Thursday, December 31, 2009

Winter Wonderland

I woke this morning and was pleasantly surprised by the snowfall that came in the night.



It reminded me of one of my favorite poems:

STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING
-Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
...

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

The last verse is particularly pertinent, I think. There is always SOMETHING on my list that "needs" to be attended to. Far too often, that list keeps me from experiencing those small things in life that too quickly pass by.

I took Kali out this morning before the girls were up, and we were able to enjoy the virgin snow in the relative stillness. I decided to build a small snowman down in the girls' window well to surprise them. I used the snowman light kit that I picked up off season last year some time. It was a hit!



After breakfast, we bundled up and headed out for some serious snow play. We built a giant snow man, had a big snow ball fight, made dozens of snow angels and tried to keep the dog from eating icky things. We came in wet and happy - all in all, a good end to a difficult year.



Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Toasty Warm

JP and I visited with the Loan Officer today to refinance our home loan. We were able to decrease our mortgage by 1.3%, take 5 years off, and decrease our monthly payments by about $100. All good news!

My Dad finally got the stove pipe needed to get our little squirrel wood stove up and running. We have been using it for the past 2 days, and things are staying toasty around here.



Dad got the trim and fixtures in the guest bath, and I managed to get the trim painted this afternoon, so I figure that it's done enough to showcase. Ta da!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Much Merry-Making

Tonight, we celebrated the 4th birthday of this little munchkin.



She was a super good sport about waiting until today, since we travelled home yesterday, on her actual birthday. She wanted a "blue long neck dinosaur" on her cake, and then changed it to "Dinorella" at the last minute.



She was most excited by the gifts of an Ariel Barbie, and a Ken ("prince") doll.

Having celebrated this birthday means several things, first and foremost that my Baby is growing up! L traded in her car seat for a booster over the weekend.

It also means that I made it through this...



...and this...



and the 6 hour drive on Christmas night through freezing rain and fog and no open gas stations when a 7 year old needs to PEE!

It wasn't all JUST surviving, either. The girls were thrilled with their gifts, and very appreciative. We had an interesting Christmas dinner of lobster and garlic risotto, just the 4 of us. We listened to a fun story on the trip to and from Virginia: Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen. We had a lovely visit with family down South (where they were recovering from 2 feet of snow). And I even got to go to a movie with 2 of my nieces and the girls: The Princess and the Frog!

Today I took down the Christmas tree, and so we are also slowly regaining our space! Tonight the snow continues to come down, exceeding by far the 1/2" of accumulation forecasted. Now I am looking forward to post Holiday visits with local friends, and perhaps even the making of tamales for New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Grouting tile is exactly like frosting cookies, except...

...that it is slightly less messy!

My awesome friend, T, who can do ANYTHING, came to my rescue last week and helped me tile the guest bathroom. Unfortunately, the weather, and her Holiday trip to Wyoming prevented her from helping me grout. She did leave her tools here, however, and after a quick tutorial or two on YouTube, I managed to grout it on Wednesday. I need to seal it tonight, and then it is ready for trim and fixtures



We baked up a storm on Wednesday and Thursday. And here are the results:



Clockwise from left: Thumbprint Cookies, Gingerbread Children, Haystacks, Chocolate Chip Surprise Cookies, and 5-Flavor Pound Cake

We decorated the Gingerbread today, and the clean up was a slightly bigger project than the grout clean up.



Here are our anti-Christmas colored cookies:



This morning at 2 AM, I finally finished my sewing projects which I started the beginning of November. I have been sewing since I was 9 or 10, but I have never been one who can sew without a pattern. My first project used some really pretty cable knit fabric from my Mom. I wanted to make a sweater for J, but I ended up having to really re-work the pattern to make it work.



Next I made these doll sleeping bags and pillows. The girls have been wanting bunk beds for their American Girl dolls, but I'm too cheap to fork out the nearly $200.




Then I worked on these nightgowns for the girls and their American Girl dolls. Yellow for J and Pink for L. I gained confidence from the sweater project to make the doll nightgown pattern, and I re-sized the child nightgown pattern 3 sizes smaller for L.






Finally, I made these doll bathrobes. It's hard to see, but they have tiny monograms of the dolls' initials.



Today has been relaxing, and we have all picked something that we want to do. We have accomplished all but JP's. I'm feeling good enough to decorate my blog for Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all, and may you experience the warm, snugly love of your family around you this season, imperfections, bad attitudes and all!

Misnomer

I recently received this email from my uncle, who lived for many years in Kenya:

'In Swahili, "Kali" means fierce and dangerous. The Kenyan equivalent to a "Beware of Dog" sign reads "Mbwa Kali!" ("Fierce and Dangerous Dog!") It can also refer to a "sharp" knife or a "serious" illness.'

This is a bit of a misnomer, by Kenyan standards anyway, since our Kali is quite gentle and pretty calm. L, however, thinks that she has "kali" teeth.

