October 31, 2011

Girls' Night... and Then Some

So it is not actually Thursday, but I think it is rather impressive that I am getting last Thursday's post up before this next Thursday arrives.  Especially, as I look through the pictures and remember how much we have had going on the last few weeks.  It seems impossible that it has been less than a month since I was laying on the beach reading a book!  What has not happened since our return????  That's what I want to know!  We have been having a blast with Autumn and practicing and planning and schooling and what ever else goes on in between.  Sleep is highly over rated anyway.

Here are some mom pictures of the highlights.

Last Saturday, we went with our friends to the Ball's Bluff Civil War Reenactment in Leesburg, Virginia.  Hopefully, a post will follow with details and photos... but I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.
Saturday night, I was blessed with an unexpected visit from my girl friend, Katherine, whom I have not seen since Kaitlin's graduation last July.  We had such a sweet time of visiting, catching up, playing with Carmella and talking about what the Lord has been doing in our lives.
Tuesday morning, I spent a few hours in the dentist chair having extensive dental work done.  Not my idea of fun, for sure.  I am grateful that we have the ability to have such care, though, even if I don't like having it done.  In the old days, they would have yanked the tooth out years ago.  However, that did unfortunately leave me in a great deal of pain for the rest of the week.  Which is a shame because I had an unusual lineup of girls' nights that involved eating.

Tuesday evening, our friends drove up from Virginia to spend the night with us. We went out with the big girls for dinner at Bonefish Grill.  The food was delicious, as we have come to expect there.  The fellowship was even better.  After dinner, Brianna made us pumpkin lattes for dessert while we played a few rounds of banagrams.  The younger girls outlasted us, staying up for a movie after the chit chat and game. 
It is so unusual for  me to have a girls' night at all.  To have two nights in a row is unheard of, but that's just what happened this past week.

Wednesday evening we had a time of fellowship with some of my sisters from church.  The theme was Italian and each contributed a course.
I taught the girls how to make my grandmother's cavatille and served it with my homemade tomato sage sauce.  (To which, I realized after the fact, I forgot to add the sage before serving.)  Still tasted great.
My girls are so sweet to babysit for all the ladies while we visit.  They made Thankful leaves with the thirteen, practiced cantata music and watched the new Pooh Bear movie.
Thursday was my great pink sparkly shoe date and a trip back to the dentist to have my tooth touched up to help relieve some of the pain.
And there you have Mama's week in a nutshell.  If you haven't been in the picture this week, hand that camera over and smile.  Your kids will want to know you were there, too!

Until Next Week,


Pink Sparkly Shoes

When we returned from vacation and Elisabeth needed shoes warmer than her sandals or flip flops, we discovered one of her Stride Rite Mary Janes was missing.  We have managed to keep her shod the last month in her old shoes that are a size too small.  All the while searching high and low for those $60 shoes, but they have not turned up.  With the weather getting colder every day, I decided I had better break down and buy her another pair.

Things have been so hectic lately, I thought Ellie could use some Mama time so we decided to make a date out of it.  I was thinking as soon as I invest in a new pair and take the tag off, we will find her good ones, so we didn't head to Stride Rite this time, but Target instead.

Once we were there, the trial started.  It is a challenge to find a decent pair of shoes suitable for everyday and church that fit her feet.  The shoe section had been well picked over already.

But for Ellie... Oh, her little eyes instantly fell on a pair of sparkly pink shoes.  "Mama, look at those!"
 I commented on how they were indeed both pink and sparkly while explaining that we needed shoes that would match her church dresses.

As we persevered I found a nice pair of black Mary Janes which fit the bill.  I showed them to princess and said, "Try these ones on for Mama."

The sweet reply came with a smile, "I think the pink sparkly ones will fit, Mama."

Then I found the most adorable pair of pink boots.  I showed them to Elisabeth and said, "Look how pretty these pink boots are."

And she didn't whine or complain at all, she just stated, "The pink sparkly ones are very pretty, Mama."

And that is how we went shopping for one pair of shoes and came home with three.

After all there is only a little window of opportunity when life can be sweeter just because you are kicking your heels up in pink sparkly shoes.

October 30, 2011

Four Months Already!

Usually I have our babies photographed at birth and then 3,6, 9, 12 and 18 months. They just change so much when they are this little.  Except right now both my photographer friend and I are super busy.  So I have not even attempted to have her portraits done.

