Thursday, January 31, 2008

Blogging Fodder

I just realized that it has been more than a week since I added anything to my blog! Our children have been suffering from colds for ten days now, but are on the mend, thankfully. Since we don't believe in sharing germs, we have been staying close to home - and thus, there has not been much to blog about! We actually lost 4 days of school last week - usually we just push through, but this cold has been accompanied by lots of sinus discomfort and headaches, so concentrating on school work was futile. That, and the fact that bending over books just made noses run all the more - we really need to look for a great sale on tissues!

Thankfully they are doing much better, but we have missed piano, AWANA ( and thus Bible Study for me), ballet, swimming lessons, Sunday School and church. We have ventured forth to grocery shop once, but other than that - home sweet home! The children have been reading and playing - and this week we are back to our regular school schedule. Hopefully we will resume the extra activities this weekend, but we are just waiting until they are healthy. We think so often parents take children out too soon after illness and extend the time of sickness, or pass it along to others! We're trying to be selfish with these germs - they are nasty!

Since we have been home more, I have been tidying up closets and sorting through stuff. Not so much fun, but it needs to be done - again! I have decided that spring is not going to catch me be surprise again this year! The last two years, I have started my 'spring house cleaning', only to be interrupted by sunshine and warm weather much sooner that I am used to. As soon as the warm weather begins we are outside from breakfast to supper time. We do our school work on the patio, take long walks, play in the garden, visit our many local parks and generally neglect the house terribly! This year I am hoping to have it cleaned before the warm weather hits! I have great motivation because we are having some very special company coming the second week of March!!!

My sister K and her three boys, accompanied by Mum, are coming for a visit during their March school break! K and the boys have never been to our home, so we are really excited! K hopes to do some U.S. shopping and we are planning to visit a few of our local places of interest. I think we will all have a great time! The children are so looking forward to spending time with their cousins! It's going to be quite a houseful, but thankfully we have a place for everyone to sleep and lots of room at the table! So, I have good reason to get the house tidied - but our Historian says that we go through this every spring anyway! The poor man! Always a long list of projects to be attended to! I guess after all these years, he is used to my spring restlessness!

It helps ( maybe not) that the GARDENING CATALOGS and trickling in at a rate of 3 a week! I have been drooling over raspberry canes and apple trees - lovely new flowers and burpless cucumbers! You would think I was planning to plant an orchard and a large market garden! I love to dream about planting, but the reality is that I have to keep things simple. It is hard when I am feeling so much better not to go overboard!

I did get to the doctor on Monday and was a bit disappointed with my bloodwork. My liver enzymes are not down, my blood sugar is up, my thyroid function is down and my cholesterol is up. I was hoping for better results - especially with the Mannatech. The thing is that this batch of bloodwork was taken shortly after my vein surgery and I just think that the stress on my body perhaps made a negative impact. We'll see what my numbers are in 6 weeks when I go back. I am feeling pretty well over all - I could use some more energy( who couldn't), but I am not in any pain! I am so thankful.

Another thing I am so wonderfully thankful for is my friendship with Mrs. M. She has been such a blessing lately! A week ago Monday morning, after The Historian made his monthly 'run' for grapefruit and oranges straight from Florida, and right off the back of the truck, I was blessed with the gift of time with a friend. While the Historian taught World History to the children, I actually went over to Mrs. M's home for tour of her new house and out for lunch! It was too much fun and our time together went by far too quickly.

Mrs. M and I met when The Dreamer began taking piano lessons with her each week shortly after our move to the U.S.. She is a pastor's wife with a wonder gift for teaching piano, and an amazing gift for making her home comfortable and gorgeous, on a tight budget! She stopped teaching piano last March in order to take a God directed job, which has provided their family with much needed medical coverage, so we have really missed our weekly visits to her home. They have since moved out of the parsonage into their own home - an older 'fixer-upper'. She and her hardworking husband have just made it so beautiful - and she has the before pictures to prove it! The former home owners wouldn't even recognize it. She has recycled everything from their old home and just made it so lovely - I would love to have her gift for accessorizing!

