Monday, June 29, 2009

Home Sweet Home

We went to our old haunts on Sunday. We went to the Husband's parent's house for lunch and didn't tell the kids where we were going so it was a fun surprise for them. Then in the afternoon, my closest friend was having a baby shower for baby #4. I tease her that she is trying to keep up with me! :o)

It was great seeing everyone, to talk and laugh, catch up on the news... but man! Once on the road, we sure couldn't wait to head back home to the mountains again! The traffic is something terrible and being away from rush hour and thousands of crazy drivers, you forget what it's like to drive on the beltway. I'm not saying people in the country drive any better, but there's less of them to contend with.

Doesn't look so bad in this shot, but there were lots of cars on the interstate. About halfway home, there was a bad accident going eastbound and traffic was backed up for miles. Made me glad we were headed west towards home.

We're in the last 20 minutes to home here. I love coming over this hill and seeing several mountain ranges. Kind of cloudy, it sprinkled on and off, but on a clear sunny day, you can see for miles! Oh and see what I mean? No cars!

Almost home! We're about 7 miles from home and this is one of my favorite views, especially when the pastures are dotted with hay bales. The sun is going down, the air is cool and you can feel the difference in temperature almost immediately. We're at least 10 degrees cooler than our old haunts.

When we first bought this house, the former owner told us that we would enjoy living here. She was so right. We have come to love it so much and we find ourselves visiting our old haunts less and less. The first year here, we went back just about every 2 weeks, then every month. Now we go maybe 4 times a year. So far in 2009, we've only been back twice-- for Easter and yesterday. I'll be back soon, though, when my friend has her baby. She's due July 19th. I'm hoping to be there to witness the birth, but that depends on how quickly she progresses and how fast I can get there. Wait for me!! :o)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sand and Cherries

Thursday we went to Cacapon State Park in West Virginia. We live close by and we have had picnics there when we go yard sale-ing or thrifting in the town of Berkley Springs, but we had not been to the lake there. We finally went and what a great place it is!! It's nestled right in the mountains and the lake is so clear, with little fishies swimming by your legs. There is a lovely little beach and there are picnic tables dotted here and there and on the other side of the lake you can rent paddle boats or kayaks.

It's perfect for small children since there are no strong waves to knock them down and we could relax without worrying about undertows or big waves. The entrance fee is small, only cost us $12 for all 6 of us and we are definitely going back. We'll go for a whole day next time-- the Husband had to work that evening, so we were only there for a few hours, much to the children's disappointment.

Baby had fun, too!

Just look at that smile!

Loving every minute of it!

My water girl!
Friday, we went cherry picking again. I used up all the cherries from the last time we were there and I wanted to get more before they were gone. Cherries are only in season for about 2-3 weeks and when we were there, the orchard only had 2 trees left with sweet cherries. They still had plenty of sour cherries, so we got 3 buckets of sours and 2 buckets of sweets.
I canned 6 pints of maraschino cherries last night for a total of 9 pints so far. The juice for the maraschinos is so good, that I've been using it in the lemonade for a cherry-lemonade drink. Yum! I bet if I added a bit of rum to it for a grown-up drink, it would taste great on a hot day! I canned 3 pints of leftover maraschino juice for future drink mix-ins.

While at the cherry orchard, Middle found a 4-leaf clover!
Lucky girl!

The girls also used their very first genuine outhouse at the orchard! It was tucked in between these huge lilac bushes and when I saw it, my first thought was natural air freshener in the Spring! :o)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Finally, a Normal Day!

Whew! 2009 has been our busiest year yet. When my mom's home caught fire in January, the insurance people hired a fire damage cleaning company that will come in the home, pack everything, clean anything smoke damaged, store your items and clean the home before the contractors come in and rebuild. Mom has a lot of stuff, I think I mentioned she is a pack rat, so there were a lot of boxes packed and stored in their warehouse.

Mom's home is almost completed, and they were about to put all of Mom's things back into the home. Ack! No! No, no, no, we want to sell the home and keep it empty! So Husband has been making calls to find storage space and moving vehicles. We explored several options-- buying an old trailer and using it for storage: kind of pricey but it's a permanent solution; buying and building storage sheds/buildings: pricey, plus we just don't have the time to build them and didn't know where we would put the sheds; renting storage space: none of the local storage places have available space and unlike commercial storage places in the city, these local places don't have a whole lot of choices, plus that's a lot of monthly payments to store those things long-term.

