Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

Woke up to another 3 inches. Figured it was time to get some snow pics up.


I don’t believe too much in New Year’s resolutions, per se, because I don’t think you need to wait for a new year or even a particular day to resolve to do something. However, I certainly do believe in resolutions. Remember Project ESCR? Let’s get down to it.

Exercise. Sort. Create. Read. I am least excited about the S (Sort) part, so let’s talk about that one and get it over with.

We move a lot. And, as a result, we are almost always getting ready to move (packing) or recovering from a move (unpacking). When we get to a new place we try to unpack everything and get it into place as quickly as possible so as to enjoy a “normal” life in our current home as long as possible. Inevitably, though, we get to a point where everything we absolutely need is out of boxes and in place, yet there are still x number of boxes that remain unpacked. Motivation to continue unpacking goes right out the window. At our last home, in Germany, we had a whole storage room (the infamous Room Seven) filled with unpacked boxes. I kept meaning to unpack these boxes and sort through them, but due to our circumstances there, I never got around to it. These boxes are now compounded with additional unpacked boxes here in Kansas and a whole slew of unpacked boxes from Washington that were in storage while we lived in Germany.

It’s all here taking up valuable space. I’m talking not just about physical space in our home, but also about EMOTIONAL space. Having the boxes sitting in our storage room and garage here in Kansas makes me antsy because I don’t know exactly what’s in them. I know I don’t need everything in them, so I have to go through (i.e. SORT) them, to find the few things I would like to keep from each box. I am looking forward to getting rid of the things that I DON’T NEED. Someone else could make great use of these things, so to have them sitting around in my house, unused, is selfish and silly.

So there will be SORTING. I am committing to 4 hours a week. That is one hour a day for 4 days out of 5. The 5th day will be the processing day: Goodwill, Salvation Army, women’s shelters, here I come. Sorting, like exercise, is something that takes an enormous amount of willpower to get going, but once you’re in it, it feels great. And the cumulative effects are awesome.

I’ll begin today.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

...CHRISTMAS OUTFITS! Somehow we managed to take not one single picture of Madelyn in her adorable little Christmas dress, so you will have to settle for a Christmas sweater (with matching head gear).

The dogs were also quite tolerant of their Christmas head gear.

Jillson in her Christmas dress and boots. For all you other children of my era, yes, those are scrunched suede "leather" boots with bows on the side. Long live the 80s!

Jillson's dramatic debut in our church's pageant. (Sorry about the out of focus pictures.) For some reason the angels in our pageant carry "wands" i.e. twinkling stars on the end of sticks, which are just a disaster waiting to happen. One little angel kept eating her star, another kept hitting the bigger angels behind her with it, etc. My little angel decided to see if the skinny end of the stick would fit up her nostril. It did. And in the other nostril, too.

Christmas morning left Jills standing in awe in front of the filled stockings. Santa came and filled them with wondrous things like sparkly chapstick, nail polish, and sun glasses. And, of course, the ubiquitous Christmas Cheetos.

Kansas got a good dumping of snow on Christmas Eve, which meant we woke up to a truly white Christmas.

Santa left a present under the tree for each of the girls (the rest are from family and friends).

A favorite stocking stuffer...

A favorite with the one-year-old set. Dance along with Barney. This was a hand me down toy from friends of ours here in Kansas. We thought Jillson would love it (she does) but we didn't predict how much Maddie would enjoy it. She does dance along.

A third installment of photos to come later.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

And May All Your Christmases Be...

...WHITE! We are featuring perfectly seasonal snow. Let me see if I can get some Christmas highlights up here.

Here's the picture from our Christmas Card:

"Starter Snow" from early December:

Making sugar cookies from scratch. Jillson's first experience using cookie cutters on something other than play dough. Also her first time sprinkling on the colored sugar. She loved making them. She did not like eating them.

Christmas card assembly area.

Wouldn't be Christmas without a seasonal beer sampler.

