Monday, November 26, 2007

Caffeine Withdrawal

Yesterday was a LONG day. We left at 7:30 a.m. and got back around 10:30 p.m. Hubby was feeling pretty miserable by then, his throat quite sore and the cough seems to have moved into his chest.

Stumbling into the kitchen this morning I was dismayed to find we were out of regular coffee. I'd used the last of it yesterday but totally forgot and we didn't have time to stop and pick it up anyway. So... I made a pot with the decaf and tried to pretend it was regular.

Didn't work. Ugh. Within an hour I had a caffeine withdrawal headache. Took aspirin. Didn't help. At 10 a.m. I popped open a can of diet Coke in an effort to mainline caffeine into my system.

Didn't work. Now I know why. My system is used to coffee. Coffee has more caffeine than any other beverage (except those weird energy drinks), about 110-150 milligrams per cup.

I learned this interesting fact when I cracked open a book from the library: "Life Is Meals: A Food Lover's Book of Days" by James and Kay Salter. The info about caffeine is found on January 4th.

I also learned that in Turkey coffee was so essential that denying a wife her coffee gave her 'grounds' for divorce (LOL I love puns!).

I'm a bit of a coffee snob. Not a big fan of Maxwell House. My favorite is Millstone's hazelnut flavored beans that I grind in the store (one of these days I'll invest in a grinder of my own). Cooks Illustrated did a taste comparison of supermarket brands a while back and Millstones was ranked pretty high. But we've tried coffees from all over and have found, in general, we favor a mild to mid-roast bean done in a drip machine or french press.

And both hubby and I are partial to hazelnut creamer. Other flavors just wear thin after a while but we've found that hazelnut never gets old. Problem is: this stuff is getting more and more expensive! When we started using the creamer it was around $1.50 for the large container. That's jumped up to over $3 which is just flat out painful! We tried to wean ourselves off, trying hazelnut syrup or just sugar. But we didn't enjoy our coffee nearly as much, and after much agonizing decided this was an area where we'd splurge and just get the creamer. Since we typically drink only one cup each morning, it's not so bad.

Can't handle caffeine in the evening, so we keep regular and decaf on hand. I once had a cup of Turkish coffee at a Greek Festival at ten in the morning. I was still awake and totally wired the next morning at 3 a.m. Even in college I couldn't handle it.

Hubby drank too much recently and literally got sick. He had the shakes and felt really weird, and it took hours before the symptoms subsided. Realized later he'd had the equivalent of eight cups of coffee and doctors agree that four cups a day is the limit before starting to experience a caffeine overdose. At least he didn't have to go to the hospital like the girl in this article.

All this talk about coffee makes me want a cup and I DO have decaf. Hmmm, think I'll go make a pot.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Recliner Kind of Day

We came home from Indiana yesterday, still groaning from the excessive food intake on Thursday. And I kept it to one plate! Honest. Plus I ate nothing after the pie we had at 4 p.m. (and then only one piece!). Just can't put it away like I used to, nor would I want to. Even so, I felt like the Goodyear blimp all through Friday.

Hubby wasn't feeling so great yesterday so he went to bed early. Unfortunately the extra shut eye did not help and he awoke with a raging cold and sore throat. Poor guy! Worst possible time to get sick. Although we've had meetings pretty steadily all fall, tomorrow is the first (and only) full day scheduled. He's teaching Sunday School, preaching in both the morning and evening services, and we'll be gone from early until late. :-(

So we're pumping him full of Shaklee products: Immunity 1, Nutriferon, Defend & Resist. He's lounging on the couch and going over notes for his messages while I sit in the recliner and began the tedious work of catching up on data input.

Whenever we visit a church we offer a sign-up sheet for those interested in receiving our prayer letters. I hadn't added new ones from the last few churches so that had to be done. And I'm editing the existing address book to include any and all info we might have on folks already 'in the system'. I'm about 3/5 of the way through that. BIG job! I had no idea until recently that my yahoo account offered the option of organizing the info into a format for snail mail labels. A great feature when we want to send something (like new prayer cards) instead of just the standard prayer letter via e-mail.

