Thursday, July 31, 2014

Caleb's Baptism

This past Sunday was a very special day for our family.  Our youngest child, Caleb, was happily baptized at our church during the later Sunday morning service.  Purposefully choosing to do this when one is 26 years old almost guarantees that this event will be quite emotional.  And, it truly was.

Many families choose to have their children baptized when they are infants.  However, we have preferred that it would happen when the child himself chooses to do it.  Caleb decided on his own, had his testimony filmed during the week before the baptism, and finally did the deed on Sunday.

If you'd like to see the video of his testimony and the baptism, you can watch it here on the church website's baptism page.  Many people say participating in baptism feels like making a brand new start in life.

How did we celebrate afterwards?  By heading to the Texas Roadhouse restaurant.  The men in the house wanted some very large pieces of meat.

Some things never change.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Back to School Project

I would have to be blind to miss all of the ominous BACK TO SCHOOL preparations going on all around me.

Wal-mart has installed a special center aisle filled with pencils, notebooks, and other supplies right inside the entrance area.  There are school clothing sales being advertised everywhere you look, and my grandkids even notified me that they only have several weeks before....dun dun dun....school starts.

In fact, yesterday when they came over for the day, they were already wearing some of their new Back to School clothing.  Unbelievably, they quietly confessed that they are a little bit excited for school to start.

Recently I had come across a crafty article in the Fall 2014 issue of Do It Yourself magazine.  The featured craft was a Felt Pencil Roll, and with school approaching, I decided try making a few of these.  Besides that, I've been hankering lately for a reason to dust off my sewing machine.

The supplies for this craft are simple.  I needed several small pieces of felt, some colored pencils, about 10 inches of ribbon for each roll, and some matching thread.  Of course I needed my fabric scissors and a tape measure or ruler.

For each roll, measure and cut a 14 by 13 1/2 inch piece of felt.  My grandmother, who taught me how to sew many years ago, always said, "Measure twice, cut once."  She was a wise woman.

Turn up the bottom (along the 14 inches) and sew a 1/2 inch hem.  Then fold that side up to create the pencil pockets.  Pin it in place so that it measures 8 1/2 inches from top to bottom.  Now your roll should measure 14 by 8 1/2 inches.

Next measure and sew lines of stitching to create equally sized pockets for the pencils.  Be sure to backstitch at the top and bottom of each pocket for added durability.

To tie up the pencil roll, sew a length of ribbon at one edge.

Add your colored pencils, roll it up, and tie with a bow or loose knot.

I made three of these pencil rolls, and somehow two of them already walked away with the grandtwins.  I think they are practical and fun for kids, but pretty enough for adults to use, too.

So, to all those of you who are approaching that first BACK TO SCHOOL day, enjoy your freedom while you still have it.

It won't be long now.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I've Finally Made That Controversial Decision

No more programming
Yesterday was the last day of our DISH television subscription.  Yes, we made the decision and cancelled our plan.

That means no tv for us here in our home.  None, zero, zippo, nada.

And do you know what?  We didn't even notice.

For about the last year, we have hardly watched any television at all, and it finally came down to a discussion about how much money was automatically being withdrawn from our account each month.  Although we were paying just about $90 per month, we were probably watching only about 50 cents worth of programming each month, if that.  Frankly, the decision was a no brainer.

Over one year, we will be saving nearly $1080.  That's money that could be enjoyed more by doing some extra traveling, seeing a few Broadway shows, or finding a few new adventures and memories.

Some folks could not imagine living each day without watching television, and I respect that.  For sure, watching or not watching TV is a highly emotionally charged and sometimes controversial subject.  I just chose to spend my time doing other activities.

However, for those of you that know me, you also know that giving up the TV was nearly a non-issue. As you might guess, I don't watch or listen to any news, and I don't read any newspapers or news magazines.  (I can hear you all gasping in horror!)

Why?  Because 99% of all published news has absolutely no bearing on my personal life or my personal goals, dreams, and ambitions anyway.  While most people spend hours reading and listening to hours of irrelevant garbage that clogs up their thoughts and drowns them in discouragement and fear,
I have simply chosen to live a different lifestyle.

As for the other 1% of news that does concern me, I've set up a few regular internet links that I can easily access, using at most 10 to 15 minutes a day.  This is how I've chosen to help guard the health of my mind and emotions.

As published in USA Today, a Nielsen survey reports that less than 5% of U.S. homes watch zero TV.  In 2007, there were 2,000,000 homes watching zero TV;  in 2013 there  were 5,000,000 homes that watched zero TV.  Of these homes, 75% have at least one TV connected to the internet, not to cable or satellite service.

