Striving to create a home strong in the foundations of love, respect, and God's truths ...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

GratiTuesday - Havin' a Heat Wave

We're having a heat wave ... a tropical heat wave ... when the temperature's risin', it isn't surprisin', we certainly can, can, can ...

That's a line from White Christmas, oddly enough, and it's stuck in my head today.  No, not because I'm thinking about Christmas - but because it's HOT.  Really, awfully, want-to-become-a-fish hot.

Today is also Field Day at my daughter's school.  AND I volunteered My Little Man and I to help.

We bravely headed out to this morning, prepared to start right at 10, when the sun's rays would be most damaging- er, I mean when it was supposed to start - and was surprised to find that Field Day began in the art room with face painting.  We could do that.

After painting a few trucks and rainbows, we headed out ... no, off to the library for the kindergarten version of Minute to Win It.  Then we had an aerobics class in the gym (I was really starting to wonder about the naming of this event) when we headed outside for free play time with jump ropes, hula hoops, and mini golf.

After a lunch break in the air-conditioned cafeteria, we ventured out to the there's-no-shade-here playground.  The kids had a great time running around, though, and My Little Man finally joined in.

Next came the sack races, the only event in which I was actually a competitor as a kid.  I loved the sack races!  My Big Girl did a really good job on this one today.

Next came the tug-o-war.  This group of mostly-girls actually pulled the other team of mostly-boys to their knees - in spite of the water break happening in the middle of the rope.

After a short popsicle break, Mrs. Burton decided to toss the schedule and head for the water events, which for some reason were empty.  Yay, Mrs. Burton!

Since the kids didn't quite get the hang of the sponge races, turning the hose on them seemed more fitting - and much more fun.  Bring on the water!

As the kids headed off to play with basketballs and sidewalk chalk, My Little Man and I called it quits.  With more than an hour to go, I'm not sure if we could've survived that cement slab, and as usual, Mrs. Burton had things well in hand. But when we got in the car ...

 this is what we saw.

After heading home, we read a story and Luke unwillingly took himself to bed for a nap.

Apparently he didn't make it all the way to the bed, because this is where I found him a bit later - standing on the stool, asleep before he made it all the way in.

I don't like heat waves.  I'm not a born-and-bred Southern girl, and these crazy temps still seem foreign to me.  But I"m finding lots today to be thankful for.

I'm grateful for the teacher who knew her students well and listened to their needs, both physical and emotional.  She worked hard to make the plans that someone else made work for her kids, in spite of the heat.  I'm thankful for the parents who donated all those popsicles and for the teacher who left the water hose turned on.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to be a part of my child's field day, and grateful that we weren't really needed and could leave when the heat became too much.  I'm grateful for a husband who would take himself outside after a long day at work to find and clean the kiddie pool we'll play in tomorrow.  Mostly, though, I'm grateful for the abundance of water that we have.  So many people the world over don't have clean water to drink, and especially not to play in just for fun, but we are blessed with water in abundance.

So if you stop by our house tomorrow - where it's to be 96 degrees with a heat index of over 100 again - you'll find us in the shady backyard, playing with the neighbors, the kids in the pool, and me with my feet in a bucket of water.

Havin' a heat wave?  That's okay.  We've got water.  :-)

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Bucket of Water

Summer temperatures have officially arrived here in North Carolina, and heat records held for decades were expected to be broken today.  After we picked up Andi from school, we decided to break out a summer project.  We enjoyed this one last year, and it seemed like a good way to cool off when we only had a short amount of time.  Here's what you do:

Fill up a bucket of water.  Place in the middle of the driveway.  The end.

Difficult, huh?

For a few minutes, they followed me around saying, "What should we do?"

Finally, they got it.  The next time I looked over, the single bucket had turned into this:

They were pouring and creating and playing, until ...

My Little Man accidently spilled the biggest bucket while pouring it.

They quickly decided that this was a good thing, however, as they now had a mini-waterfall happening in the driveway.

The kids began to rake away the rocks to make puddles.