Finally, the Husband and I talked and talked and we agreed to put her stuff in our garage and basement. We have a big enough house that we don't really use the basement for much-- mostly it's a catch-all for things and we already decided that we were going to eliminate the play area for the kids. So we cleaned up a corner and moved all the toys and stuff to the other side of the basement. We cleaned out the garage and moved out the truck and van. Then we made the call and they delivered Mom's stuff for a fee (wayyyy cheaper than renting a truck and they also unloaded it, so we saved our backs!). There were 5 truckloads of my Mom's things. Holy cow, what a lot of stuff.

One truck was mostly furniture. Those went directly into the apartment. 3 trucks were filled with boxes, and those all went into the basement and the garage. Totally filled up the place. A fifth truck was maybe half-full, a mixture of boxes and some odds and ends that didn't fit in the furniture truck. It was nice that we didn't have to rent a truck and do it ourselves, which we were prepared to do, but dreading. We would have also needed to drop the kids off at the grandparent's house and that would have added onto the driving time as well. All in all, it worked out. With Mom's stuff here, I can go through her boxes and get a head start on sorting it for her, and selling some of the extras at yard sales or in my etsy shop.

Today, the Husband is off and it's so nice not to have to go anywhere or do anything except just regular stuff-- I'm working on the cherries we picked and he's doing yard work. The kids are playing outside, begging to use the slip and slide. They're pouting because we said no, the ground is still soggy from all the rain we've had, but we have something up our sleeves for tomorrow. If it's hot tomorrow, and it is supposed to be, we are going to the state park where you can swim in a mountain-fed lake! I'll pack a picnic and everything!

And because I don't like posting without pictures, here's a couple of pics taken recently...

Here chicky, chicky, chicky! Come and hop in my frying pan!

Oldest found a four-leaf clover!! What good luck!

Sunday, June 21, 2009


When a local orchard put an ad in the paper stating their cherries were ready, I asked the husband to call and see when we could go! They were selling pick-your-own sour cherries for 60 cents a pound and sweet cherries for 70 cents a pound. Compare that to 4.99 a pound at the store and you know you're getting a sweet deal! We went on Friday, which was perfect picking weather-- cool and cloudy with a few sprinkles here and there. By the time we were done, it was just past lunch time and getting hot and humid.

sour cherries
Middle; appropriately dressed for cherry picking


Oldest, hard at work

I don't think we picked enough cherries... We recycled our ice cream buckets which held almost 5 pounds of cherries. We filled up 2 buckets each of sour cherries and sweet cherries.

For as long as I can remember, I've always loved maraschino cherries. I recently found a recipe to make my own and it's a fairly straightforward recipe. It takes a few days to make a batch and if this first batch of maraschino cherries is a success, I'll be making another trip to the orchard for more cherries! Think of all the goodies I can make with maraschino cherries:: ice cream, chocolate covered cherries, cherry quick breads.... yum!

I've made 2 batches of cherry jam, a first for me. I have a batch of maraschino cherries about ready to go in the canner and I'll be making more cherry pies.

I combined sweet cherries with rhubarb for a new twist on cherry pie and it was SO good! I'll be doing that again! Just use a regular cherry pie recipe and substitute 1 cup of cherries with rhubarb and add half a cup of sugar, then make as usual. yummy!

Here's the result of the cherry-rhubarb pie.

This one used the last of my canned cherries from last year. It has almond extract in it and used cornstarch instead of tapioca. Tasty and pretty to look at, but the cherry rhubarb was so much yummier!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Life in Sentences.

I let the housecleaning slide a little bit, we've been way too busy and I have to pick what's more important:: cranky me cleaning a house or having a little fun with the kids with a crumb-y floor? I chose the crumb-y floor, but then I also chose the cluttered counter tops, dirty dishes in the sink, messy bedrooms and dirty laundry in the hallway.

Why is it when my house is messy, that's when I have strangers come by-- the phone company guy to replace the modem on our computer and carpet people come and install new carpeting in the apartment. I was embarrassed about the mess, and apologized, then kicked a toy under the hutch and picked up a few torn scraps of paper off the floor. I know there's nothing I can do while the guy is standing in the office, waiting for the computer screen to warm-up and all he can see is the mess in the house. sigh... Let that be a lesson to me:: it's OK to let the housework slide, but not too much!

