TTu: Moving Through Grief and Recording Family History

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

I was thinking last night about this question.

“What have I tackled this week?”

Answer:  “Not a whole lot.”

While I have a multitude of to-do lists and little projects that I want to do, nothing was really out of the ordinary.

It had been a difficult week, grief compounded by grief with a little more grief from the past to even out the score.

Feeling so sad, I sat down on Saturday and typed up some thoughts feelings and questions.  And ya know what?  It helped a bit.  I felt a lot better after that.

And because I am very much into inclusion . . . . On Sunday, Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d spend a few minutes and talk about how I met The Bull.  Well, that “little” posting took on a life of its own!   In the morning I realized that had become way too long for a single post.  So it became two.  And it only took several hours more than I expected.

Sunday night I realized that these three postings are a great way to keep track of all the sweet little details of my story, my family’s history, to remember them before they disappeared.

And that is a major tackle, in my book.  ;)

You can find more ideas and share your own tacklings at the 5 minutes for moms blog.

TTu: Simple Gifts

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

This week I’d like to share some pics and recipes.  I love the idea of making homemade things to give at Christmas (any time, really) but it’s been hard to find things that are simple enough that the children can participate and useful.  So these are some of our favorites.

Christmas Potpourri

I found this recipe online somewhere, but I don’t remember where!  We make this one at the beginning of December, as the scents need time to combine.

  • 1 pound orange peel (dime size)
  • 1/2 pound lemon peel (dime size)
  • 1 pound whole star anise
  • 1 pound small cinnamon sticks (1 inch)
  • 1 pound whole allspice
  • 1 pound whole cloves
  • 4 ounces fixative orris root, cellulose fixative
  • 1 or 2 ounce bottle with dropper of orange, cinnamon, or christmas oils

We used a plastic craft storage container to mix this.  It will smell like the spices and oils for a long time!

Mix all the ingredients, then add half of the oil.

Cover and store in a cool, dark spot.  Stir every few days.  After about a week, add more of the oil if you like.

According to the instructions I found, this recipe cost $55 for the ingredients and filled about 52 snack sized zip bags, for a per-gift cost of $1.06.  (When we made it ourselves, two years ago, it cost about $63.  I haven’t yet added up what it cost us this year.)

Christmas Granola

Another simple, easy recipe.  This one is even less expensive than the potpourri.  I adapted a recipe found here, based on what we had available and liked.  This year, we quadrupled the recipe (multiply every amount by 4) so it took longer to bake.

Gingerbread Cookies

Another good recipe from Quaker Oats.  A few tips, though, based on our experiences:

  • Grease the cookie sheet (the recipe says ungreased) or you may have difficulty getting the cookies off.
  • The recipe says to cool on the cookie sheets for 1 minute.  It may take longer if your pans (like ours) hold the heat longer.  You want the cookies to be firm enough to hold their shape and not ooze off the spatula (thereby having a pile of cookie goo, still tasty but nowhere near as pretty as the stegosaurus or saw or star shaped cookies.)
  • Finally, remember that this is one of those recipes that has to be chilled before rolling . . . oops, I forgot this time.  Thankfully it was a cold day and I just set them outside for a while.  :)

I made five batches of the recipe, one with Splenda for friends who need sugar free treats, and four with plain old white sugar.

I forgot to take pics of this one as we were making them.  A friend came to visit and helped me by playing with the kids in the living room while I worked with one at a time cutting out the cookies.  This worked very nicely.  Another great idea?  Let each child pick one cookie cutter and use it to make all of his/her cookies, so that it’s easy to identify who made this cookie (if that is important to you.  It was to us, as the kids always want to give the cookies they made.)

We could have decorated them using icing and candies, but we ran out of time.  And I ran out of patience, after five batches!!

Labeling

Another fun, easy task for the kids.  All kids like stickers, right? ;)  We used zip sandwich bags for all of our treats.  They were filled with one cookie, or 1/2 cup of potpourri, or 2/3 cup of granola.  (And I forgot to count the bags so I have no idea how many treats we made or what the cost per treat was.)  I printed labels on the computer with ingredients (helpful for those with food allergies) and The Bull helped the boys label the bags and fill with granola.

Ornaments

The kids didn’t make these, I did.  But they are simple enough that children could do it.  One nice thing about this one is it is a simple, use-what-you-have kind of project.

I wanted to make a special gift for two new little girls.  I googled to find an angel picture that I liked, then cut around it to make a pattern.  Then I cut the felt.  The fancy ornament took one felt cut out, the other one took two (one white, one pink.)

Then I cut a pink face and purple dress for the one on the left.  The arms and feet are bits of wide lace; the halo is yellow glitter paint (and not fabric paint, either, as I didn’t have any gold or yellow-ish fabric paint!)

For the simple ornament, I cut two angels and used embroidery thread to whip stitch around the edges.

The fancy one needed something more, so I cut another piece of ribbon for “hair.”  A black permanent fabric pen supplied facial features.

I also wrote on each the girl’s name and “First Christmas 2009.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

All in all, it was a nice, simple gift plan.  For next year, I’d like to find another simple craft or food gift idea, maybe a gluten free snack?  Any ideas?

You can find more ideas and share your own tacklings at the 5 minutes for moms blog.

TTu: Decorating

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

I’ve seen this meme around and wanted to participate. I’ve even started projects in the hopes of participating!   Sadly, I have a little problem.  It’s called “failure to finish a project” and it wrecks my best plans.  It’s frustrating how many projects I have lying around, started but not finished!

