Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Don't Text and Drive-Thru

Refraining from texting and driving is a no brainer.  Just don't do it.  You could do irreparable harm to yourself or others.

But how about not texting and driving thru?  What I'm talking about here is less a public safety issue (though I guess a pile-up in the McDonald's drive-thru line is possible) and more a don't be an oblivious, efficiency-stealing twerp issue.

As a Diet Coke addict, I drive-thru McDonald's once a day almost every single day to get a fountain Diet Coke.  This post is not about the wisdom of this habit or about any related issues of addiction, health, or excess.

Let me first say that if you visit a McDonalds in Chicago's Western Suburbs, you are right in the backyard of the corporate headquarters.  Of the three McDonald's I visit regularly, all are marked by friendliness and efficiency.  The drive-thru tends to be a well-oiled machine ... except for the twerps who text and drive-thru.

This person pulls up and places his/her order.  Then, he/she pulls away from the speaker, stops, and starts checking the phone.  When the line moves forward, he/she does not because they are engaged with the phone.  In my experience, only a honk snaps them out of the phone trance and toward the first window.

This post about texting and driving-thru is likely to reach tens of readers who might reevaluate their own texting habits.

For the rest, I'll use my horn.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

And it's all small stuff.

It's been well over a year since I've written a real blog post.  I'm warming up my writing muscles by sharing some thoughts about some stuff I enjoy.

 1.  Biscoff Spread.  Biscoff brags that it is the "airline cookie," but I haven't seen a Biscoff cookie on a plane in years.  Not that I am a frequent flyer.  The cookies themselves are, at best, okay.  The spread though?  Amazing!  Best snack ever (besides a Super Pretzel) is a sliced apple--sweet or tart--dipped in Biscoff spread.  Or, sometimes, a spoon dipped into the jar is the perfect mini-dessert.  Seconds?  Please use a fresh spoon.  Biscoff should be in the aisle with the peanut butter, though I am pretty sure it is a nut-free item.  I've purchased it at Wal-Mart and Cost Plus World Market.  Between $3 and $4 a jar.

 2 & 3.  Here's  two-fer.  I have three indoor/outdoor rugs from Ballard Designs.  One in my foyer, one under the kitchen table (the blue and white chevron seen in photo), and one in living room (but only temporarily).  In my high traffic and transition-from-outdoors foyer, I have a grey and black indoor/outdoor with a cool pattern.  Hides dirt like a dream.  The one in the kitchen shows dirt a bit more (due to those cream stripes), but it is very easy to scrub it clean.  These rugs are not comfortable.  You don't want your kids lying on them to watch television or wrestling on them (major rug burn would result), but they are durable and quite affordable for certain areas of the home.

My other "design" tip for you is laminated fabric.  I found the fabric pictured above at Hobby Lobby.  I bought enough to recover six chairs (on my own, NTB) and then some for less than $40.  This fabric is ideal for my kitchen (except for not matching the rug AT ALL) because it can be easily wiped clean.  The only assault this fabric cannot withstand would be permanent marker (have dodged that bullet so far) and aggressively used ballpoint pen (now on three of our six chairs, thanks to my artistic daughter).  Still, a perfect and practical pick-me-up for kitchen chairs.

 4.  I was shopping at Kohl's with a 30% off coupon and doing that thing where I pretend that 30% off means practically free.  I tossed these shoes that you do not have to tie in my cart on a whim and you know what?  Best purchase this entire Fall.  It's just so convenient to be able to slip them on and off.  I don't know how they'd handle during a run or hard core workout (no opportunity to conduct that sort of test with this shoe wearer), but I've worn them comfortably on a brisk walk.  I also love that on the days when I play tennis, I can quickly change into these shoes afterward so as not to be seen in public (off the court) in my big, white, senior citizen-esque tennis shoes.

