Saturday, September 5, 2009

The taste of autumn...

September is here. The windows are open (we've got an unusual early fall in Kansas). So I couldn't wait to make the season's first batch of caramel corn.

I got this recipe years ago from Alice, who got it from one of the pressmen at The Salina Journal. It's sticky and gooey and awesome and perfect. Here you go:


2 sticks butter or margarine
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
air-popped popcorn (8-10 cups?)
peanuts (I use unsalted or honey-roasted, Alice swears by Spanish peanuts)

Important note: After you pop all the corn, sift through it well to remove all the unpopped kernels. Otherwise, someone could break a tooth. Seriously. I pop it all into one side of our turkey roasting pan, then transfer it by handfuls to the other side (lid), and throw away the tooth-breaker seeds.

Combine first five ingredients in a large-ish pot or saucepan (this bubbles and boils quite a bit). Heat over medium to medium-high heat until boiling. Boil, stirring constantly, for five minutes. Remove from heat and add baking soda. Stir. Syrup will kind of whooosh and turn a nice caramel color. Pour over popcorn and peanuts in a large roasting pan. Stir until everything is coated well. Bake at 250 degrees for one hour, stirring well every 10 minutes. Cool on wax paper, then transfer to airtight container (if you don't eat it all off the counter).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

'Glide-to-ride' makes biking easy

Jack took a bicycle safety course last week, and it reminded me of the day(s) he first learned to ride without training wheels.

Then I thought about how that process consumed us -- it was all he thought about and, consequently, all we thought about for days and days and days. Thankfully, we employed a pretty foolproof method that I share with other parents every chance I get.

Here's a column I wrote about the "glide-to-ride" method, published in The Eagle in June 2007:
I'm thrilled to announce that the Tobias family is 2-for-2 in successful bicycle instruction, after my 6-year-old son learned to ride without training wheels last week. (Insert joyous applause, high-fives and relieved sighs here.)

I'd love to take credit, but I can't. The secret was something I call "The Glide-to-Ride Method," a strategy advocated by Bob and Ruth Holliday, owners of the Bicycle Pedaler in Wichita.

"Twenty-seven years in this business, and it's never failed," Ruth Holliday told me recently. "I've even used it on adults."

Not long ago, she said, a woman came into the store to buy a bike -- and some lessons. Her son wanted to go riding, but she had never learned how.

Holliday took the woman into the store parking lot, "and within two hours, she was riding," she said. "It was such a thrill for her."

Indeed, riding rocks. And it's possible to learn without scraped knees or frayed nerves, using the Hollidays' step-by-step method:

* First, make sure the child is ready. A clear sign? He asks you to take off his training wheels. Older brothers and sisters often act as catalysts.

* Think safety. Whenever he rides -- with or without training wheels -- a child should wear a helmet and shoes that won't slip off. Also, a beginner's bike should have a foot brake.

* After removing the training wheels, adjust the bicycle seat. The seat should be low enough that the child, while seated, can put his feet flat on the ground. If it's still too tall, consider buying or borrowing a smaller bike.

* Find an open, paved area with a very slight incline. A parking lot with a slight grade works best, but even a driveway on a cul-de-sac is OK. You don't need lots of room, but you'll want to avoid traffic and other distract ions.

* Have your child sit on the bike and dangle his feet on either side. Have him walk the bike, taking little steps, on a flat area. Eventually, encourage him to "leap" -- picking up both feet at once -- to get a sense of balancing longer distances.

* Take the child to the top of the incline and have him coast to the bottom. At this point, he still should not pedal. If he feels like he's about to fall, he should simply put his feet down to stop the bike. Repeat this step until he can glide down several times with his feet an inch or two above the ground.

* Next, have the child coast down the incline with his feet on the pedals (but not pedaling). Repeat until he feels secure.

* Finally, have the child pedal the bike once or twice on the way down, to get the feel for balancing and pedaling simultaneously. By that point, most usually take off riding.

