Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Please, be careful what you say about me!

The Storyteller as 'Henry the Tooth Fairy'

There are some embarrassments that take days to live down - this may be one of them! Our Storyteller has taken it upon himself to let 'the world' know that I am now taking Mannatech ... only it doesn't come out quite like that!

At the grocery store yesterday ....

The Stoyteller and Dreamer are in competiton to hurl the groceries on to the belt in helter skelter order and with great force. Not their best moment.

Optimistic Clerk: "You're being a great help to your Mommy!"

Storyteller: "She hasn't been feelin' too well and I thought I'd better help out. We've been so naughty already that we've lost all of our privileges today. I'm trying to make restitution."

Clerk: " Well, that's good I guess. I'm sorry your Mommy hasn't been feeling well."

Storyteller: "Momma's taking MAN ATTACK now, so I think she'll be feeling a lot better soon - we're praying it's going to help her."

Clerk (with astonished look and raised eyebrows): "MMmmmm ..... Well, that's good I guess?"

Momma: "I am taking MannaTECH - it's a nutritional supplement to help with my overall health." (tomato red kind of blushing going on)

It was just one of those times when I prayed for a hasty exit or at least the floor opening up to swallow me! I didn't even look around to see how many other customers where snickering at our little conversation, but considering that The Storyteller only has one volume - loud - I can just imagine!

Mum was so right when she said that children are sent to keep you humble!

On a more upbeat note, I was so grateful to learn today that others have experienced these kinds of flu-like symptoms as the mannatech cleansing process begins - I hope this means that it's working, and I pray the aches are gone completely soon.

Are you smiling yet?

With the strength God provides ...

1 Peter 4:10-11

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms. If you speak, you should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If you serve, you should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Hodgie Podgie Plates

When I was growing up, we were blessed to be able to come home for lunch during the school day. My mum was at home and it was only a short walk so we had plenty of time. She sometimes made us 'cold plates' - just a yummy variety of things we liked.

In our family we call these 'Hodgie Podgie Plates' - a term we 'borrowed' from our friends Brian & Ruth. We thought it might be fun to have a silly name for really what amounts to dribs and drabs from the fridge and cupboard.

On this particular day, The Dreamer was in charge of making 3 'Hodgie Podgie Plates' . Keep in mind, she is 9 - so this really isn't too difficult. I've come up with some basic guidelines so that she covers all the bases and keeps a good balance.

1. Pick a protein: cold meat, peanut butter, cold boiled egg, cheese, nuts etc.
2. Pick a grain: bread, rolls, muffins, crackers, tea biscuits, wraps, pita, scones, bagels, whole grain tortilla chips etc.
3. Pick 2-3 raw veggies: baby carrots, celery, cucumbers, peppers, rutabaga, green beans, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, radishes etc.
4. Pick 2-3 fruits: apples, oranges, pears, grapes, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, kiwi, pineapple, melons, plums, prunes, dried apricots, raisins, apple sauce, etc.
5. Pick a dairy: yogurt, milk, cottage cheese, cheese, cream cheese, milkshake, smoothie, cheese curds, pudding, etc.
Try to make the plate as colorful and attractive as possible - toothpicks are fun ways to pick up chunked fruits and veggies, and also hold rolls of wraps or cold meats together.
If you're stuck on sandwiches, give 'Hodgie Podgie Plates' a try! It's fun and delicious! Never the same combination twice - what could be more exciting at lunch time!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Restful Sunday

We are having a restful Sunday - something I truly need. It has been a busy week! We are planning to start our home school year Monday! I was hoping to get more organized before we begin, but I am still facing a long 'to do' list. With the heat and humidity we have been experiencing this past week, I have had even less energy than usual.

We had a lot of running around and errands to do early in the week and tried to get to them in the mornings since that was coolest. It was too hot for the children to play outdoors much so they have had extra energy and no place to use it! The outdoor pools are closed for the season but we did spend one nice cool afternoon at the YMCA for a free swim.

We had our homeschooling assessment this week and that was very encouraging. There are some areas where we need to work harder, and I need to be more organized. It was a good learning time for me, since our assessor gave me many helpful suggestions and ideas. It helped me to get excited about our school year and to make some concrete curriculum decisions.

