Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Oh, Dishcloth ... I Love You


I have a thing for dish towels. And aprons. Well, lip balm and old dishes too. Okay, I have a thing for lots of stuff, but dishcloths are such a fun splurge. They never cost too much (I found these at 40 percent off!) and look so snappy in my kitchen. Somehow a pretty dish towel, even if showing signs of wear, makes kitchen chores significantly more enjoyable.

Now, I do have some requirements. Without a doubt, I prefer cotton towels. They do their job without complaint and handle the washing machine nicely. I do not care for those stiff, shiny dishcloths that seem to have a personal objection to actually absorbing moisture and simply smear water about. And what about the textured towels that get washed once then shrivel up into a curly, unfold-able mess? Humph. Just give me a pretty, flat cotton cloth, thank you very much.

Additionally, I find dishcloth purchases to be very forgiving to my moods. Sometimes I snag a new one while delightedly shopping with a friend. And sometimes when I'm in a really ratty mood, I set off for some cotton therapy. There has been more than one occasion that I've stomped about the house looking for my keys and shoes when Pops will ask: "Where are you going? Out to buy a new rag?" I'm telling you, it works. You'll come back with a new little friend and a greatly improved disposition.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I Am Learning


I've been learning about the value of life. Inside most of us, a feeling moves that new life is precious; meant to be protected. But sometimes do we grow apathetic in our perspective of old? What about life that wasn't planned or doesn't have the appearance of perfection? Do we apply value in varying degrees?

Do we forget that it is the old growth that supports the development of the new? Underneath the vibrancy and freshness of a new bud is strength and maturity -- that which has developed under the requirement of time. And how about new life that begins with the knowledge it is fragile or unexpected. Do we continue our reverence of creation?

We had our last appointment with the pediatric cardiologist today. Jane's heart is whole. My heart is full. Her life is in front of her. God is good.

Little Leah is adored. Her body struggles. Her family seeks. God is good.

Great Mother
perseveres. She demonstrates faith. Her hope is in Him. God is good.

What joy it is to know we are all on purpose. Each day has been ordained. There is much to this life that I don't understand, but this much I do believe: Somehow, in God's sovereignty, He is good.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
(Psalm 139:13-16)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Excitement is Building


We had a great meeting today for those of us headed to Honduras in July. Acquaintances were made between our team and Eric and Gloria, the individuals who will serve as our leaders while in the region.

This was wonderful for many reasons. Many questions were answered, suggestions made, and a sense of togetherness began to form. Also, because they encouraged us in our desire to stay a little longer in the country on our own! We had wanted to bump around the country for a few more days (while the rest of the group heads back to the States) but were not sure what logistic and safety issues we needed to be cognizant of. With some tips from them and a promise of retaining their cell phone number in case of emergency ... I think we might do it!

Top item on the potential agenda? To see the Mayan ruins of Copan. Oh, Peter will be in heaven!

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Friday, March 27, 2009

Apple Blossoms

::


With their brother off cavorting with a friend, the girls and I set out to explore spring. These apple blossoms and a few fist fulls of green-budded twigs were our favorite finds.

Shiver Me Timbers

Now that it is winter no longer and the promise of warmer days are here ... I've finally managed to make this wool hat I had been planning on. I'm not always known for my timing. Or my knitting, for that matter.

I had found a basic pattern for a chunky beanie that was supposed to take an hour. Turns out not quite an hour, more like feature-film length. Definitely possible to complete during a good long foreign film.


I used a skein of Cascade, Magnum in charcoal wool with size 15 circular needles. Whoa! Big needles for big yarn! You get about two stitches in just an inch. (It also appears one skein will make both a large and small size!)

Here's the skinny on the chubby hat:

• Cast on 48 stitches (44 for kid size)
• Knit in garter stitch for 6 (3) rows
• Knit in stockinette stitch until piece measures 7 (6) inches
• Decrease by two stitches until only 6 stitches remain
• Cut yarn and run through remaining stitches
• Weave ends on the inside

**Note we are a melon-headed family. Drop piece measurement a half-inch or so if your cranium is more typically proportionate.

