Sunday, December 19, 2010

Must Be Santa

I have a secret.

I still believe in Santa Claus. Not, necessarily as the man in the big red suit with the bowl full of jelly, but I believe that there are plenty of Santa Claus out there.

Think back to one of the Christmases that you had when you were a child. How excited you were, how the days leading up to Christmas were full of anticipation and how your heart carried so much Christmas spirit it might just burst.

As I am typing this I am watching a DVD of when I was two-years-old on Christmas. I was so excited to open my presents, and I was constantly flinging my arms around my parents to give them a warm hug because I was full of the Christmas spirit.

But, as we get older, we somehow lose this spirit. Not, to sound like Linus, but we become obsessed with the over commercialization of Christmas that we forget the real meaning.

In my almost 28 years on this beautiful planet of ours, I have learned that the "Christmas Spirit" that everyone talks about is actually love.

We buy presents for people because we love them, we send out Christmas cards to let people know they are loved and God sent His son because he loves us.

Santa Claus was brought to life from this love.

This is why I still believe in Santa Claus. His spirit is all around us.

This year, I have seen him in the form of many different people.

I saw Santa in the form of a man by the name of Dan Martin, who year after year organizes our local Toys for Tots drive. If it wasn't for him and all of his "elves" then 1,500 children in our area wouldn't have toys on Christmas.

I saw Santa in Stephanie Tomasic, the director of Overly's Country Christmas, a beautiful light display and Christmas village that collects money to donate to local charities. My family and I, along with about 4,000 other people, visited the light display last night.

Santa can also be seen in the simplest of gestures, like a woman who let me go in front of her in Target, through the person who works extra hours to buy their children presents on Christmas or a stranger who gives you a smile and wishes you a Merry Christmas.

So, Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. You better believe I will be setting out cookies and milk on Christmas Eve.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Little Things Mean a Lot

There is a book titled "The 5 Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. Inside the book, the author discusses how everyone has their own "love language." It is through this love language that they often show love or feel love. For example, for some people it is through touch, so they show their love through hugging and when they are hugged the feel the love. For others it might be through words.

For me, I think my love language is "acts of kindness." I often show my love to people by doing nice things for them or helping them out and I feel the most loved when someone does something nice for me.

I just realized this last evening.

We had just returned home from a really fun and beautiful bridal shower for one our very good friends and I was pretty tired and feeling a little hungry. After making a trip to Target on the way home, I thought grilled cheese and a little tomato soup might be the best meal to be had on the chilly and snowy evening. Knowing how tired I was, my wonderful husband said he would make the soup and sandwich for me so I could change my clothes and relax on the couch. I didn't have to beg, I didn't have to barter, he just did this because he loved me and he knew how much it would mean to me.

This isn't the first example of him doing things for me. He often gets me something to drink when we watch a movie, he does the laundry and sometimes he will make dinner and insist that I just watch TV because I make him dinner all week. (Believe me ladies, I know I am one lucky woman.)

With the holiday season, and all of the craziness that seems to creep in with the impending day of December 25 coming as fast as a bullet train, take sometime to do something nice for someone that you love. It doesn't need to be a grand gesture of you writing out I love you with Christmas Lights in the snow or even trying to pull a George Bailey and lasso the moon, but maybe just clean around the house a little, or take a little extra time in the kitchen to create something special. Just keep in mind, that little things mean a lot!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Get Rid of Dinner Time Stress

Imagine if you will: It is 4 p.m., time to start making dinner. As you look through your cabinets, refrigerator and freezer, you really don't know what to make or you don't have enough stuff to make a complete dinner. Out of frustration you either order out food or you go out to eat at a restaurant.

If you have a weekly food budget, you might have blown it with this unexpected purchase. I am so guilty of this because I can find tons of coupons for side dish items and pasta, but sometimes I forget the most important part of the meal: the protein.

I was really excited when I came across a Website called E-Mealz. The site, founded by Jane DeLaney, helps take the guess work out of what's for dinner.

The site provides meal ideas for dinner for five days each week with an accompanying shopping list.

When a person registers with the site, they have to choose from different meal plans. There is a huge selection including family meal plans for Wal-Mart, Alidi, Kroger and even specialty meal plans like vegetarian, low carb and Weight Watcher points.

Kev and I decided to sign up for the two person Points menu for Wal-Mart (since I am still trying to do Weight Watchers.) Each week, we will get a list of five dinner recipes. Each dinner will have an entree as well as sides. The recipes will also come with a shopping list that includes how much each item will cost since we picked the Wal-Mart plan.

You can go here to see a sample of the menu.

Since we just signed up for it last night, I haven't had a chance to try it out and I probably won't until next week. But, I am super excited to give it a whirl!!! I will let you know how it goes!

I am not being compensated by E-Mealz in anyway. I found the Website and I thought it was interesting and I wanted to share my find with other people. This is only my opinion.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It Should be Called Black and Blue Friday

After the last popcorn ball and chocolate bar have been passed out to Trick-or-Treaters, it is now time to look forward to the next holiday:


I know many of you were thinking I was going to say Thanksgiving, but I think the turkey and cranberry sauce can be put on hold here while we look ahead to saving money and the big holiday rush that will soon be upon us.

There are many people, myself included, who agree with the blanket toting Linus that Christmas has become to commercial. If you need proof of this, I am sure that many of you saw the battle between Halloween decorations and Christmas decorations that were taking place in your local big box stores. As a society, we show our love by decorating our homes and finding the perfect gift. It is hard not to get wrapped up in everything. Just last year, I was reduced to a weeping mass because we could not put half of our Christmas decorations on our Christmas tree because our new cat was into climbing the tree and I didn't want them broken.

My theory is, you know you are going to have to buy gifts, you know you are going to have to decorate, so why not make the most of it by saving your pennies and having some fun!

A really great Website that gives a preview of Black Friday ads is Right now, the site has copies of the Toys R' Us toy catalogue, Target Toy Book and even information about Wal-Mart's pre-holiday sales. If you visit the site and decide this is something you are interested in, then you can sign up for email alerts where they will tell you when they post something new.

Another key to saving money on Christmas shopping is to have a plan. It is easy to get a little out of control when you are just aimlessly buy gifts just because you like them. My husband and I come up with a budget on how much we want to spend on everyone including ourselves. We then, take out cash and place the appropriate amount into envelopes labeled for each of our "giftees." This really helps control the money situation. Once the money is gone, then we are done shopping for that person. No ifs, ands or buts. This way we are not in debt over our heads after the holiday season.

My last tip, is to start shopping now. I already bought one of the hubby's gifts on Amazon because it was a good deal. Plus, you can't beat painless shopping on the Internet when you just have to click a button and it comes delivered to your door.

Keep in mind, because of our not so awesome economy, stores are competing against each other to try and snag your dollars. So make them work a little for your money, and try to find the best deals possible. Believe me, they are out there.

So if you are going to be like me and the rest of the crazies out there in the cold a 3 a.m. hoping to snag a great Black Friday deal, remember; eat a good breakfast, come with a plan and try not to trample anyone!

