Friday, July 29, 2011

Few random thoughts from scanning photos

I have been working for my mom a bit this summer just to make a little extra cash, and one of the things that I have been doing is scanning pictures.

These pictures are interesting to see, and I think most of them were ones I hadn't seen before. After spending about 4 hours straight doing this today, I had a few thoughts that came up that I felt like sharing.

One thing I noticed is how amazing it is that there is always some essence of our face that stays the same. I scanned pictures of my grandmother that ranged through her whole life time- baby to current, and although I might not have been able to identify her as the baby without a label... I can see the resemblance when it is pointed out. I did this for my mom, aunt, uncles and cousins, and I came to the same general conclusion that I did with my grandma that we (with the exceptions of major accidents and plastic surgery I suppose) look like us our whole lives. It isn't even just one characteristic, like the eyes, its a combination of everything.

The reason I am scanning them really made me think too. My mom had mentioned that she wanted a digital copy of them so that she wouldn't have to keep the hard copy. On the one hand, the sentimental side of me, thinks that it would be so bad to throw away these pictures that survived so many years. Some of these pictures are of my great-great grandparents! And yet... why should we keep them. We have them saved, preserved on a disk. In theory, now we could save them forever (or as long as computers can keep storing and re-saving the pictures in the new formats of the future). As more generations pass, what would be the point of having old pictures in boxes? I like photobooks, and will probably continue to do them (and making my own calendar too) but you know I can't honestly think of many reasons to print just pictures out these days?

I have a free print from one of the online photo sites. But I can't think of what I would want with it. I suppose a few in frames around the house, or give to friends... but many times my digital pictures stay digital. I want them, I like the memories they preserve, but unless it is a photobook or a calendar, most of them just stay there. (I also had many moments of giving thanks for digital camera making it so future generations don't have to scan my pictures). With awesome technology like digital frames, even printing pictures for frames is becoming obsolete. Why have just one picture of your husband on your desk when you can have a frame changing the picture all the time? (That is on my list of things I would like to have someday :-D).

For some reason, it also made me think about art- namely, children's art. As a teacher, I have lost count of how many drawing kids have given me. Originally, I wanted to keep all of it... but it didn't take long for practicality to win out. I asked a fellow teacher at the time what she did, and her wisdom hasn't steered me wrong yet. She has a spot where she keeps some of it, but she goes through it every so often and only the things that still have meaning to her stay. Makes sense, so I do the same, keeping cards and drawings that have meaning for me, while "sending to the big refrigerator in the sky" the ones that don't. (It sounds mean... but some of these are literally just coloring pages, sometimes with a to: and from:).

It made me think about my future child's art. What do you keep? How? If it is just in a box, it will never be looked at, and what's the point of that? But ditching all of it is just as clearly not the thing to do. One of my student's parent last year scanned all of her daughter's work from the year (actually came in handy for me preparing for next year :p) and I like the digital idea, but even these files... will her daughter really want to look at a report she did about California's flag when she is 30? On the other extreme, I don't think my mom kept much of my art or reports as a kid (and maybe she will reply to this blog and say she does have it somewhere that I am not aware of) so I can't look back on it. We got a box of Blake's stuff in this area- art and reports as a kid, and he probably wouldn't have kept most of it... it was me that saved it!

I know this is very rambling, but this is my current stream of consciousness, and I don't have a great solution. I think it would be good to save some... but then again, what will my great grandchild do with all my old stuff?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

If you feel led.... two great causes

>>>>>>>>>>EDIT- Already a praise report! The mom I mention below received enough donations for rent! If you had read this post and was part of that, thank you! If you wanted to help... you can still help the vehicle situation I describe below. :-D I am so happy for her!<<<<<<<<<<<<<

If you are a regular reader of this blog, it should be very obvious to you that Ghana is on my heart on a very frequent basis as we wait to hear about the child that we will have the ability to raise and call our own.

I also have mentioned to you that a very large reason that I chose Ghana is because of what I read from our coordinator's blog long before she became our coordinator, and I really liked what I saw of her heart for others and for God.

In the last week, she has posted two requests for financial help, which is unusual for her, and thus should be obvious it is a big deal.

I was going to just repost her two, but instead I will link them at the end and provide a really simple recap here using my own words.

