Friday, 30 December 2011

feeling dumb but relieved

We have our electricity bill set up on auto bank-draft, so every month we get the bill in the mail, but it is automatically taken out of our bank account on the due date, which is usually around the 22nd of the month.
This has its pros and cons; no stamps or trips to town, no worries about forgetting to pay the bill, but it comes out late in the month and we only get paid on the 1st.

Anyway, The bill that was due in late December arrived early in the month (or perhaps even in late November), and I understood it to say we had used $180 worth of electric, which was pretty crazy considering we hadn't run the A/C that month, and were still using the clothes line. We were frustrated, but what could we do? So all of December we've been watching the bank account, making sure we had at least $200 still there to cover the bill when it went through. But it never went through. Well, maybe it got out of sync because or the holidays. So we watched and waited.

Today we got the bill that is due in January. Maybe it was because I'd been thinking on my morning walk about the deposits we had to make when we opened all our utility accounts, but for some reason I paid attention when I read this month's bill. It showed a carryover CREDIT from last month of $120. This month's charges amounted to $60, and so we still have $60 in credit. huh. So I found last month's bill, and (as you have surely figured out by now) the $180 was our deposit being credited back to us. Last month's charges were only $60 as well, and were fully covered by the deposit, and would not be coming out of the bank.

So, I feel a little dumb for not reading it right last month, but quite relieved that our usage has gone down as we expected, and that we have 2 or 3 months without having to pay a bill at all.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Clothes

Since Taryn was a baby, whenever someone would outgrow clothes I would box them up, label the box, and set it aside for any possible future child. This has saved us lots of money, and added lots of bulk to our storage rooms and pounds to our shipping weight. I upgraded the empty diaper boxes to Rubbermaid totes. We have separate tubs for boys and girls in every size/age category, and for once we have a large storage building and no prospect of moving.

So I have no excuse. Perhaps I'm getting lazy, or Bob is less tolerant of the messes that invariably link to any exercise in organization. Either way, we've come to the point that when somebody outgrows clothes and there isn't an immediate successor (Cedwryck goes straight into Riah's clothes, for example), we just shove 'em in a bag and take 'em to Goodwill.

Today we had to go to town for chicken food, and before we left Bob threw a big garbage bag full of clothes in the back of the van. So, after running some other errands we stopped at Goodwill and dropped off the donation. Since we were there, Bob and I went in. No one had mentioned any pressing need, so for once I looked for clothes in my size. I came away with 4 new-to-me blouses, a skirt, a jumper (that's a sleeveless dress that you wear a shirt under, not a sweater), and a WOOL COAT. I've been making do with a windbreaker and a couple of sweaters; my "heavy coat" was a ruana which is super-nice, but inconvenient in certain settings (can't hang it on the back of a chair, for instance). So I've been wanting a nice-looking warm coat, but they are hard to find in my size, and very expensive. I was SO super excited when Bob found my new coat. The lining is coming un-sewn around the armpits, but that should be easy for even a non-sewer like me to fix. Total price for my haul? $30.

I'm thinking my "finds" were a little bit of payback for the donation we made; anyway I'm glad to get something. My favorite tops have been a couple that my mom got for me at a garage sale 5+ years ago, and they are starting to look tired.

Then at church tonight a lady gave me a whole bag full of clothes! I haven't tried them on yet, but she gave me a really nice skirt a couple of weeks ago that fit very well. So now I'm all set for clothes I should start losing weight, huh? If only.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Food

Since my food posts always prove to be interesting...

Yesterday (Monday the 26th) we finally had our Christmas dinner. I made grape salad (with some VERY tasty grapes), then Ultimate roast potatoes, then Brussels Sprouts, honey glazed carrots and raw carrot sticks, and the lamb which we sliced and seared in it's own fat, gravy from the lamb marinade, and store-bought crusty bread rolls. The chocolate log cake was already made. It was a challenge to get everything done at once, but Bob helped with the meat and it all came together. He took a few pictures before we ate.






Tonight I cooked again, this time drawing on some of my new recipes that I've been printing off. We had Parmesan chicken, Alla carbonara pasta, green beans, and leftover carrots and potatoes from yesterday. The chicken was delicious, and most of us were too full to want dessert.
Parmesan Chicken
• 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
• 2 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (3 oz.)
• 2 green onions, chopped fine
• Zest of ½ lemon
• 1/4 cup butter, melted
• 1/2 tsp kosher salt
• freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
• 4 single chicken breasts
Place breasts on greased baking tray; top with crumbs. Bake at 375* about 20 minutes.

This made a HUGE amount of crumbs, even for 6 breasts, so I ended up putting a layer down on the tray, then the chicken, and then most of the crumbs on top. Taryn thought the Parmesan should be cut back, but everyone else liked it (William said it was only a "little bit nasty.") The recipe included directions for a lemony sauce, but no one used it as the chicken was moist and flavorful on its own.
Enjoy!

Monday, 26 December 2011

Oh well, but still good.

After I blogged Saturday I got sleepy and Bob got restless. He hadn't been feeling well all day, and it finally got to him. So instead of cooking the grand meal planned, we went out. We ate at McDonald's (splurging for sundaes all around), and drove out to Eureka Springs. There were a few shops open, but we contented ourselves with driving through and looking at the lights. When we got home I cooked the lamb; we may eat it today.

Sunday church was really nice. We had a sort of carol service, and there was a decent crowd. We came home and I whipped up some taco tartlets to take next door along with the chocolate chip dip with chocolate animal crackers, and carrot and celery sticks. As I was baking, StepSon and his fiance came by to give gifts to the children. How sweet!
Then we went over and ate and exchanged a few more gifts.

Time for breakfast.

But I also wanted to add that this year we gave away a goat and 4 ducks through World Vision, which was fun, and I recommend that to those who want to shop but don't need anything.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

So far, so good.

So much for thinking I'd be blogging more when Bob's semester was over. My computer is showing signs of illness, and I've been trying to get my documents organized and my recipes printed. You'd think hitting "print" 160 times would be non-complicated, but many of the recipes were in conversation format, with many extra instructions, and pictures. One, for example, was 6 full pages in Word. I got it down to 1 1/2.

Today is Christmas Eve! Tomorrow we will go to church in the morning, and then have lunch with Aunt and Uncle Nextdoor and MIL and StepSon and whoever else shows up. So we did our family time today.

Bob and I managed to sleep in until 7:45. I was headed toward the Christmas lights when I passed the kitchen window and saw SNOW on the ground! Some people may think it was a heavy frost, but I've never seen frost that heavy. The last time (the only time) I remember having a light snow on Christmas Eve was my first Christmas in England. Both times it was just the icing on the cake.

Anyway, I pulled the cocoa rolls out of the fridge to finish rising (they are like cinnamon rolls, but with chocolate bread, and cocoa in the middle), and mixed up the oven omelet. We read the Christmas story in the Bible and got dressed. Then I thought breakfast was ready, but it turns out that the rolls weren't quite done. So we ate the omelet and chatted for a while, then ate the rolls. It was 10:30 by the time we finished breakfast!

Then we opened our presents. Bob got a new printer last week, so that was his present, though I also gave him a 1 pound Reese's Cup.
Taryn got a mattress pad, a slip, a song book, a Sudoku book, and some hair bands.
Naysha got a play doctor's kit, 2 books to read, a slip, and a bicycle horn.
Riah got a wooden sword, a building kit with birdhouse, sailboat and other stuff, some tools, and a Sudoku book.
Cedwryck got a sword, a build-your-own rubber band shooter, a book, and some tools.
Ella got a pillow backpack, a baby doll bed, a paint-your-own wooden doll set, a book, tights, and a Dot-to-Dot book.
William got a bow and arrow set, a sword, a remote-controlled truck, a book.
Elijah got a set of ABC blocks, a soft baseball and bat set, and a chunky puzzle. He also claimed every other present as "mine."
Bob got me a 25th anniversary Snowflake bear and some dark chocolate and salted caramel candy.
We had a few things that were for sharing, or for every body. Flashlights for all, Sonic toys via the cake store, a Wii game via McDonald's Monopoly game, a computer game, a set of activity books about knights, pipe cleaners, and a pack of door hangers to color.
My brother sent up a Wii game as well. Sorry I didn't send you a gift, Wil. I have a little something; maybe we'll leave it with Mom and Dad?

After presents we did our chores, including a short walk with the dog. It is a beautiful day; bright blue sky, crisp cool air...

After a while we will have a nice dinner - I've been marinating a lamb leg since yesterday, and will make the ultimate roast potatoes as well as other delectable sides, followed by a chocolate mocha log roll cake.

For those who aren't on Facebook, we got a kitten yesterday. She's about 3 months old, solid black, and is polydactal (she has an extra toe on each front foot). She was in a cage-free cat shelter, and hates to be alone, but doesn't like to be held. She just meows and rubs on our legs. She is very active, and wasn't scared of us at all. Her name is Blackberry, for the color, and the ability to send texts (thumbs).
We let the rabbit in for a while yesterday to socialize, and they took turns being scared of, and curious about, each other.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Doctor visit

Yesterday we went to Little Rock, stayed the night at the Air Base, and took Riah to the doctor this morning.

