Monday, July 16, 2012


I am thoroughly enjoying the summer. It is the best perk of substitute teaching. It's hard to believe that it's only a little more than a month until school starts again.

This summer, I've spent way too much time watching television and movies. It's so hot that I just don't want to do anything outdoors.  Grandad and I are spending our evenings with Netflix, streaming lots of British television. It's just so different from American television. Of course, it all started with Downton Abbey. We've watched Bramwell, a series about a female doctor in the 19th century. We really enjoyed Land Girls, the Forsyte Saga, and The Grand. I'd be happy to hear from you if you have any recommendations for other series.

We spent last week in Houston at the Aggie Engineers' house. Grandad had to hire a new shipping and receiving person for their Houston store. I just hung out at the house and cooked dinner for Nick in the evenings. Marie is in Norway for her last three week stretch before returning to take a on new assignment which will keep her a lot closer to home, mostly in the Houston office. They are in the process of having an in-ground pool added. The concrete has been poured. Next they'll add coping and tile, then they'll need to finish the inside of the pool. When we arrived at the house, they had had a little bit of rain and there was probably six inches of water standing in the deep end of the pool. It then proceeded to rain all week. By the time we left, the pool was full of muddy water. Now they'll have to pump the water out before they can finish the pool. It's going to be fabulous. I can't wait to play there with Our Little Princesses. The shallow end of the pool will have an 18 inch lounge deck. I think it will be perfect for kids.

The Princesses and their parents have been to Louisiana to visit Travis' family. Katy does a good job keeping me up to date with photos from along the way. I got this photo from Katy during their trip. I really like it ... a lot. You can see that Princess J has really grown and all of a sudden she has a head full of curly hair. Don't ask me where those curls came from, because I don't know. It definitely didn't come from my side of the family.

It's less than two weeks now to Grams Camp. I think the Princesses will be arriving the evening of July 26. Time to firm up those plans. I know there will be lots of water play. I'm wanting to build a water wall for them to play with. Something like this one. I also saw one that was done on a big cardboard box. That way, after a few days, you can just toss the whole thing in the trash or recycle bin. No need to store it.

This week, I'm sewing and planning to catch up on some scrapbooking.  What are you doing to make it through the rest of the summer?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Countdown to the Olympic Games

Grams is a HUGE fan of the Olympic games. There is just something so wonderful about so many of the countries of the world coming together to compete for the sake of sport.  I've loved watching them since I was a teenager. I enjoy both the winter and summer games. I like to watch everything from the opening ceremonies until the flame is extinguished.

The summer games are my favorites. Like almost everyone else, I enjoy watching the gymnastics competition. Beach volleyball is always fun too; wrestling, pentathlon, fencing, swimming, and everything in between, I like it all. I will admit that I'm not wild about boxing. (I dislike it so much that I don't actually watch the boxing events.) I love, love, love the track and field events. My favorite event of all is hurdles. I think it is the most graceful and beautiful thing to watch world class hurdlers stretch across those obstacles. It's just beautiful to watch.

I'm extra excited about the London 2012 Olympics for two reasons. Number one is, for the first time ever, I won't be working during the games. In the past, I have actually considered taking two weeks of vacation so I could watch everything that's televised, but I've never done it. But now that I work part time as a substitute teacher, I'll be free to watch as much as I want because I'll still be on summer vacation! With the assistance of my DVR, I'll be able to catch everything I want to see. I can't wait.

Photo from Wikipedia
The number two reason is Team USA high jumper Amy Acuff. You see, Amy is from my home town. She went to the same schools my kids went to. Not only that, we actually knew her when she went to Calallen High School. When Katy was in middle school, she was also a high jumper. That's when we met Amy. She's four years older than Katy. Amy, who was in high school then, would sometimes come to the middle school to work with the younger high jumpers and help them improve. Even then, she was already a world class athlete. I was very impressed that she would take time to work with the younger girls.

After graduating from Calallen High School she went to college at UCLA where she continued high jumping. In addition to her career as an Olympic High Jumper, she is a Licensed Acupuncturist, a model, and now the 36-year-old mother of a two year old daughter.

London will be Amy's fifth trip to the Olympics. That alone is an amazing feat. She competed in Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, and Beijing. Her best finish was 4th place in 2004 in Athens. Her personal best jump is 6'7".  The LA Times reports that other five-time track and field Olympians include Gail Devers, Carl Lewis, WillyeWhite, Willie Davenport and Jearl Miles-Clark. That's pretty good company.

