Friday, December 30, 2011

Winding down 2011

The week between Christmas and New Year's is one of my favorite times of the year.  The hustle and bustle of Christmas is over and traditionally Dan will take the week off for a staycation. 

The neat freak part of me is tempted to clean up the Christmas decorations and put every back in order.  But for Dan it's a time that he can finally relax and enjoy the tree, read through the cards, and just kick back.  Besides, the family hates it when I'm in cleaning mode.  It makes them grumpy.  And I hate to clean and organize when people are a) grumpy and b) present.

So, I satisfy my need to tidy up by organizing my desk and papers, buying a new 2012 calendar and setting goals for the new year.  More about that later.

This Christmas, I gave myself the gift of letting go of a lot of stuff.  I sent just a handful of cards and only baked two kinds of cookies.  Amazing for me.  For the first time ever in my life, I spent Christmas away from home!  We rented a condo in beautiful Grand Lake, Colorado, and spent the weekend with my family.  Twenty people and eight dogs!  It was such great fun.  On Christmas Eve, we were at a local ski resort, watching fireworks, a parade of skiers carrying torches coming down the mountain and giant snowcats in the formation of a Christmas tree.

Christmas Day included a morning walk in the brisk mountain air and in the afternoon a prime rib dinner.  Everyone pitched in the side dishes with family favorites.  I made Aunt Mary's Tangy Mashed Potato casserole, my sister-in-law made her famous spaghetti squash, and my niece made Gram's cheesecake.  Another niece made crescent rolls that were to die for.  Awesome, that these young girls are such great cooks!


One of the reasons we went to the mountains was so we could have Christmas Day with Luke, who was working at the ski school.  He and his cousin were assigned to the toddler "sick and sad" room -- for little kids who aren't feeling well or are just "sad" and miss their mom and dad.  I love that!  And I could just see Luke, all 6'3" of him, consoling these little kids.

We took Lilly with us and she proved herself as a hunting dog!  All that chasing butterflies and flushing out squirrels in the backyard has paid off.  She didn't even flinch at the shot of the gun, and managed to find a few ducks in the process.  Luke and my brother were very pleased.

I have to admit, it was nice to take a blogging/computer break the past couple weeks.  But I'm eager to get back at it and come up with a new plan for 2012.  More recipes, more 'nesting' ideas, and more visiting other blogs! 

Enjoy what's left of 2011 and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Recipe

I know I said I was taking a break, but just have to share my 'go-to' appetizer recipe for this season.  My friend Liz served it at Book Club last month and everyone loved it.  I made it for my dad's 80th birthday party last night and it was a hit!  Serve with sliced baguette (slice 'em thin!).

                      
                           Avocado Chimichurri                           

2Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
3 cloves of garlic, minced (1 Tbsp)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 avocados cubed
slices of French bread for serving

Prep:


combine the 1st 7 ingredients.
whisk in the olive oil
stir in cilantro and parsley
gently fold in the avocado
spoon onto the bread slices

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Merry Christmas!

We still have so much to do, and we're plumb tuckered out. I think I'm going to take a little blogging break. If we don't see you before the big guy in the red suit rolls around -- have a MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Love to all from Over the Backyard Fence

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

So many books. . .

So little time.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Best Turkey Pot Pie Ever

I know that recipes for leftover turkey abound this time of year, but I made a Turkey Pot Pie yesterday that was so good, I have to share.  I found the recipe on one of my favorite sites -- allrecipes.com .

If you have any bits of turkey left, all you need is a cup and a half (I used a bit more, just to clean it all up).  I had everything else on hand, too, all left-over from Thanksgiving.  I'll be making this again during the non-holiday season with chicken.
Turkey Pot Pie*

Recipe for double crust pie (10 inch)  -- I used the kind that comes in the red box:)
4 Tbs. butter, divided
1 small onion, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, diced
3 Tbs. dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 cubes chicken bouillon
2 cups wtaer
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 cups cubed cooked turkey
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Roll out bottom pie crust, press into a 10 inch pie pan, set aside.

2.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add the onion, celery, carrots, parsley, oregano, and salt and pepper.  Cook and stir until the vegetables are soft.  Stir in the bouillon and water.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Stir in the potatoes and cook until tender but still firm.