Eventually, they went back to creating a 'birthday cake' out of mud, rocks, and picked clover for me.  When the water was about to run out, we emptied out our buckets and put them all away for another day.

All told, the kids played for 45 minutes with just one bucket-full of water and the assorted outside toys they added.  They weren't ready to stop and would've happily played much longer if I had let them, and neither child was the slightest bit wet when they came in - although I wouldn't have minded if they had been.

The kids were creative, they worked together, and they had fun on a summer-like day.  Who needs fancy electronic gadgets??

GratiTuesday - Blossoms

Spring has come and almost gone here in North Carolina, and we're seeing more and more evidence of the new life that this particular season has brought.  My Pennsylvania blood, however, hasn't reconciled with this new gardening plan, and I keep finding myself caught off guard with the new life that's popping up around every corner.

The clematis near the front door is in full bloom ...

and after a recent rainstorm, we found this hiding under the dianthus!

Okay, so these turtles aren't blooming, exactly, but I don't see turtles out sunning themselves in the winter, either - even here.  Makes me think "summer."

The funny faces are due to the abundance of bees flitting around the kids, who were sitting right in front of a huge bed of purple flowers of all kinds.  Blossoms and flowers and honey, oh, my!

My Little Man found lots of strawberries at the farm on Friday, despite the abundance of rain we've had ...

and The Big Girl was eager to show her's off, too.

We even have berries growing in a little pot on our deck - this is the first year they've really grown anything!

Although we planted our garden a few weeks ago, it suddenly struck me that the cucumbers were in need of a trellis - and could climb it ....

and the peppers are even beginning to show buds.

And can you see all the yellow in this picture?  Six of the first five tomato plants have blooms on them.  I realize that we'll still be waiting awhile to get the fruit, but it's coming!  Getting these staked up today.

The blackberries are again covered in blossoms, so thanks to Papa sharing Pappy's bush with us, it looks like we'll have lots of blackberry jelly again.

I love springtime.  It's one of my very favorite seasons.  There's just something special about seeing all of the new life that God has created bursting forth in bloom, waving proudly in the breeze.

So, today, I'm grateful for blossoms - blossoms of all kinds - and for the fresh food that they'll put on our table.  I'm grateful for the space to plant and the hands that are strong enough to do so.  I'm grateful for the rain that God has sent and for the sunshine that balances it out.  I'm grateful for the husband that indulges my 'farming' itch and gives me time to play in the dirt.  I'm grateful, too, for the kids who are watching, who like to help with my 'dirt-playing' and are storing up knowledge and memories for when they have their own gardens and tables to care for.

Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice!
Let the sea and everything in it shout His praise!
Let the field and their crops burst out with joy!
~ Psalm 96 : 11 - 12a

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - May 23, 2011

We're heading into a holiday weekend, and I'm very excited!  It will be great to have some extra time to spend with family without homework and office deadlines hanging over our heads - and even better because my husband has next week off.  We're actually going to be traveling to visit relatives for the weekend, so I'm hoping to play around with a few things to put in the freezer for later.

Breakfast cake and watermelon X2
Breakfast burritos and strawberries
Blueberry pancakes and cantaloupe X2
Cereal and bananas
Scrambled eggs, toast, and watermelon

Monday - Grab it and Growl
Tuesday - Whole wheat pasta tossed with steamed veggies, grilled chicken, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese
Wednesday - Due to some great coupons and sales, I've ended up with a surplus of Philly Creme.  I'm planning to make this Chicken Tortilla Soup to eat and this Tex-Mex Casserole to freeze.
Thursday - Hamburgers on homemade buns, the Ore-Ida sweet potato fries that came in the mail today FREE, fresh green beans, and watermelon
Friday - Heading out to visit family!  We'll eat the rest of our meals with them.

I do try to take a few things along when we travel, though.  I'm hoping to take these things along this time:
Vanilla muffins - we all absolutely love these!
Kitchen Sink Cookies
Chocolate waffle cookies - We might have to make these today; they look delicious! (Might play with the recipe just a bit to make it healthier ....)

