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

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Phrase that Broke My Heart

Cort first started experiencing asthma when he was 2 1/2.  Since then, he's been on a variety of different daily preventative medicines, all of them causing disturbing side effects.  We finally found one that he seems to tolerate, but it isn't 100% when it comes to preventing his asthma symptoms.  While he had a bit of a remission for a while in the late summer, he has had more frequent days where he needs the nebulizer this fall.  Luckily, whenever Cort is struggling with his asthma, Reid makes sure to take extra good care of him.
Recently, when we were driving to preschool one morning, Cort was having a rough time.  He'd already had a nebulizer treatment but for some reason it wasn't helping as much as normal.  As he coughed over and over again, and I debated sending him to school at all, he said in a small, sad voice, "Mom, when will I not have asthma anymore?" 

There are some things that as a Mom, you just can't fix, no matter how much your heart longs to make it better.  I am thankful, though, to live in a time where we do have nebulizer machines in the home, where we can treat the asthma most of the time without having to rush to the ER.  It isn't a cure for my sweet Cort, but I'm so thankful to have that machine when we need it.  And I won't give up hope that Cort will outgrow the majority of his asthma symptoms as he gets older, just like I did as a child.

Readers, what is a modern technology that makes you thankful year-round? 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Never Fail Chocolate Meringue Pie - Vintage Recipe

This recipe comes from my 1975 copy of For the Love of Cooking.  When the holidays approach, I start thinking about pies, and trying new recipes.  This is the first time I ever attempted chocolate meringue pie, and it turned out splendidly.  It is a more dense and rich chocolate than your pudding based recipes.  The layer of chocolate is also not as generous as pudding based recipes, but I found that since it is much richer, it was just enough.
3 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp. cornstarch
3 heaping tablespoons cocoa
Dash of salt
1 cup boiling water
1 baked 9 inch pie shell (I think you could use an 8 inch, if you wanted the chocolate to be thicker)
3 egg whites
3 tbsp. sugar

Beat egg yolks until light and lemon colored.  Mix together the sugar, cornstarch, and cocoa.  Add beaten egg yolks and salt to sugar mixture.  Slowly blend in 1 cup of boiling water.  Cook (preferably in a double boiler - but I just used a pot and was careful not to get it too hot), stirring constantly, until mixture is thick.  Cool.

When filling has cooled, spoon into cooled, baked piecrust.  Beat egg whites until they begin to stiffen (this can take a while, be patient).  Continue beating while adding sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until whites form stiff peaks (if you lift the beaters out of the eggs, a white peak will form).  Spread on top of pie and bake at 350* for 15 minutes or until crust is brown. 
Needless to say, this pie didn't last very long in our house!  Enjoy it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Claim to Fame is Dog Puke - and How to Clean it Up

Well, not really.  But I will say that two and a half years ago I wrote this post about how to clean up dog vomit and it still gets a lot of hits on Google.  We were having a really good streak in which our border collie, Scooter, hadn't barfed in the house since I wrote that post.  But hunting season started a few weeks ago, and Scooter gets really neurotic during hunting season.

Happily, I was away at a craft fair when I got the text, "Just sprayed off the living room rug in the driveway.  Scooter laid out a HUGE barf."  Boy was I glad I was gone for that one.

Let me show you Paul's ingenious method for cleaning the rug though.  He used one of our chicken tractors that is not in use to put the rug on.  Then he was able to clean it really well using cleaning supplies and the hose on full force, and it dried in the sun. 

Paul isn't always the world's best cleaner, but I have to say I approved of his methods for tackling the dog puking episode.  Great job!

Readers, I'm hoping you haven't had to clean up anything gross lately!

