Monday, May 31, 2010

On a Bicycle Built for Two

This is my precious baby having a moment.  She's had it!  She's overwhelmed by the unfairness of being 4 years old.  If she hears the phrase, "when you're a little bigger" even one more time, she's gonna contact her legislature and make BIG waves about it.  We just told my baby girl that she was too little to ride Pop Pop's tandem bicycle.  The disappointment was too much.  But because she's my baby, and Pop Pop has a soft spot in his heart for poor little freckle faced,  pigtailed grand daughters, he found a way to make it happen.
Here she is just climbing on.  She's feeling better already.  Notice Big Sister with the "I'm big enough to ride" grin on her face.

Oh, that's much better.  A little smile now. 

And they're off! Hold on tight baby! Grandma's having an impromptu prayer session right now for the safety of the crew.

The kids love riding the Tandem at Pop Pop and Grandma's house!

Now it's Mom and Dad's turn. My Lover wouldn't let me steer.  He doesn't trust me.

He even rang the bell on the handle bars.  He's secure enough in his manhood.
I told him that we should enter a tandem bike race, but after a ride around the block I changed my mind.  Turns out, in order for us to go fast, I have to pedal too.  That's hard work!

Another day of fun at Pop Pop and Grandma's house winds to a close.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The One-Stop Shop

When I first married my husband, he told me stories of a little drug store in his teeny tiny hometown.  He said that every year on Christmas Eve, he'd join all of the other males on the mountain to do all of their gift buying at the "Western Drug".  It was like a one-stop shop.  I was slightly appalled at the idea of doing ALL of  the Christmas shopping at a drug store.  I envisioned it like purchasing gifts at Walgreen's, but I was soooooo wrong.  The first time my Beloved took me to Western Drug, I stood in awe of it's uniqueness, and quickly wanted to buy half of the store. I said, "Western Drug, where have you been all my life?"  No matter what you need, you'll find it there.  And if you can't find it, you don't really need it anyway.  It's everything a general store should be and much, much more.  Just read the sign on the side of the building and see for yourself.

Western Drug fills a niche market for many things.  It's the only Pharmacy on that side of the mountain, and it's also the best place to get supplies for hunters, campers, ranchers, and town's people alike.  Whether you need a prescription filled, or an ointment for your'll find it here!

When you walk inside, you're transported back to another time.  There are trophy animals mounted all over the walls.  Where else can you pick up Cover Girl Mascara right next to a record sized elk???

One aisle has Tylenol, and shampoo, the next has rifles and shotguns.  It's no secret that Western Drug has some of the best deals on high quality guns and ammunition anywhere.  Just last year we bought a new rifle and scope here.....  and ammo, and gun cases, and clay pigeons, and predator calls, and rifle straps, and well... you get the picture! 

Ladies, have you been searching high and low for a new nightgown in "mossy oak" camouflage? Well, search no more, Western Drug is just the place to find them.  They're right next to the fabric department!

They also have a large supply of high quality, hard to find products.  I love their line of soaps made from Goat's Milk.  They carry about 50 different scents and they are handmade locally.  This time I bought "Midnight Cowboy".  It made me laugh because the only things a cowboy sees at midnight are the back of his eyelids.  If they called it 5am Cowboy, it would be a more accurate statement!

One of my other favorite obsessions is buying cast iron cookware.  The majority of my skillets and dutch ovens have been purchased here....along with some FABULOUS cookbooks!

I'm telling you, this store has it ALL!  They also have a line of awesome seasonings for game meat, fish, and my all time favorite.....beans.  Their buckboard bean seasoning is yummy! It gives the beans a smoky flavor.  Here's what I bought today:

They have stationary, bathroom decorations, garden seeds, canning supplies, and crafting items galore.  We even bought my son a craw-dad trap today.  He can't wait to use it!  Folks that live in rural mountain areas have unique needs, and often desire supplies that are hard to find.  Lucky for us, this small-town drugstore has thought of it all!  Whenever we're passing through, we ALWAYS stop by to support our favorite place.

This is not a paid advertisement.  Western Drug has no idea who I am.  I just really, really love that store!
I heart you, Western Drug.  You complete me.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


My husband and I were the first among our siblings to get married and have children.  In fact, when we gave birth to our firstborn son, everyone else was still single.  They had zero idea what it was like to take care of a baby, and all of the responsibilities that come with the job.  We received many "gifts" for our  infant son that were well meaning but perhaps a little bit too advanced for his age, or completely inappropriate.  For example:
1. A Lego set- ages 6+ (Major choking hazard for a newborn)
2. Model Jet- ages 8+ (Toxic paint)
3. A pair of Diesel brand shoes for a 3 year old
4. A size 4T  sports jersey from my college's rival school whose mascot is straight from the pit of HELL.

