Friday, March 30, 2012

Close to My Heart - Awareness of Pre- and Post-Deployment Evaluation Processes for our Military

Afghan massacre: Sgt Bales case echoes loudly for ex-soldiers on hotline for vets

This story has just broken my heart from the beginning.  As the proud sister (and loud cheerleader!) of a U.S. Marine veteran who was among the first to enter Iraq on the march to Baghdad in 2003, this is so close to me it hurts - literally and figuratively.  It is so sad that even with the warnings of those veterans who served in Vietnam, there was no effort really made to improve the evaluation processes for those mentally fit to serve in a combat zone or the evaluation of post-combat stress upon return.  Its still a sketchy process and largely subject to the macho-man personality of military officials with their own biases - these evaluations, both pre- and post-deployment would be so much more accurate and objective if done by non-military professionals.  Many soldiers are sent simply because they need the numbers rather than a true evaluation of fitness for combat.  In cases where there is a pre-existing history (both from life prior to service and from military service) that professionals agree may create a person who is substantially more likely to be traumatized by combat, the individual should not be deployed further.  Pre-deployment training often focuses more on exposure to realistic combat situations and provides very little in the form of teaching how to release stress and refocus after trauma.  This leaves soldiers (who are often just out of high school) with little knowledge of how to deal with the stress and trauma beyond substance abuse which can then trigger even more stress, PTSD, and violence.



Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ah...to be 3

One minute we are having meltdown of the century and two minutes later we have this...

Fairies in Flight

One of our favorite mother-daughter places to visit in the spring is Heavenly Scent Herb Farm in Fenton, MI and their May Day/Faerie Festival event at the beginning of May.  A day of pure girlie-ness, sunshine and all things garden.  Four generations of the women in my family take advantage of the occasion.  The gorgeous gardens are beginning to emerge - full of magic and fairies of all shapes and sizes.

Fairy dress is encouraged and they have "real" fairies to lead the fairy parade to the May Pole where a great photo op and slightly hilarious and totally confusing attempt at braiding the May Pole ribbons is attempted by dozens of visiting little munchkins in fairy attire.

Monday, March 26, 2012

No Pain, No Gain

I hurt...   Oh the ache of muscles not used much since last fall...  And a little sunburn...(I have never had a sunburn in March before!)

Ah but the satisfaction of a weekend spent working hard and crossing long-neglected tasks off the list...

My younger brother was bribed with the promise of a trip to the ice rink to come help us work on straightening up the property and outbuildings.  Amazing how much we got done with my dearest husband and brother really putting their muscle into it - would have taken me the whole weekend just to get one of the flower beds cleared by myself and we knocked it out yesterday in an hour.  Also got the barn, garden shed and garage tidy and the guys had to fix a sudden leak in the garage roof where we had lost a couple of shingles in the last storm.  Then the mower deck broke (I didn't hit anything with it I swear!) and dear hubby had to take it to my folks and weld it back together.

The most enjoyable part was the ice skating where my son, who is going through a rough streak of the Terrible 3's lately, was soooo patient and persistent the entire nearly 2 hours we skated (skating is loosely defined of course!).  As much as he fusses about the rest of life lately, he is utterly obsessed with hockey and skating and no matter how many times he fell he just got back up and kept trying.

video



Friday, March 23, 2012

Grill It!

With the warm weather comes the urge to grill!  I love this time of the year as my husband is willing to man the grill and I have time to putz around the deck and flower beds while dinner cooks.  Here's an easy shish-kabob recipe for the whole family:

A tangy marinade: 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp white vinegar, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1 tsp favorite grill seasoning or seasoning salt.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Now I know why my daughter's 3rd grade teacher recently told us that her writing was some of his favorite and he found it fun to read.  While sorting through the paperwork she had brought home, I discovered a sheet where she was practicing similes.  My favorite:

"The street was as dusty as the top of a ceiling fan."

My husband and I were laughing so hard we were in tears...girl has a point.  You will not be hearing me give dusting tips...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Awaiting a Project

These bottles were just too beautiful to take to recycling so there they wait for me to dream up a job for them. Share your ideas with me please!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Deli Roast Chicken - Round 2

So the rest of the deli chicken got stripped off the bone and rough chopped. Threw it on top of a basic salad and served with seeded rye bread with spinach dip. Yum!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Quick Lunch

Taking advantage of warm deli roasted chicken to make a quick but tasty lunch after the Saturday morning grocery run.

