Thursday, April 30

Tomorrow and All Next Month

Tomorrow will mark five years since Adam and I got married. In celebration of this occasion, the month of May will be "Love Month" here at Experience Imagination.

Twice a week (on Tuesdays and Thursdays), I will be sharing our story of how we met, fell in love, and eventually married. I'll also share some tips on creatively expressing your love, some romantic thoughts, and a few of my favorite marriage posts from the archives.

I hope you will come back often and celebrate with us!

Tuesday, April 28

Audio Books

Do you "read" audio books? Our library subscribes to an online service that allows me to download hundreds of audio books just by using my library card. I'm not sure I really like the idea, though.

On a convenience level, it would be great to listen to a book while I crochet or do housework or my hands are otherwise occupied. But I'm not sure how I feel about being read to. It seems strange to me.

Those of you with experience in this area, what do you like or dislike about audio books? Does it work better for some genres than others? Did you find it distracting to listen to someone speaking, telling a story, rather than listening to, say, music?

Any suggestions for a particular book or author I should listen to first?

Sunday, April 26

The French Connection

I started out with the best of intentions, but clearly, my 2009 Reading List has suffered for the past several weeks. I can't even remember all the books I've read since I last updated it. Sorry about that. I would like to recommend a few that I have finished recently and enjoyed. It is only coincidence that they are all set in France.

The Provence Trilogy by Peter Mayle
A Year in Provence
A review of the year after moving with his wife from a busy career in London to living in the rural south of France. ☺☺☺☺☻
Toujours Provence
More notes on living and eating in Provence, particularly since the publication of a popular book. ☺☺☺☻☻
Encore Provence
The couple returns home to France after a several-year sojourn in New York. ☺☺☺☺☻

Am I the only one who didn't realize that A Year in Provence was not a work of fiction? I thought it was a novel when I requested it from the library. I was quite surprised to find myself reading a series of personal essays on life in the south of France. Despite the genre not meeting my expectations, the book itself (and its sequels) were quite enjoyable.

Kissing Adrien by Siri L. Mitchell
I found this on the discount shelf in my local Christian bookstore. After reading the blurb on the back, I wasn't sure whether I'd like it or not, but, since it was on sale and I was in the market for a new chick-lit novel, I went ahead and got it. I'm so glad I did.

Adrien is the family friend all the girls wished we had--he knows Claire so well he can almost read her mind. It's been a few years since they'd been together, but Adrien is just as handsome as always, and, unnervingly, still able to see the Claire beneath the surface that even she barely sees in herself. A feel-good book that asks some great questions about what it really means to be a Christian along the way. ☺☺☺☺☻

Saturday, April 25

Tub Toys

My daughter recently decided that she did not have enough selection among her bathtub playthings. Unfortunately, she chose to remedy that situation on her own. Despite my attempts to explain the properties which make good bath toys, she hasn't quite gotten the message. So, I started a list of of items she is forbidden to take into the tub.
  1. Baby dolls or stuffed animals
  2. Bandages (actually, she's not supposed to play with these at all, but a reminder never hurts)
  3. Books or paper of any kind
  4. Cans, bottles, or anything taken from the recycling bin
  5. Clothing, hats, purses, or shoes
  6. Dishes, clean or dirty
  7. DVDs
  8. Food
  9. Paints
  10. Remote controls or any toys with batteries
While I was at it, I made a list of approved toys for her bath.
  1. Boats, captains, and boat dock
  2. Football
  3. Miniature frisbee
  4. Pail and shovel
  5. Plastic fish, alligator, and bird
  6. Rubber duckies
  7. Schoolhouse sorting toy
  8. Washcloth (but just ONE)
Also, I'm still looking for comments describing what you love about parenting. If you haven't left one yet, please check out this post for details.

Wednesday, April 22

What Do You Love about Being a Mom (or Dad)?

This has been a tough week parenting for us. Our daughter has now learned how to reach all of the places in the house where we previously stored things that she wasn't supposed to touch. The top of the refrigerator? Gone. The high shelves in the closet? Gone. The rack above the washing machine? So gone.

