For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows grace and favor and glory - honor, splendor and heavenly bliss! No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Psalms 84:11

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Deconstructed

Yesterday was a crazy crazy day, and the days leading up to it just as crazy. I am so tired now that I feel that if I blink for just a little too long that I'll fall completely asleep. I'm sure that this is compounded by the fact that the wind here is extremely gusty and woke me up several times last night.

Christmas morning started with us rousing the girls from their slumber an hour before they usually wake up, getting them ready, and then loading them and all our gifts into the car for the drive to Grandma & Grandpa's house. And when I say WE what I really mean is ME because I'm the only member of my little family who is allowed to lift anything. We took two cars since we couldn't fit all the gifts plus 3 adults into one vehicle (yes, my MIL is staying with us for two weeks).

We got to Grandma & Grandpa's house all in one piece, and ON TIME to boot! That pretty much never happens!

Next was breakfast. I brought homemade cinnamon rolls and my mom provided coffee, juice, yogurt, and quiche. I shared my breakfast with Ziva, and she ate most of it, which left me a bit hungry, but there was no time to think twice about it before diving into presents. I did get 2 cups of coffee though, so I was good to go. The girls did great with the presents, although we forgot our camera lots of other people had theirs so hopefully within the next year I'll get pictures. They were VERY excited about them. Ziva kept saying, "Presents? Birthday? YAYYYY!!!!" She also delivered a few presents before she couldn't stand it any longer and started opening! They got some excellent gifts from the fam: new clothes, art supplies, wooden cars, grocery carts complete with "food". The tutu's I made for them were a bit of a bust, they were AFRAID of them! Seriously?! I can't catch a break with these girls being afraid of inanimate objects. Did I tell you that we didn't get professional pictures of them this year because although I took them TWICE to the studio they were AFRAID of the backdrops and would scream bloody murder every time they were asked to get within 10 feet of them?? Just thinking about it almost makes ME cry, that's how traumatic it was.


As I've mentioned before, we decided to do homemade gifts this year instead of store bought in an attempt to make it more meaningful. Overall I think it went pretty well. The gifts that were given were given with thought and purpose and meaning. My mom made some amazing gifts for people including aprons for me and my sister and photo albums for Hubs. But the sheer volume of gifts was still a bit overwhelming for me. We still spent the majority of the day opening presents, which is what has also happened in the past. Somehow I feel that the presents should be a side note rather than the main event, but I really don't know how to get this to happen. One comment my mom has made (and I think it's probably a common thought), if we don't spend the time opening gifts then what do we do? My first thought was play games, but as my mom pointed out, some people don't like games and we don't want to leave them out. And how do you come up with NEW traditions after 50+ years of doing the current ones? Especially without upsetting people who have helped create those traditions? So much of Christmas is about nostalgia, and if we revamp how we do things it will inevitably involve stepping on toes. If anyone out there has ideas please share!!!

The major bright spot in the day for me was when the girls actually NAPPED at Grandma & Grandpa's house! It was a Christmas miracle!!! During nap time we were able to sit and chat and believe it or not... RELAX! My Grandma & Uncle Butch were able to be with us yesterday, and it's the first Christmas that they've been able to attend so that was very fun. My grandma is 93 years old, and she and my Uncle Butch told stories and cracked jokes and generally made the day very entertaining. At one point they were talking about my Grandma going to visit her sister down in Fresno, CA this summer and my Uncle said he'd be willing to drive her as far as Woodburn, OR but then she was on her own. But he'd be kind enough to drop her on the side of the freeway with a sign saying: Fresno or BUST! How kind of him, don't ya think?! But don't you worry Readers, my Uncle Butch loves his momma and would never do such a thing, he just likes to talk trash and get everyone laughing. Growing up I never knew what to make of Uncle Butch. When I was in college on the East Coast he'd always tease me about not bringing home any lobsters home with me for him. "Where's my lobsters? You didn't bring me any??? Well you better get on back there and bring me some next time! Put 'em in your carry on luggage so they stay nice and fresh." So his presence yesterday kept us laughing, and we desperately needed it what with all the other family drama goin' down that I can't discuss here. Thankfully the drama was kept to a minimum yesterday.

So today I'm tired. Very tired. Hopefully a nap for me is on the agenda.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Against Principalities and Powers

This is a very difficult time for a lot of people. A time of year when memory seems to be amplified, when lost traditions are remembered, when loved ones are missed, when we're constantly reminded of what really matters in life and often feel like our own lives fall short.

I've written before about some of the difficulties my own family has had this year. But I know we're not the only ones. And I know many people with much worse problems. People who thought they had it all together are now loosing their homes to foreclosure. People are worried about our nation. They're worrying about health care and hand gun reform, and whether or not Obama deserves the Peace Prize. People are going through divorces at an alarming rate. People are dealing with sick loved ones, or the death of someone close. It's a terrible world. And if you look at the Bible it says things are only going to get worse before Christ's return.

When I was thinking about all of this today, I was struck suddenly by a verse. I could only remember that it had something to do with Principalities and Powers. That our battle is against the spiritual realm. A little google search later and I found it:

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." Ephesians 6:12-13

We are in a huge spiritual battle. And Satan is having his hay day. And we need to be prepared. How do we do that? We put on our armor.

"Stand firm then,
with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,
with a breastplate of righteousness in place,
and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to this,
take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Ephesians 6:14-17

In order to have access to this powerful set of armor, it requires discipline and study. This is not the easiest thing to do, especially when you're already in the middle of a great battle, as many of us currently are. But it only takes a minute or two to open the Word, put your finger on a passage, and arm yourself. I know one lady who reads 3 chapters of the Bible a day, it usually takes her 5-10 minutes. And seriously, this is something I need to do! I'm preaching to myself as I write this!!!

And sorry to jump around, but here's my thought. It's almost Christmas. The holiday that is supposed to be about the birth of Jesus. And yet our society (and let's face it, the forces of evil) have twisted it into something it's not. Into a holiday about Santa and retail marketing, and stress. Let's not forget the stress. Because spending great deals of time thinking about what you should get for various family members can be stressful. Worrying about your credit card bill because you spent too much on gifts is stressful. And for many, thinking about what won't be under the tree for you children is... heartbreakingly stressful.

We've taken the gift of Christ, which was meant to SAVE us, and turned it into a total fiasco. Just try to tell me Satan didn't have something to do with that!

Yes folks, we are fighting against the spiritual world here. And this time of year, the battle is ON! Big time! So we need to focus on our armor and prepare ourselves for attack, because by now it should be obvious that it's coming, if not already here.

