...random thoughts, opinions and secrets on children... aging... cooking... crafts... nature...divorce...second chances...
and whatever else I deem curious...
~Copyright 2017. Hootie~

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Chuckie! and her story...

Yesterday, when I went to make my bed, I found the covers all ready pulled up...but my bed wasn't made.  

I paused just long enough to think, 'hum?'  It is winter break and my kids are home from school.  Jack, my lazy bones cat, would normally be snoozing on my side of the bed and he wasn't there.  Maybe, I thought, one of the kids kindly pulled my covers up so Jack would be sleeping on the comforter and not on my sheets.  Right! Like that would happen!  

As I pulled back the covers to make my bed I jumped just a little as I saw Chuckie hiding out.  This silly doll finally made her way to our bed!  She spent last week terrorizing the relatives who came to visit.  My SIL was the first to find her under her covers.  Chuckie spent the next five days moving from bed to closet, to bed, to suitcase, to under the bed, to laundry shoot, to bed.  She kept the upstairs group occupied, jumping and laughing.  
The story of Chuckie is one of my favorites.  Two years ago as my mom was not winning her battle with GBM, I spent a fair amount of time with her at my grandmother's.  You may or may not recall that my mom spent the last six months of her life at home which meant at grandma's ranch style house...just a mile from my semi-childhood home.  A hospital was not going to be able to help mom.    In the end, the wonderful service of Hospice was called upon.  But...

On one of my weekend visits up north to my mom, my grandmother, who had been an avid doll collector for at least 20 years, asked if I thought my twelve-year-old daughter would like one of her dolls, specifically an American Girl Doll.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME? OF COURSE!  I wanted to shout at my Grams.  Instead I answered, "Grams, you know she'd love anything you send her way."  

I learned a long time ago, that my grandmother was a trash collector and she could not really part with anything!  If she did give you something you just needed to kindly accept it and then dispose of it when you returned to your own home.  It was just how she was.  My grandmother did have a huge doll collection though.  It was housed in a room of her house that no one was allowed in.  Of course I snuck in there, when I visited my mom and grams was out shopping.  I was naturally curious.  The room was lined with boxes containing dolls.  Piles and piles.  You could barely walk through the place and some of the stacks were a good six feet high.  WOW!  Grams had an original Xavier Roberts Cabbage Patch Doll from the 80's.  I know because I recall when that craze first started and my Grandpa bought it for her.  It was gorgeous.  I was in my late teens and the doll came to our house that fall: Grandpa didn't want it going to his house.  I had this dream that the doll was really for me.  Her blond curls and frilly dress begged for a young girl to cuddle.  I was envious and sad that Christmas as Grams opened the package and I did not.  Still, it was a very cool thing Grandpa did for her.  Grams had collected just about every Madame Alexander doll there was to collect.  She had boxes and boxes of Barbies.  From Star Wars dolls to "Gay Bob."  If it was a doll, she had it.  So, did I think my daughter would like an American Girl Doll from her Great-Grandmother?  

My Grandmother disappeared into that doll-room-cave for about fifteen minutes.  When she re-emerged she was not carrying an American Girl Doll.  Instead she had "Chuckie" as I called her, naked Chuckie.  In fact, with her messed up hair she looked like some long lost jungle baby.  My Grandmother asked in a serious voice, "I couldn't find one of my American Girl Dolls, but do you think your daughter would like this doll?"  

What could I say?  "Are you crazy Grams?"  "NO WAY"  "OMG!  WHAT IS THAT THING?"  "Yikes!"  I just answered, "Grams you know she'd love anything you send her way."  "I think I have a dress I can put on her," my Grams said and then she disappeared into another room for ten more minutes.  My Grams was a generous soul, but she had a daughter lying in a nearby bed who was dying and her mind just couldn't focus.  I would take the doll home to my daughter...but that doll wasn't riding up in the cab of the car with me.  

My Grams found the red dress Chuckie now wears.  She cleaned up the doll, did her hair and dressed and diapered her!  When I returned to Bloomington I told my daughter I had a gift for her from her Great-Grandmother and I told my son not to be jealous.  I made my daughter go out to the trunk of the car to get her gift.  
We all did get a good laugh out of this doll and situation.  No one wanted her to come into the house.  But she did.  She usually quietly sits down in the basement on a shelf minding her own business.  Every few months, when it's least expected, she shows up in a bed, in a closet, under a bed peeking out, around the corner at a set of stairs, any place a good jolt is needed.  

As I said earlier, last week my SIL was the first to see Chuckie during their visit.  Good old Chuckie...she brings smiles and a laugh to our household.  Thanks Grams, may your generous soul rest in peace!  

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Favorite Presents!

Homemade ones of course!  

For the past few years, my friends and I have been making homemade gifts for one another.  I LOVE IT!  I love thinking about what I can make that they may enjoy and I love receiving their thoughtful gifts too!  

Several of my friends bake and share.  For working moms, it is a task to get your Christmas baking done.  Since most of my friends hold jobs on top of being a mom, I really feel honored when they share the treats they have made.  Peppermint Bark, Fudge, Sugar Cookies made with Grandma's past-down-through-the generations-recipe, Gingerbread Reindeer, Turtles,  Thumbprint Cookies, Spritz Cookies...yum, yum, yum!!!  

This year I received Homemade Vanilla Extract! (HVE)  If you happened to have a few of my Buckeyes this year, you benefited from this wonderful gift.  That tiny brown bottle I received is like gold!  When uncapped, it smells of baking-heaven!  Oh, if my kitchen were operational that gift would be long gone!  I am sure by Valentine's Day I will need to replenish my vanilla extract supply.  I will definitely need to start my own vanilla extract making.  HVE is better than store bought because there are not artificial anythings in it and no added corn syrup.  You know exactly what the ingredients are and it even gets better with age!  

Another wonderful gift I received it a cloth tote bag.  It has the perfect length shoulder straps and has carried my crafting items & camera back and forth next door over this holiday season.  It's colors were chosen just for me!  They are bright and happy colors: red, yellows, whites with a touch of blue and green.  I have had to keep an eye on it though...I have a daughter who keeps migrating towards it and I fear if I turn the other way it will end up emptied onto the table and then filled with her things!  

