Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, Y'all!

I figured it has been about a month - I should probably write something before everyone thought I fell off the face of the earth. Andy and I spent the first two weeks of December in Delaware (it was only supposed to be three days, but stuff happens!) Anyway, by the time we got back home we were seriously behind on decorating, wrapping gifts, and that sort of thing. This Christmas is kind of a first for our family. Jerry and I have not exchanged gifts for years. In fact, the last time I can remember us giving each other a gift is when Tom was a baby. That "baby" is now 22 years old! The boys talked to Jerry and I at dinner one evening and said that they wanted Christmas to be different this year. We have never really gone all out for birthdays or holidays, and while the boys said they didn't want anything extravagant, they wanted a little more than what we had been doing in the past, and that included everyone getting gifts for each other - especially Jerry and I.

This Christmas season has been very special so far, even though we were away for the first two weeks of the month. Our "extra-special" Christmas plans had been decided before we left for Delaware, so Andy and I had an opportunity to shop in Rehoboth for our gifts. The boys shopped for each other for the first time, too, using their own money (not ours!) I can't wait for Jerry to open his gifts. We also had a rule about Christmas this year - no credit was to be used whatsoever (well, for Jerry, Tom and I - Andy doesn't have any credit cards!). If it couldn't be purchased with cash, it wasn't purchased. As of today my bank account is pretty flat, but I got GREAT gifts for my family and won't have any credit card payments for it next month -and that's a gift to ME!

We also bowed out of my family's Christmas gathering this year. I fully expect to be shredded, dissected, and turned into verbal mincemeat on Saturday, too! It has nothing to do with anyone - no politics, no hard feelings of any sort. We love everybody but just wanted this be "our" Christmas this year. We had a family meeting a couple weeks ago and voted on staying home this Christmas. Yes, I realize that we would all still be together even if we went somewhere, but there's just something different about being home with your loved ones. We're not shunning anyone - just enjoying our family time quietly this year.

I will post more later if I get a chance - right now I have chocolate chip cookies in the oven that need to be taken out! Merry Christmas, y'all! We love all of you and hope tomorrow is extra special for you, too.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


I am thankful for more than just the food this year. My one and only brother is a hero to me. Let me explain. Anyone who knows me knows that I am Mrs. Supreme Worry Wart. I can worry about the most inane things sometimes which drives myself, and my family, bonkers. When Jerry is away in Delaware it gives me more reason to worry. I worry about him constantly and drive him bonkers! We have a kind of routine when he's away where we keep in touch with each other at certain times throughout the day and he almost always calls to say goodnight (if he doesn't fall asleep first), and then when he wakes up at some point during the night he'll call just to say goodnight then!

The week before last he asked me to order pizza for him from Pizza Hut. I order online here and then pay for it online also so that all he has to do is sign the ticket and wait for delivery there in Delaware. I called him back with the expected delivery time and he said that he would eat his dinner and then call me. He specifically said that he wasn't feeling very tired so he would definitely call me when he finished eating. He has a tendency to fall asleep at the drop of a hat. He has fallen asleep while eating, while in the bathroom, out in the garage under his truck (I'm not making that up - Tom found him asleep there and almost called 911). And you wonder why I worry. Anyhoo, the pizza was late in arriving (I leave my cell phone number when I order in case there is a problem - which there was - the driver was lost and I had to direct him turn by turn to the trailer).

A long while after I knew the pizza had arrived, I figured Jerry would be calling anytime. I was working on a quilt that I am finally finishing after a long time, and lost track of time. When I finally looked at the clock, it seemed pretty late and a good while after the pizza had been delivered. Dad was out that night and awful thoughts of Jerry falling asleep and subsequently choking on his food, having a stroke, heart attack, etc., and being alone with no one to help him came to mind. Do I have an imagination or what?! Well, if you knew Jerry, you'd know it wasn't so far fetched. I decided to call him. It rang the requisite number of times and then went to voice mail. Hmmm......well, not too worried I figured I'd call again. Maybe he just fell asleep and it was taking a while for the ringing phone to register. No answer again. And again. And again. By this time I tried calling the trailer phone. I know the answering machine there is loud and annoying and SURELY he would hear that. Still no answer. Now my Supreme Worry Wart potential was in full regalia. Being 150 miles away in a situation like that is NO FUN AT ALL. NONE WHATSOEVER. I was praying like crazy by that time. I was really scared.

By now I had tried to call him 10 times over a period of time and had also called the trailer phone a few times. I finally called my wonderful brother and through my shaking voice explained what was going on. He did not even hesitate - he offered to go check on Jerry. I believe it was somewhere around 9:30 at night, too. If it was later, dear brother, feel free to comment and correct me! I made him leave his warm house at that ridiculous hour to check on my husband and he never even had to think about it. What a guy. Meanwhile, I kept trying to call Jerry. Finally, FINALLY, he groggily answered the phone. I lost it. Completely lost it. Between sobbing with relief and wanting to wring his neck, I finally choked out the whole story to him. But I had to hang up and call my brother who was still en route to him. Thankfully, he wasn't too very far from home, but still, the fact that he had to leave his house at all made me feel terrible. When I called Jerry back he said that he's not sure what happened - when he finally heard the phone and answered it, he said he looked around and found that he was sitting up, propped up against the headboard of the bed, TV blasting, with a piece of pizza in his hand. Long story short - okay, okay, too late for that - my brother was a hero to me and to Jerry and we both can't thank him enough for his selflessness. I will be writing about our holiday and other things, but this had to come first. We salute you, brother o'mine. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fall Bounty

Jerry stopped at a farm stand and brought me two HUGE heads of cabbage, two HUGE heads of cauliflower, and two HUGE boxes of sweet potatoes. I have been busy processing stuff and hope to finish today. I made Andy a sweet potato pie, I made coleslaw, and I made a batch of sauerkraut. I've never made sauerkraut before. I let it "sour" for just under two weeks and it still seemed a little more sweet than sour, so I think I'll let the next batch sit a while longer. We'll be having some of the first batch with a pork roast this weekend when Jerry comes home. The heads of cabbage were so huge, that we measured and weighed them. They were bigger and weighed more than my boys when they were born - and they were both BIG boys! One head measured 30 inches around and weighed 11 pounds. That's alotta sauerkraut!

Here's Andy holding the mutant cabbage head, and in the next picture a salt shaker is placed next to the cabbage for comparison.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Yuck and more yuck

We were in Delaware again last week. And yes, I drove again. I'm getting pretty good at this stuff! Last week, though, we were there to do a really ugly job. Last year we discovered a leak under the kitchen sink and Jerry fixed that. Unfortunately, there are NO shutoff valves in the trailer! NONE! So, one by one everything that has to do with water is getting a shutoff valve put on it. We were actually awakened one night last December by a loud pop and then the sound of cascading water. I jumped out of bed and discovered that a pipe under the bathroom sink in our room had burst and was spraying water all over. Because there was NO SHUTOFF VALVE!!!!! I ran outside with a flashlight, had to take the access panel off of the skirting under the trailer and reach into the web-infested space under the trailer and turn the main water valve off. Unfortunately, we have had to do that a few times over the last year while we fixed one leak or another. Jerry's mom mentioned hearing about a polybutylene pipe recall a while back and so we looked into it. Lo and behold, guess what the trailer plumbing consists of? Yep - polybutylene pipes. There was a class action settlement in which if your trailer was manufactured between certain years, had polybutylene plumbing, and had experienced sudden leaks (we met ALL the criteria!), all of your plumbing would be replaced courtesy of Shell Oil. We looked into filing a claim and found out that the deadline for filing was 2005. We were a tad upset!

