Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Science Experiments for Kids Ages 2-6

Life is Good: we've got that down to a science

Some of you have emailed me and asked..."where are you?" Well, I haven't been on the blog, that is for sure. Many thanks to those of you who checked on me! We have had a little virus appear at our house and with both kiddos prone to croup, we had to pull out the nebulizer. Oh, I have a love hate relationship with that machine. I love that it works. I hate that we have to use it. But I am grateful that we have meds available so easily to take care of our two sweet boys.

And we've also been stuck inside off and on due to extremely cold temperatures. I am talking wind chills of 40 below zero. Yikes. I've said so many prayers for people who have to work outside in these conditions like postal carriers and the UPS driver. And of course, hoping all of those without a home have found a warm bed and meal inside.

After two days of no school due to these extremely cold temps, the big kid is back to school this morning. Do you think he looks warm?

I'm not going to lie, I was sad to see him go this morning. I started to get a tear. Man, I love spending time with that kid. I was also glad to get to sleep past 5:40 AM for a couple of days! And mostly, I was glad that school administrators made the difficult choice to keep kids home. I know that some of my friends were going a little stir crazy staying in the house with their kids and I understand how that can happen. Some of my friends who don't have flexible work schedules were also frustrated and I understand that, too. I am grateful that my schedule is flexible right now and also that I just plain love to be with my kids. But I also know that the school closings are not so much about our kids and me, but rather kids that don't have proper gear or have parents who leave very early each morning and the children have to get themselves ready and then wait for a bus that may or may not arrive on time. Here's a great op-ed piece written by a school nurse about the subject.

So what do you do when you are stuck inside the house for a couple of days? The better question is what don't you do!

I have a few "inclement weather/too sick to go out but feeling good enough to be bored" tricks that I employ at times like this. First of all, I had saved a few toys from Christmas. Our kiddos are fortunate to get way too much, so they didn't realize that I had kept a few back. I do this with birthday stuff, too.

We also had lots of snuggle time reading together. You will never regret time spent like this with your child. It is an intimate moment where the world stops. And they get so, so much out of books!

We played with toys that they don't play with all of the time. You know, the toys that don't get dragged out every day. Maybe they are in a bin that is a little too high or just not top of mind. All of a sudden, they feel "new", too.

We also did some "special projects". The mere mention of these two words and my kiddos get excited! The anticipation itself cuts the boredom in half!

Our big kid came home last week talking about how his science teacher mentioned making a "lava lamp" at home and told the kids she saw it "on the computer", so I did a quick web search and found the instructions. While I was at it, I bookmarked a couple of other fun, but simple ideas using ordinary household ingredients. This came in handy when, all of a sudden, we were stuck inside due to cold weather!

So, the lava lamp lived up to the hype! We used a pilsner glass (but a plastic bottle would be great and you could shake it up and stuff). Here's how to make your own:
1. Get a clear glass or plastic bottle
2. Fill it 2/3 full with cooking oil
3. Add water to that, leaving about 2 inches from the top of your glass/bottle
Notice how the oil and water stay separated? And the oil floats to the top?

4. Drop in 5 drops of food coloring, slowly, one at a time
We noticed that our drops stayed like drops for quite a while and then slowly, each one "exploded" and flowed downward into the water

5. Drop in 1/4 tablet of Alka Seltzer and watch it react

Look at it from all angles. What's going on in there? What does it sound like? What does is smell like? What is in bicarbonate that makes this happen?

The bubbles and "lava" change as the Alka Seltzer tablet dissipates...

As with most science experiments, this is all about the observation and the waiting, which is really great since "patience" is a concept that our 5-year old has been struggling with lately!

Before each step, we talked about what we could see and hear and smell. We also hypothesized. We wondered about what might happen before we took each step. Our always enthusiastic 2 1/2 year old enjoyed all of this, too, which was also fun to watch.

We had so much fun with the blue food coloring, that the big kid wanted to try green...

And purple!

Of course, the "scientist" in me thought this looked like art! ; )

I found the lava lamp idea here.


We also made "fizzy paintings". We mixed baking soda & food coloring to make our own "watercolors". The big kid used them to paint a scene of "fish in the water".

Then, he dropped teaspoonfuls of vinegar on the painting and watched it fizzzzzzzzzzz!

