Monday, August 27, 2007
Time Off
It's been calling my name for awhile now, softly, in the background. Time to take a break from a few things, and spend it elsewhere. It may just be the time of year, fall and the start of school always seem to me to call for a change in schedule, or maybe even setting up some schedules! There are books waiting to be read, fabric waiting to be sewn, and a few projects around here that need some attention.

So, til further notice, I won't be posting anything, won't be leaving any comments either. I'll still be lurking around in the background now and then, to see what you're all up to. I'll be back when it feels like the right thing to do. xoxoxo


  posted at 12:37 PM

Thursday, August 23, 2007
Unexpected Break
It would seem the demons have attacked my laptop. Somehow, in spite of having McAfee Security Suite, and two other programs loaded onto my computer to ward off spyware, my computer is bogged down so deep, it can't even open the front door. So I'm off to Best Buy this morning, with my laptop tucked under my arm, praying the GeekSquad can clean it up without removing all our photos that aren't printed out yet. That would about a year's worth of photos - minor things like the two newest grandbabies' births, Dan's college graduation, last Christmas, our cruise, and the last three other vacations. Just minor stuff we wouldn't mind losing...

On top of that, my big secret surprise. Our son is arriving from Dallas tonight, for a weekend surprise visit to celebrate Don's no-smoking anniversary. We're planning to have him just walk in during coffee tomorrow morning, then take his Dad to lunch tomorrow, and tomorrow night all of us in this state will head to the Cheesecake Factory to celebrate. Saturday night is Landon's first birthday celebration at a local park, and we've got a bright red wagon wrapped in a big bow, to deliver to him. Sunday church, with two of our three kids, will be a treat, drop Dan at the airport after a too-quick visit, then Don and I are off to see the pre-season Steeler game, via tickets from a friend.

So a full, full weekend, that apparently will not involve any computer time, and hopefully next Monday I'll be back in business. And if anyone out there can recommend a good on-line, free email that would be great. Has anyone else ever noticed, at the bottom of the yahoo page, that it says, "We collect private information." That would be cookies that track your internet activity, and it's one place I intend to start doing some cleanup.

Not what I'd intended blogwise this week, but sometimes things just don't work out as planned. Keeping it all in perspective, it could be a lot worse, at least it's not payday so I don't have to pay bills online, and the computer isn't a desktop so I can just grab it and drop it on the counter with the Geeks. Back later.


  posted at 7:29 AM

Monday, August 20, 2007
Back to School
Everything in me wanted to go to school with my three older siblings. Left behind with 'the babies', my mother pacified me, saying I could go when I knew how to tie my shoes. Five years old, it was an ability beyond my reach. I stood on that big white porch, watched them walk away, leaving me with baby brothers and dolls. Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans would have to do for awhile longer, til I could figure out the mechanics of those loopy bows and knots.

Back then, school was something I spent all summer anticipating. Big Chief tablets, new crayons (and I so wanted the box with the sharpener in it, but buying six boxes made that an unnecessary luxury), new pencils, a few new dresses. When school finally started up again, I remember nightly a loaf of bread, and a package of bologna laid out on the kitchen counter; however many sandwiches it made, that was lunch for the six of us - my brothers could eat more than one. Nights were spent studying my spelling words, or writing book reports. I loved it all. When I was young there was so much to learn. Even diagramming sentences fascinated me. Those nouns and verbs written on the chalkboard, with lines shooting off in all directions. Spelling bees, art classes, science projects made from sugar cubes late at night, then carried to school oh so carefully on the school bus, to turn in to the teacher, sure she'd be dazzled by it.

Mrs. Darcy, my fourth grade teacher, made school such fun. I don't remember her face, she was a bit plump, and had blonde hair. I do recall after school she'd lead our class from the building to the buses, just past the merry-go-round, as we sang "We're on the Homework Trail". Bless her heart for caring more about kids than her dignity.

I'm a student at heart. I love to read, study, non-fiction is often my choice. In keeping with that, this past weekend I took a quilting class to sharpen some skills, and learn a new thing or two. As I sat and listened to the instructor, some information sailed right over my head. Later when she addressed it again, it fell into place and I grasped what she was teaching. What I'd missed was critical to understanding the process in it's entirety, to being able to repeat the process later on my own. Taking notes would not have been enough, I had to understand what she was trying to get across. I had to learn, not memorize, the technique.

Then Sunday and church came along, and I sat taking notes during the sermon. As our pastor spoke on Jesus leaving earth, and leaving behind the Holy Spirit, and why this was all a good thing, in fact a better thing, I was struck that Jesus had said - 'it's better that I go so He will come."

I've often thought, wouldn't it be great if Jesus was just here in the flesh, I could reach out and touch him, talk to him, ask him my list of questions, sit at his feet? I realized during the sermon when Jesus was on earth even he was in only one place at a time, even he got weary. Once he left earth, and the Holy Spirit came, he could be with us all the time, everywhere, all at once.

This new realization really hit me. They had him there, in the flesh, we don't. We have faith, and with it comes his presence within us, all the time. When Jesus left an area, they followed after him, wanting to be with him, to hear more. Sometimes Scripture surprises me, something I've read over and over, heard in three point sermons more than once, then my heart takes it in. What struck me next was how, twice in a weekend, new teaching had zoomed right over my head, then came back and I'd grasped it the second (or fiftieth) time around.

Yesterday in Target the aisles were full of frustrated parents and kids purchasing crayons, markers, scissors, etc. Next to that section was the 'back to college' aisle, with bigger purchases, in size and cost. In about a week school buses will pull up, load kids on them, and take them to school. Some will have waited all summer for the day to arrive. Our oldest grandson Caiden, almost 6, is just about ready to start school. He's so eager to learn, just like a little sponge ready for something wet. Others have spent three months dreading school's return. You can put those kids in desks, make them sit there the whole live-long day, but unless they are ready to learn, they won't. Not even with a Mrs. Darcy on board.

Neither will I. A teachable spirit - a recognition of how much I have to learn, a heart eager to take it in, apply it. Then come back for more. It's not about tying loops with laces, but rather a heart condition. Soft, open, ready to learn. A heart like a sponge. A heart like Caiden's.


  posted at 8:03 AM

Saturday, August 18, 2007
Now and then little items seem to pile up in my brain. Today seemed a good day to set them out, sort them out, and share them with you - in no particular order -

#1 More important than most of the rest of this list, Happy Birthday Barb. Hope your birthday is wonderful.

#2 Look what arrived in the mail! Shawna at Scamp's Place sent me this wonderful assortment of scrapbooking supplies. I think I forgot to tell anyone I'd won something in the Dog Days of Summer Giveaway. I used some of the stickers to make a 'Good Things' notebook. Thank you, Shawna. Way, way more than I'd hoped for.

#3 For some reason, we're not seeing deer in our backyard much this summer. I've caught a peek or two at a doe with fawns, but for the most part they're staying under the cover of all the growth in the woods. However, the fact that every morning more and more of my blossoms have been nipped off right at the base tells me they are out there. Grrrrrrr.....Maybe my SIL Jeremy has the right idea, shooting them. At least those with petals hanging from their mouths.

#4 Don got his veneers finally this week, after three months of planning, prep work, etc. They look wonderful, so I guess they were worth the five hours he spent in the dentist's chair. We're going out tonight for dinner, to celebrate the fact that he can eat again. Nobody should have to sit in the dentist's chair FIVE hours. Yes, he said it was grueling.

#5 I forgot to tell anyone ahead of time, but there was a show of shooting stars this past Monday night. 40-60 shooting stars were visible per hour, so I was crazy and got up at 2:50 a.m., to sit on the deck in my pjs and watch. I saw five beautiful shooting stars! The only background noise was that of crickets and what sounded like one big frog in the creek out back. I didn't make wishes, but it was worth getting up for. Whatever this shower was, it comes around late July - early August every year, so maybe next year I can remember to put the word out. You'll all be dying to wake up your kids in the middle of the night, I know.

