Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Meaningful and Easy Wedding Gift

If you're looking for wedding gift ideas, 
I have a really nice one that can become part of family tradition
and promote a healthy relationship for the newly wedded couple.
It's a great item to go into the relationship toolbox when you're starting out.
Or anytime in the relationship, for that matter.

This idea isn't original to me - it comes it from }this book{ about improving your marriage.
I have a great marriage but we're always looking for ways to make it better.
Having a good marriage takes work, no matter how great your spouse is :o)

We put this gift together for my nephew and his lovely bride last summer ...

I love this idea as a wedding gift because in the midst of 
the china and crystal and sheets and mixers and romantic picnic baskets, 
it acknowledges that the couple is embarking on a building project that's sometimes not so easy.  
We're all going to disagree ... to argue ... to fight.  
That's communication that's a normal part of a growing relationship.  

This gift is restorative and makes a way to start back toward each other after a disagreement.
It's very simple to pull together ... it's just a glass!

Any glass will do, and you can go as simple or as fancy as you like.
It's the concept of how it's to be used that's profound.
Wrap up the glass, and accompany it with these words:

Effective communication between two people, especially when they're at odds with each other,
is an excellent tool to begin a marriage with.
But a gesture that means, "hey ... remember us?"
might be the most powerful tool in the whole box.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Family Surfing Night, #13

We were all ready for Family Surfing Night this week ... get ready for some good laughs!

click }here{ if you're not familiar with this venue of family fun, 
where we offer up things like this for your entertainment:

That deer still gets me every. single. time.

My video this week was so very very perfect because the kids and I just had a conversation
about how the lyrics of popular music today are so aggressively degrading ... 
no romance, no respect, no intrigue ... just straight to smut.
And they thought Elvis was bad :o)  
Anyway, we talked about some specific songs, and noted what a shame it is to have great music 
and completely trashy lyrics.  
And then.  
I found this video ... 

Lt Dan's video gets an honorable mention ... 
wherein we learn that it's important to watch your video all the way through 
with the sound turned up before you present it to the whole family.  
It's hard to say which made us laugh more: the cute video or LtDan's shock at the surprise ending :o)

Aaron's choice again shows his love of Team Fortress 2.  
Judging by how much the kids all laughed, the video is quite funny if you're familiar with the game. 
The video is called September 1st.  
And you'll be happy to hear there's one for every first day of the month.  
Kids are so funny.

Abbie is a BIG fan of the movie Frozen.  
She has us all singing "Let it Go" under our breath at least once a day.  
Watch what happens when the song is run through Google translator a few times.

Nathan had a hard time deciding what to present and finally settled on this one.
I can kind of appreciate the humor, but the mom in me just can't get comfortable with it.
Nate will roll his eyes if he reads that and tell me I'm taking it too seriously :o)

Ben's entry is amazing.  
But to appreciate it, you must ... really - you must ... use headphones.  
Go get some earbuds right now.  
We'll wait.  
I promise it's worth it!

It was tough when we came down to voting.
Such greatness!
And the winner is:

Church Signs!

Gold medal puns for sure.  
And if you're familiar with the original song, it's all the more hilarious ... so well done.  
You know you love it!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Car Shopping

Pinterest is an amazing source of everything imaginable ... 
I have separate boards for each season full of glorious pictures.  
My spring board has 63 pictures, summer has 101, winter has 163, and fall has 355.  
Guess which season is my favorite?

But I've enjoyed this winter season more than usual.  
In Texas, we didn't have quite as much winter weather as some parts of the country, 
but we had some decently cold days ... and an ice event.  

I had a small load of firewood delivered last weekend.  
My family keeps telling me I was too late, because you know, 70 degrees today and all.  
But I'm holding out for the cold front that's supposed to come through in the next day or so.
Because in spite of the balmy temperatures, it's still winter, and my winter decor is still up.  
I do admit the warm breezes and open windows have me ready 
to bring out the spring decor next week.  
I'm enjoying the last days of cozy reminders of the winter past, 
and looking forward to the change.

I love the seasons changing, but in some things, I'm not a huge fan of change.  
We bought our first van about 15 years ago.  It was a proud day.  
I was so delighted to be driving a mini van.  
We drove that one until it wouldn't drive anymore and got another van.  
We're still driving that one ... and hoping it will last us just a tiny. bit. longer.  
This year we were those people arriving at our vacation destination with a smoking engine.  
That was fun :o)

Clearly, it's time for a change and time to replace the old and faithful van.  
I love that van. 
 Especially because it's been paid for since 2010.  
I was dearly, dearly hoping that when the time came to replace the family vehicle 
it would not need to be another van.  
But alas ... although it's not often, we do occasionally need to transport the whole family of six.

