Monday, August 31, 2015

It's the Third Week of School

Well, I was about to say that August is probably the month that I've written the least since I started blogging years ago, but with this post on the last day of the month, I have nine posts in August which matches two other months this year. To say that blogging hasn't been a priority for me this year is an understatement.

I don't really know why I haven't blogged much. There's no one reason in particular. I've been plenty busy and had many things to write about, but no desire to write. I've been super busy at work this year which has been great, but then by the time I get home in the evenings, I haven't really wanted to turn on a computer. So, that's one reason.

Another reason is I feel like I'm kind of boring. There's only so many ways I can write about my adventurous weekend of grass mowing and laying around watching TV. In reality, I've done a lot more than that, I just never seem to get around to writing about what I have done.

Now, I'm in school and my evenings are spent studying and reading and preparing for the next assignment or quiz which is basically going to be my life for the next three years. So, see I guess I really am boring. All this to say, thanks to those of you who do stop by from time to time to see if I've posted anything new. I'd like to promise that I'll do better, but as soon as I make that promise, I'll fail you. However, I've got more on the agenda in the coming weeks than I know what to do with so hopefully I'll get around to telling you about it.

Speaking of school, I'm now in my third week. Time flies when you're having fun I guess. The two classes I'm taking this semester are really very interesting and I'm enjoying them both. There's A LOT of reading. I've probably read more in the past couple of weeks than I have in the past couple of years, but the reading has been interesting and I take it in small increments because while the information has been useful, reading a textbook can also get kind of boring. So, if I go in small increments and take breaks, it seems to work better for me. So far I've gotten all of my assignments turned in early and passed all my quizzes and am making an A in both classes. I think we can all agree that this is a much better effort than my undergrad years.

The one thing I don't like is group projects which can be a little tricky when you're taking an online class. I've been assigned a team that seems like they are either going to not participate or wait until the last minute to contribute. Either way, I'm really not happy about it. We have an assignment due on Monday that I've written a lot on and no one else has contributed. The one good thing is that my professor has noticed and sent me a message telling me I've done nice work. So, at least he acknowledges that I'm doing my part on a team of slackers.

So, to sum it all up, school's going well for now. When fall TV and football start, I'll have to be more disciplined; so, I'll go ahead and solicit your prayers now. Ha!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Stomach Bug Sunday

I'm back in the land of the living today after having a bit of a stomach bug over the weekend. Saturday morning I woke up and my stomach wasn't feeling great, but I had made plans to go to the gym with three of my friends and didn't want to back out on them. So, I went to the gym and then we went to Panera where I had a bagel and cream cheese. I showed a few signs of improvement, but by the afternoon, my belly was aching again. By Sunday morning, I was in virus mode and spent the day either in the bathroom or on the couch. 

I had a few kind souls check in on me Sunday. My friend Leah brought some chicken soup by and my cousin Lauren brought leftovers from Sunday dinner since I wasn't able to attend. I stayed home from work on Monday to make sure the virus was completely gone and ended up sleeping the majority of the day. I did manage to get out to the grocery store for about an hour since I hadn't had the opportunity to do my shopping over the weekend and needed to pick up a few things. I went back to sleep as soon as I got home from that outing. Then I got out for Bible study Monday night and went straight to bed after getting home. 

I made it in to work on Tuesday and had a productive day which was good because being out a day can really put a girl behind. Tuesday night I was supposed to go to the gym, but opted to go home and mow grass instead. The grass did not get mowed over the weekend because I was feeling bad and it was super tall from all the rain we got last week. So, rather than wait until the weekend when I would surely hate myself for not mowing sooner, I decided to grin and bear it and get it knocked out. 

Other than my virus, there wasn't a whole lot else going on over the weekend. Friday night I had dinner at my parents' house and watched the first half of the Madison Academy game on TV. I left at halftime and watched the second half at my house, falling asleep before it was over. Saturday we had a small gathering for my maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother's birthdays. I didn't stay long since my stomach was bothering me. Hopefully I didn't pass the virus on to anyone else and if I did, then I'm sorry! 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Book Review: For the Love

I recently had the opportunity to review an advanced copy of "For the Love" by Jen Hatmaker. I have heard of Jen Hatmaker many times in the past, through friends and other blogs that I read and have heard nothing but wonderful things about her and her writing; but, until now had never personally read any of her writings. 

