Posted in Day in the life of a mom, painting, Ponderings about life, Quick Project, Uncategorized

A Year in Review

Here’s my recap of the year…plus my little acrylic cardinal in a gum tree painting I did (referencing a photograph I took some years ago to give as a gift this year.)

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How can it already be the tail-end of 2017?

This year was full of changes galore!

Aim resolved to ditch coffee at the start of the year

For happier hormones, then nixed even more:

Bye to gluten, artificial ingredients, sugar too…

Energy? Better…But FOOD?! What to do?

Enter electric pressure cooker: I heart you.

DH is supportive and eats the new fare,

But giving up coffee?  Not going there!

He will not part with that caffeinated drink

(Since it makes him nicer and helps him think.)

I’m thankful he brings home the bacon

Using his computeriffic brain.

If snickers and coffee are his worst vices,

I’ll not complain. 😉

Daddy and son make great knights

Protecting Queen-Her-Majesty-is-3 from any frights!

She likes to boss them, but they get the swords!

The dramatics are impressive

With grand fighting words!

Dances with Daddy, followed by boys jousting!

When it’s gotten too destructive,

Mom suggests books—not so rousing!

Son is enjoying pre-K up the road,

And readily does his homework load.

He loves art the most, and his friend Russ.

He likes his teacher, he tells us.

When he’s at home, he likes to build forts

Or read books about history and Star Wars.

This year our brave kid endured a sleep study

(lots of wires!) and had 2 surgeries, no less!

Little Miss is the busiest of all, our threenager girl,

Who talks all the time and loves to twirl.

She colors, sing-narrates each day

And has fashion opinions!

Pink is favorite; she wants more shoes;

You can’t have too many purses!

(This age is harder than twos!

So many emotions! Oy vey!

Yet so very humorous.)

Vacation was fun, to Cape May

Both Aunties with us!

Grandparents visited a bit later,

when we were in need—thankfully

Grandpa’s roofing expertise came in handy!

A busy summer indeed!

Other delightful visits we remember, too.

In 2018, we hope one will be from you

(here on this site)!

Now my attempt at rhymes concludes: We are thankful God made you as we count our blessings and wish you the peace that is sung about in the carol,

O holy night the stars are brightly shining!

It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

Till he appear’d… 

      For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  John 3:16

In all our trials —born to be our friend. Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Posted in DIY, Quick Project, saving money, Uncategorized

Old Vanity = New Window Seat!

We are remodeling our master bathroom and while I enjoy doing things the frugal way, I didn’t have the energy to paint or refinish the old vanity.  But then I had a hard time just taking it to the Re-store or tossing it away.  So I told my dad what I was thinking of for our living room: a storage window bench.  Dad is a can-do guy and can build basically anything Mom and I envision.  He used a circular saw to cut off the base sides and kick-board as well as the top drawer area, making it bench height.  Then he sawed the back 5 inches off to make it a narrower length from front to back; then we reattached a back.  We had a sturdy scrap of plywood for the top, which we glued and screwed on, and to which I upholstered this heavyweight fabric over an old blanket and batting.  It’s a great stash for the kids’ books and toys in baskets I found at Aldi.  (But the kids just want to hide inside it.)IMG_2415IMG_2416

*Update: We have moved states since this project, and it held up well and is now used as a shoe storage location near our exit for a tidy solution to kids’ shoes.  I simply put a two-tier shoe shelf inside.  I also keep a little hand broom and dustpan inside in case they track sand inside for quick cleanup.

Posted in Uncategorized

Wreath update

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I have a hard time throwing things away.  If I’m being creative with them, it’s not too much of a problem…like this blue-bird.  It had cute little wire feet, but it got knocked off the shelf and after a few glue-repair jobs that kept failing, I was regretfully considering actually putting it in the garbage.  I’m glad I thought to stick its peg legs in my moss wreath.  The wreath looked kind of sad and skinny without it.  I love the color and springy feel it lends.  The real robins have been nesting under my porch so it looks right at home in my wreath.

