*tap, tap, tap*

Is this thing on?

Just as with a workout routine, an unfinished project, or a strict diet; once you leave a blog stagnant for a while, it’s hard to start things back up again.

I am, however, still here.  Life has just been busy the past few months.  And when life gets busy, blogging takes a backseat to everything else.

The last third of 2013 was full of, well, full of life… living, loving, being creative, nursing, nurturing, reading, knitting, cooking…all those things I love to do.  And, working,of course.

December was busy – work projects demanding attention, holiday projects doing the same. But we managed to fit in some fun along the way and enjoyed being with those we love the most for both Christmas and New Year’s (and the days in-between)

snow baby

School is back in session after the holiday break and the snowpocalypse of last week.  The girls are bucking down and have their sights on the mini-break we have next week when they’ll get a four-day weekend.

French Onion Soup in the making

Big Girl has a retreat with her church group this weekend and Little Bit has a sleepover planned. SuperMan has been cleaning and reorganizing the basement after our flood a few weeks ago and I’ve been busy manning the support duties for the family – cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.

Pizza "bread"

I’ve been trying a few new recipes, which I plan to share with you  here  soon, and have been knitting like a madwoman. I have fallen in love with quick, one-skein projects – things I can tote with me in carpool line and that seem to finish up within a few days. I love the sense of accomplishment and being able to wear the fruits of my labor quickly.  I just read that someone calls January the “selfish knitting month,” which I have to say I agree wholeheartedly with. I have been doing just that for the past month – knitting things I wanted to knit just for me.  And loving every minute of it.

Hat & Scarf project

I did work on some “by request” projects over the holidays – made a hat for a longtime friend and a hat and scarf for another friend’s niece.  Those special projects were fun and I was terribly flattered that people actually wanted me to knit something for them! I certainly don’t consider myself the caliber of knitter that would make things to sell. (still don’t)  But my friends seem to like what I’ve made them.  Even my sweet little nephew loves his hat!

Very first hat I made

I hope you’ll stick around and join in on the conversation… Recipes and projects coming soon!

Summer Stories (part 2)

Continuing with my recap of the summer adventures, I thought I’d share with you some pictures from Little Bit’s 9th birthday party.

We vacillated for weeks on what we would do for her party. Traditionally, we have a pool party; but this year with monsoon-like rains every single day, we were unsure whether or not the weather would cooperate.  We sent out invites with the warning that plans were subject to change and then we crossed our fingers and prayed for sunshine.

The day dawned hot and sunny and our hopes were up. I let everyone know that we’d meet at the pool and began to gather our supplies – cake, cups, etc.  At party time, we were all set up and the weather was still holding out.

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The guests arrived and we had a fabulous time – as part of our rainy weather backup plan, the girls and I had planned some “Minute to Win It” games so we took those with us to the pool and played them as well.  We had such a great time – even the grown ups got in on the fun.

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Here’s the whole gang –

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We had such fun – even the guys – who ended up doing a little minor repair on the pool when the light fell out. Thank goodness one of them was an electrician and could get ‘er done. Smile

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Question: how many guys does it take to change a pool light bulb? hee hee

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She had such a good time – I think everyone did – and the rain held out until right when it was time to leave.  As we pulled into the driveway it started to rain.

What a perfect birthday!

It may be Tuesday, but it feels like Monday

I’ve got the Monday blues today.

We had a fantastic weekend – a quick, impromptu trip to North Carolina that included mountain stream swimming, pizza by the rapids and culminated in horseback riding on Labor Day.  All in all it was a beautiful, perfect weekend.

We stayed in this sweet little cabin that was right on the banks of a mountain stream… I loved listening to the rushing water and was lulled to sleep at least once as I laid on the glider on the deck while SuperMan and the girls played in the creek.IMG_3728[1]

The girls weren’t too sure about the rapids in the stream and it took them a little while to get comfortable with the rushing water, but once they did, they loved it.

