Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Pause that Refreshes

May is probably my busiest time of the year. It's the push at the end of the school year. It's putting the final touches on homeschool portfolios required by our state. It's chock-full of dentist, eye, and medical exams required by the state for my homeschoolers. So let's just say...it's not my favorite month of the year.

But Friday (a week ago -- can you tell I'm a little behind on things? :D), we joined some friends from church (also homeschoolers) at the lake nearby for an evening of relaxation. It was a much neeeded time of fellowship and refreshment. They are a great family; there are three boys, so our boy was thrilled to out-number the girls and to have some good male bonding and lots of talk about hunting, fishing, and GUY STUFF! I on the on the other hand I was grateful for some female "tête á tête" and getting better acquainted with J***, the mom.

We made it the simplest of picnics -- just hoagies, chips, drink, and of course, Cookies. No fuss, no muss -- just the way I like it!



I know you'll never guess what the guys were planning on doing.



The evening was warm and pleasant. The scenery was beautiful. We were nearly the only ones there, so it was quiet. Oh, and did I mention that the water was Cold?



Of course, that didn't stop the kids from getting in to cool off after fishing and throwing the football around.


You might notice that everyone in the water seems to be looking down. Strange, huh?


Well, they discovered some crustaceans that were much larger than the one that we usually find at the lake. So the HUNT was on.


This was the finale to a great day at the Lake.



Y Blessings,

Nanci

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuscan Garlic Chicken



Our older daughter has been flexing her culinary skill muscles lately. She has been cooking our evening meal for the last two weeks. She loves to cook, and because I have had my plate full (please pardon the pun) of other duties and projects, it has been marvelous for me not to have to give any thought to dinner.


She has been cooking our normal run of meals, but today she and her little sister spent over two hours in the kitchen preparing a scrumptious meal for our family. She made Tuscan Garlic Chicken, a recipe that she had gotten at Olive Garden about two years ago and has been dying to make. Little Sister made a delicious tossed salad to accompany the entree. I was recruited to make a chocolate cream pie with whipped cream topping that has just a hint of peanut butter.


I felt as though I were dining out, something that has not been in our budget lately.


M** thought she would like to share the recipe with you.


TUSCAN GARLIC CHICKEN


6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-1/2 cups & 1 Tbsp. Flour
5 Tbsp. Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. Italian herb seasoning
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1 Tbsp. roasted garlic, chopped
½ cup white wine
1 red pepper, julienne cut
1/1 lb. whole leaf spinach, stemmed
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 lb. curly or regular fettuccine


PREHEAT ovewn to 350 degrees F.


MIX flour, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in the mixture, shaking off any excess. Heat 3 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet. Cook chicken breasts 2 at a time over medium-high heat until golden brown and crisp (2-3 min). Add more oil for each batch as necessary.


PLACE cooked chicken breasts on a baking sheet and transfer to preheated oven. Cook for 10 - 15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.


COOK pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.


HEAT 2 Tbsp oil in a sauce pan. Add garlic and red pepper and cook for approximately 1 minute. Stir in 1 Tbsp. flour, wine, spinach, and cream and bring to a boil. Sauce in done when the spinach becomes wilted. Complete by stirring in the Parmesan cheese.


COAT pasta with sauce, then top with chicken and remaining sauce. Garnish with extra Parmesan cheese.



Y Bon Apetit,

Nanci

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blooms

This is what the front garden looked like about three weeks ago, but now my lovely, red tulips have all faded. I have been trying to have something blooming all the time. Now it is the rich, deep purple irises time to shine.

The following is an inventory and progress report, mostly of the plants that I planted last year.


First up is the raspberry bushes at the end of the yard. Most had been nibbled away by the local wildlife over the winter, so I was quite surprised to see them coming back green and healthy. (Note to me: be sure to protect them in the fall if you ever want them to grow.)


The aforementioned irises which were a near giveaway at the amish market. I had far more than I could plant and so they traveled with a friend to her new home. This is my favorite color of iris, and they are blooming very well.


