Sunday, December 28, 2008

Santa brought a Wii

So Santa brought a Wii and I must say it has already been a well used gift. We are in Houston at my parents and it is rainy, which I love, but it can cause certain bizarre behavior in children. We haven't witnessed any of that crazy, off the wall behavior so far because they have been too busy challenging everyone to a game of tennis. I haven't been feeling well and Little One is under the weather as well, but I am happy to report I have not had to deal with the "what are we going to do next?" syndrome.

Now I do worry about my oldest daughter and her intense competitive nature. Who knew it was there? I suppose it was just bubbling under the surface. There were signs... Like when she brought home her report card and had 2 97's amongst a sea of 100's. She apologized and promised to do better next time. Then there was the time she missed one on the practice test for the TAKS test or when her picture wasn't chosen to be displayed outside the computer room, or well you get the idea. But you know, she pushes herself to do better without any pressure from me, she wants it for herself. So I guess that is a good thing to have. But she does have to be reigned in every once in awhile, especially when trying to beat her Mom at golf on the Wii.

The Wii has brought out certain personality traits in my middle child as well. We have to constantly tell her to move away from the television screen as she tries to crawl inside it as she plays. She plays with an exuberance, moving her whole body when only the movement of the remote is needed. Some games she is just plain silly. Making her Mii jump and dance instead of say, hit the ball. She upsets Em to no end with her antics and seemingly laid back attitude towards the game.

Then there is my husband, WB. He tackles every task, and I mean every task, with the goal of perfecting it. He will study it from every angle and attack it with a vigorous assault. The result is usually mastery of his goal. It's just the way he rolls, and I get it (well, after 12 years of marriage I do!).

Now Little One only understands that when Mom puts the remote in her hand she gets distracted. Meaning her attention is not entirely focused on her youngest child. This causes Little One to start screaming "No, Momma. Stop!" Hence, Momma doesn't get to play the Wii very often, go figure.

Anyway, I thank Santa for the gift. It has brought much entertainment to the whole family, and some peace and quiet to a Momma who is feeling a little under the weather:)

Monday, December 22, 2008

When my family was here over Thanksgiving we embarked on a toffee making journey. Not to brag, because truth be told I really don't make it myself, it is the most wonderful toffee I have ever had. My mom and sister started making this toffee and selling it a few years ago when everyone they gave it to begged for more. They made it for a few years around holidays and then were too busy to do it recently. And if truth be told, if you want to sell this and really make a profit it would go for 30.00 a pound. They sold it for 16.00 a lb and it just wasn't worth the effort, expense, etc. Now we just make if for family and friends. But if you ever wondered why some candy costs so much more then others, let me share with you the process of this one.

First it takes teamwork and precision. My mom has this down to an exact art of measurements and time. I guess when you are making hundreds of pounds for a craft show you get it down to a science. In this picture our busy elves are working hard. That is my Dad, sister, and WB over by the stove. They are the stirrers. We've got two pots going here of the toffee mixture. You stir for an exact amount of time. If you go just a few seconds too long or a few seconds too short you can alter the taste dramatically or ruin it all together. The color we are going for is almond. We had strong armed people on the job!

This batch was ruined. My sister knew almost right away. Several did this. After a call to her pastry chef friend in Houston, we decided the butter was getting to warm before it was going into the pan. See, it's so picky!!

Next is my Mom and Em. They are preparing the pans for the toffee mixture to be poured into. They've lined the pan with foil, Em has traced an exact area for the toffee to be poured from a template my mom cut out of foil. On this area Em places whole almonds. This ensures the toffee is just the right thickness and has just the right amount of nuts.

You'll notice Little One in the background is thoroughly engaged in this process.

Each batch makes 2 lbs. You can not double the recipe etc. because it won't work. It really is an exact science. My dad is over by the sink cleaning his stirring spoon. After each batch the pans have to be completely cleaned and dried. One drop of water will ruin the next batch.

