Columbus Zoo

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I’ve mentioned on here before about spring being my favorite season. Among lists I’ve given as to why I prefer spring to any other season I may have neglected one of the best parts of spring and that would be Spring Break. This fabulous week off of school always serves as a precursor to the impending summer vacation. It gives a little hope for what is to come, and it is always so much better when the weather is pleasant. Today, the weather was windy but beautiful. My daughter and I packed our sack lunches (she chose lunchables at the store yesterday along with Veggie Straws and strawberry applesauce), put on a couple of layers and met some of our church group friends for the journey to the Columbus Zoo.

Every summer since our daughter was born we have made a point to venture to the zoo at least once. It’s always been a good time, however, today was by far the most she has enjoyed the experience. She was able to do much of the walking on her own and discuss with me about the many different animals she witnessed.

The Columbus Zoo is always a phenomenal experience, and in my opinion is one of the best zoos around. One could spend several days at the Columbus Zoo and still not engage in all that it has to offer. The zoo is well organized, clean, and educational. It was a wild and active trip, but it was also well worth it. To see my daughter appreciating the beauty of the outdoors, the animals, and friendships makes it worth the exhaustion after the fact.

I’m now more than ever looking forward to summer vacation so that we can embark on similar adventures more regularly. The toddler years are tiring, but so much fun. I am blessed to have a daughter who is so in love with learning and life. Motherhood is a beautiful thing.

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Feeling Crafty

This morning I did not exercise self-control as I strolled through the craft aisle at Walmart. Today is the first official day of my Spring break and I was feeling crafty. Over the past few weeks I’ve been itching to get crafty, so why not tackle some of the projects I’ve been putting off? I filled my sqeaking cart with a few tubes and packages of paints, modge podge, paint markers, canvases and various brushes.

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My daughter has been blessed with my husband’s artistic genes. I’m not one to do much painting, but I’ve been creeping around the blogging realm and Pinterest seeking some paint motivation lately. I decided to start small and really just experiment with mixing colors and calligraphy. That seemed reasonable when considering my skill set. I love to doodle and play around with fonts.

Here’s a look at some of my projects/accomplishments today:

1. Friendship Sign: This sign is to be hung in our guest bathroom. The room is already decorated well with coordinating towels, and photos from a recent trip to NYC, but it was missing a piece to bring the ideas together. I developed this cute sign using the following materials:

1 hanging Chalkboard

Washi Tape

Paint Pen

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2. Canvases: I purchased a canvas 3-pack. I created two canvases experimenting with color schemes and once the paint dried I added some calligraphy to each using a black paint pen. My daughter painted a pink canvas nearly to perfection. Once her paint dried she helped me to use washi tape to make an A for her initials. Then, we outlined the A in the silver paint pen. Here are links to the supplies we used:

3-pack canvas

acrylic paints

paint pen

Washi Tape

paint brushes

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3. Anchor: A few months ago I was on Etsy and I purchased a wooden anchor from Duane’s Workshop. My busy brain kept me from remembering to purchase paint for the anchor…until today. I used some of the aforementioned acrylic paints and created a lovely grey shade mixing equal parts black and white paints. After the paint dried I hung the anchor in my living room.

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I truly did enjoy today’s crafting experience and loved to see my daughter engage in art in such a positive  way. Hopefully there are some more do-it-yourself projects in our near future. Let me know what you think and if you have any more DIY ideas for us.

A Book Review: Orphan Train

The following is a book review by theameribritmom. This post expresses the genuine opinion and experiences of theameribritmom and is in no way endorsed by authors, publishers, and outside influences. 

photo credit: http://www.goodreads.com/book/photo/15818107-orphan-train

Title: The Orphan Train

Author: Christina Baker Kline

Publisher: William Morrow (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)

Copyright Date: 2013

The Orphan Train highlights the lives of two major characters: Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly, and troubled teenager, Molly Ayer. The setting varies between the midwest in the 1920’s and 30’s and Maine in 2011. Vivian lived through the depression of Ireland and joined her family in pursuit of a better life in America. Once they reached America tragedy struck her family and through a series of circumstances Vivian ended up on the historic orphan trains which transplanted orphans from New York City to the midwest. As Vivian’s journey begins as an orphan she is beyond the ideal age of adoption and she faces some hard situations and failed placements as a result.