#6 I have a very fun surprise for my husband this next week, for his 9th no-smoking anniversary. We bought him a new fishing rod, we're going out for crablegs Friday night (his choice) and there's one more item to pick up Thursday evening. Can't quite tell yet, just in case the word would slip. I'll tell you later next week. I'm excited!!!!!

#7 I've been quilting up a storm lately - and am amazed how quickly I've gotten rusty. The points are getting a bit nipped, things don't line up so slick, but with practice I should get better. I'm just about to cut out Landon's first birthday quilt - the fabric is "woodlands walk", caterpillars in jars, lady bugs on leaves, dragonflies. I can't wait to get started with it. Maybe someday his son will have it. It'll likely be less than perfect, but stitched with love. I'm taking a little class on binding tomorrow with Dianne's mom, Mary Ann. She's a fellow Sew and Sow.

#8 Kite Runner was a truly beautiful book. There's a scene early on in the book that is painful to read, involving s*exual abuse of a young boy, but it's critical to the book. I was amazed throughout the read, not only by the writer's ability, but the heart that book would come from. It was his first book, incredible. I expect it'll be made into a movie someday. He has another one out, and I've requested it from the library. I'm reading now, at Sarah's nudging, Silas Marner by George Eliot. I'm struggling a bit to get through it, but she promises me it's worth the effort.

#9 The mood to cook is still going strong. If I don't make banana bread tomorrow morning, we may as well turn the place over to the fruit flies. Here's the recipe I'm going to use, for Sarah, who requested it. I like this one because it added oatmeal to the typical banana bread recipe, which doesn't stave off hunger for long:

Banana Oatmeal Loaf
1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cups regulalr oats
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 large)
1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
Cooking spray

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, bakinng powder, soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir well with whisk. Stir in oats. (I'm adding a handful of coconut here.) Combine mashed bananas, buttermilk, vegetable oil, vanilla and eggs. Add to flour mixture. Stir til just moist. Spoon batter innto an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 55 minutes or til wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes in pan on wire rack. Remove from pan. Cook completely on wire rack. Yield 12 servings. 1 slice = 192 calories, 6 g fat, 1.3 g fiber. If you want to up the fiber for holding power, you likely could toss in a bit more oatmeal and it wouldn't change the taste or texture of the bread. (Recipe from Cooking Lite.)

#10 Last, Leslie headed to Texas with Landon today for some time with her siblings. In the meantime, Jeremy is living the bachelor life while she's gone, so we're having him to Sunday dinner. Something in me is crying to make fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, with watermelon - must be those end of summer yearnings. Maybe there'll be a pre-season football game, and I can escape to the basement to quilt while the boys discuss the upcoming season. We're also power-washing the deck, because we just are fun like that. If Jeremy's smart, he'll wait in his car one house down, til he hears the power-washer shut off. I'm not really expecting him to sing for his supper.

That's it for around here - a busy, full weekend. Hope everyone out there has a great one too! xoxoxo

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  posted at 8:00 AM

Friday, August 17, 2007
Nice Matters, Apparently.
Trish, at An Ordinary Life Artist, and Michelle at Between Diapers and Dishes, both gave me a gift today - this award:

My husband isn't big on bumper stickers; actually he hates them. Consequently we don't have any on our vehicles. If we did, I've always said mine would say "Mean People Suck" but the entire family gives me a rough time about it. So I don't get to put it on my car. Instead I have it on the downstairs refrigerator instead. In large letters. Because they do.

Obviously I feel strongly that nice matters, and I'm flattered that Trish and Michelle think so too, and thought I fell in that category, rather than the bumper sticker one! The deal with this award is to pass it on to others, so here are the blog doorsteps I'm leaving it on:

Leah, at South Breeze Farmhouse. We email on the sidelines now and then, and she's sweet through and through.

Reba, at Schenk Family. Biased here, I've known Reba since she was in 6th grade. She and our daughter, Leslie are best friends. She's in the middle of raising her first child. She's like family to us. I don't even know if she ever stops over here, but I do know her heart. She qualifies.

Another one, Andrea, at Decipher the Fog (don't you love that blog name?). Check her out.

Karen, at Over the Backyard Fence. I see her sweet comments on my mom's blog, and that alone qualifies her as "sweet". I love how much she loves her family.

Someone very new to blogging, but I've known her for quite awhile now. Brittani is one of Sarah's dear friends, and she's sweet with some sassy thrown in for good measure. I like a little sassy. She's pretty as can be too.

Sweet to the core - Karen, at Exceedingly Abundant. I so wish I could meet this woman - she's just precious. Her comments always encourage me. If you don't read her, you should. Her heart shines through everything she writes.

Finally, Susie at Pink Carnation in Bloom. Sweet oozes right out of her. I swear her profile photo makes her look 15, but she says she's a grownup. Always a treat to read or hear from her.

So there you have it, passing on the award to seven people. If any of you seven would like, grab the icon and post it on your blog, then pass it on to seven others who warm your heart. xoxox


  posted at 8:26 PM

Just Like the Good Lord Made Us...
Last night Dianne (Unfinished Work), Katrina (Callapidder Days) and I met for dinner at the local Applebee's. Our last get-together was fall, 2006. That was the first time we met face to face, or in blogese MIRL. Last time we brought laptops, took photos, and talked about blogging non-stop. That's what we had in common back then.

This time, we sat and enjoyed dinner together for 2 1/2 hours. Our conversation covered jobs, lack of jobs, diaper issues, family, friends, church, boundaries with family, what books we are reading, mentoring, a writer's conference, an upcoming beach trip, - with a little blogging talk thrown in at the end. The conversation common to friends (who happen to blog) getting together.

As our conversation rambled around the whole blog thing, we talked about the 'comment issue', and the fact that blogging serves different purposes for each of us and other bloggers in general. Dianne's blog doesn't have comments enabled. Katrina does some big book readings and give aways, so she's often swamped. I'm somewhere in between. Some bloggers seem more relational, some use it as a place to practice writing, some - a mix of both. Some seem to write to gather comments, and maybe that's just their competitive nature coming out - not necessarily a bad thing. Some can't help but write whether they get a comment at all. A few are constantly serious - then there are those who write to entertain. All three of us agreed, regardless of style, we tend to gravitate to those genuine bloggers, whose 'realness' comes through their postings. Isn't it amazing how different God made each of us? Wouldn't it be nice if we could learn to appreciate those differences? My first tendency is often to assume my ways, thoughts, opinions are 'right', so doesn't that make others' 'wrong'? Wouldn't it be nice if we could grasp the beauty of individuality, being just like the Good Lord made us? Surely even zebras, or elephants, or tigers at the zoo, which we label as 'the same' - surely they have different 'personalities' just like we humans. Surely there are grouchy zebras, outgoing elephants, unpredictable tigers? If there's variety in animals, wouldn't we expect it in the human race, and couldn't we come to accept it just a bit more?

Sitting at dinner, listening to Dianne talk in her quiet way of things a bit deep, and of Katrina relishing a night out from the responsibilities of caring for little ones, I was struck by our differences, and how they bring energy to our friendship. I can't tell you what either girl had on, none of us fussed much. We were among friends. Hence, no photos of our dinner out. And of course we had something chocolate for dessert.


  posted at 8:13 AM

Thursday, August 16, 2007
Thirteen Reasons to Get a Wife!
From a previous post, then the emails that followed, a commenter and I agreed - many of our problems could be solved, if we just had a wife! I've made that glib comment to others before, but it stuck in my brain this week. If I really had a wife, not that I'm anything at all like Rosie O'Donnell or Ellen Degeneres, but if I did, what 13 tasks would I hand over to the 'little lady':

#1 Laundry, but not all of it. Only the clothing worn doing yardwork, that lands in the basket drenched in sweat, and grass stain rings around the socks, or uniforms dragged home from basketball, football, or baseball games. I'd keep the towels and sheets that come out smelling wonderful. And little kid pajamas - those are too cute to pass up. And little kid socks - so small, it's too sweet rolling them up into little balls.

