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.