All Bundled Up, and My Message to Moms

The party’s over…

THE ULTIMATE HOMEMAKING BUNDLE is now bundled up and retired for awhile. The good news is that there will be a “flash sale” at some point in the next 6 months where this bundle will be available for one weekend. If you missed the bundle this past week and you’d like an email notice as to when the flash sale will be, drop me a line here, and I’ll let you know.

MY INBOX

There’s another bundle coming soon called THE HEALTHY LIVING BUNDLE that might interest you as well. THANKS to my peeps who purchased the HOMEMAKING bundle. I pray it blesses you like it did me!

During the BUNDLE sale, I was at the computer 24/7. Feeding the family went out the window. I thought any busy mom would appreciate this badge I spotted recently.

HA! Love it. Today, I’m still pooped, but I might be able to rustle up Thursday’s meal.

Here’s my message to every mom this Mother’s Day weekend: know that what you do is invaluable. We moms never knew that once we had a child, our heart would jump outside our body and hang off our shoulder, exposed to every ecstatic brush of love and every scrape of heartache.

It’s how God loves us, ladies. With an exposed and vulnerable heart. We are so blessed to have a Creator who cares about our laughter and our tears. He is the ULTIMATE PARENT, and we will never find a better guide on how to direct our wonderful, aggravating, delightful, unruly, priceless children. Even when they’re 40.

So to all moms: be gentle with yourself.  Realize you are going to make mistakes, but so will your children. It’s not a perfect system. God can redeem everything. 

So, on Sunday, give yourself a hug and don’t do any dishes. I love you!

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My 2015 Grateful List – from the Handy Man to Baby James

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s like Christmas, without all the crazy shopping and overspending. And Easter, without all the candy. It’s a day that refocuses my mind – for at least a week – on what’s truly important. We need more holidays like this.

I want to share with you how, despite some heartaches this year, I am still mindful of how blessed I am. These blessings are in no particular order.

1.  I still love our 25-year-old house, despite the fact that the kitchen is about the size of a walk-in closet. This dear home has raised three kids to adulthood, weathered copious Florida hurricanes with no flooding, housed many, many friends and family, and tolerated one lovable dog who liked to drag dead squirrels inside.

2.  I’m so grateful for dark chocolate-covered malt balls.

I don’t know why it took someone so long to create these, but they should get the Nobel peace prize.

3. I’m grateful I have a handy husband. Between the two of us, we can manage most home repairs and updates. Recently, we re-framed an old, industrial-grade bathroom mirror.

(If you want to do this, here are detailed instructions: GETTING FRAMED)

4.  I’m beyond grateful that my handy husband is finally recovering from vertigo – a condition that made him so sick a week ago, he was sleeping on the bathroom floor. It’s an odd inner ear imbalance problem that is completely debilitating, and it often springs up for no apparent reason. Whoever figures this one out really deserves a prize.

5.  I’m grateful the little fender bender I had two weeks ago hurt no one and no one else’s car either. Only my own, which is fair, I suppose. Luckily, I have first-accident forgiveness, so I have only my deductible to pay, and I can move on with my life. Thank you, USAA.

6.  I’m grateful for a week in a condo on the beach last month to celebrate our 40th anniversary. This was a gift from many family members and we have great photos to remind us of this time away from our own lives. Here’s one of my favorites.

Thank you, son Jeremy, for taking so many lovely photographs.

7.  I’m grateful for my nutritionist, who by muscle testing keeps me on track with eating well, despite my occasional cheating with chocolate-covered malt balls.

8.  I thank God that Dad is finally recovering from his fall six weeks ago. He had several set-backs, and we wondered if he would be able to return to his ALF, where Mom is. Looks like that will likely happen now.

9. I’m grateful that my ebook about our family Christmas project (HERE: THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE) is finished and was published in July. I felt called to write it and share it with the world. What happens with it now is up to God.

10.  I’m grateful for our local thrift shop. It reminds me that “stuff” is recycle-able and share-able and trade-able. I love taking a bag of things there just about monthly, and I love finding an item there I need. We could all save so much and probably help the planet too, if we would just rotate our stuff.

11.  I’m grateful for good pie crust. I’ve never been able to master it, so I really love and admire a baker who can do it. JOAN’S PERFECT PIES here in Melbourne has the best pies I’ve ever tasted. Joan won second place in a national pie championship in 2014, so you know there’s only one baker better than her in the nation. If you’re ever in Melbourne, FL…check out this pie shop.

