Thursday, December 29

How Was Your Christmas?

We are back from our rounds of holiday visits, and brought back some pictures of Christmas dinner and yay, a cold.  A great way to spend my vacation week between Christmas and New Years--sick on the couch.  I could go on a tirade, but instead I'll just share some photos of Christmas dinner with you.  My mom loves to cook and entertain, and she did a great job again this year with dinner.  We had pork roast, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, squash, rolls, and so much more.  Drool and enjoy!
Mom's Christmas tree
Some desserts...more were added later
Lunch is served!  Yes, those are little sausages wrapped in bacon.  Yes, they were good.
Snack plates!
The Abominable Snowman, from Rudolph
Intermission during Ben-Hur--the menfolk watched while the womenfolk worked.
The rolls
Have a safe and happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20

For the Christmas Spirit!

We went up to the Toledo Zoo for their light display on Saturday.  It was good, as always, and we even got a light dusting of snow that day to enhance the beauty of the lights on the trees.  So without further ado, here are a few pictures from the Toledo Zoo to put you in the Christmas mood!

It was great when we first arrived, because not that many people were there yet.  By the time we left around 7 pm, it was packed.  If you live in the northwest Ohio area, the Toledo Zoo's Lights Before Christmas is a must-see.  The light displays are fantastic, and some of the nocturnal animals are still on exhibit.  We've gone there every Christmas since we moved to Ohio.  It's a great holiday tradition!

Wednesday, December 14

Finally Finished

The Big Unveil...
Well, it took two extra days, a lot of stress, many extra trips to Lowe's, and four sleepless nights at a hotel, but we finally have our new bathroom!  It was a frustrating experience, to say the least, and completely extinguished any desire to remodel again, but everything is new and updated and fixed.  We might only have one bathroom still, but it's definitely nicer!  Below are before pictures:

And a picture of a layer of old vinyl:
And after!:

 And yes, in case you were wondering, we did get the faucet and vanity that I mentioned a while ago in another blog post:
We have a bathroom that is approximately 12' long by 5' wide--a typical bathroom size for an older home.  To make it feel larger, we chose better lighting, a light-colored wood vanity, and kept the walls a lighter color, and even though we chose a larger tub and deeper vanity cabinet, it still feels like a larger space.  The porcelain tile gives it a much more polished and refined look, especially as a shower surround.  We also updated our towel bars, toilet paper holder, and towel/robe hooks to a more modern brushed nickel finish, with tied everything together well.  We like it.  I don't want to do this again, but we have a nice, updated bathroom.  It should help us sell the house in a few years without a problem.  Woohoo!

Christmas Partyin'
We attended hubby's Christmas party on Saturday night.  It was a good time, with lots of good food, live music and dancing.  There are always a lot of people there, but it never seems crowded, unless you spend the night near the open bar.  Here are a few phone pics and videos (I apologize for the quality--I need a phone that takes better images).
The local high school orchestra played before the band arrived.  They were very good!

I also took video of a couple who was really enjoying the music, and this guy had sweet moves!  I'm guessing they were in their late 60s to early 70s.  The video won't load onto the blog, but it was fun to watch them all night.  Just take my word for it.  I ran into the lady in the bathroom and she told me that he was from Greece, and that they just really get into their dancing over there.  Sounds like fun!

Staying Occupied
I've been staying very busy filling online orders lately.  I appreciate all of the support that family and friends have given me, as well as the support I've gained on Etsy, the website, and Facebook.  Thanks, everyone!  And there's a good chance that I won't have another entry before Christmas, so I want to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and happy New Year!!

I've been reading an online devotional from Chuck Swindoll.  Right now, he's discussing the story of Esther, another favorite story in the Old Testament.  God's not mentioned in this book, but He's certainly orchestrating everything that happens in it!  What a brave woman Esther was.  And smart, too!  She wasn't vain, she didn't aspire to be royalty, she had patience, and she understood timing in the events that were destined to occur.  She was all of these things because, through her life, God had made her into the person He needed her to be to save her race.  While she didn't necessarily want the palace life, she was obedient to not just her uncle, Mordecai, but also to God in what she was instructed to do.  Her humility caught the eye of the king, who had dismissed his previous wife for her unwillingness to obey, and this landed Esther in a position to save the Jews and fulfill prophecy.  Whew!  Good thing for that!  I wish that I could have more of Esther's attributes.  To read the book, click on this link: Book of Esther.