She's gotten into the paints (twice) and applied handprints to her bedroom wall, floor, and window. She's taken a new roll of toilet paper out from under the sink and unrolled it into the toilet. She opened up boxes of Christmas decorations, throwing most of the ornaments on the floor and cutting others up with the pinking shears.

It's been a tough week.

I need some help remembering why it's great to be raising kids. If you are a parent, or if you want to be someday, or if you know parents, can you leave me a comment? Help me refocus on the wonderful aspects of raising another generation.

Thank you.

Tuesday, April 21

I Almost Won Something

I got an e-mail last night that I am the third runner up for Scribbit's April Write-Away Contest! My almost-winning entry is Clothes Make the Mom, way back from my first year of blogging.

The Write-Away Contest hosted by Scribbit

Click on the winner button above to see the whole list of entrants and read more about this month's theme: Mom.

Monday, April 20

Chocolate Research

According to this study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, "Based on scientific findings to date, acute doses of chocolate-derived procyanidins can induce transient cardioprotective effects in humans ... More research is needed to identify the amount and specific class or composition of flavonoids in cocoa/chocolate that exhibit beneficial health effects."

Sadly, there is no mention of where further research is being done and how I can sign up to eat chocolate for science.

Sunday, April 19

My Imperfections Are Showing

Because I really need to read this today, I'm sharing it with you all again.

Originally published June 20, 2007

I am reminded of a conference Adam sent me to last year. I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to be there and definitely wasn't in the mood (when we arrived) for all the high-energy praise music and hanging out with the rest of the women filling up the stadium. It just didn't feel like me. But the main speaker for the evening got up and shared her story about coming to terms with her own imperfections. By the end of her session, I was bawling with the best of them.

To admit I'm not perfect, even in the face of the overwhelming evidence, is soooo difficult. It's a matter of pride, I guess. I want other people to think I'm perfect (or at least be impressed with how close I've come), even when I know I'm not.

The thing is, God knows all about how imperfect I am. He knows because He knit me together this way. Humans are not perfect. That's part of our nature. And God loves me here in the midst of my imperfection. Sometimes, I have a really hard time trusting in that. I mean, it's so much easier to love someone when they're doing good stuff for you, right?

I'm glad that God is more perfect than I am. I just wish it were easier to believe that sometimes.

Saturday, April 18

Since It's Spring

It is definitely spring. The green is beginning to come back to the grass and trees, the weather is no longer dropping below freezing during the day, and the sun is finding time to regularly hide behind rain clouds.

That being the case, today seems a perfect day for Spring Cleaning. Our focus this spring is to simplify our lives and our household. No more boxes and boxes of junk we're saving just because. If an item does not have a specific purpose, out it goes.

Who came up with this idea? Oh, right. Me. Sometimes it's very had to be a crafty, practical person. My creative side wants to save every little bit because it might someday prove useful. My practical side wants to clear out the closet for what we know is useful everyday, like, say, clothes and shoes.

One part of my truly understands that I don't need to save ticket stubs from movies I saw in high school. Another part of me keeps claiming I'm going to put them in a scrapbook. After nearly 20 years, I'm guessing these scrapbooks aren't ever getting done. Bring on the trash bags!

Friday, April 17

Thngs that Make Me Go Hmmm ...

  • The temperature has been in the low- to mid-60s for the past couple of days. I have the windows open and as the sun has gone down, it's actually starting to feel a bit chilly sitting here in a t-shirt. Outside, I can hear my neighbors' A/C unit running.
  • I live in the largest city for about 200 miles in any direction. Sioux Falls has a science museum, a zoo, three professional sports teams, a major university, two hospitals, and a number of multinational corporations. When I step outside, I smell cows.
  • My computer's been acting up lately. If I turn it off overnight, it doesn't like to turn back on in the morning. If I leave it running all night, it works fine.
  • We went out to dinner the other night with a gift card to the Olive Garden. My daughter ordered spaghetti with meat sauce. She only ate about half of her spaghetti, but insisted on a second, then a third, serving of salad.
  • Adam and I have an anniversary coming up next month. We'll have been married for five years on May first. I looked up the traditional wedding gift list for inspiration. Year 5 = Wood. The "modern" traditional gift? Silverware.

Wednesday, April 15

Call the Papers, It's Official

Yup, I knew you were waiting for me to admit it. Here ya go: I'm officially turning into my mother.

