Monday, March 30, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY March 30, 2009...

Outside my window...the ground is muddy as all the snow from last week's blizzard has already melted away. It's only a matter of time before Roo notices it too and wants to go outside and dig in it. Hmm....maybe I should keep the blinds and curtains closed today! ;)

But, as I have started typing, the snow has started to fall. The wind is picking up and the birds and squirrels are scurrying around the feeders. They're probably thinking that they better fill up before another blizzard hits! Fortunately, the forecast only calls for 3-6 inches.

I am thinking...about some home improvement projects I'd like to do. Some are small (like paint the playroom shelves a fun color) and some are large, time-consuming, and messy (like sand down, prime, and paint the tiles surrounding the fireplace). My husband would probably prefer that I spend time on more significant home improvement projects like making dinner and putting the laundry away (so he doesn't have to dig through the basket for clean socks). :)

I am thankful husband's job. Three people were laid off at his company last week, so that is always unsettling. Certainly makes you grateful for having an income, incoming!

From the kitchen...something with chicken, as it was buy one, get one. I have recently discovered a food blog called dinner's on me. The varied selection guarantees that I will find a recipe (or 20) that I want to try. Her pictures make me drool!

I am sweatpants with a white stripe down the side and a dark green chenille, long sleeve sweater. I look like Christmas, which I guess is only fitting given the blowing snow whipping around outside.

I am creating...several new notebooks to organize my thoughts into certain genres. Right now I have a spiral bound notebook that I use to jot down various thoughts and to-do's. There is no rhyme or reason to my current notebook, so everything is all jumbled together. I can never find the page I'm looking for, and I waste huge amounts of time flipping the pages until I come across what I need. I need to categorize my thoughts and numerous lists into separate notebooks. Pretty notebooks are a must, so I will need to doctor plain notebooks with cute paper, stamps, or stickers. Of course, I already have a Homemaking Notebook in progress that I started over a year ago after seeing so many of them on other blogs. Maybe I should focus on fine-tuning that one instead?

I am going... to stretch my food budget this more quick runs to the store for "just a couple of things," because I always come home with several bags of those "couple of things!!" I will shop from my own freezer and pantry this week.

I am reading... It's All Too Much by Peter Walsh. I'm hoping it will give me the nudge I need to get rid of some things I've been holding on to for several reasons (but none of them valid enough to justify keeping the stuff).

I am finalize my Easter menu this week. I have a vague idea about what I'd like to serve, but I still need to hammer out the small details: like Easter breakfast, side dishes to Easter dinner, and of course, dessert. As I said, just small details!

I am hearing...the heat just kicked on. Rascal is "talking" to the snowflakes falling. Roo is reciting lines from the book Up Above and Down Below.

Around the house...wiping down and sanitizing all surfaces today. We've had a cold making the rounds in our house as of late, and I'm on the warpath against germs!

One of my favorite things...snuggling on the couch with my daughter and a huge stack of new library books.

A few plans for the rest of the week: a visit with a specialist at Children's Hospital, a playdate with my sister and her son, drop off some items at the children's consignment store, write a thank you note to my aunt for a lovely card and gift she sent last week.

Here is picture thought I am sharing... the flurry at the feeder while the flurries fall from the sky!

Visit Peggy's site for the links to more Daybook reflections!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Not for the birds...

I love when useful meets cute!! I came across this pincushion at JoAnn's the other day. I already have 2 pincushions, so I put it back on the shelf after admiring it longingly. But when I realized that everything else I was buying was already on sale, I had an unused 40% off coupon in my hand. Back to the pincushion shelf I went and snatched this birdhouse without hesitation. I love birds and I love sewing (usually!). To have the two combined makes me so happy. Plus, the little roof comes off and there is a small storage space inside! Too adorable. Maybe this little addition to my sewing table will draw me back into the habit of creating (and away from the computer a little more often).

So, that's where I found my snippet of sunshine today. Where's yours? :)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Topsy turvy Spring!

Well, yesterday's storm has moved on and today the sun is making all the snow a mere memory. But, boy, did we get hit in a hurry with a good deal of the white stuff. The whole time the flakes were falling, I was thinking about our tree in the backyard. We've lost more than a few branches over the years with these spring blizzards. In fact, the blooms were just starting to make an appearance late last week when I thought to myself, "I hope we don't see any more snow." Here was our poor tree yesterday, the buds and blossoms all weighted down with snow:

The bird feeder was abandoned as our feathered friends wisely stayed warm in their nests. All except this little (make that big) one:

This plump robin repeatedly flew from our tree to the top of our back porch light, where she (or is it a he? With such a dark breast and head, I wondered if it might be a male? But being so fat, made me think it must be a female. My ornithology knowledge is sorely lacking!) sat perched for quite some time. Until she got tired of us snapping pictures, that is. This next picture is one Mark took by just cracking the door a bit, holding the camera outside, and then hitting the button -- hoping for a good shot. I'm sorry that it turned out so overexposed, but the snow was blindingly white out there!

I'm sure seeing an outstretched arm with a beeping, clicking camera on the end of it made her decide to make a quick exit. A few seconds later she flew away and didn't come back.

There was one other brave soul out there too (looking for food, no doubt):

I immediately recognized her as one of our "regulars." So, I quickly scoured the kitchen for an appropriate squirrel snack (since I wasn't going outside to retrieve squirrel food from the shed in this weather).

Surely, determination and resilience like that deserves a just reward, don't you think? She came back for seconds, and fourths, too! Fortunately for her, she didn't have to share with any of her squirrel siblings. :)

All in all, a nice cozy day to stay inside and watch the fury outside. But, as I said above, it's all a memory now as the snow is almost melted away already. And I think our tree's branches were spared this time around. Whew! It never feels completely like spring until we get a snowstorm! Now that the storm is behind us, I feel that Spring is here to stay! Thank goodness. Bring on the warmth!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Good for you and tasty too!