It was just so nice to spend time together - to laugh and talk, and share. Friendship is such a blessed gift from God! While I was at her home, she mentioned needing to recover a quaint old rocking chair that she picked up for $7! I volunteered to help with the project. She found some rich chocolate Toile fabric from Waverly and we have made a good start. On Tuesday evening she brought the chair over and we stripped it down. The padding and burlap were ancient. We had to tighten the framing a bit and used lots of wood glue! Old English really made a difference in the exposed wood - amazing stuff! We have the strapping replaced and put on fresh decking fabric - now it is time for padding, a muslin cover ( I like to use 'rain no stain' curtain lining rather than muslin since it repels water stains and doesn't smell 'funny' in humid weather), and the final fabric! I think it is going to be beautiful! We hope to get it finished tonight, but we'll see. So far, it has gone really well and we have had loads of fun doing it together.

Last night I made a roman shade to cover the window in the door of our Grammy Flat. I wanted something that would not hinder the view during the day since it is the only eye level window in the room. It went together easily but the pulley mechanism isn't as smoothly functioning as I had hoped. I looked on the package and I have the wrong gauge of cording for the pulley - fiddlesticks! I'll have to get a finer cording or a new pulley - whichever is cheapest. I'll know for next time to be careful to match up the sizes! I used the same fabric that the Grammy Flat curtains are made of - a Waverly floral that I still love after all these years - Ladies Day Vintage. This is the third home I have used these curtains in - 'recycling' at it's finest! I have more to make panels for the french doors that lead to the Grammy Flat when we get them stained and back up - hopefully soon! We need some warm days for that kind of smelly work!

I guess that's about all for now! I am really needing to get to work with The Storyteller and The Dreamer needs to get her Switched on Schoolhouse done now - she needs the computer for that! I'll try to be a better blogger, but since The Historian is doing his course in the evenings online and I'm really enjoying getting at some sewing projects, you'll just have to forgive me for being such an inconsistent blogger!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Such great news!

Today I went for 'part 2' of my vein procedure - and I came home without even a needle prick!!!! I was anticipating more laser work and many more needles, at least a week of pressure bandages and compression stockings, and, of course PAIN - but the great news is that my veins are progressing wonderfully, and I won't need any more laser! I have to go back in two months for 'touch up' shots to eliminate the rest of the visible varicose veins, and that's it! Yeah! The doctor was giving himself a great deal of credit for his work on my legs, but I am giving all of the glory to God, since this was a very unexpected result! My veins are still tender and healing slowly, but knowing that I won't have to go through the laser part again is just making my heart sing!

So..... as you can see from my stack, I was all set for lounging around for the next week- I had my reading material all lined up and now I have no excuse to be a slug-a-bed! I guess I'd better tidy my bedside table a bit and plunge into some other projects! I am praying for three warm days so that we can get on with our flooring replacement project in the water heater closet. Since they have to remove and reset the furnace too - which is currently sinking into the crawl space on an alarming lean - we require three temperate days to do the job. Thankfully the Grammy flat has it's own furnace, and a small kitchen so we can hang out there and keep warm. We need things to warm up considerably though, because the threat of the pipes in our crawl space freezing is very real. I am also praying for warmer weather so that I can do some fun spray painting and other painting projects! Do you think I am ready for spring?

Our Dreamer is still full of a cold and has that persistent cough - and she has generously shared with her brother and I. The joys of having a cuddly girl - we share everything! The storyteller and I just have mild cold symptoms and thankfully, no cough! I think Dreamer is on the mend though, since she was a tad less grumpy today ... of course, her Daddy read to her for almost 2 hours and that's enough to make any girlie feel better! That and extra Webkinz time! We sure are a soft touch when the kids are feeling poorly!

