Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sorta White Christmas

I was not expecting to have a white Christmas this year, especially since on Sunday the temperature was nearly 70 degrees outside!  It turned cold again, and we had blizzard conditions on Christmas Eve in the morning.  By Christmas morning, it was below freezing, with a dusting of white remaining everywhere.

We spent the weekend with JP's sister in Virginia since we stayed home for Christmas day.  We worked together to make nearly 100 tamales, which we stuffed ourselves with, and brought home several dozen frozen ones for later.  We went out for dinner on Sunday, and were seated next to Santa!  J and cousin H sat on his lap for a photo op.

 
Miss L threw a temper tantrum that lasted every bit of 3 hours on Sunday night.  She ended up losing the opportunity to have a Birthday party with her friends, as well as some other things.  We were both embarrassed and furious with her.  She was apparently exorcised during the night, and woke with her typical charming and loving persona.

L serenely sewing before she became possessed
 
The girls were VERY excited last night, so we told them that they were not allowed to come in our room until 8:00 this morning.  L set the alarm on the cell phone that she plays with, and although I heard them up and around at 7:15 (and I joined them in the great room), they kept their word, and did not go in our bedroom to wake JP until 8!

Typically we make the girls struggle through breakfast and dishes before opening presents, but today we let them head to the tree first thing.  They were both already dressed in their Christmas finest, even  J, who is usually in PJ's!


It was a relaxing day, and we enjoyed being together as a family.

I'll leave you with this photo of JP from Christmas 1972:

 
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Message in the Sky

At this time of year when we remember the story of the birth of the Messiah being heralded by angels appearing in the night sky, and an amazing star directing 3 foreign dignitaries to his bedside, one has to wonder if the sky still can reveal messages to us on Earth.

Based on several amazingly beautiful portraits that I've witnessed in the sky lately, I'd have to say that it is possible.   The only "message" that I have been able to translate, however, is an overwhelming sense of awe and wonder.  That can be message enough since I've been feeling rather underwhelmed by the upcoming season of joy.

Last night we drove up our hill in the late evening to see the (nearly) full moon directly ahead of us, low in the sky, bright white and massive.  The December full moon is known as the "Cold Moon", for good reason.

In November, we witnessed the full "Beaver Moon", wreathed by a rainbow.

 
Last week, the clouds made so many patterns in the sky that I had trouble driving home from the city since I was watching the sky almost as much as I was watching the road!


I also witnessed what looked to be a pillar of flame rising up from the hills across from Poplar Ridge.


Wonder is a good message to receive this time of year, so I have tucked it under my sweater to ponder on as Christmas draws closer. 

For their part, the kitties are just trying to make it through this "Cold Moon" phase by snuggling up in the Kitty Kastle.



Keep warm my friends, and keep the wonder of this season close to your hearts.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Three Strikes

CRAZY day yesterday!  Let me repeat that...C-R-A-Z-Y!

I had to take the van for an alignment up in the next town, so I decided to finish up my shopping.  (Yep, all done!)  When I returned home, several hours later, and took the dogs out, I noticed a Red Tailed Hawk fly up from somewhere very close to the chicken run, to a nearby tree.  He kept hanging around, which made me nervous enough to check on the chickens.

Sure enough, he completely decapitated one of my hens, and it hadn't been too long previously by the looks of the evidence.  We got 5 eggs yesterday - the most we've had in a day for 2 months!  Now all the ladies are going to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and stop laying again.  I guess this is why the Red Tails have the nick-name of "Chicken Hawk!"

The girls had their Well Child Exams last night, and we didn't get home until 6:30.  Dr. N called L a "Skinny Minnie", just like we do.  I told her that since 3 medical professionals have diagnosed her that way, it must be true!  J got 2 shots, which she was not at all happy about, but now she is good for 10 years!  It's strange to think that she's been around long enough to need boosters on all those baby shots!

Last night was a heavy homework night.  J has been working on a Math project for the past several days (the teacher who came up with this idea is ingenious!)  She was supposed to spend one million dollars on an activity.  This required researching prices, itemizing things, learning to budget, and much Math.  She went the thrifty Mennonite way at first, with economy class airfare for 3 friends, herself and me (as the chaperone) to Australia for 56 days, PB&J and BBQ potato chips for meals, and rental car for 1 week only, with bicycle rentals for the rest of the time.  Then she realized that she had only spent $500,000!  We bumped things up to first class airfare, luxury hotel suite, several shows at the Sydney Opera House, yacht rental for one week with a scuba guide, and stretch limo rental with chauffeur for the entire time (kept the bikes too...you never know!)  She was also philanthropic with her money, and adopted 1,000 koalas for 10 years each, and bought each of us an iPad Air to play with on the flight.  By the end, there was still $11,000 spending money for each person, and the final 2 cents went on to my clothing budget...hooray!

L has been having a huge mental hurdle to her piano practice this year.  When she is assigned a new song, she cries that she cannot play it because she doesn't know the notes.  At the end of last year, her teacher had her write the notes in the book, to help her realize that she does indeed "know the notes."  She doesn't want her to rely on that however, so asked her not to do that this year.  Didn't work!  Major melt down at practice time to the point that she wanted to quit and her Dad told her that was completely fine with him!

Our compromise is that I will photocopy the songs, so that she can write the notes in, and play them from that music twice.  After that, she must play from her books without writing in them.  It seems to work, but writing out the notes takes her SOOOOOOOOO long!  I think she spends more time counting and recounting how many notes she has left to label than actually pounding out the work!

In any case, the girls got to bed about an hour late last night, and consequently were extremely reluctant to get up this morning.  I gave Lauren half a cup of coffee with her breakfast (you're welcome Ms. 2nd Grade Teacher...enjoy!)  Luckily, Christmas Break will be upon us in no time, and much sleeping in can occur.  That's good news for all of us, especially JP, who is taking a well deserved break too.

I was woken in the wee hours this morning by bells.  Unfortunately, it was not Santa, but Kali.  She has re-learned to ring the bells on the door to go outside.  I figured it was an emergency for her to ring them at that time of day, so hurried to let her out.  It was indeed an emergency!  I wasn't back in bed for more than a couple of minutes before Stella cried in her kennel.  She also had an emergency, and had already vomited in her bed.  She rang the bells to go out later, while the girls were eating breakfast - the first time she's ever done that!  Such smart dogs!

Today I will have to be on the alert for sick dogs who need to go outside and Chicken Hawks prowling around my hens.  If I get around to it, I'll look into a therapist for group PTSD counseling too.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On Parades and the Holidays in General

It is cold and blustery today, with snow swirling about.  As usual, the 1-2 inches of snow forecast for the morning has resulted in less than an inch on the ground.  It appears, however, that this time Winter is here to stay...and the garden is not sufficiently winterized yet.

