Friday, September 30, 2011

Great Deal

I have already admitted my love of sewing, and even confessed to making my own aprons.  I also love making doll clothes.  I have made it a tradition each year at Christmas to make a new outfit for my girls’ first baby dolls.  I have really enjoyed picking out cute fabric and making dresses, PJ’s, and even coats for their special little friends.  This year, however, I have upped the ante.  Esther received a Madame Alexander 18” doll for her birthday(courtesy of Swagbucks earnings) this year.  Jealousy immediately made itself evident in her older sister. “I want one!” said Abigail.  I told her she might get one for her birthday next year (May).  She frowned, and thought for a moment.  “How about for Christmas?”  She’s no dummy! :)
After looking at prices on pre-made clothing for 18” dolls, I fainted.  After I picked myself up off the floor, I knew there had to be a better way to clothe the dolls.  Thus began the search for 18” doll clothing patterns.  I must say I balked at the price range of the patterns - $9-17, depending on the store.  I resigned myself to buying one at a time as finances permitted.  This meant that I would probably have the entire collection by the time my granddaughters arrived!  I was visiting with my mom, and she happened to mention that Hobby Lobby (I love that store) was having a sale on patterns.  All Simplicity patterns are $.99 this week!  I begged her to take me over, and  sure enough, they had the 18” doll patterns.  I bought every single one they had – 16 in all!  I purchased all sixteen patterns for $15.84 with a total savings (figured from the price printed on the envelope) of $210.25!  What a blessing!
Now I have a complete arsenal of fashion – even the Disney Princess dresses.  I cannot wait to start my Christmas projects.  Shhhh!  Don’t tell my girls what is in store for them this year!  I am so excited!  What is the best deal you have come across lately?  By the way, it’s not too late to go snag some $.99 patterns at Hobby Lobby!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Apron Strings

I love my apron!  I know that sounds like a really hokey thing to say, but I do!   It came to me several years ago that I could save a lot of my clothing from unnecessary spots, spatters, and stains by wearing an apron.  Of course, it had to have a bib front, since most of the stains are above waist level.  I found a really cute pattern for vintage aprons and picked out a cute paisley print in aqua and brown ( I figured it would hide a lot of stains). 
Alas, my apron is showing a lot of wear, and quite a few dingy-looking areas, from wiping my hands on it when I am busy cooking and baking.  Another problem is that since I have only one apron, I tend to wear it until it can walk to the laundry basket by itself.  Yuck!  Anyway, I decided the time has come to make another apron.  I was able to find several cute fabrics, and my intent is to make at least two more aprons – in my spare time, of course!  :)
I was able to cut out the first apron the other night.
My machine is waiting, but normal life has interfered with my plans for sewing.  In the meantime, the pattern pieces sit upon my ironing board, calling my name, urging me to attend to them.  I’m coming!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Apple Picking

For quite some time, I have wanted to go fruit-picking with my children.  We missed strawberry season, blueberry season, and peach season, so apple season was my last resort.  We located an orchard in Ohio, not far from my grandparents’ house, and decided to make a day of it, picking fruit and visiting grandparents.  It was really good to see my grandmother, who has not been in good health for some time.  I wish we could visit more often, but our schedule and the distance makes visits too few and far between.
We arrived at the orchard in the late morning.  It was overcast, and we were afraid that it might start raining at any time.  Time was of the essence!  They also had a small petting zoo along with tons of pumpkins, gourds, and beautiful fall flowers.
IMG_3002    Here is my little Pumpkin family!
   IMG_3003After posing with several pumpkins, we were ready to pick apples!
Each of the kids had their own little basket to fill with apples.  I told them they could eat whatever they picked, so not to pick up rotten ones off of the ground ! :)
The fruit of their labors is quite sweet!
Josiah with his partially filled basket.
Abigail holding a very nice Golden Delicious variety.
Esther with her pick of the crop.
Daniel, obviously pleased with the whole outing.
As we started heading out of the orchard, the rain began to fall.  We tried running, but the apples kept falling out of the too-high piled baskets, so we had to content ourselves with just walking as quickly as possible.  We also bought an already picked half-bushel of Jonagold apples, which I hope to turn into a pie later this week.  Yum!   