Our friend, Leo, once said that really since life starts at conception, we should celebrate when babies are 3 months old as well as their first birthday.  I thought that was a profound statement on the sanctity of life in the womb.  Since Winnie was a month early, that marker is really closer to four months rather than three.

We do take pictures of her almost daily, but I thought it would be fun to take some snapshots with the autumn leaves to commemorate the day.  We have waited and waited for a day when we were home and it wasn't raining.  Friday afternoon was it.  There was about an hour or two when it was dry so we took her outdoors and had some fun together.

She was so good.  It was very cold but she never made a peep.  Which is just how Carmella is.  Sweet and pleasant and the most delightful baby any family could ask for.
These days we enjoy hearing her "talk" and giggle.  One must be careful.   Last Sunday, while we were at church, I was smiling at her and she just started cooing and talking up a storm to me.  I love to hear her sweet voice.
She is so strong, sometimes it looks as if she will just get up and crawl away.  It is such a delight to see her getting bigger and stronger, yet we would like her to stay little just a bit longer.
She always has a smile if you will just smile to her, even if it is cold.
Winnie has grown so much!  She is outgrowing her 3 month clothes already.  When she was born we couldn't find clothes small enough to stay on her.
Yes, I still love these little toes.
And this little nose... and ears... and fingers and everything in between.  And speaking of fingers, she loves to chew on hers now.
Little darling, what is it like to be so loved?  Your presence in our lives gives us so much light and joy, and all just by being you.

October 29, 2011

All Mixed Up

Just last night, as we were eating dinner, I was thinking about all the things I love in Autumn and how this is the best place in the world to be part of the season.  The past few years we have strung lights through our fall garland hanging in our kitchen window.  Then we cut out leaves and write on them things we are thankful for.  We put our Thankful Garland up just this week and added the leaves yesterday.
And not a minute too soon.  Because this is what we saw as the sun came up this morning.
Winnie's first snow fall.  
I am not going to say it never snows here this time of year, but the last time I remember it I was 9 years old.  What's amusing is that we had no idea this storm was coming and just last night we were telling the kids about that storm.

With Cantata practice the kids have already had Christmas music playing since we returned from vacation.  Ellie asked if we could set up the Christmas tree.  To her Christmas and snow are one in the same.
My mind has been very conflicted as I am planning for our trip to Florida next week.

And since we don't return until a few days before Thanksgiving, ordering turkey and planning menus for the Thanksgiving weekend.

And since we just start school in October, feeling like I should be thinking of the first day of school and baked apples and all that jazz.

Add snow to the mix and now I think my head might explode... but in a good way!

It is not often we see snow on the mums.
Or as Aedan pointed out, we have our first snow fall before a frost.  Just yesterday afternoon, we picked the last of our garden and pulled up the veggie plants.
Snow on the violas is a breathtaking sight, don't you think?
Only yesterday afternoon, we took Carmella outside to take some pictures of her in the autumn leaves.  And not a minute too soon.  Because now they are covered with ice and snow.
Yes, our seasons have been mixed up all year.  In May it was in the freezing temperatures one weekend and over 100 the next weekend.

Something I like to do each fall is go to the farm and get a bunch of pumpkins to roast and freeze for the coming year.  But pumpkin picking has become very commercial.  Last year it cost over $50.  Allen said we wouldn't go this year.  But just yesterday he was at our local market and saw them on clearance for just $1.99 each.  Last night at dinner he announced he would be taking the family to each get a pumpkin after breakfast on Saturday.  Brianna said she was going to tell her friends from down south this is a Yankee's visit to the pumpkin patch.  Ha!  So after the kids got out their snow boots, off they went.  And just in time.
Because it isn't often you get your pumpkins and build a snow man on the same Saturday.

October 28, 2011


I am glad my mother and grandmothers taught me there is no such thing as an unexpected guest.
Through the influence of these three women I learned our homes should always be in some reasonable state acceptable for company.  And company should always be willing to accept less than perfection if they drop by without calling first.  And no matter how little we have, we always have enough to share with those the Lord brings to our table.
No matter what the situation, we try to always give our guests a warm welcome and a hot meal as if we have been planning for their visit our entire lives.  And because of this, we are often blessed by last minute visits from loved ones near or far.

This post is so late in coming, but here it is anyway.  We all know my motto, right?  Better late than never!
Over Labor Day weekend, when my kitchen was torn apart, we had a phone call just before 5 pm that Friday evening.  Our friends from South Carolina were on their way to our house and would be here in about 15 minutes.  We haven't seen them in two years, so we were delighted to hear this news.

