Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bread Baking Problems Fixed

Since we moved to our new home, I have had a problem baking bread.  I kept baking it, but it wasn't turning out the way I wanted.  Sometimes it was fit to eat, but other times it was used to feed the neighbor's cows.  The cows have had so much food from me that they run to me anytime they see me.  We now have a relationship that involves a lot of mooing on their part.   The last straw was when I served half done biscuits one morning.  I couldn't get them baked.  I marched myself to Walmart and went in search of an oven thermometer.  It cost me $5.50, but it saved my sanity.  I was starting to think that I had lost my touch at baking bread and sweets!  I discovered that my oven was off by 50 degrees, and even more than that the higher the baking temperature.  I had my oven adjusted at 475 degrees to bake my biscuits, but it was only baking at 375!  That explains all of my issues...well, at least the issues with my baked goods!  I am now leaving the thermometer in the oven and using it to adjust my temperatures.  It was a quick fix that got me ready to bake a loaf of bread once again.  Now all I have to do is get over this nasty cold!

grace and peace,

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Scripture

"It is better to trust in the Lord than to put your confidence in man."  Psalm 118:25

Friday, August 27, 2010

Memories of a Father

It has been five years since I heard him laugh or felt the touch of his hand.  It has been five years since I looked into the beauty of his blue eyes or heard him call me Julie Bell.  This past year has found him in more of my thoughts than in times past.  I am sure that he has been there so often because it was a hard year, and when hard years come he was always a safe place.  I remember when I was just fifteen years old.  A small occurrence happened that seemed like the size of the universe to my young heart.  He was watching t.v. on the couch.  He called me to sit down beside him. I obeyed.  As soon as he put his arm around me, my tears flowed like a river.  He held me while I sat there and cried into his chest.  He promised me that my heart would heal soon, and he was right.  The feeling of safety that a Daddy's arms brings to a daughter never leaves... even when the Daddy leaves.  Where there once were silly phrases like, "Cat for to make a pair of kitty britches with" now all that are left are memories of a long ago childhood.  Memories that sometimes flood my mind and heart unexpectedly, and leave traces of tears running down my cheeks or laughter pouring from my lips.  My older children have their own memories of this man that they called Papaw.  My younger children have fewer memories of him.  And the youngest child of all only knows him through the stories that are told to him. 

But my memories are etched in my heart for a life time.  

grace and peace,

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fun At Fall Creek Falls

  Matthew and several of his friends came down this weekend for a visit.  We took all of them to Fall Creek Falls to spend the day.  Fall Creek Falls is my favorite Tennessee State Park.  Our family had been there about 7 years ago.  I was pregnant with our last child at the time.  My mom and dad brought their camper and we spent several days enjoying the beauty of the area.  Seven years ago I would never have dreamed that we would live close to Fall Creek Falls.

Here are some of the boys enjoying the waterfall.  It was cold, but apparently the water hits with a lot of force.  This was the reason for the faces!

Seth was mad because he had to play in the calm water instead of climbing up the rocks to the falls.  I promised him that in just a few blinks of the eye that he too would grow big enough to follow his older brothers.   He was still mad, but was willing to cool off in the water while waiting for the rest of them. 

We packed a picnic and grilled at the park.  Grilled hamburgers, chips, store bought desserts, and a large watermelon were all on the menu.  This was a spur of the moment trip so I wasn't able to make food ahead of time.  You know what?  It was nice not to have to make a whole bunch of homemade goodies to head out for the day.  It was kind of like a vacation day for me.  When we got  back home, my kitchen was still clean!If you ever get into this area of Tennessee, you must head out to Fall Creek Falls.  Trust me...it is worth it!!! 

grace and peace,

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Laughing is Good for the Heart

When all of our family is together, our house is full of laughter.  You know that deep down in your belly kind of laughter.  It does tend to get loud sometimes...

But I guess we should have thought of that before having five children!

It is often loud enough to drive the Mastiff under the table to look for a quiet refuge.  You know what?  I would rather hear my children laugh than fight so I am good with it!  When was the last time you laughed with your family?  Why not try it tonight at dinner?  You too may be under the table looking for refuge, but it beats an argument any day!

grace and peace,,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Glimpse Into My Schedule

As a reader and writer of blogs, I often am curious about how other people order their days.  I am not nosey, but what I am looking for is something to make my day easier or more organized.  You know.... a better way to do a common chore.  I have decided to share with you a common week in my world now that school has started.  Please keep in mind this is a loose outline of how my time is spent during the day.  Each and every day has unexpected things come up in the day.  Some of those things are good and some of them are bad, but they all have to be dealt with one way or the other.

