Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I'm moving!!!!

Well, my BLOG is moving. Its got a new title and everything - to better keep up with what is happening in our lives. Someday we may eventually get "Mo' hens and chicks," but for now, we're growing a garden.

So click over here, and PLEASE re-subscribe. This blog won't be active anymore after today! Thank you for your support!

Oh, and let me know what you think of my new "home"!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

day trippin

We took a drive over to Amherst County to surprise the girls by taking them to their first Native American Pow-Wow. It was held in a beautiful setting - in a cattle field (of course!) just beside the Blue Ridge Mountains:

We watched the opening ceremonies and the introduction of the dancers, the Monacan Chief and the other guests of honor.
It was SO hot. I made the girls' dresses out of thin cotton fabric I got from WalMart. Most of the dancers were wearing heavy buckskin, leather and feathers - and headdresses of one sort or another. I don't know how they managed all day with the sun beating down on them. We only ended up staying for 2 hours - too hot!
Hannah was reticent at first as far as having her picture taken with the dancers, but after awhile she got used to the idea (once she was assured there were no tomahawks in sight....)
We met a friendly red-tailed hawk and her dad:
Han and Abbo had no qualms at all about sharp talons and a beak that can crush bone merely inches from their heads...
They each even rubbed her belly to see if she purred like the kitty.
Next up was a visit inside a REAL tipi!
Here they are with a couple of "squaws" - they looked so cute that another lady wanted to get their picture, too (they being the girls + these ladies)!
On the way back we stopped for a quick hike up the Appalachian Trail over near Buena Vista. I didn't know that Han had made a face until I had uploaded the pictures :)
A mountain stream dripping down from some cliffs. Cool relief for our faces and hands.
We crossed this bridge over the James River off of Route 501, and came across these folks beating the heat:

It looked SO FUN and SO WET and SO COOL! I was laughing just as hard as they were - it was hard to show restraint and not join them!

How much fun is that! Tight!

A quick stop at the Ben Salem Wayside on the other side of Buena Vista for the obligatory picnic before the last leg of the journey - then home after a fun day full of adventure!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Reverence & Respect Fail

We're using the LifeWalk curriclum at Wednesday night church, reading through the Bible in a year. At home I usually use a parallel version: NASB (New American Standard) and The Message. The best time for me to be in the Word is in the morning, as I'm relatively undisturbed if the girls are sleeping, so I fix the first of 3 cups of morning coffee and come back to read in bed.

On a recent morning, however.....

when I got up to refresh my coffee.......

I returned to the bedroom and the Bad Cat with a haughty tilt to his head saying,

"Me? You'd blame ME for that?"
"Uh - you got a little of 1 Samuel there under your fingernails"......

This could be an argument of why pets (certain ones, anyways) will NOT be in heaven. Ahem.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Diary of a brief illness

I've been sick for the last 36 hours and am functioning now only because of the Wonders of Modern Medicine, i.e., Excedrin (store brand, BOGO, of course).
Night before last it felt like a giant cannonball was resting in my stomach, just below my sternum. In the morning a mild case of delirium had me convinced that it was a giant hairball, the illusion brought on, no doubt, by my constant warnings to Hannah to quit chewing on her hair.
So at 12:00 noon yesterday, only a minute or so after I'd eaten the edges off of two PB&honey sandwiches belonging to two little girls who have been allowed to eschew the "sides," I made a mad and unplanned dash to the bathroom to relieve my suffering. With a hoarse voice I dictated Daddy-o's cell number to the 5 year old who quickly took in the situation and relayed the pertinents to her father.
As I staggered back to the kitchen, there she was handing the Unhappy Princess a bag of "printzels" in hopes of allaying a tantrum that had now been going on a full quarter hour.
"I'm following Daddy-o's rules now, you can go to bed."
And she deftly stepped by me, searched out a video from the "movie" box, slid it into the VCR and took a seat in front of the tube. Meanwhile, Unhappy Princess continued to beat her tiny fists on the kitchen floor screaming at the top of her lungs. Summoning my strength, I hoisted her over the cannonball/hairball I was feeling in my gut and plunked her down - very unregally - on my bed and tried to soothe her.
I finally was made to understand that she had wanted to carry her plate from the counter to the table after her sandwich had been made (and before my mad dash to the lav) and that the only way to remedy the situation was for her to be allowed to eat her sammy in the living room watching whatever video her big sister had chosen.
"By all means," I said, and she plopped herself on the "good chair" while I situated her lunch beside her and clambered into bed.
Thankfully Andy came home early, before the video was even over, I think, but I can't be sure, as I stayed in bed and slept until 6:30 or so. I was back asleep around 9PM and up at 4:15, 5, 6:30 and then again at 8:30 for good.
Despite my early morning agonies, we managed to get in a full homeschool lesson, minus the extra handwriting practice that Hannah needs. I still have few ideas how to involve the 2-year old during periods of time when Hannah desperately needs to concentrate. One helpful hint I've read recently was to put her in her bedroom with a baby gate across the door. Um, yeah, right. Cue the thrown objects. I'm hoping next year will be better for all three of us in this area.
Anyways, all that's left of this bug so far as I can tell is a residual headache - easily solved - and some mysterious rumbles in my stomach. I don't know if it was a touch of food poisoning or a little virus going around or what.
Better go so I can get ready to greet two sleepyheads who are still abed lo' this late hour of the morn....

