Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve

I got invited to a fancy New Year's Eve party in D.C., but at $40 per person, I'd rather stay in my warm and cozy home with my family. I certainly don't want to drive 3 hours to D.C. and then deal with traffic and potential drunk drivers and get home all red-eyed and exhausted from driving in the wee hours of the morning.

My plan for spending New Year's eve is to just be home, maybe watch a movie with Andrew, kiss each other one last time for 2010 and then another kiss welcoming 2011. Sounds good to me! Unfortunately, Mr. Opossum had his own ideas for celebrating the New Year::

He killed and feasted on a chicken, right there in the nest box at the bottom of the coop! Andrew went out to shut the coop up for the night and came in to report to me that 2 chickens were out; one under the van and another heading into the woods. So I grab my sweater and flashlight and go out to check, thinking it's just a matter of herding 2 chickens caught in the dark back into the coop. Imagine my surprise when I shine the light inside and catch two reflecting eyes shining back at me!

I run back into the house to fetch Andrew and he fetches his .22, but I was afraid the bang would scare the chickens out of the coop, which is the last thing I wanted. I suggested the nearest tool handy, which was the rake, and Andrew hit the opossum a few times, but he wouldn't budge and give up his meal. All it did was turn around and huddle itself in the corner. Andrew went back in and got his BB handgun and shot it a few times, but it still wouldn't budge. Banged on the outside corner where the opossum was, and other than jumping with every bang, it remained there.

I ended up getting the hammer and pulling out the board that covers that corner and Andrew took the rake and poked it and it shot out the hole I made and went under the coop. Not exactly where I wanted it to go, but the coop is closed up and there's no way for the opossum to get back in now. I removed the dead hen and examined it, and he must have been in there awhile, a good part of the breast meat was eaten and its' stomach was exposed with all the ingested food spilled out. Poor hen, I feel bad and hope her death was quick.

I still have 2 chickens on the loose, but it's a mild night, thankfully (the temps got into the 60s today!!) and I'll find out in the morning if they are still alive. They ran into the woods and from past experience, it's damn near impossible to find a brown chicken amongst brown leaves and trees and branches. The warm weather melted what little snow we had, so I feel their chances of surviving the night are good. If they hunker down and keep quiet, they'll do alright.

In the morning, I'll inspect under the coop and if it's all clear, I'll cover up that hole. What a way to start the new year. I think it's time for Andrew to teach me to use the .22, so if I ever needed to, I can do it myself. I got a little squeamish thinking about killing that opossum, but now that he's had a taste of fresh chicken, I have no doubt it'll come back. I'll have to get over that squeamishness and kill it the next time it comes around.

I think I'll have to make that into my New Year's Resolution: Learn to shoot a rifle and learn to shoot it well.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An Early Christmas Gift

When it comes to exchanging gifts between Andrew and I, it's not always easy. When we want something, usually, we get it (money permitting). Under the tree for Andrew was a shirt he saw me buy, a matching father-and-son scarf from fleece that I made and... that's it. For me was a new flashlight that I needed so I would stop swiping Andrew's and leaving it everywhere but where he left it.
The biggest gift to each other though, was one we, or rather he, got earlier this month:
He got a vasectomy.
That's right, snip-snip!
It's something we talked about and he volunteered to do it, rather than me go through major surgery to get my tubes tied. Much easier for a man to get snipped and he can go home an hour after the procedure is done. It helps that he had a role model-- his own father had a vasectomy.
When we found out that the Veterans' health insurance covered vasectomies, he made an appointment as soon as he could get one.
Andrew wasn't nervous about the procedure at all. They had a pre-op appointment to explain how it works, but we had already researched it on our own and talked to other men that had it done. A close friend of ours suggested that Andrew "drain" himself before the appointment because that's what he did and he didn't even have to ice it afterwards. The thinking behind that is that there was no build-up or back-up of fluids to cause any pain.
Well, the week before the appointment, we had nightly fun a little more often than usual, a sort of farewell slash emptying of the fluids. He got slightly nervous in the waiting area, but who wouldn't when you're naked and cold and dressed only in a flimsy hospital gown? They asked him to shave himself prior to the appointment and gave him antiseptic soap to wash with that morning before leaving for the hospital.
They numbed him up and quickly worked one side, then the other, and before he knew it, they were done. The doctor told him that he still needed to use protection and that he wasn't sterile until he says he is sterile. We'll find out in January, six weeks after the procedure, if the vasectomy was successful.
He walked out of the hospital looking nothing like a man that just had a vasectomy. I expected him to walk slowly and possibly hunched over in pain, but he looked just fine. I drove him home and he laid down for a bit when we got home, but he didn't ice it and was in no pain. I had to laugh when I saw they put a bandage on either side where the cuts were made. Good thing he was shaved!
Surprisingly, the next night he was ready to go! I had doubts, I thought it would be too painful for him, but who am I to deny a night of fun for each other? There was no problem that night in his performance and hasn't been any problems since.
Hopefully, in January, the doctor will declare Andrew sterile and we will no longer have to get these anymore. Good riddance!
Being sterile means no more of these, either. I'm fine with that. I love the children we have and have no desire for more.

