>> Thursday, September 27, 2012

I have a spur-of-the-moment meeting here tonight.

People I know relatively well, but who've never been to my home before will be here.  IN. MY. HOUSE!

I'll be honest, it scares the livin' daylights outta me!!  I am trying not to panic and hoping to focus just on what NEEDS doing, including my normal routine, which won't leave a whole lot of time for cosmetic things.

You know, things like organizing and cleaning the toy room/front porch, washing the windows, repairing and painting the house and garage siding, filling the potholes in the driveway, refinishing the dining room table, recovering the chairs... that sort of thing.

Isn't it funny how we're content to live in a certain state as long as no one else perceives we're less than perfect?  How is it we never "notice" clutter, disrepair, dirt, and unfinished projects until faced with the prospect of someone else seeing them?!

I truly want to be content with what I have (including the budget I have), but in times like this, I can't help but notice the cracked, torn vinyl on the dining room chairs and the worn tabletop, even though they've been that way for many years.  I can't help but see my unfinished kitchen walls and the crumbling front corner of the garage, even though they've been that way for many years, too.

I'm suddenly a little embarrassed that we haven't made it a priority to replace our ripply living room carpet or purchase matching sets of furniture.  I can't believe I haven't washed the windows yet, despite the fact that I've never once fully completed the task in the 10-1/2 years that we've lived here.  Even the way I've hung pictures on the walls is irritating me!

How silly.

This too, is vanity.

I am praying and hoping my focus can be on my friends, not on my STUFF.  If they didn't know it before, they will come into my home tonight and see that I am not perfect.  {GASP!}  They will see a home overrun with toys and papers that I just don't know what to do with.  They will see my mismatched, second-hand furniture, and my pictures hanging in rather haphazard manner on the walls, and know that interior decorating is simply not my passion.  They will drive onto my yard and come into my house and assume (correctly) that I am not wealthy.

And that I rarely dust.

But my prayer is that while they might notice all these things, they will also see a HOME where, despite its many imperfections and limited resources, a woman lives contentedly and joyfully.

And that making visitors feel valuable is more important to her than pretending to be perfect.

Valentine heart plant 



>> Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Once again, that's how I find myself feeling about blogging.

Dried up.  Nothing left to give.

No direction, no inspiration, no motivation.

It seems to have happened to a lot of bloggers who began in the 3-10-years-ago window like I did.  Those whose blogs were begun solely for the purpose of keeping far-reaching family apprised of what was going on in their day-to-day lives have switched to Facebook.  It's much quicker and simpler.

A handful who had a distinct purpose and who posted daily managed to carve a niche for themselves in their particular circle of interest. Their sites have been maintained consistently and continue to grow in popularity, but so many are websites now, not just blogs anymore.  You no longer feel like you're visiting with a friend; your comments ~ if you still leave any ~ are tucked away among the hundreds on any given post. Many have regular guest writers, sponsors, and all manner of advertising on their sites.  They've reached celebrity status, becoming conference speakers, televised kitchenistas, and/or published authors, having a daily following that numbers in the thousands.

And then there are the countless masses like me who never really had a mandate for their blogs.  It started as a whim. Some of it was our daily lives, some of it was deep thinking, faith-related stuff; sometimes we posted recipes or ranted about our pet peeves.  A little of this, a little of that, and a few pictures of kids and sunsets thrown into the mix. These blogs seem to be dwindling as we try to figure out why we're doing it and if it's worth the effort.

Most, myself included, claim we blog for personal reasons ~ to get our thoughts down in writing.  For cathartic or therapeutic reasons.  It's "all of the above" for me. It's a place for me to record and sort through what's going on in my heart and my mind and my life at any given time.

And yet, as the postings get fewer and further between ~ sacrificed for the speed and ease of status updates and photo captions on Facebook ~ and the visitors and commentors slowly but steadily disappear due to the irregularity, I find myself falling out of love with blogging all over again.

Let's face it:  if it was really just for personal reasons, my blog wouldn't be open to the whole wide world.  It's there because I want a response.  I want validation.  I want compliments on my pictures; I want someone to agree that my kids say the funniest things; I want affirmation that I have made the right decision; I want human confirmation that I am growing spiritually.

It's vanity.

I should be having more conversations in real life with my family and friends.  If I want to keep them in the know, I should pick up the phone and talk to them.  Or have them over for coffee.  And this is not the first time I've mentioned here that I think my real life relationships have suffered since I turned to blogging as a means of communication.