Except, I had no idea what I was feeding my family for dinner and now I needed food for five more.  But we managed some baked beans and burgers on the grill and had a happy visit.

In the absence of our extended family, the Lord has always blessed us with Godly Christian friends who have been Uncles, Aunties, cousins, Grandpas and Grandmas to our children.

We met Terry and Katrina about 14 years ago.  They have been such precious friends to us.  Originally from South Carolina,  life has brought them to Maryland then to California and eventually back to Virginia.
 Gracie and Emma Rose were born just a few months apart and have been like sisters ever since.
Terry's folks, Jimmy and Veena, adopted our family many years ago and became Grandpa and Grandma Jackson.  We enjoy visiting with them at their home and when they get up north.
 After dinner, we went to Rita's for dessert, compliments of Grandpa Jackson.
I love that the kids include Carmella in whatever they are doing.  Can you see her in line there in her car seat while they all eat their ice cream?
Veena and Elisabeth shared a few minutes of girl talk.
And Katrina and I spent a few minutes catching up.  Even though we live only a few minutes away from each other, their family travels a great deal each summer so we don't often see each other.  I am looking at this picture and seeing that we have the same color shirt on.  That was not planned.
Terry made sure he got his chance to hold Winnie.  
And we all made good memories to last a life time...  even with no food in the fridge and my house in pieces.  Next time you don't expect company and there is a knock at your door just before supper, toss some more bread in the basket and open up for happy times.



October 26, 2011

Black Bean Soup

My friend, Susan, asked for this recipe.  I told her it was on my blog.  Then, while I was making it this morning, I thought I should check.  Glad I did, because it isn't there.  Sorry for the wild goose chase.  Here it is!  (And for reference you can find the Cavitille recipe we made on girls' night over here.)

This can be done in a crock pot or on the stove top.  We make a double or triple batch for our family.  It is a great source of fiber and protein and always disappears fast.

1 pound of dry black beans
1 pound sausage, any kind, loose or casings removed
2 large onions, chopped
1 head of celery, sliced
garlic cloves, minced
8 bouillon cubes

For toppings:
1 pounds bacon, cooked and crumbled
sour cream
diced onions
lime wedges
cheddar cheese
hard boiled eggs, chopped
hot sauce

Put dry beans in pot and cover with several inches of cold water.  Let sit overnight.

In the morning, add bouillon cubes to pot and turn to high.

In skillet on stove top, brown sausage crumbling with back of spoon.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a bowl.  Set aside for later.

In pan drippings cook garlic, celery and onions until soft.  Add to crock pot.  Let cook until beans are soft and tender.  About 3 hours on high or 6ish on low.  Add water as needed to keep beans covered.

Note:  If you don't have time to let your beans soak overnight, put them in a pot on the stove top.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Boil one minute.  Turn off.  Let sit one hour.  Then add bouillon and sauteed veggies to pot, bring back to a boil and boil until beans are soft.  Check frequently, adding more water as needed.

When beans are finished, puree.  I use an immersion blender but it can be done by batches in a traditional blender or in a food processor.  Add back to pot and stir in the reserved sausage.  Simmer, uncovered until quite thick.

To serve, ladle into bowl and squeeze a lime wedge over top.  Add hot sauce to your liking and add toppings as desired.  We like to put out all the toppings and pass at the table.

I have two crock pots simmering away for fellowship tomorrow and it smells so delicious in here.  What can be cozier than a pot of soup going, Christmas music playing and candles burning while the snow falls outside?

Bon Appetit!

October 25, 2011

A Nickname is Born

We spend nine months choosing the perfect name for our little ones.  Sometimes, like with my Elisabeth and Carmella, we carry the names in our hearts for years waiting for just the right person to give it to.  No kidding here.  We pray about it.  Research baby name books.  Read lists and lists of names.  Try different combinations together.  And then at last we settle on it.  Even in the delivery room, though, I end up questioning whether we've made the right choice.  When at last our little one arrives, we call him by name, and then we know we've made the right decision.  

I also know this will be the last time I will hear that name.  Still not kidding here, folks.  Well, maybe a little.  Our Pastor usually calls the baby by their given name when they receive the official church Bible.  And when we meet strangers we might introduce our baby by name.  But at home, by and large, our children are called by a wide myriad of nicknames which in no way resemble that beautiful ensemble we printed on the birth certificate.

