Monday, December 20, 2010

Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite



To be honest, one of the first things I did after checking into each Hotel room while on vacation, was to pull back the sheets and check the mattresses for bed bugs. Didn't seen any sign of 'em...hope I actually know what I'm looking for!



It has been unseasonably cold in Florida. The first 2 nights we were there, the temperatures dropped to the 20's. Ghosts appeared to rise from the flower beds as all the tender plants remained covered. Day temps rose up into the 50's, and we took solace in the fact that it was still 30 degrees warmer there than at home! The lines at Busch Gardens were non-existent, allowing us to leave a ride, run around to the beginning, and ride again. L rode a roller coaster for the first time.



On Friday, we drove further south to the lovely island of Sanibel off the Gulf coast. That night we walked along the shore, allowing L to see the ocean and feel the sand between her toes for the first time. The following morning, J and I walked the beach in the rain, to collect a bag full of lovely shells.

I didn't really feel like Christmas in Florida, although lots of people had decorations out. I guess there's nothing like a white Christmas for me!



Now, after a long day en route, we are home again. It is hard to believe that this morning I was strolling barefoot in the sand, watching dolphins and pelicans. Now I am facing a mile high pile of laundry, snow outside, and family arriving in 4 days for Christmas. I had better get my act together!



Right now though, I am going to sleep in my OWN bed...can't wait! Good night, sleep tight. Don't let the bed bugs bite!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It Must Have Happened in Mexico

We just received the word today from a Pediatric Rheumatologist that J most likely has Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (formerly known as Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis). She has been complaining on and off of her knees bothering her since soccer in September and October, more regularly for the past couple of weeks.

J is the kind of child that does NOT want her boo-boos examined...never has. It took a long time for me to be able to actually touch her knees (I actually had to threaten) in order to discover that they were both quite swollen.

She is not disabled by any means. She continues to run and jump and play like always, just has trouble getting up and down the ladder to her bed on the top bunk, and is stiff and sore after sitting for a while.

I am feeling overwhelming guilt at this point. Primarily because I didn't push her to let me check her out months ago. I also have this nagging feeling that I might have done something wrong to make her more susceptible to this. Was it our vacation in Mexico 8 years ago? After trying to conceive for 3 years, we went scuba diving and couldn't drink the water, so drank other beverages, then returned home to find that I was several weeks pregnant at the time. Was it because of my irresponsibility in her early weeks?

Where to go from here? The Doctor tells us that it is good that only 2 of J's joints are involved. She will start with daily anti-inflammatory medication, then return for a follow-up in a couple of weeks. I am researching JIA...something I wasn't completely familiar with, although I had a sinking feeling since examining her knees that this might be the diagnosis. I am trying to find kid-friendly information to present to J as well. In the meantime, we are readying ourselves for some time in the sun down South.

Gotta escape this never ending blowing snow somehow!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bert is my Hero!

Bert the Barn Cat caught his first vole this afternoon. While it is not exactly a mouse, the voles have terrorized my baby trees, so it is a legitimate and worthy kill. Any fewer rodents around Poplar Ridge is an improvement, in my opinion, so Bert Buddy, hunt on!

Monday, December 6, 2010

From Giving Thanks to...February???

How did it get to be December?

I don't know if this happens to you, but most Decembers, I find my schedule totally packed...something going on each and every day. It's not quite that bad around here yet, but we did manage to book most of our time from this coming weekend until early January. It's all fun, of course: a visit to Family, a vacation in a sunny location with no huge agenda, and lots of Family here for Christmas festivities.

So, some how we went from feasting on amazing Turkey and fixins with lovely family and friends to now. JP tried a new method of Turkey roasting this year. He's the Turkey man; if it is left up to me, I get crabby and the Turkey is bland. He butterflied the bird on Thanksgiving Eve, while L looked on, smacking her lips and chortling "Ummmm! Yummy!" After this, he rubbed a salt mixture under the skin. The following day, he draped it with salt pork and roasted it until it was golden brown and the skin was deliciously crispy.