Molly is a troubled teenager who has bounced around through the foster system for years. She is forced into serving community service due to theft charges. Through her community service her path collides with the now elderly Vivian. Vivian seeks out Molly’s help to sift through her attic of memories. During this process Molly learns about Vivian’s past and comes to realize that they are not so different. In the end, Molly helps Vivian to gain the courage to face her past.

This novel is a beautifully crafted piece of historical fiction. As I read this story I felt as though I was a fly on the wall in Vivian’s stuffy attic. With each new item revealed in the novel Vivian divulges a story from her past. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what else Vivian could possibly have endured in her long life. There are some extremely emotional scenes in this novel as both Vivian and Molly bond over their rough pasts, but that is part of the beauty of this book. The author takes two seemingly dissimilar lives and unites them through their pain and nightmares. Not only does Christina Baker Kline unite these characters in a painful way, but she brings them both to healing because of one another.

I love when an author can bring a story full circle the way that this author so brilliantly does. When lives collide and the result is positive I am always a fan. The characterization is detailed and thorough with back stories provided for each of the main characters that help you to understand their actions and motivations. My husband can pinpoint exactly when I got to the climax of this book because I startled him when I audibly gasped and my heart began racing. This novel is packed with twists and turns and was never a disappointment. The more I read the more evident it became to me that this author did her research when writing this novel. The historical accuracy of this unspoken time in American history is phenomenal. I even read in the interview at the end of the book about how much detail and research went into creating a genuine setting for the book. She even attended a reunion of orphan train riders and conducted interviews to maintain accuracy.

This was the first book I’ve read by this author, but I am looking forward to reading some more of her novels in the future. Other novels from this author include: Bird in Hand, The Way Life Should Be, Desire Line, and Sweet Water.

What novels have you been reading lately?

Do you have novel suggestions for me?

I love a good book 🙂

Fear

According to Mirriam-Webster Dictionary (online) fear is, “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc. whether the threat is real or imagined.”

Lately, I’ve realized how I’ve let fear rule me. I’ve allowed my fears to guide my decisions, my actions (or inactions), and my relationships. These fears have become such a part of who I am and what I’ve done for so long that I have come to view them as part of my personality as opposed to the handicap that in reality they have become. Over the past several months God has been using people and circumstances to reveal to me the capacity at which I’ve allowed fear to motivate and direct me.

Fear is debilitating because it causes us to cower away from decisions and actions due to imagined results. Fear keeps us thinking about pleasing others and their opinions about us as well as our own failures and unrealized goals.

For me, I’ve allowed the first question that pops in my mind when a decision is to be made become, “What would ___________ think about me if I did this.” I’ve chalked up this attitude to a self-conscious personality when in reality it is a lifestyle driven by fear. I’ve kept myself from pursuing many a dream or goal by becoming fearful of failing and/or letting people down. This is no way to live a happy life.

So…as God has revealed more and more to me the ways I’ve allowed fear to reign over me I’ve been letting go piece by piece of those fears. An example, this blog. For years I’ve dreamed of writing and becoming a part of a writing community, but I’ve only really shared that with my husband. He is so brave and courageous and always pushes me to reach my goals and has always been a positive believer in me. This winter a great friend of mine talked to me about how she could sense that I was fearful and I needed to stop worrying about haters because they are always going to be there and I can do nothing to stop that. I prayed about that idea and although at first that statement scared me it became a statement that began to lead me down the road toward freedom.

I began throwing off my fears one at a time. I began to publish my blog. My mentality has been the whole time that if someone doesn’t like something I post or is uncomfortable with details from my life then they have the right to not read my posts or unfollow my blog. I haven’t been writing to please or impress anyone. It’s been therapeutic in one sense and has also helped me toward pursuit of a dream. During this time I’ve also been more vocal at work. I think my fears over time had made me a bit of a pushover, but lately at work I’ve let my ideas and goals become known to the administration and I’ve gained a lot of respect for stepping out in that way.

I’m nowhere near done with dealing with my fears, but God is doing a big work in my heart and life and I am thankful for that. I no longer think about what could happen, and instead focus on who I am and where I’m heading. The root of fear is believing that God cannot accomplish all that he says that he can. Fear is telling God that He is not in control. I just want to allow God to direct my steps and my actions and take back the reigns from anyone or anything else that I’ve allowed to do so in my life.

I want to leave you with a few verses that speak wonders to me in my fears:

Psalm 23:4- Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 27:1- The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 118:6-The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?