My same, very-crafty-friend who made the bag also made me a Felted Teacup Pin Cushion.  It's so sweet!  Besides making all my extended family who was in for the holidays smell my vanilla, they had to look at my teacup too!  Now that they have all gone home, my teacup will sit next to my sewing machine.  

My niece, yet another crafty soul, made me note cards with photos on the front.  All the photos are of nature and ones she took while recently in San Diego.  She's got a wonderful eye for catching shapes, colors and texture on film.  I am planning on using her note cards for my thank-yous this year.  

One more gift I need to mention was a photo scrapbook my sister got for my brother and me.  Although not "homemade" in the true sense of the word, it is too special not to note.  The book is a collection of photos from our grandmothers house.  Photos of great-grandparents, aunts & uncles known, unknown and from long ago.  Even baby pictures of our mom!  The photos are labeled as best they could be and our grandmother's handwriting adorns a few of the precious photos.   The book was professionally printed and bound.  I can't imagine trying to select photos to include or not in this book.  What a task!  What a treasure!  What a precious gift!  
My gifts to my friends were painted flower pots.  Each one was painted a base color and then I added snow drifts and snow people.  Depending on the family size they had from 2-6 snow people: one for each family member.  

I included a sign on the pot with their family name.  As a finishing touch I included the date and my name on the bottom.  Hopefully these keepsakes will brighten their holidays through the years to come.  I enjoyed making these treats very much!  
Time to start thinking about next year now!  

Monday, December 29, 2008

Winter naps

Lazy Lily uses the window seat just as it was intended!  When I first thought about having a window seat added in the kitchen I said it was for the cats so they could look out the window.  

What a lucky cat!  Too bad there isn't enough room for me to snuggle up with my ball of fur and nap too.  At least I can sit next to her as I drink my cup of chai tea and count the variety of visitors at our feeders.  

I bet Lily is having different thoughts!  

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Day 24 (Dec. 22.)...slowing down before Christmas

Day 24 of construction was the Monday before Christmas.  It was a day of handles on cabinets, painting and hanging of doors on the closets, oven repair man showing up, and  plumbers seeing if the lines were clogged.  

Since the trim for the crown molding is not in, the counter top is not in, the oven needs parts ordered and Christmas being here, things have really come to a stand still for a bit.  It is big tease of a kitchen!  Christmas Eve dinner we had all the relatives here...15 of us total.  Dinner was all purchased ready made from Aunt Kroger.  Cheese, crackers, soups, sushi, baked chicken, rice dish side salads and a fruit tray.  I opted for paper plates and cups because I didn't think my hands or the bar sink could handle the load.  Although dinner was easy and good, I don't think I would like to repeat this as a Christmas Eve dinner tradition.  I would much rather labor in the kitchen and watch the happy smiles as the family eats what I prepare.  Last year I had a traditional polish dinner, like when I grew up.  I had the table set with my best china and we dined on food I prepared.  Next year I will re-instate that tradition.  

Today is Day 42 in real time without my kitchen.  I think I am forgetting how to do things in a real kitchen.  Dave told me on December 22nd that the counter tops won't be in until after the first of the year.  I imagine this next week will be a very quiet one at the Burrow.  Thank goodness once again for in-laws living right next door and lots of Christmas dinner leftovers.  

The big happy news of the past week was that now the washer and dryer do work.  No more water puddles on the new floor!  After our six house guests left it was nice to be able to wash their towels and sheets here.  

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Happiness!

I cannot recall a happier day in recent times for me.  I was content as I sat back and watched the smiling faces of family all around me.  Giggles, smiles, silliness, stories, food, wine, music, presents, pictures...

Our two households, next door to one another, housed 15.  The ages were 12 to 85.  For dinner we had 21...ages 3 to 85.  The place was lively, the food was plentiful, the friendship and love - abundant.  

Truly a day of blessings in my life.  Merry Christmas.  

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Holidays are a time when people who don't usually get together suddenly find themselves trapped inside houses.  Families travel and routines are altered.  Silences are filled and empty spaces occupied.  

Sitting to break bread can become a production, even if it's just for soup and crackers.  

Noise levels are elevated.  Older ears need words repeated. Unsolicited advice is dispensed.  Unspoken opinions are accessed; justly and unjustly.  

The real gift of the season...togetherness.  

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Day 23...Painting, Shelving, Laundry and Humor!

On Day 22, I was busy trying to finish my Christmas shopping while the kids were in school.  Lots of errands kept me away from the house for the entire day.  Returning home there were lots of good surprises!  Drywall holes were filled.  The refrigerator found its home and has been busy making ice!  Ice in a drink is something one rarely pauses to think about.  We have been without this treat since November 17th.  Dave created the picture framing around the oven.  It looks beautiful!  But, here is where my first little piece of humor comes in...It does look beautiful, but the oven won't work!  It has power and all has been fine through construction.  The problem is an internal one.  Apparently there is an internal circuit board that needs to be replaced.  I am hoping this is not a sign of the future for the Beast.  
Since all was together with the oven, I thought it would be really nice to have some corn bread with out White Bean Tuscan Soup I was making for dinner.  I came upstairs to see if I could figure out how to turn on the oven.  After pressing three buttons an error sign came up and it wouldn't go away.  A call to customer service, and a handy researching-the-Internet husband, made it apparent that a repair man would have to be called  to fix this!  Next Monday...maybe I can bake.  Crackers accompanied our soup.  
Since I haven't shown the shoe shelf in awhile I thought I'd highlight that too.  My daughter pointed out that it can only hold four pairs of shoes.  It's fun when you say something, it goes in one ear and out the other of your kids and then eventually they have an A-HA moment on their own.  The point of this shelf has always been to hold only four pairs of shoes...four of us, one pair of shoes for popping outdoors for each of us.  Even though my daughter is a Venus, she acts a lot like Mars now and then!  
Day 23 (Friday) had Dave painting the trim, the closet shelves being installed and all the guys from Day One's de-construction returning to bring the washer, dryer and dishwasher back upstairs.  Although not connected yet, it is great to see the dishwasher back up in the kitchen.
I have been going next door to wash our laundry at the in-laws for these past five weeks.  If my FIL has said it once, he's said it at least 10 times. "Boy, you all have a lot of laundry!"  This coming from a man whose wife does their laundry and who lives in a household of two...teenage girl free, I might add.  

