October 31, 2009

The Train That Pa Built

In my Week 15 of 52 Post I had a picture of us reading onto of the train. I received multiple requests for pictures and the story of our train. So here it is.

On the January night we celebrated Nathaniel’s second birthday, my parents came to have some cake. With her my mom brought a Mary Maxim craft catalog. She was so excited by something she just couldn’t wait to show us.

My dear husband is an extremely talented carpenter. He trained under a mentor as a custom trim carpenter when he was in high school with a man who became a very dear friend. This man can be described by only one word. “Artist” Allen worked his way through high school at David’s side and learned the tricks of the trade.

Along the way, he developed skills that have been a blessing to us time and again. They paid his way through Engineering School. In our early years, he used these talents on weekends and in the evenings to earn extra money allowing me to stay at home with our children until we were established. And they have been priceless in our seven year journey of remodeling our home.

My dear sweet mother adores my husband only second to me, and fully appreciates his talent with a saw and hammer. The previous summer he had built a play ground with a tree house in our backyard. He had turned our garage into a beautiful school room and was working his way through the house replacing windows, updating trim and laying hard wood floors.

Mom, had no doubt that he was capable of what he had in mind. Our Nathaniel was and is a train lover. He has been since he was barely able to walk. It started with Thomas the Train and has expanded to all things trains. When his dear Nana saw a wooden train that you can build in the back yard she knew that her first born grandson must have it.

As she pointed out the plans in the catalog, it all seemed so easy. We all got very excited thinking of the fun the boys would have climbing on it in our back yard. By the end of the evening we had picked a spot for it in the back yard and couldn’t wait for the Spring to come so work could get under way.

We quickly estimated how much the lumber would cost. It was a little expensive but, the kids would have years of fun and make lots of great memories. I was thrilled to get the plans on sale and free shipping, too. Mom was a hero. When the first spring day arrived dad and Allen took off work to pick up supplies at Home Depot. They hoped to have the track laid by the end of the day.

They left just after breakfast and I was surprised when lunch came and went and they still weren’t home. When the pair showed up, they were both less cheerful and optimistic than when they left. Turns out, it is a lot of lumber to build a train. It wouldn’t all fit in the truck. When all was said and done they made three trips back and forth. As you may have guessed they didn’t get any work done that day either. And we had to grumpy men on our hands.
And because the standards were being changed for the way pressure treated lumber were being changed it cost a lot more, too. Three times as much, in fact. This little project ended up cost us $1,500. But don’t forget I got free shipping.

I think dad threatened bodily injury to dear old mom. My husband would never do such a thing although; he did suggest that he might consider Mom’s ideas a little more in the future. I think the sweet lady was scared to come to our house for a while.

Work got under way shortly after that. By the end of the summer we had an engine, coal car and tank car. Nathaniel insisted on a box car so Allen drew up plans for one to add the following summer. Other home projects have halted the progress. We are still awaiting the doors on the box car and the caboose. No one ever notices that the wheels are still missing, though.

The kids played day in and day out on it over the years. Not only has it home to little engineers but also to the Boxcar children. Over the years it has taken them on adventures all over the world. They have picnicked in it. Made little houses for their dolls. Read books there on hot days. And this summer, it has been the train that crashed taken the Pevensie children on their final journey to Narnia in “The Last Battle.”

Everyone who drove by stopped to look at the piece of art. We became known as, the people on the corner with the train.

And it looks great decorated with Christmas lights, too.

After quite some time, Mom got her standing back with my sweet husband. Actually, it was just a few short years later, on Christmas night, as we all gathered by the wood stove in our basement, when Mom suggested we put a projector and drop down screen there for family movie nights.

Dad and Allen quickly became excited and took out tape measures to see where the built in units for the kids playroom could go.

Men are just like little boys. You would think they would learn. But presented with an opportunity to play with new tools, they lose themselves immediately in the fun.

The following June we were gutting the entire finished basement in order to begin a remodeling job that has now spanned two years. That is another story, though. You can read a little about in the Really Cheap Theater.

October 30, 2009

How I Keep My House Clean

My dad brought this to me. Brianna scanned it in and I hope you can read it alright.

For all of you who keep asking how I accomplish so much... here it is. Multitasking. I feed Elisabeth and clean house at the same time.

I am joining Kim at Homesteader's Heart in the Friday Funnies pop on over there for a few more giggles.


