Finding My Way Back :)

Hey everyone, welcome to (almost) fall–hope all is well with all of you! Believe it or not, I’ve missed you!

Yes, I’ve been missing, and thankfully, for no particular (bad or unfortunate) event. The fan in my ‘puter (as a long ago student referred to the computer) went on the fritz in early summer. Took a couple of weeks before the correct fan came in (via Ebay and USPS—God bless both) and Older Son got the ol’ Acer up and running for his ma.

That kind of put me in a holding—and, yes, I’ll own it: avoidance—pattern. (I was sort of in one anyway, typical of the rather chaotic feel working our school’s summer academic program promotes.) Then August came and went. Before I knew it, summer was over and school is back in session!

I was blessed, though, with a restful and productive time. What I’ve been up to:

*Allowing myself to rest and enjoy the time off I am blessed and privileged to have every summer. Usually, I start mourning August’s end before it starts. This year, I got myself in check fast. Got to the beach a few times; enjoyed a free concert there one night and two spectacular sunsets on the other occasions. (Next up: getting there—with Hubby, of course—in time for a sunrise.)

Sunrise--Wildwood

Morning at the “bend” in North Wildwood.

Sea wall Wildwood

Sea wall, North Wildwood–now that’s a “serenity space.” 

me--5-2015

The gardens at the Hereford Lighthouse, North Wildwood. 

Sunset--8-2015  sunset-8-2015-2

Sunset–Sandy Hook (both images)

*Reading: I got in about seven books since in the last 5-6 weeks. (That’s an accomplishment. My attention span has been next-to-nothing for a while now. As with everything else, I blame hormones.)

Tennis: Practicing my shots and playing with Hubby, Older Son and anyone else willing to hit the court with me. Kept up with a teenage neighbor for an impromptu practice session. He quit before I did—how cool is that? Made it to the qualifying rounds of the US Open Tennis Championships! Awesome to watch the speed and power behind the ball as it flies live off the players’ racquets!

US Open--2015

*Cleaning/Purging/Organizing: Took me at least ten hours to clean the desk/office area in my semi-finished basement. (Younger Son thinks it’s his space, but his ma is willing to share.) I dumped notes and evaluations dating back up to 20 years, folks. I even found one of my very first, handwritten evaluations. Now I’m happily utilizing this space again—hopefully, more so as time progresses—for creative endeavors!

desk

*Sewing: I love making small quilts as baby gifts. I keep them very simple, and currently have four (?) in the works, started on a day when I dragged the Singer in front of the TV (during a Masters 1000 tennis tournament—what else?)

Quilting

sofa

Disguising cat-damage to the sofa arms is another art form I incorporate here and there.

*Writing: Some. Got inspired at the beach and got back to a work-in-progress started 3-4 years ago. I also signed up for an online novel-writing class and hope to be working through that in the upcoming weeks. (More on that in a future post.)

Best news of all: Booked my first two (PAID) speaker gigs!!! The first is my parenting workshop (10/8) and the second is about sensory strategies (1/12 and 1/19 of 2016). Go figure: an adult school in my area is going to pay me to talk—how awesome is that????

That’s what’s going on with me these days. What are you all up to?

Cheers!

Joanna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lion Died…

But his memory will linger for a long time–if not always.

Hi all. Hoping all is peaceful with each of you. I was away from Monday through Thursday, so I guess my aspirations for posting twice last week were a tad high.

The lion at the Cape May Zoo died right around Memorial Day this past year. That’s what we heard at the zoo’s entrance as my sons, Older Son’s girlfriend and I embarked on our annual walk-through. (It seems to have become a bit of a tradition during our third-year-in-a-row trek to Wildwood. Is it possible one is never too old for the zoo?)

Wildwood sunset 2014 Sunset in Wildwoodpicture doesn’t do the sky justice 🙂

Uh, that’s when I originally started this post: three years ago. Yes, it had to do with the lion. Until this past Saturday morning the original sat on the notebook laptop that lives in my beloved Camry’s trunk—in case I need to stop on a random road to work on a laptop whose battery won’t recharge anymore.

Anyway, my only problem with family vacations—you moms of boys can probably relate—is that my guys (Hubby included) want to do stuff that doesn’t generally interest me. Boardwalks, beaches, restaurants—they’re okay but none of them floats my boat. Call me a stick in the mud but if there is nothing to actively engage my mind—i.e., learn—most of the time I’ll pass. (BTW, I’m bad at relaxing too.)

