Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

The kids all dressed up, grabbed the buckets, said "trick or treat", and then the rain came. It rained for the first thirty minutes of our Halloween night. But just as we were about to pack it in, the rain slowed to a drizzle and then stopped all together. After that it was a beautiful night with a full moon, a cool breeze, and just the right amount of fog to make it the perfect Halloween atmosphere. We came home a little damp but full of good spirit and lot's of candy.

Jawa from Star Wars (scary eyes!) and the cutest Snow White and Belle you've ever seen

rain, rain go away, we really want to stay out and play!

Juno and Bleaker for a party last night (sometimes you just have to embrace who you are)

And Halloween night wouldn't be complete without It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! and a mug of hot chocolate before crashing into bed and having candy filled dreams.

Happy Halloween to you all!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pumpkin Carving

We're gearing up for Halloween around here. We spent this morning with friends carving pumpkins. The kids didn't get into the yuck factor of cleaning out the pumpkins this year. They all, including the boy, tried to scoop the strings and seeds out with spoons. That lasted for about 10 minutes before they realized that doing it that way was going to take forever. Then they dug in and found themselves elbow deep in pumpkin guts, an admittedly yucky feeling. Plus they smelled pretty awesome for the rest of the day. (read with sarcasm.) In the end I, I mean we, got some really great carving done. I think these may be our best jack-o-lanterns to date!

finally digging in and very happy about it

the small one is a bat and the big one is hand drawn by Analiese

the boy trying to use a spoon. silly boy.

spider infested glitter pumpkins

The monster one is Christopher's and the other one is hand drawn by Sicily. It has freckles, she's so silly.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Misty Morning

misty Fall morning

subdues my mood,

quiets my heart.

toes dip into cold puddles.

sometimes Joy is right in front of you

packaged perhaps

in the form of a four year old

splashing about in her nightdress.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pumpkin Patch Trip

Every year we trek out to the pumpkin patch looking for the perfect pumpkin. It has become a little tradition that we all love. This year we were afraid that we were going to be rained out, but the rain passed and though it was cool, we were able to spend a lovely afternoon out at the farm. We picked pumpkins, saw some very friendly farm animals (0ne of whom (the turkey below) we were told doesn't have much longer here on this earth, so sad), and played in the various forts and haystacks around the patch. After our horrible failure last year we decided to skip the corn maze and try again in a few years when the kids are older. We left with beautiful pumpkins, red from cold cheeks, and happy faces.

pumpkin picking (and look Steven and I made it into a picture this trip!)

Our wagon full of perfect pumpkins

way to many jokes were being made about this poor turkey's upcoming fate

little miss tough stuff dutifully pulling the wagon of pumpkins home

Friday, October 23, 2009

Blog Empty

I have felt blog empty this week. I feel like I have nothing worthwhile to report. Which gives the illusion of an easy, unremarkable week. Unfortunately that is not the case. I have been too busy to be creative this week. Ugh! Instead I've been nursing kids with the flu, attending to a long (very long ) post inspection repair request from our potential buyers, and getting ready for a yard sale that's suppose to be held tomorrow if the rain holds off. I wouldn't say any of those things are particularly fun, but they have held quiet a bit of my attention. As long as the rain holds off we are headed to the pumpkin patch tomorrow. It will be a nice break for us all. And I'm hoping for a more creative week next week. With Halloween coming I imagine it will be. Happy weekending to you all.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

We were Booed!

A few nights ago we were "Boo"ed!

It goes like this:

some one leaves a bag of goodies at your door, rings the doorbell, and runs. Inside of the bag is a little poem:

The air is cool, the season fall,
Soon Halloween will come to all.

Ghosts and goblins, spooks galore...
Tricky witches at your door.

The spooks are after things to do,
In fact, a spook brought this "Boo" to you!

The excitement comes when friends like you,
Copy this note and make it two.

We'll all have smiles upon our faces,
No one will know who "Boo"ed whose places!

Just two short days to work your spell
Keep it secret, hide it well.

Please join the fun, the seasons here,
Just spread these "Boos" and Halloween cheer.

We were introduced to this little tradition when we moved here a couple of years ago. Now it's one of the highlights of Halloween for us. The bag also comes with a "BOO" sign that you hang on the door so that you don't get booed twice. By the end of this week every house on our street will have a Boo sign. It's so much fun! Not just getting treats, booing other people is the real fun. The real sneak comes out in our son. He is a master of the ring and run. He sneaks along the shadows to make it back to our house. I don't know if this is a skill we should be encouraging, but it's fun for now. We are almost Halloween ready around here. I still have some sewing to do on the boy's costume and we still need a few night of supplies. Make that a lot of supplies. The last two years I have gone through about 500 pieces of candy! We have a lot of kids in our neighborhood and a lot of others come here to trick or treat. What fun! I'm so glad we have good friends that convinced us to participate several years ago. Are you Halloween ready?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Apple Preserving Day

The apples were starting to overtake my kitchen. And I was having apple dreams. So I decided to make Saturday apple preserving day. I divided apples into ones that would go into the fridge for eating. I froze five bags of apple pie filling. Then I made another round of sauce. Finally I was left with a random assortment of varieties and somewhat bruised apples. Perfect for making apple butter, so I read. I've never actually made apple butter before. I decided to go hard core old school and actually can the apple butter. So I started with a lot of reading.

