28 April 2011

A Sweet Little Snapshot

Working on some photos I took at the kids' school to help raise some money at the upcoming auction. A framed and matted 11 x 14 could be kind of sweet, no? Any thoughts on what to title the print?

25 April 2011

21 April 2011

A New Life for the Pickle Pot

 For awhile now, I've been in possession of a piece of my grandmother's crockery. It's affectionately known as "The Pickle Pot."

For as long as I can remember, my grandmother would brine cucumbers in this crock to make sweet pickles. If it had a lid, I don't remember. She would always just put a plate on top. And when it was time to can the pickles, I'd get a little jar of my own with a handwritten label: "Anna's Sweet Pickles." As a child, I translated the label as "hands off, Grandma made these just for me!" and I would hoard them in the fridge with a complete lack of concern or consideration for my family.

Now that the pickle pot lives at our house, it has not seen any pickle making. It has half-heartedly been holding magazines, as I really haven't been in a pickle state of mind. But then. The thought occurred to me ... potted plants. Now the pickle pot is at the front door brimming with a little garden and welcoming all who enter.

Grandma liked to garden and welcome too. My heart smiles.

Happy Dandies

There is a spot by our house where we can pick sacks full of dandelions for the bunnies to nibble on. But clustered altogether ... a sunny bouquet fully worthy of admiration.

20 April 2011

Makin' in Work

I wore a skirt (bare legs) and sandals today. We had a high of 56 degrees.

Yes, I was cold. But the sun was out! I simply had to do it. My glow-in-the-dark legs are all claustrophobic from being cooped up since last September. While spring may technically be here and the flowers are, indeed, blooming ... it's still cold. So, we're still eatin' soup.

After making a roast chicken on Sunday, I was left with a very nice container of leftover veggie gravy. Need an easy soup? Combine chicken stock, veggie gravy, water, s & p, thyme, leftover shredded chicken, 2 cans of white cannellini beans, and zucchini slices. Stir and simmer. Top with some sliced almonds, if you have them. It really is a very good soup.

Once you've had your fill and done the dishes, you can go slather on some Jergens tan in a can so you'll be ready to strut those gams once the temps go really crazy and hit, like 60 or somethin'.

In the infamous words of Tim Gunn: Make it work, people. Make it work.

18 April 2011

In Which I Answer Your Questions, Pt. II

 What kind of books do you like? How often to you read?
I adore reading. Granted, there have been seasons where reading has been an utter challenge (hello, newborn babies!), but overall I view it as I do air, water, and pie. One of life's true necessities.

I really like all sorts of books, but I tend to gravitate towards some form of historical fiction. I got to wondering why I like historical fiction so much better than modern-day. For one thing, if  it's well written, it's a great lazy-gal way to learn some new contextual history. If you love to travel, it's a much cheaper way to see the world than an airplane ticket. And also ... I think it's because I can imagine myself as a character set in the past. Somehow feels possible. But modern day? Such an effort to imagine myself as a single young woman with an art career and a penchant for strolling the beach for sea glass ... or a wizened retiree whose decided to take up kick-boxing, dog-training, and opera. It just doesn't work for me.

And as for favorites? On average, I read probably a book a week and then promptly forget the name of it. I'll remember it if you reference the title, but I'm horrible at instant recall on my own. However, I did just finish The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and I looooved it! So clever (a crime-solving 11 year-old girl, 1950's England, w/ a penchant for chemistry and poisons) and I laughed out-loud at some of the witticisms and thought processes of the main-character. I've just started in on Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and have great hopes. I try to keep back-up reads on the shelf that I've picked up at the thrift/used-book store. I'm always on the lookout for vintage Grace Livingston Hill (But not the cheesy-covered reprints of the 90's! I'm a firm believer in judging a book by it's cover.).

And book finding tips? Amazon is a great resource. Find a book you like, look it up on Amazon and see what other titles are purchased by customers who like the same book. And pay attention to the ratings! If it has 4-5 stars and is rated by 30 or more people, it's usually a good bet!

After you've got your title(s), get online with your local library and order up the book. If they don't have it, do an inter-library loan. If your local library network doesn't have it, WorldCat it. WorldCat is a library service that most libraries in the country participate it. For no fee, (although, you have to be willing to wait a bit for it) I've received books from libraries in Texas, colleges in North Carolina, and seminaries in Colorado. (The service is a great resource for hard-to-find Christian titles!) Don't know how to access WorldCat? Call up your library. They are nice there.

