Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Some December memories

For some reason, perhaps due to my terribly inconsistent blogging schedule, I've had a hard time lately remembering to take my camera anywhere and, if I do happen to remember it, the batteries are always dead. Consequently, I've gotten very few pictures of anything we've been doing this fall.

So, today, I was planning to post about one thing and was surprised to see some pictures on my memory card I had forgotten completely.

The girls were in a bell (chime) choir again this year. Last year, our church was able to borrow chimes from another church and use them at Christmas. This fall, a parishoner donated the money so we could get our own set-so we are looking forward to more performances throughout the year. The girls really enjoy being part of it.

This is one of my Christmas gifts.

It seems to have become a tradition (I hope!) for Julianne to crochet gifts for me. She found a pattern for a crocheted hexagon and was inspired by my love of Grandma's Flower Garden quilts to create something similar in crochet. It is more beautiful in person than the picture can show.

We had a lovely Christmas and are anticipating more celebrations in the next couple of weeks. Due to work schedules, my extended family hasn't gotten together yet but we will see some of them on New Years Day and have another family party planned in January. It's a nice, relaxing pace and draws the holiday season out a little bit. I'm looking forward to having dreary January brightened by good times spent with those I love most.
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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

We attended a Christmas Eve service held in a big, old, red barn last night. It was chilly and, thankfully, absent the smell of animals. It was a very nice way to celebrate Christmas Eve.

Our family wishes each of you a wonderful Christmas, filled with joy and peace.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Two of my favorite Christmas songs (that you've probably never heard)

I entered a drawing last week where I had to answer the question "What is your favorite Christmas song?"

That was easy to answer: Almost Christmastime by David Meece. I considered adding a link to the song in my comment but became completely sidetracked when I went looking because I found another song I always loved but hadn't heard for years.

On Amazon, these two songs are on the same album. I happen to have purchased the album a couple decades ago but my cd only has 10 songs, not 12 like the one on Amazon. Sadly, my copy doesn't include The Star by Dan Peek!

I had to buy it right away. You know I love it if I'm willing to download it via dial-up. The girls think I'm just a wee bit obsessed with listening to it but I told them today that I haven't heard it in decades-I have lots of time to make up for!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

When My Name Was Keoko

Our Five in a Row group read When My Name Was Keoko for November. It is a fantastic book by an author our group was familiar with already because we read A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park a few years ago (and loved it as well).

We had an extra special day to go along with Keoko. One of the families has a friend who is Korean and has stories from his childhood that very much went along with what we read. He agreed to meet us at a Japanese/Korean restaurant and guide us through choosing some Korean foods as we shared lunch together.

I've gotta tell you, after seeing the menu and being completely unfamiliar with which menu items would be Japanese and which would be Korean, I was plenty worried. I'm a far more adventurous eater than when I was younger but when I saw squid, eel, octopus (which I actually have eaten once, years ago), fish roe, and the like on the menu, I wasn't sure it was going to be a fun time.

We started with miso soup. Safe enough so far, and quite delicious, too.

Next came edamame, which I enjoy, and potstickers. Then they brought salad with a wonderful ginger dressing I'd love to have the recipe for. I was feeling better about the experience already.

I think this dish is called Bibimbob

We all shared the dishes he ordered. I enjoyed every.single.thing!

This, I believe, is called Chapchae

He shared a lot of family memories with us and it was amazing how much his stories corresponded with the story line of the book. We found it incredibly interesting to listen to him.

We finished the meal with a choice between green tea ice cream or red bean ice cream. I only had a taste-I was actually full!-but the girls enjoyed it a lot.

We intended pay for lunch for him and his wife, to thank him for sharing his time and tales with us, but he wouldn't let us. Instead, he paid for our whole group-such generosity!

This book, and our day together, will not be quickly forgotten.

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Monday, October 31, 2011

Julianne's fundraiser flowers

When Allison was offered the opportunity to sell her fabric flowers to raise funds for quiz nationals, I got thinking that maybe Julianne should try selling some of her crocheted flowers as well. After all, they'll be at a scrapbooking fundraiser and I think her little flowers would make great embellishments for a scrapbook page.

She's been concentrating on making flowers that are flat, rather than dimensional, to work nicely on pages.

Her smallest flowers are about 3/4-inch across with the largest flowers hitting around 2 1/2 inches in diameter.

She also tatted a couple of butterflies. Isn't it cute? Alas, it takes a long time to tat so she quickly resumed crocheting.

We are, again, wondering about how to price them. Any suggestions on pricing are more than welcome. Thanks!
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Allison's busy hands

This summer, when our church was holding a garage sale for missions, the quiz team held a bake sale in an effort to start earning money to travel to Seattle next year for the national competition. Allison put out some flowers she made, priced them super cheap, and they sold incredibly well.

