Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Special Thanksgiving Guest (Saint Kateri)

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, we celebrated a belated Thanksgiving feast due to my husband's fire department schedule.

And, since extended family were not available to share in our Thanksgiving meal, it was a simple and quiet holiday.

We did have one special guest grace us with her presence though...

 ...meet Saint Kateri Tekakwitha!





Affectionately known as Lily of the Mohawks, Kateri was officially canonized a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in October of this year.  Saint Kateri is the first Native American to be canonized.





Born in the year 1656 in what is now present-day New York, Kateri was the daughter of a Mohawk warrior and Algonquin mother.  She was orphaned at age 4 when a smallpox outbreak killed her parents and brother.  She was adopted by two aunts and an uncle.

Kateri's conversion to Catholicism occurred when she was twenty and she was given the baptismal name Catherine Tekakwitha.  She suffered greatly for her Christian conversion at the hands of her native tribe. Eventually, she went to live with a new Christian colony of Indians in Canada. She died at the age of 24 in 1680.

Saint Kateri's feast day is on July 14th.  She is the patroness of the environment and ecology. 


This was actually Mary Catherine's Halloween/All Saint's Day costume this year.  Unfortunately, both of my school-age kiddos contracted Fifth's Disease and were sent home from school the day of their All Saint's Day parties.  Boo!

I can't even tell you how disappointed my kiddos were...and maybe one sad mama too!

I painstakingly spent hours creating this costume and sewing on embellishments.  Mary and I ran around like crazies finding silk lilies and the cross made from nails as part of her costume props.

It's okay though...their costumes were so big (I mistakenly purchased a toddler size Native American pattern and had to YouTube video search to teach myself how to lengthen it) that they will be able to wear them again next year.

Of course, that's if I can convince them!

To learn more about Kateri Tekakwitha you can go here or here.


 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Creamy Tomato-Basil Parmesan Soup

Due to my husband's fire department schedule we celebrated our Thanksgiving on Friday. Which is okay because, truly, every day we should be giving thanks!

"Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  
In all circumstances give thanks..."
1 Thess.  5: 16-18 

So, on traditional Turkey Day, while my little ones camped out before the television to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and my husband was on duty putting out turkey fryer fires and/or administering first aid for oven burns,  I tried out a new recipe that I found via Pinterest...Tomato-Basil Parmesan soup. 

You make it in your crock pot and it is delicious.  I made a few adjustments to the recipe for my kiddos' sake, but otherwise it is delicious as is.  Plan on making this one for your next "snow day" kind of day!



Image and Recipe courtesy of We Pass the Time of Day blog

 
Tomato-Basil Parmesan Soup

Ingredients
2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes, with juice
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup finely diced onions
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 T fresh oregano
1 T dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh basil
4 cups chicken broth
½ bay leaf
½ cup flour
1 cup Parmesan cheese
½ cup butter
2 cups half and half, warmed (I would go with only a cup and a half though)
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper

Directions
1. Add tomatoes, celery, carrots, chicken broth, onions, oregano, basil, and bay leaf to a large slow cooker.

2. Cover and cook on LOW for 5-7 hours, until flavors are blended and vegetables are soft.


(Here is where I made an adjustment...my kiddos are not big veggie eaters...but do love soups. At this point in the recipe, I transferred the warmed soup and veggies to my blender.  I pulverized those veggies into the soup base!  They never knew...)  :)

3. About 30 minutes before serving prepare a roux. Melt butter over low heat in a skillet and add flour. Stir constantly with a whisk for 5-7 minutes. Slowly stir in 1 cup hot soup. Add another 3 cups and stir until smooth. Add all back into the slow cooker. Stir and add the Parmesan cheese, warmed half and half, salt and pepper. Add additional basil and oregano if needed (the slow cooker does a number on spices and they get bland over time, so don't be afraid to always season to taste at the end).

4. Cover and cook on LOW for another 30 minutes or so until ready to serve.

I served our soup with both crunchy garlic croutons and soft french bread mini loaves that I picked up from the bakery.



"Only the pure in heart can make a good soup."
~Ludwig van Beethoven~
 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fire Station Birthday Party

Our sweet Benjamin turned "6" in mid-November and he requested a "fire fighter" themed birthday party for his first "friends" get-together.

