Sunday, January 27, 2013

Random Thoughts

We have been busy the past week.

Winter Sunrise

We got a second digital camera, so I've been playing with the new toy.  I'm super excited about the 30x zoom!  So hopefully in the next few months, I'll get a decent shot of the blue heron that hangs out in our backyard.  Now that we have two cameras it will be easier to teach hubby how to improve his picture taking technique and how to use all of the buttons and settings.

Wolf Moon

Deer In The Yard

We are teaching Pumpkin the value of money.  Not in the typical sense mind you, but more out of necessity of learning a hard lesson.  Pumpkin accidentally broke something, so now he needs to work off the money that it will take to replace the broken object.  So far Pumpkin has learned how to use the upright sweeper, learned how to mop the kitchen, and now knows how to clean a toilet.  I was of course with him every step of the way and sometimes had to re-clean behind him.  But to learn the lesson, and hopefully not repeat the incident, he needs to do it himself.  I have not been very successful in getting him to accomplish anything today, but we will work on picking up and vacuuming the sun room tomorrow.  At least the kitchen floor is gleaming.  

Learning To Vacuum

Learning To Mop

Oh, I finally got around to having a haircut.  I typically get it cut once a year in August, but ended up not getting around to it until now.  I decided a few weeks ago while watching Les Miserables at the movie theater with hubby that it needed to be cut.  Every time hubby tried to put his arm around my shoulder, he would yank my hair. Ouch!

Before (At Work)

After (At Home)

Just For Fun

Cleaning is still going very  S  L  O  W!  I have gotten through about half of the kitchen cabinets.  I have cleaned the window ledge.  The top of the refrigerator and the "catch it all" table still beckon me. 

We are getting ready for the kids birthdays.  Princess's is in six days and Pumpkin's is in nine days.  The kids have colored lunch sacks for the birthday party goody bags.  I have got the bags filled with goodies- juice pouch, gummies, and assorted treasures.  We have our cake mixes for both Saturday's party and taking cupcakes to Kindergarten next Tuesday.  Pumpkin wanted Scooby-Doo and Princess wanted Rapunzel, so we have some small party plates of both.  I also found plastic rings for both themes online, so each cupcake will be decorated with a ring (like the store bought cupcakes).

We had pork chop pizza for supper tonight.  Yummy!!!!!!  In high school dad taught me how to doctor up pizzas.  It is really simple to do . . . .

Pork Chop Pizza

Take and Bake Cheese Pizza
Leftover pork chops, chopped
green olives stuffed with garlic, sliced
mushrooms, sliced
shredded cheese
garlic salt
Italian seasoning
fresh shredded Parmesan cheese

Warm up the oven according to pizza's instructions.  Pile toppings on top.  Season to taste.  Bake in oven until crust is browned and cheese is melted (check pizza's instructions).

Enjoy your week!!!!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Where To Start?

I think I am in a funk.  Motivation to accomplish things while at home has completed disappeared.  There are so many things on my to-do list at home that I might just be buried under the ship, instead of going down with the ship.

I need to get a move on with my list because . . . . . In two weeks we have the kids joint birthday party.  And then there is a family reunion on my husband's side coming up in May, we were informed (not asked) by the hosting family member (who just happens to have the most immaculate house I have ever seen), that we would be showing our house off to out of town relatives sometime during the three day event.  Yikes!!!!!  No pressure of course, my husband's grandparents only built the house (in the late 30's early 40's) and most of those out of town family members have not been inside for over ten years.

Anyway here is my home to-do list that I need to chip away at.  Some are routine tasks and others are not:

- Sweeping, Vacuuming, Mopping: so very far behind on this.
- Dusting: Oh, can't tell you the last time I did that.
- The stove, oven, and refrigerator could really use some TLC.
- I don't know why, but I am terrible at remembering to clean the bathroom.  Maybe because half the time I am not wearing my glasses and I just cannot see how dirty it really is.
- Cleaning windows:  hahahaha, we still have one window that had cat nose smudges from our cat and she disappeared October 2008.
- Are we suppose to wipe walls down?  We have lived here since December 2004 and I have yet to do that.
- How often are we suppose to wash curtains?  
- Oh, just remembered I am behind on laundry again.  Sigh!  The chore that just keeps on giving. ;-)

