Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Moist and Fluffy Coconut Cake

Two weeks ago, when I was in the midst of the craziest of 'last week of school' preparations, I got a text from my husband at 5 pm.  I had spent the day on a field trip with Pierce's class, and then came home and set to work packing lunches, laying out clothes, and creating mini cupcakes for the twins' class.  I was exhausted.  Do you know what the text said?  "I need dessert for 36 people for my work party tomorrow".  Paul is a procrastinator.  It is frustrating to me when I have to bear the brunt of his procrastination, but as tired as I was I went ahead and started flipping through my cookbooks looking for easy cake recipes.  I settled on a recipe where you take brownie mix and doctor it up with oreo style cookies and frosting for one cake.  Then, I pulled out a Coconut Cake recipe given to me by my friend, JP, after a neighborhood potluck, for the other.  I wanted to share the coconut cake recipe, because it's simple and so delicious.

1 pkg yellow cake mix
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 cup coconut, divided
12 oz. frozen whipped topping, thawed

Prepare cake mix as directed; bake in 9 x 13 pan.  Cook 15 minutes then poke holes through the cake with a fork.  Meanwhile, combine milk, sugar, and half the coconut in a small pan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 minute.  Spoon over warm cake, allowing liquid to soak through holes, cool completely.  Fold 3/4 cup coconut into whipped topping and spread on cake.  Sprinkle with remaining coconut.  Store in fridge. 

In the end, I survived the rush to make the two cakes, and they turned out wonderfully.  Readers, do you like coconut?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Legend of the Christmas Spider

The weekend before Christmas we took the boys to visit their great-grandmother.  While we were there, she asked me if I'd heard of the legend of the Christmas spider.  I hadn't.  So she told me to dig through this wooden bucket sitting by the couch.  This bucket was stuffed full of 5 million things.  Seriously - you would not believe what you can fit in a bucket.  Five cookbooks, two children's books, 50 embroidery threads, a cross stitch, a secret listening-through-walls device (I couldn't make this up if I tried...), a stack of letters, some knitted Barbie clothes, dozens of patterns, several balls of yarn, wrapping paper from Christmases gone by, a best Great-Grandmother plaque, and there, down at the very bottom, a box labeled 'Christmas Spider'.  To tell you the truth - I was impressed that she knew it was down there.

The box contained a kit to make the Christmas spider from silvery beads.  My grandmother had already crafted the spiders.  They are oddly beautiful, even though usually spiders are not my thing.
Here is the legend:
According to Legend, a poor woman had no decorations for her tree.  A spider who had hidden in her tree to escape the dust mop watched as the woman prepared for Christmas.  As the spider crawled about the tree that night he left a trail of dusty web.  But when the woman awoke on Christmas morning, she found that the dusty web had turned to shimmering silver.

How about you, readers?  Have you heard of the Christmas spider?  I'm looking forward to having the three my grandmother gave me on our tree for years to come. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Busy? Who Me?

1.  Last week I had list after list of things I had to do - it was so busy I wasn't sure I'd survive.  I did manage.  Here is a forest of mini cupcakes I made for a Happy Birthday Jesus party at the twins' preschool:
2.  In addition, I made two 9x13 cakes for Paul's work party.  And teacher gifts for an assortment of teachers. There was also an all day field trip with Pierce's class to Amazement Square in Lynchburg.  It was fun, but tiring, particularly the almost 4 hours on the school bus!

3.  Spirit week was going on too.  Here is Pierce on crazy hair day:

4.  Then there was the Christmas musical celebration at the twins' preschool.  And I had several last minute Etsy orders, for which I was grateful.  I had a couple of extra work obligations to tend to, plus picking up some items I was gathering for a family in need.  And delivering those items.  Not to mention a trip out of town to take the boys to see their great grandmother.

5.  I was so thankful that I had finished my shopping and Christmas cards ahead of time.  Now, I'm looking forward to another week with the boys out of school, and no obligations other than my usual work sessions with my client.  I don't know about the kids - but whew, I need this break! 

How about you, readers?  Did the holidays test your limits this year? 

Linking with Nancy's Random Friday

Thursday, December 26, 2013

RIP Apple Tree

I've blogged before about how much we loved the apple tree that resided in our front yard for so many years.  It provided us with many an apple pie; with apple butter and apple jellies.  The boys would grab apples as they walked by, to eat as a snack.  The deer sheltered under the branches, munching the apples when they fell to the ground. 