Along the back of the house, the Lillies of the Valley are in bloom. I got these at the church flower exchange last year. All last summer, they looked terrible. I didn't think they would make it this year, but they have popped up this year with even more shoots. I love the fragrance of these flowers.



This Dwarf Bleedingheart was also acquired at the church's yearly perrenial exchange. This plant is planted at the back of the house and is truly thriving. I'm really excited about it.

I love this dainty little ground cover. I must confess that I don't know what it is or whether it is planted with the right sun exposure. (I've been to lazy too look it up. If any of you happen to know what it is, feel free to let me know.) I've planted it at the back corner of the house in partial sun. It's spreading like wildfire which is quite alright with me. It, also, came from last year's flower exchange.


This little sprout is a deep fushia Rose of Sharon. I planted a seed from a Rose of Sharon at the side of the house in a pot last fall and wintered in the schoolroom. It is about 18" tall and planted at the divide between our drive and our neighbor's lane. I thought I would like a splash of vibrant color seen from the road in the summer. I need to mulch over the garden fabric yet.
So now I can check back here next year to see how my plants are progressing.



Y Blessings,

Nanci

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Can You Identify Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, & Poison Sumac?

I have a greatnephew, one of the sweetest kids you'd ever want to meet, who is EXTREMELY sensitive to poison plants. He barely needs to be down-wind from the stuff and he becomes polluted. Now others of us may not get as bad a case of the contact dermatitis as he does, BUT we ALL should be able to recognize the culprit. Tracy @ unlessthelord has provided an excellent tutorial on what these plants look like. Thought it might be of interest to others.


Y Blessings,

Nanci

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Preparing to Plant Flower Bulbs in the Fall (the frugal way)

I've been saving a clipping from a magazine article from a few years ago. I ran across it again today and thought I would share the concept with you today, because it sounds very interesting to me.


We have lousy soil, but I don't want to spend a small fortune to import good garden soil. This seems like a fairly frugal way to produce some fertile soil and some pretty flowers to welcome you in the spring.


With this layering method for preparing a flowerbed, you don't need to remove existing grass. In the autumn lay down a one-inch layer of wet newspaper over the area you have selected for your flowerbed. Do not use colored sections of the newspaper -- only the black print. Next cover the newspapers with two or three inches of peat moss. Then cover with a few layers of five inches of organic material (things like compost & chopped leaves). Now arrange your flower bulbs and add about a two inch layer of mulch on top of the bulbs. In total all the layers together should end up about 1-1/2 to 2 foot in depth. By spring, with the proper precipitation (around 1" per week), the layers will reduce to near ground level. The great thing about this method is that very few weeds are able to poke up through the newspaper layer, and it should create a a rich, loose loam by spring. On top of that, your bulbs should also be peeking up at you.


So if you want to try this, NOW is the time to start saving those newspapers. Here's to plenty of spring color in 2010.






Y Blessings,

Nanci

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Spring Concert


Well, Tuesday night was the big night. Our community chorale presented their Spring Concert. Here's a picture of them decked out in their concert finery, and our homeschool senior was among them as noted. She beamed the whole time, she enjoyed the music so much. (It makes me wish I had suggested her joining when she had first entered highschool.)


Many of the members asked her if she would be coming back next year. As much as she would love to; she will have to take a two year hiatus until she finishes college. She was their youngest member this year; most of the group is thirty and up. I think they enjoyed having young blood among them.



Our community is very supportive of this group, and the "house was packed". The selection of music presented was varied, including pieces in Latin and French, as well as a tango, a "swing" piece, a few patriotic pieces, and the debut of a piece written especially for the chorale.


The director, who volunteers her time, is very gifted and thoroughly enjoys what she is doing; the chorus truly responds to her. It was a wonderful evening, a great time to forget all the concerns that often consume us.







As promised, here is the pic of M** in her outfit. I truly love this blouse; it is just so becoming. I must say we REALLY cut this one close, finishing up only an hour or so before she was out the door to the concert. WHEW!!!


A couple of the ladies in the group knew that she had been sewing her outfit. They commented to her that they really liked it, and that she had better be careful not to let the word get out that she had made it, or she might be flooded with orders from the other members. ;D


Well, that's it for today. Hope everyone is enjoying the great weather!!