We made a decent start Tuesday morning, but hadn’t got 10 minutes out of town on the infamous Pig Trail when Taryn and I both got car sick. Bob drove carefully, but I had to strain every muscle and nerve in my body to focus on the yellow stripe in order to not be sick. We stopped at the one gas station on the road, got a Cream Soda and some garlic chips, and stood around for a few minutes, then I drove the rest of the way down.

After lunch at a Burger King, Bob took the wheel again, and we finally made it to the base. Everybody has to stop at the gate and show military ID to get in. I pulled out mine, Taryn’s and Naysha’s, and Bob handed over his driver license. The guard looked it over and asked if Bob had a visitor’s pass, and it still didn’t hit Bob until I pointed out that he’d handed over the wrong ID. One year out, and 20 year’s training just washed down the drain.

We got checked in easily enough. Our rooms were in the same building as last time, but this time we were upstairs. We unloaded and tried to unwind for a few minutes, then went back out to try some shopping. The BX (department store) was a bust. I did buy a new pillow, but we didn’t find anything else we were interested in. We had dinner in the food court – pizza for some, and Charley’s Grilled Subs for some. We hadn’t had Charley’s since we left Lakenheath. It was still good, but MY WORD they were slow. No one in the entire store had a smile.

Feeling somewhat better, we next attempted the commissary (grocery store). I found a few items that were cheaper there, such as oatmeal and canned pineapple, but for the most part the prices were comparable with what I see around here. Beef was quite a bit cheaper, but I didn’t want that sitting in my car for 24 hours. We ran into a couple from our church in Cabot (where we got married), and they remembered us quite clearly. We got some ice cream for a snack, and cereal and milk for breakfast, and headed back to the room.

It was only 6:30, and we had talked about going to downtown Little Rock to see if the river was decorated for Christmas, but with the car sickness, headaches, and thick fog outside, we decided to stay in. The children were excited to get baths, as we only have a shower at home, so we started in on that. As I walked down to the second room for Ella’s bath, I saw a sort of dayroom just past the door. There were toys, books, and videos. So after a few baths, we let the children play around for a while, then went back to the room and watched a video. Ice cream, followed by more baths, and we were ready for bed.

This morning we ate, cleaned the dishes, packed up, and checked out. We were a little anxious about getting to the hospital in downtown Little Rock, so just went straight out there, arriving 2 hours before the appointment time. We consulted the map and found we were just a few blocks from Central High School, an icon of the desegregation of public schools. So we headed that way, took a few pictures, and told the story the best we knew it (we were off by a few details). The children were interested, and some needed a bathroom very badly, so we went across the street to the National Park’s Central High School visitor’s center. We were greeted enthusiastically by a park ranger, who gave the children each a booklet to fill out in exchange for a ranger badge. We looked at most of the exhibits and were working on the books when Bob saw that it was 15 minutes until the Doctor’s appointment. So we made a mad dash to the car, and he dropped Riah and I off at the hospital door.

Arkansas Children’s Hospital is as difficult to navigate as most others I’ve been in, but we made it to the check-in desk right in time. Riah was measured, weighed, cuffed, and probed. Well, he had his blood pressure taken, and his heart monitored. We watched half of Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. (Bob took the others to the capitol building where they heard school choirs singing Christmas carols.)

The long and short of it is, his heart is worse than we had last been told. His valve is leaking about the same as before, but now it’s dilating as well, and this concerns the doctors. Since our Primary Care doctor here in Huntsville failed to obtain any of Riah’s medical records, the doctors don’t know how much or how fast his heart has changed in the last year. They say we should come back in 6 months to see how things are progressing, but they think he’ll have to have surgery within a few years. In the meantime they say he can run and play, but no heavy lifting/weight training. So we are a little frustrated about that, but still know God is in control. At any rate, we will change Primary Care doctors, since this one couldn’t even hear the anomaly in Riah’s heartbeat, and wouldn’t get his records for him, and took 6 months to get the referral to go see the specialists.

Today was also Bob’s birthday. We wanted to have a nice lunch to celebrate, but he couldn’t really think of anything he wanted, so we started on the road home. There was nothing on the way out or Little Rock, so we stopped in Conway. We ended up at T.G.I.Friday’s. I’d never been to one before. It was okay. The food was all very good, and Bob’s appetizer was very generously sized. The waiter was in hyper mode and would dash off to get our order almost before we had ordered it. Dessert was a birthday splurge, but somewhat disappointing. Bob ordered “Oreo Madness” which was described as cookies and cream ice cream covered with an oreo crust and fudge and caramel sauce. It was an Oreo ice cream sandwich! Same as you can get at the grocery store for $1. The children each got an ice cream as well. The bill came with tip included, and set us back $80.

I drove after that, since Bob’s knee was already hurting. Not far out of town it began to rain. And then it poured. And then it lightninged. And I felt that the van was shimmying, so pulled over and Bob checked the tires, and he drove the rest of the way home. We stopped in Fayetteville (we came home via the interstate instead of the pig trail) for supper at McDonald’s. There was no church tonight, as they were building the set for Sunday’s play, so we stopped in and talked a bit and finished up the decorations.

Finally we made it home and now I will go to bed.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

time to wake up

We have a big day planned today (more about that later), so no one slept well last night. At 5am Riah knocked on our door and said, "It's time to get up." I told him it was 5, and we get up at 7; he should go to sleep.

Ay 6, William knocked on our door and said, "I'm super hungry!" I told him we'd eat in the morning, and he should go back to bed.

Now it's 8, and guess who isn't up yet. We drug Riah out of bed at 7:30, but William is still asleep.

To change subjects, Taryn wants a camera, and we plan to get one for her birthday (Jan). We have 3 possibilities so far, as she wants a good zoom, and we don't want AA batteries or some lesser brand. I'd like a manual option, so she can learn to set her settings, so one day she can better use our DSLRs.
Choice 1 is within our desired price range (on sale for $150). It is Nikon 6200, the upgrade to one my brother has and is happy with. It's fast, cheap, and has many features we want, including a 10x zoom.
Choice 2 is a Nikon 8200. It's more expensive ($240) but has 14x zoom, full HD video, and is even faster. It also has a metal body instead of plastic, and takes slightly better quality pictures. Neither Nikon has manual settings.
Choice 3 is a Sony HX7V. It's $220, has 10x zoom and full HD video, takes slightly better pictures, has a couple more features, and has limited manual settings. But Bob doesn't really like Sony for its history of exclusiveness.
What would you do?

Ah, breakfast is ready. Talk to you soon.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The following is copy/paste from the online textbook. I thought this reading was pretty funny. The (square root) sign doesn't copy and paste, so I had to fill that in. Apparently blogger (Word does the same) thinks THAT is imaginary!


The form a + bi is called the standard form of a complex number. The real number a is called the real part of the complex number, and b is called the imaginary part. (Note that b is a real number even though it is called the imaginary part.) The following list exemplifies this terminology.

* 1. The number 7 + 5i is a complex number that has a real part of 7 and an imaginary part of 5.
* 2. The number 2/3 + i(Square root)2 is a complex number that has a real part of and an imaginary part of . (It is easy to mistake (square root) 2i for (square root) 2i . Thus it is customary to write i(square root) 2 instead of (square root) 2i to avoid any difficulties with the radical sign.)
* 3. The number −4 − 3i can be written in the standard form −4 + (−3i) and therefore is a complex number that has a real part of −4 and an imaginary part of −3. (The form −4 − 3i is often used, but we know that it means −4 + (−3i).)
* 4. The number −9i can be written as 0 + (−9i); thus it is a complex number that has a real part of 0 and an imaginary part of −9. (Complex numbers, such as −9i, for which a = 0 and b fi 0 are called pure imaginary numbers.)
* 5. The real number 4 can be written as 4 + 0i and is thus a complex number that has a real part of 4 and an imaginary part of 0.

Busy

Sorry for not writing. I have things I want to talk about, but don't seem to have the time lately. Bob's school has become intrusive.

Anyway, I posted this in Facebook today:
Today we took the dog to be spayed. We dropped her off at 7:30am and picked her up at 5:30 pm, so decided to just stay in town all day. Did some Christmas shopping, birthday shopping, grocery shopping... Went to the Shiloh Museum in Springdale. It was a good but tiring day.

Serenity (the dog) is doing fine. When we picked her up, the folks at the clinic showed real affection towards her.

Bob bought his birthday present today - a new guitar case.

We went to Walmart and split up into two groups, so that each child could buy a present for one other child. They had fun with that.

The museum was nice, too, but Elijah was getting very tired there.

Anyway, we're still here. Talk to you soon.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

It's officially Fall

We had a few cold fronts, but I think it's really Fall to stay now. The leaves are mostly gone, and I've given up on the garden.

I knew the tomatoes didn't stand a chance, so picked all the green ones that weren't rotten yet.


We weighed a few of the big ones; one was 11.7 ounces.

Today I made Salsa Verde with a few of them. I found a nice-sounding pickle recipe, but I'm kinda tired of making pickles.

