Friday, February 29, 2008

The Cousins are coming! Oh My!

In just over one week, The Cousins (three boys ages 8, 10 & 12) are coming for their first ever visit to our home! Could my crew be any more excited? My sister and Mum are coming too, incidentally! We are so excited! Shopping, visiting, playing, museums - and a smattering of homeschool too! This visit has entailed much planning and preparation - including figuring out a menu to please three boys who are picky eaters.

Since many of their favorite meals are not brands we have available here in the Midwest, they are just going to have to expand their horizons! I've tried to make it kid friendly, economical, somewhat healthy and fun (they are on their March Break from school) and simple to prepare - so here goes! As much as possible will be made ahead next week and frozen so that our visit will be relaxing and (hopefully) stress free! I've been glad to see great sales on 'normal' cold cereal ( non-sugary) since that is what the boys are used to for breakfast. I don't think they would like the organic varieties we often buy! That might just be asking too much!


Cold Cereal ~ Fresh Fruit ~ Cinnamon Rolls & Butter ~ Milk & Juice

Jellied Salad ~ Rolls & Butter ~ Pickles
Cheesy Potato Bake~Rolled Chicken Washington ~ Steamed Broccoli
7 Layer Chocolate Pie ( for my big sister who loves it!)

Young’s Dairy Ice Cream

Light Supper:
Veggies & Dip ~ Edible Fruit Arrangement
Cheese Ball & Crackers ~ Sliced Meat Tray

Waffles & Blueberry Syrup ~Scrambled Eggs
Grapefruit ½’s ~ Milk & Juice

Ham & Cheese Bunwiches
Chips / Veggie assortment
Cookies ~ Jello Jigglers

Cut Apples & Caramel Dip

Bread Sticks ~ Romaine Salad
Ice Cream Cake

Cold Cereal ~ Banana Bread
Fruit Smoothies or Yogurt

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup ~ Tea Biscuits
Cookies & Milk

Cooks Ham Steak ~ Corn ~ Baked Beans
Potato Salad ~ Angel Food Cake

Cold Cereal ~ Fresh Fruit Kabobs
Muffins That Taste Like Donuts
Milk & Juice

Snuggli Dogs ~ Chips ~ Green & Red Grapes

Cheese & Crackers

Beef Enchiladas ~ Chips & Salsa ~ Spanish Rice & Beans
Brownie Volcano

Blueberry Pancakes & Maple Syrup
Crisp Bacon ~ Orange Slices ~ Milk & Juice

Mac &Cheese (Annie's Organic box)
Fruits & Veggies
Ice Cream Sandwiches

Soft Pretzels

Baked Chicken Tenders ~ Oven Potato Wedges ~
Steamed Baby Carrots ~ Corn Meal Muffins
Boston Cream Pie

Cold Cereal ~ Fresh Fruit Kabobs
Raspberry Coffee Cake
Yogurt ~ Milk & Juice

Make Your Own Taco’s ~ (hard & soft)
Tortilla Chips & Salsa Dip

Popcorn & Apple Wedges

Make Your Own Pizza/Stromboli
Veggies & Dip ~ Assorted Fruits

Cold Cereal ~ Maple Muffins ~ Fresh Fruit Cup & Yogurt
Milk & Juice

Packed Lunches for journey?

I have made up the dry ingredients for my biscuit recipe and put it in the fridge - the wet ingredients will be added later. I have a big batch of my regular pancake mix ready to make and store - again adding the wet ingredients when the time comes. I have all of my recipes organized and will set out the breakfast things the night before, as usual. I often do that just for our everyday, since mornings are not my most coherent time! I have made out a grocery list and shopped my pantry to make sure I have staples on hand - so all in all, food-wise, I think we are set!

And now ... to clean the house! Oh my! So much for my thorough spring cleaning plan - it's the ' just do the best we can' plan now! Oh well!

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Works For Me Wednesday #3

* with apologies to those who do not eat meat

We love the economy of a nice roast. The first meal is wonderful and the leftovers can be stretched for one or two more meals at least - especially if there are flavorful 'juices' to make into soup or gravy. My problem has always been catching those nice juices. We have learned over the years that allowing a roast to sit covered on the counter for 20-30 minutes before carving makes for easier carving - and a messy counter! We have solved this problem by lining a jelly roll pan or sided cookie sheet with a flexible plastic cutting mat - the kind I buy for 3 for $1 at our $1 Dollar store. I actually trimmed this one with kitchen shears to fit in the jelly roll pan. This way the roast can rest, the juices are saved, and the carving can be done with minimal fuss. It's simple, but it really works for me!

After you slip your roast out of the oven, boost the temperature to 450F and whip up a batch of POPOVERS! Might I even suggest a double batch? So simple and yummy!

2 eggs ( room temperature)
1 cup milk ( room temperature)
3 Tbsp. melted butter (no substitutes)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Beat eggs until frothy; add milk and butter. Slowly add flour and salt - use a whisk to beat until smooth. Pour into well greased muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes or until puffed up and golden. Makes 9. Serve hot! These really do ' popover' - and the kids like to watch the last few minutes of baking to see them turning bottoms up!