This back thing really slowed me down this Fall, I couldn't do too much without paying for it later, and now I will pay for it in the Spring when it is planting time as well.  I was actually feeling significantly better early last week - possibly from a break of greater than a week from PT and a week off from exercising.  I really wanted to take advantage of the warmer weather mid-week last week to work in the garden.  I did get quite a bit done, but there is a lot more to do...and now the stiffness and catching in my back when I bend and sit has returned, as has the cold weather and frozen ground.

I need to learn to stop fretting about things beyond my control.  I would like to be Supreme High Emperor over my own little world so that I COULD control everything:  the weather, bad drivers, kids that throw rocks and break windows.  Until that happens, I need to work on FLEXIBILITY - it might help my back as well!

In the meantime, Christmas is creeping ever closer.  I'm not feeling the jingle bells and holly and ho-ho-ho yet.  Somehow my efforts to be organized and prepared this year seem to have fallen short, although the girls' presents, including L's Birthday gifts are already neatly wrapped and hidden in a closet downstairs.

I completely screwed up too.  I gave permission for J to do something special with a friend on the Friday after Christmas, and only just recently realized that day is L's Birthday.  Now I'm trying to come up with something special for L to do with us that evening instead!  PHHHBBBBTHH!

I thought about skipping Christmas baking this year, since neither JP nor I need the extra calories.  I broached the subject with him this morning, and he said "But it's CHRISTMAS!"  I guess the cookie baking is still on!

Waiting for the Parade to start
Our town's little Christmas parade was held on Saturday afternoon.  The Hospital asked all the employees to walk in the parade "to show our support for the Hospital."  We didn't feel like we could go watch it after that plea, so the girls and I walked in our first (and ONLY) Christmas parade.  Of course the temperatures had plummeted from 60* on Thursday to 20* on Saturday, so we were popsicles by the time it was all over and Santa had ridden by on his tiny red Fire Truck. 

 
We had a nice snowfall Saturday night into Sunday.  The girls had a good time playing in it that afternoon.  Later on, although we all felt lethargic, and sore (JP was splitting wood on Saturday), we dug deep and found enough Christmas spirit to put up the Christmas tree and watch "Elf."


J has a school Christmas concert tonight, and a Voice Recital on Saturday.  Next week is the last week of school before the Holidays, so their school parties and my office one are coming up quickly.  This morning JP suggested a Holiday get-together with our friends in the Burg this weekend.  I keep telling myself, "Go low key...no need to make yourself miserable to have a Merry Christmas!  It will be FUN anyway, even if there are only 3 kinds of Christmas cookies and I didn't put up all of the decorations!  Yay Christmas!"  Maybe I'll record that and treat myself to some subliminal messaging during the night.

Right now, I'm off to learn how to make Wassail for Christmas parties.  It's going to be FUN!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sick Days

L has been home sick for the past 3 days.  She actually felt better after the first couple of hours on Tuesday, but continued to have fever (and then Pink Eye), so it hasn't been terrible hanging with her this week.  We played board games, and snuggled on the couch watching endless episodes of "Magic School Bus."  We worked on the instrument that she was supposed to fashion for Music Class at School.

L and her guitar
 
Yesterday we piled 12 garbage bags of leaves into the van, so today I worked on mulching them.  L asked to play in them a bit before they were all mulched.

Last night, J brought home homework for her sister, which caused tears and yelling.  I DO NOT miss those moments from Cyber School!  The same thing happened tonight, but escalated to the point that L, being angry at her sister, threw a rock, which hit (and BROKE) a window.  I did not freak out, but the first thing out of my mouth was that she will lose her allowance for an entire year!  (Interestingly, that was one of the first things JP said as well!)

Oops!
 
Tomorrow I head back to work, and L is going back to school.  Hopefully we can keep rolling right into the Holiday Season!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tryptophan

Our final round of guests left this morning.  Today I have been doing the laundry and the weekly cleaning, along with catching up on things that didn't get done over the past 4 or 5 days.  L is on the verge of being ill - crying easily and frequently, and complaining of sore throat.  It hasn't taken much to set her off today, and J is doing that regularly.  The only way I could get a little bit of quiet was by putting a movie on.  Whatever.

I was considering sitting out in the tree house with my rifle this afternoon for the first day of deer season, but I don't feel up to it.  I'm feeling drowsy this afternoon.  No energy.  Don't feel like doing much.  Maybe it's the tryptophan from all that left-over turkey leaking out of the fridge and affecting my brain.

Our Thanksgiving holidays were a whirl of activity.  JP's sister, her husband, and their son arrived on Wednesday night, along with JP's nephew's new fiancee (who is a lovely person.)  We cooked forever, and then feasted on Thanksgiving day.  They had to leave Friday morning, so that afternoon we went out to a matinee of "Frozen" - fun movie.

On Saturday afternoon, Mom and I went out to my favorite park, for a wreath making class.  Each of us came home with an evergreen wreath that we had fashioned ourselves.

 
Saturday night, 2 of JP's cousins arrived.  They stayed to visit on Sunday - they played board games with the girls and we watched "Despicable Me."

So...today we are back to the grind, albeit no school in honor of the first day of deer season.  It's a new week and a new month.  We are counting down the days to a new year.  I've got a few things to do before then...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thankfulness 2013 - Baking

I am sitting in our cozy "library" sipping tea while Jenna reads on the futon behind me.  It is snowing outside.  Our guests for Thanksgiving should be on their way to our home.  I am glowing, I'm sure of it!  How often does it happen that I am COMPLETELY ready for guests?  This is awesome!

I spent the morning baking pies and cookies, and now the house smells of cinnamon and ginger. 

Apple Crumb Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Gingersnaps
 
I did a few errands, and got home just in time to meet the girls' bus.  They got out of school 2 hours early today, and don't go back until next Tuesday, as our school district takes the first day of Deer Season as a holiday.

I am extremely thankful for this down time before our family arrives and the cooking and chaos starts in earnest.

I was also thankful to learn that my repeat mammograms, which were slightly abnormal in May, look OK now (even though the process left me somewhat sore!)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thankfulness 2013 - Canning

All those root crops that I brought in a few weeks ago, have been in bags in the refrigerator, waiting for me to do something with them.  We have eaten a few potatoes, and plan to eat a lot more in a couple of days.  I realized yesterday, that I needed to get them out of there in order to make room for a turkey and a couple of pies!

Yesterday I peeled, chopped, blanched and froze the parsnips.  Today I cooked, peeled, chopped, pickled and canned the red beets.  I also cut up, peeled and cooked the pumpkin from our garden, I just need to mash it up to be ready to bake into pies tomorrow.

 
It is a lot of work, but I get a lot of satisfaction out of eating things that I have tended from seed to table.

Tonight I am thankful that we have SO MUCH fruit, vegetables and meat put up for the next few months.

J is feeling better, and is heading to school tomorrow as long as there is no snow day.

