Monday, February 28, 2011

Monster Bag For Peter

Having 3 older sisters means there's lots of pink girly stuff around here. Poor Peter. He doesn't seem to mind too much, as he plays with a little bit of everything, and the girls don't have all girly toys. There's plenty of gender-neutral toys to play with around here. Plus it helps to have a papa that likes toy cars, so there's definitely lots of those for Peter to claim as his own.

Peter likes a certain set of cars, always playing with those and screaming his little head off when one of his sisters take one away. He is using the front of his shirt as a carryall and that just won't do! I gave him a basket, but that gets turned into a hat or thrown at one of his sisters. I tried a small plastic bin which gets turned into a step for reaching higher-up stuff he isn't supposed to get into. Plastic bags are out-- suffocation risks. So I had to come up with something-- his sisters all have bags made by me, in flowery or satin-y fabrics, so why not make something for him?

I came up with:
A monster bag!! He loves monsters and dinosaurs so it seemed natural to make something with scales and pointy teeth!

In go the cars...

All buttoned up!

A cute bag for a cute little boy! He refused to pose for me, so I asked big sister Evelyn to model the bag for me. I am thinking of making a few more for other little boys I know!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Humpy the Rooster

Here's a picture of that humped-back rooster I have. He wasn't born this way, I have no idea how he came to be like this, but he functions well and I've caught him chasing after a hen and successfully mounting her. So other than being picked on by the other chickens, he seems to be alright.Here's a top view to see how his head is almost where his shoulder should be. He can't straighten out his neck, and when I move my hand to his right, he can't see me and gets startled when he realizes I'm so close.
He usually hangs out on the fringes of the group, or I catch him alone by the house, watching the other chickens. I feel bad for him sometimes, but what can I do? He's destined for the cook pot one of these days. 5 roosters are too many and I only plan to keep my top rooster, so 4 have to go.

Check out the teeny, tiny chicken egg! If I didn't pick it up out of the chicken coop myself, I would have sworn it was some other bird's egg. Be interesting to crack it and see how small the yolk is!
My Buff chicken is still sitting on her eggs. I candled one of her eggs and I saw a dark mass, larger than a yolk. I hope that wasn't my imagination. Kind of hard to candle brown eggs, the shell is dark and some shells are thicker than white ones. I expect baby chicks in less than 2 weeks, so I need to set up a temporary pen for mama and her babies. May have to set up a more permanent one, since it's still cold here and I don't want the babies to die of exposure. It's something I've been meaning to do anyway, but I hoped to do it later when it was warmer. Well, it's March next week, so Spring can't be too far off.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rambling Thoughts

  • As expected, we have a blanket of snow covering the ground. Good-bye pretty Spring-like temperatures, welcome back cold weather!

  • The chickens aren't happy about that. Makes it harder for the girls to avoid the horny roosters. Time to sharpen the axe next time it warms up again.

  • The house is nice and warm, thanks to the recent splitting of wood by Andrew.

  • Funny how when one is down to the last of the wood, the cold becomes acceptable, but when one knows there is wood to be burned, the shivering becomes unbearable.

  • A Buff hen has been sitting on eggs for about 10 days now. I've numbered 6 eggs, made sure they were all rounded and not pointy and check her frequently to make sure she is still setting on them. I read somewhere that rounded eggs are more likely to be female and the pointy ones tend to be male. I'm testing that theory and hoping for more hens not roosters.

  • I've discovered my yeast has gone bad. I made roast beef tonight and was going to pair it with french bread- yum! While letting it rest for an hour to rise, I noticed there was hardly any air in the dough. I kneaded it again and shaped it, hoped for the best and let it rest again, but no go. I baked it anyway, figuring I can at least chop it up for the chickens if it's too dense. It rose a little bit in the oven, but yeah, it's going to the chickens in the morning. No more bulk purchases of yeast for me-- I don't bake bread often enough to use it up fast enough.

  • I've recently discovered Lindt chocolate truffles. What have I been missing?!? I snagged a bunch of them on clearance after Valentine's day and each one is a bite of heaven! Even the dark chocolate ones are yummy, but my favorite is the white chocolate with bits of cocoa studded in the shell.

