The Masonry Heater

We are firing it!

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We love the final look. :) But the brick clashes with the sage green wall behind it! So we’re contemplating painting that wall. White? Charcoal? Any good advice?

Here Craig is working on the lid.

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He tried a ceramic (or something) rope–the kind you use when installing a wood furnace door. But it didn’t seal, as was clearly revealed to us the first time we burned wood in the heater. :) So he sealed it up with mortar. We were so excited to give it a good, real burn, that we didn’t wait for it to completely dry. Oops. It gets really hot on top and the mortar is bubbling and it’s leaking again… :)

On another note, last evening we went to Dallas to visit a Nepali/Bhutani family who has come to church and invited us and some others for dinner. The food was fantastic! We had such a fun time.

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Today we were host family, and had a house full of friends over! It was delightful.

Blessings on your week!

NOEL

Ahh…I do like them.

My little–actually big, blocks.

:)

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I started with this! Actually, I started by running to Lowes and buying a 6x6x8. Treated. I did not want treated wood. But that’s the only kind they had in 6×6! And this was definitely the best price for a piece of wood that large–that I found anywhere. At one point, Craig sawed into a somewhat decrepit beam thing I found outside, but it split and had such large cracks in it that I knew it was beyond the decor stage.

So I gave up and went to Lowes! Because when I get something into my head, it’s hard to get it back out. :( :)

Craig cut the chunks for me. He’s cool that way. And lots of other ways too.

Then I sanded them, rounding the edges.

Then I painted them several times.

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They were starting to look cute. :)

I used black on white. Although they are not perfect, I am rather happy…

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I veeeery carefully set them up there. Why? Because the lid is not on the heater yet. And if they should fall inside, that would not be funny!

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I made the N block with an V on the bottom. That way after Christmas, I can turn it and spell LOVE. :)

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Happy days to you too!

Gourmet Meatballs for Moms

I am grateful enough to other people for fantastic ideas of what to do with four pounds of ground beef, that I am going to share what happened at our house today! In case you want to try it. :)

See, every week I turn 4-6 pounds of ground beef into… something. And understandably, I run out of good ideas. I do this so that I have one meal per day that I don’t need to cook! And now that I have the misfortune of needing to pack a lunch for my hubby, whom I miss seeing in the middle of the day, I like to have something on hand to stick in for that too. We don’t eat much chicken. This is mostly because the thought of non-clean chicken is gross to us. But we can’t afford clean chicken. :)

Last night in bed, my mind turned over and over, trying to come up with something to keep us in meals for the next two days while I get ready to be host family to our entire church on Sunday. And have a 31 party Tuesday night.

Meatballs. Sigh. It was time for meatballs again. But they can just be boring! And dry! But seriously, one simply cannot make chilli every week…

So this morning I did a bit of research on other blogs. Compiled and changed a few things…and made the most delectable meatballs I have ever pulled off in my life. A feat for me, because I don’t do sugary bar-be-cue sauces.

I will try to reconstruct it as best I can…

Mix:
Four pounds of ground beef at room temperature.
4 t. salt
2 t. pepper
2 t. oregano
2 t. garlic powder
2 t. onion powder
4 eggs
1 c. oat flour

Form into small meatballs.

Into a large saucepan, mix:
48 oz. of tomato paste
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. real maple syrup
2 T. mustard
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. onion powder
2-3 T. smoked paprika
salt
pepper
cayanne
1/2 t. stevia (or less)
water

I simmered this for 30 minutes or so, whisking now and again. In the meantime, I put both of my cast iron pans on to the stove, poured on some olive oil, and heated them. I waited until they were hot. And by hot, I mean–very hot! This is important if you want a good sear, which you do. Trust me on this. I would never skip this step again. Ever. I quickly filled both pans with meatballs, turning them after they had a good, caramelized sear on the edge. The flavor this lends to the end result is so amazing. And! It seems to seal in the moisture. I have never had such moist, succulent meatballs. :)

Now I’m getting scared. Maybe you won’t think they are so awesome! Maybe I’m just pregnant and it was the right thing at the right time today…?

After searing about two sides of the meatballs, (I didn’t make sure every side was done–some of it was still raw.), I popped the meatballs into a crock pot. After searing all of them, I poured my bar-be-cue sauce mixture over them, completely covering the meatballs. My bar-be-cue sauce was simmering hot, so take that into consideration. If you use cold b-b-cue sauce, you will need more time in the crock pot. Not you–your meatballs. :) I turned it on high, and left it for 45-60 minutes. Then they were done. Whatever you do, don’t overcook them! There is no good reason, ever, to overcook meat. :)

I feel mastercheffy.

