Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It's that time again..

The day before Thanksgiving is pie making day around here!

We're having apple, cherry and pumpkin pies...

I'm using pumpkin from the garden that was cooked down and frozen...

And I'll make E's (dd#1) apple pie recipe because it's the best.

It's hard not to "sample" the apple slices covered with cinnamon and sugar. Mmmm...

Back to work... the pies need to get done today so the oven is free tomorrow for the turkey!

(Thanks to Angie at Knick of Time for the free vintage print download!)

Giving thanks...

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is mostly a picture post, I thought our daughter K (dd#3), who is in the Peace Corps, would like to see some Thanksgiving photos since she isn't able to be home this year...

Where to start? So many years, so many Thanksgivings... so much to be thankful for.

I'll start with an old Thanksgiving photo I found on my computer....  That's me, holding B (dd#2, now 29) with my mom, who passed away 10 years ago (and I still miss every day) and my brother Loren (looking SO young... but I guess I did too). I think this was taken the first year I cooking Thanksgiving dinner... I would have been 28.

It's a few (cough, cough) years later and I still love Thanksgiving...

Here are a few pictures from more recent Thanksgivings:

Joe and I with the kids and grandkids, November 2006

Thanksgiving 2007... a full table!

My brother Loren (all grown up!) and his wife, Jessica... 2007

B (dd#2), the baby in the first picture... Thanksgiving 2007.

And again with R... 2007

Our oldest grandchild, (also "R") working on the Thanksgiving tablecloth we use each year. We pass around markers and each person "autographs" the tablecloth or draws a little picture etc. It's been a nice family tradition... it's fun to look over all the old drawings, etc. each year.

A little monopoly is always a nice thing to do after dinner...

Around the table from the left... my brother Loren, his wife Jess, dd#3 K, M (partially hidden) and my sister Jackie.

As you can tell we take our Monopoly seriously!

But first we had to take a few minutes to try to do this weird hand thing my brother Steve does... it's a quick finger snap with the left, then right hand, followed by a right fist into the left palm. You do this really fast and it sounds like running horses or something...

No, it doesn't take much to entertain us!

Blessed by another full table, this is Thanksgiving 2011...Around the table from the left front, (looking over the top of E's head) B (dd#2), Joe, M, me, my brother Loren, his wife Jess, R and a little bit of grandson #2 "J".

Joe and K (dd#3), my "African daughter".... Thanksgiving 2011

Joe and Loren... 2011

Thanksgiving 2011 was a fairly rowdy one apparently...

Here is JG (our son in law) opening (opening?!) some wine or sparkling juice...

And E (dd#1) and I, after dinner, fighting over a poor unwanted turkey wing (not that either of us would eat it, you know...)

It's lovely when there is time for a little music after dinner...

Here is Loren (on mandolin) and me and K on guitar (trying to keep up with Loren's quick fingers!).

So many Thanksgivings, so many blessings, so much to be thankful for...

Last year's "menu"... compliments of S. This years will be very much the same.

The big difference of course will be that K is in Ghana and won't be here for the holiday. It will be strange not to have her here, helping out, contributing to the chaos, and just being close. It will be a happy/sad day...

I'm posting this early so K can see the photos... she'll be in an area with internet access for just Wednesday and Thursday and I wanted to make sure this was up in time for her to see it.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone....

And to my loved ones far away (Loren, Steve, Jackie, K)... I love you.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"Life College"

Last night was the final class of the "life college" mini-program offered by our CCB (Community Centered Board). It consisted of two classes (zumba and money management) offered back to back with a dinner break in between. The classes met twice a week for three weeks. I'd been very excited about the program when I received the email telling me about it and inviting the kids to attend... How perfect, I thought, packaging life skills training in a way that both appeals to and respects young adults with disabilities.

Life skills are a HUGE part of what I'm trying to teach M and R. The success they have in learning life skills will determine how independently they are able to live some day...

The classes ended up being a bit of a disappointment. The kids really liked the zumba... jazzy music and the opportunity to dance is always fun. I had been more excited about the money management class though, as it's really a life skill... something they will need to live on their own. Unfortunately I think they learned very little from it. After the first class they both complained that the instructor used a lot of words they didn't understand... they just couldn't tell what she was talking about. (Yes, they asked questions but still weren't able to keep up with what she was saying...) Later I was able to hear a little of the teaching in that class and realized that the instructor was teaching (reading) from a "script" as she presented the material.. and the material must have been intended for typical teens, not those with developmental disabilities.

