Thursday, December 29, 2011

And a Happy New Year!

You know how it goes. New Year's Eve is once again at our doorstep and we can all hardly believe where the time has gone. As I watch my 2011 quickly roll over the sunset hill of time behind me, I am certainly thankful for the moments given to me. I pray for the year to come that my family will be mindful of our blessings, strengthened to overcome our challenges, and given wisdom to know when to simply let things go.



As we wrap up this year's activities, the past week has been an extra special gift for the kids and I. My husband, who usually works six days a week has taken off and given himself a vacation in between the Christmas and New Year holidays. The last few days have been filled with love and laughter as we all got some much needed 'nuclear' family time. What do I mean by nuclear, you say? Glad you asked! My dad always said that when I was growing up - it means a whole family unit with no missing pieces (i.e. all are present and accounted for). Yes, my dad is an engineer. And a comedian. Go figure!

One activity we look forward to doing post-Christmas is helping the kids explore their new toys as well as our own. Trinity has been enjoying her new collection of baby dolls and Lincoln is deeply submerged in the realm of matchbox race cars or anything Cars related period! As for Daddy and Mommy, Adam has entered into the gamer's world of Skyrim, while I have dabbled back into the familiar waters of Sims 3 through a new expansion pack, Sims Ambitions. Not only do we live in the sticks, we are also techies.

Something we have been enjoying the past couple days in particular is a new popcorn appliance Adam gave to me as a Christmas gift. You put in a cup of popcorn kernels, and the interior heats up until the kernels pop open and then are blown up through the top spout into your bowl. I have never seen an appliance like it, but my husband's family made popcorn this way a lot when he was growing up, and it is a deliciously healthy alternative to the bagged stuff (which I admittedly still enjoy) since no oil or butter is used.


One goal I had set for myself in celebration of our lazy mornings was to make breakfast for my family everyday, but I have failed miserably. I did alright for a few days, but by the time I woke up to Thursday's first rays of sunlight (which is not saying much since it was practically 8 A.M.) I unwrapped a couple of granola bars for the kids and said have at it. At least they got something; my husband barely got a calorie of nutrition from my fruit flavored Chapstick when I kissed him goodbye as he left for an errand into town!

But all in all it's been a great week and a wonderful year. I am looking forward to another 365 days of watching my babies grow while also growing as a mother and wife. Raising kids and being married is not easy! But anything worth having is not going to come without hard work and dedication.

Goodbye 2011. Hello 2012!

White Hot Chocolate

3 cups whole milk (or half and half)
2/3 cup white baking pieces
3 sticks of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of vanilla
Pinch of almond extract

In a pot, combine 1/4 cup of the milk, the baking pieces, and spices. Stir until baking pieces are melted. Add remaining milk until heated through. Remove from heat, remove cinnamon sticks, and add extracts. Serve and enjoy!

Note: this recipe is easily doubled and I recommend doing so if you want to make it for a party as the recipe above probably only serves about four people depending on how much they take. I think I have even quadrupled this thing before! Also, you may want to sprinkle a little extra nutmeg for flavor on individual servings. I don't know about you but I love that stuff!

Egg Nog

Here is one of my favorite recipes for the holiday season: egg nog! This stuff is primo yummo let me tell ya. There is still time to make it for New Year's or maybe you could tuck it away for next Christmas. Either way it is a keeper.

-1 gallon of whole milk
-16 eggs
-2 1/4 cup sugar
-4 tsp vanilla
-nutmeg for individual servings

Mix eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Pour in milk and mix thoroughly. Pour through a fine strainer such as cheesecloth or finer. You do not want the drink to be 'slimy'. Serve and enjoy!

Note: you will need some very big bowls for the mixing process and I do not recommend doubling the recipe. I have tried and it is just too much to juggle. Thanks to my momma for passing this recipe down!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The case of the missing kitty cat


Today I absolutely could not find one of our kittens, Ree Ree. She and her sister, Trill, are outside kitties that stay in our attached garage, but we often let them in for visits and so they can warm up a bit. They had been in for a couple of hours this morning when I had decided it was time to put them back out. Easily, I located Trill, a beautiful black calico with a cute dab of tan on the tip of her tail, and deposited her in the garage but Ree was no where to be found. I started calling for her, but was not too worried when she did not come, figuring she would show up sooner or later.

I got lost in a menagerie of other activities when I was suddenly on a mission to find a DVD we had been missing for a few days. It was Lincoln's favorite TMNT movie, the latest cartoon version, and he had been anxiously asking to watch it several times including this morning. So, armed with a heavy duty flashlight I combed over every hiding place I could think of to search, when suddenly I felt as though lightening had struck me. I had looked through almost the entire house for the DVD and I still had not seen Ree Ree.

It was very unlike her to not come trotting out when you approached, let alone when you were shining lights into holes that had not seen the breath of day in decades. Panic immediately set in. Something was wrong, Ree never disappeared for long periods of time. It had been at least an hour, maybe two, since I had seen her last. The adrenaline kicked in and immediately I began calling to her like a crazy woman. Of course the kids picked up on this in an instant, and sensing new drama in the air they became my begrudged sidekicks. There I was, an unkempt and still bedraggled mad woman frantically lifting up bed skirts and looking down floor vents followed by two toddlers who peered into any nooks and crannies I may have missed. I am sure it was quite a sight.

