Thursday, September 29, 2011


While the Aggies looked like they had a firm grasp on the game against OSU on Saturday, Isaac and I decided to take advantage of a Groupon I had purchased to see DolphinTale.  Little did we know that the Aggie would blow their lead while we were being incredibly entertained by Winter and her friends, but I think our distraction was much better than the game!

I remember the newspaper articles and stories on TV about the 3 month old dolphin found caught in a crab trap who had to have her tail amputated a few years ago.  I was at A&M and oh so sick at the time, and Winter's story grabbed my attention.  For ages, nothing was said about her, but then stories about her prosthetic tail began to surface, again gaining my intrigue.

When the movie previews were for DolphinTale were first shown this summer, I was super excited!  My family is big Ashley Judd fans (Go BIG BLUE!) and I adore Morgan Freeman.  Isaac found the previews online last week got really excited.  If you read the blog much, you know Isaac isn't a movie buff, so that's a big deal! 

The movie was very well made, with Winter playing herself.  Best I can tell, most of the story is fictionalized, but Winter really did get a prosthetic tail and is doing so well with it!  It was so refreshing to see a family-friendly (truly ALL ages) movie that was funny and up-lifting with fabulous acting.  Well done, Hollywood!

To learn more about Winter's story, visit her website, where I borrowed these images too.  :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes

It's still 100 degrees outside (literally), but I couldn't wait any longer to dive into one of my favorite things about Fall and Winter: all things PUMPKIN!  The only time I like the color orange is when it comes in pumpkin.  :)

In less than 36 hours, I've made my mom's bestest pumpkin cookies and I just made a batch of pumpkin pancakes to throw in the freezer to be heated in the toaster in the mornings to come. My friend Laine gave me this recipe a few years ago, and it's a hit in this house.  The dogs sure love getting pureed pumpkin for dessert too!

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (I use whole wheat).
4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 3/4 cups milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter (melted)
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree

In a medium size bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.

In a small bowl, combine the milk, egg, and butter.

Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients, mix until smooth.

Stir in the pumpkin puree until combined.

On medium heat, scoop the batter into a non-stick skillet and cook like you would a normal pancake.

Yields 16 pancakes using a 1/4 cup scoop.

These come out very thick.  Add more milk if you like thinner pancakes.  :)

Meal Planning Monday

Work has been the biggest stress-ball mess every this school year, and I'm so happy to have lots of leftovers tucked away in the freezer so I don't have to worry about cooking much this week.  What a treat!  

Sunday: Whatever we grab to eat at church between Bells and Chamber Singers.

Monday: Hickory Smoke Pork Tenderloin in the Pampered Chef microwave baker with Southwestern Ranch Salad

Tuesday: Dinner at Bible Study for me; Meatloaf and green beans for Isaac

Wednesday: Leftover Pot Roast and Veggies

Thursday: Leftover Beef Stroganoff

Friday: Either Poppyseed Casserole that's in the freezer or we'll be in Pearland with my family

Saturday: Pearland for the Aggie Game

Friday, September 23, 2011

Vacation Get-Away!

My dear friend Michelle linked up on Kristen's blog for a super cute blog post, and since I adore traveling, I had to join in on this one!  Kristen asked her bloggers to write about their five favorite vacation locations-places they have already visited.  My trouble is picking just five!

Walt Disney World
How can you not love all things Disney?!  I've posted blogs in the past about my love for the magical feeling that can be nearly overwhelming once entering a Disney Park.  So many fun childhood-and adulthood-memories are tucked away for me in the depths of the Disney parks.  I'm thankful for the time I've gotten to spend there with my family, Isaac, and my sweet friend Meredith

Ft. DeSoto Beach and State Park
On our last trip to Florida, we spent two days at one of the most pristine beaches I've ever seen.  We encountered dolphins just a dozen yards from us, found countless living sand dollars, and soaked up all the waves, sun, and soft sand we could manage.  The fort was built for protection from the Spanish during the 1890s and the Spanish American War, which means there is lots of history to investigate.  There are also places to kayak right alongside manatees and sea turtles in the park.  What a special treat!

Washington, D.C.
I have visited our nation's capital city twice now, and I'm just in love.  I went in the winter of '07 and this past summer.  While yours truly is a history buff of all kinds except for American history (go figure), I so much enjoy the capital and all of the special treasures it holds.  The monuments are probably my favorite places, but the Holocaust Museum, all of the Smithsonians, the National Zoo, and the Newseum are must sees!