And finally, magazines! I love magazines! My favorites are Real Simple, Sunset, Martha Stewart Living, In Style, Health.

What About Travel?
If I had buckets of money lying about, I would travel, travel, travel. My most favorite thing ever. (It's right up there with pie.) I love new places, new people, new food (!!!), new cultures, new vistas. Adore it. I took a European-blitz during a summer in college and have never been the same since. It had a profound effect on me.

Travel widens my view of the world. Gives me a deep appreciation for God's creation and plan for his people. Teaches me to value the differences in customs, cultures, faces, joys, and struggles. And reminds me that we are not so very different from one another after all. We are all just people who are trying to figure out life and, at the end of the day, all still need Jesus.

So. Where would I go tomorrow if I could? I'd go just about anywhere, to be frank. But I would love to see Greece and Turkey. The colors, the culture, the history, the food, the music, the biblical connections, the architecture ... yes. That sounds grand.

15 April 2011

Blooming on the Piano

Friday's are piano lesson days at our house. Lucette is mostly enthusiastic about practicing, but utterly enthusiastic about her teacher, Mrs. V. Warm, gentle, and nurturing, Mrs. V is a seasoned mother, grandmother, and skilled piano teacher. What a perfect combination for Lucette. And what a delight for me.

It is one of my true thanksgivings; to have other faith-filled adults pour love and encouragement into my children.

14 April 2011

It is Finished

If I had cymbals, I'd be clangin' them loud! After two full years, The project is completed.

It was an animal of a project. One that wrestled us into submission many times and after which, we would huddle and cower for a month or two 'til we worked up enough nerve to lash back. Knocking out a rickety staircase, living with orange construction netting to keep us from plummeting to our doom, ripping off some of the carpeting that extended onto the walls (weird, right?), building the staircase encasement from scratch, re-purposing the old handrails anchor posts, and painting the beast? Wow.

But it is now done, and I love it. Pops, you are a marvel.

13 April 2011

Luxury at the Grocery

We have a fancy grocery by our house that has it's own cheese man. He looks a bit as if he might be a codgery, salty ol' seaman. He's a no-nonsense Brit, and a smidge prickly when you first start talking to him. But once you ask him about which slice of fromage has been ringing his bell ... well, he's all hearts and sunshine.

After he's ascertained that you are, indeed, fine with goat, sheep, or cow, he'll pull you over to a little nook in the massive display and tell you in no uncertain terms, "Luv, this be the one for you today. Pair it with these rosemary date crackers and a nice glass of Merlot and you've yourself a winna'."

It's very convincing. I think the British accent helps.

Last week I stopped in to pick up a favored treat for Pops and I swung by the cheese display. They had a sample out and I couldn't help myself. I took a bite and think I might have cried a little. Well, not really, but I could have. It was a creamy texture that I've never experienced before and it melted on the tongue like butter. It. Was. A-mazing.

At that very moment of ambrosial bliss, he passed by. I physically assaulted him and once he was in my clutches I begged him to give me some of this cheese for my very own. He did.

That night, I fed the kids mac & cheese out of the box and Pops and I had a feast. Luxury. Sheer luxury.

**On the hunt for yourself? Here's the name on the label: "Cremeux De Bourgogne Delin."

12 April 2011

In Which I Answer Your Questions, Pt. I

In response to some really intriguing questions you all sent my way, I've been working on composing some answers for you all. It's been a lot of fun to ponder over these musings and I am now wondering what all of you would answer. If you are up for it, answer a version of these questions on your own blog and let me know! I'm of a curious nature ...

 So without further ado, some A's to your Q's:

What have you "majored" on that you wish you'd "minored" on?
This is such a good question. I fear, however, I may need another decade or two to really reflect back and give an accurate answer. I suspect there are myriad things I am currently majoring or minoring on in an imbalanced fashion.

I'll will say that I always need to major more on prayer. Whether it is for my kids, my marriage, myself, or for all that God intends to walk me through ... I need to pray. I remember once asking a seasoned mother for advice on potty training when Peter was little. I was feeling exasperated and clueless and really wanted some perspective and help. I thought she might have some tricks to share, but the first thing she asked me was, "Have you prayed about it?" Pray about potty training? Well no, I hadn't. Turns out I was really struggling with frustration and had no idea how to shepherd a child who was intrigued by his new-found toddler power. This was more than potty training. This was a hurdle in parenting and an issue that found roots in the hearts of both my son and myself. It was totally prayer-worthy.

