Monday, November 10, 2014

Where We Talk of the Mystery of Genetics and an Old Stinky Refrigerator

**Warning: This is a post heavy with pictures of moi.  Sorry about that.  It just kind of happened.**

It is not an unusual occurrence for someone to remark how expressive my children's faces are.

"I know!" I gush.  "I can't imagine where they get it from."

Because, well, as amazing as my hubby's smile is (and it really is), he's never been chastised for letting every emotion known to man cross his face in a thirteen second time span.

Me on the other hand?

Well, here's just an everyday, random example...

Over the last month or so, I've noticed that our second, overflow refrigerator just didn't seem to be acting right.  I knew it was on it's last legs and every time I went to open it, my face looked like this:


That's the look where a) you're hoping the refrigerator fairy has come to fix the refrigerator or b) it is just plain starting to stink in there.  Or it's both.

After bringing it to the attention of the aforesaid hubby who possesses the amazing smile, I had to wait until he was convinced it was actually dying.  It took him a while.

That is, until he went outside to get one of his favorite drink and came in disgusted because it was, at best, luke warm.


This is my face when he mentions we might need to get a new outside refrigerator.  I'm so glad he thought of that.


Twenty four hours later, guess who now possesses a new-to-us refrigerator bought off of Craigslist?  Funny how quickly it all happened once his drink was not up to the chilling standard.

Then someone forgot to call the appliance pick-up service to get the old fridge out of the carport.


It was me.  However, I don't like to be reminded.

But then, when I start to think about how an elk skull (long story) hanging on the wall of the carport and a stinky fridge start to make us look to our neighbors, I think that maybe I need to hustle myself.


Good thing there is no HOA here.

After all that, there is a working refrigerator just in time for the holiday events, an old one picked up and our reputation as not-really-rednecks restored in our neighborhood.


This is the face of one happy girl.

Yes, I do wonder where my children have inherited their expressiveness from.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why It's Important To Dress Up Your House a Little

When my hubby and I bought our fixer-upper last year, we knew that the main purpose of this house was for it to be open and inviting, restful and encouraging.

What we didn't know is how seriously the Lord would take us on that.

While we've had no one actually move in with us, it has felt at times that we have a revolving front door and someone always on the calendar.

Which, just for the record, I adore.  (I just wrote a fragment there.  I tend to do it a lot.  Maybe I have a fragment problem.)

It's true.  I adore having people over, eating, laughing, singing, lounging, putting their feet up and resisting the call of their beds to stay just a wee bit longer.

It's so easy to get comfortable when people are at your house.  While this is good and exactly what we're going for most of the time, it's natural to become complacent with the atmosphere of our homes.  My desire is not only for people to feel refreshed, but also like they're honored guests and worth extra fuss, especially before they come over.

By all means, use the time when people are over to sit and rest with them.  In fact, I never clean up the kitchen when anyone but family is over.  I'd rather be sitting and having a good time while they're there because the dishes can certainly wait.

While I'm not a huge fan of creating extra work (i.e. laundry, weed-picking, floor-mopping), I take the opportunity of having people into my home as a way to bring beauty into their lives and offer them respite from a crazy, busy world.


It's amazing what some candles and flowers can do to soften the atmosphere.

I think we can all agree that it's so nice to have those times when friends come over and you hand them a disposable cup with their names written on it with Sharpie.  However, there are those times when your soul and theirs need to be nourished with real glasses sans the Sharpie.

It can be as simple or elaborate as you make it.  I have the personality where I actually like it both ways.

We all have our own personalities, which are reflected in our homes.  You don't have to spend a lot of money (really, I promise you don't) to make it warm and welcoming to others.

While the preparation before may more be time-costly, the efforts that you put into making others breathe more deeply and quietly will not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

My Favorite Pumpkin Bread Recipe

If you've visited here before, you might be aware of my baking love.

I am in no way a professional, but if you're looking for something more down-home and imperfect, then I'm your gal.

