Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy 2011!

We're counting down the last few hours of 2010.  A new year is just around the corner.  I hope that for all of us that 2011 is:
and, last but not least
Full of LOVE

Happy New Year to you and yours!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

How did I do?

 I promised a goal update for my 2010 goal list.  Some things I did well, others- not so much.
But, here goes:

Home/house goals:
  • Sand North wall in the kitchen and paint--  Not done- but we are planning to do the whole kitchen remodel in March- we'll do all the mess at once!
  • Finish kitchen island-- see above
  • Finish work on upstairs bathroom-- Not done (sigh....)
  • Plan and begin construction on deck-- DONE- phase one is complete, we'll continue next summer
  • Sort closet and donate clothes to Goodwill-  DONE
  • SELL HOUSE IN TOWN!!!-- DONE, DONE and DONE!!!!!  Can it really be just this year that we sold it?  Wow....
  • Replace septic system --DONE
Garden/land goals:
  • Complete raised beds -- One done for the strawberries
  • Construct herb spiral-- Not Done- the septic didn't get done in time for this.
  • Draw master permaculture plan- Ongoing
  • Plant apple trees- DONE and a pear tree
  • Plant apricot and/or cherry trees-- DONE- well. actually, bush apricots and cherries
  • Replant strawberries into raised bed--  DONE
  • Add another blueberry bush or two-- DONE
  • Remove fence between yard and meadow-- DONE
  • Build three bin compost pile-  Not done
Personal goals:
  • Once again, get in better shape.-- NOPE- I just recently started really giving this some attention
  • Learn a new skill or two. OK, I'll confess- this is the knitting goal again- NOPE- I didn't make the time for knitting- but I did learn lots of other skills.
  • Complete CEUs. - DONE- my license for the state is done but I have National certification to renew in January.
  • Spend more quality time with V. --Actually, we did pretty well.
Food production/security:  At least 2 local meals a week.-- We didn't do too bad at this one-  It was easier in the summer but with more local meat in the freezer makes it easier.  I need to be more conscious of making meals more local but probably some portion of just about every meal is local.
Try our hand at making wine.--This one wasn't a firm goal- good thing because it didn't happen.  
The three R's: I want to continue to repurpose and recycle as much as we can.-- Yup, we are still being quite frugal and try to be responsible in our purchases.
I also had a goal to complete one quilt- yeah, that didn't happen this year.  Oh well, it gives me something to aspire to for next year.

We were extremely busy this year and there were many, many more things we got done this year that weren't actual goals.  The basement is nearly finished- part of the reason the upstairs didn't get done.  The upstairs, while not completely finished, is livable while the basement wasn't.  So, I think that counts.  All in all, not a bad year.
Now to put on my thinking cap for next year.  Hmmm... Kitchen plans are definitely on the table...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I'm still here

Just been busy.  Wrapping up the end of the year.  I guess I'll have to go over all of my goals for 2010 some time soon.  I know there are some I met and some I didn't, some that have been put on hold or altered in some way.  Maybe tomorrow or Friday.  I've got Friday off for the new year's holiday.
My other excuse for not posting here is that I've started a new blog. This one is closed to everyone for now but I may eventually open it to selected readers.  Right now it is sort of a personal log.  Let me explain....
I have spent the past few days feeling rather pathetic.  I know I'm overweight and out of shape. my blood pressure is up and I need to do something different with my life and health- I've known this for a while.  So, for Christmas, I asked, and V got me, an elliptical machine (AKA the torture device).  I was appalled at how out of shape I was and how hard it was for me to do even a few minutes. So, I have begun, in earnest to make some changes in my life, weight and health.  Hence the new blog to use as a record that I can go back to and see where I've been.  I will eventually need some cheerleaders (otherwise known as people to keep me accountable).  I've already found one.  C, a therapist who works for us occasionally when she is on break from her university teaching position, is also wanting to make some changes in her life.  So, last night we had a workout challenge.  We're hoping to keep it up even when she goes back to her real job.
So, this week I've been working, doing the usual household tasks and embarrassing myself with my 'out-of-shapeness'.
On a brighter note- the seed catalogues have been coming in fast and furious.  Too... many... choices... not... enough...time.....
And, after talking to my immediate supervisor, I have to write a proposal about wanting to go to 90%.  I have to detail how I see this working and the impact it will have on patient care.  I've got the option to do half a day every week or a full day every other week.  While time every week would be nice, I'm leaning to the every other week option simply because of travel time to and from work.  With the bus trips, I spend probably an hour and a half commuting every day.  And, I'm thinking that with a full day off, I would be more likely to be able to get larger projects accomplished.  Still, I would LOVE to go to 80% but I know that financially that would never work with as tenuous as V's work situation is.  Freelancing is definitely NOT that profitable- at least not when he's just establishing himself out there...  And, we have to remember that J16 will be a senior in high school next year and is beginning to look at colleges.  sigh....  I'm going to be working until I drop.
Again, I'll try to post a goal update later this week, and I need to start thinking about my goals for 2011.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Images of Christmas 2010