5.  Years ago when I had more time, I used to enumerate the ways that Chicagoland's Jewel grocery chain was inferior to Kroger, the grocery chain of my heart.  But does Kroger carry Cinnamon Scented Ponderosa Pine Cones in a large bag that costs only $4.99?  I actually can't answer that.  I do know that three years running, I have purchased a huge bag (or two) of these cinnamon pine cones at Jewel.  The cinnamon scent is intense, but in a very good way.  I am pleased to report that this year's pine cones are smaller in size, which makes it easier to arrange them in a decorative manner.  Much to my hubby's dismay, I have not tossed the now-less-potent pine cones of previous years.  With all my spare time, I will surely turn to Pinterest to find inspiration for some pine cone crafts.  

6.  I am usually ambivalent/negative regarding healthy-ish bars of any kind.  These KIND bars were on sale at Jewel 10/$10 so I gambled.  Now, I'm a huge fan.  Tasty and satisfying.  NOT a meal replacement (let's not get crazy), but good for a snack or maybe half of a bar for breakfast dessert (that is a real thing).  I like the Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew and the Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter ones the best.

 7.  I bought these Snapea Crisps at Costco.  My daughter and I both enjoy this salty, low calorie snack.  Only negative?  They leave a greasy residue on your fingertips.  Best to enjoy with a napkin, baby wipe, or handwashing facility at the ready.

8.  Years ago when I posted regularly on this blog and had tens and tens of readers, I often mentioned my love of basil and of cardinals.  Here's a summer photo of two of my favorites together.  I bought the basil plants and the cardinal at Home Depot.  My kids kept moving the cardinal around so that it wasn't always hovering above the basil as I had intended.  Whenever I spotted it, it made me smile.

That's all I have.  I hope to post again between now and fourteen months from now.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Booking It, 2013

I'll be tracking my reading again this year:  title, author, format, and narrator (when applicable).

If I ever get around to starting the book blog I've been planning in my head for several years, I'll let you know.

Until then, check the Booksburgh tab in the lefthand column of this blog.  I update this list throughout the year.  Please share book recommendations in the comments!

August Folly by Angela Thirkell
(audiobook, narrated by Wanda McCaddon)

Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
(audiobook, narrated by Hope Davis)

The Brandons by Angela Thirkell
(audiobook, narrated by Nadia May)

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
(audiobook, narrated by Holter Graham)

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty
(library book)

The Good House by Ann Leary
(audiobook, narrated by Mary Beth Hurt)

Truth in Advertising by John Kenney
(audiobook, narrated by Robert Petkoff)

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
(paperback, advance reader copy won in a giveaway!!)

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

Outtakes from a Marriage by Ann Leary
(library book)

Love Is a Canoe by Ben Schrank
(library book)

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
(audiobook, narrated by Caroline Lee)

Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio
(audiobook, narrated by Leslie Carroll)

Juliet in August by Dianne Warren
(audiobook, narrated by Cassandra Campbell)

Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
(audiobook, narrated by Catherine Taber)

Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer
(library book)

News from Heaven by Jennifer Haigh
(audiobook, narrated by Therese Plummer, Alexander Cendese, Cynthia Darlow, Christian Baskous)

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne
(library book)

Provincial Daughter by R.M. Dashwood

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

When It Happens to You:  A Novel in Stories by Molly Ringwald

Beach Colors by Shelley Noble

Skinny:  A Novel by Diana Spechler

The Smart One by Jennifer Close
(library book)

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
(audiobook, narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra)

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore
(audiobook, narrated by Adenrele Ojo and Pamella D'Pella)

The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding
(library book)

The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes
(audiobook, narrated by Caroline Lennon)

Trust Me on This by Jennifer Crusie
(audiobook, narrated by Angela Dawe)

Good Kids by Benjamin Nugent
(library book)

Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer
(audiobook, narrated by Barbara Leigh-Hunt)

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
(audiobook, narrated by Ruth Ozeki)

The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen

The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam
(audiobook, narrated by Graeme Malcolm)

The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman
(library book)

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

All You Could Ask For by Mike Greenberg

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
(audiobook, narrated by Kathleen McInerney)  

