Thursday, December 31, 2009


New Years eve brings more Dutch traditions. I think I've mentioned before that New Years Eve is a big deal in Holland. Everybody celebrates it in a big way. Parties, Fireworks, and also clubbing all night are common place. I've tried to carry on these tradition, except maybe the clubbing part. This house has been very condusive to great parties. Living out in the country means we can build huge bonfires, set off fireworks, and make as much noise as we want. What a blessing.

Tonights party planning and prep is in full swing. Oliebollen are a traditional Dutch New Year's eve treat. They are kind of like a scone with raisins and apples. They can also be made without the raisins, but I prefer to have them included. Last night I put the raisins in water to soak. As soon as I got up this morning, I started chopping apples, warming milk, sifting flour. But it's not all idealic. I didn't add enought liquid to the flour right from the start, so the dough got too thick, which made the additional milk spill right out of the side of my mixer. I sure hope people will eat my oliebollen a lot more than previous years, because it seems I am usually the only one.
Hosting a party also brings the obligation (in my mind) to clean my whole house. Luckily I've got 3 good helpers these days!
If you plan on doing any substantial amount of baking, you should really invest in a good food scale. One that can measure both pounds and grams. Most Dutch recipes use gram measurement, which are much more acurate than cups/volume measurements.

Oliebollen Recipe (makes about 48)

1 kg all purpose flour (1000 grams)
1 liter milk (1000 ml)
4 granny smith apples
250 gram White raisins
250 gram regular Raisins
2 tsp Salt
24 gram Instant Yeast
2 tsp Sugar
4 Eggs
Vegetable oil and 1 cup shortening for frying

The night before you plan to make oliebollen, wash the raisins. Then let them soak in water overnight.
It's important that all of your recipes are at room temperature.

  • Peel and chop apples into small pieces
  • Drain the raisins, and blot them dry with a paper towel.
  • Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl (I use the mixing bowl of my Bosch)
  • In a seperate bowl, slightly whisk the eggs, so the yolk and eggwhite are mixed together.
  • If you don't have instant yeast, combine yeast, sugar, and 1/2 cup of lukewarm milk, and let it sit for about 10 minutes (this will activate the yeast)
  • Warm up the milk until lukewarm.
  • Make sure your eggs are room temperature
  • Add Yeast, eggs, and half of the milk to your flour. Mix well, until all lumps are gone
  • Slowly add remaining milk. Mix until well blended.
  • Carefully fold in raisins and apples.
  • Cover the dough with a damp rag, in a warm environment (I heat up my oven to 100, and let it rise in there). Until double in size -- about 2 hours

About 15 minutes before you are ready to start frying, you can heat up your vegetable oil. The oil needs to be about 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or 180 Celcius). The way to know if it's hot enough, is to drop a piece of bread into it. It's ready when it turns brown quickly. If it's too hot, the outside will get brown too fast, and the inside won't cook. If it's not hot enough, the oliebol will soak up way too much oil.

Use an ice cream scoop (or 2 regular spoons) and drop balls of dough into the oil. Make sure you don't put too many in at the same time, because they need room to "swim". Fry them until brown and done on one side, then flip. If it's ready to be flipped, it should be very easy to flip, and sometimes it flips itself. After they're done, place on a paper towel, to blot off extra fat. Serve warm, covered with powdered sugar.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Julia Child

Julia Child has entered my life. Kelly got the cookbook: "Mastering the art of French cooking" for Christmas. Yesterday we watched the movie "Julia and Julie". What an inspiring movie!

I see similarities between Julie and I, in that I also like to try out new recipes. Quite often, I will hear of a recipe, and look it up online. Or I'll find an exotic ingredient, and then try to find a recipe that calls for that ingredient. The most recent examples include Taai taai, Dutch babies, and French baguettes. Also eggplant, sausage, and ginger root recipes. Sometimes there's total disaster. Other times I tweak the recipe over and over until I finally get it right. Rarely does it turn out right on the first try.

So now the 2 volume set of "Mastering the art of French cooking" is in the mail. I exchanged a Christmas sweater and $20 for those books. I can't wait to get them, and start cooking and baking from them.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Vacation from Vacation

We just keep plowing through the festivities. Our poor house hasn't seen more than a blur of us. We're always off to more exciting places. Living in Texas has the distinct benefit of being a central hub for family. Each year at least one of Joe's siblings comes for the holidays. This year we had 4 out of the 6 kids here: Josh, Ruth, Mark, and Joe. Mark and Kelly made the 1900 mile trek in just 2 days. Now that's commitment! Of course the Benacs 9 children come and go throughout the year, and this time it was the New Yorkers that joined us (Annie and Mary). Of course the Texan variety was also there (Allreds, Morphis, and Billy Jr).

