Saturday, January 31, 2009

What A Week It Was!

The ending of this week has been somewhat (actually quite a bit) of a challenge for me. After our awesome afternoon in the snow Wednesday - my emotional roller coaster ride began.

That evening after just finishing up our school day, I was headed back downstairs for the rest of the night, when just as I stepped off of the last stair - it happened. I still don't know exactly what it was - but something went wrong in my foot right below the ankle. I didn't think it was broken but if I tried to apply any pressure to it at all - it sent me through the roof! I was literally crawling through the house. Not so good on the knees. I couldn't even fix Isaac dinner and Chris was having another one of his later nights. Poor kid had to scramble his own eggs and make himself some toast for dinner. Thank God he's big enough to do that, but it still makes ya feel like a Loser for a mother.

Thursday, Chris brought an office chair down for me so I wouldn't have to crawl everywhere. I'm REALLY thankful for wood floors at this point - and for a husband who has the brain enough to come up with these knee appreciating ideas! Yesterday, I was finally able to put some pressure on the ball of my foot and limp around a little bit. Today, I am happy to report that I haven't used my make-shift wheel chair at all. I can cautiously bear weight on my entire foot. Whoo hoo! I think we may even venture out for a bit.

It was a really emotional time, silly as that may sound. But especially on Thursday when the only mode of transportation I had was by my "wheel chair" - I was really bummin'. I had to rely on my kid for just about everything. Me - the one who is SUPPOSED to be the care taker. Instead, my eight year old was taking care of me. I got tired of saying, "Isaac, can you give Layla some food and water? Isaac, can you let the dog out? Isaac, can you bring me a bottle of water?....." Of course, I had my pity party. Kissed my wounds. Cried. Pouted. Cried some more. You know...real mature stuff. Not a shining moment for me.

Then...God rang my bell. Instead of wallering in my misery, I should probably try to find a bright spot - something to be thankful for. Then I started thinking about all of the people out there who have actually lost an arm or leg or something that completely alters their life forever. My injury was just temporary and it completely threw me out of sorts. So, I began to thank God for two hands, two feet, two eyes, two ears... I thanked him that he never ceases to bless me. I thanked him for being my healer. And I started to get better.

I have seen where studies have been done on the power of gratitude in our lives and how it not only affects our mental state, but our physical state as well. I'm a believer. I think that when we begin to quit focusing on the problem and thanking the one who is the solution - then we position ourselves for God to work. I don't have all of the answers or theology to how this works. I don't really think that I need it. I don't really care how throwing a switch causes a light to come on. I just need to know that when I throw it, it will. I really don't even care to know how it works. I'm just thankful that it does. And today, I'm thankful that my God is a faithful God, even when I throw my temper tantrums and act really mature. And today, I'm thankful that I can cautiously bear weight on my entire foot. I have faith that tomorrow will be even better. There is a silver lining in every cloud.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Clearing Out The Coffee Pot

This week's tip is on keeping the ol' coffee pot running freely. The tips I post every week may be common knowledge for most - so forgive me the redundancy if you fall into this category.

We have this really cool coffee machine made by Capresso. It grinds the beans as well as brews a great cup of Joe. We normally program it at night to grind and brew the java for us in the mornings before we wake up. So, we have no idea how long it takes to actually brew a pot of coffee.

I've mentioned before that we've been in this house for nearly a year. We have found that it has REALLY hard water. Well, shortly after we moved in we had some guests over for dinner and dessert. I asked everyone if they would like some coffee with their cake. Of course. So, I get the pot going as any good hostess would do. An hour and a half later...the coffee is finally ready. How embarrassing! We didn't have this problem at the other house. That's when we received the 'hard water is screwin' up the coffee pot lines' revelation.

The fix is extremely simple. Once a week I simply run a water and vinegar solution through the machine. I usually use one part vinegar to 3 parts water. You can use more vinegar if you feel it's necessary. If you want you can also run a pot of plain water through afterwards as a rinse. I find this step really not necessary, though. We have never had a pot taste like vinegar.

This vinegar solution has completely resolved our problem and costs MUCH less than the coffee pot cleaning solutions that are sold in the supermarket. I really don't want chemicals in my machine anyhow.

Hope this has been helpful. Have a great day!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Snow Much Fun!

Well, two days ago it started snowing. And snowing. And snowing. And snowing some more. It finally stopped yesterday afternoon. The winter storm left us looking like a cotton factory exploded all over everything. Chris plowed the top of the snow with the bottom of his car all the way to his work. Thank God for front wheel drive! It is gorgeous out. However, I don’t think that I’ll be in a position to be leaving the house (once again) for quite a few days.

After lunch we decided to take a break and enjoy some of the pleasures of this temporary delight. I have taken pictures to document our escapades.

Making snow ice cream.

Using some of the snow for frozen Coke slushies.

Outside to play.

This is how deep the snow is in the back yard.

Can’t have all play with no work.

After quite a while outside, I sent Isaac inside to put on some warm, dry clothes while I finished shoveling the drive. I told him that I had about ten minutes left and then I would come inside and make us both a nice, steamy cup of hot chocolate. To my delighted surprise, when I came inside Isaac had made the hot chocolate for us. What a sweet boy! So, we took a few minutes to sip our warming drink, then headed back upstairs to get back to work. We were warmed, pleasantly tired and completely satisfied. What a good afternoon!

