Friday, January 31, 2014

The Big Weekend is Coming!

I'm still not quite "in the groove" around here since returning from my trip.  It's been a wonky week.  One planned day off school, and two inclement weather days.  All three of those days meant no rocking babies for me, since all the mamas and babies were staying home to keep warm as well.

It's been a sort of second winter break for us, and we did some running (of errands, don't think we're getting all crazy around here), and some snuggling under blankets holding cups of tea and hot chocolate.  All that to say that it seems that not much has gotten done around here.

The catch-up with laundry is going S-L-O-W.  So glad I was up to the minute on laundry before I left for Florida!

AND, this is our big birthday party weekend!  Our daughter will be SIXTEEN on Sunday, and I know what you're thinking: how can this be possible???  Oh, that wasn't what you were thinking?  Well, believe me, it's the question that's been on my mind.  You might remember that I told you she got her temps the other day.  The next day, I took her out to one of our church's campuses -- where there is a big empty parking lot.  It was her very first driving experience, and in the short time that she circled around, braked, parked, and etc., there was already great improvement.  Doesn't she look happy in that picture below?  That was taken right after I got out of the driver's seat, and she got in.  Don't worry.  I was in the passenger seat the whole time she was practicing.

There's been a lot of "fluffing of the nest" in anticipation of a house full of birthday party revelers.  Some of our old favorites have found a new home.  There's still lots of winter decor around the house (afterall, we're still very much in the middle of winter!), and there are touches of red everywhere as a nod to Valentine's Day.  

New curtains are in the line-up for the living room and kitchen [remember this FB post?]  -->

So, I got a great deal on some living room curtains @ Penneys [don't have them yet] and I really hope that we like them because... I totally removed the old window treatment, washed it (a swag), and put it in the Goodwill pile. Hey people. I'm on a roll.  

but I don't know if we'll have time for a curtain-hanging project before the party, so I am keeping Nester's favorite line in mind: "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful."  I'm not stressing about it.

What's new with you?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Be Safe. Be Smart. Be in Prayer.

I hope you all are staying cozy today.  We are on our THIRD inclement weather day, and our daughter is still waiting to finish up her second day of exams to end the semester.  It seems it's the semester that will not end.

Yesterday, we used our day off wisely, and went to get my girl her "temps."  She will be 16 on Sunday, and has been waiting patiently for the right moment.  Yesterday was finally the time.  She is desperately wanting to get out and do some driving.  I'm trying to encourage her that these days are better for snuggling under blankets at home.  I'll let you know who wins.

The roads around here are not bad.  It hasn't snowed since Saturday, so road crews have [for the most part] had time to catch up.  This morning's news reports were not particularly encouraging when it came to the roads between here and Florida, though.  My parents will be traveling those roads at the end of the week, and I would appreciate your prayers for them.

There are so many others that need our prayers as well.  Many are stranded on the highways, while some have slept somewhere other than their own beds in order to stay out of harm's way.  Strange highway scenes abound on the news.

All photos: Colony Cottage Recreation Center at The Villages, Florida

One friend's hubby is a Georgia teacher that stayed overnight at school with children that were not able to be picked up in the storm.  Power is now out.  Prayers would be appreciated.

Another [southern] friend's hubby abandoned his car after seven-plus hours in traffic and walked home.  While she was thankful for his safety, this friend reminded us to pray for those who are still stranded -- be it on the roads, or in schools... wherever.

Be safe.  Be smart.  Be in prayer.

Monday, January 27, 2014


The reports from Ohio were not good as we waited in the Orlando airport on Saturday, but announcements on the airport's P.A. system said there were no delays.  I was more concerned about what was going on at home, and whether or not my sweet hubby and daughter would actually be able to make it to the airport at home to pick us up.

I shouldn't have worried.  My husband is fearless -- our daughter too.  They put on all of their warmest outer-gear, and were waiting outside the baggage claim area after we had picked up our suitcases.  Absolutely no waiting involved.  Seamless.  I should have known.

You know that feeling?  When you are in "return mode" from a trip, and can't wait to finally reach your destination... even if it IS just back to reality?  I was in that mode.  Couldn't wait to see my sweet family. Couldn't wait to hear about THEIR adventures.  Couldn't wait to hear about Daddy grilling outside in 10 degrees.  And about all of the shopping they did.  (My hubby loves a good after Christmas/January clearance bargain.)  This year, his finds included a duplicate of a favorite furry "throw" blanket that we all try to get "dibs" on, and long-johns.  Yes.  Really.  And yes, thank you.  They are cozy.  LOL.

