Monday, October 25, 2010

A Room of One's Own (or so I thought)

This post is in response to Centsational Girl's link party, answering the questions:  "Describe your ‘Mom Cave’ and get creative!  It can be your home office, your craft corner or closet, your reading nook, your vanity, or your favorite getaway spot.  Wherever it is that YOU take time to recharge, create, get organized, or just relax.  Why is it special to you?   How does your existing ‘Mom Cave’ help you stay organized, unwind, or simply be a better Mom?"

Virginia Wolfe wrote  "A Room of One's Own" as a literal and figurative essay about a woman's need for mental and physical space to write fiction.  I read the book many moons ago when in my early twenties.  While much of the essay may escape my memory, the very idea of having a space to call my own has long been in a little room of its own, just on the edge of consciousness.  I always knew my time would come, I just needed to bide my time.

Who knew?  Who knew I would have to imagine it?

Soon enough, both children were well on their way to forging their own trails.  Finally, it was safe to convert my daughter's bedroom into a room of my own.  I started with a blank slate---white walls, white trim, just waiting for the painted furniture, my vision board, and the splashes of color provided by all the bargain bits & pieces I would scavenge. 

Not so fast, Jan.   Grown children sometimes return to the nest, sometimes to lick wounds, sometimes to get on their feet.  Sometimes, being a better mom means postponing once again, without hesitation.
Nope, this is not my desk.  This is where my desk would  be.  Instead, this is where my girl gets pretty.

This is not where my pretty curtains hang.
My pretty girl hopes to be a pretty bride.

 Nope.  This is not where I sleep.  What can I say?  Pretty girl was not gifted with the "clutter-free" gene.

My time will come. I'll bide my time once more.  And, I will delight in it.

Once upon a time, I imagined a room of my own...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reluctant Entertainer

Okay, so I'm not really a reluctant entertainer.  I mean, that's why we went through a major renovation---because I wanted to bring people together in my our home.  It seems I entertain a lot, I would just like to do it with a little more "pretty" and maybe a little less fear of the cooking part.  When I cook for people, I always feel stressed.  I'm not a natural cook, it's labor intensive for me.  I always have great intentions, but something usually goes awry.  Good thing I have good friends with a sense of humor.  For the last year and a half, I have been reading Sandy Coughlin's blog which addresses all these fears and more and she just published her first book called The Reluctant Entertainer 
Photo courtesy of
.  I am soooo looking forward to my copy arriving in the mail this week.  Go to The Inspired Room  to enter to win your own copy with  bonus prizes.  Sandy has a gift for entertaining, but she doesn't do it Martha Stewart style in all it's perfection.  Oh, no.  Sandy has a relaxed attitude about it and says if we want to entertain people in your home, just do it for pete's sake and stop focusing on the "why nots".  She is planned and organized, but she's not going to worry about mistakes, flops, or perfection.  That's my kind of entertaining because, as I've said, there's always something.

This past week, I invited a few friends over for dinner.  A "few" equaled about 35 people.  We have wonderful friends from the Dominican Republic who are visiting the U.S. for the very first time (getting that Visa was a looooong time in coming).  Our little church helped them build a church in a barrio outside the city of Santiago and we have also built a mission house there.  It's a wonderful relationship which has resulted in several mission trips in the last three years.  We love them.  Like a lot.  Anyway, we wanted to have them in for dinner.  One thing led to another and I just started inviting anyone who'd ever gone on one of the mission trips, or been interested, or happened to pass by me at any given moment.
I pondered what to make for dinner, then I thought "I know.  I'll make spaghetti!  That's easy and won't require a lot of work."  Oh, boy, was I ever wrong.  Making spaghetti for six people is a lot different than making spaghetti for a huge crowd, especially when plans go awry and one doesn't make it ahead of time like she planned.  Of course not.  Without boring you with the details, I left the shopping and cooking until the day of.  Yes.  The day of.  But see, I think I must just love a challenge, because I often break one of Sandy's cardinal rules---cook something you've cooked before, don't try out a new recipe on company.  Yeah, Sandy, whatever...maybe I'll never learn.  Because spaghetti is one of my spousal units favorite meals, I make it a lot.  No sweat, right?

