Monday, November 30, 2009

Meal Planning Monday

We're in a rut around here for dinner time.  With piano lessons every afternoon, I need to remember to think about dinner early or we eat a lot of quesadillas or pancakes (not that the girls are complaining- they love those nights!)  Or, in desperation I'll make an enormous pot of something on Monday, like soups or chilis or pasta, and plan on serving it day after day.  Which doesn't make for exciting meal times.  (Except the repeated announcements of "I don't like this!" by the four-year-old.  That's always exciting.)

Over the weekend, I made a list of my go-to meals.  We have most of the ingredients in the pantry, and I know at least 2 or 3 members of my family enjoy it.  Then we all sat down as a family and planned our week's dinners out.  Here's hoping for more variety, and less drama!

Sunday: Yellow Curry with potatoes and shrimp, served with rice (Curry paste recipe  and entree recipe can be found here.  I subbed peeled shrimp and boiled potatoes for the lobster.)

Monday: Turkey Pot Pie (It's bread day, so there will be bread available too.)

Tuesday: Beef Stroganoff (This will make good use of the mushrooms our CSA sent last week, and use up the rest of our sour cream.)

Wednesday: Black Bean- Chipotle Chili , served with rice

Thursday: Scrambled eggs and toast (Ernie's request- here's hoping our Egg Lady can meet me before Thursday!)

Friday: Church party

Saturday: Sushi (Ernie's request- I normally do a tuna/sesame/sweet chili sauce filling.)

What does your family do?   Do you plan your meals in advance, go grocery shopping on Saturday, and sleep soundly at night knowing what your family will eat for the next 7 days?  Do you dive headfirst into the cupboards or freezer at 5:30 hoping you can find another "ten-minute-meal" for your hungry horde?  Make a vat of something every Monday and blithely assume you'll serve it ad nauseum to a willing and adoring family?

And, more importantly...what DOES your family eat?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Thoughts

Ernie gave her very first talk in Primary today- the topic was "What my family can do to help other people."

This is what she said:
"I have been asked to answer the question "How can my family help other people?"

Sometimes we take our neighbors and friends cookies.  My preschool class is going to visit a nursing home.  We are going to do a play about the night Jesus was born.  We will sing songs and hand out cards to the people who live there.  Another thing we do to help others is pay our tithing and fast offerings.

I love Jesus and Heavenly Father.  I love my family and I'm glad we are a forever family.  I love my friends.  I know the scriptures are true. [smiley face at the bottom of the page]"

I was so proud of my girl.  It's amazing to me that at this time last year SHE WAS NOT SPEAKING!  She really didn't start until late December/early January.  We came into Primary to watch her give her talk, and she was so proud to be sitting up front, facing everyone (there are chairs set up for the children who will participate that day for talk, prayer, and scripture.)  The primary president gestured to me when Ernie stood up, to ask "do you want to come help her?"  No, no- she's fine.  And she was!

She read her talk so well- I'm so happy for her.  It's such a big deal for these kids to have the opportunity to succeed- I firmly believe that we should make efforts to create environments where they are able to learn and grow and feel well-earned successes.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Shop Update

Shop update! Beaded things this week- badge lanyards for the lady looking for a little shine in her work day, eyeglass holders for the people looking to keep their glasses or sunglasses close by with a little sparkle, and crystal earrings for everyone just looking for bling.

Watch for kids' stuff coming soon- tutus, flower clippies, headbands.
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Friday, November 27, 2009

A Pretty New Wreath

Welcome to our friends from Melissa's holiday decorating carnival!

I've had this grapevine wreath for years now- I love it!  In every season I can fill it full of new stuff, and it hardly costs a thing to change my look.

I've always loved berry wreaths, but they're so expensive!  I pruned these berries off some tall bushes growing along the west fence in my yard- I'm not sure what they are.  Magic Bamboo?  Witch Hazel?  Whatever they were...they're wreath material now, baby!  They're fairly boring bushes, and tall, most of the year so I had meant to tear them out over the summer.  I'm glad I didn't- I think I'll leave them there just for the free wreath every year!  I clipped berries and red-leafed branches last year and put them, dry, in a vase- the color stayed true when they dried.  I'm hoping this wreath will last until the new year.

