Saturday, February 27, 2010

Spring Cleaning

Can you see how desperate I am for spring? In the interest of trying to coax in the next season, I thought I would clean up around here, open the windows, air out the rooms, sweep out the corners and redecorate a bit.

Granted, we still have snow in the corners of my backyard, snow that has been there since Thanksgiving, I'm sure. However, this morning I saw a couple of little johnny-jump-ups showing their faces in my front garden. I think they must be praying for warmer days and sunshine, too! I know it's still the end of February, but in a couple of days it will be March -- in like a lion, but just that much closer to the season of the lamb:)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Fave Five

Just squeaking in at the end of the day here, with five favorite things from the past week. It's been such a great week!

1. I made a big decision this week. I'm giving up my daytime medical billing job. As part time as it is supposed to be, in reality it has been squeezing the daylights out of my weekdays and I'm spent. I'll take the next month or so to help my clients transition over to new billing systems and I'm not sure what's in store for me after that. But, I'm not worried about it right now. I'm relieved to have finally made a decision.

2. A light-hearted moment when my friends were gathered at a girlfriend's house to celebrate a birthday. As we sang to the birthday girl, my friend's enormous yellow lab, aptly named "Mountain," came running up to the table, "grinning" from ear to ear and wagging his tail to beat the band. When we finished singing, Mountain's mistress explained, "That's his favorite song. He just loves it and gets so excited." We all burst into song once more, singing Happy Birthday to Mountain and he just glowed, taking it all in. So hilarious!

3. Watching the Olympics. Especially the ice skaters. Their grace and athleticism, the special moment when Joannie Rochette finished skating her short program and there wasn't a dry eye in the house (or my living room). So many dreams were realized these past two weeks.

4. An impromptu "cuppa tea" with my aunt yesterday. We sat in her cozy living room, drinking our tea from china butterfly mugs and the time just flew.

5. The ritual 'glass of wine' that Dan and I have before dinner each night. Sometimes we sit and talk. Sometimes we just watch the evening news together, commenting on our day during the commercials. It's a good time to just decompress from the day's events.

If you'd like to join in sharing the highlights of your week, check out the details at Suzanne's Friday Fave Five.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Just like PW

Did anyone happen to catch Ree on Good Morning America today? She made a pot roast and it was so beautiful and looked so delicious, I decided to go right to the grocery store and buy the ingredients to make one for supper. And, besides, it gave me another chance to use my new favorite kitchen tool, my Paula Deen signature enamel cast iron pot.
With this baby and the cookbook I told you about the other day -- Glorious One Pot Meals -- cooking has become lots of fun again. But this time, I didn't even need the cookbook. I watched the show and look what happened . . .

First, I cooked the carrots and onions in a bit of olive oil for just a few minutes. . . and put them aside (like Ree said to do).
Then, I seared the roast on all sides. My roast isn't as big as hers -- do you think they grow them bigger in Oklahoma? I couldn't find one nearly as big as the one she had. . . but this one will feed my family nicely.

Then I took everything out, poured in the beef broth and stirred it around a bit to get all the crusty stuff off the bottom of the pot, put the roast back in, the veggies back in, and . . . because Ree said to . . . I put in a sprig of rosemary and one of thyme. (And I sang Scarborough Fair as I did so).
Now, it's cooking in the oven, for the rest of the afternoon. And the house smells soooo good. And it's supposed to snow later today, so that's even better:)

If you missed the show, here's the link.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Hope Chest

For my 18th birthday, I received a most precious gift, when my parents presented me with a hope chest. What made it special is that they had made it themselves. My dad crafted it from wood, with a tray that nestled inside to hold smaller pieces, while the bottom was cedar lined for blankets and quilts. My mother painted the chest, in the Pennsylvania Dutch motif that I loved.

Through the years, it has held many treasures, beginning with the mementos of my high school days -- my letter sweater, yearbooks, scrapbooks, and childhood memories. As the years have passed, the contents have grown and the hope chest seems to have grown, too, with room for so many more hopes and dreams and precious memories. Opening the top, my heart swells to see, tucked in the folds of my bridal veil, my baby's first pair of shoes, linens stitched by my grandmother's hand, my first rag doll, the thick woolen pram blanket that covered my brothers and I in turn.

