Sunday, November 30, 2008

The tractor won't start

We are supposed to get 6-10 inches of snow by sometime tomorrow. Allison decided to build a snowman. Clarence went outside to take some pictures for me and helped her stack the snowballs to make him.

He convinced her to give the snowman a high five. Let it be noted for the record: she didn't want to.

After that, she had just enough time to do a little sledding in the front yard before dinner.

We'll see if we're snowed in tomorrow or not. I'm really hoping Clarence can figure out what's wrong with the tractor because I don't miss shoveling our driveway by hand. When it's snow covered, the driveway is about 3/4 mile long. In good weather, the length is about 250 feet. I wonder what the scientific explanation is for that phenomenon?

At least now we have a couple additional helpers who weren't big enough to help in the days before the tractor.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ava and Nicholas

Our extended family got together today to celebrate cousin Daniel's daughter's birthday. Ava turned one a couple weeks ago but her family lives in Ohio so the party had to wait until this weekend.

She is one of the two miracle babies born into our family in the past year.

She liked playing with her cake more than eating it. I guess that's pretty much the case for first birthdays, isn't it?

And here we have niece Vicky with miracle baby #2, Nicholas. Since Aunt Sharon is his grandma, I knew she'd want to see him as well as Ava when she checks in here. We hadn't seen him since the end of August and he has grown so much since then. Don't you just love those cheeks and baby rolls? And that expression on his face? It cracks me up.

They are both such special blessings to their parents and to the rest of the family. It was great to see all of the cousins and their kids today-and with Christmas coming, we'll actually get to see them all again pretty soon. Don't you love the holidays?
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Friday, November 28, 2008

Gearing up

Like a crazy person, I went to town and did a little shopping today. Very little, as it turned out. Since everyone shops on Black Friday, you run into lots of people you haven't seen in a long time. So I spent a good portion of my day catching up with friends I haven't seen in a while rather than spending money. I guess that might be a good thing?

The girls have been decorating the trees the last few days (since it is such a short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year). On my expedition today I bought some assorted candies for the Advent calendar. I couldn't believe that they hadn't thought to get it out yet.

Now the Advent calendar is filled and we have started planning our Sunday Advent celebrations. We're pretty low-key but last year started having a special dish or treat each Sunday night. Since there are only four of us, we each get one Sunday in Advent, going youngest to oldest.

Allison decided she wants a mixed berry pie. Even better, she wants to make it. I'm loving this already. ;-)

We have an Advent devotional thing we try to use but it frankly hasn't been our favorite thing. I'm looking for suggestions for a devotional we could use as a family. Anyone have any ideas? If you've used something that you loved, would you please leave me a comment so I can check it out? Thanks.
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

The feast

We had a lovely time today at Earl and Kathy's house. We don't get together often enough any more so holidays at least give us a chance to try to catch up with each other.

Dinner was delicious and plentiful. We all bring something to help lighten the load. I made rolls and a salad. Earl warned me that salad doesn't go over too well at Thanksgiving with our family. He was right. I brought about 80% of it home again. We had salad for supper so it works for me.

My dear, darling brother (yes, Earl-he's the only brother I have) was kind enough to send these leftovers home with us, too. He has a specialty he makes for Thanksgiving every year. Pumpkin chocolate marbled cheesecake. Oh. my.

I think it's a good thing my picture doesn't look so pretty. You'd all be licking your monitors even though you are already stuffed from your own feasts.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In honor of Thanksgiving

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, filled with family, laughter, good food, fun, and lots of thankfulness.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The beautiful snow

Was that me yesterday that was blathering on about how pretty the snow was? It was?

I may have revised my opinion this afternoon.

Mom had a clinic appointment in Detroit today. I was a little anxious about making the drive as we were supposed to continue getting more snow overnight. Clarence called me shortly after 5:00 AM(!) to tell me his drive to work had taken about an extra half hour. I decided I'd better just stay up, since I was going to get up in just over a half hour anyhow. Have I ever mentioned that I am not a morning person?