Take Elisabeth, for instance.  I always wanted to name someone Elisabeth.  But I got outvoted until we were expecting Nathaniel.  We were on the way to the hospital, just 15 minutes or so before he was born, and we still didn't have a name should our bundle be a girl.  About the time we approached our exit on that very cold January night, we settled on Elisabeth Claire.  We both loved it.  He was a boy.  

Two more boys followed.  Then, after 16 years of child bearing, I finally got my Elisabeth on December 13, 2007.  My step mother and mother in law both wanted to know what we would call her.  I told them I didn't know just yet but that I thought maybe Ellie.  They both loved it, which is a miracle in itself.  That there should be anything that all three of us would agree on is unheard of.  Allen's mom had a special friend from way back named Ellie who endeared the name to her.  My mom liked it because she thought the spelling Elle was nifty.  So I thought "Ellie" it would be.  But it was not to be.  Not for this gang. 

Do you know what they call her?


Yes, like the search engine.  No, I am NOT kidding.  Not one little bit.  And she loves it.  She thinks that is really her name.  She will periodically answer to Elisabeth or Ellie.  But mostly she will introduce herself as Google.  And then I must explain to perfect strangers how she got saddled with such a name.  

Well, you see.  When she was a baby, she had a little onesie with a cupcake on the front.  And so Allen called her "Muffin."  Which was cute enough.  But it never stops there.  

Muffin quickly became his little "Muffin Moo".  

Which even quicker was shortened to his little "Moo."

Which then was dwarfed into "Moo Goo."  Please don't ask me why because I do not know.

But one day, when ordering Chinese, she became our "Moo Goo Gai Pan."

And eventually that became too long to say.  So she was known as either, "Goo"  or "Gai Pan".  

Can you imagine walking through Walmart and having your hubby ask you, "Will this fit Gai Pan?"  Yes, strangers do glance our way.  Although, we usually wonder why they are looking because such unusual names are common place for us.  We don't see why anyone would think it was even a bit bizarre.

Anyway, over time, the "Gai Pan" was dropped and Elisabeth became known primarily as "Goo."  

Until one day when Allen realized that was awful close to Google and he started to call her that.  Now she is known mostly as "Goo", which we all know is short for "Google," like the web browser.  

While I was expecting Winnie, they toyed with the idea of nicknaming her "IE9", short for Internet Explorer, of course.  How could you NOT know that?  

When Sam was little, his name went through a similar progression which ended with his nickname, "Poog" or "Poogie".  

So the other night, Allen was playing with the three little ones.  He told me that he was reading books to "Poogle", "Google" and "Woogle."  Yep.  Those are my  little darlings, the "Oogles".

It is not so bad about those three.  At least if you ask them, they have some idea what their given names are.  We learned our lesson from Emma Rose.

On her first day of kindergarten, she was five years old, I opened her work book.  On the very first page, she was supposed to write her full name.  I said, what is your name?  She said, "Emma."  Very good, I told her.  We went through the practice of carefully writing it on the lines.  Then I asked her, "Now what is your middle name?"  She looked at me with a blank stare.  

So, I tried another approach.  What is the name Pa calls you?  She got a huge smile and in her precious five year old chirpy voice said, "Dosie!"  Well, okay that was true, even if it wasn't the answer I was looking for.  

I tried yet one more approach.  "What is the other name Pa calls you?"   She smiled and shook her head knowingly and then answered with even more certainty than before.

"Pooperdopilis!"  Touche.

Probably the most ironic thing about the whole deal, is this.  When Brianna was born, people started shortening her name.  My favorite of those was Brie.  I thought it was adorable for our little bit of a girl.  But Allen, yes Allen the instigator of nicknames, insisted that she would be called only by her given name.  He was so adamant that one time we were at the doctor's office when the nurse mispronounced Brianna.  Kaitlin, just four at the time, corrected the nurse and told her, "Her name is Brianna and that is what we are supposed to call her."

Friends know this peculiar nicknaming business about us now.  As soon as we are expecting they ask, "What are the kids calling this one?"  We've been through some doosies, too.  Huey.  Bertram.  Gertrude.  Scooter.  

The other day, Emma and Elisabeth were having a chat.  Ellie wanted to know all the baby in utero names.  Emma went through the list with her.  She ended with Kaitlin's name.  "Baby."  Apparently Elisabeth was dumbfounded at the simplicity and normalcy of this and asked Emma, "Baby WHAT?"

