Thursday, January 28, 2010

Love Thursday

This day is grey. We've had brief periods of sun but clouds are the overriding theme. I don't do well without the sun; especially weeks on end. I'm tired. I don't wanna do things (said in THE whiniest intonation); I have no desire to cook, clean, drive, shower, or exit my pajamas. But I have a family and a job and other minor impediments that prevent me from staying in bed. So I continue on but not with my usual fervor (my husband would now like to butt in to state that my usual fervor is hardly fervorish. I will contend, however, that it is fervorisher than now. And yes. Fervorisher is a word as is fevorish. Why? Because I said so. My blog. My rules.).

This week has been trying. The kids have been at each other's throats. We're all testy. And I find it's times like this when daily gratitude really becomes important. So here is today's list.

I am grateful for:
  • Beautiful perfect tiny babies who fit into their tiny knit hats
  • Stripped socks in bright colors
  • Funny felt wallets made for 4th grade town
  • Heart crayons also made for town
  • The blackboard hanging from our coat closet
  • The library
  • A book club full of wonderful women
  • No predators in my backyard the night before last (when our chickens were inadvertently left to roam free)
  • An upcoming week off work
  • My crock pot
  • My six-year-old who would rather make a gift for an upcoming party than buy something because it "means more" that way.

This feeling of fatigue? It's nothing new. It too shall pass.

Happy Love Thursday!

Please Universe

"Waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both. Without industry and frugality, nothing will do, and with them everything. " ~Benjamin Franklin


This morning I pulled into the driveway and said a little prayer. Please universe. Could you send a bit of money my way. Actually a bit more than a bit. Twenty-thousand dollars would be ever so lovely. It would be the security we need. Then I said another prayer within the prayer. Oh, but universe, this money needs to come from a happy place. You see I am fully aware of The Monkey's Paw and do not want the cash should negative consequence result.

Having made my plea I gathered garbage from the car and was about to throw it away when a dime fell out as if it had fallen from the sky. Phenomenal! I revised my prayer to nineteen thousand nine hundred ninety-nine dollars and ninety cents.


Once upon a time we had an emergency fund. Right or wrong that fund was in the stock market. Our money lost half it's value. Then we had to tap into it. Shall we just say our security is quite meager.

Like so many other Americans, our family made less money this year; 2009 is less than 2008 is less than 2007.

We still contribute to our retirement funds. We continue to pay our bills on time. But things are tight. Very very tight. And stressful. This is not what I want. I desire, crave, financial freedom.


Knowing then what we know now we'd make different choices. Hindsight is always 20:20. But the past is in the past. We must look to the future.


In a way I am grateful for the recession. It's taught me to be creative and innovative. It's made me question some long-held beliefs. It's opened the door to the right side of my brain and given me permission to explore. My skill, insight and knowledge have grown. This is wealth in and of itself.


We will continue to be frugal. We're searching for additional income. I sincerely hope this is bottom. We're clawing at the surface of the crater trying to get a hand hold on something that won't crumble. Each new attempt comes with the hope of dragging ourselves up and out.


We are okay.


I truly do not expect this money to fall from the sky (but oh how exciting would that be?!!). I know it must come from me. I am, however, hoping for a karmic nudging to help me along.

Please universe!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Valentine's to Share!

Remember the valentine I was working on? My original intent was to simply cut it out and deliver as is. Then I came across this post from Paige Balcer at Shutter Sisters; a free valentine template made for a square photo. A square photo! I mean what could be more perfect?!!

So I downloaded the template, juggled it around to fit my photo and voila! A card was born. Paige printed her cards on scrapbook paper. I didn't have any about so did the next best thing; the backside of the card is a digital background. (You can find free digital scrapbooking files here). We went with the traditional blue for boys and pink for girls.

Here are the cards all folded up:

I did shrink the cards so three would fit per page (ever-frugal momma!!).

If you want to make your own go over to Shutter Sisters and get the template. If you don't have a photo of your own you are welcome to download my card for printing and cutting out. Of course you'll have to find a background to use. Here is a link for the girl version and one for the boy version.

I'm thrilled to have these done and it's not yet even February. One more thing checked off the never-ending to do list.

How are your valentines coming along?


Friday, January 22, 2010

Frugal Friday: Homemade Granola

Granola is a food that goes in and out of vogue like the tides. It's good for you. It's not good for you. Good. Not good. Gah! How's a girl supposed to eat? I've come to realize, however, that everything is okay in moderation; and the less processing the better. For this reason I decided to tackle homemade granola. I get to choose just what goes into our cereal and subsequently our bodies. Plus homemade is cheaper to boot.

