30 November 2006

Blessings and buggers

My mental list made manifest:

Bless the Salvation Army lady with the loud bell and the louder voice who was standing out in weather with a 0 degree windchill in front of the HyVee grocery store in Clinton, IA singing Christmas carols with gusto. I was impressed and told her so.

Bless the HyVee grocery store in Clinton, IA for having a "Reserved for New and Expectant Mothers" parking place right near the door. Their polls shot up just by putting out that sign.

Bless the Whiteside County Health Department lady in charge of WIC who called to make sure that Dennis went back to work and that we don't need the services of WIC. I have never been so impressed with a government program -- they called within 48 hours of our accident in September, then stopped by the house because they knew that Dennis, as primary wage earner, would not be able to work for a number of weeks. He is blessed to have a good salary continuation program at his company, but if we would have had to avail ourselves of this program, I am grateful that it is there and obviously works like it should, at least in this county.

Bless my husband who managed to cram stuff in every nook and cranny in the garage to make room for the van in time to be sheltered from freezing rain. What a wonderful guy.

And on the other side of things...

Bugger to the gas stations in Clinton, IA that raised their gas prices from $2.11 to $2.19/ gallon in the course of the twenty minutes I was in the HyVee grocery store. I assume they did that in light of reports of an encroaching storm. Isn't that price goudging?

Bugger to the people who park in the New and Expectant Mothers space at HyVee who are obviously neither. Especially the middle aged men.

Bugger to Dell Computers who has really, really messed up our church account, from which there seems to be no escapable end since there is no ability to talk to ANYONE in the same department twice in a row.

And last but not least, bugger to me for getting all worked up over these things!!

28 November 2006

17 November 2006

Friday Five: Giving Thanks

A la the Rev Gals, here are five people or things for whom/ which I am thankful this year. They are cliche, but true....
1. My immediate family
Dennis and Annalivia are the most wonderful blessings I have ever received. Every day I am so grateful that I get to share my life with them. I can't imagine what it will feel like when Sir Littler is born.
2. Being alive
Every day since Sept. 19, I have been thankful for the very gift of life. I'm ashamed that it took the accident to make me aware of that most basic of gifts.
3. My extended family
My sisters and mom and dad, and Dennis' family have been so helpful to us -- driving all hours at all times of the day to chauffeur us back and forth. They really are amazing.
4. My friends
For some reason, my circle of friends just keeps getting wider. This year, in addition to the faithful friends of auld lang syne, it has included some wonderful people I've never met and probably never will thanks to the blogging world. I'm grateful for y'all, too.
5. My church
Although I am an incredibly flawed and nutso pastor, they keep offering themselves to me. And although I don't appreciate all that is offered to me sometimes, I am blessed to be here and a part of this group. And, they make really great pies and cookies and chicken and casseroles and offer it pretty freely to others. There's a lot to be said for that.
"Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside...."

16 November 2006

Fried chicken success!!

I have finally made fried chicken worth sharing with people other than Dennis and Annalivia. It has taken me literally five batches to finally get it, but I've gotten it, darn it! Hurrah!
So, just in case anyone is wondering, here's what I did and will do beyond this...
Mix flour with salt and pepper -- I probably used about 4 cups flour and four teaspoons salt and pepper for 24 pieces of chicken. Mix milk with two eggs -- about two cups of milk or something. Dip chicken pieces in flour, then in milk, then in flour again.
Fry in oil set. I fried in about 1 1/2 inch of veg oil in an electric skillet set to 275 degrees. I let it get really brown -- about 15 minutes per side on thighs and 10 minutes per side on drumsticks.
Drain on a paper towel and set in a 200 degree oven. After I fried everything, I turned up the chicken to 350 and cooked for 20 minutes.
We liked the chicken that was cooked in the oven and the chicken fried in the oil, drained and then eaten. The stuff in the oven made a very crisp crust, the one straight out of the oil was slightly less crunchy. The meat in both was delicious and tender and moist.
I'm taking the rest of the chicken to Eureka for my dad tomorrow. His birthday was this week and he's a big fan of fried chicken.
I'm so excited!! I can make fried chicken!!!

Another good jar gift

Here's a very cool looking recipe from Midwest Living.