2 Timothy 1:7-For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

Psalm 115:11-You who fear him, trust in the Lord-he is their help and shield.

Deuteronomy 31:6- Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Isaiah 54:4-Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.

1 John 4:18- There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Return to the Running Realm

What a lovely alliteration that I feared may never again be reality for this momma.

This year I have resolved to return to an old pastime, the art of running. In school I was a competitive runner. I’ve raced anywhere between 400 meters to 13.1 miles. I have many accomplishments from my younger years like:

1 mile League champion in track

4 time Regional Qualifier in Cross Country

2 time Ohio State Qualifier in Cross Country

2 time Half-marathon runner (sub 2 hour times)

and I have run or placed in probably over twenty non-school affiliated road races.

These are things I am very proud of, but they are also things I do not often speak about. They are a reminder to me about how I’ve allowed myself to fall out of shape and how I’ve been incapable of keeping a constant workout routine over the years. I have not competed in any type of racing atmosphere since I got married. Work and adulthood have gotten in the way of continuing a hobby I once enjoyed. The first year of teaching is the hardest, and I found it really hard to keep a routine of any sort in my life. I feel like after that year ended I continued to let work become my excuse. And then there was a baby.

It took me months after the delivery of my daughter to get my body back and to retain the ability to exercise in a vigorous manner. It was probably nine months or so before I even tried to do an isolated run here and there. The idea of exercise and finding time with a newborn was overwhelming so I didn’t try very hard at making it happen.

But I am done with making excuses. Yes, I am busy. Yes, I am tired often. Yes, I am out of shape, but when a workout can be completed in twenty minutes or less there is really no excuse.

When it came to setting some New Years Resolutions (2015) I had two things I wanted to accomplish: 1. Publish some of my writings and actively participate in the writing community and 2. Run a 5k. Over the past few months I have been semi-committed to that second goal. It’s been a terrible winter and running outside has been next to impossible, but I have maintained my fitness through various indoor workouts such as walking the long halls at my school, elliptical training, and cardio/core workout videos (Jillian Michaels). I’ve written on here before about my progress in those areas, but it is now time to update on my outdoor running stats!

Well, so far there isn’t too much to update you on. There have been a few days hit or miss that the weather has been decent enough for an outdoor running endeavor. Last week before my allergies acted up I ran for twenty minutes in my neighborhood. I felt out of shape and sore for the next few days. On Sunday of this week I woke up to beautiful weather and a huge desire to get outdoors and push myself. I ended up running 3.1 miles through my town/neighborhood in just under 28:00. Now this isn’t ideal, but it is progress toward my goal nonetheless.

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The weather has been very bipolar this week. Last night when I wanted to do a run it was snowing…so I did a quick, but intense elliptical circuit. Today, my plan? Another couple of miles outdoors. It’s 46 degrees Fahrenheit we will see how it goes.

Anywho…keep me accountable, blogging community. I would love to see myself complete a 5k or two this summer in times around 24 minutes. In order to get there I know I have a lot of stamina and consistency to build. 2015 is all about reaching goals for me so I hope to see myself back on the road racing away soon. I’m not aiming to become a super-runner or anything, but I would like to see myself return to a love of mine. The art of RUNNING.

Monday Menu: Sausage Skillet Pasta

Oh, Monday how I loathe thee.

Mondays seem so taxing sometimes. If you’re anything like me you rush out of the office on Friday afternoons as quickly as possible only to return to work on Monday to a lengthy to-do list. I re-entered my classroom today with a list of tasks like finalize third quarter grades, schedule a background check, complete state license paperwork, and submit grades (not to mention also teaching six classes). Today I felt as though I had more energy than I normally do on Mondays, but I’m sure that’s due to the fact that I was beginning my final week before Spring Break. There’s always a high level of energy the week before long breaks.

Anyway, when I accomplished all I could muster the energy to complete today (which sadly was not my entire to-do list) I headed home to another list of chores, but ones I was much more excited to to tackle. I’ll take laundry and cooking over paperwork ANY DAY (especially if I can play with my daughter along the way)!

So…what’s on the menu this Monday?

