Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Tale of the Run-away Pants

It happened once in a a land far away that a busy, stay-at-home mom indulged herself by purchasing, (brand spanking new, even) a pair of black dress pants.  This pair of pants, a small thing to some, helped boost her spirits at a difficult time.  On several occasions, she even got compliments (!!!) on her looks while wearing them.

School conferences, school programs, funerals, even evening church services ... This busy stay at home Mom no longer had to choose between a skirt or her grubby stay-at-home-mom-jeans.  She finally had something in-between to wear for those in-between occasions.  A strange and unusual phenomenon. 

And so she wore those pants. 

About five times.

Until they disappeared.  Really.  Poof they were gone.

Poor woman  No more in-between outfit.  No more compliments.

But summer was coming on, which meant several things for this woman.  The warmer weather and end of the school year meant fewer in-between occasion.  The summer vacation from school and the family's outdoor work and pleasure meant piles of laundry backing up inside.

"When I catch up on all those piles of laundry," thought the tragic heroine, "I'll surely find those naughty pants."

But alas!  Fall came and with it a return to normal schedules and normal household routine.  The laundry heaps slowing disappeared.  But the pants did not return.  They had apparently run off to seek their fortune in a new locale. 

And so the poor, busy, stay-at-home-mom spent another winter attending various in-between type functions either over- or under-dressed.

Until day by day, snowstorm by snowstorm, throughout the cold and blustery weather, the winter passed.  Slowly the days lengthened.  Slowly the temperatures warmed and the snows receded.

Finally, when spring was fully come, the woman spent a frightening and somewhat dangerous week helping her nearly grown son clean his room before he left home to join the military.  Oh, the things she found!  The monsters that reared their ugly heads from the canyons and mountains of her son's room!

In one of the deep, dark recesses of the room, while fighting dragons and saving the local maidens, her son happened upon the missing pants. 

Together with her son, the mother rejoiced in this happy event.  Parties were thrown.  That which was lost had been found!

Throughout the summer months, this mom wore her pants.  Not often, since the summer days and schedule were upon her.  She looked forward with pleasure to the coming fall and winter in-between occasions when she could again wear her nice dress pants and get compliments on her looks. 

But before those days came, those vexing pants once again ran off.  They were nowhere to be found.  The laundry heaps disappeared.  The rooms were cleaned.  All the usual hiding places were examined.  But to no avail!  The mom even braved the not quite so deep, dark and daunting mountains and canyons that had again begun creeping into her son's room.  Just in case those pants were drawn back to their previous abode.

So once again, the tragic heroine spent another fall and winter attending various in between type functions either over- or under-dressed.  Poor, poor woman.

But day by day, snowstorm by snowstorm, throughout the cold and blustery weather, the winter passed.  Slowly the days lengthened.  Slowly the temperatures warmed and the snows receded.

When spring was fully come, the woman's husband spent a frightening and somewhat dangerous afternoon cleaning his dresser drawers to make room for all the folded clothing his wife had despaired of putting away for lack of space.  Oh, the things he found!  The monsters that reared their ugly heads from the canyons and mountains of his dresser drawers!

Until finally, in one of the deep, dark recesses of the dresser, while fighting dragons and saving the local maidens, her husband happened upon the missing pants.  And wonder of wonder, the black pants had with them a pair of khaki pants.  Being of a slightly smaller size, these khaki pants had not been missed by the busy (and somewhat overweight) woman.

And so the woman rejoiced once again.  Parties were thrown.  That which was lost had once again been found! 

But alas!  The woman was hesitant to even try on the black pants for fear they would no longer fit.  And so her joy was tempered with sadness and frustration.

The moral of this story?  Don't buy new pants.  Even if you like the compliments.  They are crafty beings who tend to run off and hide for months at a time.

