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Most of you know when I visit your blog, it is sporadic and I try to catch up what I have missed. This is not because I do not feel like blogging/visiting or because I am goofing off.  It is because I am busy. Granted, much of it is self-imposed busy, but busy I am.

Last week I looked at my life since Thanksgiving, and there have been THREE days since then in which I did not have a specific deadline of something that HAD to be done on a day. Now I do not have a “real job,” so my deadlines are not usually reports or presentations; they can be anything. (For my church treasurer job, I do have reports and presentations due at least monthly, however.) It may be a Friday, and those days always mean a ton of food has to be made because I cook for Friday and Saturday on Fridays.  My point is that the things I have to get done may not seem like deadline material, but for me there is always a reason something has to be done by a specific day.

So I thought I would show you some of what I have been doing for the past three months. (It is MARCH? Christmas is just around the corner!)

It started with Chic’s birthday. Since it was the Christmas season, she requested poinsettia cupcakes for school.

There are 13 children in Chic's classroom, but her teacher refuses to do cupcakes before school is out. (What's wrong with lunch?) This irritates me because when Chic gets cupcakes for a birthday, there is never one for her sister. I made sure every sibling of every classmate had a cupcake, too. (I wanted to leave out the teacher, but I was polite.)

Remember my Elf Escapades? Here are a few things I made for that.

Clockwise from top left: Napkin rings, box to hold napkin rings, "Merry" bag for the 12th night, tree bag. I made all the things shown. I loved it, but it does put a dent into one's time.

Clockwise from top left: 1) Napkin rings. 2) Box for napkin rings. 3) "Merry" gift bag for the last night. 4) Evergreen tree gift bag.

This was the best Elf Victim yet! On the 9th or 10th night, I was met at the door by this.

Sorry for the lousy picture, but I didn't want to get caught! This was the 12th night of Elf Delivery, and the front door and garage door of this house were OPEN! I took Chic with me for the experience, but it didn't help with the stealth. On the door are all the notes I left with gifts (the notes appeared on the 9th night), and there was a gift for me, too. I have never been so wonderfully welcomed!

Next is the Christmas ornaments and boxes. Since 1995 I have made a Christmas ornament yearly. It started as a gift to the infant daughters of very close friends and has grown to a few other girls (some now in high school) like my daughters and niece and some other special friends/family (aunts, etc.).

This year I made 36 "icicles" and boxes to hold them all.

For the staff Christmas party at school, there was an ornament exchange. This is the box I made, and inside was one of my annual ornaments, left over from about 3 years back.

This box was very last-minute, but I just loved how it turned out.

This is the holiday treat we give E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. They are called pizzelles and are Italian, waffle-like cookies made in a special iron.

I can't remember how many of these we made, but I know it was over 1000. I made the first 1/3 of them, then Prince Charming did the rest. (Bless him!)

Don’t forget the school treats. I made about 30 of the ones on the left for Chic’s classmates/friends plus the kids in my class at church. (She painted the sticks.) Chicklet’s class treats were on the right. I only had to make about 10 of those.

This is one of my favorite things–a gift for my nephew. When we visited Missouri in November I learned that he (who is Chic’s age, eight) is really into seeds. I was walking around my yard one day and noticed so many seeds. I started to gather them for him, then I thought I would just make that his Christmas gift. So I made seed packets (with pictures if I had them–stamped or drawn if I did not) for all of them and instructions for growing.

I never realized how many seeds I had in my own yard!

Next is the annual gift. Last year I made “winter” banners as holiday gifts for close friends/family. This year I did “spring.” (Can you guess what it will be next year?) I made 17 of these. Each one takes 2-1/2 – 3 hours. Call me an idiot!

Another rotten picture; I was pressed for time. But the good (?) news is that I have an extra of these. If you would like to be in a drawing for it, e-mail me at louisestamps at aol dot com to let me know. You have until Monday, March 8, to e-mail me.

