Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Farewell, faithful friend

Our 19 1/2 year old cat, Belle, passed away during the night.  It wasn't completely unexpected-last night it was obvious we didn't have much longer with him-but I am so thankful that we all had a chance to say goodbye.  In fact, we've had four bonus years with him that almost didn't happen, which I am very grateful to have had.

So many memories run through your mind-how he'd come and sit on my feet when I sat down in the living room...the way he'd lay down and nap on the back of the girls' legs whenever they laid on the floor while we were doing school...how much we'd laugh at our algebra-loving cat because he'd sit with the girls and seem to watch their algebra video with them-we just knew he enjoyed, and understood, their algebra lessons...the way he'd meow so loudly in the middle of the night if he ran out of food or water-or if we'd had the nerve to leave him home alone while we went out of town...the not-so-subtle hints that he wanted us to start a fire in the woodstove because he liked it toasty.

He was the best of cats.  We will miss him.
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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pinterest inspired wedding gift

My niece, Lauren, got married last weekend.  Although our standard wedding gift is a check, I decided to add something to unwrap for this, my first niece to get married.

I saw this idea back in August, which was just in time for the wedding, scheduled for September.  Unfortunately, the poor groom ended up in Texas for mandatory training when he was supposed to be getting married.

I was anxious to see what the new date was going to be.  I was constantly looking for new numbers, trying to assure I'd have the digits I needed once I knew the revised date.

 I was very relieved to find exactly the house numbers I needed but even more delighted that the happy couple finally got to enjoy their special day and begin their new life together.

We love you, Lauren and Brian, and wish you a lifetime of love and happiness together!
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Friday, December 7, 2012

Bacon Blue Cheese Mac & Cheese

I thought about titling this "Love it or Hate it Mac-N-Cheese" because I'm sure the common reaction to this is one or the other.

I suspect this is not a kid-friendly recipe in most households but my girls love it.  Then again, they don't eat the stuff in the blue box at all.

Earl and Kathy gave me some fantastic smoked blue cheese recently, which prompted me to tell them about this dish with the promise to blog it so they, too, could try it.

I got this recipe from a Better Homes and Gardens year end cookbook that I picked up used.  I don't follow the recipe exactly (no surprise there) so I'll post the recipe as I make it.

Bacon Blue Cheese Macaroni and Cheese

4 slices bacon
2 large onions, thinly sliced
6-8 ounces dried macaroni or other medium sized pasta
4 ounces (1 cup) shredded mozzarella cheese
2 ounces (1/2 cup) blue cheese
1 cup half-and-half (or milk)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp, over medium heat.  Remove to paper towel, crumble and set aside.

In reserved bacon drippings, cook onion until tender and golden brown.  (The original recipe says "5-8 minutes".  I cook my onions low and slow-over an hour and a half this time-because I like to caramelize them if I have that much time.)  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350ยบ.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and place in greased 1 1/2 quart casserole dish.  Add the crumbled bacon, onion, mozzarella, blue cheese, half-and-half, and pepper.  Toss gently to combine.

Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.  Stir gently and top with additional mozzarella, if desired.  Bake for 10 minutes more, or until top is brown and bubbly.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

There you have it.  Are you a "love it" or "hate it" person when it comes to blue cheese?
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Friday, October 26, 2012

Point Iroquois Lighthouse

When we left Tahquamenon Falls, we spontaneously decided to take a road that somewhat followed Lake Superior's shoreline.  We were so glad we did because it gave us a chance to see the Pt. Iroquois lighthouse, an unexpected bonus.

We were excited to be able to go up into the lighthouse, as well as visit the home attached.  The girls read something inside the house that said that three families lived there at the same time.  I've always thought of lighthouses as being maintained and run by one family so that was quite surprising to me.

I think it was 94 steps up to the top of the lighthouse.

The view was worth the climb.

We planned to visit a lighthouse in Mackinaw City (and we did, the next day) but this one was a completely unplanned side trip that we really enjoyed.
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tahquamenon Falls

We left for Mackinaw City after Clarence got home from work and we ate a quick dinner.  That got us there by about 10 PM, just in time to settle in for the night.

The next morning, we headed for Tahquamenon Falls.  My parents took us there when I was a kid but my memories of it were pretty sketchy.  I was quite glad to have a chance to see the falls again.

We visited the lower falls first. 

We found this little bridge in the woods on our way to the lower falls.  We joked that the little creek running under it was a warm up act for the actual falls.

They have installed a boardwalk to the falls-I don't think it was there 35-40 years ago when my parents took me.

We opted not to walk the 4 mile trail between the upper and lower falls.  During tourist season, they have a shuttle to return you to your car but we would have had to turn around and walk back.

The brownish color of the water is caused by tannins, not minerals.  I can't quite wrap my brain around that-that's a lot of tannins!