But remember, there is light at the end of this tunnel. Jesus came to save the lost. He came for you, for me, for your neighbor, your uncle Frank, your cousin Shelly, your neighbor across the street, your co-worker who drives you nuts. He came for ALL of us!

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - Jeremiah 29:11

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. - Romans 15:13

But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. - Hebrews 3:6

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fun Holiday Treats - Perfect for Gift Giving!

Before we get to the point of this post I thought I'd start with a somewhat entertaining side note. I know side notes usually come AFTER you've written your main point, but hang in with me and you'll see why.

I'm a bit afraid of re-entering my kitchen. I think it's finally decided to turn on me. Yesterday I broke not one, not TWO, but THREE separate dishes! And the day before that I broke yet a FOURTH dish!!! What is WRONG with me?!?

For the record, I broke:
- A hand painted mixing bowl that was a wedding gift from my parent's neighbors. It was one of my favorites.
- A Japanese rice bowl that was a part of a set that Hubs and I bought in one of our last pre-baby trips. It had blue fireflies painted on the inside... it was very pretty. Thankfully I have 3 others just like it.
- The cap to the PAM spray. Ok, I know that's not a dish, but it shattered in a million pieces when it hit the floor and really rattled my nerves. Plus it required a careful clean up.
- And last but not least, a candle holder that my mom gave me. She found it at Goodwill so obviously it wasn't that valuable, but it was really cute and it matched my wedding set so I was pretty sad to see it break. This particular item was my last and final straw before I said adieu to the kitchen for the day. I had taken it out of a cupboard in order to reach something else and it was precariously placed on top of the refrigerator (obviously I thought it would get put right back into the cupboard but I must have had an ADD moment and forgot to put it back in). In any case, I pretty much set my very own booby trap! Because when I went to get ice out of the freezer the candle holder came right down onto my head! My own kitchen was ATTACKING ME!!!

Basically, nothing super valuable was broken, but CRIPES!!! I didn't cook dinner last night because I was afraid of what else might get smashed to pieces! And I was SUPER careful when I unloaded the dishwasher this morning! lol... I feel like such a clumsy knucklehead!

And now for the point of the post, but first, a warning...

WARNING!!! If you are a family member or a friend who normally receives gifts from me, DO NOT SCROLL DOWN OR YOU WILL RUIN THE SURPRISE!!!

Is it safe yet???

Ok, I'm assuming it's safe from any prying familial eyes...

I'm planning to do a bunch of holiday baking and candy making this coming week in order to have homemade goodies on hand for gift giving. In case you hadn't heard, my family is trying to Give More & Spend Less this holiday season, and I plan to shower my friends & family with homemade goodness from my kitchen. In the spirit of giving, I'm passing on the links to wonderful sites with the recipes.

The Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls
The Pioneer Woman's Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies
The Pioneer Woman's Chocolate Truffles w/ Sea Salt

Can you tell I'm a fan of hers? Just slightly...

I'm also making Salted Browned Butter Rice Krispy Treats by Smitten Kitchen.

And my Ye Old family recipe for Cream Cheese Mints. Which I shall share with you on a later date.

Should be a fun week! As long as I don't break anything else, in which case I might just throw in the towel and not cook again until New Years.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Post Thanksgiving Family Update

Well folks, I don't even know where to begin. We're all a bit stressed this year, and it's starting to show. I've tried to leave all that crap off of here because I'm not sure anyone really wants to read about it, but then again, this is MY outlet, and as a result I feel like I'm not coping that well because I'm refraining from using it.

My husband's shoulder is still not well. Yes, it's been about 9 months since he got injured. At this point workman's comp is protesting his case. Makes me glad we hired a lawyer several months back. Hubs' primary doctor is now siding with the insurance company doctors. We don't really know what that will fully mean, but what we do know is that Hubs is running out of pain medication and he hasn't attempted to go back for refills thinking that the doctor won't prescribe him more anyway. So Hubs is in crazy pain, and he's now going through withdrawals. On Tuesday he has an appointment with our chiropractor which usually helps with some of the pain, and he plans to ask her for advice. We'll see how that goes. We're running out of next steps & next options and so far Hubs hasn't even received a diagnosis. It's pretty grim.

On top of that there is some really serious family drama going on in my extended family. Certain family members did not attend Thanksgiving dinner due to what's going on. I don't feel like it would be right to share the details here, it's not my story to tell. But I will say this, there have been MANY phone conversations flying around every day since last Sunday, and many prayers being said, and many discussions about what should be done. It's really really ugly stuff. So ugly that it's really surpassed what's going on with Hubs on my personal stress meter. And there's really not much any of us can do about it besides listening and praying. Which is hard to do when people you love are hurting.

All of the above stuff has somewhat overshadowed the joy that this season brings. I'm trying REALLY hard to stay positive. To be Thankful. To find peace in the worship of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the reason for celebration. To trust that everything WILL work itself out in time. That God is in control of all of this and more. But it's not easy. And I often find myself wrapped up in the here and now and all the stress and worry that goes along with it.

So if you think about it, pray for me. Most days my life is stressful enough all on it's own without all these other things going on.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Advent Conspiracy & Black Friday

You may remember when I talked back in October about my family's plans for Christmas this year. In a nutshell, we plan to Give More and Spend Less by making homemade gifts for each other. Gifts with meaning, not monetary value. And take the money we would normally have spent and give it to charity. This decision was made after a few of us were introduced to The Advent Conspiracy, a non-profit Christian group that promotes the idea of less consumerism and more Jesus during the Christmas season.

Today on their blog they posted an EXCELLENT article on Black Friday. What they had to say surprised me in a good way, and made me feel even better about decision. So of course I just had to share it here! Please click over HERE to check it out! The basic jest is that Christmas should be about Jesus and family & friends. Everything else is secondary. And that it's ok to shop Black Friday and get great deals as long as your priorities are straight and you aren't making it the whole point of the holiday. Truly worth reading, so get over there and read it!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Things I Am Thankful For

1) God's provision for our family this year.

2) My husband and his love for his family. He's becoming proficient at demonstrating that love, and it makes me all warm and fuzzy.

3) Our children! The one's we thought we'd never have are HERE and 2.5 and WILD! It's crazy, but crazy in a very good way (most of the time!).

4) Our family. Our brothers and sisters and parents and grandparents and cousins and aunts & uncles who have given us their love and encouragement! We love you too, and we thank God every day for you!

