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

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Heat Day 2017

This year was an epic fail at beating any records in my little game I like to call "Wait as Long as Possible to Turn on the Heat." This week temperatures really dropped outside, so I've been baking my pumpkins and other good things all week long. All those activities kept things warm enough for awhile.

Last night I baked pumpkin bread for breakfast this morning. Even with the oven on, my nose was cold. I can put layers and layers of clothes on. I can pile blankets on. I can put foot warmers under the covers. But I can't cover up my cold nose. I just can't.

I considered waiting until midnight to stretch out the inevitable, but I was too tired to stay up that late. So 2017's official Heat Day is November 10th-- the earliest yet.

And just in time. My daughter informed me this morning that we had our first frost and the guinea's water was frozen over. It is, indeed, time for the heat.

Maybe I'll set a new record next year.

(For those who care, my record is November 23rd.)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Literalists are kind of like communists but worse."


These are words spoken by my son over a grammar lesson. Don't even ask.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Building Project-- Days 96-?

Sorry, folks. I've lost count of days. Between school and a recent bout of sickness, I just don't have the motivation to figure it out right now. But I do have pictures of what's happened this last month or so.

The back patio was cut into pieces and hauled away.


Everything was re-graded, and gravel was added. A new patio will wait until after winter.


Dry wall was finished; that stuff is messy!


Gutters and downspouts are in place.



Instead of a hole, we have a deadbolt.


This picture shows priming in progress, but it's all done now.

Other notable changes-- the heaters are in and working to keep the proper temperature for paint drying. The trim and interior doors were delivered. We've picked out the flooring, and it's scheduled to be installed the first week of December. 

Folks, these are exciting times-- even if I'm not posting about it as often.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

500

I know I already posted something today, but, as a Lutheran pastor's wife, how could I pass up such a special day?

Besides, I want always to remember my dear 4-year-old little man belting out this morning as he was dressing, "A mighty fortress is we God!"


Wisdom, Stinkbugs, & Salsa

I’m convinced that being quiet is the key to wisdom. Quiet folks can observe more of the world around them without being distracted by the words coming out of their own mouths.

Likely I’ll never be wise because I like to talk too much. But lately, I’ve had reason to be less talkative; my voice is hoarse and nearly gone. In quieting myself more than usual, I have noticed smaller things in the world around me.

Mostly I’ve noticed stinkbugs. Those ugly little creatures are everywhere. They hang out on the doors waiting to come in when somebody goes in or out. The daredevil ones make their way inside through my stove vent, but that’s not so smart because several have landed right on a hot cast iron skillet.





Once inside, the bugs crawl around walls and ceiling, just out of my reach, until they decide in which light fixture they should take up permanent residence. Sometimes the disgusting insects think it necessary to dive-bomb an unsuspecting little girl, thereby instigating much noise and chaos in our home. 




Let’s not even discuss the massive numbers of the stinkers that find their way into our van.

It’s fair to say that I hate stinkbugs. What’s more, I hate that the sight of a stinkbug crawling on my bathroom mirror or even on my body no longer gives me the heebie-jeebies. It bothers me that my toddler can say “stinka-bug” as clearly as “Mama.” I can’t stand that I no longer feel like fighting the good fight against the brown marmorated stinkbug.

I guess it takes a wise person to admit defeat. Then again, maybe a wise person would fake defeat and then plan a sneak attack with a vacuum hose.




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One of my friends says that the invading stinkbugs have ruined cilantro for her because its smell is so similar to the stinkbug smell. In fact, my children have renamed cilantro “stinkbug weed.” Surprisingly, I still like the green herb. I even grow it in my garden.

A friend from my husband’s seminary years shared her recipe for salsa with me all those years ago, and it is a good one--especially when garden tomatoes are no longer available fresh. It calls for chicken bouillon, but I’ve made it without, too. 

Quick and Easy Salsa

1- 16 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. chicken bouillon (granules)
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped


In a food processor, pulse all ingredients until you like the consistency. 

*This column ran in the Hancock News October 25, 2017. 

