Thursday, January 31, 2013

Conversations after 16+ Years of Marriage

Do you think the quality of conversation deteriorates over the course of a marriage?  Especially after kids are added to the mix?  I don't know that it deteriorates, but we don't seem to spend much time these days discussing the philosophy of life.  The other night Paul and I were side by side in bed, me reading a novel called The Illuminator and him reading the day's newspaper. Baxter is settled on my stomach, happily purring. I turned to Paul,

"Hey, did you know that Baxter has an extra nipple?  Right in the middle of his chest?"

"WHY would I know this?" Paul replied.

"I don't know.  I guess you know now."

"Great," (insert sarcastic tone)

Shhhhh, readers.  I'm not sure Baxter would be happy if he knew I let the cat out of the bag with his little secret.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I Love You Because...Valentines Day Craft for Kids

If you've been following my blog for a while, you know I love to make crafts for the boys out of old tissue boxes.  And duct tape.  Whatever would I do without duct tape?  We just use so many tissue boxes through the year, and I hate to throw them away.  They certainly come in handy at craft time!

I wanted to make something for the boys to show appreciation to other family members building up to Valentines Day.  So I came up with the idea of crafting a mailbox, and leaving some blank Valentines that the boys could fill out over the next couple of weeks.  The twins, of course, are not writing yet so they'll need a little extra help with theirs.  Paul and I will be participating too.  I can't wait to open them up on Valentines Day and read about the little reasons we love each other.  Already, this is a huge hit with Pierce, who has been sneakily writing little valentines and placing them in the box.  He is so excited to read them when it is time.  Maybe this will even become a yearly tradition!

This post is linked with Valentines Traditions over at JDaniel4sMom.  Readers, do you send any Valentines?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Snow Day

It finally happened.  We got the snow the boys had been longing for so badly a week ago.  We only got around 5 inches, but it was packed and hard, perfect snow for sledding.
 Pierce had a great time sledding.  Every time he sledded though, Cort screeched in horror.  He was scared Pierce would get hurt.  Then Cort wouldn't even let Reid get NEAR the sled.  Poor Reid.  He had to watch from a distance.
 But he didn't seem to upset about it.  Even though his hands got cold because he refused to wear his gloves.
 After Cort successfully shoved down Reid twice, averting him from the horrific sled, he stood at the top of the hill and screamed at the rest of us.  COME ON GUYS.  I DON'T LIKE SNOW.  I WANT TO GO INSIDE. 

Mean mom that I am, I made him walk down to check on the horses with me.  Sometimes they get balls of snow in their hooves, which is painful for them.  They didn't have any snowballs this time, so I just gave them some hay to munch on.  Looking at those tubby bellies, I probably didn't even need to do that, ha ha.

I was hoping that Cort would be in a good enough mood to try to get a picture of all 3 boys in the snow.  But he was still mad and yelling on and on about going inside.  I took a couple of pictures like this:
And then I decided to call it a day.  We all went inside to eat macaroni and cheese for lunch.  At least two of them had fun!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Valentines Boost-My-Blog Party with TEN Giveaways!

As a way to thank all of the participants that linked up to Rural Thursdays last year 
and just because we thought it would be fun -- 
I @ Two Bears' Farm and Nancy @ A Rural Journal, 
are hosting a  
Valentine's Day Boost-My-Blog Party on February 14, 2013.
There will be some great giveaways, so please plan on joining us on Valentine's Day to meet new bloggers, gain some new readers -- and maybe win one of our fabulous prizes in the process.
Such as...


Registration Starts Today!
If you plan on participating in the party, please email me with the following information: Your Blog's Name Your Blog URL Your Blog Category (Crafting, Photography, Homesteading, DIY, Gardening, Birding, Recipes, Farming, Journaling, Mommy, etc...) All participating blogs will appear on A Rural Journal and Two Bears Farm on February 14, listed by blog category. Giveaway winners will be announced at that time.
All bloggers are welcome and we anticipate a large crowd, so please sign up early. Registration starts today and will close at midnight on Sunday, February 10. What Do I Need to Do To Enter The Giveaways?
You will need to be a Boost-My-Blog Party participant to be eligible for the giveaways. Please follow the Rafflecopter instructions for each giveaway.
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If you would like to help us spread the word, please feel free to grab a button below and post it somewhere on your blog. We are pretty excited about hosting this event -- and hope that you will able to join us in the festivities. If you have any questions before the big day, you may email us here.
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Friday, January 25, 2013

