Sunday, December 30, 2012

Almost the New Year!

Perhaps, quite by accident, I may be able to accomplish one of my resolutions for 2012, which was to put the huge stack of photos of the girls in scrapbooks for them.  It has been my resolution for the past 4 years, but the project got so huge and overwhelming that I managed to overlook it in favor of other projects for a LONG time.

I began scrap booking for the girls after J was born, and have kept books for both of them current...up until the summer of 2008.  That Fall, I found myself homeschooling a Kindergartner for the first time, as well as listing and selling our house, and moving TWO times before the school year was over.  Oh yeah, I had a toddler too.  For some reason, at that point in my life, the scrap booking became less of a priority.

So...the day after Christmas this year, I quite unexpectedly found myself with nothing pressing to do.  After postponing it for nearly 2 hours with shoveling snow and doing laundry, I dug out the two boxes of pictures and miscellany that I had saved for the scrapbooks.  I thought I had left everything in order, with photos separated and in chronological order, but that was not the case.  For the first hour and a half, I merely sorted through over 300 photos.

I spread out materials across my entire desk, and part of the floor of my Craft Room.  Thus far, I have done 61 pages, finishing L's photos, and making it about 1/2 of the way through J's.  These are 12" x 12" pages I'm talking about, complete with cropping of photos, borders, journaling and cute little stickers and die cuts.  This afternoon, however, I hit a wall.  I simply could NOT tolerate any more of the crafty-ness, and not only that, but my bum was numb.

I have taken a break this evening to fold laundry, water plants, and watch the end of P&P with JP and the girls.  I am encouraged however, by the progress I've made.  It would be so lovely to NOT have this on my "To Do" list in 2013, AND I've resolved to do NO MORE of it.  The past 2 years I have made photo books on Shutterfly, and like it SO much better.


In the meantime, we have celebrated the 7th birthday of the wee L by going out to a movie ("Rise of the Guardians"...very fun, by the way, AND we ran into friends at the theater) and having a tiny bakery cake at home.  I have promised her a party with Grandmom & Granddad and all of her friends when they have all returned from Christmas merry-making (be forewarned all ye friends of the Poplar Ridge clan!)


The girls and I had a blast playing in the snow yesterday, but I have discovered, much as I did after roller-skating last Spring, that I pay dearly for it with stiff muscles the day after...I am too old for such silliness I suppose.


We also have spent several hours playing with their Christmas toys:  J got a Crime Solving Forensic Science kit, complete with 2 "crimes" to solve, and L got a Magic Science kit.  So far we have tested the pH of water, learned how to determine the height of a person by their shoe size, and separated DNA from a tomato with J's kit.  L made a magic wand with purple crystals that grew to 4 times their original size, made disappearing ink, and magically changed the color of water.

Tomorrow, JP must head back to work.  The girls and I have a respite of 2 more days before school begins again.  Perhaps tomorrow we can do more Forensics and Magic, and if I'm lucky, finish the scrapbooks!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

We have had a quiet and happy Christmas up here on the hill.  The girls slept all the way until 8 AM before they awoke and thundered up the stairs to join JP and I in our bed.

This pre-presents photo shows the difference in personalities between the girls.  L is already dressed in her Christmas finest, with her hair done.  J wished to open presents in her PJs.

Here are a couple of the things they wished for this year - J, a new bathrobe, and L, a 'coon skin cap!


We also got a set of Roald Dahl books, and have begun reading "The Witches" aloud already.  The big family item was a telescope, which we were hoping to try out by visualizing the proximity of Jupiter and the Moon tonight.  The weather, however, did not cooperate.

Mom and Dad came over to celebrate with us this afternoon.  This is a sampling of our feast (clockwise from top):  Roast Beef Tenderloin with Herb Compound Butter, my Mom's scalloped potatoes, Oven Risotto, steamed asparagus with Mornay Sauce, and Mom's jello Ribbon Salad.  Most of our entrees came directly from the pages of America's Test Kitchen Cookbook.


After dinner, the girls and I played Christmas songs on the piano and violin, and we played wii together, before squeezing in one last Christmas Movie (Grinch) tonight.

L pulled me aside and whispered in my ear this evening, "You know we have been eating a LOT of chocolate and watching a LOT of movies lately." 

"It's ok."  I told her.  "We only do this at Christmas time.  Isn't it fun?"

From our home on the hill to yours, Merry Christmas, and may you enjoy for this short time, all the excesses and extravagances you can cram in!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Naughty or Nice?

Miss L has been extremely unpleasant lately.  JP and I are trying to figure out if she is 1) overly tired, 2) coming down with something, 3)  otherwise stressed in some way, or 4) other.  It has gone on long enough now that we have ruled out the first 2 options, and while having some Mommy/Daughter bonding time this afternoon, she assured me that she was not sad or worried about anything.  That leaves the all-encompassing "other" option, which means we just hope she grows out of it SOON!

She may be weary, at this point, of JP and I telling her that she is acting like a 3 year old.  I know I'm tired of telling her!  In any case, she is turning 7 in just a few days.

When we haven't been dealing with L's issues, we have whiled away our commitment free days. 

We played in the snow Saturday, before it melted back into mud. 

Kali

Both dogs...

Stella the Snow Dog
...and girls enjoyed themselves.

Watching from the tree house...
We had home made tacos with friends on Sunday.

Today we actually worked.  We hauled fire wood to fill our wood rack on the veranda.  JP and I also organized under the lean to by the barn and stacked 2 more truck loads of fire wood underneath.  We also cleaned out the chicken house and gave them a thick, fresh layer of wood shavings to scratch around in.

In our extra moments, we finished baking cookies, and have been slowly working our way through our Christmas movies.  "Polar Express" is currently airing.

This evening we tried out the Christmas present from my Dad:  a beautiful pizza peel and pizza cutter.  I used some of the venison Italian sausage that I made with my parents a few weeks ago.


Tonight, the night before Christmas, when all through the house, we are tired and cozy with our wood fire burning, and are acting extrememly nice for the last few moments before the Big Guy comes through our french doors to fill our stockings (he can't get down our chimney...too narrow and tortuous!)  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Friday, December 21, 2012

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas!

