Linking Up to Some Great Recipes

Hi all,

Think I really like Halloween on a Saturday. I love the colorful, energetic foot-traffic that finds its way to our door every year. A few blocks away, Older Son and his friends did a haunted house. How fun to have a group of younger teenage girls I directed there ring my doorbell a second time. One plopped herself on my stoop as if she’d known me forever–I’d never met them before–to tell me “all about the haunted house” in that bubbly, giggly way girls do! They made my night.

jack-o-lantern-Nic-2015
Older Son’s work. Have a feeling Jack here is sporting Ray-Bans.

One day I’ll get back into a groove–lately all I do is school-related reports. Amazing the domino-effect created by one person’s good intentions. All the reports she sought to get done ahead of her maternity leave are already due for this school year–they just keep on coming. Very frustrating when one wants time to work on non-school-related endeavors.

So…in the interest of brevity, I’ll link you up with some of my latest go-to recipes. (Among the reasons I love oats and the internet!)

Over at bakerita.com, Rachel’s gluten-free banana bread (with chocolate chips and two minor tweaks by me) is absolutely delicious–moist and hearty every time! My tweaks: I replaced honey with brown sugar. (I rarely stock honey. We don’t use it, so it’s usually dried up whenever I go looking for it.) I also tried pumpkin in lieu of applesauce. That worked pretty well too, but I had to increase the baking time by 10-15 minutes. And this treat topped with a little Trader Joe’s almond butter? Breakfast is served!

Found this pumpkin chocolate chip cookie overnight oats this past Sunday morning. Simple and quick. Made it in a few minutes and gave it an hour in the fridge. This was more like a VERY yummy dessert, though I believe it’s meant for breakfast. Can I tell you how awesome it tasted over the pumpkin-banana bread (above) with a little shot of whipped cream? I’m sure vanilla Greek yogurt pairs nicely here as well. (BTW, I substituted brown sugar for the honey in this one too. Worked just fine.)

One more: cinnamon roll baked oatmeal. Easy. Quick. Elegant enough to serve at a brunch (or take to school for a holiday breakfast). My only change-up here was in the glaze. I LOVE cream-cheese glaze, so I searched for a simple one. (Yes, I found one, for cinnamon roll pancakes with cream-cheese frosting–my next venture. Sorry. I didn’t bookmark the site. That might not be a good thing, lol.)

Two more things I really liked about these recipes:

(1) each calls for staples that tend to be on-hand or easily obtained;

(2) each is gluten-free (but not necessarily CGF).

Do any of you have any go-to recipes to share?

Love fall colors and weather! (Wish we could skip straight to spring, though. :) )
Love fall colors and weather! (Wish we could skip straight to spring, though. 🙂 )

Off to my next evaluation!

Have a wonderful day,

Joanna

Do You “Super Bowl?”

Welcome to the first day of February, friends. The US of A is kicking off 2015’s second month with its biggest party of the year, I guess. (I’m wondering if New Year’s Eve might be the frontrunner, but Americans will jump on any positive event to celebrate—yes?—and a sporting event always seems to be that much more fun.)

Super Bowl Sunday is usually a double-sporting event for me. Just finished watching the Australian Open Tennis Championships: Novak Djokovic is starting to own Melbourne Park the way Rafael Nadal is Rolling Garros reigning monarch. Congrats to Novak, and to finalist Andy Murray. Their display was dynamic, especially those first two sets.

Later in the day, of course, is the crowning glory of the NFL’s season. All the best to the Seahawks and Patriots—and to Aaron Rodgers, the NFL’s repeat MVP (another personal favorite of mine–the guy seems a class-act :)).

FullSizeRender (3)  Okay, so I fell short on the plates, lol. At least they coordinate with the napkins. Pizza dough is on the rise and onion dip’s a-chillin’ in the fridge. (No tacos and no brownie–the oblong bake pan I used went to pieces a while back… 😦 )

Before I was actually into “the big game,” I always looked for a party. (What’s better than one more excuse to chow down on junk food while hanging out with folks you like?) Since the NY Giants’ crazy run to the championship game in 2011, I decided I wanted to stay home so I could better focus on the action. My kids planned to have a few friends over that night, and a friend of mine showed up as a surprise.

I threw together a few pizzas—maybe tacos too—slapped snacks and drinks onto the table and baked a football-shaped brownie. Some football-themed paper goods rounded it all out and our Super Bowl tradition was born.

So, do you celebrate the Super Bowl? Are you a party person or do you prefer to be in front of your own big-screen so you don’t miss a play? Do you wish the hype would just go away? Any votes for Super Bowl SATURDAY? (Hear, hear!) Should the US declare Monday after the Super Bowl a national holiday?