While I'm still plenty immature in this area, I've come to a fuller understanding of how vital prayer is. Vital in parenting, vital in marriage, vital to spiritual growth.  While prayer may seem 'minor' it's a big 'major' in my book.

How are the bunnies doing?
The bunnies are well! We've now survived almost a year and all the various elements the seasons bring, and it seems as though they are quite happy with their coop. They love to dig burrows like nobody's business. In my mind, they may well have created an underground network that could rival that of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. (Have you read this? Great book.) We had babies last fall but have not had any more since. We are all expectant for more, though!

And on a sad note, while Nibbles and Harvey are quite content in their relationship, Butter was not long for this world. He passed away last year and we were all very sad. Jane is quite sure there are bunnies in heaven.

**Addendum -- Just as I was preparing to hit 'publish' on this post, I heard Jane shouting in alarm from the back yard. Harvey was on the loose. Apparently, the gate was left open after a neighbor popped in for a viewing. Jane and I raced about the backyard armed with a blanket, a bamboo stick, and racing adrenaline levels. Praise the heavens above, all is well. Although, my heart is still beating as fast as a ... well, you know.

Any thoughts on thrift store shopping?
I actually get asked this a lot. First of all, if you are hoping for treasures, you have to enjoy going to thrift shops. Why? Because it is about the hunt. Many, many times I don't buy a thing when I go. It may seem like I'm always finding goodies, but I'm only posting about those purchases that make me a bit giddy. This does not happen every time.

Second, before you buy it, ask yourself: "Do I really love this?" "Can I think of at least two uses for this item?" and "Do I have a place to store or display this?" I try to answer 'yes' to all three before I take it home with me.

Third, find out the things you are most interested in and hit those areas. Don't try to examine the whole store. I always peruse the kitchen items/dishes, table linens/fabric, books, framed art, scarves, and ... the pj's/slip section. Have I told you I have a thing for vintage nightgowns and slips?

Forth, clean or launder as soon as you get home. Unpack those goodies immediately, throw anything to be laundered or washed into the corresponding machine and wipe down books, shoes, picture frames, etc. with cleaner and a rag.

Advice on Marriage?
I really can't even begin to try to answer this question. I have no advice! I need another 50 years.

I do have two things I've learned however:

#1 You know that verse that talks about not letting the sun go down on your anger? That's always stumped me, because I just can't see how staying up to 2:00 "discussing" issues (that could resolve themselves by morning or at least have more clarity) is beneficial.

But then one day I was reading the verse and it stuck out to me:

Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27

Seems that I'm not to be concerned with the state of my husband's heart, but my own. I need to go to bed right with God. That doesn't mean that every problem or hurt needs to be addressed in the wee hours of the night.

#2 Don't fight when you are hungry. Have a sandwich and all might be well. Amen.

11 April 2011

Get a Grip, Girl!

Hi, Ladies! Hope your weekend went well. We had some snippets of sun this weekend and though it was still chilly, we all scurried about outside trying to soak up some vitamin D. I did a bunch of pruning and general yard clean up and even did some planting in my outdoor pots. (Pictures to come.)

I also had a very close call. A brush with direct Lenten failure. If you'll recall, I have given myself a spending challenge over Lent. Specifically, spend less. Now, I'm still buying groceries and socks and toothpaste and all that jazz. But I'm trying to not "go shopping." Loose parameters, but I know what my trigger points are and where to be wary.

So, back to my confession. There was a skirt I've had my eye on. Love, love, loved it. Perfect for summer (I don't really like shorts) and so versatile. I hadn't purchased it, but it was on my mental list of "stuff that could be worth purchasing later." It just so happens that I checked it online (probably not a good idea) and ... discovered they have almost completely run out of stock. Not only that, it just so happens that the store had sent me a big ol' coupon that was about to expire. And ... it just so happens that the store at the mall had one left ... in my size.

I went, I tried on, I loved even more. I walked around the store for 10 minutes holding the garment trying to convince myself that it wouldn't be cheating to buy it. After all, the coupon is going to expire! They are almost sold out! I won't even wear it until after Easter!!!! But I got a grip and was reminded that this was exactly why I was fasting from shopping in the first place. It's. Just. A. Skirt. So, I put it back (in the very dark recesses of the rack) and left the store.

