Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

 December began as a very mild month, weather-wise. In fact, on the first day of the month, Caleb and Tiggy decided to set up a swimming pool out in the yard.

As you can see, there was no snow, but it really wasn't warm enough for water sports.

In fact, the "swim" session lasted only a few moments before they made a mad dash for the indoors. Tiggy got there first and felt it would be great fun to lock Caleb out. I'm not one for such low-brow humor---unless I have a camera in my hands, that is!

But you wouldn't catch any of us swimming now! This month has seen temperatures that dipped down to -30 and snow is everywhere. The snow is still shallow enough that we've been able to indulge in a more traditional winter activity, ice skating.

The drainage pond out back is frozen with over a foot and a half of ice---plenty thick enough to be safe. This year we even thought to bring a chair out. Now I don't have to get my butt wet when I change in and out of my ice skates.

Caleb just walks out there with his skates on, but I prefer to keep my ankles, thank you very much!

Removing the snow from the pond. It's way more work than you'd think! Snow looks all cute and fluffy, but I'm pretty sure it's made of lead. We need a Zamboni!

I still can't get over having my own ice skating rink to play on. It's so luxurious to walk out back and enjoy one of my favorite activities while watching the sun set across the fields.

In my mind, I transform into a beautiful figure skater, alive with poise and grace.

Until Caleb gets my camera and I find out that I look like a Giant Panda on stilts. (I won't even let you see the ones he took from a distance!)

And this is what it looks like when a Giant Panda on stilts starts to fall over backwards...

From beginning to end, December has been a very special month for us---as it should be. We took the time to have fun, which is not something I'm really good at usually.

Now it's time to gear up for a new year stuffed with lots of new challenges and new blessings. I'm beginning two part-time jobs, one as a substitute teacher, and one at the local Tiny Box Store (as opposed to Big Box Store---get it?). I'm looking forward to them, as the bloom is somewhat off the cleaning-lady rose. It will be nice to earn money doing something that doesn't involve cleaning toilets.

Yes, the new year will be an adventure.

It always is.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Bromance

 Finley is the apple of my eye, my pride and joy. He's also a big stupid head when it comes to other dogs. An aggressive coward, he feels he must attack first or be dismembered. Or something. The dogs he know, he gets along with quite well. In fact, he's been very lonely since his sister died over a year ago.

But no longer.

We have a special friend visiting for the holidays. His name is Cooper and he an English Setter. He is also is Very Excited to be here!

Cooper has never been an Inside Dog before! He has no Manners!

He likes to Put His Feet Up On Counters! To see what's Up There! Because it smells Good! But at least he is Good With Cats!

Finley is Not Sure About All This!

Finley in The Bedroom
 In fact, Finley is pretty sure this is a Bad Idea!

Finley thinks Cooper should Go Home!

Especially since Finley has to spend a lot of time in The Bedroom now! Howling! While Cooper gets to Wander Around The House! Even though Cooper Peed On A Chair! (Cooper regrets this little error. He was Excited!)

But things are Looking Up! They are considering an Uneasy Truce because Finley is getting Very Tired of The Bedroom!

Peace on earth! 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pine Forests and Prairies

When photo cards were first coming into style, I used to hate the ones that had autumn photos on them---you know, orange leaves, golden colors, the whole bit. Autumn? Come on, folks---Thanksgiving is over with. What I want to see is Christmas trees, poinsettias, and snow.

After some years of doing my own cards, I now understand those autumnal themed offerings. There are only a few options for the photo card enthusiast...

  • You can set up a false indoor scene sometime during the summer or fall and swelter in sweaters to look fakely festive.

  • You can procrastinate and take the indoor pictures once you get your decorations up, leaving you only days to finish up your Christmas card list.

  • You can procrastinate until it gets snowy and do beautiful outdoor  portraits that capture the exact moment you got frostbite. You still have only days to finish up your Christmas card list, but now you have no fingers to write with.

  • OR, you can take a nice autumn portrait and mash it up with a Christmas-themed card template.

I understand why the last option has always been so popular!