While my family just sat and smiled at me, I emptied the dishwasher, and reorganized the kitchen drawers after my hubby said, "You'll find things put away... everywhere!"  (meaning: everywhere they DON'T belong.  Hey -- at least they were put away!!)

We talked about where I had eaten (out) all week while I was away, and what THEIR menu was.  I left a note reminding them of three leftover or pre-made dinners that were waiting for them in the freezer, however, they did their own thing (remember the grilling?), and I returned home to three freezer meals still available for ME to use.  I don't mind not cooking for a few more days!

No baby-rocking at church this morning.  Schools are cancelled.  It's cold.  At not even 10AM, we've reached our high today, and temps are headed back down!  Time to thaw one of those freezer meals, and snuggle in the new blanket.

It's good to be home!

Friday, January 24, 2014

All Good Things...

I can recall countless occasions as a child where I was SO SAD to have to leave a party, or a family gathering of some kind.  That stayed with me through my teen and college years.  I never wanted to be the one to have to leave first.  I didn't want to miss anything.  I can recall being told by my parents that all good things must come to an end.  Well obviously.  But that didn't make me any happier about it.

Dad and Jill

And then motherhood happened, and it became my job (in part), for the good of our family (and in the name of a routine bedtime), to call an end to the party.  At Grandma & Grandpa's, we would often set a five or ten minute timer reminding the kids that when it rang it was time to go home.  No arguments.  For sure our kids took after their mom when it came to not wanting to leave the party too early.

Me and Mom

This wonderful week has been a party of sorts for me.  I've been treated [by my brother-in-law and his frequent flyer miles] to a wonderful week with my sister and our parents -- my beautiful family of origin.  I've been treated by my parents to every meal that I've enjoyed this week -- just the four of us out to eat.  Just the four of us to see  not one, but TWO movies!  ("Saving Mr. Banks" and "Gravity").  Just the four of us slowing down the traffic in the aisles at The Fresh Market, trying to decide what bulk bag of delicious morsels we'd each like to bring home.  Just the four of us at Walmart (also slowing things down) deciding which bag of munchies to bring home.  Just us four laughing too loudly at some private joke.

Meanwhile, my own family has been at home, cheering me on to "have a great time!" -- all the while enduring bitter cold, inclement weather days, adjusted semester exam schedules, and dentist appointments.  Real life.

This has been a fabulous week in ways that I cannot even begin to express.  I'm so grateful for my sweet sister, and my wonderful parents who taught me that all good things must come to an end...  because the party's over, and this party-girl is headed home.

Stay tuned.  Next week, I'll share some of our adventures!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Telling Tales: The Safe

Today, I'm telling a tale on my beloved Grandpa.  Watching from heaven, he will get a charge out of this, and his getting fifteen minutes of fame, so to speak.  (Were he alive, I'm sure I would have to explain to him why being talked about on my blog would not in fact, make him famous at all.  But I digress.)

My grandpa was a creature of habit in so many ways.  He frequented many of the same restaurants, donut shops, and banks [for example] as a matter of routine -- and was known as a "regular" I'm sure, in those places.

He was also a note writer.  Actually, he and my gram BOTH were famous for jotting down notes to remind themselves of things... a habit that served them well in their older years, to be sure.

Grandpa had a box in which he kept the household cash.  It wasn't a fancy box, but it was secure in a spot where no one would suspect.  Just between himself and my gram, they called the box "The Safe."  There were regular deposits and withdrawals from The Safe as needed, and for sure, there were reminder-notes to himself about how to handle the cash.

One day in particular, he gathered some cash from The Safe  in order to make a deposit at the bank.  When he arrived at the bank, he sought out his "regular" teller, and handed her the cash.  As is a teller's routine, she started counting the cash, but halted at a hand-written note among the bills.  Alarmed, she stopped and said something like,

"Mr. B.,
Because I know you, I am going to ask you to explain this note."

She pushed the note towards him.  In his handwriting, the note said, "GET MONEY FROM THE SAFE."


I couldn't make this stuff up, folks!  At the time (over 25 years ago), I think Grandpa explained, and he and the teller had a good chuckle.  Grandpa walked away without incident.  I'm not sure that's how it would've gone in 2014!