Hurrah! It's so pathetic that I am this proud of myself. The whole deal is rather embarrassing, but it's good, no? I'm making progress. I'm learning. I'm growing up just a bit more.

***PS - working on the A to your Q's! Coming soon ...

08 April 2011

A New Hat for Jane

Grandma gave Jane has a new hat for Easter. Jane loves Grandma. Jane loves hats. Jane makes her mama melt.

**The giveaway winner is Jenn (email me, Jenn!)! I'm having fun mulling over all of your questions and will post a response next week. Thanks, Friends!

07 April 2011

The Bad Hairdo Blog

Well now, I've really been parading around with my dress tucked up into my pantyhose, haven't I? Apparently, ya'all had been wondering what was up with my ego-centric double header business, but were just too polite to ask what the deal was.

I had been kind of surprised that no one mentioned the new layout, but now I understand why. I had been having a lively conversation with you all for weeks now sporting a really bad hairdo and you just weren't sure ... "did she mean for it to look like that?" Sometimes it's just better to not say anything at all.

And on top of the goofy header business and missing photos from back-posts, apparently the post font has turned minuscule. When I noticed the issue on Pop's computer, the font was so tiny it reminded me of those insomniacs you hear of that spend their nights painting Van Gogh's irises on the head of a pin or inscribing the book of Deuteronomy on a grain of rice. Too. Darn. Small.

Anyhow, girls. Apparently my blog is broken in several places and I'm just hoping it's easier to fix than the flower pot we accidentally smashed the other day. Although Jane suggested that Pops could build a robot to fix it. I'll have him work on the specs for that after I beg him to fix my blog.

Ta-ta for now, girls. I gotta' go check if there is any spinach in my teeth ...

**PS - Don't forget about the giveaway tomorrow!

06 April 2011

Double Vision? I happened to log on to the blog from a different computer today and saw two "Sweet Nest" headers at the top. Is this what everyone else is seeing? Has it been like this for weeks? My home computer only shows one header.

Argh. Why are computers so moody?

To Tidy and Arrange

For me, the spring-cleaning bug bites at random intervals. But when it does, I'm always pleased. As much as I like to arrange and collect, I think I like to purge even more. Feels so good to tidy and end up with less stuff than I had before. 

 This weekend I attacked the linen closet, keeping only the table linens, towels, and blankets that I really loved or, at the very least, get a lot of use. I was rather shocked with how much I managed to stuff into giveaway bags once I provoked my ruthless nature from it's slumber.

Now what I have left brings me pleasure and, as Rudy Huxtable would say with the tilt of her head and a nod, my linen closet is "lookin' goooooood."

Amongst the keepers, I unearthed a table runner I bought in Italy when I was a college student still dreaming of the days when I would get to keep and apoint my own household.  I remember purchasing it from a tiny little shop in Venice from an old lady who appeared rather nonplussed with the young American girl who took forever to mentally convert Lira into dollars before deciding on her purchase. I'm glad she was patient ...

... and I'm glad I have a home to tidy and arrange.

04 April 2011

Q & A and Giveaway

My main intent for this blog has been to document the days for my family, a cheater scrapbook of sorts. However, I am always so encouraged (and even a little surprised!) to find out that other people actually read this online journal and find themselves at least mildly interested in our everyday lives and my incessant ramblings.

 Over the past couple of years on this blog, I've found myself developing very real connections and friendships even though I've never sat down face-to-face with so many of you or even heard your voice over the phone. But reading about your families and finding your comments or emails in my inbox have become a source of true pleasure for me. An unexpected blessing.

So. What would we chat about over coffee? What kind of questions do you have for me? Children? Schooling? Housework? Faith? What kind of blog posts do you most enjoy? I'll often get individual emails asking about bits and bobs from my life, but I haven't really opened it up to the blog to respond en masse. Go ahead. Ask! You can email me privately or just click 'comments' below. I have a feeling that I'll learn a lot about myself in the process.
And because I'm so curious to read your thoughts or questions, if you leave a comment below by noon, Friday the 8th, I'll drop your name into a giveaway drawing. A little linen zippy pouch with a blue ticking lining and a vintage "lilac" colored zipper. Cheers!

02 April 2011

Without Skipping a Beat

While sitting around the breakfast table:

Peter: So, Jane. When are ya' going to grow a beard?
Jane: (completely deadpan) Noon.