He Said, She Said

Kind of looks like they're in a tiff...
This picture reminds me a lot of this poem I used to read for my Intro to Psychology class.  I know you're probably thinking....why was she reading poetry in psychology?  Well, I was reading this poem because it is an excellent illustration of using projection as a way of coping.  Projection is a defense mechanism where you project your feelings onto someone else.  If you'd like to read it, the poem is by Denise Duhamel, titled How It Will End.  My students always seemed to enjoy hearing it read. 
Thank you so much to those of you who have emailed me to see how the job search is going.  I have been so touched!  I heard back from the company I liked so well, and the only thing they are still waiting on now is the CPS background check.  So hopefully I will hear something in the very near future. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Marinated Lentil Salad Recipe

A few weeks ago there was a recipe in the newspaper for a lentil salad that I thought sounded tasty.  I made a few modifications to suit our family's needs, and it turned out delicious!

2 cups dried lentils
4-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 small onions, chopped
2 celery ribs, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
5 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp basil
2 tbsp chives, chopped
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
4 ounces feta cheese
1 cucumber, diced.

Bring lentils and 4 cups broth to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes.  Keep an eye on them - if they simmer dry add extra broth.  Drain and set aside.

Saute onion, celery, and carrot in 1 tbsp oil over medium heat until almost tender.  Add bell pepper and saute until all veggies are slightly tender.

Stir in lentils.  Cool.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Serve immediately or chill to serve.

Goat cheese would also be excellent in this instead of the feta.  We ate it as a main dish, but you could also have it as a side dish if you wanted.  Readers, do you like lentils?  I know some people don't care for them much, but I've found them to be very good with the right seasonings.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Snake Handling

Recently the twins and I headed to the local science museum to meet up with their cousins.  While there, we were lucky enough to get to pet one of their snakes, Shadow.  They said Shadow has been around for so long that they have no idea how old he actually is. 
All three boys were quite brave and willing to gently touch Shadow.  I think Cousin Grady was the least scared.  Ironic, since my brother (Grady's dad) REALLY hates snakes.  He'd better hope Grady isn't asking for a pet snake in a few years! 

Hey readers, how do you feel about snakes?  I don't mind the nonpoisonous type, particularly in a controlled environment like this.  I wouldn't want one as a pet, and I don't like being surprised by them outside, but they do no harm so I do them no harm. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

ROAR like the Dinosaurs!

Once a week or so I go to the boys' preschool to take pictures of the different classes.  It's fun to capture the kids as they play and learn.  I have learned almost every child's name and really enjoy chatting with them as I hang out in their classroom.  I edit the pictures and upload them to the preschool's facebook page, and the parents enjoy getting to see their children in action.  I get a kick out of reading their comments.

Last week, I caught Cort playing with the dinosaurs.  For whatever reason, when he saw me getting ready to take his picture, he let out a big roar. 
 I guess dinosauring just makes you feel your INNER ROAR.  Let out any roars lately, readers?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Good Morning Sunshine

Good morning, Sunshine!

While I don't care for winter much, I do think it offers the best sunrises, at least for my side of the world.  Have you caught the sunrise lately, readers?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Making a Thomas the Train Cake

Since I took that first month of level 1 cake classes, I've been looking for ways to keep practicing what I've learned.  So when the topic of my nephew's third birthday party came up, I decided to volunteer to make his cake.  He's enthralled with Thomas the Train right now, so of course it needed to be a Thomas cake.

I started with a Funfetti style cake because kids always like sprinkles and color.  I used my cake leveler to level it off and make it easier to frost.  I decided to go with chocolate buttercream frosting, as it is quite delicious (says the person who ate about 2 cups of leftover chocolate frosting during the holidays).  In the middle, I did a layer of my homemade wineberry jam (I canned several batches of this jam since the berries grow wild on our land, so I seem to have an almost endless supply of it).  After frosting, I did a border of shells around the bottom.  I loathe making shells - they are the toughest thing I've learned so far, so I wanted to make sure I got to practice them.  You'd think they'd be much easier than they are.