The missions director of our church loved Allison's flowers and told me later that she just couldn't stop thinking about ways Allison could market her creations. One thing she thought of was another upcoming fundraiser for missions, a scrapbooking/craft day. She offered to let Allison be a vendor there without paying a fee, if she'd just donate a couple flowers for door prizes.

She's been building up stock:

She makes them in various sizes for a variety of uses. Aunt Kathy shared a big pile of scraps with her when we were there recently.
She made a cool multi-colored flower a while back and then we found some rainbow buttons in Shipshewana-perfect!

She doesn't love making the tiniest size because they're pretty difficult to work with. But, they make the most darling earrings so she's been plugging away at them even though they aren't her favorite thing to do.

One problem she's having is trying to figure out how to price them. The plan right now is to assemble the flowers into pins, barrettes, hair clips, head bands, or earrings, custom-order style, so the customer can choose exactly what they want. We have some pricing ideas but are certainly interested in more input.

Would you mind leaving a comment saying how much you'd expect to see something like this sell for at a craft show? Once I get some pictures of what Julianne is working on, we'll be wanting some pricing input on her stuff, too. Thanks!
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Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

September was a busy month for all of us in our FIAR group so this month was our first meeting of the new school year. We chose The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and everyone really enjoyed it.

Our day included some language arts exercises for the kids-taking text from the book and noting which words were "lightening" words. The kids took some of Mark Twain's sentences and changed some of the words to simpler ones, then took simple sentences and gave them more flair, using lightening words. It was amazing to listen to their creativity as they read the re-written sentences aloud.

They talked about persuasive speech techniques and each of the kids had to think of a way to try to convince the other kids to take on an unpleasant task, like Tom did to get the other boys to paint the fence for him. The kids tried to convince the rest of us to do things like vacuum the pool, vacuum the floor, write a paper, go to the dentist, become a vegetarian, sell discount cards for a fundraiser, mow the lawn and clean the litter box. After they finished, we took a vote and the job most desired was vacuuming the pool. My friend, who usually has to do that job, was quite excited to think she'll have all those willing helpers next summer.

For our snack, I decided on "wedding" cake to remind us of the cake Tom and Becky ate in the cave when they were lost. The girls and I made our first attempt at making fondant roses without having our friend nearby guiding us. Allison made most of the roses because Julianne and I ran out of patience for it. I really do enjoy trying to think of a snack to go with our books but cake decorating is not my forte, that's for sure.

After lunch, the kids acted out a skit they made up during lunch. They pretended to be newscasters at the scene when the boys go pirating and are missing. They interviewed family members, then covered the story when the boys came to their own funeral.

It was good to be back with all our friends, beginning another year of reading and learning together.
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Friday, October 14, 2011

Renaissance Festival

Back in September, my Aunt Barb offered us three tickets she'd won to the Renaissance Festival. Since we had been learning about the Renaissance in history recently, and it would only cost us the price of one admission, we decided to go. Clarence and I had gone years ago, back before kids, and were less than impressed, but were hopeful that it had improved in the interim.

We didn't arrive there until 2, by the time we got some items off our to-do list. I worried that we would be sorry we hadn't allowed more time before they closed.

We walked in, started looking around, and my girls' first impression was that it wasn't a Renaissance festival at all, but was actually a Medieval festival instead. Much darker than the name implied to them. I had to agree.

The girls were ready to leave almost immediately. We kept strolling, hoping to find something to catch our interest. We enjoyed watching the glass blowers for a bit while Clarence watched some jousting but there was little else we bothered to stop to watch. It felt like a waste of a beautiful afternoon.

As we made our way back out, however, the day was redeemed.

The potter who made Clarence's favorite mug ever was there!

I'm sure, since this was the Renaissance Festival, that these are actually tankards but we like to think of them as really big coffee mugs. Allison's is on the left, Julianne's is the center one, and mine is on the right. (Clarence got one too, but he carries it every morning so it's never here for a picture.)

We don't plan to go ever again but we've been enjoying our tankards mugs an awful lot and are very glad we found them there.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Save the Tomatoes!

Although I've done a fair amount of canning already, I haven't canned enough tomatoes yet to last through the winter. When they started producing in quantity, my priority was making salsa.

We've been blessed this year that the late blight we often battle hasn't been an issue yet. We have all these beautiful tomatoes in the process of ripening...

and tonight we could get our first frost.

We didn't want to lose the peppers, cucumbers, or beans, either so Clarence and Allison went to work getting things covered, just in case.

Clarence thinks the garden is looking a bit like a refugee camp now but, hopefully, we'll get to continue enjoying our fresh veggies a little longer. And maybe, just maybe, I'll get enough tomatoes canned to make it until next year.
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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Summer fruit goodness

The girls and I stopped on a whim last week and picked some raspberries at a local u-pick farm. I generally avoid raspberries, thinking they are one of my least favorite fruits, plus I have bad memories of having to harvest them from the backyard garden as a kid. I always managed to get lots of scratches, which made me dread the chore even more than my general laziness already did.