So this is a recliner kind of day, typing while the laptop keeps my legs warm, surrounded by (1) rolodex, (2) personal address book, (3) church directory, and (4) local phone book. All necessary as I expand that database to include addresses and phone numbers. Given my propensity for being uncoordinated, getting up for potty breaks is a study in hilarity. Each time I carefully move said items so I can set the laptop on the side table, enabling me the freedom to get out of the chair. BUT each time I either knock something over, catch the computer cord in the chair, step on a stray piece of paper causing me to slip while trying to stand up... You get the picture.

My klutziness is legendary. Really. *sigh* You see, it's inherited and no amount of care on my part seems to make a lick of difference. I learned this cruel fact early on, at the tender age of 14. We had moved back to Kentucky when my mom got really sick and lost her job. We hadn't been back long when she sent me to the store for a few things. It's a small town (population less than 800) but having moved there from the Detroit 'burbs, I hadn't yet learned that everyone knows everyone. So I do my shopping, and head to the checkout lane. Suddenly I'm grabbed by a very old, sort of shriveled up toothless man who starts jabbering in a language I'm still trying to learn (commonly known as Southern English). To say I was freaked out is an understatement. But for the huge smile on his face, I would have been even more frightened. Finally I began to understand what he was trying to communicate. He was saying, "Yer Georgie's girl ain't ye?! Ye walk jest like 'er!"

So there you have it. As I discovered, being descended from the Stidhams meant I walked a certain way -- like a drunkard. Some can trace their family back to the Mayflower, or at least to some prominent person. I come from a family of klutzes who walks into doorways, trips over their own feet, and who are unable to do anything in a straight line. In my case it goes even farther. I can't eat a meal without spilling something down my front. I can be counted on to knock something over even from a distance of several feet. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to injuring myself (slamming fingers in doors and so on). And, as evidenced from today, I cannot rise gracefully from a recliner.

But boy am I hot when it comes to data input! Lightening fast fingers skim the keyboard! So let's just look at the positive, shall we? Focus on what I CAN do. And pray that I manage to get this posted before I knock the computer onto the floor and lose all that I've just accomplished.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Mechanics of Mashed Potatoes

With fifteen of us crowded around the table yesterday, I obviously didn't hear all the interesting conversations. But I learned of one while talking late into the night with Daughter.
Apparently there is a level of engineering involved in 'building' the perfect Thanksgiving plate. And her brother achieved just such a perfect plate yesterday. Daughter has always been impressed with everything big brother does; that hasn't changed in the 21 years she has been his little sister. But she was totally wowed by his construction expertise yesterday.
You begin with the mashed potatoes, piling the mound smack dab in the middle of the plate, carefully creating the perfect crater for gravy, and then adding the remaining items in a clockwise fashion around the edge of the plate until there is nary a spot of plate showing through. I understand it was truly a marvel of engineering.
But Daughter is a chip off the old block and, following in the footsteps of her father and brother, she showed her resourcefulness when, shortly into the meal, disaster struck. "My moat broke! My moat broke!" she shouted. With nary a thought for her own safety, she dived in and quickly repositioned a large chunk of stuffing that immediately staved off the tidal wave of gravy from washing over the other food items. (Not that this is a bad thing, since everything tastes better with gravy, but it's the principal of the thing.)
Stuffing is a particularly good construction material because it is already glutenous from time spent inside the turkey breast. And it works a lot better than trying to re-position mashed potatoes which is sort of like the man who built his house upon the sand, or the little piggy who built his house with straw. Just not the most stable or sturdy building material.
So now you know how to both build the perfect Thanksgiving plate AND save the day when you moat breaks.
Unless you're like my husband who just goes ahead and pours gravy over everything to begin with.
Whatever floats your boat in the gravy of life.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Last Thanksgiving (not to be confused with the Last Supper)