5) Modern conveniences. Refrigeration. Indoor plumbing with clean drinking water. Laundry facilities. Hot water (and for us, instant hot water tap). Electricity. Food in the pantry and a full fridge. Things we take for granted, but make our lifestyle possible.

6) Cars that are paid for in full. And a mortgage with a 30-year fixed interest rate.

7) Hubs' job. We complain about it a lot. It's not fun what he does, it's not fancy, he doesn't get to use many of his skills. It's boring, quite frankly, until it's not. But his job also fully supports our family and makes our lifestyle possible. Because of his job, I can stay home with our children. And that is a major blessing that we do not take for granted.

8) On a lighter note... our dogs. I guess I'm thankful for them. lol Ok FINE, I AM thankful for them. They keep my feet warm when I sit still for 5 minutes. They make me feel safe when Hubs is at work at night. They're getting to be pretty good babysitters, alerting me when the girls are doing something unusual. Dingo is very affectionate and sweet. And Rocky... well... he's just ROCKY!

9) Awesome neighbors! If you've ever lived somewhere with awful neighbors it really makes you appreciate the good ones! At our old house the people across the street would get drunk and yell at each other IN THEIR FRONT YARD at 3AM, so having neighbors that are actually NICE and actually talk to each other and look out for each other! Love it!

10) My Friends. It's been hard lately to meet new people and get out to spend time with old buddies, so I've become more appreciative of the time I DO get to get out and be with friends. I've made a few new friends through book club and getting to know one of my neighbors and it's just been such a blessing!

So that's it! What are you thankful for this year?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tales of a Good Christian Girl

I talk a lot about food, and babies, and life as a housewife trying to stay mentally stimulated in between Wiggles episodes. And that's all fun and good, but today I thought I'd do something a little different and share a story about my past.

Before I met Hubs I spent quite a bit of time trying to find Mr. Right. Between my college boyfriend and Hubs I developed a strategy. I had a list of all the things I wanted in my Husband-To-Be, and then I determined to meet as many eligible bachelors as possible until I found the right one. I was very scientific about it. In order to reel in as many suckers as possible (ha ha) I placed an ad on a popular dating website (which no longer exists, that's how old I am!). In my ad I mentioned that I was a GOOD Christian girl, with MORALS, and RULES, and MODESTY, and that I was interested in MISSIONS. And then I purposefully did not post a picture of myself. "THERE!" I thought, "that oughta rule out about 99.9% of the males on this planet!"

Very next day I had 35 emails and counting. Holy crap!!! Now what do I do? So since I was such a nice sweet young thang I started replying to each and every one of them. Some of them with a polite, "No thanks, not what I'm looking for. But thanks for responding to my ad and I hope you find true love!" Others with questions, gotta ask lots of questions, like a JOB INTERVIEW! For the position of a LIFE TIME! Some never responded back (wonder WHY?), which was fine by me, weed those losers out. And over the course of the next several months I would meet a lot of them in person in public locations.

Most of the guys I met were nice, nothing scary or horrible about them, just not for me. One guy was very nice, we had a lot of common interests, but he was so unattractive that I could barely make eye contact with him. I kept praying about him, telling myself that looks weren't that important, that even ugly guys deserved a nice woman to love... but I just couldn't! Made me feel crazy guilty about asking him to be just friends, but it had to be done.

Another guy was young and sweet. He had his own fledgling business and was sharing a rented house with a roommate. We showed each other our photo albums, because that's the best way to get to know someone, right? We ate in at my place because we couldn't afford to go anywhere. And then we kissed, and ummm... I think I lost my chin! Dude was the WORST KISSER EVER!!! I could probably live a very long time on hamburger helper, but I simply couldn't imagine a lifetime of needing a towel after every kiss. So I broke it off.

And then there was the Model. Yup, I'm dead serious ladies. He was 6'4", worked out 3 hours a day 5 days a week, and did some substitute high school teaching on the side. YIKES! When I agreed to meet him I was terrified. Because let's face it, I was a pretty girl back then, but certainly NOT a super model! I rushed out and bought a new dress that I could barely afford along with some slinky new sandals and hoped that would be good enough. It was probably one of the most nerve wracking dates ever for me. We met at a restaurant, and I can't even remember what we talked about because the entire time I was thinking, "This guy is NOT going to like me. I am SO not his type..."

The only thing we had in common was that we were Christians, and even that was a bit sketchy! True to form I asked him a lot of questions, past relationships, family dynamics, doctrinal issues, the whole nine yards. It turned out that this fellow had recently broken off an engagement with a girl from his church. Why? Well because the pastor of his church had told him that he had a vision for Model Guy's life. And in this prophetic vision Model Guy married Cutie Blonde Girl From Church and the two of them started this amazing ministry together and brought all these people to Jesus. So naturally, even though he had no feelings for Cutie Blonde Girl, he went ahead and proposed to her, and because she ALSO believed in their pastor's vision, she said yes. I remember trying to focus really hard to not stare at him with my jaw hanging open as he told me this story!! Or say something like, "You did WHAT?!" Although, maybe I did say that... it sounds like something I'd say. And then he informed me that even though all this drama went down, and even though he doesn't believe his pastor's prophetic vision was correct, he was STILL attending this so-called "church"!

It took me a few more dates with him to let all that info sink in. I felt like I had some sort of mystery to solve with this guy, and it intrigued me! So... WHY was he still going to this church again? And does this chick still go there too? And most importantly, why in the WORLD does this guy want to go out with ME? I mean, really?! I'm nearly a foot shorter than him, I'm a pleasant conversationalist sure, but I'm not really that exceptional in any way. Just your average Amy, that's me! There was one date specifically that I recall when we went for a walk to get ice cream at a local shop and on our way back he said, "I think something very special is going to happen for us this summer." I'm really not sure how I responded, but I remember being downright baffled! Something special?! Are you kidding me?! You're the dude who proposed to a girl based on some quack pastor! You went to Bible College, shouldn't you KNOW better?! And how exactly am I supposed to follow THAT parade?!

So I was pretty much determined to break it off with him. I had convinced myself that he was basically a Man Bimbo, which would explain quite a bit. But since I didn't really trust my own judgment I decided to have a little get together with some of my friends at my apartment and invite Model Guy and see how things went. It was a fun evening, with food and drinks and lots of joking around. Funny thing was, Male Model didn't understand half of our jokes, and they weren't inside jokes! Finally my dear friend Christina pulled me into the kitchen and said, "WHAT are you doing with this guy?!" And then I had to face the facts, I had no clue what I was doing with him. Probably the only reason I kept going out with him was to try and wrap my mind around the whole thing... until I realized, there was NOTHING THERE TO WRAP!!!

