Sunday, July 29, 2012

52 Blessings - You Can Pick

Oh gee. This video represents so many blessings. You pick:


He is one incredible blessing, he is as Calvin calls him, "Abe the Great."

cameras and voice recordings

I have watched this video again and again so that I can hear Abe's voice and see his face. Just hearing his tone and dialogue reminds me of him in other places and other situations, besides helping me to see where he is now.  Enhancing our memories is one of the blessings of cameras and recordings.


I am blessed to live in a country where so many are willing to volunteer to preserve her freedoms and keep her people safe. Sometimes soldiers are like air, or family, or sunshine, or any of those other things that we take for granted because they quietly do what they need to do and make our life easier so that we can dwell on trivial things like what shall we eat, or what shall we wear, or shall we watch the Olympics or not this week.


One man helping another man, one family helping another family, and one country helping another country are all examples of service.  Serving others, I have discovered, is where the blessings of life are found.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Life in My World – Let Them Eat Cake

Calvin is cooking for 160-180 Boy Scouts and their leaders next week.  I am his sous chef and you can bet I’m feeding him vitamins, and making sure he wears his seatbelt, and goes to bed on time so that I don’t become the head chef by default, because that would be a disaster (especially since we’re cooking without electricity or running water and have 20 coolers of food to be moved, monitored, and kept cold). 

Calvin has spent the last month computing, price comparing, and organizing the excel spreadsheets of menus, supplies, and prices.  My job has been more of the consulting kind – like figuring quantities and reminding him what teenagers eat.  (And that is why I made 40 cakes and 300 brownies in the last two days.)

This morning we left the house before 5:00 to buy groceries.  After 18 hours and several thousand dollars we have returned.  More than once as we stacked, transferred, moved, and loaded, I thought what a blessing for Moses that the manna grew (dropped?) beside the trail.  Mainly because manna took the guess work out of feeding the masses.  I swear we spent more time in the candy bar and potato chip aisle deciding upon flavors than anywhere else.

I’ll keep you posted.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thursday Thinking – “Seeing”

Last night I stayed up late-for-me finishing a book.  I seldom (if ever) fall asleep after Calvin, so last night as I lay in bed reading by a flashlight I heard and saw things that I normally miss.  Things like bugs drawn to the flashlight.  (And while I slapped the first one, the second one must have landed on Calvin for he no longer buzzed, but he didn’t bite me.)  Next a little spider hurried across the book.  It was a library loan and I didn’t want to smear the pages so I let him crawl and a few minutes later he made his way back safely using the same route and I just watched him.  While the night noise of the frogs was familiar, Calvin’s twitching and jerking as he drifted off to sleep were not.  I realized how many little things I miss by always falling asleep first. 
The book was very pleasant with little drama, so after I finished it and turned off the flashlight, I rolled next to Calvin determined to lie quietly and think of all the good little things I hadn’t been appreciating all these years, and how I could be more observant in the future.  Habit proved too strong.  I was sound asleep before giving them their proper thoughts.
Though I didn’t have a revelatory dream, this morning I woke and read Annie Dillard’s essay “Seeing.”  It might as well have been a revelation for it reaffirmed those things I’d thought about the peaceful night before.  Ms. Dillard wrote:
“When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find.  It was a curious compulsion; sadly, I’ve never been seized by it since.  For some reason I always “hid” the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street.  I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore, say, or in a hole left by a chipped-off piece of sidewalk.  Then I would take a piece of chalk, and, starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny from both directions.  After I learned to write I labeled the arrows:  SURPRISE AHEAD or MONEY THIS WAY.  I was greatly excited, during all this arrow-drawing, at the thought of the first lucky passer-by who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe.  But I never lurked about.  I would go straight home and not give the matter another thought, until, some months later, I would be gripped again by the impulse to hide another penny.
“It is still the first week in January, and I’ve got great plans.  I’ve been thinking about seeing.  There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises.  The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand.  But – and this is the point – who gets excited by a mere penny?  If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kit paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way?  It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny.  But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.  It is that simple.   What you see is what you get.”
Of course!  Life is that simple.  Calvin says, “Wysiwyg” and “This is the stuff dreams are made of” (especially when he eats a good piece of beef or the heart of a watermelon) all. the. time. They're even in his book of Calvinisms.  He must have learned it while I was asleep. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Homemaking Tip - Brown Paper Package Tied Up with String

A few weeks ago at our scrapbooking retreat, Susan and I were in charge of the lunch meal.  Susan made ham sliders and mint brownies.  We put the sliders in a coffee filter and then packed the lunch around them in these little brown boxes (you can order them off the internet or get them from a restaurant supply store like Cash & Carry).

