Monday, December 23, 2013

Can You Spare a Square? What Food Pantries Really Need.


Gratuitous photo of my pantry because I love the Tupperware!

Christmas is just two days away! How did this happen so fast? My mother asked me, just this week "What happened to December tenth through the Nineteenth?" No, she's not a crackhead. I think she spent that time sewing quilts for some of the little cousins. But really, It feels the same to me - as if someone had grabbed a giant straw and sucked a big chunk of days right out of our month. Here I sit two days before Christmas, with gifts yet to buy. I have not sent out Christmas cards. My cousin said mine was usually the first one they got. She wonders what happened to me. I explained that I used to make them myself and I would start in the summer. Now I buy them, and I can never find some I like so I refuse to buy any and I end up with nothing. At this point, should I even bother with them?

This is not at all what I came here to talk about today. My mother posted a link to this article on facebook this morning. I want to share it with all five of you who read my blog. Ten things food banks need but will not ask for.  It hit me because the shelves at our local food pantry were so bare last spring that Romeo's pizza organized the local high schools to do an emergency food drive. We live in a fairly affluent area. The most wealthy county in the state. Even so, we have more and more people at the Sharing Center  at St. Paul's in Sharon Center all the time. 

From the list in this article I can tell you I have never seen spices at the Sharing Center. Sometimes we have a rogue packet or ten of taco seasoning, but nothing beyond that. I have never seen even salt and pepper. I never even thought about it, honestly. Feminine products? I don't think I have ever seen them, either. Believe it or not, I have never seen crackers or tortillas, but everyone does love them. I've seen baby formula one time. Ditto baby food. Not much of that is donated. I assumed it was because there are other programs, like Women, Infants, Children? We get a lot of canned pears and peaches along with pineapple. If there is cream-of-anything soup? It's a big hit. Not a lot of it gets donated. Before a holiday there will be 'holiday' items like a turkey breast or a small ham. I don't know if there always is, but they do try. Boxes of stuffing mix and instant potatoes and cranberry sauce, etc. 

Toiletries? This is always the area which makes me feel terrible. When a person is asking for a $1 package of toilet paper and you have to point to the little tag on the shelf which says "1-2 people  -  1 roll" and open a package and take out a single roll and hand it to them? It's humiliating. For both of you. Proctor & Gamble, are you reading this? No? Dangit. Kimberly Clark? Anyone? Hi mom! Hi Tamara & Ilene! If there is laundry detergent, people always choose it as one of the two personal items (per family) they are allowed. Dog food? Cat food? These are very important items as well. I wish I could remember which pet someone was talking about last time when they said "There is never anything for..." was it birds? I honestly can't remember. But it hurts. 

So I guess what I'm saying is this: If you are so inclined, I would love for you to find out which little local food pantry is close to you and donate straight to them. Not the food bank - because the little local pantries have to buy from the food bank. Donate straight to your local place. Take some case of special treats. Or spend an extra $36 at Sam's Club or Costco and take them a couple of giant packages of Charmin. Use coupons to get wicked good deals and deliver toothpaste, toothbrushes, laundry detergent. Go fancy and drop off some fabric softener. Or break the mold and take a case of crackers. Round up a few neighbors or friends, or if you are super desperate, even family members(!) and drop off a load of stuff. 

If you do? Thank you! You just made life better for a handful of families! If you can not do it right now, that's okay. Some day, though, you'll find a long lost $20 in your jeans and you can go drop off 20 packages of Dollar Tree toilet paper. Someone will be thankful for it. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rocking Maggie

Some days my heart bursts with love and joy. 

Have you ever seen anything sweeter than Maggie the little Shih Tzu on a rocking horse? 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Old Friends Come Calling

In our little town there is a facebook group where you can buy and sell Christmas stuff. A couple of days ago I found this:

Which may be no big deal to you, but when I was growing up we had these exact candles. When I saw them on facebook I might have gasped. Then I wrote  as fast as I could that I wanted them, before someone else could beat me to them. Wouldn't you know it, when I was picking them up (along with a few other things from these ladies) they were telling me how many people were complaining about not getting them in time. When I unwrapped them from their tissue paper and felt them It was like being transported through time. I used to play with these when nobody was watching, because they are so doggone adorable. Can you tell how happy I was to reconnect with these old friends?  

I love how every year, when we go through the Christmas decorations, it's like opening an old yearbook. There are all your old friends, just exactly the same as they were so long ago. There's all the magic you forgot and all the magic you haven't forgotten, all in the boxes, every year, just waiting for you so faithfully. 

New friends, old friends, whoever you are; I hope you have had the chance to rediscover your magic lately. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Time I Have Spent With Kings

     Sometimes love is all dressed up in its' Sunday best having an awesome time. And sometimes love is wriggling around together, barely breathing, in the deepest, soul-wrenching pain. Sometimes love is exciting and new, like they sang about on The Love Boat.  Other times it is sitting side by side reading or the rhythm of the dryer balls clunking. Love can be massages and tickles and it can be pulling things out with tweezers or holding the dog while someone else gets the goop out of his eye. Love brings you flowers. Love brings you dirty laundry. Love celebrates in big over the top ways. Love says it's okay to celebrate by just being still. 

Bill & Jean King 70th Anniversary

     Last weekend we celebrated 70 years of love between my grandparents. They were married in 1943, when they were 17 years old. I do not have to explain to you that they have seen it all together.  They have opened their home and their hearts to anyone who crossed their path. They have welcomed many, many people to their table. They have always worked hard, and still do. They still keep a garden. They still can and freeze food. These 87 year old sprites just hosted a house full of people last week.  He's been splitting wood and stacking it for winter. She's been cleaning and cooking and baking. They make the rest of us, especially me, look lazy in comparison. 

     I am so lucky because I got to be their first and favorite grandchild. I got to hear him whistle and play the harmonica. I got to eat endless amounts of her cooking. I  sat behind her on the top of the couch and combed her hair. I went on tractor rides with him. He used to bring a snack pack pudding cup, when they were still in cans, home in his lunch box for me. She would make me potato pancakes. Their love has always been safe, a refuge from any storm out in the rest of the world. The example they have set for all of us who are lucky enough to be theirs is beyond compare. I am so grateful to get to witness this legacy of love. 