3.  In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in the turkey and flour.  Add the milk, and heat through.  Stir the turkey mixture into the vegetable mixture, and cook until thickened.  Cool slightly, then pour the mixture into the unbaked pie shell.  Roll out the top crust, and place on top of filling.  Flute edges and make 4 slits in the top crust to let out steam.

4.  Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 35 degrees F and continue baking for 30  minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
 *Recipe for Turkey Pot Pie I adapted from AllRecipes.com

Friday, November 25, 2011

Stocking stuffers

Christmas stockings are a favorite tradition in our family.  We always find our stockings filled a mix of old favorites and new surprises.  For example, every year my kids will find a chocolate Santa and candy cane in their stockings and a supply of movie tickets to use during the year (my husband's idea).

It's always easy for me to come up with new ideas for my daughter, but my boys, especially as they get older, are harder.  So, I decided to surf the net and see what ideas I could find, and share them here.


One idea I liked that was repeated in several places was to come up with a theme for a favorite sport or hobby.  For instance --

A movie theme would include a new DVD, movie-size boxed candy, some movie tickets, some gourmet popcorn.

For the athlete, some golf balls and tees, baseballs and bubble gum and cracker jacks, wrist bands, foot powder!, a decal for their favorite team.

For the outdoorsman, how about a Swiss army knife, some hand warmers, and beef jerky?

For the teen with a car -- a key chain, car air freshener, tire gauge, car wax.

Here are some general ideas:

small flashlight

nail clippers

mechanical pencils

money clip
chapstick

ear buds

cologne (small sample sizes are fun)

batteries

quarters for laundry for college students

sunglasses or strap for sunglasses

razors

a hacky sack or yo-yo (boys will be boys)

fun boxers!

socks

playing cards

Leatherman tool

dog toy for his favorite 'fur buddy'


If you have some suggestions, include them in a comment!

Monday, November 21, 2011

This morning. . .

I woke up to this. . .


. . . .and started making a mental list of my plans for the day.

*  Shop for groceries for Thanksgiving.  (I hope there are  still some nice, big, fat turkeys left.)

*  Take the Girl Child to horseback riding lessons.

*  Plan menus for the week.

*  Get out china, silver, tablecloths and figure out a centerpiece.

*  Clean off my desk and clean out my purse.  Because when these two things are uncluttered, it helps my brain get uncluttered.

*  Clean a couple bathrooms.

*  Make a chore list for my kids so they can help me get the house company ready.

So, in the words of a wise woman. . . . "I'm off like a terd of hurtles."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Favorites

Time to look back over the week and find the gold nuggets.  I always jot down a list on paper and end up with more than five.  That's a good thing.  Thanks, Susanne, for hosting! 

1.  High School teachers.  I spent a couple of days at my daughter's school this week.  Whenever I'm there, I am struck by how dedicated the teachers and staff are to the kids.  They go so far above and beyond what they are called to do as educators.  God bless them.

2. Free internet radio.  There may be others, but I listen to Pandora.  I've created several stations -- Country, Classical and an electic station labeled "Dan Fogelberg."  I just created a holiday music station.  There's a limit on how many free hours you get each month, but I've never reached it and sometimes I play the music for hours.

3.  A new closet.  When our son moved out, I gained an entire closet in what is now a guest room.  Yesterday, I put away all the tablecloths that have been stuffed in a cupboard in my sewing room.  They're all on hangers -- Christmas, Thanksgiving, lace, spring -- freshly ironed and where I can easily get to them. 

4.  Dinner last night.  The Middle Child is home from college, the Firstborn came for supper and the Girl Child was physically and emotionally present.  I made lasagna, salad and garlic bread.  We forgot to put the leaf back in the table, but it was all the nicer, all squished together.

5.  Laundry.  As odd as it sounds.  As my kids get older and I struggle with what to do or say  to help them through certain situations, I find some satisfaction in being able to at least provide them with clean, freshly laundered clothes to wear.  Clean shirt, clean socks, a fresh armor to face their day.