Friday, January 17, 2014

God's Winter Paintbrush

The other week when it was so snowy, my daughter and I were out shoveling the driveway as the snow fell.  We stopped to look at individual snowflakes on our sleeves, indescribable in their beauty.  How amazing to think how many of those little beauties it takes to cover the world in white.  More amazing to think of them each being a unique creation!

The snow was falling too quickly that day to take in-focus pictures of the snowflakes [believe me, we tried], but on one of the most frigid days, I took these frosty photos from the comfort of my home.  Very "sporting" of me to go to such lengths, right?  Well, I just knew you wouldn't want me to be too cold...

Hoping you are warm & cozy today!

Just one more sleep, and it's "wheels up" for my sis and I.  We'll be off to "sunny Florida" while our sweet families hold down the fort here at home.

I don't know what next week will bring here at the blog.  I'll try to keep you in the loop at some point along the way, but it may turn out to be a vacation "review" when I get home.

I am planning to share a family tale one day next week while I'm off being a tourist.  I hope you'll stay tuned for that!

In the meantime, enjoy some examples of God's winter paintbrush!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

(Winter) Please Don't Take My Sunshine Away

Christmas is long over, and our family is [for the most part] long past the days of TOYS at Christmastime.

It's a bright, sunny, and cold morning.  As I'm sitting at the kitchen table reading some blogs, the sun streams through the sliding glass door meeting our homemade suncatcher in it's path.  It brings a smile to my face as I recall our Christmas morning, and the kitchen "toy" my hubby received.

You see, this year for Christmas, my sweet hubby wanted... a mandolin slicer.  And so, on Christmas morning, after all of the gifts were opened, and everyone began the serious business of checking out their goodies, our girl made her way to the kitchen with Daddy's new mandolin.

Slowly and carefully (man, the blades are SHARP!) she cut an orange into thin, thin slices.  She sprinkled some spices on each slice, and baked them on a cookie sheet at a low heat until they were dried out.

As I write this, the morning is snowless, with green-ish grass and leftover leaves whirling in the breeze.  Though all of the Christmas decorations are long-since stored away, I am sitting here with a smile on my face remembering our Christmas morning... and the slicing of an orange.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tag! (and a fail)

I failed to make a tag before I took pictures and showed you my Memory Jar.  I mean... I don't want this jar to sit on a shelf unidentified and FORGOTTEN!!  Afterall, that was the original problem, right? Forgetting?!

A favorite tag template, some cardstock, scrapbook paper, and twine, and Taa-Daa!

Now I won't forget to remember.

I'm excited to think what little memory nuggets I might be adding after my trip!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Did You Know? (Cleaning Sneakers)

If you were ever a cheerleader [or if you just get out more than I do], you've probably heard of this trick.  I, on the other hand, only learned of it recently.  My daughter told me it is the way her friend keeps the toes of her Converse so sparkly white, and I said, "Who knew?"  Do YOU know the secret?

BEFORE                                                                                                   AFTER

Well, for the other three of you who don't know, I'm going to spill the beans.

Rubbing alcohol, and a small amount of elbow grease really help clean up those grayed scuffed-up areas.

I toyed with the idea of running out to buy a new pair of sneakers before my trip.  I don't really need them... it's just that mine were looking a little, well, less than white.  I think my next pair will be colorful, but for now, this is what I've got, and I'd just as soon not spend the money before I go.  [Plus the whole no-spend January and all... doing good so far!]  So, I decided to put the rubbing alcohol secret to the test.  Mind you, it didn't make my sneakers new again, but... it did freshen them up -- and that's enough for right now.  Less money spent before the trip = more money to take ON the trip.  Get it?  [Oh, I knew you would my savvy readers!]

The picture below shows a cleaner shoe on the left, and an untouched one on the right.  Compare the areas I've pointed to, and perhaps you'll see a clearer difference than in the shots above.

Rubbing alcohol.  It's a good thing.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Being Smart About Leftovers (and a semi-homemade meat-sauce recipe)

Since I'm hitting the road for a special trip in a few days, I'm trying to be smart with our recent leftovers. Though my hubby is a great cook, he isn't into the routine of preparing dinner every night.  A few nights of leftovers might come in handy while I'm gone.