On Thursday night I enjoyed a home school mom's night out with 3 friends. It is so nice to laugh and talk together. We used to all be in the same home school co-op, but that group has dissolved. Since we still enjoy each other's company we meet periodically for these fun evenings! We usually close the restaurant! I am always tired the next day, but it is worth it! It is so wonderful how God has put these friendships in place for me. They provide support and encouragement - what a blessing! These dear women love me despite the fact that I'm an uptight perfectionist who can't speak the local lingo and doesn't have a dog or three! Can you believe they actually suggested that my family would survive if I served 'hot pockets'?
Also on Thursday I began to take Mannatech products. I have great hope that they will help my overall health and also support my liver function and give me more energy. I have read many testimonials concerning the benefits people have enjoyed taking Mannatech, and I was impressed with the amount of research behind the development of glyconutrients. However, I was very reluctant to begin this intensive program, because of the cost involved. It is horribly expensive at this point because the program for those with serious health concerns requires a lot of products - the maintenance program is less expensive, but still high. After considering and praying about this for a long time, we came to the conclusion that it is worth it if I am feeling better. There is also a 5 month money back guarantee if you don't see results - and there is nothing in it that should hurt me, so there is nothing to loose. The Historian says he would much rather have a healthier wife than our money back, but only time will tell.
Friday afternoon while I was trying to tidy up the house for the weekend I began to experience pain in almost every fiber of my being. That all over kind of body aching flu pain. Since I don't have any other flu symptoms, I am assuming this is something else. I don't think it is the result of taking Mannatech, but I just don't know. I went with the family to homeschool soccer yesterday morning, but have been very tired since then. I hope and pray I feel relief soon, but I'm thankful that I can just stay home and rest.
The humidity is almost gone and the day has been pleasant and cooler. It is so wonderful to open the windows and hear the birds and peepers. There is a big 'fly-in' this weekend and the old planes have a very distinctive hum. The coolness in the air reminds me of Michigan and the Macinac Bridge Walk. Lord willing, we will be in Macinaw City one week from today and ready to walk the bridge on Labour Day morning. I am praying for health and strength to do it! Since this is an important family tradition, I don't want to miss it!
So that's our week and weekend in a nutshell!
As the weather cools down, I am getting excited about some new recipes. Fall is a time for me to get back into the kitchen and be more creative again. We've eaten a lot of simple meals - mainly grilled with cold side dishes - and lots of raw fruits and veggies. I have a lot more home grown tomatoes to deal with, so as soon as I am feeling better I need to get blanching and freezing.
I still have a long list of home projects to work on and I feel the need to do some re-arranging of furniture and such to make our home better suited to our schoolwork needs. There is a rocking chair that I plunked in a corner 2 years ago and I've never liked where it is - it needs to move! I need energy for these projects, but it is always fun to dream big! I serve a big God and He will provide the strength to accomplish what is important in my quiet little life!

Friday, August 24, 2007

And the winner is .....

My very kind Historian took a moment to blindly draw a name from 'the hat' this evening and I am pleased to announce that the winner is Kelli .

Congratulations Kelli! I'll be sending this out on Monday and praying that the chocolates don't melt on the way! If they do, let me know and I'll send another shipment in October!

Thank you to everyone who entered for your kind and creative 12 word comments! I appreciate your congratulations and encouraging words. I will strive to be an enjoyable place to visit in blogville and hope you'll continue to brighten my days with your visits!

12 Months & 12 Little Things

Do you remember this post just before our vacation where I hinted at a special 'give away' I was planning to commemorate my first year 'Blogiversary'?

