Today I am thankful for:
The first pomegranates of the season, delicious and easy home made pizzas on naan bread, the grace of modern medicine, and friendly grocery store personnel!!
or at least designed. from start to finish.
Jonathan was a bit put out after the last cake went to celebrate someone else’s birthday, and he didn’t get one. teeny. tiny. taste.
I told him this week’s cake was to be specially made with the children in mind. So he requested lemon. And because Abigail is not a huge fan of the frosting (no, James she is not related to you or me!) I made lemon pudding to fill the center with. It was really easy, really yummy, and kept the cake very moist.
I kept my word to both Moms!! and made a buttercream icing with real butter this week. And of course, with some lemon juice and lemon zest, because we are after all talking about the lemony-est cake ever made in Texas! Josiah thought the frosting was very tasty, and after locating his sister’s bath towel, laid down to enjoy licking the beater clean
At class this week we practiced many things: flowers, shell borders, ROSES, oh yes, and clowns. I failed the clowns part (just ask Sandra), so none of those appear on my cake. Plus, I think my children are all afraid of them!
After I’d practiced in class, I brought my cake home still blank except for its lemon icing. The children and I stood around the peninsula in the kitchen while the four kids picked out frosting colors, watched me mix them, and then requested what types of flowers I make with each color (Josiah said we must have blue flowers!). They were amazingly cute and sweet about my very novice decorations. When I plopped the first rose down on top of the cake they all whooped and shouted and insisted it was really, really awesome!!!
Well, I’d say my little designers did well….I think the final creation is quite stunning:
Here is most of my design team:
One last pic of this colorful cake:
For my 27th birthday this year, my sister and brother-in-law gave me a free ride to a Wilton Cake Decorating Class. Which was really swell of them, considering I’ve always longed to be able to make the cakes which I bake for family birthdays look more appealing than they usually do! Of course, Sandra wasn’t going to send me on to class without a buddy, so all through the month of May, we have the fun of “going to school” together! Which is sorta neat b/c she was five years behind me in regular school, so we didn’t often run in the same circles. Or even really in the same schools, come to think of it.
This week we brought home our first cakes. Certain of us in the class worked SO long on smoothing our icing that we were stuck with “homework” to finish the decorations!! I don’t have pics of Sandra’s cake, but it was really pretty. I was especially impressed with her creative use of color.
Here is my little creation (note: the pink appears a tad bit more florescent than it actually was in real life!). The cake is pink and brown, not black.
I don’t have photos of the insides, because we used it to help a friend celebrate her birthday, and then sent it on home with her. But I can vouch for the fact that it was tasty!! It is a Hershey’s Chocolate Cake Recipe, and I brushed the layers with Bailey’s Irish Cream, and filled the middle with Chocolate Buttercream (real buttercream, not that Crisco stuff we had to use for the icing this first week).
Those in the know inform me that using shortening in your icing helps achieve a smooth finish, and makes the stuff easier to pipe and work with. Maybe so, but I still don’t love the taste, never mind that it grosses me out just a little to think about eating spoonful after spoonful of shortening piped atop my dessert!! I did put some actual cocoa powder in the icing I used for the brown centers of the flowers, etc. Gave it a fun little kick!!
This next week I hope to frost the cake in buttercream made with real butter, and use the Crisco recipe for the decorative parts only. We’ll see how that works out.
Of course, they tell me we’ll be learning how to make clowns next week…when my kids heard this, the six-year-old asked, “Hey Mom, couldn’t you maybe make a Darth Vader and a Luke Skywalker instead? And you could have them fighting with light sabers on top of the cake. Now THAT would be cool!”
Yes, my boy, that would be cool. Very cool. And a heck of a lot less scary than those freaky-looking little clowns!
Anyone else remember that song from the Brady Bunch way back when?? Loved those singin’ Brady Kids!
Almost a year ago and Abigail and I talked about the possibility of participating in the Locks of Love program. If you’ve not heard of it you can read about it here. Basically, it is a non-profit organization that exists for the sole purpose of helping disadvantaged children who have permanent hair loss due to medical issues. The organization makes beautiful wigs from hair that is donated by individuals all over the US and Canada. Prostheses of this nature are expensive to purchase, but Locks of Love makes it possible for children who would not normally be able to afford them to enjoy the sense of “normalcy” that comes with having hair again.
