Sunday, December 21, 2008

better late than never

I sorta dropped the ball with Christmas cards. They're finally on their way now though! We ended up going the postcard route this year to save on paper and postage...


Lessons from the year (2008 edition)…

Fixing up an old and decrepit farmhouse takes more time, money, and patience than you might think; doing said task would be impossible without friends of the caliber that ours are; when a six-year-old boy lives with you for seven months, you will become quite attached to him, even if he can bite and kick really hard; cruising through Alaska is lots of fun, especially with the whole family along; yellow labs are the happiest on ten acres with chickens to chase; Red Leghorns lay really nice and yummy eggs; we are so blessed by our Creator to have good jobs, a warm house, and the best family and friends in the world.

Here’s to a fabulous 2009!

Winn and Betsy

We really miss our personal photographer Andrea now that she has moved to Alabama. Our favorite Christmas photo was this one that she took for us two years ago...

Friday, December 19, 2008


For one of my classes this term I am developing a direct marketing plan. As part of the assignment I had to create a survey in order to conduct primary research for my project. My target group will be stay-at-home moms. If you are a member of that group and would like to participate, you can click on the link below. It should only take approximately 5 minutes of your time. Thank you so much for your contribution!

Stay-at-Home Moms Survey

week in a nutshell

Monday: Went to see the group Celtic Thunder with three of my sisters. The concert was fun and my sisters even funner (or is it "more fun").

Tuesday: Spent the day in prison. For work. Always an entertaining place.

Wednesday: Spent the day in my pj's. Got lots done. Transcripts, housework, homework. Check. Check. Check.

Thursday: Got a new damp chaser installed in my Yamaha. Sticky-less keys, here we come!

Friday (today): Turning in the last class project that's due before Christmas break. Hallelujah!

A little pre-concert sustenance at Chipotle.

Excited for the show.

Freezing in the parking garage.

Monday, December 15, 2008

aromatic atmosphere

It was smelling mighty fine around here yesterday. I had homemade soup going in the crock pot all afternoon, using a soup bone from the cow we got this fall. And Winn made bread from scratch. Sajak walked around drooling all day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

not so lazy saturday

A hot cup of white chocolate mocha with whipped cream: $4.05.

Gas to drive to town: 75 cents.

Two textbooks for this term: $315.00.

A quiet place to do our homework: priceless.

With a child in our home that requires 24/7 supervision, Winn and I have resumed an old and forgotten indulgence...Saturday mornings at Dunn Brothers for coffee and homework. In just two hours I've been able to write a paper, turn in two assignments, and listen to all the mp3's for worship practice this afternoon. Alex is visiting his mom for a few hours today.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

fifteen minutes of fame

I just wanted to brag on my Aunt Suzanne and Uncle Jon, who are part of the Grand Forks Symphony and had the opportunity to perform with Michael W. Smith on his Christmas Concert Tour last week (apparently Melinda Doolittle and George Huff, from American Idol, are on this tour with him as well).

And my brother-in-law Roger made the news when he and his fellow soldiers returned home from Saudi Arabia on Sunday. In this video clip he is the first soldier shown talking to the camera (with the name "Howard" on his uniform), and he's the first one shown waving when he steps out of the plane. You can also catch a short glimpse of my sister Carrie (in a black coat) holding my nephew Joel (in a yellow coat) to the right of the screen at the very end of the clip when the reporter says the words "there really is no place like home for the holidays."

A bit of limelight is always fun.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Before Alex came, we got the closet doors and curtains hung in his room. It's something that we had been putting off since we've been working on so many other projects on our renovation list. Now (as you might notice) we just have to finish the baseboard trim and the window casings, and that will be one of the very few rooms that is finished!

Sometimes I think that starting from scratch might have been easier than giving this house a complete overhaul. (As in tearing it down and rebuilding, rather than just gutting it.)

But then it wouldn't be from 1928. And it might not have a charming little attic or a butler's pantry or a sturdy poured block basement or doorknobs with keyholes big enough to look through or nine-foot ceilings. Or a history about a goat farmer who used to live here.

So I guess we'll hang onto the ol' plaster and lath-filled, floor-creaking, insulation-lacking, propane-eating place. Because we love it.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


I'm excited to meet you.

I have your room all ready. I washed your sheets and carefully made your bed. I swept and dusted and even rearranged so that it's different, so that it's yours. I hope you like it.

