Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Nothing like a little head lock to make you feel loved right? Everyone who reads this blog should have this but I wanted to post it anyway (especially since the printer screwed it up). Oh well, at least they were free. May you all have a wonderful holiday full of love and good cheer.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Must be Played to be Enjoyed

Our driveway is complete and, in the end, the excavators did a good job. Enjoy this little montage to commemorate the momentous driveway realignment project's completion.

Tip: Make sure your sound is ON.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Zazzle Binder Winners

So, I didn't win the contest, didn't even get honorable mention, but that's OK. It was fun! While I didn't get enough votes to win (I got 4, 3 of which were from me, lol), I did sell 7 of the design and we aren't even into Christmas season yet. Entering this contest was definitely worth my time as far as revenue.

You can see all the entry winners here. There are lots of pretty cool ones.

These are the two I designed for those just visiting.



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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weekend In Review

We had the best time hanging with our niece and nephew this weekend. We had planned to spend the weekend with just my niece (C). You see, her brother i.e. my nephew (M) is going to a Redskins game with Uncle T, so I decided it was only fair that I, Aunt Merritt, spend some quality time with niece C. Well C, was so sweet and didn't want her brother to miss out so she shared the time with her brother M so it ended up being a big family event.
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M and C at Cici's

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C and Ladybug on Himalaya

I told her the day was up to her so we went to Funland. We rode some rides, played some games, and even rode some go carts. After that, we went to Cici's for some lunch and then went to Papa's house nearby so the little ones could nap while the big kids and I hit a few stores. When we finished we met up with the kids and Papa for dinner. I'd say a good time was had by all Ladybug just loves her cousins. In fact, she cried for at least a half an hour while driving home which wasn't so awesome for us. I NEED to remember to buy a pair of ear plugs when I'm at the store and stash them in the car for the occassional, tough car ride like this one. Though painful, Ladybug made me realize we need to make this happen more often. She needs to see her cousins more than she does.
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GreenEyes in the Toddler Area

Anyway, we finished putting in the TV and components today. Next weekend, we'll tackle the library.

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Nick installing components

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Nick happy with his work

A little context of the unit

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Friday, November 6, 2009

More Progress Pics

The excavator showed up today. I suppose some progress is still progress but he was only able to spend an hour on the project. In that hour he already broke the boundaries I had set for him (i.e. the bright orange survey marking tape I laid out marking the limit of construction) which I wasn't terribly pleased about. It reminds me of the days I was working with the county yelling at construction crews for putting equipment on top of tree roots. Oh, the horror!

I can't tell you how much I had emphasized (over and over with this guy) how important it was to work within the area I demarcated so that tree roots weren't damaged, so I was really annoyed and disappointed. While minor (not a huge impact area), I'm going to have to watch this guy closely to make sure he really doesn't do something terrible. Unfortunately, I'm not completely focused. When you've got two little ones to watch at the same time, I just can't hop up and leave to consult the excavator. This is essentially design-build project (i.e. no drawings), so communication is key. He promised to be back on Monday to finish the job in its entirety. I'll keep you guys updated and I'm determined to get this done the way I envision it!

Our cabinet maker finished the entertainment unit and the library/office today. We can't move in the TV though until the finishing touches of paint have dried. Now it's our job to paint the office (I'm thinking a light grass green would work well), and organize all our junk into bins and stow it in the cabinets. We also need to drudge all the books we currently have stored in our garage and get them out on the shelves.

I would say we'd get it done this weekend but I have big plans. I'm planning to spend some time with my niece. I don't get to spend a lot of time with her so this is extra special. Instead of painting and organizing, I'll be shopping and lunching. I guess the work will have to wait!

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Redskins Angst

FIRE SNYDER - WHITE shirt
FIRE SNYDER - WHITE by WITTYDESIGNZ
Made this customized tshirt at zazzle
They are pretty inexpensive. I even made a dark version.

FIRE SNYDER - DARK shirt
FIRE SNYDER - DARK by WITTYDESIGNZ
Get a tee at zazzle

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Redskins Update

So obviously, this hasn't been a good year for the Redskins. I almost dread attending our upcoming games in December. We will likely be doing a lot of booing, and that isn't really all that fun. It's downright painful.

Here is an excellent read from Hogs.net.

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween

Halloween was a bit more difficult this year than last. It was much harder with Greeneyes. He was just not into trick-or-treating at all. He is at the stage where he doesn't like to be constrained to a stroller and wants to wander free. Unfortunately, that just doesn't work well at dusk in the middle of the street. Last year he stayed snug in a sling while Ladybug did all the treating.

Truthfully, Ladybug didn't do as well as last year either. For instance, Nick would ask, "Now, Ladybug, what do you say?" Ladybug would reply, "Give me some candy!"... Yeah, I've been working on those please and thank-you's but she seems to have lost them in her threes.

We found Ladybug's outfit on 75% clearance at Target last year (her cowboy shirt was a hand me down and the pink hat I found at the dollar store) and recycled the dog outfit from last year for Greeneyes. I will do this as long as I can get away with. Cowboy 2010 sounds about right to me!