So as you can see there is a lot of stirring, pouring, cleaning going on. This process took one whole afternoon for 20 lbs. or so. After it cools, then you have to dip it in chocolate and roll it in crushed walnuts. Another days adventure which I do not have pictures of because I did this solo. My hands were a little to messy for picture taking! But here is the finished product.

We wrap up the pieces in a pretty tin and give out to all our friends and family.

That's my memorable moment for this Monday? Do you have a special Christmas candy?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

From Under The Gift Wrap...

H....E...L...L...O out there! I am currently buried under 10 lbs. of Christmas wrapping paper, tangled in 5 different kinds of ribbon, and tape is sticking to all of my exposed body parts. But if you really want a laugh check out my mother-in-law Pat's blog, to read a Christmas story WB and I wrote about our first Christmas. We wrote it over 11 years ago and I laughed so hard rereading it, well I had to make a dash for the bathroom.
And hopefully soon I will find my way out from all this Christmas cheer!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

WFMW...Pretty Pots, Another Use for Spray Paint

Suddenly spray paint is my friend. Why, you may ask? Because it is a cheap and easy way to give things a face lift. I told you a while back how I updated the kitchen and bathroom fixtures with spray paint and it's been holding up beautifully. Well, the other day WB and I were trying to find some pretty, large decorative pots to put outside by our front door. The selection was not great, of course it is winter and maybe the gardening sections are not fully stocked. Because most people would not be planting flowers in freezing temperatures, but of course around here we always do things a little backwards:) Anyway, we needed two matching pots that didn't cost a gazillion dollars, but looked nice.
I found two of these pots. I liked the shape, but they were plastic and plain. I sweetly asked WB to pull them down from the very top shelf for closer inspection. Then I grabbed him by the shirt collar and gave him a big smooch ( this always helps when I'm about to ask him to do something). He complied very nicely to my request.

Next I dragged him across the store to the paint section where we found this:

It's paint that makes things look like stone. Now my big plastic pots can be transformed into very expensive looking stone containers.

When we got home sweet WB helped me to spray paint them. I think I fluttered my eyelashes at him a few times for this favor. I think he responded by asking if something was in my eye. Oh well, he took pity on me anyway.

And here is the finished product. I really like how they turned out.

We've had rain and snow and they have faded a bit, but that just adds to their character. Now they have that nice weathered look. Everyone thinks they are big, stone pots when they see them. Except for our West Texas wind, it laughingly blew them across an acre of land before I rescued them and put some rocks in the bottom. (We hadn't filled them with our soil and bulbs yet!)
That's my tip for today, head over to Shannon's for lots more!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Memorable Moments Monday...West Texas Sunset

Yesterday I posted about our trip to Lubbock and the Heritage Museum Pioneer Christmas. I mentioned what a glorious sunset it was. For those of you who have never experienced such an amazing sight check these out!

Look at how the orange light from the sky casts everything into a sort of warm glow. Check out my middle child's fashion statement. She has her own sense of style, which she pulls off quite nicely.

Here's a few minutes later.

And about 2 minutes after that look how the sky has changed!

It wouldn't be a sunset picture without a windmill in the shot. Now the sky is orangish.

Now the sky is violet.

Now the sky is orangish and violetish (I'm not sure that's a word, but it's impossible to describe these sunsets).

They are magnificent. Gods true artwork.

Remember how I said these birthday roses could have been plucked from the sky during a West Texas Sunset. I know some of you thought I was waxing poetic.

Now you know I'm not poetic at all, it was just pure fact.
That was my memorable moment for this Monday, how about yours?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A True Pioneer Christmas Trip

The birth of the whole Pioneer Christmas idea was actually conceived during a summer trip we took to Lubbock's Ranching Heritage Museum. It is a really neat place with houses and buildings outside that represent many of the pioneers lifestyles through the years here in the Texas panhandle. One weekend in December they have an old-fashioned Christmas, in which you walk along luminary lighted paths and take a glance back in time. As you peak in the windows of the historic homes you get a glimpse of what Christmas was like many years ago.We walked past the window of a little dog-trot cabin and found this family painting Christmas ornaments.

