40 things on a snowy day

One of those e-mail questionnaires …

1. Do you like blue cheese? — Yes, especially on burgers!

2. Have you ever done something you regretted? Of course … hundreds of things. You can’t learn from mistakes if you never make any!

3. Do you own a gun? Yes. A Ruger .357 double-action revolver and a Savage .243 rifle.

4. What flavor of Kool Aid was your favorite? I don’t like Kool-Aid.

5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? Naw.

6. What do you think of hot dogs? They’re ok a couple times a summer when cooked on a stick. But that’s it.

7. Favorite Christmas movie? White Christmas

8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? A glass of water, followed by Diet Coke.

9. Can you do push ups? A few.

10. Favorite hobby? Reading, blogging and decorating.

11. Do you have A.D.D.? Who me? Huh? Naw.

12. What’s one trait you hate about yourself? I can easily write my thoughts, but speaking my mind is difficult. Ever trying arguing your case over e-mail? Not quite as effective.

13. Middle name? Lynn

14. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment? a) My nose is cold. b) My son is in the silverware drawer c) The bird feeder is empty.

15. Name 3 drinks you regularly have? water, Diet Coke, wine

17. Favorite place to be? Right here at home.  I have been to Honduras, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic and England. I’ve traveled, but now I’m a seasoned old woman with three kids and I prefer to spend time at home these days … although a camping trip is always a good idea.

18. How did you bring in the New Year? I think I slept through it.

19. A place you would like to go? Australia and Ireland, closer to home? Grand Canyon, Yellowstone

20. Name three people who will complete this. Probably no one.

21. Do you have slippers? No. I prefer wool hunting socks.

22. What shirt are you wearing? Thermal henley and a down vest

23. Do you like sleeping on satin? Nope. I’m a flannel kind of girl.

24. Can you whistle? Yep.

25. Would you be a pirate? I hate boats! So no.

26. What songs do you sing in the shower? I can’t remember what I used to sing, now I don’t have time to finish a song.

27. Favorite girl’s name(s)? Abigail, Isabella, Elizabeth and Emily.  I love old names.

28. What’s in your pocket right now? Cell phone and a tissue for son’s nose.

29. Last thing that made you laugh? The new puppy pouncing on the cat, biting its tail and hanging on for dear life as it took off through the house!

30. Favorite bed sheets as a child?  Strawberry Shortcake

31. Worst injury ever? Giving birth three times? That doesn’t count? Umm … six stitches in my knee in third grade — and we weren’t allowed to run and slide down the sidewalk on the ice anymore that year!

32. Do you like where you live? Yes, really I do. But I love houses and decorating and imagining this house and that house and what I would do to it … can’t help it.

33. How many TVs do you have in your house? 2

34. Who is your loudest friend? probably my sister

35. How many dogs do you have? 2

36. Does someone have a crush on you? Extremely doubtful.

37. What is your favorite book? Too many to consider.

38. What is your favorite candy? chocolate

39. Favorite Sports Team? My daughter’s soccer team.

40. What song do you want played at your funeral? Something rip-roarin’ and fun!

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As Tiny Tim said …

“God bless us, every one …” especially my husband. He is a good man. He is a patient man. And luckily, he finds humor in my situations.

The kids and I set out to find this year’s tree yesterday afternoon. We were in the market for a tall, thin tree … not the usual suspect: short, stocky and slightly Charlie Brown-ish. We walked behind the house and up and down the hill, in search of THE ONE. We wrapped a brightly-colored scarf around the top branches to signal our choice to the man of the house.

He started the tree felling about 9 p.m. His only comment, “It’s tall.”

Yes, it was tall … and it looked A LOT taller in my house than it did on the hillside. I had assured him it was about eight feet. The reality: it’s 12 of 13 feet tall. And there is only one spot in the whole house where such a gigantic tree will fit. Lucky for me we have a tall step ladder. Lucky for me dear old hubby didn’t mind that I now had to move all of the furniture to accommodate what we jokingly called, “The White House Christmas Tree!”