Happy Shopping!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hello, Stranger!

I am sure a lot of you thought that I had just disappeared off the face of the planet!
But, I am here to say that I am back from outer space. Well, not really. However, I am back from an amazing western Caribbean cruise aboard the Disney Magic. I plan on doing a trip report in a later blog, but I am still trying to settle into my routine again.

To hold you over until I get back into the hard and heavy blogging, here is a quick, easy and cheap recipe for you try!

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Quarters
This recipe is super easy to make and easy on the budget.
Chicken Quarters (How many quarters you put in depends on your family. We used about 4 lbs. of quarters and we plan on using the leftovers to make BBQ chicken sandwiches for dinner tomorrow.)
1 bottle of your favorite BBQ Sauce
Crock Pot
Place chicken quarters (fresh not frozen unless they are thawed first) into the crock pot.
Dump the whole bottle of BBQ sauce over the tenders.
Cook on high for four to six hours or on low eight to ten hours. (I prefer the low setting because it really makes the meat nice and tender. But, the shorter amount of time will make the dinner yummy as well.)
That is it! Throw some sides together like french or sweet potato fries, a veg and you are done!
The approximate cost of the entire meal including sweet potato fries and a can of veggies is about $6. The price will vary depending on how much meat you purchase and use.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

BBQ Pork Ribs

It is still rainy up here in the the Northeast. Nothing is better than busting out the crock pot on a day like this.
My mom has a cookbook full of easy crock pot recipes. After buying some boneless pork loin ribs, I wasn't sure what to do with them, until she gave me this super easy recipe!
Crock pot BBQ Pork Ribs
3 to 4 lbs. of pork ribs (I only had a little over 1 pound and it worked fine.)
1 Onion
2 cups of BBQ Sauce (I used one bottle of Sweet Baby Rays, it wasn't a full two cups, but it worked fine.)
2 TBSP of lemon juice
Put all in a crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours.
Ta-da! You are done!
The only bad part about this recipe is that it isn't very Weight Watchers friendly (for half the portion it is 16 points. YIKES!) But, I had the points left over so I was alright.
I also made some Zatarain's dirty rice and some broccoli. It was about 19 points for the whole thing.
The meal was pretty cheap. The pork was about $4, the rice was $1 the broccoli was $1 and the BBQ sauce was free. So all in all $6 for the both of us, it wasn't a bad deal.
Happy Cooking!

Attention Local Moms

I saw a yard sign advertising an annual Kids Sale and I thought I would look into it. Turns out starting tomorrow and running all weekend there is going to be a sale of gently used children's toys (indoor and outdoor), clothing, shoes, maternity clothes and other baby and kids related items.

It starts at 4pm to 9pm Friday, 9am to 5pm Saturday and 10am to 2pm Sunday at the Fayette County Fair Grounds in the Youth Building.

Here is a list, directly from their website as to what are accepted and not accepted in the sale:

Accepted Items


Boys and Girls size newborn to Junior/Preteen size 5 (see tagging your items for sizing)
Special Occasion clothing (Christmas dresses-Fall Sale only, Easter dresses-Spring Sale)
Children's "dress up" costumes
Clothing Accessories: hairbows, belts/ties, girls purses, hats, socks
Swimwear (Spring Sale only)
Dancewear and gymnastics outfits
Halloween costumes (Fall Sale only)
Shoes (no adult shoes - only accepting up to Youth Size 5, only 0 through 13 and 1through 5)
Dance shoes
Maternity Clothing (must be in excellent condition and current styles & season only)

Nursery Furniture: (must be clean)

Cribs (Check for RECALLS, must be assembled on the sale floor, by you)
Changing Tables
Toddler Beds
Portable Cribs and Pack and Plays (must be assembled on the sale floor, by you)
Nursery decor
Crib mattresses

Infant Accessories:

Feeding: Bottles (no nipples), utensils, dishes, bibs, burp cloths, breast pumps,
receiving blankets
nursing pillows and covers
high chairs
table boosters
bouncy seats
walkers, swings, exer-saucers
baby carriers and slings
Safety: baby monitors, gates, bed rails

Books, Electronic Games, Videos and DVDs:
*movies must be originals not copies and no "R" or "Mature" rated movies or games
*movies must be in original covers or sleeve's
*must have working batteries and / or chargers for Electronic Games. It is for your benefit that
we require working batteries. Shoppers can see that the item actually works giving them the
confidence to buy it. You can buy inexpensive batteries at the $ stores. Remember, the better
you display your items = better sales for you!

Toys / Games: all in working order, no missing pieces and must have working batteries included
The battery rule is for your benefit. It allows the shoppers to see that your item
works, giving them the confidence to buy it. Again, inexpensive batteries can be
purchased at the $ stores.

Outdoor Toys
Bikes and Riding Toys (batteries must be charged before drop off)
play kitchens
art desks
train tables, train sets
sports equipment: skates, balls, bats, tees, gloves, helmets
Puzzles (must have all pieces)
Board Games (must have all pieces)
Doll houses, furniture, clothing etc.
Building Toys (blocks, lego, Lincoln logs)
Push and Pull toys
Crib toys
Learning toys
Hot Wheels, Matchbox
Action heros
Toy boxes, storage units

Unaccepted items

NOthing that has been recalled or is unsafe (this is the consignor's responsibility to check)
NO car seats (except those included with travel systems - waiver must be signed)
NO potty seats
NO diaper pails or genies
NO booster seats for car
NO nipples, pacifiers or teething rings unless in new unopened package
NO underwear
NO clothing with stains, tears or pet hair
NO broken items or items with missing parts / pieces
NO stuffed animals (unless battery operated)
NO computers
NO children's jewelry
NO video or computer games marked "Mature" or R-rated
NO trinket toys such as happy meal toys

It seems like it will be a pretty interesting event. Parking is free and so is admission.

Since Kev is off tomorrow, and I love a good deal I think I am dragging him to check it out Friday when it opens. You never know what you will find!!!

Here is a link to the page that has all of the information:

Happy bargain hunting!!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pay it Forward

Like I had stated yesterday, I was super excited to receive an award for my blog. After spending some time thinking, I came up with two ladies who I would really like to pass the award to.

In no particular order:

The first is to Kathie at Just a Happy Housewife. I really enjoy reading her blogs about her two fur-babies and also about her spreading information about animal awareness. I also enjoy reading the different surveys she does. Even though, she already has this award, I just wanted to share her blog with you.

The second person is Lis of An American Girl in Bristol. What I love about Lis's blog is that she is very honest and shares her struggles with us readers. This takes a lot of guts, and I am so grateful that she does share.

These two bloggers have really put a lot of time and effort into the blogs, and I want to thank them for doing so.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Insert Happy Dance Here

After I have been complaining about my gloomy day, a little ray of sunshine has made it so much better!

Thanks to Endy Daniel, the author of Endy Cooks & Eats an awesome blog that I really enjoy reading, and you should check it out, I have received my second blog award!!!!!

I am super excited, because it is always nice to know that there are people who are actually reading my blog and are fans of it!!

