Hello 2017

hp-xmas-tree-2016Happy 2017!!!!!

Squeezing in a few last pictures of my beloved Harry Potter Christmas tree. The first picture is one my friend, Vanessa, took on New Year’s Eve. I think it’s the best one so far. If you click on the picture, you can zoom in for more details.

The second picture is the completed Marauder’s Map tree skirt. I finish20170102_042959ed it last night knowing that if I packed it away half-done, it would never get done. I’m pleased. It’s not terribly authentic or accurate but it is fun.




We had a nice, quiet Christmas this year. It is a shame that Dan and Christi had to stay in Michigan – they were missed. My dad was also missed – another first without him and it was hard, particularly for my mom. Still we had a nice holiday and a most excellent Christmas dinner – at one table!  Crazy. (I have a pic of Andy too but it won’t load. I’ll edit later.)

New Year’s Eve was equally quiet. We dragged a few friends from our old neighborhood over here and played a bunch of board games and ate a lot of snacks. Vanessa’s son, Preston, and his buddy, Taylor, played video games for a short time and ended up joining in on the board games. When they got sick of the grown ups, they moved into the Harry Potter closet. (I keep our Christmas stuff in there so it was empty.) I got such a kick out of listening to them laugh and whisper and plan their nest for the night.  I didn’t realize how much I missed 11-12 year old boys. They are a hoot.

It might be a first for us. Two holidays with no police, no crowds and very little chaos. Truth be told, after all of these years, I kind of miss the chaos. But . . . not nearly as much as I thought I would.

I hope your year is off to a great beginning. Show us something great 2017!

Merry, merry, merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from me to all of you. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to the start of a new year as well.  Cheers to 2017!

I jinxed myself a bit earlier when I told my sister I was totally ready for Christmas. I’m not. I’m going to be scrambling tomorrow. Busy is good. Details tend to work themselves out, right?

But, I am vain. And, I’m thrilled with my half-done Marauder’s Map tree skirt. So, I stopped scrambling for 10 minutes to share it.  I’ll finish the rest over 2017.  Along with about 100 other ideas for the giant Harry Potter tree.

I hope to be back before the new year but, no promises. Stay warm, dry, cool or whatever your world demands.  Sending low-stress vibes to everyone. Remember this time of year is supposed to be fun. (I mostly typed that as a reminder to myself.)

Love, hugs and best wishes.


The plan is never the plan . . .

I’m still in Florida. As the wise Stephen King said (in Duma Key) “God punishes us for what we cannot imagine.” As I’m sure you’ve gathered things here are weird and I can’t provide details (not my story – I’m a bit player). Still, prayers all around would be welcomed by all of us. Honestly, I shudder when I recall I used to think having toddlers was hard. Send me your toddlers! (Actually, toddlers ARE hard. I just thought that once they were actual people it would get easier. Yeah, yeah. Shut up, Stephen King.)

So, I am here and warm.  Here are more pictures of my Harry Potter tree. What a wonderful diversion this monstrosity has been. A little later I’m going to work on the Maurader’s Map tree skirt.  Because I took them, the pictures are not great. Ian and Tim will both be here next week and I’m sure they can get better pictures.  In the meantime, I’d like to thank the sites that gave me inspiration and good instructions:  Over the Moon, Practically Functional (for the Sorting Hat) and EpBot.  I have learned so much from people who take the time to explain what they’re good at (and even take pictures!).  I’m already thinking about what I want to add next year.

If you click on the picture it will tell you what you’re seeing. Or you can use your imagination! It’s all good.

From the top of the stairs.

I love when it all works out . . .

skull-of-matthewFor a hurricane weekend, we definitely ended up having WAY more fun than is probably appropriate.  And, I’m here to write about it.

Bing and Gigi (her Boston Terrier/Chihuahua new-to-her dog) came to sit out the storm. Gigi, a rescue dog who spent some time on the streets alone, is slowly coming around. She and Cally (our dog) may never be best friends but they at least learned to ignore each other pretty well. For the people in the house, there was cake, pie, chips, soda, wine and beer. Really, what else do you need?  While I had Bing trapped in the house, I made her make soap. We made some pretty ones!

The next morning, we learned the storm had pretty much skipped us. Mike was antsy because it was too windy to be out doing yard work and he’s not much for sitting around – especially with no Netflix or ESPN. So we opted for more cake, pie and snacks. When those ran out, Mike started cooking real food and Bing helped me with a fall wreath and some weird cobwebs I’ve been working on (pictures tomorrow). Andy set up my mom’s new phone (delivery just happened to work out pre-storm) and showed her all kinds of stuff the new phone can do. I dunno – it was just a really nice couple of days.

