Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Brother for Riley?

Sadly, my friend, Becky, had to say good-bye to her beloved 10-year old Sheltie named Buddy a couple of weeks ago. He was as sweet and lovable as any dog could be. He faithfully stayed by her side all those years. In the spring, she may bring home a new member of the family, but for now, she is just looking.

She sent me this photo today of a most adorable Sheltie. Don't you just want to pick him up and kiss him? Becky's not quite ready for a new puppy, so I told her I might snatch this one up. I think Riley needs a little brother to keep him in line.

This one even has the one white paw just like Riley's. I'm trying to restrain myself.

Monday, January 30, 2012

I Like It!

Don's secretary, Laura, gave us this lighted collar when Riley was a puppy. When I take him for a night hike, I don't need a flashlight. This light is very bright. It doesn't bother Riley because he can't really see it. We put it on him if he goes out before dawn and after dusk. I hope it helps protect him against the coyotes. Would a coyote attack an animal with a bright light attached to his neck? Not a smart one.

This is a product I just discovered while strolling through Giant Eagle with my mother-in-law. Every time I cook with wine, I have to ask Don to open a big bottle for me (I have trouble with corkscrews). These little bottles are just right for cooking. There would be about one glass left over for sipping while waiting for dinner.

The Wilton silicone spatula is my favorite. It can be purchased in the baking isle at Michael's craft stores. Nothing sticks to this thing. Not even scrambled eggs.

These huge green tote bags are the best. They are sturdy, bright and hold a ton of stuff. I'm currently using my stash to collect things for our June garage sale. Marc's sells them for $1.00 each. They were 50 cents apiece when I bought mine over a year ago.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Jekyll's Kitchen

I have a new restaurant to recommend: Jekyll's Kitchen in Chagrin Falls. In all the years we've lived here, we've never eaten at the restaurant overlooking the falls. The establishment has changed ownership a few times, but right now it is Jekyll's Kitchen.

I chose the restaurant since we were celebrating my birthday. I didn't want to travel very far, and I wanted to try something new. Everyone agreed the food, service and atmosphere were top notch. When we walked into the dining room to be seated, we had a great view of Chagrin Falls outside tall glass windows. With all the rain we've had recently, the water level was very high, and the river speed was as fast as I've ever seen it.

The menu was full of good choices. Katherine ordered Four Cheese Penne with Chicken, while Peter had BBQ Baby Back Ribs. Daniel ate a big juicy steak, and Don went with the Goat Cheese-Crusted Filet Mignon Medallions. I abandoned my mother-of-the-bride diet for the evening and ate half of an Italian Sausage, Olive and Banana Pepper Wood-Grilled Pizza.

Like I said, the food was fabulous. We definitely need to return to Jekyll's this summer so we can sit out on the patio and have a better view of the falls.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Password Protection

As you know, my children hacked into my blog yesterday and stole my identity. At least they were nice enough to identify themselves right away. And I can't really complain because what they said was really nice and sweet. It did get me thinking about my passwords and how to protect them. After a little research, I've launch a campaign to protect myself from future thieves.

To create strong passwords:

1.  Change your passwords regularly, especially those used for banking, email, credit cards and Facebook.
2.  Don't use the same password for everything.
3.  Use at least eight characters.
4.  Use letters, punctuation, symbols and numbers.
5.  Don't use words found in the dictionary.
6.  Intentionally misspell words.
7.  Don't use your name, birthday or passport number.
8.  Your password should not make sense to anyone but you.

Most importantly, don't write your passwords down on a sheet of paper and leave them sitting next to your computer.

I've got some work to do here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


ATTENTION: The post you are about to read was not written by the owner of the blog "My Life with Riley." This site has been hijacked by her son (the better looking one). I hope all of you protect your passwords better than my mother.

MASHA - Happy Birthday!!! I decided that, since you spend so much time writing about all of us, someone should get on here and write about YOU for a change. I have had the privilege of being your son for 21 years, and in all that time I have found a lot of reasons why I love you...but this is a blog post, and your readers don't have all day so I'll keep the list short:

1.     Anytime I'm having a hard day, I know I can call you to cheer me up
2.     While the rest of my friends complain about how annoying their mothers can be, I can't remember ever butting heads with you
3.     You are very creative and encouraged me to write, draw, and take pictures
4.     You drove and picked me up from hundreds of soccer games, practices, and sleepovers
5.     Even though the longest book I've ever finished is technically a picture book, you've never given up on getting me to read
6.     You know how much I love lasagna, so you try to make it every time I come home
7.     I can always rely on you to make my haircut appointments and order contact lenses
8.     You taught me how to ride a bike...and then how to drive a car
9.     You're brave for doing #8
10.    You always make sure that my friends have enough to eat when they come over to our house

That is only the beginning of a much longer list...but I'll save some of those for another time. For now, I just want to wish you a very happy birthday and thank you for being the best mom in the world!

