Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Making Grandma's cookies

making cookies
counting to 3
fruit of our labor
After publishing Grandma's cookie recipe yesterday, we just had to make them today. In fact, that's the first thing Luke reminded me of this morning! (I'm wondering how many of my other cousins and relatives have made these this week....)
The kids were actually a big "help" but enjoyed eating the cookies much more than baking them!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Grandma's cookies

Grandpa, Me, and Grandma 2000
Grandpa and Grandma 2001
Aunt Kath, Me, Grandma 2002
Grandma and Grandpa 2005
Grandpa, Me, and Grandma, April 2007

There have been so many wonderful memories shared back and forth between family and friends since my Grandma Pavkov passed away last June, but two of the most remembered things about Grandma were her selfless giving of time especially in washing, mending, sorting, packing, and shipping clothes to Argentina and other places along with the cookie baking she did.

My cousin Martha recently sent around an email asking if anyone had Grandma's M&M cookie recipe. Wow, that request brought back a flood of memories -- that was the very first recipe anyone ever gave me. I was five, I think, when she wrote out one of my favorite recipes just for me! However, years later, fire claimed our home along with that cherished recipe.
Aunt Carole has Grandma's recipe box and started delving through. She found her M&M cookie recipe, so I thought I'd share it with you all. They are wonderful! Of course, most of the memories also involve children standing around the counter "helping" grandma by sticking their fingers in the dough and also placing three M&Ms on top of each cookie with careful precision.
Party Cookies Made with M&M's Plain Chocolate Candies (about 6 dozen)
1 cup shortening
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups M&M Plain chocolate candies
1. Blend shortening and brown and granulated sugars in large bowl. Beat in vanilla and eggs. Sift remaining dry ingredients together, add to sugar-egg mixture, blending well. Stir in 1/2 cup candies (reserve remaining candies for decorating).
2. Drop from teaspoon on ungreased cookie sheet. Decorate tops with remaining candies. Bake in moderate oven (375) 10 minutes or until golden brown.
3. Remove cookies with spatula to wire racks; cool completely. After baking, some candies make be slightly cracked. This adds texture and interest to cookies -- still the same delightful flavor.
Of course, this recipe doesn't show the most important ingredient. Countless cups of love into each and every batch.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sometimes it's just too funny....

Speaking as a parent, sometimes your kids say or do something that is so funny, you've gotta share it, even though later in life it may be embarrassing. So let me start by apologizing to Luke now...for any embarrassment this may cause him in the future...

Luke was all excited today to wear a new pair of overalls, "the kind of jeans that cover your belly!" I made sure he could get the straps off easily for bathroom times, and he handled everything like a pro. Until about 4:30. He and Susi had been playing when he ran out of the room, supposedly to go to the bathroom. Now I must explain. Luke is easily distracted when his mind isn't set on something. Sometimes he sees a toy or paper sitting on the floor and forgets all about what he was planning on doing. This must've been the case at that time, although I didn't realize it then. About 15 minutes later, I told Susanna to sit on the potty and do her business (we're at the potty training stage and she only goes when told or if she feels like it...not when it's actually gonna happen). All of a sudden, Luke ran out of the room again then soon came back in walking quite funny, kind of like a cowboy who has spent too much time riding a horse. "Mama, my jeans and underwear are all wet." Stifling a chuckle, I told him to just go take off the wet pants and underwear and put on dry ones. "Okay!" And off he went again only to soon return with dry, clean, green sweats. And so that was the end of the story. I thought.

Tonight, getting ready for a much-later-than-usual bedtime (we had our Fun Food and Fellowship group over here), Luke pulled down his pants and announced, "I forgot to put on underwear today!" Okay, this time there was no stifling the belly laughs from Tony and me! He, however, was not amused. He was literally freaking out because he MUST wear "waking up" underwear even though it was time for bed time (he wears special night time underwear or a diaper to bed...he sleeps on the third floor, the bathroom is in the basement). After hysterical tears and screaming, we finally got him to put his "waking up" underwear on, put on his pajama bottoms, then he took of the bottoms, his underwear, put on his diaper (yes, he usually does that himself, yeah, yeah, I know...), then put on his "waking up" underwear over the diaper before finishing getting ready for bed. Logical...for a four year old!

Susanna (sorry, honey!) had her own "fashion show" today. Luke and Susanna learned about saving and spending money by taking money they've been given to the local Ben Franklin to spend all of $3.66 (Luke) and $2.54 (Susanna). Luke picked five dinosaurs while Susanna picked a child's "real" make up kit. Did you know blue eye shadow looks quite charming when matched with purple lipstick, both applied below the nose? She then proceeded to take off her pants and her pull up before putting on Daddy's socks which came up to the tops of her thighs. Oh, the only other things she was wearing was her shirt and a big smile. And the make up.

Kids. Gotta laugh at them!

As if I don't have enough to do already...

there is yet another thing on my plate! After talking with Tony about it, and even more importantly praying about it, I have begun a new business venture!