  • Has anyone seen the A-Team movie? How amazing is it that Liam Neeson looks like George Peppard?? I never would have picked Liam to play George, but he pulled it off! I used to watch the TV show with my Dad back in the 80s. Might have to get the series on DVD...

  • Any Coca-Cola drinkers out there? Did you know if you register with Coke, you can collect points from inside the caps and boxes and then get things with those points? I've been cashing in points for free magazine subscriptions! I picked up Popular Mechanics, Country Living, and Better Homes & Gardens so far. We take the magazines to waiting rooms when we're done with them.

  • One of the nice things about canning your own food is seeing the empty jars pile up on the counter. I like washing them and then setting them aside to be taken downstairs and sorted by size in different boxes. It makes me feel good inside. I look forward to canning season and filling up those empty jars again.

  • I recently went to one of those warehouse-type stores with a friend who is a member. We used to shop there often, then stopped when money got tight and we couldn't afford the membership or buying in bulk and paying bulk prices. I checked and compared prices and I found it very hard to find anything that I couldn't get cheaper with coupons-- with the exception of spices. I ended up getting only spices and spent much less than I expected to. No more wishing I could shop there again and would be content with getting invited to go along once in awhile just for getting spices.

  • I have a hankering for pumpkin pie. I think I'll make pumpkin pie tomorrow.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Our stash of firewood for the winter was pitiful. I hoped it would be enough, but I knew, deep inside, it would not. We only had a fire on days that were really cold, cold enough to make one cold even while wearing several layers of clothing; when even the little electric space heaters couldn't beat back the cold; when even having the oven on and the door open still made barely a rise in the thermometer in the kitchen.

We tried to make the wood last, scrounging the iffy bits with soft ends that started to rot, using every last little bit from the bottom of the pile. Andrew would rush home at 4:30 in the afternoon and squeeze out some splitting in the last hour of daylight. He would get up early before work and trudge out to the woods on snow-free days and cut trees the tree cutters felled and left behind for us. He would have just enough time to load and unload the truck before having to get cleaned up and go to work at 2:30. Working rotating shifts make it hard to schedule things, adding in family duties, errands and other chores.

A couple years ago, someone bought the land next to us and built a pallet factory. The power company came through to install power lines and asked us permission to cut down trees on our land to make room. As long as they left the wood, they were welcome to do what they had to do. When they were gone, we surveyed what was left and we were warmed at the sight of huge logs that would need cutting and splitting. Much too big for Andrew's saw, but we cut what we could here and there, big limbs and the smaller trees, when we could get the kids settled for an hour or two.

A few days ago, Andrew was out there, and saw that someone had cut and taken some wood. He was furious! That's our wood, for us! It might have been different if someone knocked on our door and asked permission, but to come onto our land, cut and take it without asking?! He fumed and could not concentrate, thinking about that wood. He posted 'No Trespassing' signs directly onto the logs themselves.

Yesterday, outdoor temperatures were rising into the high 60s and he happened to have the day off! He called our friend Jim and asked if he could come over with his 20-inch saw and help cut those logs and in return, he could have some wood for himself. Lucky for us, he was free and happy to come and help cut, then load both pick-up trucks. He even declined our offer of wood and helped unload both trucks into our pole barn, ready to be split on Andrew's next day off.

It looks to be another warm day, an early taste of Spring, I am sure it will get cold again. These nice days are only teasers, lulling us into thinking winter is over, but it is only mid-February and surely winter has not let go of us yet. We have not had a fire in over a week, because we had only 2 or 3 days left of firewood to burn and we were saving it for one of those just-can't-get-warm kind of day. We will still be stingy with the wood, though we now have a nice pile of logs, waiting to be split. Hopefully this stretch of warm weather will last through the weekend, Andrew does not have another day off until next week.

We will be more diligent this year in getting wood put away for next winter. Hopefully with Peter a little older, he'll be 3 this summer, we can get a bit more done without having to stop every 5 minutes to chase him down or rescue him from some predicament he's gotten himself into. Lately, Andrew is out there alone, since I need to stay and watch Peter, so it will be nice to work side-by-side with him again, something we haven't been able to do much of since Peter stopped taking 3 hour naps as a baby.