Because I am a firm beliver in "paying it forward" I want to pass along this award to some blogs that I really enjoy reading.

So tomorrow, keep an eye out to see who the award recipents are!!!

Rain Rain Go Away

What is it about a rainy day that makes one feel really unproductive? As I sit here typing this, the weather has decided to catch up with the calender and realize that it is autumn. The skies are really cloudy and there is a cold chill in the air being carried into our house through an open window.

Because of the threatening skies, I was unable to go for my morning walk both yesterday and today, and I feel surprisingly sluggish because of it.

Even our cats seem to be affected by the weather. Anna is taking her mid-morning nap on top of this big soft teddy bear that we bought her when she was a little kitten. Finnegan is napping in the middle of our bed. Normally at this time of the morning, they are pretty active and chasing each other around the house.

I need to go and get "up and at 'em" because I still have to finish Kev's anniversary gift (which is only eight days away) plus I have not finished crocheting the Dr. Who that I was making in honor of starting to watch the series. Even though, I wasn't too thrilled about watching Dr. Who, because Sci-fi really isn't my thing and the episodes kind of reminded me of Power Rangers, I am surprisingly enjoying it.

The basement project is coming along well. The one side where my pantry is going to be has the studs in place and I have been working on putting the shelving together. So I am happy that progress is being made because I am starting to run out of room for my surplus items.

I did our weekly shopping yesterday, and my mom went to help me since it was raining and Kev was working a later shift. I did pretty good. I spent about $57 and saved $62 so it was pretty even. For that price I scored some more expensive items like boneless pork ribs, a roasting chicken, two Johnson & Johnson vapor baths, Always products and four boxes of cereal plus a lot of other items.

Well, now Finnegan has woken up and decided that it would be fun to attack my chair and run away and come back and do the same over again. I guess this means he wants attention, so I better go see that he doesn't get into trouble.

Here's hoping that you have sunny skies in your neck of the woods!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy (Sort of) First Day of Fall

I really love Fall! I know I have probably written this before, but I really love it!

Each year, the Hubby and I go to haunted house attractions, decorate the house for Fall and enjoy hot apple cider.

For the past couple of years, I have been asking Kev to go apple picking. After years of us never being able to go because we never could find the time, or we just kept on putting it off, we finally went this year!

It was really a lot of fun and it was an absolutely beautiful day!

We even came across our friend "the woolly worm" who let us know that it looks like it is going to be a pretty mild Winter. (Here's hoping!)

Kev thought the apples looked so good, that he decided to test them out right in the orchard!

I guess he needed his strength to help carry all of the apples that we picked.

Once we got them home, we dumped all 65 apples into the sink to wash them.

Then I enjoyed an apple the best way possible, with a little bit of peanut butter.

I wanted to make apple butter yesterday, but I forgot I needed brown sugar. Luckily I was able to grab some when I was out this morning and I am in the process of reducing the apple puree.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

What a Great Deal

I found this really awesome deal through Hip2Save and I wanted to share it with all of you.

Lowes has these great Britta Slim Water Pitchers for around $9 (where I live they were $9.77). There is a $7/1 Coupon which would make the pitchers only $2.77. What a great price!!!

These would be perfect to use at home, or to give as a wedding, house warming or even baby gift!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chinese Noodles for the Soul

Today is just a soggy and gloomy day.

We needed the rain because our grass was all brown, and when we would walk in the yard we were kicking up dust. (No joke.)

But, that still doesn't make it any less gloomy.

Plus, Kev's parents closed the pool yesterday and our deck furniture is in storage, so it really feels like summer is over.

The perfect remedy for today's depressing weather was some quick, fast and easy home cooking.

One of my favorite meals to make comes from this amazing blog called Cheeky Kitchen. She has some amazing recipes that you should check out sometime.

This particular recipe I like to call "Cheeky Kitchen Chinese Noodles."

You will need:

1 pack of chicken flavored Ramen Noodles
1 pack of beef flavored Ramen Noodles
1 bag of frozen stir-fry veggies
Olive Oil
Sesame Oil
Sesame Seeds (Optional)

1. Boil water on the stove just like you would for pasta. (I am usually a "water salter" for pasta, but for this recipe I don't recommend doing so.) Also, start thawing your frozen veggies.

2. Drop in your Ramen Noodles and place the flavor packets to the side.

3. It doesn't take very long to cook the noodles, so once they are done drop them into a colander and run cool water over them to stop the cooking process.

4. Return the pot back to the burner and put it on simmer.

5. Add some olive oil, sesame oil, the two favor packets, garlic and sesame seeds. (I don't have any exact measurements for this because I just put in enough oil so it will cover the veggies. The rest of the seasoning is a matter of taste.)

6. Add your thawed frozen veggies into the pot and cover them with your marinade.

7. Toss in the noodles and mix everything really well.

8. Plate your food and toss on some extra sesame seeds for an authentic Chinese Take Out look.

Ta-da, you have a yummy meal that is easy on your piggy bank and your waistline!

The total cost of the meal: $2.53

Amount of Weight Watcher points: 6

You can also add chicken, steak, shrimp, tofu or any kind of protein. I like to keep it light, so I only go with the veggies.

Also, this recipe is really only for two people, so if you are feeding more than that, figure on one pack of Ramen per person and one bag of frozen veggies can feed two people.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Peanut Butter Cups A' La Weight Watchers scale and I have been having a battle all week long.
I told my husband not to be surprised if he comes home and sees the scale in the middle of the yard because I have gone "Office Space" on it.

I know it is not completly the scale's falt, but what's so fun about blamming myself?

Last week when I want to my Weight Watchers meeting, they had this wonderful recipe for low calorie, low fat and low points peanut butter cups.

I was a little skeptical at first, because I love peanut butter cups and feel that they belong in a food group all their own, but I do have to say they turned out quite tasty.

The best part about the recipe, is that it is easy to make and only requires three ingredients!!

You will need:

8 oz. of Fat Free Cool Whip

1/3 Cup reduced fat creamy peanut butter

1/4 Cup Reduced Sugar or Sugar Free Chocolate Syrup (To be honest, I think sugar free chocolate syrup tastes like motor oil, and the difference between the SF and Regular really isn't that much, so if you want to get regular you can.)

Combine the peanut butter with only 1 cup of Cool Whip in a bowl. Mix well. Then fold the remainder of the Cool Whip until well mixed.

Using foil cupcake holders, drop about 1 to 2 Tablespoons of the mixture in each cupcake holder.

Put a little chocolate syrup on top. (Learn from my mistake, if you use SF syrup it will come out faster than you think.)

Pop these bad boys into the freezer.

Once frozen take out of the cupcake holders and put them in a baggie.

Keep frozen until ready to eat.

This recipe will make 12 peanut butter cups. Each cup is 2 points.

Of course this isn't as good as the real thing, but it is pretty darn close!


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

'Cause I'm a W-O-M-A-N

Since Labor Day has officially come and gone, it was time to pack away the summer decorations and bring out my plethora of pumpkins, ghosts and fall decorations to put out around the house. We have TONS of fall decorations because it is my favorite season!