     I hope that you have some people just as wonderful in your life. I hope I grow up to be as wonderful an example to someone else.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wadsworth Blue-Sky Drive In Movies


      Today I wish my blog had millions of readers. Because today that kind of reach could make a real difference. Our local drive in movie theater, the Blue-Sky Drive In, could be going away. So many drive in movie theaters have already gone away. They are already nearly extinct.

   The Blue-Sky Drive In was built in 1947. Today you can load up your car with people and get into the theater to watch two movies for a total of $18. All seven of us can see two first run movies (and a lot of weeks they show three movies) for a total of $18. At any other theater around you can see fourteen movies for $10.00 per ticket, so $140. Plus you get to sit in your own comfy car with no distractions except the ones you bring with you. At least you can tell your own people to hush if they get rowdy.

     Here's the rub: The movie industry is going digital. Simply put, that means no more movies on film. It also means new projectors, which cost $80, 000. Considering the price we paid to get in was a mere $10 until just a couple of years ago, I think this theater has been operating more as a labor of love than a bid to get rich. It has worked. We love it.

     There's a way we can help save our Blue-Sky Drive In.  Honda is giving away the new projectors to five Drive-Ins. All they have to do to win is get the most votes. All we have to do is:
  •  go to Project Drive-In every day and click the "vote" button. 
  • And text Vote53 to 444999 once per day.
     Share this. On twitter, on facebook, on Pinterest, via email. Ask every teenager you know to text every day. Please and thank you.

     Remember the playground at the front of the drive-in movies? Where you played with kids you didn't know and made friends in ten seconds? I want my someday grandchildren to be able to do that, too.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Nine Things I Would Do Differently When I Build This House Again

     After living in our Ryan Homes Ravenna for a year and a half now, I am ready to build the same house again. If the sales staff thought we were the 'non-standard request' people then, they would surely know it after this time. There are so many things we did right, and I can't tell you how much all the research, planning, hard work and spreadsheets have led to us being thrilled with our house and our choices. Having said that, we have now had time to get to know the house. When you get to know your house and how it works for your family you realize what tweaks would make it perfect for you.

     We had to push for some of our requests. Some requests took a lot of work by our PM, in the research phases. Some requests were simply refused. We do not regret a single change we made to what they offered. There are a few more changes I would request.

     Upstairs, I would move the laundry to the big hall closet between the bedrooms. It could hold the machines side by side, there could still be a shelf and rod above them, and the space in the hallway is actually wider than the space remaining after the machines are in the laundry room, so there would be plenty of room to load the machines. I am certain there is plenty of room to run pipes because in between that closet and the bedroom closets is a good two feet of space.

     The space which is now laundry room could become more bathroom/closet space. I would extend the vanity all the way to the end of the wall with the window. The two sinks could be further apart with plenty of counter space. And room for more drawers! I would extend the small bathtub they put in this model. The Avalon has a more suitable tub. Although, I would not want it in a giant tub deck like the Avalon. I do enjoy the practical way we can get in/out of the tub without a huge deck around it. I would love to have a larger whirlpool tub instead. The shower could be little larger to include a seat. The Closet would become just a little larger, as well.

     The mud room, as Ryan Homes calls it, is non-existent. Even in my mud-room loving mind, I can not call this a mud room. It's a tiny space with, count them, four doorways in it. There is not enough wall space to do pretty much anything unless you live in this giant house with just one other person.  I would rip out the coat closet and have actual mud room space. I think it would be better utilized this way.

     And the office? I would make it into a butler's pantry. Built ins all around the walls to house every baking tray, sheet, pan, silpat mat, fondue equipment, crock pots, roaster ovens, George Foreman grill, blender, juicer, coffee maker, etc. you can imagine. It could hold the extra refrigerator and freezer, and house the housecleaning supplies - especially all the stuff for the central vac. The perfect place to put the hoses and attachments still eludes me. (But what a beautiful dilemma to have!) I can imagine hooks full of potholders and aprons. Shelves full of glistening appliances, extra gallons of milk, ALL the housekeeping stuff all in one place, neat and organized.

     Of course, my husband still needs an office. He does work from home, after all. But in this house there is plenty of space for his office. We'll put it somewhere else. Maybe upstairs? One of the bedrooms  could easily serve as an office. And if we used the bonus room there could be (maybe) enough bookshelves installed to hold all the books.  Or we could build the morning room next time, but ask them to wall it off like a study.  Or, better yet, we could use the morning room as a dining room and use the dining room as a big office. It would require the simple installation of two doors and it would be lovely. Even my beautiful little front room would make a nice office if it was closed off. Especially if someone who worked out of their home had their own business and clients who dropped by. Not the case for us, so being near the main entry might not be the best idea for us. Still, it could work.

     The french doors we paid for instead of the sliding door? They aren't really french doors. I wish I had known this when we were in the planning stages. I would have made sure they were. Only one door actually works. The other is stationary and it can not be changed without buying a new set of doors. If they would offer only one real door I would have preferred to have more windows in the wall instead of a fake door panel next to the door. I find it odd. I would make some kind of adjustment to this.

     I would take the three car garage. What was I thinking?  It could have served as the 'shed' without being separate, without needing to submit plans to the HOA design committee for approval. And it would be way more secure than a shed. Plus, where in the world would we put a shed?  Do they make sheds for slopes? It is funny in a sad way that I did not consider this when we were planning. Why didn't anyone shake me and tell me I needed this extra space?

     I would ask for even more driveway. Ours is short enough that we need extra width. The third car width garage would help a lot with this. But with a Ryan, you still need to extend the driveaway area to the outside of the garage instead of where they end it, which is at the garage door opening. This is especially true if you need to open all the doors and load/unload things.  

     I would ask for a custom front porch. As it is I could not get both the elevation and the porch I wanted, and my compulsive need for things to be centered and balanced took over the decision making when it came to elevations. I simply could not abide having two, differently sized, off-center gables on my house. The horror! Could you imagine!? I think I would have become an insomniac, because there is no way I could have slept in such a house. The porch had to go. Building it today I would have asked for the porch of my dreams and told them how I wanted it. With the elevation and stone we have now.