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Gate to Nowhere

1.  Every time I drive into town, I pass this gate.  It's on the side of a gravel driveway, and it goes to nowhere.  It isn't for the driveway.  Or the property.  In fact, it has no connecting fencing.  I suppose it's just decoration.  Almost like someone planned to have a little decorative garden there, but lost their way.
2.  On Halloween, we decided to drive to this neighborhood we'd heard all the rural folks like to go to for trick or treating.  It was CRAZY.  The streets were lined with cars up and down, and kids in costume were everywhere.  I wonder what the people who live there think about all us country folk coming down from the hills?

3.  While trick or treating, Pierce went up to a house and started talking to the people there.  They started cracking up.  They were really laughing.  Come to find out, he'd asked them for Reeses cups, because he said his mom just loves Reeses cups.  Guess I got busted!

4.  Now that Halloween is over, the boys got to break out the turkey shirts I made them.  They all look very cute.  Pierce wanted to know why turkeys have the gobble hanging down from the beak.  I had no idea.  I told him it was for decoration.  Does anyone know if it serves a purpose?

5.  Today I'm linking up with Friday Fences for the first time (and, as with every Friday, with Nancy's Random Friday).  If this is your first time visiting my blog, welcome :-)) 

Thanks to everyone who guessed on my photobombed post last Friday.  No one guessed the correct answer - which was a cow tail!  Many of you were close, though.  The random winner of homemade soap was Monkeywrangler

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hot Chicken Salad Casserole Recipe

I didn't have a ton of cravings during my pregnancies, but I can remember two I had when pregnant with the twins.  The first was for buffalo chicken wings (which is really weird, because in my 'real' life I don't really care for them) and the second was for this Hot Chicken Salad.  This is also weird, because it's a recipe I hadn't thought of in years - my mom used to make it when I was a kid.  I sent her a frantic email, "Do you remember that casserole that had all the chicken and celery?  I HAVE TO HAVE IT!  Do you have the recipe?"  Sure enough, like any good mom, she not only had the recipe, but she even MADE me the casserole and brought it to my house.  Yeah, she pretty much rocks. 

I've been making the casserole a couple of times a year since then.  It's a great way for me to use leftover chicken, and the kids all seem to enjoy it. 

4 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 cups diced celery
1 small onion, chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 tsp. salt

Mix and refrigerate overnight (or for a few hours).  Top w/ one package Pepperidge Farm stuffing breadcrumbs and 1 cup grated cheese.  Bake at 400* for 25-30 minutes.  I tend to put aluminum foil over top for the first 20 minutes, then remove it for the last ten.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

K5 Learning Website Review and Giveaway

Disclaimer:  I was provided with a 6 week trial of K5 Learning for review purposes.  I was not compensated in any other way for this post.  All opinions are my own. 

I've blogged before about how I like to supplement what my boys learn at school with additional learning activities at home.  We usually do workbooks and printables, but I was intrigued when K5 Learning contacted me to see if I'd like to do a review of their website.  They provide an online reading and math program for grades kindergarten - 5th, which builds skills through independent study. 

K5 Learning has sections for reading, math, and spelling.  There are lessons children can do, which are fun and engaging.  The characters are cute and get excited when kids get a problem or game correct.  Parents can also go in and give their child assignments that he or she can do when logged on. 

The twins are just four, and still in preschool, so they are still a little young.  However, they were able to do some of the lessons - alphabet letters, numbers, and beginning sight words.  Both Cort and Reid loved trying their hand at the lessons, even the ones that were too advanced for them.

And although our internet connection is horrifically slow (we have to get online through our cell phones, and the connection is poor due to the mountain behind our house), this website loaded easily and ran efficiently.

One helpful thing the site offers free is an assessment in reading and math.  Once your child is assessed, lessons start at the appropriate grade level, and build from there, growing increasingly challenging as your child builds on skills.  I had Pierce do both assessments.  Pierce is in first grade, but he is in a second grade reading group at school.  He is also at a second grade math level (he has passed the end of first grade math level test, so they give him extra work at school to keep him challenged, as I didn't want to move him up).  It took Pierce about 30 minutes to take each assessment on the K5 Learning website.  Once he finished, the results were immediately available when I logged in as the parent.  The website placed him on a second grade math and a second grade reading level.  So their results are consistent with the results I have received from Pierce's school.  In addition, now Pierce can go to the website and continue to build on his current skill level from home.  He's the type of kid who loves to learn, so he is excited to continue using this program.

