Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Memorial Day!

Memorial Day marks what most feel is the start of summer.  There's nothing like that feeling.


Everyone loves a good picnic or gathering to celebrate our shared love for this great country,

to chat with family and friends on a porch or deck in that slow, relaxed way,

and hopefully to remember that we have Memorial Day to remember all those that served or are serving for us so that we can run through sprinklers,  have picnics, and relax on porches.

My twin sister, Claudia (she goes by 'Dia'), is incredibly involved in honoring veterans and those who serve our country.  She was the guest speaker in her town's Memorial Day celebration today.  She has a website called, where veterans and family members can tell their stories, add pictures, and communicate with others. Most recently, she has written an e-book on the topic of preserving military stories and has created a kit to help veterans preserve their military memories that is being sold on Amazon!   It's so cool.  You can join her website if you are a veteran, a family member of a veteran that has served or a soldier that is currently serving, or if you are just interested in reading soldiers' stories.  I am so proud of her efforts and how she has inspired her students, her community, and thousands that have visited her website to remember veterans and what they have done for us.  She is my hero!
Have a safe, happy Memorial Day!  

Here is my sister's website link again:

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Coffee Cake...Mmmmm

Tonight my sweet Dad was up for supper as he does at least one night a week.  With my Mom now gone, we try to make sure Dad comes up to visit since so many of his meals he eats by himself.  I always try to send him home with lots of leftovers, and if I have time, some quick dessert.

Tonight, I looked in my cupboard and saw that I had a yellow cake mix.  I Googled "recipes with yellow cake mix" and saw cookies you can make with a cake mix, which I've done recently (and were tasty) but then I saw a coffee cake that sounded real tasty.  I've never made coffee cake before.

I do easy recipes.  Ones that my picky kids and hubby will eat.  This one seemed easy enough from All


  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
  • 1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 (3.4 ounce) package instant butterscotch pudding mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan, or a 10 inch Bundt cake pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the cake mix, vanilla pudding mix, and butterscotch pudding mix. Add the eggs, oil and water, mix until well blended. In another bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts. Pour half of the batter into the pan, spread evenly. Sprinkle with half of the nut mixture. Cover with the rest of the batter, and sprinkle with the rest of the nut mixture.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, then turn the oven down to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) and bake for an additional 35 to 40 minutes.

This is how mine turned out:

I did not have butterscotch pudding mix, but did have 2 boxes of vanilla, so that is what I used.  I was going to add some rum extract, but forgot.  I think that would have made it even better.  It's super yummy...I've had 2 pieces already and may eat the ones on this plate, too.

This will be my new go-to recipe for breakfast on holiday mornings or when I need to make a dish for someone.   This made a 13x9 pan, but could probably be divided into 2 smaller pans to give one away.   (but why would you want to do that??)  By the way, All Recipes is one of my favorite sites to get easy, family-friendly recipes from that have user reviews and ratings (which I am addicted to reading).  This coffee cake got 4 1/2 stars.  I give it 5!

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Mickey and Friends, Here We Come! (Need Your Advice!)

We are getting ready to take our family on our first trip to Disney!   Well, some us have been there before but it has been a long, long time.  I went when I was in junior high when my hair was sprayed out higher than Mickey's ears (early 90's--who remembers it?).  My hubby went 15 or so years ago, which meant my step daughter, Kaitlyn, was around 8 and my step-son, Karch, was a toddler.  They are now 21 and almost 16.  My son, Colin, who is 11, and Riley, 6, have never been.  We are super-excited to go together.

I know many of you have probably taken your families in the past few years, and I need your advice and input!!!  We just booked our trip a couple weeks ago, so I have much to do! I have done some research online and, of course, relied on some friends who have recently been, but I LOVE advice from moms, because, you know, we are the planners, the worriers, and the entertainment directors of vacations.  My sweet husband is not a planner.  He thinks booking a vacation more than a month in advance is waaaay early.  AND he actually said that I was getting a little too crazy about planning this. Yes, I want to know where the best place is to stand during the parade to be able to see well!  Yes, I want the App on my phone that tells me how long lines are!  We will probably only go as a family this one time since the kids are getting older and I want to do it RIGHT!  PLUS, did I mention we  are DRIVING from Central Ohio.  Yes, 16+ hours.  In the car.  With 4 kids (well, Kaitlyn is 21...). In our Odyssey.  Definitely the farthest we have driven for vacation before.  We opted for flying, but because he, I mean we, :)  booked our vacation so late, tickets for 6 are outrageous.  Plus, who can't resist that family bond you get driving that long in a crowded car?  Hey, I drove to Arkansas in a station wagon with no air conditioning to see Aunt Ruthie's farmhouse multiple times as a child.  I did not have an i-pod, i-pad, cell phone, or DVD player in my car.  So we shall survive.  I think.