It is amazing what a little bit of the white stuff can do!  The relentless rain blew away on the doomsday wind last night and snow started falling in the wee hours this morning.  It is still blowing like crazy, especially up here on our hill, but we are actually getting some decent accumulation of beautiful, white snow!

The mud is frozen, so for the time being it is not being tracked into the house.  Everything - the pile of gravel in our driveway, the muddy ditches behind the barn and below the house, EVERYTHING is covered over with a fresh coat of snow.

The best part is that today was the shortest day of the year...there is no where to go but up!  Slowly but surely the days will get longer and longer until the bright and heady days of Summer.

As I was driving home from work today, I realized that I don't have to go back again for 2 weeks.  And when I got home, I turned the page on my desk calendar, and beheld this:

NOTHING!
Tonight my parents came over for steaming bowls of beef stew, cooked until tender in an entire bottle of red wine...an entire bottle minus one tiny glassful.

Tomorrow, since we are all relatively healthy again, and since my calendar is a blank slate, perhaps we can pull the sleds down out of the attic and try them out for the first time this season.

The girls and I baked up a storm yesterday afternoon and today.  We have most of our Christmas baking done.  I finished the Christmas cards last night.  Every thing is wrapped and decorated and arranged.  All we do now is wait for Christmas day to arrive...and the chance of it being a white one looks very good at this point.

So, have yourself a merry little Christmas.  I'm planning to!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pre-Holiday Blahs

Yep, it's going around...and not just the fevers and stomach virus, but the Pre-Holiday Blahs (PHB). 

J is home sick for the second day this week.  Her fever is down now, but her energy and appetite have yet to improve.  JP was feeling pretty iffy when he left for work this morning.  He has requested chicken soup instead of his favorite M Family Tacos tonight.  L had this last week, so knowing my luck, I'll probably be hit on Christmas Eve.

I've spoken to, or emailed 4 of my girl friends in the past 24 hours, and we all seem to be suffering from PHB in various forms.  We all feel overwhelmed and exhausted.  Some of us would like to just skip the Holidays this year, a few would like to just get it over with, and others of us would like to escape to a cozy corner with a good book while the festivities go on in the next room. 

A couple of us have lots of celebrating wrapped up in a handful of days, which adds to the stress.  One friend has two birthday parties, and an anniversary to celebrate just days before the BIG DAY on Dec. 25th.  We have a birthday immediately afterwards.

I always feel an enormous sense of guilt around the holidays - feeling that I haven't done enough, or at least enough of the RIGHT things to make Christmas and L's Birthday special.  I need to lower my expectations.  One of my good friends says she's striving for mediocrity this year.  I think that might actually be achievable for me!

I don't think the problem is that none of us can get in the "Holiday Spirit", but that we really, REALLY need a break!  The school year thus far has been a flurry of activities with sports and clubs and music lessons all around.  Now that winter is nearly here, the viruses have been buzzing around like bees on a warm June day, and kids are falling ill left and right.  It wears on a person; all that practicing and running and homework and nursing and nurturing, and then you add on the shopping and wrapping and cookie baking and card writing and travelling...it's enough to send anyone over the edge!

So, here's my Christmas wish for all of you:  May your Holiday Break be peaceful and restorative, and may your New Year arrive as a big empty slate so you can start fresh.  And the cure for PHB?  Well, I've found that cocoa with a little shot of Butter Schnapps can be quite rejuvenating once in a while.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wierd, Wild Schtuff

I sort of remember an SNL skit of Johnny Carson saying over and over again, "That's some weird, wild schtuff!"  Those are really the only appropriate words that I can find to describe the past couple of days!

Yesterday, J took her first sick day from school.  L was actually fevered and vomiting the night before.  Miss J was merely warmish and complaining of headache and stomachache.  She did lay low until the afternoon, when she seemed to revive.

This morning the excavator was delivered...again.  After it sat, missing one tread, in our back field for an entire weekend, we planned to have it brought back last weekend.  When we were advised of a forecast calling for 4 inches of rain over last weekend, we rescheduled for yesterday AM, and then at the threat of snow yesterday, for this morning.  It did indeed rain at least 4 inches, beginning Thursday night, and ending briefly for a small spot of sunshine Monday afternoon before it started again, and turned to snow yesterday morning.

It was interesting to slip and slide on frozen mud out to the chicken run this morning!

Our internet was out most of the day.  We discovered the issue when we were trying to start school work this morning.  It is rather difficult to do Cyber School when the cyber part is not in existence.  L and I packed up and drove to town.  After her  Speech Therapy, we went to the Library and made use of their free wireless for awhile.  When L got too hungry, we drove across town and made use of the free wireless at McDonald's to finish up school.

Yesterday morning I received an email from L's school stating that there would be a Holiday Bowling party in Canonsburg this afternoon.  I was excited 1) because this is first school function that they have scheduled closer than a 60 minute drive away, and 2) the girls have never been bowling.  So I made arrangements to pick J up in town, and drive the 40 minutes to the Bowling Alley right after school.  Of course, on the way to pick up J, we had to turn around and re-route because of the road being closed for pipe line work.  (Grrrr!!)  When we arrived at the Bowling Alley, there was no one from the school in attendance, and I was told that there were no reservations for today under the name of our school. 

Since we drove all that way, we went ahead and bowled a couple of games.  L got a strike in her second game.  Two frames in to game number 2, J got her attitude on and began stomping and pouting and informing anyone who would listen what a stupid, dumb sport bowling is.  Yay!

We arrived home to find that the excavator is apparently working just fine.  Dad had dug a 3 foot deep ditch running the entire way across our driveway, so we had to park outside.  There is a small foot bridge in place so that we don't have to jump across to get to the main door of the house.  That was interesting to maneuver carrying the groceries!  By tomorrow afternoon, it should mostly be filled back in.  This is phase 2 of our outdoor wood burner project (the pouring of concrete the day after Thanksgiving was phase 1.)

The Moat
Do you see what I mean?  Weird, wild schtuff...all day!  Hope tomorrow is of the boring variety, after a sick day yesterday, and the W.W.S. today, I could use a bit of monotony and quiet!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Another Uneventful Hunting Season

Well, all of the deer safely made it past me for another hunting season.  I went up in the tree house last evening for the last time, and almost had a chance at a doe, but she ran off when I opened the tree house door.

