Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Mother of Innvention

They say that the mother of invention is need, but I think it is frustration. I have been asking my husband to put up the bar in my son’s closet for more than two months (his room did not have a closet and we had to swap them around in order to qualify his room as a bedroom ). I’ve waited and waited and I finally said yesterday, “Forget it!” I grabbed the hammer, found the pieces we took out of the old closet, and here it is:

Of course as with any project, things don’t always go my way. DH actually calls me the 5 minute woman: I think everything is going to take 5 minutes. And so it was – I couldn’t find the right shelf and had to cut a new one. Mind you, I’m not real comfortable with power tools without DH giving me suggestions / guidance. But a hand saw caught my eye and voila, a shelf.

My other frustration invention this year is the stone base for our wood stove. Since the day we moved in 12 years ago, the slate bottom has been chipping off and breaking. Certainly I could not show it like that. The outside lip had nothing on it and showed just a brick. It was not attractive. I asked and asked for help but getting none, I decided I was going to take a stab at it. After a trip to Home Depot, I found a premixed grout and cement, I began to fix it. I thought the slate that I saved was going to recover the base and that I was only going to put the squares over the brick edges, but again not only do I have 5 minute issues, I tend to miss the trees in the forest, and thus it was with this project too. I really did not have all the slate. Some of the pieces had broken too small to use and so I improvised. Now some might see this as a deficit, others might see that they have a one of a kind, handmade, personally designed stove base.

Lesson to begin 2009:

Don't get Frustrated, Get Innovative!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Making a New Year's Resolution

I did not wait to make another New Year's resolution that gets forgotten in weeks, days, hours. I started today. Dear daughter and I got down to it and started exercising again. For Christmas, both she and I received:

Today, we got them out and did one rep of each of the exercises. I know this doesn't sound like much, but I have learned that starting too exuberant can end the exercise program very quickly. So we are going to start slow and hopefully keep it up.

Note: I found this product when doing my Christmas shopping using my credit card points. You may want to check your point plans too. This could be a no cost exercise plan.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Reading Challenge 2009

On Christmas, my uncle brought up the question, “Do you read for enjoyment?” To me, this is like asking, “Do you eat?” The thought of not reading would be equivalent to forgetting breathe. My cousin lamented that she loves to read but hasn’t done so since her sons were born. Here is where the reading challenge was born. I revealed that I too had gone through a reading dry spell. I love to read. I love to take long periods of time to read. Certainly, anyone who has children knows that personal time and young children do not go together. So for years, all I would read was periodicals and non-fiction books. When personal time started to creep in my life, I grabbed for a life preserver or in this case a reading preserver. I needed an excuse to read. I needed a reason to make the time. I joined a book club, but I will admit that sometimes it is hard to be sure that on X date at X time that I can be anywhere. So, I think this reading challenge may help us all get through 2009 and get back in the habit of reading.

Let’s set a goal of reading 12 books in 12 months. We will try to revive our love for reading.
Each book must come fulfill one of the following categories:

1. Book written by a long lost lover i.e. an author you enjoyed pre-kids.

2. A book that allows you to travel to a place of your dreams.

3. A book that brings you back to a place you’ve been before by location, character, job, or some other way.

4. A book recommended by your librarian (If you haven’t met him or her yet, it is time to get reacquainted).

5. A book that is or was on the NY Times Best Seller list.

6. A biography of a person that interests you.

7. A book that is found in the Children’s or Young Adult section.

8. A book on which a movie is based. Then plan an evening to watch the movie too.

9. A book of historical fiction.

10. A book recommended on any blog.

11. A book that claims it will make your life better because you read it.

12. A book that is recommended by someone else in the comments of this blog (hopefully the list will be longer toward the end of the year).

When you are done, come back to this entry and let us know what you read and if it is worth us and our very short time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Husband has Admitted It

Today, I am making up some more cookies. Chocolate Chip for my Dad and, thanks to my friend, Shirley, Spritz for my husband (I still cannot find my press in the packed boxes). My husband made some fresh comment as he headed out the door about my cooking to which my daughter thinking that she was helping sunk the entire female gender with this comment, "You don't need to tell Mom how to cook. She's been cooking her whole life and SHE'S A WOMAN. She knows how to cook." (Hmmm! I better get out some femanist books for that girl to read).

Of course, my husband laughed because he knows the truth. He knows that cooking was not my forte. He remembers the pancakes my dog wouldn't eat. So he made the ultimate admission, "You mother's entire weight battle is because of me. Trust me she couldn't cook before me. I am responsible for a few of those pounds."

See the truth is out! It is really not just that he taught me to cook, but he encourages me to eat things I shouldn't. If it was just me, meals would be much lighter, but instead I get, "Chicken, Chicken, I hate chicken." "We can't just have a salad for a meal" I won't even count the numerous tastey treats that he has brought home when clearly I don't need it. So not that this admission helps in the battle of the buldge at least a bit of the truth is out. The scary part is that he truly loves every inch of me. If only I could . . .I rather love many fewer inches of me . . . maybe that Yoga set for Christmas will help. I can't wait to open it tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tie a string around your finger - Remember your Blessings

A reminder to count your blessings during this holiday season. For many people this season is leaner than many Christmases before. It is easy to have a little Scrooge enter your heart given the economic times. But tonight, I dropped a meal off to a local family who is sitting at their son's hospital bedside. A woman at church has been thoughtfully scheduling meals to be dropped off. Unfortunately, due to their son's injuries the schedule has no end. In fact, his injuries are such that if the schedule ends that may be bad news and not good.

So if you are feeling a little Scroogy this holiday, STOP - be grateful - Thank God for all the goodness and grace in your life and if you can, please pray for a Christmas miracle for Andrew.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Planning Christmas Brunch

Oh, we are just days away from the day itself. We are down to the wire. It is time to check that list again and make sure that everyone is checked off. It is time to shop for the food. In my case we are planning a brunch for family and dinner for just us. It will actually be a fairly quite holiday for us as usually we host Christmas Brunch and Dinner. A couple hints that we have learned over years as you plan:

1. Do not use too many new recipes. . . . Include some old standbys and include one or two new items. New recipes can go very well or very, very badly.

2. Don’t get too exotic in your recipe choice especially if you are trying to please a large crowd. You can always have one or two complex items, but the majority should be acceptable to a broad base of pallets.

3. Plan ahead. . .look for recipes that allow you as little work in the kitchen as possible when your guests are there.

4. Don’t ignore the drinks . . .sometimes we get so caught up in the food, we forget the drinks, but plan out some flavored coffees, herbal teas, and fresh juice.

5. Relax, you don’t want to finish the morning stressed and realize that you have missed Christmas yourself.

6. Enlist the family for help!

Well, I better stop typing and start planning.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holiday Greetings

JibJab, often known for its satirical political comics, is hosting elf Yourself, a funny way to send a holiday greeting. You can find one of my family that my daughter did when I fell asleep overseeing her on the computer today at our Cup of Tea With Mom and Me site OR you can enjoy this montague of my father and other members of my extended family.

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Now it is time for you to crop a few photos and make your own "Elf Yourself" for others to enjoy.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Picnik your photos

You have got to love teenagers. Today, DD showed me a whole new website on which to manipulate photos. Mind you, her creativity is far better than mine but here is an example of what you can do:

Original Photo

Remastered Photo

Certainly, my changes are not that extreme but you can add mustaches, Santa hats; change photos into drawings or paintings. There are tons of interesting things you can do. Check it out.