I like the Ball Blue Book. As I have ventured into more canning and preserving this year this book has become my go to book for recipes and technique, including the recipe I ended up using for this batch of apple butter.

For the butter making, first recruit two eager helpers for the washing and the peeling.

Then prepare to be in the kitchen for the next three hours. One of the distinctions of fruit butters is that they are cooked slowly until they thicken enough to roll up on the spoon. I didn't realize how slowly until I was standing over the same pot for the second hour. I recommend recruiting another helper at this point.

I don't recommend having a boy with the flu calling you from the couch. If you do have a boy with the flu on the couch, I recommend turning on the Arkansas game so that he can be disappointed by them and not by your lack of attention.

Once you've stirred until your arms are about to fall off, you've sterilized all of your jars, you've waited an additional forty five minutes for the processing pot to boil, and your helpers have quit, you are ready to fill the jars. Now your work is done. It's incredibly satisfying. To put that much work into something and know that your family will enjoy it for the rest of the year is well worth it. And enjoy it we will. For my first time I think I did alright. It's a bit sweet but still pretty good. An afternoon well spent.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Muddled Reflections, our story (part 2)

Last night we celebrated an October night eleven years ago. A beginning. This anniversary of the start is not our wedding date but we consider it our anniversary. We chose it. We chose it on a porch swing and sealed it with a kiss. A beginning. The start of a wild and sometimes very difficult ride. A trip that we both know we couldn't have taken with another.

Ten years ago this week we made another choice. We chose to keep the baby growing inside. We chose to grow up at the too young age of eighteen. We chose to be parents. We chose to be scared and clueless together. We chose to hold hands and jump.

So last night we celebrated a start and a choice. We put the girls to bed, got take out, and lit a candle. Then that child of the choice walked in and asked us why we were holding hands across the table and sharing whispered words. We told him that we began, on this night eleven years ago. He said without skipping a beat, "and then I was here." Steven and I shrugged a well he's pretty close. Then we all laughed and the two of us shared a look and a smile that said we had made the right choice.

Last October night we celebrated all of the good that started with a porch swing kiss.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


It has cooled down significantly around here. (I wrote that with a huge smile and very cold toes.) So it's time to break out the wool tights and pants. Only my girls hate tights and pants. Every winter morning, we waste too many precious early school morning minutes fighting about being warm. So this year I went on a search for an alternative, because I'm tired of the fight. I cannot change my girlie girls who want to wear dresses and skirts all year long. Twirling should not stop just because of a little thing like weather change. So here is what I found. These super cute leg warmers were the perfect compromise. And how adorable are her little toes coming out of them!

It was so easy to make. You just buy a dollar store scarf, cut it in half, and stitch the sides together so that when you're done they look like this:

I know they look really narrow when you're done but they stretched enough to fit my arm so I knew they would fit the girls little legs. The warmers go all the way up their legs and fit nicely around ballet flats. So I have happy girls who can now wear their favorite shoes with their girlie dresses and still be warm. Commence the winter twirling.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It was pie...

I couldn't help myself. I needed some right now goodness of pie. So I put off the apple butter and made a pie. And it was good. It was good right out of the oven. It was good with ice cream on top. It was good cold late at night. And it was gone too quickly. Luckily there are still approximately 1 1/2 bushels of apples left so I see a few more pies in our future.

Common Apple Pie
  • 8 or 9 large apples of several different cooking varieties (I like Granny Smith and Golden Delicious for this), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • Sugar
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of both ground cloves and ground nutmeg
  • Unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg white beaten with a little water, for brushing
  • 2 refrigerated pie crusts, or feel free to make your own

To make the pie:
Preheat oven to 450° F.