But the very worst gift we received was from my brother-in-law.  Being a single college guy, he had no idea that his gift would forever go down into the record books as the most obnoxious present our son ever received.  He purchased our baby a yellow plastic ball that had flashing disco lights and played rap music......whenever it moved.   First my son cried, then he was mesmerized by it, and loved to roll it around.  By day three, my husband was trying to figure out how to take the batteries out of it. Turns out, it's parent proof. Baby toys are engineered by rocket scientists so that they will live FOREVER. There was no ON/OFF switch to stop the madness. By the time my son was six months old, the ball became possessed by evil forces.  In the middle of the night, while everyone was sleeping, we would hear rap music suddenly coming out of the nursery.  The baby would jolt, do the startle reflex and start crying.  We'd enter the dark room to find flashes of light beaming out to us from inside the toy box.  The ball had a mind of it's own.  It would be sitting there perfectly still, and then suddenly start going spastic on us.  We tried to throw it away once, and our son dug it out of the trash.  By age two, the original batteries were finally starting to show their age....the rap music was all distorted and really slow, but the lights kept on blinking.  It still turned itself on in the middle of the night to now begin terrorizing our second child who was an infant.  I'd had enough.  I didn't care who the gift came from, it was time for it to go bye-bye.....FOREVER.  We made a mental note of all of the agony that the toy had caused our family, and put it into long term memory.

Fast forward 6 years.  My brother- in- law finally got married and had a kid. Hee Hee Hee. Paybacks are rough.  It was Christmas.  My nephew was 8 months old, and my husband and I were shopping for an "appropriate" gift for the little guy. It had to have the following qualities:
1. It had to be LOUD.
2. It had to have flashing lights
3. It had to be musical.....obnoxiously musical.
4. It had to be completely horrendous.

My husband spotted the "perfect" gift on the very first toy aisle we went down.  It had angelic beams radiating it's magnificence, like a sign from heaven.  It was a huge  P.T. Cruiser that had blinking headlights and played "Livin' La Vida Loca".  When you pushed a button, it made this wretched tire squealing sound like a hot rod on the race track and then it would ram full speed into whatever was in it's way.  I wiped a tear from my eye, and thanked the Lord for leading us to this little gem of a gift.  We could hardly contain ourselves when the little guy ripped open the paper.  As if on queue, the car immediately started "rocking" out.  My poor sister- in-law tried to mask the surprise on her face.  She didn't deserve it. It wasn't her fault that her husband made a poor decision all those years ago, but it had to be done.  We took the car out of the box, and put it on the floor.  It made my nephew cry.  It was perfect.  Now that he's older, he loves the car, and I got word from my mother-in-law that the batteries are still going strong.  Brilliant.  Our plan is moving along as scheduled. If my nephew's first Spanish words are "Livin' La Vida Loca" I'll consider the whole thing to be a major success.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mad about Mint

mad- adj. 1.Insane 2.frantic 3.foolish and rash 4.Infatuated 5.Wildly amusing 5.having rabies 6. angry

Every morning, I wake up and make myself a glass of Mint Iced Tea.  My husband drinks hot coffee, and I drink cold tea.  Opposites attract! I really enjoy mint.  It's so refreshing and fragrant, and good for you too.   Many years ago I decided to try my hand at growing it.  I quickly found out that you can't control mint, it controls you!  To keep it from taking over the garden, I plant it in old galvanized tubs.  This gives it plenty of room to spread, without it taking over the world. It likes morning sun, afternoon shade, and wet feet.  I started with this spearmint variety.

It's just waking up from a long hard winter, but it will be huge by the end of summer.

The small leaves are full of minty flavor.  The bigger they get, the less bang for your buck in the flavor department.  So cut them often, and they'll start to spread outward, not upward.  Does that make any sense?

After I grew spearmint, I discovered another variety, that has become my absolute favorite: CHOCOLATE MINT!  And yes, it's as good as it sounds.  The plant is gorgeous too.  Can plants really be gorgeous? I think so.  Here's a picture of it.
The stems are brown like dark chocolate, and the leaves are deep green.  They taste a bit like an Andes mint chocolate in the green foil wrapper. 

I couldn't stop there.  So I began to scour the mountain for new varieties of mint.  Here's what I've got growing now:
This is apple mint.  The leaves are rounder, and the plant gets quite tall. 

This here is pineapple mint.  It's in the same family as apple mint, but has white edges on it's leaves.

This is orange mint.  It has a citrus smell to it. 

This is lemon mint.  It's my least favorite.  It doesn't pack a real minty punch like some of the others, but it still has it's merits.

