Thursday, December 29, 2011

Buddy and Bug

Dear Blogger,

Things are not really working out for us.  It's not me.  It's you.  My readers can't comment on my posts.  I can't even comment on my posts!  Also, you are kind of slow... 

A friend of mine introduced me to a blog site called WordPress.  I can be found at Buddy and Bug.

Affectionately Yours,

Michal

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Twas The Night Before Christmas

It's Christmas Eve and everyone you meet is near to burst because tomorrow is their favorite day of the year! 

Not I.

Though I do love Christmas, for me, the best day is today!  Christmas Eve.  My dear Reader, you know that I love to set a stage and there is none other set like there will be tonight!

I have spent a little over a month getting my props just so.  Every detail is thought out.  It starts with the Christmas decorations and is even in the careful consideration of the wrapping paper and ribbons.  I feel the wrapped gifts are just as much apart of the decor as the ornaments on the tree.  Every year I choose a color scheme and stick to it.  This year I went with silver and green simply because I had scads of silver and green ribbon left over from a Homecoming party Caren and I decorated for.

Then there are the advents.  We have several.  One is a large wooden box fixed with 25 doors.  Behind each door is either a piece of candy or a piece of paper with instructions for getting in the Christmas spirit, i.e. call your uncle, watch a Christmas special, kiss under the mistletoe, etc.  Upon our move to Colorado we began another type of advent with our chalk board wall.  On it I draw a full sized Christmas tree and each day one of the kids draws an ornament on it.  This has been nice because the child who does not open a door on the other advent gets to draw the new ornament.  Tomorrow's child gets to draw the star at the top of our chalk tree!  Gabriel has already confessed to me BIG plans for this year's sketch.  And finally we have an advent that is just for the week before Christmas.  It was a gift given to us when Drew was just a babe, called What God Wants For Christmas.

I have found this to be a wonderful tool for both counting down to the big day but also preparing my young boys' hearts for what our family is really celebrating.  This advent is a nativity.  Each day a short poem is read based on the events told in Luke 2:1-20.  Inside the advent are 7 boxes.  After a poem is read, the boys get to open one of the seven gift boxes.  They are numbered so they can be opened in order.  Each box contains a character of the nativity.  Finally on the seventh day we get to open the box to see what God wants for Christmas and it's....I can't tell you!  I would hate to ruin the surprise in case you get one of these yourselves!  I cry every year.  I actually arrange it so that the seventh box is opened on Christmas Eve so that my kids can go to bed with the beautiful imagery the advent provides to ponder in their hearts.

The night before Christmas....truly the most magical of all nights!  Just before bed we cram the whole family onto the couch poised before a roaring fire.  I will lead a few Christmas lullabies that are favorites of the boys followed by someone reading Twas The Night Before Christmas (either Aaron or a special guest.)  Aaron then reads Luke 2:1-20 to the boys and we wrap up the bed time stories with our What God Wants For Christmas Advent.  Then with special care, the boys prepare a plate of Santa's favorite cookies (Sombreros/peanut butter cookies with a Hershey kiss in the middle) and a cup of eggnog.  Both are lovingly placed on the fire place hearth where they wait for our dear Santa.

We tuck the boys in with a special Christmas Eve prayer and then Aaron and I retire to the basement to work on a jigsaw puzzle or to watch a Christmas special or both.  We have a glass or two of eggnog ourselves (with plenty of nog) and wait until the boys are sound asleep.  When we see that the sugar plumbs are dancing, we pull out the Santa Gifts.  They are specially labeled from the North Pole and have a unique ribbon tied about them.  The stockings get stuffed.  The cookies are eaten and typically something near the fireplace is disturbed as proof that Santa had made an entrance.

And then I in my kerchief and Aaron in his cap will finally settle down for a long winters nap....(except that the anticipation is too delicious!!!)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Nearing Full On Mountain Woman Status

Aaron and I saw a mountain lion!  (I think the experience increased my Mountain Woman status a few notches.)  The family was on our way home from a band concert when the gorgeous creature passed in front of our car.  It was fast but Aaron and I had an unobstructed view of it.  They are quite large...  On it's hind legs, Aaron guessed it would stand at 7 feet.  I feel like that's a bit of an exaggeration but when I talked to other Mountain Folk they said it was not an unreasonable assessment.

I have hoped to see a mountain lion and a bear.  I hoped to see both while driving or through the window of my house.   Check and check.  I was most happy to see the lion while in the car.  Seeing that in my yard would not have been so pleasant...  Though it was miles from my home, it has unnerved me a bit.

I've always known they were out there and have heard of sightings in the hood but to see one yourself and in action...  My nerves are a tad shaken. 

That night when we got home, I found myself a little creeped out about getting out of the car and walking up the drive into the house.....at NIGHT!  Eek!  They could be out there watching us!  On another evening I found that I had left my phone in the car.  Also, the car was parked in the half way point in the driveway.... 

"Babe, I left my phone in the car."

"K."

"Well...would you mind getting it for me?"

*Quizzical look*

"It's dark."

No response.

"The mountain lion has me a little spooked...."

"Go get your phone."

I grabbed a flashlight and my car keys.  As I walked down the driveway I clicked the lock on my remote entry keys so the lights would flash on and off.  Once to my car I dove in and quickly retrieved my phone.  The heebie jeebies took hold of me as I slammed the car door shut and...

"Eeeeeeeyaah!"  I screamed as I ran for the front door.

See.  Mountain Woman status: up.

Sort of.

The Drew Bug has been sick this weekend and as I type I am starting to feel the evil booger creep over me.  NoooOooOooOOoOoo!  Poor little Bug threw up twice.  If I'm lucky I'll get that part too.  Little pre-holiday weight loss...  On second thought: I don't really have the strength for it.  Beginning to find even typing exhausting...

Prayers.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mediocre: The New Awesome

This week is almost over and I have never looked forward to Christmas break more.  I have been pumpin' and blowin' since 6 a.m. Monday.  I have hardly been in my house, which would make one assume that means it can't get messier but that is a wrong assumption (as most assumptions are).  My house is in a Red Alert Disaster!  Laundry and dishes have piled to the ceiling as have all the crud we like to dump on the island in the kitchen.  Now it's like...a volcanic island. 

This week I have shopped, worked out, seen the nutritionist, waxed my eyebrows, volunteered at the school 3 times, planned parties, baked, baked, baked, (for a cookie exchange) made tamales, shopped, did the post office thing, wrapped presents and have forgotten lunch at least twice.

I sent the following e-mail out Tuesday night (after a band concert and after staying up to frost the cookies for the cookie exchange):

My Dear Ladies of the Kitchen,



I have been going non-stop today trying to get everything ready for school events, baking day, and Christmas (like all of you, I'm sure.) I walked into the laundry room today when I needed the restroom.... I think the Starbucks barista did not comply with my order for DECAF but...I digress.


The rest of the week is looking to be just as crazy, including tomorrow. Drew's eco-fair is tomorrow (selling mini donuts) and I have been wrestling all day with how to do eco-fair and make tamales. It's tough, really, trying to choose between your child and tamales.... His fair starts at 9:30 and ends at 11:30. I've decided I can indeed do both, though I will have to leave both my child and tamales hanging a tad. Drew and I can get up early tomorrow; he to make his mini donut batter and I to make the masa for the tamales. (I know, Caren. Sounds like how you operate every day but though I dream of it, I am not an actual superhero.)


