Monday, January 31, 2011

a place of her own

having your own room is a wish come true. a place where you can dream. a place to retreat. a place to create. a quiet spot. a private space. you can arrange your stuff the way you've always wanted it to be when you have your very own room.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Daybook for January 30, 2011

Outside my window: The sun has just gone down. Most of the snow from this week's storm has almost melted.

I am thinking: about Gary moving out. Thinking about it and talking things over, he and I felt like this would be the best thing for him to do at this point in his life. He already experienced college life, including a study abroad in Jordan, and was missing his independence. He's working now full time, preparing and saving money (he's saved all that and more) to serve a full time mission for our church. We've packed up all his room and he's waiting to find out about an apartment he looked at yesterday near the university 20 minutes away from our home. He's also looking to purchase an inexpensive car. It will be nice for him to have his own transportation.
This change is bittersweet for me. It's hard to know that I won't have the day to day, close interaction with him like I've had. We'll all miss him. I do know that he'll learn a lot by having more control over his life and independence, appreciate home more, and will be closer to the social and academic life of the university.
I am thankful for: Eliza's science fair project finally being done.

From the kitchen: I made a nice dinner tonight. Turkey in the crockpot, mashed potatoes, sauteed asparagus with garlic and mushrooms, green salad, and for dessert a carrot cake (no sugar/dairy). A healthier version with coconut oil, coconut milk, Succanat and agave for the sweetener. Can't believe how moist and delish it turned out to be.

I am creating: more order and organization in my bedroom closet. That's my goal this week.

I am going: to head over to my mom and dad's for a visit. (Taking the cake.)

I am hearing: Rachmaninoff piano concerto no. 2 in C minor (adagio). I can't stop listening to this.

I am hoping: Sam and Jane feel better. Sam went to bed right when we got home from church this afternoon. I think he has the cold bug that Isaac had on Friday and Saturday. Some of you may not know that Jane broke her back this past summer and is still experiencing a lot of pain. She over did it when our family helped clean the church yesterday and then she went to a dance that night. She also started a yoga/running class this week and I'm concerned that she's doing too much. She came home early from church and has been resting all day.

Around the house: With Gary moving out, his stuff is piled up in a corner of our music room. I had always thought that once that room was made available, I'd convert it into a sewing room. I decided it would probably be a better situation for Eliza to move out of the room she shares with Jane and move into Gary's room. The girls' room is very small and crammed. It would make both of them happy to have their own space. When Jane leaves for college next fall, I'll get my sewing room dream back. I think I can wait until then.

I am reading: Need a good novel. Going to the library tomorrow. Any suggestions?

One of my favorite things: A friend of Gary's brought over these eggs from their chickens. These were the same kinds of eggs we got daily from our chickens. I miss those days so much. This boy's mother is going to order some chicks this spring and wanted to know if we wanted to go in on an order. Oh, how I want to. Since all our chickens died out over the years, and the coop fell apart, we need to start fresh. A new coop needs to come first.

I am wearing: Still have my apron on from dinner. I'm also wearing brown pants, navy top, and red slippers.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Piano and violin lessons for Isaac and Jane, Sam's home basketball game on Wednesday. I've been asked to help judge at Eliza's school science fair Wednesday. Keith will head up again to help take care of his dad.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Geography Fun Day~ We try Japanese food

Isaac and I have been focusing on geography this year for our homeschool social studies. It's got to be my favorite topic we've delved in over the years. I love learning about cultures. I think I've done a good job at helping my kids love and appreciate the different countries and peoples of the world. I think it has everything to do with my enthusiasm.

We've been learning about Asia this month and will be for the next. For the last two weeks, it's been all about Japan. We've read lots of fiction and non-fiction books we've picked up from the library. We love watching a series called Families of the World that focuses on the daily life of two children from various countries of the world. We watched the Japan video yesterday. Isaac colors maps. He writes narrations of things we've read about and learned. He draws pictures to illustrate. He likes to put together puzzles of each of the continents. The other day, he tried his hand at Chinese calligraphy. I made him his own passport where he gets to put on a flag sticker with a handwritten label for the countries we learn about in each continent.