This promises to be a busy week as well. Today we had a Wii face-off at our house. Tonight Josh made delicious Gumbo. In the morning the girls are going to the wonderful world of Sam Moon's to spend our Christmas gift card. Tomorrow night there's a party at the Taylors. Wednesday is Winter's birthday, so of course we'll have a birthday party for her. Thursday is New Years, when we will host our fabulously famous New Years Eve bash. Friday the Allreds are coming over for airsoft wars. Finally, and most importantly, Winter will be baptized on Saturday! Wfew.. I'll need a vacation when this vacation is over!!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Let it snow

Christmas did come. Fast. It's here. It still didn't seem real, until it started snowing this afternoon!! Apparently this will be the first white Christmas in Texas since 1924. I need that glistening white glow! Now if only Texas could grow some mountains, I would be totally satisfied.

I spent today, Christmas eve, with Joe's grandma. We organized her sewing room, wrapped some last minute presents, and watched a fun Christmas movie. I also managed to squeeze in baking some chiffon pumpkin pies for tomorrow. Tomorrow, we were supposed to eat Biggy Smalls for dinner. However, we never figured out how to cure the meat to make ham, so he's still in ice in our garage.

The Christmas eve festivities are about to commence, with Josh's arrival and a yummy dinner. Ruth also got here this morning, from blizzard ridden DC. She must be the one who brought the snow!! Thanks Ruthie!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lot of parties

The holiday season is upon us. With it come fun parties. Dee hosted a wonderful Cajun /white elephant gift party. Don't get mad Renee, but I totally forgot to bring my camera. At least I didn't miss taking pictures of any ugly sweaters, because everyone pooped out, and didn't even wear sweaters. (Except Joe, but it really wasn't very ugly)

I was introduced to a Southern type all-out eat fest. Shrimp, sausage, potatoes, onions, and corn are all cooked together in a bunch of spicy cajun seasonings. Your supposed to throw all of this food on a banquet table, and have people just come up and eat from the table. We went the more civilized route, and actually used plates.

After dinner we had a white elephant gift exchange; or as Dee calls it: a dirty Santa party. Don't ask why "dirty"? The exchange included some typical awesome/random gifts. Like a fart machine, toilet paper, hot sauce, toy soldiers, ducky soap, and Jeep flashlight. While some were in high demand, others were avoided like the plague.

Saturday night, the church had a Christmas potluck dinner. The meat was delicious, and the food scarce. Some people must have come in empty handed, because all the side dishes were gone in a flash. Santa made a fun surprise visit at the end of the evening, and my kids excitedly went up to tell him all their wishes. Winter wanted a kitty, Sterling a puppy. Notice a theme? I thought we had enough animals by now. I guess we are down to only 2 cats though....

Sunday we went over to the Morphis house for a pizza party. We rolled out 8 balls of dough, added 20 pounds of cheese, and lots of yummy toppings. After 19 people filled up their bellies, still 4 whole pizzas were left over.

Now the last week before Christmas, things are finally winding down. I would like to have a clean house before we head off to Plano for the holidays, and still need to finish 2 stockings, but I'm vowing to take it easy. The kids are out of school, so maybe we can do some little crafts or something, and I will definitely try to catch up on some sleep, and finish my book. Wait,... all of a sudden it's sounding like a busy week. I want a slow week!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Christmas stockings are somewhat of an American tradition. I never owned one, until I spent Christmas with my friend Jessica Teeples in Georgia in 1999. Never wanting to spend any money on cute stockings, we ended up with the dollar store variety. Those have served their purpose just fine, but this year I wanted something nicer. The internet gave me inspiration, so the sewing commenced. My embroidery sewing machine is awesome. It can create things that look like they are straight out of the "Neiman Markus" catalog. It does take a while to set it all up, and to actually wait for the embroidery to finish, but I am loving the end result.

Of course fancy stockings need a fancy way to be displayed. Hobby Lobby had this cute "Peace" stocking holder set. 5 letters, 5 family members. Christmas is coming way too fast this year. I still have 2.5 stockings to make, and only 7 days to do it in.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Life's good

I realize that both the quality and quantity of my posts have gone significantly down. See, I've just been busy with other (funner) things. Instead of spending hours on my computer, I spend hours laughing with friends. Instead of pouring my creativity in writing, I pour it into making Christmas presents. I have been baking a lot (trying to get a good taai taai recipe). I read books. Play with our new Wii and Wii fit, until I can't walk anymore. Practice my harp for church harp gigs. etc etc. After all of that, I'm pretty exhausted, and would rather take a nap than take the time to think of a fun way to write about my life. In other words; life's good!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Damaged in Transit

