Friday, September 30, 2011

Give Yourself Away

1. Give someone advice.  Another person would love to know what you know.

2. Hug someone. When was the last time you gave a bear hug? There has to be a hug-hungry person in your life.

3. Send a note of appreciation. Did someone do something nice for you? Let them know how much it meant to you.

4. Make someone belong. Remember what it was like to be an outsider? Include a new person in your group.

5. Give blood. The Red Cross Bloodmobile is always somewhere close by. Do a Bloodmobile search to check out their donation schedule.

6. Give someone a book. The next time you finish a book, think of someone who might want to read it. Write a little note inside the front cover telling them why you think they will like it.

7. Mail a card.  It's so fun to open the mailbox and get something other than junk or a bill.

8. Make eye contact. The next time someone is talking to you, look them in the eye. Really listen. Give them your full attention.

9. Share a meal. Do you know someone who is under the weather? I bet they would love to have dinner delivered to their door.

10. Laugh. Be a cheerful person. Nobody likes a grump.

11. Clean out your closet. I know you have ten items in there that don't fit, don't look good on you, or you haven't worn in over a year. Give them away.

12. Pray for someone.  Do you know someone with a need? Pray for them every day for a week, and let them know you are doing it.

13. Use your talents. Can you sing? Join a choir. Can you garden? Share your zucchini crop. Can you bake? Deliver some cookies.

14. Be transparent. Let someone know the real you.

15. Give a gift card. Do you know someone who could use a little help with their grocery bill? Give them a grocery store gift card without letting them know who did it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Able Fence Co.

Don's parents started a fence company when he was growing up. I think he was ten years old when they incorporated around the kitchen table. Once in his teens, Don worked on fence jobs during the summer. This is how he learned to work hard. His dad didn't even pay him minimum wage. Don claims he worked for pennies. Money's not everything. Don learned some valuable life lessons on the job.

He learned to drive a big truck, which came in handy when we took our RV trip. He learned not to swear like the older guys on the job. He learned to hold a post very steady so that when the swearing older guy dropped the sledge hammer, he didn't become an amputee, and of course, he learned how to put up guardrail and fence.

In this above photo, Don isn't really installing a fence. He is posing for an ad in the Richmond Heights yearbook. The ad is for Able Fence Co. Don is the one standing up. He's around 17 years old. He may be skinny, but just look at those biceps!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Riley's Game

When you have little children, it is always a relief when they learn to play by themselves. It's nice when they have a game they can use for entertainment. The same is true for dogs. We think Riley is unusual in this skill. He can actually entertain himself for up to an hour. He invented this game when he was a puppy. Here's how it goes:

Riley will hit a tennis ball with his paw until it goes under a table or other piece of furniture.

Then he will reach his paws under the table and bat the ball around until it comes out the other side.

He will keep working at it for a very long time. When the ball comes out, he will hit it under the table again.

What a smart doggie!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

Here's a healthy cookie recipe. I got this recipe from Premiere Sport Conditioning (PSC) where Don and I go to workout. The cookies aren't as sweet as the Banana Chocolate Chip cookies I have purchased at Heinen's, but they don't taste as artificially "banana" either.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. Turbinado sugar
1/2 c. applesauce
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 large eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 t. baking soda
2 c. quick oats
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar. Add applesauce, eggs, bananas and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, combine whole wheat flour, baking soda and quick oats.
Mix dry ingredients into wet mixture.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Use small cookie scoop to drop cookies onto baking sheet.
Bake 10 minutes. Cool on rack.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Riley's First Swim

Riley fell in the pool last weekend, so I guess that was technically his first swim. However, today he went in for a real swim. I purchased a doggy life jacket to make sure he didn't sink when his thick coat got all wet. His body is really very skinny. He just looks hefty because of all his fur.

At first, Katherine eased him in and let him go. His immediate reaction was to swim to the edge of the pool and try to get out. He even made it to the steps a couple of times and climbed out by himself.

After awhile, he got used to swimming, and I think he actually began to enjoy it. Instead of going for the edge of the pool, he swam after the people in the pool.

Here he is with my nephew, Patrick.

Riley is showing off his doggy paddle.

Riley was pretty pooped after swimming for about a half hour.