First, some background. Our market buys many of its products from Minnesota companies -- we love promoting Minnesota items along with our produce. There are so many tourists in this area and most of them are looking for "something Minnesota" to take home with them. However, there are several other products (unusual flavors of jams and jellies, unique salsa blends, asparagus guacamole, really good licorice, old fashioned coconut bars -- although why anyone would want to eat coconut is still beyond me! -- old fashioned pop flavors in glass bottles, etc.) that we carry that sell quite well. Tony found this company about 15 years ago called Farm Markets of Ohio who carries all this stuff so you can order from one place instead of hunting down all kinds of different distributors. Well, about three years ago, I was going thru their newest annual catalog, and it listed the main employees. I noticed the name of the president of the company, one John Webel, and thought....I know this guy. That is not a very common last name! And I knew he lived in the general vicinity of this company. So I got on the phone and called them. The gal who answered my call must've thought I was nuts! Here is one of their customers starting to ask all these personal questions about her boss. Does he live in the Austintown area? Does he have two daughters? Finally, realizing what a nut I must've sounded like, I explained myself. (although I must insert here that I was talking with a lady that I usually talked to whenever ordering...she knew me pretty well from phone orders and such...but she still must've had red flags waving!) I told her that I grew up in that area (which I'd told her before) and that a John Webel went to my parents' church and that I even babysat his daughters years before once or twice. She became much more open then and I found was the same guy! What a small world, hm?

Well, Farm Markets of Ohio has since changed their name to Greenstar Farm Markets. They are really expanding their customer base but need more people, especially in different areas of the country, to help them out. That's where I come in. When the kids and I were in Ohio last year, we toured the facilities and met all the voices hear in my head (when I talk to them on the phone, that is!). And John asked if I'd consider being their contact person in Minnesota, talking to other farm markets and similar vendors about ordering product through them. "I'd consider it," I told him, not sure what my schedule would actually allow. I honestly didn't give a whole lot more thought to it, given how hectic schedule was last summer.

Well, in November he sent a basic agreement to me, we hashed out some details when we were in Ohio and I saw him at church, and I set the letter aside again, meaning to call him earlier this month. Well, John called me first, and after taking a realistic look at my schedule and responsibilities, talking with Tony, checking online to see what kind of customer base is potentially within Minnesota, and praying about things, I told John "sure!"

Sunday they are flying me to Ohio for a day and a half of training. I'll be representing them at our state's Fruit and Vegetable Farmers convention in St. Cloud the following week, and I hope to get lots of customers signed up at that time. Another answer to prayer about all this is when I called today to sign up for the trade show at the conference and explained what I'd be displaying, the lady in charge gave me the best table in the trade show area! I'll be right in front of the main door, right next to the "hospitality table" with all the donuts and coffee and such. Wow! I never imagined what a great location I'd get, especially this late in signing up!

I'm nervous. I have time in the winter months to do calls and letters to potential customers. Time to make a few trips down to Southern Minnesota in the Spring where there are so many orchards and other u-pick venues (perfect customer-candidates). Doing follow-up calls and such during the summer months when most of these businesses are open shouldn't be a problem at all. GSF covers all business expenses plus gives me a good commission on orders made, which will definitely help pay down that mortgage I wrote about in my last blog! But I expressed some of these fears to John...we are so busy with the farm and market...I have two little children who take up so much of my time...what if I don't generate enough business to make it worth their while in flying me to Ohio to train me? His answer, "that's the price of doing business."

I'm leaving the details in God's hands. Doing the best of my ability to help promote a company who has some great products and super friendly employees. And I'm so thankful for doors God has already opened...time to do training before this conference, the best location at the trade show, and a "boss" who I know is an ethical Christian man, who told me he understands my time will be limited as to what I can invest during the summer months because of the kids and other things.

One of the coolest things about all this? John called to get me on the bandwagon the same day that Tony filed all the paperwork transferring the Market to us....we took a leap of faith buying the Market, hoping and praying but not sure if financially we could swing everything but knowing God would provide, even with a business that so much depends on weather.

There is more potential business opportunity on my end with GreenStar Farm Markets, but I can't go into that right now. Just keep us in your prayers that God would help us make the most of this opportunity, that I would be able to do my best for GreenStar and Red Wagon Farm and Watkins and my family and most importantly GOD. It sounds like alot, but each takes up time in different ways and at different times. Pray that I would be a good manager of my time and that I'd never neglect my family or God while meeting the responsibilities of these three things I'm involved with. There are some great things in the works with all three things right now, and I thank God for it...and am depending on Him greatly to show me what His will is in each area.

Well, that's all for now, folks! More blog to follow at another time....

Saturday, January 26, 2008

We are now the proud owners of...