The Monday after Thanksgiving is the first day of rifle season for deer hunting in PA. It is HUGE around here...so big in fact, that the schools are closed for the occasion! This was my first year to sit out with a rifle, which I did 3 different days, but didn't see any animals except for Bert and Ernie, the barn cats. I was trying to decide, while I sat patiently in the cold, whether I could actually pull the trigger if I happened to see a deer meander into my sights. I'm still undecided.

The last day I was out, I was run off by helicopters. Because of the huge discovery of natural gas in the Marcellus shale in this region, the property around here has been crawling with earth movers for the past several months. Presently, a company is doing seismic studies in preparation for a Marcellus well to go in very near Poplar Ridge. I think the helicopters were here on seismic study business, as they were dropping mysterious packages in our yard and my parents' as well.




This is a helicopter getting ready to drop a package in my parents' yard.



This is the one that landed just down the hill from my clothes line.

video

This is how loud it was, causing me to give up my secluded post and come in by the fire.

L has begun Christmas activities at Preschool. J was delighted to get out the Christmas ornaments and decorate the tree. I am glad to report that my level of Christmas Spirit is MUCH higher than last year, despite the weather that makes me think of February: gray and blowing snow every day for days and days.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fortune



This was the fortune found in my fortune cookie yesterday.

Are you thinking River, as in Styx?

I'm thinking OCEAN!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bird Art

J is working on a really fun unit in Art right now. She started with one magazine picture of an animal and has used it as the basis for 4 different art forms: a realistic drawing, an abstract drawing, a realistic sculpture, and an abstract sculpture. L of course, had to get in on the action too.

J chose a Ruby Throated Hummingbird picture from an old calendar. L chose an Audubon painting of a Flamingo.


Realistic drawing done in oil pastels.



Abstract drawing, entitled "Harriet Hummingbird Has a Crazy Day", also in oil pastels.



Realistic sculpture in clay, entitled "Birdie"



Abstract sculpture built with found objects: drink bottle, milk bottle tops, drinking straw, feathers, pipe cleaners and "jewels".



Here is L's flamingo drawing in the medium of oil pastels, and labelled "Jessie".



Flamingo sculpture in clay ("very fragile" according to the artist).



Abstract flamingo sculpture constructed of found objects: drink bottle, hickory nut, googly eyes, feathers and pipe cleaners.



I thought they did a great job!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hi Daddy! I just wanted to tell you...

JP has just 2 weeks left at his job, and then a hefty vacation coming up. We are all thrilled and unprepared.

I am taking a break from panic-mode passport form filling out, and photocopying of vital information. We still have not completely determined where or when we would like to travel, but apparently it all involves passports. JP's and mine are expired as of April, the girls have never had theirs. I need to take them to the Prothonotary Office tomorrow between 8:30 and 4:00 to apply in person. Since JP couldn't accompany us, he had to have yet another form notarized to excuse him from this requirement.

At the same time, I am filling out forms and copying information for my new job, which begins around Jan. 17th. This will be the first time I will be employed at more than an hour or two a week since J was just a baby!

So, as JP prepares to end one stage in his life, we are readying for the twilight zone in-between jobs, and then the madness of starting new jobs at the same time. SO...MUCH...FUN!

JP copied 7 years of messages left on his phone from the girls on to his iPod today. At dinner, he asked if we "wanted to hear the girls grow up". We gathered around the computer this evening and listened to little J say "Hi Daddy! I just wanted to tell you that I can count to 100 and I'm GROWING UP!", or to L saying "Daddy not dere!" (Mommy's voice in the background: "I know, you have to leave a message.") "NOOOOOOOOOO!" And later on, J says "Hi Daddy! I just wanted to tell you that I can use the BIG violin now!" and L reports "Hi Daddy! I got a tic-tac (tick) on my neck and Mommy got it off when she brushing my hair. I love you. Bye-bye Daddy!"