When she was interviewed last week by a local KRIS-TV sports anchor Drew Collins, Amy had this to say  “A lot of people were making a big deal of going to five (Olympics), but as an athlete, you’re never satisfied. I don’t have that gold medal, so that’s really the desire and the driving factor to win a medal and it’s exciting to have a shot and that opportunity again.” You can watch his interview here.

Women's High Jump Competition begins August 9 and concludes with the medal ceremony on August 11. And, while I'll be cheering for all of Team USA, I'm really pulling for Amy to get a medal. She has worked hard for many years. Maybe this will be her year.

I feel a little bit like Buddy in Elf when they tell him Santa is coming to the department store and he exclaims "Santa! I know him!" It just makes it so much more fun when you actually know someone who's competing.

Being chosen to compete as a representative of your country is such an honor. And, when you think about it, probably more than ninety percent of the Olympians have no hope of actually finishing in the medals. They compete for the sake of competition and for the glory of representing their country.. That's part of what makes it so special.
The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.  Pierre de Coubertin, Founder of modern Olympic Games.
Do you enjoy watching the Olympics? What's your favorite event?

This post is being linked to:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

Grams grew up in the days of learning by rote. We memorized parts of important documents and literature as a routine part of our education. At 58 years old, I can still recite the Preamble to the Constitution, the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence, the Concord Hymn, and the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. And those are only the ones that I can think of right now.

During the past school year, I had the privilege of accompanying a special needs to student to an American History class on the day they were reviewing the Declaration of Independence in depth. It was so wonderful to hear the teacher review each point that the founding fathers laid out. Each grievance against King George was enumerated in detail. Nothing was left to the imagination. They wanted to make sure King George knew exactly what he had done that required the United States to declare their independence. I was also interested to hear him explain that the men who signed this Declaration of Independence had much to lose. These were men of means, wealthy men, who stood to lose homes, property, family, and even their lives. Signing was truly an act of bravery and a commitment beyond just signing their names. Once their names were on the Declaration, their courses were set and there was no turning back. It truly was a case of "Liberty or Death."

In case you've forgotten what a masterful work it was, here it is in it's entirety, courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. If you visit the National Archives in Washington, DC, you can see one of the original copies of the Declaration.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776. 

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world. 
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2 
North Carolina: 
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina: 
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3 
John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot
Lee Carter Braxton

Column 4 
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey: 
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6 
New Hampshire: 
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat
Paine Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island: 
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

And now I'd like to add my own signature to those above.

Vicki Valenta

Please feel free to add yours in the comments.

Red and white flag bar with gold stars used above is free from USA Clipart.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Squash Tian - My Favorite Recipe of this Summer

We love summer squash. It's inexpensive and plentiful and keeps well in the refrigerator until I get around to using it. We used to grow it ourselves. Now we just go to the farmer's market on Saturday morning or to our local Sprouts store and stock up for the week.

I originally saw this recipe for Summer Vegetable Tian on Pinterest. It came from a blog called Budget Bytes. Follow the link to see her original recipe. The first time I made it, I followed her recipe exactly and it was very good. Since then I've made a couple of changes. Basically, I use a lot more squash without increasing the amount of potatoes and onion.

Here is my recipe for Squash Tian:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 clove minced garlic
3 medium zucchinis
3 medium yellow squash
1 baking potato
1 large tomato
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded cheese (Parmesan, mozzarella, or Italian blend)

Preheat oven to 400.

Use a skillet with olive oil to saute the onion over medium-high heat. Add the garlic after the onion begins to soften.

Thinly slice the zucchini, squash, potato, and tomato.

Spray a 9"x12" casserole dish with cooking spray. Spread the softened onion and garlic in the bottom of the casserole dish. Then arrange the thinly-sliced vegetables standing up in the dish, alternating the squash, potatoes, and tomatoes in a random pattern. Sprinkle with thyme and salt and pepper. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and discard foil. Sprinkle with cheese and return, uncovered, to the oven for 15-20 minutes until cheese begins to brown.
I've been making this at least once a week since squash came into season. Adding the extra squash makes it stretch enough to be a side dish for dinner with leftovers for lunch the next day. Grandad hasn't complained about having it too often. I like it well enough that I will just eat it by itself for lunch the next day.

I've been trying to cook enough extra of everything to send a meal to my mother-in-law at least two or three times a week. She's doing better, but she's not up and around yet. She's gets around the house with a walker. The therapist, who visits three times a week is working on getting her to use a cane now, but she doesn't leave the house except for doctor visits.

What are you cooking this summer? 

This post has been linked to:

Button pic 9