Thursday, December 31, 2009


Changing all aspects of our lives from living like paupers to becoming royalty.
December 31, 2009

Occasionally I have mentioned that I am working on the Princess Plan. Some of you are very familiar with my Princess Plan, but others have never heard of it. Since it is the beginning of a new year everyone is making plans for what they want to accomplish in the New Year. Myself included. I’ve drug out the Princess Plan and dusted it off. I had started it this time last year and was doing so very well on it until we got the BIG HIT from Murphy in late February, I think it’s still a good plan. So here are the basics of it.

The premise of the Princess Plan came from my realizing that clutter in all avenues of our lives was making us live like paupers. Think about it. If your home is in a mess you can’t find things, so you purchase another item to replace the one you can’t find because it’s easier. You can’t find a bill, you clutter your finances with late fees. How often has clutter caused an item to be ruined?

No menu plan, you tend to eat out and clutter your finances more.

Financial clutter aka: debt causes you to have cluttered emotions, which will clutter your relationships with friends and family it’s all connected and as a result you live like a pauper in at least one area of your life. I’m tired of being a pauper, I want to be the princess my Papa always called me. So I developed this plan and as long as I stick to it I find that we are slowly working our way toward living like royalty in all aspects of our lives.

When I set it up I used the Royal theme to help title and give substances to each aspect. You can use different titles or whatever. This is my personal plan and how I set it up.

I tend to work in twelves when making lists so I started with twelve basic goals. As always in my life this is NOT a to do list, but a goal list. I am not a person who works well with demands, a list that is titled “TO DO” sounds like a demand to my brain, so I set goals. The world will not end if I don’t get a goal done, but I will be very proud if I do.

I am a list person, meaning I work better if I have a list to follow. Some people hate lists, so they would just forget setting up the outline as I have it. And just work in general, but for those of us who need a list Here’s how it goes.

Twelve works well for the Princess Plan because then I can work some on each of the 12 main goals a month.

So I took those original twelve goals and broke it down to a certain amount to do each month for 12 months. In my example I will take the goal I have to “totally clean and organize the whole house.” That is an overall goal and looking at it in that HUGE lump is pretty daunting. But when I break the house down to twelve areas to work on solid one area a month it becomes a little more manageable. So the CASTLE segment was born.

Once you have determined the 12 segments for your house then break those 12 segments into four parts per segment—one for each week of the month.

Those four parts get broken into seven goals, one for each day. With details on EXACTLY how I want to do that day’s jobs. It sounds hard but if you set it all down to paper in an outline format you’ll see it’s “just a little” each day. Like I said I’m a list person, so I include EVERYTHING in my overall master goal list, right down to how I will dispose of the clutter I find as I go DAILY. As each of the sections is completed then it’s just a matter of keeping it picked up daily after that segment is completed to get to my goal. Being the S.H.E. (Sidetracked Home Executive) that I am I know that I will tend to put up just a few things in other areas daily too so by the time I get to the last area it will be fairly simple to do.

Just as Dave Ramsey suggests starting with the smallest debt and snowballing up to the largest to keep giving yourself a reward of seeing accomplishment to encourage you to move on to the next one I suggest starting with the easiest area to fix first, say your cleanest or smallest room and then trying to take care of removing 5-10 items daily from the remaining areas of the original 12 so by the time you get to the room from HELL there will be so little left in it you will find it a snap (after all you will have removed permanently 240-480 minimum items from that room already).

Here’s the outline I mentioned I use.

THE ROYAL CASTLE: goal to totally clean and organize it by year’s end.

I. Kitchen by the week

A.-D Break the kitchen into four segments to do one segment a week

1-7 Break the week segments into 7 parts (One part for each day)

a. Break it down into EXACT steps of how you will do that day’s goals, remember to include taking 10 items PERMANENTLY out of each of the remaining areas.

II. Master bedroom by the week

III. Repeat with the other segments for the year in this category. So you will complete one area a month.

Now go down your original list and do a similar outline for each of the other eleven areas. So you will actually be doing 12 different small type segments a day. The 12 items might be finances, exercise, cleaning various buildings, preparing for Christmas/birthdays whatever the “clutter is in your life.

My annual list? It’s below. If we do #7 like we want then my outline will need to be adjusted accordingly because it’s a little hard to clean at home when you are three states away. #12 is going to be the hardest to do with our current state of employment, but remember this is a goal list. The world will not end if it doesn’t happen. It would simply be a wonderful reward to work toward, we all LOVE Walt Disney World and haven’t been in four years, we miss it deeply.

It will of course not happen if our finances do not improve, it is a reward goal. The apple hanging from the string so to speak. We all need a reward to work toward. It will get the exact same type of monthly, weekly, daily breakdown the other areas will get, but they will be appropriate for it. Money will only be put back for the trip AFTER we are actually doing great on our finances again. The only money in the beginning that will be put back will be the change from our pockets once a week. If we see we are not going to be able to make the December 2010 trip we all desire all the put back money will make a great snowball payment. (which is what will most likely happen).

Annual goals:

1. Totally clean and organized the house—THE ROYALS CASTLE

2. Sell off all excess items, vehicles, critters, etc. THE ROYAL TREASURERY

3. Garden year round successfully HER MAJESTY’S GARDEN

4. Preserve all excess foods, get to the point that we only grocery shop for the very basics we cannot produce ourselves.THE ROYAL PANTRY

5. Clean, organize, repair, and paint the garage THE OUTER KINGDOM BUILDINGS

6. Clean, organize, repair, and paint all out buildings, pens, and porches THE OUTER KINGDOM POULTRY

7. Mystery shop five days a week, traveling whenever we can. THE ROYAL TREASURERY

8. Take all excess weight off of all three of us THE ROYALS

9. Lay in two years worth of firewood HEAT FOR THE QUEEN/DRAGON’S BREATH

10. Reduce our debt by at least one half THE ROYAL TREASURERY PART II

11. Go to entirely scratch cooking THE PANTRY OF THE ROYALS

12. Go to Walt Disney World on a cash basis PARTY TIME!—THE ROYAL BALL!

So that’s the basics of the Princess Plan, will we accomplish it all? Not if Murphy has anything to say about it, but then Murphy can be defeated it just takes an “I can” attitude. I am realistic about this, finances being our biggest problem right now, but as I tell myself and the guys “this too shall pass”. After all we are so much better off than others we have blessings galore and most important, we have each other.

So, now I challenge you to make your own Princess/Prince plan. What are your goals, what will you achieve in 2010.

Jan whose family is so much closer after the BIG Murphy visit and who wishes you a Happy New Year in OK

Friday, December 25, 2009



December 24, 2009, Christmas Eve

Twelve years have passed since that first Christmas here. Much has changed, we have suffered the loss of many of the characters, both human and animal, since then. As the sleet falls heavily outside I think of them.

Gone are Aunt Evelyn, Grandma Felicia, my father in law Alvin, and both the beloved granddoggers Katie and Mr. Erik they are all sorely missed. My mother in law now lives with my sister in law and the bad roads will keep us from seeing her for a few days. Her gift is purchased, but I have yet to wrap it. I’ll do that tonight when I am wrapping the homemade gifts for my husband and son.

On that Christmas 12 years ago the house was heavily decorated both inside and out. We’ve not done that this year, none of us had the time or the mind set to do it. The lack of decoration is not a new thing, slowly as time has progressed over this dozen years we’ve put less and less into our decorating. Often not returning home from a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida until just before Christmas, so it was just a rush partial put up of the tree. We had discussed doing it tonight, but the idea of chancing the icy walk to and from the garage to get it seems too dangerous. We do not need a tree to celebrate Christmas, all we need is each other.

This Christmas things are even more different, we agreed back in November that all gifts had to be homemade from things we already had on hand, the only exception to the rule were two gifts I had purchased earlier in the year, that totaled less than $15. Finances are tight, but our faith and family are strong.

I set a budget for Christmas to total less than $50 including the meal and the two gifts already purchased. I have came in under budget because of a very good deal on both the turkey and the ham. The two of them total less than $15 and I already had all the makings for the rest of the meal in my food storage. I’m pretty proud of how well we’ve been doing up to this point with Gary’s early “retirement”. So far we are still current on all the bills, that has been a true blessing, something to celebrate at Christmas.

In the kitchen the dishwasher is humming, on a half load of dishes. Murphy has visited yet again and for some reason anything put on the top shelf of the dishwasher does not come clean. So we don’t even bother to load that part right now. Gary and Sean will tear the dishwasher apart soon to see what the problem is and hopefully fix it.

Gary has the house warm and toasty with the last of the firewood he cut before Murphy took the big chainsaw away. Hopefully this sleet/snow storm will not knock the power out because any firewood cutting we have to do must be done with the tiny limb cutting chain saw until the big one is repaired. Gary thinks it’s a fuel line that will need replaced and the roads are bad, so that will have to wait. Thanks Murphy, you've been so generous this last few months.

Outside the new sump pump is working, after Murphy pulled another trick earlier this week and killed the old one. This seems to be a recurring Christmas theme. The water only got to 1” this time before it was discovered and the pump replaced.

Murphy, the old Grinch, has been trying hard to steal our Christmas this year, but we Patterson’s are not quitters.

We’ve kept the computers and printers humming to create one of a kind Christmas gifts for each other. As I type Gary is finishing up a super-imposed collage photo for Sean. It is an 8 X 10 photo of his cat Murray Mugillacuty “dreaming” about the other pets on the ranch. I’ll add a copy to the blog when I post this. It will probably be hard for you to see because there is so much on it, but I’ll tell you who is who anyway.

Of course the center figure is my grandkitty, Murray. Starting at the top left and moving clockwise is Lizzie, Magellan Goose with Mama Amy Kitty under him, grandkitty Gypsy Skeeter, Drifter Moon, Jolie Marie, Greystoke Goose, Jellybean and last but not least Misty Georgia. Gary is framing it for Sean’s desk at work. Sean is very fond of all the critters so I think he’ll like it. He’s been mentioning he needed to take photos of the critters to work for his desk.

With the help of a “must purchase” full reimbursement mystery shop I spent no cash to purchase Sean a battery for his X box controller. It was kind of a cheat, but the deal was we could spend no cash and technically I didn’t. He has not been able to use that controller for more than a few minutes for at a time because its battery is worn out. He’s been grumbling about that, so it should bring him some enjoyment.