We sealed the boxes with a sticker punched from contact paper and tied them up with baker's twine.  They made a cute presentation.

Today I packed banana coconut muffins in these boxes to give away.  I don't know which I like best, the stickers made from contact paper or the brown paper package tied up with string.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday Tried It - Coconut Banana Bread

            I’ve been making banana bread since I was nine years old.  When you’re eight, you make snickerdoodles and when you’re nine you make banana bread.  That’s how cooking goes in 4-H.
            As all 4-H’ers know you make batch after batch after batch after batch (and that is no exaggeration) of the same thing all summer long trying to perfect it before the fair.  And then at the fair, behind closed doors in the white and green 4-H building, the judge takes one bite of your baked good and either gives you a blue, red, or white ribbon.  (There are many mysteries in life and one of them is how that judge determines who gets the blue ribbons since all 46 entries use the same recipe and put use a doily for presentation.) 
            As a result of all those batches of Snickerdoodles and banana bread (there were seven of us 4-H cooking sisters in our family), I don’t have much of a stomach for either today.  But more than I hate banana bread, I hate wasting.  When I cleaned out the refrigerator-freezer this week and saw two baggies of frozen bananas I made banana bread.  But, because I also found a cup of coconut milk (leftover from a batch of coconut syrup three months ago) in the back of the freezer, I tried a new pinterest recipe:  (click on link for original pin) Coconut Banana Bread 
            I followed the recipe for the first two steps and then shortcut my way through the rest of it.  I made them into muffins so that . . . so that . . . so that I would have some to share.  And since they were muffins it was easy to add a crumble topping which I hoped would make them taste even less like banana bread. 

Coconut Banana Bread

½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp each vanilla and almond extract
2 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
3 mashed overripe bananas (about 1 cup)
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup coconut

Crumb Topping
¼ cup softened butter
½ cup flour
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup coconut

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In mixing bowl mix oil and sugar.  Add eggs, vanilla, and almond extract.
  3. Mix dry ingredients in separate bowl. 
  4. Mix bananas and coconut milk in yet another bowl.
  5. Gradually add the dry ingredients alternately with the banana and milk mixture.  Start and end with the dry ingredients.  Stir in coconut.
  6. Line muffin pans with cupcake liners and fill cups 2/3 full of batter.  Sprinkle with crumb topping and bake for 20-23 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 

They were good! And, if you already love banana bread (and you like coconut), then I bet you will think this recipe is really, really good.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Memories - Wagons Ho

We don’t have a boat, we don’t have a camper, we don’t even have a ping pong table anymore and Calvin and I worried (with some validity) through the years that our family would struggle from a lack of “wholesome family activities.”

We forgot to take into account that our family is easily entertained, and we have always lived on a gravel road where we can walk four abreast.

me (nine months pregnant with Ty) and wearing my favorite Nike shoes, Abe, and Cali 

Our first wagon was my sister's that we borrowed.  I tied a twine to the handle so it would be long enough to pull, put a blanket in the bottom for some semblance of a cushion, and when Cali was about a year old put her in it and went on walks.  We walked for miles.  When Abe joined the family I worried a bit about scrambling his little baby brain on those bumpy rides, but sanity comes at a cost and those walks provided it for the three of us so we rattled along anyway.  By the time Ty came along the little wagon was clear full and Cali, who was three by then, often opted to run along beside it rather than bend her knees.  When Ande joined us, it was no longer an option; Cali had to trot along and she did it happily.  

The five of us literally ran the wheels off that wagon. The rims of the black wheels stayed in tact, but the tread wore completely away. I was just glad it didn't happen until all four kids could walk. I don't know what my sister did with it once I quit "borrowing" it.

