Wednesday, February 28, 2007

This is what happens when I leave my camera out

While uploading pictures from my camera to the computer today, these unexpected photos popped up:

I am fairly certain the guilty parties are Sarah and Joan, with maybe a little input from Sam, since that is his Playmobil dragon in the first picture.

(But get a load of that incredible hump in the middle of our hall floor!)


Mashed Potato Casserole (Cheater's Version)

Last night I made supper for the girls' Bible study group at church. They had London broil, mashed potato casserole, salad, rolls, and apple pie. It's a good quick and easy meal to prepare, so guests to our home eat this often.

Mashed Potato Casserole (Cheater's Version)

Instant mashed potatoes made according to box directions. (For a dozen or more people I usually follow the directions for 20-24 servings.)

8 to 16 oz. sour cream

extra butter

2 t. garlic powder

1/4 t. cayenne pepper

1/4 to 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese

Add sour cream, butter, spices, and cheese to mashed potatoes. Mix thoroughly. Add more milk if necessary to get a good creamy consistency. Pour into baking dish. Top with extra sharp cheddar cheese, if desired. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Office work

Steve is so very close to having the office finished. The girls will probably start priming the walls and woodwork tomorrow, then paint on Thursday. Joey is coming to spend the weekend, and has agreed to help Steve move all his furniture on Saturday. We should be able to start work on Tom and Karin's apartment next week... prayers appreciated!


Monday, February 26, 2007

Cotton sweater with raglan sleeves

Last week I started knitting the Cabaret Raglan by Norah Gaughan from the Summer 2004 issue of Interweave Knits.

The back is done, and I've gotten a good start on the front. Jacy has another basketball game tonight (they won last week, so they continue in the play-offs) and I'm hoping I can get up to the point where the lace and cable pattern begins. The Classic Elite "Flash" cotton yarn I'm using has been great to knit with.


Friday, February 23, 2007

According to the calendar, it's still winter

But the lovely weather says today is a harbinger of Spring.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Laundry room, etc.

Dana wants to see your laundry room. (She'll show you hers .) Here's the part of my laundry room with the hardworking washer and dryer:

And since I never did the desk-photo, here's my desk. (It has to be cleared off every day because we are a family of horizontal filers. We see a flat surface and we think it's a perfect spot for receipts, bills, important papers, etc. It's also by the back door and all the children find it the best place to park their books/toys/brush/purse.)

And here's the crumb-free stove:

Sorry I forgot to take pictures before I cleaned. But I do have pictures of the trench under that center grille - both before, and after. That trench is a weird part of the design of the stovetop. It's so narrow that an adult arm doesn't really fit, and it's so deep that a short adult with short arms has no chance of being able to reach the bottom to clean out the filth. So dear, dear Joan came to my rescue.

Yucky "before" shot:

Much cleaner "after" shot:

Now I'm going to go re-organize my closet... .


Red quiz

Dana had this quiz at her blog, and because I love the color red I had to take it.

You Are Cranberry Red
Peaceful and philosophical, you are almost always at harmony with the world.You're not very social, but you always enjoy a deep, complex conversation with a friend.It's possible that you've been disappointed a lot in your life, but you've gotten over those disappointments quickly.For you, each day is new and glorious. You wake up refreshed and happy, even when things aren't going your way.

And I am my favorite shade/tint of red - how about that?! (But just so you know - I have not "been disappointed a lot" in my life.)


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Dangerous Island

We've finished reading Baby Island, and have decided to continue the island/survival theme with our next read-aloud choice, Dangerous Island by Helen Mather-Smith Mindlin.

Once again, this is a book I read aloud to the older children years ago - when David was 4 years old and Marley was a toddler. It was read aloud to me and my classmates by a student-teacher when I was 8 and in the third grade. I enjoyed the story so much that I spent the next 30 years looking for it in libraries and bookstores all over the U.S. The internet and online booksellers finally made it possible for me to have a copy of the book and read it for myself for the first time - when I was 38. It was still a good story, and I didn't regret the time and money spent looking for it. Now we have three copies of it that we handle very carefully.

Dangerous Island is the story of three children - siblings Dorothy (9), and Frank (11) Warren, and Pug (11), their new friend. The Warren children and their mother have come from Philadelphia to Brigantine Island to spend their summer vacation. (Their father is to join them in a couple of weeks.)

