Friday, September 20, 2013

the view from here

The Man lost his two front teeth on a hot summer afternoon a month or so ago.  Since then, he's been terribly insistent that we not take pictures of him smiling.  So, while he was working away, I tried my darnedest to snap a photo of him.  He was hard at work when he heard the cl-click of my camera and then he saw me slyly holding it, pointed in his direction.  Three words, folks, he. freaked. out.  "No! Mom, don't take my picture!"  I kindly put it down and took out the remote.  He noticed but didn't object.  So, when I started snapping again, I caught a glimpse of a half-smile, half-WHAT-ON-EARTH-ARE-YOU-DOING?! face.  He's tried ever since to thieve my camera and delete said photo(s).  Lucky for me, they're downloaded to my laptop and the rest is history.

Tell me, please, why a mama can't have a picture of her favorite son missing his toofies?  OK, so he's the only son.  Is there any harm in it really?  'Course not.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

while i'm here

We have some special friends in Albania.  Although I wish we could've spent more time with them, we had the opportunity to enjoy them while they were here.  

Well, Miss Ellie is a big fan of frogs.  And it just so happens we've been finding little frogs on our windows (in at least two rooms!) every night.  Not on the inside of course, but on the outside and from having the lights on, they are feasting on the tastiest tiny moths and other bugs attracted by the light.  (I guess moths are tasty - to frogs.)

Since I'm here and had a minute, I thought I'd post these for you Ellie!  Plus a couple others, not of frogs though.

I tried my best to get some shots of these guys in action grabbing a bug or two but, I couldn't.  So, here's what I did get...

One of him (or her?) climbing up to get a moth.

Excuse the dirty windows!  I'm finding windows don't stay clean long in Illinois
because the wind is always blowing stuff on them, ugh!
Not to mention climbing frogs!

Oh boy, a close up!  Look at those suction-y toes!

And a praying mantis (that was actually hanging upside down from the roof but, 
for easier viewing, I rotated the photo.)

Lastly, a cicada.  I found him quietly enjoying the sunrise one morning.  
He's a strange looking guy!  Ha!  Looks like he has whiskers!

Hope you're enjoying your adventureous new life in Albania!

life is a whirlwind

I always catch a bunch of flack for never being here.  Well, truth be told, I am extremely busy at the moment.  Thankyouverymuch.  I take homeschooling tremendously serious.  We have a routine down and while not every day is peaches and cream, the bad ones aren't horrific either.  So, here's a rundown of what else you've missed...

1.  Partying.  We hosted a "potato digging party" where we, along with lots of friends, dug seven 30 foot rows of potatoes.

Is this a southern thing, you ask?  This potato digging party?  Well, no.  No, it's not.  It was the idea of a friend.  We served hot dogs and drinks while they brought sides and desserts.  We dug potatoes, we ate, we shared the starchy treasure.  Everyone was happy.  

2.  Potatoes.  We've been processing potatoes.  Seems our friends weren't all that experienced in the potato digging department and we missed the memo that said "Instruct before you send the laborers into the field".  So, there were quite a few cut potatoes.   As in, we have 20+ pounds of shredded hash browns sitting in our freezer alone.  Friends took some cut potatoes too, so who knows how many there were!

3.  Cleaning.  Homeschool takes half my day, at least, and then, there's cleaning.  Who wants to do it?  Yeah, me neither but, somebody has to.  So, that gets done here and there and on the weekends now.

4.  Extra-curricular activities.  Miss K does sports through the school she attends for Spanish.  Then, there's 4-H.

5.  Apples.  We are blessed with an apple and a pear tree here and so, that's next on my long list of daunting tasks.

6.  Rhubarb.  It sits on the edge of the garden waiting to be harvested, processed and packaged into the freezer, then, later, made into strawberry-rhubarb jam.  We finished round one earlier in the summer.  Round two awaits.

7.  Furniture.  There's a bookshelf and a desk in the garage, ever so patiently waiting to be primed and painted but, I have yet to find the time to get that done.

8.  Freezer.  We finally found a nice gently used freezer on Craigslist to store our harvest in and so, of course that took the trip to get, clean and move into the basement.