I don't know what to do with my blog.  I hardly ever really write anymore, and yet I want a place to do so occasionally.  I don't want to care if there's a response or not, but I can't quite bring myself to disable the comments or quit linking posts to Facebook for greater exposure.

I believe it will come down to a decision, rather than a response to a feeling of direction...

And I think it will happen soon.


Practicing Gratitude

>> Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thankful Thursdays hosted in September by Iris @ Grace AloneMan, I can't believe I missed last week's Thankful Thursday post!

Well, yeah... actually, I can.

It's been a rough week and a half in some respects. I won't expand on that, but I am thankful for evidence that God is really at work in my life. It is so often the hard things that test us, displaying our growth ~ or, as is so often the case in my life, the lack thereof. This time, I believe there is evidence of forward progress.

I'm thankful that God still speaks.  Maybe not quite the way He did in Bible times, but I know He speaks nonetheless.  I had written and auto-posted a very different post for this morning, but after listening to Tuesday's Revive Our Hearts broadcast yesterday afternoon, I seriously had to question the real motives behind it.  In and of itself, there was nothing wrong with what I'd written, but while I claimed (to myself) that it was supposed to be an encouragement to other Christians, I was faced with the very distinct possibility that what I was really after was their admiration.

I'm so grateful for "second" chances.  And a God who doesn't give up as easily as I do.

I'm thankful my girls seem to have great teachers this year.  That was a huge issue for Mack last year and she was concerned this year would be rough, too, given she's got a very different teacher now ~ one who knows how to lay down the law and keep her class in line!  Mack was initially afraid of the long list of rules this teacher apparently laid out and very firmly applied in the first week of school, but she has already been heard to say that she thinks this will be the best school year yet.  I'm thankful for teachers who know how to command respect, implement discipline, and yet make learning fun at the same time.  Seems like a rather rare combination these days.

I'm thankful for the sights, sounds, and smells of fall. The green trees becoming orange and gold; the crisp mornings; the amber stubble in the fields against the vivid blue afternoon skies; the ever-present distant roar of combines and grain trucks ~ there is just nothing like the smell of fresh-cut straw mixed with the faint scent of diesel fuel!  I can hardly wait for the stubble-burning phase!!  I know a lot of people living out in the country have trouble with allergy-activation this time of year, so I guess another thing to be thankful for is that I don't!

I AM a bit sneezy and drippy today though; I have developed a cold.  Boo. But I'm thankful I can stay home, cuddle up on the couch, drink tea, read, and nap today, all very legitimately!!

*Click the button at the top of the post to visit our hostess and other thankful bloggers!


I'm famous!

>> Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Well, almost.

In some tiny circles.


Okay, so not really at ALL, but I FELT famous!!

We'd been invited to a church-and-community get-together and potluck supper at the home of some friends on Sunday afternoon, and I was tempted to make a standard fall potluck dish I often bring to our church Thanksgiving dinner. I ran out of time, however (translate: mismanaged my time), and ended up doing something a little simpler.

Which turned out to be a good thing, too, because two other women brought "my" casserole!!

One was a woman from church to whom I'd given the recipe after she'd requested it when I brought it to a church meal the first time. The other was a community woman I didn't really know, who had gotten the recipe from the first woman, who had obviously brought it to a community function in the past where it had been enjoyed! I felt so important!!

They'd both personalized it a bit ~ one had added a pork chop layer at the bottom, which was really tasty, and the other had added pre-cooked shrimp, which I didn't care for quite as much, but wasn't bad.
I don't know if I've ever shared a recipe on my blog here before, but this one seems to be a hit, so if you're like me and always on the look-out for ways to use up the produce of one excessively prolific zucchini plant (or FIVE of them!!), you might want to give this a try.

 Zucchini Carrot Casserole
Photo Credit HERE
  • 1/2 cup margarine (or butter)
  • 4 cups zucchini, unpeeled and chopped and thinly sliced into bite-sized pieces)
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 10 ounce can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup uncooked bread stuffing mix
  • 2 tablespoons margarine (or butter)
  • 1/2 cup uncooked bread stuffing mix
Melt first amount of margarine in frying pan. Saute zucchini, carrot and onion until tender. (This may have to be done in batches) Add more margarine if necessary.

Stir in soup, milk, bouillon, first amount of stuffing mix and salt. Transfer to 2 quart casserole dish.