I hope you enjoyed sharing our afternoon in the snow!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Introducing.... "Dolly Jean"!

*Sorry about the paragraphs here. I've tried like 8 times to fix it, but it's not cooperating.

I ran across this old picture of myself this morning. I had to scan it to the computer because I felt a blog coming on. I think it is hilarious! This was my alter ego, "Dolly Jean". She is a singer - complete with red wig and all. Hannah Montana wasn't the first Diva to don a wig for her double life! "Dolly Jean" was evidently my stage name. No one knows where it came from. But somewhere deep in my toddling mind, she was born.
Singing is probably my oldest passion. The story goes that even as an infant I would hum along when I was being rocked and Mom was singing to me. As a little girl when me and Samantha, my best friend from across the street, were playing the pretend game that we were grown-ups - my career was always "singer". I find this all pretty amusing now since I was the kid who was so painfully shy it was embarrassing. When I was in fourth grade I wanted to have a small part in the school musical. You would not believe my horror when the music teacher required that ALL auditions must include a solo. I was so scared that when I opened my mouth to sing - nothing came out! No sound AT ALL. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Passion prevailed, however. I continued to be in the elementary school choir. Then in seventh grade I tried out for the school show choir. Every year from then on I was in the regular school choir plus the show choir. Except for eighth grade because the show choir wasn't an option. My high school music teacher was THE BEST. I'm not joking. John Tyner. That name is legendary back home. My senior year of high school he took a bunch of lazy misfits all the way to the National Finals and brought back the Grand Champions. He lost his mustache over that - but that's probably another blog session. All that time in choir taught me how to hide my nervousness, for the most part. I eventually got where I could actually sing a solo. I sang at church and even made it to State Honor's Choir twice. OOOh, aren't you impressed? (I'm being sarcastic here.)
After high school I went on to enroll in another school to be a part of their music program. Unfortunately, I didn't learn any more about the technical stuff there than I did in high school. Remember, Tyner was the best. What they did teach me was about performance. Performance; stage presence, how to hold your head, move your hands, NEVER close your eyes...
What I've found out since those days long, long ago is this: I'm just not cut from that same school of thoughts cloth. I think that life should be more about passion than performance. Whether it's singing, playing an instrument, speaking, painting, or whatever creative outlet there may be - just a performance is "flat". Anyone can perform. Some better than others. Not everyone is passionate, though. I don't have to agree with you or particularly like you. BUT - make me believe that YOU believe. If that means that you close your eyes, then, so be it. I like to hear music that is just an extension of who the person is inside. Not that they're trying to impress me, but rather that they HAVE to do it. It's who they are inside. And if you don't like it - tough. It's not about you anyway. I like passionate people. I think it makes the world much more interesting. Performers are pretty much all the same, with maybe just a few varied twists. How boring is that? A passionate person says, "I don't care whether you like it or not. This is who I am. I can't be anything other than who I am." Take Bob Dylan, for instance. As far as vocal ability goes - well, I don't think I need to say any more than that. But the guy has made a life long career in the music business because it's just who he is. He's passionate about music. And you know what? I really like him. I have two of his Cd's. What would the world be like without all of the Bob Dylan's?
I don't do a whole lot of singing anymore. My "Dolly Jean" days are far behind me. Oh, sure, I still croon to my dishes and shampoo bottles! But I don't do much in the way of public performance. I still love music, though. I have tons of Cd's. But I find that the ones I listen to the most are the ones where the singers have made me believe that they believe what they're singing about. They're passionate. That's how I want to live my life. It may make me a little odd. But at least I'll be interesting!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Company's Coming!

My sister e-mailed me yesterday letting me know that her, my mom and the kids are coming for a short visit next month. I actually knew they were coming, just not the date until yesterday. It's so nice now that we live closer because we get to see a lot more of each other. It's been awhile since they've been my way, though. Last time they were here we lived in a transitional rental house.

Just about a year ago we found the house we wanted to settle down in and now here we are. I must say that we fell in love with this house - after looking at literally hundreds. It's old like I like, yet not so old that my hubby doesn't like it. It has character. It feels like home. However, it was a repo. It has great bones but needed a lot of cosmetics. We have done a ton of work on it but there are many, many more projects we want to work on.

The guest room is one of those projects. It had a wall paper border that was all around the center of the room, but was coming down in places. And it doesn't look like a paint brush has touched it in ages. It's been on my "I really must get to that" list. So, now that I know that we are actually going to have guests in the guest room (how novel!) I think I finally have the motivation I need to tackle it. I also had just bought the fabric to make curtains for "Little Britches'" room. And I have all of the equipment to make the throw pillows for the sofa that match the curtains I did manage to get done in the living room and kitchen. If I allowed myself to dream big I would also make the shower curtain and Roman shade for the bathroom while I was at it. That might be an awfully big elephant to swallow, though, since we still have to do school every day. So, I'm probably going to be a little less frequent on my blog for the next few weeks. Though, I'm sure I'll be popping in now and again. I'll be sure and post some pictures as I finish each project.

