Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Music

Earlier this month Eric and I were at the Family Christian Bookstore. We have a "membership card" so every time we buy something we have the opportunity to buy another item for $5 from a group of preselected items. I often take advantage of those items. This day one of the items was the new Christmas album by Casting Crowns. Eric wanted to buy it. I did not.

Now, Casting Crowns became my favorite group this year; they have some songs that really ministered to me during tough days, but I was NOT interested in their Christmas album. Some people can do Christmas music and some people just cannot. For instance, I love Randy Travis but I made the BIG mistake of buying his Christmas album a few years ago. Country singers and Christmas songs just do not mix. I'm not sure about Casting Crowns, but sometimes they sound rather "country". So I said "no".

Eric persisted. He loves Casting Crowns too, and he loves to buy a new Christmas album every year. So, fine, we bought the album. I was prepared for it to stink.

A few days later Eric turned on the new music as I headed for the shower. I was so sure I would hate it that I wanted to escape. The music began before I could get to the stairs. Rather than being repulsed, I was immediately drawn in. I fell in love with the first song. It is my new favorite Christmas song. It is really a new rendition of an old hymn, one which I have quoted on this blog in the past.

Take a listen. I hope you love it as much as I do.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Fun Continues

School has been cancelled for what was left of the week. This morning the snow was STILL being cleared from our neighborhood. The vacant lot in front of our house was a beehive of activity. Little dump trucks and big dump trucks were dumping loads of snow. At one point I went out to take a picture of the activity and found this:


The large dump truck had gotten stuck in the snow!! The little bobcat was ramming its scoop into the truck, trying to propel it forward I guess. But the wheels of the dump truck just kept spinning and the bobcat wasn't heavy enough to push the dump truck. Next they tried scooping SNOW under the tires. (I was really laughing at that!) They must have thought they'd get some traction from the snow. When that didn't work they brought in another little bobcat-type thing. They hooked a chain from the first bobcat to the dump truck and tried to pull the truck out. Eventually they coordinated their movements so the first bobcat pulled while the second bobcat rammed the dump truck. That worked and they got out. It was pretty entertaining.

After the trucks and bobcats left I let the kids go out to play on the mountain. Thankfully I snapped these pictures:

I'm guessing some neighbor didn't like the kids playing on the mountain, because as I type they've come off the mountain and there is a new piece of machinery out there which seems to be tearing down the mountain.

Spoil sports.

Monday, December 21, 2009

It has already been announced that there is no school tomorrow. This does not make me happy. The kids are fighting. I want some peace. I still have things I need to do to get ready for Christmas - - things that require their absence. It's hopeless. IF they go to school on Tuesday, they both have parties which I am supposed to help at. Wednesday is supposed to be a half day AND Eric returns that day. Can we skip Christmas this year? Push it back a few days maybe?


Excuse me, but I'm a little grumpy today. Eric called this morning. He had been to a beach and gone swimming in the ocean. I'm so jealous I could... (Fill in the blank.) Not exactly beachy here in Virginia. Here's a sampling from yesterday and today.

This photo is for my Mom and Dad. Does it remind you of Walden?

Something about these lights looked familiar to me. I wasn't sure what.

Last night the kids and I finally watched A Charlie Brown Christmas. It was a PERFECT night for it. The snow was still coming down outside so it looked a little like the outdoor scenes in the movie. When I saw Snoopy's prize-winning decorations I realized that was why our sad droopy lights looked familiar - they are hung just like Snoopy's lights!

Is this a cute boy or what? I just love the "Elmer Fudd" hat! He found an icicle outside and was licking it like a popsicle.

By this morning it had finally stopped snowing. Here is the scene about 7 a.m. The big mountain of snow in the center of the picture is actually my car.

When I opened the door to take some pictures of the snow I found that even my Christmas swag had snow on it. Rather pretty, I thought.

After talking to Eric and hearing about his wonderful trip to the beach (grrrr) it was time to get to work. I began clearing off the car.

I had to shovel a TON of snow from behind the car. The plow had been around so the snow was about 3 feet high in back of the car. This picture was actually taken to show the snow hanging off the roof of our house. While I was shoveling the sidewalk a neighbor cautioned me to "look out" in case that snow came sliding off. I suppose it will slide off sometime after dark tonight, when I will have forgotten all about it. I will undoubtedly think someone is trying to break into our house.