So, maybe you’ve been doing this for years. But it was life-changing for me today…to be able to make good meatballs. :) I usually just put them into the oven and bake them. Nice and dry when finished. :) Not these!!!

The kids and I ate a lot of them for lunch. Yikes. Hope they last for two more meals!

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Take your pick on the lighting..

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Enjoy!

:)

My Christmas Decor: All Natural!

I never accumulated much Christmas decor. But this year, I got inspired! Why not make Christmas decor? That way, it can be low to no cost and custom fitted to my style! And so, armed with research on pinterest, a few ideas of my own, and some pieces of wood and greenery…okay, and a few things from Lowes and Hobby Lobby…

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This wreath was a huge project! At least for me it was. :) For starters, I picked the wrong frame. This lovely, real, grapevine frame was totally unnecessary! I love “real” things, but it was so hard to poke the wire through all that…for every little bundle. These grapevine wreaths are actually meant to be partially showing, and I covered mine all up. It also made the wreath very heavy at the end! But it’s real… :)

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My hands were bleeding by the time I was done. :) Next year? A simple, lovely, skinny version!

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But it is rather lovely. The blue berries were on the pine boughs I snipped. The red berries grow outside as well…

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And…

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Behold! The beginning of decor on the Heater. Such fun! The window frame is a gift from Bertha. :) We are considering permanently fastening it to the front of the heater. We’ll see. :) And we may hang the wreath up there too…

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Coming soon: What I am doing with these chunks of wood!

Almost…

Done!

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Glorious. Only the top lid to finish, after one more item arrives to seal it off. A very glorious part of this is the fact that I can see my floor…

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Notice the variety of expressions… :)

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So now we back up a bit. Here he finished laying brick, Tuesday evening.

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And then, yesterday, his day off, he worked hard all day. Hazel went with me to Burleson. I had a chiropractor appointment, and we stopped at Lowes, Goodwill, and Hobby Lobby! Such fun places! And fun to take Hazel. Honestly, I need to be careful.  Because she can get me to do almost anything. She asks so sweetly, then says, “pees, pees…?!” And I melt inside. Because I remember what it was like to be a little girl, and want something desperately. Thus, she came home from Goodwill with a pink bus. :) And she ate chocolate covered peanuts from Hobby Lobby…

The dress came from Goodwill. See, suddenly Bomani decided to grow longer legs! So I needed to outfit him in longer pants. Once again, Burleson Goodwill supplied my need. Seriously, it feels like God meets me there! I have found multiple maternity blouses there. I guess people tend not to keep their maternity clothes from one pregnancy to the next, cuz they have a row of stuff every time I go. And I have found dresses for the twins, long sleeved shirts that are high quality and cute, and now pants for Bomani. And if you shop carefully, you can get high quality stuff that lasts better than Walmarts $3 deals! I LOVE Burleson Goodwill. :)

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I see the sky!

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I got inspired to make a wreath. :) There is so much evergreen around here, so I clipped a pile, and bought myself a wreath starter at Hobby Lobby. Loving “real” things, I got this beautiful, twiny one instead of a wire ring. BIG mistake. It’s terribly hard to get the wires through all that. And really, who will see it anyway? But that’s how weird I am. Live and learn! :)

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Almost done!!

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Laying the first fire. Unfortunately, smoke leaked out, as the top wasn’t completely sealed off. But it was still exciting to fire it up!

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Okay, to be honest, my day totally went downhill after I got home yesterday. My back was killing me from my adjustment. It needed time to rest and heal up, and instead, I worked. And my house was…beyond comprehension. I could hardly walk around my laundry. Dust and dirt and toys and grumpy kids and very grumpy mom. Not a pretty picture! The twins’ nap was cut short because workmen came to fix a bad breaker. I put them to bed early and took a hot bath. Then limped to bed. And couldn’t sleep until after midnight.

There are just days like that. :)

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But today is a new day!

And God is good.

Always.

Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Decor, and Everything In Between

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Our Preschool books arrived! We are happy. :) I got this:

We love it! My inexperienced opinion is that there is a lot of bang for your money here. It is a fat book, and full of good things to do!

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Thanksgiving Day! Craig worked hard all day on the heater.