12.  I’m grateful for Champion brand sport bras. For various reasons. Enough said.

13.  I’m grateful, delighted really, for our first grandchild James, who is six months, pre-born. Here he is with his folks, our son and his wife.


Isn’t he the most beautiful pre-born you’ve ever seen? He looks great in plaid, don’t you think? Clearly, I’m going to be one of those nutty grandmas, but I’m OK with that. James and I will be buds.

14.  I’m mostly grateful that I know there is a sovereign God who loves me and has a plan for my life. Without that, nothing else makes any sense.

A Grinchy Christmas

It’s January 9!  Where has the year gone!?

Last time I turned round, it was December 24th, and I was at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL (three hours north of us) being evaluated for rheumatoid arthritis.  I was referred up there after some blood work came back high for RA.  My days have been up and down since, and Christmas didn’t really happen around here in the usual way.  Expected family didn’t come, because I wasn’t home in time, and a few gifts were handed out over a week’s time.

I didn’t prepare a holiday meal, and we didn’t have the whole family around for the 25th.  I made a cherry danish for Christmas morning breakfast, something I’d never done, and we watched Miracle on 34th Street, a movie I had never seen from start to finish. We had a meal with my parents in their assisted living facility, and called it a day.

Christmas came anyway. Without a fat turkey, pumpkin pie, or even a Christmas tree. It came without our “grab bag” activity, or trays of sugar cookie cut-outs I usually bake. We didn’t even get to church, we were so exhausted from the trip up and back to Mayo.

But, you know what? Christmas came anyway.

Which made think about the first Christmas.  It had no glitz or sparkle either.  A frightened, unwed teenager spilled her blood onto hay and dirt in a cold stable with smelly animals nearby.  Her fiance, Joe, was probably just as terrified.  What did he know about birthing a baby?  And then royalty arrived with some valuable oils that brought healing and restoration to aliments and wounds. They were probably exactly what Mary needed for her cold, labor-weary body.

And that was it. The King had arrived. The angels sang as a divine child entered our filthy world. The world would never be the same. But, then…time to pack up and get back on the donkey for an arduous trip.

The greatest, and simplest, story every told.

As unusual as this Christmas was for us, I loved it.  With my injured foot and extra doc appointments, I didn’t have the time or energy for all the regular preparations, and, in the end, it was liberating. I spent more time pondering the Christ child and his humble appearance on Earth than I ever have before.  Without all the hoop-la, Christmas still came.

“It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 

The Grinch got it right.

 

Why, Oh Pie?

Tomorrow is the beginning of Advent!  Where did November go?

Our Thanksgiving was wonderful.  A friend brought the turkey and the stuffing, I catered in some sides, then made a cranberry salad and an apple pie (which was terrible.  More on that in a minute.) We laughed and reminisced with my parents, who are hard of hearing and tell funny stories about past Thanksgivings.  Then, we all ate too much and wobbled our way to various sofas/beds to doze.

Our daughter cleaned up the kitchen (this was huge, as the kitchen was quite the mess) while I put my feet up.  Because earlier that morning, I ran into my own cane with my non-walking boot foot, and, I suspect, broke a toe.

I’ve broken toes before, and I’m always amazed at how painful they are.  Toes hold such tiny bones, you’d think you wouldn’t miss one if it fell off completely.  But, they won’t be ignored.  They throb and ache until you just sit down.

Luckily, I’m going to my foot doc on Tues for my left foot injury, so I’ll have him look at the purple toe.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he said, “You don’t deserve feet.  You don’t take care of them.  Here are two peg legs.  Good luck.”

When I first saw him for my torn tissues on the other foot, he scowled at my ratty Keds and said, “Throw those away.”  He really is a nice guy and a good doctor, but I’m feeling complete shame about not really paying attention to my feet.  I’m paying now alright.  If he gives me a boot for the broken toe foot, I might consider the peg legs.

Does anybody have a good, really truly good pie crust recipe?  I’m pretty good in the baking department, but I can’t master a good pie crust to save my feet.  I’ve used Crisco, cold butter, the egg and vinegar thing, even a cream cheese recipe…they all crack and fall apart as I try to get them into the pie pan.  Once baked, they’re sandy or tough.  I’ve used a pastry cutter, I’ve used a food processor, I’ve used forks to blend the dough.  No method seems better than the other.  My pie crusts are not good. And I’ve used the recipes that say “no fail pie crust” and “the perfect pie crust.”

