Wednesday, May 30, 2012

5 Excellent Reasons to Adopt a Homeless Dog

The world is highly populated with sweet, domesticated animals in need of companionship, food and shelter. With all the great information out there about purebred dogs combined with the general public’s savvy ability to research canine characteristics, stray dogs in need of a good home may be overlooked more often than they should for those picture-perfect canines. If you happen to be looking for the perfect family dog or aren’t necessarily looking, but are compassionate enough to open your home to the joy, warmth and loyalty a dog can offer, consider these five excellent reasons to adopt a mixed-breed, homeless dog: 
  1. When you adopt a homeless dog, it knows you saved its life. It will be forever grateful and its personality will always reflect a heartfelt gratitude. It’s a dedicated appreciation that is extremely rare in this world, even for those who give birth and dedicate their lives to actual flesh and blood offspring. 
  2. Homeless, mixed-breed dogs are, once dewormed and up-to-date on shots, typically heartier in regards to health. So, when you fall shamelessly in love with an adopted pooch, odds are it will live a long, healthy life. Also, good health saves you money on vet bills in the long run. 
  3. Speaking of cost-savings, guilt over purchasing wholesale dog food in bulk quantities, which saves you lots of money over the lifespan of a dog, is greatly diminished when providing for a mixed-breed rescue dog as compared to a purebred, fancy, expensive pooch.  
  4. When you save a dog, the dog becomes protective of you and your family. In essence, the dog becomes your alarm system for intruders, fire, thunderstorms, mouse invasions and off-key singing. Does your expensive, high-tech alarm system do all that? 
  5. Less vacuuming. You’d think having a dog would require more vacuuming, but you’d be incorrect. The dog will sniff out all edible morsels below knee level and consume them, not only giving you less to clean, but potentially saving your vacuuming cleaner from sucking up machine-damaging foodstuffs. As for the hair you’re worried about, it gets conveniently blown under furniture thanks to the canine’s built in duster-blower mechanism: its tail.
Now that you’re completely convinced, please help get the word out. While some have already been adopted, three of the puppies in these photos are still in need of a good home. My good friends at G&G Automotive have more information on the puppies. Not only did they rescue the entire family, which was on the brink of starvation, they are also selflessly adopting the mother. Please forward this information to potential adoptive parents. And always remember, when your house seems a little empty, there is a special dog out there in need of your help and ready to pay that help back to you 100-fold.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Surprise Layered Meatloaf

Most of the cooking responsibilities fall on Hubby, because he works a couple of blocks away and I commute over 60 miles round trip each day. Also, since we almost always have something to do, or somewhere to go, suppers are typically derived from quick, easy, overly used recipes. So, when my company closed early for the Memorial Day weekend holiday, I decided to surprise my family. As I drove the 30+ miles home, I wracked my brain to come up with something for supper that would:
  • Be different from the same old, same old
  • Include meat and potatoes, so as not to disinterest our finicky, teenage boys
  • Be relatively easy, if not quick
By the time I arrived at the grocery store, I had concocted a new recipe. It was a twist on old favorites that just might be different enough to intrigue the boys and get the family to the dinner table. So, while it doesn't look all that pretty, I highly recommend my new layered meatloaf recipe for the meat and potatoes people in your life. Here's how I did it:

1. I combined about 3 pounds of chopped meat with a cup of breadcrumbs, two eggs and some sea salt and pepper. I tried combining it with a utensil, but if you really want it mixed well, you have to do it with your hands. So, I scraped all the meat off the utensil and did the job right.

2. I spread half the meat mixture in a lasagne pan. I did use a utensil for this. A nylon spoon is great for dipping out the meat mixture. I then used the back of the spoon to spread it evenly in the pan. And then I remembered I'd need to actually cook the meat, so I preheated the oven to 375 degrees.


3. Next, I poured salsa over the first layer of meat. I thought about creating a sweet glaze, like the kind we normally use on top of a garden variety meatloaf, but that would have been boring. My family loves spicy foods, so I thought it would be good to spice up this dish with some medium heat salsa.