9.  Sofa.  We've decided that the best option for our school room slash craft room slash guest room is a sofa.  Not just any sofa but, one of the pull-out bed sort.  One that Miss K has big plans to lounge on while she reads.  I have the feeling she's going to claim it as her own!  Therefore, we're on the hunt for the perfect couch for our cozy little space.

10.  Birthday.  The Man is coming upon his seventh birthday and we're planning a fun little weenie roast-bonfire type deal.  He wants to go big on the food.  He's a food snob as Handsome Husband would call it.  We all are in this household.  Anyway, that's in the makings.

11.  Sewing.  Yes, it's done!  Miss D should've received her package yesterday.  Goodies for the ladies' retreat special speakers have arrived!  While I was working on those (and I can't specify exactly what because it's a surprise!) I decided that I wanted to venture into making some cloth napkins.  I hate paper napkins and you just buy them and keep buying them over and over and the landfills all choke on trash daily.  So, why not go green and switch over.  Which leads to #12...

12.  Cloth Napkins.  I've begun.  I've sewn 2 complete napkins.  Then, I ran out of the coordinating thread!  So, I had to stop and haven't found the time yet to pick them back up.  It'll get done.  Slowly but, surely!

I guess that's it.

Oh golly!  How could I forget?!

13.  Tomatoes.  We have hoards of tomatoes coming in.  I haven't the time to can them at the moment and so, my plan is to blanch them, freeze them, process later!

Might I add, I was so excited all of my Cherokee Purple tomatoes made it!  They taste the best too.  The Mortgage Lifters were fine, just not as good.  

Alright, the bed calls.  My eyelids are growing heavy and it's sadly only 9:33.  No joke y'all.  It's a sad, sad life I live, I tell ya.  wink.

Friday, September 6, 2013

homeschool and beef stew?

I know I've talked a bit lately about the homeschool roller coaster.  Well, I want to update you on how that's all going...FANTASTIC!  We have a morning routine down and so far, things are moving along well with no hiccups to mention.  Everyone has fallen into this routine so well, I can hardly believe we're doing this, making it happen, conquering the fears of homeschool.  In another post, I'll go into details about the books we've chosen and what we're using.
A while back (like a few months ago!) I was asked if we'd made anything out of the Pioneer Woman's cookbooks.  Well, I'd just received them before we left for our "Summer Tour" and I think I'd made maybe one recipe...salsa.  Since then, we've been enthusiastically tackling recipe after glorious recipe. 

Tonight was no different.  While the weather's hovered around 90, we giggled at the thought of eating beef stew! 

I ran out late this afternoon to get some groceries and items we needed for science experiments and when I arrived home it was near 3:30.  The meat needed to cook for 2 hours!  I thought we were seriously dead meat!  snort.  Although I ended up shortening the time by a half hour, it was still so rich and tender!  It's a keeper! 

Look out fall!  We're comin' with guns a blazin'!

We've also tried...

We've been making these for years.  Need I say they're good?

Make-Ahead Muffin Melts
The kids weren't fans and Handsome Husband and myself thought they were just OK.  I'm not a hater.  You, my friend, might love them!

Basic Chicken Salad
Miss K and I loved this!  The men folk weren't too kind to it but, the man did at least try it.

Restaurant-Style Salsa
Mmmm, favored by all!

Quesadillas de Camarones
a.k.a. Shrimp Quesadillas.  Oh Lord help me!  This is my favorite Mexican meal in the world!  And so, I love it and Handsome Husband is fond of it too.  I think?

Spicy Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork
We already have a favorite pulled pork recipe and so it's an unfair competition.  My kids aren't too fond of lots of spice so, sorry, our fave wins.  It's still good though!

 Beef Stew
'Nough said already.

Whiskey-Glazed Carrots
Oh yum!  We do like these. And yes, the whiskey is necessary.  They're good!

Macaroni and Cheese
The man isn't fond of this because he's hooked on box mac'n'cheese...I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.  I love this, it takes me back.  It's comfort food.

PW's Creamy Mashed Potatoes
These are so creamy and good.  We could live off these.

Strawberry Shortcake Cake
This is good too.  But read further...