K5 is offering a free six week trial to one lucky reader!  Just click on the Rafflecopter below to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


When I was eight years old, in 1983, a book came out called Bony-Legs, by Joanna Cole.  I checked it out from the library and fell in love with the tale of the evil witch that lived in a house on chicken feet.  It's a clever tale - one with a few twists involved. 
I was excited to find a copy at a used library book sale a couple of years ago.  My boys love it as much as I did.  Each year when I get out the Halloween books, this is the one they are most excited to see.

Case in point, when Reid designed his preschool trick or treat bag, he must have had Bony-Legs on his mind.  Because what he came home with brought a smile to my face.
Readers, do you remember any spooky books from your childhood that made you shiver in delight? 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Dogs Need Friends Too

When we left for a couple of weeks this summer, our dog migrated over to the neighbor's house.  I think he missed our boys, and family companionship.  He and the neighbor's dog, Bailey, became fast friends.  So when our neighbors left on vacation a few weeks ago, Bailey decided to return the favor and move in to our yard.  The neighbors returned, but Bailey is still spending a good part of his days at our house.  I'm happy for Scooter.  Dogs need friends too.  In the past, we've always had two dogs at a time, but for some reason since we adopted Scooter from a shelter 4 years ago, we've just had him. 

Scooter and Bailey, while different breeds, are both herding dogs, well-suited to the farm life.  They play rough, but you can tell while watching it that they are just having fun.

Bailey is really good at making monster faces.  Kind of reminds me of my twins when they put on monster masks and try to scare each other.  If I was Scooter, I'd be terrified of that face, but he isn't fooled.

He says, "Now who's got the upper hand?"

Yup, they sure do enjoy hanging out together.
Let's just hope that Bailey doesn't teach Scooter the joys of chasing the schoolbus!  

Friday, November 8, 2013


1.  When we went to the pumpkin patch with the twins' preschool class (this is the last of them, I promise!), I was shooting some pictures and I got photobombed!
2.  See the bottom left corner?  Yup, photobombed.  What do you think that black streak is?  Leave a comment, and I will draw one random commenter to send one of my homemade fairy, dog or cat soaps (winner's choice).  The winner doesn't even have to have the right answer, you enter just by guessing!  Next week I'll tell you just what the photobomb is.

3.  I don't really like turkey.  I prefer the sides at Thanksgiving, and don't tend to even put turkey on my plate - or if I do it's just one small bite, for the spirit of it.

4.  My favorite sides are green beans, mashed potatoes, my Dad's oyster stuffing, and broccoli cheese casserole.

5.  For those of you with children, this might interest you (I will have a review and giveaway up in the next few weeks):  K5 Learning has an online reading and math program for kindergarten to grade 5 students. I've been given a 6 week free trial to test and write a review of their program. If you are a blogger, you may want to check out their open invitation to write an online learning review of their program.

This post linked with Random Friday at A Rural Journal. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

We Packed Our Shoebox

Each year we pack a shoebox to ship to a child overseas that wouldn't otherwise receive anything special for Christmas.  You can find out more about this through the organization Samaritan's Purse.
 I look for little items all year round that might be just right to send to a child.  I like to pick a girl each year, since I normally do all my shopping for little boys. 
But you know what happened this year?  My boys complained.  Did they complain about sending toys to another child?  Oh no.  Not at all.  They complained that we were sending toys to a girl.  They wanted to shop for a boy!  I guess my girl shopping days are over.  Either that - or next year we are just going to have to do two boxes!

