Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holly Jolly Flash Mob

The U of M Carlson School of Management was the site for this flash mob.

You remember Kathryn? I wrote about her about a week ago. Her sister, Kristen, also in the People of Praise, is the young lady in the purple shirt who drops the money in the saxophonist's hat and starts the singing of Deck The Halls.

Well done and worth watching as we continue the Christmas season.

It has over 1,800,000 hits on You Tube.

Enough said.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Squishy Home Made Gift

No, we are not into making green food. 

One tradition in our family at Christmas time involves making gifts.  This year my little baker and I collaborated to make play doh for a few of the little kids in our life.

I've had the recipe around for over a year and just needed the time and opportunity to make it.  I got this one from my friend Ann.  Ann is amazing.  She is the mother of four kids (two of whom are red how did she end up with red heads? I'm a little envious.  It's one of life's mysteries.)  She currently maintains two homes, getting one ready to sell.  She has boundless energy.  She makes the best chocolate cake from scratch ever. And she knows how to make play doh.

It's simple to make and really fun for the little ones in your life that are always begging to play with flour and water.

Ann assured me that the play doh from this recipe is good for two months.  We found that one batch makes enough to fill about 1 1/2 of these kind of containers. 
We made three batches, each one using a different color of jello.  I wish the colors were more vibrant.
But this is more about finger squishy fun than my color preferences.

You need these items plus some water to make the play doh. The only foreign one for me is the Alum.  "It's in the spice aisle", Ann said, after I asked what the heck is Alum?
1/2 cup salt
2 cups water
Kool Aid powder (We used a packet of Jello)
2 T. oil (We used Canola)
2 cups flour (We added an extra 1/2 cup to get the right consistency)
2 T. Alum

Boil salt in water in sauce pan.
Remove from heat and add Jello. Stir.
Add oil, flour and alum. (We found out that the order here matters.)
Knead until smooth.

That's it!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


W    O    R    K
Bored and restless, but experienced team desperately seeks employment in the areas of plowing and shoveling. Willing to re-locate if necessary.  Colorado looks promising.  


As I write, Kathryn is heading East on some long stretch of highway journeying towards home. She has just finished college, earned a degree in Journalism and seeks new adventures on the East coast.

I miss her already.

She swept into our life when we needed a "pick me up" and she did it so well. She was really just being herself, Kathryn.  But she brought something unique to us at the perfect time.

My husband and I were in a conversation a couple months ago with someone. She asked us, "What keeps you guys in People of Praise?"  We both gave it some thought and shared our answers.  One thing I said was that I really appreciate the many ways that People of Praise cares for the whole person. From the tiniest, smallest beings to the oldest and most frail adults, we are there - caring for each person. We offer dignity, hope, prayer, practical care, wisdom, financial support, car rides, living spaces, help with education, etc.

I mean, you name it, we try to do care for each life from the earliest stages to the last. We even care for couples as they are trying to conceive and we care for widows and families grieving a lost spouse and father.

When I think about that quality, I look at certain people who actually do it. Kathryn immediately comes to mind.  Next to her engaging conversation ability and work ethic, I will miss her effort to be in relationships with the young, the middle-aged, and the elderly. She has a heart for each person no matter their age. She makes a point of making friends with anyone around. And she goes out of her way bridge the gap of age and bless each person she thinks of and desires to get to know better.  She has blessed my children with gifts, her time, her hugs, her stories, her laughter. She called me one night to ask about her bringing Mary, an elderly woman in community, to our place for dinner. She became a roommate and friend to our neighbor Shellee.  She jumped right into our hub life taking ownership of it and doing her darndest to be there when we were sharing our lives together. And if she couldn't make it, she called ahead with a heads up, always expressing her wish that she could join us.

Did I mention she is 21 years old?

I mean, she kind of defies the usual image of someone that age. She lives as a sister in Christ to anyone.  She has strengthened our branch of the People of Praise with an example of caring for the whole person, a whole life.  And all of this in the midst of holding three jobs as a reporter, managing a normal class load, and being faithful to the regular commitments of our life in People of Praise.

Some day, we'll see her name in a prominent newspaper or magazine and she will have written about something amazing going on in the world.

But, I'll always treasure the little ways she chose to love.

Each of us.  Right where we are at.

Here she is surrounded by friends who love her.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

On The Hunt

I have received exactly 56 Christmas related catalogs in the mail so far. I started saving them and counting in mid-November.  Just a little game for me to play until the big day. The day which as we all know is about ordering stuff from catalogs and spending, spending, spending.  Wait, am I on a soap box? I don't mean to be. Let me get down.