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It was unseasonably warm and we felt comfortable walking around in t-shirts so Greeneyes did not appreciate his cozy warm outfit one bit!

Below is the mailbox decorating we did for our neighborhood. Hope they don't mind!

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Below is the carved pumpkin.


This is pretty much how it all played out! Hope you all had an awesome Halloween!

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Zazzle Recipe Binder Contest

I like to enter in small contests every once in while because I get to practice my Photoshop skills while I watch kiddos. Maybe, someday I'll be ready to head back into the work force.

While I'm not likely to win this contest, if you get a chance, I'd like to request that you click on the link below and rate my binder (positively, I hope!). By doing so, it makes my design a little more visible in the Zazzle community and a little more likely to win and sell.


I haven't made a lot of money on Zazzle but it has been a nice little distraction. My most popular item is the "I survived the Swine Flu Pandemic of 2009." I have sold about 10 of those. I'm scratching my head though. People like that shirt but don't care for my "Pubix" shirt? Really? OK, I admit, it is tasteless but it's still pretty funny.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Progress!

We've made some progress on the cabinetry and shelving!


Above: Office cabinets without the doors on it.
Below: Beginnings of the entertainment center.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Glorious Fall Days

On our way back from church (we have yet to settle on a church and have been shopping for a while now) we took the long route home to enjoy some of the foliage. It is insanely gorgeous right now. It's too bad this season doesn't just stretch out a little bit longer.

When we got home, we put the kids to bed and decided to enjoy the fall air with a little more yard work. We finished staking out the proposed driveway as I mentioned yesterday. Below is a picture of the results.

The orange flags are where the center line of the drive will be and the orange tape is to demarcate the limits of work.

GARDEN UPDATE:
It's been in the lower 70's to upper 60's of late and we have yet to get a killing freeze. This coming week is supposed to continue to be mild so I uncovered the plants so they could enjoy the warmth. I'm still crossing my fingers the cauliflower will hold out and we can squeeze a harvest.

Mache is on the left and cauliflower to your right.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Have we reached redneck status yet?

Today we accomplished a significant amount of yard work in order to make way for our new realigned driveway. I've had the project priced out by several excavators and found a decent price with one recommended by a neighbor. The excavators were supposed to come two weeks ago but they were delayed with the rain. It ended up being a good thing as we weren't quite finished with the work required on our end. They should be here this week so we really had to get moving this weekend.

Nick finished off burning a large brush pile left by the previous owner this morning. The previous owner had placed a large pile smack dab in the middle of the forest, i.e. right where we are putting the proposed driveway. We will have to replace it with one somewhere else on the property because they are good for wildlife habitat.

Admittedly, the pile above looks lame as it had already burned down to embers when I took the picture.

After Nick finished that, he worked on cutting down a big ole dead pine tree that could pose a problem to our proposed driveway later. He cut it down with his birthday present (a 16" Chain Saw) and it still didn't budge. So then he beat at it with a sledge hammer (we didn't have an axe.) As you'll note in the video, it simply plopped down but didn't fall. Note: If you play the video below, I may have a bit of a potty mouth (the S word) with this one so don't play this when the kids are around. My apologies! No kids were around during the first several phases of work.

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Nick had to tug it with a tow rope to get the thing down. It finally fell. Below is a video of the tow job.

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Nick cut down some lesser dead trees as well. The video below has some good chainsaw action.

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Tomorrow, I need to get out there and mark the limits of work with stakes and survey tape so there is little room for miscommunication between myself and the excavators. My hope is to minimize impact to the existing trees as much as possible.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Getting Passed by Grammy

I thought today I'd do a little running update. On October 4th, we ran the Army 10-miler. We spent the weekend in DC and did the run on Sunday. It was a lot of fun. We had great weather but there were way too many people and not enough portapotties. Kind of a problem for me!

Anyway, despite that issue, the veterans that were out there pushing through the pain were amazing, not mention inspiring. I was also humbled as I watched a couple of 60+ year old grandmas pass. Of course, as they passed Nick looked at me like, "You aren't going to let that happen are you? Come on, speed it up!" Yeah, I let them pass. Hey, they were some fast grannies!

Above is one of the pics from the race photographers. I hate race photos (this one included.. and yet I post it). Pretty much every time I am sent these photos I look with dread. What will it be this time? Will my boobs be pasted to my chest? Will I have jiggle ripples or some horrible grimace on my face? The one above is the best I've had in quite some time and it's still not that great.

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Anyway, the race was exhilarating. After the race, I thought this fall would be a great time to really ramp up our running. Not so. Nick injured his ankle a couple weeks ago while running with buddies at work. That meant I didn't have my buddy to do my long runs with this month and it has been rough. Nick is finally feeling better this week but now I'm sick with some sort of flu (since Monday). I hope to get back on the running bandwagon this weekend.

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Below is Ladybug playing in a helicopter at the Army 10 Miler packet pick-up event.


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Monday, October 19, 2009

Pizza Obsession

We finally polished off the 18 tombstones we bought in early June before we left GA. Just when I was getting nervous and thinking I might have to pay too much for the frozen pizza Nick loves... Nick found a coupon in the beer section of Food Lion for $2 off ANY frozen or fresh pizza. Tombstones are on sale for $3 this week so that means I was able to get them for just $1 ea with the coupon.