So there you have it...MBWA KALI!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

One More Day Until Winter

Today is the day to recover from the snowfall. My official measurement with a yard stick was 7 1/2 inches at 11 PM last night. I shovelled off the driveway in front of the garage and front door (again). JP is out plowing the drive. He has a snow plow blade attached to the front of the truck. This way he can stay warm and listen to Prairie Home Companion while he works.

It is beautiful outside with all of the snow on the trees. This lovely "tree tunnel" is just down the road from our place.



Kali LOVES the snow! Unfortunately, poodle fur is like velcro, and she comes in with snow balls hanging from all of her dreads. I have discovered that the best solution (after giving her a bath yesterday...don't want to do that again for a couple of weeks) is to shut her in our shower until she melts.

My friend told me how to make this crystal snowflake, which the girls tinted red and green. (Directions here.)



Mom and the girls made a sugar cookie forest this week. Last night, I dreamed that the mice nibbled on it.



JP asked me if I was depressed last night when I said that I still don't have any Christmas Spirit. I don't think so, although I usually enjoy this season. This year, for some reason, I just want to get it over with. Christmas is simply adding more stuff to my already packed schedule. I need to get a better attitude, that's the biggest issue!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

For Those in Texas...

Hi Texan Friends and Family!

Don't you wish you were out East today? We have received our biggest snowfall in a LONG time, and it's still coming down. I shoveled about 4-5 inches off the driveway this morning, and there is another 3 -4 inches out there now (plus my back hurts).

We girls had fun playing in the snow!




Kali and L stuck their faces in and ate it.




J tried the snowshoes, and we all did a bit of sledding.




Dad couldn't get the Subaru up the driveway, and John had to use chains on the 4WD truck. Mom and I didn't attempt to drive anywhere.

By the way, it still is not OFFICIALLY winter yet.

Kali has found a new favorite place to rest.




Here is a sample of the ceramics the girls and I painted at The Wow Factory two weeks ago. This is a Latte Mug that J did for her violin instructor (who very sweetly told her, "This is my new favorite mug!")




Still no Christmas Spirit...ho hum.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Busy Little Elves

It is getting nearer and nearer to Christmas each time I take a breath, and I keep hoping that one of these days I'll get to relax and enjoy it with my kids. So far, my life has continued at the same breath-taking speed that appears to be the norm, so I suppose I will have to forcefully put on the brakes and MAKE it stop!

In the meantime, I have been working on my Christmas sewing as I find time. J has been very busy making gifts for family and friends. It is a big secret, and all I know is that they involve a lot of scotch tape.

I spent the afternoon on Thursday driving to McMurray and meeting with my new Endocrinologist (finally...one that isn't passive, and has a decent bedside manner!) My mom spent the afternoon with the girls making these cute snowmen out of white chocolate, pretzel rods, gumdrops and fruit leather.



We decided to buy a (gasp) artificial Christmas tree this year, mostly because of J's allergies, but also because JP still has emotional scars from the corneal cut he received from our cut tree 2 years ago, and because I'm tired of vacuuming needles on a daily basis for 2 weeks out of every year. J was quite upset about this at first, but she has apparently warmed to the idea. She was very anxious to get out the "instruments" (ornaments) and start decorating!



The girls played very nicely together today, which allowed me to get a lot of work done. That is, until J glued her sister's butt cheeks together with her school glue stick! They were working on a "Crismis Show" which they put on for us this evening: the nativity play, complete with L as an angel saying "This baby will be healthy FOREVER!"

How are your Christmas preparations coming?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hunting Season

*****SPOILER ALERT*****






**THE FOLLOWING POST CONTAINS IMAGES WHICH SOME MAY FIND OBJECTIONABLE!**





Rifle season for deer always begins the Monday after Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania. It is a big enough deal in rural areas, that the public schools are usually closed for the first day of deer season, as our were. JP took 2 1/2 days off from work to participate. This is his 8th year of going out, and he was beginning to get despondent after 2 days of sitting in the tree stand and seeing nothing.

I take that back. This morning he saw 3 turkeys, and a bobcat. (Yes, a bobcat!) The deer, however, were avoiding him. The rain started around noon today, and was drenching and cold. JP decided to go out once more this afternoon, but only to the back porch, where he could sit under the roof, out of the rain, and still see the deer that graze in our front lawn every evening. He was there 10 or 15 minutes, when we heard a shot, and he popped into the house to announce that he was finally successful at hunting!



The girls, especially J, were fascinated to watch JP and Dad field dressing the doe. I think that my girl is going to be a scientist in the future! They hung the carcass up from the bucket of the tractor for the night. I'm quite sure that we now have achieved Hick status!!



It is interesting living on the hill during hunting season! We share hunting privileges with the family that owns property on either side of ours, so there have been plenty of men in blaze orange and camouflage walking around for the past 3 days. J, and I took the dog for a long walk on Sunday...the last one that we can safely take for 2 weeks until hunting season is over. I meant to get the girls blaze orange hats this year, but never got around to it.

