Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crunch Time

I've been working like a mad woman after putting the kids to bed tonight, trying to get my Advent Calendar finished. I broke out the new sewing machine and so far so good. It's a little stiff, but at least it works properly!

My work so far:: Pockets sewed on, fireplace sewed on, tree sewed on! Done, done and done! Tomorrow, I'll sew the buttons on and then sew a backing and the tabs for hanging. I have 7 more little ornaments to sew, but that can wait, the priority is the calendar itself.
I thought the tree looked so plain by itself, and I really wanted to add a fireplace to hang the stockings from. With four kids, I wanted each to have their own stocking and it didn't look right, to me, to have four hanging on the tree. I reallllllly like how the fireplace turned out! I can't wait to get this finished and hanging on the wall December 1st!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Eating and Shopping

Hello!! Are you are still in turkey-induced resting mode, or are you coming down from a Black Friday shopping high? Or perhaps a little of both? :o)

We had a lovely Thanksgiving. My Aunt and Uncle didn't come down because Aunt got sick and didn't want to make the rest of us sick. We missed them but the huge turkey she gave us was already thawing and it needed to be cooked! 22 pounds of lovely turkey went in the oven and between the seven of us, we didn't even finish half of a breast. Talk about leftovers!! the other breast went into the freezer for future meals, and then I picked over the rest of the turkey for pot pies this week.

Andrew and I make such a great team in the kitchen-- he helped me peel potatoes from our garden and we made sure to cook extra potatoes for breakfast later this week, and also made sure there would be leftover mashed potatoes for a shepard's pie as well. When we chopped carrots; he peeled, I chopped; we cooked extra for the pot pies. Then we danced around the turkey as he made gravy from the drippings and I sliced up the meat for our meal. We couldn't have planned it better, there were hardly any leftovers except for what we wanted and we also didn't over stuff ourselves and become miserable for the rest of the night.

I confess, I love Black Friday. I grew up going through the sales papers on Thanksgiving with my mom and sister, hunting for the best bargains and waking early on Friday to hit the stores. I dragged Andrew with me the first year we lived together and it was his first time shopping on Black Friday-- his mom never participated in that event. Andrew went with me a couple times after that, then quit when one year, we waited in line for hours and people were rude and loud and he told me that he had better things to do with his time than to deal with crazy people! I stopped for awhile, too, since we had everything we needed at the time, and then we had no money to shop either.

Ironically, that first time I took Andrew with me to shop on Black Friday, it was for a sewing machine. It was the only thing I wanted that day, so we got up at 4:30 am and made it to the store by 5 am when the doors opened. I got my sewing machine and all was good. This year, that sewing machine finally called it quits on me, and I need a new sewing machine. Lo and behold, Walmart has a sewing machine for $50 and the sale starts at midnight.

I like the midnight start time. That means I don't have to wake up the kids and drag 'em with me and then worry about them the whole time I'm there, making sure they're safe with me and they don't get lost in the crowds. We did this last year, because Andrew had to work, and it was a nightmare making sure the kids were safe, dealing with the pushy people, long lines, and hungry/tired/cranky kids who just want to go back to bed. Midnight shopping means I can leave the kids asleep in their beds, leave the husband to keep our bed warm, and Mom and I are free to shop.

I got my sewing machine! We got there around 11 pm and I'm glad we did, they did something different this year and let people shop for those sale items, but not pay until after 12:01 am for the sale prices. I made a beeline for the sewing machine and already the pallet was half-gone by then. We picked up a few more things and we were done by 12:15 am. Lucky us, someone directed us to the jewelry counter to pay so we bypassed the long lines and we were out the door by 12:30 am. It was a good night and I'm glad the crowds weren't so bad. Maybe they were all still in a good mood from good eatin'.

Now I can finish my advent calendar and sew the tree and pockets on the backing . We are in the middle of putting up the tree and decorations, and then after the kids go to bed, I'll start sewing with my new machine! It's not a fancy machine, but then, that first sewing machine I bought on Black Friday 13 years ago wasn't either and it lasted me this long. Here's to another 13 years or more with this one.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Advent Calendar

I've wanted to make an Advent Calendar since forever. I see so many great handmade examples out there and I hate the cheap ones you see at the stores, but I just never made the time to make one. Then Jill over at Homemade By Jill started an Advent Sew-Along! She made it sound easy:: do a little at a time and hopefully, by December 1st, you'll have completed it! There are lots of other people sewing along with her and they are sharing ideas, links, patterns for the little ornaments and more!