EDITED: Sorry for the blurry picture - Dreamer took it quickly so we could all sit and eat a nice hot dinner!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Thrifted Beauty

Today, I've been planting bulbs! The ground is frozen solid and covered in ice and snow. The skies are gray and we are enjoying a 'wintery mix' of snow, sleet, freezing rain and rain.
However, I am planting - and it is so much fun! We ran a few 'essential' errands yesterday in between winter storms. I wasn't really feeling up to it, but many of the these errands had been on my list for over a month. I'm so glad we went yesterday and didn't put it off another day. The roads were clear and bare yesterday but today is the perfect kind of day for staying at home and keeping cozy!

One of our quick stops was to the garden center. A bit early, I know, but since Dreamer needed lima beans and corn seeds to sprout for science, the garden center was our best option. It was, as expected, deserted. We found our seeds, thankfully in smaller packages than the 2# size they first offered! As we were leaving Dreamer asked, "What about the fresh flowers, Mommy - do they sell those here?" She is also in need of some fresh flowers to examine under magnification for another science assignment. I started to say 'no, I don't think so ...', but our kindly clerk led us to the 'sale' area, and big bins of beautiful Amaryllis! In bloom!

This is a bit of thrifted beauty for our kitchen table - and I didn't spend a cent! On the weekends, I like to clear off the schoolbooks and giving it a good wiping - before putting something pretty in the middle. One tray, three glass containers, three cups of clear glass marbles, water and three bulbs! A little touch of something green and growing to remind us that spring is around the corner - I hope!

Many of the bulbs were fully blooming - right there in the boxes and bins! Isn't this breath taking? No water or warmth, very little sunlight and yet - beautiful! It really makes the 'bloom where you are planted' saying make sense, doesn't it?

The best part of this story - or the worst - these were scheduled for the garbage!!! What a waste! What classroom or nursing home wouldn't love to have these beauties brightening up a corner at this gray time of year? Who says they are just a Christmastime flower? Our clerk offered us a bag and we brought some home for free! Nine, actually! I hope we weren't greedy! We were just so excited! Some of the bulbs were unmarked, so it will be a nice surprise to see just what we were given!

We have some more to plant tomorrow - I am hoping that they will 'hold' if I put them in a cool room and I really hope that they are still lovely when our special guests arrive in two weeks! I am planning to put some of these in a basket lined with plastic filled with pebbles and soil and cover the bulbs with a bit of moss. My only problem is that the topsoil on the back porch is frozen solid - to the porch! However, I won't be going out to buy soil until the roads are a bit less treacherous! Until then, we'll enjoy watching the ones we have planted! They seem to enjoy the warmth of our home and the nice drink of water - they have already begun to grow! We are very blessed!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Works For Me Wednesday #2

I just cannot believe I am giving you a terrible 'before' picture of myself, but I had to - to prove a point - some things just make my life easier - and prettier!

I have about 5 minutes for my hair each day. But I really don't want to go around looking like this - you can see why!!!! In the morning after my shower I let my hair partly dry - than I race into the bathroom and after 4 or 5 minutes, I look like this!

See my happy smile? I use a $15 blowing curling brush to lift, smooth and tame my otherwise unruly locks! I think it works really well. I can usually find these hot air curling brushes at Odd Lots cheaply too.

My hair used to be really thick and have lots of body - before liver disease. My hairdresser would charge me extra because I had enough hair for 6 women! Now it is thinner and not so nice, but hey - at least I'm not bald! It tends to have a mind of it's own, though, so this is such a help!

Now, a word of caution. I have gone through at least 3 of these over about 4 years - they do die, as the comments/reviews on the Conair website warns. My solution? I keep the packaging in my bathroom closet with the receipt and if it is still under warranty when it dies, they replace it. I have also come across these at Wal*Mart in the clearance area and bought an extra to have handy. Hey, for $15 I save hours in the bathroom, I don't buy any 'root lifter' or other hair products, and I don't scare the neighbors ( you did look at the before picture right?)!!! I figure it is a small price to pay for something that really works for me!

Be sure to head on over to Rocks In My Dryer for more great tips on WFMW, but please be quiet - Shannon is sleeping! There is some serious 'home from Africa' jet lag going on and you know how much a Momma needs her sleep!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Kind words greatly appreciated!

Thankfully I have been more limber and in less pain today! Thank you all for your kind words, prayers and commiserations! My goose egg is gone and I can sit for short periods of time without much discomfort! It's a good thing! I am so very thankful for strong bones, a thick skull, and quick recovery. Sleep made a big difference - last night I was comfortable enough to rest well! Praise God!

We've had a quiet day of school work and errands today. We listened to 'Les Miserables' by Victor Hugo from Focus on the Family radio theater. It was so touching and really opened the way for some great discussion about redemption, making the decision to forgive and living a life pleasing to God. Thankfully, some of the harder topics were far about the children's understanding and I didn't have to explain as much as I thought I would. We all had a good cry at the end when Jean dies, of course, but as our Storyteller said, 'He was ready to stand before God since he walked with Him everyday anyways.' Oh, that that would be said of me when it is my time!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Seeing Stars!