Friday, March 16, 2012

St. Patty's Day Fun Snack Mix

Got this awesome snack mix recipe Pot O Gold Chex Mix  through the Betty Crocker's Dinner Made Easy email newsletter (which I love!).  The Princess helped me out.  We actually made 3 batches.  Two following the recipe exactly - one for her class and one for our family dinner on Saturday.  The the third we left out the peanuts and the sauce mixture for Little Man's class since some of the kids are still very young and its not known about allergies they may have.  Tasty!

My helper breaking the pretzels.  This was a great hands-on chance to practice her math skills (multiplication, division, and fractions) with having her measure and figure out how many measuring cups full we needed of each ingredient since we were making 3 batches.

This is the beautiful final result.  The coating is like a caramel sauce but dries pretty well so its not too sticky - like caramel corn.  We elected to just load each batch into gallon ziploc bags to make it easier to take to school.  One batch is a very full ziploc.  Some people on the Betty Crocker site indicated problems with the marshmallows melting but I had no issue with that.  I did make sure to only microwave 1 minute at a time and stir between each minute - this gives the mix a few seconds to cool back down and may have made a difference with the marshmallows.  The cereal can be a bit pricey but I don't mind using store brand cereals and nuts and that can cut your cost to make this in half.  If you are a brand lover, subscribe to the newsletter in the above link and you get a ton of great coupons on General Mills brands.  A large box will make about 3 batches of this recipe.




Green!

All sorts of signs of spring tonight! Trying to refrain from pulling the leaves off the beds though as I know frost is still more likely than not. Love seeing these curly little columbine leaves!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sweet Country Life: ~ Rainbow Colors ~

Sweet Country Life: ~ Rainbow Colors ~

Love this!  I've done a similar thing using old crayons and old candle chunks and melted together in a muffin tin.  Only I made candles by taking candle wick string and tying it to skewers that are laid across the top of each row after the wax is melted.  Let it cool and trim the wicks to size.  Great little goodie bag fillers either way!

Managing Chaos

I am a very Type-A person.  I like my lists, I like my folders, I like at least an organized pile or designated bin.  While my desk at work is often overly organized (yes, I am known as the "white board lady"), I do not have enough hours in the day at home to have it as organized as I would like.  I have two kids, a husband, two dogs, a cat, a goat, a pony and a horse - love them as much as I do, they conflict greatly with my desire to be a neat-freak!  :)  So while I would like to claim that I know how to manage chaos...I should perhaps call it attempting to minimize...
What I Like...

What it usually looks like...

I love FlyLady and her tips and certainly if I was at home all day (and the kids were at school) I could surely implement them all (total sarcasm here!).  Instead in a typical day we are out the door by 7 a.m. and back home with the kids in tow around 5:30 p.m.  The kids are starving a looking for snacks, the critters are calling for their pats and treats, homework to be done, clothes to be ironed, dinner to be made somewhere amongst the mess while everyone tells me about their day and the things they need for the next day - oh and let's not even go there with laundry, dishes, and dusting non-sense...  Anybody tired yet?  And about 2 hours to do the majority of it and get in snuggles and stories for bedtime at 8...8:30...ish...

If you think weekends are better...well...more on that later...  Now don't get me wrong...I don't mean to complain...I fully accept that I have done this to myself...I mean...I could cut down on the number of pets, hire a housekeeper (sure...), bring home carryout every night...  But I fully realize I'd be totally bored without all this stuff to do...  :)

A few things I love that do help minimize the chaos
  • A clothes sorter that hangs in the bathroom with enough space for a week of clothing.  On Sunday The Princess picks out her clothes and PJs for the upcoming week - we check the class newsletter for which days she has gym or other activities that require certain clothes.  I also pick out Little Man's clothes - and he's starting to help.  In the bottom of the sorter is an area for shoes but I use that for PullUps and wipes since we no longer need a changing station (hooray for potty training!).
  • Electric toothbrushes and a fun timer - makes it much easier to get the kids to brush!
  • My crockpot!  ('Nuf said...)
  • Semi-homemade and 3-in-1 meals like this multi-meal chicken plan that allow me to cook a large amount of one item one night and turn leftovers into multiple meals and lunches.
  • A dry erase board I hang where the kids can look at it - I put the bedtime routine and morning routine on it and when the sleepy-head Princess is struggling to focus I refer her to the board to see what's next.
  • The "kids pantry" - three shelves in a kitchen cabinet designated for the kids.  The first shelf is full of their reusable plastic cups and reusable water bottles.  The second has all their reusable plastic bowls and plates, along with a plastic basket full of cup tops, silly straws and other things they use.  The third is full of snacks: all their favorite crackers, bananas, fruit snacks, granola for making yogurt parfaits, fruit cups, raisins, granola bars, cereal bars, etc.  They still have to ask but as long as they get permission I don't have to stop and go fetch the item for them.  This means The Princess can pack her own school snacks (and pick what she wants), they can grab a small snack if dinner will take a while, and they can grab a morning snack on our way out the door if they are starving (they eat breakfast at daycare).