That was fun!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The 16th Hole

Last week, Peter had the opportunity to play the South course of the Firestone Country Club in Akron. The South course was rated the 15th most difficult out of 52 PGA Tour golf courses  in 2010. So  this was a good test of the golf team's skills.

Of particular difficulty on the south course is the 16th hole.  At 667 yards in length, it is one of the longest par 5's in existence. The pond in front of the green adds to its difficulty.

Peter scored a bogey on the 16th hole. For those of you who are not golfers, that is pretty good. It means he got his ball in the hole with six shots. A bogey is one shot over par.

Arnold Palmer named the 16th hole "The Monster" after scoring a triple-bogey during the first PGA Championship held at the course.

The above photo of Peter and his friend Daniel was taken on the 16th hole.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kitchen Update

I know some of you are on pins and needles waiting to hear if I finished cleaning my kitchen. I know, because two of my blog readers asked me.

It took me a full week to finish because I took the weekend off. This was a deep cleaning project. Each cupboard and drawer was completely emptied. I took a look at each item and decided if it should go back in. Here are the questions I asked myself. Does this item belong in this space? Do I use this? If not, is it something I find beautiful? If it didn't meet the criteria, it didn't make it back in the cupboard or drawer.

I love to do this stuff. I can't wait to move on to the next room!

I weeded my teapot collection down to one shelf. I only kept the few pieces that make me happy when I look at them.

The pantry is down to bare essentials.

My tea cupboard also holds salt, pepper, sugar and Don's cinnamon sugar.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Breakfast Parfait

It's been over two years since I purchased a set of four parfait glasses from my local Volunteers of America store. I got the set for $4.00. I think they are vintage 1950 or before. I don't make parfaits very often, I bought them because I fell in love with the design.

I noticed the glasses on the top shelf of one of my cupboards while I was cleaning the kitchen last week. They looked lonely and dejected, so I decided to put them to use.

I created a yummy parfait for tomorrow's breakfast. Here's the recipe:

Yogurt Parfait

2 c. Oikos fat free vanilla Greek yogurt
1 c. Bear Naked banana granola
1 c. mixed berries (blueberries & raspberries)

Carefully place two large spoonfuls of yogurt in bottom of parfait. Sprinkle granola on top. Add some berries. Repeat the layers one more time. Eat immediately, or cover and chill for later.

Recipe makes 4 parfaits.

Monday, September 19, 2011


I suppose everyone has secrets from their past. Secrets they hope will never get out. I have a few, and up until now, I haven't shared this one with many people. I've only shared it with those who have brought up in polite conversation something about University of Akron baseball. If someone mentions Akron baseball, I will, without thinking, blurt out that I was once a batgirl for the team. A batgirl? What in the world is that?

In these modern times, I am sure the role of batgirl has been outlawed. I can't imagine any sensible young lady volunteering to do the job. You couldn't quite call it a sport like cheerleading. Batgirls essentially fetched bats after the baseball players flung them aside. We would also yell, "hey batter, batter" when our boys were at the plate.

I only got into it because my cheerleading friend, Peggy, was trying to get me to participate in an extracurricular activity my freshman year. What were the benefits? Well, you can see how outnumbered we were. Lots of guys! And I did meet my friend, Marge, because of it. That was a big plus. Aside from that, it wasn't really something I'd put on my college resume.

I can't remember if I signed on for a second year. I hope not.  My memory isn't that clear. This was 1980, and it was a very good year for Akron  baseball.

I am the first one in the front row. Marge is the 7th person in the front row. Peggy is the last one in the second row. Even though it doesn't look like it, we ARE wearing shorts!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Country Living Fair

Today was the day my girlfriend group (the cheerleading friends) met to spend a day in Columbus at the Country Living Fair. I set this up, and apparently my friends trust me to the fullest, because none of them knew what to expect. Cindy was disappointed that there weren't any RV's, but all were very happy to see that the port-a-potties were first class.

We were very fortunate to have a beautiful day (sunny and 70) to walk around and browse tent after tent of handmade items from vendors who brought their wares from around the country. There was something for everyone.

I fell in love with these bloomers, but my friends would not let me buy them.

