Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Talking in Circles

I love the end of February.

Actually, I love the beginning of March. 

March means the coldest part of winter is over. March means no more below zero weather, no more snow that stays around and won't go away. March means more daylight, and more warmer weather. March means flowers start appearing and nature starts to green up. March means spring is here and summer is close behind.

Which means bathing suit season is coming.

~~~~~~~~~~

I hate March.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Chicken Little

K saw me editing these photos and wanted to know if I had any good ones edited.

Good ones?

These are good ones.

~~~~~~~~~~

She meant photos like the one below. 

Posed and portrait looking. I have plenty of those. But the photos I really love are the silly ones. The ones that show K's personality.

Those are the good photos.

But to appease my {sort of} willing model, I will include a posed portrait photo.

Ta da.
A couple weeks ago, the Man decided to cook a chicken for dinner. He put it in the crock pot and let it cook most of the day. But he put it in frozen, right out of the freezer, and when he checked on it later in the afternoon he was not convinced it was going to be cooked through.

He called me at work. "I think I'm going to put the chicken in the oven. I want to make sure it's cooked.  But it doesn't look right. It looks kind of skinny and flat."

I wasn't sure what he was talking about but I agreed that cooked chicken was the way to go and confirmed that he should put it in the oven. 

He said goodbye, muttering something about throwing some potatoes and carrots in the pan. 

~~~~~~~~~~

I got home from work and the Man met me at the door. 

"There's something wrong with that chicken," he said. "It has no breast meat."

What? There has to be breast meat on the bird. What kind of chicken doesn't have breast meat?

He pulled the pan out of the oven and I looked at the chicken. He was right. There was no breast meat. Flat as a pancake. He took a fork and stabbed at it. Nothing. Just bones. We looked at it carefully, inspecting it closely while he kept stabbing at it, looking for some meat. 

As he was poking at it, we started speculating about what might have happened to it. I asked him if the wrapper indicated that it was an organic chicken. Maybe I bought one that had no growth hormones and therefore no enlarged breasts. Maybe normal chickens have very little breast meat and we've become accustomed to hormone injected birds.

After looking at it for a few minutes, we agreed that we could not eat it for dinner. There simply wasn't enough meat for everyone. The Man shut off the oven and said he would use it for chicken soup the next day. I told him that was a fantastic idea and we could eat leftovers for dinner instead.

As I was changing out of my work clothes, I heard him call my name. I walked into the kitchen and he said, "I figured out what was wrong with that chicken."

"It was upside down."
Seriously. 

We were looking at an upside down chicken and DID NOT KNOW IT.

Truly, I am out of the cooking loop. I can't even identify an upside down bird.

~~~~~~~~~~

I love this photo of E. She looks like a ballerina coming out of a twirl.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Blankie

Ten years ago, almost eleven, my mother in law made baby quilts for my soon to be born twin nieces. She made quilts for all the babies who came into her life and had made them for J and K many years before my nieces arrived. 

Both my kids loved their "blankie" and dragged them around everywhere. Blankie covered them during nap time, keeping them warm and snuggled in soft surroundings. Blankie got scrunched up and used as a pillow while driving in the car. Blankie became a superhero cape and got wrapped around their shoulders during play time. And sometimes Blankie got used as a bullfighter's cape and the kids would race at it and go flying onto the sofa or the bed.
Blankie became a best friend, a comforter, a snuggle, and a hug, all wrapped up in one small pile of fabric.

So you can imagine the distress that would come about when Blankie was taken away for a washing or a mending. Or when Blankie accidentally got left behind at Auntie B's house and had to be sent home via priority mail.

Great distress. Lost buddies always cause great distress.
J and K kept their blankies with them for a

very.

long.

time.
I never fretted about them hanging onto their childhood friend. I thought it was kind of sweet.

And honestly? I have a favorite blanket too.

So I could hardly fault them for wanting to keep their favorite blankie.
Just like my own kids, my nieces have become quite attached to their own blankies.