Hope you find much to be thankful for this week:)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day

To Dad, Grandpa, Uncle Andy, Uncle Dick, Uncle Bill, Matt and RJ ~~  THANK YOU

Love, Karen

Friday Favorites

I don't know where the week went, but here it is Friday already!  Looking back on my week, I'm thankful for so many things.  For one, Susanne of Living to Tell the Story.  She keeps me on track, focusing on the good things and living in the moment, with Friday's Fave Five.

Here are some grace points from the week.

1.  This week was about feeling connected to so many special people in my life.  I wrote a letter to a friend, talked on the phone with my brother, visited my aunt for a long chat.  My sister-in-law from California was in town and I got to spend time with her.  Earlier in the week, we celebrated a family birthday and I got to meet some extended family from Australia.  And today, my dad came for lunch:)

2.   Fall soups and stews.  I made a lentil and tomato soup today, and made it heartier by adding some elk sausage that was in the freezer.  It was delicious!  Elk is very lean and the sausage is flavorful and not at all gamy. With some toasted garlic bread, it made a yummy supper.

3.  This morning, I made a pan of lasagna for a teachers' conference at our school, and while I was at it, made two more pans to put in the freezer.  Planning ahead for busy weeks before the holidays.  I am so thankful for my freezer:)

4.  I saw Sarah's Key yesterday.  Such a treat to see a movie in the middle of the week and a treat to pay only $6 for a matinee.  The book is a powerful and moving story.  The film was extremely well done with Kristin Scott Thomas in the lead role.

5.   Finally, finally backed up all the photos on the computer.  Actually,  Firstborn Child did it for me.  Big sigh of relief.  I really need to learn how to do these things for myself.  But, in the meantime, I am very thankful for computer savvy children.

How was your week?

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Daybook



FOR TODAY, November 7, 2011

Outside my window...it's a sunny day, but snow is on the way!

I am thinking...that today is my aunt's birthday  She blesses my life in so many ways.  We're having a party at my brother's house later today.

I am thankful...for friends and family who stand by me through thick and thin.  They're the best.

In the kitchen...my menus are set for the week, I went grocery shopping yesterday.  I'm set for the week.  Feels good.

I am wearing...sweats -- cleaning house today.

I am creating...a quilt.

I am going...nowhere until 4:00 today!  Gotta love days like this.

I am wondering...how much snow we'll get?  Supposedly just a couple inches.

I am reading... The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

I am hoping...for a calm week.

I am looking forward to...the holidays.  It's all I can do not to set up the Christmas village right now.

I am hearing...Matt Lauer in Namibia

Around the house... The usual shrapnel from a busy weekend.

I am pondering...life in Namibia.  I would love the simpler lifestyle, but not sure I could handle all that sand.

One of my favorite things...fabric stores.

A few plans for the rest of the week. . .a quiet week ahead, so I'll have no excuses not to get some projects done.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...from Auntie Ann's birthday six years ago.  The kids have all grown up so much since then!  But Auntie Ann looks exactly the same.  So glad I have her genes:)

Thank you, Peggy, for hostessing A Simple Woman's Daybook.  To join in or read more Daybooks, go here.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cake


I made this for my husband's birthday.  His family is not into traditional birthday cakes.  As a matter of fact, until I married into his family, I didn't know you could put birthday candles on pie!

This is delicious served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
12-oz bag chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, 1 cup of the sugar, and the eggs.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Add the sour cream and vanilla; blend thoroughly on low.  In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Add gradually to the beaten mixture.

Pour half of the batter into a greased 9x13 baking pan.  In a small bowl, combine the remaining sugar with the cinnamon.  Sprinkle half of the sugar-cinnamon mixture and half of the chocolate chips over the batter.  Pour the remaining batter into the pan and sprinkle with remaining sugar-cinnamon mixture and chocolate chips on top.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Cool in the pan on a rack.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Favorites

Here are some of the best parts of my week ~~

The sunrises have been gorgeous.  This morning the eastern sky was all streaky in shades of pink and orange, and the trees were jet black silhouettes.  I wished I had my camera when I took my daughter to school.

My friend, Pamela, was in town all week.  On Wednesday we spent the day together. We had coffee and scones at my house, then went shopping and out for lunch.  The stores are putting out all of their Christmas stuff and it was so much fun to do a little Christmas shopping when the displays are fresh and new.  It's been years since we've been able to do that.  We shared ideas for stocking stuffers and those hard-to-buy-for teenage boys.

