Monday, May 30, 2011

Teacher Appreciation Gift

In case anyone reading this still needs a Teacher’s Appreciation gift, here’s a simple, quick idea.

Wrapped Plants

I found this printable via a blog friend, Tiffani.

Grow Plants

I printed out three copies then trimmed the edges with pinking edge scissors. Don’t forget to have your preschooler write his name on the back.

Luke Writing

Luke and I headed to Lowe’s and he picked out three perfect plants for his preschool teachers (and told every Lowe’s employee who(m?) each plant was for.) When we got home, we picked out 12x12 scrapbook paper and ribbon to match. I placed the plant in the middle of the paper, gathered the paper up around it, letting it fold where it did. I secured the edges with little glue dots to hold the paper flat around the plant. I tied ribbon around the whole thing and it was done.

Luke carried all three plants in an old large cake pan to his preschool graduation.

Luke with Plants

The scrapbook paper is double-sided, which I think is nice since you can see the inside of the paper. Mine is from Stampin’ Up. The ribbon- Stampin’ Up or Papertrey Ink. If you don’t have scrapbook paper, you could wrap them in fabric, or burlap, like my friend, Angie, did for her son’s graduation open house. I loved how that looked!

No teacher is going to mind, however, if your cutie gives them this gift, no matter how wrapped!

Friday, May 27, 2011

It’s Been a While

So, it’s been a while since I’ve written on here. I’ll tell ya why.

  • Last weekend we went to Bill’s parents. The weather was super gorgeous so we spent the whole time outside riding motocycles, going for a run, swinging, taking pictures, talking, building a fire, relaxing. I will take 364 more days exactly like that.
  • I took a bunch of pictures and sort of like them. I got great smiles, etc. but the actual depth of field, aperture stuff isn’t quite right and I don’t know how to fix it yet. I need help. Photography help in this case.
  • I came home to soak and wash motorcycle clothes. Soak, as in soak, scrub with Fels-Naptha, and put on pre-wash/extra rinse mode. Why, oh why, did Bill have to buy WHITE riding pants?
  • It was the last week of lessons. The time to say good-bye. After the first lesson (7:00 a.m.), I realized I was going to probably be a wreck. I decided I wasn’t saying good-bye forever, just that they were going on summer break like usual. Except that summer break was going to last a long time. (This was a little trick I used when leaving my babies with Grandma when Bill and I got away- I put them down for a nap and then left. They were just napping the entire time.) It didn’t work. I cried a lot. I didn’t do a very good job saying good-bye.
  • Between Monday and Tuesday lessons I felt like I was having a mid-life crisis, except I’m not mid-life yet. I realized it was the nature of change. I don’t like it. I spent some time in the Word and God was so good to me. I’d like to write a post about it some time for you.
  • Tuesday was Luke’s preschool graduation. He wants to be a race car driver when he grows up. (No kidding!)
  • Wednesday was the last day of school. After spending 30 minutes in Ben’s class, my blood pressure was sky high. I am amazed he survived, though I know it was a hard year for him. I have LOTS of thoughts over this bit but don’t know that I’ll share.
  • Just three hours after the kids were home from school they were grounded to their rooms for a while. The weather, rainy and cold, had a lot to do with it.
  • Audrey went to the end of the year dance. No boys were involved. She looked pretty and had a good time.
  • Bill has had to be in the shop a lot this week and I miss him. I’ve grown accustomed to his face. (musical anyone?)
  • In light of my last blog post about time/discipline, I’ve put my own words into practice and have been more purposeful with my time, which meant I ran out of time to write on here. Which is also why haven’t fixed my blog header yet.
  • I sorted and boxed the school papers for the year. Of course I took pictures and will share with you how I do it.
  • I’ve got a breakfast talk for a state conference to put together. I think I’ll talk about time. Not time signatures, just time management. I’m getting good at that- talking about it.
  • Every year, once lessons are over, my creative energies come back. I’ve got a list a mile long of craft/decorating projects. This year, it is involving spray paint.
  • I hope to share with you some exciting news about Rosebud stuff but can’t yet. Because we haven’t been given an official okay. And that’s sort of driving Bill and I crazy!
  • Ball games. Cold ball games. End of May, bring your jacket and blankets cold.
  • It’s cousins day again. They were thirsty five minutes after walking in the door- no kidding.
  • I was hoping for a sunny day. Nope, cold and sort of rainy. I’ve got a craft project and another thing up my sleeve. Hopefully pictures and a post.
  • I’ve got at least 5 coffee dates that I’m overdue on!
  • We have three bird feeders and I spend a lot of time spying over my laptop at the birds and then trying to identify them in my field guide. I don’t like grackles. They hog the bird feeder and won’t let the other birds get near. Safflower seeds isn’t repelling them- though it is the other birds.
  • I’ve been sleeping in so I’m at least two hours behind.
  • etc.