Wish me luck!

Super Bowl Fare

As probably just about everyone in America knows - Sunday is not just you're typical Sunday. It is a very special Sunday. A Sunday that gaggles of people look forward to in great anticipation, for it only comes around one time a year. This Sunday is Superbowl Sunday. All across the U.S. people will be planning parties, making menus, and making special shopping trips just to celebrate the big game.

In honor of game day (even though my Colts won't be playing) this week's recipe is a kick butt winner for wings, hot dipping sauce and blue cheese dressing. It's so easy, yet, oh so good! Let me just add here that I never was a huge fan of Blue Cheese dressing until I tasted this version. I do hope you'll go out on a limb and give it a try. The hot sauce recipe comes right off the Louisiana Hot Sauce bottle.

Wash wings , dry and bake in 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes until crispy. Drain well.

Hot Wing Sauce:
Melt 1/2 cup butter in sauce pan on stove top. Add 10 TBSP. Louisiana Hot Sauce. Stir well. Use as a dip for wings.

Blue Cheese Dressing:
In a blender or food processor:
2 cups mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 TBSP. apple cider vinegar
1 TBSP. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 package of Blue Cheese, crumbled
1-2 scallions, chopped

Refrigerate when done. This makes a great dip for wings, salad dressing, or sandwich spread.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

100 Things I've Done

As you may have read yesterday - I am a list junkie. So, when I saw this on Katy Lin's blog at The Great Adventure I was all over it. The bold type are the things from the list I've personally done. If you're up for some fun - come and play along. Read ahead for the instructions.

100 things I've done
Megan was doing this and I thought it looked like fun. (just copy and paste) If you play along, leave me a comment so I can see your list. Bold whatever you have done. (or italics if your font is bold)

1. Started your own blog.
2. Slept under the stars.
3. Played in a band.
4. Visited Hawaii.
5. Watched a meteor shower.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity.
7. Been to Disneyland.
8. Climbed a mountain.
9. Held a praying mantis.
10. Sang a solo.
11. Bungee jumped.
12. Visited Paris.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch.
15. Adopted a child.
16. Had food poisoning.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
18. Grown your own vegetables.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.
20. Slept on an overnight train.
21. Had a pillow fight.
22. Hitch hiked.
23. Taken a sick day when you're not sick.
24. Built a snow fort.
25. Held a lamb.
26. Gone skinny dipping.
27. Run a marathon.
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice.
29. Seen a total eclipse.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.
31. Hit a home run.
32. Been on a cruise.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors.
35. Seen and Amish community.
36. Taught yourself a new language.
37. Had enough money to truly be satisfied.
38. Seen the leaning tower of Pisa in person.
39. Gone rock climbing.
40. Seen Michelangelo's David.
41. Sung karaoke.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.
46. Been transported in an ambulance.
47. Had your portrait painted.
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater.
55. Been in a movie.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China.
57. Started a business.
58. Taken a martial arts class.
59. Visited Russia.
60. Served in a soup kitchen.
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies.
62. Gone whale watching.
63. Gotten flowers for no reason.
64. Donated blood, platelets, or plasma.
65. Gone sky diving.
66. Visited a Nazi concentration camp.
67. Bounced a check.
68. Flown in a helicopter.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
71. Eaten caviar.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square.
74. Toured the Everglades.
75. Been fired from a job.
76. Seen the changing of the guards in London.
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
80. Published a book.
81. Been to the Vatican.
82. Bought a brand new car.
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the paper.
85. Read the entire Bible.
86. Visited the White House.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had Chicken pox.
89. Saved someone's life.
90. Sat on a jury.
91. Met someone famous.
92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one.
94. Had a baby.
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a lawsuit.
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee.
100. Read an entire book in one day.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Time Saver

So today's tip may really be a "no-brainer" for some people - but for me it really revolutionized a certain area of my life.

First, I feel you must have a little back history. I am a perpetual list maker and planner. Before I start anything new I must research every way that it can be done, then I can make an educated decision on which way will be the best for me to come at it. I then proceed to make a list for every single thing I'm going to need for this project. Quirky? Maybe. It's just how I'm wired. I am a spontaneous planner. I know it makes no sense. Anywho...I have lists for everything; what I need to accomplish during a day, who I need to call, what I need to buy. Most importantly - I NEVER go to the grocery store without a list.

Here is a glimpse of what my grocery shopping routing used to look like. First I cannot even begin to compile the grocery list until I have made out a complete menu for the following week. (I still do this list...another list.) I would then write down everything I needed from the store. Then, I would arrange my grocery list by the areas in the store as I shopped them (HBC, dairy, frozen...) This was insurance that I didn't miss anything on my list. Quite a daunting task. You can only imagine how time consuming this whole routine was every week.