4. I then placed the rest of the meat mixture on top of the salsa. However, to ensure the salsa layer and top meat layer didn't get all mixed up, I dropped blobs of meat all over the salsa layer, then pressed the meat down with the back of my nylon spoon. It looked icky, but it worked.


5. I cooked the meat for about 40 minutes. While it was cooking, I made homemade mashed potatoes, which I was going to use for the top layer. I thought I'd be using the leftover baked potatoes for my mashed potatoes. However, the boys had been snacking on them all week. I was left with one leftover baked potato. Luckily, I assumed as much and picked up a few baking potatoes on my way home. I microwaved two more potatoes and then cut them up and added them to the leftover potato pieces. I added some milk and sea salt and whipped them until they were perfectly silky and creamy.


6. When the meat was done cooking, I used a turkey baster to remove about a cup and a half of grease.


7. Next, I spread the mashed potatoes on the cooked meat. I sprinkled some Parmesan cheese on top. Then I baked it for about 15 more minutes, until the peaks of the potato topping was just beginning to brown and the cheese melted.


The dish, a cross between meatloaf and shepherds pie, was a huge success. I served it with two side dishes:

  • Green Beans & Diced Tomatoes mixed with feta and Parmesan cheeses
  • Mac and Cheese (which I cheated on, as I mixed cooked elbow macaroni with cheese sauce from a jar and then sprinkled some Parmesan cheese on top)
When Hubby walked in and found the dining room table set with plates, utensils and a home cooked meal, rather than the pile of bills, receipts, junk mail and other clutter that had been gathering dust on the table all week, he was thrilled. It was a great way to start our long weekend!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Calendar Stress

Image from Webexhibits.org
The entire Mayan calendar frenzy has me frustrated. Not the end of the world issue, but rather the fact that people actually created calendars that went that far into the future. If not for the calendar kiosk setting up camp in the walking path between the department stores and food at the mall in December, I doubt I’d have a calendar for the current year, let alone one that organizes time for the next several thousand years.

Calendars cause me stress. Trying to incorporate all of our activities on a calendar is next to impossible. There are meetings, projects, school activities, family activities, social gatherings, enrichment activities, errands, workouts—I have yet to find a manual calendar with blocks big enough for all the day’s activities. Electronic calendars work better, but who has time to input that much information? And once it’s in, who has time to pull up the calendar, find the day and scroll?

As for the world ending because an extended calendar is expiring, I find that hard to wrap my head around. The calendar I grab at that kiosk each year ends on December 31 with regularity. The world has yet to come to an end on January 1. Of course, I realize there is a lot more to everyone’s panic over the end of the Mayan calendar. But now that another Mayan calendar has been unearthed, one that extends far beyond December 2012, I’d like to predict another end—an end to the end-of-the-world speculation. At least until someone comes up with a new, tantalizing, book-selling reason for us to expect an impending apocalypse.

Check out my weekly column in the Courier-Tribune on Saturday, May 26 for more thoughts on the Mayans and their intriguing calendars.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Boxers for Ladies

silk boxers When you are balancing career, family and friends, things are bound to bottleneck. For me, as my colleagues and I prepared for a big pitch presentation, it was my laundry that ended up on the back burner, piling high above the top of my dirty clothes hamper. The presentation went off without a hitch. Somehow, my wardrobe lasted long enough to get me through. But now that the big meeting is over and my schedule is leveling back to its normal hectivity pace, I have scant few items left to wear.

This morning, I had to choose between a thong or Christmas-themed silk boxers. Since a thong would inhibit my ability to work out comfortably, and I am finally able to spend some time at the gym, I went with the boxers. Guys wear boxers all the time without complaint. Many prefer boxers. So why do women shy away from boxers?

