Tuesday, September 3, 2013

..amidst chaos..

Oh my, time continues to pass quickly. What have we been up to? Well, let's see....

Visitors. We've had lots and lots of visitors, some from across town, some from a couple of states away, and others from a half a world away. All visits were exactly what we hoped: fun, relaxing, with so much catching up accomplished. We have some amazing friends and family, I tell you.

Vacationing. We took our first vacation to a lake. Some dear friends invited us to their family cabin, where we enjoyed all manner of water sports: tubing, skiing, swimming, boating, and fishing. We all had a fabulous time! We look forward to being able to stay longer next summer....

Building. Our house construction is underway. Heavens, the delays. Part weather, part permits, I'm grateful that going into this process my expectations were low. While the delays have set us back about a month or two at this point, the hubby and I would much rather have things done right than rushed for the sake of meeting a deadline. And honestly, it allows for more time to pack and make decisions...lemonade out of lemons, no?

Packing. In the midst of all these delays, we have still opted to move. We have found a temporary place that is more than adequate for the short term. It may be small, it may be without some of our things, but it will allow the kids and hubby the opportunity to start this new school year together. What a novel idea, living in the same place during the school year, eh?

Games and tournaments. We have weathered 3 tennis tournaments and 9 flag football games this summer, with countless hours spent at the park or on the courts practicing. These children of mine love being outdoors and playing their hearts out, and I certainly enjoy watching them.

Canning. Of course. This season we did not do a CSA, since our living arrangements through October are questionable at best, but I have found bits of time to preserve. Strawberries, black raspberries, and corn are all I have done so far. I wish I had time for more, but I can say that I now know how to pressure can. And now I am questioning why it took me so long to muster up the courage to do so.

All in all, it's been a grand summer. We're embracing a new school year in a new place. It's both exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. But this summer? Well, we can look back and say it has been a good one.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

..my dad..

It's Father's Day. Let me start out first by saying how much I love my husband and the father that he is to our children. That said, I'm paying tribute to my own father today, a man whom I adore.

I think for Father's Day, I will make a batch of Thousand Island dressing. My father always enjoys telling the story of when he attempted to make Thousand Island dressing for himself and Mary, my stepmother. He had a hankering for the sweet-tart goodness, and thought, how hard could it possibly be? Salivating wildly, he started with a mixing bowl and all the ingredients at the ready. He began the process, trying to find the "just right" proportion of mayonnaise to ketchup. It involved tasting, adding a bit more ketchup, tasting again, adding a bit more mayo. As the story goes, he switched from a small mixing bowl to a medium sized mixing bowl, to a large one, making enough Thousand Island dressing to feed a small army. He thrust himself wholeheartedly into the process, throwing caution and all common sense out the window...until he had in front of him the perfect Thousand Island dressing. Much to the dismay of my stepmother, this was the same salad dressing that probably dressed salads until they couldn't stomach another piece of romaine with that salmon pink nectar pooling on their plates.

I have always been proud to call my father my dad. Coming from a family of divorce, there certainly were times of hardship. I did all the things kids from divorce do: ask why, blame myself, and worry about what my future would be like with a dad that lived so far away. Having almost 40 years experience being a child of divorce, I can say with all sincerity that I have great appreciation for how my parents handled the divorce. My mom never said an unkind word about my father, and my father never said an unkind word about my mother. There was a mutual respect that made it easier on me, and allowed me to freely love both of them -- and not feel badly about it.

Could my dad have been around more? Sure. I like to think that the years he went "radio silent" were probably the years that he didn't need to witness. The awkward, gangly, boy-crazy, angst-ridden teenager that I was would not have mixed well with a man who was stressed in every way possible--physically, emotionally, financially. I am convinced my relationship with him today is as strong as it is because we did have some years apart. And to be honest, my dad has more than made up for the time that he lost.

Whether my father realizes it or not, he has taught me some very valuable life lessons. He would laugh and think that I was being ridiculous by saying that, as he credits my mother with most of the child rearing success. While I will not disagree that my mother was a profound influence in my life, I would argue that my dad was equally as influential, albeit in a different way.

Here are just a few of his tidbits:

1. Laugh. Try and find a reason to laugh everyday. Usually it will be because of yourself.

Truer words have never been spoken. Some of my favorite moments with my father were doubled-over, tears streaming down my cheeks, and gasping for breath. Talk about an ab workout. There were the "Pit" games gone mad, the ruthless cheating at "Uno," or my personal favorite laughing fit with my father during the final scene in "Victor/Victoria."

2. Don't be scared, be smart.

My mom had a way of instilling fear in my sisters and I. She was a worrier of the worst variety. My father, however, always kept a cool head. When it came to fears, he had little sympathy. He grew up in an era where if it didn't kill ya, it made ya stronger. He encouraged us to think before we panicked. Sometimes fears are your mind playing nasty tricks on you...you should never stop living because of them.

3. It's okay to say "I love you."

This was never expressly told to me by my dad, but he was always good at telling us how much he loved us. I still, to this day, give my father a hug and a kiss when I'm saying hello or goodbye. I love that he is freely affectionate and always reminding us of how he feels about us. It was one of the reasons I forgave him for all of his mistakes. All that mattered was that I knew he loved me.

These lessons and so many more, I carry with me everyday.

As a parent myself, I enjoy seeing the little bits of my father that my children carry with them. Isaac has the athletic prowess that I imagine my father did as a young boy. Evy, who is named after my dad, possesses a need for precision in her playing, building, and drawing, much like my father uses precision in his work. Margot is my risk-taker, never afraid to try anything, even if it involves an injury. Similarly, my dad has always enjoyed adventure -- traveling the world, trying new things, even having endured an injury or two.

So on this, Father's Day, I think about, appreciate, and simply love the man I call Dad. He is so perfectly my father, that I wouldn't change a single thing about the person that he is. Well, perhaps I'll just make sure when he visits next, we have some Thousand Island dressing on hand.

I love you, Dad. Happy Father's Day.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

...butter bread...

I love taking care of my family. I love it even more when I feel like I'm feeding them something healthful, and saving money at the same time. With the building of this new home almost underway, I've been feeling the need to be a bit more discerning when it comes to purchases. Dollar signs are a harsh reality, and I am now, more than ever, trying to conserve what I can.

One way I have found to save money is to make things from scratch. This can be a daunting undertaking if what you are used to is cereal bars and potato chips. We have belonged to a CSA for almost 8 years, and I'm well-versed in the preparation of "from-scratch" dinners. Lately, however, I have been looking at the condiments that we keep around the house. Particularly peanut butter.

Why peanut butter? Probably because of the price tag associated with it. When I buy food, I am one of those who look carefully at the ingredients. I try to keep to a minimum the sugars, colorings, and other garbage that seem to make up many of our grocery choices these days. In doing so, my peanut butter options come at a much inflated price. So I dove into the idea of making my own.

The first time I tried making it, the results were less than perfect. It was a bit stiff, and not as smooth as the store bought. I decided to make peanut butter cookies out of it, since it seemed like the wisest way to use it up.

My second attempt was a smashing success, but I neglected to measure anything. I just knew that I added a bit more oil, which allowed the peanut butter to remain spreadable, even when stored in the fridge.

Peanuts ground

After mixing in oil, honey, and salt

My third attempt mirrored my second, with said measurements included so I could test it one last time. With the second and third attempts, no cookies had to be baked, as my children readily scarfed down the peanut butter...and a couple of these said children have never liked store-bought peanut butter. Warms a mother's heart even more.

scooped into the jar

Homemade Peanut Butter

*  2 cups roasted, not salted peanuts (shelled, of course)
*  2 T + 2 t of oil (I used sunflower, but another would be fine, I think)
*  2 T honey (I use raw)
*  2 t coarse salt

Put peanuts in food processor, grind until fine. Add oil, honey and salt slowly, until peanut butter is consistency that you prefer.
How do you like your "butter bread," Margot?
What I love is that there are no hard and fast rules. This is what we prefer. This recipe makes 2/3 of a regular peanut butter jar. Our family goes through that much in about 2 weeks, and it keeps just fine in the refrigerator.
Happy blending!

"Love it!"

Friday, April 26, 2013


Last year, my sister gave my daughters each a camera for their birthdays. They are quite durable cameras  that take both pictures and videos, and are a lovely pink/purple/flowery combination that my girls both adore. Pretty is important, after all.

 Generally speaking, I have left my kids alone when it comes to documenting their lives with these cameras. I notice when they are using them, and have helped when they have come to me, frustrated, as their cameras fill up. I have noticed these pictures and videos of, what I would deem, rather ridiculous things. The fun and laughter that comes from playing with these cameras, however, makes any opinion I may have, frivolous.