BUT, it gets better. There is a separate rebate out there for $10 when you buy 4 pizzas.

Here's the breakdown.
$4.00 for 4 tombstone pizzas ($1 a piece AC)
-$10.00 rebate
= $6 MONEY MAKER on 4 pizzas... that's right. I get paid $6 bucks to pick up pizza.

We are limited to only one rebate per family, but that didn't stop us from picking up 20 (should last until summer). With the rebate, that makes the pizzas just 50 cents ea. Mind you, I thought $1.16 was a good price last time!

I need a larger freezer.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Family Weekend in GA... ACC Tanks

Nick had this last week off from work (he goes back Tuesday). Nick used his comp time and some vacation to get a long list of things done around the house including:

-treating the deck
-fixing an aesthetic issue with the roof
-putting a hole trough the brick wall so we could get a dryer vent in
-moved an air vent to make way for some shelving units
-painted a section of the porch
-blah, blah, blah, list goes on

Below is Nick drilling a hole in the wall.

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I was hoping to get a nice long run this weekend but Nick screwed up his ankle last week while running with some work buddies and he's been laid up. Hopefully, that will heal quickly. I miss our long runs. My body is showing it.

Anyway, after a long week of hard work, we headed to Atlanta to meet up with friends and enjoy some football, i.e. the VA Tech/GA Tech game. For those who aren't aware Nick is a GT grad, while i am a VT grad. So, either way, one of us was going to go home happy. We argued for a bit over what colors the children would wear and to be fair we decided that we each got to dress one child as we pleased.

Below are some pics of Bobby Dodd Stadium or as I affectionately call it, "Fancy Pants Stadium." I admit I haven't been to VT since Lane Stadium 2005 expansion, but Lane Stadium is not nearly as nice as Bobby Dodd.

Though most people would never attempt to take two children 3 and under, we did. It did have a few tough moments, but for the most part the kids were great. We had a blast. We made it through the 3rd quarter and then left to avoid the crowds. We watched the last quarter of the game from the comfort of the hotel just two blocks away. When watching from the hotel TV with the game just two blocks away, my stomach cringed every time the crowd roared. With the standard 30 second delay you knew when a big play was about to occur.

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The end score was 23/28 GT so hubs went home happy and I went home annoyed. VT dropped 10 places in the BCS Poll from #4 to #14 and GT gained 7 places from #19 to #12. Hardly a win for our division if you ask me. Not only did VT lose, so did the entire ACC. The ACC will not likely be represented in the top 5 at all this year. Though VT crushed Miami 31 to 7 and Miami kicked GT butt 33 to 17, both now rank above VT because of its NARROW loss against a decent team. This is BS if you ask me... but that's college football for you. Only a playoff system will fix the lack of fairness but like that's ever going to change.


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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Extending the Harvest

We are coming close to the dreaded first frost. So today after pumpkin picking I went out and put some protection on our cauliflower. The cauliflower is a bit of an experiment. It has a 55 seed to maturity date and we thought we'd give it a try as it will hypothetically reach maturity around early November. We should be able to keep it alive until then with protection, I THINK. I hear when doing late crops you have to add a couple extra weeks for cold weather crops and that may be a bit of a stretch. We figured what the heck do we have to lose, you never know unless you try?!


In the above pic, the mache Marie-France got us is the uncovered crop in between the covered crops. The cauliflower is the long covered row. The short covered row is roquette but it doesn't seem to be doing as well this go round as it did in early spring. We also have some spinach in the right of the pic but it is too small to notice. It's growing the speed of molasses! We planted the same crops 3 weeks later to attempt to stagger the crop a bit and are planning to do the same again. Their still a little too small to notice just yet.

It is our understanding that mache can last through winter given it is a mild one. According to the farmer's almanac (or so I hear) that will not be the case for us. It's supposed to be the coldest winter in 34 years! Yuck. Nonetheless, what do we have to lose?

As of this moment in time, our tomatoes are still alive. Below is a pic of our grape tomato plant that continues to thrive and the tomatoes I picked just TODAY!!

Our Old German heirloom has plenty of fruits but we are going to have to pick these soon if they don't turn themselves in lieu of the coming frosts.


We still have quite a few peppers too. Hurry little peppers!! Don't you know the frost is coming?!!!


Last but not least, here is a little bean that just popped up. Poor guy, it's just not the right time!

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Obligatory Fall Pics

Today we went to the pumpkin patch (it was 75 and sunny!) and got ourselves a good ole pumpkin. They had some bouncers, slides and tubes for the kids to climb up, down and around. I was hoping we'd get them tired enough we could enjoy a long nap, but alas, GreenEyes was up after only a one hour nap (his usual). I almost wonder if he doesn't do that just so he gets his one-on-one mommy time!

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My girl has no fear.

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Adventures in Savings Coming to an END???

