Monday, July 28, 2014

Six Days

These two are getting married in six days! 
This photo was taken during their engagement session with Doug Treiber Photography.

One Year Without Diet Coke

It has been one whole year since I have had a Diet Coke! A year ago I would not have thought it possible.

It took about four months to get over the cravings.

I was hoping there would be a huge difference in the way I felt by stopping. I haven't noticed much of a change. But...

No more compulsion to turn into the Steak and Shake parking lot. No more McDonald's drive thru stops because I have to have one.

Plus, I'd venture to say I've saved about $1,100 over the course of this year by not spending $3.00 a day on my drink habit.
I only drink water and tea now, and I'm perfectly content.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Table Runners

I ordered ten yards of fabric to make table runners for the wedding. This fabric is absolutely perfect for making table runners. It has lines for cutting, it irons smoothly, and the print repeats twice across the width of the fabric.

One runner will go on the dessert table, one runner will go on the escort card table, and one double wide runner will go on the head table. I love the vintage look.

I've already finished the two 10-foot runners and tomorrow I will make the 18-foot runner. They are so pretty! Katherine and Josh can used them in their home someday and pass them down as heirlooms. They can tell their grandchildren that their great-great grandmother made them for their wedding.

Friday, July 25, 2014

My Next Five Books

Peter and I have been trying to get through C. S. Lewis's Signature Classics this summer. I had already read Mere Christianity and Screwtape Letters, so I started with The Great Divorce. After that, I moved on to The Problem of Pain. Some of Lewis's books are not easy to follow. He tends to write in circles like most philosophers do, so I have to read and re-read most pages. It's taking me awhile.

To give myself a break, I made a pile of books to cruise through. Of course, the top book is another C. S. Lewis one, Surprised by Joy, but I hear it is a smoother read. It starts with his life as a child in Belfast and the loss of his mother. It moves on to his childhood in a boarding school and his youth as an athiest in England. He talks about life in the trenches of World War I and his subsequent schooling at Oxford. It was at Oxford that Lewis found the joy he was searching for in Christianity.

I had read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp a few years ago and I didn't like it. But since then, I have been reading her blog and it turns out I enjoy her lyrical writing. So I am going to go back and read this one again. This book encourages its readers to be grateful for all the seemingly small gifts we are blessed with and that we tend to overlook on a daily basis.

I was drawn to The World's Strongest Librarian just by the title. I'll read any book if it's about a librarian. The book is about a real person, Josh Hanagarne. His Tourette Syndrome became increasingly hard to manage as he got older, and at 6 feet 7 inches, he could not disappear into the woodwork. He eventually turned to focusing his attention on performing increasingly elaborate feats of strength to manage his tics. He is a librarian at a Salt Lake City Public Library.

Michael Symon's newest book got great reviews. It's called 5 In 5: Five Fresh Ingredients + 5 Minutes = 120 Fantastic Dinners. I'm all about fast, fantastic dinners. If I only have to work with five ingredients, all the better. I can't wait to see what easy recipes I can pull out of this book.

A Place Called Home by Jason Grant is supposed to help you add personal touches to your home decorating. I am always on the lookout for new decorating ideas even though I rarely implement them. They are just fun to look at.

Notice that four of the five books I am reading next come from my public library. I am making every effort not to buy books. When I hear about a book I want to read, I put it in my Amazon shopping cart so I don't forget about it. When I'm ready for a new book, I go to the cart and check my three library systems to see if they have it first. If they do, I put it on hold and pick it up. If I can't find the book, I may buy it the next time I place an Amazon order. And I try very hard to buy it in Kindle format. It's very hard.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Recorded Books

I can't stand walking for exercise unless I have someone to listen to. My first preference is a human being, and I appreciate my friend Becky meeting me every Monday morning to walk in the park with our Shelties. But when I walk alone, I need a distraction or I give up by the time I reach the corner.

Podcasts are great, and I listen to them a lot of the time. But if I listen to a recorded book, it helps me get through my reading list in less time. I have downloaded many books from the library system, but sometimes they do not have the book I want to read. That's why I like Audible.

Each month I can download one book for a fee of $14.95. If I don't like that book, I can exchange it for another book up to one year from the date I bought it. The books I download remain in my Amazon account indefinitely.

If you want to try it out, you can get a free book for thirty days.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Daniel Richards Photography

Daniel has a day job in finance which he loves, but on the side, his favorite hobby is to take photographs. While he was in Oklahoma, several people he worked with asked him to take senior portraits or baby pictures, so he did.

