Saturday, May 23, 2015

Commencement!

Last Sunday was Allison's commencement ceremony.  She shared the day with two longtime friends, which made it extra nice.

I stressed about the details ahead of time, mostly the question of what I might be leaving out of my planning.  We used the program from Julianne's graduation as our starting point but I had niggling worries about what I was forgetting to do that I didn't even know I was supposed to be doing.  

The worries were for naught as everything came together beautifully and the kids were happy with it, which was really all that mattered, right?

Each of the graduates agreed to do a special musical piece.  Julianne played for Allison as she sang "He Leadeth Me".  Molly played guitar and sang, Josh played a cajon (that drum box you can see behind Allison) while his brother played guitar and a friend sang.  With only three graduates, it was nice to be able to see each of them share their talents.

The big moment!


Each of the grads had a customized cap.  Allison made hers-she used a pink paisley with a little glitter in the design...perfect!  Molly enhanced her cap with "Now I'm like this cylinder-we're both graduated" and a drawing of a cylinder.  Josh had Star Wars fabric on his cap, which totally surprised me because I don't think he knew the girls were doing anything unusual with theirs.  I loved their creativity and individuality.

This is the FIAR friends group shot.  Our group dwindled down to these three families the past few years and it's amazing to me to think about how long these kids have been friends.  I'm so glad Molly made sure they were invited.


We were delighted that so many people we care about were able to share in the day.  Their presence was so appreciated as we marked this milestone in Allison's life.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Traditions

For several years when the girls were younger, we had a Fat Tuesday tradition.

I had tried purchasing Paczkis at the grocery store but no one here was all that impressed.  Maybe if we lived near a Polish bakery it would have been different but, as an alternative, I tried my hand at making fried cakes like my mom had made a few times when I was growing up.  They were a big hit and a tradition was born (because, you know, it only takes one time to start a tradition).  One year, as I fried doughnuts in the kitchen, Clarence and the girls ate them in the dining room pretty continuously.  I had no idea how many the girls had consumed until Allison ended up sick in the night from too many doughnuts.

Our schedule changed and we ended up forgoing our tradition for several years because we were at co-op every Tuesday.  Since that is no longer the case, I decided to revive the tradition this year...but I only made a half batch this time!

I tried baking a couple in the oven, and a couple more in the mini-doughnut maker I have, hoping to find a lower fat cooking method that was satisfactory.  Both produced very dry doughnuts so it was back to frying in oil. 


I decided to see if I could cook them on our woodstove in Clarence's cast iron wok and it was surprisingly successful.


My friend who insists we are homesteaders will see this as more proof that she's right.  The woodstove, cooking on it, and using cast iron-all hallmarks of homesteaders, apparently.
 

Shaken in some cinnamon sugar, they were a tasty dessert tonight.  I'd call it a homesteading success, if I were actually a homesteader.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Bathroom remodel


Clarence has been plugging away at remodeling our bathroom for a while now and it is finally pretty much done.  We still need trim around the door but that has to wait for spring, because I'm the painter around here and I don't want to stain and polyurethane the trim until I can do it outside.  I'm not sure why it didn't occur to me to get it done before the weather turned cold...


This is our rotating shower curtain rod.  You know those curved rods they have in many hotel rooms?  This is like that, except that it rotates into the tub when not in use, so the room isn't dwarfed by the shower curtain sticking out into the room.  With our narrow room, this is important to us.


Our Ikea cabinets, sink and faucet.  I don't completely love the sink/faucet combo, but only because it's impossible to wash your hands without water splashing out of the sink.  Otherwise, it's fantastic as we get a full top drawer under the sink, not a partial one with a cut-out for the plumbing.

This is the light fixture that I probably paid too much for, especially when Clarence had to build that box out from the wall in order to mount it.  But, it's really pretty in person and he is so good to me to figure out a way to make it work.


After changing our fixtures from chrome, we switched out the ugly, old, brown register for this brushed stainless one.  I think it's kind of funky and fun.


Another big change is the wall-mount toilet.  I loved the idea of being able to mop around and under more easily and we like the insulated tank in the wall-no more condensation puddles under the toilet in the summer!


I pinned a woven-top curtain on Pinterest a while back, planning to use the idea for the bathroom curtain.  I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out the best way to accomplish the look I wanted and finally had to overcome my fear of doing it wrong in order to just.do.it.already.  I'm happy with the final outcome and, like many things I procrastinate about due to fear of failure, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.

I don't think our paint color is quite accurate in any of these pictures-it's blue with a touch of green in it.  It's a color I chose at Home Depot, in an attempt to match one of the stripes in the shower curtain.

We never had a vent fan in our old bathroom.  I hated having to clean the mildew off the ceiling above the shower, so I'm thrilled to have a (nice and quiet) fan now.  I also love the timer Clarence put it on, so no fears of all our heat being sucked outside because someone forgot to turn the fan off.  Another impulse purchase was a ground-fault outlet with an automatic night light.  We always had a night light plugged in anyhow, so this eliminates the need for that.

Clarence put a lot of work into this project and I am so happy with the outcome.  Thanks for taking a look!

(Many specific products are on my "Bathroom Ideas" Pinterest board if you want to find links to any of these items.)

Friday, August 22, 2014

The start of canning season

Our garden is finally picking up speed.  Each year, the trees in our yard shade the garden just a bit more which, in turn, slows down the harvest a bit more.  We have generous friends who have shared their beans, dill, cucumbers, and tomatoes with us long before we've gotten a taste of our own so we've been able to enjoy garden fresh treats while waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.

August finally brought us beans from our garden so, with my friend's dill, I was able to make dilly beans.

