Monday, January 30, 2012

Jane Addams Hull House Closed

How many of us haven't thought about Jane Addams and the Hull House since high school?  Even living in Chicago, I pretty much never think about it unless something newsworthy, out of the ordinary happens for me to hear about it.  For 122 years, though, the people at the Hull House have been making a difference in Chicago.  They offered 50 programs for those in need with services in child welfare & foster care, education & literacy, homeless services including housing, senior services, and services for victims of domestic violence and their children.  They were a non-profit organization helping around 60,000 people in Chicagoland.

Today Chicago is different, though.  This is the first week in 122 years that the Hull House won't be helping anyone.  In a time of shrinking donations, the Hull House has closed its doors, unable to afford to fill the gaps in the government's social safety net.  

Some people these days say that government is too big and we should leave the responsibility of taking care of the poor and needy to charity and individuals.  I think this is a clear example of why we need the government to maintain services that help the poor.  It's great to give a dollar or some food to the homeless man on the corner.  It certainly makes us feel a little better in the warmth of our own homes, but it really doesn't help him much.  Charity can only do so much, and it can only do it if we as individuals give of our plenty.  Unfortunately, too many of us want to keep that plenty (or don't have it ourselves to give), and what we can't do through charity, the government can help to do whether we like it or not.  While deficits eventually need to be reined in, it shouldn't be at the expense of greatly needed government aid.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chewing a Tune

At dinner the other night, Hummingbird stopped eating after a few bites to tell us that she was "chewing a tune."  Then she asked, "Do you know what I mean?"

Daddy and I both understood, and Daddy said, "Of course, you're chewing to the beat in your head.  I do that sometimes."

"Really?" I said, "that's so odd."  I do quite a many odd things myself, but I don't chew my food to the music in my head.

So, we started wondering how many people have done/do this...  Do you?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

One More Fashion Post...

Okay, I am not a fashion expert, so I promise I won't keep this up much longer.  The next challenge was Open to Interpretation, ie. create an outfit inspired by a picture.

Here's the picture from J. Crew via Freckles in April. (I couldn't get the picture to post, so you'll have to link to it.)

And here's my take.

From the back because I love the small pleats
at the bottom of this skirt. 
And I must thank Lisa, who grew tired of
said skirt and gave it to me.

And from the front... 
You can't see the black heels very well,
but they have an adorable little bow at the toe.

Finally, another thought about the previous post. Hummingbird has no hesitation when it comes to mixing patterns, so when she stepped out of her bedroom today, I thought, Look at those patterns. I need a picture!  You may have to zoom in to see the polka dots on the leggings, but I love it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Mixing Patterns

I've been following Rebekah's 10 Day Fashion Challenge at Verdant Bents and have been inspired by her outfits.  Most winter days I find myself in velvet yoga pants and a fleece pull over.  I rarely feel feminine and pretty, but Rebekah's outfits have all fit that description.  Today's challenge was to mix patterns.  I am not a pattern mixer, so I thought this could be hard.  Nonetheless, I wanted to try it, and to make it feminine and pretty!

I knew exactly what skirt I wanted to be the base of my outfit.  It's long, flowing, and patterned; plus it's in my favorite brown and neutrals.  I thought I would add a cozy, fuzzy striped sweater, so I would still feel warm.  Nope, I wasn't feeling it.

Back to the closet...  Patterns, patterns, patterns... Aha! That one!  Not at all warm, though.  Cardigan -- thick, no thin, I think... Yes, that's the outfit.

And I really like it.  I decided not to wear it for more than a picture today, though, because tomorrow I am going to a wedding expo with a friend and this is the perfect outfit for it.  I'd love to know what you think, but if you don't like it, please wait to tell me so until Saturday evening when I'll be back in my velvet yoga pants and fuzzy fleece...

On Sundays, I could even add more patterns with the head scarf...  I think I like it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake

Just before Thanksgiving I saw a Wholefoods' recipe for Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake.  Not being a fan of pumpkin pie because I don't care for all the spices, I thought it would be nice to try something a little different.  However, I forgot to buy the cream and had to postpone the attempt.

Yesterday, I finally decided to make my own pumpkin pie cheesecake.  Because I wanted to be a bit quicker and wanted the recipe to be a little more to my tastes, I made a few adjustments.  My husband, who had been skeptical of the original recipe's potential, even had to admit that my take on it turned out quite well.