Well, the time has come to announce my celebration of one year of blogging! So fun! When I began blogging, I never dreamed I'd make it to 12 full months, and actually have anyone reading, so I'm going to celebrate by giving a little token of appreciation to one of my readers! After all, it wouldn't be nearly as much fun to blog if I didn't know there were at least three of you out there faithfully checking in! I have a small gift to send to one sweet blogging friend!
The 'prize' is all about 12 little things that make me smile - I hope they'll make one of you smile too!
  • 12 sweet caramels
  • 12 handmade note cards with envelopes
  • 12 pretty buttons (chosen by the Dreamer)
  • 12 Scripture Memory cards
  • 12 tasty chocolates (peanut butter centers)
  • 12 of my favorite recipes
  • 12 lengths of pretty ribbon
  • 12 handmade paper bookmarks
  • 12 tea lights
  • 12 cheerful fabric yo-yo's
  • 12 sprigs of lavender
  • 12 cotton fat quarters

You may enter my little giveaway by simply leaving a comment to this post - the only catch is that it must be 12 words long! I thought that might make it more interesting!

This giveaway ends Friday, August 24, 2007 and I will close the comments at noon. I will write the names of those who enter the giveaway on slips of paper and place them in a hat and let my Historian draw a name out. I will post the name of the winner and mail out this little 'Blogiversary' celebration package! Hopefully the chocolates won't melt!

I will post a picture of the prize as soon as I can get my camera working! Either beach sand or the wrong kind of batteries have caused a problem!

Happy Blogging!

EDITED: Comments are now closed - check back to see if you are the winner! Thank you to all for participating!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Simmer Down!

This afternoon's project: Turn all our ripe tomatoes into Big Batch Bolognese

After smelling this simmering all afternoon, we are all really looking forward to dinner and to the meals that will be frozen for future suppers. What was once just a bunch of tomatoes from our garden is now a hearty meal - so simple, but very satisfying!
Here is my recipe!
Meaty Pasta Sauce
1/2 bushel of ripe red and yellow tomatoes
Wash tomatoes and blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove to cold water. Remove skins and coarsely chop. I like to let these sit in a clean dish pan and let the juices drain a bit so the sauce takes less time to cook.

Saute together in your largest stock pot:
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 lbs. fresh lean ground beef - we like Laura's Lean
3 large onions chopped
6-8 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
1-2 cups of finely chopped celery
1-2 red peppers (optional) finely chopped

When meat is browned and veggies are translucent, drain any fat and return to large stock pot. Add:

coarsely chopped tomatoes (save the juice, strain seeds and chill for a refreshing drink or freeze to add to soup some other day)
3 or4 6 ounce cans of tomato paste
1/4 cup sugar
2-3 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
3 stems each of fresh oregano, basil and thyme, finely minced
OR dried herbs would work well too - try 2 tsp. of each to start and adjust to your family preference.

My largest stock pot was full to the brim today and as you can see from my photo it has simmered down quite a bit to a nice rich thick sauce.

Serve hot with fresh cooked pasta, a nice Italian loaf, and a green salad!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Skirting The Issues

Mrs. Wilt at The Sparrow's Nest has a thought provoking post here entitled "The Blight of Casualization on Women's Fashion" and there has been a great deal of discussion in the comments. I decided that I would add my opinion here, since I didn't want to write a book in her comment area! I agree with Mrs. Wilt, but I just wanted to share my personal reasons for dressing the way that I do, most often in skirts!

First, a quote from Mrs. Wilt:

Sadly, this trend is a common one in our culture today- with youth tends to come sloppiness in dress. Until recent years, ladies knew the difference between formal, semi-formal, and casual dress; and pride was taken in adhering to the dress code in social situations where it would be required.

In years past, it was irrelevant if you were poor when it came to dress. Yes, you might not have the finest clothing, but an effort was made to look presentable in any circumstance. Clothes were pressed and clean. Shoes were shined. Hair was kempt.

Doesn't it seem like we have come a long way from that widely accepted standard of dress in a very short space of time? It does to me. As I look around, I see more men and women inappropriately dressed for public all the time. Today I was lined up at the grocery store behind a woman dressed only in a skimpy bra and thin pajama bottoms, and a man in soiled, ill fitting, holey track pants and a stained undershirt. It doesn't even surprise me any more - now, isn't that sad?

My grandparents and parents set a very different example for our family. My father's mother died when I was 5, but I distinctly remember that she always smelled nice. That wasn't easy for a women who made her living as a butcher. In her working clothes she was always neat and clean, changing her starched white smock when it became messy during the day. After hours, her clothes were beautifully tailored and modest. She was an 'ample' women, but she wore lovely, well fitting dresses and suits, many were her own creations. She loved bright jewelry and had a large collection of 'costume' pieces that she wore. Her hair was always 'tinted' and curled, very neat and stylish.