Kiki brought a project for Jillson, and it went off famously. We made suet cakes out of peanut butter, crisco, birdseed, raisins, and corn meal, and hung them in suet baskets in the backyard. We've been enjoying watching purple finches, juncos, and cardinals ever since. I didn't realize we had such a great bird-watching house. Thanks, Keeks!

Last minute ornament making:

More pictures soon to come...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snippets #2 and #3

On the way home from preschool today Jillson announced that she wants Santa to bring her a purple stethoscope. (Great. We are done with our Christmas shopping and let me just say that there is not a stethoscope of any kind, purple or otherwise, in our stash.) She then asked me if I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up, and I said that sounded like a nice idea. I asked her if she, too, would like to be a doctor, and she said, “Oh no. I want to be a sick person when I grow up.”

While watching Sesame Street
Jillson: Mommy, I think it's time to start cooking Christmas dinner.
Me: Well, it's still a bit early. Let's wait until Meme is here and it is Christmas. We can all cook together then.
J: Mooooooom. You have to say Kiki, too. You have to say "when Meme and Kiki are here." You keep saying "Meme," but Kiki is coming, too. You have to say "Meme AND Kiki."
Me: Okay. We will make Christmas dinner together when Meme and Kiki are here.
J: Right. [Pause.] But Kiki doesn't cook.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cocktail of the Month -- Meet the Vellini

Last month I re-instated a Gutsy Family tradition, the Cocktail of the Month. This involves choosing some sort of yummy adult beverage recipe, hunting down the ingredients (preferably for under $30 per month), and enjoying a special drink now and then with dinner or just because.

It helps that I have a husband who likes chick drinks.

Last month we had caramel appletinis, thanks to a recipe my friend Holly somehow snagged from the Blue Olive in Tacoma.

This month, we are featuring vellinis. What is a vellini? It is a vanilla bellini. What is a bellini? It is a marvelous cocktail involving champagne and fresh peach puree. I love a bellini, but I was looking for something slightly different and not in the mood for peaches, which are not in season anyway.

1/2 oz vanilla vodka
1/2 oz strawberry liqueur
champagne or sparkling wine, chilled

Pour vodka and liqueur into a chilled champagne flute. Top with chilled champagne.

Bliss out.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Memory Advent

As you all know, I loooooove lists, schedules, calendars, and plans of all kinds. Therefore, any season that not only is filled with holiday cheer and goodwill but also is centered around countdowns and calendars is right up my alley.

We have a number of advent calendars going--a traditional one my Mom gave to the girls, a small religious one from Jillson's Sunday School, and a "paper chain" one that benefits Nets for Life, a program which raises money to buy mosquito netting for families in sub-Sahara Africa who are at risk for malaria.

And then there's mine. I made this little 4x6 album to use as an advent calendar. I pulled 24 pictures from Christmases past, some patterned paper that makes me happy, and went at it. I adhered number stickers to the outside of the pockets where the photos are for each day in advent (fulfilling the "calendar" part).

Then I made plain, white cardstock inserts with cute paper tabs (about 2 minutes to produce). These go behind the patterned paper.

Every day I pull a blank card out from behind the paper, write some memories on it, or describe a meaningful advent or Christmas tradition, and stick it back in, this time on top of the patterned paper. See?

My favorite things about this advent calendar are: (1) The mish-mash of photos from different years. (2) By the end of the month I will have "scrapbooked" (i.e. preserved) 24 pictures and memories. (3) It's re-usable. If I want to do this again next year, I can take out these 24 photos and the 24 written memories, slip them into a binder or a divided page protector, and start fresh with 24 more photos.

To be honest, I probably won't do this again right away. But when the kids are older (and more photos have been amassed), they can help record the memories of what is meaningful to them about the season.

Cost of this project: $4 for the album, which comes from Target.
Inspiration for this project: You guessed it. Stacy Julian, of course. See her example and instructions here.

Monday, November 30, 2009


At rehearsal for the Christmas Pageant after church on Sunday:

Pageant Director: And what would you like to be in the pageant this year, Jillson?
Jillson: A lion.
PD: Oh, I am sorry, I don't have a lion in the story this year. Would you like to be an angel?
Jillson: No, not an angel, because angels are not real. I would like to be a princess instead.
PD (winking at Gutsy Mom): Perfect!

