller and they provided recycling bins, which happened to be just downstairs from my apartment. It was easy to drop recyclables off anytime I was leaving the apartment.

Then I started doing some study on creation care and our responsibility to care for the earth that God loves, and recycling became not only something easy and/or trendy to do, it became the right thing to do, one simple change in my life that would help me be a better steward of the earth and its resources.

Since moving back to Nashville, I started recycling anything and everything that I could. And discovered how easy it was, even though recycling bins were no longer right at the bottom of a set of stairs from my home.

I sort paper, glass, plastic, metal and cardboard into bags and boxes in my basement as I collect it all and when those are full, I put them in the trunk of my car and drive a mile down the street to the Nashville Metro Public Works Recycling Drop-off site at Dupont Hadley Middle School. I don't have any fancy labeled recycle bins; I just use and re-use plastic grocery bags. It takes seconds out of my day to put something in the basement and it takes a couple minutes to throw the items in the recycling dumpsters at the drop-off site.

And I've noticed a significant drop in my actual amount of trash that has to go out for the trash collectors every Wednesday. Which is a really positive feeling. I can see my recycling making a difference in the amount of trash that will just go sit somewhere.

Recycling is such an easy thing to do when you simply make the decision to do it; I don't understand why more people don't. Maybe it's personal conviction and understanding of the topic of creation care and recycling that make it an easy decision for me. Perhaps for others, they're too lazy to do it or they don't know how easy it is.

Need to find recycling in your area? Do a search here: [] The site also has some really great tips and articles on recycling, reusing and re-purposing.

Some times I think that what I'm doing right now isn't enough. But it's more than I was doing three years ago. And that's just a good start.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vegan Orange Cornmeal Pancakes

I found this recipe in the February/March 2010 of ReadyMade magazine. [ReadyMade website]

I altered it a little bit because the taste of oily oranges just wasn't for me.

My vegan cornmeal pancakes

1 C. whole wheat flour
1/2 C. cornmeal
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
3/4 t. salt
1 1/4 C. plain soy milk (I use almond milk)
2 T. canola oil
1 T. maple or agave syrup
1 t. cider vinegar
1 orange, peeled and sliced across the grain


1. Stir together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk together milk, oil, syrup and vinegar, and stir into dry mixture until just moistened.

2. Pour 1/3 cup of mixture onto nonstick skillet (basically, cook your pancakes) for 2 minutes on each side. Serve with syrup and orange slices.

Clove syrup:
1 1/2 C. maple syrup
1 t. ground cloves

Heat syrup and cloves in saucepan until warm and serve over pancakes.


The original recipe sautes the orange slices in canola oil and then adds the 1/3 cup of pancake mixture over one slice to cook. But I didn't like the taste of oranges sauted in oil. Yuck. The fresh orange slices on top of the pancakes with the syrup worked though.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sugar Cookies

I made mom's sugar cookie recipe today. Just on a whim. Since I had the ingredients.

I should have gotten a picture of the finished product but they're all already bagged up to be handed out to my friends who responded to my "now baking" tweet.


2 eggs
2/3 C. oil
2 t. vanilla
3/4 C. sugar
3 C. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt


Mix all ingredients together and place on baking sheet. Stamp down with bottom of drinking glass dipped in sugar. (Add colored sprinkles if you choose.) Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

They said no to the wind farm in Lake Michigan

My brother sent me a link with the latest update to the wind farm proposal in Lake Michigan: [Oceana County Board rejects Scandia Wind's Offshore proposal]

Yay to the Oceana County commissioners for saying "no" the windfarm proposal!

Again, I love a good wind farm but not the idea of one being planted in Lake Michigan.

Michigan does need a stimulus for its economy but I don't think putting a wind farm in the lake is going to solve that problem.

And really I just can't get past the idea that they want to invade such a natural resource with a development that has unknown consequences. Good for the county commissioners in standing up for this.


My brother sent me his view on this by e-mail. And I'm hoping he'll post it as a comment here. You hear me, brother? Don't be worried about looking like an idiot; you've been pre-approved!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What? Pole Dancing for Tweens?

