Friday, January 30, 2009

Crossing Over: A movie for my must-see list

Happy news! Valentin* is on his way home!

Lil Miss A's first grade teacher was a wonderful lady I will call Sherry *. Sherry is American born, your typical blonde-haired, blue-eyed Germanic Middle American gal. She told me about her family - her husband Valentin and their son, Little Valentin. Tales of the adventures of Little Valentin were big sources of amusement for Lil Miss A and her class. Big Valentin is a Mexican citizen. He wasn't here legally; I think he came legally and then his visa expired, though I'm not entirely clear on that detail. Anyway, he had established himself in Iowa with a wife and then a sweet little boy, a home, a church, a life.

It started to weigh on Sherry and Valentin's hearts that he was breaking the law by continuing to live here. So they looked into the process for how they could get a visa for Valentin. Nothing was really going to change; he already loved his adopted country, and he certainly loved his wife and child. He just wanted to show his respect for this land by keeping its laws. So they traveled to Mexico and his home and filed the paperwork while visiting with Valentin's extended family.

Horror of horrors, his visa was denied! They could not believe it. Sherry was placed in the sickening position of having to take their son and fly home to Iowa, leaving her husband, Little Valentin's daddy, behind. At first she hoped all would be cleared up in 6 weeks. Six long, sad, lonely weeks without her husband, without Daddy. Then weeks stretched into months. They got a lawyer. They got a state legislator on their side. More paperwork. The months became seasons. MORE paperwork. Waiting. More waiting. They were able to fly down and visit Valentin but then they had to leave him once again. Their church helped some, but maintaining two households plus all the travel and legal bills was very draining on the family finances.

I prayed for this situation faithfully for months and then somehow I lost track of it. I no longer saw Sherry every day, as Lil Miss A was now in 3rd grade, on the other side of the building, so I didn't bump into Sherry constantly at the school, and I failed to check on her. A couple of weeks ago I finally saw her and asked how things were going, and was shocked to learn that Valentin had still not received permission to return to Iowa!

Well, here is the happy news! After well over a year apart, the family is about to be reunited at last. Sherry told me she got a letter yesterday saying Valentin can come home to his family! Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!

On a side note, and not meaning to detract from Sherry and Valentin's joy, I would like to point out that Sherry and I live in the same county as Postville, infamous for its ICE raid, deportations of hundreds of illegal workers and house arrests of dozens more, families torn asunder, the utter desperation of parents unable to be with their children and children taken from their parents. Heartbreaking stories - but those involved were breaking the law of the land. Now here are Valentin and Sherry. They did their best to uphold the law, to fix what was broken, and have been punished for it.

This nation's immigration policies need one giant overhaul.

* Names changed in respect for the family's privacy; if they ever give me permission to post their real names, I shall do so.

Finished by Friday: State Sales Tax Returns. :o/

Oh yeah, that's exciting: I finally finished Barry's and my Iowa state sales tax returns last night. This was the year, THE YEAR OF EARLINESS, the year when I was going to sit down and do them on January 1st, since everything is in Quickbooks and it would be a breeze. Only of course it didn't happen that way. I got intimidated by the fact that all the rules changed July 1 and just stuffed it all away in a folder. When I finally faced the music last night, it only took about half an hour to do both returns. And another half an hour to fret over why it was so easy, and to redo them to make sure I hadn't messed something up. For that hour of effort, the State of Iowa will receive $140 in sales tax from Barry Stahl Photography and a whopping $9 from Sweet Gal Decals. (Nearly all of my sales are Internet sales, so most of them are out of state, while most of Barry's are local, with a few across the river.)

I'm sure you are thrilled to know that this is done. I know I am.

Ancestral Wisdom, Courtesy of Iowahawk

"If your canoe springs a leak, drill a bigger hole to let the water to drain out."
Arapazowee (extinct tribe)

Read more here.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tutorial: Restoring Old Chrome and Vinyl Kitchen Chairs

I wish I had seen this before I did the chairs I have done! I would have done things differently.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Showing the Love for Netflix

We joined Netflix in December of 2005. We have suspended our membership twice, I believe; in fact, I think we out-and-out canceled it the first time during a family budget crunch and when we went back a few months later, we were amazed to find that they had saved our queue and we were able to jump right in again. We have been very pleased with our membership, though depending on how busy we are and how tight funds are, we have bounced up and down in different membership levels. Netflix was how we found Firefly, and Battlestar Galactica, and now we're working our way through The Wire.

