Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cottage Pie and Advent

So, first of all, that Cottage Pie I made the other night? There are no words to fully capture its magnificence. It was splendid, delectable, perfection in Pyrex.

Those are good words, but even they fall short.

It was the kind of food that reduces you to mere grunts of delight, eyes rolling back into the head and everything. It was better than pub food and this from a girl who thinks nothing's better than pub food.

Not to mention, it was a marvel of making do with what you have. I was Super Mom last night, I'm telling you! I had decided on the dish to use up the leftover beef and mash I had in the fridge, which I thought was rather clever to begin with. But I wasn't able to get to the grocery store as planned yesterday so when it came time to whip it up, I found myself having to be a little more clever than I had anticipated.

I was wiftily (a word which, shockingly, spell-check does not recognize) out of onions, frozen peas and carrots, and gravy mix but managed to find a zip top bag full of onions I had diced for guacamole earlier in the week (another culinary triumph, but one for another day) and forgotten about, a bag of frozen peas I didn't even know I had, and glazed carrots leftover from the roast beef dinner. And as for the gravy mix, I put my thinking cap on and came to the conclusion that gravy mix is for sissies and threw some beef broth (made from a beef base I get at the Mennonite market and some boiling water), flour and red wine into the pot. And don't forget the leftover beef I had cubed and rejuvenated in its own little beef broth and red wine bath.

Remember in cartoons when an irresistible aroma would enter a character's nostrils and literally pick him up off his feet and waft him through the air toward the source? That's the kind of smell we had going on in our house that night. It tore Man-Cub away from his new video game nose first, asking breathlessly, "What smells so good?"

And, oh Man, it was so so good! Silly good! The downside is we wolfed it down so quick there was no time to get photos. And there were no leftovers for lunch. But once again, I saved dinner and saved money and managed to impress my husband which is always a plus!

Secondly, I am still dwelling on Advent and how to change the way we prepare for Christmas. I have felt in the past few years a certain unease about the way we've been celebrating. I had chalked it up to giving into peer pressure and becoming like everyone else (something I generally hate), but I am starting to see it was way more than that. And the answer, I believe, is not so much going back to an old-fashioned way of observing Christmas (though I think that has its merits), but more about Advent.

I've already expounded a bit on this, so I don't want to keep going on about it. But, it's still rolling around in my head so you're bound to keep hearing about it a bit. For instance, I'm wondering, since I usually deck out my blog for Christmas, would it be acceptable to deck it out instead for Advent? Or would that just be the same thing I'm trying to get away from? And if I do decide to do it, how does one go about that, exactly?

Anyway, it's time for me to start the evening bedtime routine. Man-Cub needs to be bathed and put to bed and I still have clothes to fold and iron. Good night!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Back to life, back to reality

Aye, my head is spinning today!

I took the day off yesterday to sit in my pajamas and waste away in front of the computer. But now it's back to the daily grind and then some!

I'm still washing dishes from Thanksgiving. Don't judge me! There are very specific Biblical guidelines for judging and I know for a fact that leaving Thanksgiving dishes to sit on the kitchen counter for two days before washing them is not mentioned!

Anyway, I'm also writing up our weekly menu and trying to work all our lovely leftovers into our upcoming meals. What do you think of these?

English Cottage Pie with Herbs (from
*I will try any dish that sounds even remotely English. Except blood pudding. Sorry, but no. I don't do Marmite either, but I digress...

**This recipe not only uses some of the leftover mashed potatoes taking up space in the fridge, but the rest of the whole eye of round I slow-cook on Wednesday. BONUS!

-1 lb lean ground beef (Pshaw, I'm using diced, braised, leftover roast beef)
-1 large onion, diced
-12 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
-16 oz frozen peas and carrots or cooked fresh carrot slices
-6 cups prepared instant mashed potatoes (WHAT??) or leftover mash
-1 oz herb & beef gravy mix (A-HA, an excuse to go buy some Bisto)
-1/8 t rosemary
-1/4 t thyme
-1 1/4 cups water or dry red wine (dry red wine, definitely)
-1/2 t ground black pepper
-1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
-1 large tomato, sliced (I may be omitting this)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (WHY is there no degree symbol on the keyboard?)
2. In medium saucepan, cook beef and onion over medium-high heat until beef is very browned, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and peas and carrots. Stir well and heat through.
3. To the meat mixture, add gravy packet and water or wine, rosemary, thyme and pepper. Stir well to combine. Bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat. boil and stir for 2-3 minutes (gravy will thicken when cool).
4. Turn beef mixture into a greased large and deep casserole dish. Top with potatoes, cheese and tomato slices.
5. Cover and bake at 350 degrees (grrrr) for 30 minutes. Uncover, and cook an additional 10-15 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
6. Serve with Parmesan cheese for topping at the table, along with a glass of cider or ale (Magners would do very nicely), if desired!
7. Note: To freeze, omit the cheese and tomato. Do not bake. To cook, defrost in fridge overnight, add cheese and tomato and bake as directed, adding about 20 minutes to the baking time to compensate for the chilled food.

I'm actually making that tonight. I may have to go out just for some Magners to go with it.