Some people like to cut several sprigs of mint and brew it in water to make a delightful tea out of it.  I prefer to make my mint tea the following way:

Take 2 family sized Black Tea bags and several sprigs of mint.  Place them both in a large saucepan with water, and bring to a boil.  Take off of the heat immediately and let steep for 2-4 minutes.  Have an iced tea jar filled about half way with cold water, and pour the strongly brewed tea through a small strainer into the jar.  Grab your favorite favorite Mason jar, fill it with ice, and pour the tea into the glass. Then top it with a sprig of mint if you want to be like Martha Stewart.
You must drink it from a mason jar, I don't know why, but it tastes better this way.  Just trust me on this one.  Now, grab your Bible, go out to your back porch, and have a glass of Minty Iced Tea while spending time with your best friend, God.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Confessions of Book Junkie

Hi there, it's me again.  I know, I know, you've all been wondering where I've been. My mother called. (4 times today to be exact....and this is important to know for today's confession.)  Anyway, as I was saying, my mother called today at 4:56pm and said, "Nell, you haven't written anything in your blog today.  I'm calling you to tell you to put the book down and write something."

I have a confession.  I'm addicted to Amish books.  It's my kryptonite- my achilles' heel.  In high school we learned that all good heroes have a tragic flaw that leads to their downfall.  My tragic flaw is the love of Amish Christian Fiction.  I'm a bit of binge addict, though.  I haven't picked up a good Amish book since last June.  Knowing that a good read will suck me into a large black hole, I only let myself disappear in the summer months.  During the school year I have to be responsible.  I have the task of educating my children, reading curriculum, reviewing history, gathering research, and putting together lesson plans.  If I'm not reading something geared to my children's education, then I'm reading some type of "how-to" book to further my nun-chuck skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking that movie! (Napoleon Dynamite) 

But, summertime!!! Oh to be free from the 180 mandatory days of formally educating my children!  It's exhilarating, and awe inspiring to break free from the schedule.   It's an occasion to celebrate!  I looked at the calendar, and at T-minus 5 days 'til summer break, I ordered myself a 5 star Amish read.  It arrived today, and I opened the package and kissed the book.  Then I said, "It's been so very long." Name that movie! (The Parent Trap)  I got an impish grin on my face and laughed an evil little laugh, then I declared it to be "Leave Mommy Alone Day".  I told my children that when I opened the cover of this book, I was going to go away on a journey in my mind, but I'd be back soon.  "Unless someone is bleeding, do not bother Mommy today."

After I fed my kids lunch I told them all to lay down and read a book so mommy could read too.  My son finished "Farmer Boy" and came out 20 minutes later.  This wouldn't do.  I needed at least an hour.  I said, "why don't you try to take a little nap before baseball practice?"  "Mom" he said, " I haven't had a nap in 3 years".  Well it was worth a shot anyway. "Go catch me a lizard" I said.  I made play dough for my 4 year old and told her to use her imagination.  I had my middle child water all the plants in the yard....anything to let me read just one more chapter.  I ignored all phone calls.  Except for Mother.  She will call my cell phone, then my house phone, then my husband's phone, then the police....OK, it's not that bad. But she would start to worry if I didn't answer.  I try to make the conversation brief.  I tell her I'm on a mental vacation with an Amish book.  She calls back 3 more times.  You'll never believe what she wants to discuss on the last phone call: desserts at my brother's wedding.  That's in like 2  1/2 months.  "Do you think we should make cheesecake about brownie bites....and chocolate covered strawberries?  Will that be too labor intensive?" 

Are you kidding me right now?  This can't be happening.  I take a deep breath.  The air hisses out of my lungs.  "Mom, I'm on page 182, you can't ask me questions that require a long conversation after page 54.  I'm in too deep now.  It's like when I call you and you're watching Lost and you tell me to call back in an hour.  I respect your wishes.  I'm no good to you now anyway, I can't get the plot out of my brain. I'm all wrapped up in it.  Call me in the morning." Click.

My husband comes home.  The house looks like Fly Lady died today.  He chuckles and says, "Good book, huh?"  "You have no idea!" I say without pulling my eyes away from the page.  Then he says the sexiest thing ever. "I'll take all the kids to practice with me so you can have some time alone to read your book."  That, ladies, is reason # 5731 of why I love that man! He knows.  He just knows.   Anyway, I've been away from the book for 20 minutes now, and I'm starting to shake.  It's like the character's lives are in suspense until I jump back into the story.  Gotta go, I'll be back from my mental vacation tomorrow.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The High Cost of Lawn Mowing

My son got his first "paid" lawn mowing job on Friday.  Thursday night, one of our older neighbors stopped by to see if he would mow his 1/2 acre yard for the price of $5.00.  My son agreed to it, and they sealed the deal with a handshake.  I use the term "yard" quite loosely here.  I'm talking about lots of pine trees with clumps of native grasses, weeds, and oak tree seedlings.....and a whole lot of dirt.  At eight, he's still a little young for big mowing jobs, but he was willing, and it seemed like a great learning opportunity at the time.

