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Friday, February 27, 2009

Spring Clean-EEK!

I feel really guilty right now. After organizing "my area" tonight -no small feat- and hauling several boxes of unwanted materials out, I was reminded of several things. First off, I have WAY too much stuff. Secondly, I am blessed to have too much crap. Thirdly, I don't need more crap. And finally, there are lots of people who wished they had my burden of too much crap. Therefore, I feel like a fiscally irresponsible, stuff-hording gremlin.

How many of you have already thought about how your parents or grandparents made it through the Great Depression? I can't get the image of my young grandfather taking care of the chickens they raised so they could have meat for dinner. He HATES chicken now. I've thought about chickens as a potential necessity with the ecomony going the way it is, but I already don't care much for them. My dad's mom raised rabbits and her mother disguised them as chicken legs for supper. For years Grandma didn't catch on that her pets hadn't just run away...they were on the table. Rabbits may be an option, but vegetable gardening is more in my league. I imagine raising squash, tomatoes, herbs, lettuce and happily scraping by through the vegetables of my labor. Ba-dum-bum.

Not that the recession will really reduce us to raising rabbits, er -chickens, I mean- or having to garden for consumption. But gardening in a somewhat self-sustaining way seems responsible to me. It takes a bit of money to get started, but once you do you reap so many benefits and often don't have to go back to the nursery for anything. Maybe I'm going a bit overboard, or perhaps I'm just a little distracted from my main point. Yep, I'm sure of the latter.

My main point is being responsible. It was such a sobering experience going through my things and putting them in the keep, trash, giveaway piles that I had to crack a beer. I often spend money on so many extras like a kid at a circus, wowed by the veneer, the bright, shiny colors, but not seeing in reality it's junk. I don't need junk. YOU don't need junk. But it's hard not to see stuff for what it is. And often it isn't "junk" -it's items of value that I think I truly need. You know, if every year I went through all of my things I would realize that I still have plenty of treasures, projects and "special stuff" and I don't need one more thing.

So I'm feeling a combination of anticipation of financial strain, plus overindulgance and irresponsiblity of buying/accumulating too much stuff. It's as if I've been gorging myself for years and I FINALLY look in the mirror and see what I've become. Scary, very scary.

Thankfully Brian's on a minimalist kick, too, though I don't feel like I'm simply trying to get rid of stuff but trying to utilize what I do have. I won't be turning around and replacing things I'm giving away a few months down the road because I realized, "Man, I actually NEEDED that."

It's just shocking, that's all. I hope that I act responsibly as I endeavor to part with so many unncecessary things. Thank you, Lord, for giving us so much and help me learn to be accountable with it. I definitely need Your help.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Amazing Fortress of Georgetown

This playscape next to the Georgetown Rec Center is the bomb. I wish I was three feet tall so I could run throughout it without getting my head lobbed off by low beams. But I was satisfied watching all the wee ones enjoy it, instead.
We met our fabulous friends, Katie, Olivia and Madison at the park for our first experience there. Wilder was only interested in piling wood chips on the equipment, but O and Maddy had a great time climbing all over!

We love our friends! Thank you for such a fun play date, your amazing peanut butter cookies and a great introduction to more local wonders!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bookaholics Anonymous

Our family is addicted to books and we both brought plenty of baggage (or boxes, rather) to our marriage. Brian recently told me that he is determined to be a bookaholic no more. We will still remain bibliophiles but -deep breath- relinquish our unhealthy hoarding of books.

Wilder succeed in, yet again, emptying one of my bookshelves yesterday so this morning I took matter into my own hands. It was a sign -I needed to start purging. This prayer I said aloud as I put Wilder in his crib this morning, "Now I lay you down to nap/as I unload a lot of crap...."