October 29, 2009

Week 28 of 52

Forever In Blue Jeans

I've accepted Carin's challenge, as a Mom, to get back into the picture. The idea is that once a week you take a picture of yourself with one or more of your children. It's that simple. If you'd like you can post your picture on your blog. You can let me know you posted so I can check out your pics. You can check out my previous weeks or Click the button to add your name to the Mr. Linky. So, have fun!

Breakfast the morning Allen came home after my really thankful week, which just goes to prove all's well that ends well.

Working on lesson plans for school. Now that we are back to "real" life. Home school is in full swing. Here I am making lessons plans after dinner one evening.

Me teaching Nana how to make my world famous chicken and dumplings. (Which aren't really world famous, but look for the recipe in a post coming to a blog near you.)

And what do you suppose the entire family is staring at here? While we were eating dinner Allen remembered a comedy act with Tim Conway from when he was a boy. We found it on You tube and subjected our entire family to it after the dishes were done.

You can check it out here.

I am sure most of you know of my upcoming trip to Italy. Well, if you didn't you do now. Allen found an Italian book in the thrift shop. He surprised me with it one morning on vacation with instructions that before I left I must learn to say, "Please take me home to my hubby and seven children." Another important phrase he feels I should learn before I board the plane is, "No you are mistaken. I am not an American, I am from Canada."

Despite many years of studying French and Spanish, I have little to no ability to communicate in either. I have no illusions of mastering this beautiful language, but I am having fun. And I have learned some very important phrases like, "The pleasure is mine," and, "Does this come in gold?"

This is one of Brianna's specialties. I was leaning on the bureau doing my toe nails. When I pulled my leg up to the do the other foot she was very amused. I am not sure why she likes it so much but it is here at her request.

I feel sorry when repairman, workers or delivery men come to the house of home schoolers. When this Dell repairman came to fix my laptop this week, he was greeted by the entire family asking questions and watching every move he made as he operated on my "baby."


October 28, 2009

Is There a Zia in the House?

As a matter of a fact, there is!

Monday morning at 9:20 AM (Italian time) my sister, Diann and her husband Ben welcomed their first son, making me an official Zia. (That's Auntie in Italian).

Now I know I should have told you all yesterday. But, truth be known, I was waiting for the pictures to go with it. And my rotten no good brother-in-law (BEN THIS MEANS YOU!) didn't send them until now. Can you believe he thought he had something more important to do?

May I introduce Gabriel Benjamin Rickert?
Weight: 7 pounds
Length: 19 1/4"

We happen to think he is absolutely stunningly beautiful. Allen said he could be a Wachter baby... so he must be great. If you want to send some blessings their way, you can pop over to Baby Button and leave a comment or two.

This is such a happy day for us! We have prayed so long for God to fill their home with children. There were many difficult moments throughout the pregnancy. Our family prayed daily these nine months for His protection and safe delivery of this little lamb. We are grateful and blessed for each and every answered prayer.

Of course it wouldn't be the Wachter home if there wasn't some wacky to go with the blessing. The girls heard us on the phone before the sun was up and knew what was going on. They came bounding into our bedroom begging for weight, length and all the good details. They were chatting at their typical million miles a minute.

Next, the boys started coming in. Please remember, now, that the boys prayed daily this little life. So, I was so excited to tell them the news. Samuel was first and I said, "Aunt Diann's baby is here. He said, "Where?" and started looking around as if they should be in our bedroom.

Then Aedan came in and we said the baby was here. He said, "Oh, that's nice."

I guess men start out as little boys. When Allen comes home with news of a birth, he has no details to share either, because he never thought to ask the questions.

Just when I thought I had it all figured out, Nathaniel came in last of all. Who knows how he slept through all the commotion. After sharing the news we embarked on a new conversation, assuming that was all he wanted to know.

He stopped us to ask, "Was it a boy or a girl?" Someone answered his question and then we went back to our talk.

"What did they name him?" Ummm, I don't think Nathaniel got the message that the male sex does not ask questions. Men are just happy to know that baby is here safe and sound.

If you don't believe me, think about this. We called my brother Frank, hoping to catch him on his way to work. We got his voice mail. For security reasons his phone has to be turned off during the day.

He commutes from Dulles Virginia and passes right by my house on his way to and from work. He stops by once in a while if he has time before his evening plans. When he came in the door yesterday evening, I assumed it was because he has gotten our message that we had some news to share.