A few images from the past few days...
V baking!?
Christmas Eve is the one day of the year that he bakes.
Mmm, Sacher torte
Chocolate and almonds, how can he go wrong.
Santa has arrived
The kitties inspect the packages.
One of my gifts.
I've got bees in my bonnet for spring....
And the children were nestled all snug in their ????!!!
Yes, they were initially horrified but then decided that they are warm and comfy.
Matching Zebra!!
And remember all those big boxes I got for V?
Here they are, all unpacked and assembled:
He's already got it filled.

I hope you all had a splendid day- if you celebrate Christmas- and even if you don't!

We had 7 or 8 inches of new snow here so it was nice to hang out at home in our jammies all day. Today we will go to see my parents on the farm.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

From our family to yours
Merry Christmas!

Blessings and abundance to you and yours.

We don't need to dream of a White Christmas
It's here!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

For your amusement

V had a short piece published in the paper this morning. Totally silly.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter begins

Happy Winter Solstice to everyone. Now the days will begin to get longer. I, for one, can't wait! Today I arrived at work in the dark and left in the dark. Ugh.
I was disappointed last night that it was too cloudy to see the moon. Actually, it's probably a good thing because I would have been up in the middle of the night to see the eclipse and I was really tired already. It's a good thing I was able to sleep because today was an incredibly busy day. It seems that the doctors suddenly realized that "THE HOLIDAYS" are fast approaching and wanted evaluations on lots of people to see if they are safe enough to go home. They are discharging people left and right and only the sickest of the sick will be left soon. But, the good news is that I don't have to work the holiday weekend and after tomorrow I will have a 4 day weekend. Woo Hoo!
The children had their last day of school today before winter break. They now have two weeks off. It must be nice. Maybe I need to go work for the school system so I can have my breaks and summer off. Hmmmm...... But, no, I like my job too much - even though I am thinking of cutting my work hours a bit for my own sanity.
Nothing much else to report here. Life has been pretty boring. One of J16's friends came over last evening and they baked some cookies to take to school today. They had fun. That is about the most excitement the past two days. I'm hoping for a dull day at work tomorrow. I ended up staying late this evening to finish an evaluation on a patient so I get to leave early tomorrow to make up for it- assuming we're not to busy. As professional staff, we are given the liberty to "flex" our hours for best patient care. We have the freedom to stay late if work demands it and to use that comp time to leave early when possible. Unfortunately, I know all too well that it usually only "flexes" one way. But, my co-workers knew that I was staying late so they will be sure to try to get me out early. A little early start on the holiday would be welcome.
Have a wonderful Winter, now that it is really here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cookies and a full day