Just this week, I heard myself tell my daughter, "Do you think I'm talking just to hear my own voice?"

And the other day I say a photo of a friend I hadn't seen in a while and my first comment was how much she had changed. My parents used to do this all the time and it would drive me crazy! So-and-so really lost the weight, or such-and-such is looking so much older. Now, I'm doing it myself.

Sigh. Next thing you know I'm going to be folding up aluminum foil and saving the bows from Christmas presents in old envelope boxes.

And maybe I need to practice, "Back in my day ..." Eh, I'm not quite old enough for that yet. Maybe when I turn into my grandmother. *shudder*

Tuesday, April 14


Printed, signed, stamped, and mailed.

My taxes, they are gone. Now I can just sit back and wait for the refund to come rolling in. What do you suppose I should do with the $4 we're getting from the state of Illinois? Maybe a muffin at Starbucks?

Monday, April 13

Death, Resurrection, and Taxes

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter. We didn't really do much to celebrate. We dyed some eggs, which, in retrospect, was probably not a good idea as it inspired our daughter to dye herself. Her face, hair, hands, feet, and legs now sport several color splotches reminiscent of Jackson Pollock. I'm glad I didn't go out and buy a pretty Easter dress; she surely would have clashed.

Actually, I've not been feeling very well this weekend, so we didn't make it out to church on Sunday at all. I feel like I've missed the whole Easter season this year. Our former church celebrated Easter in a very big way and not being a part of everything this year made it a little harder for me to really feel like we've been in a holy season.

I can't remember if I mentioned it earlier, but I started doing our taxes on January 3rd. Unfortunately, there was one statement I was waiting for from the Illinois Department of Employment Security that never showed up. After waiting past the January 31st deadline, Adam called the customer service number on at least two separate occasions (but I'm pretty sure it was three).

The first time, we were told we had to change our address. No problem. Done. But rather than sending us the form I was looking for, they sent a packet on how to collect unemployment insurance from out of state. After resisting the temptation to see if we could file a claim, he called again. Either on the second call or the third, but certainly after he'd talked to a number of different people, he was finally able to speak to someone who looked into our account and said we didn't have any payments in 2008 because the last check was dated December 31, 2007. Sigh.

So I'm finally getting back to our taxes this week. Since I have all the stuff I need. Apparently.

Oh, and earlier this year, we got a fat booklet in the mail from the Illinois Department of Revenue. When I say "fat" I mean, this thing is 56 pages long. The front cover has a picture of a tree with tax forms on it and says in big black letters "Save A Tree (and fuel too) ... file electronically." There's also a cute little blue box that tells me "Last year Illinois taxpayers saved more than 12 million pieces of paper by filing their tax returns electronically." Uhm, yeah. Was this before or after the state government printed and mailed all these forms?

Saturday, April 11

Knitting with a Crochet Hook

File this under things I never knew were possible. Apparently there is a company called Amazing Yarns that makes crochet hooks with a small hole in the end through which you thread some string which allows you to crochet, knit, and tat all with the same tool.

After seeing some examples of the knitted projects, I had to try it out. Well, okay, I mocked up a homemade version because you know I couldn't wait for them to ship one from California. It really works. Stockinette, garter, knitting in the round--this is so cool! I have got to add these to my wish list.

I wonder if I could make cables. Hmmm ... must go play more.

Friday, April 10

FOs = Flying Objects?

There is a crafting term I have recently come across that took me several sightings to identify (puns entirely intended). For the record, FO stands for "finished object" and is generally seems to be used when showing off pictures of items one has completed. I have also seen UFO used for "unfinished object."

Today, I'm all excited about one of my long-time UFOs becoming an FO. I've been working for months on a lacy sweater for my daughter. Finally, a couple of days ago, I realized that I would never finish it and I frogged the thing. For those non-yarn-users, that means ripping out the stitches, because "rip it" sounds so much like "ribbit," or so I've been told. I started a new project that I'd made once before ... sort of.

Remember the doll I made a few months back for my 300th post contest? Well, the dress that doll was wearing, I patterned after an infant sleeper I'd found on Ravelry.