I've decided this is the year to finally make my own and I've really enjoyed it so far. I haven't sewed the backing yet, but I've cut out the little pockets and sewed the numbers on them and I have all my little felt pieces cut out for the ornaments and all I have to do is assemble them and sew them together. My sewing machine is out of commission, but I hope to remedy that soon, so I can make the backing and sew the pockets and the tree on before December 1st.

Here are the ornaments I've finished so far:: snowman, dove, ornament, candy cane, gingerbread man, peppermint, light bulbs, candy ribbon, 4 presents (one for each kid). Hard to tell in the picture, but they are tiny ornaments! The peppermint is close to actual size!

I really like the ribbon candy one. I wanted to make some of my own ornaments that mean something to us... I grew up always having ribbon candy for Christmas, so I had to make one. I made it up, but it's pretty simple and I love how it turned out.

Here are the ones I still need to finish. They're all cut out, so it's just a matter of assembling them. I have 4 stockings for each kid, and each one will have their first initial on it; you can see the 'P' on one for Peter. I let the girls pick out the colors for their stockings. I made up the poinsettia one, I love poinsettias, but we never get one because we have cats and apparently they're poisonous to cats. I love my cats more, so I enjoy poinsettias from afar. I did french knots in the center and it was my first time doing french knots! I'm looking forward to finishing that one and seeing how it turns out.
Almost all the Advent calendars I've seen have 24 days to count down to Christmas, a few have 25. I'm partial to the 25, so I'm making mine with 25 days. The very last day, Christmas Day, will be the star to hang on the tree. I can't wait to finish this and hang it up and watch the kids take out an ornament every day.
My mom says it'll be a family heirloom when I finish it. I never thought about it that way, but it does appeal to me-- taking it out every year and watching the kids count down the days to Christmas. I imagine that when they are grown and out on their own, maybe they'll ask for it and they can take turns who gets to keep it for Christmas that year. Maybe I'll end up making one for each child to use for their own children? Who knows... it's too far off to think about now, I'll just enjoy the one I'm making.
I'll post more pictures as I go, and hopefully I get this done before December begins!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Year of the Tooth

What a crazy week! I'm so glad the weekend is here and I am looking forward to the whirlwind of making Thanksgiving dinner.

I think people make such a big deal about cooking the turkey and all the side dishes that go with it. I enjoy cooking and could easily spend my days in the kitchen whipping up all kinds of dishes, if only someone would clean up behind me and wash all the dishes when I am done. If you plan it right, make the desserts and do a little prep-work on some of the dishes the day before, once you put the turkey in the oven on the actual day, the rest of the day is pretty easy. But maybe it's me, I don't go for the super complicated dishes or go all out and decorate the table really fancy. Nothing changes in my house when it comes to Thanksgiving. I don't bring out the fancy dishes-- don't have any. I don't decorate with any tablecloths or leaves or any such stuff. I just cook the food, serve the food, eat the food.

Anyway, poor Andrew had some teeth that were bothering him for some time now. His wisdom tooth finally dropped and came in at an angle, pressing down on the next molar. The pain came and went over a few months, but the last couple of weeks have been really bad. Bad enough to turn Andrew into an ogre sometimes. He went to the Veteran's Hospital to get it checked out, but they kept giving him the run-around because he has high blood pressure. Dental would send him to the ER to get cleared by the doctor there, but the doctor would be too busy to see him one day or send him elsewhere another day. After nearly 2 weeks of back and forth, meanwhile taking antibiotics for the infection and meds for the pain, he gave up and called a local dentist in town. The local dentist agreed, he needed clearance for his high blood pressure, but once he got it, he'd pull the teeth ASAP.

Lickety-split, Andrew was able to get ahold of his primary doc at the Veteran's hospital and get the go-ahead for the dentist. The very next day, the dentist pulled both teeth. Turns out, the tooth that the wisdom tooth was pressing on-- the bone had deteriorated and there was nothing for the tooth to hold on to. It came out easily and then that space made it easier for the dentist to grab hold of the wisdom tooth and pop that out, too.