I have stopped the tornado briefly to send you this note of instruction:


I will drop the husks, masa, ect. at Caren's. You will want to start by soaking the husks in warm water. This is to both soften them and clean them. I am unfamiliar with the brand of husks I bought so....i have no idea how they will be. Sometimes they have dead bugs and corn silk in them, so get that all off.


Page 10 of the Historic Cookery cook book will give you instruction for the carne con chili. Do the one for Red Chili. I do not use a chili sauce but powder and I don't add any stock or tomatoes unless the meat mixture seems really dry.


Page 7 has the masa instructions but I should be back before you run out of the first batch I make.

After the carne con chili is made and the husks are clean, dry them. You may need to trim the husks, mainly the pointy end off. Spread the masa (I use the back of a spoon) on the smoothest side of the husk. You will see that one side is much more bumpy then the other. Should take about 2-3 T of masa. Then add a heaping T (or 2 depending on the size of the husks) into the masa. Fold the sides together and then the bottom up. Clear as mud?


I should be there by 11:15.

I'm sorry to do it this way and leave you in a lurch but...about 7 years ago I had this kid... Also, I just read the recipe and I know you all are much better at following a recipe then I am!

144 tamales later...

Just before bed last night my oldest informed me that he would need a treat for band the next morning because they were going to have a party.  Seriously.  Thanks for the heads up.  I figured I would just send the cookies I got at the exchange.

I woke up this morning still feeling exhausted.  Not a good sign.  I have not been this tired since I was pregnant!  Then I remembered it was Polar Express Day for Drew's class and I was supposed to bring hot cocoa and a treat. 

I can use the cookie exchange cookies,  I thought.  Wait.  No I can't.  I'm using them for Gabe's party.

I was also bummed because I wanted to save those cookies for my family.  Then I remembered my mom telling me a real easy holiday treat.  I planned on using it for Gabe's class party but figured I could make them now for both the band and Polar Express and just buy more ingredients when I was out running errands today.  The treat (and I've been so stinkin' busy I did not even take a picture) are made with chocolate donuts, like hostess brand.  You stick a red candy (m&m) in the hole and then broken mini pretzels in top for antlers and wa-la!  Rudolph Donuts!  Oh, and dot on some eyes with icing.  My sons did the m&m noses and pretzel antlers and I did the eyes.  Thank you MOM!!!

As I said before, I was pumpin' and blowin' and a song was running through my head:

A sweet friend had posted this on her Facebook profile and it has become my anthem the past two days.  (Not to mention the killer dance moves this chick has.  I can totally work that!)  "I'm runnin' and I won't touch down!  Oh no!  I've got to keep on movin'!

While at the school this a.m. I ran into Gabe's teacher.  I'm his room mom and am in charge of the Christmas party.

"Hey...sorry I haven't decorated or anything, " I told him.

"Oh, I'm not worried about that.  Gabriel said it's going to be an awesome party!"

"Damn..."

I have sent out e-mails to the parents and it seems like everything is going to come together.  Several are pitching in by bringing snacks, paper goods, etc. 

"Does anyone have party ideas?  I would like to not do musical chairs.  A child in Gabriel's second grade class threw up during musical chairs and I will forever associate it with that.  But that's just me..."

A mom suggested a game where the kids wrap boxes while wearing gloves.  (Oh my gosh!  I'm supposed to bring gloves.  Note to self....)

Still I would like to start the party like this:

"Hi kids....I'm Mrs. McDowell...I heard a rumor that this is going to be an awesome party!  If you heard that rumor I would like for you to just take a minute to lower your expectations a bit, mmkay?  Once you are ready for a mediocre party then I think we will be all set for a good time!"
One more day and then I can spend the next 3 weeks relaxing with my kids...  (Tell me you get the irony of that.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Out Of The Mouth's of Babes

My kids make me absolutely batty but they also keep Aaron and I in stitches all the time!  Here are some recent funnies:

Drew wrote a commercial for his economics fair project at school where he is selling mini-donuts:

Are you tired of your plain donuts being too big for your children and they start feeling sick?  Are they too crumbly?  Well not any more!  Come on down to Drew's Mini Holes!  When you buy mini donuts it's small enough for your children, are not crumbly, and your children will not feel sick any more!  So come on down to Drew's Mini Holes!

Here is a paper Gabriel wrote on whether or not you would like to have a sibling. I was so touched that he chose that it was better to have a sibling then to not....:

I would like having a big brother or sister and I like having a younger brother or sister too.  I would like to explain why.  First, with brothers and sisters you have someone to annoy, you can pick on them too.  But only when there's nothing else to do.  Next, it's kind of better if you have one that's younger than you because they get in trouble more often so you sometimes seem like an obedient kid.  You can play with them if you can't got to a super cool marvelous friend's house.  When you are grounded from TV and anything else with a screen, you can start playing with them.  They can be fun or boring.  You find out.  Then at dinner time your brother or sister might make a bigger mess than your mess, making people think that you're cleaner by comparison.  It is the same when they have a messier room then you.  I am sure that at least one or more than one of these things I say are true.  I know because I have a little brother.  Finally, I can end this paragraph!  (I was running out of sentences.)  Do you think brothers and sisters are awesome?

I like how he will only play with his brother as a last resort...

Conversation overheard in the car:

Drew: Brother, when I grow up, if I decide to have a seafood restaurant, I'm going to name it The Salty Batoon.

Gabriel: What's a batoon?

Drew:  I don't know.  I heard it on Star Wars. "General Kreel, assemble the batoon!"

Gabriel: Ha ha!  You mean PLAtoon.

Drew:  Oh well.  I think Salty Batoon sounds better.

Conversation I had with Gabriel who is considering auditioning for a role in Camelot:

Me:  Gabriel, I was looking at the description for the role and it's a little boy who wants to be a Knight of the Round Table.

Gabriel:  Cool.

Me:  It is cool!  I think it sounds like a perfect role for you.  I bet that if you lived in the Renaissance times you would have wanted to be a knight.

Gabriel:  Well...I think I would've been interested but...and no offense...I would've been more interested in being a samurai.

Me:  Yes, but you'd have to be Japanese.

Gabriel: I think they would make an exception for me.

Me: Indeed.

Incident at Gabe's band concert last night:

Drew was so stinkin' excited to hear Gabriel play.  Once we got there he became more excited as he saw friends from school filing in.

"OH!  Hey!  Madeline!  Over here!  It's me, Drew!"  he shouted while waving his hands around.  "My big brother is going to perform tonight!  He plays the trumpet!  What?  What?  I can't hear you!  Hey Lily!  It's me Drew!  My brother is playing the trumpet tonight!  You're what?  What?  You're too far away!  Oh my gosh!  Jack!  Hey Jack!..." 

You get the picture.

The lady in front of us turned to Drew and asked if he'd ever seen Goonies before.

"No."

"You should see it.  You remind me of one of the characters in that movie!"

Oh...Chunk!

In the car after the concert (p.s.  Gabe was so proud of his performance he pumped his trumpet in the air in the final applause):

Drew: Brother, you were awesome.

Gabriel: Thanks.

Aaron:  What is that smell?

Me:  I thought it was you.

Aaron:  I thought it was you!