"For the Love" comes out today (August 18) as luck would have it. I received my advance copy from Book Look Bloggers and chose it after hearing others who had advance copies go on and on about how good it was. the subtitle for the book is "Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards" and I don't know about you all, but that kind of struck a chord with me. 

The book was a really easy read and I absolutely loved it. It is probably one of the best faith based books I have ever read. It took me a total of about five days to read it and that included a few days when I didn't even read at all. Y'all, this book made me laugh on several occasions and made me cry a time or two as well. This book really resonated with me. Jen Hatmaker speaks my language which is truth with a side of sarcasm and I love it! 

The book is divided into four sections which are: "Your Very Own Self", "All These People Who Live In Your House", "Friends, Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies", and "Church, Church People, Not Church People, and God". In each and every one of these sections, I found a piece of me. I could relate to almost everything that she wrote. I think the main exception was the section on the people who live with you because let's face it, I live with a dog and have never had my own people. Still, I valued what she had to say and took it to heart should the Lord decide to one day bless me with me own people - it was all good advice. 

There's not much scripture in this book. So, if you're looking for a book that has a lot of scripture in it, this one is not for you. Yes, this book is the opinion of one Jen Hatmaker, but I'll be surprised if most of you don't agree with what she has to say. I think if I had to sum it up, I would say this book is about loving people and treating them with honesty and respect and getting real about church and Jesus. Another way of putting it is that it's about not putting Jesus in a box, but showing Him to others in our actions and the way we love - giving grace to those around us just like God gave grace to us. The book emphasizes not feeling guilty about not being able to do it all because nobody can. It's about not living up to the world's impossible standards and being okay with it. It's about building meaningful loving relationships at home and with friends based on the love of Jesus which means that these are relationships that will last! 

Y'all, I simply cannot recommend this book enough. I really loved it. Maybe it's because of the stage I'm at in my life, maybe it's because there were a lot of things in this book I needed to hear, or maybe it's because things I've felt for years needed validating. Whatever the reason, I think this is a book I will come back to and read time and again because there is so much truth and love in it and I hope you see that too. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Book Review: The Prince Who Was Just Himself

I'm going to knock out a couple of book reviews to start the week off. I've got one for you today and another one for tomorrow. So, bear with me because I doubt y'all come around these parts for book reviews. 

The book I'm reviewing today is called "The Prince Who Was Just Himself". It was written by Silke Schnee and illustrated by Heike Sistig. I received an advanced copy of the book through Handlebar publishing. 

When I received the teaser information for the book a month or so ago, I thought it looked interesting. The book is about a prince who doesn't look like the other princes, children, or people of his kingdom because he has Down Syndrome. I thought the idea of writing about a child with Down Syndrome was especially unique and it is important to emphasize to children that all people should be treated with love and respect regardless of whether the look or act different than we do. Although, in all honesty, I think most children already have a better grasp of this than some adults. 

I received the book last week and finally got around to reading it this past weekend. It's a short book and can be read in about 10 minutes or so. Overall, the book is okay. The illustrations are really nice and the illustrator did attempt to make the young prince look a little different than the other princes in the book. However, the story wasn't that great in my opinion. I feel like there could have been so much more written or said about the prince and his differences and how he should be accepted anyway. I think the story would have resonated so much better if it were in a different, more modern day setting with a realistic situation rather than a situation with a fictional prince. The story does get across the point of acceptance, but the story was just a little off for me. 

I think the concept of writing about children that are different than society's "normal" is a great concept and this book had a lot of potential but just didn't hit the target in my opinion. The book comes out September 1 if you are interested in checking it out. It is available from Amazon and other fine retailers. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sunday Night Appetizers with Tyler

On most Sunday nights, I eat dinner with my cousins. There are anywhere from eight to 12 of us there each week and Sunday nights have recently become one of my favorite nights of the week. I used to hate Sunday nights because it meant dreading the week ahead; however, since I've been joining my cousins for dinner, Sunday nights are full of laughter, love and always a fun time which makes the end of the weekend much more bearable. 

This past Sunday night Tyler decided to make an appetizer before dinner. Apparently he had seen a you tube video on pizza cones and wanted to give it a try. By the time I arrived, he was pulling the cone portion of the pizza cone out of the oven. He had made a cone out of aluminum foil and then taken canned Pilsbury pizza dough and formed it around the aluminum cones. He then placed the open end of the cone around the bottom of a muffin pan and baked them. So, it was literally a cone of baked pizza dough and it had me intrigued. 

