Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Great Room Redo

The time has come for the great room redo. This room has been Duncan's for 10 years, and in just a few weeks (she says optimistically), it will be our office. I spent a year preparing the former upstairs playroom into his new bedroom. (It's not fancy; it just took me that long to paint and clean.)

The dark blue walls are the first thing to go. This is paintable wallpaper, courtesy of the former owners. I'm going with the same light bluish/aqua color that Laurel used for her room, partly because there is a full can left but also because I love the color.

These built-in cabinets have been fantastic for storing all of Duncan's games, toys, puzzles, and assorted junk, as well as serving as a hiding place for many children over the years. A new coat of paint and some incredibly cute fabric panels will make this our new office storage center. Also, we'll have to find that one door that we took off at some point for reasons that made sense then, and I'll trade in the airplane and fire engine hardware for some new cabinet knobs. That's very exciting. I love hardware.

This dresser... hmmm. We are actually contemplating giving it a paint job and new knobs and relocating it to our bedroom. We really could use the storage, plus it's so very heavy. Do we really want to carry it down to the basement for our kids to have when they need junky furniture for their apartments? It has potential.

Speaking of potential, this desk! Randy brought three of these lab tables home a long time ago when his department remodeled. They have been fantastic for the kids, but this is going to become my sewing table. I'm toying with lots of ideas for painting it.

My little chair. My poor, poor little chair. My grandparents gave this to me when I was 4. We carried it all the way from their home in Florida to ours in New York one vacation. It has never been repainted.

But guess what? It's time has come. I am even going to be bold and remove the drumstick (above) that has been lovingly rubber-banded onto the back of it. Snip.

This black chair. I'm not really sure what to do with it. My parents bought these and somehow we ended up with them. I don't like spinning chairs, and the black isn't going to go with the room decor. This may get a new cover, or it might get carried up to Duncan's room.

The window! I love the view out this window—a perfect Smoky Mountain scene. I'm mulling over window treatments.

And now, the work begins. I have only a few small piles of odds and ends to take to Duncan's room, and Randy is disassembling the extra twin bed and carrying it down to the basement. And the painting will begin! I'm hoping I can keep feeling motivated so that this is all done in a few weeks. Yep.

Christmas Cards!

I ordered my cards today and knocked one thing off my checklist!
Customize your Christmas cards this season at
View the entire collection of cards.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Peace and Quiet

Aah. I need these days of rest and relaxation. These past few months have been a crazy combination of emotional stress and too many happenings. I can handle the happenings, but the emotional stuff is strangling.

The past four days have been blissfully easy. I would like my life to always be like this. Jesse is home from college, and he is so happy for every single meal I fix. "This is the best _____ I have ever had!" Cooking for starving college students is terribly rewarding. I've baked 3 pies, one cheesecake, and two batches of cookies, besides all the meals that he's requested. He's so easy to spoil.

Duncan has taken to playing chess lately. He'll play by himself if neither his Dad nor Jesse are available to play. I'm not exactly sure how that works, but he has some method going on. Randy is out for a hike. Jesse's shopping at Goodwill. Laurel is being a good girl and getting all her work done for classes on Monday. My laptop is at the Apple store getting fixed, so I can't do lesson plans. I'm not sure I would even if I could.

My only goal for today is to clean our bedroom. It's nearly 4 p.m. and I haven't even begun, but who really cares?

My parents, who live just a minute down the road from us, left to go to Illinois today. My Uncle Max—my mother's older brother— had three small strokes and then surgery to remove a bowel obstruction, and he is not recovering well from his surgery. They have gone to stay as long as they are needed. A week? A month? We don't know. My brothers and I are all waiting, suspended in that strange place of knowing we are going to lose someone we love very soon.

It is hard for me to have my parents gone. I miss them, and I worry about the effect of all this travel on them. My father, who is nearly 87, has made the 9-hour trip five times in the past 10 days. It is hard, so hard, to watch my parents age.

The cat is snoring on the couch. The dog growls in her sleep now and then. The back door slams shut. Three leaves flutter to the ground, two red and one yellow.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Front Porch Decor

Each and every year—that's 18 years of parenthood—after Halloween, Randy and I boldly declare:

"THIS YEAR we are going to throw the pumpkins away before they rot!"

There's always next year.

And I must say, we should start carving our pumpkins in September so that they develop this amazingly creepy look by Halloween.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Serving Week

Last week was what we think of as service week in our American Heritage Girls troop. For the past few weeks girls had been collecting items for Operation Christmas Child, and we had a packing party on Thursday.

We had over 50 girls come for the party, which included learning more about some of the countries that OCC serves, coloring pictures and writing letters for the boxes. Our middle and high schoolers helped direct the younger girls in all the activities. They are awesome!

We packed 21 boxes and had lots of items leftover to donate to local program for homeless families.

On Friday our troop, 3 other area troops, and our brother Cub Scout pack/Boy Scout troop participated for the 5th year in the Knoxville Veterans Day parade.