Slipping them on, it was obvious comfort was among the boxers’ greatest attributes. Feeling that much silky softness from mid-thigh to mid-waist was luxurious. Boxers also don’t squeeze your intestinal tract unbearably causing excess discomfort as well as embarrassing gastrointestinal events. And, when you’re changing from work clothes to workout clothes and back at the gym, boxers offer a whole lot more modesty than women’s underwear styles. No dimply upper thigh skin was exposed today.

After my initial interactions with the boxers I received as a gag gift but never used before today, I wondered why a women’s line of the silky shorts doesn’t exist. But after a day in my boxers, I understand why a permanent switch to them is not in my future. It’s all about utility.

Boxers were designed for men who, much of the time, need only unzip in the restroom. For the ladies, a powder room visit means shimmying down the pants, sliding down the boxers, pulling them back up, pulling the pants back up over them and then sliding a hand down the side of each pant leg to smooth out each boxer leg. Rushing through the process and eliminating the last step results in an uncomfortable, unsightly, lumpy bulge creeping around both thighs.

While wearing boxers with pants or slacks isn’t all that practical for women, we could certainly get away with sporting them under a skirt or dress. My gag gift will certainly get a little more use now that I’ve personally experienced them. Meanwhile, I believe I will continue to maintain a stock of more feminine undergarments for the many pants-wearing days of my life—which means I better prioritize that pile of laundry tonight!



CURRENT GIVEAWAYS:

Now through May 27
Two Winners: Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville
Mommy's Crazy 4 Coupons review & giveaway

Now through May 27
One Winner: free copy of Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville
Save & Share w/Coupons review & giveaway 

Now through June 1
Two Winners: free copy of Thurston T. Turtle and the Legend of the Lemonade
Shy Babies review & giveaway

Now through June 15
Three Winners: 1 copy of each Thurston T. Turtle book donated to your local library
Summer Reading Giveaway

Monday, May 21, 2012

Do You Dust Dinosaurs?

If I had a million dollars with which to shop, I can assure you I would not purchase a dinosaur skeleton. According to the Associated Press, a nearly complete fossilized skeleton of a tyrannosaurus rex was auctioned off in New York City for just over $1M. And while it might make a wonderful conversational piece, I can think of several reasons why the buyer might second guess the purchase within a few months of setting it up in the foyer.

Disney T-Rex Toy
I wouldn't even want
to dust this small
Disney/Jurassic Park toy.
The dust issue would be my first concern. A little knickknack-sized dinosaur can gather enough dust in a week to choke a cat. But we buy them for our young children, who promise upon a ka-billion stars they will play with the dinosaur day in and day out because it will be their favoritest toy. Then, during spring cleaning, we excavate it from a three-inch thick dust bunny wedged between the leg of the bed and the wall.

Can you imagine how much dust might accumulate on an actual dinosaur skeleton? And how would one—or one’s domestic engineer—access each fossilized surface with the dust wand?
My next concern would be décor. From where furniture could be placed to color schemes to styles, a giant dinosaur accent would throw a monkey wrench into even the most eclectic decorative atmosphere.

Even if you had the resources to keep it maintained and it fit well with your taste in home furnishings, what do you do with your T-Rex once everyone has seen it and it’s lost its novelty? Where would you store it? A dinosaur skeleton won’t fit under a bed wedged up against the wall. So, unless you have a hanger out back built for an airbus-sized aircraft, you would have to be completely committed to its display. And while you might promise upon a ka-billion stars that you would never tire of it, at some point, you will come across an even more expensive, more exciting, favoritest toy that you will be compelled to buy.
If I had a million dollars with which to shop, my shopping spree might include a few toy dinosaurs for nieces and nephews—my own boys have outgrown the dust collectors. However, a pile of actual-sized dinosaur bones would not be on my list.