A stack of faded and yellowing cards and letters are tied with a ribbon. When I flip through them, the handwriting of loved ones calls out to me. A long, plain brown box is carefully labeled by my mother's flowing handwriting, the contents being Grandmother's baptismal candles.

Another box contains the family christening gown, labeled in my own hand, and noting all of the babies through the years who wore it and the dates of their baptisms. There's a card from my husband, that came with the flowers he sent when our daughter was born. The top to our wedding cake is carefully wrapped in tissue and snuggled in an old, worn knitted hat, the same hat I'm wearing in a picture taken when I was about two years old.

Bronzed baby shoes, Girl Scout badges, baby sweaters, and the little Batman cape that my son wore for a year. These are the memories that come pouring out of the chest, wrapped in the sweet aroma of cedar. I breathe them in, filling my heart with the sweetness of the moments that make up my life.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday musings

February 22, 2010
Feeling: groovy:)
Hearing: Everytime I Close My Eyes (Kenny G)

Outside today was hazy and icy cold this morning. The ground was covered in a new blanket of snow. Eventually the sun came out and I am hearing the dripping of melting snow, running down the rain gutters. It's a good day for jeans, a sweater and snowman socks.

I'm thankful for many things today . . . First, that my husband won't be traveling for the next two weeks. It feels like a holiday when he's in town, even if he's working every day, I know he's close by.

I'm also thankful for...girlfriends to grow "young" with. One of my very good friends turns 50 today, and we went to her birthday party yesterday.

I smile when I think about. . . the weekend and taking my two big boys to Costco. I can't even remember the last time I took the two of them shopping together at a grocery store. However, some things never change, and I came home with snacks and food that were nowhere on my list.

What's cookin'. . . Santa Fe Chicken from this cookbook:
I'm really enjoying this cookbook. My friend, Christine, recommended it to me about a month ago, and it's a nice change from crockpot cooking. The vegetables come out crunchier and flavorful. The meals take about 45 minutes to cook and everything is cooked in just one pot.

In my workshop, last night, I worked on. . .my "ideas notebook". I have a three ring binder that I keep for decorating ideas and gardening. I went through a stack of magazines last night, tore out the pages that looked interesting and filed them away.

I am reading...Knit Two by Kate Jacobs. It's a sequel to The Friday Night Knitting Club.

A few of my favorite things: the pocketbook section at T.J. Maxx, white tea and ginger hand soap, homemade cards, chenille bedspreads, and the anticipation of waiting for new pictures to upload on my computer.

Things I do not like. . . unloading the dishwasher, black licorice flavoring, puppies biting my ankles, bank fees.

I'm looking forward to . . . having lunch with a friend on Wednesday, the arrival of spring and daffodils, a new book from Amazon, having a cup of tea later on tonight.

Quote for the Day:
Forty is the old age of youth; 50 is the youth of old age.
~~Victor Hugo

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


With the exception of an occasional greeting card or a hastily jotted note left in the kitchen (i.e. "Mom, Mrs. [insert illegible name here] called,") I rarely get handwritten notes from my children, and even more seldom from extended family.

I was thinking that there should be a way to collect all the e-mails and text messages I receive instead, keeping them tied up with a ribbon and stored in a shoe box, the way I've saved all my letters from college friends and pen pals from years ago.

I would include all of those little notes that seem like nothing, but years later would bring back memories and make me smile. Notes like these, a sampling of text messages from the past few days:

Hey Aunt Karen, Brandi or I will call you with our plan of attack (from my nieces, coming to stay with me this week).

A series of texts from son #2, five minutes before curfew (no, he wasn't driving;):
I'm on my way. . .
Be there in a few minutes. . .
Make that 20 minutes . . . sorry
So here I sit, IV in hand, waiting for a colonoscopy . . . (from my sis-in-law; thanks to texting, I probably wouldn't have received such a missive from her at this exact moment in time, 10 years ago).

Let me know if I can do anything for you. . . (from Kathy . . . this could have been in reply to any number of events in my life from "my roof caved in" to "I have a hangnail.")