It was a sad, sad day when a windstorm blew the apple tree down recently.  We truly will miss it next fall.  RIP apple tree.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas Eve

I was at Pierce's school recently for their Winter Wonderland event, and I was captivated by the artwork on his class's door.  A sleigh filled with elves, and pulled by reindeer made from the children's handprints.  It was adorable.  And then I saw Pierce's elf on the back of the sleigh.  Modeled after our Elf on the Shelf, it was so cute and sweet I had to take a picture.
The boys are excited for tonight.  We always open our presents on Christmas Eve.  This year, we are following the 'four' gifts tradition for the first time.  Each boy has four gifts under the tree:  Something you want, Something you need, Something to wear and Something to read.  I love how simple this tradition keeps things.  I finished my shopping easily, and it was kind on my tight budget.  And the boys know what to expect and seem happy about it.  I don't know what Santa has planned for tomorrow - but I'm guessing he might be keeping things simple too ;-)

I will be taking tomorrow off, but I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Woodstoves are Nice

Woodstoves are nice.  I'm thankful we have one. Free heat (at least if you're not the one chopping the wood).  They make everything cozy.  They work even when the electricity is out. 

But sometimes the woodstove and I....we just don't get along.  The wood doesn't to burn.  It taunts me.  I grumble and fuss and beg. 
But that only happens rarely, when I get wood that is too green...or too something.  So mostly woodstoves are nice.  If only they didn't make such a mess.  The little bits of debris that get all over my floors and carpets from the wood.  It drives me nuts.  Look at all that mess!  All.winter.long.  I vacuum it up and ten seconds later....all messy again. 

Okay, okay, back to woodstoves are nice.  Focus on the positive, right? 

Is it spring yet? 

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Fall Ice Storm

We don't usually get a lot of winter action in November or December around here, but this year things got an early start.  We had an ice storm and Pierce got a day off school.  I took a few pictures around the place. 
 Thankfully, we didn't have anywhere we needed to be early that morning.  And the ice melted in time for us to get Reid to the doctor later that day. 

Poor Reid had pneumonia.  Second child in our home to get it in the past month.  Very strange - as it's not a typical occurrence for us. 

I like seeing the trees weighted down by ice.  There's something silent and beautiful about it. 

How about you, readers?  Do you like winter weather, if you have no place you need to go? 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Carters Friends and Family Event

I participated in an Influencer Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Carter’s. I received a gift card to facilitate my shopping trip and to thank me for participating

My boys have worn the Carters brand of clothing since they were newborns.  I love how soft their clothes are, especially the baby line, and they wear well - even through numerous launderings.  We have quite a few items that the twins are wearing that were passed down from Pierce, and they have held up well through numerous washings.  It's become a brand I really trust. 

We don't have a Carters store locally, but I've been in the stores while traveling, and I love their selection.  Their stores are always well organized and the aisles seem stroller friendly (which is important when you have twins).  Since we don't have one in Roanoke, when I do get to stop in a store I love to stock up on necessities.  In addition to their pajamas, I also love some of their cute shirts - like this one which fits Two Bears Farm just perfectly:
I just ordered two of these bear shirts for the twins - they are going to look so cute in them. 
They also have a great selection of outerwear.  I thought these fleece jackets looked perfect for layering warmth on the playground or while taking local hikes:

And these pants look just perfect for my one child that cries if I make him wear anything other than "soft pants".  He refuses to wear jeans, but he doesn't mind at all when I put him in a soft pair of Carters pants. 
Indeed there are so many fun choices for kids - from newborn to size 7.  Many of their items are on sale, so there are some really excellent deals to be found. Be sure to check out their Friends and Family event going on now through the 24th.  You get an extra 25% off your entire order, so print out the coupon and head to your local Carters store!  It's the perfect chance to pick up some wonderful last minute gifts for all the children in your family. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Best Blog Readers Ever (Plus, A Francie Update)

I already knew I had the best blog readers around, but shucks, folks, I was floored by the response to my recent post about our rescue horse and the horses left behind that needed help.  All your kind words and support warmed my soul so much that I felt like the Grinch - my heart grew three sizes that day!  And those of you who could, jumped in and donated to help treat the other two horses.  I went to the local farm store and was able to buy the complete gamut of dewormer for BOTH horses, all thanks to your generous donations. 
I helped the neighbors get started with the dewormer, and taught them some about how dangerous these strongyles can be.  They were thankful for the help.  Like I said before, I don't think they mean these horses any harm.  They just don't have the knowledge or resources to care for them.  But with this help, I am hopeful that the horses will start to look better, especially if they will keep hay out for them.  And maybe the skeletal older mare will be able to put on some weight if she can get worm-free.  Yes, I'm a bit of a dreamer, but look how many of you jumped on my dream to help make my wishes for these horses come true! 

