Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Well, Well. Well....

and that's a deeeeeeep subject......

If I had had a dollar for every time Larry or I have said this, we would have had enough money to pay for this second well in the yard.The one that we actually didn't need because there is nothing wrong with the first one right next to it! A second well is also kind of hard to decorate. One Wishing Well looks adorable, but two of them would look ridiculous!
Does anyone want to buy a brand new well? Well no, I can't move it!!!!!
Long boring story: We were told that our well might be going dry. The water pipes started making noises and we panicked. A Water Pump dude diagnosed OVER THE PHONE!!!! that we probably needed a new well (and I believed him)!!! It just so happened that his brother drills wells for a living and he hadn't worked in a long time. Brother came out, took a quick look around the yard ( he didn't even look in our water softening and conditioning room!) and 48 hours later, we had a new well drilled.That was 4 months ago and we still haven't gotten it hooked up yet because we don't need it!!!!!!!!
Have you ever made a bad business decision? This one took me weeks to get over.....Oh well!!!!Hahaha..........!!!! I would love to put a hand pump on this in case we lost electrical power.Without power, a well is useless. But, I think it is too deep for that. Oh well... next time I'll try not to freak out and make a rash and EXPENSIVE decision without further research and a second opinion......

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Montessori Moments

For the first time, we went to the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday night and made no plans for Easter Sunday at all. My husband is severely grieving his brother's death and I wanted to put no pressure on him to have to visit anyone.The afternoon was so spectacularly beautiful and with no big dinner to prepare, I took my little daughter and two year old grandson on a walk in the woods.We enjoyed that very much and although I was ready to walk some more, they both got involved in playing in this little creek.What happened next I think I will remember for a long time.
My grandson went out onto this little bridge and laid down on it. He was able to reach into the water and pull out rocks. This is shale and it is very thin.As he collected many different pieces, he began to pile it up into "towers". My 6 year old was having her own fun IN the water going up and down the little creek. She began to bring him much larger rocks and handfuls of pebble sized slivers of shale which he continued to pile in fantastic ways!

 About 10 minutes into their fun, I gave up on continuing the hike and sat down comfortably on the end of the foot bridge.Now I was content to just hang out. I occasionally helped him to place a certain rock in a nook, or start a new pile. But I am not kidding or exaggerating- these towers HE built with the shale that Miss J. was having a blast delivering! We stayed here for close to 2 hours! I was able to see first hand what I think the Montessori philosophy is. Provide plenty of nature and unstructured, un-rushed time and let children create and learn in their own way... I rarely ever sit still for this long and am usually "directing" another activity long before two hours have gone by. Wow... I could have had a V-8!!!!
I was beyond amazed at what a 2 year old could do. Even if we do like to call him a genius!
Of course, I didn't have my camera with me at the time,which was perfectly fine. I took the pictures the next day. During this two hour interlude, I gave my daughter, ( the little guy's mother)a chance to write a paper for school, his Dad a much needed nap and got to spend the best quality time that I have ever spent with my grandson in a relaxed and peaceful,sunny spot. Filled with Easter Joy, I meditated on so many things as I watched him, and was astounded by his creative genius.

Bathroom Remodel

Our house was built in the 70's and the bathroom on the main level was in desperate need of an up-date.In the last 12 years we had in fact painted it and added a border, but it  just wasn't attractive.

We decided that although the one piece shower in avocado really dated the place, it wasn't worth replacing because it still functions well and it can mostly be hidden by a shower curtain. The floor also needed to be replaced in order to bring this room into the 21st century!
It was suggested by my parents that we consider a high-rise toilet because they are so much easier on the knees.This advice will be taken and implemented in the bathroom in our master bedroom. This main bathroom will be utilized by our children and grandchildren and so we were able to reuse the same regular height commode which isn't very old.
Larry and I have been so busy that we have had little time for choosing paint colors.I enlisted the kids' help. We thought we might try a sage on the walls and off-white for all the trim. When the first coat was on, I stepped into the bathroom and HATED it. It was just a shade or two different from what had already been on the walls.Furthermore, the lighting in this room ( no natural light at all) made the green very ugly. It was decision time. Either say something now or forever hold my piece.
I took the plunge and told the guys working on it that we had to change colors.They handled it very well! We had a 5 gallon bucket of satin beige downstairs and they used that instead.