I will say that you can perhaps use this if you haven't managed to get your Christmas Cards out and you can even use the excuse that you are trying to go green.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas wrapping templetes

If you like me are busily trying to finish up Christmas projects and gifts, you may find this website helpful. As I mentioned to you a few weeks ago, I did a lot of shopping this year with credit card points and received many gift cards. Unfortunately, none of them came with envelopes, thus I needed to buy some or make them. When I was at Staples, printing off our newsletter to include in our Christmas cards, I checked out the price of tiny gift card boxes. . .Goodness Gracious . . .I could almost buy another gift card for what I would spend on them. So I came home and looked for templetes to create an envelope myself. I'm hoping with the addition of some ribbon, they will take on a very festive look.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Deck the Halls

Yesterday, we set up the majority of our Christmas stuff: all except the tree itself. We did try finding a tree on Sunday but to no avail. Christmas tree hunting is truly a hunt. My dear husband has a touch of Monk in him and we can never just find "a" tree: We have to find "the" tree. somewhere out there is a tree that we need to find - no matter how long it takes.

I must admit my first "hunting" trip with my husband was like a Christmas fantasy, I had never cut a real Christmas tree. The farthest I had ever gone for a tree was my attic. I actually laugh when I think back to our first Christmas tree because not only was it perfectly shaped, but it looked like Martha Steward herself had been over to decorate. Neither DH nor I had ornaments of our own so we had to buy everything new. Everything on our Christmas tree coordinated. frankly, there is something sad about that. I love our miss-mosh trees today. There are stories on every branch: our first home, being pregnant, DD's 1st and 2nd grade teacher, running for office, places we have traveled. It is an eclectic gathering of our lives.

The other big change when I met my DH was the application of tinsel. When I grew up tinsel application was a very serious job: three strands per branch and at the end of the season, each strand was carefully removed and stored for the following year, after year, after year . . . I must tell you that when I bough those first ornaments for that very first Christmas tree and found out that a box of tinsel cost less than a dollar I was shocked. I was in awe as DH sprinkled it on liberally and then I learned that we could throw it out.

Hopefully, this weekend we can can get this year's Christmas tree up and have the full Christmas atmosphere.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I'm so darn angry at my husband: The Secret to a long marriage

Actually, today’s entry originally may have contained a long rant about my darn husband and then as I got in my car (we were switch cars on my way to work because he left his work late), I saw a diet coke, a 3 Musketeers bar, and a tiny note of apology. So instead this is an entry about 17 years of marriage and the secret to a long marriage – forgiveness and the willingness to forgiveness.

Many of my blog friends have been writing about the days they met their partners and how they got engaged. After being married for 17 years and together for over 20, I have come to realize that while our courtship was exciting and that it makes a good story, it is such a small part of the magic of our relationship. The magic comes in forgiveness, commitment, supportiveness, and working toward common goals.

Love is such a difficult word to define. Many of us want to be in love and be loved, but what does that mean to you . . . specifically. Many love affairs begin in the physical passion, but passion can only feed a relationship to such a point. There are times of anger, hurt, frustration, and strain. What then? Be committed enough to want to work on it, be supportive of the other person so that they feel comfortable to express their feelings, be willing to apologize if you’ve hurt the other person, be willing to accept an apology. If you want a long marriage, be ready to have good days and bad, to go through hard times and prosperous, to endure hardships and to flourish. Although no one enjoys the hard times this may be the time of the greatest growth in your relationship. That is why a marriage is a partnership. It is fun to sun bathe and swim with a lover, but there is truly nothing more reassuring than knowing that your partner has your back when you are under pressure.

So to my husband, if he ever finds this blog, I love you and thank you for thinking of my feelings.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Carolers - A Christmas Tradition

My mother absolutely loved her Carolers. Carolers are a series of dolls made by Byer's Choice. Each Christmas (and now Easter and Halloween) doll looks as if it is singing our i.e. its name the Caroler. My mother collected them through out her life and created elaborate scenes. I think it kind of became an adult Barbie doll obsession. She would spend most of the year getting ready to pose her collection (She was only surpassed by her brother, Bob, who elaborately creates a Christmas village). When she passed, I thought that it would be a good idea to give each of her loved ones 3 or 4 of the dolls, but my father adamantly did not want to break up the set. For several years, the set remained in boxes until my daughter told Poppie (her name for grandpa) to that she would help him set them up. The entire collection did not go up that year, but a large segment of it did. It was heartwarming to see her beloved Carolers singing again.

The Elf on the Shelf

I remember this guy hanging on my grandmother's tree back on Vance St. in New Britian. After my grandparents passed away, the elf moved to my mother's house. For whatever reason, I was always entranced. I'm not sure if it is the way his knees buckled under his arms or his elfish smile, but the arrival of this little imp truly meant that Christmas was on its way.

What Christmas ornaments mean the coming of Christmas in your home?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wicked - A Book to Read, A Musical to Watch

Books, books, books, I have started another book. I think a library may be as close to heaven as we have on earth. I love books. I have always loved books. Although I joke with my girl friend, Meg, about being her bag handler as she travels the world, I know that the one way I can truly travel the world and beyond is in books.

I have actually just picked up Wicked: The Life & Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.

The homeschoool group that we are a part of began an adult book club which I have unable to attend until now. My regular book club doesn’t meet again until the middle of January, I no longer have meeting on the 2nd Monday , and this book sounded interesting. I have only just started it, but clearly this will not be one I will passing on to my teenage daughter. Although the title gives it a fairy tale quality, I can already confirm that it has some R rated scenes. Of course, I am routing for this to be a good read so that I can go on and see the theater production of it.

I will let you know how the book and the book club go.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Advent Conspiracy

I found this on Owlhaven's page and think that it is worth to pass along.

Some of my favorite places to give are:

Heifer International
Samaritians Purse

Monday, December 1, 2008

Count Down to Christmas - 25 activities that will help you enjoy the season

One of the great way to enjoy the holiday season is to make it a season and not a day or two. By this I mean, plan your 25 days until Christmas. Each day do some small action to celebrate or get ready for the holiday. Here are twenty-five ideas to get you going:
1. Put out a Nativity. Read the traditional Christmas Story from the book of Luke.
2. Pick a gift request off your town tree of a needs tree at a local store . . .buy and deliver.
3. Decorate the outside of your house
4. Decorate the inside the house
5. Address and send Christmas Cards
6. Hunt for Christmas Tree – (In our house, it truly is a “hunt”. It can take hours. One of our closest friends’ daughter refuses to ever go again with us.)
7. Decorate your tree
8. Review your Christmas shopping list – plan last minute trips. Don’t forget to get wrapping paper, tags, & tape.
9. Decorate Gingerbread men
10. Watch your favorite Christmas movie: I love the Muppets Christmas Carol
11. Make Christmas Cookies
12. Invite friends over for a cookie swap
13. Decorate a Gingerbread house
14. Find and attend a local Christmas concert of show
15. Find and make a Christmas Craft with the family
16. Relax and enjoy the holiday. Enjoy an evening of hot cocoa & carols.
17. Drive around to see Christmas lights
18. Plan a wrapping fest!
19. Go Christmas caroling
20. Attend or host a Christmas Party
21. Participate or attend your church’s Christmas pageant
22. Read a traditional Christmas story or poem
23. Bake Christmas Pies
24. Attend midnight services at your church (conveniently held at 10pm at our church)
25. Enjoy the day with your family – We traditionally hold a brunch & a dinner to accommodate both sides of the family. What we will do with the move, I don’t know.