Sunday, December 4

Here We Go!

With Christmas just around the corner, there is a lot going on right  now.  We did finally get our tree up, and it looks nice and cheerful.  Sets the mood.  I didn't go all out with decorating this year, and I think it's because I feel so cramped already in our small house that I couldn't bear to add to the clutter.  I still wanted to decorate, though, so I went with the less-is-more option, and just set out some items.  Still, it looks like Christmas for sure!

We begin remodeling our bathroom tomorrow.  I've taken some before pictures, and I'll take some during and after pictures, and post them on here for anyone who is curious.  Hubby and I are both very excited for our new bathroom, and will be even more excited when it is all done!  It should look wonderful.

We also have my husband's Christmas party coming up next weekend.  We were able to go last year for the first time since moving here, and it was nice, although some people there looked like they were attending their prom (yes, seriously, prom dresses).  It should be fun, though, as we will be hanging out with some of hubby's friends there.  Doesn't hurt that they have free food and drinks all night, too!

Hope everyone has a good week!  And, in the spirit of the Christmas season, here is a passage from Luke: "And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”  But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.  The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her."(Luke 1:28-38).  Celebrate the real meaning of Christmas!!

Sunday, November 27

Thanksgiving!

Hello!  I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving.  Ours was filled with family and delicious food.  Our brother-in-law did the turkey honors this year and provided us all with two delicious smoked turkeys, cooked to perfection.  We all thought it was absolutely wonderful.  We also enjoyed homemade rolls, corn casserole,  mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and of course, pumpkin pie.  It was a wonderful dinner.  None of us participated in Black Friday shopping, so we just spent the day doing some relaxing and a little bit of afternoon shopping (it was brief, but fun, and deals were still found).  We ended the day with pizza, and left Saturday around noon.  It was a beautiful day Friday and Saturday, too, with sunshine and temperatures in the mid 60s.  Unusual for this time of year, but quite enjoyable!  After returning home, we did some yard work and I got to do some Christmas decorating--something I've been waiting all year to do!  I didn't get everything done, but I also think I won't put out all of the decorations that I have, too.  So, with the exception of the Christmas tree, I may be very close to being done with decorating.  I'm okay with that.  It's supposed to rain/snow for the next several days, so we'll certainly get the tree up between now and then.  Happy decorating, everyone!

Here are a few photos for your viewing pleasure:

I feel I must explain this first picture.  Every time we go to see my husband's family, we pass this farm just outside of Celina, Ohio.  This sign is actually the name of the farm, and I had to share it with you.  The first time we saw it, we both did double-takes.  And then we laughed hysterically.


Decorations for Christmas:

Candlelight:

Wednesday, November 16

Is It Christmas Yet?

Three years ago to the day today it was snowing on the fallen leaves
I can't believe that it's been over two weeks since I've been on here!  Time is flying right now.  This time of the year is always busier than normal--everyone in my family has a fall birthday, there are some fall birthdays on my hubby's side of the family, several holidays to plan for, and Christmas shopping...no wonder it's halfway through November already!  We are almost entirely done with the issues that we have been dealing with concerning our house.  The craft shows are finally over, and I'm not entirely sure that I want to do that ever again.  Although, it was good for earning some cash...it just didn't have any sort of long-term effects for my little online store that I had hoped for.  That's the way it goes, I guess, in an economy that seems to be in very rough shape.  We have family members and friends that are experiencing some hard times right now, and it just seems like, in retrospect, this has been a tough year in general for a lot of people.  Some days, it's hard to be positive about much of anything.  At least I can look forward to decorating for the seasons.  It's one of the little joys I like to anticipate, and I love doing it! 

I truly can't believe that Thanksgiving is next Thursday.  We plan to spend it with family, and eat lots of food!  I want to wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and hope you are able to spend it with those you love.  Happy Thanksgiving!