My mother in law and I have been mending my nieces blankies for a lot of years now. But they are finally at the point where they can not be mended any more. The fabric is just too thin and threadbare. Patchwork squares are missing. The dog chewed one of them, leaving shredded holes behind. There is lots of stitching criss-crossing the blankies, trying to hold them together.

It was time to make new ones. 

So K, my nieces, and I made quilts this weekend. We kept to a simple design, a basic strip quilt, and they handled it like pros.
The old and the new.
Trying out the new blankies.

They are not quite as comfortable as the old ones but a little time will take care of that.

~~~~~~~~~~

E took to the new blankie like a fish to water. She was cuddled up with it, firmly tucked underneath her, when I said goodnight.

D had some struggles. She's not ready to give up old blankie. I think she views new blankie as the interloper. When I went in to say goodnight to her, she had new blankie folded up nice and neat on a table. Nowhere near her.

Shunned.

Poor new blankie. I hope she gives it a chance.
J went ice fishing and caught a couple while we were busy quilting.

He and E worked the fish fry line later that evening cooking up some delicious fresh fried fish for us.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Tale of Two Plumbers

One year, while I was in high school, my mom and I went shopping after school and found ourselves wandering around the jewelry department of a {rather} high end department store.  We hardly ever shopped there because the clothing was very expensive and, well, there were three of us girls.

But that particular day, Mom and I were in that store, window shopping and just looking around and I spotted a display of small red boxes criss-crossed with gold lines. Inside the padded and hinged boxes were the prettiest necklaces I had ever seen.

Gold necklaces. I had never owned anything gold.


The pendant was one letter - an initial - and it was written in the girliest, swirliest script with a teeny, tiny diamond set into it.

A diamond. A real diamond. I didn't know anything about carat weight or clarity or anything else. All I knew was that this was a genuine diamond.

I stood and stared at those necklaces for the longest time. Mom kept wandering away, off to women's clothing or shoes or wherever, but I stayed at that display, checking boxes to see if they had my initial and my sister's initial. When my mom came back to get me, I begged and begged her to get us these necklaces. I told her all my friends were getting special pieces of jewelry from their parents for their sweet sixteen.

She balked at first. But then I started working on her, reminding her Valentine's Day was coming up and wouldn't it be grand if she got us these necklaces instead of a box of chocolates. She always bought us a box of chocolates for Valentine's Day. And it would be a great reward for having brought home a pair of very good report cards. I pulled out every reason I could, hoping to persuade her

just

this 

once.

Please, mom?

I don't know which argument worked but she eventually agreed to buy the necklaces for us.

I loved that necklace. I wore it every day. I don't think my mom knew how much it meant to me. It was proof. Proof that I was loved enough for her to buy me something so valuable.

Silly, I know. But crazy thoughts swirl around your mind when you are a teenager.
So when K turned sixteen, I spoke to the Man and told him I had a plan. I wanted to buy K a pair of pearl earrings for her birthday. Pearls that she can wear on her wedding day.

When we gave them to her, I think she was surprised. She opened the box and smiled such a sweet little smile. It wasn't the first nice piece of jewelry that she had gotten, but it was her first piece of "grown-up" jewelry. Just like I did with that necklace such a long time ago, she wears the earrings often, in one of the bazillion holes she has in her ears. 