For more Menu Plan Mondays, visit OrgJunkie!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Monkey See, Monkey Do ... Making Jelly

Strawberries are in season here - actually, they're almost over! - and so it's time to make jelly.  I've been making jelly for as long as I can remember - first with my mom, and now for years on my own - and it's exciting to have the kids help me now.

My Little Man and I packed up our buckets and headed out with some friends ...

and we picked several buckets' worth of berries.  Because so much of jelly making involves sharp knives and hot equipment, there's not much else he can be involved with.

This big girl, however, is old enough to be much more involved, and she likes it that way.  She's a GREAT helper!  She was a wonderful water-swirler to get all the dirt off the berries after I'd capped them.

She transferred the berries out of one sink of water to the second and swirled them again to give them one last rinse.

After washing them, she scooped them out of the water and put them into the blender to be measured.

When things slowed down a bit, she tried her hands at capping her first berries.  She got several severed from their stems but will definitely need a bit more practice with the paring knife before I turn her loose on any more fruit!  This task made her seem so big, though - she's definitely growing up.

Do you make any jelly at your house?  Are there any short people involved??

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Field Work Fridays: Dance

Today we visited a Christi's Dance Center to learn what dance is all about.

We started out by learning about the different types of dance that Christi teaches and the kinds of shoes worn for each one.

Christi, the studio owner, taught our class.  She had everyone begin basic stretches ...

 of many different kinds.

The kids loved these!

After getting really warmed up, Christi taught the children about the basic positions of classical ballet.  The children enjoyed trying to copy Christi's feet and arms!

Christi also showed the children a variety of ways to move across the floor based on different styles of dance.

My son had never been exposed to formal dance or exercise before.  He loved trying to follow the moves and did well until the need to run won out.  We'll definitely be doing more specific exercises around here, though, and if you've never checked out a dance studio ... find one near you and check it out!

Do your kids take dance??


I love to make chili.  It's one of those meals that you can make all in one pot - or not - and can throw all kinds of things into it and still have it turn out great.  In this case, it's full of fresh veggies  and is comparatively low on meat, making it a bit healthier but still super hearty.

Here's how I make it.

1 lb. hamburger
1 lb. ground turkey
1 bag dried kidney beans, soaked and cooked OR 4 cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 bag dried black beans, soaked and cooked OR 4 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
4 jars canned tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
6 bulbs fresh garlic
1 onion
2 green bell peppers
1 red bell pepper
6 jalapeƱo peppers
freshly ground black pepper
shredded cheddar, sour cream, tortilla chips for topping (optional)

Wash the jalapeƱos.  Roast them in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes with the garlic.  Cool, then peel off the outer membranes, the seeds, and chop off the top.  Pulse in a food processor.

Brown the meats, drain, and add to a large Dutch oven.

Wash and dice the onions and bell peppers.  Caramelize in the skillet you browned the meat in, then transfer to the Dutch oven.  Add the jarred tomatoes and beans.  Add pepper to taste.  Simmer for at least 20  minutes, stirring frequently, or until ready to serve.

Top with shredded cheddar, sour cream, or tortilla chips.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Daddy Dates" by Greg Wright

Suddenly realizing that he was the lone male in a house with five women rapidly approaching the teenage years, Greg Wright determined to "not mess up" as a father.  Wright decided take a business-like approach an destablished both a mission statement and a plan to develop a close relationship with his four daughters, and he used his best relational gift:  the date.  This book is an explanation of what he does and how it has worked thus far.

Wright's plans are fabulous.  Simple, yet based on research, he explains differences in personality types and communication styles between men and women, and the details ways to bridge the gap.  His writing style is funny yet shows many great truths about how children want to relate to their parents.  This book serves as a great resource not only for fathers to their daughters, but can also be used by husbands for their wives and generally by any person towards any other when a close relationship is desired.

This book would make a wonderful gift for new fathers or for Father's Day gifts.  My husband will be getting a copy!