I'm in that strange groove of wanting a large vehicle with great gas mileage 
that doesn't look like there should be car seats, diaper bags and sippee cups in the back.  
We're looking at crossover SUV's and have the make/model we want identified.  
Now we just have to find THE ONE.
The search has me obsessed.  Or distracted.  Or obsessed and distracted.
I'm pretty sure I've looked at every vehicle within 500 miles that comes close to our specs, 
but I'm looking online, so that's nice.  

(photo by Jeff Stephenson image source) is a great resource if you like internet shopping and looking for a car.
You type in what you're looking for, and all the options within your specified distance 
are gathered for you, with photos, details, and the Edmunds Price Promise.  
We haven't bought a vehicle yet, but this has been a super place to start our search.  

Last Monday the seemingly inconsequential drizzle froze in a dangerous and thin layer of ice 
all over everything and there were hundreds of accidents in the metroplex.  
LtDan had one of them.  Very scary - he hit the ice on top of an overpass.  
The truck spun around, hit the wall, the back wheels tipped up, and he looked down
 ... way down ... 
before the wheels went back on the pavement.  
The truck was totaled, but he was fine (except for a bump on the back of his head).  
So many small graces: obviously that he wasn't really hurt, 
there were no other cars involved, and Ben and I were in town about 5 minutes away.  
We drove home oh so slowly and about half way, 
the car in front of us spun around several times and ended up on its side
in the ditch on the wrong side of the road.  
We helped four people climb out, and fortunately they were all all right too.  


Did you get the part about the truck being totalled? 
We're not really car people ... quite frankly I was hoping to drive my van until 2025 
when I should be able to replace it with a two seater sports car ... 
and now, we're looking for not one, but TWO vehicles.   

(original image source unknown)

I wish finding the right vehicle were as easy as finding great pictures on Pinterest.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What's that in your ear?

So, you know I love to listen to music in the kitchen.  
It helps me think I like to cook :o)

Last summer I bought a Logitech UE Smart Radio.

 I wanted an easily portable speaker, 
but this little gadget completely exceeded the minimal concept I had in mind. 

I use the SmartRadio to stream online radio stations, 
but it also connects to an Ipod (or other similar device),
and according to the instructions, you can connect it your computer and play from your music library.
I haven't ventured into that technology since I haven't begged one of my teenagers to set it up
Pandora works great for me.

One of my new year's resolutions was to find more new music.
My music library is fairly diverse, but would be pretty static if not for my SmartRadio and Pandora.

I created one of my favorite Pandora stations when LtDan gave me the best Christmas gift EVER and I had some relaxing time to just be.  You can read about that perfect gift }here{.  This favorite station is alternative, electronic, ambient music ... a lot like movie soundtrack music, which I love.  

Hans Zimmer is my absolute favorite composer in the soundtrack genre 
(Sherlock Holmes, Inception, The Holiday, The Road to El Dorado ...
 the list is so long and varied - everything he does is fantastic).  

Recently I found new-to-me music that is just AMAZING.  
It's the kind of music that makes you want to do important things,
 survive natural disasters, 
reunite with your one true love after the war separates you, 
deliver the ring to Mordor.
Or, you know ... cook.

I'll show you my current favorite song ...well, it's hard to say favorite, 
because I love every song on this CD, 
but it's the first song on it that got my attention. 


I hope you like it :o)

It's beautiful, and it will make you feel like you have completed your quest, 
made it home after the long journey,
conquered insurmountable difficulties, 
and everything in your world is going to be just fine. 

E.S. Posthumus - Unearthed

Did you like it?
What do you have playing in your ear these days?

(click the pictures for image sources on Pinterest)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Family Surfing Night, #12

Live from the living room, it's ...

click }here{ for an explanation if you're not familiar,
and then come back to see what kind of internet kookiness we came up with this time.

We have a special guest joining us this week ... everybody say hello to Cousin Caleb!

Article 422, section 27 of the Aunt's Code of Conduct:  
seize every opportunity to publicly display goofy photos of your nieces and nephews as children,
regardless of the fact that they are now grown up and handsome/beautiful young men and women.  