By the time the girls and I left home just after 6:30 AM (!), the roads seemed to be wet and slushy, but not overly slippery. Thank God.

We made the trip with Mom incident-free. No big news from the docs, which is always good news, and we were out of there in a reasonable amount of time, which always makes us happy. Mom even fed us lunch when we got back to her house.

Then we came home.

And drove up our hilly, curvy driveway. Which was snow covered. And which contained some small branches which had fallen while we were gone.

The girls got out and moved the branches for me and I attempted to continue driving up the driveway.

You can see how that worked for me.

We ended up shoveling for a bit and I was able to, after several failed attempts, make it up to the garage.

I walked into the house and kissed the non-snow-covered floor.
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Monday, November 24, 2008

For Aunt Sharon

As the girls and I sat at the dentist's office today waiting for our appointments, we watched big, fluffy flakes falling outside. It's the first pretty snowfall we've had this winter. It has done a little spitting and sputtering before today, but this was winter wonderland stuff.

Now, I'm no fan of winter as a general rule. But there is something to be said for how clean and pretty everything looks when blanketed with snow.

By the time we got home it was beginning to get dark and was warm enough that the snow was melting.

I knew Aunt Sharon, down in warm, sunny Florida, would want to see our first real snow of the season. She may only want to see it so she can remember why she moved, but I'm sure she wants to see it.

I think I'm ready to go visit her now.
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Sunday, November 23, 2008

First sewing project

Julianne made this.

I was going to teach the girls to use my new sewing machine this summer but time got away from us. Both girls had used my old machine a couple years ago to sew pillowcases but it (my 25 year old Singer) was not something they were comfortable with, nor had they ever used a pattern to make anything. This project was to get their feet wet on how to use a pattern and to see if they found my new machine easier to use than the old one.

I think it was a success!

My new machine is a Husqvarna "Huskystar" (click for photo) and one of the features that convinced me I needed it was that it has a sliding speed control. No more fast-stop-fast sewing. That made the whole process much less stressful for Julianne. She learned to use a seam ripper, too, which is a normal part of sewing whenever I make something, but I don't think she needed it too many times.

She seems excited about sewing and I think she is pretty comfortable with pattern layout, getting the pattern straight on the grain, cutting, and following the pattern instructions. Now it's Allison's turn. I don't know if she'll get hers started before the holidays or not but I'll be sure to post a picture of her tote when she is done.
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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Please pass the kids' favorites

Today's Housewife hosts a weekly recipe swap. This weekend's topic is sharing our kids' favorites.

My girls agreed on an entree they both really like (I'll share that at the bottom) but they enjoy cookies called "Chocolate Yummies" a lot, too.

Since the cookies are quick, easy, no-bake, and I had all the ingredients, I decided to post them so I could include some pictures.

Here is all you need: chocolate chips, butter, marshmallows, coconut, oatmeal, and vanilla. Oh, and the recipe. I'll be sure to give you that in just a minute.

Start by melting the butter, marshmallows, and chocolate chips together, stirring until smooth.

Once melted, stir in the oats, coconut, and vanilla.

Here's my extra tip for you: put newspaper down on your counter, then cover it with wax paper. Every time I made no bake cookies, I used to hate cleaning waxy residue off my counter or cookie sheet. The newspaper makes clean up quick and easy.

Scoop your cookies out onto the wax paper, allow to cool.

Chocolate Yummies
(from Quick Cooking 2001 Annual Recipes)

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (6 ounces)
1/3 cup butter, or margarine
16 large marshmallows (or I use 2 2/3 c. mini marshmallows)
2 cups quick cooking oats ( I use old fashioned)
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate chips, butter, and marshmallows; stir until smooth. Stir in oats, coconut and vanilla; mix well. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Chill until set, about 30 minutes.