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


When I was in college and just after - you know, wondering what I was going to be when I grew up - I had a couple pretty spicy jobs that provided a lot of life experience, even if they barely paid the bills. Did you know that I once worked for a private investigator, going undercover to scope out counterfeit Rolex watches for sale in Washington, D.C.? Really! I'd go up there on Saturday mornings, dark sunglasses, toting a shopping bag from The Gap or Banana Republic (filled with a change of clothes because i was too POOR to afford to shop at those stores on any regular basis) and do the tourist routine. Usually the sidewalk vendors had a row of fake Rolexes on their tables and sometimes I'd have to ask if they had any - they kept cases of them in the van parked around the corner (just like in the movies!). The vendor would walk me over to the van, open the back door and there would be cases and cases of watches, with hundreds of knockoff Rolexes in the mix. I'd buy one - or not - make a mental note of what I saw and meet the PI on the next street over at a coffee shop. He'd radio in to the U.S. Marshals and - I swear I am not making this up! - they'd swoop in for the catch while we drove by in a Lincoln with blacked-out windows. Man, my heart would be pounding and I was about to pass out from the excitement. But it was so cool! Later I'd help the PI sort the confiscated contraband to be processed as evidence for counterfeiting cases against the distributors and sellers. I remember once when I asked a woman if she had any other Rolexes under the table she looked at my shoes and said, "I don't like your shoes - I think you might be a cop, so I'm not going to sell you any watches- no watches for you!" (think "Soup Nazi") and she shooed me away from her booth. Jeez Louize, it's not like I was wearing gumshoes or anything!

Another job I had with this PI was doing supervised visitations with non-custodial parents. Lately I've reminisced about the case he had of an Indian woman who tried to return to India with her son - without the father's consent. This type of thing is frowned on, you know, and the American father had the airplane detained - literally while it was on the tarmac - and she was prevented from "kidnapping" the child. My job was to sit for 8 (long, excruciating) hours with her and her son on a Sunday to make sure she didn't pull any funny business. It was really an eye-opener as to how custodial parenting works (or doesn't work). There I sat in this oppressive little apartment for EIGHT HOURS watching a spoiled and whiny little boy manipulate his mother who - of course - resented the heck out of me being there. She wouldn't put him down for a nap, which he desperately needed - as even I, a childless 20-something could see for myself (truth is, she probably didn't want to miss a minute of him).

Anyways, according to the PI, they weren't allowed to leave the apartment - a one bedroom walkup somewhere in Northern Virginia. M-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e for me....but the money was good, so I kept at it for 6 months; they went back to court and I never knew what happened. I started working with them in the late winter and as it eased into spring, sometimes it would be so beautiful outside that I couldn't bear to make them stay in. We'd go for a walk around the apartment complex until I started getting sweaty palms that she was going to grab him and hop into a waiting Toyota and spirit him out of the country. We even went and dyed Easter Eggs at a neighbor's house - who spoke Hindi or whatever language the mom spoke - and if I thought the mom resented me, neighbor lady had no use for me whatsoever. I positioned myself close to the door in case anyone tried to make a break for it. (Such stress for a college kid!) Back at the mother's house it always reeked of curry. It hit you like a gust when she opened the door and permeated my hair and my clothes. She must have used it in every dish. She always very matter-of-factly offered me lunch and I'd make up some excuse why I couldn't eat - but one day I ran out of excuses, so I accepted the egg/rice/curry/vegetable bowl she gave me. I wasn't used to "real" ethnic cooking and about fell over because it was so strong. Plus, I wasn't completely sure she wasn't going to slip a little night-night into it so she could snag the boy....

