Saturday, May 21

It's Here!

Ahhh, it's finally here--vacation!  It seemed to take forever to get here, but now that it's upon us, I know that it will fly by.  So, what are we planning to do with our time off?  Whatever we want!

May 20:
Friday was the first official day of our vacation.  It started out cool and cloudy.  We decided to spend the day in  Bluffton, Ohio, which is about 20 minutes south of us.  I had been to a small restaurant there called Jeanne's Kitchen  for work lunches twice, and thought that my husband would like to try it.  After a brief stop at Kohl's here in town to pick up a few items that were on hold, we headed south for lunch.  The clouds were beginning to break up and sun was starting to peek through as we reached the town.  We parked off of the main street and walked up to the restaurant, and found the lunch special to be lasagna Florentine and a turkey BLT.  The restaurant also offers a regular list of sandwiches as well, but after finding out that the lasagna came with a side salad and roll for $6.95, we each decided to try it.  We had just missed a huge lunch group, and there were only a few other tables occupied, so we took our seats at the far end of the restaurant.  It wasn't long before our salads were brought out to us, then only a few moments later our lasagna and bread arrived as well.
I feel I must apologize, because the photos are taken with my phone and are a little blurry, but you can still see what I am describing.  The first two photos are views of the interior of the restaurant.  It has an Americana theme, with a large folk-art mural painted on the long brick wall.  The third photo is of the meal itself.  I couldn't believe how large the piece of lasagna was when it arrived--it was the size of the dinner plate!  All of this was, again, only $6.95 each.  What a great deal!  The salad was fresh and crisp and came with your choice of dressing (I tried a balsamic dressing, which was good), the rolls were warm from the oven, and the lasagna was incredible.  A sweet tomato sauce, a good balance of cheese, spices, spinach, and meat made it the best lasagna I'd ever eaten!  I did take half of it home with me, while hubby polished off his piece (which was the same size) in record time.  He agreed that it was very tasty.  He also agreed that it was a great place for lunch, and was very glad that I had taken him.

We finished our delicious meal, then wandered into the gift shop that was attached to the diner called The Black Lab.  They offer purses, candles, and Americana decor.  I purchased two little stuffed chickens in a blue metal tub for my kitchen, and we departed the store and walked back to our car.  Across the street from our parking space, a house was having a rummage sale, and as we were driving by, hubby noticed a five gallon Marathon container sitting on the porch, and wanted to stop.  He managed to bargain down the price a little bit, and we walked away with that and a book he found.  Rummage sales are great!

We headed back to Main Street, and found a parking space in front of a quilt shop called Forever in Stitches.  I don't quilt, because I don't have the attention span, but I do sew, and I wanted to look at the reproduction Civil War fabric that they carried (more on that project in another post).  They had quite a bit to choose from, and I selected a dark blue fabric with a geometric pattern print.  A great find!  The price was a little cheaper than I expected, at $8.49/yd.  Fortunately for me, I only wanted a yard.  After I bought my fabric, we headed out and I saw this sign across the street from us:
How cool is the cow wearing the chef's hat??  We didn't go it, but I still thought it was a great sign!  We walked around for a while, stopping at more shops: Ten Thousand Villages, a fair-trade shop, which carried some very unique items, but I didn't buy anything; Shirley's Popcorn Shop, a store that specializes in gourmet popcorn, and a used bookseller.  Shirley's Popcorn was neat--they had samples of the flavors that were for sale that day, and I was sold on the buckeye flavor.  I went home with a half-pound bag!  What is buckeye, you ask?  Well, in Ohio, it is a type of inedible nut.  There is some sort of fascination here with buckeyes that I may never understand--the Ohio State University's mascot is a giant walking buckeye, and they have modeled candies after them, which is basically a peanut butter ball dipped in chocolate to look like the nut, and these candies are incredibly delicious.  (I made the candies when I was younger, but never called them "buckeyes".)  So, now that you know that,  the buckeye popcorn is basically caramel corn that has been drizzled with chocolate and peanut butter.  I took a picture of the bag:
If you click on the photo, you can see a little better what I mean by drizzled with the chocolate and peanut butter.  It's so good, I wish now that I would have bought the one pound bag!

After that, we headed back out of town, stopping at Riley Creek Mercantile to check out their garden goods and guns.  We didn't pick anything up there, but hubby was enjoying the window shopping there!