Drew: *giggle, giggle, giggle*  It was me!  I farted!  *peals of laughter*  And I farted in the concert too! *cracking up*  I farted lots of times!

The whole family was in tears with laughter.  Aaron rolled down the window.

Drew:  Dad!  It's freezing!  Put the window up!

Gabriel: Would you rather face the cold or Drew's farts?

Aaron and I:  The cold!

And finally, while watching a bit of snow start to fall this morning:

Drew:  This looks like the works of Jack Frost!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Drake's Party Part 2

This morning Drew did so good getting ready.  He used a new chart that I had made him to help him stay on task.  He made himself eggs for breakfast.  Aaron had apparently emptied the trash this morning.  He removed the trash bag from the can and placed the full bag in the corner of the kitchen.  Why he can't get it down to the garage is beyond me.  He also failed to re-line the can.  Drew tossed every broken shell into the can assuming it was lined.

(First mess of the day for me to clean up.)

On the way to school we saw 6 turkey's crossing, 4 elk a grazing, one goat standing on his hind legs, and a partridge in a pear tree.  OK, not the partridge or the pear tree.  Now THAT would've been something!

When I got home I noticed that Drake was not in the yard.  This usually means that he got cold and let himself into the house.  Sure enough, when I walked in Drake greeted me.  He was ashamed for the breaking and entering, nub tail tucked, ears and head down.

"Buddy...you know better!  It's your special day though, so you can stay in with mom!"

I headed up the stairs and noted this at the top of the landing:

"Drakers!  Bad dog!  This is Gabriel's Halloween candy!  Oh...and it's chocolate..."

And then I saw this:


"DRAKE!  Outside!  Now!"

I opened the door and he ran right out.  I don't know who I was more aggravated with, the dog for getting into the trash, my husband for leaving it out, or me for not taking it down myself on my way out the door.

I assessed the rest of the house:


The empty ziploc was full of Caren's home made Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti that I had planned on mailing to my Grandma.  There was also a partial pound cake that is now missing.  The blanket is from my couch that he is NOT supposed to get on and was either used to try and clean up his mess or to cover it up.  Miraculously, the gingerbread house was untouched.

Aaron IM'd me to see how the morning went.  After I told him EXACTLY how my morning went I added:

"If you are ever wondering why the house never seems to get better, why the same messes are in the same places when you get home, it's because of days like this."

Gotchya!

One year ago today the boys and I were at a birthday party while Aaron drove out to the Boulder Humane Society to adopt Drake.  Never in my life have I felt for a dog like I do this one.  I don't know if it's because he is so darn big or because he is such a lover but this dog has completely won my heart!

He is a rascal and has given me loads of trouble.  I don't know how many dog beds he's eaten, cats he's threatened, deer he's chased, or children he's made cry but the hearts he's invaded far out weigh his naughtiness.  We hired him a personal trainer, Christine, who has worked wonders with him and has become a friend to our family as well.

Not everyone is as fond of Drake as we are.  Poor Sinclaire felt betrayed enough to move out.  She seems to be as happy with her new family as Drake is with his!

To celebrate one year with Drake the kids and I threw him a Gotchya Day Party. 


Drake with his party hat on
 It was to be a small affair but grew into a full blown bash!  Several of Drake's friends (both human and canine) came out to celebrate.  His trainer, Christine, came with her three dogs and Caren and her girls came with The Rowdies.  There were 6 dogs in all!  Our sweet friends Melissa and her kids came out as well but Mel said her dogs were too old for parties.  Poor pups. ;)

Drew and I made cupcakes for the dogs.  We used the meat log that we buy for Drake in the refrigerator of the pet aisle.  They were frosted with peanut butter and had a Pupperoni dog treat in the middle as a candle.  We also got Frosty Paws dog ice cream!  To serve these to the pack with out causing a huge dog fight, we served each dog one at a time in the house.  It went very well! 


Leave it...
 Drake got fun dog gifts from his guests and we sent them home with a little chew toy for a party favor as well.  The humans got cake too, thanks to Aaron's leftover birthday cake! 

It was such a fun day!  My boys are already talking about next year's Gotchya Day.  Uh-oh...  What have I started?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How I Wrecked The New Car

Book club was last night and I got a group message text from the host:


Careful driving. Second turn going up is slippery, you should do fine if you go slowwwww. See you all soon. I can come get you at the park and ride, Michal.

I read it to Aaron.

"Do you think I should take her up on that?"

"No," he laughed, "You can drive yourself. Do they know you wrecked the new car?" he laughed more.

"No..."

"Does Caren?"


"Oh yeah, she knew before you did."

"Oh I can't wait to tell them all," he chortled.

"I will tell them..."

So here is how I wrecked the car:

A few weeks ago Aaron bought me a new car with all wheel drive.  My other car couldn't make it up our drive way if there was the slightest bit of snow on it. 

After bringing the new car home, I wanted to take it for a spin and set out for a grocery run.

"Be careful..."  Aaron said looking down on me.

"I will!"  I answered indignantly.

But he had reason to warn me.  I have a track record of blowing a tire or backing into a tree, or side swiping the mirror every time we get a new car.

My run to the store went with out incident; as did all other excursions in the car for the past few weeks.  Until Monday.

Monday morning I went outside and remeasured the snow.  Over the past few days we had accumulated 19.5 inches!  There was still 13 remaining on the ground.  I called around to see if school was closed.

All systems were a-go.

Stupid Mountain People!  This is ridiculous. 

I considered keeping the kids home anyway but Aaron said if school was open then they needed to go.

I checked with Caren who had already ran several errands that morning and she said the roads were fine.

"It's an accumulation of up to a foot but they have been maintaining the roads in between.  They are fine.  Are you asking me to take Gabe to band?"

"No.  I'm taking him."

I begrudgingly got my kids out on the snow packed roads.  I dropped Drew off at the bus stop to wait with Kevin (and to keep me from killing him because we had another rough morning.  That is another story and is improving as Drew and I both are getting more organized) and I drove Gabriel to school for band.

All with out incident.

Caren called me when I was at the school.

"Did you make it?"

"I made it.  I guess now I need to go on to my tap class."

And on I went.

With out incident.

After tap I went home and had lunch by the fire.  After lunch I set to work on the house.  Our bathroom is being redone and so I periodically would peek in on our contractor, Joe, to see how all was going.  My day was going much better and productively.  Soon it was time for the kids to return home.

One of the things Drew and I fought about that morning was wearing his snow gear.  He eschewed the snow pants and boots.  He only took a coat because I threw it at him as we walked out the door.  The high that day was 10.  I planned on letting him walk up from the bus stop with only his coat and wind pants but Aaron told me that was unacceptable.  So I grabbed the car keys and bundled up.

Our driveway is long and narrow but has a couple of little nooks where one could park their car.  Our contractor had tucked his truck into one such nook, truck pointed down the driveway.  As I backed out I made sure to check for his truck.  The last thing I needed was to back into it.  The new car has a feature that beeps if you are about to back into something. 

Looking out back and using the mirrors I made a careful descent down the drive.  I had cleared his truck (with out even any beeping) and began to turn my car into another nook in the driveway so that I could go the rest of the way down facing forward.  As I did I heard a loud SCRAPE!

"No," I moaned.