- Clutter: It is everywhere and grows and multiples and it has babies that grow and multiple.  I really am not a pack rat!  It just seems that certain areas are safer to piles things away from the children.  Some of the piles are from before mom and grandpa died (2 1/2 years ago) and I am a bit apprehensive about what I might find in those piles.
- The kids rooms:  Toys everywhere!  And it is like pulling teeth to get them to give something up.  Of course we also have books everywhere.  I do need to start going through and weeding some of those out too. 
- The basement:  It really needs to be organized, it is a disaster area.  I'm not even going to describe that chaos.
- I so wish this house had more closets and cabinets.  I need to try to reorganize the kitchen.  I have kitchen stuff everywhere- the basement, the sun room, the great room and of course the kitchen.  If only the cabinets in the kitchen went all of the way to the ceiling.  Oh the extra space that is not utilized.

- We need to do some patching of a cracking area in the hallway ceiling outside the bathroom.
- Painting of most of the rooms (definitely a long term project).
- We need to fix some loose trim in the sun room.
- We definitely need a new garage door sometime this year.
- I would love to get new floor rugs for under the tables in the sun room and great room that are not shredding apart.
- A window in the sun room needs the outdoor trim work replaced.  Eek!  That will be an expensive one.
- I would love to have a new refrigerator, but that may have to wait a few years.  I think the duct taped on the door shelf will hold out a bit longer. 
- Oh to replace the lighting fixtures in the great room, that would be a blessing.  If we could get lighted ceiling fans it would really help with the air circulation in the core of the house.

I have came up with a outline game plan, but the trouble is finding the time and sticking to it.
January- Kitchen
February- Great Room
March- Sun Room
April- Bedrooms
May- Basement

Well wish me luck!!!!! Oh and if you see the cleaning fairy send her my way.  Thanks!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Oh What A Delight!

I just realized that I forgot to post the new cookie recipe that we tried during the Christmas season.  Oh what a delight it is to eat!  Besides Christmas, it would also be great for Valentine's Day.

Chocolate Chip- Almond- Cherry Cups
(recipe from Pillsbury cookbook)

1 roll (16 ox.) refrigerated chocolate chip cookies
1/2 cup almond paste, crumbled
1/2 cup dried cherries
1 jar cherry preserves
1 cup powdered sugar (plus a tad-bit extra for dusting)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
4 to 5 teaspoons milk


Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.    Grease 48 miniature muffin cups with shortening; lightly flour.  In large bowl, break up cookie dough.  With hands, knead in almond paste and dried cherries.  

Divide dough into 48 pieces. (I pressed the dough flat into bowl and cut into 8 sections, then made 6 balls per section)  Shape each piece into ball; place in muffin cup.  With thumb, make indentation in center of each.  (If you have a large thumb like me, use your pointer finger)  

Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are golden borwn.  Cool in pan on cooling rack 5 minutes.  Run knife around edge of cookie to loosen; cool 1 to 2 minutes longer.  Remove from muffin cups; place on cooling rack to cool.  

Spoon 1/2 teaspoon preserves into each cooled cup.  

In small bowl, mix powdered sugar, almond extract and enough milk for desired drizzling consistency; blend until smooth.  (I think I'll forgo the almost extract next time, was a bit too strong)  Drizzle over cookies; let stand until set, about 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Three Years

Saying three years really does not seem that long until you figure out that it adds up to 1,096 days or 26,298 hours.  Whoa!  Three years can be a long time at the start, but at the completion you wonder where time flew.  I am glad that the three years are over, but it has been a blessing too.  So what in the world am I talking about?

Well, I guess I should start at the beginning.  I have been raised off and on in the United Methodist Church.  Growing up I would attend church with my grandparents both during the two phases of my life that I lived with them and when I would have overnights at their house growing up.  When mom married husband number two, we moved out to the country and started going to a United Methodist church in the neighboring town where we attend school.  When my half sister was born we became occasionally members going from time to time, then it got to the point of not much at all.  In high school, one of my neighbors invited me to ride with her and her mom to an even closer United Methodist Church- my beloved country church. 