There is just something about the clean and crisp clear days, putting a fire in the fireplace and snuggling under a blanket that just makes me feel so cozy.

Another great thing about fall is that all of the summer clothes on go on clearance and you can get some great deals!!!

Last week I had scored some clothes for our cruise for around 85% off the original price. I even got the hubby some great shorts and shirts for just $6.60! You can't beat that!!

In my attempt to score some great end of summer items, I have tried to find some bathing suits that I could snag at a great price.

Being that I am curvy, finding a bathing suit that offers, coverage, "support" and doesn't look like it belongs in the retirement home, can sometimes be difficult. Finding a bathing suit at the end of the season is even more difficult.

I knew nothing would be left in the stores at this point, so I decided to go to the trusted Internet. I have had great success finding clothes around the web before, so I thought I might be lucky this time.

So far, no such luck. Since a lot of the swimsuits are sold as tops and bottoms separately, for a lot of the suits, only the bottom is left. (That is not going to do me any good, especially on a Disney Cruise.)

I decided to check out Macy's website because I have had pretty good luck at finding things in their stores and thought it would be the same online.

They did have a few cute suits, but one suit in particular made me refuse to buy any kind of swimsuit from their store every again.

Let me show you the photo.

In my opinion, this photo is picture proof of what is wrong with today's idea of beauty in main stream culture.

This woman in the photo, if not photoshopped, is only a small percent of what women throughout the world look like. The average woman is a size 14, where this model probably would have room in a size 0. Also, why even have a size 0? Why pick a number that represents nothing, and therefore should not be a size?

It is photos like this that cause 6th grade girls to go on crash diets, for women to look in the mirror and think they are not good enough, and even cause some women to starve themselves to death.

When is the fashion industry and retailers going to realize that it is alright to have a little bit or even a lot of curve? That women who are buying the clothing, want to see what someone, who looks like them, would look like in the clothing.

If you are disgusted with the way the industry is going, then I encourage you to email, write or even call retailers and tell them what you think. No change can be made if we are not willing to take the first step.

by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing of my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can't see.
I say
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
The palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Where did August Go?

I cannot believe that the date of this blog is going to be Sept. 2. Where did the summer go? But, to tell the truth I am ready to say farewell to the 90 degree + hot days of summer and hello to the crisp autumn mornings and warm apple cider drinking weather.

I love fall, it is my favorite season, and I always look forward to it. It is just the season that follows afterward that I really dread. If we could go from December to April, I would be happier than Snookie in a pickle factory!

However, that is not the case and I must suffer for three months.

The main problem for me during winter, is I get this feeling of isolation. Because the roads are bad, and I work from home, I don't really go anywhere. For several days, I am stuck at home with the cats, bored out of my skull. Thank God for the Internet so I can have some kind of access to the outside world.

I am hoping to try and stave off this feeling of isolation by possibly finding something fun to do outside of the house. I started looking for volunteer opportunities, choirs to join and even Scrabble Clubs, but I really didn't find anything.

The Scrabble Club meets Monday evening, so that isn't good because I want to spend time with Kev when he is home. Same thing with the choir in the evening, plus when it is winter, I really don't want to have to drive at night. (I know I sound like a senior citizen.)

So I guess my search will continue. Hopefully I will find something.

But, before I get ahead of myself, there is still one more summery rite of passage that needs to happen before Old Man Winter peeks around the corner: Labor Day.

We really don't have any plans for the holiday weekend that is quickly approaching.

Saturday morning, after we return from our usual Saturday morning breakfast at our usual Saturday morning breakfast spot, we are going to move some boxes from our basement to our shed that we just built. Once these boxes are moved, that means we can start finishing the basement, which includes the first part of the remodeling project: my pantry. I am so excited to get a place where I can store my surplice grocery bargains. Our hall closet and kitchen cabinets are starting to overflow.

After our hard work of box moving, we are planning on visiting our friends Megan and Steve to meet their two new kitties and grab some Ethiopian food in East Liberty.

Meg and I are also planning on checking out some bridesmaid dresses for our friend Kira's upcoming wedding in January. I love playing "dress up" so this should be a lot of fun!

Sunday, I think we are just going to take it easy and enjoy the day, and on Monday Kev has to work the early shift and I have to cover an event for the paper in the morning.

What are your plans for the upcoming holiday?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Time passes slowly

I feel like I spend a lot of my life waiting.

I wait for Christmas to arrive.

I wait for Christmas to be over.

I wait until I have finished my work to go and play.

I am waiting for our cruise to arrive.

And as I sit here, I am waiting for an interviewee to call me back.

But, I guess the good thing about waiting is it is SUPPOSED to teach you about patience. To teach you to be calm and carry on and to take time to smell the roses.

For those of you who know me really well, you know I have no patience what-so-ever! I am a horrible person to be stuck in traffic with. Even though I know, no matter how much I get myself into a snit, I cannot make the traffic go any faster or improve the situation, but I will still complain and huff.

There is the old saying, "good things come to those who wait." I think whoever came up with this, was just probably sick of sitting in the car, stuck in traffic, with someone like me.

So since I have this waiting problem, I need some advice. What do you do to help you count down the hours, days or months while you wait?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One of Those Days

For some reason today, I feel like I just can't get it together.
As I was getting ready to go to my Weight Watchers' meeting, I was running all over the house looking for my membership card, then I couldn't find my keys and then I needed my credit card and finally had to find my shoes. But, eventually I got it together and went to the meeting.

I was shocked/surprised/happy to find out that I lost .6 pounds! Which is AMAZING because I just got back from spending a few days in the land of smorgasboards and shoo-fly pie.

After the meeting, I was finally able to get a hold of one of the bands for the Coal and Coke Festival and then I went and found some great deals that I wanted to check out at Target.

Got some great deals at Target. They are having a huge sale on a bunch of Glade and Frebreze candles and products. All summer long I have been eyeing up one of the Glade Flameless Luminary in Honeysuckle. (Honeysuckle is one of my favorite scents because it reminds me of summer!) I picked it up today for $3! So a savings of $9 isn't too bad!

I also ran into our cousin Lisa at Target. It was nice catching up with her since I haven't seen her for awhile.

Came home tossed some frozen biscuits into the oven and put the finishing touches on the chicken noodle soup for dinner. (I love our crock pot!)

I am so looking forward to curling up on the couch with a cup of coffee, complete with cinnamon bun creamer, while watching The Tudors with Kev and our lovely cats. What a perfect end to a semi-hectic day!

In the department of good news, we have a shed! Thanks to my awesome parents, Kev and I, it was put up in about a day! This shed means that soon, we will be starting on finishing the basement! We needed the shed to put some stuff from the basement into the shed for storage. Hopefully, we will get started on that on Friday.

Hope you have a wonderful evening and you are spending it with people, both regular and of the furry variety, that you love.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I thought I would start adding a new photo everyday of something that is simple in my life that brings me joy. Like they say, a picture speaks a thousand words.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Take A Look, It's In a Book

Now that the luggage is all unpacked, and the last of the laundry has been folded and put away, I feel like I am able to do an update on the trip.

