Sunday, April 29, 2012

What I Read in April

One thing I am really good at finishing is books. If they can keep me interested past chapter one, I am their's for the duration. I got the idea to do a monthly review of what I have read from a blog that I follow Seasoned Joy. She does a review of each book she read for the month, but she also has a list of what she had hoped to read. I am not going to list my "to read" list, that will take way too long. I get asked a lot about good books that I have read recently, frankly my memory is not what it use to be, so even if I thought it was a really good book many times I can't remember the title or the author. So hopefully writing them down in this format will help you and help me :)

So here is what I read in April with a short review of each:

Minding Frankie: LOVED this book. I have not read a Maeve Binchy book in quite a few years, but as soon as I started reading it, I remembered why I love her books. Even though this book is set in Ireland, it doesn't make it feel like a foreign country. I instantly fell in love with the characters, she does a great job of making you fall in love with each and every one of them.

Every Last One:  LIKED this book quite a bit. I have not read anything by Anna Quindlen before, even though I familiar with lots of her books, at least by the covers:) Even though I had an idea of what the punch was going to be in this book, I still didn't expect it when it happened, I love it when that expected/unexpected gets me. It sort of reminds me of some of my favorite Jodi Picoult books, she has that same affect.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter:  LOVED it. Set in the south, it is sort of a mystery suspense novel. I loved the characters in this book as well, they are really well developed.

When the Emperor was Divine: Liked it. This was our book club selection for the month. The writing is fabulous, great literary style. It is set in the 1940's and it is about the Japanese internment camps. I can't say I learned anything new about that period, since I had already read Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and that covered a lot of what that time period was like.

ROOM: Disturbingly good. I wasn't sure about this one when I started it. It is about a 5 year old boy and his ma that are held captive in a "room" garden shed in this guy's backyard. The mom has been there for 7 years against her will. The little boy has no idea that the outside world exists. I did peek ahead a bit to make sure they made it out of the "room" before I committed to reading it. I didn't think I could read a whole book about them being in this "room" the whole time.

That completes my reading for April. I always feel that there are way too many books and not enough time to read, so I don't waste my time reading things I don't like.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Green - P52 Week 17

Recycling has been a part of my life since my elementary school days. When recycling first started in our area, there was just the community bins. You had to sort everything into separate categories and push it through their little doors. It always sucked when a compartment was full and you had to leave your stuff on the ground. Kind of defeated the purpose!

This video from the 1970's had a big impact on me and my desire to recycle:

We have come a long ways from those days. Now we have curbside recycling, no excuse not to recycle. Being "GREEN" is the way to be, and saving the earth is on almost everybody's mind.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Yesterday, I started two, yes two, photography related e-courses.

The first one:

Now You - I have been looking forward to this class for well over a month. It is a six week course on self-portrait photography. SCARY!!
I am ready to dig a little deeper into my photography and into myself.

The second one:

Photoshop The Essentials - I signed up for this one on Sunday, nothing like waiting until the 11th hour. This course is on Photoshop Elements, and as I stated last week, I am serious about learning this program. Also, the instructor, Kim Klassen has some other classes that I really want to take, but I need to have a good mastering of the whole program first.

I am super excited about both of these classes. The craziness will come later next week when we move our daughter home from college for the summer. She is very self-sufficient so that is not the problem, it is just that I will be so excited to have her home. There will be so many things we will want to do together that the weeks will go much quicker than they do now. But I have committed to being a "finisher" this year, so I will find the time to work on my class assignments, and time to have fun with my daughter. One of the best parts about having Mallory home is that I will have somebody to go out shooting with, so much more fun with two.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Things That Grow - P52 Week 16

When I started the P52 Photo Challenge the thing that I hoped would grow was my photography skills. What I didn't expect to grow was my writer's soul, but as the weeks have gone by that is exactly what has happened. I look forward to writing the story as much as I enjoy taking the picture.

My writer's soul first emerged when I was in 3rd grade. Every couple of years there was a Young Author's Conference held at our local college. A child was chosen from each grade 3rd-5th from each local elementary school, based on their self-made, self-written book. I remember working so hard on my book, carefully writing my story out on the beautiful, crisp, white pages. I added illustrations to each page (of course in 3rd grade I called them drawings), drawing a beautiful picture on the construction paper cover. Oh, the sense of pride I felt when my book was picked to represent the 3rd grade from my school.

The day of the conference came, the excitement I felt riding to the college on the yellow school bus, being away from school for the whole day at a Writer's Conference. I remember stepping off the bottom step of the bus when we arrived, marveling at how old the buildings were and how tall the students were, the joy that filled me that day. I was able to read my book to a group of my peers and feel a common bond with each of them, we were all there because we loved to write.