I did end up making that retro mint sink into a planter, but my seedlings are still sprouting and I haven’t replanted them so until I have it all planted I won’t post a pic.  But I’m excited about it.  🙂

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A Poem for my Son

No eating play dough!
No eating it in your chair.
And no eating it under there!
It may look like ice cream
But it is not.
And you’re no play-
dough-eating robot.
For the last time, I say!
We’re all done with play dough
If you keep licking it that way.
*Sigh*
I love your imagination.
But not your consumption
of germy, dirty play dough.

Posted in Uncategorized

Stocked Up

Here’s the basic chicken stock recipe I was inspired to make by Ellen Brown’s $3 Meals , except I used what I had and put it all into a 5 quart crockpot overnight on low.  A lot of recipes I see and want to make call for chicken broth/stock or bouillon cubes.  In a pinch I have used and grew up using bouillon cubes, but looking at the store lately as I’ve gotten into the habit of reading the ingredients on the labels, I noticed almost every single brand uses MSG, or monosodium glutamate, which can cause headaches and illness in some people, etc.  Some products will have this ingredient and just label it as “other seasonings” or “other spices” or something vague like that.  If not every ingredient is openly named, I am wary of buying the product.  But in any case, I enjoy making my own stuff and saving money doing so.  I like being somewhat self-reliant.  I figure if a food is on the shelf at the supermarket, it’s there because once upon a time somebody had made it at home and enough people wanted it that it ended up on a production line and in the supermarket; so there’s a way to do it homemade again!  Chicken stock is one of the simpler DIY ingredients in a lot of things, and you can easily freeze it (I’m not brave enough for canning stuff yet).  Even though those boxes or cans of chicken broth are sooo tempting as shortcuts, they can be pricey and are not as healthy as fresh.

5ish lbs skin-on bone-in chicken thighs… and any other chicken bones I had saved in the freezer for making stock (only about from 5 thighs from last time making stock) as well as a ham bone that I’d already used once in a ham and bean slow-cooker soup.
1+ cup chopped celery (I love how fast chopping celery goes in my food processor!  I do carrots and onions at the same time, too)
1+ cup chopped carrots
1+ cup chopped onions
2 Tbsp minced garlic 
(one of the few things I buy pre-prepared in a jar since I can find it at the Dollar Tree store!)
2 Tbsp parsley, dried
3/4 tsp thyme 
(I used less than most recipes because my hubby doesn’t love this herb)
1 1/2 tsp crushed bay leaves or 2 whole
1 tsp black pepper
sea salt
aaaand next time I will add some sage, up to 1 tsp I think.  This needed a little more oomph.
top off with Water to about 1 or 1/2 inch from the crockpot lid
(makes about 4 qt of stock that I freeze, and I get about 2+ cups of cooked shredded chicken for enchiladas or whatever else).

I was happy with how thick this turned out, simply with the addition of a few more soup bones.  So each time I make stock, I let the crockpot cool in the fridge overnight (or longer since I never seem to get to things right away) and then scoop off the saturated layer of fat on top to discard, as well as the chicken skin and icky stuff, but saving the bones in a freezer baggie for next batch of chicken stock.

A good rule of thumb is to use this up from your refrigerator within a week and a half, or freezer within 3 months (I use it up way faster than that!!  It’s winter–i.e. soup season!)

My favorite quick go-to meal using chicken stock/broth is egg-drop “hot” ‘n sour soup with noodles in it (basically egg-drop soup with soy sauce, worcestershire sauce added to it), .  My little one even likes it if I thicken it enough for him to spoon up into his mouth easily, or if I help him drink it from a little mug.  

Today I used 3 cups of it for the above and 3 cups for 2 chicken pot pies.  “Instant” flavor as a base for whatever I want to make with it.
What would I do without my crockpots?  Best $5 (for 1 qt size) and $19 (Aldi sale–5 qt) I ever spent.  Crockpots and slowcookers only take up the amount of energy as a 60 watt light bulb I read once.  How cool!