#2 Changing the bed linens, and a lot more often than I do. There has to be a happy medium between my once a month and hotels which change them nightly. If she'd hang them out on the clothesline and let them airdry, that's be okay too. I wouldn't require ironing. Having more of my own on a daily basis, I'm pretty comfortable with wrinkles.

#3 Packing lunches, and of course she'd include the sweet note, with a reminder of prayer coverage for a test, or a meeting, or safety on the road, or someone nice to sit beside them at lunch. It'd have to have a meat, side, sweet, and something extra.

#4 Cleaning the soap scum off the bathroom tiles. Especially the tiles closest to the bottom of the shower. Add to that removing the hair that collects in the drain and must be removed with long tweezers several times a year. I'm okay to hand that over too. Believe it or not, I don't mind cleaning the rest of the bathroom, and I'm not sure what that says about me.

#5 Planning menus, to suit the entire family, and be interesting, and include everyone's favorite foods, and be those that can be prepared in fifteen minutes or less, aren't expensive, and don't cause undue gas or heartburn.

#6 Pet care - on all levels. The vet appointments, brushing, combing, bathing, ear cleanup, yard cleanup, catbox cleanup. I'd keep playing ball and going for walks.

#7 Paying the bills, balancing the checkbook, filing all the paperwork, keeping track of whether or not the furnace was serviced, or the car, or the washer is still under warranty when it breaks, and where on earth is the warranty? All that stuff. She could also choose new appliances when the old ones break, figure out how to pay for them, and deal with the delivery guys who bring them through the door and scratch them on the way in. She'd have a blast doing that.

#8 Picking out Christmas gifts for those family members who don't need or want a single solitary thing, but you have to let them know you love them, and picked something out especially for them, that will be the best present they get this year, but won't make them get or look fat. And didn't cost too much so they don't feel either guilty, or like you're squandering your money away on foolish things. Those are so easy to pick, she'll love that chore.

#9 Anything having to do with a vehicle, especially maintenace or repair of it, but also including driving it, unless it's a summer day with blue skies above, windows rolled down, music turned up loud, and an ice cold diet coke in the cup holder. Them I'm okay with driving - anywhere. She can have all the carpools, with five kids in the back, all chattering away at high volume, when it's the end of the day and your head feels like it might explode, and you can't stop for a diet coke or everyone else in the car will want something and it'll cost you another $7.00 so it's just not worth it to stop. Try to ignore the headache and keep on driving. She can have that one.

#10 Purchasing anything online, after you've surfed the net at how many locations, found the absolute best deal, checked out the buyer, typed in all the credit card information, then knowing when you hit "click here to pay" and it doesn't go through the first time, she'll know what to do, and if she doesn't and it gets messed up, she'll be able to deal with the credit card bill when it arrives in the mail with a duplicate charge of $299.99 for an airline ticket she didn't mean to purchase in duplicate, since she obviously can't sit in two seats at once, although they are small enough she could use two.

#11 Anything having to do with bodily discharges, from anywhere, from anyone, at any age, for any reason. And if it's a slumber party and said discharges are not from a family member, that's over the top and they only need to have the phone number of the person who claims the child on their income taxes very handy, so they can get to your house before there is a repeat occurence. Especially if you were dumb enough to install shag carpet in your home.

#12 All shopping excursions that involve taking more than one child to purchase anything, anywhere, but especially if it's after 7 pm. You'd likely fit in with everyone else out at that hour with multiple children, but none of them are people you would want to get to know, or spend time with.

#13 And finally, she can have the task of figuring out, when my husband is clearly upset with me, but when I ask what's wrong, he says "nothing" but doesn't really talk the rest of the night, so I know something is in fact wrong, and it's probably my fault, but I don't know if he wants me to keep asking, or drop it, or cook something, or shave my legs, and be available for extra snuggling. She can have that task too, except the snuggling.

There you go - thirteen tasks I'd hand over. Of course, there are so many that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world, but that's another list for another day. If you participate in Thursday 13 leave a link; I'd love to wander over.

Note: Happiest of 10th Anniversary to Chris and Sarah xoxoxoxo


  posted at 8:00 AM

Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Nothin Says Lovin' Like Something Mediocre from the Oven
Hospitality and Evangelism fight for last place in my lineup of spiritual gifts. I know we're called to evangelize, to be hospitable. It's just not something that calls to me so I'm working on that. Now that our daughter and her little family have moved back home, we've had them over for dinner a few times. Since she started a new job this past Monday, I thought feeding them Tuesday night would fall in the category of "love is a verb." We offered, they accepted, and I went scavaging in the basement freezer for something to prepare.

I settled on a pot roast, candied sweet potatoes (because Jeremy loves them and dislikes a variety of other things), green beans with bacon (because everything is better with bacon), fresh garden tomatoes, biscuits and peach cobbler.

And a glass of wine is almost always a good start to a meal.

The roast was tough and stringy, and not very flavorful. Jeremy doesnt touch tomatoes (they were fabulous), Leslie doesnt really care for sweet potatoes (Jeremy had seconds), the cobbler was heavy on the dough side. The baby ate anything anyone was willing to cut into tiny pieces and put in front of him.

So dinner was less than fabulous, but edible. We had placemats, I lit a candle and had fresh flowers from the flowerbed outside. We sat and asked about her job, what she thought so far. A couple of hours later, after they'd gone home, I thought over the evening.

Was my goal to serve a perfect meal? No. Love isn't shown by perfect cooking. Leslie was just thankful to not cook for a night, and have someone else deal with the aftermath of a meal. She seemed to appreciate us asking with genuine interest about this big new endeavor. I would have been more pleased with a pot roast that fell apart, it was so tender. I should have thought to make a few potatoes, or something. Next time I make the cobbler I'll pour less batter on top.

None of it mattered - we spent time together, around a table. There were moments when we laughed so hard over office dialogue, or as our conversation wandered into upcoming fall TV schedules and the shows we all follow. Nice placemats, a pretty centerpiece, great food - that's all nice, but not necessarily necessary. If I'd been the guest rather than the hostess, I would have felt loved and appreciated. And that was the point. Open our home. Be genuine. We'll bless others and be blessed ourselves. Good things to remember.


  posted at 4:21 PM

Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Tapping into a Great Resource!
I've been going through old magazines, trying to tame the paper tiger. I came across a little note in a past issue of Real Simple Magazine:

'Ask a granny. Sometimes you just need advice from someone older and wiser. If your grandparents aren't around, you can still get free advice from a savvy senior at Type in a question and you'll be matched with a volunteer cyber-grandparent, who will get back to you within a few days with some sage counsel. (However, you'll have to get your own hot cocoa.)'

So I went there and checked it out. Here's what I found:

Our Featured Letter Today

MARRIAGE: Poker Comes Before Me. Ok I am having a problem. My husband has the hobby of drinking beer and playing cards with his friends EVERYDAY. Even if I plan something he bails on me to play cards. I am beginning to feel second rate to poker. Our daughter doesnt even let him hold her at all. She is almost a year old and he has never fed her or changed a diaper. If I go over there and ask him to come home, the guys make fun of him and call him a wuss. I am so tired of cleaning house, making dinner, and taking care of my daughter all by myself. This has been going on for almost a year now. What should I do. I am confused both emotionally and mentally. I cant live like this anymore.

Elder Response: Please remember as you read this that we are not professional advisors but rather provide advice, thoughts, suggestions and observations based on life experience. I am a man, enjoy my occasional beer and like to play poker, again on occasion so thought you might like a man's perspective.