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Just Puttering Around

I have never been a great fan of golf, even putt-putt, but I have indulged my children on several occasions by playing a game or two.  A week or so ago, while we were parked at an RV campground during a meeting, the kids saw the mini golf course and were dying to play.  Paul and I gathered our courage and took the whole crew down to the park office where we collected an entire set of balls and clubs.  The day was fine and sunny, and everyone was excited – at least everyone under the age of 30!   We started at the first of 19 holes and it only took everyone an average of 10 strokes to make it into the cup.  Say cheese!  Only 18 more holes to go!  I decided almost immediately that this was going to be an all-day event, and I was thankful that there was no one else on the course.  Tempers might have flared at the excessive delays. 
I tried in vain to teach Esther how to hold her club, but every time I turned around, she was holding it like  a bat.  Daniel used his more like a pool cue stick, shoving the ball toward the cup.  Josiah did rather well, and so did Abigail, and they steamed ahead with Paul along the maze-like course.  I lagged behind with the younger two, eventually resorting to the “dragging” technique used by Esther  when hitting the ball became too taxing.  I don’t think it hurt my score much, considering I bounced the ball off of little feet and stray clubs left scattered on the greens.  I think my average par was about 7…  how embarrassing.  We did have such a good time, though, and I laughed at how silly we all looked, scooting the balls around and taking forever on each hole.  I want my kids to remember having fun with the family – not always worried about doing everything right all the time.  They will eventually learn how to putt-putt (I think), but in the meantime - “FORE!”

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pacific Time

We have spent so much time traveling this year.  One of the most difficult parts of travel is the constant change of time zones across the continent.  It seems odd to have more than 24 hours in a day sometimes, but there are days when we only have 22 or 23 hFeb 05 2011 077ours as we travel back east.  In the summer, the days up north are so much longer (it was still light at 11:00PM on July 4th when we were in Minot, ND) and the mornings begin earlier.  It seems that your body never really knows what to do.  Going to bed when it is still light is against my convictions! :)  I am not a morning person, either, so getting up early also goes against my grain!  It is a grand life, though, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 
I love this picture of my guys from earlier this year.  We all went to the Pacific coast for a time of family fun.  Pacific means peaceful, and the day was one of rest and relaxation for all of us.  Some people enjoy going to the beach, and that is okay, I guess.  I personally prefer the rocky coastlines of California and Maine with the surf pounding against the rocks.  I must have a zillion pictures of the coasts of our country, and they are all beautiful to me!  There is something about the beauty and solitude that appeals to me.  I could sit and watch the water all day!   Take some pacific time…

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ahoy, Mates

This past week, we have been at Camp Joy in Whitewater, Wisconsin.  Paul was the speaker for a school camp, and the rest of us just had a good time.  The weather was cool, but nice and we were able to participate in a lot of outdoor activities.  The kids went fishing, played in the "time machine," played on the playground, rode horses, and even tried a little archery with Josiah's new bow (he won it at VBS this summer by saying verses).  It was a little scary to be within bow range of Josiah when he was trying to pull it back, but we all survived his attempts at being Robin Hood!  One of the main attractions for the children was a large ship built next to the playground.  They all took turns weighing anchor, hoisting and trimming the sails, and being the captain.  I love things that promote imagination.  Creative play is so good for the developing child.  I love to see the smiles on their faces when they play pretend.  How do you encourage creative play in your children?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Morning Tea

Last winter, I got into the habit of having hot tea on a cold morning.  I will say that I would prefer hot chocolate to tea, but as a concession to the condition of my post-children waistline, I have decided to take the high road in warm beverages.  Now that the days are getting cooler again, the tea is calling.  I haven't experimented with a whole lot of different blends and flavors, because I found that I really like Lipton green tea with a little bit of mint.  It is so refreshing!  I also use stevia to sweeten it just enough and it is perfectly guilt-free!  Now, don't get me wrong - I will have hot chocolate some mornings (you can't really see it, but the mug in the photo - my favorite - says Chocolate on it), but for now it's tea time. If I could only find a good recipe for crumpets!

Don't forget that today is Mega Swagbucks Day!  I haven't said a whole lot about Swagbucks recently, but I have been busy working and collecting Swagbucks in preparation for the upcoming holidays.  If you have not yet set up your account yet, do it today and start earning tons of great rewards!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Computer Literate

I was really impressed with my friend Renee’s blog the other day.  She has been blogging for several years now and gave some of us “newbies” a few helpful hints.  I was overwhelmed with all the information, but immediately started to tackle the easier tasks on her 12-point list.  After about an hour and a half of messing around on my computer, I finally figured out how to edit the HTML text on my blog page for the look I wanted.  (She didn’t tell me how to do that – it took some research on Blogger Help and a lot of hair-pulling to figure it out.)  I am slowly becoming more computer literate, and that makes me happy!  Below is a picture of Paul at his computer... he is usually the computer guru around our house, but for once, I didn't need his help! :)Sep 19 2011 010
I also downloaded Windows Live Writer, a free program she recommended.  It can be used in conjunction with Blogger or other blogging sites.  I am having fun experimenting with the various effects and techniques for photos that are far superior to Blogger’s capabilities.  Thanks, Renee! 
I don’t often post links to other blogs, but Renee has some great ideas about food preparation as well as recipes and menus.  Check out her blog  and be inspired!