Here's a quick update::

The garden is growing,
the kids are thriving,
the chickens are establishing their pecking order,
the dog is chewing up barbie dolls,
the husband is still working his part-time job,
the baby is soon a year old,
Archie the cat has a tick on his eyelid,
the cars need inspection,
the van needs new tires,
the garage needs a new garage door opener,
Lucy the cat catches and kills voles,
then leaves them near the food bowls,
the pears on the pear tree are the size of walnuts,
the chicken coop still needs finishing touches,
BC the cat still doesn't like the dog,
the mulberries are ripe and ready for picking,
my canning jars are washed and ready,
I'm itchy with bug bites,
we need to have a major yard sale,
I just picked up a sweet sewing basket at someone else's yard sale,
I have more pee-pee sheets to wash,
Baby's rash is better,
Youngest is getting a heat rash,
Oldest just had a growth spurt,
Middle wants a hair cut,
Husband is smelling mighty fine,
my heart goes pitty-pat when I see him,
I finally loaded the photo program,
the printer and the computer are not speaking to each other,
I have 37 missed calls on my videophone,
Husband found 'Papillon' at the used dvd store,
Baby is walking,
no talking yet,
something is munching on my peas,
I forgot the blanket drying on the line outside,
it's after midnight and I am ready for bed,
Good Night.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stay Tuned...

Taking a short break-- the computer is on the fritz again, and I can't keep running to the Library, located 25 miles away, to keep up with the blog. Be back soon ( I hope!!)!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Memory Lane Mondays

We will be going to a funeral tomorrow and we are taking the kids with us. We don't want to shield them from death, and we want them to know that someday, sooner or later, everyone dies. We refuse to mislead them into thinking that so-and-so is "sleeping" or "gone away somewhere".

I went to my first funeral when I was 12 or 13. My Mom's mother died after a long (? was it long? Hard to gauge time after so many years now) illness and an unsuccessful open-heart surgery.

I remember not too long before her death, we were staying the night at my Aunt's house where my grandmother now lived. Sometime in the middle of the night, the light from the hall woke me from where I slept on a little cot in the dining room. My grandmother was coming down the stairs and she saw me looking at her. I sat up and then she told me, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself!" She left the room and I sat there, stunned, and wondered what it was I should be ashamed of.

The funeral was held at a large funeral home and I remember touching her cold, smooth face. The skin of her face seemed to melt and pool on the pillow where her head rested, and my mother tucked an orange tiger lily in her stiff hands. They were her favorite flower and she always had them growing around her house in Minnesota.

I didn't feel sad, or angry or any of those emotions you're supposed to feel when a loved one dies. I didn't really know her that well, it seemed like we always lived so far away from her that we didn't see her often and then when we did see her, it was short. The last few months (years?) of her life, Mom said she changed after the open-heart surgery, and she would be fine one moment and then a different person the next.

I remember, more, that there was a dead baby in the other viewing room of the funeral home and I was fascinated with the makeup they put on the baby to make it's cheeks look rosy pink. She must have been less than a year old and her cheek was so soft and rounded. I ran to get my sister to come and see and then the funeral director shooed us out and shut the double doors to the baby's room.

The relationship between my mother and her mother was strained, to put it nicely, and because of that, I work hard (it's not hard at all!) to make sure that my own relationship with my mother goes smoothly. I want my children to know their grandparents in ways that I never got to know my own. I want them to spend time and really know them and to be able to ask them questions that I cannot answer. I ask my Mom things about her past, and because my grandmother had the belief that the past stays in the past, my mother doesn't know the answers to my questions. It's not that I want to live in the past, but it would be interesting to know how my grandmother and her family ended up in Minnesota. What food did my grandmother preserve and how did she do it? Why didn't she sign with her own children, who were also deaf, and wait until they found out on their own that she could sign? Or what happened to my grandfather? These are things that genealogy cannot answer.

I'll be thinking of all the friends and family that I have loved and lost when I go to the funeral tomorrow, remembering them for who they were and what they meant to me. I'll be explaining to the kids why we pay our respects to the dead and if they have any questions, I'll be ready to answer them.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Computer Glitch Update

I took the computer in to the local fix-it shop and they were able to recover some of my pictures. A lot is gone, though, like the last 18 months worth of pictures. I'm sad about it but it's not a total loss because thanks to my blogging, I still have baby pictures of Baby, puppy pictures of Maisy, baby chick pictures, and lots of other stuff. If not for my blog, then I would have probably broken down and cried in the fix-it shop.

