Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Very recently a reader of this blog pointed out to me that my post about the book, The Shack, may have implied that I have discovered something very awful about my husband. Please let me assure you that that is definitely not the case. And I want to publicly apologize to him if that is what anyone thought. I knew it was going to be hard for me to express in writing what the "skin of knowing" quote meant to me and now I am sure that I did a chop job of explaining it. I'll try again here.

As most of you know, I am a teacher. I am currently teaching preschoolers who are just about the most fun and joyous type of people to be around. However, preschoolers tend to think about things very literally and to see things in black and white. This is why you may often hear a preschooler say, "You're not my friend" or the infamous, "You're not invited to my birthday party" (stated indignantly even when the birthday is 9 months away). To a young child, if their friend does not behave in a certain way they think they can no longer be friends with that person. In my classroom this happens when their friend plays with someone else, sits by someone else, etc. Thankfully, as we grow older we become more flexible in our thinking. This flexibility allows us to accept and even love people who don't share our beliefs or who don't look just like us or act just like us. In fact, as adults we are often very willing to overlook the annoying or aggravating habits of those we love due to the very fact that..........we love them. So what I was TRYING to say in my previous post is that I find it a beautiful fact of life that our love for others is able to grow over time even as those we love do things that surprise us, upset us, or disappoint us. I am the first to admit that I have done many things to surprise, embarrass, upset, and disappoint the people in my life who claim to love me. (My previous post may be just one of many examples of this.) And sometimes I do those surprising, embarrassing, upsetting and disappointing things over and over even though I know they are surprising, embarrassing, upsetting and disappointing. How wonderful that the people who love me are able to "grow" their love even in spite of this. Am I making any sense now? I hope so. And again, my sincere apologies if anyone thought for even one second anything negative about my DH. I love him........he's a great daddy, a great husband, and an all-around great guy.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Perfectly mismatched

Last week our whole family went to see the movie Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs at the theater. This was kind of a big event because we have rarely gone to a big theater to see a movie. We are more of the movie-rental types. we sat in theater before it was darkened I looked over and noticed that my little boy had on mismatched socks. My gut-reflex instant thought was, "Oh crap! I should have noticed that and had him change before we went OUT." Immediately on the heels of that thought came another thought........."I love it that his socks don't match. I love how it reflects his uniqueness and originality. Someday I will look back remembering when he was little and sweet and we sat together in a dark theater and I will wish for more days of perfectly mismatched socks." Just thinking about that moment almost brings tears to my eyes as I write it. I love my boys so much. I am so proud of them and have loved watching them grow up. But I HATE the thought of them getting so big that I can't carry their sleepy heavy little bodies to bed when they fall asleep on the big that they won't beg to be spun around in the kitchen or tickled under the covers...........and so big that they won't look at me in the dimness of a nightlight-lit bedroom as we snuggle under the quilt and say, "Mommy, I love you." I live for those precious moments..........they are truly treasures in my heart.

I'm glad I remembered to snap a photo of Mr. Mismatched that night before he went to bed. Isn't life better with one red sock?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Halloween Crafting.......I love it!!

You know, it's been a while since I've created anything. I really get a great sense of satisfaction when I make something. So I'm feeling pretty good right now since I've managed to create a few fun new things this weekend. This morning I woke up and read my Google reader and saw these great Jack-o-lantern jars on Chasing Cheerios. I immediately decided that I wanted to make these with my two boys today. I had one jar and my mom had once I picked up the extra one from her after our morning basketball game (with my youngest son) we were good to go. These were really easy and fun to make. Please see the tutorial on Not So Idle Hands for details about how to make these. I added green curling ribbon to the tops to make pumpkin vines but otherwise I followed her tutorial pretty much exactly. I didn't have any black tissue paper so I just printed the faces through the links on her blog and cut them out and Mod Podged them right onto the jars..........just the printer paper. It worked fine. I stuffed my candy corn lights into them and they look really cool on our "harvest" shelf.

(Sidenote: I hadn't "discovered" the Not So Idle Hands blog until today. I love finding new blogs. I am really wanting to try her tutorial for making your own gummy candy.)