Lies, all lies.

This is what I can to with a store-bought crust.  Not bad, I think.  I can assemble a pie just fine.  But the crust itself?  I don’t get it.  Every time I plan to bake a pie, I go in excited – this will be the time it works!  Ten minutes in, I’m disgusted with the whole mess.  I go ahead and bake the thing because I’m not going to waste ingredients, but it’s always a disappointment. And I swear I’ll never do it again.

Then I get sucked in next holiday season, because I’m irritated that a pie crust is getting the best of me.  I can’t let the thing win.  So I try again.  I’m clearly insane because insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.  I have to get off this hamster wheel.

So…if you have a truly fail-proof pie crust recipe – or some tips on the secret to a good, flaky crust – please let me know.  Drop me a comment, or email me at ballpark001@gmail.com.  I’d be so grateful.

While I’m waiting, I’ll be practicing how to get around on my knees.

ThanksgivingMas

Hello, little blog.  It’s been awhile.  Have you missed me?  You’re a good friend, just hanging around until I check in.  Kind of like a loyal puppy.  Only, no peeing on the carpet, for which I’m grateful.

I could start off by saying it’s been busy around here, but isn’t everybody’s life busy?  Especially now that commerce has decided Christmas preparations should begin before Halloween.  It’s nutty.  I’m trying not to succumb, but I have to admit I purchased a couple holiday dish towels last week.  I’m making a few gifts from dish towels and potholders.

I saw this idea at a craft fair a few years ago.  With a basting stitch, I gathered the center of the towel to fit the width of the potholder.  Front sides together, I sewed the center of the towel to the center of the potholder. You can then sew a button onto the top edge of the potholder (non-loop side) and latch the towel on your oven door.  

Or, whip stitch the potholder closed at the top and hang it on a pantry door.

 

This pantry door is close to my sink, so this is a good location to hang my towel.  I have several of these I swap out when one is in the laundry.  I get a kick out of simple, practical items like this. 

There’s your Martha Stewart craft of the day.  It’s a good thing.

In other news, two weeks ago, my husband went to get into his car and the door handle came off in his hand.  He came inside and said, “I think I need a new car.”

So, we purchased this.

It’s a silver Hyundai.  Other than that, I know nothing about it, except, it has door handles that don’t come off.  This is important.  Merry Christmas, honey.

In all fairness, my husband’s old car had seen better days.  It was probably time to retire it anyway, but just a warning for all cars – if your handles come off, you’re on your way to the trade-in lot.

Thanksgiving is next week, and I have to backtrack in my head, because, as you can see, I’ve been sucked into the Christmas wormhole.  I’m excited about  Thanksgiving this year because a friend is bringing a roasted-outside-all-night turkey, stuffing, and a pumpkin cream pie.  And I’m catering in three side dishes, because of this.


I’m making a cranberry Jello salad.  I think I can manage it.  I might plan an injury pre-holiday season next year.  Or, maybe I’ll still be in this boot.  AUGH!

In the spirit of giving thanks, here is my grateful list for 2014:

1.  I’m so thankful for good doctors.   From Parkinson’s to chronic UTIs to torn tissues, we have a slew of nice docs that keep us moving.

2.  I’m grateful my husband has a good job.  We have more than we need.  I feel guilty about this sometimes.  I share and donate to try to compensate.

3.  I’m grateful for the hard workers at my folks’ ALF.  They don’t get enough kudos, so I bake goodies for them once in a while.  They have difficult jobs, which I could never do.

4.  We had a door replaced in our home, and my folks got new carpet in their suite. These are material things that I know, in the long run, don’t matter, but in the short run, they’re very nice.

5.  I had a wonderful vacation at the beach this fall with my sister and her sisters-in-law.  I always forget how nice it is to do nothing for a while.

6,  The new show Madam Secretary.  I look forward to it.  The writing is very good. By Sunday night, I need to plop.

7.  My new gym, which has a pool.  I need to swim for exercise and for ankle therapy.  I’m not great at it, but I’m working on it.  Oh, to bring back those 1920 swimsuits that covered all the blobbiness.

8.  For Fuji apples dipped in soft caramel.  The taste of Fall.

9.  For my Kitchen Aid mixer, my Sonic toothbrush, the supplement MSM, my clothesline, the Christmas music of Josh Groban, and all my blogging friends. 

10.  For good friends who bring roasted turkeys, and for the love of family.  And for Jesus, who enables us to love one another, because some days…

Thanks for popping in!  Have a blessed week!