     I would ask the basement bath to be extended all the way to the outer wall. I can not figure out whey they squeezed a small full bath into that tiny space instead of going the extra few feet and making it as spacious and grand as it could be. It is another thing I just did not think of because I didn't see it first. The model homes have a half bath in the basement, and it is plenty roomy. When you squeeze a tub/shower combo in there, it is game changing. There should always be room enough to both sing and dance in a bathroom. Don't you agree?

  *To read more about our Ryan Homes Ravenna click the "Our House" button at the top of the page.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Update: What I Have Been Thinking Lately. Because Doing is Hard

     While I realize this is possibly both useless and senseless, here is a little update into my life:

  • I still have tens of unfinished projects going on. Bed, bookcase, dressers, etc.
  • I have spent an inordinate amount of time looking at different fondue on Pinterest lately.
  • I am possibly fondue obsessed, having been to the Melting Pot three times in five weeks.
  • I am, as of late, unsettled. It's like my axis has been mis-tilted. I have no idea why. Yet.
  • I feel a deep need to purge.
  • And shop.
  • I am lazy enough that all the purging and shopping is on indefinite hold. 
  • Just like the unfinished projects! It's a pattern...
  • I have to stop myself from beginning new projects on a nearly daily basis.
  • My husband has begun saying "Remember, my bookshelves come first." 
  • The bookshelves are in his office.
  • I've started thinking his office would make an EXCELLENT, giant butlers pantry.
  • Shhhh... don't tell him.
  • Because he works from home. He might take it wrong and find it offensive. 
  • But another fridge could even go in there and hello? How awesome would that be? 
  • Maybe the built in bookshelves could be for small appliances?
  • And then the coat closet turned appliance garage could be a coat closet again?
  • Or something EVEN BETTER?
  • What do you think?
  • Do you know how I can ban my husband from reading/commenting on this post?
  • Not that I would ever do that. 
  • This is pretty much my exact stream of consciousness.
  • You're welcome, world.

Friday, July 19, 2013

This is Why I Always Listen to My Gut

     Since my husband is taking a couple weeks off work right now we have been gallivanting around doing some of our favorite things. So, mostly eating. Yesterday we spent the day at Barnes & Noble, where I read half of the new David Sedaris book. I did not get to the diabetic Owls yet. No spoilers, please.

     First, though, we went to Outback Steakhouse. We shared an obscene blue cheese wedge salad. Those are amazing, and honestly, it was the happiest part of my meal. While we were noshing on bread, my husband got this:
     A mini milkshake,chocolate. Guess what? It is the best chocolate milkshake either of us has ever tasted! I'm not a milkshake fan because they always give me an upset stomach. But this was beyond amazing. It's made with Bluebell ice cream, which is, I suspect, also the reason it did not upset my stomach. Lots of places make milkshakes with something other than ice cream. If you want to taste the be-all end-all of chocolate milkshakes get thee to an Outback Steakhouse this summer!

     They are small, and I actually asked them to bring a second one. My husband loooooves milkshakes! After we ate, our server and the manager were talking with us about the banana pudding milkshake so we tried it, too. Oh my gosh! It tastes exactly like the whole banana pudding with vanilla wafers dessert!  Eventually, our table looked like this:

And then I ate the vanilla wafer.     
Don't be sad. This little army lives on in our hearts and minds forever. 

     We headed across the street to Barnes & Noble. I grabbed the new D. Sedaris book and found a seat. Not the soft comfy seat I used to be able to find at a Barnes & Noble, sadly. I sat in a hard wooden chair for an hour or two, then headed down to the cafe. Now, this B&N cafe has turned into a bizarre bazaar. There's just nothing like it anywhere else in my world. Yesterday the thing I could not stop obsessing about was this. As you can see, I felt it was billboard worthy:

     Oh yes she did! She took off her shoes and put her feet up on a chair in the cafe. As if to say: "Oh, nothing, just lounging around with my feet up doing paperwork." The truth is I felt a little angry because it is what I wanted to be doing all along, but did not let myself. You remember when you were a kid and your friend would do something and get away with it, for like an hour? And then you did it? And after .39 of a second your parents would be all over it? Yeah. That's how this made me feel. 

     Finally we left, and my senses told me that there is no fairness in the world. It was hot, and muggy, and we still had kids at home. To drive places, feed, nag, you know - the whole nine yards. We stopped by the grocery store and got 'a couple of things'. Which loosely translates into a hundred dollars worth of crap. 

     Of course our local store has, no word of a lie, at least ten open self checkouts and two actual cashiers. This is always how it is. So I do self checkout. Everything was going swimmingly until the dang red apples. This may have been partly my fault, because I kept picking up one apple to get the four digit code, and then it would start to weigh the apples as I was putting that apple back in the bag and it would get confused. Finally, as the last item of the transaction, I was able to pull it off! Or so I thought.

      I scanned my coupon, scanned my payment card, pressed 'finish and pay' and I got this blue screen which would beep at me every few seconds telling me help was on the way. Lying blue screen. Help was nowhere around. After a couple of minutes (which felt like an hour, stranded there with no ability to help myself) help arrived. Help told me I had not paid for my gala apples. I told her I had, see? She said I paid for granny smith and macintosh, but no gala. I explained that I only had one bag of red apples and one bag of green. After a thorough inspection of our cart she agreed and fixed the problem. I guess I look exactly like the type of person who will try to scam Giant Eagle out of four red apples. You've been warned.

     We left the store for the heat and humidity. I pulled out the keys and started opening the tailgate as we made our way to the van. Oh! I forgot my receipt. But it's hot. And who needs a grocery receipt, right? So I decided to forget it. Then something nagged at me. I did not know why, but my gut was screaming at me to go back and get it. So I did. Because, and this is the only reason: I learned years ago to always, always, always listen to my gut.  

     I went back into the store. The lady who helped me was standing in front. I told her I forgot my receipt, but now I couldn't remember which lane I was on. I started checking machines for a dangling strip of paper, with no luck. She walked to my machine and simply said:

"You didn't pay."

     Embarrassed, I paid, got my receipt, and left. What would have happened if I decided to go home without the receipt? Would I have ended up on the local police facebook page? The one where they post pictures of people shoplifting and ask you to call if you know who they are? Or would they have just used my frequent shopper card to look up my address and send the police to my house? Or called security when I next scanned my card? 