I remember some of those days we called and left messages, but some were just ordinary days that don't stand out in my memory at all. I hear hints of desperation ("Mommy wants to know if you are coming home today?") and victories ("I made pee pee in the potty and poo poo in the potty!"). A lot can happen in 7 years..who would have thought that today I would be in frantic passport preparation mode? It all works out in the end though, doesn't it? I'm in a good place now, and wouldn't want to be anywhere else, doing anything else (although I wish we could be ahead of the game enough once in a while to have the passports ready and waiting.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Blessings

A friend who was recently in my storage room commented on how pretty my jars of canned food are. I agree with him, and finally got around to taking pictures of the bounty from our garden and local orchards and farms this year.



From top to bottom: local peaches, dill cucumber relish, mild red peppers, pepperoncini peppers, sweet cucumber pickles.



From top to bottom: more peaches, Serrano peppers, local cherries, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, bread and butter pickles, cucumber dills.



I can't forget the winter squash wintering down there too: acorn and butternut.

The freezer is pretty impressive too!



Top to bottom: strawberries, peaches, sour cherries, sweet corn, wax beans, green beans.



And of course, my strawberry freezer jam.

It's quite impressive to look at it all together and know that we will be enjoying this delicious food when the winter snows are flying.

We experienced some more blessings today: these lovely people who came to celebrate J-bird's 8th birthday today.



My lovely daughter, who loves fairies, making art, and reading books...who doesn't love it, but makes beautiful music on the violin anyway...who loves History and Science, but dislikes grammar and math...is getting to be such an amazing young lady!



She wanted a cake that looked like an eight dollar bill, with her picture in the middle. This required experimenting with food color in order to recreate just the right grey-green color of money...interesting.



She and little L, are truly my greatest blessings. I am extremely grateful to be their Mom. I hope that one day they will get a similar joy looking at their own jars of canned food sitting neatly on shelves...but not too soon.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's Inevitable

Why is it that when adults get sick, it ruins their weekend, and when kids get sick, it's always at 2 in the morning?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Play Group

One of the best parts of my week is the morning, a couple of times a month, when my friends get together for a Play Group. It is as valuable, or possibly more so, for the Moms as it is for the kiddos. It does make me happy, however, to see the kids running around outside being...kids.

We share stories: funny, frightening, or sad. We give advice. We listen. We drink tea and eat.

I have been asked to share my recipes for a couple of my favorite finger-food type snacks, so get out your pencils...

Hummus


1 can chick peas, rinsed & drained
1/3 c tahini
1/4 c lemon juice
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered


Mix all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add water, a teaspoon at a time, to desired consistency. Sprinkle with paprika before serving.


Curried Chicken Salad


1 can chicken breast meat, rinsed
1/3 cup mayo
2 T lime juice
2 t curry powder
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
OR 1/4 cup water chestnuts, chopped fine
1/2 c grapes, halved


Mix all ingredients together and adjust mayo and curry powder to desired consistency and taste.

That's What I'm Talkin' About


'Nuff said.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Firewood

JP, being finally cleared of his 10# lifting limit following surgery, decided to spend the weekend bringing in firewood. I started the first fire of the season in the wood stove on Friday. After nearly smoking out our guests for Tea, the warmth became contagious, and JP has kept a fire burning ever since.



He purchased pallet fork attachments for the tractor, then used them to carry 6 trees up beside the garage and cut them into 18 inch lengths with the chainsaw. I even tried out the chainsaw for the first time ever. I'm surprised JP trusted me with that, when I'm clearly a menace with kitchen knives and other sharp objects!



After that, we used the splitter to get about 4 trees worth of logs split and stacked. It's a good start, but not enough yet for 2 households for the entire winter! I vastly recommend doing this on a sunny November afternoon, rather than in the midst of 2 feet of snow while feeling desperate to provide heat in the house!

L came up to me with a sad look in her eyes. "I don't care about winter," she said. "What I care about is nature. You and Daddy should NOT be hurting those trees!"

It took me a long time to convince her that we did not cut any trees down, that these trees were already dead and lying on the ground.

Eventually, she and J got busy building a Mega-Super-Fantastic-Polly Pocket-Play-Land, and all was forgiven.