I must report that Pops thinks like I look like I'm ready for a long day at the docks. He mocks me with various jigs and yo-ho-ho tunes when I wear this. Hmmm ... I think I should
make a matching set. He can be my deck hand.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Friendly Morning

Yesterday, we had friends stop by for the morning. They brought yummy treats of their own and I had baked up a double batch of "cheater" scones. (Cheater, because they aren't real scones but are so easy and tasty ... who cares!!)

While the kiddos played, we amused ourselves with the treats, a pot of coffee, and discussions of hand crafts. She has become tad obsessed with her embroidery lately, and I don't blame her! She does a magnificent job. And I'm not just saying that because she gave me one of her birdie potato-sack towels (Yipee!).

It's mornings like this that I think being a stay-at-home mom is a pretty good gig.

Fluffy Cheater Scones

Combine:
2 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
2 t. baking powder
.5 t. baking soda
.25 t. salt

Cut in:
3 T butter

Add:
1 c. yogurt (plain or vanilla--I've used sour cream in a pinch)
.25 c. milk or orange juice
zest of 1 orange

Stir very little and spread/pat into a 9" circle on buttered cookie sheet. Sprinkle with white or brown sugar, if desired. Bake at 400 degrees for 16-19 minutes. Cool slightly and cut into wedges.

*This recipe doubles easily!

We've Plumb Run Out

Lucette, while perusing a Greek cookbook in search of ideas for dinner:

Well, we don't have any octopus, so that's out ...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Almost Time


Pretty soon I'll be an auntie, to which I am quite excited. I just finished this little baby blanket in eager anticipation. Perfect size, I think, to be a cozy car-seat blanket or a quick cover-up for those feedings on the go.

Since Baby R. has yet to reveal it's pink or blueness, I thought this rich teal would be a lovely choice. A delightful combination of modern and classic, just like the mama-to-be. The yarn is a natural wool and so incredibly soft. I did a single-crochet stitch with a few rounds about the perimeter. Then, a quick scallop edging and a (removable) cream ribbon to finish it off.

I found particular joy in working this project because I made myself stop fretting about little imperfections here or there. I don't have much parenting wisdom, but I am learning to let go of my idea of perfection and just enjoy. This is a very good thing indeed, when traveling the road of parenthood.

Hola, Amigo!

A new message from Honduras arrived today! Here is a rough translation from Spanish to English:

Always thank you for your letter and thank you for visiting us, we are waiting with great entuciasmo. we are always in the care of the smile of the brothers and we are cleaning your teeth to one another as mutual aid, there are always things I can not do it myself and can not do for yourself and draw reciduos tartar from the teeth when it is formed and that is what we do while evangelizing. we want a good smile for everyone.

Sepillos hope to bring toothpaste and floss as needed.

Always pray for you.

Ambrocio


Ambrocio seems to explain that they use teeth cleaning and dental health as a way to evangelize and share Christ's love. They are looking forward to toothpaste and floss as well as our smiling faces, when we come! I can't wait to bring it to them.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Good Day for Boots


This morning, I sent the kids into the garage to shoe-up and hop in the van. It wasn't long until I heard Jane clomping about in these. She'd unearthed my old boots from when I was in kindergarten.

I remember needing these. I was certain they were a fashion "must have" for that late 1970's season. Like many families of the time, money was tight and my mom wasn't about to shell out any savings for what could simply be a boot-phase.

Apparently, I was quite persistent and managed to beg some wage-paying labor around the house. It seems to me, these boots were a sound investment after all.

Uncertain Feelings


Little Joie went home to her biological parents yesterday. We pray for them. We pray for her.

Nutty ... and Tough, Too

Whoa. Are you alright, Lucette?
Oh, yes. I fall like that all the time. I never cry except maybe one little tear drips out.
Goodness. You are tough.
Yes, I know.
Would you say you are a 'tough nut' or a 'tough cookie'?
I would say I'm both.
If you had to choose just one?
Well, definitely tough nut. Nuts are way tougher than cookies.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Umbrella at Bedroom Window


Oh the glamour of dashing through the rain with this vintage umbrella! Can you catch sight of the wooden handle and splash of eggplant lining?

"It is the habitual carriage of the umbrella that is the stamp of Respectability."
~Robert Louis Stevenson, Philosophy of Umbrellas

Friday, March 20, 2009

Moss in Terracotta

Song in My Heart

Jane and Lucette like to sing. A lot. Sometimes it's quiet and gentle, sometimes it's full of soul and gospel-choir oomph.