Once I had the cake frosted, I mixed up a batch of vanilla buttercream, and set about mixing the colors I would need:  blue, red, yellow, black, gray, and white.  I used a coloring book picture of Thomas the Train as my guide for the picture on my cake.  I used the stars and dots techniques on the cake.  I still need to work on remembering to rotate my stars so the frosting below doesn't show through so much.  After I finished the train (which took me quite a while!) I used my #3 tip to write on the cake.

I'm pretty pleased with the results, and now I know some of my weaker areas that need more practice.  Luckily, I have tons of leftover frosting to eat spoonful by spoonful practice my skills.  My second level of cake classes started last Thursday, and I'm excited to learn new tricks!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Loco Hamster

I think our hamster is going a little crazy.  It seems she spends all of her waking time trying to break out of her cage.  She hasn't been far.  Which is good, because if she does get out I'm pretty sure one of our four cats will immediately gobble her up.  I guess she gives new meaning to the phrase "So cute I could eat her up!" 
It does get old though, the constant chewing and shaking of the cage.  You wouldn't believe what a racket one little hamster can make!  It truly is a good thing she's so cute!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Winter Blues

I don't like January or February.  I've always dreaded the winter months.  I'm a spring/summer person.  My favorite temperature?  A balmy 75 degrees or so.
And so I bide my time, feeling uninspired and blah, waiting for the longer days and blooming flowers, and stuffing the wood stove to keep warm. 

How are you keeping warm this season, readers?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Ouch.  I think it's time for a nail trim.

And also time for me to stop wearing black yoga pants.

Anybody in your life feeling extra kneady lately, readers?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ssips, Where have you been?!?

Way back when, in high school, one of my favorite snacks were these little boxes of lemon iced tea.  What I would do was stick them in the freezer.  Once frozen solid, I'd take them out and trim off one side with scissors.  Then I'd painstakingly chip, chip, chip away at the ice.  It was a labor of love, but at some point the ice would start getting a hole in it, the size of the spoon.  That's when the magic happened.  I could shave away at the tea and it was like shaved ice.  I adored this 70 calorie snack that took a whopping 30 minutes to eat.  I hadn't thought of it in many years.

And then last month, one day I was in Dollar Tree.  And there before me, was a 5 pack of Ssips.  Was it the same delicacy that I remembered?  The boxes were not the same black color as in high school, but I had high hopes as I put some in my cart.

Turns out, they were just the same!  And I'm not sharing.  Actually, I did let Paul try a little spoonful, and he said, "I don't see why you're so excited about this."  Good.  More for me! 

Sadly, this story does not (so far) have a happy ending.  I went to three Dollar Trees and have yet to locate anymore 5 packs of Ssips.  I have a sneaking suspicion that I bought a 5 pack that was produced back in 1990 and was about to expire this spring.  Maybe it was the last one in existence!  Why oh why didn't I buy more than one?!?

How about you, readers?  What special treat from your childhood would you be excited to see on the grocery shelves today?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Making a Castle from Old Tissue Boxes

I confess I have a bit of a fascination for all things medieval.  I usually read a couple of books each year set during that time.  So it's no surprise, really, that I'm always hoping to get the boys to play knights and castles.  The boys received some knights and dragons for Christmas, but we were missing a castle.  So I decided we would build one, out of craft supplies we had around the house.

 I used purple duct tape to join together 3 tissue boxes - one long box and two smaller boxes.  I thought briefly about spray painting the ensemble, but then decided we could have a purple castle.

 I made flags from toilet paper tubes and foam sheets, and also made a moat complete with frog and fish stickers from foam.  Then I cut doors and windows.

Here is the back view - the knights can go in the doors in the back of the castle and peek through the windows.  The boys are enjoying the addition to their knight and dragon collection.  Maybe next we'll creat a dragon's lair to hide our dragons in.  After castle creation was complete, we read a few books to help with our creative play.

How about you, readers?  Do you remember reading books as a kid and then reenacting them in play? 

This post linked with Read, Explore, Learn at JDaniel4sMom

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Woolzies Dryer Balls Giveaway

You all know how much I love green products.  Anything that makes my home more energy efficient brings my heart energy too - I seriously get excited it.  So I was eager to put the Woolzies dryer balls, made from fine New Zealand wool, to the test.  They are a natural fabric softener guaranteed to last for at least 1,000 loads of laundry.

