Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Piano teacher Nana

Bethany's oldest four are all in piano lessons now.
Daniel is rarely enthusiastic but bears his burden graciously, most of the time.

Natalie loves it and begs for extra lessons.
She is also learning to sing Castle on a Cloud, which is unbearably precious.
I think she should be the next Broadway Cosette.

And, it seems, Natalie's taking lessons spurred Josh into wanting the same. He is a natural, and at his lesson last week he made me laugh. Instead of counting "one, two, three, four" to begin a piece, he counted "three, two, one, GO!"
He will always be a sportsman, first and foremost!

Kenzie has a new-found enthusiasm for the piano since the two littles started lessons, but on the day I was taking photos she was lounging on the couch.

But here is an older one.

And here is Thomy playing his piano at home. He may be short, but he is awesome.

Little Jeff informs his Daddy that he wants piano lessons too, but that will have to wait until the summer.
Whew! Thank goodness we have a few years before Madelyn and the unborn London will need lessons.

Who am I kidding?
And I don't care who knows it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The girl is crafty like ice is cold

I've been needing a Kindle cover, but was loath to fork out any cold cash for the deal, so I did a bit of Googling, 'cause I'm crafty that way, and came up with this:

No moolah needed because I already had the yarn and fabric and buttons. Just a simple single crochet rectangle to fit the device, skip a couple of stitches for the buttonholes, and slip-stitched the lining in place. I make it sound easy, don't I? I won't mention how many times I ripped out the stitching on the lining before I got it right!

See, Jeff? I will use all my fabric and yarn stash. Some day!

Jeff and I were apart on Valentine's Day, no doubt our fate for several in the future. But, the next day, I made these brownies, not-from-a-mix, and baked them in some cute heart foil pans I have been forgetting to use for years.
Years, I tell you!
And I took them out to The Ranch the day after.
Yes, there is one missing. And soon there were two.
Why do you ask?

The recipe is quite basic and isn't overly fudgy or caky, but somewhere in between. I like it because it is pretty foolproof, unless you overbake it, which almost happened in the little heart pans.
And just because I'm a giving, sharing, sort of a person, here is the recipe. 

Grease a 12x8" pan. Melt 1 c butter and 4x1 oz squares of unsweetened chocolate in a pan. Remove from heat and add 2 c sugar. I cut it down to 1 1/2 c. Stir till shiny. I like that bit.
Add 4 beaten eggs and 1 tsp vanilla. Stir in 1 1/4 c flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 c chopped nuts. Or chocolate chips. Or peanut butter chips. Whatever you please.
Pour into dish and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

And while we're on the subject of craftiness, a piratey girlfriend sent me this lovely beaded thingy to hang in the window at Vista House.
You see, we see the sun almost every day in the winter out there, unlike our main abode.
And at the right time of the afternoon, the beads catch the sunlight just right.

And even when they don't, you can see little upside-down reflections of clouds and snowy mountains in the clear beads.

While I was out there, I cleaned up most of the dried and silk flowers. 
They were everywhere, all dusty and cobwebby and dangling from shelves.
Then I rearranged some existing artifacts.
This is the new-and-improved kitchen wall, which is worlds better than formerly shown on this post. 
We are rather fond of birds, so the theme suits us quite nicely.

And just to prove my point, here are a few things from last year.

Pans of tomatoes and peppers and onions, to be slow-roasted in the oven and added to spaghetti and pizza sauce on cold winter nights.

Pureed tomatoes, alleviating the stress on my poor little freezer.

Still in process, but almost done, bowling ball gazing globe, in colours of the sea.

Lovely strawberry pot, planted with little succulents filched from a friend's pot.

I've been eating a lot of soup lately, with Jeff being gone most of the time.
Sometimes it's a good thing, like this bowl of veggie and sausage soup, which was scrumptious.
Sometimes it's not such a good thing, like the bowl of lentil soup I am working on this week.