LtDan got us started with a great song from Pharrell Williams -
go ahead and get up out of your seat now, because you won't be able to keep still.

From Abbie ... a magical piano in a busy Chicago train station - so fun!

From Caleb, the very popular song Radioactive, performed by Pentatonix and Lindsey Stirling - amazing!

Nathan's video earns an honorable mention as it was deemed funny
but not necessarily for sharing beyond the living room ...

Ben's video earns an honorable mention as it was also funny
but deemed not necessarily for sharing beyond the living room ... 

From Aaron, a video from Team Fortress 2, one of the favorite video games around here ...

I had an excellent but kind of serious video all queued up, 
but after all these funny and lighthearted entries,
 had to go with something more in keeping with the mood.

Here's a reading of the 23rd Psalm.  

Warning::  it is possible to overdose on cute.

When it was time to vote, 
there was a tie between the 23rd Psalm and Pharrell's Happy.

And the winner is:

Which is a good thing, because hearing it once is just not enough :o)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chores: Our Contribution to a Working Civilization

It was a relief when LtDan finally got it through my head
 that the kids were actually supposed to help me with the housekeeping.
Once I embraced the concept, I was curious about what chores 
other families had their kids doing, and I did some research to get ideas.
I was, quite honestly, shocked - but admittedly excited :o) - at how much kids in other families 
were doing around the house.

It works for us to change our approach to chores periodically.
This time, a little unwillingly, I took a suggestion from the kids 
and instead of creating a big chart and assigning out each task, 
we took a broader approach and assigned rooms.

After our lunch break, each person is responsible for an entire common area, floor to ceiling.  
That includes doing whatever is necessary to keep the area picked up and orderly:
straightening, putting things away, fluffing pillows, emptying trash, sweeping, etc.
During the week, we keep it to the basics of making sure things look straightened up.
We also alternate bathroom cleaning duty every other day.
On the weekend we go a little deeper,
and that's when the basics for each common area plus 
dusting, vacuuming, cleaning the ceiling fan, dusting the corners, etc. happens.

Here's our current chore chart:

The most critical element of doing chores is me checking them -
there is a definite direct correlation between quality and me performing quality control.  

Honestly, I didn't think this whole room approach would work - it just seemed a little too loose,
 but the kids really like it and that's probably why it works so well.  
If I walk through a room at any time of the day and it needs to be straightened, 
the room's "owner" is the person who's asked to take care of it.  
And while I'm being honest, I will tell you this approach seems to work 
much better in the common areas than in their rooms, 
but that's because I'm more likely to neglect checking the condition of their rooms 
in favor of making sure the common areas are orderly.

Our goal was to keep the house clean for an entire month
without needing to do a big effort house cleaning,
and we've exceeded that goal ... YAY!
By "clean" I mean straightened and reasonably clean (not necessarily clean-freak clean :o).

I'm working with four teenagers - 
well, three teens and a 20 year old (yowza, how did that happen?), 
and I've been training them since they were small.  
By now, things should be working pretty well, yes?  
Take heart, moms of the very young, take heart!  
All the training you're pouring into your little ones now will pay off mightily.  
Your kids will clean your house the way you want it cleaned, 
and your house will stay tidy without a whole lot of singular effort on your part.  
That day is coming, and you deserve it!

We also rotate daily responsibility for cleaning up the kitchen and lunch preparation.  
Most days, the same person responsible for cleaning the kitchen in the morning 
was responsible for the night before, so if things are left undone overnight,
the same person is on duty the next day to finish the job. 
This is working really well for us right now, too.

If you're interested in our chore system from last year, click }here{

Initially, I really believed it was easier to just do the housekeeping myself, and I needed convincing.  If that's where you find yourself, here are a few benefits of having your kids do chores:

-  learning to keep their environment orderly and pleasant is a life skill that benefits your children's emotional well-being.  It feels better to live life in a reasonably orderly environment.  We think more clearly, can concentrate better and our moods are happier when there's order around us.  Your children need to know how to give this gift to themselves.  And please take this next to heart, because I mean it:  the definition of "reasonably orderly" isn't the same door to door.  Define what clean means to your family, and don't try to keep up with the Joneses ... do what works and feels right for YOUR family.

-  teaching your children to do the things necessary to keep the house running is excellent disaster preparedness training, and the person who benefits the most may be you!  When you get sick, have to go out of town, or unexpected company will be at your door in 20 minutes, your team is trained and knows what to do.