One night after the kids were asleep, I looked at one of the cameras to see what was being recorded in their little worlds of play. I don't think I ever laughed so hard in all my life. The pictures were random, kooky, and the facial expressions were priceless. Also, my children have a real knack for capturing the most unflattering photos of their mama. Perfect.

It was the videos that were the most endearing. My sweet Evy giving her reports on the news and activities of each family member, Isaac divulging Evy's most secret of secrets, and my all time favorite, The Dance Party.  My son, the athlete, who struggles with anything artistic, put his dance face on and busted a move that made his momma proud. Evy shook her groove thang right alongside him, with as much attitude and sass as a 6 year old could muster. It was both precious and hysterical.

I dare not share the video, as my son would be horrified. Instead I'll share these images from their camera, with glimpses of their life, their world.....and, of course, I'll continue to check these cameras from time to time....

Friday, April 19, 2013

...down time...

The kids are on spring break this week. There is both fear and relief when breaks like this come around. The fear of me going crazy, and the relief of being able to sleep in just a few minutes later, with mornings where I am not rushing everyone out the door.

  The very first day of break, all three of my lovelies started whining about nothing to do right around 10am. Mustering up as much patience as I could, we had a "meeting" where we discussed the different things we could do when we were bored. I was surprised that they thought of so many, as I was sure they were completely stumped when they were moaning and groaning not 15 minutes prior.

Nevertheless, we came up with a pretty exhaustive list, ranging from reading, to napping, to playing different games, to going outside. We also discussed mealtimes, in order to prevent me from getting trapped in the kitchen all day. With the ground rules in place, we began to enjoy our break together.

There were games, both indoor and out.

 There were pictures, both painted and drawn.

 There were books, both read and colored.

 There were treats, both made and eaten.

 There were forts, built up and torn down.
 And there was a birthday party for a dear cousin...whose hair did stay flame-free.

There was helping, with cooking and cleaning.
There was love, camaraderie, and a few *ahem* disagreements.
All in all, it has been a good break. It has been fun to see the kids reference the list, and it has been heavenly not having them whine about what to do.

Monday, April 1, 2013

..giving back..

If there is one thing I want to model for my children, it's giving. In a society where consumerism dominates most of what we see and hear, I want to raise discerning consumers who take more pride in what they give, rather than what they get.

When it comes to charity, I have found that oftentimes giving money in support of something is the easy way out. Not that I would ever encourage someone to stop supporting something monetarily, as it is a fine way to be charitable. Instead, (or perhaps, in addition), I would rather do something, make something, that might benefit others in need.

In systematically cleaning out our home for our impending move, I have brought countless bags/boxes to the Goodwill and Salvation Army. Through our church, I have assisted with meals at homeless shelters. I try to find opportunities to give in ways that are more direct, in ways that might not always be the most comfortable, but ways that are surely (for me) more satisfying.

Awhile back, I found a group called Craft Hope that is made up of crafters looking for ways to help others through their crafts. It involves mostly sewing/knitting type crafts, so it was right up my alley. I hesitated initially, for many different reasons, but with this last project, I chose to dive right in. Bibs. How hard could that be?

Sometimes, I'm my own worst enemy. I searched and searched for the right bib patterns. Then it turned into a mental debate about whether to knit the bibs or sew the bibs. Did I have the right yarn? Did I have appropriate materials? Honestly, I can procrastinate at making a decision better than anyone I know. So I just made myself start.

I have quietly devoted a little time each day to creating these bibs. When my kids ask who they are for, I am happy to explain to them what I am doing. In this particular project, the bibs are meant to go to special needs orphanages in China. It has sparked many discussions about children in other parts of the world, how they live, and who they are. And when my kids show interest and compassion for these lives so different from their own, my heart swells with pride.

At the end of this project, I finished four bibs: a koala, seahorse, rabbit, and
chick, using patterns created by Elaine Fitzpatrick. I used some cotton yarn that I have had for a number of years, and the texture of the yarn makes the bibs soft and interesting to the touch. I was very pleased with how they turned out.

Someday I will include my kids in these types of projects....but for right now, the personal satisfaction and setting the example of giving is more than enough. I look forward to participating in more projects like this in the near future.