We were invited to my parent's house last night for desert and to watch part one of the Great Migration series on the National Geographic channel. I expect it will be the first of many such visits...they are planning to move into their house this week. I've been quite remiss in posting pictures of their progress. I will try to get a few up soon! It will seem quite quiet and empty here for a while, but I'm sure my kids can manage to fill up any empty spaces and quiet times!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Comfort Food

Today was a cold and dreary day. It began with the feat of taking 3 animals and dragging 2 kids along to the Vet. I spent nearly $400, and Ernie Cat was diagnosed with a Herpes infection of his eyes. At that news, I whipped out the hand sanitizer and wiped everyone down. Yikes!

I came to a realization while at play group today: I think I am subconciously keeping L a baby. My friends and I were discussing Preschool in the good old days of our oldest children being there. It brought back memories of all the drama of J feeling slighted by one of our neighbors who was in her class. I realized that it doesn't seem that L is the same age now as J was then...she still seems so little, but in reality, she is on the verge of Kindergarten! Funny how our minds can bend reality, hmm?

So...by the time the evening rolled around, I was emotionally spent, and felt a bit chilled despite nursing a cup of tea most of the afternoon. I decided it was time for a meal of comfort food. My favorite comfort food menu consists of Chicken and Dumplings, Chuckwagon Carrots and my Secret Ingredient Apple Sauce. Mmmmm...warms the belly and the heart!

Cracker Barrel Chicken & Dumplins
adapted from A Treasury of Top Secret Recipes
serves 6

2 Qts chicken stock
1 bay leaf
4 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp black pepper

3 c flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup milk

2 cans chicken breast meat

Bring first 4 ingredients to a simmer in a dutch oven. Stir together next 4 ingredients, knead several times on a floured counter top until no longer sticky. Roll to an oblong, approximately 1/4" thick. Cut into strips 1/2" x 2" with a pizza cutter. Drop dough strips one at a time into stock mixture, stirring several times between additions. Allow to simmer, stirring occaisionally, for 30 minutes, until stock is thickened. Stir in chicken and continue to simmer another 5-10 minutes until warm through.

Chuckwagon Carrots
adapted from my friend, KR's recipe
serves 4

3 slices bacon, chopped
3 cups carrots, sliced into 1/2" coins
2 T butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 T brown sugar
1 green onion, thinly sliced

Fry bacon in a sauce pan until browned and crispy, then remove to a paper towel lined plate. Discard bacon fat. Add carrots, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer until crisp-tender, about 10-12 minutes. Drain carrots, add butter, salt and sugar and toss to coat. Stir in bacon and onions before serving.

I won't share my applesauce recipe here, but you can find it on your own if you Google "Alton Brown applesauce"...it's good stuff.

Tonight, feeling calm and drowsy under the effects of all that Tryptophan, I crashed on the sofa to watch my favorite TV show, "The Mentalist". Now it's time to give Ernie his eye drops and turn in for the night. Nighty-night.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Putting the Garden to Bed

The dried corn stalks in my garden, which a couple of weeks ago were looking very Autumnal, now just look...well...dead. (As do the tomato plants that I haven't pulled out yet.) These past 4 days of overnight freezes have done the garden in. I have spent several hours pulling out plants, and harvested everything that was left to harvest (except for the onions) before the freeze. Lucky for me, the Fall freeze comes just a few weeks after I have completely lost the desire to do anything else in the veggie garden.

The girls have been begging to play in the leaves lately. We are fortunate in that although we have lots of trees, and therefore lots of leaves, they mostly just blow off the hill. We were able to round up a nice pile that had blown up against things in the yard. The girls had a jolly time running, jumping and rolling.







Halloween has come and gone. We always trick-or-treat in a nearby tiny village, at the invitation of friends. We walk in a loop, hit 4 streets, fill up the girls' bags, then head back to our friends for s'mores and finger food. The girls aren't the only ones who look forward to it.

J was a "colorful witch".



L was a tiger.



November has come, and with it the threat of snow in the near future. November also ushers in our crowd of birthdays and holidays: J's birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and L's birthday are all in the space of 6 weeks, and it is coming soon. I'll take a deep breath, enjoy the next two weeks, and then buckle down for celebration time!