Dad got a button buck though, from his "tree stand" in the cupola of his house.  Consequently, I had the opportunity to field dress my first deer last night.  That is really a nice way of saying "cutting the guts out on the ground in the dark."  I didn't have a problem with it...I cleaned at least half a dozen chickens this Fall, and I know my way around the anatomy pretty well, having worked in General Surgery for 6 or more years...just had a bit of trouble getting the smell off my hands last night.

JP, my intrepid, physician husband, informed me that he would never have done it without wearing gloves.  He purchased Veterinarian grade shoulder length rubber gloves for just such an occasion.  Come to think of it, he was wearing gloves when we did chickens. 

Eh...didn't bother me.  After shampooing my hair, washing dishes, and multiple other scrubs and copious amounts of hand lotion, my hands are finally smelling fresh and clean again, without a trace of deer odor.

So...that was my excitement for the week.  Yay!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Deere Hunting

Saturday morning, my alarm didn't go off, so I got out to the tree house about 20 minutes later than I intended to.  Unfortunately, this is the only Deere that I saw out there:


Does it look broken down?  It is.

This is the excavator that JP arranged to have delivered Friday afternoon so that he and Dad could work this weekend on digging the trench to lay the water pipes and electrical wires for out new outdoor wood burner.  JP went out Friday evening before it got dark to try it out, and one of the treads fell off.  It sat down the hill all weekend, since the rental place had no one available in case of problems.

The girls and I spent the afternoon at the Christmas Parade in town, which was one of the better ones I've been to here.  J left from the parade to see a movie and spend the night with her friend. 

I didn't get another chance to go out hunting this weekend, and probably won't until Wednesday afternoon.  SIGH.

Friday, November 30, 2012

One More Thankfulness Post

I'm getting my last post on thankfulness in right under the wire.  In less than an hour it will be December, and then in the blink of an eye, it will be 2013, and all the things I planned to accomplish this year will still be on my "To Do" list.

It has honestly been difficult on some days to find just ONE teensy thing that I was thankful for.  That is why this is such a good exercise for me, a naturally pessimistic person.  To find some good in some little thing makes me think hard about my interactions with others each day.  Consequently, I have found that I am trying harder to listen to others, and even JP has commented that I seem to be yelling less.  That's BIG!

So...even though it would be really wise for me to continue this exercise indefinitely, I will not.  Some days I would rather do something besides blog, believe it or not, so for the sake of adding a few minutes of "free time" to my day, it will go by the wayside.  Perhaps I will re-visit my thankfulness in February, the cruelest of months.  It could possibly help me be a less bitter person in the dead cold of winter!

Tonight, the whole family drove into town to enjoy the "Open House."  This is the 3rd or 4th year that our little town has rung in the Holiday season by having the shops stay open late, had fires on the street corners to warm your hands, and carolers on the courthouse steps.  It has been fun in the past, and we usually meet up with our buddies and walk around together.  The whole experience just oozes "community."

This year it was really busy.  I mean, so busy that there is no room to even get inside the door of several of the little shops on Main Street.  It was so crowded that we couldn't walk down the sidewalks, but had to veer into the streets.  The line at the Hot Dog vendor was close to a block long, and the one at the Coffee Shop was all the way out the door.  Crazy.

I promised J that she could look for a prize at 10,000 Villages tonight, since I coerced her into getting a vaccination at her Well Child Exam on Wednesday.  She found a cute leather ring there that I gladly bought for her.  Unfortunately, by the time we arrived home, the ring was missing, and J's heart was broken.  We back tracked a little and made a couple of phone calls, but it hasn't turned up.

It hurts me to see my girls hurting, either physically or emotionally.  I want to make it better, which isn't always possible.  In the end, it soured the whole evening for me, probably for all of us.  Perhaps a similar little ring will find its way into the girls' Christmas stockings in a few weeks?

So what am I thankful for today, after our downer of a finish?  I'm thankful that JP got home while it was still light outside, and that we all sat together in our bright little Library to chat and joke and play games on the computer.  I'm thankful that I ran into my friends in town tonight, and that the girls danced down the street arm in arm with their friends.  I'm thankful that the weekend is here, and though I don't plan to sleep in tomorrow, I should be able to watch the sun rise from our little tree house while I'm on the look out for deer.  I'm thankful that we had a good day under our belts before disappointment struck, and I'm thankful every day for my beautiful girls and my loving husband.  I have a lot to be thankful for, and I plan to be mindful of that, even if I'm not writing about it every day.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Once More Before the Snow Flies

We actually had a little more frozen precipitation yesterday, nothing sticking or accumulating so far.  Perhaps that is because we have these gorgeous sunny and warmish days in between.  Every morning feels like winter lately, and the chickens' water is frozen, but the sun warms up everything nicely by afternoon.  It won't last forever, but today was absolutely beautiful.

L threw a fit at lunch time because 1) she wanted to eat her lunch outside, then 2) she wanted to change into short sleeves and capris, then 3) she was starving.  Of course the whole time I was dealing with the screaming fits, I was not getting lunch made.  I hope she remembers these days when she has kids of her own!

Some time after lunch and Science lessons, we hopped in the van and drove down the lane to wait for J's bus.  We waited, and waited, and then I finally realized that we were there a full hour early!  An hour later, we tried again, and on the way up the hill we unanimously decided to dress in orange and go for a walk.  We typically save our walks for Sundays during November, but since my Dad was called out of town to attend to some of my Grandfather's estate issues today and tomorrow, no one was hunting on our property this afternoon.

The dogs were thrilled, as there were plenty of new smells to whiff.  Kali looked a bit stiff in her coat with hunter orange stripes.  Stella sported a neck bandanna of the same color.  The three of us wore our orange hats.  We walked and walked, careful to keep inside the boundaries of our own property.  It was amazing!

I am so thankful that we had the chance (and took the opportunity) to take a lovely long walk all around Poplar Ridge during hunting season while the sun was shining today. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

So Much for "Nothing to Do!"