The Jack-O Jar on the left is my youngest son's. He really didn't do any of it. He wanted me to do it all. He chose the face he wanted but I did the work. The other one is my oldest son's jar. He is 8 and did most of it himself. I just smoothed out the Mod Podge a little for him and put the face on.

The other thing I created this weekend was candy corn treat bags to give my boys for Halloween. I don't usually give them anything for Halloween, but I saw this tutorial on The Crafty Crow and thought these bags were so adorable I couldn't resist. They were SO easy to make. I plan to fill them with candy corn along with a little honeycomb pumpkin. I found these little honeycomb pumpkins at my favorite local thrift store for 50 cents each. When I was little I loved those fold-out honeycomb decorations. Since my mom was a teacher it seemed like she had a lot of these in her classroom. I don't think they're sold much anymore. I was happy to find these and I think my boys will love them.

(Sidenote: In addition to finding the pumpkins on my thrift outing, I got 2 "new" pairs of shoes for fall/winter for $17 total. I would have had to pay more than that for one pair if I had bought them new. I was really excited to find those bargains. I also saw a teapot with autumn leaves on it and a matching teacup that I LOVE. I've seen it several times in that store but so far haven't been able to bring myself to buy it. If it's there the next time I go in.........maybe I'll splurge on it. It would look great on my baker's rack.........and I would love to use it during the fall to hold my tea. Sorry for digressing.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

the skin of knowing

I recently checked out the book The Shack by William Young from my public library. A good friend of mine whom I highly respect and who is an avid reader had raved about it so I was curious. I am not writing this post as a review of the book. To be honest, I didn't finish reading it. Not because I hated it...........I just got a little bored. Please don't let that deter you from reading it, however. It is a very intriguing and thought-provoking book from a spiritual standpoint. I may check it out again just to reread certain parts.

There is one phrase from the book that has just stuck in my mind and that's what I wanted to write about. I can't get the words out of my head. "Love is the skin of knowing." To give you the context of this, the main character has the occasion to meet up with God and these words are among many of those spoken by the God character (who is actually represented in the book by three "characters" to illustrate the Holy Trinity). God was trying to get the main character to realize that as our relationships with one another grow and deepen we inevitably come to know much more about each other. And despite some of the pain and anguish that "knowing" brings our love grows to contain it. I'm probably doing an awful job of explaining this. I think what really hits home with me about this idea is that there are so many times in my life when I've lamented the fact that I am at my worst in the relationships that mean the most to me. I actually had several conversations about that this week with some other women. We talked about how sometimes, especially in a marital relationship, the two partners tend to bring out the worst in each other. Marriage is difficult. I remember hearing that when I was newly married. At the time I thought it was just difficult for other people. I couldn't imagine it ever being difficult for ME. Sixteen years and two children later I am the first to's difficult. Living in close proximity with someone else brings with it many disappointments and unmet expectations on both sides. The more you know about someone the more you find out things about them that are possibly surprising, embarrassing, upsetting, or disappointing. Of course marriage brings joys and blessings too. As I think about my relationships and especially my marriage I realize that my love has expanded to encompass the knowing. When I am frustrated and discouraged about my marriage I am going to try to remember that love is the skin of knowing. I am blessed to be loved by a God who already knows everything about me........who anticipates and expects my failures and loves me in spite of them. It is because of this divine love that my love for others can continue to grow............despite the sometimes painful knowing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bakerella wannabe

I recently found the website, Bakerella. While I do like to bake, I have never felt inspired or confident about baking things that are decorated. I truly admire people who can decorate beautiful cakes.........that is really a talent. I have many hobbies and have never really wanted to take up cake decorating. However, when I looked at all the great ideas on Bakerella, I actually wanted to try making her cupcake bites. They looked doable and are very similar to a cake ball recipe I recently bookmarked over at Kelly's Korner. Since I had to take a dessert to my MOPS maidrite fundraiser on Wednesday, I decided to try out the cupcake bites to see if I could pull it off. While my cupcake bites didn't turn out as cute or perfect as Bakerella's, I was still pleased with how they turned out. They tasted really good too. I decided to do a post since a few of my MOPS buddies were wondering how to make them.

I started with a boxed red velvet cake mix and baked it according to the package directions. Once it cooled, I used 2 forks to crumble it up in a large bowl. It is easiest if you crumb up about 1/4 of the cake at a time. Try to get the pieces down to true crumbs, not chunks.