-  it feels good to contribute and to do a job well.  Especially for the littles, it's a confidence booster to have responsibility to get a job done.  Even when they get older, although they may not admit it, it makes your kids feel good to get things done.

-  doing chores as a family teaches your children to work as a team, and helps them value the power of teamwork.  There may be no better illustration of the power of teamwork than having the whole family tackle a house in disarray together.  What one person can accomplish in an entire day, the whole family can complete in about an hour.

Vince Lombardi sums it up perfectly:

Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.
- Vince Lombardi

And we thought they were just taking out the trash :o)

I'm sharing this post at the Glimpse Inside Thursday Catch a Glimpse Party!

and also at the All Things Thursday Blog Hop at All Things With Purpose!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

How to Make Yourself Think You Like to Cook

When I finally caught up with one of my oldest and dearest friends  
after being apart for what seemed a million lifetimes, we compared things we like to do as moms.

"Do you like to cook?" she asked.  
Her eyes were sparkling - she loves to cook.

I started to say yes.  Of course I like to cook.


It took a moment to register the shock.
No, actually ... I don't like to cook!  
Can you taste it, I wonder, if the cook doesn't like to cook?
It isn't that I hate cooking.
I just don't enjoy cooking.  

After I came to terms with it, I found it rather helpful to know that I don't enjoy cooking.
It dispensed with the "I'm supposed to enjoy this, why don't I enjoy this?!" confusion.  
And best of all, knowing I didn't enjoy my time in the kitchen 
spurred me to explore what would make cooking a more pleasant experience for myself.  

Do you tolerate - as opposed to enjoy - cooking, like me?  
Let me share with you a few ways to make it more fun.


 It was a recipe for stress when I had no clue what I was going to make for dinner.  
I make a meal plan for the entire week, so I know what I'm cooking every single day.  
I also coordinate my grocery list with the menu for the week, 
so I'm certain to have everything I need - another stress buster.  
You can see my post about how I set up my shopping list and weekly menu }here{.


If the kitchen isn't clean, do that first.  
Clear the counters, load or empty the dishwasher, wash the pots and pans.  
You'll feel so much better starting off with a clean kitchen.  
My mom told me once that she tried to have a clean kitchen 
by the time she had dinner on the table.  
My favorite memories of mom in the kitchen are during the holidays 
when she was in up to her elbows making Christmas candy and a gloriously creative chaos ... 
but for the most part, she set a great example and was a tidy cook.  
If you have to spend time in the kitchen, 
you may as well give yourself the gift of order and keep it reasonably clean.  
If you're like me, you'll find it makes you much happier!

Turn it Up

A sophisticated cook would probably listen to high brow classical music,
but if I'm in the kitchen, Pandora is most likely tuned to the Disco Inferno station ... 
I'm conditioning my children to love disco music using the Pavlovian effect.
I think it's working! 
An added benefit would be the impromptu dance parties - 
it's not humanly possible to walk through the kitchen
when the Bee Gees are singing You Should be Dancing.  
For a time, I tried to listen to books on tape while cooking, 
but it made me cranky if people tried to talk to me.  
Music works much better - it's interactive!

Treat Yourself

Pour yourself something yummy in a pretty glass and enjoy it.  
Ice water with cranberries?  Tea with lemon?  Cafe au lait?  Yes please!  
Sometimes my friend Brandy comes to help me cook.  
She ALWAYS makes cooking a lot more fun.

Enjoy Some Eye Candy

If it's cold enough, I have a fire going in the fireplace while I cook.  
It makes me feel all cozy and Suzy Homemaker.  
(Click }here{ for a great how-to on making firestarters from the wax out of your wax burner)  
Most of the time I also have my laptop on the counter, 
so I can watch my favorite screen savers come and go.  
It gives me happy things to think about while I'm pulling the meal together.

Schedule your Time

I chose the paint color for our walls because I wanted them to glow.  
When the sun goes down, the family room and kitchen are bathed in golden sunlight 
and it's pure magic.  Happily, sunset coincides with the need for a meal, have you noticed?  
I try to be in the kitchen at this time of day so I can enjoy the glow.  
It also motivates me get in there in time to actually have dinner ready before it's dark.  

So there you are ... nothing particularly revolutionary.
To be honest, I'm still working on it,
and sometimes I'm like a kid who doesn't want to do her homework.
But I've found that just a little staging goes a long way to making me think that I like cooking.  
Maybe someday it will like me back :o)

I'm linking to these fabulous parties, come join the fun!