I'm not really in the mood to blog, probably because of the series of unfortunate events that have unfolded. First, our suburban broke down. Therefore, in order to get my harp down to Richardson to play on Sunday, my friend Tracey had to pick it up in her car. Her car's metal seat holders apparently stick up higher than the ones in ours. As we were putting the harp in, the top hit one of them, and a chunk of the column broke off. I didn't actually notice until Sunday morning, right before I was supposed to perform. I wanted to cry, scream, curse, etc. All I could do though, was put on a brave face, and perform as best as I could. This whole scenario made me reconsider my future "free" peformances. It's always a big risk to move the harp, and no one will pay if it gets damaged but me. The only upside is that we still have the piece that broke off, so hopefully a professional instrument repairman/builder can make it look good. I'm too ashamed to even post a picture of the damage!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The end

Man, am I glad this week is almost over! I had the creche performance tonight, which I was pretty nervous about. I hadn't practiced as much as i should have, so when I got an extra hour to practice at the church, I was very relieved.

Not so much relieved about our suburban breaking down though.... Luckily I have great friends to help me out in a pinch. Gangsta Barbie drove my harp home, and Joe and the kids got home in Mama Barbie's car. We're just really hoping it's not a $2000 transmission repair. Man, I hate older cars. (unbelievable that our sub is already almost 10 years old). Tomorrow is the first day that I get to do fun stuff that I WANT to do. Some baking, sewing, sleeping in, and partying with our friends. Why does sleeping always end up at the end of my to do list? It should be the first thing!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Different directions

I feel like I'm being pulled in a thousand different directions this week. My brain is in a fog. The kids need me. I have 3 (unpaid) harp gigs, Doctor's visits, Dinner to make for a new mom, playdates with my barbie friends, work with grandma Helen, Creche, Sinterklaas, and other things I can't even remember. Maybe compared to other people's lives, this doesn't seem like much, but my life is normally pretty slow. I can't set up anything, without first consulting my calendar. Plus, Joe is out of town, so I have to take care of the cows, goats, pig, chickens, cats, and dogs. On top of all of that, I still stay up till midnight, and get up at 6am every day (don't ask me why I do that to myself). Hopefully next week will be a little slower. But I can't tell you for sure, because I don't have my calendar open in front of me.........

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Holiday Goings

We are truly blessed to live so close to so much family (sorry Gansta Barbie, you made me appreciate it even more). The holidays are an automatic family event. Even though I have a small part of me that wants to start our own little family's tradition, I figure I better enjoy the extended family while we live close to them.

Thursday morning we took it easy, baked some pies, and mozied on over to Plano after lunch. We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings. Those are the meals I wish my stomach fit more food. By the time I'm full, I'm definitely not done eating yet. After letting it settle for a few hours, we had an array of pies to choose from. Pumpkin chiffon, Pumpkin cheesecake, banana creme, choloate pudding pie, and pumpkin cupcakes, just to name a few.

I hit the sack early, because of course the next day was Black Friday. Again, I was unsuccessful in finding a shopping buddy, so I longingly watched those others in the mile-long lines as they chatted and enjoyed themselves just so much more than me. This year was the first time I didn't have any specific things I just HAD to buy. I mostly bought clothes, and some linens, and just 3 little toys at Walmart. Part of the fun is just watching all the other crazies. I came "this" close to buying a $60 GPS at walmart. Not because I need one, but just because it was only $60! It would cost me more than that to update the maps on mine!

After 7 hours of shopping, I headed back to my in-laws to help decorate their house. My Christmas decorations consist of a tree, and the ornaments that go on it. It's just too much work to put it up, and store it the other 11 months of the year. Liz however, has a completely different point of view. Her whole house is transformed. And somehow she fits all of those decorations under the stair. I am wondering if she secretly has a Mary Poppins bag stashed under there!

The party kept going at Uncle Bill's house. A "leftover" lunch, turned into a whole day of eating yummy food, watching movies, chatting with cousins, and swimming for the kids. Several of Joe's cousins were in town, and Joe was excited to spend some time at the movie theater with Johnny. This gave me the opportunity to chat with Mamie, Kelsey, Billy, and Sarah. I feel so blessed to know all of Joe's cousins. (on his mom's side). All those Benac reunions really paid off.

By the time Joe got back, it was pretty late, and uncle Bill bribed us to stay with the promise of a big breakfast. He wasn't joking, and we enjoyed a bunch of good fixins. Winter has adopted aunt Barbara as her third grandma, and was just tickled to death to hang out with her, go on walks with her, and play at the park. Somehow, time disappears when you spend time with the Benacs. We finally made it home after 1 today.