Of course, now that warmer days (and thus, warmer mornings) are here, oatmeal may or may not be on your menu. However, in our house, oatmeal knows no season. My husband and my daughter can eat it all year round. I, have never been a huge oatmeal fan. I can recall, as a child, having more brown sugar than oatmeal in my bowl. But, no matter how much I added, it was never sweet enough. I dreaded cold, snowy mornings because I knew my mom would have a pot of oatmeal on the stove. She believed we should start those winter days with a breakfast that "sticks to your ribs." Well, it can't stick to my ribs if I can't bring myself to swallow it. I'm so not an oatmeal fan.

My husband prefers the little packets of oatmeal that are heavy on the sugar and light on the oatmeal. For health reasons, I have been trying to switch him over to the steel-cut oats. Until now, he's been a bit resistant. The man likes his over-processed, over-sugared, over-powdered oatmeal.

But, I have a recipe for oatmeal that is tasty enough to make a convert out of my husband and me! The beauty of this recipe is that the sugar and spices are added while it is cooking, not after you spoon it into your bowl. I think this makes it sweeter because the flavors get soaked into every little oat. So there's less sugar cancelling out all those benefits of the steel-cut oats.

Sweetly Spiced Steel-Cut Oatmeal:

1 cup steel cut oats

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1 cup milk

Add oats, brown sugar, vanilla, and spices to 3 cups boiling water. Stir well and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 15 minutes.

Stir in milk. Cook 15 minutes more or until liquid has been absorbed by the oats and the mixture is creamy.
Top with fruit and nuts, if desired.

I hope if you try this oatmeal, you will agree that it's a tasty update to the plain-jane oatmeal of yesterday. Now, the weather channel is telling us that a big snowstorm is on the way. I better get in the kitchen and make another batch of oatmeal to fill us up and warm us up, just in case the weatherman is right!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Ah, the arrival of Spring seems to have brought with it some Spring Sniffles. Roo seemed a little off her game yesterday: hot, flushed, restless, and a tad heavy on the whining. Sure enough, she was reluctant to get out of bed this morning because she was feeling under the weather. Lots of sneezing, sniffling, watery eyes, a slight fever, and some lethargy thrown in for good measure.

When I was a little girl, I distinctly remember my mom bringing trays of comfort to my bedside. I can still hear her crushing ice by hand (using a skinny wand with a silver ball on one end) and adding it to freshly squeezed orange juice. This was always accompanied by toast topped with my mom's yummy strawberry jam. I would wait, snuggled under my blankets, for the sound of her footsteps coming up the stairs and down the hallway to my room. She would talk quietly and gently, stroking my forehead (which I now know is "The Mom's Way" of testing for fever). After juice and toast, she would make me some tea to sip.

And always, without fail, mom would follow all the light, nourishing snacks with a spoonful of lemon juice mixed with honey. "To coat and soothe your throat," she would tell me with a reassuring smile. There's nothing like the feeling of being completely cared for, knowing that someone you love is at your beck and call, attending to your every need and desire.

I remember laying in bed on several occasions, with a throat too sore for me to call her name. I needed an extra blanket, or more juice, or a book to read, or...something to comfort and cheer me. And somehow, my mom sensed it. Within minutes of me sending her telepathic vibes, she would indeed appear at my side, "Is there anything I can get for you?" How did she know I needed her at that precise moment? One of those special gifts bestowed on mothers, I guess!

I am so grateful to have these memories to draw on, so I can try to recreate the same safe, comforted feeling with my children when they are feeling ill. Thank goodness, we've been very fortunate thus far. I've only needed to come to the aid of a sickly Roo once or twice over the past few years. And Rascal has been spared to this point (unless you count the last 9 months of chronic "colic" --as that's made him pretty miserable most days and nights).

But today, I made up a special plate of Roo's favorites. Two of them happen to be naturally high in vitamin C, luckily. The third is something normally reserved for the end of an exciting day, when she needs some extra help settling down for sleep.

After tucking her in on the couch with pillows and a fleece blanket (When there are germs involved or the possibility of not keeping food down, I tend to lean toward easily washed items versus her quilt, which must be handwashed), she enjoyed her treats,

and I got to play nurse today. Just like my mom, I hand-crushed ice and poured orange juice (although, not freshly squeezed I'm afraid). I stroked her forehead (yep, she was definitely on the warm side), and I spoke in hushed, loving tones. We cuddled and I smothered her with kisses as we listened to the enchanting vignettes of Jim Weiss. I even let her watch too many cartoons in a row.

I admit, I had a hard time ignoring the laundry pile and the various household tasks calling my name. This was especially true when the kids and I had been up for 8 hours and my little patient refused to take a nap, despite my insistence that naps killed germs and nasties. Hopefully, Rascal will not succumb to whatever Roo is suffering from. Otherwise, I'll be the one suffering with two sick littles to tend! :)

By bedtime tonight, she was feeling and looking much better. It could have been the vitamin C or the homeopathic drops. But I think, what helped her most, was a liberal dose of good, old-fashioned TLC!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY...March 23, 2009

Outside my window...the weather forecast threatened snow, but this morning's skies are just gray. The wind was howling last night and I can see tiny puddles on the lid of the sandbox out back. So, we got a little rain instead of the snow, which is fine with me! When I opened the back door to throw out some food for the squirrels, the air was steeped with that wonderful smell of damp earth. I love that smell -- so spring-like!

I am thinking... God is so gracious. I am blessed beyond words.

I am thankful for... our family and friends, our home. That we have all we need, plus the little extras that make life more fun.

From the kitchen...Honey sesame-glazed wild salmon, sauteed spinach with garlic, and bread sticks.

I am wearing...Chocolate-brown yoga pants and matching top, thick socks, my hair up in a clip.

I am creating... homemade coasters using a technique I've never tried before. If they turn out decently, I'll post a picture!

I am going... to look through my cookbooks for a special treat to make for a very special friend coming to visit on Friday.

I am reading... "Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots" by Sharon Lovejoy. It is a beautiful book packed full of ideas. It makes me want to run to the nearest nursery and buy seeds, soil, and brand-new gardening gloves!