Boards at Wildwood 2014

Night-time on the Wildwood boards. As busy as NYC. 

So, the first year, after a family ride on the go-carts followed by brunch on the famed Wildwood boardwalk, I started thinking about how I might like to wile away a few hours. I’d done Cold Spring Village with Hubby years ago and liked it. I also thought about taking a ride to the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, a ten-minute drive from our hotel. (The gardens behind it are ridiculously gorgeous and quietly peaceful. Follow the walkway pictured below and–surprise!–you’ve stumbled onto the inlet, where the view of the inlet and beach are stunning. BTW, double-clicking on the photos to enlarge them will provide sharper detail, as much as my lowly iPhone 4’s camera can capture.)

Hereford lighthouse front (1) Hereford Inlet Lighthouse

Hereford lighthouse back

Back of the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse

Hereford lighthouse gardens

Hereford InletLighthouse gardens

Hereford lighthouse gardens (2)

Hereford Inlet Lighthouse gardens

Hereford lighthouse inlet

Hereford Inlet Lighthouse inlet

IDKY, but I also kept toying with the notion of a trek to the Cape May Zoo. I’d never visited it, but had always heard nice things. I chose door number three and texted the kids an invitation.

My guys were a couple months shy of 16 and 14 at the time. They came simply because it was “something to do.” (Yep, even the boards and rides get old after a short while. And Older Son probably felt badly his ma was doing something alone. Nah. No such issues. Me-time rocks.)

photo_2[1]   Joanna ‘n’ her boys. Y’all can decide who is who. BTW, this photo is from first trip to zoo, in 2012. Didn’t take any group shots this year. 😦

I certainly enjoyed that afternoon, and since the kids asked to go again on both subsequent trips to the area, I assume they did too. The zoo is pretty danged big, beautifully maintained and packed with about 550 creatures, most of who are easily viewed in their exhibits. I particularly like the zebras; their markings are so stark. I also enjoyed the quiet calm surrounding the giraffes and their new baby.

Aside: the zoo is always free, with non-mandatory donations accepted. (Cash gets tossed into a ‘mailbox.’)

The lion ties into this recounting how, Joanna? Well, it involves Younger Son, who can be the best kid going on his better days. Oy. Not so much when he gets himself in a mood, thinks he’s right or (wants to be). Those are the days I offer him up for Lent, rent, or to the lowest bidder. Hubby and I are much improved reacting to him, but he’s often brought out a side of us we don’t very much like on many occasions.

photo_3[1] This boy be reachin’ the bear’s mouth by now. Bet he could get a live version to growl, too. Just sayin’… 😉

He might have been in that kind of humor that first “annual” trip to the zoo. Guess he couldn’t wait or might have wanted some space from the rest of us when he asked if he could walk ahead to see the lion. (Three years later I don’t remember such minor details.)

Gave him the okay. He was 13+ and old enough to do so.

He was just out of sight when a roar rumbled through the zoo. We surmised it was the lion.

“Figures,” I told Older Son. “Your brother probably got on the lion’s nerves already.”

We caught up with Younger Son, just outside the lion exhibit. Ironically enough, on that very hot day, Younger Son thought the lion was dead. (He wasn’t.)

We made our way through the rest of the zoo. Just before the last leg, Younger Son asked if he could go see the lion once more.

“Sure.”

I kid you not: the kid took off and the beast roared for a second—and only other—time that trip.

We were really saddened to hear that incredible creature was no longer there. But Younger Son will never shake being known as the boy who could inspire the lion to roar.

Do you do repeat vacations? If so, where do you go? Are there ‘traditions’ or go-to activities that are part of every trip, or do you devise new ways to pass the time? Do you have a “challenge child?” Were/are you your parent(s)’ “challenge child?”

Thanks for stopping in and for SHARING if you choose to do so. Have a great week!

All the best,

Joanna

Mothers, Jeans and Self-Esteem

Welcome to another week, folks, and a new theme. Always a pleasure to be here and share with you! Thanks so much for stopping in 🙂

mothers day flowers 2014   Mother’s Day Flowers from all my men–I’m too short to get a good image if vase is on table, lol.