Everything went well, despite the fact I was sick and am still putting up with a little bit of congestion. (I have tried everything from Robitussin to Nightquil and nothing seems to rid me of this horrible plague.)

One of the highlights of the trip was the "30th Annual Bookworm Frolic" that is held by the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society.

As you can see from these couple of photos, there are tons of books to choose from.

They had 25 different categories of books that ranged from Bibles, Commentaries, Bible studies to Textbooks and Education.

While Kev was at the conference one day, my parents and I stopped by the book sale to see if it was worth bringing Kev to on his day off. I do have to say that it was.

On the first day, I walked away with a family Bible from 1881 that had a lot of personal items stuck between the pages. (I will do a separate blog on this in a few days, I just haven't had time to take the photos yet.) The best part is it only cost $3! In fact none of our books were over $3!

But, I also got some fun books like this one:

This book is just one of the gems that I picked up at the booksale. For some reason, I love reading 1950s and 1960s books about "family life" and what the "wife's role" should be. (I need a good chuckle every once in awhile. ;)

Let me tell you, this one is a doosey! I would like to share one of my favorite quotes from the book: "There is a place in business for a woman as an assistant to man, but any woman who runs a business of her own, who meets the world on its own terms, often feels her frailty, often feels the need for stronger hands and shoulders and a bolder brain than her own." A bolder brain?! Really! And of course this book was written by a man.

We have come a long way, baby!

Other chapters include, "Wives to Be Subject to Husbands," " Courtship and the Danger of Petting," and "Adultry, the Ruin of Marriage and Morals."

So all-in-all it is a light hearted and fun read as you can see.

But don't take my word for it, head down to your local library and pick up "The Home: Courtship, Marriage and Children" by John R. Rice, D.D.., Litt.D. (That was for all of you "Reading Rainbow" fans!)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Philly-ish Day 1

As I am writing this, Kev is sitting at the desk on the other side of the hotel room doing "homework." I mean come on, how old are we? Do we still need homework?

In all actuality I don't mind that we are quarantined to the hotel room, because I am really battling a bad cold.

All day, my body just ached, my throat felt like I had swallowed glass and I am stuffed up and coughing up green aliens. (I apologize if that was too much information.)

It all started out with Kev having a stuffy nose. Then when I went to Best Buy on Friday, the guy who was showing us the 3D televisions had an awful cold. So thanks to these two, I am now sick.

But, I am feeling a lot better and I think a little R&R this evening will make me almost new.

Even though I was feeling under the weather, my parents and I had a nice day.

We started off the day by going to Longwood Gardens, which is right outside of Philly. We have gone there before, but the place is always so beautiful each time it is like a new adventure.

Over the summer they are featuring the science of perfume making. They had little kiosks throughout the gardens featuring different types of flowers and different perfume samples to sniff. They even had a machine that you could mix your own sample of perfume.

After Longwood Gardens we went shopping in a few craft stores in Kitchen Kettle Village and Bird-In-The-Hand.

We went out to eat dinner at a great place called Ruby's Diner. It is a beautiful diner that features great food at great prices and great service. It is a chain restaurant, so if you ever have a chance to eat at one, please do. You won't be disappointed.

As far as tomorrow goes, I am not sure what is going on. I am just hoping that I feeling a little better. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Welcome Back!

OK. I have been a very bad blogger. I have left you guys high and dry for a while. I am so very sorry. But, I do have a good excuse, if that is any consolation?

I was out covering our local county fair for my job at the newspaper. I was in the trenches of pig races, diaper derbies and senior citizens contests. (Not to mention fresh squeezed lemonade and corn dogs, too. ;) )

But, I am now back and ready to roll.

Today Kev, and my parents and myself are packing up the car and heading out to the eastern part of the state because Kev has a conference and we are going to make a little vacation out of it. My wonderful parents are coming along to keep me company while Kev is working.

Anyway, I will keep you guys updated while I am on the road. I just wanted to make sure that you knew I didn't forget about you!

I will leave you with this news story about an incident that happened at our fair. (Yes ladies and gentlemen, this made CBS news.):

Dirty Diaper Deployed by Angry Mother in Driving Dispute, Vehicle Gets Smeared Say Pa. Cops

A woman involved in a traffic dispute apparently decided to play dirty by smearing the contents of her child's soiled diaper all over the rear window of the vehicle in front of her.

Twenty-three-year-old Jessica Hollis is facing harassment charges after she reportedly got into the dispute Saturday night while leaving the Fayette County Fair, reports CBS affiliate KDKA.

Pennsylvania state troopers arrived on the scene after Melanie Campbell, the 36-year-old driver of the other vehicle, notified police she and Hollis had gotten into an argument exiting the fairgrounds around 10:50 p.m.

It allegedly escalated when Hollis got out of her car and rubbed the diaper all over Campbell's rear window, taking road rage to a messy new low.

Campbell felt it was her duty to notify police.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Please Vote

Hey Everyone,

I just wanted to drop a quick note to ask you to please vote for my blog at "Picket Fence Blogs." You can do so, by clicking on the button on the right, under the heading "Please Vote For My Blog." Any clicks are greatly appreciated!

Lots of Love.

A Sign from God in the Mayo

Yesterday morning, I woke up in a snit.

The sky was a murky colored grey, the humidity hung in the air with thickness and I just didn't feel like getting out of bed. I am sure my husband thought I looked something like this:

When I finally did get out of bed, I pouted and clomped my way to get my cereal, switched on the TV and chewed in silence while poor Kev tried to make conversation with me.

After he left to go to work, I shuffled over to my computer, yelled at poor Finnegan for sleeping on my desk and in my way and continuned on doing the mundane tasks for the day.

I have no idea what caused me to be in this mood. I think part of it was due to me receiving bad news from a friend, but I also think part of it was me thinking how different my life turned out than what I had orginally planed.

When I was in high school, I had these huge aspirations to attend Columbia School of Journalism in NYC, get a job working for Rolling Stone Magazine and live in my own apartment in the heart of Manhattan.

What really ended up happening was I attended college only 45 minutes away from home, I am a freelance writer for the local newspaper (even though I get a ton a work) and Kev and I bought our little house right across the street from where he grew up.

Instead of subways and bright yellow taxis, we have our Jeep and live where quads and ATVs go up and down the street.

I don't think I made a bad decision, I just think I made a different decision than what I had orginally set out to do.

Where we live, the opportunity for me to build a "career" out of journalism is difficult because there aren't that many oportunities.

We could have moved somewhere else, but I wanted to stay close to family because I have always been super close to my parents and Kev has been with his. Plus, I know we are going to have children and I would like them to be able to have the close relationship with their grandparents that I had with mine because we lived so close.

So this perfect storm of emotion just sat and marinated in me all day until about lunch time.

When I stomped into the kitchen to make my two point weight watcher turkey sandwhich, which is really yummy, I started to put the mayo on my sandwhich when I saw something.