Getting organized.  I organized my Christmas lists and found a great website that has cute forms and tons of ideas on how to do this.  Organized Home will even send you daily reminders to keep on track.  They think of everything and you could plan Christmas at the White House using their system.  We've simplified our holidays, so I'm using just a few ideas, but it's a fun way to get organized and plan ahead.

A cancelled softball tournament.  Isn't that awful to admit? but I know I'm not alone.  We now have the whole weekend without any commitments.  Dan was out of town this week, so it's even more delicious, having all that free time.

Text messages from the Middle Child.  We text or talk on the phone once or twice a week.  Sometimes it's about school, usually he'll just share something like, "it's snowing!" or "physical therapy went great today!"  His arm is getting stronger every day and I know he can't wait until spring when he can throw at full speed:) 

How was your week?  If you'd like to join Susanne's Friday Fave Five, go here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November 1

My blog has fallen by the wayside for the past couple weeks.  It happens now and then.  I wish I could say that I've just been so dang busy, enjoying the fall season, getting lots done and saving up all sorts of good ideas to write about.

While I've been baking lots of pumpkin bread, doing some fall cleaning, and piecing together a long-forgotten quilt, for the most part the past month or two hasn't been exactly hunky dory here, at Over the Backyard Fence.   Life served up a healthy dose of reality that has been both challenging and humbling to say the least.  For a time, I shut down my blog, feeling hypocritical writing about recipes and seemingly superfluous things, when "real life" has been far from perfect.  I didn't think anyone would notice until a few readers asked why they were having trouble getting into my blog.  So, I 'flipped the switch' and opened it up again.  And I found myself sitting at the computer, staring at a blank screen, wondering what on earth could I write about?

Claudia at Mockingbird Hill Cottage, hosts a meme called Reality Thursday.  It's a chance to let down your hair, so to speak, and post pictures of real life -- the messy desk, the disaster in the kitchen rather than the perfect recipe, the incomplete project -- instead of what we typically show on our blogs.  I like that.  Heaven knows, most bloggers don't blog to show that life can be lived perfectly. 

However, I do think that most of the time I want  my blog to celebrate the blessings in my life and to look for the roses among the thorns. Susanne, at Living to Tell the Story, hosts Friday Fave 5, a week-end meme that challenges us to find and name the good things that happened throughout our week.  As I've participated in this for the over a year now, I find that in the midst of my week I'm noticing more and more things to add to my list of five.

I've missed writing on my blog and the 'good energy' that flows from it, in the form of my blogging buddies.   The following quote sums it up better than I can.

Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behaviors. Keep your behaviors positive because your behaviors become your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.  ~~~Gandhi

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reality Shot Thursday

This is a meme hosted by Claudia at Mockingbird Hill.  As much as we all love seeing perfection in decorating blogs, and even in our own pictures that we choose to share on our blogs, we all know -- it's not reality.  Claudia invites us to loosen up a little and share some "real life."

Here's mine.  This is how I keep the top of my desk clean (most of the time).
It's important that I keep the file drawer open at all times, so notebooks are within easy reach!

If you'd like to share a touch of reality, join Reality Shot Thursday.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Favorites

Such a good week!  Here's some good stuff that blessed my days. . .

1.  Watching re-runs of Reba.  It is such a funny show and my kids laugh at how hard  laugh.  Laughter.  Good stuff.

2.  A new table runner for my kitchen.
 
3.  My kids' orthodontist.  He is one of the most generous, kind individuals, and my kids think he's "chill."  Yesterday evening, he met us at his office to fix  a broken wire that was digging into my daughter's mouth.  On his own time.  He gives so much to our community and to our church.  Just a good man.

4.  Last night, we had to close all the windows, because it is so cold outside.  Fall is here.

5.  Pizza.  It always seems like a party when we have pizza for supper.  I'm happy, because I don't have to cook.  The kids are happy, because they love pizza.  DH is happy, because I'm happy.  And it's one of the rare times that we eat supper in front of the t.v.