As I said, I truly hope that you enjoy this season and focus on the blessings.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Found the Fountain of Youth

I am still reading AJ Jacob’s The Know it All (I had to take a break to get my book club reading done).

Yesterday, I came by an interesting passage in his book regarding the passage of time:

The Britiannica has an explanation for this: elderly people find time shorter because they notice long accustomed changes less frequently.”

Like me, he was boggled by this phrasing, but surmised as I did that as we get older we opt out on already known information: Sunrises come daily so we don’t tend to notice them anymore; weeks pass in and out without real notice because we are used to the pattern.

I think we also speed up time by planning it away . . . instead of focusing on today we are looking forward to an event in the future – payday, a trip, a holiday.

As time really is relative how do we give ourselves more time on earth? How do we find the Fountain of Youth that has historically sought after? Slow down, be thoughtful, notice small changes around you. As you live on this micro level, I believe you will find that time slows in your life.

Personally, I have firsthand experience with this concept. When the kids were in school and we were running, running, running life took on a warp speed that became truly frightening. Instead of seeing what was around me, I was focused on what I needed to do next to get through the day. One specific day, as I was racing to volunteer in their school, I was caught in traffic between work and the school. That day I literally felt my heart pounding through my chest. And then I stopped, I took a breath, I looked around at the cars stopped beside me on the highway. The clock slowed. My heart returned to its regular beat. I decided to change our life. The following year, we took the kids out of school and began homeschooling. This change alone made a drastic difference in our perception in time. I also made a conscious choice to begin noticing stars, leaves, clouds, the way the sun climbs in the sky and how that changes from day to day.

We don’t really need more time in our lives; we need to recognize the time that exists.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Making Christmas Cards

I am a glutton for punishment. I have always loved making my own Christmas cards and have only backed out of it a couple years when life was way too crazy. This year I started very early. I was inspired by our trip to the Eric Carle museum. Almost a month ago, DS used his techniques to create a scene which I brought to Staples for copies. As color copies can be expensive, I had the picture shrunk to a quarter page. I bought card stock, envelopes, seals. And I've been working on an assembly line ever since putting everything together.

I was smart enough last year to finally put a spreadsheet together with names and addresses of the people we send and receive cards from. Somehow this list seems to grow every year which is tough on the making side (I've learned to simplify the cards significantly), but I love the receiving side. It is great to catch up with all of our old friends. One of my favorite received Christmas card has been coming about June and comes from dear friends with four children. She says she tries to get it done on time but somehow it never happens. I don't mind because it gives me extra time to read all about the yearly escapades in her included newsletter.

Well, that having been said, I better get back to the assembly line. If I could figure out how to make my web cam, I would embed a picture . . .our digital camera has died, the scanner says that it has a paper jam . . . Oh, Santa, please be kind.


Shopdropping - have you heard of such a thing?

It is defined according to as "SHOPDROP: To covertly place merchandise on display in a store. A form of "culture jamming" s. reverse shoplift, droplift."

I first heard of it on a tv show which spoke of it in context of people buying an item at a Walmart / Target type store. After taking the item home, they create a homemade imitation of the original, swap tags, and covertly return the item to the store's shelves. Consumers instead of buying the $9.99 mass market item are buying a hand-made one of a kind item, often worth far more than what the buyer intended to buy. However shopdropping may also mean changing labels on existing merchandise or adding pamflets or other politically or religiously motivated items to merchadise already in the store.

Often, no one knows of the shopdroppers activities and the only one that takes glee in the activity is the shopdropper themselves.

When looking up information about shopdropping, I actually came by seminars about the idea. Although, I think that it is fairly comical . . .I'm thinking that some people have way too much time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Low / No Cost Christmas Gifts

This is not an article about how to make gifts using leftover household items. Nor is it instructions on how to spend hours and hours making items. It is simply a reminder to redeem your credit card points.

For many people, this Christmas is going to be a tight one. Many of us are trying how not to let our children know just how tight it really is. Thus, shopping with these already gathered points can help. Today, I bought quite a list of items and spent not one penny. Even better, one of the cards that I redeemed from isn’t even our charges that we are redeeming, but instead since my husband is a salesman, it is the card he charges his reimbursable expenses on.

So I encourage you all, before you set your alarm for 3 am on Friday and march out into the cold to save $25.00, look at “free money” that you may already have available to you. (Plus, who knows with this credit crunch – these points may not last too long either . . . why not use them while they are still good.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What happened to Thanksgving?

We are usually planning a huge Thanksgiving dinner at this point, but this year nada, nothing. . . we are having a Thanksgiving of four. I think part of it is because I waited so long to plan, not knowing where the house was going to be. So this year is going to be a quiet Thanksgiving which may not be all bad. Sometimes the holidays get so crazy that you are more exhausted after the holiday than before. (Please don’t feel badly for us. We have nothing on Thanksgiving, but we had two Thanksgivings this past weekend and have a big dinner next Saturday for my son’s birthday.)

Of course, I got to say that I’d rather be enjoying my holiday in Italy with my pastor.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Getting a Designer's Opinion

You now have one of the country's best designers on call. Lisa Davenport has started a blog about design and is looking for design questions to answer. Lisa's Home Gallery is here in Connecticut, but she has been published in national decorating books.

Lisa can design the most luxurious home (like the one above) or give you simple hints on how to make your dollar stretch and make the greatest impact in a space. When you check out her new blog, you will see that she not only a decorator but truly a designer with architectural ideas as well as the typical color and pattern type questions.

To her credit, Lisa has used this talent to help many non-profits, it fact during her missions trips to Kentucky, she redesigned the plan for the houses that were being build so that their were better use of materials and therefore less waste and lower costs.

Congratulations, Lisa. Keep up the great work.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Unraveling of a Woman

I orignally wrote this as an article for my local paper. People still mention it, so I thought you may enjoy it:

I thought once that this look would be good on me. I had seen others wear it well and I thought I too could pull the look off. First I donned a career, then marriage. I added motherhood on twice for good measure and then of course a bit of volunteerism. It felt a little snug as I added each layer, but I received many compliments on how well I wore it all. Then one day as I raced from work to help in the kids’ class at school, I found myself with my heart pounding and a desire to drive over all the cars that seemed to purposely block my path. I noticed the smallest thread sticking out. No one else probably even noticed it as I walked down the hall that day, but I did and it started to eat at me and so as I ran from here to there: making dinner, doing the bills, leading the troop, I started to pick at the thread. It started to get longer and longer.

Eventually the hem came out and I actually completely forgot to go to a meeting and stayed home wrapping presents instead. When I realized what I had done, I felt guilty because I knew people would think that something horrible had happened to me because I would never be so irresponsible to miss a meeting. How could I tell them that it was glorious to be home, eating at the family dinner table, putting the kids to bed on time, and wrapping presents as I listened to Christmas music? That is about when the whole seam split right open. I tried very hard to sew it up. I limited the kids to two activities each, stopped chairing committees, and tried to find some me time. But even that didn’t stop the unraveling of my wardrobe, two activities times two kids plus a husband’s schedule and mine: that left one night home, if I was lucky. It seemed as if home was not a place to hang your hat, but simply a place to go change it for the next show. I felt that each time I left the house people where pulling at the few strings I had left – Couldn’t you bake for the bake sale? We really need someone like you to run the program? You would be magnificent trainer? I thought if it all didn’t stop soon I would be standing naked in the street.