I thought it would difficult. I was wrong. Very very wrong. Homemade granola is simple, inexpensive and healthy. If you google "granola recipe" you'll get hundreds of different combinations. Really the sky is the limit. I fussed around with a couple of different combinations and found I prefer a minimalist approach. Here is my recipe:

2 cups whole oats
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans (or other nut of your choice; hazelnuts are excellent)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. (Hint: put the oil in first then use the same measuring cup to add the honey. It'll slide right out.) Stir well. Place on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper or a silpat mat. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and with a spatula flip the granola. Bake an additional 10 minutes. Allow to cool and store in a cool dark place. If desired add dried fruit.

My absolute favorite way to eat this granola is over plain yogurt with a sprinkling of frozen berries. And when the yogurt container is empty? It's a great place to store your next batch!

Happy Eating and Happy Frugal Friday!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Love Thursday

Things I love today:
  • New knitting projects.
  • Cupcakes!
  • Tiny tiny hats for tiny tiny babies.
  • A *relatively* clean kitchen.
  • Two nights off work.
  • My lovely bed with it's mismatched flannel sheets and down comforter.
  • The chance to watch my son's first wrestling match.
  • 2 1/2 hours of quiet mommy alone time.
  • Coffee!
  • The warmth of the computer as it rests on my lap.
  • Hats to hide my lack of showering.
  • Sweats, sweaters and blue jeans.
  • Big Huge Labs and their mosaic maker.
  • Pajamas.
  • The distant whistle of the train as it slowly rumbles through town.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Birthday Party Success!

I'm going to print myself a tee-shirt that says I hosted a six-year-old birthday party and survived! And we did - we survived! At one point there were twenty-one kids in our house; fifteen six or under and few older kids to boot.

As each child entered the house they were handed a newspaper hat to decorate. This kept the kids busy while everyone was arriving. Then we were ready for games.

Middle Daughter was amazing. She wrangled these little people into line, divided them into groups and sent them to their respective stations. Nary a tear was shed.

We fished for words, had an add em up beanbag toss and a snow globe making station. (The fun was sprinkled with a touch of math, spelling and science. Sorry - couldn't help myself).

After that cupcakes; old-fashioned chocolate and vanilla with a hint of lime (omit the cherry and add a touch of lime zest). Both were topped with buttercream frosting. Each cupcake was different. Some were decorated with deer, some with silver trees and some with cherries. And yet there was no fighting, no tears. We had forty-eight cupcakes. Today only a few stragglers remain.

Finally the presents. Oh the presents. Way. Too. Many. I wish I'd thought in advance about gifting alternatives. My daughter is attending a party today where they are having a book exchange. Each child brings a book and each child leaves with a book. I love that!

My task today is to clean the mess from yesterday's festivities. I may hide a few of the gifts; either to be re-gifted or brought out at a later date.

Two hours was just the right amount of time. The kids were done. I was done. Each child left with a gift bag containing a coloring book, pencil container and roll of Rolos.

I'd venture to say the party was a success. Now I can breathe a huge sigh of relief. I might even find the time to ship those remaining Christmas gifts that are boxed but not yet sent.

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Opinions Please!

I've been toying with this idea for a while. There was a similar apple photo on Flickr that gave me the inspiration. The apple cutout seemed the perfect format for a ttv photo. I'm hoping to turn this shot into this year's Valentine's Card -- similar to these from last year (scroll down to the bottom).

Only here's my question -- does this look too Snow Whiteish (as in "one bite and all your dreams will come true..." said in that perfect evil cackle of all Disney antagonists)?

And yes. Yes. I know Valentines is still a month away. But I had an apple and the light was right. I couldn't resist!

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Last Night

Dogs, like humans, have three stages of labor. The first stage is often called pre-labor which includes early mild contractions and dilation of the cervix. The mama dog’s temperature will drop and she will begin to nest. She will also pant and appear uncomfortable. The second stage of labor consists of active contractions and pushing. During this stage we veterinarians do not like a dog to be actively pushing for more than an hour without producing a puppy. If this occurs then veterinary care and intervention is highly advisable. The third stage of labor is the involution of the uterus and expulsion of any remaining placentas after all pups have been born.

Last night, at 2:45 am, a Shih Tzu presented to our clinic. We’ll call her Lola. She had been in stage two labor and actively pushing for nine hours. Nine. I can not say why she was not brought in earlier. Perhaps her owners were uninformed and had not researched labor. Perhaps they were holding out for a natural (and thus free-of-charge) birth. Perhaps a combination of the two.

At any rate this little gal needed a c-section, and sooner than later at that. But, before surgery, finances had to be addressed. These folks were financially strapped. They had poor credit. They knew of no one who would lend them money or a credit card. They had not planned for any potential complication. Nonetheless they would gladly pay us Tuesday for a c-section today.

