Tuesday, September 25, 2012

a pie battle cry!

Whoever listed 'moving' on the list of most stressful life experiences, right next to 'death' and 'divorce', was right on the money.  Taking care of 3 pets, running a home business, dealing with late inspectors and churlish buyers and mounds of paperwork, plus keeping track of all the bills and packing up the house and does the dog need to go out again?!?...oh my. 

Thankfully, my stress level is much lower than expected.  Really low, in fact.  I contribute that to God's grace, and...to chocolate.

And...to homemade pie.  Lots of pie.  Apple pie, bursting at the seams with spicy goodness...

Smooth and creamy pumpkin pie...

...which rose to new heights, since I started making my own sweetened condensed milk, which contains a bit of baking powder.

Juicy peaches stewed in sugar and spices...

 ...and topped with a sweet, butter biscuit crumble:

Did you know about blanching peaches?  Just cut an 'X' in the bottom of the peach, toss it in boiling water for 1 minute, and then roll it into a container of cold water.  The skin peels right off!

 There's just something so soothing and satisfying about burying my hands into a floury dough, or listening to my KitchenAid whirr to life and turn butter, sugar, eggs, flour, and vanilla into something magical.  Stress?  What stress?

Of course, all this pie is no good without my favorite chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, which takes a dangerously short amount of time to whip up.

My stress level is low, but now all of my clothes are getting too tight.  Ten pounds up?  Check!  I joined Weight Watchers again, but after this weekend's sugar free-for-all, I don't know if I'll be going back for a few weeks.  I'm not ready to take the walk of shame to the public scale.  However, I truly am looking forward to getting back to a healthier lifestyle once Todd and I get settled.  I've scoped out the local YMCA and healthier-food stores and I'll be ready to put a plan into action.  Best of all, I can bake all day long, but just send the baked goods with Todd when he leaves for work!

I love it when a plan comes together!

Hope you have a great - and stress free - week.  Enjoy fall baking! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

the season, it is a' changin'

Halloween is definitely my favorite holiday.  I love everything about fall, and Halloween is right in the thick of it.  Black cats, dancing skeletons, and scary movies!  Chilly mornings, stormy nights, and cuddling by the bonfire! 

You only have to look at my craft stash to see where my holiday love lies.  I've got personalized Halloween stationary, post-it notes, countless rubber and acrylic stamps depicting various aspects of the holiday, skeleton candy sprinkles, Halloween cupcake liners, candy molds, treat bags, scrapbook paper, ribbons, stickers, vellum and chipboard shapes, cookie cutters, cake pans, and paper punches.  Now, I can add Halloween stencils to the list.

Now it's easy to use powdered sugar or cocoa to decorate holiday pies.  Way to go, Martha!

Unfortunately, this year all of my holiday paraphernalia is packed away in moving boxes...much like the rest of the house.  Empty bookcases...

...empty cabinets...empty shelves.  Hopefully we'll be closing on our new house one month from now!  And, while I can't enjoy my own Halloween goodies, I can at least try to appreciate what's around me...like this spooky neighborhood cat with positively glowing green eyes.  A perfect Halloween cat, you might say!

Meanwhile, I've been getting into the fall spirit around here with my usual seasonal bouquets.

I love spider mums, and they seem to last so much longer than 'regular' mums.  I've also been buying lilies.  I didn't use to like the smell...but it's been growing on me.

I just haven't had time to get outside with my camera, but I couldn't help but notice this small butterfly perched on our back screen door.

 Beautiful large, patterned eyes!

He only perched for a moment before taking off again. 

That's like my blog entry today, too...a brief perch, and now back to packing!

Have a great week!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Blessings, Boxes, and Bumble Bees

The first CS Lewis book I ever bought was Surprised by Joy.  I suppose that if I were writing the story of my life, this chapter would be called Surprised by Grace.  For two years, Todd and I wrestled with the uncertainty of our futures.  Should we move to the Pacific Northwest, where his family lives, and hope that God provided a job?  Would that act constitute ‘blind faith’ in God’s providence, or just plain foolishness on our part?  Should he give up the job search and put his energies wholeheartedly into our home business?  In that case, should we stay in Indiana, where the cost of living was much lower than out west?  Or, if he continued to look for work in his field, should we be less choosy about where we were willing to live?  Just how bad could Fresno be, anyway? 

As we struggled to decide, Todd continued to work hard on his dissertation, and we continued to pray for God’s guidance.  He obtained his PhD in November 2011, and we committed to one more year of job searching before reevaluating our options.

Suddenly, surprisingly, everything fell into place.  Originally, the timelines of the two schools that Todd had interviewed with didn’t line up, and in the spirit of A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, we had committed to taking the first offer.  We had a definite preference for Clemson, but I had a sinking feeling when viewing the timeline…if the first school made an offer, there’s no way that Clemson would have had time to interview all the candidates and make a decision.  The first school had some delays in their process, though, giving Clemson the necessary time, and when Todd got both offers, we were able to decide quickly. 

The idea of living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, surrounded by lakes and forests, with a moderate climate, and the job itself, made the decision to accept an easy one.

We found the perfect house for us, and our offer was accepted.  Todd spent a week at a toy show in Florida, and made the exact amount of money needed for the down payment on the new house.  Five days before his relocation, Todd was able to find a 2-month rental just 3 miles from the university, and yesterday, we accepted an offer on our house in Indianapolis. 

My grandpa used to call me a worrywart when I was growing up, and it’s true that I typically worry about everything I can’t control.  When Todd goes somewhere, I worry about drunks and crazed gunmen and half-asleep semi truck drivers.  I fret about social gatherings and mysterious pains (Todd:  “It’s NOT a tumor!”) and our dog’s obedience…or lack thereof.  Yet, throughout this entire process:  contemplating a long-distance move, being separated from my husband for 6 weeks,  running our business and packing up the entire house by myself, finding a house in Clemson, and selling this one, all in a very brief – and specific – amount of time…I’ve felt entirely calm.  A strange sense of peace has pervaded my life and as I sit here, watching my cats doze in the sunshine, with butterflies flocking to the flower beds just outside the window, I feel as if God is ticking off items on a checklist for us.  Perfect job?  Check.  Clemson house?  Check.  Down payment?  Check.  Selling the Indianapolis house?  Check.  I love this serene feeling, so atypical for me, and I feel completely awed as I contemplate these blessings from God. 

It doesn't happen all the time, but I love the times I can actually see God's hand in my life.  God is good!

Of course, it hasn't been entirely stress-free.  Our weekend looked like this:

Oh, and this:

And a whole lot of this:

But Todd finally got on the road and made it safely to Clemson yesterday.  Meanwhile, I took over his office.  I noticed Bosewichte looking wistfully at the sunny window formerly occupied by Todd's file cabinets, so I set up a little chair for him.

Someone became jealous, so soon the space looked like this:

It gives me great pleasure to type away at my desk while two cats snooze in the sun just over my shoulder.  

I've had just a little time for working in the yard, but I've seen quite a few interesting creatures during that short time.  A few mantises...

...and lots of butterflies.  Yellow ones...

White ones...


...and lots of Monarchs.  I love Monarchs, with their cheerful dotted bodies and their indifference to humans.  

If you move slowly, you'll be able to get quite close.  

Speaking of dotted, I've seen a lot of cucumber beetles...

And, of course, the usual assortment of bees.

I'm so glad that the drought is over, and that I'm able to spend a little bit of pre-autumn time outside, enjoying the sights!

I hope you can too...have a great week! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Home Sweet Home

I did something a little unconventional yesterday - I committed to buying a house that I've never actually seen.


I joked to Todd that the next time I play the party game "Truth Truth Lie", I'll have another outlandish "truth" that will help me win the game (besides "My parents used to hunt rattle snakes in Death Valley", "I once drove over a cliff", and "My high school friend once worked with an infamous serial killer"!). 

It's in Anderson, South Carolina, about 20 minutes from Todd's new job at Clemson University.  He was there last week with the son of a family friend, who videotaped their experience. 

The house was built in the 1940s and has a lot of charming features, I think.  There are four large bedrooms:

Bedroom and Patio

It has a cheerful kitchen with a big greenhouse window.  Just beyond the kitchen is one of my favorite features, a big sun room that overlooks the back yard and the 11-acre pond that borders the back of the property.

Kitchen and Sun Room

The house has a big finished basement with another bedroom and bathroom.


Beyond the basement is a one-car garage (perfect for storing our business) and a two-car carport (beneath the sun room).

The house sits on almost 1 1/2 acres.  A little white fence encloses a small area by the house - perfect for a vegetable garden!  In the front and side yard, I'll slowly start building a cottage garden!  I love the thought of being able to sit in the sun room and look down on the garden.

Front Yard

I'm so excited to really get settled in.  I feel like I've been a nomad for quite a while.  After high school, I moved several times:  to Indianapolis/Broad Ripple for 4 years, then to the south side of Indianapolis for 4 years, and to Portland, Oregon for several months before buying a house on the south side of Indianapolis about 8 years ago.  I moved into each of these homes with the knowledge that I wouldn't be staying for too long, which felt a bit unsettling because I'm the sort of person who has a very strong desire to put down roots somewhere.  For the past three years, while Todd has worked on his dissertation, we're talked about this:  where do you think we'll end up?  Now we know:  we're going to be in South Carolina, and in this house.

I can finally plant roses in the garden!