Tomorrow for brunch after church (if we make it--The Viking's back is still very bad), I'm making this one:

Crispy Leftover Stuffing Hash with Sunny-Side-Up Eggs (from
*I think this one needs a new name. I didn't name it. But it does use up the TONS of stuffing leftovering in my fridge.

-2 cups leftover stuffing
-2 T lightly salted or sweet butter
-2 eggs
-salt and pepper to taste

1. Form a half-inch thick pancake about 6 inches in diameter with your leftover stuffing.
2. Melt the butter in a saute pan. Place the stuffing pancake into the pan.
3. Cook at low heat for about 5 minutes, until it is a lovely golden brown.
4. Turn the stuffing pancake over and cook another 3-4 minutes.
5. Put the pancake on a serving plate in the oven.
6. Make your sunny-side-up or poached eggs. Top the pancake hash with the eggs.

And one more that I'm probably going to make tomorrow evening to get rid of the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers in one fell swoop:

Turkey and Stuffin' Soup (courtesy Rachael Ray)

-4-6 cups prepared stuffing
-1 T extra virgin olive oil
-2 medium carrots, chopped, up to 2 cups leftover baby carrots, chopped
-2 ribs celery, chopped
-1 onion, chopped
-salt and pepper
-1 bay leaf
-2 qts chicken stock
-1 1/2 lbs cooked turkey meat, diced
-handful parsley leaves, chopped
-1 cup frozen peas or leftover prepared peas, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and transfer stuffing into a small baking dish. Place dish in oven and reheat 12-15 minutes until warmed through.

Heat a pot over moderate heat and add olive oil. Work close to the stove and add veg as you chop. If you're using fresh carrots, cut them into a small dice or slice thin. If you're using leftover baby carrots, cut into bite-size pieces. Add celery and onion and lightly season veg with salt and pepper. Ad bay leaf, stock and bring liquid to boil. Add turkey and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until any raw veg are cooked until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley and peas, if using.

Remove stuffing from oven. Using an ice cream scoop, place a healthy scoop of stuffing in center of a soup bowl. Ladle soup around stuffing ball. Your soup will look like a chunky matzo ball soup. Pull spoonfuls of stuffing away aw you eat through your bowl of soup.

Hey, that sounds pretty good! We'll see what the family thinks, though, and they are a tough bunch. I think all Man-Cub ate on Thanksgiving was turkey, rolls and pie (but not the crusts, the Philistine). I can't quite see him going for stuffing in his soup. Oh well.

My other pursuits today are many and varied. I have to somehow track down The Viking's doctor. He has been in continuous pain for two weeks now, is still sleeping in the recliner and is slipping into despair despite the epidural he had on Tuesday. I know, it can take up to 2 weeks for it to take effect, but what is he supposed to do in the meantime? The doctor isn't seeing him again until December 22! The meds being prescribed are not helping much, but he's running out of them and can't get them refilled without a doctor's authorization.

I also have some shopping to do. I need groceries (SNORE), but I also want to stop in at my favorite British Import shop for some Advent calendars for the kids and a package of Typhoo. Then I want to track down the materials to make my very first Advent wreath and some candles. I've been doing some reading lately and have decided that what we need right this very moment is a little Advent, not a little Christmas. It's too early for Christmas, people! That need you feel to anticipate something with great expectation and excitement cannot be met by Santa Claus, Frosty, Rudolph, the Grinch, or (Lord help us) Homer Simpson dressed as Santa. Getting that something special for everyone on your Christmas list, mailing all your Christmas cards by December 1st, or festooning every corner of your home with glitter, tinsel, baubles, holly and ribbon will not help. Wishing joy and peace and goodwill to your fellow man won't even cut it.

We spend inordinate amounts of time and energy getting ready, but for what? For Santa? No, we're too old for that. For exchanging gifts? For gathering with family? For resting and relaxing? All good things, but is that all we're gearing up for? Is that the main event? We spend almost 6 weeks preparing for something we just did on Thanksgiving except with presents? So is it just about presents? It can't be. Because then we could just efficiently add the exchanging of gifts to our Thanksgiving celebrations and save ourselves a lot of time, effort and money (not that corporate America would ever want that to happen, but it would be the sensible thing to do). No, there must be something else that makes Christmas special.

Lately, you hear a lot about being kind to everyone around you because it's Christmas, that special season. But why? Why should we be extra good to people at Christmas time? What's so special about it?

What's special about it is Christ and the celebration of his birth. He came, miraculously and willingly, to become one of us, knowing we would kill him and reject him, all so we could have a way to be with him for eternity and escape the eternal torment we deserve. That is what we celebrate on Christmas and that is what we anticipate during Advent. We prepare our hearts and our homes for what should be the most splendid party of the entire year. That's where all the hoopla surrounding Christmas comes from, or once did.

One year, when I was walking far from God, I celebrated Christmas and Easter the way many Americans do, without Christ in it. I didn't think I would miss much; after all, it seems to work for so many. But, despite my continued anger with and rebelliousness toward God, I noticed how empty and flat those Holidays seemed without that divine element. I actually thought, though I would not acknowledge it for many, many months, "How do people celebrate this way year after year? Is this all they have, all there is? How SILLY!"