Well, we spent most of the afternoon down in Bluffton.  It's a cute town, not very big, but enough shops and attractions to occupy us for several hours.  I would go there again, especially for lunch!  Here are a few more photos from Main Street:
Mural on the side of a downtown building
Old Glory and puffy clouds

We returned home, ran some errands, and ended our first day of vacation with a movie from Netflix, The King's Speech.  Good movie, I recommend it.  All in all, a great kickoff to what I hope will be a great week off!  Today, Saturday, we have mainly gotten some work done around the house--mowing, cleaning, tidying.  Tomorrow is our actual anniversary, and I told hubby that he got to surprise me with where we will go to eat.  I have a cake ordered from Meijer (it's a tradition for me to order a decorated cake, about the size of a wedding cake topper, for our anniversary each year.  What's funny about this tradition, though, is that my husband was not aware of it.  He said he remembered having cake for our anniversaries, but hadn't given it much thought otherwise) and will pick it up tomorrow after church.  I'll take a picture and add it tomorrow or Monday.  I think that as I write about what we do during the week, I will just add it on to the end of this post so that it's a continuous entry.  Check back every few days if you want to see what we are doing for our anniversary weekapalooza!

May 22 & 23:
We began our day as we do most Sundays-at church.  The service was slightly shorter than normal due to the potluck lunch that was scheduled for today.  We hadn't planned to stay for the lunch, so after service we went to drop off some clothes at Goodwill, then pick up our anniversary cake.  With it being another warm day, we decided to take the cake home before embarking on another adventure, so we did just that.  We then headed over to the mall, where we walked around until our dinner reservation at 4 pm.  Our dinner location was a surprise, so when it was time to go, hubby drove me to the restaurant, and it turned out to be a local seafood restaurant that we had never eaten at before, but has received good reviews.  It was really neat!  It was also delicious.  We were the only people in the restaurant while we dined (they open for dinner service at 4) and we were seated right next to a large saltwater fish tank.  There were all sorts of brightly-colored fish, and was really fun to watch.  We each ordered salmon for dinner, and my husband ordered a lobster mac & cheese as a side.  It was delicious!  Very tasty.  After dinner, we returned home to relax and enjoy our cake.  We needed to get things together for tomorrow, too, so that we were ready for our trip!  Monday, the 23rd, was pretty laid-back, and we took our time getting up and ready for the trip.  We left around 1:45 and arrived around 3:15, so it wasn't a long drive.  We checked into our hotel, which wasn't fancy, but it was fine for what we paid, and decided to go see the current Pirates of the Caribbean movie at the nearby theater.  It was okay, but not great--to me, it felt like it was lacking something.  But we only paid $5 for each ticket, so we weren't out a whole lot of money for the movie.  When the movie got out, we headed to dinner at Buddy's Pizza, which was tasty but different.  When they make the pizza, they put the sauce on top of the cheese!  But it was still good.  It was getting pretty late by the time we finished dinner, but there was a Starbucks across the road, so of course we had to go!  Hubby took a Starbuck's drink back to the hotel and we called it a night.

May 24:
Noah Webster's Home
Cotswold Cottage
Edison's Lab-notice the bottles of chemicals lining both walls!
New lambs at the Firestone Farm.  They look so content!