We talked about what the fizzing bubbles were doing and how the vinegar was changing or not changing the painting. We talked about how this was a "reaction".

We talked about why the bicarbonate in the baking soda reacted to the vinegar. And we remembered that the lava lamp also reacted due to bicarbonate.

We also sprinkled a little salt on the painting to see what would happen. (Nothing happened, but it was still fun to experiment!)

The next day, the big kid was surprised to see that his painting looked much paler than when it was wet. It was much paler. (Sorry, I didn't take a pic!)

Here's how to make your own watercolors for this project (this makes a small amount):
3 tablespoons of baking soda
2-3 drops liquid food coloring
a few drips of water (to make it spreadable)

You can really control the amount of "paint" you make and how thick it is. The thicker it is, the more baking soda that you use and the more the painting will fizz in reaction to the vinegar. We varied the thickness of the different colors of paint to see which colors fizzed more. Not bad for a mom who will never be a science teacher, huh!?!

Here's the post where I found the "baking soda watercolors" recipe. She suggests trying a spray bottle with vinegar or eye droppers. We didn't have those downstairs and little brother was napping upstairs, so we will have to try that next time.


We also did a quick experiment with milk, food coloring, and dish detergent. It wasn't anything worthy of a Nobel Prize, however, the big kid liked it all the same. And I liked that it was a vehicle for talking about science. We waited and we watched. Observation is so important, isn't it? Not just for scientists, but for humans, too. We earthlings miss so much of the goings on of this earth because we are blazing through life and not observing. My kiddos have really taught me to stop and marvel at more in this world.

First, I filled a clear jar with water and a clear pie plate with milk. We talked about the differences between the two liquids.

Then, I put one drop of purple food coloring in each liquid. See how the color travels throughout the water, but stays still in the milk? That is because of the fat content in the milk.

 So we added more color...

But it still stayed put...until we added a dash of liquid dishwashing detergent...

And then the colors started to move! So we used a straw to stir them up a little more...

Does that look like a Jackson Pollock painting or what? Oh, sorry! Back to the science! So we talked about how the detergent has a property in it that cuts through grease (fat) and that's why the color started moving.

We kept stirring with the straw. And it started to look like the Earth!

In the pursuit of science, we decided to see what would happen if we added the jar of purple water...

And this happened...

Gorgeous art! I mean, science!

We used the straw again and stirred up some green color from the base of the dish...

And then, we decided to throw some baking soda in there...

It didn't do anything but make the color kind of chalk-y. But it made us feel very scientist-y! I found the experiment here, but of course, we put our own spin on it. Like good scientists do. ; )

So what did we learn from all of this? I think our kiddo learned to take time to watch what might happen (still working on the patience thing, but this helped) and he learned that there are all kinds of amazing things that this world has to offer. I think he learned that some extraordinary (for a 5 year old) things can happen using ordinary ingredients. And I learned that I don't have to be a scientific genius to teach my child basic science. And as always, the time spent together was the magic and the activity was just a vehicle driving us straight to each other's hearts.

And that wasn't all. We also did some fun art activities...stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winter Activities

Life is Good: everything is relative, right?

This meme sums me up in a nutshell:

I stole it from my cousin's Facebook feed. You can find it at

It's true. This is me with a capital ME. I grew up in Kansas, where it snowed a couple of times a year and only enough to soon turn brown and slushy and then melt away. And I still complained and swore I would move somewhere warm "when I grow up".

And I did. Atlanta was warm in the winter and hot in the summer and I enjoyed ever (sweaty) drop of it. And then I got an offer for a job from a guy who was doing big, creative things in a very cold and snowy place. So I took the offer and told myself it would only be for a year.

Well, the job was good for my resume (reel). And so I stayed. And then Grant finished his Ph.D. and moved up here, too. At our wedding, we told everyone that we would start looking for jobs somewhere else as soon as our honeymoon was over.

But that didn't happen. I went freelance in a city full of opportunities and Grant took a position where he could grow and grow. And then my belly grew. And then it grew again. And all of a sudden, we still live in Minnesota and with two kids.

This place has been good to us, but I still grimace and grunch about the winter. Some winters have been mild and we've muddled through. The past couple of recent ones have been painful.