My mother's parents were both very neat and clean also. They had clothes for at home, and clothes for going to town. They had special clothes for Sunday. My Nanny ironed everything - yes - even her slips, braziers and panties! My Poppa had hats for every occasion, but never wore them indoors. Nanny wore dresses every single day. Her work dresses were pretty but simple, and usually covered by an apron. She had two 'business' suits too for she acted as my Poppa's secretary for many years as well as being a wonderful homemaker. Her clothing was always neat and pretty, and I loved her knife pleated skirts. My Nanny sewed but when she became stooped with osteoarthritis, she had a hard time finding dresses to suit her figure, and I was able to help her alter them to fit.

Once, my Poppa accidentally cut a few of his fingers off in his portable saw mill. He gathered them up, washed them under the river pump and headed home for a shower, shave and fresh 'town clothes' before heading to the emergency room to have them re-attached. He didn't even tell my Nanny what he was up to, until she discovered blood on her 'best' towels. He would never wear his work clothes to town - even in an emergency!

My grandparents held a standard of dress, that despite their circumstances, lack of financial resources or education, meant something important to them. It wasn't a question of trying to look pious, or to compete with neighbours, or even to portray a certain image - it was just the right thing to do!

My parents have held a similar standard of dress and continue to. Neat, clean, modest. Except for a recent 'suspenders incident' with my not yet retired father, I have always been glad for the way my parents dressed, and for the example they set for our family. My mum is a thrift store queen, and she always looks lovely and well put together.

More and more lately, I find myself in skirts. I have some comfy capris that are perfect for gardening and other chores, but I reach for my skirts if I don't plan on a day of pulling weeds.

Recently I went shopping for some track pants with my mum. I wanted something that would be comfortable for bicycling with the family, and was finding the waistband on my capris uncomfortable for my often swollen liver. I hate track pants, but I knew they would be the most practical for exercise. That's what they were designed for - but for some reason they have made their way out of the gym and into day to day life!

I went to Cotton Ginny Plus, because I know they make great quality cotton track pants - my last pair lasted me 10 years but are now too large. I was happy to find some in capri styles on sale and began to try them on. When a large was way way too large (oh, happy day!) I asked the sales girl for a smaller size. I started to try on what she brought, but they were all skin tight. I checked and realized she had brought all smalls. I asked for a larger size and she acted very offended - based on how the large fit, she felt I must be a small. She did not understand that I was not comfortable in skin tight clothing. I eventually purchased the medium, but as I was at the cash register, I noticed that all of the sales girls were plus sized women in very tight clothing.

I am a plus sized woman. I have lost 50 pounds - very slowly in the last 18 months, since loosing weight is taxing for my liver. I have another 40-50 to loose but I've been 'stuck' forever, so we are trying to increase activity and see if that will get me loosing again. I have been living with extra pounds practically all my life, though I am not on over eater and have been on a low fat diet for about 20 years.
I know very well that my clothing size is important. If my clothes are too large, I look 10 pound heavier, but if my clothes are too tight, every roll and love handle shows - and my weight is revealed! I want to be modest, because I know that God requires it, but I also desire to be appropriately dressed to make the most of the figure I have.

So, why do I wear mostly skirts?

I like they way a skirt makes me feel. My skirts are long and modest, but not frumpy. I like skirts and modest cotton shell tops layered with light blouses for summer. I feel feminine and neat, cool and comfortable. I have casual skirts and dressy skirts, and I like the fact that with just a few pieces I can mix and match and create different outfits. I can hide my figure flaws and feel pretty comfortable.

I like that I am pleasing my husband by wearing skirts. He likes me to be ladylike and modest. I have more nice clothing now than I have ever had in my life, thanks to C.J. Banks and their wonderful clearance racks! Finding a source for modest and comfortable clothing has been a blessing to both of us. I usually sew for the children and our home, but not often for myself, so my wardrobe was limited.