Well, HELLO, inspiration struck and I hit pay dirt! One day as I'm rewriting my grocery list, the thought occurs to me, "Why don't you just make a master grocery list on the computer?" IT CHANGED MY LIFE - I TELL YA! This was such a simple solution for me. Now I have the master menu and the master grocery list on my computer. I keep copies printed off and stuck to the side of my fridge with a magnet. There is also a magnetic pencil basket that holds a highlighter in addition to pens and pencils. Now, whenever I run out of something during the week I just highlight it. My husband even does this! Yay!! When it's time to go the grocery store - I just grab my list and I'm on my way. This one thing has literally taken hours off of my weekly planning.

So, there ya have it. The tip of the week: Make a master list on the computer for your groceries and keep it on the fridge. It will shave time off of your planning and may even get your hubby involved!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Worthy Websites

As a home school mom of an eight year old who REALLY doesn't like writing - I'm always looking for new ways to inspire my boy wonder into the adventure of letting his imagination soar AND translating that to paper. Letting the imagination soar is NO problem. Oh, the tales he can tell. It's when he's asked to put it on that's not right either. He likes to make up stories and write with no structure. It's when he's asked to write something specific that he shuts down. It's like you push his "FREAK OUT" button. To help alleviate some of the anxiety involved with this activity he now has his own blog. We do all of his writing assignments on there. It is helping somewhat. Backspacing to fix an error and running his work through spellcheck is a lot less daunting than breaking out the eraser or, God forbid, rewriting it. Oh, the horror! Gasp!

Well, with this in mind let me share an exciting find with you. As I was perusing through my newest issue of Good Housekeeping I came across this article that features 3 different websites that each help to inspire a love of writing in a unique way.

1. - (ages 5-14) This website lets your child write, illustrate, and publish their own storybooks. It has optional prompts for beginners with writers block. It's free to log on and create the book. The cost to order a printed copy will range from about $15-$20.

2. - (ages 4 and up) This website allows kids to make their own comic strips using pre-drawn characters. They fill in their own text bubbles. They can either e-mail the finished comic to their friends or print it out. It's free. We like free.

3. - (ages 4-18) This site is a free crossword generator. The kids pick their own words and write the clues. The site sets it up. It can be printed right off your computer.

We actually went on the crossword puzzle website this afternoon. I must say that Isaac gave it a two thumbs up. He thought is was a lot of fun and really cool. He was actually excited about it. There were a couple of features that I really liked as a mom. First, you have the option of simply doing a crossword puzzle that they have on the site already or you can go straight to the creating your own part. Both of these features have age brackets that you can work within. If your youngster needs help in creating the clues for his puzzle - he can go and do a couple first to get a feel for it. There is also a hints and tips button at the bottom that he can click on if he's stumped. It will bring up a story about the puzzle's topic with the answers in bold print. I thought it was really a brilliant idea - mostly because I needed the help myself on some of the answers. Don't judge! You probably would have, too!

We are really looking forward to checking the other two sites out as well. Anything to make learning more fun is worthy of looking into in my book. Maybe I'll even have a go on myself and actually write this book I'm always talking about.

Happy writing adventures. Pam

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Food Fight!

OK. So, we need to "healthy it up" some more in this house. Isaac has this thing with food. He may absolutely love something for months and then all of a sudden he hates it. I'm like, "Yesterday you loved it." And he's like, "Yeah, well, I'm tired of it now." That's the phase we're in right now. He complains we have nothing to eat in this house. Everything I mention he suddenly doesn't like. This is a tad on the frustrating side. He's great about eating veggies, though. It's amazing the variety of veggies that he'll eat. Things like squash, zucchini, asparagus, peppers... And he wants onions on everything. He actually likes to eat them raw. He was eating whole onions straight out of the garden this summer. Gross. Fruit is another story. He pretty much only likes apples. Once again, that depends on his mood.

The one things that he's into right now (for how long is a mystery) is pancakes for breakfast. I had been buying those boxes of frozen pancakes that you pop in the microwave. But I ran across this recipe for pancake mix the other day and we tried it this morning. He actually liked them much better. Yay! What I liked about this recipe is that it makes a smaller quantity than the others I have tried. I have 1 kid - so why do I really need to make 48 pancakes? I swapped whole wheat flour for the regular flour to at least get some fiber in there. Then I took some fruit I had on hand and made a sauce for the pancakes instead of syrup. Still trying to get some fruit in his diet. I thought it was good. He didn't like it. He said it was too sour and sweet. What does that mean? Anyway, I'm going to keep fooling around to find a fruit sauce he'll eat. Any input on that would be appreciated, by the way. I thought I'd share the recipes in case anyone else is interested.

Whole Wheat Pancakes: (Makes 4 cups mix)
3 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir, using a whisk, to thoroughly combine. Transfer to a clean, dry canister fitted with an airtight lid. Store for up to 3 months.
To make pancakes:
Heat a griddle over high heat. Place 1 cup mix in a medium mixing bowl. Beat 1 egg, 1 tablespoon melted butter, 1/2 cup *buttermilk, 1/2 cup milk, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla together and stir into the dry mix until just combined. Let the mixture rest for 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Lightly brush the griddle with canola oil or butter. Pour 13 cup batter for each pancake, leaving 2 inches between each one. Cook until bubbles form on the pancake surface and the underside is golden, about 5 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook until golden, about 2 more minutes. Makes six 4-inch pancakes.