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I stayed clear of the 50 degree water – it was warm outside, but not hot enough to provide enough incentive to get me in that cold water!

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Sunday night we drove along the Nantahala River and had pizza at this road-/river-side pizza joint I’d seen on Yelp.  Little did I know when we set out to eat there that it was a really rustic place.  Bear in mind, it was raining… not pouring, but a steady drizzle coming down.

SuperMan got out to “check the place out” and told us to come on in, so we did.  And I got quite a surprise as I walked up and discovered that there were no chairs… and no tables … and virtually no walls!  It was, essentially, a shack on the river with a covered deck that went out over the river.  We persevered, though, because up there in the mountains your restaurant choices were limited and we figured at least we knew they were open!!

We ordered our pizza and settled in on the rustic deck benches to wait for it to be baked.IMG_3744[1]

The pizza was good and the ambiance (bluegrass music, rushing water, rustic place) was so typically Smoky Mountains.  I loved it.

Sunday was a lazy day, but Monday we were up bright and early and headed out for a surprise we had planned for the girls – horseback riding!  Big Girl has only been  riding a few times and never on a trail ride. Little Bit had only been on a horse once in a ring and never when she was “in charge” of the horse.  I was excited and anxious for them – hopeful that they’d have a good time and not be scared.

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We arrived at the stables and they were both a little intimidated by the horses and the prospect of essentially being on their own to guide the horse along the trail.  I knew they’d be ok – most trail ride horses are content to follow the one in front of it and the gentleman who owned the stables did a great job encouraging without “going there” and letting the girls chicken out.

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We had a great ride – up the ridge to see some awesome views and then back down through winding the trees and across a few tiny little brooks.  Even managed to canter a little bit.

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We headed home after our ride and meandered back down from the Smokies to our little foothill, filled with happy memories and making plans to do it all again soon.

Upon arriving home, we made a very sad discovery – we found that our sweet Gracie cat was no longer with us.  So, after unloading the car, poor SuperMan had to dig her grave and comfort three heartbroken girls.

Our hearts are heavy this morning. We really missed our Gracie girl as we got ready for the day. Normally, she’s following me step-for-step around the house and climbing on the girls, meowing and demanding attention.  This morning there were no demands only silent remembrance.

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Gracie was thirteen, a rescue that I saved from rush hour traffic one morning (while pregnant with Big Girl) and while demanding and obnoxious she was my constant companion.  My house is too quiet today and I’m really missing her.

So, while we had a great weekend, I’ve got the blues today.

Rest well, my sweet girl. I’ll see you on the Rainbow Bridge one day.

After the Feast

Well, Happy Monday to you!

I’m still trying to convince myself I’m happy it’s Monday.  I wasn’t too happy at 5AM when the alarm went off, but I’m trying valiantly to embrace the day.  The weekend was so nice and relaxing I hate to get back into the grind of the work week.

We had a really, really nice Thanksgving.  SuperMan was home for four days with us –  no side jobs, no work – and it was heaven. The girls and I really enjoyed having him around.

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Thursday, we enjoyed our Thanksgiving dinner. We couldn’t decide between a smoked turkey and a deep-fried turkey, so SuperMan decided to make both.  (Now, I’m overrun with turkey!)  Little Bit enjoyed helping in the kitchen.

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She helped her daddy with the turkeys and helped me on Wednesday with most of the prep work as well.

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Watching the pecan pie bars baking (recipe soon)

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And while I did most of my “work” in the kitchen on Wednesday, SuperMan did his on Thursday… it worked out well. We didn’t step on each other’s toes that way.

Here they are checking out the smoked turkey – is it done yet?

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And frying the other turkey.  This always makes me so nervous, but the turkey tastes so good!

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After what seemed like forever frying, it was done!

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And then it was time to feast!

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Wonderful day.

And, now we’re faced with MONDAY staring us down, daring us to take on the challenges it brings… and all I want to do is crawl back into my warm flannel sheets!