I think there won't be a lot of Redskins talk on this blog in the next coming months. I don't think we could get much worse this year. Check out this article on Yahoo. Despite the "soft" schedule, they've been playing some kind of terrible. At least I have my Hokies. Their first game against #3 Alabama just about ripped my heart to shreds, but they are building my hope back up. Tech is currently ranked #4. Hopefully, they'll knock some GA Tech #15 butt come Saturday.

Well, today I bought a dozen eggs for 39 cents and a gallon of milk for 9 cents. Pretty cool... but I'm no longer impressed by my money saving skills and I'm considering making some changes. Why???

Having just read the "Omnivore's Dilemma" By Michael Pollan I feel like maybe I could be making better choices even if it's going to cost me money. Charlottesville has an awesome network of local farmers that I need to tap into more (specifically for meats as we grown our own produce). In fact, one of them, Polyface farm, is featured in the book Ominvore's Dilemma. You can check out Polyface Farm HERE.

I found the book to be a great critique on "organic" foods. The author is quick to point out that certified organic foods aren't always that environmentally friendly. Like, how environmentally friendly is an organic avocado flown in from Equador when in consumes so much fuel to get it here? He also analyzes those farms that haven't earned the "organic" label (like Polyface) who are indeed environmentally friendly but refuse to qualify as "organic" because doing so would compromise his high environmentally friendly standards. There's a thought!

I highly recommend this read. It's very insightful regarding the food production industry. The first several chapters reminded me of the documentary "King Corn." It's really got me thinking about what I'm ingesting. Though I like the idea of eating less meat less often to compensate for the higher cost of grass fed meat, my husband is less willing to budge. For us, I think the best thing we can do right now is start to really look at our options. Maybe we will continue to buy *some* meat at the traditional market, but maybe we can also make some of our meat purchases from local, sustainable grass farms in bulk once or twice a year and store it.... maybe even Polyface.

Well, enough of my soap box. I hope you guys are having a wonderful fall.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Book Festival

This weekend we went to the PBS book festival here in town. Ladybug got to pick out SEVERAL books for free and so did GreenEyes. Everything about this event was free and came packed with snacks and entertainment. Ladybug had an awesome time watching Rosa, a PBS TV celebrity, tell a "reading" adventure.

Ms. Rosa

After that, all the children were invited to meet and greet Ms. Ros, but of course Ladybug would not wait for this and she ran right up to her and hugged her. Ladybug is anything but shy. Later, there was a line to take pictures and meet Elmo. But of course she refused to wait her turn and ran up right to Elmo and gave him a hug too even though he was with another child. Dad snatched her back and she waited impatiently to have her turn so we could take these pics.


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Friday, September 18, 2009

Ladybug is an Ape

It's never dull in this house. Though I might be spending a good hour scrubbing this off her tonight, it gives me some great ideas for Halloween.

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Seed Saving Time


It time for seed saving for next year. I guess I should have labeled them, but hey, what's a garden without a few surprises?

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Tomatoes and Apple Pies

Check out this pic of our grape tomato plant taken today. When we first planted it, we caged it. It over grew that. So, we staked it too. It overgrew that. Eventually, Nick was forced to tie it to some trees to keep it stable.

I have harvested at least 10 pounds of grape tomatoes from this plant. Pint after pint after pint AND I have several pints to go! I wish I could say we have had the same success with the heirloom, but we have not. Harvest has been good but modest there.

I made this delicious soup today with tomatoes from the garden and some additional ones from the local market.

Ingredients

    3 lbs. Red Ripe Tomatoes Olive Oil Cooking Spray 1 1/2 tsp. ground pepper 2 tsp. kosher salt 2 tb. olive oil 1 cup onion 6 garlic cloves (minced) 1- 28 oz. can of tomatoes 2-3 cups FRESH basil (I find it is OK if you only have 1 or 2 cups, the more the better though) 1 quart (4 cups) chicken stock
Directions Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a large cooking sheet pan with olive oil spray. Cut tomatoes into wedges Add salt and pepper and roast for 45 minutes.

In 8 quart stock pot on medium, saute 2 tb. olive oil, onion and garlic until brown. Then, add canned tomatoes, basil and stock. When roasted tomatoes are done, add them, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce temp and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.

Pulse in food processor in batches. Add salt and sugar substitute (like splenda or purvia) to taste. I usually don't need salt but I do need to add 1-2 heaping tablespoons of splenda. How much you need depends on how sweet your tomatoes are.

Number of Servings: 8 cups (or 4 large bowls).

I made a couple apple pies from local orchard apples we picked this weekend. I made one like a traditional pie and another french style in anticipation of the holidays. I like to plan ahead. It makes the holidays less stressful and more enjoyable when you aren't fretting about making a homemade apple pie when you have 20 other things to do.
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I guess you could say I should have done my research. I made the pie intending to freeze it but I can't freeze the pie like I planned because apparently you should freeze them unbaked. I had already baked the thing when I realized this doing a search on the internet. It didn't stop hubby from enjoying a slice, now it's headed for the trash. For health reasons, these are reserved for only the most occasional celebrations.