Y Blessings,

Nanci

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sewing, Sewing, Sewing

Today has been a busy day around here. Our eldest has a concert tonight, and we have been working most of the day to finish sewing a black skirt and white blouse that all the Chorale members are required to wear. Well, the females are required to wear black skirts; the men will be wearing black pants.


All the sewing that has been going on around here the last few days has caused me to think about a post I read the other day and some of the comments from the readers that followed. Basically, the discussion revolved around sewing clothing which fit the larger busted woman.

Now, you may wonder what the connection is between my first and second paragraph. Well, it is precisely this. Most patterns are made to fit a size B cup. This presents a problem for the woman that has a larger or smaller cup size. My daughter also has this problem when choosing patterns. The blouse pattern we were sewing for her today addresses this very problem.


This is the pattern she used -- McCall's #M5522. I'll show you a pic of her in her blouse in my next post. This blouse is very flattering. The wonderful thing about this pattern is that it not only gives a pattern piece for the standard B cup, but also individual pattern pieces for a smaller and larger cup size. (THANKS, McCall's"!!!!) This is not the only pattern, for which McCall's does this. The next time I go the fabric store, I'm going to check out some other pattern manufacturers to see if they offer a similar type of pattern. I'll let you know my findings.

The second topic I would like to address here is the topic of the price of the pattern. The price of patterns is enough to make you give up sewing if you pay full price for them. OUCH!!! For instance, the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) for the pattern above is $15.95. (You may verify this by standing on your head and looking at the top of the pattern above. See, I told the truth.) We paid $1.99 for it on sale at JoAnn Fabrics.

Patterns are not on sale everyday, but for a few days each month JoAnn does have certain manufacturer's patterns on sale. Buy your patterns when they are on sale and you save a bundle. All it takes is a little planning.

However, there are times when you need to make something unexpectedly, and you need to get the pattern in a hurry -- no time to lose waiting for the sale days at JoAnn's. In that case, we turn to Walmart. Their patterns are always specially priced ($6.94, I think.) New Look, and Simplicity's "It's So Easy" patterns are cheaper than that.

If there's a JoAnn Fabric near you, the pattern sale dates this month are:

Thu. - Sat., May 7 - 9

Simplicity Patterns - 2 for $5 (MSRP $6.95 - $17.95 ea.) (Limit of 10)

Excludes "It's So Easy", New Look, Burda & Simplicity Books

* * * * * *

Thu. - Sat. May 14 - 16

McCall's & Butterick Patterns $1.99 each (MSRP $5.25 - $16.95 ea.) (Limit of 10)

Excludes "See & Sew" and "Easy Stitch 'N Save"

Vogue Patterns $3.99 each (MSRP $8.95 - $30.00 ea. (Limit 10)





Y Blessings,

Nanci

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A TwentyYear Old Tale

I told you that I would tell you the tale of my serger and the reason that I have such a sentimental attachment to it. For such a tale, you will have to travel back twenty-years with me, to the time when Bill and I were newly married.

When Bill and I were first married, we both had reasonably good jobs. Our plan was for me to work until our babies came along. At that time, I would quit working outside the home and be a stay-at-home mom. When we bought our house, we did not even take my salary into consideration knowing that if babies came, it would no longer be coming in. We thought it was a great plan. But then, within the first year of our marriage, we both lost our jobs. I was able find a new job working for a doctor that I had previously worked for.

However, Bill was unable to find a full-time job. So he took what he could find -- part-time jobs. It was a year before he could find full-time employment for a medical equipment company. It wasn't a great paying job, so he continued to send out resumes. His job for the medical supply company was to deliver and set up liquid oxygen for home patients.

It was during this time that Bill had stopped with me at a fabric store one day (where else?).
As we were walking through the store, we passed a display of sergers. (I had always wanted to have a serger from the first time that I had seen them demonstrated. That had been long before I had met Bill.) In passing, I said (with No hint intended, HONEST) that someday I was going to have one of those sergers.

