Sunday, November 27, 2011


I've always claimed that I am not a pet person. That I don't REALLY like animals. That my life would be fine if I didn't know a cat or a dog, or a bird or a rat. But truly, at the core, I have a lot of affection for (cetain) animals.

When I was a little girl (cue the sappy music) my family had a dog named Spirit. I think he was some sort of mutt - kinda of a poodle. Truthfully, I really can't remember him - I've seen pictures of Spirit that were taken during camping trips with our family, but I'm not sure I can recall playing with him. What I do remember is that one day he was a part of our family - then the next day he was gone. I do recall coming home from school one day to find out that Spirit was gone - my mom and dad said they had given him away to a family that lived out in the county. My mom said that kids were always teasing him from the alley behind our house so she decided that he would be better off living with a family out in the country where he could run and play.

Honestly . . . I didn't believe it. I thought that my mom had just gotten tired of the dog and had sent it to the pound. We never talked about it again. And, how do you miss a dog you don't even remember playing with? But, I do remember being sad, a lingering sadness, that I hadn't gotten a chance to say goodbye.

As I have gotten older and become a mom (cue more sappy music) I have come to appreciate and need animal friends. Our golden retriever came into our lives as a stray dog - and he has stayed. He is the sweetest, most loyal and calm dog - and some days I forget to appreciate what a great pet he is.

We have also aquired a series of cats. First came Midnight, a male black cat we adopted from the pound four years ago - he is still with us and is hands down the coolest cat ever. We adopted him for mouse control - we love him for his cat antics. Then came Emily, who was run over by a car in the driveway. Then NeNe, who disappeared - but my daughter is sure she is living across the road. Hubby and I know that she was actually hit and killed by a car. Then came Jenny who was a great kitty and birthed a delightful litter of kittens. My kiddos loved Jenny and the kittens - and then we gave some of them up for adoption. All but Croon, Jenny's daughter. Then . . . Jenny disappeared over Labor Day weekend. So, we still have Croon and adopted two new kitties, Whisper and Captain Jack Sparrow - thankfully, they are still with us.

But . . . truth be told, the reason I have been crying since Friday is that on November 2nd we were fortunate enough to be gifted the sweetest dog ever - Wiggle Rum Tow Mater. He was intended to be a birthday gift for my son's 10th birthday - but our entire family fell in love with him! He was spirited and affectionate and loved to give kisses and jump up on our beds. He didn't have a tail - he just wiggled his rump - about 100 times per day. He loved belly rubs and conversations and soccer games and walks. He only lived with us for a few short weeks - but we knew we couldn't imagine life without him. Until . . . he was struck by a car and died a short time later on Friday. We didn't find out his fate until late afternoon on Saturday - after many frantic hours and phone calls searching for him. He is now gone forever. I told my kids the truth about what happened. They are sad he is gone. They are even more sad that they never had the chance to say goodbye.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanks for Giving

We had a really great Thanksgiving Day yesterday. Just us. With some food. No guests, not a lot of activity. Just food. Simple, yet really perfect. We talked about what we are all thankful for.

We usually travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, mostly to visit family in Montana. While we really enjoy visiting, this year the trip just seemed like too much. I haven't been feeling good, things with our fave teenager daughter aren't great - and we just wanted to be home. With our family. Appreciating one another. Quietly, peacefully. And, for the day we had I am thankful.

We didn't roast a turkey. Mainly because the sight of the 30 pound turkey in my neighbor's refridge was startling - and quite frankly ugly. Okay, not entirely true, even before I caught a glimpse of the ugly turkey we had decided to make something different. But, let me tell you - that turkey really was ugly! Yes, I do know where turkeys come from - but I only like the pretty ones, like the ones my friend Nancy sends to the turkey spa.

With the help of my favorite cookbook (Thanks to Ree Drummond, we began our day with maple glazed cinnamon rolls. Then, for dinner we had roasted beef tenderloin, butternut squash, oven roasted potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce and burgandy mushrooms. Chocolate cream pie and pumpkin pie rounded out our meal - I have to tell you that hubby fell asleep on the couch within minutes of ingesting this meal. It was different and non-traditional and yummy!