That color really lightened the bathroom up and it looks so much cleaner and more modern! We kept the original built-in cabinet that the builder made because it was more solid than anything we saw in Lowe's or Home Depot. We put on a new double sink counter top and bought "Victorian"  style faucets in aged bronze.Of course, new towel racks, cabinet hinges and hardware also helped to freshen the whole look.We replaced the full wall mirror with two arch styled mirrors that mimic windows which this bathroom doesn't have..
We LOVE the new floor! We considered ceramic but instead chose a very beautiful thick vinyl in relaxing tans and taupe squares.They installed it over the old floor because although ugly, it was in very good condition.The floor came in a 13 foot wide roll. By buying 7 feet of that, we have enough to redo the basement bathroom in it also.
Our two workmen, did a very good job and got the job done in one week.The price was excellent and they were willing to work with me and listen to me.For instance, when the new towel racks were being positioned, I said that only one thing mattered. They HAD to be level! Unfortunately, Mike hung one using the eyeball method! I walked in, took one look at it and could see that it wasn't level! Sure enough, after checking it, he rehung it without any attitude and we all laughed about it.
     The guys didn't charge us for having to repaint because they finished on time, but we gave them a bonus to cover that and to show them how much we appreciated their hard work. Now we don't have to be embarrassed when we have guests. Our bathroom looks brand new! I will be taking my time to select a new shower curtain and maybe some soap and toothbrush holders. I may also consider sticking with the hand soap pump that is pictured, as I see in so many other guest bathrooms.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Diabetic Preparedness

In my daughter's closet, there is a stack of  deep, over-sized shelves at both ends. Being a firm believer in the idea that there are very few problems that can't be solved with shelves, we have been able to utilize two of them for her diabetic care.The one below the one pictured here contains medical equipment (pump sites)and reference books which I look at whenever I have a question.
For an insulin-dependent diabetic, food is medicine. A juvenile diabetic has to take insulin on a daily basis in order to live. A certain amount of insulin is given for meals and snacks. Insulin is also given daily or continuously in the case of a pump to provide for the normal processes of life.Sometimes it is difficult to balance the amount of insulin needed. Exercise, growth, hormones, sickness and even the weather can influence the blood sugar level. Food is the anti-insulin. We keep the groceries on this shelf on hand at all times in case her blood sugar goes too low.
The granola bars are great for her to carry with her in a purse, as are the Skittles because they are fast-acting carbohydrates.They don't melt in the sun and can handle a little wear and tear in a bag. She has to carry them wherever she goes and at all times. Some people think that diabetics should never eat sugar. That is not true. If a diabetic has had even a little too much insulin for the situation, they must eat or drink something that will quickly elevate their blood sugar or they will continue to feel weak, shaky, irritable and may pass out.
We buy the Tot's juice even though she is a teen because each one has 15 carbs in it. These travel reasonably well in a purse but not in a school bag. After two or three juices burst under the pressure of her school books, she switched to the Skittles. She can eat a small bag of Skittles, which also have about 15-20 carbs per bag, in class without making a scene.The diabetic manuals recommend these cake frosting tubes for the same purpose. Although we have them we have never used them.
We keep bottles of soda in this closet and never use them for the family.The regular soda is for an emergency where she would need to get her sugar up very quickly. Regular Soda is something that she never drinks because it has much more than 15 carbs per serving. Diet soda is kept for "sick days" or situations where her blood sugar is too high and fluids must be forced. The straws we keep for serving apple juice ( kept cold in the refrigerator and off limits to other members of the family) during the middle of the night. If I have a reason to check her blood sugar (using a meter not pictured here) and she is low, I can serve her a glass of apple juice with a straw and she can drink it without fully waking up.We have done this on many occasions.
On this shelf we also keep the prescription "Glucagon". This is an emergency injection given into the diabetic's muscle in a case when they are not able to drink or eat something themselves to raise their blood sugar because they are unconscious. By God's Grace, we have not had to use this, but we do keep it on hand.The batteries are for the insulin pump. We buy the large pack of AAA and also store the AA batteries used for other purposes here as well.
You would think that in a large family a certain amount of pilfering would go on from this shelf with its ready supply of easy to eat and tasty items! Every now and then my daughter will have her little sister spend the night in her room and for fun they might have a juice and a bar. Other than that, everyone knows that they better not touch this food because it could save their sister's life. Purchasing these items and keeping them stocked up ( I usually pick up bars or juice when I shop) are a small price to pay to have an active teen who can do most anything because she is adequately prepared.

Meatless Chili

Our Homeschool group recently provided the food for our parish's Lenten community dinner on a Friday night. Our Pastor began these dinners a few years ago as a way for folks to share a meal together and then perhaps attend the Stations of the Cross which follow it. The Dinner is absolutely free although an optional donation can be given. A different parish group cooks all of the food on their particular Friday, usually around a theme. Our theme was Mexican food. That was challenging enough but to make it meatless! What an order!