In years' past, I organized a monthly geography club with several other families where we each would do a presentation that involved food, games, and other hands-on activities. Those were the "glory days" of our homeschooling. I've always tried to make the learning come alive.

I think the funnest thing we do is eat the food from each culture. It comes in so handy for the monthly field trips we try to take. I've always done this with my other kids, and it's one of the best memories of their homeschool experience. If we can, we'll go to a Oriental food market, maybe a Mexican or European-type bakery, try our hand at making something special at home, (that means a party!!!) or for a special treat, we'll go on a special outing to an ethnic restaurant.

Isaac couldn't stop talking about our plan to go out to lunch for Japanese food.
Just him with mom. We sat on a low booth table on pillow mats. I normally don't like sushi (it's the seaweed that gets me), but for some reason, I felt a craving for the veggie roll. Isaac was feeling brave and decided to try a bite of mine. I watched his face...

He loved it! He even went so far as to try a, in his words, "microscopic taste" of the super-hot wasabi. No more of that, thank you very much, but needless to say, I ended up sharing the rest of the sushi with my boy.

He ate every drop of his miso soup. Tofu, seaweed, the whole bit. He got the hang of using chopsticks. (He practiced by picking up his napkin over and over.)

We each got a Bento box with teriyaki chicken. He was adventurous to want his with the vegetable and shrimp tempura. Mine had the Gyoza (dumplings). All so tasty. The leftovers made good after school snacks for the other kids.

All in all, a very fun outing. A great way to introduce an excited, easy to please, little boy to a new culture.

A time together that I hope he and I will never forget.

Next weekend, we'll celebrate Chinese New Year!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Family

"A family-- for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health! Dirty diapers, chicken pox, measles, mumps, broken dishes, scratched furniture, balls thrown through the windows, fights, croup in the night, arguments, misunderstandings, inconsistencies, lack of logic, unreasonableness, anger, fever, flu, depressions, carelessness, toothpaste tops left off, dishes in the sink, windows open too far, windows closed tight, too many covers, too few covers, always late, always too early, frustration, economies, extravagance, discouragement, fatigue, exhaustion, noise, disappointment, weeping, fears, sorrows, darkness, fog, chaos, clamorings--families!

A family-- for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health! Softness, hugs, children on your lap, someone to come home to, someone to bring news to, a telephone that might ring, a letter in the post, someone at the airport or station, excitement in meeting, coming home from the hospital with a new person to add, someone to understand intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, happy shrieks of greeting in which you are involved, beloved old people, welcomed babies, increasing togetherness, blending ideas of interior decoration, blending musical taste, growing interests, fun, satisfaction, enjoyment, clean washing, ironed clothing, tulips up, flowers arranged, rugs vacuumed, beauty, dogs, cats, candlelight, firelight, sunlight, moonlight, fields with someone to walk with, woods with someone to picnic, sharing food, imaginative cooking, exchanging ideas, stimulating each other--

A family is a mobile strung together with invisible threads-- delicate, easily broken at first, growing stronger throughout the years, in danger of being worn thin at times, but strengthened again with special care. A family--blended, balanced, growing, changing, never static, moving with a breath of wind--babies, children, young people, mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles--held in a balanced framework by the invisible threads of love, memories, trust, loyalty, compassion, kindness, to honor preferring each other, depending on each other, looking to each other for help, giving each other help, picking each other up, suffering long with each other's faults, understanding each other more and more, hoping all things, enduring all things, never failing! Continuity! Thin, invisible threads turning into thin invisible metal which holds great weights but gives freedom of movement--a family! Knowing always that if a thread wears thin and sags, there is help to be had from the Expert--the Father--Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named."

~ taken from What is a Family?
by Edith Shaeffer

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

cozy and contented

My, how things can change.

After going on my run (which was so great, by the way) and feeling a touch of warmth in the air, with no snow on the ground and no frosty car windows to scrape, I took that picture yesterday HOPEFUL for spring and change.

Just a few hours later, this.

Do you know what? I didn't really mind the return of winter. In fact, I loved it.