Things change over time, though, and I found myself enjoying picking raspberries this time around. Funny how the large, sharp thorns of my childhood are much smaller and less vicious now. We brought home four quarts, about 5 pounds.

Nothing would do but to go back for some more this week. The plants were loaded with lots of beautiful berries. The girls thought they were fun to pick, in spite of the thorns.

On our second trip, we picked 10 more quarts, weighing almost 13 pounds!

We stopped for raspberries the first time because we noticed the sign when we were coming home from picking up a bushel of peaches. 'Cause, you know, a bushel of peaches isn't enough to do, you've gotta get some raspberries, too.

So far, I've made Peach Melba freezer jam and canned peach-raspberry no-pectin jam. I've canned peach syrup and frozen some raspberries, but I still have more peaches and raspberries I need to process today. I am thankful for my girls, who always willingly help with all the produce we preserve.

It's a busy time but the work we do now will taste so good when the ground is covered in snow and all this fresh summer fruit is just a memory.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Kitchen Dry Erase Board

I've been planning to make one of these for quite a while, ever since seeing one in a friend's kitchen. I finally got around to it on Friday and am already loving having it.

I make a lot of little notes to myself in the kitchen on scraps of paper or various notepads so this should help eliminate some clutter. I usually make notes when someone is coming for a meal so I don't forget something (yes, I really have done that) and since my best friend was coming for lunch Sunday, I put it to use right away.

We have some wallpaper sample books and I was happy to find this paper in one. I love pansies! I was tickled with the placement of the flowers in the final project, leaving me lots of room for note making. The candle, a lovely gift from Becky, was lit to remind me to look at my note to call Becky! (which took me another day to get around to...).

My friend, Cinda, asked me to make one for her but since Julianne had some frames from a garage sale she was willing to share, we started looking through the wallpaper books right away. Allison joined in to make one for her room and Cinda made one for herself, one for a friend, and cut out a couple more papers to allow for change on a whim.

My frame is wood but the beauty of Julianne's frames is that they are metal, allowing a dry erase marker from Dollar Tree to be attached right to the frame because there's a handy-dandy magnet on the cap.

Julianne didn't want to make one yesterday because she had already done one with scrapbook paper when I started talking about the idea. Hers is hanging on her bedroom wall, mine will sit on the counter on an easel.

I'm planning to use this for grocery lists, to-do lists, menu ideas, notes to my family, and probably a bunch of other things. They are so simple, cute, and fun to make.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Bake Sale

The girls' quiz team is trying to raise money for nationals next summer. It always costs a couple hundred dollars for admission, which is plenty for the kids to come up with, but next year we will have a huge additional cost for transportation because we'll be going to...Seattle!

This weekend is our church's garage sale to raise money for missions. The quizzers were invited to set up a bake sale during the garage sale and we eagerly accepted.

I made lemon curd tarts, homemade Snickers candies, and cupcakes, which the girls were kind enough to decorate the way I'd seen Kathy do a while back.

We laughed time and again as people walked up and commented on how pretty the cupcakes were and how inexpensive our price was on them, then they'd buy cookies or candy. Over and over again.

Finally, a lady bought a sunflower one. She informed us that it was so pretty, she was going to take it home and keep it, just to look at. One of the boys thought that was a disgustingly gross idea.

Julianne wore the new apron Kathy made me for my birthday a couple weeks ago.

Allison baked for the sale, too-pecan tarts, an apple pie, and a black-and-blueberry pie.

Allison also contributed her kanzashi flowers to benefit the quizzers. She priced them very inexpensively and they sold like...well, not like hotcakes since we weren't selling them...but much better than the beautiful cupcakes.

The people of the church were so generous in providing baked goods that our one day bake sale was extended to two and we still had lots of leftovers. We popped things in the freezer and hope to get people to take them home on Sunday for a donation, rather than letting them go to waste.

I don't have a final count yet, but I think they made over $300. They're off to a nice start but we're brainstorming for ideas to make sure that money doesn't keep any of the kids from being able to go to nationals. Any suggestions?

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Allison's birthday

I finally took the memory card out of my camera tonight to take a look at what was on it. Not much, that's for sure. Allison's 14th birthday has come and gone and I felt bad for not taking any pictures of her special day.

I had forgotten about these:

We were at Family Camp on her birthday and some friends "flamingoed" her.

I was up before her, so I was waiting outside the tent when she came out.

She did have a happy birthday, although we had our annual grilled pizza party that night so it certainly wasn't a relaxing birthday. We figure we served about 140 pizzas in two and a half hours. We were hopping!

We asked her before scheduling it if she wanted us to steer clear of her special day but she said it was fine. Maybe she likes having such a big party on her birthday, even if we don't serve any cake?