Or this pioneer woman who was stringing popcorn garland...which reminds me we haven't done this yet!
Here's the one-room school house where the kids were singing Jingle Bells.
This sweet couple were dancing away at their Christmas party. WB pointed out to the girls this was music pre-Ipod download:)
These cowboys were very busy in their little one room cabin.
This is the grand Victorian house. Check out that sunset, it was amazing. I'll post more pics of it tomorrow for my Memorable Moments Monday!!

We ended at the 6666 barn for some hot cider and hot cocoa. School choirs were inside singing and the girls wrote letters to Santa.Then they delivered them to the local post office.And we couldn't leave without seeing Santa. Little One was so mesmerized by him that she couldn't take her eyes off of him.

It was so much fun and I'm so glad we were able to go!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Momma Training for a 5K

closely resembles a circus act. It's full of juggling, improvising, and swinging from place to place. Remember how I made that turkey day pledge? Yes, it was insane. I realize that now. But let me just give you a brief run down of my first week of training. The weather was nice the first couple of days so I was able to take Little One with me in the jogging stroller. She loves it, thank goodness. My two older children joined me the first day. It was nice to have the distraction as we huffed and puffed up and down hills. The first week was just walking 30 minutes, which was very doable. The first 10 minutes were challenging, but after that we got our stride.
On my fourth day of working out the weather took a drastic turn. Yes, I realize it is winter, but I've been spoiled by decent weather so far. I bundled up Little One and by the time we got to the end of the street I realized that my child would be a human Popsicle after 30 minutes so I returned home, frustrated. It was starting to get dark and hubby was working on the shower remodel(I will have to share this adventure with you later). Not willing to give up I decided to run up and down my stairs for my workout. After 4 trips Little One was screaming at the bottom of the stairs for me. So I scooped her up and carried her up and down the stairs with me until I feared in my exhaustion I would drop her. That was the end of that day's workout.
On the fifth day I went for my walk, but hadn't had a chance to eat a substantial breakfast and by the time I reached the top of my first hill my stomach was growling so loud I knew I wasn't going to have the energy to run my first 1 minute stretch. Now, 1 minute may not seem like much, but just let me tell you for this old gal it's enough to kill me. Anyway, we returned home and I vowed to try again later in the day after the errands and household chores were complete. Later that day I tried again, but I had to stay close to home since my oldest was playing at a neighbor's and I wanted to stay in sight. We managed to pick up a neighbors terrier who ran under my feet and right in front of the stroller the whole time as Little One screeched "See, See" anytime the dog was out of her sight. Frustrated I tried to run down our street as Little One, Soph and doggie played but as I ran past the neighbors house Em came running toward me screaming "Mom, wait, Mom!!" I looked at my stopwatch, I'd only been running 20 seconds (really it felt like 20 minutes). I tried to put up my hand asking her to wait a second. This signal is lost on all my children. I think they just believe I'm waving my hands around for fun, because they always continue to seek my attention. Finally, lacking 30 seconds of my run, I stop and ask what the dear child wants. "Can I stay a few more minutes?" she asks. Deep sigh, I shake my head yes and ending my workout try to wrangle the terrier back to his house.
I miss a couple of days due to weather and then beg my husband to meet me at our exercise center after work. Soph has a swim lesson and I bring hubby's and the girls swimsuits so all can swim while I workout. After wrestling with an anxious Little One at the club for 30 minutes hubby calls to say he's not going to make it. Urggh. Now I have to go into the pool with the kids, but guess what I have no swimsuit. So I put on my sports bra, my husbands speedo (which is the kind that goes to your knee, not bikini!) and a t-shirt. Pouting I get into the pool with my kids.
We are in the shallow training pool and as I pout I hear the voice of my Great Aunt Alma Lou saying, "Honey, when life gives you lemons you just got to make some of that sweet lemonade!"
Okay, so I don't have a great aunt, but I heard that voice never less.
So I scoop up Little One and pushing her in front of me in the 3 1/2 feet water I start to walk back and forth the length of the pool. Little One giggles happily and as we reach each end of the pool I lift her out to the side where she eagerly jumps to me and then we walk to the other end and repeat. Then I run a few laps. Surely, I get extra points for dragging my Little One along with me and then walking against the resistance of the water.
After 30 minutes everyone has had their fun and it's time to change and get home for supper.
So after a week of training I realize it is not going to be the easiest. Luckily, as all of us moms know, we have to interject a little bit of creativity into everything we do when kids are underfoot.
I'll let you know if it doesn't kill me!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Works For Me Wednesday...Ideas for Christmas Cards You Receive