And the piece-de-resistance, proof that I am the world's best giant bubble-blower.

I rest my case.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Just playing ketchup, my fate (of late)

Miss Madelyn celebrated her first birthday two months ago.

Yes, I know, I am derelict in my duty as most frequent blogger in the family.
Spurts and spasms describes my style lately.
Yet still I soldier on, in spite of the lack of Pulitzer Prize or even a Mommy Blogger award.

Bethany made a most delicious chocolate cake that is much more than the sum of its ingredients. It is layers of chocolatey-cream cheesy heaven. If you want the recipe, check out the yumminess here. 

Funny, I could have sworn that "yumminess" was a word. I'm getting lots of red scrawliness today.
Apparently, scrawliness isn't a word either.

Anyway, here she is, as yet unaware of the bliss she is about to encounter.


Is there any more?

Please, please, let there be some more.

Nope. All gone.

And then she opened her presents, with a little help from Mommy.

And then Charlie did some strange things with Littlest Grand-dog.

And then everybody went home.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A pet peeve and a bargain hunt

They are the bane of my life.
I know that some of my lovely readers are fans of cats; they no doubt already know of my disdain, because I am not shy in proclaiming it.
Here's the thing.
If cats were like dogs, required to stay in one's yard or be on a leash when outside of it, I would have no problem with them. But somewhere in our cultural history, cats became the kings and queens of the neighbourhood, left unrestrained to do whatever they please, wherever they please.
Which usually means spraying my front door regularly, leaving toilet refuse in my flowerbeds, killing the  goldfinches that eat at our thistle feeders, and leaving their sad little corpses for me to find.
So no, I do not like cats.
And don't ever get Jeff started on the subject either, or you will wish you were a million miles away on Mars.

After our next-door neighbours moved away, we were cat-free for a few months. It was lovely. But the last couple of weeks we have been suddenly inundated. Yesterday, I counted five different cats in my yard. They are back to spraying the front door, stalking around the garden, and yowling and fighting at night when I am trying to go to sleep. Consequently, cats have been on my mind. A lot.

On Wednesdays, I spend the day in McMinnville, where I do a morning music therapy group, peruse Grocery Outlet (because you never know what goodies you will find) and then spend my lunch hour at Bethany's house. I smooch on Madelyn and watch Natalie joyfully bopping around as she sings or practises the piano. Then I do an afternoon group and pick up my raw milk from the farm on my way home to teach piano lessons. It is a long day. 
Today, Bethany was gone, so I decided to pick the milk up after the first group. As I was driving along Lafayette Avenue, not in any particular hurry, I spotted an interesting-looking thrift shop.

I used to turn my nose up at garage sales and thrift shops, but about five years ago I became addicted to summer garage sales and now spend all winter frothing at the mouth, waiting for a sunny weekend to hit so that the garage sales will appear. 
Thrift shops took a bit longer, till the Goodwill opened in Newberg last year. 
You remember The Skirt?
I still think Goodwill is a bit too expensive, compared to, say, garage sales, but then I discovered  the Hospital Thrift store in town. I found an ironing board for Jeff for only $2, and suddenly I can't get enough of thrift stores.

So, back to the riveting story.
I whipped around smartly and pulled into the parking lot, which was empty. 
This, my friends, is a monarch among thrift stores. No clothes, but lots of nice stuff. I heard the volunteers talking about pricing items on Amazon, so they take their junk seriously.
Anyhoo, I found an electric ice-cream maker, for which I have been searching a few months, for only $5. This whole stash only cost $10.50. The cotton yarn is for Lori (hey Lori, I'm going to start charging a finder's fee! J/K) and the glass bottle is made in Italy. I have a weakness for Italian glass. It is my only one. Weakness, that is. The four little Noritake plates just spoke to me and they were only a dollar, so I had to have them. The puzzle was half-price and is mostly unused, so will go to Vista House. 

