Sunday, March 20, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Jason was gone last week with the Navy Reserves so the Sweetheart and I decided to take off for our second home in the Willamette Valley.  

I have to tell you, no matter how well you plan a visit, there are always things you can't quite seem to get to and people you can't quite seem to see.  I think that might just be a part of living far away.  It sucks, but you do your best.  

Our week was pretty packed.  We left on Sunday, which happened to be the day of the big wind storm that hit the Valley rather unexpectedly.  Driving down out of the mountains on Highway 58 was quite an experience.  We had stopped for a late lunch in Oakridge and just as we were getting up to the drive-through window there was a flash and the entire town lost power.  No McD's for us.  We didn't actually even see the winds until we got a bit further down Hwy 58, below Oakridge.  Suddenly I saw ahead of us the tops of giant evergreens bending and twisting and all I could think of was (in a Ross-Geller-from-Friends voice), Uh-oh.  After that we were dodging tree branch flotsam and jetsam and a couple trees that had fallen over half of the highway.  Rain and winds buffeted our GMC Acadia and I was driving pretty white-knuckled and prayerful.  We finally made it to Paul & Anne's house in Junction City only to discover that power was out there, too.  Rumors were flying that the power would be out for a couple days, so the Nunn family packed 'em up and headed out with us to Albany where, miraculously, there was power.  

So our week had a bumpy start but soon smoothed out.  Siennalee was able to get in quality playtime not only with her cousins, but also with the Davis boys, the Rouse girls, and the Schneiter boys.  She even managed to have some time without mommy.  I was able to do some much-needed Mommy Only Day shopping up at the local outlet malls with my sister-in-law Cheri, as well as some shopping on my own in Eugene.  An entire day to myself!  I also got to meet with my fabulous writing group girls and even got to have a Moms Only coffee date.  My only regret is that I didn't get to spend more time with more dear friends and family.  And there's a certain scarf I regret leaving behind back at the outlet malls.  :)

Thank you to my wonderful mom who housed and fed us, thank you to Anne who watched my kiddo and planned and re-planned events with me, thanks to my sister-in-law Cheri who let me drag her around for most of a day of shopping, and thanks to my writing group and friends who squeezed me into their routines.  I love you guys!

We got back home to our Klamath Falls townhouse yesterday afternoon and have been loving being back home.  It's odd to have your heart in multiple places.  I miss my family and friends like nothing else - but yet to be back in our little nest is so comforting.  I suppose this is the way it is when we live away from each other.  Another detail of Heaven which makes it so worth getting there.  :)

Siennalee has been spending time working out a little cold bug we imported from the Valley and also getting reacquainted with her toys.  This morning she got her blocks out and built "a little house on the mountain."  It looked sweetly familiar.

Home Sweet Home. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

30 Rock{s}: Happy Birthday Anne

Today is a very special day.  Today marks my sweet sister-in-law Anne's 30th birthday.

When I was a fresh-from-YWAM 19-year-old and taught drama at my local Christian School (and alma mater), Anne was my very worst student.  She was a terrible, terrible actress.  I spent extra time with her after classes trying to either coax the drama out or shove the drama in - whatever might work.  Anne was a quiet, sweet girl (mostly) and - as I knew from reading my brother Paul's diaries - my younger brother's big crush.

Since it began to occur to me that Anne was likely never to star on Broadway or even just quit school and thumb her way down towards Hollywood, I decided to pull some completely unprofessional drama teacher strings and set things up to where Paul and Anne had to regularly interact with each other in key parts of our production.  (Please note: I never actually was a "professional" drama teacher.)

I was also Machiavellian enough to send another boy - who had a crush on Anne as well - in a completely different direction and therefore would have no interaction with Anne at all.  (Please note: the school did not ask me to return to teaching.)

