Friday, November 30, 2012

From One Thing to the Next...

Our recent family Thanksgiving getaway to the cabin in the woods was jam packed full of fun family adventures.  We all enjoyed our time there in our most favorite ways.

Some of us simply enjoyed sitting by the fire and reading a good book or catching up on old newspapers.  Others enjoyed some fiercely competitive games.  There were hikes and outdoor adventures too.  And there was baking of goodies for all to enjoy.  (Not enough of that though, in my humble opinion.)  A future blog post may have to explain.  Stay tuned.

Today I'll just show you a smidgeon of our fun times.

Goofy girls playing addicting games
S'mores, s'mores
Knitting baby caps to donate to the hospital
The twins were so excited to paint the clay horses in a kit they had brought along.  After 3 days of anticipation, the package was finally opened.  Unfortunately, both horses were missing their heads.  When the girls saw them, they looks on their faces appeared as if the world had just ended.  

Happy (their grandfather) came to the rescue with special horse repairing glue and wrinkle removing files.  

Before long the horses were as good as new, heads back on and ready to paint.  Happy was definitely their hero that afternoon.  Those girls sure are wild about horses.

Here we see the girls getting all bundled up and ready to take a 4-wheeler ride through the woods.  

And ready to rock and roll.

Brianna and dad Eric
To top off a great vacation, we woke up the last morning to our first snow of the season.  It always looks prettier in the woods than in the cities, I think.  

Hard to believe it but today ends November.  I suppose tomorrow officially starts the big countdown until Christmas day.  

I'll be leaving first thing in the morning on my 7 hour solo drive to northwestern Ohio.  Daughter Sarah will be having some major surgery in a few days, and so I'll be helping by offering mom / nurse / cooking / washing / cleaning / shopping duty for her.  Say a prayer for Sarah if you are so inclined.  We would be very grateful.  I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Aggressive Wildlife!

Hello again!  We are finally back to civilization after a week in the wilds at the family cabin.

There was family, as many as 10 plus the puppy, all at once.  There was lots of food, fun, crafts, and games.  Farkle was the new game of the season.  Let me announce to all and remind my opponents again that I won the first and only game of it that I played.  Yup.  Decisively.

There were movies.  We watched a relatively new light-hearted Christmas movie together, "Arthur Christmas."  Later then, after the kiddos were in bed, we watched Denzel Washington's latest movie, "Safe House."

Keep in mind that in order to watch a movie in our non-electric cabin, it takes a bit of genius and pre-planning.  We "needed" a flat screen TV; we brought the one from our bedroom at home.  We needed a DVD player.  Check.  We needed a deep cell marine battery.  Heavy, but worth the lug.  Check.  And finally, an inverter was required to make it all work.  Check.

When not in use, we hide the TV behind the one bedroom door.  For some reason, having a TV too obvious in our very remote cabin just doesn't seem quite right.  Aren't we ridiculous?

Sometimes we make Jiffy Pop popcorn on the stove to go with the movies, but this time we made s'mores in the fireplace.  Lots of s'mores, actually.  It's a wonder any of us slept that night after all that chocolate.  Totally worth it though.

And, we had numerous exceptional wildlife sightings, including a very large bear that would appear around dusk or dark each day, and spend quite a bit of time snooping around and napping behind our cabin.

We got some pretty good up close looks at this bear, and we estimate it was weighing nearly 300 pounds.  We had several unresolved debates as to whether it was a big guy, or a big pregnant gal.

It was fun to watch the granddaughters go to the window every 10 minutes or so, and wield the big flashlight to look out and see if he was still there.

At breakfast the one morning my parents reported that they had heard lots of bumping and scratching on the outside wall of the cabin (which is also one of their bedroom walls).

Over the years we have had quite a lot of evidence of bears chewing on and clawing up the wood on the outside of the cabin.  Apparently they do this as a way of marking their territory.  They have also snacked on the seats of our 4-wheelers on occasion.

