Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pay Attention

Those two words are very important. I am grateful that I get another chance to put them into practice.
It happened on Friday, the 23rd. My first day of vacation for Christmas.

I was listening to the radio and had a mini-celebration when I heard that all of the requests for help submitted to KSBJ had been met! Hundreds of families were getting food, necessities, and some toys for their kids from listeners of the radio station.

Realizing that I needed to fill my car's tank before getting any further in my trip, I pulled into a nearby gas station. Normally, I have a habit of cleaning my windshield and emptying my car of any trash while the gas is pumping. I busily began my routine, and ignored my surroundings. A bad idea when you're a lone female.

I didn't see the white van pull up next to my car. I didn't hear the doors open. I didn't notice the man approaching me. I don't own mace or a taser. My knife is in my other purse.

The gas had finished pumping and I decided to skip washing the windshield. With my back to the man slowly approaching me, I went through the routine of putting on the gas cap and saying "no" to the receipt option. It was while I was hitting that button that I heard him.

"Excuse me ma'am?" he drawled in an East Texas accent. Surprised at hearing a voice so close to me, the hair on the back of my neck shot up. I whirled around to face him.

Enjoying the look of shock on my face, he looked at me with ice blue eyes and a smirk and said, "Could you help me?" I couldn't see any proof of his need for help. Something about him made me want to shudder. Staying very still, I maintained eye contact. In that split second, I had several different escape scenarios race through my mind. As half of those included me flying, I felt a bit of despair.

Thankful that my car was between us, I heard myself calmly, but firmly state: "I'm sorry. No!" Then I opened my car door and hurriedly jumped into the seat, shutting the door and hitting the lock button. I couldn't believe how calm my voice sounded when I wanted to cower- believe me when I tell you, God spoke through me. He protected me- I'm not sure what from. Maybe the man really did need help?

I then noticed the other man by the van, watching me. In an adrenaline rush I tried to start my car only to find the keys missing. Before I got to the point of sheer panic, I reached into my pocket and found them. Starting the car, I pulled out of that gas station as fast as I could!

What is a lone female to do when strangers ask for help? Would you have asked the man what he wanted? I confess, I don't feel any guilt about getting out of that situation as fast as possible. My heart still races a bit when I think about it.

If I had found out what the man wanted, perhaps I could've directed him to KSBJ? They helped hundreds in only a couple of weeks! They wouldn't have minded another need or two to fill. Maybe I should carry around business cards with important phone numbers for people in need (shelters, lawyers, food banks, etc.)?

And where do you buy mace? Not that I'm positive I could use it correctly...I'd probably spray myself in the face instead of an attacker...

My advice ladies: PAY ATTENTION to your surroundings when you are doing something as ordinary as filling up your car. That gas station was one of the two I always I'm extremely nervous to ever go near it again. I got so used to the station that I didn't remember that while the building doesn't change, the people around it do.

I knew I should've taken Self Defense instead of Ultimate Frisbee as my kineseology class...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Great-Aunt Mary's Coffee Cake

This is a special family recipe that we've eaten every year for Christmas breakfast. :) Just thought I'd share!

Great-Aunt Mary's Coffee Cake

Serves 10


2 pkg dry yeast (1 pkg= 1 Tbsp)
1/3 c. sugar
3/4 c. scalded milk
1/4 c. warm water
1 tsp cardamom
1 egg
2/3 c. butter
1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2- 4 c. flour


2/3 c. sugar
2 Tbsp cinnamon


1 c. powdered sugar
2 Tbsp water (or milk)


Soften the yeast in the warm water.
In a separate bowl mix butter, sugar, cardamom, salt and hot scalded milk. Cool to room temperature.
Add egg, yeast and beat thoroughly while slowly adding 2 1/2 c. of flour. (The rest of the flour is for powdering the surface and your hands while you knead the dough.)