Sean and I are working together on a gift for Gary, who is trying to teach himself to play bluegrass music on his acoustic guitar. I located free sheet music and companion mp3 files on the internet as well as how to instructions and downloaded those at the library. I’ve printed all the sheet music and will bind it in a decorated 3 ring notebook from my stash of scrounged notebooks. The cover is “scraps” of torn sheet music done in a random way with the words “BLUE GRASS” cut out of card stock on it.

Sean is burning the mp3s and lessons to cds and dvds for me. He’s designing the cover for the the jewel cases and printing those as well. He found some how to videos on line that he is putting into format for Gary’s Ipod from him. He is also giving him his hand exerciser and music stand to have as his. It’s a re-gift of sorts, but a good gift. Before finances got tight Gary had talked about purchasing these items for himself.

Along with these gifts we’ll be giving Gary the $10 guitar stand I caught on a great sale in the late fall. That was one of the two things I had caught on sale.

The two men will share the long cuffed fireplace gloves I caught on another sale before the agreement. They are both always getting soot on their clothes or worse yet burned because their work gloves are too short cuffed for the job.

We’ll see what their imaginations have came up with for me, tomorrow. Both have been working very secretly today.

These are all simple gifts, but they are gifts from the heart, which is what we all wanted this year.

For the dogs I have pigs feet from a butchering thawing for them for a Christmas gift. A couple of minutes with fabric scraps at the sewing machine and there will be five new catnip toys for the cats.

Tonight’s supper will be our traditional Christmas Eve We started this a few years before my father in law passed. Alvin always said that by Christmas he was tired of traditional holiday meals of turkey and ham, that he’d much rather have Mexican food. So we had started having him and my mother in law over for an enchilada dinner on Christmas Eve each year so they could visit on Christmas day with some of the other kids.
Tonight’s supper menu is: (recipes to follow)

Cheese and Onion/Dairy-free Chicken and “Sour Cream” Enchiladas

Refried Beans

Mexican Rice

Tossed Salad

Iced Tea

Sopapillas and Honey

Please note that I do use canned enchilada sauce because I simply have not developed a good homemade one that can be made as cheaply as purchasing a can YET. If you have a good enchilada sauce recipe please post it in the comments section below.

I am sorry but this is a meal I basically cook by feel, so all measurements are sort of guess work.


Corn tortillas

Cheddar Cheese, grated (you can use dairy free cheese for these if desired

Onion, finely chopped

1 can Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce

Cooking Spray

Cooking oil, optional.

Before you start have all your ingredients ready. I set them up in the order I will be using them.

1. A plate to nuke the tortilla on

2. A shallow flat dish (I use a pie plate) in which I have poured the can of enchilada sauce. This needs to be big enough you can put the tortilla in flat and then turn it over to coat the tortilla

3. A plate to lay the tortilla on to fill it and roll it up with the cheese and onion sitting next to it.

4. The baking dish.

Spray the baking dish on both bottom and sides. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

To soften the corn tortillas you have two choices. You can either heat the optional cooking oil in a  skillet and then dip the tortilla in quickly to soften it to continue to the next step. OR you can simply microwave the corn tortillas approximately 15 seconds to soften it. Either way you need the corn tortilla to be pliable. It is best to do the tortillas one at a time.

Cook the tortillas by the method of your choice (I nuke ours to help cut the calories).

Place the soft tortilla in the enchilada sauce then turn it over quickly to coat both sides of the tortilla.

Place the tortilla on the next plate and place the desired amount of cheese slightly off center (remember you are going to roll these up and you want to capture the filling inside) sprinkle a little of the chopped onion on top of the cheese. Then roll the tortilla up to where the cheese and onion are captured inside the tortilla. Place seam side down in the baking dish.

Pour remaining enchilada sauce over the top of the pan of enchilada, top with more grated cheese and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes or until all the cheese is melted.


Using the same method to do the tortillas as above I fill them with a combination of the onion, dairy-free sour cream (I use Tofutti brand), shredded cooked chicken and onions, sometimes with a little chopped black olive) then continue as with the cheese/onion ones either omitting the grated cheese on top or using dairy-free cheddar or pepper jack cheese.

JP NOTE: ds does not care for onions so I leave those out of his and mark his by sticking a tooth pick in the no onion ones for him to eat.


4 C cooked pinto beans, mashed with a small amount of the bean soup liquid

Cumin, Chili seasoning/powder, garlic (either powder or finely minced) onion (either powder or finely minced) all to taste

Enough cooking oil to coat the bottom of the cooking skillet to about 1/8 inch.

Heat the oil to “sizzle” in a skillet.

While heating mix the remaining ingredients together well in a bowl.

Once the oil is hot (375 F) place all the bean mixture in the skillet at once and “fry”, stirring constantly stirring the oil into the bean mixture. Cook until the desired consistency.


4 C cooked cold rice (I usually have cooked “leftover” rice in my freezer just for this purpose—well and for fried rice meals too)

Cumin, Chili seasoning/powder, garlic (either powder or finely minced) onion (either powder or finely minced) all to taste

Corn if desired

Chopped bell pepper if desired

Enough cooking oil to coat the bottom of the cooking skillet to about 1/8 inch.

Heat the oil to “sizzle” (375 F)  in a skillet.

While heating mix the remaining ingredients together well in a bowl.

Once the oil is hot place all the rice mixture in the skillet and stir fry until hot.


7 C all purpose flour

4 tablespoons sugar

8 teaspoons baking powder

4 teaspoons salt

¼ c shortening.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix well. I use a wire whisk for this job. Cut in the shortening until it is well mixed in. Store in a labeled and dated airtight container in a cool dry place. Best if used within 10-12 weeks.


¼ c butter

2 c sopapilla mix

1 ½ tsp baking powder

Approximately 2/3 c milk

Coarse salt

Preheat oven to 450 F Melt butter in an 8 inch square baking pan while preheating the oven. Watch closely so it doesn’t burn, remove from oven as soon as the butter melts.

In a medium bowl mix the mix and baking powder together well. Stir in just enough milk to form a soft ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knewad 8-10 times. Roll out dough to an 8 inch square, which should make it about ½ inch thick.

Cut in half. Cut each half into 4” x 1” strips. Dip each strip into the melted butter. Place in the pan with strips slightly touching. Sprinkle with the coarse salt. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown.


2 c sopapilla mix

2/3 c water

Oil for frying

In a medium bowl combine the mix and water to form a ball. Adjust water or mix as needed to make the dough ball easy to work with. On a lightly floured surface knead the dough 8-10 times. Divide into 8 pieces. Roll out each piece to a 6 inch circle. Set aside. Cover with a cloth to keep from drying out to much. If using for a taco you may want to form the dough to a slight bowl shape before frying. You could to this by forming it over an upside down bowl.

Heat frying oil to 375. Fry the totada/taco bowl until golden brown on both sides.

For tostada top with heated refried beans, grated cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, black olives or topping of choice.

For tacos use your favorite taco fillings, we use the Moo-Gurgle filling I’ve previously posted.


2 c sopapilla mix

About 2/3 c water

Oil for frying

Powdered sugar for garnish

Honey if desired.

In a medium bowl, combine mix and water. Mix until dough clings together, adjust water mix ratio if needed. Knead dough 8-10 times on a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes. Roll the dough out very thin then cut into 3 -4 inch squares. Heat 2-3 inch deep oil in a frying pan or use a deep fat fryer to 375 F. Fry until golden brown on one side, then using tongs turn over the sopapilla and continue frying until golden brown on that side as well. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve hot with honey if desired. Makes about 20.

Christmas Day:

We slept in, with no little ones in the house and over a foot of snow outside we all decided this was the thing we wanted to do. We slept quite late. Then exchanged our gifts. The guys did quite well by me.

Dh remembered I had a large collage frame that I purchased a couple of years ago that I had been wanting to fill with various photos and hang over the tv. He found all the photos, printed and mounted them for me. It was a big job. He promises to hang it this next week. I’m thrilled with it!!

Ds gathered how to videos and sheet music to match up for me to learn to play the Dulcimer that I traded for many years ago but never learned how to play. He would like for us to start a new family tradition of the three of us playing music together on the holiday. So I have 1 year to learn at least some basic Christmas tunes. LOL! He says he’ll tune it for me. I think it will be fun to learn.

After a very late traditional breakfast of biscuits and gravy we realized that by the time I cooked the turkey that was not quite thawed it would be very, very late in the evening. So a vote was taken and we all decided we wanted to be total bums for at least one day. The turkey went back in the refrigerator to cook tomorrow.

We’ve had a very relaxing day of the guys playing video games together, me cheering them on while working on my garden plans for next year. A very unique Christmas I know, but it was so nice to just relax and not stress.

Outside over a foot of snow lays on top of 2 inches of ice, inside the fireplace is warm and cozy and we are all content. Snacking and relaxing as Christmas movies play on the tv in the evening hours.

It’s been a very good holiday.

Jan who thinks this non-commercial Christmas was a very good idea in OK



A blast from the past story.

If you have been on yahoo lists with me for a long time chances are you have read this story before. I’ve posted it more than once. If not here is the background on it. We moved to the ranch mid November 1997, by Christmas the main unpacking was done, but there were still much to be done. Yet we were determined to have a big country Christmas in our new home. Of course nothing went exactly as planned.

December 25, 1997

Let me tell you about the adventures of Christmas at the Patterson Rock and Tree Ranch.

On the day before Christmas Eve, Ma Patterson (that being me) spent the day baking, spit shining and doing all her little Suzy homemaker things. Pa Patterson (my hairy other half) came in and worked like a Trojan unpacking and wrapping for all those evening hours into the wee small hours of the morning.

On Christmas Eve, Ma and Pa loaded up and headed toward the big town of Norman to fetch their young'n Sean, and the granddoggers Katie and Erik. They arrived at Sean's homestead about 20 minutes ahead of his return from the wilds of the battle zone known as Toys R Us'n.

Bedraggled, looking rode hard and put up wet he quickly gathered his gear, whistled for his team of fine sled dogs and away we headed for the wilds of Wellston, aka: Grandpa and Grandma Patterson's. Arriving after the dinner hour for the rest of the clan our hearty trio wolfed down a good Christmas repast, then scurried to see what Santa had deposited under the tree for them.

