Small Miracle

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Amazon

Last year as school was winding down,  I was chatting with a friend about how I had high hopes that our family (i.e. my kids) would keep the house “together” despite having the routine of school.

She had great input, adding that in years past she had high expectations for summertime which usually lasted a day or two and then went to hell.

She recommended this book.  I was got it from the library and was very intrigued because it is unlike the typical parenting books that demand we “whip our kids into shape” because we are the parents and they are the kids.

This author sets the tone that it is our job as parents to educate our kids about how to grow and become independent and that they will feel pride in doing so!

So I started with one chapter and then gradually moved to another and she was right!!  The kids loved it!  I remember being amazed that even on vacation, they were making their beds!  Great daily habits.  They especially loved the jar of $1 bills (for daily chores) and each child making dinner once a week- they both really got into it!  Davis even encouraged us to do Blue Apron this school year because of this book- and the whole family looks forward to the weekly Blue Apron meals!

Eventually I returned the library book, then the new school year began, and yada-yada-yada we fell off the wagon.

So here we are with a week or two left of school and they told me they wanted to do the “chore thing” again this summer!  I just picked it up from the library so we shall see!

Spring Break Stingrays

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We just got back from a very relaxing trip with the kids to Treasure Cay in the Bahamas.  We traveled with four other families and it was a blast!  My kids have been spoiled and now say they always want to travel with other kiddos!

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This beach definitely lived up to its title of a top 10 beach in the world!  I loved it so because the sand was like white flour and the water was glowing turquoise.  But the best part was how quiet it was!  No resorts and very few people around!  There were chairs and umbrellas out on the beach and there were always some available.  No getting up early to snag a chair here!

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I think this is a good destination if you want a perfect, absolutely gorgeous, quiet beach.  If your family likes to have lots of activity, shopping, or entertainment- this is probably not the destination for you.   We rented a condo (via VRBO) in the Bahama Beach Club and loved that the condos all faced the pool and the beach.  It was a lovely view and if you sat on your screened porch, you could see all that was going on.

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We had one chartered boat expedition that came highly recommended and then we planned to take a boat on our own, visiting the different islands, for several other days. It was pretty breezy the week we were there which made for great weather and no bugs!  But if did make the ocean water choppy and the women especially did not love the boating as much as just staying in paradise.  So we ended up having 2 boating days total and I have no regrets about that.

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Having said that, my two most favorite experiences did occur on the boating trips.  First on the chartered tour, we went out, fished for our lunch, and were taken to another desolate island where they cooked the fish for us.  It was so delicious, but the most amazing thing were the stingrays!!!!  The guides told us they were friendly so we had no fear petting them and letting them “pet” us!  Having just read The Soul of an Octopus, I was in awe and amazement the whole time!  Truly the highlight of the whole trip for me!  Only when we returned home did my husband talk to several people who have been stuck by stingrays.  I am so glad we didn’t know those stories before the experience!

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Whenever I have a unique encounter with an animal, I google that animal’s spirit meaning.  I love animals, and I have been told (and believe) that they are here to help us along this earthly existence.  This is what I read about stingrays on one  website:

If Stingray has come swimming by you today;

Stingray is letting you know that everything is now in place. You have the knowledge, you have the means, you have the tools and you have the skills – now get busy and get on with it. Everything you have worked toward is open to you so stop hesitating. Have faith in your abilities and follow your inner guidance.

Hmmm… this message is probably meant for me but I’m still not entirely clear what “it” is 🙂

Another thing I loved was when the adults went for a short boat ride.  We found a small desolate island and we all jumped in the water and swam to it. It was just so nice- the clear water, the clean sand below, and there  were a lot of big conch shells so I took one (its very imperfect- not all shined up like in a novelty shop) and brought it home.

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For the most part we relaxed and read and talked and ate:)  We either grilled dinner or we went out to one of 3 places.  As always, the kids preferred to have dinner at home all together in one condo while the parents went out to eat every other night.