His friends call him a 'wuss' because you ask him to come home. Well, I have to agree that he is a 'wuss' but not because of that but rather that he is acting like a little boy and isn't living up to his responsibilities as a husband or a father.....and that is a better definition of a 'wuss'.

I can appreciate that you are hurt, confused and didn't indicate whether you work outside the home but the cooking, cleaning and caring for a baby daughter is a full time job in itself and you are getting absolutely no assistance. He seems to be running away from something. Going out with the boys is ok on occasion but at the most should not be more than one night a week. Most men, especially with a new baby and a beautiful wife enjoy spending time with them. You also need some 'me' time to get out of the house, be with friends and do something that you enjoy.

Something is going on with your husband but I'm not qualified to make that determination. I think that the two of you need to consider joint marital counseling and find out the underlying causes for his actions and get your marriage back on track. If he refuses, and he might, go yourself so you at least can understand and then deal with the problem. But he owes it to you, and your daughter, to work on this with you.... he needs to work at being a husband and a father......if he doesn't he is truly a 'wuss' and feel free to tell him I said so. I wish you the best and give your baby a hug for me. I'll be thinking of you and let me know how things are going.

Great answer! Completely fabulous! I loved the sass at the end, 'feel free to tell him I said so.' (If she'd asked me, I would have told her to change the locks, at least on the bedroom door. Which is why they didn't recruit me for this volunteer position.) You can also go into their archives, do a subject search. I'm over the moon about this - so if your grandparents are already gone, or maybe like me you barely knew them, or they're still around, but aren't really someone you'd seek counsel from, you can go here. I LOVE IT, and it's just too good to keep to myself. Now, what do I want to ask first..... he already lowers the lid and takes out the trash.....


  posted at 9:25 PM

Monday, August 13, 2007
Misty Memories of Late Nights & Rocking Chairs

It's just a night of babysitting - the 'kids' are out at a movie, and I offered to stay with their little one. He would be about ready for bedtime when they left, and I'd just spend the evening reading a book, or whatever, putzing. That was the plan anyway.

At eleven months he still looks very forward to the evening bottle. I managed to change him while he guzzled, then we finished up in the nursery rocker. He hasn't developed an ear for music, so he listened without complaint while I sang all twelve verses of 'This Old Man'. Bedtime - he settled into my shoulder. When sleep had taken him over, I laid him down in the crib, made sure blankie and froggy were nearby, and slipped out of his room.

An hour later, on the monitor - I hear fussing. He's teething so I head up the stairs to give him ibuprofen and an extra snuggle til he's calmed down and the medicine has kicked in. We sit back in the chair, and I begin to rock again. This time no singing, just a soft backrub. There's a fan on in the room, but it's aimed at his crib, so it doesn't hit us. We're so close together that soon his fine baby hair is wet with sweat - his and mine - against my neck. We're overly warm because of the flannel blanket he hugs closely. A blanket I made him. Is it pride, my pleasure over it slowly becoming his "blankie"? I hope not. I can feel his thumb going in and out against my shoulder.

I realize we're going to be here awhile. I'm not willing to put him back down til he's sleeping that deep baby sleep, where limbs hang by his side, and the thumb falls out. He's a heavy baby, so I cup one hand under his bottom, to support his weight. Next to my hand I feel the rolls of babyfat on his legs, and run my other hand down his little arms to find more rolls. Soft rolls. Once in awhile, right when I think he's there, instead he bolts up, looks me in the eye, then throws his head back down, trying to sleep.

Sitting here, holding this little boy, my mind goes back 23 years, to when my son was this age. Colic was an ever-present enemy, so sleep never came easy. Back then he and I spent many hours together, in the rocker, sometimes both of us crying, him with pain, and me with frustration and weariness. I thought back, wanting so badly to remember my son's chubby legs, soft arms, that hiccupy sound he must have made as his cries settled down, knowing I would be there. I tried to remember his back so small, hair so fine, eyes big and trusting.

As hard as I try, I can't recall the details of what he looked like, felt like, smelled like as an infant. It's been too long. My son, now 24 and tall with broad shoulders, thankfully doesn't remember those days. Sitting here, rocking this fussy, teething little boy, who will grow too quickly into a man, it's a gift straight from the Father to bring back those nights when my son was a baby, crying with pain. I can imagine that he was much like this little one, nestled up close to me. Hard as that time was for both of us, I am blessed to recall it tonight. And him when he was this small.


  posted at 10:30 PM

Saturday, August 11, 2007
Making a Home
I do this every summer. It doesn't make a lick of sense, but something in me wants to stay inside - sew, paint, cook, clean, even iron! Maybe it's the heat outside that sends me indoors, for whatever reason, it happens every summer.

There's a sweet, sweet blog out there that I've been keeping to myself for awhile. She's filed under "Pure Joy" and sometimes at the end of the day, I stop over just to see what she's up to. Her blog, Pleasant View Schoolhouse, only intensifies this urge to stay inside and make our home a cozy place. Anna and her entire family are simply amazing, but it's the sweetness, the joy in simple things that calls to me. She's into sewing lately, and recommends a wonderful book, Bend the Rules of Sewing, by Amy Karol. If you've ever wanted to learn, but been intimidated, or worse - had a bad experience with a home economics teacher looking down her nose at you, telling you to "rip it out", then this book might be just what you need to get started, or start again.

I have a confession to make - my book respite has slipped a bit. I did fight the urge to buy any books for several months, but lately they've been whispering my name. So I asked God if He thought it was okay for me to buy one, now and then, to truly treasure, and I feel like I got the go-ahead. He explained to me $100 a month or more was not balanced, and we're called to live a balanced life. The few books I've purchased, it's felt like bringing home a treasure when I did.

With that, I bought Bend the Rules of Sewing, and late at night I sit up in bed with a cup of tea and plan out all the wonderful things I want to make as gifts. Anna also mentioned this book as being influential in her approach to homemaking - Home Comforts, by Cheryl Mendelson. Simply amazing book - I checked this one out of the library to browse, and will put it on my Christmas Wish List. It's not one to read, but rather own and refer to.

This one I bought, at the Half-Price Bookstore with my allowance - Making a Home, Housekeeping for Real Life, by Better Homes and Garden. It cost $7.98, and I'm over the moon with it. It's formatted like a Betty Crocker Cookbook - three ring binder, with tabs on Organization (a personal favorite), Cleaning Routines, Surface Care (I had no idea how to care for our dining room table!), Furnishings Care, Kitchen Keeping, Living & dining Rooms, Bedrooms & Baths, Linens & Laundry, House Systems, Home Environment, Entertaining, Etiquette, Records & Reference, Resources, and the dandy Index to help you find what you're looking for. A wonderful book to own and use. I bought this one at the recommendation of my daughter, Leslie, who also picked hers up at Half-Priced Books. You might also find it on Amazon, I'd give it a shot since the shelf price is $29.95.

With that, I found this product at Walmart:

It honestly makes ironing fun, and my sewing room smells wonderful because of it. There were two scents, I chose Serene Dawn, less flowery to use on my husband's shirts. I might pick up the other one, for my tops and capris! I thoroughly enjoyed ironing this:

Found when we cleaned out my mother-in-law's home, to move her to assisted living. It is completely hand made, there's not a machine stitch in it, and the few light stains on it make me treasure it more. I'm all for using lovely old things, rather than letting them sit on a shelf. I use this when I have girlfriends over for lunch, and sometimes throw it on the patio table.

