Friday, May 31, 2013

Cotton Candy Memories

No, I'm not an old coot, rocking on my front porch, watching the world go by, and remembering all kinds of stuff way back to my childhood.  I'm out on my back patio.

Not too long ago, our church had a wonderful celebration in which we basically ate lots of good food, enjoyed each other, and spent some time thanking all the people behind the scenes that keep things running.  It was quite a gala celebration, themed somewhat like a circus.  So, there were balloon creations, lots of razzle dazzle, and plenty of popcorn and cotton candy for everyone.

Son Caleb agreed to be the cotton candy chef, and judging by his smiles, enjoyed every minute of it.  I don't even know what the amusement parks charge nowadays for one of those cotton candy poofs, but on this day it was free.  And, you could go back for more, and more, and more.

By the end of the event it appeared that he was wearing as much as he was loading onto those little paper cones.

Although he did his best to make cone after cone of the tasty stuff, the guy in this little video is a true cotton candy artist.  See if you don't agree.

I have a vague recollection - I was just a little girl - of the first time my Dad shared some of his cotton candy with me.  I remember him showing me how to carefully pull off a smallish clump and then stuff the whole thing in my mouth.

What a surprise to find it suddenly gone!  I remember thinking that he had pulled some sort of magic trick on me.

Then he showed me that if you carefully stuff the whole wad into your mouth so that it touches nothing on its way in, you stay sort of clean.  Of course, he reminded me to lick my "grabbing" fingers clean, too.

This girl does not have the hang of eating cotton candy properly.  Maybe she didn't have a fine teacher like I did. No doubt about it, she will truly be a mess when she's all done.

When our four children were youngsters, then, we carefully taught them the fine process of eating cotton candy, continuing the great legacy my father started.

In summers, we would occasionally make an outing to the nearest amusement park, Knoebel's Family Amusement Park, where inevitably the kids would see and want a package of cotton candy.

Although I was one of those mothers that tried my darndest to feed them healthy meals and snacks, the husband/lover/sabotager always promised them EACH a package for the drive home if they behaved during our adventure.  Dangit, they were angelic then.

So, on our way out of the park, we would pass by that stand where the pink, blue, and purple bags of cotton candy were hanging.  With great deliberation each of the kids would decide on a color and then find the biggest bag of that color.

Let me say, it was always a very quiet and relaxing trip home.  Except for a few occasions in which Caleb, the youngest of the four, accidentally stuck his wad into the side of one of his sister's hair.  Then there was hollering and pushing and shoving, and ultimately scary threats from Dad.

By the time we got home from the park, we had four bags with those dead cotton candy crumbs, like this:

There were four baths and head washings that evening, too.

Ahh, memories.  We had lots of fun with our kiddos on those days.

I'm sure the kids went to bed, dreaming of sugar plums gargantuan rolls of cotton candy that don't disappear after two minutes:

Not too long ago, I noticed a foil type package containing cotton candy available for sale in a department store.  That's just not right.  Not the right flavor or look.  No cone nor real cotton candy experience.

There are just some some things in life you shouldn't mess with.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

DIY Patriotic Flowers

It still needs something.
It seemed to me that my Memorial Day / Fourth of July mantel still needed a little sumthin sumthin.  Because most of the items were store bought, I felt that the display was needing a little life.

Pinterest is my friend.  I searched for home decor ideas for July 4th and found a tutorial for making paper flowers.  Let me give credit here to Kelly Rowe at her blog, Live Laugh Rowe, for her creative use of scrapbooking paper to make these happy flowers.

First gather up your supplies.  You will need:

colored papers

several round stencils (or different sized cups and coins to trace)


paper punch or other sharp tool to make holes in paper

small brads

florist wire

colored tapes (optional)


1.  Trace circles onto your colored papers and cut them out.  I used three colors per flower.

2.  Using your paper punch or other sharp tool (I used a tiny eyeglass screwdriver), punch a small hole in the center of each circle.

3.  Make several cuts in towards the center of each circle.  Do not cut all the way to the hole.  Fold each "petal" in half towards you.

4.  Layer the three pieces and use a small brad to connect them.

5.  There are two different methods to use to attach the stem wire to the back of the flower.  One way is to use a piece of colored tape to secure the wire onto the flower.

The other method is to fold the wire in half and then feed the two ends down behind the brad ends.  I primarily used this system, because I wasn't convinced I liked the look of the tape on the back.