All was good, Ma received a beautiful new home for her snow village and a good Rubbermaid barn bird feeder. Pa a gift certificate for do-dads for his favorite toy, the computer, and the young'n got a nice sweater and baseball cap. We were all down right pleased.

Shortly afterwards we scurried back to the ranch. After all, there were stockings to be hung, and critters to feed.

We tumbled to bed shortly after midnight and had a good night’s rest. A good thing for the next day had much in store for us.

Santa gifted us greatly and we were again, much pleased. But the Grinch had made a visit or two as well. At first it was considered minor problems. Ma spilled a little ham juice on the kitchen carpet. No problem, it was quickly cleaned and we moved on. Pa readied the fire in the Ashley, to keep all guests comfy cozy in the sun room if they should desire to get away from the hub bub of the main house.

Ma's grandmother and sibling arrived early, and were quickly underfoot in the kitchen, progress slowed to nearly a screeching stop. Finally, brother Jerry Earl was put to polishing silver on one end of the kitchen, Grandmother Felicia was put in the dining room filling relish plates and a rhythm of cooking and good spirits set in. On a break from the cooking a tour was given of the new homestead. Felicia was impressed, but noticed a slight line of water in the basement. Ma took a peek, “Uhhh, Pa, the water is rising, it is no longer a mere dampness around the edge” she said.

Pa replied he would check it in a minute.

Back in the kitchen the potatoes were peeled and the peelings fed to the goat under the sink. The goat didn't like them and brown murky water proceeded to back up in the next sink. Okay, we can handle this, Pa will plunger it when he takes a break from moving boxes in the sun room.

A voice was heard saying "I thought you said it was just a little water! It's an inch deep down here". Out to the back deck he flew. The sump pump was trying, but not working. Maybe the line is blocked? Out to the field with the granddoggers following along. No water could be found coming out of the line.

Grandma and Grandpa Patterson, with Aunt Evelyn arrived just then. Grandpa checks the basement, we are now up to three inches of water and it's rising quickly! Luckily, most of the
things are up off the floor, but even those are starting to get soggy around the edges.

Ma calls the previous owners and says “ HELP!!! The back up sump pump is not the same and the water is gaining.” Pa takes over phone, Ma rushes back to kitchen where more water
is now backed up in the sink.

Pa comes in and says "Katie is limping" Sean goes to check. A little blood and a limp,

barbed wire? We decide to keep an eye on her. Pa and Grandpa work feverishly trading out pumps and adapting the new one for the old set up.

Miss Dale calls to say she has a few minor problems and says she'll be late for lunch. That's okay, lunch was late for lunch. Finally at 1:30 we set down for the noon meal. As we are all on our second plateful someone asks where the stuffing is? IN THE OVEN!!!!! A quick scurry to the kitchen rescues the stuffing in the nick of time. Miss Dale arrives just in time for fresh from the oven stuffing.

Another check of Miss Katie, the limp is worse and she's definitely showing pain. Ma checks the granddogger and fears a break. A call to the local vet (7 miles away) arranges a meeting on this Christmas Day. $74 later Ma and Sean with a gift wrapped, splinted, drugged up Katie return to the
ranch. No break, just a badly bruised leg muscle from her new found freedom of running free in the country. The vet agrees that she's overweight and sent lower fat dog food home with us. Our peg legged Kate follows everyone who ventures out doors, looking extremely pitiful and in massive pain. Begging for treats to ease her pain.

Back at ranch, Grandma Felicia and Jerry have left, taking only part of their gifts with them (fleeing for their lives I do believe). Miss Dale and Grandma Pauline have made a valiant effort to clean the kitchen, but the sink and goat are still rebellious. So all they could do was fill the dishwasher and make massive stacks of the remaining dishes. Ma's had it, plunger in hand she attacks the belligerent goat. It surrenders, and all backed up water quickly vanishes.

The new sump pump working, Grandpa Alvin decides it's time to form a bucket brigade for the close to 4 inches of water in the basement. Soon all hands, dressed in their Christmas finery, are using 5 gallon buckets passed from person to person to the shower to remove the lower level of the indoor pool. This is continued until all backs have given out. We are down to less than an

inch. It is decided to rest awhile.

Evelyn, Pauline and Alvin leave. Aunt Faye and Uncle Tom arrive, offering all sorts of good intentioned advice on everything from water removal to weight loss. Clean up from the havoc of the day progresses slowly, no return to the basement while they are here can occur, the sump pump is humming. At 7:00 we lean gratefully against the door as the last guest leaves the drive. It has been a long hard day. A peek into the basement shows no increase in the water level. Pa wearily climbs the stairs to spend a wee bit of time with the young'n and Ma tries clearing the kitchen a bit more.

The bed beckoned us early, and we stayed there late the next morn. A quick peek into the basement revealed that the sump pump had pulled nearly all of the water back out of the basement, a cheer was heard. Much fabric will need to be laundered and dried, and we had to cancel our order for trout to stock the new cement pond, but a sewing room is much more needed than a 7th pond on the ranch.

Outside, pain pill in hand Ma ventured, whistling and searching, no granddoggers to be seen. Finally here they come from the back 40. Erik in the lead, a graceful Katie running full speed ahead, with NO SPLINT. No sign of pain, (the vet said it would take 2 weeks to heal) and no limp.

Back in the kitchen Pa peers into the over-stuffed refrigerator, and announces there's nothing in there to eat. Ma threatens his life. A vote was taken, we were both still too tired to deal with the day. Back to bed! Where we hid out most of the day, having snoring competitions.

Sean, who had spent the night on the computer, took advantage of the quiet to sleep until the late afternoon hours as well.

Once all were awake, a vote was taken and a journey to the local burger joint was made. So here it is late in the evening, the basement is dry, Kate is miraculously healed and all is well.

Hope your Christmas was a bit calmer than ours. Jan who just knows she’s going to love living in the country in OK

Wednesday, December 16, 2009



As I entered a small store in our little town I was greeted with “Hi, how you doing?” by a small man who I will call T. J. to protect his privacy.

“Just fine T.J., how are you today?”

“I’m ah, ah fine.” He responded then smiled brightly as he held the door open for me and offered me a shopping cart to put my work materials in.

As I went about the job I was there to do I thought about T.J. and what I knew about him. It was surprisingly little. I thought back to when I first moved here going on 13 years ago and how two different people “warned” me about T.J. being a little different.

Therefore, the first time he approached me I was a bit on guard not knowing what they meant, until he spoke. Yes, T.J. is a little different. He’s an honest caring soul. He likes everyone and strives hard to make sure everyone likes him. He is helpful, caring, and gentle. A rare commodity in this day and age.

Over the years I have had many conversations with T.J. the words spoken are often the same. We speak about general things, the weather, his new rings, his health, and the nice people of our small town. The conversations are always short, he never wants to be a bother. He is a true gentleman, he holds doors for everyone, and offers to carry packages for you. He is trusted by everyone that knows him. He generally cannot remember your name. To him I am the nice lady with the pretty dog that rides in my big pickup to the post office. He remembers the dog and tells me “You have the dog with two different eyes when he sees me.

I always respond “Yes, you are right T.J. she has one brown eye, one blue one.” He smiles and says “That’s uh, uh right.” Then smiles and says “She’s a good dog, pretty too.” This makes me smile too. I find him to be refreshingly different and I like his priorities in life. A nice dog is important. After the exchange of a few pleasantries he will say “Bye-bye now” and we will move on our separate ways.

As I set about my task at hand I heard the cashier of the store ask T.J. to let her know if anyone came to the cash register to be checked out, then reminded him he was indoors and he might want to take off his jacket. She does so with tenderness in her voice.

T.J. said “Yes, Ma’am” and immediately took off his jacket, neatly folds it and lays it in the small shopping cart behind him, where it would not be in anyone’s way. He, as always, is dressed in clean well pressed clothes, a button down shirt over a white t-shirt, both of which are tucked into his jeans which are held firm at his waist with a snug fitting belt.

Then he stationed himself at the door where he could see the cash register and still open the door for all that entered or exited. Each person was greeted with the same phrase “Hi, how you doing?” Then offers them a shopping cart, which he took out of the cart que for them.

As they left he would say “Thank you for coming.” When someone approached the register to be checked out he would leave his post just long enough to go to the front of the aisle that the cashier was working on to say “You have a customer.” Then immediately back to the door. He never left his post. He put up the shopping cart for the customer when they were finished with it. Then held the door open for them so they could exit easily telling them "Bye-bye now."

As various town folks came and went from this small store each would greet T.J. with a kind word. All called him by name in a kind voice. Some offered rides to different locations and activities with the local churches and school, for T.J. does not drive. Some inquired about his health, others it was simply a kind word. All were rewarded with a bright smile as he responded in his slow precise speech.

I mused as I watched these activities and thought about how many hundreds of times I had seen them repeated. Not just at this store, because he did not work there, he simply volunteered his services. I had seen time and time again all over the tiny town shop keepers, bank and postal employees, send him on small errands. Perhaps to deliver a  note or package to another shop keeper, to pick up a carry out from the local Mom and Pop burger joint or get change from the bank. He sweeps up here and there and always with that bright smile shining. All know and trust T.J. and yes, we all love this special needs man in our own way. He is after all T.J. We would not be the same without him in our lives. He has enriched all of our souls.

We are blessed to have him here in our little town. He shows us that goodness comes in all shapes, sizes and abilities. T. J. thrives here because we are a small town. He can walk safely to and from where ever he goes without a “guardian”. He can live independently and have pride in doing so.

Gray is showing in T.J.’s dark hair now, it makes me wonder how old he is. I know he’s had some heart trouble and cannot imagine our little town without him. I pray we will be blessed with him for a long time yet, because we as a town need the hope T.J. holds for all of us.

He asks nothing of any of us, and gives us all so much every day.

Yes T.J. is different, and I thank the Lord he is because he shows us the true meaning of God’s love and Christmas all year round.