Let’s move to Valentine’s  Day! (We left shortly after Christmas to drop off Chic in Tennessee. I was home one day before a business trip, then 1-1/2 weeks before visiting Chic. January was a blur.) These are the boxes I assembled for my Valentine’s for all the students in my art classes.

I made up about 55 of these boxes.

These are the cookies that went in the boxes above. VERY. BAD. to have these things in my house! Very bad!

I have no idea how many cookies I made, but it was about 8 or 9 batches. (I did double/triple batches in the mixer so I cannot remember.)

These are boxes I made for special people such as my friend in TN who is taking care of Chic and some special people at church. I made them from flat, chipboard hearts.

I made 8 of these boxes.

Something had to go in these boxes, so I made homemade truffles. It was a first for me. Slightly time-consuming, but really no more so than anything else I do.

The dark ones are Oreo truffles and the light ones are Italian truffles.

As I was making the heart boxes above, I kept thinking of other people for whom I would like to make some. The problem was that I only had chipboard hearts to make eight. But I had regular chipboard, so I die-cut square scallops to make four more boxes.

The left one was for someone VERY into brown, so it does not look much like Valentine's Day.

There were also quite a number of Valentine treats for classmates of which I forgot to take pictures.

The below items are also for special people for Valentine’s Day. They are super fuzzy socks wound to resemble ice cream. I made “cones” for them and packaged them. I also put chocolate oil on them. One recipient still has not opened hers because she thinks it is so cute. I made 18 of the bigger ones for adults and 6 of the smaller ones for children.

Clockwise from top left: 1) All of the socks put into their "cones." 2) The finished packages. 3) Notice the finished packages have "sprinkles on the cones. I made them by punching out holes. 4) This is some of the paper left over after the punching.

Being so industrious means that eventually the holidays will slow down and I can move on to other things. The next two are “name frames” I made for girls I visited a year ago. I took pictures of their rooms and just now got around to making the 8″ x 10″ art for them.

Clearly Kendra's mom is good at decorating!

Kayla is Kendra's older sister who had just redecorated her own room. (The decorating thing must be genetic.)

Just last weekend Chicklet was invited to a birthday party. She could not go because CHIC IS HOME FOR SPRING BREAK THIS WEEK!!!!!!! But I made a container quickly to take on Friday and filled it with craft items. I thought it turned out well.

This is a large canister that used to hold SlimFast. I love the size of these so I collect them to decorate at such times.

This week I am not doing anything of the sort because CHIC IS HOME FOR SPRING BREAK!!!! We have had several other activities already and have more on the agenda.

If you comment, be honest with me. Tell me if you love this or hate it. Tell me if you think I am insane. If you knew me in real life, would all of the above make you love me or love to hate me? (Your answers do not matter that much because I do these things because I love to do them, but I am interested in perceptions. I have all viewpoints in my “real life” acquaintances.)

Next projects? Easter!

I promised myself (and you) that I would not post anything but my two weekly memes until I got caught up. But I cannot help it. No, I am not caught up; not even close, but there is so much spinning around in my head that here I am, making a post rather than visiting you and answering e-mails.

And this one has very little to do with what has been going on in my head.  I have had a chaotic week filled with a sort of conflict.  No upfront, bold conflict, but mostly the backbiting/stabbing kind. Or the kind in which someone smiles and pretends to be in total agreement when I am present, but turns around and does the exact things as before, and maybe even in a harsher manner as if to punish me for even questioning something.

But today is not the day for those posts . (Though I fear I will not be able to keep quiet about it forever.)  This is a random post about some of the nice or funny things that have happened to me in the last couple of weeks.

First, to my Maine trip. I have more of that coming up by the way. I visited three states, all new  to me, on that excursion. While I was in Portland, O’Mama and Mrs. Chili were kind enough to cover considerable miles to meet me for lunch.  Do I have pictures? No,  not really. I must admit that except for my kids, I am really lousy at getting people pictures. I do not think of it, and it is not my forte anyway. So no pictures except for the lovely pizza I had for lunch at Flatbread Pizza. I had never heard of Flatbread Pizza. Generally I am mostly opposed to franchise food operations, but this was different. Maybe it was different because I had never been there before, but it was GOOD.  O’Mama and Mrs. Chili are willing to rack up some mileage for this food, and I completely understand why. There is one in Maui. I told them I would be happy to join them there for pizza as well. (In another state to which I have not been.)