I was freaking out just a little, because I have to speak in church tomorrow, for the first time in 8 years. I had gotten started on my talk just a little bit on Monday, but still had a lot of work left. No wonder I try to get out of speaking by bribing to play the harp (Br Hadsall didn't go for that!) Also, I have 3 harp performances this next week, and not enough practice time under my belt. I feel much better now, with my talk written, and some good practice time done.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Itching for change

I've been surprised by how many reactions I've gotten about my new hair. It didnt' seem like a big deal to me. Sure, I've been a blonde forever, but not because I consciously chose not to be a brunette. I was mildly scared that it wouldn't turn out right, but I've been known to make drastic changes to my hair before.

It was 1993, at Sabrina's house. Wouldn't it be fun to have strawberry blonde hair? Sure! Of
course we didn't know anything about hair, and as a result, it turned orange.

Sorry, no picture of this Beauty

1995. Perms were all the rage. Of course I wanted to be cool too. Turned out to be more poodle than cool....
1996 Chopped of my hair. I'd had it short before, but never this short. This was actually a pretty good move. It looked good on me.
1997. Wouldn't it be fun to be a brunette? You would think I would have learned something from 1994, and go to the hairdresser. But no, I did it myself (again!). Brown on blonde = green!
2000. The smell of a perm got to me again. This perm almost resulted in an almost run-away Joe. The first time I met him, my hair was straight. When he picked me up for our first date, it was poodly. He almost walked right back out of the door.
(I couldn't find a headshot with my hair down, I guess I was smarter than that!)

2002. Short hair looked good on me in 1997, so why not in 2002. Well, maybe because I was 15 lbs heavier, and because I didn't have a professional cut it.. I call it my molly cut. Horrible!
I seemed to be getting smarter, and went all the way from 2002 to 2009 without any major changes. The most drastic difference was my first bangs in 2004.
I've been growing out my hair since about 2004, so when I was itching for a change, I wasn't about to undo 5 years of hard labor. I've also learned my lesson about perms. They do NOT, EVER, look good on me! Color is perfect! You can always go back to blonde. I am still getting used to the look, but I think I like it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Legally Brunette

With the Family photo shoot out of the way, I was free to do something fun and new with my hair. I've been a blonde all my life (unless you count the one time in high school when my attempt for brown hair turned into a green mess). I was actually kind of scared to try it again.
When I first looked in the mirror, it just seemed like I was wearing a wig. I love the color! I call it my Bella hair.
Ginger asked me what I had done with my old hair. I told her it was gone, and she went to chair the trash can. She was just very confused. Joe's reaction was priceless. He kind of staggered backward, and gave me the "holy cow". I can't tell if he hates it and won't tell me, or if he's still undecided.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Family Photo Shoot

My good friend Renee took our family pictures the other day. I am soooo exited to finally have good updated family shots. Here's a quick sampling

Sleep \

I never remember to take pictures when the Morphi' are here. Maybe it's because we always have too much fun. Last night they came over for dinner and we then continued to talk until 12.30am. Why do I keep doing this to myself?? Don't I recognize that I'll be short on sleep this week anyways, with Black Friday shopping just around the corner?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Neon Orange

We have been in our house for over 2 years now. I've never really decorated it. I don't know why. Maybe it's because we've spent so much time and money in just renovating it, that decorating just seemed too low on the priority list. Now that we are winding down on the renovating, and we are getting ready to sell it (how ironic), I felt the kids' bathroom really needed some umpfh. As I was (finally) finishing painting the breakfast nook, I figured that while I had the paint out, I would tackle the bathroom too. It was a lovely shade of blue, but I dont' have any extra paint, so I painted it the same color as the rest of the house. I love that color brown, but was feeling a little monotone depressed. That bathroom needed color. So I headed over to Ikea, and found some super cute fabric. Then, I found some matching orange fabric at Jo-anns for the top and bottom strips. I don't enjoy sewing large things like curtains, but I'm excited I made this anyways. Add some matching towels, bath mats, art, and some cute accessories on the counter, and voila! A bathroom that I actually enjoy being in.

The color in these pictures doesn't do the brightness justice. I had to take out a florecent color cast in Photoshop, and wasn't able to get the neon orange back in. It's bright, and I love it!

Which Team?

