Friday, May 29, 2009

Serials and Scenarios ~ A Breath of Fresh Air

Fresh Air has been available to my family nearly every day of our lives. In Iowa we are full of fresh air, sunshine and the singing of birds. Over the last week I've even been seranaded, as I've tried to sleep, by some strange screeching animal. But, I digress.

I received an e-mail from an organization that I've never heard of. And it made me stop and think a bit. I'm passing the information along to you. If fresh air is something you want pump into a city kid, check it out.

What is Fresh Air?

In 1877, The Fresh Air Fund, an independent not-for-profit organization, was created with one simple mission — to allow children living in disadvantaged communities to get away from hot, noisy city streets and enjoy free summer experiences in the country.

When The Fund began, New York City was overflowing with poor children living in crowded tenements. Many of these youngsters were hit by a tuberculosis epidemic, and “fresh air” was considered a cure for respiratory ailments.

More than 130 years ago, the Reverend Willard Parsons, a minister of a small, rural parish in Sherman, Pennsylvania, asked members of his congregation to provide country vacations as volunteer host families for New York City’s neediest children. This was the beginning of The Fresh Air Fund. By 1881, the work of The Fund was expanding so rapidly that Reverend Parsons asked for and secured support from The New York Tribune. By 1888, The Fund was incorporated as “The Tribune Fresh Air Fund Aid Society.” Today, Fresh Air continues to benefit from the support of the media with invaluable assistance from The New York Times.

The Fund’s tradition of caring provides children with a much-needed respite from the inner-city streets. Thousands of youngsters enjoy summer experiences with volunteer hosts or attend one of five Fund camps in upstate New York.

The simplicity of our program is its strength. Looking back to 1877, we can reflect on how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same. The Fund began with a small group of youngsters heading for the country and went on to benefit more than 1.7 million needy children.

Right now any gift you make to The Fresh Air Fund will be matched dollar for dollar by a group of generous donors! If you can give $25 that means $50 for inner-city children. $50 becomes $100!

But you must make your donation by June 30th to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity!

Donate now!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shut-Ups! Mango Salsa

Mango Salsa
1/2 to 1 whole skinned and diced mango (depending on your taste)
4 diced smallish tomatoes
1/2 to 1 full can of diced hot peppers
1/2 cup chopped red onion
juice of 1 lime
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
(to make this really easy, we used one can of Ro-tel diced tomato and peppers. And one of tomatoes with lime and cilantro to replace the diced tomatoes, hot peppers and cilantro. We still added the lime juice.) To make it even easier, use prepared salsa, add lime juice, cilantro and the mango.
This will keep 2-3 days in the fridge.
Add the following if you want:
1 drained can of black beans
1 diced avocado
For a delish healthy "chip" preheat oven to 250. Grab a package of whole grain tortillas and a pizza cutter. Roll the pizza cutter over several stacked soft tortillas into pie shapes and then cut the pie slices one more time into funky shaped triangles (math folks, help me out, would this be the infamous isosceles?). Repeat til you have lots of triangles. Place them on cookies sheets and bake until crisp. (check them at 20 minutes and then 35). They will get a little darker. Good stuff.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ When the Cat's Away...

The fish will pay...(apologies to any PETA folks)

In celebration of his first year of teaching having gone well and being OVER...Rob went on a tiny fishing trip.
Day one...Monday... he called and said it was so windy he hoped to actually be able to fish fabulous Star Lake, Minnesota.
Day Two... I get pictures of a small but just right fish pile plus this one. Obviously the wind died down.
Day Three...we'll see. He's supposed to come home tomorrow.
Meanwhile, I still wait for my computer part. Gotta love extended warranties. It's covered. It's free, as in pre-paid by the extended warranty purchase. It was even easy. One phone call did it all.
However, as they confirmed the way too easy transaction the very friendly man mentioned the travel time from them to moi as 10-14 business days. I think we are entering day number 8.
Maybe Rob will pull into the driveway as the UPS driver pops in with my computer part. Now I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. : )

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Serials and Scenarios ~ Mark Mynheir's Night Watchman

My Review:

I love that Mynheir is a real-life detective. His latest novel contains a bit of teaching element as his anti-hero, Ray Quinn, schools the ultimate anti-hero Crevis Creighton on the details of real life crime solving vs. what you see on television.