As for me, I meant to go out hunting this year, but seeing as the last time I shot my rifle (2 years ago) I did this to myself, I thought I should spend some time target shooting first!



There is not much else of interest to report from the hill this week...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

School Pictures

Since J is home schooled, we make different plans when it comes to school pictures. In the past, I have been taking the girls to Walmart for photos in early December. We call them "Birthday Pictures" because I have tried to get a professional photo done around their birthday each year. Walmart has done a decent job in the past, and they have a huge package of photos at a great price. Last year, however, they would not let me purchase 2 packages, so that I would have pictures of each girl. Instead, I had to pick the sizes individually, and the total price ended up being some where around $70. We paid our wedding photographer $100 long ago when we were married, and that included the negatives. You might get the idea that I am somewhat of a tightwad...you're right.

This year, JP suggested that we take our own photos of the girls. Shutterfly came through yesterday with coupons for $10 off AND free shipping. Today was photo shoot day.

Here are the girls...



...a candid of Mommy, J & L...



...and for JP's buddy in Iraq, here's one of the whole gang!

Friday, November 27, 2009

snow, snow, snow, snow, SNOW!

J had a friend sleep over last night. They were up bright and early this morning to watch "White Christmas"...just as it started to snow the first snow of the season!

This is a shot from our deck, where we recently got the dinner bell hung.



All the girls were so excited, they dressed warm and went outside to play in it!







Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Other White Meat

I have been a collector of pig figurines and all things pig for over 15 years. It all started back in college when my friends began giving me pigs because when I laughed REALLY hard, I snorted. (Either I learned to control this as I matured, or, sadly, I don't laugh that hard any more.)

I have no problems collecting and displaying cute little piggies AND eating delicious pork products...bacon, sausage and ham are chief among them.

Kali, however, seems to be having some trouble keeping things straight. One of her favorite chew "toys" is a pig ear, but today she ate the ears off my giant plaster piggy bank. I caught her with plaster still on her nose. Ho hum.

Of course, today we have some other white meat roasting in the oven. (And smelling delicious too, I might add!) We are looking forward to sharing it with a bunch of lovely people.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Greening

I am finally posting from the NEW computer, and I used Photo Shop for the first time to edit photos, so the whole process is taking more than twice as long as normal. Whew!


Today was a beautiful day...apparently the last one we will have for a while. A winter mix of weather is headed our way, with snow forecast for Thanksgiving. L believes that as soon as it snows, her birthday is not far behind!


I wanted to post a few pictures of the lawn before it gets buried in snow. It is GREENING up nicely. There will be several bare spots and a bunch of holes thanks to the cattle, but the landscaper has promised to re-evaluate things in the Spring and fix them. Here is a shot of the front yard, taken from the driveway.




This picture shows our yard in the background, but in the foreground you can see Dad sealing the seams on his first floor decking. The OSB is painted a light GREEN to protect it from the weather. After some rain, Mom and Dad were able to see a few leaks in the basement. That did not stop them from unloading the PODS and the storage shed into there. Their basement/garage is much more organized than ours was when we moved. Hopefully it is more rodent proof as well!




This is their GREEN garage door. Dad made this door to fit the walk-through doorway. The doors and windows to be used on their house come in another shipment in the Spring.




Finally, a shot of Kali. She was to the vet on Thursday, and now weighs in at 13#. She is head and shoulders above Daisy Dog at this point! She likes to lie on clothes, so she slept on the dirty laundry for quite a while yesterday until I got around to putting it in the washer. Laundry is one of those things that just doesn't quit these days. That and the dishes and cleaning...


Friday, November 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, J-Bird!

Today my little girl turned 7 years old, which I am still trying to fathom. Her birthday celebration was small...just the family. This year she requested a cake that does not require me staying up until midnight decorating. I am both relieved and perplexed. Can she really be old enough to request regular birthday cakes?



She wanted a sock monkey SO BADLY. It was at the top of her Birthday/Christmas list.



Here are she and her sister...such sweet girls!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Family Photos

As I write, I am once again hearing the gnawing and scampering of rodents above my head. I can't believe they are back!


In other news, we made the shortest trip ever to VA over the weekend to visit (ever-so-briefly) with JP's family. He and his 3 sisters went through boxes and boxes of old pictures. Here are a few of the gems:


This lovely couple is JP's grandparents, around the time of their marriage in May of 1915.



This picture was marked 1959. Several of us think that L favors the girl on the left (who happens to be JP's oldest sister.)




This photo shows JP's father (on the left) with several of his siblings, and some sweet little peeps. JP's uncle believes this was taken to use as advertising for Shenandoah Wood Stoves.




While I am showcasing family photos, let me include this one of my aunt (my father's sister), my uncle and my Mom working on my parent's house...



and this one of my girls helping Mom celebrate her birthday last week...




...and my girls with 3 of their cousins...



...and finally, the newest member of our family in a quiet moment.