Carter's Red Wagon Farm Market on East Hwy 34 in Park Rapids, MN
Posing with the produce
The new owners....
Some of our non-produce goodies
Look at what we grow!

debt! This past week, we took a huge step in the on-going process of the farm transfer from Dad and Mama Carter to Tony and myself. Tony and I officially bought Carter's Red Wagon Farm Market. We have a loan we are paying for the purchase price, less a sizeable down payment. This is the first time my husband has ever been in debt!

For those of you who have not had the pleasure of visiting Carter's Red Wagon Farm Market, you should definitely try to come at least once in your life. (I'm sure my mom will post some comment about what a great place it is!) This is a wonderful, unique building built by my husband and a few of his family members. It is a "post and beam" barn built with timber from our farm land. He and his brothers spent one winter carefully measuring and cutting the wood, numbering and lettering each piece. Come spring, with a little prayer that the measurements were correct, they put everything together...with pegs, not nails. This is an old-fashioned way of building, and it is quite strong and sturdy. Every year, we always have several people stop in just out of curiosity.
This is a huge step towards our future, and one we pray God will continue to bless us with as we go forward with the "next generation" of Carter's. Dad Carter has built a great business with his excellent produce and good reputation. I hear so many stories each summer from customers -- stories from those who remember actually buying tomatoes and other produce from the original "red wagon" which gave the business the name...stories from tourists who come back year after year after year...stories from young adults who come in to show their friends the "really cool place we always bought our corn from each summer." I hear about "Mr. Carter's" excellent reputation and how people wouldn't buy their produce from anywhere else...and I hear complaints from people who DID buy their produce somewhere else and aren't happy with the "shipped in stuff" from the "turkey" that has a roadside stand half a mile from us or from the less fresh produce at the grocery stores or the produce that is sold by people from the back of pick-ups around town, getting hot and yucky in the summer sun. I get dozens of questions from folks wondering about different Carter family members, and a retired librarian reminds me everytime she comes in that she remembers my husband and most of his siblings from their school days.
I'm going on my sixth year working at the Market (seventh, if you count the few times I worked there when I'd visit Tony during our "courtship" year), and I love it. I love hearing the customer comments. I love finding out where all they come from. I love watching their faces when they sample something....then buy six or seven jars of the item. I love buying the different items we sell. I loved when my friend Kathy was visiting this summer, came to the market, and told me "Whenever I go on vacation, I always try to find a quaint little store with all kinds of good things to buy. You have that store!" I love listening to the comments people make when they take a good look at the workmanship that went into building our Market.
I'm a bit worried going into this, "our first" season. We are entering the second of three years of road construction here in Park Rapids, and this year our business will probably be affected negatively because of it. There will be lots of road construction for the mile or so leading to our market all summer long, and I hope our local regulars and out-of-towners won't be too deterred to get through the mess to get to us. Keep that in your prayers, okay? That we'll have a great season even through the construction mess!
Yes, we have that "store"....and it's now officially under our ownership. I hope and pray we'll be able to continue building on the excellent reputation my father-in-law has built. Thank you for the legacy you have built, Dad!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

More pics

Grandma LaMae, Julia, Rita's braid
Jonathan and Maggie Kay
"Uncle" Mark Magnuson
Me with the kids

I realized some of the "big people" were missing from photos. With these photos, everyone who was present at the party is now accounted for (except for David, who came for just a short time since he was trying to get things taken care of at the trailer before leaving the next morning).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It's Carter time!

Daddy (Tony)
Uncle Dwight and Mama
Luke (back) Samuel (fore)
Laura (front) Susanna, Ruby holding Hazel Mae, Anna
Ruby, Anna holding Hazel Mae
Laura, Samuel, Luke
Susanna, Maggie Kay, Mary Melati

Here are some shots of partying Carter's from Luke's big day. You'll note the look of sheer bliss and happiness on the faces of the adults while it is obvious from the kids' that they were just there because they had to be.... :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


This is a few weeks late, but hey...I'm a mom...with a camera that doesn't download directly to my computer (terrible, isn't it, how I'm not satisfied with all this wonderful technology? and actually, I picked up a card reader last night, so....)

Anyway, here are some shots from Luke's birthday party, celebrated with all the local Carter's and special guest Grandma LaMae. It was a "David" theme, since Luke often refers to himself as David the shepherd boy. As usual, I made his sweatshirt for him (shepherd boy with lamb), Tony "drew" his cake while I finished decorating it, and he again got a balloon (which only lasted about ten minutes before deflating from too much loving). He also had lots of friends eager to help open his presents! He also received the "armor of God," but frequently has had to have his sword taken away from him.....

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Well, things have warmed up a bit. When we checked the weather today at about 8:30, it showed the current temp here was 25 below, with a wind chill of 45 below. Now shows our temperature at two below with a windchill of "only" minus 25!

I had to laugh at my Aunt Carole's comment on my previous post...I was going to respond to it there but thought I'd do it as part of this blog. She said when the tires of your car freeze to the ground, you KNOW it's cold. One of the things I'm still trying to get used to living in MN during the winter is that you have to plug your vehicles in overnight so they can start the next day (definitely if you park outside, occasionally if you park in a garage, depending on how cold it gets). My California Saturn does not come equipped with an "engine plug," so there is often a period of a few weeks each winter when we cannot drive it at all.