Tempest-tost:  The Salterton Trilogy, Book 1 by Robertson Davies
(audiobook, narrated by Frederick Davidson)

Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel
(audiobook, narrated by Bernadette Dunne)

Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood
(audiobook, narrated by Stephanie Daniel)

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
(audiobook, narrated by Amy Rubinate)

Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand
(audiobook, narrated by Therese Plummer)

The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
(audiobook, narrated by XE Sands)

These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen
(ebook, read on phone)

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Joyland by Stephen King

The Queen of the Tambourine by Jane Gardam

The Cuckoo's Calling by Roberth Galbraith
(audiobook, narrated by Robert Glenister)

Drinking Closer to Home by Jessica Anya Blau
(ebook, read on phone)

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
(audiobook, narrated by Lynn Chen)

& Sons by David Gilbert
(audiobook, narrated by George Newbern)

Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym
(ebook, read on phone)

Ladies' Night by Mary Kay Andrews
(ebooks, narrated by Kathleen McInerney, CDs downloaded to ipod)

Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen by Alix Kates Shulman
(ebook, read on phone)

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
(audiobook, narrated by Rebecca Lowman, listened to on Playaway from library)

Instructions for a Heat Wave by Maggie O'Farrell
(library book)

Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons
(audiobook, narrated by James Adams)

The Writing Class by Jincy Willett

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
(audiobook, narrated by Alice Rosengard)

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
(library book)

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Mason
(audiobook, narrated by Suzy Jackson)

Amy Falls Down: A Novel by Jincy Willett
(library book)

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye
(audiobook, narrated by Steven Boyer)

Going Away Shoes by Jill McCorkle

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman
(library book)

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
(audiobook, narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Maxwell Caulfield)

Pride and Prejudice* by Jane Austen
(audiobook, narrated by Flo Gibson)

The Hive by Gill Hornby
(audiobook, narrated by Karen Cass)

Transatlantic by Colum McCann
(audiobook, narrated by Geraldine Hughes)

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
(audiobook, narrated by Emily Janice Card)

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
(library book)

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Flanagan's Run by Tom McNab
(audiobook, narrated by Rupert Degas)

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

The Circle by Dave Eggers
(audiobook, narrated by Dion Graham)

Stay Close by Harlan Coben
(audiobook, narrated by Scott Brick)

Return to Oakpine by Ron Carlson
(audiobook, narrated by David Aaron Baker)  

Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

Sheltering Rain by Jojo Moyes

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen
(audiobook, narrated by Katherine Kellgren)

A Nantucket Christmas by Nancy Thayer
(library book)

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg
(audiobook, narrated by Fannie Flagg)

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen
(audiobook, narrated by Katherine Kellgren)

The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood
(audiobook, narrated by Tavia Gilbert)

Heft by Liz Moore
(audiobook, narrated by Kirby Heyborne & Keith Szarabajka)

Christmas Bliss by Mary Kay Andrews

Stay by Allie Larkin
(audiobook, narrated by Julia Whelan)

The Debutante by Kathleen Tessaro

The Commitment by Dan Savage
(audiobook, narrated by Paul Michael Garcia)

The Dinner Diaries:  Raising Whole Wheat Kids in a White Bread World by Betsy Block

Below Stairs:  The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey" by Margaret Powell
(library book)

Servants' Hall: A Real Life Upstairs, Downstairs Romance by Margaret Powell
(library book)

Wheat Belly by William Davis
(audiobook, narrated by Tom Weiner)

Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?: A Mennonite Finds Faith, Meets Mr. Right, and Solves Her Lady Problems by Rhoda Janzen
(library book)

You Must Go and Win by Alina Simone
(audiobook, narrated by Alina Simone)

Elsewhere: A Memoir by Richard Russo

Give Me Everything You Have:  On Being Stalked by James Lasdun
(library book)

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam
(audiobook, narrated by Laura Vanderkam)

