Friday, November 30, 2012

What I'm Reading Now - No Easy Day

This is the story of a Navy Seal.  Yes, the story climaxes with the attack on Bin Laden's compound, but the book is much more.  Owen's tells his story; how he had always wanted to be a Seal and the work it took to get there.  He takes the reader on various high profile missions and on other low profile missions in Iraq.  As the book goes on you sense his frustration with the politics that are keeping him from doing his job.

This book was interesting to me.  From the training that it takes to be a Seal to the excitement of being in the helicopter as it approached Bin Laden's compound.  It held my interest the entire time I was reading it and I wanted to read more.  It did have me question some tactics within the Bin Laden compound...but mainly because I wanted there to be more empathy and maybe that's too much to ask soldiers in the midst of a stressful mission....?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What's Cookin Wednesday

Creamy Chicken & Spinach Pasta (from Real Simple December 2012)

So before I start this, I must admit that I've had some cooked shredded chicken in my freezer for....awhile.  So I was looking for a way to use it up.

3/4 pound gemelli, penne or another short pasta
1 cup frozen peas
1 Tbl unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (2 - 2 1/2 pound bird)
5 oz baby spinach (about 6 cups)
Salt, pepper, grated Parmesan, for serving

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the peas during the last minute of cooking.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water.  Drain the pasta and peas and reserve the pot.

Melt the butter in the pasta pot (I skipped this and did it in a large skillet) over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the cream, chicken, spinach, and 1/2 tsp each salt & pepper to the pot and cook until the chicken is warmed through and the spinach is wilted, 2-3 minutes.  Add the pasta and peas and toss to combine (add 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water if the pasta seems dry).  Serve with Parmesan.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Surprise! let's have a party

I was home last weekend to help host two parties - both for my sisters.  One sister is due with her first baby in January - the other was hitting the big 3-0 milestone.  We decided to have a surprise party for her...because we knew that she'd love nothing more then all her friends in one place.  Keeping it a secret was a challenge and we were worried that my mom might slip up.  But wouldn't you know it was me that kept saying things?  (that's what you get when you plan two parties days apart!)  Overall I would say she was definitely surprised and enjoyed hanging out with folks.

We started with a banner.  Sister #3 and I went back and forth about what kind of banner to get and settled on this one....because we knew that every single year it will be hung up - and it will make her laugh!

 Given that we bought a banner with primary colors that set the tone for the rest of the decor.  I saw a pretty cool use of streamers on pinterest and thought I'd put my own spin on it.  Could it have been fuller?  Sure - but my aunts and I sure did have fun makin this a 3 person job..we were efficient!
My mom picked out all the pictures for her display and sister #3 borrow some frames from work.  Everyone enjoyed the pictures and commented on how the picture on the left looked just like my niece (the poor kid thought it WAS a picture of her when we showed it to her!).

We didn't have a lot of food as this was a Sunday afternoon party and we knew that most of the folks there would have just hand lunch (I actually had to leave my family lunch to get all the decorations going!).  We had some of her favorites:  chips & cheese and cupcakes and then some salad and vegetable platters thrown in for good measure.
This is my niece - and she very clearly likes cake! (or at least icing...)

Friday, November 23, 2012

What I'm Reading Now - Mudhouse Sabbath

It's good for me to read books like these every once in awhile because it gives me another view of faith and practices and every day life.  Lauren Winner takes the practices and rituals of the Jewish faith that she grew up with and injects them into the Christian faith she adopted in adulthood (converted to?).

I like that she took specific Jewish traditions & practices and talks about how we as Christians can do these same things.  I think that every chapter had something practical that I thought I could use in my daily life.  (and it was a small book so it was a quick read!)

Friday, November 16, 2012

What I'm Reading Now - The Yellow Birds

This book is set during the Iraq war.  The story is told in first person by Pvt John Bartle.  He and his fellow soldier (and friend) Pvt Murphy are the main characters in the story.  It follows them as they are deployed to Iraq.  As they are leaving Pvt Bartle promises Mrs. Murphy that he'll make sure her son gets home safe....he then tells the reader that this was a promise he would break.

The story follows the 2 and their platoon as they battle in the cold and rain and dark.  As they hear of fellow soldiers being killed and wonder when it will be their turn.  And then Pvt Murphy dies - it's a bit hazy as to exactly what happens (at least it was to me!).

Upon his return to the US Pvt Bartle struggles with depression and trying to figure out where he fits in with his mother, his friends and within his hometown.

I struggled with this book - alot.  I almost quit reading it a few times.  I'm not sure if it was the subject matter or the way it was written, but it was a hard book for me to read.  Knowing that this was written by a former soldier who fought in the Iraq war makes it even harder to grasp - even knowing that it's fiction.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A little nursery art

I'm totally a vintage girl at heart, as you know. The good thing, so is my husband. :-) So when it came to thinking about what we wanted to put up in our future little one's room, we went vintage again.
One of the things we sell (and sell a LOT of) are vintage patterns. they range anywhere from the 30s-70s in style. I love getting new (to me) ones and looking through them and then seeing what people pick out. The pictures on them are so neat, and they really show how style (and prices) have changed through the years.
When we found out this little one was most likely going to be a girl, I knew I wanted to frame vintage patterns.
So I pulled out my trusty paint and painted five different style frames white. Then I got matte boards from the local craft store to fit the frames. I taped the patterns into the frames, positioning them how I wanted, and there we had it.
The patterns are still usable, as I left all the paper inside of them. I tried to choose a mixture of style, colors, and ages of those in the pictures.
That's OK, they will look great against the yellow walls! I am in love with the charm. :-)

Friday, November 9, 2012

What I'm Reading Now - Love Leadership

Funny story - I was recommended this book by a fellow passenger on a flight to Indiana.  The author had just spoken at his company that day and he had bought the book.

The story follows John Hope Bryant as he grows up and starts a non-profit.  This is a man that has a take charge attitude and wants to see things change financially within the African American community.  He's tired of loan sharks and bad budgeting setting the tone for life in his California neighborhood.  I like his theory,  I like his ideas - I think he's on to and doing what needs to be done to end the cycle of poverty.

The book - well, that isn't anything special.  Bryant writes things that (hopefully) most leaders know: that you get further loving people than being a bully.

The man has a great story and he has a great vision.  He sprinkles in some real life leadership stories and has a book!  This is a good read - not a a great read - but there's always something to be learned from a book like this.

Friday, November 2, 2012

What I'm Reading Now - Trapeze

Somehow I've gotten into a group of "war" books - and each one different from the other.  This story revolves around an English girl who is chosen to become an undercover "agent" to France during World War II.  She's single, she's young and she's told that she can't tell anyone about what she is really doing - that she must be vague.  Can you imagine being female at that time and telling your parents that you aren't sure where you are going or what you'll be doing, but it's all for the war effort?

The story follows her through training, as she jumps out of a plane, as she goes into Paris in search of a family friend and as she becomes an adult quickly during war times.

I enjoyed this book for the most part.  There were some "sexual scenes" that seemed awkward (maybe because the girl is feeling awkward) and not needed to make a good story.  Some language and innuendos  That's my warning!  I thought the book captured pretty well what a girl that age must be thinking.  To want to do her part, to want to help and the thrill of being taught to jump out of a plane and actually shoot someone.  But also the emotions that would go with that (and for some reason must be easier to tell from a woman's view then a man's?).

I was reading this one afternoon at the bar and someone started to speak to me.  I turned and said "Give me 5 minutes - I HAVE TO GET THESE PEOPLE OUT OF FRANCE!"  hehe.  I didn't see the end coming until it was right there in front of me!