It has been a busy, busy weekend here. Saturday afternoon J16 and I finally made a trip to Kalona to the Stringtown Grocery and the Twin County Dairy cheese house. Mmmmm.....
Now I've got whole wheat flour and oatmeal. Yeah!!
I spent the evening baking. First, one of V's favorites:
Biscotti. Yummy- and no added fat except the almonds.
Then peppermint kisses.
Last year, after the holidays, I stocked up on the peppermint kisses when they were on deep discount and tucked them in the fridge drawer. Popped on top of chocolate drop cookies they are an upscale version of peanutbutter blossoms. The recipe made LOTS- probably 5 dozen. So I took a few dozen to church this morning for the soup luncheon that capped the day's festivities.
This was the big day for the children at church.
K10 was a shepherd. See him adoring the baby?!
LOL! They passed the baby Jesus down the line so everyone could see him.
Even the sheep! They have these great sheep costumes that consist of a white stocking hat with ears sewn on. The preschoolers are all the sheep and get herded in to sing. It's too cute.
I10 was a reader for the program but mostly played in the band.
He had to be there at 7:30 this morning and played at both services. My parents came up for the Christmas program and stayed for the second service and lunch. Dad actually had tears in his eyes following the band playing the postlude. I did shoot some video but the file is too big for Blogger to upload. Sorry, you'll just have to imagine how good they sounded.
J16 sang in the high school choir- a version of the Magnificat. They sounded great- and again the file was too large. Ugh. Too bad Blogger has such a small file size for video.
Then was the soup luncheon. This is one of the high school fundraisers. They are working for the next trip to the national youth convention in 2012.
Now here's something you don't see everyday:
A whole bunch of high school students willingly washing dishes!
We ended up not going caroling- that we usually do. Partly because it had already been a long day and partly because my parents were in town. We did our gift exchange with them this afternoon so that's done if the weather turns bad later in the week. Mom got me another over the sink strainer. She was a bit worried because I already have one. But I can think of times when I would have loved to have another.
I've got three days of work this week. The children have 2 more days of school and then are off for two weeks for winter break.
We've got menus planned for the week. Solstice in on Tuesday and Christmas coming up quickly. I found out that our church is serving lunch at the Free Lunch program on Friday the 24th. We didn't make it on the day after Thanksgiving. I'll have to ask the children if they want to go. They actually have enjoyed it when we have done it in the past and it is a good eye opener for them. We'll see.
Have a great week everyone.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


While the children were in rehearsals for tomorrow I helped wrap gifts at our church. Every year we have an Angel Tree for families in need. I have been involved with this, in some form, for years. This year, our congregation provided gifts for 52 individuals in, I think, 10 family groups. For these gifts, the parent, or head of the family, gives suggestions for gifts (ideas, sizes, etc). I was wrapping the gifts for the largest family group we had which was a grandmother, her daughter and the daughter's 6 children (ages 16 to 2). While this event usually brings good thoughts and warm feelings, this year it left me quite disheartened. Definitely a sign of the times, parents asked for many more practical gifts for their children this year. Where I usually wrap toys and games, this year there were requests for socks, a new coat, flannel pajamas and children's clothes. All the wrappers this year commented on this and it seemed to make all of us a bit sad.
How sad that the economy is so bad that parents who can't afford gifts for their children are desperate enough to ask for socks and underwear.
How disheartening for a four year old to get only one toy and the rest clothes.
How disappointing for 16 year old twin boys to get socks and pajamas for Christmas.
How sad that a mother, instead of asking for something for herself, requests a gift card to the local grocery store.
These are, indeed, the dark days of winter....

Friday, December 17, 2010

Homemade sugar scrub

Ooo, two posts in one day. What is the world coming to! I did get a lot done today. Three loads of laundry, shopping, hanging solar lights on an outdoor tree, gift wrapping and even a bit of lounging on the couch ;-)
I haven't gotten my baking done yet- but there is still time.
I decided to tackle the gifts for my coworkers this afternoon. Homemade sugar scrub. If you've never tried sugar scrub it is a wonderful thing. I found this recipe a few weeks ago and made some for us. Mmm, heavenly....
I'll share the recipe with you. It is quick, easy and makes a great gift.
A half pint of bath time heaven.
The important stuff.
Ingredients- for each jar:
1/2 cup Raw sugar crystals- there are several brands available, just make sure they are not too fine- you want the chunky ones.
1/2 cup Vegetable oil
1 Vitamin E capsule
Essential oil for fragrance- I used lavender and vanilla, combined
1 wide mouthed half pint jar with a lid (you can double the recipe and use a pint jar- I had half pints)