     The moral of the story is: Listen to your mother. Keep your feet off the furniture and listen to your gut.

*Anyone who knows me well knows I would never steal from the grocery store. I have always said it would take a bank or casino job. My integrity does not go cheap.

P.S. Someone told me she was unable to comment on my blog. If anyone else is having that problem, would you please let me know? Maybe send me an email tammigirl at gmail dot com or tweet @tammigirl  or tell me on facebook? I would really appreciate it.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sleeping Like Babies

Have you ever tried to buy a mattress? Did it make you want to poison people, or am I just watching too much  The Borgias?

I told you about the terrible time we had trying to buy a mattress from Macy's.

I swear to you it was the biggest part of no-fun we have had in our married life. And our history includes surviving The Great Paro (political strike) of 2003 in Venezuela with five kids in the house. Fun times!

I still  contend  shopping for a mattress is even more complicated than car shopping. I can get you a good deal on a car - just call me. But mattresses? Ugh.  The names are different for each store, lots of places have a gimmick with the mattress brands where they do some little thing different for them so they can say nobody else carries one like it, etc. It's the shadiest industry, I swear. The mafia's got nothing on the mattress world. I think this is the true reason why they say "Go to the mattresses" -  they know!

We did so much shopping, deliberation, comparison, had quite a few less than stellar nights of sleep, before we made a decision. I read lots of reviews and paid attention to the reasons people did or did not like the decisions they made.

Finally, I decided to call  GoTo Mattress. I am so glad I did.

We ordered the "Beautyrest Recharge World Class Annapolis Place Luxury Firm Pillow Top Mattress Set" The prices they had beat everything, plus delivery and take away of the old mattress set was included. (Also? No sales tax!)

We have been sleeping like babies for a month now on our new mattress. I'm so happy we stayed with Beautyrest and so happy we decided to buy from GoTo Mattress. I was a little worried about ordering online and not being able to go to the store if we had a problem. Oh, the horror stories people tell when it comes to mattresses! Our experience with GoTo Mattress was great. They even helped me make sure I was getting what I really wanted by researching the mattress I wanted from Macy's and making sure the components matched. There was a very slight difference (It's the mattress game, remember?) but it is wonderful and we can not feel any difference.

This is not something GoTo Mattress asked me to do. They don't even know I am writing this. But gosh, with the trouble we had finding someone we wanted to buy our mattress from I wanted to share the good news about this great company.

You can even go here to try and win a Beautyrest mattress from them by liking them on facebook. They are going to give it away when they get 2,000 likes.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Food Truck Roundup at the Park: Norton, Ohio


Food trucks at the park!

 If you see something which looks like this?  Park your car at once! Get out and explore. Stuff your face. Recruit people to share with so you can taste lots. I wish we had made our boys go with us instead of leaving them home. We brought stuff home to them, but we could have forced our wishes on them and made them share stuff with us. Next time.

For today, I find it necessary to award two blue ribbons: 

Buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, Truk balls, fries, green tomato fried w/crab meat, invisible brisket sandwich
Orange Truk passing out food

The Orange Truk had buttermilk fried chicken sandwiches. They were SO good! Definitely the kind of fried chicken I wish for any time I have fried chicken. I cut the giant piece of chicken and took a portion, leaving my husband with plenty to more than cover the large bun. They also served Truk balls, little fried risotto balls. They are delicious, too.
Orange Truck food truck Northeast Ohio

My other favorite truck was Pig Lickin' Good BBQ. Their brisket sandwiches were fantastic! I've lived in the heart of Texas, and I know good brisket. For me, it's not even so much which region you are from and style you prefer. It's about the meat prepared well. This brisket was as tender as you will find anywhere. Great seasoning on the sandwiches, too. A little kick, but not too much. They added grilled onions and a slice of cheese. Yum! I am going to try to follow this truck and sneak up on it when I can.
Pig Lickin' Good BBQ food truck

Friendly smile from the man with the Q!

This guy Was friendly and had a happy truck/shop vibe.They were having a good time in the truck.
His BBQ melted:
  •  in my mouth  
  •  my heart.

Good food makes me ridiculously happy.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I Hate to Damage the Psyche of a Good Chair

     The last few weeks have been a blur of what to eat/not eat, what needs washed, dried, folded, put away, wiped up, wiped down, swept, mopped, scrubbed, mowed, pulled, watered, filled, drained, heated, cooled, painted, sanded, waxed, taken, dropped off, heard, written, crossed off, let in, fed, taken out, walked, hugged, ripped out, replaced, straightened, shined, polished, caulked, replaced, checked, adjusted, verified, etc. I bet yours have been about the same. 

Gratuitous photo of Audrey with her buntings. Because I know some of you require pictures.

     The most difficult part for me? Was the eating/ not eating. I had a health scare, and I have the all-clear from my doctor now. I feel like I can breathe again. But saying I had a health scare makes me feel like I am downplaying how I felt by about a kajillion. I started eating clean, eating what I should eat for my kidneys, to be precise. 

     Let me just tell you that in my whole life I have always eaten a lot of junk. Not lots of McDonalds or something - but lots of sugar went into this container of awesomeness. I was downing way more soft drinks than I want to admit. I swear there were days when I drank ten cans of Pepsi. No lie. 

     Add to that chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate. And other candy. Every day. Many a day. And the baking. And the no-bake stuff. And the desserts, which are official. All that other stuff was unofficial, in case you were wondering. 

     Have I mentioned cheese? Because I really, really, really like cheese. Really. A lot. Times ten. 

     All that stuff (and oh-so-much more) was bad for me. And I stopped it. And I was making myself miserable. Also, I was hoping for a miracle when I had my next blood tests. I was hungry and sick of berries, cucumbers, cherries, celery, watermelon, onion, garlic, and whatever else was on the super-kidney list. I may have been feeling pretty sorry for myself. And very much afraid. I'm not good at admitting it when I'm afraid. I just get cranky. This way nobody can tell if I'm just my regular cranky or afraid. Great plan, isn't it!?

     Like I said, the blood tests all came back improved with everything in normal range, so it paid off. I lost nearly 30 pounds in those seven weeks, and my thyroid is now doing better than it was. It's still not good though, just improved. 