Who's That Hillbilly?

Several weeks ago, Daniel wore this authentic cowboy hat for the first time.  You may remember seeing the pictures of the kids riding the minature horses.  Same hat, different look.  After a few weeks in the tender care of my children, the hat no longer proudly proclaims, "I am a cowboy," but instead, it seems to say,"I am a hillbilly!"  Yuk-yuk!

I cannot help but laugh when any of the family wears it - it looks like something Jed Clampett would wear.  Paul had me in hysterics the other day, putting it on and talking in his best redneck voice. I wish I had a picture of that, but I wasn't fast enough!  :)

Daniel put the hat on the other morning, and was running around the trailer.  He laughed and giggled and made that crumpled-up hat look so cute.  He refused to stand still long enough for me to get a really good picture, but that didn't keep me from trying, and especially not from laughing.  How sweet and precious these everyday memories become as my children grow up.  One day, the hat will be discarded because it is old and out of shape, but for now, it is a treasure to my son, and thus, to me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Long and the Short of It

This is my hair right now - today, in fact.  For years, I had long hair past my waist, all one length.  Shortly before I was to be married, I took the plunge, and cut it to mid-back.  It was somewhat traumatic at first, but I loved it.  Then a few years later, when the children started to arrive, I constantly found my hair being spit up in, slobbered on, tangled in tiny fists, and dragged into baby food.  Gross.  It stayed mid back for a while, and then I wanted something new, different, and chic.  Eventually, with the assistance of my wonderful beautician, Aunt Nancy (she really is the greatest), I decided on layers.  This took my hair to a whole new level of maintenance, but I really liked it.  The problem is, I don't see her enough to maintain it in that really cute cut.  My last hair cut was in May(???) I think.  It has grown out to the mid back, long layers stage, and I am not sure what I want to do with it.  It is pretty healthy, so I am torn between letting it grow and donating it to Locks of Love (or something like that) and chopping it off in a few weeks when I get back home.  There are advantages to both, and ever the practical person, I will probably take a while to decide.  Ultimately, It will boil down to this: how long can I stand it before it HAS to be cut?  You know what I mean.  The day you wake up and say, "Okay, the hair must perform or else it will be chopped off!"  Have you ever donated your hair?  Do you like your current 'do, or are you looking for the new you?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

To Health!

I have accomplished the unthinkable!  Last week, I finished off the last vitamin in this bottle.  You may think, "So what?!"  I will enlighten you on why this is such a feat.  Never in my life of 30+ years have I ever regularly taken vitamins, nor yet finished a whole bottle by myself.  I attempted to take prenatal vitamins during each of my five pregnancies, but they usually reappeared along with my most recent meal, so I gave up on that nutritional route.  Now, I must say, that I have taken vitamins through the years in fits and starts, but I could never seem to remember to take them after a few days.  I guess it's true that one of the side effects of vitamin deficiency is loss of memory! :)  Anyway, I got this bottle free at CVS earlier this year, and finally took the 30th one last week. (Yes, it took me 8 months to finish a one month bottle!)  I can't say I have noticed a great improvement in either my health or my memory, but perhaps that is not the fault of the vitamin...  I have already started another bottle of vitamins, so I am on a roll.  I don't want to take them so regularly that I have  the dreaded "vitamin breath," which, in my opinion, is worse than "coffee breath."  So, here is to my health, and to finishing my newest bottle of vitamins before the new year!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

It's Raining

Yesterday was a lovely day with cool breezes and sunshine, but this morning, we woke to gray skies.  I always feel a bit dreary and move more slowly on those days.  I get the urge to sit down in a corner of the couch and read for hours at a time (of course, that is not possible, but that's what I want to do).  I also get the great desire to crochet warm things to wear.  I found a super-easy pattern for a shrug and some lovely flecked yarn on clearance.  I have already used a whole skein ( only three more to go).  Creating beautiful things is something I love to do, but don't have much time for on a regular basis.  Fall is the time for sewing, crocheting, knitting, and crafting.  Yay!  I have big plans for the next few weeks, and I will be posting pictures of several of my projects.
Harvest bounty
 Fall is also the time for apples, and when there are apples, there must be pie - at least that is what my husband thinks!  Last week, we were given a basket of apples. I think they were Wolf River apples, but I cannot be sure.  Anyway, I thought it would be nice to bake a pie for my best beloved.  I never dreamed it would be an undertaking of epic proportions! :)