  

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Uncategorized

Back to Civilization….and internet.

It’s only 8:40 p.m. as I start this post and I am mentally kicking myself for staying up this late so far, and continuing to rob myself of sleep.  Naptime didn’t really happen today.  Little Mr. is a chatty fellow when he needs to be snoozing.  We are early-to-bed people around here these days.  Kids take a lot of energy to raise!  Ok so we only have one at the moment, but he’s a fireball.  I do sometimes feel the need to stay up later and re-establish my mental adulthood, which might be why I’m typing now.  Anybody know what I’m talking about?  Usually, though, my need to for face-planting onto the flannel sheets surpasses that desire (belly flops slowly becoming less of an option as kid #2 becomes evident).  

Well then, much has happened in the past months though on here you got only silence from me.  Library internet with kid in tow did not make for very productive blogging.  Good news!  We have internet in our home now, and we have a different home, too!  We’re renting again (thank God–and I meant that–that our last place was not under a lease), and it is a place in town.  I like nature, don’t get me wrong, but living up there in the mountain made me realize I do a lot better psychologically if I see other human beings besides those in our family more than once a week. This extrovert needs to be around people, even if I never talk to them!  But I probably will if they’re within earshot.  And now I can take the kiddo on walks in the stroller on the sidewalk and not have to pack us up in the van to go to a bike-trail-thingy.  The best thing about this new place (besides lack of icky bug and spider infestation and leaky roof) is that it was built in 1924 (updated with safe paint, modern pipes and wiring, so no lead or fire hazards) and I find it very inspiring to be in.  Glass doorknobs, skeleton key locks, original wood floors, radiant heat (you know, those boxed-in radiators you can sit on to warm your bum up!), and even a claw-foot tub!  Oh yeah, and a wrap-around porch with swing (just need an outdoor kitty sitting on it).  Plenty of room so we don’t have to rent a storage facility since we’d feared we’d have to either do that or seriously downsize (dude, we didn’t even and still don’t have couches yet…I realllly didn’t want to downsize more….that would mean my art stuff) to get a decent place to live in around here.  The place makes me want to read up on Art Nouveau and the decorating styles of the 1920s.  Moving is a hassle, but I am so thankful to have found this place and am excited to live in an old house for at least the next year.   

Today I made cookie dough with garbanzo beans, peanut butter, honey in the food processor and then added chocolate chips.  I think I was supposed to use vanilla but I forgot it (plus I made my own with vodka and I would feel weird about using it while expecting even if it is just a tsp or two since I planned to eat the dough–no eggs!–and not bake it).  My taste-testing toddler assistant couldn’t get enough of it.  Now I have three ways I enjoy chickpeas–plain on salad, as hummus, and now as cookie dough.  Who woulda thought?!

Ok, it’s 9:05 and to me that’s REALLY gettin’ late!  Night-night!

Posted in Quick Project, Uncategorized

Mountain Life

If you’re sitting there reading this in the comfort of your own home, be thankful you are not at a public library like me, sitting next to stinky Pete (surely he’s heard of deodorant?) and trying to also ignore the sound the yowly mountain singer and her (I’m assuming—I saw red lipstick) banjo backup (Thur. night library special entertainment…so much for quiet).  I have nothing against banjos, mind you, except while I’m trying to concentrate.  But, PTL I have working senses, right?  On to my post…

