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Archive for December, 2011

Reading 2011

I may not have had much luck getting through my book club reads this year, but I happy to report that I have been steadily reading. Below are the books I’ve read this year. There are few missing from the very end of the year. If I can remember what they were I’ll add them. I have not been as religious about updating my list once I’ve read a book. I always did this in the past. As our family has grown, I’ve learned to lighten up on being so precise 🙂

1. Ursula LeGuin: The Left Hand of Darkness

2. Simon Wincester: The Surgeon of Crowthorne

3. Jonathon Harr: The Lost Painting-The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece

4. Matthew Hart: The Irish Game-A True Story of Crime and Art

5. Thomas Cahill: How the Irish Saved Civilization

6. Alan Watts: The Wisdom of Insecurity

7. Roger Rosenblatt: Making Toast-A Family Story

8. Kristin Cashlore: Fire

9. Tamora Pierce: First Test 10. Tamora Pierce: Page 11. Tamora Pierce: Squire 12. Tamora Pierce: Lady Knight

13. Eric Abrahamson &  David H. Freedman: The Perfect Mess-The Hidden Benefits of Disorder

14. Cecelia Ahern: The Book of Tomorrow

15. Maeve Binchy: Minding Frankie

16. Jennifer Chiaverini: The Aloha Quilt

17. Brandon Mull: Fablehaven (Book 1)

18. Brandon Mull: Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star (Book 2)

19. Mary Ostyn: A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family

20. Jamie C. Martin: Steady Days-A Journey Toward Professional Motherhood

The following books are a series of books I read as a child (photos to be added when I photograph the books). I have been working my way through the series with Ashley and Caitlin since the spring:

21. Enid Blyton The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage (1943)

22. Enid Blyton The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat (1944)

23. Enid Blyton The Mystery of the Secret Room (1945)*

24. Enid Blyton The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters (1946)

25. Enid Blyton The Mystery of the Missing Necklace (1947)

26. Enid Blyton The Mystery of the Hidden House (1948)

27. Enid Blyton The Mystery of the Pantomime Cat (1949)

28. Enid Blyton The Mystery of the Invisible Thief (1950)

29. Enid Blyton .The Mystery of the Vanished Prince (1951)

30. Enid Blyton The Mystery of the Strange Bundle (1952)

31. Enid Blyton The Mystery of Holly Lane (1953)

32. Enid Blyton The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage (1954)

33. Enid Blyton The Mystery of the Missing Man (1956)

34. Enid Blyton The Mystery of the Strange Messages (1957)

35. Enid Blyton The Mystery of Banshee Towers (1961)

*This is the only book we are missing in the series. I have been searching online for a copy to match our set. I may have found an acceptable copy in the U.K. I hope to buy a copy and read it to the girls soon. I am adding it to the list here for my reference and to present the entire series in order.

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Yes, I Am Mighty


We bought our Christmas tree one evening last week. James took the girls out to get it while I took the boys to bed. The girls added a few decorations to the tree before bedtime. Actually, they over decorated a small section each on the tree, to create a cozy area for their hedgehogs. (Which is why I have this wonderful decorated image above and the rest of the tree, in the photo below, looks so lightly decorated.

After the girls had created their little areas on the tree Ashley looked over the entire tree and pointed out with a giggle that they might have to spread some of the decorations around a bit more 🙂

Having made a small start on the decorating, the girls went to bed and we looked forward to Ethan and Sean seeing the tree. Ethan knew that the plan was to get the tree while he was in bed, or at least that’s what I thought. The next morning he and Sean came down stairs and seemed awestruck by the presence of the tree in the living room.

Both boys very gently stroked and held onto branches, almost as if convincing themselves that there was a real tree in their house. Then Ethan, gently holding a lower branch in his little hand and wide-eyed with wonder, almost whispered his inquiry:  “Mum, did you make this?”

With a melting heart I held back my chuckle and resisted the urge to say, “Yes Ethan, I am that good!” Instead I gently told him no, that the tree grew and someone cut it down to sell it and that Dad had bought it.

It didn’t lessen his awe, and it probably doesn’t diminish his belief that I am one of the most powerful people in his world. In his eyes, I am capable of amazing things.

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On Fridays I take part in Food Waste Friday, hosted by Kristen over at The Frugal Girl. It’s a way to use public accountability to reduce the amount of food wasted in our homes. It’s proving quite effective 🙂

We only wasted one thing this week.

A little rice that was left in the rice cooker last weekend while I was away. The lid was not put back on securely and the rice dried out and hardened. I wondered if I soaked it long enough could I rescue it in rice pudding but didn’t want to risk wasting the other ingredients I would need to rescue this little bit of rice.

I am very pleased that my food waste has reduced so much since I decided a few weeks ago to link up with Kristen’s Food Waste Friday. This will be the last Food Waste Friday for this year. I will return in the new year and keep posting on how I’m doing with food waste.

I will finish with two successful food rescues this week:

I had some pasta, some packaged chicken that I use for chicken salad sandwiches for James’s lunches, some pine nuts that I needed to finish and a little pesto sauce that I forgot to return to the freezer when I last used a cube of pesto. I buy a large container of pesto sauce and freeze it in ice cube trays, then store in a zip lock bag in the freezer. One cube is just the right amount for a single serving of pesto pasta.

I really enjoyed this lunch midweek.

This next one has to be my favorite all time food rescue so far.

I slightly burnt some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that I was making for a reception. I made more but couldn’t bring myself to throw a dozen cookies out. They were slightly too hard and had a burnt bottom so they just didn’t taste good on their own.

I decided to scrape the burnt bottoms off the cookies and left them in a ziploc bag on the counter for a couple of days while I thought about how I could rescue them. Then the kids’ Christmas parcel from Auntie Lorna arrived and I had my solution.

I adapted Lorna’s Christmas Log that I fell in love with about ten years ago. (It calls for plain chocolate chip cookies.)

I whipped up about a cup of cream and half a teaspoon of powdered sugar in my standing mixer.

Made half a cup of strong decaf coffee.

Dipped the cookies in the coffee and sandwiched them together with the whipped cream.

Covered the entire log with more whipped cream and grated some chocolate over the top.

I had a couple of strawberries to use up so I sliced them and placed them on top with kiwi slices for decoration.

I served it with a scoop of vanilla icecream. It tasted even better than it looks!

Thanks you Lorna for this excellent and oh so simple recipe.

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“Can miles truly separate us from friends? If we want to be with someone we love, aren’t we already there?”-Richard Bach

I wrote a little while back about how I needed to make time to get away alone; to have a chance to clear my head and think. Well I also need to get away and have fun. That’s what I did this weekend. For the first time in quite a verrrry long time I went away by myself to visit my very dear friend, Pauline.

I have been scrapbooking with friends over the last few years and that is a lot of fun. However, when I go scrapbooking I usually have an agenda: scrapbook family photos. This weekend I went with no agenda other than to have fun being with Pauline.

Pauline lives in Anacortes in northern Washington, close to the Canadian border. Our family has been up several times to visit her. A most memorable trip occurred at Thanksgiving 2010, when the four children and I went up for a couple of days and ended up snowed in at Pauline’s house for nearly a week!

Driving up to Pauline’s house I had a fabulous time alone in the car loudly singing along to some of my favorite Glee songs. I was so into singing one particular song that I missed my exit off I5 and onto Highway 20. I drove all the way up to within a couple of miles of the Canadian border and I didn’t mind a bit. It just meant I needed to turn around and spend another wonderful 30 minutes singing my way to the exit and on to Anacortes.

While we were there Pauline cooked delicious meals for me, made me lots of cups of tea (one of my most favorite past times) and showed me around The Market, her local grocery store. She gave me a little tour around their amazing spice section where a chef prepares blends of herbs and spices and rubs. Pauline and I share a love of food and it was very inspiring to look, smell and imagine our way through shelves of enticing containers. I bought a roast veggie blend that I am excited to try out soon.

On Saturday night, Pauline drove us into La Conner in her sporty little Miata, where we attended a wine tasting and watch a Lighted Boat Parade on the canal. I had a great weekend. The highlight of course being the time alone with my friend Pauline.

Thanks Pauline!

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…Gone!

For those of you who may be anxiously awaiting news about the fate of those final Christmas boxes that needed to be mailed, they are in fact gone 🙂 They went on the Friday of the week I had reported on the other packages being mailed.

I’ve waited this long to mention it because although I had a lovely time waiting with Sean and Ethan at the post office, I had a very unpleasant interaction with the postal workers behind the desk. Unlike them, I remained respectful and calm during the interaction but I was shocked and came away with such a sour feeling that I didn’t want to write about the packages being sent. I don’t want to go into details, the workers at the post office have sometimes seemed odd to me in the past and this has only added to that impression. I can now put it behind me and hold onto the joy of sending those packages on their way to Hong Kong!

Other items have gone from our home too:

Books (and a Groovy Girl doll not pictured here) for our school’s holiday gift drive. Each of our children gives a gift to a child around their own age. Caitlin’s gift tag was for a toy and she wanted to give the ever popular gift of a Groovy Girl. Ashley, Ethan and Sean’s tags were for books, so we chose some of their current favorites.

Baby accessories have been donated to a local charity. We donated:
2 infant car seats
2 baby swings
a universal stroller with rain cover
a baby bath
a baby bjorn
a protective seat for a shopping cart
a snuggle nest for co-sleeping
a brand new diaper bag
a shield for a car window
baby bottles and a container for washing them in a dishwasher
lots of baby clothes, bibs and burp cloths

I have been holding onto the best of Ashley and Caitlin’s clothes that are now too small. We have been fortunate that many people have given us gifts or passed on the clothes from their girls and we have had to buy very little clothing for Ashley and Caitlin over the years. I had wanted to give these clothes somewhere that they would make a difference. On Friday it finally came to me who I could give these to and off they went. This has given me the best feeling of the joy of giving so far this holiday season.

The last thing on my list of things to send off are our Christmas cards. I didn’t send any last year, let’s see if I can do better this year. I love making cards, writing them and thinking of our family and friends as I address them. It’s funny how in a world where communication is now dominated with technology and my own desire to go paperless, I still enjoy receiving cards and letters in the mail. Wish me luck getting these off before this method of communication becomes obsolete.

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I have two losses to report this week:

A small serving of chicken noodle soup. Caitlin likes it from a can and I’ve been trying various brands. I bought a family sized brand that she liked but it was only Caitlin eating it over the course of a few days and there was just too much.

I bought the family size because I thought I’d give some to the boys. In the end I decided I didn’t want to feed this one to them. I’m considering making a large crockpot of Chicken Noodle Soup and freezing it in individual portions so that Caitlin can have them for school lunch. This would be more likely to save waste and be healthier. I love adding garlic and ginger to soup to boost our immune systems at this time of year.

This butter was a sad loss on for a couple of reasons. Firstly because I wasted it. Secondly because of why I wasted it. I was reaching for a bowl from a cupboard and became irritated at how tightly packed the dishes were on the shelf. Acting in grumpiness I didn’t concentrate enough as I pulled out the bowl and another bowl fell out too, landing on the counter where it bade farewell to its functional bowl form and splintered into several pieces. This stick of butter was on a plate under the cupboard and I was concerned about small ceramic shards being inside. So I dumped it into the compost.

Immediately I realised that I was in fact very grateful that I don’t have to empty the dishwasher very often anymore. There are more dishes than my dishwasher emptier (DWE)  likes to put away. They go into two different cupboards one at the DWE’s head height and one at shin height. I finally decided to stop fighting it and removed the dishes that are stored at shin height but often end up in the higher cupboard.

I’m giving it a trial run to see if the absence of these dishes makes any noticeable difference. If not they will be permanently removed and hopefully a greater simplicity will reign. I will then remove a bunch of mugs from the cupboard and see if this makes a noticeable impact on mug usage. The DWE believes there are too many mugs taking up valuable cupboard space but that is a larger kitchen control issue 🙂

Maybe the loss of 2/3 of a stick of butter is worth the resolve not to act in grumpiness, the reminder that I am grateful for the DWE’s work, and the decision to simplify our stuff 🙂

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This is how my desk in our kitchen looked by the end of last week.

You may remember that last week 4 out of 6 of us were sick. Caring for family when they need TLC means abandoning the usual routines.

Laundry was washed…but remained in baskets.

Meals were (mostly) eaten…but didn’t really follow a menu plan.

Grocery shopping didn’t happen.

Tidying was low on the daily priorities and the vacuum took a vacation.

Both incoming paper and actively used paper consumed my hub. I didn’t have time to sift through junk mail and search out any personal mail. My family needed me more than I needed to file. All the while my scanner and my shredder were calling to me. The thought of them waiting, ready whenever I am,  reminded me that soon they would be my best tools in banishing the paper beast from consuming my time and space 🙂

When health was once again restored to our family, I restored my hub.

Some of the paper has been scanned and recycled. Others put away in my new temporary filing system (more on that later). Papers ready for shredding have joined the growing pile, which I intend to shred some evening as I sit and watch a comfort movie or listen to a good book.

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