So, this year, instead of getting caught up in the increasingly secular preparations for an increasingly secular "Holiday," I am slowing down and refocusing. I'm remembering what I'm really waiting for and preparing for. And I'm finding ways to work those remembrances into our family traditions, which is why I want a wreath! Anyone know where I can get that stuff???

You know, I never know how to wrap things up. I go on a tear about something and then suddenly, I'm done and I've got no words or mental energy left for a spiffy conclusion.

So, on that note...I'm done. And I have to go shopping. Thanks for listening.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving: A Retrospective

Squee! A flash drive of my very own! Christmas came early!

So, let's get caught up, shall we?

Of course, now, a day after the fact, all that's left of Thanksgiving is half-eaten pies, burned down candles and a fridge full of leftovers. But what a party! We only had nine people but we had five pies. That's little more than half a pie per person! We're kind of pie-crazy in my family. Thanksgiving just isn't Thanksgiving without a preponderance of pies. And it has to be the same kind every year: two pumpkin, one pecan, one chocolate pudding, one vanilla pudding. Sometimes, if there's going to be an actual preponderance of people, we'll throw an apple, maybe a blueberry into the mix.

Speaking of pies (we are, still, aren't we?), I did get around to making my own pie crusts and they were WONDERFUL! Easy, light, flaky, buttery! All thanks to Julia Child and my Cuisinart! I really needed someone around who could appreciate the beauty of it all; I made my poor Viking come over and gaze at the flecks of butter evenly distributed through the dough after I'd rolled it out. He thinks I'm barking mad.

I was so on the ball this year it was really, really weird. Everything was ready on time, everything was delicious, I was not the stressed-out, frantic madwoman I tend to be on Thanksgiving (and Christmas), and we even had time for the four of us to spend an hour at Starbucks in the middle of the afternoon! It was truly bizarre. And just so you know, we don't usually go to Starbucks. The Viking makes a mean cup of joe and I usually prefer tea anyway and Starbucks is just too expensive for us. But we needed to get out, take a break and spend some time together and Starbucks was the only place open.

The only dish I got any photos of was this year's cranberry sauce. It just looked so pretty I had to shoot it. Mom got me this little dish at a yard sale some years back. I've always had it on display in my kitchen and the first year I made the sauce, it seemed the perfect piece to serve it in and that's just about all I use it for now.

I halved the recipe this year because every other year I've had a jar of the stuff go bad in the back of the fridge and it pains me to dump it in the disposal. But halving it wasn't the solution either. It was gone by the end of the feast last night; no leftovers for tonight!

So, check out that cute, little place card! The photo does not do it justice--even EGOD had only complimentary things to say about them. You can also catch a glimpse of the Holiday dishes and my cute, little gravy boat in the back there--another yard sale find from Mom. It goes so well with my dishes and is just the right size for gravy!

After dinner, we sat around for a bit feeling bloated and overindulgent and then we got over it and had pie. Then the sticks-in-the-mud went home and we delved into the game stash. First it was Casual Outburst: no one keeps score and there are no teams. One person reads the categories and everyone else just shouts things at them until all items in the category are named. Great for loud families like mine. That one always sends The Viking right up to bed. Last night Casual Outburst almost became Casualty Outburst when Daria and I began kicking and shoving each other. As always, she started it. But that seemed to sound the death knell for that game so we started another.

I don't know why we thought it would be a good idea after the fisticuffs that had erupted during Outburst, but we decided to break into the hard stuff next: Dutch Blitz. No other game makes my family foam at the mouth more than this one does. We play it fast and loose and if you're new, well, just look out!

As you can imagine, this game deteriorated after a while as well. I kept starting a few lines of songs that I know Daria hates because I knew they would get into Mom's head and she wouldn't be able to stop singing them. All I had to do was go, "...lucky I'm in looooove with my best friend..." and Mom would take over and do the rest while Daria glared at me. It's a great way to really irritate someone if you have just the right set-up for it. Sadly, shoving was to blame for the end of this game, too, when Daria and I shoved each other's cards off the table. I guess she was still a little miffed about being shoved unceremoniously into the recliner during Outburst. Good times, good, good times.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's That Time Again

These photos are old. This is last year's batch of cranberry sauce. But I can assure you, this year's batch looks pretty much like that one and I make it the same way every year. It's so yummy I've thought about spooning it over ice cream. And it couldn't be easier to make. Okay, I guess twisting a can opener would be easier, but let's not be ridiculous.

But, hey, how about the recipe? I haven't posted one in a while and this one's a keeper. Picking over the cranberries is a great task to give to children, even smaller ones and making this sauce will fill your home with such a festive scent! It always starts to feel like the Holidays when I can smell the cranberry sauce in the upstairs hall. From America's Test Kitchen, of course:

Cranberry Sauce With Pears And Ginger
makes about 2 cups

-1 cup sugar
-3/4 cup water
-1/4 t salt
-1 T grated ginger
-1/4 t cinnamon
-12 oz. fresh cranberries, picked over
-2 pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

Bring sugar, water, salt, ginger and cinnamon to a boil in a nonreactive medium saucepan (stainless steel, nonstick, or enameled) over medium heat, stirring occasionally to help dissolve the sugar. Stir in the cranberries and pears and simmer until slightly thickened and the berries begin to pop, about 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature before serving, about 1 hour. Sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

I'm thinking of offering a reward to the smaller persons in my home for finding the flash drive. I really want to show you my Thanksgiving preparations! Proof that I'm on top of things and getting them done! Not to mention Daria made the cleverest little place cards which must be seen to be appreciated.