Ray’s best friend, Jim, lives with him and helps his deal with pain from a recent debilitating shooting and the death of his partner. Jim helps with the aftermath of the forced retirement, the new job as night watchmen, and chronic physical pain. Unfortunately, that friend, Jim, is Jim Beam of the whiskey family and Ray is not dealing well at all.

While going through the motions and countless Sudoku puzzles at a small apartment building, Ray spends his down time avoiding Crevis or sending him on wild goose chases. Until a body is discovered, and Ray finds himself in the midst of a tangled mess that is hard to resist.

The mystery is satisfying. Plenty of humor and quirk. A solid but not overdone faith thread runs throughout the novel. Loads of police procedure but not overly technical. Mynheir has a solid and engaging voice.

I love Ray and Crevis and hope to see much more of them in future books.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ A Great Day Check-List

Awaken to singing birds instead of a squawking alarm. Check.

An hour later than usual. Check.

Coffee with a favorite peep. Check.

A long walk-run with two furry friends and a favorite peep. Check.

Finishing up the garden, watering what's already flourishing. While the dogs wrestle, stalk and play and the birds continue to sing and the sun beats down on shoulders bringing the sweat of hard work and resulting satisfaction. Check.

A haircut in the driveway. Check.

A short nap in the cool cross breezes in a room that smells of white citrus. Check.

Reading a few chapters of a good book. Check.

Catching up on writing reviews, e-mails and just getting stuff done. Check.

Hope yours was fabulous just like mine.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ Bird in a Hand er Pocket?

Of course it's logical to follow a cat day at Dregs with a bird moment.

E-Mail FW: legend claims that a nest of larcenous birdies crawled into the car wash coin return pocket and made off with over 4K.

Crazy, yes. True? Who knows. Funny. Definitely.

Happy Weekend, Y'all.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ Patience

Birdie sent me this picture. She couldn't resist after enjoying a laugh while contemplating cat yodeling.

The look on this feline face is very similiar to the one I sport while pressing my nose against the glass door, patiently waiting for the UPS driver to arrive bearing my new computer juice.

Let's hope I'm connected soon. Otherwise I might scare the UPS man away. He is already a little iffy after his Lily/Lola encounter.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Shut-Ups....Mango-Raspberry Salad Dressing

I love fruit and nut salads. We discovered the yummiest dressing.
We grabbed half of a mango and smashed it in a bowl. Tossed in a huge handful of raspberries and smashed them, too. Then dumped in a dollop of low-fat vanilla yogurt and a dash of lemon juice to cut the sweet and give it more of a liquid feel. Pour over spinach, walnuts, purple onion chunks and more raspberries.
Would be a nice smoothie base, or fresh fruit or angel food cake topping, too.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ Uh, Maps n' Peppers

Due to multiple technical difficulties a) my computer is still days away from being "healed" and I'm still banking or blackmailing or whining upon the kindness of family members, b) my computer is the only one that downloads pictures straight from the little picture disk. That said...this is why we have a picture of the infamous-crab-pepper-of-the-paper-plate-region which has absolutely nothing to do with this post.

EER, being the literal and creative friend that she is, wanted to make sure I was able to get to her in case she won one of those amazing Hachette book giveaways. So, with all her scientific, mathmatic and creative skills she drafted a map to help me find her should she win.

Said map is on a teeny, tiny scrap paper roughly 2" x 4", or in graduation season, think "wallet size" map. Little numbers and sketches cover both sides of said "map." She showed it to me. What is it? I wanted to know. She excitedly explained that it was a map from my desk to hers. Yes, we work in the same office. She walked off the amount of steps it takes from my space to hers. A little squiggle with the number two written above it veers right followed by four more steps and a slight lean right....yeah, you get it.

Seriously, This is my life. But wouldn't it be boring without my friends, whether furry, funny, equipped with technology or a combination of all of the above?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Serials and Scenarios - More Books....You Know What to Do...

Here's the final installment of the amazing book giveaway by Hachette Book Group.

Leave a comment and a a way to connect with you and you will go into a "hat" and have a chance to win the following book titles courtesy of Hachette Book Group.