My friend Lori brought an article to our attention today: [Pole Dancing Tweens]

This has to be the most absurd item of the week for me. How is offering pole dancing lessons to tweens and young kids an appropriate idea? Sure, it might be fantastic exercise. I've seen the Cirque du Soleil and the Amazing Yen/the Grease Man in Ocean's 11. But do you have to call it "pole dance instruction"? Especially if you're going to say that it has nothing to do with stripping.

The owner tells the local newspaper that the kids are not taught erotic association with the pole and that kids regularly see poles on the playgrounds and in fire stations. [Quizzical look] Fire stations? That's a stretch. How many kids visit fire stations nowadays? Because I'm pretty sure any kids that visit the fire station in my neighborhood won't see a pole - it's a one-story building with a large garage for the trucks.

The writer for also notes that the so-called innocent exercise classes are called things like "Bellylicious, Sexy Flexy, Pussycat Dawls, and Promiscuous Girls." Which sounds nothing like stripping [insert extra sarcasm here].

I have no problem with gymnastics exercise that includes strength and technique training on either vertical or horizontal poles. Just don't give it a raunchy name or refer to it as pole dancing. Such names for it only force our minds to go in inappropriate directions because it sounds like you're condoning the training of young strippers.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chocolate Cobbler

My friend Lindsey and I discovered that chocolate cobbler goes really well with homemade mango cinnamon ice cream.

I found this recipe in a magazine years ago.

Lindsey and I did not eat this whole thing in one sitting. Half was sent home in a doggy bag.

1 1/4 cup self-rising flour
1 cup sugar
2 T. cocoa
2 T. butter
1/2 cup milk
1 t. vanilla


Mix ingredients and place in 11x7 pan. Cover with 1 1/2 cups boiling water. Place 2 T. cocoa on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

A lesson in how to advertise on Craigslist, by my brother

My brother often (and by often I mean daily) cruises through the classifieds on Craigslist looking for Chris Craft boats or Jeep parts or old barns he can repurpose into a cabin, etc. You know, your general run-of-the-mill items.

He found this one: 1936 Chris Craft Double Cockpit 161 - $2000 (Grand Rapids, MI) [Link here]

I clicked the link, scrolled down to see the photos and I first glanced at this one:

And I thought, "This barely looks like a boat that would float, let alone a Chris Craft."

I glanced at the other pictures in the ad:

I think a quizzical look came over my face at this point.  

At which point my brother said, "I'd have one of those, make no mistake. But can't you just tell me your Chris-Craft is a pile of dry rot and save the 1940s nostalgic bull? Seriously. Anyone who knows that your pile of sawdust is worth $500 will know to shut up and buy without the clip art photos of her former glory. Give me a break. Know your audience. People dredging CL for wooden Chris-Craft boats do not need the fluff. PERIOD. Tell me how bad it is and where to pick it up. 

"It's a pile. Can it float again? Sure. After EVERY piece of wood is replaced!!! It has value but don't try to sucker some poor Pottery Barn wannabe into buying your boat cuz it's vintage! It's vintage refuse! List it here: Moron. 

"Are you getting this? Have I inspired a new blog post?"

Yes, dear brother, yes you have.

Folks, don't try to shiny up your crap on Craigslist with pictures that are not of the actual item. Let the people trolling through CL find the junk or treasures that they're looking for. Like my brother said, know your audience.

Fun with sunglasses

I had so much fun at home at the end of July. I had to share these proud auntie photos of my nieces mugging for the camera with my sunglasses.



Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"American Idol" is crumbling because Ellen is gay?

I get e-mails from Christian Newswire for work. Confession: I don't always open them and read them. Depends on the subject line.

Well, when I saw this subject line last Friday, I had to read it:

"Ellen DeGeneres Fired After She Jumps the Shark for American Idol"

"How did Ellen jump the shark for American Idol?" I wondered. "I thought the contestants jumped the shark for the show because they were awful, all season long, boring and nothing spectacular."

So I clicked on the link, and this is what I read. [Christian Newswire opinion]

My jaw dropped. I picked it back up but I'm pretty sure it dropped again.

So, Mr. McCullough, you're saying the viewership for this last season of "American Idol" was not good because the Christian viewers (who you define broadly) didn't want a gay agenda forced on them by AI producers? So they turned the TV off?