I'm am still trying to recover from my all-nighter on Thursday. My Bonham friends are a wild bunch, and we decided to join the throng of youngsters at the New Moon midnight release. The small town of Sherman had New Moon playing in all their 12 theatres. There was a 12.01, 12.02.... 12.12 showing. The first person from our party got in line at 5.30pm, and we were still a little ways back. By the time I got there at 8pm, the line was all the way around the building. They had everybody from all the different showings in one line together. When our showing got to go into the building, I had that same wonderful adrenaline rush I get on black Fridays.
When you squish 300 women and 4 men into a movie theater for a 3 hour wait, it's bound to get rambunctious. The theater staff would come in once in a while for some announcements. Our whole group had glow bracelets, and I had just gotten my camera out of the car. The announcement was clearly directed to us, when they informed us that no pictures or videos were allowed in the theater. Also, if we would "all" please remove our glow bracelets, as they would cause too much light and be distracting. Really??
To keep entertained, Renee, Dee, Anja and I all pulled out our phones and tried to sync them through blue tooth. I didn't even know my phone could do that (and I'm still hoping I won't get charged up the wazoo for that). Dee had started this thing a few weeks ago, where she gave each of us a "barbie" name. Renee is Gansta Barbie. I am Farm Girl Barbie. Dee is Mama Barbie. Of course we all need to have a special ringtone! "Barbie Girl" by Aqua (1997) is the perfect song! Dee tried forever to send that ringtone to all of us, only to find out she couldn't because she had bought it. I feel like such a phone dummie, as I don't even know how I would buy a ringtone.
After reading that movie theater popcorn has the same amount of fat as 6 hamburgers, I brought my own air-popped popcorn. Let me just warn everybody not to leave your drink (or popcorn), or it might be spiked. Even if you thought you were surrounded by friends. Yeah, apparently they thought my popcorn tasted like packing peanuts, and mixed in theater popcorn. As if I wouldn't notice.When Renee gets tired, she gets "drunk" and says funny things.
"Do you have a chocolate chip in your hair"
"OMG, we should totally pass notes"
"I used to be Piper's Milk Dud" (her candy of choice)
"What is this? Peoples court? (as I was writing her quotes down)
Dee chimed in with her funniness too: "This theater is like Estrogen Soup"

After the movie finally started, I was surprised at how quiet it was. I guess I was expecting a bunch of high school cheerleaders gasping, laughing, and screaming. The only thing that got any audible reaction was when Jacob first took his shirt off. I must admit: HOT!!! I am totally on Team Edward, but he just looked nasty in this movie. He was way too skinny, white and hairy. Jacob on the other hand, was buff, tan and smoking.

Why end a fun night after the movie is over at 2.30am? Why not party like it's 1999 at the local Ihop? We so totally did. As we were leaving the people at the next table made a snide comment about how it would finally be quiet after we left. What do they expect at 3.30 in the morning at an Ihop? We ate and talked until 4.15am, and then I still had a 45 minute drive home. That's what I'm still paying for 2 days later. I didn't hit the pillow until 5am....

Now the 7 month wait starts


Y'all will have to wait to hear all about my escapades at the New Moon midnight showing.

Must - sleep - now.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Baking Bug

I've had the baking bug for the past few weeks. Any dutch treats with Speculaaskruiden sound expecially good to me right now. I've made several things, most of which were flops. It's hard to find good recipes online. Of course I have the advantage of being able to look for Dutch recipes too, but that doesn't make it much easier. My first try at "taai taai" was a total flop. It's supposed to be chewy and cakey, but instead it was crispy and hard. That went to Piggy smalls. My next experiment was speculaas. That turned out a little better, but it didn't taste quite right either. My pepernoten taste right, but were hard as rocks. All of these were baked last week. Maybe this week is a better week.

So I tried again with the pepernoten. This time, I found a recipe for kruidnoten. The dough felt a lot better than last week's recipe. The little balls were easy to make, as the dough was nice and soft.
Here's the recipe for today's Pepernoten: (about 35 cookies)
100 grams Flour
1 heaping tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
50 grams Brown Sugar
45 grams cold Butter
1 tsp Speculaaskruiden (see below)
2 Tbsp Milk

Heat the oven to 300. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Mix all the ingredients. Use 2 knifes to cut the butter into small pieces. Quickly knead into a thick dough. If the dough gets too soft, place in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Roll marble sized balls from the dough, and place on the cookie sheet. Bake for 2o minutes. Cool completely.
A lot of Dutch snacks associated with Sinterklaas (St Nicolas) have "speculaaskruiden" in them. These spices are widely available in Holland, but not here. Turns out, you can just make your own! All these spices should be available in your neighborhood's grocery store

Mix the following spices:
25 grams ground Cinnamon
10 grams ground Nutmeg
5 grams ground Cloves
dash ground Kardemom (I didn't have this, so left it out)

Store your spekulaas spices in an airtight jar. Some recipes that call for this include: Taai Taai, pepernoten, and spekulaas. Once I find good recipes for the taai taai and spekulaas, I'll post those too.

Enjoy your pepernoten with a glass of milk. Or, if you want to really celebrate Sinterklaas' birthday on December 5th, have Piet throw them in the door, and let the kids scramble to gather them.

Holiday Traditions

Holland and America have different traditions and holidays. Moving to the US, I lost some holidays, but also gained a bunch. Joe mentioned how weird it would be to move to a foreign country and loose holidays. It wasn't necessarily weird to me. A little sad maybe, but not weird. The one thing that IS weird, is to celebrate a holiday in a totally different way.

Take, for example, New Years. Growing up, New Years was always the biggest, funnest holiday. We got to stay up all night, party with friends and family, and of course the hightlight: set off fireworks. My parents banned me from setting it off, for the risk of loosing a finger or two. So even though I personally didn't (hardly ever) set off fireworks, all my friends did. Along with the rest of the country. In fact, so many fireworks were purchased, it would often take 2-3 hours to just light it all. Also, the next morning, the streets looked more like red rivers. Most fireworks are made in China, and wrapped in red paper. Bottles, boxes, and other litters is also strewn in the streets.

New Year's doesn't seem that big a deal here at all. Of the 11 New Years I have celebrated here, only the ones I have planned parties for, resembled anything from my youth. The major obstacle is the law that bans individuals from setting off fireworks in the city. A fireworks show is just not the same! We have been lucky enough the past 2 years to live out in the country. We never buy a bunch, but it's still fun to set some off.

I was curious to see what the laws are for Fireworks here in Texas. I found a good article on Ehow. My favorite part is:

"County Property is usually located on roads that begin with "CR" or "county road". You can stop your vehicle, and legally shoot fireworks on most county roads."

Seems dangerous! People stopping on the side of the road to shoot off fireworks! We just happen to live on a County Road. So anyone can stop in front of our property and launch fireworks?? What about all the ashes and trash was will blow onto our property??? I invite everyone to just come join our party, and launch them off our dock instead!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Together Forever

The Primary children have worked hard all year on their yearly program. They've sung the same songs, and practiced their parts. This years' theme was "the Family can be together forever". Temples play a large role in eternal families. It's in temples that our families are sealed together through sacred ordinances. We are lucky enough to have a temple relatively close by, in Dallas. In order to help the kids understand the importance of temples, the primary planned a trip for a visit.

In the foyer, the temple president told them a great story, a sort of parable. There was a man who got to the door of heaven. It required a key, but when the man turned the key, the door would not open. God came to the man and asked: "Do you want to be here alone? Don't you want your wife and children to join you?" The man answered: No, I would not be happy without them". God said "Go get them, and their keys". The man got his wife and children, and after they all turned their keys, the door would still not open. God came back again, and asked the man: "Would you be happy here without your parents, uncles, and cousins? "No", said the man. God answered: "Go get them, and their keys". The man gathered his parents, and after they turned their keys, the door would still not open. God asked him: "Would you be happy without your great grandparents, and all your ancestors? Would you be happy if any of your family members were missing?". The man came back with all his family, and after everyone turned their keys, there was still one empty key hole. The man was confused and asked God who possesses the key for that last hole. God explained that the last key belonged to Jesus Christ. Without Him we can't make it into heaven, and wouldn't be happy without Him there. Heavenly Father has given us the great gift of Repentance and Forgiveness, to give us all the chance to live with Him in heaven. The temple will help us to gather all our ancestors. When we do work in the temple, we are bringing our families together, so we can be happy together in Heaven.

Today's primary program was a great success. The children all sang great, and recited their lines. Even Ginger had memorized her line. I know that God loves us, and has given us the Gospel to learn his will. I know that we can do the work in temples to "gather" our ancestors, so we can all live together forever as families. I am so thankful for the opportunity Joe and I had to be sealed together in the temple by his grandfather Bill B. It gives me comfort to know that my children are sealed to me, and that we can be a family together forever.

My friend Renee is quickly becoming an avid photographer. Her mom bought her a fancy new camera, but she's still learning to use it. I was happy to capture this moment of pure concentration.

The temple is about an hour away, so Dee and her girls carpooled with us. On the way down, this truck with 2 shady looking Hispanic men just kept pulling up next to us. They would look over and smile. Crazy Dee would turn to them and smile and wave back. It's a good thing we were in the HOV lane, or they might have followed us home and I might not be sitting here right now.

On the way home, we spotted a huge buck and some other deer in a field. We made a quick u-turn to capture his magnificence. Unfortunately I didn't have my telephoto lens with me, so this picture is low in quality, but it still shows his rack.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Christmas in November

A few weeks ago, Grandma Benac wanted to give me my Christmas present early. Sure. I love presents. I love it even more when I don't have to wait for it. She led me over to her craft tables, and told me my gift was under there. I couldn't believe it! I just about cried.