So after the party was over and all my friends had gone home I had a little heart to heart with Model Dude. I explained that the whole pastor/church/Blonde Cutie thing freaked me out a bit and that I thought he really needed to get his spiritual life in order if he wanted to have a relationship with me. I said, "Figure it out, and get back to me." Assuming of course that he never would and that'd be the last I'd hear of him. Doh! Stupid Good Christian Girl!!! Of course he called me back 2 weeks later notifying me that he was now "on the right path".

Luckily for me I had already met Mr. Right. Hubs makes a GREAT scape goat!

Monday, November 16, 2009

What's for Dinner? - My E-Mealz Review

Here's a big surprise for some of you, I have ADD. Now some of you right now are smacking your hand to your head and saying, "Nawww.. REALLY?!" Yeah, really. Bright shinny objects distract me, my house would be total chaos were it not for my husband, and I'm habitually late to every appointment I make. Yup, I'm one of THOSE people. When I met my husband one of the reasons I knew he was the right man for me was because our first date was planned down to every last detail. Somehow I just KNEW that I needed someone like him in my life! WONDER WHY?!

One of the things that I really hate doing each week is planning out our meals for the week and make the grocery shopping list. It's one of my most dreaded tasks. Why? Because in my brain it goes something like this: *while looking in a cookbook* "Ooooh, that looks like a yummy recipe! I just HAVE to make it this week! Let's see... it says I need fresh ginger... check. Garlic... check. Carrots... check... chicken... got it... OH LOOK! My neighbor across the street is getting her newspaper! Aw, she doesn't look like she feels very well. I wonder if I should make her some soup. Hm, does this cook book have chicken soup? *checks the index* Yup, it does! *flips to the soup recipe* Ok, it says I need chicken... check... noodles... check... carrots... check... onions... check... Ok I think that's everything. Oh wait, did I finish putting everything from that first recipe on my list? *flips around* Where was that recipe?! Freakin' A!!!

That above scenario took me about 20 minutes... and I haven't even gotten past meal #1!!!

So as much as I love to cook, and have control over my own culinary destiny, I've decided to move on to a meal planning service. Because let's face it, I need less stress in my life and paying $1.25 per week seems like a small price to pay for less stress. I decided to go with E-Mealz because it's endorsed by Dave Ramsey. I've never listened to Dave Ramsey in my life but certainly can't stop hearing about him from practically everyone I know and he seems like an upstanding citizen who wouldn't lead me astray.

The point of E-Mealz is saving money on your grocery bill via planning meals according to store sales. Now, obviously that's WAY beyond my organizational skills which is why I hadn't even considered doing such a thing. But it sounds like a good idea, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

I've been using E-Mealz for about 3 weeks now, and I've got to say it works out pretty well for us. I was a bit skeptical because Hubs is the pickiest eater alive, but knowing that I could always just cross out a meal he wouldn't eat, and knowing it wouldn't reappear on my meal plan for at least 6 months, makes it worth it. All of the meals are super easy to make, which has been a nice break for me. Especially during this time of year when I am busier than usual.

There are lots of meal plan options to choose from. You select which grocery store you usually shop at, or a generic "Any Store" list. Obviously you save more money if you can choose a store, but the meals themselves are very economical so I imagine you'd still save money no matter where you shop. You can also choose between low-carb, low-fat, or "normal" dietary options. I went with the low-fat option, and so far the meals have seemed healthy and balanced. Plus we're no longer running out for fast food because I've forgotten an ingredient, which naturally has helped my waistline.

The shopping lists are also very user friendly. They're organized by produce, dairy, meat, pantry items, so it's really easy to find what you need at the store. There is also room on the list to write in additional items you might need to pick up that wouldn't be included on the meal plan. The meals are numbered on the meal plan, and then the ingredients used for each meal have the same number. So if you decide not to make a particular meal it's very easy to go to the list and cross off ingredients you don't need to buy.

Obviously I'm very pleased with how the past 3 weeks have gone in my kitchen. E-Mealz has given me back a small bit of my sanity, especially around 3:30 pm when I start to think "what's for dinner?" Instead of scrambling around to defrost meat or search my pantry for ideas or picking up the phone to dial the local Thai take out joint, I calmly look at my meal plan and in 20-30 minutes I can have dinner on the table. What a relief!!

For More Things to Love visit The Diaper Diaries!

If you're interested in E-Mealz I've placed a button on my header & sidebar. I do receive a small commission for anyone who signs up, but as I've stated elsewhere on this site all money I make goes towards charities in my area.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Poetry Saturday

Ok, I'm not declaring a new Meme. Honest! My friend John has recently started a new poetry blog. I had never read any of his poetry before, and WOW! I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that he's such an excellent poet because I already knew he was a genius.

So I started thinking, who else is a poet (and I didn't even know it)?

Are you?

Care to share your genius?

I'll show you mine if you show me yours.... :P

Ok, I'll just show you mine... it's not particularly pretty but here goes nothin'.



Night comes quickly this time of year.
Held in a wintery embrace of time
We creep along, ever so slowly.
Our blood is thicker now, our chill more bearable.
We've walked on water - every day we do
And it doesn't surprise us at all.
Merry merry, all the way. No time to be depressed.
Then January comes, and the bare tree limbs point to the sky.
They show us things we denied back when we made our Santa lists.
Our resolutions were broken five days ago
And after all the excitement, what do we do?
Huddle down and wait out the cold, that's what.
We reassure ourselves. Everything Will be alright.
Spring will come eventually; it's only a matter of time.
And the sun sets again, promptly at 4:30 in the afternoon.
Let the night be still, and may our hearts do likewise.
For winter is not really a time of sorrow, but rather a time of peace.
And peace is something all of us need more of.
Especially today.

These Poems Contained on this page remain the property of the owner of this site.
Any Copying, Editing or Reproduction in whole or in part for personal gain is strictly prohibited. Copyright ©1999.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Turkey Tips - Aloha Friday!

From An Island Life

In Hawaii, Aloha Friday is the day that we take it easy and look forward to the weekend. So I thought that on Fridays I would take it easy on posting, too. Therefore, I’ll ask a simple question for you to answer. Nothing that requires a lengthy response.

If you'd like to participate with your own question on your own blog, head on over to An Island Life to link up and join the fun!