Love, Daniel (And Katherine! Who helped with the hijacking and whole-heartedly agrees with everything written above! Love you mom!)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Turn

A certain friend of mine, who will remain unnamed, has made it her personal mission to help me find the perfect Mother-of-the-Bride dress. She has sent me links to websites to get a feel for the styles I like, and she took me on my first shopping trip today.

We drove to Strongsville to shop in four stores: Catan's Fashions, David's Bridal, Dillards and Macy's. I tried on roughly twelve dresses. We liked one. This is going to be a long process.

It's not easy going dress shopping with someone who wears a size 0. It made me feel a little self conscious. My friend used the sweetest language to let me know that a dress was too frumpy, too low-cut or too grandmotherly for me. She has in mind a sleek, glamorous dress with angled seams and flowing chiffon strategically placed to hide trouble spots. What would I do without her?

She's already planned trip number two. I told her I wasn't going until I lost 20 pounds. She said we can't wait too long. I had a salad for lunch and crumbs for dinner. Breakfast will be carrots and strawberries.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Memory Trigger

While trying to fall asleep last night, three thoughts popped into my head that I wanted to remember in the morning. I didn't want to come out from my cozy covers. I didn't even want to reach for a piece of paper and pen in the night stand. Then I remembered a trick Don taught me years ago.

We were in bed talking, and he thought of something he wanted to be sure to remember in the morning. He pulled off his shirt and threw it across the room. He said when he saw that shirt on the floor in the middle of the room in the morning, he would remember what he didn't want to forget. If you wear socks to bed like I do (at least until my feet warm up), you can throw off a sock. Or you can reach for something else and throw it across the room.

This trick only works if you are a relatively tidy person. If your bedroom floor is already littered with clothing you were too lazy to hang up, you won't be able to tell the sock from last night from the socks strewn there last week.

It worked. I remembered to tell Don something, and I remembered the two blog posts I wanted to write.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Why Blog?

Every once in awhile Don will find me hunched over my keyboard late at night. He will look at me and ask if I am OK.

 "I hope your blog isn't becoming a burden," he will say. "No," I respond with a glazed look in my eye, "I'm almost finished."

He will trudge off to bed while I sit here trying to think of something to say. It's not a burden. How could my blog be a burden? I love Life with Riley. I'm on post number 478. If I didn't like blogging, I would have quit a long time ago.

I don't know how many people read my blog, maybe 30 or so, but the numbers don't matter. I would write for just one loyal reader. It's alright that I get very few comments. Some of my readers have told me they have trouble with the comment-posting process.

So why do I blog? It forces me to think every day. I have to think of something at least one person would enjoy reading. I blog to entertain, educate, uplift and enlighten. I blog so that someday my children's children and their children will be able to know their grandma or great grandma if I'm not here.

I don't blog to make money, sell books or get on a talk show. Mostly I blog because it's fun...except when I can't think of anything to say.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Stick it to 'Em

I about had a heart attack this afternoon when I realized postage rates go up tomorrow. It occurred to me that I need to buy a million stamps for the wedding.

Today, stamps are 44 cents each. Tomorrow, they will be 45 cents. That may not seem like much of an increase, but when you are buying a million stamps, it adds up. When I sat down and figured out how many stamps we really need, it wasn't a million...but it was close...540!

Why so many stamps? Well, there are the Save the Date cards, which will go out in February. The postal service probably conspired to put this "save the date" idea in young brides' minds just to sell more stamps.

Then there are the invitations, which go out in June. The outer envelope gets a stamp, and the inner response card gets a stamp. These invitations better not weigh more than 3.5 ounces or we will have to lick two first class stamps per invitation!

Finally, there are the thank you notes for gifts the bride and groom will so appreciate. Each of those will require a stamp.

After I settled down and put my thinking cap on, I realized I could buy stamps today online before they go up in price tomorrow. The USPS online store saved the day again. When I calculated it all out, this only saved me $5.40, so what was the big deal? When wedding planning, every penny counts!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Senior Year

Peter thinks the days are dragging, but really, time is flying. He's already ordered his cap and gown, submitted his formal name for the diploma, been accepted to four colleges, and had his senior pictures taken. Before I know it, we will be sitting in the auditorium watching his class march in to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance.