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Above, he is wedging wire mesh into a small space to hold the ceramic insulation in place. He insulated the back wall to reduce the interior surface area. These things need to be amazingly accurate!

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Not a lot of space there!

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Insulation and wire mesh in place!

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Fun on Thanksgiving Day!

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So, I came up with this idea to run the exhaust pipe (chimney pipe) out the back of the heater, through the wall, and into the closet of the plum room. Then up through the ceiling and roof there. My small and insignificant reason was so that it would look cooler out here. :) But it also solved other issues we had, one being ducting right where we were going to shoot it up through the ceiling in the main room. I was rather astonished that my idea was any good! I don’t know much about these things, you know. :)

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So, in this heater, you exhaust air out from the bottom of the heater. You want cool air. Heat rises. You want to use all the heat possible!

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Cutting a hole in the closet!!

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Aren’t they just darling…

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Our Thanksgiving meal! Bacon wrapped beef. Asparagus cooked to perfection, drizzled with browned butter. The meat was not worth bragging about. The asparagus was perfect! Dessert was skillet/oven brownies, the almond butter recipe. I didn’t take a picture. Why? Because I warmed it too much while I was stirring ingredients in, and cooked the eggs! The result was not beautiful, but it still tastes good. :)

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Craig insulated the pipe part that is inside the heater.

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Daisy loves her dad. Her favorite thing is to cuddle in his lap every morning as soon as she gets up. Here she had fun watching him work…

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Craig gave me a hint as to a Christmas gift he could use, starting now. :) So I went to Lowes and got him one! A head lamp. It works fantastic in the dark half of the living room, which is where he is working. As well as in the attic, and outside…

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Christmas Decor.

See, I have never accumulated much. It just was never a necessity, and so I never bought a lot. This year, I started thinking…why not make Christmas decor?! I mean, what is Pinterest for anyway?! :) And so I got started…and it’s been terribly fun.

Craig tore a board off a pallet for me. Thankfully, it partially broke in the perfect place. I had him finish breaking it for me. :) Left-over paint. Make a stencil. Sponge on a few letters. And ta-da!!

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An easy way to make the letters you want is to create them in a document on your computer. Then lay a paper over the screen and trace them.

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This shelf was our graduation gift for Anja. I painted some of the kids’ wooden blocks, and there was the perfect word to set on it.

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Spray pain a few pine cones, and you are in business! Christmas decor! My biggest projects upcoming: cut greenery outside and make my very own wreath. And cut out a lot of big snowflakes to cover my bare, living room windows. Or somewhere. :)

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Peace.

The Heater Projectttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt

Any idea how I’m feeling?

Like this will never end.

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He is amazing. He works day after day…all day Thanksgiving day, all day the next day. Every evening possible. Until 10:00 or so at night. Sometimes he works mornings before he goes to the office. And he is good. He is careful, wise, studies things out, and just good at this.

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But all that aside. I’m still about to lose it. I am sooooooo weary of a dirty house. Yesterday in desperation, I wiped off some surfaces in the living area. By evening I could see a layer of dust on them again. It’s been months. And it feels as though it will really never end…

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The kids had a heyday with the chip bag.

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There’s a lot of concrete on my carpet…

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My desk has long since turned into a work bench…

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And it is so hard to angle around everything in my pregnant state, lugging baskets of laundry to the clothesline, out this door, that today I did the unthinkable. I am drying jeans and towels in the dryer. And it’s brilliantly beautiful outside. But I simply could not face that obstruction course or whatever you call it. Not to mention that my back is giving me enough problems that I need to carry my laundry around in small amounts. Makes me want to yell sometimes! See, I’m a sprinter. I work hard, crash around, inspired and full of energy. Then I crash. That’s my style. I’m not a plodder. But with my back giving me issues, I need to plod. And it depresses me. :)

But I think the real reason I’m saying unsavory words today and frustrated inside is because I need my husband. I miss sitting down with him, talking, and drinking tea for a while. I miss walks with him. I miss hanging out. I miss dates. I need his help with the kids. I need his input, his help in training. (And I’m not talking about potty training…) I need him to put them to bed and give me thirty, quiet minutes before I crash. I need him to give them baths. It kills my back. I need him.

And he is building a heater.

:)

How’s that for spilling my guts onto the internet?!

May your day be….good!