Jan who is very thankful to have met T.J. that bright fall day so many years ago in OK

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Includes recipe for Corn Dog and Wacky Cake Master Mixes, Uses and Variations

December 6, 2009

In an effort to be as frugal as possible  we, as adults, decided to go non-cash for birthdays and Christmas this year. It’s a bit of a challenge, but we are celebrating with gifts of love instead of cash. We are also on the Dave Ramsey “Beans and Rice, Rice and Beans meal plan.” Meaning we are purchasing as little as possible in the grocery department and living off our food storage. Some times it’s a bit of a challenge.

Generally for Sean’s birthday we go to a restaurant of his choice, where he picks anything he wants from the menu and then to a movie of his choice. Then home to store purchased gifts.

This year to celebrate Sean’s 35th birthday, yesterday, he slept as late as he wanted instead of getting up to do morning chores with us. He got up around lunch time asking if we had any corn dogs or master mix made up. Nope, but that was no problem. It took only minutes to make up the mix—recipe at end of the post, and then the dogs.

Gary took over making his son’s requested lunch. He fixed the Corn Dogs, Corn Treats and Butterfly potatoes for a wonderful hot fried meal. We know all that fried foods aren’t good for us, but this was to be a special treat day.

A note here. Butterfly Potatoes are like those you see at the fair. The spiral cut super thin potatoes. I am blessed enough that I have a homemade version of the slicer they use to make the cutter for them. We use it often for potatoes (both white and sweet), other root vegetables and onions to make homemade chips and haystack fried onions. I keep telling dh, Gary, he needs to draw up a pattern for one for friends, but so far he’s not done it. If he ever should we will post it. It’s similar to an apple corer/slicer, but cuts  much thinner.

You could use a mandolin slicer set on super thin to do similar flat not spiral chips and onions haystacks, we like the flair of the spiral though.

Once the lunch was finished we all climbed the stairs to Sean’s area to work on his big birthday present. We started this last weekend and worked on it on and off during the week between chores and mystery shops.

For a very long time he’s been wanting to rearrange his room and cull as much as possible from it. He also wanted to remove the old carpeting at his outside door to remove the some of the allergy causing/aggravating dust from his area of the house. It sounds like a simple task until you realize this area is a VERY large room that contains 100’s of books, cds and dvds. Our gift to him was to help him get the room exactly the way he wanted it.

At one point last weekend Gary asked if we could go back to giving him a toy train like we did when he was little. We were very tired at that point. Man that young man has a LOT of books! Four large bookcases worth. Each book is being thoroughly vacuumed for dust as we go. They, along with the cd and dvds will be put back in a precise order per ds’ instructions.

Dh and I had a lot of stuff stored in his walk-in closet as well that we are culling and preparing to sell so it’s been very slow going. We are finally to the put back stage and it is now shaping up quickly. Everything is being organized completely, as ds has requested.

Dinner last night was a homemade version of three way chili using the Master Mix for Moo Gurgle and the Master Mix for Spaghetti Meatballs served on top of either spaghetti noodles or macaroni.  We used macaroni last night because we are out of spaghetti and I didn't want to take time to make some at that point.  I was TIRED. He wanted a Wacky Cake for dessert. Wacky Cake is an eggless chocolate cake that is frosted when hot.

For his birthday movie he actually choose two. One we had not seen, one we had from his vast dvd collection. Sweeny Todd and Monsters vs Aliens—weird combo I know, but we do have a variety of tastes.

I must confess I fell asleep during the Monsters vs Aliens, I’d seen it before, so no matter. The guys woke me up to send me to bed, something about my snoring drowning out the movie. LOL! So three of the cats and I went to bed.

The guys then played X-box until 4:30 am.

Sean said it was a very satisfying birthday, when he crawled out of bed late this afternoon.

Jan who is hoping for a similar day of “gifting” on her birthday January 6th in OK

Now for the recipes:


4 C instant powdered milk

¾ C sugar

2 Tbl salt

4 Tbl baking powder

8 C cornmeal

4 C flour

Mix all ingredients together well, place in an airtight container, label and date. Store in a cool dark place.


Corn Dogs—makes 12-14 Corn dogs

1 C water

2 medium eggs, slightly beaten

¼ C. oil

2 to 2 ¼ cups master mix

1 to 1 ½ pounds frankfurters

Flour for dusting, roughly ½ c

Popscycle sticks

Oil for deep frying.

Preheat your oil to 375. I prefer using a deep fat fryer for this, but they can be done in a deep pan, just be VERY careful you do not boil the oil over on to the stove. Use a DEEP pan. No fires allowed!

Mix the water and eggs together well then slowly stir in the dry mix, blend well. The mixture should be slightly thick, add more water or mix to adjust to the desired thickness as needed.

Dry the franks well. Dust with flour. These are two important steps if you do not dry the franks and then dust them the batter will not stick to them.

Skewer the franks with the popscycle sticks in one end. Set aside, prepare all the franks at once.

Fill a glass that is taller than the franks are long with the batter. Dip the franks in the glass one at a time until well coated. Do this slowly so as to not overflow your batter out of the glass. Once the frank is well coated slowly pull it out of the glass and let the excess drip off back into the glass. Add more batter as needed to the glass.

Quickly, but in a safe manner, place the frank into the smoking hot oil. Cook until golden brown. If your pan is big enough you can cook a few at a time, but you do not want to over crowd them because that will cool your oil too much. Hot oil is essential in a well cooked corn dog.

Remove from oil when golden brown and place on paper towels to drain. Repeat until either the desired number of corn dogs are made OR until you run out of batter. We cook until the batter is all used up then drain and cool the excess corn dogs well. Then they are put in individual freezer bags, labeled and dated for quick meals on the go.


From a frozen state heat in a preheated oven at 375 for 18-20 minutes, or until heated through.

VARIATIONS:--most can be frozen and re-heated as above.

Corn Pups—can be done in a fondue pot if desired

Cut the franks in small sections and simply roll in a bowl of the mix instead of using the dip method (or you can use tooth picks and dip them).

Cocktail Pups—can be done in a fondue pot if desired

Use cocktail wieners instead of frank sections

Sausage dogs—Can be done in a fondue pot if desired

Use segments of any sausage you like, Polish, Kielbsa, Links, etc.

Meatball dogs—can be done in a fondue pot if desired.

Use pre-cooked meatballs—see Meatball Master Mix

Cheddar bites—Use 1 inch squares of your favorite cheese

Veggie Fritters—can be done in a fondue pot as well
Cut up veggies into bite sized pieces, then dip in batter that has been mixed up as for corn dogs. Deep fry until golden brown. Serve with favorite dressing such as Buttermilk Ranch or Chiptole Ranch dressing.

Jalapeno/pepper Poppers

Take any fresh pepper of the hotness desired Jalapeno, Pablano, Bell, Chiptole etc. Slice open and scrape out seeds. I recommend wearing gloves while doing this. Insert a small cube of your favorite cheese (Cheddar, Mozzarella, Cream etc) Fold pepper back over cheese, dip in the batter and fry as you would the corndogs.

Fish/Seafood Nuggets

Dip bite size nuggets into the batter then deep fry until golden brown and fish flakes.


Johnny or Hoe Cakes

Make the mix as above, only add more water, thin to pancake batter consistency and cook like pancakes on a hot griddle.

Corn treats—great way to use up excess batter.

Deep fry drops of the batter as mixed for corndogs until golden brown, salt or season as desired when you first take them out of the oil.—You could do it like a funnel cake too, but not too thick.


Use slightly more water in the mix and bake in a greased pan at 350 for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown—pan size depends on thickness desired.

VARIATIONS on cornbread:

Corny Cornbread

Add a can of Cream Style corn when adding the egg and water.

Jalapeno Cornbread

Add 1-2 diced jalapeno (or more if desired)

¼-1/2 cup grated mild cheddar cheese to mix.

Hamburger Casserole Cornbread

Make the Jalapeno Cornbread as above but add ½ pound cooked ground beef for an 8 X 8 pan or a 1 pound to a 9 X 13 pan and 1 can of cream style corn. Cook at 350 until golden brown.—This is excellent served with a pot of brown beans.


9 C flour

1 T salt

6 C sugar

¾ C Cocoa

Mix together well. I use a whisk for this task. Place in an airtight container. Label and date. Store in a cool dry place.

To use:

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Place 2 ½ cups of the mix directly into the 9 x 13 baking pan you will bake this in.


6 T. cooking oil

1 T. Vinegar (either white or apple cider will work—I’ve even used rice vinegar in a pinch)

1 tsp vanilla

1 C water

Stir ingredients together well.

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until done. It is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

While the cake is baking mix together:

2 C powdered sugar

2 T. cocoa

Then mix in until smooth

½ c. butter

2-3 tsp cream

When the cake comes out of the oven pierce it several times with a fork. Then frost immediately with the topping.


Add to the dry mix before adding liquids baking chips such as mini chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, chopped fine candy bars—you know those that you purchased on sale after a holiday, and/or nuts.

A bit of mint extract can be added for a minty version as well.

Serve it a la mode with your favorite ice cream if desired

Monday, November 23, 2009

NOT FUNNY MURPHY!!!!! At least this time it didn’t cost any money.

Another critter story.

November, 23, 2009

I’ve not posted to the blog in over a week because I’ve been hitting it so hard on doing mystery shops I’ve had several very late nights that have had me collapsing into bed as late as 4:45 am then back up before 9 am. Last weekend I was so worn down I went to bed at 8:30 pm one night and slept until nearly 10 the next day. A cat playing hop on Mom finally woke me up. Something about a 20 pound cat sitting on my full bladder.

Gary has been staying home most days working hard on finishing up the utility room. It is looking so good. He has a few minor details to finish and was waiting on me to return unused materials to get enough cash back to purchase the right sized materials to finish up the trim, which I did late last week.

It was so nice to be able to just sweep and mop instead trying maneuver the vacuum around the appliances.

Over the weekend dh and ds tore out more of the dining room flooring as well as damaged sheet rock and mildewed insulation behind it.

The plan this week has been for more of the same. Gary working during the day on the dining room while I mystery shopped and Sean went to work. Which is exactly how things went today.

The plan for tomorrow is to start putting the new replacement materials in so that we can at least move the dining room table in on the subflooring for Thanksgiving then move it back out to paint and put the new flooring and hearth down if they don’t have enough time to get it all done before Thanksgiving. I’ve got to say it will not be a moment too soon to have that floor sealed up tightly. We’ve got a wee bit of a draft since all the wall and floor insulation has been removed. Plus the guys spend a lot of time covering and uncovering the floor holes to keep five cats from going exploring to find Alice in Wonderland down the opossum hole.