DIY Flower Pot Candy Dish – Use it All Year!

I saw the cutest thing in my dentist’s office a few months ago.  I took of picture of it, then came home and made one for myself.  It’s easy and inexpensive.

VERSATILE CANDY DISH



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I made this one for Valentine’s Day, but this craft can be themed to fit any season – like spring!  A candy jar made from a Terracotta pot/saucer and a glass bowl from the dollar store!  Total: $5.36.

Glass bowl – a dollar
Pot/saucer from Home Depot – $1.36
Cabinet knob – 3 bucks

This kind of craft is right up my alley.  And in my wallet.

Here’s how I did it.

Choose the size pot you want.  The pot (upside down) creates the base.  The saucer that goes with the pot creates the lid.  This is a 4 inch pot.  The glass bowl is just about 4 inches high as well.  There are larger pots and bowls to be had, just make sure the bottom of the pot and the bottom of the bowl are as close to the same size as possible. 

1.  PAINT.  Paint your pot and saucer.  I primed them first with Kilz.  Then, two coats of white gloss. You can paint the pot/saucer whatever color you want.  The candy dish in my dentist’s office was pink, since it was a gift for Valentine’s Day.  (I chose white because by changing out the bow and the type of candy, this candy dish can be used for different holidays.)  Let paint dry.

If you want to embellish your pot with accents, stripes, flowers, etc, this is when you do that.  I chose to put dots of paint around the bottom rim (which is really the top) of the pot.  I applied them with a Q-tip.

2.  GLUE.  When all paint is dry, turn the pot upside down and glue the bottom of the bowl to the bottom of the pot.  You can hot glue it, or use an adhesive like Power Grab.  I like Power Grab because it dries clear and gives a really strong bond.  Here is my bead of Power Grab around the bottom of the bowl.

This shot was taken looking down into the bowl, showing the pressed glue against the pot. 

Gently wipe off any glue that squishes out.  Power Grab dries clear, so a nice thick line will not a be a problem (the ribbon will cover it.)  I just wipe off any excess blobs.

Glue your knob (there are dozens to chose from at Home Depot) onto the saucer, which is turned upside down.  I bought two knobs to see which look I like.

3.  TIE it UP.  When everything is dry, tie a ribbon (or a strip of fabric, or raffia) around the “neck” joint of your candy dish.  Be as elaborate or simple as you want.  I have two bows on this one, one large and fun, looped through a simpler ribbon that knots in the back. 
BACK VIEW
There ya’ go!  A homemade candy dish.  Fill it with treats of your choice.  I have foil-wrapped chocolate hearts in this one.  The color/tie/candy options are endless with this.  I’m already thinking of future holidays….
Spring/Easter – a pastel ribbon, bowl filled with Jelly Beans.
St. Patrick’s Day – green ribbon, bowl filled with green Starlight mints, or Andes mints.
July 4 – flag colors for the ribbon, bowl filled with cinnamon discs, and blue and silver-wrapped Hershey’s kisses.
Halloween/Thanksgiving/Fall – orange/black ribbon or raffia, bowl filled with Candy Corn. 
Christmas – red or green bow, silver and gold-wrapped Hershey’s kisses, or mini-candy canes.
Non holiday times – raffia bow, bowl filled with Jolly Ranchers.
UPDATE:  Just made one for my dad’s garden club…  


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…and one for my husband, who’s a manager at Home Depot.  The Master lock might keep people from hogging all the candy.  HA!
I think this is the greatest DIY project since my husband and I framed our BATHROOM MIRROR.  In fact, I’m off to Home Depot to buy more pots.  I know what everybody’s getting for Christmas.  (Don’t tell.)

Waiting for the New Year to Feel New

I’m still struggling to get back into my pre-holiday routine.  I’m still not well, but getting better.  I’m still tired, still not motivated to get back to THE BOOK.  January 2014 is going to be a wash.

I need a kick in the pants to get back into gear.  I wrote a piece today for MMW, the blog I contribute to twice a month.  I shared some discouragement, but realized, in the end, I’m doing the best I can in this crazy writing life.

You can read it here: MMW POST

I’m hoping to get back to my perky, brilliant self soon.  This sniffly, hacking, sore-joint self is wearing out its welcome.  Boo.
 

I hope your January has been virus free and that you’re making headway on your 2014 resolutions!  Tell me about them, so I can live energetically through you.