My day usually starts somewhere between 5:45- 6:00 a.m.  It is during this time that my husband is getting ready for work and I am downstairs making breakfast, packing his lunch, and trying to get my eyes open!  (Before we go to bed at night, I usually ask a child to put coffee on for the next morning.  This chore consists of grinding the coffee beans and filling up the pot with water.  The next morning all I have to do is pour the water in the maker.  This not only saves me time in the morning, but it makes me happy.  You know like somebody else made coffee for me)!

6:30 a.m.  Michael is out the door, and I have a few minutes to take a quick shower and get dressed.  By 6:45, I am waking up all the kids to get ready for school.  We have about 30 or 35 minutes to get ready and eat breakfast.  The high school junior drives himself to school.  (I am so thankful that he has a car to do that)! I take the two middle school students to school.  I arrive back home around 8:00 a.m.  This is when the fun begins!  Seth and I eat a quick breakfast so we can get ready to start his school.  He is in 2nd grade this year.  By 8:30, we have finished breakfast and checked the kids rooms to finish anything that they may have left undone before school.  My kids are pretty good to make their beds and at least pile up their dirty clothes.  We are still working on them getting their dirty clothes to the laundry hamper!

Now it is time to work with Seth for school.  He gathers his backpack and heads to the kitchen table.  He spends a couple of hours working through his assignments. ( I have always loved the idea of having a school room.  The first house we lived in here in Tennessee had an area that we devoted to the school room.  It lasted about 2 weeks, and we moved school back up to the kitchen table.  This was when all of my kids were little and I was still home schooling the three older ones.  The school room concept didn't work because I was stuck away from the kitchen.  When I home school, I take the extra time in between kids' questions and I work on dinner or folding laundry.  I couldn't do this if I wasn't in the kitchen area).  Now my days are a bit different because I am only home schooling one of our children. I have more time in between questions to work on daily chores.   I teach the concept and while he works on it, I am busy preparing things for dinner or cleaning up the kitchen.  I am right there to answer any of his questions, but I want him to learn to work without me having to sit right beside him.  (If you are working with a child that still can't read, this method is not as effective).  After seat work is finished, I always give Seth a little bit of time to play.  He will often choose to go outside for a few minutes or sometimes he will play with toys.  This gives me a few minutes to check the computer or take care of any business things for our family.  We then come back together for reading, science, and social studies.  We always curl up together to read on the couch.  It is a fun time that we both enjoy.  After reading, we are finished with formal school time.  Here in Tennessee, I have to fulfill 4 hours of school time.  In order to do this, he will work on an art project or he may get on the computer.  He loves Webkins and he has learned a lot using this teaching game.  He then has about 2 hours to spend playing toys before the rest of the family starts coming back home.

After I finish school with Seth, I have about 2 1/2 hours before I have to leave to get the other kids.  It is during this time that I do housework.  Some days I may really concentrate on the floors other days I may hit all of the bathrooms in the house.  It kind of depends on the need at the moment and the mood that I am in at the time.  I also use part of this time to exercise on the treadmill.  Around 2:00, I am usually ready for a few quiet moments before it is time to head out the door again. 

2:30 p.m. finds Seth and I back in the truck heading out to get the middle school kids.  We are back home around 3:15 p.m.  The school kids are usually famished so they are raiding the refrigerator and getting ready to start home work at the kitchen table.  I am busy helping them while preparing more of dinner.  Michael gets home around 4:00 p.m.  We take a few minutes to chat as a family.  The kids are always ready to share their day with him.  He helps with any math homework that they have.  I stay in the kitchen for that!

Football season puts a kink in my usual dinner plans.  We have to eat in shifts because of the kids' schedules for practice.  I hate that, but I don't have any choice during the season.   After football season, we will all be back around the table for dinner once again. 

 Michael's new job comes with 16 months worth of school.  He did Nuclear Power School once already in our first year of marriage.  Now he is redoing it, but in a much shorter amount of time.  He is in an accelerated program that requires a lot of study time in the evening.  This has been a huge change for our family.  He spends a large chunk of his evening studying nuclear things.  His job depends on him doing well during this training so we are all very supportive of him.  We just don't like it very much.  I spend my time with the kids in the evening.  Sometimes we are watching t.v. together or sometimes we are sitting on the porch relaxing.  We always find time to talk no matter what we may be doing. 

