Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Let's play...

....a little game. I snagged this from Carrie's blog over at Handle Life with Care (she snagged it from her DH's blog). Anywho,

The idea is this: You express how much you prefer one thing to another (using the greater than sign >>>), and then add “it’s not even close.”

IBC Rootbeer>>>>>>>Dr. Pepper

a crisp fall day>>>>>>a sweltering hot & humid summer day

a clean house with well-behaved children>>>>>>>>>a messy house with children bouncing off the walls

a close-knit family>>>>>>>>a distant family

being comfortable in my own skin>>>>>>>>trying to "fit in" to what other people think I should be

leaving for vacation>>>>>>>coming home

being near the water>>>>>>being land-locked

a blissful uncomplicated pregnancy>>>>>>>>>unrelenting morning sickness

uplifting "real" people>>>>>>>>>>pessimistic hypocritical people

a few close friendships>>>>>>>>bunches of acquaintances

creating something with my hands>>>>>>>doing dishes with my hands (YUK!)

It's not even close!!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Storm

It sounded like breaking glass. I awoke from a deep sleep to hear the noise of rain falling. As I looked toward the window, the flashes of lightening flickered through like a strobe light. OH, maybe something from this storm broke a window. I hopped out of bed and went to the living room. The lamp would not turn on. The power must be out. I peeked through the blinds into the backyard. I could make out the form of the fence through the lightening flashes. NOOOOO! I couldn't tell how much of the fence had been demolished, but I could see it laying in the grass. To my right I could see the patio umbrella laying in the glass as well. I checked the windows. None broken. I ran to wake up Rick. He was not in bed where I expected him to be. I fumbled in the dark for my phone and looked at the time. 4:45 am. I called Rick. He had left for work 20 minutes earlier. He told me where to find a flashlight and I went and checked the girls' windows. They were both sound asleep. I went back to bed, but lay there in fear. Through my prayers I could feel my heart thumping, the wind battering the house, the thunder and lightening crackling. I was making plans on how to get the girls and where we would hide in the basement should the tornado sirens sound. I finally fell in and out of a fitful rest. This is what I woke up to the following morning:

The wind snapped the pole that holds up the patio umbrella. Oh well. Maybe I can find one on clearance after summer's end.

This is the part of the fence closest to the house. The concrete is actually coming out of the ground due to the weight of the fence falling. You can see the top runner is almost snapped in half as well.

The middle of the fence. You can see what is left of each post sticking out of the ground.

The end of the left side of the fence where it meets the back section.

This is the A-frame portion of my several-hundred-pound wooden playset that was lifted up and moved over about 14". The hole on the right is where it used to sit.

I guess I can be thankful that it was only the left side of the fence and not the whole thing! I am also thankful that the kids and I were safe from harm. DH looks at the kids and I being safe as "something good" happening, whereas I saw it as something bad being avoided. Depends on your perspective I suppose. I realize now that the sound I thought of as glass breaking was mostly likely the sound of each post cracking off. I sickens me every time I look out the window to think of all the hours Rick spent out there in the sweltering heat to make a nice place for his family to enjoy and to have it all be undone in just a matter of minutes. I told God that I am aware of His power and did not need to be reminded. Why couldn't He "speak" to someone else? I guess somehow this is all part of his plan. I was without internet as well for 2 days because our tower was down. So I am back now!

A Special Note to all my Public Schooling Friends: I know many of your children will be starting their first year of kindergarten and this may be stirring up all kinds of emotions for you, as their mother. I am, and will continue, to be praying for your families and the changes that this will bring. Please drop me a line and let me know how you are handling this and if there is anything I can do. Love you girls!

P.S. The violent storm and its ensuing aftermath reminded me and gave me one small miniscule glimpse into what Hurricane Katrina survivors must have and continue to feel. As the one year anniversary of Katrina is in a few short days, please keep all those affected in your prayers.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

{A word on.....}

...the Weekend:

I guess any day when you have to call 911 probably could be filed under the "exciting" category. Rick and I were on our way to a family wedding and I was on the phone with {M} when a car accident occurred in front of us. Of course, I was shaken & called 911. Never called 911 from a cell phone before & now feel reassured that it actually "works". No one was seriously injured but there were children one of the vehicles who were crying and very scared, which to me was upsetting. I have been having some trouble with migraine headaches and suffered another one on Saturday. I wasn't sure I was going to make it to this wedding (only made it in time for the reception) and kept changing my mind almost the whole way there. I am thinking I may need to get some medication for this or research some other sort of remedies. If you have ever had one, you know how debilitating they can be! (If you have any suggestions, could you please let me know?)