He's happy,

I'm happy!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Chaos

With the build-up to Christmas, the gifts, the baking, the guests.. it's almost a letdown when it's all over. I love this time of year, I love the excuse to bake cookies and pies and wrap presents. I am grateful this year that we finally wised up and shopped year-round for gifts so that we didn't go broke at the last minute. I kept track of what the kids 'wished for' during the year, keeping an eye out for sales, coupons, rebates and even the yard sales and thrift shops. Evelyn writing her Christmas list back in August was a big help, too, as I was able to get things she wanted that I otherwise would not have known about.

It was a little easier to shop for Evelyn, 8, than it was for the other younger ones. She has developed interests and clearly likes doing crafts and reading books. The younger ones are still into doll-playing and pretend, and Peter just likes to throw stuff. In her Christmas list, she asked for fabric and sewing stuff, and one of my blogging friends sent me some lovely fabric for Evelyn. I was so excited to be able to surprise Evelyn with fabric and her very own vintage sewing box, along with spools of thread, new scissors and pins, embroidery floss and a note asking her to take care of the box and its' contents.

She was so thrilled with her sewing stuff and it was a delight to see her jaw drop!

My Aunt also gave her a kid-size sewing machine, which I had no idea she was going to give! Talk about happy!! The sewing box and machine both sit on her dresser and she is impatiently waiting for me to show her how to use the new sewing machine.

Back in May, my sister and her family came up to visit and she gave me some presents to give to the girls come Christmas. I must have forgotten what she told me was in them, because all along I thought they were dresses or some outfits. The size of the box seemed about right for one of those clothing boxes. When I handed them out, imagine the squeals of joy when they ripped off the wrapping paper to find brand new Barbies!!! They were so happy with their new dolls! Thanks Aunt Teena!!
You've made 3 little girls very happy!

During the summer, I would find Barbies at the yard sales and I'd pick out the best looking ones with the nicest outfits, and in their Christmas stockings, the girls each received a Barbie. So they got 2 Barbies this Christmas!

Peter, at 2, is at the point where he just likes to throw stuff or bop the girls on the head with something. He gets into everything and likes to put stuff into holes or poke things into places he isn't supposed to. The couch you see behind him-- he put a hole under one of the cushions and drops stuff in there. One night after the kids went to bed, I was looking for the remote, and I discovered the hole. I took a flashlight and peeked in and found quite a bit of stuff in there-- so that's where the forks were disappearing to! There's the stuffed birdies I made for the tree, marbles, blocks, cereal, popcorn, sippy cup lids, and yes, the remote. We had to cut a slit in the bottom of the couch to get all the stuff out and now we regularly check inside the couch for missing items. I really need to sew a patch on it and put an end to his squirreling away of stuff.

Grandma got him a new basketball hoop and some legos, since the girls won't share their own legos with him. I found a big box of wooden tracks and trains at the thrift store and a train table at a yard sale. We picked out a few tracks and trains and set it up on the train table and put it under the tree for Peter. I think he's happy with it, but it's still early yet, he hasn't really had a chance to play with the trains.

It snowed on Christmas day, so Grandma and Grandaddy didn't come. It's just as well, they got a lot of presents from us, Grandma, and Aunt and Uncle and I think they were overwhelmed as it was. Peter was having small tantrums when he was stopped from ripping wrapping paper off any box he could get his hands on. Sylvia and Gretchen wanted to just play with their dolls-- the Barbies and their Jessie dolls and they didn't want to open any more gifts. Grandma and Grandaddy will come next week and this way, they can play with what they have now and open a few more later.