It was about then though that I noticed others with strings hanging loose, a few were still trying to tuck them in; a few were trying to hide the thread bare clothes. Others barely had anything left at all – a collar, a cuff, a waistband with strings hanging out everywhere. It seemed a lot of other moms did wear this style and I even noticed a few dads too. Everyone wore a painted on smile and if you asked them how they were, “fine” would be the response as they would tug their coat with a pocket falling off tightly around themselves.

So I have started to wonder if naked is all that bad. Did you ever notice that babies are naked? And they are happy that way! So, I have started to try to strip myself of these many layers. I have started to learn the word “no” and “I need help”. I have started to leave layers behind and learn to be comfortable in just my skin. I would appreciate it if you see me with my few threads still hanging on that you ask me how I am and I promise I won’t say just “fine” and perhaps we can just sit down and have tea, just you and I and neither of us will have to run here or there and we can just be glad to have time to be with each other and be free. (Ok, truth is I can maybe give you five minutes before I run off . . . the clothes aren’t that easy to strip off).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Inspirational Note

Have you ever received a note from a friend at just the right time? Has a letter brightened your day? Or a card given you a little strength?

Well, I have. In 2001, my mother was diagnosed with cancer and after several surgeries and months of treatment, she was not the only one exhausted and disheartened. As her caretaker and the mother of two, I came home from a particularly long day. I didn’t know how to draw the strength to keep going. I sat at the table too tired to even take my coat off. I thumbed through the mail. I began opening as required, piling in garbage and to be reviewed piles. Then out of the blue a small envelope gave way to a small card: a sunflower on the front and a simple note “You are appreciated” inside of it. Suddenly life didn’t seem so overwhelming. I had a friend. Alas, I was still exhausted and my mother still died shortly thereafter, but I never forgot that note. For many months, I kept it hung on my fridge as a reminder of friendship and hope.

Since that time I have periodically passed on the blessing I once received. It is a simple and loving task.

First, keep your ears open to those who may need a boost. Is someone getting a divorce? Does someone have a sick child? A sick parent? Does someone just seem tired or worn out?

Second, keep your eye open for cute note cards or artsy paper. Collect them and save them until the purpose arrives.

Third, when the occasion come take just a minute or two to write a heartfelt thought, sign it, seal it, and put it in the mail. I actually like to sit down every few months and write 5 or 6 at a time.

Since that first sunflower note that showed me the power of human compassion, I have probably sent out 100 notes. I know I haven’t written to everyone I know that has been trouble or hurt, but I know that those that have received the ones I have sent have felt the same power that I did on that difficult day.

You sell Firetrucks?

I think that I have failed to tell you about one of the most interesting facts about our family. We sell firetrucks.

Yes, the big red ones (actually they can be yellow, black, blue, green, or any color you spec, but generally we all think of red). Actually, specifically my husband sells them, but our family has been in the industry since I was old enough to see over a counter. I used to love the reaction when people asked what you do for a living or their eyes as we would drive by and wave. Now I get to see my children enjoy the same reaction.

My husband's favorite part of the job is that he makes people's dreams come true. There is not a more passionate group of people out there than the firefighters. They love their trucks and spend countless hours taking care of them. He loves working with them to make their dreams come true and their job just a little easier.

What unique jobs do you all have?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tips to Make the Perfect Pie

Directions on how to make the perfect pie are not going to be found here, but I can give you directions / hints to make a very good pie. First and foremost, everyone should try it. I don’t remember my mother ever making a pie and when my DH expected me to make one I quivered. Thank goodness my MIL was very patient with me. Since then I have come by a few things that make pie making 100 times easier.

First, find a easy crust recipe. Mine comes from the Good Housekeeping Cook Book, 11th printing 1962 (one of the things I got after my grandmother passed away and a great resource – I’m not sure how the newest version is, but I love mine.)

Flaky Pastry IV (this is a summary of the actual recipe i.e the way I do it)
2 ¼ cups flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1/3 c cold milk
½ c plus 1 T vegetable oil

In a bowl combine flour and salt. In a measuring cup add milk and oil (I put in milk and then add oil until just a bit over 5/6ths). Do not mix milk and oil mixture. Add all at once to flour. Stir in with fork. Do not over stir. Split in half. Makes two 9” crusts. This is not the best crust that I have ever had, but it is very good and because it is quick and easy, I don’t mind making it – which means more pies for guests to eat.

Roll out on:

This is a must have. I actually like the Tupperware one the best, but DH replaced it with another manufacturer. It is not as good because the sizing lines are actually raised, but it works ok. Another helpful MIL tip is to:

1. Touch the dough as little as possible with your hands. Even the oils in your hands can change the consistency.

2. Cover the dough with wax paper when you roll the dough out. It will prevent the crust from sticking to the rolling pin and makes it much easier to flip and get in the pan.

I usually make two crusted pies. So I often paint the crust with milk or egg whites. I also love cutting in a design and never use a professional crimper. I find it much easier to pinch it with my fingers. I think the rustic nature of it makes it even better; people know that it is not a Sarah Lee pie, but mine.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Happy Anniversary Luke and Laura

I forgot to acknowledge a very important wedding anniversary. Apparently November 16th is Luke and Laura's wedding anniversary.

Now I must admit, now I don't really have the time, energy, or interest in watching soaps, but back then I was thoroughly addicted. General Hospital being my number one addiction, but to leesser extents I was also addicted to All My Children and One Life to Live. I loved Luke and Laura, adored Blackie, and had my breath taken away by Rick Springfield.

So happy anniversary to the married, unmarried, remarried, possibly now divorced Luke and Laura. May all of us have much calmer and longer marriages than your characters.

If you used to be addicted to the Soaps, what characters did you love?

Getting Ready for the Holidays

Christmas is coming whether we are ready or not. I am working toward being ready . . . notice the emphasis on working. Yesterday, the whole crew made bracelets for the women on our list. We took Pam's inspiration and ran with it. DD and I with the help of DS and DH made 11 yesterday when I got home from work.

Today, I am working on our Christmas cards. I have always enjoyed making our Christmas cards and have been frustrated with myself when we don't have enough time to make them but instead purchase them. This year, inspired by Eric Carle, DS made a tissue drawing to which I added a scripture. Today, I ran to Staples and had the original copied on cardstock and shrunk down. I am now cutting the picture and mounting them. I have several more steps and most certainly will not be done today as I usually make about 120 cards, but at least I'll be on the right track.

Of course, it might be a good idea if I start thinking about Thanksgiving and poor DS's birthday first.

How are you getting ready for the holidays?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Handsome Men

DH sent over this picture of DS and him. Look how handsome.

Scouting has been a fantastic outlet for both of them. I think DH gets as much out of it as DS. Just like with Girl Scouts, we have found many friends from our participation in Cub and now Boy Scouts. DS is now a Star Scout working toward his Life. He is committed to going all the way for his Eagle Scout. I hope he keeps this level of commitment as he gets older.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday's Fave 5

I picked up this Favorite Five while reading 2nd Cup of Coffee, one of my regular reads. She had posted her Friday's Fave 5 with a link to the originator Susanne.

Here are mine for the week:

1. Scramble Ladder on Facebook. It is like sit ups for your brain. I love puzzles and games especially word games. It was made even more fun by DD, who would help me. She can find some really good words.