I began to double check all the holes I had previously plugged up during our remodeling so that none of the cats would be able to squeeze through into our construction zones. Unfortunately, that included peeping into an unused room I had been using to store Christmas gifts, and unbeknownst to me my son was right behind me. Peering around my knees he exclaimed, "Mommy, presents!" I immediately replied, "Those are for Nini and Papa, now get out of here!" Thankfully he did not understand the gravity of the situation we were literally standing in, and I was able to herd he and his sister on to other things.

All my construction holes looked in tact, so I tried thinking of other possibilities. I had ran the dryer that morning, and sometimes Ree liked to climb on the door while I was loading clothes, but surely I would have noticed if she had tried to climb in. Surely. I ran to the dryer, thinking 'Pleases, God, no!' I knew it had just ran a full cycle, and in a frenzy I unloaded all the clothes dreading what I would find. I grabbed handfuls of shirts and socks, pants and boxers (yes, I throw EVERYTHING into one load; I hardly ever separate) but found nothing. I put them back in, and thought, 'maybe I should look again.' I pulled the clothes out a second time, quickly going through each piece, a little relieved I had not found anything, but even then not a hundred percent convinced she was not in there somewhere. Putting them back, I searched a third time, and still saw no signs of Ree.

Fairly certain at this point she was definitely not in the dryer, I sat there on my knees about to cry. Where could that dang cat be? That is when my son said, "Don't cry mommy. We'll fin' 'er," in his three year old voice. Yes, I know, the parent is supposed to be strong for their children, and not sit there and cry like a maniac because they cannot find their kitty cat that they somehow lost in a disarrayed house of craziness. So, I did not cry. I sucked it up because that is what twenty-nine year old big girls do, hugged my kids and told them (and myself) I was sure Ree Ree would show up when she was ready.

We walked into the living room, defeated, when all of the sudden out of the corner of my eye I spied a grey and white furry foot peeking out from under my hope chest. That little devil had been under there the whole time, snoozing the day away pretty as you please. Relief washed over me like a sweet spring rain. Then I grabbed the little booger and kicked her toosh outside with her sister quicker than you can say, 'kitty kibble,' and leaned on the door after it was closed wondering how I was ever going to get anything accomplished today with my first two hours being consumed over looking for a cat-napped kitten. It set the tone for certain, but at least Ree Ree was finally found.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sunny Winter Days

Today I have carted the kids off to my dad and mom's house.  I have purposefully tried to get everything accomplished that I can think of so that I can have a few hours to write on my book, but now Adam is home early from work so I guess I will have to put off book writing until I get his lunch made and see what he is up to for the rest of the day.  Plans never go quite as smoothly as you previously expected, do they?  Tonight, however, we are going to go on a date, which we try to do once a month, so I am very excited for that!

Yesterday was one of our stay-at-home days.  Its hard to navigate the stay-at-home-days, because without a car ride to break up the monotony the kids can definitely wear this mama out.  But here lately I've started a routine that works out great.  Here's a few pictures from our day at home yesterday of things we did and saw.



-Some potatoes leftover from the garden.  We keep them in buckets in our garage and they stay fresh all winter long for us to enjoy at our leisure.


-I thought this would make for a cute picture of all our boots.  Not exactly what you would see in a home and garden magazine, but still lovely I would say.  A picture like this shows a family actually lives in their footwear, they don't just buy the boots for cute decoration.


-Our garden shed, which is currently a mess inside and in great need of some organization.  It is also in need of a mouse trap or two which I better get on top of pronto or we will have a new mouse colony on our hands.  Our outside kittens do not quite understand the concept of catching mice yet, but hopefully in the future they will get it.


-An amazing bloom on a bush by the side of our house.  I have not seen this bush bloom in the whole two years we have been here, and then about a month ago it decided it was time to unveil its true potential.  I cannot believe I have a budding flower on anything in the middle of December, but there you have it!


-Here is a picture of my bird feeding station.  My dad and mom put this together for me for my birthday this past year, which was a great gift.  I believe it is a 4x4 treated wood post, and my dad dug a couple of feet into the ground and set the post in without concrete.  It is very sturdy, and my mom picked out a lovely solar light for the top that puts out a soft glow each night.


-My husband, Adam, makes fun of me for havin these geese.  A cousin of his actually had them previously, and I asked if I could have them for my own because it looked like they were not getting much use.  They brought them over for us, and I have intentions of painting them some interesting colors and make use of my dormant art skills.


-Here is a picture of our garden.  The tall dried stalks in the background are okra, and the broken down stalks in the foreground are leftover from sunflowers.  In the middle I dump ashes from our fireplace as well as food compost, because they are all very good for your soil.


-Here is our pile of wood currently in our garage.  If we have a fire going non-stop, this will last us two weeks.