We are starting new rules with their new toys, most of the old toys are in the basement and we are trying to teach them to take better care of their toys. I am tired of stepping on toys or having just cleaned a room only to turn around and have it look like a toy box vomited five minutes later. We are confiscating toys when we find them where they aren't supposed to be, and constantly asking them where this or that is, until it sinks into their heads that they are to keep track of where their toys are at all times. Peter got into Sylvia's new markers and scattered them everywhere and lost the caps to a few. As a result of that, all the markers and coloring books are now put up. Gretchen got a 'Go Fish' card game, and last night I found the cards all over the floor, behind the dresser and some fell behind the baseboard. That's gone, too. I have several Barbie shoes and outfits in the "gone box", as well.

It must be working, being mean mama and mean daddy. This morning, crayons were left on the table and the train tracks and trains left on the floor. I called to the girls to clean it up just as I carried Peter to the changing table. Before I even finished cleaning him up, the girls ran back to say they were done! Did they pick up all the crayons? "yes." Pick up all the trains and tracks? "yes." Then Gretchen said something that showed me she really is listening to us: "Many hands make the work go fast!" I was so pleased to hear her say that!

Now we can relax; no more pressure to cook or bake or clean house for guests; enjoy our new gifts and movies; eat the pies, fudges and cookies; we can just be together and be happy.

Hope your Holidays were merry and jolly and filled with laughter and love. xoxo

Friday, December 17, 2010

White Christmas!

So, unless it warms up all of a sudden, it looks like we'll have a white Christmas after all. We got about 2 inches of snow on Thursday, much to the delight of the kids, and poor mama, I had to run around all over the house looking for the other matching mitten, scarves, snow pants, and it's-around-here-somewhere-this-is-where-I-saw-it-last-#$%!!##-snowboots! ahem. Sorry, four children breathing down my neck hollering for snow clothing can wear a mama out!

After I finally gathered together all the snow clothing, dressed them warmly, sent three out of four children on their way, I hoped for at least 20 minutes of knitting time, but it was not to be. Ten minutes out the door, Sylvia was done. Then Gretchen and Evelyn followed. Time for hot chocolate and candy canes. A call to Daddy at the mall to please buy Peter some gloves so he doesn't stand by the window and wail and flail and cry in frustration at being stuck in the house instead of outside shoving snow in his mouth. Anymore wailing and flailing and I might be the one wailing and flailing!

It's been cold here, I'm not complaining, it's been pretty mild up to now, and we managed to get away with not having a fire for most of November. Our stockpile of firewood is not as big as I'd like it, so any day not having a fire is another day saved. We may get some more snow, wait and see, I hope just a little more, not so much to keep family away for Christmas day. I have a big turkey in the freezer for Christmas dinner, and I hope I'll be able to cook it for all our guests and not just us. I may get a back-up ham just in case.

Winter Solstice is almost here. I've been talking for years about wanting to celebrate this day with the kids, and I am going to do it this year. A walk in the woods would be nice, making something to hang in the trees for the birds to eat and welcoming Winter with some small treat for us. I'd love to hear your ideas if any of you celebrate the Winter Solstice.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Last of Summer 2010