But the well-traveled road has never been my style, which is why yesterday found me and the kids out shivering in the snow while my mom---who looked like a singularly well-insulated polar bear with a bad attitude---took our pictures.

The setting was a very peaceful one. A little farm-country cemetery with some pine trees planted along the edge for shelter----hey, around here you go where the trees are!

It might look like we were in the middle of a pine forest, but 10 steps to either side brought you to the wide open prairie again. Another illustration of why I love the deceptive abilities of photography!

I love this one. It's so sweet to see them enjoying each other's company in positive ways (those of you with teens know a little of what I'm talking about!)

 It was a lovely, lovely day. There are few things I enjoy more than indulging in an afternoon of unrealistic beauty and style, not to mention unnaturally well-behaved children!

So from all of us, have a very merry Christmas. Spend it making memories with the ones you love.

And that love you.

Those are the moments that matter.

(And if you can do it while looking really cute and rocking really great hair, so much the better!)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas in the Arctic

Last night we finally got our Christmas tree put up. We're a little later than usual this year because I haven't been able to find our big tree. It was used for Vacation Bible School during the summer and never made it back to the attic afterward. You'd think a giant tree box would be hard to lose!

But you'd be wrong.

So we put up the little one I bought our first Christmas in North Dakota. Usually it languishes unwanted in the attic because it is much too small to hold all our ornaments, but not this year. This year, it's turn has come!

Hmmmm. Maybe I should be suspicious. Can Christmas trees order hits?

It...it...looks so innocent!

 We tried to get a photo in front of the tree with Finley in it, but he purely hates having his picture taken. All we managed to get was a black-and-white blur as he frantically tried to escape. So I gave up on that, but tortured him later with some pictures of him by himself.

Besides ruthlessly torturing Springer Spaniels, I've pretty much been occupied lately by trying to stay warm.  As everyone knows, the cursed jet stream has dipped south and allowed arctic air to escape where it belongs. Like all of us, once given the chance to vacation in warmer climes, the arctic has been loathe to return to it's rightful place.

Meanwhile, we've been dealing with temperatures down into the -30's---a temperature range where, oh, just about EVERYTHING stops working right! The water pipes froze up, the propane stopped working, and I've been running every possible heat source just to keep the house at 60 degrees. We had a whole 48 hour period where inside the house was only 50 degrees. But hey, once you throw on a few parkas, you can be quite comfortable lounging about the house at that temperature..

But today marks the end of our cold wave. It's going to warm up and stay warm for the foreseeable future. "Warm" in this case meaning "less cold". We will be luxuriating in temperature all the way into the twenties some of the more tropical days!

But before the arctic leaves and goes back where it belongs, I grabbed a few pictures of what "freezing" looks like. Our sunrise this morning at a warm and balmy -17 degrees....


 It was very pretty out, but somehow I didn't feel like lingering long for more pictures.

 Evidently, an artistic nature is another thing that stops working at sub-zero temperatures!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Zero Hour

I think it's actually a little past Zero Hour. I'm pretty sure I'm getting into negative numbers here, since at this very moment I should be speeding on my way to Plentywood to finish the last few errands before driving 4.5 hours down to Bismarck. But instead, I am blogging.

Oh, well.

See, tomorrow Laura is discharging from her involuntary participation in a Special Program. She's 18 now and heading home for the first time in over two years. That means many things to this family, some happy, some bittersweet. But there's one thing it means most of all.

I'm going to have to stop using her bedroom as a mini storage.

Her room as of November 6:

Not only was it full of junk, but it had a large hole knocked in the wall that had never gotten fixed because why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?

I'll tell you why. Because you're going to put it off too long and spend days in a complete panic of painting, mudding, and moving, that's why!

Making progress, but I'm afraid my finest esthetic senses were lost somewhere in my hurry. Let's just say I've done finer work, but it's very sturdy patch, since the mud is about 2 feet thick on the wall now....

So here is her bedroom as of this morning. If you lifted the curtain, you would see the window frame still needs to be winterized and painted. But we're not lifting the curtain.

You may notice a certain item of furniture conspicuously absent. I haven't been able to find a bed yet and am hoping to drag one home with me from the Bismarck thrift shops. But if not, there's a back-up plan----Grandpa's hospital bed.