This week, I decided to make the pattern again, only as a shirt rather than a dress, and big enough to fit my daughter. I had to frog almost the entire project after I was just about finished with it because I'd miscalculated the shells (the bottom ruffly part) the first time. It was frustrating, but I think the end result is well worth the extra work. After tying in the ends, I had her try it on one last time for photos. She hasn't taken it off yet.

It matches so nicely with the gloves and the camo pants, don't you think?

Thursday, April 9

Gardeners, Any Tips?

When I was a kid, we had a large garden in our backyard. I have vague memories of planting potatoes under black plastic tarps, picking green beans way down low to the ground, and wandering through the corn that grew taller than I was. Unfortunately, the memories don't leave me with too many gardening tips.

I signed up this week for a plot in a community garden sponsored by a local church. I'm excited about the idea that we can grow some of our own food this summer. And a little apprehensive that I have no idea what I'm doing with this whole garden business.

For those of you with experience, what beginner suggestions do you have? Any great books or websites I should check out? Where do I start?

Monday, April 6

How Did It Get to Be Holy Week?

Honestly, I was halfway through yesterday before I realized it was Palm Sunday. Because of the snow, we didn't end up going anywhere for church (Adam even considered staying home from work). I'm so not used to being this out of touch with the church calendar.

Sunday, April 5

Simple Crocheted Hat Templates

One of my favorite things to crochet is hats. I find it so satisfying to begin and complete a project in a single sitting. A crocheting friend was asking recently for some easy hat patterns. I typed out my basic template for hats and realized that my crafty readers might like them as well.

With either style, you may use any yarn and make any size from preemie to adult, simply by changing the number of rows you increase.

Basic Cap or Cloche
  1. Start with a magic ring.
  2. Sc 6 into ring (do not join any rounds, but you may use a stitch marker if you desire).
  3. *Sc 2 into ea sc* around. (12)
  4. *Sc 2 in next sc, sc in next sc* around. (18)
  5. *Sc 2 in next sc, sc in next 2 sc* around.(24)
  6. *Sc 2 in next sc, sc in next 3 sc* around. (30)
  7. Continue increasing in this manner until hat is of appropriate diameter to fit wearer, then sc around even until hat is of appropriate length.
    1. Optional brim for cloche:
    2. *Sc 2 in next sc, sc in next 5 sc* around.
    3. *Sc 2 in next sc, sc in next 6 sc* around.
    4. Continue increasing in this manner until brim is of desired length.
    5. *Sc in ea sc* around.
  8. Tie off using futuregirl's invisible stitch technique, and weave in ends.

Basic Bucket Hat
  1. Start with a magic ring.
  2. Sc 8 into ring. Do not join any rounds.
  3. *Sc 2 into ea sc* around. (16)
  4. *Sc 2 in next sc, sc in next sc* around. (24)
  5. *Sc 2 in next sc, sc in next 2 sc* around.(32)
  6. *Sc 2 in next sc, sc in next 3 sc* around. (40)
  7. Continue increasing in this manner until hat is of appropriate diameter to fit wearer (if edges start to ruffle slightly, add a row of sc before next row of increases), then sc around even until hat is about ½"-¾" shorter than desired.
  8. *Sc 2 in next sc, sc in next 7 sc* around.
  9. *Sc 2 in next sc, sc in next 8 sc* around.
  10. Continue increasing in this manner until brim is of desired length.
  11. Tie off and weave in ends.

Saturday, April 4

Contest Links

It's snowing outside. We're under a winter storm advisory (wait, they've upgraded us since I checked last) blizzard warning through tomorrow afternoon. Apparently somebody didn't get the message about it being SPRING. Sigh. On to happier topics ...

For Writers

Do you read Scribbit? I can't remember how I first found Michelle's blog, but I would guess it was through the Thursday Thirteen meme (which is apparently down for the count). In any case, she holds this writing contest every month. I entered once before, but, sadly, didn't win.

This month the topic is "Mom." Finally, a subject on which I have some serious posts! This month's prize is a custom-made glass pendant from Glitzy Glass Stars.

You can join the fun, too. Just check out the instructions here.

