Friday, June 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, Lovey.

The little one is 3.  

Today we will celebrate with cake, presents, and enchiladas (her favorite).  

She is the rambunctious one.  The ornery one.  The one who wears me out consistently.  

She is bold, daring, and aggressive.  She laughs at danger and scoffs at calamity.  She is her father's daughter.

She is mama's sweet little shadow.  She bounces along to the laundry room to pour in the soap and sort the colors.  She skips to the kitchen to empty the dishwasher.  She gallops into the the bedroom to pair up the socks.


She begins the day like a firecracker on the 4th of July and rip-roars through each day, turning somersaults into her bed to bring the day to a screeching halt.  

And this exhausted mama follows suit shortly thereafter.  

She makes me smile.

Lovey is 3.  

There is a strange phenomenon in our sweet family.  It began with Peanut who was born the day for my birthday.  A darling gift just for me.  Then Ladybug came forth the day before my mother-in-law's birthday.  Pure providence.

Then, Lovey.  Born the day before my mother's birthday.  Which also happened to be my late Grammy's 80th birthday.  Dear Grammy entered sweet rest the day before little Lovey came, just one day shy of 80.  

Another perfect gift.  At the perfect time.  

I love you, Little One.  Please, slow down.  I want to squeeze more into every day I have with you...

Happy Birthday.



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Days Like This.

There are days.  And then there are days.  

The year was 1996.  I was seventeen.  And I had this car.  The most amazing beast of a thing you ever did see.  It was green.  And it was a boat.  And it was older than me.  My 1977 Buick LeSabre was the stuff of legend and I loved every inch of it.  I called her "Greenbean."

Generally speaking, I was a good driver.  An overly cautious driver.  Responsible.

I should have seen it coming, but then hindsight is always 20/20.  

I stopped at the convenience store to fill up on gas and pick up a lazy summer afternoon snack box of Junior Mints.  After starting up the beastly engine and securing my seat belt, I kicked her into drive, gingerly easing out onto the adjacent highway, at the urging of a patiently courteous driver.  And into the oncoming path of a callously impatient driver.   Pulling to the side of the road and into a nearby parking lot, I get out to survey the damage.  And oh, great.  The other driver?  A guy I vaguely know from school.  

In those days, most of us (including me) did not have cell phones so I go inside the business next door to call my mother, who promptly calls the police and rushes right over.  No one is hurt.  His little muscle car is totaled.  My ferocious animal of a car is largely unscathed (whew!).  

The police arrive.  I get some kind of warning citation.  Mom goes back to work.  And after nearly an hour of this ordeal, I prepare to climb back into my lovely green car and then it dawned on me:   The Junior Mints.  What the heck happened to my Junior Mints???  It didn't take long to discover the entire box or Junior Mints emptied, smashed, melted, and utterly destroyed on the driver's side seat.  And it didn't take much longer to realize this same terrible scene was duplicated all across the backside of my light-washed jeans. 

I can only assume this happened sometime during the point of impact.  And here I am walking around all over kingdom come along the busiest stretch in town, with what one would only assume is something other than chocolate appropriately smeared in the worst possible place.  

Perfect. 

I watched as all parties involved hastily drove off, vehemently screaming on the inside...  "I swear it's only chocolate!!!"


And I wonder... does that cop still draw chuckles from his story of "the girl with the poo pants" over donuts and coffee with his comrades?  Am I the running joke at rookie training?  Does that kid from school tell his kids?


I think the moral of the story is pretty clear:  Junior Mints not only cause cavities, they cause accidents.   

All sorts of embarrassing accidents.  



"God's loyal love couldn't have run out,
   his merciful love couldn't have dried up.
They're created new every morning.
   How great your faithfulness!
I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over).
   He's all I've got left." 

Lamentations 3.22-24


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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

When Chickens Fly...

Off the shelves.

So my local supermarket recently had fresh chicken breasts on sale for $.88/lb.  Yes.  Eighty-eight cents.  (Minimally processed, no hormones, no steroids.  A literal steal.)  

Naturally, I stocked up.  No matter how you slice it, this family is chock-full of carnivores.  I love my veggies, but meat-eaters we are...  especially chicken.