Pug, Frank, and Dorothy build a raft, tie it to a pier, and play on it and in the water around it every day. One day they move the raft to a different location in order to fish. When the tide turns, it pulls their mooring loose, and the children are swept out to sea on their raft. They wash up on a small rocky island about 50 miles off the New Jersey coast, and the rest of the story is of their survival and rescue.

Mystery and hidden treasure are part of the plot, along with a tricky and dangerous rescue attempt - ultimately successful.

Anybody have an island/survival story suggestion that makes for a good read-aloud?

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David is 12 today

Today is David's 12th birthday. He has requested chicken pie and green bean casserole for his supper. We'll make garlic bread, too, because that's another favorite of his.

This morning his siblings gave him gifts and sang to him. Steve and I will give David our gift when Steve gets home tonight. David has asked to postpone his birthday celebration with his friends until March, because two of his friends also have their birthdays this week, and he doesn't want to conflict with their plans. (He's such a thoughtful boy - and a great example to the rest of us!) He wants Joan to make his birthday cake, but he wants to wait and have it when he has his friends over.

When David was born we lived in upstate New York. We planned to have his birth in a small Catholic hospital 45 miles from our home. There was one hospital that was closer (20 miles away), but that hospital did saline abortions and we wanted to be in a place where there were no abortions at all. As it turned out, snow was coming down and the roads were icy the morning that David was born. I woke up already in transition, and Steve and I feared we wouldn't make it to the hospital. So we put into effect our back-up plan. Steve drove to get two women friends of mine who lived only 4 miles away. (They were both Amish, so he couldn't call them on the phone and ask them to come over. They'd have had to come in their buggies, which would have been too slow.) Emma and Becky and Steve got to our house at 6:25 a.m. and David was born at 7:04 a.m.

It was such a peaceful, quiet, easy birth. After David was born Steve took him upstairs and let all the children see him. Then Steve, Becky, Emma and I sat around and talked for a couple of hours before Steve took them home. Mom brought me breakfast (it was a poached egg on pumpernickel bread and it was so delicious!), then David, Steve and I napped.

And we've thanked God for David every day!


Past Perfect

Susan Isaacs has written a quick, snappy story about a middle-aged, happily-married-with-a-child woman who once worked for the CIA, was fired without being told why, and who still - fifteen years after the fact - wants to know why.

After being fired, getting married, and being unable to work, Katie writes a novel called Spy Guys. The novel is a success, and is turned into a TV series with Katie as the writer for the show. (Susan Isaacs has done some screen-writing and it certainly doesn't hurt her ability to write good action descriptions.)

One day Katie gets a phone call from a former co-worker from her CIA days. The woman tells Katie that she needs her help on a matter of national importance. In exchange for Katie's help, the woman promises to tell Katie why she was fired.

The story runs from there, and makes for pretty entertaining reading. Unfortunately Ms. Isaacs sprinkles her narrative with some vulgar language, so be warned.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Dad's Aran cardigan - pictures

As I was seaming up the side and sleeve of Dad's Aran cardigan yesterday, I watched How Clean Is Your House?. (How in the world do they find these dirty homes, anyway?) As I sat seaming and watching, I began to wonder what Aggie and Kim would find to shock them in my house.

There are sometimes good accumulations of dust under the bookcases in the family room if we don't vacuum under them each week. And the laundry room can get sloppy when the children sort the dirty clothes by throwing them at the baskets rather than in them, but that is remedied when anyone goes in there to start a load of laundry to wash. My refrigerator hasn't been moved since we moved in over a year ago, and I'm betting there is a lot of nasty dust and dirt under and behind it.

But then I thought about the stove-top (or "cooker," as Kim and Aggie would say) and how that would probably disgust them. They don't like dirty cookers. Mine is a Kitchen Aid stove-top and it works fine. I'm sure it was put into the house because Kitchen Aid makes fine appliances. But for a mother of many who likes for her children to cook most of the family meals, and who allows all the children (except the 5-yr-old) to cook whatever and whenever they like, it's not the best choice. It comes apart into 13 pieces for cleaning - which means that there are lots of cracks and crevices for crumbs and spills to lodge. Wiping it down after cooking sweeps lots of food bits into the cracks where thay wait and look hideous. And reproach me for my laziness. Because I don't like to take the stove-top apart every day to clean it.