I Can't Complain:  (All Too) Personal Essays by Elinor Lipman
(library book)

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls:  Essays, Etc. by David Sedaris
(library book)

My Misspent Youth:  Essays by Meghan Daum
(ebook, Readmill app on iphone)

She Matters:  A Life in Friendships by Susan Sonnenberg

Blue Plate Special:  An Autobiography of My Appetites by Kate Christensen

After Visiting Friends:  A Son's Story by Michael Hainey

Call the Midwife:  A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth
(audiobook, narrated by Nicola Barber)

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
(library book)

"You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth" and Other Things You'll Only Hear from Your Friends in the Powder Room by Leslie Marinelli (and many other female bloggers)

Seriously... I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
(audiobook, narrated by the author)

Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin: A Memoir by Nicole Hardy
(library book)

Along the Way: The Journey of a Father and Son by Martin Sheen & Emilio Estevez
(audiobook, narrated by the authors)

The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars by Paul Collins
(audiobook, narrated by William Dufris)

You're Not Pretty Enough by Jennifer Tress

* indicates a re-read.

Unless otherwise noted, all audiobooks are through audible.com and listened to on my phone or iPod.  All ebooks are from the Kindle store.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cheers for 40 Years!

On a hot July day in 1972, a young nurse and a guy who had graduated from college a month or so before, met in front of the altar at St. Ann’s Church in Hamilton.  The bridesmaids wore long-sleeved red dresses with white polka dots.  The groom and groomsmen looked handsome, if a little sweaty.  The bride with her long, blond, straight hair was beautiful.  And brave and strong.  Her dad had passed away in April, and her brother gave her away. 
They said “I do” and their journey together continued.
That was forty years ago today.  That couple is my parents. 
Each marriage is its own story, the truth and heart of that story known only by two people.  The highlights of my parents’ story:  four houses, five children, three sons-in-law, two (almost officially) daughters-in-law, nine grandchildren and counting, plenty of communication, compromise, teamwork, forgiveness, laughter, and love.  Good times, bad times, sickness, health, poorer, richer. 
The story of what my parents’ marriage has meant to me and my siblings can be told in one word:  everything.  As a kid, it gives you comfort, security, and confidence to know that your parents are always going to show up, for each other and for you.  Whether we needed a pep talk, a sympathetic ear, a hug, a trip to Kroger for a new poster board, my parents were there.  Still are, though there is less need for poster board these days.  We got to every practice, lesson, game, match, and meet and had our mom and/or dad there cheering for us.  A miracle of teamwork, communication, and transportation if there ever was one, especially considering how often my dad’s job required him to travel. 
My parents have always prioritized family time, whether it was a beach vacation, a quick trip to McDonalds after mass, a drive to Flub’s, a surprise outing to Chuck E. Cheese or Kings Island (almost thirty years later, I can remember the thrill of such surprises), or Thursday night with all of us piled onto the big blue sectional watching some TV or laughing together.  I am so thankful to my parents for giving us so many happy memories and, most of all, for being present.
In a couple of weeks, my husband and I will celebrate nine years of marriage, a drop in the bucket compared to forty, so I’m hesitant to lay claim to too much matrimonial wisdom.  What I will offer is that you know when you say “I do” that it won’t be all sunshine and wedding cake and smiling for photos.  You understand you are on the hook for the bad times, the poorer, the sickness, but you’re hoping you’ll get off easy.  But whatever each moment, day, month, or year brings, you do your best to say “I do.”  I’m here.  I’m with you.  I’ve got your back.  We’re in this together.
I can’t thank my parents enough for saying “I do” over and over in their words and actions.  They’ve said yes to each other and their family in times of small commission checks, failed sump pumps, endless nursing home visits, tuition bills, and cancer.  Together, they’ve said goodbye to four parents.  On the flip side, they’ve shared the joy of games won, graduations, weddings, births, and countless other small and joyful moments. 
Though they have different but complementary personalities, my parents share a sense of compassion, generosity, loyalty, and steadiness.  When friends and family members have struggled with illnesses, losses, and other challenges, my parents have been strong enough to offer love, support, and welcome.  Together they are truly a light for the world.  
Love shared and given away somehow grows and multiplies.
Each marriage is its own story.  Some stories are longer than others, with different lessons, endings, and kinds of love.  I treasure all these stories and feel blessed to have been born three chapters into one of the really good ones.
Many, many years ago, a little girl named Kathy was riding her bike and fell off.  Supposedly, a little boy named Kevin laughed at her.  Who knew that one day they would be high school sweethearts?  Who knew they would get married and stay married for forty years and counting?  Despite scrapes and falls and flat tires, life is funny and surprising and mostly good … especially when you choose the best companion you can and keep saying “I do.”
I do.  See you.  Hear you.  Remember you.  Support you.  Love you.
We do.  Learn from you.  Love you.  Congratulations on 40 years, Mom and Dad! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Check the freezer.