So, I guess you could say that today is a new day for our TV-less household.  Although really, it seems pretty much just like yesterday.

As for that lovely satellite dish out there mounted up on our garage, when we asked the pleasant DISH customer service lady what we should do with it, she said, "Oh keep it.  That's yours.  We don't take them back.  Think of it as a souvenir of your days with DISH television.  Our gift to you."

Wee-oh!  Just what I've always wanted.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

No, I'm Not Going to the Market Today

Web photo
For some odd reason the husband/lover/breadwinner stated last night that I should plan on going to the local weekly Farmer's Market today.  Although I've enjoyed going there many Wednesdays in years past, and in fact made it a regular outing with my children when they were young, now, without any pack mules children to carry all my bags, cantaloupes, watermelons, and corn on the cob, it seems more like work than fun.

Not only that, but as the market has grown over the years, and people are coming from farther and farther away, the parking situation is a serious issue.  A patron can circle around for quite a long time before finding a space, and there's no guarantee it will be anywhere within a comfortable walking distance from the produce stands.

Added to all of that, the weather people are forecasting today to be the hottest day of the summer, with very high humidity.  No thank you.  I'll be staying home in my comfy air conditioned home.  Yes,  I'm a wuss like that.

So, no.  I'm not going to the market today.

Instead, I'll just be thinking of fruits and vegetables.

I'll be thinking of the last time I tried a new vegetable recipe, to be exact.

I used to hate asparagus, or at least thought I did.  I have a particular childhood memory of a night my mother served the family asparagus.  With one quick look, I disqualified it from my "Acceptable to Eat"  foods list, and not one bite was taken.  I seem to remember some sort of standoff between my mother and me in which we both decided we would win "this battle."  To this day I'm not sure who won, but I do remember the skirmish and it wasn't pretty.

Recently I bought a bunch of asparagus, and using a simple recipe I had found on Pinterest, the grandtwins Tori and Brianna helped me prepare some asparagus for that evening's dinner.  They had never experienced asparagus, and at first when I told them what we would be making, one of them asked, "Why would we want to eat a sparrow?"

I started by having the girls cut off the tough ends of the pieces.  They had told me their daddy doesn't let them use knives yet, but I told them things are different with Germalls, and so they carefully used dinner knives to cut off the ends.  No fingers were lost or puppies harmed in the making of this recipe.

They put the asparagus, ends trimmed, into a large ziploc bag.

Into the bag each girl added a squirt or two of olive oil, a spoonful of minced garlic (the kind in a jar), and some salt and ground black pepper.

The bag was zipped closed and then each girl shook the bag for about 15 seconds.  We put the bag into the refrigerator to keep until dinner time.

When it was nearly time to eat, the spears were spread onto a cookie tray and baked at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Delicious.   I will be making asparagus again, and possibly even exploring other recipes using it.

The other good thing is that I have learned to eat a new vegetable now.

Just don't tell my mother, please.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary

On the same day as grandtwins Tori and Brianna and I went to the Crayola Experience (which you can read about in this post if you missed it), we had a wonderful second adventure.

Driving about an hour north from the Crayola place in Easton to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, we arrived at the unassuming Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary.  The website claims this place is FROGS, BUTTERFLIES, AND FUN, and that just about nails it right on the head.

Just to see the delight and wonder on these girls' faces, I knew immediately it had been totally worth the drive and the small entrance fee.

First we entered the frog room.  Ten species of exotic and unique frogs are housed in this room, currently including two Golden Dart Frogs.  The staff seemed to be all excited about those two, as they are thought to be the most poisonous frogs in the world.  However, we were told that in captivity they are not nearly as toxic.

What the girls really wanted to do was find the butterflies, which were in an adjacent large room.  Hundreds of monarchs and a few other varieties were freely flying around in there.  In fact, they were everywhere - on the walls, in the plants, on the floor, and on us!

Brianna and a friend
Tori and her new buddy
There were small foam swabs available for the kids to dip in nectar to feed the butterflies.  At times they were carrying around several on one swab, along with several others stuck on their colorful skirts.  Perhaps they looked like flowers to the butterflies.

We were ushered after a bit into the program room, where we watched a short, informational movie about the entire life cycle of a monarch butterfly - starting with where and how the eggs are laid, and finishing with a full grown winged butterfly.  

A very knowledgeable young man then gave a comical and educational presentation, highlighting interesting things about butterflies and moths that many of us might not know.  For example, did you know that:

 - The monarch butterfly can lay about 250 eggs per day, one egg at a time.

 - Butterflies use their feet to taste sweet substances.