Grandma Helen in an avid seamstress, even though she would deny that. She has made many embroidered quilts, and is always working on another project. She bought her first fancy Husqvarna embroidery machine just a little while after grandpa Bill died. The Husqvarna Designer 1 is an amazing machine, but with grandma's grand ambitions, she got an the upgraded Designer SE. The "old" Designer 1 sat, untouched, in her closet for years. This machine can work miracles. It's pretty much a computer and a sewing machine in 1. With the attached embroidery arm, you can push the start button, walk away, and come back after a few minutes to an embroidered masterpiece. I am now the proud owner of a Viking Husqvarna Designer 1 embroidery machine
Where do you start? The first thing I did, like in most situations, was hit the internet. The internet is great for ideas, tips, tutorials, and anything and everything you need to know about any topic. I would love to start selling stuff on Etsy, so that's where I started my search. I need to know what my competition is doing! One thing I found on there, was an art caddy. A bag for kids to carry coloring books, crayons, and scissors. Winter's is already done. It's amazing how much a little bit of embroidery can do to really make a project special.
After seeing prices for thread at the local craft store, I decided Ebay was the way to go. At Jo-anns one spool of thread is $5.99. I got mine for $0.89 a spool. Sure, I still spent $90, but I do have enough thread to last me a lifetime!

New Profession?

It was 1994. At a rowhouse in "de Maten". Carla needed a haircut. She had scissors, and I was willing. That was the first time someone put complete trust in me, and let me alter their appearance. It really wasn't a very exciting occasion, only an inch or two came off. My next victim: Roel Schrama. The (only) guy in my class with long hair. I'm sure it took me weeks of nagging and complaining, before he finally agreed. No one had ever shown me how to cut guy's hair. I just winged it. Some other early guinea pigs included my dad, the missionaries, and my girlfriends.

It was never a big deal. Someone asked me; I obliged. Over the years, my skill and confidence increased. The eve of my wedding Joe needed a haircut. I made the mistake of listening to him describe how I should cut it. I should have stuck to my gut. In all our wedding photos, the sides of his hair were almost military short. Over the years, the haircuts have kept coming. Babies, toddlers, children, husband. None of these haircuts are nerve racking. So what if Winter's hair's crooked, or there's a chunk missing out of Sterling's head? It will grow back! Even Joe isn't very picky as to the length or style.

Last week, I got nervous for the first time in a long time. Josh was ordered a haircut, but he really didn't want to cut any off. The goal: a more polished look, that was still long. Owen Wilson. This haircut was special; There was a picture. An expectatation. Thinner hair than I'm used to. And then there was his girlfriend. She willingly got into the chair, but I could feel her apprehension. I don't have a license. I've never been educated. She's never really even seen any of my work. Plus, her hair is thicker than any I've ever worked with.

Sometimes it's not until the end of the haircut that the anxiety kicks in. What if too much has come off? What if they don't like the look? What if it's totally crooked? At this point of my anxiety attack, the rational angel on my left shoulder, has to overpower the anxious one on my right. My "customers" know there's no license, education, or guarantee that they won't come out looking like frankenstein. All they can have, is faith. Faith that I'll do whatever is in my power, to let them walk away with a decent look. I guess if they really hate it, they can always go to the salon and pay that professional to fix my mishaps.

Cutting hair is entertaining. I couldn't make a living doing it, as it would bore the bejebers out of me. But a few haircuts a month are great. The only depressing thing about the whole situation is, that others end up with free haircuts, while I have to scrounche up $25 to get my own hair fixed. Trust me, I've tried doing it myself. It's just really hard to see what you're doing, when your hair is halfway down your back. Lillie, at grandma's salon, is a great stylist. She's the first stylist I've ever gone back to. Other stylists either cut off too much, hack layers, or just don't have a clue what I want. Yesterday I forked over the $25, and enjoyed every minute in that chair. The way she massaged my scalp. The feeling of someone combing my hair. And even the sound of the snipping scissors. If I didn't know any better, I would have even gotten a perm, just to enhale the addictive toxic fumes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Photography Club

Photography is one of the many joys in my life. So when Renee and I found out about a local Photography club in Bonham, we got really excited (you should have seen how excited Renee got!). They hold monthly meetings, and tonight was my first time.

It never ceases to amaze me how unsavvy many people are with computers. I guess I take it for granted that I can type with 10 fingers, operate windows, and figure out new programs. The first half hour of the meeting, a bunch of old people tried to set up the computer and projector screen. First they couldn't figure out how to make the projection the right size. Then, they forgot to hook up the internet card, so the internet wouldn't work. Instead of just typing in, the man did a search for in After gmail was finally up, the poor man could not, for the life of him, figure out how to enter his username and password. After 10 tries, someone finally stepped in. The whole reason he had to open gmail, was that club members had sent their monthly photo assignments in. Of course when you attach a file in an email, it doesn't always show up in the right size for easy showing. It took painstaking coaching to get him to actually pull it up, but luckily Aubrey finally stepped in and saved the day.