It is tall. It is heavy. It drinks a heck of a lot of water. It rendered my kids speechless. Yep. It’s this year’s perfect tree. Or it will be, after the kids have a chance to adorn it with their ornaments. Toilet-paper-tube angels and all!

Ohhhhhh. Christmas tree!

Ohhhhhh. Christmas tree!

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There are some things …

… I simply do not do. I don’t intentionally smash my thumb with a hammer. I don’t intentionally bang my head against a wall. I don’t intentionally stab myself in the eye with an ice pick. I avoid stubbing my toe in the dark at all costs. Perhaps that is why I refuse to crawl out of bed at 3 a.m., dress in umpteen layers of winter apparel, stumble through darkness to my freezing vehicle so I can stand in line in the snow on black Friday and then push past other shoppers in a mad rush to purchase the latest and greatest gizmo recommended by so-called marketing experts.

But that’s just me.

Lots of people, maybe even you, think it’s a blast. I can see how it might be fun … if you loved shopping and weren’t on a do or die mission for the country’s most popular toy. If you’re planning a midnight or pre-dawn expedition, have a blast! Be merry and cheery and bright!

A unique shopping excursion
When you’re done, consider this idea: head to Carroll County … specifically, the Augusta area. Stop off first at Manfull Orchards in Augusta. Fresh baked pies and breads, apple butter, cider and a quaint gift shop—in addition to locally grown sweet, juicy apples—will please your overloaded senses. Then head south on Andora Road to Farmgirl Finds. The long lane will transport you to another time and a shop filled with rustic antiques, primitive treasures, homestyle Christmas decor, fragrant candles and gifts for everyone on your list. Next stop? Continue south on Andora to Weaver’s General Store. This Amish-run store is filled with overstocks from Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, Target and Wal-Mart. It’s unique. It’s economical. And there’s no other place like it!

Turn around and head north on Andora. Turn left on Rush Road. Hilltop Bulk Food Store has all the ingredients you need for holiday baking. When you’ve stocked your pantry, continue north on Rush, then left on Arbor to Stillfork Variety Store. This shop offers housewares, childrens’ toys and surplus grocery items for the bargain shopper. Arbor continues back to State Route 9. If you’re in the market for leather goods or boots, continue on Arbor to Shetlar’s Harness Shop. If not, turn south and head into Carrollton for unique shopping and eateries in town.

I promise: no long lines, ample parking and beautiful, scenic countryside on meandering country roads (all within a five-mile radius). Just last week a customer came into Farmgirl Finds and said, “I haven’t felt much like Christmas until this point. But driving up your lane, walking into your shop … oh! It just feels like the Christmas spirit has arrived.”

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I’m a simple woman …

simple-woman-daybook-large… and no, I did not say simple-minded woman. So here’s a page from the Simple Woman’s Daybook:

November 25, 2008
Outside my window …
Hills, trees and outbuildings covered in a layer of thick, white snowflakes. They say 4-8 inches by noon tomorrow.
I am thinking …
That I need to: put my son down for a nap; switch loads of laundry; check the salt dough ornaments in the oven (my daughter made them); that I need to check work e-mail and edit the corporate chef’s December Web post; and that I hope the heavy snow holds off until my husband is home from work.
I am thankful for …
my children’s vivid imaginations; the snowfall; the thick, fuzzy socks on my chilly toes; and the word Mommy.
From the learning rooms …
I hear children’s voices ranging from laughter to argument as they construct a fort from their bed quilts.
From the kitchen …
The smell of a Cabin Fever scented candle.
I am wearing …
A pair of glasses, broken by my son and repaired with blue painters’ tape. My eye doctor made me swear off contacts for the week, thanks to an infected scratch on my eye.
I am creating …
A backache because someone is using my desk chair so I’m sitting in a rocker.
I am going …
Upstairs in a moment to clean up the fort, direct girls to their afternoon reading and put terrible two-fer-all to bed.
I am reading …
Santa Wore Spurs (Don’t mock me! A little cowboy romance now and then never hurt anybody.)
I am hoping …
That my son is not in the fish tank again.
I am hearing …
My daughters yelling, “Mommy! Ben is in the fish tank!” and a snow plow over on the hill.
Around the house …
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
One of my favorite things …
McLeod’s Daughters—an Australian TV series that aired on the WE channel here in the states for two seasons. Another one of my other favorite things, ebay! I purchased all eight seasons AND I found a Web site listing secret codes that converted my DVD player to zone-free. Ahh, winter evenings spent in front of the fire with a glass of wine and a fuzzy blanket, watching strong, independent women run a sheep and cattle ranch in the Outback. Now THAT is a good time! 
A few plans for the rest of the week …
Tuesday: last minute Thanksgiving ingredient shopping. Wednesday: girls to piano; Thursday: eat … when turkey fatigue causes crankiness, anger younger sisters by comparing the size of their pregnant bellies! Friday: open Farmgirl Finds for Christmas shoppers and prepare for Saturday’s open house. Sunday: bake peanut butter chocolate chip cookies for husband’s hunting trip because I’m a good and dutiful wife.

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Snowflakes, wood smoke and cheater muffins

We awoke to the first significant snowfall of the season. Beautiful. Dramatic. Dangerous for driving. And as the kids found out, not ideal for sledding. They managed to squeeze in a few trial runs on their way back from early morning barn chores. Conditions were not quite right for a quick trip down the hill, although it didn’t stop them—or the kids over at the Amish school—from trying. Shrieks of glee and bouts of laughter could be heard echoing through the hills this morning, long before the school bell rang.

"Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"

About four inches fell overnight. It’s coming down right now … a presumed white-out in our back yard, as snowflakes mingle with thick plumes of wood smoke. I love the sights, sounds, smell and resulting coziness of winter. A time to be thankful and reflective. Especially this year … for some reason, I seem to have accomplished the tasks on my list. I don’t know how, but the garden and flowerbeds are cleaned; bird feeders are filled; porches cleared; chicken coop prepped for winter winds … I think it was that extra week of 70-degree sunshine in early November. One last chance to do what needed done.

Some days you deserve a shortcut. I do believe that most things taste best when made from scratch … like brownies or chocolate chip cookies. Recently, however, I’ve stumbled upon a great recipe for muffins. It’s perfect for snowy days when you’re expecting eight children and their 16 snow boots in addition to your own three kids. While they all gather round the table to make Indian Property Sticks (it’s a Thanksgiving-Squanto-Pilgrim sort of craft), you can pull out a basket of freshly-baked muffins. And these four ingredients always seem to be on hand in our house.

Farmgirl’s Oatmeal-Chocolate-Chip-Cheater Muffins

  • 3 boxes Jiffy Oatmeal Muffin Mix
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 bag chocolate chips

Prepare muffin mix according to package directions (milk & eggs). When all ingredients are combined, dump in a bag of chocolate chips. Stir. Coat two muffin tins with cooking spray. Fill 2/3 full with muffin mixture. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Serve with glasses of milk.

They’re yummy, satisfying and slightly healthy (oatmeal is a good thing). The kids will eat ’em all up and you’ll be hero for the day.

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In a slump? Add apples!

The farm girls and I just finished reading An Old-fashioned Thanksgiving. Tilly attempts to prepare Thanksgiving dinner while her mother and father rush to her sick grandmother’s bedside. In the midst of the preparations, younger sister Prue mistakes catnip and wormwood for sage and summer savory. The stuffing tasted a little peculiar. She forgot to add sugar and salt to the pudding; however, the apple slump was perfect. The book concludes with Louisa May Alcott’s Apple Slump recipe.

You might enjoy it for supper tonight or at your own “old-fashioned Thanksgiving” dinner …

Louisa May Alcott’s Apple Slump
Makes 6 servings

  • 4 to 6 tart apples (3 cups sliced)
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg (well beaten)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Pare, core and slice the apples. Preheat oven to 350. Grease the inside of a 1 1/2-quart baking dish with butter. Put sliced apples into the dish.