Saturday was beautiful and sunny and a little cooler (85-ish – nearly sweater weather). We were invited to a pizza challenge that evening. The hosts provided pizza dough and each couple had to bring their topping. I left Mike to think about that and went and got my hair cut and then stopped into Goodwill simply because I could. Andy had been using my car lately and on Saturday he was occupied AND had a ride home. (If anyone knows how to get the “boy smell” out of a car, please share. I love Andy.  I used to love my car.)

BAM!!!!! Walked into Goodwill and there were two giant boxes containing a  12′ Christmas tree.  It was like they were waiting for me. (The very first time I walked into this house I loved it because of the idea of having a GIANT tree in the entry. I soon found out how expensive those suckers are. But, I have never given up hope.) $40!!!!!!

28295But, and there’s always a but . . . I didn’t really think through how wide around a tree that tall is. Mike and Andy set it up for me this afternoon (because I was acting like a 3 year old and wouldn’t stop talking about it). Behold the Griswold family Christmas tree.  It will fit in the hall but some rearranging will have to be done to accommodate the tree and it’s … wait for it… 2500 lights (that all work)!!!!!!  Rest assured, you will be hearing more about this behemoth.  Isn’t it a scream!?!

And it doesn’t end! Pizza night was a hoot! It’s nice to find a group of people where things are easy – and funny. When you are all cooking together you learn an awful lot about people as well. There was no agreement on which pie won. I liked the one with peppers, onions, anchovies and really good mozzarella. (Don’t tell Mike – that wasn’t his. He did a muffalata (sp?) pizza – no thanks.)  Fun night. I always love seeing other people’s houses. The hosting couple is originally from Venezuela but have lived all over the world. They had so much beautiful art from everywhere – oil paintings from Venezuela, icons from Bulgaria, Disney stuff and so much more. I loved hearing the stories behind some of them and hope to hear more.

20161010_014706Today, more soap lessons for a friend. It was lesson #3 and we were ambitious. We’ll see how things come out of the mold tomorrow. I was confident we could do things quickly. My friend was less confident. I think she has a better understanding of how much talking goes on during and between soap batches. These are three we did. She went home with six more! Anyway, I’m so glad she showed up with frozen soup. We finished up the soap around 6:30. It was awesome to have soup, garlic bread and a salad to finish things off.  It’s killing me now to see these soaps. We’ll see in the morning.

Anyway … for a hurricane weekend it worked out pretty well. I needed some time like this – I’ve been gloomy lately for no particular reason just blah. It’s nice to reach the other side of the abyss.  😉



Soap Stories

soapstackguy1Anyone remember this? Such a long time ago! I started making soap in 2004. After a while, it was just too much and I stopped. Then I kind of started but, it was still too much. Too many teenagers, too many fires, too little me. I miss it. I kept making soap once a year for fun and for holiday gifts. I didn’t do anything last year. This year I’m going to offer some soaps for sale and make a lot more for gifts.  I’m excited because I have a chance to teach a few new people how to make soap this month before rowing completely takes over our lives again. I love teaching people to make soap.

Before I start ordering stuff and getting started, I thought I’d ask you all about your thoughts and preferences.  Please jump in on the comments or on FB.  Here are the things I’m curious about:

  • The recipe I’m planning to use will have lard in it. I like lard because it keeps costs down, it’s gentle for most skin types and it makes a nice, long-lasting soap. Would that be a deterrent? If I did a pure olive oil soap, would you want a scent or just plain?
  • Do you like the option of getting a discount for buying unwrapped, “nekkid” soaps that you can dress up yourself?
  • These are the scents I’m planning to use. Please leave a comment if you see something missing that you LOVE. I usually avoid most Christmas scents because if you give them as gifts people start  using them when they have a new year and new goals on their mind. By the time you give a Christmas scent, Christmas is over.
    • Oatmeal/Milk/Honey
    • Peppermint Stick
    • Pink Sugar
    • Frankincense
    • Rosemary Mint
    • Burberry for Men
    • Citron/Peppercorn/Fig
    • Almond Biscotti
    • Cuban Tobacco (terrible name, delicious smell)
    • Ginger/Lime
    • Lemongrass/Sage
    • Apple/Mango
  • How do you feel about shipping? Would you rather pay actual shipping or have shipping built into your price?
  • I’m thinking about doing one “flavor” of soap as a fundraiser for a dear friend in a spectacularly difficult situation. The soap would have fun, unique wrapping. Would a $.50 bump in price affect your decision to purchase?
  • Finally, how do you feel about pre-ordering (once I get my act together)? I’d offer a 10% discount for orders placed by 10/15/2016.