Anybody want some? :-D

This Sunday is our church's Thanksgiving lunch. Then Thursday is Thanksgiving at MIL's. Tuesday after that we have Serenity scheduled to be spayed. Then next Saturday is my Mom's family's Christmas party. The following Saturday we go caroling with the church; the next Sunday is the Christmas program at church, and Sunday after that is Christmas! Then a week til New Year's, and a few more days after that is Cedwryck's birthday. Then Taryn and StepSon. I think we get to relax in February.
Anyone care to share your favorite tips on taking time to be kind amidst all the hustle and bustle? I do allow anonymous comments; not even the secret word puzzle thingy.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Veteran's Day

Yesterday almost amounted to an adventure.

It was Veteran's Day, and MIL had sent Bob an email with a long list of companies offering freebies to Vets/military, and Bob wanted to take advantage of some of it.

He had a couple of assignments due for college, so we finished those before we left the house, which made our departure about 11:30. Of course that made our first stop lunch.

We looked over the list and decided on Applebees (a chain restaurant) in Springdale. They offered free entree to vets, and we hadn't been there in a while. Bob got chicken & cheese penne, and I got unlimited soup, salad, and bread sticks. The bread wasn't great, but the tomato basil soup was very nice, and the Asian grilled chicken salad was great. The service was good, and everybody got full.

Next stop was a furniture store, where Bob and I tried on some chairs. Our 10 year old couch is going flat. We didn't find anything we wanted at that store, so we went on to Sam's in Fayetteville, where Bob got a free walking cane and we did some shopping and made two trips to the bathroom.

By then Cedwryck's feet hurt and we remembered that his shoes were too small, so we drove up to Rogers to Academy sport store. Ced tried on every shoe in his size under $25, and finally settled on some boots. He assured us that they were comfortable, not just neat. Then we looked for dress shoes for Riah; they only had one pair in his size, and he didn't like them. THEN we looked for shoes for Naysha, as hers are also too small. She tried on every pair in her size under $25, and found two that she liked, but they weren't quite the right size. So after another trip to the bathroom I got some insoles for my shoes, and we looked for bow string (they don't carry that), and then left.

Now it was nearly time for dinner. Traffic was bumper-to-bumper. I had my heart set on the free doughnut from Krispy Kreme, so we headed in that direction, thinking to stop first at KFC or Taco Bell for some protein. Well, we missed our exit so we had to go up to the next exit, turn around, and come back. Krispy Kreme was to the right, but we went left because we thought Taco Bell was that way. We drove a couple of blocks, passed a KFC, and didn't see Taco Bell. So we decided to turn around at the next light, and come back to KFC. We finally landed at KFC, where, with a name that includes the word "chicken," we expected to get some chicken.

After careful examination of the menu we discovered the "Value Menu" - with one item listed. I don't remember what they called it, but it came with 1 pc dark meat, potato wedges, and a biscuit, for $1.99. Sounded good, so we ordered 9 of them. Oh, he said, did you want thighs or legs? We tried to keep it simple by getting all thighs, Original Recipe. Um... he didn't know if they had that many thighs. He called somebody on his headset and asked. He reported to us that they only had 4 thighs. Okay, we said, trying to keep things simple, we'll take those 4 thighs, and the rest legs. So he called back, and said they only had 3 legs in Original Recipe. That's fine, we'll take the rest in Extra Crispy. So he called back to tell them to drop a large wedges. Then the manager walked up and asked what he was doing. He explained it all, and she said she already had an order in for dark meat. So we waited for that to get sorted, and finally got it all straight: 3 thighs & 3 legs in Original, and 3 thighs in Crispy. Then he looked up and said, "It'll be at least 10 minutes." Really? We told him to never mind, gathered the children, and went back to the van. Sigh. At least we have choices here.

Back to the bumper-to-bumper to look for Taco Bell, or something. We went back west across the interstate, and no Taco Bell there, but we saw Krispy Kreme coming up. I suggested we go ahead and get the doughnuts now, and then go on to eat. So Bob tried to change lanes, but a car pulled up beside him and wouldn't let him in. So when the light changed Bob tried again, a little harder this time. ;-) The other driver *should* have realized that he was being rude, but instead thought that Bob was rude. Oh, well. We made it into KK, got a mixed dozen plus our free one, and made it back onto the road. Still bumper-to-bumper, dark now, and past dinner time. We decided to leave Rogers, and were almost as glad to get out of there as we were glad to get out of Colchester 2 years ago.

Down to Lowell, and we exited there to finally stop at Taco Bell and eat. Just as I suspected, they had plenty of ground beef for as many tacos as we wanted. :-) Everything was fine there, and we started to shake off the stress of driving in Rogers on Friday night. By the time we finished dinner, Cedwryck decided he wanted insoles for his boots!

We stopped by MIL's house and shared the doughnuts with her and visited a while, before finally heading home and to bed. Phew.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Food part 6 and 7

Yesterday was Elijah's birthday, so we had a few special touches. We flavored our breakfast oatmeal with chocolate chips. $4.

We went out for lunch to Granny's Kitchen (a local "home cooking" place) and it came out to $40.

For supper, we met MIL at her house. She provided all the dinner, and we bought an ice cream cake at Cold Stone Creamery for $33.

Total for the day $77.

We also bought new tires for the van, as the old ones were getting old.

Today we had eggs with our oatmeal - $7.50
Lunch was spaghetti with meat sauce - $9
Supper was Chinese chicken with brown rice, fruit salad, and peas. - $11.50

Total for today - $28

If I've done my math correctly, that puts us at an average of $40 per day for the week. That's pretty close to the national average for food stamp benefits; it's actually over the max for Arkansas. Of course, you couldn't eat out on food stamps, or buy a $30 ice cream cake (you'd have to settle for the $12 one at the grocery store).

Did I learn anything from all this? Well, I learned that eating is expensive, even at home. I learned I'd rather win an argument than have a conversation - it was hard to stick to the facts and not be trying to make some statement. :-)

Monday, 7 November 2011

Elijah becomes fashion police

Elijah (who turned 2 today) has appointed himself the fashion police.

I was going to take a shower. I had already taken off all my clothes when the phone rang. It was MIL, calling to tell Bob that her dog who had cancer had been put down. I had a thought, so popped my skirt (with elastic waist) over my head, to come out to tell Bob my idea (that we could bring the dog out here to bury in our pet cemetery). I was covered from my neck down past my knees.

As soon as Elijah noticed me standing there (which was longer than I planned, since as soon as I got out of the bathroom Riah hopped in), he started pointing at my legs. I said, "Leg," trying to teach him the word. He walked around me, pointing and fussing at my legs. Then he pointed at my neck, then at my waist, as if to say "THAT belongs THERE." THEN he began tugging at my skirt hem, to pull it down where it belonged! So I squatted down, letting my skirt cover my legs and feet.

He relaxed and began to play again.

Then, when Riah finally got out of the bathroom and I started back, Elijah chased me down the hall yelling "Leg! Leg!" until I closed the door in his face. He was serious about me being decently dressed!

Food part 5

Yesterday (Sunday) we had cold cereal for breakfast, as a special treat. $6.
Lunch at McDonald's - $23.
Supper at home was eggs & toast or peanut butter sandwiches, with leftover tortilla roll-ups. $6.

Total for the day - $35.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

food part 4

I'm going to try to do a whole week.

Today was oatmeal and milk (again!) for breakfast. I really wanted something else, but we slept in, and this is the quickest thing. $3

Lunch was at Mazzio's Pizza. We got the meal deal with 2 pizzas and dessert, then added cheese sticks and a soda for Bob. $27. (No service, so no tip.)

Supper was a pot luck at church, following a singing group. We took the cookies from Thursday plus brownies, chips & salsa, and tortilla roll-ups. $10 (that may be a little high, but better safe than sorry).

Total for today: $40.

Friday, 4 November 2011

food part 3

Are you tired of my menus yet? too bad. :-D

Today we were out of bananas, so for breakfast we just had oatmeal and milk. $3.
(That's $1 for a half-canister of generic oats, and $2 for a half-gallon of milk. (In England, I could get a canister of oats at Tesco for less than $1US.)

Lunch - some had peanut butter sandwiches, some had leftover pizza and qusadillas, Bob and I split a can of soup (bought on sale, with a coupon). Then the children each had a boiled egg (our own eggs, but for the sake of argument I'm figuring them in at $3 per dozen, the going rate for organic eggs) and a cup of canned fruit at $.50 each (Tesco sold it for less than half that!). Then some had chips. I'm totaling this meal at $9.

The girls made a big batch of sugar cookies, which I'm estimating at $4. The frosting will be another $1.

For dinner we are having homemade BBQ meatballs, which cost about $8 to make. (Ground beef was $3 per pound at Sam's; I used 2 lbs, plus oats, egg, onion, and spices; then ketchup, sugar, and spices in the sauce.) If you count the full price of everything (a whole bottle of garlic powder for the 1 tsp I used), it would be $16. We will have corncakes (never had before, sounded good) at $2.50. I usually make macaroni & cheese with BBQ meatballs, but I'm out of Velveeta and we don't like sauce from straight cheddar. hmm. Maybe a salad? Green beans? I'll haul out the leftover veg from Wednesday. So, grand total for dinner is $14.

That's $31 for the day. We just might have ice cream later, at $3 per (3 qt) tub.