How was your week?  If you'd like to join in on Friday Fave Five, check in with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Feathering the nest

I was out shopping yesterday and came across some of these:
 I suppose you would have to be at least as old as I am to know what drawer liners are.
Since I had spent the previous day cleaning out my closet and dresser, I decided to buy some, to freshen things up.  I remember when my mother used to do her spring or fall cleaning, she would go through our clothes and pack away the things that weren't in season.  Woolens went in moth balls, summer clothes got put away in a box downstairs.  It kept the closets and dressers neat and tidy, and it was actually fun getting out our clothes the next season, when they all seemed 'new' but comfortably familiar.  Anyway, once a year or so, Mom would change the paper lining in the dresser drawers.

Scented drawer liners (and matching hangers) were a popular wedding shower gift years ago.  I wonder if  young girls do that anymore? 

I find that even if it's just a utility cabinet under the kitchen sink, if I take the time to put down some pretty contact paper, it inspires me to keep that area tidy and clean.  I'm a nut for pretty paper and pretty fabric, so it's one more way to support the habit:)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Saturday doings and a recipe

I'm obviously deep in nostalgia these days, as evidenced by the photos in my blog header this month and last month.  But, I guess it's a mother's (and a blogger's) prerogative, after all, to display photos of her kids;)

We're throwing the chore list aside today, and taking a drive up into the hills to see the fall foliage.  We plan to drive for a while and then stop for lunch in one of our favorite mountain towns. 

In the meantime, here's a recipe I tried last night that was a huge hit with everyone.  It involves a few more steps than my normal Friday night cooking (ordering pizza!) but Dan was gone this week and the weather has been nice and cool, so I felt like making something special.  The aromas that filled the house while this was cooking were to die for!

Braised Chicken with Butternut Squash and Cranberries

I served this with egg noodles, but couscous would be a delicious side dish, too.  This recipe is a revision from the Martha Stewart Cooking magazine.

1 small butternut squash, peeled, cubed and seeded
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
4 chicken leg quarters (2 1/2 pounds) split into drumsticks and thighs
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
4 tsp. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dried cranberries

In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and, in two batches, cook, skin side down, until skin is golden and crisp, about 5 minutes per batch.  Transfer to a plate; pour off fat from pot.

Add 1 Tbs. oil, squash and onion to pot, and cook until vegetables are beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add sage, flour, coriander, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add broth and cook, stirring up and scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon, 1 minute.  Nestle chicken, skin side up, in squash mixture, add cranberries, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer until chicken is cooked through and squash is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Daybook


FOR TODAY, September 26, 2011

Outside my window...It's already dark and it's only 7:30 p.m.

I am thinking...about the busy weekend we had.  Emily went to her first Homecoming dance.  Dan and I drove her and a friend, and we had a few hours to 'kill' until it was time to pick them up.  We found a microbrewery with patio seating and had a late dinner, then shared dessert.

I am thankful...that I am still able to be a stay-at-home-mom, even though my kids are teens and one is a young adult.  

In the kitchen...Salmon on the grill, butternut squash, and a new recipe with red quinoa.

I am wearing...shorts and a t-shirt.  It was 89 degrees today!

I am creating...a menu plan for fall and a new plan for household budgeting.

I am going...to bed early!

I am wondering...what my grandmother would think, if she could see our lives today.

I am reading...
A Confident Heart by Renee Swope
Escaping Into the Open by Elizabeth Berg

I am hoping... to get the rest of the windows clean in my house before the week is over.

I am looking forward to...shopping with my aunt and my sister-in-law on Thursday.

I am hearing...the sound of the fan in my office, the television downstairs where Dan and Emily are watching a show.

Around the house...I decorated for Fall today.  Just a few things, a fall garland along the mantle, a few pumpkins here and there, some scented candles.

I am pondering...these words:
Drudgery is the touchstone of character.  The great hindrance in spiritual life is that we will look for big things to do.  "Jesus took a towel. . . and began to wash the disciples' feet."  (Oswald Chambers)

One of my favorite things...fall-scented candles from Yankee Candle

A few plans for the rest of the week...Have lunch with a friend, parent-teacher conferences, a birthday party for my nephew, have the dog groomed.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing...early morning at Lake Granby, Colorado.