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and turn to coat the whole ball of dough. Cover bowl with dishtowel and place in a warm, dry place until doubled in size.

When doubled, knead the dough and roll out into a 10x24 inch rectangle. Spread with melted butter and sprinkle with the filling mixture. Roll the dough lengthwise like a jelly roll and then form a ring. Place on a greased cookie sheet, spread with melted butter, and cover it again until it's doubled in size.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
Spread with the glaze.
Eat! :)

We sometimes make this without the cardamom, but it's great either way. I wish I had a picture of it...but we usually eat it too fast to remember pictures.

Enjoy! (And if you do make it, tell me what you think!)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

6 Desktop Necessities

As I prepare to leave the office for 10 days, I realized that there are a few things on my desk that I consider highly important. I thought I'd share them with you:

1) My planner. Now, I have already been laughed at and teased about my Franklin Covey Monarch Planner (each day gets two whole letter-size pages!)...I might down-grade to a smaller size once I finish this one. For now, the planner is split into 6 month sections: Jul-Dec & Jan-Jun in two separate 2-inch binders! I admit it's rather bulky. BUT, I don't lack room to write anything. I really love having it! Plus, who could do without the daily inspirational quotes? Like today's: "I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that." -Lauren Bacall. Not sure who she is, and I don't really need to hear that quote, but it's nice, right?

2) Pencils. Yes. I know. Most adults use pens for everything, but I prefer pencils. Unless it's a legal document or my signature, I use pencils! They are easier to write with, and since I'm a lefty, I don't get ink smudges on my hand- just pencil dust.

3) Sticky notes. I am a HUGE fan. They stay put if I need to scribble a message while I'm on the phone. They stick to the edge of my computer screen so I can remember tasks, phone numbers, etc. They stick to paper when I need to mark certain pages with questions or thoughts- without marring the original paper! I could go on and on. In fact, they inspired this post- but I thought I would spare you (and not sound like a crazed addict) by mentioning other things on my desk, too.

4) Uniball Signo Pens. I know that I prefer pencils, but if I'm going to use a pen- this is it, THE pen! So smooth. They're a bit price-y, but since one of the other ladies in the office wanted some, I ordered two small packs (blue & black) and gave myself one of each color. I'm quite happy with them. I don't think the 300 regular pens we ordered for our banquet last month will ever see the light of day again...

5) Tissues. Can you believe that tissues were hard to come by in this office, when I started? No more. Let them eat a tissue box! (Ew, right? Reminds me of those cotton wads the orthodontist used. *shudder*) Ok, I'll quit kidding around, but seriously- tissues are pretty important. They are great make-shift napkins. Or sweat rags... The first time I got to go purchase supplies for the building, I got a pack of tissue boxes and distributed them in the offices. "Wow! I don't think I've ever gotten tissues before..." my boss stated when I handed him a box. I know he was genuinely grateful...

6) First Aid Kit. You can stop laughing now. Some of my friends seem to think I get hurt a lot. I don't know where they get these ideas... They didn't have a first aid kit when I started working here. We noticed the lack of first aid kit the day I needed a bandaid. :) I got one the next day and stocked up on extra bandaids, neosporin, and hydrogen peroxide- they never put enough of those 3 items in a first aid kit. Why do I know that?

There you have it. Those are my top 6 indispensible desk items. I might miss them over the Christmas break...especially the sticky notes.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Some Christmas Traditions

Well, here we are. Five days until Christmas!! I LOVE this time of year. Decorating, baking, parties with family and friends, the music, buying and wrapping gifts, sitting in front of the fireplace...yes, occasionally we need to use the fireplace in Texas...:)

I don't remember too much about Santa being a part of our family tradition. I have no idea when I stopped believing in him. I do remember staring out the window for signs of a sleigh, at the age of four, on Christmas Eve in Guam -long after I was supposed to be asleep. One thing's for sure, the year I was 15 and Mom wrote "From: Santa" on all the gifts...I really didn't buy it.