Not having enough wood or money to buy wood has been a cold lesson learned.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It's Always Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day has come and gone, but that doesn't mean we stop celebrating Love. Andrew and I often say that "everyday is Valentine's day!" We make it a point to always say "I love you" to each other, to always kiss before leaving, and to talk before falling asleep. It helps keep our marriage strong.

If one of us takes off our wedding ring, the other proposes to put it back on. Every time. If Andrew is at work, I'll wait until he gets back home. It may sound silly, but I get proposed to at least once a week. The fact that he still asks me to marry him after nearly 13 years, 4 kids, and some xx pounds later, tells me he still loves me and wants to spend his life with me. The fact that I still say "yes" tells him the same.

Somewhere, I once read that men and women should always treat each other as if they are still dating. In other words, to always court each other. I think I would find that exhausting. I simply don't want to dress myself up in tight jeans and cleavage-baring tops, and always be on my best flirtatious behavior. I do have children to care for and a house to manage and a homestead to run. But I see the point of courting each other, to let the other know that they are still a "catch" and one still desires the other.

I've also heard, and have been guilty of saying, "I've got him, I can let everything go now." I might have said it, but I didn't really mean it. In letting everything go, one stops taking care of oneself, stops dressing with care, stops caring about anything to do with appearances. I might wear my hole-y and stained clothes around the house, but when I go out, I make sure to dress nicer. If Andrew and I get a moment alone to run out, we usually dress in our better clothes for each other, changing from our 'house clothes' to 'going-out' clothes.

Andrew works a kiosk at the mall and he sees plenty of examples of people who have 'let themselves go'. He comes home telling me about sloppily-clothed people-- plump girls wearing tops that are 3-sizes too small; big men waddling in sweat pants, their bellies bulging over the waistband, exposed by the too-short t-shirt; women who have no business wearing the tightest, smallest, shorts that just about expose everything for the whole world to see. He comes home shaking his head, wondering how people can go out without looking in a mirror first.

I might not be the skinniest girl out there, I might not have the face for the cover of Vogue, but I do have a husband that thinks I am beautiful and sexy and desires me and wants me and genuinely loves me. It makes me feel like I am beautiful and sexy and I want to reciprocate those feelings for him, and I do. I love Andrew with all of my heart and for him, I take care of myself. For me, too. He encourages me and tells me he loves me the way that I am now.

I don't claim to know the secrets of a long-lasting marriage. My own parents divorced when I was a teen, and many of my friends' parents divorced. I have very few examples of long-lasting marriages to learn from. My in-laws just celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary, and when I watch them, I can see they love each other very much. I hope that Andrew and I get to celebrate 48 years together someday and you know what, unless something happens to one of us, I can absolutely see myself growing old with Andrew.

When we first got together, I'd playfully hit Andrew in the arm. He was quick to tell me he didn't like that-- that he would never hit me, even if it was playful. After thinking it over, I realized he was right and I stopped doing that. That's only one example of how we treat each other with respect. We were also quick to point out something we didn't like instead of suffering through it, letting it simmer underneath, infecting the mind before blowing up in anger.

I have always been upfront and open with Andrew, more with him than with any other before him. I don't know why, but I think I always knew he was the one and if he couldn't accept me for the way I was, I didn't want him. Luckily, he liked every single thing about me-- my deafness, my cats, my pierced tongue, my high-pitched laugh, even my singing crazy little songs I've made up on the spot and warbled like an opera singer.

I hope we are good examples for the kids in how a marriage should be. I hope that someday when they have relationships, that they can remember how their mama and daddy were, and find someone who accepts and loves them 100 percent. We tell them to stay away from hitters and name-callers for if they did those things, they don't really love them, no matter what comes out of their mouths.

Even though the day has come and gone, it's still Valentine's day. Happy Valentine's Day to you! :o)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Here's what Evelyn (8) thinks of Andrew and I:

heh, heh! Don't think we'll ever stop kissing-- ever! :o) Ever, ever, ever!