So I sat seaming and thinking of the stove. And the filth. And listened to Kim and Aggie tut-tut over the filthy kitchen they were looking at. I had to quit seaming. I had only about 6 inches of sleeve left, but the stove was calling me to come clean it. The cardigan went back in the bag and I spent the next hour taking apart and cleaning the stove. When I was done, I finished the cardigan.

(Joan graciously did mannequin duty for me.)


Monday, February 19, 2007


Tammy started a knit-along featuring patterns from any issue of Interweave Knits. I joined and have started my project. Tonight is Jacy's last basketball game and I'm thinking I'll take my knitting and knit and watch her team play.

(I finally finished Dad's cardigan and will post a picture later.)


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Sock limerick by Beth

There once was a knitter named Meg
Whose socks warmed my feet and my legs.
Such wonderful sheen -
The most beautiful green -
Those gorgeous wool socks knit by Meg!

(Beth heard about my poetry-writing dilemma and came to my rescue. Isn't that the mark of a true friend?!)

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Widow's Might

Last night I picked up A Widow's Might thinking I'd read a chapter or two while waiting for the girls to get home. I could not stop reading until I'd finished it.

Part of the appeal was nostalgia. Mrs. Carolyn Lipscomb, the author, grew up in Auburn, Alabama and many of the people and all of the places she mentioned were familiar. The story, however, can stand alone as an interesting one for anybody.

Mattie Norman Ellis, Mrs. Lipscomb's mother, was the young widow of a Methodist minister with six children - three girls and three boys - aged from 2 to 12 when she moved her family and their few belongings from Eutaw, Alabama to Auburn. This was during the Great Depression, and she was determined to keep her family together. She took a job as secretary in the agriculture department at Auburn University, which was still Alabama Polytechnic Institute (A.P.I.) back then, at the rate of $3 per day, and worked five days a week and half a day on Saturdays. She managed to keep her children fed, clothed, and raised them to be kind and good (and they all did well, grew up, raised families of their own who also did well). Her quiet determination and hard work earned her the admiration and respect of many in Auburn, and the second half of the book is about the will one bachelor man made, unbeknownst to Mrs. Ellis and her family, and how it benefitted her.

In the early 1940's Mrs. Ellis and her children rented a house owned by Mr. Reuben Cowart's family. Mr. Cowart looked after the property, and made any repairs when they were needed. The Ellis children spoke to him respectfully when they saw him, but the family didn't really know him well. In 1943, Mr. Cowart drew up his will, naming Mrs. Ellis as his sole heir. Mrs. Ellis had no idea he had done this, and was totally surprised twenty years later when he died and his family came to "warn her off." By this time Mrs. Ellis was 63, still working, but her children were grown. The family of Mr. Cowart, who were unkind - even hateful - to him when he was alive, vowed to contest the will in court, and to smear Mrs. Ellis's name unless she agreed to allow them to buy her out.

Because Mrs. Ellis had nothing to hide, and her good reputation to lose if she agreed to the Cowart family's proposal to accept "hush money," she went through the ordeal of a legal battle. I was so relieved to read that she won! The money from Mr. Cowart's estate wasn't huge by today's standards ($132,000), but it allowed her to retire at the age of 64, and to buy a home. She lived to the age of 93, enjoying her children and grandchildren and her friends and neighbors.

I love books with happy endings.


Working at the museum

Sarah and I volunteered at the museum today. It sounds very special, but all we did was unlock the door, sit, and wait for any visitors for three hours. It was very cold there, and we only had one visitor. (Last week they had no visitors.) Sarah brought a book to read, and I brought my spinning wheel and fiber. I filled almost an entire bobbin with yarn.

I think I could have been more productive if it had been a bit warmer. I couldn't feel the ends of my fingers, and my feet (in thick wool socks) were numb. Still - any yarn spun is better than no yarn spun.

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I wish I were a poet

If I were a poet, I would write a sonnet about the beauty of hand-knit wool socks, made by Meg, that arrive in the mail on a cold February afternoon.

But since I am not a poet, pictures will have to do:

The warm, shining goodness of them makes my feet happy! Thank you, Meg - and have a great weekend at the beach with Penny and Laurie. I'll be praying for you all!