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Easter Cake

Try this fun Easter cake with the kids - The Princess and I made this last year.  We just made a simple sheet cake (the kids picked a sprinkle cake) and white frosted the whole cake.  The we rounded up supplies from the cabinets for decorating - lots of flexibility here.  We used coconut (dyed green with food coloring) for the grass, jelly beans as eggs, packaged cotton candy for the sheep and clouds, Chex cereal for the basket, and a chocolate egg we broken in half for the chick's egg.  The rest of the details were gel piping - piping is not my strong suite.  Tip:  Don't decorate until a couple of hours before you plan on eating this and keep it in the fridge - otherwise the cotton candy and Chex absorb moisture from the frosting.  The green dye may also leech into the frosting.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

When Inconveniences are Blessings in Disguise

I was feeling put out yesterday because of a minor inconvenience that threw my whole schedule for the afternoon off kilter.  Then the Lord served me a reminder that sometimes I need to trust his plan - I narrowly missed not one but two serious accidents on the freeway in an area I have to pass through every afternoon.  The first happened just a couple of minutes before I went through - first responders were just arriving and the man looked seriously hurt but according to news reports will be OK.  The second happened a few minutes behind me as the traffic backed up due to the first accident - that one ended up being an 8 vehicle pileup but, thankfully, no one was injured.  Had I been traveling this area at my normal time of day, there is a great possibility that I could have been in that pileup.  Had I not sat so long at the stoplight that seemed to take so long I might have been in the first accident.  My great-grandmother liked to tell us a lot of stories about trusting "The Master's Hand" and I guess he felt that I needed a reminder yesterday.  So today through my frustrations I will trust that He has a plan and a reason.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Renewal!

This weekend was all about renewal.  I have a renewed spirit after spending the day on Saturday at the horse expo (and a birthday party).  I got to see Sharon Camarillo and Donna Irvin give an excellent barrel racing clinic.  Donna has the long hair on the left and Sharon is on the palomino standing broadside.
My kids were both so good and fascinated that we were at the expo from 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.!  The Princess has horse fever for sure and Little Man thought the cowboy mounted shooting was very exciting. Sunday as we recovered from the time change we went to a local favorite diner for a leisurely breakfast and grocery shopped and bought seeds to start. The weather was beautiful so we all took a walk in the woods to scout for shed antlers and other treasures. I managed to scavenge a mossy branch, some broken pottery, a couple glass bottles and Little Man found a turkey feather!   While the kids napped I spent some time brushing the mud off my own brumbies (yes, "The Man from Snowy River" is one of my all time favorites!) and the Mr. took the first cruise of the year on his motorcycle.  This morning there is a fresh rain and a little Claritin was needed as things are starting to turn green. What a great weekend and I'm ready to dig in to all the spring projects!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Happy Friday!

Looking forward to the Michigan Horse Expo this weekend and getting some new riding clothes - can you tell I need them! LOL  Hoping to work in a ride (or at least a bath for the muddy critters!) this weekend as its forecast to hit 60 degrees.  Also looking forward to seeing the grass this green again soon as I woke up to a dusting of snow this morning.  Mother Nature seems to be conflicted this year... 


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Inspiration

I love this quote I just read from football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice:

"Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't."

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Godiva Spirits House Party Package Arrived!