Netflix will have its 10th birthday this September. With the addition of streaming video to the computer, it became an even better value; with the addition of streaming to our XBOX, and thus to our flat-screen TV, it has become a really remarkable deal for this family. We still get disks, but most of our watching is Watch Instantly on our TV. We have a few shares - like, maybe, 3 - of Netflix stock, and it has stayed steady and high through all this Wall Street mess. Part of what we think makes Netflix work so well is the customer service. We send our disks to the nearest center which is in Des Moines. They get our disks overnight, ship them right out the same day, and then it takes 2 days for the disk to get back to us. If we get a bad disk, we just click a few buttons on the website and they send us a replacement immediately without a fuss. We have misplaced a disk twice, and each time, they said they would not make us pay for the disk this time. (Each disk was eventually found and returned.)

Here are two interesting articles I'd like to show you:
How Netflix Got Started: Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings tells Fortune how he got the idea for the DVD-by-mail service that now has more than eight million customers Interesting how the initial response rate to the free trial was 80%! How many startup companies can say that?
Netflix: Streamers Rent Fewer DVDs That's true for us, certainly. We are on the 2-at-a-time-unlimited plan. Sometimes we'd like to have more disks available, but we don't really need them, and there's plenty else to watch on Stream Instantly.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Vintage pattern: Embroidery on Gingham

This is a vintage 4-page pamphlet on embroidery on gingham published by the Coates and Clark Company. Not sure of the date, but it's pre-zip-code. I'm only uploading a small version of the front page here. To find all 4 pages in a better resolution, click here for Flickr.

Vintage pattern: The Original Sock Monkey

I have decided to start uploading some of my old instruction books and other interesting stuph. Hopefully someone will find it useful. This one is a vintage instruction sheet from the Nelson Knitting Company, makers of the original Red Heel socks, teaching you how to make a sock monkey. Only a thumbnail is on this blog; click here to find both sheets in a much bigger, printable size on Flickr.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Old Enough to Date

My friend Lisa Fruitful and I were discussing our teens (again) a couple of days ago, and the conversation got around to when we allowed them to start going out on dates. She told me that their rule has been, their children are not allowed to date until they have been confirmed in the faith. This makes all kinds of sense to me. The Fruitfuls are emphasizing to their kids that before you make choices about relationships, you had better make a decision about your faith and about your relationship with your Savior.

I like this so much better than our not-till-you-turn-16-missy! rule.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Prayers and the confidentiality of medical records

I know I am not the only medical transcriptionist out there who prays for the patients whose reports cross her/his desk.  I just transcribed a real heart-breaker, something where if it happened to people in my town I would immediately activate the prayer chain at church, post about it here and ask you to pray, e-mail my parents and ask them to pray... but of course it's a confidential medical record, so the only person I will ever talk about it with is God. I'm glad I believe in Him and His personal attention to us here on earth. I just cried out to Him to heal and comfort in this particular situation.

They'll never know, nor should they, that a nameless medical records person in Iowa prayed for them, but I did, and I know the prayer was heard.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Patrick Rothfuss is home from Pasadena...

... and checked in on his blog. He writes, "I played board games, hung out with rocket scientists, and got to have a Jamba Juice with Felicia Day. Yes. That's right. A Jamba Juice. I was pretty excited, let me tell you."


Learning about puffins

I learned some interesting things about puffins this morning. Lil Miss A informed me that her class read about puffins, and that puffins are very cute, and that puffins cannot take off in flight from the ground, they have to fall off something high to get started flying. She said that sometimes young puffins ("pufflings") get confused by city lights at nighttime and land in the middle of the city, then can't get airborn again, so school children get to go out at night ("their parents say it's okay") and gather up puffins, then take them back to the sea and free them. She said the children have to throw the pufflings into the air to get them to fly.

I was not surprised that my tender-hearted, animal-loving girl remembered all this and shared it; however, I was less impressed that this conversation took place in our kitchen at about 8:27 a.m. when she was supposed to have been at school for about 12 minutes already and still had no boots, snowpants, coat, gloves or hat on. *sigh*

It was Dawdling Day at our house. I do notice a pattern: When we are incredibly busy and I am preoccupied, she dawdles a lot more. I think it's a matter of her needing more attention from me and simply not doing much of anything until she gets it. I don't mean she does this on purpose. I just think it's the natural result of me not paying my usual close attention to her. This week has been slightly more chaotic than usual, with Barry ramping up his efforts to get into nursing school, Miss B trying to make decisions about which college to go to and working out interviews and physicals, et cetera, for Army ROTC, with tax season upon us and with me trying to turn over the treasurer's job. Plus last night Barry had fire school, Master K had youth Bible class, Miss A had Bible class at the Evangelical Free church and I had to get to her school conference, all pretty much simultaneously. It was a zoo. I know none of the kids got much eye contact from their mom yesterday.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Conversation with Lil Miss A

while walking to the post office together without mittens:

A:  Mom, here, hold my hand. I'll keep you warm.
(a block later)
M: Can't you put your hands in YOUR pockets and I'll put mine in MY pockets? I think we'll be warmer.
A: I can't. I don't have any pockets.
M: Yes, you do, right there on your coat.
A: Not EMPTY pockets.
M: Why? What do you have in your pockets?
A: Glasses and rocks.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Will these children ever get an education?

