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A:  Mom!  Want to hear a joke?  What’s a book that hasn’t been written?  “The Unwritten Book,” by Emma Genton.

Me:  Hmmm.  I don’t think I understand.

I am in a hotel room in Westminster, Colorado.  It’s after midnight.  The sweet sleeping sounds of my family surround me.  2 boys.  2 girls.  1 amazing husband.  We just finished a terrific weekend visiting my brother, his wife, and their 7 month old daughter.

“Cousinpalooza!” the sign my sister-in-law painstakingly glittered said.  It was.

There is so much I have missed writing about.  Adding the first boy.  Adding the second boy.  Moving.  Traveling–Iceland, Alaska!  Parenting.  Politics.  Manners.  Driving.  Cooking.  Illness.

I miss chronicling these experiences.  And the baby has awoken.  I’d like to write promises of being back to writing at least weekly but I know better than to put pixel in action that I have no way support.  So.  These words, this joke, is a start…let’s see where it goes.



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6 Months is an Improvement, Right?

October to April is something akin to 6 months.  So, that’s better than 12-13 months passing without writing a word, right?

In November the whole circus went to Iceland.  We had an amazing time.  Ju asks weekly when we are going back.  Both girls talk non-stop about the rainbows we saw.

In December we put an offer in on a house closer to work.  We *might* move this week.  Who knows?  With a circus anything is possible.

In January we found out baby #4 is joining our family.  Shocking.  We also went to Disney.  Not shocking.

In February Z broke my nose in a wild head banging while asleep incident.  The girls had birthdays.  Time flew.

March brought news that #4 is a boy and that renovations on TV must take weeks or months not moments to complete.

And now, here April is with green grass and gray skies and more abundance than we deserve.  Thank you God for everything.


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And another year has flown!

367 days since my last post.  Whew!  Let me recap:

BFF had a baby

I had a baby

Hired some awesome folks

Mr. T quit his job to be home with the kiddos

Work expanded to include a clinic

We have traveled to Arizona, Texas, Florida, and to see family.  The girls have embraced their big sisterhood.  Homeschool is going great.  Life is good!

I am making no promises about writing more often.  We shall see how the next 367 goes!

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A Year? Really?

I guess time really does fly when you are having fun.

In the way only a professional blogger can mean it:  I think about writing posts several times a week.  Really super interesting thoughts and observations on politics, national and international affairs, parenting, cooking, travel, and other very compelling topics.  Insert a witty aphorism about good intentions and paving roads here.  😉

To quickly catch you up:

We are expecting a baby boy in 6-10 weeks.  SURPRISE!

JU is baby crazy, talking in 2-3 word phrases, and is a joy.

AU is smitten with her role as big sister, telling me that a rectangle has 4 sides and 4 points but circles have no sides or points, and we began our homeschooling adventure this past week “for real”.

Mr. T is doing some career soul searching and trying to decide on staying where he is, going for a 3rd round of grad school applications, or pursuing a different career.

As for me, I hope to be doing more blogging about the super interesting topics listed above…soon.  😀

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Catch Up (again!)

Once again I fail to maintain…

Where were we? June! Yes! Let’s see…in June I threw a tea party for some friends. We spent a leisurely afternoon sipping tea, eating various tiny sandwiches and scone. I forget how tasty a cucumber sandwich really is!

Then my birthday was also BFF and my 10 year anniversary. We are fortunate that we know the day we met. She gave me a hilarious poster sized image of she and I making duck faces in our bathing suits at the beach. To say it is hideous is not giving it the comedic credit it deserves. I laughed until I cried.

Poor BFF though she spent the end of June and most of July with a nasty tick-borne something. I spent July visiting my grandparents for the 4th, taking the girls to the pool, and getting ready to start homeschool preschool in the fall, and visiting my grandparents for my Gramma’s birthday.

August found us throwing together a baby dedication for Ju and then sitting at the hospital due to Grampa’s pneumonia. I do not feel like my summer had a satisfactory ending at all! No final pool trip or hot dog roast. Instead, the season changed while I sat with the rest of the family in the ICU.

