Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Christmas for Carol #1

I hate German Chocolate cake. You must understand this first and foremost, or nothing that follows will seem extraordinary to you.

After reading my post about a homemade Christmas, my mother-in-law put in her request for a homemade gift for her for 2009. She asked for 12 months of Christmas service. Holy Smokes! So I agreed to do one service project a month for the next 12 months as a Christmas gift. Now mind you, she does not mean for the service projects to be for her, but in January it just turned out that way.

Last week I got a call from her asking me to make a German Chocolate cake for a party she was throwing. Having never made a German Chocolate cake and absolutely detesting every single German Chocolate I have had the misfortune to taste, I decided to take on the challenge.

What you see here are the fruits of 4 hours of cake labor. I had to make two cakes to get it four layers and big enough. Actual start to finsh time was 1:00pm to almost 1:00am - I got in four hours of cake time in-between dinner, kids, piano lessons, a visit to select Djeryd's new glasses, and a much needed 30 minute respite at the library (all by myself!!!).

But, oh, my gosh! it was so worth it!

My one disappointment is how the decorative icing turned out. I iced the cake at about 12:15 in the morning. The icing was still quite warm, and so did not hold its shape. All that hard work (and scrumptious taste) without the perfect packaging. Grrr. But, as they say, perfection is over-rated. Just eat the cake.

P.S. My husband, who hates coconut on anything said this is the best cake he's ever eaten. Here's the recipe link:

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Monday, January 26, 2009


I watched the movie, Evening this past weekend. I thought I would throw in my two cents as a movie review for anyone who has not seen it. (A caution: it is PG-13 for a reason.) It is a drama about love, life, death, mothers, daughters, and dying. I thought the acting was superb on virtually all counts (Claire Danes, Vanessa Redgrave, Toni Colette, Natasha Richardson, Glenn Close, Meryl Streep). Although I thought the "incredibly handsome" love interest only looked "incredibly handsome" when he smiled (which was rare).

One of the more memorable lines of the film is: "There's no such thing as a mistake. You get nervous, but you sing anyways." While I disagree with the sentiment of mistakes not existing, the point was that life is simply a mix of experiences, both positive and negative; and we make of them what we will by our subsequent attitudes and choices.

Perhaps my firm belief in "mistakes" is part of my problem. Maybe I need a paradigm shift. Maybe if I saw my life as a series of experiences, and stopped judging them as successes or failures, but simply experiences, things wouldn't be such a big deal. And I wouldn't be so hard on myself.

The film moves in and out of times and places and reality with great fluidity and focus. It was touching without being sentimental. This movie spoke to me about what it means to be human and to be alive. What it means to be a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend. What it means to be in love. That life is full and rich with so much to experience . . . and so many songs to sing.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Change Is In the Air

I don't know what it is about January 2009, but it feels like spring to me. Yes, it snowed this morning; and yes, it is freezing almost all the time, but something fresh and new and exciting is beginning to stir. I can feel it. Maybe it's all the premature spring cleaning going on around here. Maybe it's Djeryd going back to school and the schedule shifting. Or maybe it's something else that hasn't happened yet. Whatever it is, I'm excited for it.

Stay tuned. Happy January!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"I Am Not a Failure"

One of my friends said she got so discouraged reading other people's blogs because their lives seem so perfect. I try very hard to keep a positive outlook, and my blog helps me remember and celebrate the positive in my life. However, in an effort to maintain balance, I am sharing a negative - though Sean insists I should see it as a positive.

I have been homeschooling my oldest son, Djeryd, at his request, since September. It has been a tremendous joy for me; one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done with my life. But the time has come to send him back to public school. I will not go into the reasons because then people think they can give me simple solutions and solve it all, and they can't. It just needs to be.

And my heart is breaking.

And I have to keep telling myself, "I am not a failure."

And it hurts.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


What defines a hero? To me, it is someone who steps in and saves the day (or me) when I can't do it myself. Yesterday my car died (again - but that's another story, all about car batteries and jumper cables and the falsehoods of batteries exploding that have been passed down for generations). Thankfully it died while I was at Sean's work (a rare occasion - me being at Sean's work - not the car dying). My wonderful father-in-law braved the dirty ground with nothing but a hammer, a screwdriver, and the underside of my car to take his mind off the FREEZING cold. (Admittedly the hammer and screwdriver almost made me burst out laughing. I mean if a car engine just needs to be whacked a few times with a hammer in order to work, I would make a great mechanic.) He listened to things click on and off in the engine and magically knew exactly what the problem was. Two minutes, and a few good whacks with the hammer (in just the right place - maybe I would not make a very good mechanic) and my car was running and willing to take me home.

