Monthly Archives: December 2010

Celebrating Snow!!!

This weekend has been exciting – we finally got past these piddley little snow flurries and got ourselves some real snow!  We had about two inches of accumulation Saturday and couldn’t contain ourselves!  Off we went to the nearby ski trails to do some cross-country skiing.  The big kids tromped through the woods, the little kids sledded down the sledding hill on the cross-country trail, and Jess and I got a 70-minute workout in God’s country!  It was beautiful!  We were surrounded by snow-frosted trees on all sides.  I was a little disappointed that Cecily didn’t come with us.  She and I used to go out several times a week for an hour or an hour and a half, and we didn’t get to last year on account of an equipment failure on my part.  I was thrilled to be back on the trails!

First Cross Country Ski of the Year! Hooray!

Saturday night it began to snow and blow and snow some more!  There’s a lovely accumulation out there, though we escaped the brunt of it.  It’s been so cold (single digits with a chill factor well below zero) that the roads are icy and hard to drive on, and the wood furnace has been going constantly.  Overnight it went completely out in spite of having filled it at night before bed.  I love having a wood furnace, but it sure makes your heart sink to head out to load it in the morning and see it black and dark with nothing more than a few scattered ashes in the bottom.  LOL!

Mr. Matt riding Rocky (foreground) and Justin riding Chance all lit up for the Christmas parade!

Saturday night the kids and Jess participated in the Christmas parade.  The Ranch had a float and invited us to participate.  Cecily and I had a rehearsal for the Christmas Eve service band, so we weren’t there, but I heard Mr. Matt and Justin were going to put Christmas lights on their horses.  I was pretty sure it was going to be cool!

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The Beauty of Character

The snow has been slowly, slowly accumulating over the last few days.  First a dusting, then a powder.  Now the ground is blanketed with enough snow for the first cross-country ski of the year.  I look forward to that over the weekend!  Fridays around Aspendale are often a bit of a hodge-podge.  The elementary school children have no school, since they usually complete their work in four days, but the high schooler is still completing his weekly work.  Cecily uses the extra time to practice piano extra hours, and I often plan the next week’s school and do some proofreading for Aspendale Communications.  Many times haircuts are given or special foods prepared.  Today the farrier is coming after lunch, then we are having a craft day at a friend’s house, making Christmas cards for the residents of our local nursing home.  And tonight my honey-pie is taking me out for a date!

I was looking for a quote on integrity to put in my facebook update.  Integrity is, for me, a character trait of supreme and unquestionable worth.  I hope we have sealed that lesson upon the hearts of our children.  Once lost, it cannot be regained except at extraordinary cost.

In my very early twenties I was given a valuable lesson in character.  After a myriad of puzzling events, it came to light that someone I’d trusted had been lying about “little things” for years.  Those lies nearly destroyed my relationship with my sister – we each thought the other was crazy!  I realized that to the liar, it was mere trifling.  It was a way to control people and satisfy their selfish desires with no regard whatever to those who would be hurt.  I was astounded!  Sometimes the most painful events in our lives are also the greatest lessons, and as I have grown in age and wisdom I have come to see that the most painful gifts life gives us are often of greatest value.  That was such a great and impressionable lesson, that what I had taken for granted earlier in my life, I have since guarded zealously.  My integrity is worth so much more to me than keeping any accidental extra change given at the cash register, protecting myself from trouble,  getting my own way in a matter, or having a means of giving my opinions – disguised as others’.  It is a great act of cowardice and malice to slander someone else’s good name by attributing to them an unkind opinion which belongs instead to the coward. Many a relationship has been destroyed by such savage selfishness.

What is your integrity worth?  What would you sell it for?  Or do you hold it priceless, above mere earthly treasures?  A thing of beauty, delight, and defense to the innocent?

Although it didn’t make it as my facebook update for the day, what a comforting thought to those of us who do hold our character dear is the old french Proverb, “There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience.”

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Giveaway Winner! A Cowboy Christmas Tradition

Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookies - courtesy of the Tasty Kitchen at thepioneerwoman.com

Okay!  So I put everybody’s names on slips of paper (including those who had to respond via message because of the issues posting comments), dumped them into a lidded tupperware and shook the tupperware all around earnestly.  Then I reached in without looking and selected one slip of paper.  We’re very high-tech around here.

…And the winner is:

THAT GIRL!!!

I so enjoyed reading everyone’s responses.  Thank you for taking the time to share!