Afterword:  The return of the pants might be just the thing this poor, busy, stay at home mom needs to get herself in gear to lose those extra pounds she's carrying around.  Perhaps by fall, when once again the in-between occasions show up on the schedule, perhaps by then, our tragic heroine can once again wear her in-between pants and get compliments on her looks.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Egg Hunt Two

Clara and Sophie figured Joe and I needed an egg hunt, too. So they filled a few of the unmatched egg parts with candies and hid them for us.

Their instructions, "There are eight eggs. They are in the front yard. There is one obvious one and the others are all within 12 feet of that one. You have one minute to find them or we get the candy."

We found the first one in the sandbox. We found a second one near the sandbox. But search as we could, we didn't find any others in the designated area.

"Well, maybe we meant yards. We were just estimating anyway."

"So, we should enlarge our search area?"

"Yeah, they're pretty much all over the yard."

We did eventually find them. I used my Mommy finding skills to get the first four, and then let Joe find the rest.

It was a very sweet gesture and a fun idea. One more thing to make our Easter celebration special.

Joe searches the sandbox for more eggs

"Did you climb the poplar and hang a bag with the rest of them up there somewhere."  Nope, but I did find one of last summer's pruned maple branches hanging up there.

Looking around the yard

Everyone helping Dad

"Do you want a clue, Dad?"

This is the view of the last tricky one from an adult standing position

This is the view from a squatting child

"Look closer, Dad. You're getting almost hot."

Egg Hunt One

After Joe rested this afternoon, and after we had listened to the kids beg for a suitable amount of time, we planted them in front of Myth Busters so that Joe and I could go out to hide the eggs.

Since we've always had such a range of ages, we started long ago to hide the eggs at differing levels of difficulty for each child. They all get one color of egg for which to search. This year, because so many of our eggs have broken over the years, we had to break out some of the fancier ones Joe's mom had gotten for us several years back.

We also had the rare treat this year of a beautiful day and a mostly dry yard. So we got to have the Easter egg hunt outside. In all the years we've been here, we've probably only done that once or twice before.

Sorting the colors for the big hide

That tricky Daddy

Where is Mama going to hide them?

And they're off.  Scattered abroad.

Aha!  Inge spies something.

Stella and Donna scurry back and forth.

"I found one of mine in the snow pile!"

Even Matt had to search awhile to find his.  See the orange one hanging in the oak tree?

Sophie and Stella are flummoxed.

"Let's check over there again."

John is looking for his green one.  You can't see it in the photo, but the he's actually on the far side of the snow pile and the egg is on the near side.  Makes a great photo, though.

Did you find them all now, John?

Look, Mama!  I found all mine!


Searching the snow pile one more time

The first ones finished

A few more join the feast

Sophie had a couple that stymied her

And Clara finds one more.

Easter Dinner

We had a lovely dinner today.  A bonus, since I had not planned to put much effort into it.  By the time Easter rolls around, we're pretty worn out around here. 

Friday afternoon, Sharon J stopped by on one of her frequent visits.  She and her husband often stop by to drop off one thing or another that they want to give us.  She is an excellent clearance shopper, so at the change of seasons, my kids often get the treat of some not only new for them, but really, truly new clothes.  But on Friday, Sharon had a different sort of gift for us.  She brought a ham.  And a fresh idea for preparing it. 

"I saw this idea and I though of you guys.  Mix grapefruit juice and hot pepper jelly.  And use it to glaze the ham."  Sharon continued with the rest of the instructions.  And then she finished up, "I know you probably have hot pepper jelly around.  I bought a can of grapefruit juice, and only need half of it.  If you're interested, I can leave half of it here for you."

And so our Easter meat was planned. 

I had some creamed potatoes left over, a big baking dish of them.  I debated between reheating them, or baking potatoes for our dinner.  I kind of felt as though I ought not to have left-overs for Easter.  Even if they're really good leftovers. 

But when the morning came, I found I had procrastinated all week on my laundry.  So I spent an hour downstairs this morning catching up a bit on that.  By that time, my morning was busy enough to leave little time for the rest of the dinner prep.  By the time I jumped in the shower, I had twenty minutes left before church.  The younger kids were dressed early, since they were eager to wear their new Easter duds.  But I still had to get myself ready and throw the ham into the oven.