They sing about making beds, about burritos and salsa, jewels and horses. Of love and cheerios, a cozy Jesus, Uncle Peter loving his dog Scout.

Voices will be raised in typical song format, but often in running narration of their current activities and feelings. Frequently, one will notice flavors of a musical stage production ... a sort of sing-talking with various choreography. Their voices range from in-tune and out, all the while obliviously delighting their secret listeners.

When they sing, I hear their hearts. I hear joy, contentment, and at times, even their own version of sorrow. I hear that they are secure enough in the moment to sing about it. And then ... my own heart begins to sing.

My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart! (Psalm 108:1)

Fractions are Tasty


He did it. I promised that once the math workbook was finished, he could bake the cookies of his choice as reward. Today Peter polished off the the last few pages -- and two months ahead of schedule! His mathematic reward? Great Mother's Molasses Crackles.

We decided that a single batch was not nearly enough, so we simply had to double it. There was plenty of practice at adding fractions and he can level a cup of flour like nobody's business. After a chill in the fridge, we set up a little assembly line to roll and sugar the dough.

The net result was five dozen scrumptious cookies and a request for the recipe written down ... but not in cursive. So here it is. Our cookie recipe, easy to read and already doubled for you:

Molasses Crackles

Cream:
1 c. butter
2 c. sugar

Add and mix well:
2 eggs
.5 c. molasses

Add 'til well incorporated:
1 t. salt
1 t. ginger
2 t. cinnamon
4 t. baking soda
4 c. flour

Chill dough for 1-2 hours. Hand roll into 1" balls then roll in granulated sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Love in Bloom

These roses are opening up so full and velvety. Pops brought these home for me when he returned from his business trip a few days ago.

I had just found this darling art-deco milk glass vase (with it's original glass floral frog!) at the thrift store. After washing and admiring it, I was dreaming up a bouquet to arrange in it. When he walked in the door bearing a grin and these beauties ... well, nice job, Honey. Very nice job.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Royal Tea

Looseleaf : Cream Earl Grey

I love black tea. Strong, dark, nothing fussy. But this black tea is worth the fuss. Hints of vanilla, cornflower, and citrusy bergamot. Oh, it is delicious.

Hmmm. Perhaps I shall have the children address me as "Countess" from now on. We'll share afternoon tea, a biscuit or two, and then play lawn tennis ... providing they don't muss my frock.

A Penny Saved ...


Peter vs. Pops,
Verbal Sparring Match #412:

What if you could buy the most expensive thing with just a penny?
Well then it wouldn't be the most expensive thing any more.

Hmm...well what is the most expensive thing in this country? The White House?
Sure, and maybe a stealth bomber or a space shuttle.
Well, what if you could buy the White House with just a penny?

But let's imagine if you were the guy who paid for and built the White House and all you got for it was a penny. Does that sound very good to you?
I don't see why not ... I'd just take my penny and go buy a rocket.


Uh ... I think he got ya' there, Pops.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bright Spot

I had been trying to decide whether or not to pick these little daffy-down-dillies or just leave them to pretty-up the backyard.

Jane went out to play and solved the dilemma. After about ten minutes I heard soft rapping at the sliding glass door. There she was with her tiny fist full of them, thrust forward with a huge grin on her face. "Look, Mama!"

Thanks, Jane. They are sweet and so are you.

Shear Terror

• Jane, I'm going to give you a haircut today.
• Mama! (Eyes wide) I'sa girl. I don't gets haircuts!
• Honey, everybody get haircuts. Mommy gets haircuts, Grammy gets haircuts, Gramps gets haircuts ...
• No he don't (giggle, giggle), Gramps don't have no hair!
• Well, you're right. He just has a little to cut, doesn't he? We'll just cut a little of yours, too.

(20 minutes later, sitting in front of the mirror, my haircutting shears poised and ready...)
• Wait! Mama ... please don't make me look like Gramps.

Anatomy of a Crocus


"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities— his eternal power and divine nature— have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."
(Romans 1:20)

Accomplishing


At the end of the day, I often feel as though I've been busy but not sure if I have actually accomplished anything. Naturally, there are times when it is all about survival. If everyone has been fed and is relatively clean, I'll wave the proverbial white flag. But often, if I just take a moment to reflect on all of the little tasks I cracked out during the day, I start to feel pretty darn good.