Including this winter. Last week, the first two days of school after the winter break were canceled because of the sub-zero temps. We kept the little boys warm and inside for most of that time. So after a week of that, 25 degree weather felt downright bearable. And this weekend, when it hit 40, it almost felt like summer!

We had a great weekend. We ate out. We walked around. We went sledding. And even walked on Lake Harriet. That's right. Not around, but on Lake Harriet. After those brutally cold temps, the ice is definitely safe enough to take more than a few steps out.

Below, the big kid with our goddaughter, the daredevil! She even held on to the edge of his sled and went down the hill on her stomach!

And our foray onto Lake Harriet. The proof we were on the ice is the bandshell in the background!

Typically, I would frown at forty degree weather. So I thought I should document this. Me, smiling in under 70 degree temps.

I have a few phrases that I use quite often. One is "Everything is a phase. Including the good stuff." I'm pretty sure that this is my own invention. And it is true. This moment is just a part of a stage in life. So if it is rough, don't worry. It won't last. And if it is great, enjoy it. Because it can't last. We, especially our children, are in a constant state of change.

I also often say, "It could be worse!" And, wow. The past week really proved that to be true. So the next time I frown about temps below freezing, I will (attempt to) turn it upside down, knowing that the temps could be below zero.

And, if I have to, I will look at the picture above.

Warmly (well, kind of),

Monday, January 13, 2014

Best Parenting Advice Ever

Life is Good: words to live by

Just in case you haven't "liked" How to be Pleasant -A blog on facebook (why haven't you! go do it!), I want to say thank you for all of the kindness shown to me this week. I have received many emails and facebook messages and a few comments and phone calls about this week's posts about my UN-Christmas letter, the day our cold water pipe froze in our kitchen, my lack of uninterrupted showers during winter break, and even my post about Mary during Advent and it is so lovely to know that these posts are touching other people!

This blog is for our two curly-haired little boys. It is all for them. The thoughts, the recipes, the favorite quotes of inspiration...all for them. However, I have discovered that more of you are reading this little blog than just my mom and my dad! ; ) Of course, I can't see who exactly is reading this.  But I am able to decipher the home country of readers. I continue to be amazed that hundreds and some days, even thousands, of people all over the world---in places like China and Turkey, Germany, Finland, and Greece, France, Russia, the good ol' USA, and more---are reading this silly little blog of mine. So I just want to send my greatest gratitude your way. It is really uplifting and encouraging. I'd love to hear how you found my blog and why you read it. Feel free to email me at!

A few of you had some lovely words to say to me about my thoughts on parenting and I thank you so much. I am just trying to do my best with what has been given to me. I have the privilege of knowing some very thoughtful, intentional mothers who love to share the ups and downs of parenting as much as I do and I am grateful for their friendship. I tend to be a sharer and relational in conversations. I think this is so helpful with parenting---and with life, in general. When we share our own experiences, we learn from each other and when we can show how we relate to what someone else is saying, I think it can create a bond and affirms the other person's feelings or stance.

I try to keep my eyes and ears open all of the time. I feel there is so much that I can learn--about parenting and life--from others. But the best parenting advice I ever received wasn't even told to me as advice.

As many of you know or have read on this blog, my older sister passed away when I was a little girl. My parents were always open to talking about her and I so very appreciate that. They did their very best to keep our life and our family as "normal" as possible after her death. When I think about it, I am absolutely amazed that they kept their marriage in tact through their grief. And I am so grateful for that. It is crippling to imagine what it feels like for a parent to have their child pass away.

When I was about 27 or 28 or even 29 (so a couple of years ago...ha!), I went to visit my parents. One night, my mom and I sat on the couch and she rubbed my feet for me. Yes, this is just one reason why she is the greatest mama ever! We began to talk about my sister. My guess is that we probably were talking about her spunk or her mischievousness. She was sassy! ; ) Then, we began to talk about her death. And our faith. And I asked my mom how ever was she able to make it through that? I wasn't yet a parent and I still couldn't imagine how she didn't throw herself out of a window or tear all of her hair out or need a padded room. It was unimaginable. And what she said to me was equally mind-blowing.

She said, "I had to keep it together for you and your brother. I owed it to you both. And I clung on to the fact that she was God's child first. She was His. And He had shared her with me. With us. I had to be grateful for the time we were allowed together." She explained that she didn't think it was in God's plan for her to die, but that when she became ill, God showed mercy on her and our family and took her pain away. She had to accept that she had gone Home. She clung to her faith, which sustained her.

