Thursday, December 28, 2006

Prayers needed

High school friends of mine and countryside neighbors of ours had a baby boy on Christmas Day. His name is Gabriel and he weighs one pound. He is at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines. Please pray that God's will be done and pray for a peace that passes all understanding in the hearts of Gabriel's family. Thank you.
[Photo courtesy of this site.]


How is it that children learn this mysterious and annoying language? Who taught them to say things in a nasal and disrespectful tone? Why do parents have such an averse reaction to this language? How can I erase this terrible language from my daughter's vocabulary? Oh the horror!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


If I make typos in this post, it's because I'm wearing gloves . . . because my office has not had heat for two days! I "complained" yesterday and they blew me off saying "you women are always cold." Needless to say, that did not go over well. Then today, my office mate complained and, lo and behold, the maintenance guy discovered that the blower motor was out. Jeesh! I'm not crazy or cold blooded or some looney gal with a grudge against the maintenance crew. I just want to work without gloves and coat and scarf!

DH is home on break until January 10th. He'll be busy working in the new shop. His teenage nephew is supposed to be helping today - - DH decided to put OSB (chipboard) on the wall instead of drywall (OSB will take more abuse and it's a lot cheaper). The 4 x 8 sheets of OSB are heavy and cumbersome and not a good job for one person. So, hopefully, his strapping young nephew will be a blessing.

DD desperately wants to stay home to "help" Daddy. Alas, she's going to play all day with her friends at daycare. DH picked her up early yesterday so they could spend some time together. He made the BEST scalloped potatoes & ham for supper last night. I had two helpings and took the leftovers to work today (I don't need to refrigerate them, I can just sit them in my office - - hee hee).

I made bread pudding for Christmas day brunch, but no one really wanted to try it. I even had mixed berries and homemade whip cream to go on top. So, we've been enjoying that treat for a couple days - - YUMM! I also tried a new egg casserole recipe (that calls for 18 eggs!) and it was light and fluffy; I added diced ham, shredded monterey & cheddar, and shredded smoked swiss on top. It was a hit!

Monday, December 25, 2006

On Christmas Morn'

Last night we went to G'ma K's where Santa made a special visit:
DD was thoroughly amused
She received an ornament that says: "Grace - Angel of Promise." Look at that face . . .
This morning, DH and I were up before six and sat in front of the fire sipping coffee before the chaos started. DD woke up and opened presents from Santa, Mommy & Daddy & Grammy D. Daddy made her an easel - - she loved it!
Great Gramma G joined in, too.
And my DH "enabled" my photo habit:
He also got me "Rural Renaissance" and lots of cool stuff.
This is my lil' Bro and his girlfriend, "Dubbya". She's very sweet and she has a cabin on a lake, so we'd like to keep her around for a while (hint, hint lil bro!)
Lovin' the new camera lens - - I can spot and shoot all sorts of "wild" life.
And, of course, the girls enjoyed a Christmas treat and want to wish everyone a very clucky Christmas and happy new year!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


The bandana started out as a "sling" on DD's arm, which then went up on top of her head with her Swedish maiden buns and craziness ensued . . .

Olivia Newton John
Bank robber
Aunt Jemima
Girl with a tooth ache
What can you do with a red bandana?

The Hope of Christmas

[message given at Conrad UMC 12.17.06]
Illustration: “Let There Be Light” sung by Point of Grace
I compare the verses of this beautiful song to a story in Isaiah (Chapters 8 and 9): The horizon looked dark and bleak in the eyes of Isaiah, wondering if this would be the end of his people as he voiced a message of doom and destruction. Darkness as black as pitch prevailed upon the land through the sin of the people and the coming judgment by the hand of God.
Isaiah 8:21-22 They will pass through it hard pressed and hungry; and it shall happen, when they are hungry, that they will be enraged and curse their king and their God, and look upward. 22 Then they will look to the earth, and see trouble and darkness, gloom of anguish; and they will be driven into darkness.

Our hope at Christmas time is usually built upon the tangible things we expect or want to happen. But the Bible never allows a person of God to build their hope upon the likes of man but upon the unchanging nature of God Himself.