2. Connecting with old friends. This is my first week on facebook and I have talked to so many old friends including one of my dearest, Meg, who lives in Germany. This one line immediate form of communication is perfect for us as we seem to have difficulty with longer forms of communication. We do get to it eventually, but often there are long breaks from communiqué to communiqué i.e. years. What started as a way to figure out what DD was doing on the computer has become a great way to use technology.

3. BioBricks - need I say more since I already posted all their benefits?

4. The generosity of our congregation and the mandatory service hours of a volunteer to help me package our Operation Christmas Child boxes. One of the amazing things about our church is its generosity to all needs. As our minister said, “in the Protestant faith, church is defined as the people, not the building.” We will get everything wrapped up this weekend and say our prayers over the boxes before delivering them to the drop off site next week.

5. A neighbor, Pam, who taught DD and I how to bead a braclet. I received a beautiful gift from her last week and asked if she would be willing to teach DD and I. She was thrilled at the opportunity. Now I have to write my Christmas list and see who I can fill in using this new skill.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How to Save Money on Your Heating Bill - BioBricks

My other big purchase yesterday that you have been waiting ever so patiently to find out about is BioBricks.

I know at first glance they don't seem very exciting but they really are. Thanks to BioBricks we have cut our ever growing heating bill. Each brick fits just right in our smaller woodstove. The use of the stove works to just keep the chill out of the air with our regular "heat" on 60 degrees. It also allows us to delay even turning on the "heat" for several weeks.

The BioBricks are made of compressed sawdust and therefore not only a reuse of "garbage" but also because of the compression they pack more energy i.e. heat that a typical piece of wood. It also produces less ash (which BTW is great for your garden) and contains no sap, glue, or other residue.

We were so excited to come by this product two years ago. It is kind of like wood pellets for people without pellet stoves.

Finding the Perfect Pocketbook

I tried not to be too picky with the handbag choice as I realized if I did not get it yesterday, I would end up going to work with a broken bag. I had about 10 minutes and a Marshalls nearby, so I popped in. DS actually helped me find a bag. It does not have the nice integrated wallet so I had to buy a wallet too, but it is pretty cute. DD was impressed with my choice and welcomed me to the 21st century (I didn’t know that I wasn’t here already).

It is a Tignanello. It kind of looks like this,

but has one center large bag with a couple pockets and is brown leather on the bottom and on the strap. I think for a quick trip, I am going to be very happy with it.
To find out about my other great purchase, check back later today . . .

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hurrah and Boo

One, Hurrah
One, a public thank you to Chris, the Carmax guy, who commented on my new car. We received our car atlas and it came in very handy yesterday when doing homework with DS who had to plan a road trip cross country. I’m still loving the car and people can’t believe that it is a used car. It is in excellent shape! It was also very exciting to fill the tank with $30.

Two, Boos
I failed to mention that on our trip to NYC, my pocketbook broke. The strap came apart from the purse and BAM it fell right to the sidewalk. Thank goodness I noticed and picked it right up - - - I was the one carrying the theater tickets and the return train tickets, but I then had to clutch my bag for the rest of the day. So now I either have to try to repair this bag or find another one. I HATE shopping for pocketbooks. When I bought this one, only a year ago from Coldwater Creek, I was very excited to find it. I had been looking for months because I knew my old one was dying. I am very picky about purses. I don’t like them too big or too small, and I like the integral wallet as part of the bag. Also, I am NOT paying $100 plus dollars for a bag. Frankly, if I didn’t carry so much crap, I would just carry a wallet, but then where would the checkbook, sunglasses, keys, epi-pen, pads, membership cards, etc. all go? So Coldwater Creek and Amazon, here I come. Please have something reasonable and sturdy!

The second Boo goes to a church in Florida for arresting a man for stealing communion wafers. If God thinks it was wrong to take to many, he’ll take care of it. As for us, I’m pretty sure that we are called to feed the hungry and help those in need. Why didn’t you hand him the whole bowl or invite him for soup and a sandwich after the service instead of tackling him and having him arrested?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Getting Ready for Prom 1988

In an effort to keep up with technology and understand what my DD is doing online, I have set up a facebook page. She is truly frightened by the number of friends that I have found online. She didn't realize that us old-fogies used computers, but many of my old classmates are there.
While I was setting up the page, I came by this old beauty - my senior prom picture from 1988 and yes this is my DH. We have been together a very long time. Which is kind of scary because within our group of friends it is not unusual for us to marry our high school sweethearts, so that means any boy friend that DD brings home may be a future son-in-law.

Rockettes & Girl Scouts

The show was great!

We took the Metro into the NYC walked to Radio City and saw the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular. Several of had seen it three or four years ago, but their were also several that had never seen it and for that fact had really never been in the city except for a school trip to one of the museums. So this was a new door opened to them. For them, I wish that we had more time to explore the city. Alas, we only had time for the show and then back on the train to CT.

I have to tell you that I love the tap dancing numbers. There is something about dancing that is also music that I find amazing. Also, as a Christian, I was thrilled to again see the live nativity scene. One of the other mothers was shocked that they had it. Christmas has been so washed of its meaning in general society that it is surprising to see such a religious scene. She was pleasantly surprised.

One of my favorite parts of trips like this with Girl Scouts is the doors that it opens in girls' minds. As I mentioned, several of the girls had never really been to the city and had never taken a commuter train, now they have. A couple of them have never been to theater until they came to this troop. These activities which seem like just fun trips have expanded their universes and given rise to new possibilities in their lives. It is quite awe inspiring when you think of it.

We are down to only six girls in our troop: four that have been together since daisies and two that are actually cousins that joined about two years ago. One of the mothers of one of the newer girls said to me on the train, "I never expected my 14 year old to still be in Girl Scouting. This troop has been such a good thing for her and me. She really loves Girl Scouts." The mother went on to talk about how Girl Scouting had opened so many doors to both of them and provided them with activities and ideas that they would have never come by on their own - and as she put it, "not just the good stuff either" (meaning the Rockettes), but also our work on the Crop Walk or visit by the coordinator of HELO orphanage in Haiti; badge work; hikes; camping, etc.

So Girl Scouts and the Rockettes, thanks for a great weekend!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

An Inconvenient Ruth & Do you Know?

Work isn't always work.

An Inconvenient Ruth - video powered by Metacafe

But then sometimes, it is:

These are both from work today.

Let me know your thoughts.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Going into the City this Weekend

Here is a clue to what I am doing this weekend:

Do you know what it is? The greatest part of this trip is that one of moms in my troop has just been diagnosed with breast cancer and seeing the Rockettes is on her list of things to do. This will be her first time. Certainly, I hope that she will see it many, many more times, but I'm glad during this difficult time we are doing something that she wants to do. Hopefully, it will be a good day for her.

I will let you all about it on Monday!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Christmas Catalogs Clog my Mailbox

The Christmas catalog onslaught has begun. Each day that I get the mail, I am now getting four or five catalogs a day. By the beginning of December, our mail can become alarmingly large. I must admit that my shopping habits only make this onslaught worse. I abhor crowds. I try to shop throughout the year to avoid the Christmas crowds, but when we get down to the final push, I shop almost entirely online or through catalogs. I’m sure this only increases the catalogs that fill my mailbox.

Some of my favorite catalogs are Hearthsong, LL Bean, American Girl, National Geographic, and yesterday’s arrival Discovery. Some of the items that jumped out of me in the Discovery Catalog:

For weirdness: Balance Ball Chair $99.95 - The picture says it all. I'm not sure that I could add to it.