So yes, we missed our travel to Montana, and we missed you: Mom and Dad, Helen and Gary, Leonard and Carol, Susan and kids. And we hope to see you soon.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Musing about Christmas

It seems like everywhere I turn these days Christmas has already arrived. The stores are full of decorations and toys and gift ideas . . . . I confess I feel overwhelmed. Magazines are full of gift ideas. My kids come home from school everyday with some type of Christmas benefit we could/should contribute to. While I admit to a certain love of Christmas music - and I would listen to it all year long if my family would let me, and must also admit that I'm kind of a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas.

The power of marketing behind Christmas is poisonous, it lets the media and the stores have the last say in what our holiday should look like - without giving us room to breathe, to think, to reflect about what Christmas could mean without all the hoopla.

Some of my friends are all to familiar with my rants about how our community goes all out to care about the needy children/homeless families and the hungry during the holiday season. Don't get me wrong - I agree that hungry, homeless people need help from the community - I just feel that that help should be freely given all year long - not just during the holidays.

I do think the holiday season is a bit magical. Twinkling lights, the promise of gifts to be unwrapped. The smell of the pine tree, all of the cute handmade ornaments. I love to bake during the holidays - the kinds of treats we only make once a year. I love to see the snow fall on Christmas Eve. I can remember the excitement of Christmas when I was a kid. I get it, really I do.

Except, I can't help but think what would happen if we only celebrated Christmas for the month of December. If no one bought presents before then. Or mailed their Christmas cards. Or decorated their homes or stores. Would we run out of time to find the perfect gift, the perfect tree? Would I appreciate Christmas music more because my time to enjoy it was fleeting?

I know, I know. Many of you are shaking you heads at me. How could you possible make Christmas perfect in only 25 days? Maybe we can't. Maybe, rather than searching for the perfect gift, the perfect tree, the perfect tradition, the perfect holiday - we would be left with our imperfect selves. Would we have to give more of ourselves to our friends and family because we couldn't buy the perfect holiday? Would we really get to know one another, warts and all? Would we spend more time laughing and loving and sharing because we weren't worried about the money we weren't spending? Would we reach out to our community because we weren't so busy shopping and wrapping and trying to by each other's affections? Would January 1st be happier without the thought of the credit card bill arriving in the mail?

Christmas probably wouldn't be perfect - but I'm not sure we should expect it to be. Gifts given and received should be done joyfully, from the heart. I can't wait for December 1st!

Friday, October 28, 2011


I make decisions everyday. Some are big, some are not so big. Some are wrong, some are right. Some are either wrong or right based on the information available at any given moment. That is what I tell myself . . . but, the truth is that sometimes the decisions I make are just wrong. There is no way to sugarcoat the facts - sometimes, I mess up, and I mess up BIG.

I'd like to find a way to justify my actions, to say I'm sorry for the havoc I wreak . . . but that would mean that I could also find a way to change the actions or decisions I make. Sadly, I can't take back what I've already done . . . and that leads to trouble.

Everytime I throw my hands up in frustration and walk away from a disagreement is echoed in how my 13 year old handles her life.

Everytime I tell a little white lie, maybe to save face for myself, or to justify a decision that was flawed is echoed back at me in excuses for why homework isn't done.

Everytime I try to "rob peter to pay paul" comes back secondfold to haunt me . . . and to make me realize, yet again that the only decisions I should be making are the ones that are honest, thought out and made with my family.

I feel like I walk on eggshells around my family a lot of the time, because I'm afraid that decisions made in the past will come back around . . . and most of the time they do.

I do the laundry, I cook the meals, I put my life into a jar to be opened at a later date. I'd love to put away the lies, the fears and the trouble for later as well , but I know that if I do that what I open up will be filled with bitterness and regret.

There is only so much regret that a person can carry around until a breaking point happens. Then, there are tears and apologies and promises . . . which are only as good as the moment.

Trouble comes from lies, from hiding behind excuses, from not wanting to face reality. For me trouble comes with trying to keep up with the the expectations that I feel I am obligated to. Be the best mom, the best friend, the best hostess . . . the best. But I can't be and then my life becomes a lie - and trouble comes along. So - how do I change tomorrow?

I will tell myself, my family and my friends that honesty is the best policy. Always. No matter what. I will tell them that they are worth more than what they do. I will tell them that filling up days and nights with keeping busy means that days and nights are meaningless and empty. I will tell them that love will keep us all going - no matter what. I will tell them that love will fill their hearts and not make them yearn for the things that cause trouble.