I stopped my car and looked out the front window.  It appeared that I was past the truck.  I got out and saw that our bumpers had hooked and my bumper was half way off!  I got back in the car and headed back up to the house. 

"Joe....I hit your truck..."

"Oh no!  I'm so sorry!"

What a guy to apologize for where he parked when I hit the car?!  Joe came out and surveyed the damage.  His bumper suffered a 2 inch crack but nothing more.  He reattached my bumper and had me check my lights and other things.  Everything seemed to be in working order. 

"What are these for?"  I asked as I handed him a pile of broken plastic.


There was scolding from the kids that they had to walk up the hill in the freezing cold and Drake got out during all of this as well.  It was just an awful night.  Joe asked the kids to be kind to me, that I had tried to pick them up but had an accident and then he took off in his truck to round up the dog.  Seriously.  A very kind man.

Aaron was not to be home for dinner as his boss was in from Canada and they were out together.  As I made dinner for the kids my anxiety grew.  I hated not telling Aaron right away about the car.  I needed to confess.  I texted Caren and Shalah:

"I got in a wreck in the new car..."

They both asked if I was OK.

"Sorry, I should've started with, I'm OK."

Caren was relieved to learn that it was not due to the snow.  She was worried that I had slid into a ditch and would never drive in the snow again.

"Was it because of the snow?"  Shalah asked.

"I wish...  I hit my contractors truck backing out of the driveway."

"Dork.  Does Aaron have his paper bag to breathe into?"

"Aaron is out with his boss."

"Wine."

"Already poured."

Later Aaron's brother texted regarding Christmas plans.

"P.S. I wrecked our new car.  I am dreading your brother's return from work...."

"Send the kids to bed early and answer the door naked.  He'll be alright."

"Not a bad plan.  Maybe I'll have a beer for him too."

And later, Shalah again:

"Well, what did Aaron say?"

"Not home yet.  On his way..."

At this point I am feeling like a little girl who has to tell her parents that she lied or did some other awful thing.  I just wanted to get this whole things over with.

"Matt suggested I greet him naked."

"He'll know you did something if you do that.  He's been married to you too long."

"True."

"I never asked, what kind of car is it?  Do you even know?"

"I do know!  Sort of...  It's a Volvo....of some kind.  An SUV."

"Damn.  A Volvo.  OK yeah...take off your clothes and start praying."

Then I heard his car pull up.  I heard him climb the stairs up to the front door.  I heard him enter and rummage around.  I knew he would soon see the broken car parts sitting out on the kitchen counter.

Time to pay the piper.

I went up stairs and found Aaron in the kitchen going through the mail. Maybe he had not seen the broken car parts.

"Hey, Babe..."

"Hey," he said as he hugged and kissed me.

Must not have seen them.

"Honey...um...I was in a bit of an accident...."

"I saw," he said and gestured to the parts.  "You OK?  Anyone hurt?"

"I'm fine.  No one was hurt."

"Was it with an inanimate object or another car?"

"Um...kind of...both?"

Silence.

"I hit Joe's truck."

"Crap."

"I didn't damage his car at all.  Well...a little...but nothing he is concerned about."

"OK.  I think I know where all of this goes.  I'll take a look at it in the morning."

That's it?

"I'm really sorry, Babe."

"I know,"  and he hugged me and sighed with disappointment.

"You're disappointed."

"Yep."

"I kind of wish you'd yell at me....I do this every time we get a new car!"

"Yep."

We shut the house up together and went to bed.  He spooned me into his arms and was soon softly snoring.

What an amazing man.  Thank you Lord for giving me such a good man!  Thank you for his grace and Yours.

My Last Baking Day

Everyday this week I had been thinking it was Wednesday.  Wednesday finally came and I thought it was Thursday.  Wednesday is, of course, Baking Day.  Feeling out of sorts, I had no intentions of tooling about with fires and kitchen utensils, but after I got there I decided to take care of my month long craving for cranberry scones.

The scones were set aside, yet again, and I made cranberry cream cheese muffins.  Quite the consolation prize!  (In fact, I am eating one now.  So good...)

As often (and I mean OFTEN) happens during baking day, someone finds that an ingredient is missing, or I forget to bring something to take things home in or just something happens that sends me back to my house.  It is not unusual for me to walk back and forth between Caren and I's homes 3-5 times a Baking Day.  I tell myself it's good exercise but it really does get exhausting.

During one of my errand home I saw one of my neighbors outside and learned that he had pneumonia.  His wife had recently had back surgery and they are an older couple.  I text Aaron the news who asked if they needed dinner.  I had already thought the same thing and grabbed a bowl of beans from the fridge and some meat from the freezer.

"I'm going to make chili beans for the neighbor.  I had started to make the beans a couple of days ago but they never finished cooking!"

"Beans take a long time to cook and at this altitude it takes even longer.  The boiling point is higher," Laurel explained.  "This is why I usually just buy canned beans."

"I do too actually but the other day I was remembering how I would come home and the whole house would smell yummy because my mom was cooking beans.  Aaron had bought a huge bag of pinto beans in case we ever got snowed in and so I decided to cook them.  I soaked them and I boiled them for about 6 hours and they are still not cooked.  Do you think I can finish them up today?"

"Oh, yeah.  That should work!"

So I set them up on the stove.  I figured in an hour or two they should be done.  I mean they had already cooked for half a day!

My muffins turned out great and everyone else's goodies were coming along magnificently.  It came time that everyone had to leave to pick up children or what not.  My beans were still not done and so I would be staying to wait them out.  Stacey's orange pound cakes had not finished baking and so she left me with instructions for attending to them.

"They just have a little bit of time left on them.  When the timer goes off, if you wouldn't mind, checking them with a toothpick.  I'll be back later to pick my stuff up," Stacey said as she headed out the door.

No problem, right?  Boiling beans and baking pound cake.  The hard part was done and now the oven and stove top would do the rest.  I occupied myself with doing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen.  The beans had been boiling for about 2 hours so I spooned one out to check if it was done.  When I cut it with a fork it was crumbly.

Seriously?  Dang!

Then Stacey called:

"There should still be a little time left on those cakes," she said as I opened the oven to check on them.

"They look gorgeous!  One in the back looks a little dark....should I rotate them?"

"Yeah, if you wouldn't mind.  Also, you might cover it with foil so it does not brown any further."

I got off the phone with Stacey and set to rotating the cakes.  When I pulled the brown one out it sort of tipped.  The inside was not cooked AT ALL and the batter poured out of the top of the cake and all over Caren's oven.

"No!  No!  Crap, crap, crap!"  I cursed and fussed while I got a rubber spatula to try and scoop up what had spilled and put it back into the cake.  I then covered the ruined pound cake with foil and then tried to clean up the oven.  There was batter down in the crack of the door.  I took some paper towels and tried to wipe it out. 

"Crap!" 

All I could think of was that Stacey wanted one gluten free cake.  I was pretty sure this was the gluten free one since it was the only one turning out differently.  The one gluten free one and I spilled it.  I spilled it all over Caren's oven, who is probably ready to kick me out of her kitchen because her cookbooks, appliances and work places all bare evidence of my being there.

"Crap!"

I checked the beans again. Still not done.

I returned to clean up. 

I was cleaning one of Caren's very sharp knives with the rainbow handles (you Baking Day girls know what I'm talking about) as I went to return it to the knife block I tripped.  Luckily I did not fall to the floor.  I righted myself and laughed as I put the knife away.

