Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cozy At Home - And A Challenge

It's that time of year again.  November will be here in a few days and that means special holiday meals. At our local food pantry, clients get to go once a month. That means starting November 6th they are giving away the fixings for a Thanksgiving feast. This is the time to make donations!

Normally people can expect to find: 
  • cans of vegetables, fruits soups and beans
  • cereal
  • peanut butter & jelly
  • pancake mix and sugar free syrup
  • bread (donated by Panera Bread!)
  • margarine and cheese slices
  • meat items (which are most consistently chicken nuggets, bologna & hot dogs)
  • rice, pasta, potato box mixes - lots of mac & cheese 
  • pasta & sauce 
  • a choice of treats which varies greatly - can be anything from candy to crackers to cookies or raisins
  • a little toilet paper, a small jug of laundry detergent
  • a small can of chicken or tuna
  • one personal item  - like a toothbrush, toothpaste, paper towels, tissues, bar of soap - per family
  • cat or dog food
  • once in a while there will be eggs

Sometimes there can be other things, but this is the norm. Things not normally found:
  • spices, even salt & pepper
  • flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder
  • feminine products 
  • real butter
  • real cheese 
  • cooking oil
  • coffee/tea
  • whole wheat pasta (people who need this are very excited if they can find one)
  • cream soups - especially cream of mushroom
  • chocolate  - candy or for baking - even cake/brownie mixes 
  • food for any pet other than cats/dogs

During the month of November everyone will also get instant potatoes, stuffing mix, canned cranberry sauce, a turkey breast, canned yams, and a can of gravy - there may be something else, or something less, but this is typical. 

Think about the things you reach for every day from toilet paper and tissues, toothpaste, soap and shampoo, to sugar, flour, butter, oil and spices and consider buying some extra for people who would really appreciate it.  And believe me, people are appreciative. 

You know those small things which come in the mail, are handed out in goody bags, come from hotels and the dentist, are a gift with purchase,  etc? Those are always great! Any trial size/travel size/sample size is always welcome in addition to the typical canned and boxed foods. 

I am committing to a cozy-at-home November, which means I will be cooking every night in November. We enjoy a nice trip to a restaurant, carry-out and delivery as much as the next guy, but we also enjoy delicious meals prepared at home. While we are saving money we would have spent dining out, I pledge to make more generous donations to our local food pantry. 

I challenge you to give a little extra this November and December, too. How will you do it? 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Steam In The Valley On The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

Nickel Plate 765 Steam Engine along the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in Cuyahoga Valley National Park Northeast Ohio NEO

We had talked about riding the train through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park for years. It was one of those things I was always going to do when the fall foliage was the prettiest. I always found a reason to put it off, and then it was too late, or too early. Too hot or too cold. I was looking at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad website  recently and saw there was going to be a special even with a steam engine. It looked like fun so we bought our tickets.

CVSR Nickelplate 765

We went for a ride on the Nickel Plate 765 Steam Engine a couple Saturdays ago. We boarded the train in Akron, Ohio. If you ever plan to do this exact excursion, be sure to arrive early. We were an hour early and did not spend any time standing around bored. Parking is a beast on this day because they are basically adding an extra passenger train with many cars full of people to the normal schedule and you have to sort of invent a parking space on the back lot, after driving up over a curb. It's worth it.

Both the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and the Nickel Plate 765 are completely run by volunteers. I can not say how much I appreciate all of the hard work which goes into keeping this beast going. They actually saved the 765 from ending up sitting in a park somewhere when they fully restored it. That is dedication!

Here's one of the wonderful 765 volunteers now:
Nickel Plate 765 volunteer working on the 765

When it was time to board the train, the quintessential trainman, Lonnie was there to help us aboard. Once we were on board and underway he had some of the most interesting information about our area I have ever heard. I'm so glad we ended up in his car. Make sure to look for him when you ride the train! I thought I was getting video of him telling one of his amazing tidbits of information, but I am me. I have a video of two seconds before he started telling it. Oh, and another, even less compelling video of the two seconds after he was done telling it. So there you go!   Sorry about that - you'll have to go ride it yourself.
Quintessential Trainman on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad - Lonnie Cobb
 He even encouraged us to wear his hat! 
riding the rails - CVSR 

 We rode from Akron to Boston Mills, where we were able to disembark and stand nearby so we could take pictures of the steam engine roaring past us. Roaring may be a bit of a stretch, since they are only allowed to go about 35mph inside the national park. But still, it was really cool. I even got a little emotional. Don't ask me why, some things just fill me with awe and my eyes start to leak.