Toffee Blondies in a Jar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
3/4 c coarsely chopped pecans (or walnuts)
1/2 c toffee pieces or butterscotch flavored pieces

To make:
1/4 c butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 t vanilla

Layer in a 1 quart jar the following: brown sugar, chocolate, flour, baking powder, salt, pecans and toffee. Tap gently on counter to settle each layer before adding the next. Cover and store for up to 1 month. Or, attach baking instructions and give as a gift.
Baking instructions: Grease an 8x8x2-inch baking pan. In a large bowl, stir together the butter eggs and vanilla. Stir in contents of jar until combined. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until edges just begin to pull away. Cool blondies in pan on wire rack. Cut into 16 bars.

You don't want to know the nutrition info.

15 November 2006

Celebrity boyfriend alert

I was just browsing Netflix and found out that Clive Owen, my celebrity boyfriend, will be starring opposite Cate Blanchett in a sequel of sorts to Elizabeth. This one is called Elizabeth: The Golden Age and will be released in Oct. 2007.
Since Elizabeth is one of my favorite movies ever and Clive Owen is one of my favorite actors ever and Cate Blanchett is one of my favorite actresses ever, I'm pretty excited. Furthermore, according to the director, this will be number two of an eventual three. Very cool. October should be right about the time we get anxious to see a movie in the theater again.

Counting unhatched chickens

So, I guess proverbs are proverbs for a reason. Here's the latest story of visions of straight-stitched sugarplums that will, unfortunately, remain hypthetically dancing in my head only.
Yesterday, Dennis and I dropped off a big box of stuff at Goodwill. While there, I looked down and saw a Singer Featherweight sewing machine in PERFECT condition. It was shiny, black, had the foot attached and was gorgeous! I asked the lady there if they would sell it to me and she told me they couldn't and that they would price it and get it out on the floor the next day (today). I asked if she could take my name. She said she couldn't. I asked when tomorrow it would be on the floor and she said it would be there after 10 a.m.
I excitedly told Dennis about it. It's not that I sew well or anything, but when I was in seminary, I got a sewing machine from a dear friend whose grandmother passed away before I could afford to buy one of my own. It sewed a straight stitch forward and back and was in perfect condition -- had all sorts of attachments and it worked well. I sewed one thing on it and then moved it from Kentucky to Eureka, IL to Rock Falls, IL where it sat in its case in my basement for three years. Last year, I decided to do some decluttering a la Flylady and got rid of some stuff that had just been sitting around. This sewing machine was one of them. I researched it a bit and found out that it was a Singer Featherweight from the first year of production, in mint condition and was highly collectible. I sold it on eBay for $400.
So, seeing one yesterday, I had all sorts of plans for the money we'd receive after I purchased that sewing machine for less than $40 at Goodwill and then went on to sell it on eBay for several hundred. We are in need of a chest freezer and found a great model on sale last weekend at a local appliance store; we just didn't have the money for it. When I sold this sewing machine, I told my husband, we would have it.
Well, I got up early this morning and headed to Goodwill to get our machine. Turns out that the helpful not-so-helpful lady from yesterday had decided to put it out last night because "someone wanted it." It was gone this morning, though the folks this morning took my name just in case it had been set aside somewhere (and wondered why I hadn't thought of giving my name yesterday -- hrmph). So... no sewing machine, no hundreds of dollars, no sugarplums, no chest freezer.
That was one big unhatched chicken.