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My pizza. I can't remember it all, but it had artichokes, yellow peppers and cream cheese for sure.

I just have to say something more about the two women I met. The reason I read them is because they are honestly two of the most sensible (albeit, honest) women I know.  They each have two daughters with similar age differences as mine, but slightly older and a little older than that, and they are amazing parents. They are both teachers, and what a different place our educational system would be if all teachers had their values and principles.  I am not slamming teachers in general, and I know there are a LOT of good ones out there and even some good ones who read this blog. I am just saying that I appreciate their points of view, and they are vocal about them.

Last week was Chicklet’s half-birthday. We usually do not celebrate it because her birthday is in April, so we do not need to celebrate it. (Chic’s is at Thanksgiving, so we just do a small family party then and her friend party at her half-birthday.) But the girls are getting older and notice the disparity, so we had to have some acknowledgment of Chicklet’s half-birthday. We actually forgot, but had a dessert last weekend and remembered to put candles on it. She was elated.

Double Chocolate Cherry Dessert Pizza with 5-1/2 Candles

Double Chocolate Cherry Dessert Pizza with 5-1/2 candles.

Last Sunday morning I checked the weather and there was frost in the forecast. After returning from New England, it had been pretty much beastly hot, so it was a bit of a surprise. I always work in my garden early Sunday morning. Well last Sunday I spent 4 hours picking all the green tomatoes and peppers of any size worth picking and finding places for them to ripen. I have them on every inch of counter space and in three produce bins in two  refrigerators. I am hoping to be able to make fresh salsa with some of the tomatoes for Christmas. (Stranger things have happened.) By the way, it did  not frost that night, but it did later in the week, and Sunday is the only day I would have had enough time to take care of that, so I guess it was not a wasted effort.

Tomatoes

Cleaning out the garden before a potential frost

When I woke up yesterday morning, the thermometer said it was 19 degrees. OK, it gets cold in New Mexico, even colder than that. But NOT IN OCTOBER! One of my posts one day will be about one of my eccentricities which involves a cold house, so I was not amused by the temperature.

Then later in the day it warmed up… enough to snow. And not just a little, but coming down harder than it did when I was in Vermont a couple of weeks ago. Clearly still October. It was even sticking to the ground. Had it not been so hot a few days before, we probably would have had more than two inches sticking. The good news is that we are already returning to regular October weather.

2009-Oct-29. Seriously?

29-Oct-09 in Albuquerque. Not amusing. And the center of the picture is the cosmos bed where the picture from the last post was taken.

This week I have spent some part of every day except today making Halloween costumes for my girls. Below is what they chose. Chic is an Indian Princess and Chicklet vacillates between Laura and Mary Ingalls. Today we got a surprise bonus when Prince Charming called to say there was Trick-or-Treating at his work after lunch. I dressed up Chicklet, and she has already made a haul. We think the weather is improving enough that they will not get frostbite tomorrow night.

I have always liked Halloween, but I love it more since I moved here. Our neighborhood is quite festive, and we usually get about 200 Trick-or-Treaters. The streets are full of  parents and children, and it is wonderful.

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Chic and Chicklet in their Halloween costumes. They picked out the fabrics themselves, so don't judge me for Chicklet's apron that doesn't really match the dress.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend and a Happy and Safe Halloween if you celebrate the holiday.

Potato-Leek Soup in Bread Bowls

Potato-Leek Soup in Bread Bowls

During the winter months, we always have soup and bread on Friday night.  This tradition began when we moved to New Mexico, I became a stay-at-home mom and actually began regular cooking again. (In Missouri Prince Charming was in graduate school while I worked full-time. He did a lot of the “cooking” then.)