Thanks to Peggy for hosting The Simple Woman's Daybook.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Favorites

Looking back over the week, can you think of five moments or five things that blessed you?  That's what Suzanne at Living to Tell the Story encourages us to do with Friday's Fave Five.  Here are mine:

1.  Today being the first day of Fall.  The air has cooled and the maple tree in my front yard is turning gold.   How I love Autumn.

2.  My favorite shows had season premiers -- The Good Wife and Modern Family. The latter is one that Dan and I watch together.  It makes us laugh -- really laugh -- every single time.  Nothing like laughter to lift your spirits.  The Good Wife is 'my show' and I love the 'me' time I get from it.

3.  My book club met at my house this week.  Our group has been meeting for 10 years!  Our kids have grown from babies and toddlers to teens and young adults.  We've read great books and not-so-great books, but our time together is always golden.

4.  I made a new recipe this week. Pasta Carbonara.  It requires just four ingredients -- linguini, bacon, Romano cheese and egg yolks.  I added chicken.  So simple, but so good.

5. The Firstborn turned 22 this week.  22!  We'll celebrate his birthday tonight, when the Middle Child gets home.  It will be good to have everyone around the supper table tonight.

How was your week?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

AWOL

I've been AWOL for the past week and, boy, did it feel great.  A week ago Friday, I took off for a trip to Pennsylvania to see my friend, Pamela.  I stayed with her and her husband, Jim, in their beautiful home in the Poconos.  They are now empty nesters, and my time there was so peaceful and I came home renewed!

Pamela and I have been friends since junior high school, and Jim grew up in my hometown.  Needless to say, we have a long history together.  Pam and I had a ball, shopping at the flea market, at outlet stores, going into New York City, and visiting my Aunt Riz one day.

When we were "young moms",  Pam and I spent a lot of time together through our involvement in MOPS, hanging out together with our kids, and regular afternoon tea while cheering one another on during the tough times and celebrating the milestones. When our oldest kids were three, and her daughter was just eight months old, she and Jim moved from the Denver area to Tokyo for a few years.  We missed one another terribly and wrote letters to each other at least once a week.  Back then, phone calls were extremely expensive, so they were reserved for rare occasions.

Through the years, I saved her letters and she saved mine.  So, last week, I took her letters with me and one day we spent the whole day, reading through them.  What a treasure!  A priceless account of our lives as young moms, raising toddlers and trying to figure it all out.  We read through them for hours, taking breaks for  meals, but ended up each taking the remainder of our letters to bed, still reading. 

When they returned to the states, Jim and Pam settled on the east coast.  I wish I could say we kept up our correspondence, but by then email and inexpensive long distance plans had taken over, so we have only a few letters from that time.

We've both promised to take up writing again, even if it is less frequently than before.  We still have a lot to say, as we navigate this part of lives.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Favorites

One of the best parts of the week is writing my Friday Favorites post.  Looking back over the the week and mining for the good stuff, the gold nuggets, the grace points. 

1.  The used book store in town.  The young woman who owns it is just a delight.  She always has a pot of coffee going and a plate of cookies.  It's a small shop, but she's managed to squeeze in a couple of overstuffed chairs.  There are always one or two other shoppers in there, browsing the shelves in companionable silence.  It's become one of my favorite haunts.

2.  Our Keurig coffee maker.  I love it.  Some mornings I wake up, and it's the first thing I think of, enjoying a cup of rich, flavorful coffee, while enjoying the early morning on the back porch.  It's what gets me out of bed, as I'm not a morning person.

3.  My husband.  Always.  After 27 years, he still makes me laugh, makes me swoon and I love 'im.

4.  September.  The sky is bluer, the air is clearer, it's such a welcome change after the long, hot summer months.  I love the anticipation of fall and the new beginnings.  September has always been my "new year."

5.  Sending a care package to The Middle Child.  I remember how much it meant to get mail when I was in college.  Even though it's easier to communicate these days with texts and phone calls, nothing says "i love you" like a package in the mail!