:)

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch…

When people talk/write about being sort of health minded, but not one of those super crunchy, health freaky moms…I grin and chuckle. Because I am. Health freaky. Just sayin’. My kids think that bread comes from heaven itself. They almost never have it. And jelly on it? The very height of a delectable dessert.

Etc.

It’s been quite a while since I have written much of anything about health and crunchiness. After my mom died of cancer, it became sort of a painful passion of mine, one of the strange ways I dealt with grief and the incredible fallenness of this world. Since then, it has mellowed into more of a sane discovery of what is right for us, and what we want in our future and for our children.

My mom was actually a hair crunchy herself. But I still had a very unhealthy life up to about 32 years of age. Which gave me time to do a lot of damage. :( I’ve never been super strong and healthy. Actually, my life in Kenya was about the best I’ve had as far as not getting sick. I dealt with a lot of amoeba, but never had malaria and very rarely a cold or flu.

But back to the present!

I am who I am. :) And I want to do the best for my remaining years. But my kids do have a chance. And I’m trying hard to teach them good habits and good taste. So far, we all still think ice cream tastes fantastic. :) But I buy it about once a year. If it’s not here, we don’t eat it! I’m noticing that my twins do better than Bomani. He didn’t have the start they did. Daisy loves raw veggies. Sauteed cabbage. Bomani has a fairly…carby and sugary bent. :( :) And they will make their own decisions as they grow! That’s life. But for now, they are stuck with what is in my fridge. :)

Pregnancy has complicated my choice of food. In my first trimester, I had to eat whatever went down, and at the same time, eat very high protein. That was a challenge! And some of my not so wise choices have carried over. When you need to eat more than usual, it’s hard to stick with meat and veggies, berries and nuts. :) So in other words, I’m not eating perfectly as I want to for myself right now. But I am eating about five times wiser than in any other pregnancy!

What do we really want? We idealize eating lots of healthy protein. Grass fed. Lots of healthy fats. Grass fed as well. And more vegetables than we ever did before. Chemically untouched. I’m not saying “organic”. I’m saying “no chemicals”! Dairy is a tough call for us. We LOVE dairy. I’m pretty sure we’d be better off kicking it, but I also believe it’s not the worst compromise to make. Berries. Nuts. Herbs. Spices. I’m learning that you can make really good food with these things! But it takes time. And you need to be strong. Because the way you have eaten for so many years really defines what you love.

So maybe someday we will be better set to eat this way. For now, we are working toward it. But my half pancake in the morning, with real maple syrup, is just too helpful in making my 3-4 fried eggs stick around longer! So I compromise. I make high protein pancakes, gluten free…

And that’s sort of where we are right now.

It’s no secret to me that I feel better when I make wise food choices. It not only helps regulate blood sugar, it also makes a big difference in gut health. And I’m starting to wonder if those two things are not some of the most important out there…

Which brings me to something that has been niggling at the edges of my consciousness, every now and then bursting into view…

Plexus.

When I first heard of it, I thought the very name sounded plastic and unnatural! I gave it not another thought, instantly deciding it is a fad diet pill!

Instead, it has taken off like nothing I’ve seen in years, and I’m old.

Why???

Because it works. It’s that simple. It has made a life-changing difference in people’s lives, and that sells something faster than anything else.

For a while, I became more and more weary of it cropping up everywhere. Another facebook friend bites the dust and it clogged my feed more and more until I wanted to scream! And I have a very limited number of friends. :) Finally I blocked the worst from my feed, just for some peace of mind.

It kept nibbling at the edges of my brain. Until I came to the place where I am now!

Plexus works. How? It attacks those two areas of your health, or lack thereof. It regulates blood sugar. And depending which products you take, it improves your gut health, getting rid of yeast that can inflict more damage than you really want to know is going on. That’s why people’s lives are being changed. And I love that! So that is where the “love” part of the “love/hate” thing came in for me. I love that there is a product out there that is easy to take, and at least mostly natural, and is making huge changes in peoples’ lives.

Why then, the “hate” part? Part of that was easy. I dislike the business part of it. If one of my friends finds something that totally brings her health back, and she wants everyone to know about it, I love her for it. I love hearing about it! But if she is also doing everything in her power to sell it to her friends, so that she can get the expensive product free, it actually almost hurts a little. I wish Plexus were decently priced for people who are absolutely not interested in running a business. And I wish I knew these people would be working this hard to get the truth about Plexus out there to help others, not to make money. Just being frank here.