This church, in my heart and soul, will always be my home church.  It had no parking lot, it had no phone, and it had no mailing address.  I attend church there for twelve years and I was married in that church.  I loved the members; they were like extra sets of grandparents to me.  My Sunday school teacher was my rock when the going got tough.  This church was my foundation when at times I felt like my foundation was crumbling.  My beloved country church closed on June 30, 2006.  We only numbered sixteen members that last year.  There are no words to describe that last service as I carried the flame out of the church that day.  I was truly heart broken, although I was glad that my Sunday school teacher did not live to see that day.  I know that a church is not the building it is the people, but it was the last time we would all be together as a congregation.  Everyone spread to different congregations throughout the area.  Three of the sixteen have been buried since then.

Since my church closed we have attended a United Methodist church not far from our home, my grandparent’s church.  Those first three services were the roughest.  I was still heart broken over the loss of my church that I cried through those first few services.  It probably did not help that I was pregnant with Pumpkin at the time.  I really did not want to give another church a chance, I wanted my church back.  Change can be hard.  None of us are ready for change, but it can be good for us too.  Out of something we deem as bad God can create something wonderful, something life changing if we let Him.

So were does the three years come in?  Well hold your horses, I’m getting there.  In August or September 2009, I received a phone call from the church's nominations committee.  The voice on the other end of the line said that they would like for me to serve as a chairperson of one of the committees.  He thought I would be a good fit as the education chairperson or the pastor parish relations committee (pprc) chairperson.  Well I thought to myself, “I haven’t been very active in this church yet, so why not.”  I thought that I had picked the wiser move by saying I would rather be the pprc chairman over the education chairman.  I had served on the pprc at my country church, so I felt confidant that I knew what I was getting myself into.  Hahahaha.  Famous last words!  The voice on the other end of the phone said that it was a three year chairmanship and I would also need to attend the church council meetings too starting January 1, 2010.  I got off the phone thinking I can do this.  Hubby on the other hand was not too pleased with my decision and three year commitment.  But, I definitely think he his happy now that my three years are up.

You know sometimes God has plans for you that you can NEVER imagine.  I do believe that God had a reason for getting me into the mess I ended up being in.  And believe me it was a very rocky road at the beginning.  After I was announced as the chairperson at the fall charge conference, I had people coming up to me telling me that there was no way I could do the job, I wasn’t fit for it, I would never last, I was too young.  Then our pastor at the time had to leave, so a retired pastor was temporarily assigned by the conference until a replacement could be found.  Anyway, my three year term started a touch early.  The conference introduced us to a new pastor and his wife on one of the last evenings of December at a meeting just for the pprc.  I took one look at him and thought to myself, “We are getting Santa Clause for a pastor!”  He was assigned to start on February 1st.

Oh . . . . I could definitely tell when my chairmanship started.  I received at least two phone calls promptly on January 1st from the two most influential members of the church telling me what they thought I should know.  I had to learn fast how to juggle their different personalities of “chicken little” (the sky is falling) and “queen” (all must follow what I say) as they played tug and war back and forth.  You see I have a different perspective than most.  I believe that there are two sides to ever story.  So just what you see on the surface, may not really be what is true.  Of course when I had discussions with both, I would always check my facts before I acted instead of jumping right in.  “Chicken little” was my most daunting obstacle and I learned very quickly to check my caller id and that it was best to respond to an answering machine messages than a live call.  I was even once ambushed at daycare by “chicken little” on a mission.  (Please note: I do have quite a bit of respect for both of these members and they are both an essential part of our church, so I mean no disrespect for the descriptive names.  Both are really wonderful in their own right, both have worked to build up the church, both have done so much for the church, and both remind me of my dear Sunday School teacher.)

Now I did do a lot of good while chairperson of the pprc.  We had to find and reestablish the church’s misplaced mission statement.  We got a personnel policy written.  We got a sexual harassment policy written (as required by the conference).  We wrote a job description for the secretary.  We wrote a job description for the custodian.  We wrote a job description for the grounds keeper.  So I was a good choice to get the committee up to par in the respect of required paperwork.