Ooooooh, I do so hope we find a bed!

 I was feeling so disappointed because I never got a chance to do all the little projects I'd wanted to make a pretty homecoming. But God is so good, and the little odds and ends I'd randomly collected came together so perfectly.

Here's her furry brother waiting for her to come home.

Actually, he's waiting for his stupid mom to stop taking pictures and do something fun, but we'll pretend it's something more heart-warming.

So, congratulations,  Laura! Your future is as bright as can be.

Dream big.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Frosty Morning

It has been getting chillier and chillier around here. We've had a couple snow flurries, but nothing has stuck. Still, you can definitely tell winter is in the offing....

I could have defibrillated someone with my hands by the time I was finished!

Monday, November 4, 2013

What Vegetarians Do For Fun

As a family, we've never done much for Halloween. It just never seemed like a holiday I could really get behind (Now Reformation Day, that's a different story!). But we do try to have something for the kids to do that day so they stay out of trouble.

We don't want a bunch of delinquents running around TP-ing people's houses do we?



(A certain someone's children TP'd my house this year. After a certain someone drove them out there!)

I decided to have a Hobo theme for this year's Un-Halloween party. Or, if you prefer, Housing-challenged. The main reason for this was I wanted everyone to spend the bulk of the time out at our fire pit instead of indoors.

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men! Our party day happened to coincide with a prairie hurricane and we didn't even want to risk a fire in the burn barrel.  So everything moved indoors with a few necessary modifications. (I draw the line at open fires in the living room.)

Our party game was something Noni has been wanting to try for a long time: Vegetarian Fear Factor.

Fear Factor, if you recall, was a challenge-based game show where contestants had to endure a series of terrifying challenges in the hopes of winning the Big Prize. Often the challenges would include a gross food to be eaten---things like spider-filled doughnuts, raw pig intestines, or live cockroaches.

But, hey, there's plenty of gross vegetarian options out there. Shoot, the way some people talk, you'd think ANY vegetarian dish belonged on the show! But we were going to feature the worst of the worst.

Our challenge was simple. Each person received 5 different samples of grossness. The goal was to eat all five. Or at least sample all five.

The line-up was as follows: Canned lychee (a tropical fruit that looks like a cow's eye---my dad used to tell us that they were cows' eyes), beets (no challenge for the beet lovers of the group), plain oatmeal, plain tapioca, and plain tofu.

Damon opted out immediately, but everyone else decided to at least try the foods. I did OK right through the oatmeal---I've eaten lychee lots of times before (Curse you, Vietnam war!!! That's where my dad developed a fondness for the pernicious fruit). I like beets, and the oatmeal tasted OK.

I had to pack it in when it came to the tapioca, though. I've never liked tapioca and having it cold, slimy, and booger-like was not going to work for me. I gagged just trying to bite off a chunk of it. I tried some of the tofu, but my momentum was gone. I couldn't finish it all.

Not so Noni and Devon! Devon chugged right through without even a pause. Obviously he is used to putting disgusting things in his mouth. But Noni, who has a fierce competitive streak, was determined to prove herself. The rest of us abandoned her to head for the refreshments in the kitchen, but she kept at it until everything was consumed.

Way to go, Noni! I suppose this skill will serve her well if she ever tries to find work as a goat.

Our refreshments were simple, in keeping with the theme of the party. I'd intended to roast small potatoes in the fire, but settled for frying them up instead. Small, fresh-baked loaves of bread completed our supper.

For desert, I tried an idea from Facebook (where all good ideas come from, naturally). I like caramel apples, but they're too big and too hard to eat. The idea is to scoop balls from an apple with a melon baller and make mini-caramel apples, just the right size to eat.

While the caramel heated up, Tiggy and I got beauty shots taken in the living room. The pictures turned out nicely, but it didn't go so well with the caramel. Evidently, when they say "stir constantly", they actually mean it. Even if you look really, really cute.

But nobody minded the little black spots in the caramel.


NOBODY minded. This treat was hugely popular with the everyone. Fun to make and fun to eat---a real winner.