Our last Thanksgiving in the U.S. for a few years. *sigh*
I did really well and haven't gotten emotional like I feared.
It helped that it was a fun/funny kind of day.
We drove down to my in-laws yesterday, hauling yet another load of Tina's things. It's a really good thing that she's moving into the basement apartment at her grandparents because she has so much STUFF and will have way more room here than she would have had if she stayed in Michigan (she had a small studio apartment lined up).
After I got the turkey in the oven this morning I started working on her bedroom curtains. She bought some great fabric at Joann's last week when the clearance fabric was an additional 50% off. Oh yeah, I raised that girl right!
She's going for a cottage look in her bedroom and bath and it's looking fab. u. lous! We combined two white fabrics for the curtains. The panel tops are a lovely white on white embroidered linen and the bottoms a luscious Christopher Lowell lightweight velvet. She is using clips on rings to hang them, so she can easily switch out curtains when the mood strikes her.
I finished the last seam as everyone started arriving. I can't remember when I've ever gotten my timing down so well before. Nope, because it's never happened!
I like cooperative dinner efforts when no one person is burdened with a lot of work. I made the turkey and stuffing, then the gravy from the drippings. Others made the mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, roasted root vegetables, layered salad, pumpkin pie and pecan pie. Yummy!
After stuffing our faces with the main course, we filed downstairs where Ivan had set up the projector. Earlier he started going through old slides, transferring them to the computer so we could have a 'slide show' from long ago. My in-laws were missionaries for almost 50 years so of course they have lots of slides!
Dad cannot remember anyone any more, and mom has a hard time remembering names but between Ivan and his sister, they were able to figure out who half the people were. And the rest of us had fun making silly comments.
"Isn't that Lyle Lovett?"
"Sure looks like Donny Osmond to me."
"Oh, those are the Johnsons." (how did my daughter know this? it really freaked me out until I saw that behind the family was a wall plaque reading "Johnsons" LOL)
We also enjoyed figuring out which decade the photos were taken.
"Definitely 60s!"
"I don't know, looks sort of like the 40s but could be early 50s."
"Ooo, I had glasses like that! The kind that looked like you had them on upside down."
Ivan had been working on this for a couple of hours, so it was a LONG slide show. By the time we finished it was obvious that nourishment was in order so up the stairs we tromped for pie.
Have I mentioned the pecan pie? My DIL made it, and it was AMAZING! She said she used the Martha Stewart recipe for pie dough which calls for LOTS of butter. Oh my goodness, I could have eaten the whole pie by myself! Unfortunately there were 14 other hungry folk who made short work of both pies and the Pepperidge Farms Milano cookies. Oh well.
My son and DIL brought their new puppy with them. He's four months old and 35 lbs.! But he is a cutie; black lab and shepherd mix so you just know he's gotta be smart. I forgot to ask how the cats are taking Leo's arrival. Natalie has had Dickens a long time, Libby a couple of years, and we know how most cats feel about dogs. They've had Leo a couple of weeks and I'm guessing Dickens still hasn't come out of the closet yet. That's his coping mechanism for any kind of change. Libby is a feisty little thing and has probably made it very clear that although Leo may be bigger, she's still the boss!
While cleaning up I made some comment about making a particular food for next year, and then said, "Oh, you can do that because we won't be here." SIL said, "I hadn't thought about that! Even though I know you're leaving in a few months, I just hadn't thought about you not being here next year."
Yep, that's how I am a lot of the time. I stop myself just about every day to remind myself I won't be here to do this or that because we'll be gone by the time it comes around. Not just holidays, but things like concerts and plays coming up, seeing the lilac bushes bloom in the spring (reminder to self: ask Ivan if they have lilacs in Argentina), older friends who winter in the south and won't return until after we're gone...
I really am excited about going! But I do get a little melancholy at times thinking about what I'll miss here. Mostly my kids. Friends and family. My home church. The public library. Free concerts at the college. Barnes & Nobles. Goodwill. Yard sales. Highway rest areas.
But for tonight, I'm just thankful for the really great day we've had and the blessing of having spent it with family.
God is good!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving 1967