Anyway, with the kitchen and the bathroom sink repaired, we figured we'd be okay at least for a while! We knew that the wood underneath the kitchen sink needed to be repaired but Jerry figured he'd get to it when he had the time (which he does not have a lot of these days!).

Last winter I noticed that our bedroom got pretty cold while the rest of the trailer seemed toasty, so I decided to try covering the heat vents in the floor of the spare bedroom, living room and kitchen with phone books to see if I could direct more heat into our bedroom. Well, it worked just fine and so now the heat was just going into the two opposite ends of the trailer; Dad's room and our room. After a while Dad said he kept tripping over the phone book on the kitchen floor and so he put duct tape over the vent to close it off permanently. About a month after that, the kitchen floor started getting mountains in it! I'm not kidding - it actually started buckling up like small hills in places. We thought that maybe having the duct covered up was doing something not so great to the floor, so we uncovered it and figured we'd just have to replace the floor at some future time (again, when Jerry had the time!).

Then, while we were there three weeks ago, we had gone to Home Depot one night after dinner to pick up some things Jerry needed the next day for work. It was kind of late when we got back and Dad was already in his room. As we were walking into the trailer - still outside, though - we heard a VERY loud - I'm talking the kind of loud you have to shout to be heard above - whooshing, whistling and waterfall-sounding noise. We ran into the trailer to see what was going on, and followed the noise to the kitchen where, looking down into the now-uncovered floor vent, we could see water pouring into the vent from somewhere! The noise was deafening. Dad, of course, was sound asleep in the back of the trailer and heard nothing! Take two on my running outside with a flashlight to turn the water off. Only there were more spider webs to stick my arm through this time - ewww. Anyway, Jerry cut a piece of the flooring out to see what was going on. Boy did we see what was going on. A piece of that *$%&&# polybutylene pipe had just burst right in the side and was shooting water against the vent, but because it apparently had been leaking out of there for some time (which we were not aware of), it had soaked the insulation and the plywood, and the plywood had finally buckled enough to pull the vent right out of the main trunk line going into the kitchen. The deafening roar was a large water leak spraying under pressure against the metal of the trunk line. Now we understood where the mountains in the floor had come from - major water damage.

We knew that Dad would be going away for a week soon so Jerry fixed the leak and we figured we'd wait until he went away to gut the kitchen and replace the entire floor. Last week when Jerry started cutting the floor out, we were shocked at what was there. The flooring was moldy and disgusting. As he would cut pieces out, Andy and I would haul the moldy, smelly pieces outside. I just know that had to be really healthy for our lungs! It was slow going too, because everything was so rotten. Since the whole floor had to be replaced, we had to take EVERYTHING out of the kitchen. All the cabinets, sink, refrigerator, stove. Everything. And since it was a trailer, all the cabinets were built into the wall. I felt so sorry for Jerry. He really had a job to do. And this was in the evening after he had already worked all day. Everything was put into the hallway since Dad was gone and nobody needed to be in the back part of the trailer anyway. Over the course of three evenings Jerry got everything done. He completely rebuilt the bottom of the cabinet where the sink is and put new pipes there - with SHUTOFF VALVES on them! He also put a new dishwasher in. There was an ancient one there that hasn't worked in years so it will be nice to have a dishwasher to use there. He also repaired the ice maker to the refrigerator which also hasn't worked in a long time! He put all the wood flooring down and then finally the vinyl flooring. I am very proud of Jerry - he really does beautiful work. Over the past couple of months I had gotten so used to doing the "kitchen two-step" over the hills and valleys over the floor (I knew by heart where each dip and mountain was!) that after the new floor was down I was still doing the kitchen two-step out of habit! I'll have to get my bearings to know how to walk on a flat floor there again.

Well, that was last week. Andy and I are home again this week, trying to get stuff done here. I think it might be a little while before we go back - a couple weeks, at least - or unless that *&^%$ polybutylene decides to show us who's boss again - *SIGH*

The finished product - a wonderfully flat and solid floor that you neither sink in or have to surf over the waves on! Oh yeah - and a shiny new dishwasher - yay!
Yuck, yuck, and more yuck. The flooring was moldy from all the months of the water leak underneath. Gotta love that polybutylene plumbing. You can see the plumbing repair that Jerry made in the line toward the bottom of the picture.

The hallway was the storage area for the counters and stove while the work was being done.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I Did It!

Whew - it's been a long time since I posted. I was in Delaware for 4 out of the last 5 weeks; 3 weeks there, 1 week home, then 1 week there again. And are you ready for this?! Drum roll, please........ I drove there MYSELF both times. Not only that, but during the first session (the three-week stint) I drove from Delaware to Annapolis to meet Tom and Sam and have lunch at Red Robin in the mall, then drove back to Delaware again. Yes, ME! Jerry says he's going to have to keep an eye on me now because I'll be all over the place. Everyone has asked me about the Bay Bridge - believe it or not, that didn't bother me at all. And yes, I do know about the tractor trailer that went off the bridge the week or so before I went. What bothered me the most was the traffic through Annapolis. I feel so boxed in - trapped. I do not like being in the middle of a lot of traffic at all. Oh, and I don't like two-way traffic on the Bay Bridge. My poor truck doesn't know what to think - the odometer actually turned over to 10,000 miles while we were gone. This February will be three years that we have had that vehicle - hmmm, 10,000 miles in three years - do you think I should cut back on my driving some?!

I had fully intended to go parasailing while we were there but it was Labor Day weekend and it was nuts and Labor Day was the last day the parasailing place was open. Here's a link to the parasail place. Look out next year, though! Dad thought I had lost my mind. When he asked me what I could possibly be thinking, I told him he could have his midlife crisis his way, and I'd have mine my way! (can't afford a red convertible, ya know!).

Andy and I are excited - turns out that the neighbors who live on the street behind us homeschool and belong to Conowingo-Rising Sun Christian School too. Conowingo sends out a newsletter with members' names, addresses and emails on it and I was really glad to see someone on there who is so close to us. I emailed them to introduce ourselves and they wrote back. They have a son who is a year older than Andy, a daughter who is 1 year younger, and another son who is 3 years younger. Their mom wrote and said that their oldest likes to skateboard and play video games and asked what Andy liked to do. How cool is that?! Andy likes the very same things. We are looking forward to meeting them.

I am declaring war on my house (again). I am fed up with this clutter. I have had bags of clothes and things sitting around that I was going to list on eBay, but now I just want them out of my house. I want open space back. A thrift shop has moved into the old post office building just down the street now. Guess where all my stuff is going this week?! I do not have the time right now to list all that stuff and the amount I would make from it would be minimal compared to the time spent writing listings for it. I would be better off just doing a few extra medical reports. Flylady is big on letting go of perfectionism and that's a bad trait of mine. My thinking was that I can't get rid of the clothes until I list them perfectly, take perfect pictures, etc. Well, I don't have that kind of time anymore nor do I want them taking up my space anymore - I love that mop commercial where the uppity guy says "Remove it from my space!" Sorry - hope I didn't give you whiplash by changing gears like that! I will still list things like school books and things like that, but the clothes have got to go now.

You may remember a couple of tips I wrote in the past, Karen's Ramblings: Karen's Household Hint #1, and Karen's Ramblings: Laundry Lessons. Here's another one - don't try to wash the fabric softener attachment of your washer in your dishwasher. Just don't. Your dishes will be Downy-fresh for the next 18 cycles.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Will Someone Please Clue Me In?!