One night last week she decided to clean the pearls when she removed them. I only know this because the story starts with her pounding down the stairs, exploding into the living room. "Mom, I dropped a pearl earring when I was cleaning it and it went down the drain!" she cried.

"What??" I looked up from my iPhone.

" I DROPPED A PEARL EARRING AND IT WENT DOWN THE DRAIN!" she yelled.

"Oh, for Pete's sake, go get your father and see if he can find the trap and open it up." I got up and started toward the stairs.

But the Man was in bed. And he was not inclined to get up, go down on his knees, and examine plumbing at o'dark thirty at night. He told her to get her brother to help. So up the stairs she runs, yelling for J to come and help her. After much hooting and hollering, he agrees to look at the pipe under the sink and heads into the bathroom. We watch him from the doorway.

He makes one half hearted swipe at the pipe and declares that nope, he isn't about to take the plumbing apart.

K and I look at each other. Now what?

Gulp. We're going to have to do it ourselves.

"Well, let's look at this K, and see if we can figure it out," I say, rather naively. So the two us get on our knees and stick our heads into the cabinet under the sink. I try turning the fittings on the pipes. Not happening. K tries turning the fittings on the pipes. Nothing.

I look at K. "Go back downstairs to Dad and tell him Mom wants to know where to find a hammer, and a wrench, and a drill. She's not sure what she's going to run into taking the plumbing apart," I say, knowing what's coming next.

As expected, that just about sent the Man into orbit. I hear a shout, and pounding feet coming up stairs, and the Man bursts into the bathroom saying, "You don't use a hammer on plumbing! Do NOT take the pipes apart! I'll do it tomorrow!"

We try explaining to him that we simply can not wait until tomorrow. What if someone turns the water on and the earring gets washed further away? He tries to convince us it won't happen but we know better. He finally relents and tells us which tool to use to loosen the fittings, where he keeps it, and heads back to bed.

K and I trudge outside to the barn. With dismay, we look at his workbench and realize we have no idea what we're looking for. We grab everything we can. Anything that looks like it could move a plumbing fitting got scooped up and whisked into the house.

Back under the sink, I try to loosen the fittings. I can't do it. I look at K and tell her she has to do it. She gets under the sink and I remember something. "Go get a bowl! We don't know what's coming out of that pipe!" She runs downstairs and gets a small bowl. I seriously doubt the bowl is big enough but after all the running up and down the stairs she's done, I don't have the heart to tell her we really should use a bigger bowl. We put it under the u-joint and K gets to work.
She is like a surgeon and I am her assistant.

"Wrench," she says. I give her a wrench.

"Other wrench," she says. I give her the other wrench.

"Bigger wrench," she says. I give her the bigger wrench. She pushes and pulls, twists and turns.

Finally, it comes loose and she realizes that water and other stuff is going to coming splashing down when she removes the fittings.

"I need a glove! I'm not touching that stuff!" she squeals. I find her a disposable glove and she finishes loosening the fittings. I hear a splash, a plink, and K shouts, "Ew, it's green!"

She jumps back and rips the glove off, throwing it into the trash as fast as she can. I remind her she still has to get the bowl out from under the sink and pluck the earring out of the water.

I get her another glove.

She pulls the bowl out and there is the pearl earring. We look at each other, grinning from ear to ear, and high five. She pulls the earring out of the clear water (green, K?) and starts to put the fittings back.

Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey, she sings under her breath. Fittings tight, nothing leaking, we heave a sigh of relief.