I've never been to continental Europe-just Britain and Ireland.  While I love Ireland has a whole more than just about  anywhere, London is a much more manageable trip, especially on an 8 hour layover!  My second and third times to London were on layovers traveling to Zambia, and I made every second count in a city I have grown to adore, which is a HUGE statement for this self-proclaimed city-phob!'s easy to navigate all alone like I was!  WHOOP!  I love the history, the shopping, the architecture, and the people.  Even better, it's not dirty like NYC or other large cities I've visited. 

Chaminuka Park, Zambia
If you know me, it's not a surprise that Zambia is my number one place to be.  While my work and time visiting my family there aren't considered vacation, my time at the lodge at Chaminuka is vacation, and the absolute best ever!  The people that live in and maintain the animal reserve are precious, dear folks who love Jesus and their nation.  While I look for glimpses of Eden everywhere I go, I think cuddling a 3 day old, orphaned kudu, standing in a field with two wild giraffes, and riding horses amongst herds of wildebeest and zebra is about as close as I will come this side of eternity.  I cannot wait to take Isaac to visit Chaminuka this summer when I finally get to take him home with me!

Where are your favorite places to travel?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Aggie Belle and the Cedar Chest

When I was a toddler, my parents invested in a cedar chest from Lane Furniture to store all of the sentimental baby items they thought my brother and I might like to keep.  Two years ago, Isaac and I inherited the cedar chest when my parents downsized.  I love having the chest; the bench seat needs recovering and the hardware is a bit outdated, but that piece of furniture has remained unchanged through countless moves and it's location at the foot of my parent's bed (and now ours) is a representation of home. 

Enter Aggie Belle.  She's cute, she's cuddly, and she's hyper.  Oh, our 7 month old puppy is incredibly well trained, but she's still a puppy.  Her mommy tried to tell her daddy she needs more exercise in the mornings because she gets bored by mid-day.  Her mommy tried to tell her daddy that she isn't ready to be left out of her kennel in the afternoons after he feeds them at lunch.  I think her brother tried to tell her daddy this too.  Daddy wants to think is little Princess is just perfect though, and after a few successful afternoons, determined she was grown up and no longer a threat to our house.  "I told you so" is rather appropriate at the moment.

Last week Aggie Belle chewed the bottom left corner on the cedar chest.  I was proud of myself for not yelling or crying or threatening to send Aggie Belle back to the rescue group.  I did plop on the floor and just stare, but I stayed calm.  Isaac thought he fixed the problem by spraying the bottom with an organic sour stuff that dogs don't like to taste, but he didn't think to spray the top.  A few days later, the top corner was chewed too.  Sigh.  Apparently the humans and canines in our house learn lessons the hard way.

Since I married a jack of all trades, Isaac has begun sanding and dismantling the trim work on the chest.  He bought a drill that shapes trim (forgive my lack of technical terminology), and is in the process of striping the stain so the whole chest can be redone.  Yes, I'm excited I get new fabric to recover the bench and new hardware, but really?  All this work!  Every time Aggie Belle walks into our study where the cedar chest renovations are occurring, Isaac asks her, "Who made this mess, Aggie Belle?"  It's pretty funny to see her cower because she knows she did it. 

Here's the 'old' cedar chest.  Check back in a few weeks to see the 'new' one!
Isaac had already taken off a handle before a picture managed to be snapped, but you get the idea!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Isaac loves making cakes in his free time, and this weekend he made a great cake this weekend for our pastor's son.  Noah has thousands and thousands of LEGOs at his house, so it wasn't a surprise to anyone when he asked for a LEGO cake for his birthday.  Here's what Isaac created:

Pretty cool, huh?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Meal Planning Monday

Sunday: Leftover Pork Chops and Potatoes from last week

Monday: Meatloaf and Green Beans

Tuesday: Buitoni Frozen Bag (It's Bible Study night, so Tuesdays need to be quick!)

Wednesday: Slow Cooker  Rosemary-Garlic Beef Roast

Thursday: Pasta Carbonara with Bacon 

Friday: Birthday Party

Saturday: Leftover Pot Roast

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Presidential Elections-Zambia

Nearly a month ago I received a phone call from an American friend in Zambia asking for prayer for the upcoming presidential elections on September 20th.  The tone in her voice was strained, and I knew even before the details began to come that things must be bad.  Zambia has been an incredibly peaceful nation since its birth in 1964 when Britain granted her independence after years of colonial rule.  In the midst of a continent of tribal strife, corruption, and struggles for power sits Zambia, a peaceful, beautiful, and often silent reminder of what the whole of Africa has the potential to be. 