Oh now wouldn't that have been the best?  I can just imagine Caren coming home to find me dead on her kitchen floor.  Which would be more disturbing...that I was dead or that her good knife was ruined?  Ha ha!  Oh I hope that if that had really happen that the girls would all laugh at my funeral! "Baking Day did her in!"

The timer went off on the pound cakes but they were still a gooey mess inside.  The beans were still not done either.  I fought tears because I seemed to be cursed in the kitchen.  I don't even have to do anything but be near the cooking food and it will be guaranteed to be foiled!  (And I don't me with aluminum.) 

No good deed goes unpunished,  I thought as I stared into the pot of boiling beans.

Caren finally got home and I got out of that kitchen as soon as I could.  She would call me when the beans were done so I could add the other ingredients and take them to our ailing neighbor.

Once home I declared to Aaron that I was done with Baking Day.

"I'll just go sit and have tea while they bake but I'm not cooking anymore!"

"Yes you are."

"Nope."

"When are y'all making tamales?"

"Next week."

*Silence and a knowing look*

"I'll make tamales and THAT will be my last week."

And there is more to tell....

Monday, December 5, 2011

When Santa Vomits

We have 12.5 inches of snow on the ground.  The earth has absorbed some of it because when I measure what is on the patio table its 19.5.  I have a love hate relationship with these conditions.  I love to be inside, by the fire with some Bailey's spiked cocoa, admiring the snowy scenery from the warm side of the window.  However, the mountain never shuts down and I have to drive my son to band and then go on to my tap class. 

I could skip both but Gabe has a concert coming up and I missed last weeks tap class due to a stomach virus.  I have the least experience in the class and can not afford to miss any.  The instructor says I'm doing great but so far I can't crack a smile.  I must appear to be very serious.  I don't know what I am.  I'm nervous and embarrassed.  I hate when I'm not good at things.  I must be a glutton for punishment though because I keep putting myself in situations where I perform lousy.  You know, like kitchens and dance schools.

I was still nervous driving this morning but I managed not to white knuckle it or cry.  I was remembering the first time I got "caught in the snow."  I was buying groceries when about 10 flurries fell from the sky.  I prayed through clenched teeth the whole way home.  Hahaha!  I guess I am a little more mountainy now then I thought.

So now that I have run all of my errands; I am "in" for the day!  There is no where I prefer to be this time of year then at home!  I think my home is just beautiful when decorated for Christmas.  Yuletide touches are in every bit of my house.  Even the bathroom has an especially cute Christmas shower curtain and some other fun accessories. 

One Christmas Past, Shalah visited. 

"Michal, your house looks beautiful....  I mean, it's like Santa threw up all over the place!"

Yea!  What a compliment! 

Here is a little tour for you:
Best seat in the house


The lounge...so to speak.

The Holiday does not begin until Auntie Cutie's mistletoe arrives!

I think books make such pretty decorations.  I have more on top of the piano.

This year I went for some live garland.  I have the faux garland my mom used when we were growing up.  I felt like it was getting a little chewed up looking.  I may have to bring it back out though because it is hard keeping live garland fresh in dry, dry Colorado!

The nativity I painted a few years ago on the basement mantle.

The scene outside makes the basement's look complete!
 I have scads more photos but I'll just leave you with this last one, my favorite!

I love peeking into my sleeping boys' room that is lit up with their own little tree!
The kitchen has Christmas towels and pot holders draped about.  Glass icicles hang above my sink and the chalk board wall fills in as a type of advent for us.  I've drawn a huge Christmas tree on it and the Little's draw an new ornament on it every day.  There are a few hints of the season in the guest room as well.  So...what do you think?  Too much?  Does it look like Santa has spewed his good cheer?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mountain Woman Test: Driving In Snow

Whenever I wake up to a snowy morning I think of Simon and Garfunkel...."this is the sound...of silence."  I awoke to "the sound of silence" this morning; our part of the world muffled under piles of snow.

Aaron recently bought me a new car, with all wheel drive, for just such a day.  Today would be it's virgin voyage in snowy conditions.  The kids and I prepared for launch with little concern.

"Mom, can I wear 'heaters' today?"  Drew asked. 

("Heaters" are what Drew calls pants that are fresh out of the dryer.)  I threw his pants in to the dryer.

"Socks too!"  Drew called down the stairs.

I went out ahead of schedule to warm up the car and to remove snow from all of the windows.  We would be leaving with plenty of time for me to drive slow.  The snow was already about 6 inches deep and was still coming down.

I text Aaron and Caren:

"Today will be my first day to drive the new car in the snow."

"Be careful.  It's not good,"  Aaron responded.

"I'll be thinking of you," Caren texted.

"It's a Mountain Woman test..."  I sent back.

As I loaded the kids up (and was no longer early because The One Which Will Remain Nameless couldn't get his act together) I was still feeling confident and comfortable with the task before me.  I've had a lot of experience driving in snow as of late but when it's like this I have had the good fortune of hitching a ride with Caren.

Before heading out Caren called for a little pep talk.

"Call me when you've made it home," she said.

Backing out was fine.  We pulled out onto the road.  Caren's in-laws were at the bus stop with their grand-daughter.

Oh Lord, please don't let me be the one to run over Kevin's parents...and right in front of their little girl!

I put the car in Neutral and began to gently break...slide...off of break, gently break...slide...and stop. 

Whew!  Friends and family still alive!

The couple smiled and waved to me, unaware of the danger they were in.

That little bit there told me what I was in for for the rest of the way to the school.  The boys know there is no talking when Mom is driving on snow and they were near perfect.  We drove on in silence and at a snails pace.  As I turned onto the highway there was another slippy slide.  I regained control and on we went.



Besides the roads, there was an issue with my windshield wipers.  I couldn't figure out how to work them.

Why is this so difficult? 

The control was on the right instead of the left.  I could not figure out if it was turning it or flipping it that made it go.  Somehow I got them on but could not control the speed.  The insistent wonk, wonk, wonk of the blades on the dry window was making me batty.  I finally got it at a speed that was in time with the snow fall.

In front of the local saloon we had a slippy, slip, slip, slide.  With clenched teeth, I handled everything as taught. 

"Whoa!"  Drew said.

"Shh!" scolded Gabe.

By the time we got to the school, poor Gabriel was 10 minutes late for band.  I helped him gather his things and then walked Drew into school on shaky legs.  I guess my face was as white as the scenery because Drew's teacher Julia, greeted me with, "Gotta love Colorado!"

I weakly smiled.

I got Drew settled in his class and then went into the hall to discuss Christmas plans with his teacher.

"I'm trying not to cry.  I'm still a little freaked out from the drive in," I said before we began.

"Oh you should do it!" she said as she hugged me. "Let it out.  You'll feel much better.  I still cry and freak out about it.  Stay at the school for awhile if you want.  Just relax," Julia suggested but I was thinking of the snow that was still coming down.  The roads would not be any better if I waited.  I just wanted to be home by the fire with my big brave dog to comfort me!

"I think I'm going to go for it."

"Then here," she said as she handed me a container of cinnamon sugar bagel holes, "take these.  They will make the drive better.  I'm serious!  It works."