I'm going to go ahead and freeze the french version. I think it'll be fine because their is only a bottom crust and I don't think it will suffer texture issues from freezing like the traditional pies. We aren't too sad about the pie, really, there were enough apples leftover that we made a much healthier version of apple crisp in the fridge for us to treat ourselves to this week.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Crazy Bath Hair

Enjoy some cutie kid photos of my adorable children with bath hair. :)

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Green Eyes needs his first cut...

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Everyone has an oppinion.

You can sign the petition at: http://go.sojo.net/campaign/health_care

As one of God's children, I believe that protecting the health of each human being is a profoundly important personal and communal responsibility for people of faith.

I believe God created each person in the divine image to be spiritually and physically healthy. I feel the pain of sickness and disease in our broken world (Genesis 1:27, Romans 8:22).

I believe life and healing are core tenets of the Christian life. Christ's ministry included physical healing, and we are called to participate in God's new creation as instruments of healing and redemption (Matthew 4:23, Luke 9:1-6; Mark 7:32-35, Acts 10:38). Our nation should strive to ensure all people have access to life-giving treatments and care.

I believe, as taught by the Hebrew prophets and Jesus, that the measure of a society is seen in how it treats the most vulnerable. The current discussion about health-care reform is important for the United States to move toward a more just system of providing care to all people (Isaiah 1:16-17, Jeremiah 7:5-7, Matthew 25:31-45).

I believe that all people have a moral obligation to tell the truth. To serve the common good of our entire nation, all parties debating reform should tell the truth and refrain from distorting facts or using fear-based messaging (Leviticus 19:11; Ephesians 4:14-15, 25; Proverbs 6:16-19).

I believe that Christians should seek to bring health and well-being (shalom) to the society into which God has placed us, for a healthy society benefits all members (Jeremiah 29:7).

I believe in a time when all will live long and healthy lives, from infancy to old age (Isaiah 65:20), and "mourning and crying and pain will be no more" (Revelation 21:4). My heart breaks for my brothers and sisters who watch their loved ones suffer, or who suffer themselves, because they cannot afford a trip to the doctor. I stand with them in their suffering.

I believe health-care reform must rest on a foundation of values that affirm each and every life as a sacred gift from the Creator (Genesis 2:7).

Amen.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Redskins Report

Nick had his last final trip of the summer. I estimate he has been gone for approximately 25% of the summer and I can't help but feel that this has meant the summer has gone buy 25% quicker. Nonetheless, he is back home and boy am I glad.

Nick flew back into DC at 3 PM and as soon as he met up with me, we ran off to catch our first redskins game last weekend. DATE NIGHT. Nick thinks it's hilarious I pick such masculine things to do with our free time. But, I guess that's what happens when you marry a tom boy like myself.

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At first it looked like we had picked the worst game to go to. First Nick was on Netherlands time which meant that at the time the game started it felt like 2 AM to him. On our way there, the traffic was horrific being Friday night rush hour and it was POURING rain. We were lucky in that is stopped pouring in time for us to walk to the stadium from our parking. It was clear the rest of the night!


I had done a little homework and before going to the Redskins game I watched Comcast SportsNet to get the low down. I think we got the best of the two home pre-season games. The first couple pre-season games are about weeding people out. By the 3rd pre-season game (our game), they have cut a lot of people and it is more like the dress rehearsal for the season. We were happy to see that seemed to be the case. Both teams had their starters out there for the entire first half of the game and we were able to see what the teams were able to do. I think it gave us a good gauge of what is to come.

The sport casters mentioned that the last pre-season game is going to be for final cuts and there shouldn't be many starters out on the field for that game for risk of injury. They will want to make sure their players are rested and ready for the season. I'm not expecting much from the Jacksonville game. So, we scored the best pre-season game by far if what they said is true. Thankfully, Nick endured at least 3 quarters before we called it quits. Final score was 27/24 Redskins. Let's hope it's a good season!

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Vacation Pics - Part II

This weekend we were visited by Nick's bro, Sam and his family. We had a big Christmas-like dinner (we don't get much of an opportunity to do these sorts of things very often). We had a grand time hanging out and catching up.

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Check out all the latest pics including our recent trip to the Greene County Fair.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rebates

I have been finding some AWESOME coupons and rebates in the beer section and I don’t even have to buy the beer. What’s beautiful about rebates is that they only look for the price before coupons making it really easy to hit the seemingly difficult required amounts. They don’t care whether you got the item(s) free or for 10 cents, all they care about is what they're worth.

So far this week, I’ve submitted $50 of rebates using receipts for things I already purchased and it took me an hour (maybe) to fill everything out and look through my old receipts. One rebate was $10 for steak or seafood (paid for some tilapia I bought in May), one was for $15 for soda and snacks (I'm married to Nick remember, so NOT a problem), and another was for $30 of plain old groceries… that’s right, GROCERIES!! Lettuce, tomatoes, milk, whatever!

I heard through the HCW grapevine a while back (before I did rebates) that there was a rebate out for $50 off of your grocery purchases of $150 or more. I really couldn't handle the idea of doing that when I was first starting. I was spending enough time in the stores as it was and I thought VA was excluded from the rebate game. But, now that I've got the hang of it you know I’m going to be perusing the liquor section every time I go to the grocery store looking for free money and if I can't find it, you bet I'm going to trade for it!