Last, but not least, I like the way I am treated when I am wearing skirt. There. I've said it! I know it is totally selfish, but I enjoy the increased respect I receive when I go to town dressed neatly, modestly and in a skirt. I have had more grocery baggers offer to help with my load, I get more 'ma'm's' and friendly smiles, I even have men holding doors and taking off their caps. More women smile at me, and some even offer compliments. It's just nice to be treated like a lady!

When I was talking with my husband about this he offered his male point of view. "Maybe it's because men are naturally designed to be more protective of a woman who appears feminine and modest. Let's face it - men may enjoy dating girls who are immodestly dressed, but when it comes to marriage, they usually choose a more modest girl. Men like to know they can be helpful to a lady."

I am not advocating all women wear skirts, but just wanting to share my personal perspective. I am still slowly making the transition myself - there are days when capris or pants are just more practical for me. I am saying that modestly and femininity are beautiful. Gender neutral clothing is, in my opinion, unflattering. Clothes that are too tight, too short or too revealing are not modest, or even apparently comfortable by the amount of tugging and adjusting I see publicly these days!

Ladies, wear what God calls you to, dressing appropriately for the circumstances He has placed you in! Please Him first, your husband if you have one, and find clothing that flatters your unique figure. Be mindful of how your clothing choices send messages to others, whether you want them to or not. Think of the little girls looking up to you and modelling themselves after you. Don't be a stumbling block, but a blessing!

And whatever you wear ... don't forget to wear your nicest smile - universally acceptable, always appreciated, and most often imitated! It's the very least we can do for one another, don't you think?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Long Road Home

The children and I are back home and resting up from our very long journey. Our Historian was very happy to see us home safely, and happy to have the house filled with noise of little people once again. I think he was getting tired of conversing with one very vocal cat, Mr. Peppermint!

We had two very pleasant visits on our trip home - one planned by us, and one completely unexpected - but surely planned by God! We stopped first in our old home town to visit dear friends who live on the most pleasant hill farm in the world, I'm sure! We visited outside and gazed down the hill at a sweet little lake. The children loved getting re-acquainted with their two boys, and meeting the chickens and tiny kittens. It was a lovely afternoon of catching up!

On our way across country, trying to avoid the main road weekend traffic, we met with a detour - which took us very close to another friend's home. I felt terrible dropping in unexpectedly at dinner time no less, but after praying I felt the Lord prompting us to stop! I am so glad that we did! Our friends have 6 beautiful children - two of whom we had never met, though we have prayed through the obstacles to their adoptions with our friends daily. It has been 2 years since we saw this precious family, and we were so blessed to spend some time with them! We are so excited to know that they will be heading in our direction in November and have promised to try to visit our humble home!

We were much later getting away than I had planned so we started right away looking for vacancy signs at the various hotels we encountered. The hotels were few and far between, and the big red NO signs were discouraging! I was beginning to tire out, but we kept going, hoping and praying we would find a place of rest. The children fell asleep and I just kept driving - praying for strength and alertness. It was very very late before we found a place to stay - an old dump of a place with greatly elevated 'weekend' rates, but we took it! We tumbled in to bed and finally slept.

At 5 a.m. our Storyteller awoke with intestinal distress and after a number of trips to the washroom, back rubs and prayer, he finally fell back to sleep, briefly. We got up and exited the motel (even more shabby by daylight) and began our 'bathroom to bathroom' journey home! Thankfully our hour+ wait at the Border went smoothly and he was able to keep a cheerful attitude despite his 'bouncy' tummy. I haven't been fond of public washrooms since my own childhood, but I was certainly grateful for their frequency on our way home. Thankfully the last few hours, he was back to normal and feeling fine, and today you would never know he had a tummy upset yesterday! No messes in the car either - so much to be thankful for!

The kitchen counter is blessed with many garden tomatoes, so I best rest up and get ready to blanch and freeze or perhaps a few batches of pasta sauce - we'll see how ambitious I feel. Today we are putting everything away and resting - the kids are finding places for their 'treasures' and playing with their toys. We have weeds everywhere - an overwhelming crop of them! I will have to figure out how to deal with them - tomorrow!