Stella puppy, however, is one sick dog.  She has been vomiting all day...I've never seen so much stuff come out of such a small dog who hasn't eaten for 24 hours!  She had to get another bath tonight, and I've been mopping and washing dog beds and towels all evening.

Sigh.  I think I'm done for the evening.  Even if I'm not finished...I'm DONE!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thankfulness 2013 - 2nd Grade

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon in L's 2nd Grade classroom.  Her teacher asked me to read a book to the class and do an activity.  I chose one of our favorite books (we have SO MANY favorite books!), Too Many Pumpkins, by Linda White.

I saved pumpkin seeds from the 2 jack-o-lanterns that we made, as well as a couple of acorn squashes that we recently ate.  I searched on line and found an example of artwork using colored pumpkin seeds as leaves in a picture.  Last night I spent about half and hour dying pumpkin and squash seeds red, orange, yellow and brown.  I passed around hand fulls to the children, who used them to fashion a variety of colorful pictures.

 
The kids were delightful - attentive, interested and involved.  L repeatedly snuck up behind me and hugged me.  I had a great time, and I think they did too!

Poor J stayed home on the couch, watching movies with Grandmom.  She is feeling MUCH better this evening - even ate a little bit of applesauce and rice (her first solid food since Sunday breakfast.)  Her temp was still up a little, and her belly still seems to be a bit tender.  We will see how she feels in the morning and decide about school for tomorrow.

I am thankful this evening, for the fact that J is improved.

I continue to be amazed and thankful that both girls have adapted so well from cyber school to public school, and they continue to enjoy themselves there.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thankfulness 2013 - Ice

It was COLD outside today, and the weather reports are calling for even colder temps overnight, as well as 2-6 inches of snow Tuesday night - just in time for Thanksgiving traffic!

JP and I had to check and change the chicken's water several times during the day, as it had the propensity to become solid quite quickly.

J and her friends got very little sleep last night.  Once everyone had left, she complained of being cold and not feeling very well.  The thermometer confirmed that she was running a fever.  She slept for several hours in the afternoon, and spent the evening lying on the couch with a bucket.

Once again, I am thankful for the outdoor wood burner, which keeps the house toasty and keeps the mess outside.

I am also thankful that J's party went so well.  Now we are just hoping for a speedy recovery for her!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thankfulness 2013 - J Bird

Today was J's long awaited Birthday party.  The theme was Secret Agent/Spy.  The guests were welcomed to the house by this:

 
They worked on a decoding a series of spy related words, before I set them loose on the scavenger hunt for their gift bags.  The first clue was a sheet of vellum that when matched up over a certain page in a certain Harry Potter book outlined the message "This clue is laid where fowl play happens."  The second clue (in Pig-Latin, since I don't know Chicken-Latin) was in an Easter egg in the chicken house.  It read "Find this clue where babies rock."  The third clue (in the tree house) had a riddle that led them to the tractor in the barn, where they had to decipher a code, which told them "Dear Spies, Find me near the big water."  The final clue was taped to the side of the pool, and written in mirror image, telling them "If you traverse the laser beams, you will find the prize."

Here are the laser beams, which Lauren helped me activate this afternoon.  The goodie bags are all the way at the back!


We tried to make it a little bit difficult!


After dinner, and the arrival of the final guest, it was time for cake and presents.  This year, J chose a Smore's Ice Cream Cake from Cook's Country.  It has a baked graham cracker crust followed by a layer of chocolate fudge, then marshmallow cream, then chocolate ice cream (I used chocolate peanut butter swirl).  I added another layer of chocolate fudge on the top.  Halved marshmallows are the crowning glory, and the whole thing spends less than a minute under the broiler to make them squishy and golden brown.  I have to say that the whole concoction was not overly memorable.


J opened her presents, and will be taking a shopping trip soon, based on the amount of cash and gift cards she received!



The girls headed back downstairs to play "Defuse the Bomb", where I tied black balloons to their ankles, and they tried to step on and pop each other's balloons.  **I'll try to add a video here if I can get it edited.**

After they were clad in jammies, they snuggled up to watch "The Spy
Next Door."

Right now, I am thankful that the ruckus has calmed to what sounds like 2 voices fighting sleep downstairs.

I am also thankful for my beautiful daughter, who was much wished for, and has been a delightful addition to our family.  Although she is beginning to reach that very trying tween age, she is *usually* lovely, polite, intelligent and inquisitive.  I sat outside her practice room during voice lessons on Friday afternoon, and marvelled at her beautiful voice as well!

Enjoy the pictures!

Thankfulness 2013 - Numero Uno

I keep meaning to revisit my yearly November Thankfulness posts, but *my goodness* time is getting away from me this year!  I just realized a couple of days ago that next week is ACTUALLY Thanksgiving!  I have begun my planning and preparation for the feasting, but we have quite a lot going on even before that happens.

For example, J is having her Birthday party tomorrow evening into Sunday AM (it's a sleepover party.)  She decided, just last week, that she wanted the theme of her party to be Spies or Secret Agents.  This week I did some last minute web searching, and got a few fun ideas for games, etc.  However, I still need to put together 4 or 5 good clues for a Secret Agent scavenger hunt which will eventually lead the girls to their gift bags.

Today, L's class put on a Thanksgiving play for the entire 2nd grade, and for the parents.  She played the part of Sarah Josepha Hale, the woman who fought for 38 years to have Thanksgiving become a national holiday.  The kids all did a marvelous job, even though L at least, was terribly nervous ahead of time.


On Monday, I will be reading a book and doing a craft with L's class AND taking the van in for an alignment.  Next Wednesday, I will have my repeat Mammograms, since they were abnormal 6 months ago.  Wednesday evening, JP's sister and crew will arrive for the feasting!

As I was folding the laundry this evening, I was thinking about how lucky my girls are to get NEW clothes.  When I was growing up, most of my clothes were hand-me-downs from my older cousins, or thrift store finds.  While the girls still receive some second hand clothes from their friends, and we find a few things here and there at the thrift stores, most of their clothes (especially for J, the oldest) are new.  I am extremely thankful that we have the means to be comfortable, and not have to worry too much about making ends meet (although, as a born and bred Mennonite, I have thriftiness in my blood!)

JP fired up the outdoor wood burner this evening.  He is trying to get the floor warmed up downstairs with the radiant heat before the sleepover tomorrow night.  As of an hour or so ago, we are running on all wood heated water!  The temperatures are supposed to drop precipitously tonight, and stay low for quite some time, so the fires in the wood stove mornings and evenings will no longer quite be enough.  I am thankful for the work that Dad and JP do during the year to make wood available to feed our fires and keep the house toasty warm all winter long

One of my girl friends texted this evening that her middle child, who is only 5, fell and required stitches on her chin tonight.  It sounds as though her Emergency Room visit was rather short, although stressful (what 5 year old does well with getting stitches in her face?)  I realized that I have NEVER taken one of my children to the ER (knock on wood.)  Although we have had some medical issues and even minor surgeries for both of the girls, I am so thankful that we've never had to make an emergency visit to the ER for stitches or casts or surgery!