Believe me, I was not trying to make a smiley face out of my mayo, in fact I was probably going for anything but the smiley face. The bun top was actually turned on its side when I made this.

Now call me kookie, call me crazy, but I took this little mayo smile as a little sign to calm down because everything will work out.

It is sometimes in life's craziest moments that we need to stop and take a look around us and see what is really there.

So maybe I didn't get my dream job, but I still have a job that keeps me busy, gives me a very flexable schedule that allows me to travel and I get to meet lots of interesting people.

I might not live in an apartment in the city that never sleeps, but we do have a really cute little house, with a garden, lots of room to expand and it is in the neighborhood that we really wanted to live in.

Not to sound cliche, but as the saying goes if life gives you lemons, then make a huge pitcher of lemonaid (and maybe add some vodka to make it more interesting.)

"Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly and leave the rest to God."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Daring Tips

I know this might sound shocking to some, but I have not always been a daring domesticate.

I know, I know, I will give you a moment to recover from your shock. But in the almost 33 months that I have been living out of my parents' house, I think I have done a pretty good job figuring things out.

I would like to share with you, some of the different household faux pas, that I learned the hard way.

In no particular order.

1. Always check your oven before turning it on. If you are like me, and you have so many cake pans, cookie sheets, muffin pans, silicone bake ware and you have no place to store it all, you might just turn to keeping some of these items in your oven. Don't be like me and have your cake pan with a plastic cover near your eating element in your oven when you turn it on. It will melt. It will warp. You will end up throwing it away.

2. When you buy something or get a gift, that is electronic, don't hold on to the box until kingdom come because it might break under warranty and you will need the box to return it. If you stock pile these boxes, not only will your basement look like a depression era shanty town, but when you go to move, you will be over whelmed, end up calling your parents and crying asking them what the heck to do with all the boxes and where to start.

3. When we first got married, I went full speed ahead into June Cleaver mode. I was baking pies for dinner every night, making heavy homemade comfort foods and making pancakes for breakfast almost everyday. Needless to say, this is the quickest way to put on a lot of weight fast! Believe me, there are ways to show your spouse and children that you love them without hugging their heart with cholesterol.

4. When you are first married, or buy your first house or move into your first place it is very tempting to offer to have every social get together at your nest. Resist this temptation. Not only will it put a strain on your wallet, but it will also be a strain on you. Planning and hosting a party is a lot of hard work. My suggestion is to pick one event to host and go all out.

5. No matter how big your house is, you will never have enough room to store all of your crap. Just start sticking it under the beds, on the steps to the attic and even get a storage shed for your yard if you have to.

Those are just a couple of tips that I have learned and thought I would share. There are many more, but I wouldn't want to bore anyone with them. Maybe I will put them in a book someday and then people can pay to be bored to death! :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's Some Major Award

I am super excited!

Today I won my first blog award! *Insert little girl squeal here.*

An awesome blogger by the name of In My Opinion bestowed this amazing award upon me this evening.

It is the type of award that asks you to tell seven interesting facts about yourself and then pass the award on to other bloggers.

So, here are my seven interesting facts:

1. Just like "In My Opinion" unlike my header (and my bio photo on the left) I do not have dark hair. Actually, I am a light blonde kinda girl.

2. I am OBSESSED, and I mean OBSESSED, with Walt Disney World. My husband and I try to plan a trip there every year to soak up enough magic to make it through the next 365 days. I don't know what it is about the place, but it makes me forget all my troubles and helps me regress back to my youth. When I reach senior citizen age, I am going to move down there and get a job.

3. Youtube is my go to place when I want to learn how to do something. When I wanted to learn how to sew with a sewing machine, I went to Youtube. When I wanted to learn how to carve turkey, while tipsy, on Christmas, I went to Youtube.

4. When I was about four or five years old, the love of my life was Indiana Jones. I would watch his movies over and over again, and I thought that I was going to marry him. Even though, I didn't get to marry Indy, a lot of people have said that my husband looks kind of like Harrison Ford, so I got pretty darn close. ;)

5. My absolute nightmare would be to wear an itchy wool sweater, while giving blood, while suspended in the air over a pit of snakes. I am just throwing that out there.

6. My husband and I are high school sweethearts. We met while working on the yearbook together. He was my editor.

7. My ultimate dream in life would be to be a professional singer. However, I am too nervous to get up and sing by myself in front of anyone. Guess that puts the kibosh on that!

Now on to my nominations.

I want to nominate some bloggers who work hard at being entertaining, genuine and witty:

- Wild ARS Chase

- Banter Battery

- Hipstercrite

- and i'm no miss

- A Homemaker Speaks

- One Stop Giveaway Shop

How Has Your Day Been

When I first tell people that I work from home, I can almost see their thought process. Visions of me sitting on the couch eating bon-bons all day dances through their head. Even though I wish this was the case, it really isn't.

So, in order for people to see what I do all day, I thought I would track a typical day in my life, Monday, July 26.

2:45 a.m.: I get woken up by Kevin gently tapping me and saying that he is leaving to go to work. I think I mumble something, get up and see him off to work.

2:47 a.m.: I give a pep talk to the cats to tell them how we are going to sleep. There will be no chasing each other around the house and diving on the bed, there will be no knocking stuff off of the dresser and no clawing at my back because I will not feed you any earlier than 7:30 a.m.

7 a.m.: Alarm goes off. I hit snooze

7:05 a.m.: Still not convinced it is time to get up, I hit snooze again.

7:10 a.m.: Alarm goes off and Finnegan jumps on my back and proceeds to purr and "make biscuits" on my back. I continue to lay there and ignore both.

7:15 a.m.: I finally agree to get up. I shut off the alarm, the TV and the cat. I go into the kitchen and feed the cats their breakfast of Chicken and Cheese Friskies. The cats now think of me as their favorite person.

7:30"ish" a.m.: I sit down and do my usual ritual on the Internet, (check email, Facebook, blogs, back to Facebook, back to email to see if I got anything new in the past three seconds, and then repeat).

8:00 a.m.: Take my laptop into bed with me, and start to write my daily blog entry.

8:30 a.m.: After I realized I can't copy and paste what I want, I yell at the computer, swear, scare the cats and go onto my desktop computer.

8:45 a.m.: New blog posted.

9:00 a.m.: Kevin home from work for lunch, which is really breakfast.

10 a.m.: Decided to give the management team of The Clarks a call because the email address they gave me has not solicited a response from anyone. (My deadline was Friday). When I call, there is no one there, but voicemail. I hang up and figure I will call back later and decided to work on interview questions for another article.

10:13 a.m.: I have developed this horrible twitch below my left eye. I will blame it on The Clark's management team.

11:08 a.m.: Just got off the phone with The Clark's management people. They said they never got the email and they will see what they can do before Tuesday. The person I talked to on the phone said they would get back to me today. My eye is still twitching.

11:46 a.m.: Went to call for an interview about our local Relay for Life and when I dialed the phone number it said, "This number has not been assigned." What does this mean?!

12:00 p.m.: I had better luck and was able to finally complete one of the five interviews that I have today.