So, the table is set (except for the tapers in the candlesticks which Daria is out buying right now and the napkins which I am supposed to be folding right now--but instead I'm languishing in front of the computer), the cranberry sauce is made (see above), dinner is in the crockpot (I got a whole eye of round roast on sale and had to use it up), the meat and veg for the stuffing is cooked and the butter and shortening are in the fridge chilling, waiting to be made into pie crust. Daria and Redheaded Snippet are doing a last-minute grocery run for me (milk, butter, dried sage, cake flour, and oh yes, the TURKEY--kind of some essential items there) and when they return I'll be finishing assemblage of the stuffing and tackling the pie crusts. Don't tell anyone, but I'm making them from scratch this year. I've always wanted to try it and decided this year is the year. Everything else has been so streamlined that I actually have the time to do it. Isn't that crazy? So tonight's the night. I figure if it all goes horribly wrong, I can send someone out for a box of Pillsbury ready-made pie crusts.

I think everything is going along just swimmingly and I never would have believed that possible a scant week ago! This is going to be a Thanksgiving for the family history books!

Right, off to fold napkins...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gearing Up!

I'm not sure how to feel right about now. Thankfully, I am no longer nauseated (nor obsessed with the fear of being miraculously, scientifically-impossibly pregnant) and the retching has ceased so I have the good sense to feel grateful for that. But otherwise...

Two days until Thanksgiving. Part of me thinks perhaps I should be a raving lunatic, stressing about what I have to do. But there's another part that has control of my consciousness right now that is completely calm, laid back and serene. So what if the dryer is covered in clutter during Thanksgiving dinner? We're not eating in the laundry room! Who cares if Man-Cub's sheets don't get changed this week? He and I are about the only ones who go in there and he certainly doesn't care! Who cares if we don't have rolls on Thursday because I clean forgot them? Well, my mother might but I work very hard at ignoring her at Holiday meals, so WHO CARES? Incidentally, Mom means well and she really is a super mom and grandma and I am a very lucky woman to have her so that's my disclaimer so I don't feel too guilty for complaining about her just now.

Daria has been a big help this week. She has dropped off and picked up children displaying varying degrees of gratitude (read: Redheaded Snippet? Not very.) with nary a complaint. She has cleared surfaces and moved piles of stuff so I can vacuum. She has subtly steered me in the direction of sanity and calm and helped me focus. She has even baked cookies, I KID YOU NOT, DHARMA! I have discovered that Daria is very, very good at "staging" and her talents are coming in handy this week.

Yesterday we were able to get the living room almost G.I.'ed, as Mom used to say. I'm talking moving furniture, dusting baseboards, using vacuum attachments. I hate hate hate vacuuming and only break out the attachments when I mean business, people. I also got about 37 loads of laundry done, folded and put away, too. Maybe it was more like 6 loads but it felt like 37. And I still have more. The ironing is sitting piled up in the rocking chair, waiting for something semi-interesting to be broadcast on tv (because, I'm sorry, I am not ironing to Dolly Parton as an angel or a bunch of yellow lab puppies pulling sleighs NOR counting down to the 25-day countdown to Christmas--how dumb is that?) and I still have the linens and another load-and-a-half of darks to do, but when I got out of the shower this morning and took a large gulp of air through my fresh, clean towel, the crisp smell of bleachy clean just lifted my spirits and made all my efforts worthwhile!

This morning, The Viking had his minor surgical procedure. I told him I'm going to start telling everybody he went in for liposuction. Saying, "minor surgical procedure," to everyone just sounds so purposely vague, like I'm trying to hide the fact that he's having hemorrhoid surgery or his eyelids done. Liposuction just sounds funnier to me. But back to the important thing, he's doing fine. He was, unfortunately, aware during the entire procedure (so much for "conscious sedation") which kind of sucked, but he's resting comfortably and we're praying this thing did the trick.

Today, I have to make lists and start food prep and make cranberry sauce and get all the dishes out and set the table and get the kids to clean the bathrooms and finish dusting and sweeping and hopefully get my pie crusts made! And I must be having some kind of sympathetic reaction to The Viking's mood-altering meds because I am not dreading it and am actually kind of looking forward to it.

Maybe I've snapped, finally, and have had a complete mental collapse. If that's what this is, I should have done it a long, long time ago.

Off to make cranberry sauce!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Okay, you can't see her in this shot, but I promise you, she's there (back row, third from the left)! Redheaded Snippet's field hockey team went all the way to the top and is officially the best team in the state of New Jersey! After winning the Group IV Championship last Sunday, they took on the other Group Champs and won today's game by a score of 8-2!

Congratulations to the team, the coaches and all the parents whose combined efforts made this possible!

Go Vikings! What a great season!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A few tweaks here and there

You know, I'm starting to see the silver lining to this cloud I've been under. Isn't it interesting when we learn, once again, that pain and suffering have a purpose besides simply making us miserable?