My plan is to reboot my soap page on Facebook and to add a separate soap page to this blog. That way, if you’re not interested in soap, you won’t have to hear about it. As always, I’d love for you to buy my soap. But, if you don’t, please visit your local farmers market or craft co-op and buy some local soap. You won’t regret it.

Opinions, please! Thanks.



Belated Merry Christmas!

Once again, time is just flying around me and I keep getting lost!  I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas.  We certainly did.  I tend to miss having little kids around this time of year – they get so excited.  But, I have Mike and he magically turns eight on December 23.  It’s kind of scary and kind of amazing to witness.  Having all four boys home only ramped up the volume.  It’s loud around here lately, but it really is fun.

Christmas Eve was spent at my parents’ house.  My brother was also in attendance in what has become a giant book-fest!  Everyone left with a stack of new books to read.  My dad did a lot of the Christmas shopping this year.  If you own stock in Amazon, thank him.  I’m so dense lately.  One of the last packages Andy unwrapped contained a remote control.  I was thrilled because it looked like it would work everything in our living room.  Ummmmm …  I thought this, though not three weeks earlier, my father had me on the phone while I crawled around measuring every aspect of our living room.  The remote was accompanied by this insane television!!!!!  Doh!  

The television is new and has Roku and all of that stuff built in.  This is what we watch when we watch tv and now we have streamlined the contents of the tv cabinet!  Mike and the boys like it because the picture is amazing (I actually got car sick trying to watch them play a game) and it’s WAY bigger than anything we’ve had.  

My brother is the equivalent of a drug dealer when it comes to books.  He picks the best books for each of us.  Everyone in the house has been absorbed in at least one book from him since the car ride home Christmas Eve.  It’s so much fun.  In return for my brother’s thoughtfulness, the boys got him a zombie garden gnome.  You know? The gift you get for the man with everything?  Poor Matt.

We spent Christmas Day at home.  The favorite gift?  The 1964 Olivetti typewriter for Andy, hands down.  He has wanted a manual typewriter since he was about 7.  It works and I even found ribbons for it.  Andy has been typing on it every night.  We’re not allowed to see what he’s working on but I love the click-clack of the keys and the ding at the end of the line!  Another favorite? Dan received a rubber band machine gun kit.  He built it and it’s a riot.  Well, mostly.  I could live without finding rubber bands all over the house.  My favorite?  Mike gave me a set of Nancy Drew books like the ones I used to have when I was girl.  I’m so thrilled!!!!  There is no explanation for my love of Nancy Drew – the old one.  (The picture is of Christmas breakfast – cinnamon rolls stuffed with bacon and topped with caramel – like baby angels!)

And, now, I procrastinate.  It’s time for the annual New Year’s Eve/Birthday celebration.  Ian and Tim turn 20!!!!!!!  How is that possible? As usual, I have no clue how many people will be here.  I’m guessing somewhere between 20 and 45 people off and on throughout the night.  This makes food difficult – cross your fingers I make somewhere between enough and not too much.  This year will be a game night as well.  If anyone can lend me about 500 sq. ft. I promise to return it early New Year’s Day.  

Here’s to a happy, healthy, prosperous New Year to all of you!  I think this is the year we finally all get flying cars. 

Bittersweet December . . .

I guess I knew it was coming.  Eventually everything changes.  Kids grow up.  Situations change.  But, why does it have to happen to me? I wish I had known when the boys were little that I would miss it.  But, I didn’t know it and I would not have believed it anyway.  And, I can’t say that time flew by because while I was living it I felt every excruciating/joyful minute of it.  

We finally found a night this week when all four boys were here in one place.  We decorated our trees – yes, two trees this year!  Somehow Mike and the boys make something as dainty as decorating a tree into a tackle sport.  

I just stood on the sidelines, watching Christmas Vacation and counting my blessings (l-r: Dan, Ian, Andy, Tim, Mike – it’s nice that they’re interchangeable, huh?).  We had fun – I had forgotten how ridiculous the boys are when they’re all together.  At one point Danny inhaled a mouthful of tinsel.  I’m not sure how that even happens.  I stood in the background shouting (in my most compassionate Mom voice), “I AM NOT taking you to the Emergency Room for something this stoopid!”  Ahhh . . . Merry Christmas.  