I am not a person who is often at a loss for words, but this left me speechless.

When I returned from my trip, I remember telling Grant what she had said. He was equally impacted. We both spoke of our admiration for my mom's strength and faith. We made a pact, then and there, that if we were blessed with children, that we would always remember my mom's words. That this is how we would parent. These would be the words that would guide us as a family.

And so this is how I start each day. I remember that these children are a gift. They are a gift shared with us. They are sent from heaven on loan. And that they are God's children first. When I remember this, I remember that they are people, not objects. That they are treasures. Gems more valuable than jewels. And when I remember this, I don't try to control them or use conditions for love. When I remember this, I accept them for who they are and not who I think they should be. When I remember this, I feel grateful for each teeny tiny little spec of a moment with them---even the sleep deprived ones, even the trying ones, every single one.

No, we're not perfect. Oh, let me say that again. No, we. are. not. perfect! Yes, we have an occasional bad moment and even fewer rough days, but I believe that because we start from the right place, from the place of intention and gratitude, those valleys are less often and the peaks more predominant.

I believe we have darkness to appreciate the light and getting through rough times makes us appreciate the good ones. And I always try to find a lesson in a challenge so that something positive comes out of it all. My sister's life and death have taught me a lot. And I am still learning from her. And I am still learning from my parents, too. 

"Thank you" seems so insignificant, but it is true. Thank you, mom and dad. From the deepest part of my heart. Thank you for the words of faith and love and strength that guide me as a mother and guide us as a family. And thank you, heavenly father, for the gift of these children, these precious little people, whom you have entrusted with us. Guide us, keep us, protect us so that we might have all the time we want together.

                                                                From Jalipeno on Etsy

Thursday, January 9, 2014

How to write a Christmas letter

Life is Good: I don't have to write a Christmas letter!

Last week, as I was finishing up our Christmas cards... No, you don't have to re-read that. It is true. I subscribed to the "Christmas is twelve days long" theory this year. Some people got their cards before Christmas, some right after Christmas, and some, a week after Christmas. I promised myself that I would not stress out during Christmas this year and that meant that our cards went out late in some instances. I'm okay with that. So anyway! As I was finishing up cards, I thought about Christmas letters. We received many photo cards this year, but few letters. I always enjoy the updates and as a writer, like to see how people craft their messages and what tidbits they choose to include. As I placed stamps in each corner of our red envelopes, I imagined what our letter might say.

I would probably start with Grant:
Grant is a wonderful daddy who goes in to work in the wee hours so that he can race home and spend time with us at the end of the day. He has become a master ninja turtle illustrator, builds enormous lego creations, and now knows who One Direction are. He is still loving his job, gratefully.  He would never tell you that he is doing important work, being asked to talk at fancy events, and held in high esteem by perspicacious people. But I would! Because I am so proud of his hard work and talents.

Later, when I would let Grant read the letter, he would ask for me to delete everything after the word, "gratefully" and I would.

Next, the big kid. Where to begin? It has been such a momentous year. I would probably stick to milestones...preschool graduation, beginning kindergarten, first basketball lessons. I would mention our trip to Florida where our house rental had a trampoline that he loved and our trip to Mt. Rushmore where we ran the streets of downtown Rapid City looking for statues of presidents. I would report the first two lost teeth and what a loving big brother he is.

And our little one. This year has been the most monumental for him. He's gone from a couple of words at a time to extraordinarily complex sentences. He's seemingly unstoppable around the biggest of kids. His sense of humor continues to get bigger and so do our reactions to it. He started going to a morning dropoff playroom once a week which he adores and continues to take art lessons. Like his brother, he is full of hugs and smiles and sunshine. Though, he has mastered every two year old's favorite word, "NO!" (Which often is accompanied by, "yes", as in "NO! Yes, please.")

And then on to me. I know myself best of all, right? I should be the easiest one to write about. And yet...what would I say?