While the neighbors and I shoveled, the kids went sliding on a small hill. I realize that most people call that sledding. I refuse. If you ask me, you slide down a hill on a sled, therefore the verb is slide, which translates to sliding. Sled is a noun (or maybe an object of the preposition) so sledding makes no sense. But that's just me. I also refuse to allow anyone in my family to call me "Ant Laura". I have drilled into the heads of my nieces, nephews, and children that an ant is something that eats your food at a picnic. An AUNT is someone who loves you. As proof I offer the word automobile. My kids and my nieces and nephews oblige me. (Although a certain niece taunts me... "Hey ANT Laura" she loves to say.) But I guess I've gotten off subject. Sorry.

So here, in the distance, are the kids. They are SLIDING.

One final picture. The kids standing on top of a pile of snow next to a street sign. They will want this to remember in the future that the snow really WAS this deep.

It is a beautiful day. Clear blue sky and snow sparkling like diamonds. As I recall, the sun on the ocean also sparkles like diamonds. But I wouldn't know about that. You'd have to ask my husband. Grrrr...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

SNOW DAY... Part I

The boots are ready...

(I can't help it that they're fancy boots and rain boots. These are literally the ONLY boots that were available in 5 stores yesterday!)

We opened the front door and stepped into more snow than my kids have ever seen.

The snow is still coming down, so "stay tuned" for updates throughout the day!

I have a dilemma. I purchased soap from my talented SIL, intending to give it as gifts. I've begun working on packaging the soap. My first attempt was so successful that I'm not sure I can give it away! I'm beginning to realize the downfall of handmade gifts. Either they turn out so nicely that I can't bear to part with them (because I won't be able to exactly replicate the result) or they turn out so poorly that I'm embarrassed to give them away. The solution I've come up with for now is to photograph the gift. That way I sort of get to keep it, while giving it away.

Here is the gift box I made, which I love, love, LOVE:

By the way, there are 2 reasons why I cannot replicate this. Number 1, I used paper purchased over a year ago. There is no chance of buying more. I have enough paper to replicate the box one time. However, the box itself is actually a Godiva chocolate box. I only had one. Hmmm... I suppose I could buy a whole bunch more. But then I would have to eat all that chocolate. I'll have to think about it.

Meanwhile, here is another (very clever, I think!) gift package:

The idea from this packaging, like any original creative idea, is not mine. My friend Alicia gave me the idea. This is a can (soup or pears or something) wrapped in paper. Using a crop-a-dile you punch holes in the can and string wire through the holes for a handle. I add eyelets to my holes for a finished look. I also added beads (from my daughter's jewelry making supplies!) to the handle to jazz it up. Unfortunately, I didn't take a photograph showing the pretty handle.
The gift inside is a small jar candle from Yankee Candle. They fit PERFECTLY!
My last picture for this post is sort of a preview of what my day is going to be. It was taken several weeks ago when we got our first snow. We didn't get much, but the kids were THRILLED nonetheless. Here they are, trying to catch snowflakes on their tongues:

We did end up with a small accumulation of snow that day. It was enough to sled down the hill. We did not own any snow gear - I hate to buy it because you cannot count on needing it around here. My poor kids played in the snow in tennis shoes and ended up very cold and wet. I ended up with lots of wet pants and socks to launder. They would get too cold to play so they would come in for some hot cocoa and change into dry clothes. Before long they couldn't stand to be inside looking at the snow anymore, so back out they would go. Time after time.
So when I heard yesterday that we were supposed to get a lot of snow overnight (thank you Joel!) I rushed out to buy boots and snow pants. I was not alone. I think the whole state was buying snow gear. The first store I went to had 4 pair of snow pants left, 1 size 5, 2 size 8 and 1 size 12. I bought both 8's. They'll come close enough to fitting each kid. (They were 50% off. Yeah!!!) The boot section was decimated. I did manage to find a pair for Anna, although I fear they may be more fashionable than useful. I went to 5, yes FIVE stores looking for boots for Ethan. The scene was unbelievable. The shelves were empty. At Famous Footwear there was another mother searching desperately through the few stragglers that remained. She told me she couldn't find two boots in the same size. She chose 2 that were close. I found one boot that was 1 size smaller than I wanted but there was nothing else anywhere close to the size I needed. How in the world does that happen?? Eventually I found a pair of rain boots which I scooped up. They will be better than tennis shoes, I hope.
Hopefully there will be pictures of happy kids to post later today.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More Cards

Today I am doing what I love - stamping! I decided to try some more snowman cards. First, here is yesterdays card (again):

I don't own any snowman stamps. So when I decided I wanted to make a snowman I hunted through my stamps for some circles. I was thrilled to find two different sizes; however, I needed a third for the head. Since I didn't think I had one, I pulled out the letter "o" from an alphabet set I have. I wasn't happy with the result - I colored the middle in but it is more opaque than the rest of his head. There were other things I thought I could improve on too, so I got to work.