Amazing! What a difference in Andrew with those two teeth out. A little bit of soreness afterwards, but he's feeling pretty good. I have my husband back! Bye-bye Ogre! And, surprise, the local dentist was cheaper than the Veteran's dentist would have been. So, it all worked out, I guess. I'm just glad he is no longer in pain and he can go on with his life again.

It's the year of the tooth for us-- between the kids losing their baby teeth left and right-- Evelyn lost one of her canines the other day-- Andrew losing two, Mom breaking a front tooth, and my uncle breaking his tooth eating popcorn I made (oops!), that's a lot of teeth! Here's hoping we'll all have our teeth when we're old and gray and not gumming it! :o)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I try to take things in stride.
I try not to worry about stuff too much.
I try to relax and let things sliiiide off my back.
I try to not let the little things bug me.
I try hard at trying.

Sometimes I try not to cry over the stuff that I'm trying not to worry about.

I'm counting my blessings.
I have to, or else I'd focus on the stuff that I'm trying not to let bug me.
I have a good life. I do. I do, I do, I do!

I have a wonderful and loving husband.
He loves me. He truly does!
He's a good kisser and hugger and ...ahem... moving on!
He listens when I talk, eats the food I cook, provides the muscle when I need it.
He goes out and works so he can bring home a paycheck for us.
He is a wonderful father to our children.
I love watching him play with the kids, chasing them and playing hide and seek.
I have 4 beautiful children.
They are great kids.
They are turning out to be great siblings to each other.
I love how Evelyn helps me with the younger ones and I really appreciate that.
I love their individual personalities and I don't try to make one like the other.
I love my chickens.
I love their feathery butts and the way they walk and the way they run.
I love their combs and wattles and beaks.
I appreciate the gifts they leave in the coop to feed my family.
I enjoy our life here, in the middle of all this beauty.
The views, the mountains, the trees-- there is nothing prettier.
I learn something new everyday; today I learned my uncle once worked at a turkey farm.
I am grateful for the roof over our heads, the food in our pantry and the clothes in our drawers.
I am grateful our animal companions like to be near us.
I see the gift stash and I know that Christmas will be good this year.
Thanks to Secret Santas (you know who you are) that have helped make this possible.
Thanks to good friends and family for all you've done for us.
Thanks to coupons that help me shop for the family and lower our grocery bill.
Now if I could just find coupons to help lower the gas bill...

I'm feeling better now.
It'll be easier to try and not worry after reading this.
I agree with the local church sign down the road:
ThanksLiving should be all year, not just one day.
I am thankful that I wake up in the mornings.
I am thankful I get to share another day with my family.
I am thankful I have someone to love and who loves me back.
I am thankful.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


It's a fact of life that hungry things target chickens, including humans. Last year, before I had finished the coop, some animal killed a few of my chickens, which hurried along the finishing of the coop. Ever since, I've tried to be diligent about shutting the coop door when it gets dark to keep my chickens safe. I hate the daylight savings time change, as it gets dark so early now and usually I am in the kitchen cooking right when it gets dark, so the coop door is open for a little while before I get out there.

Last week, all of the little ones weren't in the coop. There are 9 little ones and only 4 were in the coop! Sometimes, they huddle on the outside of the coop, but none were there. Oh dear. It was one of those nights where I didn't get to the coop right when it got dark and it was around 8 at night by the time I checked on them. That means it had been dark a little more than 2 hours by then.

I searched in all the usual places the little chickens hang out, but I couldn't find any of them. I searched further, walked all around the house and finally spotted one huddled by the stoop at the far end of the apartment. Where were the other 4? After more hunting, I found another one squeezed in between an overturned trashcan and the house. Another one on top of the window air conditioner unit, where I never would have looked if I wasn't looking into the office window "spying" on Andrew. I found another one with the help of Maisie sniffing around the back of the coop. There was a chicken trying to squeeze under the coop. I was still missing one more and I looked high and low for it before I finally gave up. I hoped I would see it outside of the coop in the morning, but there was none there.

As far as I can figure, something must have gone in the coop and spooked the chickens. The older ones hang out in the nest boxes up high, forcing the young hens to the low roost bar and the lower nest boxes. That's the only explanation for why they were scattered like they were, one here, one there, when they are almost always huddled together in a tight group. It's been a week now since #9 has been gone, and I assume it's been eaten.