No matter how you spend it, have a wonderful day–and a great upcoming week too! Someone kindly tell that pesky ground hog in PA to feign temporary blindness against any shadows–just sayin’… 😉

Happy Birthday, Danny!

Joanna

Fancy or Plain? Which Would You Choose?

Happy New Year, friends and followers! Welcome back! Here’s to the first post of 2015. (#370 since I started this blogging gig!) May the new year be peaceful, blessed and prosperous for us all. (FYI, I’m keeping my ‘Christmas décor’ up here a little longer, just like I’m doing at home.)

Not sure where I wanted to start this year, but I did just finish a little gem of a book during the Christmas break from school. This sweet, switched-at-birth story by author Cynthia Keller touched me, and I thought I’d share my thoughts on it with all of you. (Disclaimer: I borrowed the book from my church’s library. In no way was I compensated for this write up.)

A+Plain+&+Fancy+Christmas

The title, A Plain and Fancy Christmas, was a bit of a misnomer. The story doesn’t revolve around Christmas at all, which makes it a perfect weekend read at any time of the year.

The title does, however, suggest the backgrounds and backstories of its lead characters, 30-year-olds Ellie Lawrence and Rachel King Yoder. (I’m always good for stories involving an Amish backdrop.)

Ellie holds an executive position in a high-profile, New York City public relations corporate firm. Despite underlying dissatisfaction with her job and and her sort-of romantic relationship with Jason, she has slipped into a content-enough routine with the family she believes to be hers and the overall trappings of her life. (If I had to choose a protagonist, I’m thinking she’s Ellie.)

Rachel was raised Amish. Widowed three years ago and unable to manage the farm she and her husband owned, she and her 10-year-old daughter are back in her parents’ home. Although she often finds herself feeling at odds with her mother, this is the only life Rachel has ever known.

Respect, and the rules and ways that go along with having chosen to be baptized into the Amish faith and culture, keep Rachel from delving too deeply into her emotions. She has always felt dissatisfaction too, especially after having lived among “the English” during rumspringa, the period of exploration and/or rebellion Amish teens are allowed. Rachel returned to her faith, mostly because she’d fallen in love with Jacob Yoder, and couldn’t imagine her life without him.  

Long story short, Ellie and Rachel each receive a letter explaining the circumstances that led to the switch. Rachel buries hers in a drawer, but Ellie sets into play a series of events that will impact both these ladies’ futures. (Of course, y’all knew that, or there would be no story and nothing for me to write about! 😉 )

This story is nicely written, told from the points-of-view of its leading ladies, with one exception: a chapter told from the perspective of the nurse who was involved in the switch. I was readily transported to Rachel’s Amish farm in Pennsylvania and related easily to the go-go-go associated with life in NYC. My only beef is how the author provides backstory, in several-page-long flashbacks (?) of exposition. Mrs. Keller did this more often at the beginning, which made getting into the story a bit of a challenge–for me, anyway. Liking the premise, the Amish part of the setting–and the characters early on—kept me reading.)

I  to easily to Ellie’s intrigue with a simpler way of life; it reminded me how much I love spending time at my cottage. I could easily adopt—and adapt to—the choices she made as the story and her character’s journey developed. What Rachel learned about herself describes me too, but I don’t want to give anything away.

Finally, the story explored the themes of family, nature, nurture and what might have been had the switch not occurred. I kept wondering what kind of a resolution could possibly be reached–particularly for Rachel–as the tale approached its close.

I now turn the blog-mike over to you! Any books you’ve recently read you’d like to share about? How did you spend New Year’s Eve? (We wound up at a neighbor’s big family get together—unexpected and just a few houses down the street, so no driving necessary on a night I much prefer to NOT be in a motorized vehicle.)

I’m not big on resolutions but have a few (besides the standard lose-ten-pounds): to read books on a regular basis (and simultaneously redevelop my attention span); to launch a speaker business based on several workshops I’ve developed these past few years. Once the latter is in play, I hope to get back into writing fiction, which has really gone the wayside because of other projects. Do you have any resolutions? Would you rather live a plain (Amish) or a fancy (English) life? Could you find a balance between the two?

Have a wonderful day and week,

Joanna

 

All the Best and The Greatest Gift of All

Hi everyone.

It’s been a BUSY (past) week and weekend. The Christmas shopping is pretty much done (except for food). Now begins the food buying and prepping since we’ll be hosting a small gathering (10 or so?) on Christmas Day. (It’s all good.)