These 3 tomatoes represent the very last of summer's harvest. This is the first time we have eaten fresh tomatoes from my garden all the way into December! Before the first hard frost hit, back in late October, I harvested nearly all the green tomatoes. I left behind quite a few on the vine, and was going to get the rest the next day, but the next morning found them all mushy and limp under Jack Frosts' touch. Oh well, I still had the first harvest, which filled 2 milk crates-- nearly 8 gallons of green tomatoes!
Our sun room was an add-on by previous owners, and we think there's no insulation, plus the windows are those slat-type windows, which all equals to either a very hot room in the summer, or a very cold room in the winter. Makes it perfect for storing green tomatoes and letting them ripen slowly. The tomatoes that got moldy or mushy went to the chickens and we salvaged some by cutting off the bad parts. I have one lonely tomato left and I am amazed that I've been able to eat fresh this late in the year.
Andrew and I have long stopped buying taste-less tomatoes at the stores, preferring to wait until either the farm stands have them in the Spring, or from our garden. After the last tomato gets eaten, we'll be relying on all the tomatoes I canned over the summer-- more than 60 quarts worth! We are eating well.
All in all, I'd say 2010 was a very good year for tomatoes! There are a few changes I want to make for 2011's garden, but I'll probably plant the same amount, tie them up the same way, use the soaker hoses again, and use the same old carpet for weed blocking. I won't be planting the dark purple cherry tomatoes, or the yellow and red striped ones, but then again, I didn't intentionally buy those and I think they were mix-ups from the farm store where I bought the plants. The purple cherry tomatoes were tasty, but the skin was tough and I was pretty much the only one eating them. I ended up mixing them in with the canned tomatoes for extra flavor. The yellow and red striped ones were pretty, but not much in the flavor department and they got mushy fast.
As every gardener says, I am looking forward to the next garden and am already dreaming of trying new vegetables and new ideas for old planting habits. I hoped to have a winter garden this year, but time got away from me. Maybe next year will be the year!
My goals for 2011 garden are:
  • 2nd compost built
  • strawberry patch
  • asparagus patch
  • grapes
  • apple trees
  • peach tree
  • trim and train blackberry vines
  • try onions (again)
  • try broccoli (again)
  • try cabbage (sigh, again)
  • small greenhouse made from recycled materials
  • chicken-proof netting around rhubarb
  • herb garden

I think it's all do-able, not too costly to implement most of these, and I got some of the materials needed for some of the projects already. As soon as the holidays are over, the January birthdays have been celebrated, it's time to get started on 2011's garden!


Monday, December 13, 2010

Final Advent Calendar Post

I finished those last ornaments for the Advent Calendar and I promised I'd show you, so here they are. (sorry for the poor picture, I still haven't quite gotten the hang of my new camera) I planned to make a Santa face, with a hat and beard, but as I put it together, I just didn't 'feel' it, so I just made the hat. Besides, what do you think of when you see a red hat like that? Why Santa, of course! The last few ornaments, I had to really push myself to finish them. When I first started this, I would complete 3 or 4 a night, and by the end, I barely finished one. I have some ideas for other little ornaments, but I have all I need now, and maybe next year I'll make another set and switch them out every other year. Who knows.

We all really enjoy this one and from where I usually sit at the dining table, I get a nice view of it and you can often catch me sitting there, admiring it. I'm very pleased with it. We are all looking forward to hanging up the very last ornament, the star, to see the completed tree. I'll be sad to pack it up after the holidays, but just think how good it will be to pull it out again next Christmas!

Friday, December 10, 2010


We have major sickies here. I can't remember the last time all of us have been this sick at the same time. Feels like the flu, but without the constant hot and cold. We're on our 2nd box of tissues in 3 days and my stock of cough medicines is quickly getting depleted.

I just did a major cleaning, trying to kill any germy-germs. Mopped the floors with a solution of water, bleach and lemon oil. Wiped down the walls, door knobs, fridge, pantry doors, anywhere the kids touch. Changed all the sheets and blankets (5 beds-- that's a lot of linens!). I dressed up the kids in warm clothes and coats, and took them for a walk in the woods-- fresh air did them good.

Appetites are at a low point here, and it's hard to cook a meal when I'm not hungry either, so there's mostly grazing, if anyone is hungry. I'll be making homemade chicken soup for dinner tonight and hopefully it helps some of us feel better.

I'll be back when the sickies are gone. Stay well and have a good weekend.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Hate When I'm Right

The day after Thanksgiving, we put up the tree. Since Peter is two this year, we put up the big one (when there is a toddler in the house that does not really understand "no", we use the little tree, put up high, which in our house, seems to be every other year). We've had this tree awhile, though I can't remember if we got it when we lived in the apartment over 10 years ago, or at the first house.

Anyway, while I was putting the tree together, I had a feeling that it was going to be the last time I put it up. The first night, we didn't put up any ornaments, just the lights, since it was getting late and I wanted the kids in bed on time. The next day, while I ran errands, Evelyn couldn't wait for me to get home and went ahead and started putting up ornaments. When I got home with her brother and sisters, they got all excited and raced to put up the rest of the ornaments. I was a little uneasy about it, but they checked each ornament with me as to where to put it: top, middle, or bottom, or in other words: breakable, durable, no worries.

The tree looked great when they were done. They were so proud of themselves, and we really enjoyed seeing ornaments we hadn't seen in 2 years (little tree has its' own ornaments).