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Courageous Christianity

This book by David Martyn Llloyd-Jones is the second in his series on the Book of Acts. Unlike most books in series, it is not necessary to read the first one in order to enjoy and be instructed by the second one.

Courageous Christianity is a collection of sermons Lloyd-Jones preached covering Acts 4:8 through Acts 5:14. While the book of Acts isn't boring or dull to begin with, this book is able to make it even more exciting as Lloyd-Jones expounds upon the strength and truth of the gospel, and the power demonstrated by it as it transformed the early Christians - and how it continues to change people.

"Let me sum it up like this: Christianity is not something that you add on to your life; it changes the whole of your life beginning at the center. It is not an addendum or an appendix; it is not an afterthought or something you do on Sundays. It is not something you take up and put down. No, Christianity is a power that changes men and women through and through, as it changed Peter and John. And, of course, as you read the whole of the subsequent history of the Christian church, you will find that when men and women truly become Christians, this is what inevitably happens to them."


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Penny's Taco Soup

We had Taco Soup - the recipe Penny gave me - for supper tonight. Joan loaded hers with sour cream and black olives. She would have added spring onions, too, but Piggly Wiggly was out of them.

Taco Soup

1 lb. ground beef

taco seasoning

garlic powder

2 cans corn

2 cans black beans

1 lg. can tomato puree

1 can tomato paste

salt & pepper


Cook ground beef with taco seasoning and garlic powder. In large pot mix all ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste, and enough water to make it a soup consistency. Heat until warm. Top with grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, jalapenos, black olives, spring onions, etc. Serve with Fritos Scoops.

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Happy Valentine's Day

Good Morning to You, Valentine (edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins) is one of our family's favorite books of poetry. All through the year the children will pull it from the shelf and read the poems - both silently and aloud.

This is one of the poems they like best:

I climbed up the door
And shut the stairs
I said my shoes
And took off my prayers.

I shut off the bed
And climbed into the light
And all because -
She kissed me Goodnight.

(They used to ask Steve if that was how he felt whenever we kissed.)

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Odds Against

Tight, tense, gripping mystery - this was a good one for short February days.

First published in 1965, Odds Against introduces Sid Halley, the ex-jockey and detective featured in Francis's most recent mystery Under Orders. I was surprised to "meet up" with Halley again - I've only read a few books by Francis, but each one had a different cast of characters. It was a pleasant surprise to see a familiar face.

Halley is at the start of his detective career, and has been drifting along in his life for the past two years before the story opens. Still grieving the loss of his left hand, his profession as jockey, and his wife and marriage, he has been an unenthusiastic drone in a security/investigative business, but all changes when he is shot and left to die. His father-in-law enlists Halley to snoop into the business and plans of a Mr. Kraye and the action - both mental and physical - begins.

The mystery was exciting and made me want to finish it quickly to know how it ended, but at the same time I wanted to slow down and make it last longer. These books by Dick Francis are proving to be addictive.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Pigs Have Wings

Last week I reread this favorite by Wodehouse. As much as I enjoy Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, I enjoy Lord Emsworth, his brother Galahad Threepwood, and their assorted sisters even more.

Any story with Blandings Castle in it is sure to have a pig or two in the story. Pigs aren't a favorite animal of mine, but reading about the Empress of Blandings munching her daily quota of calories (57,800) is soothing for late night reading. This story features not one, but two pig-nappings, right before a critical agricultural show. Included are the usual star-crossed lovers - three couples in this book - who, thanks to the deft management of Galahad, are happily paired off towards a rosy future in the end.

And while the plotlines are funny, they don't usually make me laugh hard enough to shake the bed and wake Steve if he's already asleep.


Finished Mom's cardigan

Mom's Everyday Cardigan is done. Sarah kindly modeled it for a picture, and I'll get it to Mom tomorrow. Now I need to get the buttonbands and collar done on Dad's cardigan. Then I'll be able to start knitting a Ribby Cardi for each of the girls.


Friday, February 09, 2007


Steve and David are adding some electrical wire to the smokehouse/kitchen/office. We're still working on finishing the walls in there, but we have a new light fixture for it and paint for the walls, and paint for the floor. Steve is hopeful he'll be moving into it by the end of this month.