The second recipe I promised is one that came with my copy of MasterCook. It is for Barbequed Chicken Pasta and can be found online here. I never put the scallions on top and serve the cilantro on the side (if I have it) because one of my girls doesn't like it.
Hope you enjoy these recipes!
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Friday, November 21, 2008

Pumpkin cake

I don't often make layer cakes.

I'm signed up for emails from Kraft and happened across this recipe this week. I had leftover pumpkin in the fridge needing to be used so I decided to give it a whirl.

So far, so good. The layers aren't sliding. I was kinda worried. But notice all my crumbs on the cake plate. Sigh. Presentation is not my strong suit. I didn't actually notice them at the time-only now in my picture.

Complete with caramel topping and toasted pecans.

It was yummy. I thought the caramel was barely noticeable, which makes it unneccesary in my opinion. I'd rather slap some more of the filling on top as frosting. Of course, I could eat the filling with a spoon. It's hard to go wrong when cream cheese and Cool Whip are involved. (Yes, I enjoy whatever that chemical mixture named Cool Whip is.)

My changes to their recipe were minor: I didn't have a yellow cake mix so I subbed a white one. I added extra pumpkin in place of much of the oil (I know, I know-like reducing the oil really makes much difference in this case), and I used light cream cheese.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

One more post

wrung out of that little field trip last week.

This is almost the rest of the purchase. I didn't bother trying to fit the last item into the picture. It was on their clearance table and was a set of decorated tiles the thickness of a tile trivet. There wasn't a price on them so when I found an employee, I asked if he could find out how much they were. He looked them over, grabbed a price gun, slapped a sticker on them, and handed them back to me with the question "How's that?" I glanced down to see the price he had given them. 50 cents. I definitely was taking them home with me. Julianne may use them in a mosaic project but, if not, they will work as hot pads for the table.

I bought these pins just because the girls and I thought they were cute. I don't wear pins very often but they're fun once in a while.

The snowman thing in the background is a pot holder that fits over a pan handle. We use them with our cast iron cookware. This one is longer than the ones I already have but it should still work for the job. And it's just so much cuter than the hot pepper ones we currently use. I'll enjoy using it this winter but I'm guessing Clarence is likely to stick with the hot peppers if he cooks. Ya think?
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An award and those sweatshirts-again

My thanks to Mrs. Rabe for honoring me with this award.
I'm not sure what the rules are for this award so I'm going to give it to one blog and call it good.
If you've never clicked on The Parson's Wife over on my blog list, take a minute to go check her blog out. I started reading her blog long before I started blogging. She used to frequent a homeschooling message board that I visited regularly, which is how I knew of her. She's a woman of many talents. She has shared some great trash-to-treasure projects, which I always like to see. But when she posts a recipe-oh, my. I love her pictures and presentation. She already has a plan for her holiday baking posted-I'm hoping she keeps us all updated and shares at least some of her recipes. (Hint, hint!) ;-)
Now to completely change topics:
When Allison got the mail today, it included a Hallmark flyer. Allison was checking over the mail as she carried it and was laughing when she handed it to me. I wondered what was so funny and she pointed out our new matching sweatshirts on the back of the Hallmark ad.

It makes the $5 deal we got seem even better. If you can't read the print in the picture, to buy it at Hallmark the shirts are $23.99 each OR you can get them for $14.99 each with a store purchase.

Just in case there's a woman left in the state who missed getting one at Crazy Mountain last week.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Next on the list

of items we got at Crazy Mountain's sale last Friday is matching snowman sweatshirts.

Yep, we all three will match. If we wear them at the same time, that is.

I love snowmen and these sweatshirts were $5 each. My friend ended up going later in the day and she will be able to match us as well. Then there were a couple ladies from church when we were there who got them, too. For $5, none of us could resist.

And that's not all! I can drag one more blog post out of this. ;-)
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Monday, November 17, 2008

Trying to post every day

leads to a lot of boring posts. I'm sorry.

In the search for something to blog about, I could only come up with this for today.