Well, now that I've shared my great news, I am hoping that your hearts were blessed in some way today as well! I'd love to hear about any good news you've got to share! There's enough bad news to go around - Good News is always more welcome!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Another reason to love homeschooling!

Yesterday, our sweet Dreamer developed a cough. With her asthma, this is always more of a concern, as she just doesn't have the resilience that the rest of us do. Today we had a life skills day instead of doing 'school'. Both children were sewing by hand this morning. The Storyteller created a pouch with help - it is, of course, for carrying bullets for "Pa's GUN" - can you tell he is currently listening to 'Little House in the Big Woods' ???? The Dreamer made a cute strawberry and two darling wee pillows for their stuffed animals.

After lunch, we grabbed the new videos that Grammy and Poppa gave Dreamer for Christmas and cuddled up in our bed with 'Smarties' - chocolate candies (also from Grammy), water and popcorn. We stayed under the blankets all afternoon, greatly exceeding our usual 'screen time' limits!!!! We watched ' By Dawn's Early Light' and the first part of 'The Summer of the Monkeys' - both from 'Feature Films for Families'. We hardly noticed the sleet and hail outside and I think it was the most delightful way to spend a quiet afternoon nursing a sweet girl with a bad cough! It was toasty warm under our old 'sickie quilt'!


'Yes, Bud?'

'I love homeschooling!'

'So do I bud!'

'Is it wrong to hope that Sister doesn't get well toooooo quickly?'

'Yes, Bud.'

'Hmmm .... well, maybe I'll get sick next!'

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sunday Sew & Sew

As it was quite cold for our corner of the Midwest yesterday, we were all quite content to just be at home after church. With the sun streaming into to our bedroom, I decided to get at some sewing again. I don't know why I allow such long breaks in my sewing - I enjoy it so very much!

Last week the clearance area at our JoAnn's Fabrics yielded some wonderful half price treasures, including a length of lovely pink cotton/linen with embroidery. We decided to use it to make new valances for The Dreamer's room. Her old curtains were made of some airy voile that only looked good the day they were washed, starched and ironed ( for hours) - after that they hung limply in a wrinkled mess, due to the humidity we experience here. The Dreamer drew a quick picture of what she wanted, and we bought some bright pink rickrack to compliment and tie them in with her existing pink gingham roman shades. She is really happy with the end result, and so am I! Her Daddy's really happy with the price tag of $7 for two simple lined window treatments ... and hoping this will satisfy her desire for change without having to hire a painter!

They were a bit plain, so I made some roses with the scraps to dress them up a bit! Our Dreamer is very much a girl who likes to accessorize.

I also made some fresh pillow slips from a $1 vintage sheet that was still in it's wrapper. Quick machine embroidery and some thrifted pre-gathered pineapple eyelet lace. Easy!

The Dreamer got inspired as well and brought out her KLUTZ Simple Sewing book and made Miss Mousey Mouse. Isn't she sweet?

All in all it was a pleasant afternoon quietly practicing the home arts while our Historian worked on his online course and our Storyteller visited with each one of us in turn and told us all a story.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Easy Pudding

This week our store manager put organic milk on sale for $1.49 simply because it was about to expire! I grabbed it, of course! I have made a number of 'sour milk' recipes this week, including corn meal muffins, popovers and pudding. Today, our sweet Dreamer has a sore mouth because the orthodontist decided to 'help' two of her baby molars a bit with some gentle tugging this morning. We are planning a 'soft' dinner, including macaroni and cheese, tea biscuits, apple sauce and pudding - again! Tonight's choice is scutterbotch - or butterscotch, if you like! Pudding is so quick and simple to make from scratch, and quite economical too, but I know many who have only ever had the instant boxed kinds or pre-made pudding cups, so I thought I'd share my foolproof recipe. I make it in the microwave with my 8 cup glass measuring bowl and it never burns or gets lumpy, but I do stay with it!

Butterscotch Pudding
In a heatproof glass bowl heat 2 cups of milk (slightly sour is fine) in the microwave for 2 minutes on High.