*All pictures are of stinkbugs invading the new addition to our home as it was being built. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Five on Friday

With my husband being out of town this week, my thoughts are only coming in spurts. I guess that makes it a perfect time for a Five on Friday post.

1.  Restaurant Recommended.  A few Sunday afternoons ago, we were driving around the Hagerstown, Maryland, area looking at flooring for the new addition. It was nearing time to eat supper, and we had no idea what we were going to eat. Eating out is so expensive, but we also felt like enjoying a good meal. We were indecisive about what type of food we wanted, so our food decision was postponed until we found our hungry selves cruising the shopping center where Lowe's was located.

First I ran into the sushi place to see what it looked like; predictably, the prices were higher than we were willing to spend. Then we noticed a huge sign on a restaurant called Fajita Grande that said kids eat free on Saturdays and Sundays; it was a no-brainer. 

It was a smallish (but not tiny) restaurant, so we were lucky it wasn't crowded. Our service was friendly and quick, but the food was even better than the service.

Not the best picture of my delicious food
The fresh salsa was perfect for our family-- not too spicy for the little ones but with enough flavor to keep the rest of us wanting more. And other than the meals of the kids who chose corndogs and french fries, the food was fresh and tasty. (To be fair, I didn't taste the corndogs or french fries.) I'm not a big fan of the rice at most Mexican restaurants, but the next day I gobbled up my leftover rice cold because it was so good. And my entree was out-of-this world delicious. The meat inside it tasted like it was just grilled, and it was so good I want to go back right now and eat it again.

So, basically, if you like Mexican food and happen to be in Hagerstown, eat at Fajita Grande.

2. Etsy Update. I opened my Etsy shop hoping to earn some passive income with a hat pattern. To date, I've not sold a single pattern or hat. I have, however, been more successful selling craft supplies like toilet paper tubes, guinea feathers, acorns, and teasel. I have several vintage items that came with other things we bought at auctions that I'd like to list, too, but I simply haven't had much time to list more items.

3. Confirmation. Our oldest was confirmed earlier this month. It was a big deal, and we had a house full of family. After the service I learned that many people had tears in their eyes. They bet I did, too. I didn't. I was too busy wrangling the baby. But I was awfully happy and proud.

4. School. We've been plugging along in school. Interruptions have been plentiful, but we've pushed on. One thing we do that makes me feel successful is memorizing poetry. I've found that we get a great return on just a couple of minutes a day spent memorizing one or two lines of our poem of the month. A nice by-product (?) of this practice is that I can teach elements of poetry in tiny, non-overwhelming chunks. It's not a chore when you slip a metaphor or alliteration discussion in here and there.

5. Riding the Potty Train. My baby boy is now finally potty-trained. He was good with #1 for several months before he consented to sitting on the potty for #2 without serious bribing or begging. He's so proud now, and I am so happy to have only one in diapers.




Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Shopping List, Revised

Last week I quickly typed a short shopping list with a few items I didn't want to forget when I went to town.

Later, when I came back to the computer, my list magically had a few more items.


Gotta love a good sense of humor in kids, right?


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Birthdays-- Round 2

Fall is the time for birthdays around here--a whirlwind of them. Just for fun this year we decided to celebrate a confirmation and a birthday on the same day. I wouldn't recommend it, but it all worked out okay.

Our first birthday celebration of this post wasn't a traditional birthday cake with candles sort of affair. My son wanted to celebrate his 12th birthday with a Redwall-themed party-- a feast, in fact. That meant we had food from the Redwall books and the Redwall cookbook he received as an early present. We had things like Hotroot Soup and Deeper 'n Ever Turnip ' Tater 'n Beetroot Pie. We also had desserts featured in the books.


Squirrel Mum's Apple and Blackberry Cake and Nunnymolers

Dibbun's Delight

The party was fun, and some of the recipes were "keepers."

I went for an easy cake on the day of the confirmation. The little tyke wanted a construction cake, and a construction cake he got.

Cakes are so easy to decorate with toys.

