Tuesday’s Top Ten – Ice Cream Flavors

Last week’s Top Ten Candies brought about some strong emotions.  Pretty much every candy I listed got trashed: Kit Palmer created his own top 10 completely ignoring all of my choices (diss!), and Bryan Allain not only trashed Sweet Tarts but went so far as to try to introduce candy cigarettes into the top ten.

This is a family blog folks.

So in the interest of providing a chance for unity and reconciliation, I present to you the Top Ten Ice Cream Flavors of all-time.  Surely there will be no disagreement when it comes to ice cream:

10) Turkey Hill Tin Roof Sunday – chocolate-covered peanuts in a fudge-swirled Vanilla ice cream.  And this one’s just a warm-up.

9) Haagen-Dasz Cookies and Creme – ice cream with anything resembling Oreo cookies has got to be a good thing

8) Rainbow Sherbet – is this really ice cream?  I don’t know, but it’s in the ice cream section, it’s cold, and I love it

7) Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby – seeing as how pretzels are my favorite snack food, how about a little Fudge Covered Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels in Vanilla Malt Ice Cream Rippled with Fudge & Peanut Butter . . .

6) Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough – many a time I’ve eaten an entire pint of this, garnering 1080 calories, 56 grams of fat, 176% of my daily allowance for saturated fat, and 60% of my daily calcium.  That last one keeps me coming back for more.

5) Ben and Jerry’s Fish Food – nutritional information about the same as the cookie dough variety, but in this one you get ripples of marshmallow . . . and little chocolate fish.

4) Turkey Hill Chocolate – the classic chocolate can’t be beat.  Wait, it’s number four.  It can only be beat by . . .

3) Baskin Robbins Rocky Road – almonds and marshmallows perfectly combined in a vat of chocolate.  Can someone clone this flavor and put it in brussel sprouts?  Or broccoli?  Or anything that’s good for me?

2) Cold Stone Creamery Mud Pie Mojo – a lot of Coldstone Creameries in the northeast are going out of business, so I support the one remaining store in our area with zeal.  You have to be careful though – sometimes I wonder if their cost cutting measures involve less mix-ins.  But a Mud Pie Mojo (coffee ice cream with Oreos, almonds, peanut butter, fudge sauce and marshmallow cream) properly made is chunky and delicious and nearly unbeatable, except by . . .

1) Turkey Hill Vanilla – that’s right, folks, Vanilla.  Not just for what it is, but for the opportunities it presents.  I tend to eat it with Cheerios loaded on top.  Or use it to dip pretzels or potato chips in.  Or sometimes, in the summer, I’ll douse it in grape Kool-Aid.  Nothing beats Vanilla.

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Anyone who shares any of this week’s posts on Facebook, or Twitter, or starts following me on Twitter (@shawnsmucker) this week, or shares a link to this post pretty much anywhere except in the men’s bathroom stall at the Lancaster Border’s, will gain entrance to win a free copy of Matt Mikalatos’s book Imaginary Jesus (no, not the copy he gave me; I’m keeping that one thank you very much).  Each time you share a post you get an additional entry to win the book, so go wild (and comment somewhere on what you’ve done so that I can keep track).

Fingernails, and God Chuckling

Three EXCITING (and quick) announcements (then a story about fingernails):

1) I met Matt Mikalatos this week (in the cyber sense) and read his book Imaginary Jesus

2) a review of his book is upcoming, as is a guest post by Matt – stay tuned for the details on that

3) Anyone who shares any of this week’s posts on Facebook, or Twitter, or starts following me on Twitter (@shawnsmucker) this week, or shares a link to this post pretty much anywhere except in the men’s bathroom stall at the Lancaster Border’s, will gain entrance to win a free copy of Matt’s book Imaginary Jesus (no, not the copy he gave me; I’m keeping that one thank you very much).  Each time you share gets you an additional entry to win the book, so go wild (and comment somewhere on what you’ve done so that I can keep track).