Prepare the crust (I save time and usually use Pillsbury refrigerated crust). Line a 9-inch pie pan with half of the pastry and set aside in the refrigerator, along with the unrolled half, while you make the filling. Taste a few slices of the apples to gauge how much sugar you'll need to make them sweet. In a large bowl, mix the apple slices in the lemon juice. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon to taste, then add the cloves and nutmeg. Pour the apple mixture into the prepared pastry shell. Mound toward the center and dot with butter. Roll out the remaining pastry and carefully lay it over the apples. Seal the edges, cut vent holes, and decorate with extra pieces of dough cut into decorative shapes. Or if you're feeling particularly fancy you can do a lattice top. Brush the egg wash over the surface of the pastry. Place the pie pan on a baking sheet (to catch any spill over) and cook in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350° F. and continue to cook for about another hour, until the top crust is a beautiful golden brown. If the edges start to darken too much, cover with a ribbon of aluminum foil.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I was (In)couraged today. This year I have been a whole mess of DIScouraged. But I was reminded today of how important our attitude is. It's about perspective really. I can choose to appreciate and truly give thanks in all situations. Or I can groan and complain and say how unfair life is. (I think I've been doing a bit much of the latter.)

The truth is we've had something good happen. I've been scared to tell you. I've been scared that if I said it out loud it would go away. I'm walking on egg shells these days. Letting myself become anxious about change. As if there is some dark cloud following me around that rains only when it senses my happiness. Given the year, it's not that crazy of an assumption. But I can't live like that. I can't live scared of letting a little hope slip out. How sad would that be?

So the good thing that happened? We got an offer on the house. I know. It's a big deal. But we're not in a simple house selling situation. It will be a short sale. So we are at the whims of the banks. We have to wait for their approval. So now you see why I'm scared that it might fall apart.

But in the spirit of hopefulness, we started looking at rentals to move into. And that's when I got downright angry. (You can pray for my husband now. Obviously I'm an emotional rollercoaster.) We were looking at these tiny apartments and old rundown houses, and I got angry. I got angry at the situation. I was angry that because of some random out of our control event that happened 9 months ago, we have to give up this old house and move into something considerably less appealing. It's not fair.

As I am calming this morning, I'm starting to accept that it isn't fair, but that I can't change it. I can't make the situation fair, but I can accept it with grace. I can choose to have a better attitude. I can choose to move on and leave the past in the past.

So in the spirit of hopefulness, we are signing a lease tonight on a little run down funky house. And we will keep hoping that the bank approves this sale. And I will start packing the things we need and get rid of the things we don't. Downsizing is good, right? Simplicity. That's what I say we're all about around here. I guess it's time for me to live up to it and have a good attitude about it as well.

Maybe if I spent more time enjoying carefree moments like this, a good attitude wouldn't be so hard to find.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

back to those apples...

What's a girl to do with 2 bushels of apples? Well, there are many yummy treats you can make with that many apples. I started with apple sauce. And ummmm, it's good. This year I think I've finally worked out the right amount of spices in my recipe . But we are still divided around here on what the best texture is. The boys like it pureed smooth. The girls like it mashed with little chunks of apple still showing. Either way, it's a fundamental fall recipe that everyone should have. It will leave your kitchen smelling of apple, cinnamon, and cloves. And is there really a better scent in the world than that. Probably. But for now I'm thouroughly enjoying this one.

Homemade Applesauce:

10 to 12 Cortland, Mutsu, or McIntosh apples (about 5 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored, and cubed
1 cup of water
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 cinnamon sticks

1/2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp gound allspice
2 Tbsp sugar, or more, to taste

In a large saucepan or stockpot, combine all the ingredients, except the sugar. Cook covered on high heat until the apples begin to release their liquid, about 10 minutes. Cover and reduce heat to medium, and cook until the apples soften and begin to break apart, about 1 hour, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low and partially cover. Cook until the apples fall apart and the mixture reaches sauce consistency, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat. Discard the cinnamon sticks. Add sugar (if needed, we like it a little tart, so I don't) and stir well. If you like it smooth, puree it at this point with an immersion blender or regular blender. If you like it with a few chunks of apple then you're done.

If freezing: I use Ball Freezer Jars. I think they are the best. While your sauce cools down wash the jars and let dry. It can now be poured into the jars and put into the freezer for up to a year. You can also pour it into freezer bags. Just ladel out a small portion into the bag, seal, and then lay it flat on a cookie sheet in the freezer. Once it's frozen you can take it off of the cookie sheet and stack multiple bags in the freezer (this is good if you're limited on freezer space). To thaw, just put a jar/bag in the fridge the night before you want to use it.

Enjoy! I know we will. Next up: apple butter, no maybe apple pie. Oh, I can't choose. Whatever it is, it will be yummy. That I do know.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

stuffed animals for boys and babies

I've been keeping a friend's baby a few days a week and it has inspired me to make soft baby things. Yes I know. Our lives are crazy enough without adding a baby to the mix, but truthfully I'm loving it! Sweet baby with soft hair and little baby sounds. Oh, I'd have another in a heart beat. But since I cannot, I'm pouring out my creative baby energy on this sweet little one. Luckily her mama is a good friend who doesn't mind. The other day I sat down determined to make her a soft little lovey and this sweet little bunny and taggie blanket is what came out.