There is a point here.

I paused when flipping through one of the catalogs at this outfit.
I just absolutely love it.

I can give or take the belt. And the shades aren't my style. 

But the rest is really fun. I think its the colors.

Here's my problem. And its really all about the Math. 

I don't love the price. Jacket + Long Sleeve Tee + Scarf = Way Over My Budget. 

In dollars that's 128 + 58 + 45 = 231


The word problem might read something like this:

"Middle class wife and mother of three is on a mission. She wants to buy this outfit or one very near it for 75% less than what it retails for. If it retails for $231, how much is she willing to spend?  How many stores and websites will she need to scour before she either accomplishes her goal or keels over from sheer exhaustion and disgust at the mess she has gotten herself into."

I realize I just created a two-part problem. These are common in my home during homework time, so I am a pro at them.

Let me start with this.

I found a close look alike of the jacket at a second hand store for $23.

A steal.

I'm on my way.

I will keep you updated on my progress.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Frozen Fun

We came prepared for snow, skiing, wet snow pants, snowball fights and making long tracks across the lake.

We arrived to no snow, not one flake- but we had a frozen lake at our disposal. Endless possibilities. And we used it. A lot. We only have three pairs of skates between the five of us so we were not all able to skate at once. Yes, Ben wore mine. Scary, I know.  For the record, they are too big for me and too small for him.

All the girls improved their skating ability and enjoyed it more and more as the weekend wore on.  I impressed everyone with my Michelle Kwan spins. Not really, but they made cool patterns on the ice. 

We also treasure hunted and peered through the ice to all the water had to offer below. Fish, shells, a cinder block, and a 4 inch beetle (crawling underneath the ice so we saw its belly).

Ben invented a game on the ice. We call it "Rock".  We are not so inventive with names. Just games.  It's a combination of curling, shuffle board, bocce ball, and the like.  It involves etching fours squares inside each other and finding 6 large rocks.  At one point I wondered where he found the rocks. The neighbor's landscaping?  Hmmmm. I chose not to ask and just enjoyed the game. We played in teams and just one on one.  We played by full sunlight and bright full moon light. It was a hit.

 We stayed dry which meant we were able to suit up again and again and again and again.

Rocks, Skates, Ice, Good Friends and Good Food.

Oh, and our favorite canine companion.

A perfect combination.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What I Heard This Week

The kids have been father-less and I have been husband-less these last 7 days. Thought I'd capture a bit of our life with him gone. Here's what I heard around the house.

Eldest Daughter:  "Mom, we are having a sister conference so we can decide how to help you out while dad is gone."  Okay, who is the angel raising my kids while I'm sleeping? I mean really, this is for the record books.

Middle Daughter: "Mom, I actually got the right answer".  She has been working on a week long assignment. It teaches a child how to check their work. We always say it, check your work, but here it is in practice. It's genius. And may I say, this child has executed more perseverance through this assignment than I have ever witnessed in my children to date. More importantly, she is learning to find her own mistakes.

Youngest Daughter:  "I hope St. Nick puts Dad in my shoe."  Sorry, hon. He brought you Truffles and Candy Canes.  Maybe next year he needs a bit more notice. 

My Only Niece:  "How old will you be on your birthday?"  Me: "38. I am 37 now."  Niece: "Whoa." 

Joyce Meyer:  "Set your mind and keep it set."   I have been watching her on the telly occasionally as I exercise in the morning. It's a new thing for me to do. Exercise in the morning. I can actually do it. Why or why have I resisted all these years? Its really not that bad.  It has almost become a habit.  So, besides getting up early to exercise what else did I set my mind to this week?  "I will not eat that entire wheel of brie", I promised. "I just won't. By the time you are back from your trip, there will be brie left."  And there is, a wedge. 

Cyndi Lauper:

"Talkin' 'bout
Hey now
Hey now
Iko iko an nay
Jockomo feena ah na nay
Jockomo feena nay"

Got this one off i-Tunes after I heard it on my Laurie Berkner Pandora station. Takes me back to 7th grade at St. Mark's when a couple friends performed it for a lip sync contest.  Bongos are awesome in this one.  Remember every word after all these years.  For the record, I was part of a 4 girl, 4 guy ensemble who lip synced "Lollipop".  That's where I learned to slide my pinky finger on the inside of my cheek and make a cool popping sound. This skill comes in handy when entertaining little ones.

So does my crooked fish lip face.

Not sure where I picked that one up.

