Suzy & Spice

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Thankfulness, Day 2

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 15, 2010

Today I’m thankful for runners who have gone before.

My Amazon books came today, along with my ski mask without the mouth hole (I’m prone to respiratory problems and have been looking for a ski cap that covers everything but the eyes – I finally had to order one). And since the masks were so cheap, I decided to order two, and since I wanted free shipping, I had to make the order total $25, so I ordered two books by John “The Penguin” Bingham, a columnist for Runner’s World magazine.

The books, which came highly recommended by other Amazon users, are “No Need for Speed: A Beginner’s Guide to the Joy of Running” and “Training for Mortals,” which is mainly a logbook but includes little bits of inspiration and other nice features.

The package arrived while I was at work, so Trainer Bruce perused the books and gave me a report: They’ll be good for Lisa and me. (He was more specific than that, but I’ll save that for later.)

And because I’m eager to climb under the electric blanket (our heater’s still broken), this post is short and sweet.

Lisa and I did walk three miles tonight after I got out of class. Just so you know.

Posted in books, fitness, inspiration, reading, sports | Leave a Comment »

Book review: ‘Your Money God’s Way’ by Amie Streater

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 1, 2010

In the 16 years I have been reading about personal finance (specifically, debt-free living), I have read a lot of books, studies, articles and scriptures on the topic and have gathered a ton of tips and advice.

And after the umpteenth book, I’ve been tempted to conclude, “You’ve read one get-out-of-debt-book, you’ve read them all.”

Amie Streater’s “Your Money God’s Way: Overcoming the 7 Money Myths that Keep Christians Broke” is different. But in a surprising way.

She uses words like “stupid,” “annoying” and “creeped out.” The woman doesn’t pull any punches. She tells it like it is.

And, while I am guilty of being brutally blunt at times (not as much as I used to, praise God), this woman takes the prize.

But once you get over the shock of reading sentences such as, “That’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard!” you grow to appreciate her candor.

She’s the Dr. Phil of Christian debt counseling.

And, yes, she is a Christian counselor – an “associate pastor for financial stewardship” who has met with countless individuals and couples who have screwed up their lives with bad money decisions.

(Haven’t we all screwed up royally in one way or another?)

Streater’s style may be blunt, but she offers solutions. She points out our “counterfeit convictions” and counters them with biblical wisdom, citing scripture to back up her advice. Many of those verses talk of God’s grace and his abundant love for us. He doesn’t want us to “live in chaos, frustration, lack, and debt,” she concludes.

And Streater doesn’t just talk the talk. She has walked the walk and lived to tell about it.

After all, God uses the fears and foibles we have overcome (with His help) to lead others to the light.

This book gives light. You’ll profit by reading it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in books, debt-proof living, frugal living, God, money, reading, religion | 1 Comment »

Random thoughts 01/10/10

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on January 10, 2010

I was writing an e-mail to a college roommate this afternoon when I realized that if she clicks the link below my signature and goes to my blog – which she’s likely to do because we haven’t been in touch since I started the blog – she will see very few recent posts.

So, even though I can’t seem to form a coherent thought lately, you need to know that I am not dead.

Random thoughts on a Sunday afternoon:

  • I’ll begin Accounting II on Saturday, Jan. 16, after withdrawing last semester so as to avoid a heart attack from everything that was going on in our lives (I mentioned the latest heart symptoms in my Sept. 12, 2009, random thoughts). I decided to try a Saturday morning class because I simply hate having to rush home from work, gulp down a few bites of something and rush to class, sit there for nearly 3 hours trying to stay awake and get home just before bedtime. Besides, I’m a morning person, and that’s when I do my best thinking (if you call me after 9 p.m. – or if you’re a former roommate [hi, Di!] – you’ll understand). My class this semester will be 8-10:40 a.m.
  • I finished reading In Cold Blood, although I never told you I finished it. I mentioned it in my March 22, 2009, post (a random-thoughts post that was a LOT more interesting than this one, and a lot less depressing than the 09/12 one, so check it out), and I finished it months ago, but now I have closure since I have told you about it. 🙂 The book was great, if creepy. Killers with no remorse. And it’s a true story. I read somewhere that when Perry and Dick were hanged, Truman Capote (the book’s author) became physically ill and had to remove himself from the crowd of onlookers. Interviewing the killers, retracing the events of the heinous murders, left a lasting impression on him, and he was never the same. I believe it was his last book.
  • And this year I finally started reading the book on which my favorite movie was based – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Since the first time I saw the movie about 20 years ago, I’ve been in love with Atticus Finch (Bruce understands – I think). I kept telling myself I needed to read the book, but when I checked for it at the local library, it was always checked out. After several months (maybe even a year) of checking, I finally inquired about it at the desk, because the electronic card catalog kept saying it was NOT checked out. They said it probably had met the same fate as a lot of the other classics: Someone simply took it and never brought it back. Before Christmas, I finally checked again, and they had 2 copies! (Bruce was an English major and has many, many of the classics, but we’re not sure whether this book is in one of the boxes-upon-boxes of books that we have packed, ready to move “someday.)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Part 2 (because the above paragraph was getting long and this really should be a separate post): So I’ve been reading it, along with dealing with the usual Christmas chaos, which this year included getting new windows installed all over the house (the “2 1/2-day” job took nearly 3 weeks!), and trying to read a little of my Accounting I book to refresh myself since taking a semester off, and being tired and going to bed early. And from the very first sentence of this long-desired book, I was hooked. It just draws you in immediately, this tale told through the eyes of a 5-year-old tomboy in a small 1930s Southern town. I have to say, though, that this is one of the rare cases in which I didn’t immediately start to think, “The book is way better than the movie.” The movie is just so darned good, it actually enhances the reading of the book. When I read a book after I’ve first seen the movie, I try not to imagine the actors as those characters. Most times, the actors are too Hollywood, I guess. But in this case, I am imagining Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus, and the kids who played Scout and Jem and Dill, and of Calpurnia and the schoolchildren and the neighbors. … I’m in chapter 10 or 11, and we haven’t even gotten to the rape trial yet. But it’s not slow reading. It’s written through the eyes of little tomboy Scout Finch, and it’s just delightful, because the actress they picked to play Scout is just perfect  – not Hollywood at all (please, if you know anything about the actress that will burst my bubble, keep it to yourself!). And Scout and Jem and Dill and Atticus – and even Boo Radley (Robert Duvall), even though the kids haven’t laid eyes on him yet – those are the faces I see as I read. Brilliant casting.
  • This bullet point is sort of To Kill a Mockingbird (hereafter referred to as TKAM), Part 3, but it’s technically about the author and not the book, so cut me some slack. 🙂 Did you know that Harper Lee and Truman Capote were childhood friends? In fact, Harper Lee was Capote’s research assistant for In Cold Blood. And her character Dill Harris in TKAM was based on old friend Truman. Some say Capote was the real author of TKAM, but others say it’s a ridiculous notion, the different writing styles being one clue among many.
  • (Link to info about the movie To Kill a Mockingbird.)
  • The next book I read may be Breakfast at Tiffany’s (by Capote), another book I’ve never read but I’ve seen the movie. I didn’t like the movie the first time I watched it – not in spite of Audrey Hepburn but because of her, or at least the character she played. Audrey Hepburn is delightful to watch, but I did not like Holly Golightly the first time I experienced this movie (I tend to judge people I perceive as flighty and irresponsible). Fortunately, my favorite song, “Moon River,” is a big part of the movie, so there have been times when I’ve popped the DVD into the player just to hear that beautiful Mancini tune. So, because of the wonderful song, I’ve grown to love the movie and appreciate the sadness and lostness of the main character. But I imagine this will be one of those times when the book will be much better. It has to be – Capote has written so many wonderful books, and the film version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (BAT?) is somewhat Hollywoodized, I think. And I want to know what the sad, lost Holly was thinking that early morning as she stood outside Tiffany’s looking in, after having partied all night in that iconic hairdo, dress and black evening gloves. All dressed up in party clothes yet all alone, and I want to know what she was thinking. A movie doesn’t give you that. (Unless it’s Ferris Bueller.)
  • Last year I decided to read more of the classics and am gradually getting around to them. I read slowly, and I tend to get sleepy when I find the perfect comfortable spot to read in, so it takes me a while to finish a book. But now that the holiday season is over, I won’t be watching Food Network as much, so I’m already reading more than I did in the fall. I tried some Solzhenitsyn (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich) and Upton Sinclair (The Jungle), but those are books I didn’t finish. I’ll eventually get back to Solzhenitsyn, but the only thing I liked about The Jungle (it’s a really gross expose on the meatpacking industry) is that it has caused me to eat less red meat! I think the problem with Denisovich is that I’ve read too many concentration-camp books (I had the same problem with the movie Schindler’s List); maybe I’m desensitized to the issue, or maybe it’s that nothing on the subject comes close to my all-time-favorite book, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom (“No pit is so deep that the love of God is not deeper still!”). That is a book that I’ve read several times already but could read every year and never get tired of it. I’ve loaned my copy several times and just told the friend to keep it, then I go buy myself a new paperback copy. The tale of God’s light in a sea of darkness never gets old.
  • I’ve decided – officially – that Naps are a Good Thing. Because I finally have a job that allows me to take actual holidays off (I may never get used to that!), Bruce and I have spent a few long weekends at Mom’s lately (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s). Thanksgiving weekend, I took a long nap (really, a short nap but a long rest) every single day. At Christmas we were busier, so not so many naps, but New Year’s I got a couple of good breaks in, with the exception of the day that Mom was noisy in the kitchen and I got up cranky at her (don’t worry; I apologized). Just goes to show how important naps have become to my mental health. I turned 47 in November, so I am not a spring chicken anymore. For sure, Naps are a Good Thing. (I’m thinking of trademarking that expression.)
  • A soft bed, a warm puppy and a good book – who could ask for more?
  • I have written a set of “goals” – not New Year’s resolutions – for 2010 (it will include naps, although not in so many words). I didn’t get them posted by the time we rang in the new year, so it may be March before you seem them here! Or I may post them tomorrow – just depends on how tired I am when I get home from work.
  • And of course I’m supposed to be reading my accounting book!