That's really all there is to this simple and cheap craft.  Load them into a jar or vase and you're all set.

I added this previously empty pot of flowers to my mantel, and yes, I do think they added that little extra zing that was needed.  

Yup, that's much better now.

Now I need to find some red, white, and blue recipes.

Stay tuned.  Stay hungry.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Postcards From St. Lucia: Jill, Get a Grip!

It's over.  Vacation is behind.  It is done.  Finis.  Surgery is ahead.  Jill, get a grip!

(Isn't reality brutal sometimes?)  I've been unsuccessfully trying to distract myself from the fact that I am home and St. Lucia is still down there somewhere, by continually looking at our vacation photos.  However, real life keeps creeping in.

There are two other mouths in this house that want to be fed on a regular schedule.

There are laundry piles that grow even if I refuse to acknowledge that they are there.

Somebody keeps messing up the house, even though it was clean when I left on vacation.

There are dishes piling up in the sink.

That darn grass keeps growing, and the marigolds need dead-heading.

There are bills that need to be paid.

So I am allowing myself this one last sharing of Postcards From St. Lucia: Wildlife.   Then I must face real life or get busy planning the next trip .

I've already shown plenty of shots of underwater life from a previous post so I won't show more of those.  We did see a few other interesting animals throughout our stay, though.

We often saw natives riding their horses along the ocean's edge.  On one of our excursions, our guide explained that many of the young men there own a horse, just as we might own a dog for a pet.  To them it is somewhat of a status symbol.  These riders were trying to find vacationers that might pay for a watery ride.

We noticed a family of cats that seemed to be living on the resort.  A staff member gave us the inside scoop, telling us that Sandals actually feeds these cats.  Apparently having a few cats on the property helps to eliminate undesirable rodents.

One day we were lounging around the pool.  I looked up into the tree above me and saw this colorful guy.  Upon further examination, we discovered several other family members of his elsewhere on the same tree.

Lizards were everywhere.  Well, not in our room this time, like they were last year in Jamaica and previously in Trinidad.  They blend in so well with their surroundings most of the time, that you aren't usually aware they are even there unless they move.

And whoops - a native stuck this grasshopper in my face one day, expecting a contribution.  There is obviously some real poverty in St. Lucia, and some people will do just about anything to make a buck.

We saw this fish while visiting Marigot Bay on the western coast of the island.  Its length was about 18 inches or so.

These little black and yellow birds were often seen flitting about, sort of how we see plenty of common sparrows in Pennsylvania.

A couple of times we spotted hermit crabs, even crawling across our patio at times.  Finding them always delighted us, as we've previously only seen them sold up on the boardwalk in the surf shops at the New Jersey beaches.  I don't know exactly why, but they always made me smile when I'd see them moseying along, heading who knows where.

On our last morning there, this bird arrived to say farewell and to wish us well.  Perhaps a reader can identify this bird for us.

Ok, I'm done.  The vacation is but a memory, and certainly a good one, but it's time to move forward. 

It's time to cook some meals, wash some dirty laundry, tidy up the house, and pay those bills. 

"Learn a lesson from your dog.  No matter what life brings you, kick some grass over that sh*t and move on."  - Unknown

 Ok then.  Moving on.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Backpacking With Sheila

This past weekend the husband/lover/best friend and I spent time with daughter Lindsay and SIL Todd, looking after her as she recovered from cancer surgery.  I'm glad to report that finally today she is starting to feel much better and is contemplating returning to work tomorrow.  She will receive the pathology results Thursday from the mass that was removed from her neck.

Daughter Sarah and SIL Lance also joined us and helped us nurse Lindsay and keep Lindsay's little girl Ellie entertained and under control.  Well, mostly.  She is one cute handful of spunk.  Most days she wants nothing to do with eating.  Eating anything.  So then, this was a good day:

Son Caleb and his faithful puppy Sheila went backpacking with two other guys to the Rock Run Logging Trail in Pennsylvania.  They were going to be gone for roughly two days and two nights.

So naturally this Momma had lots to worry about on several different fronts over the Memorial Day weekend.

Relative to the backpacking adventure, I wasn't really worried about Caleb:

He is very athletically fit.
He is very outdoor savvy.
He carries a firearm in situations where there are wild, unpredictable animals.
He has backpacked before and has quality equipment.
And, he thinks nothing bad will ever happen to him.  (Ah, to be young again.)

However, I was darn near worried sick about Sheila.  Why?