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Because it is a fairly remote place, they have to import everything in.  There is a small grocery store but it is pricey.  Luckily, we had lots of advice from others who had been on ways to prepare and pack ahead.  And that is what I have listed below because some have asked:

  1. We were told to pack (in checked luggage) liquor and food because we all had our own full kitchens and groceries are quite pricey on the island, as most everything is brought in. This was very stressful for me to plan but now I feel like a pro. Our group had a loose plan to eat in 3 nights and eat out 3 nights.  Our airline charged $25/checked bag under 50 pounds.  So at 3 o’clock in the morning as I was packing the cooler, I realized it was more economical to check two bags as opposed to paying $100-$250 for an overweight (over 50 lbs) suitcase. I ended up having one suitcase with things like a medium sized plastic liquor bottle, small box o’ wine, coffee, 2 cans of tuna fish, peanut butter & jelly, seasonings like baggies of salt, pepper, seasoned salt, garlic cloves, dry pasta, protein bars, tortilla wraps, and oatmeal packets. The soft Yeti cooler (which we also planned to use on the boats during the week but did not end up needing) was packed with frozen tenderloins, cans of crab, frozen shrimp, turkey lunchmeat, sliced cheese, frozen bacon & sausage, frozen lasagna, frozen pizzas,  and frozen hamburgers.  Let me just say if you had heard me shlepping those bags up and downstairs at 3 in the morning to weigh on my bathroom scale, you would have heard some words!!  Never did it occur to me to bring the SCALE downstairs…  Some things I bought like packs of crackers/chips/club soda did not make the weigh in.  In the end, was it all worth it??  Yes, it was!  Each fun fruity drink from the swim up bar was $10 so the luggage fees were recouped almost immediately.  And we certainly did indulge and let the kids order some fruit smoothies, too 🙂

 

2. Things we bought from the little grocery store were: bread, eggs, milk, club soda, and a couple snacks.

My family had a blast and especially loved traveling with other families.  Adam and I would go back- it was just so beautiful and relaxing.  Although I’m not sure the kids would say that.  They feel they kind of “mastered” the island and would prefer to explore somewhere else.

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Legacy of LOVE

We just returned home from a wonderful Spring Break vacation.  It was so special for so many reasons but one was this book:

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Amazon link

I read about it somewhere (probably Amazon) and bought it and I’m so happy I did.  It wasn’t the best vacation read I could have chosen… I cried ALL the way through it… but I LOVED its message SO much that I really want to start a group just to talk about it and put her ideas into action!  I think it could be fun to do it together with girlfriends!

After losing her mom to cancer at a young age, the author discovered that the surviving family members don’t always get the loving support they need so she began asking questions and has given us the gift of this book.

I feel like all my memory-keeping is for this end… to help show me and my kids what we did and who we are.  Years ago I read a story in People magazine about a mom dying of cancer (in England, I think) and she prepared a long, detailed list for her husband.  Things to remember after she had gone.  Things like: check her hair for nits and let her buy a new dress for each school dance.  I don’t think I realized how difficult major milestones like graduations, weddings or holidays would be for surviving children.  For example, I definitely prepare the Easter baskets so that needs to go on my list of reminders.  Gemini recommends simply writing a letter to be opened as a future surprise.  She says you cannot imagine the comfort even just one letter will bring your surviving family 🙂

After attending several funerals over the past year, I have more work to do.  Think of the funeral arrangements alone!  What would that look like and how would my family be able to make those decisions while suffering with overwhelming sadness?  My husband has generously over-prepared for the unlikely future without him and I want to help my family by preparing now for the unlikely future without me.

Does all this sound morbid?  It brings me comfort… so I guess I just need to get started!

Grasmere Gingerbread

IMG_6759.JPGBecause today is St. Patrick’s Day, I’ve been thinking about our trip last summer to Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England.  I expected to feel an immediate connection with Ireland, as I’ve always known about my ancestors immigration from Ireland and my dad’s family is your pretty “typical” Irish Catholic huge family.

But the place I immediately felt at home was actually in Lake District, in the county of Cumbria, England.  The mountains and the water reminded me of Smith Mountain Lake, here in Virginia where we have always had a vacation home.