Some of our dinners are delicious as leftovers.  Others, not so much.  Some are easy re-dos at home, but would never "fly" in a lunch-box.  To get the biggest bang for my buck, I try not to just "auto-pilot" our leftovers straight into the refrigerator.  Instead, I like to think about how they are likely to be used.

  • Will the leftovers be used for packed lunches?  If so, take the time after dinner to divide them up into plastic containers that will fit in lunch-bags/boxes.
  • Will the leftovers need to be reheated in a double-boiler?  I like chicken casseroles reheated this way, as I think the microwave tends to make reheated chicken taste like rubber.  If you will reheat this way, you might think about a larger plastic container that will hold all of the leftovers until it's time for the double-boiler.
  • Will the leftovers be reheated in the microwave?  If so, you might want to transfer leftovers immediately to a microwaveable container to save having to do it later.
  • Is it likely that the leftovers will be used within the next few days?  If not, consider freezing.  A great example of this for our family is spaghetti sauce*.  I have a standard sauce I make, and it's always way more than we need for one dinner, but... I've learned that nobody is likely to want it again the next day.  Rather than let it go to waste waiting in the fridge, I've learned to freeze the remaining sauce immediately after dinner.  It's always enough for a second round for our family, and I try to take advantage of it on a day when I don't have time to cook.
  • Regardless of how the leftovers will be used, don't refrigerate in cooking pans.  There are two reasons for this.  The cooking pans take up more room in the fridge than stackable plastic containers -and- you will likely need those pans in a day or two.  You might as well clean them out and wash them up sooner rather than later.
  • Remember the rules about freezing meat.  Never freeze raw or cooked meat twice.  I've heard that this is really more of a quality issue than a safety issue as I'd originally thought.  Either way, I'm not willing to take the chance.
What are your best leftover tips?

Since I mentioned it above, I thought I'd share the easy-peasy recipe for our family's favorite meat-sauce.  I guess it would fall into the "semi-homemade" category.  It's just the right combination of flavors and spice for us.  If you're curious about the addition of tomato paste, we like how it thickens up the sauce.

* Our Favorite Meat-Sauce for Spaghetti

1 lb. ground round
1 can  Hunts "traditional" spaghetti sauce (26.5 oz.)
1  can tomato paste (6 oz.)
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

Brown ground round, and drain off the grease.  Add spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, and garlic.  Mix well, cook over medium-high heat until bubbly, and then simmer a while longer.  The longer you let it simmer, the more delicious it becomes!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Look At The Birds!

Yesterday, as I was pulling out of the garage, I noticed these sweet little footprints in the light snow that had fallen overnight.  Perfect little impressions.  A reminder to me of God's care... for some of the littlest of his creation -- and for ME.

"Look at the birds of the air;
they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not much more valuable than they?"
Matthew 6:26 NIV

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Remember When...?

Have you ever been at a movie, and swore to yourself that you'd remember some hilarious line from the script?  Our family does that all the time, but we don't always remember it like we think we will.

I keep a great calendar book with lots of scheduling details, but unless we think to go back looking for something specific, it's used mostly for the daily stuff -- and not to remind us of anything special.

While some things will live in my memory always, the daily details sometimes get forgotten -- no matter how "big" I think they are at the time.

One day recently when my daughter and I were driving around town together, she said, "2013 was a good year, and I think 2014 will be even better!"  I asked her why 2013 was a good year for her.  She mentioned that she finished her first year of public school successfully in 2013.  She also began her second year -- and it was a much better start than the first year -- making her think that the finish line for the second year would be even more successful.

"Was 2013 a good year for you Mama?"  she asked.

Yes.  Sure.  Of course.

But when I thought of the successes, I had really been thinking of hers.  And in reality, her successes are HERS, not mine.  My successes?  Hmmmm, let me think.  It made me realize how much we get caught up in the daily dailies, forgetting all the little success stories, or random acts of kindness and generosity, or amazing family times, or unique experiences that we have had throughout the year.

Soon after our discussion, I happened across THIS IDEA, which I thought was brilliant.  The concept is simple.  At the start of a new year, begin writing down good things that happen to you -- throughout the year!

  • goals reached
  • gifts received
  • hysterical happenings
  • beauty of nature
  • little daily blessings
  • big moments
  • family gatherings or trips
  • "firsts"
  • milestones

The idea is that at the end of the year -- on New Year's Eve -- you open the jar and read all of the amazing things that you experienced throughout the past year.

