Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Eye of the (Holiday) Storm

After the rush of holiday activity, we've had a day or two of quiet; but tomorrow we have friends coming over for Neeyosh Kooka and potluck soup. And of course it will probably get late-- although we've been known to go to bed at midnight every night EXCEPT New Year's Eve. I guess our thinking is that we want to start the new year out right with a good night's sleep for once.

And now you probably want to know what Neeyosh Kooka are. Literally, the name means "New Year's Cookies." They are actually what I would call raisin doughnuts, or fritters, or some such thing: a soft, sweet, yeast dough with lots of raisins in it, spoonfuls of it deep fried, and rolled in sugar. Traditionally, they're a special treat for New Year's Day. My recipe was begged from the woman who used to make them to sell at our local annual MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) sale, so they are GOOD. One New Year's Day we had friends over and the guys got into an eating contest over the course of the afternoon, and I think the winner ate something like 27 of them!

So that's what's coming tomorrow, and I hope to get the floors mopped and the Christmas clutter picked up by then. And you know what? I think I'm going to get a head start on my year, and go to bed early TONIGHT!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas-- His, Mine, and Ours

We've been celebrating Christmas for several days now. LovelyDaughter and JD traveled to Oklahoma to visit his family for Christmas, so we planned to have Christmas at our house on Saturday. So Christmas Day at our house I finally put up our Christmas decorations (!!!), and we invited our friends Swede and MandoNut over for Christmas supper. I put a turkey in the electric roaster, and made mashed potatoes, giblet gravy (which I am very proud of, because it turned out WONDERFUL), green beans with mushrooms, tweiback, and pumpkin pie; and we had cranberry sauce on the side. It was very good-- I love it when the food turns out great.

The day after Christmas, Hubby and I went shopping to finish off our Christmas list. The newlyweds got home that afternoon, and in the evening we prepared for Christmas.

Our traditional celebration is based on what Hubby grew up with. On the night before Christmas, we set the table with our nicest tablecloth and good dishes. Each person puts a clean bandana over their plate, and hangs a sock on the back of their chair.

After the kids are asleep, Hubby and I put the gifts--unwrapped-- on the plates, covered by the bandanas, and fill the stockings. I fill the stockings with the ordinary stuff--candy, dried fruit, other little goodies-- but our twist is that we use pistachios and tangerines, instead of the traditional peanuts and oranges and apples.

In the morning, we gather around the table and take turns emptying our stockings and uncovering our gifts. Then we eat our traditional Christmas breakfast: Golden Grahams!

After we eat, then we all go sit by the woodstove, and read the Christmas story, and then the kids give their gifts to each other.

This year, after our own little celebration we went to Hubby's folks' house for ham and verenike, and a gift exchange, with the rest of the family.

We don't always do both gatherings on the same day, but often we do, and we did this year. So yesterday was a long day, particularly since this year I was up at 6:30 to make four pies and a batch of bread before the kids were up!

This is very different from Christmas with my family when I was growing up.

On Christmas Eve, my mom and dad and brother and I went to my dad's side of the family for a potluck supper. I don't remember any particular traditional food, except I remember that one aunt used to often bring something called "Green Rice," a dish made of rice, and cheese, and broccoli, and I always liked it. After the meal we all migrated to the church for the Christmas Eve service (Grandpa was the pastor of the church) and after that we trooped back to the house for gift-opening. We drove home late, in the dark, the streets lit up by Christmas lights. My brother and I used to watch for our favorite houses.

Early the next day, my family drove across town in the dark morning to my mom's parents' house, past all the Christmas lights again, to open gifts before breakfast, and find apples and nuts and peanuts and candy-- and sometimes money-- in our stockings. Later in the day we had the full traditional turkey dinner, starting with Grandpa's special punch, and concluding with pumpkin and mince pies.

I treasure my childhood memories; I treasure the memories I have made for my children. I'm looking forward to making memories for grandchildren. Every year it gets better.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More Menus... We Like Food, Yes?

My new menu plans have been successful, so I want to share some more with you. Or, at least, I want to put them in a nice official-looking format so I can be impressed with myself, and also, find them later when I'm in that absolutely-no-clue-what-to-cook mood again.

