Saturday, August 31, 2013


As ideas were bouncing around my head for a post this week, it occurred to me to pull out my phone and see what I had taken pictures of over the last week.  Having an iPhone has made it way too easy to snap pictures of little things that strike my fancy throughout the day.  It's actually a nifty visual journal of where my mind stops and rests throughout the week. 

As I perused my pics, two things occurred to me that I might write about.  Then I realized that they had a common thread - hometowns.  Last weekend we stopped by the hot air balloon festival where my husband grew up.  Technically he was born in Germany where his father was stationed in the military and didn't move back to the states until he was two.  He'll never be president because of this, but he's too honest to be a politician anyway.  We've been going to this annual festival for the past five years.  It's funny that my husband never went as he was growing up.  I heard something about it on the radio five years ago and mentioned it to him.  He said, "Oh, yeah, they have that every year.  I've never been.  We should go."  We live about 35 miles from where he (mostly) grew up and graduated from high school. 

There's always a large craft festival and flea market there, but we don't always go for that.  We've done it in the past, and it is lots of fun.  What we make sure we never miss is the hot air balloon launch at the airport.

Last year's launch

And two years ago in front of Nemo...
Trying to spot all the balloons from the guide...
Our daughter took this one...
Beautiful, no?
We got there a little later than we usually do this year.  Our daughter had a football game to cheer at, so we only made it for the night glow this year.  They usually have one character shaped balloon each year.  We always try to guess what it will be.  This year they had two.

This guy...
and Peg Leg Pete
I wanted one picture with the kids in it.  It was dark so it's not the best.  At least I got it.  I'm thinking we need a new, fancy camera...
Now as for my hometown...
This weekend was my 25th high school reunion.  No, I didn't go.  It's really not my kind of thing (see the name of my blog).  I ended up in my hometown (also about 35 miles away from us in a different direction) this week anyway.  My brothers are both musicians and songwriters on the side.  Although I play a little piano and guitar, I am the Ashley Judd to their Naomi and Winona.  LOL.  They've teamed up of late and have had a couple of gigs.  I was able to make it to this one.  I'm not a big go out during the week person, but I can usually manage a Thursday with the weekend in sight.
Older and younger bros rocking it out - I'm the middle child and only girl.
My older brother has recently put out a CD of original songs.  You can check out one of my favorites of his here.  His return to songwriting and sharing it with others actually partially inspired my return to writing and beginning my blog.  I really admire someone who is brave enough to put original work out into the world.  It's a scary proposition sometimes. 
He wrote a song about the town where we grew up on his new CD called City of Roses.  One of the lyrics from it is, "I have no love affair with my hometown/Still, it's fair to say I hate to see them beaten down."  I feel similar about my hometown -somewhat scornful and partially protective.  I never wanted to live there after I left home.  But there is a feeling of going home there for me. My parents and other family still live there.  I'm lucky to have that. 
I think a lot of people have ideas, maybe some judgments, about you when they hear where you grew up.  My hometown probably doesn't impress anyone.  It might do exactly the opposite sometimes.   Another of my favorite songwriters put it just so about his hometown, "I grew up a Catholic boy/In a northeastern state/A place when asked where you from/Some people tend to hesitate/ Reply a little bit late/As if maybe you didn't rate."  Yeah, I've had people give me that look when I tell them where I grew up.  For better of for worse, where you grew up shapes who you are, but it doesn't define who you become unless you let it.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Blueberries and Banana Bread

Whew!  What a busy two weeks it's been!  Starting a new school year is exhausting.  I haven't written anything since my postmortem on summer.  You can check that out here.

Saturday mornings are about putting the house back together now that I'm back to work full time.  After breakfast it is time to vacuum, mop, clean bathrooms, and sort and start laundry.  I do not enjoy cleaning my house.  In fact, I hate it.  But I can also only live with so much clutter and disorder. This Saturday I was about to hop in the shower after cleaning my part of the house when I realized I couldn't because my husband was cleaning said shower.  I came back down to the kitchen and saw my black bananas on the counter.  Time to throw in a loaf of banana bread. 

When I did my ode to bread and butter earlier this summer, I made mention of my love of a loaf of banana bread.  I love the way it makes my house smell.  I love to give a loaf of it to people.  I love to eat the end piece.  If it is banana bread we are keeping, I usually cut off both ends first and eat them myself.  That works out just fine.

I used to make a banana bread recipe from the Cake Mix Doctor that made two loaves.  There are people in my life who loved this recipe, and they always received the second loaf.   It wasn't my fave, though.  I recently found a recipe for Julia's Banana Bread at Cannella Vita that I adore. You can find her recipe here.  It is moist, dense, dark and full of flavor.  I wish there were more than two ends on this loaf.  My twist on it is to add blueberries.  Not just any blueberries.  Seriously. 