The method takes more patience than courage, a fact that my cautious daughter appreciated a bit more than my daredevil son. But riding off by himself, Jack's final review echoed my own:

"This feels so easy!"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

For today...

From The Simple Woman's Daybook:

Outside my window ... I can see the Keen Kutter building and a blue, blue Kansas sky.

I am thinking ... that my lunch was nourishing, both physically and emotionally.

I am thankful for ... our neighborhood swimming pool. And the soft pretzels with cheese they sell at the concession stand.

From the kitchen ... this chicken salad recipe rocks the house.

I am wearing ... khaki capris and the orange/brown patterned top I got at Gordmans during that shopping marathon with Tara. We need to shop again.

I am creating ... a back-to-school special section, coming to your Eagle on July 23!

I am going ... to eat some gummy bears.

I am reading ... "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan." Well, I'll start reading it as soon as I pick it up from the library. I just finished "Then We Came to the End."

I am hoping ... that my dad's shoulder replacement goes well next month.

I am hearing ... typing, telephone conversations and a police scanner.

Around the house ... there are a whole lot of wet towels and bottles of sunscreen.

One of my favorite things ... New "Harry Potter" movies!!!

A few plans for the rest of the week
... setting off fireworks in Andover, swimming, barbecue with neighbors, food/friends/fireworks at Tim and Kristen's. Oh, and finishing a whole lot of work before the holiday weekend.

And a photo to share...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New reading spot...

And oh, how I love it. :-)

Currently reading "Then We Came to the End," which is sad and funny and scary and true. Highly recommended, but be warned: It's about layoffs. (I know!! Hilarious, right?!)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ballet time!!

That means makeup time and costume time and hanging out with all my Dance Mom peeps, which isn't a bad way to spend a weekend.

Title of this year's performance for Rogers Ballet was "Hats Off!" Hannah was in two numbers -- an ice skater (see Courier & Ives-style skating-on-a-pond hat, above), and a Scottish dancer with a glengarry cap. Here's a pic of that one:

Ballet concert time is bittersweet busy, know what I mean? It drives you absolutely crazy while it's going on (especially for loser seamstresses like myself, who are forced to figure out how to tack tutus and stuff). It makes for long days and nights, but when the girls are up onstage and smiling and dancing and really LOVING it, like Hannah did this year, it really is worth all the work.

God, that was sappy and cliche. Sorry, I'm tired. So instead of writing anymore, I will just share some photos (most are by my wonderful photog hubby, of course).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

It's one of my favorite days of the year, because of adorable handmade presents like this -- and, of course, the snugs and huggles. I love these kids.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Friday, May 8, 2009

Carlos and me, we're likethis

Earlier this week I spoke to Hannah's fifth-grade class about my life as a reporter. I talked about how I come up with story ideas, decide who to interview and put it all together into something understandable and, with any luck, entertaining. I also explained that working for a newspaper is like a new adventure every day.

This morning, I got a bundle of thank-you notes from the students, including this one:
Dear Mrs. Tobias,

We appreciate you giving us your information. It taught us a lot. For an example, when you said it's hard to think of something. Well try figuring how to make my sister happy. It's like we're the same, like you have to work all day and I also. It's hard to find information, like me. Also, we both go on long adventures, just like me when I'm all over the place at home doing chores. Thank you.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Bakugan: It's Japanese for "Let's see how much the idiot American parents will spend on THIS!"

The Boy has a new obsession.

These little plastic marbles-turned-monsters are called Bakugan (the plural, to the best of my knowledge, also is "Bakugan"). You buy them at Target, Wal-mart or wherever plastic toy crap is sold.

He was into Yugioh for awhile, and collected thousands of cards. (Thankfully, the majority were hand-me-downs from generous friends and relatives.) Now this. Each ball comes with thick magnetic cards that cause the Bakugan to open into its fierce skull-face or dragonoid form.