Tuesday evenings find me and Hope at ballet.  Thursday and Friday evenings find our family at football games.  These nights I have to plan easy meals.  I usually have something in the crock pot or something like homemade pizzas or tacos.  

Around 9:00 p.m., we are all getting ready for the next day.  Kids are taking showers and clothes are being set out for the next day.  Any kitchen chores that need to be finished are getting completed.  9:30 p.m. brings bedtime for the kids.  The high school junior is allowed to stay up a little later.  By this age, I figure he is mature enough to go to bed when he needs to.  If he doesn't, then it is he who has to pay the consequences the next day.  I am almost always in bed between 10:00 to 10:30 p.m. If I had my way, it would be more like 9:30! 

As I said earlier, each day comes with its own set of challenges.  I try to multitask as much as I can.  While Hope is in ballet, I will do my grocery shopping for the week.  (Her instructor won't allow parents to watch or I would stay and watch her dance).  There are always errands that need to be ran or other things that are unforeseen.  I try to do all of these things when I am already out picking up or taking kids to school.  Fridays are my cleaning days.  I want the house cleaned and in order for the weekend.  We cherish our weekend times together.  Michael doesn't have to study on the weekends so we can enjoy being with him more.

What must get done everyday in my world?  Meals and laundry are always a part of my day.  The other chores can wait until the next day, but I have to feed everybody and they must have clean clothes.  I also make it a priority to spend some one on one time with each child.

Our life can be hectic.  We could slow the pace down by quiting sports and ballet.  However, I believe those things are good for our kids and they enjoy them.  We just have to make sure that the extra activities  don't steal away all of our time as a family.  We have to purpose to find the time to be together and laugh and make memories. 

grace and peace,

Monday, August 16, 2010

Weekend Happenings

This past weekend was full of fun activities, company, and a birthday celebration.  First, on Friday we had some dear friends drive an extra 4 hours out of the way to spend the day with us.  I can't believe I didn't get a picture, but I was busy visiting.  Later that day our oldest son's girlfriend also came to spend the weekend with us.  I was a little worried about her driving down by herself, but she made it just fine. Our son had to stay behind and work.  Such is the life of a college student who has to pay for an apartment!

After a fun filled Friday, we spent Saturday at the football field.  As  you can see by the picture, this football season will bring our boys playing for a new football team.  Jacob looks odd wearing the #21.  He has always had the #22 on all of his jerseys.  That number was already taken.  He is enjoying running the football for his new team, and he doesn't care what number is on his jersey as long as he can run the ball!  After spending the day at Jacob's jamboree, we then loaded up the family and headed to Chattanooga to watch Josh play for his new football team.  Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of him.  My camera got left on all day and the battery was dead.  I felt so bad about missing taking pictures of his first outing with his new team.   However, I did get to enjoy his performance.  He looked like a total different football player than in times past.  I was impressed.  It was during this moment that I missed our oldest son the most.  He would have just beamed if he could have watched his brothers play football.

In between football outings, we had a birthday to celebrate.  Since Chelsea wasn't with us on her actual birthday, we had to make sure we still celebrated her special day.  She chose a turtle cheesecake for her birthday dessert.  I was pleased with the new recipe.  I'll have to share it with you in a few days.  All of the fun, visiting, football, cooking, and eating made for one tired momma.  We were going to try and find a church this Sunday, but we were all wiped out from the previous days events.  I did take an hour long bubble bath on Sunday afternoon!  It was heavenly!

grace and peace,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Inside Tour of Our New Home

Since we are getting things in order in our new home, I thought I would show you around a bit.  Please keep in mind that we haven't hung anything on the walls as of yet.  We have only been in the house for 6 weeks.  This is a picture standing in my dining area looking at the front door.  We brought our couch that we had in our basement at the old house and put it in our great room.  It fits wonderfully and my family is enjoying having it in our main living area.

  This is a view of my kitchen.  I was standing at my dining room table when I took this shot.  Remember that our living area is a large great room that includes, living room, kitchen, and dining area.  My kitchen is small.  I almost went into a crying fit when I realized how small it really is.  Then I decided that I had to make it work.  I also realized that I had to use the top of the cabinets for storage so I wanted it to be as pretty as possible.  My stove is in the island.  I have to store all of our food in the laundry area that has a nice size closet.  It is just a few steps away from the kitchen so it is manageable.  This kitchen may be small, but over the last few weeks I have realized just how wonderful it is set up, making for a great cooking experience.  Over the winter, Michael will be making me a canning kitchen downstairs.  I will also have more storage area so I can get my pretty dishes and jars out of his shop.