So here's to homemaking - my current passion. It seems to me to be a priority God has placed high on my list, a tangible way to show love and care for family and friends. Happy weekend everyone. You might be enjoying the outdoors - me, I'm getting the yardwork done and heading back inside quick as I can.


  posted at 11:53 AM

Friday, August 10, 2007
Beating the Heat by Staying Inside....
As summer begins to slide off the calendar, I'm trying to get a few projects finished. The heat and humidity are keeping me indoors. I tend to turn up the AC, throw in a batch of cookies, and head to the basement. It continues to surprise me, how cleaning out one area that's been a mess it just contagious! Once I made some progress on the basement rec room, the momentum was there to continue on into my sewing room. It screamed "good intentions" all over the place. Everything was there to accomplish much, but just not enough order to actually get anything done. So I trudged ahead and it's pretty much done. Then I got busy sewing...

A few photos, first of the quilt I finished, just under the wire, to deliver to the Pregnancy Resource Center this past Wednesday.

Yes, you may politely say "My, but it's bright, isn't it?!!!!!" Not my usual style, but it just happened. Our church gives support to this organization which offers pregnancy testing, sonograms, counseling, etc. for moms and their unborn. Our Sew and Sows decided to make a bunch of baby quilts, which would in turn be given to the moms. My quilt was less than perfect on many counts, since my quilting skills were never completely developed and are now a bit rusty, but there's a life lesson in it all - my 'less than perfect' quilt will snuggle a baby just fine. I don't know about you, but sometimes I tend to major in the minors and miss the whole party. Our group of 10 quilters delivered 20 quilts. I made one, some of us made four! We toured the place, met the director, overall it was a really encouraging day, and we saw more ways we can help in the future. They told us they have clients often as young as 14, and sometimes 12 years old! The director told us 90% of their clients choose life after they come to the center. That's 9 out of 10 babies saved. Many of their volunteers have come back, after choosing abortion themselves, wanting to save some other girl from the scars that leaves behind. Certainly a ministry worth supporting.

Here's my quilt room - all cleaned up. I've got one drawer left to clean out, but it's pretty much a done deal. I can pop in a movie or listen to music and sew away, and that was the whole point. I expect to spend a lot of time in there this fall and winter. With a portable heater plugged in! It's hard to sew with cold fingers, and this room doesn't have a heat duct aimed at it.

I bought my 'sewing table' at Office Depot, it's just a desk, then bought the matching file cabinet to sit next to it (an "L" shape is the most efficient workspace whether it's a kitchen counter, office desk, or sewing area.) I was able to set up files on all sorts of things I need to sew (my two machine manuals, machine quilting patterns, maps to other quilter's homes, fabric sources) and can use the top drawer to hold sewing tools and notions. The white table is a cutting table, and when it's not big enough I can drag the quilt out the door to the pool table. I'm really, really happy with this space. I sat and quilted a few nights ago while I watched Les Miserables on the VCR (picked up at the library used for 50 cents). I can also just shut the door behind me when I'm not sewing, and the mess is hidden from sight.

And a secret! I finished Miss Addison's quilt - only three months after her first birthday. Sarah and Chris and the kids are all in the mountains, and I wanted it there waiting for her when she returned. I shipped it yesterday. I bought the fabric when she wasn't even conceived, setting it aside for the first girl grandchild. If you look closely at the fabric there are pink dragonflies and one fabric has shoes of all colors and fashions. Several of the ladies in the sewing group voiced a desire for capris in that fabric. Of course the quilt has lots of pink - Addison's signature color.

Miss Addison, pretty in pink with a pickle. Sounds like a Dr. Seuss book...

I went with a very simple pattern, focusing on actually getting it done, rather than making a masterpiece.

Labeled with a sweet tag, so she'll know it was made with love, just for her.

I started a tradition, with our first grandchild, Caiden, of making a quilt for each on their first birthday. Now that Addison's is done, I need to get busy cutting out Landon's. His has an outdoor nature walk theme, bugs in jars, caterpillars under magnifying glasses, etc. I suspect he's going to be a little boy who loves the outdoors if he got any of his Daddy's genes.

Last, here are a few photos of our latest sewing session. We meet weekly for 5 hours, sharing lunch prepared by the host. One of our group, Mary Ann, brought her 9 year old granddaughter. You can see in the photo Mary Ann helping her sew a quilt for her soon-to-arrive baby sister. How sweet is that?

Sew - that's what's up around here til it cools off, and I can stand to head outdoors again. By then the weeds will likely have taken over, the lawn will need mowing again, blah blah blah. Looking out my windows, I remember it won't be long til the lawn is buried under a blanket of snow, and I need to get back out there pretty soon before I miss the rest of summer. But just for a little break, I'm busy sewing up a storm.


  posted at 8:12 AM

Thursday, August 09, 2007
Thankful Thursday - Mushy Blessings
I don't think I've ever done this weekly meme. After 26 years marriage has lost its shiny gloss and been replaced with something so much better - a steadfast love and respect that can't be rubbed off. So without further ado, here's what's I'm truly thankful for in the man who agreed to take the journey through life with me:

#1 He is a Rock of Gibraltar. Doesn't move. I can count on him no matter the storm life brings. It's brought some, and he always held fast through them, even when I threatened to lose my grip.

#2 His dry sense of humor - you have to pay attention to get it most of the time, but it's worth slowing down for.

#3 He's loyal almost to a fault. To me and our kids, to his mother, to his employer. Deeply ingrained in his character.

#4 His sense of adventure. He'd eat almost anything, agree to hike straight up the side of some mountain, or go to Africa on Safari. I drag my feet going downhill on a bike, and eating anything that was ever alive has a lot of stipulations. I needed someone adventurous, to keep me from being boring as dirt.

#5 He's competitive but only with himself. Failure is never an option. Whatever it takes, he'll do it. He's not out to beat anyone else, just to live up to the standard he's set. It's a high standard.

#6 He's quiet, humble, unassuming. A great listener and what woman doesn't want that in a man? When he does speak, it's worth hearing.

#7 He's not too frugal, not frivolous with his money either. Just right in the middle, so we have savings but still have fun in life.

#8 He has a tender, tender heart. Too tender to his tastes, but I love a man who will cry now and then. I need a life companion with a soft side to him.

#9 He adores me, even enjoys me. After 26 years together, and knowing me well. Who wants to spend life with someone who tolerates them?

#10 He's still handsome as heck. Sometimes I look back at old photos of him, when we were first married and his beard was dark black, and he bordered on too lean. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder and when I look at him through eyes that have shared raising three kids, 30 years in a career, moves around the country, the in's and out's of life, he's still the one who turns my head. Makes my heart go pitter patter.

I'm not a proponent of cloning, but if I was, he'd be a good one for it. It still amazes me God put this man in my life, made him the father of our children, he's the one I get to grow old with.

So if you made it through the sappiness, you can go to Iris, at Sting My Heart, to read more of the Thankful Thursday posts.

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  posted at 8:11 AM

Wednesday, August 08, 2007
WFMW - Nerdy Blog Notebook
I hesitate sharing this with you, since I suspect it permanently puts me so deep into the Hopeless Nerd category, that no matter what outfit from Ross I conjure up, I'll still never claw my way out. (And if Ross isn't overly cool, please don't tell me, at my age it's as good as I get, and it works with the budget. I'm all about skirts that cost $7.00)

I'm a notebook kind of girl. There are very few things in life that can't be managed by making a notebook. I have one for our budget, I made one for our cruise before we went, there's one for recipes to try, sorted by category. I have one of quilts sewn and patterns for future ones. I've started one to use when we begin looking for a retirement home (love how THAT sounds!) This stays on my desk, so I went for pretty.

When I started blogging, I had little slips of paper, then a file that I threw slips of paper into. Then piles on my desk. Eventually I realized blogging would work better for me if I made a notebook. With 8 tabbed sections. Here they are:

Addresses / URL's

Blog Tips

Blogger (a tab in itself)

Calendar - I keep one year of monthly sheets that have enough room to write in each day. Here's where I schedule specific posts, weekly memes to participate in (like this one), note people's birthdays or anniversarys to give them a cyberspace shout-out. If I didn't do this I wouldn't remember to ever post a recipe, or would only post recipes. This enhances variety in posting. It's the most helpful category for me.