13 November 2006

Return to normalcy -- sort of

Well, today, Dennis got up at 5:30 to go back to work! This is the first time that he has been to work since Sept. 19, when we had our accident. That's a long time!
He is going back for five-hour days for right now until the doctor sees how physical therapy is progressing. I imagine that I will have a tired love when he gets home after lunch today.
I am glad that he gets to go back to work because he needs it. At the same time, I've really liked having him around and still getting an income! But it is time.
Annalivia wondered where he was this morning. She woke up and called his name for a while, then got up and ran out of the bedroom talking to him, then ran to the basement steps to see if he was down there. I explained to her that he is gone and will be home soon and so she moved on to Sesame Street. I guess things are back to normal.
With Dennis gone, I've realized again the importance of routines for me. Although I did manage to get the sink clean and house ordered last night, I didn't set up breakfast, so Annalivia ate a banana and leftover chicken nuggets this morning. Not the worst food ever, but tonight I need to soak pancake batter so we can actually eat real food in the morning. And I need to do little things like setting out my clothes and showering at night to make the a.m. more smooth for her. With Dennis here, I can slack off. Without him, Annalivia is left bearing the slack and that's hardly fair.
I was thinking about this last night and this morning -- about how much easier it is for me to handle things when Dennis is here, but also how much more I don't handle things because he's here. It is stewardship time at church, and I realized that many of us do this. We use our gifts only when it is absolutely necessary -- when someone else doesn't cover our slack. And in our church, I think we've created a self-perpetuating system to uphold this. We don't just offer ourselves -- all of ourselves that we can. Instead, most of the time, we offer out of guilt or worry or fear or anger. It's a begrudging giving and so it's not really giving. We feel like someone else is taking from us, and that's hardly a gift to anyone.
So I've decided to work on my motivation for giving myself to my family and church. It should be about Love, shouldn't it? The Love Divine who gave All should inspire me to give my all.
Or at least it should inspire me to make a better attempt at breakfast!

12 November 2006

Junk

I am a pack-rat. I hate that I am, but I am. It is not in my nature to throw anything away, though I must confess that I don't put any thought into my saving -- it's not as though I contemplate the possibililty of future necessity of any item. I just keep it. And I don't organize it. It just builds up.
Now, for those who don't know me or my family, I should say -- I come by this honestly. It is ingrained deep in my psyche. My mother is, and her mother before her was. They, however, have/ had plausible psychological excuses. I have none.
To make this worse, I married a pack-rat. Dennis is also an indiscriminatory saver. And although this makes for a peaceable union, it's not exactly orderly.
Which brings me to this afternoon, when I spent about 30 minutes -- not very long, really -- throwing away junk from the garage. I tossed cards from my ordination, notes from lectures from seminary and beyond, receipts from Wal-Mart from three years ago. It is ridiculous that all that stuff was out there, but more ridiculous that I could probably spend 30 minutes for the next two weeks before I get through it all.
On the other hand, if I spend 30 minutes every day for the next two weeks, I should get through it all! Which would just be wonderful to actually know what is out there and want what is out there!
Flylady lauds the value of babysteps and 15 minute sessions and doing things in little manageable bites. I find it difficult to surrender to that. I tend to be all or nothing. But right now, a lot of my "all" is "all junk."
So my plan is to spend 30 minutes in the garage for the next two weeks and see whether a project can really be completed when broken into manageable bites. I have a feeling I'm gonna be schooled on how to get rid of junk.

11 November 2006

Last minute church stuff

The fact is, the sermon for tomorrow is already done, (as are three sermons for Advent, I might add, not to brag or anything!) however, here it is, 8:15 on Saturday night and once again I have figured out a way to do church stuff at the last minute. This time, it's in the form of a pot roast cooking in my pressure cooker so that I, too, can bring an offering to the potluck after church tomorrow. I figured I've been riding the coattails of our injuries for too long, so this pot roast is going to become beef and noodles. Which will be done at 10 p.m. Which is still pretty good for a Saturday night, all things considered.
Thank goodness this isn't last week and when there were bulletins waiting to be created and folded.

09 November 2006

Need some gifts?

Anyone needing some good gift ideas for some hard-to-buy-for folks? Check out the recipes here. I'm going to make some up for my husband's brothers' families who have all sorts of rules for gift-giving, most of which I've not figured out or ignore. These are perfect -- not threatening and the peanut butter cup cookies look mighty fine.

06 November 2006

My new loves


Did you know that Lindt has come out with extra dark chocolate truffles? Divine. And pretty low suguar.

And this may be my new favorite bar. Marzipan, dark chocolate and cappuccino. Mmmm...


Neither are cheap. But wow, are they worth it!

Goodness. God sure did a good thing when God created chocolate.

Casts away

We are casts- free!!