I am canning turkey tonight, and when this canner-full cools down, I have a few quarts of chicken and turkey stock to can.  I am very thankful that I finally learned to use the pressure canner last year, after many years of fearing it.  (I'm also thankful that my Mom lets me borrow hers just about whenever I ask!)  Frozen left-over turkey never ends up being a crowd pleaser, but these jars of poultry are tender and perfect for dumping into chicken and dumplings or whipping up into my favorite curried chicken salad.  As an added bonus, the dogs enjoy the juice poured over kibbles.

Before the pressure canner, I froze all my green beans.  Last year, when the beans in my garden went absolutely crazy and I couldn't even give them away fast enough, I ran out of room in my freezer.  That was the turning point, since pressure canning is apparently the only safe way to can beans.  Now I'm even considering canning dried beans, will they cook as they can?  I need to google that!

So I ended up with some work to do tonight after all, but it is not difficult.  I have also tried to time it so that all is finished well before bed time.  I think that the girls are on the verge of coming down with something, so we all need some extra rest right now.

I need to go work on a Subtraction Facts Chart for L.  The addition one turned out nicely. 

Here goes nothing...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Waking Up is Hard to Do!

Getting out of bed was hard this morning...mostly because I stayed up too late mopping the floor (it's SOOO much easier when people aren't walking all over it), and partly because I REALLY enjoyed having a few days off from school and work last week!

So here I am again, up late ironing and blogging.  Will getting up tomorrow be any easier?  Nope.  At least I don't have any chores hanging over my head until the next weekend.

I enjoyed being with my kids yesterday.  We played with toy animals in the morning, read books and magazines together until I nearly fell asleep after lunch, and carved our Halloween pumpkins in the afternoon.  Yes, we carved pumpkins, but we convinced ourselves that these were Holiday Pumpkins.  Thus was born...the St. Nick o'Lantern:


Too many times, I tell my kids that I'll do something "later".  I'm thankful that we just did whatever came along yesterday, since today was all schedules, school and work.  True, I was grumpy after dinner, when I realized that the cleaning up still needed to be done (pumpkin guts all over the kitchen floor...ewww!).  Tonight, when I look back, I have no regrets.

Tomorrow morning when the alarm goes off, I might feel differently...better get to bed!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hunting Buddy

I spent a little over an hour this morning hunting from up in the tree house.  I startled a doe and yearling when I first went outside, but they were the only deer that I saw the whole time.

About 10 minutes after I got settled up there, I heard a commotion on the deck, and noticed Lizzie Kitty knocking on the window.  I let her in, and she kept me company for a while, purring and taking over my chair.  She got bored after half an hour and knocked on the window again to be let back out.  She maneuvered her way down the tree, and a few minutes later, I saw her attacking a pile of dirt down below.

By 8 AM, when JP was due to leave for work, my coffee had run out, and so had my patience.  While the tree house wasn't as cold as JP's tree stand out in the woods, I still wished for my long underwear and more hot coffee.  This morning I am thankful that I don't depend entirely on this meat for food, as we would surely go hungry.  I'm also extremely thankful for my warm house and hot drinks to return to.  Finally, I am looking forward to one bonus day that I can spend with my kids...so let's get the party started!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

P.T.S. (Post Turkey Syndrome)

So here we are, the festivities are over, and it is time to look ahead to Christmas and L's Birthday.  Although we were able to unload a few of the left overs yesterday, the fridge is still packed with turkey, dressing and taters.  I am still working on washing and putting away towels and sheets.  Things are winding down toward the return to normalcy.

Luckily, the girls have one additional day off school tomorrow, for the first day of deer (rifle) season.  I am planning to head up to the tree house at 6:54 tomorrow to look for that big buck I've been watching for the past several weeks.  Last year the regulations changed to make the first week of hunting for antlered deer only, and those guys tend to make themselves scarce.  I can't go after does/antlerless deer until Dec. 1st.

It is quiet right now in the house.  JP is working on his medical records, and the girls are working on a puppet show downstairs.  We went to Outback this afternoon to finish celebrating J's birthday, so with those doggy bags plus the turkey left overs, there is no need to cook.  I am thankful for a quiet evening, with no pressing schedule.  It is a nice way to ease back into the routine of school and work!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Switch-Up

This morning, JP's family left for home.  Several hours later, 2 car loads of our friends arrived.  My good friend, who moved away this summer, was in the area for the Holiday.  We invited them, along with the available ones of our remaining group of friends, out to Poplar Ridge for a post-Thanksgiving get together.

It was really great to have part of the old group back together again.  We could compare how our children and our selves have changed in the past 4 months since we've been together:  taller, more talkative, greyer hair, etc, etc.  I am thankful to have friends with whom the passage of time means nothing - that we can start up again where we left off after time apart!

We had a post-Thanksgiving Buffet for dinner, with everyone bringing left-overs from the feast to share.  Wish you folks out West could have stopped by for the evening, it was fun.

After everyone departed for their respective homes, we were left completely drained.  I fell asleep on the couch watching first Indiana Jones, and then again while waiting to see Mumford and Sons on SNL.  (We are getting TV reception again...can't believe it!)

So...to all of our friends and family, both near and far, we wish you safe travels to back to your home, or an easy return to normal after the departure of loved ones.

And as promised, here is a picture of the finished concrete (can you see the snow flakes falling in the foreground?)


Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkey and Concrete

The sky was blue and bright this morning at 8 AM when the concrete truck rolled up our hill.  An hour and a half later, it was raining and cold.  We managed to get the pad poured in the lean-to, and still have time to eat two ENORMOUS meals today.

For brunch:  sausage patties, scrambled eggs, bagels, shoe fly pie and coffee.

For dinner:  turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, corn, applesauce, roasted butternut squash soup, and rolls

Later tonight we'll break out the pumpkin and pecan pies!

The forms that JP built yesterday

Starting to pour

After we screened the pad

JP floating the pad

 I'm thankful that the concrete project worked out, and so did dinner.  Were there ever any doubts? 
JP's left over turkey castle
They are calling for snow flurries tonight, so we finished in the nick of time.  I'll post pics of the finished product tomorrow.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving...A Day of Rest?

Oh yeah...today was the day of turkey and feasting and being together with family.  I almost forgot, since e sorta skipped it.  JP's family arrived this evening, so we will feast and make merry tomorrow, while the rest of you are having turkey sandwiches.