In addition, I am working with them to try to arrange for the stud colt to be gelded.  I have someone that is covering the gelding fee, if the owners will agree to it.  And guess what?  I had extra donations left over after purchasing the dewormer, and I plan to put that towards doing some of the basic vaccines when the vet comes out to do the gelding.  That's right, thanks to you all, we can at least get them their rabies and flu/rhino shots! 

I can't even find the words to express how much happiness you all have brought me; that you are helping me care for these horses.  Maybe, with a little luck, once the colt is gelded and healthy we can find him a home with a pasture to roam, just the way horses are meant to be.  Wouldn't it be amazing to see him gallop a green field?

As for Francie, she is doing really well.  She has completed her deworming program, and is feeling like a new mare.  Since the worms are gone, she got to move into her own small pasture, which is full of yummy grasses.  I've seen her run now, and it's a beautiful thing - she holds her head so high.  I didn't want to share any pictures of her at her lowest, when I first brought her home, which is why I only shared carefully angled head shots that didn't show how bad  she was.  She still has a way to go, but now she's looking healthy enough for a full body shot.  Her spine is still protruding, but thanks to a furry winter coat you can't tell from this picture, and you can see how well she's filled out in the hips and ribs in just a few weeks.  Also - can you tell she loves mud?
Soon, Francie will be strong enough to start learning a few more things.  She has already learned how to have her feet cleaned, stand for brushing, and walk backwards on command.  But once she puts on a few more pounds, I'll start working with her on the lunge line. 

Thank you readers, for your support, for your kind words and donations.  You all don't need me to write about the true meaning of Christmas.  You're living it.  Thank you.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What to Do if You Receive Gift Cards You Can't Use

Disclaimer:  I received a gift card for review purposes.  The opinions below are my own.

I generally love receiving gift cards as presents.  We have such a tight budget that it's fun to get a gift card and go splurge on something I really want.  I haven't ever received a gift card I didn't want, however, there have been a few occasions where Paul and I have received gift cards for stores or restaurants that we don't have locally.  Sadly, these gift cards went unused (it was before the laws where gift cards couldn't be docked after a year). 

Now, there is a great resource if you receive a gift card you just can't use (or don't want to).  GiftCardRescue.com is an easy way to find discounted gift cards (save 4% - 35%) or sell gift cards you don't want (for up to 90% cash back).  The website guarantees all transactions and is backed by solid customer service. 

You can also find GiftCardRescue on Facebook and Twitter.  As for me, next time I get a gift card for a store that isn't online and isn't local, I'm swapping it out for a Starbucks gift card - my favorite! 

Readers, where would you most like a gift card from this year? 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pop Pop's Amazing Oyster Stuffing

In early November I mentioned how much I was looking forward to my Dad's oyster stuffing on Thanksgiving, and several readers asked me to post the recipe.  It took me a little while, because I wanted to have pictures to include.  But I'm finally ready to share his secrets!
1/2 cup butter
1 large onion, chopped
6 green onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 1/2 cups crumbled cornbread (my mom makes this from scratch)
3 1/2 cups soft bread crumbs (my mom makes a French bread from scratch)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 pints shucked oysters, drained
1/2 cup oyster liquid, drained from oysters

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Saute onions and celery in 3 tbsp. butter until wilted but not browned.  Combine cornbread and bread crumbs in large bowl; mix in sautéed onions, salt and pepper, and parsley.  Add beaten eggs and toss more; moisten with oyster liquid until moist but not soggy.  Add oysters.

Pat the mixture into a lightly buttered 12 x 15 rectangular cake pan.  It should make a 1 inch layer.  Dot with remaining butter and bake 45 minutes, until golden brown and set in the center.