Susie did not run a marathon this year. Or participate in a mud run. Or get paint splattered on her as she raced past onlookers. She did chase little boys around the house a lot, plant many footsteps at the Arboretum, and jump over numerous cracks in the sidewalk. Susie did not go on a girls' trip to Las Vegas or a warm, sandy beach. She did drink cold lemonade in the sunshine while admiring three handsome dudes in their swimsuits running through the sprinkler. And got an occasional pedicure, often with a girlfriend or two. Susie didn't get promoted to VP of anything. She was told many times, though, that she is "the best mommy ever" and she "has the bestest ideas of anybody" approximately 278 times. Susie didn't read important fiction novels, take regular yoga and spin classes, join a running club, take an adult education course, go to happy hours, or have much "me" time of any sort. However, she laughed a lot, received millions of hugs, got messy, and stretched her brain with a lot of "we" time. She created memories, she participated in special moments, she engaged herself in important lessons.

Susie...nothing out of the ordinary, but for in my little opinion, extraordinary. One day, I will have all of the time in the world for a spin class (but will I want to go?) or a trip away with girlfriends (but will I rather go with my husband?) or a million other things "all about me". But this past year, and right now, in this moment, it is all about "us". That is my choice. I choose for my "me" time to be "we" time. I think it makes for a stronger marriage and a more secure family. And that makes "me" happy.

So that is my UN-Christmas letter. I guess it was better that I just sent a photo card! ; )

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! And so that I don't feel late on everything...Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What to do when your pipes freeze

Life is Good: even on the most rotten of days

I know that I am all about "keeping it pleasant", but I am also all about keeping it real. So here goes.

Yesterday was a rotten day. If I weren't a wife and a mama, I would have taken to my bed with a pint of Ben & Jerry's and watched movies as I felt sorry for myself. Okay, that's a bit dramatic. But so am I.

I slept horribly. I had some major things on my mind and they kept me awake and inhabited my mind when I did find sleep for moments at a time. I awakened to a frozen cold water pipe in the kitchen. The hot water worked, but the cold was completely absent. The dishwasher would not turn on (and all handy types said this had nothing to do with the cold water pipe being frozen.).  I had all of the contents from under the sink strewn about my kitchen cabinets. And clutter makes me nuts. I mean, crawling out of my skin, blood pressure-raised nuts.

But I had two little curly-haired dudes ready to party. So I had no choice. I rose to the occasion. We played super heroes, legos, castle, and cars. We made art. And more art. And more art. We played "red light, green light" and "Simon Says". We sang and danced. And though I try not to wish days away, at 7 PM, I thought to myself, "I am so ready for this day to be over."

This morning, I awakened to the sound of the cold water in the kitchen sink blasting away. Though it faintly sounded like the hallelujah chorus, I flew down the stairs to turn it off. Then I threw caution to the wind and turned the dishwasher on. Why not try? The worst that can happen is that it won't make a noise. But it did make a noise!

And there you have it...a new day, a fresh start, smiles and cheers.

I just sent the big kid off to school for the first time since December 20th. School was canceled on Monday and Tuesday because of extreme cold. I mean, extreme cold. And while I was sad to see him go (cue sounds of sighs and gasps from some of my mama friends who are really ready for their kiddos to go back to school!), I know that he is happy to go back. And he needs to learn and run around and play with his friends. And we need to get back to our regular schedule and routine. I loved having both little boys home together and I lovvvvvvvvvvvvved sleeping in a little later in the mornings, but it is time. Time to go back to reality.

I have a few minutes before the littlest will awaken. So I checked email and pinterest. A new friend who feels like an old friend had sent me this graphic (yesterday).


How did she know? How did she know that yesterday was a rotten day? How did she know that I was doing some heavy lifting not to feel frustrated, broken down, even sorry for myself? How did she know that I needed some words, just a few, inspirational words?

Maybe she knew? Maybe she didn't know. But she acted. She thought of me and she wanted me to know it. And that is the most important piece of this all. The words are great, yes, indeed. But it was the thought that warmed my heart.

So let us all take the time to stop and let someone know that we thought of them. It might be a great quote or a text with a smiley face or a phone call. It might be a link to a sale on kids clothes or something else. Whatever it is, do it. Because the clock is ticking and time is going by oh, so fast.

One more graphic from my Pinterest feed. From the same, thoughtful new-old friend...