My workstation on the dryer
I dug out my recipe book and found the pie crust recipe.  Then I gathered all my utensils and measuring devices, bowls and spoons, and took them outside (I have to mix flour outside, due to Josiah's extreme allergy to wheat).  The day was sunny, but cool, so I shivered as I set up my mock kitchen on top of the dryer (another long story).  I realized while gathering my stuff that I had left my pastry blender at home - no big deal, I will just use two knives.  Right.  Not only had I left the pastry blender, but I had left my rolling pin there as well.  No problem - I will utilize the good ol' glass mason jar to roll out my pie crust.  The trouble was, all I had was a pint-sized jar.   Recklessly, I set to work, the wind chilling me and blowing flour from here to kingdom come.  I finally rolled out the crust and tried to pick it up.  It stuck to the top of the dryer and tore into about 15 pieces.  "Rats!" I shrieked.  I heard laughter coming from inside the trailer.  Muttering under my breath, I poked and patched away, trying to piece the crust into the pan.  What seemed like an eternity later, I had the crusts all rolled out, and laid on top of the apples, which by this time were turning brown from extended exposure.  I took the pie into the RV, intending to bake it in my miniscule oven.  Something was wrong - the oven would not light.  I have a healthy fear of propane gas, so after several attempts to light it, I called my husband in to see if he could get the pilot light to work (he has a bigger life insurance policy).  No luck.  After a little bit of

The finished product
 investigation, he found that when our RV tire had blown a few weeks ago, the tire had spun up and hit the gas line that runs through the wheel well, crimping off the gas line.  So now I had a pie, but no way to bake it.  I was in a roaring good mood by this time, as you can imagine! (Sorry, guys, I really am not perfect.)  I decided that I would just bake the pie in the toaster oven, even though I had never tried doing anything that big in the toaster oven before.  I stuck the pie in the oven and closed the door - almost... The pan was about 1/8 " too big for the toaster oven!  I heedlessly stuffed it in, and put another pan over the crack in hopes of retaining the heat and walked away.  I had to turn the pie halfway through the baking process so that it would be evenly baked on the edges.  Amazingly enough, the pie was marvelous!  The crust, though it looked awful, was so tender that it melted in my mouth and I was quite pleased that my perfect pie crust record (several years running now) was yet unbroken.  All in all, it was delicious, and my husband was quick to assure me how wonderful it was, and that next time it would be better.  He even went so far as to buy me another pastry blender and rolling pin.  I think that is a serious hint for another pie!  Perhaps this week I will make another attempt - if it stops raining!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Here are a few pictures from our time at the farm. The kids enjoyed helping their grandparents collect the eggs from the flock of chickens.  Here are Daniel and Abigail with a few of their treasures.  Josiah cannot touch the eggs, so there are no pictures of him this time.  Esther was more concerned with collecting stray feathers, I think!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Remember

There are definite moments in time that are indelibly ingrained upon our memories.  The morning of September 11, 2001 was one of those moments.  All time seemed to stand still with the great import of that moment.  The surreality of the seconds that stretched into days, the great sorrow of lives lost, families devastated, and the threat of war.  Ten years ago, I heard the unbelievable news, saw the news footage, and wondered how it could happen.  Here.  In our own country.  In the ensuing years, the shock has lessened, but the memory is still fresh.  May God comfort the families of those who gave and lost their lives that day, and of those who have given their lives in the struggle to maintain our safety and freedom.  I know that 9/11 will forever have an impact upon my life, and I never want to forget how it has changed me as a person and as an American.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Down on the Farm

We made it!  We headed out of Minnesota yesterday morning knowing that we had a grueling 10-hour trip ahead of us.  Besides, that, it was Labor Day.  I don't know why we always feel the need to travel on major holidays!  Anyway, with all of the construction and tons of Chicago drivers, our 10-hour trip turned into a 14-hour trip!  What a nightmare!  There were times that we were stopped completely, and other times that we oozed along so slowly that I could have walked and arrived faster!  We were all so exhausted by the time we reached my in-laws' farm in Indiana, that we practically fell into bed. 

The kids are so happy to be at the farm with Papa & Grandma.  There are always so many things to do and see.  The newest attraction is the chickens.  There are about fifteen or twenty chickens that have just started laying eggs.  The kids went with their grandparents to gather today's haul - five brand new eggs!  Daniel is somewhat apprehensive about socializing with the chickens, but Paul held him, so he was fine...  As I write this, all the kids have taken a ride down to the pond with Paul and Papa on the big, red Farmall tractor.  We are here for a few days of R&R before heading off to another few weeks of meetings.  We could all use a break.  School, of course, is still a priority, but at this point, nothing else is!  I love it!  The days are gloriously cool, and the nights are crisp.  Fall is approaching quickly.  The leaves will begin to turn in the next few weeks, and then winter will be upon us!  I love the fall season.  Everything seems so fresh and beautiful.  I am unable to load any pictures from here, but I have already picked out some great shots to share when I get the chance.  Enjoy these last few days of summer while they last!