Yesterday was such a beautiful day! 40 F and very sunny! The children played outside for hours after swimming lessons and lunch! I decided to strip all the beds, wash everything and hang the quilts out on the line. When I went out with the second load, the warmth of the sun had made the ice on our back patio cement quite smooth and very slick, but I was rushing about, playing at my early spring cleaning and didn't think about it! One minute I was up - the next, I was down - flat on my back on the ice. Ouch! I went down pretty hard and have the aches and pains to prove it! I was literally seeing stars and I even have a small goose-egg on the back of my head. I thought I had put another crack in the cement! The Historian was outside with me and helped to pick me up, but I've been moving tenderly ever since!

The bedding was almost dry when we brought it in and dried the rest of the way draped here and there in the warm house - everything smells wonderful. Dreamer had two quits in the wash, so her room smelled especially fresh! I love the smells of springtime! In our kitchen we are really enjoying the scent of the hyacinths in the bulb garden I received for my birthday - it is so wonderfully fragrant!

I am home from church since our pews are less than comfortable on a good day - torture racks when my body is aching all over! I am enjoying the solitude, but can't do much. It hurts to sit, stand or lay down, but I have to stretch out these achy muscles, so I'll just keep moving along - slowly! It will be quite a day of rest - and hopefully by tomorrow, I'll be greatly improved!

Friday, February 15, 2008

I'm here .... but I'm not.

This isn't something I have shared about much because it is frustrating, personal, and well, to be honest - I have authority issues! As in, I don't want to ever get in trouble with the authorities. Specifically, H*meland S*curity.

I am law abiding. I have been since grade two when my school principle came into our classroom and laid down the law because some of the boys were giving our sweet teacher a very hard time. I had never even been out of line once with my teacher, but I was so convicted I almost wet my pants and I cried all the way home to Mum. Thankfully, Mum was a stay at home Mum who was there for us at lunch time with listening ears and a well balanced lunch. She soothed my aching heart before sending me back into the fray - so, all was well. Except that I have never forgotten. So the thing is, I really really want to obey the law. Always. I hate to disobey. I am terrified extremely respectful of authority figures - even though I haven't done anything wrong. Nope. Not even a parking violation. Ever.

So, when I first moved to the U.S. to join my husband after our joyous wedding 16 1/2 years ago, we did everything lawfully. We filled out all the forms, we paid all the money, we waited all the days. At our final interview with I*N*S, they shamelessly tried to trick us and confuse us, but we answered all their questions correctly I guess, because they gave me permission to stay, and a 'temp*orary resi*dent card' with a lovely picture of my right ear to prove it. After a while we jumped through more hoops applied for per*manent resi*dence status and that was granted. It was expensive, time consuming, and nerve wracking, but pretty painless in hindsight.

Very painless compared with our current mess.

Almost 8 years ago, during the final months of a difficult pregnancy, we felt God calling us to be closer to my family, and we started to pray about the direction He would lead us in. We actually drew a small circle on the map of Ontario including my parents home and the home of my sister and family in Canada. We prayed. God lead. He opened up a small church in central Ontario and we were delighted. The move was bittersweet, for we loved the area of Michigan where we were living, and more importantly, we loved our church family. Our children were both born in Michigan - one came to us through the blessing of adoption, and one after a long awaited birth. Were were indeed blessed.

It was a physically difficult move because we had a toddler and a wee baby boy. The fact that we required 2 U-Hawl-Junk trucks and a trailer to cart our belongings also made the move tough. Two of the U-Hawl-Junk's had flat tires during the two day journey, and that was no picnic either, but the worst part of the move involved waiting for hours at the Bridge to Canada because there had been a terrible accident and the Bridge was closed and everyone was re-routed. I was alone with the trailer and the Baby Boy - who frantically needed to be held, nursed and changed, but there was no place to pull over. I still have nightmares.

We survived, settled in, and had 4 wonderful years of ministry with a loving church family in central Ontario. It was such a blessing to be closer to my family and we tried to take advantage of our proximity as often as possible. In hindsight, I wish we had spent even more time together, but you know how day to day life just somehow gets in the way at times, don't you? At the end of that time some really hard things happened in our lives.

My dear Historian lost both his mother to cancer and his sister to complications resulting from diabetes very shortly after. It was a very hard time in our lives personally, and though our church family was caring and gracious, continuing in ministry was completely draining. We continually sought the Lord, for healing, peace, and of course, direction. My Historian requested a sabbatical, and that was graciously granted. During that time, we got a call from a former employer offering the Historian a full time job in his former field - archivist. We saw this as an answer to prayer and began the process of moving back to the U.S.

This time, we were no longer dealing with Imm*gration a*d Natur*lization Services (I*N*S), but with H*meland S*curity. Different name - entirely different process. We did everything they asked us to do and despaired at the wait times they quoted. We followed the rules and packed up the house - only to find out that I had to stay in Canada until our paperwork was completed. Our home was sold and empty! My parents graciously offered to take the children and I in.