Coffee Cream Cake
This is the man's absolute favorite and it's a crowd pleaser even if you don't love coffee.  I've been told this more than once.  The man asks for Coffee Cream Cake every week.  Serious y'all.

Coffee Ice Cream
Dear God, this is the best thing on earth.  Can you please serve it in heaven?  Miss K asks for this almost weekly.  P, we have to make Coffee Ice Cream when you come.

Chocolate Sheet Cake
You'll absolutely perish if you don't eat at least 3 spoonfuls (or more) of this icing.  One of Miss K's friends told me she hates icing but, she wants this for her birthday!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

ma' plate's full

There are but mere minutes before the crew of 5 arrive to hang out for a bit whilst their mother accomplishes needed shopping for a large yearly fundraiser.  I've let my two sleep in.  School will start on Tuesday and they've been up early in training for our new schedule.

My plate feels quite full but, I am managing to keep the butterflies and craziness from creeping in.  Taking each day as it comes and checking off tasks here and there.

It's funny how God steps in, taking over and orchestrating things as he sees fit.  For instance, I felt that house cleaning had taken a back seat and I'd fallen behind on my cleaning duties.  Yesterday after breakfast, I received word that the appraiser would be coming at 3:00.  I was already in cleaning mode but, I rallied the troops, gave them the pep talk and we combed the place, having it almost completely finished by 11am.  I didn't worry about what lay undone.  I took Miss K + 3 to Spanish, purchased a used book shelf, caught up with friends and after lunch, we resumed.  It was all done before Mr. Appraiser arrived, with time to spare.

Homeschool stuff is just about ready and it's not the lingering book or two that has yet to arrive that worries me.  No, it's the calendar.  My weekly schedule does not have each block filled in.  I know what we're doing and some of it lays empty because the books have just arrived but, I yearn to see things on paper.  To have a guide, even if it's not set. in. stone.  Plus, there's just the fear of the unknown.  Remember, we're new to this but, I'm high on the homeschooling roller coaster!

Groceries.  Tomorrow is grocery shopping day.  I've finally figured out the menu for the month and the long list of rations we'll need to make it through.  Now, just to do it!  Check that one off.

Tomorrow's the first day of the Fall Festival.  This is a big deal.  Our church's ladies' group puts on a bake sale for the Fall Festival and it's their only fundraiser for the entire year.  Since, it's the end of the month and I have yet to get groceries, well, I have yet to start my baking.

Then, there's the ladies' retreat in mid-September.  We have a lot of, lot of things going on and then, there's my cousin's wedding in October.  So, I wish I could but, ladies, I won't be there for the retreat.  I know Miss D always thinks I'm gonna surprise her and show up, and one of these days I will.  Anyway, I have special gifts to make for the guest speakers but, here, all my fabric lay. 

It makes me anxious.  The date is quickly approaching and this stuff needs get done and shipped by mid-month.  I'll get to it after the weekend.  And as soon as homeschool is under control.  Eek!  The world is closing on me!

There is so much more...benches to polyurethane, a desk that needs to be refinished, a book shelf to sand and paint, drawers to line, etc. etc.  You get the point.  So many things.  Too much to write.  They will all be accomplished.  In good time.  But that doesn't change the fact that they are on my plate.  And the plate's feelin' full y'all.

Now to get to some of my list...

Monday, August 19, 2013


There's lots on my agenda today.  Tonight's the third Monday meal at church and I have brownies, a cake, 4 dozen rolls and a cheesy potato casserole to make.  This morning, I got up after I just couldn't take it anymore.  Daisy whined for an hour and I was determined that I was not going to give in to this morning ritual that starts right after Handsome Husband leaves.  She was not going to control me.  There are days when I wish we had no animals.  Whatsoever.  I'm feeling grumpy from head to toe.

More homeschool books should arrive today and I'm praying that they all get here before our actual start date which is currently unknown.  I thought maybe we could start when public school started here but, I'm not sure that it's possible to start without your books and such.  Looking like it'll be after Labor Day which makes me a little frantic because that just seems like centuries away and not "normal".