As I filed today’s reports we had the tv on and all five cats were remarkable still. Especially Gypsy Skeeter. I found this unusual as she is normally very hyperactive. That is when she’s not playing vampire and suckling on someone’s neck because she’s: a) scared b)hungry or c) wanting to snuggle hard—she has desertion issues I guess.

Tonight, despite her determined tormentor, Lizzie Borden, being in the room she was still and staring so hard at seemingly nothing toward the stairwell Sean more than once told me to look between her ears to see if I saw any spirits. I didn’t. Then he noticed the other four cats were also alert and looking that way as well. As we tried to figure out what was going on a coyote yodeled very near the house. So we decided that was what was disturbing the animals.

When it became Sean’s bedtime he gathered up Gypsy to take her to his room for the night—we alternate nights during the week because she plays all night and we all need some sleep. She can’t be left loose like the other cats because Lizzie is still determined to get her. As he approached the stairwell Gypsy became agitated and went right for Sean’s neck in full vampire mode, getting as high up as she could. She hadn’t done this in several days so he was surprised. “What’s the matter Gypster” he said, she glanced toward the stairs that they were about to mount and went even higher on his neck.

“Ow!, Sean said, “Easy girl!”

Sean came back down a little while later to get a glass of milk when he noticed Lizzie staring very intently at a bag of stuff he’d purchased today and set on the stairwell to take up stairs.

“What cha doing Liz?” he said.

The cat did not meow a reply like normal but stared wide eyed at the sack. Thinking that another wasp had gotten in the house he asked her “Did you find an owie bug?” Again no response, but her glorious huge amber eyes grew to an impossible size.

Sean reached down and moved the sack intending to kill the wasp so it wouldn't sting the cat, then screamed “Oh CHEEZ!!!” I swear my 5’11” son hit the 16 foot ceiling in the stairwell and at the same time leaped backwards into the sunken living room, dragging Lizzie with him.

His faded freckles of his youth now stood out from his face like a neon sign. He was ashen in color.

“What!?!” I asked.

“There’s a SNAKE on the stairwell!!!!” he blurted out and then “No Lizzie, get back here” as the cat headed toward her intended prey.

At the word snake Gary said “What type?”

“King, like the one that bit me when I was a kid.” Sean said. He was referring to a non-poisonous speckled king snake. --That's another long story for a blast from the past post at another time.

I knew Gary was asking because if it had been a poisonous one, and trust me my guys know the difference, the situation would have to be handled quite differently than what he did.

As Sean tried to get his heart back in his chest and the four adult cats from pissing the snake off Gary, who was already wearing heavy bib overalls, donned his Carhardt jacket, pulled the hood snug around his face to where it was nearly completely covered and then added leather gloves to his ensemble.

“Now what am I going to get it with” he said to no one in particular.

I replied “ NOT the shotgun, you don't need any more wall to patch! Use the cat poop scooper and a box or something.”

He left the room and came back with our aluminum can recycling trash can, which does not have a lid and the bright purple scooper pan and claw. At first his efforts were hampered by the “gonna get that invader” cats so I told Sean, from where I sat with my feet up on the coffee table—just in case—to give the cats their cookies for the night.

“Cookie, cookie, cookie he called “

The cats were thinking snake, snake, snake, COOKIES! And ran to him for their nightly treat. Gary quickly scooped the snake up, but before he could get it into the trash can it turned and struck at him. He uttered a not nice word and let the snake move away slightly so that it was facing a corner then scooped it into the trash can and snapped a piece of cardboard he’d brought for that purpose on top of the can before the confused snake could pop back out or strike again.

As he stood hand holding the cardboard firm over the thrashing snake he said “Now  that I have it, what am I going to do with it?  It’s a king snake I hate to throw it out in the cold. Sean and I both gave him the stink eye! I did my duty of having pet snakes with a variety of king snakes and one 16 foot python named Monty, when the kids were growing up. I had absolutely no plans to repeat that part of our family history.

He then said “someone get me a flashlight and my truck keys”. Since Sean was in his bathrobe I got both. Then said “I think you are going to need someone to go with you because I do NOT want that thing lose in my truck OR coming back in my house.”

When I crawled into the front seat of the truck Gary told me to push my seat way back so he could put the trash can holding the snake on the truck floor between my legs. NOT happening!!! I’m pretty easy going about critters but a gal has to draw the line somewhere!

He started arguing with me that the can was too tall for it to go into my lap and me keep the cardboard in position. I pointed out that I would have to ride bent over to keep the cardboard on and my back would not agree to that. Plus how was he going to get that sucker out of the truck without letting that snake loose between my knees! He saw my point real quick when I snapped my legs together tighter than a bear trap. That snake was NOT going there.

As he set it in my lap the snake was pounding at the can wanting out NOW!

We drove a few miles off into a wooded area away from all the neighbors’ houses and at a deep bar ditch Gary carefully dumped him out where he went down the slope away from his legs and the light of the open truck door.

As he got back in the truck the very first words out of his mouth were “ I promise the subflooring will be down tomorrow!” I just looked at him and said “it better be, I have enough critters in my house as it is. This one went too far.”

We figure when Gary lit the fireplace today it came in while he was hauling sheet rock in and out drawn by the heat of the fireplace. It was about 4 foot long, probably the one we’d been seeing near the side water faucet all summer.

You have to admit it is never a dull moment around the Rock ‘n Tree Ranch.

Jan who wants that floor in NOW! In OK

Sunday, November 15, 2009


November 15, 2009

A frequent question during the is time of year is HOW can I make the holiday meal easier so the host/hostess can enjoy the day more.  This is a post I did on one of the  yahoo lists when the annual question came up. I've added some more ideas to the regular post  I hope it helps someone.  I've also included a couple of recipes that you can do most if not all the work on ahead of time.

When we do the big family meal thing it can mean in excess of 30 people. Here’s a few things I do to prepare and make before, during and after easier.

Jan who is having a small group this year and is trying to push Murphy out of the door so the utility room and dining room will be finished in time in OK

1. Plan the menu TODAY, break it down into categories

a. Meats/meat substitutes

b. Vegetables

c. Desserts (remember to include sugar free/diabetic friendly ones

d. Beverages

e. Breads

f. Pre-dinner snacks for those early arrivers

g. Soup if desired

h. Salads/relishes

i. Paper/plastic products if using them.

2. Take that list and call each and every one that is coming and ask them which category they would most like to add a dish to. You might just be surprised. All my sil’s crew (6 of them) work for the same casino and they get FIVE turkeys at Thanksgiving and FIVE hams at Christmas for their holiday bonuses. So she supplies the turkey/ham at the big gatherings. You could cook a ham or roast for those non-turkey eaters like my dh. Don’t take “I dunno”, for an answer if someone can’t make up their mind tell them you’ll see what’s left on the menu and assign that to them. Then do it---you come you supply something! Breads, paper products and beverages should be reserved for those that travel a long distance and could stop and pick it up just before they arrive.

3. Take a look at what you are going to serve yourself and look hard at it. What could you do ahead of time and freeze?

a. Sweet potato pudding/casserole—I have a pecan topped one that freezes wonderfully.
b. If you are doing homemade dinner rolls make the dough up as far as the “roll into balls” step and then freeze the individual balls on a cookie sheet. When frozen solid bag bag them in up in a plastic freezer bag or container.  Then on THE day all you have to do is put them in  your baking pan early in the day and let them thaw and rise.

c.  If you are doing homemade bread either make it the day before or if using a bread machine. Mix up all the dry ingredients now and store until the day of and use your timed feature the bread machine if doing a recipe from one of my newest favorite cookbooks "Artisan  Breads in less than Five Minutes a Day" make up the sponge earlier in the week.

d. Make up your stuffing except for the wet ingredients (broth and eggs) and freeze.

e. Do the same thing for anything you can think of and spread the work out over the time you have left between now and the holiday.
f. Early in the week on Thanksgiving/Christmas week boil and peel your eggs for deviled eggs. Seal in a plastic bag with the air pushed out, or an airtight container.        
4. Once the menu is made and your part is decided make a detailed grocery list. Check your cupboards don’t just look in and see you have sage, check the bottle to see if you have ENOUGH sage. Check right down to the salt and pepper. Set these ingredients aside and mark them DO NOT USE so you don't accidentally use something up before the big day.

5. Fill the salt and pepper shakers you will use, fill the sugar bowls, a creamer bowl etc. days ahead of time and them set them aside so they don’t get emptied before the event. Be sure and do a set for each table you will be using.

6. If you use silver, get it out and polish it 1-2 weeks early then wrap it in Saran wrap in an airtight way. While you are at it wash the dust off the good crystal and china if you are going to use it.

7. Big group? Go with sturdy paper plates—spring for the big ones it is THANKSGIVING/CHRISTMAS you know, the better plastic silverware, cups etc. Don’t forget hot cups, napkins and table cloths. Do you have enough trash bags and containers you can line with them to encourage everyone to clear their own place?

8. Plan your cooking and serving dishes and utensils now. If you are doing individual tables instead of a buffet you will need a serving set up for each table. Do you have enough gravy boats? Should sister Sue bring hers? How about trivets/hot mats?

9. If you are doing all of the oven cooking or have a lot of “will bring but need to heat it in the oven when I get there” foods do you have enough oven space so everything will hit the table hot? Could it be done in another room other than the kitchen, kitchen space is a valuable commodity with a big group. Here’s a few things I do to help with this: JP NOTE: If heating things in small appliances in other rooms remember these appliances put heat out and take precautions that they are not where small children cannot pull them over, pets get into them or will harm the finish of the item they are setting on.  Also check that all these will not be on the same circuit and blow a breaker or fuse when in use at once--do a quick test run ahead of time.

 a. Use the toaster oven to cook/warm whatever will fit in it. That’s where my sweet potato casserole goes.

b. Make the mashed potatoes early in the day and hold them in the crockpot in another room out of the kitchen.

c. Borrow my sister in laws turkey roaster and set it up in another room to cook the turkey.

d. Veggies in crockpots of all sizes in another room.

e. Bread machine in another room

 f. Throw a sheet over the washer and dryer and all spare things like the lid off of sister Sue’s cake pan, foil to reuse, spare paper products etc. go in there to be stored.

g. If you have a woodburning stove take advantage of that spot too. Just remember to stir often.  Our Ashley has a firebox I can simmer things directly on or put the cool touch top on it to hold big pots of coffee, mulled drinks, and other things that need to be kept warm   but not boiled.