Here are some of my favorite Christmas traditions:
-Advent- we carefully light the candles (one new candle each Sunday before Christmas) and read through the prophecies of Jesus' coming, sing Christmas carols, and pray together. That I remember doing since I was very young.

-Putting up the tree- we have an artificial tree. It has traveled all over with us and was a tiny piece of consistency amidst the chaos of adjusting to new homes and bedrooms as we served in the military. Thankfully, we no longer fight over who gets to put the (sad-looking) vintage crocheted angel on the top of our tree. The top bristles on the tree are permanently smashed down due to that angel. Colored lights are the only kind used on the tree and we still have some old ornaments from when we were babies- though we act embarrassed and try to hid them on the least visible side of the tree.

One year, I remember we tried a live tree. The needles kept falling and getting tracked all over the house by my sisters and I- it drove our Mom, crazy. The thing that ended live trees for our family? It fell and just missed hitting my little sister. It could have killed her. So, our trusty, old artificial tree (still in the original box with about 3 inches of tape holding it together) gets to grace our house every December.

-Stockings- Several places we lived did NOT have fireplaces or mantles...bookshelves or pegs on the wall sufficed. My Mom handmade all of our stockings-except for Sally's. She was born at a busy time in my Mom's life (3 other young daughters to care for and my Dad constantly on aircraft carriers), so my Mom bought a beautiful white lace stocking. And years later, cross-stitched a pretty angel which was then safety-pinned onto the stocking. It remains that way today. The rule for stockings? They can be opened on Christmas morning without waking the parents. Though that has morphed some. When Sally and Becca were younger, they got the brilliant idea that midnight= Christmas morning. They would shove Abby and I out of our beds to join them in gloating over our plunder...after a year or two, they eventually gave up and let us sleep. Stockings usually contained candy and gum, along with whatever other cute small items my Mom and Dad found.

Do you hold advent with your family? Or did you ever? Are you a real or "fake" tree, person?
Did/ does your family have any special traditions? I want to know! Sometimes hearing other people's traditions gives me ideas!

One year, some people told my parents that they made their kids do a puzzle before they were allowed to wake the parents tried it. I'm pretty sure they got to sleep in and found us toiling over that puzzle on the floor near the tree that Christmas. We veto-ed that tradition. But it was worth a shot! I might even try it someday if I ever have my own kids (and need sleep!) :)

I hope that you are treasuring this week and getting to spend it with loved ones!

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Week in the Life of a Shopaholic

I confess: I LOVE to buy things for people. Don't get me wrong, I buy myself plenty of stuff too, (proof below!)...but I can't help loving to give gifts. It's one of my spiritual gifts.

Hang on there...I'm not about to buy all my readers Christmas gifts or anything...though that'd be nice, wouldn't it? What would I even get you?

My family decided not to give gifts this year...but I found myself on the phone with the Kalifano jewelers in California on Tuesday...buying some gifts for my Mom, Dad, 3 sisters, Grandad, and 3 of my girl cousins...sigh* oh and one for myself too... (Once you look at that website you might think I'm made of money...I'm not. I just happened to know that one of those items was priced at $7 & it is so close to a necklace my Granny C used to wear! That memory alone had me racing for the phone. Originally I was going to buy just 5, but the company needed my money, you know? And, Tiffany had the most cheerful voice over the phone, so my order went from 5 to 10 items in 2 minutes flat.

Then I dropped by my neighbor's bookstore on my way home from work and left with $85 worth of gifts...and 3 books for me. Some of the items were completely practical!

Wednesday, Amazon sent me a special e-mail. They knew I'd been checking out those Kitchenaid Mixers...scary how marketing works these days, huh? I use my Mom's all the time, but I'm moving out soon and NEED one. (Well, not really. Ok. Fine. I don't NEED one. I just want one. Very, very badly.) Well there was this special sale on Amazon- complete with free shipping AND an additional $30 rebate after purchase...

