Saturday, December 9, 2017

Grateful 2017

What happened to Thanksgiving this year? It seemed that one day I was starting school back in September and the next I was trying to figure out what to do with all the turkey leftovers. I have been busy, but at least thankfulness doesn’t have an expiration date. That means it’s time for me to write down this year’s gratitude list.

I’m thankful that swallowing pennies isn’t normally fatal. Same goes for tiny Legos.

I’m thankful that we’ll soon be able to move into the new addition at our home. I’m also thankful for getting to know the guys who made it happen. 





I’ll bet I’m not the only one in this community who gives thanks for Loaves & Fishes, all the cool treasures on their shelves, and the dedicated people who make it nice for the rest of us. I’m also thankful for our library, the treasures on its shelves, and for Lisa, Ruth Ann, and Pam, who make it nice for the rest of us.

I’m grateful our garden produced so many delicious green beans this year. I wish my bean-hating son could say the same.

Just like her mommy, my toddler giggles with excitement at nap time; I’m thankful for that.

There’s nothing like fresh eggs at breakfast. I’m so glad I’m able to eat them frequently thanks to our guineas and my friend’s chickens.



I’m thankful for my daughters who are teaching me to appreciate the pretty things in life.

I’m thankful for my sons who don’t know the difference between tights and leggings and who still think all of the pretty trappings of girls are dumb. I am begrudgingly thankful for their growth spurts even if that means I now have to look up to my oldest.

Pinterest and Krumpe’s Do-Nuts deserve a spot on this year’s list. Ditto for the occasional coffee.

Words cannot fully express the depth of my gratitude for potty-trained little boys.

I’m thankful that my parents still call to check on me if I don’t call them often enough. It makes me think they still love me a good bit.

I’m thankful for my hearing. I love sitting in church on Sunday and hearing my children’s sweet voices sing my favorite hymns and my husband’s strong voice preach about the Bible and the promises it holds for me. And, of course, I am most thankful to God, Who created all the beautiful words and music in this good, good life.

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I’m also thankful that some foods taste better than they look. Last night we had split pea soup, and, man, does that stuff look disgusting! We tried every trick in the book to get the 4-year-old to try it. He was eventually slurping it straight from the bowl (even after the required four bites). If you’ve shied away from split pea soup because of the looks, this cold weather is the perfect time to change your ways and enjoy a tasty treat. 

Split Pea Soup

16 oz. split peas 
3 quarts water
1 small ham shank
1 large onion, finely chopped
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. oregano leaves
½ tsp. ground pepper
1 bay leaf
1 ½ cups thinly-sliced carrots
1 cup finely-chopped celery

Rinse and pick any rocks out of the split peas. Put the peas, water, ham, onion, garlic powder, oregano, pepper, and bay leaves into a big pot. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 ½ hours. Remove the ham shank and dice the ham. Add the ham bits, carrots, and celery to the pot and simmer, uncovered, for 2- 2 ½ hours. Remove the bay leaf and serve.

*This column ran in the Hancock News on December 6, 2017.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Building Project Update

So much is happening in our new addition, but I do have 5 students in our homeschool that take precedence. The camera simply doesn't come out as often these days.

But let me tell you, we are crazy-close to everything being finished! Right now the wooden floor is being laid down. The plan is that today the bedroom carpet will be installed also. I wish I could show you a picture of the wood floor because it is so beautiful, but, alas, I do not have a picture. AND yesterday my husband said he doesn't want me to post one yet because he wants everybody to see it in person first. I think he's right; it'll be like opening a Christmas present because the wait is worth it.

I can tease you a bit, though, with this picture of the wood floors on the delivery truck.


Beautiful floor all boxed up

The electrical work is all done, and it passed inspection. Yay!


I just need to learn what all these switches do.


Pretty lights and fans

So what's left? Well, after the floor is done, all the doors and trim need to be put up. The closets need shelves and such. And, The Inspector and the final inspection await.  

But that's not all. That gorgeous floor is also going into our dining room, living room, and hallway. Also, the living room carpet will be moved to our computer room. SO that's a lot of furniture to move before all is said and done. Right now it looks like all might be done a couple of days before Christmas. 

We're not sure how a Christmas tree is happening this year. I'll worry about that tomorrow, Scarlett-style.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

On Strike

A while back my husband and I instructed the boys to wash the supper dishes while we took a walk to get the mail. As we neared home again, we were greeted by the boys marching around the driveway carrying these signs attached to rulers:



Evidently they felt their little sister and parents should have to help with the dishes, too.

I was amused, but I was not amused enough to excuse them from having to do the dishes.