Once the cones cooled, Tyler and Jon Mark stuffed the cones with pizza sauce, pepperoni, cheese and bacon. The stood the cones up in oven safe mugs and baked them a while longer until the cheeses melted and the sauce was warm. We all gave the pizza cones a try and admittedly they were quite good. I think we were all a little surprised and impressed. 

There are a few more steps to the pizza cone making process than I outlined here. So, if you want to watch the video, which is less than two minutes I might add, check it out below. Happy pizza cine making!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Rated Five Out Of Five Stars

Normally, I wouldn't devote a whole blog post to a Friday night singing because generally speaking, there's not much to tell. I go, I sing, I come home; but, today is different because there is a lot to tell about the singing I went to this past Friday night. 

Last month at the singing at Lincoln, I made plans with Erika's mom (and Erika) to go to the singing at Mt. Carmel which is between Athens and Rogersville. We finalized our plans this past week and come Friday afternoon, I met Kay at Erika's house and we drove out to Erika's office and soon the three of us were on our way. One of Erika's co-workers gave her excellent directions for back roads through Limestone County so that we were able to avoid the Friday afternoon traffic on Highway 72. The directions were a huge blessing because we got there very easily with no trouble or traffic, arriving about 30 minutes before the singing started. 

When we pulled into the parking lot, there were maybe five cars there and I've gotta admit, I wasn't too hopeful for the night ahead. We made our way inside and found a pew close to the front and spread out a little so we wouldn't be too crowded. We saw a few familiar faces here and there, but mostly the room was full of people we didn't know. About 15 minutes before the singing was to get started, I made my way to the back for a restroom break and noticed that the building was filling up fast and there were people lined up out the door to get in. Soon, men started bringing in folding chairs because we were at standing room only capacity. I'm not sure how many people that small auditorium holds, but by the time the count was done, there were 352 people packed in. 

The singing itself was fantastic. Usually at these events, we make it through all the leaders and then about halfway through again. At Mt. Carmel, there were so many leaders that we only made it through the list once. Now, that can be a good thing or a bad thing. Good because some leaders you don't necessarily want to lead again and bad because there are some leaders who I'd like to lead all night long. There was a pretty good mix of songs - slow and fast. There were some songs that really needed the pace picked up. There were familiar songs and songs that were so old even I had not heard them before. Overall, the actual singing portion of the night was fantastic. The building was swelled with song and it was so beautiful and moving. One of the black men who lead a song warned us that he might not lead like most of us were used to because to him the notes on the page were just a suggestion and that got the crowd rolling! 

When the singing was over, snacks were served. I told Erika and Kay that the folks at Mount Carmel might have to go out during the singing and make some more sandwiches because I didn't know if there would be enough food for everyone. As it turns out, in addition to the snack food the ladies at the church provided, the church also had catered fried fish, barbecue, coleslaw, hush puppies and potato salad from The Hickory Barn which is apparently somewhere close by. Y'all that fish was delightful as was the tarter sauce that accompanied it, which is a big plus! All I ate was fish and hush puppies and then went back for more. It was so good! Erika and Kay sampled not only the fish, but also the barbecue and some of the homemade treats from the ladies of the congregation. We ate until we could eat no more and there was still food left over. It was like the miracle of the five loaves and two fish. 

Since first writing this, I have learned from Erika that the folks at Mt. Carmel did in fact go out and order the catering while we were singing. They realized that they did not have enough food to feed all of those who came and placed the order with The Hickory Barn. So, that explains why there was an abundance of food and also why there was a combination of catered food and homemade food. Erika discovered this because her co-worker who had provided us the good directions was actually eating at The Hickory Barn when the catering order came in. It's a small world, y'all. It was so nice of the folks at Mt. Carmel to provide all that food for everyone. 

When we were done eating, we got in the car and made out way back to Huntsville, talking about what a great night it was at Mt. Carmel. We have it two thumbs up, five out of five stars, the best Friday night singing we've ever attended and we have already made plans to be there again next year. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Agape Fundraiser and Auction

I'm sure most of you know that I serve on the Board of Directors for Agape of North Alabama, a Christian foster care and adoption agency that serves the northern Alabama area. I've been on the board for almost a year and am blessed to be able to help in this capacity. Coming up on August 27, we are having our annual fundraiser dinner and auction. It will be at 6:00 p.m. at Baron's Bluff at Burritt on the Mountain. I would love to see a lot of familiar faces in the crowd and so this is my plea to please sign up and come to the dinner. I went for the first time last year and it was truly so much fun. Tables of eight can be purchased for $500 or you may purchase a single plate for $75. Please contact Alyse at 256-859-4481 and tell her Natasha sent you. I really hope you will all make an effort to be there! 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