We re-packed our belongings to accommodate this change of plans and said goodbye. It was the worst of times for us, not knowing when we would see one another again. The Historian moved without us and we lived in limbo with my folks. I finally brought the children to the U.S. to visit their Daddy and just stayed. I hated that I was not completely honest in staying for such a long visit, but our information was conflicting and some authorities said it was fine, and others told us to head back to Canada. More than one legal mind told us that if we had made the move *illegally* without the proper paper work, it would have been a quicker process. Even the forms we had filled out made provision for that! I stayed, and eventually the paperwork caught up. Many people prayed for us and we felt God's peace and leading. My Historian settled into to a job he loves, and the children and I began to feel at home. We launched into renovations and painting - a whole lot of painting! The simple happy life of a home school family living for their Lord quietly perked along. Lots of prayer and waiting.

Two years ago, we finally had our all important interview in Montreal and I was granted a temporary U.S. V*sa. We waited and waited for further information. We watched our 'account' on line faithfully following our case and were always rewarded with the same message 'c*se pending'. As the date of expiration drew closer, we began to be very concerned. There were no changes in our status and our time was short! We sought help, and eventually found some through our St*te Reprsent*tive's office.

They discovered that somehow, someone closed our c*se file!!!! Without resolving anything!!! I have a strong suspicion that they have lost misplaced our file, but I don't know that for sure. I pray not! We do know it has been shuffled through three offices. In dealing with our Sta*te Represent*tive, they have realized our difficulty, and are now expediting our case. Their advice? Stay here, but please don't leave the country - we can't be sure you'll get back in! H*meland S*curity will contact you within three months. On Wednesday, we got a letter from H*meland S*curity - the first communication we have had in two years!!! We have an interview - March 31st!!!!! Whew! Back on track - right?


The first problem we see is that the long list of documents that they are requiring us to bring to our interview are the self same documents that they HAVE!!!!! Remember that file I suspect is misplaced? It included all of our original documents. Getting certified copies expedited is going to cost a small fortune!

And there is another problem. My driver's license is linked to my V*SA, and since one has expired, so has the other. I'm grounded. More hoops to jump through! I have a list of 6 documents that might help me get my license back, but there are no guarantees. Getting the documents they are asking for will be hard, and I won't drive without a license - so I'm grounded! This feels a little familiar - hmmmm - September/October - ish! Right! I was grounded because of a broken foot! Grrrrr!

So, I'm here, but I'm not.

Ask most folks who know me and they will tell you that I am a pretty patient woman. When you are standing in a long line and see the woman who is smiling placidly and waiting patiently when everyone else is chomping at the bit, think of me! I am not always patient with my children, but I try hard to be. Most of the time, I succeed, only because God is good and He's working on me!

With this newest development, I am NOT feeling patient AT ALL!!! Can you understand????? I'm frustrated and annoyed, and I don't want to embarrass or belittle those in authority in this fine country, but if they can make this kind of terrible error with little old me, what other mistakes are being made every day? I was born in a great country - eh? I live in a great country! I am blessed to be here with my family, enjoying freedoms and luxuries everyday that people all over the world only dream about. My troubles really are very small, but just for today, to me, they are very very BIG!

We continue to pray for those in authority over us, for governments and rulers placed in positions of power in this great land. We choose to respect them, and to obey. We will do as God has directed, and keep on praying. My main prayer lately is that those who are handling these types of cases will do their jobs diligently, passionately, remembering that each case that crosses their desk represents a person, a family, and a dream.

I just needed to share this - I hope you don't mind! If you've gotten this far, bless you!

I'm sorry for all of the annoying *'s but I didn't want to get a lot of interest in my blog from those who are seeking to be disrespectful of the agencies we are working with. That is not my intent at all. If that happens I will take down this post.

In the old days, folks used to gather around the cracker barrel in the general stores drinking strong black coffee and talking about the issues of the day! I appreciate you taking the time to listen to my 'issues', and offer your kind comments!

UPDATE: I've settled down now - and I am very happy to report that this morning I located my Ontario Driver's License and it is good until 2011!!!! Yeah! From what I understand it is unlawful to hold licenses in two States, but not in two countries - I hope that is correct! I am praising the Lord! I wouldn't want to get rusty and forget how to drive or some crazy thing! I couldn't figure out how we were going to get to piano lessons!!! Now, I know. Yeah!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

Galatians 5:13 & 14

For you are called to freedom, brothers;
only don't use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh,
but serve one another through love.
For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Note to Self: It is cheaper to shop alone!

Last week, I thoroughly cleaned out our fridge in anticipation of a 'big' grocery shopping trip. I had a pretty long list of staples and other things that we needed, but I hadn't been out to shop for a good long while. I never made it! Sick kids and an under the weather Mama, you know! Good thing that sick children don't eat much! Now that they are on the mend - they are hungry! Yeah! I love a child with a healthy appetite!

Tonight, after AWANA and Bible Study, I slipped out to the grocery store - without children. I think I've mentioned before that I don't multi-task well. Grocery shopping with my children is a case in point. I constantly forget items on my list and don't have the mental acuity to hunt for my coupons and organize my thoughts when I am distracted by the happy chatter and non-stop questions of my children. I just proved it again tonight.