Here we go, picking up where I left off, with what I actually cooked last week (some of it was planned, some of it was not):

Chicken Soup with Rice (using leftover chicken from earlier)
Fruit Salad

Black Bean Soup
Chicken Quesadillas
Green Salad
Chocolate Chip Cookies

Leftover lentil soup (doctored up so it tasted a little different)

Potato Chowder
Deviled Eggs
Leftover canned fruit
Green Salad
Chocolate Chip Cookies

Fried Eggs

(At a friend's house)
Ham and Bean Soup (she made)
Fresh whole wheat tweiback (I made)
Rice Krispy confection bars (another friend made)

Leftover Ham and Bean Soup (she sent us home leftovers!)
Fruit (I can't remember exactly what)

Black Beans and Rice (made from leftover bean soup)
Toasted tortillas with Guacamole
Green salad

Ham and Parmesan Frittata
Lima Beans
Hot cinnamon apples

Baked Ham
Layered mashed potatoes (made with both white and sweet potatoes)
Fresh tweiback
Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Ham sandwiches
Layered Mashed Potatoes
Lima Beans
Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

(okay, this was a lazy meal)
Biscuits and Gravy
(that's it-- no vegetable, no dessert)

Some of those menus might not sound very notable, however, I'd like you to know that I ran out of groceries for my planned menus Thursday night. I was supposed to go shopping on Thursday to replenish and be able to make the rest of the week's menus, but for various reasons, mostly involving the weather, I didn't make it out of the house, and still haven't due to other reasons, mostly involving car troubles. Now are you impressed? I made it four whole days past what I'd planned for!

However, tomorrow I absolutely MUST get to the grocery store. There is a limit to what I can make out of what's hanging around. Pretty soon you get to the end of what's hanging around!

So now, what's planned for the rest of the week? I have no idea. (Oh wait. That's not what I'm supposed to say.)

Actually, I do have a plan, but I think I'll wait and post after the fact. It feels more credible to myself to account for what I've already done, than to post high-falutin' menus that may or not actually come off.

As I said, tomorrow I have to bundle up, and commandeer a vehicle, and get to the grocery store, pronto, and another reason why is that I promised to make dinner at noon for Hubby's folks, so they will have a meal waiting when they get home from BigCity. Hubby's dad had a pacemaker installed today-- yes, TODAY, as in The Day Before Christmas Eve (originally it was scheduled for Christmas Eve, so he at least now has an extra day to rest up before we celebrate Christmas on Saturday)-- and he gets released tomorrow.

It's interesting that after the surgery, he felt better than he had before the surgery. Makes me want to start pricing pacemakers for Hubby.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Welcome To The Pickin'

Here are some photos, courtesy of DrummerDude, of our time at the Pickin' last weekend. Every year our friend Stef hosts a Christmas party and invites all his friends to dig out their guitars, voices, fiddles and what-have-you and come join in the fun.

Here we are getting started. That's Stef on the mandolin, the host of the Pickin'. That's his log cabin house we're in. And that's his daughter on the left, getting ready to play the guitar. There's me, standing with my violin, next to Hubby sitting down with his bass. And you can see GuitarGeek too. He's the one Stef is looking at, but all you can see is his frizzy ponytail. He's playing electric guitar.

There's MB3 in the back, by the stairs. Do you see him? He's the one in the black shirt. Also, another of Stef's children: the boy with the violin in the lower right.

The kid with the stand up bass is Stef's son, and he's incredible to watch play. Only a few weeks ago they took away his box he always stood on because he finally grew tall enough to play without it.

Here I am with Hubby, showing off my five-string violin.

Here I am actually playing my five-string violin.

GuitarGeek watching the mandolin player.

The whole group. You can see Hubby on the left with his huge acoustic bass guitar under his arm.

Stef, on the mandolin.

Me, watching for my solo.

Banjo player leading a song.

Dobro solo. (Oh, and there's Stef's wife, standing by the Christmas tree, wearing a light green shirt.)

The evening winding down. Most of the audience had gone home by this time, but the musicians just didn't want to quit. Except for GuitarGeek who was upstairs giving guitar lessons, or, as he put it, pouring years worth of music theory into the poor boy's head in one hour.

When we got ready to leave (at around 1 am) we noticed the wind had picked up and it was snowing lightly. We had to laugh because before we left home we had told ourselves that THIS year we wouldn't have to drive home in a snowstorm, the weather was so clear. HA.

It WAS better than sometimes though-- no snowdrifts. And no worship team responsibilities in the morning.

We can't wait till next time.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Care to Join my Pity Party?

I just finished watching this video, and I'm crying, because I don't have a circle of friends like that, and I never have. I wonder-- would life have been easier in some ways if I had?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

There is Hope

I first heard this song a few days ago at FrogAndToadAreStillFriends, and it has haunted me ever since.

(I haven't figured this thing out quite yet, so if you don't see a song here, and you want to hear the one I'm talking about, type in "Santa Will Find You" by Mindy Smith.)