My son woke up bright and early on Friday to get the push mower out of the shed.  He wanted to be prepared and prompt for his first real job.  I put in a half a gallon of gas, and we pushed it down the road to the job site.  Because he's young, and because I wanted to make sure that he did a thorough job, I decided to stay and supervise.  I started up the mower and he began his trek across the yard, weaving in and out of trees, around stumps, and over all of the weeds.  The majority of the "yard" was a fine dirt that made a giant dust cloud that followed my poor baby boy wherever he went.  I could tell he was trying to cope with it.  First I could see him trying to hold his breath through the bad parts, and then he tried to push the mower faster to out run the cloud but it always caught up with him.  We couldn't avoid it.  The older gentlemen also spreads his fireplace ashes on the snow in the winter.  Whenever the mower would go over those spots, the soot would fly everywhere and my boy would give me the "you've got to be kidding me" look.  I did my best to spur him on.  I even  helped him to mow a few rough spots that slanted into a ditch.  We were both coughing, rubbing our eyes, and trying not to breathe.  After 45 grueling minutes, we were finally done.  He was exhausted, and pushed the mower back down the road to our house.  An hour earlier we were freshly cleaned for the we were covered in a thick layer of brown dirt, and black soot.  When we smiled, our teeth had a clean white luster while everything else looked filthy.  My son said, "Mom, that was a LOT of work for five dollars!"  And for the first time ever, he asked me if he could please go take a shower.  I couldn't help but laugh at that point. 

After using $1.50 in gas, and giving 50 cents in the offering plate on Sunday, I figure my boy netted a whopping $3.00 for that mowing job.  If you count the fact that it really took two of us to complete the job, then the price seems even more pathetic for that heinous task. That man got a real bargain, let me tell you! But the lessons learned about diligence and getting the job done, and about how hard you must work for a buck were .....PRICELESS.  I think my boy may have learned one other lesson too.....negotiating for higher wages the next time around.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

3 Small Blessings Today

I've been whistling the same  happy tune all day today.  You may be familiar with the's my favorite part:

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

Count your blessings- name them one by one;
Count your blessings- See what God hath done;
Count your blessings- name them one by one;
Count your many blessings- see what God hath done.

Do you know the hymn? It's a catchy tune, and it always reminds me of how blessed we really are.  I try to make it a point to count my blessings every day.  I've always got my regular biggies like my family and home... but I try not to overlook the little ones as well. They really add up quick! Here are three of the little blessings that I'm counting today.  They put an extra spring in my step.

1. My family faithfully subscribes to Farm and Ranch Magazine.  We love the photography and uplifting stories found in it from cover to cover.  You can't read an issue without a smile on your face.  In fact, we generally fight over who gets to read it first.  They have a hidden horseshoe in each issue that my husband and son carefully search for.  As soon as they find it, they enter a contest online with the "thousands" of other people who do the same.  Guess what?  My sweet husband received a package in the mail today saying that he was 1 of 25 winners among the thousands of entries.  In addition, we will be receiving a free  one year subscription to Farm and Ranch Magazine.  He proudly showed me the Certificate of Authenticity and promptly danced a little jig in the kitchen from excitement. We never win stuff! It was so awesome!

2.  My husband spent all of last week in Nogales Arizona welding a natural gas pipeline at the port of entry.  He went to our most treasured source for refried beans.  If you have yet to read about it, and my undying devotion to the Lowly Frijole, click on the link and it will catch you up to speed.  Anyway, my husband was able to convince the head waiter to share the secret recipe for their delicious beans!  It was all very hush, hush, and it involved a lot of whispering and writing on a paper place mat, but it is now in my possession!  I have to tell you that it involves a pound of cheese and a pound of .......lard.  I almost fainted when he said the last part.  NO WONDER THEY'RE SO DELICIOUS!  Anything that tasty just can't be good for you.  I'm busy making the recipe right now!  Yippeeeeee!

3.  I found a FANTASTIC recipe for making homemade Windex, and it really works!  I made a whole gallon for under a dollar.  That is enough to fill up a Windex bottle four times!  In case you haven't done the math.....that's twenty five cents a bottle!   I've been cleaning every glass window and mirror in sight.  In fact, the glass is so clean that I'm a little worried about birds smacking into the windows now.  Here's the recipe:

Homemade Windex
In an empty gallon jug place the following things:
2 TBS Ammonia
1 tsp liquid dish soap (I used Dawn)
1 pint of rubbing alcohol (2 cups)
2 drops of blue food coloring
Fill the jug up to the top with distilled water, and label it well so it doesn't confuse anyone.
*Note: the recipe just calls for water, but our water is LOADED with minerals, so I thought it would be best to spend the extra 88 cents to buy a gallon of distilled water. It also provided me with the gallon container I needed.

These are just three little things, but they certainly made my day extra special!  Don't forget to "give a shout out" for the little blessings!  They really do make a BIG difference!