CURRENT GIVEAWAYS:

Now through May 27
Two Winners: Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville
Mommy's Crazy 4 Coupons review & giveaway

Now through May 27
One Winner: free copy of Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville
Save & Share w/Coupons review & giveaway 

Now through June 1:
Two Winners: free copy of Thurston T. Turtle and the Legend of the Lemonade
Shy Babies review & giveaway

Now through June 15
Three Winners: 1 copy of each Thurston T. Turtle book donated to your local library
Summer Reading Giveaway

Friday, May 18, 2012

Children's Book Review & Giveaway

Shy Babies just posted a review of Thurston T. Turtle and the Legend of the Lemonade. Check out what writer/mommy blogger Sonja Schey and her three-year-old thought of the book and register to win your own free copy!
Thurston T. Turtle and The Legend of the Lemonade

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Summer Reading Giveaway


Mr. Turtle enjoying
 a book in his favorite reading chair.
Another school year is ending and everyone is ready for the break from early mornings, homework and activity schedules. The first week or two are always the best, as everyone is so excited about not going to school. But then, out of nowhere, the "I'm boooored," spirits of summer vacation begin to haunt our children. One of my favorite antidotes for bordem is not the $50 video game, but rather shelves filled with great stories and adventures. Books don't need batteries or  have to be charged and you can bring them just about anywhere.

Celebrate and support ongoing learning by encouraging fun summer reading. Reading is essential for young children, especially during the long break. In Dr. Julie Wood's article, Helping to Prevent Summer Reading Loss, she suggests a few easy ways to keep your young ones—whether they are your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or neighbors—reading during the break:

   Always carry along books, wherever you go this summer
   Let your children choose books they'd like to read
   Read aloud with your children, even if they know how to read
   Participate in a summer reading program

To support summer reading and public libraries, from May 15 through June 15, I am hosting a SUMMER READING GIVEAWAY. Register below to win a donation to your public library of one each of the two published Thurston T. Turtle books.

A charming tale of townspeople named for woodland creatures, who endear themselves to a newcomer to Hubbleville, Thurston T. Turtle. The town's quirky news reporter, Mr. Possum, is determined to get the scoop on the newest resident in town, but always seems to be one step behind.

“…perfect for a 6-8 year old to read to themselves but for any age for reading to! Especially for anyone that loves Turtles or any other Woodland Animal. This book is cute and very entertaining…I will be recommending this book to other friends and family with children of all ages.” Censie Sawyer, mommy blogger, Building Our Story, CO

In this follow-up to Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville, our endearing newcomer is settling in when he notices everyone’s homemade butter cookies and lemonade taste the same. However, stories of the recipes’ origins are quite different. While Mr. Turtle’s second grade class uncovers other similarities, it is the discovery of old letters, help from the scattered Mr. Possum and a visit to an old family friend that converge to reveal the legend of the lemonade. And the butter cookies, too, of course!
"Micki Bare has penned another engaging tale of the adventures of Thurston T. Turtle in his new hometown of Hubbleville.  Thurston has settled into his new home and has begun his duties as a teacher in the local school when he comes upon an engaging mystery involving cookies and lemonade!   Children will enjoy reading and discussing the possible answers to all the questions that arise around these special treats, as new information is added with each chapter.  Solving the mystery becomes an exciting class project for Thurston’s students.  As always, the language is rich and colorful, expanding children’s store of expressive words to use as they read and discuss the story.  This is a great book to read and discuss with your children." Linda J. Scheer, primary educator and early childhood education consultant, NY

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Update on Annie

If you read yesterday's Random Friday Thoughts blog, you know we have a new family member. I think of her as this year's first Mother's Day gift, although, considering what's she's already cost us, she may be the BIG gift!

She has been to the vet and groomer and is doing well, though still needs to gain some weight. The way we like to eat around our house, weight-gain shouldn't be a problem. Our groomer thinks she's a Chinese crested and about eight years old. What do you think?