In a former post I wrote about a project Tom had to do for school which involved drawing his shoes. Here's the link to the post -

I have written before about how I am able to see where visitors to my blog come from. Although I can't see who you are, I can see where you're from, unless you're using a proxy blocker. Anyway, over the last year or so there have been countless visits to this one post about Tom's shoes from literally all over the world. Just this morning there was a visitor from Australia looking at it. Over the weekend someone from Egypt looked at it. There have been visits from Italy, France, Spain, England, and just about every state in the United States.

Here's my request - will somebody PLEASE, PLEASE tell me what the attraction is to this post?! I did track it down and found that it was being used on an art school site (unfortunately not Tom's!) and was in a collection of drawn shoes, but I can't find anything else beyond that. Personally, I don't find my son's shoes all that interesting, but evidently SOMEBODY does - or at least his drawn rendition of them! I think I'll edit the post that is attached to the picture to ask directly on there for somebody to clue me in as to this picture's popularity. I even found it on a Google photo gallery of drawn shoes. I'm not asking for royalties here, I just would like to know what the great attraction is! Anybody?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Where'd This Week Go?!

Has it really been a week since I last blogged? Time is flying WAY too fast these days. And the worst part is that I don't see that I'm accomplishing anything!

The boys had a great time fishing. Everyone caught their limit and the fish were cleaned at the dock so they brought home ready-to-eat fish. They caught blue and rockfish. Thankfully, no one caught a tagged and valuable fish! Wait - let me rephrase that - thankfully no one UNKNOWINGLY caught a tagged and valuable fish and accidentally threw it back. UNFORTUNATELY, no one caught a tagged and valuable fish!

Last Monday I seasoned the bluefish fillets with a spicy dry rub, let them sit in the refrigerator for the day, and then smoked them on the grill using mesquite chips. There were no leftovers! The rest I put in the freezer for later. We are having some of the rockfish tonight. Well, the boys and I are having fish - Jerry will be having a New York strip steak. A while back I bought a large pack of New York strips and divided them for the freezer. When Jerry comes home from Delaware I cook him one while the boys and I eat something else. We don't mind, because the boys and I like spicy stuff and smoked stuff, and Jerry is a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, so we're all happy. Unless I go to Delaware with him, Jerry doesn't get a home-cooked meal while he's there so I try to spoil him when he's home.

Andy and I will be getting his high school curriculum stuff together this week. Well, deciding what it's going to be, anyway. I can't believe how quickly this summer has gone by. We might try turning the air conditioning off this week as the temperatures look a little cooler - at least this week. When I mentioned that to Jerry, he said that just because I want it to be autumn doesn't mean that it is, and that I should probably leave the air conditioning on for a couple more weeks!

Well, Tom just came home from work and between his working, my working, and his going over Sam's house, I haven't hardly seen him lately. I think I'll go catch up with his world. Besides, my 15 minutes are up!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Gone Fishin'

The boys (all three of them!) are fishing today. The crew that Jerry works with doing tree work chartered a fishing boat and Andy and Tom went along too. I am being optimistic that we will have fresh fish for dinner and so have not taken anything out of the freezer for dinner.

Earlier today I was reading the local news stories online and I saw where the Department of Natural Resources here is trying to promote fishing in the state and so have tagged and released several fish into the bay. If you catch a tagged fish then you can win a prize corresponding to the tag. One of them is worth $10,000. I really, REALLY wish I had known about this before they left this morning! I can just see one of my boys catching a tagged fish and just throwing it back because they don't think the tag means anything other than it is being tracked by DNR and unwittingly watch $10,000 swim away.

So, I have the day to myself. Jerry asked me yesterday what I was going to do with a free day. I worked, watched Food Network for a while, straightened the house, and worked some more, and now am writing this. When my 15 minutes of writing time are up, I think I'll read for a while. Or maybe get something out of the freezer for a dinner backup plan!

And yes, this did take 15 minutes to write. I didn't have much to say and spent most of the time thinking! Did y'all smell something burning?!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Karen Who?

I'm back from my hiatus. Calm down. You know you weren't just waiting for my next epistle to get on with your lives! I'm not even going to try to recap the past two months - just bits here and there. I have decided to use Flylady's 15-minute method to write. Her theory is that you can do anything for 15 minutes and so I have set my timer. Maybe I'll be more consistent now. Or not.

Jerry has been in Delaware a lot lately so the boys and I have been hanging out. Well, Tom's been working and going places with Sam, so Andy and I have been hanging out!

I have made changes to Andy's homeschooling for next year and we are excited about it. I wanted to do something different for him for the high school years, since those are what really counts as far as transcripts go. I also was really getting unhappy with the Board of Education reviews. The whole point of homeschooling is to teach differently according to the individual child. If I wanted him to follow a public school model he would still be there! I was butting heads a little more often with the reviewers as I really didn't feel like I had the freedom I wanted as far as subjects and what to teach within those subjects.

I did a LOT of research (partially the reason why I haven't written in FOREVER) and finally decided on Conowingo-Rising Sun Christian School. When you homeschool in our state you are given two choices - either let the local Board of Education review your curriculum and progress, or go under what is called an "umbrella" school - an independent institution who will review your curriculum and handle things with the state for you. With Tom we went under the umbrella of the church we were attending at the time because they were accredited to do that, but since we weren't attending there anymore with Andy, I just went with the Board of Education. The reason I think we'll be happy with Conowingo is because although they have credit requirements just like any other high school, what you teach within those credit requirements is strictly up to the parent. For instance, he needs three math credits to graduate. He can choose which math he would like - business math, geometry, or he can even use his math knowledge in cooking skills to count for credit. The same is true with all of the subjects. And the best part is that life experiences can count towards credits. Helping people or doing things for them (as long as it's not for pay) counts towards the Bible credits (it is, after all, a Christian school). I keep track of his credit hours earned and once a year I am reviewed by a reviewer from their school. This way Andy gets to learn what he wants, when he wants, and in what order he wants. I think it makes a lot more sense to study what he actually is interested in and that he may use in his future career. How often do YOU use Algebra II in your day to day life? I thought so.

Once Andy has completed his credit requirements he is issued a diploma from Conowingo. They have a graduation ceremony each spring for students meeting their credit requirements. The diploma is an actual, for really high school diploma that is accepted anywhere, plus they keep his records and will provide transcripts to any future colleges he may apply to. There is no set age for graduation; just when your credit requirements are met. Since the culinary schools Andy has looked into accept students as young as 16, he is thinking about trying to finish by then, but I won't push him to do that. Now, on the other hand I don't think Conowingo will take kindly to a 28-year-old student, either!

Well my timer just went off so I think I'll go. More later in the next 15-minute increment!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Running Away - Sort Of!

I had a great Mother's Day. Yes, I realize that was about three weeks ago but I'm just now getting a chance to write. The Saturday before Jerry had worked and so had I and we were both pretty tired but at about 9:30 that night Jerry asked if I felt like going somewhere. Sure, why not? I asked where we were going and he said he didn't know - just going. We assumed the boys would be going too as we always have a good time when we're all together doing stuff. Tom was home because Sam was working that night. Turns out that they didn't want to go anywhere, but gave us their blessing to go, so we took them up on it. We ended up not leaving until around 11 that night and we just drove west. Yes - we actually went west, finally! We ended up stopping at a Comfort Inn at about 2:30 in the morning. We got up the next day and hit the road again - still going west. To say we had a great time is an understatement. We talked, sang, laughed, stopped when we felt like it and in general just had a wonderful day. We went to Lynchburg and some places a little farther than that - I'm not even sure exactly where we were; I was too busy enjoying the trip and the scenery. Finally later in the day we started running into some pretty nasty storms. Since we had been listening to the satellite radio in the Tahoe we hadn't heard a weather forecast but we figured it was time to head home anyway. We got home at about 11:30 on Sunday night. It was really a great day. Usually on Mother's Day I try to do something special for the boys and Jerry. I think Mother's Day is a little backwards anyway. I LOVE being a mom and a wife and I use that day to celebrate my boys and my husband; not me. After all, if it weren't for them I wouldn't be a mom, right?! The boys had a great time and so did we. There was no one to tell them to quiet down and go to bed! I remember my sister and I doing the same thing - staying up until all hours and just giggling like crazy at nothing at all, so I completely understand how the boys felt.

