Sunday, August 30, 2009

"I have found that JOY is all around me....
It just takes opening my eyes and heart to really see it and feel it!"
~~ Roban

It's exciting to be joining four of my blog buddies for the eighth time as we post reflections on the words we chose at the beginning of the year. This month's reflections are short and sweet... a simple sentence or two about our journey this year as we strive for balance, discipline, excellence, abundance, and joy in our lives.

"Striving for BALANCE between complexity and simplicity, constantly evaluating and re-evaluating the trade-offs I have to make to get there." ~~ Peggy at Middle Age Ramblings

"DISCIPLINE is setting your eyes on the prize, recognizing what you need to do to get there and removing all obstacles that will prevent you from finishing the race." ~~ Annemarie at So I was Just Thinking

"In August, I recognized the ABUNDANCE of seeing old friends, listening to great music, feeling the cool mountain air, and having a real time phone conversation with a good mate!" ~~ AVT Coach at This Abundant Life

"EXCELLENCE: A process and a discipline, not a destination." ~~ Octamom

Special thanks to Caroline at Whimsical Whispers for inspiring us to begin the journey in the first place!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

And the Winner is....

Have you ever noticed that when you find something you love, you want to share it with others? It's just too good to keep to yourself.... Kind of like Oprah, I guess, and her "Favorite Things" show. You know the one. It's the show where she gives everyone in her studio audience trinkets like HDTV Refrigerators, Artisan Stand Mixers, and Camcorders.

Well, consider me a small-scale Oprah when it comes to sharing things I love. Like when I kept giving my mother-in-law Bath and Body hand soaps because I loved them so much. Kitchen Lemon, Sun-Ripened Raspberry, Coconut Lime Verbena.... One day I happened to get a good look in her bathroom and realized that she had enough of my favorite hand soaps to open up her own Bath and Body franchise. She loves them; she uses them, but sometimes enough's enough.

I gave one sister a leather journal for Christmas one year. I love all things paper and journal-y. For Hannah it was an Italian link bracelet like mine. I finally bought my running friend the same kind of socks I ran in. They were so soft, my feet did a little dance when I put them on each morning.

So, when I was working on my mosaic for this past Monday, I thought it would be fun to introduce more of my blog friends to something I love by offering a giveway. After a quick Facebook chat, Rebecca generously agreed to have Scrapblog donate a 12x8 Keepsake Album to one lucky reader of mine.

So, with the help of the random generator at Violets are Blue, I'm pleased to announce that ...

is the lucky recipient of one of my favorite things!

Check your e-mail, McVal, for information on how to create and claim your keepsake album.

Because several who left comments said they wished they could see my mosaic images up close, I've added a couple below. Just click on the Scrapblog logo for a larger view.

And thanks to each of you who left comments last Monday. This was my first giveaway, and it was definitely one of my favorite things to do!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mosaic Monday: Scrapblog Giveaway!

I discovered blogging and scrapblogging at about the same time. It was June 2008 while Hannah and I were at the beach. Suddenly, my world became much larger! I not only became a blogger and scrapblogger, but I met new friends from all over the world each time I clicked "publish."

To commemorate the reawakening of my creativity, I've teamed up
to offer YOU
a chance
to WIN
All you have to do is leave a comment on this post, and you'll be entered in the drawing.

If you're the lucky winner, you can either print one of the scrapblogs you've already created, or create something new. It's so easy!

Here are a few pages of the digital scrapbooks I created using

So, go ahead, leave a comment! The deadline is Friday, August 28.

Mary at Little Red House is the gracious host of Mosaic Monday. Skip on over and take a look at the other mosaics....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Watching Her Grow...

I love this picture of Hannah....

She paused as we made our way into the school building for her first day of kindergarten. Her smiling face seems to say "I'm in big school now; can you believe it?!" I smiled when I looked closely at the picture and noticed her hand. I can practically see the energy and excitement dancing through her....

And that pink bookbag... Barbie, I'm sure. Matching lunch box held her snack for the day. I remember that white blouse, so crisp and fresh in the sweltering August heat. Her sandals, her toes....

I remember her spunk when she ran up to me after school and proclaimed, "I didn't even drop my tray!" (Apparently, she had been a bit worried about that happening during lunch... apparently she did okay that day!)