I bake year 'round, but fall and winter baking is always my favorite.  With my sister getting married at the beginning of this month (and at my house, no less), my baking opportunities were severely limited.

Guess what the first thing I did was?  Apple and peach pies.  Yup.  I couldn't help myself.

Today I just had to get my hands in some batter or dough or mixture of some kind, so I pulled out my favorite pumpkin bread recipe and got to work.  I also felt like "Enough of the scented candle already. I should actually bake something with pumpkin in it so my hubby doesn't feel a massive letdown when he walks in from work and all he gets is a nice waxy candle."  Yeah, sorry about that, Babe.

The first thing you need to know about this recipe is that it is for three loaves, which is just right for my large family.  (actually, large is pretty relative.  in our group, we have one of the "smaller" families. true story.)  The second is that this is "Plain Jane" pumpkin bread.  There's no streusel, no icing, blah, blah, blah.  You could totally add these things, but I've never been patient enough to wait to do those things.

I'm sure that if you decide you don't need three loaves (of course, I might question your sanity), you could try to reduce the ingredient amounts (eh. never tried it.) or just freeze the extra loaves (ding, ding, ding!).

That being said, I give you.... Pumpkin Bread.



Ingredients:

3 cups canned pumpkin
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 cups white sugar
6 eggs
4 3/4 cups flour (I used unbleached a.p., but you could probably use whole wheat, too.)
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 t. nutmeg
1 1/2 t. cloves

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, oil, sugar and eggs.  (You can do this by hand or with a mixer. I just used a spoon and went at it.)  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a separate bowl.  Stir into the pumpkin mixture until well blended.  Divide batter evenly between three greased loaf pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour (or until it passes the clean knife test.).

(Sorry for the photo where you can barely tell where the bread ends and the counter begins.  I had to snap it quickly before it was all eaten up by five ravenous kids who are like locusts in their uncanny ability to strip a refrigerator/pantry/any available food source bare in record time.  I'm lucky I had a chance to get this photo.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

That Time When I Planned My Sister's Wedding - And Then I Didn't Sleep (or Blog) For Months

My sister got married last week.  The reception was here.

Here as in where I live.

Here as in where my five children live.

Here as in the place where we live, breathe, school, eat multiple times a day, sleep, use the potty and mess everything up in record amounts of time.

And yet when she asked me all those months ago if the reception could be here, of course, I said, "YES!"

My husband then hunkered down in hole and vowed not to come out until the day after the wedding.

In the months since, we have lived and breathed and slept wedding reception plans.

Then suddenly, it was here!

(my dad pretending like
he knows what is going on.)

House guests came and there were airport runs and late night visits to the grocery store to make sure we had enough cereal and it was time.

Everything was ready.


My two antique doors hauled all the way from South Dakota this past summer made their appearance in our back yard.


Unbelievably, it actually sprinkled here that morning.  Seriously.  Rain in Arizona is like the one thing you can depend on NOT happening.  Everything was scooped off the tables as we made a mad dash inside the house.


Even the posts were dressed up for the occasion.  Burlap and my still-green lemons made for a lovely (and cheap. ahem) rustic-y decor.


I painted these old mason jars with chalkboard paint and then painted a layer of craft paint over them and sanded so the words popped out.  I found this idea on Pinterest and it actually worked!  They had a nice matte finish and looked so fall-like with these bouquets.



I loved throwing the guests for a loop by having vintage wedding pictures on each of the tables.  Everyone was trying to figure out who they were.  My answer?  No idea.  I had bought them off of eBay. 


My brother-in-law is a baseball fanatic.  Like, seriously.  A fanatic.  When he was first asked what he wanted at their reception, he replied, "Nachos."  My sister and I died at the thought of serving nachos at a reception.  But then we actually did it.  He was so excited. (Note: this is how you get on the good side of your brand-new brother-in-law.)


We bought all of these pint sized mason jars and put chalkboard labels on them to use as personalized drinking glasses.  I loved this little touch of rusticity.