You house will start to smell delicious!  Enjoy the oyster stuffing - I always do! 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Our Chess Enthusiast

Pierce finished chess club last week.  He wasn't old enough to go to the final tournament, where all the schools in the district play against one another.  He has to be in third grade for that.  But he went to every practice and kept his enthusiasm for the game the whole semester.
He sure is going to miss chess club the rest of the year.  He's doing Odyssey of the Mind now, so hopefully that'll fill the gap somewhat.  And I'm sure Paul and I will be roped into numerous chess games at home.  The one thing Pierce wants most for Christmas is a game he saw in the MindGames catalog called Solitaire Chess, which he can play on his own.  I do believe this game is going to be under our tree this Christmas.  Pierce will be ready to return to his beloved chess club, come next fall! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Little Horse that Could - an Update on Our Rescue

If you missed it, you can read about how Francie came to live with us over Thanksgiving weekend here

Francie has been with us almost two weeks now.  During that time, she's bravely endured a number of hassles.  On day 2 at our house, I noticed quite a few pinworms in her manure, and decided I couldn't wait to deworm her (I had hoped to wait a bit until she'd adjusted).  I dewormed her with a mild ivermectin.  The next morning, while waiting for the school bus with Pierce, I bent over and was horrified to see thousands and thousands of threadlike red worms in her manure.  As it turns out, these were small strongyles, which are particularly nasty because they can burrow into the intestines over the winter and make a horse very ill.  They are the most unwanted of all the equine parasites.  They can migrate to different organs in the body, and they can kill.  Indeed, they had affected Francie's urinary tract system, and her growth is stunted.  I took a sample in to the vet for analysis, and found out that she also had roundworms.  A triple whammy.  The vet recommended I deworm again right away, with Panacur.  When I did this, Francie started to get sweaty, roll on the ground, and bite at her sides.  Horses can have delicate digestive systems, particularly when they are infested with worms, and Francie was starting to colic.  I promptly got her up and spent a good chunk of time walking her in the arena.  She finally went to the bathroom, and felt much better afterwards. 

Francie had her feet done, and she tried her best to stand still for the farrier.  He was able to trim all four feet, but she didn't like the rasp.  He held off on that until a future trimming.  Thanks to the advice of a childhood friend, I fed her small amounts of Purina's equine senior, slightly increasing the amount every 3 days.  Plus plenty of hay.

On Friday, a week after she had come to us, the vet finally made it out to see her.  He'd had a busy day, full of emergencies, and was four hours late.  It was dark when he arrived, but I was thankful he made it out.  He said that Francie had the worst case of strongyles he had seen, and unfortunately, these worms can be very resistant to treatment.  He recommended a double dose of Panacur for five days, followed by a full dose of Zimectrin Gold.  He gave me a bottle of Banamine to have on hand in case she were to colic from such strong doses of dewormer.  While I'd hoped to move Francie into a pasture with a shelter before an ice storm passed through, he told me that because her worms were so severe it would be best to keep her in complete quarantine until she finished the complete deworming program.  Francie was able to get all of her vaccines, and a Coggins test.  The vet wasn't sure about the funny curl in the tops of her ears, but he promised to do some research on that and get back to me.  He feels she is around 2 years old, and is some type of gaited breed. 

We moved our horse trailer into the small paddock before the ice storm came in.  I filled it with shavings and fresh hay for Francie, and we are leaving it open so she can walk in at will.  It isn't the best shelter on earth, but it's better than nothing until Francie is parasite-free and can move into a larger pasture.  Francie's personality is already starting to shine.  It took a few days, but I saw her trot for the first time, so I know she's feeling better.  She whinnies now when I walk down the driveway to see her. 

I've had a few people contact me about wanting to help Francie or the other two horses left behind.  One kind soul donated the money for the parasite analysis, another is donating the cost of having the stud colt gelded (!!), and yet another has made some large purchases in my Etsy shop.  If you would like to help, let me know!  The two horses that are left behind need the same rigorous deworming program as Francie if they are to get healthy.  The Panacur type of dewormer normally runs $9 a tube, but as the stud colt is wild he will need grain dewormer, which is $11 a dose.  I have two people who have pledged to buy a bag - but it would be great it we could get the total of 12 pledges to do the complete process for both horses!  I can receive Paypal through my email address, and I am also putting all proceeds from my Etsy shop towards Francie's vet bills this month. 

Stay tuned for more updates on Francie and the horses left behind soon!  Thank you readers, for all your support and kind words. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Four Years of Blogging

Yes, it's my Blogiversary today.  Hard to believe I'm four years into it.  You, my readers, sure know how to keep a blogger going.  Over 30,000 comments.  Around 750,000 page views.  Thank you.

How about a few blogging tips?  Nothing complicated.  Just a few things that I've found helpful.

1.  If you want to increase traffic to your blog, join Pinterest.  I resisted for a very long time.  But it turns out to be a great way to bring people to your blog when you post recipes or crafts.  I wish I'd joined sooner.  And no, I don't spend a lot of time over there!