The idea of sharing my photographs with other photographers is scary. I get insecure, and intimidated. It only took a few submissions to realize that I don't have to feel intimidated at this club. I don't want to sound snoody, but Winter can take better pictures than most of them. (except Dee and Renee) I've decided this club is more of a social gathering than a real photo club. We never critiqued each others photos, or suggested improvements. It was still worth the trip into Bonham though, because I got to go to Braums afterwards for some good girl time. Man, this post sounds negative.... I really did have a good time. Oh, and I don't have to worry about any of them finding my blog, because I'm not sure they would know how to search for it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Day in Dallas

Josh came to visit, with his girlfriend Kristin. I'm glad to see him with such a nice girl. Having never been to Texas, we showed her some of downtown Dallas tourist sites. The first destination was Swiss street, where some houses have been restored to their original state. For the kids, the most exciting part of this stop was the dog park right across the street.
Dallas has a full-time farmers market, which I have wanted to check out for some time. The produce seemed fresh enough, but I still can't figure out why there had to be dozens of vendors. They all sold pretty much the exact same thing, for the exact same price. I was a little bit disappointed with the variety. I expected there to be all sorts of exotic fruits and vegetables.The arts district had a fun reflecting pool, where we all learned to walk on water
Joe's mom works as the property manager at the Meadow's building. It was one of the first "high riser" buildings in Dallas. What was supposed to be a quick bathroom pitstop, turned into an hour long tour of the building. It amazing to look at photographs taken of the area in the 1950s. If only we could have bought some land back then!
We finished off the day with some clam chowder and roasted pinenuts. Somehow it got to be after midnight again....

Friday, November 6, 2009

Texan landscape

Texas has beautiful landscape in it's own way. We've had a very full and low moon the past few days. I would still like to learn how to capture the details of the moon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Shop till you drop

I've had a fun couple of days. Yesterday Dee took me shopping in Frisco. I love shopping. We hit Sam Moon's where I got an awesome new purse. They even killed a croc for me. Just kidding, it IS my first genuine leather purse though. It's a little more flashy than my past purses, which is perfect because I'm Texan now. After that, I introduced Dee to the pleasures of Ikea. She was so funny, she was just so overwhelmed. and I can see why. I've shopped there a lot, and still get overwhelmed with all the ideas.
Today, Tracey Sparks drove out here, and we just hung out, and chatted. If I was a good writer, I would have a fun witty paragraph on how we ranted about all the downfalls of the public school system. But I'm not, so that's all you're gonna get. Tracey is the most dedicated sunbather I've ever known. She lays out about 9 out of 12 months of the year. (Starting in March at the Beach, and again today in my yard) I haven't even thought about laying out or swimming in almost 2 months. The pool is slowly starting to turn a lovely shade of green.

I like to experiment with new recipes. A few weeks ago I bought some butternut squash, and having never cooked it before, I did what I always do in that situation, and googled a recipe. I came up with a yummy carrot/ginger/squash soup.
If you want to make it for yourself go to Allrecipes for the recipe.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Keep working

How much can a person work in 1 week? I guess the answer is different for each person, but I think Joe should take away the grand prize. He was in Phoenix all last week. He left super early Monday to fly there, worked all night, slept 1 hour, worked all day doing his regular job, and then worked all night again. He did this all week long. Then he came home Friday night. He spent Saturday at home. Sunday morning he jumped in the car, to drive back to Phoenix to deliver 2 trucks. He drove all day Sunday, slept for 4 hours, stopped at the side of the road to do his regular job for 4 hours, drove until he got there at noon. He then went to the airport, got on a plane, and arrived in Dallas at 7pm. Tomorrow morning he has to do a bidwalk at 9am, which means he'll have to leave around 7am again. After all of this, he is STILL not appreciated at his job. What gives?

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Ginger has the endearing trait of willingness to share. Once in a while, I let her buy some candy at the grocery store, and without fail she'll make sure to save some of it for "her friends" (her brother and sister) As soon as I got out of my room this morning, Ginger came up to me and asked: "Do you want a smartie so you'll be smart"?

She not only a good sharer, but usually is also very willing to do anything to help. When I asked her a few minutes later, to throw the rapper in the trash, I got: "Now you'll be smart, right mom"?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Trunk or Treat

Tonight our ward celebrated its annual trunk or treat. It's fun to be in a ward where the grown-ups dress us too.
Winter was Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz
Sterling was the leopard (just like last year)
I was the wicked witch
Ginger wore her unicorn outfit, just long enough to take this picture
I barely recognize myself!
I got quite a few stares, and some people couldn't figure out who I was. Note to self; don't grow a big nose, get glasses, and get too old... it's not flattering.
Unfortunately Joe couldn't be there, he was on the way home from a week in Phoenix for work

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