I wonder if you'll like legos or lincoln logs or videogames. I wonder if you'll like Cheerios or Kix or Frootloops. I wonder if you'll like to read or if you'd rather play outside.

I wonder what you look like and how tall you are and whether you had a nice birthday yesterday. Eight-year-olds should have nice birthdays.

I know you'll be scared. I am scared. I wonder if you'll like us, if you'll like it here.

I wonder what challenges we'll face together, what new things you will teach us.

I wonder if you, too, will quietly sneak into the crevices of our hearts...

surviving day two in the arctic

When we got up this morning, the thermostat read 40 degrees. (No wonder I didn't sleep much last night!) Even with a heated mattress pad, a down comforter, two quilts, and a blanket over us, I felt sort of like I was camping on a cold night and tossing and turning in my sleeping bag, trying to find the warmest position. I awoke all achy and chilled. Winn got up before me and started a heater in the bathroom to warm it up before my shower. And then he made puffed pancakes in the oven and started a pot of coffee. On our way out the door for church, we draped a little blanket over Sajak. He usually doesn't like things touching him, but this time he didn't protest.

Now that we've had four space heaters going all day, it's a balmy 43. Winn and I are spending the afternoon curled up under the covers on our bed with our laptops, trying to come up with scenarios that will make us feel warmer. Here are my two favorites: 1) It's a stifling 120 degrees outside, in the shade, and our house has a REALLY good air-conditioner. Or 2) We are lost in the desert, taking our last few steps before dying of heat and thirst, when we stumble upon a walk-in refrigerator (that's shaped exactly like our house). There, now that feels better. :) And first thing tomorrow morning, Midwest Fuel will come with their big propane truck to rescue us. Life is good.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

ran out of propane

I am wearing warm clothes and a hood and a vest, two quilts and a pair of slippers, with a space heater at my feet. I'm huddled in the living room with my homework, and my fingers are a bit stiff and purple as I'm trying to type on my laptop. I am usually still cold in 70 degrees, so you can imagine how thrilled I am with this 56 degrees. I'm thinking about going to fetch a pair of mittens and a hot cup of tea. Or I might just go to bed. Where there's a heated mattress pad and lots of quilts waiting for me. Yes, I think I will. I only got five hours of sleep last night anyway.

Friday, December 5, 2008

secondhand space

I went thrift store shopping yesterday to search for a bookshelf for my sewing space where I can store baskets full of fabric or various projects. Instead I found something else that is not at all what I had in mind but ends up working perfectly. An old set of lockers! I offered them half of the marked price, and they took it (Uncle Dennis would be so proud of me). I'll probably spray-paint it in the spring when it gets warm enough outside, and I'd also like to attach some magnetic labels on each door to identify what's inside the cubbies. But for now, at least I can finish getting everything organized.

The old dresser is from my grandma, the table from Aunt Barbara, and the green jars (where I'm storing ribbon, buttons, and other goodies) are from my sister. One more thing I'd like to find is an old set of shutters to hang on the wall above the sewing desk where I can clip project ideas, photos, fabric samples, etc., so just picture something is there rather than that empty space. :)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

the stockings are hung

I started to feel a little overwhelmed by all the holiday hustle and bustle, so in order to concentrate on Thanksgiving and then get into the Christmas spirit, I had to give up a few things so that I could be true to my goal of keeping it simple this year. One of those things that I had to give up was blogging. But after a short hiatus, I'm proud to announce that the stockings are hung and my Christmas shopping is done and I didn't lose any sleep or pull my hair out over it. Meanwhile, here are some of the things I've been up to...

1} Thanksgiving with my extended family. As happens every year, around 75 of us descended upon the tiny town of Madelia, MN, for the better part of a week and celebrated Blanshan-style with lots of food, lots of music, lots of games, a baby shower, and an anniversary party.

The fam.

2} Organizing a sewing space for myself in the guest bedroom. I inherited an old table from my aunt to put my sewing machine on and finally unpacked all my fabric and sewing notions and have had fun dreaming up new design ideas once again. In fact, I already have a few Christmas projects in the works.

My "new" table.

3} Being excited for my sister that her hubby is coming home from Saudi Arabia in just three days (after six months away), and smiling when I think about how excited Cate and Joel are going to be to see their daddy. I can just hear their little shrieking voices going on and on about all the things that they've been doing while he was gone. ("Come see my new room! Look at what I drew! Read me a story, give me a piggyback ride...")

Thanksgivingtime - Cate and Joel are ready for the hot tub.

4} Putting up the tree.