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Sausage Skillet Pasta

Ingredients:

-1 lb. smoked sausage, cubed

-1 Tb olive oil

-3 cloves garlic

-8 oz tomato sauce

-1 Tb tomato paste

-1 Tb Italian seasoning

-1.5 cups Chicken Broth

– 1/2 cup Heavy Whipping Cream

-9 oz angel hair pasta

-1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

1. In a pot with boiling water, cook pasta according to the package directions.

2. Meanwhile, in a skillet brown sausage in oil. Add garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute.

3. Stir in tomato sauce, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, chicken broth, and heavy cream. Bring to a boil.

4. Cover and simmer on low for 12-15 minutes.

5. Drain pasta and mix into sausage and sauce. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese.

*This recipe serves 4-6 people depending on portion sizes.

This was a great meal for a long and cold Monday. I served it up with a salad and some Brown’n’Serve rolls. This is a family friendly meal that both my daughter and my husband enjoyed. I could have halved the recipe since I was only feeding three, but I like to pack leftovers for lunches so I boxed up extra servings. This meal is always great refrigerated and reheated.

A Trial Run in Fiction Writing

As part of my pursuit in the writing field and after the encouragement of others I’ve decided to publish some of my fiction writing. Depending on feedback I will try to make this a habit. Let me know what you think:

Elizabeth walked to the front of the bakery. It was closing time and the sign on the front door needed to be flipped. She had turned the lights in the dining room down when the final customer left and so the short walk from the counter to the front door was poorly lit. Just before she reached the large wooden front door her foot made contact with a small object. Her slip-proof shoe had sent the object spinning and the sound of clanging metal followed the trajectory of the moving object.

She continued her walk to the front door. With each step she could hear the creaking of the old wooden floors. Elizabeth had purchased this bakery five years ago from an older couple in their small town. The structure itself was a hundred years old and was perfectly set in the middle of her small town. The location was ideal as it was neighbored by a local coffee shop, several storefronts, and the city courthouse was across the street. Being amidst these buildings meant that when closing time came at the bakery at 9pm that all of the neighboring shops had long since darkened themselves to the community.

As she reached the door she flipped the hanging hand written sign to read “Closed” from the outside. She put her large skeleton key in the lock and obstructed the entrance of another into her bakery for another eight hours. As she turned to head back to the counter to cash out for the night she remembered the sound of the metal object she had kicked moments before. With the little light escaping from behind the counter she was unable to see anything on the freshly mopped floor. She resolved to getting onto her hands and knees to scour the place in search of the object.

After a few moments of searching on her hands and knees Elizabeth spotted a faint reflection coming off of something under a nearby table. She removed an old wooden chair from its designated resting place and returned to her knees. Immediately after feeling the object she recognized the shape and significance. The object was small and she cupped her manicured hands around it. She stood up, returned the chair to its place and walked back toward the kitchen to view the object in better lighting.

As she walked beyond the counter into the kitchen she slowly unfurled her hands and revealed a diamond ring. The ring held a solitary diamond of a large caliber. It was white gold and she estimated with a keen eye that it was worth well over $10,000. Overcome with confusion Elizabeth laid the ring down on a clean plate on the counter in the kitchen.

Across town Elizabeth’s boyfriend was eagerly awaiting her arrival home from the bakery. He rented a small townhouse on the other end of their hometown. Elizabeth was the kind of business owner who made sure she was always the one to close up in the evenings so he was used to making plans to see her in the late evenings. That particular evening Brandon and Elizabeth had planned to have dinner in his townhouse. He had spent his evening roasting a chicken and creating Elizabeth’s favorite potatoes to cheesy perfection. Brandon knew how hard Elizabeth worked and how much pressure owning a bakery can be for a young business owner. He wanted the evening to be relaxing for her so he worked hard to ensure that it was so.

At about 9:15pm Elizabeth texted Brandon to let him know that she was tied up at work and would be later than they had planned. In reality, Elizabeth had taken upon herself to find the rightful owner of the ring. She pulled out the receipts for the evening along with a local telephone book and began to call some of the patrons from that day.

She pictured a woman coming home from a long day of running errands for her family to find that she had misplaced her $10,000 ring. Elizabeth placed over thirty calls and left several messages before she decided to put the ring in the bakery safe and pick back up the search tomorrow. Brandon was waiting on her and she did not want the meal he had prepared to go to waste. She placed the ring in the safe, took off her apron, grabbed her purse and keys and headed out the back door of the bakery.