And that's all on the kid cake front until December!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Building Project-- Days 83-95

Silence on the blogging front does not mean silence on the building front; it just means we've had lots of company and birthday parties.

The masons have completely finished. All equipment has been moved out. Below is a before and after picture.


Before


After

Next you can see an almost completed west side picture of the entrance. I say almost because the windows still needed bricked at the bottom, but that's all done now.



The carpenters finished hanging the drywall. . .

Pretty morning sunlight

. . . and moved on to the soffit.



That means there is room inside for the drywall finisher to do his work.

On stilts!



I have been lax about taking pictures. So much has been finished, and painting will happen soon. We're also looking into flooring options. The end is in sight, and it's all a little strange and exciting.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Dottie

September kicks off a month of seasons-- football season, hunting season, and the obvious fall weather season. For me, September brings the opening of birthday season. Three of our children were born in the last half of September. On top of that, six aunts, uncles, and cousins have birthdays that require phone calls or cards.

But one birthday we’d been looking forward to will be bittersweet. Our friend Dottie was to turn 99 this week, but instead of eating a little cake with me and the kids, she’ll be partying at the greatest feast ever. You see, Dottie died last week, and while she’s in a better place, I’m still sad.

Dottie made me feel good about myself. Every time I visited, she told me repeatedly how much she loved me, how wonderful I was, how good my husband was, and how beautiful my children were. It didn’t matter that her eyes couldn’t see so well or that she never saw me at my worst; Dottle repeated those words of love so many times, I couldn’t help but believe them a little bit.

Dottie stroked my ego, but that’s not why I’ll miss her so much. When I visited with Dottie, she out-talked me. “You’ll have to forgive me,” she’d say, “but I am a talker, and I just love people. I can’t help it; that’s the way I am.” I didn’t need to forgive her because I adored her for it; I understood her because that’s exactly the way I am, too. I think we must have been kindred spirits.

Every time we left Dottie’s house, she’d stand on her front porch or, when she became too unsteady on her feet, just inside her front door and wave and throw kisses until we were out of sight. That’s special.

Visiting Dottie

I might not be able to throw her a birthday party this year, but I can celebrate her life. I can celebrate by throwing kisses and hugs and loving words of every kind all over the place. Who knows? Maybe it’ll make somebody around me feel half as warm and fuzzy as Dottie made me feel. 

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In our house, September is also applesauce season. My husband makes quarts and quarts of it. Dottie ate applesauce nearly every day, so we usually took some to her when we visited. I’ll miss that.

While applesauce is good on its own, it’s also delicious in baked goods. These applesauce muffins are just the thing to pair with your favorite coffee or hot tea on a chilly September morning.

Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins

Muffins:
1 1/2 cups oats, uncooked
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp. oil
1 egg

Topping:
1/4 cups oats, uncooked
1 Tbsp. firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 400℉. Prepare muffins pans (enough for 12 muffins) by lining with paper cups or by greasing pan. In a small bowl combine topping ingredients, mix well, and set aside. 


For muffins, combine oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a large bowl; mix well. In another bowl, combine applesauce, milk, sugar, oil, and egg; blend well. Add to dry ingredients and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.  (Do not over-mix.) Fill muffin cups almost full. Sprinkle with reserved topping, patting gently. Bake 20-22 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool muffins in pan on wire rack 5 minutes. Remove from pan and serve warm.

*This column ran in the Hancock News September 20, 2017. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Building Project-- Days 79-82

This week has been busy! The first two days, the masons were here. This is their handiwork.

The north side is almost finished.

The "dog box" is bricked up.

The east side is complete!

For those of you who have never seen brick work in progress and who may be worried that this side looks a little two-tone, as the mortar dries, it evens out. I learned that.

On Wednesday, a big delivery came. Dry wall plus lots of other needful things.




So for the last two days, dry wall has been going up.




It's starting to feel like real rooms. I'm starting to imagine a bed here, a couch there. It is so cool!

Today both the carpenters and the masons are here, so there's a whole lot of work going on today.