I received a free copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Mine is the Night" by Liz Curtis Higgs

Marjory and Elizabeth Kerr are alone.  Having lost both husbands in the recent Jacobite uprising and subsequently all titles and land after being branded as traitors to the Scottish Crown, Marjory takes her daughter-in-law Elizabeth to Selkirk, hoping to find work and a new life in the land of her youth.  After being accosted by Dragoons and snubbed by the neighbors, however, the Kerr women are left with only questions.  Will the townspeople forgive Marjory for her former pride and snobbishness?  Will Reverend Brown banish them both from Selkirk?  Will Lord Buchanan turn Elizabeth, his newly appointed seamstress, over to the King for her past mistakes of treason, or will he fall in love with the woman she has become?

This book is a sequel to Here Burns My Candle, and I was a bit worried that I would be lost when the book arrived, but I had no problems.  The author does a fabulous book of filling in the reader on the important information from the previous book without sacrificing the flow of the current story.  Higgs' characters are so realistic that it seems you might just meet them on the street.  Their depth of character reflects the struggles they have conquered in the previous story and the class  issues in eighteenth century Scotland.   Higgs' extensive research shines through in the detail she brings to the setting.  The best parts of the book, however, are the twists that Higgs continually throws into the storyline.  Each time the reader feels comfortable predicting the next piece of action, the author throws in a new tangle.  Fabulous!

I loved this book, and if you are a historical fiction fan, you have to check this one out!  I'll definitely be hunting down more books by Liz Curtis Higgs.

I received a free copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

For more information about Mine is the Night, including an excerpt from the book, go here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Happily Ever After ...

As I was sitting down with my Bible and journal last Tuesday, I did a double take after writing the date at the top of the page - it was May 10th.

That's not a big deal to many, I suppose, but an important chapter of my family history began on May 10 - and it's still playing out today.

More than a hundred years ago now, my great-grandfather, Glenn Laughlin, was born in Ferguson Valley, Pennsylvania.  He's the cute little guy on the left.

My great-grandmother Elizabeth, only a few years younger, was also born there.  Both were from dairy farming families.

In the early 1930s, they married - on May 10th.  They began to raise a family.
Soon the farmyard began to look like this ...

when it wasn't looking more like this.

Time passed, and the family grew.  (The little girl?  That's me, with Papa on my left, my dad behind me, and his dad to the right.)

Soon I had more than 40 cousins and we met several times each year to celebrate Papa and Grandma and the time that we had with them.  This was at one of Papa's soup-and-sandwich birthday picnics.

Papa and Grandma celebrated the working of 113 years of farming the same land in her family, and I loved visiting them on the farm, but when my eyes see 'May 10' written on a calendar, that's not what comes to mind.

I remember Papa telling me the history of the power lines being strung in Ferguson Valley, and Grandma fiercely debating the year, her eyes snapping, as they sat in opposing rocking chairs.

I remember Papa being hospitalized after having his hips replaced, and driving Grandma down each Sunday afternoon to visit him. I remember Grandma sneaking in a Thermos bottle filled with one hot ear of fresh corn, right out of the field, and Papa taking his teeth out to eat it.  Even better - the way Grandma leaned over his bed to kiss him sweetly before we all headed for home.

I remember how well Grandma took care of Papa, and how well he provided for her.  They were totally happy together.

I remember how sad Papa was after Grandma died, because after nearly 65 years, he didn't know how to live without her.

Both are long gone now, but I still think of them, often and every May 10.  They've certainly left a legacy, but to me, they epitomized what marriage should look like.

They put each other first.
They worked hard.
They forgave.
They loved God and each other.
They stuck by each other, no matter what.
I'm married now, and though I wasn't able to be married on May 10th, I'm very grateful for the example of their marriage.  I still have lots to learn, but I had some really fabulous teachers.  I'm grateful for having known them and for all that they taught me.  I'm grateful for the stories they shared and the memories I have to pass along to my own children.  I'm grateful for the 17 and 18 years I had with my great-grandparents - how many people can claim that?

Someday, I hope that my children will claim that they, too, had a good example of marriage to see and a strong sense of heritage.  If they do, I know exactly where it came from - the two lovely people who married on May 10th and truly lived ... happily ever after.

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