After taking Isaac to school in the morning, I came home and felt so happy just being at home.

The snow was falling fast outside, bringing with it a peaceful contentment inside my heart. I put on my apron, turned on the soundtrack to Somewhere in Time, and stood at the sink, washing the dishes and looking out the window at the trees now covered in snow. To me, that is one of the most beautiful sights there is to see.

It felt like a bread making day. It was so nice to get back to that simple joy I've been missing lately. One loaf for us and one for a neighbor.

It was a good day for snuggling and reading stories by the fire.

Just the kind of day for a good pot of warming soup at dinnertime. After all, Tuesday is soup day.

Monday, January 24, 2011

sweet dreams

Keith got back last night from spending four days helping take care of Grandpa. His sister Kelli and her husband Roy moved in with Grandpa last March with Nana's very sudden and unexpected passing.

Grandpa has Alzheimer's and is bedridden. He needs constant care. He was in liver failure in July. We thought we'd lose him, but he just keeps hanging on and has shown some improvement. Hospice comes in to give a hand. Nana, a nurse for over fourty years, never left Grandpa's side. She was completly and utterly devoted to his care. It was hard for her to let anyone else take care of Grandpa.

Early Saturday morning, while I was getting ready in the bathroom, Eliza came to me. Quietly and earnestly, she told me about her dream. These are her words.

"I had a dream about Nana. I was in my lunchroom at school, standing by the microwaves. It was quiet, but I could tell everyone was talking around me.
Nana was sitting far away from me. She was in her maroon colored suit with the turtle pin.
She was smiling at me and talking to me, but I couldn't hear her.
It seemed like no one else knew she was there.
Nana looked so happy, I wanted to hug her, to tell her I loved her. I wanted it so badly. But I couldn't move, I called out to her.
She kept smiling and talking to me, but I still couldn't hear her."

Eliza and I cried. This was the first time she's dreamed of her Nana. I told her it was a gift.

I talked to Keith on the phone that night. I told him about Eliza's dream. There was a quiet pause. His voice was filled with emotion. I could tell that he was crying. He said he also had a dream that same night where he saw his mother. She was dressed in white. She was smiling. He didn't remember the rest.

Keith hardly ever dreams. He hardly ever remembers his dreams. He's never had a dream about his mother since she's died.

I don't believe that Eliza's and Keith's dream of Nana occurring on the same night are a coincidence.

I believe in an afterlife. I believe that we live on. I believe Nana lives on. I believe she knows of the sacrifice and care being shown to Grandpa. I believe she wants us to know she's aware and loves and cares for us.

Last night when Keith got home, we talked about these dreams. I told them that I really feel, deep down in my soul, that these dreams were messages to our family. I believe we can receive inspiration, comfort, and messages through our dreams.

A sweet gift.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

pencil parable

Everything you do will always leave a mark.
You can always correct the mistakes you make.
What is important is what is inside you.
In life, you will undergo painful sharpening,
which will only make you better.
To be the best pencil, you must allow yourself
to be held and guided by the Hand that holds you.

Friday, January 21, 2011

long week. big sigh.

Can I just tell you how glad I am for this week to be almost done? It's been so tiring. I know it could be worse. But still. My nerves are shot.

With Keith being gone so much, and thinking that we still have two more weeks of this to go, I'm finding how hard it is to be the only parent around.

I've had to pick up the slack with driving my five kids where they've needed to go, at all hours of the day, and in all directions. To and from three different schools, multiple times a day (including a record 5 times back and forth to one school in one day), picking up Gary from work everyday, taking him to do his political volunteer work, taking Jane to violin, picking Jane up from the University, taking Jane to speak to a youth group several miles away... I think you get my drift.

I'm trying to pick up the slack in other ways, too. I think I'm better at handling the physical tiredness better than the emotional exhaustion.

I'm tired of not being at home in the evenings when I want to be. Especially the guilt, knowing that the little kids need my presence. Even though I love supporting Sam with his basketball, I've got to say that trying to sit through 3 games starting at 4:00 and going until 8:30 (he plays on the sophomore, JV, and Varsity teams) 2-4 times a week, well, it's hard. Adding Relief Society duties and evening meetings, homeschool, Eliza's dog behaviour science fair project, and this afternoon's school lunchroom duties on top of everything else I'm trying to do...well, I'm just plain worn out.
Yeah, PMS doesn't help much, either.