-A cast iron bell of a cocker spaniel, similar to our family dog Lilly.  I put this bell on one of our barns low enough for the kids to ring.


-And last but certainly not least, I got out some watercolors for the kids to play with which brought back some nostalgia for myself and my days in college where I painted almost daily getting my fine art degree.  It was a lot of fun to see the kids enjoy some time being creative.  I would have included my daughter in this photo but she was getting ready for a bath by the time I could grab a camera to take a photo.  Let's just say she got more paint on herself than on the paper. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thank you

I would like to thank all of you who have started to follow my blog. I am so appreciative of your support! I try to review my posts to edit grammar, check spelling, and add pictures so be sure to check out old posts from time to time and see if there is anything new but I will also try to let you know as well.

Today the kids and I enjoyed our last day of MOPs for the semester. In our program every other week the moms meet and have brunch, a speaker, and then a time for small group discussion while the children are cared for in a Christian classroom setting according to age. On the off weeks moms are able to drop the kids off and then leave to have a " morning out" for themselves which is wonderful! Today was a morning out for the moms so I left my kiddos and then headed to Starbucks where I wrote on my book for a couple of hours.

After that the kids and I had lunch thanks to Taco Bell's drive thru (yum!) and then headed to the FFY for open gym at the gymnastics center. Open gym is an awesome way to beat the winter blues! Then we came home and I finally had some time to clean for practically the first time in a week. I can already tell this place is going to be a crazy house once all the Christmas festivities get underway, but we are definitely looking forward to the visits.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas trees, snow, and celebrating the birth of Christ


I cannot believe it is that wonderful time of year again. Christmas is less than two weeks away! The cold weather has finally settled in for its long visit to Indiana, and we have already seen the snow fly on a couple of occasions as early as late November, which has local "weather forecasters" predicting a long and cold winter based on patterns of seasons past. I have learned to embrace the cold weather because it does arrive every year right on time whether I like it or not, so we might as well find the positives out of our experiences and enjoy or short lives here on Earth. Or I guess one could move and enjoy the weather somewhere else, but wherever you go there is going to be something to deal with!

Personally, I need to work on trying to be more positive in my life anyways no matter what the circumstance. It can be so difficult! Or is it? I guess I like to think its difficult, because then when I fail it makes me feel better about my regression. But really I am so blessed that when I think about how petty I am sometimes it seems foolish. I have a home which we hope to have paid off someday, the home although old (and messy!) is sturdy and comfortable, we have food in the fridge, a growing family, and we live in a safe environment - I really should be ever thankful. And yet there it goes, negativity creeping up into my senses and once again I am back at square one wondering how in the world I got there and how to dig myself back out. It's a struggle, but one we should not give up on while pressing forward with resolve and determination.

And yet all that I have said is merely details and frosting on the proverbial cake. Most of all at Christmas, and all year long, I want to be thankful for Jesus and teach my children to do the same. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and remember to be thankful for the most precious gift of all - salvation for the repentant heart through Christ.

Banana bars

I love this recipe. Especially because It uses up leftover bananas that are over ripe, preventing me from wastefully throwing them out. Give it a try and add your own touches.

- 2 cups flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 over ripe bananas
- 1/2 cup softened/melted butter
- pinch salt
- pinch baking soda
- pinch almond extract

Blend all ingredients and bake at 350 for 25 minutes in a bars pan (13x9). Or use a normal pan (11x7) for a more bread/ brownie quality and bake until it appears done, usually about 35 minutes. Ice once completely cooled.














Icing

- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 8 oz. cream cheese
- pinch almond extract
- 4 cups powdered sugar

Blend and then spread over bars. Enjoy!

Ten things I love about winter



10. A break from outside chores.





9. Having a wood burning fireplace in our living room that burns fires 24/7 in our home this time of year. We have an insert stove that blows the warm air into the house which keeps us toasty and gives great ambience.


8. Decorating! We pick out a live Christmas tree every year which is a family tradition for us and kicks off our winter decor. Our tree keeps the house smelling great and makes for a fun trip just picking it out at a local tree farm. Other things I like to put out are wreaths on my doors, Christmas cards to neighbors, and Christmas bed spreads on our mattresses.


7. Snuggling with my kiddos and hubby.
6. Getting snowed in for a couple of days! Of course you will want a bit of a stock pile before that happens.


5. Catching up on old DVD series. Some of my favorites are: Anne of Green Gables, Avonlea, Mama's Family, Golden Girls, Designing Women, and Lark Rise to Candleford (BBC).



4. Catching up on reading or here lately I have been working on my own book which I hope to post more about later. One book I really enjoyed reading recently was The Hunger Games. It's part of a series, though, and I started the second book but did not think it was as good as the first. I still mean to finish it, and maybe the third will be better.



3. Watching birds eat from feeders with my kids. I have several hanging outside our large living room windows, and keep them filled so the birds will always come back.


2. Comfort foods, especially hot tea or coffee.


1. The holidays and keeping up with old traditions while starting new ones. We also try to make time for extended family gatherings which I hope instills enjoyment in our children so that they can make it a priority for their own families when they are older and are asked to spend time with us oldsters.