No matter what the circumstances, the Lord is always with us.  Countless entries of Scripture tell us this!  So why, when things go wrong, do I have a tendency to feel alone?  I don't think I'm the only one who has felt like this.  With all of the interesting situations that have presented themselves to us this year, I find it a good reminder that God's not leaving me to flail about helplessly in a sea of utter frustration.  Acts 3:19 states that those who are saved in the Lord will find a second wind: "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord."  Psalm 139:7 says, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?"  (I find it amusing that this could have been applied all the way back to Adam when he tried to hide in the garden!)  And finally, in Exodus 33:14, God had to reassure Moses that He would be with them: "And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  I know what I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving and every other day of the year.  What are you thankful for?

Sunday, October 30

Hello!

Hi!  I know I've been busy, but I'm hoping that things will be getting back to quasi-normal here soon.  Just wanted to give a brief update, so here goes:
We had our final craft show yesterday.  It went well, but doing these shows is a lot of work, and I think I'm done for now.  I have found that it hasn't really had any effect on my website traffic, and I didn't make enough cash to fund my shop long-term.  I'm not giving up, which is why I am renting space in a real brick-and-mortar store, but I don't think that I will have time or energy to do more craft shows with the holidays fast approaching.  Thanks to everyone who has offered words of encouragement and support thus far; I do appreciate it!  I mentioned on Facebook that I'm working on a new line of products, and here are some more photos of what I'm doing:
Mr. Beagledore, although he looks more like the mutt we had when I was younger
Lloyd the llama--I love his face
Lloyd the llama
I mentioned before that I am learning how to needle felt, which is basically sculpting wool into objects using a very sharp, barbed needle.  You poke the wool into the shape you want.  I'm planning to order more wool and try my hand at more animals to sell online and in the shop in Bowling Green.  I'm also planning to experiment with polymer clay and creating a family-friendly Christmas fun kit--but more on that later.

We've been busy with all sorts of things lately, including fixing problems with our house.  I would still rather have a house than live in an apartment, but it can really try my patience.  Such is life.  I'll be having a birthday soon, so I'm going to have fun with that.  Plus, it won't be long before Thanksgiving is here, and I'm just itching to decorate for Christmas already.  I don't know why I want to rush the end of the year, because there really is no reason to do so.  It will just mean that when the holidays are over, the crash will be harder, and the snow will be deeper, and everyone will start to look forward to spring.  Life seems to go by so quickly...

There are a few people I know who have just recently gotten engaged.  Congratulations!!

I have to constantly remind myself that if the business doesn't get better, it's not the end of the world.  God just might have another plan for me.  Psalm 119:36-37 says, "Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word."  It's always easy to lose sight of what's important, so this is a great reminder of what is really important. 

Monday, October 3

My Ode to The Office

I have to admit, one of my favorite shows on television is The Office (NBC, 9 pm Thursdays).  NBC has not had a great sitcom since Friends, except for this. This show has been a favorite for several years now, and despite the changes in cast (Michael Scott, you are missed), the show seems to have the same feel and sense of humor as it has always had.  A television show will always go through times of transition, and this usually indicates that the show's ratings have dropped to a level of possible cancellation, but I don't see this as the case with The Office.  I hope not!

One of my favorite aspects of the show is the wide spectrum of people contained in the office.  This makes it something that any viewer can relate to, especially if they've worked in offices (and oh, I have).  You know the guy who likes to play jokes, or you know the creepy old man that has a funny smell.  You have worked with the one girl who is so obsessed with boys, Hollywood and fad diets that you can't help but wonder if she's still in high school.  You can think back to the guy who doesn't care about those long, boring staff meetings and therefore brings his crossword (or newspaper, or magazine, or if he's younger, his cell phone).  Remember the young guy who climbed the ladder waaaay too fast?  If you took a moment, you could probably remember the person who went to a well-known college and liked to boast at every opportunity.  If I thought back through all of my jobs, I could probably find a real-life person who parallels every single character on this show.  In fact, right now I feel like I can closely relate to Pam when she was a receptionist, just without the looks.

Because of all of this, it's easy to watch the show and be able to laugh.  I can't help but wonder if there had been a camera filming my workplaces, would it be as crazy and ridiculous as this?  Granted, there has never been a bat flying around, there has never been an attempted attack on a coworker, and I have never been on a booze cruise.  I've never had a job that offers field trips based on Survivor to determine who might be the next office manager.  I've never been in an employee-cast movie or commercial, but it would be fun!  While Michael Scott was, at times, a bit trying on the nerves, you could never doubt his devotion to his employees or the company.  Wouldn't it be great to have a boss like that?