Well, that's about it for this update - off to do stuff! For anyone who is wondering, I have asked Tom to please update his photo blog - I miss seeing his pictures and I know he has taken some really great ones lately. His photo blog is seen by people all over the world - like my blog! - and his viewers are missing his pictures, too.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Quick Update

I didn't want anyone to think I fell off the face of the earth. I've just been very, very busy. The worst part is that I can't really say what I've been busy doing - just that the days and weeks seem to be flying by.

Jerry had a good trip to Illinois and back. The morning that he was returning home there was an earthquake there, as I'm sure everyone has already heard about. Jerry was in Virginia heading home at that time and didn't know about it until he got here. Later that day he called the Amish man (he has a phone on the side of his barn in Illinois) to see if everything was okay. Since their house isn't built yet, they were sleeping on the ground in the barn. They said the earthquake definitely woke them up as the barn was shaking around them, with roof rattling, and the ground was shaking under them. It turns out that the epicenter of this earthquake was only 37 miles from where they were. They said they rode around later in the day and saw that some buildings had fallen and others were damaged. Jerry asked them if they were ready to come back! He and they were thankful that everybody was okay and that the barn was still standing.

The weather has been beautiful. I had an attack of spring fever last week. I bought a bunch of herb plants and a hibiscus. Yes I know - you can't eat the hibiscus, but it looks beautiful on my front porch. I love cooking with fresh herbs. Last summer I had rosemary, basil, sage and chives that the boys and I cooked with all summer long. Only the rosemary and the chives survived through the winter but that's okay. I was pleasantly surprised about that. The chives were up early and we were having chives on our potatoes in March. I have basil, dill, lemon verbena, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and a few others that I'm forgetting. There is nothing better than fresh herbs in a summer dish. You can't eat it, but my lavender is doing beautifully. I like to brush it with my hand when I'm walking by - a lovely scent whooshes up to greet me.

Some time soon I'll need to go through all my jars and get my canning gear ready for another canning season. My pressure canner needs a new gasket so I'd better get that ordered. Once canning season starts in earnest it is difficult to get canning parts or accessories as everyone sells out. I intend to buy new lids this year. While I do appreciate all the lids that were given to me by Hilda when she moved last year, I was embarrassed by the number of non-sealing jars that I ended up with. I thought the lids she gave me were ones she had recently purchased, but now I don't think so. I believe they were kind of old when she gave them to me. No, I'll stock up on new ones that I buy myself this year.

We are very proud of Tom. Habitat for Humanity contacted his school to see if any of the students would do some design work for them. Tom submitted some samples and Habitat contacted him and asked him to design their T-shirts for the crew working on a condo project in Virginia. The design he created for them is really cool. Since the design hasn't been officially "unveiled" yet I can't share it here, but I will as soon as I can. Tom is building up his portfolio which he will need for graduation next year and this is certainly a feather in his cap for that.

Andy is still cooking away. We were excited about finding that the Culinary Institute of America has "boot camps" which are from one to five days (and priced accordingly!) in which you can learn LOTS of stuff. I wrote to them about it and asked about ages but they said you had to be 21 to attend, as there is wine tasting involved. We were pleasantly surprised though to find a professional chef's magazine in the mail a few days later, published by the school and sent to him. He hasn't decided which culinary school he wants to attend. Who knows - maybe he'll decide not to attend any at all and just cook for himself. He's got plenty of time to think about it yet.

Well, I'm off to do stuff now. I don't have much time for writing these days but will try to at least spend a couple of minutes putting in a blurb every couple of days or so. I've said that before, though haven't I?! Happy Sunday, y'all!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

That's supposed to be fig leaf in case you're wondering.

Back Again

Wow, I can't believe how long it's been since I posted. These have been a busy couple of weeks . Work for me is back at a normal level - actually an above normal level, and I have been doing extra. Andy and I have been working hard at his lessons since his break and that's been taking extra time. Last Monday was certainly interesting around here. I had started a load of wash and then was at the door saying goodbye to Jerry when, while we were standing there talking, I thought I heard what sounded something like, oh, Niagara Falls or something similar. I ran downstairs as fast as I could and went into the laundry room. Everything was okay there, but I was still hearing a definite waterfall. Then I looked in the bathroom next to the laundry room and lo and behold, there was a fountain of my washer water coming out of the toilet and all over the floor. The toilet had reached flood stage and was overflowing with sudsy water. I ran to the laundry room and turned the washing machine off and the fountain stopped. To make a long story short (when's the last time I did that!), we had to wait until the next day for the septic tank to be pumped out. It turned out there was a blockage between the house and the tank. This was after trying everything we could ourselves to solve the problem which included actually taking the toilet up. (The water went down, just at a trickle though, so it wasn't completely blocked - just mostly!) At least there was nothing wrong with the system itself. We haven't had a bit of trouble with it since we remodeled the drain fields and distribution box about three years ago and we were glad that it was something that was a relatively easy fix.

Jerry has been back and forth to Delaware a couple of times working. He certainly has an interesting job to do this week, though. He is moving an Amish family to Illinois. He knows an Amish man who does small engine work and while talking with him one day it was brought up that he and some other Amish families in the area had purchased property in Illinois and were moving and wanted to know if Jerry could be hired for moving them and a trailer load of their belongings. Jerry's cousin has done this before but he said his truck was getting too old and he didn't trust it to make the trip, so had referred Jerry. Anyway, on this trip he will be taking the man who owns the engine shop, his son and neighbor. They will be taking a horse trailer filled with lumber that the man milled himself and will be taking out there to build his house with. Jerry's uncle is going with them as a relief driver. The trip is expected to be about 13 hours one way. Well, that's if they would be continuously driving. They expect to be making stops along the way so it will be taking longer than that. Jerry asked me if I would make a "care package" of food for the trip, so I'll be happily cooking away on Tuesday. I haven't done much of that these past couple of weeks and I've missed it.

Lets see.....what else? Oh yeah, our resident graffiti artist. We have a whiteboard in our living room - I'll explain that in a minute - and Tom has been leaving his, um, art on it for us to find. About the whiteboard - we just happened to have holes in the wall from when we painted the living room and the whiteboard has hooks that ended up fitting perfectly. It's not permanent and we can just take it down when we want but it really is handy to have. I think it's a necessity if you homeschool. We use it for lots of things and it is especially great for working out those long algebra problems.

Well, I think that's about it - for now, anyway!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Back To Work

This has been a nice week. Tom had his break from school and so I gave Andy the week off too. But it's back to the grind for everyone tomorrow. We didn't do much this week.