We had the pleasure of christening the new cookie/meatball scoop yesterday afternoon!  Ho ho!  To each his own, I know.  I didn’t really think it would be quite *so* much fun – especially for making cookies.  I was really just thinking about the whole meatball thing and how much quicker and easier that was going to be.  But boy is this scoop fun to use!  It’s not like I need any more incentive to bake cookies, you know?

We tried a new Christmas cookie recipe:  Chocolate Peppermint Crunch cookies.  We think this recipe is definitely a keeper.  Not only does it have a super Christmastime kind of taste, but it was fun for everyone to help with.  And of course, I’m all for including a large proportion of chocolate in one’s Christmas Cookie stash!  For the original recipe, visit Tasty Cooking at The Pioneer Woman’s website by clicking on the photo above or using the following link (you may need to cut and paste):

http://thepioneerwoman.com/tasty-kitchen/recipes/desserts/chocolate-peppermint-crunch-cookies/

This afternoon we participated in a real Cowboy Christmas tradition. Our friends at The Ranch invited us to ride horseback out into the federal land in the Huron National Forest to cut our Christmas tree with a whole posse of folks.  We got our tree tag from the DNR office and showed up promptly at two to saddle the horses.  No matter how we get our tree, it seems impossible to escape frozen fingers and toes during our annual Christmas tree hunt.  Every year we’re so cold and numb when we’re done there’s nothing that sounds better than a steaming mug of anything to wrap our fingers around!  But this was the first time we’ve frozen our extremities on horseback.  Should I be proud of that? I’m going to vote “yes.”  If I said “no” I might have to explain myself, and I think my brain is still slightly numb from the adventure.

Waiting at the Tree Hunting Site while the official tree scouts from each family are off in the bush.

As I get older, the looks of the tree grow less and less important, and the speed with which we pick one out seems to take precedence.  Is that how you know you’re aging?  I suppose one of these years the all important “real” tree, replete with its piney smells and sticky trunk, will succumb to the ease (and warmth – at a certain age you can’t afford to risk losing digits to frostbite, I think) of a fake tree.  But knowing my distaste for storing things that get little use, who knows, I may hold out forever.

In lieu of going to the trouble of trailering our horses over to The Ranch, we chose to use their horses, as even though there were four families participating in the Great Tree Hunt, there were enough horses for everyone.  A couple of the guys had to drive out in a truck, anyhow, to cart the booty back to the Ranch.

See the pretty black horse at the front of the line? The one that's tied to the lead horse? Yeah, that's *my* horse. The one I am *not* riding in the photo.

I’m not sure how it happened, but let us say that my horse and I … didn’t “get along.”  He was fresh, and snotty, and I guess he didn’t like my coat.  Or maybe my braids.  Maybe braids aren’t his thing.  But after multiple attempts to imitate a kangaroo (I suspect he was trying to toss me – but it can’t be proven), several bad-humored spats with other horses and repeated attempts to bite as many other horses as possible, I was glad to dismount at the tree hunting site.  And I was cold.  It’s hard to hold onto the reins when you have no feeling left in your fingers.  And I even had hand warmers in my gloves.  That’s not a good sign.  But upon dismounting I marched vigorously in place for a good fifteen minutes.  Then, when that failed to raise my core body temperature to a life-sustaining level (okay, I exaggerate, but only a little), I decided to emulate my Turbo Jam workouts.  After all, they certainly warm me way up.  So I punched and kicked and dribbled an imaginary speedbag.  (Do you really “dribble” a speedbag?  I have no idea.)  That really helped a lot, but my sassy horse, whom I was all the while holding onto, wasn’t keen on Turbo Jam, either.  So he escalated his aggression from headbutting me to trying to bite me.  That was so not cool.

Heading home in the bitter cold. Some of these people are related to me. I don't know which, as they are swathed in many layers of clothing, but if I say a name and they answer, I assume they are mine.

Once trees were picked and cut and we were ready to mount up again, I announced that I would be walking my horse home.  He couldn’t buck me off if I wasn’t on him.  He could, however, continue to bite me, and to bite the horse in front of him.  And when that failed to get him whatever it was he obviously wanted, he proceeded to kick me in the side of the knee.  I felt like a third-grader, yelling, “Mr. Matt!  Socks kicked me!” And of course, he had to separate us for fighting.  So socks went into time-out, ponying alongside Rocky, the herd boss, and I had to stay in line with Dakoda and Lilly and Comet while they kept their eyes on me to make sure I didn’t misbehave again.  But I’ll tell you what, aching knee aside, I didn’t envy anyone atop a horse their frigid seat.  I warmed up toastily walking home. I could have stayed out there another two hours just walking and felt very comfortable the whole time.  It’s the sitting still that gets ya!