     My point, if I ever had one was "The last several weeks were miserable for me. Now I am feeling a great sense of relief." 

     On top of the great sense of relief, I am also feeling better in general. The pain I have had all of my life? The daily, constant, inescapable pain I always had in my neck and shoulders? It's gone! I'm going to attribute it to eating clean. You really should try it. You will probably like it! 

     I will still have occasional treats. Key word: occasional. Meaning not all day every day. (This note is more to remind myself than for you. I am sure you know what occasional means.)
  To celebrate my new-found peace and health I did a little shopping of the Craigslist variety. We agree we want a large table in our dining room. We want a large table which we can make extra extra large. My goal is a table which starts at nine feet and can expand to fifteen feet. We will use it at nine feet for day to day and pull it into the long room and run it and other tables all the way from the stove to the fireplace. 

Which would make this the 'before' photo

And make this the 'during' photo.

        Sorry Charlie, there is no after photo. Not yet. 

     Craigslist did net me these beautiful chairs from Yugoslavia. They are quite old, they are sturdy, they are comfortable, and best of all, they are mine.

    They don't match the table at all. But I do not care. Wait, that's a lie. I care. I am not sure if I can paint them yet. I know I can paint them. I mean I am not sure if I can do that to the chairs. I do not want to damage their psyche.  For now the table will be covered with a tablecloth. But I love that table so much that I like to look at it. So the chairs may have to take paint. We'll live with it a while and get to know them. I do not have to decide right now.

In Summary: 
  • I feel better
  • Chairs

  *To read more about our Ryan Homes Ravenna click the "Our House" button at the top of the page.    

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Paint Chip Notebooks

Paint Chips to Mini Notebooks
Who has a clever mother? That's right, this girl, right here!

     My mom came over yesterday with these little notebooks she made from some paint samples we had picked up some time ago. Since most people love little notebooks, this seems like a really cool thing everyone can do and give to all the list-makers in our lives.

     She used regular old paper and figured out how/where to print the name so she could personalize the sheets of paper for me. You wouldn't have to do that, of course. How awesome? You could make them as thin or thick as you like.

     I think you all have some getting busy to do!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Help Me to Help Her

     I can not help but fall in love with beautiful old dressers like this one. She has so much potential, don't you think? Look at those legs, those delicate little wheels, the perfect hardware, the lines! Look at that awesome piece on top. it actually screws off from the back like a mirror does. I took it off to clean it when I first brought it home.

     The thing is I am not one of those people with the gift of vision. I can tell she has great potential, but I do not know how to bring it out. I can see a great scroll for graphics, but I can not figure out what to put there. There's even a place on the top drawer for a headline or title. Or maybe something else, totally different.

She's looking for love - in my face

In order to demonstrate my pure genius and lack of true artistic talent I will show you the u.s.p.s. envelope they used to give me my stamps and postcards, which I tore apart so I could trace these elements from the computer screen. 

     Please do not let my inability to even trace deter you from sharing your genius ideas with me. Somehow I can manage to execute since I have a cricut machine with Make The Cut software and a printer.

     My goal is to use free graphics. Maybe from Karen at The Graphics Fairy.  

     I will most likely be linking up and asking for help anywhere I can think of because I want this to be really great. I'm going to try to find some of my favorite pieces and track down the people who did them and ask for advice. I don't know if any of them will actually come to see this and offer suggestions, but it can't hurt to ask, right? 


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Arms and Hearts

     Lately I have been here a lot. In this space, observing people. I see my children grown up and growing away. Away from me. Well, away from needing me like I became accustomed to being needed. Sure, they still need me for things. They need someone to roll their eyes at (because, hey, mom is annoying or just plain weird sometimes) or someone to feed them. Sometimes I still get to do things like laundry and giving them rides. They probably see those things as the biggest favors I do for them. But when I get to bring out their warm, fresh, soft clothes I don't feel tasked. I feel love. When I get to give them a ride and have their full company for those few minutes, it's warm and familiar. Even if we don't talk, there's something so enveloping about being in a car alone with someone you love. Hearing the same music, witnessing the same scenery, breathing the same cool car air.

     Lately I miss those days when they were younger and had to be with me all the time. The days when all of them would have to pile in the van and listen to the same radio. The days before iPods and cell phones. The days when a Joe Scruggs cassette tape in the car was pure bliss and we all sang along. They were always surrounding me like their own little gang back then and it was heavenly.  They were so eager to receive anything I was offering. Now they have their own cars and their own music and their own interests and friends who are not each other and me. Any one of them is capable of going off on their own and not needing me for - I was going to say an extended period of time, but the truth is - forever.

     I still need my mom all the time. I need her to help me keep my emotional, moral compass. Agree with me that right is right and wrong is wrong. See the same injustices, or show me what she sees differently. Help me with scary stuff (which is anything I have never done before) Tell me it's okay that I leave so many projects somewhere between 85-99 percent complete. Somewhere, deep in the heart of me, I know my children still look to me for advice, for pointers, pro tips, if you will. But some days I still want to scoop them up into my arms and just rock them to sleep. Some days I still want to be their everything. Just because I love them more than anything in the world.

     I miss those days when these things were so important:
  • Little Mermaid nightgowns & bedding
  • who got the most m&ms
  • Osh Kosh socks - but they could never, must never, match
  • Cowboy vests
  • Beauty & the Beast sheets, comforter, canopy
  • traumatic wedgies
  • Love You Forever, Roger Poger, Owen and his fuzzy blanket
  • trips to the library 
  • Disney Store
  • Johnny Rockets
  • Dairy Queen Cakes
  • school field trips
  • season passes to Fiesta Texas or Geauga Lake
     These things just don't hold any power now. Except in memories. In memories they are powerful beyond words. Okay, sometimes m&ms can still be important.  There is no more urgency when someone needs a drink of juice. They do  not need, or even want me to fix their hair. Or even my opinion on how their hair should be cut or styled, if you can believe it!

     I no longer have a first grader, a preschooler, a toddler and a newborn. I have a student with a job, a mortgage banker, an employed guy who also takes care of neighborhood pets, houses and yards, and another student with a job who has decided to apply to become a mortgage banker as well.