My Kombucha cultures are out of control. I have about six of them in a jar and a VERY large one growing in a current jar. I hate to destroy them, but how much alien spawn in a jar can one person handle?! That's what the boys call it - alien spawn in a jar. I thought about trying to sell the extras on eBay, where I had originally bought the first culture from, but somehow it didn't seem very fair since the lady who sold it to me sells them and other health items as part of their family business. I decided to write to her and ask how she felt about it. I told her I would price them higher than hers so as not to be in direct competition, but that I would understand if she would rather that I didn't list them. She wrote back and kind of in a round-about way said that it was their family business, and while she couldn't do anything about competition, she did suggest other places I might list them or give them away. I wrote her back and told her that although she didn't come right out and say yes or no, I got the distinct impression she would rather I peddle my cultures elsewhere! There's a message board for one of the transcription companies that I work for so we transcriptionists and can talk, vent, or ask questions of one another. I posted a message there offering the cultures for free if they paid the postage. I don't mind giving the cultures away, but I can't afford to give away the postage amount! Metal kills the cultures and the boys have threatened to "accidentally" drop a fork or something in the storage jar if I don't get rid of them soon!

I thought my griddle had died the other day and I was truly sad - but only for a little while. I had asked the boys to fix dinner and they decided on grilled cheese sandwiches. I have an electric griddle that I really love because I can cook lots of stuff at one time. Anyway, the boys had fixed dinner and then cleaned the kitchen, but then decided that they wanted to try to make some omelets for themselves. Some time later Tom informed me that the griddle had died. I went into the kitchen to investigate and the griddle wouldn't come on at all no matter what I did. I was sad, but I figured that it was several years old and had finally died. I left it on the counter intending to put it outside the next morning. A little later I went to heat up some hot chocolate in the microwave and the microwave wouldn't come on. That's when it occurred to me to check the breaker box! Sure enough, the kitchen breaker had tripped. We knew that there was a certain combination of things running that would trip it but it hadn't happened in such a long time that we didn't remember it.

Anyway, I think I'll go read for a while before bed. I am currently in 1 Kings in the Bible. Some very interesting things going on! More later if I get a chance.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Those Boys!

This is what the kitchen table looked like after the Easter bunny had been there. I went to bed at around 11:00 last night, leaving the boys up. I reminded them to leave their baskets on the table before they went to bed (actually we don't have Easter baskets - we use bowls, platters, whatever - serves the same purpose!) Anyway, what I found was that they had left two trash bags and a jar labeled "Tips". Wonder where they get their twisted sense of humor from?! I'm okay with their irreverence with the Easter bunny thing - they know the real reason for Easter, and that's what counts. Still haven't had our egg hunt yet but will post pics if we have it today. Between tree tossing and now this on Easter, we are definitely not your normal family but oh, do we have a good time!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Real Reason

As we are getting ready to dye eggs here at our house, I wanted to take a minute to write. Tomorrow as you contemplate biting the ears off of your child's chocolate bunny, or digging around in the Easter basket grass to gather those jelly beans, please take the time to remember the real reason for the day. In fact, that should be your first thought tomorrow. If it weren't for Easter, none of us would have any hope. Death would be just that - death. The end. Forever. But because He rose from the dead, death is just a pathway to life - a glorious, wonderful life. So before you roll out of bed in the morning, take a moment to thank Him not only for your blessings, but for dying for you and for me so that we might have eternal life with Him.

The angel spoke to the women, "You must not be afraid," he said. "I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has been raised, just as he said. Come here and see the place where he was lying." - Matthew 28:5-6

Now - on to these hard boiled eggs. We will be having extreme Easter egg hunts tomorrow like we do every year. Thankfully, this year we no longer have the plastic baseball bat that Jerry used last year to, er, persuade us to get away from any eggs we may have spotted! Hmm - maybe that's a bad thing - we may not have the plastic bat anymore, but we do have an aluminum one.........

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Same Old Stuff

Today has been a "stinky mood " day for me. I'm not sure why. It probably has to do with the fact that Jerry and I spent most of the day out and about yesterday and it was so good just to get out. First we went to the farmer's market in St. Mary's County. It was raining off and on but that didn't matter. Jerry had to get some ceramic tips for his sandblaster at a tool place there. Watching and listening to the people was so interesting. What a myriad of people there were! There were Amish buggies and Amish people, yuppie-looking people (who I must admit I laughed at when I saw the prissy-acting women trying to navigate mud puddles and sodden dirt tracks in their high heels!), and the average joes just out for the day (like us!). Really, who wears high heels to a farmer's market?! And in the rain, no less!? Jerry got his ceramic tips and I got - drumroll please - a 50-pound bag of red potatoes! YES! Betcha can't guess what our vegetable du jour will be for the next, oh, six weeks or so! I paid $3.99 for a 5-pound bag at the grocery store the last time I bought them. This 50-pound bag was $15.00. Even a math midget like myself can do the math on that one and figure out it was a good deal. Well, provided you like potatoes!

Anyhoo, then we went to Sam's Club. We went last week to stock up again (it had been a month since we had been) but we went on a Friday night and they were out of lots of stuff, so we didn't get everything we needed. When we went yesterday we still didn't get the huge bag of mozzarella cheese because they were still out of that, so we won't be having pizza night until I get more. One thing I did get was - drumroll again please - a 50-pound bag of popcorn! Have you ever!? We did the math on that one too, and we couldn't beat it. For me it's a low calorie, fiber-laden snack when I have the munchies, and for the rest of the family it's a snack that they love and eat a lot of. Also, after having seen an episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown made his own microwave popcorn in a brown bag, we were inspired. We actually tried it last night and it does work. Compared to the prices of the prepackaged stuff, at $12.00 for the 50-pound bag of Act II popcorn plus brown bags to pop it in, it still doesn't even come close. A plus in making your own in the bags is that you can flavor it however you want. I like chili powder on mine sometimes.

Then as we were driving home Jerry decided to just ride for a while. We took back roads around here that we hadn't been on in a long time. It was just Jerry and I; the boys didn't want to go. We gave them the option of going with us or staying home and cleaning the house for me and they actually chose the latter! Yeah, I was shocked too. As we were finally heading home, Andy called Jerry and asked where we were. We had no idea that we were under a severe thunderstorm warning. We knew that the wind had really started blowing, but were unaware that there were storms in the area. Anyway we assured him we were not far away and would be home shortly. We never did get any storms here, just an awful lot of wind. I walked outside and watched the trees swaying and the clouds rushing by in the sky. It reminded me of when the hurricane was nearing a couple of years ago and we went outside to watch the sky and the trees. Yes, not the smartest thing to do in an approaching hurricane, but fascinating nonetheless! The best part was that when we got home the house actually was clean. The boys had done a good job.

Okay, so now getting to my stinky mood. I guess it was just so nice being out and seeing things yesterday that somehow today just felt like more of the same. Let me state right here that I love my family and my home and my life, but sometimes I just feel restless; like I just want to go - somewhere - anywhere! As I was doing my weekly bread baking, cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, for some reason reality just seemed to smack me hard today. Maybe I'm just tired. Or maybe I just want land and freedom and no neighbors and grass and mountains and....and....and....... This must be how Laura felt in one of the books in the Little House on the Prairie series of books. I love reading through that set. In one of the books she just gets fed up with the sameness of every day, and she just startles everybody by slamming her schoolbook closed and announcing that she wants to go west again.

Okay, I'm over my tantrum now. Writing is truly therapeutic. Now I believe I'll get a good night's sleep so I can start tomorrow's routine with a good outlook.

But I still want to go west.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Farm Dreams - The Sequel

Not much going on around here lately. We are still watching our pennies and still making everything from scratch, but that's not a bad thing. I did the math (yeah, I know - I was surprised too, considering that math is NOT one of my strengths!) and I determined that a loaf of bread costs me 34 cents to make. Considering I make four loaves at a time and that has been lasting us a week, that's not bad. I certainly can't buy a loaf for that in the store. On Friday or Saturday evenings we have been having pizza night in which I make three large pizzas for us. I did the math for those, too (yeah, I know - the whole math thing!) and these cost $1.34 each to make. Well, except for when I got the bright idea to make stuffed crust pizza and put mozzarella sticks in the crust, which then brought the cost to $4.53 per pizza. Won't be doing that again. We put pepperoni, sausage, and mushrooms, or various combinations of said items, on the pizzas depending on what everyone is in the mood for.

