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. 


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:

Tonight my parents came over for steaming bowls of beef stew, cooked until tender in an entire bottle of red 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'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.