Friday, November 24, 2017

The Heat Game & Perfect Pumpkin Bread

In college, one of my roommates made up games. These games weren’t like your regular board or card games. Instead she’d challenge herself to games I call “How Long Can I?” games. Once she decided to stop eating to see how long it was until she felt truly hungry. Another time she wondered how long she could go without showering before she couldn’t handle her own stink. I don’t recall how long she held out, but I think she showered sooner than she ate.

Some of my roomie’s spirit must have rubbed off on me because for the last several years I’ve challenged myself to what I call the Heat Game. The rules of the Heat Game are easy:  when the leaves fall and the mornings are crisp, don’t turn on the heat.

I’m not trying to save money or even the environment by using less fuel oil. What I am trying to do is beat my record from two years ago-- November 23rd.

My husband and kids are good sports and play along with me. When the mercury drops, the kids lug pumpkins upstairs from the basement where we’ve stored them. My husband wields our biggest knife to cut open the pumpkins. Then we scrape out the seeds, and the pumpkins go into a hot oven to cook. That heat makes all the difference; a steady stream of roasting pumpkins helps warm the house. Baking bread, pies, or pizza is a good choice if you don’t have a few dozen pumpkins in your basement. 

When the heat from the oven isn’t enough, we pull out the flannel sheets and my favorite blanket which I have not-so-creatively named “Mr. Woolly.” Socks, slippers, and throw blankets become mainstays in the house. Hot tea with spicy flavors of fall become the beverage of choice. Despite a little chill in the air, my Heat Game time is a cozy time.

But eventually all this coziness comes to an end. One night last week I’d just turned off the oven after pulling out two loaves of pumpkin bread, and I noticed the air was still chilly. Worse yet, my nose was cold. I can layer socks and blankets on all other body parts, but I’ve yet to find a cure for a cold nose that doesn’t involve turning on the heat. 

So at 11 p. m., on November 10, I turned on the furnace; my Heat Game 2017 ended. The next morning my daughter reported that frost was on the ground and the guinea’s water had frozen over. It would seem I lost the game right on time. I may not have set a personal record, but I’m still happy because my nose is warm and there’s always next year.

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We harvested more than 50 pumpkins and winter squash from our garden this year, so I’ve been looking for new pumpkin recipes. In the past I’ve been unhappy with pumpkin bread recipes I’ve tried because they seemed way too sweet to my taste. I searched the internet and came up with this alternative which uses only honey and maple syrup. 

While I might increase the spices next time, this is the pumpkin bread recipe I was looking for-- a bread I won’t feel so guilty feeding my kids for breakfast. I was also surprised by how soft and moist it was. 

Honey Maple Pumpkin Bread

3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup butter or coconut oil, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 eggs
2 cups pumpkin puree
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350℉ and grease two 9 x 5 loaf pans. In a large bowl, mix honey, syrup, oil/butter, vanilla, and eggs together. Mix in the pumpkin puree. 


In a different bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet mixture just until everything is incorporated. Divide the batter between the two loaf pans, and bake for 50-65 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool pans for 10 minutes before turning bread out onto wire rack to cool. 


*This column was printed in the November 22, 2017, issue of the Hancock News.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Good Puppy!

I was at the computer last week when I happened to look behind me.



My littlest had put the toy doggy in Calvin's kennel. She was so sweet to include a doggy toy. She was also "reading" to her dog from all of her beloved Pookie books (Sandra Boynton).

This is now a regular part of her play. Several times I've had to let the dear puppy out of the kennel because Calvin wanted in.

And if you want to buy some fun board books for a toddler, go with the ones by Sandra Boynton. Our little ones have all loved them.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Building Project- Coming Right Along

I have another addition update. This entire project is nearing the final weeks, and I'm starting to worry a bit about the chaos of moving everything around while the new flooring (in both the addition and the rest of the house) is installed. When I worry, I just remind myself that it will all be over soon, and I will love it!

The last couple of weeks have seen paint and trim and a plastic wall. And lights and ceiling fans (but you won't see that in this post).

Trim

Doors

The living space is captivating in "captivating cream" paint.

The boys room is "simply green"-- their choice, not mine.

And then there was the day the wall came down.

First the plywood. . .

And then the saw scared this spider out of the wall. . . 

Next was the wall itself. . . 

The last few bits. . . 

Cleaning up. . . 

A new plastic "wall" 

And now we have an echo-type situation with all that emptiness in the addition. When we speak in the house, our voices come back to us. The first few days the little ones stood at the plastic shouting and having fun with the sound effects.

I'll try to remember to get some more pictures today because the ceiling fans are so purty!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Good Morning, Rainbow!

I have a backlog of blogging ideas, but instead I'll share with you a rare morning rainbow that we enjoyed briefly today. It was brighter and bigger, but by the time I grabbed the camera, it had faded.


Rainbow over Sideling Hill