Lately however, quarrels between political theologies have broken out in the middle of the streets, with small riots occurring as citizens have chosen sides between the two completely opposite presidential candidates.  I don't pretend to understand all that's at stake if President Banda is re-elected or if Mr. Sata is chosen instead.  I have my opinions, but I hardly even trust them because the Zambian press is government controlled and not even the BBC is covering enough of the campaign to form an accurate assessment of the situation.

These teenage girls deserve a fair, free future.
What I've gathered from my friends and family in Lusaka, the capital city, and my time there last summer, is that President Banda is a good man.  He's not perfect, but what leader is?  President Banda strives for democracy and pushes for the advancement of Zambia.  He welcomes foreign aid and foreign workers as he knows they help the Zambian economy.  Mr. Sata is more or less the exact opposite, and that scares me, as a milder form Robert Mugabe in neighboring Zimbabwe quickly comes to mind.  I completely understand his desire for Zambia to be self-sustaining and not influenced by foreigners,but not even America is capable of that.  

My Canadian friend told me last week how his fiance was caught up in a small protest/riot in town, and it made me sick.  She's Zambian and can handle her own like no one I've ever met, but all she wanted to do was run a few errands.  Sheesh!  Another friend sent me an email this week saying the violence is minimal but that the vocal protests are long and loud when the two opposing sides meet.  Sounds like home, huh?

Beautiful Chaminuka, outside of Lusaka
Please join me in praying that God Almighty will move in the hearts of the voters this weekend as they make their decisions about who to mark on their ballots.  God is sovereign and He will use the outcome of this election for His glory; pray that Satan's influences are squashed and God may reign supremely in the hearts and minds of Zambians.  Pray for peace on Tuesday, the 20th so that elections may run smoothly, that protesters do not influence the decisions of the voters, and that no one won't vote for fear of what might happen at the polls.  Pray that the votes will be reported and recorded truthfully, and that the winner is humble and the loser is gracious.  May God bless you greatly for your prayers!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Meal Planning Monday

Sunday: Sandwiches or whatever anyone wants from the fridge or pantry; Bells and Chamber Singers have resumed, so we're up at church for 3+ hours, so this is our Sunday evening from now on!

Monday: Katie's Beef Stroganoff Casserole

Tuesday: Rosemary-Dijon Pork Chops

Wednesday: Stroganoff Casserole Leftovers

Thursday: Dijorno Pizza

Friday: Pork Chop Leftovers

Saturday: Babysitting

Sunday, September 11, 2011

One Decade Past

I told myself I wouldn't blog today.  I don't care for this day.  The memories are too much most years.  But, church today changed my heart, so here I am with a few words and hopefully a little wisdom.

September 11, 2011 was right at one month into my junior year of high school.  It was a "B" week, so that Tuesday found me in my "A" classes (block schedule was the best!), so at 7:30 AM, I was beginning chemistry.  Class was normal, but at 8:57 AM when we entered the halls again, the atmosphere had changed.  Kids were talking about a plane in NYC.  Something sounded strange, but I shrugged it off and went on to German I.  My teacher was upset when I got to class.  Another foreign language teacher was off 1st and had the radio on, so she kept telling us reports from across the hall.  My teacher was working on a paper clip TV antenna (yay for the good old days of analog), so we finally got the Today Show broadcast.  It didn't take more than a few seconds of watching and listening to see that something was really, really wrong.  A moment later, another plane crashed into the 2nd tower.  I remember sitting in my desk completely frozen.  Then the towers began to crumple and shock took over for reality.  Confusion was paramount, and nothing I saw or heard made sense.  Reports about DC and Pennsylvania began to trickle into the broadcast.  My friend Savana Horton and I were the only two upperclassman in that class (we were also in Spanish 4 that year, so we were insane, but we learned a lot!), and our teacher wasn't about to stop us from moving around the room to sit with friends.  I wish the  broadcasters had been able to supernaturally know all the facts, because they unwittingly allowed a lot of fear-mongering to happen.  Between the Port of Houston, NASA, and the oil and chemical plants, Houston sure seemed like a good target if another plane had been captured.  3rd Period PALS and 4th Period US History were more of the blur of news reports and trying to make heads and tails of the mornings events. 