I encouraged him to create a website and offer his services to people back home who want to have some photos taken at a reasonable price - more than lunch at Chipotle, but not an arm and a leg.

So if you or someone you know need some personal photos, check out Daniel Richards Photography.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Toast

Before we headed out to Stan Hywet yesterday, we had brunch at our house. One of the recipes we made was Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Toast. She shows different methods of making cinnamon toast, and according to Ree, there is a right way.

This cinnamon toast was amazing. It could be down right addictive, especially right out of the oven.

Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Toast

16 slices of whole wheat bread
2 sticks salted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Blend all ingredients with a mixer until well blended.
Spread mixture on top of each slice of bread, spreading all the way to the edges.
Place bread on  two cookie sheets and put cookie sheets in oven on two shelves.
Bake 5 minutes, then rotate cookie sheets.
After 5 more minutes, turn broiler on.
Broil for a few minutes (just until bubbly).
Remove bread from oven and cut bread into halves diagonally.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Stan Hywet

Peter and Kendall wanted to do something fun with Aunt Pam this summer, so they invited her to go on a tour of Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens in Akron. They also invited me. The four of us took a self-guided tour of the National Historic Landmark today.

We weren't allowed to take any pictures inside the house, so I took lots of pictures in the gardens.

Aunt Pam brought along her brand new iPhone Selfie Stick. It was great for taking flattering self-portraits and pictures of Peter and Kendall in the back seat of the car.

Peter and Kendall tried it too.

I thought this lily pad was very pretty.

And these red Astilbe were particularly gorgeous.

Before we left, we stopped in the butterfly garden.

There were many Monarch butterflies inside the garden.

On our way home, we stopped at Strickland's Ice Cream so Peter could pay his debt to Aunt Pam. He told her four years ago when he got his driver's license that he would take her out for ice cream. Today was the day.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Just My Imagination

The man who comes to maintain our furnace and air conditioner sort of creeps me out. He is a large man with beady eyes. His beady eyes don't have eyebrows either, and he has some missing teeth. On top of that, he smells like tobacco, and with every breath, he wheezes in and out. Each time he comes, I wonder if he will survive the service call.

Today, he arrived at noon to check the air conditioner. I figured the call would take an hour. At 1:30 I realized he was still here, and I hadn't seen him in awhile. I waited another half hour, and still no sight of him.

Oh my goodness! He must be dead in the basement, I thought. Very creepy. How would I find out? I wasn't going to go down there, not even with Riley at my side.

Another half hour went by, and I began to think maybe he was napping in the back of his van. I really needed to get to the grocery store.

My heart started racing by 3:15, then the side door opened and he walked in. I wanted to ask him where he had been, but I was afraid of him.

I asked him if everything was alright. "Well, no, ma'am. It looks like you're going to need a new air conditioner soon. I wouldn't put any money in a 23 year-old air conditioner."


That was all. He walked out the door, and I didn't hesitate to flip the dead bolt behind him.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Birthday Dinner

Peter turned 20 years old yesterday. And to celebrate, he and Kendall made dinner for the four of us. They made a Pioneer Woman recipe called Chicken Florentine Pasta. We didn't have any tomatoes on hand, so they substituted bell peppers.

Along with the main dish, they made asparagus, toasted Italian bread with olive oil dipping sauce and cinnamon applesauce.

What a feast!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Rubik's Cube Cake

Peter's birthday isn't until Tuesday, but we celebrated it last night since Katherine and Josh were in town. Daniel was also here, so we had the whole family together for one evening.

Katherine and Josh made Peter a Rubik's Cube cake because when Peter was younger, he was one of those kids who could solve the Rubik's Cube frontward, backwards and upside down. 

The Rubik's Cube cake required intensive labor. The inside was several layers of a square cake held together with frosting. Then the cake had to be cut into a cube. The cube was covered with black fondant and then each side of the cube was covered with nine squares of fondant in yellow, white, red, blue and green. They left the bottom plain.

Isn't that the cutest little cake you've ever seen?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Prodigal Son Returns

Yesterday LeBron James signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers after spending four years with the Miami Heat. Did the people of Cleveland reject and boo him? No! They ran to him with open arms.

Last night at the Indians game, Peter saw vendors pedaling LeBron James jerseys. And there were many people wearing the jerseys that had collected dust in their closets the last several years.

Today in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, there was a picture of LeBron with the word "Home" next to it. Peter promptly pinned it up next to the yellowed picture of LeBron with the word "Gone" next to it which has been on his bulletin board in his room for four years.