 - They fly at speeds ranging between 12 and 25 miles per hour.

 - Monarch butterflies store a poison that they had ingested by feeding on the leaves of the milkweed foliage in their larva stage.  These toxins provide a poisonous defense against predators such as lizards, birds, and frogs.

The staff member then "dressed" an audience "volunteer" as a monarch butterfly, adding some of the crucial body parts.

Finally, he showed mounts of some very exotic and beautiful butterflies and moths, and talked about their unique features.  I never realized until his presentation that it is often the moths that are actually the more beautiful of the two.

After the program, which totally held the girls' attentions till the very end, we headed back to the other end of the building for one more brief visit in the butterfly room.

It was a great day of adventures and memory making.  Colorful crayons at the Crayola Adventure, and beautiful butterflies and frogs at the Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary.

How does one end a day like this?  In the gift shop, of course.

Brianna appropriately picked a butterfly net and a bug/butterfly container.

Tori, a stuffed animal.  A musk ox.

Of course.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Little Slice of Heaven

I've been unable to keep up my daily blogging routine these days, but I'm not at all feeling guilty about it.  Instead, I've been having adventures with my hubby and grandkiddos, adventures that have been not only enjoyable, but that are creating many memories and future blog fodder.

But in the midst of all the galavanting and adventure seeking, this week I discovered a little slice of heaven, right here on earth.  In fact, it was right here in central Pennsylvania about two miles from my home.

The annual library book sale has been going on for the last four days.  And, I arrived there on the morning of the first day.  You know what that can mean - I was there for the freshest pick of the books.

Here's how it works:  at the door you are given a large heavy duty plastic shopping bag.  You stuff it full of as many books as you can wedge in there, and the price is $20.  Believe you me, I figured out the best of all the permutations and combinations of how the maximum number of books could best be arranged to fit in that bag of mine.

This year the sale was advertised to have approximately 45,000 books, all arranged in clearly marked genres on tables.  As spaces became available on the tables, workers added new books from boxes under the tables.

Although I was basking in the rays of this little piece of heaven on earth, here's how I knew I wasn't totally, really at the pearly gates - just about the time I was done shopping, dripping with sweat from schlepping this HEAVY bag of books up and down all the aisles, when my face was glistening with the high humidity and my glasses were slipping down my nose, when I was ready to go home and do my workout so I could shower, put on some makeup, and style my horribly flat bed head hair - that's when the WNEP Channel 16 television crew approached me to do an interview.  So yes, with a large microphone, a monstrous shoulder camera, and blinding lights, the film crew put me in their spotlight.

And of course, all the other shoppers stopped dead in their tracks to watch the whole thing.  The segment did run that night, and I know that, not because I was watching for it, but because friends starting facebooking that they had seen me and now wanted my celebrity autograph.


Anyway, back to the heaven part.

Here's what I'm currently reading.  Some of these titles have come from my new cache of books, and some from elsewhere.

The Early To Rise Experience, by Andy Traub

     Here's an excerpt from his introduction to the book:  "Your life has been given to you.  You're in charge of you, and yesterday was the last day you pursued average.  Today is your first day of pursuing greatness, and I believe you will achieve greatness.  The first step is simple:  rise early.  Let's learn how."

I do believe that, even though I am retired, if I were to be in the habit of getting up each morning an hour or two earlier than I do, that I would have a much more productive life, and that my family and others would benefit tremendously from this.

Have I mastered this habit yet?  Absolutely not.  Am I still trying?  Yes.  And yes, it is taking me more than 30 days.  I started the book, then was interrupted by several vacations and road trips, and now I've started again back at the beginning of the book.

I'm not giving up, though, because I do believe in this one.

The Witness Wore Red, by Rebecca Musser, with M. Bridget Cook

This is the first person account of the woman who brought polygamous cult leaders to justice.  After attending schooling in her family's Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints school, Musser became the 19th wife of her people's Prophet, 85 year old Rulon Jeffs, in her late teens.

Eventually she pulled off a daring escape, and built a new life and family.  Her later testimony revealed the horrific secrets behind the temple's closed doors, which sent many of the leaders to jail for years, and Warren Jeffs (the new Prophet) to jail for life.

The book is a revealing memoir and a fast paced courtroom drama, and is a testament to the power of one woman's decisions to help her family and ultimately change the world.

The February 2014 issue of SUCCESS magazine 

I picked this up because the cover photo of Gary Vaynerchuk boxing particularly caught my attention.

The article featuring Vaynerchuk was an exclusive excerpt from his new book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook:  How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy, Social World.