We all went to bed and when I woke up in the morning, Andrew informed me that the tree got knocked over, ornaments broke and the tree broke. Oh no. I hate when my gut feeling proves right. I inspected the damage, and sure enough, the tree cannot be fixed. After some thinking, I got two cinder blocks, a galvanized tub and rigged the tree to stand.

It works! I had to take everything off the tree; the ornaments, the lights, everything. Then all the branches. Then slipped the cinder block over the "stem" and another cinder block to keep it steady. The tub actually makes it look nice, rustic-looking. After putting the branches back on, re-stringing the lights, and only putting up ornaments that won't break if it falls again, it looks pretty good. Looks like I'll be checking the clearance sales after Christmas for a new tree.

Any ideas what to do with this old one? I have an idea to take some of the branches and see if I can twist them into a wreath, but I won't need many branches for that. I'd like to try and recycle as much of it as I can, so it doesn't end up wasting away in the landfills.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cleaning Up!

Thanks for all the Advent Calendar love! The kids really enjoy putting one ornament up a day, and I've got 3 more to make. I'll show you the last set after I'm done.
Sitting in my foyer for the past year were boxes of clothes that the kids had outgrown. I hoped to sell them at the consignment shop, but that never happened. Later, I hoped to sell them at a yard sale, but with Andrew's crazy work schedule, that never happened, either. So the clothes sat there. The kids would play over there and get into the boxes and pull some of the clothes out, or some toys got stashed and forgotten there, or more things were added, but not boxed. It was blocking the front door, which we never use, but still, it was a fire hazard, and frankly, an eyesore.

I decided that donating all the clothing to the thrift store would do more good than having it sitting in the foyer, so I tackled it, finally! It was one of those days where the stars aligned and the 2 older girls went outside with daddy to hang up 'No Trespassing' and 'No Hunting' signs, and the younger two kids were happy to watch movies in the living room within sight of me. I went through the 12 or so boxes we had in the foyer, making sure nothing we wanted to keep ended up in there, and then added another 8 boxes of clothing from around the house-- my closet, the kids' closets, the basement.

Right away, Andrew and I loaded up the van so there'd be no putting it off. 20 boxes of clothes went in there!! Whoa. I didn't realize there were so many clothes around the house. There's still a few more boxes I need to go through downstairs, but I ran out of room in the van, not to mention I ran out of steam, too.

Amazing how much bigger the foyer looks without all the boxes cluttering it up! It felt good getting rid of all the clothing. We took it to the local Goodwill in town and within the next few days, I spotted some of my things hanging in the racks. I might have been able to make a little money off them had I sold them myself, but honestly, I just don't have the time to do it anymore, and this way, we are helping people and getting a tax donation out of it. I'm now going through the toys, making way for newer ones the kids are getting for Christmas, whittling down what we have into something more manageable. Peter doesn't play with the baby toys anymore, so those are going, too.

I hope to take at least another 20 boxes of stuff, not all toys, but stuff we've collected and no longer use or doesn't sell well on ebay. Andrew and I really want to get rid of the clutter and in order to teach the kids to clean up their messes, we need to be an example, too.

That stars might align again tomorrow, Andrew is going to be working the woodpile, so maybe the kids will want to be outside with him? Wait and see...

Have a happy weekend! :o)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Finshed: Advent Calendar!

I was determined to finish this today so I can hang it on the wall December 1st and I did! *jumping up and down* Yay! I worked on the buttons this afternoon, using vintage white and clear ones from my stash, then after the kids went to bed, I worked on sewing the backing and the tabs. I'll change out the dowel later, the one I'm using is super thin, but it'll do for now.

I love it! I've never made anything like this and I really had fun!

I have 7 more little ornaments to make; 2 more stockings and 5 random ones. The main thing is that the calendar is done and on the wall, I can finish the ornaments by the end of the week, probably tomorrow night or Thursday. I have a few started, but I ran out of floss in certain colors, so I had to make a stop at the fabric store for more thread.


I didn't take a picture of it, but the tabs and backing fabric is made from a green and white checked flannel receiving blanket from one of the girls when she was a baby. I can't remember which girl, but I've had it awhile, and I just thought it would be special using it for the back. It works perfectly and adds to the charm of it.


A special 'Thanks' to Jill for coming up with the sew-along! I never would have done this or it might have been started and then gone to where the rest of my unfinished projects go. I'm ready for the next project-- let's go!