And here she is seven years later on the first day of 8th grade. No more pictures in front of the school. The front porch will do just fine she says! Her eager smile is still there.... And she's excited. Still.

She makes friends easily (something I've never been as good at) and is diligent in her work.

But I have to wonder where the years have gone. Afternoons of sunshine seemingly vanished over night.

"You only have me for five more years," she said recently with a sneaky grin on her face.

"No," I reminded her, "I have you for life! And, uh, watch out... I would make a great college roommate!"

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mosaic Monday: Jellyfish, Sea Dragons, and Sharks (oh, my!)

I love museums and aquariums. I can spend all day poking around...

Last weekend, Hannah and I met my sister and her daughter in Atlanta for a few days of exploring....

Our primary destination was the Georgia Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the world. It didn't take me long to find two of my favorite sea animals: the Australian weedy sea dragons and sea horses. These two creatures seem almost mythical to me. The aquarium also is home to Nandi, the only manta ray ever to reside in a U.S. aquarium, whale sharks, and cute beluga whales. Not to mention the most diverse population of aquatic life ever found in an aquarium.

The Titanic Aquatic exhibit was still open, so we were able to see the artifacts recovered from that tragic crossing. It was amazing to see a display of china plates stacked one behind the other sitting upright in the sand just as they had found them deep on the ocean floor. Unbroken, no less. Clothing, luggage, and other personal items were also on display, all recovered practically intact from the wreckage. As we made our way through the exhibit, we came to a passageway that was designed so we could feel the vibrations and sounds of the engines just as third-class passengers did on that fateful night. It was a bit eerie and sad to walk through the exhibit knowing how many people lost their lives that night and how frightened they must have been as the ship was sinking.

There was so much to see throughout the aquarium, I can't tell you about everything. But you can visit the Georgia Aquarium virtually by clicking here. And if you're ever in Atlanta, you might want to put this on the top of your "to-do" list.

The photos are: (1) jellyfish (2) sea worms (3) shark (4) beluga whale (5) Hannah and Allison petting the sting rays and sharks (6) sea anemone (7) otters (8) whale shark (9) Hannah "swimming" (10) sea horses (11) jellyfish (12) the cousins in front of the aquarium entrance.

Mosaic Mondays are hosted by Mary at Little Red House. Click on over!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Packed and Ready to Go

it was my daughter's first day of school yesterday
can you see the excitement on her face?

dressed in her new uniform
with her hair just so....

she was excited
she's a great student
but y'know what?

I think she was most excited
about seeing so many of her friends
and that makes me smile
because without them
school would just be
textbooks and assignments
and cafeteria food

but with friends
it's more like a gathering
where smiles and laughter
are the commas and exclamation points
that punctuate each day

I hope she has an exceptionally good year!

Four years ago this month...

I plunged into a new career. Head first, without looking back, dismissing naysayers as I ventured into a middle school for the first time in 30 years! This time, not as a student but as an 8th-grade language arts teacher. Without a degree in education... without having substituted... without having been around middle-schoolers since I was in 8th-grade three decades before! Eighth grade! Can you believe it?

You're probably wondering how I became a teacher without having a teaching degree or even substituting.... Aren't you? To save time and (hopefully) keep you from clicking on another blog, I'll give you the short version of my path to teacherdom.... I already held a bachelor's degree in communications and had a lot of experience as a writer. I had a little teaching experience by working with interns and guest lecturing at a local university. That's probably how the teaching bug bit me.

The bad news was that I would have to work my way through college again as a graduate student and spend endless evenings (three to five years worth of them) earning my teaching credentials. I just didn't want to wait that long. Instead, I chose an alternative program called TAPP, or Teacher Alternative Preparation Program.

After a summer "boot camp," where I learned the basics of classroom management, teaching, and curriculum design, I simply walked into my classroom and began to teach. Whew, was that tough! In addition to teaching each day, I attended some evening classes and seminars during my first two years of teaching, compiled a huge portfolio, was observed over and over and over again, and had to pass the necessary examinations, but the focus of TAPP was "on-the-job" training so-to-speak from the first day on.

It's been four years, and at the end of this year, my first class will be graduating from high school. But probably the strangest thing of all is that my daughter, who was going into 4th grade the year I began teaching, is going into 8th grade this year! She's the same age as my students.... my baby is one of them now!