I am in the middle of making J's Birthday cake, a Smore's Ice Cream Cake.  Every layer has to be spread and then frozen before continuing.  I have 3 layers down, and 2 to go.  Those will happen tomorrow.  At this very moment, I am thankful that my back and hip are feeling better so that lying down and getting comfortable in bed are no longer excruciating.  That being said, I'm going to bed.  G'night.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pale

I had to BUY eggs today for the first time in about 3 years!  The production of our 18 hens has been PATHETIC for most of the past 2 months, and I have gradually sold fewer and fewer at the Farmer's Market.  I haven't sold any there for over a month now.  For the past 2 weeks, I haven't even had enough to give a dozen to my parents now and then.  We have fewer than 1 dozen of our own eggs in our possession at any one time.  I'm so disgusted with those stupid chickens!

JP threatens to butcher them all so that we can at least have the meat.  Otherwise, we will continue to incur the expense of feeding them all winter long with no pay back.  Ugh.  I'm not ready to butcher and process a dozen or eighteen more hens!

I'm pretty disgusted with my youngest daughter right now as well.  L had a bad afternoon/evening.  She is so OCD about coloring (I hear stories that
she is spending recesses catching up on her coloring work), that it took her more than an hour this evening to color a picture of an ear of Indian Corn despite continual encouragement to move things along.    Following the coloring fiasco, in which she did not accomplish the things that she was SUPPOSED to do (like set the table and practice piano), she proceeded to scream and cry for the next 2 1/2 hours.  Some of that is because she wanted to practice piano BEFORE she ate dinner, and part was because she didn't "know how" to practice piano AFTER dinner, and the rest is because I sent her to bed early WITHOUT practicing piano and without a story.  Not only that, she broke (I'm pretty sure it wasn't an accident) her sister's birthday balloon that I brought home today, AND I caught her reading with a flashlight almost an hour after she was sent to bed early.

SIGH.  I did not manage to control my temper throughout this entire night, which I'm sure didn't help matters.  I feel only slightly better knowing that JP wasn't able to either.  The problem is, this child gets herself worked up to a point where any smidgen of rationality is completely gone.  Where talking doesn't work, and where the only thing that seems to get through is corporal punishment (and that only minimally.)  She is going to be a MESS in the morning.

I always feel slightly queasy after one of these terrible episodes with the kids.  I question my ability to raise children, and I eat WAY too much chocolate.  I am always broadsided by L's outbursts because it is such a Jekyll and Hyde transformation.  She goes from my sweet, loving, and mild-mannered little girl, to a screaming, spitting, and kicking monster. 

All this to say that I am feeling rather as pale as those store bought eggs this evening.  I think I'll go lie down!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Glass Half Empty

I am your basic pessimist.  I always worry about the worst case scenario, however unlikely that worst case may be.  Not only that, but I tend to see the glass half empty with no way to EVER fill it up again.  It's bad.

I'm not sure why I tend to be this way, despite the fact that many, many times, things work out better than I could have ever imagined.  I also don't know why I am continually surprised and dismayed when nothing goes according to plan, which I would estimate happens at least 50% of the time in life.  If I am consistently imagining failure, why does it surprise me if something doesn't work like it should the first time?  Ah...perhaps that is my control freak nature rearing its ugly head into the mix.

I've got issues.

In any case, the power did not go out last night.  The tree house did not come crashing down as I dreamed it did the previous night.  It rained, it blew, the weather became cooler, but everything was JUST FINE.

I was so pleased this morning to have avoided the 3 AM call to the power company to report an electrical outage.  I was happy to be able to shower, and make coffee, and exercise on the elliptical as anticipated.  It was lovely to have lunches made and clothes picked out, and things ready so that JP and the girls could leave a few minutes earlier than normal.

Of course, this afternoon, when I went to the grocery store to buy cupcakes for J to take in to her class today, I almost fell over!  At $4.99 for 6 cupcakes, I would end up spending $30 on her class of 26!  When I broke the news to J, she pouted and told me just to forget it...ends up she was afraid I would bake whole wheat cupcakes and embarass her to no end.  This evening I baked "Easy Yellow Cupcakes" from the America's Test Kitchen cookbook.  I must say that they are some of the better cupcakes I have ever had!  Hope the 5th graders appreciate them!

Perhaps the biggest issue is that I'm a poor planner, but a great worrier.  So how to change my outlook on life?  One word...THERAPY.  I haven't had a chance to plan that into my schedule lately, and in any case, I would end up being there FOREVER to work through all my issues, and the Holidays are coming up, and my well is still half empty.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Blown Away

The wind is roaring outside.  We spent the afternoon battening down the hatches...bringing in windchimes, folding up lawn chairs, and putting away all non-essentials.  We have plugged in a non-electric phone, and JP has the battery ready to back-up his CPAP should the power go out.  We have showered, packed lunches, and have extra water ready...just in case.  There have been warnings of high, damaging winds and severe thunderstorms tonight, so maybe, (just MAYBE,) if we are all prepared, the power will NOT go out!

It has been an eventful week.  We woke to an inch or two of snow on Monday morning.  It was beautiful!  The hay bales in the field past Mom & Dad's house looked like giant frosted shredded wheats.

My Mom celebrated her 70th birthday on Tuesday.  My little brother called about a week before hand, and told me that he was coming out to surprise her.  On Monday evening, a car pulled up in my parent's drive while I was there picking up the girls after work.  Mom said that she didn't recognize it, and then she said she didn't recognise the man walking up to the door.  When I asked if she was sure, she said "Oh my goodness!" and jumped out of her seat when it finally clicked that my brother was there!  We had dinner and cake at our house to celebrate.

Here's me & my baby bro with Mom.  You can see the neck brace she's been wearing for the past 2 + months.
 
The girls decided to wake themselves with the alarms on their phones on Friday morning.  These are old cell phones that JP and I are no longer using.  They don't have service, but the girls like to take pictures with them, and play with the ring tones.  They awoke well, and were able to watch the streaks of pink in the sky turn to dawn with me.

Over the past week, we gradually removed the last of the produce from the garden.  The potato crop was AMAZING, especially considering that what I planted were left over from the year before that had been forgotten in my basement until I discovered them growing arms and legs 12 inches long!  We also brought in red beets and parsnips.  I worked slowly and stopped frequently, trying not to flare up my back.

The little box in the back has "seed potatoes" for next year.  The ones laid out to dry should keep for several months.  The crate full in front have blemishes and need to be used ASAP.
 
This is the biggest - and WEIRDEST potato
that we dug up!
 