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

If you give Karen a KitchenAid...

My mom gave me her old, almond KitchenAid a couple years ago when she got a new, bigger, red one. I anticipated having to replace a gear in it right away but it has run like a champ until it recently started making a noticeable noise. We ordered the worm gear and some replacement grease, studied tutorials online for changing the gear and were confident we could do it. And yes, I use the term "we" very loosely.

But, if you give me an almond KitchenAid, which needs a gear replaced, I am going to decide that it shouldn't remain almond, but should be painted while it is taken apart. Even though my husband said if I didn't like the color, maybe I should be shopping for one in a color I prefer. Nah. That'd be too easy, don't you think?

And if I'm going to paint it, I'm going to start dreaming of a custom paint job. Think of the color possibilities if the bump shop painted it for me. Imagine metallic candy apple red. Wouldn't that be beautiful? I called to ask about it. I had to carry it in for them to look at in order to give me a quote, so I did. Their guess was $100, just for the paint, with labor tacking on a bit more. Adding that to the price of the gear, grease, and shipping, Clarence's idea of buying new was starting to make more sense. The guy at the bump shop told me he was sure the appliance paint I was also considering, while nowhere near as durable as the paint job he could do, would be quite adequate for the usage the mixer would see. For $5 or so a can, I decided it was worth a try.

I washed each piece thoroughly, sanded with fine grit sandpaper to rough up the finish (and also to smooth out a chip or two), washed it again and made sure it was absolutely dry.

My ever-patient husband rigged up something to hold the top and suggested foam ear plugs to plug the holes in the sides when I wondered aloud how I would possibly tape them effectively. He also mentioned using aluminum foil to cover the back of the motor, so I used it for that and a couple other areas I couldn't just tape.

An old pegboard and a picket fence section worked to keep other pieces lifted off the table for easier painting.

Once I got it painted, Clarence reassembled it. It didn't work at first but he was able to troubleshoot the problems and resolve them (the biggest problem being that I reinserted the things on the side of the motor incorrectly. Sigh. I was just trying to help by doing what I could. Next time, I'll leave it to the expert).

Here it is!

It was a time consuming process, with some very frustrating moments, especially for Clarence, but it is possible to not only repair a KitchenAid yourself but also to give it a fresh paint job.
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Grandpa's Get Well flowers

When Clarence's dad had open heart surgery last month, my mother-in-law told the girls that she was sure Grandpa would like some flowers they made much more than a bouquet of real ones.

Allison got right to work.

I picked up a container and some ribbon at the dollar store, we put some foam inside it, and she cut wooden skewers to add to the Kanzashi flowers she made.

(Sorry for the poor quality photo-an ipod was all we had for a camera)

Grandma was right-Grandpa really liked his bouquet. In fact, when he got some compliments on it from his nurses, he was offering to work as Allison's agent and sell some of her flowers from his hospital bed. :-)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Quiz Nationals

We've been home from nationals for over a week so I thought it was high time I blogged about it. This decision has nothing, of course, to do with being shamed by my family today over my lack of blog updates. Nope, nothing at all to do with that.

We had a fantastic week at nationals. Our assistant pastor/coach was pretty confident that all three of our church's teams would bring home trophies. Instead, we were eliminated earlier than we've ever been eliminated before. Disappointing but, as Pastor Dale said, the scripture they have all hidden in their hearts is more important than any trophy. Plus, they still had a lot of fun!

Julianne's team during a bye.

Allison's team, waiting for the next round.

The "Quiz Band" sang Forever, a song recorded by Fireflight, at the talent show. I didn't know the song before they started practicing, but I really like it and the kids did a great job.

The theme for nationals this year was "I AM". At the first night's chapel service, the denominational quiz director spoke on the theme and one thing he said was simple, yet I found it to be so profound and continue to think on it.

He said "If God's name is I AM, then what does that make our name?
I am not."

He went on to say that for every cry of our heart, I AM is the answer.

"I'm not sure where my next meal is going to come from." "I AM."

"Who is going to love me?" "I AM"

"What's new?" "I AM."

"What's lasting?" "I AM"

"I'm not smart (strong, good, talented, etc.) enough." "I AM"

"No one's listening to me." "I AM"

There were many more, but I'm sure you get the picture.

We love our girls being in quizzing-they have learned so much each year as they study the Bible in such detail-but each year we've attended nationals, I come away so thankful that I get to attend with them and be a part of the week. The chapel messages are always so good-just think of preaching to a congregation where a majority of those listening might have your whole scripture text memorized. Then there's the testimony/communion service on Thursday-this year, with 3-minute limits, there were quizzers testifying for two-and-a-half hours.

Even if you don't count the opportunity to see so many young people having so much fun quizzing on the Bible, it's an incredible experience. I'm so glad we were able to attend.
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