Now, if I was "broke" and we were trying to get by on very little, we could eat oatmeal more frequently. Protein would be limited to chicken ($2 per pound for boneless breasts) and eggs, and fruit and veg would be hard to come by. Maybe the occasional Iceburg and carrot salad; those are still cheap, but have little value.

So even with eating comfortably, we'd be $6 under for the day on food stamps, and would be tempted to spend that on some indulgence like Hawaiian bread.

Now, I acknowledge that it would be harder to meat the challenge with only 1 or 2 in the family, because smaller size packages cost more per serving, and it would be harder to have a variety of foods. We are truly blessed to be able to live as comfortably as we do.

More on the "food stamps" program, esp for Ganeida. This program is strictly for food. Other expenses are covered (or not) by other programs. I can see where it would be a good idea to set limits - this prevents people from buying cigarettes (for instance) on taxpayer money. But it also encourages a lifestyle of splurges and poverty; as you have a set amount of money, you may as well spend it; in addition, if you have any money in savings you are disqualified. Again, I see the reasoning behind that, but it is unkind to the recipients. If you just gave them the cash, they could choose to eat cheaply and save up for other needed items (or blow it all on beer!).

So, again, no solutions here, just thinking out loud.

Food stamp pt 2

Just keeping tally of our eating expenses here, not trying to make a statement.

Yesterday we ate:
breakfast: oatmeal, bananas, milk - $4.50
lunch: chicken and cheese quesadillas, chips, leftover pineapple - $10.50
dinner: McDonald's - $22

Total - $37.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Food Stamp Challenge

"The DHM" over at http://heartkeepercommonroom.blogspot.com/ has been posting about the so called "Food stamp challenge". She blogs about a lot of other stuff, too, so you'll have to look around.

The point of the Challenge, as I understand it, is for Congresspeople to make a point of how difficult it is to eat of the average food stamp allowance of $1.50 per person, per meal. The point of "The DHM", as I understand it, is that the food stamp program as it exists is unkind because it doesn't teach people to make do/get by/be frugal, and when they get off the program they are lost as to how to eat on a budget.

So today as I was cooking dinner, I did a little math. Our family would get (assuming the average above) $40.50 every day to "supplement" our food budget (as the proper name for the program is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Hmm; that's about one meal out at Chick-Fil-A, or Golden Corral on the kid's night special. I then went on to add up what we spent on food for eating today, all 3 meals at home. I'm assuming you don't want the itemized list of ingredients.

For breakfast we had oatmeal, bananas, and milk.
For lunch we had cheese toast, fried organic eggs, and fresh pineapple.
For dinner we will have (it's on the table now) homemade pizza (with beef) and fresh veges with French Onion dip.

Not extravagant, maybe, but plenty of everything. Grand total for the day? $32.50.

So what do you think? Should Congress get a clue? Should we re-vamp SNAP to include some education? Cut benefits? Increase them? Throw out the whole program?

Book review: The Grace Effect

I recently signed up for a program whereby I receive free books (of my choosing, from a limited selection) in exchange for the writing of a review. So I choose The Grace Effect by Larry Alex Taunton.

My first impression was that the cover feels dirty. The red box on the front and the back cover are nice and slick, but the B&W photo has a gritty texture that I kept wanting to wipe off. But of course we mustn’t judge a book by its cover.
It is a good read. The book goes back and forth between an adoption story and musings on the effect of Christianity on civilization. I found both points interesting, but what kept me coming back to the book was the story; I wanted to know what happened next. (Yes, Ganieda, that’s how I read a book – deal with it!)
Is it well written? Well, I’m being super-picky here, but parts of it weren’t. I was looking for a quote to illustrate, but now I can’t find it. It is revealed at the end of the book that it is based on real-time blog posts, and was written quickly to get the thoughts on paper while they were still fresh. I understand the reasoning behind that, and it explains a lot of the tone of the book, as well as grammatical errors.
What’s the point of the book? Well, without giving any spoilers, it addresses the question “Is Christianity a good thing for society?” And it gives us affirmative evidence in the form of a first-hand account of a Ukrainian adoption. I agree with the author’s thesis, and as much as I enjoyed the narrative, I don’t think he made his point quite as strongly as he felt he did. I do plan to look for more books by this author to learn more of his apologetics.
Extras include a nice study guide at the back of the book as well as a thorough bibliography and a few family pictures.

Monday, 31 October 2011

accountability

There's a saying going around Facebook that says something like: The best thing about getting old in a small town is that if I forget what I'm doing, somebody else will know.

I'm not old yet, but I understand about other people knowing our business. We are blessed to live on a "through" road, so there is a bit of traffic past our house every day. A lot of that is from people we know, and even more is from people who know us. At least three families from our church live down our road, past our house. Another three families (or more) can get to their house from our road, and are related to people on our road. Next door is Bob's uncle; his cousin keeps hay in the barn adjoining our field.

I'm not good with faces, so I frequently run into people I've never seen before who ask about our children, or chickens, or some project we're working on. Today as I was walking the dog, a man 3 houses down was leaving in his car, and he backed up to ask me about our "little blue car" (the Mini). Really? If he walked past our house I wouldn't know from whence he came.

The Mennonites know who we are, though I can only distinguish a couple of them so far. Bob was identified as "the bucket guy" by the lady who works at the cake store, because he occasionally goes in to buy a food bucket. Surely other people do, too? Maybe we're just the only ones who don't buy a cake when we go in.

Anyway, I don't really have a point to all this, just a reminder to my self that people are watching all the time (and people aren't as forgiving as God) so I better be good.

Friday, 28 October 2011

giveaway on the other "olive" blog

Once upon a time I searched for Mama Olive or Oliveplants or some such derivative to see if Google knew about me, and I ended up on a blog called "Raising Olives." Guess what - they are another large, homeschooling family. We don't share all convictions, but I support 99% of what I read there.
Anyway, she is a lot bigger deal than I am and doesn't need my hat tip, but today she's hosting a giveaway of a study guide for Proverbs, by Kevin Swanson. You probably haven't heard of him, either, but he was the host of the Family Camp we went to in New Mexico back when Cedwryck was the baby. He also has a radio show.
So I want to win this book, and a blog post gets me 3 entries.

Raising Olives is here
.

Kevin Swanson's page, where you can buy the books, is here.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Funny!

I loved this skit! My American friends should know that Orange is a network, like Verizon, and a dongle is a little hardware thing that plugs into a computer.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

ears

A few days ago, Riah was not hearing anything. He would "Huh?" almost every statement, if he answered at all. We've had his hearing checked before, and the mechanics are all fine. After a day or two of this, I got off my procrastinator and looked in his ears.

Oh.

My.

They were so full of hard, thick wax that it looked like he'd broken off the tip of a crayon in there! I started digging, carefully but persistently. I worked out a couple of chunks, then poured in the peroxide and let it work awhile. And the next day I did it all again. I finally made some headway, and thought I'd got to the bottom of the problem one evening.

The next morning, Riah knocked on my bedroom door (it was 7am and we'd just got up) and said, "My ear hurts." I was immediately awash with guilt - what if I'd gone too far and poked something that isn't meant to be touched? So I answered that we HAD been doing a lot of poking around in there... When we got up we learned it wasn't my fault at all.

He had a small cut on the top of his ear, and the whole top half was a big ugly bruise! Ella said she heard Riah yell in the middle of the night, but Riah didn't remember doing so. We still don't know what happened, but the clues so far are: Riah was sharing Cedwryck's bed (maybe they were fighting in their sleep?),
There was a wind-up flashlight in the bed (the handle folds down, and he could have pinched his ear in there),
There was a "Bobby" hat in the bed (that Bob bought when he was in London for his sleep study) and it has a crack that could have pinched the ear.

The cut is heeled now, but the ear is still bruised and therefore I cannot dig any more. His hearing has improved somewhat, but is not back 100% yet.

Boys!!!!

Monday, 10 October 2011

A tale of two cakes

Riah's birthday was in late September, and William's was today.

Riah invited everyone he knew to come over for his party, and had me cook a feast for them, including a "castle" cake. He's had castles before, most notably the "Robin Hood" themed one in 2008, but this year he made it easy - he wanted one like Taryn had when she was 6. THAT castle is my Mom's fault - she made one for me at least 2 years when I was growing up, and she even made Taryn's that year, because it was just 2 weeks after Cedwryck was born. So I agreed to give it my best shot.

I started off with 2 9x13" chocolate cakes. Except the first one was cooling on the counter, minding its own business, when apparently someone walked over and sat on it. That was bad, but not a total loss, since one cake had to be cut up anyway. The second cake was therefore invested with all my hopes for perfection. It stuck to the pan. Completely torn in half. So what did I do? Left it there and went out to the flea markets in town with my parents, who were down for the party. Yes, the same mom who made the original and perfect castle cake that I was trying to emulate.