This concludes another portion of our semiregular feature, Random Thoughts. Tune in again, when you may hear Suzy say, “Has it been that long since I posted?”

Posted in books, dogs, fun, health, holiday, inspiration, journalism, movies, music, reading, work | 1 Comment »

Random thoughts

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on March 22, 2009

My fans (all three of you people who read my blog) have been admonishing me to publish something. I haven’t posted in a while, but not for lack of wanting to. I’ve just been extremely laz — err, busy.

So, while I wait for my mom’s tax return to finish printing, I’ll grace you with some of the fascinating things I have been doing, thinking or saying lately:

  • After two weeks of working on it in spurts, I have finally finished Mom’s tax return. No, you cannot borrow money from her. Because she helped her children so much last year, there is nothing left to loan. Thanks, Mom. We owe you.
  • I chopped off my fingernails the other day to get better at the little game on my new cell phone that I am obsessed with (the game, not the phone), and it didn’t make one bit of difference. Even with nails cut to the nub, I am still pitiful at batting a little ball with a paddle at a bunch of electronic bricks.
  • I make up little songs, sometimes to amuse Bruce, sometimes to amuse myself. Frequently these little ditties are about the dogs. Almost all of them are about what I happen to be doing at the time I sing them. If Bruce isn’t amused, he doesn’t let me know it. He makes up random funny songs, too. We’re weird together.
  • I would love to be in a musical. Like South Pacific, The Music Man, Oklahoma! or my favorite, Camelot. Or how about The Sound of Music II: Suzl, the Forgotten von Trapp? I would be great in that! Not that I can sing.
  • Although Saturday night was an exception (I went to bed at 7:30), I have been staying up until nearly 10:30 lately! (I don’t think I’ve adjusted to daylight saving time yet.) Still, unless you’re my mother, my brother or my husband, or you’re bleeding from both eyes, don’t call me after 9 p.m., even on weekends. I will be mad at you.
  • It’s spring! And I pulled weeds this weekend (both days). And when I got tired of pulling the little suckers, there were still a BUNCH of them left. Today after I got tired and decided not to pull any more weeds, two neighbor boys rode their bikes up to my driveway and asked me if I had any work for them. Now I’m $10 poorer, but my rose bed looks a lot better. They want to come and mow the lawn in a few days. I think I’ll let them. (Note to self: Restock the Popsicle stash.)
  • I LOVE seeing kids take some initiative and get out and earn some money instead of sitting on their bee-hinds in front of the TV or a computer.
  • The dogs finally got baths today. This hadn’t happened since (don’t tell anyone) November. Salsa didn’t like it, but she didn’t bite me once!
  • My friend Lynn, whom I wrote about a few weeks ago (yikes, it’s been nearly three months!), is going to share the Basket-A-Month with me this year. Next weekend is the pickup. SPRING VEGETABLES! FARM-FRESH EGGS, HOMEMADE PASTA! SOURDOUGH BREAD! I’M YELLING BECAUSE I’M DELIRIOUSLY HAPPY!!!!! And Lynn said she’d bring me some of her asparagus and a couple of good recipes. Double happiness!
  • Baseball season is almost upon us, and I’m thinking of Travelers and sunshine. And hot dogs, which absolutely must be consumed at baseball games, no matter what.
  • I’m reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which I started reading in college but never finished. My favorite journalism professor recommended it, although it was not required reading. I didn’t do a lot of extracurricular reading in college. I was too busy with the school newspaper and reading for classes. But I’m enjoying this book once again, and I’m determined to finish it this time.
  • I have new flip-flops. They’re black. Well, they’re sort of brown now, because of the weed-pulling.
  • I’m supposed to be making a blackberry-jam cake for my neighbor, who’s going to pay me for it, but she didn’t give me a deadline and I keep putting it off. It’s the pressure. She had one at a friend’s out of town, and it was to-die-for delicious, and I’ve had to Google to find a recipe that seems to approximate what she had. So, pressure. Which makes me procrastinate.
  • More pressure: My church is doing a 25th-anniversary cookbook, and I’m supposed to provide a recipe for my “signature” dish, and I can’t decide whether to share my recipe for carrot cake, which I make money from, or be selfish and keep it to myself. My other cake recipe that gets rave reviews is from Paula Deen, and I want to make sure we won’t be violating any copyrights before I share it. It’s called White Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Filling. It’s lick-the-bottom-of-the-pan good. I don’t think I’ve shared photos of it that I took when I was making business cards year before last. So let’s end this on a happy foodnote:

white_chocolate_cake1

Click the comment button to share some of your own random thoughts.

Posted in baking, baseball, books, dogs, flowers, food, friends, fun, home, nature | 4 Comments »

On books and their reading

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on April 2, 2008

I couldn’t pick just one today, so here are three:

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” ~ Joseph Addison

“He that loves a book will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counselor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter. By study, by reading, by thinking, one may innocently divert and pleasantly entertain himself, as in all weathers, as in all fortunes.” ~ Barrow

“Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

Posted in books, inspiration, reading | Leave a Comment »

Read, or surrender

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on April 1, 2008

I’ve enjoyed posting the quotes about reading the past couple of days, so I think I will continue it through Saturday. I got a truck load of ’em off this Web site:

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” ~ Atwood H. Townsend

Posted in books, inspiration, reading | Leave a Comment »

Arkansas Literary Festival

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on March 31, 2008

A National Assessment of Adult Literacy estimated that 1 in 7 Americans age 18 and older do not have the literacy skills they need. That’s more than 14 percent of adults in this country. And nearly 25 percent of Arkansas adults do not have a high school diploma.

The folks at Arkansas Literacy Councils want to change that.

One way you can help is to attend the fifth annual Arkansas Literary Festival this weekend in Little Rock. Proceeds benefit adult literacy programs through the Arkansas Literacy Councils.

Highlights of the festival include an author party Friday night, with authors such as Barbara Oakley (I really have no idea who that is, but if it turns out she’s any good I will claim her as a relative) and Saturday afternoon appearances by former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier and Arkansas’ own Crescent Dragonwagon. Free writing workshops are planned for Saturday.

Sounds like fun, eh? Check it out. It’s for a good cause.

“The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” ~ Mark Twain

Posted in books, inspiration, reading | Leave a Comment »

A book for Suzy

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on March 30, 2008

Dog for Susie cover

Sometimes you love something just because you love it, and trying to explain why just diminishes it.

Those of you who read my blog know my name, you know I love dogs (especially pound puppies) and you know I love to read. A book called A Dog for Susie is just perfect for me. Do I really need to explain why?

I won’t explain why I still love this book nearly four decades after receiving it, but I will show you.

Dog for Susie “he needs me”

I really thought this book was long gone. In the great purge of my dad’s stuff just before Mom downsized to a smaller house a few years ago, we got rid of a TON of his things — along with a lot of my books, board games and other childhood paraphernalia.

You see, Dad was a packrat, I am a reformed packrat, and Mom and big brother J.T. are tossers. Therefore, lots of stuff plus the need to downsize, combined with two tossers, a reformed packrat and a river of emotion equals stuff getting thrown out or sold that the reformed packrat will later regret having let go.

And for the past few years I had assumed A Dog for Susie had fallen victim to the great purge.

Fast forward to 2008. Bruce and I are trying to downsize, too. Since he was disabled last year and lost gainful employment (you can’t really count his writing computer programs for me as gainful — I pay him in raspberry sherbet and cups of green tea), we have decided to sell our house. And, friends, we have a LOT of books. Even after filling a “to donate” box, we still won’t have room for all of them in a smaller house. Because we have three rooms with built-in bookcases (in the market for a house? we’ll show you!) and the donation box contains a pitifully small number of donations.