Long and wordy for being out of time to write, right? So here’s a picture for you. It was supposed to be a silly face picture, but only Luke and Bill got the notice. And for the record, I had no idea Luke’s face could be so flat!

Flat Luke and Family

The real reason? ‘Cause I love this bunch and I’ve been spending time being with them or caring for them in some way and that just didn’t leave time for anything else.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Time in an Envelope

About 2 weeks ago Bill and I got a little growly at each other. You know what I mean- I think he’s not engaged with us, he thinks I’m all aloof. We had a little heart to heart- really, truly- we didn’t fight. We pulled each other aside and said What gives?! Come to find out, we were a little flexibilitied out. I know that isn’t a real word, but you get the idea. Our previous two weeks had entailed Easter, ball games, musical practices, extra cousin sitting and transporting, lessons, recital dress rehearsals, recitals, garage sales, funeral arrangements, Bible studies, going early, staying late, funeral, work, kids, teenagers, and probably more- we were wiped out.

In the course of our discussion, as we realized why we were feeling the way we were and that none of it was bad. But still, it had taken it’s toll. We had been working hard to maintain our family time, but in all our together time, we felt we had none. I think you know that feeling, also. How do you stop it? Can you stop it?

Several years ago, Bill and I took a financial course by Dave Ramsey called Financial Peace University. We loved it and would recommend it to everyone, but that’s not what this post is about. In the course, Dave has you plan a month’s budget and then use cash. He has an envelope system, which you designate for each area of your budget- groceries, household items, clothing, eating out, gifts, etc. Whatever you have in each envelope is yours to spend or save, etc. but it has to get you through the whole month. When you run out, you don’t spend any more. 

I told Bill we need to envelope system our time. We’ve got X amount of time for each item. If we spend our time and our envelope is empty, then we’re done. That area doesn’t get any more time. Sounds great, right?

But we’re talking about time, not as determinate a thing as money. In some ways, I really can say we’ve committed this amount of time towards this activity and after that we’re done. We need to draw that line more often because there are so many times where we can’t quantify how much time is needed. I couldn’t say to my mom, “Sorry, Mom, I’ve allotted 3 days for you. I realize you’re grieving so can you fit it all in in 3 days?” There has to be give and take.

So then I try to do it all, be all places at once, be the super hero. When I try to do that- I become super nothing. I’m left as a grouchy person, grumbling from one thing to the next. Yep, life is inconvenient. Dress rehearsals come at inopportune times, band concerts are hot and sweaty, baseball games are too early and too cold and there is never a convenient time for a funeral. My life- “so full it can seem empty”.

I love this quote in Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. “On every level of life, from housework to heights of prayer, in all judgment and efforts to get things done, hurry and impatience are sure marks of the amateur.” It just resonates with me. If my schedule is full up, how can I not be hurried and impatient? But I can’t just float around on some cloud, lilting out “I’m unhurried. I’m patient.” I’ve got to set limits. There’s not an envelope system in the world that can work perfectly for time. But I can figure out what matters most and I can say no to the for now lesser things.

