Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Loads of thoughts are rambling through my head.

First, as I was writing about the childrens book we are currently loving, I thought to myself, wouldn't it be great for my kids to have some penpals?

Nothing fancy (or elaborate or spendy), but my girls would love to get a postcard, letter, anything, from anyone. So, anyone interested in a penpal opportunity? I envision sending postcards from Wisconsin with little bits of info about Wisconsin and our lives, a drawing and some fun stickers we found, stuff like that.

I can't devot loads of time to this project, my initial goal would be to send one mailing a month (one mailing per penpal) in hopes of receiving one mailing back from each penpal. Let me know if this interests you, and we'll work it out.

Second, I want to do a little earthy giveaway, based on green things we do, so get your thinking cap on and start thinking about all the little things you do to help mama earth. I know one of the items will be a string bag - I love them, but got 5 in the set, and never use that many. Hey, I am a proud re-gifter. It's all about being green, you know. I'm trying to think of another one or few items I could include. Anyway, start thinking (if you might want to enter, that is!) and I'll try to get my booty in gear.

Third, any new years resolutions or goals for you? I've been exploring my personal faith and relationship with God, and know that this bit of exploration I am on needs to intensify into the new year, but I'm not willing to elaborate too much on that right now. Any plans to lose weight are, of course, tabled. After the holidays I crave healthy food, so I am hoping to milk that for all it's worth well into 2009. Family goals of eliminating some of our debt (well, all of it, but we're being realistic here). And I want to strive to be less lazy about cleaning up the house.

That's all for now, I am exhausted and want to read a bit before I fall asleep. I hope you had a great New Year's Eve and that the new year is one of your best!

Book Review: The Jolly Postman by Janet & Allen Ahlberg

I grabbed this book at the library for the girls - without even opening it up. I was in a hurry and wanted to just grab and go. (Yes, I feel just guilty enough sneaking to the library without them that I check stuff out for them.)

The story is simple enough, the postman is delivering mail to characters in fairytale land. Cute, for sure, but is it really that great of a book? Each letter that is being delivered comes out of it's own envelope and is a work of art unto itself. In our house, the little ones LOVE getting their own mail to open, so a book full of letters that get opened ROCKS. It really is that great of a book.

What a treasure! Such darling little bits of work have been worked into this book, it is truly amazing.

Whether you have young children or not, you should pop into the children's section of your library and read it. :-)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I added a fun little ticker to my blog - see it?

We are very excited. Aubrey is, by far, the most excited. Lauren really doesn't care. Yet.

Andy has begun the vehicle search. Ug. I hate when he does this. Though this time it is necessary, I still find myself not at all motivated to look at car after car after truck after van after car after van after truck. And this is just online. If we were looking in person, I would probably just agree to the first one he liked and be done with it.

I'm due late August, and have always delivered early, so we'll be surprised if this baby is anything other than an August baby. 5 relatives with birthdays in August, as well as a handful of friends. Aubrey was born on her godmother Shana's birthday, and Lauren born on my Grandma Marg's birthday - will it happen again? I hope so.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Hoska, Brandied Peaches and Felties & Santa's Lap

(would you believe me if I told you that Lauren's red eyes are not because of the camera, but that it happens naturally? :-))
more pictures and news in a few days.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Oh, the magic of Christmas! Church last night was amazing. Ali, the girls and I went. Aubrey fell asleep, as she does every year. Lauren was, well, my little Lornado, but as well behaved as she could be considering she is part tornado. ;-)

After church we drove around looking at Christmas lights and paused long enough for 3 deer, who surely must have been reindeer, to cross the road. We can only assume that Dasher, Dancer and Prancer took a little stroll while Santa was working his magic in a nearby neighborhood. Since Santa was obviously close by, it was decided that we'd all get to bed as soon as we got home.

The gift Aubrey wanted most, a dog that is nice and also real, was not brought this year, but she seems to have hardly noticed, and is quite content with her loot. Lauren is happy as can be with her pile of goodies - and has consumed most all of the candy she can find.

Yesterday Ali and I made Hoska (a bohemian Christmas bread that our family has been making for at least 4 generations) and enchilada casserole (the Christmas Eve contribution our mom brought to our dad's family 30 years ago as she refused to eat their traditional bohemian Oyster Stew and Codfish Gravy dinner - THANK YOU, MOMMY!).