~~~~~~~~~~

I realized later that K now had her proof how much I loved her. I wrestled plumbing, and yucky water, and her father's wrath to get her earring back. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't easy, but it was love.



Thursday, January 16, 2014

Christmas Thoughts


Christmas seems like years ago, doesn't it? 

I was going through some photos from the holidays and decided to post a few more before they get tucked away into my memory. 

~~~~~~~~~~

Remember earlier in the year I declared it was the year of organization and the Man and I whipped through the basement cleaning things up and out? Weeks we worked on this project. We streamlined and organized, sorted and labeled - the basement looks wonderful.

Except I forgot that I had put off organizing the Christmas decorations and had decided to clean that stuff out when this Christmas rolled around.

Bad decision.

I did not want to deal with any of it. I got so cranky about it that I did not want to put up the Christmas tree.

And so I told my family that this was the year of no Christmas tree. I was simply not up for it and anyway, I put out small lighted trees here and there and that would be close enough for me.

Outrage, astonishment, shock, and general chaos erupted. J was the worst. He got so upset about the thought of no tree that he brought it upstairs, set it up, and decorated it all by himself.

That worked out pretty good.
The Man refused to help me put up the outside lights. He had other things on his agenda. 

Pooh.

I recruited J to help me and he and I had those things up in no time. After he quit complaining about having to help me. He seemed to think that putting up the tree excused him from all other Christmas decorating.

He was soon set straight about the error of that thinking.
The day after the lights went up we got a decent snowfall. The lights look so pretty against the snow.

Then we got some more snow and I had to go out and clean off the bushes so the lights don't get buried. And I'm still enamored with the way the lights look against the uber white, super bright snow. I love driving up the road on my way home from work and seeing the lights outside our house. No one around us puts lights out so it makes our home look oh-so-cozy and warm and welcoming.

Fast forward a couple weeks and it is the night of a {now} annual Christmas party we have with some friends. I call home to make sure the Man is starting the oven to cook the chicken. He assures me the food is coming together nicely. I know the house is decorated just so, and with the assurance that the food is all good, I drive home fairly relaxed, looking forward to an evening of friends and fun and laughter.

As I drive up the road, I'm not seeing the lights. Hmm. The Man must have forgotten to turn them on in all his scurrying around getting things together.

I plug them in on my way into the house. They immediately go out. I unplug them and try again. Nothing. Entering the house, I ask the Man, What's up with the lights? They won't stay on.

We can't use the lights, says the Man. They're shorting out.

What???? They've been fine for the past three weeks, I might have screeched.

Well, for the past three weeks we haven't had rain and puddles outside. One of the connections must be in a puddle of water so we can't use the lights.

He heads downstairs to trip the fuse and I head outside. These lights are going on tonight. We have company coming and I want the house to look pretty.

I plug the lights in. And they immediately go out.

This time when I get in the house, the Man is not quite as happy to see me. What did you do? I told you we can't use the lights!

But, but....I sputter. And he trumps me.

You're going to start a fire.

Fine. No lights. 

But next year you're putting up the lights! And with that, I trump him back.

I hosted the Knitwits Christmas party this year.

I can sum it up in one word. Well, four words.

Laugh 'til you cry.
One of the Knitwits trying on her new scarf, courtesy of her Secret Santa. 

And can you see the book trees in the back behind her chair? I made one for each of my guests. Party favors! 
D was busy opening the box of chocolates I brought to Sissy's on Christmas Eve.

She has no idea there's spontaneous dancing breaking out behind her.

~~~~~~~~~~

When I was a kid, we spent every Christmas at Nan's house. My dad's company shut down for the week between Christmas and New Year's Day and we would all pile in the car, loaded down with suitcases and gift packages and food, and head north on Christmas Eve to spend the week with extended family. Throughout the entire week, we would visit a different family member each day, always coming back to Nan's to sleep. We were surrounded by so many aunts, uncles, and cousins; great-aunts and great-uncles and grandparents; siblings and friends. Tables laden with food, trees sparkling with lights big and bright and tons of packages underneath. Sitting by icy windows looking down on city streets. Looking back it feels like we lived a Norman Rockwell childhood, innocent and carefree.

One of the things I remember loving was the huge box of chocolates Grampa would get for the holiday week. The box was about two feet long and had two layers of chocolates. Each night we got back, I would run to that box of chocolates and sneak one. He did that for as long as I can remember, even that last Christmas before he had the stroke.

When my kids were growing up, I wanted them to have that same memory so I always buy a huge box of chocolates to have during the holidays. I think my nieces like the tradition too. 

Since I keep the big box at my house, I brought a smaller box over to Sissy's. It's just not Christmas Eve without a chocolate or two.

And a silent thanks to my grandfather.
I love the love in this picture.

Pure love. Sincere love.

Because he got her a Staples gift card.
The annual Christmas Eve photo.

It's not the same without my niece, MR. Other Sissy and her family went south for the holidays. They drove over the river and through the woods and along the highways and byways to visit my dad for the week. 

We missed them. But I was glad my dad got to have them for the week. 

Family = love. Wherever you are.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Blessings

I love getting packages in the mail. It feels like Christmas morning when I get one. Even when I know what it is, I still smile and feel surprised every time.