You also know it's cold outside when you see the following report on the news -- the other night in the Twin Cities (3.5 hours south, usually about 10 degrees warmer than here), it was so cold already that there were big problems trying to put out a huge building fire -- the water kept freezing in the hoses! And what water did come out turned to ice well before it could even get on the fire. THAT'S when you know it's cold outside!

They also showed a science experiment a few times last year on the news. When the temperature gets low enough (for some reason, I'm thinking -10 or so), if you take a warm bowl of water outside and immediately throw it up in the air, it appears to shower sparks -- it doesn't really, it's just the warm water immediately turning to ice and falling down as shards of ice.

No one has yet taken me up on my offer to come and visit....

Oh the weather outside is frightful....

Right now (just after midnight, early Saturday morning), the temperature here in Park Rapids is 21 below zero. That is NOT wind chill (wind chill is listed as 36 below). Tomorrow the high is forecasted to be about six below, same as Sunday's forecast. If the weather report is right, we MAY see temperatures above zero somewhere on Tuesday when it's supposed to be a balmly one degree as the high (not counting wind chill).

Ahhh. Minnesota. Anyone wanna come visit?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Life as I now know it

Life in CA
and in MN

It's funny how quickly one's life can change. Six years ago, I was in a fast-paced job, office manager for a small but very busy full-service accounting firm. I loved it -- it was usually very stressful (especially with deadlines), but the work was fun and satisfying, my employers were very good to work with and for, and the job itself seemed tailored to exactly what I enjoyed doing. I enjoyed having friends come over just to "hang out," or inviting friends over for meals. I spent alot of time with some good friends, often babysitting their young boys so they could get away for a date or a long weekend. If someone wasn't feeling well, I loved whipping up some chicken soup or some other meal to drop off for them. I had long talks on the telephone with good friends and relatives, and there was lots of quiet time to just relax and soak in God's Word, do in-depth Bible studies, have some awesome "alone" worship time and some great prayer meetings with other believers. I went hiking and mountain biking. Those are just some of the little things I really enjoy doing. I was pretty much responsible for myself, as independent as one can be when keeping God first but not having anyone else to take care of. I lived in a very busy area of the country (SoCal) and enjoyed the warm weather that came with all the other hazards of living in such an area (earthquakes, fire dangers, Santa Ana winds, crazy traffic, etc.).
Then in March 2002 I met this awesome guy who I have no doubt God brought into my life. At the same time that I was enjoying my independence so much, I was also craving the love and companionship of someone special. And as much as I enjoyed my job, I cannot remember a time in my life that I ever really wanted to be anything other than a wife and mother. After almost 36 years, God blessed me with my "dream" job. And I found out that EVERY "job" comes with its pros and cons.