Days of Week - this has information on weekly memes like WFMW, Thankful Thursday, Wordless Wednesday, etc. A sheet for each with the subject, the host's URL, participation specifics. It also works well for scheduling a meme you've been tagged for, or an upcoming big event like Tour of Homes or Dog Days of Summer Giveaway. Yes, I know the Tweety calendar is very mature.

Future Posts - sheets of lined paper where I jot notes when a posting idea comes to me, with room to develop it on paper. This is great for preventing "writer's block". If an idea comes to me I just jot it down, to come back to later.

HTML - notes on how to do strikeout, or blockquote, that sort of thing. I have a book on my shelf, but these few notes make posting faster.

Photos, videos - notes on istockphoto, photobucket, etc. including my passwords at those websites.

Then I put in a set of A-Z tabs, really helpful. Under "F" I have notes on doing a Flooble, which is not something I want to store in my brain, under "S" notes on Sitemeter, under "T" I printed out Boomama's post from way back when on how she created her own template, just in case I ever over-estimate my abilities and want to give it a whirl.

There are a few events in life that would not benefit from being managed by a notebook. Some things should be spontaneous, free-spirited, unplanned. In general, blogging works better for me when I plan most posts. For more WFMW go to Rocks in My Dryer.


  posted at 8:30 AM

Tuesday, August 07, 2007
What We Can't Live Without
A few days ago I was talking on my cell phone to daughter, Sarah. She asked where I was, I told her I was just picking up "a few essentials". I went on to tell her we were out of toilet paper and coffee, two of the items we 'couldn't live without'. She told me that information was in the category of TMI, and I proceeded to argue with her, since they both are. In that category. For everyone.

Seriously, what can you use to replace either? My grandmother used to have the Sears Roebuck catalogue in her two-seater, behind her house, but it's been years since I resorted to that. I know tea drinkers will argue with me on the merits of tea versus coffee; I'm all about tea, in the afternoon or at bedtime, but when I come down the stairs every morning, and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee hits me, there's nothing like it in my book. Besides that, how many cups of tea do you have to drink to equal one good cup of coffee, and I'm all about efficiency. I don't have time to drink six cups of tea, just to get my heart going. Nor do I have time for all the resulting potty stops, which would just lead to running out of the previously mentioned item.

All this TMI 'just the essentials' got me to thinking. What is on that list that we really can't live without, speaking from a purely consumer level? I'm not talking Salvation or World Peace, but rather my favorite cereal. Deep stuff.

So my list of the truly essentials - what is always on hand in our house/refrigerator and if we run out I make a special trip to the store to replace it?

#1 TP, Cottontelle Double Rolls. Unless we have company coming and I switch to the cheaper stuff so we don't have to call the plumber. I learned this the hard way.

#2 Coffee, Folgers. Starbucks is too strong / acidic for me. I love it, but my stomach does not.

#3 Creamer. Vanilla caramel for my husband, something girly for me. I drank my coffee black for the past 30-something years, til this past Christmas. A girlfriend brought a bottle of Peppermint Chocolate and I was an immediate convert. Now I have to have creamer, flavored. Not even just half and half, but flavored creamer. Don't bother to tell me it's not good for me. I don't care a whit.

#4 That carton of organic milk that has cow spots on it. For some weird reason it lasts forever. (Does anyone know why?) Since it costs twice as much as the stuff that goes bad in a week, it should last a long time. We buy the lowest fat one they make and try not to look at how thin it is. It makes up in part for the creamer being bad for us.

#5 Ice cream in some form. Not particular really. My very favorite, being all exotic, is vanilla. Husband adores Rocky Road, but anything chocolate will keep him happy.

I can get by for a few days without almost anything else. As much as I love Diet Coke, I can make do with sweet tea; granola bars can be replaced very nicely with cinnamon toast. Notice - no bread on my list. That reminds me "man does not live by bread alone", but on every word that proceedeth from the mouth of the Lord. (Deut. 8:3). I cannot remember the last time a day went by without some time spent talking to the Lord. There's just no substitute for that.

How 'bout you? What makes you jump in the car and head to the grocery? If it's in the category of TMI, you can leave the comment anonymous or live dangerously and leave your name.

  posted at 8:00 AM

Monday, August 06, 2007
Misty Memories - Childhood Friends
He hesitated to tell me the first time he drove by. A "money pit", needing lots of love and even more money poured into it. As soon as I saw it, I knew we had to live there. A corner lot, half a block from school, old brick with pitiful insulation and appliances to match. Air conditioning units graced almost every window. Something about it spoke of the years of family memories made there. It called to me. To our family.

We moved in, and soon after, neighborhood kids began showing up. Mark and Travis, from down the street, spent hours with Dan digging for crawdads, or riding bikes on the railroad tracks, although I didn't hear those stories til many years later. Our middle daughter, Leslie, was in first grade when we moved in, and between her mobile koolaid stand in the back of the red wagon, or selling stone soup to the neighbors, plays performed on our back patio, or pet grooming in the basement, she attracted a lot of kids to our house. One of those was another Leslie, who lived at the end of the street. We went to church with her family, and our lives criss-crossed at various points.

Leslie's family home wasn't graced with pet hair, so spending time in our home was a stretch for her. Our golden retriever might as well have been a pit bull, in her eyes. I still remember the day she was able to sit on our sofa, the dog in the middle, and a Leslie on each side.

We moved from that home when both Leslies had just finished 8th grade. Years have passed since. Our Leslie has grown up, and become a mother. So to receive this email a few days ago, from the other Leslie - it was one of those moments when time just stops. I began to read, then slowed down, way down, and started over. This email was one I'd print out and save.

"I've felt a longing in my heart for several years now to write to you and thank you for leading me to Christ. You probably have no idea what a significant role you played in my decision to become a our Sunday School teacher, you taught us Truth and told us weekly what it meant to be a child of God. You convinced me to go to Centrifuge with Leslie and Allison, which was where I made my decision. And you showed me, every time you welcomed me into your home, what it was to be a Christian wife and mother. I am so grateful to you for opening your home to me, allowing me to be friends with your daughter, and showing me how spectacular it is to be a child of God... I love you and your family dearly!"

This was during the period of our lives that chaos reigned. Rather than a perfect home, ours had animals being adopted or buried, mountains of laundry, arguments over homework, halloween costumes, calls from teachers or principals, forts under the pine tree, Brownies and Cubscouts, groundings, temper tantrums, Awanas; our family life was very normal. I can't tell you what a blessing, what a gift from God it is to hear now that somehow in the middle of all the day-to-day stuff going on in our home, He was able to show Himself to a little girl who visited our home.

I still remember the first time Leslie spent the night at our home, her first "sleep-over" other than relatives. She and our daughter were upstairs in the bathroom, playing out a scene from some childhood book, and our Leslie slipped a metal nail file in the top opening of the light switch on the wall, attempting to enter some magic land. In a flurry of screams and little feet running down the stairs, as the power went out in the entire house, they explained to me that the nail file had burned off in the wall, and still embedded in the light switch, sparks were coming out of it. Thankful the girls were not electrocuted, and scared to touch the light switch, I phoned my husband at work, who gave me instructions on how to deal with the problem. (He's an engineer and they come in darned handy sometimes!) The girls, thank the Lord, were wearing tennis shoes, and had been knocked on their rears, literally. That was better than landing in heaven. Thank you God for keeping both Leslies alive that day, and for letting us be a part of "Leslie R", as we fondly called her, come to a saving knowledge of you. We're pretty grateful for both!

And if you're a young mom out there, feeling like the last thing in the world you need in your house is one of the kids in the neighborhood, take heart. God may be doing wonderful and mysterious things through you, of all people! If He used me, he most certainly can use you. So open the door, pour the koolaid (although we outlawed red in our home), make some rice krispy treats, and love on those kids He sends through your door. You just might get an email, somewhere down the road, that will absolutely melt your heart, and bring back some misty memories to boot.