We miss our fireplace--stockings on the
windowsill just aren't the same.

5} Gearing up for a job next month that will involve realtime and same-day transcripts and possibly an internet feed for a three-week trial, something I have never done before. I've been on the phone with my software support staff and the law firms about all the technical preparations that have to be made. I need to hire a scopist, purchase some additional hardware and software, and do a dry run in the courtroom. Love a challenge!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

me tonight

Ahhh, that's better. I was gone all day, having to report at four depositions, and the very first thing I do when I walk in the door of our home is replace my suit and nylons with sweats and slippers. This is me tonight, curled up in a quilt that was handstitched by a friend, in the most-used room of the house (aside from the kitchen), the upstairs guest bedroom, serving as a temporary office until our new garage and addition is built next spring. Tonight when we got home, we had leftovers for supper and ate on the couch while we caught up on each other's day, and then, like many evenings, we headed up here to read, do our homework, and just hang out. Now, with a cup of hot chocolate and a pile of transcripts in front of me, I'm going to settle in for a long night. But tomorrow...

{1} I will officially be done with school! (Until the winter term starts after Thanksgiving.)

{2} I don't have any jobs scheduled, so I will get to clean the kitchen and pay some bills and organize my desk.

{3} I plan on laying out some sewing projects for Christmas gifts.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

ordinary evening

We had some Asian ingredients in our cupboard to use up, as well as a jar of cashews, so we made chicken cashew and rice for supper tonight. It was mighty tasty. I have papers piled on the kitchen table and sewing supplies piled on the dining room table, so we ate on the couch while watching an episode of Prison Break. Oh, how I relish ordinary evenings at home.

Now I can hear the table saw running out in the barn. Winn is working on the trusses again while I finish writing a paper for my class. It is dark and cold out there, but I have warm cookies waiting in the kitchen for a bedtime snack when he comes in.

This is the last week of the term, and I couldn't be happier about it. Purchasing management was okay, but good riddance to corporate finance. I think I will have a couple weeks off until after Thanksgiving. And then just two more quarters to go until I'm D-O-N-E!

Sajak spent the afternoon at the doggy salon. As we were walking into PetSmart, he about wet himself when the doors opened automatically for him. He jumped back and sank to the ground. (These newfangled inventions in the big city are such a novelty to our ol' farm dog.) He got a bath, a brush, a nail trim, and an ear cleaning, and they sent him home with a bandanna around his neck. He smells so nice and looks so soft. Believe me, spa days aren't the norm for him. In fact, this was a first. But it's too cold for hose-baths outside anymore, and the only tub we have right now is a clawfoot that he can't get in and out of without doing some damage to himself or the tub. And he was pretty nasty from an autumn of "bathing" in pond scum. He got a thrill out of heading straight for the water when we'd let him out the door, getting good and soggy, and then turning around and making a mad dash for one of us. Stinker. (And he wondered why he had to sleep out on the porch so often.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

first snow

Well, it happened. It is gone now, but it will be back before we know it...

I stopped at Fleet today and got a heater for the chickens' waterer. The poor girls' drink had frozen over. Winn is still working on the trusses for the barn roof. In between working on the two new bathrooms upstairs, helping friends with projects, saving the world from thyroid cancer, and doing his homework. We're hoping to get everything finished within the next couple of weeks so that we can park the truck in there for the winter. It will be an interesting winter without an attached garage. But people used to do that in the olden days, didn't they? We had someone out here to begin the planning for the garage/addition project in the spring. It has been a challenge to design something that works with our home's 1920s flair, but we're having fun dreaming.

PS: I bought gas for $1.96/gallon today!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

flat garrett

We got to participate in the Flat Stanley school project with our nephew Garrett who lives in Colorado. It's based on a story about a boy who gets flattened like a pancake when a bulletin board falls on him, and he gets folded into an envelope and mailed to all sorts of fun places. We had some good times toting Flat Garrett around Rochester. Here are the photos and journal we sent back to him.

Flat Garrett had a great time in Rochester, Minnesota. Rochester is a town with around 100,000 people, and it is located a little over an hour from St. Paul, which is the capital city of Minnesota. Minneapolis and St. Paul form the Twin Cities, which is the sixteenth largest metropolitan area in the U.S. with 3.3 million people. The weather was in the 70s while Flat Garrett was here, which is very unusual for this time of year.