Where is your hope today? Is it wrapped up in the expectations of the holiday happenings or a gift under the tree? Or is it lost in the darkness that surrounds your life?

By all appearances there was no hope in the days of Isaiah. The nation was quickly coming to an end. But out of the darkness a voice was heard that spoke of the light of hope that would touch the very soul of man. It was the hope of Christmas!

Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.
Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

A Child would be born and given to bring hope into the hearts and lives of the hopeless. This Child was the "Light of the World" and He came to pierce the darkness that we might live. The Child of Hope is Jesus! The One whose birth, our hope, we celebrate at Christmas.

It was Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, who prophesied of the light of the Christ Child.
Luke 1:79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.

The coming of Christmas is filled with the wonder, counsel and peace of hope that exceeds our expectations and lifts us from our darkness into the Light of Christ.

Christmas Hope is Wonderful
Christmas is wonderful! In other words Christmas is full of wonder. And it is more than, "Wonder what I'm getting?" It is a wonder that exceeds the minds of men and women for it is composed in the miraculous.

This wonderful hope comes to distinguish itself from the empty hope in the world.
This wonderful hope comes to accomplish in our lives what man cannot.
This wonderful hope is incomprehensible but available.

It is the psalmist who expresses to God that His works of wonder are many (Psalm 40:5). Today we have in our world and hopefully in our hearts the most wonderful work of God, salvation through Christ. This is the wonder of Christmas for Jesus came to save us.

He came to save us from . . .
The wages of sin ... death. (Romans 6:23)
Everlasting punishment ... hell. (Matthew 25:46)

He came to save us for . . .
A heavenly home ... heaven. (John 14:2-3)
A heavenly inheritance ... reserved in heaven. (1 Peter 1:4)

The apostle Paul reminds us that we were once people without hope . . . but we are people who need to know the hope of the calling of Christ to save us from our sins and know the hope of our calling to salvation. The wonderful hope of Christmas comes to accomplish what we cannot ... salvation. Christmas is wonderfully hopeful!

Christmas Hope is Counseling
It seems like never before a greater number of people are seeking out a counselor of one sort or another. You can now attend counseling sessions and self help groups for most anything that troubles you. It is all a sign of hopeless lives in need of the good Word.

Jesus as the Counselor and the Hope of Christmas comes to give . . .
Counsel that is deliberately designed to resolve our problem.
Counsel that is good advice for everyday living.
Counsel that guides and gives us purpose in life.

Jesus has the Spirit of Counsel upon him (Isaiah 11:2) and He speaks the words of eternal life. We must seek His counsel concerning the issues of life.

The hope of Christmas comes as the Counselor that speaks to us in our moments of despair to look to Jesus.

Christmas Hope is Peaceful
Fear, stress, confusion and heartache are the trademarks of our day because of an absence of peace. And they seem to be enlarged in this season of hope, love, joy and peace.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Through the wonder and counsel of Christmas Hope we find peace through the Prince of Peace.

Real peace . . .
Peace that brings healing and health to our fragmented lives. (Isaiah 53:5)
Peace that brings about a prosperity by the hand of God. (3 John 1:2)
Peace that brings the assurance of the past-present-future of life. (Hebrews 6:11)
Peace that brings restoration by making amends. (Acts 3:19-21)

When we have peace with God through Jesus Christ, we have peace with ourselves (Philippians 4:7) and others (Romans 5:1). Christmas peace is a great gift to give and receive through Christ.
This Christmas, wrap your hope in the wonderful counsel of peace that Christ brings to our lives by the hand of our Mighty God and Everlasting Father. I invite you to know the wonder, counsel, and peace that only Christ can give. Today, I want to give you the gift of Jesus Christ, the Savior. Will you invite Him into your heart and accept His gifts of mercy and salvation? Will you turn from the darkness and seek the light of Christ?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Back to school

I'm taking a week of vacation to take a 3-credit Human Growth & Development class at Marshalltown Comm College (slowly, but surely, getting a degree of one sort or another). In five days, we'll be covering 16 chapters, seven tests, and countless pages of hand-written notes (my hand is already sore from the 20 pages of notes I took today). This is quite an entre back into college life (it's been 12 years since I stepped into a classroom)! Wish me luck!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Catching up ... again