But I’ve got more plans, oh yes!  I hope to get a few more projects finished in the next month or three.  I’m hoping that this “Tackle it Tuesday” will give me a little bit of a boost (maybe accountability would help?) and turn the tide on my bad “failure to finish” habit.

So for this time, my very first Tackle project, I am showing the before and after of our CHRISTmas decorating.

Our living room is fairly small, and it is a rather awkward space.  So we decided that we would *gasp* skip the tree this year.  (Honestly, I’m not really in a happy holiday mood for some reason and I would have been fine with ignoring it altogether.  But the kids would have been disappointed, so we decorated.)

It’s a compromise for sure, but I am OK with this set up.  Rather than putting a lot of stress and effort into “how are we gonna try to squeeze the tree in THIS year?” we put effort into making do with what we can.

Let’s get started, shall we?

This is the “Before.”  Note the junk piled on top of the piano.  You can also see part of the bookshelf to the right.  I am a  “piler,” so flat surfaces are dangerous to me.

Here it is after the top shelf was de-unicorned.  (I collect unicorns and it’s nice to display them somehow rather than letting them live in boxes forever.)

In order to clean off the top of the piano, I had to sort and clean out a whole years’ worth of the children’s art projects.  We have a nice long hallway that makes a nice art gallery.  It took some time, but now the artwork in the gallery has been refreshed and the old pieces put away.  (Due to narrowness of the hallway, I couldn’t get a good picture of it.)

I also put away a bunch of trinkety things that were hidden on top of the piano.  That was my previous attempt at keeping from piling things on the piano!  It worked okay for a while but over time one thing and then another got set on top of the piano.

Then I applied a nice coat of the orange scented wood oil.  Looks and smells lovely!

Calf #3 took advantage of the fact that the piano bench was cleared off, and the stuff in front was moved, to tickle the ivories for a few moments.

One very nice and amazingly easy part of this tackle: the green cloth on top of the piano.  (Years ago I’d bought this old shower curtain from a thrift store.  It was a green lacy-type of cloth that was backed with a vinyl sheet which had become quite ratty.  I had cut off and threw away the vinyl and used some of the green lace for a curtain.)  Well, this year as I was quickly looking through my fabric box to find something suitable for topping the piano, I came across this and decided to give it a shot.  I’m really pleased with how well it works!

Then the real work began!  I had already gotten the boxes of decorations out of the crawl space (two weeks ago, in fact!) so the time had come to look through and decide what to do with it all.

Here are my helpers.  They were so excited when I announced that we’d be decorating after circle time (part of our school day.)  Calf #2 (in the middle, wearing a red and green shirt and overalls) was so excited he jumped up and down and clapped his hands for joy.  I love how the kids are so excited over simple things!

When The Bull got home, he helped out with decorating by finding an extension cord, and by distracting the children so I could get the lights hung up.  :)

Here it is, semi-finished, with our lovely Christmas moose lights, unicorns, and the singing/dancing reindeer.  (Yes, more unicorns!)  Calf #3 was a bit sad when I put the reindeer up high as she likes to play with it.  But really, there’s only so much “ho ho ho” a mama can tolerate!

Since we aren’t putting up a tree, I decided we’d put out some of the ornaments.  Few lent themselves well to being set on the shelf, though.

Here is one of the moose lights up close.  Ain’t he adorable?

That was what we accomplished Friday.  A lot and a LOT of work for the three kids and me!

I thought we were finished and was very pleased with our decorating.  Chalk one up on the “finished project” side, and it only took one day!  Now we can move on with life, right?  Right.

But wait–there’s more to this Tackle!

On Sunday, The Bull was helping the boys clean up the kitchen and I decided to help them a little bit.  We have had a box of books sitting in the kitchen for at least a month. What’s so hard about putting them away, I thought??  Why can’t I just stick them on the shelf and be done with it, I wondered??

90 minutes later I knew better.  The reason that box of books had stayed in the kitchen for so long was that there was not room on the shelf for them.  So I ended up completely re-organizing the shelves, dusting the shelves and the books, moving and rearranging and  and sorting and getting rid of a few unneeded items (such as the 2008 fishing regulations) and this is what it looks like now! I’m so proud of myself.  It is harder to find books now, as most of the titles are hidden.  But I got them all put away and in a fairly logical order too.

I’d also like to share some of the nicer pieces in our decorating.

This nativity set I purchased long ago, before having children, even before The Bull became a fixture in my life.  Hoping to someday have children, I bought this one from a catalog and was quite surprised and a little disappointed to read on the box “Not a toy, for decorative purposes only.”

Sad, isn’t it?  But we have since been given a nice Veggie Tales set of nativity characters that IS a toy, and the kids love it.  I think it’s easier for them to leave the fancy nativity sets alone when they have one of their own to use.

And finally, this is our Alaskan themed Nativity set.  You know, if Jesus had been born in Alaska to Alaska Native parents.  I imagine he might have been born in an igloo (a temporary shelter from the cold and snow.)   And surely He would have had a polar bear watching over Him, with a moose and a Dall sheep standing by if needed.  Instead of shepherds, He would have been visited by fishermen.  I just know that He would have been amazed at the gifts brought by the Native Wise Men.  I haven’t a clue what they’d be bringing in their ornate boxes, though, certainly not fragrances from the other side of the world, although there is gold in Alaska.  Nor do I know what kind of wood from which the boxes would have been made, considering that there are very few trees in the cold northerly parts of Alaska.

Sorry.  My imagination ran away with me there.  :)

You can find more ideas and share your own tacklings at the 5 minutes for moms blog.

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