School is canceled for tomorrow already. The superintendent said it was because temperatures are supposed to be around -20 F at 9:00 a.m., and it is just too much of a risk to have possible exposures.

It is also kind of risky to leave bored children at home with a mom who is attempting to work full time from home, but I guess that's another matter entirely.

Star Wars: The Trilogy (as told by someone who has never seen the movies)

Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

This is us:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

College Savings Iowa

We have College Savings Iowa accounts for our children and also for our nieces and nephews, except for the one nephew with whom we have lost contact (Jake Stahl, if you're out there, we want to hear from you!), but I did not even think about opening one for Barry. I checked into it and we can do it. So I opened one yesterday, with enough money to pay tuition for the spring classes he's taking. It only has to be in the account long enough for the funds to clear, and then we can pull it out again for tuition and it becomes state income tax free. How cool is that?

Just pointing something out.

I may be older than my doctor, older than my children's teachers, older than my children's PRINCIPALS, but I am still younger than the President, and shall be for at least the next 4 years.

Monday, January 12, 2009

College News

Barry just got word that he is officially accepted to take classes through our local junior college! He had to take a math placement test, because he never took any math in college, but they accepted his college transcript in lieu of placement testing on the other subjects. He will start February 16th or 17th (the 17th if that's President's Day weekend, and I think it is) with 3 courses taught at Kee High School but for college credit with NEICC: The CNA course, plus Introduction to Psychology and Developmental Psychology. All 3 courses are in the mornings, so he will just go in for the mornings and come home for lunch. Then he is signed up for 3 more courses at the main campus in Calmar, Iowa, for the summer. I don't recall what all of them are but one is anatomy and physiology. I think there's another psych course too. By the time the fall semester comes around, he should have 18 credits under his belt! He has to be on the wait list for nursing school, and right now there is no room for him in the fall class. So that's the next thing to pray about: That he will quickly move up the wait list. Also he has already been approached by 1 of our neighbors and 2 of Britta's friends who all want to work out carpools to NEICC this summer and next fall! That will really help, too. Plus he gets to ride in a car full of cute girls.

God is so good. :o) We are amazed at all He is doing for us!

Barry is taking a course right now that is not for credit. It is taught at the Lansing fire station on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. It is the Firefighter I course which is required for him to continue to be a firefighter, even a volunteer.

In other news, Miss B got accepted to Bethel University in Roseville, but at this point she is not very interested in it. We are fine with that. She has made the first cut for an Army ROTC nursing scholarship.  The next step is an interview, which she has to do in La Crosse. She is trying not to get too excited about that.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Today's sermon

was about water baptism, how we allow it to divide the church of God and what the Bible says about it, and how we should quit arguing over the mechanics of it and concentrate on the meaning. Cool.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Have you ever heard of a cut of beef called "chuck tips"?

Me neither. Until about a week ago, that is, when Al Wuennecke of the City Meat Market turned me on to them (because they were out of chuck eye, which is what I usually buy for a splurge). It's this oblong-shaped cut of very lean meat that looks like a tongue. Seriously. It's about the size and shape of a tongue from a young beef. And if I say that aloud to the children, they will never eat this again. Anyway it's extremely lean, and it's very tender if you treat it right. Al told me to just basically braise it. I asked about stir-frying and Al and his staff all shook their heads firmly and said it would never work. "Bloody-ass rare," said Al. So I took one home on approval, marinated it in Mr. Yoshida's Gourmet Sauce for about half an hour, then popped it in a hot oven in a Pyrex baking dish for about 25 minutes and then sliced it into medallions across the grain. It was really good. Very tender, nice flavor. 

So today I went back and bought a whole vacuum pack of them for the freezer.  If we are reasonable about portion sizes, one steak should do for our family for supper; it just means making sure we have a couple of substantial side dishes to fill things out. We don't need as much red meat as we think we do, anyway.
Dear Mrs. Stahl:

We, the birds, wish to inform you that we LOVE cracked corn. You may fill our feeders with it any time you like. In fact, now would be quite convenient for us. Now, now, now.

With warmest regards,
The sparrows, chickadees, goldfinches and spare woodpecker

A walk in the snow

This morning Miss B drove "my" car to school for the day, and I had to pick up our weekly egg order at the elementary school, so Lil Miss A walked together to school. It's about 7 blocks away. We have about 3 inches of fresh stuff on top of the un-fresh stuff, and it's still snowing. We walked together through town, kicking through the snow, making tracks together and talking. It was lovely. She is perfectly fine walking to school alone, and I usually have her walk (or ride her bike) if it's over about 15 degrees, but even though it was a little cooler than that this morning, we were bundled enough that we could just enjoy it. There's something about walking hand in hand in the fresh snow with your child that makes memories.