     I miss the buzzing hive of little voices and all those sets of eyes and ears made me feel so necessary and important. One day, there will be an even louder, stronger buzzing of little voices and  even more sets of eyes and ears. More people to impress with fresh warm cookies and  fingers desperate to grasp sippy cups of oh-so-important juice. Books and cuddles and rocking chairs and trips to the library and the zoo and all sorts of new discovery. I get it now, all those crazy women trying to marry up their kids and clamoring for grandchildren. Their arms and hearts are aching to be completely necessary again. The wonder, once you have experienced it, of sharing every little thing with someone is what it's all about. There's your meaning of life, right there.

     You're welcome.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May Cara Box Swap: Regional

     In May I participated again in the Cara box exchange. The theme was regional and we were to send things to our new friend which are from our area. I got to give things to a fellow Ohioan, and was concerned she may not be as excited as someone would from another area. But Nicole is so sweet and happy with everything that it didn't matter. I did try to get things from my part of Ohio vs. the area where  she lives. 

     I got a fun box from my new friend Angie from Utah. She offered to send me a Morman (kidding) but when I asked for clarification on whether or not he would clean my house she realized it might not work out. She sent me some Salt Water Taffy, which I love. I almost sent some to Nicole, so that was funny to me. She also sent some green jello. Apparently people in Utah eat more green jello than anywhere else in the U.S. She sent some fry sauce which my kids thought was weird. Until they tasted it. They like it! Creamy honey was included, too. I love local honey from all over, so this was an exceptionally great gift. The only reason I have not opened it yet is I have a new honey I just opened last week. Once I finish more of it I will dive into this one. We are big honey eaters. And last, she sent root beer extract. I guess in rootbeer must go well with green jello. I look forward to trying the extract. I might make an ice cream or a freeze of some kind with it as the first trial with it. We also happen to be big fans of rootbeer. If I had to choose a favorite item from this box it would be a difficult 4-way tie. 

Cara Box Swap. Regional from Utah. Watermelon and bread box not included.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

God Bless America

Tomorrow is Memorial Day. I love every excuse to wave the flag, and this is no exception. I was excited when Decor Steals was selling these tea stained buntings the other day so I grabbed six to put on the front of the house. I  will tell you it was like waiting for Christmas waiting for these to arrive. They finally did yesterday! I ran to the store and bought fishing weights to try to help them stay down. Last year I had one and it kept flinging itself upwards with the wind. The fishing weights are applied to all but one now. I had to stop to take a crummy picture with my cell phone to show you the first idea which sprang to mind when I opened them yesterday.

Decor Steals Tea Stained U.S. Flag Bunting - Apron
I wish I had ordered twice as many as I did. It's either super clever, pretty weird, or both.

And then I put them on Audrey. (Yes, I've dubbed the house "Audrey") Doesn't she look lovely?

House with Bunting From Decor Steals

Sunday, May 19, 2013

O-Cedar, O-Duster, Oh What a Disapointment

     Like any good housewife with 1400+ sq feet of hardwood floors on the main level of her house, two shih tzus, and five kids I could use a little help keeping up with my floors. Can you say doggie tumbleweed? I knew you could! Imagine my excitement when I learned O-Cedar had come up with a little robot vac made for dust and doggie hair! I can turn it on every night and let it do what it does best.

     I ran out to the two local stores listed on the website as carrying it. Neither of them had it. So I waited and stalked the stores. Friday I was at Target, and what appears before me at the end of the isle with hangers and closet accessories? The O-Duster! I imagined we were in a field of wildflowers, just the O-Duster and I, running towards each other. I scooped it up with enthusiasm, and extra little cloths for it, too. I felt so triumphant loading this little housewife's helper of a miracle into my minivan! 

     My life a little bit more complete than when I woke up that day, I took it home and asked my daughter to plug it in and charge it for me. Yesterday I got up, swept the floors, and put the O-Duster down to see what it could do. I put it in the dining room, in the kitchen, at the bottom of the stairs, in the powder room, in the front room. I carried it all over. And this is what it did:

     Silly, silly me. Only now do I notice their own you-tube video is not a real video of a real product doing real moving and real cleaning, but a sort of cartoon. I'm glad I saved the box because O-Duster is going back to Target. I can not tell you how disappointed I am. I am tempted to trade it for another in case a second one would be better.

*In case you wondered, we did try nudging it a bit to see if it would take off, but it would not. It just spins.

Update: I went back today to exchange it for another one. I had posted to their facebook page and they told me to contact customer service, who offered to send new wheels to see if it helped as an option. Their other option was exchange it at the store. I am impatient so I exchanged it. It's charging overnight so I'll see how it behaves tomorrow. 

2nd Update: The second one seemed fine when I turned it on. In less than five minutes it was doing the same thing.  I did get it from the same place. The dented box I did not choose the first day was the one I had to choose when I did the exchange. I really wanted this to work.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Arcade: No Pennies

     The other night my daughter had concert tickets for Capital Cities at House of Blues in Cleveland and a car problem. So I told her we would give her a ride into the thriving metropolis of Cleveland and grab a bite and enjoy ourselves By pretending to be city folk for a night. She invited her sister to the concert so it was a foursome for dinner. Since their concert was at the House of Blues, we decided to eat there as well. We sat down and got our menus. They were changed, and a little selections were a little disappointing. After a minute I thought of suggesting we go somewhere else. Everyone else seemed okay with it, so I decided to just roll with it. The menu might have been disappointing, but the food itself was fantastic! This is so much better than a great menu with disappointing food.

     The girls left through the magical door and we sat for a while talking about the things we talk about these days while my husband had his coffee. After that we walked down 4th street until we got to the point where the wind attacks, and turned around and walked back the other way. We decided to go to Chocolate Bar, which people say is fantastic. I ordered the chocolate lava cake and my husband ordered cocoa. I have to say, for all the hype about the Chocolate Bar, I was wholly underwhelmed. My chocolate lava cake was probably bought froze and prepared on site, it was served with half a strawberry, a chocolate straw with a few chocolate shavings, some whipped cream which may or may not have been from a can, and a little frozen chocolate eclair identical to the ones from the freezer at Sam's club. So basically, I think they make nothing themselves. I could have had the same stuff at home. I have a membership to Sam's club. My husband didn't finish his cocoa. It is difficult to disappoint us with chocolate, but I have had better desserts at Don Pablo's. 