Anyway, I start the sauce around 1:30 in the afternoon.  Company's coming at 6:30, so piece of cake.  Why do I keep telling myself this?  IT NEVER HAPPENS THAT WAY!!!!!  At 2:00 p.m. I realize I need to call in the troops.  In this case, "the troops" equaled my daughter, Jordan, and my little friend, Clella.  Clella is an 84 yr old woman with the stamina of the Energizer Bunny who is our church's go-to cook when we have gatherings.
Is she not the cutest thing?  And she brought some of her famous homemade wine, her "best yet".
Thank the good Lord, she answered her phone and was at my house in 15 minutes.  I COULD NOT have managed without their help.  Despite the gallons of water I spilled all over my new hardwood floor, despite the fact that I still had to clean the garage and set up tables, despite the fact that I still had some last minute cleaning to do in the bathroom, despite the fact that our dog, Swayze, jumped up in excitement to see Clella and ripped the paper-thin skin on her arm, despite the fact that Jim was sitting at the repair shop waiting for the van's window to be fixed, despite the fact that I forgot to buy the plastic ware, despite the fact that I almost lost it on several occasions and despite so much more, we got 'er done.  Without a hitch---bwahahahahahahahahah!

And, literally, throughout the whole time, I was taking Sandy's name in vain.  I think her little ears might have been burning on Tuesday afternoon.  I was also hearing her little voice in my head saying, "It will all work out, Jan," which is what kept me from going all the way over the deep end.

Thank you, Heather & Jeff, for doing ALL those dishes while Jordan & Matt look on.
So, anyway, Miss Sandy, thank you for the encouragement and thank you for coming out with that little book.  I'm so excited to get a copy and if I win another, I will just gift someone with it. 
Jordan brings out the bubbles!
Jairo tells Steve and Pedrito a story.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friends in High Places

Come November, Jim and I will have lived in this house for eleven years.  Eleven years!  As an Army brat and then a pastor's wife, I've never lived in any other home this long.  As previous posts will attest, we have lived with less than lovely environs.  We've just  been biding our time and saving our money.  Soooo, last year we were able to tackle a major renovation.  Now we are just working on the little things like replacing the front door, replacing siding and the finishing touches like curtains and furniture.  All in good time.

We live in farm country and have open fields of corn and soybeans surrounding us.  This leaves lots of open space for the wind to visit and take a few shingles with it with each blustery blow.  This morning, we had a roof.  But as they say, the best laid plans of mice and homeowners often go awry...that God, that God shur is a funny one, yes siree-Bob.

This is what our roof looked liked this morning .  Take note of the red tree in the background.  You'll see why.  This view is a few years old.

                                                                                                      This is what our roof looks like tonight. Oh, and don't mind the lovely plywood.  That's just another part of the finishing touches we have yet to get to.  First, we think about a new roof, then we think about replacing the siding.  Priorities, you know.

There's a wee bit of a leak through the roof which soaked a bit of the insulation in our attic and allowed water to drip through the ceiling in our hallway and master bedroom closet.  That would be the new ceiling and closet.  You know, the one we spent eight months sleeping on the basement floor for last year.  Um, yeah.

I think I'll have a little bit of the giggle-fits.  Slap me!  Slap me!

Okay, I'm better.

And this is the little garden in front of the house...


...and our front yard. Jim found some of our shingles in the cornfield across the way and said that the wind was so strong that the shingles sheared stalks of corn.  Yikes.   That's a mighty wind!

I would like to put a plug in for USAA (United Services Automobile Association).  We have our homeowners and auto insurance through them, as well as our one and only credit card.  I cannot
praise them highly enough.  These services are available to people who are in or who have served in the military and their families.  We qualified for their services because my dad was a member.  One of the wisest choices we've ever made and now our children are members, too.  You can find out if you might be eligible here.  Anyway, while we were hearing and watching our shingles go the way of Dorothy and Toto during tonight's storm, I called USAA.  It was after hours, but I got connected to their emergency services.  An adjuster will be out Monday or Tuesday, but we were instructed to contact a local company dealing in emergency services to have them come put a tarp across the roof.   My new friend and USAA employee, D.J. Perez, told me to "make sure my family was safe first" and then take whatever measures were necessary to prevent further damage.  Oh, and I should save the receipt for the emergency services.