Annie, before grooming.
Annie, after grooming.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Today's 'Random Friday Thoughts' Blog Link

On Fridays, I post a blog on Arkansas News Bureau's site, one of the online venues where you can find my weekly column. Here's the link:
http://arkansasnews.com/2012/05/11/random-friday-thoughts-for-may-11-2012/

Today's Random Friday Thoughts describes how our newest family member came into our lives. Her (or is it 'his'?) photo is posted, as well.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Would Love Some 'Opportunity' for My Blender


After wintering in a dusty divot for months, Opportunity, the Mars rover, is now awake and moving, according to an article posted on Space.com. While this is interesting news for the nerdy set, I was more interested in something a little closer to home when I read the article. Not that collecting information about clay on Mars isn’t important. It could be extremely relevant to my friends in Seagrove. Who knows what amazing creations some of the world’s best contemporary potters could fashion out of Martian materials?

However, my interest in Opportunity is more practical. It is a machine that can sit motionless in a dusty hole for months without breaking down. As Hubby and I slowly move items stored at the house we’re trying to sell to the house in which we currently live, I’ve found our Earth appliances lacking. And now, after reading about Opportunity, I realize we do possess the technology to make a vacuum cleaner or food processor that can withstand months in dusty storage and still work as it was intended.

Opportunity did need to be manufactured more durable and reliable than a vacuum cleaner to ensure the billions of dollars we’re spending to use it is not wasted. However, our appliances are just as important for day-to-day living. The scientists controlling and importing data from Opportunity need clean work and living spaces, healthy foods and clean clothes. Therefore, it would be nice if they could apply some of that appliance durability technology to areas other than outer space exploration devices. I would love a few household devices that can withstand three teenage boys, three dogs, two cats and other attributes of a household filled with hectivity for at least five years before they must be replaced.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Parent, a Child and a Book is a Recipe for Great Success

We all have our favorite childhood stories. My youngest son absolutely loved Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. He picked it every night at bedtime for a year and a half. My personal favorite was Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig. The passing of a great children’s author, such as Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, brings to mind cherished memories of being curled up together sharing a wonderful story.

For me, being read to as a child and reading with our children are some of the highest quality moments in life we can experience. One of my greatest accomplishments and pleasures as a children’s book author is to hear stories from parents of how they love snuggling with their child reading and enjoying a Thurston T. Turtle book. 

Building Our Story blogger
Censie Sawyer with son.


Many people aspire to what they consider to be great thingsaccomplishments that positively impact the world on a far-reaching and grand level. From the building of the Roman coliseum to the discovery of penicillin to the technology that enables us to place machines on Mars, many have reached such success. And while I appreciate and celebrate all these amazing achievements, I also believe that to have been a driving force in parent and child together time, snuggled with a good story, is to have achieved something just as impactful, far-reaching and grand.

So, when I say that we’ve lost one of the greatest people of our time today, I truly meant it. Where the Wild Things Are was the favorite of my middle child. I will always cherish every occasion during which I open that book and read it to my son. Thank you, Mr. Sendak, for all of the high quality time you afforded my child and me. Thank you for being such an important part of our lives. May you rest in peace.  



Sunday, May 6, 2012

Welcome to My Blog

As childhoods go, mine was pretty great. I had everything I needed in regards to food, clothing and shelter. My mom was an SAHM, or homemaker as it was called then. College was expected and supported. After graduating with a BA degree, I had a fairy tale wedding with my college sweetheart.

Three babies--for which I never had the opportunity to be an SAHM--later, I found myself in executive management and divorced. Never willing to give up, I carved out a second career from my passion for writing, bought my first car and first home on my own dime and forged ahead. Several years ago my father was diagnosed with cancer. Being there for my mom and dad during those difficult days, on a day-to-day basis, was both the most difficult time of my life and one of the most precious.

Today, my mom lives with us, the boys are nearly grown, their stepdad and I have passed the 10-year milestone, I have two published children's books with another in production and I have a best friend in my life. I haven't had a best friend since childhood. I'm not taking about Hubby, but rather a best GIRL friend. She and her husband and Hubby and I are also best COUPLE friends. I don't know how I got along without her, or how Hubby and I got along without them.

Life is still hectic. There's plenty of activity. But I'm bound and determined to enjoy every moment of hectivity that comes along. Welcome to my blog!