Month: January 2013

Grace Day

Today is a big anniversary at my house…not a birthday, wedding, or anything we celebrate normally. We haven’t named it yet, but maybe we should call it Grace Day, because that is what it reminds me of. One year ago today my daughter’s best friend had an AVM. (That’s an aterialvenal malformation…think brain hemorrhage and you’ll get the idea.) She collapsed during a final exam at the local high school, and the events that followed affirmed to me that God does exist and He does have a plan, even when it looks bad.

Some of you will stop reading when you see this, but I hope you won’t.

This experience was one of the worst things that has ever happened near me. But through all the terror, tears and waiting, I saw God working. There was real fear; the doctor told us that he couldn’t fix the problem, it was above his skill. He was hoping to stop the damage and buy time until she could be moved to someone that had the skill. He decided not to move her because he thought they would lose her in transit. At this point how many people would curse God and ask how could a loving God do this? No one was asking that question. Instead we were loving on the family and praying our hearts out, asking for her life to be spared, wisdom for the doctors, clarity of mind for the family to make decisions, and thanking God that He was in total control. If you think we are a bunch of whackos, that’s ok with me. I was there and I saw God’s power at work, and it was real.

So, fast forward to today, the one year anniversary of this horrific experience. Is our girl perfectly recovered. No. Has her life been turned upside down? Yes. Will she ever live the life she expected? We hope so. Sounds like God didn’t deliver? Nope, and here’s why. After lying in a coma for 5 weeks, this girl has progressed from relearning how to swallow (how many times have you swallowed without even realizing it while reading this post) to driving on her own. She is catching up on her school work, back in class at the school where she collapsed, and is pursuing her dream to be a photographer. Yes, she will probably be taking a gap year before heading off to photography school, and yes, she is still working on ways to improve her speech and stamina, but to all of us who prayed and hoped and cried, she is perfect.

I think God used this experience to change us. I think He had this in His plan all along, and I know that he has given a very sweet girl the grace to accept the situation, and to shine like a beacon through it. She confirmed to me this morning, that even though she gets frustrated and even sad, she feels God’s presence and His grace poured out on her so she can be patient and work on the task currently  in front of her. She has hope for the future, and she’s trusting the Creator of the Universe to handle the details.

So, Happy Grace Day.


Snow Storms and Freshly Baked Bread

Lots of people bake, and they bake better than I do, but I don’t care. The smell of warm bread on a cold snowy day is just divine. Today I baked bread. I don’t do it often, but we’ve decided to try to bake more of our bread instead of always buying it at the grocery store. Our family has a bread machine, but we prefer the look of a traditional loaf, so we never really got past the first round of “yippee, we’ve got a bread machine.”  A couple of years ago my husband started using the dough feature on the machine, because he doesn’t seem to have the touch for kneading, but he loves home baked bread. And, because he is a true scientist, he fixed all the recipes so they would work in the machine. So, we have these great recipes lying around, and now we have committed to making better use of them. After all, flour is a whole lot cheaper than a ready made loaf.

This morning I decided that I could do four loaves before the day was too far gone, and it sounded so comforting…snow outside, temps in the single digits or low teens, and we could be cozy inside with fresh bread in time for lunch. Sounds good to me! I yanked out the book and chose a white bread with olive oil, and a maple brown bread.  I used the bread machine for the white bread, and even considered leaving it in the machine to bake, but I couldn’t resist making my own loaves, so I took it out and formed them up just like Mom taught me. Make a think rectangle with the dough, then roll it up (about 3 times), then tuck the ends into the pan. Since it was so cold, I put the oven on warm and set them on top to rise. I’m sure thats’s no-no, but it always works for me.

While they were on the rise, I started on the maple brown bread,  which is a Taste of Home recipe sans bread machine. It has maple syrup, coffee and an egg in it. I mixed that up, and had it nearly kneaded when I realized I had not put the oil in….remember I said there were plenty of people better at baking than me. What to do…I don’t know if it worked, but I just spread my dough out and  poured a bit of oil on it, and kept kneading. It took me about 5 rounds to do it, but I think it is probably ok. Kneading is good for the soul and generally good for the bread.

My next mistake was my oven temperature. We have an OLD oven, and the temperature marks have worn off, so you have to count the marks. I baked the first two loaves at 300 degrees for 30 minutes before I realized my mistake. So, I baked them another 15 minutes at 375, and when they were a little brown and sounded hollow I pulled them out. Because of the extra time involved, I was short a pan; thankfully the frigid air assisted in a quick cool down, and the final loaf was in the pan.

When I put the maple loaves into the oven, I tried a white loaf, and it survived its unconventional baking just fine. Alas, the maple loaves are pretty dark, again because the oven dial. I guess I know what my next project will be…

Congrats Dad!

My dad is 85 and he just retired. Is it possible to successfully retire when you’ve been farmer your whole life? I fervently hope so. He has decided he will write his memoirs this winter, and I’m thinking a project like this will help him to ease into this new lifestyle. So today I will pay tribute to a few things I have observed about my dad over the years.

Here are the things that have made a big impression on me.  I have never heard him utter one single swear word or off color story, ever.  His tenderness to the baby calves that he has nurtured over the years has been constant and unchanging. I can only imagine how he reacted to holding his own babies! He never talked about being smart, but when I found his college report card I found out that he was an amazing and motivated student…a 95% average and graduating in just over three years from the University of Nebraska. When we asked him about it, he just shrugged it off, said he was older than most students so he was just more mature.  I have never seen anyone work as diligently as he did for his entire life. He just kept working at things, trying to improve them, to always complete the job. How many times was he up in the middle of the night to help a cow having trouble birthing her calf. How many animals’ lives did he save because we was always willing to get up and check one more time? How many articles did he read over the years, looking for new cutting edge techniques and applications that would make his cows more comfortable and produce more milk with less stress. Keep the girls happy, he always admonished us. Don’t rush them, be gentle.