We have a kitchen tree – which is bright and decorated with all of the boys’ ornaments that they will eventually take with them when they settle somewhere for good.  It’s covered with gobs of tinsel and topped with our Harry Potter (Book 4) gnome.  I love that gnome, though about half of the people who see it cringe and grimace and ask WHY?????   C’mon people, this is the best use of an old pair of panty hose ever! 

We also have a tree in the living room this year.  It’s a skinny thing with fake snow that I’m sure will kill us with chemicals, but I love it so much.  I put all of the other ornaments on this tree.  I had never realized how many white ornaments we have.  The kids swear it looks like a tree out of one of their old “I Spy” books. 

December 19th  marked the first year without Scout.  I still miss her. 

Today was Andy’s best friend’s birthday. Paul turned 14. (Andy will be 14 in less than a month!)  We headed across the street for pizza and cake and general merriment.  Our other neighbors joined us . . . they spent the day moving into their new house that is not in our neighborhood. Their son, Connor, Andy and Paul have been inseparable since Connor moved here.  Talk about a sad group of kids.  

As we adults were talking, we realized that today was exactly 7 years since we first met these neighbors.  They were new.  They came down for Paul’s birthday.  The kids were little (Andy was 6, Danny was 14) and there was a bouncy house.  The new neighbors handled all the little kids coming out of the bouncy house missing teeth with aplomb.  I think we lost a total of 6 baby teeth that day!  

Since that day there have been so many memorable events.  Now, Connor has a learner’s permit.  All of the kids are so grown up. And the little neighborhood posse is broken up.  I think we’ll all remain friends, but it’s not the same if you cannot walk down to your neighbors’ house in your pj’s at 9 pm to see if they have two eggs and horseradish.  You know?

Today, Danny and Andy did heavy lifting to help the neighbors move to their new place.  Dan has been working all week on restoring the koi pond in the neighbors’ new yard. He’s fixed pumps and lights and all kinds of things that I would never have believed he’d be able to do just seven years ago.  

This is the first year that the kids (mine and neighbors’) did not want to decorate Christmas cookies.  I guess it’s time to retire my box of rolling pins for a while. I figure I’ll give the rolling pins as wedding gifts one day as they are marked with all of the kids names. Mike did get to make cut out cookies and decorate some with our youngest neighbor, Preston – 8 so that was something.  Waaahhhh . . . .

So, deciding to eat the lemons that life has handed to me I decided to visit some websites and learn how to make those pretty cookies you see in magazines.  (I’m joking about the lemons! My life is good, great even, but bittersweet can hit anyone at anytime, right?) If I can’t have kid decorated cookies, I want the other extreme.  

And, once again, my inability to read and follow directions was brought to the forefront.  Mike, not knowing the kids were not making cookies this year,  made a boatload of sugar cookie dough.  I think I have 12 dozen now.  I did not start until about 9 pm last night.  By eleven, poor Cally the dog was in a sugar coma from licking up icing and I was actually sugar-coated and crunchy.  

I cleaned up, went back and read the directions.  Funny how things work when you follow the instructions of multiple people who have taken the time and care to write out how they do things and photographed each little step. Who knew?  They seem to be on to something.  I’m off right now to fix last night’s cookies and start on the rest of them.  I’m not sure I am cut out for this.  (Get it? Cut out cookies . . .  sorry)

No One Mourns the Wicked?

Well, I do! I mourn that the “Wicked” is over. My Christmas gift from my parents was a ticket to see Wicked (with my awesome mom).  We went this afternoon.  I’ve loved the soundtrack of Wicked for years and years and wondered if the show would live up to what was in my head.  It did!!!!!  It was so beautiful and fun and perfect.  The actors voices were not the same as my well-worn CD, but they were wonderful and the orchestra did an amazing job supporting them.  ::::sigh:::: I cannot remember the last time I was so mesmerized.  

The sets were simple and amazing at the same time.  But, what I kept coming back to was the fact that the two lead actresses could even breathe.  They just sang and sang and sang and all of the songs were big songs.  It was simply amazing to watch them. I cannot imagine singing even one note on key on purpose, much less what they did!  The dancers were also spectacular. Oh hell, it was all amazing.  I have also decided that designing sets would be the most awesome job in the world. 

I’ve already alerted Mike to the fact that we will forgo food or whatever next time Wicked comes through Orlando.  There’s no way I could miss it.  

Confessions of a crafty person . . .