I will tell them that the trouble caused is not worth the effort put into it. That life is more than what we can see at the moment, that living for the moment only causes trouble.

I honestly hate the trouble I cause.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


A few years ago I particpated in a communication class. Our instructor told us that one of the most dangerous words in our vocabulary was the word "should" As in, you and I should never tell another person what that person should do. We were told that effective communicators always used the words "could" and would". We were instructed to delete the word "should" from our daily vocabulary. It seems that telling a person what they should do seems high handed and judgemental and leaves people feeling . . . well, I guess like they should be doing something. It seems to convey a sense of duty or obligation . . . is that so wrong??

So, I have tried to avoid the word "should" in most occasions. I have learned, since that communication class, that there are also other words that (should) could be avoided on a daily basis, especially if you are a parent and are attempting to communicate effectively with a captive audience of children. Below is the list of dangerous words in our house. These words are almost guaranteed to start a tantrum, even if they are not used in the same sentence as "should". Here we go . . .

Clean. As in please clean up your own mess. Please clean up your laundry. Please clean up after your pet. Please, wipe your own pee from the toilet seat. Please clean up your belongings from the car. No matter the context clean is a dangerous word in our house.

Homework. As in do you have homework? Do you need help with your homework? Did you turn in your homework? This is word fraught with danger.

Lights. As in did you turn out the lights in your room, the bathroom, the hallway. Do you want to pay the power bill? Did you turn on this light in the middle of the day? Why is the porch light on? Etc.

Feed. As in did you feed the cats? Did you feed the chickens? Did you feed the dog? This request is often coupled with water. Did you give the above mentioned animals water? Or, did you feed the kids? What, you don't know what they eat? Well, what do you eat . . . feed them the same thing!

Sex. With one teenage girl, one tween and two younger children in the house - who got here, btw, because their parental units had sex, you would think that sex wouldn't be taboo. Oh, but it is! My hubby and I are instructed on a daily basis to please not use the words penis, vagina, tampon, breasts, sex or anything that could be construed as sexual around the tender ears of our children. Sheesh, what else is there to talk about. I mean really has anyone listened to any current forms of music these days?

I could go on and I on, but I feel I should stop now. I think you all get the picture. For the sake of my sanity, could you please share a list of safe words? I think I might need them.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Crack Pot

Crocked, by definition (according to the Oxford American Dictionary) means: drunk. Fun, if not very practical. If you look above the word crocked in the dictionary you can find the word crock which is defined as a piece of earthenware pottery.

I know many, many people who collect crocks - some of them are in high demand and fetch high prices. They are mainly used these days as decorations, or as storage. I myself have a couple of crocks that I use to store potatoes - just like my mom did in her pantry.

Crock - in my mind also means a crock pot. I was very, very wary of using a crock pot when I first got married. Mainly because whenever my mom made dinner in the crockpot there was some sort of cream of mushroom soup added and the color always reminded me of baby poop. Also, I wasn't sure that I trusted that what I put into the pot would come out the same . . . and not look like baby poop. Plus, how can you be sure that an appliance left all day on the counter will not catch the house on fire? The first few times I used the crock put I put in into the sink - just be sure it wouldn't burn the house down.

Sure, I had lots of friends who rave about their crock pots and their wonderful meals - I thought for sure they were crack pots.

Then, I slowly began to investigate how to cook in a crock pot - and I quickly fell in love with this easy kitchen tool. Who knew that spaghetti sauce, simmered all day in the crock pot would be oh so good. And, did you know that you can make chili in the crock pot and it is warm and yummy at the end of a tiring day - and your kiddos will slurp it up? I confess, I became a bit of a crack pot over my crock pot.

I tried to convince one of my good friends that crock pot cooking was the way to go. I mean, really, she is living in a barn with only a bbq and wants to be able to feed her family - but she wasn't convinced that the crock pot was the way to go.

Last week, another friend and I enticed her into coming over to cook and chat. We gave her a grocery list - and then we all laughed and talked and sent her home with a crock pot filled with yummy chicken. She called me today to tell me how much she loved the chicken. We chatted for a bit. Then, she called back and left me a message saying that she just bought a crockpot at the store. It came with ingredients to make chili. She is thrilled. So I am. I've just converted another crack pot!

Here is our favorite crock pot recipe.

