Wednesday, December 1, 2010

For the busy homemaker on a budget...

With all of the craziness and busyness that comes with planning a wedding, I think that all brides look froward to life calming down after the wedding...

But does that really happen? If it does, I'm still waiting for that moment!

Our fairy tale wedding was in May, and every minute of that day was fact, we're still reminiscing over our favorite details! However, real life does settle in, and with that comes the sweeping of the floors, cleaning the bathroom, making the bed, doing laundry, matching the husband's socks (yes, the ones who thought they preferred to remain unmatched in his drawer!), cooking for two (which has had it's own challenges...when one is used to cooking for 10+, it's hard to know just how much (or how little!) to cook), running errands, etc... And now we're getting ready for the big arrival of a little one. Phew!

Don't get me wrong! I absolutely LOVE my job as a homemaker, a stay-at-home wife and soon to be mother...I wouldn't trade my job for any other in this world! It's so fulfilling and I love making our home a haven for my bestest friend in the world, Ben, to come home to in the evening. I am extremely thankful that my wonderful mother prepared me for this job, and I thank the Lord daily for giving me such a loving husband to serve.

Ben and I love to economize in every way we can...we hit the garage sales almost every weekend and pick up wonderful treasures, antiques and what-nots for very low prices. We eat good, local whole foods when they're in season, we've even canned together! And now the glorious holiday season is upon us! Having only been married for just over six months, we don't have much in the way of Christmas what does one do in such a situation? Well, we could go out and buy lots of things to make our house look festive. And we plan to add to our collection as the years pass, but we want to do that slowly and enjoy filling our home with pretty things. We want our accessories to have stories behind them...we don't want "stuff" we want treasures. And in the mean time, we make do with what we have!

Now what could this be for?

So after almost buying a rather pricey bag of spiced pine cones at the store, I thought I'd try spicing my own! I worked on them today, and had so much fun, I thought I'd share how I did it! All you need are some pine cones, water, an oven, newspapers and spices.....

Pine cones are easy to find this time of year, right? Ben's family very kindly gathered these HUGE ones from their property in the mountains and brought them down to me.

Step 1 ~ Rinse pine cones in water to remove any ickys...a nasty beetle thing came crawling out of one of my pine cones! *shudder*

Step 2 ~ Place pine cones onto old baking sheets (or cover the baking sheets in foil) and bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour.

In the meantime... Hey, what's this?!?!

Step 3 ~ When they're done baking, remove them from the pans and place them on newspapers.

Step 4 ~ Spray them with warm water and sprinkle with cinnamon and cloves. Shake off excess spices.

Step 5 ~ Use them in potpourri, on your mantle, as a centerpiece or decorate however you want to with them! Get creative and use ribbons, beads, cranberries, lace cuttings, greenery! I grabbed some gold trim that somebody gave me, cuttings from a tree in my yard, glass beads, cinnamon sticks, and cranberries! I might even glitter them later on...

So there you go! An easy, aromatic, budget friendly Christmas decoration idea!

And when you're done, treat yourself to some fresh out of the oven Cranberry-Orange Scones and tea!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Happy Ending of Mr. Zucchini

Now the BIG question that this Cheesecake Maker found herself faced with was:

"What on earth do you do with a GIANT zucchini from the garden?!?!?!"
Because we all now that it would much too tough to grill, or cook up for eating...unless you mashed it, but even cutting that thing was a chore! I felt like I was a logger, or something!

Yes, I know I ought to do more push-ups...I heard that from my darling husband just this morning. Now, back to the soap opera of Mr. Zucchini...

I thought that pickles would be good, and maybe throwing some zucchini into a pepper jelly (I LOVE pepper jelly)... So, I peeled it, cut it up and ended up using all of it in the jelly. Pickles will have to wait until next time. Now, there is no way that Ben and I would find time to eat that much jelly, so the smartest thing to do was to can it!

But one must have the proper tools for canning... Iced Creamed Chai. Does it get much better than that? Nope.

This was the first time I've tried canning all by my lonesome, so it was a bit nerve-wracking! But....

I got them processed and as the jars cooled on my counter, the silence was interrupted by a "POP!"...."POP!"...."POP!" and I seriously shrieked with sheer delight, jumped around my kitchen and wrote to my darling husband and shared the news with him! Sometimes it really stinks to be home alone...then again, nobody is around to see you acting like an idiot...

A happy me, with a hot (yes, hot as in burning hot. Okay, so yes, burning hot as in touching it and tasting...), happy jar of zucchini pepper jelly.