1. B as in Beauty By Alberto Ferreras ISBN: 0446697893
2. Into the Beautiful North By Luis Urrea ISBN: 0316025275
3. Hungry Woman in Paris By Josefina Lopez ISBN: 0446699411
4. The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos By Margaret Mascarenhas ISBN: 0446541109
5. Houston, We Have a Problema By Gwendolyn Zepeda ISBN: 0446698520

You have until the 31st of May. So get a comment, no matter how lame, posted. : ) And speaking of comments, more on that tomorrow. If you missed the last two Hachette Book Group offerings, it's not too late, go here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Serials and Scenarios - Chet Galaska's Finding Faith in a Skeptical World

With a book title like Finding Faith in a Skeptical World, I just didn't feel like I should hurl the usual lighter fare Dregs questions at Chet Galaska.

So I asked him just one question. One that I struggle with a bit. When I look around me, and sometimes in the mirror, I get a little disillutioned with what I see as hypocrisy at best, and a total lack of concern for people at worst. The things I do write the book of me. And if I churn out yucky crud, I'm not presenting myself and my faith in a very good light.

This is what I asked Chet and this was his response.

How do Christians sit under truth and even teach truth and then fall into horrific sins? How can God allow us to slap Him and destroy any witness/testimony of His power in our lives? What can we do to protect ourselves from falling into the traps Satan loves to set for us so that we don’t do more harm than good with our lives?

What we’re really talking about is hypocrisy. Here’s a definition of it: “the practice of claiming to have standards or beliefs that are contrary to one’s real character or actual behavior.”

Christians are often accused of being hypocrites. And you know what? We are.

Our standards and beliefs are those taught in the Bible. They’re guidelines to living a selfless, giving, forgiving, merciful, non-judgmental, thankful, kind, compassionate, patient, joyful, peaceful, and loving existence. The Bible also tells us to avoid evil thoughts, envy, anger, building up treasures on earth, revenge and gossip. The second most important command in the Bible (after loving God) is to love your neighbor as yourself.

God’s given us ideals to direct our lives and they’re not attainable 24/7 by me, you or anybody else. Our responsibility is to try to live by them and, with His help, become more conformed to them the longer we practice our faith. We won’t ever be perfect – and totally non-hypocritical – until this life is over. God knows this, and gives us the gift of forgiveness to help us cope with our failures.

I don’t know that Christians deliberately “slap God.” But we certainly often fall short of His ideals. Take a look at the list in the second paragraph and ask yourself if you can get through a day without at least thinking about violating some of them. Are you ever judgmental, even if it’s only in your own mind? Do you ever get mad? Ever pass a beggar without making a donation? The chances are that if you do, your reaction is remorse for not doing the right thing – not defiance of God.

Having said this, there are self-identified Christians who commit horrific sins. The question to ask is “Are they really Christians?” If their unrepentant deeds fall outside of the command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” then they probably aren’t. These people obviously don’t take biblical teaching to heart and can readily fall into traps because they don’t distinguish between right and wrong. And worse, they may not even care.

We are not Jesus or God the Father. We’re people, and God knows we can’t measure up to His standards, at least not all the time. God’s number one rule is that we should love Him. If we love Him, we’ll strive to live the way He wants us to. And it’s the striving that sets Christians apart. A Christian who’s serious about his faith will behave better than those who don’t, and as a consequence the believer gets God’s support, strength, forgiveness and eternal life. These gifts from God are evident in Christian behavior and demonstrate the effect God has had on our lives.
God is forgiving, and this is one of the things that enables Christians to live forward-looking, optimistic lives despite our flaws. His way of dealing with sin is one of the ways he opens faith to non-believers. Look at it this way: if God loved only to those who were perfect, where could anyone who wasn’t perfect – namely everybody – find hope? If Christians were perfect, and never disobeyed God’s rules, then the message would be that imperfect people need not apply for God’s grace.

It’s important to stay in God’s word by learning about Him, going to church, and trying to live according to His teachings. Being aware of what’s right and what’s wrong is the first step in doing this. Having this knowledge is the most important step in avoiding traps and being a good example to the world.