So, anyway . . . now for my random thoughts on fingernails and God chuckling at me.

Maile was trying to cut Samuel’s finger nails on Saturday night – you know, the little guy whose naming became my responsibility?  He is almost 10 months old and loves to tear us (and himself) apart with those Wolverine-like razors.  His finger nails grow faster than Pinochio’s nose at a presidential debate.

And he hates having them cut.  You would think Maile was cutting off his actual fingers – which it becomes very difficult NOT to do, with all the squirming and flailing and rolling involved.

I was thinking to myself, man, Sam, just sit STILL for a second, will you?  Getting those fingernails shortened is not going to kill you – in fact, it’s going to keep you from scratching yourself the way you always do.  It’s going to keep you from hurting yourself.  And me, too.

Then, somewhere not too far away, I heard God chuckling to himself.

What’s so funny? I asked.  Then he asked me a question.  He always answers my questions with questions.

He asked me why I squirm around so much when he’s trying to take off my sharp edges. 

I don’t know, I said.  Probably because I’m scared you’ll hurt me.  Or maybe I like using those sharp things as weapons to defend myself.

That’s interesting, he said.  But you know, it wouldn’t hurt you to just be still sometimes.  And trust me.

Uneasy Foundations

I guess in some ways it was easy for me to get serious about finding out who I was, and then going after it – nothing else I was doing was working anyway.  Business was just getting me further into debt and the faltering ecomony made it more difficult than usual to just step into a career.  In many ways I was very blessed to get pushed out of the nest.

In the months following my discussion with my two friends, Maile and I began to see all the ways that our current life was falling apart.  For the first time we did some serious exploring around the structure of our life – lo and behold the foundation was rather sandy.  And shifting.  In fact, it didn’t take much of an inventory to realize the whole freakin thing was about to cave.

That’s what led to the decision, and the drive north, and my revelation about the naming of our fourth child Sam.  I had a few potential clients who wanted me to write books for them, and I thought to myself, maybe this is it.  Maybe this is the jumping off point.

And in the months that I have spent dedicating myself completely to what I believe is my identity, the reason I’m on this planet, I’ve got to tell you: I’ve never been happier, or less stressed, or more content.  It’s not the money (we’ve never made less) and it’s not the stuff (our two minivans have a combined 350,000 miles and our budget has been slashed).  It’s the days, the moments, the evenings.  It’s the commitment that Maile and I have made to stop wasting life, to focus on doing what we’ve been called to do.  There is an immense satisfaction in this.

At this point I have to throw out a disclaimer – the last thing I’m trying to advocate is that people throw their careers or businesses out the window and do whatever they want to do.  I’ve heard a lot of sales pitches, and seen a lot of heartbroken people who jumped without thinking, so I know that there isn’t one path for everybody.  There’s not one plan or sequence or decision that works across the board.

But I’ve also seen too many people out there living their whole lives like it’s one big timecard.  Just punching in and punching out.  If that’s you, I’m not saying you should stop anything (don’t stop working or taking care of your family or paying your mortgage).  But I would say this: START something.

Start doing something that excites you.  Start doing something that your passionate about.  If it’s writing, then write.  If it’s music, then play.  If it’s business, then start something small on the side.  If it’s helping hurting people, then start volunteering.  If you love your career then stop doing things halfway and commit.

I PROMISE you that the more time you spend doing what your passionate about, the more opportunities will come your way, and the more likely it is that someday you’ll be doing that for a living, and not just in your free time, or as a hobby.

I love this quote by Natalie Goldberg from Writing Down the Bones: “I used to think freedom meant doing whatever you want. It means knowing who you are, knowing what you’re supposed to be doing here on this earth, and then simply doing it.”