I'm making sure I am out there right at dusk now, when the chickens start heading into the coop for the night. It's getting dark before dinner, so it's a little easier for me to be out there. I hope it was a young rooster that got taken. I hope whatever got it has a nice full belly, but it better not come back. Might be time for me to take Andrew up on those shooting lessons.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Waste Not, Want Not

*Edited to add recipe for scratch Pumpkin pie*

I never understood that expression when I was a kid: Waste not, want not. I never asked what it meant and no one ever explained. Now that I am older and a little bit wiser, I understand now and I am trying to teach my children what it means.

At the Library on Oct 30, the kids got to paint little pumpkins. They've been sitting on the shelf, kind of forgotten, since Halloween is over and the decorations are put away. Seemed like such a waste of perfectly good pumpkins not to do anything with them. Hm, why not? I told the girls I was going to turn their pumpkins into pies!

After washing off the paint (I happened to note it was non-toxic, washable paint), I chopped them in half, gutted them, tossed the seeds to the chickens (we don't like pumpkin seeds), and popped the pumpkins in the oven. Evelyn helped puree the pumpkin and from 3 little ones came 12 cups of puree! That equals 8 pies! Yum! I made 2 pies tonight for dinner tomorrow and the kids can't wait to eat their Halloween pumpkins.

While I was preparing the pumpkins to go in the oven, I explained to the girls about not letting food go to waste. Here were some fine pumpkins and if we did not eat them, and instead let them rot, we'd have no pie. Later, when we are hungry for pie, we would remember how we let those pumpkins go to waste and kick ourselves for not using them when we had them. If you don't waste it now, you won't want it later= Waste not, want not.

I can't say for sure if the girls understand what the expression means, but they did say they would much rather eat pie than toss out their pumpkins. Whether or not they understand it, one thing is for sure-- Dessert will be savored tomorrow! :o)

At the request of my sister, here's how to cook and prepare pumpkin for making pie.

Cut pumpkin in half. Remove stem, blossom end, seeds and stringy parts. Bake in a covered pan or covered with foil for about 1-hour at 350 until fork tender. Drain off liquid and cut into smaller pieces and process in a blender or food processor until pureed. You can freeze puree in zippy bags. I always make 2 pumpkin pies at a time, so I freeze in 3-cup portions for 2 pies. If you use pumpkin puree in other recipes, feel free to freeze in smaller increments.

My recipe for 2 pumpkin pies:

2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp ground cloves
3 cups pumpkin puree
3 1/3 cups evaporated milk
4 eggs

Mix all ingredients until smooth. Pour evenly into 2 pie crusts and bake 15 minutes at 450* then reduce heat to 325* and bake another 45 minutes until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Eat and enjoy!! :o)

P.S. We ate pumpkin pie for dinner and it was deeeeeeeelicious!! We had my Aunt and Uncle here for dinner and polished off one pie. Still have another pie for Saturday's dinner! yum!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Big Van, Little Van

With 4 children, my Mom, my Husband and I, we can fill up our little van pretty quickly. It gets tight in there sometimes, and we have to pass up going places just because there is no more room in the van. We have a Mazda MPV-- we bought it when I was pregnant with Evelyn. Used to drive a Jeep Cherokee and I loved that thing-- but after babysitting 2 toddlers and putting their car seats in the jeep, I realized that it was going to be tight, so we decided to trade it in for a van.

Anyone familiar with the Mazda MPV knows that it's a mini mini-van. It has served us well for 2 kids, even 3 kids, but with 4 kids and their things, it gets stuffed. And now that Mom comes along with us, we are shoving 3 kids in the 3rd row and Peter gets to stay in his car seat next to Grandma. Had I known back in 2001 when we bought the van that we would have 4 kids and Mom would move in with us, we probably would have bought something bigger.

We've been searching for a larger van for a while now, weighing pros and cons of going larger: pros- more room; cons- more gas; versus keeping our old van: pros- paid for; cons- costly engine repairs. We go back and forth but the biggest deciding factor is money. Or lack of it, anyway. Don't have money to fix the van, don't have money to buy a van. ~sigh~

We could swing car payments if we really tightened the belts and with my extreme coupon shopping habits, we are left with a little more money at the end of every month than before. It's a question of: Do we really want to do that?