Thanksgiving 1967 sticks in my mind. I was almost 9 years old and we'd made it through the Detroit riots unscathed, having moved out of our house for most of the summer and in with friends across town. As a single parent, my mom didn't like leaving us home with a young (late teens) babysitter while she went to work evenings in a restaurant. Even after the official riots were over, things simmered for months and you never knew where trouble would break out. Things were pretty quiet in our neighborhood but just a couple miles away buildings had been burned and looted.
We moved in with another single mom and her kids and went from having plenty of space and a nice yard, to living in a 2 bedroom trailer and no yard, right next to a busy street. The oldest of the 7 kids was 12, the youngest 3. Both moms worked the 2-10 p.m. shift but it was half a block away and we were expected to behave ourselves without benefit of a sitter.
It was with this same family that we celebrated Thanksgiving that year. Having moved back home when school started in September, my sister and I were excited to be reunited with our 'summer' family for Thanksgiving. The nine of us, plus some of their extended family, crammed into the tiny dining room in the trailer. With all that body heat in such a small space and the oven going full blast, it got so hot we had to open the windows even though it was a typical cold November day in Michigan!
I'm sure we had a traditional turkey dinner, but I don't really remember the food. What I remember was how much fun we had playing in and around the trailer. I remember how the youngest stripped down to his underwear during the meal and no one thought it odd (except me). I remember there was lots of laughter and the feeling of being cocooned in that tiny trailer. The wind whipped outside, scattering the few leaves left on the trees, but inside it was warm and cozy.
As a child I didn't fully understand what transpired that summer, but sensed my mom's uneasiness and a feeling I recognize now as fear. In 1968 we moved back to Kentucky for a few months and I think it was a coping mechanism on her part. I can't even imagine what it must have been like for her to contend with raising two kids on her own during that scary time.
But that Thanksgiving all felt right with our world and the 'warm fuzzies' from that day will be with me always.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Christmases Past

Reminiscing over Christmases past brings to mind some of my favorite gifts. One year my younger sister and I were delighted with a kitchen set and we had so much fun hosting dinners and tea parties for friends and cousins.

I absolutely LOVED my Imagination Dollhouse and enjoyed hours of moving around the wee little pieces of plastic furniture inside the transparent, brightly colored house and acting out what I thought of as a 'normal' family. That's one toy I wish I'd kept to pass on! It was practically indestructible (really good plastic!) so I'm pretty sure it's taking up space in some landfill and will never degrade.
I've gone through a few sewing machines over the years but my first one holds a special place in my heart. Received the Christmas I was nine, it was a toy but it really could sew and I made lots of doll clothes with it. That same year I got an EasyBake Oven and wasted a lot of batter attempting to make little cakes. Not sure if it was the oven or my lack of baking skills (which hasn't improved much) but very few cakes were ever edible.
My last doll was a beautiful bride doll which was immediately placed as a decorative item on my bed and never considered a toy. Remember how we'd set the doll near the top of the bed and spread her gown over the pillows? I named all my dolls and stuffed animals, and the bride doll became 'Barbara'. A few years ago I found one just like her in a nearby antique store and got really excited until I saw the price tag: $75! I can be as nostalgic as the next girl, but my parsimonious nature would not permit such an expenditure.
In recent years one of my favorite gifts was a heated mattress pad that goes under the sheets. What could be better than climbing between toasty warm sheets on a cold winter night? And the remote car starter was another very well received gift, especially useful during cold weather. That came the Christmas after my husband's gift was cleaning out the garage so I could actually park in it (who would have thought you could use a garage for that?!) on cold winter nights [noticing a trend here with gifts designed to make life easier during the winter?].
Considering that I LOVE giving gifts, it's no surprise that I like getting them too :-) Wonder what will be in my stocking this year? Perhaps I'd better go work on that list for Santa...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

DVD Success!