The Viking is still in pain, yes, and I am still finding myself retching each and every morning (sorry...TMI?), but things have eased a bit and I'm starting to see how this has been a good thing.

As has happened many times over, it was one of my sisters who pointed me oh so gently in the right direction (what would I do without them?) and by means of a comment on my last post.

Do I have to do all the things I think I have to do? They may be good things, but are they all necessary? It got me thinking. First about Thanksgiving and all the pressure I put on myself to create the perfect Holiday for everyone. Does anyone need five side dishes in any meal plus bread and dessert? Of course not. So, out went the Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes. Will it ruin the stuffing if I use a discount bag of bread cubes instead of cubing and drying fancy bread myself? No way! Bye-bye to expensive bread and hello to five more dollars in my wallet. Is anyone (besides me) going to notice if I make the filling from a mix for the vanilla and chocolate cream pies instead of making them from scratch? Probably not. Jello pudding to the rescue! Daria is staying with us again to lend her helpful hands and the children have been recruited so I think we're going to be fine with or without a lucid Viking. I even got all my Thanksgiving shopping done this morning and, thanks to Daria's suggestion that I try an Aldi store, saved a butt-load of money! I can't believe I never tried it before.

As a result of further contemplation, I have come to the conclusion that Redheaded Snippet is going to have to prioritize her activities and make some difficult decisions. She can't possibly do basketball, youth group, indoor field hockey and Futures hockey training all in the same winter. It's impossible. So, it's looking like basketball will not be happening. The Viking and I have decided to curtail other Christmas activities such as singing or playing in the Christmas Eve service or for the town's Tree-Lighting Ceremony and are going away with my family starting Christmas Eve this year. We may actually succeed in securing a calmer, more peaceful, more meaningful Christmas this year. A season in which we can focus on the real reason for joy and thanksgiving. I am actually starting to look forward to it all!

So, we're still tweaking, still refining, still simplifying. We're hoping to get a lot of the "company" cleaning done today. Redheaded Snippet's last game of the season is tomorrow. The Viking is having a minor surgical procedure done on Tuesday. Slowly, we're making progress and I am seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. And I'm recognizing that I would not have shed all this baggage if it hadn't been for the stress and worry of last week.

See? Silver lining.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ramblings of a Madwoman

Well. Things have just gotten way out of hand around here.

I'm sure the last thing you're interested in is a sob story, but Redheaded Snippet's little ER escapade was just the beginning of a steady trickle of woes.

It's the end of hockey season; that means semi-finals and finals and having to travel over an hour to get to the "neutral" stadiums where the games will be played only to find, after already devoting hundreds of dollars and endless hours to the cause of seeing your child play in the Championship game, that they charge admission for the privilege. Oh, and sorry, but we take cash only. So, go back through the very confusing and enormous parking lot filled with one ways and concrete dividers, back through the miles of remote country road and find yourself an ATM that doesn't charge you a pair of limbs to get some money. 'Cause the game starts in five minutes and you don't want to miss hearing your daughter's name announced on the loud speaker, right?

Sorry. I think I needed that.

We have one more semi-final today and, provided we win, one last final on Sunday. And then, of course, basketball try-outs are the following Friday--that's right, the day after Thanksgiving--but I am absolutely refusing to entertain that notion right now.

Hockey puts a lot of strain on our budget. With me being a housewife, we live on one income and always have. God has always met our needs and even piled on tons of luxury things we simply want and don't need, but it takes a lot of prudence and planning to make ends meet. And even the little things can throw things way off. Like having to buy a gift bag full of snacks and trinkets for Redheaded Snippet's big sister on the hockey team before each and every game. Like the extra gas for driving too and from games and practices, not to mention for sitting in parking lots afterwards. Like meals eaten on the run because the game ended at 6:30, the church is 45 minutes away and we have to be there in 30 and no one has eaten anything since lunch (except a gift bag full of snacks provided by Snippet's big sister). Like programs and admission tickets and certain-colored Under Armour and special gloves that will keep hands warm but not impede handling of a hockey stick.

The Viking has always worked extra jobs in order to pay for all these things. Though he gets a paycheck for sitting behind a desk, he is very skilled at building and fixing things. He can do it all, except major plumbing and electrical work. So, he does little construction jobs on the side. These jobs paid for Redheaded Snippet's braces in full, got her to the National Championship in Virginia last June and provided a new, higher-quality field hockey stick this past summer.

Well, that little pool of plenty has dried up. The Viking learned a few weeks ago he has two herniated discs. He had been having some pain, nothing major, just enough to cause concern. Doctor sent him to physical therapy, told him he should get over to see a specialist some time soon. We realized then that this was going to seriously restrict his side job opportunities.

Fast forward to this past weekend when The Viking came home from work in tremendous pain. I could tell as soon as he walked in the door--his face was grey and drawn and he looked ten years older. That night he didn't sleep, just tossed and turn and groaned and sometimes even yelled out in pain. We couldn't reach our doctor so at 8:30 the next morning, I took him to the ER. I had never seen him in so much pain.