Anyway, time and frosting heal most wounds, and we ended up with this:


William's wants were a little different. His main goal for the day was to get to play Wii. He wanted to be home, with just us, and for his cake he wanted a car. He's had cars before, that being his main love in life - right next to puzzles. When he was little, he'd go to sleep with a Hot Wheels car instead of a stuffed animal. He had a pickup one year, and a car last year (not sure of the other year; it's written down in my cake book that's still packed in a box, in the building). Anyway, I wanted to do a "3D" car, not just a picture of one. Taryn and Naysha made the batter - a peanut butter cake, which turned out to be the perfect consistency for making a shaped cake - and Bob came up with the basic design of the cake. All I had to do was frost it.
It turned out looking way better than this; I know Bob's camera did something to make it look all smudged like that! I was so proud...


The writing was supposed to be purple, but looked pretty pinkish in real life. William didn't seem to mind.

a whole week!

I have a nice post planned, but I'm waiting on the pictures. ahem!

So anyway... Bob has just finished 2 weeks of online college. He's not a reader, so I've been helping him with that quite a bit. Taryn is helping teach the younger ones their math lessons.

College has proven to be stressful in many unexpected ways, and amusing in others. One assignment was to make a realistic calendar (homeschoolers call it a schedule) and post it to the class. One student had this to say: "don't know how to do the calendar thing this is bad and no help don't make it easy but my calendar would have easy to read and you coud fine it easy to and would show you how to make yours if you need one." huh.

Either way, it takes up a lot of time, and I'm learning things about Design that I hope I never have to use. We are also learning about each others learning styles, and natural intelegences and other psychological stuff. Apparently Bob learns best by looking at pictures in a group setting, with no music. I learn best alone, by reading, with music. So it is challenging for us to do the class together, but I think it's good for us. Also, he's a "global" learner, and I'm sequential. So when I help read the texts, I have to control the mouse - he's all over the page and it makes me dizzy!

Otherwise, we are raising the chickens, walking the dog, and finally harvesting some tomatoes. (Tomatoes are usually harvested around June/July, but mine are a little behind schedule.)

I see pictures in my future! Thanks, Bob.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

oh well

Was going to do a very clever diatribe about the death penalty and the media...

But the chocolate oat bars got done first, and chocolate trumps politics.

yummmmmm

(I guess now we all know why my blog isn't famous already.)

Thursday, 29 September 2011

nother short one

Well it's 11pm and I'm pooped, but Bob is schooling and so here we sit.

Tonight we had a real treat - the Mennonites came to our church. :-) We'd been told that they were sending a family to sing for us, and so expected maybe 8-10 people. We were wrong. There was a choir of about 40 young people, and several families came to watch and support the choir. There were more of "them" than of "us." And of course the singing was absolutely beautiful. A Capella, 4 part harmony, all crisp and clean. They did several contemporary songs that I recognized and a few old hymns. And afterward they stayed to visit. Now, the Anabaptists may be known for their cooking, which I'm sure is great, but they are really good at visiting. I had a nice in-depth conversation with Mrs. Y (whose husband and boys built our building), and got in a brief chat with a couple of others. They didn't seem distracted and in a hurry to get to someone or something else.

How did all this come about? Jesse (our deacon, if you have to put a title on it, I guess) and his wife have long been curious about the Mennonites in our community (they are a fairly recent addition), and like doing business with them in the two shops they have in town. When our family went to visit their church, Jesse really grilled us afterward, wanting to know about the singing, and the order of service, and everything. And apparently they did some singing at a funeral that Uncle Ken went to. So anyway, Jesse finally got up the nerve to ask somebody (probably their pastor/owner of the Huntsville Pantry), and they agreed to come out.

I'm so glad they did. :-)

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Incongruity

Yesterday I overheard two different young women as they held conversations that seemed slightly incongruous.

Both claim to be Christians.

One is going to a secular college to earn a degree in medicine, with the hopes of becoming a medical missionary.

The other is attending a Christian college to earn a teaching certificate so she can teach at a secular humanist school, while continuing to send her children off to other trained professionals.

Things that make me go "Hmmm."

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

contentment

When I was 17, my dad and I were privileged to stay for a week in Langshott Manor in England. Go ahead, click the link - I dare you. It was a little different then than now (was privately owned, for one thing), but just as nice. Anyway, I used to keep a diary, and I distinctly remember writing about how much I loved the place and that one day I hoped to find my own home as comfortable and welcome to me as that hotel was.

Today is the day!

Every time I walk through the door into my bedroom I smile and think to myself "I love this room!" And we're not even finished with it yet. I like everything about the room, from the bathroom tile to the bedroom bamboo floor; the two-tone purple, the simplicity of the bare walls, the natural stone of the back of the living room's fireplace, the soft bed with the Egyptian cotton sheets and my Granny's handmade quilt. The children are not allowed in the room, so it stays clean. It's tiny for a master bedroom, but that doesn't bother me. We still have some painting to do, followed by door and trim hanging, but I don't mind that. We have some major work still to do in the bathroom, but I know it will get done eventually.
One of these days I'll take a good picture and share with you, but for now it is my private retreat.

On to greater matters of contentment, which really manifests itself under less than ideal circumstances. We are a family of 9, living in 1300 square feet. Most people would consider that less than ideal, but it usually feels about right. I do get frustrated at the low ceiling, but that keeps us warm on chilly nights. We have enough room to eat and sleep and do all those things that we do in a house. We do have a lot of stuff in the building, and there are some toys that just can't be left out (train tracks or elaborate block buildings), but that's okay. We're getting organized (very slowly) and bring more things in all the time.

I'm not happy with my kitchen cabinets (made by amateurs 60 years ago), but I can live with that for a few more years until we can afford a fix, and I really enjoy the spaciousness of my kitchen. I like my garden and flower beds, and the lovely trees. We are still considered rural, but are only 5 minutes from town, and only 1 mile from the highway (in other words, perfect location). We do owe money on the house, but it is to MIL, and interest free.

I am content here. I think, really, we have it pretty good.

But then we get to talking to other people, who shall remain anonymous. Well, listening to other people talk, really. And we hear things like "2600 square feet" (exactly twice the size of our house, and only 2 people living there) coupled with "small living room" or even "no place to put" and "not enough closet space." And it agitates me. Partly because, to be honest, it stirs jealousy. And partly because I just can't get over how we all tend to think that we each have some terrible burden to bear that no one else can ever understand. And maybe it bothers me a little bit because it just seems rude for these things to be said in front of us. I mean, it'd be like a petite woman complaining to a medically obese woman about needing to lose 5 pounds to get ready for bikini season. Think about your audience, people! And there is one other matter, but it would ruin the anonymity of this situation.

So thanks for letting me vent. I really do like it here.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

pictoral review - my washer

So I've been planning this for a long time, and finally found my round to-it. (Most people claim they will do something when they GET a round to-it, but really they're just ashamed to admit that they've lost it.)

Remember when Bob proved his undying love for me by going shopping in the wee sma's of Black Friday? We snagged a new HE/Energy Star washer and dryer at Sears for 60% off. Now that I've had it almost a year, I feel qualified to give my honest review.

First off, I need to say that I don't know what the model number is. It's not printed on the machine anywhere. So there ya go.

Okay, what am I talking about?



What I like about it:




(top load is easy to get into, and with no agitator it is easy on clothes, holds more, and is as efficient as a front-loader)



(this is all one load!)



(This is the first bottle of detergent I've bought since we moved back to the US. I'm still using it! Yes, it's a big container, but we are 9, and it's been 10 months)

Things I don't like about it:



(THAT is also just one load. So my laundry room is always a mess.)

I really am pleased with the washer. The dryer's okay, too, but I haven't used it as much because it's still cheaper to use the line. Anyway, I like the pause (to add a garment), the soak, the delay start options. I like the cheerful little beeps it makes when I turn it on. We've had no issues at all with the mechanics. Thumbs UP.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

bummer day

(I wanted to title this "Tragedy" but didn't want to freak anybody out.)

This morning started out like any other. I didn't sleep well, and finally woke up about 6:30. I stumbled into the light only to realize the phone I'd taken to bed with me (so the post office could call when the chicks arrived) had gone dead. So I put it to charge, found the other phone (it had a half-charge) and sat down to read my Bible.

I was almost done with my chapter when the phone rang. I said, "Hello" and he said, "Hello, this is (insert name here) at the post office," and the phone went dead. At least I knew what he wanted. So I woke Bob up, and he agreed to make the trip into town to pick up the chicks. While he was gone, I read the weekly Psalm with the children and then we went out to set up the chick box. We'd just got finished when Bob came back.

One chick was dead upon arrival, and one has non-working legs and will be dead soon. The rest are lively and curious. Our breed list: 2 Buff Laced Polish, 3 Black Leghorn, 2 Black Polish, 2 Crevecoeur, 4 Fayoumi, 2 Exchequer Leghorn, 7 Lakenvelder, 2 White Jersey Giant, and 2 White La Fleche. So, quite an interesting mix! The Polish are the ones with frizzy "hair" on top instead of combs, and the Crevecoeur have mohawks. Jersey Giants look normal, but are more like the size of a turkey. Leghorns are very common, but the Exchequer color is rare (it's black and white). Oops, I lost track of the others, but they are all pretty and most of them are unusual.

Once the chicks were settled, I got Serenity and started on our walk. We had just past our property line when I saw a dead animal on the side of the road, and then it hit me: it was Tiger! I gave a yelp, and ran sobbing back home. Just hearing that he'd died might have elicited a few tears, but running into him like that all unexpectedly kinda hit me hard. Anyway, I managed to blurt out what was going on, and Bob went to collect the body while I cried with the children (mostly Riah).