Daggett House
We woke up around 8 am, thinking that we would be able to get to Greenfield Village when they opened at 9:30.  It was the first beautiful day that we’d seen in a while, and we looked forward to spending the beautiful day together and outside!  We got ready and went down to the lobby for the complimentary breakfast, purchased discount voucher tickets to the Village and Museum,  and decided to use the free shuttle service that the hotel offered to guests, saving us $26 between ticket prices and parking.  Not too bad!  Twenty minutes later, we were pulling up to the main ticket entrance and found ourselves among throngs of school buses and groups of school children that stretched as far as the eye could see.  We were later informed that May is the busiest time of year for field trips at the Village and Museum.  Oh yay.  Anyway, we exchanged our vouchers for our tickets and were on our way to fun!  Since all of the school groups were entering at the same time as us, we decided to start at the back and work our way to the front, hoping to avoid most of the crowds for a little while.  We started in the sections called Porches and Parlors, which was the section with the most historic homes.  We explored Noah Webster’s home, the creator of the first American language dictionary, we toured Colonial-era homes, and we went back in time at Cotswold Cottage, an early 1600s stone house that Henry Ford purchased from England and had shipped over to reassemble for Greenfield Village.  We saw a mid-1600s windmill that originally lived in Massachusetts, a courthouse where Abraham Lincoln occasionally practiced law, and Thomas Edison’s boyhood home, along with his factories and labs brought from New Jersey to the Village.  By this time we were getting hungry, but most of the dining areas were packed with school groups, so we opted to head to the Eagle Tavern. Unfortunately, we thought the food would be heavier and more expensive than we wanted, so we went to a cafeteria-style restaurant next door called A Taste of History.  We ended up only getting something to drink, but it was nice to relax and rest our feet without the constant cacophony of loud, unruly children.  When we were refreshed, we ventured back out to see more of the park.  The children were beginning to leave now, and we would have a few hours in the Village with a much smaller crowd.  We visited the Wright home, brought in from Dayton, Ohio, then their cycle shop, also moved from Dayton.  We went through the Artisan district and watched glassblowers create a beautiful water pitcher.  We actually saw it twice, because the first one cracked when they were separating the completed piece from the metal rod and they had to start over.  It’s always interesting to watch people form molten glass into something beautiful and useful!  We were able to chat with the workers now, and when we walked to the typesetting building, we talked with the elderly woman who was explaining how typesetting was done.  Then we moved to the tin shop, where the woman demonstrator there made a star-shaped cookie cutter before our eyes.  Very fun!  We talked with her for a bit, then moved on to the weaving shop, where the demonstrator show us weaving on a loom from the mid-1800s.  All very interesting!  After that, we headed to the Firestone Farm, where they keep live animals and harvest eggs, wool, and other goods from the farm and use them in their interpretations on a daily basis.  It was a great way to show how a functioning farm worked (and still works today).  We visited the animals, including a herd of sheep with several new lambs, and went into the farmhouse and talked with the people there.  They were finishing up for the day, but they still talked with us as they cleaned.  They even informed us that one day Eminem came through with his children!  Hard to imagine, but I’m sure it was fun for them to see a celebrity.  We headed back out to the barnyard to go through the barn.  It was a barn, for sure!  The only animal in there at the time, though, were a ram and a chicken in the ram’s cage, keeping him company.  By now we had been through the entire village, and it was just about closing time, so we headed up front to the exit and gift shop.  Our legs and feet were so tired and sore!  But we had a great time together.  We called the shuttle and went back to the hotel to regroup, then headed out to bd’s Mongolian BBQ.  We both love Mongolian BBQ, because you can make your own dish however you want it and watch it being cooked on a giant round griddle.  We enjoyed our dinner, and when we were done, we were done for the day.  We went back to the hotel and spent the rest of the night relaxing and pampering our achy feet.  Great day! (Note: click on the photos to enlarge them for a better view!)

More on the Henry Ford Museum to come soon!

Tuesday, May 17


A Day At The Auction
My Treasure!
This past weekend, friends that we've known for years were here in town to hold an estate auction, and we were able to spend most of the day with them.  It's always great to have a visit from old friends!  I hadn't been to an auction since I was a teenager, and had completely forgotten how much fun they are.  The day started out warm and muggy, but the rain held off until just after the auction was completed.  Hubby saw a box lot that had a Marathon oil can in it, among other items, and wanted to bid on it.  It was one of the last things to come up in the entire auction, but we waited patiently.  I was the one holding the number, so I got to do the bidding!  A woman was there who also apparently had an interest in the box.  We bid and bid and I decided at some point in the middle of the bidding that I wasn't leaving the auction without the box of goodies, and I get waaaay too competitive when it comes to things like this.  I even warned my husband of this fact, but I don't think he quite realized just what I meant until he saw me bidding.  He tells me that he tried repeatedly to grab me and get me to stop bidding, while our friend watched and laughed.  He never caught me, and I never knew of any of that going on--I was in the ZONE!  Normally, I'm not a competitive person, but auctions do something to me and I just have to win.  Sooooo, yes, I won!  There was actually quite a bit in the box that will come in handy, like several pairs of good, heavy-duty scissors, older wood-handled tools, electrical tape, duct tape, masking tape, screws, glue, silver polish, a 24" metal ruler, half of an asbestos floor tile (I just don't know), and miscellaneous odds and ends, not all of which are shown in the photo.  And, of course, the Marathon oil can!  I paid $22.50 for all of it, and we know that Marathon oil can is likely worth $10 alone, because we see them at the antiques store here in town--you can't buy that anymore.  I think it was a good price for what was there, but of course, my husband thought I paid way too much.  That's okay, though; I'm sure that time will reveal that I was right!  :)