Friday nights are quiet at our house. Sabbath begins at sundown, and the pace changes. It is my favorite time of the week. Probably the entire 24 hours until sundown on Saturday night is my favorite period of the week, but Friday night is especially slow and quiet–a true blessing. (And it is host to the bath.)

Because Friday nights are special, I like to make something special for dinner. It cannot be complicated, however, because I also do the cooking for the next day on Friday as well. There just is not enough time to prepare two elaborate meals.  So Friday night dinners are simple, but special. That is how the soup and bread tradition came about.  All of us love both. If there is not the scent of bread baking in our house on Friday, something is wrong. (Or it is summer, but I usually bake some type of bread then anyway).

Last Friday night I made one of Prince Charming’s favorite soups. I tell you this because it was sort of for his birthday, which was at the beginning of January. Poor guy! If there is anything worse than having a birthday between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is having one just after Christmas. He always gets the shaft. At the end of November and beginning of December, I had a whole slough of birthdays which got their own blog posts. Did Prince Charming? No! And it had nothing to do with him, but everything to do with when it was.  He did not even get his favorite meal until three weeks after his birthday. So I threw in the soup as a bonus later the same week.

So, without further rambling, here are the recipes:

Potato Leek Soup in Bread Bowls

4 lg potatoes, peeled and diced

4 large leeks, sliced

8 c chicken broth

1 tsp salt

1/2 c cream

pepper (optional–I never opt for pepper, but I know a lot of people use it in everything, and it was part of the original recipe)

Bread Bowls: Bowl-size round loaves, unsliced (4-6, depending on how many people you are serving), 2-3 cloves crushed garlic, 4-6 tsp olive oil, 4-6 T graded Parmesan cheese

In a large pot, combine potatoes, leeks, broth, salt and pepper if desired. Heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce to medium-low, cover and simer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile make bread bowls (recipe below for Italian bread which we love, but you can purchase them ready-made, or you can just serve it with bread on the side): Cut top off of loaves. Hollow out bowls leaving 3/4″. (Reserve leftover bread for croutons or bread crumbs). Rub inside of bread with garlic, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with cheese. Place hollowed out loaves and “lids” on baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit over for 10 minutes.

Puree soup in batches in a blender or use a hand-blender. (If you don’t have a hand blender and make soup, get one!) Stir in cream. Heat through.

Spoon hot soup into bread bowls and top with parsley as a garnish if desired. Makes 6 servings (with some leftovers for lunch next week!)

Italian Bread

(This is our favorite non-flavored bread. I do not make it all the time because it takes a long time, but I have figured out when to start it so that the first rising is while I pick up Chic from school since she gets out at 12:30 on Fridays.)

2-1/2 c warm water (115 degrees F)

2 T active dry yeast (or 2 packets is OK)

8 c all-purpose flour

1 T salt

1 egg white

1 T water

Optional: Butter and cornmeal to put on baking sheet before baking bread

Note: I do this in a Kitchen Aid mixer on Speed 2 with a dough hook. The original directions were not for that; if you do not use a mixer for bread, I am sure you will know how to convert this. And if you use a bread machine, I am sure you can figure that out, too.

Pour warm water into warm mixing bowl; sprinkle with yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir in 2 cups of flour. Beat well. Add salt and gradually beat in all but 2 cups of the flour. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rest for 10 minutes. Continue mixing gradually adding as much flour as needed. (In my dry, high altitude setting, I can usually add another 1-1/4 – 1-1/2 cups.) Continue kneading for 3-5 minutes after last flour is added. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover with wax paper, then a damp dish cloth, and let rise in a warm place for 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk.

Punch dough down and let rise to double again, about an hour.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and form small, round loaves (for bowls) or longer loaves (10-12″ long). (Since there are 4 of us, when I make this soup, I make 4 bowls with half of the dough and a long loaf with the other half of the dough. Otherwise I make two long loaves.)  Place loaves on baking sheets that have been buttered and sprinkled with corn meal (if desired, I never do this anymore). Add 1 Tbls water to egg white and brush top and sides of loaves. To cover, prop up dish towel around and over loaves using glasses OR make a reusable cover by lining the inside of an appropriately-sized box with aluminum foil and storing in a plastic bag to keep clean. (I have to let my bread rise in the oven with a dish of water because of the lack of humidty in this region. Propping up a dish towel with glasses is not feasible for me, so I made the box as described. It works fine. I use it for some of my other bread recipes as well.) Let rise until doubled. I check it after 45-50 minutes which is usually enough, but sometimes it takes longer, depending on how warm the oven has remained.