I love all the pretty Christmas cards we get each year. The problem is our fridge is only so big and I never have quite enough room to display them all. Then the other day I came across some ideas in a magazine that I loved, and I thought I'd share with you.

-The first is to make a sort of Christmas Tree Garland with the cards. Hole punch the top of the card, string a ribbon through and hang on your tree. You can add to it as you receive them.

-String a pretty Christmas ribbon across your room or hallway and use pretty clips to hang up Christmas cards.

And my absolute favorite, which my family has already started, is to place each card in a basket on your dinner table and each night pick a card. Then as a family say a prayer for the family of the card you picked. We now do this right after we light our advent wreath each night. We each take turns picking and whoever picks gets to start or say the prayer. It is such a neat feeling to pray for your friends each night, some of who you haven't seen for quite some time!

That's my WFMW tip for today head over to Rocks In My Dryer for my great tips.

I posted another Pioneer Christmas gift idea yesterday!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pioneer Christmas...Pomanders

Pomanders are oranges or apples encased in cloves used during the holidays as gifts or decoration. The girls and I learned that pioneers usually had to make due with apples, because the oranges were considered exotic and found only in the cities. We made ours with oranges, just because that is what we had:)

First we learned that in today's time cloves are expensive, but not so bad if you buy in bulk. So I ordered this bag at We can make lots of pomanders for years to come with this bag!

The orange skins can be sort of tough to poke the cloves through so we used a sharp end of our meat thermometer or a skewer to poke holes in the skin rind first, then inserted our cloves.You can cover the whole fruit in cloves or just make a design, either way is pretty. The girls, even Little One, enjoyed working on this project.Next you shake the oranges in a bag with cinnamon and ginger. Knock off any excess spice and place somewhere to dry.

You can wrap ribbons around them to use as ornaments or hang in closets. Or you can just fill a pretty jar and use as a centerpiece. Whatever you decide to do everyone will love the smell of Christmas it brings to your house!

And my bloggy friend Amy sent me this link to a neat Christmas story in 1776 (it's only up for today so check it out!). I can't wait to read this tonight to the girls, thanks Amy!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Memorable Moments Monday- Birthday Surprises

Last week I celebrated a birthday. I try not to think of my birthday in terms of years any more. Even though I remember a time that I couldn't wait to turn a year older because it would bring about new responsibilities or more freedom. Now each year just seems to mark a passage of another year behind my belt and new aches and pains. Okay, so I'm feeling a little old but I shouldn't. Actually, I look back and realize that today I'm much wiser than I was say 10 years ago. I feel more settled, a little more relaxed, and definitely more confident. So I've vowed to not concentrate on the numbers, but focus on the accomplishments. And honestly when I do that my birthday becomes a real celebration of life, both past and present. I'm lucky too because I'm surrounded by a family that is all about celebrating those moments with me.

I woke up on my birthday with a little gift on the table from my girls. They had given me a stopwatch and running gloves...just want I had hinted at needing! Later in the day the Fed EX man arrived and delivered these:

Two dozen, beautiful roses from hubby. They were petite with shades ranging from dusky pink to crimson red. I was shocked not because he sent me flowers, he does that often, but because they were roses. He has told me in the past that roses are so ordinary, anyone can send roses. He prefers the exotic flowers, something different, something that requires some thought. But as I slowly unwrapped each rosebud to put in my vase I saw how different these roses were. Not one was the exact color of another. It was if each had been plucked from the clouds during one of our glorious west Texas sunsets. Ordinary, I believe not!