The girls and I went to a warehouse sale on Friday at a place called Crazy Mountain Imports. A lot of the stuff we see at our local Hallmark store comes from them. They sell a wide assortment of things and the warehouse sale has a bit of everything. The timing is right because they hold their sale on a weekend right around opening day of deer season. It makes a great destination for deer hunting widows.

I went to look for inexpensive candles. I've gotten some nice candles for incredible prices in the past but this year I thought the candle prices weren't as great and I didn't find any scents I just had to have.

We came home instead with this candle warmer. They have them every year. I always look at them but decide against getting one. This year I caved. They have so many different designs that it gets hard to choose. There are two sizes-this size, which holds a large jar candle, and a votive holder size. The small ones were $3.00 and the large ones were $8.00 or 2/$10.00. Every time I see a cute one in the Hallmark store (for ~$25), I kick myself for passing these up and tell myself I'll get one next time. But I never have. Until now.

I picked up a hazelnut creme candle and have been happily melting it all weekend.

We bought a couple other things but I think I'll save those for the next time I can't think of anything to blog about. Like tomorrow.
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Sunday, November 16, 2008


Belle is steadily improving. He moves a little more each day and has started to eat on his own. We are still force feeding him some diluted food but he is picking at his regular food again. He seems less dehydrated when we check him, too. He also started cleaning himself, which he wasn't doing a couple days ago. His bladder issues seem to be significantly better as well, which is a big relief. We are all so thankful that he seems to be doing so much better. We think he may have decided to be a house cat once again.

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Join me in praying for Miss Paula and all the people affected by the California fires. She is requesting prayer for the victims, as well as the firemen and first responders. She is dealing with smoke and ash but says the fire shouldn't reach her. It is so hard for me to imagine living through something like that but I am praying for all those who have to experience it.
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

A beautiful gift!

I was the lucky winner of a drawing celebrating Mrs. Rabe's 500th post.

The package arrived today during lunch-it's a good thing the girls and I stayed home after all. I would hate to think all this loveliness would have been sitting outside in the rain/snow mix we had falling all afternoon.

She sent the beautiful cup and saucer, along with the PG Tips tea she showed on her blog. But then she threw in a few other surprises...a cute autumn tea towel, some pretty floral memo pads, and a box of Good Earth tea which I thought particularly thoughtful and nice.

When I left my comment on her giveaway post, I told her that Good Earth is my favorite tea. It isn't available anywhere I've checked in my local area so I pick it up when we go to some of our homeschool activities. That makes this an even more special treat. I've only tried the Sweet and Spicy variety (this one is sweet & spicy cinnamon and orange) so I'm looking forward to tasting this kind, too.

Thank you so much Mrs. Rabe!

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Update on Belle:

More IV fluid this morning. There is small improvement we see in a couple areas. He is slightly more active and his urine isn't bloody (sorry!). The vet gave us pain meds to give him for three days. She's ordering another med on Monday (that she's out of right now) which is supposed to help with bladder spasms. We are continuing to force feed him every two hours. He still doesn't like it. Hopefully, we'll continue to see improvement throughout the rest of the weekend.
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Friday, November 14, 2008

A quick update

Belle is still with us. He is still dehydrated and not wanting to eat. He got more fluid via IV this morning, and we'll be going again tomorrow for more.

We are forcing him to eat every two hours throughout the daytime. Chicken baby food diluted with enough water to allow us to use a syringe to get it in his mouth. He doesn't really enjoy the process but is a sweetie about it all. It seems like he must be in some pain but he is not agressive in the least.

The vet says we'll know by Monday whether or not all this is going to work.

I am so thankful we found him. Every time we stroke his fur is especially sweet today. Every drink of water he takes is something to be thankful for. We are counting blessings for sure.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Swiss Chard to the rescue!

We planted "neon" chard in our front yard garden this summer. I chose it for the pretty colors, since it would be right out front. We like regular chard but never seem to harvest it before the bugs start eating holes in it. I figured this would at least be somewhat ornamental and help add color since we were growing veggies out there.