Once Bob got back I went on with my walk, and we made it the full two miles! That's all the way to the highway and back. When I first started walking Serenity in the mornings, I was able to go 1.2 miles. To make it longer now, I will have to go the other direction. :-)

After breakfast we had a funeral - Bob even made a headstone - out under a big oak tree. We were spent by the time that was all over, and decided to go out for lunch.

McDonald's, and then some shopping just in Huntsville, and back home. We WERE planning to go to the Tulsa Zoo today, as it's a special deal for members, with free train rides and tours of the keepers' rooms, etc. But Bob was already hurting by the time we had lunch, and as emotionally drained as we were, we decided to just not.

Oh, also today our picture order came in, with portraits from our VBS, but the poster-size we'd ordered for our bedroom got mixed up in the lab, and instead of a sepia English village we had a color pic of a bride we'd never met! Bob emailed the company and they answered right away... they'll re-send our pic and said we could throw away the other.

So, now I guess it's time to fix supper. Comfort food, anyone? Funny, I don't care much for chicken casserole as a rule, but whenever I try to think of something comforting I always pull out Meemaw's chicken noodle casserole recipe.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

What I've been up to

Because I know you are all dying to hear. ;-)

The last 2 or 3 days I've been laid out with a terrible cold. I was wheezing, snorting, coughing, aching... and I slept like a kebab (rolling over and over). But today I feel much better.

The weather took a lovely turn on Sunday, coming down from 100* highs to 78*. At night it's been in the upper 40s. No rain involved in the front, just absolutely gorgeous temps.

We had Bob's family over on Monday (Labor Day - a government holiday), so of course we had to rearrange the furniture last week, as well as the shopping, cooking, and cleaning. And just to keep it interesting, when we were out on Friday I bought a box full of ripe peaches. So Friday night and Saturday I made peach jam. And to add to the challenge, Bob went to an auction Monday morning while the girls and I cleaned house. He bought an old coal forge and a 4 wheeler. Still rolling my eyes at that one, but the rest of the family enjoys it.

Today I sent off draft #1 of Bob's travel voucher. This is the paperwork to get him paid for the moving expenses. Good thing retirees are allowed a full year to get it filed. Bad thing that when we stopped at Tinker AFB way back in the Spring, the guy that is paid to help with this sort of thing decided he really didn't have to.

Thursday we get another set of baby chicks. We hope more of these will be girls, as every day more of the others look more like roosters. The "4-H chickens" (red sex link) are laying well, but the mixed batch hasn't started yet.

Along with the furniture rearranging, we finally got the children's computer hooked up, and they are very glad to relearn all their games.

I've planted some Fall garden seeds, a little too late, but one never knows. Broccoli, rutabaga, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, spinach, and cress. My tomatoes have recovered from the hornworm onslaught, but still aren't producing anything. My cucumbers were still going strong, but I finally got tired of making pickles, so started growing the cukes bigger for cinnamon pickles, and the vines are now slowly dying. The bell peppers never really did anything, and as the sweet potatoes vine closer the pepper plants wilt away. The herbs have done very well. I've used some fresh and dried some, and I need to trim them again!

Serenity is growing, and losing some of her black. I walk her every morning (except yesterday when I was too ill), and she is responding very well to me now. Still won't fetch anything. She and Tiger both have fleas, in spite of the Advantage Plus monthly treatment, so we are working on a solution for that.

So I guess I could say I've "been busy" but that leaves too much to the imagination. I've been reading "The Light and the Glory" by Peter Marshall, jr, and it is challenging me on several areas.

Last night Bob and I watched "Divided" the movie online for free at http://www.dividedthemovie.com/ . VERY thought provoking. You should check it out and see if you agree with Christianity Today banning ads for it.

So anyway, it's lunch time. Bye!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Chicken poo: it's what's for dinner

Doesn't sound quite as nice as the advertising phrase "Beef: it's what's for dinner," does it?

We got a newsletter this week from the U of Arkansas agriculture extension service, and among tips for seeding pasture and keeping worms at bay was a brief notice. (I'd love to quote it directly, but have mislaid the paper.) It said that to offset the scarcity of hay this winter, farmers can feed their cows chicken litter!! Now I know that cows process their food several times, and beef is not the same as grass, but still... SOMEthing of the original has to remain!

ick. The more I know about agriculture, the less I want to eat anything from a conventional grocery store.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

still tired

I've been getting about 6 hours of sleep per night, walking the dog first thing in the morning, reading my Bible, having breakfast, working in the garden, making pickles... And then comes lunch and the rest of the day!

Today we were in town for several hours. Not long after getting home, I asked Taryn to start a load of laundry. After all, we're having people over on Monday and I don't want giant piles of dirty clothes. Anyway, after a few minutes she popped back in the kitchen wanting to know how to clean cat feces out of the dryer. Huh? Tiger had been shut in the dryer for at least the time we were in town! He is fine, just a little stinky. But any thought I had of having it all together is now long gone.

This is what happens when Bob preaches on humility.

Friday, 19 August 2011

misc



Words are fast failing me as it's already getting late and we haven't been sleeping well for a week or two. But I wanted to share some stuff... I'm positive there were at least three posts worth... hm. Anyway, we worked on the "closet" some this week.


The cukes are still doing well, and the tomatoes are over my head. This was one day's haul.



Today we went to the fairgrounds to check on our entries. There were a couple of frustrations, for instance Naysha took a picture of Taryn goofing off in the back of the van, and entered it as "People" (not posed). She got a white ribbon (here every entry gets a ribbon - white is close to being disqualified and not to be confused with third place), and on the comment section the judge wrote "this WAS posed." But we knew it wasn't, so we didn't have to feel bad about getting poor marks. Naysha got Grand Champion on her 4-H pullet chain hens, and Taryn got Reserve Grand Champion. (They were just the first 8 hens that Bob grabbed to take up there. But apparently they were our layers, because we went from 6 eggs per day to 2.) Naysha got Reserve Grand on a photo. I got Grand Champion on my watermelon rind pickles. And several entries got 1st or 2nd place. Made me happy.

So the other things to mention were the washer, but that gets a whole post, and our bedroom, but I need pictures for that. So I guess that's it for now.


Wednesday, 17 August 2011

parade float pictures




Apparently you have to type something to go with the pictures or they all just disappear. Trying again.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

parade

Today was the parade, and official start of Madison County Fair.

Our 4-H club had agreed to do a float for the parade. We volunteered our trailer, and therefore became the principal players. For the last two weeks or so, another family has been coming over to help build the stage. The theme of the parade was "Hawaii" and we decided to do a memorial to the veterans of Pearl Harbor. What we ended up with was an aircraft carrier, with planes on deck and overhead, control tower with rotating satellite, and a backdrop of Hawaiian islands. Banners declared our club affiliation and our float purpose.

It was a lot of work for a few people, and the occasional feeling was hurt, but we pulled together in the end and got it done.

Our float was awarded second place, with the Boy Scouts coming in first (they had a tent and campfire - not sure what else). I got to drive the van, pulling the trailer; Elijah was in his seat, William rode with Bob in the Mini, and the other children were on the trailer. We waved and threw candy. It was fun, but slightly hot, and now it's over. We took some pictures; maybe I can get some from Bob in a day or two.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

baptism pt 2

I know that many churches "do" baptism differently than we do. I understand that some baptize infants because they believe the act imparts grace to the child and helps on the road to salvation. Some baptize infants because they view it as a sign of the covenant between God and His people, something like the OT circumcision. I can see the merits of both of these arguments, and I'm not here to say those ideas are wrong; I just want to say why we do things the way we do.

First, why baptize at all? This is actually the harder question for me. It's just one of those things that churches do. So let's dig a little... The first time we hear about anyone baptizing was John as "Mark 1:4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." I'll be honest: I don't understand how getting wet remits ones sins. But I'll accept that baptism is a symbol of the spiritual work done in a person's life.

Second, why "believer's baptism"? We believe that baptism is symbolic of repentance and faith in Jesus, and only a person of certain age and mental capacity can experience those. Therefore it is fitting to baptize people who have professed faith in Jesus and repentance of sins, as "Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." And "Acts 8:36, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest."

Third, why immersion? It's my understanding that the word baptism actually implies immersion. But beyond that,
"Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Immersion best pictures the death and resurrection, at least to me.

I think that about covers it. Thanks for sitting in on my lesson. :-)

Monday, 8 August 2011

baptism

Why is it baptism but baptized? Seems like it would be s or z in both words.

I want to do this properly, but I see that several people have checked on the blog in the last couple of days, so better get something out there.

Today our church had a baptism, and Taryn, Naysha, and Riah were all baptized by Bob.

A brief how and why, because I understand that other churches do things differently.
How is easy - we have a small building, so no built-in pool. So we have an old-fashioned meeting on the river bank, and those giving and receiving baptism go out into the river. Today we had our regular meeting inside the church, sandwiches in the fellowship room, and then carpooled to a private river access about 8 miles away. There was a sermonette, a couple of hymns, and then into the water.