So where does God come in?  Well I think the chairmanship was God’s way of helping me and supporting me and my family.  Pastor and his wife arrived on February 1st.  Within days Princess turned 1 and Pumpkin turned 3.  I organized both a welcome to the church potluck for the pastor on a Saturday with the kids’ birthday party on the following day.  On February 8th our world seemed to stop spinning at least for a while.  On that day we got the news that mom was terminal with stage four brain and lung cancer.  What a way to break our new pastor in!  He was great.  His wife was great.  It has been a blessing in disguise to be working with them for three years.   He said A LOT of prayers.

After pastor’s arrival in 2010: Pumpkin had his first ear tube surgery, we lost grandpa, we lost mom, my dad’s cancer returned, and my work load at work doubled with responsibility and stress.  In 2011, things evened out a touch but we had to hurdle a lot of firsts without mom and grandpa.  In 2012, we spent a lot of time at the hospital between two seriously ill family members, Pumpkin had his second surgery, and once again my work load at work increased as well as the stress.  Pastor and his wife have been a miracle in disguise.  They have been supportive.  They have been faithful.  They have given of their time and energy.  And they truly care about those in their church family.  They gave us strength when we had none.  They gave prayers to lift us up.

Over the past three years, I have become closer to God than I had in recent years.  I really felt connected during my years at my small country church and through my earlier years of college.  Once my Sunday School teacher past, I began to lose my way again.  Faith can be like a current, sometimes we remain close to our belief and other times we seem to drift away for a while but in the end we are pulled back by the one who loves us, God.  The more involved I seem to get with my church, the stronger my faith seems to grow too.  Although, I do miss having a church buddy, to check in with, to ask questions of, to get support from.

Anyway, I think that the tough times in life are sometimes there to remind us that we are not alone.  To remind us that God loves us.  For how can we enjoy the good, if we have not experienced the bad?  I am not saying that God created the bad, but he gives us the opportunity to choose how we will react to the curves that life throws us.  We have the choice to allow the bad to make us stronger or to allow the bad to destroy us.

I guess that I have rambled on enough.  I will close with the verse that has helped me so much over the past few years. 

Oh, how great are God's riches and wisdom and knowledge!
How impossible it is for us to understand his decision and his way!

~ Romans 11:33 ~

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Spectacular Spectacles

Princess got a new book for Christmas; Fancy Nancy: Spectacular Spectacles by Jane O'Connor.  This is our second Fancy Nancy book.  The first book (Fancy Nancy: Elegant Easter) was given to Pumpkin for Easter 2010 by my mom.  It was one of the last gifts that he received from her before she past away.  Mom seemed to have an usual fascination with the book.  Maybe it was a way to leave a special legacy for her grandkids.

Anyway, Princess seems quite taken with the book.  She begged me this evening to read her the book about the silver case and glittery glasses.  I can see the wheels turning as I read her the book.  I can see her saying "Hey, that is like me." She can see that glasses are special; glasses are useful; and most importantly glasses help. 

So to the story:  Fancy Nancy's best friend Bree is having problems with her eyes hurting so she visits the eye doctor.  Next time Fancy Nancy sees Bree she is wearing the most marvelous lavender glasses that glitter.  Besides the spectacular spectacles, Bree has a beautiful silver case and a silky hankie that is pink with purple polka dots to clean her glasses with. Fancy Nancy is so enamored with the glasses and apparel that she decides that she must need glasses herself.  So she tries various ideas to convince herself that she needs them.  Her all knowing mom, who also wears glasses, has a heart to heart with Fancy Nancy.  Fancy Nancy's mom tells her that she is a very lucky little girl because her eyes work so well.  Fancy Nancy's mom helps her to pretend by popping out the lenses from a pair of fancy sunglasses, so Fancy Nancy can be like her friend Bree.

The story is really cute.  It has a page where Bree tells her classmates about her visit to the eye doctor's office and about reading the chart of letters.  Princess even agreed, I can read small letters too with my glasses.  I think the last page is sort of neat.  It is called Fancy Nancy's Fancy Words and lists more advanced words found throughout the book and their meanings.  
     Here is that list: 
     Becoming- pretty  
     Challenging- hard
     Distressing- very upsetting
     Lavender- light purple
     Spectacles- eyeglasses
     Spectacular- great

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with a young child that wears glasses or wants to understand why a friend may have to wear glasses.  The author explains and uses the story to illustrate it in a way that makes sense to younger children as well as older.