Today, I cleaned.  The downstairs is spotless, and the girls hung up the Thanksgiving clings on the French doors.  I also cleaned out the Egg Cart'n.  It is not sparkling, but it's pretty good...good enough for peeps, should we get some in the Spring.

The girls ate a picnic lunch up in the tree house.  They ran all around the property with their walkie-talkies, having marvelous adventures.

JP prepared an area under the barn lean-to for a concrete pad to house our new outdoor wood burner.  The concrete truck is coming tomorrow at 8 AM.  We got an estimate from a professional, which was significantly more than we thought we could spend.  We asked another local person to give us an estimate, and he never showed up, or returned our calls.  So, JP and I are pouring concrete tomorrow morning before we cook our turkey, bake the rolls and mash the taters.  Hooray!

It was lovely tonight to sit with everyone and belly laugh while watching Kung Fu Panda (scaDOOOSH!)  I am thankful tonight for the opportunity to just sit and relax, I don't do it often enough.  I'll be even more thankful when the concrete is poured and hardening, and we are sitting down to a huge turkey dinner tomorrow afternoon!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

These Little Moments

I traded some of my pretty pink and brown eggs at the Farmer's Market for some even lovelier pears - buttery yellow with red cheeks.  I almost didn't make it there before closing.  Both dogs found something nasty to roll in this morning, so I added "Give both dogs a bath!!" to my list of things to do today.

I was a guest reader for L's class today.  I did this on line, so no one had a clue that I hadn't yet brushed my teeth for the morning, or brushed my hair for that matter.  One of the little girls told me afterward, "Thank you for that beauuuutiful story.  That was the most beautifullest story I ever heard!"  How's that for gratitude?

The tree house trim is all painted.  Done.  I'll post pictures when it is up...things are looking very sherbet-y up there:  peach and periwinkle windows and doors, and lime green walls.

It was a lovely, warm and sunny November day today.  I had only a few minutes to soak it up, to charge up my batteries for the long, cold nights.  I hung some laundry out too, the days that I can do that yet this year are limited.

I am thankful for all the little, special moments today:  the gorgeous pears, the gushing first grader, the sunshine, the sense of fulfillment in finishing a job, and even the fresh smelling dogs.  It's all good, and I need to remember those things when the days seem otherwise dark.  That's hard to do!

I need to go check on the turkey.  It's been out of the freezer and in an ice chest since Monday night.  Luckily, we don't need to cook him until Friday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

General Confusion

While I am trying to keep my life in order at home, it is falling apart at work.  I feel majorly stressed tonight, partially because I just finished doing 2 hours of paper work here, after doing my regular half day at the office.  This is all temporary, but it is happening at the start of the Holidays, which is stressful enough on its own!

Consequently, I am struggling tonight to find something that I am thankful for.  Just the fact that I am done at the office for another week is a pretty good thing, and the girls are done with school right after lunch tomorrow for almost as long.  Those are certainly things to be thankful for!

I'm off to the Wood Shop again...hoping to find some relief in the monotony of painting and listening to the Lord of the Rings on CD.

Here's hoping that none of you are feeling overwhelmed by the upcoming Holidays, and wishing you all peace and warm fuzzies in the arms of your families this week.

Monday, November 19, 2012

???

Something big went down at work today that I am not at liberty to discuss.  Suffice it to say we will be short staffed for an indefinite period of time.  I am already being asked to "think about whether or not you can give us some more hours."  (Which will only happen IF my Mom is able/willing to put in more hours teaching L, and IF JP and I decide that is the best thing to do right now.)

SIGH...

...Just when I thought we were marching right through the Holidays without a glitch!

I spent a couple of hours after the girls went to bed tonight painting Tree House trim pieces in the Wood Shop.  Luckily I was using low VOC paint, so in the solitude I was actually able to clear my head, instead of becoming a bit high and nutso.  I can probably knock the rest of the trim out in another night.  That just leaves the floor to install, and we can call it finished.  Furnishing it will take a while longer, but I don't feel quite so rushed to make that happen.

My middle brother called this afternoon.  He just had hernia surgery on Friday, and is recovering in a recliner in Texas with a bottle of pain pills and an ice pack.  I felt a bit bad that I didn't call him first, although I did try one time (still having some cell phone issues, mine is officially dead after its washing machine ride.)  BAD big sister, BAD, BAD! I think that I was able to answer some post-op questions for him, does that make up for it a teeny bit?

I'm thankful, in any case, that I got to talk to him today, and that his surgery went well and he is recovering as anticipated.

Happy Healing Thoughts to you, my Bro!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Twinkle, Twinkle

JP conceded that J could get her ears pierced when she turned 10.  I have been promising her that I would get mine pierced along with her.  This weekend, even though J isn't quite 10 yet, we decided it was time.  JP bought sterile piercing needles and studs on line, read up on piercing, and became our piercing "expert."

J shed a few tears, but thankfully, I was a good role model for her, as I went first.

Now both of us have little twinkling birthstone studs in our ears.  J's do not seem to be bothering her at all, but my ears are aching and throbbing.  I'm starting to think that 40-something is too old to get your ears pierced for the first time!

As I sit here tonight, snuggle up with my family as we watch one of our favorite movies, Totoro, I am thankful for a great weekend with my family, a sunny day to paint in the tree house, and a 2 1/2 day school week coming up!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Happy Birthday 2 U!

J had her 10th Birthday Party today, even though her birthday is not for a couple of days yet.  She invited 4 of her friends, but unfortunately one was unable to make it due to illness.  J put a lot of planning into her party, and decided that she would like to invite the Mary Kay Lady to come and do a Spa Party.





Relaxing at the Poplar Ridge Spa


















 

Painting Nails

J wanted to have a chocolate tasting, so we picked 6 different "gourmet" chocolate bars, and the girls tried a small sample of each.  We found some interesting varieties, like the one with potato chips in it (found that one at Target.)

After that, it was cake and present time.  The cake was also specially chosen by J:  chocolate, with a peppermint cream filling and chocolate icing...YUM!


The girls played in the tree house, and put together the new Hex Bug habitat.  It was altogether a fun day, with amazingly few fights.

I'm so thankful for my J-Bird, who is inquisitive, helpful and bright.  I waited a looooong time for her to join our family!  Happy, happy birthday to my precious JEM!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Nasty Start to the Day...