Her mama was pleased and we can both convince ourselves that the three month old was too. My own kids were impressed with my bunny making skills. Apparently, clothes and blankets are nice, but stuffed animals make me pretty cool. And this prompted the most challenging sewing request I have ever received.
Remember when I told you that I wasn't a sewing sexist. That I was making a messenger bag for the boy. Well, I did. I presented it to him and he gave me an odd look. It turns out that a kids pattern on my grown boy looks, unfortunately, like a purse. So I got a purse. But that left the boy with nothing. I asked him if there was anything he wanted me to make as a substitute for the ill sized messenger bag. He thought seriously about that for a minute, then looked up and said,
"A rhinoceros".
I'm sorry, a what?
Yes, that's right a rhinoceros.
Well, I had let him down once and I was determined not to do it again. However, I didn't have the faintest idea of how to make a rhinoceros. Go figure. So I searched my favorite crafty blogs until I found a pattern. Who knew? Other little boys want their crafty mamas to make them rhinoceroses too. (Is that the plural of rhinoceros? I really don't think I've ever had to refer to more than one rhinoceros.) So I sat down at my machine last night and made the boy his rhinoceros.

Then I put it at his spot on the breakfast table awaiting discovery. Now, Chris is not very excitable. He's pretty even tempered. He's gracious but the tone of his thank you is usually the same whether it's a piece of gum or a Wii. But he has this little smile. It's small and quick, so you have to watch carefully. But if you get the little half smile, you know you've surprised him and made him happy. I got the smile this morning. That was all my mama heart needed.
But my kids, being wonderful, gave me much more than what my heart needed. They are amazed! Bunny's are impressive but somehow the sewing machine has been transformed overnight into a magical animal making tool. Apparently rhinoceros making puts me up there with wizards. I now have requests for a poodle, a kangaroo, and an elephant. Oh my, back to the blogs for patterns I go. I wouldn't want to lose my wizard status.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The end of a rainy day...

Rainy day chicken noodle soup

and a new to us, thrifted, old, crazy, French game

It's shaping up to be a lovely evening.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Muddled Reflections

It's rainy and gloomy here today. It's wonderful. It's quiet. It's a wrap up in fleece kind of day. I need today.

I'm horrible at rest. I mean really horrible. I can't seem to shut myself down at night to sleep. And I'm awful at just sitting. Yet, I feel that little voice saying Be Still. So I sit to rest. But the laundry calls and on my way there I see the dishes and oh my, one of the kids has left behind a mess. And all of a sudden it's 1pm. My moment of rest is long gone. This is a problem. When my exhaustion catches up with me I become so easily overwhelmed. My spirit energy seems to be depleted by my lack of physical energy. So I snap at the kids when I shouldn't. Their little heads hang in hurt. I get annoyed by my husband. I drag through the chores really getting none of them done. I cry more.

I used to fall asleep praying. I used to have this mental image of falling asleep leaned into my strong Father's chest, telling him of my day like a little child. He would listen until I had left all of my loose thoughts with Him. And then rest would come. I'm not sure when I stopped doing that. But I did. I stopped leaving my thoughts with Him and instead I let them bounce around my head until I'm overwhelmed with life more often than I care to admit.

I hear Him calling me back. Calling me to lean strong into His shoulder. To be still. To know that He is Lord. To know that He has a plan. To know that I am His child and His children need rest.

So you see I need today. I need the rain. I need to sit down and listen to the rain. Just listen. I need to cuddle with a few kids and kiss my husband. Then I need to pray so that I can rest.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Apple Picking

We went out into the trees for a little soul nurturing today. Apple trees to be specific. The air was cool and full of the sweet, earthy scent of ripe apples. It was a perfect apple picking day. We picked until our wagon and baskets were too heavy to carry. Steven mumbled something about too many apples. I daydreamed aloud about apple sauce, apple butter, apple pie. I heard no more mumbling. I just saw my husband pulling the wagon to the van, pleased with the idea of sweet goodness coming his way.

Our children always seem to put a little bit of each of their personalities into getting things done.


The youngest followed slowly behind us munching on the biggest apples she could find. Occasionally I would ask her to help with the picking, so she would bend down, pick one apple, then keep munching away. Her belly was very happy by the time we had finished.

Chris saw the apples at the top of the tree as a challenge and decided that he had to prove he could get them. So up he went. Oh, that boy. Everything is an adventure.

Analiese filled an entire basket almost on her own and then we lost her to flower picking. Everything may be an adventure to the boy, but to this girl every adventure is a reason to pick flowers, or rocks, or pine cones.

But in the end apples got picked and two content parents sat down on the grass and watched happy children play. A good day. Now I must go to bed and dream about wonderful apple goodness coming my way. I promise to share some with you very soon.