Marge was wishing for a grandchild so she could decorate a nursery with these whimsical paintings.

Patty thought this jacket was just her style. Obviously she has better taste than her friend, Marianne.

Debbie just wanted to sit in the "Happy Chair" next to a happy lamp.

Cindy was about to jump into a pile of gourds, but we stopped her just in time.

After we had seen it all, we stopped by the lemonade stand for a photo op. Since I'm the oldest, I got to sit in the chair.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Riley's Bald Spot

It makes me very sad to see Riley permanently scarred. He has a large bald spot on his back from being attacked by a neighborhood dog named Branson. His wound went through several stages, the last of which was a very large scab that took a month to heal. As it healed, large clumps of hair fell off Riley's body. The vet said he will likely not grow hair back in that spot. Thankfully, Riley is a very hairy dog, and he has some "comb over" to cover his bald spot. No one will know about it except those reading my blog.

The last clump of hair to fall out.

Riley's bald spot.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Photography 101

As part of Daniel's college coursework, he is required to take a sequence of three classes outside his major. I guess they do this so students will be more well-rounded. I think it is a great idea.

Daniel's major is Business Finance, and he chose Photography as his "Thematic Sequence". He will take Photography 1,2 and 3 before he graduates. He seems to be loving it.

He turned in his first project yesterday, and he shared a few of his photos with me through email. I thought they were very creative, so I'm sharing them here with the scores of people who read my blog daily.

An example of blurred motion: This is Lily diving into our swimming pool

An example of blurred motion: This is one of Daniel's roommates writing his name with a flashlight in a dark closet.

An example of shallow depth of field: Lily is in the background, pool balls in the foreground.

I'm not sure what this is an example of (probably shallow depth of field), but I thought it was a very nice picture of the mailbox on his house.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Stay Focused

Yesterday, I realized something about myself. It's not a good thing. It is something I need to change. I am sure Don has noticed this about me, but he has never quite pointed it out.

I was reading a book when a light bulb went on in my head. Here's the revelation: I start things and don't finish them, at least not right away. I have project after project going on simultaneously. I do this with books, too. I will start a book, and halfway through, I will start a new one. I usually come back to book A, but not before starting book B and C.

The solution to this problem is to get tough with myself. When I start a project, I need to make myself finish it before moving on. Don is very good at this. He is a master at having a one-track mind. He might have a fiction book and a non-fiction book going at the same time, but he never starts reading a new fiction book before the first one is finished. He ticks away at his To Do list in a very methodical fashion.

I'm testing my discipline right now with a project in my kitchen. It is a top-to-bottom, deep-cleaning project. I made a list of tasks: clean oven, upper cabinets, lower cabinets, island, refrigerator, floor... I'm going to have to stay focused for at least a week, but I am not going to start another project until this one is 100% complete!

Monday, September 12, 2011

When I Come to Die

Most people don't want to think about death and dying. Why would they? That's no fun. But sooner or later, the inevitable will happen to all of us. Some will be given notice, but others will be gone in the blink of an eye.

Think about the 2,996 people who died the morning of September 11, 2001. They got up and went to work as usual, never dreaming it would be their last day alive. It was a terrible tragedy, one that we hope won't be repeated.

It does make one think. Am I prepared to die? Jim Elliot, a missionary who was killed in Ecuador on January 8, 1956 by natives of that country, once said, "When it comes time to die, make sure that all you have to do is die."

I like that. It makes leaving this world so simple. Mend relationships, say what you need to say, and know where you are going from here.

Before Jesus died, he said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."

When I come to die, I know where I'm going. One of those rooms has my name on it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Go Browns

We hadn't been to a Browns game in a long time, so Don picked up some tickets for the home opener.

Before the game, we attended a small party at a downtown condo owned by Don's Accenture mentor, Karl Newkirk. After that, we walked to one of the large parking lots for a tailgate party hosted by Karl's nephews.

The game was pretty exciting since the Browns came from behind and gained the lead. Unfortunately, they lost to the Cincinnati Bengals in the end.

Since today was the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, all branches of the military were present and participated in the pre-game ceremony. Taps was played, then an American flag the size of the entire football field was unfolded. While the National Anthem was sung, the field was covered in red, white and blue. I have to say, this was my favorite part of the afternoon.