Tue 0600. Don't sweat it. (from my brother, the Army guy)

And a series of texts from another brother, attending my niece's volleyball tournament:
Win game 1. . .25/19
Lost game 2 . . . 20/25.
Game 3..15/6
Game 4. ..Good old ass whoopin . . . 12 to 25

And from my other brother . . . (never mind, this is a family-friendly blog)

From my daughter, another series of texts (obviously, I was doing all the "talking"):

And even a love letter from my DH:
Miss you xoxo

I guess the upside of all this is that texting offers just one more way to reach out and touch someone!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday, again!

FOR TODAY, February 15th, 2010...

Outside My Window...

The sun is shining brightly, the sky is blue as can be and it is COLD.

I am hearing...Three Dog Night blaring from the next room. My son's latest favorite group.

I am thinking...It's President's Day. I think. No, I'm sure. Last month was MLK Day, so this month must be President's Day. All I know for sure is that the kids (all three, ages 13 to 20) are home from school. Sometimes this doesn't bother me. Today, it does. In fact, I'm so desperate to be alone, this afternoon I'm going to let someone put hot wax on my face and rip the little hairs off just to get out of the house for an hour.

I am thankful for...Well, after telling you what I'm thinking, I guess I better say that I really am thankful for the little buggers.

From the kitchen...Leftover Valentine cake. Burritos for supper.

I am wearing...jeans and a sweater.

I am creating...a loving home:)

I am reading... Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. The story is about the friendship between a Chinese boy and a Japanese girl, set in the Seattle area and taking place in 1942.

A tender and satisfying novel set in a time and a place lost forever, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet gives us a glimpse of the damage that is caused by war--not the sweeping damage of the battlefield, but the cold, cruel damage to the hearts and humanity of individual people. Especially relevant in today's world, this is a beautifully written book that will make you think. And, more importantly, it will make you feel.
-- Garth Stein, New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

I am hoping...
that Dan has a safe week in Columbus, Ohio. They are having tons of snow -- he almost got diverted to another airport. . .I wish they had just turned around and flown home:(

Around the gates. To keep the puppy contained in the kitchen, the only large area without carpet. Except today I found myself "climbing" in and out of my kitchen -- while the puppy was romping around the living room with the kids. It was nice to not have her underfoot while I worked in there.

One of my favorite things...reflecting on the week ahead through this Daybook. It is a nice way of journaling.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...Book club at my house on Wednesday night, my nieces are staying over Thursday night, a friend's 50th birthday party this weekend, vet appointment for "puppy", watch the Olympics!

Here is picture thought I am sharing...she's napping! How does she sleep this way?Thank you, Peggy, for keeping the Daybook going!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

Meet Lilly

Here's the reason I haven't posted all week.
It's not a big reason. Only about 10 lbs of English Springer Spaniel is the reason.
We love to watch her eat. It can be quite comical since her ears are so long, especially when she's drinking water. Speaking of which, she loves to "dig" in her water bowl. And then gets a kick out of it, as I try to mop it all up while she tries to "catch" the paper towels.
When she does that we say, "No, Lilly." And she grins.

She does a lot of this. She thinks our son is another puppy, because he's so comfy to sleep on.
Shhh. Puppies sleeping;)
I have lots of other cute pictures, but they're on another camera, and I can't find the cord to download them to the computer. Does that ever happen at your house? Not being able to find things?

Not to worry. There'll be plenty more pictures of Lilly to share.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Five Must-Read Blogs

In keeping with the theme in my last post, about things that make me happy, I thought I would share with you five of my favorite blogs. These are blogs that I've found fairly recently -- in the past month or so -- and they're the kind that, when a new post shows up on my Bloglines, I have to go right over and see what's there. I hope you enjoy these, too!

1. Jientje has a delightful blog called Heaven is in Belgium, and by the looks of her pictures, I'm sure it must be. Her photography is just beautiful, especially the winter scenes she's been doing lately. She also has a daily photo blog, Heavenin365, that is wonderful. I especially like that she puts a quote with each photo. I keep a journal to "collect" quotes and her blog is a great source!

2. A Year of Letters and 365 Letters are blogs devoted to the art of letter writing. The latter gives a new topic each day to write a letter about. I've taken the challenge to write a letter a day for 2010. So far, I have written one. It's a start.

3. Karla's Korner is the blog of artist Karla Dornacher. She frequently gives out free downloads for her adorable artwork and has lots of crafting ideas for which it can be used. Lots of Valentines stuff going on over there right now!