For construction, I just stick stuff in- no wire, no tape.  Easy peasy, rice and cheesy!

Oh look- here's my Spring wreath!

Have you started decorating for the Christmas/Holiday/Winter season?  Ernie and Wonder Daddy put up the lights today, and I'm so excited to pull out our favorite indoor decorations and watch the kids' faces light up!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Sigh. Banner-stringing FAIL.

Regardless of my spelling prowess, I can GIVE THANKS for so many things. For a warm home, for a happy family, for health, for knowledge, for the ability to learn and grow, for the opportunity to raise our children the best way we know how, and for many, many other things.

I'm especially grateful for my husband, my daughters, my forever family, and my Savior.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. May your hearts, your bellies, and your chairs be full!
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

From the Workshop (Mine, not Santa's)

After mulling over ideas for a LONG time (at least a year- I know..."little less conversation, a little more action!") and I finally took pencil to paper this week to draft a doll pattern. Around Christmas time last year my friend bemoaned the lack of dolls for her daughters- she wanted dolls the girls could relate to. Why is it that when little girls come in so many beautiful colors, dolls....don't? Pink skin and blonde hair is definitely not representative of most of the population!*

Here is the first in what I hope is a long line of "me" dolls- this is my "Ernie" doll (I know she's faceless- I'm still figuring that part out.) Not perfect, but I'm pretty pleased with how she came out! She's a nice big size, and firm to squeeze. The legs and arms are sturdy too, so there's no problem if/when this gal is dragged around by the limbs.

Now....I had thought Santa would bring dolls to my girls this year. But a certain little miss found this gal in my room yesterday during piano lessons and ran breathlessly out to me "Mom! Is this me? Is this me, Mom? Is it mine? Can I have it?" (No.) "Whose is it?" She repeated that last question more frantically each time as I reiterated "It's not yours! I don't know whose it is! Put it back!" Phooey. Oh well, she'll be excited to unwrap her Christmas morning, anyway :) But I'm happy she recognized herself!

I'm planning so many details for future dolls- aprons, skirts, embroidered hair, little mary-jane shoes. It's such a fun project! I'm especially excited to match them to my little girls- pig tails, big curly mops of hair, little baby whisps, and side-swept bangs. I'm getting excited for Christmas :)

* Please ignore the irony that my first doll IS fair skinned and blond-haired. I never dreamed I would have blond children.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sliding in under the wire

Day 24 of NaBloPoMo.  No auto-post this morning, and I've just finished a girl's night with a very good friend I've not seen in years.  We ate sushi, we watched the last video and a half of the REAL Pride and Prejudice, followed quickly by the full play time of the newer version.  We ate kettle corn *, we ate truffles, and I finished up the construction of a not-so-secret Christmas present (more on that later.)

So to all...a good night!

*Oddly enough, the kettle corn recipe is from Our Best Bites, co-written by Sara (my friend and I both went to church with her when we were teens) and her good friend Kate, who I met in college.  Kate later married the son of my Sunday School teacher.  Small, small world.  Yummy, yummy popcorn.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Birthday Presents

Just a little pouch of hair doodad goodies we put together for Ernie's Joy School friend- felt barrettes, flower clippie, and a ribbon headband.

What do you keep on hand for birthday presents?
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Chuckles

Chuckles courtesy of Grandpa.

Happy Sunday, everyone!


Children in Church
A little boy was in a relative's wedding. 
 As he was coming down the aisle, he would take two steps,
stop, and turn to the crowd.
    While facing the crowd, he would put his hands up like claws and roar.
     So it went, step, step, ROAR, step, step, ROAR, all the way down the aisle.
As you can imagine, the crowd was near tears from laughing so hard
by the time he reached the pulpit.
When asked what he was doing, the child sniffed and said,
"I was being the Ring Bear."

One Sunday in a Midwest City ,
a young child was "acting up" during the morning worship hour.
The parents did their best to maintain some sense of order in the pew
but were losing the battle.
   Finally, the father picked the little fellow up
and walked sternly up the aisle on his way out.
     Just before reaching the safety of the foyer,
the little one called loudly to the congregation,
"Pray for me! Pray for me!" 