I stopped at the bank and the post office on my way back, so all told it was probably about a half-mile walk. My thigh and butt muscles were saying, "What are you doing up there, anyway?" They have had it pretty easy for the past couple of weeks. After they realized what we were doing was walking, something they dimly remembered, they quit complaining and just got to work. The plows are out. Plows are big, scary, rather dangerous vehicles; you have to watch out for them, since the drivers are high up in their cabs and usually concentrating on what they are doing and not watching for pedestrians. Still, there's something reassuring in the sight of a big yellow snowplow with flashing lights rumbling down the street. It means someone else is out there, civilization has not broken down completely, and we are not cut off from our loved ones. (Besides, Lenny has taken to plowing out our parking space in front of the house for us. He sure doesn't have to. He's just nice.)

Once home, I let Bo loose in the yard while I did the most minimal job of shoveling a path from the back door to the street (that's the door everybody but traveling salesmen and the county assessor uses anyway) while he bounced around in the drifts. Then we fed the chickens and refilled the bird feeders. I couldn't find the bird seed. Maybe we have run out. Anyway I filled the feeders with cracked corn, which, if they will eat it, will be good high-energy keep-warm food.

Now we are inside in a warm, cozy house and I need to get to work. Coffee is on, cats are sleepy, candles are lit, snow is falling outside. I do love my life!

An extremely shallow thought --

-- about my hair.

I just have to say I'm so happy with my natural grey color! It's not completely grey, it's about 60-75% grey with the old dark brown mixed all through. It's still too short, as I cut it again once more to get absolutely all the dyed stuff off, but the color - well, if I went to the beautician's and asked to have it colored to look like this, I think it would be very expensive! I seriously love it! I expected to endure it, to accept that this is me, and to go on with my life. I didn't expect I would love it so much. :o)

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Old Girl's Looking Pretty Good in Green.

This is Gretl, my Sunbeam MixMaster Model 10, from the early 1950s. She works great, but she was pretty ugly - peeling, chipped paint, decades of built-up gunk in her vents. Yuk. I got on a cleaning-and-repainting roll this weekend which began when I took apart our Oster toaster oven, which also works great but is unsightly, and cleaned all the glop out of it, plus scrubbed and scraped and scrubbed until I got all the melted plastic off the glass door (it was the remains of a bread bag that had melted to the hot glass and had been there for a couple of years now). While I had the toaster oven apart, I painted the formerly black metal housing jadeite green. And it looked so great that I got Gretl out, took her apart too, and repainted her in jadeite green to match. I made the Sunbeam decal for her. It's not exactly what she would have had brand new, but it's similar.

She still purrs like a kitten, despite the fact that I ended up with a mysterious spare spring after putting her back together. I hate when that happens!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Another Winner from's Ingredient Search

I still had some of Mom's whole-berry cranberry sauce in the fridge, left over from Thanksgiving, and have been feeling guilty about it. Plus we have another pile of overripe bananas. And we're a little tired of banana bread. Or at least I am.

I found this Cranberry Banana Coffee Cake on's ingredient search by putting down cranberry sauce and bananas in the ingredients list and "bread" as an alternate keyword. This is really good! Quick to make and very fragrant. It doesn't puff up really tall, so with every bite you get cranberries and crunchy topping stuff.

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Cranberry Banana Coffee Cake
Submitted by: Gloria Friesen
Rated: 5 out of 5 by 1 members
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Ready In: 1 Hour 
Yields: 12 servings
"I make this moist cake for Christmas morning every year. It tastes like banana bread but has a sweet golden topping with a nutty crunch."
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1.In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients; add to the creamed mixture alternately with bananas. Spread into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking pan. Top with cranberry sauce.
2.In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, pecans and flour; stir in butter. Sprinkle over cranberries. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2009 Allrecipes.comPrinted from 1/3/2009

Saturday's Apron: Lotsa Fruit!

I made this little apron out of two different bolt ends, the cherries and the lemons, from my favorite quilt shop, Yellow Bird Art in Lansing, Iowa.

They have this wonderful barrel full of scraps and bits and you can get all that you can cram into a little baggie for $4.75. And with a little effort and careful folding, i can cram a LOT of pretties into that baggie!

The red and white is one of the Zoomin by Clothworks line. I love that fabric. It's so hard to find a true red and a true white.

I love those pockets! I found that pattern here. They're a little tedious but they come out so cute with a contrast lining.

It's reversible, sort of, with a lining but no pockets on the inside.

This baby is on eBay this week. I have never tried to sell one of my own homemade aprons before, just vintage ones from estate sales. I'm anxiously watching to see how it goes.