Another question: How big do we go? We've been looking at Ford E-150 passenger vans. Boy those are hard to come across in the used car searches. After talking with people, we found that people hold on to these vans, which makes sense to me-- these big vans are bought with a set purpose in mind, like large families or sports teams or church groups and those purposes don't usually change for a good long time.

After one slipped through our fingers last summer, when another E-150 popped up on carmax, we called up right away to check it out. Sunday, we went to take a look at it, give it a test drive and talk business with the Man. I don't know, maybe it's me, but I hate being in places where salespeople circle like vultures and I'm afraid to say anything in front of them for fear they'll pounce on what I say and twist it to make it sound right. I'll tell you though, carmax is efficient. Their system is take the van for a test drive and while you're gone, they'll appraise your old van, so by the time we got back, everything was good to go.

They had a playroom for the kids (nice!), so Mom stayed behind with the kids and Andrew and I took the new van for a spin. He drove first and because the salesman was in the van with us, I felt a little bit stifled-- I didn't feel free to fiddle around with the dash or turn around and "practice" yelling at the imaginary kids back there. My turn to drive and I don't like how there's a rubber strip-thingy right next to the tiny accelerator and every time I stepped on the gas to go, my foot got caught on the rubber strip. Made me uncomfortable. I know it's also a matter of adjusting to a new car and deleting old habits from the old van, but still... it didn't feel safe to me.

Another thing about the E-150, it was very high-- that would make it harder for my Mom to get in and out of. I had her get in it before we took it out for a test drive and I worried she was going to fall. And for all the extra space we'd get in the van, it was tight in the front. Hardly any floor space for the front seat passenger and I'm not a small girl-- I'm tall with long legs and I like to be able to stretch them out, I wouldn't be able to do that in that van. The seat was back as far as it would go and there just wasn't any space for my feet.

After we got back, the salesman had the results of the appraisal for our old van and I was very disappointed at the amount. Not even close to what I expected and at that price, trade-in value would barely make a dent in the purchase price of the new van. It was easy to say "no", but we should have asked the guy to leave the room and give us a few moments to talk, because we had some tense moments on the way home before we figured out what was bothering each other. We drove a long way to see the van, and had high hopes we would be driving a new (to us) van home. Plus, the kids were really vocal in their disappointment and that just rubbed more salt in the wound.

I'm not sorry we didn't get the van. We are still on the look-out for another van, but maybe this time, a full size mini-van instead of the big, super-sized vans. It won't be a whole lot of extra space, but compared to our little van, it'll be more comfortable and won't be so hard on the wallet with the cost of gas compared to a larger full-sized van. We can't afford to keep pouring money into the old van if it won't stay fixed and I'd like to try and sell it before it gets any older and loses more value.

The one good thing about the appraisal by carmax, was they told us our van is in good condition, good engine and good interior (with 4 kids?!? that's a surprise!), so we should be able to get a nice amount for it, just not what carmax offered. Their offer was so low because the van had been in an accident and the frame was cracked and repaired. Carmax will not sell cars with major repairs like that, since it compromises their integrity to sell "like-new cars". So, we'll take the van elsewhere to sell, and then find another van to purchase. That's the plan anyway.

Any recommendations for vans?? I'd love to hear from people who have 4 kids and what they drive. We're looking at the Honda Odyssey as the best bet so far.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Oh Brother!

What is it with kids and poop?

I thought that having 3 girls might exempt me from hearing potty and poopy jokes, but sadly, it's not the case. Every now and then they get on a tangent and spend hours (hours!) giggling and laughing about butts and boobies and poop.

It's funny for about 5 minutes, and then I spend the next few hours (hours!) rolling my eyes at their jokes and drawings.

They'll draw pictures of cartoon characters they see in the movies and undress them in their pictures-- like Astro Boy in his underwear (giggle) or Woody sitting on the toilet (roaring laughter).

They'll laugh when the ketchup bottle goes "phbbbt!" and scold it for farting.

They pretend their dolls are pooping or farting and then wave naked doll butts in the air and chase each other around the house, screaming: " Ahhh, naked butt-butts! Naked butt-butts!"

Sometimes they strip their own clothing and run around naked, laughing and squealing in delight. I'm sure now with the colder weather that will happen less often.

Ah, Winter, the naked butt-butt deterrent!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


We voted, did you?