My dad certainly hasn’t been perfect, but he has lived a life that is an excellent example of hard work, and doing a good job. I am so fortunate to have experienced such a daily example and legacy. So, best wishes Daddy, for a fabulous new adventure–retirement!

From Yuck to Wow

I knew it was time to redo the chair when my sweet kindergarten piano student asked very politely if I was going to get a new one. I admit it looked bad. Max had claimed it for his own, and while he didn’t abuse it, the already worn seat was suffering more and more from his leaps into it.

Thankfully, I was able to relate my plans to reupholster it, and I could even show her the fabric, but I don’t think she believed a word of it. I wasn’t deterred though, because after a nearly two year wait looking for the right color, I had scoped out a burgundy crushed velvet at Hancocks and brought home a sample to be sure. The shopping plan was already in the works…I was just waiting for the magic Dec. 23 to arrive so I could use my 15% off coupon WITH the 40% sale price. I’ll save the drama…we paid $32 for 3 1/2 yards of fabric.

I promptly came home, armed myself with trusty camera and notebook, and began peeling away the layers. I didn’t care if it was December 23, I was just wanting to get as much done as possible before I had to go back to work on Wednesday. Now I must say that I’m not a complete reupholstering novice. Ten years ago I redid our loveseat in plaid (I know, I know…).  What I didn’t do was take a picture before I started…which means I am missing the fabulous before/after comparison, but I also missed a couple of ending details that would have been helpful on the reconstruct.  My advice, take plenty of close ups, but don’t forget the big picture, from every angle.

With this project I was determined to spend no more money, except possibly for the seat cushion which was exposed for a time. That meant washing the interfacing pieces, and hunting through my quilt batting remnants, and reusing the piping, but in the end I succeeded. Best of all, I discovered that the other side of the seat cushion was in fabulous shape, so I wielded my trusty quilt batting and some spray adhesive and it was ready to go. I  was even able to salvage the cardboard strips used on some of the edges.

My biggest worry was staples. The entire chair was done with much finer and longer staples than ours. We debated buying a new staple gun, but after a day of staring at what I had, I opted for the heavier shorter variety. I decided if those staples were holding my family room love seat together they should be OK for a pretty chair in the living room. While contemplating staples, I cut pieces and sewed piping. I was also concerned about the seat back. It had a clamshell look, and no way could I get the cushion on my machine. So that required a trip about the town to hunt up someone to sew for me. I found Stone Furnishing, and they were very kind and willing to help for a reasonable price. I didn’t feel bad, since I didn’t have to buy a new seat cushion.

So, let the stapling begin!  First the arms went back on. They were just a little tricky because of the piping situation and my  monster stapler (borrowed from the garage). The seat was on in just a few minutes and then the back, and  all of a sudden, I had a chair. Next up were the wings, which in this case were pretty different because the entire wing is not fabric. During this step I discovered a marvelous though forgotten tool, the hammer, which allowed me to “assist” the staples in becoming better acquainted with the hardwood, and just like that I was ready for the outer sides.

I knew these would be tricky, and they were, mostly because they included those scary metal nail edgings. I had four of those, and I finally figured out what I should have done when I got to number 3. I should have used a pencil in the crease to give me a visual to align the edging with. Had I done that immediately, I probably would have cut my time in half on those side pieces. I also paid the price for not taking good enough notes or pictures…I had to remove the cardboard stripping I had so carefully attached…it was supposed to be on top of the side pieces. It was frustrating enough that I decided one of those in a day was enough. The next evening I did the other side, and then for good measure attached the top of the back so it could cover the innards during Friday piano lessons.

Saturday morning my husband helped me finish, since I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to manage the final edging pieces for the back. He gave me that final boost to finish up, so by noon we had a new chair! Max is VERY sad. I guess the next project will be using the old fabric to make him a nice floor cushion.

So, in the final analysis, we paid $40 for the chair, $32 for the fabric, and $20 for the custom sewing, and this is what we got…..DSC00226Max and the chair

Hello out there…

This blog is really a dare to myself to try something new, so we’ll see how it goes. It is also an outlet to share my thoughts, projects and whatever else comes along.

So, let me introduce myself! I am married to a wonderful man and the mother of two beautiful girls. Our family is at a crossroads, our eldest is a sophomore in college and our youngest is a senior in high school. We have an adorable but very large corgi Aussie mix named Max. I swear he understands English when he’s motivated! As parents, we are on the older side, not starting our family until we were both thirty-something.

Our little family lives in a modest house in Rapid City, where we do our best to be sensible in our living. We’ve learned a lot over the years, and enjoy sharing what we do with those who are interested. Much of these things came from our parents, so I’m going to start there.

My mom and dad grew up during the depression; they were born in 1925 and 1928. I lost my mom this past May, but I’ve been reflecting on what she taught me, and there was a lot. Here’s an example. We moved into a different house on the farm where my dad worked when I was about 10. It was poorly insulated, and in the early summer heat it was already stifling, because the windows had been painted shut. During that spring and summer, my mom took each window out, and fixed it. She took the glass out, stripped all the paint, repaired the casings, the ropes on the side weights (really old windows) reglazed the windows (the only word I remember from the whole thing) and put them back in.

She didn’t know anything about windows, and there was no internet, and the library was 17 miles away.  What a woman! I wish I had been old enough to remember what exactly she did!

So, maybe that gives you an idea of what kind of person I am and what kind of blog this may turn into. My holiday project this year is reupholstering a wing back chair that we bought for $40 from Cornerstone, because it had good bones. Max loved to sleep in that chair, and alas, it looked like it! More on that tomorrow. Kathy