So here's the recipe for a quick and easy pumpkin pie cheesecake.

1 graham cracker crust (I bought mine from the store, but you could always make your own.)
1 cup pumpkin purée (I used homemade)
1 (8-ounce) package Neufchâtel or cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
toasted pecans, finely chopped (optional)
grated chocolate (optional)

In a large bowl, beat together pumpkin, Neufchâtel, 1/2 cup brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon until smooth and creamy. Pour evenly over crust; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat cream and 2 tablespoons brown sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread it evenly over the pumpkin mixture. Cover and chill for 8 hours, or overnight.

Top individual slices with a choice of chopped pecans, grated chocolate, or sprinkled cinnamon.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Where Is The Country Headed?

I've got to say I am very nervous about the upcoming 2012 presidential election.  I am worried about where the country may be headed, or more to the point who will take us there.

When I turned 18 years old, I jumped at the opportunity to register to vote, and when I registered, I registered as a Republican.  On the many occasions I had to register again as I moved from place to place, I always registered Republican.  Until four years ago, I also always voted Republican.  Two years ago, at the approach of the mid-term election I was even asked to be a Republican precinct judge.  I declined for I no longer find myself in line with the values of Republicans, especially Tea Party Republicans.  Knowing full well that Republicans often protected the values of a financially elite group, I could in the past accept that because they also firmly held to a pro-life ideology.  While they and I are still pro-life, I can no longer accept the former stance, not when it comes at the expense of everyday Americans.

I find myself becoming more and more frustrated with the Republican position each and every day.  They do not fail to say something that makes my blood boil and leaves me feeling like I need to write to my representatives in Congress and the White House.

Did Mitt Romney really say that the Occupy Movement's concern about inequality was all about "envy?!"  Mr. Romney I am not envious of you.  I do not want your $20 million a year.  All I want, and what most Americans want, is a fair wage that allows us to raise a family comfortably, to take a summer vacation with the kids.  Why should all of the wealth go to the CEOs, investment bankers, and venture capitalists? Don't the people who are actually doing the work and making the products deserve to be paid well for their services?  Just because you can take advantage of people, of their need for a job, doesn't mean you should.

Newt Gingrich recently said, "If you want your children to have a life of dependency and food stamps, you have a candidate, it's Barack Obama. If you want your children to have a life of independency and paychecks, you have a candidate, that's Newt Gingrich." First, let's try to get past the fact that "independency" is not a word.  The word Mr. Gingrich is independence.  Second, do you really think the millions of Americans who are currently unemployed and need the assistance of the government are really shooting for dependency?!  They are not.  They are looking for work, but the work available is not in their skill set, or there are too many other people competing for the same job.

Republican congressmen are no less out of touch.  They met yesterday to unify themselves against President Obama.  And Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas said, "He [Obama] promised the American people hope and change, and now we see a nation that has lost hope, but they have seen the change. Almost 2 million more Americans have lost their jobs under his economic policies."  Mr. Hesarling, I ask you, is the loss of hope the president's fault or the refusal of Republicans to compromise on anything that will help the American people?  Perhaps, the president could be a stronger leader, but at every attempt he has made in the last two years to get anything done, Republican congressmen have put up concrete roadblocks.  Most recently, you would have allowed payroll taxes to rise for hardworking Americans just to ensure that the super wealthy didn't have to pay a penny more.  If it weren't for your House Speaker, we would already be headed down a road to greater difficulties for many Americans.  As it is that outcome is postponed temporarily.  Stop blocking every effort the president makes to improve the country and give Americans some new hope.

I promise to stop ranting soon even though I could go on and on.  However, I have one more thing to say that has particularly been bothering me this morning.  In last night's Republican debate, Romney said, "I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more. I don't think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes."  Even I can't argue with him on this point.  No one wants to pay more taxes than required.  However, I do think it is questionable that we tax capital gains at 15% while taxing earned income at higher rates.  I've paid a bit of capital gains tax in the past and will pay more in the future, but even still, I have to say it's only fair to pay the same rate for income that I didn't have to work for as for that which I did have to work.  Would paying a 25% or so tax rate really hurt Mr. Romney and other millionaires?  When you have $20 million dollars (and savings I'm sure!), are you really going to feel the pinch if you pay the government $5 million, instead of $3 million, to pay for the needs of the country?  I think it's time to raise the capital gains tax rate.

And with that, I'll let you all be.