I signed up to bring a large pot of meatless chili which I had heard of but had never cooked. I Googled it, printed off four recipes and then combined them. The result was delicious and a big hit. It turned out that everyone was able to outdo themselves for this dinner. We had PLENTY of good meatless Mexican dishes. Guacamole, homemade salsa, 7- layer dip and tortilla chips were the appetizers. In addition to this chili, we served Mexican lasagna, Bean and cheese burritos and enchiladas, cheese quesadillas, rice and black beans, corn pudding, a black bean, onion, corn, tomatoe and avocado salad and another fabulous salad with crumbled corn bread, lettuce, tomatoes and ranch dressing.
We decided that small cups of canned fruit would suffice as the dessert because it was Lent. Most of our families participated in bringing food, setting up and cleaning up after dinner. In addition to pleasing our pastor who really enjoys seeing a vibrant parish that is full of life, our group received almost 300 dollars in donations which we use to help with field trips so that everyone can participate.
 Here are the ingredients I used to make this very nutritious and satisfying meatless chili. A large amount of celery, sweet onion, garlic and both a red and green pepper were diced and sauteed in olive oil in the bottom of an extra large stock pot.
I used two pounds of baby carrots and cut them into 3 pieces. Then I cooked them in a little water in the microwave to soften them up.

Surprisingly, zucchini was one of the main ingredients that replaced the meat in this chili. I bought about 8 small tender zucchini. I washed them but did not peel, quartered them, and after slicing thinly, sauteed them in a skillet.
Mushrooms were the other secret ingredient. We love mushrooms! I bought the large package and after wiping and rinsing them they were sliced thickly and also sauteed.
Of course it wouldn't be chili without beans! Because this meal was being served to "company", I treated myself by buying Bush's Chili Beans in a mild sauce.I used 3 large cans of those, two large cans of dark red kidney beans and two cans of chick peas ( also known as garbanzo beans). I also added a medium sized can of corn.
For spice, I added two packages of taco seasoning, extra cumin and a lot of chili powder, salt and pepper. I also threw in three cans of diced tomatoes. Because I combined 4 recipes, I counted at least twelve items of food in this pot plus all the spices!
This Mexican meatless chili was delicious! I had a lot of fun making it although the vegetable chopping was labor intensive.This dish will now be added to the items that I can serve on a Friday night in Lent. I would recommend this satisfying, hearty  meal to anyone who likes a good vegetable or minestrone stew with a Mexican twist.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Honoring a Brother

Our family experienced the unexpected and tragic loss of my husband's brother in the past week. These are the words that Larry shared at the funeral to try to express all that Tommy was to him.

        "For anyone that doesn't know or can't see the resemblance, Tommy was my brother. I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words here today.I would like to express my personal appreciation to everyone who made the effort to be here.
          My brother was a good man. He was a dedicated husband, father, uncle, grandfather, son and brother.Tom was a fun-loving man with a big heart, a wonderful smile and a good sense of humor. And, for the ladies, he was easy on the eyes!
          In fact, as he used to say, 'he was my taller,younger, thinner, better- looking brother!' and I would say to him 'you need a second opinion!' Seriously folks, he was the cute one with the great hair. He would comb his hair and could go into a tornado, and not one hair would be out of place.
          No man loved his family more than Tommy did. From the first time he told me about Debbie, some 34 years ago, he spoke with romantic love and he never changed that tune.His son, niece and and grand-daughter were special gifts from God to him .My brother loved deeply and with passion and he made the effort to spread his joy and excitement to family and friends.
          Tommy liked to talk, and talk, and talk. Heck, he'd talk your ear off! He had the gift of gab, a unique vocal pattern and a great voice.He would take the time to swap stories or opinions, even with strangers. Once Tommy got locked onto a subject he was like a pit bull. He wouldn't let go.When we were kids our mom used to let him have his way just to hush him up! He got a lot of mileage out of that tactic.
          Tommy and I weren't always friends.As kids we fought everyday and didn't care much for each other.I was so cruel to Tommy back then that I told him we found him in a ditch and  Mom and Dad adopted him.Once we reached adulthood we quit fighting and became close friends and never looked back.We had a lot of fun together playing music and baseball, chasing girls and raising a little h---. More than a little!
          We started playing music when we were teens. Our mother loved to sing and our half-brother Jimmy taught us to play and got us started.Our father just put up with all of us and our crazy rock and roll.Tommy was an accomplished drummer and I was the guitar player.We agreed we'd never switch roles, so I didn't touch his drums and he didn't get near my guitar.We wrote music and sang harmonies. Our voices blended because we were brothers.Tommy sang the lead most of the time. It still amazes me how he could play the drums using all four limbs, and sing the lead vocal. We played in bands off and on for over twenty years.
I'll miss my drummer.
           Tommy was also an outstanding athlete. He played at the hardest position on the baseball team as catcher. He used to taunt unsuspecting batters with his unique humor behind the plate.He was a tough catcher and runners sometimes made the mistake of trying to run over him. Bad idea! I loved baseball and had to work hard at it but Tommy was a natural.
        Like many of you here today, I have a lifetime of happy memories which will someday replace the pain of his passing. Our last words were that we loved each other and that's what counts. I will miss my brother for the rest of my life."
                          Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. Amen