When this Christian (I'm not sure where I land on McCullough's spectrum of Christianity) heard Ellen was going to be a judge on the show, I didn't think, "That'll never fly; she's gay." Instead I thought, "What's a comedienne doing at the judges' table of 'Idol'? Other than dancing on her show, does she have musical experience?"

And I don't really understand why McCullough was making such predictions in the first place. It's just a TV show, a reality show/contest for wannabe musicians to sign their life away and make a record. I'd be more worried about the ideas of fame and celebrity that producers are pushing through the show than any homosexual agenda.

I propose two other possible reasons why last season of "American Idol" was a lame duck. The first one I've mentioned: the talent was nothing spectacular. Second, Paula was gone. Paula could be a train wreck but we liked watching the train wreck. It added entertainment value to the show. Without Paula, there were 4 of 4 judges that could be understood.

And this guy makes no mention of Adam Lambert. The news about Adam's homosexuality came out while Adam's season of "American Idol" was still in play. I just don't understand why Mr. McCullough is placing blame on Ellen when the topic had come up the previous season. I wouldn't fault the crumbling of "American Idol" on Ellen's sexual preference but to producers creating a not-so-great season or to the fact that maybe the show has run its course entirely.

And his closing paragraph: "Cultural battles have two sides, one of which is immoral. Choose to fight on the immoral side of a cultural battle and any victory you experience will only be temporary. That is my spiritual advice." I think I could unpack this for days using what I learned in grad school about culture and its forms...though I'm pretty sure I don't want to spend any more time on what this guy says.

Time to make some bread....

In effort to save money, I'm going to make my own bread. I don't have a bread maker so we're doing this the old fashioned hand. This recipe sounds easy enough and I have all the ingredients. I'll let you know how it turns out....

Classic Whole Wheat Bread


2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten

1. In a small mixing bowl, dissolve the sugar and yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the milk, vegetable oil, whole wheat flour, 1 cup of the all-purpose flour and the salt; beat well. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

3. Grease two 8x4 inch bread pans. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and form into loaves. Place the loaves into the pans. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

4. Brush the risen loafs with lightly beaten egg. Bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 30 minutes, or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

This recipe came from Find it here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I'm a sucker for a wind farm...just not that wind farm

I go ga-ga for wind farms.

I love them.

As my friend Leslie and I moved me across the country to L.A., we ran across a wind farm in middle-of-nowhere Texas. We stopped. Leslie took pictures of the wind farm for me and the cotton for her.

Memorial Day weekend 2009: I was driving to San Francisco with my friend Lena. We passed through the largest, most heavenly looking wind farm I had ever laid my eyes on. I immediately grabbed my cell phone and called Leslie. I had to share my excitement.

Driving home to Michigan 10 days ago, I took a new route up I-65 north toward Chicago rather than I-69 north toward Lansing - and I discovered a wind farm. I even stopped to fill my car up with fuel, snapped a picture and tweeted about it...multiple times. It was nice to find something worth looking at during the unending road that is Indiana.

Then I heard about a proposed wind farm for Michigan. Lake Michigan. And while my initial thought was, "You mean, I could sit on the beach at my parents' cabin and look out at a wind farm, for hours and hours? *Sigh* Yes, please," I then saw all these yard signs shouting "No Mistake in the Lake!" And I thought, "Who are these people that don't want to sit and stare at the beauty of a wind farm for hours and hours? They're crazy!"

So I started asking questions of my family about the proposed farm and they were anti-wind farm in Lake Michigan as well. They have no problem if a farmer wants to allow them in his fields but they don't think it's right to set up a wind farm in location that doesn't belong to any one person. They said a few other complaints from residents include:

1) Noise from the turbines
2) Damage to wind farm from ice in the winter: how can it be predicted, what could the damage do and how much does it cost to fix?
3) Too close to shore, affecting natural resources and tourism at nearby state parks, lighthouses and coastal towns

While the article is unavailable, the comments of readers for and against the proposed wind farm can still be seen here in the Ludington Daily News. Ludington is the city on Lake Michigan closest to where the wind farm would go up. Pentwater and the Silver Lake Sand Dunes where my family spends much of our time is a short distance south.