Seven Years!
My husband and I are quickly approaching the seven-year mark in our married life together.  Every anniversary is special, and this will be no exception.  I've already mentioned that we are planning a trip to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village up in Dearborn, Michigan, but I also decided to surprise my husband with a gift.  I'd been setting aside a little money from each paycheck to save up for his gift, and I was finally able to purchase it last Friday--a Kindle!  I got him the one he wanted, which is the one with the 3G wi-fi.  I was so excited to give it to him that I couldn't wait until our anniversary, and gave it to him last weekend!  I think it was the first time that I remember him ever being speechless.  It was great!  He can usually tell if I'm up to something, but this time I pulled a fast one and caught him completely off guard.  He really likes it, and has loaded several free classics onto it already.  I love being able to surprise him!  And, of course, I just love him, period!  Happy seven years of marriage, my dear!

Friends are great to have through life.  The best friends are the ones who stand with you through anything, and who, upon meeting again after a long separation, feel as if no time has passed since you last saw each other.  Friends are found in the most unexpected places--who would have thought I would meet my future husband because of a crazy roommate?  Sometimes we find friends are where we least expect them and most need them.  It's not necessary to have hundreds of friends on Facebook, or even hundreds of friends in real life, but friendship is essential to getting through life without losing our minds.  God meant for us to find friends and form friendships, and He especially hopes that among those friendships is a friendship with His Son, Jesus.  In the Bible, examples of great friendships are not few and far between: David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, and Jesus and His apostles, just to name a few.  When surrounded by the right friends, we can get through the toughest times.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 tells us the importance of friendship: "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!  11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."  Do you have a cord made with a single strand, or is yours a cord of many strands that work together to keep from fraying?  I hope your answer is the latter!

Tuesday, May 10

This Ain't Your Grandma's Kitchen!

Stock Photo
When I go to the grocery store, I'm amazed at how much exists solely to make our lives easier.  Everything is pre-made, pre-packaged and pre-processed for our enjoyment.  I love making food from scratch, but life just doesn't allow time for that anymore.  How sad!  I know I'm not alone.  Many people work long hours and/or have children who are involved in an abundance of extra-curricular activities, making meals a rushed and unimportant event, which results in quickly-prepared food.  As I walked the grocery store aisles last night, I bought boxed cake mix and frosting in a can.  Blueberry muffin mix--just add water.  I couldn't help but think that I would rather make these things from the ingredients in my kitchen, but I didn't have time.

Wouldn't our grandmothers be so very upset?

Stock Photo
Our grandmothers might have spent hours in the kitchen to prepare a delicious, home-cooked and home-made dinner for her family.  Her biscuits were from scratch.  Pudding cooking on the stove.  Perhaps you remember your grandmother cooking on a cast-iron stove, feeding wood into the beast to keep it hot.  Maybe you remember her baking fresh chocolate chip cookies and drooling because they smelled so good cooling on the counter  (you might have sneaked one or two when no one was looking).  The ham that she baked for Sunday dinners with the family.  Scalloped potatoes from scratch.   Heck, mashed potatoes from scratch.  Fresh vegetables from the garden that she grew out back.  Pies made from apples and blueberries and strawberries that weren't previously living in a can on the shelf at the store.  Pie crusts that didn't come from the freezer case at Wal-Mart.  Whipped cream made from fresh cream in a cold bowl.

There was pride in taking the time to make such treats.  We have fond memories of those times today partly because of how delicious the food was, but more so because we remember the time and love that went into the preparation of those meals.

Photo from of
I really enjoy baking and cooking when I'm trying a new recipe.  There's something fun and exciting about trying something new, but I don't do it every day.  Some days, we might just throw a frozen pizza in the oven.  Other days, we might just opt to go out to a restaurant and let someone else cook our meal altogether (which I really like, because I don't have to do dishes afterward!).  Can you imagine making a loaf of bread every other day?  Would you enjoy roasting a chicken every night?  How about kneading dough for making a pizza crust in your own oven once a week?  To me, that sounds like a lot of fun.  The thing is, our mothers and grandmothers didn't do it because it was fun.  Grocery stores back then stocked much of the same food items that they do today.  Generally, it was just cheaper to make them at home and save money, which was why our grandmothers did so--in fact, how many of you remember your grandmother raising chickens for food?  Today, the cost is about the same, so why bother making it? 