So I'm hosting Thanksgiving for the very first time this year, and as a result I'm roasting my very first turkey. Anyone have any great turkey tips for me?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Three Kansas Restaurant Reviews - Things I Love Thursday

Three Rave Reviews from my parents trip to the mid-west back in September! These are all from the great state of Kansas!

This review is really on the road but worth doing a review about. In the Wichita, Kansas Airport while waiting for a delay in Atlanta to clear up (low cloud ceiling so spacing planes every 7 miles for landing instead of their usual 3 miles that is a piece of information...), I order a grilled chicken pesto sandwich on a baguette. This was around $10 with taxes. Even fast food at an airport is high I've found. The sandwich is big enough to split with my hubby. Let me tell you, the pesto sauce is great as was the nice size piece of chicken breast. The bread is baked on site (yes I like and notice bread). This sandwich even has sun dried tomatoes! It comes with an exceptionally good spicy dill pickle which I didn't have to share as hubby doesn't like them :) . Anyone guess which fast food place? The Great American Bagel Bakery. I would certainly order again if given the opportunity.

Montana Mike's adjoins the Best Western off I 35 in McPherson, Kansas (home of the great pumpkin catapulting contest --- honest, I saw on national news!). The decor is "outdoorsy" complete with a buffalo head mounted in the foyer. We take a picture! Such tourists! Other hunting and fishing decor are tastefully arranged throughout. I tend to cheer for the animals, but this is tastefully done. And we order the special of a 12 oz. rib eye steak, steamed veggies, cinnamon cooked apple slices, and a huge roll ( the size of 1/2 a sub sandwich! ). The steak flavor is great without any sauces added. I suggest ordering medium, which is like medium rare elsewhere. The mountainberry ice tea is great and a nice contrast to the meal. The servers give us their name on a stand up card to put on our table for reference. The service is great with friendly smiling staff. We stay all evening chatting with cousins and we are not pushed by the staff to order more or to leave. All this for $12.99!

I highly recommend Cindy's Copper Kettle on East River Street in Eureka, Kansas ( Cindy's looks like a family style restaurant in a small town. There are locals eating here and that is always a good sign. It is very clean and smells really good when you walk in the door. I get excited when I see bierocks on the menu! I was introduced to bierocks by my mother in law as part of her German Mennonite background (my father in law's family being Dutch Mennonite and they make this too). Anyway, bierocks is part of this wonderful cooking tradition. The baker (who also makes heavenly huge cinnamon rolls for $1.50!) includes hamburger, cabbage, onion, and swiss cheese (a new twist for me), baked in homemade bread. (First you lightly brown & cook the first three ingredients). Cindy's serves this with ranch dressing or ketchup! I have never tried with any dip but I try the ranch. The size is huge- a good 6 inches round! I am accustomed to a rectangular shape of about 3 inches x 5 inches. It was divine!!! The swiss cheese is light and does not overpower the other flavors so I am really pleased. I eat half and save the other half for another day. Most I eat without any dip. It really is good. At Cindy's this comes with salad bar which is surprisingly good. The coleslaw, 3 bean salad, cucumber and tomato salad are all above average. The fresh toss salad add-ons include many choices and really good croutons. The crinkle cut carrot sticks are exceptional. The crisp garlic toast is a nice addition to the salad bar. And the service is good. Worth every penny at $6.95! Thank you Cindy and staff!!!

And thanks again Mom for helping me out and writing such excellent reviews!

For more great Things to Love check out The Diaper Diaries!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Duel Play - Way Back When-endsday

When: July 2009
Where: Our living room
Title: What one must do, the other must do also.

You don't have to have twins to play along with Cheryl's Way Back Whenendsday at Twinfatuation! :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

Easy Apple Cider - Mystery Spice Monday

I've got a secret.

I know the easiest "recipe" in the world for spiced apple cider.

Don't believe me? Check this out!

Yup, spices don't always come in jars with labels. They also can be purchased inside of tea bags.

In just two minutes, you could be holding a hot steaming cup of hot apple cider.

Or if you're "cooking" for a crowd you could pour a gallon of cider into a crock pot and throw in 6 tea bags.

PS: If you can see through a jug of what's labeled as apple cider, then it isn't really cider. It's juice. Go for the good stuff that is more opaque, it will make your life that much better. Trust me. :)

Would you like to share your own Mystery Spice Monday recipe? Link up below!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Aloha Friday! - FB Apps

From An Island Life

In Hawaii, Aloha Friday is the day that we take it easy and look forward to the weekend. So I thought that on Fridays I would take it easy on posting, too. Therefore, I’ll ask a simple question for you to answer. Nothing that requires a lengthy response.

If you'd like to participate with your own question on your own blog, head on over to An Island Life to link up and join the fun!

My question for today is If you're on Facebook, what is your favorite App? Or do you hate all apps of any kind?

I would have to say that over time my favorites change. I really like the Visual Bookshelf app, and these days I'm a little hooked on Bejeweled Blitz and Cafe World.

So how about you?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Way Back When-endsay - A Day at the Beach

Sometimes it's good to get away.

Even if it's only for 2 days.

Just so you can remember how you got there in the first place.

Just the two of us, before there were 4 of us.

It's important.

And sometimes it's good to look back to those short 2 days.

And remember what it feels like to be semi-free!

Way Back in August 2009 in Newport, OR. Seems like WAY too long ago!

Isn't that ridiculous?

For more Way Back fun visit Cheryl over at Twinfatuation!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Give More, Spend Less

For years and years, as far back as I can remember, my family has celebrated Christmas the same way. We wake up super early in the morning, travel to whoever's house is hosting that year (we rotate who hosts between 3 different families) or drag ourselves downstairs (if we're lucky enough to be the hosts), drink coffee, open stocking gifts from Santa, eat breakfast, open "the big gifts" which are not from Santa but rather from each of us to each of everyone else, eat dinner (yes, it usually takes HOURS to open all the big gifts) and then some linger and play games while others go home. That's what we do. Year in, year out.

But as I've gotten older the appeal has gotten stale. You mean, I really have to buy presents for Aunt Hildigard and Cousin So and So? Really? But I only see them once a year. What do they like? I have no idea! Maybe I'll just get them a sweater. Everyone likes sweaters, right? Ok fine, scrap the sweater, I'll just go with a gift card.

Why are we doing this? And by "we" I mean all Americans who follow the same routine.

Last year I found this video on You Tube, someone sent it to me via email. I don't remember who sent it, but obviously I NEEDED to see it! At that point, it was too late to call everyone and change everyone's gift buying plans. Especially since so many of my family members start buying Christmas gifts in June.

But it struck a chord in my heart that's been resonating ever since.