4. A Year From Oak Cottage is another one of my favorite blogs across the sea. Marie is a talented photographer and an extraordinary cook. Check out her other blog, The English Kitchen. Reading her blogs makes me want to move to England and live in a little rose-covered cottage by the sea.

5. Another one of my absolutely favorite cooking blogs (we all love the cooking blogs, don't we?) is Salad in a Jar. Paula a.k.a. "Romaine" shares a great plan for how to prepare lunch salads -- but don't think this blog is only about salad! She cooks everything and makes it look fabulous. You will gain 5 lbs just looking at her site (but not to worry, they're just "virtual" pounds.) If this lady doesn't host a cooking show someday and write a cookbook, it will be a sad, sad thing for our country. I met Paula's sister, Bonnie, at Pioneer Woman's book signing last fall. Bonnie mentioned, 'Oh my sister has a blog.' If I had known then how fantastic this blog is, I would have gone home with Bonnie and insisted on meeting her sister.

How about you, have you found any "new" favorite blogs lately? If so, give it up and share! Inquiring minds want to know!

If you'd like to join in on Susanne's "Friday Fave Five," all the details are at Living to Tell the Story.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Happy 101

Susanne at Living to Tell the Story has awarded me the Happy 101 award. Thank you, Susanne, for the nice surprise!

First, I have to list 10 things that make me happy. Then I get to pass the goodness and the award to other bloggers who make me happy.
So, 10 things that make me happy:

1. Books

2. Quilts, down comforters and a freshly made bed

3. Personal e-mail messages, snail mail and packages

4. Refund checks

5. Charm bracelets

6. When someone surprises me and empties the dishwasher

7. Finding money in my coat pocket

8. Jimmy Buffet songs

9. Hearing someone say, "Let's go out to dinner."

10. Babies of any species

And to spread the joy, I'd like pass this on to:

Rizzi at Gifts from the Sea, because she makes me happy and I love her to pieces:)

Jen at Ingleside Mom, because she is one of the most gracious bloggers I've met. And I love how she starts each post, counting her blessings.

Diana at Sunshine On My Shoulders, because I think she would be a great neighbor to have over my backyard fence. And her blog is just so much fun --go take a look!

And if anyone else wants to grab the happy award and do the happy post, go for it 'cause you all make me happy with your visits and great comments. Or better yet, leave a comment and tell me, what makes you happy?

Monday, February 1, 2010

A new week

First, the winner of the book drawing for You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers, by Lynn Goodwin. Congratulations to Jen at A Good Cup of Coffee! Jen, I'll need your snail mail address to give Lynn, so we can get you your book. Thanks to all those who participated. Lynn was kind enough to respond to all of those who commented as well (in the comments section of the post), offering encouragement for journaling. Thank you, Lynn, it was such a pleasure to have you.


FOR TODAY . . . Monday, February 1st
Outside my window . . . the sun is shining brightly!

I am thinking . . . about my nephew, RJ. He leaves for Ft. Bliss tomorrow, and from there heads to Afghanistan.

I am thankful for . . .my home. Lately I've been very cranky about keeping up with all the chores. I forget how fortunate we are to have such a nice home.
I am wearing . . . jeans.

I am remembering. . . if you have your health, you have everything.

I am going . . . to the bank, have coffee with my nephew, to wash the car, pick up my kids from school this afternoon, and write a post about my retreat.

I am reading . . . Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.

I am hoping . . . I get around to cleaning my house one day.
On my mind . . .doctor appointments, new puppies, teenagers and what planet are they from, should I cancel the milkman to save a few bucks?, I need to keep up with laundry today, I need to pay bills, I need another retreat.
Noticing that . . . I'm forgetting to breath.
Pondering these words . . .God is smitten by the fragility in us, not by who we strive to be.

From the kitchen . . .experimenting with recipes from a new cookbook, Glorious One Pot Cooking.

What are we doing this week . . . trying to live in the moment.

Around the house . . .I put some Valentine's decorations up yesterday. Lots of school books and papers strewn about, enough shoes for 20 people, layers of dust and one sweet dog.
One of my favorite things . . . watching my thirtysomething DVDs.

A picture for you. . . our new puppy! We'll bring her home this Saturday. She's an English Springer Spaniel and we have yet to name her. . . .
For more Daybooks, or to join in the fun of writing your own, see Peggy at The Simple Woman's Daybook.