I know, you're all (all two of you) wondering what cats have in common with a thrift shop.
Well, follow this link to read about a unique place. You will see that it benefits a no-kill animal shelter and you can pet, brush, and play with adoptable cats when you get tired of shopping.
If you happen to like cats, that is.
Which I don't.
But I do like their thrift shop.

P.S. Turns out the four little plates are listed on for $5.99 a piece.
Happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Kids in the Kitchen

Daniel came for a sleepover shortly before Christmas. 
Applesauce was on my agenda.
Daniel turned out to be quite the pro at slicing the apples...

...after Papa peeled and cored them.

Notice how sneakily I got out of any hard work there!
Jeff and I love chunky applesauce, flavoured only with a few cinnamon red-hots. We didn't have any of those little candies this time, so I used some spicy Cinnamon Discs. 
Daniel would not sample the delicious applesauce that resulted from our labours, which left all the more for us!

We also made shortbread to give to our friends.
Daniel had some mad mixing skills.
Just look at the power in those forearms!

I think his favourite job was pressing the shortbread dough into the moulds.
It obviously needed lots of concentration.

Kenzie is technically sitting in the kitchen, although she's not cooking. She made Madelyn some hairbands for Christmas, and here she is sewing the elastic into a loop.

Jeff had his first sleepover ever at our house after Christmas. He was Papa's little shadow for about 24 hours. 
And the little elf with the happy grin needs no introduction. 

We do love the time we spend with our grandkids.
And did I mention that we have two more on the way?
Annie and Samantha are both expecting little girls and are due in May.
We can't wait to cuddle them.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Vista House

I am not fond of the well-established moniker of our new house. 
Well, I say "our new house", but we haven't actually closed on it yet.
Hopefully next week.
Jeff said I can't change its name because people around there refer to it by said name.
So "Vista House" it shall remain.
And, to be fair, it certainly has the vistas.
This, from the front door:

As the sun dips over the horizon, we often see deer in the front scrub garden.

 And then we get the best views of all.


Apropos of nothing, the first weekend I spent at The House, we stopped in at the Habitat Restore looking for nothing in particular and found this old, hardly-used toaster oven for five dollars. I was ecstatic, because no kitchen is complete without a toaster oven, in my opinion. Imagine my loud delight when we got to the checkout counter and the guy said it was $2.50. Half off all silver labels that week. My yelp of happiness may or may not have embarrassed my husband.


We took a little drive out to Smith Rock, mecca of rock climbers everywhere.

Just a little bit beautiful, non?

Frozen fog

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have some unique weather conditions. Because of the dampness, when it gets really cold we get some crazy things like freezing rain, which is a most treacherous weather condition. The raindrops freeze as soon as they touch a cold surface, such as a car, the road, or a path, resulting in a solid and slippery sheet of ice.
A more benign condition is freezing fog, which I observed for the first time one night a few years ago when my mum was staying with us. I went outside for some reason after dark, and in the light of the porch light the air was sparkling. All of the droplets of fog were frozen, still suspended in the air and reflecting the light. We all gathered out by the front door and it was quite magical.

A couple of weeks ago, I had spent the weekend out at Vista House with Jeff, along with several of the offspring and dogs. I hitched a ride home with Sam and Charlie, and when we left it was foggy and verrrry cold. Cold is a norm for that part of the country, but it is usually dry. The fog covered everything with white crystals.
A few miles later, the blue sky was starting to show through, but it still wasn't warm enough to melt the ice.

We stopped for gas and for Sam to buy some munchies, so I grabbed a quick snap of some bare branches.


The next morning, we had our own bit of freezing fog, and all the cobwebs had grown crystals.

The rhodies had a fine dusting too.

The poor roses were a little optimistic, weren't they?

It makes for some pretty photos, but I was almost thankful when the rain came back and the temperatures warmed up.

Remember how Jeff forgot our anniversary?
These arrived a couple of days later.
Not that there was anything to forgive.