Friday, May 21, 2010


We're dog sitting this weekend.  My In- Laws entrust us with their beloved pooch from time to time, and we do the very best we can to give "Millie" the royal treatment. After all, she is the queen of the castle at her own house.  Her pedigree and lineage is so exotic that they have yet to classify her breed, but I'm certain that she has high dollar classy bloodlines running through her veins.
My In-Laws rescued Millie off the streets, the same way they have done with all of their previous dogs throughout the years.  Now she lives life up to her full potential.  She's taken her troubled past of neglect and used it to make her a stronger dog.  She's a bit of local celebrity in these parts.  She's run a successful campaign for Mayor of my husband's hometown.  Like all good politicians, she's always shaking paws and licking babies.  Here's a shot of her campaigning in our Fourth of July parade:

In order to keep her "ready for her close-up", my mother-in-law takes her to "Patty's Pet Parlor" to give her the works every few months.  I'm not sure how to say this delicately, but, Millie has a small facial hair problem.  The girl can grow a goatee, handlebar mustache, and Groucho Marx eyebrows, like no other dog I know.  My mother-in-law thinks it doesn't look "feminine", but I think bearded ladies are kinda cool.  She's not just another pretty face though.  Millie has many serious jobs around her house.  She's a watch dog, skunk chaser, squirrel eradicator, and woodpile inspector.  But her most prized and highly adapted skill is bird chasing.  Millie can bag a bird in a flash.  Her catches include many species of birds including rare wetland varieties....possibly protected under the endangered species act....I'm not sure.  Anyway, when she comes over to our house, she spends the bulk of her time stalking our chickens.  She waits patiently until they exit the coop door and then she pounces.  Here's a picture of her waiting in her best bird dog pose:

(Notice the paw in the air and her tail in "point" position)

Anyway, I'm telling you all of this to say that Millie really hates it at our house.  She normally lives with two retired people who take naps every day.  Then they bring her over to our house with three busy children, two dog cousins, and total chaos.  It's like dog hell to her. There's NO peace and quiet.  She's constantly being kissed  by the girls who lay blankets on her while she sleeps so she won't get "cold", they brush her fur with doll brushes,  my son plays fetch with her until she wants to drop dead, and my dog, Chigger, always steals her bed. 

One day, all of the madness threw her over the edge.  A good friend of mine stopped by to drop off a few items.  She was still grieving the recent loss of her dad, and we were both holding back the tears. I gave her a hug, said good-bye to her, and watched through the window as she pulled out of the drive way.  A minute later, she returned and knocked on the door.

Her: "Do you have a new little yellow dog?"
Me: "I'm watching my in-law's dog...she's yellow."
Her: "Well she's in the back seat of my suburban and I almost drove away with her. I was startled when I saw her in my rear view mirror, and turned around. She doesn't want to leave the car."

Millie had escaped the backyard, jumped 3 feet up into a perfect stranger's open suburban door, and tried to stow away!  And, by golly, she was almost successful at it.The most embarrassing part was that I couldn't get her out! She kept jumping over the seats, and dug in her heels as I dragged her by her collar.  I was utterly mortified.

Me: (nervously laughing)" Uh ha, I'm so sorry about this, she's never tried this before, I don't know what's gotten into her."

My friend started cracking up and we both ended up having a good laugh about Millie's run-away attempt.  I think sometimes the Lord must use laughter to ease the pain of days when a heart feels heavy, at least that's what I'm telling myself.

After I confessed this story to my in-laws, I was sure that would be the last time they ever trusted me with their dog, but they are the forgiving type, and not ones to hold a grudge, so they gave us another chance.  This trip to the house, Millie ran back to the car three times before my in-laws could even leave.  They practically had to run out of here and peel out in the driveway to escape.  Once they did, Millie resigned herself to yet another weekend of disruptions, annoying children, and interrupted naps.  As you can see, she's not a happy dog. In fact, I'd say she was in the depths of despair.

My son said," Mom, I don't understand it....we give Millie all the treats she wants, we pet her, play with her and take her for walks, but she still doesn't like it here!"

I understand her perfectly, though.  There's been a day or two when I've wanted to stow away to take a little nap, myself.  Poor Millie.  It's a dog's life.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

An Evening Walk around the House

Some views from the lake near the north side of our house.

A strange and beautiful flower I spotted along the way.

Views overlooking the Rim down the street from the house.

Things are just starting to green up in our area. 

I know you may be thinking, "Why did she take a picture of the fence?"  Well, in all my years of riding fence lines, I've come to appreciate the way the sun glows against the wire at sunset. It looks illuminated as far as the eye can see.  It's actually quite beautiful.  Pictures don't do it justice.  You must take my word for this, and stop to see it yourself the next time you're near barbed wire at sunset.

We came home just in time to see Miss Kitty stalking Harry and Mildred in the front yard.  If you haven't read their story, I suggest you click on the link.  She underestimates that pair of ducks.

And this concludes another beautiful walk in my neck of the woods. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Time to Plant the Corn

Around these parts, the old timers have an old saying: 

"When the oak leaf is as big as a squirrel's ear, it's time to plant your corn."

It looks like my husband will be planting his corn plot this weekend.