There is just nothing like paying tribute to our veterans in this way. It never fails to bring tears to my eyes, both in complete gratefulness for the these men and women, and also in joy for these girls we are leading.

On Saturday several of us volunteered for Compassion International at the Rock and Worship Roadshow. Our job was to either man the sponsor table or hand out packets throughout the audience of children who need sponsored. I love Compassion International—we have sponsored a girl from Rwanda for about 5 years, and our AHG troop sponsors a girl from Peru— and was excited to get to serve in this way. It was a big plus that we got to hear awesome music while we manned the table!

Are you looking for ideas for encouraging your kids to serve? Check out my article on Making Community Service Part of Your Homeschool on The Homeschool Classroom. I have loads of links and ideas there!

Monday, November 14, 2011

On the Menu (with Chicken and Cheese Sandwich recipe)

Right now I'm roasted a big batch of chicken, enough for probably 5 meals. Yesterday I prepared another 5-6 servings of tomato sauce. I'm ready now for those "I have no idea what we are having for dinner" nights as well as some planned meals.

Here is what we are having this week:

Spicy Red Curry Chicken
Jerk Chicken Nachos and Black Bean Soup
Roast Beef in the crock pot (beef, packet of au jus, packet of onion soup mix, can of broth, carrots, potatoes)
Baked Potato Soup
Chicken Tortilla Soup

Last week at our co-op I needed to make a grocery list and menu, and my friends started spouting off ideas. This one from my friend Sarah is absolutely amazing, which isn't surprising since she is a fabulous cook. This will go into our favorites list:

Pecan Chicken and Cheese Sandwiches

1 loaf of French bread

1/2- 1 stick butter

1 cooked and shredded chicken breast

¾ lb cheddar or Colby

pecans, roasted with butter and brown sugar

mushrooms (sauté)

4-6 bacon slices (cook)

Cut bread in half lengthwise. Butter both sides of the loaf and bake at 350 for 5-10 minutes. Layer with above (I left the mushrooms off half for the kids), put halves together, wrap in foil and bake 350 until cheese melts. Take off foil and slice into sandwich servings. (We think this would be perfect with a subtle honey-mustard sauce spread on before the toppings are added.) Delicious and really easy, especially if you have chicken already cooked and shredded!

Linked up with Menu Plan Monday

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pie in the Face

This is just one of the hundreds of reasons that I love my husband.

Last night at the pack meeting, he let 20 Cub Scouts throw whipped cream pies in his face. Of course, 6-10 year old boys don't just throw: they smear, rub, and wallop. He had a pie down his back and two down his front.
And he smiled the whole time.

You know what else he did? As is well known in the scouting circle, it is always the Cubmaster/Scoutmaster's kid who doesn't have time to work on badges at home, or, in this case, who doesn't sell enough popcorn to get to throw a pie. So this time Randy bought extra popcorn so that Duncan could have the privilege of pie smearing.

I love this man.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Miscellany

* What an exhilarating morning. Randy and I just got back from a gorgeous morning run on the new section of the Greenway that spans our city. One of the first things we fell in love with when we moved to this area was the Greenway, and now it has been extended to the subdivision across the street from us. The newest section was just finished this past week, and we are so excited! We even ran up the hideous ramp that leads to the pretty red pedestrian bridge.

* It's weird that I am excited about running. Until 18 months ago, I despised running. And speaking of that, Randy and I signed up for a 5K on Saturday. It's my 4th one!

* In the past couple of weeks, I have started to feel like myself again. This past year has been filled with such emotional turmoil and stress, with one thing happening right on top of another. But really, in the whole scheme of things, I have an amazing life. I am choosing to embrace that rather than dwell on the aggravations.

* We only have 1 week left of our Tuesday performing arts co-op and 3 weeks left of our big Monday co-op until we break for Thanksgiving and Christmas! The weather is so gorgeous right now that it seems impossible that we'll be donning sweaters and coats soon. I did buy some fuzzy boots yesterday in anticipation.

* Speaking of anticipation, I anticipate getting teary-eyed this evening as my wonderful friend Caroline and her family celebrate their son's Eagle Scout achievement. Caroline and I have been through a dozen years of scouting together, including starting our own American Heritage Girls troop eight years ago. Moments like this go into a treasure box of memories, and I'm so happy they have this perfect fall day to celebrate.

* I must get off now to finish tomorrow's lesson plans and make some food for the reception this evening. Speaking of food, we had dinner at a Japanese grill last night in the name of education. Seriously, you can't study Japan without the whole grill experience, right? I am wondering if 10 a.m. is too early to eat leftovers....

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Soup, Pumpkins, Village

It's our favorite event of the year.…

With all things autumn—beautiful leaves, apples and caramels, candy corn, a fire in the fire pit, chilly air…

crocks and pots full of warm soup

(and this year, even a pumpkin full of soup)

And a whole bunch of incredible friends that make up our village. It's an evening of warmth beyond a bowl of soup and a fellowship beyond a loaf of bread, a tradition that will carry all of our children into adulthood, a childhood of memories of pumpkins, soup, and village.