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!