When our babies are born, we never share names before they arrive.  As a result, our friends are always eager to ask what we've named the newest Wachter.  Just as soon as we get the name out, they ask, "But what are you calling him?"  

Carmella, was a name near and dear to my heart.  We were going to name a number of our babies after my grandmother.  But it never seemed to fit until our youngest darling arrived.  So far, we've mostly called her "Winnie".  Which, incidentally, is the first inutero name to stick around.  Typically, as soon as baby arrives the name goes out the door to make room for Poogles, Googles and Woogles.  But we have not really settled on anything official yet.  Because we love the name Winnie.  And Carmella.  And Joie.   So we go between all three.  And really have no preference as to what others call her from that trio.   

However, it might have changed this very week.  Aunt Dawn sent an outfit for baby.  Allen put it on and instantly declared that she looked like a sprinkle on top of a cupcake.  
Which she did.  

We all oohed and ahhed.  And concurred that indeed, she looked just like a colored sprinkle.  

And a new nickname was born.  

October 24, 2011

If You Give a Man Some Crescent Rolls...

Yesterday morning Allen offered to make breakfast.  He had picked up two cans of refrigerator rolls at the market.  This I can not figure out.  But he did.  I had put them in the fridge and forgotten they were there.  But Pa didn't.  I guess he must have been excited about them because he said, "Hey, those crescent rolls are in the fridge, I can make them."  But he didn't just say it, he said it like a kid says, "There is a lollipop on the counter, may I have it?"   

As I was putting my makeup on, he came in with a worried look on his face and said, "There's something wrong with the rolls.  They are browning but they didn't rise."  He said this like a kid who just dropped his lollipop on the floor of a Chick-fil-A restroom. 

So I took a look.  Yes, should be done and they are awful flat.  If you leave them in any longer they will surely burn.  I told him to brush them with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar so they wouldn't be a total loss.   As I walked away, I said, "I can't imagine what you did that they didn't rise."  

I returned to doing my makeup as I thought through the steps of making packaged rolls.  That's when it hit me!  

"Did you roll them up and twist them like the package says?"  

An emphatic, "Yes!"  came from the bedroom.  

Now that I was sure of what happened I asked again, "How did you roll them?"  

He said, "What do you mean roll them?  It didn't say to roll them.  Just to twist into a crescent shape.  Which I did."

Now I've done that routine with the kids enough to know that the package full well said what to do but someone just didn't read all the instructions.  Reluctantly, Allen brought the package from the trash can and we looked together.  Sure enough it read, "Roll up and twist as shown in the picture."  

We debated just what the picture was illustrating for a few minutes and whether it showed them being rolled up or unrolled before twisting the ends into a crescent.  Then one of the boys came wandering by.  

Instinctively, because we say this a lot on Sunday mornings, I told him, "Hurry up and finish dressing or you won't have time to eat breakfast."  

"What are we having for breakfast?"  

That was a good question.  I wasn't sure how to answer it exactly because they were not exactly crescent rolls.  So I deffered to Pa.  And that's how we came up with a title for a new book.

If you give a Pa some crescent rolls, you just might end up with croissant thins.     

October 20, 2011

Carmella Time

I know, I know.  Mom's post is a week late, again.  But maybe after you see this adorable little face you will forget all about it.
With so many people and a darling who is awake six hours or less a day, there never seems to be enough Carmella time to go around.
I don't believe it is any coincidence that we have had a big increase in the number of friends dropping by for a visit since Winnie's birth.
We don't exactly live on the beaten path, so to speak.
  We know who they are really coming to see.  
Holding Winnie is an instant cure for a bad day. 
We don't take it personally that even little Zoey would rather hang out with Carmella.
I am glad I nurse her so I get to hold her at least four times a day.  
During school days, we each take turns playing and reading with our girl and that ensures everyone develops their own special relationship with the princess.
 Ellie and Sam like to play cars and "Pa and Mama" with her.  (That's what we used to call playing house.)
 She adores reading and doesn't seem to care if it is Goodnight Moon or a text book.
 Cuddling time is still everyone's favorite way to spend their quality minutes with our little bundle of joy.
I like to take a little break for a few minutes of one on one with her before afternoon nap time    
She is always so full of amazing faces.
It is no wonder there is always someone waiting in line for their turn.

Until next week,