I found two groups: Offshore Wind and Industrial Wind Action Group (IWA). Offshore Wind supports the development of wind power to a point. Here is an article on desired wind farm to serve Evanston, IL, north of downtown Chicago. IWA is not a fan of wind power and it is the group responsible for the "No Mistake in the Lake" signs. I found this opinion through its website: Don't let wind developers create a mistake in Lake Michigan.

On the limited reading and research I've done thus far, I'm still a fan of wind farms but I say, "No mistake in the lake." There seem to be too many unanswered questions, too much desire to push the proposal through the system, and honestly, I'm not sold on the idea that a wind farm belongs in the public waters that are one of Michigan's greatest natural resources. I can only imagine all the boats out on Lake Michigan forced to navigate through a farm; it's gotta be easier to navigate a tractor around one.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Get Ready....

If I'm a writer, then I need to be writing.

Starting tomorrow, August 3, I will be blogging once a day through the end of the month. Either here on The Traveling Auntie or on my other blog, Learning.

I have a lot in my brain and a lot on my mind that I want to get out, that I need to get out.

I meant to just take June off after classes ended but that kind of stretched through July. So now it's August and it's time to get back to writing, writing more than papers for school.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Buy Local - Be Green

A new favorite and handy website I'm using is They keep a running list of local businesses in different categories for the Nashville area.

Recently they responded to an article that said buying local made for bad policy. In their response they noted that buying locally aids in "sustaining vibrant, livable communities and healthy ecosystems in the process." It's not just about keeping money in your community; it's also about cutting back on the shipping process that adds to carbon emissions and the like that result from buying items that need to be shipped to Nashville over items that are already in Nashville. There's something about creation care in here; it's not just about economics.

That's one reason why I've decided over the last few months to be more mindful of my choices when shopping for groceries and necessities, whether I'm at home in Nashville or visiting any number of friends in any number of cites around the country. I am working at intentionally shopping with local businesses for goods I need.

I'm vegetarian and am really found of fresh vegetables. I'm not currently in the position to start my own backyard garden or to join a CSA (community supported agriculture) so the next best thing and the easiest change I've found is visit local farmer's markets for what I need.

The second move, which is requiring a little more patience and willpower, is to buy only produce that is seasonal. Is it the season for bell peppers and blueberries? Then OK, buy some. Here's a good website for finding local seasonal offerings with an easy to use interactive map:

I have also made the commitment to buy certain organic fruits and vegetables. Now, I might end up doing this at the local Trader Joe's, Kroger or Publix but I figure that's as good a start as any. For some items it costs a little more but at least I know with certified organic items, I'm getting healthier food. There's a list called "the dirty dozen," produce items you should buy organic to avoid major pesticides; they are:

The Dirty Dozen:
Domestic blueberries
Sweet bell peppers
Spinach, kale and collard greens
Imported grapes

One of the most fun and delicious changes is to be a patron of local restaurants and coffee shops. I think you get more unique options and maybe even better quality food and drink when at local stores. And it really makes me happy that Nashville is growing in this area.

It takes a little more effort and maybe a little more money but honestly, it's worth it to know that I'm making a little headway to in being greener for the earth's sake.
Sunday is the second Auntie's Day. (It also happens to be my parents' 40th anniversary!) gave 10 (really, 12 as there are two #3's and #5's) ways to show that I'm a Savvy Auntie. See that list here.

Here are the ones that I will do or have already done:

1. Wear a flower! In your hair, on your hat or as a pin.

2. Write about being an aunt on your personal blog or website. DONE!

3. Post a Savvy Auntie's Day badge to your blog, Twitter, Facebook or MySpace page. DONE!

4. Celebrate fellow Savvy Aunties with a call or e-card. DONE!

5. Spend the day with your nieces, nephews and godchildren.

6. Spread the word! Tell your friends about Savvy Auntie's Day. DONE!

7. Tweet your Followers a Savvy Auntie's Day! And see who else is celebrating #AuntiesDay

8. Join the Savvy Auntie Fan Page on Facebook. DONE!

Are you an Auntie? Auntie by relation or auntie by choice or Godmother? Celebrate on Sunday!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wear a Life Jacket Like You Do Your Seat Belt

Maybe I've just had the local news on more in the last few days, but there seem to be quite a few boating or jet ski accidents here in Middle Tennessee, which resulted in a few deaths. Such terribly sad news. I just feel horrible for the families who sat by the side of the lake waiting for news from officials about loved ones. All they could do was wait.