This morning I managed to:

•Clean up breakfast dishes/unload dishwasher
•Make laundry soap
•Help Peter with schoolwork
•Bake a double batch of bread

•Vacuum upstairs
•Sift through e-mails

•Start up pot of chicken stock to simmer
•Order seeds for veggie garden
•Take unsuccessful trip to the DEQ (closed on Mondays?)

After a hearty lunch of turkey dogs (yes, again) and grapes, the day continued:

•Lunch tidy-up
•Kid homework/thank you notes
•Make Jane help clean up trash from the 7 Hello Kitty band-aids she applied to uninjured appendages
•Reorganize the horror-inducing coat closet
•Finish off languishing weekend laundry
•Make main course for dinner

Not too shabby. Perhaps I won't feel guilty about:

•Curling up with some tea and my new library book
•Eating a large quantity of old caramels I found in the back of the cupboard
•Watching Mary Poppins with the children

Now, if only I could figure out that snapping thing Ms. Poppins does to clean up children's rooms ...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hello, Saturday


Ahhh. Pops is home, last basketball game played, old friends here for lunch, reading by the fire, black olives in my new, thrifted hobnail bowl. It's been a nice day.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Good Shot


Warming up for the last basketball game. Peter was surprised how much he enjoyed this sport. He did a fine job and we were exceedingly proud of his effort and good attitude the whole season.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Great Hands


The days are becoming increasingly difficult for Great Mother. "Lillian" allows her to communicate where her voice and muscles refuse. The old feeding tube has been replaced with a new, but her stomach objects to digestion. Her spirit is beautiful and her determination unmatched, yet her body is so weary. Lord Jesus, her joy is in you. Bring her rest.

Springtime Excursion

Our days at Grammy and Gramps' house were dreamy. While still a tad chilly, the sun was glorious and the children played and snacked and giggled the days long.

Jane and the spittin' toad.

Lucette picks crocus to her heart's content.

And drinks tea like a queen.

The playhouse revealed it's own Little House treasure: a canteen.
"Look! It's just like Pa's!"


Climbing the ash tree.

My old red wagon.

Sunny Day


It's always good to be back at Grammy's house. Tea on the patio. Children running through trees. Walks to the duck pond. Remembering raspberries from Mr. Foreman, just beyond the column. More pictures from our time to come ...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hearts Grow Fonder


With Pops off attending techie lectures in sunnier regions, the rest of us rascals are left to fend for ourselves. Since we're prone to missing him, our distraction of choice is spontaneous fun. An evening bike ride (thanks, daylight savings time!), staring/giggling contests, and creative meal planning. Needing only a brief consultation amongst each other, the children perfected last night's dinner menu. We had turkey dogs on store-bought buns, baked beans with molasses, carrot sticks, and clementine oranges. It was a very orange and brown meal, but they were quite pleased.

For dessert, we cranked up the ice-cream maker. The girls helped me make Peter's all time favorite: mint chocolate chip. It must have been good, as the little epicureans became very focused and quiet upon consumption. Hurry home, Pops. We saved some for you.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Milk Glass Bowl


Oh goodness, I do love this milk glass bowl. Maybe because it's milk glass (a personal favorite), perhaps the hob-nail motif, and it could be because it cost fifty cents at the Union Gospel thrift store.

Today the clementines call it home, but just yesterday it served up stir-fried zucchini slices. It's pretty and sweet but can still go in the dishwasher. Hmm, the dishwasher. Yes, that is another reason why I love it.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Arrival


It seems Spring has returned. After a holiday to the southern hemisphere, she's found her way back and is unpacking her bags everywhere I turn.

First thing out of the botanical carpet bag? The crocus, of course. They like to be aired out immediately and aren't afraid of a little chill. But then ... the daphne. Oh, the Daphne! It may still be blustery out, but this little darling has the tropics written all over her. Lush, moist, vibrant, and smells so sweet you wish you could take a nibble. Even Pops swoons at her scent.