I like normal.  I like boring.  I like routine.  Have I ever mentioned that?  Yes, I live a fantastic mundane life.  No worries.  I like it that way.  So, when the rest of the world is starting school towards the end of August, I want to too.  I'll get over it, sooner or later.  I do worry though, that our children will hate homeschool. With a passion.  And I worry that I will hate homeschool.  With a passion.  

Worries aside, I am determined that we will not hate homeschool.  Determined.

Friday, August 16, 2013

just a few things on friday...

The weather couldn't be any better.  For the last week, we've had our windows open and it's been in the 70's.  Maybe for once, just once, this feels like God's country.  

I sit quietly at this desk inside of our breezy, warm kitchen.  Everything is peaceful and pleasant but, just an hour ago, the kitchen was booming with 8 small mouths to feed, chatter and laughter flowing in every direction around a nine foot table.

Last night, we hosted half the W brood while the Mr. & Mrs. went on a little getaway and it's quite a time when they're here.  Legos, ships, cars, cards, and girl talk can be found all over the house.  We enjoy these times when kick-the-can lasts forever, freeze pops flow abundantly from the fridge as the night closes in and dirty little toes scurry towards the bathtub at dusk.

Miss K and the man headed over to the neighbors after the lunch flurry was over and everyone'd gone home.  The neighbors cat had kittens and it's the talk of the neighborhood.  Luckily, the neighborhood kids play well together and they've spent plenty of time holding these tiny mewing babes as they first begin to open their eyes.

There's a trickle of homeschool materials slowly arriving and we're so excited to open packages, scour through and place them lovingly on a shelf until time to actually use them!  This new adventure is finally becoming more and more of a reality.  Fear has up and left (least for now) and thrill sinks into our hearts and minds.  I have a couple more books to order but, other than that, we're ready.  Miss K is also signed up to take Spanish at a local Christian school, allowing her to participate in sports there.

Anyone looking for Miss K, please note her electronic privileges have been taken but she'll be back on soon.  Oh, and P, I totally forgot to send you vacations photos!  Loading them now!  I didn't pull out my camera til the end of the week, so there aren't many photos but, here're a couple of my favorites...

Have a great weekend!

Monday, August 12, 2013

ya thunk i'd up & left, did ya?

Not knowing I needed, and would, I took the summer off from blogging.  A hiatus of sorts.  Time to wade through heavy issues like homeschooling, a month of "vacation", blogger photo issues (which seem to be resolved, praise GOD!) and an unexpected trip back.  We've spent lots of time in the pool, on bikes and with friends.  It's all coming to a close as I make final decisions on homeschooling curricula and the littles spend their last week and a half surrounding themselves with their bestest of besties.  (At least those here in IL.)

With that being said, I'll try to pack in as many photos as possible because you know how I love a photo-filled post.  wink wink.

So, when I mentioned homeschool did you shake your head in disbelief?  I've ridden a roller coaster of emotions for the last 3 months - complete terror, peace, and brain-riddling confusion.  I've always said I wasn't the homeschooling type but, to sacrifice for the greater good, I. AM. HOMESCHOOLING.  There, I said it!  It's been the range of curricula that has sent my head spinning.  So much to choose from, so many different avenues.

Ever watch "Children of the Corn"?  Sorry, I had to.

Don't try that at home!  Ya can't tell dangerous non-helmet wearin' boys nothin'!

After visiting with a friend and seeing her homeschooling "library", hearing her homeschooling stories and encouragement I felt better.  She's seen it all and done it all.  Well, almost!  Friend gave me direction and the kids were able to look through and get a feel for the materials they had to choose from.  Yes, homeschool is about choice.  A blessing and a curse if you ask me...because I'm indecisive.

I learned some things, Miss K is happiest with classical style's the lesson; the work; do it.  She's very independent and creative.  I can't wait to see how this year goes for her.  The man, oh the man.  I worry about this guy.  He's bull-headed and he's going through a whining phase.  Did I mention he's got me wrapped around his finger?  It's true.  He's the one I might lose sleep over.  Such is life.