Jacy, Sarah and I went to the library this morning and worked for a few hours unpacking and shelving books. We will go back again on Monday, unless they've finished by then. I shelved the juvenile non-fiction and juvenile biography. Sarah and Jacy shelved all the juvenile fiction. They did a marvelous job, but often stopped to read books. Perhaps next time they should work on shelving reference books. Amy gave us a complete set of hardback, library-bound Agatha Christie books as "compensation." We thanked her profusely and staggered out with five boxes of books when we left for home.

Will is coming to spend the night with David, and Katie is coming to spend the night with Sarah and Joan. Marley and Sam are making a Playmobil safari and playing in front of the fire. Jacy is in Auburn cleaning Kim's studio and visiting Diana.

I'm going to UPS Penny's yarn and picture to her, then knit and read. Maybe I'll think about cooking something for supper... .


Wednesday, February 07, 2007


We don't make lumpia, the Philippines' version of the eggroll, as often as we should. Now that we're living where lumpia wrappers are difficult - maybe even impossible - to find, I rarely even think about making them for my family.

But... everyone loves lumpia. Even people who don't know they love lumpia, love lumpia.

Years ago when we lived in New York, I had a friend who also made lumpia. Ann was from Guam, and she and I often talked about trying to make lumpia without lumpia wrappers. Anytime either of us went grocery shopping we always looked for lumpia wrappers, and promised each other that whoever found them first would buy enough for both of us. One day Ann came over, excited because she had successfully experimented and found an acceptable substitute for lumpia wrappers - wonton wraps. I tried them and was pleased with the result.

Nothing beats real lumpia wrappers. They are to regular eggroll and springroll wrappers as tissue paper is to cardstock. They are so delicately thin. However, I will use wonton wrappers if necessary.

This afternoon Sarah got a pack of 60 wonton wrappers. She should have gotten a second one. The wonton wraps are so small that they make little baby lumpia - bite-sized morsels. They were still delicious.

1 lb. ground beef (or ground chicken or ground turkey)
1 onion
1 bell pepper
2 - 3 carrots
salt & pepper
wonton wrappers
1 egg, beaten, to seal wonton edges

Cook meat. Grate or finely chop vegetables and add to cooking meat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until meat is thoroughly cooked and vegetables are tender.

Spoon small amount of cooked mixture into center of wonton wrapper.

Fold the corners of the wrapper together...

Then roll up.

Seal folded edge with beaten egg mixture ( we just dip a finger in the raw egg and smear it along the edge).

Fry in hot oil. Lumpia will float when done. (Remember - everything but the wrapper and egg mix to seal it has already been cooked.)

Sarah likes nacho, or cheese lumpia, which Naty taught us to make. For that we use American cheese slices and jalapeno pepper slices. Place cheese and jalapeno on wonton wrapper and fold, seal, and fry in oil. These cook almost instantly. Don't cook too long, or all the cheese will melt out.

Serve warm. If your family can't eat them all, call in the neighbors. They'll love you for it.

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Chicken Adobo

The children decided they would love to have chicken adobo and lumpia for supper tonight. They went shopping for the ingredients and helped me prepare it and now they are happily feasting on a favorite meal we haven't had for a long time.

To make chicken adobo, I use the recipe Naty gave me when we lived in North Carolina, because we enjoyed her version of it many times.

Chicken Adobo
6 - 8 chicken thighs (may substitute chicken breasts or wings, and for Steve I will use boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, peeled and sliced (tonight we learned that substituting 1/2 t. ground ginger will work, too!)
4 - 6 potatoes, washed and quartered
1- 2 c. soy sauce
1/4 t. black pepper
oil (I use olive oil)
vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
3-4 bay leaves

In a large bowl place chicken thighs, cover with 1/2 to 1 c. soy sauce, add black pepper, and half the chopped onion. Cover and chill in fridge for an hour, or while making dinner preparations.

Saute garlic, ginger, and the rest of the chopped onion in a bit of olive oil. Dump chicken and marinade into large pot. Add enough water to cover chicken, 1/4 c. more soy sauce, and sauteed ingredients. Bring to a boil. Then add a splash of vinegar (maybe 1 tablespoon) and bay leaves.

Lower heat to medium, and cover. Stir occasionally, and add more soy sauce if needed. When chicken is cooked, add potatoes and cook until they are tender. Remove bay leaves. Serve chicken adobo with rice. Tastes even better as leftovers.

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