In the alley behind the bakery the small white Jetta was parked. She opened the door, turned the ignition and headed through the town toward Brandon’s house. From the street outside his home she could see the lights still on. She breathed a sigh of relief that he hadn’t given up on her arrival and retired to bed yet. Elizabeth hated being late, and had run through an apology in her head during the drive to Brandon’s home.

He opened the door and greeted Elizabeth with a smile and a kiss on the cheek, a welcome that Elizabeth feared she didn’t deserve.

“I am so sorry that I am late.” She emphasized the sorry part. In her meticulous world those who were late to planned events were inconsiderate of others.

“It’s fine. I really just finished up with the chicken anyway.” Brandon fibbed a little to help make Elizabeth feel better about making him wait a little longer than expected. After a two year relationship he knew she was way harder on herself than anyone else was on her. He also understood that whatever was going on in the bakery must have demanded her immediate attention if it led to her being late.

They began their meal in the dining room. Brandon started by discussing his day at the insurance agency where he was employed. Not a lot of excitement happened in his cubicle, but he did have a run in with a coworker about the local college football game coming up this weekend.

“So how was the bakery today?” Brandon asked Elizabeth as he began to clear their empty plates from the table.

After the meal was cleared and over a cup of warm coffee she began to discuss some of the orders she filled that day from four dozen tiara cupcakes for a toddler birthday party to six loaves of freshly baked artisan breads for a ladies’ knitting group. She talked through some of her interactions with the local and loyal customers.

“Simon from the parish placed a large order of garlic knots for next week’s spaghetti dinner fundraiser. Oh, and I met the loveliest couple on holiday from up north. They ordered gourmet sandwiches and salads during the lunch rush. They were staying at the Bed and Breakfast on Main Street. It’s their anniversary and…”

Elizabeth stopped. She knew that they must have been the owners of the diamond ring she had found. Come to think of it Elizabeth could almost picture the ring on the wife’s slim finger. She explained the dilemma to Brandon and in his ever-understanding way he grabbed his car keys and his distracted girlfriend and they ventured from the house to the bakery to retrieve the ring. Once she had taken the ring from the safe at the bakery, she handed it to Brandon. He delicately placed it in his pocket and Elizabeth hopped back into Brandon’s red Civic and they headed toward the main street of the town. They found found a parking spot outside of the bed and breakfast and rushed to the front door.

At the front desk Elizabeth inquired about the couple she had met earlier that day by describing what she remembered about their features.

“The woman was thin with a straight smile. She had blonde hair and was maybe 35 or 40. The man had glasses and was clean shaven. Maybe a little older than his wife.”

The hostess typed a couple of characters into the computer and frowned. She informed Elizabeth that the couple she had described were the Knoxs from Michigan. They had checked out and headed back to Michigan that evening around 7pm. They thanked the hostess for helping them and with her head hanging low Elizabeth tried to think of a plan of returning the ring to the couple. They headed back to Brandon’s car. As Elizabeth went to open the passenger door, Brandon put his hand on the door to stop her.

“I think I figured out whose ring you found, Elizabeth.”  Brandon said sweetly. He led Elizabeth back from the car by the hand.

“I came in to the bakery this afternoon when you ran to the grocer. Abigail was working the counter. I was checking on your schedule in your office to ensure that you did not have any catering events or arrangements that might keep you from dinner at my place.” Brandon started.

Once again Elizabeth felt bad for turning up to dinner late. She apologized.

“It’s no problem really. I wanted to be sure that nothing would keep you because tonight is a special night. I worked so hard to make a relaxing dinner for you and I had planned to spend some time watching your favorite cooking programs. This is not the ideal way I wanted this to happen. I had planned on doing this in the serenity of my home, but…” Brandon got down on one knee in front of Elizabeth on the grass in front of the inn. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the ring that Elizabeth had handed him in the car.

“I might’ve told Abigail about my plan when I was at the bakery today. She asked to see the ring and clumsy me must’ve dropped it when putting it back into my pocket. When you were in the bakery tonight retrieving the ring from the safe I checked my coat pocket and it was not there. When you handed it to me in the car I breathed a sigh of relief. Elizabeth, you found your ring. This is for you. You’ve been so worried about finding the owner of this ring and the owner is you.” He held out the ring.

“Will you marry me?”

All fiction writing on this site is originally written by TheAmeriBritMom. All rights to these pieces is reserved for the author. It is unlawful to reproduce or plagiarise this work.