We are also watching our pennies because we have been farm-dreaming again. It has now been about four years since we first decided we wanted to buy land and have a farm. Isn't it funny how you can get sidetracked? I guess God didn't have that in our plans just yet. We are hoping He is seeing things differently now because we really would like that farm! We want a HUGE garden, we want to raise our own beef and pork, we want chickens for meat and eggs, and I want a small milk cow. Jerry's kind of on the fence about that one (haha - no pun intended). If you're going to have a farm, ya GOTTA have a milk cow, right? Nothing major, just a small Jersey or Guernsey would be fine. And Andy's gotta have a dog. You can't have acres of land without a dog to run and roll around with, right? He plays with our neighbor's dog who is a Chesapeake retriever and is the biggest baby! He (the dog - not Andy!) has decided that it's his duty to greet anyone who comes into our driveway and to bark at voices he hears in our yard after dark. All we have to do is say his name and he stops when he recognizes our voices. This dog carries wood pieces around in his mouth and then takes them into his yard. Their front yard looks like a lumbar yard! One evening Tom and Andy were in the garage skateboarding and they had put a small piece of a 2 x 4 on the ground to jump the skateboard over. The garage door was up because it was warm and the dog heard them and decided to come visit. After a few minutes of playing with the boys, he snatched the piece of 2 x 4 and then ran into his own yard with it. The boys decided to call it a night skateboarding as it was after dark and they didn't want to be hunting for the piece of wood in the neighbor's yard.

In looking back over some of my posts, I realized that my "New Skills" post was just kind of stuck in there! There was supposed to be more to it than that but I didn't finish the post that went with it. Sometimes I will load pictures onto the blog and not publish it until I've finished the print that goes with it and sometimes I'll just hold onto a draft until I'm finished writing a piece, but somehow this got published with any accompanying story. One of these days I'll write it. In the meantime, just know that I realize the pictures really make no sense stuck in the middle of things as they are. I'll watch the "draft" and "publish" buttons a little more closely from now on.

Anyway, just wanted to update a little. I've been really trying to get 8 hours of sleep a night and so for me that means going to bed at 9 PM. While I've been managing to do that, it has left little time for anything else, like blogging!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What I Have Learned in 26 Years of Marriage

Wednesday was our 26th anniversary. What did we do? Nothing out of the ordinary. And that in itself is one of the things I like best about our marriage. Each day with each other is special. What have I learned over these many years?

Here are generalities for both husbands and wives:

1. Don't sweat the small stuff. It doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter. Recently I have been saddened to hear of people my age or slightly older passing away and leaving spouses and children. The little tiff you might have had, or the grudge you are holding because "I'll show them!", WILL NOT MATTER if the Lord decides to take your spouse home. Of course, we can't be thinking about death all the time, but we CAN be aware that no one is guaranteed tomorrow, and treat your spouse and family accordingly.

2. Don't treat strangers better than you treat your spouse. This is a biggie. In the course of a day don't you smile at strangers? Talk politely to them? Hold doors open? Say please and thank you? Then why do we treat the very ones we love the most with less respect? The stranger you might have smiled at and said a kind word to may or may not remember you next week; your spouse and children have nothing BUT memories of you. Make them count.

3. Try to start the day with a smile for your spouse. I learned this the hard way. I am NOT a morning person. Well, at least not until I've had the equivalent of a pot of coffee. I have found that the mood you get out of bed in is generally going to set the tone for the whole family for the rest of the day. Keep that in mind if you wake up grumpy and snapping at everyone. I may not feel like smiling, but I do it anyway because I sure don't want to ruin the rest of my day or anyone else's.

4. Make the extra effort. Whatever it might be. Do you see that your spouse just finished their drink/snack/whatever? Make the extra effort to notice and offer to get a refill or something for them. Do you see your spouse having difficulty doing something but you're comfy in your chair? Get up and help anyway. You'll be glad you did, and so will your spouse. Does your spouse like a particular food but you don't? Prepare it anyway. It matters.

5. SAY IT! Did your spouse do or say something that you liked? Tell them so. Are you thinking a nice thought about your spouse for whatever reason? Tell them so. Kind words are so easy to say, especially when they're sincere, and yet we can be so stingy with them. If you feel it (and it's a good thought - not a bad one!) then SAY IT.

Here are specifics FOR WIVES ONLY - *WARNING* - This may be uncomfortable for some or TMI (Too Much Information) for others, but I firmly believe these are necessary for a solid and happy marriage.

1. Never say no. Ladies, you know what I'm talking about. S*x to a man is much more than that. It is stress relief, comfort, an all-around, good-for-whatever-ails-ya kind of thing. Be glad your husband is turning to you to meet that need. This doesn't mean be a cold fish and just give in, either. Have fun yourself!

2. Never complain about your husband to others. Yes, you may have a gripe that you feel you need to share with someone, but don't do it. It's disrespectful to your husband and your words could come back to haunt you if your friendship with the person with whom you shared your complaint ever soured. Besides, you wouldn't want your husband talking badly about you to his friends, would you?

3. Meet your husband at the door when he comes home. This is so simple, but makes such a difference. It lets your husband know that you are glad he is home and that he is more important at that moment than anything else you may have had going on right then.

4. To go with #3, say goodbye to your husband at the door when he leaves. DON'T stay in your warm bed in the morning when he leaves! Get up and say goodbye to him. If you want to go back to bed afterwards, then do so, but don't let him leave without a smile and a hug from you. Between #3 and 4, YOURS will be the last loving face he sees as he leaves, and the first loving face he sees upon his return.

5. Put him first. Always. Before the children, before the house, before your job. The children will eventually grow up. Your house is not going anywhere. You will eventually retire from your job. You were a wife first, and you will be a wife last, with all the other things in the middle. Make sure the ending will be as special as the beginning.

6. Don't be afraid of the word submission. Wait - don't throw rotten tomatoes at me yet - let me explain. That word used to scare me. I knew that as a Christian wife I was supposed to submit to my husband. That's what the Bible says, and it's what we wives were created for. But I fought that one kicking and screaming. I thought that I would be taken advantage of. I thought that I would be used and disrespected. The word "doormat" came to mind. Well, I am here to tell you that NONE of those things happened. As always, God's word is true and He really does know what is best for us. What happened instead was that my husband began to actually treat me better than he ever had. The more I gave, the more I received. I began to feel treasured - not taken advantage of by any means. If you don't believe me on this, I challenge you to try it. If your marriage isn't all that happy, then you have nothing to lose. On the contrary - you have much to gain.

Now, before you think I've been living in a fantasy world for 26 years, let me assure you that this marriage has had more ups and downs than a rollercoaster but the important thing is that we started this ride together, and we will end it together. Divorce should never be an option*. Working through obstacles is always tough, but in the end you'll be glad you did. Just like trees that grow deeper roots in order to survive where there is a lot of wind, your marriage will grow stronger and deeper by weathering together the winds that twist and turn you.

*Please note that I am NOT referring here to an abusive situation. If there is physical or any other type of abuse going on in your marriage, you need to get help for yourself and/or your children.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

New Skills

The aroma of baking bread can't be beat.

Four loaves at a time will last us a while.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Something To Think About

I was reading a book that was published in 1870 - no that's not a typo, it's a really old book - and I wanted to share something out of it. The book is considered a classic; "The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life" by Hannah Whitall Smith. In the passages she explains how we are to have faith in everything; how we are like clay and the Lord is the Divine Potter. Here are a few excerpts that I really liked. It's a little long, but worth reading.