Even though the song says "Santa will find you," in my own mind, it's not about Santa. It's about the longing we all have to be noticed and loved, especially this time of year. It's a promise that you will be found, you will be loved, because you can't be missed.

Why do I believe that? Because God is as nice as Santa.


From Psalm 139:

1O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
2You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar...

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?...

11If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,"
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

See? God sees us, he knows us. Even when we feel like it's too dark around us for us to be seen, God sees us in full daylight. We are never too lost, too dark, too hopeless for God to find us, to see us, to love us.

From Romans 8:
38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

She's Back!

Yay! Antique Mommy has reinstated her blog. Go here to read her latest.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chocolate Box (without the chocolates)

Just a quick update:

--I have sewed seven shopping bags so far. Two for gifts, one for DrummerDude to use as a tote bag for his thermoses for work, leaving me four to use. Plus I have bought quite a bit more fabric to make more, since Walmart is getting out of selling fabric and had lots of stuff on clearance. And I'm starting to get in the habit of actually TAKING with me, and USING them.

--Saturday night we went to the Baker family's annual Christmas "Pickins" and played music with a circle of other down home musicians till midnight. Got home at 3:00am. Youch. But oh so worth it.

--A week ago we were invited to a party/concert put on by a homeschooling family we met earlier this year when Hubby did some tree work for them. They have six children age nine and under, and the 2009 model is on the way. I was prepared to be politely enthusiastic at their little concert, but I ended up honestly enjoying it. It was a joy to see children being such hams. When our kids were that age and had to stand up on stage for a program they looked like they were in a coma. The world is full of different personalities, yes?

After the concert, we were served an enormous, tasty buffet of beef, pork, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, several kinds of soup, several kinds of salad, several kinds of cake, several kinds of pie, and cheese and crackers-- all made singlehandedly by that dear woman while pregnant and taking care of five children and a baby. Bless her heart!

--This week I went back to an old habit that had fallen out of use, which is to make menus. It is really taking a load of indecision and frustration and procrastination off my shoulders. I'm really happy with my inspiration this time: Every day at noon we are having soup with sandwiches and fruit. And every day for supper we are having a meat/side dish/vegetable/dessert meal. It's working very well.

Would you like to see? This is what I've actually made so far this week, and what's planned for supper tonight:

Butternut Bisque
Ham and Spinach on Whole Wheat
Canned Plums

Bangers and Mash
Fresh Cooked Spinach
Apple Crunch

Split Pea Soup with Ham
Bread and Jelly
Sliced Oranges and Apples

Baked Chicken Supreme with Rice
Green Beans
Tapioca Pudding

Lentil Soup
Oven-Toasted Open-Face Cheese Sandwiches
Banana-orange Yogurt

Pot Roast
Leafy Green Salad
Mud-From-The-Crik (Ice Cream Sundae Cake) with Ice Cream

--I have all my Christmas shopping done, except for one gift. That last one I went shopping for, but the store was out of stock. They thought they would get more before Christmas, so I'm waiting. I suppose I should have Plan B in mind, just in case, shouldn't I?

--Gotta go now and put the roast in the oven.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Encouragement and Blessings

Yesterday Hubby and I went out first thing to bid a couple of tree work jobs. At the second job, we met a friendly older couple and ended up in the house holding a very nice conversation. So nice, that they seemed reluctant to let us leave. (The feeling was mutual.) In fact, I think we just made some new friends, not just new business customers.

When we drove away we realized two things: one) we were already half way to a bigger town where we often do our shopping and we needed a couple things, and two) it was noon and our friend Swede lived close by. Does that add up to anything for you?

For us, it added up to "let's play hooky" and we dropped in at Swede's to call home and tell the young people to fend for themselves for dinner, and we took Swede out to eat. When the waitress brought us the bill, Swede snatched it away and insisted he wanted to bless us this time, even though the original intention had been the other way. It was not exactly unusual for Swede to do that, but coming this day, this time, affected me profoundly-- to tears.

After we'd done our shopping, we arrived home and I called a gal who had been planning to come pick up something from us. The day before I had told her, "sure, we'll be home all day." I was sure she'd be a little miffed at us, and I was prepared to apologize humbly for the change of plans, but instead, she was excited and encouraging about our day out and stayed a little while chatting.

Later, I opened the mail from the last two days and found a Christmas card from someone we had done work for this year, which in itself is unusual, since it's often the other way around: businesses send Christmas cards to their clients to thank them for their business. But this time WE got the card-- and in it was a gift certificate to a nice local restaurant!