     The best part about having had dessert in the Chocolate Bar was the little door leading into the Arcade. I told my husband we should walk around in there, where it would not be windy and cold. We thought we might find a comfortable place to sit, as well. The Arcade is pretty neat, as we were about to find out.

     The Arcade was opened on Memorial Day in 1890. It was financed By John D. Rockefeller, among others, as one of the earliest indoor shopping malls in the United States. Ladies and gentlemen, it is pretty awesome. 

The Arcade, Cleveland Ohio
The staircase is beautiful. The whole thing reminds me of being on a ship, somehow. Old fashioned, elegant, and full of razzle-dazzle!

Starbucks at night
Starbucks at The Arcade
 The Starbucks at night is not big and bright... deep in the heart of the Arcade.

John D. Rockefeller  early indoor shopping mall
The Arcade

     Isn't she lovely? We walked around for a good long time, inspecting, window shopping, and taking pictures. It's a good thing we stopped in at the Chocolate Bar, because the entrance to the Arcade is locked at night. As soon as we got outside we realized why. We stepped outside and were approached by a man, who sounded a lot like Gary Busey sometimes sounded on The Apprentice. He eventually got down to asking for money. Which, of course, we did  not have because we had given our last few dollars to the valet. Sorry, man, we just don't have any cash at all. I had even removed all the coins from my purse earlier in the day. On the walk to our valet stand we were intercepted two more times by people asking for money. It's such an uncomfortable thing sometimes, being a human being.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pretend You're Normal

"Pretend you're normal!" I used to say to my kids often. When they were little, and driving me a bit more batty than I could take at the moment. Or when we were being goofy and needed to straighten up right away  for whatever door we were about to walk through. I wonder if they remember being told so often to pretend to be normal.

A few weeks ago my doctor told me to quit apologizing for who I am. Then she clarified, because she had to, that I needed to quit apologizing to myself for who I am. Since then, I have seen quite a few messages in my day-to-day life which remind me of what she said. They remind me I need to accept who I am, and how I am. Then I watched the finale and the reunion show for Survivor and I saw Cochran was going through the same thing. Embracing who he is instead of being ashamed of it. Instead of being afraid of judgement for being who he was, which, ironically, made him who he is now, which is different. Somehow letting go of the fear of judgement makes us able to be our pure selves. It's not just animals who can smell fear.

Yesterday, while out shopping at Home Goods, I saw this sign. So many thoughts ran though my head:
  • I can make that sign myself. 
  • The one I make will not look good enough, I should buy this one
  • realization of the ridiculousness of the sentiment of the sign vs. my previous thought
  • Remembering, after Victoria died, saying to someone "I'm just going to offer myself and my friendship. Here I am with all my flaws, loving you"
  • Remembering my cousin's response to me saying this
And now, remembering how I always thought Victoria's middle name should have been Grace, because she was full of it.  And how when I first met her and asked her about her beliefs she told me "I'm saved by grace"

Yes, now this sign is on my ever-growing list of things I am going to make myself. It will not be perfect. It will make me perfectly happy.

There are still times when I contend it is good to pretend your are normal. But we should all learn to embrace what makes us who we are. Maybe I need to blast "Take Me As I am" from some speakers today, as a reminder to embrace myself. (Nod to young punk #4)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Police On Broadway

Sting is not impressed
     I was walking around the store the other day... When the speakers overhead started pushing out King of Pain by The Police. Every time King of Pain starts I initially think it's going to be On Broadway and I'm in my head already feeling the magic in my air against the inside of my throat. I'm giving myself such an intimate concert while pushing my cart I can't believe a crowd hasn't encircled me, beating on cowbells and dancing. Then I hear it, the voice of Sting himself, relating the sunspot situation, and I'm always a little crushed. But I've been there before, inside the pouring rain, so I just sing along to the song by The Police, and curse myself for not knowing better by now. "Bye, Broadway," I wave sadly with a sniffle. 

     Somewhere out there, I know there has to be at least one other person like me, right?  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hometalk Meetup at Luckett's Market!

     I have always wanted to go to Luckett's when they have a big to-do. They are having one this year on May 19th. That is next weekend! And I just found this way to win a trip to Luckett's Market, so I'm asking for your help
I will definitely SMILE a lot if I win.

     In order to be entered to win I need ten people to sign up for a new account (it's free, of course) at Hometalk and follow me here: Tammi on Hometalk

     I know it's asking a lot, but then again, it will only take a minute of your time and think about how good you'll feel about yourself if I win! I mean, your own selfless act will be the only way I have a chance. So really, they should send you too. But life isn't fair that way. If you want a chance to win then you have to blog about it and get ten people to sign up for you. Then I will be home because you won. And that is not fair either. So really, the whole thing is no fair, but it could be so great!

After all that smiling I might find a place to sit, still smiling. 

     I really want to go to Luckett's, like for real. I got to see it once. Sort of. We had gone to Washington D.C. and on the way home we took an extended detour to Luckett's. Except by the time we got there it was closing in a few minutes. I did get to see Miss Mustard Seed's room upstairs, while she had a room, so that was cool. Now I would L-O-V-E to go and see her in person, and that is the main #1 reason I would love to win!  It's not just at Luckett's (so cool) but Marion (Miss Mustard Seed) will be there AND Donna, from Funky Junk Interiors (swoon!)  So much amazing all bunched up together! Oh, and did I mention The Graphics Fairy will be there, too? No? Well, yes, Karen will also be at the Hometalk Meetup!
If you know me well, you know this is my kind of place!
     Now, a whole day (at least) at Luckett's, Marion, Donna, Karen, probably lots of other awesome people, and I'm also betting on learning a lot. What better way to spend a weekend? I can't think of one.
Can you spot the treasure you would want?

     Hometalk is the largest online home & garden knowledge hub. It’s fueled by the firsthand experience & advice of hundreds of thousands of home enthusiasts and professionals. (taken right from the horses' mouth, so to speak) And this is what makes it so great. It's sort of like Pinterest, but better, when it comes to home stuff. Whether you are looking for inspiration or you need guidance, you can find it at Hometalk.