Just when I think something might be working smoothly, and I take a photo to document it (look above at the gorgeous green lights on the washer and dryer), I have another minor problem.  While on the phone to my husband, and I swear I had just told him I was in heaven because I was doing the laundry, and yes to my brother I do know there are a ton of jokes in that statement!, I heard a strange gushing water sound.  I told my husband to hold on as I stepped up into the kitchen.  There flowing across the floor was a puddle of water.  I quickly told my Sweets I needed to go as I hung up on him.  My son ran to help and grabbed towels.  I turned off the washer and started mopping up water.  

Here's what happened.  I have a fairly powerful washer and the kitchen sink is not hooked up yet.  The sink is still in it's box and won't be come out until the counter top is here.  Under the sink, if it were there, the pipes sit...open, and facing the door.  Either due to a clog somewhere in the line to the sewer, or just because the system is open, the water from the washer decided to shoot out the sink pipe.  Boy, did it have some force to it too!  The positives are that it was very clean water, I was here, I had a helpful son handy, and I could see the "I Love Lucy" moment I was having clearly.  

Although today is not officially supposed to be a construction day, Dave will be here to cap the pipe.  Hopefully just closing the system will solve my problem.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Q. What do you do on a Snow Day?...I do mean ICE day!

A.  Go next door and help your grandpa make stockings for his fireplace.  

You know, those stockings for the relatives who haven't been to visit at Christmas in a few years, so they'd never know they didn't have a stocking yet, unless someone posted something on her blog pointing out the fact that some twins were 18 months old and coming to town on Sunday and didn't have their stockings made yet...
My in-laws have their fireplace filled with stockings for their boys & their wives, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  My crafty daughter was volunteered to go help with the stocking making.  She's such a good kid!  
Rachel & Cole are the twins.  Nenya is our new, niece-in-law.  She and our nephew got married today! in Vienna, where they live.  All three of these new stocking holders will be here on Sunday.  Rachel & Cole arrive with their mom, big brother and sister from Oklahoma on Saturday night.  I think we are ready for the family to arrive now!  

Day 21 & 22...Bribery...

Yes, I stoop to bribery.  Chris thinks our electrician is a bit grumpy.  The kids have been after me to make Buckeyes, which is one of those wonderful, time consuming, but no-bake, Christmas treats I make each December.  Also, they are a great task to keep a cook without a kitchen busy.

When the electrician arrived yesterday I had a small bag of Buckeyes just for him, as well as a little plate to munch on right then.  He was here on Monday until 7pm.  I think all he has left to do is come back and hook up the disposal/dishwasher circuit once the counter tops arrive and the sink is set.  

The lights are up in the closets and over the sink, phone line works, puck lights are under the cabinets and the oven hood is functioning!  On Monday, Dave did get the oven in too!  :)

There is a bit of framing around the oven to be done, but what a BEAST!  

On Tuesday, besides the electrician being back, Dave hung the hood and the pot rack.  In this photo you can see the 'fridge - still not in it's place, the arch and the hood.  

The lighting in the kitchen is great!  My FIL stopped by yesterday to check on the progress and he asked Dave if Duke Energy is giving him a stipend?  

The light I chose for over the sink matches the hood.  It's stainless and glass.  You can see here that the sink is in it's box in the spot where the refrigerator will go.  I think today the 'fridge moves to its home.  Also not in its correct place yet, the stove top sits on the sinks spot.  

From the arched entry looking at the carport door you can see the island on the right with new hood and pot rack!  We were a bit excited after Dave and Tash left today and we just had to bring the pots upstairs to get a sense of how it will look!  There are lots of pieces of cardboard covering corners and the floor.  The wood on top of the island is just temporary too.  

I am thinking of investing in a paper towel company.  Can you say fingerprints?  Or to quote the magician in Frosty the Snowman, "messy, messy, messy...to coin a phrase."  
Today, day 22, trim is being installed, caulk being done and the drywall guy, Gary, comes back tomorrow.  Painting should happen on tomorrow or Friday.  

Monday, December 15, 2008

Day 20...??? Hiccups & Slow Downs mixed with Creativity

Not sure what will be happening today and this week.  Mostly I say that because Friday was full of "oh, crap!"  Dave, Chris and I spent the afternoon all in different places, yet connected, stewing about whether or not the oven will fit in the space it's supposed to fit into.  All has gone just fine up until last Thursday, when the appliances arrived.  Specs were known well in advance of the cabinets being ordered, but...in a perfect world, all would just slid into place.  In reality, cabinets get designed just a little off, pipes come out of the floor just an inch away from where they should, trim gets shipped too green and placed on top of one another.  I think this is where the true artisans show what they are made of - their creativity shines.  I am sure my construction artisans will work miracles over this next week.  

The electricians are due here today.  They should finish the outlets and switches.  We bought the light fixtures for the closets and sink over the weekend.  The electricians will put those in too.  Maybe the oven challenge will get solved today.  Hopefully the floor, where the 'fridge, washer & dryer goes will get sealed so those appliances can find their homes this week.  

Other things that could come together this week: trim around closet doors, closet doors up, stove hood & pot rack hung, crown molding up, hardware ordered and/or installed, walls painted.  I am sure this list could lengthen too.  

All the above aside, what is happening in the kitchen looks fantastic!  It's so cool!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Construction Time versus Real Time

Today is day 19 in construction time, but it is day 26 in real time.  
Real time without a true kitchen feels really LONG!  

No complaints.  Things are right on schedule and moving smoothly.  I can just taste the completed kitchen and I want it done yesterday so I can get back in to creating in there!  

Crock pot cooking sucks!  Maybe it's just because my CP is 22 years old.  If my CP wasn't so good at keeping chili warm on those few occasions every five years I use it, I'd think about getting rid of it.  I've not been impressed with it's abilities over the past month.  