2.  If you want to increase your followers, do giveaways, and have an entry just for your blog followers.

3.  For a laugh, go check your stats sometimes.  One of today's google hits that brought a reader to my site?  "LOVE MY CHICKEN LEGS". 

4.  After four years, I still feel like I have so much to learn.  I would love to increase my Facebook following.  If any of you have tips for doing this, let me know. 

5.  The most rewarding part of blogging is helping others.  I love the community of support and kindness between bloggers, and it's what keeps me going through the months.  Thank you, readers! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Our Elf on the Shelf is Not Bad

We've had our Elf on the Shelf, Tulley, for four Christmases now.  He joins us each year around Thanksgiving.  He is usually a silent figure in our home, moving each night (well, most nights...) from place to place.  He doesn't toilet paper the tree or drink himself silly like some of the elves out there.  Not that I begrudge others their elf silliness.  Just that I like our elf to set a good example.  After all, he's supposed to be representing our family to Santa.  And let's face it...do I really want to give my twin four year olds the idea to toilet paper the house?  That would be NO! 
There are some days, where I actually think this elf of ours has my back.  I couldn't have said it better myself!

Look what happened just last week. Something out of the ordinary.  Tulley showed up one morning perched on the tank of Josh, our beta fish.  And look what he left inside.  A cute little 'Merry Christmas' sign!  The boys really got a kick out of it.

Should any readers be interested, I heard you can find these little signs (and more) at Petsmart for $2.99.

Readers, do you have nice or naughty elves in your house this month? 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Teaching Kids to Give Back Using CWIST #MC

“I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for CWIST. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.”

I always love educational opportunities for my boys, and if they involve giving back to our community in some way, even better!  CWIST is a free digital platform full of creative challenges for kids - everything from creating a worm farm to completing daily chores to researching a particular subject.  I was immediately drawn to the Community section, and there were a good number to choose from.  Ultimately, I assigned Pierce the "Teaching the True Meaning of Christmas" CWIST.  This CWIST shows children how good it feels to help others during the holiday season. 

This challenge had five parts to it.  Pierce had to ask others questions like, "What does Christmas mean to you?".  We talked about the difference between wishes/wish lists and needs, and watched The Polar Express.  Then we wanted to help someone in need.  Pierce has already done several things this Christmas to help others (taking hats/mittens for the angel tree at his school, helping pick out snacks for the Pack A Snack program which sends home snacks for underprivileged children over the weekends, and an upcoming canned food drive).  But we had a great opportunity to participate in a fundraiser for Barn Cat Buddies (an organization that I dearly love - and two of our cats were adopted from their program).

This was the first time Pierce had ever been bowling.  He loved it (and he even got a few strikes)!  We talked about how the a portion of price of tickets went towards helping feed, spay/neuter, and vaccinate homeless cats.  There was a silent auction, and Pierce took some of his tooth fairy money and placed bids on a couple of items.  He also got some raffle tickets, and placed them in a few jars of items he thought were neat.  I had helped the previous weekend to prepare the raffle baskets, and taken some donations, so I talked about exactly where everything came from and how that specific money went directly back to the cats. 

It was a really special day and I think it left the impression in Pierce's mind of how we can do a variety of things in our community to give back. 
We still have one portion of the CWIST to complete it - Pierce needs to read The Giving Book by Ellen Sabin.  We don't have a copy, so we're going to try to track it down at the local library.  Once that is completed, Pierce gets to earn his reward.  I chose the reward of staying up an hour late for him.  I'm a real stickler for bedtime, and Pierce actually thought I was joking when I told him if he completed his CWIST he got to stay up an hour late.  He's looking forward to a special evening in the near future, getting to play board games with Paul and I until 9 pm. 
This holiday season, CWIST has kicked off a multi-week giving campaign where kids can complete CWISTs to earn gifts for children in need.  Once a child completes a CWIST, a toy will be delivered to the less fortunate child along with a holiday message, through Lighthouse Shelter and Sarah's House.  It's a wonderful way for children to focus more on giving, and less on receiving this holiday season.  I would encourage you to check out the site with your kids! 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Give the Gift of a Great Future Holiday Campaign #MC #GreatFutures

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Boys and Girls Clubs of America. I received a promotional item as a thank-you for participating.

During the five years I worked juvenile probation, I worked hand in hand with an after school program at the Boys and Girls Club.  I had several kids that benefited greatly from the time they spent there - it kept them off the streets.  They did learning activities, they were active, and they weren't using drugs or getting in trouble while they were there. 