Today we went up to Rockford to meet with our orthopedic surgeons and have the progress on our broken bones checked out. Turns out that our broken bones are broken no longer! They have healed in remarkable time and both of us were able to get our casts removed from our wrists and Dennis was able to have the pins taken out of his hand and foot! It's really quite miraculous!
It's also weird. My wrist feels so odd without support -- I find myself wanting to rely on my wrist splint as much as possible, though right now I am without it. I have very little rotation in the wrist and can't bend it forward or backwards at all, so it's off to physical therapy tomorrow. And we are both molting everywhere.
But for the first time in almost two months, I took a shower without a plastic bag and I was able to run my right palm over Annalivia's hair, though I left little skin flakes all over the place. (She was on her way to the bath, so it was ok.) It's amazing such little things are so pleasureable.
Dennis will go back to work on Monday with limited activity and hours. He's excited. I'm a little concerned about my energy with being alone with Annalivia, but happy for him. The poor man has been tethered to the living room long enough.
And in other news, we got our new van this weekend. It's a 1999 Town and Country LXI with 90,000 miles on it. It's lovely -- champagne is the official color -- and it has leather seats with the seat-warmer feature. Most importantly, it has two sliding doors. It performed beautifully on our trip today, though I think we need to have it aligned. It pulls to the right a little. But when you have a cd player AND a tape player, that's hardly a real concern.
Yep. We're high class now.
Oh, and if anyone reading this hears of a used chest freezer for sale in northern or central Illinois, would you let me know?

04 November 2006

Pancake politics

This morning, we got up early and went to the Self-Help Pancake Breakfast. Self-Help is a local organization that provides jobs for people with developmental disabilities. The Pancake Breakfast is a semi-annual event and is the main funds-raiser for Self Help. It's also usually pretty good, so we try to go whenever we can.
In addition to having apricot pancake syrup, which I consider a big draw, the place is usually teeming with local politicians running for office. Since we are so close to an election, they were out in full force today. One of the more closely contested local elections is between Democrat Stan Steines and Republican Michael Albert for Circuit Judge. Both were pancake-ing today and we got a rather unique glimpse into both Stan and Mike this morning.
When we got there, Dennis got our tickets and got in the food line. I took Annalivia and grabbed a booster chair and went to find seats. Now, those who haven't seen us for a while should remember that we are both are in casts and limp quite a bit and Dennis has a cane and walking boots on both feet. We're pretty gimpy and garner lots of sympathy wherever we go, especially when our child is being particularly precious and actually walking beside us instead of trying to run away.
ANYWAY, I was holding the booster seat in my cast arm and Annalivia's hand with my other hand and Mr. Steines came up and asked if we needed help, especially in light of my injuries. He pulled out Annalivia's chair and asked if he could go get me a plate of food. I said no, thanks and that my husband was in line and I'd go after he came back with his food. Pretty soon, Dennis arrived with Mr. Steines by his side carrying his tray. When he put it down, Dennis thanked him for his help and said, "Now we need to get Mike Albert to carry my wife's tray." Mr. Steines kind of jokingly frowned and then said, "All in good fun!" and walked away.
Meanwhile, Mr. Albert was serving sausage. He was roaming the aisles with a plate full of sausage, but wasn't delivering a whole lot. When the director of Self-Help walked by and saw that we needed sausage, he yelled across the room to Mr. Albert and he came over and gave us each one piece. We remarked that he wasn't giving up that sausage very readily. My clever comment -- he's a Republican and must be pig-scally conservative.
After we left, we were jokingly analyzing the whole encounter and decided that all politicians should be put to the pancake test at some point. We spoke to Mr. Steines a couple more times and he was friendly. Mr. Albert came back and made some awkward conversation. He's much more reserved, at least that's our impression based on our sausage encounters. Additionally, Dennis decided that you could tell a lot about their deductive skills based on our experience with them. For example, Dennis said that Mr. Steines had come up to him in line and asked if he needed help and when Dennis said that he was going to be sitting at the end of the table, Mr. Steines asked if he was with the woman with the little girl. That shows that he's pretty sharp, Dennis said. On the other hand, he said, Mr. Albert had come up to him with the sausage plate and offered a pretty chubby guy only one piece. Not so sharp.

In actuality these guys are both good folks with really honest backgrounds and from reading their campaign literature, interviews in the paper, and articles written by and about both of them, I think our county will be in a good position regardless of who is elected.
But in Pancake Politics this morning, there was a clear leader.
And of course, this is all just in good fun.