I'm tired of these blah, cold days of January. Tired of the mountains of laundry I can never quite conquer. Tired of always being the enforcer around here. Tired of being the bad guy. Tired of being the peacemaker when my kids fight. Tired of being in charge. Feeling like burnout is just around the corner. Tired of being the problem solver and everyone's caregiver. Tired of the drama. Worn out when my kids need my emotional and spiritual strength when I'm feeling so depleted myself.

Sometimes I wish I could escape, just for a little while. Fantasizing and craving days of solitude. (Moms feel that way sometimes.)

Yes, I'm venting.

Since tonight was Sam's night to make dinner, I used that as my escape time. I went up to my room, got my nightgown on, shut the door, and snuggled in my bed. Alone. I turned on First Knight that I picked up from today's library visit (in between kid pick-ups) and vegged. I think the last time I sat down to watch a movie or any T.V. for that matter, was on New Year's Eve.

Sam's dinner was good. Nice, for a change, to eat something I didn't make. Nice to relax and chill. To have some quiet time to myself. To not have to go anywhere or do anything. To sit down now and write about it. That's especially helpful.

Thinking this might seem a wee bit negative, I do want to note some of the many happys about my week.

~I got another wonderful, blissful, massage. That was nice.

~I've been able to run 3 days a week for 45 minutes. Even up the big hill without stopping.(!!!) The pain is leaving and I feel more hopeful than ever.

~Having a sweet friend come over a couple of times when I was gone to do a surprise yard work service for me. What an angel she is.

~Phone calls from Keith. That keeps me sane.

~Knowing and feeling deep down in my heart that the reason I do all that I do is out of pure love for my children. Yes, I truly wanted these five children and yes, I wanted this to be my calling in life. Even while I'm in the middle of these "mom trenches", I know that "this, too, shall pass" and that these fleeting years will be over before I know it.

And then I won't know what to do with myself.

Finding My (Meal Plan) Groove

I'm trying to get organized. It seems like that's the story of my life. I'm always thinking, searching, and striving for ways to be more productive and effective. A never ending journey.

Even though I can't say I'm there yet, I have learned some good tricks. The problem is, I know the tricks, but do I always DO and LIVE the tricks? No, I do not. I keep trying, though.

One of those tricks I use in my quest for a smoother home life is having and implementing some sort of plan for meal time. We all know how important family mealtimes are. We eat better. We have time to talk together. We save money in the process when we take the time to plan a menu and then stick to that menu while grocery shopping.

Wanting to do better, I spent the last few days brainstorming ways I could be more effective when it comes to breakfast and dinner. To make things easier for me, I set up a schedule to help me go on autopilot. (I've always done this, more or less, but not as detailed.) Since I purchase, store, and prepare basic, whole foods, I needed a plan to see that what I have on my pantry and storage room shelves will be used.

Here's how are weekly winter/spring meal rhythms all came together:


B: Oats
D: Beans


B: Eggs and Toast
D: Soup


B: Muffins
D: Fish


B: Pancakes/French Toast
D: Pasta


B: Other grain cereals
D: Kids Cook/Date Night (this will rotate between the four oldest and it might change to a Saturday if we go out then.)

B: Kids Cook
D: Mom's choice (whatever I'm in the mood to make, have time for, or whatever needs to be used up.)


B: Mom's choice
D: Poultry (or sometimes beef very occasionally)

I made a chart of this to display on the fridge so we all know what to expect.

Next, I went through all my favorite recipes and categorized them into the different groups I have on my menu plan so it would make the planning part easier. I'll type these up and put them in my cooking binder.

For example, when it's Muffin day, I made a list of all the different possibilities I could make, but might forget about, like apple cinnamon, pumpkin spice, mixed berry-oatmeal, blueberry, etc. If there was a question of the where the recipe was found, I made a note of that. I did the same process in all the other categories. (oats, pancakes, cereals, beans, soups, etc.)