I was half-drafting this post in my head for the past couple of days, wanting to frame it within a conversation about parenting.  Should I as a parent know exactly what my boys (ages 6 and almost 4) are doing every minute of the day?  Whether I should or should not, I do not.  I do not know exactly what they are doing every minute, but I know they are being kids.  Making messes.  Being curious.  Sneaking snacks.  Having fun.  Figuring things out.

How, specifically, they spent some of their time this past Saturday was not made known until Sunday morning when I was looking for Sweet P's other shoe.  I was only one shoe away from having all three kids ready for church.

I'll let Bub tell you the story.  It was his idea to write about it.

I handwrote the title as dictated by Bub.  I helped with spelling when asked.

As a personal narrative written by a kindergartener, here's a superior piece of writing.  NTB.  Readers can be pretty clear about what happened.  He wrapped his sister's shoe in a wet towel and placed that bundle in the freezer.  Were we to have a writing conference, however, I'd ask some key questions to flesh out the story ...

Why did you wrap your sister's shoe in a wet towel and freeze it?  
According to your story, your mom said "you're kidding," but how did she say it?  Was she laughing at the joke?  Frustrated?  Angry?  Completely surprised that a wet towel had been in her small, overcrowded freezer overnight without her noticing?
How funny did everything seem to you when your mom checked the freezer?
How long did it take for your sister's shoe to thaw?  Was it ruined?  Did she end up having to wear brand new shoes that did not fit her yet to church?
Were you punished or just given a talking to?
What did you learn?

We did not have a writing conference, though I repeated the why question this afternoon.  His answer on Sunday:  "I wanted to see if it would freeze."  His answer today, after finishing his story: "I wanted something to write about."  Someone's trying to play/please his English teacher mom.  Nice spin, Bub.

I was angry and frustrated, but not for long.  Bub started crying and saying, "Kids my age do crazy things, you know."  I do know.  I also know that part of my job as a mom is to give him the freedom to make some decisions and some mistakes.  His dad and I talked to him about thinking through the consequences of his actions.  What if Sweet P's shoe was ruined?  What if it had been her only pair and we did not have the funds to replace them?

What if his mom tried to pry open the folds of the frozen towel and cracked her left thumbnail into the nail bed, ripping skin, causing bleeding, requiring a bandaid, and making it painful even days later to press the home button on her phone or use the car clicker?  

For the record, the shoe was able to be released from the towel in the early afternoon.  It was still damp Monday morning.  It was not ruined.  

My left thumb still hurts a lot.  

All in all, I feel so pleased that he wanted to write the story that I'm over the whole thing.

How would you have reacted?  How much freedom do you give your kids?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spring in My Step ...

In place of a thoughtful, well-crafted post, I offer a series of photos capturing things that have put some "spring" in our step the past couple of months.  What's given us some pep.  Yep.  

You may know that I'm a real sucker for good-smelling, slightly-overpriced cleaning products available at Target.  All spring I've been enjoying the limited edition Method "lime + sea salt" all-purpose spray and the dish soap.  I've also been enjoying looking at the fabric swatch (hanging on window since October.  See background of photo) for the kitchen curtains I hope to have made someday.