Flat Garrett came to a party with us on Halloween. But when he saw how funny we looked in our pink wigs, he decided not to dress up. :)

On Sunday Flat Garrett went to church with us. He got to try out the drum set and the djembes (hand drums), and he even sang a solo at the microphone.

On Monday Flat Garrett came downtown with Aunt Betsy to run some errands and had his picture taken in front of the Mayo Clinic, which is a large hospital in Rochester where Uncle Winn works. About 30,000 people from Rochester and the surrounding towns work at the Mayo Clinic.

Flat Garrett enjoyed hanging out on the farm with us. He spent the afternoons out in the tire swing, and he even helped feed the chickens and gather eggs. Our dog Sajak loves company, and he didn't want Flat Garrett to ever leave. Thanks for visiting, Flat Garrett!

Uncle Winn and Aunt Betsy

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

proud to be an american

weekend highs and lows

* Taking the pink clown and the adorable cowboy trick-or-treating
* Going to hear our little friend Madyson sing in the Honors Children's Chorus
* Getting the plumbing for the two upstairs bathrooms finished (thank you, Uncle Paul!)
* Beating my grandpa in a game of dice (he rode along with Uncle Paul)
* Seeing my church family on Sunday and singing on the worship team (since I switched to keyboarding, it had been awhile)
* Having the vet tell us that Sajak is at a perfect weight (quite a feat for a laborador)
* 74-degree weather! In November!

* Receiving news that my mother-in-law's cancer is going through another growth spurt
* Hearing about the death of a friend
* Feeling depressed about how much my grandpa complains

Thursday, October 30, 2008

game face

We kicked butt in volleyball tonight (okay, actually we won best out of three, and they were all close games). I think we won because of our intimidating game faces. Since we knew the other team, we thought we'd come looking like this...brace yourselves...

We had our good friends Amos and Julie & Company over for dinner on Tuesday. They have four awesome kids who are some of the most respectful and creative and fun people I have ever met. We're wondering how you raise kids to be as sweet as they are (and four of them at that!), so we decided that if we ever have kids, we'll just give them to Amos and Julie until they're 18. :) The dinner menu was tricky because Julie is allergic to beef, dairy, and garlic (three things that are usually heavily represented in our normal diet), but armed with my favorite Taste of Home cookbook, I was up to the challenge. I had some salmon steaks to use up, and since I had heard they all love seafood, I found this salmon recipe to try (had to substitute with soymilk though). I wasn't sure about the mix of ingredients (brown sugar, seasoning salt, pepper, pecans...), but it turned out to be pleasantly tasty. It's quick and easy, so give it a try sometime.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

today i...

* stood up for myself when I felt I wasn't getting a fair shake from a business peer
* went on a long walk before dinner with my hubs and my dog
* took some photos of the leaves outside
* received a kind letter from a friend
* scolded Sajak for treeing Jack, the orange cat who lives in our barn (naughty dog)
* moved a tall, heavy file cabinet all by myself
* made eggs, toast, and sausages for supper

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I am...

* still up at 12:40am
* tired of school
* hoping the feeling comes back in the tip of my right index finger
* lovin' my dog
* feeling melancholy
* tired of election campaigns
* looking for a good salmon recipe for tomorrow night (tonight)

...but that's just me.

Friday, October 24, 2008

gotta try it

Yet another great thing about autumn...

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I talked to Jonathan's grandma on the phone yesterday, and she said he's doing very well. In fact, she said he got all dressed up for school the other day to receive an award from his teachers for being a student that is thoughtful of his fellow classmates. I can just picture him standing up there accepting the award, with his toothless grin (probably not so toothless anymore, but that's how I remember him), so proud to be recognized by his peers. I started to cry after hanging up the phone. It is bittersweet that he doesn't need us anymore.

While looking back at photos of him while he was here, I found this one of these two peas in a pod, in a tent on a camping trip (in the living room)...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

no use crying over spilled coffee

What is one to do when one spills coffee down the front of one's shirt in between two meetings, with no time to run home and change? I know better than to try and walk and drink coffee at the same time. Truly I do. I've tried it before, and it never works out. But for some reason yesterday I thought that I had magically become more coordinated overnight and could take the risk. Big mistake. At least it wasn't a white shirt I was wearing, but that almost made it worse. Without the brown color a white fabric would have revealed, it was as if I was leaking some mysterious fluid from my sternum. I tried to hide behind my laptop screen as best I could, but I'm sure I wasn't fooling anyone. Thankfully the second deposition was fairly short, and I hightailed it out of there. There was a request to expedite the transcript so I rushed home to get it sent out to be proofread before rushing to our small group last night. No time for supper. No time to change shirts (but at least it was dry by then).