They shipped mine out today. Should get here on Tuesday. :) But you'd be proud of me. I saved $210 by not buying the color I really wanted: brushed nickel. (I've been drooling over that color since I saw it at Macy's last Christmas...) Instead I went with gray. Simple. Elegant. I'm going to gain 10 more pounds baking with that thing next year, I can feel it starting already! Good thing I rescued that exercise bike from the dumpster this Fall...

And then, yesterday there was the special from'd never even heard of them before, but I have a ring shipping to my place this next week after a $20 off coupon and free shipping...I tell ya, the coupons and "free shipping" just scream for attention.

And this weekend? Well, wouldn't you know? We're having a special small Grace staff holiday party and meeting on Monday- complete with a $10-20 White Elephant exchange. I don't know what to get yet, but don't you worry! I won't have any problems buying something.

When I picked up the mail for the office today, there's a small magazine from James Avery jewelers...I have it leaning next to my computer screen, silently calling my name...

NOTE: Just because I've been on a spree this paycheck, I would like to point out that it is December. And this week's spending is only possible because I didn't shop last week. That's right. I'm justifying myself. Or is it denial?

I think I'll go buy a goat now from the World Vision Gift Catalog ( for a family overseas...

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Do you like my new blog design? It's highly simplistic and is most likely temporary- consider it seasonal if you will.

I've been wanting to update my blog since summer started, but my new job has kept me busy. Now that it is waning down (for 2 days maybe...before all the end of the year financial receipts begin!) I thought I'd steal this quick moment and re-design my blog. So, please tell me: does it look ok?

I've added a Pinterest button to my account! I wanted to share what sparks my imagination, but I'm trying to be uber-picky and not flood the pinboards. To date, I have only 85 pins. I think that's a modest number, considering I've been a member for several months.

Also, I've linked my top 10 blogs to the left! :) Of course, that's submitting competition...why should I give you another amazing blogger to follow? I already follow about 50-60 blogs myself. Sporadically, I confess- there's not enough time to read everybody's amazing posts!

I have a love-hate relationship with my Google Reader right now: LOVE- that I can read so many posts by simply scrolling down, HATE that I get lazy and don't visit each blog to see their beautiful styles (the thing that drew me to many of them in the first place.)

I think I'll go catch up on some more blogs now. Only...454 unread posts left on my reader...(it was 791 on Monday!)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bubbles to Kodiak

My Mom grew up in Brazil with all these amazing pets: parrots, monkeys, dogs, cats, chickens, an ocelot, even a sloth!, but for some reason she didn't appreciate them.

My Dad grew up in Mississippi and Arkansas on farms and in small towns. He had dogs, cats, a raccoon, a rabbit (this is up for debate), and even a fawn!

So, what was your first pet, Hannah? A goldfish named Bubbles. You know what? I found out a couple weeks ago that they didn't even buy Bubbles...he was a giveaway from another military family that moved away. Somehow my Dad talked my Mom into keeping it.

I remember Bubbles. I was about 3 years old and I liked watching that fish. I got to help feed him. Once, I decided to do it on my own and fed him a special breakfast- so he'd grow up to be big and strong like my Daddy. I poured a whole box of Wheaties cereal into that bowl... Somehow, my Dad saved Bubbles (who could barely wiggle in all those flakes)!

When I was 7, my Dad told me that I could get a fish if I followed a careful regime of chores, homework, and going to bed on time. I did it and we headed to the pet store. I chose a beautiful calico fish (I now know it was a Koi- one of those giant pond fish). This Koi was small, and we placed it in the fish bowl that had belonged to Bubbles (4 years and two moves ago).* I named it Penny.