That was five days ago. The pain is still there. He hasn't slept more than 3 hours a night despite the many drugs they've been throwing at him. He's in constant pain, is fuzzy half the time because of the (ineffective) medication, and his mood is terrible and understandably so. He's been home from work three days now, trying to work on his laptop, but unable to get much done because he can't think straight.

I don't think I'm handling this all that well. I have a hard time managing my household to begin with and now I'm having to do everything plus take care of my suffering husband, which is what I really want to do but am overwhelmed by everything else. We've spent a fortune on rushed meals, prescriptions, trips to the doctor and ER. Neither of us has slept much in the past week as The Viking is spending his nights pacing around the bedroom or lying on the recliner, couch, floor or bed trying to find a comfortable position and I am up worrying about him, his job, all the things I have to do the next day and how I am so tired I can't think straight. Yesterday I went out 14 times and was so exhausted I flopped into bed with the kitchen still uncleaned from dinner, laundry piled up all over the living room, the bathrooms uncleaned, Redheaded Snippet's uniform unwashed, and I still couldn't sleep.

I'm overwhelmed, stressed-out, nauseated and worried. I think it's the perfect storm: the end of hockey season, fast-approaching holidays, The Viking's long-term health, his short term suffering, loss of income, extra expenses, it's all got me strung out! I know in my head that God will provide all our needs, but I always have trouble with that when I just can't see my hand in front of my face and don't know which direction to turn let alone which step to take first. I feel like I just need a little peace and quiet to refocus, prioritize and get a plan in order. Instead, I'm just running around putting out small fires all day long. Take today, for example: Man-Cub forgot his lunch AGAIN so I have to run up to the school and drop it off by 11:15. I need a shower. The beds need to be made. The bathrooms need to be cleaned. The kitchen needs to be cleaned and the floors need to be swept. I think I desperately need a nap. Men are coming soon to take away our piano (which we just sold in order to install the wood stove in our living room). Redheaded Snippet has a game this evening at 5:00 an hour-and-a-half away. The gas gauge on my car is on E. We're going to need to eat dinner on the way home from the game again as we're not going to get home until 8:00. And we're out of money.


Believe it or not, finishing this post was first on my list. I needed to finish something, something I could look at and go, "Aaaahhh, a completed task. I'm not completely inadequate." I'm going to bite the bullet and run Man-Cub's lunch up to the school (since that has to be done by a certain time) and then I think I will make beds as that is another thing I can look at to calm myself. Then I think I'll focus on the kitchen surfaces, then the floor, and then we'll see about that shower. What do you think? Sound like a plan?

Hope it goes nothing...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Still No Photos

So, I've decided what I want for Christmas: my OWN camera and my OWN flash drive!

This is getting ridiculous; I can't take any photos unless I can find Redheaded Snippet's camera which is the only working camera left in the family and I can't post the self-same photos unless I find the self-same Snippet's flash drive which is also the only one in the family. Why does she get all the good stuff around here? I WANT SOME GOOD STUFF!

I took photos of my weekly menu and grocery list to share. Oh, I know, your disappointment is palpable, even through time and space. But I don't like posting without photos anymore and I had all kinds of things to expound on from my menu and grocery list. Good Heavens, what has my life come to? Just kidding, I'm a Housewife, this is how we do.

I also strong-armed Redheaded Snippet into letting me take photos of her latest head injury. She is healing quite nicely and is enjoying her new-found fame because of it. Apparently, word spread quickly throughout the Athletic Community at school and people are starting to call her Harry Potter. This is not nearly as amusing to her as it is to me. I told her she needs to periodically wince, rub it a bit and choke out, "He's getting closer," but she just rolled her eyes at me. She is also not amused by having to get wrapped up by the trainer before each and every practice and game and looking like she should be marching with a fife next to a drummer boy. But, hey, at least she's playing!

Speaking of playing, the 2009 field hockey season is rapidly coming to a close and I find it all rather bittersweet. This was such an exciting season in so many ways and I do enjoy going to the games and watching Redheaded Snippet play and then reading about it in the paper the next day. But, the pace is kind of exhausting and I would like to be able to have normal meal times and evenings and not have to sit outside in cold and/or wet weather so much. But, for better or worse, we have a maximum of four games left and then Redheaded Snippet's first year of high school field hockey is over. It feels like it has just begun. Of course, if we lose this afternoon, the season is over today, but there's a really good chance that won't happen (but of course you never know). Thankfully, today's game is only 30 minutes away, unlike the rest of them which are over an hour away, but it is raining and chilly so there's that to deal with. I need to see if I can dig up a few ponchos...

Right, so it's off to the laundry pits for me. I should get something accomplished at some point today...

Monday, November 09, 2009

In Stitches

Aye, what a day.

Got a call at 5:00 from Redheaded Snippet's hockey coach. This is odd, I was thinking to myself when I answered, practice isn't over yet.

Turns out Snippet took a hit to the head. Again. This time it was above her left eyebrow and the culprit was a hockey stick. And though she wasn't presenting any of the symptoms of concussion this time, there was quite obviously the need for several stitches.

So, I ran over to the school, made arrangements for Man-Cub and made my way over to the ER where Mom and, later, The Viking met us.