He did recover and was able to move back to Indiana to a rehabilitation center. Unfortunately, two weeks later he passed away. We traveled to Indiana for the visitation and funeral. After the funeral we had a picnic in the backyard under the apple trees that was one of the most idyllic times I can remember outside of my many fond childhood memories. The weather was perfect, the food was good, there were lots of great grandchildren running around, the setting sun ushered in sparkler time. Sigh.

We returned from a trip to Disney the day before Grampa passed. We had a great time with Mr. T’s family–his parents, his aunt and her family including two of his cousins, and one of his brothers and his family were able to join us. Highlights- our room adjoined Mr. T’s parents so in the mornings the girls would visit while we got ready, good weather for the Halloween party parade, and trying out a waterpark (Ju laid back in the center of a raft sleeping soundly), and taking Au on her first roller coaster (Fun! Like a big slide! Up, up, up, and then wheeeeeee!).

September also ushered in a big family change with me returning to work more than full time in the field. To say it has been chaotic is an understatement. Mr. T is a great Dad but a horrible housekeeper. I am a good Mom but a horrible housekeeper. This new situation has exacerbated that horribleness tenfold.

This change also meant abandoning homeschooling this year. Au started at a Montessori program on October 1. She loves it and we love that a family friend of ours is her teacher. The long commute to her school is a schedule changer though. Her being gone in the morning and then napping all afternoon has been a heartbreaker for my new schedule as there are days I see her for less than half an hour awake.

My schedule is temporary as I have ads up looking to hire. Hopefully the right person will come along quickly as I really feel like I am missing out on my kids. It will be okay short term but I am ready to find someone!

And here we are, October. I am frantically working, getting through each day one at a time until wham! Appendicitis. I spent all day yesterday at two hospitals, talked to two surgeons and am now sitting on my couch uncut and fully appendixed. I know. That is not a word. Luckily, I got well somehow and did not wind up having surgery. Thank you Jesus! I did have a bajillion vials of blood drawn and get my abdomen palpitated by four different strangers. Cool.

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I interrupt this long delayed trip report to tell you about my new toy.

It is the “Ball Jam and Jelly Maker” FreshTech machine.  Yep.  I bought a small appliance.  I need another small appliance like Au needs more candy.  But BFF was not fulfilling her role as budget minder and instead was filling in at the enabling department.  I can justify it though because I found it at my favorite way below retail outlet. 

The indiscretion (purchase) happened Monday.  Today is Wednesday.  I tried it out for the first time.  Here is what happened.


Cost of machine $25

Cost of Sugar $3?

Cost of Fruit  $10

Cost of Juice $5

Cost of Pectin $7


Total Spent  $50

Mr.T’s favorite jam is $4 a jar.  He eats about a 6oz jar a week.  For the past 3 years I have made him homemade strawberry jam for Father’s Day to substitute for his favorite (super expensive) jam.  It is hot, laborious, and although I feel proud and triumphant when I am done, it is a labor, out of love, yes, but labor none-the-less.

Today I tried out my new machine.  Ahem, I mean, toy.  I washed the thing and followed the directions.  I began with low sugar strawberry around 3:30pm.  The most difficult part was hulling and smashing the strawberries.  That took, whoa, about 10 minutes to do all 4 16oz containers.  By 4pm I had jam.  Yep.  It was about as easy as typing those sentences.

I ladeled it into 2 6oz jars, 1 8oz jar, and had a bit leftover.  It tasted pretty good spread on a toasted English muffin.  For once, I had jam that set.  (The previous 3 years I had a lovely, thick strawberry syrup.) 

I did have to wait 30 minutes between batches because the machine has to cool.  With the next batch I decided to do regular sugar strawberry jam.  At the last moment I decided to pour some vanilla in and make strawberry vanilla jam.  WOW.  It was amazing.  Oh, and just as easy.  So, by 4:50pm I had another batch done, didn’t even break a sweat.  That batch produced 2 8oz jars and 2 6oz jars.  More sugar mant more product I guess.  Although neither batch had the yield the recipe stated (4 8oz jars). 