In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples and stir to mix.

Bake apples uncovered until they are soft, about 20 minutes. While apples are baking, sift together into a bowl: flour, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and sugar. Mix into this the beaten egg, milk and melted butter. Stir gently.

Spread this mixture over the apples and continue baking until the top is brown and crusty (about 25 minutes). Serve with whipped cream.

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Be generous of spirit

I love days like this … several new magazines in the mail. So much to read, to enjoy, to ponder. With my icy Diet Coke in hand (I’ve tried to like coffee to no avail), I settled down to peruse my MaryJanesFarm magazine … after I made sure supper was bubbling on the stove, and after I made sure the kids were deeply involved in another episode of Little House on the Prairie. Mail time … 30 minutes in the late afternoon when I just sit and take it all in (unless it’s a bill-pay-mail-day, and in that case I pull out a novel!).

I fumbled into a story on page 23, written by Tad Bartimus, 2008 recipient of the Washington Press Club Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She writes, I learned from my father that “There are only two kinds of people in this world: those who are generous of spirit, and those who aren’t.” By page 24 I was totally captivated.

As I grow older and, hopefully, wiser, I distance myself from “toxic people” and seek out friends and neighbors whose values and lifestyle have already revealed their generous spirits. Surrounding myself with non-judgmental minds, open hearts and spontaneous laughter inspires me to be a better person and makes me happy …

Epiphany! Words to live by. I’ve been doing the same … distancing myself from toxic people, that is. Folks who aren’t necessarily mean or nasty or bad, but people who always, ALWAYS, see the glass half empty. People who criticize everything and rejoice over nothing. They reply to your excitement with something negative, critical or mean-spirited. They have the power to change your confident smile and happy demeanor into self-doubt. They greet you with demands instead of caring, compassionate words or smiles. They make you feel guilty for not falling into their quagmire.

Maybe you know someone who fits the description. Maybe you’ve tried to help them find joy again. I hope you were successful. If not … step away. Life is too short—too valuable, to waste on misery. And just because you can’t change ’em, doesn’t mean you have to join ’em.

Generous spirits make a better world.
The same magazine had another article, Compassion. Author Rebekah Teal writes:
I’ve noticed a new popular pastime. And that is to take pleasure in criticizing others. Have you noticed it? The way we’ve all become generally intolerant of the other guy? We sit around and stew about what someone else is doing or not doing, what someone else has or doesn’t have, what someone else believes or doesn’t believe. We even speculate about motives. In short, we lack compassion for each other, and that is giving us a bad attitude … It hurts us. It gets in the way of finding our own joy and contentment.

If you’ve stayed with me this far, thanks so much. I realize I’ve been going on and on!  I’ll conclude this rambling soap-box diatribe with Teal’s words:
When we become so negative about things that are irrelevant to us, we are unable to seek the positive things that are truly relevant. There is no room, no motivation, and no energy left to find the fireflies in our own lives.

Maybe I’ll make a list of my fireflies … a husband who survives my moods, appreciates my dilemmas and supports my dreams. A two-year-old who revels in nakedness and shouts “Woo-hoo!” when he manages to escape a diaper. A doe-eyed, long-lashed six-year-old whose infectious grin helps her escape predicaments. A serious, thoughtful and tenderhearted eight-year-old who knows when Mommy needs a hug. Yeah, I have some awfully bright fireflies. You do too …  

Go put on your rose-colored glasses! Grab your red lipstick and highlight those lips … then use ’em. Give a genuine smile to a stranger and see if they don’t pay you back immediately.

Want to read these articles in their entirety? Suscribe online or pick up a copy of MaryJanesFarm at your local bookstore. I’ve also seen it for sale at Tractor Supply Company. It’s a beautiful publication filled with helpful tips and tricks, recipes, beautiful photos and inspirational stories for anyone who possesses a farm girl spirit.

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