But no. He came to pick up the tools he left here last week. Do you remember that? I asked him if he had gotten our message and he said no that his phone was off all day. I told him Di had her baby. He seemed thrilled from his head to his toes and then started talking with Allen about the plumbing issues last week.

A few minutes later, like thirty, he asked what they named him. THIRTY MINUTES! Can you believe that? Years of prayer coming to consummation and the men folk resort to plumbing talk.

Ciò indovino è appena la maniera che è! (I guess, that's just the way it is!)

"Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." Psalm 127:3

October 27, 2009

The Great Frederick Fair

Yes, I am just now getting around to this. I was going to post the kids fair awards with the winners of the Blog Country Fair drawing. If you don't know why it didn't happen and you want to, read this.

The kids did really well at the fair this year. They placed on just about everything they entered. The girls both placed higher than my fourth in sewing! Needless to say, I am super proud of the efforts and continue to be amazed by their creativity.

Brianna took first for her Narnia costume.

And Kaitlin second for hers.

Aedan placed fourth for his wooden train.

And even though Nathaniel's juice box train didn't place, I think it was ingenious.

I was surprised Aedan's bow didn't win.

But not surprised that Samuel's wooden Scuffy did.

And even if the judges weren't impressed by Aedan's boat, the Nine of Us... it still brings tears to my eyes every time I see it.

Nathaniel's model train display placed first.

Samuel's scrap boat took second. Which is funny because he didn't even want to enter. I stuck it in without him knowing about it.

Emma's first quilting project placed second.

And why did I finally remember to get around to posting these? Because prize checks came in the mail this week. I had to take a picture of Sam's first ever signature on his check. How cute is that?

Yes, we are already thinking about our entries for next year. It is never too early to plan ahead!


October 26, 2009

Not My Husband Monday 10-26-09

After we clear the dinner dishes in the evening, we serve dessert and pull out our Bibles for family Bible reading. For the youngers, who can't yet read, they have the option of coloring in their Bible coloring books kept only for this purpose (these are beautiful coloring books available from Rod and Staff) or illustrating our reading on paper. This is a very special time for our family and one of my favorite parts of the day.

Last Tuesday as the reading was finished, can you imagine that some silliness broke out among Pa and the kids? NO, of course NOT! That kind of thing NEVER happens in our house and certainly NOT at the dinner table. NO one, especially NOT Pa, started coloring on each other with crayons.

I did NOT pull out my computer and start answering email as if NOTHING was out of the ordinary. It did NOT strike me as odd that they were all laughing up a storm and having a good time.
Nathaniel did NOT find it amusing when Pa got him on the hand.

And I did NOT find it hysterical when Nathaniel got him back.

NOR was is funny when Kaitlin got him.

NO one laughed when he got Kaitlin.

After a half hour of hooting, hollering and carrying on, all led by NO other than Pa, my dear husband did NOT ask me to bring it to an end. I would NEVER answer him by saying, "You started it." NOR would he reply, "Now I am asking you to finish it."

The commotion would NOT instantly stop when I shouted for order. The family would NOT then start to take pictures of various crayon colored body parts. NOR would they all say, almost in unison, "I think I feel a blog coming on."

My life could NEVER be a blog. A year ago I did NOT even know what a blog was!

Oh, and by the way... if the good mother police ask I would DENY that four days later while Nathaniel was sitting in Miss Allison's chair getting his hair cut I did NOT look up and see a crayon mark still by his ear!

Who knew crayon would NOT wash off?

Welcome to Not Me! Monday! This blog carnival was created by MckMama. You can head over to her blog to read what she and everyone else have not been doing this week.


October 25, 2009


The basic recipe for my brownies comes from my favorite cook book of all time, and I have a LOT of them. The 1972 Betty Crocker's Cookbook. This was my mom's book and it has seen me through a lot. It even got toasted once. The spine is destroyed and yet it is the one we pull out time and time again. Each of my girls have one in their hope chest. Since, some of the pages are stuck together with cookie dough, I bought another copy for my kitchen on eBay earlier this year.

If you go to page 138 you will find, what I think, are the best brownies to be had.

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate or 12 Tablespoons cocoa powder and 4 ounces shortening melted together (this is what I usually use because it is always in my kitchen and it is a less expensive option)

2/3 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1 /4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts

heat oven to 350. Grease baking pan. Melt chocolate and shortening together in large saucepan over low heat. (I do it in my mixing bowl in the microwave.) Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in nuts. Spread in pan.