Afterwards we got back on the train and rode back to Akron with the steam engine pulling us, and lots of people lined up along the way to watch it go by. I felt quasi-famous for an hour, as if the paparazzi were all over, capturing us. All of the kids on the train seemed to be enjoying it. There was lots of excitement and no tears at all during the two hour trip!  Definitely take your kids.

Although the steam engine is gone for this year, the fun keeps on happening on the rails. There are breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, beer tastings, wine tastings, ghost story rides, polar express, etc. There's lots of options. I think one of the coolest is the all day pass, where you can get off and on again as much as you want, while exploring some places along the way. Whether it is lunch at The Winking Lizard in Penninsula, or a stop at Hale Farm & Village or the huge farmers' market, you will be able to make a day of it. They also allow you to board with your bike for about $3. You can get off in the park and pedal around, then go back to the station where you parked. Options abound on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Another Crack In My Heart - More Light Gets In


I am feeling so overwhelmed - 
I am certain I have reached the pinnacle of love and joy possible in this world.
I was born into a family who know how to love and make you feel special, we are all treasured. 
We all know it, and we all treasure each other.
I had my first child and thought "This is the height of love. This is as full as a heart can get." 
Then more children came, and with each one a magical expansion I could have never imagined.
 More treasures - there are no words to do justice to this.
Those children walk and talk, start school and graduate. They reach all kinds of milestones. 
With each one my cup runs over, and so do my eyes.

My daughter brought home a young man who was immediately recognized as someone special. 
Right away I knew he is hers and she is his. I watched them carefully get to know each other. 
I watched her in awe of him, overwhelmed by her respect for him. I remember this feeling. 
I felt it when I met the man who has loved me so deeply and looked after my heart so well.

As I watched them stand, trembling, reciting the vows they wrote to each other my heart did it again.
I think we were all anointed again, with even more love than we knew we could hold.

It's overflowing.

There is an abundance of love and joy for us all. More than we could ever imagine. 
It will keep on coming, overwhelming us in new ways. 
Wonderful ways.

My daughter is a Mrs. now! These two are going to have a beautiful life together. 

I have linked up at:  The Talented Tuesday Link Party

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Nobody can be perfectly who they wish to be. We all disappoint ourselves, and often. We fall short of our noble intentions every day. Christian or not, I think we do this. If you hold any of us to a standard of personal perfection, none of us pass muster. 

My belief is Christ taught us compassion and love for others. We are called upon to love others as we love ourselves. We fail constantly, every day. Hopefully we also succeed. When, the other night, I helped a client load her car and we were done she asked if she could hug me because I was so nice. I admitted to her I had wanted to hug her too, but did not know if I should ask. We hugged.  A few weeks ago at the dentist I offered to give an elderly couple who were there with an out of state daughter a ride for follow up visits because I heard them saying they did not know how they would get back for them. The mother asked me what church I go to and before I could even get a chance to answer she said "Because you sure are doing what the church is teaching!" All I did was offer a ride to some people who had no other way to the dentist. Shouldn't any human being be willing to do such a simple thing for another? 

It was the nicest compliment I have ever received. Not because nobody has ever been more charming with me, but because someone could feel the love I try daily to put out into the world in whatever ways I can find. 

For the record, I do not attend church, and have not for years. (Although I expect this will be changing very soon) My family is full of church-goers. Lots of churches I have been to teach things I feel are vile, and not at all loving. I refuse to show my support to a place teaching hatred. It makes me sad there are children learning from these churches - children who may grow up thinking God doesn't love them because they have sinned. 

I recently reminded one of my own (older) children what I think is and is not from God. So many Christians say things like "God told me that guy is wrong because..." I remind my children Christ never would have stood beside us and pointed out the faults of others. He was too busy telling us to love them. 

We were told the greatest of our commandments is to Love God with all our being and love others. Loving others includes being in service to them, because isn't that a lot of what love is? 

Boiled down to the simplest form, I think it is for us to express gratitude and love as much as we are able. 

Nobody probably needs to go around announcing to others "I am expressing gratitude and love and doing the very best I can!" because it should be wholly unnecessary. People don't need to be told you are doing it - because they know - they feel it. 