My original bill came out to roughly $325. I handed my Kroger Plus card to the cashier and that brought it down to $275 because I was really watching those specials you know! I handed her my coupons and voila! my bill came to just over $200 - that works, don't you think? My point is, that I only ever do this well at saving when I can really concentrate on what I'm doing. So, from now on, I'm going to try to shop alone! Just think of all the delightful fabrics I could buy with all of my savings! I may not be bringing home the bacon, but I sure want to learn to stretch that bacon a bit further!

I used to do the Grocery Game, and I would really recommend it, and will probably re-subscribe at some point. I let it lapse when I really wasn't feeling well last summer and not getting out to shop on a regular schedule. They do all the work of co-ordinating specials with coupons for you and the savings are really wonderful - however, it doesn't work if you don't buy pre-packaged, frozen, and prepared foods or a lot of 'regular' brand cleaners, candy and air fresheners. Which we usually don't!

We shop the 'outer rim' of the grocery store most of the time - fresh fruits and veggies, dairy products, fresh fish, meats and eggs. We swoop into the baking isle, the cleaner isle for Mrs. Meyer's great products, and the frozen isle for frozen %100 fruit juices and occasionally ice cream! We buy a few canned goods too, but not many. So, it was a bit frustrating to me to look over Terri's list every week and realize how much we could be saving if we lived on those kinds of foods - it's never a comfort to know that eating home cooked and healthy generally costs more than the alternative - and seeing it each week in print was a bit more than I could take! Why don't they give coupons for apples and broccoli???? For a while I was using Terri's list to buy the really cheap ( almost free) convenience foods and donating them to the food bank, but after a while, I just didn't have the energy for that. So, I've been trying to really do the co-ordination myself, and tonight it worked out nicely - yeah! If I weren't so tired, I'd do a happy dance!

Note to Self: Shop alone Mama! It works!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Works For Me Wednesday (my first)

When we first moved into our home three years ago, 11 out of 13 rooms were some shade of orange - ranging from and electric reddish orange to an eye-popping sixties coral. The other two rooms were electric blue and bubble gum hot pink. We had one red and raspberry striped hallway, one bright blue hall, and a mustard yellow closet. In short, we felt like we were living in a Mexican Restaurant! It was cheerful, but just not our style! After the daily shock of waking up in a rusty orange room and going to the bathroom in a putrid pumpkin master bath with light pumpkin woodwork, we began to say 'Ole!' instead of good morning ... and we got to painting! It was so overwhelming that we hired much of the work, but we did our share also.

In facing an overwhelming whole house decorating challenge, I was forced to get organized. Since we couldn't just go out and buy everything we wanted right away, our re-decorating became a fun search and ongoing challenge. What really helped me was an envelope system. This isn't my first one - months of rolling around in my purse or the glove compartment required me to update my falling apart envelopes again recently, but you'll see how it worked.

I started by gluing a bunch of envelopes together - not as nicely as Martha, of course, but you get the idea! I used some scrap booking paper on the outside envelope for a bit of whimsy. One envelope for each room. Originally, I had a picture of each room and a paint chip with finish information ( eggshell, glossy, etc.). As we have worked on each room, I added a wish list, fabric samples, a sketch of the window treatments I planned, measurements, flooring samples, laminate pieces, stain samples on wood pieces, and even trim I was trying to match.

The envelopes got pretty fat at times, but I just keep on sorting and as each room was somewhat completed, I took out all but the essential elements - paint chips, fabric swatch and wish list.

This is an example of the colors and fabric we used in the sun room - for some reason the 'soft tan' paint chip is missing, so I'll try to get to Sherwin Williams and pick up another soon! You never know when something great will catch your eye and knowing beforehand if it goes nicely or not with your existing colour scheme , is a huge help!

I am no professional decorator, but this has really worked well for me, and I hope the idea helps you in some small way!

Pleating Complete

One window down, only three windows to go! When they are all up, I will get out the steamer and smooth them out. Do you think I need to iron the pleats down crisply or leave them soft and billowy? The fabric is a thick cotton jacquard and the piping is a bit stiff. I wish the white lining didn't show as much, but I couldn't find a co-ordinate that was lightweight, came in 54" width, and was inexpensive. I buy 'rain no stain' lining by the bolt when it is on sale - if I'm sewing curtains, that is! It works, I guess. The Dreamer loves this pattern and wishes she had picked it for her bedroom! It's a bit formal for a young girl's room, but I think she was just trying to compliment the anxious seamstress! Now, back to the sewing machine *groan* .....

I LOVE that stuff!

Once upon a time when I was a bit more organized, I tried out dozens of new recipes every January! When my family really liked something, it was declared a 'keeper' and added to the regular menu schedule. Life has taken some unexpected turns, and I am far less organized than I once was, but I am still trying to be a little creative in the kitchen. I've settled on Tuesday nights for trying new things - we'll see how long it lasts! Tonight's new 'main dish' involved chicken since I bought 20 lbs of the drug free, hormone free chicken breasts when they were on sale not long ago. When I brought them home and packaged them for the freezer, I started looking through the new cookbooks I got for Christmas. The original recipe looked promising, but when I started to make it tonight, I had to alter it for lack of a few ingredients! The kids loved the result - the Historian and I liked it, but both of us think it could use a bit more flavor. I can't really judge since my taste buds are still affected by the cold. It was tender and juicy and the pretty pink sauce was really attractive. Might be a nice 'Valentine's Day' entree!