Joanna n baby boys  I’m thinking my boys were one and three (?) in this image. Now the big one is the little one, and the little one is the big one. Where did the time go?

Joanna n Niconus 05-11-2014  Older son and his ma on Mother’s Day–the other guy goes camera shy. 

joanna n hubby Mothers Day 2014   Hubby and me on  Mother’s Day :). Now why didn’t I insist on a photo with both my boys????

So last week I shared about jeans, finding that elusive, “perfect-fitting” pair (I’m sure I’ll look for a loooong time, lol) and some encouraging news on that topic via Charlotte Hilton Anderson’s blog, The Great Fitness Experiment. (Among the reasons I’ve always liked Jennifer Lopez too. In many ways, she put those of us whose back ends like to uh…hang out more than others on the map. She also very kindly helped designed a line of  jeans made to fit said folks. Thanks, J-Lo! )

Rather than drag y’all through a longer-winded post than usual last time, I figured I’d pick up with a related topic today. (I promise, people, I’m working on keeping these shorter. )

Much as I love jeans, I hate shopping for them. (I’m to the point where I’m NEVER in the mood to shop for anything—eh, maybe shoes every once in a while. I always seem to gravitate toward the same colors and styles anyway. Seriously, how many red jackets or purses can one person have?)

A couple of years ago, I was killing some time on a Saturday morning. Strolled into the local TJ Maxx and wandered over to the jeans rack. I wound up trying a tan pair of skinnies just for the heck of it, in a brand that tends to fit me better than others.

Danged pair actually fit okay, even in the trouble spots. Long story short, I didn’t like them enough to buy them. I did, however, feel encouraged b/c a pair of “skinnies” almost fit well enough to be a choice.

Met up with my mom later that day. Feeling good, I told her about the jeans. Her automatic (paraphrased) response? The jeans fit because they weren’t cut right and/or had stretched.

No way on the planet—in her brain—I could have lost a pound or two, or have walked and exercised my way into that cut.  Then I wonder why shopping for clothing is more distasteful than it should be, lol.

So go figure, a few weeks ago, Mama actually complimented me in a pair of skinny jeans. I believe she phrased it something like, “I don’t know if you lost weight or it’s the pants, but those look good.”

Whaaaat???????

Mama almost knocked me out. (Feel free to go a little LL Cool J here.  What can I say? My latest TV addiction is NCIS Los Angeles.)

Joanna n mom Mothers Day 2014   Okay. We’ll let Mamma have a spot on the blog b/c she said I looked nice in my jeans. 

So, my blogger-friends, shall we go there? Shall we talk about how our self-esteem relative to clothing all comes back to Mom, lol? If that’s the case, what helped you get past it? (For me, a single book changed a lifetime of perspective. This related blog post tells that story.)

Here’s the link to the post that got me started on this blogging jag. (It’s over at Charlotte’s blog.) I also came across this assortment of seemingly simple exercises  Charlotte authored for Shape magazine. I hope to have checked them out more closely by the time this post airs.

Have a great week, everyone!

Joanna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweetening Things Up A Bit Today!

Hi all,

So psyched about the Dancing with the Stars—yep, it’s back.  Season 18 is underway; congrats and welcome to Erin Andrews as co-host! The girl is rockin’ it from the get-go. Some folks just have it goin’ on. (Okay, so I is a junkie when it comes to this show. It’s feel-good and fun.)

Last week’s post was prompted by the daily prompt at WordPress. This week’s write-up ties into another one. Since these prompts bring music to mind, here’s the link to a video that bears the prompt’s title—remember this one? Some songs will always make you move.

Do you have a clue what the title of the WordPress prompt is yet?

Rather than write about my favorite sweet—seriously, how do I narrow THAT down?  Guess I’ll go with what came to mind first: a room-temperature square of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate.

Then I thought about the nicest compliment I got just the weekend prior.

I have very kind neighbors. The Vietnamese family on one side has sent the best egg wraps on several occasions since they moved in a little over a year ago. Filled with shrimp and Asian veggies, these are oh-so-yum and always a welcome surprise of a treat. (Somehow, the wraps come when I have no idea what I’m making for dinner. Go figure.)

