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


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


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.

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.