*Note: I didn't have buttermilk so in a pinch you can make your own like I did. Just add a 1/2 tsp. white vinegar to the 1/2 c. milk that is supposed to be buttermilk.

Fruit Sauce:
I simply used what I had on hand. I put a can of apricot halves in light syrup in a pot over medium heat (syrup and all). I added a handful of frozen peaches and about 7 blackberries. I added about a teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of ginger, and 2 teaspoons of sugar. I brought this to a boil. Then continued to simmer until the fruit was really soft. Lastly, I smashed it all up with a potato masher. This is what actually made it into a sauce.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tomato Troubles

Saturday night my husband and I went out with some friends of ours for a night of dinner and bowling. They wanted to take us to this really good Mexican joint in Kokomo. Somehow, during the course of the conversation one of our friends told us that she used to work for this tomato processing plant here in town. They pack for EVERYONE, except either Hunt's or Heinz (sorry I can't remember) and Contadina. She told us that we would be absolutely amazed and horrified at some of the stuff that came down the line and got into the tomatoes. Things like snakes, frogs and rats. The really icky part is that the government actually allows a certain amount of that stuff to be in there. Evidently the tomato fields are graded according to quality. Also, the best tomatoes go to better companies and the tomatoes that aren't very good go to lesser companies. I just have to say that at this point I am about totally grossed out by canned food. I'm certainly not naive enough to believe that it would only be this way with tomatoes.

As if I wasn't already excited about the garden we finally were able to put out this past summer - I'm TOTALLY PSYCHED now! Oh, I am sooo thankful. I know that there are no critters or black tomatoes in the jars sitting in my cabinet right now. All the work and hours on my feet and back aches were worth their weight in gold to me at this moment.

Now, if you'll excuse me I have a few seed catalogs to go flip through!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Furniture Polish

I normally like to give my tip of the week on Fridays. I'm a couple of days late. Get over it! I'm not a really rigid routine person. What I am, though, is a mom on a mission. As I stated in one of my earlier posts "My Journey to Greener Cleaning" I am in search of as many safe, non-toxic ways to clean my house and take care of my yard and garden as possible. The bonus I seem to be finding is that not only do these safe remedies work as well as the chemical cleaners I had spent so many years and dollars on - many times they are more effective. And they are always much cheaper. Can somebody say halelujah?!

What you'll start to pick up on is the fact that most of the products I write about will usually be some formulation of the same handful of ingredients. It will be easy to whip up a batch of whatever cleaner you need because it will probably already be in your pantry.

Today I want to share my new favorite furniture polish.

In a clean spray bottle mix olive oil and lemon juice. I have one source that says 2 parts oil to 1 part lemon. I have another source that says 2 parts lemon to 1 part oil. So, I figure it doesn't really matter. You can even use a 50/50 mix of the two. The same results are going to be accomplished. Simply shake the bottle up to mix them and spray away. Wipe down with a soft, dry cloth. The citric acid from the juice will gently dissolve dirt (and the dull residue from commercial dusting sprays) while the oil prevents the wood from drying out. It also leaves a beautiful shine.

By using this furniture polish you'll end up with beautiful furniture and healthier family. Not a bad trade-off in my book.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Indiana Winter Poem

IT IS FREAKIN' COLD OUTSIDE! Chris just left for work and called to share that is 16 degrees below zero. That's without factoring in the wind chill. God only knows how cold that makes it feel like. God and the weatherman, actually. And people who caught the weather report this morning. OK. So maybe I'm the only one who doesn't know that information. That's not the point. My point is it hasn't been this cold in years. It's dangerous cold. It is sooo cold that they cancelled all the schools around here. Aaah, but the beauty of home school... We still get to have school today because we don't have to leave the house. So, we'll keep it our little secret that everyone else has the day off today. That will keep the protests down from my little darling.

Now that you know what we're dealing with in this part of country, (as if you never watched the news) (or live here yourself) I would like to share a little poem that my dear Mother-in-law emailed me yesterday. This is in honor of the Arctic blast we are experiencing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Indiana Winter Poem
It's Winter in Indiana
And the gentle breezes blow
Seventy miles an hour
At twenty-five below.
Oh, how I love Indiana
When the snow's up to your butt,
You take a breath of Winter
And your nose gets frozen shut.
Yes, the Winter here is wonderful
So, I guess I'll hang around.
I could never leave Indiana
'Cause I'm frozen to the ground!!
- Unknown Author

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Snow Ice Cream

This has been a pretty strange winter this far. We had about 3" of snow dumped on us as soon as the calendar switched to December. It didn't last too long before melting. Every since then, every weather maker we've had has failed to bring us any snow to speak of. Ice has been the precipitation of choice. Until yesterday that is.

When I woke up yesterday it was already snowing and didn't stop until late yesterday evening. It was beautiful! Huge, white, fluffy petals were floating down from the sky only to leave a shimmering blanket of white diamonds on the ground. What a Winter Wonderland!

So, in honor of God's frigid splendor, (And I do mean frigid. It was 6 degrees below zero when Chris left for work this morning. And that was without the windchill factor.) I decided to add a recipe for Snow Ice Cream. This is a blast for the kiddies. This recipe belonged to my Mamaw Shepherd.