Remember Palmolive Dish Soap and their ads?  If you are my age, growing up you'd recall Madge, the nail salon gal saying,  "Dish washing liquid, yes.  But its softens your hands while you do the dishes.  You're soaking in it."  Since my dishwasher has been sitting against a wall in the basement, I have decided to abandon my normal dish washing liquid for something to pamper my hands.  Palmolive seems fine on my hands, but nothing in the whole wide world can rescue my finger nails.  They have become brittle from all the dish washing they have had to do.  Poor things!  They break off if I just look at them!  My hands miss the dishwasher!  

And, washing dishes in a bar sink is a challenge.  The dishes need to be done in batches.  Large plates and pots don't even really fit under the faucet let alone in the sink.  I have been trying to figure out if my kids really need to use plates and cups.  I have been recently considering allowing my children to be barbarians and just eat straight from the pans.  Milk drinking should happen right from the jug.  Maybe we should try seeing if we can connect with our medieval roots too and give up our silverware.  

Just a few thoughts.  

Day 17, 18 & 19th...Chaos...But Good!

Tuesday morning.  All the cabinets arrived at about 8am.  The kitchen was ready to receive them!  
In the carport.  After inventory was taken, the upper cabinets were all hung.  Next the wall cabinets and finally the island.  There is so much that goes into hanging the cabinets.  I had no idea!  And, the cabinets are only screwed to the wall and being held up by a few screws!  Amazing!  As Dave pointed out when I asked, he's never heard of a cabinet falling.  Neither have I, and I don't have a minuscule of the experience he has with cabinets and building.  
The past three days have been filled with cabinets being set in.  The crown molding will still need to be done, but all is ready for the counter tops to be measured and ordered.  
Pure insanity yesterday at the Burrow!  Phil, the cabinet guy was here, the electrician stopped in to get numbers of switch plates and outlet covers he'd need, Dave was in and out, the sink, cook top, oven and refrigerator all arrived within hours of one another.  Lily was fit to be tied because there was a ton of activity in her house and she wasn't allowed to monitor it all.  Darn that visqueen wall!  She kept trying to press her little kitty face through it so she could go and investigate.  
Today is construction day 19.  The counter top guy comes to measure and get dimensions.  There are so many decisions that have gone into remodeling this kitchen, I can't imagine someone trying to build a whole house from the bottom up.  What a task!  

All the appliances are here now.  Boxes, boxes, boxes!  I felt like Christmas arrived yesterday for me.  I swear I about wiggled out of my skin with the excitement of all I have ordered actually showing up!  A wonderful contractor can coordinate all the parts of the building process.  Dave's timing and schedule have been right on.  It seems like there are a million little things to be done now.  I am feeling the pressure of family arriving next weekend, but would rather have things not be completed when they arrive versus being done correctly.  Going into this project I knew we had two holidays to work around.  Patience is a good quality to have.  

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Simple Gifts...

Last week I had one of my quarterly Community Advisory Board meetings for the local public TV station, WTIU.  I have been a part of this group since it started up, which I think was about five years ago.  I am the true peon of the group.  No connections, no title, just Community Volunteer.  I faithfully go to the meetings and hear what's happening with the station.  Once home, I chat about what I have learned with my husband, in-laws and friends.   Sometimes those closest to me hear what I think or how others can use the stuff I've gleaned from the meeting conversations.  In general I don't feel like much of an asset to this CAB group, but I do feel I bring a bit of 'Joe, the Public' to the table.   

Over the past two years a constant topic has been the impending HD transition.  We are now within 100 days of the true conversion date.  In fact, checking the web site, WTIU, I see there are only 70 days until the conversion happens!   Will this affect you?  The above link has a lot of good information.  They have staff on hand too one could chat with...in case you prefer a person and not a computer screen.  The General Manager of WTIU always leads our meetings and he had a good request I think worthy of sharing.  

If you do not need a converter box, request your two coupons on line.  Click here for on-line coupon request link.  Then, once they arrive, forward them to your local public TV station.  Public television is something everyone has access too.  You don't need cable to get this signal.  But, some of the folks public television serves are underprivileged.  They may not have the cable lines that reach their homes, they may not have the language know how to communicate properly, or they may be living on a very fixed income.  They could be elderly or unemployed.  They might just choose to not purchase cable.  All ready my local station has had people call and say that their coupons have expired, can they get another.  The answer is no.  If YOU don't need your coupons, apply and send them on to a source who can get them to someone who can use them.  I requested my coupons last week.  It took all of three minutes to do.  

If you aren't sure if you really need a converter box or not, check out the WTIU link above.  
Other Simple Gifts:  

Save Box Tops for Education.  Most schools collect these 10 cent vouchers.  If you don't have children in your household, but have them in your neighborhood, get to know their parents and see if they will take your Box Tops to school for you.  Better yet, stop by or mail them yourself to the nearest elementary school.  What a thoughtful gift!  

And my personal favorite: pop tabs!  When my son was very small, my husband and I had an opportunity to get away for a weekend through his job.  I was touched by one of the flight attendants who was going up and down the aisle collected the tops of the cans.  I asked her why and she said it was just something she did for the Ronald McDonald House.  For they last 15 years, I too have collected these little tabs.  Maybe it's my own way of hoping I never need to use the serves of a hospital for some life threatening event for my kids.  I do tend to be a bit superstitious.  Whatever the reason, I am in such a habit of collecting these little tabs, that even when I go to a friends or relatives house, or am on vacation, I will pluck the tab and stow it in my pocket.   Apparently these little tabs are pure aluminum, unlike the cans that are made of several alloys.  About once a year I will gather my baggies full of tabs and take them to the nearest McDonald's.  

I know it's not much.  But, I like to find little unique ways to help make a difference in this world.  I guess it's just the peon in me!  

Day 16...The Cabinets are Coming!

Day 15, yesterday, had little noticeably done.  