My morning did not start off so great.  First of all, I found my cell phone in the washer when I was putting clothes in the dryer.  After a quick internet search, I dismantled it, and it is currently resting in a bowl of uncooked rice for 24 hours.

Right as L and I were getting ready to leave for work, she went out to say "Goodbye" to Lizzie, who is recovering from her surgery yesterday, (who is supposed to be "kept in" for 2 weeks) and inadvertently let her out of the cage.  We chased her for 5 minutes, unsuccessfully, before leaving for work.

At my Mom's house, where L stays while I work, I opened the back of the van to unload some boxes for her.  Recently the back hatch hasn't always been staying open on its own, and it chose this moment to fall shut on my head.

I arrived late to work, with a headache as a bonus.

Things got better from there...they couldn't really get much worse, could they?

This afternoon was so sunny and beautiful, and the girls were in such good moods, that we had a lovely time being silly together.  All 4 of us danced together for a while after dinner.  So tonight, I am thankful for this great moment in time with my family. 

And another bonus:  I have J's birthday cake baked, frosted and decorated a full 3 hours ahead of my normal midnight schedule! 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Couldn't Be

I am thankful at this very moment to be sitting down.  Today was busy in the craziest of ways.  It breaks down something like this:

6:30 AM - get up, get a fire started in the woodstove, get J up
7:00 - throw a lunch together for J, catch the kitty and put her in a kennel, then hop in the shower
7:15 - get L up
7:20 - make coffee
7:40 - drive to Vet to drop off kitty
8:10 - eat breakfast at Mc D's
8:35 - go grocery shopping at the Big Bird...it's almost empty at this time of day!
9:20 - buy balloons and party plates at Dollar Store
9:45 - stop at M's for tea and conversation
11:00 - exchange books at Library
11:30 - arrive home, put away groceries, check on chickens, eat lunch while working on school worksheets with L
1:30 - let dogs out, read to L and listen while she reads to me
2:00 - 3:00 work on Math and Science with L
3:00 - put dog in van and drive to pick up J off the bus
3:20 - arrive at Vet again, argue with Tech about need for heart worm test ($32), question Vet about the need to keep kitty indoors for 2 weeks, pay gianormous bill
4:00 - arrive home, get girls started on home work and chores
4:30 - weed last garden bed and mulch with leaves
5:30 - drag enormous dog kennel up from basement and arrange it in garage for kitty
6:00 - start dinner
7:30 - clean up after dinner, including where pasta boiled over on stove top (twice), get 6 pints of chicken started in the pressure canner
8:30 - read books to girls, brush their hair
9:00 - tuck girls in bed
9:15 - start making yogurt
10:00 - yogurt is yogurting, chicken is canned, dishes are done, sit down at computer to pay bills, blog instead
11:00 - finish blog and get the bills done already!
11:30...g'nite

I'm also thankful, on days like today, for a van that works, getting places on time, having an hour to spend with a friend, and accomplishing a great deal.  Boy, oh boy, is my bed ever going to feel great in a few minutes!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Chicken

My parents, the girls and I spent about an hour - start to finish - butchering the remaining 6 old lady hens.  Interestingly, we found formed eggs with hard shells in half of them, and small shell-less yolks in most of them...made for an interesting anatomy lesson for the girls!

I took 2 of them, and my parents took the other 4.  I have had a chicken in my crock pot simmering away since Monday morning:  the 2 old, scrawny hens, and one enormous bird that I bought from a local farmer last Fall.  I now have about a gallon of chicken meat to can in the pressure canner tomorrow.  This meat will make quick and easy meals this winter, and for that I am extremely thankful. 

I also seem to be "catching up" on my to-do list over the last couple of days, accomplishing several things that I've been "meaning to do" for a few days, including taking the van to Washington for an alignment.  (The alignment didn't actually get done, but I did get a new tire...long story.)

Tomorrow is vet day, with surgery for Lizzy kitten, and shots for Kali.  All this running around keeps L and I on our toes!  It is a wonderful feeling to be able to kick back and watch Netflix tonight...maybe I'll actually attack the ironing while the Netflix is on, and cross another chore off my to-do list.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Quickly

Just quickly tonight...I am late to bed, and so, so tired.  I have been putting in lots of extra time at/for work lately.  I have to admit that I am thankful for our Electronic Medical Records, which allows me to complete my charting from home.  Yes, I did just finish it at midnight, thanks for noticing.  At least I could spend some time with my girls while they were awake, instead of at the office, dictating notes.

So there you have it!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Being Thankful

I was just looking back at last November's posts, and remembered that I tried to blog about something that I was thankful for on each day in November last year.  I've started a bit late, but I'll try to get in the Thanksgiving Spirit before the big day by doing the same exercise this year.

Lately I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed.  It seems that I can never finish the projects that I set out to do, because 3 more fall into my lap.  Little by little, however, things ARE getting finished.  On Saturday, the girls and I got all but one of the garden beds weeded and covered in a thick layer of leaves.  Yesterday, JP and I got the chicken fence rearranged, giving our "keeper flock" an enormous area of fresh green grass to scratch through.  This morning, my parents, the girls and I butchered the remaining 6 old hens.  The girls and I, on J's day off from school today, got the last bit of shopping done for J's birthday bash next Saturday.

Check, check, check. 

So what am I thankful for today?  I think mostly I'm thankful for a light at the end of the tunnel!  We have just over a week to go until there is a nice long break from school for both girls.  I don't anticipate getting lots of things done during that break, but I am looking forward to being able to slow down.

Also, today I am thankful for my Mom.  Today is her 69th birthday, so my parents came over tonight for cake, ice cream and tea.  We went out for dinner at Red Lobster yesterday in her honor as well.  I wouldn't be working if she weren't here to help out with school and childcare for the girls.  I'm also glad to have her so close so that I can get her opinion about a myriad of things every day.

How about you?  What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Report Cards

Today J brought home her first report card.  I was prepared to see a B on it, but I wasn't prepared for the C and D that were printed there in black and white.  Looking further, I noticed X's (signifying "needs improvement in:") next to "Paying attention in class."  and "Following directions."

What the...?  I didn't hear about any of this at the Parent-Teacher Conference last month!