I had been doing quite a bit of Christmas shopping on Etsy and I was expecting packages to start arriving. I came home from work one day and found a few packages waiting for me on the kitchen counter. I took my time getting to them, certain they were all gifts for others. But one of the packages had a return address on it that I knew.

It was from dear, sweet Val over at Pretty Little Rough Patches. And it was full of the most delicious fudge we have ever eaten. She had made her grandma's chocolate walnut fudge for Thanksgiving and was so kind and thoughtful to send some to us. Totally unexpected. Totally surprised. And very thankful.

I have the most wonderful people in my life. And when I count my blessings, I count her as one of them. 

Hugs, Val, from a distance.
Oh yes, every day.

~~~~~~~~~~

We had a quiet Thanksgiving with Sissy and her family. They alternate between our family and her in-laws and this was our year. 

{Other Sissy visits her in-laws way, way, far away every year for  Thanksgiving, so we don't get to see them over the holiday. Ever. Pooh.}

Since this was our year with Sissy's family, Sissy and the girls came over the day before to help prepare the side dishes - most importantly, Nan's stuffing. The girls did most of the work this year. Sissy and I had to help stir the stuffing since it gets kind of thick and heavy once all the bread and water is in the bowl. We kept stirring and adding seasoning, then tasting to see what needed adjusting. We do it by taste. The best way to judge.

It was the best stuffing ever. Everyone said so. We have no idea what we did differently. 

This could be problematic for next year but I'll worry about that later. Tra-la-la.

~~~~~~~~~~

We played games, and ate pie, and played more games. Watched some football. Ate some sort of delicious Nutella cake that Sissy made. Ate chocolates. Remembered to save some for the next day when we were getting together to enjoy the leftovers.

Thanksgiving is all about the food. 

~~~~~~~~~~

And being thankful. 

For blessings beyond belief - loving family, good friends, warm homes, jobs, a wonderful church, our health. More blessings than we can count. 

Thank You, Father God, for all of those blessings.
The rest of the photos are from our annual gingerbread decorating night.

Sissy and I made the house parts earlier in the week and we got together Friday night to put them together and decorate.

And eat candy. Sometimes that's all I do. Oh, and take pictures. I do that, too.
The girls are getting very good at using the icing bags and tips. They only squeeze from the middle every now and then.

And they have very different decorating ideas. I love how their personalities show in the way they decorate.
The Man and J kept coming in to the kitchen to sneak pieces of candy.

It's a good thing we buy about eighteen pounds of candy between the two of us. Every year we think we are going to streamline and not buy the same things, but somehow we still end up with duplicates. Not that anybody's complaining. We never throw candy away.
K's house.

I love the swirly candy cane. 

Other Sissy, are you seeing this? The swirly thing reminded me of you.
D's house. 

She loved the swirly candy canes. She put them everywhere. I told her the house looked so fancy. Just like her. She was born fancy.

I just love her house. It makes me think of Dr. Seuss.
Can you see the swirly shadow on the table?

Even D's shadows are fancy.
The decorators and their creations.
The supervisors joined the photo.

~~~~~~~~~~

Love this tradition. Love these memories. I'll have to go digging for some photos from the past when my little ones were decorating.

Blessings. 

Yup, my life is full of them.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

North, part 3

Final trip up north.

M and I had already been up twice and our men were feeling a bit left out. This time we brought them. Have to keep the men happy.
Getting some delicious breads at a local baking company. Housed in an old firehouse, the inside oozes character and charm. I wanted to buy one of everything they had.

But I showed restraint and only bought one loaf. And some granola. Which is gone, gone, gone.

Pooh.
Spent a chunk of time at a local brewery, sampling some beers and taking the tour.

Are you sensing a theme to my get-aways? 

Food and beer. The men were very happy.
Wandered through the woods, searching for a trail. We never did find it at that location. But we found some golden-y, warm sunshine peeping through the trees.
M and the Man were in charge of finding the trail.

They love maps and iPhones.
At the waterfall, the men got very close to the edge. M and I were nervous Nellies, shoo-ing them away. 

They paid no attention to us. They like living on the edge.

This is why women color their hair.