Monday, January 30, 2012

Birthday Blessings and General Updates

This has been a busy month and once again, I am so behind on blogging!  I have just got to get with it, especially since I recently made the decision that our family blog may be my new alternative/additive (?) to the traditional scrapbooking that I can’t seem to get done, either.  I recently began fiddling around with a “blog-to-book” service  that actually “sucks” your posts right out of your blog (pictures and text) and throws them on some pages.  You can use their free editing software to make changes to make it better suit your liking, then upload your finished product to their website where they will print a hardcover (or softcover) book for you.  I am in the middle of editing a book that has all of the posts that I have done so far, and I must say, once I got the hang of it, it has been pretty fun.  I’m over halfway done and am itching to get it finished.  I must warn you that since this may be our new “scrapbook”, it might get a little boring for a lot of people, but I’m so excited about the books that I’m going to post as much as I can!
The good things that have happened this month have been birthday blessings.  We recently celebrated Alan’s birthday and he was a pretty happy guy.  Everyone read the memo and he received cash – his one true love – and it will come in handy when it’s time for him to buy his car.  He will be going back to Yellowstone in May which is a blessing in itself because the Albertson’s grocery store is closing this month.  I couldn’t believe it!  That was the first place I learned how to navigate to when we first moved here, and the pharmacist and I were on a first-name basis!  Alan feels so very badly for all of the other employees there who do not have a Yellowstone to which they can go.  He is feeling very lucky, indeed!

My birthday present from Robert came a week early.  We went on another of our infamous Saturday rides and ended up at the Russell Feed Store.  I had to laugh as I carried my present into the house.  Last year he surprised me with two chickens and this year…well, here she is:
Introducing:  NestlĂ©, my new “chocolate” bunny!

He not only bought the rabbit, he bought a starter kit so that we would have everything we needed to get her set up.  I later added this little basket bed and she absolutely loves it!

She has been outside some, and when she is not being held and snuggled, she gets to run around the house some, too.  At first, Molly was intensely interested in her, but after a while the magic faded and Molly returned to her old routine:

Mandy and her family came over for dinner on Sunday to help me celebrate my birthday.  Mandy has recently gotten into baking and I was so surprised when she came bearing cupcakes.  Aren’t they beautiful?  (And they tasted good, too!)

Not all things have been wonderful.  The most beautiful child in the world has been sick for what seems forever, and she can tug at your heartstrings with her misery:

However, even in her illness, she is still Miss Independent and her mother snapped a picture of her in the doctor’s office.  While other children were sitting in their mothers’ laps, clutching at them for all that’s dear, our girl wanted to sit alone:

After this weekend’s diagnosis of bronchitis, the doctors have finally concluded that a regular regimen of maintenance drugs and breathing treatments are going to be required to keep her chronic allergies and asthma at bay.  My poor girl!
In other news, Opal has finally started to lay eggs on a regular basis, and it is so exciting to go out every day and find this:

We also recently had a significant rain event which helped to replenish our lakes a bit, although we still have a way to go to really counter the effects of the drought we have been enduring.  It rained for two-and-a-half days straight, and afterwards, all of the neighborhood critters were quite hungry.  I was tickled to look out one day and see them enjoying the food that I put out for my feathered and furry friends:

That’s what’s going on in Woodbury World.  Hope things are great wherever you are!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Minestrone Soup – My Soup/Chili Hybrid

I thought I would share my recipe for what our family calls “minestrone soup” (even though it is really more like a cross between soup and chili – perhaps I should call it a “sili”?).  Anyway, it is so easy that it’s ridiculous and yet it has withstood scrutiny during countless pot lucks and “company” meals.

Minestrone Soup – Basic Recipe
1 lb. ground beef
2 cans of Campbell’s minestrone soup
1 15-oz can of Ranch Style beans
1 can of Rotel tomatoes (Original flavor)

Brown the ground beef and drain.  In a larger pot combine the cooked ground beef, soup, beans, and tomatoes.  There is no need to add any additional liquid.  Let it simmer until nice and hot.  Serve topped with shredded cheese and you have dinner!
(NOTE:  The above recipe is the basic recipe that I received years ago.  The thing I really like about it is that you can tweak it to suit your taste and your headcount.  For one thing, all you really have to worry about is getting it hot; however, I have found that the longer it cooks, the better it tastes.  I actually prefer to brown the meat and then let the whole thing cook in the crock pot for a good while. Even though the recipe called for the original flavor of Rotel tomatoes, we have decided that we like the mild flavor better for this recipe.  Need to stretch it a little bit for unexpected guests?  You can always add a little more meat or even another can of soup and/or beans.  When the whole family is getting together I use closer to 2 lbs. of meat and 3 cans of soup and it still tastes great.  My mother likes to eat her sili with crackers, while I like to mix in a few Fritos in my bowl.  We have also made dinner rolls or corn muffins to fluff it up a little.)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Long Road to Christmas

