We’re going to visit DD1 at college tomorrow, so I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and bagged two dozen to share with her, six for DD2 to share with a girl from her classes who sounds like a treasure of a friend, and we’re keeping the rest here.  I was pulling out a container to hold the cookies staying home and found two of a set I used to use…when my upright freezer had more space.

When the kids were toddlers, I struggled with dinner tremendously.  I’ve never enjoyed cooking, and with three very young children I found myself exhausted by four o’clock.  Enter menu planning and the freezer.

The freezer was a Godsend of a purchase.  I learned to buy meat in the family packs then trim it, cut it the way I’d want it when cooking, then freeze it portioned out.  This made meal prep – especially last minute meal prep – infinitely easier.  I started to make garlic cheese bread and freeze it in portions for dinner, placing wax paper between the slices so they didn’t stick.  One of my bread recipes makes three loaves – one is eaten fresh and two pop into the freezer.

I bought several Pyrex containers to split casseroles into smaller portions.  If you didn’t know, Pyrex can go in the freezer as well as the oven.  Thawing should be done in the refrigerator overnight, then I put the dish in the oven before preheating and add five minutes to the cook time.  DD2 and I are the only ones who love a potato casserole that is simply too sinful to eat a whole 9×13 of in a few days, so I can split that into four small rectangular containers for a reasonable portion for the two of us.

Twice Baked potatoes are great to make a large batch, portion out, and freeze.  Essentially, think about dishes you love and determine if they could be frozen ahead.  For myself, I prefer to have one big prep at a carefully chosen time.

My prep work expanded to the realm of dessert and I would freeze cookies in groups of 15-18, which was more than one dessert plus.  I felt proud of my planning, but DH felt disgruntled that so many cookies went in the freezer.

I ignored his disgruntled reaction.  My life flowed more smoothly with all of this.  These weren’t the only things I did to help with dinner.  Menu planning has always been a huge help.  I’m just starting to get back to it, but after I had been faithful to planning for several years, I found it easier to pull dinner together on the fly.

DH doesn’t know it yet, but when the kids have all flown from the nest, I’ll be freezing cookies again.  After all, it’s just not wise to have five dozen cookies laying around.

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Tired and Sore

It’s been quite busy since finding the evidence of mice last week.  One has been killed.  I don’t know how many others are down there.  Back in the spring we had the chimney worked on, and it was discovered that the chimney hadn’t been moisture barrier wrapped, and there were large holes in the particle board hidden by the siding.  I’m guessing that’s where they got in, and I’m also guessing that they’ve not come out of the walls and attic due to the cats…until they smelled chocolate.  Who knew that mice love chocolate?  They found my chocolate chip stash (for the kid’s waffles), too, but only got into one bag.

I’ve been moving things into plastic boxes, cleaning, and reorganizing in the basement.  I got a good share of the Christmas presents wrapped.  More shopping needs to be done, but I inspected the gifts for mouse tampering as I worked and then got them back into plastic tubs.  One problem is that the plastic tubs are about an inch wider than the boxes which they are replacing and don’t fit next to the oversized boxes on the other half of the closet.  DH doesn’t want to try to re-home the contents of those boxes, even though they’ve only been opened once or twice in twenty years.  They contain his Lego collection (specialty sets, mostly discontinued).  The kids have never been allowed to touch them.

I got over half of our pantry upstairs cleaned and reorganized amidst this chaos.  I had been about to work in the basement, but the cats were on my heels and I didn’t want them in the workroom, so I turned to the pantry.  The basement plan resumed in the afternoon, when the cats sleep.

This has also been a baking week.  My son’s stash of lunch breads had dwindled.  He thinks it’s amusing that one of the drawers in the upright freezer is kept mostly for his breads.  Anyway, I decided to surprise him with a batch of orange bread along with refilling the banana bread stash.  Usually he gets pumpkin, banana, or poppy seed.  Next semester I’ll be adding cornbread as my middle will be spending two days at college from 8am until 5:30 pm.  I’ve already purchased a highly rated food thermos.  She’s not fond of sandwiches either, and tends to make noodle things for her lunches.

I’m pretty proud of DD2.  She’s hung in there with her English class, even though she was pretty sure the teacher wanted her to drop the class after the panic attack happened.  I think the exact words were, “Maybe this isn’t the class for you” but my daughter isn’t a quitter.  She had planned to take her math class next semester but has delayed it and replaced it with the second sign language class.  I suggested she think about taking her phys. ed. class too, but that’s in her court.  Three classes may be the limit for now, but it’s one more than this semester.  Sometimes it’s difficult to adjust to her timeline, but I’d rather she go slowly than not at all.