I'm glad that in the wasteland that is television today, there are still a few gems that make me want to stop what I'm doing and lose myself in the fictional lives of others.  The Office has always had that effect on me (if you know me, you will know that I don't like to sit still while watching a show--just ask my husband).  It has started its 8th season, and I hope to see it around for at least a few more years.  I would also like to see more office supplies encased in Jello, Mr. Halpert, because that was just cool.

Sunday, September 25

Apple Butterin' Day 'n' Stuff

Apple Butter Abounds!
I spent the day last Saturday making apple butter with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law (I know, I'm getting behind on my posts!) and we made quite a bit with two bushels of apples.  I have canned apple butter once before, five years ago, when my mother-in-law first showed me how to can.  We use a favorite recipe of hers, complete with a secret ingredient (and if I told you what it was, it wouldn't be a secret anymore, would it??).  What I thought would be an all-day event, though, turned into a half-day event, and I was done with my last jar and cleaning up at 3 pm.  Not bad!  Although it had been five years since I'd done it, it seemed to come back fairly quickly.  Now my husband is stocked with 29 quarts and two partial pints of apple butter--probably enough for another five years.  And enough to give away for Christmas presents as well. :)  Below are a few photos of the process and progress.
Phone pic--cooking the apple butter
Phone pic--sterilizing the jar and lids
Phone pic--just what we used for canning
Phone pic--some of the finished jars
At home--the final results!

So Much To Do!
We have been very busy lately.  Things are not going to slow down, either!  We have been gone or busy every weekend in September so far.  We are going to be home next weekend, so we are planning to have a late-season garage sale to get rid of some unnecessary stuff from the stuffmart.  But after that, craft shows abound for The Sunflower Tree.  Plus, the holidays are quickly approaching, and there are several fall birthdays in my family.  There will be no time for rest!  But that's okay, I always love this time of year: the trees changing, the different smell and feel of the air, the apple cider and other apple treats, and just enjoying the new season that God has given us.  With the changes in temperature, though, seems to come sinus problems and allergies for both me and my husband.  Such is life!  It is still my favorite season.  I took the time to try a few new recipes last week, and boy were they good!  One was Chicken Vegetable Turnovers, and the other was Blueberry Turnovers.  I have posted them on The Recipe Swap, so feel free to check them out.  I think you'll like them!  Great for a chilly day!

I don't know about you, but I have an easy time getting wrapped up and run down with things that go on, and more so when I'm overly busy, like what I've been experiencing lately.  It's times like these that I need to remember that God is more important than anything I could be doing or planning for in my life, because God is so much bigger than my little world.  If I focus too much on this world and not enough on the next, then I get discouraged and frustrated.  "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." (Proverbs 17:22)  The enemy goes to great lengths to keep our focus off of God by using so many types of distractions.  Keep in constant conversation with God, no matter what your circumstances.  He gives us strength to get through anything!

Sunday, September 18

Our Trip and B&B

We left after work Thursday night, and in customary man style, we didn’t stop except for gas & bathroom.  We were expected at the Ivy House Bed and Breakfast at 7:30, though, and made it just in time.  It was almost dark when we pulled in due to the rainy weather, but we could see that it was a nice place.  Innkeeper Linda met us at the door, and was quite friendly.  We exchanged pleasantries and then we were offered a tour of the tastefully decorated home and rooms.  We talked a while longer, and Linda told us about a tornado that hit back in February, doing damage to a part of the house and uprooting several large trees in the yard.  Such strange weather this year!  We brought our items into the room and headed out to Pizza King, which was very close and very small—it was actually located in a house.  (If you are not familiar with Pizza King, that’s so sad!  It’s an Indiana pizza chain that has great pizza.)  After dinner, we came back to the room and relaxed before going to bed.  Our room was very nice!  Each guest room has an antique restored door that has a large piece of slate where a window might have been.  On the slate is written “Welcome __________” (the names of the guests staying there that night).  It was a nice-sized room, not extremely large but certainly not small.  Just the right size to be comfortable.  Speaking of comfortable, the bed was very comfy!  Either a pillowtop or a memory foam top.  The room was tastefully decorated with antique furniture and luxury bedding and window treatments, and there was an Ivy House Bed and Breakfast robe for each of us in the closet.  Nice!  A good choice, for sure.
The door to our room