I also learned something new about my computer:: Apparently, when we are surfing the 'net, the computer picks up images we click on here and there and saves them. When they pulled up my recovered pictures, they had a separate file labeled "internet pics" and I didn't understand what they were because there were pictures of total strangers with a few I recognized from blogs I visit. They explained to me that the computer saved them. huh. Didn't know that. I knew about being able to track where you've been, but not about pictures.

Mixed in among my recovered pictures of photos I did take, were also random images from the internet, like photos we clicked on to see in ebay and etsy. There were 757 recovered photos and more than half were random images that I deleted. Of the pictures I have left, many are duplicates, so total pictures recovered? Less than 250.

I will be printing pictures more often to put away into photo albums and I also bought a memory stick for back-up. This was a lesson learned, and one I don't care to repeat.

On the bright side of things, the computer was totally cleaned out and is running faster now. We had to download some programs to be able to watch news clips and tv shows and it's kind of nice to have a "fresh" computer again. I can't post any recent photos until I upload the photo program I had, so those pictures of Oldest in the previous post are the only ones I have left from the recovered photos.

We can't afford one now, but hopefully, later on, we will get a second computer for the kids to use. One that they can play their games on, do their schoolwork and other things and keep them away from 'Mommy and Daddy's computer'.

We have an old laptop and when I asked the fix-it shop about it, they said it would cost too much to refurbish and I could probably get more money for it selling it as 'parts' on ebay. I find that so hard to believe-- that a laptop that cost us over 1,200 new less than 10 years ago is now worthless. sigh... Any suggestions out there? I can't accept that my only option is to sell the laptop for parts.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Oldest is 7 today!

My little firstborn is now a big girl!

May you celebrate many more birthdays, lovey!

Monday, June 1, 2009


Can you believe it's June already?! Man! They weren't kidding when they said time flies when you have kids! My Oldest will be 7 on Friday and since we have decided 2009 to be the year of no birthday parties, it will just be her grandparents coming up on Saturday for her birthday. She has already made her requests for specific meals and a cake for her special day and I need to get busy and make a doll for her like I did her other sisters. Shhh!

My computer still isn't back to normal yet-- I'll be calling the local computer fix-it place and see what they can do. We use this computer for so much that we cannot put it off any longer. I use the photo program I downloaded for ebay and etsy sales, this here blog, and for personal family pictures and it's so frustrating not to be able to upload more pictures. Plus this setting that the computer went back to is so plain and all our personal preferences and favorites are gone and we have to go by memory on where certain things on the internet are located. A real pain in the you-know-what!

A lot has happened since I last posted. Something got into our chickens Thursday night/Friday morning and left one Rhode Island chicken dead and 2 Speckled Sussex chickens were carried away, presumably to be eaten. I followed a trail of bloody feathers into the woods and then lost the trail. They were not in the coop, it was not done yet and they had been settling in for the night in the corner of our sunroom and dining room. I put up a fence and they spent a week there until the incident happened. Friday, the Husband and I spent the day finishing the chicken coop and it was a good thing that my Mom happened to be visiting us because she watched the kids and Baby for us.

We finished the coop! No pictures, unfortunately, but I'll post them when my computer is normal. I still have to build nest boxes, but the roof, walls and door is done. I'm sore from all the hammering and the physical work I did to lift and carry all the wood I needed, but I'm so proud of our little coop! It's nice and solid and we paid less than $50 in materials we needed that we couldn't scavenge. I need to tweak it a little bit, add windows for light and block a few spaces that the chickens got stuck in, but for the most part, it's done. They have been in there since Friday night and every morning when I go to let them out, I hold my breath and count the remaining chickens-- still 11 left, whew!

We also tried our strawberry wine! Yum yum! It's been a year since we made it and my instructions for the wine said to let it ferment for a year. I think I'll wait 6 months next time, try it and then check every month after that because we had a 50/50 success rate-- wine and vinegar. The wine is delicious!! I can definitely taste the alcohol. It's a sweet wine, light and tasty, I'll make it again. The vinegar is also good, but my! that's a lot of vinegar we're stuck with! Looks like nearly 2 gallons of vinegar so far. Looks like there's going to be a lot of strawberry vinaigrette on my salads this summer.