At that fabulous price, there is bound to be some work involved.  Removing the skin is a piece of cake, however, I really do not look forward to picking the chicken off the bone once it is cooked.  I am left wondering if it's truly worth the price when half of the meat is left on the bone.  And I have nightmares about my kiddos choking on those tiny rib bones.

What's a girl to do?  Two words.

Crock.  Pot.

For years, I have made various stews, sauces, and beef dishes in my trusty slow cooker.  It hasn't been until recently that I discovered the joy of preparing chicken in a similar way.  When slow cooked all day, the chicken literally falls off of the bones, leaving me with more chicken for my money and no bones to worry about for the girlies. 

Not to mention the slow-cooked chicken shreds so perfectly for sandwiches, pastas, or random snacking the rest of the week! 


My new favorite chicken recipe:


Slow Cooker Italian Chicken

(Note:  I make this in a large 7 qt. crock pot which makes a slew of leftovers for the rest of the week.  Halve the recipe for a smaller batch.)

4 - 5 lb.  Chicken Breasts (bone-in or boneless)  or a whole chicken
4 potatoes, cut into large chunks 
4 carrots, sliced into large chunks
1 c. Italian Dressing
3 cloves minced garlic (or garlic powder)
Parsley
Basil
Salt
Pepper 


1.  Place chicken breasts in bottom of slow cooker.  Add 1/2 c. of Italian Dressing over chicken.  Add minced garlic.  Season to taste with parsley, basil, salt and pepper.
2.  Add potatoes and carrots.  Add remaining dressing.  Season veggies to taste.
3.  Cook on low for 7 - 8 hours or on high for 3 - 4 hours.  (Chicken should reach internal temperature of 165 degrees.)

If you worry about the bones (like me!) remove before serving to small children.

Happy Tuesday, Coffee Lovers!


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This post is a part of the Frugal Tuesday Tip.



Monday, June 18, 2012

Critters.

They.  Are.  Everywhere.   

And I don't necessarily mind.  It's just all so new to me.   There is something genuinely spiritual about being in the presence of so much life.  

Takes my breath away.  

Sipping morning coffee on the side deck, watching the cats wrestle (and sincerely hoping they don't kill each other).

Savoring afternoon coffee on a well-loved quilt, lying in the grass, and listening to the tree frogs croak above me.

Delighting in an evening coffee around the campfire in the trees, while watching thousands of fireflies perform for me.

I love being in the center of God's handiwork. 


So much discovery.


My girls were beside themselves when they discovered a nest of baby birds in the lilac bushes.  We watched them for days until... one morning last week when we returned to see their nest destroyed and ummm... pieces on the ground.  To put it delicately.  This was only a couple weeks after finding the remains of baby robins and their eggs scattered about the yard.  Sad, but an important lesson for those sweet girlies on the circle of life (Elton John, anyone?).


The girls captured a tree frog the other day and were mesmerized for nearly an hour.  He climbed up their arms, tangled his sticky feet in their hair, and jumped back and forth amongst the three of them.  Pure joy.  


We have a skunk who prowls the yard late in the evening.  Hoping against all hope nothing gets him too riled or we will have a serious problem on our hands.  The woodchucks still duke it out in front of the chicken coop every afternoon around 3:00 pm.  Serious comedy. 

There are fresh deer tracks nearly every morning, however, we have yet to actually glimpse one on our property.  (Only a matter of time, I hope.)  I hear coyotes singing most evenings and lately, the crickets have been chiming in, too.

And then there are the cats.

Everyone told us we would have to get cats when we moved to the country, utterly ironic since hubby is ferociously allergic to them.  But they are already here.  Everywhere.

We have seen at least ten different cats that come around, migrating from Lord-only-knows-where, and they all have names, thanks to my little darlings.  Two of these creatures seem to be making themselves quite at home, sitting on the front step at precisely 6:30 am expecting breakfast, napping on the deck in the afternoons, and fending off the evening skunk.

And they fight.  They hate each other.  We call the timid white and gray one Sandy, although I'm pretty sure she is a "he."  The big orange cat which bears a striking resemblance to Garfield is affectionately "Boss Kitty."  Because he's clearly the boss.   Of everything.   When Boss is around, the other cats bow down.  I have seen them smack each other across the face with a powerful paw over the leftover chicken I set out and I once saw Boss intentionally push Sandy down the deck stairs.  Boss is always picking a fight.  And Sandy has the wounds to prove it.  And oh, the stare-downs.  Ultimately, I like Boss.  He's tenacious and gutsy.  And I fancy that.  