Check back later to see what else this Cheesecake Maker is up to!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Tenacity of the Dark Ages

It is not to be supposed, as some might venture to do, that in this world of technology and advancement, that the "Internet" is a natural right. There is no statement in the Holy Bible, nor in the Bill of Rights (shocking, I know!), bestowing upon all mankind access to this wellspring of information. A well from which most people dip, while giving no more thought of its source than they give the air they breath. Be not so fooled, gentle readers, the grip of ignorance and isolation is tighter and more malefic than we realize, and one misstep can send the unwary into a morass of bandwidth deprivation.

All that to say that upon moving into our home, we have been without the internet. Until recently. Over three months have been spent in finding a house, getting a house, settling into a house, and joining our fellow man on the World Wide Web came to be a lesser priority than transforming an empty shell into the abode we like to call "home".

When all had settled, and that task was high enough on the list, yours truly signed up with American Telephone & Telegraph, more commonly known as AT&T. Great was our joy when the box arrived containing our modem, with the relatively simple instructions to plug it into the phone jack.

The problem with relatively simple instructions is that they are rarely relatively simple. Especially when one cannot find a phone jack anywhere in the house. Cell phones have rendered a home phone rather obsolete, and so we had never bothered locating this particular outlet. Every piece of furniture was moved, every inch of wall was examined, and nary a plug was found. What was found, eventually, was a small piece of brown wire sticking out of the floor in the corner of the dining room. Next course of action? See below......

Armed with a trusty flashlight, the wire from the dining room was traced all the way across the house to a hole in the wall, which lead to a small box outside the house with the words "Bell Company" on the side. The wires in this particular box look like they had been made by Alexander Graham Bell himself, being insulated with fabric, rather than plastic, and did not look ready to enter the digital age.

Next step, call AT&T! During which, I managed to get a bloody nose. My dear wife thought this dreadfully amusing.

The result of the phone call was a delay of two additional days, a visit from our friendly regional telephone repairman, who went by the name "Don". We are still not sure if that was his real name, but that is what he seemed to want to be called, and so we obliged. His report was that the wires were in wonderful shape, and that the plug merely needed to be put on the end of our protruding wire. According to him, the old wires are actually better than the new ones, and carry the weight of the "Information Age" just as well as they carried for the rotary telephones that were in use in 1940, when our house was constructed.

Therefore, let it be known that we are now online, and have very little excuse not to post on our blog regularly. We still may find those little excuses, and exploit them with all possible vigor, however.

One possible excuse that you will hear is that my dear wife is "With Child", (I do not want to hear anyone asking who's child she is with!). These are exciting times for us. At this point the child is the size of a peach according to the Internet, at least, a peach that is 2.9 inches in diameter, which seems like a rather small peach. Even smaller than this one.....

That is the snapshot of our life at the moment. There will be more to come, so stay tuned. Here is a sneak peak into what we shall be doing this weekend. It involves guns, flags, nations torn asunder, and something made by my wife.



Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Well, when I wrote the last post, I wasn't planning on being sick and spending the next three weeks on the couch! Hopefully things will be getting better soon, because if they don't, I may go crazy...crazier than I already am...and that would be pretty wild. Well, I hope you have some time on your hands, a good drink to sip on, and maybe some soft music playing the background, because this is going to be a long post. A quick overview of a week and the big California reception!

When Jessica and Melissa arrive, that means lots of coffee will be made! My little French Press saw lots of use the week they were here, and the girls said that the coffee tasted better when it was brewed that way. I happen to agree...when I'm in a coffee mood...which I haven't been in lately. I think Mel liked our couches, too. I like her, and those white mugs.

Okay, so you can't come to sunny California without stopping at the famous In-n-Out burger joint! Though I personally think that Culver's burgers are better (they use real lettuce....I mean, seriously, that's always better than iceberg!), our local In-n-Out is the best I've had out here. Yes, I was daring enough to compare In-n-Out with other (better) places on the blog....terrible of me, I know...but I'm a Texan. *smile* Thanks, Mama Sanford for treating us to lunch!

Next destination: The historic part of town...which happens to be full of really fun antique stores, boutique shops and bakeries! We spent several hours meandering through town, walking along the shady streets and just having a fantastic "girly" afternoon. Oh, Ben had to work, which is why he isn't in the pictures. Jess and I have always loved getting "in the mirror" shots at stores while wearing ridiculous things....

