Thursday, January 31, 2008

Well, if it won't stop...

We figured we might as well come up with something creative to do with all the snow since it won't stop falling. This is what we came up with...
Hope you're enjoying the weather wherever you are! : )

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Will it ever stop?

It's been snowing here for days it seems. In reality, we got 12" in 24 hrs and it's been snowing off and on ever since. This makes things a little tough out at the future homestead site...
We're running out of room to put the snow, especially along the 1/4 mile driveway. If it doesn't stop soon, we won't be homesteading until summer! =O

The kids are so excited they can barely contain themselves, though. All they see is the fabulous sledding hills!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Menu Monday

Well, this should actually be called Menu Tuesday, since I'm a day behind, but here it is anyway...

Monday -- finally made that Lemon Chicken with homemade Egg Rolls, yum-o!!
Tuesday -- Baked Potato Bar
Wednesday -- Leftovers before church
Thursday -- Date Night with hubby (kids will be at Grammy's for a week)
Friday -- probably Date Night leftovers... who can eat all the food they give you at restaurants these days?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Looking for a project...

With the bonnet's done, I'm eyeballing some yarn that I picked up the last time my mom was in town. It's soft, lucious, and warm. But... what to do with it?? I'm thinking of some sort of shawl, but don't know whether to knit or crochet it, use both yarns at simultaneously, or work some sort of color pattern.

Lest you think that I've found the Fountain of Time (who really cares about the Fountain of Youth?), this is to keep my hands busy while listening to audio Bible and books for my quiet time in the morning. I hear things much better if my hands are busy, and stumbled across this method of working/listening a while ago. Very Shaker-like: Hands to Work, Hearts to God.

Plus there's something special about having things around the house that I've made while listening to Bible teaching, all I have to do is look at a piece and all the memories of what I learned while working on it come flooding back. I suppose it's kind of like having my kids draw pictures while listening to the books I read aloud for school. When they tell me about the picture, the story we were reading is all woven in, even if the picture wasn't directly from the story. The complexity of the mind is truly a mystery!! Glory to God!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bonnet Tutorial

We're in the middle of the Prairie Primer for school this year. If you've never heard of it, it's a unit study-type curriculum based on all of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Well, my girls have been aching for their own bonnets. My search for some sort of free pattern online was mostly fruitless, and so I got the crazy idea that if I figured out how to make them on my own I could do a tutorial. So, you're all my guinea pigs. Let me know if I missed anything, if anything's unclear, or just what you think...

Step One:
Cut out one crown piece (7"x14" rounded, with long side on the fold), two brim pieces (3.5"x9" rounded, with short side on fold), and two brim pieces of interfacing cut the same as the brim pieces (med weight works fine). Note: The photo of interfacing shows them unfolded.

Step Two:
Iron your interfacing to your brim pieces

Step Three:
Stich brim, right sides together, leaving long straight edge open. Clip the corners, then turn brim right side out and iron 1/4" to 1/2" hem to the inside of the long open edge. This will to be to sandwich the gathered crown edge in before topstitching later. Note: It's a bit stiff at this point so you may have to pin the ironed hem while it cools to hold it in place.

Step Four:
Unfold crown and stich hem on the bottom (neck hem). If you want to put a neck piece on to shade the neck, do that instead.

Step Five:
Baste the unhemmed edges of crown. Your basting should go from one end of the neck hem up and around the curve and back down to the other end of the neck hem. Pull basting so that the circumference of the crown equals the length of the brim. The photo shows how to check that measurement with both items folded in half.

Step Six:

Once you've got your basting pulled to the correct length, tie off the ends (I use slipknots) so it doesn't scoot. Note: In this photo you can see the finished neck hem from Step Four.

Step Seven:

Pin brim to crown, sandwiching the gathered crown edge between your ironed brim hem. You will use lots of pins to hold it in place. It should look something like this when you're done...

Step Eight:

Sew along the brim where it meets the crown. Not too close or you'll lose the brim piece underneath in places. I stitch from the top because that's the part you'll see when you're done.

Step Nine:

Add strings for tying. These can be fabric, ribbon, or whatever works for you. I handstitched some grosgrain ribbon on this one because it's faster than the machine work. It turned out like this:

Plus, I don't know if you can see it in that photo, but I added some elastic in the back of the neck so it wasn't so gappy, like this:

Well, that's it. How did I do? Did I miss anything or explain something poorly? It sure was easy to make, and now my other daughter is clamoring for her own, so I should go start on that one.