For Practicality: (the cheapest and most effective form of teenage birth control – the truth! Actually probably a better gift for new parents) a video called From Conception to Birth $14.95

Timeless Entrepreneurship:New!(I like this definition because that must mean I’m young) Ultimate Pot holder Kit $ 29.95 (Of Course, you may be able to find this at a tag sale for $1.00 or in your own attic for free)

There are plenty more really interesting gifts. I suggest that we all review or Christmas lists to see where we stand and what we have left to get. The holidays will be here before we know it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Buying a New Car

We did it today. We bought my new car. Ok, it is an old, new car. We bought a 2004 Chevy Malibu hatchback with on 8,212 miles. This car is too cool and drives like a dream. The hatchback will be perfect for our Bernese Mountain dog.

I am very hip now. I have a CD changer, sun roof, moon roof, DVD player, and tons and tons of leg room. Leg room has really been very important as we have tried out different vehicles. My kids are not tiny, but in fact almost adults themselves. I did not want them to ride with their knees in their chest. Also, the car gets great gas mileage. It will be very refreshing to fill up once every couple weeks.

I think DH was finally inspired to move on this purchase when my needs for a vehicle started to impinge on his schedule i.e. my work this weekend overrode his need to go camping.

We ended up buying this vehicle at Carmax and I have to tell you that I was very impressed with their service. We did most of the research online. We were greeted at the door by our sales associate, Walter. We gave him the number of the car we wanted to see and after testing driving the vehicle and looking it over extensively, we were out the doors a couple hours later with the vehicle detailed and a full tank of gas. Thank you, Walter, Lori, Carmax, and the guy that did such a great job detailing the car (I did not catch your name). DH said it was probably the easiest sale of their life.

Political Joke of the Day

Ask anyone today, “Who is the president of the United States?”

Undoubtedly, the will say, “Obama”

Then you can catch them. Inauguration is not until January. The President is still George W. Bush. I already got both the kids.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Naming Your Baby

I found this article on NBC about choosing a name for your baby. They basically advise that both parents should make a list of 10 names to be considered, then swap lists to review and rank the others thoughts; put the name on a business card to see if the name will hold up as not just a “baby” name but as an adult name as well; and finally they suggest not to share the list with others because they may pull the name apart and sway your decision.

Ok, I’m all for suggestion one and two. DH actually was very concerned about their monogram and would envision their initials engraved on their future briefcase (Don’t forget to look at the initials in order and also with the last name in the middle like a traditional monogram). The idea though of not figuring out how your poor child will be tortured for the next 20 years of life is ridiculous. I think that parents should be keenly aware of how their name choice may affect their child. The suggestion implies that people will not say mean things to YOUR face, but hopefully you are adult enough not to care. What do you think will happen when your poor child goes to elementary school? You can have all the anti-bullying policies you want and you can be indignant about the situation, but your poor child is still taking the wrath for your “cute” choice. I would recommend that you think of every possible way that the name you choose might me made fun of and then decide if it is still a good name. In our case, I had the best possible test of names. When we drove back from upstate New York, I reviewed possible names from a baby name book and my DH and brother-in-Law made all sorts of bizarre comments (apparently they knew about childhood teasing). You would be amazed at how helpful this was.

Also, I would recommend that you go through your own genealogy. I did not do this when I was having children. My interest in genealogy did not develop until later in life, but this resource is a virtual treasure trove of potential names. And how cool is it to be able to say that you are named after your great, great aunt or uncle.

Top Baby Names according to the web site
2007 Emily Jacob
2000 Emily Jacob
1990 Jessica Michael
1980 Jennifer Michael
1970 Jennifer Michael
1960 Mary David
1950 Linda James
1940 Mary James
1930 Mary Robert
1920 Mary John
1910 Mary John
1900 Mary John

Note: I have one child with a name that doesn’t seem to exist anywhere in the universe (it is starting to been seen phonetically, but not in spelling) and one child with a most popular name.

If you are a billionaire, you can name the child whatever you would like and people will just think it is cool.

45 Minute Wait at the Polls

DH arrived at the polls at 5:45 am and exited at 6:38. Already the lines are long. He called to say that the idea of going at 6am for a quick vote may have been faulty. I said he shouldn’t judge too early because that could be the best all day. He told me that I better bring a coffee, juice boxes for the kids, and maybe pack a lunch when we go later.

Interestingly when he was there one voter walked out of the polls with one of the pens, so they turned around after being outside of the building, came back in and put the pen back in – a big no no! The moderator immediately came over. She then told the poll worker at the door not to let anyone back through that door. DH was just going by at that point so he chuckled and told the older woman, “That means you have her permission to give a full body tackle. Aim for the knees.” Both the moderator and the poll worker laughed. I can’t imagine. If things are this crazy in our small town, I can only guess what it is like everywhere else.

Last night I was mourning that I was not working the polls today. Frankly, we could really use the extra money. DH said, “You know, it may be better that you are not. It may not be worth the money.” Often we can be there for hours after the polls close reconciling votes checked in to votes cast. With the turn out today, this may mean hours and hours. Plus, we could be the 10% that are automatically called to audit our count to verify the new optical scan machines.

Let us know what is going on at your polling places. I will be heading out later today and will update you on the status of our small town.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Be Sure to Vote Tomorrow

This does not necessarily represent where my alliances lay this Election Day, but I think we can all appreciate the sentament. Tomorrow, will be decision making day. Don't forget to vote:

A Family Friendly Media Giant Emerges

Did you see this report? This is a critically important report that all parents should see.

Many of us have already been concerned about how media is affecting the raising of our children. This report shows that we have right to be concerned.

I think that we have all know that it is up to the parents to oversee their children's viewing habits, but as a concerned parent, I think that it is time for a revolution. A time for a media giant to arrise that puts the family first again. Where I can feel safe for my entire family to watch, read, and listen to. There are plenty of these such things for our youngest children, but for pre-teen and teenagers there are far fewer. Also, if like my family, you try to limit or oversee, your teen begins to feel different from others (as we all remember this is the ultimate sin as a teenager).

As consumers, why aren't we screaming for more appropriate media. Why can't we have great shows that intertwine creating great stations. Imagine if you could create tv viewing that includes only those channels that you oked and those stations were devoted to family friendly, education viewing. The other stations did not appear on your screen at all. Imagine if the teens could buy magazines that did not have sexually provocative advertising or articles that talked about issues far beyond their ages. It is a fine line between information / dialouge about issues and repeatingly being assalted with images and storylines that make such behaviors acceptable and normal. There are some shows out there that meet this guideline, but the shows before it and after it don't. What if we had the power to change that?

We have seen some of these changes in even adult women magazines, but teenagers seem to be being ignored. I challenge the biggest and brightest in the media world to begin working on this. These are the changes that go to the core of keeping our families together. These changes are at the core of supporting the growth of our children. I think technology has caught up to this idea and there is not just a need but a desire for this. Imagine a family friendly cable company that allows you to choose your stations a la carte and block the others from ever coming in. Imagine if there was an online portal that you could log your children in where they were locked into a safe environment with constant monitoring. Imagine if magazines, for girls especially, had reasonably sized models without underlying sexiness, but were still hip and cool. Ok, stop imagining. . . If you have money and talent, do it, please!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Another Generation Adores Farrah Fawcett

DH and DS went down to his parent’s old house to finish cleaning it out. Most of the things that they brought back made sense: a wheelbarrow, a turkey smoker, a snow blower - - -but one thing snuck in that I did not expect, 2’ x 4’ poster of Farrah Fawcett circa 1986

Mind you it was on my husband’s bedroom wall when he was eighteen so you can be sure that this is not the same poster, but it will at least remind you of who she is. My DS now wants to put it on his wall. As they say “all things old are new again”.

