Jenyfer Matthews
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April 21st, 2014
Spring Flowers

The weekend weather wasn’t bad on the whole. It was a good bit colder and windier than I’d have liked for standing out on the soccer fields watching three games in a row, but it could have been a lot worse – it could have been snowing! Instead it was cold enough that I needed a coat and sunny enough that we all came home with sunburn on our faces.

Sunday’s weather was even nicer – sunny and warm. The forecast said it would be near 70F but our backyard thermometer read closer to 80F. I could believe it to – I worked up a sweat raking the front yard to collect all the fallen twigs and sticks, pinecones, and to “fluff” the grass to help it come back nice, particularly in the spots where it looked the most matted down from “snow mold” (a condition which I seriously thought that my lawn service was making up to sell me more stuff until I saw that mold for myself a couple weeks ago).

I had one sad little crocus come up out of the bag of bulbs I planted – and was promptly eaten. My tulips haven’t done more much than send up leaves so far – and I wonder if they’ll have time at this point – but I did see some other signs of spring.

There are hyacinths coming up here

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and there:

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And the daffodils are going to pop any day (I really ought to separate them):

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But the best surprise yet was to see that my asparagus survived the winter. I really wasn’t sure it would.

April flowers 001

Not sure if it is advisable to pick it yet this year since it is still fairly recently transplanted, but I’m thrilled to know that it lived – and it was especially appropriate for me to discover these stalks on Easter Sunday.

More rain and cold weather in the forecast for the week, but assuming the plants and birds know what is what I have more faith that it is actually finally spring.

April 18th, 2014
Same Old Story

Every time I have a few days off in a row I think of all the things I’ll be able to get done. And even though I ought to know better from past experience, I always seem to be surprised when I might only accomplish perhaps a third of what I actually had in mind. Sometimes I add in some other things I hadn’t planned on so that might up my percentage of progress a few points, but mostly I am just left wondering where all the time went.

The main project for which I was hired has yet to really get going at work so I got off a couple hours early yesterday – which was fine by me because I had some errands I needed to run before the children came home. And once they did come home that pretty much put an end to any sort of time I might have had for personal projects. That’s okay though – I mean I still had all day today and the weekend and Monday, right?

Hmmm… my son was off of school today and when kids are home I still get things done, but not usually the kind of things I find fulfilling or fun. On the scale of household chores I like more and less, I like laundry more than other things but wouldn’t exactly say it is fulfilling. I had planned to have started on the wedding present quilt by now however I haven’t even selected the fabric yet.

Soccer season has started and tomorrow the children have three games so there goes the afternoon (at least they are all at home!) I might be able to squeak in some “me time” on Sunday but I also have to make some time to guide my daughter through a few lessons in her homeschooling in which she is slightly behind. It’s always something.

I was talking to a lady at work the other day who is preparing to retire. She was talking about the need to have other interests in your life than just working, and that though she knows people who fear retiring because they have so little in their lives outside of work, she is looking forward to it. I was nodding in agreement because I too have lots of things to occupy my time. I said it to her and need to keep reminding myself that there is always tomorrow for the things I don’t accomplish today. I can’t remember the last time I was bored outside of an airport.

And if tomorrow doesn’t come, then I don’t suppose I’ll be too worried about the things I didn’t get done!

April 14th, 2014
Quilting for Life

There was a time when I was nearly obsessive about quilting. If I wasn’t piecing one, I was working on the hand-quilting for one. Sometimes I was doing both. And they weren’t little quilts – they were typically queen-sized quilts, sometimes verging on king-sized. Depending on the complexity of the pattern I could complete a quilt in about six weeks start to finish. E even made several quilts to order for people. I was practically my own sweat shop.

Believe it or not, I was most productive when my children were tiny. I know that is frequently a period of life when most moms are too busy or too tired to do anything for themselves but it was surprisingly easy for me. I was lucky you see – my daughter would take marathon naps. She would usually sleep from 1pm to 4pm and then would go to bed for the evening at about 8pm. My son wasn’t quite such a good napper but I still made the most of the couple hours I’d get in the afternoon and then, when they were tucked in for the night, I’d do some hand-quilting in front of the TV in the evening. At least an hour but sometimes two. It’s amazing how much you can get done in that much time.

I haven’t made many quilts lately – only one since we left Cairo in January 2011. In some ways it is hard to believe that I’ve slowed down that much but in other ways it is completely understandable. When I was in Egypt I didn’t have a house of my own to fix up, a yard to landscape, furniture to refinish. All the time and energy I used to devote to quilting alone now has to be shared among all the other activities I enjoy doing.

Why am I bringing this up now? Because quilting is on my mind. My daughter’s tennis coach is getting married in August and I want to make him and his (super sweet) fiancee a quilt as a wedding present. I can’t weasel out of it either because I already told them my plan so I could find out their preferred colors. That was back in January and I thought I had so much time. But here it is suddenly the middle of April and I’m thinking I better get started or I’m not going to make that deadline!

It’s a good thing I have enough fabric tucked away to stock a small quilt shop…like it or not, I’m pretty much locked into quilting for life!

April 11th, 2014
Better Late Than Never

Remember that table that I started to cover with candy wrappers? Probably not – I almost forgot about it myself!

I *think* I bought the table in the summer of 2012 and then it sat in my garage for a while before I had any idea of what to do with it. I didn’t really need a table when I got it, but we’d just moved into a big house and it was only $1 so how could I resist.

candy table makeover 001

I started working on it last January – of 2013 to be specific. It sat in my kitchen for a long time then I had some company over and put it in the basement and forgot about it.

candy table makeover 003

I got it back out in the summertime and then put it away again and forgot about it again. As much as I liked the idea of the candy wrappers they weren’t all as equally easy to deal with and I would get bored gluing them after a very short time. The table became a fixture in my kitchen when I was pretending to work on it and in my basement when I’d just give up for a while.

But I finally had the push I needed to get busy on it again. I bought a tabletop tennis racket stringer which required a low table to set it on. I happened to have a table like that – which my daughter was using as a nightstand. It occurred to me that I could take her nightstand for the stringer if I finished the candy wrapper table because that would be a great nightstand in a girl’s room.

Ta-dah!

candy table makeover4

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I’m not actually sure I like it as much as I liked the idea of it, but at least it is finally finished!!

April 9th, 2014
Whatever Works

The last few days have been beautiful here – almost 60F and mostly clear. Pretty enough that all of the snow in my yard has gone and so have the mounds of ice in my driveway. Warm and inviting enough that my children have been out in the driveway with the basketball and riding their bicycles around the neighborhood.

Pleasant enough that my son wanted to spend some time outside this afternoon. In a tree. With his Kindle.

tree time

He’s about seven feet up here and I’m assuming the fleece blanket was more about glare on his Kindle screen than about being cold. His position doesn’t look all that comfortable here to me, but he was out there for quite a while so he much have been happy enough.

I myself celebrated what I finally believe is the beginning of spring by removing the two fifty pound bags of sand I’d put in my trunk for traction this winter. If we have a freak snowstorm I guess you can blame me!

April 4th, 2014
Hope Springs Eternal

We’ve had ice and snow and crazy cold arctic temps this winter and now I’ve been told it’s spring and yet the ice and snow continue. In spite of what the calendar says, I’ve had my reservations about getting too invested in this supposed change of seasons.

And then I saw this in my yard today:

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They are smaller than they look in this picture but they are there. Tulips? Crocus? Not sure since I planted both in the same area, but it doesn’t matter what they are. If the bulbs are thinking it is spring after the harsh winter we’ve had, I’m much more inclined to believe them than I am the weathermen.

It’s currently raining and I’m thinking of taking advantage of the April showers and going out to toss some lupine seeds in my yard. They didn’t take last year… maybe this year?

April 2nd, 2014
Change of Scene

My current work schedule gives me Fridays and Mondays off so I thought I better take advantage of that while things are still on the slow side and my children are on spring break this week. In the end I made a last minute decision to take the kids and drive to Maryland over the weekend to visit my sister and her family. You know, because I don’t spend enough time in the car driving all over creation on a regular basis anyway!

It was a good trip. It was dark and cold and raining in Michigan when we left on Friday morning. I knew the weather in Maryland wasn’t forecast to be much better but it was supposed to at least going to be a little warmer. Ha! Saturday it was in 30s and raining which sounds yuck until I tell you that there was sleet and snow on Sunday! It was like the weather followed me or something.

Thank goodness that my trip was not planned around outdoor activities but was more about visiting people. I had some great time with my sister and was also able to go and visit a friend I met in Cairo who currently lives in Virginia but who will shortly be moving to Poland. And my niece introduced me to the game Cards Against Humanity which is hilariously sick and twisted and not at all appropriate for children.

Of course we had an absolutely beautiful day to drive home yesterday – which is probably just as well because I always forget that the passenger side window on my car leaks until we are on a road trip and it starts to rain and then drip on my daughter’s leg!

Back to cold and overcast. So far I’m not impressed, Spring.

March 28th, 2014
Super-Fantastic Shortcut

One of my most favorite dinners that my mother would make when I was younger was tacos. My mother worked full time so most of the time she did the quick version – warming up crunchy shells from a box and we filled them at the table ourselves with ground meat, shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, and shredded lettuce. “Quick” was relative since this was in the days before you could buy shredded cheese in a bag, salsa, or pre-washed lettuce.

(Salsa is the only thing of the above convenience items I personally use.)

But when my mother had a little more time she made “fancy”, more authentic, tacos. Her father had been a border patrol officer so their family had lived in Texas for a while. I won’t say that the tacos my grandfather learned to make were necessarily Mexican-authentic, but they certainly weren’t made with shells out of the box!

When my mother made the “fancy” tacos, she’d start with a pile of corn tortillas which she would soften by frying them in a shallow pool of oil. She’d do them quickly and stack them up, alternating them in layers of paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Then she’d make the ground beef filling as usual, fill each tortilla with beef and shredded cheese, then close the tortilla with a toothpick before putting them in the oven to bake. What came out was a wonderfully chewy taco that didn’t shatter the first time you took a bite.

Though I remember those tacos fondly, I have never made them. I have an aversion to frying anything and am far too lazy to go through that much trouble for a taco. So how thrilled was I when I ran across an idea on Pinterest for making oven baked tacos using crunchy shells from a box??

I wasn’t sure it would work – so many ideas on Pinterest don’t! – but these are fantastic! Very fast to put together and every bit as tasty as the “fancy” tacos my mother used to make – without a greasy mess to clean up. And little to no shattering :)

If my mother were still alive I know she would approve of this method – and probably wish that she’d thought of it first!

March 26th, 2014
Curiosity is a Good Thing

I have always thought that the keys to staying young were a sense of adventure and the desire to keep learning new things. I have a number of friends who are older than I am and that seems to be a common theme in all of them: an interest in life and in continually exploring and learning.

I do not yet consider myself old and if curiosity and learning new things truly do keep you young – at least in your attitude and mental space – then I’ve got it made with all I’ve had to absorb lately! Here are just a few of the things I’ve been dealing with this month:

* Algebra. My daughter is home schooling and while she is mostly self-directed using her online curriculum, she does need a lot of guidance in this subject. I’ve been outright astonished by how much I remember from my own days learning algebra the first time around but have also had to sit down and do her lessons with her so I can get the gist of what we’re looking at. I think I may be better at it now than I was when I was in high school. Or it could just be that false sense of thinking you know what you are doing right before the math teacher pulls the rug out from under you!

* Excel. My new job is primarily computer work. I was already proficient at Word but only had a very basic working knowledge Excel. I’ve been taking my own online classes in it over the last few weeks in addition to doing some work assignments in it.

* Tennis racket stringing. My daughter was going through a set of racket strings about once a month which doesn’t sound like much until you realize that it adds up to about $40/time (cost of strings + labor) We decided that it might be time to buy ourselves a racket stringing machine so we could in time only be paying for the cost of string and maybe even earn a bit of money by stringing rackets for other. How hard could it be, right? I’m sure it won’t be hard once I master it, but I’m fairly sure that splitting my lip with a pair of pliers shouldn’t be part of the process! (On the up side I didn’t chip a tooth or put out my eye)

* Time management. This one isn’t strictly new, I’m just learning to how to juggle a few more balls into the mix and keep them all going in a reasonably efficient manner.

* Letting go. Time for Momma to let her kids start to do some things for themselves!

At the rate I keep adding things to my learning list, I ought to stay young for a good long time. Need proof? I got carded at the grocery store this week!

March 21st, 2014
International Happiness Day

What better day for the forecast to be wrong. The weather forecast I heard for today said partly cloudy with a possibility of rain. So far it has been nothing but sunshine and temps in the mid-40s. Not exactly warm but so much better than it has been and warm enough that much of the snow in my front yard has disappeared. Only the deepest piles remain.

Now, if only the weather forecast calling for snow tonight will be wrong!

It’s been a good week. I spent some extra time in Ohio on Monday after the weekend because I didn’t get much of a chance to visit with my friend while I was taking my daughter back and forth to her tennis tournament (in which she did very well :) ) and because I wanted to check out a couple of awesome consignment / thrift stores while I was there. I may have to dress nice for work but that doesn’t mean I need to break the bank to do it.

I was hoping to find a few blouses and maybe some dress pants to extend my current wardrobe. I did so much better than I expected. I ended up finding two Ann Taylor pant suits for $10 each! I have no idea what something like that would cost new, but I know it would be more than $10 and I can wear the blazers separately from the pants to make them more mix and match. I also found three skirts and six blouses. All in all I got 16 pieces for an average price of $4.50 item by the time I was done.

But wait – that’s not all! I had today off so I went to check out a new secondhand shop I heard about here in town and found a Jones New York hot pink linen blazer for $1.50 plus three blouses. All in all I spent $5.50 on four things. I think I’m going to be a regular patron there!

My current work schedule is only three days a week during school hours with Monday and Fridays off. It is pretty much exactly the schedule I’d hoped for when I started looking but never expected to get. Another reason to be happy.

And in spite of the snow in the forecast it does appear that spring is on the way. Can’t wait to see my tulips.