I emptied four books shelves. Count 'em folks: FOUR. I'm thoroughly impressed seeing as how some of these "treasures" I couldn't live without were from junior high that I haven't touched since (except to pack and unpack them as we moved a dozen times since then.) Guess what I'm going to do now? I'm planning a book party. I'll have friends come over and do a book exchange, the books we have leftover we'll donate to soldiers or a charity. I can't wait to send out the evites and pick the day! Who knew saying goodbye to "dear friends" (*sniff*) could be so rewarding!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Book Ends

It's the 22nd and I've read 4 books and 1199 pages. I think that accomplishes this month's goal, but I tell ya, it's hard to stop. Not that I need to, but what happens next? January: 100 miles a month, February: A Book a Week or 1,000 pages total, March: ?

Brian comes home mid-month, so a large part of me thinks I can or should take a break from goals. But that's no fun... I know for a fact that the first several weeks will be a difficult transition for both of us. In light of that, I think it a capital idea to keep myself busy -or occasionally occupied- on a goal of mine. So thinking along those lines, what shall I do?

Ah-HA! I shall sew. My goal will be to make p.j. bottoms for Wilder, skirts for my nieces, a quilt (mine aren't fancy, so that's no big deal) and a dress for me. These are things I've been wanting to do for quite awhile, but lacked the gumption to get crackin' on. I'm scared stiff of sewing with a pattern. It's like using my free time to do long division. Or -gasp!- organize something. I shudder at the thought. So I'm conquering it -this fear of patterns. Heck, I thought I couldn't make truffles (see post below) and look at me now!

Therefore, in March I shall sew. Terrific!

Now for the book reports. I won't make these too in depth, but say just what I would if a friend asked what I thought of each work.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Known as "The Great American Novel" The Great Gatsby offers much more delight and thought provocation than I ever anticipated. I expected something dry, stodgy, something that spent far too much time talking about cars or women's lace. Not knowing what the book was even about before I picked it up (shocking, me an English major not knowing diddly about this book,) I comfortably fell into Fitzgerald's words and world as one would a favorite chair. Scandal, long-lost love, criminal activities, greed, idealism, selfishness. Basically, New York in the '20s :) It's an easy read that will truly enrich your life, so pick it up and enjoy.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
The longest of her short stories (a touch over 200 pages in my edition,) Northanger Abbey follows the creation of a heroine. The main character, Catherine, transforms from an naive teenager to a sensible judge of character and circumstances as she holidays in Bath. It is quite hilarious, heartbreaking, infuriating and revealing of human character. As with all of Austen's works, you delight in the flirtations of her characters and ache for their happiness. There are some darker elements in this story than in others of her's I've read, mainly based on location (Northanger Abbey itself) and what the heroine romantically imagines has happened there. Another MUST on your to-read list.

A Country Called Home by Kim Barnes
Set between 1960 through the mid-70's in the small Idaho town of Fife, folks search for personal freedom and happiness and often terribly miss the mark. Heartbreak, loneliness and unfulfilled dreams swirl as gently and steadily though this story as the river it's characters center their lives around. It's a retreat to a quieter place, though not an escape from life. I'd recommend it if you like the idea of living off the land -or attempting to- and don't mind hearing about sad times in other people's lives.

The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss
Hands down favorite read of the month and a book I'd recommend to anyone! It tells of 15 years after the revolution as the Bank of the United States opens and folks who live out west in a bartering system have to cope when real money comes into play. Hysterically witty banter and clever characters abound with lots of action as you taste history. You go through the entire range of human emotions as you read this work, but on the whole you continue to root for your characters through their sufferings and jump for joy at their triumphs. Espionage, duels to the eye (instead of death, the loser ends up one eye short,) whiskey, stocks and bonds, drunkards, reformers, a clever woman with a will of iron, and stinky men in deer skins. What more could you ask for?

These have been my companions this past month and it has been a joy spending so much time reading that I would have spent piddling away. Like exercise from January's goal, I look forward to continue reading on a regular basis.