Despite the inevitable lapses, once they understand their faith Christians actions promote it. They volunteer more, give more frequently to charity and give almost four times more than secular contributors. They donate their time twice as frequently as others and are twice as likely to donate blood as those who don’t attend church. They also demonstrate kindness, mercy and a peace that eludes others.

In a nutshell, Christians need to understand their faith and accept Jesus into their hearts. The result will be an ability to recognize traps while the indwelling of the Holy Spirit provides the strength to avoid them. And the knowledge that God is willing to forgive you for your missteps provides the peace of knowing He’ll help you get up, dust yourself off and continue improving as life goes on.

Click on the book cover, poke around a bit. What do you think? What are your thoughts on Chet's answer and my question?

About Chet:

C. William “Chet” Galaska was born in 1951. He began his college education at Drew University in Madison, NJ and graduated from the University of Hartford, West Hartford, CT with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. He co-founded a company that grew into a multi-million dollar enterprise and was its President for 24years. He also served as Chairman of the New England Chapter of the American Foundry Society. In 2003 he sold his interest in the company and now invests in real estate.

Chet is a former unbeliever who became a Christian after years of investigating the faith with an open mind. His first book, Finding Faith in a Skeptical World, is a down-to-earth explanation of what he learned. He and his wife, Lisa, live in Massachusetts. They have two grown sons, Jon and Drew.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Serials and Scenarios ~ More Hachette Books to Giveaway!!!

All 5 of these books will be given to one of you lucky comment leavers. Any comment will do. As long as you leave me a way to get in touch with you and you have a real address in the US of A you are eligible.

Read a bit about each book by clicking on the title. I haven't read any of them so I can't steer you one way or the other. Don't forget to comment on the Mother's book giveaway from last week. The contest ends on the 31st.

Brought to you by the generous Hachette Book Group.

Asian Heritage Month:

1. Free Food for Millionaires By Min Jin Lee ISBN: 0446699853
2. Trail of Crumbs By Kim Sunée ISBN: 0446697907
3. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles By Jennifer Lee ISBN: 0446698970
4. Transparency By Frances Hwang ISBN: 0316166936
5. Strangers from a Different Shore By Ronald Takaki ISBN: 0316831301

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ Technical Difficulties.

Picture this...a computer that gets much use suddenly the battery begins the decline until finally the warning flashes..."4 % of the battery left, either charge the battery or shut down will occur risking the work you've been so diligently doing." Or something like that.

As is the regular thing to do, you plug in the computer expecting to see the little icon change to a happy plug vs the dry battery. But nothing happens. Nothing. You try another outlet. You wriggle the connections. You frantically try yet another outlet.

The computer blacks out.

This is why there is no picture with my post today. I'm borrowing a computer to blog. Sad, sad, sad.

I am under warranty and we'll see how that pans out. In the meantime I'll be doing my best to keep posting.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ Really Close to Home...

My town had a bit of a scare today.

22 and I were a block from the mall where she works and all of a sudden flashing lights and law enforcement cars began swooping in from all directions, headed toward the mall.

22 dialed the store she works at and got a busy signal. And the cars keep coming. Unmarked SUVs, DOT, sheriff, local police, car after car, headed to the mall. It didn't seem like a good sign.

I immediately call Rob and both sets of grandparents to let them know that she and her sister, 17, is not at the mall so they don't need to worry about them. 22 finally gets hold of her boss who was headed to work but called by the manager on duty and told that the mall was shut down because of a gunman.

No shots had been fired, but the authorities ordered each store closed with customers and workers locked in. Law enforcement officials searched the mall on high alert, looking for the man who had been seen by several people and reported to be carrying a firearm.

It turns out that the man carried a large black umbrella and was in a restaurant enjoying lunch and had been unaware of the panic he caused.

This could be one of those laugh with relief moments and even fodder for late night television jokes (on a slow night). "Those folks in Iowa..." jokes.

BUT. A year and a half ago several people were gunned down just 15 miles away, in a mall, during a normal afternoon. That incident shattered many lives and touched thousands of others. I'm personally very grateful that someone, no matter how sure or unsure they were, made a call to the authorities with their suspicions and that the authorities took the suspicion very seriously.