I did manage it, but I was scoring the ham at 9:42, with a 9:45 service start time.  Thankfully there were still many people pulling into the parking lot as I scurried down to church.  So "the pastor" had not started the opening announcements yet as I sat down.

We had a wonderful Easter service, with Holy Communion.  The church was packed full of many relatives of our members, home to spend the holiday with family. 

After we were done with church, Joe still had to preach over at Nazareth.  So that gave me about an hour to get the rest of the dinner organized. 

 The first thing I did upon returning home was to get the glaze ready for the ham.  We had one jar left of the very pretty jelly Joe had made a couple of years ago.  He made a wonderful, clear jalapeño jelly, and then arranged prettily in each jar several fresh peppers in a variety of green, red, yellow and orange.  They turned out almost too pretty to eat and could have easily competed with Martha Stewart.  But alas, it was time to use that last jar.  I mixed it together with the grapefruit juice from Sharon.  And during the next hour, I basted the ham with the glaze every ten minutes. 

In between the glazing, I got Elsie and Sophie busy filling the plastic eggs with candy for the later in the day egg hunt.  Louisa entertained the smaller girls and swept the dining room.  John, Clara, and Sophie each did their parts helping to get the table set with table clothes and some of our "fancier" dishes. 

I put the left over roasted potatoes into the oven to reheat. 

And then the vegetables.  I did Joe's favorite, garlic and butter roasted asparagus.  And the kids' favorite, creamed cauliflower. 

As Joe walked in I was opening the pickles.  We had a jar of garlic dills, also from Sharon and a jar of bread and butter pickles I had made. 

Louisa and Elsie were antsy to get the meal going, since they had leave at 1:30 for work.  It's hard for me to let them work on holidays, but the job they do is of service to others.  And they get paid double time for working the holiday, so they like that part of it.  Louisa has always liked the times she's worked holidays, because so many family members come in to see the residents.  The workers feel so appreciated when the family members are so obviously thankful for the care their loved ones receive.  And Louisa also likes to give those who don't have family to come in that little bit of extra time and attention on a holiday.  This will be Elsie's first time working a holiday.  But I'm sure they'll come home with more stories about how much they like their job. 

But the did have to miss the Egg Hunt.  I asked, "We could do the egg hunt tomorrow morning, or do an extra one for you two girls, if you want.  Unless you just want the candy.  If that's the case, you can just take some." 

They took the candy. 

Although the older girls had to rush off, it was wonderful to have almost all my kids together for dinner.  We missed our Jeremy, but we were thankful for those of us who could be together.

Happy Easter Everyone

He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come. See the place where the Lord lay.

The best we could come up with for a family picture.  At least they're all having fun.

A little Easter afternoon Linux tutorial

The tired pastor
When I was really little, my dad watched HeeHaw on Saturday nights.  He'd always fall asleep in his chair.  But the minute we tried to change the channel, he'd walk up and chide us to leave his show alone.  "Hey, I'm watching that."

The big girls are off to work, the littles are out enjoying the sun and warmth of the outdoors.  Matt is busy with something of his own.  And I'm sitting here dinking around on the computer. 

But Joe, ... the tired out pastor whose Lenten and Easter rush is done, sacked out on the couch, snoring loudly.  But before he fell asleep, he put some computer Linux Unix user tutorial show on the TV. 

For you computer geeks.

And another view, complete with the little instructor in the corner of the screen.
I'm not really learning much while I sit here.  But even if I knew how, I wouldn't dare change the channel.  I'm imagining Joe waking up and chiding,  "Hey, I'm watching that."

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Next time, Matt, go to the base tailor shop

Finished product

I concede defeat.  I don't do that very often.  But either my skill level, or the quality of my thread, or my machine, ... the whole sewing stripes on according to procedure, well, ... I'm honored to do it for my son.  I'm honored that he chooses to serve in the USMC. 