He was my hero yesterday. That made me think of the other heroes in my life. My dad, for one. How do guys know so much about cars (and why doesn't my sweet computer-programming husband)? In all fairness to my auto-mechanically challenged husband, he is AMAZING with computers. He can fix anything - if it's on a computer. Then I thought of all the people (mom, mom-in-law, friends, siblings) willing to watch my kids when I have an appointment, or I just need a little escape (Sean - you are an angel). I thought of all of the amazing people I serve with in my church responsibilities, easing my burdens and making them light. My kids are definitely heroes to me, as well. They are often very kind and helpful with one another. I am particularly in awe of them when they show the love to one another that escapes me from time to time.

I think we are each heroes whenever we can reach beyond ourselves and put another's needs or desires ahead of our own. Sometimes it's a little thing, like stopping for a cuddle with a kiddo when you really don't have "time". Sometimes it's a big thing, like tromping out in the cold and dark of night to warn the neighbors their house might flood, and see if they need help clearing out their garage. Sometimes it is engaging a person in a conversation in hopes a smile will cross their face. Sometimes it is just saying "thank you". We are all heroes. We just don't see it in ourselves. And because of that, here is my blog to let you know you are a hero.
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Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Sunday Afternoon

Djeryd playing legos quietly in his room.

Erik having some "quiet time" on the couch after getting a little too rowdy.

Anna posing in front of the looking glass.

Daddy sawing logs on a Sunday afternoon - he still has his tie on - aren't you impressed? Then again, maybe the tie was too tight, and it choked him, and he passed out, and he is lying unconscious on the couch, and oxygen is no longer flowing to his brain, and . . . I better go!

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Things I Love

:: sticking to a budget
:: love notes
:: browsing the library
:: blogging
:: serving my family and friends
:: teaching my sweet children
:: rocking my baby girl - anytime - day or night
:: going shopping for something fun
:: reading & reading & reading

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Four Little Words

There are four little words that delight me no end. They are: "I read your blog." I know that I say that even if I was the only person who read my blog it would all be worth it, but that's not really true. There is a great level of fulfillment in being able to share my life with someone other than my immediate family, even if I have no idea who that someone is. I love that I can just share and be open and be myself, and other people can peak inside and say, "Hey, she's kinda neat." My life is small and quiet, and I like it that way. But I also love sharing it in my own small, quiet way.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sew Many Projects

Crazy things have been happening around my house lately. It's actually getting cleaner every day. I am turning into a cleaning/organizing/rearranging/crazy woman! I know the phase won't last long, so I am taking full advantage of it. I want to dump out every drawer, empty every closet, repaint every surface, and make every last thing beautiful. I love it when everything is fresh.

So here are a couple of my latest projects: Sean brought home a bookcase from work tonight that was ours, but on loan to work. I was planning on filling it with homeschool books. But . . . the sew-er (I hyphenated that word lest you think I meant sewer - like where the rats live (and Lex Luther)) in me said: "Wait a second! I have been longing for a sewing studio space, and here it is! Yippee!" So I cleaned out my overstuffed sewing drawer, emptied a box of some of my favorite fabric onto the shelves and . . . viola`! I have a studio - at least as close I will get to one in our present circumstances.

It is not much, but it makes me happy.

Another little project I made today was something I found in the book Vintage Style. It is actually made for clothespins for hanging wash on the line (is there anything more lovely?). I put all of Anna's little, tiny dolly clothes in it. She drug it around everywhere with her today. A success!

And last, but not least . . . in renegotiating the furniture to squeeze in the new bookcase/sewing studio (I know it is absurd to continually call it a studio, but I am exercising the power of positive thought), I brought in a small desk for the kids. It has cubbies and pencil holders fitted for the desk so it seemed like a perfect writing center for the munchkins.

I filled it with empty home-bound books, pencils, our new origami projects, and inspiration. Djeryd already has a million ideas to outfit it for some serious creative exploration.

To my utter delight, before Djeryd went to bed, he snuck a little "official" sign for his new desk. It says "Publisher". I am beaming.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dear Djeryd

Djeryd turned 9 years old yesterday. We had a grand day full of yummy food from morning until night.

We met Daddy at Subway for a birthday lunch.

Djeryd got to sign (for the very first time) his birthday check from Great-Grandma.

And we ended the day with mint ice cream cake and several rounds of birthday spankings.

Happy Birthday, Djeryd!