I think God is trying to tell us something. Something like "You're okay. I like you." I'm encouraged. And blessed.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


I am honored to have been tagged awarded this awesome meme award!! Dear Ornery's Wife over at ThoughtsFromMillerManor (only one of several blogs she writes, by the way) has done it again and made my day. And I honestly mean that. It really chirks me up to be thought of, even for a meme. And really, I kind of like memes. Remember? I like filling out forms.

Which reminds me, I meant to tell you this: A while back we got sent a survey in the mail. It was a week's worth of log pages to tell what you watched on television, and when, and for how long. I threw it away because 1) it was addressed to Hubby and he hates filling out forms, and 2) we don't watch TV. We don't even own a television. I figured it wouldn't do much good to fill it out.

A couple weeks later, we got another one, which I threw away. A week later, we got ANOTHER one. I don't remember how many I threw away. Either two or three. But on the last one we got, I noticed that they were promising to send us $35 if we returned the survey, duly filled out. I don't know if they'd been promising that all along or not, but suddenly I realized, I could earn some money!

Long story short, every day that week I filled in the date at the top of the log page and checked the box at the bottom that said "I didn't watch television this week." Then I sent it in.

And whaddaya know? Not long after, I got an envelope in the mail with thirty-five dollars CASH in it. What could I do with $35 all my own that I earned myself?!

And THAT'S the story behind my pierced ears and my haircut!

ANYway. Back to my award--

Here are the rules:

When accepting this auspicious award, you must write a post bragging about it, including the name of the misguided soul who thinks you deserve such acclaim, and link back to said person so everyone knows he or she is real. Choose a minimum of 7 blogs that you find brilliant in content or design. Or improvise by including bloggers who have no idea who you are because you don’t have 7 friends. Show the 7 random victims’ names and links and leave them a harassing comment informing that they were prized with “Honest Weblog.” Well, there’s no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon. List at least ten honest things about yourself. Then, pass it on!


1. I'm still undecided about keeping my earrings. (Does that surprise you?) Right now, even though they're pretty, they're a pain-- my ears hurt, of course, it's been only a week and a half since I had them done; and, Hubby loves to touch my face and my ears, and now he can't, or if he forgets it hurts me; and, I'm not sleeping well at night because it hurts to lay on my side, right on the earrings (I have to cup my hand around my ear, and it's just not "right"). However, I'm trying to be patient. Surely once everything heals up, things will be back to normal. However, if not? Out the earrings go.

2. Plus, I always sort of prided myself on not being vain and worldly. I was about the only person I knew without earrings.

3. However, I loved the idea of having little sparklies that you just catch a glimpse of behind my long hair. Now I have no basis for being proud because I guess I'm as vain as the next woman.

4. If I can get started on a project early enough I do great, but as soon as it feels like the deadline is looming over my head I get paralyzed and have a very hard time getting it done. I was terribly afraid I would somehow drop the ball regarding LovelyDaughter's wedding because of that. Fortunately, we all managed to pull it off.

5. I don't like to go to doctors if I can help it. To quote Miss Marple from an Agatha Christie book, "I have had too much experience of life to believe in the infallibility of doctors. Some of them are clever men and some of them are not, and half the time the best of them don't know what is the matter with you. I have no truck with doctors and their medicines myself."

6. Plus, you have to have a spare thousand dollars laying around if you call in a medical professional. Which we usually don't.

7. I love playing violin on the worship team at church. Someday I'd like to maybe play in an orchestra again. Or a string quartet. Or a band. Since our family music sort of broke up, I'm missing it.

(Wow. TEN things? Um....)

8. I'm like Ornery's Wife, and I dislike (artificially) scented things. I think, actually, I'm somewhat allergic or something, because I get headaches from scented candles, perfumes, and anything from Bath & Bodyworks. Seriously? I even have to walk a wide berth around the Bath & Bodyworks store at the mall. (REAL scents don't bother me--pine, most flowers, fruit, grass....) Before I buy a new brand of shampoo, or deodorant, or anything, I have to smell it first, to make sure I can stand it. And the smell of Simple Green makes me throw up.