Last night, we had friends over for pasta and karaoke.  It was a lot of fun!  When we all trooped outside to wish them farewell afterwards, the moon was full and bright, and was surrounded by a rainbow aura...very cool.  It was the Beaver Moon, time to set your beaver traps everyone!


J went from this look at karaoke...

 
...to this one the following day.  Whatevs.

I'm not sure what exactly prompted the Goth look?
 
There is much going on this coming week as well, including J's 11th birthday!  (I ordered all of her presents from Amazon...LOVE that site.)  L and her class will be putting on a Thanksgiving play.  I have 2 days of PT scheduled, Library Board meeting tomorrow, and I am working 3 days instead of 2 this week. 

I must close before the really bad storms hit.  Wish us well!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

From Tiny Acorns...

While on my daily walk a couple of winters ago, I discovered a big oak tree fallen in the woods.  (You can re-read about it here.)  The girls and I counted the rings and discovered that it was at least 74 years old.

It is wood from this tree that our Murphy bed is built from, by the way.

Last Spring, while on another walk, the dogs and I found an even BIGGER one fallen in the woods below my parents' house.  My Dad cut it into manageable pieces, most of which will be used to heat our house this winter, as a huge section of it was hollow.  There is one large piece that he plans to cut boards out of, that measures 41 inches by 31 inches across.  He reports that the tractor was working pretty hard to pull it up the hill!


The girls and I counted the rings on that one in the dimming light last evening.  (They got home late from school as the school bus broke down less than a mile up the road!)  Using a magnifier for the very inner rings, we counted 127!  This big tree was just a tiny sapling in the woods back in 1886.


Meanwhile, we had a wicked crazy wind storm on Halloween night.  A friend in town told me that it picked up their giant trampoline, and set it down about 100 feet away on top of their car!  It seemed to cut a path through the woods North of our barn, breaking off tree tops on its way. 

While I was exploring the wind damage over the weekend, I found yet another oak tree broken off in the woods.  This one is the HUGEST one yet.  The entire bottom section is hollow and/or twisted and broken, so I'm not sure that we will be able to count rings on this one, but I will keep you posted!
 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Temper Tantrum

I am embarrassed to admit that I let my temper get the best of me tonight, and even worse, I made my daughter cry.

Today has been a disappointing day all around, but after that, I wanted to crawl under a rock and not show my face again until tomorrow.

JP took a vacation day today, since he spent the biggest part of Saturday taking exams. It ends up that he spent the biggest part of today on the computer, doing charts...not much fun for either of us, or very relaxing for him.

Both of the dogs barfed on several occasions today.

J & I spent close to 2 hours at the Orthodontist today - at 2 separate appointments.  We went in the morning to get the broken appliance replaced that they removed on Thursday.  After assessing the situation again, they finally gave up and decided to make a new one.  Thus we returned after school for another hour while they put the new one in.

My back/hip was feeling better today until I went to PT again.  Now it is pretty sore again.

One of the girls did something very disappointing at school today.  It was all the more disappointing because she was punished for doing the VERY SAME THING at the end of last year.  I thought the punishment was fairly harsh, but apparently it wasn't harsh enough. 

Right before dinner, L knocked over a bowl of garlic in the pantry, cascading papery garlic skins down over all the shelves below and onto the floor.

Both girls complained about the food at dinner.

By the time dinner was over, I was at the tipping point.  Then L came skipping into the kitchen, carrying her plate and cup and proceeded to pour the water from her cup not INTO the sink, but NEXT TO the sink, and all down the cupboards and over my foot. I snarled out her name, and tossed the cup into a corner of the counter, where it shattered a drinking glass.  That is when the tears began.
Not only do I feel terrible about being an awful example and a horrible Mom tonight, I've had this gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach for days because I worry that I criticize the girls too much. 

I recently saw a video clip on line, showing several Moms talking about the areas where they feel that they fall short as parents, and then their kids talking about how much their Moms love them and how much fun their Moms are.  Is that how MY kids feel about ME?  I so hope they do!

I'm so tired.  I guess the best course of action right now would be to call it a day.  Perhaps in the daylight tomorrow, this will all seem less tragic and overwhelming, and I can tackle the recovery process step by step.  Maybe that gnawing feeling is really an ulcer from the handfuls of Ibuprofen I've been taking for the past 2 weeks?  In any case, wallowing in my abysmal failures won't change anything.  So, suck it up T-Dawg!  Get a grip and get on with life!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloweenies

Just a quick post to show pictures of the girls' Halloween costumes.  I'm "supposed" to be paying the bills right now (BORING!)  It didn't get done earlier because I was on the phone with the Department of Environmental Protection, trying to get information about recent mining and drilling in our area to see if that could be the culprit for our well being ALMOST dry.  (Haven't heard back regarding drilling, but they have not yet mined under us.) 

My unexpected but long overdue Physical Therapy appointment for my sore back/hip left me more sore now than I was this morning, but hopefully now that I am getting the appropriate treatment, I will be on the road to recovery.

J's unanticipated visit to the Orthodontist resulted in the removal of her expander - just until Monday.  J is thrilled to have it OUT!

This afternoon, we drove to a friend's home to trick-or-treat with them, since no one treats out here in the boonies.  Then this evening, we drove to another friend's home for potluck dinner (I "made" KFC chicken.)

I must mention, since it's Halloween and things are scarey, the 'possum that JP dispatched out back on the veranda tonight (too bad you weren't here to help out, K!), and the flock of baby cockroaches that scuttled out of the package I opened a few minutes ago.  Ew.

So...now it's back to the boring bills.  Ho hum, and Happy Halloween!

L decided that after wearing her cute pink kimono
to school, that she wanted to be the "colorful"
witch again this year!

J is a racoon - really!  I swear that she has ears and a tail there somewhere!

 
Here's the whole crew we went trick-or-treating with!

Remains of the Day

It didn't take long for the dogs to sniff out the pile of left-over parts from the deer that my parents harvested over the weekend.  They were unattended for only a few minutes, and came loping home with huge grins on their faces, bodies smeared with greenish, foul-smelling muck.  I wasn't planning on giving the dogs baths last night, but we all agreed that it was mandatory!

We had no water Tuesday night.  After the girls got their baths and I had finished smearing pumpkin slime all over the kitchen counter and floor (from hollowing them out for Jack-O-Lanterns), a mere trickle of water dribbled from the kitchen spigot.  JP went out to the water station twice and emptied 400 gallons of water into the cistern, but we still did not have running water when we went to bed.

Luckily, the pipes and pressure tank filled over night, and we had water for showers and cleaning up petrified pumpkin slime yesterday.  Good thing the dogs didn't discover their "goodies" one night earlier!  Dad made several trips to the water station yesterday, and our cistern has been refilled.  I think it lasts both our households about 5-7 days, so we will have to keep hauling water until the Well Man can enlighten us on the problem with the well.