How about you, readers?  Do you like to shop for disadvantaged children over the holidays? 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Best Vegetarian Vegan Chili

I think I've been making this recipe longer than any in my collection.  Over twenty years.  I didn't cook much as a kid, but I found this recipe in a magazine, and made it for my parents and brothers to rave reviews.  It's curious - it doesn't seem like the sort of recipe that would've been in Sassy or Seventeen, which are the magazines I read back then, so I must have been flipping through one of my parents' magazines and found it.  I guess you could say this was the start of my cooking adventures, and somehow I've hung on to the magazine clipping for all these years, breaking out the recipe each fall to make this savory dish for my own family.

1/4 16 ounce package elbow macaroni (1 cup)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 medium sized carrots, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium size zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium sized yellow squash, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 28 ounce can tomatoes
1 16 ounce can whole kernel corn
1 4 ounce can chopped mild green chilis
1/3 cup tomato paste
1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce
2 15 1/4 ounce cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Prepare macaroni as label directs, but don't use salt in water.  Drain and set aside.  Meanwhile, in large pot over medium-high heat, cook carrots, onion, and garlic in olive oil until vegetables begin to brown.  Add zucchini and yellow squash, cook until all vegetables are tender-crisp.
Stir in chili powder and salt, cook 1 minute.  Add tomatoes with their liquid, corn with its liquid, chilis with their liquid, tomato paste, hot pepper sauce, and 2 cups of water.  Over high heat, bring to boiling.  Reduce heat to low, simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes.  Stir in beans and macaroni, heat through.

Makes 6 main dish servings (we typically have plenty of leftovers - it makes a lot).  390 calories per serving.  You could easily convert this to gluten free, if needed, by omitting the pasta or using a gluten free version.

Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family has!  Readers, is there any recipe you've been making for most of your life?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Running Recap October 2013

Below is a statue that I love, which is on the back part of the greenway, on a loop I run from time to time.  Sometimes, running makes me feel just like this statue.
I backed off some on the running this month.  More than I had planned to.  It's been hard - time constraints, shorter days, an illness, and a hard time finding continued motivation for the treadmill early in the mornings on days I don't have time to run outside.  Still, I ran 108 miles this month.  I also did weights a couple of times. 

Readers, what has you lifting your arms up in joy lately?

Monday, November 4, 2013

More Red Barn Goodness

Another shot of the huge red barn at the Jeter Farm pumpkin patch.  You can just see the twins on the tractor. 
I was going to link with Barn Charm Monday, but it seems it is no more.  Sad, isn't it, when blogs dissolve.  I still have blogs from several years ago that I miss, and wonder how their families are doing. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Just Reid. And Kittens. Orange Fluffy Kittens.

1.  Reid is tricky to photograph.  He's a little camera shy.  Also, he fake smiles in a grimace - with just his bottom teeth.  We have a lot of staged family photos where Reidy has a little grimace.  It's much easier if I can sneak a shot when he doesn't know it.  Like below, taken at the pumpkin patch.
2.  I'm taking on a new client with my part time job.  Supposedly it will only be an extra 3 hours a week (as other people will be doing the other hours), but I'm still distressed over how to fit it all in, as I already feel overwhelmed on a daily basis.  But this is a person who truly needs help, and after hearing her story, I felt it was an opportunity for me to make a significant difference in someone's life who has hit rock bottom. 

3.  I'm such a softie when it comes to animals or people in distress.  I'm not in a position to do much to help financially, but I'm always open to helping with my time and effort.

4.  I also have a weakness for orange fluffy kittens. 

5.  I think my husband may live in fear that people will randomly start dropping orange fluffy kittens in our yard.  He knows I could never resist them.  I would have 50 if he'd let me.  Sadly, we have no orange fluffy kittens (or cats) right now amongst our three adult cats.  Michaele is killing me lately with her adorable orange fluffy kitten blog posts!  If she weren't so far away, I'd be over there now getting some orange kitten love.

This post linked with Random Friday at A Rural Journal