One package of chicken - depending on the size of your family. We like to use drumsticks and thighs in this recipe. They are cheap and the I think having the bone in the chicken adds more flavor when it is slow cooked.

Quarter an onion and place it into the bottom of the crockpot. Then, put your chicken over the top of the onion.

In a bowl mix together 1 cup of brown sugar, 1 small can of chipoltle peppers in adobo sauce, on large can of either diced tomatos or tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons of worchestershire sauce, 2 teaspoons of seasoning salt and about 1 teaspoon of cumin. Mix the above ingredients well, then pour over the chicken and onions in the crock pot. Set heat to high for about 6 hours - then low for about two hours.

You can serve this with rice - or you can shred the chicken and serve it on buns with coleslaw - kinda like a sloppy joe.

Get crocked my friends - you will like it!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Worth Sharing

Some things in life are worth sharing. Time. Sunshine. Laughter. Love. Friends. Family. And, sometimes sharing means that you share your time and love with your family and also your friends.

My immediate family consists of my darling hubby and our four kiddos. Then we have my parents, his parents, his sister and her kiddos, my sisters, my brother . . . and the list goes on and on.

I'm not that close or friendly with my siblings - partly because there is a bit of an age difference. My brother graduated from high school the year I was adopted . . . and the sister that is older than him I hardly knew growing up. My brother and my oldest sister married and had kids before I graduated from high school. I always felt like I had to catch up - to find something in common . . . but it is hard. And as the years have gone by it has gotten harder as their children have had children - and as I became a mother. Sometimes it feels like it is hard to share our lives.

To get back to the sharing topic - I enjoyed a wonderful day last Friday with two women who I adore and respect. We cooked and laughed and began numerous conversations - we left laughing with two completed meals and a number of unfinished conversations that we hope to take up again next week. The sharing of recipes and cooking stories reminded me that one of my kiddos fave breakfast recipes was passed down to me from my oldest sister. And, I'm sure she doesn't even realize that I have the recipe - or that my kiddos have loved it for years. But, everytime I make these muffines I think of her .

I have a picture of her in my mind. She is sitting in the home ec room at high school - probably bored out of her mind - learning how to cook breakfast muffins. I have seen pictures of her high school years - she wore here hair in the style that was popular - and I always seem to picture her wearing green - not sure why.

Anyway - when I was in high school and looking for something to make for breakfast my mom gave me a recipe for "French Breakfast Puffs". I made them and loved them, and I asked my mom where she found the recipe. She told me my sister had made them at school and had shared the recipe. My mom gave me the recipe and I've made these muffins a couple of times a month for the past 15 years. Truthfully - I've made these muffins more times than I've talked to my sister. But, I still think of her when I bake them - and when my kids ask where I got the recipe, I proudly tell them my sister gave it to me.

French Breakfast Puffs (with some modifications of the original recipe, which called for Bisquick)

Puffs (preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease 12 muffin cups)

3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2/3 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 cup milk

Cream the sugar and shortening, then add the eggs. Add the flour, baking powder, nutmeg and milk and mix well. Spoon into muffin tins - about 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are golden.

To make the topping melt 2 sticks of butter. Put the melted butter into a bowl that is deep enough to dunk the muffins into. Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar with 3 teaspoons cinnamon into another bowl that is deep enough to dunk the muffins into. When the muffins have cooled a bit, dip each one into the butter then into the cinnamon - sugary mix. Eat while still warm and enjoy.

Thanks sister.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Today I woke up to fog. And, to be honest I was in a fog. I recently discovered the wonders of ear plugs, which block out the sounds of my hubby when he snores himself to sleep. The downside of the ear plugs is that he has to shake me awake. And, most mornings I'm not ready to wake up - hence the fog.

So, this morning, after being shaken awake so that I could tell my hubby goodbye for a couple of days, I attempted to retrieve some of my share of the bed covers from my 7 year old snuggler. No luck, so I stumbled out of bed in search of some sunshine and a diet coke. Couldn't find the sun, but I did find the diet coke I had hidden from my 13 year old daughter the night before. Success!

Then, I looked outside to see fog everywhere. It was laying on the fields close to the house, heavy and gray and wet looking. Blech! I would have gone back to bed, but the girls needed to catch the bus, and the littles needed a ride to school. Got the lunches packed and the girls off to the bus. Who knew it was wear pink day at school? Not me - but my 13 year old daughter had to go back to the house to get all decked out in pink . . . really?