The other reason that Plexus has bothered me took longer to emerge. But it did emerge. That is that Plexus is for people who don’t want to make lifestyle changes, but still want to be healthy. You can keep eating bad stuff, but your blood sugar is regulated for you. That’s a sweeping statement. In fact, I made a lot of sweeping statements here. :) And I doubt all of them are true! I’m just saying how things feel for me and what I believe now. I do know of a friend who already had made healthy lifestyle changes, but Plexus still did a ton for her. So that is not across the board! But I finally realized that this phenomenon is what was bothering me about Plexus.

We as America have wandered far from the way God meant for us to eat. Yes, there were bread and milk in the Bible. We read about it! But I’m quite sure it has evolved quite far from the nutrition and balance and health it held back then.

And then we have immunizations that compromise babies’ systems and alter us for life. (You are very free to disagree, but I still believe it.) And we have drugs that save our lives, but also do bad things to us at the same time. And we have chemicals everywhere, formulated to make our lives easier and faster, and make money for corporations. And we have bugs and virus’ and diseases. They come because of sin. Read the Old Testament if you wonder where I came up with that. New Testament too. (I mean “sin” in a general sense, not that you got this illness because you sinned.) And we are left broken and not feeling well and dying.

And so, honestly, I’m grateful for Plexus. I’m thrilled that it is making such a difference!

And I may take it someday.

But I remain a strong advocate for lifestyle change. For wise eating. For kicking out every cleaner in your house, and using things like lemon essential oil and Basic H. (That’s what I clean with–that, and washing soda.) :) For throwing into the trash all your lotions and soaps that contain bad stuff. For mixing up a simple deodorant and toothpaste that nourishes your body, not clogs your pours with aluminum. Etc. Just a few things we do that we love…

In fact, my body is so free of cosmetic chemicals that when I forgot to take my homemade sunblock to Mexico, so I used some “normal” sunblock, I got very nauseated! That came as a bit of a shock. It’s been years since I used anything like that.

For some reason, I feel like I need to write some ending, soothing comments, about how much I respect and appreciate doctors and modern medicine. But I’m not going to. I didn’t knock doctors or modern medicine. I just acknowledged that while they help us so much, they also can hurt us.

Actually, I am going to say something about it. :) Because I’m quite sure that my rants of the past have left some of you believing I’m against hospitals and doctors and drugs.

I’m not.

I am very grateful for them! We have a beyond fantastic pediatrician here, who is fine with non-immunizing parents. Who isn’t fast to stick your child or admit your child. Who is experienced and wise. And widely loved. :) And we need him. We need doctors and nurses. We need drugs. They save lives.

So there is my honest belief on that.

:)

I need to go…I’m hungry, thirsty, and need to make an enormous green bean dish for our church’s outreach Thanksgiving meal tonight.

Peace!

This n That.

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So, here Craig is making a frame to help with laying the brick for the bell. (Outside “skin”.)

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These caps are awesome. This is the third winter in a row that the twins are wearing them! I ordered them from China. :)

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So yes, not all of the ham hock found it’s way into the soup…

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Time to lay brick!!

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Here he is installing the clean-out door. It’s on the opposite side of the heater as the doors for the oven and the batch box.

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My Bomani. :)

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I love what happens after we go to the library. Our local library is small, but has a lovely children’s section, complete with table and chairs, benches, etc. Not to mention a ton of books for kids. We love going there!

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When once you have had them help to make pizza, you will have help every time…

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So, Craig is lining the inside of the bell with firebrick, as you can see here. He puts a layer of cardboard between the firebrick and the outside brick. This is to keep it from cracking when it expands and contracts with heat. If the cardboard turns to ashes, fine. If not, fine. :)

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This is how we take family pictures. :)

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Yesterday was just a fantastic day! After church and fellowship meal, we went home and took naps. Then I went on a brisk walk! It was gorgeous outside, although quite windy. Fall weather! Then we ate Creamy White Chilli. Then I made this.

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Tortillas fried in butter with lightly sweetened cream cheese, raspberries, and chocolate chips inside. It was delectable. I ate a lot of it.

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This is currently the only way my bathroom floors get scrubbed. I cannot do it anymore! The twins love helping me clean. :)

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This morning, tired of spending time making breakfast every morning, I made a large batch of THM pancake batter, fried it all up with blueberries, and snipped the bulk of them into a jar. Now, every morning I can tip some out onto three plates, drizzle honey over the top, and there is breakfast for the kids!

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May your week be filled with blessings.