Okay, back to actually what I need your help on... advice!  What is your can't-miss attraction at Disney?  Your best tip?  The thing you wish someone would have told you before you left?  I need it all!  Send me your ideas!   Much thanks!

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Easiest Curtain Valances

I'm all about fast, easy, and affordable.  Unfortunately, I have not made myself learn to sew, so sewing and making my own curtains has not been an option for me. Yet.  It's on my list to learn for summer.  Until then, though, I needed an easy fix for my awkward kitchen windows. They are corner windows above my sink.   I wanted color and a punchy pattern, but I am soooo picky about fabric that I can never seem to find curtains that I like.  I find fabric that I like, but then we're back to sewing.  Which I don't do.  Yet.

While in World Market recently, we bought these great curtains for the window by our everyday dining table.  Remember my lovely tulips I posted about a few posts ago?  I love those curtains in the background with their bright, bold pattern and all the colors in them that I needed to coordinate with surrounding rooms.

My curtains that I love.

While in World Market, a lightbulb turned on to use the matching napkins that they also sold on my kitchen windows!  I showed my husband how I would fold them over the rod and voila!  Cute valances that were a pattern I already love and match the nearby curtains!  I used 2 per window, and just overlapped until they were the width to cover the rod.  Then,  I used a piece of 2-sided tape on the inside where the 2 corners met so that it looked nicer and stayed even.  The rod was a bit tricky (uh, standing on that counter under a hot lightbulb at midnight with my husband for 20 minutes trying to rig them up there almost started WWIII...) , but once we got them up, I loved them!

We actually used this same idea on our enclosed back porch, which I will post about in the future.  I love this idea because napkins are like $3-5 bucks each, you can find them in tons of patterns and colors, and they are super-easy to "install"!  Maybe everyone already uses this idea and I've just lived in a cave somewhere...but hopefully I've given someone an idea to dress a small window that needs some easy, affordable love!

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Sunday, May 13, 2012


As I sit and try to think of the right words to write this post, I decide to make it short, not because I don't have enough to say but because my hands are shaking and my lips are quivering and I don't want to type the letters that make it all true.  The first Mother's Day without my Mom.  She passed away during open heart surgery in June.  We weren't expecting it.  We fully thought she would go into recovery and we'd all see her afterwards groggy, with a slight smile on her face.  Then the doctor takes us into the small room that families never want to have to go and the next few minutes are a blur of words and tears and ugly sniffles and my siblings and dad sitting in shock with faces I will never forget.

She was the best mom ever.  She always called me honey.  She loved chocolate and hot fudge and only wanted the icing off the top of the cake.  She was an amazing grandma.  She lied and told the grandkids (all twenty-some of them) that her cookies were home-made and they never were.  She hemmed all my pants that were too long and I still look at those pants every time I wear them and think, "she touched these".  She made me stronger and wiser and more patient.  She made me frugal and (sometimes) funny and hard-working.  She taught me how to be a good mom, and step-mom, for she was that, too.


I could write on and on but I can't see the screen anymore and I wouldn't know when to stop writing.

My wish for all of you Mothers out there is to hold onto those babies, big or small, and if you are lucky enough to still have your mom, spend as much time as you can with her, ask her all the questions you've ever wanted to know, and about all the advice you've ever wanted her to give you, because someday you might not be able to.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.  I love you.  xoxoxoxo
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Friday, May 11, 2012

Make a Meaningful List

I'm going through a time, my friends.  I have not shared that my sweet, dear mother passed away last June during open-heart surgery.  I've still not totally accepted that, and with Mother's Day this Sunday, everything is especially raw.   I plan to write about her this weekend, so I hope you'll stop back and read how amazing she was.

For the past several months, I've gone through some heart-to-heart talks with myself.  Since Mom's passing, I've really been able to pinpoint what really is meaningful to me, what inspires me, and what makes me feel passionate and alive.   I decided to help myself remember what really makes my heart sing by making a list.  Losing someone makes you look at what your heart is feeling really, really closely.  While I have many blessings, a beautiful family, and much to be grateful for,  I know I have not put myself first and not done enough of what is meaningful to me.  That is one huge reason why I started this blog.  My list is kind of random, and full of small and big things alike.  Notice that most do not cost a thing, nor are they hard to do.  A common theme is nature.  I never realized until recently how important it is to me.  My goal is to refer to my list often, so I can remind myself how easy it is to make myself feel more whole and ignite those little fires in me that the little things in life can easily do.  Some may not be possible every day, but I can do at least one of these every day.


My Meaningful List

Being by water
Listening to water
Praising sunny skies
Looking at pictures of my children and family
Listening to music--especially solo piano tunes
Seeing anything in nature--flowers, trees, animals
Taking a walk, especially on a trail
Creating--decorating, organizing, making things pretty
Helping others
Getting fresh flowers, planting flowers


Now of course being with my family and friends is incredibly meaningful, but I wanted to make a list of things that didn't rely on anyone else.  How many people are unhappy and unmotivated because they are waiting on or blaming others for their lack of fulfillment?  It is up to each of us to have a meaningful life.  You just have to think about what makes your heart stand at attention.  You know that feeling.  Now, go make your list!