The first is for a mom in Ghana who is honestly doing everything she can to be a great mom for her kids, keep them together, and not have the family living on the street. Her husband left her with six kids to raise. With our adoption organization's help, her kids are able to go to school now, and she is successfully running a yam selling business and doing well at it. The only problem is that in Ghana you can't pay rent month to month, you have to pay 2 years in advance, and it is close to due. This mom is doing everything she can to get back on her feet, and she could probably afford rent on her own if so much of it wasn't due in advance. All Anita is asking for is for enough people to provide just one month rent (35 dollars) so that this woman can have the next two years paid for, use her small income to save and then be able to be on her own the next time rent becomes due.

The second story is also one about what we take for granted. Part of the adoption work is done in Ghana (as it has to) but right now it is taking a lot longer than it used to because they don't have the transportation that they need to. One of the workers has to go everywhere in a taxi, which means it takes longer, is more expensive and she has to do a lot of walking, all because she doesn't have her own transportation. Cars are very expensive there, and even more expensive to ship there. What the adoption partners in Ghana need is two vehicles to get the job done as it needs to be.

I know everyone's money is their own to do what they feel led to do, and most people already have the charities that they want to give to, but if you can give some towards these two causes, it would be a great help. If you can't, I would appreciate it if you would at least do me the honor of passing it on, and letting others know about them, and possibly someone else might want to give.

I don't think either of these causes is going to be met by just one person doing giving a lot, it is about many people giving just a little that will really make reality so much better for these people in Ghana.

I appreciate anything you do to help, whether it is donating or just passing on the information.

Here is the information for the mom who needs rent from Anita:
(See edit above)

and here is the information for the car situation:
"TRF is not asking all of us rich Americans to give the money they need. They are just asking us to help. J and M are saving their own money to add to the pot--thousands of cedis. It just isn't enough. They need at least $15,000-$20,000 to purchase a reliable car and SUV in Ghana. Ugh. I feel deflated even writing that number. It seems so huge--too huge. However, if enough people spread the word--get the info OUTSIDE of the small Ghana adoption community--I trust that there are folks out there who can give. In the mean time, I'll be giving the small amount I can, trusting that eventually it will all add up. If you will join with me just CLICK HERE (and designate "Ghana Vehicle Campaign"). And please, consider spreading the word of this need as far and as wide as you can."

Anita's posts on this topic are here:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Last one for the day... quick revisit

I mentioned in an earlier post about us preserving, and I just wanted to follow up with a picture of just how much sauce were were able to make because of our tomatoes with my parents tomatoes:


Did I mention that even with all those tomatoes going into that sauce... I still had enough for salads and salsa during the week as well? :-) I love summer!

Gonna cook Ghana food!

One of my students, paying attention to my not so subtly mentioning repeatedly throughout the year that I love to read got me a gift card for a bookstore as my end of the year present. What she probably didn't realize is that I very reluctantly buy novels and "fun books." My rationale is simple. A fun novel, I will enjoy reading, but may only read once, or if I really liked it revisit it again in a number of years. These are much better suited for the library where I can check out the book, read it, give it back, and read it again any time I get the urge without spending any money. When I am given book money, I tend to get books that I feel will be good books to have at the house and refer to frequently. For example, last time I got a little travel book on Ghana and an international adoption guide book, as well as a parenting an adopted child book (which I loved and KNOW I will be referring to again).

This time my gift card was spent on a Ghanian cookbook, among other things.

My desire to cook this kind of food actually has a few reasons behind it. One is that I would rather have my first time trying the food be in the safety of my own home, when I know all of the ingredients of it already instead of in Africa when a strange this is offered to me. It also feels like a way to bond with the child that I have never even met, by sharing similar food to what they are eating, right now! The third reason for this cookbook is that since we are adopting an older child, they will likely know and remember the food from their home country, especially when they first arrive, and many books recommend trying to serve them similar food, since they are already having to deal with so much change. Last, but not least, is that even if they don't remember, we do want them to know their culture and where they came from, and keep Ghanian foods somewhat frequent in our home so that they are familiar with these dishes that would have been common to them if they were raised in Ghana.