My neighbor across the street has kept us supplied with ‘salt’ during the winter storms the east coast dealt us, this past stormier-than-usual winter.

I said thank you to both families with a tray of oatmeal-raisin cookie bars I make from scratch. Honestly, it’s one of my easy favorite recipes; love these things. They’re lightly sweet and can be crumbled into milk as breakfast.

One of the neighbors caught me as I was getting in the car and asked how much I charge for my cookies! How nice was that? He compared them to two bakeries I’d heard of, too. He also caught me a bit off guard, as I have never asked for any payment on something I very much enjoy doing. (And I get the—questionable—benefit of having fresh cookie dough to chomp on regularly, right?) Hmm. Maybe I can move into another career direction…

Anyway, figured I’d share the recipe. This is off the bag of brown sugar sold at Aldi’s, the market where we do most our family’s food shopping. Owned by Trader Joe’s, they are the best kept secret for feeding a small family and saving big $$$ on the grocery bill. And I can recognize most of the ‘name brands’ they contract with from the packaging. They also bring in weekly specials of food, household items, etc, most of which are excellent quality.

Oatmeal cookie aldi recipe

The original recipe, right off the bag.

oatmeal cookie bars

The finished product 🙂

So here is my version of the recipe:

Ingredients:

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

½ cup butter (=1 stick), softened, not melted (I use ONLY salted butter. Margarine works but will give a different texture)

1 tsp vanilla extract (or to taste)

1 large egg

2 cups oatmeal (I always use regular, although the recipe calls for quick cooking)

1 cup whole wheat white flour (all purpose flour is fine, or you can come up with a mix of the two—your choice how much of each)

1 tsp of baking soda

1 cup of raisins (chocolate chips work too, should you prefer those or just in the mood for something different)

Equipment:

13 x 9 cake pan (foil, glass or metal all work)

cooking spray (or butter or margarine, to grease the pan)

waxed paper (optional, but SO worth it when spreading the dough)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350º F. (My oven has a Speedbake option that simulates a convection oven. I keep it OFF–I feel that it makes the finished product dry).

In a bowl (or large measuring cup) mix together all your dry ingredients. Set aside.

In a separate, larger bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add vanilla and egg and beat until lightened in color and fluffy. (An electric mixer is very helpful to make this step go quickly.)

vintage mixer

My momma’s vintage GE mixer. She loaned it to me ages ago and wound up buying another one for her. This baby is still kickin’ batter-dough’s butt. She might have gotten it by collecting Green Stamps. (Yes, I just dated myself. Oh well, guess if I’m not my age, I am not.) 

Hand-stir in the dry mixture, about 1/3 of it at a time, mixing until the wet and dry ingredients are fully incorporated. (Try not to over-mix. It could make the finished product tough. Also, this tends to be a thick dough and requires some strength to mix. For this step, you might consider employing someone with strong arms—whenever hubby or one of my boys is around, I do. If I’m the one doing it, I figure it will only benefit my forehand in the end! 😉 )

Stir in the raisins or chocolate chips. (Heck, add both if you like. I’m thinking a li’l bit of coconut would add to the yum-value here. BTW, hubby wondered if you can just add the raisins or chips to the dry ingredients and do everything in one step. You probably can, though most cookie dough recipes typically add them separately.)

Spread dough into your pan. This dough is pretty thick. (I spray a pan-sized piece of waxed paper with cooking spray and use that to press the dough all the way to the corners of the pan. Makes this step ridiculously easier.)

Bake for about 18 minutes then check for doneness. Edges should be browned. Bake about 5 minutes longer if you prefer crumbly (vs. chewy) cookie bars.

Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes. (I then cover the pan with foil or a flat cookie sheet—makes for treats that are a tad more moist and chewier.)

Cut into bars when cool. (A pizza cutter works well here.)

Done!

I know, I know. Seems like a lot of steps, but once you know them this is a quick, go-to recipe you can make in a pinch. All things considered, it’s pretty wholesome too. Crumble a bar or two into oatmeal, add milk and eat cold. I promise it works! Cut them up and arrange in a pretty basket or baking dish for an elegant display.

Do you have a favorite recipe? I’m always open. Feel free to post a link to it here, or post at your place and let me know. If you feel so inclined, please share. (And don’t forget to dance a little to Def Leppard.)

Have a great week,

Joanna