Peter knew he would be back.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Back from Oklahoma

Daniel's assignment in Lawton, Oklahoma is officially over. He was sad to leave his job in the tire plant and all the very nice people he met there, but he is also very happy to be back home in his own apartment.

It was a two day journey - not by canoe, but by car, and thankfully his friend Brian flew to Oklahoma and drove back with him. They stopped overnight in St. Louis to visit Daniel's college friend Sean. Then they got up very early today and drove the rest of the way home.

I can't wait to see him tomorrow night when he comes over for dinner!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Project Get Healthy: Month Twelve

I finally found something that is working for me. My friend Crystal and I made a bet. The person with the most points by September 2 has to buy the other a Fitbit.

We can earn up to two points each day: one point if we eat five servings of  fruits and vegetables and one point if we exercise at least 30 minutes that day. This is day 16 and I have 30 points. I'm not sure where Crystal is.

Getting 30 minutes of exercise each day has not been a problem at all. Eating five servings of  fruits and vegetables takes some thinking. I didn't realize how little I was eating in this area until I had to concentrate on it.

The good thing is, if you eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, you don't have room for extra fluff. It keeps me from snacking because I know I won't have room for that next salad or apple.

I also like this because I don't worry about what else I eat. I'm just concentrating on getting the good stuff in. Next up, I think I will add one serving of fruits and vegetables a day to make it six. Pretty soon, I will squeeze out all the bad stuff.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Wedding Countdown

There are  twenty-six days until the wedding. I'm not counting. I just looked at the Target wedding registry, and the number was right there on the top of the page.

This doesn't mean we are getting all bent out of shape. Katherine and I have learned the fine art of "not thinking about it." She likes thinking about her honeymoon instead. That's when she and Josh will have eight days of nothing to think about. Heaven for them, I'm sure.

The two things I am most concerned about (a thunderstorm and a heat wave) are completely out of my control. Everything else will fall into place, and if there are any hiccups, we'll just hold our breath until they go away.

Truly, weddings should not be this complicated. That's why we are ignoring the complication of it all. Don is an expert at this sort of thing. I bet he doesn't know how many days there are until the wedding.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

America's Favorite Pork Chops

Sometimes I grill shish kabobs, sometimes I grill hot dogs and hamburgers, but mostly I grill chicken. Once in a blue moon, I grill pork chops. I should grill them more often, because these were mighty tasty tonight.

America's Favorite Pork Chops

4 center cut loin pork chops (thick)
1 cup Italian salad dressing
1 1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce

Place all ingredients in a Ziploc bag. Seal bag and place in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes or as long as overnight.

Remove chops from bag. Discard marinade. Grill over medium heat, turning once, about 7 minutes per side.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Book Club

I am thinking about starting a book club in my neighborhood this fall so I can get to know my neighbors better. In the past several years, all of my close neighborhood friends have moved away...yes, all of them. So I've been feeling a little lonely when it comes to the neighborhood.

I've researched how to start a book club, and here is what I have found:

1. It is good to have 8-12 people in the group for variety of discussion and in case some people don't show up. But I would be happy to have 4 or 5 to start.

2. It is best to rotate locations so that no one person is burdened with hosting the club every month. This is a better way to get to know people too.

3. Right up front, choose which books you will read for the first six months. Let everyone get involved in suggesting books, then vote.

4. Make sure the books are available at the library or in paperback so members don't have to spend too much money buying books each month.

5. Meet once a month from September to May. Take the summer off for vacations.

6. Choose a day of the month to meet, for instance, the first Wednesday of the month.

7. Serve refreshments, possibly even with a theme related to the book.

8. Whichever member is leading the group that month should arrive with some discussion questions ready so that the conversation can keep moving.

9. Keep a record of the books the group reads. Ask someone to be the group historian.

10. Give your group a fun name.

11. Encourage everyone to actually READ the book. Book clubs are no fun if no one reads!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Donate Stuff

While walking Riley this morning, I ran into my next door neighbor who was hauling stuff to her curb. It wasn't trash day, so I asked her who was picking up donations today.

We routinely receive postcards in the mail telling us who is picking up donations on this day or that. Written on one of her boxes was "" I had not heard of that one yet. Kathy said the website allows you to schedule a pick up whenever you need one.

When I got home, I looked into it. I plugged in my zip code and  found out that the funds from my donations go to the City Mission.

Donate Stuff will take most anything one man can carry by himself. The next time I have some items to donate, I'm going to try