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  posted at 8:00 AM

Sunday, August 05, 2007
Wish You Were There
We sat perched at the very top of the arena. People slowly streamed in as an opening act performed. Unusual, high-energy, african - it kept us entertained while we waited. As the seats continued to fill, the singer finished up and left the stage. We sat and waited as stage-hands removed instruments, did a bit of rearranging. Then the lights went out. Complete silence - respect for what we knew was coming.

Out of nowhere, and filling every inch of the building, we heard, "Don't Give Up". The magic of the moment, as he continued to sing the song, rising from beneath the stage, and suddenly was standing there. Beautiful does not adequately describe it.

I just sat and cried as I listened, knowing I wouldn't hear something like this many times in my life, sharing it with my husband and a daughter who are big fans. But also knowing how much my sister would love it. Wishing she too was sitting there with me.

He was more personable than I expected, more 'normal', he joked with us, talked quite a bit, literally ran through the crowd visiting with people. The violinist and celloist were world-class and a concert in themselves. The orchestra backing him was beautiful. His one solo on the drums, and sitting watching him play the piano while he sang, all made the ticket price well worth it. Every song was breath-taking, the finale was wonderful, although already this morning I can't remember what it was.

I do, however, remember the opening, and that as he sang, I sat and listened and wished you were there with me. We would have sat in silence, crying, together. Some things are meant to be shared with certain people, and I wish we could have. xoxoxo

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  posted at 10:33 AM

Saturday, August 04, 2007
Zucchini How Do You Do?
After my last post, on freezing zucchini to make bread all winter long, I was surprised that some of you emailed me, with no earthly idea how to freeze it. Tells me I've spent a wee bit more time in the midwest than most. I thought everyone knew. But you don't, so here goes.

Start with one of two options - Option #1: you either know or work with someone who has an urge to plant way too big a garden, just for the sheer joy of watching things grow, and they continue to drag into work zucchini the size of baseball bats or small children. They proudly set them out by the office coffeepot for others to nab and take home. Immediately, office works try to slyly grab a zucchini, or three if they don't mind looking stingy, and subtly set them on their desk, oblivious to the fact that it takes up a good portion of their workspace for the rest of the day. Or option two - go to the farmer's market and buy a boat load of them, since you're not having to avoid appearing greedy. Buy lots, it's relatively inexpensive, you can only get the big ones in summer, and it'll come in handy the entire winter. But if you can do option one, go for it - you'll make proud the person who chanced looking silly dragging them into the office.

For specific instructions go here. The website has tips on how to choose your zucchini, although if you're going with the free option you can't be too picky. I copied these instructions from there, which are simple:

ZUCCHINI BREAD: Zucchini bread is a favorite recipe for zucchini, but it is not a favorite item to make during warm summer months when the zucchini is fresh out of the garden. To freeze zucchini to use later in zucchini bread, simply cut the top and bottom ends off and then shread the zucchini (skin and seeds included) using the larger shread pattern. You can do this manually or with a food processor/shredder. Once the zucchini is shredded, check your zucchini recipe, and see how much zucchini you need per recipe. (Note: Paula's uses 2 cups.) Measure and freeze that amount in each bag. Label the bag with the date your froze the zucchini and the amount included in the bag. When you are ready to make the zucchini bread, take the bag out of the freezer and place it on a plate to thaw. Once it has thawed, follow the standard instructions. There will be some natural juice that was in the zucchini when you originally placed it in the bag. Use this in the recipe as well.

Basically - #1 buy it or get it free. #2 give it a bath. #3 shred it, skin and all, after you chop off the ends. #4 put it in freezer ziploc bags, in 2 cup increments. #5 label it so you'll know what it is three months from now. #6 use it to bake zucchini bread or muffins all fall and winter.

So here's the recipe from Mrs. Paula Deene. Since you're using a vegetable that essentially has no calories in it, you can go with the fattening version for the bread. It makes two loaves, one to eat, and one to take to your neighbor or pop in the freezer for later.

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup water
2 cups grated zucchini
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
(Note, adding a handful of chocolate chips is great too)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients except for nuts (and chocolate chips if you go that route) in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients. Fold into dry, and add nuts (and chips). Bake in two loaf pans (I spray mine with pam) for one hour, or til done.

That's it - Farmer's Markets are usually open on the weekend, and zucchini is in abundance right now. I plan to buy a bunch of it tomorrow at Whole Foods, then bring it home to shred. I'll freeze most, but definitely have to bake a couple of loaves to enjoy next week with morning coffee. That and a boiled egg should make a dandy breakfast.

If you went with option #1, be nice and take a loaf to the guy who was willing to look silly bringing it to work. He'll appreciate that, and maybe plant an extra hill next summer.


  posted at 10:32 AM

Friday, August 03, 2007
Slide Show: Project Basement (Almost Done)
Thought I'd share a few photos of the basement project. I'm whipped! Leslie's ready to move back to Texas to escape the endless projects that she keeps getting sucked into. Here's where it's at, for anyone out there who was holding their breath for photos, or needed visual encouragement to tackle a project of your own. Or confirmation to avoid it.
The cord hanging from the phone will be remedied by Don this weekend - we need just a few more outlets installed, and he's good at that. Eventually the phone will sit on the antique radio, all nicely squared up. Plugged into the outlet behind it that doesn't exist yet.

This still needs family photos printed out and framed, an old quilt to snuggle up with, some throw pillows, and a DVD player in the armoire you can't see, but yes it's still unpainted - to be remedied next week when I can stand the sight of a paintbrush again. The door you see just past the sofa leads to my sewing/quilting room. A very fun place to be too.

This end I'm tickled to death with. The antique bleacher chair is perfect for removing snowboots or gardening shoes. (The door leads to the garage.) I need to buy a little lamp for the table under the chalkboard, a perfect place for family messages. The shelf on the wall still needs the family photos inserted in frames. The old red window on the right wall will hold memorabilia, yet to be determined. I'm thinking old yoyos, marbles, jacks, that sort of thing.

Still to be done, other than personal touches, I have to paint the french doors and the other three doors, and the baseboards white. The stairs going to the kitchen were to be painted black, but Don's concerned we may not be able to see them very clearly. Have to think about that.

Overall, it looks so much better, is nice and light and fresh looking, but still cozy. I spent about $100 on paint, $50 on the game table, $50 on antiques/old junk, and still need about $100 more for the DVD player, quilt, and fabric to cover pillows. I think this project will come in between $300 and $400, not bad for a room overhaul. When Don walked in last night from his trip out of town, he thought it looked great, a big improvement. So a project ALMOST done, hip hip hoorah! I also made great progress sorting out my quilting room, and finishing up the quilt I'm making for the Pregnancy Resource Center. Good thing since our sewing group is delivering them next Wednesday. I got a lot done while Don was gone, but am glad to have him home. The rest of this week / weekend? Pay bills, then go hear Josh Groban, and Sunday visit Whole Foods. It's a 45 minute drive from us, and Don has never been there. I swear it's the prettiest grocery store I've ever been in, and believe it or not Don likes grocery stores, so he's going to love this one. Hopefully enough to take me to lunch at some outdoor cafe in downtown Pittsburgh afterwards. A great summer weekend and I am ready for it!

Now the cast of helpers: One was a tremendous help, agreed to wear my awful paint clothes, paint anything I asked, shove furniture all over the place, hang shelves, give decorating opinions, choose colors, and run up and down two flights of stairs to check on the baby.

One tried hard to be content with snacks in the highchair, in the middle of chaos. Sometimes he got a little bored and tossed cheerios, diced canteloupe and puffs onto the floor, but it needed vacuuming anyway. He also was good enough to watch Baby Einstein in the car over and over when we needed to make supply runs.