Here is a picture of the back corner of our cabin.  In the picture you can clearly see some of the chewed areas and claw marks from bears.  The heavy duty bars over the windows are simply our protective bear bars.  Without them, we know that a determined bear, smelling our good food, would have no trouble breaking in and causing injury and damage if he had a mind to get in.

While we were packing up to leave on our last day, we noticed more fresh bear scrapes on the side of the cabin where we park the vehicles.  Here they are:

It's always an adventure with nature up there, but we love it, and feel very fortunate to have our special place in the woods.

There was also a very friendly buck that kept making an appearance.  I guess he just wanted to join in the family fun.

Maybe he was avoiding the deer hunters.  He offered to help decorate our little "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree.

So much fun!  Stay tuned, there are more adventures from our Thanksgiving holiday to come!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Thanksgiving Feast For the Tiny Ones

Back about a week before Thanksgiving, I had the great blessing of being invited to attend my tiny granddaughter Ellie's pre-school Thanksgiving feast.  Her father Todd and I arrived at the school shortly before 11:30 AM.  We made our way through the hallways to the pre-toddler room where Ellie (17 months old) was busily playing in some sort of a rocking boat toy with 3 other little ones.

When she saw us, she quickly climbed out and gave us her very cute and shy greeting.  It's funny - little kids have no clue about partying.  She has no idea that today is her holiday party, she's just happy to see her daddy and I in the middle of the day.  Not only that, she could care less about the fact that many mothers and staff members have put a lot of work into preparing and arranging an extensive buffet of traditional Thanksgiving dishes.

At some predetermined moment, the director of the facility indicated that we should get in line and pass by the food table.  Let me say here - one year olds do not get in any sort of lines.  They run toward and scramble up into the arms of a parent at the first notion that the parent is moving in the direction of the exit door.  Food is secondary.

However, what a spread of culinary delights it was!  Several platters of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing (who's kidding who - little kids don't eat stuffing), corn, green bean casserole, rolls, cookies, cakes, pies, and rice krispie treats (that mother knows what kids like).

So we brought back a full plate of good food for Ellie, and cut it all up carefully into tiny toddler sized pieces.

On the plate was a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and it all smelled and looked delicious.

Ellie wanted to sit in her usual spot in the classroom feeding table, a special kiddy table with 8 molded seats.  She took a few glances at her food plate, but she was mostly concerned that Daddy wouldn't stray too far.  She also REALLY wanted her bottle.

Looking around the room at the other toddlers, it was amazing to watch the variations in personality and behavior.  Some were oblivious to the fact that a parent was there, some needed to be held the entire hour.  A few children ate as if they hadn't eaten for a week, and then there was Ellie who ate all of two tator tots.  Only.

The bottle and the hand of Dad were exciting enough for Ellie, and before long it was nap time.  The caregivers turned on the lullaby music, diapered the little ones one by one, and laid each down onto their cots with their own special blankets.

Messy plates were put away, and one by one the parents made their exits.

I don't think this Thanksgiving Day feast resembled at all that very first one so many years ago, but for me it was pretty darn special to spend it with Ellie.  I sure do love that little girl, and I'm so thankful she has come into our family.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Cornucopia: Kiddie Game #2 / Table Decor

We are packing the bags.  Loading the truck.  "Over the river and through the woods, to" the family cabin we go.  Every possible thing we will need must be brought along, as it is QUITE a long ways down and out from our quiet mountaintop retreat.

And the kiddies must be thought of.  With no electricity or television, we make up our own fun.  Playing games together at our cabin over the years has left me with many, many fond memories of good times.

Then last night I was notified by daughter Rachel, that the twins are beside themselves, giddy with excitement to go to the family cabin for Thanksgiving.  Last time they went, they were four, and were telling everyone "they were going to the cabinet."  Now they are six, and can read and write a bit.  This.  Will.  Be.  Fun.

In yesterday's post I shared a Thanksgiving game, Turkey Math, that I will be taking along.  We will play that game with the kids while waiting for the turkey to roast, while swooning over the delicious smells permeating the kitchen.