Anyway, got the girls off to the bus stop, came back home to get the little kids ready for school - they were happy and eager to go. Got in the car . . . and drove into the fog. My son asked me lots of questions about fog and I tried my best to answer them - then all of the sudden we saw sunshine . . . it was beautiful.

The moment reminded me that today, was just like yesterday. I mean the kids, the conditions and everything were the same - just without the fog. When I saw the sunlight I was so happy to come out of the fog. The only difference was that today I was happy to see the sun - I didn't take the day for granted , like I do most other days. So thank you heavy, gray, dull fog - you helped me see the day for what it was - a wonderful gift!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Do More

My father-in-law recently had a heart procedure. He had not been feeling well, thought it was an asthma attack, but it ended up being 90% blockage in the left side of his heart. A couple of stints later he is home. He feels good, but realizes he has to change his lifestyle and his diet. He feels like he has to do more.

What? I talked to him on the phone a few days ago and he told me he had just been hanging around the house, looking at the birds and that the day was a waste because he didn't get anything done. He needs to do more. I told him that it was okay to just take a day to hang out. Our lives shouldn't be measured by the things we do . . . right? We should be able to hang out and enjoy the autumn days, right? Nope, he said - he didn't get anything done and that makes him feel restless, and lazy and well . . . a bit worthless. Because he didn't do more.

That conversation started a thought process in my brain. Why, when our lives are so busy and crowded and filled with noise and business, can't we just sit back and enjoy life?

My hubby and I had an argument earlier today - I was in the wrong. Later, when I was helping him build fence he asked me what I liked about myself today. I listed all the things I had done, and told him I needed to do more. He just looked at me and said" No, that isn't what I asked. What do you like about yourself today? You don't have to do more."

I always think I have to do more. More laundry, more canning, more weeding, more mothering, more being a friend . . . the list goes on and on. Why? So I can list on Facebook all of the things I have accomplished? So, when I am visiting with friends I can one-up them that I do more? Oh, soooo stupid, this need to do more.

Like my father-in-law, I am caught up in the trap of do more. It becomes difficult to relax and enjoy the moment when I am always looking to do more. At the end of the day I'm not sure anyone cares if I do more - because all my kids care about is if I did enough. And, most days I do.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Much of my life these days seems to revolve around my garden. Planting, watering, weeding, harvesting, eating and canning. I am amazed at how much can grow here in the 'Burg. Today we harvested a watermelon from our garden. A first for our family.

My gardening is a bit like my life, entangled and weedy and yummy and beautiful all at the same time. Just some good soil, some seeds, some sunshine and some water. As the gardening season winding down I found myself reflecting on how much gardening is like life. Bear with me here, I promise to try very hard to not be trite about this subject.

Most of us have good soil in our lives - places in which to plant seeds and put down roots. Sometimes though, the place where we plant our seeds is a bit rocky - and not very much sprouts. Sometimes weeds can overtake the fruit we are trying to grow. As a gardener I am trying to learn to be ruthless with weeds. It isn't always easy . . . sometimes the "weed" in my garden is a volunteer plant, like a pumpkin or an onion that has sprouted up from last year's seeds.

Because I hate to kill anything I often let the volunteer plants grow where they sprout up. Sounds nice and organic, right? Yes, but mostly no. The volunteer pumpkin I let grow in the middle of two rows of corn ending up taking over some of my basil. I tried to trim it back a bit at a time, but it kept growing - like Medusa's snake hair. Everytime I cut off a vine in order to give the basil some space and sun, another sneaky pumpkin vine would come along. I should have just pulled out the plant from the beginning.

As a mother, daughter, wife and friend (among many other labels) I have taken the lesson of the volunteer pumpkin plant , which was actually a weed, to heart. Sometimes, in order to let areas of our lives thrive and grow and blossom, we have to ruthlessly cut out the weeds. The weeds that overtake us are sneaky. For me they have mostly come from a desire to help, to be a friend, to step into the void and arrogantly think I can inspire and solve other people's problems. The problem is that my life is so busy with family and gardening that when I take on a new commitment (sometimes under the guise of friendship) that I end up making decisions that aren't based on what is best for my family. Sometimes commitments and friendships are like weeds that choke the life out of us. We can carefully try to trim them bit by bit, but they keep coming back.