Cranberry Chicken Bake

6 Tbs. all purpose flour
½ tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. pepper
¼ tsp paprika
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Combine dry ingredients in a bag. Throw in chicken and shake to coat. Keep the left over flour mixture.

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Brown chicken in oil in a large fry pan on medium heat, three minutes per side or until nicely browned. Transfer to large shallow baking dish, well greased. Set aside. Preheat oven to 375 F.

½ cup good chicken broth or stock
1 1/2 cups whole berry cooked cranberry sauce ( I used homemade)
½ cup orange juice ( next time I will use frozen orange juice concentrate for more flavor)
¼ cup minced onion
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Combine leftover flour mixture from bag with chicken broth and whisk until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Pour over chicken and cover with lid or foil. Place in oven and bake 45-50 minutes or until thoroughly cooked. Enjoy!

The above picture is my birthday cake - Boston Cream Pie - from Martha Stewart, of course! It would have been delicious, but my oven quit again in the middle of baking, so the normally light sponge cake got a bit rubbery while I tried to coax the old stove into re-heating! We still managed to eat it though! I put the glaze on while the cake was still too warm and it 're-melted' the chocolate causing it to run more than Martha's!

My birthday blessings!

They couldn't find '41' so they improvised! There are days when I feel 401!
Not today, of course!

So many lovely cards with precious thoughts and well wishes!

The Storyteller used his own hard earned money for a lovely bouquet of flowers!

This sweet hummingbird hovers over a lovely bulb garden sent by Dad and Mum!

Our Dreamer thought the bouquet needed a wee balloon too!

Monday, February 11, 2008


It isn't a very pretty number, but I guess I can put up with it for a year - after all, birthdays roll around quickly these days! I can hardly believe I am so old! I remember when I thought 25 was ancient! I don't feel so old though - just a bit weathered! Every day is a precious gift from God - and I will appreciate them all!

I'm having a rather ordinary day so far - I was to the dentist for a cleaning this morning and now on to washing and tidying! How does the house get to be such a disaster in such a short time? I think the thread all over the house is one clue - our home always gets neglected when I am sewing! I'm not a neat sewer who picks up ever little thread as I go - I like to let them fall where they may and get them all cleaned up at the same time! Somehow they just don't stay in the sewing room though!

A step in the right direction - the hardware is up for the valances! That was a job in itself - so exacting! I really really have no excuse now not to get these done and up! I also took an hour and re-did the seat on our computer chair ( which is in the same room). The strapping was sagging and the padding was compressed! I padded it so much that the old cover didn't fit, so I used a bit of the valance fabric and it really looks quite fine. The chair was part of a cherry dining room set that has been in my husband's family since the 40's - and this particular chair has had a rough life! It is too far gone for a full refinish, but we like it and now it is comfortable again, so for however long it stands up, we will enjoy it! It has a nice familiar creek and fits well with the old desk the holds our computer!

I must get back to Monday morning chores! I am happy to say that we all seem to be on the mend and feeling better, so hopefully this will be a really productive school week. We might even get some snow tomorrow which will be the perfect incentive to finish the snow unit we started in December! Of course, there are some Valentine surprises in the works and a birthday cake to make - so many sweet adventures in our future, and happy times to look forward to! May the Lord bless your day with His perfect peace!

Sunday, February 10, 2008


From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea,
Creation's revealing Your majesty.
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring,
Every creature unique in the song that it sings,
All exclaiming!

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God.
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim,
You are amazing God!

Who has told every lightning bolt where it should go,
Or seen heavenly storehouses laden with snow?
Who imagined the sun and gives source to its light,
Yet conceals it to bring us the coolness of night?
None can fathom!

Incomparable, unchangeable!
You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same.
You are amazing God,
You are amazing God.

Written by Laura Story & Jesse Reeves

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Spit Down, Found Treasure & Sew Crazy stuff!

On Thursday, I awakened with the children's cold! You'd think with all of the excellent nutritional supplements, herbs, echinacea, and healthy food I eat, I would be immune - but I guess my body decided to 'join the party'! Such is the life of a Mommy! This morning though, we have another concern - our Storyteller awakened with flu symptoms and is laying in bed! Unheard of! For some reason, he has always had his own funny terms for his bodily functions - for him an upset tummy is accompanied by 'spit downs' - and he is all prepared, bucket at his side. He nibbled some crystallized ginger and that seems to have settled him a bit, but I guess swimming lessons are a wash for this week too!

On a happy note - my Bible has been found at last! Definitely an answer to prayer! It seems when we were having our transmission difficulty, it got lost in the trunk of the Historian's little car - not a place I would have ever thought to look! I am so happy to have it back - I'm even contemplating making a new cover for it, with some left over brown and cream toile! Mrs. M was quite gracious and gave me the leftover yardage!