Finally, I took a calendar (I was gung- ho and made up my menus from this week until March 12.) and listed each day's breakfast and dinner plan. This is also placed on the fridge for easy referral. It took a lot of thought, but it seemed so much easier when I had my list of options so available and handy. Another thing I've decided to do was keep a Post-It also on the fridge listing all the vegetables I have in both refrigerators that need to be used up. Sometimes I forget or things "hide" and then go bad. When dinnertime comes, I'll look to the handy list to remind myself: "Oh, yeah. I need to do something with that asparagus tonight."

I think it's really important to give our children (both boys and girls) opportunities to plan a meal and prepare it. That's what my mom did for me and I think that was key to helping me feel comfortable in the kitchen. I started early, learned by trial and error, and ended up loving this way of creating. I not only want this for my children, but I also want them to appreciate and gain a better sense of gratitude for all that goes into the process. They especially need to know that Mom isn't the only one in the family who can and should do all the cooking.

Of course, one has to be flexible in all this. The menus aren't set in stone, and there's always room for a switch or adaption. The real beauty in this is knowing that that the tough part- the planning part- is out of the way.

Now that you've heard my plan, I'm curious to know how you make mealtimes more effective. Let's share, shall we?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Easy Fish Tacos

These were as good last night as they were last summer when I wrote this post on my old blog. Very fast and easy in between Sam's basketball game and driving Jane all over the county.

Today at the farmer's market, I picked up some freshly made corn tortillas from a local Mexican market. I've been thinking about and craving some good fish tacos. Tonight was as good a time as ever. Boy, did these hit the spot. Easy to prepare. Light and fresh; especially with the broiling temperatures we had today.

When I first heard of fish tacos some years ago, I wasn't sure about the idea. I liked fish. I liked tacos. But "fish" in tacos? I tried them and now they are one of my top fave Mexican dishes. When eating out and also preparing them at home, I don't go for ones that are breaded and deep fried. Don't have the time and I try to stay away from deep fried stuff, if I can. You have to serve these with cabbage. It's just the way. Also, the tangy, and very tasty sauce totally make these come alive. (After I ate my three tacos and saw the puddle of sauce on my plate, I couldn't resist and laughed at myself for bending my head and taking a LICK off the plate. Now, to do something like that must mean it's real good, friends!) The recipe here makes a great salad dressing or dip.

Easy Fish Tacos
(this made enough for about 6 people)

Cube into bite sized pieces, six Tilapia fillets or other white fish. In a skillet, pour 1/4 cup lemon juice and 2 T. olive oil, then the cut up fish. Sprinkle with a packet of taco seasoning. Cook over medium high heat until fish is cooked and opaque. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Shred some cabbage and cut up some tomato to place in separate bowls to serve with your tacos.

Sauce (tasty enough to lick from your plate)

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1 lime, juiced (I substituted lemon juice, as I didn't have any. Still good.)
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (another change here. I used a few tiny banana peppers from the garden.)
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 to 1 t. cayenne pepper

Whisk together and chill if there's time so the flavors can come together. Check seasoning; adjust if necessary.

Warm up some corn tortillas, call the family, and get ready to chow down.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Seeing the Everyday

Our lives are the sum
Of each moment and interaction.
Each day we work, eat, laugh, teach, play, read, remember...
And work at it all again the next day.
Within seemingly small moments we find opportunity
To build relationships, develop character, find joy
For the price of our time.
Life's most essential possibilities are realized at home.
We share, teach, grow, learn, serve, give
Our best without praise or fanfare.
Because every effort, every moment matters
In the development of a person.
Nothing is really routine
(found on the inside cover)

A couple of months ago, while looking through the used book/library sale shelves, I came across a copy of this magazine. It immediately caught my attention with its title Seeing the Everyday. I gleefully payed 50 cents for it and couldn't wait to get home to devour it.

I'd never seen or heard of this magazine before. I was so attracted to the gorgeous photography (these are the types of photos I wish I could take), the toothy feel of the paper, the themes, and the absence of any advertising whatsoever. It looked like the one I had picked up was the first published edition. It made me want to find out if it was still being published.