By a step of faith we put ourselves into the hands of the Divine Potter; by a gradual process He makes us into a vessel unto His own honor, meet for His use, and prepared to every good work. To illustrate this, suppose I were to describe the way in which a lump of clay is made into a beautiful vessel. The potter takes the clay thus abandoned to his working, and begins to mold and fashion it, according to his own will. He kneads and works it; he tears it apart and presses it together again; he wets it and then suffers it to dry. Sometimes he works at it for hours together; sometimes he lays it aside for days, and does not touch it. And then, when by all these processes he has made it perfectly pliable in his hands, he proceeds to make it up into the vessel he has proposed.

The lump of clay could never grow into a beautiful vessel if it stayed in the clay-pit for thousands of years; but when it is put into the hands of a skillful potter it grows rapidly, under his fashioning, into the vessel he intends it to be. And in the same way the soul, abandoned to the working of the Heavenly Potter, is made into a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for his Master's use. Having, therefore, taken the step of faith by which you have put yourself wholly and absolutely into His hands, you must now expect Him to begin His work. His way of accomplishing that which you have entrusted to Him may be different from your way; but He knows, and you must be satisfied.

The lump of clay, from the moment it comes under the transforming hand of the potter is during each day and each hour of the process just what the potter wants it to be at that hour or on that day, and therefore pleases him; but it is very far from being matured into the vessel he intends in the future to make it. The little babe may be all that a babe could be, or ought to be, and may therefore perfectly please its mother; and yet it is very far from being what that mother would wish it to be when the years of maturity shall come. The apple in June is a perfect apple for June; it is the best apple that June can produce; but it is very different from the apple in October, which is a perfected apple. By an act of faith we put ourselves into the hands of the Lord, for Him to work in us all the good pleasure of His will, and then, by a continuous exercise of faith, keep ourselves there. This is our part in the matter. And when we do it, and while we do it, we are, in the Scripture sense, truly pleasing to God, although it may require years of training and discipline to mature us into a vessel that shall be in all respects to His honor, and fitted to every good work. Just as the potter, however skillful, cannot make a beautiful vessel out of a lump of clay that is never put into his hands, so neither can God make out of me a vessel unto His honor, unless I put myself into His hands.

I hope you will read this through a couple of times and put yourself in the Divine Potter's hands. It's a very freeing place to be, knowing that He is in charge.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Short Update!

I don't have too much time today but I'm in between stuff at the moment so thought I'd write. See? I am trying to make good on my promise to post more! The bread baking and other stuff-making is still continuing. Haven't had time to take pictures and list the rest of my stuff on eBay yet. I'm still going strong with my interval workouts. Have only lost a couple of pounds, but have lost inches - Yay! A little less of me is a good thing. I'll post pics of the stuff I've been making when I get a chance. Haven't heard anything yet from the homeschool magazine about the project editing that I responded to them about. Wonder if I'll get that? Work is picking up for me though. The doctors seem to finally be getting to work. On the downside, my paycheck from one of the companies was late because they couldn't make payroll because the hospital didn't pay them because of short funds. We're all wondering what's going on when a hospital can't pay it's bills. The homeschool magazine I mentioned, The Old Schoolhouse, sends out a weekly email newsletter and one of the columnists for that has a website for dads. It's a really enjoyable site and I think any dads out there would like it. It's called Familyman Ministries. On the school side of things, Andy has a couple of days off which he won in a scavenger hunt we had. I'll write more about that next time. Right now I really need to get busy! More later.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Feast or Famine

Being self-employed has it's positives and negatives. For Jerry and I, the positives far outweigh the negatives and so we choose this. For me, working from home and when I want gives me the freedom to homeschool Andy and to do what I want, when I want. For the most part Jerry has the same freedom, too. Besides - I have never really taken well to authority - ask my mom! Oh, I am a hard worker and can do what needs to be done after someone has told me what to do, but then leave me alone so that I can do it! Jerry is the same way. The downside of our jobs is that there is no steady paycheck coming in week after week. I refer to the state of our finances as "feast or famine" - we either seem to be in one or the other. Seldom are we in the middle for very long. Right now we are in the "famine" stage! With homebuilding crawling along, Jerry's work has slowed down. For me the doctors have been on what seems like an extended vacation since Thanksgiving and work for me still isn't very brisk. I have asked for more work, but then again so have all the other transcriptionists, and there is only so much to go around. At least we're used to it by now. I find it a challenge to see how long we can make something last, or just how far we can stretch that dollar. Jerry was watching me make bread the other day and commented that I actually seemed to like this kind of thing!

While we have basically been cheap frugal for a while now, sometimes we aren't as frugal as we really should be. But we're still having fun! Some of these things we really should have been doing all along, but just got lazy. We were not going to use the woodstove this year as we were a little afraid of using it. It is about 28 years old now and has gotten pretty thin. We changed our mind about this after receiving our first electric bill after having used the heat pump only. Jerry checked the woodstove out thoroughly and decided we could eke another year out of it. Now that's the only thing heating the house. I love that woodstove and that's why we've had it so long. It heats this whole house. Sometimes it gets too hot and we need to open a door or window!

Right now as I'm typing this I have four loaves' worth of bread dough rising. I was making a loaf at a time for the last couple of weeks by working the dough in my bread machine and then taking it out and shaping it into a loaf and baking it, but it's too time consuming doing it one loaf at a time. There have been times that I've just gone ahead and let the bread machine bake a loaf, but the loaves are too big for sandwiches. I prefer to just let it go through the dough cycle and take over from there. Something else I have done was make sourdough starter. That's really good bread! Unfortunately, my starter kind of fizzled out last week, but at least I got a few good loaves out of it. I made a new starter this morning and so far it grew up and out of the container and I had to put it in a larger container, so I think this starter will be okay, but it won't be ready to use until at least Tuesday. For anyone on a low carb diet, I realize that daily bread isn't a good thing, but for those of us on a financial diet, bread is versatile and filling. And you just can't beat a grilled cheese sandwich made on homemade sourdough bread! Meals are more carefully planned and everything is made from scratch. And I do mean everything! Also, milk is only used for coffee. If it's needed for baking or if the boys want me to make a pot of hot chocolate, it's with powdered milk. I also made the happy discovery that I can make the equivalent of Dunkin' Donuts cinnamon spice coffee! After much experimenting (it didn't go to waste - even the experiments tasted good!), I finally think I found the right combination. I put four coffee scoops of regular coffee, two teaspoons of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of allspice into a coffee grinder. Yes, the coffee is already ground to start with, but you need to grind it again to thoroughly incorporate the spices or it will just end up running through and you will have a layer of what looks like chalk on top of your coffee. Yuck! Anyway, I pulse the coffee grinder three times, for five seconds each. Then I dump the whole batch into the coffee filter, breaking up any clumps that might be there. This makes an 8-cup pot. It has become a favorite now.