I cannot begin to tell you what the forms mean, or how they battle each other, or exactly what the "G points" are, but Jack would be happy to explain it all to you. He's tried to explain it to me, but after about the 20th consecutive minute my eyes start glazing over and I just nod and try to find my happy place. That place would be one with games like Monopoly or Phase 10 or Apples to Apples. You know, fun stuff.

A single Bakugan with a few cards is $4.99. A set of three is $12.99. Jack's allowance is $8 every two weeks, so you do the math. If this game teaches him anything, it will be patience.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Full Tilt...

Jack had his first Tilt-a-Hurl experience on Saturday, and my friend Alice was there to witness and record it all on her iPhone.

He started by eating all the requisite birthday-party food: pizza, Pepsi, cake, ice cream. Then he got on the ride, which lasted about five minutes. He and his buddy, Mark, seemed to love it, so they got right back in line and rode it again -- five more minutes of tilting and spinning. Wheeeee!!

And it was all great fun until about 10 minutes later, when Jack started looking a little green and told me he felt sick. We raced to the bathroom, then to the car to head home.

Poor little guy had a serious G-force hangover. Lasted about an hour or so. Not sure when/if he'll ride the Tilt-a-Whirl again.

Friday, April 17, 2009

My friend Kollen says he thinks his 4-year-old daughter -- who is "pretty bright, natch" -- is ready for some read-aloud chapter books. "Any good ideas?" he asked. "I guess 'Little House on the Prairie' is the obvious one, but she may not be able to follow or be interested in all that."

Have to agree there. I adored the "Little House" books as a girl, but when I got them back out to read to Hannah (she was about 5 at the time), I realized that some of the chapters went on and on and ON. I remember one that included a detailed account of Mr. Ingalls building a door, for example. Not exactly intriguing stuff for a preschooler. (Granted, it could have been me. Yawns did not help the presentation.)

In any case, I offered my friend some alternatives to consider. Then I put out a call on Twitter and Facebook and got a whole bunch of great suggestions. Here's the list.

** The Junie B. Jones series. (These early chapter books are sort of a love-it-or-hate-it thing. I happen to LOVE them with all my heart.)
** "Charlotte's Web" and "The Trumpet of the Swan" (E.B. White)
** "The Mouse and the Motorcycle" and "Runaway Ralph" (Beverly Cleary)
** Winnie-the-Pooh (the original A.A. Milne books, not the Disney stuff)
** "Because of Winn-Dixie"
** "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
** the "Little Bear" series
** Amelia Bedelia
** the "Fudge" series (Judy Blume)
** Magic School Bus series
** Magic Tree House series
** the Captain Underpants series
** "The Boxcar Children"
** "James and the Giant Peach"
** "Harold and the Purple Crayon"
** the "Henry and Mudge" series
** "Flat Stanley"
** "Babe"
** the "A to Z Mysteries" series ("Canary Caper," "Quicksand Question," etc.)

More suggestions? Please add them here.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Bunny Bread Saga (or Things We'll Remember About Easter 2009)...

Every year (since 2001, when the recipe graced the cover of Quick Cooking magazine), I have made bunny bread for Easter. We dig out the little belly area and fill it with veggie dip, put the bunny on a bed of lettuce and surround him with vegetables, and it's a pretty dang cute centerpiece for an Easter meal.

Up there is a shot of this year's creation, sculpted with care early this morning, brushed delicately with egg and baked to perfection. I put it on the counter to cool (posted a quick photo of it on Twitter/Facebook), and joined Randy in the backyard.

About five minutes later, Jack came screaming through the screen door yelling, "Izzy knocked the bunny bread down, and I think she's eating it!!"

Aaaaaaaand, cut to this scene:

I'm not making another one. This will stand as a crystal-clear reminder of Easter 2009: The year we got that stupid dog.

Things making me happy right now...

Sometimes, when you haven't updated your blog in almost two months and people start to hassle you about it, you gotta just jump back in and post something and not waste time explaining or apologizing for having been such a slacker. So there it is.