Which makes me consider: how many times have I complained about my hair for whatever reason? The idea of not having any is shocking, but many of us, if asked could probably list off several things about our hair that bugs us.
Well, one thing the women in the Horne household are blessed with is LOTS of hair!! And thinking about all those children who don’t have any at all made Abigail and I want to help, so after a few months of growing our hair out to longer than we’d normally wear it, we called a local salon and made appointments to each take off a long ponytail for donating to LOL. We knew we’d each be losing 10-11 inches of hair so yes, we were a little nervous about the whole thing, but also very excited!!
Awhile back, we took some before shots to chronicle this momentous event:
Well…..today was the day!! You gotta have the shot with her holding up her 11 inch ponytails!!
Abigail was kind enough to take a shot of me preparing to lose about ten pounds, er inches of hair:
And then another:
She really had fun with the camera!! Here she is getting her “shampoo”:
The salon we used made it easy to send our donated ponytails in to Locks of Love: they provided the paperwork, and packaged and mailed everything in for us.
And….when we were all finished….
Isn’t she cute with her new ‘do??
WOW!! I cannot remember when i have EVER had my hair this short!
Note: if you are in the Dallas area, and interested in participating in Locks of Love, the Artistik Edge Salon in Lake Highlands partners with this organization, and will cut and style your hair free of charge if you are a donator. I am happy to tell you their services are not only free, but excellent!! Both Abigail and I received beautiful cuts from a lovely young lady today.
More importantly, it makes us really happy to think about a child somewhere, someday in the not-too-distant future getting their new hair, and knowing we got to have a little part in making that happen for them.
As a child growing up in the Baptist, E.V. Free and Presbyterian traditions, I do not recall our family ever observing Lent. When Jay and I married and joined a Presbyterian church body, Lent continued to go fairly unnoticed until a couple of weeks before Easter when we certainly were inclined to meditate on the events leading up to Passover, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and finally Resurrection Sunday.
For the past couple of years we have attended a wonderful and truly refreshing PCA church here in Dallas. I could go on and on about the ways our family has been blessed by being a part of this body, but that is a post for another time. While this particular congregation does not collectively observe Lent, a number of our dear friends within the church do, and over these last two years I have watched them as they choose to give up a particular indulgence during the forty days leading up to Easter as a way to focus more on Christ, his sufferings, and ultimately their faith in and walk with him. Until this year though, I have never felt compelled to join the ranks of those “giving up something” for the season of Lent.
But the fact is, that for a host of reasons, I have felt more keenly aware of my own sins and shortcomings in recent months. This is not to say that I have become more sinful than before; perhaps I have, but that is not my point. I have truly felt more of a struggle with my sin, and a sense of frustration as I battle against it than I have felt in a long time. Mostly, I accept this as a positive thing, for if we are not finding ourselves battling sin then perhaps we are either ignoring it, or becoming complacent or even hardened to it. Yet the outworking of struggling against our sin can be exhausting!
Our family is experiencing a set of somewhat challenging circumstances on several fronts. Though I might choose to end these trials in favor of an easier time, these challenges are certainly pushing and prodding us to learn and grow in new ways, and to become more sanctified than we might otherwise. So I am ultimately thankful for the opportunity to know more of Christ and what it means to serve Him, whatever my circumstances in this life. We are learning firsthand that no growth occurs without a good deal of hardship and some pain along the way.
Which brings me to Lent. In the midst of this hardship, I would like another reminder to continue to cling to Christ: to trust his kindness, his love for me, and his promise to help me travel through whatever paths he has planned for my good and his glory. Toward this end, I would like to turn away from an area in my own life which has plagued me since I was a young child, more and less depending on my circumstances. And so…I am going to try to give up biting my nails for Lent.