Thank you Council Bluffs/Pott Co. law enforcement. I am glad we didn't need to see how skilled you are in keeping us safe, but feel safer, none the less.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Scribble and Scrambles ~ Cat Yodeling How-to

I can't help it. These guys make me laugh. And this is a good Monday to do a lot of laughing. (Minor flood at the office, crabby folks, awkward phone conversation, and a vast pile of paper work to greet me on my desk.)

This video picks up after a slower beginning. If you like the Engineer's Guide to Cats video then you'll like this one. If you didn't take a pass.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Serials and Scenarios ~ According to Their Deeds - P Robertson

Book Description:

A Deadly Game of Justice Versus Mercy Charles Beale lives outside the shadow of Washington, D.C. Politics and power matter only when a client crosses the Potomac to visit his Alexandria Rare Books shop.

But that all changes when a former client--a man deeply connected in the Justice Department--is found murdered after a break-in gone bad. When Charles reclaims at auction the books he'd once sold, he quickly discovers he's bought more trouble than he could have ever imagined.

Inside one volume are secrets. A collection of sins that, if revealed, could destroy reputations, careers--even lives. Charles soon learns he isn't the only who knows. Going to the police means ruining a multitude of lives. But staying silent puts a target on his shop, his wife--and himself. Charles must decide: Should one mistake really cost you everything?

If you would like to read the first chapter of According To Their Deeds, go HERE.

Click here if you want to read more about Paul and his books via the Dregs.

My Review:

When I opened Paul Robertson's latest book I wasn't sure what my final opinion would be. The characters, mainly Charles, reminded me of the type of character played by Woody Allen. Charles and his friends were a little odd, I love quirky, but these folks had to grow on me a bit. Charles, the POV character, considers books as his livelihood and his passion, after his lovely wife Dorothy, of course. Book characters, scenes, lines and titles become fodder for his many puns and descriptions.

The mystery within According to Their Deeds takes a few unexpected turns and is layered, involving past, and present, and I guess I could even say future because there are some snippets of theological conversation. Bibliophiles, especially antique/rare edition fiends and bookstore lovers should find this a satisfying read. Fans of mysteries will probably enjoy the twists. Of Robertson's three novels I'd say According to Their Deeds is my least favorite, but I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Scribble and Scrambles ~ A Stroll After the Rain.

I left work at noonish and went to lunch with a few of my favorite peeps.

Our city has co-constructed a pedestrian bridge that spans our river and connects to the shore of the neighboring state. We decided to take a stroll. Pat and his Blackberry were in attendance.

Not sure why I'm leaning quite so much in the Pat prop picture, but I was. (I only drank water at the restaurant...just in case any of you are going there.)

You may notice that laughing looked like the emotion of the moment. That's because 22 had just told us that to take a flattering picture you tilt your chin up slightly and turn a bit to the side. And to make sure you never have a forced smile, you laugh right before the picture is snapped.

We had fun with that little morsel of information.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Serials and Scenarios ~ Mothers Day Book Giveaway

We have the opportunity to host a giveaway.

All five of these you, if I pull your comment out of the comment "hat."

You've got until May 31st to comment. Make sure I can get in touch with you for a snail mail address if you are the lucky winner.

(There will be two more Hachette sponsored giveaways this month so stay tuned-in right here.)

Mother’s Day:

1. Miracles of Motherhood By ISBN: 1931722927

2. Odd Mom Out By Jane Porter ISBN: 0446699233

3. Mommy Grace By Sheila Schuller Coleman ISBN: 0446545414

4. Beginner's Greek By James Collins ISBN: 0316021563

5. The Road Home By Rose Tremain ISBN: 0316002623

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Scribbles and Scrambles ~Foodishness

This afternoon I put together a few recipes I've been kicking around in my head.

Success? Not quite yet. The creamy chunky guacamole was delish, except for the fact that I purchased habanero peppers vs. the milder jalapeno. Wham.

The salmon patties made with sweet potato and white bean puree needs a little work. Not much, just a few tweaks.

Finally, I finished up the "Friendship Bread" I'd been given. (The sour dough stuff you leave on the counter and squish everyday. After adding more sugar to the mix, I then had to add a box of instant vanilla pudding.