Melt remaining margarine in small saucepan and stir in remaining stuffing mix. Scatter over top of casserole.

Bake uncovered at 350F for about 25 minutes.

Unfortunately, no photos of this EXACT dish exist in my files and I couldn't find any online.  The photo I used is from a virtually identical recipe that calls for 1/2 c. sour cream instead of milk (and celery soup instead of mushroom; I've also seen cream of chicken ~ those three are pretty interchangeable).  I have never tried the sour cream thing; might have to give it a shot this year.

But believe me, even sworn zucchini-haters have been known to change their tune after sampling this dish! For serious.

After the first church potluck I brought it to, another woman asked me for the recipe, and then casually asked what was in it. When I told her the main ingredients, her jaw dropped in disbelief.

"But I don't eat zucchini, Tammi." she said. "I don't LIKE zucchini!"

Well, I hated to break it to her, but that obviously wasn't completely true anymore.  She still often asks me in fall if I have an extra zucchini or two so she can make this casserole a few times.

And I ALWAYS have extra zucchini.

It's the one thing that consistently grows very successfully in my garden!

Raking Leaves 


A bit belated...

>> Monday, September 17, 2012

I came across this song while blog-hopping last year about a week after Valentine's Day and instantly wished it had been posted a week earlier!

So it sat in here in draft, just waiting for Valentine's Day this year, our 15th wedding anniversary. Then in the meantime, I kinda quit blogging for a while and forgot all about it, and now it's REALLY belated...

...Because it was supposed to auto-post LAST Monday!!!

It was 16 years ago last Monday that The Man asked me to marry him and I said yes, so it would've been quite appropriate. I think the 10th is the day, anyway ~ believe it or not, I'm actually not positive of the exact date!! In any case, I refuse to let this sit in draft a moment longer!!

This song is such a beautiful testament to self-sacrificing, enduring love ~ the kind God designed for marriages.

The kind The Man and I are still constantly striving for.

Wedding Cake


I really CAN't

>> Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Click picture for link to recipe.
A friend offered me a box of apples a while back and I instantly began to dream of all the things I'd use them for and create with them.

I don't know who I thought I was fooling.

They sat for almost a week on my dining room floor while I tried to work up the ambition to tackle my chosen project:  canned apple pie filling.  When I finally did...

FLOP. BIG time.

The recipe was relatively small, calling for just 6 lbs of apples. I started out with 7 lbs because they were small and I figured with cutting away the centre, acounting for a few bad or partially rotten ones, that should be appropriate. I peeled, cored, and sliced apples for about an hour.

The recipe said the yield was three quarts and one pint. I could probably have filled that much with just the sauce recipe alone. I ended up with roughly seven quarts in total.

Of the five quart jars I actually put in the canner, one broke the instant it hit the boiling water, and two didn't seal. Lovely.

I fished the apples from the broken jar out of the canner, mixed them together with the remaining sauce and remaining sliced apples, and ladeled the mixture into three 750mL yogurt containers. I figure if you can freeze apple pie, you can freeze apple pie filling.

Which makes me wonder why on earth I bothered trying to can it in the first place.

The two jars that didn't seal also ended up in freezer-bound 750mL containers.

So time will tell which type works.  Either way, my opinion right now is that the project was totally not worth the effort.

Especially considering I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've made apple pie in our 15 years of marriage.

Eating Pie


Practicing Gratitude

>> Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thankful Thursdays hosted in September by Iris @ Grace AloneSo, my girls went back to school yesterday. The summer is officially over.

Crying 2

BUT... I am thankful it was a wonderful summer!

I'm thankful we've had no more power outages since the 3-day adventure at the end of June!

I'm grateful we had opportunity to make it to the lake a few times and that the weather was perfect for each of them.  I'm thankful that The Man got to get in some watersports this year.  He really misses the summers when that was at MINIMUM a weekly occurrence.  I'm thankful the girls got to try some new things in the water this year, too, like the ski-trainer and the knee board, and that their confidence continues to grow.

I'm thankful they had another great week at camp this year.

I'm thankful our van issues seem to be dealt with.  Finally.  We actually had to bring it BACK to the shop within a week of coming home from our extended stay in The Big City!  Different problems, but problems nonetheless!!  Given the age of the van, its mileage, and what we could expect to sell it for, this is definitely the LAST time we'll be putting any serious money into repairs!!  But I'm thankful we had the money, thanks to that unexpected tax refund we got in spring and determined NOT to spend recklessly on things we just felt like doing or having.