Today is Day 16 and the cabinets are supposed to start being installed.  This process should take the rest of the week.  Also on tap for this week: the grout will be sealed, the walls should be painted, the vent hung (I think), the counter top people in to measure what's needed and by the end of the week the appliances will be arriving.  It will be a busy rest of the week around here.  The visqueen might come down too after this stage.  Once the grout gets sealed and the walls get painted, the washer and dryer can come back upstairs and be functional again.  When that happens, I will be a happy lady!  

I'll add a photo later today when there is some change to show.  :)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Live!...minutes ago

While I on my treadmill, and my sister at work, we both got our fill of the Nutcracker dessert?  Can't think of a word that rhymes to put here!  

Thanks Bean!  Here's a photo my sister nabbed from the live performance of NC, just minutes ago.  

My baby is the one on the front row, far left!  


Friday, December 05, 2008

Secret to Share, but ACT QUICKLY!!! Sat. & Sun. ONLY!

So, tonight was the first night of IU's Jacob School
 of Music's
 Nutcracker.  My daughter
 is a lead officer and soldier in it and after I picked her up tonight, she's only in the first act, she asked if we were watching it on-line.
  Bad Mom!  I didn't even think about this!  

But, there are three more performances, and you all could possibly see it on-line...even in Vienna!  Here's the link:  Nutcracker.  Tomorrow at 2pm and 8pm, and Sunday at 2pm all Bloomington time, you can watch the production free and live!   Sorry, you'll have to each figure out the time conversions.  Go to the above link and click on the "Streaming Video" Nutcracker picture on the right upper-hand corner of the page.  
So, I'll admit that I did copy and paste this from both my family blogs.  I am feeling a bit braggy, but one shouldn't watch this because my daughter is in it.  They should check it out because it's a beautiful performance.  IU has a contract with Sony, so they have received all new cameras on campus.  I watched a bit of the performance after my daughter was home and it is great!  It's a wonderfully clear picture.  

How lucky to be able to watch something as incredible as the Nutcracker to put one in the Christmas spirit.  Grab a cup of coffee or tea and snuggle up with your computer!  You really will love it!  


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Day 9, 10, 11 & 12...the Tile, Mars & Venus

Day 9 found Dave back at the house, which was the Friday after Thanksgiving.  He and his "assistant", my husband, walked around the kitchen trying to find squeaky floor spots and eliminating the culprits.  It was a pretty quick-to-do task, but those two chatted like girls and so the job took a bit longer.   

Day 10- John, the tile guy, was here.  He laid all the cement board.  
Day 11- John cut all the tile. 
Day 12- today- He and his (true) assistant will lay the tile.  
Day 13 will finish the tile laying and Day 14 will be grout installation.  

Last night in our house hold we were seeing first hand the difference between Mars and Venus.  

What should the tile pattern look like?  

Below is what I, Venus, needed to see the different patterns.  
Above is what my husband, Mars, needed to visualize the pattern.  I think we spent about an hour and a half conferencing over this!  In the end, we are all happy.  We being Dave, John, Chris and myself!  Hopefully by the middle of next week I can have my washer and dryer back in place and working!  

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Secret and the Fantasy....

Taboos.  Forbidden topics.  Disappointments.  Shame.  Secrets.  Catholicism.  

Last night I ate dinner out with my in-laws, husband and children.  My husband sat at one end of the table and I near the other.  After we ordered our food, my husband gestured to me and said, "that waitress looks like your cousins, Mary Ellen or Patti."  I turned around and looked at a person who actually looked identical to my dad's baby sister.  It's was fascinating!  I couldn't help myself as I stared and stared.  The whole meal I could only focus on that waitress!  My imagination was getting the best of me as I recalled a story from my youth...

My dad was the middle of three children; between two sisters.  Dad's father was a tyrant.  His mother was an angel.  The Tyrant ruled the roost.  I did grow up knowing my grandparents, but I didn't feel loved by them.  My drug-dealing cousin was the favorite.  I am jaded and therefore believe what I heard of my father's life as a child and young man.  

My father was beaten with a leather belt growing up.  I heard that he took beatings for his youngest sister too.  During my youth my mother would literally hold my dad back when he'd get mad at my brother for some stupid thing.  She'd quietly be reminding my dad, as she looked into his eyes, of the pact they made when they got married...he would not beat his children like his father beat him.  

When my dad was in his late teens, he joined the Army.  I don't have anyone I can ask to refresh my details of this story, but Dad either went away to boot camp or was away for duty and when he came back home and asked where his youngest sister was.  My grandfather told my dad she had died.  

My aunt was a young teenager herself.  She must have been promiscuous, which is hard to believe if you knew her as I have.  She has always been one of the sweetest ladies I have known.  She has always appears innocent, level headed and morally sound.  I do not know what her life was like living under that roof, but I am sure other factors played into what happened.  My aunt found herself unmarried and pregnant.  I am sure her mother never disowned her, but her father did and as the tyrant, I can't help but wonder how much he verbally, and possibly physically, would have abused my grandmother.  The tyrant ruled.  My aunt was dead to her parents.  She was disowned and kicked out of the house.  My father found his baby sister living at an aunt and uncle's house.  

A teenage mother had a baby and gave it up for adoption.  As time past, she must have repented her sins and was welcomed back into her home.  
Fifteen years ago or so, my mother received a phone call from a lady named Debbie.  I know that Debbie said she was the daughter my aunt gave up.  Debbie was looking for a connection to her past.  I do not know if she talked with my aunt, but I do know my mom gave her the information she needed.  
As I sat at dinner last night I was trying to guess the age of this mysterious, looked-like-my-aunt, waitress.  I don't know how old my long, lost cousin could be.  Would she be 10 years older than me?    Finally the mystery waitress asked me a question, could she have the empty chair next to me?  I just had to know her name!  

Her name was Abby.  I didn't clearly say my thoughts, I told her she looked like my aunt and she said, "Sorry, I don't have any nieces or nephews."  I restated my comment, "I meant you looked like YOU could be my aunt's daughter!"  "Hm," she said, I don't have any aunts, my mom was adopted."  

Her mom's name is not Debbie.  Still, I wonder...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hosting Pilgrims...

Most Holidays at my in-laws house, includes guests.  