We weren't finished picking when I took this picture!  They have to last us all year!
When our kids were one and three, we started going to a u-pick blueberry farm close by.  We've gone every year since except last summer.  Alas, there was a late spring cold snap that killed the whole blueberry crop that year.  When I found out, I almost cried.  Luckily we had about seven bags in our freezer that we rationed through the whole next year.  There is nothing like fresh, local blueberries.  Once you've had them, you'll realize that blueberries from the store, fresh or frozen, have almost no taste at all.  So we tend to pick a lot of them when we go in late June/early July. Like an "I-have-to- write-a-check" for the amount lot because the amount of cash I'm willing to carry around doesn't cover it. We freeze them and eat them all year long in banana bread, waffles, pancakes, and oatmeal.  So good.
My husband and daughter washing and storing them in freezer bags = yummy goodness all winter long!

I add about a 3/4 of a cup of our frozen blueberries to this banana bread recipe which just takes it to a whole new level.  Whenever I do this, it reminds me of all the years we've been going to this farm.  This makes me smile on a cold January Saturday.  Our kids have grown up doing this every summer and look forward to it.  Every family needs traditions, and this is one of our favorites.  Now I've just got to share some pictures of us doing this over the years.

My son was in a stroller the first year we went...
...and here he is this summer helping us pick (while he eats)!
This was his first experience with blueberry pancakes.  He is my picky eater, but he has always loved blueberries.  He will eat the frozen ones right out of the bag.
My daughter and I the first year...
...and this summer!
As I write this, the timer is counting down and my house is smelling wonderful.  I guess it wasn't so bad I couldn't get in the shower.  I'll be taking out my blueberry banana bread in a few minutes. Mmmmmm... 



Saturday, August 10, 2013

How I Spent My Summer Vacation - Top Ten List

I go back to work next week.  Yes, I am a teacher.  I don't assign the "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" to my students each year.  They're a little young for that.  I have decided to assign it to myself, however, as my break comes to a close.  I can sum it all up with this Calvin and Hobbes cartoon I found.

No, guys, there's not. You're so wise.

I am using "nothing" in a humorous way here because I feel like I've accomplished a great deal this summer.  I'm not sure it would mean a lot to someone else, but isn't that kind of the point?  It's about the living you do when you're not earning a living.  Here's my top ten list.

10. I went on a family vacation to Michigan.  You can read all about that here.  It was one of the best trips we've taken.  Great family memories made.

9. I began a love affair with a thrift shop.  It rages on.  You can check that out right here.  Blogger actually tells me this is my most-viewed blog post.  That might have something to do with the fact that it was one of my earliest ones, and I hadn't figured out how to not track my own page views.  Oh, well! 

8. I exercised on our treadmill.  Regularly.  Not like I do during the school year.  I'd like to think I can keep this up once school starts.  We'll see.  Although I hate to exercise, it does give me a chance to reflect on things and clear out the cobwebs.  Check out my one of my epiphanies on the treadmill here .

7. We went blueberry picking.  This is a tradition for us.  I didn't do a post about this, but it's knocking around in my head somewhere.  It'll get done one of these days.  Until then, here's a pic.

He eats more than he picks.

6. I saw every kids' movie that came out this summer, I think. This says a lot about the phase of life I am currently enjoying.   From Epic to Monsters U to Turbo, we did them all.  I love going to the movies with my family. 

5. I celebrated my 11th wedding anniversary.  Our neighbors volunteered to watch our kids for which I am so grateful.  Here we are in a picture taken by our ten year old before we went out for the night.
Things just keep getting better on this front. :)
4. I tackled the art of making bread.  I probably won't have much time to do it after school starts, but maybe I can squeeze it in on the weekends once in awhile. 
3. We took another long weekend trip to St. Louis which I blogged about here . This was another fun trip that I'm glad we managed to fit in.
2. I learned how to sew which I wrote about here .  This was something I have wanted to do for a long time.  It was time to get busy living.  So glad I did.
1. I started this blog,  I wrote about what my intentions were for starting this blog here .  I still have  much to learn, but it has been so satisfying for me.  I've fallen in love with writing all over again.  This has been one of the best things about this summer.  I'm really hoping to keep up with it during the school year. 
So there you have the highlights of my "nothing".  I didn't make money doing any of these things which is why some might classify them as "nothing".  But to do that misses the point.  I think that  living your life only makes you better at the way you make your living.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Tale of Two Skirts

For the longest time I have wanted to learn how to sew.  I love clothes and am enthralled at the thought of being able to make my own.  I attempted to teach myself a few times and ended up frustrated and defeated.  Last summer I attempted to help my daughter put together a felt owl that was an American Girl sewing craft.  It was all pre-cut and even had holes punched out where you were supposed to sew it together. We managed to finish it in the end, but there was many times I thought I might send that felt owl (ironically) flying across the room.  I am not a visual person.  Blue prints and diagrams confuse me.   Sewing machines intimidate me with their tome-like instruction manuals full of these aforementioned things.  Sewing things by hand takes infinite patience which is not a trait I come close to possessing.