*****

For the next part of this story, click HERE

For the very first part of this story, click HERE

My Antonia

“I was ten years old then; I had lost both my father and mother within a year, and my Virginia relatives were sending me out to my grandparents, who lived in Nebraska.  I travelled in the care of a mountain boy, Jake Marpole, one of the “hands” on my father’s old farm under the Blue Ridge, who was now going West to work for my grandfather.  Jake’s experience of the world was not much wider than mine.  He had never been in a railway train until the morning when we set out together to try our fortunes in a new world.”

Jim Burden heads west for his new life, and Willa Cather’s My Antonia is told from his perspective, yet it is less the story of Jim Burden than it is of Antonia Shimerda, a free-spirited immigrant girl whose family arrives in the west without any knowledge of the land and unable to speak English. 

It is also the story of our still-young country during the times of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the people who flocked to the West for their piece of land and life.  

“I can remember exactly how the country looked to me as I walked beside my grandmother along the faint wagon-tracks on that early September morning.  Perhaps the glide of long railway travel was still with me, for more than anything else I felt motion in the landscape; in the fresh, easy-blowing morning wind, and in the earth itself, as if the shaggy grass were a sort of loose hide, and underneath it herds of wild buffalo were galloping, galloping . . .”

If you enjoyed “Little House on the Prairie” when you were a kid, you will definitely enjoy My Antonia as an adult.

* * * * *

BLOG ALERT! If you love reading blogs, here are five of my favorite posts from other blogs that I read this week:

http://www.andilit.com/?p=644

http://www.tylerstanton.com/2010/04/14/video-tripp-gets-his-face-painted/

http://stoltzfusinstrasburg.blogspot.com/2010/04/silver-haired-wisdom.html  (make sure you read the comments at the bottom)

http://bryanallain.com/archives/2010/04/15/the-thing-about-blue-cleavage/

http://www.thehousestudio.com/wp/2010/04/13/mirrors-and-patterns/

Check them out!

The Day I Stared Down A Mack Truck

I remember sitting down with two really good friends of mine in a cafe in Reston, Virginia, a few months before Maile and I made the decision to move back to Pennsylvania with our four kids and into my parent’s basement.  These two friends of mine were talking me through some difficult stuff – these were the days when life seemed like a trap, with no way out of the downward financial and emotional spiral I found myself in – and one of them asked me something that seemed so basic, yet so unanswerable:

“So who are you?”

Talk about turning a corner to find a Mack truck bearing down on you.  I stared at the table and blinked a few times.  I had no idea.  But the more we spoke, the more I realized that my the answer to that question, the answer to my identity, was very much rooted in my desire to write, and to read, and to help others tell their stories. 

I still didn’t get it though.  I still didn’t get just how important it was that I start this process of discovering my identity, or what kind of an impact it could have on my relatively brief existence on this earth. 

One of those two friends, Jon, could tell I wasn’t getting it.  We had the following conversation (this isn’t word for word, so apologies Jon if I’m misquoting you, but this is the general direction we went):

“What about David?” he asked me.  “You know, David and Goliath?”

I shrugged.  “What about him?”

“What do you think about his decision to fight Goliath?”

“Well, it was pretty brave wasn’t it, heading out there to fight that older, seasoned, Andre-the-giant sized soldier?”

“I guess it took some courage,” Jon said, “but I don’t think David was worried at all.”

“Really? I’ve always thought it was one of the bravest stories in the Bible.  This little shepherd boy goes up against a giant with a sling and some stones!”

“Think about it, though,” Jon continued. “In the chapter leading up to David’s fight against Goliath, the prophet Samuel told him he would be king.  God had basically promised David that he would be king.”

He stopped and let those words sink in.

“David knew his identity,” Jon said, quietly, “and because he knew that, he also knew that he had nothing to fear, because there was nothing that that giant or anyone in the world could do to stop him fulfilling his God-given mission and purpose and identity of being Israel’s next king.”

I remember wishing, more than anything, that I could know what my identity was.  My mission.