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Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Seed to Sow

Christmas, for me, arrives a mere week after December 25th. Christmas for me is when my spring gardening catalogs begin blossoming from my mail box. The first to arrive is always from Burpee, followed closely by White Flower Farm, Thompson & Morgan, Territorial, and all the rest. It is one of the most anticipated times of the year for me. I am a sucker for flowers. Despite the fact that I know the garden's "bones" should be the first priority on any landscape designer's list, I find myself year after year spending significant cash on blooms that will only last a season or two. I can't help myself. I am addicted to the bright, full colors, the rapid growth, the burst of size and sunshine that seems to appear miraculously in a matter of months. Below are some pictures of my garden's first year - the year of annuals. I had to get as much bang for my buck as I could manage. We spent our money on a few perennials, a few shrubs, one gorgeous wisteria being trained into a tree, and piles of annuals.

My orange, red and yellow nasturtiums got away from me (I personally LOVE them that way - but they drive Sean crazy - he worries about the integrity of the fence - blah, blah, blah. I say why should a broken fence get in the way of such beauty? Besides, Monet would be proud.).

The garden has matured considerably over the past five years, but I have been a poor gardener the past year or two. I have let things grow willy-nilly and left the bare spots bare for another year. My vegetable garden was beautiful this last fall (due to a very friendly Mother Nature - not me), but poorly harvested - mostly because I rarely went outside to see what was ready for picking.

The first half of our marriage I grew almost everything by seed. Live plants were a luxury we simply could not afford. We went to great lengths to coax a blossom from its embryo in those days. Now it has become too easy, and so I have become complacent.

The above picture is of the same corner of the yard in 2008. Lots of substance, but not much sparkle (and a lot of bare spots screaming for color!).

The bottom line is that I am vowing to do better this year. Creating an amazing garden is high on my New Year's Resolution list. I derive a tremendous amount of pleasure from the entire process of gardening, not to mention all the stretching and muscle toning and cardiac strengthening that happens. So this year, unlike last year, I am getting back to basics. I am sowing seeds with my children. We will nurture them and watch them grow together. We will pot them up and plant some and give some away to friends and neighbors to make their days a little more colorful. (Saying all of this I imagine myself standing on my bistro table in the middle of the garden holding a posey of flowers and yelling all of this out in a big, booming voice; looking like a great, gardening warrior.)

I encourage you all to find something that you love, something relaxing and fun and that makes you happy. Take that thing, whatever it is, and commit to making it a part of your life this year. Dive into it, explore it, embrace it and share what you gain from it with others. Make the world a better place by being who you are and loving what you love.

Now, I've got some seeds to order.

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Friday, January 2, 2009

The Floods Came Up

What a way to ring in the New Year! At 11:30 last night there was a frantic banging on our door. It was the neighbor telling us the street was flooding. Sure enough, I looked outside (with camera in hand) and the above picture is what we saw. This is the result of 2 hours of rains and floods. Needless to say we hit our knees and prayed for the rains to stop and the drains to clear.

Our house is on high ground, so we felt pretty safe, but look at our poor neighbors across the street. At this point the rain was still coming down very fast and the floods were rising with amazing rapidity.

Sean went out into the wide world to see what he could do to help. My nesting instincts kicked in and I washed dishes, vacuumed and did laundry. I felt like the pioneer women who would not leave their homes in Independence until their homes were spotless. In case we had to evacuate (which I was dead-set against) I didn't want clean-up crews combing through my house thinking we were filthy pigs. The tables and counters were covered with boxes and buckets of food storage from the garage (our garage is about two feet lower than the first floor of our house).

The mailbox illustrates the water level at about 1:00am. At this point I decided, come what may, I was going down with my ship. I can't decide if I was being stubborn, brave or just plain stupid. I was not going to leave my house. All the bedrooms are upstairs, and if the water got that high on my house, all of the neighbors would no longer have houses. I figured I was pretty safe. Sean continued to pop in and out until about 2:30am giving me updates on the neighbors and all of the other streets in the area that were flooding.

Then, as if this all weren't strange enough, it started to snow. Hard, heavy flurries of sticking snow - snow that did not melt, snow that did not turn into water on contact and slide off the roofs and add to the rising flood waters. After about an hour of snow, the precipitation subsided and the floods began to recede. It was a miracle. Our neighbor's house was spared by mere inches. Oh, and did I mention our house is 500 feet above sea level? At the top of a hill that slopes steeply over the distance of 3 miles? Apparently, the storm drains clogged within a large triangular area; and we, who never dreamed of seeing a flood on our street, actually lived through one.

(The snow line marks the flood line.)

Happy New Year.

Video of water and snow
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