I like making stuff.  Lucky for everyone who knows me, I usually prefer to make useful things, not just doodad things.  For Christmas, I made my mom and my sister beach bags.  I think they were kind of fun.  Of course, I did not take pictures, but I will when I am at my mom’s next time.  I used pants from Goodwill in fun patterns (my sister got a striped pair of pants on the outside and olive green on the inside and my mom got a 50’s Parisian print on the outside and the stripes from my sister’s bag on the inside).  The pants make great bags because of the pockets.  For the bottom of the bags, I used a mesh that will allow sand to fall through as you walk back to your car or your beach house (preferably the beach house).  Inside the bags, I stuck a book, lip balm, funky toenail polish, a beach sheet (lined with a vinyl tablecloth and weighted with some painted washers) and some sunscreen.  I made the straps long and sturdy.  They are long enough that you can carry them across your chest with the bag part bumping on your butt if you have to walk a long way.  I made another version of this bag for my neighbor’s best friend.  Her’s was preppy pink and green striped pants with a beautiful lining of a matching silk floral pant and I knitted the strap from some kind of funky, chunky pink yarn.  It was a hit too.  Anyway, I thought I’d share the idea for those of you crafty folks already thinking about next Christmas.  I will try to get some pictures.  (Picture is NOT one of my bags, mine have practical straps! And, um, yeah, I don’t sell them.)

I showed you the wreath  I made for the front door back in November.  My neighbor fell in love with it.  She would come to visit the wreath. It got weird.  I explained to her that we could go to Goodwill and get ornaments and make a wreath for her door too.  But, she’s not really into making things.  I didn’t push it.  After New Year’s she asked if I would mind going to Goodwill.  Talk about a wild Saturday night!  We found a ton of great ornaments, Mike cut us a round piece of peg board and I fired up the glue gun.We started with a newspaper template for the base. Pegboard is a great, cheap sturdy base and all of the holes on the back give you lots of options for hanging the thing up later. 

Now, I spend my life making messes and cleaning them up.  There is very little in my house that has not been abused.  I forget that most people do not live like this.  My neighbor was so tentative when we started.  We worked for about an hour just getting her used to the glue gun and accepting that it was okay to glue colors randomly.  I showed her how to stand on a chair to look down at what we were doing (much prettier). After an hour, things relaxed.  I did a load of laundry while she took charge, gluing and ignoring the strings of hot glue (you get those at the end).  

At this point, we took the wreath across the street to make sure it wasn’t too deep for the storm door to shut in front of the front door.  Made it by about 1/4″!!!!!  We broke out the snacks and declared it Happy Hour as we proceeded (well she did with me nagging in the background) to add the fun, pretty ornaments on the top.  

I was so proud of how confident my neighbor became by the end!  She was just tossing stuff on the floor and rearranging without even looking at me for approval. Does it get better?????  And the finished product is perfect (though my photography does not do it justice!) 

I love it!  The old, tarnished silver ornaments we picked up for $.50 look like pearls on this wreath.  Overall, my neighbor spent $17.00 for this one-of-a-kind “heirloom.”  And, I get to see it every year from the front of my house!  I’ll see her wreath way more than I ever see mine.  LOL

(For the record, we both cleaned up.  And, during the whole process only one ornament was shattered on the floor!)

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year

I hope that those of you who celebrate Christmas had a wonderful holiday. We definitely did. As usual for our family, there were some bumps and bruises along the way, but the beauty of having older kids is that nothing is as tragic as mom might try to make it. 

We discovered on Christmas Eve, a few egg nogs into the party and far too late to do anything about it, that we were missing a BIG box from Amazon.  (I have stuff shipped to the warehouse and have never really checked anything beyond the tracking info online in the past 15 years.)  Ummm . . . that would be the box containing EVERY single thing Ian was getting this year.  The box also held my brother’s gifts.  Fortunately, we  were at my parents’ house and I happen to have one of the smartest moms in the world.  We printed out pictures of my brothers gifts and wrapped them up big.  He did not cry or anything. 

When I got home, I wrapped the gifts of my three “favorite” children and then headed to my printer to print out Ian’s virtual Christmas and wrap that up.  Lucky Ian, I did find a pack of boxer shorts that I was able to wrap and stick in his stocking so he had one real thing to open Christmas morning.  But, it was all good.  Ian, who had received gifts the night before, was fine with his virtual Christmas.  No tears, no drama.  (Okay, well, except on my part – I was sooooo disappointed!)  

Other than that, we had a lot of fun at my parents on Christmas Eve and then again on Christmas Day. I had all my kids at home. I have my parents and brother close.  I miss my sister, but she’s in town now so I get everything.  And, then, to live in a neighborhood where everyone is so nice and fun is just icing on the cake. Christmas could not have been much better.  Our one mean neighbor did not even call the police!