I posted (jokingly) several posts ago wondering how to get 23 comments on cooking or knitting or household tips. Apparently I hit a culinary nerve. Can't we all just get along?? *grin* Moving on...I made this recipe today to go along with our dinner & was so easy and delicious. The crust wasn't as "crispy" as I thought it would be, but maybe it's not supposed to be. I also made a surf & turf stir-fry on Friday for a private dinner for Rick & I and it turned out to be quite tasty. Lots of ginger, fresh garlic, and green onions. YUM! My mom spent the night on Saturday to watch the girls (bless her heart!) and on Sunday morning was SO excited to tell me about this book she started reading that she found laying around my house. Yep, Frozen Assets. She said she copied down a bunch of recipes and can't wait to freeze some meals and went on and on about what a great idea she thinks this is. Oh, mom. If only my blog readers could hear you now, we would all laugh together.

...Backyard projects:

Our fence is almost complete! I realized today (while I was mowing the grass) how I really enjoy a little privacy. I am, for the most part, an extrovert. I, do, however need my own space and *love* being fenced in. The landscaping still needs much work, like digging out unwanted plants and moving others that are now misplaced due to the fence. Also, my "weed" garden along the back needs to be killed and the play area and raised garden beds built. Oh, I can't forget our much anticipated fire pit. Looking forward to that! And {A} will definitely be getting an invite for some bonfires and s'mores (you know who you are girlie!) Take a peek:
View from the deck

my flowerbed and a closer view of the pickets

I'm actually really proud of my flowers. I'm shocked I could actually manage to keep something alive. Not only that, but the flowers all the way at the bottom I planted as seeds. Amazing the beauty that God designed for us to enjoy. I never tire of looking at them. I *love* how they spill over onto the brick patio too.


Our "official" start date is Monday, August 28th. I am excited and nervous. Aargh!

I've enjoyed hearing from so many of you recently. I am looking forward to more of our dialogues. God Bless!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

My OAMC Attempt

For those of you who've never heard the term (I hadn't until just recently), OAMC stands for once-a-month-cooking. I'd read about the concept somewhere in the blogosphere and so decided to check out this book from the library. Hmmm. I read the first few sections and was convinced to give it a try. Don't get me wrong, I *love* cooking, really. {Wasn't my last post about cooking too??} But sometimes I get bored/tired/confused regarding our daily dinner meal. We pretty much eat dinner together as a family every evening, unless one of us has a prior committment or we are out for a special event. I was super skeptical that this method would actually be cheaper (so was DH). I had tried shopping at Sam's Club a few months back and it did NOT help my grocery budget. Using the Frozen Assets book as my guide, I picked about 10 recipes and included one of my personal recipes to make and freeze. I shopped mostly at Aldi and went to Woodman's for the rest (or for the items I knew to be cheaper). Here was the menu I planned:
  • Chicken & Broccoli (4)
  • Baked Ziti (4)
  • Lazy Lasagna (2)
  • Beef Bourgignon (3)
  • Chicken Cacciatore (4)
  • All-Purpose Ground Meat Mix for Taco Salads (3) and Sloppy Joes (3)
  • Pizza Blanks (2) ~ I also made (4) medium sized ones for the kids & I for lunches
  • Egg McMuffin Sandwiches (18) ~ for DH's breakfast
  • Calzones (12) ~ for the kids & I for lunch, quick dinner, or DH snack
This adds up to 25 dinners, plus 18 breakfast sandwiches and 12-16 lunches. The total grocery bill was...{are you ready for this?}....$114. I still can't really believe it myself. I'm thinking I might be able to cut $60-$100 off of my already small grocery bill!! I will have to see how the rest of the month goes. All I will need to add to these meals is some side dishes, a fresh garden salad or noodles to go with it. Maybe even dessert! I spent about 3 days cooking on & off since I didn't have a babysitter for the kids. I definitely think I may do some mini-sessions throughout the month instead of one HUGE session. DH & I had the Lazy Lasagna over the weekend and he couldn't stop saying how good it was. He kept asking if there was any left. I am so happy that DH will be able to have a hot breakfast too, whenever he wants one. I'm caring for him every morning even while I'm still sleeping by having these in the freezer! I love it!