10. Plan your tables and seating out now. Buffet style we have them come in one door of the room and out another to the seating area, it avoids confusion and accidental spills.  We often will use two sturdy saw horses and a piece of plywood for a buffet style serving table. A flat king size sheet will work as a table cloth. Dh rounds the corners with a saw to avoid boo-boos. No saw? Pad the corners with something like a folded wash cloth taped to the board. Either use a ¾ inch piece of plywood or put some middle supports (more saw horses) under an 8 foot piece. You don’t want the turkey sagging to the middle of the board. When looking at seating, consider seating AND eating. Buffet style works great for large groups for serving, but remember how hard it is to balance a full plate and a cup in your lap. Granny will have an especially hard time doing it. Bring in the picnic table from the yard if you need to, borrow tv trays, clean off end tables, set up bridge tables, we once used a ping pong table.  Everyone needs a sturdy surface to hold their plate that can be set up and taken down out of the way quickly.  Good weather?  Covered porch and a space heater, even if you have to hang tarps down the sides of the covered porch, provide everyone plenty of elbow room.

11. Plan it for a mid afternoon. Seriously noon is too early supper is too late. We do 2:00 pm around here. That lets me do all the last minute stuff without being up all night or up at the crack of dawn and gives others plenty of time to do their morning chores and travel while little ones sleep in the car (read no cranky babies).

12. Plan a thought provoking theme for people to do while waiting for the meal. One suggestion I read said to make simple leaves out of colored paper (kids can help cut these out for you). On a large piece of poster board draw a tree, it doesn’t have to be fancy, again let the kids do it. When the guests arrive you ask each one to fill out leaves with what they are most Thankful for this year. They can do more than one leaf if they like. Then they tape the leaves on the tree. It has great eye appeal when everyone sees how much you all have to be thankful for.—We did a verbal version of this at my son’s ground breaking party for his house and it was fun that turned hilarious. With every "thankful" ds had to turn a shovel full of dirt.  He got to say his thankful last--He was thankful all that digging was over--it was a big group.

13. Give kids age appropriate things to do to help. Let them know ahead of time if possible their job. Little guys can set the table, fill candy and nut dishes, fold napkins etc. Put some of the older ones in charge of “entertainment” games, a puppet show or play to perform for the adults, story time for the littler guys etc. Trust me things go a lot smoother if little kids aren’t bored. Plan both indoor and outdoor activities because Mother Nature is unpredictable.

14. Work out ahead of time where all those coats are going to go and where sister Sue can easily change nephew Johnny’s diaper, or nurse him in peace and quiet. If you have a lot of nap time kiddos coming, plan for a safe quiet nap spot for them too.

15. Start your cleaning now. Wash up the table cloths and napkins then place on a hanger and hang out of the way. Clean as you work. Scour the bathrooms a week before, they won't need more than a quick swipe on the day of then. 

16. Plan out a REALISTIC schedule for the day of, keep that day as simple and carefree as possible. You WILL be interrupted.

17. Pamper yourself the night before, schedule some serious ME time for that day. Go to bed early.

18. Dress comfortably for as long as you can on Thanksgiving. Donna Reed might have been able to cook all day in heels and looked perfectly comfortable but I certainly can’t.

19. Think about each individual that is coming. Is there something they will need? Do you have enough ashtrays for smokers and where can they smoke I don’t allow it in my home but several of the family do smoke. So we put up a covered area outside for them to be comfortable in while they smoke. Table, chairs and a heater provided. Can Grandma get up the front steps or would the back ones be better? Does Uncle Charlie need a ramp for his wheel chair and can it get into the rooms it needs to? Do you have a  safe play area for the youngsters?

20. Plan out the adult entertainment too. I know football is on, but not all of us like football—most of our group does not. So we put on videos of all the family when growing up on the tv (ask everyone to bring their videos of the entire family) , and soft music in the background. Do you have a box of old photos with no names on them? This is a great time to get those out and have everyone go through them to see if they know who the person is. The stories will flow. Much more fun than football (put a tv in the corner for Uncle Joe who MUST see the game). Tape or video record those stories if at all possible, these people may not be with you next year.

21. Set your table the day before and cover with a table cloth or sheet.

22. Plan ahead for sending leftovers home.  I lay in a supply of the heavy duty Chinet PLATTERS and then hand them out as guests are leaving telling them to fill up with what they want.  These will fit most microwaves and when covered with plastic wrap can go right in. They will also fit safely in a Wal-Mart sack long wise (we use two bags, one from each end) to carry them home in.

23. Do NOT turn down help with clean-up.  Even if it means having people fill their take home platters early. even if it's just gathering up paper plates and taking out the trash for you it's helpful.

I could go on, but others have some great (probably better) ideas too.

Now for the make ahead recipes I mentioned:


3 C. Mashed cooked sweet potatoes 1/2 C. milk

1 C. sugar 1 t.vanilla

1/2 t. salt 2 eggs

1/2 stick margarine

1 C. brown sugar 1/3 C. flour

1 C. chopped pecans 1/2 stick butter

Mix ingredients together and pour into a buttered baking dish. Mix

topping ingredients together and sprinkle on top. Bake in 350* oven

for 35 min. May be frozen and baked later.  Place in the refrigerator the day before to thaw. 

Hot Roll Mix
5# or 20 C all purpose flour OR 9 C whole wheat/rye/other specialty grains + 8 C all purpose flour
1 1/4 c sugar ( you can substitute some honey if desired on baking day)OR 1 c packed brown sugar
4 tsp salt
1 cup powdered milk (or approx 1/2 c dry non milk substitute-rice, soy potato etc)

Mix all ingredients well together well, I use a wire whisk.  Store in an airtight container, label and date. Best if used in 6-8 months.  Makes 20-22 c mix. 

I have a large group of recipes that include breads, English Muffins, sweet rolls, herb or squash rolls and more I use this master mix for that I will post as time goes on.  For the dinner rolls for the holidays I make it one of two ways.
Clover leaf or Pan Rolls
1 tbl, active dry yeast OR 1 (1/4 oz) pkg.
1 1/2 c warm water
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c vegetable oil OR olive oil, OR melted butter
5-6 cups Hot Roll Mix

In a large bowl disolve the yeast in the warm water.  Blend in eggs and oil/butter. Add roughly 5 cups of the mix.  Blend well.  If dough is sticky add more mix. Knead for about 5 minutes.  Place in a buttered or oiled bowl, turn the ball of dough over once so all sides are coated.  Cover bowl with a warm damp cloth and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough and let it rest for 10 minutes.  Now make the dough into small balls, about walnut sized.

TO FREEZE: if you are going to freeze the dough this is when you do it.  Once the dough is in balls place them on a wax paper lined cookie sheet spaced to where they are not touching.  Freeze until hard then transfer to a freezer bag, vacuum bag or freezer container.  These will vacuum seal and keep a long time.

To use the same day as making: Either place them in a greased 9 x 3 baking pan or three small balls in greased/sprayed muffin tins.for clover leaf rolls. Cover with a warm damp towl again and let rise until doubled roughly 45-60 minutes again.  Bake in a preheated oven at 400F for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

IF USING FROZEN DOUGH BALLS: place in the choosen baking pan/tin early enough in the day in a warm spot (roughly 4-6 hours) or overnight in a cooler area to do the final rise)

Same ingredients as above PLUS 2 tablespoons of melted butter.  Follow the recipe above up to and including the 10 minute rest period. 

Here's the difference. 

On  a lightly floured surface row 1/2 of the dough out into a 12 inch circle.  Brush the circle with 1 tablespoon of melted butter. 

Cut circle into 16 pieces.  Now roll the created wedges up wide end to narrow point.  Placing with the pointed side down on a greased cookie sheet curve the roll to a crescent shape as you do so.  Repeat with second half of the dough. 

From here on follow the instructions as above


13 c  bread flour OR 8 C bread flour and 5 C whole wheat/rye flour
2 Tbl salt
1/2 C sugar (if honey is preferred add on baking day)
1/2 c powdered milk OR 1/4 c dried milk substitute (rice/soy/potato)

Mix ingredients well store in a labled airtight container in a cool dark place.

for a small loaf

1/2 tsp yeast
2 1/4 c master mix
1 tbl butter or oil
3/4 C warm water

for a large loaf
2 tsp yeast
3 1/3 mix
1 1/2 tbl butter or oil
1 1/4 warm water

Place in the order bread machine recommends and bake on a medium or white bread setting.

JP NOTE: I have other variations I post at another time to use this master mix up.

Grandma Zell's Stuffing
Sorry, no true measurements here, this is the way I got it from dh's grandmother.

1 recipe cornbread ( I use roughly 1/2 of an 8x8 pan of it) crumbled fine
1 recipe biscuits (I use roughly 8 or so large biscuits, I've substituted other breads as well)crumbled fine
2 stalks celery diced
1/2-1 onion diced
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp each thyme and sage

Mix well--this is where I freeze it in a large ziploc or ziploc bowl.
When ready to bake add:
2 large eggs beaten
enough chicken or turkey broth to make the mixture "soupy" when added to the dry ingredients

Place in a greased/sprayed 9 X 13 pan and bake at 350 F for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until set firm and starting to brown around the edges.

JP NOTE:  I often make up a BIG batch of the dry part and store it in the freezer in airtight containers for quick to grab Homemade Stovetop Stuffing mix and use it not only for stuffing but to use as a coating mix for chicken, pork chops, fish, sliced/cubed veggies etc in. Simply dip the choosen meat or veggie in first a beaten egg and milk mixture OR spread with mayonnaise or Miracle Whip and then into the crumbled mixture.  Bake as you would shake and bake.


Warning, I do not use measurements for Deviled eggs, but here’s what I use.

Two eggs for each person (that makes four ½’s each)

Boil the eggs to the hard stage.