The cut wasn't long and it was nice and clean, but it was deep--all the way down to the skull--GROSS! I couldn't look at it, it made my stomach churn. I just held her hand, stroked her arm and looked up at the ceiling or tv screen.

We were there several hours as we asked for a plastic surgeon to come and stitch her up. The cut begins in her eyebrow and I didn't want her to walk around looking sinister with a wonky eyebrow the rest of her life. If you look closely you can see 12 neat, tiny stitches in pretty blue thread (or whatever the technical, medical name for suture thread is). And while I don't think it will be a cool Harry Potter-esque one, she will most likely have a scar. One teammate yelled, as she was leaving the field for the trainer's office, "If you have a lightning-bolt scar, I'm gonna be so jealous!"

So, all's well that ends well and now I just have to get Redheaded Snippet to agree to let me take photos! The Viking is plying her with all her favorite treats so I think it's the least she can do in return!

I would say that is enough excitement for one day, wouldn't you? I think I need a strong, hot cup of tea and an early bedtime.


Sunday, November 08, 2009

Thanksgiving Menu Done!

I know I've mentioned Thanksgiving already. But I don't know if I've mentioned why.

I have the feast at my home each year. I'm the only sister with the space (though we are rapidly--and joyfully--outgrowing it) that lives in the most centralized location.

This year, the other two married sisters are with their in-laws for Thanksgiving which means we're just having my parents, Daria and EGOD for dinner. Dinner for eight. And though I will miss my other two sisters, brothers-in-law and nieces and nephew as I always do when they're not with us, the prospect of serving dinner for only eight people seems quite a bright one.

There are some advantages, though none that outweigh those of all of us being together: we fit comfortably at the table and no one has to sit on one of the truly odd chairs. There is less food to prepare and fewer dishes to wash. And, much as I love everyone, with fewer people there is always less chaos, both good and bad.

So, I am determined to have a peaceful, calm and well-organized Thanksgiving this year. Which is why I am getting right on it and planning as much as I can as early as I can. I ordered the turkey on Friday. We've already cleaned out the coat cupboard, put the Halloween decorations away and got Man-Cub's toys cleared out of the downstairs and restricted to his room in preparation. For the first time in over 14 years we have no children's toys cluttering up our main living areas. I am very excited about this, but no one else seems to get it. So what. I'm still excited!

This afternoon, I worked out our menu, which wasn't difficult since we're having a lot of the same things we had last year, only with a few things left out. I'm streamlining, you see.

Thanksgiving 2009 Menu

Pickles, Olives and Cheese

Roast Turkey
Classic Bread Stuffing with Sage and Thyme
Mashed Potatoes
Skillet-Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots
Cranberry Sauce with Pears and Ginger

Pumpkin Pie
Pecan Pie
Vanilla Cream Pie


So there you have it, another task completed. Tomorrow, I'm going to sift through all the recipes and compile the shopping list and then I'm going to divide it up and add a few things to my regular list each week. Sounds good, right? So far, so good. Let's hope this works!

Well, I'm off to iron and fold laundry until my piano students arrive...

Friday, November 06, 2009

Getting Ready!

Things are getting busy around here! We're beginning our preparations for Thanksgiving! I began preliminary (read: within the confines of my fevered, little brain) plans the very day after Halloween. No more of this last-minute nonsense for me! I've got little less than three weeks and I am going to be READY!

Part of those preparations included redecorating this here blog. What do you think? I'm still going to be making some changes, but the major things are done Hopefully it's not too crazy on the eyes.

Well, I've got more photos to upload for later sharing and a few posts to catch up on, but right now, I've got to finish the grocery shopping. The kids are off from school, The Viking and Redheaded Snippet have a concert at church tonight and Daria is willing to accompany me if I act now, so I have a very brief window in which to complete this arduous task. So, I'd better fly!

One more thing: I've decided to peek cautiously out of my cave and come above ground again. I've been thinking about it for a while and I think it may be safe. But we'll see...

Until next time,

Monday, November 02, 2009

Halloween in Review

You want pictures? I got pictures! Our Halloween 2009 Live Clue party was a mixed bag, from the Hostesses point of view. While everyone had fun (it seemed), things went a bit off track and we did not have time to do everything we had planned. Which meant a lot of the very hard work, involving lots of sweat and tears (thankfully no blood) was all for naught except to make my house look very cool indeed. But there it is.

I don't think I will be doing it again unless things are very, very different (read: not at my house and with many other hands to make light work), but we did have fun.

Halloween was kind of celebrated in two phases this year: Phase one consisted of The Viking taking the children trick-or-treating while Daria, Dear Mrs. Smith and I ran frantically around my house finishing last-minute touches for the party.

Redheaded Snippet showed she truly is her mother's daughter by recycling an old costume, the one she wore as the genie in the school's production of Aladdin last year. Man-Cub, I think, needs no introduction.

I have always wanted to do this to my dining room windows and, this year, Daria made it happen with a dollar-store vinyl tablecloth and some packaging tape. It looks cool day or night.

I reworked the hutch potions display a bit, adding a few things found along the way.

We had originally planned on using several rooms in the house as the rooms in Clue. It didn't pan out, which was a crying shame since Daria had done a beautiful job staging my "library" as the Study. Most of the stuff displayed is hers and I want to keep it for always but that would be over her dead, cold, still and lifeless body.