So this year I wrote a letter and emailed it to my family members, because things HAD to be different this year. Of all years. When the economy is in the toilet and there are so many people out there who could use some help. I proposed that instead of giving "big gifts" at Christmas that we make handmade items, and then take the money we would have spent and give it to charity.

And instead of taking HOURS to open presents, maybe we could break out some board games. Or decorate cookies, or cut out snowflakes from paper or... you fill in the blank.

Have a Christmas that's meaningful, not consumer-filled. Give more to the charity of your choice, instead of wasting it on things the other person might not even want. Make it clear to your family and friends that you would MUCH rather receive a donation to your favorite charity than a bobble or trinket. Fill the piggy bank of the poor, rather than the coffers of Target or WalMart.

And then take a nice relaxing breath and think about all the shopping that you DON'T have to do this holiday season!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Happy Big 70 Dad!

As some of you may know, my dad turned 70 this past week. So on Saturday we had a big shindig for him. Plenty of friends, food, and let's not forget, desert. Just the way he likes it!

For those who are interested I used THIS recipe for the cake. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Botany of Desire - Things Everyone Loves

This is a preview of the 2 hour special on PBS that will be on October 28th (check your local listings for times). I haven't read the book, but my mom keeps recommending it to me. It's about four plants: the apple, the potato, marijuana, and tulips. They highlight 4 basic desires of human nature: sweetness, control, alteration of consciousness, and beauty. The book and show are from the plants perspective. The idea is that plants use us (rather than the other way around) to spread themselves all over the world. Since I haven't found time to read the book, I'm really looking forward to this special!

For more Things to Love visit The Diaper Diaries.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Family Update

We had another appointment with a orthopedic surgeon about Hubs shoulder. We liked this new doctor, he really seemed to listen. He even took notes. His recommendation is to try a steroid injection. It could solve the problem, it could fix it temporarily, or it could not work at all. But either way it would provide more info about what might be wrong. Hubs isn't thrilled with the idea of a big needle injecting something right into the spot where he hurts, but hopefully it will help. The injection will probably happen sometime next week after insurance approves it.

We're all sick with colds. It sucks. I'm actually starting to feel better today... I think. Anya is teething on top of it all and is super clingy. I mostly wish I could go into hibernation until it's all over, but then who would cook?

We're about to have a new neighbor. Our next door neighbor who has been trying to sell his house for about 9 months has accepted a cash offer. I didn't know cash offers were going down these days, but there you have it. As a result, he'll probably be moved out and gone very quickly, which makes the rest of us pretty sad. He's been a great neighbor. We only hope that our new neighbors will be as wonderful.

My dad's 70th birthday party is this Saturday. My gift is making his cake. I'm planning to make this Bakerella beauty. I've been itching to make it since she posted it back in February, and now I finally have a good excuse! I'm excited to make it, but wish I had more energy to do my best. I just hope it turns out ok and I don't embarrass myself.

Speaking of neighbors, I've spent a lot of time with one of my other neighbors. We've started a Bible study together, which has lead to other great conversations and spending more time together. How amazing is it that God has placed her in my life during this time!? Here I am, so stressed out most days, just trying to scrape through, and then God brings a new friend who lives kitty corner across the street. Wow!

Anyway, that's about it. Again, wish I had more time, energy, oomph to give more attention to this blog. I have so many great ideas stirring in the back of my mind, but just haven't been able to carry things out the way I'd like to.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Next Day

I'm feeling moody and reflective today. You could call it hormones, or lack of chocolate, or too much cleaning up of poopy messes thanks to my chillin's. So for whatever reason today I was reminded of this poem that I used to ooze over when I was in college. It was sort of my fear of what my life would be, because I knew that I would be a stay at home mom. Just knew it. But what if years from now I became unloved and forgotten? What if being a mom sucked all the life out of me, and I was left used up? That was my fear. Perhaps irrational at the age of 20, but there you have it.

And then I met this poem via Contemporary American Literature class. Yes, I say met. Why? Because when you come across a poem that over time becomes a friend, yes, there is a meeting.

Let me introduce you. Dear reader, meet Next Day.

Next Day
By Randall Jarrell

Moving from Cheer to Joy, from Joy to All,
I take a box
And add it to my wild rice, my Cornish game hens.
The slacked or shorted, basketed, identical
Food-gathering flocks
Are selves I overlook. Wisdom, said William James,

Is learning what to overlook. And I am wise
If that is wisdom.
Yet somehow, as I buy All from these shelves
And the boy takes it to my station wagon,
What I've become
Troubles me even if I shut my eyes.

When I was young and miserable and pretty
And poor, I'd wish
What all girls wish: to have a husband,
A house and children. Now that I'm old, my wish
Is womanish:
That the boy putting groceries in my car

See me. It bewilders me he doesn't see me.
For so many years
I was good enough to eat: the world looked at me,
And it's mouth watered. How often they have undressed me,
The eyes of strangers!
And, holding their flesh within my flesh, their vile

Imaginings within my imagining,
I too have taken
The chance of life. Now the boy pats my dog
And we start home. Now I am good.
The last mistaken,
Ecstatic, accidental bliss, the blind

Happiness that, bursting, leaves upon the palm
Some soap and water -
It was so long ago, back in some Gay
Twenties, Nineties, I don't know... Today I miss
My lovely daughter
Away at school, my sons away at school,

My husband away at work - I wish for them.
The dog, the maid,
And I go through the sure unvarying days
At home in them. As I look at my life,
I am afraid
Only that it will change, as I am changing;

I am afraid, this morning, of my face.
It looks at me
From the rear-view mirrior, with the eyes I hate,
The smile I hate. It's plain, lined look
Of gray discovery
Repeats to me: "You're old." That's all, I'm old.

And yet I'm afraid, as I was at the funeral
I went to yesterday.
My friend's cold made-up face, granite among its flowers,
Her undressed, operated-on, dressed body
Were my face and body.
As I think of her I hear her telling me

How young I seem; I am exceptional;
I think of all I have.
But really no one is exceptional,
No one has anything, I'm anybody,
I stand beside my grave
Confused with my life, that is commonplace and solitary.

Yeah, totally uplifting! I was such a moody little snot nosed brat.

Aloha Friday!

From An Island Life

In Hawaii, Aloha Friday is the day that we take it easy and look forward to the weekend. So I thought that on Fridays I would take it easy on posting, too. Therefore, I’ll ask a simple question for you to answer. Nothing that requires a lengthy response.

If you'd like to participate with your own question on your own blog, head on over to An Island Life to link up and join the fun!