Armed with my cup of bagel holes I headed back out to my car.  As soon as I got my car running and the heat pumping I popped a bagel hole in my mouth and then called my girl, Lauren.

"Hey," she answered.

"It's Michal," I whimpered.

"I know."

"I'm in the school parking lot....sob....because I'm afraid to drive home in the snow!  I mean, it was scary enough driving up the mountain and now I have to drive down!"

*More sobbing*

"OK, it'll be OK...you got there safely..."  and I honestly can't remember everything she said because I was crying and then laughing because I felt so silly.  "Is there someone there you could call who could maybe be more informative about how to drive in those conditions?  I mean, I'd be freaking out too."

"No!" *loud sob and laugh*  "Caren is working out somewhere down the hill.  I don't even know if she is there yet.  She could be driving.  I'm sorry!  I shouldn't of called you.  I don't want to worry you.  I just needed to cry to someone!"

*More crazy crying and a bagel hole*

"Don't apologize for calling.  I'm glad you did I just feel bad that I can't give you any advice or help."

I told her about the windshield wipers.

"I'm going to read the manual before I pull out of here."

"That's a good idea.  I can't believe Aaron let you drive that car with out teaching you how first."

"I doubt he knows how to either."  With the manual in my hand I started to feel better.  "I think I'm better now."

"Good.  Will you call me when you get home?"

"Yes."

"I'll be praying for you."

"Thank you."

"OK, be safe.  I love you."

"I will.  Thanks again.  I love you too!"

I ate another bagel hole and thumbed threw the manual until I found the information on the wipers.  It's ridiculous.  This car has so many features and gadgets.  I tried to narrow it down to the important part.  The rest I will figure out later....

Low gear...how do I do that?

I read on shifting to low and also learned there is a button I can push for when I was driving in winter conditions.  I just couldn't figure out if it was just for certain times or could I keep it on the whole time with out damaging the transmission.  I opted not to use that.  Besides, it's not the car that will get me home safely but my skills. 

I know.  Scary, right?

OK God.  It's you and me.  Surround my car.  Give me wisdom.  Send your angels to protect me.

With a bagel hole and that prayer, I was off.

I tightly gripped the steering wheel, clenched my teeth and carefully headed down the mountain. 

So far so good.

In my rearview mirror I could see another car coming up behind me.  I worried about how slow I was going.

Don't worry about that, I heard Caren's voice say, It's better that you take it slow and not worry about other drivers.

I did not change my speed and I noticed the car behind me swerve a bit and then take to the slow pace that I was on.  Another car came up behind that one and we all crept on like a funeral procession.

I felt the car slide a bit as we headed down.

Go into Neutral, Caren said.

I obeyed and continued on, recalling Caren's instructions the whole way home.

I finally was on my street.

We did it! I thought to God and to that angel, Caren who was along for the whole ride with me.

Once I was parked in my driveway I sent a text to Aaron, Lauren and Caren:

"HOME!!"

"Wonderful," Lauren's text said.  "Now stay there!"

"Oh I will!  I'm the worst Mountain Woman ever!"

Thank you Lord!  Ug!  That was awful.  Thank you for keeping me safe and thank you for the support of all my friends.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Gift Of Season's Greetings

You know the scene where Charlie Brown keeps peeking into his mailbox to see if he's received any Christmas cards yet?  That's me! 

I love Christmas cards!  I love to send them and I love to get them.  They are an essential part of my Holiday decor.  Every year I hang them up so that they frame the window in our dining room.  We've had 4 houses now and we always have had this arrangement!

After Christmas is over, I carefully collect each one.  All of the ones with photos goes into a this box:


When the Holiday rolls around again, we take out all of the decorations and this box is in among them.  I set it out on my coffee table.  We all have such a good time perusing through them and seeing how everyone has changed and grown. 

I just got back from printing out our cards.  I've armed myself with a mug of hot water, fine tip pens, address book, and am now ready to address envelopes.  I love this part too!  Oh!  I forgot to buy stamps!  I hope they have pretty ones this year...

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Winning Thanksgiving Week

As luck would have it, a demon of some sorts took root in my belly last night. I woke up multiple times to kneel before the porcelain throne. This has continued through out the day in all sorts of variations of "fun." I can't tell you how many of my friends have confessed their envy of me.  It's a perfect way to end a holiday devoted to eating.  I'm pretty sure I will have met my goal with my nutritionist next week.  Yea.

This Thanksgiving, as in last, my husband wanted to take on the preparation and roasting of a Turducken.  If you are unfamiliar with this Thanksgiving mutation I can break it down for you. It is basically a monstrosity made of turkey that is stuffed with a duck that is stuffed with a chicken.  The unfortunate part of Thanksgiving for me is that turkey is the main course.  I am not a fan of poultry.  My mother was in the Weight Watchers program while we were growing up and it seems the only meat allowed was chicken. We had chicken served to us like Forest Gump would serve up shrimp.  Oven fried chicken, Parmesan chicken, chicken pot pie, chicken-a-la-king....you get the picture.  I like turkey only a little better then chicken.  I like duck not at all.

My husband is very proud of his Turducken.  It's quite the feat for any chef.  Each bird has to be de-boned.  (According to Julia Child the correct term is "boned" but I giggled like a 13 year old boy every time we talked about boning a turkey.)  Aaron first made two different types of stuffing.  I was not allowed to even help with that part due to last years fiasco with the stuffing.  He then de-boned each bird.  The chicken was stuffed with one kind of stuffing then placed in the duck and so forth.  Everything is then stitched shut. 

Our friends, Tiffany and Bryon, were in town this year and so Bryon helped Aaron with some of the work on the Turducken.  He also prepared a fried turkey for our feast. 

But wait!  There's more!

We were all invited to Kevin and Caren's this year.  Kevin smoked a turkey and so Iron Chef: Turkey was born.

The day before Thanksgiving, Tiffany got to sample what a Baking Day at Caren's is like.  The two of us spent the whole morning at Caren's preparing everything for our meal.  Caren and Tiffany made two different stuffing's, two different cranberry relishes, mashed potatoes with various toppings (we had a potato bar), sweet potatoes, and green beans. 

I made a pumpkin cheese cake.

When the big day arrived the men presented their turkey's.  They were quite the sight! 

Turducken
Each was carved and served.  The adults all had ballots with criteria to grade the turkeys by.  It was a close race but in the end, my beloved's Turducken won.  I personally liked the fried turkey best.  It was the ugliest thing I'd ever seen but it was juicy and the crisp skin tasted like bacon.  Can't go wrong with bacon!  Note: the kids liked the smoked the best.

The other part of our Thanksgiving week was to prepare for another annual competition: The Gingerbread House Smack Down.  Last year's competition had an at-party-assembly rule.  This year had to be modified due to lack of space.  There was now the option of assembling your house at home or at the party.  Participants would only be competing with in their category.  I went the at-home route and enlisted the help of my friend, Tiffany. 

We had a great time together and found that we worked well with each other, feeding off of one another's ideas.  I would have an idea and then Tiff would either complete it or improve upon it and vice versa.  The end result was fabulous!

This year's theme was Santa's workshop:


The other at-home-assembly competitors:



The day before the party I found this super cute candy cane hat.  I thought it would be so fun to wear at the competition and so put together this little party outfit:

At the party the kids have a-go at it as well.  Caren and I bought a bunch of gingerbread haunted houses on sale after Thanksgiving.  We provided these for the kids teams as well as candy and frosting for them to work with.  The results were....interesting.  Bless their hearts, they did what they could in the 30 minutes they were given to work in.