Those old bracelets asked "What would Jesus do?" What would he do, indeed. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ten Things I Hope to Accomplish This Summer

This is a year of learning new things. My daughter is getting married later this year, and I am learning how to wedding. Did you know wedding planning is a lot of work? It is! I am counting on the whole 'strength in numbers' thing when it comes to getting it all done on the big day.  Forgive the photo quality, please. I'm working with what I had in my hand, which was my phone. (Like always, pretty much!)

wedding venue, as someone else sets it up for a graduation party

1.  Wedding planning. I want my daughter to have a day she remembers forever as one of the happiest days of her life. 

2. Getting rid of the boxes. Oh my, the boxes. I can't even tell you...

3. Growing lots of good cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, etc. I am looking forward to all the fresh veggies. 

4. Putting in more flower beds - we have one, but I'm planning two more. I'd love to get them both going this summer, but I would realistically settle for one, with all there is to do this summer. 

5. Help the kids get their house fixed up. They bought a house already and he is living in it. There is constantly work going on. I would love to help them get it all just the way they want it. 

6. Entryway project: This has been on my list of things I want to accomplish this season for about three years. I really want to get it done. I hope it will help decrease the self-loathing. I know it is going to be great!

7. Find my earring. It sounds crazy, and it feels even crazier, but my favorite earrings went flying off my nightstand and I can only find one of them. This was six months ago. I've taken apart the bed, gone through everything I can think of repeatedly, etc. It has to be here somewhere, right? 

8. Go somewhere with my husband. Even if it is just for a weekend, I want to go somewhere away from five kids, two dogs, kitchen and laundry duties. When we get away together we recharge in some kind of magical way. We get to feel like who we are. 

9. Get rid of stuff. When we built this house three  years ago we moved from a much smaller house. We gave away most of our stuff before moving in, and yet now we have too much stuff. We are magnets for stuff. I want to get it out of here this summer. 
Me in the flower bed. 

10. Spend time with family. This is the most important one. My kids are all at home for the last summer ever. I want to capture it and enjoy it. Also, I want to spend time with my mom and grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We have a great family. I love spending time with them. 

Once again, this post was inspired by Mama Kat's writing prompts.  You can find her weekly roundup here: Mama Kat's

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Big Time Savings!

Today I am using another one of Mama Kat's writing prompts. 

Describe a time when you saved BIG. 

In reality, there are so many options, because I tend to do a lot of research before I make a purchase, which can net me some really great deals. There is one deal which was both recent and exciting, though. 

A couple of weeks ago I decided to bite the bullet and buy some Philosophy brand face wash called Purity. I have a small 2 ounce bottle of it  which has been fantastic. I was headed towards a mall so I stopped and bought the 8 ounce bottle.  It was $24. When I think about the price per gallon it makes me cringe. It's a lot of money. Then again, it's my face, you know? I bought it, feeling moderately guilty. 

The very next day I got an email from Philosophy for $25 off $50. Woo hoo! Jackpot!  A 32 ounce bottle is $52, so I don't have to add anything else to the cart, I get four times as much for  $3 more - SCORE! 

It's such an unimportant thing in the grand scheme of things, but it felt like an amazing victory to me. 

Mama’s Losin’ It

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Who Was At The Front Door?

I was over at Mama Kat's writers workshop because, let's face it, I'm as much of a slacker blogger as I am a housekeeper, DIYer, etc. Which is to say I am a bad, bad slacker blogger. We all have stories to share, though. It's just that when you sit down to blog you are not face to face with someone in a conversation. So sometimes you just don't think about certain stories. Mama Kat's prompts help you think of your stories.

The one I chose today is:

Who was at your front door? 

I'll start the day before the door. I was sitting outside with a friend. She was one of those friends who wasn't really a friend - she didn't like me, I could tell. But she sort of tolerated me because our husbands were good friends. But on this day she was really my friend. Sometimes that happens, you know? Someone just has a true change of heart. I think when people get to know you, they love you. 

Anyway this day we were sitting out together and I was at the lowest point. My heart was shattered and I was truly lost. I didn't know what I would do. I always felt like I was broken, but on this day? I was at a whole new depth of despair. I wasn't ready for it. I was young - 21 years old. I had two little daughters. And I did not know what tomorrow was going to be for me. My life was suddenly a swamp and I was in quicksand up to my neck. The particulars of why I was at such a low no longer really matter. What is relevant is the pain, confusion, and fear I was feeling. They were all I was feeling. As we sat talking I said to her "I just wish someone I don't know who doesn't know me would walk up to me and say 'This is what you need to do'. Because I really do not know what to do."