Garden Planning

With our move-in date closing in I am confronted with two things. Packing and garden planning. Since I can't stand thinking about the former, lets talk about garden planning shall we? Here is a photo of the most reasonable garden plot near the house. If you can see that stick in the middle of the photo, that's the back line of our property. You can't see the house, but it's under construction off to the right side and a little behind me.

So, as you can see, I'm starting from absolute scratch. Except for the assumption that this was once pasture land back in the 70s, it hasn't been touched since. It'll obviously need some amending, and raised beds with row covers will probably be the most practical as we get a fair amount of wind through our place.

Garden planning is so much fun, but I am known by my family as one who dreams big and gets overwhelmed, so I'm thinking of sticking to a "tomato sauce" garden my first year. I figure if I can put up enough tomato sauce to last us the year it'll save us at least $15/month. So, I'm planning on 20-25 tomato plants, a row of bell peppers, and lots of basil. Anything else will be extra. So, who has lots of gardening experience that could offer wisdom on tomatoes and such? My family always did lots of gardening while I was growing up, but it's been a while since I gardened for anything other than fun. Who has tried and true tomato varieties? Favorite tomato sauce canning methods? Lemme have 'em!!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Menu Monday

My menu for the week is still a little up in the air as I've been sick and haven't been shopping for over a week. But in the interest of purposeful grocery shopping and managed meal planning, here goes...

Monday -- Tacos with all the fixin's
Tuesday -- Chili Dogs
Wednesday -- Nachos with leftover taco stuff
Thursday -- Spaghetti, Salad and Garlic Bread
Friday -- Amy Jo's Lemon Chicken with Rice and Egg Rolls

Mmmm... can't wait to try Amy Jo's Chicken recipe, we are big fans of lemon chicken around here, but I've never tried to make it at home. I'll let you know how it goes!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Dreaming of Chickens

While tucking Curlylocks (4yodd) into bed last night we were doing some homestead dreaming. We're less than 2 months away from finishing our home on 10ac, and we're all getting excited about homestead plans. So, she told me that she wants lots of chicken. I told her of course we'll have chickens, and what colors of chickens was she thinking of having? Her immediate answer was "pink"! While explaining to her that there aren't really "pink" chickens, but there are some that are sort of light reddish-brown, all I could think of was the dyed chicks that are all the rage in the city at Easter. Who would think of doing that to a chicken??? Or a rabbit, 'cause I've seen those too!?!

Well, then she began listing off all of the actual colors of chickens she wanted and I learned just how much she pays attention when we're at my folks, or at the feed store, or looking through chicken books. She had them all. "All black, whitish yellow, brown-y red, tiny spotted, stripey, and the ones with the puff-balls on their heads." A pretty complete list if you ask me!

Now the adventure begins to plan for a chicken coop. Anyone have good pointers on chicken coops, or know of good coop designs? We can make do for the spring/summer, but come fall, we'll need something substantial for them to live in as we'd like to keep getting eggs as long as possible before winter. Any tips?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Forgiveness, and lots of it!

Reading this morning in the book of Nehemiah, I was struck once again with how much God forgives. Not just once or twice, but over and over and over and... you get the idea. Chapters 8 and 9 list out the number of times that Israel demonstrated their disobedience and stiff-neckedness, and how God was listening every time they came to repentance and called upon Him for salvation from their current mess.

How thankful we should be that He hasn't changed! I shudder to think of my list of stiff-neckedness, but rejoice in all of the subsequent forgiveness. We truly serve a God of unfathomable love!!

Recently our pastor spoke on forgiveness, and we also spoke of a forgiving kind of love at our mom's group last week. As children of God we have such a huge responsibility to demonstrate forgiveness to the world. Yet, why is it that Christians as a whole are often seen as judgemental and critical of everyone around them, including those that we are supposed to be introducing to Christ?? It's no wonder that people label Christians hypocrites!

I confess I need to be better at forgiving. I am better at forgetting, but that is not true forgiveness. Neither is overlooking the situation at hand. Yet I am often guilty of these. Especially when I am afraid of offending whomever I'm with. How do we find a Christ-like balance when dealing with people that need to be confronted with something? When dealing with brothers and sisters in Christ the rules are very clear, because they are held to the same standard. But, when it's someone that is unfamiliar with right living how do we strike a balance between showing them what is right without coming across as condemning?