It might sound silly; most people I know give up chocolate or alcohol, or even Facebook (!) in an attempt to indulge less in the pleasures of this world, and focus more on Christ. But there is no glaring area of my life where I habitually ignore Christ’s call to trust him more than in the pathetic and ugly act of continually biting my nails. It is for me a sinful reaction to the stresses and pressure of life, and an area which, due to more stresses than I can remember in a long time, I have absolutely just given up trying to tame in any way recently.
Some people when they are stressed, go eat a bag of chips or a carton of ice cream, others turn to their god of alcohol to numb the pain of life, still others spend money they do not have in an effort to escape from the cares of their present situation. When things get tough for me, I choose to destroy my poor little fingers!! And while it doesn’t make me fat, or create heart or liver disease, or financial debt I cannot repay, I can safely state that it is a poor stewarding of the body of I’ve been given, and therefore not in keeping with behavior fitting one who calls themselves a Christian. Additionally, it is an outward manifestation of a refusal to give certain hardships and stresses over to Christ who has promised to help me carry whatever burdens I encounter in this life.
So…for the next forty days I am making a commitment to try my very best, with an abundance of help and grace from God above, to turn away from my nasty habit, and turn instead toward Christ. If, in every instance where I went to nibble on a nail, I instead stopped, took a moment to pray and meditate on the things of Christ, and fixed my eyes upon him instead of my worries, how could it not help me to love him more, and worry less about my circumstances? My prayer is that he might use this simple act of faith from a struggling sinner to strengthen my frailty and glorify himself more in me.
If anyone else is choosing to observe Lent this year, I’d love to hear about why you are doing it, and what you are choosing to abstain from or give up. Maybe we can be of help and encouragement to each other these next forty days. And regardless of your personal position or beliefs about Lent, “May we all continue to fix our eyes on Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross…..so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”.
Well, readers, I had it all planned for you – my latest cleaning conquest to encourage you in your own Cleanout efforts. My “before” pictures were done, and I had an entry written in my head more or less. And then…my back went out. (Again, not that you need to know.) The truth is, I’ve been having pretty chronic lower back pain on and off for several weeks now, but it would appear that my cleaning frenzy has done nothing to help matters; if anything I am worse. Absolutely shocking, I know.
Given my current state – inability to bend down, lean over, or do pretty much anything a SAHM worth her salt should be able to do, it’s been less than a productive day. All I can do is grunt loudly and gesture wildly at objects for the children to pick up and put away. This didn’t seem a good system use while executing on a major cleanup project, so I am truly sorry to say….
I got nothin’ for ya. So sorry, faithful readers.
However, I will share with you that after Jonathan’s basketball practice, the kids and I managed a drive-by ogling at George and Laura’s new digs. It will probably surprise all of you to learn they did not choose our lovely ‘hood as their future residence – too bad, I’d have brought over my famous bundt cake to welcome them and everything.
Well, I truly hope that some of you have accomplished more in your homes than I did in my own today. Remember, I will be drawing a winner (completely at random) on Monday. So finish up those cleanouts, and leave me a comment so you have a chance at that giveaway!!
Ok, I admit it: after several days of a cleaning frenzy (on top of all other regularly scheduled programming around here, plus a sleepless night with a croupy three year-old thrown in for fun!), I am TIRED! But….also encouraged. I am learning a lot as I cull through, purge, and put back together various areas in our home. Thanks for your comments, those of you who’ve popped in to say hello, I look forward to seeing the progress you are making in your own homes this week!!
Since I didn’t have as much energy or time today to devote to massive cleaning out, I limited myself to fixing up the games cabinet. We have a great set of built-ins in our living room, the whole bottom of which are shelves that are perfectly sized for games and puzzles. This morning the area looked like this:
You can’t see minute details in the photo, but believe me when I tell you that behind that mess of boxes was a little army of lost game pieces, dice, cards, and puzzle pieces — all of them crying out at once, to be put back in their proper box!
Well, after some hard work with a couple of my Junior Cleanup Trainees we managed this:
A definite improvement, yes?? Games closets will always get a little messy with tiny kids in the house, but here’s hoping we can maintain order behind these doors just a little better from here on out!