One particular four-year old prayed,
"And forgive us our trash baskets
as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets."

A little boy was overheard praying:
"Lord, if you can't make me a better boy, don't worry about it.
I'm having a real good time like I am."

A Sunday School teacher asked her little children, as they were on the way to church service,
"And why is it necessary to be quiet in church?"
      One bright little guy replied, "Because people are sleeping."

A little boy opened the big and old family Bible with fascination, 
looking at the old pages as he turned them.
     Then something fell out of the Bible.
He picked it up and looked at it closely.
It was an old leaf from a tree that has been pressed in between the pages.
"Mama, look what I found," the boy called out.
"What have you got there, dear?" his mother asked.
      With astonishment in the young boy's voice he answered,
"It's Adam 's suit"..

  The preacher was wired for sound with a lapel mike,
and as he preached, he moved briskly about the platform,
 jerking the mike cord as he went.
     Then he moved to one side,
getting wound up in the cord and nearly tripping before jerking it again.
     After several circles and jerks,
a little girl in the third pew leaned toward her mother and whispered,
 "If he gets loose, will he hurt us?"

Six-year old Angie , and her four-year old brother, Joel , were sitting together in church.   
Joel giggled, sang and talked out loud.
Finally, his big sister had had enough.
"You're not supposed to talk out loud in church."
"Why? Who's going to stop me?" Joel asked.
Angie pointed to the back of the church and said,
"See those two men standing by the door?
They're hushers." 

  My grandson was visiting one day when he asked ,
"Grandma, do you know how you and God are alike?"
      I mentally polished my halo, while I asked,
"No, how are we alike?"
"You're both old," he replied.

A ten-year old, under the tutelage of her grandmother,
was becoming quite knowledgeable about the Bible.
      Then, one day, she floored her grandmother by asking,
"Which Virgin was the mother of Jesus ? The virgin Mary or the  King James Virgin ?"

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Gift

I adore my husband.

A sunny place to read

A lock

And you can't see it, but there's a heat lamp tucked under that desk.

I am one happy Mama!
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Our Big Toy

When I was in high school I took early morning seminary classes at the local church building- scripture study classes. (One year for Old Testament, then New Testament, followed by Book of Mormon, and finally Doctrine and Covenants.) And I DO mean early morning- class started at 6:05, if I remember correctly. Maybe 6:10.

My junior year of high school found me taking a full load of classes at the community college, and going back to the high school just for choirs. What this meant was that while all my seminary classmates had to scurry to get to school before that 7:30 bell rang, my next class time was variable and I had some time to study or eat after class. I was amazingly blessed with my teacher that year- Linda Snow was one of my personal heroes. I couldn't really tell you why, but she just personified everything I wanted to be. Tall and stately, curly gray hair, well dressed, and always a witty comment at the ready. She would sigh and shake her head at my school clothes (why did I ever think clothes that were three sizes too big would make me appear smaller?), praise my efforts in class, and unabashedly declared herself the "center" of our universe. We didn't mind- it generally meant if she woke up extra hungry, we could come to class and find her with a pitcher of pancake batter and a hot griddle, making pancakes for everyone. "If I'm hungry, everyone eats!"

Linda was an accomplished pianist, and a wonderful organist. A few weeks into the school year, a thought occurred to me. "Linda, would you teach me to play the organ?"

She was never one to beat around the bush- I followed her to the chapel after class.
"These are stops. They make the noise in those pipes up there. This is the swell, this is the great. That keyboard down there is for your feet- it's called the pedal. Bass part is on pedal, tenor on left hand, and alto and soprano on right. 8 foot pipes are regular, 4 foot pipes are an octave up. 16 foot pipes are an octave down. Never play a 4 and a 16 together without an 8- it sounds weird. Flutes are soft, oboes are buzzy, these german-sounding ones sound tinny. Take off your shoes, and here's a hymnal. Sit down and play."

She told me where to order my organ shoes, and lent me a book of excercises to explain the crazy fingering needed to keep a sustained tone going, and set me on my way!

When I was called as the congregational organist a few months later ( dad was kind of behind that one. He believes in jumping right in!) Linda was also the one who would come up as I played postlude and congratulate me on a tricky song I had done well on, and suggest her favorite registration for another song that hadn't gone well at all.

