Monday, December 31, 2007

Out with the Old, In with the New

My poor upright vacuum cleaner is held together with duct tape, has been used as a shop vac, has taken numerous unintentional trips down the stairs (almost killing me at the bottom), and is begging to be put out of its misery. Today I tried. I really did. And I failed.

For years the Kenmore Progressive has been one of the top rated reasonably priced canisters. My mom--a connoisseur of vacuum cleaners--has one and likes it a lot. So I figured when mine finally gave up the ghost, I'd buy one, too. But guess what? Sears doesn't make that model anymore and their new one's have not yet been rated by those who rate vacuums! Lovely. So I tried the Sears outlet--nope. Tried looking for the next best rated canister--a Hoover Windtunnel Bagless number--at Sears, Meijer, and Target--nada. And by the end of the hunt we were all irritable, hungry, and cold.

This is where you come in, delightful friends. And this is time for you lurkers to come out of hiding! In order to help my family have a happy and clean new year, please tell me what type of cleaning machine you use, if you 'd recommend it or not, and why.

As a thank you I will randomly pick three names from the comment list and send you a sample packet of my favorite chili mix. If you don't have a blogger account, be sure to send me an email (click the cute little birdie on the right) with your email address so I can let you know if you win.

Blessings on thee and a happy new year to you and yours!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

It's in the bag

The bag for my Bible was completed yesterday. It's a bit bigger than I need, but seeing that I made a few errors trying to adapt the bag tutorial posted here, it turned out fine. In order to keep my things together, I wanted to add a back pocket for any study guide or book I'm reading but I forgot to sew the pocket on before sewing up the outside seams. I also wanted to use a magnetic closure but couldn't find one that was to be sewn on (much like a snap) instead of poked through the fabric. I edge stitched the flap instead of adding trim and added additional rows of stitching on the strap to strengthen it.

The outside material is the left-overs from the border on my curtains in our family room and the lining is material gifted me by our pastor's wife from her late mother-in-law's sewing stash. I think they go together beautifully!

It has an inside velcro pocket for little ditties and a slot on the side gusset for my pen. I probably should have made more slots for additional pens and pencils. Next time!

My new little bag holds most everything I need for my study--Bible, pen, colored pencils, notebook, and book.

One thing off the list! Yeaaa! But I did get this book for Christmas...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Happy Anniversary

With this ring I thee wed: with my body I thee worship: and with all my worldly goods I thee endow. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

They've been the best 12 years of my life. I love you, darling.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ok, so what's next?

The packages are unwrapped, some of the toys are already broken, and our bellies are continuing to expand with the finishing off of the plethora of cookies and candies home-baked and delivered by loved ones.

My folks have been here for a week and are probably longing for the quietness of their own home.

My children desperately need to return to the discipline of school. Their listless wandering are driving me nuts. They lay sprawled out on our library floor, surrounded by mounds of legos, and listened to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in its entirety today.

And my dear husband has spent the last week (and probably will spend the next one) in Sissy's bathroom or at Home Depot. He abhors home improvement and is not at all experienced--grew up with a sister and a single mom in apartments--but in order to avoid the cost of a professional he's replacing the whole thing himself. We are very thankful for my dad's expertise and step by step instructions as well as the generosity of our friends with their tools and time.

So what's next for me? On the practical side of life, Monica's list has been driving me crazy! So I've cleaned out the crawl space, reorganized my craft closet, and am planning to de-clutter a room a month in 2008. (There, I put it in writing. Lord, help me!) I've created a pattern for a messenger bag for the new Bible JT gave me for Christmas and now I need to sew it. And I've started to read Passionate Housewives Desperate for God. On the spiritual side, I'm purposing to take a closer look this year at what it means for me to be in the world and not of it. It's very hard to find the balance. I either want to be in the world or not of it, but haven't yet figured out how to be both.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Rejoice! For unto you has been born a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord!

Wishing you and yours love and joy,

Saralyn and family

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What my kids are singing tonight

Lookie, Lookie!

Christmas has come early this year. Look what Sani had delivered to my house yesterday--

For those of you who are saying "so what?" this is a genuine hardwood library truck that retails for $265 at Gaylords. A homeschoolers dream!

Years ago when my dad worked for a major accounting firm he salvaged it from their trash where it ended up on account of a bum wheel bracket. He fixed it for my mom and she's used it in their church library. Mom recently resigned her post as church librarian and brought me the treasure, knowing I'd value both the truck and the fact that it was a trash pick.

Thanks Mom and Dad! Now to fill it with books!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Birthday, Cowboy

Forty-five years ago today the best earthly gift God's ever given me entered the world. I wasn't even a twinkle in my mother's eye then--my parents we're even married yet--and we wouldn't meet for another 30 years, but he was born for me and I for him. He is my joy, my comfort, and my very best friend.

I love you, JT! Happy birthday!

More Handmade Christmas

Thing are buzzing around here, including my sewing machine. Now that my folks are in the car and headed this way, I can post what I've been working on for my mom for Christmas. It's a case for her knitting needles.

I got the idea from Handmade Holidays on Sew Mama Sew in November. I made some adjustments to the pattern, but pretty much followed the tutorial Angie posted on Multicrafty.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dearly Imparted

What was the headline in the news when I turned on the computer this evening? Britney Spears' 16-year-old sister Jamie Lynn's havin' a baby.

I have to admit, my first thought was, "what is this world coming to?" and my second, like unto it, "what is all of these young famous single people having babies saying to our youth?" But I'm kinda thinking that's the response of the stereo-typical hand wringing, hole yourself up until Jesus comes back or you die kind of Christian I'm really trying not to be.

Purity was not "in" in my day, but the lack of it was still referred to as "promiscuity" and in general, we hid our exploits from parents and friends. Now close encounters are expected if not encouraged by friends and parents alike. We live in a different world, and no amount of bemoaning will change that. So how do we bring the gospel to the kids (and their parents) in our neighborhoods who see these types of extracurricular activity as no different than a game of ping pong? Do we see them as moral pariahs or ripe for the good news?

On the bright side, all these pregnant celebs are, despite many of their political views, practicing pro-lifers. And I guess if it takes Jamie Lynn Spears, Jessica Alba, and Nichole Richie (to name just a few) to reduce the traffic at Planned Parenthood, so be it. Do I think that they're suddenly turning into responsible, self-sacrificing people? Not for a moment. But the obvious search for the next best thing among our idols, be it finding new love or creating new life, seems to be a wide open door for the gospel. We need to be asking Diana Ross's famous question, "do you know where you're going to, do you like the things that life is showing you, where are you going to, do you know?" And we need to have the answer, not only with Bible verses, but with our lives. We can't impart what we don't possess. Christ fills the void that people have tried to fill with love and are now trying to fill with offspring because He restores our broken relationship with our Heavenly Father. I've got the answer, now who'm I gonna tell?

The Water Horse on the House

From time to time we get invitations to movie screenings, and occasionally we go. Tonight I took the kids to see the screening of The Water Horse. It was a delightful movie about a young boy who finds an odd egg on the beach that hatches and grows into what eventually becomes known as the Loch Ness Monster.

Without the stupid comedy, potty jokes, and political messages found in so many of today's movies for kids, The Water Horse was pure family entertainment. I did count two occurrences of language not appropriate at our house and there was some drinking and smoking, but let's not forget this is a Hollywood production and it's supposed to take place in Scotland, for goodness sake.

So, in our opinion, it gets 8 thumbs up. And thanks Grace Hill Media!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Incarnation in Light of the Apple

As I was tucking my son into bed tonight the following topic came up:

Jesus was a first born son, not just "over all creation" but in his earthly family, as well. I'm sure his little brothers and sisters were no better than my son's, and yet Jesus grew up a sinless older brother who did not give his siblings what they had coming. He did not provoke. He did not lord it over them. He did not retaliate. And why did he do this? Because my little boy cannot.

Theology is a tough thing for a mama, let alone a little boy, but sometimes the Lord pulls back the veil just a little bit and lets us both catch a glimpse of what He's talking about.


If you need cereal, this is the week to get it.

Safeway (Vons, Dominicks, Tom Thumb, Pavilions, Carrs, or whatever they call it in your neighborhood) is running a three day sale starting today on Kellogg's cereal. You need the 4 boxes for $6 coupon from their circular, and then use four $1 coupons from recent inserts to get them for $0.50 a box. Be sure to ask the folks at the service desk which varieties qualify before you hit the cereal aisle. I lucked out when my cashier finally gave up trying to figure it out and simply gave me the deal on the boxes in my cart.

Albertsons ( Jewel, Acme Markets, etc.) has two grand sales going. If you buy 4 General Mills cereals that are currently on sale for $2.50 per box, the are instantly reduced to $1.50 each. Use 2 of the $1 off 2 boxes coupons from recent inserts and get them for $1 a box. This is another one to check your receipt on. One of the boxes I picked up didn't ring up on sale and it ruined the whole deal. If I hadn't caught it, it would have cost me over $5. There are some specific General Mills coupons on , and there were blinkies for $0.75 off 2 boxes of Cheerios in the aisle at my store.

Albertsons also has a deal on Chex. If you buy 3 boxes, you get them for $5. I bought 6 boxes, used 2 internet coupons from here for $1.10 off 2 boxes and another $1 off 2 boxes from a recent insert to get them for $1.13 each. Pretty good for Chex!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Spiced Iced Tea

My husband and I used to love to go to this little restaurant in Severna Park called Garry's Grill. No matter what else we ordered, we always got their spiced iced tea. It reminded me of the Russian tea my mom would make for Christmas from Tang, powdered tea mix, and spices, but when I tried the Russian tea cold, it was gritty and left sludge at the bottom of the glass like Metamucil. Yuk!

After a few tries, I think I've found a recipe that duplicates the wonderful taste of yesteryear.

Spiced Iced Tea
(a slight variation on Brenda's recipe found here, which she originally found here--you know, credit to whom it is due!)

6 cups water
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
3 black tea bags
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

In a saucepan, bring water, cinnamon, and cloves to a boil. Add tea bags, remove from heat, and steep 10 minutes. Cool slightly, then strain out spices. In another saucepan, bring sugar, orange juice, and lemon juice to a boil. Combine tea and juice mixtures. Chill and serve over ice.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ice Age

We've been hit with a slow moving ice storm that continues to drop freezing rain that's collecting on anything standing still and we are hoping to make it through the night with power. Believe it or not, the kid-os are enjoying this drippy freezing stuff and have been playing out doors! (The only kids in the neighborhood who want to do so!) This is what the trees in our yard look like:

But on a cold night like this we need some good hot vittles to warm us up. Here's my menu:

Corn Chowder
(A twist on one Anika snagged and adapted from Marilyn)

6 Tbs. butter
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
3-4 Tbsp. flour
1 qt. half and half
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 lb. frozen corn
2 cans (4 cups) chicken stock
1 lb. diced cooked ham
dash cayenne pepper
green onions, chopped

Melt butter in a soup pot on medium heat. Add onion and celery and saute until onion is translucent. Reduce heat to low and add flour a bit at a time, stirring constantly. When the mixture is no longer shiny, cook another minute. Add half and half very slowly while stirring to avoid lumps. Add salt, pepper, corn, stock, ham, and cayenne. Bring chowder to a boil and simmer 20 minutes. Serve hot garnished with green onions.

Oatmeal Bread
(adapted from a recipe found in The Occasional Cook, by Cyndy Salzmann)

1 cup warm water
3 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. oil
2 Tbsp. dry milk
1 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
1 cup oatmeal
2 tsp. active dry yeast

Add ingredients to your bread machine in the order suggested by the manufacturer. You can use the machine for the whole process, but I use the dough setting only and take it out of the bread machine after the first rise, form a loaf and place it in a greased bread pan, and then let it rise a second time for about 50 minutes. Cook dough at 350 for 30-35 minutes. Best if cooled about 20 minutes before serving.

Monday, December 10, 2007

What Makes a Home a Haven?

Truthfully, I've been avoiding Crystal's Making Your Home a Haven blog series because my home's been a disaster. I don't know what happened or when, but somehow I've forgotten about (or avoided) thoroughly cleaning the place over the last who knows how long, and my attitude's been gathering dust bunnies along with the undersides of my furniture! But today there has been a little progress on the home front. Hurrah! I actually found the floor in the family room--I lost it in May--cleaned my powder room, laundry room, and entryway, managed to feed my family, and made cookies with the kiddies.

Yet while the clutter and the dirt makes me nuts, cleaning it up is not what makes it a haven. Having a home where my family wants to be is what makes it a haven. Crystal has made a point of reminding her readers of this and a book by the same name, Making Your Home a Haven, by Cyndy Salzmann, has encouraged me a great deal in this area. I am a perfectionist, and a home where a perfectionist lives is rarely a haven! Instead it is a place where everything must be done to ideal specifications, where visitors are only invited when things are up to snuff, and where it all hits the fan if "mama ain't happy". This is a huge chunk of my personality that must be mortified, but like all living sacrifices, I keep crawling off the altar! Cyndy has helped me to put it all in perspective, to see that just as God wants my heart not just my deeds, my family needs a mommy not just a maid.

God willing, we will have a lovely Christmas season, but not because everything gets done in a Martha Stewart kind of way and our house is ready for guests, but because we've imperfectly decorated the tree and the cookies together, sat down each night and talked about the incarnation of Christ, and truly loved as He loved us--by dwelling together.

Friday, December 7, 2007

My Re-Made Christmas

My Christmas decorations are a collection of things co-workers and clients have given my husband as Christmas gifts, those first few decorations I bought with little cash and less decorating know-how when we were newlyweds, and a strange assortment of hand-me-downs from my mother and mother-in-law. While I'd like to upgrade both my style and my decor, there is no remodeling mullah.

So this is what I've come up with:

Our table needed a centerpiece that was easy and festive and could stand up to three children. I took a tray I've had for years, put clear glass marbles in some of the tray's divots, and added a 25-cent ring of artificial berries and beads from the thrift store to one of my usual table candles. Fire and ice!

We live in a raised ranch and I needed a focal point that would draw visitors' eyes upstairs instead of into the basement when they come in the front door. I took my kids' old rocking horse (purchased 9 years ago by my mother at a garage sale) and painted it red with some spray paint we'd used on a trash-pick wagon. I distressed it with some sand paper around the edges and added some decorations I'd found at the dollar store.

While I'm not Martha Stewart, I'm pretty pleased with the outcome. Who says you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear? Oink!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Help Wanted

Although I have a lot of sewing and cooking to do, most of my Christmas shopping is finished and much of it is wrapped. However, I am at a total loss on what to get for Sissy. Any suggestions on what to get an extremely unorganized and messy 7-year-old little girl? I know many of you have daughters who are older than mine, so speak up!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My Handmade Christmas

Last night I finished up the gifts for the folks at my husband's office. Don't the jars look festive? I usually make chocolate goodies but this year wanted something different. My mom made this jam for me when rhubarb was fresh. It was so tasty and beautifully colored that I thought it would make perfect Christmas gifts, so I chopped up some of my rhubarb and put it in the freezer. Besides, it was so easy!

Cherry Rhubarb Jam

4 cups diced fresh or frozen rhubarb
1.5 cups sugar
1 (3oz) package cherry Jello
1 (21oz) can cherry pie filling

Combine sugar and rhubarb in a large saucepan and let it sit of 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Jello until dissolved. Add pie filling. Transfer to jars and cool. Cover and store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Makes 8 cups.

I put the jam into $1 jars I found at Big Lots and tied on tags I found at Razzle Dazzle Recipe's Artist's Cafe with a raffia ribbon. Voila!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Reindeer Games

My friend Sharon at Living Life as a Snowflake has tagged me with this fun little list of Christmas ditties, a sort of holiday "getting to know you". So here goes:

1. Do you put up a real tree or artificial? Artificial (with lights already on it!)

2. When do you put up your tree? The first weekend of Advent

3. When do you take down the tree? After Epiphany

4. Do you like eggnog? If yes, spiked or not? No, yuk!

5. Favorite gift received as a child? My Friend Mandy Doll who now belongs to Sissy and, oddly enough, looks just like her!

6. Worst Christmas gift ever received? A salad spinner from my husband the year I was expecting an engagement ring. I still have the salad spinner, and did eventually get the ring!

7. Favorite Christmas movie? Charlie Brown Christmas and Treasures of the Snow

8. Have you ever recycled a present? Yup, but not to or from you :~)

9. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Why, cookies, of course!

10. Favorite Christmas song? Once in Royal David's City

11.Most annoying thing about this time of year? Shopping

12. What you love most about the holiday? Focusing on the first coming of Christ and re-examining all the prophecy surrounding it in the Old Testament

13. How many reindeer did Santa have? Who's Santa? If you mean Sani, why, none. He comes in a garbage truck every Thursday and we set out our packages for him on Garbage Eve.

14. Best Christmas memory? The childhood excitement of Christmas Eve and the delight of waking early to find my stocking full of goodies on my bed.

15. If you could have one Christmas wish what would it be? That Christ would come to the hearts of all my loved ones

As is the case with all of these little treats, I am compelled to pass it on. So Lizzy, Rebecca, and Monica, you're it!