Since I like to pretend on occasion that I am Martha fruitcake Stewart, the grandkids will also be helping me create our table decor, after playing the "Cornucopia" game.   Again, I found what I needed at the local Dollar Store.

Here's what I bought there:

     - two empty cornucopias
     - a package of fake veggies

This is basically a Thanksgiving trivia game.  You could create two teams among your family members, or just play one child against another.  Contestants take turns answering a trivia question about Thanksgiving ( Pilgrims, Indians, Mayflower, etc.)  

When I was a Sunday School teacher years ago, I would team up the girls vs. the boys and use this game around Thanksgiving to review details about the lesson taught that day.  I always had two prizes, though, in order to avoid conflicts.  However, the "winning" team picked their prize first.  Gotta have that incentive, you know!

If the given question is answered correctly, the player adds a veggie to his cornucopia.  If incorrect, play passes to the opponent.

At the end of the questions, the team having the most fully loaded cornucopia wins.  And then, they can be used as decorative table centerpieces, and the kids will feel special.  How easy is that?  

I'm all about simple and quick, and this idea literally took me all of five minutes in the Dollar Store and then loading the pieces into a zip-loc bag.

Oh, and one last fun thing.  The kiddos will be setting the table and making the utensil packs.  Here's what is needed:

     - fall scrapbook type papers, cut (ahead by an adult) into rectangles 6" x 8"
     - Thanksgiving stickers

Right side out, fold the long edge on the bottom up about 2 inches.  This is to make the pocket for the utensils.

Fold the sides in so they overlap a bit, and apply a sticker.  Load the utensils, lay the packet on the plate and you're done.  Geez, we are just so crafty.  

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!  

"Over the river and through the woods,....."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Thanksgiving Game For the Kiddos: Turkey Math

Soon I'll be heading again up into the mountains to spend several days over the Thanksgiving holiday with family members at our family's cabin.  With no electricity or internet/cell phone capability there, I won't be making any blog posts while there.  Hopefully I'll have some great experiences to share with you all when I return in about a week or so.

I have many fond memories of times spent there over the years celebrating our love for each other and being conscious of our many blessings.  This time the crew there will include my parents, my husband and I, daughter Rachel and her husband Eric and twin daughters Tori and Brianna, daughter Sarah and her husband Lance, and son Caleb and his weimaraner puppy Sheila.  There will be as many as 11 people there at once.

Let's just keep in mind that there is only one bathroom.  Thankfully, it is INSIDE.  Yes, I am thankful this Thanksgiving that we have indoor plumbling at the family cabin in the woods.

In looking forward to spending time with my 6-year-old-cutest-in-the-whole-world-twin granddaughters, I came up with the idea of a turkey game.

Mrs. Snyder closely resembled this.
This idea was ironically inspired by a very unlikely source - Mrs. Snyder, my third grade elementary school teacher.  Strange inspiration, for Mrs. Snyder was perhaps the worst teacher in my entire educational career.  She was witchy mean, scary, and even had a wart on the side of her nose.  Her discipline method was to assign the writing of "I will not talk" written 100, 200, or 500 times, depending on the severity of the infraction.  She did this so frequently that in any spare time we had, we would write sheets full of this sentence, and then trade them with each other as needed, almost like trading cards.  I may have traded 100 "I will not talks" for my friend's potato chips at lunch.  Sort of like a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card.

Anyway, I do remember she had this amazing Thanksgiving visual.  Somehow this gargantuan turkey poster had miraculously detachable and reattachable turkey feathers.  I have absolutely no recollection about its educational objective, but I still remember that phenomenal turkey.

So, here is my game for the kiddos, and feel free to try something similar with your kiddos for those moments when you are waiting for the turkey to land on the dining room table and nothing else is happening.  (Ha!)

I like math, and in my former life I used to teach math at our local college.  On occasion I try to find fun ways to bring the math level down to a child's view, and you can see this previous post on Booger Math as an example.  Today's game is Turkey Math.