It Happened Last Weekend

I had every intention of blogging last night and then fell asleep at 7:30 p.m. That's right, welcome to my exciting life and now you know why there's not much for me to write about these days. Actually, I have a bit of a sinus infection and went to the doctor after church on Sunday so I could nip it in the bud before it got any worse. Two shots and an oral prescription later, I was sent home and was feeling some better by the time evening rolled around. The steroid shot, however, prevented me from getting any sleep on Sunday night and so by the time I got home from work on Monday, I was more tired than I realized. I ate dinner, laid down on the couch to watch a TV show, and that was all she wrote. I woke up around 10:15 and moved from the couch to the bed and I was grateful to have gotten so much rest. 

As for the weekend, Friday night I moved grass, the one chore I always dread but am always so proud and thankful when it's done. It's not the most exciting thing to do on a Friday night, but it tends to be the one day of the week I have available to tackle to the task. My neighbor was having a gathering at his house and had a fire pit going and there was a slight breeze in the air and the humidity wasn't overbearing and it almost seemed like fall. Almost. 

Saturday morning I was scheduled to clean out closets ans cabinets with my dad and had wanted to start at 7:00 a.m., but when I woke at 6:00 a.m. he had sent a text message saying don't come until eight. So, I did some things around the house and got to my parents' house around eight and he was still sleeping. Mother, however, was awake. So, I fixed her some breakfast and went to work cleaning out her dresser and chest of drawers because someone recently bought the bedroom set and they are going to be picking it up sometime this week. So, I just knocked that out so that Ada wouldn't have to do it. A few months ago I had taken mother's blank note cards home with me since she can't write that well anymore and I thought I had gotten the majority of them, but ended up coming home with a lot more cards on Saturday as well. My dad wasn't feeling great and didn't want to do any cleaning or purging so after I finished up in mother's room, I hit the road. 

I ran some errands to Hobby Lobby and Sam's Club and then home where I noticed a missed call from my cousin. We played phone tag for a while but finally got in touch. They wanted to go to the lake for a few hours that afternoon and wanted to know if I could keep baby B. Well, of course! Who doesn't love some baby B time? So, I took a quick shower and then a quick nap and then headed over to Lauren and Jon Mark's and they went to the lake with their oldest while B and I hung out at the house. They got back a little before 8:00 p.m. and then we all went to Po Boy's to grab some dinner before parting ways for the night. 

Sunday morning I was up bright and early as I had signed up to cook breakfast for my Sunday school class. I made a casserole and cut up some strawberries that I had gotten at Sam's (and were super delicious). I put the casserole in the oven, got myself ready for church and then left. Which more or less brings us back to the beginning of this post where I ended up at the doctor's office after church and spent the rest of the day on my couch. Although, I must say, it had been four and half months since my previous sinus infection and that feels like an all-time personal record. 

Baby B!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Book Review - All The Light We Cannot See

Most of the books I review on the blog are out of obligation to a publisher or author and while I am grateful to have the opportunity to read and review books, sometimes the subject isn't necessarily one I would have chosen for myself.

Today, I bring you a brief review of "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr. It is the first book I've chosen and read for pleasure in a long time and I am so glad I decided to splurge when I saw it sitting on the shelf at Sam's Club a few weeks ago.

I had heard about the book from a few different sources. I had seen it on the New York Times bestseller list in the Sunday edition of the NYT and it had been mentioned on at least one if not more blogs that I peruse from time to time. I really had no idea what it was about but figured it everyone loved it and it won a Pulitzer then it was probably good.

Y'all, this is seriously one of the best books I have read in years. I was captivated from the beginning. It moved me to tears, it made my heart race, it consumed my daily thoughts and often my dreams and I couldn't wait to see what was on the next page.

The book is set during World War II. It follows the lives of various people, but primarily a French girl names Marie-Laure and a young German boy named Werner. The story follows these two throughout the course of the war and tells the story of the trials they endure, the heartache they suffer and all they have to do to make it to the next day. I don't want to divulge much more because I wouldn't want to give the plot away and spoil it for you should you chose to read it. The stories are so intricate and detailed and I could so vividly see these people and the struggles of their lives.

If you are looking for a great book to read, look no further than "All the Light We Cannot See". I seriously cannot recommend this book enough. A tale for the ages.