Ok, all you rabid blog fans out there, just waiting for some sign of today’s cleanup conquest…I’m back!
First, I want to share a small clean out I did, which netted a lot of paper for the recycling bin out back, in addition to helping our front living area/school room function better.
If you are like me, your stack of magazines and catalogs can quickly grow to mammoth proportions, even if you are picky about what you keep. So, after culling through a TON of these, I moved the periodicals into a smaller basket:
and voila! I had a wonderfully large basket all freed up. Into it went our many, many library books, and they fit beautifully, with room to spare. Now isn’t that nice?? Some folks prefer to bookend their sofa with tables to hold lamps, a drink, etc; we just throw baskets on the floor everywhere.
One thing which will help you in your house if you use the library a ton: have a rule that when a book is finished, or not in use, or whatever, that its natural home is in the library basket. Or on the library shelf, whatever you have in your house that works best for you. By keeping the library book “home” in a common area, you leave it available to all the members of the family. Not only does this encourage constant use of the books, since it serves as a visual reminder. But having our basket system has also saved me many a headache by preventing those frantic searches for lost library books!!
Ok, now to get onto the big stuff. Today I tackled a dark and forboding place in our home: the closet of Abigail. It was so cramped and crowded in there folks, that I got a little freaked out just contemplating cleaning it out – I think I may have minor claustrophobia issues.
Now, I must disclaim: it is NOT really Abigail’s fault that it is in such a state. Ok, it’s partly her fault, but more mine. Since she has her own room, and a fairly sizeable (for this house) closet all to herself, we have used it for storage of more than just her things. All my sewing paraphernalia as well as gift wrapping supplies need to fit in here, for instance. And lately, it’s just been a good place to toss anything for which we had no other storage spot. So, here is what the closet looked like yesterday (those of you who are squeamish may need to avert your eyes):
And now today, after a LOT of hard work…it’s not going to win any awards on Rate My Space, but it looks SO much better. For one thing, my little girl can actually walk inside it now without fear of being lost in there!!
And pore through her clothes to make very important wardrobe decisions!!
Even give a little karaoke concert, if she has a mind to!
As part of this cleanup effort, I revamped my system for storing wrapping paper, ribbon, tissue, etc. Down here is my wonderful Sams’ find today:
Rubbermaid containers to hold gift wrap supplies: rolls sit at the bottom, ribbon and tissue lie in trays which are inset a bit higher, perfect!! Everything fit beautifully…..well, everything except my stash of gift bags, which I’d love some advice on.
Do any of you have a nice, neat way of organizing your gift bags? What do you keep them in? Please share!! I threw away a BUNCH of sad-looking, rather outdated ones today, but still have a pretty healthy collection I need to store!
I promised I’d check in with all of you about my own progress on the great Christmas Cleanup. After I cleaned out the fridge yesterday, I took a little time to scour the insides of our rather offensive-smelling trashcan, incidentally the very same one that Walker and Missy own, which obviously makes me totally cool!
Aside: if you haven’t ever read Missy’s blog, head on over there and have yourself some fun. I always love seeing what she has to say. While I’ve not yet had the pleasure of meeting her in person, her husband Walker was a college friend of mine and Pete’s at Texas A&M, her brother-in-law a roommate of my youngest brother’s a few years later, her Grandma-in-law a favorite fellow church member of Jay’s while he was a student at Rice. So many connections over so many years, it’s practically like we’re related, even though we’ve never met. Well, sort of.
Yes, the trashcan is now very, very clean and fresh-smelling. Almost clean enough to eat out of. But we won’t try that.
Then today, I spent some time tackling my tiniest set of junk drawers, the three atop my dresser. Here is how they looked before:
I know, I know, SHAMEFUL mess!! And after:
Please note I did not merely stack the mess somewhere else. Everything inside was either thrown out, or put away in a proper place, and the remains are organized as best as this pathetic organizer could. If the drawers look messy to you, well, please just withhold comments.
The far left drawer holds only the 4 ID bracelets my babies wore in the hospital plus a lock of hair from each one’s first haircut. Middle drawer is full (but not stuffed!) with all those extra buttons and bits of thread/wool we get for clothing when we purchase it. Do any of my wise readers have a strict way of organizing those button and thready-things?? Let me know!!