Now years down the road, I was excited to be asked to play organ again in our new congregation- it's a fun position, and one that doesn't really take much effort. Or so I thought. Apparently it's been a little TOO long since I last held this position! When a piano student's mother mentioned she had an organ in her basement she didn't want, I jumped at the chance to be able to practice at home.

Organ still un-seen, Wonder Daddy left last Saturday to help load it into her husband's truck and bring it over.

Now, I had a little hand-me-down organ in high school. It weighed maybe 150 pounds.

This honker has got to weigh at least 300. Wonder Daddy is guessing 500, but I think that's just because he's STILL sore from carrying it up our stairs with my student's dad!

We're having so much fun with our new instrument! If you're into old music equipment, it has a real Leslie speaker and actual reverb coils. So very, very cool! The girls love to push all the buttons (and I love that Grandpa's antique head set works perfectly to protect our ears from a reverb-leslie-flute-cello-dixie funk beat cocktail the girls mix up.)

I'm also excited to be able to teach on this organ. I'm lucky to have a high school student in my studio this year (they're generally too busy to take lessons) and she was excited when I mentioned the possibility of learning organ.
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Back in the saddle

"I feel like I've eaten nothing but cabbage soup, forever."
(Name that movie?)

I'm devastatingly embarrassed to report that my family has eaten roasted vegetable soup for nearly three weeks solid, in one form or another. Beets, cauliflower, onions, squash, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes...all exemplary vegetables (name that movie?). But really. There comes a point when you realize the merit of serving a soup for days on end simply because you inadvertently made enough to feed the Hun army...and made it four times in a row...well, the merit quickly wears off.

I finally threw out the last half gallon of cauliflower (onion, carrot, potato) soup, froze the full gallon of (sweet potato, potato, carrot, onion, beet) pumpkin soup...and it was time to COOK.

Baby, I'm back.

Chocolate Syrup

Spaghetti squash bake (my family sends HUGE thanks to Ms. Alexandra for the recipe inspiration. Seriously yummy stuff.)

Vanilla Yogurt

The best rolls I've ever made. (They better be the best, with twice the normal oil and sugar as my regular recipe, PLUS eggs and powdered milk. Oh snap, these are great. Family, watch out- I'm ready for Thanksgiving "bread duty.")

All in all, not a bad way to spend an hour and a half in the kitchen during nap time!
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Make This: A Corny Pennant Garland

In the end, it spelled "Give Thanks." Ernie had tons of fun covering all the glue with popcorn. This was a great activity during a rare morning-nap for Mimi. Original inspiration was from here. If you ever think to yourself "Gosh, I wish I subscribed to more blogs so I could get lots of great ideas every day!" save yourself the trouble. Lori subscribes to them ALL (I think it was over 700 last time she checked) and posts her favorite ideas.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Free Alternatives to Photoshop

If you drool over gorgeous photoshop enhanced pictures, but your budget=zero, you should definitely give GIMP a try. It's an open-source program, so new stuff is always coming out.

Here are a few tutorial links to get you started! They're all from the same blog- check out his yummy recipes, too! (Funny story- I found this blog a while back, and it was MONTHS before I figured out that the writer is the brother of one of our friends.)

It's not an intuitive program, but follow the tutorials a few times- you'll get the hang of it, and the price (and outcome) is unbeatable!

Here are a few "straight out of camera shots" followed by the same shot enhanced with the first tutorial above.  It only takes about a minute per picture- it would be crazy to do this to the 100's of pictures I take every month, but totally worth it for the "love it" pictures!

Another free program to try is Noiseware Community Edition.  (Make sure you scroll down to "Noiseware Community Edition, there are a bunch of downloads on that page from Imagenomic.)  It smooths out grainy photos with one button.
(Straight Out of Camera, SOOC)

With GIMP "enhance" tutorial- the picture was so dark to begin with, the graininess and "noise" are really noticeable when I brought the color levels up.

Here it is after Noiseware

Give it a shot!   (You can click on the pictures to see them larger, if the benefits I'm touting aren't immediately visible- my small pictures don't always appear to their best advantage on this blog :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mess-Free Color Mixing

Yes, you can have an absolutely mess-free, but still gooey, activity :) The baby got yogurt with a few squirts of food coloring. Miss Ernie had blobs of tempura. They had a blast mashing the heck out of these.