Today's question is: Wear a tie much??

jim & pam Pictures, Images and Photos

Or you could just answer one or more of these questions: Did you watch The Office wedding last night? What did you think??? Your favorite part?

I'd have to say my favorite part was Michael talking to Pam's mom at the church. It's like we got a glimps past the "I'm trying too hard" Michael and got a piece of the real deal, which always makes me feel sorry for him. lol

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dory Cove & Stacy's Covered Bridge Restaurant Reviews - Things I Love Thursday

Two more restaurant reviews by my mom. Hope you enjoy!

Dory Cove in Lincoln City, OR is a classic good choice, even relocated on Highway 101 instead of at Roads End. A fire a number of years back forced the change. A dependable Rave Review for food. Same owners, same cook, same menu. My husband has clam chowder and parmesan cheese bread. This toasted bread is WONDERFUL! Hubby has three clam chowders in three different locations in two days and voted this the best. (Including a well known place that will remain nameless.) I have fish and chips and salad. The salad is crisp and very good. The fish and chips were the same as before and very good. I've been coming to Dory Cove since I was a little girl and that was a LONG time ago - hey I even have a t-shirt! The decor is a bit off putting but when they bring the food it is ALL good. A lot of locals come here and that tells you something. We wish them the very best!

A definite Rave Review for Stacy's Covered Bridge Restaurant in Cottage Grove, OR, on the main street across from City Hall just off of I-5. What initially catches my eye is two winged backed chairs facing a linen covered table, beautifully set, on the sidewalk... We are fortunate to be seated before 6 pm and hence eligible for the special selection of six choices for a three course meal each for $10.95! These choices sound gourmet. I opt for Chicken Tuscany with artichoke hearts and kalamata olives, in a light cream wine sauce. The first course is salad with a wonderful variety of fresh greens -NOT the usual dinner salad- and a wonderful cucumber dressing. Yum! Then the outstanding large serving of chicken. The vegetable is julienne zucchini with herbs. Really outstanding flavor and lightly steamed to perfection. Served hot and not overcooked. The third course is a choice of strawberry or chocolate large ice cream sundaes. Amazing! The decor is small and upscale. The servers are busy but work well as a cheerful team with the owner. The tone is relaxed even though the staff is really busy. This place is a hidden gem. The food is superb! And hey, if you happen to be there in July you can take in the yodeling and whistling contest in city hall. We did!

Come back next week for restaurant reviews from my parent's trip to Nashville & Kansas!

For more Things To Love visit!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Stuffed Patty Pan Squash - Fresh From My Garden

This was a total improvise, so I was really excited when it turned out to be so good! But with these ingredients how could you go wrong? Bacon, onions, mushrooms and cheese doesn't make this a light recipe, but a delicious way to use any patty pan squash you have hanging around.

What? Never had patty pan squash? It's a bit sweeter than zucchini, cooks up nice and firm so excellent for stir fry or sautee. My mom likes them best sauteed with garlic and olive oil, and I can't say I blame her. But if you wanna do something a bit more fancy you could give this a try. :)

Stuffed Patty Pan Squash

6 patty pan squash
1/2 pound of bacon
1/2 an onion, diced
1 tomato
1/2 pound of sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup of cheddar
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Carve the tops off the squash and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon or melon baller. Set aside.

Brown the bacon, allow to drain on paper towels. Drain all but 2 teaspoons of bacon grease. Add the onion to the hot skillet, cook until soft and it has taken on some color from the bacon grease. Add the tomato and mushrooms, saute until veggies are soft. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl combine bread crumbs, cheeses and seasonings. Add crumbled bacon and vegetables. Stir well to combine. Stuff mixture inside hollowed squash. Return tops of squash to the top of each one. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray and place squash inside. Cover loosely with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. You want the cheese to be bubbly, the squash should be firm but hot.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Family Update

No new news on Hubs' shoulder. We're getting the feeling that the doctor that supposed to provide the second opinion is giving us the brush off. So we're researching other doctors. If anyone knows an orthopedic surgeon in the Portland, OR area who specializes in shoulder injuries please let me know.

My parents are back in town after being gone for the past 2 weeks. They attended my dad's family reunion in Kansas and also went to the Christian Counselor's Association Conference (say that three times fast!) in Nashville, TN. So you can look forward to more of my mom's restaurant reviews covering different places they ate while on their great adventure.

I for one am very glad that they are home. I tend to take their help for granted, and whenever they leave I quickly realize how much they do for us. They watch the girls so Hubs and I can go out, they provide a huge and very important part of my social circle, and my mom is flat out awesome when it comes to helping with projects such as canning peaches or making jam. I know I tell them thank you all the time... but seriously, there aren't big enough THANK YOUS for what they do for us.

To celebrate their return, they came and babysat for us last night so that Hubs and I could go out for a date! HURRAY!! And since Hubs birthday is next week, and my parents are going to watch the girls so we can go out again... I decided that it was MY turn to pick where we were going to eat. So I picked On The Boarder. Why? Because we had never been there before and I've wanted to go there for a long time due to rave reviews from friends, and Hubs HATES trying new places... so HERE WAS MY CHANCE!! And oh man, it was GOOD! The first bite Hubs took of his carne asada steak was enough to practically melt him into a puddle, that's how good it was. And my combo plate with beef empanadas, chicken enchilada, and beef taco were all fantastic. The only thing we weren't wild about were their chips and salsa. We both prefer white corn chips, and theirs were yellow corn, so no matter how awesome they were for yellow corn chips they just were not as good as white corn. We also indulged in margaritas, because what Mexican meal is complete without them, right? We started off with their most expensive top shelf margarita, and then decided to try their "shaken margarita. My opinion? The top shelf was excellent, but pricey. Next time I'll just go for the shaken because it too was very delicious and was enough for the two of us to share.

And then we went and bought a Wii! And came home, and hooked it up, and played! So far I'm lovin' it! In fact I'm gonna go play some more after I finish this post. I'm ashamed to say that my Wii age is 74... and I'm really hoping that I can blame that on the margaritas but in all seriousness I just can't hit a baseball if my life depended on it regardless of my alcohol intake. Hopefully I can do better today... but I'm not betting on it. lol

So a lot about me... but what about those cute little kidlets??

Well, the kidlets are doing just awesome! Mommy feels like she needs a vacation though. They are getting SO busy!!! By the time nap time comes around I feel like I'm going to fall down. And when they get up I sigh and think, HERE WE GO AGAIN!!! I'm trying really hard to enjoy it, and they do provide an endless source of fun and entertainment and love (let's not forget the LOVE!), but they totally wear me out. I feel like I'm in a constant state of exhaustion from which I will never recover.