I had actually put my stamps away yesterday (gasp!) So I had to find my circles again. In the process, I found a third, smaller circle. Perfect! Here is card #2:

There are several things I like better about this card. For one thing, I decided to start with white paper, so the snowman looks white, as a snowman should. To be honest, I did 3 or 4 similar to this. So far this is the only one that I have mounted and put onto a card. I was getting a bit bored with the same picture, so I decided to try something a little different. Here it is, and it is my favorite snowman card:

I copied the swirl idea from this blog. (This is probably my favorite stamping blog. The woman is an artist. She travels around the country teaching classes. I would like to go if she ever comes near me. In the meantime, I am trying to learn from her online.) I really love this card. I really got stuck though when it came time to put a sentiment on it. I don't own many Christmas stamps. I have just 2 with words. They are "Silent Night Holy Night" (from which I've been pulling Silent Night on my other cards) and "Let's Welcome Jesus". Neither worked here. I do have a stamp that says Merry Christmas on part of it; I have been using that on my family Christmas Cards. However, I could not find that this morning! So I used "joy". I think it works okay. It feels a little disingenuous though, because snow doesn't actually make ME joyful. It just makes me cold. Oh well, I think a lot of people think snow and snowmen are happy, joyful things, so this will have to do.
One more note for any "crafty" readers. A few months ago I bought a Xyron thing-a-ma-jig. I got the 5 inch version. It is one of the best things I have ever purchased for making cards. Now I can make cards on dark colored cardstock but insert a white or vanilla piece for writing. I run it through the Xyron to get adhesive on the entire thing. Also, any time my front pieces get too heavy I run them through the Xyron for total adhesion. I love it!

Monday, December 14, 2009


So far I've only made 1 batch of cookies today. I'll make another soon. But I got diverted. The neighbor boys came in to play and all the kids headed to the basement. Things tend to get broken when kids play in the basement without supervision, so I went down and worked on cards. Here's what I did:

1. A sympathy card. As usual, it is much prettier in person. I watercolored using "Twinkling H2O's". They have a very pretty shimmer which doesn't show up in photos.

2. This year's Christmas card. You may have already received a similar one in the mail. Or maybe not. I made 10 and sent them out, then made 6 and sent them, etc. I make them whenever I get a chance. I'll send Christmas cards until I run out of time or get to the end of the list, whichever comes first. Anyhow, I don't have enough of any one paper for them to all look identical, so this paper is different than what I've sent previously. I think it is my favorite and I wish I had found it first. I didn't spend a dime for Christmas cards this year! I am 100% using supplies purchased long ago. I also must say that I did not design this card. I made it first last year at the home of my "stamping lady", Robin. I had to modify it a tiny bit to work with the supplies I own, but it is fairly close to identical to her card.

3. I am trying to get some cards made to enclose with teacher gifts. I doubt they want a card with a picture of our family! I had an idea that I played with today and it turned out fairly good. I'm not sure I'll be able to use it for a teacher. When Anna saw it she wanted it, so we'll see. I suppose I could make more.

Speaking of Anna, she is lurking, wanting a turn on the computer. So I guess I am off to bake cookies.
Today I am stuck in the house. I have no car and it is raining. Seems like a good time to get started on some Christmas cookies. While the first batch is in the oven I randomly scanned a recipe book that belonged to my Grandma and I got a great idea: I'm going to share a recipe! A lot of blogs that I read talk about cooking or baking from time to time. They share recipes. (I've tried a couple and they have been okay. I suppose anything that would taste great would require more work than I am willing to do.) I came across this recipe and thought I just had to share it. A word of caution: If you have just eaten, are about to eat or want to eat sometime in the next day you might not want to read it.

1 quart blood
3/4 pint water
1-1/2 pints chopped suet
2 tablespoons salt
3 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
2 pounds rye flour (scant)
Mix all ingredients well together. Form with a spoon into large balls. In center of each ball place a piece of suet covered well. Place in pot of boiling salted water. Let simmer half an hour or more.
Is that awful or what? I believe this was actually for human consumption. Yuck! Literally, this nearly makes me sick. And worse yet is the fact that there are 2 more recipes in which the first ingredient is blood. My Grandma was Norwegian, and she was born in 1895. Somehow I guess that -- explains this. ???
To be honest, I don't think she ever made this. The recipe book is missing a cover, marked up, written in, tattered and taped. She made notes all around the stuff she liked. (Mostly cookies!) The page with the blood recipes is pretty pristine so, thank goodness, I don't think she was into Blodklub.
I'll get back to my cookie baking now. I believe I shall not be in the mood to eat any of them for awhile.
You're welcome.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Eric left on a business trip again yesterday. I am prepared for a couple weeks of sleeping late, cooking little repairs?