Place a shallow pan on the bottom rack of the oven; fill with boiling water. Bake loaves in center of oven preheated to 375 degrees F for 20 minutes. Remove and brush with egg white mixture again. Continue baking for 20 mintues longer, or until well-browned and done.

The bread can seem a bit intimidating because of all the steps, but it is really no worse than any other yeast bread if you plan the rising times when you can be doing other things. However, it is not something you can decide late in the day to have for dinner. If you do not eat the extra loave(s), your neighbors will LOVE you if you give a loaf to them, and it freezes splendidly.

Recipe  Credits:  Soup–Glamour Magazine, about 25 years ago. Bread–not sure.

click photo to enlarge

click photo to enlarge

This is not something terribly exciting about where I live, but I am having severe camera issues at the moment and could not go take new pictures and did not have archives I wanted to use. And I realized that I was 31-years-old before I ever saw lawns that had no grass but were all rocks. (That was in Las Vegas.) So I thought it might be appropriate to show you my “lawn” which looks pretty much like most of the other lawns on the street. IF lawns in this area have grass, it is a few square yards–smaller than a putting green on a golf course. (It takes 10 minutes for us to mow our back yard grass with an electric, 20″ mower.)

We get approximately 8 inches of rain annually. That means if anything is going to grow, it has to be watered. It also means that if we are not careful with the water, we will eventually run out of it. Thus the rocks for lawns. I actually like it because it forces some creative landscaping. Where I used to live the landscaping technique was to throw out some grass seed, plant 3 or 4 bushes and be done with it.  It is expensive, but we have lots of beautiful plants in our yard, both front and back. (Better viewed in the summer for the “beautiful” factor.)

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Most of the plants can survive quite a long time without water. (I know this because the front is not automatically watered, and I forget to water it most of the time.)

One might think the rocks mean less maintenance than grass… no mowing, no fertilizing, etc. Maybe that is a little true, but weeds still grow in them. In the summer it is a constant battle to keep the tumbleweed sprouts from looking like grass. Also in the fall when the plants lose their foliage, it is a bit tricky to get the leaves out of the rocks. The easiest way is with a leaf vacuum so that rocks are not vacuumed, too, but there is no extremely easy method.

My World is a weekly meme in which participants are virtual tour guides. Go check it out and see the worlds of others. Or better yet, take a look at the guidelines, and do your own My World Post!

 

For my regular readers: The “severe camera issues” are that my OTHER lens is broken. You might remember than the 18-55 mm was broken and I was trying to decide how to replace it. Well, last week the 55-200 mm lens got bumped (EVER SO SLIGHTLY) and started not zooming. It only works at 200 mm, which isn’t the best place for taking most photos. This is the third lens mishap in about 8 months, and being without ANY lens, the decision was made for me to get an 18-200 mm. It should arrive today. It was not my first choice, but it was the most economical way to replace two lenses at one time. I bought a Sigma which is supposed to be sturdier than the brand name ones I have been using. We hope! I want DIFFERENT lenses, not to spend all my money replacing the same ones!

You might remember a while back I mentioned I was doing this swap. Well, I did it, and the time has come to talk about it!

First, let me tell you about my Swap Partner! The poor girl lives in Ohio and was RIGHT in the path of Hurricane Ike which was RIGHT before we were supposed to send out these swaps. She was out of power for an entire week. (As many others were.) And after that, she was just so swamped with getting back to life as normal that the Halloween Swap sort of went on the back burner. If you ask me, that is more than a little understandable. The point here is that I do not have it yet, so I cannot rave as I properly should. It will probably arrive tomorrow when this post goes up, but I will be half-way to Missouri by then and not able to see it for a week.