While milk is heating, whisk together:
2 beaten eggs
1 cup brown sugar, packed (we like dark brown too!)
5 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add a bit of hot milk to egg mixture and whisk until there are no lumps. Add it to the rest of the hot milk and whisk together. Heat on high for 1 minute. Whisk. Repeat 3 times until the mixture is thick and creamy. Pour into 6 - 1/2 cup custard bowls and refrigerate. If you don't like the 'skin' on pudding, lay a piece of plastic wrap right on the pudding before placing in the fridge. Enjoy!

Mellow Milk Chocolate Pudding
In a heatproof glass bowl heat 2 cups of milk (slightly sour is fine) and 3 squares of semi-sweet bakers chocolate in the microwave for 2 1/2 minutes on High. Whisk to combine. Make sure the chocolate is melted. Return to microwave for 30 seconds if necessary.

While milk is heating, whisk together:
2 beaten eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 tablespoons of flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract

Add a bit of hot chocolate milk to egg mixture and whisk until there are no lumps. Add it to the rest of the hot milk and whisk together. Heat on high for 1 minute. Whisk. Repeat 3 times until the mixture is thick and creamy. Pour into 6 - 1/2 cup custard bowls and refrigerate. If you don't like the 'skin' on pudding, lay a piece of plastic wrap right on the pudding before placing in the fridge. Enjoy!

Banana 'Surprise' Pudding
In a heatproof glass bowl heat 2 cups of milk (slightly sour is fine) in the microwave for 2 minutes on High.

While milk is heating, whisk together:
2 beaten eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
5 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
11/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Add a bit of hot milk to egg mixture and whisk until there are no lumps. Add it to the rest of the hot milk and whisk together. Heat on high for 1 minute. Whisk. Repeat 3 times until the mixture is thick and creamy.

Slice 1 or 2 bananas into the bottom of 6 custard cups before pouring pudding and refrigerate. Add a well drained maraschino cherry if you like to add to the surprise! If you don't like the 'skin' on pudding, lay a piece of plastic wrap right on the pudding before placing in the fridge. Best eaten the same day!

Friday, January 11, 2008


How can it be Friday already? Where did this week go? I am lost in a world of historical fiction and have let the week slip by with my nose in a book! I am escaping the overwhelming desire to get really down about the circumstances of our daily lives by immersing myself in the pages of books! I don't think about replacing water damaged flooring or figuring out how to work our new t.v. when I'm in another time and place reading about settling Texas or fighting crime in 18th century England. I am not concerned about the leaky roof or the cost of getting our van's transmission replaced when I am reading about being lost in the garden or hiding from unsavory men. I cannot help but smile and sigh when I'm caught up in the story of redemption and love, of unlikely suitors or of love overcoming overwhelming odds to flourish, and my mind is totally relieved of the cares of tomorrow. More vein surgery? It's not even on my mind when my nose is in a book!

I know there are many who would never pick up the types of books I am currently indulging in simply because they are fiction, and that's just fine with me. If you look over my bookshelves, you will see my reading tastes are very well diversified, however right now I am not drawn to theology or how-to. My gardening books sit unopened. Sewing books are lined in neat order, but remain on the shelf. Classics and poetry are left in peace. Only my Bible is left open. For this season, inspirational fiction is the purest form of escape, and I am blessed to have so many good books to read!

The only draw back of all this reading is that our house was rather a shambles when Mrs. Helen came yesterday to help with the cleaning! Taking my nose out of the books long enough to get school done, or make meals isn't a problem, but somehow I overlooked the picking up! She whipped us into shape yesterday and all is well - except for the Dreamer's room, which rather looks like a toy factory exploded. We'll have to work on that. The rest of the house is clean, smells good and you can see most of the surfaces clearly! Even my kitchen counter is cleaned off and sparkling!