The pageant director then spent the rest of rehearsal referring to the Angel Princesses. At one point, Jillson, who was also under the impression that Angel Princesses performed ballet moves during the pageant, stepped forward from the group and called out "Alleluia!" as though she were saying "Amen, sister!" at an AME church, hands outstretched and all. She was quietly ushered back to the host of little angel princesses by one of the bigger (i.e. crowd control) angels.

We could be in for quite a meltdown when she realizes that angels, even princess angels, do not wear purple tutus in the Christmas story. Stay tuned.

Thanksgiving Fashion & Ballet

Jillson is demonstrating "teer-o-wets" before Thanksgiving dinner. Final picture clearly indicates that scrappy-mommy-photographer has worn out her welcome at this photo shoot.

Also, I'm pleased to announce that my email war is nearing an end. From about 4,500 emails in my inboxes I am down to:

Yahoo account: 22 (hooray! goal met!)
Other account: 78 (only 53 to go)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Almost Eleven Months

Grab a cup of coffee if you want to see 'em all; this goes on for a few minutes. You'll know you're done whent the "add your review" message comes up. If you want to see close-ups, click on the button below the slideshow to view all the pictures.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Things I Can't Stop Singing

I suppose it is time to confess a few things. First of all, I am a total gleek. If that makes you think of a fancy way of streamlined spitting that was popular in the 80s, I'm sorry about that. But if it makes you think of a musical high school TV show that is totally not designed for my demographic, then you are right on. Did my school have show choir? No. Was I a singing geek nonetheless? HELL YEAH. I did do choir, madrigals, a cappella, musical theater, opera, a vocal jazz ensemble, and private singing lessons, so it's a pretty safe bet that if my school had had a "glee" club, I so would've been in it.

I think my husband and daughters were only mildly disturbed at dinner last night when, after the Gutsy Dad asked "It's Wednesday, right?" I looked up from my enchiladas and squealed "GLEEEEEEEEE!" I don't care if they use auto-tune. I am riveted to the screen any time they sing ANYTHING. And, because they keep singing favorites of mine, perhaps I need to rethink the demographic of this show after all.

I just tried to link to YouTube for you, and my computer crashed, so if you are curious about the music in Glee, I highly recommend trying "Somebody to Love" or "Lean on Me" for starters. When I heard them sing "Lean on Me" last night I was instantly in 5th grade again, at a sleepover at Cary Allen's, wearing leggings and an oversized sweatshirt, jumping around on top of couch cushions and sleeping bags, singing my guts out into a hairbrush. I just might have a problem that you'd understand... such as... how do I get this song out of my head?

Now, from the ridiculous to the sublime. My choir at the cathedral is singing an amazing anthem (motet, really) on Sunday, and I am going to do my best not to mess it up. It is called "Take Him, Earth, for Cherishing" and was composed in 1964 by the British composer and organist Herbert Howells. He wrote it "to the honoured memory" of JFK, our 35th president, who was assassinated on November 22, 1963. This Sunday is November 22. My choirmaster is nothing if not appropriate.

The words to this anthem make me cry. I tried to read them aloud to the Gutsy Dad last Sunday on the way home from church and I got all choked up. The words were written by Prudentius, a Roman Christian poet who lived from 348-413. Them's some old words. For the anthem, Howells used the English translation by Helen Waddell, an Irish poet who apparently translated a lot of Latin poetry into English. (At this point, I'm fairly certain the only person who is still reading who still finds this interesting is my dad.)

Take him, earth, for cherishing.
To they tender breast receive him.
Body of a man I bring thee, noble even in its ruin.

I wonder what noble warrior Prudentius had in mind.

Since I joined this choir, we have sung A LOT of Howells. Probably more Howells than any other one composer. I am used to choir directors favoring one composer or another (Rutter and Purcell come to mind), but I have never loved Howells. This piece, however, that we are attempting for Sunday, is quite extraordinary. Even with its often-harsh (tonal) harmonies and 20th-century-ness, it still leaves a chill in the bone at the end due to its majesty and mystery. (And yes, it's on YouTube, too.)