Drain the boiling water and put cold water on them immediately (this helps make them peel easier). Peel (you can hold them at this point for a couple of days in a ziploc you have squeezed all the air out of—I do this at the holidays to help cut down the last minute rush for the big meal)

Cut in half long ways and plop the yolks out. The whites go on a plate the yolks go in a bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork.

Now add the following to taste and creaminess preference:

Miracle whip or mayonnaise (your preference—I use MW)

A tiny amount of prepared mustard (dh is not big on mustard)

A small amount of garlic salt

A couple of dashes (more or less) of Worchestershire sauce

Mix well. Spoon or pipe into the whites and sprinkle with paprika—unless you are my son who likes spicy and uses a small amount of cayenne pepper to top.

Jan who has planned reunions with over 400 family members in the past and still has a lot to learn in OK

THE HAUNTED SUMMER--a blast from the past story

On one of the numerous yahoogroups lists I'm one we've been discussing ghosts and other things that go bump in the night.  That reminded me of the summer of 1973 when I stayed in a haunted house for a short while.  Here is the true story of all that happened.  Jan who says believe it or not in OK


Summer 1973

First of all let me say this was not like the Haunting of Hill house, no evil snarling ghosts jumping out and making me wet my pants. But an evil presence for certain.

Hot Springs, AR 1973 summertime

My dh, Gary, had only worked for a short while for a local architectural drafting firm and had not earned any vacation time. So when his company won a contract in Hot Springs, AR his boss rented a wonderful two story house right on the lake. It was with the lake side of the house being all glass, so you could look out over the water at any time. The styling was very modern in architecture. There was a small mother in law/guest house on the property as well.

Bill, the boss, made an offer to Gary that we felt we couldn't refuse. "If Jan will cook for all of us she and the baby can come and stay. You three can have the guest house and full use of all the facilities and the pontoon boat." We jumped on it! I mean wouldn't you? You have to cook anyway, what's a few more men to feed.

So we packed our summer wardrobe tightly and strapped the duffle bag and suit cases to the luggage rack of the car, then off we went.

The trip went quickly and we were in high spirits until...we arrived. One look at the house and my radar went up. No it wasn't a gothic looking typical spooky mansion, it was thoroughly modern, and beautiful. But my senses were doing a heebee jeebee dance.

For those of you who don't know, ole CJ here, that's what I call myself, is one of those folks that kind of knows when things are going to happen. Nothing I can control, sometimes the radar is off. More often than not, though, it is dead on. I've been so dead on so many times that friends and relatives take heed when I warn them not to travel or go certain places. That is why my son was in OK and not NY on 9/11 I talked him out of moving there in June because of a feeling. Nuff said.

Gary immediately noticed a change in my buoyant mood to a pensive one. "What's wrong?"

"It's a man's house and it's not happy."

"Should we leave?" "No, I think we can handle it, it's aware I know though."

I chose to go through the back/kitchen door into the main house while we were there, not once did I go through the front door. It felt too ominous to get near that front door. I found out months later that Bill's mother-in-law had refused to even go in the house because of the tree to the right and next to the front door. She said it was a bad luck omen and she wouldn't enter the house at all. Bill had blown it off as a Hawaiian, which she was, superstition.

The house was a man's house in every sense of the word, you could feel it in every pore of its being. Just looking at the layout inside was a big clue too. For all those cooks out there let me describe the kitchen I was to work in.

You brought the groceries in through a little hallway, after a few feet there was a small doorless room to your right. This is where the freezer and the storage racks for breads and such were. You continued on down the hall to the kitchen area. A kitchen that was laid out so nonsensical you needed roller skates to cook and clean in it. It was huge, with no rhyme or reason to its layout. Dishwasher several feet from any cabinets to put dishes in, sink about 20 steps from the dishwasher, water cooler for drinking/cooking water all the way at the opposite end of the kitchen stove top and one end, oven at the other, trash compactor in another room. You get the idea. I again remarked about the house being a man's house.

Bill thought I meant a man designed the kitchen and he said, "Yes, but he was told to do it that way." By whom?” I ask. Bill didn't know. Later on I think I figured out it was the not so benevolent ghost.

Small things began to happen right away, IT was not happy I was there. Things disappeared, only to show up in places I hadn't been. Okay, maybe it's an ornery poltergeist, I can deal with this. It wasn't just me, Bill, Gary and the other workers all had things "walk off". Bill and Mike stayed in the house full time, Gary, Sammi and I slept in the guest house. Something that may have been what kept us from getting the brunt of it. Bill and Mike weren't so lucky.

From the very first it was nothing to find dead birds every morning laying all around the glass front of the house. We figured they just flew into the glass and broke their necks, except Bill said he hadn't noticed it happening before we got there. As you all know I love birds of all sorts. So was it a freak of nature, or...?

The big living area where they had all the drafting boards set up faced the lake. This is where we all spent most of our time in the beginning. Often in the evenings we would hear speed boats racing very close to the shore, but when we looked out we saw nothing, no boat lights nothing. The sounds of the boats disappeared as quickly as they developed. We decided it was a trick of sound over the water.

The home had a lovely library, fully stocked including ALL of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mysteries Did I mention Bill had rented this place fully furnished? I think I know why...

It had two walls of shelves, a wall of windows and a fireplace set in a beautiful paneled wall. I decided while there I would re read all the Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys just for fun. I had been taking them out to the guest house and reading out there, but one night we decided to read in the library instead. It was late when we went to bed. I kept feeling like something was watching us. Gary said I'd read too many mysteries.

The next day Bill asked me what we had done in the library. When I said just read he replied "Oh really". Gary and I went back to the library to find a mess and all sorts of hidden panels around the fireplace standing wide open. I cleaned up the mess and said nothing. I was really getting a bad feeling and after that never took the baby into the library again. I would go in and get books, and leave immediately.

Other than cooking and cleaning up afterwards I took to staying in the guest house. Then the smell started, and it grew, and grew. The smell of death, at first we thought a dead mouse, then a stray kitten, a cat, and the smell grew. The guys started pulling up floor boards nothing. The stench was horrible, we moved into the main house.

In the upstairs bedroom I slept fitfully, waking to the sounds of hoof beats coming up the driveway, no down the driveway. I woke Gary, he heard it too. We both went to the window to look, nothing. This happened for a couple more nights, no explanation. Other nights we thought we heard a car wreck. Again, nothing.

One afternoon I was bathing Sam in the upstairs tub and I felt IT. IT was standing behind me. The air had turned very cold. I knew that cold, I knew it from being visited by friends and relatives who had passed on and had came to say good bye. I refused to look at it. No it wasn't the air conditioner, there was no vent in that tiny attic bathroom. Sam and I were not alone.

Trying to be as calm as possible, as to not scare the baby I quickly rinsed her off and wrapped her in a towel. Then I turned to face the empty cold. There was no shape, no vision, just the cold of the long dead. He was between me and the door. I told it to step aside please and I would take my baby and not invade his space any longer if he would. The cold moved to behind me.

Clutching my naked baby I went directly downstairs and out to the suddenly odorless guest house. I told the others what had happened when they came to see why I had left the house so quickly. They retrieved our belongings from the upstairs room. We left the next day, I feared for my baby. I told the others that the spirit did not want them there and they too should leave. They laughed.

On the way home the spirit got one last laugh in on us, as we traveled in the dark we lost one and only one suitcase off of the top of the car. My complete wardrobe for the summer months. Gary and a friend drove nearly all the way back to Hot Springs and never found one sign of it. We filed a report with the highway patrol and they never found it either.

The story doesn't end there, Mike and Bill continued to stay there and the following is what happened to them. I have death premonitions, I can't prevent them, and sometimes I misread them. I did in this case. Shortly after we returned home I was showering and suddenly the shower stall was full of white doves. Not literally, but I generally see or dream white doves and a name and that person passes within two weeks. I heard the name Michael, over and over. My best friend was expecting her first child any minute and she had said if it was a boy she was going to name it Michael. I called Kathy immediately because I knew she had been having some troubles in her pregnancy. Without telling her why I told her that at her check up that afternoon to ask the doctor to be extra thorough. I didn't want to alarm her.

Several days later the phone rang, it was Bill, Mike's wife had found Mike dead of a cerebral hemorrhage in the same upstairs room where I had made the deal with IT. Bill sounded strange, not like Bill at all. He said he was fine and I told him to get out of that house! NOW! He said he had no where to go his wife of nearly 30 years had told him he had changed suddenly and she was afraid of him now. She had filed for divorce. Their only child had started suffering seizures. I again told Bill to get OUT of the house, he said no. Then I called Mike's wife and told her to get out of it too and why. She managed to get Bill out.

Over the next several weeks Bill did research on the house. Mike was not it's first victim. A fact I had already known. All of the victims had been men and all had died suddenly. The first was when the place had been an old farm house. A runaway carriage ride, down the drive way in the middle of the night, hooves pounding on the drive straight into the large oak tree at the end of the drive. Ended the life of what believe was the first gentleman. My hoof beats.

One had lost his life in a speedboat crash at night, right in front of the house… the boat sounds.

The third had died in a horrific car crash, just past the end of the drive. The wreck noises.

Bill later told us he had heard the hoofbeats and car crash noises himself when he and Mike were there alone and they had laughed them off. He also said that after Mike died he had found himself setting up in bed talking to someone at 2:00 every morning, after awhile he realized it was Mike he was talking to. Only Mike was dead, he had died, per the coroner, at 2:00am.

Bill and Mike's wife never went back to the house. They had their things sent to them, afraid of further recriminations from IT. Bankruptcy soon followed for Bill and of course that impacted us with the bouncing of two of our paychecks and the non arrival of the last two.

Slowly, slowly life got back to normal. Bill's life started to turn around almost immediately once he was clear of the house. His finances improved, for which we were grateful and he repaid us in full with a bonus he says I saved his life. His wife and he got back together and their daughter’s seizures disappeared as quickly as they had come. No reason for them was ever found.

Some will say it was all coincidence, and they may be right. But I know several people in this world that will NOT ever go anywhere near that house again. God rest your soul Mike.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Part 3 of the Hot water Tank Saga

A pattern continued throughout the week. Sean would go to work, I’d go mystery shop and run errands and Gary would stay home laboring on the “weekend” job. Stopping the poor connection leak and removing the pan he had placed under it earlier in the week. During the evenings Sean and I would cook dinner, do the farm chores and help Gary.