Some things making me really happy right now:

*** Cadbury Mini Eggs. They're not just my favorite Easter candy. They're my all-time favorite candy, period.
*** Watching birds at the bird feeder outside our kitchen window.
*** Listening to Hannah and Sammi play American Girl.
*** Running into former Eagle editor Jerry Ratts and his wife, Mrs. Ratts, at Dillons and chatting for 20 minutes.
*** Holiday traditions, like Bunny Bread.
*** A weekend off.
*** Goofing around with the Dance Moms every Monday and Wednesday.
*** Awesome neighbors.
*** Hannah getting into the Pre-IB program at Robinson and being so excited to start middle school.
*** Looking forward to Oma and Papa's visit in about a month.
*** Getting right back on that blog train. :)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Life list

Saw this here and thought it would be fun to play along. The rules: Bold the things you’ve done, and post on your blog!

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo.
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (Still waiting to see Cuba, though.)
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year’s Eve
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a lawsuit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Friday, February 27, 2009


This is my boy's latest school picture.

I've described his weirdo expression as "something between come-hither and creepy." But I think I prefer my friend Denice's take, after I posted this on Twitter: "I think he was channeling Hugh Hefner -- or maybe Heath Ledger -- just a little."

There's so much going on here that I absolutely love:
  1. His hair. It's an overgrown surfer-boy/bowl cut, but it looks like some parent or photo assistant tried to sweep it to one side to make it look less unruly. Now it just looks overgrown and ridiculous.
  2. His highwaters. I swear the boy grew about three inches in one night recently, but I figured we could make it to shorts season without having to buy new jeans. And then.... Picture Day. Curses!!
  3. That cheesy bubble-letter name feature in the background. How fortuitous that Jack's head covered up the "J," resulting in a particularly fitting "ACK." My sentiments exactly.
  4. Yeah, we're ordering the big package. We'll be needing these photos for Jack's wedding reception.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Warning: Contains explicit language...

I wrote a story this week that, for some odd reason, ended up on the Yahoo home page and got more than 4 million hits. [EDITED TO ADD: I just learned it was Farked, too. Oy.]

I didn't know this, because none of my stories have ever gotten 4 million hits, but 4 million hits translates to several hundred e-mails. And several hundred e-mails means at least a dozen total kooks.

You know, I forget that most people have no idea of the kind of e-mails I deal with on a daily basis -- neither the quantity nor the delightful quality of the correspondence. There must be something about pounding out an angry e-mail to a reporter that makes people feel better about themselves, because they do it all the time. (If you're familiar with Opinion Line or the comment boards at, you know the types of delightful correspondence I'm talking about.)

So a couple days ago, I wrote the little story about the East High kid who caught an error on the state writing assessment. Pretty innocuous, entertaining little human interest story, right?

Not according to "UpNorthMan" (his e-mail name), one of several people who felt the need to speak out -- and how -- about my ridiculous excuse for a job. Here's the thing: I *never* respond to these sorts of folks. I usually feel like ignoring them and just letting them vent in my e-mail inbox is taking the high road, no matter how tempting a wise-crack response might be. (I often type up responses, share them with colleagues Denise or Beccy, and promptly delete them. It helps.)

But this time, I couldn't resist. I'm sharing the whole e-mail exchange here to give you just a tiny peek at my highbrow professional life. (NOTE TO MOM: You might want to hold your ears.):

Dear Writer,
Why would you waste your time writing about something as STUPID as this. Who cares if they made one mistake on a test and some dumbass kid found it. Guess what, it happens every day. We are all human, we make mistakes. Next time, why don't you try writing about something that acutally matters in the world. Ass Wipe

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment.

Your welcome, smart-ass.
Next time you should write about something that actually matters.

Thanks again. And I believe you may have meant “YOU’RE welcome."

F*** YOU.


Gosh, I love my job sometimes.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Seven things you might not know about me...