A lot of prayer happened that day.  Going home to my family at 2:30 was blissfully sweet as we talked and trusted the Lord.  At 16, I was innocent enough to be unaware of those who hate America and believe that violence is the answer to the hole in their souls that only Christ can fill.  And, I began to realize more and more that our world is dying, as the Bible declares will happen as we draw closer and closer to the day of Christ's return.  Violence and disaster and horrible tragedies will increase, in part because Satan is making a desperate last attempt to turn hearts away from salvation, and in part because God wants us to draw close to Him and make Him known before He judges us one last time.

Just in Houston, in the last 10 years, we've had Tropical Storm Allison, Hurricane Ike, Columbia, violence that has taken young lives from our community, so many lost from disease, and a drought that is wreaking havoc and damage all across town.  Countless other calamities are happening all over the world.  Yet, my hope isn't in this world. I don't despair.  Christ is coming.  A new Earth is soon to be established; God Word says so, and it's true and perfect in every way.  Praise You Jesus, that You are my hope, and that You teach us how to cope in a world full of terrorists and evil and how to show Your glory inspite of Satan! 

The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.  Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll. Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
~Revelation 22:6-7; 12-13

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Help

I read The Help back in the Spring before school ended.  I loved the book.  I thought it felt real and solid, a risky mixture of views from 'both sides of the tracks' from Civil Rights era Jackson, Mississippi.  Kathryn Stockett played it safe at times, but the story felt right.

Thanks to my parents and their anniversary present to us, Isaac and I finally got to see the movie on Saturday night.  Now, remember, I'm a book connoisseur.  It's rare that I enjoy a movie anywhere near as I much as I do the novel.  Saturday night, however, I was in for a treat.  Each of the characters was played lovingly (though not always loveable) by the actors, as if they knew that the telling of accurate history was at stake.  I appreciate their efforts.

As we walked out of the theater, Isaac told me the movie was awesome.  From him, that's a compliment of the highest order.  I didn't marry a movie buff, much to my chagrin at times.  He then began asking me questions.  Was it really like that back then?  Did those laws really exist?  Was writing that book really illegal for Skeeter? Yes, Honey.

I'll never pretend to understand what it was like to grow up in the Deep South prior to post-Civil Rights era, for either side, but I got the crash course of my life this summer, and I feel like I at least know the facts, even if I don't fully comprehend the emotions.  Then, my own memories come to play. 

See, my grandparents had a black maid before I was born and for many years into my childhood.  I think I was a preteen when Annie finally retired, and she would come for visits until my grandparents moved to Texas 5 1/2 years ago.  I wish I had some photos of Annie on digital files, but I don't.  I need to dig through old albums at my mom's and see what I can find.

How do I describe Annie?  How does anyone describe an enigma of life?  Annie was bubbly, happy, and full of wisdom.  After I turned 4 and we moved to Texas, I'd spend weeks at a time back in Kentucky with my grandparents.  If I was there, at least one of my grandparents was with me, but often, Annie was there too.  Annie played with me, talked to me while I ate, taught me how to clean properly, and didn't mind my incessant chatter and baby dolls scattered everywhere.  I will NEVER flip a pancake more than once, thanks to Annie's fussing at me that I would ruin the fluffiness the one time I did flip a pancake a second time.  Phew!  We loved Annie, and I never thought twice about her color or my color or why she worked for my grandparents.  It just was.

Reading The Help brought back many memories of my days with Annie.  Things were different in Kentucky, especially by the mid-to-late 90s when Annie retired, but it still makes me wonder about her life when she was younger.  I questioned how she was treated when she first became a maid decades ago.  I wish I knew what she had dreamed of being when she was a little girl.  I'm sure her options weren't like what they were for a white little girl.  I wish I knew if she still wanted to be a maid even after society had changed when she came to work for my grandparents.  I mean, she did her work cheerfully, but is that what she really wanted?  Now, unlike Minnie and Abilene, my grandparents knew Annie's family members-what was happening with them, how things were, and all that good stuff.  They had conversations about each others' lives.  It was more like family than it might have been 20 years prior, but I still wonder.  Would friendships have ever formed past the color boundary had an employment not been established first?