Where my writer's soul disappeared to after that day I don't know, probably lost among all the busy activities of being a kid. It has made a few guest appearances over the years, but it has always quickly disappeared. It has taken this P52 Challenge to awaken it again, it is finally growing , it is being fed by a new challenge each week, and at the end of 52 weeks it hopefully will have grown enough to fit into my 44-year-old body.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Photoshop Elements 10

I purchased Photoshop Elements 10 a couple of weeks ago. I was/am determined to learn this program. I have not had any experience with any Photoshop programs in the past so I am completely new to this. I was so proud of myself, the day that it came in the mail I immediately loaded it onto my computer. This is compared to when I got Lightroom 3 and it took me a year before I finally loaded it onto my computer.

Well, two weeks later and I am only half way through the first chapter of Teach Yourself Visually Photoshop Elements 10 that I bought at the same time as the program. My problem is that I just want to automatically know how to do all the "cool" stuff, without taking the time to really learn the program. So then I get frustrated and give up and it just sits there. Sunday, I decided this is ridiculous, if I really want to  learn this program I need to start at the beginning and practice some discipline. So I have decided to set aside 30 minutes every day to work on learning it. To make this work I set the timer on my phone for 30 minutes, open the book, open my computer, and I just go until the timer goes off. After three days of doing this I am through Chapter 3, and I really look forward to these 30 minutes every day.

I know that I have the luxury of having an extra 30 minutes a day to work on this and a lot of people with younger kids may not be as fortunate, but I truly believe if you want something bad enough you can find those 30 minutes.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Smoked Turkey, Avocado and Cherry Tomato Chutney Panini

Avocados were on sale this week at Meijer so I was looking for any and all recipes I could make using them. I came across this recipe in my Panini book.

The recipe calls for whole-grain seeded bread, but nothing like that was popping out at me at deBoer's so I chose the Sourdough Bread instead, which is one of my personal favorites.

Smoked Turkey, Avocado and Cherry Tomato Chutney Panini

4 1/2-inch thick slices of whole-grain seeded bread *(or sourdough if you prefer)
1/4 Cherry Tomato Chutney *(see recipe below)
1 small avocado, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced
1 tsp. fresh lime juice
6 thin slices (3 oz.) smoked turkey
3 oz. quesido or fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced *(I used smoked mozzarella)

1. Heat a panini press to medium high.
2. Spread the bottom halves of the bread slices with the chutney.
3. Arrange the avocado slices on top of the chutney. Sprinkle the avocado with the lime juice.
4. Arrange the turkey on top of the avocado and the cheese on top of the turkey.
5. Top with the other bread slice.
6. Put the sandwich on the press, pull the top down, and cook until they are browned and crisp,
    4 to 7 minutes, depending on how hot your machine is. Carefully removed from the press and 
    serve immediately.

Cherry Tomato Chutney

1 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. finely chopped shallot
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
1/8 tsp. turmeric
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
2. Add shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Stir in the tomatoes, cardamom, turmeric, and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer.
4. Cook until the tomatoes start to soften, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring once or twice.
5. Remove from the heat, stir in the lime juice and cilantro, and season with the salt and pepper.
6. Let cool slightly before using, or refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to 3 days.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sacrifice - P52 Week 15

This is the story of the sacrifice of a car. A cute little white Subaru Forester, guided by the loving, protective hand of God, gave up its life to save the life of my beautiful 18 year old daughter.

It all happened in the blink of an eye. A busy interstate highway, a clear but cold day in January, and a patch of black ice. Suddenly she is spinning out into the lanes of traffic coming behind her, and the impact of her car and a large Dodge Ram truck.

Fortunately, or unfortunately I was in the car ahead of her and saw the whole thing happen in my rearview mirror (see previous post).  Fortunately, she popped out of her car as I got close to her, saying in a loud shaky voice "I'm fine Mom". Fine except for the blood gushing down the side of her head and face. The EMT assessed that it was only a 1" gash, but for safety sake she was strapped down on a back board and loaded into an ambulance to be taken to the local hospital.

Meanwhile, knowing that she was alert and talking I was left behind to unload all her college bound stuff out of her damaged car and into the back of mine. I remember reaching through the blown out hatch and rear window openings removing all the things precious to her, shaking glass out of everything and carefully transferring them to my car. I remember sitting in her driver's seat, where she had been driving along happily in the beautiful sunshine only an hour ago. I looked over to the passenger seat and there was her cell phone, sitting perfectly in place like it was waiting for a call from me saying "Let's stop for lunch". Her ipod was still in its little cubby, probably still playing her favorite tunes, if I could have still heard it. I remember putting the shifter in Park and turning off the key, something so final in that gesture that such a sadness overwhelmed me, I just had to stop for a few minutes and pray, and breath and cry. I removed the key from the ignition. 

An hour later, after checking out of the hospital with a good report, except for six staples in her scalp, we went to the tow yard where they had taken her car. They had taken the truck that hit her to the same tow yard. Seeing how big that truck was, stilled me and scared me. 