The day warmed up nicely into the 60's, with nice, bright sunlight so it ended up being a perfect day to explore the falls. We were so glad we had this opportunity!
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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Off to da U.P, eh?

It recently came to our attention that although the girls have lived in Michigan their entire lives, we had never taken them to the Mackinac Bridge or the Upper Peninsula.  I really had not realized this.

Kind of spur-of-the-moment, we decided to remedy this oversight.

We reserved a cheap room in Mackinaw City.  When we arrived, they gave us a free upgrade to a beach-front room, which gave us a very nice view of the bridge...

as well as a lovely view of the sunrise in the morning.

We packed a lot of driving and sightseeing into 48 hours but we all agreed that it was a fantastic trip.

I've got some pictures of some of the things we did but I think they deserve their own posts, so stay tuned.
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Monday, September 17, 2012

Why I didn't take Julianne's senior pictures...

Our friend, Julene, agreed to be the photographer for Julianne's senior pictures. Julene has a great eye and takes fantastic pictures so I was thrilled when she agreed. We had the bonus of a wonderful visit to Julene's home in Wisconsin and chance to spend several days having fun together.

Julene's photography skills weren't the only reason I enlisted her help, though. I needed her because she can get smiles I'll never get...I tend to get facial expressions like these:

I have no illusions about my photography skills but there's just something about those expressions that no amount of photography skill can overcome, don't you think?

I must admit to getting some great shots, too. But those don't make for such a fun blog post, now do they?
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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Shower gifts

My niece, Lauren, is getting married.  Her shower was held a couple of weeks ago and we were busy bees preparing some handmade goodies for the occasion.  So busy, in fact, that I snuck up to the gift table after the shower to snap these photos because I ran out of time to get them beforehand.

Julianne created this pillow from a felted sweater (it buttons on the other side), then she crocheted the embellishments for it. It's so unique-I loved it.

I made a shirt apron and cloth napkins in a few different fabrics.

Allison embellished napkin rings (the reason I decided to make napkins) with the fabic flowers she so enjoys making.

Both girls worked on the dish towels and dishcloths.  Allison crocheted edges on the towels (a first time project for her that turned out beautifully.  She's not a pattern follower so this was a stretch out of her comfort zone but she did a great job.), while Julianne embellished the dishcloths with edging on one and crocheted flowers on another.

The girls and I enjoyed making some things for Lauren, especially since she will be moving out of state after the wedding.  We wanted her to have a few things that would remind her of our love for her in her new home.
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Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Continuing Birthday...

I've had quite the birthday celebration this year-rather than one special day, the party has continued on for a week and a half.

It started out with my mom inviting us for lunch the weekend before my birthday (with a bonus: a lovely gift waiting for me from my brother and sister-in-love), included cards and phone calls from friends and family, lunch and gifts from my best friend, gifts from my family on my actual birthday, and ended a week after my birthday with lunch out with a dear friend I haven't seen in a few years.

You know how, when you get to my advanced age anyhow, it becomes hard to find gifts the recipient will need or want?  I understand that difficulty and usually don't have a lot of suggestions to help Clarence and the girls out either.  They spoiled me anyhow-and I loved every minute of it.  It was especially cool that they were able to think of things that actually surprised me.

This was one of my gifts.  I adore Grandma's flower garden quilts and although I knew Allison was working on a secret project, I had no idea what it was.  She apparently read somewhere that you can't piece hexagons on a machine-she took that as a personal challenge and proceeded to do just that.  I love the result!

A couple days ago I was able to get together with my dear friend Jean for an extended visit over lunch.  We think it's been at least three years since we last got together and we spent about five hours catching up with each other.  Don't you love those friendships that even survive neglect?  It's amazing to me that the interval between visits doesn't matter-we always seem to be able to pick up where we left off.

All in all, I'd have to say that turning another year older didn't hurt a bit.
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Monday, July 23, 2012

Family Camp 2012

We decided a few months ago not to camp this year at Family Camp.  On the heels of our trip to Seattle, I wasn't sure I'd be up for getting the trailer ready when we got home.  Besides, I drive home every day or two anyhow, so I figured we'd just sleep at home and drive out each day for the activities we wanted to attend.

Our granddaughter, Leta, loves going to Family Camp and was actually a little disappointed not to be camping there.  Still, she had a great time, other than getting up early enough to leave the house by 8:30 to be on time for day camp.

The camp worked on a bell choir with the kids and did a couple songs one night for the service.  Leta really liked the bells.

I guess next year we'll have to figure out a way to camp again.  Quiz nationals will run right up to Family camp so I'm thinking we may have to take our trailer out early and get set up because Leta really missed camping this year.

All the driving back and forth reminded me of why we bought a trailer in the first place.  Allison said she didn't think she visited as many people as usual.  Julianne agreed, but really enjoyed sleeping in her own bed, in the air conditioning, rather than tenting behind our trailer.  I can't say I blame her.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

A very different birthday

Julianne's birthday usually falls very close to quiz nationals.  It doesn't make for much of a celebration when we're away from home on her special day.