I did some research. I went to the website: magazine is published quarterly and comes out of Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Here's the phone number if you're interested: 617.475.5130)

I told my family how excited I was to be able to find this magazine; they enjoyed it as much as I did. Later, I was happily surprised when Jane gave me a subscription for a Christmas gift.

It came in the mail a couple of days ago. It looks like each edition has the same format and general topics. Each story or essay comes from contributing readers who submit their work for publication. Sort of reminds me of just the sort of blogs I like to read and gravitate towards.

Each edition highlights something different about "the everyday". This winter one focused on Eating. It looks like each edition has the same general format or contents.

This might give you an idea:

Biscuits and Gravy
Baking Bread
Green Bean Pizza

Setting the Table
Dad Following Through
Trusting Dad
Living Gratitude

Pulling Together
All While in the Kitchen
Getting Dinner On


While We Wash Dishes
Growing Around the Table
Remembering Martha


Graham Crackers and Mom
Dad Saw What I Couldn't
Graceful and Majestic
Soup for the Soul

Family Mealtime-Coming Home to Eat

Hope this little review was helpful to you. It's nice to be able to share neat finds with each other. I love it when beautiful things, opportunities, resources, helps, and gifts, like this magazine is for me, just fall into your lap.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Daybook for January 17, 2011

Outside my window: The sunset tonight was unbelievable. Probably because of all the smut in the air. Nevertheless, it was a sight to see. I'm glad Eliza took the camera out to capture a bit of it on the east side view.
I am thinking: How much I've been blessed this past year with such kind and caring friends. They've each come at a time in my life when I've truly needed friendship and connection, filling a hole in my heart.

I am thankful for: You, my kind blog readers and friends. All your kind comments and visits to this space have touched me and brightened my days.

From the kitchen: been cooking up a storm. Can you guess why? (Psss... Remember the pantry?)

Blueberry-Almond Granola

Homemade Chicken Pot pie made for a cozy "Welcome home, Keith" Sunday dinner

I almost loved this more than the pot pie-
sauteed summer squash with mushrooms, garlic, and Parmesan.

chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

I am creating: Need to get thank- you cards written and sent.

I am going: to gather everyone in a bit for what we call "Family Home Evening" time. We reserve Monday night for being at home together. We'll sing, pray, read a bit from the New Testament, maybe read a character building story or have some sort of lesson, maybe play a game, and then have a treat. That's the plan we try to shoot for. Some nights are better than others. It's seeming like Sunday evenings are working better for us this way. Sam has an away game tonight and Gary is doing the same kind of thing with his church youth group.

I am hoping: the massage I get tomorrow will continue to make things better for me. The one I had a week and a half ago has worked wonders for my hips and leg. I ran for 45 minutes this morning (with a 5 minute walk down a hill). YAY!

I am reading: still plowing away with The Minister's Wooing. Also dabbling a bit when I can in: Feeding the Healthy Vegetarian Family, The Time-Starved Family, Own Your Own Health, and Light on Life (yoga).

Around the house: After dinner, just a little while ago, Gary had Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a Dream Speech on YouTube. We all stopped what we were doing and gathered around the computer where we listened in silence. It gave me the chills, and near the end, I had the urge to weep. (I'm finding that I'm doing more and more of that lately when something touches me deeply.)

Now, as Eliza's doing the dishes, we're listening to the Little Women soundtrack. One of my all time favorites.

I am hearing: Eliza went to a birthday party for a friend Saturday night. At the party, her best friend from school sat down by her and said, randomly, "Your mom has the coolest hair. The silver in it makes it look so shiny. I like how she's just let it go." This little info from Eliza made me smile and laugh (out loud).

One of my favorite things: I just had to take a picture of this darling cookie Isaac brought home from church yesterday. His teacher, Melissa who is also our dear neighbor, helps make church a much looked forward to event for Isaac.

Isn't it cute how the snowman is melting?

I am wearing: red cable knit turtleneck sweater, navy cords, brown clogs, tiny silver hoop earrings.