The following is not meant in any disrespect to Matt's service, the service or others, or the Marine Corps itself.  But just considering a wise or foolish use of time, ... those military tailors can probably do a better job in a much shorter amount of time. 

Start with the uniforms.  Matt's hoping to get promoted to Lance Corporal soon, so he doesn't want to sew the stripes on all his uniforms.  But for Easter church, he wants to dress up and that means stripes.

Matt's Charlie shirt, sans stripes

Matt's Private First Class stripes

Finding the right thread

According to MCO P1020.34F  MARINE CORPS UNIFORM REGULATIONS, "Insignia will be   sewn on garments with thread that matches the background material of the insignia using a straight machine stitch. No other style of stitching will be used."

And according to the following diagram, the insignia is to be 4" beneath the shoulder seam and centered on the sleeve. 

Deep breath, Mary, you can do this. 

"Which way to they go, Matt?"  I know that I should no this.  I mean, how many times have I watched military related movies or seen things about the Marine Corps, right?  I should know this.  But even something so simple, I feel clueless. 

"Which way?"  "MOM!"

 "Mom, don't disrespect the uniform."

Finally I had them pinned and the correct color of thread chosen.  I had tested out the machine to make sure it was operational. 

But do you think I could get it to work right on Matt's stripes?  Nope.  At each of the pointy corners, because of the way the stripes are constructed, there are about four layers of cloth, plus the little shiny plastic backing.  And my thread broke every time I got near the corners. 

I did eventually get them on.  I worked on them for about 45 minutes.  But I advised him to take them elsewhere to be put on properly next time.  Because, sadly, the little pointy parts were probably not on very securely.

I really wanted to do this for my son. 

"I can take them into Oklee quilting, Mom, and they can probably do it."

"No, no, Matt.  I can do that.  No problem."

There must be a super secret military grade thread the use or something.  Or maybe it's their magic Marine Corps touch.  But whatever it is, there are others who can do the job more efficiently than can I.  Sigh.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A little Lorna Doone with my workout

Just to update a little bit here, on my goals for the Biggest Loser contest. 

  • As of last Friday, I had lost almost five pounds. 
  • As of Monday, I started my free two week sample of GNC's Body Fit from their Femme Factor line.  I'm a bit skeptical, but it was free.  We'll see.  If I understand it correctly, it's supposed to boost energy and aid one's body in metabolizing fat.  (Insert eyeroll).  Active ingredients, aka, the miracle combo: green coffee bean extract,raspberry ketones, saffron extract, and garcinia combogia extract.
  • As far as energy levels and mood for other things around the house, meh, not so great.  I'm still a slug.  We did have a busy weekend, starting Thursday night with hauling everything out of the living room for new carpet on Friday morning; kids' school program Friday afternoon; and prom on Saturday, including having a group of the girls' friends gather here for beauty parlor, pictures, and snacks before they went into town.  So, really, I've done much, just not the regular getting a handle on everything around the house.  I did, however, have a really good day Saturday.  I had lists for chores for the kids and kept everyone moving.  I had the snacks ready for the older kids on time, and even got out the punch bowl for them, to "fancy things up."  It was a great day, about which I hope to write more one day this week.
  • Exercise, at least on that front, I'm pretty much successful.  But only thanks to the ticker.   Some days I feel like that's what gets me out of bed, just knowing I want to move my little person. 
When I made my ticker, I figured I'd have to do four days a week with 60 minutes a day.  Usually faithful means three days a week.  But I figured, just for the sake of the Biggest Loser challenge, I'd bump up my goals a bit.  But I wasn't very good about sneaking in that extra day of exercise the first few weeks.  So now I need to do about five days a week of about 60 minutes a day.  Sigh.  I'm still going to give it my best shot.  I'll get that little marker as far as I can along her row of trees. 

