November 13
       Our area is getting its first taste of winter today with temperatures 30 degrees colder than they were yesterday, winds gusting up to 60 mph and some pretty dense snow squalls.  I am getting my first taste of winter driving in a

school bus.  So far, so good, but the snow is melting on the ground.  I'm sure it will be a whole other ball game when the ground freezes.
       It seems like we finished up all the major outside chores just as November began and we've been doing a lot of "nesting" the last couple of weeks.  I hear so many people complain about the short days and darkness of this time of year, but I actually enjoy it.  Those shorter days mean Tim and the kids are more likely to be home in the evenings and we spend more time together.....including sitting down to dinner as a family if you can imagine.  Even the food itself gets cozier as we have more soups, stews and other hearty meals.  Everyone needs more fuel to get through the colder weather.  Look below for a good recipe for Chili Mac.
       Our refrigerator gave up the ghost this past weekend.  I knew it was coming, but had hoped it would hang in there until after the holidays.  We just made the first payment in our bankruptcy plan so we didn't have money to get a new one and under the plan we can't purchase anything on credit.  Tim wasn't happy about it at first, but I convinced him we should ask my mom for a loan.  We went out looking first and found the unit we wanted then presented my mom with the information and a payment plan to pay her back (we'll have her paid back in January).  She wrote out a check right then!  We went straight to Lowe's (good price and the only place we could come home with a refrigerator that day), paid them and loaded it up.  I love it!!!  We bought our old refrigerator used 15 years ago and it was only 14.6 cubic feet.  The new one is a luxurious 22 cu. ft. (we'd actually wanted a 25 cu. ft. one, but they wouldn't fit the space in our kitchen) and the freezer is on the bottom so the things you need the most are up where you can see them.  This has actually inspired Matt and Megan to eat more fruit and veggies that used to go unnoticed in the crisper.
       Our greatest adventure of late was butchering some of the roosters.  The miserable things cannibalized one of the hens a few weeks back and just wouldn't leave the other alone.  We decided it was time for them to go.  Unfortunately, Tim's work schedule didn't cooperate.  He set up a work station near the fire pit one evening and with me reading him step by step directions from Storey's Guide to Raising Poultry he did the first one.  It was definitely a learning experience.  After that,  two of the remaining roosters started ganging up on one of the others and started leaving the hen alone.  So, I convinced Tim all over again to just butcher two of the roosters and spare the hen and my favorite rooster, Hannibal.  He did those two on Sunday, but we only got to keep one.  The one they had been picking on had an infected wing and his poor body was so bruised it was inedible.  Well, guess the lesson we're taking from this is no more roosters.  Next spring the chicks definitely come from the catalog, not the farm store, so we know what we are getting.  By the way, Hannibal and Lucy seem to be doing just fine and are much calmer.
       The middle school had parent/teacher conferences this week.  Megan's whole team requested a meeting with me.  I was absolutely dreading it, expecting the worst news.  What a surprise it was to find out she is actually doing pretty well.  The team had concerns about her ability to focus and stay on task, but we talked about her ADD and came up with some ideas to try and help her.  Actually, she is doing quite well in the classroom, it is any work that leaves the class she is having problems with.....mostly in doing it at all and turning it in.  Still, her report card is filled with A's and B's, a smattering of C's and only one D!!  This is major progress for Megan and we are thrilled and after talking to me so are her teachers.  We hope the new strategies we came up with will help even further.
       Well, I really must get after the mountain of laundry that is threatening to take over  (I think the stuff breeds in the hamper). 
       Carpe diem!

Hearty Chili Mac
2lbs. ground beef
1 med. onion, chopped
1 can (46oz.) tomato juice
1 can (28oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 celery ribs without leaves, chopped
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. prepared mustard
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 cans (16oz each) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
Shredded cheddar cheese

Cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink.  Drain.  Put in slow cooker.  Stir in tomato juice, tomatoes, celery, brown sugar, chili powder, salt, mustard and pepper.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and add beans and macaroni.  Simmer 5-6 hours on low.  Top with cheese before serving.  Makes 10-12 servings.