God bless Mrs. Michelle for her warm drinks and food. She has raised four children, two of whom were boys. She is taking bunny-ear vengeance on my progeny because she can. Danny thinks it's great!

Back at the clubhouse, hot cocoa or coffee and warm Sloppy Joes slowly restored life to the many stiff hands and feet.  We ladies are calling the sandwiches Sloppy Jims, really, because Mrs. Michelle put them in hotdog buns.  This was such a great idea.  The sloppies can’t slop out the other side when they’re in a hotdog bun.  I’m so doing that with mine from now on!  It was good to warm up by the woodfurnace and visit with the others, swapping recipes and stories and making memories we can bring out and dust off in future days, to remind us of the love and fun we’ve shared and the Christmases we’ve celebrated together as a family.

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New Life in My Kitchen – CONTEST!

My sweetie and I have been married sixteen years now!  I don’t know about you and your family, but in ours, so many good memories are made in the kitchen!  We love to bake and cook and froth up new concoctions together.  My children are generous, offering each other beaters, bowls, and spoons to lick when they’re in charge.  If they’ve ever considered not sharing, they haven’t let on!

I attended a bridal shower for a lovely young friend last weekend with the girls.  The appetizers and punch were lovely and the table set with candles and silver, though this is not, by any stretch, a “fancy” family.  The are hospitable, though, and they love each other with intense devotion.  I enjoyed the food and friends, and I especially enjoyed watching as she opened each gift.  I thought my blue Pillsbury cookbook would be a hit, since, of course, all new brides should have a good basic cookbook!  Four other women also thought a good basic cookbook would be a great idea!  LOL!  But I’m pleased to say they were all different from each other, and I really do think she’ll benefit from each of them if she chooses to keep them all.

But in the course of watching her open her gifts, I was seized with an inspiration.  Don’t mistake it for a pang of jealousy, as it was no such thing.  Another gal (older than me) was commenting that, really, brides should be allowed to register for their shower gifts after they’ve been married thirty years.  I laughed, as we both ogled the cool new pans and bowls and things we knew she’d thrill to using for the first times in her new kitchen, with her new husband.

It occurred to me that, certainly, there was no reason a “bride” of sixteen years (in my case) or thirty (in Bonnie’s case) shouldn’t be able to receive new “shower gifts” to update her kitchen to make it just suitable for herself.  Are there things in your kitchen that drive you nuts when you’re working?  Teflon pans that are badly scratched so everything sticks to them?  Dull vegetable peelers?  You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?  Only, since it’s not appropriate to really have another “shower” when you’ve been married this long, the only way the veteran bride is going to accomplish this is to either ask for these things for birthdays and Christmas, or get them for herself.

I remember the first year I got the email from Flylady about not being a martyr on Christmas morning, and how, since we ladies are the ones who fill the stockings, that instead of throwing a pity party because we have to fill our own stockings, we should either arrange with a girlfriend that we each fill the others’ stocking, or that we fill our own with things we love.  This, to me, was no different.  I’ve gotten some really great gifts some years!  My gelding, Saxton, was probably the coolest ever!  And the surprise electric blanket for my birthday this year has elicited a constant stream of thank-yous even to this day when it warms my borderline-anemic frosty toes.  And then there have been the “Oh boy”  gifts – don’t tell me you’ve never gotten an “Oh boy”  gift. I know, I know … it’s the thought that counts, and I give that a lot of weight, but that kind of gift doesn’t send a tingle through my toes, ya know what I mean?

Knowing the hit or miss luck that prevails in the gift category, and realizing I am unlikely to get anything I ask for this late in the game, I decided to take part of my “violin stash” (that’s a whole ‘nother story) and upgrade my kitchen a little.  There are a few inadequacies that drive me a little bonkers, but nothing so distracting that I haven’t been willing to put up with it for years.

It started with my vegetable peelers.  I have one really great, kelly green plastic vegetable peeler, and one white “speed-peeler” type that came in a gift utensil set when I got my first apartment.  It’s terrible and I hate it, but you know, one veggie peeler won’t cut it.  So the kids and I fight each other for who gets the “good” green peeler.  And since there are only two peelers, if I need a gang of peelers to make short work of some potatoes in a hurry, we’re outta luck!  No prob.  A veggie peeler can be had for a couple bucks.  Unless you get seduced by the stainless steel, ergonomically weighted deluxe model at the kitchen specialty shop.  That bad boy is fully worth the $6.99 price tag!