I am re-write my evening schedule, as something is out-of-whack. I am finding myself coming downstairs in the morning to much clutter and mini-messes from the night before. I think I've been skipping my nightly pick-up in favor of reading or computer time (*wince*). Must get back into the habit, as it makes my mornings so much more pleasant.

I am hearing...Rascal banging on the back glass door, saying "hello" to the squirrels and birds eating breakfast out there. Roo is singing a combination of "Jingle Bells" and "In Your Easter Bonnet." :)

Around the house...change out the closets: pack up the winter clothes and bring out the spring/summer ones. We've had temperatures hovering near 80 for the last couple of weeks and I've been broiling --even under my lightest-weight winter clothes. So, I'm sure as soon as I put the sweaters and jackets in the attic, we will have weeks of bitter cold and snow. Because that's the way Mother Nature works, doesn't she? ;)

One of my favorite things... taking my little girl to the craft store with me. I love her "oohs" and "ahhs" over the endless possibilities! It's so wonderful to wander the aisles with someone who is just as keen to check everything out as I am (no offense to my sweet husband, but he hates going to the craft store with me. I'm always on a time limit when he comes along!!). And I'll never forget the look of awe on her face yesterday when I told her she could pick one thing out and we would buy it. She's perfectly happy just to look and never pesters me to buy her things that she sees (I know, those days are numbered, I'm sure ;)), so I love to surprise her once in a while and buy something of her choosing.

A few plans for the rest of the week: continue the decluttering battle, a visit to my mom and dad's house (as my mom is a teacher and on Spring Break this week), call for a donation pick up of clothes/kitchen items/toys that I've gathered together, and hopefully get in a little sewing too.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...Hmm...looks like my husband dressed our son today. For some reason, he has a mental block when it comes to remembering that the onesie is supposed to be snapped underneath the pants, not over them!

Be sure to visit Peggy's site for the links to more Daybook reflections!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Weekly Rhythm and the 10-Minute Tasks

There is something about the combination of Lent and Spring that gives me a surge of gusto when it comes to caring for our home. I try to spend Lent banishing excess worry, guilt, self-centeredness, impatience, and other negatives that hold me back from fully embracing God and finding inner peace. I think it's this spiritual cleansing during the Lenten season that inspires me to cleanse our dwelling of excess clutter, disorder, and other obstacles that infringe upon the harmony I seek for our home.

*Warning* This post is a bit long-winded. It involves two things I love: lists and organizing!

I have scheduled days on which I try to accomplish certain home cleaning tasks. I am constantly tweaking my weekly schedule, or rhythm, as I call it. The season, out-of-town guests, holidays, the constantly changing nap schedule of my youngest, etc. There is a revolving door of reasons that my daily to-do list changes. Currently, I am following this daily cleaning rhythm:

-Church (if we didn't go on Saturday afternoon--we often have family gatherings on Saturdays, so we attend church on Sunday morning instead)
-Family activity or outing

-Strip beds and launder bedding
-Open windows and air out rooms
-Dust/neaten surfaces in bedroom
-Vacuum upstairs
-Remake beds with fresh linens
-Do laundry: linens first, then diapers and wipes

-Clean guest bathroom
-Clean living room:
-wipe down coffee table
-neaten/declutter surfaces
-straighten books/toy cubbies
-wipe down phone/light switches/door knobs
-vacuum floor and stairs
-Febreeze couch cushions and throw pillows
-Do laundry: Mark's and my clothes

-Clean upstairs bathroom while Roo takes a bath:
-empty trash
-launder towels/mats
-wash counters, walls, medicine cabinet door and shelves
-clean toilet
-clean sinks
-clean tub (before popping Roo in it, of course!)
-sweep/mop floor
-Check linen closet for supplies
-Hang fresh towels/lay out fresh mats
-Do laundry: towels first, then diapers and wipes
-Look over grocery store flyers, begin shopping list

-Clean kitchen:
-neaten/wash down countertops
-wash sink, flush with boiling water and then bleach
-wipe down stovetop and vent hood
-wipe down appliances
-clean inside of microwave
-wipe down refrigerator shelves, toss old food
-Do laundry: Children's clothes, Mark and my clothes
-Finish grocery list

-Do laundry: tablecloth/napkins/dish towels first, then diapers and wipes
-Bathe children
-Go grocery shopping

-Family fun/outing in the morning
-Misc. home, garden, auto
-Trip to the bread store (2x per month)
-Church in the late afternoon

While the weekly rhythm includes the major cleaning, there are little tasks that don't have to be done weekly. But if they are not scheduled in at some point, they will be overlooked. And while these little to-do's aren't glaringly obvious to anyone but me, they nevertheless need to be done as part of keeping a clean and organized home.

The challenge I face is not finding time to do these little cleaning jobs, as the bigger and more obvious jobs call my name. Plus, some of them are so tedious that I find myself avoiding doing them at all. I came up with a plan to address both of these problems.

My 10-Minute Tasks are just that: tasks that are broken down so that I can complete each one in only 10 minutes. Additionally, I've set it up so that I can't conveniently skip over the tasks I don't feel like doing. Here's why:

I wrote each task (I chose to write 30 of them, so they run on a monthly basis) on a slip of paper (pretty scrapbook paper, by the way! I thought it might add a little cheer to the drudgery), folded it up and put it in a bowl. Each day I pick a piece of paper from the bowl and see what task I've drawn for the day.

I have to tell you, there is something...exciting (?) about picking from the bowl. You know, the whole, "Gee, I wonder which one I'm going to get today?" I know, I'm easily thrilled. ;) But, it takes the whole decision-making process out of the equation. For me, that's often what holds me back from doing things that need doing. I waste so much time debating what I should clean, that I lose all motivation and time (two things that are in seriously short supply to begin with) to do it once I decide on something. This way, I pick it and I do it. Luck of the draw. Eventually, everything in the bowl will be picked and therefore, done.

The second thing that makes it work is the 10-minute limit. I know it's only for 10 minutes--who can't stick with something for 10 measly minutes? But, even more important, I wrote the tasks in such a way that I know the job is one that can be completed in 10 minutes. I hate the feeling of working on something and feeling like I'm not making any headway. The jobs that look the same 10 minutes later as they did when I first started. I like instant gratification. I want to feel accomplished and I want to be able to say, "That's finished for another month."