So, without the strictness of the presidential cookbook goal, I simply hope to continue to try a Ghanaian dish each week (within reason, and ability to get ingredients etc.)

At this point, I am just choosing the ones with all easy to get ingredients, though I know eventually I will have to order some of the ingredients online.

Of the two recipes we have made from this book, I have one I didn't care for, and one I loved, and look forward to eating more.


The first one we tried was Meat Pie. The inside mix was good, but the dough was not. It could have been that we messed up on it somehow, but it couldn't really be formed, and practically fell apart when you tried to eat it too. It also might be because the recipe called for a lot of nutmeg in this dough, which was really strong. Blake couldn't even finish one, and I ate more than he did, and then gave up and just ate the insides of the remaining pies (which was a bison/onion mixture, recipe said beef... but we have a lot of bison still... ). Pretty disappointing for our first try from this cookbook (not first Ghanaian recipe, that was back in March)

Our second attempt was today, with much better results.
Today we made two recipes from here- one was groundnut soup, and the other was rice balls. The groundnut soup had a lot of interesting ingredients: tomatoes, peanut butter, water, chicken, ginger and a habenero. The rice balls were basically just overcooked rice that was shaped into balls. But together it was delicious, I kept going back for more and I look forward to our leftover lunches with this good treat!

I made both of them together because that is pretty standard in their cooking to have a stew or a soup served with a starch. Also, the recipe book cross referenced the other recipe, so I knew I should make them at the same time (the notes for the soup said to have it with rice balls or a few other starches, and the rice ball also said to serve with a soup like the groundnut soup).

This recipe gives me hope for our upcoming adventures in Ghanaian cuisine!

Presidential cookies makes a comeback!

Last summer, I started with a goal of cooking through the presidential cookie book... and then lost steam after a few weeks when it became a burden instead of a joy and a challenge. But this fourth of July, I decided that the goal was too good of one to abandon forever. Now, nothing as ambitious as twice a week or anything crazy like that, but instead a slower, gradual goal when I feel like making a dessert for an occasion or just for fun. More importantly, when I do decide to make one from this book, I will try to include it for people to read about, and still educate myself about those presidents.

So I made Vienna Chocolate bars, which were listed as one of Ronald Reagan's favorite desserts.


They were really tasty. They have a cookie crust on the bottom that was baked first, and then it is topped with a layer of raspberry jam, chocolate chips and then meringue. Then it is baked again. I especially liked it with ice cream.

Ronald Reagan

The biggest thing I think about Reagan (which I know is somewhat sad) is that I know he was an actor when he was younger. Beyond that... I couldn't say I knew much. Oh... I also could probably tell you that he was president in the 80's, but both of those facts are mostly from Back to the Future.

After doing some research, I found that I really liked what I read about Reagan.

I was surprised to learn that he actually started as a Democrat, and only switched to being Republican afterwards. I also found that he had a real power with words.

The article that I read talked about how he first gained popularity in a speech he had made for another candidate, and how even though he lost the Republican primary to Ford, it was his speech that was remembered.

I thought it was impressive also that the hostages were released within an hour of him taking office and that he made economic moves that managed to help taxpayers and boost the national economy at the same time. The article stated that, "Though Reagan cut taxes, the resulting economic growth resulted in federal government revenues increasing by 96% during the Gipper's 8 years in office." A president that can do both sounds great to me.

The other interesting thing, though I don't think that I have any clear memories of the time, was that Reagan was president when I was born and for my first 5 years of life. Do kids five or younger really notice who is president? Not really. I feel like the presidents that I remember being in office are Bush (both of them), Clinton and now Obama.

A quick wikipedia search found that it is really not that uncommon to have an actor become a politician, and I am sure that there are more who hope to as well:

Alan Autry (Republican) (Mayor of Fresno, California)
Raj Bhakta (Republican) (unsuccessful candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, Pennsylvania)
Sonny Bono (Republican) (U.S. Representative, 44th District of California)
Shirley Temple Black (Republican) (U.S. diplomat; Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia, Chief of Protocol of the United States)
Clint Eastwood (Republican, but describes himself as Libertarian) (Mayor of Carmel, California)
Al Franken (Democrat) (U.S. Senator, Minnesota)
Helen Gahagan (Democrat) (U.S. Representative, 14th District of California)
John Gavin (Republican) (U.S. diplomat; Ambassador to Mexico)
Fred Grandy (Republican) (U.S. Representative, Iowa)
Ben Jones (Democrat) (U.S. Congressman, 4th District of Georgia)
Jack Kelly, mayor of Huntington Beach, Calif.
Sheila Kuehl (Democrat) (California State Senator)
Nancy Kulp (Democrat) (unsuccessful nominee for U.S. House of Representatives, Pennsylvania)
Robert Montgomery (Republican)
George Murphy (Republican) (U.S. Senator, California)
Stephen Peace (Democrat) (California State Senator)
Ronald Reagan (Republican) (Governor of California, President of the United States)
Arnold Schwarzenegger (Republican) (Governor of California)
Jerry Springer (Democrat) (Mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio)
Fred Thompson (Republican) (U.S. Senator, Tennessee and unsuccessful presidential nominee))
Jesse Ventura (formerly Reform; currently Independence Party of Minnesota) (Governor of Minnesota)
Ralph Waite (Democrat) (unsuccessful nominee for U.S. House of Representatives)
Frank Britton Wenzel (Mayor of Malverne, New York)
John Davis Lodge (Republican) (Governor of Connecticut)

But, this makes sense to me, and I think that the little I read about Reagan is a perfect example of it. The whole reason that actors are successful is that they have trained and practiced (or were just naturally good at) showing and conveying emotions. In this time where TV is a huge part of any campaign (annoyingly so) any candidate that hopes to succeed needs to come across well in commercials and debates.

On the one hand, you could say that it eliminates some prospective candidates that might have been good except for their camera skills, but realistically, a good leader needs to be someone that people believe as a leader, and want to follow. They need to be able to convince people just through the strength of their words and their sound arguments. Actors and actresses are in the perfect position to do this, or else they wouldn't make it as an actor.

In any case, it sounds like Reagan was well liked by both sides, and his decisions and actions had our country enjoying a time of prosperity.

Some quotes I liked:

How can a president not be an actor?

Ronald Reagan <<<--- I liked this one especially because it goes with what I was saying above

If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under.
Ronald Reagan

Information is the oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders.
Ronald Reagan <<<--- My thought on this one, besides agreeing with it, is that he said it before the internet really came around, but it is more true now than ever.

Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.
Ronald Reagan

Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.
Ronald Reagan <<<--- LOVE THIS!

There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.
Ronald Reagan

There are no easy answers' but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.
Ronald Reagan

We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone.
Ronald Reagan <<<--- I liked these last two quotes so much I am considering making them into posters for my classroom. They are super important truths that I think the kids should see them every day!

Within the covers of the Bible are the answers for all the problems men face.
Ronald Reagan

*Of note, but not included because they aren't the kind of quotes I was looking for, was that he frequently made fun of government, government officials and the like. I got the impression as I read through the pages of quotes that he kind of looked at government as something he was forced to work with to do what he wanted to do.

As strange as it sounds, I am so glad I baked these cookies besides the tasty treat they brought. After all I know, and have read now, I think Reagan might be my favorite president. Before the cookies and this blog, I knew so little, and not even the good stuff, but I am so glad to know more, and to really feel like I understand this president so much more. If you made it this far, I hope that you enjoyed your mini Reagan lesson as well!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New Perspective

Since it has officially been over a year since I taught second grade, and since it has been officially stated that next year I am teaching fourth again (which is what I wanted), I decided that it was time to clean the second grade storage room that is supposed to be a guestroom (not that we have many guests that stay the night... but considering there is currently no walking space in there at all... it should be cleaner).

One of the big things filling the room is children's books. It was (and still is) a huge priority for my classroom to have tons of books. However, my 4th graders for the most part won't read the books I had for my second graders. I kept some... but most were being stored for the chance of teaching a younger grade again sometime in the future, and for our kids.

So I started sorting into two main piles- books to keep for classroom and for when our child is older, and books that will be great for the 1-4 year old that joins our house sometime in the future. Mostly it was keeping the easy, simple books with lots of pictures or good lessons (like its okay to be sad). But amongst my searching I found a few books that I really liked as kids books... but now that we are adopting seem totally inappropriate!