My son had his first college visit recently on a professional development day.  Those days off still bother me, but we turned this one to an advantage.  I think he’s starting to get interested in/excited about college.  He’s got good grades, but doesn’t work to his full ability.  This college offers a pretty decent scholarship if he can raise his GPA to a 3.6 (he’s got a 3.51) and also if he gets above a certain SAT score (I can’t remember the number).  I think he already hit that on the SAT he took a couple years ago, so hopefully that won’t be an issue.  He wants to go back to this school for an open house, so I think we’ll have to work that in, even though we’ve asked him to keep his mind open to other schools.

Scanning old photos has been paused as my shoulders have been hurting as a result of the marathon of scanning.  I’m over half way finished and hate to put the project on hold as I don’t want to lose the momentum, but it’s pause or hurt.  Actually, I still hurt, but this will give me a chance to recover.  Once the work in the basement is finished, anyway.  Thankfully, I’ve had physical therapy for each of my arms and still have resistance bands, and had purchased a couple of the small items for use at home.  Time to pull the therapy box out.

I’m tired, but it’s a good tired.  My sleep has been well earned for several days now.

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Never a Dull Moment

Today I headed to the basement to begin organizing the Christmas stash, maybe even wrap a few things.  Christmas is my favorite time of year, and in order to enjoy it fully, I’ve learned to spread the work out rather than stress out.  It helps that I have a propensity to plan.

I opened the first box of Christmas items and noticed empty candy wrappers loose in the box.  Hmm.  The kids don’t go in this closet, so they are not the culprits.  Oh, wait.  There are mouse droppings.  Great.  Our cats love to go in the basement, and I guess this is part of the reason.  None of us have seen evidence of mice elsewhere, so the cats must have been keeping the mouse/mice trapped in the closet since that’s the only place they can’t go.  I think it’s time to remove the barrier which keeps them out.

I pulled boxes out one by one, vacuuming up any droppings as I came across them and gingerly lifting the box lids with the vacuum attachment.  No mice jumped out at me and I pulled half of the closet out and moved boxes on the other side to vacuum and investigate.  I’ll need DH to pull more out, because the Christmas tree is heavy and takes up most of the other half of the space.

Ugh.  I hate mice.  We had them in the attic and second story walls several years ago.  A few got into the main house and it gave me the creeps.

I made a trip to Walmart and bought several plastic storage totes.  I know that determined mice can still get in, but they’ll have to work harder.  Many of the boxes in this storage space have been around almost as long as we’ve been married.  They’ve done their duty and can be recycled.  I’ll never be able to trust that they haven’t been peed on, so it’s time to move them on out.

I also bought a plastic shoe box to store the kid’s stocking candy, which is purchased the day after Christmas the previous year (mostly).  That’s what the mice ate, gnawing through plastic candy canes to get the Hershey Kisses.  Wouldn’t that make an interesting tv ad?

The basement has needed a thorough going over and re-organization, I just hoped to do it at my own initiation.

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It’s So Hard

My middle child is taking her first college classes this semester.  Two to start.  She took last year off as even mentioning taking classes caused her body to tense.  She has sensory processing disorder, which for her also brought anxiety.

One of this child’s biggest issues is reading out loud.  Her English teacher wants her students to read parts of their papers out loud several times during the semester.  The first time DD2 was called upon to read ended in a panic attack.

Monday was an appointment with a counselor.  DD2 asked me to go with her.  She was petrified when we were called back.  This woman was lovely and knows people.  She just started talking to DD2 and slowly thawed her out.

DD2 had been thinking of an alternative to reading out loud for the class.  She has a recorder for her lectures, to cover her in case she becomes overwhelmed and needs to stop taking notes or something similar.  DD2 proposed to record herself reading the paper at home in privacy, then playing the recording in class.

The counselor and I both thought this was a creative solution which still meets the essence of the teacher’s request.

When DD2 proposed this idea to the teacher, she turned it down.  I urged DD2 to try again, emphasizing the anxiety which reading aloud causes.  Denied again.

I’ve advised my daughter to record her papers anyway and push the play button if she begins to become overwhelmed/in a panic.  I think it’s the better alternative to disrupting class.

DH and I have also told DD2 to save the conversation and perhaps go to the counselor for backup.

I feel rather helpless, but need to let my daughter handle her own fight as much as possible.


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The Climate Change Debate

Some would argue that there is no debate.  The science is settled.

