Monthly Archives: December 2012

The List of Awesome

During a recent library trip, I found blogger Neil Pasricha’s The Book of Awesome: Snow Days, Bakery Air, Finding Money in Your Pocket, and Other Simple, Brilliant Things. I was in the mood for some light reading to mix with my Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, so I picked it up. (I never got around to reading The Lord of The Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia when I was a kid. Don’t judge me.) I found myself nodding along, saying, “Oh yeah, I totally get that,” on just about every page.


In the spirit of that slice of life, I humbly submit my own List of Awesome Things.


  • Reading kids’ books as an adult, either revisiting old favorites or reading something you never got to.
  • Having a cat, dog, or kid sleeping on you. Even with claws, shed hair, and the possibility of ear-shattering howls, there’s nothing that rivals that absolute trust. Having both Medium Fry and Small Fry sleeping in my arms at only a few weeks old ranks among the happiest moments of my adult life. Both my cats like to sleep on me, and they tend to divide and conquer; Big Trouble stretches across my lap or down my legs, while Little Trouble perches on my chest.
  • Coming inside after being out in the cold. Whether you were working or playing, it feels good to shed the extra layers, curl up in a blanket, maybe drink something hot.
  • Hilarious Facebook updates. One of my closest friends is a military wife transplanted from the South and currently living in the upper reaches of the Midwest. Our mutual best friend and I have told her several times she needs to write a book, because her accounts of her Lego-stealing cat and her kindergarten-age daughter mishearing “pregnant” as “pagan” are too funny not to share with the English-literate world.
  • Watching Facebook friends who don’t know each other get into a conversation. It’s interesting to see how my cousins, my sorority sisters, my high school classmates, and my pastor all respond to the same post and to each other.
  • Being able to wear sneakers to work, instead of just for the commute to and from work.
  • Homemade macaroni and cheese. I think I was in college before I tried it, because my Mom a. is allergic to milk and cheese, and b. worked night shift and was more interested in actually eating a meal with her husband and kids than in making said meal Food Network material. Ergo, when we ate macaroni and cheese, it came from blue, black and white, or (rarely) red boxes.
  • The smell of pizza baking. Even if it’s really crummy, greasy pizza, it smells so good.
  • Popcorn popped on the stove.
  • Getting a recipe right after you’ve made it several times. I still remember the first time I made a really good peanut sauce for a stir-fry. I’d struggled with it for more than a year before I finally made it the right consistency and flavor.
  • Watching a cheesy B-movie with friends and doing your own “Mystery Science Theater 3000” commentary.
  • Inside jokes and pop culture references. Renaissance Guy once made his future wife and me crack up during church by saying, “I think he said, ‘Blessed are the cheesemakers,’ ” (from “Monty Python’s Life of Brian,” in case you were wondering) sotto voce, in a perfect Cockney accent, during The Sermon on the Mount. My parents’ parish priest must have thought we were completely nuts.
  • Listening to elderly people talk about old times. Bonus: listening to several elderly siblings, siblings-in-law, or friends share their memories of the same place, person, or event.
  • Finding your perfect karaoke song: you know all the lyrics, it’s in your vocal range, and you can actually sing it passably well.
  • Bread and cheese, preferably fresh, crusty bread and sharp cheese. If there’s butter involved, so much the better.
  • Big, sturdy umbrellas on a rainy day.
  • The conversations you have in the car on the way home or in the kitchen cleaning up.
  • Laughing till your face hurts.
  • Really cold water on a really hot day.



Neil blogs at Check him out.


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Filed under Life, the Universe and Everything, Popular Culture, Writing

Renaissance Girl’s Recipe Corner – New Year’s edition

There are at least as many beliefs about how to bring yourself luck on New Year’s Day as there are cultures in the world, and many of these traditions involve food. According to, the most commonly referenced auspicious foods are grapes, cooked greens, legumes, pork, fish, and sweets, particularly cakes. Lobster and winged fowl, particularly chicken, are considered unlucky.

In my part of the U.S., the usual New Year’s meal is pork cooked with sauerkraut. Since I’m vegetarian, I’m offering an alternative that makes use of two of the foods on’s list: cooked greens and legumes. I came up with this recipe during a very brief relationship with a man from the South, where blackeyed peas and collard greens are common fare on New Year’s Day.

New Year’s Day Lucky Stew

2 15-ounce cans black-eyed peas (or equivalent amount cooked dried black-eyed peas)

1 10-ounce package frozen chopped greens (collard, mustard, turnip, kale, chard, or spinach; can use fresh but you’ll need to use a *lot*, as they shrink during cooking)

2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes with green chilies (can substitute diced stewed tomatoes for one or both)

any other vegetables you like, diced (onion, celery and bell pepper would all be good)

water or vegetable stock

Liquid Smoke to taste

Tabasco sauce to taste

Drain the cans of black-eyed peas; *don’t* drain the cans of tomatoes. Put black-eyed peas, tomatoes with juice, greens, and vegetables in large Crock-Pot with water or vegetable stock to cover. Add Liquid Smoke and Tabasco. Cook on low for several hours. Check seasoning and add more if needed (I like it spicy but know not everyone does.) Serve over cooked rice, with corn bread, or with Irish soda bread. I like Bob’s Red Mill’s mix.

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Sappy Cat Blogging — 12/28/2012

Christmas Nyan Cat


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Tuesday musings – Merry Christmas!

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” — Bob Hope

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.” — Sigrid Unset

“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.” — Eric Sevareid

“Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weaknesses and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and to ask yourself if you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thougts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open? Are you willing to do these things for a day? Then you are ready to keep Christmas!” — Henry Van Dyke

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The Oxen — Thomas Hardy

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

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Sappy Cat Blogging – 12/21/2012

Wrapping Presents with a Cat

A Kitten’s 12 Days of Christmas


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Quinbus Flestrin

How I felt today while teaching kindergarten. “Quinbus Flestrin” means “the great man-mountain” in the language of Lilliput.

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Tuesday musings — 12/18/2012

“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph.” — Shirley Temple Black

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Filed under Holidays, Life, the Universe and Everything, Popular Culture

Once again, well said.


This afternoon, I sat at the back table of my classroom and checked my email while my students finished a test. I knew nothing about what happened in Connecticut, always late to know, most of my day disconnected from the internet. Another teacher wrote an email suggesting we might do something to reach out to Sandy Hook Elementary School…

I had no idea what he was talking about.

Reading the CNN updates as my students concentrated on parts of speech, my eyes filled with tears. The world is filled with so many horrors, but nothing is quite as horrific as violence toward children. I don’t know if it is because I am a teacher or because I was in a room full of kids, but this story shook me more than any other in my life.

It breaks my heart to think there is one more thing for my students…

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Well said.

The Joy of Teaching

We heard of the horror in Newtown during eighth period, at the end of the day.  The halls in our own school were Friday afternoon quiet. In classrooms, our teachers were hoping to make the most of every instructional moment, our kids hoping to hear the clock click to 2:43 announcing the weekend, and everyone feeling very safe in a place where everyone should be very safe.

The loss is unimaginable. 20 kids, all between ages of 5 and 10.  20 kids who went to school this morning and who will never come home. 20 kids, each with a family, each with a life as yet unlived.  Maybe they looked forward to singing a song in music today.  Maybe they were worried about a Friday spelling test. Maybe they almost missed the bus. Maybe they had play dates scheduled for this afternoon and basketball practice on Saturday morning. Maybe their…

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