Okay. Not exactly "FRIENDLY." I'm pretty sure I'm not going to do that again. Tastes really good, but is really, really bad.

And speaking of food -- this is fascinating.

I'm going to have to check out this book.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Serials and Scenarios ~ Shame

Fiction lovers who love to dive deep into the inner workings of the soul....this is for you.


It's hard to appreciate the life you have when you're wondering about the one you might have had.

John Tilden's glory days are far behind him, and now it seems like all he has is the monotony of everyday living. He certainly thought there'd be more to it than his ramshackle Oklahoma farm and a mundane job coaching basketball at his old high school. He questions his fatherhood skills too: His oldest son won't speak to him, his younger son wants to quit the basketball team, and now his daughter wants to go out on dates. He loves his wife, but the marriage has settled into complacency.

With John's twentieth high school reunion approaching, he has agreed to play in an exhibition game with the old championship team. And his ex-girlfriend's back in town, newly single. What might have been now seems closer than ever.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Shame, go

My Review:

I don't think my review can do justice to Shame. But I'm going to try. For starters, I was given the advanced reading copy via a pdf file and had to read it while attached to my computer. This is not my first choice in reading, I like to be able to cradle a book and curl up wherever I chose. The computer is just not the same.

Even though this was an annoyance, I voraciously devoured this story.

The characters became so real to me that I wept. But before I wept, I wrestled along with the inner struggle of John, and the unknown that lay sprawled on his horizon and the ties that kept him at bay. There were moments, basketball details mostly, where I didn't hang on every word, but the struggles, the tension, the story of what-if and what-might-have-been and what's-the-point pulled on every one of my emotional strings leaving most of them taut and humming.

Garrett writes with poignancy and fluidity, words filled with visuals and other sensory experiences that paint scene after scene in the readers' mind. In Shame, he aptly tackles the common human conditions, the ones we all have to face, eventually. The things we try to medicate, drown, and subdue, the haunting specter of relationships and regrets, and the reality of whom we are being the sum of our choices.

Shame will be on my 2009 favorites list. Fans of authors like Tom Morrisey and Wally Lamb may want to look into it. Readers who can't handle slower moving narratives or introspection might want to read more reviews and a sample of the writing before purchasing. CBA only readers may balk at some of the scenes, this is PG-rated inspirational fiction. David C. Cook has been publishing novels that are real, gritty, envelope-pushing and thought-provoking, and they get a double thumbs up from me.

My book-buddy, Kim, has a very different take on the book...go here to read her thoughts. Valid ones...because you all know how my brain quirks.

About the author:

Greg Garrett has published newspaper and magazine features, short stories, personal and critical essays, reviews, encyclopedia articles, novels, a memoir, and books of nonfiction during his thirty-year writing career.

Author of the critically acclaimed novels Free Bird (chosen by Publishers Weekly and the Rocky Mountain News [Denver] as one of the best first novels of 2002) and Cycling, as well as the nonfiction books The Gospel Reloaded (with Chris Seay), Holy Superheroes!, the spiritual autobiography Crossing Myself, The Gospel According to Hollywood, and the forthcoming Stories from the Edge, Dr. Garrett is a past winner of the Pirate's Alley William Faulkner Prize for Fiction, and a regional CASE gold medalist for nonfiction.

He was elected to the Texas Institute of Letters in 2005 for his lifetime literary achievements. Professor of English at Baylor University, Dr. Garrett was named the Outstanding Baylor Faculty Member for 1994 by the Baylor Student Congress, and received the university administration's outstanding professor award in 1996. He received his Ph.D. in English from Oklahoma State University, and recently completed the M.Div. at the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, where he lives, writes, and serves as a lay preacher at St. David's Episcopal Church.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Super Cinema Saturday ~ Bedtime Stories

My Review:

Bedtime Stories is the family-friendly Adam Sandler coming out to play.

Low on inappropriate language though there are plenty of slang terms, heavy on quirky characters, Sandler plays the goofy anti-hero who is just looking for his special place in the world. His friends help him along. There are fewer sexual innuendos than in previous Sander flicks. However, there are quite a few cleavage shots. Overall, Bedtime Stories is closer in feel to Mr. Deeds than Happy Gilmore,Wedding Singer or 50 First Dates.