While we're in the kitchen, how about these adorable "dwink" holders?  I use juice pouches or those flavored milk cartons when we are on-the-go for t-ball, eating in the car on the way to swim lessons, or having lunch at a park or play place.  And, okay, fine, I also pass them out at lunch at home some days too.  Never fails that Sweet P will squeeze half her beverage on her outfit.  Found this nifty solution at our local toy store.  Pop in the beverage pouch and your child uses the handles instead of causing a mini explosion with injudicious squeezing.  Seems to work.

At the risk of looking obsessed with beverages, I'll also brag on my new straw holder.  We're phasing out sippy cups around here and rock a lot of cups (often lidded) with straws.  Now, don't get me wrong, it was a lot of fun keeping the straws in a plastic cup in the cupboard and having that cup topple and its contents scatter a couple of times a week.  But this glass canister that I found at Home Goods for $4.99 and filled with colorful straws from IKEA?  It's more fun.  

My kids think root beer is just about the biggest treat ever so I decided to blow their minds with root beer floats a few weeks ago.  I had one myself.  Forgot what a delightful combination root beer and vanilla ice cream is.  

Cousins always make us happy, and we had a great visit from a few cousins over Easter.  It's not often that ALL the cousins are in one spot (hopefully this summer), but whenever two or more are gathered, there is love and fun and chaos.  

Here are two of the "little girl cousins" over Easter weekend.  What I love about this photo is that at ages 3 and 2, they are posing like they are little tweens or something. 

I can't remember now when we first went through the house we are now living in.  Maybe in late April or early May of last year.  Whatever the time frame, we definitely missed the blooming of the trees.  The bloom has come and pretty much gone by now, but what a treat it was to discover that four trees in our yard were just gorgeous.

While we're in our yard, I need to share this photo of Bub.  He hauled a kiddie chair up into the swing set and settled in to relax and read his Oriental Trading catalogue.  I'd love to enjoy a spring breeze and a good book up there myself.

This next smile-maker was more of a winter favorite, but I found the photo on my phone and had to share.  The kids and I found these Duck Tales DVDs at the library, and they were really into them for a while.  Got us through a couple late winter afternoon witching hours.  I defy anyone to pop one of these in and resist singing and dancing along to the theme song.  Definitely a spring-in-your-step kind of song that lends itself to big swoopy, swingy arm movements and some popping jazz hands.  We're fans.

Grandma and Grandpa visited last weekend.  We had a nice dinner cooked on the grill, and I decided to pick up an iced cookie cake from Jewel so we could sing Happy Birthday to our little Sweet P one more time.  The picture is blurry, but I'm sharing it to remind you not to overlook the iced cookie cake from the grocery store.  It's so tasty.  Every person at the table enjoyed it.  An easy and inexpensive item to add some celebratory flair to a meal.

And for anyone tempted to be like, "Oh, MEP, do you know how much HFCS and hydrogenated oils are in the grocery store cookie cakes?" I would also like to share this photo of the beautiful vegetables that were part of our meal.  Not that my kids ate them.  

As I write this, I'm eagerly awaiting the return of spring weather and all the summer fun to come.  Life is good here, and I hope the same is true for you.

What's putting a spring in your step this spring?  Please share in the comments.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Homeward Unbound -- Spring Break 2012

Spring Break 1982: My parents had kids ages 8, 6, 4, and 2. Will have to double-check, but I'm pretty sure that spring break was spent in Fairfield, OH.
Spring Break 1992: One of our many happy spring break trips to Florida with lots of other families. I believe we were in Panama City Beach that year.
Spring Break 2002: Hubby (then-fiance) and I were both in graduate school. We went to Disney World during his spring break, but I'm pretty sure I traveled to Fairfield, OH for mine.
Spring Break 2012: I pack up the kids and drive the van to Fairfield, OH.