We borrowed the porta-potty from the tree house over night while the water was out.  When I returned it yesterday, I discovered cobwebs in all the corners and dead minions on the window sills.  I dusted, swept and aired it out, and shook out the rugs and blankets.  Now it's neat and tidy and ready for hunting season the Monday after Thanksgiving!

This morning, I tackled the van, which has been smelling suspiciously of sweaty soccer socks and stale french fries.  After basically living in it for the past 10 weeks, this is not surprising.  I vacuumed, polished and febreezed every nook and cranny, and while it doesn't have that "new car"smell back, it does smell much more fresh!

Today I am FINALLY going to Physical Therapy for them to work on my back, which is still painful more than a week after I injured it.  In addition, I have an emergency appointment scheduled for J at the Orthodontist.  Part of her hardware is dangling and dangerous!  After all of that, we have Trick-or-Treating this evening.

The final remains this day, will happen when JP & I "inspect" the girls' treat bags, and remove anything that we "don't approve of" to dispose of in any manner we desire...hint, hint, nudge, nudge, say no more.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Blood & Guts

Today was butchering day on Poplar Ridge.  The egg laying up here is getting more pathetic by the week.  Yesterday we gathered 3 eggs - from a total of 22 hens!  They haven't stopped eating, however.  They go through 150 lbs of chicken feed and 50 lbs of corn every 3-4 weeks, along with kitchen scraps.

Ultimately, we decided that the 4 roosters must go, along with the 4 hens that have still not quite recovered from their nakedness despite all the goop and spray and aprons that I have put on their little pink backs and back-sides.

J had a serious problem with this.  (She happened to be away last year on butchering day.)  "You are just so MEAN!"  she cried.  "How would you like it if some bullies picked on you until you had sores, and then someone KILLED you just because you were sick?"

No amount of reasoning with her that chickens don't think and emote like humans would convince her that this was not completely unethical.  Not even the cold hard fact that we raise these chickens for FOOD, swayed her.  She flat out refused to help, so she was sent to work in the garden, pulling out cornstalks while the rest of us did the dirty work.

I don't LIKE doing this, in fact, I feel a bit bad offing these chickens who run up to me every time I go outside (I MUST be bringing them food if I'm coming outside, right?)  The girls and I especially have invested quite a lot of time and energy into keeping these animals healthy and happy.  I too, have to keep reminding myself that they are costing us more and more each day they are not laying, and that having some organic, free range chicken meat over the winter will be much appreciated.  I can understand why the Native Americans would thank the animal that became their meal for dying in order to sustain them - I am ending a life, even if these creatures only have brains the size of raisins.

My parents were busy over in their cabin today, processing a deer that my Dad harvested last evening.  They really depend on the meat that they can procure from hunting to get them through each year.

Even though we all have mixed feelings about this day of blood and guts up on our hill, at the end of it all, the jars of meat on our shelves, and the packages in the freezers are testament to the hard work that we do here and our part in living sustainably on this earth.

By the way, I saw a flock of Turkey Vultures circling overhead this evening.  They will enjoy the parts that we don't...so we are not the ONLY ones gaining here!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Boob Job

A big group of us, who all work for the same employer, are having a pot-luck tomorrow to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness month in October, with special celebration for 2 women among us who are Breast Cancer survivors.  After tossing around ideas with my friend today, we came across some cute cookies on Pinterest.



Here is a sample of the big Boob Job I did this evening...4 dozen pink bra cookies are all ready to go!

Soup

I canned these things yesterday, and took a good look at them today.  Besides the ingredients for some yummy soup, what do they look like?

Chicken Stock, Horticulture Beans, Shredded Chicken




To me, they look like the culmination of a season of hard work.  I planted, weeded, picked and shelled all those beans.  I fed, watered, cleaned out the cage for, butchered and prepared that chicken meat and broth.

These jars represent a job well done, the chance to take some time this winter to relax, and, yes, they look like the makings of a delicious pot of soup.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Not Much to Say

There is not much to say this week. 

We are down to the final week of soccer.  J's coach recently texted an invitation for J to join her Indoor Soccer Team, which does not have practices during the week, but has games 30 minutes away every weekend for the next 8 weeks.  When I finally broached the subject with J, she looked at me in a horrified manner, and said "You didn't sign me up did you?"  When I replied that I had not, she responded, "Good!  I need a break from soccer!"

Oh, thank goodness...so do we all!

Not much happened this week besides the strange man in day-glo orange underwear who mooned my friend, K, and I at soccer practice.  Or the fact that Kali freaked out and nearly attacked J when she was in her raccoon costume.  I had to hold her back and get J to take her mask off before that crazy dog settled down! 

There was also Thursday, which was a very lovely after-school time with the girls.  Practice was cancelled because of cold and rain, so we got homework and music practice done, and sat together to read, and ate non-fast-food dinner together.  SIGH.

Mom is doing better all the time.

Our rooster pullets started to crow.

I had to work today, and it threw off my whole day.  I hit a wall after dinner, and was only able to pack PB&J sandwiches for the girls' lunches tomorrow.

I just nodded off there in front of the computer.  Gotta go...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pink Week

I've gone pink this week for Breast Cancer awareness month.  Medical Alert:  Get your mammogram.  Do your breast self exams.  Don't wait if you're worried about something...show your medical provider.  I raise my glass to my friends, N1 and N2, who fought and are fighting this disease.

We are coming off a long weekend.  One in which we declined to participate in soccer practice or music lessons on our days off from school.  It was wonderful!  This is not to say that we were not busy, as we certainly were, but we also took time for fun stuff!

On Thursday, a friend came for the day, and all of the girls joined a bunch of their friends to play 4 Square while I attended Parent-Teacher conferences.  Later, we baked cake pops (which we decorated as eye-balls on a stick,) wove rubber band bracelets, and the girls recorded another short film.

Friday was a rainy day, so the girls and I drove up to the city and visited the Science Center.  I thought I could overcome my fear of heights and try the climbing wall with L.  When I got 16 feet up the wall (barely over half way), my knees were shaking so badly that I couldn't hold on to the footholds, and cautiously rappelled back down.  We watched an Omnimax movie about the migration of monarchs - it was fabulous!  From the (very dirty) windows upstairs, we could see a giant rubber ducky floating on the river!


Saturday, the dogs FINALLY got haircuts.  Their hair was so long that Stella was looking sheep dog-ish with hair over her eyes.  Of course, after the hair cuts, they had to get baths and get their bedding washed...whew!  Thankfully, the shower in our Master Bath is now functional again, after the contractors spent an hour or so re-grouting and re-fitting tile, and I spent another 2 hours sealing all the grout and re-fitting the door.  Both dogs showered with me, which made it super easy!

Saturday evening we went out to our (new) favorite Indian restaurant with Mom & Dad to celebrate JP's birthday.  A group from a local Synagogue was also there celebrating something, and therefore our service was S-L-O-W.  During a lull in the surrounding hub-bub, J noted (quite loudly) "They're wearing Jew hats."  Afterwards, we came home for 5 Flavor Pound Cake, ice cream and presents.