All this does have a point, and not just to take you on a stroll down Memory Lane....

Last Friday I had a wonderful girls' night out with a great friend I'll call Barbara. (Why Barbara? Because I don't see any "Barbaras" on a regular basis and I didn't ask this friend if I could talk about her in cyberspace. Plus she reminds me of my mom's friend Barbara Peters.) Anyways, Barbara treated to a sweet little restaurant over in Lewisburg that reminds me of the restaurants up in Old Town Alexandria and Washington, D.C. And at said restaurant, she recommended the Thai Chicken, which was steeped richly in curry. On the way home (in my car, by myself, with the occasional burp from the curry) I was whisked back to that stuffy little apartment and the visits with that sad little family....and working for the PI....and informing on bad guys in the big city.

All because of a little spice in my life.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

morning devotions

The other morning I got up early and enjoyed a (quiet) cup of coffee. When I came back to the bedroom, I found this: and after I got The Look, she went back to what she was doing.

Oh, and here's an example of Bad Parenting: When Andy and I talk and we can't remember their names, they go by "The Big One" and "The Little One." That way we're sure to keep them straight :)

Easter Dresses

The Golden Curls

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

(Frugal) Dyed Eggs

At least 5 years ago, I bought an 8-pack of Wilton paste food coloring at Michael's Craft Store with a 40% off coupon. It couldn't have cost more than a few dollars, and has turned out to be one of my best investments - we use them for homemade play dough, homemade birthday cakes and, of course, dyeing Easter eggs. Pink is the only color that is getting low in the pot, and I think that in another year or so I'll have to buy a solo container of that one. The others are still going strong!

We did this after supper, and after bathtime......

Abigail chose to dress for the occasion, while.....

Hannah took a more casual approach to her attire.

We had an abundance of brown eggs this year; our neighbor boy up the hill stopped by two weeks in a row. I didn't remember from last year whether brown eggs took the dye very well -

but here, Hannah shows that for the stronger colors, at least, they worked just fine! I used the lightest eggs of the two dozen we had on hand, just in case.

Homemade Easter Egg Dye

1 tbs white vinegar per dye color desired
1 cup (approx; just eyeball it) boiling water
paste food coloring- as much as will fit on a toothpick when you scrape it in the pot

Mix vinegar, water and dyes (separately per color) in glass containers (plastic will stain) and stir well. Soak hard boiled eggs in dye bath for a few minutes, and:
You just saved a few dollars on packaged dye! Plus, you can dye eggs any time of year with what you have on hand (red, white & blue? green for St. Pats?). Use the egg carton the eggs came in to hold your finished creations.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thoughts on Easter

The blog post over at Domestic Cents sums up exactly what I'm feeling as we approach Easter...right down to the fact that I've got to get sewing on matching dresses for the girls!!

Since my girls have been old enough to equate pretty much any holiday with candy and toys, I've struggled with the dual meanings of holidays - the meaning the world puts on them and the meaning that we as Christians attach.

I have friends who go to the extreme of having no Easter baskets/eggs/jelly beans, but that isn't for us, and even if we tried it, the girls get mini Easter baskets in their Sunday School class. And truly, dyeing and hunting for hidden eggs is fun! Nothing inherently wrong with that, right? (Provided that the egg dye is homemade or purchased on sale with a coupon, of course!) In fact, I'm looking forward to heading over to Clifton Forge again this year for an Easter Egg-stravaganza (scroll to middle of the page for details) and parade the day before Easter....there's always free, fun things to do here in the Alleghany Highlands...check some of them out here.

But there is something that tugs at my spirit about the duality of holiday celebrations: is it OK to celebrate Easter with sugar? Christmas with wrapping paper? My answer (for now, anyways) lies in the answer to these questions:

Where are our hearts?

Are our hearts at the feet of Jesus when we think about the traditional meaning of the day?

Am I teaching my girls the whole story or just squeezing in a backhanded,

"oh yeah, Jesus rose on Easter"?

Throughout the year am I teaching them that Easter is the day we remember Christ's resurrection from the dead - the only way we could have received forgiveness from sin and freedom from death?