The guests are students from foreign counties who are studying at Indiana University. Back in the mid-1960's my in-laws became involved with a group called Bloomington Worldwide Friendship.  

According to the BWF website: BWF is an all volunteer, non-profit, community-based organization that provides friendship and services to international students studying at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.  

I can personally recall about 40 different students I have dined with because of my in-laws over the years.  So my guesstimate is that they have hosted between 80 and 100 students since the mid-1960's.  

The students I can recall have come from all over the world: Trinidad, Turkey, China, Korea, Germany, Japan, Bangladesh. They have been both males and females, undergrads and graduate students, fluent English speakers and not so fluent English speakers.  

I have lots of stories I could share, but the best story I know having to do with a BWF student didn't even happen to me!  For years, my in-laws would receive Christmas cards from a man named Joel.  Unfortunately he did pass away a few years ago.  When my in-laws hosted Joel he was a graduate student and my husband was either an infant or still in the womb.  At one of the holiday dinners my in-laws were getting to know Joel and he them.  My brothers-in-law would have been around the ages of 10 and 16.  Through the conversations, my in-laws were bragging about their sons and said that their oldest played the drums in a local band.  Coincidentally, Joel had a son over seas who was also in a band.  Joel engaged in a conversation with my 16 year old BIL and asked if he ever heard of the band, The Rolling Stones?  Mick Jagger was Joel's son!  A True Story!  I witnessed the Christmas cards over the years and read the bragging of Joel as he'd share his proud moments of his children and grandchildren.  

Yesterday we had three students join us for our meal.  For the first time, I thought this is how the Native Americans must have felt as they shared their knowledge of this lands food treasures with the first Pilgrim's.  Our guests, all from China, were willing to taste the treats my MIL and I created.  I think most of the recipes we served were rather common.  Turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, rolls, gravy and pumpkin pie.  Our less common recipes would be for our sweet potato and spinach casserole and our cranberry jello salad.  To me all these dishes are very tasty.  I enjoyed watching our guest reactions as they tried the different foods.  My MIL and I do both regularly listen to National Public Radio.  If you are a listener too, then you might have heard Susan Stamberg's recipe for Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish.  I've heard this recipe for probably the last 10 years and each time I think, 'that sounds strange, but I should try it sometime.'  This year my MIL was so inspired!  It was interesting.  If you try it, I'd try it on turkey...not by itself.  My son described its taste as 'very garlicky strawberries.'  One should note, there isn't any garlic or any strawberries in it!  

Another thought I'd like to push today is that as we all are gathered with family and friends, I hope you will take a few minutes to really listen to one another.  Tell stories, ask questions...share.  Today has been declared as the first annual National Day of Listening.  Check out the link.  Make a promise to yourself to listen to a memory of someone you love by the end of the year.  I know you won't be sorry you have taken this challenge. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In my "free" time...

Once upon a time, I was asked "What do you DO all day long?"  

Our single neighbor, and co-worker of my husband, did not mean anything offensive by his question.  He was just baffled that anyone would want to stay at home with a child.  If memory serves me well, I believe his own mother was a SAHM.  

What do I do all day long?  Well, for the past 8 1/2 years I have helped first graders learn how to read each weekday, school morning.  That means I have half a day to account for.  What do I do?  Hmm...Laundry, grocery shopping, birthday present buying (including wrapping said gifts, picking out cards and mailing them, if necessary), Meal planning, nutrition management and cooking, yard work, afternoon greeter and listener then shuttle service to two teenagers,  hopefully workout (not as high on the list of priorities as it should be), personal maid service to our household...includes cleaning bathrooms, floors, and windows, zookeeper...

Gosh, maybe a better question would be, What don't I do?  I do not sit around and watch TV or eat bonbons during the day and I don't know any other person, SAHM or not, who does!  With the above said, I must add...I love my life.  
I also love to read.  But that is one of those, just-before-bed treats I allow myself.  This past September, the third book in the four book Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini came out.  My son has an even more voracious book appetite than I!  He and I were anxiously awaiting the 19th of September.  We purchased the above book, Brisingr, and easily decided he should be the first to read it.  Oh to be a carefree teen again!  He devoured the book in less than three days.  Seven hundred and fifty pages!  

I will not tell you the details of Brisingr.  But I would describe the series as Lord of the Rings meets StarWars.  I am sure most boys would enjoy this series.  Lots of action, battles, swords, good versus evil mixed with fantasy.  When my children were little we read books out loud nightly.  This is one of those books that has so many made up names in it that my tongue would probably get tired trying to correctly say every word.  The author would cringe if he heard me try to read this out loud.  But, as a read, I would recommend these books.  Book one, Eragon, was written when the author was just 16 years old.  His writing skills have grown with him!  

Last night, only two months after my son finished the book, I finally finished the story.  At midnight my son was standing over me, patiently watching as I read the last few pages.  He's been dying to have someone to chat with about this story!  

I am happy to have this connection with my child/ren.  The last book I read was Twilight, by Stephanie Meyers.  Another good read, but chick flick in a book!  My daughter and I could each picture our own Edward.  Interestingly enough, my Edward looked a lot like the guy in the 22 year milestone photo below!  I'm pretty sure that was not my daughters picture in her mind!  

My next read will be number 2 in the Twilight series, New Moon.  Off to the book store soon!  

What else do I do in my free time?  Well, I have a hard time just sitting down and watching TV.  I enjoy it, but somehow feel unproductive if I can't be multi-tasking.  When I was first married I found I enjoyed cross stitch.  Once I had children, I found reading the patterns made it hard to remain focused.  Something always side-tracked me!  

But, I have always enjoyed the challenge of making a special gift for a new baby!  Just last February, my maid of honor and high school buddy,  adopted a beautiful little boy!  I received her announcement late that month or early in March.  Just last night I finished the bib I cross stitched for Philip!  I am sure my friend thinks I have fallen off the face of the earth!  Moving and doing this kitchen project have not helped with my amount or lack of free time!   
My next project?  I am knitting a scarf for my son.  I am hoping to finish that soon, before the real cold sets in!  