But she sent me pictures, and I think I can adequately rave from those, though I know it will be better when they arrive.

These are the packages she sent to me. OOOOOOOO, it makes me want to tear right in and rip them open! I love tissue paper tied with ribbon! (I must also say that I did not send my package so cutely wrapped. I will show you what I sent later, but there is no picture of wrapping because I was more than a little, uh, not impressed with how I did it!)

This is the whole pile of stuff. You must know that I LOVE Halloween. It might be my favorite holiday. I love the weather at Halloween. I love the moon at this time of year. I love the festivity. I have never thought of it as evil or scary, just festive and fun. So this pile of stuff makes me giddy!

Here are some close-ups. The first is a box of wrapped Hersheys Nuggets. I LOVE it that Angela is a stamper like me because just knowing what this is, I know it is SO cool. Her style and taste are much different than mine, and she is more artistic. From the picture I can tell these are beautiful. Unfortunately, they probably will not last very long under my care, but at least there is a picture by which to remember them! And they are in a very cute tin, which makes it even better.

This one is a paper bag Halloween Journal. Do you love it? I do! I LOVE black cats. That really has nothing to do with Halloween, but I currently have two black cats and had another before these. This is just TOO cute! Maybe I can fill it with pictures of my black cats? Or maybe my children? I do not know. I will probably just use it as a decoration for a while. It is definitely worthy of doing that.

I think this one might be my favorite. It is a collage just for the sake of art. I. LOVE. IT! And the girl on it has red hair which is icing.

The last one is something she said EVERYONE needs… a pooping cat. Is that hilarious?! I think so. I have never seen such a thing. (But I never shop which could possibly be part of that problem.) It being a black cat and all is good enough, but there appears to be candy (poop–I just will not think about that) attached, so it is even better!

Here is what I made for her.

This cookie jar was SOOOOO easy; it took about 5 minutes which put me into a mood of guilt over it. I used a Decor Elements piece from St*mpin’ Up! to do it. When I sent it to her, I put a ribbons on the lid. I apologize that I did not send hers with cookies, but I was using it as a display for an Open House when I made it about a month before I shipped it. Unfortunately I ate all the cookies before then. Yes, I think I ate every single one. No, a few customers ate some, but they were polite. I am not so polite when it comes to cookies. You MUST go to Angela’s blog to see how she is using this cookie jar. (She also has a better picture there than I do of the other item I sent.) I love what she did! I would have never thought of it on my own.

The other thing I made was this “Spooky” banner. These are wonderful. I used a special pennant die for the St*mpin’ Up!/Sizzix Big Shot machine to cut the pennants. This was so. much. fun to make! It took quite a lot more than five minutes to make, so my guilt was significantly eased. (I could not get the “Y” to show up, so I just left it out. I am too tired and have to drive all day tomorrow to try to figure out what the problem is.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heidi at Foxgloves, Fabric and Folly!! is hosting another swap for Christmas. Go check it out. I am sure it will be just as much fun!

Normally, I am a “shower girl.” Baths, for me, are not the way to get clean. However, they are relaxing more than almost anything, and I love taking a bath. (And will shower ahead of one if I think I am not “clean” enough.)

And what does this have to do with “smelly stuff?” I have pondered this connection for years. Why do I love baths so much?I believe there are lots of reasons, but a giant one has to do with the scents attached. I have all kinds of scents for my bath. This started when I was in my early 20’s and a Crabtree and Evelyn store opened in our mall. This place enchanted me, and not just a little. I immediately bought some “Spring Rain” milk bath for my mom. (Even then, I could not often splurge on myself… except for clothes and shoes.) She loved it. She became a “bath girl” for relaxation. Everyone in the family knew they could buy her the “Spring Rain” milk bath for any holiday and occasion, and it would be the perfect gift.

