Saturday, May 26

Our Eight Year Anniversary

Lantern Hearts
Well, we are back from our vacation!  It was very much needed, and very much enjoyed.  We went to Cincinnati, and stayed at a B&B in Burlington, Kentucky.  Read on for our adventures!

Day 1: Tuesday
We left our house early to spend the day at the Cincinnati Zoo.  We encountered a lot of traffic and construction, but we got there just in time for the zoo to open.  And wouldn't you know, we ran into a friend of my husband's on the way in to the zoo!  What are the odds?  It turns out that it wouldn't be the only time we would see friends in Cincinnati, though.  She gave us tips on places to eat and things to do, and told us to be sure to check out the baby camel not far inside of the zoo.
We headed in, and just inside the gates was a zoo employee with a barn owl on her arm for people to come see up close!  That was really neat.  The owl's name was Jasper, and was just beautiful.  We continued on and went to the camel exhibit, but it turned out that Jim Day, the announcer for the Cincinnati Reds, was taping something there, and there were so many people that we really couldn't see much.  We decided we would come back later.
Jasper the Barn Owl

Jim Day, Announcer for the Reds
We headed over to the large cats, and then went to see the cougars being fed, which was really neat!  They had several places where they kept raw hamburger, including right next to the viewing area, and they use these to not just feed the cats, but to train them, too.  It was really neat to watch, especially when they came right up to the observation glass.  After the feeding was over, we continued walking around and saw manatees, lizards, wolves, lions, penguins, birds, a red panda-more on that in a moment-and we got to see the giraffes being fed.  That was really great, because the giraffes were right in front of us at the fence.  They offered crackers for people to buy and feed the giraffes, too, so it was very interactive.  I just couldn't believe how big their heads were!  There were several zookeepers that walked around with animals from exhibits for people to see up close, and some were even okay with being petted.  Sadly, there were some exhibits that were closed due to construction, but it was still a great experience.  Back to the red panda: at the zoo store, they were selling paintings that were made by the red panda!  Of course, I had to purchase one.  The canvas even came with a photo of the little panda walking around on the blank canvases and leaving red and blue paint pawprints everywhere.  He looks so proud of his paintings!  All of the money from the sales of the paintings went to helping with the preservation of red pandas, so it was a great purchase all around.  I plan to frame it and display it in the house.  Anyway, we walked around the zoo all day, and yes, we did return to the camels and saw a very cute little camel that was all spindly legs and fuzz, and he was cuuuute.  It was a great experience, and a great day with my husband on our anniversary.

After the zoo, we headed to the Willis Graves House Bed and Breakfast in Burlington, Kentucky.  We checked in and was shown to our room, which was the upper half of the two-story 1850 log cabin behind the main house.  We talked with the innkeeper, Nancy, who told us about Mr. No Paw, an outdoor cat that they feed and take care of when he lets them.  Apparently his most recent encounter while out sowing his wild oats was with other feral cats in the area, and he had a large wound on the side of his neck.  He's been through a lot, but was still loving.  We declared him to be good people.
Mr. No Paw--His back paw is missing, but it doesn't slow him down.

Our accommodations--we had the upstairs.

We still needed to eat, so I suggested, along with a recommendation from Nancy, that we try to the Tousey House Tavern, a restaurant situated in an old house built in 1822 and located just up the road from the inn.  It was a neat atmosphere with a historic feel, and the fried chicken dinner was absolutely delicious.  I loved it. 
Tousey House Tavern
We (well, more like I) wanted ice cream after dinner, but couldn't find anything close on the Garmin and hadn't asked Nancy if there was anything local (turns out there was, but we didn't find it until the next day).  However, there was a Starbucks, so hubby got a cold drink and we went back to the room.  We relaxed, ate our fresh-baked cookies that were waiting for us on our bed, and decided to check out the whirlpool tub.  After the long day, it was very relaxing, and we went to sleep in our four-poster bed.  Great first day, and great anniversary day.
Filling up the whirlpool-it had three different lights!
You might wonder why we go to so many zoos--well, we have a membership to the Toledo Zoo, which has a deal with many other zoos all across the country and allows us to go for half-priced admission or free admission, so we've been to the Toledo Zoo, the South Bend Zoo, the Nashville Zoo, the Columbus Zoo, the Cincinnati Zoo, and the Safari and Wildlife Park in Port Clinton, Ohio, because we can get in for a lot cheaper because of our membership.  My husband especially loves the zoo, and says that some of his best memories of us together are from our zoo trips.  I guess those are great reasons!