Sunday afternoon...finally a time to rest and reflect on the busy-ness of the past week or two. I'm tired. We have both been working lots of hours; early morning meetings, late meetings & presentations, social gatherings, etc. With the movie "Holiday Inn" in the background, Leah (the cat) and I sit in front of the computer to ponder...
Last Sunday was DD's Christmas program in church (she's on the far right in the burgundy velvet dress). She had two little verses memorized.
DH's Sunday School class (Jr. High) had a big part in the program (they were the "Weird Angels") and it was very cute.
DD's new "crush" and his wonderful parents came over for chili on Thursday. He's such a ham!
Friday was my office Christmas party - - pizza at Zeno's (the local favorite).

Yesterday, we got a wild hair to go down to the Des Moines Farmers Market since it was 56 degrees outside. It's quite a drive, but well worth it - - lots of great vendors! We purchased some locally made cheese (Maytag blue and smoked baby swiss), a new t-shirt (don't ya love it?!)We ate lots of yummy food (honey crisp apples, crab rangoons, cheddar popcorn, Dutch letters). Oh my!
We've had wonderful egg production with the warm weather of late - - our cartons overfloweth!

Last night, we had a Country Friends Holiday Progressive Dinner. Some of our town and country friends (8 couples) started with hors d'oeuvres at Linda's, then dinner at Laura's (with Ellen as co-hostess), and dessert at our home. We ended the night with 10 of us sitting in our little den around the corn stove telling crazy stories.
The "hostesses with the mostesses": l to r Linda, Laura, me & Ellen

DD went to stay with Grammy D last night - - they went to "Flushed Away" and both loved it!
Our pastor is gone this week, so I gave the message at church this morning. It was a wonderful service with many "lay leaders" involved in the worship service. To DH's mom's after church. Now, DD and DH gave me a couple hours of peace & quiet - - they went caroling with the church's praise team.
Hope you all have a wonderful week before Christmas; may the gracious spirit of Jesus be in your heart!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Mission accomplished!

The video project is now complete and live here. We had a fancy soiree on Wednesday night to commemorate the occasion. Whew! Glad that's over with. Now on to the next project(s).

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Advent activities

The Advent activities have been a huge hit so far. Sometimes we have to improvise - - today is day 5 and I just realized that we're the only family in the North American continent that doesn't own the "Twister" game (what the . . .?). My DH has a huge collection of board games, but not Twister? Hint, hint Grammy D!

Last night was "give each other crazy hairstyle" night and I conveniently had a late meeting in town. Here's one hairstyle:

Yes, those are pipe cleaners and jingle bells in her hair! We get quite creative with the art supply box.

I've been forbidden to reveal DH's darling 'do (he stated it was grounds for the big D) . . . I'll just let you use your imagination and tell you that I about peed my pants when I found the picture he took of himself!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Days of long shadows

Brrrrrr . . . it's cold out there. A good day to drink hot chocolate...Hook up the heated water base (duh, I have a plastic waterer and now I need to buy a metal one) And take random pictures of the dog.

(Blogger won't show the "add photo" button - - will try again later) Edited: the buttons finally mysteriously re-appeared! Woo hoo!

Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Christmas crafts

Here's two craft projects I've been working on:
1. Holiday Journal - - saw the idea up in Alexandria, MN and loved the concept. Hopefully, I will actually use it, rather than "save it for a special occasion."
2. Advent activities jar - - we don't have a traditional Advent calendar (although someday, I would love to make a fabric-quilt-with-pockets-with-numbers-stitched-on-them version). For now, this is what we're using to count down to Christmas.
Got lots of the ideas for activities from Kiddley and adjusted it to our schedule (and climate). I just printed out the list and cut apart the days.