If you've been following my blog for a while, you know that Cort is prone to eczema.  I have to be extremely careful to avoid any chemicals or perfumes in the laundry.  Well Woolzies are hypoallergenic, chemical free, and ecofriendly.  They didn't aggravate Cort's sensitive skin at all.  And even better - they significantly reduced the amount of static in my laundry.  I even had a "heavy static" load in (two flannel shirts, some flannel pjs) and when I took it out to put in the laundry basket I didn't notice the typical crackling of static that I usually do this time of year.  That made me quite happy.  The dryer balls also reduce drying time by 25% - which means you will save on energy in the long run.  Plus, you are reducing your carbon footprint by not using all those dryer sheets! 

Overall, I was super impressed with these high quality dryer balls.  I have used some plastic dryer balls for a while now, but I felt like these were much more effective in reducing static, and I love that they last for so long.  I think they'd make a wonderful gift for someone cloth diapering a baby or moving into a new home! 

Want to win a set?  Woolzies is giving away a set to one lucky reader!  Just click on the Rafflecopter giveaway to enter.

Disclaimer:  I was sent a set of Woolzies dryer balls for review purposes.  The opinions above are my own.
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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Worms For Dinner

When I was a kid, I used to love that book How to Eat Fried Worms.  Maybe it was reading the book multiple times that ignited a little mischief in me the other night.  Pierce said, "Mom!  What's for dinner?" as I worked away at the stove.  "Worms," I casually responded.  Reid, listening in, said in a whiny 3 year old voice, "Mooooooooommm!  WORMS ARE YUCKY!"  And Pierce said, "Mom, we're not REALLY having worms, are we?"  To which I giddily lifted my bowl and said, "Sure we are, look!"
The boys examined this very closely.  When dinner rolled around, they were hesitant to try the spaghetti squash worms, lovingly tossed with parmesan, garlic salt, and a bit of butter.  But then soon enough my twin three year olds were happily declaring, "Mom!  Worms are YUMMY!  I like worms!"  As for me...well....I had to agree! 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Job Hunting in January

The other day I went for a job interview.  You should have seen me trying to stuff myself into one of my old suits that were purchased pre-kids.  Luckily, all of my suits were very classic, so they weren't out of style, and the jacket was roomy enough that you couldn't see the ugliness of the pants.

I need to find a part time job.  We just aren't cutting it financially right now, and I really don't want to have to dip into our meager savings, which are supposed to be going towards college for the boys.  Ideally, I'll find a job that I can do during the hours the twins are in preschool.  The job I interviewed for seemed very promising - flexible hours, 9-12 hours a week total, and I'd be providing mental health support to one person and helping her/him to make positive changes in life.  It would be fulfilling to me to put my degrees to use again.  Plus, I really liked the person who would be my boss, and the company as well.  There are some companies out there that provide this service and seem more concerned about making money than about the people they are supposed to be helping.  I want to make sure I stay away from places like that.

As part of the job application process, there is a lot of paperwork, including extensive background searching.  I had to go down to the jail for fingerprinting by the sheriff's office.  Pierce was out of school, so I brought him with me.  He charmed the sheriff's deputy that was fingerprinting me with all of his questions about jail.  She was so amused that she carried him to the back and lifted him up to the double paned glass window so that he could peek into the jail.  Now Pierce wants to be a sheriff's deputy when he grows up.

Google Image

Jobs that are just 10-12 hours a week with flexible work hours aren't too common, so I'm hopeful this one will pan out.  If not, there is another out there right now that could be another interesting prospect.  I might apply for that as well.  Wish me luck.  It seems like a lifetime since I was working, even though it's only been about a year and a half since I was teaching psychology classes part time.  It'll be nice to contribute to the community again, and to contribute to our finances as well! 

Monday, January 7, 2013

How to Store Legos

Pierce has been really into Legos since last summer (he even spent a week at Lego camp).  He's been fortunate to receive some nice sets from friends and family.  The most important thing about Legos is to keep the sets together and whole, and to save the instructions.  Because once you lose some key pieces, it just isn't very fun anymore.