One of the things that struck me most about the program was how much the people who worked there cared about the kids.  On more than one occasion I got calls about a kid when they became concerned.  Boys and Girls Club is a wonderful resource in the community.

This year marks the 3rd annual Give the Gift of a Great Future Holiday Campaign for the BGCA.  To see how kids are giving back in their communities, go visit the Kids Give Back contest, and vote in their photo contest (I voted for a branch in California that was helping with a midnight meal at a mission).  You can use the gift tag generator to create festive holiday tags, and also learn tips on how to encourage your own local kids to give back. 

Readers, do you have any favorite ways to give back this season? 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Just Harriet

On a chilly, windy day, I took Pierce outside in hopes of taking a Christmas card photo.  I miss the days when bloggers could share their Christmas cards on their blog and get them free.  Last year, after spending over $50 for photo cards (and that was with a discount) I decided just to send normal cards and order some prints (this cost me a much more reasonable $10). 

Anyhow, when we were out trying to find the perfect shot, I got distracted by the 500 pound furball in our pasture.  The wind was blowing her crazy mane all over, and I have to believe she posed for this shot.  You know - she wouldn't make such a bad Christmas card, now that I think about it. 

Readers, have you sent out your Christmas cards yet? 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

First I Will Lose My Mind. Then I'll Get Fat.

Oh dear, trouble in running paradise.  I burned rubber on my treadmill last week, and not because I was running too fast.  The problem had likely been going on for a while, but I just hadn't noticed.  I use my treadmill almost every day lately, super early in the morning before everyone is up for the day.  We've been so busy that it's often the only option I have for fitting in runs.  But then, on my 919th mile I started to smell a burning rubber smell.  I didn't get off - I finished my mile first.  (And yes, treadmills gather dust even when you do use them all the time!).

So the problem is that the belt got pushed all the way to the left, and was cutting in to the plastic.  And I didn't know.  Okay, maybe there were some warning signs (like that rumbling it did from time to time).  But I didn't think much about it.  No telling how long this was going on, but it cut a groove into the plastic, which you can see below.

It also cracked the metal on the roller, and shredded the side of the belt. 
This is big trouble for me.  My treadmill is my lifeline.  If I can't use it this time of year, with the short days, I will likely only get in a couple of runs a week; when Paul is home during the day or during preschool hours, if I don't have to work during that time. 

Running is my outlet.  I can technically live without it, but of all the things I could sacrifice in my life, this is one thing I really can't imagine doing without.  I'd rather give up my cell phone, chocolate books, movies, and maybe even hot showers!  I don't blog about it that much, because there is more to me than just running, but it is such a HUGE part of what fills my life with happiness and health. 

I ordered a couple of parts and Paul is going to try to doctor up the treadmill when they arrive, since a service call on it would be $168.  Hopefully he can figure out how to replace the parts and get things moving again.

Until the fate of my treadmill is decided, you all might just want to stay away.  I'm going to be really grouchy (insert Grinch theme music here). 

Readers, do you have a modern device you just can't live without?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Day I Had to Rescue a Horse

Some of you know that I've been fretting for months over the fate of three horses down the road from us.  We've donated hay, we've watched the animal control truck drive by (on more than one occasion), and we've waited.  Last week as temperatures dropped, the wind picked up, and sleet dripped from the sky steady and constant, I couldn't stop thinking about the horses.  Especially the older one, who has become a rack of bones, not destined to survive through the winter, and not enough fat to keep her warm in the elements. 

On Thanksgiving day, on the way to my parents, I made Paul drive up there.  Piles of rubble, mud, abandoned junk cars, and random mountains of metal line the rough dirt driveway.  In the middle of this mess, is a small muddy lot with over a foot of manure built up, and not a blade of grass to be found. This is where the horses live. 

I carried with me a high quality all-weather horse blanket.  I knocked on the door and when they opened it I apologized for bothering them so early on Thanksgiving morning.  Then I talked to them about the older, sickest horse.  They said the vet had been out and told them there was nothing to be done for her.  I explained that she was too skinny to stay warm.  I asked if I could put a blanket on her to keep her more comfortable.  They were thankful.  These people - they mean well.  They don't mean to make the horses suffer.  I want to believe that they want to do right by them.  They just don't have the knowledge or the money to do so.