Life's A Tray of Truffles

I am shocked at how easy these sinful treats are. Not long ago I thought there was something mystical and complex about making truffles and I was in awe of those women I heard speaking of whipping them up during the holidays. Then my dear friend, Katie, introduced me to the simple and delicious world of truffle making, showing me that I, too, could become one of those magical chocolate makers.
The recipe I typically use is as follows (and I always eyeball it, so unfortunately they are never exactly the same)

1 bag + 1/2 c chocolate chips (either milk, dark or semi-sweet, depending on what you feel like)
1/4 c - 1/2 c butter
3/4 c heavy whipping cream
2 tsp. Rum, Irish Cream, Bourbon, or whatever you feel like (optional)

You melt down the chocolate chips in a double boiler, careful not to scorch the chocolate, add the whipping cream and butter, mixing constantly. Lastly add your flavoring, if desired.

Pour in a pyrex dish or pan with ample surface area. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until chilled. Spoon 1 tsp. sized balls, form with hands, and place on parchment paper.

Roll in toasted coconut, crushed toasted nuts, cocoa powder, or whatever suits you. I'm a huge fan of the toasted coconut and the nuts for their added texture.

These come out super creamy and truly ought to be illegal. But now you can make criminally delicious truffles and join the ranks of gourmet ( the "t" is not silent) cooks like me.

Simply naughty!

A Man of Many Hats

Not long ago it was all I could do to keep a hat on this little dude. Now it's all he ever wears. This hat, in particular, wouldn't stay on his head unless he was thoroughly mittened while we chugged along in the stroller. I am SO glad he has smoothly transitioned into a love of hats.

Wileyman, Wileyman, climbs whatever windows he can. (To the tune of the old Spiderman theme song.)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Parlez-vous, too?

I have always felt strongly about learning a second language, yet have an extremely poor command of French despite two years in high school and two in college -and a brief study abroad excursion in Dijon (yes, the mustard place.)

I ran across this site while attempting to find a good resource for inspiring me to polish up my skills and truly learn a language. The site offers a wealth of information and links to help anyone learn a plethora of foreign languages. Here's the "French" page.

Enjoy and adieu!

Friday, February 20, 2009

I Forget

Sometimes our plans go awry. We lose our jobs, we are forced to change, we feel we've reached a stalemate, and, man, it hurts. Yet, it's times like these when I get a little nudge inside where God says, "Remember?" and I am brought to my knees in thankfulness, for this is another opportunity for God to show Himself faithful and all-loving once again.

Countless times He has been out-of-this-world good to me. And when I think about all the time I spent worrying over each of those "disasters" I thump myself on the head for wasting my energy and thoughts on something so useless. His love and faithfulness know no bounds and I can't wait to see how He's going to bless us as we work towards His next step.

Thank the Lord I'm not God. And thank God, we have the Lord.

  Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Summer and winter and spring-time and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

"Great is Thy Faithfulness" words by Thomas Chisholm

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Victory Is Mine!

I am a rock star, plain and simple. This morning I victoriously attacked and conquered two projects that seemed completely beyond my individual capability and now I'm about to have a hot cup of tea and slice of apple pie to celebrate!
The hedge in the front of our house had one bush croak. A month ago I pulled scraggly branches of the dead plant out and laid them unceremoniously behind the other shrubs, leaving a lovely bald spot. Today, yes, today I went to Walmart for some gardening supplies and our wonderful local nursery, McIntire's, and got another boxwood bush (I didn't even know the name of it, so that's another new thing learned!) Granted, and oddly enough, there are two different types of bushes in our front hedge. One is boxwood, but unfortunately the ones on either side of the hole were not. Oh well! It's a complete reflection of my personality, and I planted it anyway. AND had my first close encounter with a snake as I dug the hole. It was a little guy, so no big deal.
Grow baby, grow!
I churned the dirt around the larger front tree and added compost. I will research what I should plant there and will soon have it filled with lush greenery and flowers.
The smaller tree I placed cypress mulch around to cover up the gross looking, bald dirt that had formed into clay.
An anniversary gift from my dear Anissa, I was set with a new pair of gardeners gloves and this fabulous gardener's tool tote! I planted a pumpkin seedling and a sprig of mint I had transplanted from the one on my kitchen sill.
In September I beautified the front walk, adding fuchsia skullcap (left row), a rosemary bush, butterfly vine and chrysanthemum then covered the dirt with cypress mulch. I added the filigree border last week and love how it clearly divides the walk from the yard. Now the trick-or-treaters won't trample the flowers like last time.