If tickerfactory itself cooperates.  I've had to make a new ticker two days in a row now, because it won't recognize my password.  I have a feeling it's something to do with the cookies on my computer, so I'm having Joe clear them for me.  Either way, I will plug along with my exercise as faithfully as I can. 

Some days it's been nice enough to walk outside, and that's always a treat.  The wind is still brisk, and Lana's yard is still soft, so it varies from day to day where and if we can be outside.

When it's too windy outside, we use the inside equipment.  Today, I walked inside.  Lana is ill today, so I knew I'd be alone.  I took along my mp3 player and Lorna Doone, a Romance of Old Exmoor.  While I listened to John Ridd telling about the atrocities of Doones, I walked and ran for 1/2 hour.  I did ten minutes of warm-up at 3.5 mph and after that, I alternated 2 minutes of jogging at 4 mph, with 3 minutes of walking at 3.5 mph. 

I felt nearly done in at that point, but I was determined to get my sixty minutes.  After a pretty slow first couple of chapters, John Ridd's tale was finally getting interesting, so that helped, too.  I did five minutes on the Cardio-Glide, just a slow and steady clip, with a few brief pauses here and there. 

Then on to the Gazelle.  I did five minute just plain gazelling, and continued on with ten minutes of doing the special positions: squatting, tip-toes, leaning forward, leaning backward and giant steps.  I did 30 seconds of each position, alternating with thirty seconds in the normal fashion. 

I finished up with a last ten minute segment on the tread mill, mostly walking at 3.5 mph, but with one two minutes interval of jogging at 4.0 mph.

That was sixty minutes of exercise.  And as I walked to the car, the narrator in my ear finished up chapter five of Lorna Doone, "An Illegal Settlement," which explains how it came to be that the Doones were allowed to terrorize the countryside around Exmoor. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

New Carpet Day in the Parsonage

Before.  Ugh!
This is the view (shameful isn't it?) of our outgoing carpet.  I always hated having to move the furniture because then I could see, really, really see, just how dirty and stained and worn and generally icky our carpet was.  I suppose ten kids who use our rug with might and main, over the course of twelve years does wear carpeting, but still.  It's embarrassing.  I've had others point out that normal wear and tear is considered to be an average sized family, and so we shouldn't feel so bad that nothing seems to last as long for us.  But I still feel like our twelve person wear and care seems so destructive of these many temporal blessings.

This is the view of our wonderful new carpet.  And Inge and Sophie enjoying the big open space.  Inge asked, "Mom, can you take a picture of me dancing on it?" 

New!  Beautiful!

I know, you can't really see the carpeting very well here.  But it's a short shag kind of plush, with glints of taupe, slate gray, and cream.  I wish I could find a thumbnail of it on the internet, but I can't.  But you can still see how nice it looks compared to the old one.

This is what the rest of our house looked like today.

The front hallway.

The dining room.  We kept a clear spot with seating for four on one bench on the far side of the second table. 

The bedroom hallway.

The little girls' room.

This afternoon, Sophie, Inge and I rushed off to the K-3 school program and got to watch all the cute littles doing their thing.   After such afternoon programs, we are able to bring all the kids home with us, so we anticipated a nice long afternoon.  We'd be home by 3:30, as opposed to the bus bringing the kids at 5:00. 

On the way home, I explained/exhorted/plead with the kids, "There's new carpet.  Everything is still all over the house.  You may play and jump and run in the empty living room for a few minutes, but I want you to enjoy your long afternoon by spending part of it outside.  DO NOT make a mess or forts or dig through all the things stacked in all the strange places."

But upon arrival home, I found my exhortations largely unnecessary.  My lovely husband; my wonderful daughter, Clara; and son, Matt, after he got home from his long day of work, had moved everything back into it's spot for us.  Only the odds and ends boxes on the kitchen table remained.  What a treat!

Here is where we found Joe when we got home.  Kicking back in front of the virtual fire.  Resting his tired bones.  He told the kids to go warm up their hands. 