Four years ago, my life was totally different than it had been, completely changed in less than two years. I was now living in (according to the weather reports for the day) the "coldest part of the U.S.A., including all of Alaska." I was in and out of the hospital with this tiny little life who was fighting high biliruben counts (jaundice), having just came home with said little life after spending four days in the hospital while he was in a incubator with special lights to combat the jaundice. I didn't have my own bed any more. And a full night of uninterrupted sleep? I don't think so! I was now a wife and mother.
In the years since, it's been a struggle at times for me. Everything I knew and was familiar with, things I loved doing, were gone. No more steady pay check, no more time to do what I want and enjoy doing (ever try to have a meaningful conversation with a 2- and 4- year old in the background?). With all the things my new "job" has brought me, there isn't time (at least right now) to do so many of the things I love doing, thing my heart longs to do -- cook meals for friends who are sick or overwhelmed, babysit for a couple that REALLY needs some time away together (hey, I AM part of one of those couples now! Anyone wanna come babysit so we can get some much needed time away and alone together?), no more career that is as dependable as tax season (it all depends on growing conditions now), no more time to have long, uninterrupted time with God in Bible studies or prayer meetings -- there is time for Him, but uninterrupted? Time that I can spend just soaking Him in? I'm now responsible for more than just me....the times that I skipped a meal because I didn't feel like eating or ran over to the restaurant next door for some great Chinese food or called a friend last minute to invite them over or went out to see a great new movie are gone. I have to make sure we have a good meal on the table not only at supper but three times a day. Every day. I can't go home after a weekend or an evening of babysitting to a quiet apartment... nope, these two are with me 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. I think most moms can understand how there is no such thing as a guaranteed good night's sleep -- upset tummies, scary dreams, and "I just want to be with you, Mama" happen any time. I am working with our family business -- doing all the accounting and tax work (expect for the returns) for the family farm and market, scheduling employees, doing advertising, ordering products, listening to and encouraging my husband when he runs new ideas past me. It is a busier "job" than working in a tax office ever was (if any accountant could believe that!) because the job never ends. There is no down time. Granted, with the farm we have a few months where things are a bit slower than in the summer, but things are always still happening (even more so, job wise, for Tony than for me), and motherhood isn't restricted to M-F, 8:00 - 5:00.
There are times I feel overwhelmed. Times that I wonder what in the world is happening to me. But at the same time, as much as I miss many parts of my "old" life, the rewards in this new life far outweigh things I did before Tony swept me off my feet (well, usually). As I was typing this, Luke interrupted me to tell me he HAD to give me a kiss. And a hug. And who knew you could get so excited when your daughter did her first really big dump in the little potty? (Tony was so excited he had to call me at Awana last night). And while I don't have the time to do most of the things I so enjoyed doing years back, I am very blessed with a husband who takes over on Wednesday nights so I can help with the Awana program at our church. Who takes over once a month (sometimes more) so I can have a few hours out with other lady friends that are also looking for a few hours without kids -- I mean, for a few hours of fellowship with other women. He even makes sure I'm able to go one night a week for a bible study during the summer...our busiest time of the year. And that time means more to me than I can ever explain.
There are so many other things my heart longs to do, but for most of them, I know that it is just a matter of time before I will be able to do them again. And as different of a career as it is from what I did before, I really enjoy this family business. I love working with our employees, getting satisfaction from our customers who so enjoy our fresh produce and other goodies that we sell at the Market. I miss the warm year-round weather (although the snow is beautiful, especially when looking at it from in doors), I miss really good Chinese food (the closest PF Chang's is 3 hours away!), I miss Starbucks (no, Caribou Coffee doesn't even come, the closest one of those is still an hour away), I miss dear friends that I've made while living in different parts of the country, I miss knowing I'll have a guaranteed uninterrupted night's sleep, but I get foot rubs and back massages whenever I ask, hugs and kisses from cute little (and big) faces, and joy (and fear) in knowing that I'm part of a two-person team helping raise two little lives for the honor and glory of God.
Life as I now know it is MUCH different than it was six years ago. And I think I'm pretty happy that it is!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Play date!

Today was Luke's first "official" play date. He has lots of friends (it helps that there are about a dozen kids his own age in his Sunday School class), but he always talks about his "favorite friend" Tyler (well, his favorite friend that isn't his sister). I was thinking of inviting Tyler to Luke's birthday party, but every time I'd ask Luke who his favorite friend was, he responded with about four new names! I wasn't about to invite the entire 3-year-old Sunday School class over! However, Luke loves spending time with Tyler in Cubbies, sitting by him during story time at the library, and hanging out with him at Sunday School.

Tyler's mom and I have been talking about having them play together, but with the flu that wouldn't leave our family alone for so long, that was delayed. After several days of no signs of illness, today was the big day! Tyler was coming over!

It was great. All day yesterday, Tyler's visit was leverage for making sure toys were picked up, behavior was good, and Luke stayed in bed at bed time. ("Do you want me to call Tyler's Mama?") Okay, maybe that isn't the best thing to do, but it worked. And all this morning, Luke continuously asked "Is Tyler here yet?" and would yell up the stairs "hello!" Finally...the big moment arrived! Tyler was here! Poor kid seemed a bit overwhelmed as two eager children rushed him the moment he walked in the door, hugging him, tearing off his coat, lifting his feet so they could take off his shoes. And yet, they had a blast playing with him. Well, Susanna quickly got side tracked by Tyler's baby sister, but it wasn't her play date anyway!

We still need to work on acceptable behavior (like not pulling on clothes, and not crowding our friend's space just because we're so excited to see him), but it was a fun time for all, I think.

Luke left with Daddy just before nap time reminding me of a "good idea" -- When Susanna wakes up, we can go to Tyler's house to play!

We've close to eliminated Luke's naps now....except for Awana days when bed time is later than usual. I will miss those naps, but it makes bed time much easier. Tony has been a gem helping out this first "napless" week by taking Luke down to the "Ponderosa" (Blake's trailer home that is sitting empty since they returned to the Philippines) so he could play there for the couple hours that Susanna is down.

It's amazing, the changes that happen so quickly in children as they get older. I've just sat and laughed at Luke lately. His humor is really developing, and it is quirky, dry, and cracks me up. He sits and laughs at videos (in the spots you're actually supposed to laugh...and not just at funny sights, he really gets the funny lines!). Yesterday we watched a Mr. Quigley video -- they all end with the same song "and now it's time to say good night...." and I told the kids "okay, good night!" He looked at me with horror and shock, "Good night? Already?" And I laughed as I told him I was just teasing...we'd not even eaten supper yet. Four years old and he managed just the right amount of disdain in his voice as he replied, "" I didn't know whether to wince or laugh...

Oh, I love those kids! And I'm so thankful we're all finally healthy again!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Great one-liners

Heard around the house within the last 24-hours:

Susanna, stop looking at me with your eyes!

Luke, you are really pushing my buttons!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

new blog!