With the fruits of fall available, we used some of them in a display on the gift table.  Again, simple...elegant...cheap.



 I love this cake my sister picked out!  It's bridal without being overly wedding-ish.  And the chandelier and suitcase?  Swoon.  This might have been my favorite vignette of the evening.

(a birds-eye view before
the morning rain taken
my budding photographer
daughter)



The bubbly was chilling in my great-grandparents antique ice-chest (I guess it wasn't an antique when they bought it.) and it was time to get this show on the road.



My sister looked absolutely stunning.  Never have I seen her looking lovelier or happier.  It was a moment to just breathe in.


My nephew was just as excited as she was!  He thought this whole thing was for him.


The show was on the road.  My brother walked the two mothers down the aisle.


The happiest couple ever.


 Okay, maybe the second happiest couple ever.  (We're the first.)

After the whirlwind of planning, the indigestion, the budget meetings, the one million runs to Hobby Lobby, like that! it was over.

And we breathed again.  And took a nap.  A long nap.

And I got to blog again.

And we all lived happily ever after.

The End.


Monday, September 22, 2014

It's Fall! Time for Homemade Pumpkin Granola! (and the crowd goes wild!)

I am known for standing in the grocery store and tearing up at the first appearance of pumpkins.

True story.

I am an absolute fool for anything pumpkin.  I even had my dining room in a previous house painted the perfect pumpkin color.  It made me so happy.... and chubby because I just kept wanting to bake more.

A few days ago I knew that I couldn't myself back any longer.

Pumpkin granola had to be made.

Had to, I tell you.

So this was posted on my Instagram feed:



That was the beginning.

This is the end:



Jack was caught red-handed.  I'm not even sure it had cooled yet.  All the sudden, the kid's hands were made of silicon or something.

I found the recipe for this a couple of years ago on Pinterest (of course) and have made it once or twice.

It makes your house smell like the fall colors on the trees look.  (Look Ma,  I'm being poetic!)

Here's the recipe from Dashing Dish:

Ingredients:
4 cups Old fashioned rolled oats (use gluten free if your sensitive to gluten)
2 tsp Ground cinnamon
1 tspPumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup Baking stevia OR 1 cup sweetener of choice that measures like sugar 1
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking powder
3/4 cups Pumpkin
1/2 cup Applesauce (unsweetened)
3 tbsSugar free maple syrup (or honey or agave nectar)
Optional Add-ins: 1/2 cup white chocolate chips, 1 cup honey teddy grahams lightly crushed
The estimated total time to make this recipe is 45 Minutes.

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the wet ingredients in another. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry using a spatula, (or your hands), until everything is well combined and oats are coated with wet ingredients.

2. Place granola on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, then stir granola around. Bake for an additional 20 minutes or until the granola is golden brown and is crisp. Take the granola out of the oven, and let it cool completely on the baking sheet. Stir in additional white chocolate chips or teddy grahams at this point if desired. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

**I went ahead and just used sugar because that's what we had.  I know I'm running a risk here for major criticism about using refined.  It's okay if you never want to speak to me again.  Actually, that would make me sad if we broke up over sugar, but if we did then we probably weren't all that close anyway.




Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Necessity of Escaping




















(our trips always have some adventure
in them.  this is one I could 
have skipped, though.)



This has been an extremely busy season for our family, leaving Mama breathless and a tad overwhelmed at times.  

School has started and it's a year where we are plunging in and we are neck-deep.  Some years, it seems that the work load is easier, others, well, others leave you hanging on for dear life.

In addition to our heavier school year, we have countless things that take up our time, our money, our energy - spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally.

We're pretty spent.

And then Hubs wanted to go camping.  Real camping.  Y'know without hook-ups and sanitation.

I was all for it... on the outside.

The inside of me was screaming, "NO!!  I don't have time for this!  I love my bed!  This is the worst time possible!"

We went.  And it was lovely.