Day 2: Wednesday
We decided to take it easy on Wednesday, and do some local shopping.  We were still tired from yesterday, so we thought it would be a good day to stay near the inn for the day before heading back to Cincinnati for a Reds game that night.  But first, breakfast!  Breakfast is usually included in a bed and breakfast, and here was no exception.  Although I think that this was the best food I've had so far!  I can't think of any time when the food at a B&B has been bad, though.  This morning, and the next two mornings, were comprised of a gourmet breakfast that started with fresh fruit sprinkled with homemade granola, the recipe for which I was able to acquire and make after we got home (I don't have permission to add it here, but if you want the recipe, just send me a message), our choice of juice or milk, and our choice of a main dish with a type of meat and bread, if we wanted.  We both chose the cheese and egg pie for our main course, and it was perfect, with a good crust, tangy cheeses and a great combination of herbs mixed in.  It was a large portion, and we were both full after our breakfast, so we headed out to a quilt shop just up the road, situated in a little log cabin.  They had a surprisingly large and good selection of quilting fabrics, but I'm not to the point where I have the patience for quilting, so I didn't buy anything.  I would recommend it to anyone who does like quilting, though: Cabin Arts Quilt Shop, in Burlington, Kentucky.  After that, we went to an antiques store located across from the Tousey House Tavern, and found a great print in its original frame, but ended up being priced way too high, which was the case for the rest of the store, too.  I wonder how they stay in business...after that, we headed to the large antique store just up the road, and spent a while just walking around looking at old stuff.  Then we decided to go to Rabbit Hash, Kentucky (yes, this is a real place, and not to be confused with Possum Trot, Kentucky, also a real place), to see the general store and enjoy a scenic drive out in the country.  It was a drive reminiscent of our time spent living in western Kentucky several years ago, with narrow roads, steep hills, and beautiful vistas.  One neat thing we saw on our way out was that several barns had large quilt blocks painted onto the sides of the barns.  Several of the decorated barns sprinkled the scenic byway.  I wanted to take photos, but I was driving, and driving and photography don't mix.  Plus, there were no shoulders where I could pull off and get my camera out.  It took about a half an hour to get there, and it was unique, for sure: a large, old white general store with a plankboard porch out front, a group of bikers were parked in the lot (we later learned that this was a popular biker destination on the weekends), and a roadside barbecue stand was churning out delicious-smelling smoke from the smoker.

There was a little log cabin museum, but it wasn't open, and there was a large building on the hillside that was decorated in old-timey style memorabilia.  Oh, and did I mention that the mayor of this little burg was a dog?  Yes indeed, a border collie named Lucy Lou was voted in as mayor in the last election in 2008.  She wasn't in town that day, unfortunately--I'm sure she was away on official business.  If you don't believe me, check out Rabbit Hash's website:  We took a stroll through the store, but didn't see anything I couldn't live without, and really, there wasn't much else to do there, so we decided to head back and get going to the ball park.  By this time, we were ready for dinner, and we stopped at a Penn Station Subs that we found as we were driving around, because hubby loves it and we don't have one anywhere near us here at home.  Then, we headed out to the game!

One of hubby's friends had friends who had great season ticket seats at the ballpark.  He also had a VIP parking pass for a garage right across the street to go along with the tickets, and he was kind enough to give us four seats and the parking pass for free--a big thanks to him!--and we arrived before the gates opened at the park.  So, we went in to the Reds shop in the plaza to find hubby a ball cap and any other merchandise that he wanted.  We looked around in there for at least a half an hour, when we ran into one of hubby's friends from work and her family.  He had said that they would be at the game, but I had forgotten until now, so we talked with them and invited them to come visit us and watch the game if they wanted (since we had two extra seats).  By then, the gates were open and we were able to go to our seats, so we headed in to see where we would be sitting.  These were great seats!  We were sitting in the first row, first four seats next to the dugout on first base!  I knew hubby was really enjoying the seats, too.  His coworker and one of her sons came and watched the game, and her son stayed in our seats the whole game and chatted with my hubby about so and so in the game, and all guy-sports-related talk.  I think they both enjoyed it, hubby especially, since I'm not a big sports fan and he's a mega-Reds fan.  I'm glad he had a guy to talk to about baseball!  Needless to say, the Reds won because we were there.  It was a good game, really--the Reds won with a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, and that was fun.