I walked through the muck, glad it was frozen so that I wouldn't sink knee-deep in the piles of manure.  The older mare didn't object as I slipped the warm, thick blanket over her skeletal frame.  As I tightened the buckles beneath her belly, one of the young horses came over.  A little bay mare, malnourished, stuck her small nose under the belly of the older one, and gently sniffed my fingers as I fussed with the buckles.  I looked at the little mare.  She looked at me, with curiosity and hope in her eyes.  She wasn't too far gone - not yet - she still had a chance.  The little one hadn't given up.  Not yet.

All day long, as I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with my family, I thought of her.  I remembered her sweet brown eyes.  I thought of how she wasn't eating that day - Thanksgiving -  there was no hay in her enclosure, and hadn't been for a couple of days.

After two days of obsessing, I went back.  Armed with 50 pound bags of alfalfa cubes and some cash, I knocked on the door again.  I was happy to see that a round bale of hay had been purchased since I was there last.  I offered and bartered.  Successfully.  And I walked back home with a weak little mare by my side; my hopes for her high. 

Meet Francie.
I will update you on her progress as we go.  She has a long road ahead of her.  But she has a good head on her shoulders, under those endearing pointy ears. 

And I haven't given up on helping the other two.  I have plans for them yet.  Stay tuned. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Running Recap for November 2013

Before I had kids, back when I worked full-time, you could find me on Monday and Wednesday evenings, at 5:30 sharp, running with a group of runners through the streets of Roanoke.  I ran with them on weekends too.  I made some great friends that way, and my running improved.  There's something wonderful about the companionship of a long run with friends.  Somehow, it just never worked out after I had the twins to meet up with the group.  The original group I ran with fizzled away - injuries, kids, and other factors broke us apart.  I miss it often.

These days, my running partner is primarily of the furry variety.  He has a tendency to get distracted by things like deer and basketballs.  Still, I'm thankful to have him by my side for the miles.  He never complains about the cold or the wind.  Or that I'm running too slow (although I bet he's thinking it sometimes). 

No, he's just happy to be by my side.  If he could talk, no doubt he'd be full of encouragement, just as my human running group always was.
I ran 106 miles in November, and lifted weights twice, and did a couple of sessions of yoga.  It was a tough month - the boys were sick frequently (seriously - croup, stomach flu, hand foot and mouth disease, and pneumonia!), and I couldn't get my runs in as much as I'd hoped.  But when I did, the running was good.  Hopefully everyone will be much healthier in December!

Friday, November 29, 2013

So What If I'm a Crazy Cat Lady?

1.  I love my cats.  Willie and Baxter, who have been with us for just over a year now (we adopted them from Barn Cat Buddies), have brought me such happiness.  The boys adore them.  And do you know what?  I haven't had a single mouse in my minivan since we got them.  And it's mice season, folks.  Two years ago I caught NINE mice in my minivan (which, while it made for excellent blogging material, made me rather grumpy).  Yes, I might be a crazy cat lady (contained only because Paul won't let me have any cute orange kittens right now).  But I don't care - I just love my cats.
2.  I don't allow both Baxter and Willie to sleep in the bed on the same night, because they play fight at 3 am.  So I make them take turns, because that's only fair.  However, Baxter is a big baby on the nights he has to sleep in the living room, and he hides under the bed.  His fat black booty sticks out, though, so we have no trouble catching him.  It makes Paul and I laugh every time.  Poor Baxter. 

3.  The first cat-love of my life was my grandparents' cat, Snuffy.  He was a Siamese, and I adored him. 

4.  I'm allergic to cats.  Really.  But I build up a tolerance to them.  Some cats bother me more than others.  Willie and Baxter don't bother me too much, but when we had Disco, if I petted him for a really long time I would get hives on my hands and my eyes would start itching and burning. 

5.  Cort is allergic to cats, too, but he loves them just as much as me.  He has a tolerance built up, and generally does alright so long as he doesn't rub his face in their fur.  Baxter and Willie like Cort too - they seem to know that even though he's a little wild four year old, he's always gentle with them. 

Linked with Random Friday at A Rural Journal

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Just the Way You Are

When I was 13 or so, I asked for a keyboard for Christmas.  I invested my allowance in a number of books for my keyboard, and spent hours in my room learning the notes.  I placed cheat stickers on the keys of my Yamaha, so that if I got lost I could look down and find my place.  Oh how I wanted my hands to speed over the keys.  Over and over I practiced the songs and tried to improve. 