Put the sugar in the jar.
CAREFULLY add the oil.
You will need to stir it a bit to get out the air bubbles or it will overflow.
Puncture the Vitamin E capsule and squeeze out the contents into the jar.
Add a few drops of essential oil
to your preference of scent.
Stir again gently to mix.
Add the lid and a ribbon if you want and it's done.
Simple, huh?
I was going to use raffia for the bows but I couldn't find it. V has moved my wrapping stuff so many times last summer that it has gotten separated. I'll keep looking.
Each of my coworkers will get a jar of this, a bar of homemade soap and maybe a chocolate or two.
To use the sugar scrub, you scoop out a teaspoon or two with your fingers and rub it on wet skin in a circular motion. Let it sit for a bit and rinse thoroughly.
A WORD OF WARNING!! The sugar scrub will make your tub or shower VERY slippery. I always make sure to wash the tub out with soap when I'm finished so the next person in doesn't slip and break their neck.
Happy gifting!

A day off

Sorry for the long silence. Things have been hopping around here. But, today I hope to have a chance to catch my breath. I've got the day off since I worked last Saturday. Of course, my list of what I want to accomplish is probably longer than my arm. Top priority is wrapping gifts without prying eyes of children. I also need to get jars for the sugar scrub I'm making for coworkers so I can get that going this weekend.
Here's a partial list:
A couple loads of laundry (this never ends!)
Wrap gifts
Grocery store run- they're having a 1 day only sale today
While I'm out at the grocery I've got a few stocking stuffers to pick up and will get my jars.
I'd like to make a run to Kalona to the Amish bulk store- we'll see...
Bake some cranberry orange bread
Bake biscotti
water indoor plants
Or, maybe I'll just throw all this to the wind and spend the day on the couch drinking tea and looking at the new seed catalogues that have begun to come in.....
I'll try to let you know later what I get done.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tagged! 4 things

Debbie at Happy Days tagged me for a meme. It's pretty simple so I'll play along. I like simple these days.
This one is 4 things. Here goes:
4 shows I watch- hmm, it starts out hard- I don't watch much TV. But if I had to list- most would be from Syfy- Sanctuary, Warehouse 13, Stargate Universe and then, not Syfy- Mythbusters
4 things I'm passionate about- My family, my job, my garden, the environment.
4 words or phrases I say a lot- "Fabulous!" "Oh Shit!"; "Curiouser and Curiouser, said Alice." and from work: "Talk to yourself like you'd talk to a friend."
4 things I've learned from the past- Never take anyone for granted; Always let people know you love them- they can't guess; Be true to yourself no matter what others think; Money doesn't buy happiness
4 places I'd like to go- the Agean, Great Britain, Australia, Venice
4 things I did yesterday- laundry, baked cookies, received a gift, sang
4 things I look forward to doing- sleeping in on Saturday; seeing my family for the holidays; going to the beach in North Carolina; watching my children open gifts
4 things I love about winter- sledding; warm scarves; hot chocolate; watching the birds at the feeders.
Now, I'm supposed to pass this on to 4 other bloggers. Here is where I part from tradition. I can never narrow it down to just 4 people, and many people don't want to play along. So, If you want to play, consider your self tagged! I'm curious about other's answers.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ninjas and an early gift

I made ninjas this afternoon. Yup, ninjabread men!
Mmm, tasty!!
The annual holiday party at the dojang where J16 and V take classes is next weekend. J16 is contemplating taking these with different colored frosting belts on them. Too much fun.
And V got me an early gift today.
Isn't it beautiful!?!
Handblown green glass with bare trees etched on the glass. It stands probably about 10 inches high and is absolutely gorgeous. I think I will light it often. As some of you may know or have noticed- I have a thing for trees. They are by far my favorite image. Isn't V just the sweetest thing? He said that this isn't for the holidays- it's just because he knew I would like it. Awww....
Have a fabulous week ahead.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Do you see a problem here?