And menu planning? Well, I’m thinking about it. Not absolutely sure yet what I’ll do. Here’s what I’m thinking of:

I do have lots of fun things planned for the blog this week, though – a few recipes for you and hopefully some more scrapbooking as well as a book review (or two?). So, I hope you will stop back by.

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linking up with OrgJunkie for Menu Plan Monday.

Countdown to Turkey Day

Happy Monday, y’all.

It’s quiet (sort of) around our house this morning. As I sit in my office sipping tea and looking out at the grey morning I can hear Little Bit’s giggles in the sunroom – she’s playing on her computer and Scooby cat is snuggled up next to her, enjoying the heat coming out of the fan of the laptop.

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Big Girl is still sleeping – she had a rough night last night. Lots of swelling and pain in her foot. I tried, at 2 AM this morning, to figure out what we might’ve done yesterday to make it so bad last night. The only thing I can figure is that she was more active yesterday – even in her wheelchair – and that maybe having her foot down more than up is the culprit.

Today, I’ll encourage her, strongly, to stay still a bit more. I think it will be difficult, but I am hoping reminding her of last night will be incentive enough.

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We are quite the trio – the girls and I. Big Girl with her foot and Little Bit and I with our brochitis-like colds.  Quite a pitiful crew.  And Thanksgiving is coming!  To be honest, right this minute, I could care less. But I want us to have a good day, so that will mean rising above the blahs that this virus has given me and taking on some baking and preparations today.

I think, though, that I will keep dinners simple this week – I’m thinking about making some turkey & rice soup today.  Mom’s dear friend sent us a cooked turkey (among other delicacies) last week to eat after surgery day (she didn’t want us to have to cook) and so we have those remains to eat.  Turkey & Rice soup sounds like good comfort food and something I can toss in the crock pot and forget about.

I have some leftover rice in the fridge, too, so it should be really simple to toss together. I’m just wondering how the girls will like it. It will be an experiment, I guess.

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Yesterday, SuperMan piled up all the leaves in the front yard – Little Bit has been asking for a leaf pile to jump in and he decided to oblige.  He uses a blower to do this – I remember raking leaves as a kid. Boy, the blower is so much easier.  For the past two years, I’ve done that job, but this year, I sat with Big Girl and guarded her foot from the over-zealous attentions of the puppies who were “helping” SuperMan in the yard.  They missed her and kept wanting to climb in her lap (not a good idea when they’re 80+ pounds!)

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Once the pile was finished, Sydney and Little Bit couldn’t wait to dive in. They had the best time in the leaves. SuperMan tosses the tennis ball into the leaves and Sydney dives down deep, sniffing and searching. It amazes me that she always, always finds it. Truly a needle in a haystack and yet she sniffs it out every time.  Little Bit just loves leaping into the leaves and the puppies leap in right behind her.  They’re pretty cute to watch.

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I’m not a big fan of leaf piles. Neither is Big Girl.  We both agree that the leaves and grit in our hair and clothes is not the nicest feeling.  My issues, however, go back much further, I think.

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I remember a time as a girl that my grandfather had this huge (huge) leaf PIT. He had a pit dug in the front yard for some reason and everyone in the neighborhood, it seemed, had put their leaves in there. It was like a leaf pool instead of a pile.  All of the cousins were there and everyone was jumping in and having a great time.

I wasn’t too crazy about the idea so I was hanging back and watching. I’m not sure who did it, (daddy maybe?) but someone picked me up and threw me in. I was terrified and came up with a mouthful (and shirtful) of leaves. Not fun.

That was pretty much the end of my leaf pile days.  But, I’m glad that Little Bit loves it and I certainly don’t want to take her joy away. It won’t be long before she decides that she is too old for those type of games.

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So, we’ll be spending our week quietly – other than a post-op checkup on Tuesday we have no big plans. Just enjoying the family time together.

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Around Here: Success and not quite success in the kitchen

I love trying new recipes.

This is new for me as I used to be very hesitant to do that. If I went to the trouble of cooking something (and I was hungry) I wanted guaranteed success. I wanted to know my time, effort and ingredients were going to reward me with yumminess to enjoy.