J was about THIS close to getting grounded AND losing her allowance for the next 9 weeks, AND having her Birthday party cancelled! 

In the few seconds that it took me to peruse the report card, I was extremely confused, knowing that I had never seen a test or quiz come home with a grade lower than B (and parents are required to sign and return all of the tests.)  That's when I noticed marks for "Received special assistance in:  Reading and Math," and finally the NAME on the report card, which was NOT J's name!

Imagine how proud J's classmate's mother will be for the few minutes it will take her to realize that the A's and B's and good behavior marks actually belong to someone else's child.

Until I have actual proof tomorrow when the REAL report card comes home, I will continue to assume that I did OK teaching her at home for the past 4 years...and that she still deserves to have that Birthday party!

Just Call Me the Egg Lady

It seems like I spend way too much time way too late at night every night, washing eggs.  When I tallied our totals for October, I discovered exactly WHY it feels this way...because it's true!  We collected 560 eggs in the month of October!  That is almost 47 dozen...AKA a LOT of eggs!

My extra refrigerator has turned into the egg refrigerator of late, and I have gladly taken recycled egg cartons from anyone who might be offering.  Last week, I finally cleared out most of the eggs, after selling 11 dozen to friends and giving 2 dozen to Mom and Dad.  (Keep in mind that number of eggs can be collected over about 9 days.)  Still, I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed by the thought of peddling eggs 7 days a week.  Finally, I made a couple of phone calls to local businesses, and found a regular customer!

I will be supplying Poplar Ridge Farm Fresh Eggs to Fencerow Farmer's Market in town.  (I will still be selling some out of my home to my preferred clients at a discounted price!)

So, the Egg Lady is now PROFESSIONAL Egg Lady, thank you very much.

...and remember...eggs make GREAT Christmas gifts!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pop Goes the Weasel!

Ernie the cat came home this weekend with a small tear at the tip of one ear.

This afternoon, I found a Long Tailed Weasel out in the yard...obviously the prey of one of the cats, most likely Ernie.  After examining his extremely tiny and sharp teeth, I have to wonder if he is the cause of Ernie's injury.



The little guy is incredibly cute.  He is also incredibly tiny, small enough even, to slide beneath the low uneven areas under the chicken house and wreak havoc on the hens.  You've all heard those horror stories, right?  Weasel in the hen house...leaves nary a survivor, just copious amounts of blood.

I've never seen one around here before, but I'm thankful that Ernie is earning his keep.

**I found the beautiful weasel photo here, and there are more lovely pictures there too!

Green, Leafy Things

Friday afternoon, after whisking the girls away to get their Flu Shots, and before enjoying the High School performance of "Really Rosie", L and I managed to harvest the remainder of the things from the garden.  We cut chives and parsley, found a few more onions and taters to dig, and picked/pulled the remaining pepper plants.

I have added leaves that blew up against the electric chicken fence to 2 of the garden beds, and ashes from the wood stove to another 2, but the rest of the beds need either leaves, manure or compost plus lime, as well as a final weeding before winter is here for good.  Poor Lazy Laura suffered a severe head injury during Superstorm Sandy, and has been retired to the trash bin.  (She did have a lovely, warm, and rather lazy Summer, with very little produce to protect from the crows...R.I.P.)

All the things we picked remained in a basket in the garage for most of the weekend.  Today, I finally brought things in and took care of them.  The peppers have been chopped and frozen for later use.  I dried the herbs by spreading them on a towel draped over the shoe rack in my clothes dryer.


We also managed to eat dinner and watch a movie ("Back to the Future") with Mom & Dad, re-enroll for Health Benefits through JP's work, attend the Christmas Craft Show at the Elementary School, and purchase flooring for the Tree House (laminate from Big Lots, on sale for a grand total of $50!)  JP also finished the wiring in the Tree House, the whole family worked together to restock the wood piles on the deck and downstairs, L lost another tooth, and I recovered this storage ottoman that Kali ate bits of during her puppy months.


Not bad for a weekend's activities, right?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

We Came, We Saw, We Haunted


Yes, 'tis true that this post is exceedingly late in it's posting.  My only excuse is "Superstorm Sandy", and it is a poor one.

Sandy was forcasted to hit our area and bring snow, flooding, damaging winds and power outages.  Luckily, I didn't read those forcasts, so I didn't have my typical anxiety attack about the power being out for weeks.  Also luckily, Sandy didn't really blow through here, but sort of passed around us, leaving us with minimal wind damage, and 4-5 inches of cold rain (which was actually really good for our well.)  It wasn't so pleasant taking care of all of the animals during all of that rain.  It involved actually going out into the rain multiple times daily to take the dogs out and care for the chickens, and then drying off the dogs again when we returned to the house.  If ever there was a time I wished we raised cats and gerbils, it was last week!

The fortunate children of our town had their Trick-or-Treating over and done with long before Sandy came over the horizon.  As I mentioned previously, our town celebrated on the Thursday BEFORE Halloween, and had the costumes packed back up in moth balls by the time Halloween actually rolled around.

We are usually invited to a friend's home for a party and Trick-or-Treating in her little village, but this year, she called a few days before the big event to cancel because of illness.  The girls were understandably disappointed, and not just because of the lack of candy.  I usually buy a GIANT bag of candy at Sam's Club to take along for our friend to use for Trick-or-Treats, so we had candy covered.  Mostly they, OK...really mostly L, was disappointed because she would have no one to show her costume to.  I appealed to our good friends in town, and to Mom and Dad, and they all agreed to let us come for a Halloween visit to show off their costumes.  They were even kind enough to share their Halloween Haul with the girls!


J dressed as a Gypsy this year
L changed her mind at the 11th hour, and decided to wear the "Colorful Witch" costume that J wore a couple of years ago instead of her cute little kimono.  Notice the black lipstick and nail polish!

L the "Colorful Witch"
In the end, I believe that the girls were satisfied with the experience.  My thoughts, well...JP's and mine, remain with our friends whom we were unable to visit with this year.  May their illness be treatable and without much discomfort.  We will look forward to seeing them next year in our next round of costuming!