Youngest Daughter (again): "Will someone shut me up?"  She's in a cardboard box and needs the flaps closed.  Box became a tunnel, a house, a bed and a slide.

And last but not least, I heard from My Husband who sent a picture of him at Canon Beach with the words "Wish you were here." Then told me on the phone, "Sushi is just not the same without you.  You have to come out here with me next time, in July."

Do you think seven months gives me enough time to pack my bags?

I'm in. I am sooooo in.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


This is the only item I requested on my Christmas list from my husband.
I really want one.  I think it will make everything I cook taste absolutely fabulous. Here's hoping. I am even willing to give up precious real estate in my cupboard to give it a home.

If I don't happen to get it this year, which really is okay, I can continue to borrow my next door neighbor's when I need it. Another perk of hub life.

Anyway, last night I made the following recipe in this awesome, yet heavy, cast iron pot.  My arms got an additional workout to the one they got during my morning Pilates routine.  Yes, I am now exercising in the morning. More on that later.

I got this recipe from my friend Jen and I wish I could credit the original source. Maybe its her, I am just not sure. Sorry, Jen!

I fully anticipated much groaning and lots left in the bowls from my three kids. Lentils just usually aren't our thing. I have rarely cooked them even though I really like them.  Well, I continue to be surprised by my kids. They ate to the bottom of their bowls without one complaint. I actually think it was a "hit".  Don't tell them, but tonight we get to eat the left overs.

Very unlike it was when my mom served lentil hot dish for dinner when I was about 6 years old. Those of us kids who were old enough to eat it literally had to count down with my dad to put each bite in our little resistant mouths. I am sure now the recipe was just fine. We just hadn't acquired the taste for lentils. I mean literally the whole meal was counting down to eat every single bite.  My poor mother. Nothing like slaving over a hot stove and having your dear little children around you gagging on your food.  She's a saint.

Anyway, here's the recipe and it is good.  I doubled it, but kept the garlic and onion to its original amount and it still tasted too garlicy for me.  I also skipped the cheese garnish and served whole grain and white Ciabatta rolls with it. Another big hit.

Lentil Soup

3 strips of bacon (3 oz.) cut into ½ inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into ¼ inch half-moons
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 ½ cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
½ tsp. dried thyme
2 cans (14.5oz. each) reduced sodium chicken broth
1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
coarse salt and ground pepper

1.  In a Dutch oven (or other 5-quart pot with a tight fitting lid), cook bacon over medium-low heat until browned and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat.

2.  Add onion and carrots; cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in tomato paste, and cook 1 minute.

3.  Add lentils, thyme, broth, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer.  Cover; cook until lentils are tender, 30 to 45 minutes.

4.  Stir in vinegar, 1 tsp salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper.  Serve immediately.  Garnish with parmesan cheese.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A New Wreath

Yesterday I was asked about our Christmas decorating tradition and I said that we choose to put up our tree on December 24. It is really quite a fun tradition and a rich one that includes delicious omelets, listening to Lessons and Carols live from King's College in Cambridge, opening gifts, and wonderful company.

She asked, "So what do you do the other 23 days of December?"  I said, "We do Advent."

This year I did what I should have done years ago and put together a new advent wreath and candles.

We were given a wreath on our wedding day and it is the kind that only holds those tiny tall taper candles, and this one barely held even those in place. They constantly broke in half, never lasted for the season of Advent, and just plain didn't look good.  I didn't care much for the form of the wreath itself.

In the spirit of frugality and beauty I made a change. I shopped for tall glass holders for candle inserts that would last year after year. I found some at St. Pat's Guild for a great price.  To ensure that I could use the candles for more seasons throughout the year, I bought clear holders and white candles.  Michael's supplied the ribbon and the rest just fell into place. I wanted to use real greenery and have that "Christmas tree" aroma at our table. I stopped at a tree sale by the side of the rode expecting to shell out a few bucks for garland. When I told the lady what I intended to use it for, she pointed to some branches on the ground freshly cut from the top of a tree. I could take them at no cost.  I was giddy. They were just what I wanted and free.

The girls and I took a few minutes this morning to construct the wreath and decorate the candles. We choose a simple design.  Tape seemed to be our only option for connecting the ribbon, but we didn't want it to show. Double sided tape would have worked beautifully, but ours has been hiding out in some dark corner of a closet for months now.  So, I thought of using sewing pins instead. My daughter rummaged through the Altoids box of pins I have and found some to match the ribbon.  Good call.

Now we have a more functional, longer lasting, and dare I say, a bit more classy Advent wreath.

Yes, we do Advent these days. And it is fun!