So... the kids didn't learn a lot from it. :(

But the really good thing that came out of it is the money management curriculum workbook they were working from... and the "life college" idea. I'm definitely going to reteach the money management class here at home. I was able to get an extra copy of the workbook, and both M and R have their own copy... so I can teach from the extra copy as they work through the material in their own books. That part will be easy (and fun)...

I'm also thinking about the "life college" concept... If I could take the life skills they need and organize them into "classes" what would that look like? We've already done a lot with life skills... we've worked on learning about public transportation, shopping/cooking skills and have focused on learning when and how to take OTC medications (both of those involved lengthy trips to the store!), the kids do their own laundry, are able to do some basic cooking (ramen noodles, fried eggs, etc.... but at least they both know how to use the gas stove!), and follow simple directions for food preparation (mostly microwave stuff). We've also worked on money skills, both kids having their own checking and savings accounts and debit cards, and we've done a couple of lessons at the ATM.

But there is SO MUCH more they need to know... and we need an organized way to review the things that have been taught but they might forget.

So I'm playing around with the idea of trying to organize basic life skills information into "classes"... It's good for them to learn organically as things come up each day, with some more intensive lessons added as needed... but I'm thinking having it all better organized will help with making sure nothing major gets missed, and they get the review they need.

Having it organized in this way would also help me to teach the same things to S, as much as possible in the time she's here. She's had very little in terms of life skills education up to this point... (the other day I had to coach her through putting groceries away, which things are perishable, which aren't!)... so I know it's something she really needs too.

I would love feedback about this... please share your thoughts and ideas!

Here are some of the areas I think need to be covered: (an asterisk indicates something we've already studied but will need review, an asterisk with a "P" indicates we've partially studied this, but there is more to cover)

-Safety at home, what to do in an emergency*... everything from not giving information out over the phone  and over-flowing toilets to natural gas smells, maybe some basic first aid.

-Taking care of yourself and your space*... laundry, cleaning, hygiene, etc.

-Food prep(*P)... reading labels (so important for M!), finding and following cooking directions and simple recipes, stove safety, food safety (salmonella etc.) how to know when your food is done cooking, what to do if something goes wrong (food burns, you get burned, food overboils, etc.)

-Safety away from home*... stranger awareness (M always needs this!), street and parking lot safety, etc.

-Out and about(*P)... appropriate community (social) skills... boundaries, which ones are appropriate in various settings, where to ask for help if you need it

-Money... budgeting, staying within a budget (when shopping), how credit works,

-Banking.(*P).. ATM skills, writing checks, different types of accounts, what happens when there are problems ("oops, not enough money in account!")

-Shopping(*P).... go over again our "rules of wise spending" comparing prices, reading labels, how and when to return something, online shopping

-Public Transportation*... reading the schedule, waiting at the stop or station, paying (buying a light rail ticket, or paying as you get on the bus) safety on the bus, getting off at the right spot, etc.

-What to do when you're sick*... what do to for common illnesses (and discomforts... like constipation), OTC medications and what each one is for, reading the labels, understanding dosages and side effects,  when to call the doctor, etc.

-Being involved(*P).... applications... for jobs, library cards, anything... how to fill them out, where to find the information they ask for., how to sign up for classes, buy tickets for things, etc.

I've tried to find a good life skills curriculum I could buy and haven't found anything I'm crazy about, but I think this idea has possibilities.

Feedback... what have I forgotten? (A lot I'm sure!) Ideas for organizing this in a way that makes sense?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Monday

Crazy Casa K

What makes me happy?

Flowers from my oldest granddaughter, R.

We were at her house last week celebrating her birthday (she's 11!) and she came home from Girl Scouts with these flowers... which she gave to me. It's been almost a week now and they are still beautiful... They make me happy each time I see them. :)

Friday, November 22, 2013




Outside my window... there are a few inches of snow on the ground and it's COLD... frigid. I'm not looking forward to the barn work this morning.

I am thinking... that I can't believe Thanksgiving is next week!

I am thankful... for Joe's safety as he's been driving from one end of town to the other on the slippery streets

In the kitchen... gearing up for Thanksgiving. The menu? Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, roast carrots (from the garden), relishes, rolls, and pie (apple, cherry and pumpkin, also from the garden) for dessert... very traditional and virtually the same every year.

I am creating... I'm working on a little Christmas project but can't say what it is in case the person it's intended for reads this. ;)

I am going... to stay home today. Staying home has been a rare thing lately, with the kids activities keeping us running most days. A day at home will be wonderful!

I am reading... a new(er) Maeve Binchy novel, A Week In Winter. I don't read her books often, but the last time I was at the library this looked good... nice and light... and it reminded me of K (dd#3) who won't be home for the holidays this year... K loves Maeve Binchy's books... so I checked it out. It's good, just what I was expecting... and makes me feel a little closer to K.