So, I never finished our Summer Tour series.  I have more pictures (not as many as I wish I had) but I'll get to it.  Slowly but surely.  Just a little caught up in the thick of things right now.  Who ever said "summer is for relaxing" was crazy!  Our summer has been a flurry of kids in and out of the house; up and down the roads we go, burnin' rubber; trying lots of new recipes; soaking up rays by the pool and finding inexpensive summer fun.  It's been good, it's been fun but, I'll be glad when we find our groove and settle in to a new routine.

We were sooooo excited to host some visitors last week.  Some our best friends from home were here. And although their stay was way too short and hindered by an out-of-the-blue migraine, we made the best of it.  Kids romped all over the yard and into the cornfields.  (Yes, a lecture followed on how unsafe that is.  Luckily, bigger kids teamed up and looked out for the littles and everyone came home safely.)  We ate like kings and queens, making a breakfast feast of homemade waffles with caramel syrup and local maple syrup, sausage, breafas luvin' muffins, and tons of fruit.  Poor Thelma could barely eat due to her aching head but, we ended on a high note Wednesday night with Uncle T's famous ribs.  The next day, we followed them south to the third leg of their trip.  That's where we had the opportunity to take the girls and do a little before school shopping at the outlet mall.  Woohoo, yay for a girls day and the perfect way to end our time together!

No, the man did not go shopping!  He seems to be somewhat of a mama's boy and he wanted to ride with the girls, while Thelma drove her car with the rest of the boys.

Fall promises more visitors and we're gearing up for them as well.  Lord I pray, by then, we'll have a routine down and they'll all get to see more of the kids since they won't be "away" at school.  There's also an opportunity to help out with the ladies retreat back home.  Miss Debbie and I laughed about my title of "emeritus" to their creative group since moving.  That's OK, I'm excited to get to work on their project soon.

Alright, it's late and I just wanted to pop in, say I'm still here and I'll see ya around.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

summer tour - week one (wagner berry farm)

Week One was officially over.  We spent our week in TN with cousins.  SIL had a special outing planned to Wagner Berry Farm where our main focus would be strawberries and rasperries.  Unfortunately, the raspberry patch wasn't open just yet but, we still had time to seek out some tasty strawberries.

Photos for Instagram were a must.

And who could resist jumping the rows?
Light saber moments... 

The girls shared special time together.
And then it was time to head home.

dinner grits

Well, I've held off as long as I could.  Blogger has completely frazzled my patience for blogging.  See, I've been having this ongoing problem {meaning every single post} with posting photos.  It's a long story but, if you know me well, you know I despise a photo-less post.

Now, we spent 4 weeks on the road and are finally recovering.  We had the best time but, to be completely honest, it was exhausting.  We were so excited to see all our family and friends though.

Despite my loathing of photo-less posts, this is one on those.  Prepare yourself.  While in TN, visiting my SIL and her awesome family, I finally learned to make dinner grits. {swoon}  OK, I see the look of doubt on your face, I feel the scorn in your eyes but, for anyone skeptical of grits - dinner grits - please see this as a totally amazing sister to mashed potatoes.  And yes, I know, grits are made of corn and potatoes are, well, potatoes.  Stay with me here!  I would totally give up potatoes vs. grits any day!  Well, maybe.

{For seven people, Miss TN doubled the recipe.}

Dinner Grits
3/4 cups grits
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (or half & half)
1 1/2 cups milk
2/3 cup onion
1 clove garlic

Saute onion in butter.  Add liquids and cook on medium heat until heated and frothy but not boiling.  Pour grits into pan, stirring continuously.  Cook 5 min. or more until grits reach desired thickness.  Season as desired with salt, pepper, garlic, etc.

See how simple that was?  I've converted at least a handful of skeptical grits eaters since!  Why wasn't this one of the first things I ever learned to cook?  So easy!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

be back soon

Hey there!  I'll be back soon.  We're "on tour" and loving every minute of it.  We'll catch back up this weekend.  Promise.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

three on thursday.