This year, her 17th birthday fell on one of our travel days home from Seattle.

Did I mention that we traveled via train?

My friend Angela suggested taking decorations to decorate around her as she slept.  Allison and Alyssa hung the banner and crepe paper I brought along, working in the middle of the night so it'd be ready when she woke up.

Our car attendant, Deborah, sang Happy Birthday to her over the PA system when we boarded the train in Spokane.  (There's a long story to go along with that particular statement but I won't bore you with it today.)   It seemed like Deborah made a little fuss over Julianne or at least greeted her every time she walked through our car.

Julianne met a birthday buddy who was very excited to meet someone who shared her big day.

Our conductor swapped hats with Julianne for a picture.  I borrowed this pic from another mom in our group because by the time I got my camera out, he had already shed the tiara and didn't want to put it back on.  lol

I don't know that this will ever be a birthday Julianne would list as a favorite...but I'm quite sure it will remain one of her most unforgettable.   Happy birthday, Sweetie!
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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Where we've been...

We have returned safely from a trip to Seattle for the girls to compete in our denomination's Bible quiz nationals.

We're still feeling pretty tired, after arriving home between 4:30 and 5:00 AM Tuesday morning.  That wasn't our original schedule but thankfully, with the holiday, we've got a little time to recover and get back on Eastern Time.

Julianne had a birthday while we were away.  I'll try to get a post up showing pictures of her special day sometime soon.

Oh, and nationals?  The girls were on a team together (which is VERY nice for Mom and Dad-we didn't have to split up and each only get to watch one daughter).  They did well enough in the Round Robin competition to get advanced to the top division (not what we registered for).  In the double elimination tournament, they won their first round but were defeated in the next two.  Making it to the A division put them in the top 12 teams overall, but they didn't place for a trophy.  We are still very proud of them and the rest of our team.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Shirt apron

Allison recently came out wearing one of her latest creations, from an idea she found on Pinterest.  As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to make one for my best friend's birthday.

I, of course, couldn't do it as simply as Allison had.  No, I had the great idea to try making continuous bias tape for the first time from the shirt back, to bind the rough edges.  It wasn't terribly difficult but I consulted written and youtube tutorials many times before I was sure enough that I understood the process to proceed.

It was worth the effort when all was said and done.  I was happy to finally learn how to make the bias tape and it worked beautifully for the apron.  I used the bias tape instead of simply hemming from the collar to the side seams, then continued past the sides, using the bias tape to form the ties for the apron.

Allison was kind enough to model the apron before I wrapped it up.

Last Saturday our family did grilled pizza for some friends' son's graduation open house.  I was visiting with some friends and telling them about the apron and bias tape, talking with my hands the whole time.  As I talked about making the ties from the bias tape, I motioned with my hands around behind my back.  I quickly drew my hands back around front after making contact with the host's backside.  Awkward!

I apologized, explaining I was talking with my hands and didn't mean to goose him.

He replied that he talks with his hands, too, he just keeps them in front of him.  Um, yeah, that's great advice, don't you think?  Just a little too late to help me.
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Saturday, May 5, 2012


Last night was the girls' voice recital.

Allison sang "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof and "Welcome to Our World", a song I adore, written by Chris Rice.

Julianne sang "Goodnight My Someone" from The Music Man and "How Beautiful" by Twila Paris.

They did a duet of "Vivo Per Lei", a song in Italian popularized by Andrea Bocelli.

They also sang "The Lonely Goatherd" from Sound of Music with their teacher's 7 year old daughter which was very fun-especially the yodeling.

The girls have the most wonderful voice teacher-she is so encouraging and a lot of fun, too.  Last year our girls were her only students, which made for a very small recital.  This year, recital was much more varied as well as larger because she has added several more students.  It made recital even better to have a larger audience and the girls liked seeing a couple of friends who also performed.  It was a great night.
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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Diary of Anne Frank

We had an opportunity to see a performance of The Diary of Anne Frank with some of our friends.  I guess we moms are never content to let an event stand alone because we brainstormed what else we could do to tie in with the play.

My friend Angela suggested the kids each research a holocaust survivor and give a presentation on them, either by creating a scrapbook page or gathering momentos that would tie in with telling us the story of the person they chose.

Julianne decided, of course, to scrapbook.

She  chose Solomon Radasky to report on. 

Allison, who is not as fond of scrapbooking as Julianne, wanted to go the momento route but ultimately decided the scrapbook idea was simpler to pull together.

She chose Eva Galler for her report.  She was able to include the little armband she had fashioned as a momento in her scrapbook spread.

The play was very well done and the kids did a great job on their presentations, too .  It was easy to see God's hand in several of the situations the kids learned about as they researched.  I loved Angela's idea because we learned about regular people and how they lived through the holocaust.
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