Bob says he's ready for bed, so the why will have to wait. I hope to get back tomorrow, but we have a lot planned already.

Monday, 1 August 2011

details

Did you want to know how Thursday went? To keep it short, we had our cousin Betty and her granddaughter McKenna come over to keep the children out of the way. It helped a lot. They came about 9:30, as we expected the movers about that time. Well, about 10:30 I called the company, and they said the truck should be here about 1pm. So Betty went back home to get her laundry done; McKenna stayed to play. About 2:30 the movers called from Springdale to let us know they'd had a flat and would get here as soon as they could. At 5:00 Bob called the company, and they said the guys were on their way, and we weren't to worry; we'd still get a full-service job. At 6:ish the truck showed up. It was a full size flat-bed semi, and the driver didn't think he could make it up the driveway, though Jesse (who came over after work) thought he should have tried.
Anyway, it was nearly 7 before they got the first load onto a dolly and up the driveway, and it was about 11:30pm when they left. Bob and I used our flashlights to illuminate the crates and the ramp as the guys unpacked everything. We were cordial, as we knew the whole thing wasn't the fault of the actual movers, and they were very glad that all they had to do was stack things in the garage, and were very careful and friendly. The girls went to sleep about 10, on the floor of our family closet, and the boys finally conked out on the sofas. Bob and I made it into our own bed at midnight.

Do you want to know how Saturday went?
Bob and I woke up together, and I planned to walk the dog while he supervised the children. Except the leash is in the van. In the shop. In Springdale. So I went out anyway, to teach her to play fetch. But the cat interrupted, and then Bob did. So I went to pick cucumbers; got 16! But didn't start pickles because I wanted to take some fresh to church lunch Sunday. I made a pasta bake to take, and after it cooled I went to put it in the fridge. First had to remove the old dehydrated grapes - you know, the package we bought the day after everyone stopped liking grapes? So I set them on the floor as I made the switch, but Elijah came and started on the grapes. I told him no and took it away, and he immediately did a handstand in the pasta. Then I went outside for some fresh air, and found a half load of laundry souring in the basket. The girls got distracted while hanging clothes. The GM place called, and they can't figure out the van, so Monday they will send it to their diesel tech in Siloam Springs. All day we were waiting for MIL to come over, as she indicated she'd get some groceries for us and come look at our home improvements. But she finally called to say it would be Sunday before she could make it. Someone got in the building and knocked over 2 bookshelves. .... That's just the way it was. Then Sunday night Jesse preached about being content because we have Jesus. (Hebrews 13:5). So I'm not complaining, I just wanted to let you know how Saturday went. Cause, you know, people tend to think we're perfect. HAHAHAHAHA Yeah, we don't have to deal with that one.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

product review - plastic wrap

Why do people even use plastic wrap? Known in the UK as "cling film," and among many Americans by a popular brand name "Saran wrap," this thin clear plastic is a staple in kitchens everywhere, and just as universally cursed. It's supposed to form a self-sealing film over any material or shape, thus maintaining freshness of the item covered.

Over the years I've used Glad Cling Wrap, Saran, Target store brand, and various others. Most brands stick to themselves more than their intended recipient, tear easily except for attempts to tear off a piece, and are generally more trouble than they are worth. But we keep trying.

Once I bought a roll of "Sam's Choice" - the WalMart store brand - and was pleasantly surprised. It was thicker, consistently sticky to objects other than itself, and quite strong. But, of course, they discontinued it. I'd almost forgotten the stuff until we moved in to Grandma's house, and she had an old roll in the kitchen. Ah, it was nice while it lasted.

But then, a few weeks ago, I saw a package in WalMart labeled Great Value Professional strength, with a little blurb on the side claiming it was the same as the old Sam's Choice brand. I gladly purchased a box, and even let my Mom know about it.

The Great Value wrap is very thick and strong. It sticks well to most surfaces. This may be hard to grasp, but we used it on our floor glue bucket, to keep the glue from drying out so quickly. We were able to open and close the bucket multiple times, as the glue grew ever thicker on the wrap, without any tears or loss of use. In short, impressive. I do have one complaint (of course). The box is worthless. It's designed for the wrap to pass through a slot in the lid, in theory keeping the wrap from sticking to itself and easy to "start." The problem is that the slot isn't as wide as the roll, so if you use it the edges of the roll don't unroll, tearing off gradually wider strips off the edges until you are left with a big mess to unravel. sigh. I use mine by pulling the whole tube out of the box, measuring out what I need, putting it back in the box, and cutting it off with the tear strip. Very inconvenient, but I guess it's worth it because the product works, and as far as I know no other brand does. I do wish they'd make a better dispenser, though.

Friday, 29 July 2011

What we did yesterday.

I'm rather tired to be typing, so I'll let my little friend do the talking for me.

Yesterday, we went from this:



To this:



Followed by this:



With a little of this on the side:



And then, just to keep from getting bored, I did this:

Thursday, 28 July 2011

product review - razors

Okay, you know me, I can't do anything in a straightforward manner.

I started shaving my legs at age of 10, using BIC disposables. OUCH! Cuts, burns, and not a close shave. Saw that my Granny used Personal Touch razor with disposable heads, so I got one of those and used it until I got married. Bob is the one who taught me to use hot water, which softens the hair and allows a closer cut. Nice!

He used Gillette, so I got the women's Gillette razor with disposable heads (is there a name for that style? I can't think of it.), and it was pretty nice. Then they started adding blades and revamping everything. When Gillette went to the Venus razor, I switched to Schick Quattro because I don't believe in goddess worship. It cut all right, but since I don't shave every day my hair is a little long sometimes, and it clogged up in the blades. I compensated by wiping the blades with a fingernail brush after every pass.

But then! Last week I couldn't find my razor. We were going swimming, I needed to shave. Bob has two Gillette Fusion bodies (because he lost one once); one had just had the head changed, and the other needed a change. So I got the old razor, put a fresh head on, and my life changed forever. Well, that may be a LITTLE dramatic. The Fusions scare me a little because of the single exposed blade on the back, but I can deal with that. It glided through my hair. I felt no pulling sensation AT ALL. And the blades are spaced so that the hair easily slipped through without clogging up. I got done in record time, and had the smoothest legs ever. (Well, if you don't count the varicose veins.)

It was so much better than anything I've experienced before. I wonder why "they" can't make a women's razor this nice. Well, I've long used men's Edge Shave Gel, I guess I can use a men's Gillette Fusion razor. It was just plain NICE, and I have no reason to look anywhere else for an easy, painless, close shave.

probably should write something

There have been some developments...

We got the master bedroom floor clean, finally. Turns out the dried glue does come off, you just have to scrub it. We got all the trim painted and most of it up (haven't framed the door yet because that's the wall I haven't painted yet). We bought curtains and hung them, and picked out a ceiling fan and installed it.

Then, Tuesday, we went to Springdale to visit MIL (it was her birthday - 60!), and went to Lowe's to pick out a new door, door knob, and possibly our bathroom cabinet/sink. We walked around the store for a couple of hours, finally deciding that we would talk to our cousin's husband, who has a cabinet shop, to see what he could do for us. We got a door and knob, and headed out for dinner. I started the van as Bob returned the cart, and it gasped and died. Tried again, and it wouldn't start. huh.

Well, long story much shorter, we got Jesse to come out from Huntsville to pick us up and take us back home. He even stopped at McD's so we could have some burgers. We made it home about 9pm. This morning Bob drove back out in his Mini, replaced a fuse that he suspected. It didn't solve the problem. So he contacted the dealership across the street. They towed him over (for $55!!!!) and promised to diagnose it this afternoon. We didn't hear back from them today.

While Bob was having all that fun, the children and I cleaned the building, the yard, and the house. Tomorrow is the big day; furniture arriving! Most will be stacked in the building, but our beds, chests, and dining furniture will come straight in. Then we get to spend the next 10 years sorting through the boxes. :-)

I started another batch of pickles today, as the cukes continue to do well. And tried a couple of new recipes that we liked. I'm worn OUT.

Monday and Tuesday I walked with Serenity for about a mile before breakfast. The first day she pulled quite a bit, but finally got the hang of it. Tuesday she walked right beside me the whole time. Smart dog! I didn't go out today because I knew I'd be on my feet all day anyway. I hope to go again tomorrow.

Friday, 22 July 2011

garden pics

I'm rather proud of my garden lately... Here is Cedwryck among the cucumbers and tomatoes. A few carrots and onions grace the borders, and maybe a marigold or two.


Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Monday

Yes, it's Wednesday; what's your point?

Monday we woke up with a plan. Our furniture was coming Friday and we wanted to get our new bedroom ready for our bed. The goal - to install our solid bamboo floor. We'd watched several "how to" videos, read the label and the website for our glue, and were motivated.

First we laid out a few rows "dry" to make sure about measurements past the little closet. Bob cut the planks around the door frame, and to start and finish each row. I calculated that we would hit the fireplace (and the far wall) with 2/3 of a plank width left, so we didn't need to "rip" any for the first row. What we did need, however, was more shims - the little spacers that go along the walls. So Bob went to town for shims while I took apart what we'd lain and stacked it in order, and had lunch.