Now, don't get me wrong--I'm not against the ease and convenience of store-bought, pre-packaged items.  They truly are time-savers, but in exchange for ease we lose appreciation for quality.  I guess I just don't think that they taste very much like they came from my grandmother's kitchen.

I have a vast appreciation and interest in the way we as a society functioned before the "modern" inventions that we know today.  The main reason that I named my blog  "Hearthside Gatherings" is because of the image that comes to my mind when I think of what the hearth was in a home: a place where the family gathers together, maybe for conversation, games, cooking, or perhaps reading the family Bible.  Architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed his homes around a central hearth, because that was typically the main gathering place for families back in his day, and he felt that it was an important design element in a home.  Before central heating, a fireplace or wood stove was likely to be the main heat source in a home, and was a family's only way of surviving a long, cold winter.  There are two separate Bible passages that can apply to all of this: "If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward" (1 Cor. 3:12-14).  Is the work you do for God and your family  pre-packaged, so to speak, and convenient, or is it a labor of love and devotion?  Will it last through the fire, when everything else is lost?  The other passage is from Revelation 5:6: "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth."  Are you centered around the hearth of your home, which should be Christ, as it will be in Heaven, or are you the center of your own small world?  Food for thought (hopefully homemade)! 
P.S.  Special thanks to my husband for his contributions to this entry! 

Tuesday, May 3

To The Moms

Hello Moms!  I know that you are all busy, so I just thought I would give a little encouragement for this weekend.

Well, I thought that I would talk about all of the hard work and sacrifices that mothers go through on a daily basis.  Then I thought I would talk about how selfless you have to be.  Then, your protective nature, your unconditional love, your discipline, and how you don't get or expect to get anything in return.  But then I realized, that's all been done already!  Still, you deserve a heart-felt and deep thanks for everything you've never done in order to raise your children, so THANK YOU!  I know that at times it's not easy to do.

I might not ever know what it's like to be a mother, and honestly I think I'd be okay with that.  But I do, of course, have a mother, and I remember what it was like to be young.  My sister and I would fight and argue with each other, and I still remember what the wallpaper looked like in the corner of the kitchen where I was sent to stand when I was just too bad (it was an avacado green and white diamond pattern, with various colorful fruits and vegetables in the middle of each diamond).  I know that we both refused to eat certain elements of our meals, and were not allowed to leave the table until said elements were gone--and we didn't have a dog to sneak our food to.  It's not that our mother was a bad cook, we were just that picky.  I remember splitting my lip open on the frame of a partially-completed playhouse in our backyard, because I was just not thinking at the time, and my mom had to try and calm me down and wipe up all of the blood.  I have heard stories of trials and tribulations, from not only my mother, but from friends who are now parents themselves.  Many seem to revolve around their young children and experiences with potty-training, cleaning food off of the walls, waking up to a sick child, and so on...and what amazes me most is that they would do it all again in a heartbeat!  Honestly, it is a special kind of woman that makes a mother.  I have to believe that their reward is the good times with their child: the smiles, laughter, "I wuv you"s, crayon drawings on the fridge, hugs and kisses.

So, to my mother, and to all mothers out there, thank you for taking the time to clean up the mountain of poo with the soldier on top, washing the never-ending piles of laundry, holding our hair back when we had the stomach flu, and being our shoulder to cry on.  Thank you for loving your children when we are unlovable, difficult, petulant, and frightened.  Thank you for encouraging us and telling us that we are the best at doing something that we are really the worst at.  Thank you for being our mothers.  May your husband prepare a delicious meal for you, and may your children fan you with palm fronds and rub your feet this weekend!

What does God think about a noble wife and mother?  Read the passage below for yourself, and see that He holds her in a high regard!
Proverbs 31:10-31
 10A wife of noble character who can find?
   She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
   and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
   all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
   and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
   bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still dark;
   she provides food for her family
   and portions for her servant girls.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
   out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
   her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
   and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
   and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
   and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
   for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
   she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
   where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
   and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
   she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
   and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
   and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
   her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
   but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
   but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Give her the reward she has earned,
   and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.