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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Scenes of Slaughter

Okeedokee- In a nutshell, here is Slaughtering Day at the farm:

The night before the scheduled slaughter I very wisely spent an hour catching the loose birds (who roosted in the trees or on the barn roof) and tossing them into the enclosed stalls of the barn. This way they would be a piece of cake to scoop up in the morning when it was their turn to meet the knife at the slaughtering cone. 

There was a lot of squawking, chasing, and frustration. Roosters don't like to be caught. 

After lots of time, sweat, and exertion, I finally had all the birds confined safely in the barn. I was scratched and tired, but thankful that I had remembered to catch them all when they were lethargic and slow-moving. I couldn't imagine trying to catch them during the day when they were alert and energetic.

 I mentally patted myself on the back, imagining how easy the butchering would be in the morning.

Morning dawned bright and warm. We planned on butchering 20 roosters, followed with a BBQ picnic of fresh chicken cooked Peruvian-style with spicy cilantro sauce. We had scheduled enough time to clean up and shower before company arrived for lunch.

Nathan and I set up the back patio with all the necessary slaughter supplies: a work table draped in protective plastic, knives, work gloves, coolers filled with ice, a garbage bucket for the entrails, and a propane stove heating our largest stock pot filled with boiling water. 

As we finished our preparations, I heard a terrible sound. 

Dozens of wings were flapping and a hundred feet rustled the leaf litter as our flock stampeded out of the barn. One of our boys had forgotten to close the barn door behind himself after fetching tools for us. Oh. My. Goodness.

I frantically ran to the barn in an attempt to stem the flow of poultry streaming out of the building, but I was too far away. As I rounded the corner of the house, I saw 50 bright-colored poultry tails disappearing into the brush of the pasture. 

Oh I was hopping mad. I was torn between laughing at the irony of it all or crying in frustration.

As a family we tried to corner some roosters and catch them for the slaughter, but the birds were too skittish for us to get close. 

I'm sure it looked extremely comical. 

We'd all stealthily flank the flock to trap the birds against a fenced corner of the yard. We'd close our lines as we approached closer, making a human fence to ensnare the roosters. When the flock panicked and tried to flee, we'd all attempt to catch a bird as they ran though our legs or flew over our heads. We usually ended up  on the ground, with handfuls of feathers and scratched arms.

We spent an entire hour chasing birds before we caught our first two roosters (actually our dog Bella helped us and pinned down these birds.). We were out of breath and smudged with dirt and we hadn't even begun our butchering.

I could see my well-oiled plans for the day slipping away.

After this shaky start to the day, we managed to process only 7 birds that morning. It's better than nothing, but it also means we need to do another slaughter morning to dispatch the rest of the roosters. Ug.

We've slaughtered chickens before, but this was the first time we tried scalding and plucking them so they'd look nice on the grill. I definitely decided I prefer our old method of skinning them clean. Plucking takes for-ev-er to get the teensy bits of feathers off. Skinning is so quick and easy in comparison. 

Some friends came over to learn the process and slaughter one of their own hens.

Maggie stayed perched a careful distance away from the butchering table while she encouraged her sweetheart to do the dirty work. I understand her reticence...butchering is always emotionally hard the first time.

Here's a quick look at lunch: chicken coated with seasonings and butterflied before grilling over coals. The sauce was epic. Jalapenos and cilantro pureed together with other seasonings in a creamy sauce. Oh my. I might never go back to Texas BBQ after tasting this Peruvian beauty.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Girls Night Out

Nathan and I take our kids out for date nights several times each year for quality one-on-one time. 

The child gets to pick what we do (within certain parameters...I'm not driving farther than an hour!)

Sometimes we go bowling or visit book stores or play at the park. We always go out for a treat at the end.

Lately Sarah has been begging me to take her to the mall.

Putting my own reservations aside (oh how I detest malls! They always make me unsatisfied with what I have at home!) we spent an evening strolling through girly stores.

We tried on cute hats and admired the latest fashions.

I needed to pick up some make up, so we stopped for make-overs at the Bare Minerals store.

She loved it!

It was so fun for Sarah to sit in the special chair while the make up artist made her feel glamorous.

She smiled in pleasure as the soft make up brushes glided across her skin. 

She deliberated long over lip stick colors before carefully selecting a lovely pink.

We stayed until closing time and then headed out for a late-night dinner at IHOP.

This date was extra special because we were able to share it with cousins and aunties. 

We had a delightful time giggling and chatting into the late hours of the night.

It's so fun creating memories together!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

From trash to treasure: How to Sew Easy Removable Throw Pillow Covers

sewing  home decor, sew pillows

How to turn boring, dated (of just plain ugly) throw pillows into something beautiful and new!

I wanted to add bright colors to our living space, but I'm not brave enough to paint a wall vivid colors. It's too permanent. I thought making new throw pillow covers would be an easy, low-risk way to experiment adding more color to our space. 

This seriously took me only 15 minutes per pillow (except the first one I made- I had to unpick the seam after sewing the incorrect sides together. Woopsies! Since you have these directions, you won't make my same mistakes, right?).

Here's how to make your own easy throw pillow covers in less than ten steps.


  • A 6/10 yard of 55″ fabric (get more fabric if you're making a pillow larger than 18 inches across)
  • A half yard of 55" plain canvas or duck cloth for the back of the pillow
  • A drinking glass and pencil
  • A sewing machine, iron, ironing surface, pins, scissors and thread
  • An ugly throw pillow waiting for a new life (if you don't already own one, thrift stores are a great place to pick them up!)

Step 1
Purchase your fabric. I found ours at JoAnns in the outdoor upholserty section. I wanted super durable fabric that could hold up to a lot of cleanings and abuse. I absolutely fell in love with this cheerful waterproof/stain-proof paisley:

paisley pillow, paisley fabric, colorful fabric

I had one small problem: It was priced at $44/yard- YIKES! 

Lucikly it was 50% off, and I only needed a 1/2 yard, so my total was only $10. That gave me enough fabric to create two large pillows and one smaller lumbar pillow.

Step 2
Measure the pillow you will be using for your pillow form. Add one inch to your measurement (this gives you room for the 1/2 inch hem later).

Step 3
Measure and cut the fabric for the pillow cover. You'll need three pieces to make the cover- one front piece and two back pieces.

My pillows were 18 inches square, so I cut my front piece of fabric to be 19 inches square

How to make throw pillow covers

The two back pieces will need to be as long as the front piece and wide enough so they will overlap. Make sure they have several inches of extra width or else it won't close properly. In my case, the back pieces are 19 inches long. One back piece is 7 inches wide and the other piece is 15 inches wide.

Step 4
For nice-looking corners, place a cup on the corner of your fabic and trace the curve with a colored pencil. This is your guideline for trimming the corners. Mark all four corners of the square piece of fabric and only two corners on one long edge for each rectangle

The trimmed fabric should look like this:

Notice that the back pieces of fabric only have two corners trimmed. 

Step 5
Since the straight edges of the rectangles will be exposed, we’ll use a more polished hem. Fold about 1/4″ – 3/8″ of the edge over twice to completely encase the raw edge and stitch it down with a straight stitch.This gives a clean edge for your envelope.

Step 6
Pin the two back pieces, inside out, to the front piece. Make sure the sewn seam of the two back pieces overlap in the middle of the pillow.

Step 7
Sew around the outer seam with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

Step 8
Turn the pillow sham right side out then stuff with the pillow insert.

Step 9
Admire your new pillows before joining them on the couch to curl up with a good book.

See what I mean? This is a very easy throw pillow that can be whipped up in a few minutes. 

In less than one hour I sewed four pillows for my couch. I made a total of 8 pillow covers in one afternoon. 

The new fabrics completely transformed my living room into an eye-catching, cheerful retreat. The best part is that these are removable, so I can wash them or trade them out for a new look later. 

Linked up to: 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Ivanhoe and mud

Today I listened to Sir Walter Scott's book "Ivanhoe" while I cleaned, mopped and polished furniture.

It was overcast and drizzling outside, making it a perfectly cozy afternoon. I could hear a steaming cup of ginger tea and a good book calling my name. (I'm reading the fascinating biography of Mother Theresa- how about you?)

 It been raining for several days, which is a mixed blessing.

Our lovely trees are soaking up all the sweet rain...I can almost hear them sigh in contentment after patiently waiting out our hot dry summer. 

The only bad part is the mud. 

Muddy paw prints dot my tile floors, creating dark paths throughout my house. I had been waiting for days for the rain to stop and the mud to dry up before mopping everything. I decided today I can't handle waiting any more, so I mopped and reveled in my clean shiny floors.

When Bella came in from romping joyfully in our muddy pasture, I carefully pulled socks onto her paws and secured them in place with hair ties. I thought I was such a clever girl for solving our paw print problem. Alas, it was not to be. Using her teeth, she pulled the socks off and went her merry way, leaving a muddy trail for the children to follow.

Ah the joys of living in the country!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Service with a baby on my hip

My heart desires to serve people, to help them feel loved and valued. 

I want to go serve meals at the downtown homeless shelters and encourage these suffering people. I'd like to get my hands dirty helping at animal shelters. I really desire to volunteer at the public school to mentor and encourage those children who aren't blessed with loving parents.

BUT-- I can't. 

I'm not allowed to volunteer at the school with a baby in tow. I get it, I see their point. He'd be more distraction that a classroom can handle. I agree, but my heart still longs to contribute.

I can't endanger my baby by dragging him into a homeless shelter to let him put everything in his mouth- who knows what it's contaminated with? 

I can't try to walk a strange dog with my baby in a stroller, his face being at the perfect height to make a target for some unpredictable dog behavior. I'd rather keep my baby bite-mark free, thank you very much.


For a long time, I felt so  handicapped in my attempts to serve the community. I always felt held back by my darling angels. (Yes, I see the irony. I realize creating a strong family is arguably the greatest service we can give. That doesn't change my yearning to do more.)

This year I found two ways to serve and still keep my little baby safe.

The first solution was taught to me by a very aged, bed-ridden lady. Listen up- this is a good story. She couldn't leave her bed for years, but she still found a way to serve by writing sincere letters of encouragement and mailing them. When she died, her funeral was overflowing the building and inside the chapel there was standing-room only. The speaker of the eulogy asked each person in the audience to raise their hands if they were sent a letter from this sweet lady. Every single person raised their hands. She really blessed a lot of people and made the world a better place from the confines of her bedroom.

Armed with this idea, I started writing cards and mailing them. I realized I could do this while Diego eats Cheerios next to me in his highchair. I have a basket of pretty cards, envelopes, and stamps that I keep handy in the kitchen. When I have 15 minutes of free time, I sit and write a heartfelt note of appreciation to someone in our congregation or community. It doesn't take much time but it's a small way to positively impact someone's day. (Who doesn't love getting mail that isn't an ad or a  bill?)

This week we gave one to the bus driver--- she's pretty cranky so I thought she might feel happier to know we appreciate and love her.

So far I've sent out almost 100 cards. There's some small way I've hopefully brightened 100 days. 

The other service outlet I found is through LDS Indexing. It's an online service project where volunteers read the handwritten records of the past and type the information into a searchable database for genealogy research.

I'm currently digitizing handwritten drafting cards from WW1. It's unexpectedly emotional for me. Some of the draft cards are stained with tears, and the card details verify that these men are leaving behind wives and children. My heart wonders about these people and their stories. History is so fascinating to's interesting to get a little peek into someone else's life story.

It makes me wonder what I will leave behind when I die. What will my life story be?

In my own quiet way, will I have made the world a better place? 

I sincerely hope so.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Better things in life

Sarah and cousins read together on a sunny morning
 (Okay, it has nothing to do with the post- I just love this picture from our summer, that's all)

I've been streamlining my priorities in life and eliminating a lot of the nonessential things to make more space for the things that truly matter. I've been overflowing with joy because of this!

My change came after reading this talk (yet again) and striving to apply it (yet again). Essentially, the point is to stop chasing after 'good' things in life and focus more on things that are even better.

To quote Elder Oaks-

We should begin by recognizing that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.

There's one of my problems. I was spending so much time pursuing good things that I was missing the more important parts of life.

I have found myself repeatedly returning to this principle of time management over the past few years. My almost imperceptible baby steps in improvement each year are finally coming to fruition as I look back and see the progress I've made in becoming the type of person I truly want to be.

It makes me giddy and I want to shout: Look! I'm finally improving!

Elder Oaks continues-

We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families.

With that in mind, I'm spending more time each day focusing on these three things:

-strengthening my family
-stimulating my own spiritual growth
-serving others 

What did I eliminate? 

Cloth diapers. There's a shocker (totally sarcastic here). The choice to revert back to disposables bought me an extra 5 hours a week since I'm no longer rinsing, washing, line drying, and folding those undies. Yes, I'm not ashamed to admit that I feel liberated.

Home school is off the family plan for this year. (I know, I know.....don't get me started on the turmoil I felt over this decision. That's another story for another day.) While the kids are in public school I can focus on being a better mother rather than a better teacher.

I realized they only have ONE mother in life, and I have certain motherly responsibilities that no one else on earth can fulfill. Anyone can teach my kids to read and write, but only I can teach them how to have faith and integrity. Only I can teach them how to return to Heavenly Father, and that should always be my biggest priority.

I'm focusing more on teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in our home, rather than thinking up lesson plans to instruct geology or math. Yes, I'll admit I do still feel a bit guilty over the choice to public school. Tough luck for me.

I cut out our school commute. Instead of driving into town and waiting in line at two schools twice each day, our kids ride the bus. This bought me an additional 9 hours each week! Now they come home to a welcoming atmosphere and warm muffins waiting on the table next to tall glasses of icy milk. I never had the energy to do things like that when I home schooled. I feel like I'm able to make our HOUSE more of a HOME full of love and encouragement since I'm not tired and cranky from the tedious commute.

In previous years, our baby steps on improvement eliminated television (yup, we have NO cable or even the basic channels) and the following year Netflix was cut (I always felt obligated to watch the DVDs and wasted a lot of time there).

I eliminated "Drivel-and-Tripe" books from my personal reading lists so I could focus on books that were truly worth my time investment (now I prefer to read nonfiction books that teach me something new or fiction that can enrich my life in meaningful ways- Twilight was the first book to be axed from my library that year!).

My days this month have been full of joy and purpose. I'm able to spiritually nourish my children because I've made my own spiritual health a priority (instead of trying to read my scriptures at the very end of the day, when I feel so tired I have to prop open my eyelids with toothpicks). My service to others has enriched my life, bringing satisfaction and meaning to my afternoons. My children are happier because I spend more meaningful time with them and our relationships are getting stronger.

I know almost no one reads this blog, but I hope those of you who do read this will leave with a sense of peace and joy.

My heart wonders about you and your unique struggles.. I hope you feel loved.

I hope your own life is filled with joy because that's the whole point of life- to experience joy. 

Life really is beautiful.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Good Life

Nate and Matthew compare 'staches

I'm content to soak up all the good things the Lord has sent my way.

 The trees surrounding my home are majestically beautiful. The dappled sunlight dances across my window, sending spots of light racing across my bedroom walls. It makes my heart sigh in happiness.

I love walking down our gravel driveway to the mailbox and glancing into the eyes of the deer herd standing across the street. They freeze in place and gaze at me warily for several seconds before bounding away in the trees.

Diego is so kissably soft and playful. He shrieks in delight when I chase him across a room. His fat little legs are comical as he toddles and lurches at his fastest speeds.

We have a new van- YAY! I spent an entire day at various car dealerships haggling with salesmen. I found a nicer model than we expected and bargained the price lower than we expected. We are very happy with our purchase, and I feel like this was a gift from the Lord.

We are so happy now when we drive as a family. We each have our own seat belt (yup, we're law-abiding citizens again!)  and are no longer consigned to squishing into our sardine can car.

My darling Mr. Kingsley is so kind and romantic. He brought me home a bouquet of cheerful red flowers and gourmet chocolate for no special reason. The blossoms smile at me from the kitchen table everyday, reminding me of my handsome sweetheart. He rubs my feet at the end of the day and brushes my hair tenderly because he knows I love it.

I can't imagine life without him! How lucky we are to share our lives and grow old together.

What more could we ask for?

Life is good.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Trains and Robots

This month I took our Littles on their first train ride into Austin. 

Nathan invited us to join him for the afternoon at a technology convention, which meant we'd be able to do two cool things-

1- Ride the train 
2- Play with real robots

What's not to like?

We boarded the train at the very end of the rail and rode it the entire length to the last stop smack dab in downtown Austin. 

Sarah thought is was so romantic riding a train. The rhythmic sway of the cars was so soothing and hypnotic.

I always love watching the scenery whizz by in a blur of color. 

Sarah and Matthew felt proud to be in charge of plotting our destination on the map. They loved following our progress at each stop. They were like little adventurers exploring an exciting new land.

We pulled into the final station and found my handsome Mr. Kingsley waving hello to us from the platform. Luckily the station is literally right next to the Austin Convention Center, so we didn't have to navigate Austin's streets with a passel of children and a stroller.

The convention center was filled with fascinating booths to explore. The myriad of robots were of course the highlight of our trip. The children talked to engineers and learned a little bit about how each robot operated.

This robot was voted the family favorite. This cute little hand-shaped robot generously handed out sticks of gum to anyone who put out a hand to receive it. Daniel tried to trick the machine and get two pieces of gum, but the robot looked at his outstretched hand (already gifted with gum) and the robot shook it's head 'no'. The children laughed and laughed over this, exclaimed what a clever little robot this was. 

My favorite exhibit was a large robot that puts on a concert by precisely bouncing balls onto the instruments. 

I found a little video of it so you can get an idea what it was like. 

Daniel's other favorite stop was a giant slingshot activity. The engineers connected a game of Angry Birds to this slingshot. To play the game, players would fire this sensor-laden slingshot to launch the birds on the screen.

Very clever.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Dragons and Superheros

This is the world of imagination where the boys spent the afternoon.

Matthew is a dragon (see the fire erupting from his mouth?) attacking a city (notice the buildings engulfed in fire?).

I love the red firetruck and firemen battling the flames. See the little firefighter climbing bravely up the ladder to rescue a screaming citizen from a burning building?

Three firemen on the ground are desperately trying to quell the flames (although I'm not sure how they managed to get their hose to spray in three different directions at once...)

Daniel is SuperDan, flying to the rescue in his blue cape and protecting the city with his red-hot laser-vision (see where the lasers wounded the dragon? The details they think of are interesting.)

The awe-struck citizens on the street are pointing and exclaiming, "Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's SUPERDAN!"

Boys are awesome.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Back to School feast

It is a feast for the body and for the spirit. 

The menu 
Four cheese stuffed manicotti
"The" Salad*
Grilled Flatbread
Sparkly cranberry juice
Brownies and ice cream

I really had fun decorating the table, can you tell?
My goals were:
1- Strengthen our family ties
2- Create a unique memory for the children to treasure
3- Remind our children of their divine heritage 

I made colorful crowns for each child to remind them that they are children of God, and as such, they carry a divinely royal birthright. 

The Littles were so excited when they saw the table and crowns. They "oohed" and "ahhed" over their crowns and giggled in excitement as the crowns were placed on their heads. 

It was very much like Christmas morning- they had been anticipating this feast all week as I secretively made the crowns and planned the event. 
Nathan led a wonderful discussion over dinner, reminding the children of two main points.

1- See yourself the way God sees you; you are priceless and beautiful.

2- See other people the way God sees them, and treat them with kindness and respect.

We introduced our family scripture for the year, found in the book of Alma here.

Learn wisdom in thy youth; yea,
learn in thy youth to keep the
commandments of God.

We also refreshed our family motto from last year. 

Every morning last year when I sent them off to school we'd say this motto as we waved goodbye. 

We say it like a team cheer:

Do Your Best and Choose the Right!

*"The" Salad is the best salad we've ever tasted. As our friend Maggie says, "There IS no other salad. That's why this is called The Salad." We heartily agree. Want the recipe? Let me know!