I had a judgement call to make; perform surgery with a hope and a prayer of getting paid or not perform surgery with a hope and a prayer the dog would survive until she could see a day practice. I chose the former. If the checks don’t clear my head will be on the chopping block. All I could wish for was a neat clean and quick procedure which minimized costs but did not jeopardize the health of the animal.

As we were prepping Lola for surgery her owners came back to say goodbye. “We have a little girl at home,” they stated casually with no indication of the bomb they were about to drop.

“She’s six. This dog means the world to her and she would be absolutely devastated if anything happened to her or the puppies.” Criminy. A child. Children pull on my heart strings and this statement definitely upped the ante. But wait, there was more.

“You see last year she lost her brother. This dog was meant as a replacement. This baby for our baby, our human baby.”

And there it was. The whole package. Neatly wrapped in brown paper, placed gently on the floor and slid nonchalantly in my direction. Doctor. Not only are you responsible for the financial wherewithal of this family, you are also responsible for the life of this little dog and her unborn puppies. And, to top it off, you hold the mental well-being of a young child in your hands.

Needless to say the pressure was on. This dog had been in labor way too long and I was very concerned the puppies would not be viable. Everything rested on my shoulders. Fortunately our emergency clinic has an amazing and highly trained staff. There were only two of us, my technician and myself. Yet we were ready. We could handle it.

We went to surgery immediately. Luck was on our side (and believe you me we have been on the other side of the luck equation). Last night the procedure was quick and mama's uterus was in good shape. The first puppy came out gasping. It was alive! The second pup, the one stuck in the birth canal, did not show signs of life. His head was swollen and as I suspected he'd been stuck too long. But one live puppy and a live mama. That was good. We could salvage something from this mess.

My technician worked on stimulating the first pup while I finished surgery. As I was closing my incision the technician gasped. “Oh my God,” she exclaimed, “the other puppy is breathing!” Revival efforts began immediately. Against all odds that puppy also survived.

Last night the universe was on our side. We returned the neat brown package to sender embellished with a bright new ribbon. Inside was mama dog, two healthy puppies and a little girl’s heart and soul. Now, if we're really lucky, we might even get paid.


I am not an advocate for dog breeding. There are too many wonderful animals already in need of homes. And I should know given all my cats (3) and dogs (2) have been rescues. These animals are amazing. The labradork, Walterino, Mickey, Emmie and camera shy Mew Mew. I couldn't ask for a better crew. Each and every one of them was left for naught.

If, however, you ignore my plea and choose to breed please be prepared. Study and read about the birthing process. Consider Whelp Wise. Set money aside ($1000.00 to $2000.00) in case a c-section becomes necessary.

And, by all means, do NOT count your puppies before they hatch.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bench Monday

The weather here has been dark and grey. Me - I'm a sunshine girl. I need the light streaming through the back door caressing me as I pass by. Without it I'm depressed, lethargic and just plain blah. Alas I can not control the weather.

For now I'm making do with floral sunshine and am humming this mantra; a demand to the universe that my beloved return soon. I hope, wherever you are, your day is full of light.

Happy Bench Monday!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Frugal Friday: Birthday Edition

My youngest daughter turned six a couple of weeks ago. Next week we'll be having her party. In the past Little's birthdays have been smaller affairs. But this year she is in kindergarten and has gobs and gobs of friends. Her mother is also a sucker and doesn't want to leave anyone out. So we invited all twenty-one kids from her class. Yes. Twenty-one. They won't all show up, will they? No. They couldn't possibly. Nonetheless, if they do all show, we'll be ready.

The party will be at our house. Old carpets, mediocre furniture and scratched wood floors are perfect for a mob of five and six year olds. The theme is "Winter Wonderland". Already we made these fun snowflakes for the windows. The birthday crown has been crafted and I'm hoping to sew a bunting before next week (from my thrifted fabric stash of course).

We'll be making cupcakes -- some decorated with these toppers and some like this (assuming I can figure out how to make the snowflakes). Cupcakes are a birthday tradition in the Peculiar Household and I'm rather excited to get baking.

Now on to activities. Little loves, as in absolutely adores, snow globes. As such we'll be making our own. For months I've been collecting glass jars of all shapes and sizes. I've also been gathering figurines while out thrifting. Plus I picked up a few spiderman and fairy cake toppers that ought to do nicely.

We are working on the snow globe prototype today. The good news is that it doesn't leak (I used a silicone glue around the inside of the lid). However there is quite a bit of "white space" and it would be nice if the figurine were raised a bit. How to do this? How to do this? Back to the drawing board for this one. I am soliciting brilliant ideas - if you have any please let me know.

As for other activities I'm not sure yet. I was considering a game of twister, perhaps pin the tail on something and/or a fishing game. Any suggestions? I'd love to hear what you do for parties.