Day 8...While the Drywaller is away, the cat will play!

Gary should be here soon!  

Every morning before any workers arrive, Lily paws at the visqueen.  She really feels she MUST go survey the work.  She loves ladders and happily climbed to the top this morning.  She was happy it was left in the open position!  

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Friday nights in the 70's meant homemade pizza.  My dad use to make homemade pizza sauce when I was a kid.  Then my parents would take a can of Pillsbury biscuits and pat them out into little circles.  We, my brother and I, could help add the sauce, cheese and whatever else we wanted to them.  

For my children, Friday nights usually mean homemade pizza and a movie.  When I first went off to college I asked my parents for a few of the recipes they made: Pizza and Spaghetti sauces.  Dad was responsible for the pizza, mom for the spaghetti.  In fact, my mom was not someone who enjoyed being in the kitchen too much.  But, her spaghetti sauce was really fantastic!  Dad seemed to enjoy the kitchen more.  Still, the recipes my parents used were pretty straight forward.  Dad was able to give me his recipe.  My mom had sort of a strange look on her face when I asked for her recipe...she always winged it!  She would take the basics and then add to it each time.  I needed to just watch her once to write down what she did.  Neither of my parent's recipes had anything too special about them, but they both were so good and certainly favorites of mine.  Like my mom, neither of my recipes for these too dishes is written down, exactly.  I have the basics jotted down; someday my kids may want them.  

Unlike my parents, I make my own pizza dough.  I fell in love with the dough at a restaurant in Chicago about a year ago, Geno's East.  Although this is suppose to be a "secret" recipe, thanks to the Internet and lots of sampling on my families part, I have been able to find a version very similar that we enjoy.  Until my own version of the Geno's dough I happily used a recipe in the Disney's FamilyFun Cookbook.  

So, now that I do not have a working oven for at least another four-five weeks, I need to find a creative way to make pizza!  I recalled when my mom would make that delicious spaghetti sauce of hers.  One of the treats of the evening (the sauce cooked for HOURS!) was that when it was done, mom would let us tear off chunks of bread and dip then into a bowl of sauce.  My mom had a secret recipe for her bread too.  We were sworn to secrecy because she didn't want her mom, my grandma- the true baker, to find out what she did.  Grams thought mom made the absolute best bread in the world.  And she did!  But her secret was to take frozen loaves of bread dough and follow the directions on the package.  :)  You'd think Grams would have caught on since her daughter NEVER really liked cooking!  I diverse... my creative way to make pizza...Pizza Fondue.  A simple search on the Internet proved it was NOT an original thought.  Still, I was game for this adventure.  Worst case scenario, we order out.  

In the fondue pot I used a can of Cheddar Cheese soup and added mozzarella Cheese.  Tasty, but it doesn't stay on bread very well.  
On the stove top I made my pizza sauce.  To the sauce I added finely chopped pepperoni and cooked sausage.  
Above is a nice picture of my work and serve area.  I decided to mix both pans together.  My son noted that it turned out more like a queso dip.   It was much easier to dip the bread sticks I bought into this mixture.  My taste-testers decided it was repeatable.  The chef wasn't extremely pleased with the bread though.  Maybe I am spoiled by that recipe I have for dough.  A day later, I bought a loaf of French bread and sliced it very thin...about 1/4 of an inch slices.  I toasted the bread and spread leftover, warm pizza sauce dip on top.  MUCH BETTER!  When the kids got home from school I made up some of these treats for them.  They came back for seconds!  
Last night I decided to try a crock pot recipe.  I cooked a whole chicken with carrots, onion and celery.  Above you can see my creations in progress.  I have been using my computer a lot as a resource.  I am still requesting anyone and everyone to send me their favorite CP recipes!  So far both response I have received with recipes were for pulled pork.  I will definitely be trying that next week!  My MIL happens to LOVE pulled pork.  My other friend who responded is a lot like me when it comes to CP cooking.  Both our CP's are over 20 years old and used mostly to keep things warm.  
After a successful day of CP cooking, here's a picture of our meal!  Chicken in a pot (transferred to an easier to carry dish), green beans, fried apples and Risotto Rice with peas.  We took this meal next door and dined with the in-laws.  It was nice to use their plates and then dishwasher!  My MIL made persimmon pudding the other day so that was our dessert.  YUMMY!  

Not every meal over the next several weeks will be this gourmet.  But I am seriously missing a real kitchen!  I needed to create!  

Living in the BUNKER!

On the first morning of construction, we as a family headed down to the basement, into our makeshift kitchen, to do our morning routine.  Lunches needed to be made, breakfast needed to be eaten, newspaper read, e-mails checked and the cats fed.  My sixteen-year-old said he felt like we were living in a bunker.  Now the basement gets referred to as the Bunker of the Burrow!   Note the non-functioning washer, dryer and dishwasher on the right.  

The counter is sterilized regularly!  Lily needs her shots twice a day and I need her at a height I can easily do that task.  Just to the left of the the two burners is the tiny little bar sink.  Life could be worse.  

Below the Construction: What the?

My husband and son went exploring below the kitchen in the crawl space.  I gave them my camera because they said there was a name signed on the wall.  I think if you look closely you can see it's etched too!  

"Heck" seems like the perfect southern Indiana 1961 name.  I wonder if he was a plumber?  I wonder how old he was?  Cool!  

Day 5,6 & 7...d-r-y-w-a-l-l...

Day Five was last Friday.  Day Six, Monday and Day Seven is today.  The Drywall guy should be here soon.  He's got such a meticulous job to do, that things seem slow moving.  I can see what this craftsman is doing and I appreciate his talent and patience.  

I just wonder if today will be enough time for him?  The good thing is that the tile/floor won't start until this Friday.  

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Twenty-two Year Milestone!

On this day twenty-two years ago, IU lost to Purdue in the annual Old Oaken Bucket football game which was played in West Lafayette that year.  

Two families gathered, one with IU ties and the other with Purdue loyalists.  All afternoon long, the big question was...what's the score?  