Time passes by so quickly. Here I am during my first year of teaching....

This time next week, instead of enjoying a pajama day I'll be meeting the kids who'll be a big part of my life this year... nearly 100 of them... all with different personalities, talents, and stories that make each one unique. It will be up to me to discover each student's uniqueness by peeling back the layers of facades they have so carefully constructed over the years....

Sometimes it takes me half the school year or more to figure them out... what makes them tick, what ticks them off, what motivates them to learn (or at least to not socialize quite as much!). Each child is a mystery to unravel, all while I try to teach them what they need to learn this year... in literature and language arts.

Am I ready for them? I better be....

I'm a teacher now!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mosaic Monday: Hilton Head Island

My summer slipped quietly away this past week....
It didn't happen immediately.
It just slowly slipped past
as clouds drifted by
and playful waves lapped onto the shore.
Sitting under a blue umbrella,
I looked out over the ocean
and saw diamonds glittering
on the slate blue sea.
I watched birds glide with ease
on currents of ocean air.
truly free
I let the wind dance in my hair.
I let the sun warm my face.
And I read and relaxed and dreamed good things
as my summer slipped away.
Photographs taken on Hilton Head Island
South Carolina
August 2009
For more mosaics visit Mary at her Little Red House!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Paula & Roban

Photo of Meryl Streep portraying Julia Child in the movie Julie & Julia. Photo taken by Jonathan Wenk for Columbia/Sony.

For most girls growing up in the South, cooking is an art that is learned from their mothers, who learned how to cook from their mothers, who learned how to cook (well, you get the idea). For me, it just didn't happen. Instead of helping my mom cook, I was busy reading a book or playing outside with my friends. My job was to set the table before dinner and to clean up afterwards.

As I grew older, I learned how to make cross-wind landings in single-engine airplanes, how to pack a parachute, and how to turn flips in freefall. But the two things that continued to give me trouble were cooking and baking. I guess you could say that we just didn't mix very well.

I'll never forget the year my husband went out of town on my birthday, leaving us girls alone to celebrate. You can't celebrate a birthday without a cake, so we went to the grocery store and bought a box of cake mix, some frosting in a can, and decorations to go on top. Hmmm. We called that cake a "dinosaur wasteland" and not just because the decorations were tiny little dinosaurs. We gave it that name because it looked like a dinosaur wasteland. The frosting kept sticking to the cake, causing me to peel off huge chunks of cake every time I made a swipe to add more frosting. It wasn't a pretty thing at all.

And cooking? Well... other than cooking spaghetti and my own family recipe, I've left the kitchen to my husband. Let's just say he's done a lot (okay, make that 99.9%) of the cooking since we've been married. He's the kind of person who can come in and put together a meal in less than 30 minutes. Get me in the kitchen and a dish that's supposed to take 10 minutes to prepare and another 20 minutes to cook might take two hours to complete.

That is until now!

If you want to know what I've been up to this summer, look no further. I've been in the kitchen learning how to cook. Complete meals... not just a dish here or there... but complete meals!

No, I didn't run out and buy a copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Instead I turned to any Southern gal's best pal in the kitchen (that would be Paula Deen), my neighborhood Publix store, and a few other trusted souls. With their help, I've been able to wow my family with some pretty good eating these past couple of months. And most importantly, I've begun to get comfortable in the kitchen. The acts of chopping vegetables, mincing fresh herbs, and stirring the pot have been rewarded with savory aromas and a pervading sense of well-being that I felt when I began to actually feed my family something good. Instead of feeling rushed and unsure of myself, I began to enjoy the process.

I can't wait to tell you about one of my family's favorite dishes.... It's Paula Deen's Herbed Stuffed Chicken Breasts (page 65 of The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook).

Paula Deen (courtesy of

When you read the recipe, you'll see that you have to pound the chicken breasts and then coat them on one side with cream cheese. After that, you place crumbled feta cheese on top. Then, you sprinkle basil, oregano, and Paula's House Seasoning over all of it. Next, (this is the fun part) you roll the chicken breast up and wrap a slice of uncooked bacon around it.

When I place the chicken breasts in a baking dish and pour melted butter on top, I just have to stand back and admire my creation. It looks like something you would be served in a nice restaurant... something cooked by a real chef!