I enjoy the friendships that sustain me in my daily life - they are meaningful and provide me with inspiration and motiviation. But, just like my garden I'm learning to be very, very selective about the friendships I choose. Because, sometimes, our friends suck the life right out of us, just like the weeds choke out the fruit in the garden. And that is why I am striving to become a ruthless weeder. To be very, very selective about my friendships and the pressures on my time. At the end of the day I am responsible for sustaining my family and my darling hubby. And I can't do a good job sustaining what I already have if I'm not constantly weeding.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stay at Home Mom

Stay at home mom.

I have come to believe that for most people the label "stay at home mom" connotates a mom who stays at home. A mom who doesn't have a job "outside" the home. A mom who stays at home to do laundry, clean the house and prepare meals. Funny, I don't know any moms who are "stay at home". In fact, I think this label is mis-leading at best.

About three years ago our family decided to cancel our subscription to cable television. And, we also decided not to purchase one of those cute little converter boxes. Result? No tv at our house. No baseball, no football, no American Idol. Did the kids groan? Yep. So, the hubby and I promised them that, I, being a "stay at home" mom would fill the void that the lack of tv had left in their lives.

Thus began my life as a "stay at home" mom. Except, I rarely stay at home. Between car pools, grocery shopping, hair cuts, soccer practice, baseball practice, softball practice, volleyball practice and coaching, traveling to away games, chaperoning field trips and a summer filled with adventures to the river complete with swimming and berry picking, I am NEVER at home. And, if I am at home I'm not really in the house - I'm feeding chickens, weeding the garden, mowing and watering the lawn. Plus, the countless playdates and sleepovers.

Was all of the above the direct result of not letting my kids watch tv for hours on end? Yes, and no. We decided that I would give up working outside the house (plus my salary and benefits) in the hopes that our kids would thrive with a "stay at home" mom.

Every once in awhile I would feel the sting of the comments of working moms. "Oh, it must be so nice to stay at home" or " you don't know what it is like to work and have to take care of the kids". Except I do and I did know the toll that working moms face. I worked full-time and traveled a lot. And, I missed my kids. So I decided to become a "stay at home" mom.

About a year ago we subscribed to Netflix. (God, love them - even with their price increase) One of my kids' fave shows is SurvivorMan. Or some connotation of that theme. You know what I'm talking about - the guy who gets dropped in the middle of nowhere without provisions and has to survive on whale blubber for a week. With his camera crew. And an Emmy nomination. To those dudes I offer up a challenge to become a "stay at home" mom for a week. I think we could give whale blubber a run for the money. Especially when I think of a friend who is living in a barn while building a dream house and managing three kids. Or another mom who gardens and loves and prays while managing two little boys and a hubby who is gone a lot because he is a pilot. Or, the friend who writes incredible, inspiring and witty blogs while managing her three kids and a hubby who travels A LOT.

This is a post to give credit to all the "stay at home" moms out there. The women who put their kiddos and their families first, even though at times they face derision and scorn for "staying home". Even when staying at home doesn't always mean staying at home.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Moderate (verb) to make or become moderate or less intense

I hear a lot about this word on a daily basis. Politicions are urged to become moderate. My father-in-law has to moderate his diet due to heart disease. Some hope that our climate will be more moderate. In many ways moderation (or being moderate) may be a good thing. Webster's Thesaurus tells me that moderation also can mean toleration , restraint, sobriety. Good characteristics for a person to have. I strive to be tolerant of people (with the exception of my teenage daughter on most days). I practice restrain and strive toward sobriety. But, truly at my core I am just not moderate.

Four children are a testament to my lack of ability (or lack of restraint) to moderate my overproductive uterus. Four children means a complete loss of moderation concerning buying school supplies, making lunches and car pools. Not to mention soccer balls, volleyballs, basketballs, softballs, baseballs . . . the list could go on, but I think you get the picture.

Our business is also a testament to our lack of ability to practice restraint in not hiring every damn stupid kid in the 'Burg. Like the dude who just filled the unleaded gas tank with diesel fuel thus blowing our hope to moderate our vehichle maintenance bill this month. We didn't kill him. We just fired him, with a weeks pay to soften the blow.