Then I added about 3/4 can of cream cheese frosting and worked it into the cake crumbs with 2 forks.

It takes a little time, but after everything is mixed the mixture is moist and looks kind of like raw hamburger!!

I chilled the mixture overnight which made the next step easier. The following evening I used my Pampered Chef cookie scoop to scoop out balls of the mixture. Then I used my hands to roll the scoops into balls. I placed the balls on waxed paper on a cookie sheet and put the cookie sheet into the freezer.

I chilled my cake balls for probably about 20 minutes which I think was enough time since they held up pretty well in the next step. They could probably have used another 10 minutes or so.

Here's what my hands looked like after rolling all the balls!

I had purchased a peanut butter cup candy mold at Hobby Lobby to do the next step. I made the "easy" Bakerella version of cupcake bites. She has another version she makes using a cookie cutter to form the bottom of the cupcakes. I may try that version too, but this way is really easy. The next two photos show the mold I used.

I wanted white "bottoms" on my cupcakes so I melted white almond bark in the microwave and put a plop of it in the bottom of each cup of the mold as you can see below. Then I squished a cake ball on top of each blob. I think my cake balls were a teeny bit large for these cups, but the almond bark still squeezed up the sides which is what you want.

Then I put the whole mold into the freezer for about 5 minutes or even less to set. I don't know what that weird triangular spot is on my freezer, but there are the frozen waffles I have for breakfast every day!!

For the next part I melted some pink candy wafers in a glass measuring cup in the microwave. I bought these at Hobby Lobby too. I really wanted red tops, but I couldn't find red candy wafers.

I guess I didn't take any photos of the next steps. After chilling the balls in the freezer I popped them out of the molds and held them upside down and swirled them in the melted pink candy. It was a little hard to get it so there wasn't a teeny line of red velvet cake showing between the layers, but I did better after I practiced. Before the candy set I sprinkled each cupcake with rainbow sprinkles. After only a few minutes the candy had set and my cupcake bites were done.
I'm not the best food photographer by any means, but here is what they looked like when finished.

A fun thing about these little treats is that they are completely edible. The cake part on the inside was incredibly moist. I loved these with the red velvet and cream cheese frosting. However, I've been dreaming about making them with chocolate cake, chocolate frosting (homemade, not canned), chocolate candy melts and chocolate sprinkles. Doesn't that sound awesome? These would be so cute to give as a gift all packed up in a little white box with a cute ribbon. I spent quite a bit of time looking at all the fun ideas on Bakerella's website. I also want to try the cake pops which are basically the same thing I did here, but in just a ball shape and attached to a stick!! I think I'm addicted and I'm going to have to make a variation of these for every major holiday. They are just so cute, fun, and yummy!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Whazzup with the chickens

My DH and I spent a little time this weekend putting a few more finishing touches on our chicken coop. A few weeks ago we finished the windows to get them ready for winter........which was a good thing because we got some snow on October 10th. You can see what the coop looked like on that day. Luckily we are getting some nicer was in the low 70s here today and beautiful.

One thing we hadn't done until a few weekends ago was to add the white trim on the windows. I am really happy with how it turned out. It really makes the little ol' coop look finished and "fancy". We needed a way to cover the windows for winter, but wanted something that would be easy to remove when the temperatures warm up and we want more ventilation. Here in the midwest we should be able to just have the window screens for about 3/4 of the year. We ended up getting Plexi-glass and cutting it just wider than the window frames. Then DH drilled holes in the corners and attached screws in the window frame so the Plexi-glass can just be slipped onto the screws from the outside and then removed quickly and easily. We hope this will be a good set-up for winterizing the coop. Below you can see the window with the "glass" on.

And here is a close-up of it with the "glass" on.

Just this past weekend we built a roost for the chickens. We had placed an old stepladder in the coop when we first moved them in. They quickly adapted to using this as a roost and at first they all were able to huddle together on the top rung. However, as they grew bigger, they spread out more and since chickens are not considerate to one another, they were pooping on top of each other throughout the night. A bigger pain (for me at least) is all the poop that was landing in the shavings below the ladder. I wanted an easier way to clean up after them each day, you know, being Farmer Cluck and all. :0)

So.............we constructed a roost that was all one level and added a droppings board below. That way all their poop from the night falls onto the board. The next day it is easy to scrape the droppings off the board and into a bucket where they can then be deposited in the compost pile. Below you can see the new roost. You can also see the "poop" bucket hanging up on a nail. We had to add a diagonal piece of wood to the roost to stabilize it.