Before I go further, I have to admit that I have gone back and forth as to whether or not to write about this.  I even started a blog post then deleted it.  I care about our planet and love the beauty that God provided for us.  I believe we are to be good stewards of the resources given to us. I do not agree with the current accepted viewpoints being pushed.  Explanations to follow.

Let’s go back to ‘the science is settled’.  Several viewpoints in history have been held by popular belief to be settled.

The earth was flat.

The earth was the center of the universe (and it was heresy punishable by death to say otherwise).

There is no particle smaller than the atom.

Science is in continual quest of new information.  We do the best with the information available to us at the current point in time.

I watched Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth.  I wanted to give it a fair run.  I majored in Earth Science in college.  The famous graph at the end of the movie with the line shooting up into the stratosphere is not reliable information.  It has no labels or scale.  Without labels and scale, a graph may indeed contain facts, but those facts may be manipulated to show what you wish them to.  It’s all in the scale used, and Gore’s graph does not give us the scale or any factual information to prove his point.  May I also point out that for someone telling the world to care about their carbon footprint, his is pretty massive with his mansion and other homes.  He’s also flown many times in a private jet.

I saw an excerpt of the Swedish teen Greta addressing the UN on the topic of climate change.  For the length of the clip I saw, her face was in an angry scowl the entire time.  This child has been fed on hatred toward the older generations who are, in her mind, destroying her planet.

When I was in junior high/high school, we were told that we were headed for a deep ice age before the year 2000.  In college, we heard about the hole in the ozone non-stop.  Then it became global warming, then when nature wasn’t proving that point (London indeed saw snow well past the ten year no-more-snow prediction), the narrative became climate change.

My point is, young teenagers are right to care about things, especially about taking care of the planet, but young people need to do some homework for themselves as well.  Adults with an agenda like to take advantage of this idealistic age group and teach them what they want them to gobble up.

May I point out that Barrack Obama, a supporter of the climate change narrative, just spent multiple millions on a beach front house on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean?  If he truly believed that climate change was going to raise sea levels, that was a colossal waste of millions of dollars (fifteen million, if I remember correctly).

Has the United States always been a paragon of virtue where the environment is concerned?  No.  Industry was allowed to dump and pollute at alarming rates for a time.  Our eyes were opened and now we have standards of air, water, and soil quality which must be met and maintained.  We’ve come a long way.  When a new polluter is found, there are consequences established to clean up their act.  We have done the right thing in watching over the practices of industry and setting a standard for them to live up to.

Now let’s get other countries to do the same/similar thing.  China is foremost in my mind.  Their pollution is so bad they made manufacturing cease for the Olympics so the sky wouldn’t be brown for the cameras.  Many people wear face masks when they are outdoors.  Before we hate on the United States and call our country evil for our contribution to environmental issues, let’s bring other countries higher in their standards.  Developing nations can still develop while raising their standards.  Countries which have already cleaned their air, water, and soil conditions can offer advice and make recommendations to help them.

I’ve read the original language of the Green New Deal.  It’s being held up as a lofty ambition which we ought to grab on to.  Hold on.  This Deal has a lot of extreme measures included.  Extreme measures raise red flags in my mind.  Extreme measures usually speak to an agenda hidden behind the poster child being shown in front.

I’ve worked hard to teach my kids that they need to think beyond the issue at hand.  When an item is on the voting ballot, think about what possible issues arise as a result of this item passing.  Are they all positive?  Is there a questionable or negative possibility?  Think.  Always consider several steps beyond the surface issue before making your decision.

As I said earlier, I love this earth and all of the beauty within it.  Our vacations often take us to natural spaces where we take in mountains, forests, bodies of water, animal life.  We groove on that as a family.  I recycle, repair clothing and other items as much as possible, look for alternate uses for items when they are worn beyond their original use, etc.  My kids used to have a spot for broken toys for their dad to fix.  The first response in this house is not the trash can.  A Princess Leia doll once lost an arm which was too delicate to reattach.  My daughter decided that Leia lost her arm to Darth Vader and kept playing with the doll until she outgrew it.

There are many people in this country who love the earth and live in a way which shows that.  They tend to live quietly – not shouting at the top of their lungs.  They have gardens and fruit trees, some raise their own livestock to provide food for themselves.  They cook and bake from scratch, which reduces packaging and chemical ingredients.  They learn how to do other things for themselves, sometimes just for the pleasure of learning, sometimes to lessen their impact on the earth.  They recycle, they are open about their beliefs without being pushy.  These are the people I listen to.