I suppose I was attracted to the magazine because I am a fan of kickboxing and boxing, and because my son is a member of Team Beachbody, a network marketing fitness and nutrition business.  Caleb is way more social media savvy than I am, but I do want to learn more and understand it more.  I am convinced that modern businesses MUST learn to use social media for marketing and sales or these businesses will simply go away in time.

And finally, in my cute little purple Kindle, I'm reading The Bear, by Claire Cameron.

This fiction is by a five year old girl and her toddler brother who both have survived a bear attack while camping.  With their parents both dead they survive the best they can until found by other relatives and rescue personnel.

This scary story is based on numerous true accounts of campers having had grizzly bear incidents and attacks in the northwestern parts of Canada and Alaska.

Although I see lots of bears on our property in the mountains of central Pennsylvania, I respect their right to have their home in "my" woods, and I feel no fear of them.  What I am enjoying about this book, though, is the look into the mind of a five year old who is trying to both stay alive and take care of a baby.

So now my book sale purchase has been loaded into my book drawer.  I won't run out of good reading materials for a while.  At least for a week or two or three.

Yes, that's my little slice of heaven, right here, right now.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Construction Crew Arrived and Got 'er Done

We left home for our extended family weekend with all the essentials packed,

along with a bunch of food, clothing, and some other trivialities.  Yes, our property is densely populated with rattlesnakes, and whenever we are doing any sort of outdoor recreation or work, we wear leg protection.  Since extra people were going to be there, we purchased extra leggings just to have everyone safely covered.  

Also taking up a large amount of space in the back of hubby's truck was a very large box containing the parts and pieces of a brand spankin' new ping pong table.  

Several times over the new few days I asked myself how difficult can it be to put together a ping pong table.  

Apparently, fairly difficult.

"There were lots of pieces," they said.

"It's just a ping pong table," I said.  "How hard can it be?"

Apparently, pretty hard.

It was just more than one smart guy could handle, I guess.

Then there were two more.

That makes three brains on the job.

No, wait!  There's four.  And perhaps even a fifth lurking around with a camera, documenting this mammoth project.  And a dog, helpfully sniffing butts whenever needed.

Dumbfounded at the several days irrationally long time it was taking to put it together, I finally asked, "What is taking so long?"

The hubby whined, "There was a lot of STUFF in that box."

Thank goodness, SOMEBODY of the female sort was supervising.  

Otherwise, that crew might never have got 'er done!

Good job, Ellie, and thanks!

Now, let the games begin......

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I Blew It!

Our daughter Sarah and her son Gabriel
I missed a very rare opportunity to take a family photo of all my kids, their spouses, and their children.  Yes, we were all in the same place at the same time, and no, it didn't occur to me even once to take a group picture. It happens so rarely that we are all together like this, and as you can well imagine, I am kicking myself now for missing it.

Last week, over the fourth of July weekend, we all gathered at our new family lodge up in the Pennsylvania mountains to visit with each other, have some rest and recreation, and, as always, eat lots of good food.  With twelve of us sleeping there, and numerous other relatives coming in for day visits, our bedrooms were fairly full and the place in general was full of life.

Gabriel with his daddy, Lance
It was our new grandchild's first major road trip to be with his four cousins, and he handled the ten hour car ride both ways fairly well.  Several of his aunts, uncles, cousins and great grandparents were gathering there to meet him for the first time.

Over the five days and nights we were there, there was quite a bit of baby holding and tending.  Somehow a newborn has the immediate ability to make himself the center of attention, as well he should be.  Especially when he is just as cute and snuggly as little Gabriel is.

So what did we do for those five days and nights?  We took some drives to look for wildlife, and for those left back at the lodge, well, there was a lot of baby holding.

Our granddaughter Ellie with Gabriel
We had numerous fires along with s'mores in the evening, and then there was more baby holding.

Our son Caleb meeting Gabriel for the first time
There was plenty of baking done to supply our stock of goodies and desserts.  Baby holding between batches, too.

Ellie, Sarah, and Gabriel
Many of us were reading our favorite magazines, along with some non-put-down-able books.  Except for moments the baby needed to be held, of course.

My father and his great grandson
There were discussions of more babies coming into the family, while holding this one, of course.

Our daughter Rachel with Gabriel
Some among us participated in several cutthroat games of ping pong and bean bag toss down in the rec room.  Upstairs......we held the baby.

As always, we enjoy our time together and all too soon, it's over and we head home our separate ways.  With planning for the next gathering already in the works, I am satisfied with the pleasant time I had being with all my kiddos........

and giving plenty of Germall snuggles to this little guy.  

It doesn't get much better than that, does it?