After the kids were done the adults stepped up to the table.  The adults had one hour to work on their creations.  (Party Trade Secret: we covered the table with multiple layers of plastic table cloth.  After each round was done we simply wadded up the dirtied top cloth and the next round of players was set to go on a new clean plastic cloth!  A little Caren Genius...)  The competitors this year were more prepared then the last.  Many came with their own candies that had inspired them. 

My favorite conversation overheard that night:

Dave likes to work with fruit and antique tools..
"The icing is overflowing!"

"Well, get it!"

"I can't!  I don't have anything!"

"Just use your hands..."

"I can't!"

"Yes you can.  It's icing!  Not battery acid!"





The winning house went to Occupy North Pole:


Our other tradition for the Gingerbread House Smack Down is that the winner of the previous year is to add to the trophy so it will grow like the Stanley Cup.  I won last year's competition.  Here I am with the new improved trophy:



I also won this year's first ever at-home-assembly category and so I now have a new trophy to add on to!  Yea!

So that is how my Thanksgiving week went.  Lots of  fun with lots of friends and lots of food.  Now I am sitting here by the fire, wrapped in a Big Ugly sweater, sipping hot water and nibbling on saltines.  Just one more stomach flu away from my goal weight...



Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What A Difference A Year Makes...Or Not

Baking Day
November 16, 2011
Rating: Productive with a dash of the usual mishaps

We have a Newbie in our group. Another Texas transplant named Stacey. Like I once was, she was feeling sheepishly intimidated by all of the experienced bakers in the kitchen.


"Don't be," I assured her. "I screw it up all the time but things always manage to work out."

It was about this time last year that I was attempting to make a cornbread stuffing for Thanksgiving.  It seemed simple enough.  I was doubling a recipe.  Unfortunately I increased the Baking Powder (or Soda...one of those) too much.  Laurel tasted it and tried to make me think it was OK.  Caren tasted it and suggested that we scrap the whole batch and start over.

"Toss it over the deck.  The birds and squirrels will eat it."

I took the huge pan of cornbread stuffing out to the deck and cried as I sent crumbled chunks of it over the railing.

The next day that I was at Caren's I expected that the crumbs would have all been eaten by some sort of mountain critter. 

But no.

And not the next day either.

Or the next.

For nearly a week, the Cornbread Crud littered Caren's side yard and remained untouched.

"Not even the critters will eat it!"  I would wail.

Now that I have over a years worth of experience under my apron strings, one would think that I could handle myself quite well in the kitchen.  One would think...

Today I attempted to make pumpkin carrot bars from a recipe I got here.  I was doing two doubled recipes.  Everything was going great with the first batch.  There was a lot of tasting as I went and all who dipped a finger agreed that this was going to be a tasty treat!  I poured the batter onto a jelly roll pan, popped it into the oven, and began batch #2.

As I began re-reading the recipe I realized that I had not included the dry ingredients into the first batch which was already baking in the oven.  Four ingredients!  Critical.

There was a lot of good natured chuckling at what has become an expectancy.  I can't seem to make it through a Baking Day without some little dink.

"Oh Michal!  You make me feel so much better about myself!" ribbed Stacey.

So the jelly roll pan was removed from the oven and dumped back into the bowl.  I added the flour, pumpkin spice, baking powder and baking soda (basically everything that makes a cake a cake) that I had previously missed.  The jelly roll pan was cleaned, re-greased and floured, and the new batter was poured back in.

Whew!  That was a near disaster.

Back to my second batch.  This time I paid close attention to all that was called for in the recipe.

Batch 1 was finished and Batch 2 went in. 

"Something's burning," announced one of the ladies.

We peeked in the oven to see Batch 2 overflowing onto the floor of the oven.  Someone grabbed a cookie sheet and shoved it under the pumpkin bars to catch the spill over.

"Par for the course."  I remind them.

"You are handling this so well," Stacey whispered.  "I would be in tears at this point."

"Oh, I have and do!  After awhile though..."

Laurel's gorgeous buttermilk bread
I helped the ladies with their baking projects, i.e. I tasted things.  There were two varieties of cookies, frozen biscuit dough, buttermilk bread, and banana muffins.  Batch 1 had turned out pretty good.  Everyone agreed that it was a keeper!  Batch 2 finally finished.  The oven was a bit of a disaster but the pumpkin bars still looked like they would be tasty.

After cleaning the oven I sat back for a salad, fritatta and coffee with home made Bailey's.  I enjoyed my lunch and the company of my baking ladies.  Someone was discussing their own recipe and the ingredients that went into it.  Something was said about butter.

Butter!

It suddenly hit me that I did not include butter in Batch #2.

"Oh no!"  I cried.

"What?"

"I forgot the butter!"

There was another round of laughter at my expense.

"You are so entertaining!"  Stacey quipped.  That is not the first time that has been said of me at a Baking Day.  I'm always glad to do so and love to help boost anothers self-esteem.  (It turns out that Batch 2 was just as good as Batch 1, so if you want your pumpkin bars to be reduced fat, simply eliminate the butter.)

When Caren's daughter was dropped off from school, she and her friend dove into the baked goods that were spread about the kitchen table.  With in minutes of her friend leaving I received a text, "SO DELICIOUS!  Can I pretty please get the pumpkin cheese cake bread recipe?"

Validation.






Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Living On A Prayer

I had a mild panic attack this morning. 

At first I could not figure out what it was, I just felt like I was hopped up on caffeine.  My mind was racing and trying to prioritize everything that I needed to get done for the day and that some how leaped into what I needed to get done for Christmas.

I managed to get the kids out the door with little incident.  We were waiting at the bus stop when Kevin pulled up with his daughter in the car.  The kids got on the bus and Kevin offered me a ride back up the hill.

"Thanks," I said as I got in the car.  "Kevin, I am seriously trying not to lose it."

"Why?  What's going on?"

"I just feel like I have so much to do but I can't even tell where I should start.  I need to get things ready for guests this weekend, there are after school activities every night this week, art projects need to get done...."

"And then we die," Kevin said.

"Huh.  Yeah.  You're right.  I will run around and do all of this stuff and then I'll be dead."

Once at home I went to my desk with paper and pencil.

Lord, this is not OK.  Give me peace and perspective.

I took a few deep breaths and just sat quiet for a moment.  A few more deep breaths...and then I wrote TODAY at the top of the paper.  Under that I wrote everything that I truly needed to accomplish today.  Next I wrote WEEK and wrote what needed to be done by the end of the week and this was followed by MONTH.  Looking at the list caused a little bit on anxiety to creep up again but then I remembered that I only needed to look at TODAY.

Some friends were meeting me for my walk and I had some time to kill before they came.  I focused that time on some of my chores and then cleaned the chalkboard wall.

"Thanksgiving To Do List: clean house, Be Thankful, groceries, Twilight, Be Thankful, finish art projects, laundry, after school activities, cook, Be Thankful."

(Yes, I included Twilight on my To Do list.  I gotta see that movie!)  I felt better after each golden "Be Thankful" leaf that I added. 

And that's what it's all about Charlie Brown.