I am always so thrilled when another great House Party package arrives and today it was supplies for my Godiva Spirits Party! We will have a blast sampling drinks and desserts made with the Godiva Spirits and Liquers. I'll be sharing recipes and pics after the party at the end of the month.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Kid-Friendly Veggie Garden Plans

All the plant and seed catalogs are coming out and I love to spend the evening curled up thumbing through them and dreaming big about how spectacular my veggie garden will be (and how this will be the year I conquer the weeds and slugs...I did say dream big, right?!).  A book I love with some great ideas on how to make veggie gardening exciting and stimulating for kids is "Roots, Shoot, Buckets and Boots" by Sharon Lovejoy.  Not only does it have great garden plans but it really is a kid-friendly read with ideas for experiments and wonderful illustrations.  I really want to tackle the sunflower/morning glory house plans this year and I'm planning a variation on their tepee idea with pole beans and moonflowers.  She has lots of specific veggie seed suggestions for plants that are easy for kids to grow and give fun learning opportunities throughout the summer.  My kids love to learn about all the things that show up in our garden and even the neighbor boys have been overcome with curiousity and I had 3 extra "helpers" to squish tomato hornworms and dig carrots last summer.  They were so excited every time to take home produce for dinner that they had helped me plant in the spring - and I felt just as rewarded by their excitement!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Rustic Cheesy Potato Soup


This is a great weeknight soup because its fast but satisfying. 
Melt one stick of butter in a large pot. Finely dice 1 medium onion and add to the pot with a dash of salt and pepper. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile shred 4 medium potatoes. Add 4 tablespoon flour to the pot and mix well. Then add 2 cups of chicken stock and simmer until flour is absorbed. Add 6 cups of milk. Add shredded potatoes and simmer about 10 minutes until potatoes soften. Add 3 cups shredded cheese or velveta and stir until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of zesty seasoning salt. Yum!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cupcake Wars Inspired Triple Cherry Cupcake

It became apparent that my daughter and I were watching too much Cupcake Wars and similar shows when I asked her what kind of cupcakes she would like to take to school for her birthday treat.  Her answer:  Cherry-filled with pink cherry whipped frosting and a fondant cherry and cherry leaves on top.  Not as easy as I was hoping for...but hey I'm always up for a good challenge. 

So I started with a basic vanilla cake mix and made the batter following the directions.  I filled designer black and white cupcake liners about 1/3 with the batter.  Then I used canned cherry pie filling by carefully spooning out just 2-3 cherries with as little of the gel as I could and placing them in the center of the batter.  Topped with more batter - just enough to cover the cherries and seal the edges.  I baked these in the oven according to the cake directions - I had thought they would take longer with the extra moisture from the filling but because the filling doesn't have to cook the time ended up being the same as normal cupcakes.  While these cooled I used premade whipped buttercream frosting and whipped in red food coloring and cherry extract until I reached a satisfactory color and flavor.  To finish, my daughter drained maraschino cherries on a paper towel overnight.  (To her credit she took sympathy on me and compromised about the fondant cherries.)  On our way out the door in the morning all the cupcakes were topped with a maraschino cherry and a few "pearl" sprinkles.  Very tasty and impressive to look at and they really were easy to put together.  These would be great for an adult party or for Valentine's Day.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Meet the Critters

Often referred to as "our other kids" or "the zoo"...  This little guy is our Alpine goat "Christmas" who arrived in the barn on Christmas morning via the magic of Santa...
The man in charge "Apollo" our chocolate lab-springer spaniel who patrols the yard,
keeps the deer and other unwanteds out of my veggie garden, 
and generally makes sure everyone is where they are supposed to be. 
The new guy "Topper" - my beautiful Morgan-Arab cross gelding. 
We are having a lot of fun getting to know each other.

 Best cat ever "Marble" who keeps the mice and mole population under control and has so patiently tolerated the kids learning how to properly pick up and carry a cat...
 Don't let the angle fool you - this guy is not as big as he would like to be - miniature pony "Earl".
 And the sweetest little girl "Artemis" full sister to Apollo and best babysitter.


Spring is in the Air!

Its only March 1st but spring has been in the air here in Michigan for a while.  We've had mostly mild temps with a few intermittent cold, snowy days broken up by days like today that are nearly 40 degrees.  This weekend its supposed to reach 50 - around here that is shorts and flip flop weather for sure!  The birds are twittering, the buds have been forming on the lilacs for a while, the critters are basking in the sunshine (and of course rolling in the mud!).  Any day now I expect that first crocus to fight its way through the piles of leaves warming my flower beds. 

And with those first signs of spring comes the urge to throw up the windows and clean and purge.  Lots of friends posting on FaceBook about taking loads of outgrown clothes and toys to Goodwill today.  If you are looking for some ideas on how to get in the spring cleaning mode check out my Spring into Action Organizational Party.  Its a fun casual way to get together with friends for a quick Saturday lunch and get motivated to spring clean.  And if you want some more great tips on cleaning and organizing FlyLady will boggle your mind!  Boot the kids outside to play, crank up your favorite tunes, toss open the windows, roll up your sleeves and go!