Snow Ice Cream:
1 c. milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ c. sugar

Beat well until frothy. Place mixture in a large bowl and add enough clean, fresh snow until the liquid is completely absorbed.

For those of you who aren't fortunate enough to live someplace cold enough to indulge in this seasonal delight - let me just say, "So sorry for ya!" It's really yummy and a whole lot of fun!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

From Sentimental to Sensational!

When my son was just a wee little lad he had this intense love for all things Winnie the Pooh. Actually, this love of a yellow bear lasted until just a few years ago. Thank God that's over! Don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't like Winnie the Pooh, and Tigger, too, BUT, you can only watch so many episodes through the years (or hear the songs, or answer the what if questions pertaining to such said bear) before you want to pull some hair out. Not only did we have all of the videos, but we also had every stuffed character from the Hundred Acre Wood, the bedroom wall posters, and the clothing.

That brings me to the topic of today's blog. Isaac had this Winnie the Pooh shirt that he loved so much that he insisted on wearing it way past the stage where he had outgrown it. I finally had to put my foot down and insist that he was too big to be wearing it any longer. What a heartbreak. To soften this horrible blow I had inflicted, I promised my beloved child that I would make it into a pillow. This would be keepsake that he could treasure forever without wearing it like he was sporting "Fashions by Jethro".

It has taken me a long time to follow through on this promise. But, alas...the promise has been fulfilled. Today I took this little red t-shirt, cut it down, sewed the front and back pieces together (right sides facing) while leaving a 3" opening for the stuffing. I then turned it right side out and stuffed away with fiberfill. To finish this transformation all I had to do was slip stich the opening shut and ....viola. From tiny tee to priceless pillow!

I am happy to announce that my darling little dude thinks his new pillow is just way too cool.

This is an easy way to save your little ones precious clothing that either they or you can't bear to get rid of.

Now, if I can just get inspired enough to tackle the new pillows for the sofa. Hmmm.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Another Spider Story

Once upon a time my husband, Chris, and I moved to central Florida to be youth pastors. One of our youth had been in a terrible jet ski incident which left him immobile and in traction for quite some time. He was sent home from the hospital with a hospital bed and traction contraption (say that 10 times). When we went to his house to visit him we had to wait in the kitchen for a few minutes before we could go in and see him.

We hadn't been in Florida for very long at this point and was admiring the wall decorations and contemplating how people decorate so differently in the Sunshine State than they do in the north. It was very common where we came from to have Home Interior pictures hung with sconces and plaques of birds or butterflies. Chris was intrigued by the fact that Crackers also hang plaques of spiders with their pictures, too. I say this because, right in the middle of the pictures was hanging a spider plaque at least the size of your fist. Two legs facing the head. Two legs facing the rear. So life like. Interesting. So interesting that Chris decides to reach out and touch it...

It wasn't a plaque. It was a real, live, mutant, monster of a spider! What the heck do they feed these things down here?! It's so big you could ride it! They don't grow spiders that big in the Midwest. These were all thoughts that instantaneously ran through our skull caps.

As Spidey scurries on up the wall 'cause he don't really like bein' manhandled - my big, strappin', 6'1", muscular, hunk of husband turns into a 5 year old little girl. He's screaming and jumping around these people's kitchen while jerking not too unlike an epileptic fit. It was really a moment to make a woman proud. Oh, yeah, that's my husband. I was just glad I wasn't the Yankee who decided to pet the puppy. OK, it wasn't a puppy. It was a spider, but puppy sounded better. Don't ya think?

Anyway. That was one more of our many adventures with creepy, crawly things in the good old Sunshine State. They grow critters down there that are larger than most household pets in Hoosier Land. Let's just say that was a lesson for us both that was well learned.

Maybe There Is Hope For Our Library!

I had written a little while back about going to our public library in search of Captain Underpants. They had none. Well, actually, they had 2 books, but both were missing. Bummer. So, yesterday they called me and said they had found one of them and we could come pick it up. When I got there the dear Children's Department librarian apologized to me for the fact that the book was in such poor condition. She then assured me that she had ordered a new copy. She told me that our library had such a poor selection of books for boys my son's age and that when she made the order to replace the Captain Underpants book they had held for me she found out that there was an entire, huge series. She ordered them all! Every book! She said that they'll be on the shelves within 1 to 2 weeks and we'll get first dibs on them. Whoo Hoo! I feel a laugh-a-thon coming on!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ham and Black Bean Soup and Cornbread

OK. Are you ready for the new recipe of the week? Guess what it is. Drum roll please... Yes. Another soup recipe. I promise one day I'll do something different. But I told you we eat a lot of soup in the winter in Indiana. It's good to have a variety so meal time doesn't become boring.

This recipe comes from the Prism Weight Loss Program Cookbook. (Another one of my failed diet attempts.) Still, it has some wonderful recipes that we eat often enough. This recipe is intended for the microwave, which I have successfully done. But, since my microwave is a smaller model that we've had for over a decade, the stove works just as quickly for me.