From the unfortunate couple whose house exploded and sent them flying through the air and then deposited them on their bed with pieces of their home landing on top of them, to the emotional rollercoaster of a deponent with a past so laden with sad baggage that when recounting the events of said past it made her curl into a ball and scream "get me out of here," my job has been filled with interesting depositions lately, to say the least. It's a job that I enjoy, one that challenges me, and one that gives me a great amount of flexibility.

And yet sometimes I wonder if I'm doing anything of lasting value.

My sister is a nurse, touching lives every day. My other sister is a mom, shaping little lives every day. My brother is an activities director at a nursing home, brightening the lives of widows and the elderly every day. They are the objects of my admiration. The fact that I must remain an objective party on the job limits me to anything more than a working relationship with the plaintiffs, defendants, or the attorneys involved, reducing my ability to have an impact on their lives. This is why I feel most fulfilled on the rare occasion that my work involves CART writing for deaf people. At least then I feel like I'm making a difference. Rather than capturing a legal proceeding, I'm helping them hear the world, hear their physician's diagnosis or their teacher's lecture. At least then I can build a relationship with them, be their friend, offer some kind words when they receive bad news from the doctor.

But anyway, forgive my ramblings. I am grateful for my job. And due to its flexibility, I was able to take a couple days off and make a trip to Iowa last week to visit my sister Carrie and help her with some things. In just 2.5 days (and in between pillow fights and hide-and-go-seek with my niece and nephew) we gave her bedroom, the kitchen, and the living room a makeover. I didn't take any before pictures and very few after pictures, but I did get a photo of one of my favorite things we did. We took this old buffet out of her garage (that she got at an auction for $20), painted it red, put the broken door back on, antiqued the edges and the hardware...and voila. Love it. I wanted to bring it home with me, but she wouldn't let me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

couch facelift

We had a long week and an exhausting weekend. I collapsed on Sunday afternoon and didn't wake up until 5pm, at which time I scrambled to get my homework done and turned in online. I finished it just an hour and a half shy of the midnight deadline. This morning I woke up all congested and puttered around the house all day, trying to recuperate, drinking lots of tea and juice, not getting much of anything done. This evening we went to Grady and Allison's house, our new Canadian friends who just moved here from Germany, and celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving with them and another couple. The dinner resembled an American Thanksgiving, with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie, the whole works. We had a grand time, despite my drippy nose.

This week looks to be much calmer than last and a lot slower at work, so I have some plans in the works to get started on a few projects at home:

1} lay out plans for tile mosaic above the kitchen sink
2} clean out fridge
3} make a quick trip to my sister's in Iowa to visit and help decorate their master bedroom
4} start sewing slipcovers for our couch pillows

The old couch in need of a little color...

The fabric for couch makeover...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

my afternoon espresso

...and chocolate chip cookies

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

fall foliage

Another perfect sunny day. I had two jobs this morning in Roch. The first one didn't start until ten o'clock, so I didn't have to rush around this morning, and the last one was finished up by one o'clock. I came home and had some pasta and a banana and caught up on paying bills, returning phone calls and emails, collecting the mail and the chicken's eggs, and checking homework assignments. Now I'm eyeing the hammock through the window and thinking about taking a book out there, but I'm sure my left-brainedness will win out and I'll end up tackling some of the transcripts on my desk instead.

Yesterday I drove to Wabasha for a job. It was rainy and slightly foggy, and all the autumn colors were brilliant. I almost decided not to post these photos that I pulled over and took alongside the road, because they don't even begin to do it justice.

The deposition was held at an old worn-out brick building owned by Wabasha County, a structure that was charming but needed tons of TLC. The conference room was in the basement; the carpet was probably born before I was, and orange and stained; the coffee was awful and stale; the lounge "chairs" were actually old rust-colored bench seats from a van; and the witness was duller than a butter knife. It took all the strength I could muster to not fall asleep during the two-hour interrogation of the engineer about highway signage laws. Thankfully the three attorneys engaged in a bit of heated discussion every once in a while that was entertaining enough to keep me from giving in to my sleep deprivation. That evening I beat Winn home and sacked out on the couch until he arrived twenty minutes later. We made homemade tortillas for supper, and then Winn used the leftover dough to make sopapillas for dessert. They. Were. Fabulous. And we went to bed early.