Now, regarding the 10-minute limit, I tell you this: use a timer! I've done these tasks with a timer and I've done them without. The timer is the way to go. That "tick tick tick" really gets me focused and moving. It's like having your Mom stand over you while doing a chore. Being "watched" makes you do a better job. You can't mess around or dilly-dally because you are on the clock. When I don't set a timer, I sometimes get sidetracked, pause to get a drink, or whatever. I tell myself, "Well, I can always start my 10 minutes over again," if I feel like I haven't used my time wisely. But the thing is, I don't have the time to start over again, nor do I want to -- so I don't and the task doesn't get completed.

So, in summary:

1. Keep the tasks manageable (baby steps). Even small tasks, done consistently, will make a huge difference in the cleanliness and order of your home.

2. Do that task and only that task, for 10 minutes.

3. Set a timer!

Let's say you're having an off day and don't finish the task in the 10-minute allotment. That's okay. You are that much closer to having it done. And 10 minutes toward its completion is better than no minutes at all, right? Take comfort in knowing that the task will show up again in the bowl next month. ;)

Thought you might like a peek at a partial list of my 10-minute tasks:

*Clean silverware drawer (I'm always finding specks of this and that in the wooden divider we have in there. For some reason, this drawer is a crumb receptacle)

*Clean out purse (it's where my receipts go to die. I have had receipts in my purse dating back months! I also have a knack for carrying around pens that don't work and old lip gloss)

*Use tool to vacuum room edges (I vacuum every other day, but I rarely get the narrow attachment out to do the crevice where the carpet meets the wall)

*Clean/organize top of bedroom dresser (a spot where random things gather)

*Wipe down the tiled kitchen back splash

*Clean stove burners

*Organize spices, toss old ones or ones I haven't used in ages (even if I did pay almost $9 for that organic candied ginger -- I used it once and didn't care for it at all. So, rather than rummaging around it, out it goes!)

*Wipe down the inside of the freezer

*Vacuum couch

*Declutter/organize kitchen junk drawer (Sure, there are organizing gurus that will tell you there is no reason to have a junk drawer since everything in your home should have its designated place. For the most part, I would agree. But, I do keep a junk drawer of misc. stuff we use regularly: batteries, tape, paper clips, rubber bands, pens/pencils, etc. However, I do keep little boxes and baskets in that drawer to group like items. So, in essence, it is a tidy junk drawer)

*Clean exterior and interior of washing machine and dryer (I run a hot water/bleach cycle in the washer and use my special brushes to clean the vents for the dryer)

*Declutter/organize linen closet (I have seriously pared down the number of bath towels and bed sheets we own, which makes this task much easier. No matter how many times I clean out the linen closet, I always find newly expired medicines, sunscreens, and other items I couldn't bring myself to toss the previous month, but now I am ready to say goodbye to)

*Wipe down banisters (ours our white, so they show the dirt/grease from the sometimes grubby little hands of our little ones)

*Shred old documents

*Put articles into page protectors and file into binders (I have an insane number of pages printed off the internet regarding information/ideas I want to be able to refer to without turning on the computer. I have binders for the following categories: Homeschooling; Homemaking/Decorating; Faith; Crafts/Sewing; Health/Beauty; Inspirational Poems, Quotes & Articles; Kids; Family Travel; Scrapbooking; Gift Ideas; Christmas; Other Holidays; Feed the Freezer; SCD recipes

*Wipe down the fronts of kitchen cabinets

*Clean glass on front and back door

*Clean kitchen window, take down curtain and shake it out/spray with linen spray and rehang. When the mood strikes, I actually wash the window curtain.

*Wash shower curtain and plastic liner (the taking down and the putting up takes 10 minutes. The actual wash time is longer: run a short cycle in the washing machine on hot)

*Wipe down baseboards (we live in a small house, so in 10 minutes I can do the baseboards downstairs, the next month I'll do the ones upstairs)

*Sweep back porch

*Clean around kitchen sink (I wrap a rag around the end of a butter knife and run it along the edge where the sink meets the kitchen counter. The nasty gunk that accumulates there is astonishing!)

*Organize (as in refold clothes to keep and put aside clothes that are outgrown, stained/looking too worn) Roo & Rascal's dressers

*Wipe down exterior of refrigerator (don't forget the top)

*Wipe down tops of door frames ("out of sight" really is "out of mind" on this one. I went a long time without doing this one until one day I noticed the top of the one in the bathroom had some fuzzy humid-dust on it. Yikes! I immediately went around the house wiping them all down. I couldn't believe I had overlooked this one for so long)

*Fold and re-stack fabric stash in the craft room (the added benefit of this one is coming across fabric I had forgotten about and feeling newly inspired to use it!)

*Choose 1 drawer of the scrapbooking dresser to organize. Purge old/unwanted items and move new ones I want to try to the top of my scrapping table.

Well, if anyone is still reading this, "Thank you" and I think that's all I have for today! I'm off to "haven" my home! :)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Eeney Meeney Miney Mo...

Rascal is teething. Or, shall I say, has been teething for 5 months or so now. To offer him some relief, I scoured the Internet for some earth-friendly/child-friendly teething toys. I amassed a small collection, each with its own texture. Here's a sampling:

The wooden piece on the left is a purchase that my husband will never let me live down. He proceeds to tell anyone who visits our home that I paid $20 for a tiny hunk of wood for our son to slobber over. I am quick to point out that:

a.) it's a handcrafted, heirloom-to-be from an organic, non-pesticide sprayed tree that lived in the yard of some hardworking American family.
b.) our son gnaws on it every single day (or at least he did until about the third day when the novelty wore off).
c.) it is not just a "tiny hunk of wood," as it has been hollowed out and filled with dried lentils or something like that. Thus, it is a teether and a rattle. Take that, dear husband!

Next to the treasured piece of wood is a teether (clutch toy, I think they call it) from Haba. The only time our son touches this one is to toss it out of his way as he crawls across the room.