Today we're lounging around, playing new games, spending time being thankful for our many blessings. It's a good day.

I hope your day is wonderful.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008


where Governors make your license plates.

That made me laugh out loud today. Where we live in Wisconsin, we are only a few miles north of the Illinois border, and both happen to work in Illinois, so there's been lots of talk about the Governor. This particular bit was on a marquee in downtown McHenry.

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled bloggin'. :-)

Snowed in

No, not really. It takes an insane amount of snow for Wisconsinites to be snowed in. But I'd like to be snowed in. I'm mentally snowed in. Does that make sense? Anyway, I would love to let the girls sleep in tomorrow, have hot chocolate with breakfast and just be for the day, but since that is highly unlikely to happen, I will settle for drowning in beads tonight instead. Not the same, but incredibly satisfying. That's where I've been off and on since I posted pictures of my bead project. I'm loving all the pretty glass beads I've found. Each garland I make, I say, oh, this is my favorite! and then I put several next to eachother and can't pick a favorite.

Good thing my current craft is suited to doing in front of the TV, because Hallmark and LMN are my two favorite channels right now, I flip from one to the other, cheesy made-for-TV Christmas movie after cheesy made-for-TV Christmas movie. I LOVE them all!

We had our cookie exchange at work yesterday, and mmmmm, I brought home some goodies! My favorite - the corn flake wreaths. I know they are so simple, but I love them. Did I ever tell you I can eat an entire pan of rice krispies in an afternoon and clean up the mess with no one in the house ever knowing they were even made? No wonder the corn flake wreaths are my favorite, huh?

I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday preparations as much as we are!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Mmmm, to smell these baking this afternoon - it smelled of Christmas!
There are only about a million and a half different recipes for the official state cookie of New Mexico, and I wasn't sure which one to try, but when I found this one, with so few ingredients (that all happened to be in my pantry), I knew this was it. Luckily I struck gold with this recipe. :-)

I tweaked it a bit, and my tweaks are reflected below.

6 C flour
2 T baking powder
1 t salt
2 sticks plus 1 T unsalted butter
1 C crisco
3/4 C sugar
1 T cinnamon
3/4 C water
2 T anise seed
cinnamon sugar

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside. Cream butter ands crisco until fluffy, then add sugar and cinnamon. Continue beating until smooth. Add the flour mixture and water mixture slowly, alternating between the two, and at some point add the anise. This is a very dry, dense dough that had my standard kitchenaid mixer rocking a bit - be aware. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface (in several batches) to desired thickness. I got mine less that "1/4 but more than "1/8. Cut in desired shapes. I opted for triangles, and used my pizza cutter. :-) Bake at 400' for 10 minutes (that worked at elevation 910 feet). While still hot, coat cookies in cinnamon sugar (I used a pie pan and was very generous with this step, making sure to coat the bottoms of each cookie as well as the tops). Enjoy.

With the size I made my cookies, I got about 15 dozen. And, it's quite possible the cookies would bake nicely at 375' or even 350' - I didn't feel like experimenting that much today, but some of my bottoms are darker than I like.

The original recipe came from my Grandma Marg's recipe collection - a booklet put out by the Agricultural Extension Service of NMSU, Favorite Cookies from New Mexico Kitchens dated January, 1961. And they spell cookie "cooky."

Monday, December 8, 2008

no pictures, but descriptions WAIT, now there's pictures!

So, first, I replied to any questions about baking soda and vinegar as a comment to my original post. :-)

But, my real reason to post was because April wanted to see pictures of what I made for Jaimie.

It's a beaded garland-like strand with several mini clothes pins attached at intervals - to hang photos or children's art or bits of inspiration, or whatever..... it's maybe 3 feet long, with hook-like bits on either end. I picture it hung from side to side on a wall, but it could just as easily be hung up and down. I used beads in shades of aqua and shades of red. I know the color combination sounds weird, but it looks really great. Don't believe me, click here. I so want to have my kitchen be aqua and red.

I can't take all (or even most of) the credit for this - my cool Aunt Val made me one (pictured below) and I so totally copied her idea.
Crafty folk in my life be warned, I may copy your cool ideas. I'll give you credit, though. And I'll give you permission to copy any cool ideas I may come up with.
And, my camera doesn't truly capture the way these colors work together, but I love it!