So the other day I was lamenting that I wished we hadn’t tossed A Dog for Susie and how could I have let that book go anyway and how could anyone love it as much as I did, and Bruce — who has nearly recovered from his medical complications and has been busy as a bee, packing our books — said, “No, that book is downstairs on the shelf.” I was skeptical. Thought he must think I was talking about a different book. But he took me straight to the shelf. And there it was: a book for Suzy.

If I didn’t kiss him — on the lips — I should have.

Sometimes a book is meaningful only to the one it belongs to. And sometimes a book is meaningful to that someone’s husband just because he loves books, too, and knows that sometimes you can’t explain why a worn-out children’s book means so much to a 45-year-old woman who edits newspapers for a living.

“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” ~ Anna Quindlen

Posted in books, dogs, family, inspiration | 4 Comments »

Are you smarter than a 6-year-old?

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on February 28, 2008

Taking inspiration from Berit’s post, I want to ask you four of the questions she asked her son, plus one question of my own (I added #3). The answers below are mine. For Cole’s answers, you’ll have to read Berit’s post. Berit, care to share any more of Cole’s school questions?

1) If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you like to go?
Australia, especially Ayers Rock and Sydney Harbor.

2) If you could be anybody else for a day, who would you be?
The person who gets to test flavors at an ice cream company.

3) What job would you least like to have?
Cleaning up road kill.

4) What else do you like to read besides books?
a) My friends’ blogs. No, seriously. I was going to say cereal boxes (to indicate that my love of reading is so intense that I will read just about anything), but blogs are more interesting, especially the ones written by my friends. It’s such a great new way of getting to know people you see maybe once a week. I have gotten to know Berit more through our blogs than anywhere else. b) News. c) Articles and essays on writing and editing, on words and how to use them well. d) Personal-finance stuff. I like to find ways to teach people how to make the most of their “treasures on earth.” e) The Bible. It’s the best source of inspiration, information, encouragement, training, correction and Truth you could ever ask for.

5) Do you think you’re smart?
I’m smart enough to know that’s a loaded question.

Now it’s your turn …

Posted in books, friends, frugal living, fun, humor, inspiration | 1 Comment »

Apples, cranberries and orange – oh, my!

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 10, 2007

Apple Walnut Torta

The chocoholic in me never ceases to be amazed that my palate can go so wild over other, less rich (or rich in other ways) flavors.

This morning it was Giada De Laurentiis’ Apple and Walnut Torta that made my mouth water. I saw her make it on the “Thanksgiving for Two” episode of Everyday Italian, and I promptly got up and started making the cake.

Every ingredient except the orange-flavored liqueur is a staple in my kitchen; I simply substituted a teaspoon of orange extract and some water. But I was out of dried cranberries, so I did have to go to the store. There, I found orange-flavored Craisins – yum! (Side note: For a snack, these are better than plain dried cranberries. The orange gives them an outstanding flavor, and a 1/3-cup serving contains 3 grams of fiber and no fat.)

As with the spice cookies I made two weeks ago, I could have eaten every last crumb of this cake, especially when it was still warm. In fact, because I wanted to share the cake with two sets of friends (a future client and a couple who did something nice for us), I started whipping up a second cake as soon as I tasted the first one. It’s made in an 8-inch pan, so it doesn’t go as far as a 9×13-inch cake. However, I will still have a few extra slices. Millie, if you see this post before Sunday morning, look me up between services and I’ll feed you!

In the next post, I’ll report on the Health-by-Chocolate Cookies I made from The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals. So far I’m the only one who has tasted them. My husband, who is ill, didn’t feel like trying one this afternoon, but I’m sure he will soon.

Apple and Walnut Torta (with a few modifications by Suzy)
Giada De Laurentiis, Everyday Italian

¼ cup orange-flavored liqueur OR 1/4 cup water plus 1 teaspoon orange extract
¼ cup dried cranberries (recommended: Ocean Spray Craisins, orange flavor)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Zest of ½ an orange
1 cup all-purpose flour OR 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
4 eggs
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups diced, peeled apples (about 2 apples)
½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Ice cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In small saucepan, heat orange liquid. Turn off heat and add cranberries, making sure all are submerged in liquid. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix cinnamon and orange zest. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In large bowl, mix eggs, butter, sugar and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add apples, walnuts and drained cranberries. Spoon mixture into lightly buttered 8x8x2-inch glass baking dish or cake pan. Bake about 30 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

To serve, while still warm cut into squares or wedges and serve with ice cream.

Posted in books, family, food | Leave a Comment »