My greatest and most satisfying accomplishment. This section of our fence fell down after some heavy winds. After examining it I figured it was a two person job and I should either wait for Brian to come home or have it fixed. After consulting him, we decided that as long as it didn't cause problems we'd wait till he got home to repair it. Yesterday as I was out gardening in the morning, Savannah realized (after over a week with it down) she could get out of the back yard. Duh. Last night when the neighbor brought her back (she was hanging out with them in their garage, "Hey, whatcha doin? Can I come over and play? Got a ball??") I realized action must be taken.
Armed with a hammer and Wilder safely sleeping away, I knocked out several nails to reuse, repositioned the section, hammered away and repaired that fence! One of my prouder moments, let me tell you.
Proof. I have a green thumb. And a hammer and some growing biceps. There are times I feel like I actually live in my little dream cottage in the woods where we live by the sweat of our brow and the fruits of our labor. This was one of those times. Like I said at the beginning, now it's time for a celebration. Bring on the tea and pie!

Gosh, I'm good.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

All-American Anniversary

The past few days have been wet and dreary, perfect weather to cuddle up and slurp big bowls of soup. Today was different. First of all, it is Brian and my fourth anniversary. That definitely alters the general outlook of the day. Secondly, you could tell it promised to be a beautifully sweet day by looking out the window.

A touch after 8am Wilder, Savannah and I strolled down our driveway and drank in the fresh, wet smell of morning and took a long tour of the neighborhood. Birds singing, sun shining, you could even sense the grass growing and the tree buds pushing their way out with new life. What a marvelous day to be alive! Catching the exhaust from cars on their way to work as I walked by the busier roads I was transported back to France where I studied a mere 5 weeks (walking everywhere in a city, exhaust is immediately associated with France in my mind.) In several tenths of a mile I determined to somehow make money, save it and focus on relearning French so I could take a trip in six months and enjoy the rich culture of The Continent. In reflection a touch later I figured it would be much more realistic to learn Spanish since we're a heck of a lot closer to a fun destination spot. But I don't know any Spanish. Thought abandoned and continuing to enjoy this delicious morning.

I sliced apples for pies I would later make today, put Wilder down for a nap, readied myself for my excursion and waited for MiMa (Betty) to arrive to have playtime with Wilder while I did the obvious: go fire off my pistol. Brian gave me a 9mm semi-automatic for a wedding present. That and a pair of platinum and diamond earrings. (Yes, I married a Texan.) Therefore it was only appropriate that I pull on my tightest jeans and my cowboy boots, gather my ammo, ear protection and weapon and head out to the country to blast holes in a paper target.

I must be honest, I had only gone shooting perhaps 4 times in my life. No, make that three. Today was the fourth. And I had never shot unaccompanied, so I was sweating this endeavor. I was sure to look like a silly girl who couldn't shoot worth a nickle and break some rule or another at the range. And, really, how many women do you see shooting alone -and doesn't everyone keep staring at them expecting them to either be some wonder shot or an idiot? Yes, even I held that presumption and it made me nervous to try. What got me out the door and loaded in the car with my weapon (which wasn't loaded, Brian, fyi) was that I had told my husband (although jesting) that I was going to celebrate our anniversary in this way and he responded very enthusiastically. I couldn't back down now...

I had an audition at 4pm so I made sure I had plenty of time to drive out, shoot, come back and change, then head into Austin. 30 minutes into my 50 minute drive to the range I realized that I forgot my range card which would allow me to shoot. I turned around, headed home and decided up until the last three minutes before arriving at the house that I would just go get some gardening supplies and maybe enjoy a quiet cup of tea so I wouldn't be late for the audition, now that I fumble my plans. Yet I could go to the nursery for plants with Wilder or Walmart for gardening tools. I couldn't go shooting on the range with him, that much was certain. So, I resolved to continue as planned; grabbed my card, changed my clothes into what I'd wear for the audition (thankfully the wardrobe was "casual" so I wasn't in business attire, though that would have been a hoot) and headed back to the sticks.