Liv room--Christmas 2014 ©2014 Joanna Aislinn

Of course, I was keeping this one shorter, and wishing all of you a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah and/or Kwanzaa. Here’s to feeling blessed and sharing time, joy and love with all those who matter most to you.

I’m also praying big-time for peace on earth and good will to men (and women, of course), the greatest gift of all.

Funny. I’m certain I’ve heard, read, said or sung those phrases since I’ve been old enough to talk. I was singing it the other day (along with Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, to the The Greatest Gift of All,  off their Christmas CD–one of my top-five favorites). It struck me, in this world of horror, terror-filled news, how incredible a gift it would be for people to want good for each other. For the first time, I feel as though I owned those words. I sang them with intent that was new, real and heartfelt in a way I hadn’t fully understood before. (Maybe that’s just part of growing older?)

Anyway, that is what I’m wishing all of you, during the holiday(s) you celebrate. Peace in your hearts and good will toward all those who impact your days. And if you are inclined to do so, please consider praying for those who suffer and for those who wreak evil too. At the very least, the hearts, minds and spirits of the latter are most likely in one heck of a place to do what they do.

On an up note, I’d love to read about how you’ll be spending the holidays. Feel free to list your favorite music too. I linked you too, to my favorite tracks from my top five Christmas CDs. Enjoy!

1. Steven Curtis Chapman–The Magic of Christmas (my #1 favorite song of all time is from this one)

2. Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton–Once Upon a Christmas (A Christmas to Remember)

3. Donny Osmond–Christmas at Home (A Soldier’s Christmas)

4. Garth Brooks–Magic of Christmas: Songs from Call Me Claus (Baby Jesus is Born)

5. A Very Special Christmas (Red label–Baby Please Come Home–U2)

sofa--dressed up My sofa, all dressed up (to hide the cat damage, lol). © Joanna Aislinn 2014

Thanks to all of you for your support, your time, and for sharing your thoughts. You are tremendously appreciated.

Peace,

Joanna

 

 

When Your Gift Says “Love”

Hi all,

Hope the middle of the week finds all of you well, and that you’re not overwhelmed keeping up with all the extra to-do’s the holiday season brings. Hubby had surgery to his other shoulder last week. He’s hanging in there and dealing with the pain and discomfort like a champ. His wife-the-occupational-therapist-by-day gets to treat him with some stretching (and frequent reminders to put the cold pack on). So far, he’s been a pretty good patient.

Younger Son put the decorating-the-house wheels in motion; he’s got Christmas handled both indoors and out. At 16, he’s really into it, and getting better every year at making our home look (almost) better than I can. 😉 As long as he helps pack it up after Little Christmas…

silver tinsel tree

So this past Sunday, Hubby and I met up with my mom. We did our annual trek to purchase grave covers and the Charlie Brown tree we always put up at the cemetery. (You can read about how that tradition started here.)

Because the day before had blessed us with at least three inches of rain, I decided boots—fashion of course 😉 –would be the best choice of footwear. As I slid on and tied my knee-high, lace-up pair, I remembered that these were ‘special’.

Why? Well, I’ve got a small foot and a calf that’s larger than the average person with small feet probably has.

Translation: knee-high boots and I don’t see eye-to-eye on where the zipper should stop closing. 😦

A few years back, I’d come across the pair I wore Sunday at a large retailer. The zip-and-lace-up design accommodated my legs well. Of course, they were out of the half-size-up I prefer when I buy boots. Guess I mentioned to Hubby I would have liked them as a Christmas present.

I got them. He made his way to a branch of that store about 40 minutes away in one of the worst downpours that year to insure I got what I wanted for Christmas.

That says, “I love you,” in my book anyway.

How about you and/or yours? How have you shown—or been shown—love when it comes to gift giving? Do you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa? Do you have a favorite? What makes it so?

Okay, folks. I’m supposed to be doing paperwork and trying to figure out why I’m having technical issues elsewhere that need attention.

Enjoy your day,

Joanna

Keeping It Simple–Kid Memories

Hi all. My weekend was busy; good thing it was long! It included a trip to the ER with my mom, two shorter reports for work and a wake on Sunday afternoon. And….the November paperwork from school keeps piling up. (Bleh. I HATE paperwork.)

All this also means the blog will be VERY simple this week.

Fall at Lenape pond 2014 Took this on Columbus Day–gives me a quick serenity fix in a pinch. 

One huge shout-out: Heartfelt gratitude goes out to our veterans. I could thank you to the limits of the Milky Way and back and still not thank each of you enough for your sacrifice. And active-duty military personnel? Ditto.