And, finally, the party favors. Of course each child will get to take home a snow globe. But I also want to send them with a goody bag. I want something that will foster creativity and keep the party goers occupied. I'm not fond of plastic junk that soon fills the landfill. But what to do?

Then yesterday I found a great deal on little colored pencil packs at Michael's - eight small colored pencils for a dollar. And those pencils triggered my memory -- handmade coloring books (something I intended to make for the holidays but didn't quite get around to).

Using this tutorial and this one a coloring book came to fruition. We already had card stock (thank you Stephanie!), paper and ink. Instead of book binding tape we used blue painters tape. It worked quite nicely thank you very much. I did splurge and buy a corner trimmer (what a cool gadget!). We used drawings found online - one animal for each letter of the alphabet. (Twenty bonus points to the person who guesses what animal we used for the letter "x"!). All in all it was relatively easy.

Whew! *wipes brow*. And there you have it. A birthday party for, potentially, twenty plus kids. All that for under $100.00. (The total amount spent thus far is about $50.00 but I'm giving myself a cushion for unanticipated expenses).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Revealing Love Thursday

Things I'm loving today:
  • Reading Pollyanna with my daughter and learning to play the glad game.
  • Homemade snowflakes adorning our windows.
  • Thrifted wooden thread spools.
  • Fitting in exercise all this week (snowshoeing, treadmill, exercise bike and wii).
  • Finding time to practice my chanter*.
  • This cupcake kit purchased for my daughter's birthday party.


* I've been keeping a secret for the past six months. Well it's not really a secret but it's something I've only briefly alluded to here. And no. No! I'm not pregnant.

I've been taking lessons. Music lessons. You see I'm learning to play the bagpipes. Yup. Bagpipes. I feel like that middle spool of thread. The blue one. Scattered. Disheveled. Not quite wound right. What in the world am I doing?!!

Once a week I drive to the next town over for an hour of instruction -- this takes two hours out of my day; one for lessons and one for driving. Thus far I've been learning on a practice chanter. But soon I'll be ready for a set of real pipes. I've already picked them out. I've saved about $400.00. Only $1200.00 left to go.

Imagine. Imagine saving enough for pipes. Imagine playing them with abandon; without fear, without judgment. Imagine letting go. Imagine joy.

You tell me -- am I crazy?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

In the Peculiar household it seems January 3rd is a day for snowshoeing. We went once last year - on the exact same day. It stands to reason. It's a new year. We're feeling frisky. We're ready to take on the world. And take it on we did. The family hiked 4.1 miles with a very long uphill haul near the end of our journey. Little Sis, who just turned six, hiked the entire distance all on her own. Of course we were treated to a touch of whining and a pinch of moaning but hey - she's six!

Three hours stomping through the snow works up an appetite. Tonight it's breakfast for dinner. For the kids - bacon, eggs, hashbrowns and toast. For the adults - Rosti Casserole with Baked Eggs. Fresh eggs. From our very own chickens. Have I told you lately that I love our chickens?

And now it's time to take the food from the oven. I hope you all had a weekend as wonderful as we did! This has been an excellent start to 2010!

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Word

“Whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon must inevitably come to pass.”
~ Paul J. Meyer

When I told Mr. Peculiar the word for 2010, Imagine, he said, "That's sooo 1972." And indeed it may be. One can't help but think of John Lennon's iconic lyrics.
Mr. Lennon's sentiments still apply today and I wholeheartedly agree with his ideals. And yet this word, Imagine, also carries significant personal meaning. It is the perfect word for the year to come.

Last year's word was simplify. We cut down to the core. We pulled our caps down tight, zipped up our jackets and stuffed our hands in our pockets. Then we began a slow and steady march through the rain. There was beauty to be sure; contentment in the downpour. If nothing else we had love. The year could have been much worse. Though, as years go, it could also have been better. Does this not hold true for any given year?

Today we are still marching. Our shoes are worn. Our feet our sore. Only now the rain has lessened; it's but a mere drizzle. I sense a rainbow around the corner.

It is time to open up. To expand. Imagine is an extension of hope and dream. It does not imply immediate result or instant gratification. It is merely the opening of the heart to the prospect of bigger and better things. Imagine the possibilities; both diminutive and grand. Imagine a clean house. Imagine exploring and traveling. Imagine money to give and time to share. Imagine peak physical fitness. Imagine me time. Imagine a new paint job and gutters out front. Imagine learning another language or instrument or both. Imagine a year full of creativity. Imagine peace, joy and happiness. Imagine a life well lived.

And so 2010 begins with optimism. With hope and a heart full of dreams. Imagine the things to come.


I used this lovely font to make the stencil above. Get it for yourself - free. Happy New Year!