Slowly progress was made. I love the wallpaper border that is in this room so I wanted to keep it. That meant it had to be blue taped off, so did all the dark woodwork.

While we were waiting for the floor to finish drying I decided it was a good time to take advantage of super easy access to all four cupboards in the room and dumped them all out. Remarkably I put back everything we were keeping and I did so in a totally organized, INVENTORIED fashion. Ahh the Princess Plan rears its head.

Unfortunately it also meant more going into the living room, bedroom, kitchen and utility room, plus now things were starting to move to the stair well to make the trek upstairs.

I found things we’d been looking for and had given up on finding, (isn’t that always the story?) things I didn’t even know we had ( a huge roll of paper I can use for rubber stamping and to make patterns out of) things to discard totally and things to sell.

I also found I was out of certain things I thought were in that cupboard, so the “to buy” list grew. One of which was the Murphy’s Oil Soap I use to wash woodwork down with. I picked that up just yesterday while out doing yet another mystery shop. The woodwork still needs a good scrubbing.

By Saturday the walls were finally all taped off, this room has LOTS of angles—the whole house does, and that is one of the reasons I love it so much. Parts of the room are 8 ft tall, others are 9 ft and the wall paper border follows all the turns and angles of the room. So it was a whole lot of blue tape.

Once the tape was finally up the painting went amazingly fast. I had chosen a light spring green to match a color in the rooster border. It was so light as it was going on it was actually kind of hard to tell where we had painted and where we hadn’t until the natural darkening set in.

Of course Murphy had to make tracks through the paint and the original off white color popped up in places after the paint dried. Quick touch ups solved that problem.

He also made tracks in the wood putty we had filled the knot holes on the subflooring with and the white Kilz primer we’d put on the now well deodorized and sanitized no-no kitty and mildew spots in the form of foot prints from one of the four adult cats.

Luckily the paint and putty were dry enough they didn’t track it to other parts of the house. So no real harm was done, Murphy just got to smile as we added more putty to fill in the dents made by the fat cat.

Rather than sit and watch the paint dry, which we were so tired we could have easily done, we pulled the blue tape off then retired to the over-crowded living room for a little tv time last night.

During one break Sean decided to go ahead and feed the dogs for the night and bring in the meat to thaw for Sunday’s dinner. He turned on the overhead light and suddenly it went out along with every outlet on the outer walls in the sunroom!

For the next three hours the two men armed with volt meters, and other tools threw breakers, checked voltage and much more to try to figure out why we had no power in that room or any outside wall of the house, except the one the camper was plugged in to—which we KNOW is on the same breaker. They never did.

My freezer and spare refrigerator are on the outside walls. So out, with only a nearly dead flashlight, because all but one of the porch lights didn’t work as well (why did that one work?—Murphy was playing games of course). Gary and Sean went to the camper and garage and drug in heavy duty extension cords for a temporary fix.

The brooder full of the three day old ducklings was also now without warmth, so another extension cord was put into play there.

Problem solved on a very temporary basis we all collapsed into our chairs again, but were too tired to watch more than 30 minutes. Sean said good night, retrieved his kitten from my room and went to bed.

Gary and I were following suit when I noticed a puddle of water on our now dry floor just under the wall that had JUST been painted. Okay Murphy, ENOUGH!

After a bit of discussion Gary mentioned how Sean had told him that he thought he might have a leak under his bathroom sink which is directly above that wall. Depression was creeping up on me when I noticed the cold water hook up for the washer was slowly drip, drip, dripping. Now it has a plastic catch basin so Gary had ruled that out as the source. He even said if it was going to leak, it would have done so before he cleaned the lint off of it earlier that day. I looked, Jackpot! A small hairline crack. The faucet would not turn all the way off, so we wedged a plastic cup under the drip and went to bed.

This morning I awoke to the roosters having a crowing battle that sounded remarkable loud until I remembered we have been blessed with very warm weather and were sleeping with the windows open.

As I mentioned this house is all angles, there are no straight shots through any two rooms to a third. Today we were going to lay down the linoleum and move the washer and dryer back in. I was so excited. I NEEDED to do laundry so bad.

Last night Murphy had whispered in my ear ”How are you going to get a 12’ X 9’6” piece of linoleum in to the utility room and cut it right without damaging it?

“Go away Murphy!” I moaned.

Our back deck, the one just outside my bedroom is in BAD shape, It was scheduled for replacement this last summer, but money and time had been tight so it wasn’t done. It’s bad enough I worry about the birds and dogs getting on it. But the only way to get that linoleum into the house easily was through that bedroom door.

Next thought was where in the world were we going to cut all those angles to make the linoleum fit. The bedroom floor was the only space that was near big enough. Only we had been filling that already cluttered room up all week. GROAN!

First thing this morning, while Sean slept—he was nearly out of inhaler, his “overnight” shipment ordered a week before still had not arrived, and the dust we were stirring up was giving him some problems. So we told him to sleep in and keep his kitten up there with him so we could have the bedroom open to “empty the bedroom—Gary did morning chores and I started emptying the sitting area in the bedroom into the living room and kitchen.

As I went I actually “cleaned and decluttered” filling one feed sack with odds and ends that had gathered here and there. Mercilessly boxing up magazines and books I had decided to cull from the shelves and were stacked here, there, and everywhere.

Gypsy wouldn’t let Sean sleep very long, so he soon joined us. He handed her off to me to hold while he got breakfast for him and her because. Lizzie is till determined this kitten is NOT staying the other three totally ignore Gypsy Skeeter now. Mama Amy has even gone so far as to play with her and groom her some, but we can’t let Lizzie near her. The fur flies when she does and Gypsy is terrified of her.

Sean brought Gypsy’s food in through the living room and placed it where he’s been feeding her safety zone in my bathroom. Before I could stop her she jumped down and headed for her chow. Lizzie was on her before any of us could stop her. Only this time Gypsy didn’t run. Oh the fur flew, but when it was all said and done, it was dilute calico fur, not the darker grey of the younger dilute calico that lay on the floor. It was also the bigger cat who had a new “beauty mark” on her nose.

Just as I had predicted the kitten had her fill of being attacked. Even more amazing, Sean’s cowardly cat Murray Mugillacuty ran in to protect his baby sister. Him with no front claws. Jellybean set and watched and Amy went to protect her new “baby”. While I grabbed the water bottle to squirt Lizzie for being a bad girl.

Lizzie’s nose was out of joint all day. It was late evening before she came to me wanting petted. She stalked the bedroom and bathroom doors where the kitten was locked up all day—we have no delusions the war is over—but her pride was definitely hurt today.

Soon afterwards furniture was moved to the living room and the far side of the bed. My huge plant was moved to the porch, the vacuum was ran and the plywood sheets from the living room floor were moved to the bedroom to use as “cutting mats” to protect the carpet. We didn’t trust Murphy, so we took precautions.

Using the old saying, “measure twice, cut once,” the guys set to work marking the linoleum to cut it. Because I tend to be over cautious and sometimes tick the guys off during such projects I left the room and went to the kitchen to see if I could perhaps figure out a way to cook a meal despite the mess in there. I also worked hard all day on cleaning and sorting, after all I was suppose to be able to start putting things back later on today.

On and off all day I cleaned and cooked, between kitten sitting and helping where I was needed. By the end of the day we had roasted chicken, stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, iced tea, Caramel Fudge Swirled brownies, and Cherry Mash Candy (recipes will be posted as the final post on this saga . I had culled more stuff from the house, burned trash, and had done a bunch of dishes.

The “quick” installation of the linoleum of course didn’t go quick.

My guys are both draftsmen, when they build something it’s square. Even if it has angles those angles are “square”. A room is the total same width at one end as it is at the other. They expect other people to build the same way.

We already knew that the people who built this home didn’t own a level. We now know they didn’t own a straight edge or a t-square either. We discovered this AFTER the linoleum was cut.

Sean later said we should have made a cardboard pattern, but of course Murphy blocked that intelligent thought from happening before they cut the linoleum. So there was a little piecing that had to happen. Murphy giggled.

Luckily Gary is GOOD at matching up patterns, and it was a simple pattern (rectangles) to match. The piecing is totally unnoticeable and it behind the washer and dryer, and in a small niche at the far end of the room. So no traffic on either area.

The type of linoleum we are putting down is the type you tape. The roll of tape said it was enough to do the utility room and the bathroom. It LIED.

We had no plans to do the bathroom today, we had the simple plan of getting the linoleum in the utility room down and the washer and dryer back in. Then tomorrow Gary would work on the bathroom, where the carpet is still down. Followed by the two steps, down into the kitchen, which also still have carpet on them as well.

There was just enough tape to put down from the back wall to just past the washer and dryer. So that’s what he and Sean did. Next was to put the mop boards back on—NO finishing nails, Murphy stole them I’m certain.

They tried taping the boards up, nope. Sean made an executive decision. It was after 10:00pm and he had to get up early because he has to work tomorrow and they are starting road construction on highway 75 in the morning, so he needs to leave early to take an alternative route.

He said “Let’s set the machines, I need work clothes for tomorrow.” Then once we have finishing nails we’ll move them out from the wall, put the boards up and put them back.”

So that’s what they did, once again using the shoulder dollies—we really love those things.

Gary and I have stayed up late to do Sean’s laundry and a load for Gary while I typed this.

We still have to clear a path to and off the bed. Gypsy is sleeping in our room tonight because she won’t let Sean sleep. He had taken her up with him, but she was so keyed up with all today’s activities she wouldn’t settle down so he asked us to baby sit her for the night. He’s really not feeling well without his meds if they don’t come tomorrow he’ll call his doctor and get a one time RX so he can breath.

Luckily the shops I had scheduled for tomorrow are flexible days, so I can possibly sleep late and do them on Tuesday and Wednesday , if Gypsy will let us.

Gary just came in from feeding the dogs and accidentally discovered all the electric is back on out there. Funny Murphy, real funny. Now I’m worried about an electrical short!

Our plan for tomorrow. Get the finishing nails and tape we need, check under Sean’s bathroom sink for a possible leak—just in case, do laundry, finish the utility room, check the outlets and such again—we have to find the source of the problem and then move on to the steps and bathroom.

Jan who steals a quote from Red Skelton when she says “Good Night and may God bless.” In OK