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I also love all things Beatrix Potter.  She lived and wrote & illustrated here.  They had a precious little shop featuring all her books and trinkets.  As a child my sisters and I had children’s china featuring her sweet characters and my couple of Easter decorations look very much like they could have some from her illustrations.

IMG_6732.JPGI loved touring William Wordsworth’s English home.  It was so English- go figure!  The fabrics, the furniture, the style- so charming!  And I have always loved English-style gardens so walking through the beautiful, tidy gardens was so relaxing.

IMG_5318.JPGWe had a delicious lunch and I will never forget my mom and Mary Fowler running to Sarah Nelson’s for their famous Grasmere gingerbread.  The mouthwatering smell led you to the tiny, little shop.  The recipe is top secret and it was delicious!  Not at all a cake-ey gingerbread but a very sweet, crumbly texture that goes perfectly with a cup of tea.

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We bought a few pounds of it and I had a little piece every day after we returned home with hot tea around 4pm.  But when it was gone, I started researching online for a recipe.  The best I could find was from some kind of thread where an old lady mentioned she had a little souvenir paper recipe book that mentioned a Grasmere Gingerbread recipe.

So the other day I tried it and it is a good starting point!  The texture was just about perfect.  My family loved it but I still want a stronger ginger flavor so I’ll keep tweaking it and then share once I think it’s good to go.

Ironic

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Adam’s mom sent us a picture of this framed newspaper article from his childhood.  In it Adam says his dad is the best because he went on a field trip with his class.  So sweet.

So isn’t it something else (not sweet) that this morning when I told Davis I would be a chaperone on his field trip to the Virginia Beach Aquarium, he handed the check back to me and said, “That’s okay, mom, we don’t need you this time.  I’m going to be in my friend’s mom’s group.”

Painting Class

IMG_8340.JPGI have been taking another painting class- this time acrylic- and I am learning all kinds of fabulous things about myself!  For example, I do not take risks, I am sometimes paralyzed by indecision, I am afraid of making a mistake, I focus too much on the end result instead of the process, I don’t enjoy playing in the mud (because of the inevitable clean up- duh!), and I am a perfectionist and maybe even a control freak.  Awesome.  Luckily I have a wonderfully patient teacher who loves the challenge… of me.

Painting is not easy for me but I am starting to make some headway.  Often either with my clients’ homes or my own home, I know what kind of artwork I’d like to see in the space but I have trouble actually finding it- and in the correct dimensions.  I thought it would save time and money if I could just create it myself.  Easier said than done 🙂

I recently finished a piece I hoped would complete my daughter’s bedroom (picture above).  It was nerve-wracking waiting for her to see it.  I really wanted her to love it.  I watched her eyes when I showed it to her and she gleamed!  I felt so proud and happy!

Then Adam suggested hanging the one below in our bathroom.  I would choose something larger but I have to admit it does add something to the room.  I’m going to have to buy some more canvases this week!

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The Best Snickerdoodle Cookie recipe

It makes me so happy that my kids enjoy baking. Davis made these the other day- one of his specialties!  He delivered some to the neighbors and they called later saying they were the best snickerdoodles they’d had.

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Davis’s Snickerdoodle Cookies

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

Roll dough balls in 2 Tablespoons sugar plus 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and eggs thoroughly. Add flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Shape into 1 inch balls. Roll dough balls in 2 TB sugar plus 2 teaspoons cinnamon.

Place on ungreased baking sheet for 8 minutes.  We like them “pillow” soft so we take them out a little early to cool and soften.

Last week we went out to dinner for my dad’s 65th birthday with most of his 8 siblings!  I really wanted to bring a cake to the restaurant but was running out of time. Mary Fowler saved the day and baked one of our favorites: the Hershey chocolate cake.  It goes so well with red wine, my dad’s favorite 🙂

So while I showered and got ready, she whipped up the cake and it looked beautiful!  Everyone loved it!  We definitely show love with food around here!

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