In fact, my friend shared so much dill with me that I made a couple batches of dilled carrots as well (though not with homegrown carrots-those prepared carrots from the store are a huge time saver).  Our dill will be ready any day now.  Now that I don't need it.

Recently, Julianne took some meat down to the freezer for me and found the door not quite closed.  Thankfully, I only lost the contents of the door.  Almost everything else was still frozen hard-except some of my berry supply.  My blueberries and raspberries still had blocks of frozen berries but they also had some liquid in the bags that isn't normally there.  After I had already dumped a couple bags of strawberries, it dawned on me that I could thaw them the rest of the way and make something, rather than pitching them all.  As a result of that decision, I tried a new recipe for Bumbleberry jam-blueberry, raspberry, and strawberry-perfect!


 I also tried making blueberry syrup, which are the larger jars in back.  The jam is good enough that it might be an addition to my annual "to-can" list


The first of our cucumbers were ready a few days ago.  I didn't think there were enough to do much with, other than eating them fresh.  I weighed them, though, and had exactly enough for a batch of bread and butter pickles.


Honestly, we aren't big pickle eaters here, though you wouldn't know it by looking at what I've canned so far.  The girls love the bread and butter pickles and we use the dill ones here and there.  I like having them on hand for relish trays I may take somewhere and I have some friends who are thrilled to take care of the excess dilly beans in particular. 

Since making all this stuff, I've canned 21 quarts of green beans and am finishing up a dozen more as I type.  And I was worried we weren't going to get many beans this year.

Our tomatoes are just getting started. Hopefully, they will produce well enough to yield a lot of tomato sauce and salsa this year.  It's been a couple years since we've had a really plentiful crop of tomatoes so I'm hoping this year will be abundant.  Michigan peaches are due soon and I have a peach-tomato salsa recipe we all enjoy so we're keeping our fingers crossed that the peaches and tomatoes will be ready at the same time.

Ah, the joys of gardening.  Every year is different and every year I'm so thankful for the growing number of jars filled with organically grown vegetables on my shelves as the plants start producing in quantity.


 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Victoria and Mark's wedding

My niece, Victoria, got married last night.  I probably haven't mentioned it here (and this might be the only place I haven't mentioned it) but I set her up with Mark.

Mark has been a quizmaster at the girls' Bible quizzes for several years so we've gotten to know him a bit over that time.  Last year he came in to the office where I was helping with stats and was moaning that he couldn't find a good woman to date.  Since the lady I help in the office happens to attend my brother's church, I suggested that Mark visit their church some Sunday and have Dawn introduce him to my beautiful niece.

It took him a few weeks to get there but, once he did, they seemed to hit it off right away.  (Whew!)

And the rest, as they say, is history.


It was a lovely wedding.  The pastor they used was a family friend of Mark's and she made it personal and special.  The reception hall was gorgeous, which was no surprise with both Kathy and Victoria's talents for making things beautiful.  (I'm sure you'll see a lot more detail on Kathy's blog sometime soon-when she's had a little time to recover!)  My niece, Kayla, who abandoned our family for NYC to go to culinary school, came home for a couple weeks and made the fantastic chocolate-with-raspberry-filling wedding cake.  I'd recommend her!

I made the same thing for Mark and Vicky that I made for Lauren and Brian when they got married.  Not original, but I think it's such a fun memento that I wanted to do it again.  Plus, Victoria's choice of dates allowed me to use the cool "9" I found back when we thought Lauren was having a 9/9/12 wedding.


 We loved seeing family members that we don't see often enough, as well as chatting with some of our friends from quizzing who attend Earl and Kathy's church.  It was a fun evening and we were so glad we got to be there to celebrate their wedding day with them.

Did I happen to mention that I set them up? ;-)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Celebrating the 22nd anniversary of my 29th birthday

I gave up keeping track of my age years ago-make that decades ago.  Life got too busy once I was an adult to automatically remember my age and stopping to do the math simply seemed too time consuming.  (Yes, I truly am that lazy.)

This past year has been different, because I hit a milestone last year.  As of yesterday, however, I'm going back to choosing a number and sticking with it.  I'll admit that it's probably time for me to upgrade the number a bit-after all, no one would ever mistake me for 29 anymore-but now that I'm 50-something I likely won't remember my exact age for another 9 years.

I had a most enjoyable day.  My mom stopped by for a visit, bearing gifts, as did my best friend and her mom.  My friend, Cinda, knows me so well and always manages to find or make something I'll just love.  This year was no different.

 I think she bought this at a Relay for Life fundraiser, though she is certainly crafty enough to do this herself.


I especially love the interesting edges of the floral bowl-it's just beautiful.

Dinner out with Clarence and the girls, chocolate orange cake, and gifts rounded out my day.  I went to bed last night feeling spoiled and content.

This getting another year older isn't all that bad after all.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Anniversary party

Clarence and I are invited to a 25th anniversary party tomorrow.

I've never met this couple but Clarence has worked with the husband for over 30 years, so he really wants to attend.  Me, not as much-though I'm much more outgoing than I was when I was younger, I still have a very hard time going to an event where I will know no one.

I started with the questions early on, like what to wear and, most stressful, what gift to give these (to me) virtual strangers.  Since their last name is Logan, we decided on a gift card to Logan's Roadhouse (we hope it's a good place-we've never eaten there) but I saw a cute idea online and decided to do my own adaptation of it to go along with the gift card.


Although you can't really tell in the picture, I used a silver paint pen for the lettering (all 25th anniversary style).  Julianne was a huge help to me as I planned how I'd do it, with choosing fonts, and cutting the letters out on her Silhouette for me to trace around.

It was a challenging project at times, but it was fun and I'm happy with the way it turned out...as long as you don't look at that pesky black paint too closely.

What would you give as a 25th anniversary gift to people you don't know well?