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Monday, May 7, 2012

My Bathtub is a Hair Salon

Our master bathroom has your typical builder garden tub.  It's rarely used.  It's dusty.  It's like a big vast canyon that sits empty 99% of the time.  Until last weekend.

Meet Riley, my six-year old.

She told me she was going to go upstairs and play hair salon and asked if I'd be her customer.  "Sure," I said.  "In a minute."  When I made it upstairs, the hair salon was not actually located in her bedroom, like it had been the many times we've played this before, but in my bathtub.  Here was the setup:

I could have gotten annoyed that 897 items were sitting in my bathtub.  But they were arranged.  They were organized by category.  They had purpose.  There was even a cash register there, clear bags for my purchases, and a shopping cart.  And a little girl with her beautician belt around her waist and missing front teeth, a tilted head, asking me, "What would you like today, ma'am?" I couldn't resist. I got my hair done, makeup applied, and had more bangles and baubles on than Cindi Lauper and Mr. T.  combined.  I left that salon (hey!  it was much less expensive than normal--50 cents after all was totaled!) with a cart-full of goodies, fabulous hair and make-up, feeling totally relaxed.  Isn't that what the sign says?

And, best of all, I shared some fun and giggles with my favorite little girl.  Now that's Meaningful.

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Message Board Magic

A while back I saw a great idea for an easy message board in a magazine (I think it was Fresh Style).  I was amazed at how I never thought of this idea before!  Taking any frame you have +  putting pretty scrapbooking paper behind it=cool message board!

Let me show you the easy steps:

Take a frame you have or buy one the size you want.  If you want it for the wall, you probably want at least a 11" x 14" frame.  You could also use a small one for a message board for your desk, just make sure it is the easel-type that can stand up.

You will need a frame, paper, paper cutter, and some kind of paper adhesive, preferably something you can spread, not glue dots.  I used Scotch's Craft Glue Stick.

Next, take the back off the frame and remove the cardboard, board, or other attractive pictures (if new).   My frame I used was so old all I had to use was the board.  Find scrapbooking paper that matches the colors or theme of the room it is going to be in or just pick something you love.

Turn the cardboard or board over and trace onto the paper.  Cut out the paper.  Then, adhere the piece to the board.  I used a craft glue-stick.  You can piece different papers together if the frame is larger than your paper.

Now, put your board/cardboard back into the frame and admire your easy memo board!

You can write a message, quote, To-Do list, anything!  A dry erase marker works perfectly on it, and easily wipes off to change what you have written.  You can attach a dry erase marker to the top or side of the board with a small piece of velcro.  Magic!

You can also add embellishments, such as ribbon or chipboard letters to add a little pizzazz.

Here are a couple more examples I whipped up:

This was an old frame I had, it's about 16" x 16".  I used two different kinds of scrapbooking paper since one was not large enough.  I also used rick-rack to go over where the different papers met to cover the seams.   I slightly distressed some chipboard letters and voila!  An easy, inexpensive message board.

This frame originally looked like this:

But I quickly gave it a coat of acrylic paint, sanded it a little, and stenciled my daughter's initials on scrapbooking paper.  So now it looks like this:

These are so easy to make and also would make an inexpensive little gift!  You could even make one for a new mother to have in the nursery to write down the last feeding!  Or as a teacher gift!  If you end up creating your own message board, be sure to send me a pic so I can see it!
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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Color Splash

Who loves color?  Me! Me!  Certain colors make my heart go pitter-patter.  They make me smile and can brighten my mood.  Recently I was in our local grocery store getting a few necessities and stopped in my tracks when I saw this pitcher.  WHOA.  Love this color!  It was part of a display that had many beautiful plates and dishes on it,  so great that I could have bought them all.  Now our grocery store is called a "Marketplace" so they do have some nice home goods, but this tops anything I've seen there!    I am a total sucker for pitchers and especially ones that look like old pottery.  Then, while happily strolling my pitcher around in the cart,  (what did I come in for again?) I whizzed by the floral department and saw these amazing orange-colored tulips.  I knew they were the perfect lucky flowers to go in my new pitcher.  SCORE!  I couldn't wait to go home and put the two together.   Here is the happy little scene on my kitchen table:

Sorry about cutting off the top of the tulip--they wouldn't hold still while being photographed.

Here they are posing at another angle.  Like my curtains in the background?  They are faves of mine from World Market--love that store!  I have that print in some other places in my house that I will soon show you.  One more view of these beauties:

Yes, I purposely bought the colors because I knew they matched my curtains.  You know you've done it too.  :)

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