"Day is done,
gone the sun
From the lakes,
from the hills,
from the sky
All is well,
safely rest
God is nigh."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

We Can Talk

I am always amazed when I can sit at a table and talk to a friend while four hours go by without my noticing. That's what happened last night when my friend, Becky Peterson, and I got together to celebrate her birthday.

We met at Bravo! Cucina Italiana. The waitress was not at all annoyed that it took us one hour to look at the menu and three hours to finish our dinner. She even overheard that it was Becky's birthday, and brought her a complimentary bowl of ice cream for dessert. She didn't know that Becky's birthday was in July, and we didn't tell her. I left a very large tip.

Becky and I can talk...probably because we have a lot in common. Our oldest daughters are getting married next year. Our youngest children are graduating from high school in May. And our middle children have been good friends since second grade. Daniel and Andrew will have been in the same schools together from Kindergarden to college graduation.

It's so nice to have good friends to chat with, cry with, laugh with and pray with. Becky is one of those good friends.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Flat Tire

It was a gloomy morning. Clouds filled the sky, but it wasn't raining. Don checked his handy, dandy iPhone weather AP to make sure it wasn't going to rain. Then we decided to go for a bike ride.

Don had a flat in his tire after last Saturday's ride. He fixed problem. But when he lifted his bike onto the rack today, he noticed it was flat again. Hmmm...

Did that deter him? No way. He pumped it up and hoped it was a slow leak. Since I ride behind him, I told him I'd watch it and let him know if he was in trouble.

I suggested we take our new route on Pettibone Rd. since we would be along the road if we needed a rescue. If we went to the Towpath or Bike and Hike, we would be in a heap of trouble if we were seven miles out with a flat.

We made it almost five miles when I noticed his tire was looking kind of low. He noticed it too because he had a tough time getting up the big hill. We stopped at the top, and he pulled the portable pump off his bike. He pumped up the tire. The portable pump wasn't quite as effective as the regular pump, but it gave him some air.

We decided to turn around then and head back. It wasn't long before I noticed the tire was flat again. We stopped and pumped it up. Every quarter mile, it was flat again. What to do?

I could have left him there and rode the distance back by myself, but he didn't think I could get my bike on the rack (my bike is kind of tricky). We could have walked the whole way together (too long). I suggested he take my bike and ride to the car. He's a little taller than me, but we had the handy, dandy tool kit in my bike pouch, so he raised my seat.

I stood there for what seemed like hours, waiting for him to return. All manner of thoughts ran through my head. Did he get hit by a car? Have a heart attack? Decide to get away while he could? No. He eventually came back. He figured out what was wrong with the tire. And we lived happily every after (at least for the afternoon).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

On Love

"Love is the one business in which it pays to be an absolute spendthrift: give it away; throw it away; splash it over; empty your pockets; shake the basket; and tomorrow you'll have more than ever." - Unknown Author

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Child's Gift of Lullabyes

What do you do when you are a new mother, and your baby needs a little help falling asleep? You  purchase a lullabye tape. I chose this one, and I played it every night while Katherine was dozing off. The music was so soothing, I had to keep myself from dozing off with her.

As time went on, Katherine couldn't fall asleep unless the lullabye tape was playing. What does that tell you about conditioning? It wasn't a bad thing, because I credit her interest in piano to falling asleep to this tape several thousand nights of her life. We fell in love with this lullabye tape. Daniel and Peter listened to it for at least the first year of their lives.

When Daniel was in high school, he was having trouble falling asleep at night. He asked me if we still had that lullabye tape. I didn't have the cassette anymore, but I had purchased the CD (for use with my grandchildren) when I saw it at Borders one day. So Daniel copied it to his iPod and listened to it while he fell asleep. Katherine did the same thing.

My usual baby shower gift is a copy of this CD and a few children's books. It was originally created in 1989, and it won a Grammy Award that year. It is now available as an MP3 download. A lot of people must think it is good if it has lasted 22 years. I highly recommend it!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Red Velvet Cake

I've always wanted to make a Red Velvet Cake. It sounds so pretty. I'm not much of a cake baker, so this was new territory for me. I found a recipe in a library book, All-Time Best Recipes Betty Crocker, so I figured I couldn't go wrong.