The simple supplies I used to make this game are the following:

     - a package of dessert size turkey paper plates
     - a package of about 12 chip clips, multicolors look best
     - 2 dice (or 3 if you want a spare for those wild dice tossing moments when one mysteriously vanishes under the table)
     - scissors

Cut the paper plates into some semblance of a turkey shape, around the given picture, as follows.  Then put the numbers one to six at the spots where wings will be added.

Players take turns by tossing two dice, and placing a "feather" as appropriate.  For example, the player on the left turkey rolled a 2 and a 3.  That player can place a feather onto the 2 spot, the 3 spot, or add them and place a feather on the 5 spot.  One feather per turn.  If a feather is already on all of those spots, game play goes to the next player.  Of course, before each feather is placed, the contestant must say one item for which he/she is thankful.

Players continue taking turns until a turkey is filled.  That player wins.  

For very young children I would use only one die.  Simple number recognition would be enough of a challenge.

I'm looking forward to my time with the family.  Wonderful people, delicious food,  heavenly relaxation.  And some Turkey Math, too.

Thank you, Mrs. Snyder.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

I know You Shouldn't Judge By Appearances, But....

.....I sure wanted to yesterday.  I was sitting in the Lititz Family Cupboard having my predictable breakfast - a cheese omelot.  As I waited for my food, I did what I usually do when I am bored, I began people watching.

Note:  The two photos I am including in this blog post are images from Google, not the actual people I will be writing about.  I chose them to make an obvious contrast.

I was drawn to watch two seemingly very different women.  The first was the young waitress assigned to my table and the others in my vicinity.  I had plenty of time to observe her as she made her rounds, took orders, and served meals.

In all of her dealings with her customers she was warm, cheerful, and made pleasant small chitchat.  Obviously some of the customers were regulars, and I overheard her asking some of them about family news.

Her eyes sparkled, she smiled A LOT, and I even heard her humming as she walked by my table on her way to the kitchen.

She easily gave the appearance of being a happy and kind person.  I kept telling myself that I shouldn't judge her by her appearance, and I reminded myself that perhaps being smiley and friendly is her best strategy for maximizing her tips, but even so, looking in her eyes I saw kindness.

My twelfth grade English teacher taught us to never use the word "nice" in any writings, but dang, this girl was nice.

Then I noticed across the aisle from me two woman having their breakfasts, an elderly woman and perhaps her adult daughter.  From the moment I first looked at the elderly woman, I felt convinced that she was mean-spirited, grumpy, and obviously bitter.

This woman ate facing away from her younger companion, and had a look of such utter unhappiness, that I found myself wondering what very difficult life events caused her to look like such a sourpuss.

Not only that, she appeared to be a demanding customer.  She repeatedly asked for corrections and modifications to her meal, and never once did I see her thank the waitress.  I imagined that it would be easy for a server to lose patience with such a person.

I drifted into thinking about my very own face.  Do people look at me and make judgements based on my countenance?  Would a person hesitate to start a conversation with me based on the look on my face?  Or, would someone feel comfortable in my presence, just by looking at my face?

I know that there are many that have had very hard life trials and yet still have kind faces.  Somehow they have risen above all of the griefs, stresses, and disappointments, and still have kindness left in them toward others.  They still can offer a smile to one who needs it.

Finally, after enjoying my meal, I called my waitress over and said I had a few questions for her.  She smiled and patiently told me that the "grumpy lady" over there is a regular customer.  She explained that although the lady looks mean and does tend to be difficult, once in a while they have been able to crack a small smile out of her.

So there you have it, just as I knew.  That is, you canNOT judge a person by his or her appearance, but I am surely tempted to do so sometimes.

I'm not usually a matchmaker, but I promptly asked my server if she would come home with me and marry my eligible son.

She smiled and laughed and politely and kindly thanked me, but told me that she's already happily married.

I'm not surprised.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Postcards From Tioga-Hammond Lakes: A Legendary Diner

We've been to this diner before, several times in fact, so since we were camping in the general vicinity we had to visit the Wellsboro Diner for a good meal.  Found right on the Main Street in the center of town, this is a very popular and well known eatery for both the locals and the tourists passing through on their way to visit the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.