I am hoping... S does ok at Thanksgiving. There have been a few issues coming up lately that I need to talk to her foster mom about...  Hopefully none of those issues will come up over the holiday weekend.

I am looking forward to... a quiet weekend at home.

I am learning... I'm taking an "Introduction to Pharmacy" class through Coursera (I thought it made sense given all of M's meds!) and am learning a lot about the pharmacy system, resources, trends, how drugs are developed and brought to market (that one was mind-boggling!) and the huge problem of prescription drug abuse in this country... it's been a good class. I'm also still trying to get O'Carolan's Concerto down on the mandolin. ;)

One of my favorite things... a lovely snowfall like the one we got yesterday.

A few plans for the rest of the week...We don't have many plans for the weekend, which is nice... we've been on the run a lot lately. Maybe a little more Christmas shopping... I do need to run by the bookstore and pick up a book (a Christmas gift) that they are holding for me.

A peek into my day...

~the snowy classroom deck~


Visit Peggy's blog for more about The Simple Woman's Daybook

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I'm rich! (plus Ghana photos)

At least that's what this email I received says...

"You have been Granted with the sum of $950,000 by Western Union in the

2013 Western Union Program. We will be sending you $5,000 daily until the
$950,000 is completed. The first $5,000 has been sent already, contact Mr
John Smith with your Full Name, Sex, Country, Tel, so that he will be sure

Mr John Smith

Thank you for using the Western Union."

I guess there were perks I never dreamed of connected to my wiring money to K in Ghana via Western Union.

Who would have thunk it?

Now I'm just going to sit back and wait for my $5,000. a day to start rolling in...   ;)

And... since we are talking about K and Ghana...

I thought I'd share a few pictures of K, my "African child":

I love the look on the little girl's face...


Yes, K is going to have a hard time leaving these babies behind when she comes back home again...


K at her village...


And outside her house (she has one room in the "teacher's house)... She labeled this photo "chaos".



She looks happy, doesn't she? I believe Ghana and the Peace Corps must agree with her.

(And of course, I know the email is a scam and there is no way I would reply, I did think it was funny though... as if anyone would fall for it!)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


One of the members of our homeschool group recently offered a class on Postcrossing. It was a wonderful class and has gotten us started with a new hobby... sending and receiving postcards.

Postcrossing is an online exchange project that allows everyone to send and receive postcards from random places in the world. And it's all free (except for the cost of postage and postcards).

Here's a link to the Postcrossing site, where you can read exactly how it works... We joined about a month ago and have already received postcards from places like Sweden, Russia, Germany and even Malayasia... and have sent postcards everywhere from Finland to Germany to China. We are loving the fun of finding postcards in the mailbox, and some of the cards are just beautiful...

Like this one we just received from Sweden:

I decided to repurpose  a world map that used to hang in M's room... it's hanging in the classroom now and has become our "postcrossing map".

I'm using little color coded dot stickers to show the places we've sent to and received from (different colors for each, of course), and I'm using a third color to show where we live, and where the far away members of our family live (everywhere from Ireland, to CA to Ghana!).  The dot stickers look huge in this picture, but are really only about as big around as the end of a pencil eraser....

It's so much fun to receive the cards and read a little about the person who sent it... It's also fun to read the profiles people include about themselves on the postcrossing website, when we're getting ready to send them a postcard, and trying to pick a postcard that person might like. We picked up some super cool postcards on a tour of the Hammond Candy Factory we took last week... we'll be ready if someone asks for postcards of candy!.  (I didn't blog about that tour, but you can read about it here if you'd like. :) )

This has been a fun new hobby... and it certainly makes going to the mailbox more interesting!

Happy Postcrossing!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

upcycle Christmas tree (part 2)

Last week I posted about a fun upcycle project I was working on... turning some old pallet boards into a rustic Christmas tree like this one:

As of Friday I'd cut the boards the lengths I wanted them, and painted some (I couldn't find old painted boards, and I wanted my tree to have a little color) and was searching for an old  2x4 to use as my tree's "trunk".

I searched the barn and had no luck... there was wood out there but it was all too big... chunky... for what I wanted.

Then I searched the garage and found some wood I'd forgotten I had. Years ago Joe brought me some old oak 1x4's that someone gave him. They'd been used outside so they are weathered, and had some holes drilled in them here and there... but they were long enough, so I picked the one I liked best and got back to work.


I laid out the tree then marked and cut the "trunk" board down to size... (just a little off the top please ;) )

...then laid my "branches" boards back on top and marked their placement with masking tape.