Since daddy is currently a fire captain with a suburban fire department, I took full advantage of a "themed" party location!

Now, I don't know about you, but I love finding party inspiration out in blogland and Pinterest, but I've got to be honest...many of these child-themed parties, while a delight to the eyes, are a bit over the top...budget wise...for this fire fighter/stay-at-home mom family! So I tried to create a memorable party for our little guy on a conservative budget.

I created the party invites on Snapfish.  They have "in-store pick up" locations and I wanted to get the invitations out quickly.  In addition, I had a cute picture of Benjamin that I had snapped while visiting daddy at the fire station one afternoon that I really wanted to use.  Here's how they turned out...




I used the invite as part of the table decorations at the fire station. To give the invite a bit of a "pop" I mounted it on black glitter card stock and trimmed the edges using a pair of Fiskars scissors.

The colors for the party were light blue, red, and black.  I pulled these colors from Benjamin's bedding. (Ignore the sponge bob sheets in the background! ;)




Table decorations were quite simple.  (I felt it was important to be respectful of the fire fighter's space.  After all, these men and women work/eat/sleep at the station for 24-hours...their home away from home.  I wanted to be conscientious of that fact and not invade their space too much!) I used light blue for the table cloth and red and black paper products.  

Plastic utensils were wrapped in paper napkins and tied with a sweet ribbon!



Balloon bouquets attached to authentic fire helmets were also part of the table setting as were the red velvet cupcakes with the fire fighter themed picks I created here.

(Fun Fire Fighter Fact...the color of your helmet determines your rank within the department.  Red signifies fire fighter/fire medic, black is for lieutenant.  Fire Captains wear yellow helmets and Chiefs sport white.)






Finally, each child went home with a simple goody bag filled with fire fighter scrapbooking stickers as well as a fire truck Matchbox car.  In addition, I included a few pieces of candy to accompany this "thank you" message that I had put on display...





Overall, I was able to do all of the decorations, goody bags, candy, and food for around $75.00. 

By the way...those 6 helium balloons...were the last ones available at the store for the day! I felt really bad stepping up to the counter before another customer did...after the manager walked over and told the clerk to shut down the balloon station.  Why is helium so hard to come by anymore???



 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sound the Alarm!

Sound the alarm
and get to the station 
to join us for BENJAMIN'S 
6th Birthday celebration!

We were all fired up around here to celebrate middle child's SIXTH birthday!  It is so hard to believe that our sweet and beautiful miracle of a child is now six and in kindergarten.

So how does one celebrate their first "friends" party when their dad's a fire fighter...

...why at the Fire Station, of course!

Here's just a sampling of some very simple yet sweet decorations I created for the party...

Using my circular punches I created my very own cupcake picks.




Since I was feeding a group of kindergartners at the fire station, I wanted disposable cuteness.  What's cuter than coordinating plastic utensils, paper products, and ribbon?!!! Ribbon makes anything cute!


And finally, the goody bags.  I really try hard not to send home junk.  I feel like so many of us are trying to simplify...reduce/reuse...and be rid of clutter.  I hate to create more.  So, I invested in some really cool fire fighter themed scrapbooking stickers and gave each kiddo one fire truck themed Matchbox car.  What 5 or 6 year old boy/girl doesn't appreciate a new Matchbox car?!!!


EMT Pack  (Ben's daddy is also a paramedic) and the Brush Fire Pack...because we live in Kansas and have lots of prairie/grass fires...especially with this drought!

Again...cute ribbon!

 I promise to be back tomorrow with fire station party highlights.  The party was a success...to quote Benjamin, "It was the best party I've ever had." 

I didn't remind him it was the only "party" he's ever had! 

Love that sweet boy of mine.






Friday, November 9, 2012

Winter Car Care Gift Items

For some reason, I really struggle when it comes to finding the perfect gift for my father or father-in-law when it comes to their birthdays or holidays. Maybe because I'm trying to make it too PERFECT?!!!

But not this year!

This year, I have pinned several links for "Manly Stocking Stuffers" or "50 Ways to Show your Hubby you Love Him".  There are lots of great ideas that got my creative juices flowing, and in the end I created my very own...