Darling daughter Tina was successful in putting together the DVD presentation for us! Since I had laryngitis, she recorded the script as well (which is from my point of view). We sound enough alike that only people who know us really well will be able to tell the difference :-)

She worked on it right until the last minute on Saturday. My hubby sat down with her toward the end and they figured out some cool features to add a little pizzaz -- like the rain effect for the photo of a street scene on a rainy day, and stardust scattered over the princess picture. Fun!

So we shared it on Sunday during our visit to a church in Indiana and got some very positive feedback (all due to our daughter's exemplary technical skills!) so that was encouraging. Once I figure out how to load it, I'll share it on this blog.

Tuesday was a good day as anticipated, EXCEPT for that all day 'foggy brain' feeling. While cleaning up after supper last night I realized I'd forgotten to put the chicken into the chicken casserole for dinner! Notice: I didn't remember until I was CLEANING UP! LOL

But in spite of the foggy brain, I did finish a small quilt project. I promised an 11-year-old friend I'd put together a kit so she could make a quilted pillow cover. I made a sample cover (pictured below) and cut out the pieces for her kit. Always happy to help/inspire future quilters! I picked bright colors for the kit to go along with the happy dog center.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ease-y Day

Today was a good day.

Slept in…way in, until almost 9 a.m.!

Very nice after getting home quite late last night. We decided to drive home after the evening service, rather than waiting until this morning. Just wanted to be back in our own bed.

I was inspired to make an apple puff pancake for breakfast. Yum!

Eased into the day. After hubby carried in everything from the car (hadn’t felt like doing it when we got home so late) I finally started the laundry.

Wrote some thank you cards, took care of some e-mails, caught up on my favorite blogs…but at a leisurely pace.

Tonight I cooked up a chicken and de-boned it, plus made a coffee cake for tomorrow. It’s quilting Tuesday and I want time to actually sew rather than spending most of the time in the kitchen.

Tuesdays are great! I get to spend time with friends and work on quilting projects. We laugh, we eat, we sew. Good times!

So I expect tomorrow to be a good day as well.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Don't Dis Me!

Once again we are attempting to create a short DVD to present our ministry in churches. It has become a bit of a joke because our numerous attempts over the past three years have all ended in disaster. Words that come to mind: disheartening, discouraging, disappointing…it’s like we’re being ‘dissed’!

So while I’m sick this week (read: good excuse to avoid housework and anything else deemed labor intensive) I’m kicking back in the recliner and seeing how far I can get in the process of creating a DVD before I hit the wall. Catch the note of cynicism?

First obstacle: The program we’d hoped to use isn’t working. After creating a file of all the photos and graphics I want to use, I began importing them. Less than half-way through, the program quit responding and that dreaded “error has occurred” box popped up. Tina suggested some possible fixes. Nothing worked.

So Tina said that if I got the script ready, tonight after she gets home from work she’ll help me create the DVD on her computer (a MacBook). She can use her flash drive to move the file of photos from my computer to hers. Oh, if it were only that easy! In theory it should work but I know from experience that something can – and will! – go wrong. Very wrong.

Will we be dissed yet again? Stay tuned for the eventual outcome.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Why It's Important To Move Once A Year

I am engaged in the dismantling of my life…as I’ve known it.

Preparing to move overseas, we sort through the accumulation of 28 years. That’s how long we’ve been married and amassing STUFF. Since we’ve decided not to take any furniture or appliances, and very little of the remaining extraneous items, that means –


for a limited time only

featuring everything from

cozy kitsch to convenient contraptions

FREE for the taking

So far our kids have been the happy recipients of most of our surplus. Wasn’t it convenient that our son and his new wife recently bought a house they need to fill with furniture? And that our daughter is moving into her first apartment in January and can also use a few of our favorite things? Funny how God times these circumstances!