Fortunately for us, we called White House Cleaning and Restoration.  "Hello, Houston, we have a problem".

                                        This is Jeff, my new hero. 
Within 30 minutes, one of his guys was on our doorstep to scope out the situation.  In a few hours, the backup crew will be here with the tarps and they will get right to work.  It's 10 pm right now, so these gentlemen will be working in the dark.  God bless 'em.  And so now, we wait. I figure now is as good a time as any to write this little adventure down (stress relief, you know?).   Oops!  10:24 pm and they have arrived!


In the shadow of a half moon which you could see better if I had a better camera! (and if I were a better photographer).

After the storm.  

Dear God, 
Are you trying to tell us something?
I think you have a great sense of humor.
Thank you.


Is a double rainbow the same as a pinky-promise?

12:29 pm - Jim calls down to me..."Hey, Jan?"  

Me:  "Yeah?" 

"The guys just left".

Me:  "And?"

"It just started raining again and there's a storm as bad heading here from Chicago".

Somebody up there must really love us.

Thank you, God, for new roofs and friends and for USAA and for letting it all work out so we can still leave on vacation Sunday and also attend a memorial service for a friend in Vermont.  Amen and amen.

(I would ask that we all keep in our prayers the families and individuals in Oklahoma, Tennesee and Arkansas who have not been as fortunate as we have.)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Wine Tasting 101

All photos by Todd and Trent.  Please excuse the jumbled structure of this post.  I can't make it pretty for some reason.

(Hang on to your wine glasses, this is looooong post).

Although a lover of wine, I have never attended a wine tasting, nor had I ever held one, but hold one we did on Saturday night.  It all started with an invitation to the under-30 crowd to come hang out with Jim and me after church on a Saturday night.  Trent, the cutie-patootie who leads our rockin' church band said, "Hey!  Let's have a wine tasting party!"  So, I took on the challenge.  I started researching about three weeks ago---how does one even begin holding a wine tasting?  What wines? What does one do at these shindigs?

Well, I gathered my research and made some decisions, tweeking it to my own preference.  I will include some of the websites I used at the end of this post.  I talked with my wine 'expert', Daryl, who happens to be a groundskeeper for our school corporation.  Daryl also moonlights at the Chalet Party Shoppe and knows quite a bit about wine.  He helped me select six different wines---three whites and three reds.  According to my research, one usually selects all whites or all reds or all of one variety from different vineyards or a few other selections.  I chose to do it the hard way.  I didn't know what the wine experience was for each of the people attending, so I decided to try three different whites and three different reds:

2008 Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand), 2006 Gnarly Head Chardonnay (California), and C.M.S. White/A Blend (Washington state).

2006 R| Collection Merlot (Napa Valley), 2004 C.M.S Red/A Blend (Washington state), and 2007 Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley).

I also purchased  a bottle of Bogle Shiraz as a thank you gift for Matt, our sommelier for the evening who provided the entertainment.


So, now I had the wine, but I still knew nothing about wine (other than I love a dry red) or how to do a wine tasting.  Enter Matthew.  Matthew is spending his spring as a substitute teacher in our school.  Last year, he spent a good portion of time working at an organic vineyard in Colorado (  Because he is a nice guy and a good sport, he agreed to join our gala and talk about the process of making wine and lead us through the wine tasting process.     He was awesome!  I learned many things and the photographs he brought from his vineyard experience provided just the right amount of visuals we needed.

We learned about 'legs' and tannins and clarity and acidity and tingling under your tongue and more.  We laughed a lot and just had fun.  I covered up the bottles to hide the type of whites and reds and we filled out our opinions on the score sheets.

Jim read the vendor descriptions of each wine before we sampled, specifying the different flavors contained within each.  At the end, we all tried to guess which number was which wine.  I might add that I failed miserably at this.  I do know, however, as a result of this wine tasting that I am firmly a dry red wine girl.  I wasn't a fan of the whites, but I'm told I should next try a Pinot Grigio.

On the table were pitchers of water and margarita glasses filled with oysters crackers to cleanse the palates between tastings.  My little mum always said, "When in need, improvise," and her little voice told me to use the margarita glasses for the crackers.  Pretty.