The plan was for the kids and I to attend a Christmas concert at our church this afternoon. Last year the kids sang in part of it but they did it because I forced them into it. They didn't want to be in choir again this year. The concert last year was spectacular and, while I very much wanted to see it this year, I also hoped that if the kids saw it and heard how great it sounded they would want to rejoin the choir. It was not to be.

We all got dressed in "fancy clothes" including Ethan in his suit. We got into the car and I was amazed because we were actually going to be early. However, as soon as I started driving down the road something didn't sound right. It didn't sound good, not good at all. Earlier in the week I had put air into a tire so I was pretty sure that sound must be the tire. I pulled off and looked and, sure enough, the tire was COMPLETELY flat. I wasn't far from home, but I also wasn't too far from a gas station with air so I decided to go for the air. I thought I could fill the tire with air and proceed to church, hopefully arriving on time. I got to the station, plugged in my 75 cents (which always burns me!) and started filling the tire. It was encouraging at first, the tire started to rise. However, this was not to be either. The air compressor was so loud that I couldn't be sure, but I think there was a hissing sound of air coming out of the tire as fast as I was putting it in. In any case, after trying for as long as my 75 cents would allow, I realized this tire was not going to be pumped up.

I tried calling a friend whose husband works with Eric but got no answer. I called a neighbor who THANKFULLY was home. The husband actually answered and said he would be there in 5 minutes. Yeah! He could put on the spare tire. Maybe we could get to the concert late! He arrived quickly and began searching for the jack. (I suppose we could have checked the Owner's Manual to see where the jack was. Problem is, we had taken it into the house a few weeks ago to look at something and never put it back into the car. Brilliant. It was par for the course today.) He searched everywhere; he took things apart. He could not find the jack. That's okay, I said. I'll just call a tow truck. He asked if I wanted him to take me home but I thought I should stay with the car. I did ask him if he would mind taking my kids home to his house and he was happy to do that. The concert was now out of the question.

Thankfully (again) I remembered seeing a new card from our insurance company recently which I thought MIGHT include towing service. I called them and, sure enough, we have towing coverage. Yeah! Actually, I said, maybe someone could just replace my tire and I could drive to the tire store myself. Sure, they could do that. They ordered the service for me. Within a couple of minutes I received an automated phone call saying the service would arrive within 40 minutes. I was still parked right in front of the air compressor and there had been at least 3 people using it since I had arrived, so I decided I should probably move my car out of their way. I started it up and drove it forward about 10 feet - just enough to allow everyone access to the pump. I turned the car off and sat there for about 10 minutes. I was getting a little cold so thought I would turn the car on again for the heat. I turned the key and all sorts of crazy things happened. Washer fluid sprayed onto my headlights, the radio turned on (I hadn't had it on before) and my clock flashed to 12:00. I also thought I saw smoke coming from under the hood. The one thing that did NOT happen is the car didn't turn on. I could not believe it. My husband has left town, I have a flat tire, and now something under my hood - - - exploded? I wasn't about to try the key again. I was afraid something would start on fire. I thought about it. Maybe a fire wouldn't be a bad idea. Maybe it would get me a new car! On the other hand, there was a fire station directly across the street from me, so chances were good they would put a fire out quickly enough to prevent a total loss. I would have a half burned car with a flat tire. Probably it would sit in a repair shop for weeks. Nope. I wasn't turning that key. I would just sit and wait.

As I waited I thought maybe it was just a dead battery. My car has over 80,000 miles and we've never replaced the battery, so there's a good chance it is just that.

Some minutes later my phone rang again. It was the man who was on his way to change my tire. He said he would be there in about 10 minutes. That's wonderful, I said, but something else is now wrong with my car, I told him. Any chance you could jump it? Yes, he could do that but I would have to call the insurance company again and have them schedule it. This is a very minor detail of the day, but I have to include it because it "fits". I called the insurance company. They were very nice. No problem, they added it to my order. I also called the tire place. I knew they would need to order a tire for me. (How did I know that? Well, because we had another tire replaced just 2 weeks ago! Note that! Two nails in two tires in two weeks!) As I talked with them about the tire, the battery, the ride home, etc., I was trying to take notes. Guess what? My pen ran out of ink! I mean, how ridiculous is that? No big deal really. But... My tire is flat, my battery is dead and my pen is out of ink. AAAAAH!