Oooooooh, that's a loverly hat, Mel! This store had some great finds and very reasonable prices! I've got to go back with he-who-holds-the-check-book.... :)

So Ben thought he needed to show off his fancy head gear since we tried on some crazy hats earlier that day. If you followed the OT Hector blog, you would know that Ben has this thing for head gear....

Oh, what fun! McDonald girls in my kitchen!!!!!!!!! Behind Jessica is my apron collection, and I always have plenty to spare. There is nothing like sharing good stories, catching up on recent news, and laughing like crazy while preparing food! Did I mention that we like food around here?

Lotsa people in the living room. The family came down from the hill to spend the day preparing for the big party up on the hill. So we all crashed at our place for the day...the quiet before the storm. And yes, even 18ish people is quiet compared to the hundreds that would be showing up for the party!

Hurray! After weeks of getting all of the appropriate pieces for our washer and dryer, Ben squeezed back behind the dryer to finish putting things together. Jess happened to think that this was awfully funny, so she snapped a picture. I was just tickled pink to know that I could do laundry in my own home!

Breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day. Breakfast is not my favorite meal of the day, so I've tried to do new things instead of eating the same old same old every morning. With fresh fruit being readily available, fruit salad and chocolate chip banana bread sounded pretty good. Once I start feeling normal again, maybe I can get back to making new things for Ben instead of the other way around. I think that he would like that very much.

Pack 'em up, load 'em out! The Suburban is full of food, things, and very happy people. Our destination....the river. Just before this big visit, Ben and I went down the river with friends and family, so we thought we should take my family out to enjoy the fun...

Four and a half hours later, we were still friends and all managed to survive...somehow. It was a long afternoon, the sun was warm but the water was cool! Jess and Mel even jumped off of a tree into the river! Our food was waiting at the end of the river and by the time we got off, we really needed it! That was all I could think of towards the last leg of our journey! We won't say who hated the river trip the most...but maybe we should give her an award for complaining and still being lovable! *grin*

Ahhhh, that's better. All cleaned up, showered and back into normal clothes, here we are getting some dinner. My very wonderful, adorable husband treated us to a delicious meal after we spent hours on the river. The new Mexican restaurant in town was in need of our expert taste we were more than happy to eat there. And the best part was, I got to split enchiladas with Jessica again! It's been years since we've done that! I mean, the last time we did that was before we moved from Houston! And these were gooooood enchiladas.

Los Gallos...a good place to eat...

Well, well, can't drive through town without stopping at Trader Joe's! We quickly grabbed the few things we needed, let Mama Sanford browse this really cool store (first time visitor), tasted the great samples of salad and Chickory coffee, and then we went on our merry way....

...after Mel got a picture in front of her sign, that is.

As we continued our drive up the hill, we were on the look-out for fresh local cherries. Unfortunately, cherry season was pretty much over, much to Jessica and Melissa's dismay. (I've had lots of fresh cherries this year...oh, am I bragging? *smile*) But, we did see some other local goodies at a farm stand on the side of the road. So, Ben pulled over and we grabbed some fresh snacks for the road, and we were off again!

Okay, maybe it's time to go back home! Nic thought that my dress was lovely, but that it would look better on him. So he gave it a try...I think his shoulders are a bit too broad, what do you think?

Food! Oh, how we love food! The evening weather was so lovely, so we ate on the back lawn and enjoyed the sunset and the view of the mountains. Thinking back to all that food is making me hungry...

Wow...this brings back lots of memories! After a quick swim in the pool, we got ready for the big party and had hair to fix. Just a few months ago, these same girls were getting their hair fixed up for the big day...lots of formal curls, long formal gowns, and a fairy-tale day began.

Now, I didn't seem him before the wedding, but I did see pictures of him. I don't think he looks half as nervous for this party as he did for the big one that started this! No need to pretty his hair, he has a cool hat!

Ummmmm, that's just a little odd. It would appear that my head is missing...

Lots and lots and lots of colorful cups! We decided to mismatch the tops and bottoms to add some more color to the....color. I can't remember how many of those we put together, but it didn't take that long. There were lots of willing hands to help get the job done, and we had a smashingly good time.

No party at the ranch is complete unless there are guns involved. After telling Jess that I had already done this, I coaxed her into trying a few guns and join everybody else on the shooting range. She was actually pretty good and tried a few different guns.

Yup....lots of food for lots of people. And those aren't all of the snacks or even dinner! The kitchen crew was fantastic, and everything was just scrumptious!