  1. I procrastinate. Big time. Proof: My Twitter buddy Scott Hepburn tagged me in this "Seven Things" game way back in December.
  2. I love winter, even when it's gray and bitter and nasty. I don't like icy roads very much, but give me a cold day over a hot, humid one anytime, especially now that we have a fireplace. I absolutely love snow, and feel cheated whenever it snows and I don't have a chance to go out and play.
  3. I'm a bit of a pyromaniac. (See No. 2.) I love to start fires, tend fires, stoke fires and throw stuff into fires to see whether/how it will burn. To me, campfires are the absolute best part of camping, and I don't even like s'mores all that much.
  4. My husband was engaged to someone else when we met. (What can I say? That just wasn't meant to be.) We met on a road trip from Wichita to Denver, where we covered a story about an injured Kansas soldier being reunited with his family. That day, in 1991, also was the day video footage of the Rodney King beating was first broadcast. We watched it on CNN in the hotel bar after we got to Denver, at about 2 a.m.
  5. I was an extra in "Bull Durham." (Actually, almost everyone I know *does* know this fact about me, because I slip it in to conversations at every opportunity. This is just another example.) The movie was filmed in Durham while I was a student at N.C. State, just down the highway. Producers put out a call for extras for crowd shots, so my roommate and I drove up there to be part of it. We're in the scene where the Bulls play the Asheville Tourists -- a night game.
  6. I have a bionic leg. OK, it's not really bionic, but I do have a titanium rod down the length of my right shin. I tripped over a doll stroller in April 2006 and badly fractured both bones in my right leg. Spent a week in the hospital and a couple months in physical therapy, and although my leg is pretty much back to normal, it still gets achy every once in a while. I swear it has something to do with the weather.
  7. I've never seen "Citizen Kane." (Does this make me a horrible journalist?) It's been on my to-do list for, like, decades. I've just never gotten around to it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Buffalo Chicken Dip (or, "Ode to Texas Pete")

More than a year ago, Randy was assigned to shoot portraits of Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall and his family for the WSU sports department. While at the Marshalls' home, he was served what he later told me was the best dip he has ever eaten in his life.

"Did you get the recipe?" I asked.

"No," Randy said, incredulous. Like he would *ask* Gregg Marshall for a recipe! Puh-leeze.

"How good was that dip?" I asked.

"OK," he reconsidered. "I'll get the recipe."

He got it, on an index card in Lynn Marshall's handwriting: "Buffalo Chicken Dip." And I knew it was, in fact, an awesome recipe when I saw "Texas Pete" listed as one of the ingredients. I didn't realize until later -- when I shared the recipe with a few friends -- that not everyone around here knows what Texas Pete is.

Where I come from, Texas Pete is like Kleenex or Q-Tips. You wouldn't say you needed a "facial tissue" or a "cotton swab," and similarly, in North Carolina, where Texas Pete was created, you don't say "hot sauce." You just say Texas Pete.

So here's the recipe, perfect for Super Bowl Sunday or March Madness or book clubs (I'm taking it to mine this week) or any kind of gathering where you might want the most awesome dip ever:


1 package cream cheese
2 cans (10 oz. each) white meat chicken
1/2 cup Texas Pete
3/4 cup Ranch dressing
1 cup monterrey jack cheese, shredded

Spread cream cheese in Pyrex pan (8x11 or so). Combine Ranch, Texas Pete and chicken and spread over cream cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with monterrey jack. Let sit for 10-15 minutes to cool down. Serve with Tostitos or Fritos scoops.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cheese Whiz

Friday was Pinewood Derby night for Pack 506. Jack's vehicle this year was a super cool wedge of cheese with a mouse driver crafted from pompoms, beads, wire and google eyes. He named it Cheese Whiz.

Much of the appeal of Pinewood Derby involves sitting on the floor -- way too close to the track for the track operator's comfort -- and chatting with fellow Scouts about whether to beg Mom for nachos, hot dogs or caffeinated pop from the NASCAR Cafe. Jack ended up getting a hot dog *and* nachos *and* Sprite, but I ate most of the nachos.

Just before Race #1, Jack checked out his wheel alignment and made some minor adjustments. Then he said a prayer.