In spite of myself, I've become very attached to her.
She is energetic and curious.
There are snakes in the woods.  Bad snakes.
There are ticks in the woods.
It was predicted to be two unseasonably cold nights.
This is her first backpacking adventure, and she was carrying her own supplies - bedroll and food.
She will run until she drops of exhaustion, because she loves Caleb so much.

I needn't have worried.  They came home happy, safe, and sound.  According to the pictures I was shown of the Rock Run Logging Trail on which they hiked, Pennsylvania certainly has plenty of  hidden areas of beauty.

There were beautiful vistas:

Scenic and interesting waterfalls:

Relaxing "in camp:"

A wildlife visitation:

Porcupine in a nearby tree
The three guys set a campy dinner table:

And apparently, Sheila had the time of her life.

Caleb reported that she loved every moment of the adventure, and was pleased to carry her own gear, too.  He estimates that for every mile they hiked, Sheila ran five.  I am sure that is true, for she slept the next two days.  

As for Caleb, he is already planning their next outing.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Patriotic Decor Is Up!

I.  Am.  Way.  Late.

Usually I have my holiday or seasonal decorations in place well in advance of whatever holiday is approaching, but this time I haven't done so.  Something to do with hanging out in the Caribbean, maybe?

Anyway, my patriotic decorations this year are simple:  a thingy on the front door, some stuff on the mantel, and a few things in the kitchen.  I plan on leaving these items out until after July 4th, sort of like two holidays for the price of one.

I didn't do much this time in the way of crafting.  However, what I am more than excited about is how much I paid for all of these store bought items - very little.  You see, I found most of them last year AFTER the fourth of July, at a 90% off sale.  So, maybe I paid a whopping 30 cents for a stand up metal flag, or an extravagant 40 cents for another.  I even bought some patriotic patterned paper plates and napkins at 10 cents a pack.  All of these items I carefully stored away in one of those large rubbermaid boxes, and it felt like I hit the JACKPOT when I opened the box earlier this week.

I love it when I come across crazy deals like those.

The extent of my crafting for this holiday involved some playing around with (cheap) red, white, and blue bandanas.  First I ironed all the bandanas because they looked a little rough after I brought them home from the Dollar Store.  I wanted to make simple centerpiece placemats for my kitchen table and kitchen island, so I simply attached two bandanas together using several strategically placed pieces of double sided tape.

I carefully positioned the two bandanas and pressed them together.

Then I put my (cheap) store bought centerpiece on the placemat and voila, done.

Maybe these (cheap) paper globes are a bit cheesy, but that's OK; I like them.

So there's all the (cheap) red, white, and blueness you'll find in my kitchen.

But, there were still some bandanas left in the bag, so I started knotting a few together, using simple square knots.

Using a tiny piece of duct tape, I attached both ends of my bandana banner (say that ten times fast) to my mantel, and placed my (cheap) decorations up there and there you have it:

I still have a bit of crafting to do to finish the look the way I imagine it, and I'll share that progress if and when it happens.  As I said, I'm a bit behind for this holiday that has certainly crept up on me.

But for now, the red, white, and blue is out, and I'm ready to remember America's heroes.  Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Postcards From St. Lucia: Under the Water

The husband/lover/beach boy and I had hopes this trip of doing some snorkeling.  During our stay at the Sandals in St. Lucia, we did have the opportunity to take several excursions, and we were fortunate to have good weather = fairly clear waters = a good underwater experience.

A shuttle van took us fifteen minutes south to a little dive shop on the northwestern coast of the island.  The shop was outfitted with all manner of snorkeling and diving equipment, where we were loaned flippers for our excursion.  From there, we boarded a boat that took us another twenty minutes farther down the coast until finally anchoring in a small cove for our adventure.

Although tropical storms over the last several years had done a bit of damage to the reefs, we were still able to see a lots of vibrantly colored coral in spots.

It's just a whole other world down there, and the delight of it all is that every which way we turned, there was always something new to see.

Moray eel

All too soon, the boat blew its horn and unfortunately, that meant everybody All Aboard.  I swear we were only in the water a few moments, but in fact, we had been snorkeling for about 45 minutes.  Truthfully, any more than that and I would have not have avoided a nasty sunburn.  

I'm sure I've heard it said many times that "there are other fish in the sea," and so hopefully some day I'll get back down there to see more of them.  But for now, this old gal is staying on terra firma.