My Daily Dose of Scripture

As a girl, I vividly remember my mom having bible devotions with my brother and I to starting the morning off.  During the sweltering hot days of summer, we longed to run outside and play with friends early in the morning before the sidewalks blistered our bare toes.  But we had one strict rule in our home: No one left the house to play until after devotion time.  My mom would drop whatever she was doing at the moment, and pull out her well- worn Bible that was full of bookmarks and highlighted verses.  She would sit between us on the couch, and place the Bible in our laps.  We each had to read a chapter aloud.  I'd zip through my chapter, read each verse quickly, and then roll my eyes and groan internally as my little brother began to read.  He was only a year younger, but I was convinced that my reading skills were far superior to his because I was a grade level above him.  Time was wasting, and I had important things to do outside.  He would drone on and on, and Mom would occasionally help him sound out the big words.  As luck would have it, he seemed to always have to read the chapters with lists of family names in them...."Now these were the names of the descendants of Israel....The sons of Gad: Ziphion, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon,Eri, Arodi....blah, blah, blah." I had very little patience for all of this.

After my brother finished his chapter, we would work on scripture memorization.  My mom had very specific verses that we were required to put to memory.  Not fluffy little kid sized scriptures, but meaty and complex verses that were full of profound meaning.  Power scriptures.  Although she could not be with us while we were at school, she wanted to make certain that we knew that  God was with us every moment of the day.  And God was much more powerful than Mom and Dad, and loved us even more than  they did.  She chose verses that we could turn to in times of distress or uncertainty. 
A verse to help us remember to turn to God for direction:
"Call to me and I will answer you, and tell you great and hidden things that you have not known." Jeremiah 33:3"

A verse to help us when we were scared:

" Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you." Luke 10:19

A verse to help us to remember to forgive each other and not let a root of bitterness enter our hearts:

" Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger" Ephesians 4:26

We were young children when we learned those verses and many more, yet my brother and I can quote them to this very day.  My mom calls it "canning scripture".  When we memorize God's words, we save them in the back of our minds until a day when we need to remind ourselves of those truths.  Then the Lord recalls them from  our memory, and we can use them to help us navigate tough times in our lives.

After reciting our Bible verses, we would have a time of prayer, and then we were free to play the rest of the day!  There were times that I loved our devotions, times that I loathed them, and times that I felt like they didn't really matter. Yet, our time dedicated to the Lord each morning remained a constant fixture through the years.  I had no idea that my mom was helping to form a firm foundation of faith in my life, and in the life of my brother.  I couldn't see past the simplicity and constancy of it all.  I was probably more interested in learning something profoundly amazing with quick results that would be evident to all around me, while my mom was more worried about taking her time to carefully build the basis of our faith on solid ground.  Looking back, I'm so thankful she took her time to lay the foundation carefully.  I'm still amazed at the total recall of scriptures, understanding of hard truths and development of good bible study habits that still help me to this day.  Everything she taught us is still relevant in our lives today.

And oh have the tables turned.  Now I'm the one calling my three children in to have our morning devotions with God.  I have to force myself not to chuckle when my son gets impatient with his little sister's slower reading. After all, I've been in his shoes.   I help my daughter to pronounce the words, and then expound on the scriptures meaning, just the way my mother did for us those many long years ago.  I help my kids to memorize scripture and ask them to recite it during situations that apply.  It all feels very familiar to me, and yet surreal that I'm now the one doing the instructing.  Now I feel the weight of  the responsibility to help my own children lay that firm foundation of faith.  Now I understand that the process is not a sprint, but a very long marathon.  I can't slap the foundation down in a few sporadic bible lessons from time to time, but I must be diligent to have a regular, daily time of learning with my kids.....even if they roll their eyes.  After all, momma knows best.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Money Saving Tips

This Saturday I taught a workshop at my church about ways to stretch your dollar.  Here are the notes from the class for everyone who missed it!

Strategies for Making Your Dollar Stretch

In an effort to save the most money on my grocery bill, I use a large variety of methods, and combine several frugal concepts. Here they are in no particular order.

Making A Menu. Each week, after the sale ads come out, I sit down and plan the week’s meals based on what’s on sale. I start with the meat, and make meals around that main dish. Then I make the grocery list based on the menu. When you stick to a menu, you will save a large amount of money because you avoid impulse purchases, repeat trips to the grocery store, expensive meals based on convenience, and going out for dinner because of lack of planning ahead. When you make a menu based on sale items, you will be amazed how far your food dollars will stretch. Many websites have printable meal planning charts to be filled in weekly.

Coupons. There are a few rules I follow when shopping. First, the item I want MUST be on sale. Second, I MUST have a coupon for it. In order for you to get the most food for your buck, you must combine sale items with coupons. I rarely buy anything if I do not have both the sale price and the coupon working together. This is how I buy many items for pennies, or perhaps even free.

Step 1- Review the grocery sales ads for the week.

Step 2- Couple the sale items you want with a coupon.(many websites help with coupon organization, and make this step really easy. We’ll talk about this later.)

Step 3- Make your meal menu for the week based on the sale items.

Step 4- Make your grocery list. I make 2-

a. items I need because I am out of them and they aren’t on sale.
b. items that are on sale, and I’m stocking up on.