My Mom recently brought the keyboard to the house for the boys.  It's the exact model that I had - she said she found it in my grandmother's basement.  I don't think it is my old one (after all, there is no residual sticker residue on the keys) but it is the same. 

The Yamaha can play one song on its own.  Billy Joel's Just the Way You Are.  It plays it with different instruments, demonstrating all the wonders the keyboard can do.  The refrain is familiar in my mind - musical paths untraveled for many years, but still worn to a groove in my mind. 

Yes, readers, this keyboard has been quite the hit with the boys.  It's seen a few fights in the past week.  And some happy banging and singing too.  I confess that I don't mind the memories.

I'm taking tomorrow off, but I wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!  And just because I won't be blogging tomorrow, readers.....
Don't imagine you're too familiar
And I don't see you anymore
I would not leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far

I took the good times, I'll take the bad times
I'll take you just the way you are

Aww, come on readers, humor me my cheesy 80s song lyrics on Thanksgiving!  Enjoy your families tomorrow folks!  :-)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Red Light, Green Light

The twins have been all about Red Light, Green Light lately.  They love that game.  Recently, when our dog had a massive puking episode on the living room rug (which I was HAPPILY absent for), the rug was removed for deep cleaning.  The kids took advantage of open hard wood floors for some traffic fun.  We even made our own official red light/green light from an old paint stirring stick and some construction paper.

Green light!

Wait.  Did he just stick his tongue out at me when he rode by?

No Mom, I didn't.
Uh huh.  Busted.  Little stinker.
Readers, have you run any red lights lately?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Another Great Solar Trash Can in Roanoke

A few weeks ago, I blogged about two really neat solar trash cans in Roanoke, that I often pass on one of my running routes.  I have been on the lookout for more. 

Recently I discovered one on the corner of Elm Avenue in Southeast, just before you head into downtown.  I confess that my children thought I was very strange indeed, when I pulled over the car to take a picture of the trash can for my readers.

In addition to having solar compactors in them, these trash cans will send an email to waste management when they are full.  But I love them most for the historic pictures of Roanoke on their sides.  This one depicts the Norfolk Southern railroad crew.  On the backside (which I couldn't photograph, since I didn't want to stand in the middle of 5:00 traffic) it tells you a couple of nearby attractions that are in walking distance, and how long it will take to get there. 

Readers, have you pulled off the road to take any pictures lately?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Where's Waldo?

1.  Where's Waldo?  In a book, of course!
2.  Recently I had a really good coupon for pie, so I picked up a turtle pic with chocolate, caramel, and pecans.  After serving it to the boys, they all eyed it warily, and Cort said, "Mom, where's the turtles?"

3.  Pierce has been fascinated by electricity since he was 3.  Lately he's been going outside to check the electric meter and see how much we've used.  He says he is "checking the killerwatts". 

4.  We have a ghost in the master bath shower.  Sometimes the shower runs for a minute or two for no reason.  It happens once a week or so.  I guess it must have something to do with the water pressure, but it's pretty annoying when it happens at 2 am. 

5.  All the detailed fingernail pictures on Pinterest kind of creep me out.  Am I the only one who finds them disturbing?  I don't have long fingernails, and I don't paint them, but when I see little snowmen and grinches painted on long, curving fingernails, it makes me shudder, just a bit.  No offense! 

Linked with Nancy's Random Friday at A Rural Journal. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Eshakti Vintage Floral Embroidered Winter Skirt Review and $30 GC Giveaway

Disclaimer:  I received one item from Eshakti for review purposes.  The opinions below are my own.

I have worked with Eshakti a couple of times now, and I always enjoy reviewing their clothes.  This time, as I browsed their site, my eye was drawn to a vintage floral embroidered winter skirt. 

It's a skirt with a lot of volume, a banded waist, side-seam pockets, and is made from woven houndstooth, which combined with the lining make for a warm skirt. 

I like the neutral brown combined with the embroidered white flowers.  It makes the skirt pop, but at the same time, I can wear it with a lot of different items in my closet.

 At Eshakti, you can customize their dresses and skirts to fit your size, shape, and style.  Somehow, their clothes always strike me as being classic but also unique.  You might want to check out some of their new arrivals. 
The sizing on this skirt ran a little small - the waist was more true to sizing before the vanity sizing took over.  So if you're on the fence about a size, you may want to order the next size up, particularly since there is no stretch to the waist. 

Now, two lucky readers are going to win a $30 gift card to Eshakti!  Open to the US and Canada.  Just click on the Rafflecopter below to enter. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway