Saturday, December 29, 2007

How to keep from adding unwanted holiday pounds

1. Pack your schedule full full full in the weeks prior to Christmas. Do not prepare any Christmas cookie batter to store in the freezer.

2. In the last full week of school for your kids, schedule two doctor's appointments, and have 1 child get pink eye, 2 get the stomach flu and get sick yourself with a cold. Tell yourself that since you live in Spain that celebrates Christmas until Three Kings Day on January 6, that there is no rush to make cookie plates since they can be baked after Christmas and delivered later that week or the next. Besides, who would trust food baked in a house full of sick people?

3. Christmas week, remain sick with the cold to the point that you return to the doctor and have to take daily treatments on the nebulizer... which makes you so dizzy you can't stand up and walk a straight line. Have one of your kids start to run a fever, get the stomach flu yourself and spend a day and a half flat in bed. Eat nothing but crackers and ginger ale all day. Have another child develop a "is it pink eye/is it not pink eye?" type swelling in his eye late Friday night.

4. Develop a cough so hard it makes your muscles ache. Constantly remind yourself of your doctor in the states who always forbade milk products and sweets because it would increase the mucus production and make the cough worse. Remember that although you hated to admit it, he was right. Decide that you'd rather be able to sleep without coughing than eat the chocolate bar in your stocking.

5. Bake only what you need for the party you are planning for the church teens. Put all of it out on the table and encourage the two young men with the healthiest appetites to eat "all they want".

6.Decide that since the friends and neighbors aren't expecting cookie plates from you (you've only passed them out to the immediate neighbors and that was 2 years ago) you feel no pressure to push to make them this year. Let the kids frost the sugar cookies you did bake on Christmas eve for Santa's plate and be done with it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tackling life ...

Tackle It Tuesday Meme
I'm still rushing through my days hoping that I can get stop spinning this little hamster wheel and stop living from adrenalin rush to adrenalin rush. I have so much to do in the next 6 days it boggles my mind. However, to make me feel like I have accomplished something since last Tuesday (picture worthy or not) I will attempt to review the week's progress.
*Two ENT appointments made and kept for my 10 year old son. Thankfully the office is just a mile or so away from home.
*One drive to downtown Madrid to bring said son to have a CAT scan done of his sinus and nasal passages. (This took several hours last Friday and included bringing all the kids to my husband's work where he had Pizza Hut pizza waiting for us and then he took the rest of the kids out to do some shopping while my son and I were at the clinic for the scan.)
* With the help of my husband the boxes that hold the Christmas decorations have been removed from the living room and dining room. There is still too much clutter and the floors need to be swept and vacuumed but that is a chore for tomorrow. I spent a little time over at BooMama's Christmas Tour of Homes but had to stop after looking at just a few posts. It was too depressing to look at these gorgeous homes with their decorations and the TOTAL LACK OF CLUTTER ANYWHERE that I started going into a funk. I would love to have even one little corner look half as good as some of these homes. Problem is that on top of always dealing with clutter, I lack the decorating gene. My sister has it. My sister-in-law(s) have it. My niece seems to have it too. I, however, just have a lot of stuff that I don't always know how to arrange in a pleasing and artful way. Now, don't get me wrong. I think I am a fairly good hostess and love to exercise "hospitality". If you come stay at my home you will be most welcome, and certainly be well fed. Sometimes I (and I think my husband too) wishes that our house could be a little more "put together".
*One entire Saturday morning (9:30 am till 2:30 pm) spent at the park while the two oldest have a special baseball game and pizza party before the Christmas break.
* One Entire Sunday spent away from home, leaving for church at 9:30 am and staying in town to grab lunch and then drive to the mountains north of Madrid to sing with the choir our first of two cantata concerts.... home around 10pm.
* Another trip to downtown Madrid (again with the kids in tow, picking up hubby to be our "taxi driver") to pick up the results of the CAT scan and return home to bring them to the ENT. (BTW, the scans showed nothing except some allergy related inflammation that we just need to treat with antihistamine).
* One trip with my 7 year old to the urgent care clinic to diagnose pink eye (conjunctivitis)
* several loads of laundry done ... including now a full change of bedsheets daily for the pink eye patient. Plus drops every 4 hours.
* Two days (of three) spent with the 7 year old at home from school due to the pink eye. Other than one quick trip to grab milk, bread and eggs at the grocery store, I have been rather home-bound, yet unable to wrap presents etc.
* A skeleton menu planned for this week and posted on the fridge, if not on the blog.

I will most likely be on bloggy hiatus until after Christmas (unless I need to escape for a bit and treat myself to a few minutes of writing) since I still have to finish shopping, wrapping, decorating the house, finish the school newspaper that needs to be run off and passed out to the students on Friday, plan for the teen Christmas party scheduled for the 29th at our home, and attend the kids' Christmas program at school Friday. I still plan to bake Christmas cookies and want to give out trays of assorted treats but will most likely do all that in the week between Christmas and New Year's. I gladly take advantage of the fact that here in Spain the holidays extend till January 6th (Kings Day) so no-one thinks you are tardy if you bring them a gift AFTER the 25th.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wordless Wednesday: Sights and Sounds of Madrid on a Friday night

Some of the sights and sounds we experienced a couple of weeks ago when bringing a visitor to downtown Madrid on a Friday night.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Another Tuesday Tackle

I really feel a bit like a hamster running around on one of those little wheels ... lots of energy spent but not much progress made. Obviously for those who read last week´s TT post, I never got around to writing up a menu plan and posting it. I also missed the Monday post this week, and once again the menu is only half done. I do, however have meat and other ingredients in the house so I should be able to come up with good healthy meals. I really started to get used to having everything written down. Even my husband was taking notice. The other week when I was too busy to make a menu, I came home from some meetings and my husband had dinner almost finished. I asked him what he was cooking and he told me. I must have looked funny (since I knew we didn´t have the ingredients in the house for that) and he pointed to the menu sheet on the fridge (which was from the week before) and said "Well, it was on the menu for today." He had walked to the store and picked up the ingredients for it and had it ready to go. What a guy! If for no other reason than that, I need to get back to writing out a menu. Who knows when the mystery cook will come and take over dinner duty for me?

I have tackled a bunch of paper work in the last two days ... 2 months of expense reports are done. I am almost caught up to date. I vow I will not let myself get so far behind again. I still need a better system for keeping receipts etc so the process can go faster once I sit down to fill out the form. Any ideas to keep this SHE from getting sidetracked and distracted in the record-keeping process?

Last week my husband and I spent Wed. morning in the Toys R Us store doing a pretty good job at finishing our Christmas shopping for the kids. Between the things that we bought here and some things we bought online in the states and had our nephew-in-law ship over, and the stocking stuffers I have been picking up a few at a time, we are in very good shape. We had some friends flying to the states so we hustled to get presents bought and packages to mail out to family back home. The kids are about half done with their shopping for each other so a couple more trips one on one and they should be done too. I walked my hubby over to the jewelry store in our neighborhood tonight to point out a pair of earrings I like (hint hint hint) but I have been really bad at giving gift ideas this year so who knows what the family will come up with on their own. Of course, my oldest son already has his "assigned" gift but it is always a surprise what the details are. He has written and illustrated a book for me as my Christmas gift for the last four years. He takes one of my favorite treats and writes me a story about it. The books are hilarious and I enjoy them immensely while I snack on my treat. Past themes have been Walker´s Shortbread cookies, After Eight mints, Toblerone chocolate bars, and Reese´s peanut butter cups. A month or so ago he started asking me for other "favorite treats" of mine and I know I gave him some but I can´t remember what they were beyond malted milk balls (Whoppers). I can´t wait to see what he comes up with.
The kids had a long weekend with Thursday and Friday of last week off from school. We dug out the Christmas decorations and set up the tree. The tree is done, the boys (that would be son #2 and the big boy --my hubby) set up their Lionel trains around the base (that was a 4 hour job by itself!), and little by little the rest is going up. Tomorrow´s goal is to finish the decorating and get all the boxes put away so we can enjoy the living room again.

Thursday our church had a big pot luck dinner to celebrate our 16th anniversary. I made 4 kilos of jewish hotdogs (I´ll post the recipe here soon), hubby made 2 chocolate cakes, and I purchased supplies and made punch for aprox 90 people.

The biggest tackle in the last week has been my son´s health. Son #2 has had a painful ear infection all last week. He missed the whole week of school (fortunately only 3 days long) and we´ve been doing antibiotics, pain medicine and drops all week. He is still having pain so we tackled yet another trip to the ENT tonight and this Friday he goes for a TAC (a CAT scan in English). That will be an adventure I guess.

Whew! As I look at this post I am tired.... I think maybe I accomplished a bit more than I thought. Not a lot to take pictures of so enjoy one of the tree topper going on and one of the cookies I made at a friend's house this morning. She invited several Spanish ladies over to teach them how to make sugar cookies. We all had fun decorating them and the family enjoyed the fruits of my labor for dessert today.

Check back tomorrow to see if I can at least get my wordless Wednesday post up --- hopefully more tourist shots from our week with visitors.

My kids are dreaming of a White Christmas

I, on the other hand, am content to let the rest of the world deal with the cold wet stuff. My son linked to this youtube video on his blog and I thought it was cute, and would use it to see if I could figure out how to post it directly on the blog.

Looks like I figured it out.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Overheard at bedtime tonight

I walked in on my two youngest tonight as they were getting ready for bed. Not sure exactly why but this interchange tickled my funnybone.

N: (to Princess) What's inside your feet?

Princess: Bones.

N: What else?

Princess: Blood.

N: What else?

Princess: Piggies.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Wordless Wednesday: Snippets of Segovia

I've visited Segovia many times (it is my favorite day trip from Madrid) and have taken the "traditional" tourist shots many times. I decided last week to capture some new angles and focus on some of the great textures and designs found in and around town ... especially at the alcazar.

The one prerequisite "I was there" shot.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tuesday's Tackle: Scaling Mount Washmore

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

I have had company in my home all last week. Of course, that meant spending the good portion of a couple days doing the tourist thing. I hope to have a good Wordless Wednesday post tomorrow with some of the pictures I took on one of the two sightseeing days. Last week was also the week I went into the public school to present Thanksgiving. Things went very well both days and I learned many things to remember if I ever have the opportunity again. One was ..... don't bother to make a dish of candied yams because the Spanish kids would not even try them. However, the punch (cranberry juice mixed with Sprite) was a big hit. The days that we weren't sightseeing we were either at the school or at home baking and preparing for the school presentations.

Friday morning after we went out for coffee and Spanish tortilla we had just under 3 hours before picking the kids up after school and heading into Madrid for tourist day #2. I commented that I needed to get a load or two of laundry in because I had not done any all week. I got two loads washed and dried but not put away. This is a problem. I have a family of 6. I need to do 1 to 2 loads A DAY to keep up, and here I have gone ALMOST A WHOLE WEEK and only washed 2 loads. The mountain is growing out of control. Today I must tackle as many loads as possible ... and they need to be finished all the way to landing in the right closets and drawers.

It's not a very exciting tackle, and I would be embarrassed to post a picture of the overflowing hampers but it definitely needs to be done. Head on over to 5 minutes for Mom to see what others are tackling today. And, if you can, please help me out with #4 on my list below.

Secondary goals on the to do list for the day are:
1. Find folder with insurance papers and medical info to take with me to my son's ENT appt. tonight.
2. Straighten the living room in a futile hopeful attempt to prepare for Christmas decorating later in the week.
3. Plan the rest of the week's menus and post (all be it late) for Monday Meanderings.
4. Learn how to remove comments from a couple of old posts. I guess this means my blog has "arrived" (?) since I have now had my first "drive by commenter" leave snarky comments. I opened commenting up for anyone because I know some friends and family wanted to comment without registering with blogger but that now leaves me open to others like the "anonymous" commenter (from California, according to my sitereader report). Can anyone tell me how to do this in blogger? Thanks in advance for your helpful comments and please just surf on by and save your energy if all you have to say is to bash my religious beliefs or the fact that I eat meat.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What happens when Mom decides to have a play day

I was gone all day today playing tourist. We have a visitor staying with us all this week and I wanted to take her to my favorite "day-trip" city ..... Segovia. We got in around 8pm or so (the hubby was off today so he took care of the kids after school) and princess was needing to "confess" what she had been up to today to Mommy. The picture is posted as a "wordless Wednesday post" here. Hmmm. I remembered another similar event back a few years ago and I found the old post and photo from my other blog. I think I am seeing a pattern here ... when Mom's away ....

I came home from the monthly ladies’ meeting at church
and discovered that little Miss Picasso had been busy.
There was black marker scribbled all over the hallway walls
in four places. Tim called her over and pointed to the wall
and asked, “What’s this?”
“Marker.” (It’s one of her favorite words although it sounds
more like mar-care.”
They walked to the second spot. “Princess, what’s this?”
Repeat scene at spot 3 and 4. Then Tim firmly pointed
to the last and largest spot and said “Princess, NO!” at which
point her big smile at being able to use her new favorite word
melted into big crocodile tears. Mommy and the budding artist went to work
cleaning up the mess (not TOO big a job thanks to Mr. Clean
Magic Eraser and the fact that we only allow washable markers
in this household.)

WW: X marks the spot

Guess who will be mixing a little elbow grease and giving a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser a work out tomorrow afternoon after she gets home from school?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Thanksgiving Spread

Head on over to Looking Toward Heaven to see what others have on their menu and pick up a few new recipes to try too.

We sat down as a family and set the menu for Thursday. We still don´t know for sure how many guests are coming so if all 9 decide to come we will add the ham to the menu to help stretch the turkey.

Turkey and gravy
mashed potatoes
sweet potatoes
Broccoli casserole
Cauliflower with hollandaise sauce
corn (still up in the air)
cranberry sauce
jello salad
Oatmeal dinner rolls or fresh hot bread from the Shell station around the corner
pumpkin bread

Beverages: apple juice, cranberry juice, grape juice, Sprite, water, KoolAid

Dessert: chocolate pie, pumpkin pie, apple pie or apple crisp, whipped cream

Here is the recipe for the rolls. I love them but the consensus was to pass on them if I didn´t have the time to do them this year.

Oatmeal dinner rolls

2 cups water
1 cup quick cooking oats
3 Tablespoons butter
2 (1/4 oz) envelopes active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
4 cups flour
1 ¾ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in saucepan. Stir in the oats and butter. Boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool to 110 degrees. Stir together yeast, ½ cup warm water, and 1 tsp. sugar in a 2 cup measuring cup. Let stand 5 minutes to proof the yeast.
Beat oat mixture, yeast mixture, flour, salt and brown sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (aprox. 5 minutes). Place in a well greased bowl turning to grease top Cover and let rise in a warm place free form drafts aprox 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. Punch down the dough, divide in half and shape each portion into 16 balls. Place evenly into 2 lightly greased 9 inch round cake pans. Cover and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Yield 32 rolls.

Monday Meanderings: November19-25

Last week was quite profitable, at least in regards to the Must Do list. Health forms still need to be mailed but the expense reports did get mailed in and reimbursed. Did the exercising once but changed my route and plan a bit and I think the new plan will work better. Family fun was changed to letting one son have a friend for a sleepover Friday. I also set my oldest son up with his own blog. That is something he has been wanting for a while.

Thanks to Tiany's idea to post our goals and plans for the week.

Bible Study/Devotional plan: I´m still enjoying this study on Thanksgiving and there is so much there I am just going to work my way through it until Thanksgiving Day .. and if I'm not finished I will stay with it through the end of November.

Must Do:

1. Financial-- Mail health insurance claim forms.
2. School -- Find out Tuesday if I am doing the Thanksgiving presentation. Help the "PTA" Moms roast chestnuts for the elementary open house Friday.
3. Exercise -- Go walking at least 2 times.
4. FUN- Thanksgiving Dinner, hopefully with some good friends over to share it with us.

Zone: I need to do crisis cleaning this week to get the house ready for Thanksgiving guests and then houseguests that come in on Saturday. Will set the timer for 15 minutes and go from room to room doing general pickup and clearing out hotspots.

Train Them Up: We're going to continue to work on memorizing Psalm 100. We read it together each night before dinner. The goal is to do it all from memory on Thanksgiving day.

Menu Planning:

Breakfast- cereal
School Snack- apple slices and/or pepper slices and cheese
Mid-day meal- spaghetti
Evening meal- leftover broccoli soup or lentils from last week

Breakfast- bran muffins
School Snack- bran muffin/ bocadillo
Mid-day meal- Arroz con 3 delicias (from frozen section)with chicken and scrambled eggs added in
Evening meal- Something quick and easy from a can plus whatever I can clear out of the fridge to make room for Thanksgiving food items

Breakfast- Maria cookies with hot chocolate
School Snack- apple/ muffin or croissant
Mid-day meal- French bread pizza
Evening meal- omelettes

Breakfast- cold cereal
School Snack- croissant sandwich for Princess, fruit for boys (apple or clementina)
Mid-day meal- The full Thanksgiving spread
Evening meal- pick at leftovers

Breakfast- oatmeal
School Snack- kids' choice
Mid-day meal- Turkey leftovers
Evening meal- probably more leftovers unless the kids catch me in a good mood to make pizza again.

Lunch/dinner: macaroni and cheese with ham slices, broccoli

Sunday We have houseguests arriving Saturday night. Don´t know if they will want to stay in town after church to do any sightseeing. (The Prado art museum is free on Sundays). If so, we´ll probably hit McDonald´s or Burger King for lunch and then see the sights before heading home.

Don´t forget to head on over to Laura´s for more menu plans.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Overheard at the dinner table

No names will be used to protect the "innocent".

Tonight at the dinner table one of my children turns to his Dad and says,"Daddy, look! I just popped the button on my pants."

With hardly a pause for a breath, he follows up with "Can I have 3rd helping of mashed potatoes?"

Monday, November 12, 2007

Another favorite recipe : Cream of zucchini soup

Here's one of our family favorites that I learned how to make from a Spanish lady in our church. The key to this being an easy soup to make is an immersion (stick) blender. I tried making this for my parents once when I went home to Massachusetts for a visit and had to blend the soup in small batches in their blender and it was kind of a pain and time consuming. But with the stick blender I have here it is done in a flash.

Cream of Zucchini soup (I think it sounds better in Spanish -- Crema de Calabazin)

Start with these ingredients. I use greater quantities to feed my hungry crowd and hopefully have a little leftover for another day.

2 or 3 large zucchini
1 or 2 large potatoes
1/2 medium onion
olive oil
salt and pepper
ground nutmeg

Peel zucchini and slice into thin slices. Chop onions. In a medium to large pot cover bottom with olive oil and heat oil. Add zucchini and onion and stir well to coat veggies with oil. Saute and then add a pinch of salt and cover the pot to cause the veggies to "weep" and cook until soft, stirring often so the onions don't burn. Add a splash of water if needed but usually there is enough water in the squash to keep it from burning. Just keep the cover on.

Peel potatoes and cut into cubes. In a seperate pot cover potatoes with water and boil over medium heat. Sprinkle top of the water with nutmeg. Cook until potatoes are tender (as if you were going to mash them).

When zucchini is tender, remove from heat. Using a slotted spoon, add the potatoes to the zucchini and onion. Blend well using a stick blender or transfer the veggies in batches to your blender, adding some of the potato water to thin it down. Once the veggies are well blended and smooth, thin to soup consistency with the cooking water from the potatoes and milk. I once made this for my lactose intolerant brother in law and used no milk and it was still good, but I like to go at least half and half water/milk when I make it for our family. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish if desired with chives or bacon bits.

End up with this .... a creamy bowl of hot soup to take the chill away.

Monday Meanderings: Nov. 12-18

We managed to stick to the menu plan pretty well last week and went for a whole week without a visit to the clinic. That streak ended this morning with a trip to urgent care with my 10 year old who has a double ear infection. This week's plan is still heavy on things I already have in my pantry. We may even be able to skip or pare down the purchases at the weekly fruit and veggie market and then shop heavier the day before Thanksgiving. We'll see.
My son and I were sick and stayed home from church yesterday morning. He put me to shame as I was up helping the rest of the family get ready and then was thinking about going back to bed. He knew he should stay home because he felt bad and also to keep from infecting the rest of the church but he wanted to make sure we had some kind of Bible study and preaching time. So, I found a Bible study online on Thanksgiving and we took a half hour or so and just looked up all the verses that were on one little section of the outline. Then we found a sermon on cd from our sending church and listened to one of Dr. Doran's messages from July. It was a little over my son's head but concluded with a very practical and easy to understand application so all in all it was a very profitable time together.

Thanks to Tiany's idea to post our goals and plans for the week.

Bible Study/Devotional plan: Taking a break from my regular reading plan. Found this study on Thanksgiving and there is so much there I am just going to work my way through it until Thanksgiving Day .. and if I'm not finished I will stay with it through the end of November.

Must Do: I'm so glad to say that last week's must do's got done (except for the exercise one). Shooting for success again this week.
1. Financial-- Mail health insurance claim forms for today's Dr. visit, send in expense report by tonight's deadline
2. School -- Teacher conference today, still working on trying to get into the school to present Thanksgiving sometime this month.
3. Exercise -- Go walking at least 2 times (5km route)
4. FUN- help the kids finish their mini movies and burn them to DVD's to share with their friends. Begin working on a photo cd or family movie to share with family back home at Christmas.

Zone: Do Flylady´s challenges for the MAIN BATHROOM and the OFFICE this week .

Train Them Up: We're going to continue to work on memorizing Psalm 100. We read it together each night before dinner. This week we need to start covering up sections to see how much we can say without looking. The goal is to do it all from memory on Thanksgiving day.

Menu Planning:

Breakfast- cereal & toast
School Snack- crackers and cheese
Mid-day meal- cream of zucchini soup, pizza topped chicken patties, coleslaw
Evening meal- leftovers

Breakfast- bran muffins
School Snack- bran muffin or pumpkin cookies/ bocadillo
Mid-day meal- tuna sandwhiches
Evening meal- baked pork chops, fresh green beans, rice

Breakfast- oatmeal
School Snack- apple/ croissant with Nocilla
Mid-day meal- homemade lentils with chorizo over rice
Evening meal- something light or use up last week's market veggies to make fridge space

Breakfast- cold cereal
School Snack- croissant sandwich for Princess, fruit for boys (apple or clementina)
Mid-day meal- landlubbers paella or chicken/rice stir fry (still haven't decided between the two)
Evening meal- chicken noodle soup and crackers

Breakfast- Maria cookies with hot chocolate
School Snack- kids' choice
Mid-day meal- egg salad sandwiches, raw veggies (cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, pepper strips)
Evening meal- homemade pizza or pepperoni stromboli

Lunch/dinner: leftovers

Sunday spaghetti and meatsauce
Don´t forget to head on over to Laura´s for more menu plans.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Works for me Wednesday: November Backwards day

Today is the first Wednesday of the month and so instead of sharing something that works for me, I get to ask my readers for help in an area I am floundering in. Thanks to all of you that left comments the last time we did this.

Today I'd like to ask for suggestions and links to Thanksgiving related classroom ideas. I am meeting with the elementary English teacher (hopefully) next week and am going to ask if I may be allowed to come into the classrooms to present and explain the American holiday of Thanksgiving Day. They are jumping all over the whole Halloween thing here in Spain, and I would sure love to see a presentation of a bit more "wholesome" holiday from our side of the Atlantic. I plan to offer a short presentation of the history of the holiday, explanation of a typical modern-day Thanksgiving celebration, and if time allows have a time where each student comes up with something they are thankful for and I translate into English to give them some new vocabulary (like: family, pet, toys, health, etc.) I could also bring various coloring papers with various Thanksgiving related scenes. I would love to bring an item or two of food for tasting. I was thinking of cranberry juice (I have found it here and could give each child a teeny amount in a dixie cup).
This is what I need:
1. Any links to free printable coloring pages.
2. Ideas of other food items that I could make and then cut or divide into bitesize tastes.
3. Any other ideas you have that I may not have thought of yet.

Thank you in advance.

Oh, and if you're feeling especially helpful, head on over to Shannon's Works-for-me-Wednesday page and see what others are asking about.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tackling the Living Room for Fall

The first week of November is almost gone. The pumpkins were carved and discarded already. Well intentioned plans from 3 weeks ago to pull out the fall decorations for the house have not yet materialized. But TODAY IS THE DAY! Over the weekend I rearranged the furniture in the living room. It was just a matter of swapping the couch and TV/VCR bookcase but it took a bit of doing because of the mess of cords and speaker wires and all. As I looked at the living room arrangement the way it was, there was no place to put our Christmas tree come December. Might as well take care of that now when I had some time on my hands. There is still a bunch of clutter to deal with and then I will pull out my favorite decorations and enjoy some autumn beauty for a few weeks. Since I don't get any dramatic color change in the leaves outside, I'll have to settle for the silk leaf garlands and other fall reminders of home. Here are some before pictures (to shame me into making sure I finish this job today so I can post the after pictures before I head to bed tonight.)
Of course the whole thing will lack the special touch my sisters-in-law have for decorating .... but it will be a whole lot better than it is now.

Come back later for the after shots. And head on over to 5 Minutes for Mom to see what others are tackling this week.

This hutch is just crying to be decluttered to become the home for my autumn village.

The TV has moved over to a corner but the clutter, especially by the desk still needs to be addressed today.

I forgot to take a picture of the couch area when I took the other shots last week. This was an old picture but it shows the old furniture arrangement we had with the couch in front of the doors to the balcony.

THE AFTER SHOTS -- Actually the room is still a work in process. I know I have a box or two of other fall decorations, figurines, etc. but I can't get to the box right now. So this is as far as I can go and it may be all I do. Except, there are some serving dishes and table decorations in the boxes that I will probably want for Thanksgiving day. I am pleased with the changes and motivated to attack a few other areas in our home, to see if I can get them ready for the holidays as well.

This set of houses (that have lights inside them) are just inexpensive ones from a local drug store back in Michigan but they always make me smile when I see them. I love how they look all lit up with the room lights turned off.

I came home from an errand and my dear hubby had moved the table (rotated it 90 degrees) and I love how much nicer the dining area feels now. He also set the table and had dinner ready to go. (Of course, it helped immensely that I had the stew in the crockpot.)

I have more fall decorations in a box somewhere and I may even dig out some of my fall Boyd's figurines to put on my new shelf that we bought this past summer on my anniversary trip. For now, at least the shelf and desktop are uncluttered.

The new location of the couch has not changed it's comfort level in the least.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Monday Meanderings: November 5-11

Last week I had every intention of blogging and posting my menu plan for the week and everything. I planned out the menu and posted it on the fridge but needed to get some things done around the house on Monday and told myself that I wasn't allowed to get on the computer until things were done. (I have a real tendency to get sidetracked and stay on for hours before realizing it.) By the time I was "allowed" to get on the computer, it was too late. Then Tuesday I started getting sick and the rest of the week was spent dealing with sickness in the family. 4 visits to the clinic, 3 people on antibiotic (myself included), 1 on cough medicine, way way way too many euros spent at the clinic and the pharmacy (my antibiotic alone was 40 euros!)and let's just say that I never got around to blogging. Fortunately I went shopping for meat Tuesday morning and stocked the freezer up a little. Unfortunately all those medical bills put a serious dent in the monthly budget so I will be doing some serious frugal ingredients-from-the-pantry type meals in the menu this week (and most likely for as long as I can get away with it).

Thanks to Tiany's idea to post our goals and plans for the week.

Bible Study/Devotional plan: Sticking with the same reading plan. Now on week 45.
Must Do:
1. Financial-- Fill out, copy and mail health insurance claim forms
2. School -- Meet with English teacher to see if she will let me come into the classrooms and present American Thanksgiving to the students.
3. Exercise -- Go walking at least 2 times (5km route)
4. FUN- Get out autumn decorations and decorate the living room with fall beauty. (Yes, I am still working on this one! I rearranged the furniture and tomorrow's tackle is to finish the job of straightening up and decorating for fall).

Zone: Do Flylady´s challenges for the KITCHEN this week and finish up with the living room.

Train Them Up: I think we need to ALL work on the concept of being thankful. When my two oldest were in kindergarten/First grade they memorized Psalm 100. I just found the page I typed up to help one of them learn it. It is now posted on the dining room door. I think we will work on this as a family memorization project and shoot to be able to quote it together on Thanksgiving day.

Menu Planning:

Breakfast- cereal
School Snack- leftover pizza from last night (proof positive that the gang is still not 100% healthy as we NEVER have leftovers when I make homemade pizza.)
Mid-day meal- egg salad sandwiches
Evening meal- Crockpot split pea soup with Kielbasa New recipe which turned out to be delicious!

Breakfast- oatmeal
School Snack- Great pumpkin cookies/ bocadillo with salami and cheese
Mid-day meal- grilled cheese sandwiches
Evening meal- beef stew and biscuits

Breakfast- cold cereal
School Snack- apple/ peanut butter crackers
Mid-day meal- chicken and gravy over rice
Evening meal- omelettes

Breakfast- bran muffins
School Snack- croissant sandwich for Princess, fruit for boys
Mid-day meal- baked burritos
Evening meal- broccoli casserole (with ham cubes?)

Breakfast- cold cereal
School Snack- tortilla rollups
Mid-day meal- tuna sandwiches
Evening meal- homemade pizza (usually not that frugal but we stocked up on pepperoni and mozzarella at the wholesale club so we have the ingredients on hand)

Lunch/dinner: leftovers
Sunday spaghetti and meatballs
Don´t forget to head on over to Laura´s for more menu plans.

recipes: broccoli casserole and homemade pizza

Here are a couple of the recipes on this week's menu.

Broccoli Casserole (I have to double this for my family of 6)

10 oz. pkg frozen broccoli thawed and chopped. (It is easier to chop when slightly frozen … thaw by running warm water over the broccoli in a strainer, then squeeze out excess water.

1 containers (8 oz) cottage cheese

3 eggs, slightly beaten

4 tsp flour

¼ cup margarine (I just put pats of butter in the mix … It can be too greasy if you use the full amount)

optional: grated cheese

Chop broccoli. Place in large casserole dish. Add cottage cheese, eggs, flour and butter. Stir well to combine ingredients.

Bake at 350 (180 C) for one hour. Top with grated cheese, if desired, and return to oven for 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

Homemade pizza dough (thanks again to my friend Karen who shared this with me many years ago)

2 to 2.5 cups flour
1 pkg rapid rise yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup warm water (approx 120 degrees F)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon honey

Mix together 2 cups flour, yeast and salt in large mixing bowl. Add oil and honey to warm water in measuring cup and stir well. Add to flour mixture and mix well. (Or if using regular yeast, sprinkle yeast over water and let stand 5 minutes. Then add oil and honey and add to the flour.)
Mix and knead on lightly floured board until elastic.
Wash, dry and oil bowl. Let dough rise in bowl until doubled in size (40-60 minutes depending on what kind of yeast you use.)
Shape and bake with your favorite toppings. 10 to 15 minutes at 450 degrees.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wordless Wednesday: Family Picture

This Sunday after church we tried to get a family picture taken to send out to friends, family and supporters at Christmas. Here is the best one ... not sure if it will make the "final cut" or if we will try again. We ended up taking one "silly face shot". What do you think? Which one should go on the Christmas card? Ü

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wordless Wednesday: Just one more reason to learn to read

My 7-year-old's teeth will be blemish free thanks to some poor "product placement" on the bathroom shelf and a failure to read the labels before use.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday Meanderings: October 22-28

This past week was another of those where the schedule kept getting thrown aside. This time it was because of a lot of emotional turmoil and some work related deadlines. Please read yesterday's post for an idea. It would have been too long to include here with the meanderings.

Thanks to Tiany's idea to post our goals and plans for the week I can start fresh again this week. I'm cutting back again to the bare minimum of goals and hoping I finally have some successes to chalk up. Success from last week was that I filed an expense report, got exercise in twice, got the house presentable enough for Friday's guests and read my library book at a time when it did not sabotage other more important things .. like making sure the family had clean clothes.
Bible Study/Devotional plan: Sticking with the same reading plan. Now on week 43.
Must Do:
1. Financial-- gather recipts for next expense reports and delegate a place for them to stay, Fill out, copy and mail health insurance claim forms
2. School -- turn in money and sign field trip permission slip for November field trips
3. Exercise -- Go walking at least 2 times (5km route)
4. FUN- Get out autumn decorations and decorate the living room with fall beauty.

Zone: Do Flylady´s challenges for the MASTER BEDROOM this week and consistently spend time decluttering the boxes of stuff being stored in the extra bathroom.

Train Them Up: My oldest gets home from school while I am out picking up his siblings from elementary school. Last week on Thursday and Friday he had checked the menu on the fridge and had set the table appropriately and started setting out the food for lunch so we could eat right away. It was so nice to see him take that initiative. Now, I need to make sure to stick to the menu or leave him a note if things are going to change. I may try and work with him on some kitchen skills if there are some last minute things that he can do to help with these meals.

Menu Planning:

Breakfast- oatmeal
School Snack- crackers and cheese wedge
Mid-day meal- cream of broccoli soup
Evening meal- macaroni and cheese (2 of our well guarded stash of Kraft blue boxes), Lincolnshire sausages (from the British import store)

Breakfast- banana muffins
School Snack- muffin/ bocadillo with salami and cheese
Mid-day meal- Spaghetti with meat sauce, salad
Evening meal- omelettes

Breakfast- cold cereal
School Snack- clementina/ banana muffin
Mid-day meal- BBQ pork in the crockpot, cream of zucchini soup
Evening meal- tuna sandwiches

Breakfast- eggs
School Snack- croissant sandwich for Princess, fruit for boys
Mid-day meal- turkey soup (never got to it last week, just put the turkey in the freezer for another day)
Evening meal- quesadillas

Breakfast- cold cereal
School Snack- cherry tomatoes and red pepper strips
Mid-day meal- egg salad sandwiches
Evening meal- homemade pizza

Lunch/dinner: ?
Sunday something in the crockpot.. unsure yet what. Any ideas?
Don´t forget to head on over to Laura´s for more menu plans.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


(This is a repost of an entry from last April that I posted in another blog I write. We had a reoccurrence of being emotionally put through the cyber-wringer this week and it has done me good to reread this.)

I have this love/hate relationship with email. There are the piles of junk mail and spam that come, many times uncaught by the filters that are in place to save me from seeing the trash before I hit delete. There are the warnings, prayer requests, petitions etc that urge me to "forward this to everyone in my address book". There are daily devotional emails that we subscribed to at one time that always make me feel a twinge of guilt when I have to delete them because I simply don't have time to read them all. Sometimes we see the return address of a friend or family member and with much excitement open it hoping to find a personal note only to find what is basically a piece of "junk mail" that was sent to us and 100 other people at the same time. Occasionally a nice piece of personal mail sneaks into the inbox and brightens our day. This week I experienced some real extremes in the world of cybermail. We received some very surprising and saddening news which caught us completely by surprise. It was shortly followed by another very difficult note full of strong emotion and misunderstandings. I walked away from the computer feeling like I had been punched in the gut.

I have been reading the online writings of several women in various situations but all claiming to have a personal relationship with the Lord. As I read of their trials I also read of their hope in the Lord and was inspired by what seemed to be true vibrant faith in their daily lives. I am glad to see that their trials are drawing them closer to God but it only seemed to magnify the funk I was finding myself in. That's right, this missionary mom has been in a spiritual funk. Life was kind of sailing along in the hum drum routine, but even as I looked at the dreary rainy days that we have been having lately and longed for Spain's typical bright sun, I was longing for the close walk and vibrant faith I have experienced in the past. The thing was, that those memories of intense spiritual hunger and joy of communion with the Lord have typically come as I walked through some real valleys and trials. I wasn't anxious for a medical trial, a financial pinch, a family crisis or any of the myriad of situations I imagined might be used to bring me to my knees. And I certainly wasn't expecting God to use an email.

I did know that whatever the circumstance that might "shake me up", that the answer would be in HIS WORD. And I wasn't mistaken. God's Word, although written thousands of years ago, is still as up to the minute as an "instant message". I'm convinced that it is no "coincidence" that Tim read the second chapter of Philippians to me aloud in bed the other day and that the words reverberated around in my head throughout the day because 25 years ago I took the time to memorize the entire book of Philippians while riding the subway to school each day. It is not "chance" that as I fell behind in my daily Bible reading schedule that I ended up in Jeremiah 1 with highlighted words jumping out at me like "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you", "everywhere I send you, you shall go, all that I command you, you shall speak" and "I am with you to deliver you". Nor did that same Bible reading schedule send my to Psalm 37 "by accident".
Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD, And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him, Do not fret ...
Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
The LORD sustains -- The LORD knows -- The LORD is the One who holds his hand -- The LORD loves justice -- The LORD will not leave him -- He is their strength -- The LORD helps and delivers them .... because they take refuge in Him.

Oh how I needed to read those words again and have them grab hold of my heart anew! What a joy it is to see that once again God's Word is quick and powerful and able to change lives .... even my own.

I'm still feeling a bit under the weather and plan to go get a physical to see if there is any physical reason for my listlessness and general fatigue. But I feel confident that God is at work in me, both to will and to do His good pleasure (italics mine) and that as I draw near to HIM, the spiritual funk will fade. *October update: everything is fine health-wise and I did come out of April's funk. I am confident that this week's events, although hard to go through, will also prove to strengthen my faith and not pull me into a pit, if I remember to keep my focus not on myself but on my Lord.

Oh, and as is so like the Lord in His abundant goodness, today's email contained news of a precious saint's promotion to glory, a fantastic newsy letter of encouragement from the wife of one of our supporting pastors, and a note from a church that is considering taking us on as one of their missionaries. As our European director always says, "GOD IS GOOD EVERYDAY, ALL THE TIME."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Her First Lanz

My little princess eagerly explored the bag of hand-me-down clothes from a missionary friend of ours in the next town over who often passes on gently used clothing that her daughters have outgrown. We examined each piece and hung those articles that would fit on hangers in the closet or neatly folded items for the dresser. My eyes lit up as did hers when I reached in the bag and pulled out this flannal nightgown. But not just any flannal nightgown ... it is a Lanz of Salzburg gown. Ah, the memories of a Lanz of Salzburg flannal nightgown. It is one of my warm and fuzzy memories of growing up in New England with the cold winter nights. My Mom would get my sister and me new LOS gowns each year, usually at Christmas. Now my daughter has her first one and she loves it. I may have a hard time getting her to wear any of her pajamas now.

I haven't had a flannal gown for years. My husband puts out enough heat for the two of us, plus I live smackdab in the center of sunny Spain and the temperatures just don't dip quite enough for such sleepwear to be necessary. And I'm not even taking into account the most recent addition of my own personal endless summer. It's nice to have a Lanz back in the house. I think Princess will gladly carry on the tradition for me.