The first one is more well known- Are You my Mother?. Simple enough story, the baby bird searching for its mom, asks a whole lot of other creatures and things, while each tells the bird they aren't their mom because they are a dog, cat etc. At the end, baby bird finds mom, and is told she is his mother. Nice story... unless you are adopting a child that looks different than you. I think that the book seems to be telling the child that the correct mom needs to be the one that looks like you, and I don't really want to say that to my future African child.

The next story I discovered during my teaching time: Stellaluna. I used to read this to my second graders when we were learning about animals. For those of you who haven't read it, the basic storyline is that the baby bat gets separated from mom and is more or less adopted by a bird family. This bat learns to eat and fly like the bird brothers and sisters it is living with, but keeps wanting to do things different (like not eat bugs and hang upside down). Time goes on, and baby bat meets back up with mom! She teaches baby bat how to be a bat, and do bat things, etc. The bat tries to teach her bird friends the same things, but they all find that they are better being who they are. To most kids, I would say that the general message is to accept who you are even if you are different than the others around you. Good message. Now, as a future adoptive parent, I wouldn't read this book to my child. Consider the implications- separation from mom, and live with a new family, so far it really identifies with their life. If it ended with bat staying with bird family and all being happy together, maybe we would be fine... but no. After living with new family, mom returns, and the baby goes back to live with mom! Then, finds out that life is better that way.

Adopted kids frequently have fears that their birth parent will come and take them away from the family they are attaching to. Also, the message that we want to send is that they are supposed to be with us, even though we don't look the same. Stellaluna is the opposite of that.

I could go on, there are various other ones, but these two stuck out the most. It isn't even that I think they are bad books, or that no one should read them, it was more of gaining a new perspective of how thing will look through my child's eyes, and trying to get a head start on at least at first protecting them from books that send the wrong message. As my kids get older, I will probably be more open with what I read to them, and then we can talk about how the book isn't accurate, or how it is a different story than us, etc. But when our child is first home... these books are in storage.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Squirrels, preparing for the winter

Last year, with all of our good intentions, we only managed to make one batch of spaghetti sauce to use during the fall. The worst thing is that that was a practice batch, made with store tomatoes!

This year we are off to a fabulous start. We have already made one batch with all our tomatoes, and today we will be making two more, some with our tomatoes, some with my parents' excess. It is a simple recipe that we found in our Preserving Summer's Harvest book (which by the way is an excellent resource for preserving food, talking about jarring, freezing, drying and other methods). It takes tomatoes, onion, carrots and peppers. Here are some pictures of our ingredients (peppers are from our garden as well) and the finished products from the first batch of the summer.





Experiments in Indian Food

When asked what my favorite kind of food is, I usually don't answer, because truthfully, I do like many different kinds of food. However, lately I have been thinking that my favorite kind is actually Indian food.

Through high school, one of my favorite places to eat was at a little fast food Indian food place by my house and I was so sad when I ended. Then I started going through a sad stage that I couldn't find another fast food style Indian food place to fill its place.

Happily enough though, Blake found a fast food Indian place by his work that quickly became a new favorite that I kept requesting any time that we weren't sure where to go for lunch or dinner. A few weeks ago, we added another place to satisfy our Indian food cravings.

However... we have never been able to accurately duplicate the deliciousness that is Indian food at home! Our most recent attempt was more of a cheat than normal with a prepacked sauce and a box mix for the naan. The naan was pretty close, but the tikka masala still wasn't quite up to par. Not bad, but just not up to restaurant quality.

Here are the pictures of our attempts:





Belated Post- Fourth of July

For the last few years, Blake and I have hosted the Fourth of July party at our house, and we love it! Like Thanksgiving, it is nice to just have everyone come to us instead of us having to worry about us deciding where to go. Also, even though my parents' house has fireworks allowed, we think that our neighborhood offers something even better with fireworks in the sky from a place about a five minute walk from our house. Not to mention, that there is a school with a large field that makes a great viewing spot.

Extra fun that day was that my good friends from High School, Erin and Chris and their two little ones Elaynea and Jeremiah were able to join us this year. SO CUTE!

Here are some pictures of that fun day, with occasional captions:

Also, here is a video I took of Elaynea, not perfect, but I think it is cute: