Our Maine Adventure

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This summer I fell in love.

Not with a person, but with a place.

Our family was finally able to visit Maine, and specifically Acadia National Park. It was something that had been on our bucket list for some time, but we decided to just go for it this year. I’m so glad we did!

Here are some of my photos taken while there:

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First up is the little property we rented. I have had tremendous luck with the VRBO website and found an absolute beauty of a cottage for us. We walked in, looked around, and declared it perfect for our family.  This is the pond in back of the cottage, where we could sit and read or just relax. I have to say that the location of this place was wonderful—well away from Bar Harbor and crowds, on the very quiet side of the island.

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Our first full day there we set out to see the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. To get a great view of it, you need to climb down some steps and make your way over on giant boulders that sit along the shore everywhere.

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This is a view looking out the other direction. This trip was my first experience with this type of coastline, and I loved it.

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Our favorite place to visit was a place called Wonderland. There is an easy trail that leads out to this coastal area that has lots of tide pools. We ended up visiting there a couple of times during our week at Maine.

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Lots of cool little discoveries at this place and we spent hours there. Truly it was a “Wonderland” for my kids.

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The next day we did a tour of the main part of Acadia. We drove the Park Loop road, which I highly recommend. There are many places to pull over and park along the way. We parked at the Otter Point area and hiked the Ocean Path a couple miles up to Thunder Hole.

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Along the way were the Otter Cliffs, as well as many other scenic views. At many points you could go out to the edge, whether it be high up or down along the water.

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We also drove up Cadillac Mountain, where you could see out far in all directions.

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That evening we attended a lumberjack show, which was both educational and entertaining!

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Our family usually enjoys the lesser-known spots and trails. Fortunately for us, we were on the side of the island away from the main crowded areas. It was still full of beautiful things to see and do! Above is a picture from serene Pretty Marsh Harbor.

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I regret that I have no decent pictures from our whale watching excursion.(Those whales are just too darn fast for me!) This was an incredible experience! We saw many different whales and were VERY fortunate to see them in various stages of feeding. Lots of tail flukes, some full rolls, and one that did about a full breach for its rapt audience! Upon pulling back into the harbor, our guide was wowed and said that was the best trip they had all summer! An unforgettable experience for all.

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One morning we visited the Oceanarium, which boasts a lobster hatchery and museum, among other things. At first glance it appears a little run down and ramshackle, but we had a good experience there and learned so much. The guides really took a lot of time to explain things to the kids.

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Another morning we took the gang and hiked up a mountain. Parkman Mountain was one of the neatest hikes I’ve ever done. Though it’s not as well known as Precipice or the Beehive, it was really cool and worth the climb. (And yes, now I can say that I’ve done one with rungs built into the rocks to actually help climb up…it was just in one spot, but whatever. Bragging rights, y’all.) My husband was taken with all of the old cairns that marked some of the original trails. We saw cairns just about everywhere.

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It was a great experience to conquer a mountain as a family. We had a picnic lunch at the summit to celebrate.

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On our very last full day in Maine we hiked around Jordan Pond (which to me was more like a lake…). Part of it was on little boardwalks, as seen above.

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The water that day was a gorgeous blue–my pictures do it no justice.

Some other places we visited were Echo Lake Beach, and my oldest and his Dad hiked Beech Mountain and the Beech Cliffs and said they were awesome.

Honestly, I think we could have stayed a couple of weeks there and still not have been able to do everything we wanted. That just means we have to go back one day…

Seriously, I very much fell in love with Maine and Acadia. It suited us so well and was one of our best vacations ever. If I didn’t love our little piece of Lancaster County so much, I would be very tempted to move!!

Hope you enjoyed my photos.

 

Dear Kids…

Today I am re-posting something that I wrote around this time last summer. My kids start school in just a week and I got to thinking about this little letter again. Reading it a year later, I echo every word of it once more.

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Dear Daniel, Andrew, Heidi, Joey, and Josh,

Tomorrow you all will be heading off once again for a brand new school year!  I know you are ready to start back up, but may have some butterflies about it too. I know that I always did when I was your age.

As your dear old Mom, here are some things I’d like to tell you before I send you off to start your new grade. I know I’ve said lately that I’m excited for you all to get on that bus so I can have a little time by myself, and that is true. I do like a little time alone here at our house when it’s nice and quiet and everyone is at school. However, know that I do miss you all and am praying for you every time that bus picks you up. It’s like 5 pieces of my heart leave me and then return in the afternoon.

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Guys, I encourage you to do your absolute best while you’re at school. Each of you has been very blessed with the ability to learn things pretty easily and to usually do well on tests. Not every kid has that advantage, so don’t take it for granted. Help other kids as you are able and while it’s okay to be proud of a good grade (and you should be!), no one likes a bragger. Also, just because learning may come easier for you than some other kids, it is not an excuse to slack off. You are still called to do your best at whatever job you’ve been given, and right now that job is schoolwork.

Now, this is what I want you to know about your teachers. They are there to help you learn and be the best person you can be. Teaching is NOT an easy job, and you are to be kind and respectful to each teacher you have, even if they are not your favorite. From what I’ve seen, they really do want what’s best for their students and love all of the kids in their care. All teachers have tough days sometimes and I want you to help make their days a little brighter by being in their class.

With that being said, let’s talk about the other kids in your classes. Every kid is different, and I think you all already know that. Some kids are ones that are easy to be friends with. I used to gravitate towards those types of kids and stick with them. Other kids are not so easy to be friends with, or maybe they are difficult for the teachers and other grown-ups in the school.  Perhaps they are mean or rude or maybe even cry over silly things. Maybe it’s a kid that is dirty a lot or smells, or has other issues. Here’s the thing, guys—you just never know what that kid is dealing with at home. You all come from a pretty good household (I think!) and have two parents that dearly love you, take care of you, discipline you, and teach you about Jesus. Maybe you think every kid comes from a house like that, but they don’t.  Anymore a house like ours is a little rare. I just think that it’s important to remember that when a kid is maybe acting out or different in some way.  Please, please, be kind and show love to everyone, even if they are not especially likeable. Remember how much Jesus loves each of us, and maybe YOU are the person he is using to show that love to another kid.

Here’s another thing that ties in with what I just said: I want you guys to be a “little light” to everyone you meet at school. Dad and I think that you already have been, and we are so proud of you for that! Keep it up. I really do believe that God uses people in certain places and at certain times. For the last years and even now we think that we’ve been called to have our family be a part of the public school here. As I said before, not everyone comes from a family that believes like we do, but I want you to show them love as Jesus has commanded us to do. Maybe that means being a friend to someone who is shy, or holding a door for others, sharing a book, or inviting a kid that’s alone to play with you on the playground. You just never know what impact you’ll have on someone else.

Also, stand up for what you believe in. Our world is a little crazy right now, and sadly, it’s just going to get worse. That makes me worried for you as you grow up. This is part of what I pray about for you all the time. However, you have been taught what is right and what is wrong, and don’t be afraid to say and act on what you believe. I know you can do it!

I love you guys like crazy and will miss you. Have a great first day in your new grade!

Love, Mom

 

Rose Petal Jelly

One of the things I enjoy experimenting with in the summer is various types of jams and jellies. My favorite experiment was Wild Violet Jelly, which I posted about over 4 years ago! I’ve also made Dandelion Jelly, Apricot Pineapple Jam, Wineberry Jelly, and a whole host of others. Later today I plan to make Blackberry Jelly. My latest and greatest is this…..

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Rose Petal Jelly. Pretty cool, eh?

It sounds rather sophisticated, but is really pretty easy to make, and not very time consuming. I’m not a sophisticated gal, so it suited me just fine. The recipe I will share made about 7 jars of jelly.

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These are the ingredients I used:

@6 cups rose petals

4 cups water

1 TB lemon juice

1 box powdered pectin

5 1/2 cups sugar

Here is the process I followed:

Pick approximately 6 cups of rose petals. Lightly  rinse and place in a pot with a quart of water. Bring to a low boil and allow to bubble for maybe two minutes, then turn off the heat. Allow some time (maybe 20 minutes) for the rose petals to infuse the water. Strain off the rose petals and use the remaining rose water for the jelly.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, whisk the rose water with a box of powdered pectin. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice. (In a separate bowl, measure out 5 1/2 cups of sugar.) Bring your pot to a rolling boil, then dump in the sugar, stirring well as you add it. Make sure sugar is completely mixed in! Allow to boil for one minute, then remove from heat.

Have a separate pot of warm water ready for processing the jars. Ladle jelly mixture into jelly jars, leaving maybe 1/4″ of head space, then place new lids on with a band. Place into the pot with water. Bring to a low boil and allow to process for 5 minutes. Using a jar lifter, pull out of the water and allow to sit for 24 hours. Enjoy your beautiful jelly!

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Creation Jar Terrarium

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Today I am sharing an idea that I just pulled off this past weekend for our church VBS.

The theme was “Walk Thru the Old Testament,” which begins with Creation!

As usual, I was the craft lady, so I wanted everyone to take home something neat that would last. As my second-oldest has been enthralled with making terrariums, I had a light bulb moment one day that a “Creation Terrarium” would be cool.

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It turned out to be a huge hit! As we had a different format this year and families did VBS together, both adults and kids had the opportunity to make one.

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I incorporated different elements of Creation–animals, rocks, plants, soil…

Some kids placed little frogs in theirs and others put in small animals that I had available.

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To pull this off for a group, I set it up like an assembly line. Here is the order in which I placed things:

  • plastic quart jar
  • gravel
  • potting soil
  • small fern (we used leather wood ferns)
  • moss (some foraged from our area and reindeer moss)
  • small animal
  • small rock
  • lid
  • twine or yarn, already cut
  • tag with markers to write their name on

I also put down brown roll paper on the tables to make for easy clean-up, which worked quite nicely!

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Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out. Unfortunately I didn’t get good pics with my camera while this was going down:( The kids made some really neat ones, and they were all just a little different!

If you’re looking for a cool, non-junky VBS craft, this is a great option. A little more involved than what I usually have, but well worth it!!

Denim Pocket Rug

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I have sorely neglected my blog lately. Too much end-of-the school-year craziness, followed by the annual adjustment to summer and kids being home 24/7. I apologize and will totally admit that I miss writing!

Also, I have not shown a single decent crafty project in a long , long while. Believe me, it’s not for lack of making things:)

One thing that I’ve totally been into is repurposing denim to make cool stuff. I will perhaps share one or more denim projects in the near future. Here’s one that I found to make with all the pockets of jeans I’ve cut up and basically deconstructed.

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A sturdy little accent rug. I saw an example or two on Pinterest and decided to try a small one to see if I liked it or not.

I did not do any step-by-step pictures, but I can give a brief rundown of how it was made. Basically I took a rectangle of denim, then took a variety of pockets that had already been cut out and arranged them randomly all over the rectangle. I pinned each one down to hold them in place.

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Then I took my handy dandy heavy duty Singer and began carefully sewing around the edge of each pocket. I tried to do all of the “top” pieces first, then went around what is visible of the ones that are more underneath. (Hopefully that makes sense?) Once they were all secure, I took a slightly larger rectangle of denim and sewed it so it is underneath and peeking out behind the original rectangle, just stitching around the perimeter.

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All in all, this didn’t really take that long to make. The prep of cutting all the denim is what actually takes more time. I would recommend definitely using a heavy duty needle, plus a heavier model sewing machine for this kind of project.

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Before use, I would also pop some Rug Gripper on the back so it doesn’t slide.

Overall, a unique little rug that is casual, country, and cool.

The Weight of Words

I should’ve seen the comment coming, but I didn’t.
Usually it happens that way. Sometimes there’s the usual suspects that you can brace yourself for and know something not-uplifting will likely come out of their mouth upon seeing you.
Then there’s the ones that take you by surprise.
Surprise or not a surprise, those words sting. A lot. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 4 years old or pushing 40, they still hurt. If you’re anything like me, though they may have been forgiven decades ago, those words can still smart at the oddest times many years later.
I’ve been wanting to write about the weight of our words for a long time now, but something happened last night that prompted my heart to write about it in a vulnerable way this morning.

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You see, it started like this….
We were up at my parents’ house last evening for a Memorial Day picnic. Things were going fine and we had the surprise of an older gentleman who worked with Jeff and I  years ago showing up to eat dessert and visit with my husband and I and generally catch up with everyone. When he had his visit in, he got up to leave and shook Jeff’s hand, then came over to me for a hug. This older man gave me a long, heartfelt squeeze, then loudly proclaimed, “Boy, I’ve always loved big women.” Everyone laughed. I could feel my cheeks starting to redden, and he went to joke about how my husband must like them too and made a joke about big barns or barn doors or some such nonsense. Everyone seemed amused at his antics. Everyone except me. I think I was a little flabbergasted and most definitely embarrassed. I saved my tears for later on when everyone was in bed and then broke down in front of my poor neighbor at the bus stop this morning.
Why oh why did this affect me so dearly? Especially as a supposedly confident, grown woman now pushing forty? I know I’m not alone. I have tons of sisters out there who have had to deal with similar things throughout their life and I’m sure can testify to how much it hurts.
I’ve never been petite, or svelte and willowy, or lots of the other things our culture reveres as a standard of beauty. Growing up as a tall, big kid, I have always had to field similar comments here and there. I have heard a whole litany of them. I can remember almost every one too. Even if 10 people could tell me they think I’m smart or kind or beautiful, that one comment about my weight or whatever else can easily drag me down in a tailspin and make me stew and generally feel terrible about myself. I could write a whole article (or series) about the topic of weight/size/etc, but I’ll save that for another time.
Here’s what I have to say to everyone—watch your words. Words hurt, even if they weren’t meant in a mean-spirited way. And I’m not just referring to weight, though that is a majorly sensitive one, especially for women. If I’ve gained weight, you really don’t need to tell me. I can assure you that I realize it already and am probably trying to quietly work on it. Though weight is a main one, it can really be anything. Maybe it’s parenting. Or your job status. Or your house. Or name-a-subject. Words are powerful, especially in this day and age where we are bombarded with them. Whether spoken or written, let’s use them wisely.
If you’ve used your words in a way that hurt someone, whether intentionally or no, please consider apologizing to that person. I am far, far from perfect, so I’m sure that I’ve said (or written) my share of hurtful words in the past. I know I have. I apologize to anyone that I may have hurt in this way, truly I do.
Parents, we especially need to watch what we say directly to, or in front of, our kids. You never know what they will hold onto, whether it be good or bad. We have a responsibility to build our kids up, not tear them down. I’m amazed at what my kids remember me saying to them or just in earshot of them. Usually it’s a very humbling experience to hear back what they remember me saying. Though I’m generally one to speak love and encouragement to my kids, I’m far from a perfect parent.

Lord help us all, right?
Lastly, I’m going to address those of us who have been hurt by words from someone else. They may sting for a long time, but let’s try to forgive. We live in a fallen world and these things are going to happen. What’s most important for me to remember is how much God loves me and treasures me. He thinks I’m awesome, no matter how imperfect I may be. And he thinks you are too!
Let’s use our words wisely this week.

What I’m Into: May 2016

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Happy late May. Our May has been SO gray here, but I’m thrilled to see more spring & summery weather in our weekly forecast. In fact, today is beautiful and I love having the windows and doors open. There’s nothing like it!

Here is what our family is into this May:

*Crazy Russian Hacker. If you have no clue what I’m talking about, look him up on You Tube. He does all kinds of science experiments and hacks. My boys are a little obsessed with him right now. I find him pretty amusing too.

*Canada Wintergreen Mints. I remember these minty Pepto-Bismol pink wafers from when I was younger, but hadn’t seen them in a long time until recently. I picked up a bag and have been sneaking in a couple a day. I’m a sucker for most anything minty. Love them.

*Earl Grey Tea. Though I am a serious coffee lover, I do enjoy the occasional cup of tea. (Especially since we’ve had all these yucky dismal days!) I really enjoy Earl Grey, which I like to brew nice and strong. Sheesh, I also just realized that I sound like a total old lady with my pink mints and tea bags;)

*Abide With Me by Matt Maher.  I absolutely, positively am in love with this song right now. It is such a great one that captures a bit about what it’s like to walk with the Lord everyday. Click on Abide With Me to give it a listen.

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*Colossians 3. My husband and I have been working through this chapter as a couple and in leading a group of young adults in Sunday School. The above verse was one I had adopted last year as a verse to dwell on and try to live by. The whole chapter is awesome though.

*Poppies. This is the right time of year to see vibrant poppies blooming along the road in certain spots. We just planted several in a flower bed in our yard, so I’m hoping they make it! I think they are SO beautiful.

I hope that you are finding beautiful and encouraging things in your day to day life as well, whether it be big or small.

Mother’s Day Card Humor

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Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms, Grandmas, and Moms-to-be out there!

I love Mother’s Day. Not because I get showered with lavish gifts and pampered silly by my family. Um, no….that usually doesn’t quite happen around here (though my husband does typically knock out a lavish breakfast for me, so there is that…).

What I love most about it (besides just spending time with my offspring) is the fun handmade cards I get from my kids. Though I don’t keep every blessed thing they have ever made, I do usually hold onto the Mother’s day cards they make, especially the ones that give me a chuckle.

There’s nothing like a Mother’s Day card made by your child that can either elate you– or deflate you. Or just make you crack up laughing. Their perceptions of me are usually very elevated (usually the younger they are), or sometimes a little too real.

Here are examples from my own kids that I’ve held onto…

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First up is something that I have 5 versions of. We were fortunate enough to have all of our kids attend the same preschool, with a lot of the same teachers along the way. I have one of these from each kid. My hand print with their little hand print inside of it. The text reads “Hand in hand, We will be, Together forever, You & me.” So sweet. I would love to hang all of these up, framed and in an obvious location, but I’m sure it would now embarrass the daylights out of most of them.