I won’t bore you with excruciating details, but in all, I managed to replace my lightweight stainless stock pot that couldn’t cook a batch of spaghetti sauce without burning it if someone’s life depended on it.  It’s gone baby, and in its place, a triple-ply heavy duty Kitchenaid stockpot that I’ve tried to burn stuff onto unsuccessfully three times now!  (LOL!)  Love it!  I also threw the old 12.5-inch “teflon” skillet into the Goodwill box.  Let some college kid struggle with the scrapey spot in the middle and let them figure out how to get the hard, crusty gunk off there.  Again, triple-ply, copper core 12.5-inch, stainless steel replacement by T-fal.  No teflon on that baby!  I’m in love!  Nope, couldn’t burn any cheesy egg-potato concoction onto it, though, again, I tried.  (Hey!  I’m easily distracted.  SQUIRREL!)

As if the two pans weren’t enough, I gave in and bought a cookie/meatball scoop.  I know… a totally frivolous purchase that will take up space in my utensil drawer.  But man!  The meatball relief will be awesome!  You know … those weirdely shaped meatballs you end up with, and the gunk all stuck in between your fingers so you have to take your wedding rings off?  Well, maybe I’m alone in this, but I consider it a luxury!

My two other luxury purchases are some cool replacement bowls from Crate and Barrel and a Rachael Ray insulated potlucker with a 9×13 baker.  I’m really particular about my bowls.  Seriously.  I had to have one set of stainless steel, but I needed another set as well.  We do cooking marathon things around here, and in spite of my lovely (albeit weirdly sized) collection of white ceramic bowls, I usually find the “perfect” size for our salad or whatever, among the mixing bowls.  So these are actually pretty cool.  They’re deep, rich colors, and melamine, so they should last.  I fell in love with the set of rubber-bottomed Kitchen-Aid mixing bowls I bought about a year ago that have spouts for pouring, but they betrayed me by starting to chip and crack a couple months ago.  Rrrgh.  So they’re so outta here when the new set arrives.

Check out this cool Rachael Ray insulated potlucker!  I guess I just got tired of putting my lidless 9×13 glass baker, covered precariously in tinfoil and swaddled in a variety of “rag towels” to keep the contents warm, into a box on the floor between my feet whenever we take potluck or a new mom’s meal somewhere.  All the while, I’m hoping desperately that it won’t spill goopy, greasy, or heaven forbid, red contents all over the carpets in my too cool, all wheel drive CR-V.  After all, permanent scrapes on the dashboard from the bottom of kids’ shoes and dog claw scratches on the driver’s door are quite enough destruction for one Mama to have to put up with.

The whip cream and cherry on this sundae is something anyone can do, even if they don’t have a violin fund to snitch cash from.  I took an afternoon and went through my drawers, finally ready to give up the nostalgic set of placemats my good friend and neighbor from our house in Ohio years ago gave me.  We never use them, but they remind me of her.  I pulled out all sorts of linens, a pie rolling mat I’ve had to force myself to use the five times I’ve used it since I got married, a variety of lidless tupperwares and so forth that I have to fight to find the things I need.  I’ve never felt at liberty to get rid of those things (except maybe the tupperwares, but that’s an ongoing maintenence thing) any other times I’ve gone through my drawers culling.  But I finally just got fed up with these space stealers suffocating me in the kitchen.  So out they went.  A whole carton of odds and ends.  Rearranging my cupboards and drawers, and culling “extras” and unnecessaries is really, really liberating!  It makes things seem clean and fresh in the kitchen and makes me want to spend time in there!

So, this Christmas, it’s going to feel like Christmas morning every day while I’m whipping up an astounding array of cookies, candies, casseroles, and appetizers (yay for meatballs!), while I break in my new gifts to myself.

I want to know… what are the things in your kitchen that drive you bonkers that you’d take care of or replace if you could just snap your fingers and do it?  I’ll be selecting one winner at random from all entries posted and sending an insulated potlucker (baker not included) as seen in the photo above.  To enter, just answer my question in the “comments” section.  The contest ends at 9 pm Saturday and the randomly chosen winner will be posted Saturday night.  To find out if you’re the winner, check the website, and we’ll be in touch so I can get your mailing address!  Good luck!

~~~~~

Just a heads up… so far it looks like folks are having issues trying to post a comment.  Please try to post a comment first.  If you are unable to, send an email to bayberry at laheyfamily dot us with your name, address, and email, along with your comment to enter.  Thanks!

…And yeah, I know.  The original giveaway was supposed to be the cool melamine mixing bowl set.  But as things aren’t going my way in the world of internet today, within about an hour of posting the contest, Crate and Barrel posted that their mixing bowls were no longer available for online ordering, and I don’t live within 100 miles of a Crate and Barrel as far as I know!

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