When it was all said and done, I even had one drawer on the far right which is empty, how ’bout that? Extra space, whoopieeeeeee!
Alright Friends, well that’s all I’ve got for you today. Check in tomorrow for another cleanup of some random area at House of Horne. I look forward to seeing what messes my readers might be tackling at their own homes as they prepare for the holidays!
Upon arriving home today from Thanksgiving festivities in Austin, I opened my fridge and was overcome by how unbelievably disgusting it was inside. You know what I’m talking about – leftovers that have been leftover for so long we aren’t sure we even want to open the container they are in, let alone ponder eating the contents. Maple syrup, mustard, ketchup, and other assorted condiments which have literally become glued to the door shelves, because they haven’t been wiped down in so very long. Crisper drawers full of odd bits of vegetation: leaves of parsley, bits of carrot, a soft apple or two. And shelves, drawers, walls, every surface inside in just a total mess, needing a serious wipe-down and shining.
We’ve all been there. Or at least that is what I am telling myself in order to feel better about my utter neglect of the fridge the past couple months. Please humor me if your fridge is always clean and sparkling with nary a spill or scrap of outdated food inside.
Well, during the long afternoon that it took me to cull through, clean out, empty, remove and wash every shelf and drawer in addition to scouring every square inch of the inside of my sad fridge before reloading it, I had lots of time to think about things. Not surprisingly, my mind turned to other spots in my home which I am none too proud of; places that need a touch of organization, cleanup, attention. A couple of my closets are looking pretty sad, I have so many “junk” drawers, I feel shameful admitting the number to anyone, and my “pantry” (more like a large cabinet) is a wreck. Now, I do not think it is wise to dwell too much on our perceived failings and thereby travel down a dangerous path of self-loathing and discontentment. But perhaps if one can keep it to contemplating certain short-comings in an effort to do things a little better, it is not time poorly spent.
For me, after thinking through several significant messes that I really need to attend to, it seems appropriate to take time before I get those Christmas decorations up, to tackle some real problem spots in our home. So, in the spirit of taking dominion (this is a favorite phrase of Jay’s!) of some areas around here that need some serious attention, I thought I’d try to make it fun, and see how many of my faithful readers would care to join me in a little pre-Christmas de-cluttering and cleanup – maybe, just maybe some of you have some places in your house that are wanting your attention too!
Sooooooooooooo…….If you care to get a handle on some problem areas of your own, please join me this week in my very first pre-Christmas Cleanup Challenge! I am even going to sweeten the deal by offering a giveaway to one of the lucky participants – call it an early Christmas present from me.
Here are the rules for the Giveaway:
1. If you have some spots in your own home that need some cleaning up, then for heaven’s sake, stop reading blogs (lol!) and get to it!! Clear out, clean up, organize, make it shine!! Take pictures of your space both before and after if you can, to help you see just how much progress you have made!
2. Then leave me a comment with either a link to your own blog entry chronicling your cleanup conquest, or if you don’t have a site of your own, just leave a note about your particular area you spent time making pretty again. You can comment once for every cleanup, and the more comments you leave, the more entries you put into the contest.
3. I will randomly draw one winner next Monday, December 8th. The winner will receive ONE of these books, their choice:
Organizing From the Inside Out, by Julie Morgenstern
12 Steps to Becoming a More Organized Mom, by Lane P. Jordan
Organizing Plain and Simple, by Donna Smallin
Until that time, to cheer you on, I plan to post pics and accounts of my efforts here at House of Horne to tame the mess. I hope some of you will join in with me! Here is my “after” photo of the fridge – I didn’t think to take a before picture. It may not be the newest refrigerator – check out the blue duct tape holding the meat ‘n’ cheese drawer together! – but at least now it’s a whole heck of a lot cleaner!
Updated to add:
Contest participants so far:
Missy from “It’s Almost Naptime”
Jamison from “The Bloggertons”
Kristi from “Gently Led”
Peggy from “The Hutchinson House”