My friend Jane just added her blog to blogspot....check it out! The link is below, or just click here... -- Jane's so cool. She's our church organist, a fantastic musician (you should hear her play the triangle for the community Christmas program, hehe! -- seriously, she's probably the best pianist/organist I've ever heard, and you know we all know some extremely talented musicians), hilarious lady, someone who -while a bit older than me- isn't afraid to get out there and try new stuff... like facebook, blogs, you name it! She's been sending me the funniest emailed comments about some of my blogs, and you can find one of them listed on the bottom of her new blog (although her travelling experience comment was even funnier).

Check it out...and tell her I said hi!

Hey, did anyone else notice my favorite blogs start with J, K, L, and M? If you have a blog and your name starts with I or N (just to stay orderly....), let me know! Did anyone else notice I'm getting tired and really silly?

Oh...pray for us. Luke wanted to take a bucket to bed for "when the water comes out of his mouth." I hope I won't have to wake up Tony.... And thanks for the earlier father-in-law is doing great now!

Back to Watkins...

Now that things are slowing down in other areas for me (at least, temporarily), I'm focusing more on Watkins again. I love their stuff! And I'm not just saying it cuz I sell it...

This past year, they came out with a whole new line of cleaners. Now, they had a wonderful line of tried-and-true cleaners, sold fantastic, did better than anything else you can get in the stores (seriously!), so why in the world would they go out and revamp their whole cleaning line?

These cleaners are exceptional. They are "all natural," meaning there are NO chemicals or anything harmful or artificial added to them. They are free of ammonia, benzene, boron, butyl/ethyl, chlorine, dyes, formaldehyde, isopropanal, kerosene, mineral spirits, petrochemicals, phosphates, phosphoric acid, propylene glycol, SLS, and sulfuric acid. I don't even know what most of that stuff is! They are also biodegradable, non-toxic, never tested on animals, safe for all septic systems, safe to use around children and animals, you name it. The fragrances in these cleaners are also all natural, using only plant-based oils (lavender, lemon, orange, and aloe/green tea). For allergy-sufferers, these are great products to use as many allergies, and especially indoor allergies, are linked to chemicals and artificial scents, etc, found in so many cleaning products.

There has been alot of publicity lately, at least in this area, about how research is starting to link behavioral problems in children to things like dyes and artificial scents in laundry detergent and softeners, residual cleaning chemicals left on dishes and other surfaces, stuff like that. I don't even begin to understand all that, although it sounds right to me. There is a greater concern and awareness of "not leaving our footprint" in the environment -- doing our part in not adding further pollution. There has also been alot of attention given lately to anti-bacterial products and if they actually do more harm than good (do a google's amazing how much info there is!) -- and these products are NOT anti-bacterial.

All I know is that I tried each product, rather reluctantly at first. I want to be able to tell my customers HONESTLY what I think about each product. And I'm quite happy with the OLD Watkins toilet bowl cleaner (it does wonders cleaning hard water stains!), bath room cleaner, and laundry detergent. I like my Cascade dish washing detergent and Dawn dish detergent, thank you very much. I still have several bottles of Watkins pine oil that I hoarded before they discontinued it to make room for this new line -- what better cleaner is there for any surface, including the floors? And why would I switch from my streak-free Windex? But, good Watkins dealer that I am, I grudgingly allowed a one-time-only switch on each product to see what the new stuff was like. Plus, the new stuff is chemical-free and safe around kids, two concerns of mine.

The first product I tried was the new tub and tile cleaner. There was actually one evening this summer that I had some free time to take an actual relaxing bath rather than my usual rushed shower. Well, I really didn't have the time, but I really WANTED a relaxing bath. As I lay there soaking in my warm Watkins-scented bath water (the menthol-camphor bath salts are REALLY relaxing!), I noticed that there was some mildew starting around the caulking in the sides of the tub. Yuck! I grabbed the new tub and tile cleaner, sure that it couldn't do the job and determined not to even give it that much of a chance (yeah, great dealer, huh?). I sprayed the stuff on, waited about 30 seconds, then wiped it off. I noticed two things at once. The mildew was gone, and my bathroom smelled great! It's a citrus scent. I was sold immediately on this new cleaner! But would the other stuff work as well?

It does. I love the new dish soap (although in all honesty, it doesn't bubble up alot and what bubbles there are dissipate pretty soon, at least in our hard water) -- it cleans up grease and baked on gunk even better than my tried and true Dawn. And it doesn't dry out my hands like Dawn did. The new laundry detergent gets rid of the ground in dirt and grease that get all over Tony's clothes, especially in the summer time. It also eliminates even the toughest stains on the kids clothes...all without extra products or soaking time. The new toilet bowl cleaner works just as well in getting the rust and iron build up that accumulates so fast here, and the window cleaner is amazing! The dishwasher detergent cleans spot-free, and they have a new hand soap, too, which my kids love to use. And what about replacing my pine oil? The new all purpose cleaner works wonders -- it gets out ground in, dried up food and other unidentified stuff on and under the table (where the kids sit), cleans up the floors beautifully (and with a wonderful scent), takes out spots in carpets, cleans up cars in a flash, you name's "all purpose." They also have these terrific all purpose wipes that are fantastic! They wipe up any spill around, are handy to carry in the car for any kind of mess or accident, are a breeze to use in a public restaurant or restroom, you name it. And the wipes are quite falling apart at the first use of elbow grease!