Now I already told you that Ben has this thing for hats... Before the party, Ben decided that life would be better with a Fez. There are a few reasons behind this (one big one, though, and yes, I bought a yarn mop to complete the outfit), but a dear friend who went overseas came back with some gifts for of which, though she had no idea he really wanted one, was a Fez for Ben. When he got it, his ecstatic reaction reminded me of a character who spells his name T-I-double G-Er. He guards this hat carefully, so if you want to stay on his good side, be nice to the hat.

Oh yes, the slideshow of photos from days gone by... That was hard to watch. Actually, I don't think that I made it through the whole thing without crying. So many good memories have been captured by the camera, and sometimes it hurts to see them.

And what is always a usual occurrence at McDonald parties, became an event at this party. The California wedding reception came and passed by. The family flew out to party with us, and then they were gone. More great memories for us to look back on with smiles, laughter, and tears.

As Dr. Seuss once said, "Don't cry because it's because it happened."

Monday, August 9, 2010

Okay, so we've been busy!

Really, I mean insanely busy!

See, I'm actually sitting at Starbucks, enjoying a lovely, sunny California day writing the captions for this post so that we can try to get caught up. Ben can do the next one, though, since his captions are always more entertaining than mine! So, here is a quick recap of what our life was like before the really fun California wedding reception! That post will be up soon, I hope. :) And then maybe a "tour" of our adorable home! So, without further you go!

With a cooler summer, the blueberry crop lasted longer this year. The Schroeder ladies invited me to tag along with them and we each picked about 12-15 lbs...or was it more? All I know is that my bucket was heavy! But we were allowed to eat as many berries as we wanted whilst picking....what fun!

Ben and I attended a serious hoe-down Texas party at Grandma Rose's church. They even had tortilla chips shaped like Texas!! How cool is that? So, I had to wear that hat for most of the party, and I finally passed it off to Ben, who then wore it for the rest of the evening.

Nic doing all of the hard, back breaking work while Thomas watches....*cough*
Naw, Thomas did his fare share! :)
They came down to bring some fresh manure for our garden and flower beds, help plant, roto-till, and all sorts of other guy projects that I needed help with. And yes, there are flowers there now!

What's this? A couch! Hurray! Something to sit on, other than the living room floor, that is! The living room looks great now...oh, but you'll have to wait to see pictures of the almost finished room. We're still waiting on frames for our artwork. was like Christmas gone crazy! There were so many things that had been sitting in the trailer that I had forgotten about! What fun to rediscover my treasures! Anton is waiting ever so patiently while I decide where to put things.

Mumsie made shelf liners for all of our cabinets. They were all freshly painted, and I wasn't liking the idea of putting our clean dishes on paint shelf liners were a great addition!

The Reynolds dropped by to say "HI!", see the house, and then they went to work! Thanks, Mrs. Reynolds for washing all of our dishes!

Oh, and then we had a birthday party to attend. It was a nice warm summer day, so the pool was a favorite spot that afternoon. And the grilled corn on the cob was sooo tasty!

What else does one eat on the 4th of July but brisket?! We had this in the oven baking while we were at church, and then the family came over to celebrate with us.

The girls filling up for the day! We are serious foodie people around here!
I think that I carried on my mom's favorite pastime....feeding people. :)

BBQ brisket, potato salad, rolls, and a regular salad...mmmm, a delicious patriotic dinner!
Looks good, huh?

Oh, and you can't forget dessert!!!! This year we were very patriotic....
We had homemade French Crepes. :)
But hey, in our defense, the Tour de France was going on, AND they were red, white, and blue...
And I'm an American....and I made them, so that makes it better, right?

Fireworks!!!!!!!!!!! Or, the California version, anyway.
Boy, and I thought that we had it bad in Illinois! All of the big blewie ones are illegal. You wouldn't believe how many sirens we heard that evening!
And no, they didn't show up at our place. :)
Maybe Fourth of Julying in Texas isn't such a bad idea, after all.....

Our very first dinner, in our very first home. The table is set, the Italian wine glass are pulled out, the fine china is waiting to be used....

And dinner is served! Oh, and there was a salad too,

Ahhh!!!!!! A piano has graced our living room! I love this piece of furniture.
It's pretty, useful, and it is helping me accomplish my goal of learning all of Clementi's sonatinas from Opus 36. We'll see how long that takes...

Okay, now check back for another update soon! And maybe some news....if something interesting happens! :) Hopefully we'll get internet at our house soon...then I won't have to sit at Starbucks listening to their annoying music...
Then again, I'd have to give up the drinks, too...
Or I could just make my own......

But I should get lunch first...