Peace restored, armed with a To Do list and endorphins pumping through me from my walk, I am now ready to take on my day.  And it's 11 a.m.  Good grief!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank You Veterans!

"Happy Veteran's Day!" the boys greeted me this morning.

"We have to call Aunt Cathy!"

"You're right we do," I said grabbing my phone.

"And Uncle Isaac, and Uncle Matt..."

"Yes, we will call them all right now and say Thank You," I assured them.

And then we did.

Uncle Matt in his uniform for Gabriel's Marine themed birthday party.

My sister-in-law and my niece saying their Goodbyes.
My brother, Isaac, served in the Navy; as did/does his wife, Cathy.  She is a Lieutenant and recently served 9 months, away from her husband and litttle girl, in Iraq.  My brother-in-law, Matthew, is an inactive Marine.  I can't even tell you how many times he's gone to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Lots and lots.  Then we have our parents, uncles, and grandparents who have served.  The boys come from a long line of heroes.  It's no wonder they are so enamored by anything a soldier/warrior does.

Their school puts on an amazing Veteran's Day program every year.  Many of the students also have Veterans in their family.  They all come and are honored and thanked by the students and staff.  It's awesome and there is never a dry eye in the house!

As the boys got ready this morning, Drew marched about the house while singing "It's a Grand Ol' Flag" at the top of his lungs.  Gabriel carefully donned his Boy Scout unifrom since he and his fellow scouts would be part of the flag ceremony in the program.

We are so blessed to be Americans.  With all her flaws our country is still a place where freedom reigns.  We are all so fortunate.  Fortunate to be born here.  Fortunate, that if you weren't born here, that you are here now.  Fortunate to be sharing freedom with one another. 

Thank you so much to all who have served.  Thank you to those who have stayed home while their loved one was far away taking care of us all.  Thank you to those who answer the call and I pray for the ones who make The Call that they do so sparingly, fearfully and wisely.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas And Other Fun Gift Ideas

This year for Christmas, I have decided to buy all of my gifts from small business owners.  Several thoughts/ideas have brought me to this conclusion:

1.  Caren has been on a rampage (for at least as long as I've known her) over how many products are made in China.  Since we often shop together, it has been brought to my attention numerous times.  What's most frustrating about it is that there will be American created products, i.e. the product was thought of here, invented here; but then it is produced in China.  It's cheaper for these American companies to have the Chinese make it for them but at what cost to our own economy and to our own citizens?  Caren's goal, at this point, is not even necessarily to Buy American but to just not buy Chinese.  Even Ugg boots are made in China now.  Come on World!

2.  This whole Occupy Wall Street thing has gotten me to thinking too.  Let me make it clear that I believe in Capitalism.  It is good and it works.  Money is power and power corrupts but I am all about a free economy.  There are kinks and Jerks that get into every system especially when money is involved.  If one really wants to give it to Wall Street they need to make their voices heard.  Money talks much louder then any number of people sitting outside of the Trade Center.  If you want to stick it to big corporations then don't buy from them.  Seek out local artisans and craftsman so you know that your money is going directly into the pocket of your fellow American.  These small business owners went into business because they know that capitalism works. 

So stay out of WalMart, Target and the mall!  (I can hardly stand the mall at Christmas anymore.  Greedy, selfish hoards in stores proclaiming their Season's Greetings in flat political correctness.  Blah!

Instead consider some of these things:

A gift certificate for a salon appointment.  My sister, Dawn The Hair Extraordinaire, does amazing things with a pair of shears!  She lives in Austin, TX and works at a local barber shop there.  She does great hair for men, women and children and she can even go to your home.  Maybe you know someone who could use a whole new look or you can treat them to hair and make up before a big event, like New Year's Eve.  A girls night of make-overs would be a fun thing as well!  You can contact Dawn at dawndawn@gmail.com.

Another great gift (and Austin contact) is that of professional photography with April Thomason.  She has an amazing eye and whimsically romantic style!  A fun idea may be to hire Dawn to do your hair and make up before your photo shoot with April...  I might also add that Dawn and April both have connections in Houston and it's surrounding areas and so can often be convinced to do work out there.

I love my masseuse!  No one has better hands then Jolene!!  So for my local friends, here in CO, I would highly recommend gift certificates from Willow Creek Wellness.  An hour massage is a great gift for a teacher, friend, or spouse.  A REALLY great gift would be a massage, once a week for a month... OH yeah....I can smell the aroma therapy oils now...  Jolene can be contacted at wcreekwellness@gmail.com.

There are fun things to be found at The Perfect Stitch as well.  Stacey embellishes shirts, bags, onsies, etc with beautiful embroidery and bling-bling work.  You can see more of her crafts here

Do you live in the Dallas/Plano area and need treats for your party?  Sugar Queen Cupcakes will take care of you!  A fun gift idea may be a gift card to Sugar Queen for an after school date with your kiddos!  They have more than cupcakes there.  You can find fun t-shirts and gifts.  Plus they are the home of the Official Cupcake of Texas! ;)

Check out this little shop!  Don't they have the greatest things!  Southern Joy is based in Tennessee.  They are an eco-friendly gift shop that boasts beautiful hand crafted jewelry, spa gifts and more!  I am in love with their jewelry. 

This reminds me...shop Etsy, people!  http://www.etsy.com/ This is a huge resource of handmade gifts.  Here is a fun etsy shop with cheeky little accesories:  Leilani's Heavenly Flowers



I plan to hit local boutiques and specialty stores like Rustic Point in Evergreen.  Conifer and Morrison have all sorts of fun shops to explore.  Back home in Texas, I used to love to shop around in Downtown Tomball and Old Town Spring. 

A great source for stocking stuffers is Hammonds Candies.  Hammonds is a candy factory in Denver, CO.  They are a small factory that makes all of their beautiful and delicious candies by hand!  You don't have to go to Denver to find Hammond's Candies.  They have been featured in O! magazine, Martha Stewart and other similar periodicals.  They are the largest company featured here but I think they qualify because everything his American made and they are a small company compared to say...Macy's, though you may find some Hammond's Candies at Macy's....



Another wonderful shopping idea is at places that take what you give them and give a part of the proceeds to a charity.  Sevenly sells cool t-shirts that sponsor a different cause a week.  Freedom Fashionista's website reads, "Every girl wants amazing style. Explore our sustainable fashions and let your new style sense provide empowerment and employment for women rescued from or at-risk for slavery."  Check out their cute PJs here.  In fact this link is devoted to listing the various sites where one can by gifts that help fund anti-human trafficking programs.  These gifts go way beyond the boughs of your Chritmas tree and branches out service to the world.


Gift cards to Mom and Pop restaurants are another great idea.  The gift of landscaping, personal trainers, the ideas are endless!  If you have a small business that you'd like to plug, please feel free to do so in the comments.  I'm looking for good ideas....  Heck, I suppose I could plug myself:  Decorator/Party Planner/Custom Art ;)

I love Christmas!  No matter how it got started or what it evolved from, I love that the world takes time out of the year to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  No birthday party is complete with out gifts and buying your gifts from small businesses gives two fold: to your loved one and to your neighboring entrepenuer.

A few more ideas:

paino lessons s.eby699@gmail.com
contract work for your home kippandsons@hotmail.com
dog training cboothwest@gmail.com