12:30 p.m.: Watching one of our cats treat one of the cat trees like a stripper pole. This has brought me some amusement.

1:10 p.m.: Ate some lunch as Kev went off to the banks and to his doctor's appointment.

1:43 p.m.: Finished two Relay For Life interviews back-to-back. I am on a roll! Going to make one more call for an interview. I have to wait until Tuesday to do one of the interviews because the person is not available. Still haven't heard about The Clarks, but my eye has stopped twitching! Yay!!!

1:54 p.m.: My luck has run out. I got voicemail on my last interview of the day. I will try and call back later. But for now, I am going to take a nice hot bath.

3:29 p.m.: Watching "Everyday Italian" wondering if Giada can feel the imaginary daggers and harpoons I am throwing at her. I can't stand her. She is so fake and too smiley and I feel the need to flip off her line of cookware whenever I pass it in Target.

4:24 p.m.: While watching "Super Nanny" Kev looks at his legs and studies them for awhile. He then turns to me and says, "Look at this. I have no hair where my socks go. Look at it! *pauses* My legs are really fuzzy." I don't know what is up with his newest obsession with his lower extremities, although he has been up since 2 a.m.

4:54 p.m.: Found out that coming at the beginning of August, Style Network is going to have a new show called "Too Fat for Fifteen." My love of fat camp can live on every week!

5:15 p.m.: Sat down to an awesome meal cooked by my husband. Even though he worked all day, and went to work extremely early, he still wouldn't let me help him cook. I love him!

5:30pm: The hubby continued his awesomeness when he skinned the chicken for tomorrow's chicken noodle soup. His awesomeness amazes me!

5:35pm: I accidentally looked into the sink and saw the discarded chicken skin in the sink and almost deposited my dinner promptly onto the floor.

5:45 p.m.: I got an email back from the manager of The Clarks and said that they are available for an interview tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. Thank God that is scheduled!

6:00 p.m.: Playing some Gabriel Knight on the lap top. I LOVE old school computer games!

9:00 p.m.: After playing a little GK, we start to get a slight headache from the 16-bit graphics and decide it is time for some Futurama on Netflix.

11:00 p.m.: It is time to go to bed and watch Iron Chef. Not the wimpy American version, but the hard core Japanese version. Tonight's secret ingredient: COD BATTLE!!!!

So as you can see my day is one jam packed adventure after another! (Well, not really.) But, as the former Gosslins used to say, "It's a crazy life, but it's ours."

Tuesday Tag-a-Long

Welcome to Tuesday Tag-a-long

Tuesday Tag-Along

Today is the day to try and follow a new blog! (Hopefully, it will be mine! :) All you have to do is click the follow button on the right. I always return the favor by following those who follow me!

Happy Tuesday Tag-a-Long.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Write Stuff?

I am a firm believer that everyone has a story to tell or one good book that is trapped inside waiting to come to life on paper.

How many times are you stuck in traffic or trying to fall asleep at night when your mind wanders and you suddenly think of something that would make a good story?

This has been the case for me.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents' house which is only one street over from where I live now. Unfortunately, because of their passing the house has been sold and it is no longer the magical place from my childhood.

But, anytime I go outside in our backyard, I can see the house and it still calls to me and brings back wonderful memories.

It is my plan to use some of these memories and weave them into a fiction book that I am slowly working on when I get a moment or a quick burst of creativity.

The book is going to be about a woman who comes home after the death of her grandfather to help to prepare to sell the house. While she is cleaning and organizing the house that she spent so much time at during her childhood, she comes across many memories that not only remind her of simpler times but also tells the story of the great love between her grandparents. After she learns about her grandparents she takes a closer look at her own crumbling marriage.

I have been writing on a program called StorYBook. It is a great program, that is free, that can help you organize your thought process.

Today, I thought I would just share a few snippets from what I have written. These two parts are not right after one another in the book; I just happened to pick them out and put them together here.

Also, these are just very rough, rough drafts. I just typed them up as they came to me.

As Elizabeth Flynn pulled her suitcase out from under her bed, she managed to disturb several dust bunnies in her wake.

"Why is it that no matter how hard I try, I can never seem to get rid of these guys," said Elizabeth to her furry grey cat, Finnegan who was happily pouncing on the dust balls.

Once she had the suitcase situated on the bed, she zipped it open and proceeded to fill it with clothes from her closet.

As she was making trips from her closet to the suitcase, she kept replaying the conversation she just had with her mother, over and over in her head.

"Elizabeth, I hate to tell you this but I have some bad news," said her mother, Lucy. "Your grandfather passed away tonight."

Elizabeth remained silent on the phone while her mother continued.

"He had a heart attack while taking the garbage out and fell and hit his head. Mrs. Maddison found him, called an ambulance and waited with him while help arrived. The paramedics tried so hard to revive him but he was gone."

While her mother was talking, Elizabeth's mind drifted off to sweet memories of her grandfather. She thought of all the times he had taken her to the local airshow, all the times they watched birds in the front yard and of the last time she had visited him which was nine years ago when her grandmother had died.

She couldn't believe it has been nine years since she had seen him. She felt sick at how she had just let the precious time slip through her fingers without once visiting him and only calling him on holidays and his birthday.

Now she would never get the chance to see him again.

"Elizabeth are you still there," asked her mother?

"Yes mom, I am just trying to take it all in."

"I know it is a lot honey. Your grandfather was a very special man and the world will not be the same without him. Viewing will be on Wednesday and the funeral will be on Thursday, so you will need to get a flight here as soon as possible. Also, there is something else I need to talk to you about when you get here. Let us know what time your flight will be in and your father and I will pick you up."

After Elizabeth hung up the phone, she immediately booked an early flight for the next morning.

Elizabeth was brought back to reality when she heard a knock on the bedroom door.

"I just wanted to see if you needed anything," said her husband James as peeked his head in through the partially closed door.

"No. I think I am fine. Actually I am already to go," said Elizabeth as she zipped up her suitcase and handed it to James so he could take it out of the room.

"You ready to go, Finny-cat," said Elizabeth as she scooped up her fuzzy grey traveling companion to put him in his carrier so she could take him on the trip.

Ever since she brought the cat home from the shelter, the two have been inseparable and she was not about to live him now when she need him the most.

Elizabeth had decided to adopt that cat as a companion because James was always traveling for his job.

Being a foreign communications consultant at the computer company that he worked for meant there were many days and nights where she was left alone.

Elizabeth knew that James felt sorry for leaving her, but he did not want to give up his job because the pay and benefits were too good to pass up.

He would often apologize to Elizabeth by buying her expensive jewelery, sending her on spa trips and giving her a a beautiful home.

But, no matter how many gifts she was showered with, Elizabeth wanted things to go back to how they were when they first met.

Elizabeth drove her orange SUV down Buttermilk Lane to her grandparents' house.

The trees that hung over the street made almost a canopy that allowed the sun to filter through like a natural stained glassed window.

The street was lined by modest houses that were well taken care of and had lush grass carpets that were beckoning for people to run barefoot through them.