Sunday was soccer day again.  Both girls tied their games.  This was J's last home game of the season, so I brought Mom along with me to watch it.

And now, we are back to Monday.  School.  Piano lessons.  House cleaning.  Rain.  The only excitement of the day was the beautiful drive that I took out to the orchard to get 2 1/2 bushels of apples for sauce.  They are cooling in the basement, waiting for Wednesday when I should have time to cook up my secret recipe of "Mommy Sauce."  Tomorrow I must head back to work...sigh.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Little Known Facts

1.  The average human produces between 1 and 2 liters of saliva daily.  That could explain why J slurped so much right after having her expander put in.  She is doing SO much better now - started eating "real" food again on Friday, slurping less frequently, and no longer screaming each time I tighten it.  We are over half way through the treatments with this thing, and with another appointment scheduled next Monday, we are hoping it will be out soon!

2.  Vermont is actually named after the Green Mountains ("les verts monts" in French.)  This is just to prove that old people can actually still learn new things.

3.  Men stop caring about how they look at age 46.  Today is JP's birthday...want to guess how old he is?  I'm hoping he spends a few more years before he grows the dreads and Z Z Top beard and stops showering!  (Here is the article, should you be interested!)  Ah, well...I think I'd love him even if he turned grungy!

4.  Magic Erasers actually have magic in them.  This is true...I've tested it myself!  It has now been more than 6 weeks since we have used the shower in our Master Bath.  We had some problems with leaking, cracking grout, and buckling tiles.  It took the first 3 weeks to get in touch with some one to look at it, and then then next 3 to get them to fix it.  In the meantime, I was supposed to clean the minerals from our super hard water out of the grout.  I honestly gave up on trying to keep it clean months ago, so it was looking pretty bad, but even after scrubbing it with a tooth brush and Lime-Away for almost 2 hours, it didn't look much better.  I worked on it with plain old soap and water and a scrub brush for another hour...still bad.  Today, with 30 minute's notice that they were on their way to fix it, I used up 2 whole Magic Erasers, and it looks pretty doggone good!

5.  Grass seeds have a better chance of germinating if you actually water them.  I know, I know, this is no surprise!  Unfortunately, since I did my landscaping around the pool, it has been hot and dry - probably the hottest and driest it's been all year!  I dragged out the sprinkler and watered 2 or 3 times, but somehow forgot to water what I planted in the front yard.  By Saturday, there were a few sprigs of green coming up every place but there.  After our down pour this morning, things are super green...even out front!

Just look at all that GREEN!

6.  I actually enjoyed soccer yesterday!  It was a really warm day, but the breeze blew through during L's game several times and sent great drifts of leaves spinning through the air like a flock of butterflies.  J and her teammates ran their little hind ends off in their game, but J was in the right place at the right time to kick a goal - no small feat, when their competition is a fierce as theirs has been!

7.  Breaking a mirror does not apparently cause 7 years of bad luck.  (Unless of course, there is some delay in the bad luck starting.)  I dropped my compact this morning, and the mirror shattered.  I was a bit nervous, since I had my big meeting with the CEO and Director today to discuss the fate of my employment.  Not only did they not downsize me out of a job, they asked me to work MORE hours!  Doesn't seem like there is any bad luck emanating out of my compact (although I'm keeping it closed...just in case.)

The day was pretty gorgeous too, broken mirror or not!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pumpkins & Cornstalks

Now that it is October, things have warmed up a bit...Indian Summer I suppose.  But things have started to gear up for the flurry of activities that come with the nearing winter.  J was invited to a Birthday party in 2 weeks, at which she was instructed to wear her Halloween costume.  Her Halloween costume?  Oh right,  I'm supposed to be crafting that by hand during my free and lonely days since I'm basically a Stay-at-Home-Mom.  Yes, well I ordered one on eBay recently, and hopefully it arrives (sans cooties) in time.

JP's sister phoned last night with the news that his nephew is engaged.  They are getting married next summer in Iowa.  She asked about our plans for the Holidays too, since Thanksgiving is coming up.  Thanksgiving?  OMG...we have J's Birthday (and JP's and my Mom's too) before that!

Our Girls' Night didn't really materialize the other day, but we were able to finish everything, including voice, piano practice, and showers in time to sit together to watch an episode of "Emergency."

Last night was a bit stressful too.  JP, who didn't make it home until 7:30, remarked that he thought since I was no longer home schooling, I would be less stressed.  How can I NOT be stressed, when I'm trying to get homework done, music practice done, ferry kids to and from soccer practice, make a healthy & delicious meal, and get the kids to bed on time in the space of about 4 hours...by MYSELF?  I tried to let him know that this is just a crazy time of year!

It's not like I lay around eating Bon Bons and watching TV all day, although I do give myself the opportunity to go more slowly - to read a book while I eat my lunch, and to take another 5 or 10 minutes after exercising to stretch.  Yesterday, I helped my Mom for about an hour, then spent the next 3 hours working in the garden.  I cleared out an entire TRAILER full of weeds, and brought in tomatoes, basil and jalapenos, all of which had to be taken care of.

The corn stalks are tall and dry - very Fall looking, and there is a smallish, but beautiful creamy orange pumpkin out there.  Seeing the pumpkin made me think about pumpkin roll, which is a favorite dessert for all of us.  It is way to complicated to attempt on a Thursday morning, so instead, I opened a jar of pumpkin that I canned last Fall, and baked my special Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Mini Muffins.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Mini Muffins
adapted from "Amish and Mennonite Kitchens"
 
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c + 2 T oil
2 T yogurt
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1/2 t baking soda dissolved in 1/3 c water
1/4 t baking powder
1 1/2 c flour
1/3 c mini chocolate chips
 
Beat eggs with a whisk, then whisk in sugar, oil, yogurt, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.  Stir in remaining ingredients with a rubber spatula.  Fill greased mini muffin pans 2/3 full and bake at 350* for 15 min.  Makes about 4 dozen.
 
So there's my little bit of Fall for you.  And by the way...I'm taking the morning off to have tea and Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Mini Muffins with my girl friends. 


Monday, September 30, 2013

Overwhelmed

Tonight I am completely exhausted - physically and emotionally...didn't see this one coming, and it hit me hard!

J got her upper palate expander put in this afternoon.  Our 20 min. Orthodontist appointment lasted almost an hour, putting us behind for everything else that came after.  She is not adjusting to it very quickly or very well.  I'm sure the thing is a pain in the tushy, and she is not my daughter that adapts well to change...just like her Mama.  She complains that she cannot chew or swallow.

Both girls went off the deep end in the van, causing goldfish cracker crumbs all down one seat, and 2 broken eggs in the dozen I was to deliver.