Lots of Fresh Ideas

So I went over my ideas with a friend and he had a lot to say about me calling this French Country. Below are his thoughts:

French Country style is a great idea. It definitely fits with lots of stuff you already have. It also can be defined in many different ways. Since you know that France is a very diverse place, French country style can have Eastern, Western, Southern (Spanish, Italian, Provencal), Coastal or more Parisian look. From what I see on your pictures, it seems that you're going for a Provencal/Coastal look. The shade of blue of the curtains is a strong reminder of South of France and also many coastal areas from Brittany down to Nice. The brass candelabra and rural painting with their rich gold and reds have a more inner country feel, which, along with the ornate lace table cloth, gives you a more Parisian feel. The black furniture (table, chairs, etc...) and wall paints on that picture look too modern for me to work with a French country style. The wall paints might work if you settle on South of France look, but I'd choose a more classic, dark brown wood, rather than black for the furniture. So it seems you're in between two very different styles here and you couldn't have all the described pieces work together in the same room. In my opinion, you gotta decide whether you wanna go Southern or Parisian. I, of course, have an opinion on the matter that you can take or leave. From what I've seen of your house (and my memory might fail me), I do feel that the stuff you have breathe more of Paris than Provence. You have that Bistro feel in your kitchen for example. You also live in the woods in an area that could be assimilated to areas in the Loire Valley or around Paris. So I'd say stick with the candelabra and painting, keep the lace table cloth, get dark brown furniture and chairs (you don't need to get dark upholstery, it can be cream colored to have a clean sophisticated contrast with the rest and match the wall. I'd be tempted to paint either just the lower third or the entire walls in rich red, with that white wooden separation going around (very classy). Definitely no blue curtains but more subdued colors. They don't need to be too heavy in weight or color. You don't want the room to be stuffy. Plus the focus needs to be on the table with the candelabras above with the painting as a backdrop. I'd say not to use the blue plates there, even if they have French imagery on it. I'm kinda biased. After going to Holland and seeing all the porcelain there, I can't help but associate these plates with Holland rather than France. If you choose the Southern feel, they would definitely work there.

Below is my edited reply:

I think maybe calling it French is what's wrong? Maybe it's American Country Eclectic with only the suttlest of nods to France? I am sort of tired of red and we have it everywhere in the house and it dominates the living room so I wanted to do something different that would still connect (that would be the yellow that's already there).It's OK to me if it comes from more than one region because I'm an eclectic person and enjoy notes from different areas. I simply can't be true to any one style, especially if most items will be found objects. I enjoy the eco-friendly part of that AND it's great on a budget. I'm done with buying stuff new. New stuff is poorly made and it costs a ton. Most blue plates are English landscapes and that is what I already have. I don't think I'll be traveling anytime soon to pick up limited edition French China. Wish I could, but it's not going to happen soon.

From what I read, plates were an over the door thing in France. I thought centering a gilded piece of landscape art over the buffet would start to be too formal so I thought an informal plate arrangement as the center would be a little less formal and a little more country. Comfort is just as important to me and the perceived formality of the space should be slightly casual.


My furniture is mahogany wood but it's more of a dark brown then a black (it's not painted) and the style is an 1800's Sheraton reproduction with intricate inlaid woodwork. The chairs are 1800's shield backs in mahogany as well, also reproduction. Like the lace tablecloth, the set reminds me of my great-grandmother which is why I was drawn to it. She had a ton of great pieces.

What I really hate and what I want to avoid at all costs is that crap they show on the likes of the Real Housewives... they have a lot of ornate crap for the sake of being showy and over the top that is just spit out by some factory in China. It's over the top and yucko. I hate that stuff. I'm looking for that right balance of ornate, and casual. I'd like to do something fresher than the American Country that was popular in the late 80's and I'm not sure Pottery Barn American Casual fits me either.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dining Room Updates

Nick really hates it when I think up ways to decorate. He'd like it if I left everything as is. Too bad. My dining room is boring and lacks any sort of personality. It does have good bones though. It's got a nice cream color on the walls and a mustard color at the base which I love and I can totally work with (not that it wouldn't be easy to change). I also already have a fairly decent dining room set I got from an antique auction for a ridiculously low price a while back. I bought it for less than most people buy for a single piece of furniture and my guess is that it will outlast most of the newer stuff out there.

For my dining room makeover, I'd like to buy everything used with exception of the curtains and candles. Everything else in the room will be found objects, hopefully, even the chairs. Though I got a great deal on the dining room, the chairs are in need of help. They need to be re-glued and re-padded. I'm not sure whether it will be more cost effective to replace them or if we can find something else used that will work. I'm keeping my eyes peeled at the area auctions.


Above, you can see that I made an idea board. Mind you, it's a quick mock-up and it's not very clean. So, forgive me for that. I'm old school (traditional) and I love old things. Like, really old things. I think it reminds me of my great grandmother. She was a sweet, spunky lady with a lot of class and I admired her greatly. She had a lot of amazing, old ornate pieces. They just don't make like things like that anymore.