Of course, I keep laughing that we should be cleaning up the house for a sale not adding to what we have, but who can turn down a 5500 watt generator for free?

Addendum: I edited this post because I learned later in the evening that it was not DS that wanted to hang Farrah. DH still has a little crush.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Last Minute Halloween Costume

Sometimes kids are wonderful. As you tell from my recent posts, life is a little crazy around here. Poor DD has felt the stress. She has really wanted to be Sarah Palin for Halloween, but without a car, getting the glasses, shoes, and outfit has not fit into our schedule very well. Instead of throwing a fit, she came up with an alternate plan which I think is genius and simple.

At first she was thinking about being a specific singer, but who could tell one from another. Then she came up with the idea to be an American Idol Contestant. She printed up an American Idol number to pin to the front of her shirt and a golden ticket to carry around: A costume with a total cost of about 10 cents. Genius, I say. . . GENIUS.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Leaf Blower For Hire

It snowed yesterday. Not a pile of snow, but a few flakes. Winter is coming. DH called to say in was snowing in MA and then DS called me outside to see that it was snowing here too. Of course, my reaction was a little different than most . . . I took my son’s boots, fired up the leaf blower, and blew the leaves. I know this seems like an odd reaction, but one year we got caught with the leaves on the ground when it began snowing and we didn’t see the ground again until spring. What a mess!

So I have now become a leaf blower professional. I have now done it three times this year. I am quite proud of this new talent, so I’m thinking I may add it to my resume – educator, office manager, & leaf blower. Ok, maybe not, but if the economy continues perhaps I could use it for a couple extra dollars (let’s hope not ; ) ).

My prior favorite one to add was hot dog cooker. Each year we would have an open house at my father’s company and I always got stuck in the refreshment area which meant that I was in charge of the hot dogs. The hot dogs cooked on a Ferris wheel type rotator. Now, one would think that this would be an easy job, but it was actually quite complex. You had to figure out proper loads, because the machine could not be off balanced or it would start throwing hot dogs out the front as the baskets that the hot dogs sat in started to sway. And you better have tip top reflexes because you had to get the hot dogs off the wheel while it was moving, but without disturbing the flow of the machine. I think had this been a paid job, I may have been fired, but after several years of practice, I am now an official hot dog cooker too.

What cool talents can you add to your resume?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Political Opinions Wanted

What do you think about Obama buying a half an hour spot on the major networks?

Have campaign costs gotten so out of this world that the idea of an average person ever running has disappeared forever?

Do you think given this economic time it is reasonable to spend millions on air time for a campaign?

Do you think that you can buy an election by just overspending your opponent?

Does this go against what our forefathers had envisioned?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Books - One good / One bad

I enjoyed “The Year of Living Biblically”so well that I have begun AJ Jacobs “The Know It All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World”. As I tend to be interested in doing strange things like this, I was intrigued by the topic. Also, I really enjoyed, the conversational tone of the “Year of Living Biblically” and was kind of sad when I closed the book, so I look forward to entering AJ’s and his family’s life again (It is kind of like a book form of reality tv).
I’m only a little way into it, but it is interesting and it has given me little talking points without actually having to read the encyclopedia myself. I’ll let you know what I think of it when I am done.

FYI – The worst book that I ever read. Ok, not worst in writing, I could appreciate his writing style, but the worst in complete and utter depressiveness was The Road. I was reminded of this the other day when my father and I were in a book store and we came by it. It has kind of become an inside joke. His friend, Nancy, had given it to him to read. After reading it and realizing how depressing it was, he thought he could pull a fast one on me. He gave me the book and gave it very high ratings indeed and made sure to mention that Nancy had read it. Nancy and I had discussed many good books and often had similar reading interests, so I looked forward to this new one. On the positive side, I will say that it was a quick and easy read. I will say that he created a fine example of an apocalyptic novel. However, I found it a very depressing and disturbing book. Frankly, I have enough of that in my own life and don’t need it at that level in a book. Most books go in and out of difficult stages. This book goes for depressing and never rises above it. I will give the father credit for his staunch support for his son and his unfaltering hope. Anyway, when I saw my father after finishing the book, I could not help but question his recommendation. His response was laugh and laugh and laugh. He then explained that Nancy had gotten him and so had to get someone else. I have not opted to “get” anyone with this book and instead have put out a warning unless for some reason you are an overly optimistic person and need a downer, you better make sure that you have Prozac with you when you read this book. Actually, unless you have read every other book in the world, I would recommend staying away from it altogether. (Sorry Cormic McCarthy. Sometimes art can be great, but I may not want to hang it in my home.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mental Games for the Brain

As many of you have heard recently, surfing the web helps to stimulate the brain and possibly decrease the odds of alzheimers. (This is good news for all of us bloggers.)

Puzzles and other mental games are also another great way to keep the brain active and work out our mental muscle. So until we all get our Nintendo DS with Brain Games,

here are some online Sudoku for you to work out with.

(For those of you who homeschool like we do, you will find that these mental exercises have a double benefit because you will work out your brain, but at the same time you will inspire your kids. I have my Sudoku book out and guess who I found working on it this morning. Math practice without even an assignment : ) )

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What do you do when you break down on the side of the road?

Yup, I broke down. The overheat light came on, I hoped I could get of the next exit, but I could feel the loss of power and pulled over. The oil light came on.

Step One: Pull over to a safe area if possible, as I sat in the car I wondered if there really was a safe place as I could feel the car shake as cars zoomed by. (It is amazing to me how many cars can go by without anyone stopping to help)

Step Two: Say a little prayer to thank God that one it happened on the way home from your new job and two that you did not breakdown in the city.

Step Three: Call your husband, who in my case proceeded to ask me what I wanted him to do about it. Although it is hard to talk when you clench your teeth, I was able to get out, “Perhaps, you can come get me.”

Step Four: Get the oil and anti-freeze out of the box in the back and check under the hood to see if you can do anything. Of course when you see fluids all over the road, there was not need to go any farther.

Step Five: Call AAA and wait for help.

Now I just have to wait for a call to see if this is a demise of my 12 year old van.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Computer Access for Kids

It is a love hate relationship! I personally love the internet. It allows me to learn and find out things that either I would never know or it would take me forever to access. On the other hand, I hate the internet. It is the portal to ruining your teenager. They have access to everything. Even when you give them a little leash and freedom, they access more – sometimes without you even understanding or knowing what they are doing.

As the experts recommend, our computer is in a public place in the house, but apparently they are quick to minimize. I do appreciate reflections in dark windows though.

It is funny, to us old folks, we are afraid that every keystroke is visible to someone else on the web. To the younger generation, I think they think of the computer as a shield that no one can identify themselves through.

I’m not sure that the good outweighs the bad. It used to be that you could protect your children if you just kept them away from the bad characters or the bad sections of town. Now those things have direct access to your own living room.