Again, in the candlelight you couldn't see the remains of duct tape on the front of this chest and the rest of the room looked perfectly dim and flickery.

Who opened the linen closet? And why? Believe me, I tried to keep you from seeing it, but I've been having trouble uploading photos to lately. Oh well.

A shot of the living room, excuse me, I mean the Lounge, just as everyone was starting to arrive. I don't know who put that giant pad of paper there, but I bet it was the same rascal who opened the linen closet door (maybe it was Lady Grey making her presence known)! Just try to imagine it isn't there!

The piano in all its glory. The shadows make it hard to see, I know, but it looked smashing in the candlelight.

There's the "front" of the Lounge. I've always suspected I would like white slipcovers for all the furniture and this experience proved me right. I loved how it all looked draped in white! And, looky, will you? There's Professor Plum!

Hmmm, and apparently, he and Madame Blanche know each other, or are in the process of working on it (that's my friend of kitchen-organizing fame, Mrs. Councillor Nugent, and her marvelous husband!)

Speaking of husbands, there's mine as a very dapper Colonel Mustard, with Redheaded Snippet as the long departed Lady Grey creeping up to "spook" him. We had more guests than original Clue characters so we made up a few.

Here is the somewhat elderly, sometimes crochety, but delightfully spry Lady Marmalade (played to perfection by my very young friend who is an old crony of Daria's but doesn't have a blog name yet)!

Daria as Miss Black. I wanted desperately for her to use a German accent and call herself Fraulein Schwarz but she wouldn't go for it. She felt she had suffered enough for the party by wearing heels all night. If you knew her in person you would understand how ridiculous this costume truly is. You can't see it, but she's holding a black riding crop that she made with a wooden dowel and duct and electrical tapes. And that cigarette is a complete and utter fake (Daria doesn't smoke)!

Man-Cub was delighted to be allowed to hold a pipe between his teeth all evening as Mr. Green. He only agreed to this part because of the pipe and the mustache. And it helped that his favorite color is green. It is no coincidence that he is sitting protectively (or is it menacingly?) in front of the vat o' candy.

Dear Mrs. Smith was the perfect Miss Scarlet. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo that does her costume justice. But she loved that cigarette holder and made her presence known by the little trail of molting feathers left everywhere she went!

There I am, as Mrs. Peacock, sizing up The Colonel. I may just call him that from now on. I had decided to call him Colonel Sanders all night long, just to annoy him, but I never got the chance.

Looks like The Colonel and Mr. Green are sealing some kind of shady business deal, don't you think? Or maybe its allowance negotiations.

The Colonel again. I think the photographer really liked his costume. Or, just really liked him!

Menacingly, definitely menacingly.

There we all are, the whole motley crew.

We had a scavenger hunt. Mom hid all the weapons throughout the area and left us clues to find them. It was so much fun even though it was a bit difficult and took forever! Our first clue led us to the local convenience store where we had to buy a pack of cigarettes to get the next clue. Here's Madame Blanche working it out.

They all look kind of frustrated, no? We had to have a discussion about sportsmanship and being a sore loser with Man-Cub after this (his team lost).

Unfortunately, I don't have any other photos of the scavenger hunt (my team was too busy winning-HA HA!) but here's Miss Scarlet settling in for a round of Pictionary. The Hunt and Pictionary were originally intended (along with a round of Dutch Blitz--a favorite among our group) as a means of winning three extra Clue cards left over after all the others were evenly distributed among the four teams for the actual Clue game. But we ran out of time after one round of Pictionary.
I forget what Madame Blanche had to draw, but it seems that little French Maid costume wasn't keeping her warm enough, even on that unseasonably warm, humid night! Oh, yes, it was "Shaun of the Dead". They got it, despite her initial misgivings about her abilities. And the party, unfortunately, ended shortly after as she and Professor Plum had to get home to relieve their babysitter.

So, though it was not as we had planned, everyone had a good time. It was fun tearing around our town and the next two over, racing the other team to get to the other clues, even if it was pouring rain at one point. We had to go into Shop-Rite, Blockbuster, McDonald's, Wawa, Friendly's, The Ritz movie theater and even the local Police Station to find clues. We had to walk through woods with flashlights, sneak into someone's yard (turns out Mom knew them and had gotten permission first) and lift someone up to get the rope out of a tree. And then there was the revolver and another clue stuck way up high on the cross in the front yard of my mom's church! Mrs. Peacock almost hit Colonel Mustard with her car, Lady Grey almost peed her pants with laughter while sitting on Miss Black's and Lady Marmalade's shoulders (a near-crime in retribution for which they sort of dropped her), Madame Blanche had to buy a pack of cigarettes, Colonel Mustard inadvertently stole a roll of duct tape from McDonald's thinking it was a clue, Lady Marmalade ran through the pouring rain with no umbrella which caused her hair to run, Miss Scarlet had to take an emergency wee in the woods, and Miss Black had a rather painful encounter with the flashlight she didn't see sitting on the passenger seat. Lasting memories were made.

Another Halloween for the books. Now on to Thanksgiving!