The people I don’t and won’t listen to are those shouting at me with anger.  I’ve heard people recommend that “climate deniers” should be imprisoned.  (A rather extreme reaction in a country with so much freedom of thought and speech.)  I don’t deny that the climate changes.  It goes through large cycles, actually.  The climate change arguments often leave the sun out of the conversation as well.  It has a huge impact and spends a lot of time heating the oceans, which has an effect. Antarctica does indeed lose ice each year.  It also builds new ice each year.  These are things I learned in the course of that earth science major.

Many preach that we ought to live a certain way, yet their own life does not reflect what they are pushing.  I would love to see some of the main voices pushing green agendas go through a type of life audit to show if they eat vegetarian, recycle, wear leather (the leather for wallets, purses, shoes, belts, etc. comes from the same cows which put beef in the grocery stores), do they utilize mass transit or take private, gas sucking solutions, etc.  If these people truly believe the narrative they are pushing, their every day home life will reflect it.  I would be more willing to listen if the words and deeds matched.

There’s so much more I could say, but I think I’d better end here.

Be passionate about your beliefs.  Share your beliefs with others – when those others are open to hearing them.  Live in a way consistent with your beliefs.  It will speak louder and stronger than you ever can.

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Explosions and Spiders – Oh my!

Last night my son almost drank a spider.  I’m surprised and impressed that our living room isn’t covered in black cherry koolaid stains.  The pitcher has been on the counter for a few days and been fine.  This particular pitcher doesn’t have a lid, but was the only one available at the time and with many sore throats in the house, I’ve been trying to keep a variety of liquids close at hand.

It was so hard not to go into a twenty minute, roll-on-the-floor laugh.

He rinsed, spit, and brushed his teeth.  I saw the drowned/dismembered spider in the sink.  It wasn’t small or pretty, but it blended in fairly well with the Koolaid.

I brought up the time when I was around seven, having dinner at my aunt’s house.  She was young in her housekeeping and kept her glassware stored open end up.  I was going to have Seven Up, and as I raised my glass to drink, I saw something in the glass.  Two spiders at the bottom.  My aunt was deeply embarrassed and now stores her glasses open side down.

Things happen.

The other night, I actually felt up for making dinner and wanted it to be a good one, so I decided to make a risotto which I hadn’t made for a while.  I pulled out my glass casserole dish which is relatively new but has been in the oven several times without incident.

Just a few minutes after the risotto was transferred into the oven, I hear a strange noise and open the oven to see that the dish has exploded and rice covers the bottom of the oven.  With an oven mitt, I pulled out some of the large glass chunks.  They further broke as I put them into the sink.

We ordered pizza and had the planned dinner the following night – after much time was spent cleaning the oven.

My husband laughed when I was singing “It’s a good night when dinner doesn’t explode” as I re-made the risotto the next night.

Life can be funny, even when we’re being frustrated.  Leave yourself open to laughter.

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Baby Steps

My son is such a blessing to me!  Saturday he went out with me to lug bags of dirt to and from the car.  Since I began getting pain from costochondritis (sp?) he has been my muscle substitute, always quite willingly.  Once home, we dug up my two columnar apple trees and transferred them to large pots set in a very sunny location.  The sunlight in my garden has changed greatly since we moved into this home, and the plants need to move now and then to adjust.  Fortunately, these apple trees are able to be raised in pots, where they will now stay.

Later that day, DH finally got his portable computer scanner set up for my laptop.  Since then I’ve scanned in two and a half photo albums, beginning with the birth of our eldest.  Once I get caught up to the point where we made the switch to digital cameras, I’ll go back to the beginning (my teen years) and scan the rest of the photos.  It will be good to have all of our pictures in digital format, mostly for preservation purposes, but also for making photo books.  They are thinner to store and more comfortable to look at versus the heavy bulky albums.

Of course it hit me that my mom has many more pictures that I will want.   I’ve scanned several of their pictures for making photo books for my parents and for a 50th anniversary CD, but there are many that I haven’t gotten to.

This is one of those large projects which has been waiting for me.

I was able to go to church yesterday!  I’ve missed it, having been out with bronchitis for two weeks.  I was pretty tired by the end of morning service, but it was good.  Choir practice is in late afternoon before evening service, and with a glass of ice water, I went.  I figured they’d probably begun working on the Christmas cantata so I didn’t want to be further behind.  I got through practice, but was coughing and tired by the end so I gathered the kids and left before the service began.  I thought about bringing my music home to practice, but was so tired I figured that was not realistic.  Next week will go smoother.  It felt good to be back anyway.


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