I just heard the story this morning about a guy and gal on a jet ski on Old Hickory Lake (the lake right by my house). It overturned. The girl survived; she was wearing a life jacket. The man never surfaced; he was not. I don't know their circumstances; I don't know why he wasn't wearing a life jacket. But I'm reminded again why I do. Because you just never what's going to happen. Accidents happen.

I think jet skis are taken for granted. They seem so easy to handle and simple to use but you can be tossed off one quickly and unexpectedly. I know how hard I ride jet skis and I see how hard my brother rides them - anything could happen to either of us.

I've been unexpectedly thrown from my brother's jet ski while he was driving. It was May in Lake Michigan and I landed in 50-degree water. He had a wet suit on; I did not. My body went into complete shock upon hitting that water. I couldn't breath and everything went numb. It was not a serious accident but it happened so quickly and my body reacted instantly to that cold water, I hate to think what my situation might have been if I left the life jacket on shore.

My brother and I were chatting about it today and he said, "Yeah, whenever I'm about to do something stupid, I think about how E Anne and Ava [his daughters and my nieces] would feel when they are old enough to comprehend how I died and how stupid it really driving without a seat belt or not wearing a life jacket on the lake or climbing a ladder with a chainsaw (gas-powered and running). I just don't want to be 'that guy' who orphans his kids by being a dumba**. I can't have them sitting with their mom in a Great Shakes somewhere and have people stand up and yell, 'Shame!' at them. What a disgrace that would be!" OK, he might have gotten a little dramatic there but it's a fair point. Even if you think you handle some unexpected situation, think about those on shore or in the backseat in case that one time, that accident comes your way.

I remember when my parents would put us in a canoe in some Michigan river or on a lake to go fishing and we'd have to wear those gosh-awful-looking orange U-shaped life jackets. Now, they kinda look retro but not a real fashion statement. Today, life jackets fit much better and come in all colors and patterns. They might not be high fashion though you might be able to match your jacket with your bathing suit, if you really needed to. So, if you think it's not going to happen to you, or the life jacket somehow crimps your coolness factor, get over it. Accidents happen. Wear the jacket.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Apple Crumb Pie Recipe

Found this recipe in my Magnolia Bakery cookbook. It turned out perfectly. It wasn't too sweet and while some apple pies can be runny or liquidy, this one was not.

My version:

Apple Crumb Pie:


1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
3 tablespoons ice water

3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups peeled, cored, and sliced tart apples, such as Granny Smith

Crumb Topping:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, unpacked
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into small pieces

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes then at 375 degrees for another 25 minutes.

I baked it as we ate dinner and chatted. It was still plenty warm inside well after I removed it from the oven. Which of course made it perfect with vanilla ice cream.

This recipe comes from the Magnolia Bakery cookbook. I've tried several recipes from this cookbook and have had success every time.

Find the cookbook here at Powells.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sweet Potato Burritos

My new favorite recipe are these sweet potato burritos:


1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups canned kidney beans, drained
2 cups water
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons prepared mustard
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
3 tablespoons soy sauce
4 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
12 (10 inch) flour tortillas, warmed
8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. Heat oil in a medium skillet, and saute onion and garlic until soft. Stir in beans, and mash. Gradually stir in water, and heat until warm. Remove from heat, and stir in the chili powder, cumin, mustard, cayenne pepper and soy sauce.

3. Divide bean mixture and mashed sweet potatoes evenly between the warm flour tortillas. Top with cheese. Fold up tortillas burrito style, and place on a baking sheet.

4. Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven, and serve.


Blueberry Breakfast Buckle

In addition to anecdotes about my nieces and nephews and glimpses of my vacation life, I've decided to add favorite new recipes to my blog. Starting with this one....