This weekend we also tacked chicken wire above the storage shelf. As I've alluded to in past chicken posts, the chickens were very eager to get onto my shelf and poop on everything. Again, not so considerate about where they put their droppings. It was getting aggravating to me so I gave up the storage space and closed it in.

When I put the chickens to bed the first night the new roost was in I found that they had quickly adapted to it. Below you can see Clara and Sarah huddled up on one end.

And Reba (middle) and Abby (far right) were also comfortable on their new roost. Dixie (our rooster.......we haven't given him a boy name yet) was relegated to perching precariously on the diagonal support bar instead of hanging out on top with the girls. The interesting thing about this is that on the stepladder s/he was usually on the bottom rung. I was a little miffed at the girls for not allowing him space on the top since there is PLENTY of room for all of them. I posted a question on Backyard Chickens about the phenomenon of hens forcing roosters to the bottom of the pecking order so to speak. Several people responded that they've noticed similar actions or attitudes in their own flocks. My DH, animal lover that he is, proposed constructing a separate roost just for Dixie so s/he wouldn't have to put up with getting pooped on during the night and not being allowed on top with everyone else. I admit that I was skeptical about this idea..........mainly because I really need the space to the right of the roost for my nest boxes.

I am happy, however, to report that tonight when I shut the chickens in I noticed that Dixie was on top with the rest of the flock. I couldn't wait to tell this to DH. Just before I started to write this post I snuck back out to the coop to see if Dixie had, in fact, retained a prime roosting spot. I had my camera with me and below you will see the evidence of Dixie's acceptance. It was totally dark when I took this so I'm sorry for the poor quality. It will be interesting to see if Dixie continues to be allowed to stay on top........we sure hope so!

All that's left to do now is set up a nest box or two so we can start gathering eggs. That will be very exciting!! Huevos rancheros, anyone?

Saturday, October 10, 2009's still fall, right?

That's what the calendar says anyway. I think Mother Nature is pulling a fast one. We woke up this morning to about 2 inches of snow. My boys were VERY excited and have already been out playing in it this morning. It's a strange juxtaposition of two seasons in our area today. Just before I started typing this post I went back to my bedroom to check on my boys..........there were loud noises that warranted a quick peek. As I listened to them explaining that they were taking turns being the "tiger" and the "deer" while wrestling each other on my bed......the unmade bed with a pile of laundry to be folded.........I looked out the window and saw fall leaves slowly drifting off one of our trees while light snowflakes gently fell. It was a really cool sight! Below you can see the snow on our little maple tree in the front yard..........fall colors still evident beneath the white stuff.

This is the scene that awaited our chickens this morning. They are lucky to have a covered chicken yard so they don't have to get into the snow much. However, when I opened their pop door so they could go out, they were quite uncertain about venturing out. Just a few minutes ago I noticed that a few had finally decided to go outside.

While I was out with the boys earlier I checked in on the cooped up chickens and found three of them on the shelf (where I DON'T like them to be)..........

And the other two were just hanging out. Although "she" hasn't started crowing yet, it's become pretty obvious that Dixie is a rooster.

On another note...........I was thrilled to arrive home from work yesterday to find a package addressed to me. I was mystified to see that it was from my mother-in-law as I wasn't expecting anything from her. I was so surprised and happy to find a ceramic hen and chick inside. And even more pleased and touched to find out that she had hand-painted it just for me. Thank you SO much, Donna! I love it and I love you. You are so thoughtful. Here is the sweet little hen perched on my baker's rack. I love the little chick on her back and her wing angled protectively over it.

This has become our latest family treasure. What a talented mother-in-law I have!!

Finally, I'm sorry for not posting over here. I didn't realize it had been so long until I started this post. I've just been so busy with school and the boys that I haven't gotten around to posting over here very often. Hopefully that will change and I will make time to write here more. I like having this place to document what we've been doing. Hope you all are having a great fall!