If you haven't heard of Paula Deen, you may want to mosey on over to her Web site. You can read all about her or just skip to the recipes that are posted online.

I'll tell you more about what I learned from Publix and the other trusted souls in the weeks to come. Until then... as Paula says, "let's get cookin'!"

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Just a Few Facts Should Do...

I love it when someone wants to get to know me better. It reminds me of friendships I had as a child, of times when we would ask each other random questions or fill out quizzes in magazines... little by little peeling the layers off to find out who we really were inside.

Last week, Silver tagged me asking that I post six things that would help her get to know me better. She actually said that I should feel like I had just stepped out of a confessional by the time I finished. It isn't always easy to go into confession mode, so I decided to share two things with you: a blog post from last year and a scrapblog I created.

So, if you'd like to know my quirkier side, you should click here! Or, you can click on the scrapblog icon below to read 20 random things about me. Either way, you'll probably leave my blog feeling a little more knowledgeable about your Moments in Time blogger friend.

Of course, part of the fun of all this is getting to tag other people to share information about themselves. A sort of give-and-take of information to keep it from getting too lopsided. But instead of actually tagging you, I'm just going to ask you right now if you'll go ahead and tell me six or more things about yourself. You can either do it in a post or in a comment right here on my blog.

I do want to get to know you better. So go ahead... get started!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

pssssst! Guess what?

I'm at the beach!

Yesterday morning was absolutely gorgeous. The morning sun was glittering off the ocean... twinkling like diamonds scattered across the ocean waves. I was able to sit under my umbrella ALL day! Loved it! ... was even able to read an entire book yesterday... Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier. Wonderful book. You'll have to read it when you can!

I've taken a lot of photographs. Unfortunately, my card reader for the camera isn't accepting the new memory card I bought before the trip.... So, I'll have to share them after the trip.

The beautiful sunset photo of the exact beach we're on came from

I hope you're having a great week! EnJOY yourself!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mosaic Monday: Reflecting on Our Words...

At the beginning of the year, four friends and I decided that we would each reflect on a word during the year. Each month, we've shared our reflections on those words and how we are incorporating what those words mean to us in our daily lives.

This month, we've created mosaics that illustrate what our words mean to us.... My mosaic is on "JOY...."

What brings me joy? my daughter Hannah, good movies, great books, knowing that Craig is a caring father, Scout, twinkling Christmas lights, summer days before it gets too hot, blogging, taking pictures of Hannah, Akiane’s amazing art, Maggie, when a student ‘gets it’ and becomes a writer, morning light as it dances through the window panes, the smell of Biolage shampoo, doing things with Hannah, finding a hand-crafted necklace that has a meaning that resonates with me, being able to walk and run through the neighborhood, making new friends, eating good food, reading magazines (or looking at the pictures!), unexpected snow days, blue skies with windswept clouds, Autumn, scrapblogging, colorful flowers, driving my car, pampering ourselves, pedicures and summer sandals, my family, Starbucks frappucinos…. and so many other things I don’t have pictures of, like warm baths and cozy beds, a roaring fire on cold days, night sounds and falling stars…. The more I think about it, the more things I find that bring me joy!

In addition to finishing up a 3,000-mile journey with her children these past couple of weeks, Octamom created this beautiful mosaic on "Excellence...."

Completed Road Trips
Blue Skies
Extended Family
Coming Home

Annemarie's mosaic just makes me feel good...!

Annemarie: As I move toward a more disciplined way of life, these are some of the things I have been trying to incorporate more of. It is not an issue of right or wrong, but of more or less. I want to get more organized, do more cooking, cleaning and exercise and get a decent amount of sleep. I think it is a never ending journey, but one that is worth the trip.

AVT Coach has been living an abundant life and shares this mosaic with us...

During the past seven months, the four of us, along with Peggy, have created poems, song lyrics, collages, and more as we reflected on our words. Here are the links if you'd like to look back on our year of reflections...

January Our Words in Poems
February Reflecting in Song
March Seeing our Words
April A Cup of Verbal Tea
May Artfully Said (collages)
June Reflective Thoughts (scrapblog)

And our journey began with one of Caroline's posts at The Zen in You....

enJOY your day!