The bunny teething blanket is from Under the Nile. It's organic cotton and has knotted ends to chew on. I bought it for Rascal after I noticed that he seemed to prefer gumming cloth items (his sleeves, my shirt collar when I would hold him to burp after feeding, etc.). I was hoping it would become his "lovey" of sorts. I really wanted him to like this teether. Our daughter never attached to a portable, inanimate object when she was a baby. *I* was her lovey! :) And I was ever so happy to fulfill that role. But, since Rascal is such a high-needs infant, I thought it would be nice to have a backup lovey, for when I can't be right there. It was a nice thought. And it's not for lack of trying on my part. I push that bunny into his hands/mouth every time Rascal fusses. No dice. You might be saying that maybe my son feels pressured by me to accept the bunny. Let me clarify: I don't really "push" it, as I wrote above. I "offer" it until he has no choice but to hold it himself. Oh, I jest! This boy is as stubborn as they come and he knows what he likes. Bunny isn't it.

The item on the far right is known as Sophie the Giraffe. I had heard many, many good things about Sophie from my attachment parenting group and on Buying it was a no-brainer. Surely, 116 favorable customer reviews couldn't steer me wrong. Right? Well, let's just say that Rascal's 3 1/2 year old sister Roo enjoys having a giraffe join her for tea parties. The only time Sophie sees the light of day is when Roo plucks her out of the heap of unused teethers.

So what, you might ask, does Rascal chew on? Check out Exhibit B, below:

That's a measuring cup from the dollar store and a plastic syringe from Roo's doctor kit.

From now on, I'll just skip the pricey, recommended "must haves" and shop at the dollar store for any cheap, Made in China plastic I can find. Again, I jest. If I keep offering him that bunny, he's bound to accept sooner or later!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Post-St. Patrick's Day Post

I had some grandiose, memory-making ideas for St. Patrick's Day this year. Unfortunately, none of them came to fruition. Apparently, the luck of the Irish was not ours yesterday. Instead, we had a day that redefined my previous understanding of chaos. So, in lieu of a jam-packed day of leprechauns and pots of gold, I present to you the Shamrock Pretzel. One day late. Courtesy of one of my favorite magazines, Family Fun.

Despite appearances to the contrary, they are cooked. It certainly doesn't qualify as a culinary masterpiece, as we are strictly talking refrigerated breadsticks, cinnamon, and colored sugar. But, Roo enjoyed sprinkling the cinnamon and sugar, and doing her fair share of sampling after they came out of the oven. So, if she's happy, then so am I.

We also made a few pretzels in the traditional shape because pretzels actually have a historical significance relating to Lent. The Parenting Passageway linked to an interesting article regarding the pretzel and Lent. An excerpt:

"According to pretzel maker Snyder’s of Hanover, a young monk in the early 600s in Italy was preparing a special Lenten bread of water, flour and salt. To remind his brother monks that Lent was a time of prayer, he rolled the bread dough in strips and then shaped each strip in the form of crossed arms, mimicking the then popular prayer position of folding one’s arms over each other on the chest. "

So, our "crossed arms" version of the St. Patty's pretzel:

Maybe next year I can incorporate the many St. Patrick's ideas rattling around in my head. But, for this year, I will concentrate my energy on Easter, as it is fast approaching! In an upcoming post, I will be writing about some non conventional Easter basket items, sure to thrill your little ones and guaranteed not to rot their pearly whites!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook

Visit Peggy's site for the links to more reflections!

FOR TODAY: March 16, 2009...

Outside my window..."There are tracks in the snow. Who made the tracks? Where do they go?" :) Those lines pop into my head every single time I read the line, "Outside my window." The book "Tracks in the Snow" permanently resides in our winter reading basket, so it's getting a lot of face time, and its words are never far from my mind apparently.

But, thankfully my real answer has nothing to do with tracks in the snow. There is not a speck of the white stuff on the ground. It's sunny and supposed to be near 70 degrees today. A great day to open the windows and let in a Spring-is-near breeze!

I am thinking... I need to be disciplined about going to bed earlier. As much as I want to get a number of things done after the kids are asleep, I need to remember that my sleep should be a priority. It makes for a much better day when I feel rested (or as rested as one can be after hourly wakings from our littlest little!).

I am thankful sister. She is coming over this afternoon to watch the children for a couple of hours while I get some work accomplished around the house. Or maybe I'll just take a shower and a nap instead??!!

From the kitchen...Chicken Cordon Bleu (before my husband eats all the honey ham and I'll have none left to stuff inside the chicken!), buttered egg noodles, green beans.

I am pants (seems to be my standard on Mondays), white top, cream-colored cardigan sweater, black/grey flecked socks

I am creating... a tentative Easter weekend plan: menu, activities, Good Friday and Easter Sunday mass attendance, Easter basket ideas, projects around the house that need doing before entertaining guests.

I am reading..."You're Going to Do What?! Helping You Understand the Homeschool Decision" Of course, I already understand the decision, but I'm thinking my family and in-laws will need help coming to terms with our choice.

I am firm up some Lenten resolves. I slacked a bit over the weekend. Only a few weeks left and I want to finish strong. And then, who knows, maybe continue my "sacrifices" beyond Easter? Something to think on...

I am hearing...the churning of the washing machine and the hum of the dryer.

Around the house...the toys seem to have multiplied overnight. I think it's time to put some away in the attic for the time being. The kids won't miss them and they'll be like new again when I unveil them in a month or two!

One of my favorite things...early morning cuddles in bed with my little baby under one arm and my big baby under the other arm.

A few plans for the rest of the week: special crafts and music for St. Patty's Day, another appointment at Children's Hospital, scanning cookbooks for Easter menu ideas.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...tulips coming up in the garden. Oh, how I love tulips!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Random Bits of Happy

I'm a simple gal. It doesn't take much to bring a smile to my face. Little things. Little bits of sunshine scattered throughout my day. It could be the smell of coffee brewing (even though I don't drink coffee, I love the smell), putting on warm socks fresh from the dryer, or my daughter handing me "the most best rock" she's ever seen. All of these things make my soul feel just a little bit lighter. The little random bits that make my day brighter.