FAST FORWARD TO CHRISTMAS A YEAR LATER -- Things are very tight financially. Bill hands me a small gift. I unwrap it, and inside is a loose-leaf notebook; it was a book about sergers. I thanked him and told him it was so nice, but inside I was thinking, "Oh, Bill you are so sweet, but it will be a long time until I have a serger, and without a serger, this book is rather useless." I would never have told him that aloud, he looked so pleased with himself. I knew things were really tight for us and besides we had a "little one" on the way. It would be a long, long time before we could ever afford to buy a serger to go with the book.
A little later he gave me another gift. I opened it. Then in utter shock my mouth dropped open as a realized what it was. A serger! "Oh no, he shouldn't have bought this; we can't afford this! How am I going to tell him we'll have to take it back? We don't need another bill payment? Oh, sweet Bill -- he is so good to me."

Bill has always been so supportive of me in my endeavors. He is the one who is always telling me that I have the ability to do things, when I doubt myself. He began telling me how he had spent the year reserching different makes and models of sergers, and talked to ladies who had sergers and asked them which brand that liked before he had bought the serger. He was so excited!

I had to say something before this went too far. Finally, I took a deep breath and said, "Bill, I really love this, but you know we can't afford it at this time." That's when he told me that it was completely paid for. HOW?? Well, remember I said Bill delivered home-oxygen. Most of his clients were older people and Bill has always gotten along especially well with older people because he takes an interest in them. He's never too busy to talk with them. He would often come home from work with baked goods from them, and when they found out he was going to be a "daddy", several of the women crochet or knitted baby sweaters and the like. Also, he was given tips. In the beginning, he tried to refuse them. But they would insist - even get a little perturbed if he tried to disuade them. Eventually, he would just accept the tip and thank those who gave them to him.

Well, he had saved those tips for a little over a year -- ever since the day at the fabric store and my off-handed remark that SOMEDAY I would like to have a serger. He could have used those tips for something he would like to have, INSTEAD he spent them buying my dream.

So you can see, why it was such a heartbreaker to me when I thought it might be broken and not able to be fixed. For me, it has such a special story behind it. Perhaps, you can also see why my husband is the love of my life. He has never changed through the years; he's always putting me and our children first; and he is always encouraging me to pursue my interests.

I do treasure my serger; but even it can't hold a candle to my greatest earthly treasure, MY HUSBAND. I am ever aware of how blessed I am to be his wife.



Y Blessings,

Nanci

Welcome Home, My Old Friend

I've discovered a new axiom. (Well, new to me anyway; I suppose there are tons of other bloggers who are already well aware of it). Okay, here it is... If you have nothing much going on in your life at the time , you have pleny of time to sit down and compose a post. Yet you can't think of anything to write about. However, when you are bursting at the seams to post the things that are happening in your life, life is so hectic that you have no time or you are too tired to post it.


And that's the way it has been around here lately. I told you that on April 3, I had taken my serger to be fixed. At the shop, they said that they would call me in about ten days to let me know if it could be fixed and what it would cost if it could be fixed.


Two weeks went past, but no call came from the shop. My sweet husband began to ask me if they had called yet, and I would say "no". Then he would say, "You need to give them a call and see what's going on." This little routine went on until last week, when he called me from work and asked me the same question, to which I gave the same answer. He replied, "You're afraid to call, aren't you? Well, then, I'll call them."


He was right, I WAS afraid -- afraid of the answer they would give me. "Sorry, the machine is too old (they don't make this brand any longer) and we can't get the parts it needs." OR perhaps, they would tell me what it would cost to fix it, and it would too high. What would I do WITHOUT a serger?


But, such was NOT the case. It WAS fixable and the cost WAS reasonable. If we wanted to have it fixed, we could pick it up in two days. Oh, how I was thanking the Lord!!!!


So, Saturday, was my serger's big HOMECOMING. Oh, am I THRILLED to have her back! And she has come home just in time. My eldest needs a white blouse and black skirt for a concert on this coming Tuesday. So we have both been sewing and serging up a storm these past few days in order to get it done. . . . And I must say, it feels soooooo GOOD to be sewing again.



Y Blessings,

Nanci

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