We still live on a gravel road that is good for walking. Levin is now too heavy to carry very far and Afton soon will be, so I've been on the lookout for a wagon. I found one at a flea market for $10 a couple of weeks ago.

me, Afton, Levin, Ty

Levin took it on the trial run.  I tied a twine to the handle to make it easier to pull, put a towel in the bottom, and gave Levin a few rocks to hold.  His little boy sounds soon vibrated into a vibrato and he began to sing.  Between the rocks and his voice he was one content little boy while the rest of us visited about this, that, and the other and the wagon rattled along behind us.  Later we added Afton.  Levin didn't like her quite as well as the rocks and tried to push her back out, but Afton is mature and doesn't take things like that personal so a wholesome activity it still can be.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

52 Blessings - Extrovert

Ray and I have had the discussion more than once on whether we are introverted or extroverted people. I have contended that I am an introvert and Ray has listened to that assertion, but with slightly raised eyebrows.

My definition of extrovert was one who looked forward to big parties and gatherings and thrived on the attention that comes from them, while I saw an introvert as someone who liked to feed her chickens and vacuum.

One day Ray shared the business definition of introvert and extrovert. He explained it as simply "from where do you draw your energy?" Do you become recharged after being around others, or are you revitalized after time alone.

I still thought I leaned toward the introvert team.

However, after our family gathering last week Ray said that he is sure and certain that I am an extrovert. He observed that I draw energy from being with my family. As evidence he noted that I even asked for a family toast, and while that's not completely correct, I did revel in them. (It was Sunday dinner. At Sunday dinner we have always discussed what we learned during church that day. I began the discussion by saying, "It's Sunday dinner and you know what that means. Grace, what did you learn in church today." Somebody [probably Ray] interjected, "How about we each give a toast to Janey Payney instead." Far be it from me to turn down such a thoughtful gift. And their words were thoughtful. Very kind and energizing.)

Ray was absolutely right, I do draw energy from my family. I guess I am an extrovert.

Last weekend while we were together, we had several family nights (besides all the activities) and after each one I did feel revitalized.

Michelle, Afton, Ty, me, Calvin, Cali, Ray, Ande, Grace

After church on Sunday we stopped by the cemetery. It was so calm as we sat there in the slight breeze and quietly visited. Calvin asked Ray to share his testimony of the gospel with us and it was one of those moments that you know is going to end, but you wished it would last longer.

Later that evening we had a regular family home evening where Calvin taught us a lesson, we did "parts," played games, and ate candy.

Calvin reading one of his favorite chapters of scripture to us and then telling us that he
knew of its truth

My favorite song is Pachabel's Canon in D.   Cali began piano lessons last
year and asked her teacher to help her learn that song so that she could play it for me
as a surprise birthday present.   It was such a special and sweet gift on so many levels.

"Parts" have always been included in our family nights and it's never too early to participate.
When the kids were little they turned somersaults. Here Afton rolls on cue as her part.

Levin, Calvin, Afton
Grace taught us a rhythm game for one of her parts.  Calvin thought babysitting was easier.

On Monday night, we had family night with Grace, Ty, Michelle, and Afton. We got Woody-burgers and ate them on the shore of the lake and then went out to frozen yogurt afterwards. Then we took caramel popcorn to a couple of neighbors and visited with them for a little while.

Grace and Michelle

Ray is so right, being with family is much more energizing and satisfying to me than vacuuming and I'm glad I know that for sure and certain now.

Anybody want some chickens?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

52 Blessings

Ty made the New York Style Cheesecake, but it took five of the kids to get the candles lit 

This morning Calvin and I were talking about what a great thing it was that the kids and Rachel came home for my birthday and how wonderful it was to have them with us.  I said, "Who knew fifteen years ago that 50 would be such a great birthday?"

We lay there quietly and then I said, "Who knew twenty years ago that this would be such a great birthday?"

I dwelt on that one a second more and continued, "Who knew forty years ago this would be such a great birthday?"

And then a few moments later added, "Who knew one year ago this would be such a great birthday?"

Finally, Calvin said, "God knew. That's who knew Jane. Let me put your mind to rest, God knew and only God knew. Does that answer your question?"

I laughed and Calvin reminded me how lucky I am to have him answer all my questions.