I'd been worried about Daphne. She'd taken quite a bruising when Winter came in like a bully this year and knocked her about. A little scarring from the tussle, but she gathered up her gumption, stuck out her chin, and decided nothing was going to keep her new growth at bay. Atta' girl!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Life to Come


" ... Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Afternoon Visit



Gramps Stone • JaneGreat Father Stone • Lucette

Friday, March 6, 2009

Muffins in the Morning

Oooeee, we like muffins! These yummies often show up Friday mornings as there is no school and just a little homework to plow through. The kids get to stay in their jammies a bit longer than usual while I whip up a batch. After they (muffins, not kids) get tossed into the oven we all scurry to clean up for the day and then skid into the kitchen in time to pull out the warm batch.


We think this recipe (as well as bran muffins) is a good morning choice. They are tasty, not too high in sugar, and full of healthy goodies. Plus, don't muffins just make a person happy?

•Carrot Zucchini Muffins•

Combine:
1 c. unbleached flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. oats
.75 c. brown sugar
3 t. baking powder
.5 t. cinnamon
.25 t. salt

Add:
2 eggs
3 T. canola oil
1 shredded carrot
1 shredded zucchini

Stir until moistened and plop into muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. (About 10 minutes for mini-muffins.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Smart Thinkin'


If it pays to be smart, then buying in spices in bulk has to be one of the most intellectual grocery experiences. For literally pennies on the dollar your old container will be brimming ... and if you're distractable like me, maybe your counter too.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Butter Me Up


Did you know that good butter is actually yellow? Butter and I have been in an exclusive relationship for years, but I'd forgotten. I had simply allowed myself to settle for the rather anemic half-cup sticks that come in a box. Now this little Irish guy is quite a catch. He's smooth and mellow and we've never had an argument. I'm quite smitten.

I think it's true ... good things are made with love and butter.

Fresh Apple Bundt Cake

After several requests, here is the heavenly bundt we devoured at Peter's birthday party:

Mix:
1 c canola oil
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
3 c. peeled & diced apples
1 t. vanilla

Add:
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
3 c. unbleached flour

•Spread into well greased and floured bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1.25 hours.

Topping:
.5 c. melted butter
.25 c. sugar
1 T agave syrup (maple syrup could substitute)
1 t. vanilla
powdered sugar to dust

•Mix topping ingredients, then pour over hot cake in pan, coaxing it to drizzle down the sides. (I took a butter knife and carefully pried the cake away from the edges so it could all seep down.) Let cool for 30 minutes before turning out of pan. Dust top with powdered sugar.

•Enjoy with gusto and your stretchy pants ... it's not good by coincidence!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Faces

Listen to Mama

Alright, my three little birds. For better or worse, you share in my genetics and we are prone to skin cancer. After my melanoma scare a bit back, I'm learning the ropes of prevention, and you should too. It took the doctor staring me in the eye saying, "this could have been fatal" to really drive home the seriousness.


•Watch your own body for skin and mole changes. Be diligent about seeing a good, thorough dermatologist. For the time being, I need to go in every 3 months for a full check. Until you have a specific issue, once a year should be adequate.

•Take pictures of unusual areas/moles. This will help you determine changes, which are a warning sign.

•Fair skin is prone to sunburns (very, very bad!), but skin cancer isn't necessarily picky. Even if you have a darker skin tone (Peter, that means you) you are at risk. And while sun exposure is definitely a concern, skin cancer can develop on areas that "never see the light of day."

•Scars remind you that you are still here. Don't be afraid of getting nicked up. If they want to excise something for testing, do it. It's not that bad and the bandage (see above photo) can be used to milk sympathy and maybe even ice cream.

•Sunscreen, Darlings, sunscreen. Slather it on in the summer, but apply everyday on exposed areas such as face (get that hairline, too), back of hands, and neck. Golden skin does make you look lovely, but embrace the paleness. You'll look fabulous when your sixty.


And remember ... always listen to your Mama.

Little Laughs

No, Jane. We aren't taking baths tonight.
(with a dejected look) But Mama, we are very stinky puppies!
--
Jane, you are funny.
No I'm not.
You aren't? What are you, then?
I'm Jane ... and I'm just cute.
--
Jane, that is very dirty. It goes in the toilets. Please don't put that on your head again.
Okay. I won't plunge me anymore.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Happy Together


• Great Mother's soup tureen •
• Thrifted 1930's speckle plate •
• Mod Orla Kiely tablecloth •