So why do I write these things for you? Because there are so many distractions pulling at us. And more and more things to do. And opportunities to serve. And places to go, and books (and blogs) to read. I find as I talk to women, we are floundering in our time. We, ourselves, are not disciplined with our time. Or maybe we are but its with the wrong things. OR maybe it is the right things but we don’t know how to say enough is enough. And our families suffer for it- they are not disciplined either. And we are still left empty with wanting more to make it full. I have lived this way for a long time. I’m just now starting to change and I wanted to encourage you also.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Giant Blog Header

finger pointing from fairy graphics

image from The Graphics Fairy 

and, yeah, I don’t know how to change it to get it smaller…yet

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tomato Onion Phyllo Pizza

Do you need a knock-out, nobody-else-is-going-to-bring-this appetizer? Look no further. This is it.

Tomato Onion Phyllo Pizza

  • 5 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 7 sheets phyllo dough
  • 7 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 c. shredded mozzarella
  • 1 c. thinly sliced onion
  • 7-9 plum tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. minced fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme (or 1/4 tsp. dried)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Brush a 15”x10”x1” baking sheet with some butter. lay a sheet of phyllo in pan. (keep remaining dough lightly covered to prevent drying out). Brush dough with butter and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. Parmesan. Repeat layers five times.

Top with remaining dough, brush with remaining butter. Sprinkle with mozzarella; arrange onion and tomatoes over the cheese. Sprinkle with oregano, thyme, remaining Parmesan, salt and pepper.

Bake at 375o for 20-25 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Makes 28 slices

Tomato Onion Pizza

Phyllo dough is found in the freezer section and you need to let it thaw in the fridge before you use it. It’s super thin and can be frustrating to work with. This recipe is flexible. Just piece broken sheets together, if needed. No one is going to be inspecting the layers as they devour it.  If you use fresh Parmesan cheese and grate it yourself (highly recommended), go easy on the salt at the end, but still use it. Fresh Parmesan is quite salty. I use the finer shredded mozzarella, it melts finer- not big clumps. Slice your tomatoes and use the best, most even sized ones, not the smaller end pieces. The finished pieces look so much better. Make 7 rows of 4 slices a piece. (= 28 slices. Don’t let my brilliant math skills shy you away. You too can multiply!) I do not use 1 cup of sliced onions! I want the onion taste subtle. So I cut plenty and make sure they are super thin, but I add sparingly. Use fresh herbs if you can, but a even a combination of fresh and dried will work.

Salivate and enjoy!

Monday, May 16, 2011

An Adorable Janitor

I’ve got some pictures for ya. And a video. About a broom. And a pair of overalls. And a solo. Sung by a janitor. Who’s in 7th grade. In a musical. About a gangsta’.

okay, okay, I’ll try full sentences now.

The 7th grade chorus put on a musical, Bugsy Malone Jr., Friday night. Audrey’s part was a janitor named Fizzy, who just wanted an audition but she never got one. She was fabulous. The whole 7th grade chorus was fabulous. Want to hear?

Here are some pics. The first three are courtesy of “the director’s” mom, who was sitting in the front row. Thanks Christy.

Fizzy- I Was Born to be a Dancer

Fizzy- I Won't Take No

Fizzy- Shoe Shine

Bugsy Malone Cast

Fizzy- Post ProductionFizzy- Thumbs

I love this janitor. And now I can get my broom back. She’s been practicing with it down in her room.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Today, May 15, is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. In honor of such a yummy day and for your sake, I took step by step pictures of homemade biscotti. Oh yeah, I’m breaking the coffee shop secrets. First it was scones and now biscotti.

Biscotti is not hard to make. It does take a while as you bake them twice. In fact, I think that’s what biscotti means: twice baked. Whatever. They taste yummy and just like the scones, you’ll be so glad you made your own.

Chocolate Chip Biscotti

recipe from Williams-Sonoma: Cookies and Biscotti

  • 1/2 c. butter, at room temp.
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. instant espresso powder (I just use Folger’s regular instant)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 c. coarsely chopped walnuts (opt.)

Preheat oven to 325o. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Cream together butter, brown sugar, white sugar, and espresso powder until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, until light and fluffy. Sift together dry ingredients if you want or just dump all together into creamed mixture. Mix until combined. Add chocolate chips and walnuts.

Divide dough in half on baking sheets. Spread with spatula, forming logs about 3-4” wide and 3/4” thick. Bake until firm to the touch, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Transfer logs to cutting board and cut into 1/2” diagonal slices. Place each cookie on baking sheet, cut side down. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn over and bake another 10 minutes. Cool. Makes about 3 dozen.