I don’t know when this changed – maybe when I started baking more (years ago) or when – but it has changed indeed.

Now, it is fun to start with a base recipe as an “inspiration” for me and get in the kitchen and try to come up with something totally new for us to try.

Sometimes that yields delicious results.  Sometimes disasters. And sometimes things are just “meh” – they’re edible, they’re not terrible, but they aren’t necessarily things I’d repeat without some major reworking.

Yesterday was one of those days. I had this craving for some cheese tortellini in a vegetable soup. I had no set recipe in mind, but I knew what I wanted taste-wise.

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I ran out to the store in the morning after taking the girls to school because tortellini is not something I normally stock in my pantry.  After my dash to get supplies, I decided to try doing things in the slow cooker rather than on the stovetop.

So, in everything went… Chicken broth, some stewed tomatoes, a bag of frozen “Italian” veggies (which translates to zucchini, squash, bell peppers, onions, carrots, butter beans), some other random veggies that I had in the freezer (like some shredded spinach) a bouillon cube, some garlic, copious amounts of Italian seasoning, etc.

It simmered and bubbled all afternoon.  When it was close to time to eat I cooked the tortellini in a pot of simmering water. I wasn’t sure if the girls would like the soup or the tortellini so I figured I would not mix the two unless they chose to.

I also grilled some chicken strips I had marinated in balsamic vinaigrette to serve in the soup or alongside with a salad if the soup was a bust.

I have to say, I’m glad I did that.

The soup turned out to be one of those “meh” kind of meals. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, either.  Sadly, the best part of it were the tortellini (and they were store bought so they shouldn’t have been the tastiest part as far as I was concerned)

SuperMan and I ate it.  The Big Girl said “NO” and the Little One ate the tortellini out of the soup and nothing else.

Oh well.

These type of nights I’m grateful for Velveeta Mac & Cheese and instant pancakes (yes, I serve those things, just not very often!)  At least I know everyone had something to eat for dinner – even if it wasn’t what I had planned.

Big Girl said it was the “weirdest dinner ever” because she ate grilled chicken with pancakes.

We also tried a new dessert, which, if you follow me on Facebook you saw the link to yesterday. It was about the same in terms of our liking it.  It wasn’t bad, but I probably wouldn’t make it again.

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It reminded me of the lava fields in Hawaii.

Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

And it was only one meal…

However, I didn’t satisfy my craving for the soup I had in mind.  I may try something again one day (maybe a minestrone base?) but I’ll have to wait until the kids forget about last night’s experimental dinner first. Smile

Hideaways

I have fond memories of various different hideaways I had as a child.

There was the banana tree in the back yard of my great-grandma’s house where my brother and I had our own “personal” branch each, along with other branches which had specific functions and uses. 

We’d sit in that tree and make noises at the business people in the adjacent office parking lot.  We thought it was such fun to make monkey noises and watch them try to figure out where they were coming from.  (Of course now I wonder how I would’ve reacted as the adult and not the silly child in the tree.)

There was the attic space (in the same grandma’s house) where we created our own “apartment” complete with bedrooms and a living room (all of which had their own repurposed furniture that had been stored up there)

We spent many happy hours playing in the attic. I remember being devastated when we finally moved out of that house, knowing that my attic hideaway was going to be gone forever.

My mom and step-dad have temporarily moved home (while they are renovating theirs) and the girls have found some new hideaways here in the new house.

There’s the attic space above the front porch that they have turned into their “apartments” (hmmm… sounds familiar)

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Their daddy set them up with little carpet remnants and lamps to light their spaces.

 

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  They each had their “apartment” with separate entrances in each upstairs bedroom, but they could visit each other by crawling across the attic space to each other.

 

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And so it goes – the circle continues.  Two more little girls finding imaginary worlds and secret hideaways in the most unlikely of places – and yet finding entertainment and joy in the simplest of things.

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