I like what this says, in general. But when I read it this morning, it reminded me of yesterday. Yesterday was a rotten day in many ways. But the cold water pipe was going to be frozen and the dishwasher was going to be stopped whether I stomped my feet and cried like a baby or whether I hiked up my big girl panties and strapped on a smile. I'm glad that I chose the latter. Besides the fact that my children would have been in shock & awe at mama throwing a tantrum (I think they might have laughed!), it wouldn't have been a good example. Instead, I told them what was going on. I told them that we might have to pay a lot of money for a new appliance. I explained that the pipes might break and it might mean a big mess and a lot of money. And then I showed them how to manage through it. We prayed, we put on insulated tape (shout out! great stuff!), we got an appointment with the plumber (for today...waaaah), and we went on with our lives, happily. Because time was going to pass anyway, so we needed to enjoy it.

There will be rotten days. And great days. And days in between. There will be ups and downs. But I hope that you enjoy these days, no matter what. You might as well, right?

 (or frozen pipes or dishwashers!)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Faith and Parenting

Life is Good: even too early in the morning

I am not a morning person. Excuse me. To be clear, I.AM.NOT.A.MORNING.PERSON.  However, since the big kid started school, I have had to pull up my big girl panties and wake up before the crack of dawn. Monday through Friday, my alarm is set for 5:40 AM. When I tell my friends that, they shudder. (And I throw up a little bit in my mouth.)

Truth be told, it is my choice to get up at that hour. I wake the big kid at 6:15. But I have discovered that I need that time to myself to get myself in order so that I can cheerfully greet the big kid, his daddy, and eventually the little one each morning.

Since we have been on winter break, I have fully taken advantage of slightly later, slower mornings. It has been heavenly. But it comes at a price. It means that I haven’t had that time to myself to get myself in order so that I can cheerfully greet our little family each morning.

Case in point: this morning in the shower. Today, our last day of holiday break. Oh, how I enjoy a piping hot shower. I do declare that showers are the answer to all of life’s questions. I use shower time to think. I go through the day’s schedule and anticipate or tweak. I think about things that are on my mind or heart. If I have a freelance project, I sometimes get my conceptual ideas in the shower. And I always take some shower time to pray. It is an excellent time to talk to God.

Except for this morning. I slept in a little, knowing that the big kid might wake up soon. And he did. As I am getting shampoo out of the bottle, I hear a knock. The big kid whisper hollers that he needs to tell me something. Okay. Come in.

Unfortunately, we obviously took a penny from Grandma and Granddad’s house by accident, I’m sorry to say. Therefore, it is not at their house anymore.”
“That’s okay. I am sure Grandma and Granddad are okay with us having one penny."
(However, if he had “otherwise and literally said “amazing” I would now know all of the words that I didn’t know that I say too much.)
He leaves the bathroom and forgets to shut the door, so I remind him, whispering as loudly as I can while still whispering.
The door shuts LOUDLY.

Back to that shower.
And another knock. And whisper yelling, “Mommmmmmmmeeeeeeeee.”
So I whisper loudly to come in.
“I need to go to the bathroom.”
“Go ahead.”
(Surprised, for some reason.) “Okay!”
He goes to the bathroom.
The toilet flushes. The water runs. I hear footsteps.
“Shut the door, please. Quietly. Your brother is still sleeping.”
The door shuts as quietly as a 100+ year old door can.

And now back to our previously scheduled shower…
Or not. A door opens.
Whisper shouting, “Mommmeeeeee!”
“I need to go number two now.”
(In my mind, “Since when do you need permission?”) “Go right ahead.”
He uses the bathroom.
I hear footsteps.
“Remember to flush and wash your hands.”
“But the flush and water is loud.”
“Flush and wash your hands, please.”
He does.
“And shut the door, please.”
Boom. It shuts.

And now, conditioner.…
But a door opens. “Mommy?”
“Do you know where Chewbacca is? Not my Pez Chewbacca. My new little Chewbacca.”
“Where was it the last time you saw it?”
“My bedroom.”
“Well, why don’t you look in there then.”
“Shut the door, please.”
Boom goes the door.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Conditioner.
The door opens with enthusiasm and bangs into the wall. “Mommy! I found Chewbacca!”
Whispering with intention, “That is great. Do you think you could please play in your room until I am done with my shower? And let’s try to be quiet so that your brother can sleep. He needs his rest.”
Footsteps run out.
Footsteps run back in.
Loudly with pride, “I forgot to shut the door!”
Swing and bang! It shuts.