I cried, I washed my face, I fed my kids, I bathed them and played with them and changed diapers and did all the mom stuff you have to do in any given day. Finally the relief of darkness came and I put them to bed. I put myself to bed. I woke up in the morning to a knock at the door. 

Two young women, standing in my door in the bright sunshine. Two young women from a church, standing there early on a weekday morning. Two young women who did not know anything about me. Two young women I did not know. They were there to help me find my way because I was lost. They were there to tell me what to do.

I told them about the conversation I had with my friend the day before. The three of us stood in the door and wept. 

Mama’s Losin’ It

*One of them, whose name I still remember, was Leah Stratton. The other name I can  not remember right now but I can still see her face. Should out to Leah if you ever google yourself! Hi! I miss you! Her husband was named Willis Stratton. She had three lovely children. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How Highly Imaginative People Use Their Ingenuity!

Pull up your chair, I want to show you what happens when you really use what is on hand. 

Contractor in Question, Uncle P. 
When my uncle was visiting from Texas last year he realized his sister and her husband needed stairs from the garage to the house. Maybe there was just one big step here before? I can't recall. Anyway, he built them some nice little stairs.

He was here this week and noticed they still did not have a handrail. He fixed this for them.

Are you impressed? This isn't your average DIY blog! 
Uncle S., clearly thrilled by his new handrail
Admit it, you wish you had this in your family - and in your garage! 

Total cost for this DIY:  Zero dollars. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What To Watch Now That Downton Abbey Is Done For The Season

Now that Downton Abbey has gone away again, we have to entertain ourselves some other way. If you enjoyed it, you might enjoy a few of these shows:

We have seen everything on this list plus others!

Larkrise to Candleford (Amazon Prime, I think. 3 or 4 seasons of it!)

Daniel Deronda (Basically anything George Eliot, but this is a gorgeous show)

Bleak House 

Mr Selfridge

Little Dorrit

Doc Martin

Upstairs Downstairs (I think the old version is way better)

Hemingway and Gelhorn (doesn't exactly fit, but I loved it!)

House of Eliott ***** we really loved this one!

Forsyte Saga

The Grand

Great Expectations

Monarch of the Glen

The Tudors


Death Comes to Pemberly

The Duchess of Duke Street

Wives and Daughters

David Copperfield

He Knew He Was Right

The Way We Live Now

The Chamomile Lawn

I know I omitted some of the most obvious ones. I do not think you need me to bring 'Pride and Prejudice' to your attention. This should keep you busy for a while. If you have any other suggestions I'd love to hear them. I need new stuff to watch, too! 

Friday, February 13, 2015

We Really Did Ring In The New Year!

     There are so many great things happening my mind can't get calm. Christmas was lovely. Four generations of happy, healthy people getting to share so much together is a gift better than any other. 

     Just a couple of days ago I celebrated the 89th birthday of my grandfather with him. 

     New Years Day was exciting, too. 

These two kids got engaged! 

     My daughter is getting married. How odd it feels to say it, and to hear myself say it. I might have said it a hundred times by now and it still feels weird. I am so happy because she has really met a wonderful man and I know they will have a happy life together. I have watched her become happier as the days go by, even just since New Years Day! 

     A few days after the proposal we went  dress shopping.

     We found her an amazing dress. (No, this isn't the one) We spent hours and she tried a lot of dresses. Then she tried on the last three many more times. Then she tried on the last two many more times. There were many which were gorgeous on her. (Face it, everything was gorgeous on her!)  I think she chose one which is very much 'her'.  A few days after finding the dress we went to a bridal show and she kept going back to one booth - it was a venue. She loved it already. We came home that night and she called to make an appointment for us to go see it the next day. She doesn't usually act so quickly, so I knew she really wanted to get this place reserved. We went to see it and the next day when she got home from work and school she told me her groom had secured the place for them! I guess he really wanted to make sure they got it, too!

     Now we are working on everything else. Boy is there a lot of stuff to do! If you have hints and tips I'm accepting them all because I really do not have a clue what I am doing.  I think the real important things are already in place. The right two people, the dress, and the place. Anything else is a bonus. 

     So tell me, what's going on with you?