And speaking of sewing projects - I've got myself in a pickle to be sure! I have taken on some big sewing projects in the past, to be sure! I once made the black curtains for a theater by myself and that involved over 100 meters of fabric and two weeks of sewing 8-5! I was never so bored and sure I would be blind by the end of the project! In my dorm room in college I sewed countless 'choir dresses' for the college girls and even a wedding dress! I also made 5 navy blue cotton velvet Victorian bridesmaid dresses once - my poor roommate had to put up with blue fluff for a month! My craziest sewing project was for a bed and breakfast and it was ruffled muslin curtains just like these - boy where those fun! I bought a ruffler foot for my machine and made over 2000 yards of 6" ruffles! We bought the muslin by the bolt and I thought that project would never end! My most expensive project involved floor to ceiling wide silk stripe curtains for a hotel lobby - the fabric was over $25 a yard and the ceilings were 12 feet high! I was never so nervous to cut into cloth!

My current project isn't quite so bad - but since it is for me, and not someone else, I am almost tempted to quit! I don't know why I picked this pattern (view C in yellow) , or why I cut it out without going over the directions first, but I am beginning to regret it! I am having to adjust for the sizes of my windows - one is 72", one is 62" and 2 are 30", so all in all, I am making 11 'swags' - and each one is pleated separately from the lining - 7 pleats on each side! Ahhhhh! The worst part is - the pleats are sewn together and must match up!!!!! Double Ahhhhh! I have used the fabric I bought this week - which was such a blessing - to make the piping. Now I have no excuse not to finish these silly valances! Onwards and upwards! I'll just have to make the best of it!

We were planning to celebrate my birthday tomorrow (a little early) with a fun 'date', but I think we'll put it off for another week - maybe by than we will all be healthy! I don't mind one bit - I really don't need to get any older! Just wiser! We were supposed to have some lovely surprise (to me) company later today - my Dad and Mum were willing to come all this way just to be with us over my birthday, but plans have changed! They are having some car trouble, expect a severe winter storm, have been asked to watch their neighbour's house while they are away, and quite frankly - they don't want our germs any more than we want to share them!!!!!

The Historian is working this morning to make up for the days he missed this week with the flu bug, so I need to go and take care of our sick boy, and get to a bit of cleaning and laundry - I'm sure they'll be more later - though he is pretty good at hitting the pail or getting to the bathroom! I hope to run out later after the Historian gets home to get some groceries and one much needed sewing notion! We'll see! I do hope your weekend plans are more interesting than ours!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Out of the house ...

With the children being sick with colds for so long, we haven't been out of the house much at all. A touch of cabin fever is setting in! We went to church on Sunday, and that was the first time we had been there as a whole family in three weeks! The children were feeling better and we felt very blessed to be worshiping together, but by Sunday night they were back to being stuffed up and cranky! I would say they have a fresh dose of cold, but it almost seems like it never left them! Monday afternoon, The Historian came home from work with the flu. He had a rough go of it, but was thankfully back to work today and feeling much better - about 80% he said. I was sorry that he got so very sick, but it was nice to have him home and be able to bring him comfort and care since he is always the one to look after the children and me. We're just hoping he didn't share the germs! We're going to stock up on gingerale and crackers just in case!

Today, the children and I listened for the first time to the first part of 'Little Women' on c.d. - one of Focus on the Family's excellent radio dramas! The children loved it! So did I! It gave us a lot of opportunity for discussion and brought up some excellent History questions. We listened as we drove in the van to pick up a piece of fabric that was an answer to prayer! I'm so glad that our God is a God of small details and perfect timing!

I originally bought the fabric 2 years ago and recently cut it out for window treatments - only to find that I was miscalculating and just one yard short for the piping! I tried to match some ready made piping only to realize that it would cost me more than $80 on sale to get the amount I needed. I was so blessed to be able to get another yard for $12.98, and hopefully I will be able to finish this valance project this weekend. It was well worth the drive, and I had the privilege of taking our children 'out for lunch' which was a real treat for all of us. It would have been nicer if they were totally well, but we made the best of it, as usual. We did dig into some schoolwork when we came home, but they were both pretty stuffed up and unable to concentrate. I hope tomorrow will be more productive, school wise! It's so hard to work with 'splitting' headaches, and from what I have heard, that is just part of this bug. Last week, more than 150 children were sent home sick from one of our area schools, so I guess this is just a bad seasonal illness in our area. We are blessed to be home and able to push through when they are feeling reasonably well, and catch up when they are just too unwell to make it worthwhile. We continue to push fluids, rest and healthy foods - so I'm sure they will be better soon!

I was also blessed to be able to go to the ladies Bible Study tonight. We kept the children home from AWANA again since they need their rest, but I went ahead since the Historian was able to be home with the children. I am woefully behind in my homework, which is terrible, I know! I still received a blessing from the evening and was reminded of a powerful passage of Scripture that touched my heart again. The ladies at Bible study were so wonderfully welcoming and blessed my heart with their gracious concern. It is such an honor to be apart of the family of God!