Christ showed nothing but compassion for those that were struggling with sin, unless they were proud and unrepentant. Yet, He was able to get across to them on such an amazing level. I've been doing some reading on the "Socratic Method" of evangelism, which approaches things much as Christ did. Using questions, instead of statements, which cause the listener to self-examine, rather than feel attacked. Here are a couple of sites that explain this method...

The Barna Group
The Cultural Commission

We are called to be salt and light to the world, not salt in the wound and a spotlight. My prayer is that as we are exposed to those around us that need God's love, that we are able to demonstrate His compassion first, and His instruction for right living second.

Friday, January 11, 2008

First I'll Be A Mother...

I'm still thinking about my isolation post from yesterday and chewing on what else I am to learn about hospitality and such. I remembered a poem I saw years ago and thought it was very applicable to my current state of mind...

Our Home
Some houses try to hide the fact that children shelter there
Ours boasts of it quite openly, the signs are everywhere
For smears are on the windows, little smudgies on the door
I should apologize I guess for toys strewn on the floor
But I sat down with the children and we played and laughed and read
And if the windows do not shine, their eyes will shine instead
For when at times I'm forced to choose the one job or the other
I want to be a housewife, but first I'll be a Mother.

This seems to embody a common struggle for many of us. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating caring for your children at the expense of being a Godly wife, being a good homekeeping rolemodel, etc. It's just that I think often my kids see me strictly as a "manager" of our home and not a "mom". Does that ring true for anyone else? How do we find that balance? I was reading in a newsletter recently that the largest impact a mom had on her grown son was the simple fact that she was *there*. Not meaning emotionally available, or supportive, but physically *there*. Are we being careful to be physically there for our children, or do we operate on the principle of "Well, they're being quiet so I'll leave them alone and do what I want to do."

Again, don't get me wrong, I do this... often! But, I was given pause to think the other day when I sought out my kids and they were all playing nicely with the dollhouse. When I sat down and joined in, they were shocked! They didn't know I knew how to play dollhouse so well. And as I thought about it, I realized that I have pretty much counted on siblings to play with siblings, where as I was an only child for a long time and my folks played with me a lot because I had no one else.

So, I'm looking for balance. I know we shouldn't seek to be our children's everything because then they have no need for God, and we need to be modeling healthy marriages and habits, but how can we be careful not to lose what it is to be a true mother in the midst of it all? It's often easier to be the "manager", but somehow I don't think there are grown children out there saying, "Gosh, the thing I remember most about my mom is how regular she was at cleaning the bathroom. It's had such a positive impact on my life."

Any fellow balance seekers out there? Anyone already attained that balance that would like to shed light on the process? I'd enjoy hearing some success stories or some "not to do's" if you have them.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Why do we feel the most isolated, when we are the most "connected" that we have ever been?? This was one of the questions posed at the mom's group that I attended Tuesday. Our culture is more wired up (internet, Cable TV, cell phones, text messages, etc.) than ever before, yet we are more lonely, depressed, and isolated than ever. This is something that eats at me and weighs on my heart. Whatever happened to just stopping over for coffee? Why do we feel the need to call ahead to each others homes before visiting, and are afraid to just swing by? I'd just like to go on the record as saying that I rather enjoy unexpected visitors. It shows me that they are there to see me and not my home, they expect me to be in the middle of things and don't mind helping or tagging along, and it teaches me to be flexible, welcoming, and patient.

Our lives are so scheduled now that we leave no room for the unexpected. Where will this leave us at Christ's return? Scripture says that we know not the hour of his arrival. When it comes, will we be found waiting and watching for Him, or will He find us stuck in our schedules, kids obligated to everything age-appropriate, too busy to take time out for coffee with a lonely neighbor who just "stopped by". I know that I don't want that to be me, but I'm confronted with how little I'm doing to keep that my focus. I often don't invite other moms over because the house is a wreck or I feel like I've fallen behind in schooling the kids, or a hundred other reasons. No more!! I've decided that this trend in my immediate social circle won't change unless I take steps to change it for me. There's a great quote by Leo Tolstoy:

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.

Well, I'm starting with me! Life is too short to end up at 40 with no close friends to laugh with, cry with, celebrate with, struggle with, and all the other things that God created relationships for.

So, who's with me? I need a banner that reflects my resolve. "Unconditionally welcome", "Intentional hospitality", I don't know... those sound a little pretentious. Surely there are others of you that this issue speaks to who are more creative than I am. Any ideas for what the name of this movement should be?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Menu Monday

So, we had a couple of surprise events come up last week and so I'm recycling a few of my dinners as we never actually made them. Makes the mental job easier this week!