I love my Watkins cleaners. The price is very reasonable, the results are clean and sparkling, and I don't understand now why all these companies make and market so many cleaners that have all kinds of chemicals and other bad-for-the-environment-and-for-us products in them when all natural stuff works just as well and even better.

Got a question? Email me or post a comment. Want to try some for yourself? Go to my website at or call me to order (I try to keep a supply of everything on hand). Not sure if you want to commit to buying something but really want to try and see what it's like for yourself? If you're local, call me. I have some products I let people sample for a week to see for themselves.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Third round...

for Susanna...this is getting to be very tiring (at least for my beloved Tony who continues to take over the clean up chores). Please pray for us!!!

Also pray for my father-in-law who came down with the same nasty bug. However, due to his kidney transplant last year and his age, it's hitting him harder. He is getting IV fluids to combat dehydration.

Thanks for the prayers...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Catching up

Okay, alot has happened recently and there has been so much I've been wanting to write about, but everything else happening has pre-empted the other stuff (follow?). I'll try and write some random thoughts I've had lately...

Please keep our nephew Andrew in your prayers. He is in Iraq again now and his group of soldiers are dealing with some of the toughest things over there right now (yes, it's all bad, but the area he's in is classified as the worst, and he's got a great team of men over there who are called on all kinds of missions). If you've seen some recent events in the news about stuff over there, it most likely was about his group. They've dealt with the deaths of three men in recent weeks, two of whom he was good friends with. Please pray for his physical, spiritual, and mental health along with courage and wisdom in the decisions he must make and comfort especially in troubled times. Not just for him, but for all our troops. Having someone dear over there just brings it all home even closer.

Our sermon this past Sunday was on being In Communion with Christ. The first Sunday of each month, we have communion served at our church. As the elements are being passed around, we are always reminded of the meaning of the elements as well as of communion itself. However, the sermon on Sunday was a wonderful reminder about all things pertaining to communion. I especially appreciated the comment Pastor Marty started with...about how important it is to stay in communion with Christ individually, setting aside the time in all the hustle and bustle that happens in our lives. It was exactly the reminder that I needed. Things have been so crazy busy lately (like when aren't they?), and I needed the reminder of the importance of having alone, quiet time with Christ. I look back at the things that I did just during December, surrounding many "good" things -- but all so busy and filling up on time. How often did I take the time to spend by myself, refreshing myself in Christ? How often did I take the time, even though I was there and with them, to just sit and visit with family members? How often during the day, even though I'm pretty much with them 24/7, do I spend on my knees, playing with the kids with what THEY want to do? How often do I GIVE of my time, doing what OTHER people want and not what I think needs to be done? Not often enough. But that has changed.

Cameo apples are WONDERFUL! I've heard about them for years now, since we carry many different varieties of apples at the market before closing for the year, but Cameos are a later variety and not available before we close at the end of October. However, when we were in Ohio, I got some to serve with the baked brie at the Toth Christmas get-together. Wow! What a perfect combination...the puffed pastry, the melted brie, the Cameo apples. I was delighted to see them advertised at one of our local groceries and asked Tony to pick some up when he was in town yesterday. I'm on my third one for the brie, but they are delicious plain and even better dipped in left-over dark chocolate fondue sauce, yummy!

I've come to realize I'm a terrible mom when it comes to dealing with sickness. Well, not just any sickness, but (as the Carter side calls it) "erps." I can deal with headaches. I can deal with chicken pox. I can deal with owies. I can even deal with bandaging up little fingers who get the bottom of the finger nail cut clean across by a folding chair smashing it like I did to my son today. I can take out splinters, deal with rashes, put up with grumpy-grouchies when they aren't "just right." I cannot deal with erps or cleaning up the erps. Thankfully, I have a husband who can deal with it (even though nobody ever wants to). It is hard for me to even hold and rock a child, MY child, when he or she is dealing with the flu or bad tummy problems for fear of them erping on me as I would probably quite promptly return the favor. Are there any other moms out there like me, or is it just me? Even if you aren't like me...just make me feel better and agree that you're the same!

Today is another gorgeous day outside -- yesterday and Sunday were in the 40s, or very close to it, I believe, which is extremely odd for this part of Minnesota. While no one really felt like taking advantage of this nice weather the previous two days, the kids and I had a blast outside today, sliding down piles of snow into the ditch, climbing up the mountains of snow Daddy had bulldozed out of the way last month, and just throwing snow at each other. The added benefit was it wore 'em out and they both fell asleep quick at nap time!