For the last few weeks I have been searching for my Bible - I feel like I am missing an appendage! I was given the Bible 7 or 8 years ago, but stubbornly hung on to my older 'falling apart' Bible because it was so familiar! It wasn't until I accidentally dropped the old Bible in a snowbank and lost Hebrews, James and John that I finally retired the old and began to use my 'new' one! I am just breaking this one in after 3 years, and I really miss it! I've been praying about where it could be, but so far it hasn't turned up. It's a small thing, I know, but there are precious notes from the children and my own scribbles as God has moved my heart through His Word, so I do hope to find it soon. I'm using another Bible of course, but it just isn't the same! Do you get this attached to your Bible? I hope so!

I need to get some rest now, but I wanted to catch up with the latest here since I haven't had much to say lately! I'd better start doing something a bit more exciting in my day to day life so that I can share it here! Just now though, taking care of getting these children completely well again is our first order of business!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Keep praying please!

I just thought I'd give you an update on Elysha, since she has been on our hearts and minds a great deal lately. Her little family is back home after a month long hospital stay.

Her is what her Daddy has written:

It is SO good to be home and although we are kept very busy with pumping, feeding (bottle & ng-tube), giving medications (incl. by needle), wound & illiostomy care, home nurse visits (twice a week) and all the other ’normal’ baby care tasks... Katherine certainly takes the brunt of the work since Richard has return to full time this past week, but the old line "sleep while she’s sleeping" really works (when possible).

Tuesday was a trip to Sick Kids for a heart and dietitian follow-up. The results were all good. Her oxygen is good, she’s gaining weight, her colour is good...and the medical staff were happy to let us go home again! The overnight bags that Katherine had packed got to stay in the van. :)

Wednesday was a follow-up with our local paediatrician. Again, things are progressing in the right direction. He again insisted that we don’t take Elysha to public places nor near children since even the slightest cold will land her right back in we will make adjustments for that again. In light of our alternatives (i.e. being in the hospital 24/7) having to ’stay at home’ isn’t really so bad...we have MUCH to be thankful for.

Isn't she the sweetest? She is three months and 1 week old, and already has spent more time in the hospital than most people do in a lifetime. She has people all over the world praying for her and for her family, and God is using her little life to draw many closer to Himself. It is a privilege to be partners together with a family we have never met as we pray for their blessing. Would you like to pray too?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Ta Da!

We didn't get the chair done last night - Mrs. M was afraid of being caught in an ice storm that began early in the evening and so she left for home before the roads got too bad. We did manage to cut the padding and the muslin cover, as well as the fabric. Today, Mrs. M took a half day vacation and came over to finish up the chair! Thankfully, we had another good day with school work and finished up just before lunch time. After a bit of talking, we got to work. We had a few tricky places - corners and around those arms, but we were both really tickled with the results and she was able to take it home late this afternoon!

We took some pictures first, of course! It is so satisfying to get a project like this finished - and since her guest room is going to be occupied for the weekend, the timing couldn't be more perfect! I say guest room, but it really reminds me of a bed and breakfast setting! Everything is so perfectly pleasing to the eye - wonderful pinks and chocolate browns. The room reminds me of opening up a wonderful box of expensive handmade chocolates! I would like to have the gumption to mix and match prints the way she has, but somehow it never looks as pleasing and restful in my home as it does in hers.

We posed these pictures of the beautiful rocker in a corner of the Historian's office - which used to be our garage. It is such a warm and inviting room with books lining almost every wall. I was coerced into having my picture taken in the chair by Mrs.M - she is too sweet to refuse. It turned out to be very sturdy and wonderfully comfortable rocker. Lots of padding, especially in the seat area made for a surprisingly comfy place to sit! Mrs. M was teasing that she just may be spending a bit more time in her guest room now that she has a great place to relax and read!

Did I mention how well behaved our children were? It was such a blessing to be working out in the Grammy Flat and have them playing nicely together, and not interrupting our work. They really are quite good at getting along and they made the most of their 'free' afternoon without school! The did go a bit overboard with the apple cider though - they drank 1/2 a gallon! There could be some rumbly tummies in the night! We could hear them playing, and of course I checked on them frequently, but there were no problems! Praise the Lord!

After Mrs. M, left we made homemade pizza and The Dreamer made a nice fruit and veggie tray to go with it. I have to talk to her again about cutting the grapes into more manageable clusters, but other than that, I must say she is really mastering the art of simple food preparation and presentation. I lay down on the couch for a bit since I was a bit in, so she worked with her Daddy. The pizza's turned out yummy - I made a double crust for hubby and loaded it with fixings - Mmmm! All healthy, naturally! The kids alway prefer more plain pizzas but our Dreamer got into my spice cupboard and after some sniffing, chose some herbs to dress hers up with! That girl will soon outstrip her mama for 'fancy cooking' I'm sure! I'm just such a plain jane!

I'm not sure what all this weekend holds. We have friends who have suffered a deep loss with the passing of her father, and the funeral is tomorrow morning. The Historian plans to attend. We don't have swimming lessons, since there is a meet at the pool - probably just as well since the kids are both doing much better but are not 100% even yet. I wonder if this cold is lingering because they are both cutting teeth. Two new molars for Dreamer and two front teeth for the Storyteller. What lovely smiles they will both have in a few weeks! For now, I'm off to bed with a toasty warm soother sac, and a book. If we have any exciting adventures, I'll be sure to let you know! I think we'll probably just have a quite weekend, but only the Lord really knows!