My conservative husband's ideas and politics clash with my progressive liberal ways - so maybe that counts as a win, right? Our votes cancel out each other and thus we achieve moderation. Except, that deep down inside my heart, I know that my vote counts for more. Because I am not moderate.

When we host dinner parties, bbq's or just flat out drinking bashes (yes, these sometimes happen under the guise of birthday parties) my family and friends mock me for thinking that I won't have enough food. I never think I have enough food - and I do remember the time we ran out and folks had to go to town, then stopped to make a beer run and didn't come back for hours. Now, I plan to feed 100 people and end up with enough food for an army.

Or, the garden. Why, tell me why, do I decide to plant 50 rows of plants each year. Each row is 50 feet long. Plus the herb section, the berry section and the pumpkin squash section. Because I can't moderate . . . on the plus side my lack of moderation in this area means I have lots, and lots, and lots to share. (Readers beware - don't leave your windows rolled down or you might be the receipent of a lot of squash)

I guess the point I am trying to make with this post is that yes, moderation is good for some people. I'm truly striving to learn to moderate my time commitments, my gardening, my laundry, my grocery shopping, my budget . . . or not. Because, truly, at my core, I think moderation is boring. And, I am anything but that.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

An Ode to Basil

For the first 25 or so years of my life I didn't know what basil was. Seriously. I grew up in a family that believed good food was made with Crisco, Velveeta and ranch dressing. All of the previously mentioned foods were served on or with venison and potatoes. It was not until I was in college, and then living on my own that I discovered a wide array of food groups I had not known about.

Like apples. Growing up we only ate red delicious apples. Once in a while a granny smith apple would find it's way into a pie, but the only apples we bought or ate were red delicious. Who knew that there were so many other varieties of apples out there? Galas and Braeburns and Jonagolds and Ginger Crisps. I fell in love with apples. But I digress . . .

Basil. Just the smell of it is deeply satisfying. Earthy and herby and mouth watering. This year I got a bit carried away (not an unusual state for me when planting my garden) and planted two 50 foot rows of basil. For quite awhile in our unusually cold summer weather my basil foundered. I feared a winter without pesto. Then, the weather got warmer and my basil took off like a weed. I was, and am, overjoyed. I could and can make pesto to my hearts content - and trust me that is a lot of pesto!

But, the best part of about this summer's basil hasn't been the growing or the making of pesto. (Or even the DIVINE basil, spinach, mozzerella cheese foccacia bread I made last week.) The best part of growing the basil has been the wide ranging group of friends who have come out to my garden to pick it. My former nanny comes out to pick basil and chats with the kids and weeds a row of the garden. The kids LOVE to see her and it has been a great way to re-connect. My kids have friends from school whose mom's I didn't know that well who have come out to pick basil, and stayed for coffee, sometimes a glass of wine and conversation. I've found new friends through picking basil. Today, a friend I'd lost touch with came out to pick basil (in exchange for huckleberries - which is MORE than fair) and I enjoyed visiting with him and picking up the threads of an acquaintance that could become a good and stimulating friendship.

While growing basil has not always been the easiest endeavor for me as I am learning how to grow things, it has, by far, been the most satisfying.

Here is my recipe for pesto - I'm sure many of you have some of your own. If so, please share.


2 cups tightly packed basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
salt to taste
about 1/4 cup of good quality olive oil

Pack the basil, the pine nuts, garlic and salt into a food processor. Start the processor and then drizzle in the olive oil. In less than a minute you will have pesto. I freeze my pesto in either ice cube trays or small plastic containers. Note. You can omit the pine nuts and the pesto is still yummy. If you want to try something a bit different you can omit the olive oil and throw in a small jar of sundried tomatoes that are packed in olive oil. The sundried tomato pesto makes a really, really yummy pizza sauce.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thoughts From a Smoker

Last summer, at a garage sale, I was able to purchase - for the amazing sum of $5 - a Brinkman charcoal smoker. The transaction was completed right before my youngest kiddo threw up on the lawn at the garage sale. The gentleman loading the smoker into the back of my pickup informed me that it was a good thing I had already paid for the the smoker - as the price would be a lot more now that he had to clean up vomit.

I hauled the smoker home and it sat in front of the garage for about 6 weeks. I was excited about the smoker and I thought my hubby would be as well, but neither of us knew anything about smoking. (or inhaling for that matter) My favorite (and only) father-in-law scoffed about using a $5 garage sale smoker, he had an electric one at his house and was sure it was superior.