Fine country entertainment.  

My coffee cup is empty and the laundry is about to blow into a nearby field on this breezy Monday.  I have grand visions of finally unpacking every last box by Friday.  

Until tomorrow...


Love & Coffee.


"God looked over everything he had made;
      it was so good, so very good!" 

Genesis 1.31 (The Message)



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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Daddy.

I probably don't say it nearly enough.  But I love you.

You showed me what it was to be strong, courageous, and loving.

You instilled in me a love for our rich American history, simple living, and unwavering faith.

You taught me how to ride a bike, how to change a tire (though I could probably use a refresher course), and how to make your famous raisin cookies. 

You tried to teach me to take care of plants, flowers, and things that grow in the dirt, but... let's move on...

You were a fountain of wisdom, even when I didn't listen.  You still are.  I'd like to think I listen better now.

You demonstrated the importance of being a lifelong learner, always encouraging me to study, and memorize, and soak things in. 

You taught me to pray when things good.  And to pray when things were bad.  And to be thankful for all things at all times.  

You showed me how to be a giver.  Holding nothing back.  Making sacrifices.  And I watched as God blessed our family beyond all earthly reason.

You showed me how to set priorities, standards, and boundaries for life. 

You told me it was okay to make mistakes, okay to be wrong, and okay to fail once in awhile.

You taught me to be adventurous.  Like the time you had an awesome idea for Mom's birthday cake.  You made it from scratch yourself (who needs a recipe?) and it was so heavy with all that fruit that it wouldn't stand up on it's own.  I still remember propping that thing up with toothpicks and dowels to make it presentable for her.  One of my favorite memories.  Best.  Cake.  Ever.

You showed me how to be spontaneous and enjoy life, embarking on a week-long camping trip at a moment's notice, jumping into the family van to run to the ice cream shop on a hot day, or setting up a real-life game show in the dining room and giving out real money for prizes (because of this game, I still remember the capital of Virginia). 

You instilled in me a love for coffee.  Waking up to that earthy aroma each morning still brings a sense of security to me... and reminds me of you.

You are an example of everything a dad should be.  And you showed me how to pick out a good one for my own sweet girls.  Most days he reminds me of you.

Thanks, Dad, for everything.

Happy Father's Day.

Love you.






 "Listen with respect to the father who raised you,
   and when your mother grows old, don't neglect her.
Buy truth—don't sell it for love or money;
   buy wisdom, buy education, buy insight.
Parents rejoice when their children turn out well;
   wise children become proud parents.
So make your father happy!
   Make your mother proud!"

Proverbs 23.22-25 (The Message)


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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Simple.


I think that is one of the biggest reasons I love coffee so daRn much.  

Simplicity.  Beans.  Water.  Brew.  Done.

I'm a bit of a purist.  I drink my coffee mostly black.  Sometimes with a smidgen of sugar.  Or honey.  That's it.  

Simple.   


The older I get (which I like to think isn't all that old yet) the more I long for the simple things in life.  I really don't want much.  I don't need a lot.  In fact, whenever someone asks what I really want for my birthday or Christmas, I find it difficult to think of anything at all.  I have food on my table.  I have a lovely place to live.  My family is healthy and safe.  I have incredibly loyal friends.  Beyond that, I really cannot comprehend what might be important.  


I suppose that is why I am accruing a slew of gourmet coffees, kitschy coffee mugs, good chocolates, homey candles, and trendy scarves from well-meaning friends and family who have no idea what else to get me should an occasion arise.  And that's not a complaint, because I truly adore all those things.  And I love that those closest to me know me well enough not to splurge too much.  I like simple things.  


Is it ironic that over the course of time, we have continuously innovated and modified our culture with inventions and technology designed to make our lives simpler?  To have more free time?  To make things easier?  Yet, as a whole, people are busier than ever (and grumpier), starving for real relationships (like the kind where you talk to someone's face, reading everything they are feeling through their eyes, instead of misconstruing a facebook status), and jamming every parcel of spare time with something else (just for the sake of having something to do).  

Moments slipping away.  


It's okay to relax.  It's okay to keep it simple.  It.  Is.  Okay.  