I have now changed the access to our computers so that only I can log the kids in. Therefore they can only use it with my direct absolute supervision, as opposed to reasonable oversight, but unfortunately I’m sure it is only a matter of time before they figure out how to get around that. Hopefully, their frontal lobe will have developed by then.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How to Fix a Leaky Toilet

It is like water torture in our house. The toilet keeps refilling about every 15 to 30 seconds. I had mentioned it to DH who keeps pooh-poohing all the jobs left to get the house in perfect shape for the market. I got so frustrated I actually went online to try to find out as much as I could and maybe fix it myself. I learned that scrubbing the seal in case gunk had built up can be any easy fix. I figured that would be an easy place to start and I probably couldn’t screw up too much.
Daringly, I tried it (I don’t have a real good track record on such home repairs). Some black stuff came off but it did not seal any better. Then the seal stuck up and all the water drained out of the toilet. Of course, we only had minutes until another showing and I was freaking out. When I finally got the seal working again, I was not going to touch it anymore. So on it continues to run.

I have begged, pleaded, and, yes, nagged, but to no avail. I tried to explain how a buyer would perceive it, but there was / is always something else to do. Sure enough, what comment comes back from the last showing, “Did you know the toilet’s running?” I forwarded the realtor’s comments to DH. This morning, I think I have him cornered and we are going to go to Home Depot. Of course there is still the light switch, the door, and the trim to get done too. As my father said last night, “Right now, I bet you wish you were renting.” Meaning that we could just finish the lease and be gone instead of this protracted sale. As always, fathers are right.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Do your children get into Webkinz?

My kids have been obsessed with them for a couple of years now. Even my 13 year old still wants Webkinz. Now I have to admit that some of the stuffed animals are very cute, but I am so confused by the games on the computers. DS was just explaining to me that he thought the Chihuahua might be November's pet of the month and if you added him next month you would get an extra token. Of course I'm so lame that that didn't mean a whole lot to me. He said that you need ten tokens to make the wishing machine work (don't worry that didn't clear it up for me either)or more for something specific. You can get all sorts of things from the wishing machine like a quad, milk truck, and so on. At least Webkinz are better than furbies.

One night I go so fed up with furbies chatter, I actually killed it. I took the batteries out and I finally hid it. Worse than furbie were these darn virtual Pet things. I believe they were made by a couple different manufacturers.

They were cute at first, the kids could take care of their own pet, but they soon became annoying and obsessive. And then those virtual pets led to virtual pets on the computer like DD became a slave to the computer. If you didn't feed, brush, wash, and exercise the animal at appropriate times,you were "killing" your animal. DD practically went into seizures when we went on a trip and did not have access to "care" for the animals. Mind you I don't think the welfare of our own animals crossed her mind once. (For those of you who think such a cyber animal teaches responsibility - my first hand research says "NO").

At least the Webkinz, let the kids "take care" of their pets, but don't penalize them for living life in the real world, nor do they make horrible repetative sounds in the middle of the night. This trend may be a keeper.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ringtones that Adults Can't Hear

Can you believe that there is a high pitched ringtone that adults don’t hear the same way teenagers do? DD found it on a website for ringtones (She is still dreaming about getting a cell phone). I could only hear the faintest noise, certainly if it was a cell phone in my purse, I would never hear it. Frankly, I’m lucky if I hear it if on full blast. I looked up information and got mixed information, but the basic concept seems to be that adults lose the ability to hear certain frequencies. Even if adults hear it, we don’t hear it to the same extent that teenagers do. If you want to try to hear it, check out the story on NPR.

If only I could get her to talk to her friends on the phone in that tone then my house would take on a new peace. (I don’t really mean that because then I wouldn’t know what she was up to, but a woman can dream).

Congressman Courtney Responds

DS had to write to a Senator or Congressman about an issue that he cared about. He wrote to Congressman Joe Courtney about the importance of maintaining our national parks. Today, he received a reply. He was so proud. My I-hate-to-read son read the entire 5 paragraph response. While I’m sure it was written by some assistant, I can’t tell you how much it meant to him.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Crocheting for a Cause

Aside from playing games with daughter that she found in Discovery Girls magazine, what did I do today?

I made baby caps for Knit One, Save One. As I mentioned on my on Mission Mondays, Knit One, Save One is a project of Save the Children. The program combines a need for infants with political advocacy. So I found some of my x-sister-in-laws yarn that she left behind and then had to pray that I could locate one crochet hook (I wasn't able to in my house, but I called my dad and he found one of my mom's), and off I went. Three hours and some odd minutes later and several YouTube videos later, I had three baby caps ready for mailing.

Perhaps you may be inspired to try the same, either for this program or for others. Winter is coming and the economy is getting tougher, it may be difficult for all of us. But these caps sure made me feel better, if you need a pick-me-up, pick up your knitting needles or crochet hook. If you are not sure what to do with them, YouTube is a great resources. Keep searching until you find instructions that make sense to you.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Natural Artworks

Sometime when you do your chores, you find little moments of grace. DS is fighting a nasty cold so I did his chores today. As I brought the compost up to the compost pile, I found this tree:

Isn't it beautiful.

Here are a couple other art pieces that God made to decorate my yard.

I got to see them up close as I got to leaf blow for the first time in my life. When we ran out of gas, I finished the old fashioned way with a rake and a tarp. Man, can leaves be heavy. Sadly, tonight you would not even that I worked on the yard. Ok, my muscles know, but people looking at my yard would not.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mom Time in the Morning

Honestly, I am not a morning person, but on those rare mornings that I am up early, like this morning. I find a special bit of peace and tranquility. This morning, the dog had to go out and DH was already running late, so I got doggy duty (that wasn’t meant as a pun, but . . .). When I came back in it seemed silly to try to go back to bead, so I crushed some coffee beans, got my book, and spent some me time.

I never understood the idea of me time until I lost it when the kids were very young. It seemed that I was always spending my time for everyone else and never had a moment to think my own thoughts or follow my own interests. I finally started to enforced bedtimes that allowed me time to have after they went to bed. However, I often would be too tired to do anything. I often read of mothers who get their time before their kids get up, but not only don’t I usually like morning but, also in our home, mornings were almost impossible to glean as DD rises with the sun. I would have to get up at 4 in the morning or earlier. As she enters her teen years though, mornings are becoming more of a possibility. I don’t have to worry about DS, who would sleep until noon if he could.

There is something special about that time when all in the house is quiet. The outside world is asleep and the light is altered either the dim morning sunrise or the calming dark warmed by a single light. Right now the light is amplified and altered by the golden reflection of the leaves. I’m not sure why the light makes such a difference, but there is a comfortable warmth that fills me.

I’m not going to starting setting my alarm clock early, but I do appreciate special morning times when they come unexpectedly.

How do you glean me time? Do you think that me time is important?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Movie Review - The Forbidden Kingdom

Kung Fu is really not a genre that I am too crazy about, but DS wanted to rent a movie. As he has not been feeling well, I relented. He chose The Forbidden Kingdom and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. There is just the right combo of morality, fantasy, and Kung Fu. Obviously there is fighting, but no real blood and guts.

Jackie Chan and Jet Li co-star in this tale. As always Chan’s moves will engage you and the story will intrigue both young and old. The Chinese setting will be made new for another generation and you won’t even have to read sub-titles. This movie of good vs. evil, right vs wrong is bound to become a classic. There is even a female heroine who can surely hold her own against any man.

So pop some popcorn and dial up The Forbidden Kingdom on OnDemand or PayPerView. You may even want to add this one to your DVD collection.

My favorite quote from the movie,
How can you fill your cup, if it is already so full?
Empty your cup

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Breast Cancer Site - Help is just a click away

Here is another simple way to help towards a cure. It doesn't cost you a dime. Just remember to go to this site daily and click. You can also help be spreading the news and getting others to do the same.

The Breast Cancer Site

While you are there, take time to look at the other sites that you can help with just a click.