I did not take home ec in high school.  I wasn't required to at the time.  I think it would have been difficult for me even if I had been forced to take it.  I do much better in a one on one situation for things like this.

This summer I decided I was going to learn, even if I had to pay someone to teach me.  A friend of mine told me about a sewing shop where his granddaughter had taken classes and made a few things.  His granddaughter is eight.  Perfect.  That was just what I needed -someone to explain it to me like I was about eight.

When I called the shop I explained to the teacher that I knew nothing.  I was a complete beginner.  I was the Jon Snow of sewing (gratuitous Game of Thrones reference). I told her, "If I could just learn to make a skirt, I would be thrilled."

When I showed up for my first lesson, my teacher talked me through how to read a pattern.  She explained terms like grain and bias and why they are important.  I was there for over an hour and by the end, I felt like my head was going to explode. It was a ton of new information.  But I was so excited.  I actually called my husband on the way home and said, "It was awesome!"  I hadn't sewn one stitch, but I definitely knew I had learned something.  I had traced my pattern and cut it out at the lesson.  She sent me on a mission to pick out fabric and cut it out according to the pattern.  I bought some good pins and the pattern she had thought would be a good one to start with.  She charged me zero for the lesson.

I bought my fabric and some good scissors.  And I went to work.  This is why I was sure I had learned something.  I actually knew what to do!

My pattern that I had traced and cut out at the lesson
As I pinned my fabric to the pattern, I found myself thinking that I couldn't believe it was going to be this easy.  Why hadn't I asked for help years ago?
Three simple pieces - that's all there is to it!
When I went back the second time, I actually got to use the machine.  I finished the edges of all the pieces.  When she explained how to use the machine and then looked at me like, Go ahead, you got this, I was a bit incredulous.  Just go for it?  I was pretty sure I would screw it up   But I went ahead and realized it was possible.  $15 for this lesson.
For my third lesson, I sewed the pieces together and finished it.  I kept thinking I was going to get to a point where I would not be able to do the next step, but guess what?  I never did.  I finished the whole darn thing.  Charge for this lesson?  Zero.  "You did it mostly yourself," she told me, when I asked her if she was sure she didn't want me to pay her. 
I've wanted a gray and yellow skirt for a while.  I really like the combination of those two colors, but I couldn't find an already made version of what I was looking for.
Fourth lesson?  I made the whole skirt in one session.  My teacher was there for me to check with at each step.  There was one thing I almost skipped, but she reminded me I had to finish the top and bottom first.  Cost for the lesson - zero.

Chevron - it's everywhere right now!  I like how this orange and white goes with my denim jacket.
I'm ready to start a third skirt now, and I'm also ready to start looking at other patterns.  I'll be looking at the very simple variety.  That's okay.  Even putting together these very simple skirts made me feel powerful -powerful enough that I'm ready to start thinking about buying a sewing machine.  I felt like I could do anything each time I left that store, because I so firmly believed for a very long time that sewing just wasn't something I could do.  I realized during this experience how much I doubt myself when I'm doing something that doesn't come naturally. We are our own worst critics.  I think the feeling of power I got came from proving my own worst critic wrong.



Thursday, August 1, 2013

One Wreath, Three Months

Back in June, I saw several initial wreaths on Pinterest.  I knew I wanted one of these and thought they couldn't be too hard or expensive to make.  I wanted mine to be versatile and change it up every month like I do with the decorations in my house.  The first month was June.  My theme for June is spring flowers and birds.  I picked up a grapevine wreath at Dollar Tree, some fabric daisies, and a wooden letter H from Hobby Lobby, using my handy cell phone app for their 40% off coupon.  I painted the letter a cream color.

In July, I went back to HL for some red, white, and blue flowers (because that's the theme for July in my house) and another H. It was painted red (which will turn out to be useful later). Used my cell phone coupon again. Boom!

I wrote about this one in a post you can find here.

And now it's August.  My house is all about sunflowers in August.  They are my favorite flower and are blooming everywhere at this time of year.  Back to HL to nab one of these ginormous burlap sunflowers.  Cell phone coupon thrice used!  I used the previous beige H from June.


I'm good for another month!  This is about as easy as it gets which is exactly the way I like my crafts.