Biscotti Blob

Parchment paper makes life easy. Go get yourself some.

Biscotti Mid Blob

Be patient as you shape the dough. It might take a while at first, but you’ll get there.

Biscotti Shaped

It’s not going to be perfect. Be okay with that.

Biscotti Oven

But as it bakes, it rounds out nicely. Also, remember what your mom and home ec teacher told you- don’t open the over door while it bakes. I risked my biscotti for this picture for you.Smile

Biscotti First Bake

It’s okay. Since you baked on parchment just lift the still slightly soft dough with a large pancake turner type spatula and transfer to cutting board.

Biscotti Cut

Cut the edges really slim and eat right away. Yum. Then cut the rest of the log into the regular size cookies. Careful- hot chocolate chips can burn.

Biscotti Second Bake

Think of the second baking more like toasting the cut edges. It may (or may not) help you wait patiently.

These biscotti are so yummy. I’ve never been able to find instant espresso powder so I’ve always used Folger’s regular instant coffee and it’s been just fine. I do not taste the coffee, but some do. The coffee along with the cinnamon add a nice depth of flavor. I never add walnuts. Not a nuts-in-my-chocolate chip cookies fan.

Enjoy!

Friday, May 13, 2011

I Write as I Wander

This is a little fun something I’m trying as part of the Blog Guidebook site I’m following. The linky party question is where do I blog from?

I write from lots of places in my house, but here are pictures of the two main places.

My dining room table.

Where I Blog- Table

My living room couch.

Where I Blog- Couch

I have a laptop that I do everything on and it travels wherever my extension cord can reach. I’ve blogged from the basement family room, my bedroom, the kitchen countertop, my mom’s living room, etc.

Where I have not blogged from yet: the kids’ rooms, the laundry/mud room, the garage, my piano studio, my husband’s office, outside. But let it be known, I will never blog from any bathroom. Winking smile

My blogging comes from just wanting to write about my family and our everyday life and includes everything from dirty laundry to tasty recipes to walks of faith to motorcycles to vacation slideshows to music. I’m all over the place with this blog and it’s a lot of fun!

Tell me, where do you blog or read my blog from?


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cousins Day May Be Getting A Little Out of Hand

It was cousins day here on Friday. The progression of photos follows who showed up over the afternoon.

DSC_0052DSC_0053DSC_0054DSC_0055DSC_0063DSC_0064

Rounded up here are the usual suspects (who can name that movie?) along with four neighbor kids who I watched just for the afternoon. That makes… 13. But then, since this is the obvious place to be, three more neighbor kids dropped by. 16. 16!! To get them to look at the camera, I had the say “Aunt Mindy’s Daycare!” Rolling on the floor laughing

THANK THE LORD it was sunny. I made them stay out all afternoon. We saw how many dandelions we could pick, sidewalk chalked, rode bikes, scooters, and roller blades up and down the sidewalk, played 4-square, took naps (well, the 3 youngest did), ate snacks, and at one point, I just laid down in the grass for a rest.

5:00 is when cousins day is over. You have to show up and take your kids. I even sent the three other neighbor kids packing. I think they were kind of surprised. One said he was still thirsty. I said, great, I bet your house has water, too.

The other neighbors? One guy left after his driveway (the turn around point) and surrounding sidewalk were clear. I think he went for a drink. The others hid their children inside locked doors. Laughing out loud

Excuse me, now. I have to go stock up on snacks again.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Look at Mother’s Day

I have been thinking about my Mother’s Day all morning long as I read through other blogger’s accounts of their day, their mothers they honor with words; gifts bestowed upon them. I wanted to say a bit more. My thoughts are a blend of reading One Thousand Gifts, unreal expectations, ungratefully received gifts, and life experience.