I scanned a few of his pictures. Forgive me if they are not clear. My scanner has dust below the glass surface. I cannot get it clean.

Peter in his letter jacket.

My favorite pose. Ignore the pills on his sweater. That is dust from the scanner!

Nice smile.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Heaven in a Bag

How did they know? These treats combine two of Riley's favorite flavors in the world: chicken and bananas. I about fell over when I saw the display at Petsmart this evening while refilling Riley's salmon food supply. When I gave him one of the wraps, he ran around the house crying. He does that when something is too exciting for words.

Earlier in the day, Riley thought he was doing me a big favor when he caught a mouse. Unfortunately, it wasn't the mouse that had invaded my closet, it was the mouse I bought at Target for my computer.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Books Read in 2011

This list was on the side bar of my blog during 2011. I read a lot more books than this (mostly non-fiction), but I didn't keep track of them all. I wanted to start a new list for 2012, but I know some of you like to refer to the book lists, so I'm making a post here and it will be tagged under Book Reviews so you can find it.

2011 Book List

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson
The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn
Tears of a Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman
How I Planned Your Wedding by Susan Wiggs
The Guersney Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
Chosen by a Horse by Susan Richards
The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg
Thursdays at Eight by Debbie Macomber
What Women Tell Me by Anita Lustria
My Reading Life by Pat Conroy

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lemon Chicken Breasts

I love Chicken Picatta, and I only eat it a couple of times a year when Don and I go to a little restaurant in Bainbridge called Cucina Rustica. I guess it's the lemon and chicken combination that tastes so good to me. I was searching the Food Network website today to find a new chicken recipe, and I found Lemon Chicken Breasts. It is simple to make. There is even a video of Ina Garten making the dish at Food Network. 

Most grocery stores don't sell boneless chicken breasts with the skin left on, so I called Mazullo's Market and ordered four before heading to the grocery store. They were happy to de-bone the chicken for me. I cut way back on the lemon since I didn't want to overpower Peter's taste buds.

Lemon Chicken Breasts
1/4 c. olive oil
3 T. minced garlic (9 cloves)
1/3 c. dry white wine
1 T. grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 t. dried oregano
1 t. freshly minced thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 boneless chicken breasts, skin on (6-8 ounces each)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Warm olive oil in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic, and cook for just 1 minute but don't allow garlic to turn brown. Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Pour sauce into 9 x 12 baking dish.

Pat the chicken dry, and place breasts skin side up over the sauce. Brush chicken with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. If you want even more lemon flavor, slice a lemon into 8 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts. After removing chicken from oven, cover pan with foil and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve with pan juices.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Grand Canyon

Peter returned last night from a one week hiking adventure in the Grand Canyon. He went with a group of 40 students and chaperones from his school as part of a J-Term class. He took about 150 pictures. I trained him well!

On Tuesday, the group hiked the Hermit and Dripping Springs trails. That night, they had dinner at the Maswik lodge. On Wednesday, they hiked the Bright Angel trail. That was the most difficult day physically. It was a 12 mile hike (6 miles down and 6 miles back up the canyon). They hiked to Plateau Point which overlooks the Colorado River and has one of the best views of the Grand Canyon. That day, they had to hike out of the Canyon at night, using their headlamps. Thursday was the shortest but steepest hike. It was six miles round trip on the South Kaibab trail which follows a ridge line to the bottom. Their destination was Skeleton Point. Thursday night, they got to eat a very nice dinner at the El Tovar Lodge.

Here are a few photos to give you and idea of what the trip was like:

Peter on the trail

A cactus in the snow

They had to step aside for a mule train to pass

A nice view of the Canyon

Peter's friend, Aaron, showing off his muscles

Up close and personal with a buck

Living on the edge!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Iron Sharpens Iron

Can you find Daniel in this photo? He is with his high school soccer buddies. Each year during Christmas break, the CVCA soccer alumni get together for a friendly match. The numbers keep building as the years go by. These guys were close in high school, and I have a feeling they will always be that way.

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." - Proverbs 27:17

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Quilt

The quilt I am making comes from a book called In Stitches by Amy Butler. This is an example of what the quilt will look like when finished. The quilt will be 54" wide by 72" long when complete.

The most daunting task for me was choosing the fabric. I spent two hours in JoAnn Fabrics today selecting ten different coordinating prints. I needed two yards of one fabric and one yard of nine more fabrics that all go together.