The very nice man from "Auto Rescue" arrived. He first jumped the car so I could have heat. Thank you! (Remember I was dressed "fancy" for the concert? I was wearing open toe shoes and my toes were cold!) He too searched all over for my jack. He had his own, really cool, pneumatic jack, but he said he had to have my jack extension. I knew not why. He took apart the car in the same place as the neighbor. No jack. He suggested I look in the manual. Um, sorry, I don't have the manual with me. I know it would make sense to have it in the car, but... Never mind. He found it! He needed the extension because he had to insert it through a small hole in the back of my car and loosen something to get the spare tire out from underneath the car. That operation in itself could be a whole other story. So could the shuttle ride home from the tire store. But I am shivering so think I will go take a hot bath. Maybe I'll write about the shuttle ride a different day.

One thing though. A new friend of mine, whose husband is also gone, was telling me earlier this week about how she was sick and her car was towed from in front of her house. (!!!) She had to pay a bunch of money to get it back. But, she said "I just praise the Lord". Despite being sick. Despite having her car wrongly towed. Despite anything, she praises the Lord. I thought of that while I was sitting in the car. I sang a couple of praise songs. It is kind of fun to write about all the craziness today, and I sort of have to write about it in a negative tone to make it funny, but I am taking my friends advice and praising the Lord. None of this stuff matters. I am going to learn to praise the Lord.

Monday, December 7, 2009

I just have to quote something Anna said this morning because it really made me laugh. We were talking about ballerina's and she said:

"No one notices how much they're sweating because they're twirling so much it flings off."

It is still making me laugh. What an image. I'm never sitting in the front row at a ballet again!

Friday, December 4, 2009

I remember many years ago encountering someone in a Bible Study who really annoyed me for a peculiar reason. It seemed that whenever someone shared about a trial they were going through that person claimed to have faced it and had a story to tell. I did not believe it was possible for one person to have experienced all of those things so I rather thought she was a liar or had some kind of weird problem.

Last year I was in a different Bible Study when it dawned on me that I had become that annoying person. The strange thing was, everything anyone was going through either I or my husband (or both!) had been through. Gall bladder, appendicitis, herniated disk, back surgery, cancer, pregnancy problems... you name it. Any time someone began sharing about an issue they or a family member or friend was going through I was saying something like "Oh, I know how that is. When that happened to me..." I realized one day (or at least it felt as if) everyone was looking at me and thinking "Sure she knows about that. That woman is either a liar or has some kind of weird problem." If you know me, you know that in fact Eric and I have experienced a litany of medical issues. Add in to that personal issues that I will not name in this potentially public forum and things faced by extended family members and I feel like there isn't much that I haven't experienced!

But there is this one thing: death of a loved one. I have been thinking this week that I am 47 years old and I have not yet lost anyone close to me. (I hope that continues to be the case for a long, long time.)

This weekend Anna and I will be attending a memorial service for the father of one of her friends (and the husband of one of my friends.) This 9 year old girl has lost her father. I cannot comprehend that. It seems wrong. Very, very wrong. And yet, she is not alone in her experience. Others (MANY others) know what she is going through. Just not me. And for that (my lack of experience) I am very grateful.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Better Late than Never????

Okay, so almost 3 months to the day after school started, I got my pictures developed! Here are a few of the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! Ethan's first day of Kindergarten, so it was big. Of course, if he was my first child these pictures would have been developed the same day. And I suppose there would have been about 52instead of 5! It's no wonder Mom's of more than two kids say they never take pictures of the third.

You are going to think I'm kidding in my opinion here, but I am not. I'm sure this sounds trite, but I'm going to say it anyhow:

By now everyone probably knows that Obama will be addressing the nation tonight regarding Afghanistan. He will be speaking from West Point, which I think is awful, but that is not my point. (If you want to read an interesting opinion regarding the President speaking from West Point, read here.) I just heard that the timing of the address is such that it will preempt part of the greatest show of all time in my opinion - A Charlie Brown Christmas. Apparently the beginning of the show will be aired, but the President's speech will break in before Linus goes on stage to explain the real meaning of Christmas - straight from the Bible. Very sad, I think. The only children's program shown on network TV that includes the true story of Christmas, and it will not be shown.