We ate a lot, too.  In my research, I found which cheeses went with whites and reds as well as the different fruits, meats,  nuts and other snacks that would be good additions to the table.  I selected four different cheeses---smoked gouda, Fontinella (my favorite w/reds), Vermont sharp cheddar and emmantal, a smooth swiss.  I had slices of hard salami and toasted bruscetta brushed with EEOV and topped with roasted red peppers, minced garlic and fresh shredded parmesean. In addition, we enjoyed strawberries and red and green seedless grapes.  Oh, and let's not forget the carmelized almonds and pecans.  I threw together a tuna pate (so easy!) which ended up being a major hit.  I also picked up three different types of dark chocolate candy bars and broke them up into pieces on a serving plate.  Dark chocolate goes well with red wine, you know.  I was worried I might have some fussy eaters in the crowd, but they were all troopers and managed to eat almost every morsel I set out.

To add just a little more fun to the mix, I also conducted a little raffle.  I ran to TJ Maxx and picked up a few wine-related items (corkscrew and glass wine bottle stoppers) and to The Dollar Tree for some inexpensive, but rather elegant looking wine glasses (a set of two per winner).  I bagged each item up and assigned numbers to each gift bag.  Everyone put their names on slips of paper and threw them into a bowl.  Jim drew names of the winners and then each winner drew a number to learn which prize they had won.  We gave away six prizes in all.

Quotes of the night:  

Tori:  "This wine has thunder thighs!" (exclaimed when describing one wine's 'legs').

Trent:  When asked what prize he'd drawn from the bowl, he said with delayed excitement,  "I got........Todd!" (It's seems Todd was Trent's prize because he'd put his name in the wrong 'hat' for prize drawing.  We roared.  Then Trent pulled another prize.

This would be Todd, the Prize.

We were also reminded just how small a world it is.  Jordan recognized Matt from his having subbed in her building and she has a story to tell of his day there.  I had invited Matt to bring a friend with him, so he invited one of his house mates to join him.  When he walked in the house with his house mate, she and I looked at each other and laughed and said a surprised "Hello!" (Johanna, the brucetta girl, and Laura)
Johanna was the young woman who sold the 
 bruscetta and some of the cheeses the night before at Rachel's Bread in Goshen.  She was a sweet and gracious clerk behind the counter.  Who knew?  I love little moments like those.

To top off the evening, Matt unexpectedly brought a bit of a treat from the distillery end of his friend's business ( called Pear Organic Eaux de Vie, pure distilled pears.  We served this clear liquid in little communion cups.  Let me tell you, you didn't need more than that.  Woo! It was the kind of thing one sips, not slugs.  It has a high alcohol content, but it is veeerrrry smooth.  We liked it.

Total cost of the wine, which included a 15% discount because I bought the store wine bag and six or more bottles of wine = $105.

Total cost of food items = more than I intended because it all adds up very fast, but was well worth it.  It probably totaled about $75.  Much of it, I bought at Aldi's.  Such a deal.  The roasted red peppers I bought at The Dollar Tree!  For a dollar.

Total for gift items = $18  (bottle stoppers/2 for $7; corkscrew/$4; wine rings/$3; wine glasses/$1 each).  I had to stop myself because it was so much fun to plan or I would have just kept buying.

Websites I visited: (although I used a wine tasting score sheet that Daryl gave me a copy of)

                                                                                                        Score Sheet
                                       Abby, what are you doing? 

Brittany and Trent score their wine  
Here's the whole crew, minus me.

Ah, here I am.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sneak Preview

Okay, so it has been a long time since I've given an update on our renovation.  There really is no other excuse other than the fact that my creative energy has been devoted in so many other directions (like planning an uber special trip to Germany with my family, recovering from the renovation, holidays, what seems to be never-ending illness, and just life in general).  I really, really want to get 'er done and am feeling the desire return.  Seeing this is my blog and almost no one knows it exists, I think I'll be forgiven on this one.  :)

So, Sarah, Amy, and Michele, this post is for you.  Knowing you might check this out will be the guilt I need to get more done.  :)

Before:  A view of the old kitchen and the sliding door to the deck

 After:  Dylan and Swayze at Christmas with the new board and batten wall in the background.  Note new ceiling in what is now the kitchen.

My cute-as-a-button son and my camera-shy granddogger Swayze with B&B wall closer up.