Next I drilled two holes through the trunk board for each horizontal "branch" board... some places I got lucky and the holes already in the board lined up with a branch. The oak was SO HARD it was incredible... but I got them all drilled.

I decided to use both glue and wood screws to hold the branches in place.

All clamped and waiting for the glue to dry...

Once the glue had dried, I finished up with a couple of screws to hold each board as well. It might have been overkill to use the wood glue and the screws, since all the tree is going to do it lean up against a wall somewhere, but I wanted the glue to hold the branches in place while I screwed it together (my fear was some crazily tilted branches at the end), and using both glue and screws to hold it together is good insurance against any branches getting knocked off in the future.

And here it is, almost done. I think I might put some dark wax on the white boards to "age" the paint a little, and I need to hang a few ornaments from the tree as well.

I'm not sure if it will end up outside or inside... it might end up on the front porch.

Joe was excited when he saw it, he thought this would take the place of putting up a real Christmas tree...

Umm... no.

Over all I'm happy with how it turned out. It's heavier than I expected thanks to using all the old oak boards, but I don't expect to be carrying it around here and there so that's ok.

We're off Christmas shopping today... I'd love to be mostly done shopping before Thanksgiving. Trying to keep track of M and R in malls packed with people isn't my thing. They both tend to wander away anyway... I'm forever trying to keep track of them... so getting done, or mostly done with my shopping early works well for me.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Happy Monday

Crazy Casa K

What makes me happy?

The big full moon...


Not only is a symbolic connection between K (dd#3) who is in Ghana, and home...

...but it was also good company and a good reminder last night as I drove home from dropping S back at her foster home and M was falling apart in the car. He's had some rough days this past week, lots of yelling, anger, obsessiveness, it feels like I haven't had a moment to just relax... and as I sped home (the quicker the better when he's like this in the car) the full moon was huge, hanging on the horizon... seemingly right in front of me... and I thought of Psalm 121 "I lift my eyes..." and it helped me remember that M's anger is nothing more than a momentary blip on the screen of life, and even when he's falling apart and I'm worn out with caring for him, I'm not alone.

And that makes me happy.

The photos are the work of my brother Steve, taken near his home in the west of Ireland... You can find more of his work here and more on his FB page here. Thank you so much Steve for "loaning" your photos to me. :)

Friday, November 15, 2013

a fun little Christmas upcycle (part 1)

On Pinterest last year I saw a very simple, very rustic Christmas tree made from what looked like scrap wood. Here's the picture I saw last year...

I loved the simplicity of it, and thought I'd like to make one, but didn't have time last year to do anything more than think about it.

This year, as Christmas has started getting closer, I thought again about that upcycled Christmas tree and began kind of playing around in my mind with how I could make  something similar. Then I remembered an old pallet I had out by the barn... it was one that had been under our hay but had been broken and repaired and ended up replaced this last summer with a new pallet. I hadn't gotten around to throwing it out yet, it was still out by the barn. I asked R to bring it up to the house when she went out to feed that evening and as soon as I saw it I knew I had the makings of a Christmas tree.

(It's hard to see in this picture, but if you squint your eyes there is definitely a Christmas tree in there...)

First Joe used the sawzall to cut the pallet apart. I'd tried both a hammer and nail puller to pull the nails out to take it apart, but there was no way... Pallets use some kind of "gripping" nail so the sawzall ended up being the only way to get it apart.

This is what I ended up with...

Next I sorted through the boards, some were broken from Murphy stepping on the pallet (he is such a klutzy horse!), so I figured out how to work around the broken pieces and started cutting the boards to the sizes I wanted.

Nice. I think I'm going to like this.


Next I grabbed some odds and ends of paint from my stash, and dry brushed some of the boards white and some grayish/green.

I also painted a couple of the boards with my old standby red barn paint... putting it on thicker knowing I would sand it down later. I left a couple of the boards natural wood.

I'm done painting (and sanding) now and I'm on the lookout for a decent 6' long piece of some kind of wood for the "trunk" of my tree. I went to E's house yesterday and dumpster dove in the construction dumpster in their driveway (they are having some work done on the house) but the only wood I found isn't long enough. :(  So I'm still looking...

In the spirit of spending $0.00 on this project I'm going to search the barn this morning for longer pieces of wood... I might even brave the jungle behind the barn (the fenced off area where Joe's old boat is stored... ) to see if there are any of the old lodge pole pine fence headers out there that might be long enough. (They were original to the house and are too weathered to use as fencing any longer...)

Hopefully this little project will be finished this weekend so I can post some pictures next week.

Ho, ho, ho! :)