A few plans for the rest of the week: massage tomorrow morning, playing chauffeur for my kids all week- more than usual (ugh), church meetings and telephone calls, Keith will go up to help Grandpa again for four days, as well as for the next two weeks (trying "buck up" for this one.), Sam's basketball game, Sam and Jane's school "Winterfest".

Monday, January 17, 2011

7 Years Ago Today...

...I made front page news.
The largest circulating newspaper in the state, for that matter.

Writing this post is a little difficult. In my wish to record this experience, which I've never done before now, I don't want this to come across in the wrong way. I do not want to appear that I'm somehow wanting to attract attention or boasting. In addition, this is the first time I've posted pre-weight loss (65 lbs ago) photos of myself. It's still difficult for me to see pictures of the old me.

Every January since then, this experience always comes back to my mind. Especially when I drive by the house when I pick up the kids from school.
In case I do start to forget, and if my children want to remember what happened...
well, here's the story.

We had been in our new home only a few months. I was three months pregnant and sicker than a dog. I had told Keith just a few days before that nothing exciting ever happened in my life. That nothing I did really mattered. I was depressed. Keith was worried.

On that dreary afternoon in January, I had taken Jane to her violin lesson. We would go straight from there to pick up Gary from school. Instead of doing some other errands on the way, I decided we'd be early and just wait. For some reason, I decided to go down another street. A way I normally didn't take. The street where the house was.

I came to a little intersection and stopped. I looked at the house in front of me and could see with horror, flames coming out of the roof. It was shocking. Almost like a dream. Another driver motioned to me and I rolled down my window. He asked if I had a cell phone to call 911. I said I didn't. He said he'd go back home and make the call. I proceeded to drive.

Frantic, I knew I needed to do something. The house was in an older neighborhood. Looking at the car in the driveway, I suspected that whoever lived in that tiny house was an older person. I stopped the car and ran to a house across the street to see if we could call emergency from there. No one was home. Then, feeling like my heart would pound right out of my chest, and feeling almost like I was pushed by some unknown force, I ran to the house on fire and banged on the door. No one answered and I decided to enter the house, regardless. I quickly looked back at my crying kids in the van and I knew in my heart that everything would be okay.

An older woman was asleep on the couch. In her confusion, and in my urgency, I told her what was happening. It took a while for her to believe me, as there was not a smell of smoke in the house at that time. After repeating over and over that she needed to get out of her house, she finally started to believe me. Crying and so upset, she told me that her husband was in the back room. Knowing that the fire was directly over him, I rushed to find him asleep in his wheelchair. I could finally hear sirens now. Smoke started pouring in the house, and I proceeded to get them out the back door.

Emergency workers and neighbors met us on the road and then, remembering my anxious, waiting children, I left to reassure them and pick up my son. I couldn't stop shaking.

The next day's headlines in the local section of the paper read, "Stranger Saves Couple From Fire." The roof had collapsed right over the area the man was in. I felt sick inside. I was astonished to get a call from the same paper wanting an interview. It was surreal. We met in front of the burned out house.

The next morning I was awakened with an early morning telephone call from an excited, almost hysterical sister saying that I was not only in the paper, but actually made front page news. It was crazy. So weird to see a huge image of myself on the newsstands at the grocery store. We celebrated by going out to dinner with the family.

I had a mix of emotion. A confusion of feelings. Wanting to cry for the destruction of the Miller's home. Feeling so much relief, knowing something terrible could have happened to me and and them. Being amazed, shocked, and happy for this exciting, unbelievable attention from the newspaper, friends, and family.

A year later, I got a out-of-the-blue telephone call from someone representing a national organization called "Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge". I think he was a general in some branch of the military. He verified who I was and had me tell him the story again. He told me that I, along with three other people in our state, were chosen to be honored as heroes in their upcoming awards ceremony and banquet. I had to sit down by this time.

The day of the ceremony came. It was the first time I was able to talk to Keith and Afton Miller since the day of the fire. I was surprised to see that they had come. You can imagine the tears, hugs, and overwhelming emotion. I was also so happy that both our parents and children could join Keith and I on this special day. The governor's wife and other local dignitaries were there to honor and present special plaques to the heroes. When my name was called, I had a military escort. It was a day I'll never forget.