The cornbread recipe is the one my family has made for generations. It isn't an exact science, so you can't really mess it up. The key is the skillet. It has to be really hot before you add the cornbread mix.

Ham and Black Bean Soup:

1 c. canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 c. spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 c. beef broth
1 tsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
8 oz. cubed lean ham (you can buy this all ready to go in the meat dept.)
2 tsp. butter
1/2 c. onion, chopped
1/2 c. celery, sliced
1/4 c. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. dried thyme

In a 3 quart casserole microwave, on HIGH, butter for 40 seconds. Add onion, celery, and garlic. With vented cover, microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes, stirring once. Add broth, tomato paste, beans, and thyme. Microwave on HIGH for 4 minutes, stirring twice. Add ham, spinach, and Parmesan cheese. Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes, stirring once.

Makes 4 servings at 156 calories and 5 grams fat each. *Note - I always double this recipe.


Pour a thin covering of oil, lard or tallow in the bottom of an iron skillet (or one that can with stand temperatures to 500 degrees Fahrenheit). Place in the oven and then pre-heat to 450 degrees. This will allow the pan and oil to get really hot while the oven is pre-heating.

This next part is where you can play with it. You want to place 2 parts white cornmeal to 1 part flour in a bowl and stir together. (The amount you use depends on the size of your skillet. I make more when I am feeding a crowd and using my 10" skillet than I do when I am feeding my family and using my 6" skillet. You'll get a feel for how much you need as you make it.) Add 1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. salt and a heaping tsp. of baking powder. Stir together. When the oven signals that it has pre-heated add enough buttermilk to the cornmeal and flour mixture to make it the consistency of cake batter. Immediately pour it into the hot skillet (1/2 - 2/3 full) and bake until it is golden brown on top (about 20 minutes). Again, this may be a little longer if you're making a big pan of it.

When it's done run a butter knife around the edges to loosen it from the sides and bottom. Flip it out onto a dinner plate. The bottom will become the top. Slice into wedges. Split each wedge in half and spread with butter.

Note:  To make this gluten-free, substitute g-free all-purpose flour for the regular flour.

It may sound intimidating because there aren't exact measurements. But it's truly one of the easiest things to make. Once you get the hang of the basic recipe you can also add in corn, jalapenos, cheddar cheese, sugar (if you like a sweet cornbread), or anything of your choosing. My husband also likes to eat the plain cornbread at the end of his meal with jelly spread on it as a kind of dessert.

From my family to yours - I hope you give it a try.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Scrub Away!

For this installment of my tip of the week I want to share my favorite face and body scrub. It's so simple, so cheap (whoo hoo!) and is gentle enough to work on your face as well as your legs and elbows.

I make this in a small lock-n-container and keep it right in the shower.

The basic recipe goes as follows: Add enough lemon juice to table sugar to make a thick paste. Then add a little bit of olive oil. Stir together. That's it. The sugar exfoliates. The lemon cleanses. The oil moisturizes.

You can make variations of this depending on what you have on hand. I will sometimes add a little bit of honey in addition to oil. It's good for your skin, too. You can also add kosher salt to the sugar mix. If you were really feeling froggy you could add a few drops of your favorite essential oil - but watch out around your eyes.

Happy scrubbing!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Momma's cleanin' house!

Isaac has been a little under the weather this week. His bed is also between 2 windows on the opposite side of the room from the heat vent. So, I figure I'll just wheel in there and move his bed to the other side of the room - away from the cold windows and closer to the heater. Right?

Well, that sounds good. But... Do you have one of those rooms in which the very sight of it immediately raises your frustration level and your blood pressure? That would be Isaac's room for me. It's not that he doesn't clean it. He does. It has more to do with the fact that he is a pack-rat and keeps everything. That is compiled by the fact that he doesn't have adequate storage in there yet. It's still a new (to us) house and Daddy hasn't had the time to make all of the built ins we have planned for his kickin', awesome (some day) room.

So, Momma's cleaning house! I decided it was high time to go in there and tackle it myself. I told Isaac that I was cleaning his room and everything I felt like getting rid of was going in the trash. He was amazingly cool with that. He had actually thrown away 4 trash bags full of garbage a few days ago. Yes, you read that right. 4 bags of trash. I added 2 more to that pile today. Are we the only pathetic household that deals with this on a semi-routine basis?

After all was said and done - the room is emptied of useless waste, shelves are reorganized, furniture is rearranged and much more conducive to winter sleeping arrangements, and I have a sense of calm when I enter the kiddie zone. An added bonus is that Isaac LOVES it. Go figure!

Now, if it would only stay that way.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My Husband Rocks - Furniture!

I found out about this "My Husband Rocks" deal over at Journey to a Gracious Woman and just had to get in on it. My hubby always Rocks, but sometimes he just flat blows me away. Monday night on his way home from work he called to tell me he was bringing me a present. YAY! I LOVE PRESENTS! He shows up with a solid cherry wood bedroom set! The bed has both a head board and foot board. Plus there is a chest of drawers and a dresser with the big mirror that goes on top. Let me just say it one more time. My husband rocks!