For now, it is just great to be home!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Dirty Dishes

Dirty Dishes

Thank God for the dirty dishes,

They have a story to tell,

And ... by the stack I have,

It seems we are living very well.

While people in other countries are starving,

I haven't the heart to fuss,

For by this stack of evidence,

God's awfully good to us!

We've been looking through my Mum's old handwritten cookbook and came across this poem. She is not sure where it came from or whom to give author's credit to, but I thought it might be a good reminder here. I know that when I am faced with a stack of dirty dishes after a satisfying meal I sometimes groan, but really, I ought to be thankful. I'm thinking I'll have Dreamer and Storyteller learn this poem too!

Maples Turning

One thing I'll miss about Northern Ontario is the wonderful rock formations. I have always loved them. When we were at the beach one evening we went scrambling over the rocks and I saw this wee maple beginning to change colors. It was so pretty in the evening light with the solid rock behind it and bright cedar beside it. I can smell a bit of fall in the air here today. My favorite season in just around the corner!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Beach Days

The Storyteller is making the most of our last beach days - tomorrow we pack up for the return journey! What a lot of wonderful memories we have to take home with us!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Beauty at the Beach

Grammy & the Dreamer

After two weeks of afternoons at the beach, I have some 'beauty tips' to pass along!

  • Moisturize! You'd think that spending time in the WATER would keep your skin well hydrated, but it is actually very drying - combined with the sun and wind, you could be looking ten years older in no time! Moisturize before and after beach time.
  • Cover up! I'm serious - pick a swim suit that covers you, please! I know modest swim suits are few and far between, but they can be found! It is hard to explain to a 7 year old boy why someone would choose to let it all hang out at the beach. Even if you are built like a supermodel, please be modest. Most of us ARE NOT supermodels! Help mothers of little boys and girls everywhere who are trying to teach them to be modest. Please.
  • Sunscreen - a good natural sunscreen is a must for our family. I know there are many opposed to sunscreen because of the chemicals that our bodies absorb from it, but having seen skin cancer first hand, I will take my chances with chemicals rather than risking sunburn. We love the oatmeal based sunscreen from Kiss My Face , but just use something! Apply and re-apply.
  • Forget your nail polish or go clear. You can't build a sandcastle without messing up your manicure, so avoid chipped paint by forgetting about it and dig in with your kids!
  • Rashguards are cool and keep you covered - and they dry instantly and look great - excellent for picking out your children when there is a crowd at the beach.
  • Big floppy hats and sun glasses - even better coverage!
  • Ice cold water - again, you'd think spending all that time in the water would be enough, but bring lots of water to drink - no sense turning into a sun dried tomato!
  • Salty snacks - a beauty tip you say? Yes! How else are you going to get those kids to drink the water?
  • Towel off - a must around here if you wish to avoid swimmer's itch. Itchy red bumps are never very pretty.
  • Drink in the beauty of God's creation and enjoy a rest for your soul - evidence of our loving Creator can be found - even at the beach!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Running out of days ....

The worst part of a lovely vacation is when you realize that you are rapidly running out of days. We are having such a nice time together and the days are just flying by too quickly. We have spent lots of time at the various beaches and the children have loved every minute.

I think we have enough sand to fill a small sandbox rolling around in the van, but I know that my dad will not let us return home with such a messy van - he has already washed it once or twice and tried to vacuum it out once, but I encouraged him to wait until all of our trips to the beach were over.

The children had a play date at the water with some friends who they enjoy spending time with when we are visiting Poppa and Grammy. We had some lovely company for a salad supper last night and really enjoyed getting to know her a bit more. This afternoon I spent a few lovely childless hours getting re-acquainted with a woman whose friendship I missed out on during our youth and cooling off with triple chocolate fudge ice cream on a shaded porch overlooking the water. The breezes were delicious and I so enjoyed watching the sailboats catching the wind in their sails. I've even been shopping for some fall fabrics to sew when we get home!

Now we are counting the days - and there are not enough left, but we know we must begin to think towards home.

Home sweet home - after all, that's where our much missed Historian is - home!

We must make the most of the days that remain and pack in as many happy memories and we are able! Back to the beach!