1. I'm finding myself a little sentimental today.  Not wanting to go.  Not wanting to leave.  Handsome Husband.  The dogs.  The garden.  Who will care for them?  Who will feed them and water them?  Clean up after and love them?  I know Handsome Husband can fend for himself.  I always worry about the dogs.  I typed up a long agenda stating how to care for them, about their personalities, how their vaccinations and rabies are up-to-date.  I even ordered new dog tags because all the others have our old address.  This'll be the first time we've left them since we brought them back at Christmas and while our "caretakers" have dogs, nothing cures my worry.  And the garden, isn't it silly?  I worry that the plants will need water, that I won't be there to see the first blooms, their first fruits, that the tomatoes will go nuts before I get back.  Oh it's silly, I know.
2. I want to finish sewing projects, can the remaining rhubarb and strawberries into jam, make sure the house is spotless.  I am so ADHD, ADD, obsessive compulsive.  I don't know what I am, I just know I'm one of them.

3. Most of our things are packed.  Although, I'm fighting off the urge to call our vacation rental agency and ask our agent, Demetra with her lovely Carolina accent and raspy voice, ten thousand questions.  And then pack ten thousand and one more things.  I'm an avid over-packer and there are things I want to bring from home (Virginia home) when we return here to the cornfields of Illinois.  Cookbooks, muck boots.  Oh how I love, love, love muck boots.  We have a list and I'm sure we'll find more and more to pack into every little nook and cranny.  In any case, I'm just looking forward to familiar ol' faces and sinking my toes in the sand.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Father's Day ideas and printables

We'll soon be leaving for our "summer tour".  So, we needed to prepare our Father's Day gifts a couple weeks ahead of time.  I hope you fathers aren't looking!!!!
We found some great ideas on Pinterest and came up with a few of our own.  We didn't use some of the printables, but they are available and listed below.
We put Handsome Husband's pack together for under $20... 
1.  Orbit gum - $2 {for a 3-pk., Wal-Mart}
2.  Pistachios (printable from LizzeJane Baby) - $6 {Aldi}
3.  Favorite candies (printable from artsy-fartsy mama) - $4.50 {Aldi, Wal-Mart}
4. Cream Soda -  $3.50 {Wal-Mart}
5. Reese's Pieces (printables available from Nothing but Country and also Kids, Clutter, & Chaos) - $1 {Wal-Mart}  

 And under $10 for the infamous Pop Pop... 
1. Bucket of microwaveable popcorn - $1 {Wal-Mart} filled with goodies, of course...
2. Peanuts  (printable from LizzieJane Baby) - $ 1.50 {Wal-Mart}
3. Root Beer (with printables from iheartnaptime and Delightfully Noted) - $3.50 {Wal-Mart}
4. Cowtails (Not pictured) - You're the moooost best Pop Pop!
(I don't know why my photo with the numbers won't load up.  Grrrrr.)
There are still a few things left to get and some that are unmentioned.  I can't divulge all the secrets for the sake of sneaky eyes that might lurk here.  Happy father's day shopping!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

six on saturday

1.  We've had storms here all week and yes, it's been crrrraaaazy!  On the other hand, the corn has taken off...(and so has our garden!)

2.  Handsome Husband found two bird eggs today.  One in the garden.  One along the edge of the pines.  I carried this one around for quite a while.  What for?  I'll never know.  And yes, that's a nasty cut I have there, huh?  Eeew.

3.  We I pulled weeds in 12 rows of strawberries.  The man did more talking and playing with bugs, spiders and worms than anything.  Miss K came at the end to help with a couple rows.
4.  Handsome Husband put temporary caging around our squash, cabbage and lettuce to keep out the bunnies.  I opted for all-the-way-around perimeter fencing to keep out the dogs, bunnies, squirrels, what-have-you, but he said no.  I still like my idea better.
5.  We have potatoes folks.  Seven glorious rows.  SEVEN.
6.  I'm reading this.  It's not inspiring, spiritual, or non-fiction.  I needed a summer read that wasn't serious.  This one's ok.  (I picked it up for a quarter at a thrift shop.)  It shares stories about many different couples, situations, and how they all come together in a beach house in Nantucket where one lady is threatening to lose said house and so she decides to rent out rooms.  The stories are eh...a married man who figures out he's gay; a guy who starts a romance with his boss - whose married; a woman whose husband cheated on her and so she divorces him.  See what I mean?  Not exactly what I was looking for or thought it'd turn out to be but, we'll see how it ends.