I've been trying to be more conscious of all the goodness surrounding my place in this world. Often, this array of wonder and delight presents itself in the smallest ways. Ways so unassuming and seemingly insignificant, that you'd miss them if you weren't taking the time to slow down and notice. So, that's what posts under this label, "Snippets of Sunshine," are all about: the little things that give me pause, make me smile, fill my soul with sunshine. The little things that are part of my daily round and could easily be overlooked and forgotten--if I hadn't taken the time to note them here! ;)

Today's little random bit of "happy" I'm going to share is just that: little and happy. Specifically, little push pins with happy pictures on them:

I found them here on Etsy. I also picked up several decorated lightswitch plate covers and outlet covers in the Elegance, Owl, and the Grateful tree design:

Our playroom colors are pale yellow and apple green, so this cover looks lovely in there. (Not that you can tell from my picture...sorry. Must have taken a breath at the exact moment of clicking -- it's a bit blurry. Of course, that doesn't explain the poor lighting, does it? ;) Hmm...oh well. It's cute and it has trees on it. You get the idea!)

So, that's where I found my snippet of sunshine today. Where's yours? :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Blocks + Rocks = Good Times

So, I have been on a quest of sorts, to weed out most of the plastic and electronic toys taking up space in the playroom. I love the look and feel of toys made from wood and cloth. I'd much rather hear sound effects coming from the mouth and mind of my child than some high-tech toy. Plus, I have better things to spend our money on than AA batteries!

When I saw tree blocks popping up on all the natural toy sites I visited, I thought, "Wow. I need those." Okay, maybe "need" is a strong word, but I wanted them very, very much. Which, to me, bumps them up automatically to 'need' status.

The price tag, however, was not what I had in mind for something that I can find just outside my back door. They are, essentially, tree trunks and branches cut up into small chunks.

So, I looked at our Christmas tree laying out in the backyard, awaiting recycling. What better way to recycle our tree than turn it into tree blocks? With saw in hand, my husband dutifully cut the trunk per my specifications (read: random sizes). I left them outside in the sun for several days and then brought them in. I was worried they would be all sticky and sappy, but they were dry. An added bonus, they have that freshly-cut Christmas tree smell! I didn't even need to sand them down before handing them to the children.

Coupled with a bag of river rocks that I picked up at
Michael's, I had a nice little building set that fit two crucial criteria: all-natural and cheap!

I later added to the building set with these unfinished blocks. They are great because they are solid wood and come in their own storage case. In fact, putting them all back into the wooden storage box is a puzzle in itself. (Confession: the first time we unpacked the Melissa and Doug blocks, I actually took a picture of each layer of blocks, to refer to as we put them all back in the box they came in. But after seeing my husband and daughter put them back in random fashion one day, I realized there are multiple ways of fitting them back in. Sometimes my adherence to order and perfectionism clouds my common sense).

Each time the kids pull these out, I am guaranteed a few quiet moments to myself. Although, now that Rascal has discovered his ability to heave heavy objects through the air, I might have to put these on a higher shelf until he can acquire some self-restraint!

Rascal poised with rock in hand...
He loves to smash things. Is this some inherent boy trait??

Monday, March 9, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook

Visit Peggy's site for the links to more reflections

FOR TODAY: March 9, 2009...

Outside my window... a gray, overcast morning. So unlike this past weekend, which was so sunny and spring-like. The heat actually kicked on this morning. We haven't felt the blast of warm air from the vents for almost a week.

I am thinking... I'm going to have to save this post as a draft, because there is no way I can finish it in one sitting: Rascal is getting into all kinds of mischief this morning as I type. Just living up to his name, I guess! ;)

I am thankful for... the specialty cocoa from Williams Sonoma that I'm drinking right now. It was a gift from a dear friend who shares my love for the chocolate brew.

From the's Monday, so that means Breakfast Night for dinner. I believe in starting my week off easy!

I am wearing... cozy black sweatpants, plum colored thermal top, fuzzy socks.

I am creating... a new menu plan to put into the rotation. I'm ready to say so long to the hearty (and sometimes heavy) casseroles and stews and hello to some lighter fare: salads, sandwiches.

I am run to the store once Mark comes home from work and I have the car. We have run out of staples: organic yogurt, fruit, and milk, some juice, coconut oil, and mini marshmallows for my cocoa (yes, I consider that a staple!).

I am reading...the new magazine put out by the Food Network.

I am attend a communal reconciliation service at church this week. No, change "hoping" to "definitely going." I have been avoiding going to confession for, well, far too long.
I need to go and I know I'll be so glad afterward.

I am of my favorite songs on the radio: "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles.

Around the house...we spent so much time outside enjoying the weather yesterday that I slacked on some homecaring duties. So, I need to get caught up today. I'm thinking: laundry, pick up downstairs, and wipe down/polish the dining table (on top of the usual Monday cleaning duties: changing linens on the beds, open windows and air out the house, wash bath mats and towels).

One of my favorite things...watching the birds splashing around in the bird bath (the sun has just poked its head out of the clouds, so it's warming up in a hurry. Guess it's bathtime!).

A few plans for the rest of the week: following up with my son's specialist regarding the pathology reports we've been waiting on since last Tuesday. Hoping and praying for good news.

I'm also hoping to tweak our daily schedule now that the weather is more cooperative.

Here is picture thought I am buds on our tree!

Friday, March 6, 2009


Since I will be filling the pages of this blog with stories about our family and the way we spend our days, I thought it would be helpful to give you a little background information on who we are!

Ce: Let's start with me. I am in my mid-thirties and have always felt like I was born a few decades too late. Minus the freshly pressed dress and the high heels, I am a housewife of the 50's. Although, I prefer the term "homemaker" rather than "housewife." Because everything I do is geared toward making our house a home. The "make" part is very important. A home that is a haven doesn't just happen. It has to be made. Although a dated concept to some, I love the idea of being the keeper of the home. Taking care of my husband and my children makes me happy. I have never been career-driven. Rather, I am a homebody who strives to make our home peaceful, cozy, clutter-free (but lived in), and a feast for the senses: good smells coming from the kitchen, soft sheets on the beds, laughter lilting through the air, fresh artwork on the walls (some created by the kids, some by me, and some picked up along the way), warm arms wrapped around the ones you love. Homemaking is my career.