     So, yes, this is where I beg. Please, please, pretty please with sugar on top go sign up at Hometalk and follow me:  Tammi on Hometalk.

     Don't worry about being new on Homtalk, I'm kind of new there myself. I signed up a while ago, and had not used it much yet. But that's okay, there's plenty of time for me to use Hometalk. And I like it because it feels a bit more intimate than pinterest. People are really there to find new things and answer questions, give advice, and be supportive. Who doesn't appreciate all of those things?

     Sorry if I seem fidgety. It's because I am fidgety. I was, just yesterday, routing the trip to Luckett's for the Big Spring Market and maybe I was checking out Priceline to see what hotels deals were near Luckett's. Then I decided that since I just boogied on down to Louisville to see Leonard, maybe, just maybe it was not cool of me to even want to do this. (It still does not stop me from wanting to do it, though!)

     Did you already sign up and follow me on Hometalk? Did you? Huh? If you already did, give yourself a huge hug from me. And allow yourself an extra treat, because being nice burns calories.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

I Raised My Kids, Now What?

     My first job, while I was in high school, was at a place called "Barker's Jubilation" at the Mall. It was a restaurant, game room, and bar with a dance floor. I was hired to keep control of the game room. Keep the machines clean, make popcorn, deal with whatever issues came up, and clean up the popcorn everyone spilled all over the floor. Pretty simple job. My boss would usually find me, game room ship-shape, popcorn popped, reading a book. He decided I was bored and under-tasked, so he moved me out to the cash register to be a greeter/hostess/cashier/game room attendant. Now I realize I should have asked for a raise! It was a cool job but one of the managers was always in the office with one of the other managers in a "Do not disturb" kind of way. One night after closing, cleaning up, and counting out my drawer they never came out to check it and tell me I could go. When I finally went to ask them about it they told me they needed privacy and sent me away. 

     I went downstairs to the payphone to call home. I couldn't be out past my allotted time and I knew this was going to blow it for me. On the other end of the phone I was told to just get home. So I went upstairs, got my stuff, and left.  I went the next day and got a job somewhere else. 

     After high school I worked at the I.R.S. in a very non-glamorous job in the refiles annex. Right up until the morning I went to the hospital to have my first baby. I stayed home with her, mostly. I mean, when money got more pinchy than usual I would deliver pizzas or sell Tupperware, but mostly I was home with her, and then the rest of the kids. 

     Three or four years ago, now that the kids are all big, I applied for a job as a glorified receptionist with an accounting firm. For the first time in my life I did not get the job. It was humiliating. It still is! But in that interview the guy said to me "Why don't you just babysit?" What? Because I un-apologetically  said I did not regret for a minute the choice I made to stay home with my kids? So I'm not 'good enough' to enter your work force since stayed home raising my kids and giving up luxuries which other people don't consider luxuries?

     We all decide. I know people who say they  couldn't take it if they had to stay home with their kids. They decide to work because it helps them stay sane, they say. I have a difficult time trusting people and I could have never been sane leaving my kids with strangers. There's no car on the road which could have justified that in my mind. Because all day, every day, I would have been wondering what was happening with my kids. Were they happy? Sad? Playing? Crying? Napping? Eating like they should? And when my kids were little I did a lot of babysitting for people who did want to work, so hopefully they could feel comfortable about their own kids while they were away. 

     But here I am, with great big kids, no grandchildren yet. So what am I supposed to do at this stage of life? Hobbies? I like to paint stuff (not walls) and I do, but there's only so much of that I want to do. I do not have enough energy to do what I want to do on any given day, so lots of things need to be done around my house. Even if I had energy, my husband works from home. Babysitting is out, even if I wanted to do it. 

     What do you do when you're done raising kids but there's nothing new on the horizon? Should I sit around and turn into one of those meddling mothers who is always looking for a husband for her daughter and a wife for her sons and complain about not having grandchildren yet? Do I start reading romance novels? Do I garden? None of these things seem like something I want to do. Who has been here? Who knows how to point me in the right direction? Surely I can not be the only one. But it sure feels like it. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Cara Box: Let's Go Green For April


Cara Box

     I tried something new this month. I joined in with some bloggers doing a Cara box. You make a couple new friends, send gifts based on a theme, and share encouragement. The person you send a box to is not the same person who sends a box to you. (This is how it's a couple new friends, instead of just one) The theme for April was "Go Green" since April contains Earth Day. Well, Go Green was proving pretty difficult for me, considering your box is supposed to have at least 5 items and be around $15. Five thoughtful, eco-friendly gifts at an average of $3 each? Luckily, I found out I wasn't the only one who found it difficult. When I threw the $15 idea out the door, it got a bit easier. For May the theme is: Let's Get Regional. You send things from your area. Well, I have a lot of Amish close by me, and Smucker's headquarters & gift shop is a few minutes from my house.  It sounds like fun.

Here is what I got in my Go Green Box from Sweet Ashlee:

     She sent me a double-walled plastic mason jar with a lid & straw combo! Can you see by the wooden box I made (in the background) full of heritage Ball mason jars that I'm a fan of mason jars? (By the way, you can buy those 1 quart jars from Amazon right now for a limited time, if that's your kind of thing.

     She also included a sweet note plus another card with the contents listed. There is a soy candle, which will go by my bathtub. I love long soaks by candlelight. There's a little pot with wildflower seeds, (really a great idea!) organic lip balm, 2 all natural face masks, (I can't wait to try those!) and some Yardley soap, which is always popular in our house. She even included some All natural granola dog treats for my two little dogs! I think Ashlee did a great job with the April theme and with things our family will actually use.

     It was so much fun getting to know Mandi,  too. After I got over the "This is difficult" roadblock I think I found a silly thing, a local thing, and a few girly things for her. I'm pretty happy with what I sent her, even though there are only 5 items in the box.

     Now for the confession. I sent my Cara box to Mandi late. And I had reasons, all valid. But I think I'm going to get kicked out of the clubhouse because the rules are really set and if you don't send the box by the 20th you're out. It's even more embarrassing because my theme was chosen for May. So I'll be digging my hole right over there. Drop by with a shovel and help me if you feel like it.