After the gooey-ness is well distributed inside, you can practice letters or shapes. You can't see it, but these are taped shut.
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday, Over and Out

Wonder Daddy and I spoke in church today, in Spanish.  Wow, that's a sentence I never thought I'd type.  When Hermano Barrio announced that I would speak next, he turned around and smiled encouragingly at me (I was seated behind him, at the organ), and then faced forward to start frantically motioning another man in the congregation to come and sit on the stand and translate for me, in case I completely foundered/needed assistance.  What Hermano Barrio didn't know was that I was clutching a small pile of papers- most of my address was quotes pulled from already-translated sources, and I translated everything else I meant to say.  In the 8 minutes I was speaking, I never once looked up from those papers!  But with a prayer in my heart, and doubtless in the hearts of the kind people in our branch, I think I gave the message that needed to be heard today.

In a nutshell, here is what I said:
To have happier and peaceful homes we need to:
1)  Show and express love to our family members often.
2)  Tell our family members often what we believe.
3)  Be consistent.  If you decide something is important for your family, ALWAYS do it.  Even if you think no one is paying attention, they'll remember that you thought it was important enough to do it consistently.

Ernie has been thinking more and more about the differences between our old and new church.  First, it was the heart-stopping statement "We used to go to the white church, but now we go to the brown church!"  (Our old building had a large white spire on top, the one we attend now is dark brown bricks.)  Then it was the constant questioning "How do you say that in Spanish?"  That line of inquiry was quickly followed by "I can speak Spanish!  oxoblepishfillup."

Today, while I was speaking, Ernie sat with Mimi and Wonder Daddy, quietly coloring in her books.  She stopped, looked up, and loudly exclaimed while pointing at me "DADDY!  SPANISH!"

So at least I impressed SOMEONE today!  :)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Oh yes she can!

It turns out that four-year-old girls with near photographic memories can learn to read very well on their own, thank-you-very-much.

When I tell friends she's reading they gasp, "How did you DO that!" Umm...this is Ernie. The child who didn't speak English until she could command the entire language. When she wants to do something, she just hunkers down and watches... and then does it!

PS- That quilt in the background was one the craziest, sweetest, and brilliant gifts my sister ever gave me. She sewed it, night after night, in her bedroom when we were teens. I never had a clue until I opened the box Christmas morning and this thing leaped out at me- she'd stuffed it into the smallest box she could, and it was bursting at the seams.

PPS- If you like twisted fairy tales, check out this book. Mr. Wolf wants pancakes and no one will help him...until they all show up demanding breakfast. He sighs, invites them in...and then eats them. His nasty neighbors. Ernie and I just looked at each other, mouths agape, the first time I read the book out loud. I think it's kind of horrible...but Aunt LoLo laughed when I told her. But then again, she's a big fan of the Stinky Cheese Man. My dad loved that book too. I'm not sure what happened to me- I've gone soft!
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Friday, November 13, 2009

Finding our Marbles

I found a bag of floral marbles at the thrift store last time we were there, and brought them home with no real plan in mind. With two little girls in the house, I didn't need a plan- I knew they'd come in handy!

We played a little game with them, to get the girls aquainted with our stash. They had fun transferring the marbles from one bowl another. Ernie was pretty good with the tweezers and the spoon- I was impressed. Mimi favored the grab-and-dump method.

Now the marbles, and these two salad bowls, are sitting on my night stand to help us remember to be nice. If anyone in the family sees another family member do something nice, say something kind, be helpful, etc. that person will run and put a marble in the second bowl. When all the marbles are in the second bowl, we'll have a party!

I'm looking forward to this- I don't like introducing merit systems with punishments built in, so there is no threat of "knock that off or you'll lose a marble." Only positives in this game!

It's been cute. This morning after breakfast I told Ernie "I noticed you made your bed and got dressed without being asked. And thank you for playing nicely with your sister! I put marbles in the bowl."

Ernie thought that was pretty swell, so a few minutes later she came up and sweetly said "Mommy? Thank you for getting dressed!" and ran to put a marble in the bowl.
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