You can buy these really neat Lego storage systems, but they are very expensive and certainly not in our budget.  So I came up with my own method for controlling the Lego madness.  The smaller sets work well in the $1 shoebox containers from Dollar Tree.  I cut up the Lego box and tape the picture of the set to the top.

And then I also tape a smaller picture to the side, since we stack the boxes in Pierce's closet.  This makes it very easy to find the set you need.
Some of the larger Lego sets do require larger tupperwares, but most of the sets we have are smaller sets that work well in the small tupperwares.  It's a system that has worked well for us so far.  How about you, readers?  Are you organizing any Legos in your house?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Learning to Decorate a Cake

I've wanted to take a cake decorating class for a while now, but resisted just seemed so domestic.  But finally I decided to jump in and see how it went.  I really hated the first class and felt restless because all we really learned how to do was make the buttercream icing in different consistencies, fill a pastry bag with it, and make stars.  I was bored.  But something happened in the second class and I started to enjoy myself more.  The course ran for four classes, and I took pictures of my creations for the last three classes.  Keep in mind that I am very much a newbie and need more practice!

The first cake I made was a two layer white cake with my homemade wineberry jam between the layers.  I took it to my grandmother's house.  Everyone thought it was quite tasty.

The third class I made chocolate cupcakes with the buttercream frosting, filled with vanilla pudding.  I learned how to make little flowers, leaves, and the shaggy mum technique.

In the final class I did two layers of white cake with my homemade strawberry jam in between, a chocolate buttercream frosting, and a bunch of roses.
I stuck this cake straight in the deep freezer, as I am all junk-fooded out from the holidays.  It'll be a nice treat later this winter.  Classes were on sale last week for just $5 a piece, so I went ahead and signed up for the second level of cake decorating. 

How about you, readers?  Have you ever signed up for a class just for fun?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Breakfast is Easy with this Bran Muffin Recipe

My friend Shannon passed along this recipe to me some years ago, and I still think it's a great way to make an easy homemade breakfast.  The best part?  Mix up a batch and it lasts for FIVE WEEKS in your fridge (of course mine never stick around that long).  So you can make just a couple of muffins a morning if you'd like - having fresh muffins each day!  I've also found the recipe to be fairly flexible - I've substituted dried blueberries or apricots many times for the raisins, and I've used oat bran instead of wheat bran before.  Just be careful not to eat too many - you know what bran can do to you!

3 cups wheat bran
1 cup boiling water
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup molasses
2 cups buttermilk (I just use milk mixed with lemon juice)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup raisins
1 tbsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups flour

Pour boiling water over bran in a large bowl, stir to moisten evenly, then allow to cool for a moment.  Add eggs, molasses, milk, oil, and fruit.  Mix well.  Stir in soda, salt, sugar and flour.  Store in tightly covered container in fridge for up to 5 weeks.  *Allow to sit 24 hours before using for the first time*

To prepare, bake in muffin cups for 20-25 minutes at 400*. 

Readers, do you have any tips for making a homemade breakfast quickly and easily? 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Star Horses and Jabba in the Hutt

Up until recently, I've really only let my boys watch warm fuzzy kid shows.  About as edgy as we get is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the original, of course!).  I'm all too familiar with the studies on television violence and kids.  But for some reason, the exception I am willing to make is Star Wars.  It's like a right of passage for little boys to love Star Wars.  Goodness knows I was subject to watching Return of the Jedi some 5 million times while my younger brothers happily repeated every line through their action figures. 

I don't care for the newer Star Wars, but we do have the three originals on dvd.  The other day I broke down and let the twins watch one of them with Pierce.  And ever since, all I've heard about from Reid is, "I want to watch Star Horses and Jabba in the Hutt!"  I think he liked it a little too much, especially for a three year old.  So I haven't allowed him to watch it again since then, but I think I'm in trouble.

We have two Star Wars toys of my brothers' that somehow ended up at our house.  Pretty sure I'll need to return them once their own kids get into Star Wars, so I'll have to keep my eyes open for more action figures.  Sadly, it seems no one ever wants to part with their Star Wars goodies, because I never seem to see them in thrift stores or at yard sales.  In the meantime, I'm pulling out my hair  enjoying the great many fights the boys are having over sharing Jabba in the Hutt. 

How about you, reader?  Are you a Star Wars fan?  Which one is your favorite?