Small steps, indeed

In my online adventures, I always stumble upon neat things, and sometimes I like what I see so much I kinda want to share it. So when I stumbled upon this post I was inspired to elaborate on one of the small steps (that the post mentioned) that I've been taking for some time. This small step helps save some money and also helps me to leave a smaller footprint here on earth.

Some people know I don't use shampoo or conditioner in my hair already, but if you didn't know, there you have it. Conventional shampoo strips your hair of it's natural oils and conditioner then adds in artificial ones. I don't like much that's artificial so I wash my hair with baking soda and rinse it with apple cider vinegar. I urge you to try it, and if you are so inclined, know that there's an adjustment period where your hair may feel kinda funky, but when that period is over, your hair will likely be silky soft and dreamy. So soft that you'll catch yourself absentmindedly running your fingers through your hair throughout your day, loving how the softness feels between your fingers.

Here's how to do it, and what to expect.

1. Get your hair wet.

2. Obtain a scoop of baking soda (this is not very scientific, and varies based on your hair thickness, length and what feels right to you - I use maybe 3 tablespoons???) and spread it over your scalp. Keep it out of your eyes, please. It's pretty messy, just do the best you can. (Don't worry too much about the ends of your hair - as you rinse, they'll get plenty clean. Unless you are 2 years old and have a nice blob of maple syrup caked in there - in which case, some extra baking soda attention is required.)

3. Rinse the baking soda out.

4. Fill a cup (again, not scientific) with mostly water, top it off with apple cider vinegar (I've heard that regular vinegar is too harsh for your hair). My measurements work out to approximately 1 1/2 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of vinegar.

5. Pour water/vinegar over your scalp.

6. Rinse until you no longer smell vinegar.

If you want to add a pretty smell, after the vinegar rinse, put a few drops of essential oil into another cup full of water, and pour on your scalp.

There is something quite satisfying about the lather you can work up with shampoo, and you don't get that with baking soda. Also, for a few moments your hair does smell like easter, as opposed to strawberry shortcake or ocean breeze. But oh, the dreaminess afterward. Occassionally I'll miss the lather so much that I'll sneak a bit of Andy's Suave. My satisfaction is fleeting, however, as my hair doesn't feel nearly as good and I think of all the unpronounceable chemicals that I just put onto (and therefore into) my body and our water system.

So there you have it, one small step. Give it a thought, and let me know if you try it. Or if you have any questions.

Winter has begun

Forget what the calender tells you. It's winter here. 23 degrees as I type this. Light wintry mix expected today. Oh, and there's already over 6 inches of compacted snow on the ground. Let the hibernation begin. :-)

I've got plans to bake some cookies, put laundry away, track down several tasty recipes (have you ever had brandied peaches? heavenly!), and vacuum, as well as, umm, work to get paid. Hopefully not too many snow-shoveling interuptions, but we'll deal with what comes and see how the day pans out.

Happy Monday to YOU! :-)

Friday, December 5, 2008

and now we're home

We actually got home Thursday evening.... 2 days later then planned as Lauren began puking Thursday evening. She got well enough to travel just in time for us to leave Monday a.m. By Monday evening, I was feeling ill, and since my body kinda went into self-preservation mode, I was just kinda ill for our drive home - enjoying the company of many fine porcelain toilets when we'd stop in the evenings. And now I feel like crap. Ugh.

In other news, my girls got in the holiday spirit this evening, and now there's something sitting in our fridge waiting for the coming days. Let's play a little guessing game, okay? Here's a few random hints.... there are 5 left. We started with 7, but we had to eat some right away. They are rather round - they'll roll right off the table if we aren't careful. Lauren is in tears that I won't let her have another one right now. Any guess what it might be? Any guess at all? Stay tuned for more (possibly less random) hints and the big reveal. :-)

Did I mention I'm sick? I want my mommy! And I want to sink into a pile of pillows and dream of fields of wildflowers and New Mexico sunsets. Not the stupid 3+ inches of snow on the ground and the single digit temps promised for later this weekend. Today I hate winter. Maybe not tomorrow, but today I do! I got one Christmas gift made tonight, though. Asked Aubrey if she thought Jaimie would like it, and Aubrey replied with, "No, I think we would." I took that as a compliment. I'll try to take pictures tomorrow, once I empty the camera of our Thanskgiving pictures.