The ingredient list called for vinegar, buttermilk, cocoa and red food coloring. It sounded like a strange combination of things, and the red food coloring made me think twice. The recipe wanted me to put in not two drops of it, but two whole 1-ounce bottles! I remember stories about bad things happening to children who ingested red dye #40. Would my cake cause an overdose in those who consumed it?

My fears increased when I saw the color of the cake batter. It looked like a bowl of thick blood. I'll try not to think about that when I fall asleep tonight.

After baking, the red color subdued itself a little. When I asked the family what they thought of my masterpiece, Don said, "It looks evil". But that didn't stop him from having a piece. I tasted a sliver. It was O.K. I used canned cream cheese frosting, so that made it a bit too sweet. Next time, I'd make my own frosting and tone it down a bit.

The evil Red Velvet Cake.

Red Velvet Cake

2 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 T. unsweetened baking cocoa
3 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. buttermilk
1 T. white vinegar
1 t. vanilla
2 bottles (1 oz. each) red food color
2 eggs

Frosting: 2 containers Betty Crocker Whipped cream cheese frosting (or make your own)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two round cake pans with shortening; lightly flour.

In large bowl, beat all cake ingredients together with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, then medium speed 2 minutes. Pour batter in pans.

Bake 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans; remove from pans on cooling racks. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Brush off all loose crumbs from cake layers. Place 1 cake layer, bottom side up, on serving plate; spread with 1 cup frosting. Top with second cake layer, bottom side down. Spread thin layer on sides of cake. Spread remaining frosting evenly on top and sides. Store in refrigerator.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fairest of them All

Katherine stands out. What I mean, is that people notice her. She gets comments all the time about her "fair" skin. It is very fair. But what does fair mean, exactly? Beautiful.

For most of her life, Katherine's fair skin has been the bane of her existence. She cannot enjoy activities in the sun without getting a severe sunburn or slathering her entire body with SPF 50. She's learned the hard way to just stay in the shade.

The good news about not spending a lot of time in the sun is that her skin will stay young and healthy for a long time. She'll have less chance of getting skin cancer, wrinkles and age spots.

Doesn't she look lovely?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

One Hot Day

The temperature reached 98 degrees this afternoon. It was a perfect day for the pool, but we had other plans. Don and I biked ten miles this morning on a new route that included some nice hill practice. When we finished at 10:45, it was 84 degrees, and we were drenched in sweat. Later in the day, we went to Firestone Country Club to watch Peter in a golf tournament. It was brutal for us, so I can only imagine how bad it was for the players to walk 18 holes carrying 30 lb. of clubs on their backs. Two of the teams even wore long pants as part of their uniform!

Scenes from the day (most photos courtesy of Daniel Richards):

Practice swing.

Anna and her mom

Peter and Coach Bucciarelli

Nice older sibling spectators.

Friday, September 2, 2011

National Library Card Month

If you don't have a library card, now's the time to get one. September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month. I'm one of those people who uses the public library on a regular basis. They love me there. I run their circulation numbers up so the State will renew their funding.

It is easy to get a library card. I have three of them:  Geauga County, which I use most often; CLEVNET Consortium, which allows me access to 31 libraries across Northeast Ohio; and  Portage County, which I don't use much now that I am no longer working.

You can walk into any library in Ohio, show proof of residency, and obtain a library card. It's that easy.

I like to borrow audio CD's for listening in my car. You'd be surprised how fast you can get through a book.

I wanted to get some ideas for home projects, so I checked out a stack of DIY back issues.

There are rows and rows of cookbooks available.

Here are 10 great things about having a library card:

1. Free Wi-Fi computer use.
2. Free Notary services.
3. Email notices when books are due.
4. Limit of 100 items out at a time!
5. Voter registration and Absentee ballots provided.
6. DVD's galore.
7. Audio books can be downloaded to your ipod from your computer.
8. E-books available for download.
9. Free access to databases for things like genealogy, newspapers, encyclopedias, legal forms, and many more.
10. Online catalogs and access to any item in the state of Ohio through inter library loan.

Libraries are not just for books...check yours out!