While I may be old-fashioned when it comes to my home, I'm more modern when it pertains to my children. Some would go as far as to say that I'm a little "granola" or unconventional. I'm not sure what "label" fits me, so I don't really use one. I just do what feels right in my heart. So far, that has meant: drug-free childbirth with a midwife, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, extended breastfeeding, attachment parenting, and homeschooling. Basically, if my child cries (assuming I'm not right there, which I usually am), I go to her/him and pick them up. Instead of TV, we read and focus on imaginative play or art. I don't believe we have to physically dominate our children in order to get the behavior we desire from them (and who says that our desires are more valid than their wants and needs anyway? I'm certainly not a doormat when it comes to my children, but I think it's a question worth throwing out there). Basically, I try to put myself in the shoes of my children on a daily basis. This is especially important on "those days" -- the whiny, difficult, tantrum-filled days. If the roles were reversed and I was the child, how would I want the adults in my life to respond to me right now? Once I get my answer, I try to do exactly that for my children (if possible).

Hobbies/Interests: my family, my faith, scrapbooking, sewing, organic foods, alternative medicine, browsing Etsy, visiting bookstores, napping, sipping cocoa, making lists (carrying them out is another matter entirely), collecting recipes (but never trying them), and watching sappy romantic comedies.

So, that's a little bit about me! :)

Mark: My beloved husband of nearly seven years. He is pretty much the yin to my yang. While I am hot-headed, he is nearly always on an even keel. He is respectful, kind, and very funny. His blue eyes and dimples shine every day. I admire him as a person. He has been through some extremely challenging circumstances, yet he still finds reasons aplenty to laugh and enjoy life.

Hobbies/Interests: anything computer-related, remote control cars. Oh, by the way, he's in his mid-thirties too. Lest you think, based on his hobbies/interests, that he's only 18. :)

Roo/Boo: Roo is what I call our daughter. Boo is what my husband calls her. No, we didn't set out to have cutesy, rhyming nicknames for our sweet girl. I'm not even exactly sure how they came about. Maybe the Roo thing is from the baby kangaroo character from Winnie the Pooh. Which is strange because, while I don't have anything against Winnie the Pooh, it is not a beloved story from my youth or even a story or theme we've introduced our daughter to yet. So, hmmm...not sure why I call her Roo. I sort of wish I had an amusing little anecdote regarding her nickname, but I do not. At the very least, I could follow it up with a clever anecdote regarding my husband's fondness for calling her Boo. But, alas, I don't have one for that either. Neither one of us recalls the origins of Boo, but we know it goes way back. Well, as way back as it can go, as she is only 3 1/2 years old! She seems too good to be true. A really cool, creative, compassionate, smart, hilarious kid. She's been the center of my world since the day she arrived. She has to share that center with her brother now, but she does so willingly and with a happy heart!

Additional monikers include: Sweets, Lovebug, Baby girl, Roosie, and My Love. However, for clarity's sake, I will just refer to her by one name: Roo. I wouldn't want any readers out there wondering why a multitude of children keep appearing out of nowhere.

Hobbies/Interests: being read to, helping me in the kitchen, bugs, going to the park (swings are her fave), being dramatic, entertaining her little brother, and building mountains out of couch cushions and throw pillows.

Rascal/Buddy: Our son just turned 9 months old today. He is a big 9 months. Wearing 18 months when it comes to clothes and pushing 24 pounds. His sister didn't reach 24 pounds until she was about 2 years old. His big sister calls him "Mr. Bud." My husband and I both call him Buddy. It isn't a nickname I'm fond of, but it has stuck. I also call him Rascal, as that sounds so much nicer than "Trouble." This boy has never met an outlet, open door, or staircase he didn't like. It is indescribable how different he has been as a baby than his sister was at his age. For one thing, he is just now outgrowing the colic the docs told us would be gone 6 months ago. He can throw an Oscar-worthy tantrum. His cry can be heard within a 6-block radius of our house. He is all or nothing. How goes that old nursery rhyme? "When (s)he was good, (s)he was very very good. And when (s)he was bad, (s)he was horrid." Something like that. But, that being said, you will think God opened up the heavens and shone the brightest light the world has ever seen when this boy smiles! "Lights up a room" comes to mind. When he's happy, he's one of the most jovial people you'll know.

Other monikers: Little Man, Little Boy Blue, Cuddlebug, Moose, Meatball (Roo is long and lean, thus she is the Spaghetti to our roly, poly Meatball). We try to shy away from nicknames referring to his generous size, so Moose and Meatball aren't uttered very often. We certainly don't want to make the fella self-conscious!

Hobbies/Interests: insomnia, finding mischief, knocking down towers built by his sister, chewing and drooling, laughing, and learning to walk.

So, that concludes the introductions. Hopefully you feel like you know us a little bit better as you spend your time here reading about our adventures in daily living! Thank you for stopping by!

From the craft room...

This week I cleared the clutter from my craft room long enough to get some sewing accomplished. These were just two of many projects in my head that I've been longing to do.

The first was a cloth fabric ball filled with jingle bells for my son. Since he chews on everything, I would feel better if he slobbered on something I made myself: thereby knowing where it's been, what it's made of, and who's handled it. Squishable wool and cotton seemed just about right.

Now, I've never been what one would call detail-oriented when it comes to crafting. I almost never pin, measure, or follow directions (unless I'm attempting a technique/style/etc. that's brand new to me). Normally, I know I'm at point A and I have a rough idea of what I want point B to resemble. I plunge into a project and hope for the best. Am I the only one who thinks sewing pattern instructions are completely foreign, written by someone who has never even looked at a sewing machine, let alone sewn anything?!?
I find I'm much more successful if I make it up as I go, or ask an experienced sewer (why does that look like I am talking about a drainage pipe that carries away waste? I mean the other kind: one who sews, a seamstress). As a result of making up my own directions, my seam-ripper has gotten quite the workout over the years and my husband's tag-line every time I start a project is: "I'm predicting tears" {As in crying--boy, conveying intent is really difficult in writing, isn't it? First it was sewer vs. sewer, now it's tears (sobbing) vs. tears (as in rip apart)}. Anyway, I usually end up huffing, sighing in exasperation, muttering about how I will never sew again, and, yes, sometimes crying when something doesn't turn out as I envisioned.