Finally, for my last trick (I only stopped because I was out of pectin.  I would have made jams and jellies all night otherwise!) I decided to make grape jelly.  I only had half the amount of pectin needed so I made a half batch.  I think it turned out fine (tasted amazing) but there wasn’t enough liquid to cover the stirrer and the evaporation rate of half a batch is different than a whole.  So, I pulled it off early (a little more than halfway through the cycle) and then had to restir it in the jars to get a consistent consistency.  I know I have already said this but it tasted amazing.  That batch yielded 1 8oz jar and 1 6oz jar.  I finished just before 6pm. 

So, in summary, I spent $50.  I yielded 5 6oz jars and 4 8oz jars for a total of 62oz of jam/jelly.  It took me 2 ½ hours, of which an hour was spent waiting for the machine to cool, and an hour and 6 minutes were spent with the machine doing it’s thing.  So, I actually spent 24 minutes actively “working”.  Mr. T’s jam is 66 cents an ounce.  This jam/jelly is 80 cents an ounce but includes the cost of the machine. 

Next go-round (since I just ordered lots of pectin from Amazon I’m fairly confident there is going to be some exciting developments like jalepeno pepper jelly, peach jam, blackberry, raspberry, and of course, more strawberry) won’t have that cost factored in so it will be closer to 40 cents an ounce.  (Although I just realized I put down $5 for juice but only used a cup and a half of it not the whole container.  Oh, well.  I am satisfied with the mathematics of the situation.)  I have to confess that I am thinking of people to give jam to so that I can make and try more varieties.  I cannot in good conscience plunk down $4-8 a jar for gourmet stuff but I can sure spend a buck or two trying out exotic flavors like peach melba or pomegranate.  Yum!

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Days 7, 8, and 9!

In the morning we head to town center to pick up some things from the outdoor Saturday market. We decide to go play at the park as well. Then we decide to have real tea for lunch.

We head to Brysons Tea Room. This will be my first real tea in England despite previous visits. We order a “tea for two” and I laugh when Mr. T says he might need to get a sandwich too because he is really hungry. The tray comes with 2 sandwiches (ham and cheese, egg salad with cress), 2 slices of plum bread, 2 large fruit scones, 1 large lemon petit four, 1 carmel bar, and 2 dessert plus a pot of hot tea. Even with AU doing her best we do not finish it all by a long way.

After our tea we head to the cottage for naptime. Everyone naps and then we watch a little television, do laundry, and make french bread pizza for dinner. I am quite proud of my ingenuity when I realize we have salad but no dressing. So, I use two cooked slices of bacon leftover from breakfast, OJ, and maple syrup, pepper to make salad dressing. It is very good!

After dinner we do more laundry and walk down to the lake hoping to take an evening cruise. No luck. They only offer them in July and August now. Shame. i really enjoyed my previous cruises. We walk around by the lake some, AU chases sheep. We managed to stay out of the car for 24 hours!

The next morning we have breakfast and head out for a Rick Steve’s car hiking drive trek around Lake Windemere. It is spectacular! It is cold and rainy. We are pleased to be driving and not walking. We stop for lunch at a place he recommends.

It is truly a hole in the wall place…perhaps a subterranean hole in the side of a hill place or maybe just a former barn. Two young adults sold us some soup and toasties with lots of interesting chatter- the woman was a painter, the man hopes to walk to Everest basecamp later in the year. While we are there two other groups come in making the cafe full to capacity. Definitely wouldn’t have discovered it on our own!

We return to Keswick and stop at the grocer for dinner. We had discussed going to the Dog and Gun pub but decide with the rain to stay in. Having a cottage is nice for keeping out of the rain! The girls nap, Mr. T dries clothes at the laundromat. Our cottage has a washer but not a dryer. Some of our stuff has managed to dry on the drying rack but not all. I watch BBC. Fascinating!

Mr. T and I do not watch much television at home so this was a treat! I watched a show about the Queen, a program about unusual or maybe historic homes in the UK, and then the drama The Village. There are only 2 more episodes in this season! It was riveting. I highly recommend it.

We shower AU and hit the hay. Tomorrow we are off to Hadrian’s Wall and the east coast of England. Hopefully the weather stays as gorgeous as it has been.