1. Have an indoor picnic
2. Christmas in Conrad celebration
3. Watch a holiday movie – DD's choice
4. Give everyone crazy hairstyles
5. Play Twister
6. Go out for Chinese
8. Write letters to Santa Claus
9. Watch a holiday movie - Mom’s choice
10. Tour of Christmas decorations (don’t forget the hot chocolate)
11. Make decorations for the tree
12. Have a camp out around the Christmas tree
13. Make s’mores
14. Fancy dress for dinner time
15. Wrap a toy and take it to a charity Christmas tree
16. Make handmade gift tags for relatives
17. Make sock puppets and tell a story
18. Make tree & star shaped pasta for dinner
19. Dance like crazy to music
20. Have breakfast for dinner
21. Have hot chocolate with all the fixings
22. Star gazing
23. Watch a holiday movie – Dad’s choice
24. Special Christmas Eve treat TBA

What would your activities look like? What special things do you do to celebrate Advent?

Catching up

Just a few things to report and a few photos to share:

Thanksgiving was extremely low-key this year. My mom shared the holiday with us and DH's family. We went to DH's sister's for Thanksgiving dinner. Lots of kids and food and fun (as usual). I'm a little more than embarrassed to tell you that the feast was not as "local" as I would have liked. My family and DH's family don't really share our views when it comes to eating locally. All that aside, it was a very nice time. DD was so busy playing with all her cousins, she didn't even get in the "family" picture!
The day after Thanksgiving is always reserved for decorating. Forget the whole "black Friday" thing . . . you will not find me getting crushed amidst the ridiculous over-commercialization of this sacred holiday. No way. Anyhoo . . . we have four Christmas trees [yes, 4]. I usually put all four up, but this year, I've adopted the philosophy "if I don't feel like it or don't really enjoy doing it, then I'm not gonna do it." I'm a much happier person for it (despite my surly demeanor towards DH when he tried to "help" by bringing down all the boxes from the attic). We put up the big tree in the dining room. It's decorated with burgundy and gold - - the same thing I've had for the last eight years. One of the smaller trees is usually decorated with homemade ornaments or memorabilia. I have a feeling that one of these nights, DH and DD will put it up for fun.

We've had some really crazy weather here lately - - 64 and sunny on Monday. It was great because the chickens thought they needed to lay eggs again (you go, girls!). Today it's 28 and overcast and wet - - yuck! And, you guessed it, the hens have not laid one egg today! I would love to just get some real snow! You know, "the weather outside is frightful/but the fire inside's delightful/but since we've nowhere to go/let it snow, let it snow, let it snow" kind of snow? Bring it on!

Very sad news today. Our long-time (14+ years) Main Street director passed away after two years battling with cancer. She was well-respected and loved in our little community and I hope you will pray for her family.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Not sure what to think...

about this. Please don't be offended by the title of the book . . . read the interview. Some very interesting thoughts set out here. I agree with some, not with all. Your thoughts? Is it nutritionally sound/correct?

Creature Comforts

The new cornstove is much appreciated. On most nights, you can find us in the den with the tv off, reading, listening to a podcast on the computer, DD plays with her paper dolls, or we just sit in the dark and watch the lovely flame.
Warmth . . . togetherness . . . home

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

It's that time already?

Gift-giving season is upon us and I've found a few great ideas for the novice and experienced crafter/cook. All wonderfully thoughtful, unique, and relatively inexpensive.
Here and
Go ahead, give one a try. You might actually enjoy it!
I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to pick up the knitting needles, ball of yarn and two pages of instructions my mom gave me two years ago. I'm hopeless when it comes to written instructions and diagrams. I need someone to show me. My mom's a wonderful crafter (she knits, crochets, cross-stitch) and she passed down some of those crafty genes. But I lack patience (and a full-time private tutor). So I asked some ladies at work to show me how to knit and/or crochet. That's next week's project!