Again, I earned another fish and we went back to the store, this time I picked a betta. Did we put it in the same bowl with poor Penny? Yes we did. Penny sat at the bottom of the bowl, right in the middle, and rarely ever moved. Jewel, my teal-colored betta danced and waltzed around her for the rest of her short life. I think she lasted a couple of months.**

After that, I became obsessed with the idea of a tank with more than just one fish. I'd visit friends who'd have them and envy them their tiny boxes of water-worlds. I checked out every book in the library that had anything to do with fish tanks, just to see the pictures -this is pre-Google image searches.

My first ever research paper? About fish tanks and their maintenance.

On my 11th birthday I had a present that was shaped like one of those 5 gal cylinder fish tanks. It was wrapped in newspaper. I couldn't focus on my schoolwork that day, all I could think about was that present. Finally, that night I tore into wasn't a fish tank. It was a sleeping bag- you know, that thing on every young girl's birthday wish list? sigh.

I got my first official tank at age 18. Some people I used to babysit for decided they didn't want it anymore (they were going to get a dog), and gave it to my family. My parents wouldn't let me set it up at home, but I had a plan. I got a job at a tiny dry cleaners outlet. I worked there a few hours every weekday and all day Saturday...they let me set it up to decorate the shop. Every Saturday I'd clean it. I was thrilled! I got the other manager involved- we went to the pet shop together and chose the fish- this time I had years of research and knew just what we should get. :) When I left the job, the manager bought her own tank and kept the fish.

My neighbor, a fish hobbyist had over 160 tanks! When I would come home during the summer I'd work for him, cleaning the tanks, watching the house and plants when they'd go on kayaking trips, and carefully separating tiny babies from the parents who might eat them. Have you ever seen an angel fish smaller than a dime? Or a killifish freshly hatched- so small you almost need a magnifying glass to see it? It's a miraculous thing- and very cute!

Lately, I have only been keeping bettas. One or two...sometimes none.
I had two this summer. Bombay and Herman. About 3 weeks ago, Herman died and so I went to the pet store the next day to replace him...and left with 3 bettas and a new 2.5 gal betta desk tank. Indecision is just tough, isn't it?

That day got harder when I noticed that the divider in the betta tank allowed my bettas to lock jaws...and even their beautiful fins would slip through so that the other could rip at them. This was bad! On my lunch break I went back to the store for some sort of short-term solution...and ended up buying another tank...which meant I needed fish for the 2.5 I bought two tiny angels and a pleco.

Problem solved? No. The angels were miserable- they're just so delicate! So I had to go back and get gouramis...they're my favorite fish anyway.

Now we were settled. Bombay and Kodiak (a stunning white/clear betta) stayed home, and Yul*** and Tide were at the office. All went well the first weekend.

However, on the 2nd weekend, I was horrified to find both of my bettas on the same side of the tank...and they looked dead. I was upset. My boss and coworker held a sudden meeting in my office that afternoon and commented on the "corpses" and how at least they were now "swimming with the fishes..." It's funny now...

Later in the day, Yul mysteriously came to life, but Tide was gone. Furious with Yul, I re-named him Killer. He was only $4...Tide had been $14! I took Tide's body to the pet store and explained how the one betta had somehow jumped the divider. The employees were shocked but thankfully believed me. They returned my money and asked if I wanted a new one.

No. No I did not. Killer wasn't going to get another shot at a new, helpless betta! Besides, I was leaving town in two days...I'd replace him after Thanksgiving...maybe...

Killer was dead when we returned from our Thanksgiving trip, and Bombay who has been looking sickly for the last couple of weeks died this afternoon.

I'm down to just Kodiak and the tank with my gouramis. Good thing the betta shipment arrives at the pet store in the morning!

*For those of you who are fish fanatics, I'm sorry! My Dad didn't know it was inhumane to stuff a koi in a fishbowl.

** I claim exemption from judgement here- especially since I was 7. I didn't know bettas liked to be alone! Obviously, my Dad didn't ask the pet store employees...

***Named for Yul Brennar- we watched The King And I that evening...inspiration, how randomly you come to me...