Saturday, January 30, 2010

Vacationing is hard work!

It wears a person down.

Even the youngest of us need to rest.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Home again

As we were leaving Lakeland Sunday afternoon:

In our driveway at home Monday night:

(It's only gotten colder here since then.)

Our cat did well while we were gone but we're going to have to figure something else out for the litter issue next year if the old guy is still with us. The litter was supposed to work for one cat for 20-30 days. Um, nope. Poor Belle. Any suggestions?

We had a great time-beautiful weather, nice visits, lots of relaxation. Getting back to reality has been tough but we're slowly getting back in the groove.

I didn't take a lot of pictures while we were gone but I'll likely come up with a couple to share soon. Once my frosty fingers thaw again and I can pry my frozen memory card out of my icy camera, that is. Maybe June or July?
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Friday, January 15, 2010

My girls think I'm gross

The girls can't believe I would take, let alone post, a picture of Belle in the litter box.

Julianne keeps asking if he was using the litter box when I took the picture. I refuse to answer. What fun would it be if she knew for sure?

The litter box has a story, however, and I think Belle is cuter than just a picture of a litter box, right?

We are leaving tonight to head to Florida to visit my inlaws for a week. The past two years Belle has stayed in the garage with a huge food dish, a dishpan as a water dish, and two litter boxes. Prior to that, he stayed in the shed outside where whoever did Clarence's chores could give him food and water each day. He's showing his age these days, though, so neither of those seemed like a good option.

I harassed my mom about keeping him and she surprised me by agreeing. I started trying to figure out ways to make it a bit less painful for her and suggested to Clarence that maybe we should invest in an automatic litter box. As we were discussing it, my best friend called and, during our conversation, I mentioned all this to her.

Her cousin had recently offered an automatic litter box to her and she'd refused, certain her cat wouldn't adapt well. She offered to call and find out if they still had it and how much they'd want for it. In the meantime, I started researching them online and decided I wanted a ScoopFree box.

She called back and described the box to me-it was exactly what I had decided on. They gave it to me! We stopped and got the litter, cleaned it up and set it in place. He seems to think it a bit strange, but he has used it without any problems.

A young man from church we can trust is coming to feed the rabbits and chickens so we gave him a key to check on Belle a few times. Mom is off the hook, Belle gets to stay home instead of going to Grandma's, we won't worry so much about him while we're gone, and my house shouldn't smell like the litter box when I get home. It's all good.

We'll be gone for a week and a half. Santa Clarence gave me a laptop for Christmas so if I happen to have wireless internet available, I may update here while we're gone. Otherwise, I'll be back toward the end of the month.
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Secret School

Our book this month for our FIAR group was The Secret School by Avi.

The book is about a one-room school that loses its teacher near the end of the school year. When she isn't to be replaced, the students will lose credit for that year's studies. That is unacceptable to the students, who don't want to repeat the whole year. They devise and implement a plan to keep their school open for the rest of the year, making one of the eighth-graders the teacher.

At our planning meeting, one of the moms had the brilliant idea that we should step back and let the kids plan the day and be the teachers. The kids were surprisingly (to me, anyhow) enthusiastic to take on the project.

Phone calls and email messages went back and forth. They had great ideas and came up with a firm plan.

My friend Lisa had a teacher's desk all set up when we arrived. With the kids in charge, I think we started more promptly than we ever have! They started the day by singing Amazing Grace, just like the students in the book.
The kids all shared mottos to live by that they had chosen ahead of time. Then they each shared a funny pet story.

One of their ideas was to play Jeopardy. Each family made up questions, based on the book. The kids divided into two teams to play, sitting out the questions their family had submitted.

They picked something to teach to everyone else. Our friend Mary taught them how to draw a cat.

Molly taught them The Lord's Prayer in sign language. Julianne can't seem to get past her tendency to mirror the instructor.

My girls took their bow making supplies and taught everyone how to make bows. They were teaching my friend and me on New Year's Eve and I found them much more difficult than I expected. The kids didn't seem to have any trouble getting beautiful bows, though.
There was a vast body of knowledge present yesterday. They had a Highland Dance instructor, they learned about crystal radios and Model Ts, they discovered what the Latin on the back of a dollar bill means, and they were taught how to fry an egg.
It was a full, fun-filled day, as always. The kids impressed me with all they planned and how well they executed their plans. I think it was one of the most memorable FIAR days yet.
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Sunday, January 10, 2010

January Quiz

Our girls went to Saturday's quiz as a two person team but were joined by a friend from another church who didn't have anyone to quiz with. They had a lot of fun with Hannah on their team and managed to bring home a first place trophy again this month. (Hannah had to leave before the awards, so just imagine an extra girl in this picture, ok?)