I am totally impressed by people who can compose music.

So that's that. Two vastly different grown-up songs that I cannot stop singing. I am sure, by the end of the week, I'll be back to my usual play list of "Twinkle, Twinkle," "Wheels on the Bus" and "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands" so I won't be boring you with geeky (gleeky), church-y musings.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Girls' Day In

The Gutsy Dad is in class today, so we five girly-girls are hanging out at home today. So far we have...

1) Made a Thanksgiving "tree of thanks" craft
2) Painted a portrait in blue & turquoise
3) Cleaned windows
4) Drew pictures on said windows (with markers for that purpose)
5) Designed the family Christmas card
6) Made "hot hors d'oeuvres," a recipe from my childhood, just because. (The smell of these roasting away in my toaster oven instantly transported me to my parents' living room, where I used to help pass appetizers during cocktail parties.)

Seems like a pretty good Girls' Day In so far. And, oh yeah:

Results from today's culling of emails starting with C & D...

Yahoo count: 2974
Other count: 338

What's the ultimate goal? No more than one screen's worth per account, which is roughly 25 per inbox. Right now, progress feels slow and elusive, rather like weightloss.

Hot Hors D’oeuvres

1 cup chopped olives
½ cup chopped scallions
1 ½ cups grated cheese (mixture of cheddar and parmesan is good)
½ cup mayo
½ tsp salt
½ tsp curry
party breads (those tiny little Pepperidge Farm loaves, or just cut up some dark rye)

Mix all the spread ingredients together thoroughly and spread onto the little breads. Broil and serve.

PS: I'm having blogger issues; it keeps randomly publishing before I am done typing or proofreading. Dude.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Let Battle Inbox Commence!

I've had it with my overflowing inboxes. Yes, plural. There's the yahoo account, of course, and then the "real" one that most of you use, you know, the one provided by my husband's employer. Anyway, two email accounts with roughly 4,500 emails in them, sitting there, undealt with. UGH.

Starting today, I'm attacking them. If your "received from" name begins with A or B you were dealt a mighty blow today. The keyboard is still warm from the heat of my rapid-fire deleting. Seriously, in all the "A & B" emails (and there were hundreds) there were only three I needed. (Two people with A names whose info needed to be updated in my address book, and one email for a vendor with a B name I need to save.) The rest are GONE.

I forgot to look at a starting number. But after my slaughter, the results are:

Yahoo count: 3230
Other count: 415

Next up on chopping block: C & D emails. Your hours are numbered.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

This Day In Gutsy History

As part of a workshop I am taking, I accepted the challenge to start a Perpetual Family Memory File. You know those blank, perpetual birthday/anniversary calendars some people use to track important dates? This is kinda like that, except it's for tracking (and celebrating!) the things that make up your every day life.

Since it is just a file box with 3x5 cards in it, the whole thing was assembled for under $3.50, using ink, stamp sets, a ribbon, a tiny bit of cardstock, and adhesive I already had in my stash. There is a card, date stamped, for every day in the year, plus month dividers and a pink "you are here" marker card.

It's meant to have just one line about your ordinary life that day. Examples of recent entries are: "Jillson's first ballet class," or "Maddie bit Mommy's knee and was told no!" or "Dinner with friends at Dave & Buster's." I love what another participant wrote about this project: it's like an old-school, paper-and-pen, permanent "status updates" file--something that'll stick around longer than, say, tweats and such.

I thought this Emerson quote was perfect. I found it while I was looking for something else he wrote and thought "oh, I know just what to do with THAT quote."

If we can hold on to this file for years and years, as I hope to, we can look back and see what we did on the same day in years before. We're keeping the box in the kitchen, and almost every day, usually during dinner, we talk as a family about what one liner to put on the card.

Thanks to Stacy Julian, Kolette Hall, and BPS for this great idea.