And that's what I keep telling myself.  

Our darling little town hosts a "Summer Sign-Up" event each May where parents can sign their kids up for every activity under the sun for the summer all in one sweep.  It really is a convenient little concept, however, I most generally walk away from the evening with a full calendar and empty pockets.  This year was different.  I walked away with hoards of paper fliers in hand, determined to just think about some things before signing our summer away.


And guess what.  I didn't sign up for a thing.  Not a one!  (Except for the summer reading program at the library, which is free, and totally non-committal).   

I have the made the decision to take this summer and simply reconnect with my darling girls.  I want to dig for worms, roast marshmallows over the fire, camp out in the trees, throw a tea party under the perfectly aged peach tree, unearth family treasures and memories hidden in boxes packed away far too long, makeover their bedrooms into a dreamy wonderland all their own (involving them each in the creative process), bake cookies for a friend "just because," go stargazing, lay in the grass and pick out cloud shapes, sew coordinating sundresses for all 4 of us, host mid-summer barbecues for all their friends and cousins, and I could go on.  And on.

And who knows?  Maybe we'll like it so much that our "Simple Summer" will evolve into "Freedom-from-driving-20-minutes-into-town-every-time-I-turn-around Fall."


Sometimes it's okay to just be

And coffee.   Always coffee.  


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1-3God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing.
   You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
      you find me quiet pools to drink from.
   True to your word,
      you let me catch my breath
      and send me in the right direction.

 4 Even when the way goes through
      Death Valley,
   I'm not afraid
      when you walk at my side.
   Your trusty shepherd's crook
      makes me feel secure.

 5 You serve me a six-course dinner
      right in front of my enemies.
   You revive my drooping head;
      my cup brims with blessing.

 6 Your beauty and love chase after me
      every day of my life.
   I'm back home in the hou
se of God
      for the rest of my life. 

Psalm 23  (The Message) 


This post is a part of Simple Lives Thursday.




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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cheesy.

I have been forever on the look-out for a great cheese sauce recipe.  

I miss my dear Grandma's famous macaroni & cheese and aside from never even remotely approaching her greatness, the processed cheese isn't that good for me anyway.  

(You can read more about my last attempt here:  Dear Grandma.) 

My sweet girls are suckers for mac & cheese, yet I cringe a little every time I set a runny mess of pre-packaged orange noodles on the table. 


I had a pretty good go at things the other night with a cheddar cheese sauce, but it still needs some work.  The girlies gobbled it up and that's always a good sign!  Almost anything homemade is going to be cheaper and healthier and that's something I can feel good about all around.

My friend, Lori, (who is a superbly fabulous cook) once posted her cheese sauce recipe on her blog (made from real cheese!).  I can hardly wait to try it as it looks amazing.  Lori knows her way around a kitchen so I know it must be good.  As a bonus, she also includes her Alfredo sauce recipe.  Go here to check it out:  Cheddar Cheese Sauce.

Lori's blog, 4newtons, has some other really great recipes featuring whole foods.  Her spinach dip is pretty amazing, too.


Grandma's Mac is about to get a makeover...


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Friday, June 1, 2012

10.


I love him.  

And he loves me.

He protects me.
He provides for me.
He prays for me.

He is the spider slayer and critter catcher.

He bestills my heart and makes me swoon. 

He makes amazing Chinese food.  He knows how to tie all sorts of amazing knots.  He is a master gamer and could beat anyone I know at any video game hands down.  

I choose to love him every day.  And he chooses to love me back.  Even when my makeup is not done, my hair is in shambles, and I haven't had a drop of coffee.

 He loves me when I forget to pack his lunch, when I shrink his favorite shirt in the wash, and when I have a good girly cry for no reason at all. 




We are two made one.  

He.  Is.  Mine.



Happy 10th Anniversary, My Love!  Here's to many more...



 


 "Hang my locket around your neck,
   wear my ring on your finger.
Love is invincible facing danger and death.
   Passion laughs at the terrors of hell.
The fire of love stops at nothing—
   it sweeps everything before it.
Flood waters can't drown love,
   torrents of rain can't put it out.
Love can't be bought, love can't be sold—
   it's not to be found in the marketplace."

Song of Solomon 8.6-7 (The Message)
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