Okay: Favorite kid memory (or when you knew your child was a genius—every parent thinks so, right? 😉 ):

Older Son was about 12 months and sitting in his high chair. With a water-based marker, I drew a smiley-face on the chair’s tray, figuring I’d do the eyes, ears, mouth, etc thing. I was capping the marker when he looked at my sketch and said, “Hi.” What are the odds he was way ahead of me, lol?

Doodle by Nic or Kev I’m pretty sure Older Son is the artist. I referred to this a few posts ago: the kid-art on the louver door in the bathroom I will NEVER paint over. If this sketch is an inch big, I’m overestimating, lol.  

Of course I could go on and on, but I’ll share one episode that really had me flumgubbered. Same kid was anywhere from three to four years old. I was getting him into his car seat and noticed the container of wipes I normally kept in the car was face down, flip-lid open and flat on the carpet. I picked it up and was pleased to note (and comment) that the wipes hadn’t dried out.

Older Son didn’t miss a beat. “That’s because no air got under there.”

What???

Somehow, he’s always gotten how things relate to one another.

Your turn, and yes, you may share about any child (niece, neighbor, student, etc) who has left you slack-jawed with their ability to infer!

Have a great day, everyone!

Joanna

How Far Will You Go To Impose Order–On Others?

It’s been a busy past two weeks, folks. Between being down with a nasty cold and (good) family stuff going on, last week got away from me. Hope all is well with all of you!

I love when my blogger-pals’ posts spur me toward a post of my own. (I’ve been having a run of that lately. Thanks, friends!) Last week, Stacey Wilk zapped me into action with one of her most delightful write-ups yet. Those who crave order, check it out. You might find a kindred spirit at Stacey’s stop!

Sounds like order makes Stacey’s heart sing. I commented that in my day-gig, we call that one form of self-regulation. That’s a term from ‘sensory integration’, defined as a “calm-alert state that is optimal for learning.” Order makes my heart sing; it helps me self-regulate. Did I mention orderly spaces tend to look good in a calming and soothing sort of way? A friend who is into organizing gave me a term that makes complete sense to me: visual peace.

I totally get that lining things up a certain way in a cabinet creates order and ease of finding things, as well as making it easier to put things away. In my kitchen, most things have a place, but very few items have to be exactly in one spot for the big picture to work. A few things work best lined up a particular way. (My bowls and my pots have to be nested or they won’t fit). My kitchen was remodeled about 5 years ago. Almost everything is still in pretty much the same place I assigned it b/c it works. And unless someone else (Ahem!) doesn’t put things in the designated spot, I never have a problem finding things.

Nabby n Kitty under the counter 10-2014 My girls, just hanging under the kitchen counter. 

So, the question was, how far will you go to impose your need for order on others—outside your house?

Y’all know I work in a school setting. At the school where I work most days, I’m lucky enough to have two large metal closets in the back of auditorium to keep games, papers, etc. (In other schools I have to drag the Barney bag and be grateful to use the lunchroom, a table in the library or a small office space.)

Anyhow, every year these closets wind up a tad messy by the end of the school year. B/c of issues the year before, I never got to put them back in order when the summer program ended (in 2013). That meant the closets started out pretty messy for 2013-14 and only got worse. By the end of the 2014 summer program, those closets were a disaster, especially after SIX people spent three weeks pulling stuff out and stuffing it back. (Two of those folks don’t put foot in my school during the school year, so they had no sense of how things fit together in there.)

One work friend and I spent over FIVE hours cleaning those war zones at the end of this year’s summer program. I decided (threatened, promised—whatever–at the possible cost of my job-buds still liking me) that I’d take pictures of the finished product, blow them up, laminate and hang them in the closets, shelf by shelf. (For once I followed through.)

school closet top shelf (See the chaos under the top shelf? That’s just a hint of what the other NINE shelves had become. Just sayin’.)

One of my co-workers teased me for being so uptight about my desire for order. It was all in good fun, and she’s been very respectful with putting stuff away as per the photos. And there IS a practical reason for order: Putting stuff away at the end of the day goes a whole lot faster when there is “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

school closet (2) Say what you want, but at least there is some kind of reference for insuring all this stuff fits at the end of the day. I have to load up a cart at least twice weekly b/c I don’t have a real ‘home’ at school.  

BTW, we’re six weeks into the school year, and the closets are still looking good.

So…I now pose this question to you:

What will YOU do to insure order either in or outside your home?

Enjoy your day, folks,

Joanna