Step 5- WHEN AN ITEM IS ON SALE, BUY MULTIPLES OF IT. (Which brings me to my next point)

Buying Multiples. Coupons work best when you develop a pantry system. Sales at the grocery store are very cyclical in nature. The same item will go on sale every 6-8 weeks, or seasonally. When an item goes on sale, buy multiples of the item.

Example: Cheerios go on sale for $1.00 per box. I use 4 coupons worth $.30 each, and buy 4 boxes. Safeway doubles my coupons, so I pay $.40/ box, or $1.60 for 4 boxes of cereal.

I will put this cereal in my pantry so that I won’t run out and have to buy any at full price. It must last until the item goes on sale again.

 Learn the cycles. Soda, chips, hot dogs, and condiments go on sale before the Super Bowl, Labor Day, 4th of July, Memorial Day. Baking supplies and canned goods go on HUGE sales before Thanksgiving and Christmas. Cake and brownie mixes can be bought for under $.25 a piece in September. Stock the pantry with a 6 month supply or more. Cleaning supplies go on sale in January. Etc.

Freezer. Learn to buy certain items in bulk, and freeze them. When hamburger is cheap, I buy 20 # and weigh it into 1# packages, put it into freezer bags, and stock up on it. I buy 20 # pork roasts, cut them into smaller roasts, and freeze. Same with all types of meat. You can even cook it all, and freeze it for a day when you need a quick meal. Having a small kitchen scale will come in handy for weighing meat.When fruit is in season, and at it’s peak of flavor, it will go on sale. I buy flats of strawberries on sale and make jams, sliced strawberries, toppings, etc. and freeze them for desserts, pancakes, and more. I also freeze cheese, vegetables, chocolate chips, nuts, butter and bread.
Utilizing the Pantry System. When buying multiples of sale items, you will quickly build up an impressively stocked pantry for a ridiculously small amount of money. Once your pantry is fully stocked with the items you use on a regular basis, you will begin to shop a little differently. I rotate my food by expiration date, and make a note of when my stock of an item is getting low. Then it goes on my “sale radar” and I watch for the item to go on sale so I can replenish my supply. When you have a large pantry, you will not be as vulnerable to panicking in financial emergencies.

Ex. Last year the transmission unexpectedly went out on our vehicle. We were able to buy a new transmission and live off of our pantry for a month. My family never even noticed. The following month when we were back to normal, I started restocking the pantry as items went on sale.

I also have a cabinet designated as a cleaning supply pantry, and a bath room cabinet for toiletries. When shampoo, soap, or toothpaste goes on sale, I stock up. I haven’t needed to buy toothpaste for over a year.

The stocked pantry is also wonderful for helping friends in need. It’s easy to throw together a small food basket with a few meals in it to bless a family going through a tough time.

Compile a Price List. Make a list of items you buy frequently, and their sale prices. Teach yourself to discern a good sale from a bad one. I have price points I follow. As a rule, I don’t buy cereal if it’s over $.85 a box with the coupon. I never pay more than $1.50 for butter or milk, $1.88 for hamburger, chicken breasts, or pork, and $2.00 for a case of soda. Just because something is on “sale” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best deal.

Getting duplicate coupons. In order to shop using multiple coupons, you must receive multiple sets. Most all coupons come in the Sunday Newspaper. I get two Sunday papers. I also get the coupons from two other people who don’t use them. So I have 4 sets of duplicate coupons each week. Most all websites have a filing system that assigns a letter and numbers to each coupon insert, and then the entire insert is put into a filing box. DON’T CLIP EVERY COUPON. KEEP THEM IN THE INSERT, UNTIL YOU’RE READY TO USE THEM.

Other money saving tips I use:

*Plant a garden


*buying staple items in bulk. Flour, sugar, salt, dried beans, butter, cheese, etc.

* cooking from scratch to avoid pricey convenience foods.

* making my own cleaners

* baking bread from scratch

* Sticking to a budget

Helpful Resources for Making your Dollar Stretch

*Free Menu Planning downloads
Includes: Meal/ Menu Planners, Freezer cooking planners, Price Book forms and so much more!

*Coupon Organizing Websites

These are sites that help you to match coupons with sale ads to make great deals! They are great tools for helping you to make the best purchases at the grocery store.
Some are free, and some have a monthly fee. The Grocery Game Pinching Your Pennies Coupon Mom Coupon Sense

* Internet Coupon Websites

My favorite sites for finding popular internet coupons Red Cell  Note: This website loads coupons directly on to your grocery store savings card.

*Sites with Recipes for Homemade Cleaning Products

Try at your own risk! :) Scroll down the left hand side of her blog to the section called Days gone by. Click on “frugal homemade cleaners”. She uses many of them, including recipes for Laundry Detergent, hand soap, shower cleaner, window cleaner and more. Source for finding hundreds of Essential Oils that make cleaning products smell awesome!