The view from inside the front door
According to the information on the menu cover, The Wellsboro Diner was manufactured by the J. P. Judkins Co., Merrimac, Massachusetts.  Originally called The Sterling Diner, it is made of porcelain inside and out, and was numbered car 388.  (It was built in 1938 and was the 8th diner car produced that year, thus car #388.)

Long and narrow, it contains just a counter and one length of booths.  We were seated in one of the window booths, which allowed us to watch the food prep going on behind the counter and do some people watching out our windows too.  Perusing the menu, I saw that the restaurant had been established in 1839.  It boasted that "owner Nelle Rounsaville serves sumptuous home cooking with more than ample portions to all hungry guests."

Studying the place as I waited for our food to come, a couple of things caught my eye.  One was the soup flip chart announcing the soups of the day:

Clever way of listing the daily soups
Another was the pie case under the glass counter directly across the aisle from the booth we sat in.  There had to be about a dozen or more pies overflowing their pans, all sitting there looking at me.  The pie blackboard named one as Bumble Bee Pie, which I had never heard of.  The waitress explained that it is an apple/cherry/raisin pie.  Unfortunately I was unable to capture a photo of that glorious cabinet, as another customer decided to pick the stool overlooking the pies for his dinner spot.  I suppose he had plenty of chance while eating his dinner to decide on his dessert choice.  If I was sitting in that spot, I would have just had to have my dessert first.  Heck, maybe even two.  Hell, maybe just eat lots of pie and call it dinner.

Well I've mentioned in previous blog posts how much I enjoy eating at diners, and even though this was not our first visit to the Wellsboro Diner, it was another tasty experience.  

Of course I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for our next diner experience, but somehow I'm sure we'll return someday to this one.  It was satisfyingly good.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Things That Trip My Trigger....

....tickle my fancy, turn me on.  Today I simply want to share with you a miscellaneous variety of  photos from my collection.  For whatever reason, I experience a small surge of happiness whenever I come across these little bits of delight.

Here we go.

Mini airstreams -
     What is it about these little silver bullets that I find so cool?  They are ungodly expensive and they don't exactly blend in with the environment, although how many campers nowadays really do?  I'm just so fascinated with them and the fact that they last practically forever.  Here's a little guy parked near me recently in a shopping center lot.

I think this is the Bambi model.
Unique campers -
     I get a kick out of the imagination some folks use to accomplish their goal of camping.

Really old campers
     We saw this next one at the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum of Early Aviation and Local History in Hammondsport, New York several weeks ago.  Glenn Curtiss developed this streamlined travel trailer in 1929.

Seeing how people did their chores long, long ago
     We saw this old washing machine at the same museum.  I think I'd rather just go down to the creek and take care of the washing there.

Unexpected wildlife sightings
     We saw this bear coming out of the brush one day last month while camping in the Tioga-Hammond Lakes area of northern Pennsylvania.

Delight on the grandchildren's faces
     There was some fun at my house on a recent after school game session.  (Some cheating too.)

Twins Brianna and Tori playing Smash the Gopher

Discovering really old stuff in the "undergarments" of my home
     This wallpaper was recently uncovered in an ongoing office renovation project in our house.

Uniquely cool birdhouses
     We saw this one in a hardware store in the Amish area near Berlin, Ohio this past June.

Here is a another look at how it is constructed.  I am showing this so hopefully the husband/lover/best friend/birdhouse builder can take note.

Finding a new diner to try
     We were recently at a wedding in the Honeybrook, Pennsylvania area and stopped at this recommended diner for a bite to eat on our way home.  The mozzarella cheese sticks and Frickles (fried pickles) were delicious!

Catching a fish, or watching somebody else reeling in the big one
     I don't know who this child is, but I love the delight on his face.  I could put this picture on my wall!

My husband contentedly tinkering with some tools, assembling his new little grill
     A man and his tools, what can I say?  And doing this WHILE CAMPING.  ON VACATION.  It can't get much better than that, right?

Geez, I'm practically doing the happy dance today!

How about you?  What trips YOUR trigger?