Tonight the plan is to have supper out with Uncle Dwight. He is one of the many beloved uncles -- Dwight is the second oldest in Tony's family, the only remaining bachelor of the bunch. He has an extensive farm in Guatemala raising everything from different fruit trees to noni to talapia and I'm sure much more. He has another business with a friend down there where they supply old dairy equipment from the States to dairy farmers down there. This brings him to the States at least twice a year, summer and winter, to pack up a load to ship back down. And Luke and Susanna LOVE when Uncle Dwight is here. Today Luke was walking around all day with a beat-up old hat on his head "I'm Uncle Dwight!" (you'd know what I mean if you knew Uncle Dwight). And Dwight loves his nieces and nephews. He showed up at our door Sunday afternoon just to play with the kids. And they loved it!

We got home from Ohio and I think Luke somewhere along the way got a huge dose of testosterone. I cannot believe the "boy" things he has been doing. Hitting. Kicking. Pushing. Pinching. Just because. Thankfully, no damage has been done except to his backside, and I'm not sure if it was his bout with the flu or the above-mentioned damage that has slowed him down (or a bit of both). We'll see within the next few days. Susanna has learned the fine art of self-will and temper tantrums along with the ornery words "I DON'T WANT TO!" It's confusing as to where she learned this as she did not see it displayed anywhere in our travels or here at home. Oh yeah! That whole human nature, fallen man thing. Hmmm. Well, that's in the process of being dealt with, too. She knows the limits, the expectations, and what isn't acceptable...and has learned that just because her attitude and/or words change before Daddy or Mama reach her with the spanking stick or before she's put in the naughty spot doesn't mean it pre-empts her from those consequences. She's also been thanking us for the discipline meted out, along with gifting us with big hugs and kisses afterwords (although "I'm still just a little bit happy and a lot of sad.").

For rambling is done. At least to you!

Monday, January 7, 2008

He's FOUR!

January 7, 2004 -- birth day
Five years ago at this moment, one of my most pain-filled times was almost over. The partial epidural was taking effect, and Tony was still wondering if I'd ever be okay. Luke decided to make an early appearance, forcing an early delivery by breaking my water three weeks before his due date. Being induced is NOT a fun thing, and it is even less fun as your husband tells you how much a human delivery (medications and all) are like bovine deliveries. At least he didn't bring a rope to the hospital, as the husband of a friend of mine did (he's a vet...and it was a very unappreciated joke. At the time....)
January 7, 2005 - age one

Luke has been a joy and delight and a sometimes cause for frustration, ever since. There are times that I have to turn my back or walk out of the room so he doesn't see me laughing at something he shouldn't be doing or shouldn't have said. There are times I'm sure everyone is sick of my bragging on him (but don't'll continue!). There are times he just amazes me, listening to what his brain comes up with. There are times he brings tears to my eyes -- listening to his prayers, watching him share his most favorite things with his friends and sister, feeling him step on my back as I lay on the floor rather than walk around me....
January 7, 2006 - age two
I look at this little man and his sister and feel so inadequate in the repsonsibility God has given to me with them. I wonder if I'm going to totally screw up in raising them. Scar them somehow for life. And I'm thankful God has also given me with a wonderful husband who was also blessed with those two amazing children. I'm also thankful God has given us both good humor and is helping us both extend our patience levels.

January 7, 2007

Today Luke is four. Right now, five years ago, Dr. Fredell said, "congratulations, you have a baby boy!" Right now, today, Luke is taking a nap. He's not having the best of birthdays...yesterday morning it was his turn for the flu bug to hit (I'm pretty certain now, that hotel room incident stemmed from a definite mild concussion and not the flu that we have all experienced now). He's feeling better but much more subdued than usual, having spent the most of the morning going between playing with birthday presents and laying on the couch. We had his party Friday evening so that the Blake cousins could celebrate with us before returning to the Philipines Saturday morning. As usual, I don't have my photos from the party yet....but it was a blast for everyone, I think!

July 2007

You'll see birthday photos soon. He was thrilled with his David and Goliath-themed evening. You'll read more bragging, I'm sure, as the days and months continue...

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Now for the boys!

Here are Nathanael, Joshua, Caleb, and the whole can't see Josiah David yet...he won't be showing his face for another few months!

More Photos...Ron's Family

Here are some shots of Ron's family...since I can only post 5 photos at a time and there are seven children, we'll do this in two rounds! The girls are here...Hannah, Moriah, Tabitha, and Lydia (with Mama Tammy).

Friday, January 4, 2008

A few more photos...

Okay, here are a few more before I finish getting ready for Luke's party!

The kids in bed at the hotel the first night (before Luke woke us all up), a photo of all the Toth cousins at Papa and Grandma's house, Daddy and the kids decorating Jesus' birthday cake, me with my Grandma Toth and Luke & Susi, and three of the little princesses (Susanna, Tabitha, and Moriah).