But although it’s easy to part with these things, I must also admit the emotional drain from memories associated with them. For example, the coffee table is just wood creatively put together in a nice big (heavy!) form that’s convenient for piling on things, propping your feet, or using as almost anything except a coffee table (it has never held a ‘coffee table book’ and rarely been used decoratively, period). But oh the memories!...of playing games around it, doing craft projects at it with my daughter, and kicking back with friends with a pizza or two sitting atop it. When I called my husband to come help me haul it home from an auction, he was stunned at the sheer size of it (3’ x 5.5’) and scoffed at putting it in our small living space. But even he came to agree that it is one useful piece of furniture! And my favorite thing about it? It was old and scarred with use when I bought it, so I haven’t had to worry about messing it up!

Homes are smaller in Argentina. If the coffee table is a little big for our place here, it is definitely too big for there! So I don’t begrudge my daughter inheriting it early, and I know she’ll get many years of useful service from it. It’s not that I’ll miss the table, so much as I’ll miss what has taken place at the table over the years.

The bulk of the memories flooding back with various and sundry items involve our kids. Who aren’t kids any more, of course. But still. So it makes me happy that they are taking most of the things and will continue making memories with them.

But boy is it hard work getting rid of stuff! Just the sheer volume is overwhelming. I had always considered us fairly un-materialistic but I’m revising that thought as we wade through. It causes me to remember how well we managed with very little the year we spent in Africa. AND it makes me determined to make do with less in Argentina.

So what are we taking? Books, books, and more books. Since there are no public libraries I am taking my own library with me! With that in mind, I’ve been scouring library sales, used book stores, and the internet for books I can read and re-read. I did pare down my collection in the beginning, getting rid of anything that didn’t fall into the “might read again” category. I took almost 600 books to a used book store and another 200 to my library (all they could take as they don’t have a lot of space to store books for their semi-annual book sale fund raiser).

And we’re taking some household items. Friends in Argentina recommended we take bedding and towels. While you can get it there, the good stuff is very expensive. I’ve been tracking sales and catching deals whenever possible, stocking up on bedding (sheets, blankets and bed covers) and towels. White towels. Which may seem strange but there is a method to my madness. White can be cloroxed to stay white and white goes with anything. Which is a very good thing in Argentina as they tend use very colorful tile in the bathrooms – and where the entire bath is usually tiled, often in competing colors.

Plus I’m going to invest in a good set of pots and pans (hopefully one that will last the rest of my life) and I’ll take a few things from my current kitchen. I have a really amazing hand crank can opener. My sister gave it to me before we went to Africa six years ago and it still works as good as the day I received it. As does the way cool vegetable peeler she gave me at the same time. You know how most peelers get dull after a while? This never has! I’ll also take the silicone bake ware set Beth bought me for Christmas a couple years ago. (It’s great having a sister who buys such great gifts!)

We’re taking clothes, of course. And being the thrifty shopper that I am, Goodwill gets most of my business. Why pay big bucks for something you can get for a fraction of the cost? I’m picky and the things I buy are gently used or new. Many a time I’ve found items with the store tags still attached. It’s a joke in our family that we plan vacations around Goodwill stores J And it’s true that we have been to Goodwill stores in almost every state we’ve ever visited. But our favorite is still the one in Battle Creek, less than an hour from our house.

You can see we are getting rid of much more than we’re keeping. This is a good thing. I just wish we’d been better at keeping things pared down all along. It would have made this process of dismantling a lot easier. Now I remember why it was so easy to move back in the early years of our marriage. We moved nine times in the first nine years, and each time we moved, we went through and got rid of stuff. Of course it was easy to move! We had very little to deal with until we settled down here in Michigan 19 years ago. Let this be a lesson to you! Just make sure you move once a year!