I hope you all found lots of blessings in your week!  I'm linking up with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story for Friday's Fave Five.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Judging Mom

For the past few weeks I've been recording and watching re-runs of a TV series called Judging Amy.  It aired on CBS from 1999 to 2005.  I don't remember watching more than a few episodes back then.  I'm pretty sure that on the rare occasion that I did watch TV, it was a Disney movie or Teletubbies.  Remember them?

I love this show.  It's about a judge (Amy Brenneman) who is a single mom to a young daughter.  They live with Amy's mom (Tyne Daly) who is a social worker.  Each episode involves some kind of dispute in Amy's courtroom, as well as a situation that Tyne Daly is dealing with.  They both specialize in juvenile issues, which has a lot of appeal for me since I tend to specialize in those, too;)

There are some other extended family members in the series.  It's fascinating and entertaining to watch the interaction between all of them, especially the mother/daughter relationships.  I also love the close relationship Amy has with her younger brother because it reminds me of the one I have with mine. 

I like that no matter what societal ills they may face during the day, they all have one another to come home to.  Not that they always get along, in fact they frequently do not.  But, that they can deal with huge issues and solve them in an hour, usually with common sense (this is television after all), is refreshing.

And that Amy, a judge for heaven's sake, still learns so much about life from her mother, this older and wiser woman that she is so fortunate to have in her life each day.  I envy her a bit.  Especially on the days that I'm struggling with one issue or another and want to wail, "Why can't someone just tell me what to doooo!" 

Amy's lectures to the courtroom are logical and reasonable, delivered with coolness and acumen.  I wish I could do as well explaining things to certain people in my household.  But then, Amy does have a scriptwriter.

There is one tip that I've learned from her that has proven to be useful.  Yesterday, things got a bit heated with certain members of my household. I found myself raising my hand and calmly but firmly advising, "Let's take a five minute recess break, and then reconvene at the kitchen table."  Someone whispered, "She's been watching Judging Amy again."

Just wait.  I'm sure ebay sells gavels. And, maybe black robes?


Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Favorites

Linking up with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story for Friday Favorites.

1.  This was the first full week that my kids were in school.  It is the first time in 16 years that I'm not driving someone to school in the morning!  DH leaves at the same time as my daughter, so he drops her at school.  I feel deliciously spoiled, not having to get out of the house first thing in the morning.

2.  Kathy and I had our 'end of the summer pool party' yesterday to celebrate back-to-school.  It's an exclusive event -- she and I are the only ones invited.  And her dad.  Since it's his pool.  He comes for lunch, but the rest of the day it's just the two of us, on our rafts, looking up at the blue sky, talking and sipping iced lattes or drinks of choice.

3.  Seeing The Help on Wednesday morning. Geez, I've been spoiled this week.  I wrote about this in a previous post.  My book club went to an early show -- 10:00 in the morning for just six bucks -- since we had read the book together last spring.

4. This happened last week, but I'm still so tickled about it.  I found a teapot at this Etsy shop that goes with my mother's childhood tea set.  I think it's a pretty good match.  I have been searching for a long time and I'm so delighted.



5.  We continue to have hot, hot days, but the early mornings and evenings are cooler.  Perfect weather for porch sitting and morning coffee.

How was your week?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday night

I'm too tired to even form a sentence. In bullet points, here's what's been happening:
  • Luke is settled in at school and loving it.  I miss him, but we text occasionally and he's called twice. Once to ask me to send a form he needed and today to tell me he was awakened by an earthquake last night.  
  • Tomorrow I'm going to see The Help with my book club.  I loved the book and have heard great reviews about the movie!
  • I went for a walk today and saw some critters.



  • It's so hot.  In the mid to high 90s all week long.  Tonight I made scrambled eggs, fried up some leftover potatoes, and we had fresh fruit with it.  The power went out, just before the eggs were done, so DH fired up the grill and finished cooking the eggs.  In a skillet on the grill.  Did I even have to say that?  Yes, I'm tired.
  • I'm recording all the "Judging Amy" reruns and watch an episode (or two) every night.  No commercials.  Woohoo!
  • It seems like I had more to say when I started this post.  Hmmm.  The past week has been crazy, as I'm in cleaning and decluttering mode.  It does make me a bit crazy.
  • I hope you're all having a good week:)


Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday, Monday

Today is back-to-school for the Girl Child.  It's her first day of high school and she is the last and only one of our children still in K-12 school.  This morning was a far cry from the days when I had three kids all excited and scrambling to get out the door.