Calvin's right.  God knows . . . everything.  Besides knowing trigonometry and how to make new stars, He knows what I need to learn and experience to be the best I can be.  He knows when I need encouraged and how to encourage me.  He knows when I need corrected and how to correct me.  He knows I'm his child and that I need to hear it often that He loves me.

God knows.  And that is a blessing.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

12 pictures on the 12th of July, 2012 -- Who's Counting?

There are birthdays. And then. There are birthdays.

Tomorrow is my 50th . Yes. It sounds a bit oldish to me, too. Until . . . the kids planned the surprise of surprises. Without me even suspecting (I am no Sherlock), they all came home.  Suddenly 50 isn't oldish, it's fun.  Real fun.

Calvin took me to town so they could get to the house without my knowing. They blew up balloons and made a banner. And hid.

When we pulled into the yard Cali was on the front lawn taking a picture of Ande and Levin on a blanket. Ande was holding a little baby. It looked just like Afton. She was so cute and little. However, knowing that Ty, Michelle, and Afton had just called me from Washington, D.C. the night before, I knew it wasn’t her. So then I thought maybe she had found a doll like Afton. I had just finished telling Calvin about dolls that children of deployed soldiers often have that look like their soldier-parent and that have their voice recorded. But this little doll that Ande was holding was more than cloth and stuffing. She kicked. However, I still couldn’t figure out who it was for sure.

And then when I got closer to her there was no mistaking. It WAS Afton which meant Michelle would be somewhere because no pilot would take Afton by herself. And then Ty and Michelle came around the corner! It was the greatest surprise.

And then a few minutes later Grace came walking around the side of the house with a picture of Abe on a stick.

It was the greatest surprise.

We came in the house and I saw the banner and balloons and then . . . my sister Rachel came walking out of the family room! It was the greatest surprise.

And then on Friday, Ray and Joe pulled up.  It was the greatest surprise.

There are birthdays and then there are birthdays.

And since surprises like this only happen once, there are going to be far more than 12 pictures in this 12 on 12 post, and some of the pictures are from the 13th and 14th . . . but who’s counting? I'm so happy to be 50.

Ty, Michelle, and Ande driving from Seattle to celebrate.

Afton slept the whole way.

Rachel, Michelle, and Ty making a banner.  They included all of the names they call me:
  Mom, Mama, Janey Payney, Mama Jane, and Neighbor Jane

Rachel, Grace, Afton, Abe (picture insert), Michelle, Ty, Ande, and Levin preparing the party

Ande, Levin, and Afton waiting for Calvin and me to come home from town.

Afton, Michelle, Ty, Calvin, me, Levin, Ande, Grace, Abe (picture insert)
Calvin celebrating he kept the surprise a secret.
The kids threatened him that he'd have to pay for all the plane tickets if he leaked it.

Rachel and me.  The kids and Calvin love her as much as I do.  

Abe, Abe, Abe, Abe, Abe and me.
He's missed.

Michelle and Afton.
The kids planned and provided all the meals.  Meal one was a wiener roast.

Cali and Rachel

Cali and Ande sleeping out in the tent.  Calvin helped them get their sleeping bags into the tent
and then he scared them.  They screamed like they were ten years old.  They took the dogs into the
tent for protection, but Cali was afraid they'd get her blankets dirty so she made
them stay in their crates.  They said the thunderstorm and lightening was the best.

The next morning Grace and Ty jogged 6 miles while the rest of us joined them for a walk.
Ande, Cali, Ty, Rachel pulling Levin in the wagon, Grace, and Dan

Dan, Grace, Rachel, me, Levin, and Ande soaking our feet in the canal after walking

Rachel had a migraine at the swimming pool, but still smiled through it.

Ty, Afton, and Michelle at the swimming pool.
The smeared stamp is not a poor tatoo.  It's a waver that he can try to stand up when he rides in the wave pool.

Good thing he had that waiver.  Ty only lasted a second.

Michelle lasted just about as long.

Rachel has the great nieces and nephews call her Grant Rachel

Rachel and Ande at the pool.

Ty, me, Rachel, Ande, and Calvin after working out.  Imagine, it's especially fun sweating together. 

Ande bathing Chewie.  While I'm not sure labradoodles are suited for June grass,
wheat fields, and stickers we enjoyed taking care of him while Ande and Joe were

Ray, Calvin, and Ty cut down two dead trees.  Ray lets Levin help him with everything.