New Frontiers

I am excited to announce that starting in February, I'll be writing for OCN's blog, The Sounding Orthodox Blog!  The blog is being redesigned under the guidance of Melinda Johnson, and the planned launch date for the new and improved Sounding is February 1. 

So, if you're interested in my posts having to do with Orthodoxy, but not so much the rest of them, you'll be able to follow me there.  Be sure to look for my first article "Festal 'Life Cycle' Chart for Children" in the education section.  To start I'll be doing one article a month, but if I find I have more to say, I'll increase that frequency.  Feel free to let me know if there are any particular topics you'd like to see covered.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

If You Had Control of Your Kid's MP3 Player...

...what would you put on it?

Hummingbird used the last of her birthday money to buy herself a Barbie MP3 player.  She's really glad she listened to me and Dad and got this instead of a bunch of cheap, plastic, pretend Barbie gadgets.  Since it arrived yesterday, she's been begging us to put some songs on it.  So, we put on a few that she's been planning for sometime.  Now I have control of the player for the night, and I'm hoping to add some kid-friendly, but not necessarily kiddie*, picks that I enjoy.  After all, don't we all want our kids to enjoy our music, and not just the "junk" they play on the radio?  I'm auditing my MP3 library tonight and will go through some of our CDs later for good songs.  I've already added two -- Lord of the Dance (Simple Gifts), and I Wanna Be (500 miles).  I spotted those two pretty quickly as both hold a special place in my music heart.  There are a hundred others with which I'd eventually like to acquaint her, but some of them will have to wait until she's older.  She's getting there fast, so I'll try to influence her as much as I can now before I become totally uncool!
*She feels she's too old for most of our Justin Roberts and They Might Be Giants kid collections.  I'm so glad she did pick Downtown and Song for a Winter's Night on her own.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Presidential Race

Scene: Dinner table

Hummingbird: Is President Obama going to be president again?

Mom: Him or someone else.

Hummingbird: You or Dad should run for president.

Mom: No, we have neither the inclination nor the money to run for president, but you could run for president if you want.  Just save your money and learn to talk to people so you can do some fundraising.

Hummingbird to Bumble Bee: And you could be my vice president.

Bumble Bee: If you don't run fast enough and I run faster, I'll win!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Winter Finally Arrived

I've been enjoying our mild winter.  It had been a nice reprieve from the oodles of snow we had last year.  But... I'm willing to acknowledge it's time for some real winter weather.  So, when it finally started snowing yesterday mid-morning, I enjoyed watching it fall, and playing in the yard with Bumble Bee.  The yard, in fact, looked quite beautiful draped in white.  However, since the snow fell, and fell, and kept falling throughout the day, I didn't dare take my camera out for pictures.  Today it had finally slowed, even stopped for a bit, so I could venture out with the camera.  I liked how things looked better yesterday, but today was still pretty.  So, here's a taste of winter...

Bumble Bee wanted to dust the snow off of everything.
Gracie the Dog came out to play, too.
I love the wavy snow on this lawn chair.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Kids with Icons

Quite some time ago, I heard about Jocelyn Mathewes photography project "Women with Icons."  I thought it sounded like a great idea.  Well, I was thinking about it again the other day, and I looked up her website to check out the photographs.  I was certainly taken with them and indeed, inspired by them.

So, having failed to get the yearly portraits of my kids for their birthday albums, I brushed hair and dressed them up to take portraits myself.  And since I had been thinking about "Women with Icons," I decided to do my own project "Kids with Icons" (specifically, my kids). Many of the pictures came out great, but some had red eye problems and needed touching up.

This one for instance need some touching up (forgive the blurriness, there was no way to save the screen, so I had to photograph it).  I noticed Bumble Bee's eye trouble, but who new the icon would have red eye problems!  (It didn't really. Picasa just got it wrong.)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Someone Cut the Moon

Bumble Bee and I were in the car this evening taking clothes to Hummingbird at a friend's house and picking Daddy up from work.  As we turned a corner she spotted the moon and excitedly instructed me to look at it, saying "Look at the moon! It's missing part!"

"Oh," I responded, "I can't see it from here. Is it is a crescent shape?"

"No, somebody cut part of it off!"  I drove a little more and finally got a view of tonight's half moon.  I tried explaining that all of the moon was still there, but that part was hiding because of it's current position between the earth and the sun.  She wasn't buying my "theory."  Anyone could see that part of the moon was missing, and clearly, it had been cut off!