9. Speaking of allergic, I can't use artificial sweeteners, not that I even want to. I can tell within seconds of tasting if something has Sucralose in it. In fact, I had a run-in with that recently: I bought a large can of hot chocolate mix. Since it had been a long time since I had bought hot chocolate mix, I scanned the ingredient list quickly, saw that the first two ingredients were sugar and corn syrup solids, breathed a sigh of relief and bought it. I had a cup one day and I kept saying to myself, "This hot chocolate tastes strange. Oh well, must be because I haven't had any for a while and I'd forgotten how 'storebought' it tastes." The next day I had another cup, and I kept tasting that odd taste. Finally I said out loud, to no one in particular, "This tastes like it has artificial sweetener in it!" I grabbed the can to look at the ingredients again, and do you know what the very last ingredient was? Sucralose!

This is just so wrong in two ways. First of all, how can I taste that tiny amount, and why would it make my stomach turn? Secondly, if the mix is mostly sugar and corn syrup solids already, why do they need to put in any artificial sweetening at all? Grr.

10. I don't form habits easily. This is both good and bad. It means I don't have a lot of bad habits, except maybe picking at my face when I'm nervous, but it also means I have trouble forming good habits. Any wobble in my life completely resets my hard drive and I forget what I was doing. This is one reason why learning to follow the daily prayers is helpful to me. It's a good habit that builds my faith and starts a bit of a rhythm going. I hope I can keep it up.

And now, I'm awarding this to every one of you that is reading this right now. You are already one of the favored few (as GuitarGeek said at LovelyDaughter's small, exclusive wedding) and you deserve an award. Take it, and my blessings.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Facts about onions and knives

Interesting fact number 1: If you cut your finger while dicing onions, it hurts really, really bad. My theory is that you just introduced onion juice to an open wound; not a recommended practice.

Interesting fact number 2: Once that cut stops hurting, it seems to heal a lot faster than I remember knife cuts healing. My theory is that you introduced onion juice-- which I seem to recall is a natural antiseptic-- to an open wound. Perhaps something to keep in mind. (Maybe I should try onion juice on my newly-pierced ears...? Oh wait, maybe not. See number 1.)

Interesting fact number 3: Having a bandaid on the tip of one's finger is very inconvenient to typing on a computer keyboard. And fixing the increased typographical errors increases dramatically the time it takes to type something.

Interesting fact number 4: In spite of the unfortunate incident, the lasagna turned out wonderful.

Monday, December 1, 2008

On a Lighter Note

I totally stole this meme from It's Almost Naptime!! because it looked like fun, and also, she could have been writing about me when she said it was a sickness, but she loves filling in forms.

Also, I'm avoiding cleaning house and thinking about family troubles. What better way than by answering a lot of unnecessary questions?

So here you go:


1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both.

2. Real tree or Artificial? Definitely real. Then, after Christmas, we can have our little family tradition where we haul it out in the yard and pour gasoline on it. Gives new meaning to the song lyrics "light the Christmas tree."

3. When do you put up the tree? Oh, a week or two before Christmas.

4. When do you take the tree down? Usually about New Year's Day.

5. Do you like eggnog? No. It sort of makes me gag, for some reason.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? A box of homemade chocolate chip cookies.

7. Hardest person to buy for? My sons. They are not into wanting small junk. But the big, important, valuable things they like I can't afford.

8. Easiest person to buy for? My daughter. Earrings, and art supplies, and necklaces, and chocolate are cheaper than guns, and ammo, and sound gear, and motorcycle parts. Or computers, or camera lenses.

9. Do you have a nativity scene? One very tiny one.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Usually neither, but sometimes I send a newsletter.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Well, one year my ten year old son received a cool multi-tool that he had been really wanting; but it turned out to be a cheap chinese knock-off, and it broke in-- I'm not kidding-- the first TWO minutes of looking at it. He was so disappointed it broke my heart. That's the worst gift I've ever received. After all, if you love my kids, you love me. If you hurt my kids, your life is in danger. (kidding. sort of.)

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? I used to like the traditional Christmas specials, you know, Charlie Brown, the Grinch, Rudolph, Frosty. But somewhere along the line they've lost their sparkle.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? After Thanksgiving

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Not in a long time.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Date-filled cookies.

16. Lights on the tree? Absolutely, all of them clear.

17. Favorite Christmas songs? O Come O Come Emmanuel. What Child is This.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Stay home. We used to travel, but not much anymore.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers? Maybe.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Depends on the year. I've done both. I've also done a crown.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? First thing Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? Family tensions.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? gold and red and sparkly.

24. What do you want for Christmas this year? Dark chocolate. Any of the books on my wish list at Amazon, like the Divine Hours series by Phyllis Tickle. A gift card to buy some new clothes.

And I am tagging the following:

Ornery's Wife

Tomorrow, barring some new crisis, I hope to write about the lovely award that Ornery's Wife awarded me at her blog, ThoughtsFromMillerManor.