Obviously, I'm already missing gardening season. I've been working on next year's garden plan, studying the ISU Extension website for hints and ideas, and trying to remember all that I've learned (*mistakes I've made*) from my previous years' gardens. Because my garden will be substantially smaller next year - - due to DH's new building being located on top of 70% of my previous garden and because I just don't have time to maintain a huge garden - - I need to grow more efficiently and effectively next year. I'm planning more successive crops (after the peas are done, I plant tomatoes in their place, and then peas after the tomatoes are done), much more mulch (put all the grass clippings to good use), and installing a water collection and drip irrigation system (less water waste). I also need to be more open minded about actually eating the food I grow (still haven't convinced myself to cook the butternut squash that is sitting out in the garage). The challenge of eating locally and in season has actually been more fun than chore. Even though the potatoes we froze were awful, the potatoes that I put in the garage are wonderful, so I use those when I can. It absolutely kills me to buy frozen corn, beans & peas!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

It's finally here

The new holiday music cd we produced is now on sale. You can read all about it here - - it was the front page story of the local Sunday paper! You can't ask for better PR! To hear samples of the songs, click here.

What a lazy weekend. This is the first time in a VERY long time that we did absolutely nothing! We had a birthday party Friday night. I slept in Saturday and I did not clean a thing, nor did I do one stitch of laundry (I'll pay for that later this week). DH was in bed by 8:00 pm Saturday night. To church this morning and "visiting" relatives this afternoon. Very boring we are...

Monday, November 13, 2006

She . . .

Reads! DD is really enjoying learning to read. She has the vintage "Dick/Jane/Sally" book and can read the whole thing. She's sooooo proud!
Eats! DD loves her veggies! We had green beans for dinner tonight and when she asked for seconds, she asked for the "rest of the bowl . . . you don't want any, do you Mom & Dad?"

Spots wildlife! DD pointed out a small group of deer on the edge of town the other day. They stood still until I reached for the camera.
LOVES going to the Festival of Trees with her Grammy! She was enamored with the Subway (sandwich) tree last year - - she talked about it every time a Subway commercial came on tv (now that's great brand identity!). DD stayed with her Grammy D on Saturday night; they went to see "Flicka" and to church together on Sunday. I met up with them Sunday afternoon and we all went to the GC Festival of Trees.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The sun sets on another political season

And what a night it was. Denise O'Brien had a substantial lead early on, but then eventually lost by only 2 points. The outcome certainly showed that Iowans are ready for a change in its agricultural policies and practices. Even though Denise didn't win the office of Secretary of Agriculture, I know she will continue to work for safe and healthy food, farms, and families. I'm so proud of what she brought to this race and that she kept her cool, even when she was being attacked and maligned by her opposition. That seemed to be a common practice during this political season and I'm happy to say that it's over.

Last night was also our first parent-teacher conferences. We received DD's report card last week and had a chance to review it before we met with her teacher. DD did very well and is "above grade level" in many areas. Okay . . . yes, I'm bragging a bit (that's my job!). We adore DD's teacher - - she's fair, patient, and challenges the kids to rise above. We're so lucky to have Mrs. H!

DH finished the exterior of the new building last week - - what a relief! He'll be spending most of his time inside the building now with insulation, drywall, and organizing all the tools.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Last night, our little rural neighborhood came alive with families roaming the countryside in search of treats. Neighbor Laura organizes families with little goblins to go trick or treating to other neighbors without little ones at home. Everyone enjoys themselves, the adults get a chance to visit with each other, the kids get re-acquainted, and it's just a great neighborhood activitiy.I even got in the spirit by dressing up as a rough & tumble hockey player (yes, that's makeup around the eyes, nose & mouth). My other neighbor Laurie was dressed up as a clumsy lady; seriously, she broke her finger/knuckle after she fell from a step ladder.
Last Saturday, my great aunt & uncle celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a wonderful party. DD had so much fun with her cousin J - - they found a donation box filled with old glasses and they proceeded to try on every pair and give us a "fashion show." When it was time to leave, they hugged and vowed to see each other again soon (I hope so, too).

Sunday was the youth group omelet breakfast and bake sale. Lookie what I brought home!
Remember this? Well, now it looks like this:
And the chicken house has been "mysteriously" moved "out of the way." DH even strung an electrical line to the chicken coop so the girls have some warmth (plus, it keeps the water from freezing). My conventional farmer neighbor ("Big D") now thinks that I'm a hypocrite for "tricking" the hens into better egg production with extra light and heat. I'm just a proponent of happy chickens, that's all Big D. Yes, he officially has a blog nickname.

Have a safe and happy Halloween, y'all!