Monday, June 24, 2013

Wood and Weeds

A few weeks ago The Mister fell (felled?) a 50ft Juniper tree that died in our front yard. It had been poorly for a couple of years, but this winter it was completely gone. It stood right in front of the house; a hazard when hurricane season comes. So he put on his Husqvarna chaps and gassed up the chain saw, which is always a little scary for me. I usually watch all the action while peeking through my fingers as my hands cover my face.

Taking down trees can be tricky business, but The Mister and The Boy have it all down to a science. Once the tree is on the ground, The Boy takes a hand saw and starts cutting off all the branches while The Mister uses the chain saw to trim the trunk in bits. Before long the two of them have it all stacked up in neat piles out by the pit, ready for the end of summer and cooler nights by the fire. I thought they looked so pretty there all stacked up and tidy. I really love the color of the woods: greens, browns, yellows, with little splashes of color here and there. There is never a time when there isn't a flower blooming. Right now the Gardenia is so fragrant, so classically beautiful. Another happy bloom in blossom is the Magnolia. We don't have one in our yard, but I wish we did.

I love taking photos of all the little things in our garden. I've decided I need to save my pennies for a macro lens. I am really enjoying my new camera, but I'm having trouble getting clear pictures of small things, like those delicate white blossoms, and the purple ones too (if you know what those are, I'd love to know.)

The "strawberries" in our front yard are actually weeds. Those little berries never get bigger than a marble and though bright red, they never taste sweet. The neighborhood bunnies love them.

Speaking of woodland creatures. This weekend I was cleaning my office and looked out the window to find two of the teeniest fawns. I swear they must be only days old, because they are just darling. Unfortunately, by the time I turned around to grab my camera, they had run to shelter in the woods and I couldn't find them... next time.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

VBS Preparation

The Boy and I are co-teaching at VBS next week. We spent the morning trying to get organized and prepared for a week of fun!

I love that we get to teach the same lesson and craft each day, which makes it easier to plan, and gives us the opportunity to meet all the elementary aged kids participating. The theme of the week is the Armor of God and our lesson is all about the Breastplate of Righteousness and the Shoes of Peace.

Of course, I love a good craft, so we are gonna "forge" some iron (aluminum foil) and make shield hangers to remind them to protect their heart's by following God's lead. The picture above is just a mock up, the "real" project will be a bit more colorful (and have less scotch tape!)

The Boy made a puppet for his part of our lesson.

 I love his little heart...
... and his little (tin foil) breastplate.

Part 1 of our lesson requires a puppet, so he will play that part. He will also lead Part 2 of the study which is a lesson on the Shoes of Peace. It will be his first time teaching... I think he's gonna do great!

This will be the first time I have volunteered at VBS since we lived in Texas.  The Girl is also volunteering, so it will be great to work along side her too. I can't believe my kiddos are old enough to teach and volunteer with me. It's going to be an awesome week!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Stove Top Stories: What Not to Do and How to Fix It

In the event that you should have two stove top disasters in the same week, this posts for you.

I guess I should confess, I have thorn in my flesh; a constant issue in which I never seem to learn. In spite of my mom's advice to never set things on the stove, I have a tendency to burn things that shouldn't be cooked. Exhibit # 4583.

It all started one summer after sixth grade while making Crispy Treats. I placed a large plastic cereal container on top of a wrongly set coil burner.  When I lifted the container to pour the cereal, it all fell out of the bottom instead. I was so distraught I called my friend in a teary panic to come help me clean the burner. She saved the day, and I hid the evidence  my mom never knew.

Our microwave sits above the flat-top stove. On Monday I accidentally overcooked my eyebrow wax (which I also use to remove the mustache and chin whiskers that magically appeared on my 40th birthday.) When I pulled the cup of hot wax out of the microwave it spilled all over the cook top, leaving a big puddle, and lots of splatter. I don't know if you've ever used this wax, but it is stickier than tree sap, and is four-times as thick. I was worried.

The first thing I did was... wax my eyebrows, one has priorities when it comes to unsightly facial hair. 

The second thing I did was the phone-a-friend of the 21st Century: I Googled "How to remove eyebrow wax from cook top," which didn't bring anything up. Amazingly,  I couldn't find another blogger who was silly enough to make the same mistake, and then post it to her blog. But I did find that most facial waxes can be broken down with a little oil. So I took some Canola and poured it right on the cook top. Then I took my heavy-duty, non-scratch, scrub sponge and scrubbed like my mother was on her way home. I did have to use my fingers to rub down the parts that were really thick. Then I wiped the oil off with several paper towels, sprayed the top down with cook-top cleaner, and everything was good....

Until... I decided to make chicken for dinner two days later.

The Girl had decided she was going to make herself an omelet for breakfast. As she was finishing up, I decided to defrost some chicken for dinner later that night. My thawing method has always been: take a few pieces out, place in plastic freezer bag, add marinade, cook later.

Amazingly, plastic bags burn very quickly, and its hard to clean up a scorching stove. After it cooled I thought I could just peel the plastic off, but it wasn't so easy. I used a combination of scraping with a butter knife, scrubbing with the sponge, and turning the heat on for a second or two to soften, but not melt, the plastic. It was considerably more elbow work than the wax, but after I used the cleaning spray, it was as good as new.

Hopefully this will be my last post on burning plastic on the stove top... but we all know it won't.