Moms want a day that magical. A day that’s perfect. You are allowed to sleep in until the aroma of a lovely breakfast and perfectly brewed hot coffee awakens you from slumber. Afterward, you are allowed to bathe and dress in privacy (for the entire time), immerging from your bedroom all aglow, ready to receive other innumerous gifts throughout the day. You will relax as your children play quietly and harmoniously at your feet while you recount stories and moral lessons to them and they attentively listen. You don’t dare lift a finger for meals or dishes or any other task for the day. This day is yours, dearest Mother. Rest yourself.

blah, blah, blegh!

I’ve been a Mom twelve years now and never once has this happened! My first Mother’s Day I had a terrible sinus infection and in my pictures with little Audrey I look horrible. But more than that, I’ve often blown all the little things that were given to me as tokens of love, affection and thoughtfulness because I had expectations.

What I didn’t tell you about was that there was arguing about who sat where for breakfast, complaining because so and so got a watch, but they didn’t, impatience because a birdfeeder wasn’t going up fast enough, church pants tucked inside of cowboy boots instead of being worn on the outside (fine if you are Dwight Yoakam, but we ain’t), chores done grudgingly, bad attitudes, no coffee ice cream, etc. That was part of my day!!!

Actually that’s a part of my day everyday! I could have ruined it. I could have sulked. I could have. I have done it before. I didn’t this time. I took away my expectations and I gave thanks all day long (even in the midst of almost grounding a child for the rest of their life!).  

And guess what? I still felt loved! The whole day! These are my kids. This is what kids do. This is what makes me a mom. Not just on one day in May, but every day, I just remembered especially today. I’m Mom and I am loved!  

 

Mother’s Day, 2011

I have three precious kids and I worked hard to enjoy them every moment today. I wanted them to feel loved on Mother’s Day as much as I felt from them.

Mother's Day 1

Ben had something special squirreled away from school to give to me. He couldn’t wait to give it to me. So when I walked out of my room this morning, he was up and told me to close my eyes. Then he handed me a giant handmade card! We worked on making breakfast together- bacon, scrambled eggs, coffee cake muffins, banana muffins, and fresh strawberries.

After church, we all headed to our local farm store. You don’t know it, but that’s where all the cool moms hang out on Mother’s Day. Smile We were there to get a bird feeder that holds thistle seeds for Ben’s bird-watching hobby. I also wandered through their garden sections and picked out a few more plants for my flower beds.

On the way home, I saw a sign for an open house. We followed the signs and came across this beautiful acreage with a pond. The house is huge- five bedrooms, five baths and it has some other fun little perks in it as well. Bill says the layout is functional, it just needs updating. Mmmhmm. We don’t really have any intentions of moving yet but this place is going to haunt us for a while.  If anything comes of this little side trip, you can bet I’ll let you know.

Once home, we re-fueled, set up the new bird feeder, filled in the garden beds with the new plants and grilled for supper. Bill wasn’t being cheap, it’s just that often I like my food better than a restaurant’s. We had teriyaki steak, grilled asparagus, and herbed rice pilaf. No one complained.

Oh, we also stopped at Target after church, too. It was there that Audrey schemed with Luke to get me a little something. Luke had already handed me a violet from preschool and we had planted it. But, see, that is Audrey’s contribution to me. She’s the writer/producer/director and she gets the rest to go along. I love it when she does that. I had overheard “What about a present for Mom?” from Luke when he thought we were leaving Target without the acquired good, so I deftly made my way around Target (not a hard thing to do), so as to not be aware of anything going on. Audrey helped Luke wrap it up when we got home. They picked out some Essie nail polish in muchi, muchi. I remarked “That’s what the Pioneer Woman has!” Audrey and Luke thought they were brilliant! The are!

Speaking of Pioneer Woman and what other blog people have, I also got another Mother’s Day gift. It’s a necklace from The Vintage Pearl. I’ve read about this business on several blogs and I like their jewelry, though I’m not a big jewelry person. I had been pining for one for a while, when I saw a coupon code for a percentage off. So I asked Bill if he could get me a necklace for Mother’s Day. He said yes, so I picked it out, filled out the order form and ordered it. I love it! I was hoping to wear it all the time, but since it is sort of big, for me anyway, I don’t. Gee, I’ll just have to get something smaller. Winking smile

Mother's Day Necklace

Happy Mother’s Day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011