..."Winter Weather Car Care Bucket".  Here's what I included:




Ice cleats, hand and glove warmers, as well as this collapsible snow shovel were all big hits.  The de-icer and ergonomic ice scrapper were also appreciated.  I had a lot of fun picking out and individually wrapping each gift item and my dad really appreciated the thought.  He especially liked those rubber ice cleats seeing how he slipped on the icy driveway last winter!

As wintry weather approaches (and already has for our East Coast and West Coast friends!) consider giving your loved ones a winter weather car care bucket.  One can never be too prepared at this time of year.

P.S.  (I probably need to make one of these for my mom's car too...only it's not the most romantic or feminine gift for a mom/mimi who is truly all sugar and spice!)

 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Surgery Update!

First, a HUGE thank you to all of you that stopped by to leave a blog comment, kept me in your prayers, or sent a card or phone call. I appreciate each and every one of you!

Surgery was a success.

At least in terms of the actual procedure.

 While I am experiencing pain, it is completely manageable and I'm resting comfortably.

Chris was able to be home with me all day yesterday and is working half days this week to be home in the afternoons with me. Especially to help out with the little ones.

 My sweet carpool friend, Kim, rearranged her work schedule to pick up my kiddos every day this week and the entire Kindergarten and 2nd grade classes at St. Paul included me in their prayers.

God is good and answered all of you in the blessings he has showered upon me!

So, thank you again.

And now, if I could direct your prayers to another sweet blogger friend, Jamie Jo. Her precious baby boy, sweet Simeon, will be undergoing yet another cleft palate surgery, tomorrow. I know her heart is anxious for her little boy and she is asking for our prayers!  Please, visit Simeon and see his amazing blue eyes and beautiful face and let her know you will be storming the heavens with another surgery prayer request.

Hugs,

Val



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Surgery this Morning!

Today is the day.

No, I'm not talking about Election Day. I think we've all had enough of that already...am I right?!!! Just be sure to vote!

Anyway, by the time your read this post, I should be out of surgery.

I, and when I say "I" I really mean "we" (Chris and me) decided that it was time to do something permanent to fix this foot injury of mine. The one that I've been limping on for over two years.

 The solution to cure this chronic case of plantar fasciitis?

Gastrocnemius surgery.

Gastroc-what?

Gastrocnemius surgery. A surgery which actually lengthens the calf muscle.


As you can see from the diagram, the gastrocnemius muscle (or calf muscle) tapers down toward the ankle.

This is where I start having trouble!

These next two images do a great job showing how all of our muscles and tendons work in concert!  When one becomes injured and uncorrected...it can lead to subsequent injuries.


The source of my chronic, debilitating pain!



Apparently, tight calf muscles can aggravate a chronic plantar fascia injury.  So, while my calf muscle is not technically injured...it seems to be the culprit in my inability to heal my plantar fascia.

Drastic?

Maybe.  But I've tried every therapy/home remedy out there and nothing has helped.  I'm maxed out on my lifetime cortisone allotments and my physical therapist essentially "gave up" in trying to help me heal up my foot.

I suppose there's always amputation.

Which I asked for.

My orthopaedic surgeon swears this is the answer before getting an awesome amputee runner's foot!  LOL

Speaking of running...

...he's completed this surgery on many different types of athletes (and non-athletes) and none have not healed successfully and went on to continue being active.  He's even done this on a multiple-time marathon runner.

And that my friends, is my New Year's Resolution for 2013...

...to run 13.1 (the half-marathon) here in Kansas City with two sweet friends that trained and completed their first half-marathon this past October!  Both are excited for me to train with them when I get the green light.

For now though, rest and recuperation.  Full walking cast 24/7 for two weeks then full walking cast at night for 6 weeks.  ugh!  At the eight week mark, if physical therapy is not required for ankle strengthening, I'll be able to begin slowly exercising again.  Basically, I'm looking at using the treadmill in the basement come January!

The key to non-injury will be slow and steady progress.

I can do this.  I took it slow and steady last Summer to take off the weight and have been able to maintain my loss this Fall even with taking a break from exercise.

So, prayers for a successful recovery would be most appreciated!  And you'll probably see me around a lot since I'll be confined to the couch for the next couple of days.

Don't think I won't be milking this every.step. (pun intended!) of.the.way.