I put dinner in the oven before we left for appointments and piano lessons this afternoon.  It was not done when we returned.

JP was LATE coming home this evening.

I've just finished spending another hour (already spent 2 hours last week with the Lime-Away, rubber gloves and a toothbrush) attempting to scrub the hard water deposits off the tile and grout in our shower so that our contractor can fix a couple of places and seal everything.  It's hopeless - still looks awful.

On top of all this, I'm really stressing about my job, as it may be part of the overall downsizing going on right now.

Thankfully I had the foresight to excuse myself from this evening's Trustee duty at the Library ahead of time.  I am also cancelling soccer practice after work tomorrow evening.

After dropping off the girls at school tomorrow, I will go shopping for a variety of soups to feed J for the next 2 weeks, along with applesauce, yogurt, and pudding.

I have my fingers crossed, hoping for a peaceful evening tomorrow.  Maybe we can even re-institute Girls' Night and paint our toenails.  But I don't want to count on it.  If we can just eat our soup in relative calm, with no yelling or drama, I'll be pleased.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Landscaping, Alpacas, and the Minions

I was not especially pleased with the state that the pool installers left our yard.  Not only did they leave the extension cord and hose that they borrowed laying (uncoiled) out there, but they left piles of dirt along on the grass beside the pool.  Since we have an overabundance of clay in our soil, and it rained last weekend, all those piles hardened into the consistency of concrete.  In addition, the back wall of soil behind the pool was not graded smoothly, and there were chunks of sod and rocks lying all over the place.

I would really like to have grass growing around the pool before snow flies, and since I'm the resident landscaper around here, I decided to get started!  I figured this would be a 1-2 hour job max.  I underestimated - I spent 4 or 5 hours out there yesterday!

I hauled 9 wheelbarrow loads of soil out that I had dug out, just to smooth and grade the back wall.  After that, I broke up and raked all the clods of clay, bits of sod and rocks out, and smoothed out the area that will be planted with grass.  I seeded everywhere with grass seed (including the holes elsewhere in the yard where I dumped the above mentioned soil,) and hauled 4 loads of old hay up from the garden to scatter on top.

That huge pile of dirt will be dealt with later!


The final step was to plant ground cover in that back wall to prevent erosion.  I thought vinca might fit the bill - grows voraciously, does not need full sun, and the deer leave it alone.  I had such a hard time digging holes to plant into, that I finally ended up carving out receptacles of sorts into the back wall. 



These I stuffed with the little plants, along with a bunch of compost and topped it off with clay to hold it all in.  Hope it works!

So...that was my big project for the weekend.  I'm hoping things look green back there in a couple of weeks!

Today both of the girls had a soccer game at 1:00, so JP and I switched fields at half time so that we could each see half of each girl's game.  Afterwards, we took a lovely drive through the back roads to the local alpaca farm, where they had an Open House today.  We arrived just in time to see a little fawn colored cria being sheared.


The stinkbugs are back in droves, swarming all over our windows, the veranda posts, and the laundry on the clothes line.  I have taken to calling them "The Minions."  JP has been fighting them with a vengeance all weekend, and the veranda out back is scattered with their tiny carcasses.  Where did these things come from anyway?

J has another orthodontist appointment tomorrow to have more hardware installed - an expander this time.  L has piano lessons tomorrow evening.  I am scheduled for a Library Board meeting, but I have already emailed my regrets that I cannot make it.  Mom has an appointment with her neurosurgeon as well.  Although it has been lovely to stop and pat the Alpacas, our life continues to tear on in this manic way.  I think I'll take the remainder of my weekend to relax with a good book.  So long.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fall has Fallen

Autumn seemingly arrived overnight last weekend.  It rained, no it POURED, all day Saturday.  We stayed in the whole day and watched a movie with the girls.  When I looked out of the window Sunday morning, the leaves on the trees had started to change colors.  The nights are remaining chilly - dropping into the high 30's, but the days are sunny and blue.

I made spaghetti sauce again today, with tomatoes from the garden, a couple of plants in Mom's flower bed, and some from an acquaintance of JP's.  We now have enough frozen to make a dozen quick meals this winter. 

I brought in the Butternut squashes yesterday - about a dozen of those in varying sizes are tucked away in our cellar and in Mom & Dad's, along with a few Acorn squashes.

My Fall peas are producing!  They survived the late planting and the mauling by deer, and we are having a second helping of sweet, green sugar snap peas in October for the first time ever - I love it!  The Fall lettuce is nearly ready to harvest also, but the deer ate all my Fall radishes.  A few of the horticulture beans have come back from being mowed down by deer, so we may get another handful of beans.  I'm glad that I didn't can those yet, instead, I just chucked 2 gallon bag fulls into the deep freeze.

It's almost time to start on my secret recipe applesauce.  I've been putting it off since it's such a huge messy job.  We love it though, and the 2 measly remaining pints in the freezer will not be enough to last until next year!

Fall = school + soccer + canning.  It's enough to make a person weary.   Thank goodness for winter so that we can put our feet up for a month or two!


Monday, September 23, 2013

Brace Face

Here are before and after pictures of Miss J-Bird, who got her braces put on this morning. 











She looked at herself in the rear-view mirror as we drove away from the Orthodontist's office, and stated, "They are ugly!"

"They aren't ugly," I told her, "they look like braces."

"UGLY braces."  she muttered almost under her breath.

"You'll get used to them," I said, "and remember, you're not the only one in the world with them on!"

Big sigh from the back seat...

I came home and stopped next door to help out my Mom.  She is still having a significant amount of pain, but then again, it's only been a week since they did major surgery on her spine.  She is frustrated that she can't do much of anything, including get comfortable, in the hard cervical collar that she wears.  I didn't realize until last night that she hadn't been able to shower since her surgery.  She can't reach up to wash her hair, or to wash her back.  I helped her with all that today.

I'm not sure how to encourage her.  It does seem like a VERY long road to her recovery.  I've reminded her a couple of times that she has to take baby steps.  Maybe if we compare how long it took her to get to the point of surgery (several years), the 3-6 months recovery won't seem so bad!  I feel bad that I haven't been available more to help...this soccer schedule is sucking every last ounce of sanity out of me most evenings.  (Luckily, it has leaked back in during the night!)  So, I'll do what I can...that is why my parents are our neighbors after all, for me to help out in these kinds of ways.

In the meantime, I'll keep reminding my two braced and bruised ladies...baby steps...this isn't forever...you can do it.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Come on in, the water's fine! (Take 2)

Our plan is to go ahead and winterize the pool - it won't be warm enough to actually use it this Fall, and the filter/pump are not even hooked up.  The girls were disappointed, as they REALLY wanted to swim in it now.  This morning JP grabbed J, while I picked up L, then we ran outside and threw them in!


The water was a bit chilly, but it woke the girls up, and we started our day with smiles and laughter.