Happy Valentine's Day!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

One of Those Days

Aunt Flo is in town and all I wanna do is lie down and curl up into a ball and go to sleep. Never mind I have 4 littles to take care of. Never mind one of them is screaming his/her head off and it sounds like I have a herd of elephants thundering up and down the hall.

At this point of Aunt Flo's visit, which is day 4, I am physically exhausted from the constant barrage of back pain, cramping, and blood loss. Add to that the seemingly never-ending yelling and bickering between the kids and Peter's grating screaming and I am mentally exhausted from playing referee. I am ready for menopause, please.

If it weren't so cold and the ground was not coated in slippery ice, I'd send the kids outside to scream all they want. How can I be an effective Mama when I am yelling at the kids to stop yelling?

I had library movies due today. After Andrew got back from an appointment, I went out to drop them off and make a few stops. I locked the keys in the car and had a couple dizzy spells from skipping lunch and not fueling my body while Aunt Flo is visiting. Andrew rescued me. Lucky for me he was off today and not at work. I should have stayed in bed this morning.

I think dinner will be one of those quickie frozen meals I got so cheaply last week. Time to also break out one of the new DVD movies we keep on hand to surprise the kids. Mama needs to spend some quality time with the bed.

Monday, February 7, 2011


I count myself lucky everyday when I wake and see my husband's handsome face. I could get lost in those blue eyes of his and only he could make crow's feet look sexy! I feel my heart just bursting with love when he looks at me and tells me he loves me. ~sigh~ It doesn't help when he wears this particular shirt and hat-- he looks extra yummy. I call the shirt my pitty-pat shirt, because it makes my heart go all pitty-patty!

Excuse me while I go find Andrew and give him a kiss...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bragging Rights: Couponing Edition

I had an extremely good shopping trip at the food and drug stores recently and I just have to share! But first, I wanted to explain something for those of you not familiar with couponing and the area where I live:

We live in the mountains and the closest 'big' food store is Food Lion 18 miles away. That's also where CVS and Rite Aid are located. Other big food stores are in a larger town 45 minutes away and if I go there, I try to consolidate errands so we are not running down there for just one store or one thing. Many couponers like to frequent stores that double coupons, price match competitors ads and/or accept other stores' coupons. The stores down south must be really nice because the coupon website I go to, people are consistently saving 80 - 90% of their totals while shopping.

The Food Lion where I shop at is just a plain, old, regular grocery store. They don't double coupons or price match because they don't have any competition from any other stores. They know that a lot of people in town go there because they have no other place to go. But still, there are deals to be found if you know what to look for and the coupon website I frequent says that if you learn when your store has their sales, anyone can turn any store into a good store. This such trip was one of those sales.

Because of the Super Bowl, a lot of the 'party foods' and snack foods are on sale. There were several special deals and lots of coupons and I was able to pick up all of the above for a good price. It's my best shopping trip at Food Lion and I'm really pleased with that. There are some items here that I don't ever buy, like the Otis Spunkmeyer cookie dough, the pasta mixes and TGIFriday's appetizer, but by combining coupons, sales, and deals, made it too good to pass up and will come in handy for those occasional meals I don't have time to cook from scratch.

  • 2- Red Baron pizzas
  • 3- Stouffer's French Bread pizzas
  • 1- Gallon Milk
  • 6- Ragu sauce
  • 4- Minute Maid O.J.
  • 6- Knorr Pastas
  • 1- TGIFridays appetizer
  • 2- NY Texas Toast
  • 1- Farm Rich Mozzarella Sticks
  • 1- Otis Spunkmeyer Cookie Dough
  • 2- Jose Ole Taquitos
Before sales and coupons: $87.52 Final Cost: $31.80! That's a savings of over $55.00!!

This next set of food was from CVS and Rite Aid-- drugstores. Before coupons, you'd never see me grocery shopping at drugstores. They're overpriced to begin with and why go there when I can usually get what I need with more choices at the food stores? But since learning how to extreme coupon, I just love drugstores! With the exception of the Vitaminwater, this is stuff we usually always have in the pantry.

  • 2- V-8 Juice
  • 4- Lipton 100 count Tea bags
  • 4- Ocean Spray Cran-Raspberry juice
  • 3- Ragu Sauce
  • 4- Planters Cashews
  • 2- Vitamin waters

Total retail (drugstore) value: $78.86 After sales and coupons: FREE! Yes, free. Actually, I made a profit of $4.96. They paid me! Sweet!