Twinkle Toes

From the day this child took her first steps, she began to dance.  She has never walked.  When I call her in to the kitchen, she skips and leaps down the hall, twirling all the way.  I put her in her first ballet class at age 2, and she's had twinkle toes ever since. 

She has poise and gracefulness that I've never possessed.   Even if she never takes another dance class, she has already learned things that will help her throughout her life.

Fifth Position

Have you ever tried this? I did once and cramped up immediately!  She does this stuff for hours.

In her class, they use beautiful french words like demi- plie' and grand jete'.  She's had to educate me on their meanings, because the only other language mom knows is Spanish.  I just love to put my ear to the classroom door and hear the beautiful french words softly spoken by the instructor while classical music plays in the background.  It all sounds so foreign and whimsical to the untrained ear. 

Her favorite part of class is the portion where they get to express themselves in "free dance". She loves to leap and twirl to the music.

Preparing for a grand  jete'

It never ceases to amaze me how a toothless girl can go from a rough and tumble cow-hand, to a slugger on the baseball field, and then put on her ballet slippers and perform an elegant dance to beautiful music as if she were designed to move gracefully from the womb.  This little girl has an ongoing dance with music running through her head every waking hour. I catch her humming the tune while she goes about her day,  and her feet slide happily in step with the music in her mind.

Friday, May 14, 2010

"Mmmmm, Those are Good Brownies"

I have a friend that I always seem to get into sticky situations with.  We share a similar sense of humor, and it sometimes gets us into trouble.  The bond goes deep.  We've survived traumatic things.  Once, we single handedly moved a Semi truck load of furniture for a friend, all in the name of Jesus. On another occasion, she accidentally drove us through some one's "yard" in an attempt to get to the house where a Ladies church gathering was taking place. The car got high-centered on a mound of dirt, and the owner of the property came out screaming,"You're driving through my yard!!"  We waived, shook our heads up and down and I apologized profusely while my friend gunned it. We peeled out leaving a trail of dust and gravel behind us. I was sure the lady was loading her shot gun. I'm telling you all of this to say that we are close friends....if we were black, we'd be "soul sistas".  In order to protect the innocent, all names will be changed for this story.  Let's just call my friend....Sunrise..... or "Sunny" for short.

  Sunny and I attend a Conservative Baptist Church.  One evening, we were gathered together for a church function. Now, there is an unwritten law that Baptists must bring food to EVERY church function.  It's just what we do. After seriously studying the scriptures, we all gathered around the dessert table for a little re-fueling.  Everyone knows that deep prayer and bible study make a tummy get a case of the rumbles.  I was eye-balling all of the options at the table.  They all looked delicious.  After a few minutes of indecision, my friend Sunny made the following comment:

"Mmmmmm, those are good brownies, you should have one."

Now, I fully and completely trust Sunny.  I have no reason not to, so I decide to take a brownie too.  I open my mouth in anticipation of the fudgy goodness, and I bite down.  I think I'm going to chip a tooth.  My teeth cannot even break up the cement-like hardness of this brick disguised as a brownie.  I give Sunny the death look.  She gives me the "What?" look.  I try a different location on the brownie.  Maybe I just got an edge piece.  Again, rock hard.  Now the nice person that made the brownies is looking directly at me.  I smile and raise my brownie to her in a toast- like acknowledgement of her baked goods.  What was I supposed to do?  There was no trash can in sight, and I couldn't walk around with the brownie all night.  I had no choice but to try to choke it down.  I began to gnaw at the corner of it.  Someone attempted to talk to me but I couldn't hear them over the loud crunching sounds in my head.  I poured myself a big glass of water.  Maybe it would help the pieces go down a little smoother.  Three minutes later, I endured the last bite of misery.  I was feeling betrayed and bitter.  After all, once you make your dessert selection, you can't put it back.  I scanned the room for Sunny, and pulled her aside.

"You're going straight to Hell for that lie you told.", I whispered.

"What lie?" she asked, all innocent- like.

"The lie about the brownies.  You said, mmmm, good brownies, remember?  Well, I had one and it was the worst brownie I've ever was torturous!" I spouted off.

She just laughed. This became an inside joke between us.

Fast forward 6 months.  Sunny and I went to the local beauty college for a $5.00 pedicure.  As luck would have it, I got mine from a young girl who had no idea what she was doing.  I think it was her first week.  She proceeded to get nail polish all over my toes.  I'm certain that my seven year old could paint nails better.  Sunny was in the chair next to me receiving an A+ pedicure.  She was looking at my toes and laughing.  She knew I was getting the short end of the stick.  That's just my luck.  I felt so sorry for the little gal, though.  She was really, really nervous.  When the instructor walked up to inspect her work, she asked me how I liked my pedicure.

"She did a really good job." I said to the instructor.

Sunny just looked over at me and said, "mmmmm, those are good brownies!"

Then we started laughing uncontrollably.

P.S.- If you're reading this, wondering if it was your brownies.... rest assured that it wasn't. ;)