From "A Sweet Spoonful" blog via Ready Made magazine:

Blueberry Breakfast Buckle:

Adapted From: Rustic Fruit Desserts


1 Tbsp. unsalted butter at room temperature, for pan
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (7.5 oz)
1/2 cup oat flour (2 oz)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (4 oz)
1 cup granulated sugar (7 oz)
2 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 dry pint blueberries (2 1/2 cups or 9 oz), fresh or frozen
1/4 cup rolled oats (3/4 oz)
2 Tbsp. turbinado sugar (or brown sugar) for topping
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp. agave or honey


Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a bowl. Using a handheld mixer with beaters or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and granulated sugar together on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Then stir in the vanilla. Next, stir in the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the buttermilk in two additions. Essentially, you want to begin and end with the dry ingredients and scrape down the bowl a few times as you go.

Fold in half of the blueberries and spread the batter into the prepared pan. Distribute the remaining blueberries over the cake, then sprinkle the oats and turbinado sugar over the top.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top is lightly golden and firm to the touch. Stir yogurt and agave together in a small bowl and set aside in refrigerator. Let buckle cool.

To serve, spoon a dollop of yogurt over cake and drizzle a little extra agave if you’d like. Buckle will be good for 2 days if stored in plastic wrap at room temperature.

Makes: 8-12 servings

Monday, July 12, 2010

DuneFest 2010

Plans are underway for DuneFest 2010.

What is DuneFest, you ask?

Well, it's where I invite my friends to my parents' cabin near Silver Lake, MI for off-roading, jet skis, beach time, campfires and Mom's homecooking over Labor Day weekend.

And don't just take this to be any other holiday weekend camping experience. No, no. It's much more than that. Especially when my crazy Uncle Bruce is around.

DuneFest includes:

*Off-roading in whatever assortment of Chapman off-road vehicles are available (mostly Jeeps) at the Silver Lake Sand Dunes (i.e. giant hills of sand where they only allow off-road vehicles or ORVs)

*Jet-skiing on Lake Michigan or Pentwater Lake

*Swimming in Lake Michigan

*A visit to Pentwater, including but not limited to The Brown Bear and House of Flavors.

*Campfires with s'mores and doughboy boys (secret family recipe only to be shared with DuneFest participants)

*A t-shirt, possibly

*Food and more food, because my mom is a genius at cooking for a crowd.

This weekend isn't for the faint of heart either. You either have to have a great sense of adventure and a daring spirit or a great deal of trust in the Chapman driving your vehicle that she or he won't kill you. But it's a lot of fun. Really.

And if flying over mountains of sand in a Jeep or doing 360's on jet skis on Lake Michigan isn't your thing...we reserve the right to call you a coward but it's totally fine if you want to sit on the beach or on the porch of the cabin and read.

And the only cost is your transportation there. You won't find a deal like that on

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Washington D.C. Day 9

My last day in D.C., but no pictures.

I visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Holocaust exhibit was three floors of artifacts and video. The eyewitness accounts and all the artifacts hit you in the face. The exhibit The Power of Nazi Propaganda was also quite powerful as you learned about all the parts of the Nazi propaganda machine. Seeing the video of Hitler's speeches showed how he was so convincing.

I also stopped by the National Gallery of Art to see the Allen Ginsberg photograph exhibit. The photographs with his inscriptions gave more insight into his world. It was really interesting and a great combination of words and art.

To wrap up my night I went to the Gala Theatre in Columbia Heights for a screening of "Call + Response" about modern day slavery. For more information go here.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Washington D.C. Day 8

Today I visited Arlington National Cemetery. By far the most moving experience I've had in D.C.

1) Seeing the size of the cemetery was overwhelming and considering the number of American patriots, famous by name or not, buried there brings tears to my eyes.

2) The Tomb of the Unknown: I arrived at the monument at 10 a.m. when it was the changing of the guard. Wow. I had no idea that this ritual was *so* precise and formal. I had to learn more when I got home. I discovered that The Old Guard or the 3rd U.S. Army Infantry Regiment guards the monument 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.

From the Army website: "While on duty the sentinel crosses a 63-foot rubber surfaced walkway in exactly 21 steps. He then faces the Tomb for 21 seconds, turns again, and pauses an additional 21 seconds before retracing his steps. The 21 is symbolic of the highest salute according to dignitaries in military and state ceremonies.
"As a gesture against intrusion on their post, the sentinel always bears his weapon away from the Tomb."