I rinse the conditioner out of my hair and I begin to say a prayer. “Dear Lord, thank you for my many blessings. Including that little boy who…”
The door swings open and bangs into the wall again.
“Yes, darling.”
Unfortunately, my brover is awake now.”

Sigh. Of course he is.

Well, this morning I didn’t take time with my thoughts. I didn’t take time to coif my hair as much as I would have liked to. I didn’t take time to look at myself in the mirror after I dressed. But I did take time to finish that prayer.

Dear Lord, thank you for that sweet little boy who interrupted me over and over in the shower. Thank you for the boy and the interruptions, too. The little boy who fills us up with laughter and smiles and wonder and curiosity. Who fills our days with joy and love like they never were before. Thank you for interruptions and tests and disruptions that give me the opportunity to teach and show patience, kindness, and grace. And thank you for that other little boy who woke up and kept me from spending too much time on myself outward appearance so that I could spend that much more time on what counts…what is inside our hearts.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Best Lobster Bisque Recipe Ever!

Life is Good: and overflowing with bisque!

I hope you all had a wonderful New Year's Eve! I wish you the greatest of God's blessings in 2014. May peace reside in your hearts and in those around you and may joy & laughter overtake all situations.

I had a couple of people email me about the lobster bisque I talked about in this post. Please feel free to post comments below individual blog posts or email me at or post on the How to be Pleasant-A Blog facebook page with any questions or comments. I am always open to your communication!

Here is the recipe! I looked at three recipes--this one, this one, and this one to create my own. I am leaving off an ingredients list because I think it is easier to follow along with instructions only.

Susie's New Year's Eve Lobster Bisque
1. Cut through the centers of two 10- 12 oz. lobster tails, breaking through the shells (frozen is okay if you can't get fresh)
2. Salt some water (I use Himalayan Pink Salt) in a steamer pot and place the lobster tails (shell side down) in the steamer section, and bring to a boil.
2. Steam for 7-10 minutes.
3. Turn off heat and allow lobster tails to cool in the steamer. (Keep the lobster steaming water to use later.)

4. In a stockpot, melt 2 sticks of salted butter under very low heat.
5. Add 1/2 cup finely minced yellow (or Vidalia) onion and 2 teaspoons minced garlic to the melted butter.
6. When lobster tails are cool, remove meat from the shells (try to keep it all in one piece) and place lobster shells in stockpot. If you need to turn off the heat on the stockpot until the meat is cooled, do so. Don't burn your butter!
7. One tablespoon at a time, add 10 tablespoons of flour to the melted butter mixture, making sure to avoid lumps.
NOTE: Make sure that the heat on your stockpot is low throughout this process. If you need to, turn off the heat completely between steps. Don't burn your base or the bisque will be ruined.
8. Deglaze the stockpot with 2 cups of white wine (Chardonnay is preferable) or chicken stock. Stir thoroughly so that you don't have any lumps. Add 2 1/2 cups of the salted water that you steamed your lobster tails in to this mixture.
9. Allow to simmer for a few minutes, then take out the shells.

10. Add 4 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, 1 1/2 teaspoons thyme, and 1 teaspoon celery salt to mixture (celery salt is optional if you are watching your sodium).
11. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika and 4 bay leaves to the mixture. Keep simmering.
12. Stir in 6 ounces of tomato paste to the mixture. Allow to simmer for a few minutes.
13. Add two dashes of black pepper to the mixture.
14. Add 6 cups heavy cream to mixture and allow to simmer for several minutes.
15. Add 1 1/2 cups milk (I use whole milk) to soup mixture (or more milk or lobster water from the steamer if you want to thin out the bisque).
16. Remove the bay leaves.
17. Cut up lobster meat in various-sized pieces and add to soup. Allow to simmer.

Serve with a crusty bread like Ciabatta. Makes approximately 6 large servings (bowls).

As always, the first time that you make this recipe is the most difficult. The second time is super easy (really!). With this recipe, you can adjust the amounts of cream, milk, tomato paste, herbs, and salt to achieve your family's perfect flavor.

I hope you not only enjoy the end product, but also the cooking process! I really enjoy the act of cooking. It makes me feel close to my grandma and mom, two great cooks. It also is a "slowing down" time for me and a time that I can think, pray, and process.