You see the trend, right? Fairfield, OH is one of my favorite spring break destinations. Really, it is.
There is no feeling in the world like going home. As an often-harried mom of young kids, it is a wonderful treat to be in a place where I am a mother and a daughter. Where my awesome dad takes donut orders each evening before bed and makes his grandkids laugh by warning them that he'll dump buckets of water on anyone he catches snoring. Where my mom will come out of her bedroom in the six o'clock hour when I am starting my day with Sweet P and Melmo and say, "Go on back to bed, Meg. I can sleep in whenever I want to."
Where I can sit at dinner with some of my oldest and most treasured friends in the world, listening and talking for three hours and thinking, as I drive away, that I could have sat in that seat with my empty wine and water glasses for even hours longer.
Where we hang out with my sister and her girls as much as we can -- dinners, afternoon playtime, playing outside at Grammy and Pop's, a soccer game, a birthday party -- good, easy, fun times, a glimpse of the life we might share if I lived closer.
Cousin dress-up. Classic. Bub and Swiper as, um ...eighties movie tourists?
My little bride and her police officer could not be any sweeter.

Where we get to spend time with beloved Uncle Boo, heading to the backyard to test out all the new t-ball gear.
Bub: "Uncle Boo gave me a really good tip. When you are hitting, you're supposed to stare at the ball."

Where we can go around to all the angel statues (many were my Grandma P's) that live in the garden and give each an acorn hat.
Where the grub is good. Meals from my mom's kitchen as well as Skyline, Frisch's, Graeter's, Dewey's, and Flub's.
My more restrained choice at our second trip to Flub's: small vanilla cone with crunch coating. Okay, fine, it was a medium. Earlier in the week, I enjoyed my annual Cousin Weezie's Reese's Pieces Cyclone.

And speaking of food, I can't forget to mention Bub's culinary masterpiece. He wanted to create a special dessert for pizza night with his cousins. Grammy was able to make his vision a reality.
I present "Brownies José" (Bub 100% responsible for that name) -- brownies, frosting, and gummy worms. Bub's original recipe also called for whipped cream, but we were able to talk him out of that. Why mess with perfection?

We also had some fun field trips -- EnterTRAINment Junction (continuing to add more cool stuff) and the Cincinnati Zoo (zoo zoo you can come too too too). I failed to get a photo that did justice to the beauty of the tulips blooming at the zoo, but trust me, they were gorgeous.
As gorgeous as this beauty who posed for us.
Tulips in even more colors than those of Sweet P's coat. Please note Sweet P's pained expression, evidence that we have moved into a new frustrating stage where she detests being buckled into a stroller yet would prefer to stand in front of the stroller playing with its buckles than to, say, walk on her own.
Little Bit enjoyed the zoo. However, my mom and I made the mistake of taking a teachable moment to talk about extinction and endangered species. Little Bit then kept obsessively asking about why "all the animals are dying" and "why the animals kill each other" (???).
I just have to mention the new (at least to me) Night Hunters exhibit, which was super cool. There is poetry everywhere, setting the mood and describing the specific hunters. Loved it. I probably photographed six poems in there, but am showing restraint and only sharing one.

So it was good to be home in Ohio and then good to come home to Chicago. There are no places (plural) like home(s).
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For those of you wondering where the heck I've been (besides Fairfield, OH), I'm trying to jump back into blogging. It's only stuff like laundry, kitchen clean-up, and general exhaustion getting in my way. Here are some teaser topics: our awesome March trip to Florida, complete with pirates; the pantry organization I did that will make women of Pinterest everywhere weep before its beauty, NTB; the story of the ice cream sandwiches I loved and lost and my attempt to replace them; the new cleaning spray that makes my heart sing; all the cool stuff growing in my yard; cardinals everywhere; speculation about why when I parked at the library yesterday, I saw there were grown men sleeping in the cars on both sides of me; and so much more. Stay tuned. Come back. Leave a comment telling me how you spent spring break.

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