We enjoyed Christmas this year…the actual day that is.  But I have to say that this year the road to get there was quite long.  The season began with me having a good start on gift-buying, and I was anticipating that this early finish would give me the rest of the season to just sit back…enjoy…maybe do a little baking and other fun holiday stuff.  (As you can see, the tree made it up, and there are gifts underneath.)  But The Grinch had other plans, and this year we celebrated the fact that we were able to celebrate at all.
The main culprit was illness.  Everyone was sick!  Even my computer had a virus and was out of commission until I could get it fixed (leaving me looking for a support group for those suffering from blog withdrawal).  Paisley, Mandy and Jeromy were all very, very sick, prompting  the beautiful, real tree that they had put up this year to be removed from the premises.  They were hoping that this would help with Paisley’s asthma, and while it may have helped some, their nights were still filled with administering breathing treatments and getting no sleep, all while feeling the effects of their own illnesses.  There were little respites here and there, in between bouts of illness, and the most beautiful child in the world did get to visit Santa:

Unfortunately, by the time the Lackey ornament exchange rolled around, Jeromy attended solo while Mandy stayed home with a very sick little girl.  For those of you who don’t remember the Lackey ornament exchange, it is an absolutely beautiful custom Jeromy’s family has.  (You can read more about it here.)  It makes me want to be a Lackey!  Well, this year I bought another ornament for Paisley’s stash.  I found it on eBay and it is a Peter Rabbit ornament:
This year I was all about Peter Rabbit.  I bought her a board book and a stuffed Peter (both from Amazon), and I can’t wait until she is old enough for me to read her the little set of Beatrix Potter books that I bought for us.  I hope that one day she will see her Peter Rabbit ornament hanging on her tree and tell her children about sitting with her old Lolee, reading all about the naughty little bunny!
On an unrelated note,  I found this picture of Paisley in her mother’s stash.  Not sure what that expression was all about, but I thought it was so cute!
Meanwhile, at our house, Mom and I had gone to the VA Hospital on December 8th for a pre-op visit.  Mom was scheduled for a hernia repair on the 12th and they wanted to do all of the blood work, x-rays and what-not.  She had been coughing (who hadn’t), but we didn’t think that much of it.  After being there for quite some time we were informed that she would not be having surgery on the 12th, but instead was being admitted that very day due to the fact that she had pneumonia.  Talk about a surprise!  We hadn’t even packed a bag.
For the next few days, I kept the road hot between our house and the VA.  I blew down the road listening to my Stevie Nicks CD, singing along as best I could.  However, I wasn’t feeling so hot myself and as the days wore on and I grew more ill, I began to sound more and more like Stevie.  (Note to self:  Listening to Stevie, especially “Rhiannon”, makes you drive way too aggressively.  When navigating heavy traffic, you might want to consider putting in your John Denver CD.  Just sayin’…)
Anyway, I was so sick that when Mom was released, she had to go to my sister’s house for a couple of days and Robert had to go get her and bring her home.  We thought she was getting better, but the Thursday before Christmas she informed me that she just wasn’t feeling very well, so we blew back down the road to VA (listening to talk radio this time).  Sure enough, she was still suffering from pneumonia, but was sent home with some major antibiotics and instructions to do regular breathing treatments.  Since my mother is the candy-maker-in-chief, this Christmas will forever be known as “The Christmas Without Home-Made Fudge.”  Needless to say, my stuffed gingerbread dolls and my reindeer sitting in the rocking chair didn't make it out to their honorary spots in the family room, either.
Robert was able to go a day or so before Christmas and visit his mother and sister (and his sister’s family).  This is the way it has been for the last few years.  With all of the dogs (and now chickens) to take care of, he and I rarely go anywhere together if it is going to be for very long.  However, I really don’t mind.  His family is so nice, and he loves getting to see them whenever he can.  Here are pictures from his visit with “Grandma Lynda and the bunch”:

Robert had bought his sister this big old bear as a special gift because it reminded him of one she had as a little girl.  Apparently, ever-so-naughty young Robert used to taunt poor Susan by punching in her bear’s nose or using a make-shift noose to hang it from  the back of her door.  Luckily, he has grown up (at least a little) and this bear did not suffer any such torture:

The limpy-gimpies were able to put together a little Christmas Eve dinner (sandwiches on little rolls, etc.) and this was the night we would open our gifts to each other.  The most beautiful child in the world arrived and posed for a picture with her mother:
Jeromy was kind enough to be the one to pass out the gifts (this is normally Alan’s job, but he was working at Albertson’s until 9:00 p.m. and we thought Miss Lackey wouldn’t last that long!):
Everyone received wonderful things, but of course, our focus was on you-know-who.  Her Grandma Lynda crocheted  the cutest little cape and hat (ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL!):
Dee Dee bought her a little rocking horse that sings and makes a “clip-clop” sound when you squeeze his ear.  Giddy-up!
And Grump-Pa surprised her with a big old bear, too!  Perfect for snuggling up with:

We were surprised that we were all still rolling when Alan came dragging in, but we were, and he was able to share in the evening after all:
This was the Christmas without a lot of our usual trappings.  There was neither fudge nor peanut clusters, no driving around looking at lights, no making cookies and such for neighbors and friends.  This year we were stripped to the very basics – faith and family.  Yet even Mandy remarked that this was one of her favorite Christmases of all.  She said that each gift was more thoughtful and she felt that each moment they spent with both our family and Jeromy’s family was even more special.  I felt the same way.  I remember that the very first Christmas came without fudge and cookies and plush gingerbread men decorations, too.  The road to Christmas may have been long, but in the end, it came… it came… it came just the same!  (And we loved it!)