I like the French aesthetic having passed some time there. The challenge is keeping it relaxed and informal enough to be comfortable, and that is where the 'country' comes in. I think the real beauty of a lot of French design is the elements of classic simplicity juxtaposed with really ornate pieces. I'm not interior designer. What the heck do I know.

To Nick's demise, I will need the following to complete this look:

Brass candelabras
Lace table cloth (the kind your grandmother has)
Curtains and sheers
Candles
8 Chairs
Blue Plates (I have started this one so I have a few)
A classic landscape artwork piece

I hope to complete this look in the next 5 or so years. The best designs, after all, take time to put together. I don't want anything new and it's going to take some digging to find what I envision.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Family Vacation

First, please excuse this poorly and hastily written piece!

We returned from our family vacation today. While I'm sad it's over, I'm also so glad to be home! We left Thursday last week and got into Charleston, SC at 9:30 in the evening. The next day we had my cousin Ryan's wedding so we had only a quick moment to enjoy the town of Charleston before we got the kids to nap and get ready.  The wedding was absolutely gorgeous.

The next day we visited Nick's bro Casey and his family (Rhett, Jessie and Debby). Sadly, Jessie, Nick's niece pointed out that they had never met! How terrible! We will have to make the next visit sooner than later. We had a terrific time and we will definitely plan to do it again in the near future. We spent July 4th together hanging out by the pool and enjoying burgers and hot dogs and of course the obligatory fire works. Below is a pic of Casey's pool. I will have to copy the pics my nieces took from Facebook and attach 'em. Unfortunately, we let the battery die on that day only got the pic of Ladybug being thrown about in the pool. Why have we not done that sooner?

After our day with the B Family Clan, we scooted over to Hilton Head, SC. We spent several nights there on the beach. We spent our days enjoying the ocean, biking, running and just relaxing by the pool. We were going to spend an extra night in Savannah and then maybe even spend another night in Atlanta but the weather turned sour on us and were itching to make sure the dogs made it alive so we headed back.

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We returned to a bounty of ripe blackberries, way too much squash (overgrown!), a ton of ripe tomatoes and green beans. I spent two hours this evening getting it all picked. This will be good detoxification for all the bad food I've eaten this last week. It's good to be home.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Infinity Pool

We installed our new infinity pool this weekend and the kids just LOVE it.

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OK, so maybe calling it an infinity pool is a bit of a stretch, but it is perched on the steep slope of our front yard.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Father's Day!!

I really wanted Nick to experience what I had with Ladybug and GreenEyes so we woke up at 6:40 AM today to do some berry picking. Having learned our lesson last time we got out there early and there were tons of ripe blueberries and raspberries for picking. The prices are unbelievable and it's such a great time with the kids.

This time Ladybug held the basket as I picked and Nick picked with GreenEyes on his back. We came home with combined total of 6 above-the-brim pints: 3 pints of raspberries and 3 pints of blueberries. All for less than 8 bucks!!

What does one with all these berries? Well, tonight, it was a Berry Tart.


Simple Berry Tart

1 pre-made pie dough
1/2 cup sugar (plus additional to sprinkle)
1/4 cup cornstarch
4 cups raspberries/blueberries/strawberries (or any combination there of)
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 425. Lay dough in pie or quiche plate (I prefer a quiche or tart plate). Prick with a fork. Line with tin foil and put rice or beans in the center to keep the surface flat. Bake 15 minutes and remove from the oven. Lower oven temp to 350.

Mix cornstarch and sugar. Toss with 2 cups of the berries crushing some of the berries to dissolve the sugar. Dump mixture into the pie crush. Finish the pie by putting the remaining 2 cups of the berries in. I find it looks prettier if you put the open side of the raspberry down and arrange it. **Brush on some egg white for color along the exposed part of the crust.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the fruit mixture is bubbly. Cool, then serve at room temperature. We ate ours with a dollop of ice cream. Unbelievable! The best part is there is still a pint left in the fridge to eat plain and fresh. Yummo!
**I decided to add this in because the crust could stand to look a little prettier!

After we went berry picking, we were up early, so we went to the Charlottesville Farmer's Market. We picked up some squash and things that aren't quite ready in our garden. We didn't need to pick up any green beans though. We picked our first batch of green beans last night. We have two varieties, a yellow variety called 'Soliel' and a generic green. They were way better than anything we could have bought!

As I told Nick, if today were any example, everyday at our house is Father's Day. Not everyone gets a yummy tart baked for them. He agrees.

Tomorrow, it's blueberry waffles for dad. Happy Father's Day everyone!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Camping and Cutie Pies

GreenEyes will be turning one in a week. We had planned a small party/camp out for him but it turned out being a bad weekend for everyone so we will be celebrating it ourselves next weekend. GreenEyes is at a great age. He has met some interesting benchmarks. First, we have gotten rid of the bottles and he's officially using sippy cups.

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He's also started saying "mama." I'd say this is first intentional word. :) He's technically been saying "dada" but it the same way he's been saying baba or gaga... i.e. jibber jabber. This one, he's been doing with some prompting. Ladybug's first intentional word was dog. Check out the video below.