For Music Lovers

The Roseville String Ensemble is an amateur orchestra based in the Twin Cities area funded almost entirely by donations. At present, they do not have the funds to continue into the 2009-2010 season. One of their members has set up a unique fundraising drive on her blog: She's having a drawing for three fabulous yarn and accessory giveaways. To enter, all you must do is comment; of course, all commenters are highly encouraged to make a donation to the ensemble.

Check out the details here and consider supporting this unique group.

Friday, April 3

Hellish Dates

I never watched reality shows before I met Adam. He got me started on American Idol, which we watched faithfully for about three seasons before our schedule interfered. He also got me started on Hell's Kitchen.

Last spring, we decided we were watching too much television and we needed to give it up. Ironically, that was the week after Easter. I felt like we spent too many hours simply vegging out in front of the TV and not enough on productive pursuits and interactive involvement as a couple and as a family. So, we threw out our rabbit ears and limited ourselves to watching DVDs.

I knew Adam would be missing the final few episodes of the season for Hell's Kitchen, and I was somewhat bummed on his behalf. I didn't mind watching a carefully selected show or three, it was the mindless evenings we wasted staring at whatever was on that bothered me. About that time, I discovered Hulu. Actually, I'm pretty sure I read about it on a blog somewhere as part of Works for Me Wednesday. I checked out the site and saw that they had episodes of Hell's Kitchen. I e-mailed the link to Adam, telling him I knew he'd really like to see how it all turned out.

He watched the rest on the season online and even began watching a few other shows. Meanwhile, the summer passed and football season started. We repealed the moratorium on television watching and we bought a new set of rabbit ears. We watched football on Sundays (when it was on, *sniff*), but we still don't watch much else on our TV besides movies. Then the new season of Hell's Kitchen came on couple of months ago.

I missed the first episode or two, but one night as Adam was about to start the show, he asked if I'd like to watch it with him. I said, "Sure," and we started watching the rest of the season together. It's become sort of a weekly togetherness ritual for us. On one of the nights that Adam gets home a bit earlier, we put our daughter to bed, snuggle up on the couch in front of the laptop and watch Gordon Ramsay yell at the hapless would-be executive chefs. It's the closest we get to a date night every week.

This isn't the sort of tradition I would have necessarily thought to start, but it's been really fun. We can watch whichever evening is convenient for us, and, best of all, it's free! If we wanted, we could even go all out and eat homemade gourmet popcorn while we watch. Actually, that sounds good. I might have to make some this weekend.

Thursday, April 2

Fresh Asparagus Omelet

Nothing says spring like fresh asparagus! I meant to take a photo of this dish, but by the time I was reaching for the camera, my family had eaten it all!

1 full bunch fresh asparagus, chopped into ½”-1” pieces
1 t butter or oil
1 medium onion, diced
8 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
6 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  1. Steam asparagus with 1 cup water for five minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Sauté onions in butter or oil over medium-high heat until translucent.
  3. Beat eggs with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Pour into well-greased 10” cake pan or soufflĂ© dish.
  5. Gently mix in asparagus and onions.
  6. Sprinkle with goat cheese crumbles.
  7. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 minutes or until the center is set.
  8. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Wednesday, April 1

Works for You: Sorting Program Buttons?

Today the powers that be (Kristen over at We Are THAT Family) have decreed a Backwards Works for Me Wednesday! That means I get to ask you to tell me how to do something. I hope you can help.

Okay, this is the point where I must admit I have moments of complete computer geekiness and I just can't help myself. Are we all okay with that? Good. Now we can move on to my little dilemma.

I use Windows XP. I have the lovely blue taskbar across the bottom that shows me which programs I have open. I'm a bit ... particular about the order my programs are listed. I like to have Firefox, for example, all the way to the left of the bar, right next to the Start button.

So, the program buttons' default position is the order in which they were opened. Normally that's not a problem for me, but once in a while, I've opened programs in one order, then I'll need to restart one or I find I'm cutting text back and forth between two programs or whatever and I just need the buttons in a different order.

I know I could close out of the programs and re-open them in the order I'd like, but it seems like there must be a simple way to just re-sort them without having to go to that bother.

So, for all of you computer-savvy folk who are willing to hold off on the "just switch to linux" discussions, please, tell me I can do this (and that you know the simple three-step procedure that will revolutionize my computing experience).

Thank you. That is all.