Joe, enjoying the new carpet.
But now my furniture looks so grubby. Human nature. Sadly, it's common to us all.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Quick and easy ground beef and cabbage

I made a wonderful supper tonight.  Really.  Wonderful. 

Every once in awhile I get lucky. 

I haven't have much imagination for cooking these days.  Most often lately, I've thrown something together with left overs, fried eggs or made pancakes, or let Joe cook.

Maybe it was the positive glow of losing four pounds this week.  Or maybe it was the energy gained from making ahead all kind of premixes for breakfasts.  Or maybe it was just that desperate feeling of not wanting to depend upon my husband once again.  Or the fear of him wanting to trade me in for a newer model if I didn't kick it into gear a little bit. 

Whatever it was, I'm not complaining. 

I don't know what to call this recipe.  It's got kind of an Eastern European flare to it. 

For lack of a better term, I'm going to call it Hungarian Beef and Cabbage.  All amounts are estimates.

Hungarian Beef and Cabbage
  • 2 pounds ground beef
Brown in 3 qt saucepan
  • 1/2 large head cabbage, sliced or cut
  • 1/2 small bag of baby carrots, or about three med carrots, peeled and sliced
Stir into about a tablespoon of your choice of fat in Dutch oven.  Heat and stir over medium-high heat until coated with oil and starting to cook.  Turn down to medium or medium-low and cover.  Stir occasionally. 
  • 1 tbs garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tbs onion powder
  • 1 tbs paprika
  • 2 tbs caraway seeds
  • 1 tbs salt (if your tomato sauce is salted, you might not want to start with this much)
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbs sugar
Mix together in small dish and set aside.

When cabbage and carrots are most of the way cooked through, and beef is browned, mix everything together in the Dutch oven. 
  • 1 qt tomato sauce (see above note about salt)
Stir into the above.  Heat to simmering; turn down to maintain a very gentle simmer, and cover.
  • In the pan in which you browned your meat, bring 6 c water to boil with a tsp or so of salt and a generous drizzle of olive oil.  Add a splash of sesame oil if you have it.   
  • When the water boils, stir in 3 c white rice.  Return to boiling.  Reduce heat to just above lowest setting and cover.  
In twenty minutes remove both pots from heat and set aside for a few minutes while you set the table.  The rice will be nicer if it steams for a few minutes after removing from heat.  And the sauce will taste so good you'll burn your tongue if you don't let is sit a few minutes before eating it.
  • Just before serving, stir 1 c of sour cream into the sauce. 

Yay, Me!

Was it London Tipton on the Suite Life of Zack and Cody who used to say that? 

Well, I'm going to say it, too, today.  I lost four pounds this week.  I was really, really hesitant to step on the scale this week, after two weeks of gaining.  Plus, well, that bag of Terra Chips that I ate almost by myself yesterday at lunch, ... Oh, my I love those!  This one was the Mediterranean flavor.  But I love them all. 

Anyway, I was very, very relieved to see the scale showing a lost instead of a further gain. 

And I'm feeling a little more ambitious about my exercise, too, these days.  That little minute ticker, ... yes, I know, I've said it before, ... but I love those things.  Such a dumb little thing to get me motivated.  But I like to see my little marker move past the tally marks each day. 

Today I even ran for a few minutes.  I've been trying to set the tread mill a little faster, so I did a five minute warm-up at 3 mph, and then walked five minutes at 3.5 mph.  Then I bumped it up to 4 mph for a two minute run, and then back down to 3.5 mph for 3 minutes, then another 2 min run at 4.0.  I finished up the last 3 minutes at 3.5, for a total of 20 minutes.  Then I did some work on the Gazelle and CardioGlide, and then back to the treadmill. 

It felt good to actually work up a sweat.  I remember several years ago when I really had my heart into my workout.  I'd work my hardest and be sweating the entire time.  Now we ladies do a slower pace, and visit more, maybe.  Which is also good and necessary.  But I realized that I have to put more effort into my workouts. 

Yay, me!