Well, how hard could it be to make a ball? I looked at a couple online tutorials, saw their templates, and forged ahead. I wasn't sure if there was some sort of mathematical component to the template, so I just drew a "petal" shape and made six of them. I wasn't at all sure if the ball would turn out round or more like a football. I got this:

Which definitely resembles the round variety, so I am pleased. :)

I also got to work on sewing a slipcover for a hideous pillow that came with our couch when we bought it. With our son toddling all over the house, we need to cover the fireplace hearth (which is tiled) with something soft to break the inevitable falls soon to come. If there's one thing I've learned about kids, it's that they naturally gravitate toward all things dangerous, inappropriate, or something you've neglected to childproof. When our daughter was in that just-starting-to-walk stage, we covered the hearth with an ugly, albeit functional, egg-crate/foam mattress pad thingy. We taped it down on the hearth with clear packing tape. Hair and dust would collect in the tiny little egg carton "holes." Oh yeah. It was a beautiful sight, my friends. Beautiful. Martha Stewart would have been proud of that decorative display of form meets function.

So this time around, I decided to go with large throw pillows. The first cover is finished, except I still need to stitch around all the appliques (which I adhered with Heat'n'Bond lite) with the sewing machine. This will give it staying power when I wash it and also help it withstand the picking/rubbing/tracing of little fingers. I have a kind of tree, twig, natural, outdoorsy theme going on the main level of our home. I love owls and birds (which I understand are "hot" right now). But, I've always had a thing for them. Honestly, I think it's an inherited trait from my Grandma C. She had a forest right behind her house in New Jersey. Her feeders nourished countless birds, squirrels, chipmunks...most of them "regulars" with names and unique personalities. I was always amazed at her ability to tell them apart, because to me they were always "those brown birds" or "that pretty black and yellow one." But, I've come a long way since then and even have my eye on this book to help me learn more.

But, back to sewing! Here is the newest slipcovered pillow:

I have a couple other ideas for the remaining pillows I'd like to cover. We'll see what snippets of time I can steal in the coming weeks to get those finished. Hey, at least it's not a foam, egg-crate mattress pad full of hair and dust, right??

Monday, March 2, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook

Visit Peggy's site for more Daybook reflections

FOR TODAY: March 2, 2009...

Outside my window...I hear the birds chirping, as I'm sure they are wondering where their breakfast is -- the feeder is empty! Must get Hubs to fill it, pronto! The sun is so bright today that it actually makes me squint when I look out our south window.

I am thinking...of the errands I need to run since my husband is home today and I can have our only car.

I am thankful for... the opportunity to sleep in today while the kids played with Daddy downstairs.

From the kitchen...Turkey tenderloin marinating in a creamy dijon sauce, roasted potatoes, green beans.

I am and white flannel PJ pants (even though it's already 10:30 am! *Gasp* But, like I said, I slept in today!!), white thermal top, socks.

I am creating... a list in my head of the little projects I'd like to accomplish this afternoon, after all the running around is through.

I am the store to pick up some even bigger girl underwear for my daughter (she is always telling me that the 2T/3T ones are too tight).

I am reading...last month's issue of Southern Living magazine.

I am hoping...that all goes smoothly tomorrow: my son is having a procedure tomorrow morning at Children's Hospital. Family is coming to stay with our daughter here at our home while my husband and I will be staying close to our son's side.

I am daughter saying she is "just like a little Mommy" as she sweeps up the mess she made cutting paper and pom-poms in the living room.

Around the house...laundry is beckoning. Specifically, the cloth diaper wipes.

One of my favorite things...hearing the little conversation my daughter carries on with herself as she plays.

A few plans for the rest of the week: laying low after we get back from Children's. But also getting outside as much as possible, as the week is supposed to be lovely!

Here is picture thought I am sharing... You've got to love Playmobil!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Little Slice of "Haven"

I made this cake two times in two weeks. The first time was for my sister's birthday. She saw the recipe somewhere and thought it would be a good one to try. Initially, I was not convinced. Looking over the recipe, I wasn't sure where the flavor would come from, as the cake is basically eggs, flour, milk (heavy cream and sour cream), and vanilla. Plus, as a woman who knows and loves her chocolate, I am suspicious of any birthday cake that does not list chocolate as a primary ingredient. But, boy was I wrong! This cake is delish! Light, fluffy, sweet, creamy...just heavenly! I made it again yesterday for some dear friends who were coming over. It did not disappoint. I sent some home with them, as I did not need a lot of extra cake sitting around begging to be eaten! [Pictured above: Yes, there is an indent in the frosting that is curiously shaped like a fingertip. I sampled some frosting before deciding to snap a photo!] If you are looking for a light but decadent dessert, perhaps this would satisfy:
Tres Leches Cake
Cake ingredients:
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/2 pint (8 oz) heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup toasted coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square or round pan.
Beat eggs in mixer until frothy. While mixer is running, pour in sugar and beat until mixture becomes thick and pale yellow. This takes about 5 minutes.
In separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Keeping mixer on low, add water and vanilla to egg mixture. Then, gradually, begin to add the flour mixture. Mix just until batter is smooth. Do not overmix.
Bake 20-25 minutes. Cake is ready when it begins to pull away from sides of pan and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
While cake is cooling, mix sauce ingredients together and set aside. Once cake has cooled, take a fork and poke holes all over top of cake. Pour sauce over entire cake, cover and refrigerate until most of sauce has been absorbed. This takes at least a couple of hours, but I let it sit overnight.
Then whip frosting ingredients until stiff peaks form. Frost chilled cake and top with toasted coconut right before serving. Grab a fork and dig in!!