Elizabeth almost reached the end of the Cul De Sac when she turned right and up on the driveway of 140 Buttermilk Lane; the place her grandparents had called home for over 40 years.

The house is a modest, one and a half story brick Cape Cod. It has a small front porch with a rod-iron railing.

The front door has a cottage style screen door that always reminded Elizabeth of something straight out of a fairytale.

Also at the front of the house, is a large bay window where her grandmother, Emily used to grow many of her plants.

Elizabeth always admired her grandmother's green thumb and cursed that she did not inherit her uncanny ability to help plants thrive and nurse the sick ones back to health.

On the right hand side of the house, stands the detached one car garage that housed the Wicks' light blue Cadillac.

As Elizabeth peered into the window of the garage door, she could see that the old "boat of a car" was still there waiting to take its next trip to the local market.

When Elizabeth stepped out in the backyard, she felt like no time had passed between her childhood and now. The backyard had stayed almost exactly the same.

The spacious yard still had a large swing that both Albert and Emily would spend many long evenings swinging quietly and enjoying each others' company.

The picnic table that Albert and his son Ted had made, many years ago, still stands next to the ancient gas grill that would cook up some of the best burgers and hot dogs in the county.

The three large Maple trees that Elizabeth and her best friend Noah would climb during the summer, are still standing proud almost like guardians of the yard.

In the right back corner of the lot, Albert's garden shed sits and waits to be opened for the season right next to the garden bed that her grandfather had cared for for many years.

At the back of the shed Elizabeth sees the garbage cans that her grandfather was tending to when he had his heart attack.

She stood there for a long time wondering what his last moments were like, and what he thought about, when she heard a voice behind her.

"Your grandfather passed on to the other side as a happy man," said the voice.

When Elizabeth turned around, she saw her grandparents' neighbor and dear friend Dolly Madison standing behind her.

Dolly was all decked out in a fuschia colored, velor jogging suit with bright green stripes running down the sides. Her leopard printed sunglasses gleamed in the sunlight, while her short and tightly curled blonde hair gave her an almost angelic appearance in the sunlight.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Men

Today has been a fun and interesting day so far. The husband and I woke up early today at 7:30 a.m. (I know it is sacrilegious to be up that early on a Saturday) and went out to breakfast and did some shopping.

Because it was so early, Kevin has said so many different things that are amusing that I thought I would share:

Standing in line at Giant Eagle:

"There is no reason for her to be holding those two kittens in the photo." (Talking about Vanessa Hudgens on the cover of Glamour magazine.)

"Hey. I want you to feel my foot; it's dented." (Said as we waited in line as he proceeded to take his flip-flop off and place his foot on the cart handle.)

"If we could just stick a cork in both ends, and they could just be cuddly, it would be perfect." (Said after buying 60 cans of cat food that were on sale.)

At home:

"The next pet we get will be a baby." (Said after scooping the cat litter box.)

These are just a few gems of wisdom that Kev decided to share with me. I hope you can apply these to your own life and benefit from the wisdom of a 70 year-old stuck in a 27 year-old's body.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Get Yourself Into a Jam

One and a half pounds of cherries and three sticky and covered cabinets later, I finally have four jars of tangy and sweet cherry jelly. I had made strawberry preserves about three years ago, but this year was my first attempt at making a jelly.

Just like any good jam or jelly, you need to start out with some fruit. Because I had some cherries left over from a crock pot meal I made the other day and because I loved the taste of some cherry jelly our friends brought us back from Canada, I thought I would give it a shot with cherries.

Of course, before you start anything, you will want to clean and remove the stems of your cherries. (You don't want your family and friends to get sick because your career as a jelly maker would be pretty short lived.)

After cleaning the cherries, you will have to go through the biggest pain of the whole process: pitting the cherries.

There are a few different ways to doing this. If you are really into torturing yourself, you can grab a knife and risk your limbs by digging the seeds out by hand.

Or if you have no patience or tolerance of pain, like me, then you will need to get a cherry pitter. If you live in my area, good luck at finding one because it is almost near impossible.

However, by chance I can across this adorable little guy at Giant Eagle called "The Cherry Chomper."
Even though he was $9.99 I couldn't resist him because he was so adorable (plus I think it is funny that when he is covered in cherry juice he looks like a happy, giddy mass murder.)

This little guy made pitting the cherries so easy. I would just place a cherry into his mouth, slam on his head, and the pit would fall down into his tummy. When he was full, I would just remove his head and dump out the seeds. (Now that I am typing this, making jelly sounds like a very violent process.)

Not all members of the household were happy with the cherry chomper. Some people were a little upset because the slamming sound that he makes was disturbing some one's nap on top of the cabinets.

The next step is to take the pitted cherries and turn them into smooth and silky cherry juice. Some people use a food mill, others mash the cherries through a strainer or cheesecloth, but thanks to our addiction to infomericals, I was able to use our Jack LaLanne Power Juicer.

If you are going to use a juicer, which is the easiest route in my opinion, check each cherry to make sure the seeds have been taken out. If you don't, the seed can damage your juicer by denting the blades.

Once you have checked for pits, shove the cherries down the shoot and watch the juice flow out.
My 1.5 pounds of cherries made almost three cups of juice. You will get varying amounts depending on your method of juice extraction.

Pour your juice into a sauce pan and add your pectin. There are all types of pectin that are available. I choose a no sugar added pectin so I could cut down on the calories in my jelly. There are regular pectins that require you to add sugar as a binding agent.

Once you add your pectin, you need to turn the stove on high and constantly stir the juice and pectin mixture. Once the mixture reaches a boil that can't be stirred down, you will want to add your sugar or sugar substitute and continue to stir at full boil for one minute. (For my almost three cups of juice, I added 1 cup of Splenda. If you are working with sour cherries you might want to add 1.5 cups.)

After the one minute is up, switch off the burner and pour the jelly into the jars. You will want to leave a little bit of head space by not filling the jar up to capacity. Take a small spatula and run it along the inside of the jar to release air bubbles. Wipe any excess jelly from the rim and outside of the jar and place the lid on top and thread the ring.

One thing to keep in mind, is to keep your jar in a warm place before filling. If they are too cold, the heat from the jelly can cause them to crack. Some people recommend keeping them warm in a dishwasher, but since our dishwasher is apparently a "fire hazard" I filled our sink with hot water and kept the jars there.

Once the jars are filled and capped, you will need to put them into a hot water bath to seal them. In a large stock pot, add enough water to cover the jars and then set to boil. Before, lowering the jars into the hot water bath, make sure there is something on the bottom of the pot to prevent the jars from touching it. This could also cause the jars to crack. I solved this problem by picking up a Ball home canning starter kit. The kit comes with this awesome green basket contraption that you put the jars into and then drop it in the pot.

Put the jars into the hot boiling water and let them hang out in the water for approximately five minutes and then lift them out of the water, and let them sit somewhere for no less then 12 hours so the jelly can gel.
After the 12 hours are up, dig in and prepare for a sweet and slightly tangy flavor explosion!