One agreed to take a sunbath, just to show us what we were missing, staying inside on a beautiful summer day.

Note: several of you asked about how to freeze zucchini. I'll come back tomorrow with easy instructions, and a great Paula Deene recipe for zucchini bread. Right now I'm just too tuckered out to do much of anything!


  posted at 8:09 AM

Thursday, August 02, 2007
Thursday Thirteen - Summer Squeeze
It's been a coon's age since I did a Thursday Thirteen post, so I thought I'd take a swing at it. This week - 13 things going on during the month of August in our family:

#1 Don's 9 year no-smoking anniversary. We celebrate big time every year, and this year I have something really special planned, but it's top secret! We're also considering buying old-fashioned cruiser bikes, to ride the trail at Ohiopyle State Park, 11 miles one way right next to the white-water rafting river, have lunch, then ride back to burn the calories. Something we look forward to every year. Worth the butt-ache.

#2 Landon's first birthday. He's little, but a first birthday is a big deal. He won't remember it, -we will. Once you're one, you're not a baby anymore. Rather, a K.I.D. Don't tell, but Don and I are getting him a red wagon, for his Daddy to pull him to local football games. Somehow, Don and I have been blessed to be at every grandchild's first birthday celebration. We hope to keep up that tradition.

#3 I'll buy lots of zucchini to shred and freeze, enough to make zucchini bread all winter long. In spite of the gardening jokes, you really can't have too much zucchini in the freezer.

#4 Caiden turns 6, ready to start school. He'll begin to learn to read. I can't wait to hear him read me books, and talk to him on the phone, about all he's learning.

#5 Sarah and Chris have their 10th anniversary; it feels great, as parents, to see "kids" marriages growing and thriving. That was the whole point, all along, as we raised them.

#6 Go to the Josh Groban concert on August 3rd. I don't understand how anyone can hear a voice like that, and question the existence of God. I only need to hear him once, but it's something I'm so excited about. I know it'll be thrilling.

#7 Meet Dianne (Unfinished Work) and Katrina (Callapidder Days) for dinner. We MIRL last fall, at Panera's. This year we're not bloggers who are meeting, rather friends who blog.

#8 Invite the two new neighbors over for a cookout with two of the neighbors who were here when we moved in. One new family is from Atlanta, one is from Texas, and we'd like them all to meet. I hate that neighborhoods rarely do that anymore. If you want a great place to learn more about simple entertaining, I found this fabulous blog. Sandy, at 4 Reluctant Entertainers, has wonderful, doable ideas. I'd love to hear that others who read here are encouraged to do the same, more visiting over backyard fences, borrowing eggs, lending some sugar. Don't you remember your mom sending you next door, or across the street, right in the middle of making supper or baking cookies? I sure do.

#9 Make salsa out of Don's tomatoes and my cilantro - that's about as much as we garden, but we do love some salsa, and when it's from plants you grew, it just tastes better!

Don's pride and joy - I forget the variety, but you can bet he knows! My job is to keep them watered, and let him know when they're ready to pick. These are the first two of the season, which we promptly ate.

#10 SIL Jeremy's birthday, and we'll buy him something to help kill deer, even though I'm not real crazy about the idea of it. Everyone has a different love language, his is ammo.

#11 Try to squeeze in a few more suppers on the deck, with the tiki torches lit in spite of the heat. Dining to the noise of neighbors in their backyards.

#12 Buy a few more watermelons, and make homemade ice cream a couple more times, because summer is just way too short here in the northeast.

#13 We'll end the month at Pymatuming Lake, camping for several days. It's a bit further than we normally venture, has good Bass fishing, and I'm planning to take my new photo printer, to sit and print out enough photos to keep me scrapbooking through the fall.

All in all, it's been a dandy summer so far; I just want to squeeze out every single bit of wonderfulness that I can.


  posted at 8:00 AM

Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Tag Sales
I've never lived anywhere they're really called that, but "Tag Sales" sounds so much more quaint than "yard" or "garage", don't you think? Like something Martha would go to, where of course she'd find exquisite pieces of china and turn them all into bird feeders. Or she'd buy old buttons, and make all her friends lovely jewelry to wear on their sweaters.

So I've been in the mood, lately, to go to Tag Sales on Saturday mornings. The last few weeks Leslie and I have started our day with a run through Starbucks, or I make homemade vanilla lattes, we grab the piece of torn newspaper listing all the sales, a local map, and we're off. With a baby in tow, and lots of one dollar bills.

In the past few weeks we've found all sorts of treasures. I picked up a spare microwave for $15 to have around the next time ours breaks and it takes the usual three weeks to repair. A wonderful end table with drop down leaves, and big wooden wheels on it; a small metal rack to hold the firewood indoors; shelves for the basement project, favorite books or future reads; a stroller, too many items to list, or recall.

This past Saturday here's what I brought home:

Music for beginning piano, that I'd previously bought, and given away.

A book of piano Christmas music, simple enough I may learn to play the songs. In time for Christmas. This year.

A pink Baby Gap coat for Miss Addison to wear this winter, when Texas finally cools off.

A lovely jumper for same sweet baby girl, to wear next Spring, when it starts to heat up again.

Funky teal-green slippers with pom poms on them, to put in the guest room for an overnight visitor. (I'll wash them first!) If I were an overnight guest in someone's home, I'd think these were very fun.

A 2007 calendar of quilt patterns, one per day, for my quilt room.

A quilt rack, for $5.00!

A VCR of "How to Make An American Quilt" to take to our Quilt-by-the-Sea trip. Perfect!

More fun than the treasures we found, was observing the people holding the sales. One was run by a single person, with her stuff neatly organized and labeled, and she wouldn't budge on the prices (of course I offered less!). Some were held by a group of girlfriends, with stuff strewn across the lawn, and they just wanted to get rid of their over-buying, or toys that were threatening to take over the house. Or spend the morning together, eating donuts in the garage, a completely valid reason to hold a tag sale.

One woman who hosted a sale this past weekend wore a t-shirt that said, "I'm not the girl down the street, I'm the B---- next door". She had teenagers, younger children, and her husband was a professional ball player. Her home was lovely. Somehow the t-shirt just amazed me. Who would wear such a thing? I could be wrong, but I don't see us being close friends anytime in the near future. She scared me just a little bit.

One woman offered raffle tickets, one for each $10 you spent, and she would draw one name to give away a baby quilt. I never would have thought of that! I believe she may have a few more bingo games under her belt than I do. She had a little hot-rod in her garage, but explained if she sold it, she'd have to call a divorce attorney.

One man was selling his elderly mother's belongings, after moving her into an asst. living facility. What I thought were old, fire-hazard appliances had become "retro" and the prices were unbelievable. Somehow it seemed like her things should be treated with more dignity, handed down to family members who would treasure them, use them. I'm pretty sure that women selling them would have felt more fitting also. My eye went immediately to an old metal sifter, with a red wooden handle. $12.50. A man would have considered any possible uses for it in his garage, and moved on. A female would have conjured up memories of sugar cookies, or cake flour being sifted. Shown it the respect it deserved for a job well done. Then hopefully given it to a grand-daughter at her wedding shower, even if she had to store it for a few years before doing so. What would he have done with the $12.50 he asked, had he gotten it? Unless it was to take his mother flowers, I can't think of anything fitting. How do you sell your mother's flour sifter? I'm not even a pack-rat but some things are holy.

How often do we drive down neighborhood streets, at night, looking in for a glimpse of others lives? Tag sales - not only do they offer us a chance to bring home a treasure, giving it a new lease on life, sometimes they offer us a peek at other's lives, with lessons for living included in the price, if we pay attention.

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  posted at 5:30 PM

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    Girl Raised in the South

    I have a deep, abiding love for full octane coffee, sewing, knitting, quilting, reading, cooking, gardening, God and my family - not in that order.

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