If you total up the two: $166.38 before sales and coupons; Actual out of pocket costs: $26.84!

That's money that stays in the bank account! I have to work a little bit:: cut out coupons and match them up with the sales, maybe save receipts and UPCs to submit for a rebate, but in the long run, I am saving us money and we are eating well. If it was not for coupons, I honestly think we'd be on food stamps by now, because we actually do qualify for food stamps. I see a lot of people here in our town on food stamps and I wish I could teach them to make their money go farther by using coupons and sales. I take it as a challenge sometimes to see how much I can get for the least amount of money possible.

Ok, I'm done with the bragging. I'm just so pleased and it's good to look in my pantry and my freezer and know that my family won't go hungry.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

No Weather to Talk About-- So Let's Talk Chicken!

The big, bad winter storm completely missed us and all we got was a little bit of sleet. Nothing to write about.

The temps inched up today and hit the mid-forties which means much of the snow and ice we already had is melting and turning everything into slush and mud. I dread walking to the chicken coop-- the path is so muddy, so I walk on slippery, slushy snow, which is no fun, but at least if I fall, and I haven't, yet, I won't fall in the mud.

Of the six young chickens I have left, it's looking like only 2 are hens. Foo! The young roosters are starting to get cocky and I have caught them trying to mount one of the older hens who promptly give chase, clucking all the while, as if to say: "How dare you get fresh with me! I'll give you a piece of my mind! Don't you ever try that again with me, you pitiful excuse for a rooster!" Because of the snow and mud, they roost on the back stoop, which makes it fun to watch their antics, but leaves me with a poopy stoop. I get an earful from Andrew about that, a lot.

Friends of ours told me I needed to crack the whip and make my hens lay an even dozen. That'd be nice, but at the moment, I have only 11 laying hens. Adding in the two young ones, and they'll be ready to lay eggs soon, will make it 13. Chances will be good, then, I'll have a dozen eggs from time to time, until the older ones start molting in the Spring.

I doubt I'll buy any new chicks this year.. I'm happy with the flock I have now, and they easily go through a 50 lb bag of feed in 10 days. I can only imagine how much more feed I'd have to buy with more chickens. I'm looking forward to Spring and the chickens feasting on bugs and fresh grass again! I give them kitchen scraps and leftovers when we have them to supplement their diet.

Maybe this will be the year of getting a pig? I need to figure out where to put a pen and build some sort of shelter first before I can even think about that. But I am hopeful, so wait and see. I worry about getting attached to the pig and then having to take it to the butcher when it's time, but that's something I'll have to work on. I already know that it will be hard for me to butcher any of the older hens, having had them for almost 2 years and it's likely I'll just let them live out their days here. How long is the average life span for a chicken anyway? I'll have to look that up.

One of the young chickens is a hunchback. He's a roo. I have no idea how that happened-- he wasn't born that way. I wonder if it's possible to be pecked in the just the right spot and suddenly be hunched? He definitely cannot see me coming from his right and what he lacks in form, he makes up for in meanness. He's overly paranoid, but I don't blame him, he can't see what's coming at him until it's too late and I think he's on the bottom of the pecking order. Come Spring, he'll get butchered along with the other 3 roos. I'll be taking extra care when I butcher him to study his spine and see if there's any reason why he's hunchbacked.

10 eggs today, and two were really small ones, so perhaps the young hens are already starting to lay eggs? I can't imagine any of the older hens popping out little ones like that, so it's possible. I need to check my calendar to figure out exactly how old the young chickens are, but if I recall correctly, they should start laying around this time.

Chickens are just about the only colorful things to look at outside-- everything is either white, gray or brown. So I've got chicken on the brain. I enjoy watching them, they are fun to watch and it relaxes me. You can often catch me standing at the window, nose pressed to the glass, watching them. With all the chaos of 4 children, the chickens outside my window sure have a calming effect on me!

Stay warm and if you were one of those people hit by bad weather, I'll send good thoughts your way. :o)