Surprisingly, (to me-Clarence wasn't surprised at all) Swiss Chard is quite cold tolerant. Even though we've had some nights in the 20s, the chard looks good.

I decided to use some of it for dinner tonight and asked the girls to go pick some for me. From inside, I heard their raised voices. It sounded like the beginning of an argument so I opened a window, not knowing where I was hearing them and asked what was going on.

They excitedly, tearfully, told me that Belle was out by our fish pond. When they went to pick the chard, they heard one little meow and went to investigate.

He looked bad. Weak, matted, tired. Allison thought his paw and tail were wounded but when I got a look, it looked wet and matted but I couldn't distinguish any injury.

Clarence was almost home so the girls stroked him and talked to him. He was calm but lethargic. When Clarence got here, he carefully looked for wounds and couldn't find any. We brought him inside in a box and called the vet. Thankfully, Clarence could take him in right away.

The vet said his UT was blocked. No more el-cheapo cat food. They gave him IV fluids and worked on the blockage. Hopefully, he will improve but we have to take him back in the morning to be checked. He isn't interested in eating. Clarence is at the store now to pick up wet food and chicken baby food. The vet thinks that might tempt him. Tuna isn't working.

So, our girls' weekend away is going to be cancelled. Someone has to cat-sit. The girls and I decided we will gladly give up our trip to have our Belle back again.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Missing :-(

This is our beloved Belle. He was named before we had determined for sure what his gender actually was.

He started out as a house cat 15 years ago, but when I was pregnant with Julianne, he and his litter box moved. We put the litter box in the garage but Belle didn't like being in the garage. Once he tasted freedom, being allowed to be outside, he didn't want the confinement of the house or garage.

In the last couple of years, now that he's getting old, he has chosen more regularly to stay in the garage and even comes into the house eagerly once in a while.

We heard noises a couple nights ago outside. Cat fight type noises. Belle was fixed but would still do battle sometimes when a neighborhood cat showed up in our yard. Clarence went out to investigate but didn't find any cats around. Belle wasn't in the garage, but he wasn't around outside, either. Since he's fixed, that just doesn't happen. He's always around somewhere.

Now it has been a couple days since we've seen him and we would really like to know what happened to him. Clarence fears coyote.

Our other cat, Chip, simply disappeared one day two years ago. It's so hard-you keep hoping they'll show up again, but with every day that goes by, the hope dissipates a little more.
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cobblestone Farm

Our homeschool group read Caddie Woodlawn this month so today, for our day together, we went on a pioneer-themed field trip to Cobblestone Farm in Ann Arbor. This month was super easy for the moms!

Our "class" was held in a log cabin built in 1837, the same year Michigan became a state. The kids had to do chores after the history/geography lesson was done. You can see the mortar/pestle made out of a tree trunk on the right. The box with the black mechanism mounted on it is used for removing the corn from the cob so it can be ground.

They had to churn cream into butter (which ended up not working-does ultra-pasturized cream not separate for some reason? Or was it because the room was so cold as the docent suggested?). Although there was a fire in the woodstove, it wasn't giving off much heat so Allison and one other girl were the only ones who took off their coats.

They were able to remove the corn from the cobs, grind the corn, then sift it for cornmeal.
They also got to tighten the ropes on a rope bed, comb wool and hand spin it if they wanted to do so. They went outside and fed goats, sheep, chickens, geese and the old pony. A couple of the boys even took the rug outside to beat it.
The docent talked about Michigan's early settlers, how they traveled here, why Michigan was settled later than some states further west, the Erie Canal, and types of boats used on the canal and the Great Lakes. She was very interesting to listen to and interacted really well with the kids.
We all learned some new things today and had fun doing it. Now the challenge is to get our fingers and toes warm again. Clarence built a fire in our woodstove so I think I'll go huddle near it.
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