3) I also witnessed from a distance the interment of a U.S. Army service person (obviously, not sure if it was a man or a woman). It was also moving to witness the ritual involved here. And when I heard Taps playing, I lost it.

4) The different monuments and memorials:

My Funny Niece & Toilet Paper

My brother sent a message last night:

E.Anne: "Mommy what are you thinking about in your head?"

Charissa, taken aback, turns the question back to E.Anne: "What are you thinking about in your head?"

E.Anne: "I'm thinking about how much we love stuff."

Charissa: "Like what?"

E.Anne: "Like toilet paper."

My brother says, "Of all the things in the world to love...toilet paper?!?!?! I guess so."

Washington D.C. Day 7

Sunday was a lazy day. After a delicious latte from Peregrine Espresso, Shelby and I hit Eastern Market for some shopping. It was a mix of local produce and local artisans, etc. I found some stationery (because I can never resist) and two old maps - one of Michigan and one of Tennessee - to bed used in my guest room.

We pretty much killed the rest of the afternoon out of the sun by watching a movie and eating ice cream. But we ventured out for dinner to Ethiopic Restaurant for Ethiopian food. So delicious. Check them out here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Washington D.C. Day 6

My friend Shelby joined me as a tourist on Saturday. We did more museums: Natural History and American History. We had to see the Hope Diamond at the Natural History Museum and we had to try and see the musical instruments collection at the American History Museum, which was still closed.

I've decided that I've been to so many museums in so many cities that I just need to visit special highlights or exhibits of a museum. I don't need to go through all the dinosaur and mammal exhibits in every single museum. That's why we only went to the Hope Diamond exhibit and hit a few exhibits at the American History museum: the musical instruments and pop culture collections, the Star Spangled Banner exhibit, Apollo Theater and First Ladies exhibits.

And we stopped by the Hirshhorn for another look at the Yves Klein exhibit and to visit the gift shop for a ring I wanted, the Air & Space Museum for another gift shop run and the Museum of the American Indian for lunch in the cafe, which was so delicious with lots of vegetarian options.

We walked through the Botanical Gardens and took a break in the shade of its verandah with a view of the Capitol Building. We walked off more of our lunch as we paid a visit to Pitango Gelato. Mmmmmm.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Washington D.C. Day 5

I only did one thing out in the city but it was the best! I had the chance to attend an exclusive performance of "Thurgood" at the Kennedy Center.

Here's the lobby at the Kennedy Center:

The play was a one-man show featuring Laurence Fishburne. It had a successful run on Broadway in 2008 and is finishing up a 3-week run at the Kennedy Center this weekend. This performance was taped for use by teachers, students and schools. I think they said it would be available to 46,000 schools, something like or maybe I'm way off.

Anyways, the play was tremendous and Fishburne was outstanding as Thurgood Marshall. It was really informative, thought-provoking and inspiring. It makes me want to read about any and all of the Supreme Court justices to see how their journeys led to highest court in the land. It was really powerful.

I also received a lovely compliment. The lady sitting next to me serves as a volunteer at the Kennedy Center. She looked at my outfit and noted that she saw one of the Kennedy ladies recently who wore a similar outfit to mine: white pants, black top and black sandals. I was "looking like a Kennedy." My real name is Jacqueline...I'm just saying.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Washington D.C. Day 4

Today...more museums! Today was art day with time at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the National Portrait Gallery. I was going to do the Art Ventures art walk but there was not a subway stop out that way. So I got frozen yogurt and wandered back home past the Capitol Building, snapping a few more pictures as I went.

I really enjoyed the modern art of Hirshhorn. The Yves Klein exhibit was great. At the National Portrait Gallery, I mainly went to see the American Presidents exhibit. It's amazing how many presidents you forget about, like John Tyler, the "accidental president."

Presidents included below: Andrew Jackson, since I live down the street from his home The Hermitage, Abraham Lincoln cuz he's Abraham Lincoln, Gerald R. Ford because he's from my hometown Grand Rapids, and Richard Nixon because the painting was done by Norman Rockwell, which was unexpected.