A few months later, Afton rang my doorbell with a cake in her hands. We cried. We held each other in our arms. She called me her angel. We would run into each other at the grocery store. I made it a point to visit them every year at Christmas time. I got the sweetest letter from their children in the mail.

In the last few years, Keith Miller, and just last year, Afton passed away. I quietly sat alone at the back of the chapel at her funeral. I feel a special bond and connection to these dear friends who came into my life. They will always hold a tender place in my heart.

Every time I drive by that house, I think of them. Sometimes, like right now, my eyes fill with tears. I re-live that memory, over and over and over.

I'm just so glad I was at the right place at the right time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pantry Re vamped

Drum roll, please...

Here is my baby. The pantry of my dreams. My weekend creation. I can't tell you how happy this makes me.

After Friday's tour of the beautiful, historical, art- filled home of Eliza's art teacher, professional painter, and now my new friend, I felt inspired and motivated to take on the project of my pantry.

It had always been a beast for me. When we remodeled our kitchen a few years ago, I was disappointed that the newly hung pantry doors could never be lined up correctly because of a framing error. The white of the doors seemed so stark to me compared to the warmth of the wooden cabinets and paint color throughout.

Trying to find a better way was taking out the doors and replacing them with some homemade plaid curtains. (They will now be recycled into a tablecloth for the kitchen table.) They always bothered me because they ended up not being long enough and people never closed them, exposing the hodge- podge of horrid, "can't ever feel clean" plastic containers, assorted ugly food packaging, and small appliances. To make matters worse, we've been dealing with (and just got control over) a terrible moth fly infestation. I had enough and needed to start clean.

I was on fire Friday night. I couldn't believe how much energy I had. (Maybe from those green smoothies!) It would be so fun to surprise Keith when he gets home tonight from his 4 day stay at Grandpa's. After Sam's basketball game on Friday, dinner out (it was 9:00 by then), a stop at the hardware store, and the grocers for some glass canning jars, I got home and didn't stop until I lay my weary, but happy, head on the pillow at 3:00 a.m. (A funny thing to note: Gary came home after midnight so surprised to find all the lights on, the kitchen in chaos, U2 blaring loudly, and his crazy mom an absolute mess with paint all over her hair.)

I finished painting, purchased more jars, and put everything together yesterday. This morning while lying in bed, I felt like child on Christmas morning, so excited to put everything on the shelves.

I wanted to make this area both functional and beautiful. I wanted it to say ME and reflect the colonial decorating style I like and am going for. I wanted an apothecary feel with the jars. To let the contents of those jars add beauty and color and texture. A old- time general store type pantry that I would feel proud of freely displaying and not hiding with doors or a curtain.

Top shelf includes a scale, large serving pieces, Portuguese pottery, pottery jugs, a little copper for interest, and some baskets.
Second shelf includes spices in bulk, baking items, grains, cereals, nuts, dried foods, dried sweeteners, pastas, powdered milk.

Next shelf down brings dried beans, teas, more grains we eat regularly, flours, snacks, a basket for bread and baked goods. I want to note that I have another space in my basement where I store more of these items long term in buckets, as well as various canned goods and paper products.
I have a lazy Susan (corner turn table) and another small cabinet near the stove where we'll now store the liquid sweeteners, oils, other baking sundries, smaller amounts of spices, and small appliances.

One thing that was so nice was to be able to bring most of my cookbooks to the kitchen. The rest (that aren't used as frequently) are stored on shelves in the music room.
The shelf below my cookbooks and mixing bowls are baskets filled with lunchbox paraphernalia, a basket for napkins, and two baskets filled with paper products. Love how they are all corralled neatly, are accessible, and still pretty.

On the floor sit the baskets for winter squashes, sweet potatoes, onions and garlic, and red and white potatoes.
Thank you Lynde, for inspiring me and giving me the push I needed. This home project has given me a boost of sunshine during this cold, dark season between Christmas and springtime--the hardest part of the year for me.
Now, off to the kitchen to smile and do what I love and do best-