Is there something you’ve decided to do just because the end result helps you realize some of the potential you had an inkling you possessed, but weren’t quite sure of until you have completed or are in the process of accomplishing your goal?  Maybe one day you thought, “The status quo me is acceptable, but who wants to be satisfied with a static existence?”  Maybe you’re always looking for a challenge that makes you feel more alive as you tackle it.  
            I have friends that have wowed me with their decisions to do what I think are really difficult things, but what eventually become to them no big deal.  For example, friends have given up sugar or processed foods.  If I think about it seriously and consult the research, I can come up with lots of good reasons for such a move, but my gut reaction is, “Why would any sane person do that?!”  This mentality doesn’t do me any favors when it comes to my cookie dough addiction, while they’re enjoying a healthier lifestyle, for sure.
             Other friends who were never really runners before have decided to do a “couch to 5k” or more, and keep up the running habit.  Phew.  I get tired just thinking about that one.  For the past year I’ve lived a pretty sedentary life, saying, “Oh, I just had a baby.”  (Well, I’ll give myself a little credit; there was the occasional lengthy walk or jog with the spiffy [second-hand— we’re true thrifters in my family] jogging stroller Grandma and Grandpa got Baby).    
            Partly because things have the tendency to become monotonous as a homemaker, with the constant doing and redoing of household tasks, I decided to start being more daring.  It’s not that I haven’t been daring in the past.  The Costa Rica trip was partly a trip to prove to myself that I can be independent and was sorta daring, in my book. Also, I decided to cloth diaper my kids to prove that I could survive without disposables and save money that way, too.  Some might call cloth diapering daring, I guess, because it’s departing from the general comfort zone of modern parenting (though lately coming back into popularity—at least you’ll hear about it more).  Believe it or not, if you’re not a cloth-diapering-momma who reads this and instantly feels a bond with me (*wink*), I am not a slave to my washer.  But aside from those things, a few days before my 20-something birthday I thought how I couldn’t really name too many “daring” things I’ve got on my resume´.  So: enter more-daring me!

The saga begins…
            A few months ago I decided to fully support my husband’s dream of a new job with college buddies in the Smoky Mountains.  So we (I—Hubs had other work to deal with) packed up our household and got our home ready to rent out all the while with a baby attached to a leg –or unpacking stuff I’d just packed–in a little over a month. (Ok, I admit it, we had lots of help from friends!  Thanks, guys!)  Several states apart from all of our family and my friends, we moved to a beautiful little town and found out our mountain home couldn’t get internet.  Well, sheesh—I wanted to be daring….but not live-without-internet daring! Please, don’t take facebook away from me!  Gah! Hahaa. A friend described where we live—up a long gravel mountain drive that looks more like a dried up river bed than a road—as long-term camping.  Complete with spiders the size of tarantulas!   
            The sedentary lifestyle was starting to bother me, in a new location, sort of suffering from cabin fever, with a toddler constantly demanding my attention and energy.  Even though naptimes are about the only time I get to rest, it usually seems like a waste to nap or veg too.  I finally have some uninterrupted time!  And while sweating and huffing and puffing with a side ache doesn’t sound fun to me, I decided to challenge myself and began to jog during naptime with the goal being to do this every other day.  I might actually be up to a mile jog now!  (It’s ok if you laugh. It’s big for me, though. The goal is every other day, but doesn’t always happen.  I blame the rain.  <_<      >_>)
            While rifling through my dresser looking for some p.j. pants and not finding any (did I mention I need to work on organization, too?), I decided it was high time I use that flannel material stashed away, which has been hiding for probably 5 years now.  It was actually a flannel sheet (with pretty blue sky and white clouds printed on it) with a little rip in it, but still usable yardage.  I have altered clothes before, but aside from aprons I have never made myself clothing to wear, that I can recall. Patterns scare me.  Especially pants patterns.  The crotch part looked too complicated to sew.  But I mustered up some courage and decided I would conquer a pattern for p.j. pants.  It was multi-size, and I must have gotten it used, because THANKFULLY it was already cut out.  I might be a little lazy at times, and when I spur-of-the-moment decide to do something creative, I don’t like delays.  Hubby says I could grow in patience, and he’s right. J  If the pattern wasn’t already cut out, I would have found the idea of sewing pants even more daunting.  I was actually able to finish the p.j. pants in one day, with no issues!  Woohoo!  My toddler was especially interested in “helping” so I had to work around the kiddo, but with him on my lap (definitely had to swat his hand away from creeping too close to the needle several times) happily making “sewing machine” noises (“brrrRRRrrrBrrrrRRrrr!) the work flew by. I put them on and they fit just right! I should ease up on the cookie dough, or they won’t for very long, though.  Tonight is surprisingly chilly, and can’t wait to slip on my p.j.s and snuggle up to a cooking magazine and some tea after the baby’s in bed! 
            Well, I’ll close this long post with the question, “What are you going to challenge yourself with in the near future?”