Cars on the starting blocks...

In this shot, one of the assistant den leaders is giving the boys their instructions before letting the cars go. Basically, they were supposed to walk (not run!) down to the finish line and wait for the end of the heat (about five seconds), then carefully pick up their car and return it (walk, don't run!) to the starting table. That happened about ... zero times.

The photo is blurry (it was dark as a dungeon in that church basement), but you can clearly see the bright yellow Cheese Whiz moving out into the lead.

Waiting, not so patiently, at the finish line.

"Number One!" Jack screamed after the first heat. "First place!" He really came in third place in the heat. But his car was in Lane 1, and when the results flashed up on the screen, he thought he was in first place. I didn't bother to correct him.

Parting shot. Jack finished solidly in the top half of the pack -- No. 22 out of 54 cars. He also received a "Cheesiest Car" certificate, which he quickly and proudly displayed on his bedroom wall. He's already making plans for next year's car, which he thinks will be either a dog or a pencil.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Happy house things

Little things about this new house make me exceedingly happy. This thing, for instance, which is near the windows in Jack's room and holds the cords for his blinds.

Jack loved the room from the moment he saw it -- we did, too -- because he said it "looked like a pirate ship." Wood floors, wood molding and a large built-in desk under a wall of windows, which has become Lego Central. This blind-cord-holder thing (EDITED to add my new vocabulary word for the day -- this is called a "cleat"!!) just adds to the appeal. You wrap the cord around it like you're docking a boat. Takes a little extra time, but charming and totally worth it.

Jack's new skull-and-crossbones room alarm (a gift from our St. Louis friends, the Andersons) adds to the pirate flavor. When you walk in front of it, it screams out pirate warnings and basically scares you to death. Effective.

Here's something that made me smile in Hannah's room: her calendar, with Inauguration Day happily noted. :)

This little work of art is hanging in the laundry room (much to Randy's chagrin). I know it's sickeningly sweet and cheesy, in that Precious Moments kind of way, but here's the deal: It was painted by Mrs. Witwer, the lady who lived in the apartment above us when my family was stationed in Germany. I was in kindergarten when she gave it to me, and it was hanging in my bedroom for most of my life. Mom and Dad brought it the last time they visited, and I quickly and happily hung it near the laundry room door shortly after we moved to the new house. Whenever I look at it, which is every time I let the dog out, I think about Mrs. Witwer and her yappy little miniature schnauzer, Boots. (Don't you love that plaid wallpaper, too? I know I do.)

I've never owned wind chimes. It's not that I have anything against them, it's just that they seem like such a luxury item. ("I have some extra money, so I think I'll buy this contraption that turns the wind into music, just for the hell of it.")

Anyway, because we know the previous owners of our new house, they felt comfortable leaving a few little things behind, and we are grateful they did. This little chime in the back yard is one example. Such a simple joy. I had to get used to it at first (whenever I sat in a certain spot in the living room and heard the chimes, I'd think a cell phone was going off), but I love it now.

I think I'll post some more happy house things this weekend. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

You learn something (or three) every day

Three things I discovered so far today:

1) The Target generic version of Aveeno lotion is great.

2) L'Oreal True Match makeup is not so great -- and definitely not an equivalent of my usual Clinique foundation.

3) A 50-sheet variety pack of craft foam and some Tacky Glue can keep my daughter happy for hours.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Jack: "Did you know that Native Americans discovered the first strawberries?"

Me: "No. How'd you learn that?"

Jack: "I read it in a book."

Me: "That's cool. What book?"

Saturday, January 3, 2009


"The details make life holy. If you want a little happiness in life don’t forget to look at the little things.

"It is a poet’s work to see the incidental, pluck it, place an appropriate silence around both sides and see the profound in what passes for a passing moment. It is an artist’s job to as much discover art as create it. Prayer is a way of making the common profound by pausing, tying knots around a moment, turning our life into a string of pearls."

-- Noah Ben Shea