I'm thankful that even though the girls missed the first two days of swimming lessons because of the extended stay in the City due to van issues, they both passed their levels.  Mack actually passed an ADDITIONAL level, which, of course, we weren't expecting!!

I'm thankful for the great weather we've had this summer.  It got off to a stormy start and we actually did have a fair bit of rain in July, but the cloudiness was always short-lived.  It would be a sunny day till about mid-afternoon when the clouds would roll in.  We'd get a thunderstorm and an inch or two of rain overnight, and then the next morning would be clear and sunny again.

I'm grateful for guests who bring their suite of rooms with them!  The Man's parents came out like they often do at the end of August, towing their 5th wheel camper along as they make their way from their seasonal campsite to the lake where their church meets for family camp on the long weekend.  It's a wonderfully low-key visit AND the girls get to do a couple of sleep-over nights!  I'm so thankful they still want to do things like that and that they have such a great relationship with both sets of grandparents.

And I'm thankful for a 40th birthday that just seems to keep on going!  Seriously, if I'd know turning 40 would be this much fun, I'd've done it years ago!!  My mother-in-law took me and the girls out for a birthday lunch last Thursday while my father-in-law rode with The Man in the semi for the day and took him out for lunch in a town along the way.  I also got my second 40th birthday toe ring in the mail (which I think will become a finger ring) that day, and I've begun planning the weekend get-away The Man and I will enjoy once harvest is over.  It will be much closer to HIS birthday, but I'm willing to share if it means prolonging the celebration over two whole months!

I'm grateful my girls both have really good teachers this year.  Mack's teacher last year left much to be desired, but this year will be different, and I'm so happy for her.  Both girls seem to have had an excellent first day yesterday and are looking forward to seeing their friends every day again.  (we live out in the middle of nowhere, remember, so without specially planned playdates, they don't actually see much of their school friends during the summer.)

I'm sad the summer is over, but I'm also grateful (though still not quite ready!) for a return to a predictable routine.

What were you most thankful for this summer?

In The Pool 
*Click the button at the top of the post to visit our hostess and other thankful bloggers!


Ends and Beginnings

>> Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The girls went back to school today.  Summer has ended.

I know time flies.  I know summers always go the fastest.  And I know that for whatever reason, almost everyone I've talked to about it says their summer this year seemed to go faster than any other.

Maybe we say that every year.

Statistically, it makes sense.  The two months of summer make up an increasingly SMALLER percentage of our lives with each passing year.

In any case, here it is ~ the end of summer.

But it's also the beginning of a new school year, the return of a predictable routine, and walks first thing in the morning, and having the house to myself all day.

I'm trying hard today to see today as a beginning rather than an end.

So far, I've had very limited success.

Back-to-School Joke 


Best Beach of Summer

>> Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Yesterday, my girls and I did something we've been meaning to do all summer: we went down to the river about 3/4 mile from the house to hike the cattle trails, throw rocks in the water, splash around a bit, etc.

We had intended to bike there, but my back tire was flat and I completely didn't think about it that I could probably use The Man's compressor to refill it, so we opted for the van.  Which was probably a good idea anyway, since it was quite windy.

Pedalling there, hiking up and down the steep river banks, and then biking home again in that kind of wind might just be a little more than we could all handle!  Other than the wind, though, it was a beautiful day, and around the bed of the river was the best beach we've been to all summer!

Natural, sandy beaches do exist in Manitoba, but not around our neck of the woods, really.  Here, we mostly have rocky shorelines or grass right up to the water's edge.  So a sandbar in the bend of a lazy river is a treat!

I wish we'd gone earlier and packed a lunch.  Maybe even the girls' swimsuits.  The water was too cold for my liking, but the girls waded a bit,

and happily built sandcastles and moats without shovels or buckets.

Initially, the sky was mostly clear with just some lazy, whispy clouds ~ I love this butterfly! ~

~ but some rather evil-intention-looking clouds started rolling in after we'd been there for about an hour and a half, so we sadly put our shoes back on, hiked back up the cliff,

following the old cattle trails through this overgrown, tunnel-like section at the top of the hill, and back to the road.

And then realized the clouds had sailed right past us.

But it was suppertime anyway.

The end.

Beach blanket 


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