The perfect day for shooting. Crystal blue sky with precious dots of clouds, an easy 80 degrees with a light breeze and only two other folks shooting at the pistol range. Paying my $10 I told the slightly crotchety man behind the counter, "It's my anniversary today and my husband gave me my pistol for a wedding present -he's deployed right now- and I thought it a perfect idea to go shooting today." He agreed and wished him a safe return. Yeah, too much information for that grandpa man, but I figured my enthusiasm couldn't hurt.

I ended up shooting off about 150 rounds, much to my surprise. But even better -Brian called as I had two more clips to finish off. We chatted for awhile and he said, "Don't let me keep you if you need to shoot some more. You can just set the phone down and then pick it up when you're done. Actually, it'd be kind of fun!" Really?! I was so excited, I must have been blushing. I was in the exact stall we shot in when we came to Eagle Point Shooting Range over Brian's midtour leave. Having him on the phone, reminding me of various safety precautions to take and helping me solve a problem I kept having with my weapon -it was like he was standing beside me. Also, at first I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, but as I went through the magazines I noticed my mark hitting more on the red, less on the white of the target. And, perhaps the funniest thing, every time I fired I imagined an intruder walking into our house and all I could think of was, "Don't you hurt my family!!" I deduced that it was the steadiness of will and holding my arm firmly in place that increased my accuracy. Girls, it was a blast.

With Brian still on the phone, I packed up the gear, got in the car and headed back into civilization and down into Austin for my audition. My darling and I got to talk for 1 hr and 37 minutes. It was heavenly. I just love that man, and I love us as a couple, and a family -oh, love, love, love, there's just so much it's coming out me ears -and that makes me overjoyed.

The audition went well and soon I was headed back home. I constructed the pies and made BBQ chicken for dinner. MiMa arrived back with Wilder and Savannah after an thoroughly adventurous trek around the neighborhood and we chatted as she wrangled my son while I continued cooking. Soon after she left, Anissa and Ray (who recently returned from Iraq, as well) came over to join me for a very American meal. Guys, we should have had cornbread! Next time. So here's how I figured I had an All-American Anniversary:

-Apple Pie (the pursuit of happiness -AND being married to the best man on the planet)
-Husband's a deployed soldier (the pursuit of freedom)
-The right to bear arms (or wear sleeves, whichever suits you)and shoot them in appropriate and designated areas
-Enjoying the freedom to pursue a career in what I love (acting) and (here's the capitalism) hoping I get a part so we can put some more into savings

I know, you may be wondering why I haven't put baseball or football on the list. Well, it just didn't happen today. Baseball hasn't started yet, but we'll be there this season, don't worry. Other than that, it has been a very American day and a wonderful Anniversary. I look forward to spending all the rest of them WITH my marvelous man. Happy Anniversary, Honey. Here's to the next 44 years!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

How to Wear a Napkin

Happy Valentine's Day!

Roses from my long-distance lover. Thank you, Brian!

Wilder's Valentine Poem
I'm just a bit small for my own Valentine,
But, Dad, in the future I hope that I find
A lady like Mom and a love that is true,
And that I'll be as great of a guy as you.

To My Love
The arms that feel like home
will always be yours
The heart I hide and rest in
beat within your chest
The eyes that I drink in
the smile I desire to devour
All held in your face.
Our love will always be
my greatest delight.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Yardplay in Action

Fireside Chat With Wilder

Talking & Dangerous


There are a few overgrown dog dug holes in our yard that Wilder thinks make the best spots in the world.
He pulled his dump truck into the larger one and enjoyed yanking out grass and conversing with Savannah on the finer points of ball playing.

And the bungee cord scarf :)


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