The individual competition was harder for them. They both made it to finals, but neither of them placed. Julianne is quizzing in the Sr. Teen division for individuals, although she's actually a Young Teen Veteran. It's a hard competition for me to watch sometimes. The Sr. Teens have so much experience and they pre-jump almost every question. It can be mind boggling even when you're only a spectator. Julianne chooses to compete there to gain experience and sharpen her skills. It also keeps our girls from competing against each other.

Clarence said Allison did a lot of pre-jumping in her individual finals, too. Maybe the Young Teens aren't any less stressful to watch anymore?

(A note on the tank top: Yes, it is frigid in Michigan these days. She did have a hoody to go over the tank top-but they get so warm when they quiz, she decided to dress lighter. I get goosebumps just looking at this picture. Brr.)

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Midwinter Garden weeders

I was taking a couple pictures today for an upcoming blog post. I wanted some natural light, so I took the stuff in by the living room window and started to set up a tray table to put it on.

Some movement out in the yard caught my eye.

I looked out and saw this:

Pawing at the snow like Belle paws around in the litter box (sorry for that mental image!), she was digging in my flower/herb bed that I neglect to weed most of the summer. I think she might be chowing down on some pale pink perennial geranium here. Interestingly, she avoided the garlic chives and sage nearby in favor of crab grass. Gotta love that!

She wasn't alone, though. This one was snacking on the remains of Julianne's snapdragons across the yard.

I called the girls to come and watch. Julianne saw what this one was doing and wondered aloud why people find these animals cute? They obviously haven't learned-you don't mess with Julianne's snapdragons.
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Princess Leta

As part of Leta's Christmas gift, I decided to make her a princess hat. We had seen one for sale a few months ago and it inspired Julianne to make one for her friend, Chelsea, and me to make one for Leta.

(Sorry this pic is so blurry.)

I'm of the opinion that a five year old needs lots of sparkly, so Leta's hat got lots of large rhinestones. I expressed concern that perhaps Chelsea would be jealous of all those jewels on Leta's hat when she saw it on my blog. Julianne was pretty sure that wouldn't be the case. I guess teenagers don't have quite the same need for giant jewels as they had when they were five, eh?

We also happened upon a nice ring to go along with the hat. Giant pink rhinestone heart. Perfect!

The princess stuff was a fun go-along with her gift and I even got a picture of her good-natured dad wearing the hat. I mentioned something about making it next year's Christmas card but decided maybe it wouldn't be nice of me to put it on the internet. But if ever I happen to need blackmail material on George... ;-)
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Monday, January 4, 2010

Family Christmas

We got together with my extended family over the weekend. That means new photos of Nicky and Ava! (And a sneak peak at Kaity in the background.)

They are just cuteness in the extreme, aren't they?

Nick is following a long standing family tradition for the little ones to stand on the kitchen counter and spin the bird hanging there. I knew his Grandma, my Aunt Sharon, would need to see a picture of that. She doesn't visit us for Christmas. (Imagine that-staying in Florida when you could be in Michigan, enjoying sub-zero wind chills, snow, and ice. Hard to believe, isn't it?)

Like most families, we don't get together often enough now that we're all grown, with families of our own. I so appreciate the opportunity we have to catch up with each other, see how big the kids are getting, and laugh and joke with each other. It's one of the best parts of the holidays and I'm thankful Unc makes sure it happens every year.
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Peppermint Popcorn

I tried a new recipe this year which Clarence dubbed "addictive".

You can find the recipe here that I used as a guide (isn't that really what all recipes are?).

I used my blender to crush the candy canes. It was far more efficient than my rolling pin and less jarring on my nerves, too. I also replaced the vanilla chips with vanilla coating/almond bark because I had it on hand.

Kathy told me people were requesting the recipe after she posted a picture on her blog so I promised I'd post the link. I suggest you hurry and see if there are any more candy canes left on the clearance racks. You don't want to wait 'til next Christmas to try this!
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