Bake 30 minutes or until brownies start to pull away from sides of pan. DO NOT OVER BAKE. Better to have doughy under baked brownies then dry over baked brownies.

We like to stir in all kinds of stuff like coconut or dried berries. Craisins are particularly good.

Sometimes, we spread it on a pizza pan. When baked, we top with m&m's, peanuts and mini marshmallows. When cool drizzle with caramel sauce for a brownie pizza.


October 24, 2009


Oh, please don't tell me you do not like beets until you try this recipe. I have had so many people tell me they hate beets and when they eat this soup, I've not had one person not rave about it and ask for seconds. My picky, veggie hating brother-in-law included. Right, Ben?

When Allen and I were dating, way back in the dark ages, I found this recipe in a magazine. I made a pot, which happened to be a lot for me. I froze it in single size portions and found it to be even better leftover. One night when my sweetheart came for a visit, I heated some up for him. A very picky eater, who "didn't like beets" he thought he would hate it. But not to offend the girl he was trying to win, he ate it anyway. And asked for seconds.

Now you can bet that our square foot garden has two squares filled with beets in the Spring and a second crop in the fall. I always start the second crop in late August so that when we get home from vacation they are ready for a nice big pot of soup just as the weather turns cold.

I've just harvested my beets so you can bet there will soon be a large pot cooking away on my stove. No matter how much I make, there never seems to be leftovers. So stop hating those beautiful little vegetables. Go buy a couple of beets and get some soup steaming. You will say, "I can't believe how delicious that is!"

4 beets peeled, 3 cubed and 1 grated (see note)
1 pound stew meat
2 carrots, sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cups water
3 ounces tomato paste
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 small cabbage shredded
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 cup sour cream (we use far more than this and don't skimp! Get a full fat good quality brand.)

Note: Note: When handling beets, I wear rubber gloves or use zip lock bags to protect my nails and hands. An apron is not a bad idea. That beautiful red is hard to get out.

Cut greens off of top leaving about 2 inches attached to the beets. Scrub thoroughly to remove all dirt and sand. Place in your soup pot with the six cups of water. Bring to a boil. Boil several minutes until skins soften. You can test it by placing one in a bowl of ice water and rubbing your fingers over the skin. The skin, roots and stem should literally and very easily slide right off. If they do not boil a while longer. When you can remove the skin, cut three beets into cubes and grate one back into the pot.

You could peel them with a peeler but it is very time consuming and hard work.

1- place in pan: beets, beef, carrots, celery, onion and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer 2 hours.

2- Add cabbage and vinegar. Bring to a boil again. Reduce to low and simmer 15 minutes.

At this point you are supposed to remove the bay leaf and skim the fat. I try to use lean beef and find there is very little fat to remove.

My Italian grandmother always shared the tradition that the person who found the bay leaf in their bowl would have good fortune. Now, I believe God is handling my fortune, but it is a fun tradition to see who gets the bay leaf anyway.

3- I like to serve this with lots of hearty bread. We pass a bowl of sour cream to top the soup at the table. I know beets and sour cream sounds odd but it works.

The Russians eat theirs cold, but I have not been able to bring myself to try it that way. If you feel adventurous, let me know how it is.

October 23, 2009

In All Things Give Thanks

Sometimes when it rains it pours. And it always seems to be when my dear husband is out of town. This is a family post compiled by Chili and all the little peppers.

I knew when Allen had to be away this week that some catastrophe would arise. It always does. Mom swears that he plans it that way. Although, she says, she can't figure out how he knows just when to skip town.

It all started Monday night when I woke with aches and pains in every muscle of my body. You know that feeling that can only be the flu. My mom thinks I have the swine flu.

"Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks." Psalm 75:1

I am grateful for Advil. Our ancient ancestors had no escape from the misery of the flu.

"Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ:" Epehesians 5:20

I am grateful that I am not throwing up and running a fever like others who have had it before me.

Yesterday morning we discovered a leak under my kitchen sink.

"And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him." Colossians 3:17

I am grateful for Nathaniel and Brianna who climbed under the sink to clean up the mess.

"By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name." Hebrews 13:15

I am thankful for the shop vacuum, Marvin, that sucked the water up.

"Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name." Psalm 100:4

I am thankful for the giant bottle of dawn detergent that held the pipe up until my brother could stop by in the evening to take a look at it.

My brother, Frank, stopped by after work, on his way to church, to look at the pipe. It was cracked and needed replacement.

"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful." Colossians 3:15

I am grateful that my brother was willing to take time from his schedule to try to fix it.

"But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 15:57

He had to go to Home Depot for parts. I am thankful for Home Depot and for cars to get there and the Arabs who provide us with fuel (even if we pay out the nose for it.)

"O Give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good; for His mercy endureth forever." 1 Chronicles 16:34

I am grateful that he took the boys with him and that the boys had a blast with their Uncle.

"Therefore will I give thanks unto Thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name. Great deliverance giveth He to His king: and showeth mercy to His anointed..." Psalm 18:49-50a

I am grateful that he found the parts for $6.

Next, the power supply to my laptop broke. The very one that we replaced just before I left on vacation. And my battery, which is less than a year old, is shot.

"To the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto Thee forever." Psalm 30:12

I am grateful that even though it won't charge my computer, Kaitlin's power supply will run my laptop and for a warranty to replace my power supply and battery.

While Frank and the boys were at Home Depot four leaks started in the basement ceiling. Yes, the same ceiling my dear husband spent all last winter installing. The same ceiling tiles that I convinced him to spend way more on because they looked nicer than the standard drop ceiling tiles.

"I will give thee thanks in great congregation. I will praise thee among much people." Psalm 35:18

I am grateful for a husband that can replace the ceiling tiles and for the money that God will supply to buy the materials.

"Unto Thee, O God do we give thanks, unto Thee do we give thanks: for that Thy name is near Thy wondrous works declare." Psalm 75:1

I am thankful that Kaitlin was in the basement and saw the leak before the water damaged the wood floors and the extra dining room chairs sitting there.

"O give thanks unto the LORD: call upon His name: make known His deeds among the people." Psalm 105:1

I am thankful for the pots that caught the water and the towels that dried things up.

We have a very elaborate water system. There are valves and knobs everywhere. We couldn't figure out where the main shut off was.

"Sing unto Him, sing psalms unto Him: talk ye of all His wondrous works." Psalm 105:2

I am thankful for cell phones so that I could call Allen and ask him where it was.

Next, Frank showed up with the boys and said he saw it was a problem but couldn't help fix it because he had to get to the prayer meeting.

"At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto Thee because of Thy righteous judgments. I am a companion of all them that fear Thee, and to them that keep Thy precepts. The earth, O LORD, is full of Thy mercy: teach me Thy statutes. Thou has dealt well with Thy servant, O LORD, according to Thy word." Psalm 119:62-65

I am grateful that God controlled my mouth so that I didn't tell him he was a knucklehead and schmuck for walking out on his sister and all the kids while we had no water in the house and no one had eaten dinner and for a brother who knows and loves the LORD.

I am also thankful for the understanding man who came to my door, and I thought he was a salesman (but I later found out he was only seeking directions.) That when the kids told me there was someone at the door, and I said very loudly, "Unless he is a plumber tell him to go away!" I am thankful for his understanding, kindness and graciousness to forgive me and offer his words of encouragement.

"For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places." Psalm 135:5-6

I am thankful that we have pots and pans to cook in, food to fix in them and plates to serve it on.

"For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that which I give thanks?" 1 Corinthians 10:30

I am grateful for my parents-in-law who drove nearly an hour one way to come to my house at night to help fix the mess... even if it could not be fixed.

"I thank my God..." 1 Corinthians 14:18a

I am grateful that we have running water in the rest of the house even if there is none in the kitchen.

"Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place." 2 Corinthians 2:14

I am grateful for children who don't complain about dragging dirty dishes to the bathtub to wash them. I am grateful for paper plates and plastic silver ware.

"Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meat to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:" Colossians 1:12

I am grateful that even though there is a very stinky smell coming from my kitchen drain, it is in the 70's and I can leave the windows open. I am also thankful for Yankee Candles to cover up the odor with some artificial fall scent.

My email went down this morning. But I am grateful for the modern convenience of email. And for all the friends and loved ones who email me encouraging words. And for all those emails I will be able to read when it is fixed.

"In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I am grateful for a husband who keeps things in good working order so that when he is away I notice all that he does for us. I am thankful that he will be home tonight and will know just what to do to fix things up.