Breakfast Pies

I come from Mennonite stock. We Mennonites enjoy our pies, and not just for dessert either! Shoo-Fly pie is excellent for breakfast with a cup of coffee.



Last night, I made an Apple Crumb pie with random wrinkled apples. (Another Mennonite trait: never throw anything away!)



This morning, with my coffee, I had a piece with cheddar cheese on it. My husband and children turn up their noses, but the recipe in my Mennonite Community Cookbook actually notes "Delicious when served with cheese." I find that the cheese goes well with the tartness of the apples, and helps reduce the sweetness of the crumb topping.


breakfast of champions

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sleepless Nights

**SIGH**

Miss L was restless last night. She came to my room complaining of a cough, then tossed and turned in my bed for awhile. Back in her own bed, she cried and asked me to stay, which I did for about 20 minutes. No sooner was I drifting off to sleep in my room, then she appeared at my side, crying about "bad dreams". This time after the tossing and turning, she refused to return to her room, so she slept in a sleeping bag on my floor.

Of course, this was the morning that I needed to get up early for my first job interview in 8 years. (I was quite pregnant with J at my last one!) Quite surprisingly, I did not feel a bit nervous. (Perhaps because this interview was somewhat of a formality since the position has basically been offered to me already. ) It seemed odd that I was shaking and tearful while introducing my own daughter at her violin recital in the Spring, in front of family and friends, yet I was calm and collected in front of the Hospital CEO. Go figure.



It was probably all the Halloween excitement lately and the Flu shots we got yesterday that had L too high strung to sleep. Wednesday was her Preschool Halloween party.



On Thursday, J's school sponsored a Halloween party in Washington.



Saturday morning, we were awakened just before 8 by a rifle shot very nearby. JP and I looked at each other and said "Dad must have gotten his deer!" He did in fact shoot a large doe on this side of the garden. He said he had been watching it wander around in front of our downstairs french doors for a long time before it wandered far enough away from the house to safely shoot.


Kali and I are having problems with our morning walks. It is getting darker and darker in the mornings, making it difficult to get around, and less likely for our blaze orange gear to show up! We tried it with a flash light one morning, but I tripped and nearly fell about 5 times, so we called it quits early.



I'm thinking that this weekend will not only bring a chance for some much needed R & R, but an end to some of the recent craziness. J's last soccer game is on Sunday afternoon, and Trick-or-Treat is in the evening. Then we will have 2 extra evenings a week free, as well as Sunday afternoons!



T.G.I.F.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cages

We had our first frost of the season this morning, which heralds the coming of winter. I'm trying to prepare mentally for this to happen. It's not my favorite season of the year ever, but after a winter like last year, it's almost enough to cause anxiety!

The frost also means we are getting closer to hunting season. In fact, it has been bow season for several weeks now. Just as Kali and I were getting into our routine morning walks, we now have to limit the area in which we wander. It's hard to imagine feeling caged in on 50 acres, right? I wear my bright orange ball cap, and Kali wears a day-glo orange bandanna...no one is going to mistake us for random deer! Now instead, we are in danger of becoming fat and lazy again.


The deer have been out more than ever lately. The bucks have flattened 5 out of 8 of my ornamental pear trees.


I spent some time today trying to right them, and putting cages around them to prevent any further damage. The bark is torn off on one side of ALL the trees I planted this year, so only time will tell if they make it or not.


The garden is winding down. I picked the last of the beans last week. We still have lots of hot peppers (any takers?) and the winter squash to harvest. I love the look of the pumpkins and corn stalks...it's so...um...Autumn looking!


The birds are enjoying the sunflower seeds.


My flower garden is still going strong. In fact, the Mums are going crazy, looking like huge, fluffy pillows tossed out in the garden.


While working out there recently, I came across this rock with a fern fossil in it. Can you make it out?


Speaking of old things, the girls and I took a field trip last week to the old WV State Penitentiary in Moundsville last week. The tour guide had lots of gory stories, which were a bit overwhelming for the girls, but I found fascinating. This is a shot of the razor wire above the exercise grounds.


For now, I'm trying to make the most of the Autumn sun until we get caged in by the snow.