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Then there’s this. Though many of their praises involve my cooking for them, according to Joey his favorite thing to do with me is “Go to Burger King.”

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I think this was from two years ago. The school bus was kinda cropped out of the picture, but what you’re seeing is a Mommy heart greeting and hugging her little hearts as they get off the bus. How sweet, right? Well…this is the example of reality mixed with sweetness. If you can read the word bubble, one of my little hearts is immediately asking “what’s for supper?” Absolute truth. This is really what they ask almost every single day as they get home. Though sometimes “What’s for snack?” comes before the supper question. You can see where their priorities lie, right?

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Now we come to the fill-in-the-blank ones. These are usually good.

Though with one like this, it kind of forces them to be sweet. According to this child, I am “pretty as a princess.” Hey, I’ll take it….

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According to the same child, I am as awesome as a police car. I’m not sure what that means, but hey, a little boy thinks police cars are way cool, right?

His twin wrote this…

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I’m also awesome as transformers. For some reason I’m rather glad he didn’t try to depict me as a transformer…probably not a pretty picture…

I don’t have a picture of it, but a couple years ago one of them wrote that “My Mom’s favorite thing to do is _______.” He filled in “laundry.” Maybe because he sees me do it all the time! Oh well, I’m glad they think I like it I guess.

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What you can’t see in the above picture is the wording before my not so great picture. It reads, “My Mom is smart. She knows________.” My son filled in “a lot of health.” I have no clue where or how I know a lot of health, but I guess that’s good???

My most favorite card is an example from my oldest, probably when he was in about first grade. I don’t have the example of this anymore (unfortunately!), but I laughed every stinking time I came across it.

His fill in the blank read as follows: “My Mom is an _________________” He filled in “awsm runr.” Translation=awesome runner. I died laughing when I read it. Dear friends, I don’t run. At all. I like to walk, and I can do so at a pretty brisk pace, but I DON’T run. The same kid wrote that my favorite thing to do was exercise. Um, no….he also wrote that I like to cook rice a lot. Well, apparently I do know “a lot of health,” so there you go!

This year didn’t boast as many cards (yet), but one kid came home with something about how great a driver he thinks I am (no offense, Dad) and that Mom “almost always cooks supper for us.”

Well, I shared some fun little examples of what my children think of me.

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I may not really be the Best Mom Ever (who is?), but I’m just proud to be their Mom.

What I’m Into: April 2016

Howdy, howdy, and Happy April!

I realize I haven’t posted much lately, but that’s because the weeks have just been flying by this Spring. Basically April through mid-June are a blur here, for there are just so many extra things going on with us this time of year.

In case you’ve missed me, these are some things I’ve been into lately:

*Refinishing furniture. I’m almost finished a piece that was in my daughter’s room, which I painted in this fun purple color from Krylon. I’m not into tedious processes, so this helped me skip the whole sanding/priming mess and just spray away! It went on great! I am also experimenting with doing my own chalk paint to redo a storage bench that has been lingering in my basement. (I used a baking soda paste mixed with latex paint.)

*Lula Roe. This is a clothing company which has grown exponentially in the past year. My best friend started selling it and I really love their comfy skirts and dresses. I know a lot of folks are into the whole legging thing, but it’s not quite my comfort zone….as a public service I’ll not wear the pair I own out of my house.You’re welcome;)

*Aussie 3 Minute Miracle. This is a conditioner I started using a few months ago and noticed a difference when I do use it regularly. My hair is quite thick and has the tendency to be dry and frizzy. There are many things that don’t really work for me, but this one actually does I think! I still have big hair, but at least it’s not so dry.

*Working part-time. After many years of being a stay at home Mom (which I loved), I have been working part time this year. I just felt like it was time, especially as some of my volunteer responsibilities will be waning soon. At first I was helping in a tax office, then a position became available at my church for an admin. I applied, interviewed, and got the job. I think it’s been a great fit for me.

(As a funny/embarrassing aside, I did wear a Lula Roe dress the first day I worked at the office alone. It happens to be a nice modest length but twirls very easily. A UPS man came to deliver a big package, and I went out to open the door for him and sign. As I was signing, a HUGE gust of wind suddenly came up and blew my dress up a LOT! Thankfully I was wearing tights underneath, but I was kinda embarrassed. I didn’t say anything, and he didn’t say anything….)

*The Princess Bride. I know I had seen this maybe once or twice years ago, but it’s a classic for many other people. We decided to watch it one night, and my girl AND all the boys liked it! They also just discovered Harry & the Henderson’s. Thank you 1980’s!

I’ll sign off for now. Thank you for checking in!

Rachel