Why I liked it? Sandler is amusing with his sarcastic delivery and pent-up energy. The characters he plays are little boys in a man's body and that's always entertaining in my book. The movies he produces are sweet on several levels. Pro-family, not necessarily the mom, pop and 1.5 kids family, but the made up pack-type of families that tend to form on our American landscape. I love that Sandler's characters are overcomers. Regardless of the rottenness of life, they tend to struggle with the idea of change but eventually grab hold of a challenge and become better people. Sander's characters, in all the movies I've seen, are quirkily real and sometimes annoyingly sweet. The good guys have warts and the bad guys, well, they have way more warts and bad attitudes, too. Bedtime Stories contains all of these elements.

What I find annoying? The Little People aka dwarfs always seem thrown in for simple laugh fodder.

This is fun entertainment and classic Sandler. If you love his stuff, or family movies, you'll want to check it out.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Serials and Scenarios ~ Financial Wisdom and a Contest

Happy Friday. Just returned from a double dog mile. A lot like a double-dog dare, but far more interesting. No rain. But there was a dead possum requiring super human strength to avoid running pell-mell into its rotting carcass. There was the, of course, full bag of puppy not-so-treats. (Not pink. We blew through those by Wednesday. But, I digress. )

My focus today is money. (It was pay day for me, so I think its an appropriate day to discuss money.) Though I haven't read the book yet, so I can't offer a review. I can give you a quiz and some money wisdom from the authors, Curt and Marybeth Whalen.

Are You A Financially Focused Couple?

Instructions: Give yourself 1 point for every "yes" answer, 0 points for every "no."

1.Do you have regular budget meetings?
2.Do you communicate about daily expenses?
3.Do you discuss large purchases before they're made?
4.Does each spouse have an equal vote about money decisions?
5.Have you planned for your future through life insurance and a will?
6.Do you agree about tithing and giving?
7.Can you both list out your debts, including the amounts and monthly payment for each account?
8.Do you have a plan that was written together for paying off debt and saving money?
9.Do you encourage each other to save money?
10.Have you discussed the spending habits and attitudes about money that you carried into the marriage?

Tally up your score and use the guide to the right to see what category you fall into.

0-2 points: Don't get discouraged. There's nowhere to go from here except up!
3-5 points: You are taking steps towards being a financially focused couple.. Keep working together and you will get there.
6-8 points: You are almost 100% financially focused. Keep up the good work and get intentional about those trouble spots.
9-10 points: You are a financially focused couple and could show us all a thing or two! Consider sharing your wisdom with other couples who are struggling in today's uncertain times.

Top Ten Tips For Saving Money In Tough Times

1. Make a budget (and stick to it). A budget overwhelms many people but it is really nothing more than devising a plan for every dollar you bring in. Having a budget helps you spend smarter and think more. It also helps to improve your buying power. The best way to make a budget is to start by sitting down with your spouse and deciding how much you spend on regular categories like groceries, gas, medical, etc. each month. Talk through these things and get them down on paper. Then spend accordingly. An article that goes into step by step detail about making a budget can be found at:

2. Stop using credit cards. Studies show that people who use credit cards buy more and think less about their purchases. By learning to spend cash and limiting your purchases, you make your money work for you rather than against you. Credit card companies are getting craftier as the economy struggles. 25% of all credit card users in this country will have their rates raised this year, or their monthly payment raised. When you are in debt, you are at the mercy of the company you owe. Don’t let yourself get bogged down by credit card debt.

3. Cook at home. It sounds so basic and yet how many of us resort to eating out because we just can’t deal with dinner? By taking a few moments once a week to devise a menu plan, shopping for the needed ingredients for that menu plan, and cooking the meals in your home, you can save lots of money and have more time to gather as a family and enjoy a slow evening at home. Eating at home not only saves money, it saves valuable family time.

4. Buy clothes at thrift or consignment stores. This is especially true with children’s clothes. When you are in a department store, always shop the clearance racks and avoid the other racks so you aren’t tempted. It’s also an income generator if you consign your own clothing. You can then take the money you earn on consignment and buy clothes for a new season without being out of pocket any money!