And although Paul will not only deny ever even owning a diary, but also deny I had a hand in their budding high school romance, I think the proof is in the 19-year-old devious drama teacher pudding.  (And I'll save any further pudding proof for a possible "Happy 10 Year Anniversary Paul and Anne Please Send My Matchmaker Fee to my Child's College Education Savings Account" post.)

However it all came about, I really just want to say how very blessed I am to have gotten a sister out of the whole my-younger-brother-got-married-before-I-did deal.

I never could have imagined how very blessed I would be that my very first sister-in-law has become such a dear friend to my heart.

I never could have imagined, way back in the day when she was practicing so very hard at the part she was so very awful at - yet she kept working and working and working at it - I never could have imagined back then what a powerful and sweet force she would become in my life.

How I would watch her marry my brother and build a beautiful little home with him.

How I sat in that hospital room on that heartbreaking day when we lost our families' very first babies - how I watched her sleep and wondered at how very strong she was, this little girl in the big white hospital bed.

How I rejoiced with her when we found out that Isabella Hope would born healthy and she and Paul would finally be able to take their little baby home to that beautiful little house they'd made.

How my own daughter and Anne's second daughter Gracey would grow together as perfect playmates.

How Anne continually worked and worked and worked in her photography, studying and learning and practicing, not only building a strong, solid business that will last through the years, but creating timeless art out of the precious moments of people's lives.

How she endured personal hardship and heartbreak through the past year especially, pushing past her own hurts and disappointments and choosing to trust in and rely on God to be her Father and her advocate.

How she loves and cares for my stubborn, stubborn, tenderhearted brother.

How she has become the sister of my heart and a touchstone of joy in my life.

I never could have imagined all this of the little dark-haired girl I almost didn't notice in my drama class.

Happy Birthday, Anne.  

And by the way, 30 does rock.

This is an old picture - I wish I had a *really* old one of us when we were both younger and had bigger eyebrows (okay, that was just me).  Looks like we need more pictures together, Anne.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Good Things: Posts, Cleaners, and Oh Look - a Recipe!

Good Things: some quick reviews on some of the newest - and quite random, I assure you - things I've lately discovered.

1., SmartCat Ultimate Scratching Post

SmartCat Ultimate Scratching Post
The SmartCat Ultimate Scratching Post really is all it proclaims itself to be.  Gunther took to it quickly and in the month or so that we've had it, kitty-cat has generally ignored the other features of the house on which he was starting to sharpen those growing kitty claws.  

The scratching post is quite tall - tall enough that a cat can get in a really good, satisfying stretch as well as (as the picture indicates) do a bit of climbing.  (Please note: the cat in the picture is not my actual cat.)  

We also got the SmartCat Perch for the Ultimate Scratching Post which fits nicely on the top of the post and gives Gunther a place to climb to and, well, perch.  Since the post is so tall, he gets a good view of the house, as well as the birds and activities outside yonder window, and probably feels a smug reinforcement of that overall sense that he does indeed own his home.

The post is covered with a rough, jute-like material that he seems to really enjoy scratching.  

The Ultimate Scratching Post, plus Perch, was in all a bit more spendy than some of the scratching posts out there, but the craftsmanship of this post is so solid and the features so perfectly geared for Gunther that I've no doubt the Ultimate Scratching Post will far outlast most of the other like-minded products on the market.  Two thumbs up!
2., Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day

Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Products
In an effort to begin to steer my household toward more natural cleaning products, I discovered Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day.  

My first purchase was a countertop spray in a seasonal smell called orange clove and my-oh-my did it make wiping the counters into a whole new experience.  Even before my orange clove counter spray ran out, I was scoping the rest of the Mrs. Meyer's line-up for its replacement.  

Mrs. Meyer's product scent choices are incredible:  basil, lavender, lemon verbena, geranium, and several seasonal offerings.  I have to admit that the geranium scent is a bit too perfume-y for my taste, but I found the others so pleasant that it was very hard to choose.  I finally settled on basil and am very happy with my choice.  I routinely use the countertop spray and have now added the all purpose cleaner to my arsenal of household cleaners.

Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day products do run a bit higher price-wise than the routine cleaning product; however, if you price them next to other natural cleaners you'll likely find the cost fairy comparable.  I started out with the countertop spray, just to test out the scent and the quality of cleaning.  As my other cleaners run out, I'll be replacing them with more natural cleaners and will likely continue using the Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day line as cost and cleaning quality continue to line up.

Using Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day products is a treat.  It's a little out-of-the-ordinary way to lend a big something special to a very ordinary thing: cleaning.  You're left with a beautifully clean and extraordinarily scented home. 

3., Recipe: Roast Sticky Chicken - Rotisserie Style

Now, if I'd been consulted prior to the naming of this recipe, Roast Sticky Chicken-Rotisserie Style, I certainly would have pushed for a better - or just plain different - name.  Even now that I've made it, the name is still a quandary.  I get the "roast" part, and the "chicken" is a given, and the "rotisserie style" - yes, also important.  But the "sticky?"  

Let's move on.

This recipe is a fabulous roast chicken recipe.  And yes, it is the closest thing to a rotisserie style chicken (without the actual use of an actual rotisserie, or dropping by the grocery store) that you can get.  And the most important part?  It. Is. Fabulous.  

This is a recipe off, which has been one of my go-to recipe sites for nearly 8 years now.  The most important part of this recipe is to add the seasoning to the chicken and then let it "marinate" in the fridge for at least 6-8 hours.  (I let mine hang out in the icebox overnight and probably will do it the same way the next time I make this.)  Another key to this recipe, besides letting it "marinate," is to stuff a quartered onion - and I also added a halved head of garlic - into the cavity.  The chicken is going to take a long time to cook - nearly 5 hours at 250 - but it is SO worth it.  (The recipe calls for two small fryers but I used one big one and it still turned out beautifully.) 

If you find yourself suddenly in the market for a smashingly good roast chicken recipe, do try this one.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Good Things

I have been sorely missing having a camera to document life.  I must admit that not having a camera - along with some other busy-ness that has recently come my way - has contributed greatly to my relapse in blogging inconsistency, or as the professionals call it: "B.I."

So what's to be done?  In my free moments, I've been trying to think outside my usual "blog box."  This, of course, is best done by talking to myself in the third person.  "Okay, Jessica," I say while wiping down the counters in the kitchen and ignoring the alarmed face my Sweetheart makes when she catches Mommie talking to herself, "so you can't take cute, funny, or sweet pictures of the family, you can't set up and capture images the way you picture they should be when you want to add something fun or informative to a blog post... so what else can you do?"  Then I stop and (turn around so my Sweetheart can't see me continuing the external inner dialog monologue and) ask myself the money question, "What do YOU enjoy in a blog?" 

Well, aside from the fabulous photography blogs I haunt, my other favorite blogs happen to feature motherhood experiences and family stories, which as we've already covered tend to - in my mind - require pictures.  So what else?  And there it was.

I love to read about new things friends have discovered - a new local restaurant, a great book series, children's books and toys, new recipes, techniques in cleaning & time management, fun clothing styles, good deals, etc.  Even things I can't necessarily do any time soon I'm still fond of reading about, such as a couple posts I recently enjoyed very much written by a friend who is keeping chickens. 

So, in the vein of giving back a little of what I - as a blog reader myself - enjoy so much, I'm going to do a post on good things.  (I also briefly considered just calling it "Martha," but then decided that may possibly put off too many of my readers.)  (I also reconsidered this - again briefly - when it occurred to me that I could possibly be contacted by some friends of Martha who happen to be of the legal persuasion.)  (Oh let's just roll the dice, shall we?) 

Good Things: some very quick reviews on some of the newest - and quite random, I assure you - things I've lately discovered.

Oh, and since I'm trying my best to vary my short and long(er) blog posts, the first of my Good Things posts will be forthcoming.

So here's a picture (of good things, of course):