Lately, my creative abilities have been somewhat repressed by all of the unsettling circumstances of life that we have faced. The trouble with not regularly exercising my creative muscles is that I tend to loose my confidence in trying to accomplish something that makes my heart sing. Some of the books I am reading are spurring me on to some creative ideas in the area of sewing, and the description of a room in one of my reading escapes has given me some ideas for our rooms. Fuel for creativity can be found in the most unlikely places, I find! I am hoping that soon our lives will calm just enough to give me time to create once again, but in the mean time, I am so grateful that God has gifted so many to author books that take me away, encourage my heart, expand my ideas, and inspire my creativity.

So if you're looking for me, I'll be curled up with a hot cup of tea, a cozy throw, and a nice bit of fiction on my lap!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Which Jane Austen Heroine are you?

Considering the upcoming PBS special beginning January 13th, I thought it would be fun to find out which heroine I am most like!

I am Elinor Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

If you haven't heard about the upcoming event, check out this You Tube posted by Mrs. U at Making a House a Home!

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Tiny Taste of Spring!

It is almost 60 degrees outside and breezy - the snow is gone and our children are outside without jackets ... flying kites! The heat is off and the doors and windows are wide open, and I am so very very blessed. Between the delicious scent of my window sill Paperwhites, and the fresh earthly scent of spring like air, I think I must be dreaming! Now, off to rescue the kite that just went into a tree ... how fun!

"Mama! Please come! My kite is hung up like a piece of laundry!"

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Quietly at home ....

Yesterday I came upon a quote that suits me well today:

Winter is the time for comfort - it is the time for home.
-Edith Sitwell

Today has been an at home Sunday for the children and I, as they are both fighting colds. We have a 'no public exposure' policy when it comes to running noses and obvious cold symptoms since we don't care to share our germs with others - I often wish many others had the same policy!!! Last Sunday the church was full of folks with deep coughs, runny nosed children and those with head colds, so it is no wonder to me at all that our children are now a little bit sick! They are also missing their Poppa and Grammy, who left for home yesterday morning, and that makes us all a bit blue. We love to see them come and hate to see them leave, so you know how much they are loved. We have also just finished packing up the Christmas decorations and put them up in the attic for another year - what a job! The house is looking a bit bare and in need of some tender loving care! All of these things combined with our rainy day have made it the perfect day for staying close to home.

The other major factor is that the 'ker-chunk' sound our van was making really is big bad trouble - as in we need a new transmission! Ouch! So we really are 'grounded' until we can do some comparison shopping and find a more reasonable estimate. Doesn't $3000 for a re-built transmission sound like a lot? Our Honda Odyssey is just 5 years old and has 152,000 km on the odometer. Our last Honda had over 220,000 miles and was still going strong with no major repairs - just many many brake jobs when we lived in the mountains! I'm praying that we'll be able to find a way to fix it more reasonably.

I received three new cookbooks for Christmas - and I bought myself one at Sam's that I had my eye on - so now it is time to be looking over the recipes and trying new things for the New Year. I'm not going to try to be quite as ambitious as other January's since I am facing another vein procedure this week which will most assuredly slow me down a bit! I am still making my list and dreaming up new ways to make supper fun for our family, and more economical too!

I am so proud of my Historian - he is going back to school beginning tomorrow! Thankfully he doesn't even need to leave home to do it! He is taking an online course to gain a certificate in Genealogical Research / Librarianship and American Records through the National Genealogical Institute and University of Toronto. Each course is 6-8 weeks and he is taking them two at a time - so in roughly 2 1/2 to 3 years he should have it completed! It makes me want to get started on a few courses that I have been itching to do - the Master Gardener programs have always fascinated me. I think right now I have enough on my plate, but I am always wanting to learn and find new areas of interest.

On Tuesday I expect to get the results of my blood work, and I am anxious to know how my liver is faring. I am very hopeful that the Mannatech I am still faithfully taking is making a difference! I would love to be completely healed from liver disease, but even a little improvement will be a great encouragement.

My husband had just cued up the Italian music to go with the supper he is cooking! I'd better go and see if I can be helpful!