This week:
Monday -- Potato Soup and Rosemary Bread
Tuesday -- Stir-Fry, Rice, and homemade Egg Rolls
Wednesday -- Tuna Casserole and Salad
Thursday -- Leftover Soup (it's Homelink day)
Friday -- Homemade Pizza

Now, I'm big tuna casserole fan, but I found a recipe that I actually enjoy. It was originally on the back of the egg noodles from Safeway and I discovered it one time while looking for meal ideas, and it has lived in my recipe box ever since. Did you know that recipes on the back of products are almost always fantastic? Who knew? I guess they would want their product to taste good, so it makes sense. Anyway, here's the recipe:

Tuna Casserole
12oz egg noodles, cooked and drained
1 can cream of celery soup (or homemade equivalent)
3/4c milk
1c sour cream
1/4c chopped onion
1/4c chopped celery
1 can peas, drained (or use frozen)
1c cubed cheddar cheese
1 can tuna, drained

Combine soup, milk, and sour cream. Add in veggies, cheese, and tuna. Pour over noodles in pot, stir together, then pour into 3qt. baking dish. Bake, uncovered at 350 for 30 minutes. Sprinkle some cheese on top when finished and serve!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Integrity Update

Today's return went very smoothly, despite the long Saturday lines. The same folks were working the service counter, so they all gave me a befuddled stare as I approached the counter with two more sinks. After explaining the latest development in our sink adventure, they were convinced that I must have benefited from some kind of Post New Year's Eve Bash warehouse packing. We all made notes to make sure to place orders around the holidays in the future so as to benefit from this corporate syndrome. ;)

Alas, all good things must come to an end...

The very helpful gal explained that our safest bet was probably just to cancel the entire order and she issued us a refund in the form of a gift/cash card. We will use this to place a new order for the correct sink online. However, she said to wait and that if we were to get the correct sink in the next day or two to just bring back the cash card and she would give us actual cash and we'd chalk the whole thing up to customer service. So... maybe this isn't the end of this story... but I know two things for sure -- 1) my integrity is safely intact, and 2) that the service counter folks at our local warehouse store will forever call me "the sink lady"!! :)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Integrity for $200 please, Alex...

Ever been the accidental recipient of someone else's mistake? Did you just accept it as "good fortune" and move on, or did you make an effort to make sure everything was straightened out?

We received a shipment that was supposed to contain the simple, but elegant, hammered copper sink that we ordered for a bathroom in the home we're building (a splurge item, I admit). Much to my surprise, when I opened the box... correction, when I opened the box within the box, both of which were completely stuffed with those obnoxious styrofoam pellets. Grrrr, you know the ones... they get all static-y and you find them for days on end, hiding under all your furniture and stuck to your shirt, hair, and even the dog!

So, I open this box/puzzle and find two sinks. Hmmm, packing slip only says one, we were only charged for one. What gives? Well, after a brief thought of how nice a copper sink would look elsewhere in the house, I figure I ought to give the warehouse a call. So I do, and who picks up but someone that I know. Now I have no choice but to do the "right thing", right? Yes, I should return one at my earliest convenience... sigh... alright. I try to find solace in my sparkling integrity, while gazing ever so slightly longingly at the second sink.

Today I returned one sink, they all had a good laugh, were quite taken aback at my honesty (that's a really sad testimony of our culture, but I digress), and thanked me for taking the time. When I return home, we get another box that looks suspiciously like the one the two sinks came in. Hmmm. We open it up. Yes, indeed it's another sink although this one has a different design to it. We look at the packing slip. It's not our name. Ah-ha! Factory mix-up. No, wait... this person only ordered one sink like we did. Now we're dying with curiosity. An online search of sink styles from the warehouse reveals that the three sinks (2 in the first box - 1 of which I returned, and the 1 from the second box) are of two different designs, neither of which we or this other person ordered.

It seems we inadvertantly placed an order for one simple hammered copper sink from Random Copper Sinks-R-Us. So, back to the store we go, with one amazingly strange story... hope they think it's as funny as we do!

Update to follow...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Sick Day

What I'll be reading today... instead of taking kids to their once a week homeschool outreach classes. They're pretty bummed. This is the first day back after Christmas break and they've got all sorts of things to catch up on with friends.

Alas, Buttercup got the stomach bug last night and Dragon Boy was feeling a little warm as well. So far, Curlylocks seems to be holding her own, but hey, we always knew she was spunkier than the others! ; )

Guess that menu plan will be a-changing... crackers and toast all around!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

2008... Here we come!!