“If you can figure out your identity,” Jon said. “It might just give you the courage you need to make some difficult decisions, to do what you need to do, to go in the direction you need to go.”

*****

To continue reading, click HERE

Tuesday’s Top Ten – Types of Candy

***some quick announcements 1) if you’d like to know what kind of looney tune could live on bubble gum, follow me on Twitter @shawnsmucker 2) if you’ve got a pile of books on your night stand you’d like to get through, check out my friend Andi’s post about her summer reading challenge (25 books by Labor Day).  Now, on to Tuesday’s Top Ten.

I’ve had more than my fair share of cavities.  Let’s be honest.  I’ve had teeth pulled, capped, rooted, filled, braced and retained.  There’s not much that hasn’t been done to my teeth (or still needs to be done – anyone doing volunteer root canals?), and I’ve pretty much chalked it up to my love of sugar. 

I think of my college roommate Ryan Swain, now a dentist in Rochester, and I know that he is shaking his head in disappointment.

You may notice the lack of chocolate candy on my list, but I’m just not a big chocolate fan.  I like it, but not as much as the fruity, chewy, pull the teeth from your mouth variety.  I have no idea where this sweet tooth came from, but the following are my top ten favorite kinds of candy:

10) Gigantic Jawbreakers – there were many different types of candy vying for this tenth spot, I’ll be honest.  And I’ll also tell you that Gigantic Jawbreakers are not my personal favorite . . . but when I was young my even younger sister got one of these stuck in her mouth, and ever since then I’ve had a special place in my heart for them (sorry, Shar, if this happened again, now that we’re older, I wouldn’t just put my hand over my mouth and point . . . and laugh . . . – I’d try to help remove it)

9) Pop Rocks – I still remember the first time I tried these, at a roller skating rink when I was about 10, and the explosions they made in my mouth had me hooked, if not for their flavor then their similarity to firecrackers

8) Sour Patch Kids – I also remember the first time I tried Sour Patch Kids: the sourness caused my whole mouth to suck in on itself until I looked like one of the Dementors from Harry Potter.  It was awesome.

7) Blow Pops – these came into our previous discussion regarding top ten types of bubblegum:  Candy?  Good.  Gum?  Good.  Blow Pops?  Good.

6) Nerds – who named these, and what were they thinking?  Somehow this candy overcame one of the dumbest names of all time, of any product, to make my candy hall of fame.  I have an aunt that eats these one at a time . . . and she’s a psychoanalyst . . . I wonder what this tells her about herself?  If you’re brave enough Aunt K, go ahead and comment below and let us in on your mania.

5) Sweet Tarts – one of my old stand-by favorites.  Once I open the pack I cannot rest until I have devoured each and every piece.

4) Skittles – when Maile and I went on our honeymoon we had a long drive to make, something in the realm of 14 hours, and on the trip we would eat Skittles without looking at them and try to guess the flavor.  I think we got through 8 or 9 packs.  To this day Maile will not eat Skittles.  The fact that this excess had no negative impact on my sweet tooth, or my desire for Skittles, will tell you a lot about the depraved level to which I have fallen.

3) Swedish Fish – so many varieties: small, large, grape, orange, lemon, cherry . . . but in junior high I would go to the soccer games and buy the small versions at the snack shop for one penny each.  Do I sound like a grandfather? 

2) Sour Skittles – these would have made number one except recently I ate an entire pack on a long drive and sort of burnt my tongue on the sourness. 

1) Now N Laters – as I look over the rankings I’m beginning to realize that the higher the ranking the more detrimental that particular candy is to tooth structure.  Now N Laters personally sucked at least 2 fillings from my teeth at various points in my life.  Because of this I boycotted them for about ten years.  But I’ve returned to eating them recently, and they’re better than ever.

Honorable Mention:

Laughy Taffy

Watchamacallit

Snickers

Whistle Pops

Ring Pops

Grape Bonkers

Atomic Fireballs

So what did I miss?