Great idea, right?  Best laid plans, you know?  I'm already way behind -- but here's what I decided to do...

I took one of my favorite jars -- which happens to have a patriotic theme [an eagle on one side].  As I was carrying it upstairs, I passed the pantry shelves and some cute red, white & blue mini muffin liners that I got for super cheap, but hadn't used yet....  See where this is going?  Apparently my memory jar is taking on a patriotic look!

Your jar can have a personal theme, or a family theme.  I like the idea of a family theme, as we usually share New Year's Eve with our own family of four -- and it would be a great activity for us.

It's only January 9, 2014 -- and not too late to start!  Hey, if you stumble upon this idea in JULY -- it's not too late then, either!

I started by jotting down how we had spent New Year's Eve '13 -- that our son wasn't working, and we were all at home together!  I wrote about the sub-zero temps too!  I've got a few more ideas to "catch up" on, and then I am off and running on my memory jar for 2014.

Great things are in store for 2014.
Don't count on remembering them.
Write them down!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Year. Same God.

^^ That's what the sign outside a neighborhood church read the other day.  It reminded me that whatever comes our way in this new year, it won't surprise God -- including this crazy-nuts* weather.

My.  Word.  It's cold!

I have to admit... today, I am so thankful that we are all tucked in at home.  My hubby is working from home. My son is off today.  School was cancelled for my daughter, and my Tuesday baby-rocking doesn't start until next week!

Our son was having some car issues that have been resolved.  On Sunday, he dropped the car off for an appointment on Monday.  I took him to work Monday afternoon, and he was able to drive home a good-as-new car on Monday night.  [thankful!]

As I write this, it is hovering around -10F with a wind-chill somewhere around -30 -- which is actually a warm-up from the-15 I saw on the thermometer at midnight..  Hard to believe that Sunday evening it was a balmy 36F and raining.  The rain melted a lot of the snow, and by Monday morning, there was only a dusting more, so SNOW hasn't really been an issue.  They say there will be more blowing than accumulation at this point.

Last night, my daughter came and gave me a hug saying, "everyone will be tucked in together tomorrow."  Not literally, of course [although we'll see where those temps go!  LOL] --- but she sure does think like her mama!

Oh, and another thing to be thankful for?  I live in NE Ohio -- where we like to say this [in one form or another]: 

 "Don't like the weather?  Wait a minute."

Right now?  The wind has died, and the sun is shining.  Who knows what's coming next.  [God does.]


By the way, if your house has been making strange noises during these extreme temperature transitions, you might be interested to read THIS ARTICLE shared by a friend on Facebook.  We've definitely heard some noises around here!

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Nickel Tour

On Saturday (a really cold and blustery day), we got our first look at the new school.  Our girl (and the rest of the students) got a tour on the last day of school before Christmas break.  She was really excited and full of details when she got home, so I was anxious to see it!  The 2013-14 school year was to have started in the new building, but there were some hold-ups, so the transition had to wait until after Christmas break.  School was due to start tomorrow, but is actually delayed another day due to the extremely low temperatures that are headed our way.  WhenEVER it starts -- our daughter is actually excited to go back!

This post might not be appealing to many of you, but if you like to look at things that are shiny and new, well... here you go!

The building spans quite a length of space along the main road.  Further down in the post, you'll see the actual footprint of the school.  There are junior-high and  senior-high wings, both two stories.

 ~Our new High School / Junior High~
I corralled a few photos together for a panoramic effect to give you an idea of the overall look.

 Our girl -- getting excited for the first day!

~The Rotunda~

~The High School Gym~

There are many of these display cases in the "common" areas of the school,
and they are already filled with students' artwork!

Everything, shiny and new... how exciting!

Study tables in the hallways outside classrooms... handy.

Large monitors all through the hallways!

Love the big windows!  L-I-G-H-T!!

 ~The Library~

~The Auditorium~

Some details:
  • 1,200 + Students, Grades 7-12
  • Approximately 175,000 Square Feet
  • State of the Art Technology
  • SMART Technology in each Classroom
  • 150 Security Cameras
  • Fully Air-Conditioned
  • 400 Seat Cafeteria
  • Separate High School & Junior High Gyms
  • High School Gym Seats 1,000
  • Wireless Internet throughout the Entire Building
  • 650 seat Auditorium with Dressing Room

Thanks for stopping by to take the "Nickel Tour" with me!

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