While I'm glad I don't have to live through the Civil Rights movement, the effects of hatred and racism are still felt nearly 2 generations later.  When will we ever see each other through God's eyes?  In the meantime, I'm grateful for the Skeeters of our world who seek out the truth and the Minnies and Abilenes who are willing to tell it!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day: Zoo

Since today's high was only 90, we took advantage of the breeze leftover breeze from Tropical Storm Lee and headed to the zoo this morning.  We love having a zoo membership (thank you Mom and Dad, aka Santa Claus), and because we get in free, we don't mind paying a few dollars to park if it means missing the parking crowd so we can get in to the fun faster. 

The best part about having to park in one of the garages and using the side entrance is walking in right next to the giraffes.  You all know how much I love giraffes!  It was lunch time when we arrived, and they were all munching away on hay, lettuce, grass, and any leaves they could reach.  The best thing about the Africa exhibit at the Houston Zoo is that the animals are incredibly close to the human visitors.  While the giraffes were eating, I was only 3 feet or so from their tongues.  God made these creatures so unique, and I love it!!!
Jack and me
We watched the chimps play, ooed over elephant babies Tupelo and Baylor (is it sad that we know each of elephants by name and most of the giraffes??), and saw all the other zoo favorites too.

While I'm not convinced summer is over, this is Houston after all, tonight's low is in the 60s, so the first of many nights with the windows open might be begin now.  :)

Meal Planning Monday

Sunday: Hamburgers and other Mom goodness at my parents while we watch A&M

Monday: Poppyseed Chicken Casserole

Tuesday: Homemade Chicken Fried Rice

Wednesday: Leftover Sloppy Joes from the freezer

Thursday: I have a work meeting, so Isaac can have leftover BBQ or do his own thing

Friday: Genghis Grill with Dinner Group.  Matt has a BOGO coupon about to expire for all of us to use.  Woohoo!

Saturday: Leftover Poppyseed Chicken Casserole

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Game Day

Aggie Football is back!  My parents have the best TV in the family, so we've all congregated in Pearland to be our own cheering section of 10 (if you count the dogs) for the Fightin' Texas Aggies as they BTHO SMU!  WHOOP!

Bailey is ready to BTHO SMU!

Aggie Belle enjoyed a bone during her very first Aggie game.

Poppyseed Chicken Casserole

Here's another childhood favorite of which I can't ever seem to tire.  It's so easy to freeze half of it and bake it later.

3 boiled, shredded chicken breasts
1 cup sour cream (I use fat free...the taste won't suffer)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I use the low fat; you can also substitute for cream of chicken)
1 sleeve Ritz crackers-crushed
1-2 T poppyseeds

~Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
~Grease a  13x9 baking dish
~In a bowl, mix chicken, sour` cream, and soup
~Spread mixture into baking dish
~Top with crushed crackers
~Bake for 25-30 minutes

Friday, September 2, 2011

Teaching Stats

I'm still soaking in that this is my fifth year teaching.  Time flies!  I love my job, so it makes sense that it feels my first day was two weeks ago, but wow!  While I feel like parents question me less and less, I still look like an 8th grader which makes it hard to come across as a professional to someone who is 50 and has a PhD in astrophysics.  I'm not complaining, but I'm grateful for the respect 5 years has granted me.

Two weeks into this fifth year, things are still going great!  I'm teaching GT kids for the first time, and we're having fun.  I still have my language learners, and they're always a good group. I only have about 13 of them this year, so my numbers are down this year.

Currently, I have 160 students that I teach.  At least one of those 160 was born in one of the following places: Russia, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Ghana, El Salvador, Colombia, Nepal, India, and Honduras.  Since I'm the world cultures teacher, I love this!  I think it's so cool to see what these kiddos can offer our class from first hand knowledge and experience.  Some of them came to America as little bitty kiddos and don't remember much, but often much of their culture is still practice at home.  I think it's such a blessing to get to be a blessing to the nations without ever leaving Clear Lake!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dad

I won't tattle on Gene-O and tell how old he is, but AARP has been his friend for a while.  :) hehehe... 

My daddy is such a hard worker, and Mom and David keep him busy the rest of the time.  The times I can steal him away seem to be fewer and fewer, so I very much enjoy our Wednesday evening choir rehearsals and Sunday morning worship in the choir loft times together.  He likes to brag on me, and while I don't always feel it's warranted, I let him anyway.  Dads are allowed to be proud, right?  Daughters can be proud too, and this one sure is! 

The four Ozingas love you, Gene-O!
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