Is it only chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chicks? Because if that's what it is, its only empty calories - too quickly a memory and grass-stained knees from searching for eggs.

"Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them." (Deuteronomy 11:16)

Hmmm....but read on:

But, if I (we) take the time to constantly -

"train up your children up in the way they should go"


"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds....teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home, and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 11:18,19

Then I think there is room for eating chocolate bunny ears and a handful of Cadbury mini eggs (purchased with ECBs from CVS or with a Catalina from Kroger). I think that once that foundation is built and continually strengthened on a daily basis no matter what the season, you can add a little sugar and sprinkles and not risk that your family will be building an altar that the feet of the Easter Bunny.

I'm sure there are those who won't agree with me - who hold fast to having no involvement in the secular commercialization of the holiday - and there are those who could give a hoot less about the Real Meaning of The Holiday. But this is what is comfortable for our family, and what I have prayerfully considered.

I hope you'll read other perspectives from my 'bloggy friends,' like Nicki at Domestic Cents, above or Alyssa over at Keeping the Kingdom First , who is hosting the "Frugal Easter Eggstravaganza." Click through to the blogs linked to this post for great recipes and frugal ideas pertaining to Easter. In the spirit of the friendship topics of my recent posts, these are women who are valuable resources to me as I consider their ideas and perspectives.

Thanks for letting me share this piece of my heart with you!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Friends (part 2)

When Abigail & Hannah want to go to the park, the first thing they say is, "Let's call the Friends!" (Don't worry ma...some of these are old pictures....these kids have GROWN)
For the first few months after we moved to Alleghany County, I have to admit that I became concerned that Hannah and Abigail would end up being such mountain girls that they would develop no friends at all and wouldn't even know what to do when they met people their size.

Then, we discovered the Library and Story Time. One of my first blog posts was about Story Time before because it was such an important part of making me feel connected to the community when we first moved here. Out of this weekly meeting of preschoolers and their moms, I met some great women. I didn't get their permission to post pictures of their kids here, so I won't identify the kids......
And in the interest of confidentiality, I'll disguise the moms' names:
Stacie, Sabrina, Amberr, Kylah, Carma, Lissa, Amandah, Torie.... There. Now you have NO IDEA who they could be.Well, these friends have been true friends not only to me, but also to my kids, via their kids. We've shared parenting successes (and more often failures!), birthday parties, playdates, picnics in the park...we've supported one another as best we could through difficult times...
....we've gone apple and blueberry picking (those of us who woke up in time), overwhelmed a local fast food establishment en masse, declared "what happens on the river stays at the river," hollered at each others' kids (not really)(OK really), discussed politics/grocery bargains/Pampered Chef/31/recipes and - for me, at least, have been an indispensable support group. Girls nights out have been a highlight in our relationships - which reminds me....we're about due for another one! Some homeschool, some don't - we each have talents and hobbies that contribute to the group: a forrester, a frugalista, a politician, a networker, a resaler (is that what it is?), a musician, a business owner (a couple of those), a loyal friend (lots of those) - but more than this, these women are so much more...complex and wonderful personalities with whom I am proud to share friendships.
They might not know it because I've probably never told them, but I am so thankful for each of them - and they have each been an answer to prayer to me - they and their great kids.
Hurray for The Friends!

Friends (part 1)

I'm reminded to be thankful of the friends in my life.....

The other night I was (stalking profiles) on Facebook when a friend messaged me to give her a call - it was 10:30 at night and she had more to say than could fit into a chat box.
The great thing was that we picked up right where we'd left off - supporting one another with struggles in our families and connecting over shared past experiences. We haven't worked together since Hannah was born (five years ago), but the voice on the phone was same. Funny how our lives have taken different directions - she chose the career path and public schools for her daughters while I chose to stay at home and homeschool. Each one of us took a brief, wistful peek at the other's lifestyle, and settled back, happy with our own choice.

My Northern California friend and I also connect regularly - she mails books, music CDs and countless photos online. While we worship the same God, our "faith lifestyles" are different, and I've been challenged to examine my own convictions at times. We saw each other last - was it three years ago? - and hope to get together sometime this year. This friendship means so much to me because it began before I was a teenager and has ebbed and flowed along with the changes in each of our lives. She's one of the first I turn to when I am troubled and need an ear (eyes, really).