Calzones fresh from the oven. Can you smell 'em?? YUM!

Pizza crust for family meals

Egg McMuffin sandwiches for Rick

Taco Salad I made with for lunch with the All-Purpose Ground Meat Mix

The other advantage to this method was my grocery experience today. Since I already have all these "assets" in my freezer I was able to be in & out of the grocery store in only 30 minutes since I didn't need that many groceries. I spent half of what I usually would, so combined with what I bought in addition to my OAMC groceries last week, I'm about even for the month. I also have the energy to try several new recipes, since dinner is already "made". I recently pre-ordered this book from Amazon and can't wait til it arrives. More recipes!! If you have tried this method or want to know more, please comment. Oh, and I added an email me! link to the sidebar so now you can contact me privately too ;-)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Kitchen Mishap & Thoughts on Cooking

I had a kitchen mishap today. Actually, it wasn't quite an "accident" as I should've been paying more attention to the task at hand. I was in the early stages of making Beef Bourgignon and was ready to fry my stew meat in bacon grease (YUM! Sorry if you're a vegetarian!) & had even made a special trip to the grocery store this morning to get the bacon. It adds so much more depth of flavor! Anyway, as I was attempting to gingerly slide the stew meat from the package into the smoking hot bacon fat, the meat just decided to belly-flop head first into the pan showering my hand and a spatter on my face with grease. I haven't felt that much pain since Sienna was born! YOW! I decided I better go to the doctor (not before I finished aforementioned frying process with two more meat packages) and get my hand looked at. Thankfully I squinted my eye closed when it happened so I only got a small red mark above my eyebrow; my right hand, though, was not as lucky. I am all bandaged up now, so will have a slight disadvantage while trying to complete my household duties (oh, and trying to assemble everything for my big Cousin/Cousin garage sale on Friday & Saturday). I started thinking that although I've had several kitchen "accidents", mostly burns, I am likely to have more mishaps since I spend soooo much time in the kitchen. {I also think the reason I haven't had any really serious knife incidents is because my knives are such an extension of my body. Like a longer arm really. It would be like seriously scratching yourself ~ how often do you do that??} I really wonder how much the average person spends cooking/baking in a typical month & I'm also so curious as to how much time I spend compared to the masses?? Maybe for fun I will keep track of this at some point!

Lately I have grown really weary of cooking. I have been just sooo tired of having to cook dinner every single night (which is why I am trying the Once a Month Cooking method). Which makes me wonder....what if I really did not have a passion for cooking to begin with?? What do people cook who really DISLIKE cooking?? How awful it would be to have to do something on a daily basis (quite necessary for living) that you so disliked!! Maybe they order out a lot or make a lot of boxed items like hamburger helper or macaroni & cheese. Maybe I am tired of cooking because I hardly use any prepared/processed ingredients. I really do wonder how the proverbial "other half" cooks.....

Friday, August 04, 2006

{Kindergarten Homeschool Curriculum}

There's been a lot of talk about what everyone will be using for their curriculum this fall, so I thought I'd chime in! I am thankful for Cathy Duffy's "100 Top Picks for Homeschooling" as it really aided in my decision making. Here goes:

Daily Devotional: We have about 3 different child devotionals, including the Little Girls' Bible for Fathers & Daughters, the Little Girls' Bible for Mothers & Daughters, and My Utmost for His Highest for Kids. I will just be picking one of those to read each day.

Copywork: One short sentence from our daily devotional or a verse based around our science curriculum.