Hmmm, what kind of ornament is that?

Blizzards and bean blossoms

Those two things don't seem to go together, do they. But they do at our house. This morning, when I left for work it was 38 and raining. When I came home this afternoon, it was 25 with snow and all that rain from this morning has frozen on the roads. Yuck. We are in a lull right now but are forecast to get several inches of snow over night with high winds. Yup, we have a blizzard warning from this evening through tomorrow afternoon. FUN! I'm just glad I made it home safely.
But, on to the beans:
Blossoms at 6 am.
I'm not holding out any hope that we will actually get any beans from these but they are fun to watch climbing up over the sink.
This evening, J16 was supposed to have a school dance to go to- fortunately it has been cancelled so we don't have to go anywhere. I13 is supposed to have rehearsal tomorrow at church but we'll see what the weather brings. Tonight, since we're staying in, we will be decorating the tree and maybe baking some cookies. I did a bit of an impulse buy yesterday afternoon as I wandered around in the mall downtown while waiting for my bus.
Yup, you read right.
We'll be baking NINJABREAD MEN.
They were too cute to pass up. Of course, I need more cookie cutters like I need a hole in my head but, hey, they are fun.... And you can NEVER have too many cookie cutters... right??

Thanks for all of your supportive replies to my whiney post. I talked to V on the way home this afternoon about me cutting my hours and he was supportive of that. I have no illusions that I'm suddenly going to have loads of time to accomplish everything I want but it's a start. What was most hopeful was how understanding he was of how tired I am. For the record, I have always been the primary breadwinner. V stayed home with the children when they were small. Actually, out of the almost 25 years that we have been married, he has worked full time for maybe 5 or 6 of those. He hasn't had a "real" job since he was laid off two years ago but he has been doing some freelance writing work that has been bringing in about $1000 a month- not much- but enough to take the pressure off if I drop to 90%. All this is still in the planning stages. I'm not even sure my boss will approve a change. We'll see....

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Busy times

Wow, I haven't had time to sit at my computer for a few days. It's been a whirlwind around here. There was the usual Monday night madness with band and orchestra rehearsals. Tuesday, K20 had his first ever band concert. They didn't sound too bad for students who have only been playing their instruments for 3 months. Last night, I was just trying to get caught up around the house. It seems that the dishes have been piling up- as has everything else.
I still have a few holiday gifts to get- little things for stocking stuffers, mostly. And I need to make some more soap. I've decided that my co-workers will get "spa" sets this year- handmade soap and homemade sugar scrub. So, I've got to get that done as well.
I work on Saturday so I'm in the middle of a 6 day stretch of work. I haven't brought this up with V, but I'm contemplating cutting my hours at work, if we can afford it. V has been bringing in a little money with his writing and has been offered a book deal (nothing really big but it's a start!) I know that, since my job takes care of all the insurance, that I can't cut my hours too much. I was actually thinking of maybe working 90%. That would give me one afternoon off a week- or a full day every other week. Who knows, it's probably just a pipe dream, but I have realized that I'm tired. I have been working full time, supporting the family mostly single handed for most of the last 16 years and I'm just plain, old tired. Something needs to change in my life. I really want more time to spend on the farm and garden but with working at the hospital and working at home, it's difficult to find the time to really make things work. There are many, many times that I envy people who can stay at home or who only work part time. OH, I know it's not all soap operas and bonbons but I would love to be able to structure my time the way I want to, not how someone else tells me it needs to be. I often feel that I've bitten off more than I can handle with this place, starting all the gardens and landscaping from scratch. I know that I'm fortunate that I have a blank slate to work with but it is often overwhelming with the amount of work that needs to be done- both on house and garden.
Oh well, enough whining for one night. I'm just feeling overworked and under-appreciated (mostly by my family). I've got so much to still do before the holidays are upon us. The only decorating that has been done is a single poinsettia that I picked up at the annual sale at the hospital. But, I'm at the point now that, if no one else wants to help me, it just won't get done- then I won't have to take it all down again in January. Oosh, I'm sounding pretty bitter aren't I. I definitely need to find time for some "ME time"... and soon.
Thanks for listening to my whine. Maybe I'll try to make some cheese to go with it next time.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Subfloors and soap