I took a pillow from my family room for color inspiration. Since this will be a "throw" quilt, we will use it to wrap up in on the couch. these colors go with most of the rooms on the first floor of the house.

I don't know much about how to choose quilt fabrics based on scale. Hopefully these will do. I still need to choose one more coordinating fabric and buy 4 1/2 yards of it. I need to think about that one for awhile.

The next step is to wash all these fabrics and cut out the shapes needed to piece it all together. Stay tuned for a photo of the finished product. Be patient. It might take a couple of months. I don't want to mess it up!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wedgwood White Dolphins

Katherine and Josh went to Crate and Barrel today to begin their bridal registry. What happened to the days when brides registered in department stores like Dillards, Macy's and Saks?

It made me think back to my own wedding and how I painstakingly decided on a china pattern that I would love for the rest of my life. The pattern was Wedgwood White Dolphins. In the 25 years we have been married, I think I pulled it out twice. That doesn't mean I don't like it, I still do. It is beautiful. The plates and cups are rimmed in silver. The pattern of dolphins and sea shells is a lovely Wedgwood blue.

It's not that I am afraid of breaking it. I can go on eBay and replace pieces parts easily enough. It has to do with the formality of things. I would rather serve dinner on Corelle or Chinet. Apparently young couples agree. They are sensible enough to know they won't use fine china.

So when Katherine asked me if I thought she should register for nice dishes, I told her no. I don't think she will use them. I told her my Wedgwood White Dolphins are here if she needs them.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Blogs I'm Loving

I thought I'd share some of the blogs I've happened upon and really enjoy reading. Most of them have to do with simple living, keeping a home and blogging. Maybe you will find one you like too.

Small Notebook  is a blog about keeping life simple. I liked her baby shower idea. Instead of bringing cards for the mom to be, each guest brought along a gently used children's book to start the baby's book collection.

A Bowl Full of Lemons This blog has many great ideas for organizing different parts of your life. The author interviewed Dave Ramsey, Daniel's favorite financial adviser, as part of her financial organizing tips.

Blogging with Amy This blog has an amazing amount of information about blogging. I also like her posts on how to write an eBook. Something that I just might try some day.

Simple Mom All about living intentionally. If you subscribe to her blog, she sends very interesting links to you via email each weekend.

The Perfect Palette I found this blog while looking for something for Katherine's wedding. It is supposed to help the bride coordinate colors for the wedding, but I can see many uses for this information. I have a very difficult time deciding what colors go together.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

I Think Mice Are Rather Nice

I think mice are rather nice.
Their tails are long, their faces small
They haven't any chins at all.
Their ears are pink, their teeth are white
They run about the house at night.

They nibble things they shouldn't touch
And no one seems to like them much.
But I think mice are nice.
- by Rose Fyleman

What is it about mice that make them so cute? Their large eyes, their squiggly ears, their whiskers? Even though they belong to the rodent family along with rats, mice are rather nice. They usually don't bother me at all. I'm not afraid of them. Hearing them run through the rafters doesn't give me the creeps. But there are two things that I can't stand about mice.

I would have never know that mouse urine smells absolutely awful if Peter hadn't begged to get two of them as pets when he was in 5th grade. After two days, I was ready to let those two rascals loose in the woods. I wanted to gag every time I walked by his room. It didn't matter how clean we kept the cage. Fortunately, an unsuspecting 2nd grader and his mother answered our ad for TWO FREE MICE in the school newsletter, and we were free of them forever.

The second thing I don't like about mice is the lingering odor when they die in the walls. Two weeks ago, a mouse died in the walls of Don's closet. I bought him an air freshener and secretly felt relieved that it didn't happen in my closet. Guess where the air freshener is this week? That's right...in my closet where another mouse bit the dust. I sure hope my clothing isn't picking up the smell. And I hope this isn't going to be a recurring pattern.

Friday, January 6, 2012

East of the Sun

While in Colorado, I finished East of the Sun by Julia Gregson. It was an interesting book. A little romance, a little history, a little mystery. The most fascinating part of the book was the whole idea of the Fishing Fleet. In the late 1800's to mid 1900's, each October, girls from Britain were sent on a ship to India with the sole purpose of finding a husband. There were many young, eligible men in the Colonial army and working abroad. If the girls did not find a husband by the spring, they were shipped back to England and labeled "Returned Empties". I was trying to imagine sending Katherine off to India when she was in her late teens, probably to never see her again. Kids grew up faster back then.