Literature: We will be doing Five in a Row! I have heard many great things about this curriculum. Since we are all book worms, I think it will be a good fit for our family. I have already begun reading some of the books just to see what this experience will be like. I will pick one or two activities to do per day.

Phonics: Phonics Pathways ~ I actually was considering holding off on the phonics as I thought this might be too much for dear daughter, but she seems desperate to read. Her favorite materials are store or public building signs, LOL! So, we are going forward with PP. She already can recognize all the upper/lower case letters and their sounds, can pronounce short vowel sounds, and read three/four letter words. I am going to start at the beginning of the book & reevaluate after a week or two to perhaps move on to Tati's level.

Science/Art: We will doing each of these 2 days per week. Our art activity will mostly come from FIAR with some thematic crafts as well. I love crafts!! For science, I found a curriculum called Made by God. They are faith-based books with between 13-18 lessons each. They seem great. I love their incorporation of Scripture & use of Bible stories.

Math: Singapore. Tatiana has already done a couple of pages so far since she is so excited to begin.

Of course there's also some other fun activites I purchased, such as puzzles, pattern blocks, tangrams, & lots of craft stuff. I am only planning on "formally" schooling, with the 5th day being Tatiana's choice of books & activities. If you have used any of these curricula or have any caveats or are interested in finding out more, please let me know! Happy hsing!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

10 Party Tips I Couldn't Do Without

In light of our DD's 5th birthday bash over the weekend, I thought I'd share some of tips most crucial to my partying. These really are mostly meant for the large gatherings, not for, let's say, a small dinner party.

#1: Make lists.

I think this significantly contributes to a well put together party and ultimately reduces the stress of forgetting anything. I make lists for everything, starting with theme ideas/date/time/place, to list of invitees, to the menu, grocery lists, and to-do lists for the days leading up to the big event.

#2: Choose time of day carefully.

Depending on your budget, you may or may not wish to serve an entire meal. If you will not be serving lunch or dinner, be sure to plan your event with this in mind. Also, when planning my daughter's party, I knew the backyard would be the main scene for the childrens' activities which is why I chose a later time of day (4 pm). This way the shade would be beginning to cover the back and it would not be during the hottest part of the day.

#3: Serve a make-ahead menu.

When planning what to serve, I try to keep in mind how many dishes will need last minute preparations. (I keep this in mind for small dinner parties & holiday gatherings as well.) Serve as many dishes that can be made ahead as possible to reduce the stress level of your entertaining. (Crockpots & prepping/reheating are good options as well!)

#4: Ask others for contributions.

Not only would these items be one less thing to worry about, but one less thing to purchase as well (great for the tight budget!). For this most recent bash, not only did my dear mother purchase plates, but also cases of pop & water. Not only that, but she brought a tub of water balloons and a large fresh fruit salad. Bless her heart! My mother-in-law provided the CareBear pinata filled with candies and my grandma brought folding chairs and bags of chips.

#5: Have someone watch the little ones before the party.

My mom (there's that wonderful word again) watch my little one overnight the evening before the party & then brought her to the party. This was wonderful! I cleaned, cleaned, decorated, and spent some one-on-one time with the birthday girl without my toddler underfoot. This is a highly recommended strategy for BIG parties where a lot of work is involved.

#6: Make sure the bathrooms have extra toilet paper.

This is one small, but important detail that I think many people tend to overlook.

#7: Set the mood. Nothing like arriving at a party to find a quiet house.

This happened to me once. I wondered if I had the day or time wrong. Play some music, add some festive decorations & be prepared to greet your guests as they arrive.

#8: Eat before the guests arrive.

I have my husband to thank for this suggestion. It seems like the role of hostess is often a tireless one & I frequently find myself with little time to fix a plate and enjoy the meal.

#9: Save what you can.

In an effort to be frugal I try to reuse whatever I can, including party decorations. I've had the same girly "Happy Birthday" banner since Tatiana had her first birthday party & I just used it as she turned 5. I also save confetti for sprinkling around the tables, gift bags & tablecloths (even the plastic ones can be wiped off & refolded).

#10: Try to relax & enjoy.

After all, it is a party. Sure everything won't be perfect (hard for this first-born, type A, perfectionist to accept at times), but really, who will notice?