Dog Breath - The Horrible Trouble With Hally Tosis

Jessie at Overflow of a Forgiven Soul had given a great review about the Captain Underpants books not long ago. You should check it out . Well, we're always up for a good laugh around our house so we went off to the library in search of Captain Underpants. Unfortunately, that was a bust. But we did strike gold in the form of another book. "Dog Breath - The Horrible Trouble With Hally Tosis" is a comic genius written by Dav Pilkey. Not only is the book written extremely well, but the illustrations added to the "bring the house down" laughter. Dav also happens to be the author of the Captain Underpants books. After listening to my eight year old squealing out loud with shrieks of uncontrollable laughter, I can't wait to find more books by this witty author.

Delightful Cookbook

Yesterday I mentioned a great recipe out of one of my favorite cookbooks. Today I want to give a little shout out about the book itself, Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook. This cookbook is one of the better ones I have bought. It is packed with recipes that we would actually eat (pretty novel, eh?). I haven't met a cookbook that has tons of recipes that I use regularly, but this one has quite a few.

Let me share some of our favorites. The Dijon-Herb Marinade makes chicken breasts so tender , juicy and full of flavor that I feel it personally rivals Carrabba's. The Rosemary Chicken with Wild Rice, Monterey Jack Turkey Burgers (yummy), Maryland Crab cakes and of course the soup I mentioned yesterday are just a sampling. What I love is that these are easy and relatively quick to prepare recipes with ingredients that you probably already have or can easily get your hands on. And who doesn't love that? Even if you don't do Weight Watchers (I don't), it's just plain, good, food that is good for you and your family.
I haven't tried many of the recipes, yet, but am looking foreward to experimenting with many more. I definitely recommend adding this cookbook to your culinary library (sounds fancy, don't it?) or at least checking it out from your local library. Happy (and healthy) cooking!


Monday, January 5, 2009

Slow-Cook Tuscan Sausage-and-Bean Soup

Well, it's time once again for the recipe of the week. I want to share another one of my family's favorite soup recipes since that is what we seem to eat a lot of this time of year. This one comes from Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook (which is a fabulous cookbook, by the way) and rivals any soup I've ever eaten in a restaurant where flavor is concerned. It's also made in a crock pot, which is always a bonus in my book.

Slow-Cook Tuscan Sausage -and-Bean Soup

12 oz. turkey kielbasa (or smoked sausage), cut into 1/4" thick rounds.
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 medium bunch kale, chopped (about 4 cups)
3 cups fat-free low-sodium chicken broth
1 (15.5 oz.) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15.5 oz.) can great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 oz.) can Italian seasoned diced tomatoes
1/2 cup dry red wine or water
1 tsp. dried basil

In a slow cooker, place the kielbasa, garlic, onion, carrot, celery, kale, broth, kidney beans, great Northern beans, tomatoes, wine, and basil. Stir to combine. cover and cook on low until the vegetables are tender, 8-10 hours. *Note: To make the chopping go much quicker, I throw the garlic, onion, and carrots in the food processor with the Italian tomatoes to break up the chunks. Also, if you don't have 8-10 hours for this to cook, assemble it at lunchtime and cook it on high instead of low.

This is delicious with a big salad and crusty French bread. I live in a small town and the fresh French bread can be hard to find. Pillsbury makes it in a tube that is found with the biscuits. It is delicious and no one is ever the wiser.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hope for the Future

It seems that the older I get the quicker each year goes by. I hear this is pretty common. So, as we've entered another year on the calendar, I've been thinking about it's significance some. Every New Year's Eve is quite a big deal. Technically, it's really no different than any other day. One Winter's day flows into the next. But psychologically there is something very different about it. At the stroke of midnight we don't just change days. We enter a new year, sometimes a new decade, and for the fortunate few of us in history that get to experience it, a new century or millennium as we did in 2000.

As I've been pondering what the big deal is I've realized that starting a new year symbolizes a fresh start. No matter what happened in the previous year - how many diets we stopped and started, how many resolutions we broke, how many times we blew it and fell down - the slate is wiped clean. We get a fresh start when the calendar changes over. We are optimistic at the prospects of what the new year holds. We are filled with hope for the future. That's a beautiful thing.

The more I've thought about this though, I realized something. As a Christian, every day is like New Year's. My heart is flooded with scriptures that confirm this.

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. - Lamentations 3:22-23".

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! - 2 Corinthians 5:17".

" 'In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.' I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. - 2 Corinthians 6:2".

"I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. - Isaiah 43:25".

"For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
- Psalm 103:11-12".

How exciting is that? I don't have to wait for New Year's Day to start fresh and new. I can live every day that way. What happened yesterday is history. Heck, what happened 5 minutes ago is history. No wonder God told us to always be rejoicing. That's something to really get excited about.

So, as I enter 2009 I resolve to make no resolutions. LOL! Really, the only thing that I am going to focus on this year (day by day by day) is spending time with my Father and letting Him fill me with His love and hope that every day is going to be the best day of my life. And no matter how many times I fall, I know that He's there to keep helping me back up. All I really need to do is stay on the wheel and all these resolutions that I have failed so miserably at in the past will automatically begin to fade away as I am changed into His image. I think I can handle that!