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Nick's been working really hard the past couple weekends getting a trail in and small campfire area going in anticipation of our party. Below is a pic of the trail he cleared. We are going to get a trial fire going when we finish it this weekend.


Nick and GreenEyes on the cleared trail.


The family hanging out at the campfire site. Nick isn't quite finished with laying all the stones. We are also going to be adding logs to sit on. We have a good bit of left over logs from trees the previous owners took down.

Below is a pic of the stumps. We will take another pic when it's all completed and put together. I'm looking forward to the smores already!

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Garden Update

We have two grape tomato plants and one heirloom (old german) tomato. Our first grape tomato has been producing ripe tomatoes since Sunday (earlier than I thought). The one we picked up at the local gardening center has been AMAZINGLY prolific in it's fruits. This picture doesn't do it justice.

The green beans are looking great and we should be eating those in the next couple of days or so. They are pretty big, but Nick thinks we need to hold out on them yet before we start picking.

Ladybug picked clover while we looked through the garden.

As you can see our summer squash is doing really well. GreenEyes took a crawl through part of the garden.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Hubby Rocks

Hubby was in on the saving action yesterday. On his way home, hubby popped into Harris Teeter to pick up three of these great deals:

It pays to pay attention!
Charmin Bath Tissue, 8 giant rolls- $5.99
e-VIC members are eligible to receive $3 off this product at checkout.
Use .50/1 coupon from 6/7 PG insert (there are a million coupon sources for this).
Final price: $1.99 (UNIT PRICE: .10 a regular roll or .24 a giant roll)

Bounty Paper Towels, 6 giant rolls
- $5.99
e-VIC members are eligible to receive $3 off this product at checkout.
Use $1/1 coupon from 6/7 PG insert.
Final price: $1.99 (UNIT PRICE: .24 a regular roll or .33 a giant roll)
I'd like to get us off of our dependence of paper towels and start using the cloth kind but Nick doesn't want to budge on that. I'll keep working on him. Even if this is "cheap", it's not a necessary expense and it's certainly not a sustainable one.

Coppertone Spray, 6-7 oz- $7.49 (something we needed desperately for our runs)
e-VIC members are eligible to receive $3 off this product at checkout.
$3/1 printable coupon (thanks to my sister for having me print this out a month ago!!)
Final price: $1.49

Total paid for everything above was 5.77 (including tax). I think I may have spent MAYBE 80 dollars at HT total this year and so far my VIC card statement says I've saved over $410. That's funny.

While we were in DC, I scored some free deodorant from Target for Nick and even my MIL.
Cost= 2.34
-1.50/1 Redplum.com coupon (it's a Target Store coupon you can stack with a mfg coupon
-1.00/1 mfg coupon from newspaper insert
= FREE or moneymaker depending on your cashier!

Got some free mayo (reduced fat Olive oil) too. Sweet!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Raspberries

We went with mom's club this morning to a raspberry/blueberry pick-your-own farm. We got there at 9:15 (apparently they open at 8 AM) and all the blueberries were flat out gone. Apparently, posh Charlottesville restaurateurs were out there picking well before we got there. As we arrived, I saw one guy haul off 22 cases. Bummer for us, but good for the farm. I'm glad to see they are doing so well.



Nolan road on my back while Ladybug and I did the picking. At some point ladybug lost both of her shoes. In true bad mom form, I did not notice until we were done picking. :P

We paid a whopping .80 cents for something that would go $5.00+ at the store. I'd say they were a frugal find and they are delicious and nutricious! You can't beat that. I think we will be heading there again soon.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

A Delectable Surprise

On our way home from DC, we picked up some fresh vegetables from a local farmer off the side of the road. While we were there, we picked up the usual... some green beans, some awesome orange/green peppers, yams, and a large tomato. She had some good looking turnips and beets but I'm not a fan. Maybe I need to have these prepared for me now that I'm an adult, but the kid in me wants nothing to do with them.

Anyway, while we were at the farmer's stand, we noticed a white squash we were unfamiliar with. I asked the lady what they were called and how to make them. She told me they were pattypan squash and they cooked up just like zucchini. Well, that sounded easy enough so I picked up three of them and thought I'd give it a try.

I found a recipe on the internet here.

Simple Scallop Squash Recipe

Ingredients:
  • 3 medium Squash, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 dash Paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon Minced Onion
  • 4 Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Milk
Steps:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (unless using microwave.)
  2. Spray 1 1/2 quart casserole with cooking spray.
  3. Cover bottom with squash.
  4. Dot squash with butter.
  5. Season with salt, paprika and onion.
  6. Cover squash with grated Parmesan cheese.
  7. Pour milk on top.
  8. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until squash is tender or microwave on High Power for 5-6 minutes; stirring occasionally.
Serves 6


This recipe got a thumbs up from Nick and I... and GreenEyes too. Ladybug didn't feel like experimenting today so she didn't eat so much as a bite. If she had, I'm sure she'd have loved them. I will be stopping by that stand next week for sure. I never thought squash could taste so good!!!

Nick tells me, as I write this, that we should invent a Swiffer that attaches to a baby so our floors will clean themselves as GreenEyes crawls around. He is speedy and crawling forward like nobody's business these days.

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