Then came Victoria’s Secret bath products (ohhhh, Honeysuckle!) and Bath and Body Works. My all-time favorite is/was Eucalyptus/Spearmint from Bath and Body Works (just recently available again), but I also have affairs with other scents. I am very much not faithful in that department. I have summer scents and winter scents and relaxing scents and energizing scents. I am a little bit picky about the type of scent, but I love many, many different ones. It is always a fun game to figure out which scent I will add to the bath each week.

There are other reasons I love baths. They are almost always on Friday night. My life is busy and stressful. (No, I do not “work” outside my home, but I work a LOT inside it, and I volunteer way too much occasionally outside it.) Fridays are the busiest days of all for me. OK, they are not. Wednesdays are worse because the whole day is AWAY from home letting the things at home pile up higher, and Fridays are at least mostly AT home, but they are extremely busy. So when Friday night comes, I have had it. I am exhausted and sometimes downright miserable. My body aches and my mind needs a break. The bath is just the thing. The warm water, the scents, the alone time, the opportunity to read, the time to just think… did I mention the alone time?

When Prince Charming came in to my life, he realized quickly how important this Friday night ritual was to me (and by extension, to him). Sometimes I just did not have the gumption to take a bath, and I think I it made him more miserable than me. When we married, he moved from 1000 miles away to my house. We had two bathrooms, the master bath and the upstairs bath. I always took my baths upstairs because I did not like taking them in the same place I took showers. Sometimes I would skip it because I was too lazy too tired to clean the tub. Prince Charming fixed that for me. He started cleaning the tub right after dinner. No excuses now!

sunset reflection in painting above "garden tub"

sunset reflection in painting above "garden tub"

When we moved to New Mexico, our new house had a “garden tub.” For a bath aficionado like me, this was delightful. Don’t be too envious, the name only meant that it was a larger tub–there were not jets in it or anything fancy–just bigger. BUT bigger is sometimes better, AND it was not in the same place as the shower. Heaven!

With children, the whole bath thing is even more important because as much as I love Chic and Chicklet, by Friday night, I am mostly finished with being a Mom, too. (Although I sometimes let them play in my bubbles for a few minutes before they go to bed… a VERY few minutes.) Prince Charming, being the Prince that he is, is quite in tune with things like this. He sees what my life is like (although some of it is self-inflicted, and he wishes I would not inflict it upon myself), and does whatever he can to make it better. Part of this is insisting I take my Friday night bath. (Prince Charming bought the bath pillow featured at the top of this post. He understands.) I stopped sharing this information with my friends because they either a) hated me for it or b) tried to seduce Prince Charming so they could have such luxuries themselves. EVERY woman I know wants Prince Charming to teach classes to their husbands. This makes Prince Charming quite uncomfortable. Apparently it is not cool for men to go around instructing other men on how to be the perfect husband.

So here is what happens… after dinner, I blog for a few minutes quickly finish up whatever urgent business needs my attention. (Mind you, cleaning up the kitchen and dinner table would never be part of what I do here. I NEVER do that unless Prince Charming is out of town. I cook; he cleans up. I do not leave a huge mess, but whatever mess there is, he takes care of it. Except Saturday evening dinner and all day Sunday when he cooks AND cleans up. NOW ladies, into which of the categories in the previous paragraph do you fall?) So while I am blogging completing some important task, Prince Charming is cleaning my garden tub. He lets me know when it is finished, and in a few minutes I go upstairs to an aromatherapy haven. He lights a candle (or candles) for me that smell yummy. He leaves out the appropriate amount of towels (three) for me. And if at any time during the evening I balk for any reason, he almost forcibly makes me go take a bath.

Now is the time when most women would be leary; I know I was. “What does he want for all of these romantic gestures?” “What kinds of acrobatics am I going to have to perform when I get to bed?” “Is this bath worth it?” Well, the answer is that this is a “no strings attached” bath. Every week. It is my time. No kids, no phone calls (unless I really want to talk to someone), no husband, nothing but me and my scented paradise and the books/magazines that I choose.

I would never have time to read were it not for my bath time.

I would never have time to read were it not for my bath time.