My thoughts were very different.  I woke up that morning in the house I had spent the last 10 years growing up in.  My mom, six year old sister and I shared the morning, but it's all a faded dream now.  I was raised in a very traditional Polish, Italian, Catholic family.  Weddings were a huge event!  Four friends, some from school others cousins, arrived late in the morning.  We all dressed at my mom's house.  My photographer was another friend of the family...he'd been a volunteer fireman with my dad and a neighbor for the past 10 years too.  He arrived early and took a lot of candid photos.  Number 16 would make my sister angry!  What six year old wants someone to show her skirt up over her head as her mom pulls up her hose?  Number 99 would bring tears to my eyes...just before Chris and I would leave the reception, very late in the evening, Eileen came to me and buried her head in my lap.  She was crying because she was worried she was losing me as a sister.  After all, my last name did change.  The two of us were huddled in a corner of the hallway.  My photographer found us and captured that moment.  The tears I shed early in the day as my dad's mother came to me just before I walked down the aisle and said, "You look beautiful.  Your dad would be so proud of you."  were long replaced by the happiness that over filled that day.  Just 17 months before my wedding, my dad had suddenly past away.  He was young, just 52.  It was such a shock.  My wedding was really the first joyful event that brought the family together.  Not only did it give my mom something happy to focus on and plan, it allowed the extended family to be involved and heal too.  

Chris and I were barely together that day and night.  We were in the same room, but always  chatting, hugging, dancing, laughing, drinking with our guests.  It was an over-the-top party.  My mom out did herself.  It really was the most perfect day.  I don't mean to slight my brother in all this, but he spent that day with the groom.  Since they arrived at the church when they were suppose to, I figured that were good. 
Since my anniversary always falls near Thanksgiving, it's easy to pause and think of my blessings.  Two years ago my mom passed away on our anniversary.  She was surrounded by family; my sister and I both holding her hands and each other.  I was thankful that my mom's suffering was over and that I could be there for her in that part of her journey.  I was not very thankful that I had lost her on that day.  In this world, when I look at the bigger picture, I am so very thankful that I was able to find my soul mate to share my life.  Ups and downs, tough times financially and better times, births and deaths, simple joys and complex thoughts...I hope my children will be as blessed in their lives.  

It's about time for IU to take on Purdue once again, in West Lafayette...I wonder what the score will be?  

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day Four - "It's the Plumber,..."

I was recalling the classic cartoon from The Electric Company today, where the plumber arrives at a house and knocks on the door, and the parrot asks, "Whooo is it?" The plumber replies, "It's the plumber. I've come to fix the sink." But the parrot never says anything but "Who is it?" So the plumber becomes increasingly frustrated that no one will let him into the house. After several go-rounds of this, the plumber collapses in a fit of rage. Then an old lady comes home, discovers him lying there, and gasps, "Who is it?" The parrot answers, of course, "It's the plumber. He's come to fix the sink."

That did not happen today!  Although the plumbers did arrive; they worked.  The plumbers moved the sink pipes, the water line for the 'fridge and the laundry room/closet pipes.  Before today, the laundry pipes took a little detour outside, just begging to freeze up.  No longer a concern.   

Have you ever seen the movie, Lethal Weapon 2?  My son commented on the fact that it's nearing the holidays and we have walls of visqueen ...now if Mel Gibson would just show up...the Mel of 20 years ago...

Dave built a temporary wall of visqueen and two-by-fours between the kitchen entry and the rest of the house.  It has a zipper in it!  This should keep the dust down from the drywall guy, and I bet from the tile guys too.  (and Lily out)

Looking into the kitchen from the rest of the house.
  Dave took down the pocket door and built the arched entry.  It looks perfect!  It's just the right touch to tie the original part of the house, which really is everything, to my dream kitchen.  
Where the pocket door used to be!  Poor Lily, stuck on the outside away from the action.  

Tomorrow the drywall guy comes to see the mess.  No Friday night homemade pizza, unless I go next door and use my MIL's oven.   

Needed: Your Favorite...

...Crock Pot Recipes.  

I am on the hunt for good crock pot (CP) recipes.  I have looked on the web and know there are plenty out there, but I'd really like recipes that others have tried and enjoy.  

I am curious about the Lemon Cake in a CP recipe I saw.  I have to try that!  I really need to make main dishes though.  

Any suggestions?  

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day three...still the electricians...

Yesterday the electricians had a wiring puzzle to figure out.  What wires go to which outlets or switches.  They needed to come back today to finish up.  The rough wiring is in and so are the canned lights!

Dave was in and out today.  He was managing a lot of unseen stuff happening in the crawl space, attic and in the walls.    
Look closely (above) and you can see the red chalk outline of the island!  The yellow wires are for outlets and the grey wire is for the oven.  Tomorrow the gas line will be put in.  
Lily is pretending to be on the counter of the island.  She really does like all this activity going on.  She gets mad when I make her come with me while the guys are here.  
This is the wall where the bookshelf/TV/desk, counter top and cabinets will be.  The drywall guy will be here on Friday.  I wonder what he'll have to say about all these holes!  
Apparently the puck lights I'll have under the cabinets need to be plugged in and the outlets need to go in cabinets without glass doors.  Walls are marked where the glass cabinet fronts will be for this purpose.  I noticed a few glass cabinet fronts that need to move from one side of the room to the other!  I hate being a stickler, but I don't think I could have lived with them where they were going to be.  
My private worker removed the shutters!  I don't plan on using them in the kitchen again, but they are precious enough to hold on to,  just in case.  I think I might see if I can re-use them in the spare bedroom.   Go IU, but the red and white material needs to go into my scrap material bin.  

Tomorrow the plumber will be here.  We will see if he'll have any surprises for us.  

A Funny from Day Two:  There are mice in the crawl space under the kitchen...imagine that!  Dave mentioned that some of the vines around the house have pushed a vent in and critters can get in that way.  I told Dave, the mice are what the snake eats.  He seemed unsure as to whether or not I was serious.  He doesn't know about Snakey or the Corn Snake we've found here.
Apparently, the mice were coming after some of the guys while they were down below the kitchen working.  Weenies!    I'd much rather have a mouse come towards me in a dark crawl space than a snake.