I celebrated anyway by hanging the flag, a family tradition described in this post. . .

. . .and eating the last few pieces of leftover Sesame Chicken, and the last scoop of Blue Bell Cookies & Cream ice cream for breakfast.  Oh, yes I did.

I took my son shopping for jeans, sneakers and stuff for his dorm, and then we picked up lunch from our favorite sandwich place.  Today was not a good day, nutritionally.

I got my haircut.

I'm making grilled salmon and baked potatoes for dinner.

I'm dreading Thursday when I have to take the Middle Child and leave him all alone at the ends of the earth, at college.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Favorites

School starts next week!  It's hard to believe that this was the last week of summer vacation.  Nothing extraordinary this week, just finding pleasure in the "small things."

1.  The temperatures have dropped ever so slightly and the mornings are wonderfully cool.  This morning there is the slightest breeze, suggesting that summer won't last forever.

2.  The painting in the kitchen is finished! For now, at least.  It's so nice to have everything put back together and it looks so bright and cheerful.

3.  Lunch with Aunt Ann yesterday.  It was spur of the moment, both of us needed a break, so we went to our favorite place, The Egg & I.  I deviated from my usual favorite -- the Chicken Walnut Salad sandwich -- and tried a salad.  It was good, but the sandwich, served on raisin bread, is still my all-time favorite.

4.  Buying school supplies.  Em and her friend went shopping and bought all the same things, just in different colors.  Remember when you had a best friend and loved to have things that "matched"? 

5.  This book.  Oh, it's such a good read.   My Ruby Slippers, The Road Back to Kansas is beautifully written, as Tracy Seeley explores the back roads of Kansas and eastern Colorado in an archaeological dig of sorts, to find the homes and the stories of her childhood.   In her quest, she raises the question for all of us, what exactly is home? 

Linking up with Susanne at Living to the Tell the Story for Friday's Fave Five!  Where I just found out I won a Starbuck's gift card!!  Thank you, Susanne!  Such a treat!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kitchen Reveal



Well, it isn't quite finished, but I'm going to 'reveal' the kitchen makeover anyway. I'm even going to take this blog to a whole new level and show you, step by step, how I painted the cabinets.  Even though there are plenty of other people out there who are far more qualified than I, to show you how to do this.  Just Google "painting kitchen cabinets" and you will have all the info you'll ever want or need.

The only "before" picture I can put my hands on right now, is from before we bought our house.  But it gives you an idea of what the cabinets looked like -- medium colored oak.  They weren't in bad shape, in fact they were in fairly good shape, but just not my style; Dan's style, but I prefer painted cabinets, so how we got here is a whole 'nother story.

So, before:

And after:
The cabinet without a door is going to be left open, I just need to paint the inside.  And the one on the far left will have a door with glass. "We" have big plans for the island, so just ignore that for now.  And as for the lower cabinets that aren't painted, I am leaving them as they are because I like the look of mixed finishes and everything not being all "matchy-matchy" especially in the kitchen. 
Here's the elusive valence:)
 I  started by sanding the doors and cabinets . . .

Then, because oak is such a grainy wood, I used some textured wallpaper that is suitable for painting in the center of each door and on the sides of the cabinets.  The texture looks like bead board.  It gave the doors a much smoother finish than if I had just painted the wood.  The paper was soooo easy to apply.
I caulked around the edges to give it a smooth finish and to reinforce the edges of the paper so it wouldn't come off.
Here are several of the doors. . .
You can see the bead board pattern . . .
It was finally time to paint.  Each door got a coat of primer and two coats of glossy latex. 
 Dan helped me put the crown molding up (as in, he cut all the angles and pieces and held them in place while I used the nail gun to attach them:)  It gives such a nice, finished look.
For fun, I lined the inside of one door with cork board. . .

. . .and painted the outside with chalkboard paint.
I really like the way everything turned out.  I don't care for the blue walls, and will probably be painting them red.  I love red and yellow accents for a kitchen. 


And that's it!  I love my "new" kitchen and how much brighter it is.