This was one of those weekends where I feel I was busy but don't feel I accomplished much. Oh, I know that's wrong, actually a lot got done- but I just don't feel very satisfied- probably because there is still so much to do.
J16 and I went out yesterday and obtained V's gift. We had to haul it in the house and wrap it quickly because there is no way I can hide something that big. I'll let you know what it is sometime. It's been fun seeing him look and say "those are BIG boxes". I don't think he has a clue what I got for him- it's not what he was expecting me to get. We were fortunate that he was busy when we got home to carry it in. He was working on replacing the subfloor on the landing by the new South door. This is the place where there was all that water damage and we ended up rebuilding the exterior wall. As expected, the subfloor was a mess:

Splintered subfloor with a hole going all the way through.
You could look down and see the washer and dryer through the floor.
This afternoon, J16 and I took a little time to try something new:
We made soap.
Of course, we cheated and didn't REALLY make soap. We got some pre-made goat's milk soap, melted it and added our own fragrance and color. We got quite a few molds along the way and J16 plans to make a number of bars for holiday gifts. The celtic knot molds were our favorites so we tried those first. The pink ones are a vanilla- clove mix and the pale green ones are rosemary-mint with ground apricot shells for scrubbies. They smell divine.
Someday we'll try REAL soap making- I've seen some great posts on how to do it. But we figured this is a safe place to start.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Not much going on here under the troll bridge. Work has been busy, as has home. But really, not much going on. So, just a few random reports of the week.
J16 passed her first drive with her instructor. The other student out with her didn't. But, she says she has to parallel park in 4 more weeks so I guess we need to work on that.
On Sunday late afternoon, I13 will begin rehearsals with out church band. Every year they do a special service with holiday selections from Mannheim Steamroller- being Lutherans- the band is called the Wittenberg Steamroller. Musicians from 6th grade and up can play and I13 has been playing as long as he has been allowed. K10 will be able to play next year. It is a fun experience for I13- he gets to play challenging music with people other than just his classmates. Playing with adults has been great for him and it has helped him form some good relationships with some other adults in the congregation.
K10 is busily rehearsing for his first band concert next week. While it will be fun, that first elementary band concert is always just a bit painful.
V has been busy with work, both paid and unpaid. He is currently working on two different freelance jobs which is keeping him busy.
Me, I've been holding my own. I'm a bit frustrated that no one but me ever seems to notice that things need done- like dishes, laundry or vacuuming but, I guess that's what being a Mom is all about...
I'm thoroughly glad that tomorrow is Saturday. I'm hoping to take J16 out driving again. We're forecast to get 1 to 2 inches of snow tonight so I want her to get to drive in it. I'll probably take her down to a local business that is closed on weekends and have her drive around in their parking lot again. It is a huge place with multiple parking lots, drives, stop signs, etc, The perfect place to practice something new without traffic. She's been there before....
While we're out driving, I plan to go off and pick up V's holiday gift. I've decided to get him NOT what he is expecting me to get him. Ha!
Tomorrow evening, V and I are off to dinner at our church. One of our members is a Cordon Bleu certified chef and is preparing a 4 course dinner as a fund raiser. The proceeds will go to help with remodeling/repairs of the campus ministries house next door to the church. As well as a good meal, it will also be a great time socializing with other adults.

See, I said it was all pretty random. Nothing too exciting going on here. Sometimes, that is a good thing.