And, if you've found this post because you are in the same situation...Good Luck!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

June Morning and Other Sundry Things

7:35 a.m. - This June day... overcast and misty, growing calescent before the rising sun. The damp brings to mind  Seattle, with a hot southern twist. The greens, bold and vibrant; the browns, harmony.  On days like today I still pinch myself as I walk through our little acre. Who knew that a desert dweller like me would someday make the piney woods her home? Seriously, those beautiful trees are in my back yard.  I get to look at them every day. And on days like today, all dewy and warm, the forest is in her glory.

Though last week the temps were rising, the summer has (so far) been mild. My garden has taken a leisurely pace in production. Normally, I'm picking produce by the boxful this time of year, but there are signs of bounty: tomato blossom and cucumber bloom announce the coming goodness.

But the weeds, they're good and faithful, rain or shine.

We found a secret flower growing in our yard. Tucked between the front hedge and the side of the house lives a lonely lilly; crimson and yellow. She's beautiful, and happy, all by herself... how she got there, we'll never know.

Ah, June, how lovely you are...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Poolside Ponderings

The pool is not very busy this morning, so I'll probably get some time to read.

Sometimes I feel bad about reading at the pool while all those young mom's chase their little one's. I remember being there...

Though I really did enjoy swimming with the kids, I couldn't help feeling just a little covetous of the mom who could actually read something while her charges ran virtually unsupervised. I know you've seen her, she's the one who walked through the pool gate without five heavy bags of floaties, swim diapers, sunscreen, pool toys and snacks upon her shoulders. She's the one who laid her fluffy, spa-like, beach towel (void of any cartoon character) upon her lounge and sipped on an ice cold Diet Coke, without having to share. I don't know if you noticed, but the bottom of her bathing suit isn't shredded from sitting on the edge of the pool. She probably goes to the bathroom alone too.

Yes, I envied her, my rosy glasses all askew.

Somehow, in a whirlwind of seasons and change flown in on a wing and a prayer, I've become her, that woman I thought so lucky back then. Who knew that a decade comes in measured days, and hurried years? And here I am: My towel more Target-clearance than spa-like. This side of the lounge feels different than I assumed it would be. It's not at all bad (I really enjoy my teenagers), but it isn't as romantic either.

I'll admit, that first summer I realized I could sit poolside and read was pretty awesome. It was nice to be able to relax; to let my guard down (just a bit) when I knew my children would be wise about water safety. But truthfully, it can be a lonely place as well. What I failed to realize was my years of being in the pool, would be far less than the years I'd sit out.

Here's the thing, when you've got little ones, there is always another busy mama to chat with poolside, even if the conversations are in fits and starts. Young children bring women together. You've got sisters to congratulate and commiserate with; there's a knowledge that you're tired, but you're not alone.

When you get to my stage of the parenthood game, most moms don't stick around. They drop the kids off and run. Occasionally, I do this too, but my preference is to be there as much as I can. The teenage world of string bikinis and hormones makes the Chaperone in me content to stay. But the People Person in me is learning to enjoy the (reading) time alone when my friends cannot stay.

So, if could go back 10 years and give myself some advice I guess I'd say: Kellie, the pool isn't any clearer on the other side of the deck. Enjoy this exhausting time of chasing children, because the summers aren't many, and go all too soon. There will be plenty of time for poolside reading, more than you'll ever need.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Summer Came

The silence is delicious this morning. The teenagers of The Little House in the Woods are sleeping, and I'm enjoying breakfast upstairs in my quiet place.

I'm nursing a head cold that came on fast and furious this week, but its been a good opportunity to slow down a bit. Life gets ridiculously crazy at the end of the school year; for some reason forced rest is always a good reminder for me. I get caught up in the rat race and forget that rest is just as important as activity... maybe even more important.

Summer has finally come (though the waiting seemed so long); and around here it really is all about rest, even if an active rest.

Each year there are five happy things that mark the start of summer:

1. Sitting on the front porch, right before bedtime, and watching the lightening bugs put on a show.

2. Homemade Mint Limeade

3. Popsicles with jokes on the sticks.

4. Swim season. That magical time of year when the Summer People come out to play. Summer People are those other families that go to our pool. Nine months out of the year we don't see each other. It's like we don't even live in the same town. Around Memorial Day we gather again, admiring new babies and how big the kids have grown. Then we find our lounge chair, pull out our summer snacks, and visit contentedly until Labor Day.

5. The Bubba Keg: 52 oz of ice cold goodness.

Back in San Antonio, TX, in the summer of '97, I was heavily pregnant with my oldest. My beverage of choice was water, and it had to be ICE cold. My problem was night time; I would wake up parched, and drinking room-temperature water was assault to my pregnant palette.

If you can imagine, this was a time when insulated bottles were virtually non-existent (actually, they were around...we called them a thermos but they were for HOT drinks, right?) and I had devised all sorts of ways to keep my extra large plastic cup ice cold all night, to no avail. Life was tough back then.

One magnificent day, The Mister came home with the Bubba Keg. While he was filling his tank at the gas station, he saw it in the store window and knew it was the answer to all his my problems. He is still an excellent problem solver to this day; and I love that Bubba Keg about half as much as I love him... which is way more than words can say.

So, summer is in full swing in the Piney Woods, I couldn't be happier its here.

{lifting the Bubba Keg} May your summer be the perfect combination of rest and fun...