Sunday, November 28, 2010


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


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 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

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...


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


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? 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"'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