5. If you must eat out, only go to places you have coupons for. Keep a small photo album and arrange restaurant coupons so they are easy to find as you are heading out the door. It’s also a great idea to look for “kids eat free” nights and frequent those. Other ways to save on eating out include ordering water (big savings on this), share meals, order a kids’ portion if the restaurant allows it, and go out for lunch instead of dinner. For people who work, it’s always a good idea to pack your lunch regularly instead of running out to eat. A jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread will go a long way.

6. Learn to play the coupon game. Many people devote themselves to clipping and organizing coupons—and reap great savings from doing so. There are many frugal websites and blogs that detail exactly how to save a lot of money with coupons. A great one to start with is And here is a great tutorial video you can watch:

7. If you have children, limit the number of activities they do to one per child, per year. If you are struggling to pay for even one activity, consider asking for the activity as a gift from grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, etc. Instead of another toy that will end up broken or lost, your child can receive a gift that truly keeps on giving as well as one that invests in their future.

8. Think about the things you regularly spend money on like gas or utilities and research ways to save money on those things. For instance, tells you where to buy the cheapest gas according to your area code. Bundling services with your cable provider can save money each month. Calling your energy company to find out when their off-peak hours are and doing your laundry or dishes during those times can save on your monthly bill as well.

9. Don’t shop as a recreational activity. If you can’t see it, you won’t feel a need to have it. Use time you used to spend shopping to go for a walk, visit a park, exercise, read a book, or spend time researching money-saving sites on the internet! If you have a friend you used to enjoy shopping with, sit down and list out other alternatives for your time together.

10. Look for ways to generate additional income. Whether it be an additional part-time job or a way to make money from home using a skill or talent you possess, get creative, get motivated, and get excited about the potential you have to generate income that you didn’t have before. Every little bit helps, so put on your thinking cap and don’t be shy about stepping out and trying something!

Here's a bit about the book.

About the Book:

(North Carolina) - The fear and reality of tough economic times, foreclosures, bailouts, bankruptcies and falling stocks strike fear in the hearts of many Americans today. With investors, newscasters and bankers giving advice, who can you trust? Marybeth and Curt Whalen share their financial successes and failures in their new book, Learning to Live Financially Free: Hard-Earned Wisdom for Saving Your Marriage & Your Money. If a family parenting six children can get out of debt and live financially free, anyone can. The Whalens readily admit they made their share of mistakes the first ten years of marriage. Becoming more disciplined and intentional in spending and saving helped them learn valuable lessons for better financial stewardship--lessons you'll want to learn too.

Learning to Live Financially Free not only focuses on building a stronger financial understanding in the home, but also encourages couples to communicate, thus building better, stronger marriages. The Whalens clearly comprehend the need for careful money management and commitment in marriage. Money-strapped families will find peace of mind as they begin the process of becoming financially responsible and debt-free.

And About the Authors

Marybeth and Curt Whalen know what it's like to juggle marriage, kids and money. Their new book will encourage readers to manage their money and marriage more effectively.

Marybeth Whalen is a speaker and contributing writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries. The author of For the Write Reason, Marybeth has also written for Parent Life, Money Matters newsletter, The Old Schoolhouse, Hearts at Home magazine, and Homeschooling Today. She contributes regularly to the daily online devotions of Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Curt Whalen is a trained financial counselor through Crown Financial Concepts. He has years of experience helping couples establish budgets, solve financial problems, and learn to communicate more effectively. He has written articles for TEACH Magazine and Money Matters Newsletter and has contributed to books by authors Lysa TerKeurst and Melanie Chitwood.

Each blogger with at least 10 comments can send a name randomly drawn from the comments to submit for the grand prize drawing. The winner will receive:

1 copy of the book, Learning to Live Financially Free
1 copy of Financial Peace Revisited by Dave Ramsey
1 subscription to P31 Woman Magazine
1 copy of God's Purpose For Every Woman (collection of the best devotions from Proverbs 31 Ministries)
1 cd of Marybeth's message "Becoming A Woman of Influence"
1 Dove Chocolate bar (because everything is better with chocolate!)

Leave comments, people. Ready, set, go. Deadline is May 14th.