Afton and Grant Rachel

Ande, Grace, Rachel, Levin, Cali, and Ty husking corn for supper

Joe checking Chewie's stickered paw

Michelle is still doing on-line school work while she's here.

This has been the greatest surprise and birthday.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday Tried It - A Watched Pot Never Boils . . . over

(Tuesday Tried It consists of tested ideas found on blogs or pinterest.)

Ande carrying supper home to Joe -- shepherd's pie in ramekins, rolls, snickerdoodle cookies
(Ray took a bite out of the top one) and watermelon.

A couple of weeks ago while I was in Seattle, Ande and I cooked supper together while Cali worked. We were cooking potatoes and had one too many potatoes in the pot. Ande told me of an idea she'd seen on pinterest where you put a wooden spoon on top of a bubbling pot to keep the liquid from boiling over onto the stove top. She said it really worked. And it does. Not one bit of starchy water spilled or even splattered on the stove top.

The next night Cali was cooking chicken and we tried it again.  Not one bit of foam boiled over.  

Since then I've used it on pasta.  Again.  No mess.

If you hate stove-top spill-overs, this is a pinterest idea that works.

Have you tried anything off a blog or pinterest recently?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Memory - Record Keeping

This past weekend Cali, Haley (my niece), and I went to a retreat. The retreat is held just outside the town of Monroe and tucked back in the pine trees. The retreat house comes complete with ten or so bedrooms, a large rectangular room for projects . . . and a deer or two.

This is the third year that Donna, Nicole, Sonja, and Sandy have held this retreat and each year they have a theme. The first year it was "Road Trip," last year was "Glamping" (Sandy is not crazy about camping and said this house in trees is as close as she'll get to it), and this year was "Sweet Retreat."

I was surprised that the orange slices were gone before the Reese's peanut butter cups
(photo courtesy of Sandy)
Nicole had filled these sundae glasses with a loofah (resembling ice cream)
topped with a red pom-pom and a straw for each of us.  They served as
our candy dishes, too. 

Besides having a help-yourself candy bar, we received several mementos throughout our stay . . .

Cali modeling her sweet dreams night mask
(photo courtesy of Sandy)

and each night about ten o'clock were given a heated, oil-infused washcloth to get us through the next two or three hours of scrapbooking.

Everyone took a turn and cooked for the group, so not only did we come away with projects completed, we came home with a few extra pounds and recipes too.

Donna grilling onions
(photo courtesy of Sandy)

Haley sewed baby gifts, cut quilt blocks, and made cards and gift tags. I made a sizable dent in our scrapbooks. Cali got one quilt top almost finished and another one started.

Haley and Cali
(photo courtesy of Sandy)

colorful supplies
(photo courtesy of Sandy)

Besides being a place where friends reconnect . . .

Mindy and Deb
(photo courtesy of Sandy)

It's also a place where several of us take our daughters too. Scrapbooking and quilting are generational.

Nicole and Donna
(photo courtesy of Sandy)

Besides scrapbooking and quilting and hand-stitchery and visiting and eating, there were group activities like raffle drawings.

(photo courtesy of Sandy)

(photo courtesy of Sandy)
(photo courtesy of Sandy)

There was also a shoebox greeting project. Everyone who wanted to participate brought a card idea and enough prepared supplies for everyone who was taking part. The card ideas were unique and cute.  New techniques are learned and shared each year.

One of the things I enjoy about going to these retreats, is seeing everyone's projects, styles, and ideas.  It's helped me to enjoy scrapbooking more and to get better at it (if only I would have gone to retreats before I ruined so many of our pictures cropping tight with those cursed decorative scissors).

There were multiple trips to the Ben Franklin craft store which was a couple of miles down the road, and many of us went to the flea market the last two years too.  I got a $5 bottle of marbles and a $10 wagon. Haley got a set of 7 dwarfs to add to her collection, and Cali got an antique, rocking, oak chair for $20 which Nicole carried on her lap in the middle of the back seat. (Now that is friendship.)

(photo courtesy of Sandy)

As a group, we come from many walks of life and family circumstances, have different personalities, and represent many faiths, but we all have a desire to create and keep a record in common . . . and laugh, and eat, and mod-podge.