There is a short hallway just off the kitchen area.  Down the hall, you will find the doorway to the basement, a bathroom, and the kids' rooms.  This is Hope's room.  It is a very large bedroom.  I would love to find her some beautiful bedroom furniture at an antique store.  For now she has her bed, bookshelf, and bean bag chair.  She has a small dresser in her closet.  She wants to paint it a lime green color.  I told her we would get to that soon. 

Across from Hope's room, you will find the room that houses all 3 boys.  This set up has worked out much better than I thought it would.  We must must must find the time to paint this room.  The yellow is so bright that I almost have the urge to find a pair of sunglasses before entering!  The boys have all been good sports about it, and for that I am thankful. 

If you go up the stairs by the front door, you will come into our bedroom.  This picture doesn't do a good job showing the amount of space that we have in our room.  It is truly a sanctuary that we are enjoying. 

Our master bathroom is huge!  I never thought I would enjoy a large master bathroom.  That was always Michael's dream, but never one I cared to desire.  Let me tell you...he was right.  It is glorious to have such a a large space. I also have a linen closet in here.  That too is something to enjoy!

Here is our loft area that is also located upstairs.  It is a large balcony area that overlooks the great room.  We have our computer, a couch, bookshelves, and a few of Seth's toys up here.  This area is in need of  some more of our attention.  I look forward to getting some pictures on the wall in here for sure!

See we still have plenty of boxes to unpack and things to organize!  I just stuck everything in the shop area!

Stay tuned over the next few months as we start to turn this house into a home with paint, hanging of pictures, and landscape.  We also have mountains of work to do in the shop area if I ever want Michael to build me some furniture.  I am tired just thinking about it!

grace and peace,

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Summer Visit

When Missy hasn't been busy hosting Reno and offering cold doggie drinks on the front porch...
She has been a playmate to maybe one of the cutest little girls I have ever seen in my life.  (Shh..don't tell Hope I said that)!
She has been giving kisses...
And playing trains...
And fetching balls... 
and being a snuggle pillow for this little girl. She also assigned herself the role of babysitter when this family came to visit.  The two youngest children could not go outside without Missy being by their side.  She had to make sure that they were safe at all times.

 It has been a full summer for Missy.  She was glad that yesterday was the first day of school.  She finally had time to catch up on her sleep!

grace and peace,

P.S.  If you have young children, babies, older children, or teenagers, an English Mastiff could be a perfect fit for your family.  I have never seen a dog be any more gentle than the English Mastiff.  She tolerates the explorations of children and she has a heart full of love for kids of all ages.  She is the perfect childhood companion for my kids.  Seth would like her to be a little more energetic, but she is always available for a good old fashion hug. 

Friday, August 06, 2010

Welcome to Our Home

I know I promised to show you the outside of our house weeks ago.  I may be slow, but I am at least going to fulfill that promise.  Our home is a Cape Cod house.  The front porch is in desperate need of some love and rocking chairs.  This isn't in the budget for this summer so camping chairs will have to do for now.  We are still enjoying the space and the evening and morning breeze that whispers in our ears.  We are also enjoying the neighbor's dog, cows, and horses.  This may become our new idea of farming.  We are also taking some time to think about landscaping.  What do we do with this area in front of the house?  Time will tell, but we are open for suggestions and ideas.

This is our side yard view.  See the neighbor's cows?  We feed them left over scraps.  They are realizing that this fence line is the place to be.  There have been many corn husks and watermelon rinds thrown over there recently. 

This is the view from our front porch.  See the mountains in the background?  They aren't quite as beautiful as the mountains in Greeneville, but they are still mountains none the less.  The Lord knew my heart.  The mountains have been something I have enjoyed greatly every since we moved to Tennessee from Florida.  I was so afraid that we wouldn't get to enjoy the views in our new home, but God had a different plan.  I am pleased.  We finally closed on our home last week.  We had a few minor glitches here and there, but in the end we signed the papers.  This is another miracle in our life.  (I don't use that word lightly).  If you had asked me 3 months ago if we could really buy a house, I would have had to say "No".  It didn't look like it from all of the indications.  We had decided to rent, but that didn't work out either.  To make a long story short, the Lord opened the doors and brought us exactly to the place we needed to be.  I am more than thankful...my heart is overjoyed with thanksgiving!

grace and peace,