In the morning we pack up and head out of town via the Castlerigg Stone circle. It is grey, windy, and rainy but we drive out to it and walk around. Something like 70% of the UK or maybe England’s stone circles are in this region. This is a grand one, situated on a hill that probably has a lovely view at sunrise and sunset. The national trust though has done a terrible job with the information podium/placard. It essentially says, “here is a stone circle which we have zero information or clues on, enjoy!”

On our way to Hadrian’s Wall we go by two more stone circles. The first is Long Meg and her 69 daughters. It is the third largest circle in the UK in size taking up a field with a road going through it. It is well kept and has not been defaced/torn down too much. Some of the stones are worked with circular carvings.

The second circle which is just a few blocks away we do not find. It is Little Meg. According to my guidebook although the stones are also worked this circle has been badly damaged so I am not too disappointed we cannot find it.

We head over the mountainous hills to Hadrian’s Wall. On the way we stop for lunch at this mountain/hill top summit. I believe it was Hartside Hill. The cafe looks like a cinderblock cafeteria except they have hung really jolly pastel fabric bunting and painted the walls bluey turquoise. Then you turn around and see this breathtaking view of the valley. The national trust sign says, “top of the world” and it certainly feels that way. Also, it feels cold outside, with the wind blasting, but pleasantly warm inside. We have lunch and appreciate the view.

We stop at Housesteads Fort after driving much of the way along what is left ofHadrian’s Wall. Along the way, Mr T gets out at one of the outposts and hikes the short but extremely steep hillside to look around. The sleeping kiddos and I stay in the warm car. At Housesteads we all get out and start the half mile hill trek to the fort and museum. After a few screaming blocks JU and I turn back for the warm car (and the pacifier I accidentally left). AU insists she wants to go with Daddy.

JU falls asleep and I work on my travelogue. Over an hour later a beleaguered Mr. T and a peppy but runny nosed AU come back to the car. Several key things- AU flips out crying each time Mr. T tries to put her in the Tula, each time the wind blows her hair, which is down, into her face she cries and asks to be held. Thus a tortuous cycle is crated. Mr. T winds up carrying her almost the whole time including the half mile down hill and then back up hill walk to the car. They still had a good time. Oh, and the camera with its special rechargeable battery dies. Charger? In Nashville.

(Standing at the edge of the Empire is a very contemplative experience. The Romans consolidated their holdings in Britain by building a 20-foot wall across the entire island. They put a fort at every mile along the wall — that’s 80 forts — and a watchtower between each one. Imagine being posted on that frontier. Unlike Roman roads, which run straight as an arrow, the Wall follows the contours of this hilly terrain to maximize its defensive value. Both the fort and watchtower I visited had a commanding view in all directions. Even to the local auxiliary troops, this post must have seemed like the Edge of the World, and how much more so for those from other parts of the Empire. Trajan expanded the Empire to its largest extend and his successor, Hadrian, consolidated Rome’s holdings. After that, there would be good emperors and bad ones, and a lot of mediocre ones, but it was all a long, long downhill slide. One day, our culture will be no more. Indeed, I think we may be in decline already. What will remain of our civilization nineteen hundred tears from now? What will the people who stand on our ruins think of us?

Teacher told us
The Romans built this place.
They built a wall and a temple
And an edge-of-the-empire garrison town.
They lived and they died,
They prayed to their gods
But their stone gods did not make a sound.
Their empire crumbled and all that was left
Were stones the workmen found.)

We had booked into a bed and breakfast just outside of Holy Island, via internet, before leaving Keswick. We were excited because it was going to have a king size bed! Mr. T and I and JU had been sharing the tiny double beds that most places have. I was ready to stretch out!

We did not expect this glorious, gorgeous beachside haven though! Wow! We were probably 100yards from the beach, spectacular views of Holy Island and Bamburgh Castle, plus a large room, big bed, couch for AU, and a great shower. We eat a picnic dinner of bread, cheese, and ham before setting out on an evening walk. We find a herd of cattle, sheep, and the biggest wild rabbits (hare?) I have ever seen. We walk down to where the ocean would have met the land except the tide was out so we walked down to the marsh. Have I said it was lovely? It was lovely!!!

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