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Taste of Thai

We are blessed to have many friends and family members that are excellent cooks.  JP grew up in Hispanic communities all over the U.S., and consequently had a bit of Mexican food thrown into his daily diet.  I grew up eating your basic Mennonite food - meat and potatoes.  While it wasn't terribly exciting, it was delicious...definitely comfort food even today.

So, throw the 2 of us together, and add a dash of the Food Network (which we were basically addicted to in the early years of our marriage), and you come out with a couple of wanna-be foodies.  Luckily, I can follow a recipe fairly well, and we are die-hard subscribers of Cook's Illustrated, so we've come up with a bunch of great meals.

One of our friends is an amazing oriental cook, mixing up incredible curries and stir fries and Thai Basil Chicken.  One memorable evening, he worked a miracle with left-over chicken from a luncheon meeting, that has remained unrivaled to this day.  Unfortunately, he now lives all the way across the United States from us, so having a wonderful Thai meal with their family at the last minute is not so easy to do.

The girls have been begging to watch cooking shows lately, so we sat down one evening last week to watch a couple of episodes of "America's Test Kitchen."  We watched what looked like an amazing recipe for Thai Chicken Soup.  Tonight I was feeling the pressure of twice weekly soccer practice and all day Sunday games starting to lift.  Add that to the fact that both of our vehicles had oil changes and passed inspection today, and it made me nearly giddy.  I felt like cooking!  I found the recipe for the soup, and in the process, one for Pad Thai.

The soup was delicious - creamy, bright, and not too spicy.  I'll share the recipe below because it's a keeper.

I was a bit disappointed in the Pad Thai (in which I substituted shredded carrots from our garden in place of bean sprouts, which are not available in our town.)  I found it to be a bit too sweet and gummy.  


We finished our meal with a Key Lime Pie, which I "made" by opening the Schwann's box.  Over all, it was a delightful dining experience, although it would have been 100 times better if our West Coast friends had been here to share it with us.

Thai-Style Chicken Soup
-recipe from America's Test Kitchen

SOUP:
1 tsp vegetable oil
3 stalks lemon grass, sliced thin (optional)
3 large shallots, chopped coarsely (about 3/4 cup)
8 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped coarsely **
3 T fish sauce
4 cups chicken broth
2 (14 oz.) cans of coconut milk
1 T sugar
8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced 1/4" thick
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast sliced on the bias into 1/8" pieces
3 T lime juice
2 tsp Thai red curry paste (or more to taste)

GARNISH:
coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Thai, serrano or jalapeno pepper, sliced thin
scallions sliced thin on the bias
lime wedges

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over med. heat, add lemon grass, shallots, cilantro, and 1 T fish sauce and cook, stirring frequently until just softened, not browned (2-5 min.)

2.  Stir in broth and 1 can of coconut milk and bring to a simmer over hi heat.  Cover, reduce heat to lo, and simmer for 10 min. to blend flavors. Strain solids from broth and discard.

3.  Return broth to a simmer over med-hi heat.  Stir in the remaining can of coconut milk and sugar, and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to med, add the mushrooms, and cook until just tender (2-3 min.)  Add the chicken and cook, stirring constantly, until meat is no longer pink (1-3 min.)

4.  Remove soup from heat.  Whisk together remaining 2 T fish sauce, lime juice and curry paste and stir into soup.  Garnish individually as desired.

I'm all cooked out.  The kitchen was a wreck when I was finished cooking.  I'm looking for a good sous chef, anyone interested?

**The cilantro can be safely left out if you have those amongst you who call this herb a "vile weed."

Autumn Blessings

JP came home with his weekly load of 200 gallons of drinking water, and found the cistern almost full.  It appears that the cooler weather has allowed our well to catch up.  Of course, it probably helps that there have been 2 fewer people using water for the past week also.

This last week has been BEAUTIFUL!  The weather has been in the 70's, and (believe it or not) the low 80's with gorgeous blue skies.  Yesterday, the girls and I took the opportunity to play in the leaves briefly. 


For some strange and unknown reason, our town schedules Trick-or-Treat each year on the Thursday BEFORE Halloween.  Each year, for some equally unknown reason, we don't go in to town on the Thursday before Halloween.  We go Trick-or-Treating at a little village up the road from us, where they actually celebrate on Halloween.  Our friend, who was dressed as Chewbacca, nearly had a heat stroke last night.  Next week, J will likely freeze her tootsies off in her little gypsy dress.

In the meantime, we'll enjoy the beautiful colors of Autumn...until Hurricane Sandy comes along and blows all the leaves down.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cleaning Out the Basement


L and I decided to tag along with our buddies on their Pre School field trip to the pumpkin patch this morning.  She seemed to enjoy seeing her teachers again, and didn't mind hanging with the wee ones at all.  We went on a hay ride, picked a pumpkin, played in the hay bales and on the slides, tried out the sorghum maze, ate a picnic lunch, and had an ice cream cone for dessert.

We went to Sam's Club before heading home, then finished up her schoolwork in record time.

Once J was home and working on her homework, and while L painted a picture for Art class, I headed into the storage room to sort through the pile of give-aways that has been collecting there for the past several months.  I usually do not have problems letting things go, especially once they have trickled so far down the significance ladder to be jumbled in a pile in the corner of the basement.  Today, however, I had a decision to make...continue to hang on to the Nursery set that I used for both of the girls, or not?
 
I actually tried listing the entire set on Craig's List twice, and on eBay once, without a single bite several years ago.  I was ready to sell it to a cute little family, but not quite so ready to send it to the Hospital Auxiliary where who-knows-what will become of it.  The really strange thing is that I can not pin point exactly WHY I am so attached to these things.  They haven't been used for at least 5 years now.  The set is cute...Noah's ark, done in cream, red and blue, and I searched high and low for EVERYTHING...diaper hanger, crib bumpers, lace window valances, a throw rug...before J was born.

So, you know the analogy about just ripping the bandaid off?  Well, I ripped.  It's gone.  I had to look at everything one last time, and then put the box in the back of the van.  I only felt queasy for a couple of minutes, and then realized it was almost time for soccer practice.

Rush, rush, hurry, hurry, eat dinner in the van, kids in the shower, story, bed. 

Now, in the quiet, I can almost hear the elephants calling to me, "Keeeeeeeeeeeep meeeeeeeeee!"

detail from crib comforter...