In this book, two girls set sail on the Fishing Fleet, chaperoned by a young woman (Viva) in her mid-twenties. The three women develop a friendship on the long voyage which continues once they arrive in India. Viva also chaperones a young man who is mentally disturbed. That whole story line is one that I think could have been left out of the book.

The main theme running through the book is Viva's going back to India to reconcile the loss of her family. Both of her parents and her sister died for unrelated reasons when she was young, and she had not fully processed it all.

I loved the historical setting (1929 India), the coming of age of Rose and Tor and Viva's struggle to let people into her life. A couple of the sub plots (like Viva getting kidnapped and Guy Glover stalking her) could have easily been deleted.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Want to Learn About Wine?

We had some trouble with wine last year. Apparently, wine doesn't last forever. If you don't drink it within a couple of years, it turns a nasty brown color. We don't drink it fast enough at our house. Friends come over and bring us bottles of wine. Who knows how long the bottles have been sitting in their wine racks before they get handed over to us. You can never be too careful.

When I have a glass of wine, Don always orders it for me. It is usually a white wine like Chardonnay. That's easy and safe. I don't know too much about wine. I just have a glass now and then to be sociable. I must have been curious about wine in 2005, because I purchased a DVD called Andrea's Complete Wine Course for Everyone. It was still in the wrapper yesterday when I found it in my kitchen cupboard. I needed something to watch while riding my bike in the basement, so I popped this DVD in.

Andrea starts at the very beginning. A very good place to start. She explains how different grapes give wines their color, flavor and body. She explains why, when the waiter brings a glass of wine to the table, the person who ordered the wine is to look at the color, swirl the glass and taste the wine before the rest of the wine is poured.

This is just the start of her wine course. I can't wait to ride my bike some more tomorrow. I wanted to share Andrea's website since I checked it out, and there is a wealth of wine information there. Everything you ever wanted to know about wine. And she's willing to share it with all.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


This is me with my two brothers and my sister on Christmas Eve. We love each other very much. We even look like each other, except we can't figure out why three of us got dark hair and Patrick got gray hair. I thought you'd like to know a little bit about these folks, so below, I wrote up a little profile of each of them.

Michael (far left): Oldest child. Nutty professor. Black belt extraordinaire. Don't mess with him (or me). Author. Speaker. Husband to Gail. Father of two. Entrepreneur. Guitarist. Chemist. Voted most likely to blow up the house.

Carolyn (center left): Youngest child. Wife to Butch. Mother of five. Gardener extraordinaire. Friendly friend. Would do anything for you. Cautious. Ornery. Excellent cook. Reader. Neatnik. Voted most likely to be carrying Purell in her purse.

Marianne (center right): Second child. You know all about me.

Patrick (far right): Third child. Computer Systems Engineer.  Husband to Nikki. Father of one. Tinker. Gamer extraordinaire. Mechanic. Instructor. Softy. Heart of gold. Voted most likely to die while fixing up a '57 Chevy in his garage.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Postcards from Beaver Creek

Daniel took this photo of me. I like the sparkly tree in the background.

The kids on their way to the mountain today.

A long exposure photo of the ice rink taken by Daniel.

I just thought this little boy was was the cutest.

Mr. Fix-it at it again. Good thing there is a Home Depot down the road.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012

What I love about celebrating New Year's Eve in Colorado is that the ball drops at 10:00 p.m. I can go to bed at a decent hour. We turn on the TV and count down with the people in New York City who are two hours ahead of us.

I feel rested enough this morning to sit down and think about 2012. I'm not going to think about the usual resolutions: lose weight, exercise more, drink water, etc. Those things will be with me until the day I die. I am going to think about what I'd like to accomplish in 2012.

Number 1: Learn to operate my camera in manual mode. In the photo above, Daniel was teaching me how to take a close-up picture of something and blur the background. That is his hand holding the wine glass. This task will really stretch my brain. I will have to concentrate and practice, practice, practice.

Number 2: Really get to know people by caring about the details of their lives and being transparent with my life.

Number 3: Learn how to make a quilt. I found instructions for a quilt that I love. Right now, the instructions are a bit of gibberish to me. I am determined to take the time to follow them one by one and figure it out.

Number 4: Establish a non-profit organization that helps people in some way.

Number 5: Run a 5K. I need a physical challenge, and this will be it. I still have the Couch to 5K podcasts on my iPod, and I plan to start the program once again.

I think that is enough for one year. 2012 should be exciting. Peter will graduate from high school in May, Katherine will get married in August, and our nest will become empty in September. I'm looking forward to what God has planned for us.