If that wasn't enough to make me cry, this was attached to the flowers:

That's enough to make a girl swoon, even if he can't count!!

That night I enjoyed a wonderful dinner out with my family, with calls from the rest of my family wishing me well on my big day. It was a day filled with memorable moments and lots of fun!
Do you remember a special birthday celebration?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Frugal Friday...Free Evergreen Trimmings For Decorating

If you live in an area where there are not a lot of Evergreens, or even if there are but you don't feel like trimming them for decorations I stumbled upon a great find for these trimmings. We bought our live tree at Home Depot the other day and they will trim the trunk of your tree for you. There was a large pile of Noble Fir and other types of Evergreen tree trimmings where the man was trimming our tree. I asked if I could have them and he said sure! So I piled up a cart full of greenery to take home to decorate my mantelpiece and make a large wreath all for FREE! I imagine any place that trims live trees for their customers will have extra laying around. So if you'd like the smell of Christmas scattered throughout your house or just want to make a wreath for your door, check out Home Depot and places like it for some free trimmings.
I'll be posting more of our frugal Pioneer Christmas Projects later so come back and check them out!

For more frugal tips head over to Biblical Womanhood!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Works For Me Wednesday...Putting the Jolly back into the Holiday Season

The time seems to fly between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even when I think I have gotten started early each year, December hits and I am in a holiday extravaganza frenzy. The problem is my husband ends up walking around muttering, "Bahh humbug" under his breath and I find myself so exhausted by Christmas day I usually spend part of the holidays sick. So this year I promised myself that I was going to take some steps to simplify things. Our Pioneer Christmas theme is working nicely and helping things out, but there is still parties, baking, gift mailing etc. to attend to. So here's my list to simplify Christmas:

- Limit the number of parties you go to. Pick out the parties that are the most important and attend only those. Family friendly parties help to keep the kids from feeling left out. I’m not saying you don’t deserve a night out, just be aware that kids like to sometimes be a part of the fun. Also, don’t feel like you have to say yes to every invitation. If there are parties you have to attend plan on going for just an hour so you can make it home in time to tuck your children in before bed.

- Start baking ahead of time and freezing that Christmas candy and cookies. That way when you need it all you have to do is pull it out of the freezer and put it in a pretty holiday tin.

- Instead of running around the mall, try making most of your gifts at home. Baked goods, food baskets, handmade items are all perfectly suitable gifts. Dare to be creative! If you can get the kids involved it will be even more meaningful for everybody.

- Plan a night once a week when you set everything aside and just have family time. Pop in a Christmas movie, make some hot chocolate and relax.

- Scale back on the holiday decorations, remember keep it simple. Less to put up, less time spent on decorating and less to put away!

- Make a list of everything you need to do between now and Christmas. If you’re organized it will keep running back and forth to a minimum.

- If you have a large extended family try drawing names for Christmas gifts. That way you won’t feel overwhelmed by all the gifts you need to get, ship, and spend money on.

- Lastly, take time each day to just soak it all in. Count your blessings and enjoy the warmth of the holiday season.

Here’s wishing you a jolly, and cheerful holiday season!
For more WFMW tips head over to Rocks In My Dryer.

Monday, December 1, 2008

MMM- Thanksgiving Moments

This was the first year in a really long time that my family was at my house for Thanksgiving. We had a great time and I must say the food was all sooo yummy, we had lots of good cooks around! We relaxed, we watched football, we shopped, we made Christmas toffee, and of course I made the pledge.
Little One immediately curled up on the couch for some reading time with Gram and her Aunt Kim.
Thanksgiving Breakfast consisted of biscuits made from scratch and slices of ham that my parents brought dipped in egg fried up in an iron skillet. It would make my Nano proud. Snappin the beans Even Little One helps WB rolling the pie dough and giving me "the look". The finished pecan pie, yummy!

Scott made his family's black cherry jello salad.

Em and I making the Bourbon Pumpkin knew I'd work the bourbon in somehow!

Sitting down for yummy Thanksgiving dinner.

It was truly a time to be thankful for!