Just as I was about ready to give away the smoker to a girlfriend my husband said "No, let's keep it and try it out." So we did . . . and we have used it over and over and over again. We love smoking. Pork roasts, country ribs, chickens and even a turkey. Just yesterday I put two pork roasts in the smoker at about 1pm and by 6:30 we feasted on tender, flavorful smoked pork. My thoughtful hubby had picked corn so we roasted corn and fingerling potatoes on the bbq to accompany our smoked pork. Yummy! My father-in -law has also become a convert, judging by the way he ate while he was here for the last month!

My point: this is a really easy, cheap, and non messy way to cook dinner. We didn't know anything about this when we started out . . . we just dove in and tried it out. I'm including a recipe for a really good rub that is good on chicken, pork and turkey. I hope you find smoking as enjoyable as we do!

Sugarless Barbecue Rub:

This recipe makes about 1 cup of rub, but you can double it or triple it and store it for future use. I purchase paprika and most other spices used in the recipe in bulk at the natural food store.

1/3 cup salt
1/4 cup paprika
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1tablespoon cayenne

Combine all of the ingredients. When you are ready to use this rub, sprinkle it heavily and then rub it into the meat. Because there is no sugar in this rub it can be used on the bbq as well as with indirect heat from a smoker.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Summer is Over?

Today is the last day of summer vacation. I'm torn. I'm glad the kids will be returning to school and making new friends and playing sports and enjoying all of their new school supplies. I'm bummed becasue we have had sooo much fun this summer.

Trips to the river with friends, cooking and canning and picking corn and berries. A trip to Montana for my mom's 70th birthday and camping at my parents cabin at McDonald pass. Time has flown by so quickly.

I named this blog Life. In a Jar. Everyone I look in my kitchen I am surrounded by jars. Some of the are filled with delightful things like bludeberry bbq sauce, or spicy peaches, or maple onion jam. The jars that are filled with food are also filled with memories we mad while picking the blueberries or trying to decided which combination of flavors will be the best. Some of the jars may be filled with a tear or two shed over a fight with my husband or my teenage daughter. Some are spicy, some are sweet and some are just plain horrible. Kind of like life, I guess.

I'm still surrounded by empty jars as well, ones that are waiting to be filled up with pumpkin butter and carrot cake jam. Beans and cucmbers from the garden. Corn and carrots. Some are empty because we have shared the goodness inside with family and friends while we all ate and talked and laughed and loved and cried.

No, I'm not really ready for summer to be over despite all of the goodness that fall brings. I have enjoyed every minute of this summer . . . even the fights and the tears and the angst that raising a teen daughter can bring. I will savor every last bit of sunshine today and the day with my kids before school starts again and our lifes are dicated by homework and routine and field trips and boy friends. Today, my life is like a jar, just waiting to be filled up. It may be both good and bad but I'll take it all.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Life. In a Jar. That is the name of my newest blog effort. I've tried twice before to blog, I even updated my previous blog once. I'm not sure why I'm beginning this blog, except to say that I have some thoughts I want so share - and some life experiences that I think you will enjoy.

An example: My hubby and I recently embarked on a trip to Joplin, Montana to attend a funeral. Many of you (count your blessings) will not be familiar with Joplin, Montana and that is okay. Let me say this about Joplin: as you drive into the "proper" town you come upon a sign (made by my father-in -law) that proclaims Joplin as the "Biggest Little City on Earth". Joplin, Montana is located at the most north-central part of Montana. One of it's redeeming qualities is the Sweetgrass Hills. They stand tall in an otherwise flat, boring part of the world. People talk about the "hills". My husband and his father talk about the "hills". The minister at the funeral we attended talked about the "hills", relating them to the hills David referred to in the Psalms. I don't go to Joplin very often ( except for funerals it seems). But those Sweetgrass Hills do have a draw. They stand out, proud and tall and they don't seem to change from season to season, or year to year.

The funeral my husband I attended was for his aunt. She was born and raised in Joplin and had been married for 66 years. 16 years ago she suffered a stroke and her husband made sure he was by her side everyday, he was her companion, her right hand and her best friend. She was short. Really short. One of her sons remarked at her funeral that it was fitting that the tallest short lady on earth was being remembered (and buried) in the biggest little city on earth.