Anyway, this has certainly turned into a long post! Now I think I'm going to take some more pictures of more stuff I'd like to list on eBay. Unfortunately the books I had listed before didn't sell, so I'll lower the price and relist them. They are not doing anything for me but taking up space here. Not to mention that every little bit helps with the finances. I also received an email from the homeschool magazine that I subscribe to and they and another homeschooling publishing company are looking for people for editing projects, to work from home. You can bet I responded to them as soon as I saw the email. I'm such a stickler for grammer and spelling anyway, that I figured this would certainly be a good match for me and it would be something I could do in addition to transcription. We'll see how it goes. I'm not worried about anything as I know that the Lord is taking care of all the details of our lives, including our finances. But I also know that being wasteful with money is not pleasing to Him, and so I'll do my part, and let Him do His. Well, right now a huge batch of bread dough is calling, so more later.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I have been having a great time with my new toy. I treated myself to a Momentum fitness heart rate monitor system a couple of weeks ago and I love it. I had heard about this from Flylady (and we Flybabies get a discount) and thought about it for a long time before I just decided to go for it. The online tracking is wonderful. Each day I track my weight and my workouts and even get my workouts adjusted for me according to the information I enter in off of my heart rate monitor after my workouts. I have only worked out 9 times so far, 6 interval workouts on the treadmill and 3 strength training sessions on the DVD that comes with the system, and already things are well, firming up! Even though I'm overweight, evidently my heart is healthy because I recover from my highest heart rate down to my baseline one in less than a minute. The best thing about this is that it doesn't take a lot of time. For your intervals all you need to do is 30 minutes and then it's suggested that you do the No Excuses workout every other day which is divided into four six-minute segments so you can do as little as six minutes if that's all the time you have, or you can do the full 24-minute session. The No Excuses workout is a killer, though. In each six-minute segment you do 15 exercises of each major muscle group, so if you do the whole 24 minutes you have done 60 pushups in various forms working different arm muscles each time, 60 crunches working upper, lower and side abdominal muscles, 60 lunges again in different forms working your thighs, and various other exercises. The hardest part for me is the third set of pushups which are with your hands only six inches apart on the floor which works the back of your arm. You know, where the Jello-O likes to be?! What I also like about the DVD is that there aren't macho men and Barbie dolls bouncing around all over the place. It's just the guy who created the fitness system, one man and one woman, modestly dressed and just getting through the exercises without any theatrics. So far this device is making it easy for me to keep this resolution.

It snowed today! Honest to goodness SNOW! It was beautiful. I just stood at the window looking for the longest time, then I went outside to take some pictures on my phone to send to Jerry, who is in Delaware until tomorrow. It had snowed there earlier and he had called me to see if it was snowing here (he knows how I love snow), but it was dry as a bone here. About three hours later it started so I took pictures to send him. Tom's school ended up closing early. It was apparently much worse in Virginia than here and Tom said the ride home from the Metro was definitely interesting.

Andy and I didn't go to Delaware with Jerry this week because we had his semi-annual homeschool review with the board of education. Don't get me started. It's already been covered in past posts how I feel about those things. Anyway, it went well. We had a different reviewer this time and she was very funny. When she was looking through Andy's pre-algebra math book she asked Andy what he thought about math. She noted that he must like it because he hadn't gotten lower than a B on any of his tests and Andy told her that it's really tough at first and that at the beginning of a new lesson - and I quote - "my brains are pretty much scattered all over the floor", but then it gets easier. At the end of the review the reviewer writes a summary report on her findings and the parent has to sign it. I never read those things, I just sign the paper, but yesterday she handed me her review and I reached for a pen and started to sign it when she stopped me and asked, "Aren't you going to read it?" I didn't see why, but I read it anyway, and then about fell out of my chair laughing. Here's what she wrote - on the formal review no less - "He is doing well in math, pre-algebra, even though his brains are scattered all over the floor trying to understand it." When I started laughing, she started laughing, then we showed it to Andy, and he started laughing. By this time people were staring. I like this lady! She will be our reviewer when we go back in June, and Andy is glad.

Well, time to go and do stuff. I listed some books on eBay this morning and need to take pictures of some more stuff I want to get out of here, but my camera is acting up. Maybe I'll just go to bed instead! Happy Thursday, y'all! Well, what's left of it!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Tree Tossing History

For those readers unfamiliar with our tree tossing tradition, here are links to the previous posts and pictures documenting three years of demented family fun. We do indeed find amusement in the strangest places.

Here's an excerpt from a January of 2005 post:

We will wait until this weekend for the annual throwing of the tree. Yes, this has become somewhat of a tradition in our house. We drag the Christmas tree out to the back deck, where Andy gets to toss it off into the yard from where it will make its way to the brush pile. The first year we just rolled it down the deck stairs into the yard. The next year Andy decided it would be more fun to drop it from the deck, so we just put it on the rail and pushed it off. Now it has become more of a hoist-and-throw type of activity. We find amusement in the strangest places.

It's Tree Tossing Time, 2008!

Andy gets first toss.....
..... and it's gone! (the tree is the blurry thing you see flying through the air!)
Tom takes a turn - the tree seems to be standing up in mid-air!
Tom takes another turn.
Here is Andy's second toss.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Welcome, 2008!

1. a formal expression of opinion or intention made, usually after voting, by a formal organization, a legislature, a club, or other group.
2. a resolve or determination: to make a firm resolution to do something.
3. the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc.
4. the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose.

I like the fourth definition the best - firmness of purpose. How many resolutions have you made, either this year or any other year? How many did you succeed in keeping? For me, the "firmness of purpose" didn't last long - maybe a month at best. Then the newness wore off.

In my job I type reports for a diabetes clinic. The patients have a pattern of behavior once they are newly diagnosed with diabetes. At first they are completely compliant with their carbohydrate counting, insulin regimens, and blood sugar monitoring. Doctors actually have a name for this - it is called the honeymoon period. In the reports that I type, if a patient is doing extremely well and was only recently diagnosed, the doctor states the fact that the patient is doing extremely well, but then adds the caveat, "but the patient is still in the honeymoon period." Later when the patient's monitoring and carb counting becomes a little more erratic and their compliance begins to slip, then the doctor might say that they are "out of their honeymoon period."

Each January first begins a new honeymoon period. I have now come to believe that when you make a resolution, the hardest part is keeping it after the novelty of the new whatever-it-was- you-resolved-to-do has worn off. That is where the firmness of purpose needs to come in! Anyone can make a resolution - keeping to it is a resolution in itself.

I will share with you my resolutions for this year. I have not included the resolution to keep my resolutions once their shininess has worn off, because that applies to all of them and so I have mentioned it here.

1. Do I need to say it? To lose weight. I am trying some new tactics this time around and truly hope that this is the last year I will make this resolution, but if not, that brings us to:
2. To love myself just the way I am - having lost weight or not. To realize that I have qualities and talents that are not based in any way on what the scale says.
3. To be more transparent with those around me and in this blog. Fear has kept me from posting many things - fear of sharing inner thoughts and feelings, and fear of what others might think of me. This resolution ties in closely with #2 - that I am uniquely ME and that my thoughts and feelings are valid, and it does not really matter what others think of me.
4. To hold my tongue! I have a terrible habit of speaking before I think. Although it doesn't seem so at the time, biting your lip and not saying something is actually easier in the long run than trying to take back something said in haste once it's left your lips.
5. To be less judgemental. To remember what scripture tells us, "For just as you judge and criticize and condemn others, you will be judged and criticized and condemned, and in accordance with the measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt out again to you." (Matt. 7:1)

So, in the interest of Resolution #3, I have been transparent in sharing these with you. Now I would like to know what resolutions you set for yourselves. You can post anonymous comments to this blog and they are indeed anonymous. I do not know who you are if you choose to post anonymously, nor do I want to know. I thought it would be interesting to share what other resolutions people are making. Unfortunately, I do have to add that if a comment is unseemly or deemed inappropriate, I will delete it and it will not be posted. No, this is not a violation of Resolution #5 - I'm not judging anyone, I just choose not to have offensive language and/or remarks on my blog.

Okay - the invitation is out there. What's your "firmness of purpose" for this new year?


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