But enough doom and gloom! Weren't we supposed to be talking about the kids??

They are constantly doing funny stuff, and I am constantly running for my camera, and then when I get it on and point it at them they come squealing and running at me and I totally miss the thing I was trying to capture!!! So as a result I have very few pictures of them over the past few months. I think I need to hire a film crew to come follow us around for a day just so I can get some memories on tape!

So what would a film crew capture in our typical day?

-Dancing, lots of dancing. Cute adorable toddler dancing. Dancing that involves jumping, kicking of feet in the air, and spinning around in circles until they are dizzy and fall down.

-Ziva blowing spit bubbles, and then saying, "Buh boowwww" which is the signal for me to pop the bubbles with my finger.

-Books books BOOKS!!! Pointing to pictures, saying words they know, indicating that I should tell them what something is, and for Ziva... identifying a few letters. Her smartness somewhat terrifies me.

-Moving furniture. BECAUSE THEY CAN! Carrying chairs to things they want to reach, and then standing on them, and helping each other out to reach whatever it is they need to get their grubby little hands on.

-Much more proficiency with spoons and forks. Lately I give them each their own serving of yogurt or applesauce (yes, mommy is getting braver!). Yesterday once their faces were all messy Ziva said "Beeeer". What honey? You want some beer? "No, Beeeeeer!" Oh! BEARD! Yes honey, you have a beard. Tee hee!!

-We've discovered the trick of putting their pajamas on backwards in order to keep them ON at night! Yes, for weeks and months I've woken them up only to find them totally naked and soaked. Super awesome laundry practice for mommy! Hoping this whole backwards jammy trick will continue to work for a while.

-Anya is becoming more assertive about keeping toys, and is becoming more territorial of Mommy. Part of me kind of hopes that she's swaying away from the Daddy kick she's been on for a while. But the other part of me really doesn't like to be guarded like a dog guards their food. When Ziva comes close Anya will put her hands on my face and then push her face right up against my faces so that our faces are smooshed together as if she's saying, "I NEED YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION NOW!!!" I get it Anya. I do... now can I please have my face back?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cha Cha Cha Chia

Seriously... what is this world coming to?

And why isn't there a Regan Chia?

Monday, September 28, 2009

How To Make Traditional Bread & Butter Pickles - Mystery Spice Monday


It's what I've been doing all summer while not attending to my blog.

I've learned a lot! I've learned that when you overfill canning jars they erupt in your canner and then you have a mess plus not enough liquid in your jars. I've learned that I should definitely plant less cucumbers next year. And as a result, I could make bread & butter pickles in my sleep.

And they are soooo good! WAY better than dill or sweet in my opinion.

And I now have enough to give them away plus have plenty for myself.


Oh, and since I thought you'd be interested, here's a bunch of stuff I picked which necessitated the making of pickles:

Yup, that's bunch of tomatoes, a zucchini, and 6 cucumbers. And believe it or not, my cucumbers are slowing down. In previous weeks I'd pick 8-13 cucumbers in a day and 4-6 zucchini.

Now you know why I haven't been around!

So lets get down to business with the cucs shall we?

Slice approximately 7 cups of cucumbers and 4 onions and place them in the largest bowl you own.

Cover them with 1/2 a cup of canning and pickling salt. This is important, regular salt won't dissolve properly.

Cover completely with water and let it soak for at least 2 hours. While they are soaking you can prepare your canning jars, rings and lids. This will make 5-7 pint size jars so I usually prepare 8 just in case.

Once the soaking is done rinse completely. I rinse mine in small sized batches to make sure I get all the salt water off.

Then I set up my stove. The small pot in the back has a little bit of water and lids set to low heat until simmering. The front left pot has 3 cups of white vinegar, 2 cups of sugar, 2 Tbs. of mustard seeds, 1 teaspoon of celery seed and 1 teaspoon of tumeric. Cook this until it comes to a boil and the sugar is disolved. On the right front burner is my steamer canner (it's the same as a water bath only it steams, you can use a regular water bath).

Once your pickling solution comes to a boil you can add your veggies. I do small batches at a time using veggies I've just rinsed.

Return them to a boil. Once it starts boiling they're done! Easy peasy!

Remove your pot of goodies from the heat and start filling jars with a slotted spoon.

As I do this I often stop and sort of gently bang the jars on the counter to shake them around a bit and get the veggies to compact.

When I'm done with a small batch my solution looks like this. And I put it back on the stove on med-high heat until it returns to a boil. Then I add more veggies, boil, fill jars, etc.

Once the veggies are all cooked and the jars are all filled I top them off with spoonfuls of pickling solution. You want to leave a generous 1/4 inch headspace.

Run a knife around the jars to release any air bubbles. Add more solution if needed.

Then a VERY important step! Take a wet rag and wipe the rims of the jars. If you don't, the lids won't seal and you will have done all that work for nothing.

You guessed it! Then you add the lids. I have a handly little magnetic lid lifter that came in a box of canning supplies. They're not necessary, you could just use tongs, but since I have it I'm using it.

Place the lids.

And then put the rings on. You want them to be "finger tight". My definition of that is only twist with the tips of your fingers, don't use your whole hand to get it as tight as possible. I do put them on tighter than my mom, she barely screws them on. The good news is that we both have successfully preserved food so I don't think it's that big of a deal.

Put the jars in your canner. Use manufacturers directions on whichever canner you have. Remember, canning is not just cooking, it's science. So it's important to follow the directions precisely.

For mine I need to wait until steam comes out of those little holes on the side before I start my processing time. And I never really knew how HARD it was to take a picture of steam! This was the best I could do. :P

Process them for 10 minutes, after that my canner needs to sit off the heat for 3 minutes. And then Voila! Preserved pickles!

Lift them out of the canner using that cool lifter tool from your canning supplies box.

Let them set for 24 hours, and delight in the music of popping lids! That's the sound that means "I'm sealed!".

After 24 hours, any lids that aren't sealed (you can test them by pushing in the middle of the lid, if it gives it isn't sealed) just toss them in the fridge and use them within the next week or two.

I know some of you said that you might participate this week in Mystery Spice Monday, and that's AWESOME! But I still haven't figured out how to do the new Mr. Linky (it's on the to do list!). So if you have a recipe to share please post your link in a comment and I will add a permanent link to the bottom of this post. Thanks for your understanding! :)
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