Posted in Uncategorized

The Muse

I am blessed to have the honor of introducing my friend and her artwork.  This lovely artist never ceases to amaze me with the amount of enthusiasm about creativity that exudes from her being.  Not only does she use her talents (she has so many–from dressmaking to drawing,painting, playing music, cooking, and many more) for her personal enjoyment, but she frequently shares them with others, as in the photo below.  The artwork shown originated when she saw a snapshot of this little guy in a clothes-basket and transposed it into a vintage-sign-inspired colored-pencil piece of art.  Another friend remarked how it was crazy that a “commercial piece of art” on my wall resembled him so much, to which I replied that it’s crazy because it is him in actuality, and that the artist was so talented to be able to create this one-of-a-kind rendition of him!

This was not the first time I was blown away by her talent and generosity.  Early on in our friendship she presented me with an embellished green (my favorite color) crushed-velvet over-the-shoulder purse that was perfect for fitting an incredible amount of stuff into it.  It was so handy since I was a college student at the time and frequently stuffed snacks and other random necessities into it…sometimes I wonder what wouldn’t fit in it, without it looking gigantic!  Remember Mary Poppins’ bag?  Something like that.  One would not expect someone so sweet, beautiful, kind, and especially intelligent (her profession is in the complicated computer realm, which I understand next to nothing about) to be so wholesome and down-to-earth.  We enjoy talking about art, motherhood, and life in general together.  She is my friend, but also my artistic Muse.  I have a feeling you’ll be seeing more of her as my featured artist in the future because she never stops being creative and inspiring me.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Hubby’s Secret Smoothie Blend

…I guess it’s not a secret once I tell you…

but it was really good…

and I’m not a selfish person, am I?

So I’ll share:

I was skeptical about this combo.  It sounded REALLY weird.  I did the wifely eye-brow raise. Yet Tim bravely ignored my cynicism.

 

He blended strawberries….with milk and vanilla creamer…and frozen cubes of vetoed caramel-flavored coffee.

 

The origin of the cubes of flavored coffee is not a proud one.  I tried to make him a cup of coffee before work.  A cup of instant coffee, mind you.  And I failed.  I followed the directions!  And I only put the correct serving amount of the caramel flavor in it, too!  Problem was, I wasn’t supposed to add additional sweetener.  Oops.  It was like cotton candy on steroids.  Ew. But sweet hubby of mine said when he saw my disappointment, “Uh…I’ll just drink it anyway” (cute smile).  Then I tasted it and said, “This is disgusting.  Let’s try again” (and then he made his own. lol.  And I froze the rejected beverage.)

The caramel coffee cubes were quite good in a vanilla icecream shake.  But in a strawberry smoothie???  He thinks outside the box.  And it worked!  Yup.  The smoothie disappeared almost instantaneously.  And then he gloated, reminding me of my eye-brow’s recent unnecessary workout.  *sigh*  Yes, honey…I was wrong (and you were right).  The Smoothie King triumphs.

Posted in Uncategorized

My Panera Bread Bowl “Pita Chips”

I love Panera bread bowls filled with yummy soup.  Just to the right amount of soup, and then fluffy warm bread to scrape out from the inside of the “bowl”. But then you’re left with the crust. And usually, I’m really full by then.  But I don’t wanna waste the superb crust!!!!  Oh, it’s so good!  If only I had the digestive system of a cow, and then I’d NEVER waste food.  (ok, not really, because I’d be as big as a cow.  Probably not good.) I had my baguette left, too.  (I’m not THAT healthy that I get the apple, and the chips don’t appeal to me). So I went up to the counter and asked for a to-go bag (and that scone that somehow got left off my order…perhaps I over-ordered carbs, huh? lol).  And yes, I did take home the bread bowl.