What we forget in the seasons of running around-like-chickens-with-their-heads-chopped-off is that in order to keep running around, we must experience rest. 

Oh, how I love a good paradox.

And we must (let me emphasize that particular word:  MUST) be intentional about doing it.

You know that I'm talking to you, right?

Getting things done is awfully nice.  Satisfying, right?

Take this from a woman who has, at times, made an idol of the almighty to-do list:  It will not sustain you, my dear.

The busier you are, the more escapes you will need to arrange.  

Of course, they need not be big escapes.  An afternoon at the library (all. by. myself.) with a Starbuck's in hand was exactly what I needed a couple of weeks ago.  A short trip to the grocery store with hubs?  Yes, please.  Any time I go anywhere with him alone definitely counts as a date. 

It can also be as easy as shifting some school work aside for the day to pop popcorn and watch a movie or go outside and play. 

We are made for working, you and I, but we're also made for rest. Easy for me to say, right?  I don't know your schedule, your routine, your responsibilities, your workload.  No, but I do know mine and women just like us.  

Make sure that in your times of a hectic, over-loaded schedule, you find minutes to just breathe, relax and be refreshed.

It can be done, I promise.  It just takes strategy.  And maybe coffee.

If you don't, you'll end up like one of those crazy, headless chickens.  And we all know what fate awaits them....  being roasted for supper.

Please don't be roasted for supper.  Rest.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mama's When-I-Actually-Have-Time-To-Myself-To-Catch-My-Breath Book List

Yesterday was our first day of school.  Ah, the freshly sharpened pencils and pointy unused crayons.

Can't you see the leaves starting to turn colors and the autumn breeze shaking the acorns out of their respective trees?

No?

Could it be that it's because it's still August?

Or that it's because I live in the state where any sense of fall comes from the Hobby Lobby cinnamon-scented pine cones and fake leaves that come out of the craft closet?

It's not like I'm bitter or anything.  What utter nonsense.

Even though it's still warm (note me being generous here), school has started without it being fall and cues the end of my yearly summer reading binge.

(sniff, sniff)

I should have been working on the project list.  I should have been organizing the Christmas card list.  I should have been learning to do something quite useful.

Oops.

Here are my glorious, binge-worthy distractions from this summer:

Finished and Placed Back on the Shelf:


Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey - by Jane Austen
Two that I hadn't read and I loved them.  Originally, I was reading them to teach a high school book club, but it's morphed into a book club for anyone who wants to come.  It's amazing to me how many people I've had be interested and then commit to come.  As I do all of her works, I thought these were classic and lovely escapes.

    

The Monuments Men, Rescuing Da Vinci and Saving Italy by Robert Edsel
I am such a history nerd.  And an art nerd.  Put them together and you have a Super History Art Nerd who read all of Robert Edsel's books about saving precious art pieces during the last days of World War II.  The movie is great, but the books really do the story (and people) justice. (FYI, because we have little ones running around, I had to censor the front of Saving Italy because of Michelangelo's David, standing there in his birthday suit.  I put a sticky note over the top of it.  Silly, but effective.)


The Chronicles of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes
You know I just can't wait until January and the new season, so I revisited some past seasons.  Matthew and Sybil are still with us in this book.  Ah, the good old days.  It has stunning photography and has interesting historical notes (which, me being the nerd than I am, makes me quite happy.).


Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
I thought that this book (which the tv series is based on and I absolutely adore) was tremendous.  I was fascinated with the primitive conditions she shares about 1950s East End London.  Plus, it's a lovely telling of how she came to faith because of the nuns she lived and worked with.  She ended up writing several books and I'm excited to delve into more of them.


Abraham Lincoln's Whiskers - by Karen B. Winnick
I thought this was a gentle story told by the little girl who suggested to President Lincoln that he grow whiskers.  He wrote a sweet letter back to her and then she met him on his way to Washington D.C. for the inauguration.  It was a great read aloud to my kids who will be studying this period of history this year.