You keeping up? It was after lunch before we got started. But we decided to go ahead, because Tuesday we had 4-H, and if we did it Wednesday and something went wrong it would be too late to fix it.

Anyway, I swept the floor thoroughly, including scraping up paint blobs and miscellaneous dirt, and Bob pried open the 5 gallon can of glue. Now the videos we watched showed the guy quickly and easily pouring the glue straight from the bucket, but that must have been nearly empty because ours was heavy and awkward. It was thick, but runny, so Bob couldn't just scoop it with the trowel like he did for the bathroom tile. He's too smart to be put off with a little difficulty, though, and came up with an empty Hershey cocoa can (it's plastic, but I don't know what else to call it) to scoop out the glue.

So he scooped, troweled, and set in the first row (I helped). After 3 rows we noticed that the boards weren't really staying together. We knew that the videos suggested putting down strips of painters tape to hold the boards until the glue dried, but they indicated doing this over 5 rows together, after the whole room was laid down. But we discovered the most effective way to get the job done was to tape EACH INDIVIDUAL BOARD as we held it into place. Which doesn't even sound that bad, but you have to realize that whoever was holding the board would get at least one body part into the glue, which then dripped onto the floor, and had to be cleaned immediately with mineral spirits. Everyone says it cleans of easily right away with mineral spirits, but only hint about how hard it is to get off if it ever dries. They don't even give tips on how to clean it after drying - just don't let it dry.

Anyway, once we figured out the proper method, it wasn't too bad (just tedious). We managed to get the whole room done without losing our tempers even once. oh, yeah!
We were about 1/3 of the way through when the phone rang, and the caller ID showed "US Government" and I answered anyway. ;-) It was our friendly local transportation office, wanting to schedule our furniture delivery. I thought it was scheduled. She checked - no, that Friday date was the time for it to be turned over to them to be delivered. sigh. Same as when we got our storage stuff. So we scheduled for the following Thursday. Another week. So we could have put off the floor for another day or two, but we were already started.

It was about this time that we noticed the glue was getting nice and thick. Ummm, the glue is about $100 per bucket... it had better not go bad on us half-way across a small room! Bob's brain to the rescue again. He got some plastic wrap (cling film) and covered the bucket in between scoops, and while it continued to thicken, it was at a much slower rate.

I got another phone call from the government, wondering why I hadn't filled out my "completely anonymous" military life survey they'd sent recently. Umm, way to encourage trust in your promises of anonymity! The reason was that the survey had no option for retired folks.

The children cleaned the house, rinsed and mixed the pickles for me, watched a video, and played their harmonicas very loudly.

We finally got finished about 8pm, did Bible time with the children and put them to bed, then had our supper at 9:30 (Bob actually went to Sonic and got us burgers and ice cream). Elijah was so glad to see us when we came in, it was sweet - he just smiled and hugged us.

By the time we got going, I started pouring and troweling the glue while Bob cut the boards, and by the time we finished my hands and feet were pretty solid black and sticky. I washed several times in the mineral spirits, tried baking soda, and finally resigned myself to being sticky for a while.

As of Wednesday afternoon my hands are clean, but I still have spots on my arms and legs. My feet are still pretty black. Last night Taryn and I scraped off some glue, but when I tried again this morning it pulled the skin off so I quit.

We had Taryn take a picture, but I don't have it on my computer yet.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

recipes

Crispy Sweet Pickles with tips from my mother.
This recipe is what I grew up with. I'd eat these pickles plain on saltine crackers, on hamburgers, or any other way I could get them.

25 to 30 small cucumbers (less amount for larger ones)
1 cup pickling lime
1 gallon water

8 cups vinegar
8 cups sugar
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 teaspoon canning salt

Thoroughly wash cucumbers. Slice crosswise, 1/8 inch thick. Place in a glass or other non-aluminum container.

Dissolve lime in water (use non-aluminum container.) Pour over cucumbers. Let set for 24 hours. (The pickling lime package says to refrigerate, but I have been making these for over 20 years and have always let them set on the counter.)

Drain cucumbers -- NOT INTO SINK. (If you have plants that like limy soil as opposed to acid, pour the lime water around them.) Rinse in clear, cool water 4 times, making sure to remove all the lime. Handle carefully as they are brittle. Cover with clear, cool water and let stand for three hours. Drain. Set aside.

Mix vinegar, sugar, cloves, and salt until sugar is dissolved. Pour over cucumber slices. Let stand overnight.

Place cucumbers and syrup in a large pot; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 35 minutes. (Meanwhile sterilize jars.) Ladle cucumbers and syrup into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Remove air bubbles with non-metal tool. Add more liquid if needed. Wipe rim and threads of jar. Cap each jar according to directions with lids.

Process in boiling water bath: pints 5 minutes; quarts 10 minutes. (The new FDA guidelines recommend 10 minutes for pints and 15 for quarts.)

Makes about 10 pints or 5 quarts.

Tips:
1. check your jars for nicks around the rim
2. use new lids -- the flat pieces
3. you can reuse the rings, but no rusty ones.
4. wash jars, rings and lids in hot soapy water, rinse well.
5. I always sterilize the jars before filling -- this is easy to do. Fill the canner with water, put the jars in, bring to a boil, reduce heat to keep it at a gentle rolling boil for 15 min. Do this while the pickles are boiling.
6. Leave the jars in the hot water with the burner off until ready to fill.
7. Take the jars out one at a time, dumping at least a part of the water into another container (if you dump all the water back into the canner, it will be too full) and fill them with pickles following recipe directions.
8. Be sure to wipe the top edge and the outside "screw rings" with a clean wet cloth before putting the lids and rings on.
9. Follow the directions that come on the box of lids about heating them before use.
10. Screw the rings firmly tight, but not over-tight, and place back in the canner of hot water.
11. Always place hot jars on a folded towel and not the bare counter; the cold against the hot jar could cause the jar to crack.



Onion-ginger relish
This recipe has a little story... I first tried an onion-ginger relish at the Cheddar Gorge cheese factory, absolutely loved it and bought a jar. Their website is here. I shared around at Christmas and New Year's. But it finally went bad, so I started looking for a recipe, and finally found this one. 200 versions of watermelon rind pickles on the web, but only one onion-ginger relish.

2 large quartered onions (I used 10 pearl onions because that's what I've got from my garden so far)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (I didn't have that, and the bought jar listed apple cider vinegar, so I used 2 T apple cider vinegar, 2 T red wine vinegar)
1 piece (2 inches long) ginger root, peeled, chopped
1/2 apple, chopped, optional (I didn't use; not in the bought stuff)
1 tablespoon whole coriander, crushed,Or 1 teaspoon ground OPT (I didn't use; the bought jar said "spices" but I generally don't like coriander)
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 sprig fresh thyme (I used 1/2 tsp dried - I planted some thyme this spring, but either it didn't make it, or it morphed into oregano)
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Place onions in baking dish; toss with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste; bake until softened, stirring once, about 45 minutes. Let cool; slice. (I just chopped the onions coarsely and cooked in skillet over low heat with oil, salt and pepper.)

Place onions and remaining ingredients in medium saucepan. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Serve hot, chilled or at room temperature. Remove thyme sprig before serving. Makes 2 cups.

(We did the official tasting today, and liked it quite well. The only thing is, it's kind of dry. I wonder if I should add water before the simmering stage if I decide to make more and can it.)

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

news

I was going to do a short blurb on Facebook, but realized there are several things worth mentioning.

You know Bob is getting money from the VA for being disabled. In spite of the program being called "Disability Benefits at Discharge" he didn't get his first payment until 5 months after discharge. We *thought* there would be a retroactive payment (backpay), but I got tired of waiting and contacted the VA last week. Today we got a letter in the mail, and a deposit in the bank!! Not as much as I'd hoped for (and I can't figure out why), but it is a nice bonus and not to be sneezed at.

We finally got the order for our furniture delivery!!! The movers should be here next Friday. Oh, that means we have to get to work. Anyone want to come visit this week and help lay wood floor, paint, or tile a shower? I'll feed you well. If you want to crawl under the house and hook up the shower, we might reimburse your traveling expenses.

I'm making pickles!!! I have the cucumbers sliced and soaking in lime water. I haven't done this in YEARS and it is so exciting. I really like homemade crispy sweet pickles. There isn't even a poor substitute available in stores.

ALSO, this morning I made one jar's worth of onion-ginger relish. We haven't had an official taste-testing, but the bit I licked off my finger while dishing it up was very nice.

Today we took Sergeant to an outdoor 4-H meeting, and the professional dog lady confirmed Bob's suspicions that "he" is really a GIRL! I kept thinking he was just immature. Anyway, we need to rename her - maybe Serenity. And, while she praised us for bringing the dog out, she said we ought to deworm her again (she'll bring stuff next week), feed higher quality food, and keep the dog out of the cat food and litter.

Our church is having revival meeting this week.

We are trying strawberry omelettes for supper.

In the garden, some freaky caterpillars have eaten EVERY leaf off our walnut tree. The zucchini gave up the ghost. The toms still haven't brought forth fruit. Obviously the cukes are doing well. And yesterday I got my sweet potato slips. Planted out one variety this morning; will do more tonight or tomorrow.