The former door to our private bath-restored and illuminated from behind
Our room, from the doorway-so cozy!
    The next morning, we went downstairs to breakfast at 9 am and met the other couple that stayed that night. We talked over an amazing breakfast—the first course was sliced apples, strawberries and bananas with a sweet yogurt for dipping, coffee, mango-orange juice, and water.  Our main course was stuffed French toast with a strawberry glaze and bacon.  The French toast was perfectly cooked-not soggy at all, with a mild sweet cream cheese stuffing and a just-right strawberry glaze, and the bacon was crisp and delicious.  A fantastic breakfast! (I wish I had taken photos of the food.  You would see what I mean!)  We conversed with the other couple for a while longer after breakfast was finished, then we left for Conner Prairie.
The dining room, ready for us to eat breakfast (2nd morning)
     Our trip to Conner Prairie was wonderful.  The weather, forecast to rain the whole time we were in town, was just cool and cloudy until quite literally the moment we left, and there were few people there, other than four school buses of children.  It was perfect.  We started at the back where the new Civil War exhibit was located, formerly the 1880s section of the village.  It was quite an exhibit, but my husband and I both agree that it didn't fit well into the village.  We spent a lot of time going through the exhibit before moving on to the 1836 section, where we enjoyed interacting with the interpreters (interpreters want to be asked questions!) and strolling through the buildings.  To avoid the groups of school children that were running amok, we went down the end of the lane to the potter’s shop, where we found a family friend of my husband's working.  Since it was a slow day at the potter’s shop, we were able to stay and talk for quite a while before finally moving on.  It was nice to see a familiar face.  Eventually, we wandered through the section and made our way to the Conner house (the namesake of the entire site), where we took our time and enjoyed the peaceful tour of the house, because by this time the school groups had left.  Then we moseyed on to the petting barn, and finally back to the visitor’s entrance and gift shop.  We purchased two pieces of pottery, both made by our potter friend, and headed for the Apple Store for apple cider slushies, apple cinnamon donuts, and hot apple cider.  I love this time of year!  Just as we were leaving the Apple Store, the rain began again and lasted into the night.  But, thank the Lord, it held off all day!  We were quite tired after a long day of walking, so we stopped at Olive Garden and then went back to the B&B for some r&r.  A wonderful relaxing night—just what we needed!
A scene from the new Civil War exhibit.  A wax figure stands "playing" the violin, while a "movie" describing the house and story play on a screen in the doorway.  Many actors filmed small vignettes like this and they play in various buildings as people walk through.
The Conner House
   Saturday morning, we awoke and readied for breakfast again at 9 am.  We were the only ones there that night, so we were the only breakfasters on Saturday morning.  We had warm cinnamon apples and orange juice for our first course, then a homemade blueberry turnover and ham, cheese and basil egg soufflĂ© for our main course.  Incredible!  I think this was some of the best food I’ve had at the many b&b that we’ve stayed at over the years (we count seven now, to date).  Beautiful home, tasteful rooms, comfortable beds, a house with a unique history, and a gracious innkeeper made this one of my favorite B&Bs to stay at, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a weekend away.  You won’t be disappointed!
   After checking out, we headed to Noblesville to check out the outdoor mall and the Borders that was closing.  We walked around, but were still a bit tired from our day yesterday, so we headed back north to the Heritage festival in Pendleton that we’d heard about from the innkeeper.  We drove through, but it was so busy and crowded that we decided to forgo the festival and just make our way home.  On the way, we stopped at Pizza King again, this time in Albany, and enjoyed our last Pizza King experience in Indiana for a while.  After a stop at Sam’s Club in Lima, Ohio, to enjoy the free samples, we headed back home for a relaxing evening.  It was a great time, and felt good to get away, leave the computer and internet behind, and just enjoy spending time with my husband.  I'm including more photos for your enjoyment:
Hand-painted claw foot bathtub in our bathroom-converted into a shower
The entrance to the Civil War exhibit.  The focus of the exhibit is on Morgan's Raid, the only battle of the Civil War to take place in Indiana.
The partially burned depot (actually a new building, with a gift shop and restrooms inside)
Piglet!
A house in the 1836 village.
This kitty was taking advantage of the milking that was going on in the barn!
More free advertising for the Ivy House.  A great place to stay!

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