Oh, WAIT… I almost forgot. There is more. He brings me water (because that is what I like to drink) and any confections of my choice. Periodically, it might be a leftover dessert item we have, but more often it is Godiva chocolates (hand-picked by Prince Charming–he loves to get seasonal truffles) or Nutella* on graham crackers. And if I run out of something or need something at any time during my bath, I ungracefully pound rap gently on the floor of the tub three times, and he comes running (not kidding) to see what I need.

* [Are you familiar with Nutella?  Find it.  Try it.  Love it.]

For the record, he says he does all this for himself as much as me, because my life is so busy and stressful, and this little break is beneficial necessary for my mental health state of well-being. This is probably true. In fact, I am pretty sure it is true.

But what is hedoing other than being on call for my every whim while I take my luxurious bath each Friday night? (It lasts 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Sometimes I even have to add extra hot water.  Hmmm…. maybe I should have him keeping hot water ready on the stove! JUST KIDDING!) I really do not care what he is doing. (The kids are in bed, by the way.) For all I know, he is surfing the internet’s p*rn sites, having an internet affair managing his fantasy football team/league or reading himself. (He does seem in a hurry to get me to the tub!) It does not matter to me. I trust him. And this is one of the best gifts he gives to me. (ONE of them. There will be other posts about other reasons he is Prince Charming.)

Sunset through lace curtain over "garden tub"

sunset through lace curtain over "garden tub"

To be honest, I think this whole thing is probably almost as good for him as it is me. No one wants to live with an uptight, stressed out witch partner. He makes sure I am not. And he gets his “strings.” Maybe not on Friday night (but maybe), but definitely more frequently than if I did not have this weekly relax/recharge time alone.

When Mrs. G asked the question about where the heart of our homes was, I had to think a moment.  The answer came flying into my head immediately, but I had to make sure it was right.

 

It could be the dining room.  Our family has a meal there together at least once a day—sometimes more on the weekends.  We spend a lot of time there talking, laughing, sharing.

 

It could be my bedroom.  Due to a surgery nearly 3 years ago where I was on the completely inactive list for 10 weeks, I slept in most days.  My daughters would actually wake up before I got out of bed, and I would allow them to get into bed with me.  That ritual has never died on mornings that are lazy for me.  My husband takes a picture of “all the girls” (which includes one of the cats) every New Year’s morning.  We have tickle parties there.  We read stories there.  We talk there.

 

But in the end, my first thought was right.  The heart of my home is my stamping room.  It is the largest room of the house and was intended to be a family room when built.  But until we move away, that will never be its purpose. 

 

It is the heart for many reasons.  It is where I spend more time than any place else.  My business is run from this room.  Classes are taught here.  Gifts and cards are made here.  I stamp with friends here.  My daughters enjoy stamping with me here, too.  The computer is also here in the corner which works as an office which means that I spend even more time here checking my e-mail, paying bills, and now, blogging. I am in this room a lot.  But just my presence does not make this room the heart of my home.

 

This room is joined to the kitchen as one giant room.  So when I cook (which gets equal to or more time than stamping), I am still a part of the room.  And the whole family is here as well.  There is the lunch/art table for the girls, where they do all kinds of projects whether I am cooking or stamping.  Here is also where the “clubhouse” is, an area under a work table that I have curtained off with old fabric.  And there is again, the computer, where my husband can unwind while playing silly computer games, surfing the internet and reading all the blogs that I tell him are funny or really good.  All-in-all, the whole family spends more time here than anywhere else.  It is creative time except for the video games and fun time.

 

A few months ago I bought some nifty storage units to organize this jam-packed room a little better.  It made me almost as happy as stamping does.  Everything is neat and organized (except for the desk which will never be is not even close to that state), and there is more room.  Of course that means more room for Pollys and Barbies and all manner of toys to be left to trip over, but that is part of what makes this room the heart of our home.

 

by Louise Cannon

 

Note:  For those of you who know me, do not for one second think I will be regularly posting this frequently.  This is a fluke, and I do not think I can keep up if it happens again!