Little House in the Big Woods - by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I don't think that children's literature can get any better than this.  All of my kids loved it, begging for more each time I read a chapter.  This books needs no introduction, no review.  It's a hand's down classic.

Still Has the Bookmark in It:


In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
This one was recommended to me by two dear friends who had read it.  It's a thought-provoking read about nuns living in a convent.  Just because you leave the world behind doesn't mean that takes care of the sin in your heart.  In fact, it might just reveal it all the more.  I'll be glad when things slow down a bit so that I can get back to it because the characters are that interesting.



River of Doubt:  Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard
This book follows me throughout my house so that I can snatch bits and pieces whenever I have a free moment.  The story of the former president, a man with a bigger-than-life personality, is a fantastic look into his personality and what made him tick.  There is quite a lot of evolution discussion in here, added by the author.  If you can make it through that, the story is amazing.


Praying The Names of God - by Ann Spangler
This is one of my morning reads and I really like it.  I do wish I could find myself getting lost in it like some other books I've read, but it's a great learning tool.


The Beloved Disciple - by Beth Moore
Is there a book out there that she has written that I don't love?  I don't think so.  This book is achingly familiar in its humanity, divinely hopeful and full of hope and the loveliness of Jesus and our mutual love for each other.  I love having this as part of my morning reading.


The Big Book of What Now Learning Styles by Carol Barnier
I won this book at a workshop which the author was teaching and I was so excited because I was planning on buying it anyway.  I have two kids who learn very similarly to each other and me, which is super-duper easy.  But then there's another one of mine who learns completely differently.  I think this book is really going to help me assess where I need to change to accommodate this sweet learner of mine.  Plus, the author is just a hoot to read, so win-win.

Product Details

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
After finishing Little House in the Big Woods, we had to keep going, right?  So we're following Pa, Ma, Mary, Laura and Carrie as they travel into Indian country.  (side note:  my Jack is so excited whenever we read about their dog, Jack.  He thinks we're reading about him.  Why he thinks he's traveling under a covered wagon and across swollen rivers, I don't know.)

Still Patiently Waiting On the Nightstand:



The Peacemaker by Ken Sande
I heard Ken Sande (founder of Peacemakers International) at our homeschool convention this past summer and was so impressed with what he had to say that we bought all of his Peacemaker books for our family.  I am anxious to learn how to develop harmony in our home which is glorifying to God.  He's an inspirational speaker who is also quite entertaining and insightful.


The Captain's Wife by Douglas Kelley
The mark of a good book to me is one that I can learn from.  This book is the true story of a wife who had to take over her husband's clipper ship when he became ill and had to deal with a very man's world, with the strength and cunning of a female.  I picked this up at a used book sale and I think it will be well worth it.

Product Details

Mornings on Horseback - by David McCullough
I am a huge David McCullough fan.  Period.  Theodore Roosevelt's story fascinates me, especially after seeing his face on Mt. Rushmore this past summer.  I'm looking forward to learning more about him as a person and not just as a figure head.


50 Children:  One Ordinary American Couple's Extraordinary Rescue Mission into the Heart of Nazi Germany - Steven Pressman
Even though I haven't read this, yet, I am completely intrigued by it.  A story of love and sacrifice and hope and unbearable pain.  Could I send my children off if I knew it was the only way?  Would I?  Unfathomable.


The American Heiress - by Daisy Goodwin
Oh, my, oh, my, oh, my.  I am so excited about this book.  A sweet friend who knows my adoration of Downton Abbey recommended this to me and I can't wait to dive in.  It's set in the 1880s in England when cash-poor English nobility cast their eyes over the pond looking for young wealthy American heiresses.  Sounds intriguing, yes?


So I didn't make it through the whole list.  I don't think I'll ever have every book that I want to read read and back on the shelf.  It's like my Amazon wishlist.  I take one thing off and add three more.  Like my backside, it seems to constantly be growing.

At least books don't contain calories.
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