Facebook has also made friends out of acquaintances - literally! My Friend List contains folks with whom I had only casual relationships in the past, but have become closer with as we share our experiences in our everyday life now. I'm glad to share my stories and theirs in brief status updates, but also look forward to affirmation, advice and suggestions from "many counselors." And although I've had to whittle and prune my Friend List from time to time, it has served to make it even stronger.

Once transplanted to Alleghany County, I was afraid I wouldn't manage to connect to other women to develop meaningful relationships. As it turned out, the Internet has been a part of this as well. We first used Facebook as a tool to schedule park playdates and birthday party invites - but its also been a tool for encouragement and support.

My heart shudders that a good local friend lost her dear mother-in-law to a drunk driver only weeks ago. As the hurt and sorrow of this tragedy have settled on her family, other local friends have been at the ready to lift her up in prayer, feed her family and gather together to remember this remarkable woman and the loved ones she left behind.

I'm excited for new, developing friendships as well. There's the friend who's shared that she's discovered a God-Shaped Void in her life....homeschoolin' mamas who have much to share of their own experience at the kitchen table....and still others whom the Lord has yet to reveal.

For all of these relationships I am humbled and grateful.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Simple Math


plus this.....
equals this!!
Add two days, and you get this!
She's fine. There's a big black tire mark on the wooden door though; thank goodness the screen door was flung wide open and her daddy-o was in the basement to quickly come to her aid!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Maple Festival text....

We attended the 51st annual Maple Festival up in Highland County today. Good times! This year we didn't take in as much as we've done in years past, choosing to skip the craft shows and displays over at the school in favor of visiting two sugar camps. We even missed the cloggers at the Highland Center - something Hannah will probably realize around midnight tonight and berate us for in the darkness.

That is, if she ever gets to sleep. We let them each buy their own 100ml jugs of maple syrup and taste them in the car. What was supposed to be a couple of tiny sips turned out to be two big chug-a-lugs by my sugar-lovin' gal. Thank goodness for seatbelt laws - it was the only way to restrain the sugar high she experienced on the way home!

Next year we'll plan more before we go to the festival by reading up on how maple syrup is made. We checked out the only two books on the topic that the Clifton Forge Library had on Friday and didn't get a chance to read them until we were on our way. Since I had to keep a wary eye on Andy's driving and hold on with one hand and shout directions out (slow down! watch that car! they're braking! look over in the field!), it probably wasn't the most effective lesson. And then he got tired of my hollering and made me drive, which really put a damper on learning.

Anyways, we visited the Puffenbarger Farm and Rexrode Farm. Puffenbarger's was a more modern operation - sorry, no pictures - than Rexrode's, but Rexrode's was less crowded (there was a tour bus at the other one!) and we got to talk to the owner for quite awhile. Of course, both farms sold maple fudge, syrup and maple candy, and we freely partook of their offerings. Andy commented that we'll have to expand our Maple Festival Budget next year to accommodate all of our sweet stuff.

On the way home we drove through Blue Grass, Virginia and found ourselves north of Monterrey. It was a bit of a shock when the route we came out on was 220 South - which we wanted - but was named "Potomac River Road." Where we live, 220 is named "Jackson River Road." It was cloudy most of the day, so we couldn't tell what direction we had been travelling. We had been going north rather than south as we'd figured. We must have reached a point where the creeks flowed into the Potomac River, and the river we thought was the Jackson was actually the Potomac. This is significant because we know the Potomac flows into Washington, D.C., and is way off our radar.

Anyways, I hope you enjoy the pictures on the following post*. If you're nearby, the Maple Festival is definitely a fun time for all and a worthwhile destination!

*I typed this blog in Word first and uploaded pictures directly to Blogger second. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to merge the two!

Maple Festival Picutres

Seen along Route 220 in Alleghany County - the entrance to someone's homeplace.
A closer view....

Inside the Monterrey VFD building. Bellies full of hot dogs and maple doughnuts.

At Rexrode's Sugar Orchard. This is the wood-fired evaporator.

Steam going through an open hole in the roof.

Following the plastic tubing between the trees.

A couple of jokers...
Happy girls!

Doesn't that look like a great tree for climbing?

Also at Rexrode's.

It was actually pretty warm. It drizzled a bit, then cleared off and rained some more.

Heading north towards route 220. Excuse the angle, the picture was taken while I was driving.



Sheeps! We saw dozens of sheep and it seemed that sheep and cattle were the main industries out this way. What a beautiful day for a drive.