Mallory had the where with all to grab her camera and take these pictures. I am so glad that she did, when I look at these it is such a powerful reminder of how precious, and fleeting life can be.

Whenever I think of her little Subaru I get tears in my eyes and feel an ache in my chest. I have often wondered why the loss of a car has stirred such emotion in me. I have come to the realization that part of it is because I watched it all happen, the bigger part though is that the loss of this car signifies a loss of innocence, a loss of invincibleness, the reality of how close I came to losing a daughter.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Beef & Spinach Gyros

I found this week's sandwich selection recipe in a magazine while I was at the dentist. Forturnately, it was a current issue of Taste of Home, which I found at the Barnes & Noble in Grandville, after striking out in Holland. It is the April/May 2012 issue.

The recipe calls for pita bread pockets. These are my absolute favorite pita pockets. They don't rip when you are stuffing them, like the ones that you buy whole and have to cut in half. I get these on the shelf in front of the deli case at Meijer.

Beef & Spinach Gyros:

1 lb. lean ground beef (90% lean)
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry *(I used fresh spinach)
6 green onions, chopped
1 can (2-1/4 oz.) sliced ripe olives, drained *(I did not use these, hubby doesn't like olives)
2 tsp. lemon-pepper seasoning, divided
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 cup (8 oz.) fat-free plain yogurt *(I used plain greek yogurt)
6 pita breads (6 in.), halved *(I used the pita pockets)
12 lettuce leaves *(I used more fresh spinach)
1 cup (4 oz.) crumbled feta cheese

1. In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink. Add the spinach, onions, olives
    and 1 tsp. lemon-pepper; heat through. Stir in tomato; set aside.
2. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, mayonnaise and remaining lemon-pepper. Line pita halves with  
    lettuce (or spinach); fill with beef mixture and feta cheese. Serve with yogurt sauce.

Serves 6

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Foolin' Around - P52 Week 14

This week's theme immediately made me think of my niece and nephew. They are the definition of foolin' around, in a good way! They are healthy, fun loving kids, and I knew if I brought my camera over  to take their pictures they wouldn't let me down. I was not disappointed!

They had so many things to tell me, that they never knew I was taking their pictures, which was exactly what I wanted to happen. Big excitement for them this week, they both fully mastered their bikes. They were quite excited to show off their improved riding skills.

They were very busy cutting weeds out of the cracks in the driveway, which my sister-in-law was very thankful for. It is amazing what an educational toy science kit can be used for.

My nephew asked me if they were going to be famous now that they are in my blog, I told him "yes", people from all over the country will see their pictures. That seemed to make him happy. Thank you to Anna and Evan for helping me out this week. I may need you again:)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Savory Sandwiches

A sandwich, typically consists of two or more slices of bread with one or more fillings between them. Sandwiches are a widely popular type of lunch food, typically taken to work or school, or picnics to be eaten as part of a packed lunch. They generally contain a combination of salad vegetables, meat, cheese, and a variety of sauces or savory spreads. The bread can be used as it is, or it can be coated with any condiments to enhance flavor and texture. Source: Wikipedia

I love sandwiches, they are the ultimate comfort food. Everybody has a favorite sandwich. We generally have them once a week for supper, usually on Monday nights, so I can have any leftovers on Tuesday night when hubby is gone.

Most Mondays after I get groceries I stop at our local bakery, deBoer's Bakery, and buy a fresh loaf of yummy, yeasty smelling bread.

This week's choice is Asiago Cheese bread.

I picked up this great Panini Magazine/Cookbook this past winter and have been trying some different sandwiches from it, so far I have liked everything I have made. So I thought I would start sharing them.

This week's selection is:  Grilled Asparagus, Taleggio and Prosciutto Panini

6 to 8 very thin asparagus spears, tough ends snapped off
2 tsp. olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 6-inch lengths store-bought Baguettes *(I used the Asiago bread)
3 oz. Taleggio cheese, sliced *(I used a soft, buttery cheese I found at Meijer)
4 thin slices prosciutto
(I added fresh spinach as well)

1. Heat a panini or sandwich press to medium-high.
2. Brush the asparagus with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place them on the press, pull   
    the top down, and cook until lightly charred, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool slightly.
3. Cut the baguette pieces in half horizontally. Spread some cheese on the bottom half or each baguette.
    Arrange the cooked asparagus on top of the cheese, pressing lightly on them so they adhere. Drape 
    the prosciutto slices over the asparagus. Top with spinach, if desired, then the other half of the 
4. Put the sandwiches on the press, pull the top down, and cook until they are browned and crisp and 
    the cheese is melted, 4 to 6 minutes, depending on how hot your machine is. Carefully remove from 
    the press and serve immediately.