While he got a hat at the Reds store, hubby thought the prices on most of the merchandise were a bit pricey (and he was right), so we went to a Meijer we saw on the way home after the game to see if they had any t-shirts and other stuff for a bit less.  Meijer didn't have much selection, so we went to Wal-Mart and he found a shirt and rally towels, which he purchased.  By this time, it was pretty late, and I was exhausted, so we headed back to our room, and prepared to do it all over again tomorrow.

Day 3: Thursday
After another delicious breakfast of gingerbread pancakes and sausage patties, we were ready to take on the day.  This was the day we walked all over creation!  Yes, we were off to the Creation Museum and gardens, about 10 minutes from the inn.  It was hotter on this day than it had been the past two days, so we decided that we would go through the gardens first before it got too hot outside.  It was still hot, but the gardens were made us wonder what Eden must have been like!  There was a large pond, and on the other side were tropical plants, waterfalls, a marsh area, and a random peacock that wandered the gardens.  We saw many kinds of exotic plants, none of which I'd ever seen before.  It was a neat experience!  They also offer camel rides and a petting zoo, but the camel wasn't there when we walked through, and we didn't really feel the need to go in the petting zoo.  So we headed into the museum to spend several hours walking around.  It was a great museum, and had quite a bit to look at and read.  Plus, every day there are shows and speakers that are included in the cost of your admission.  There is also a planetarium, but that has a separate admission charge.  We didn't stop to watch any of the shows or listen to speakers, because I really wanted to make it through the museum before we had to leave for the game that night.  Maybe we'll go back sometime and go to the shows and planetarium.  The exhibits were very well done, and of course, there was a lot of Scripture tied in, along with explanations of what was happening at the time.  There was a Garden of Eden, an Ark room, dinosaurs, fossils, and a lot more.  I can see why people would get a two day pass, but we only purchased a one day pass.  It was fine, though.  We had a fun time, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is interested in checking it out.
Quilt Block barn on the way to the Creation Museum
Beefy legs and tiny arms!

Creation Gardens
Well, by the time we finished going through the museum, we decided to have dinner locally before heading back to Cincinnati to go to the game.  We stopped at City Barbecue and then we were off again!  Busy busy.  We got to the downtown area after some stop and go traffic on the interstate, and waited for the people we were meeting and sitting with (who also had season tickets and gave them to us for free).  This time, we sat along the third base line in the first row.  Not too shabby again!  The Reds won again, and had two home runs during the game.
We headed back to the inn, and I tried the steam shower that had perplexed me since I reserved the room in March.  I'd never used a steam shower before, and wanted to use it before we left, so I seized the opportunity to get the ball park off of me before going to bed.  It was neat, once I realized how it worked.  The steamer is actually controlled by a thermostat that you can set to any temperature, and it sprays hot steam into the shower until it reaches the temperature that you set.  Plus, you have the shower on, so you stay nice and toasty all of the time!  It was really neat.  I don't know that it would be something I'd have in my own shower at home, but at least I got to try it once!

After that, it was time for bed, and then we would leave in the morning.  So sad!  I didn't want to come back.  But who does, really, after a fun vacation?  It would be great if vacation would last forever, or we were able to retire young and travel around and do the things we like. 

We had a great time on our vacation, and saw a lot of neat things.  I am still tired today from our trip, but it was a great time!  What a great way to celebrate our anniversary! 

Monday, May 14

I Love Summer!

Hi!  We've been busy here.  I love having warm weather!  It just gives me such an appreciation for the beautiful world around me.  It's so inspiring to see all of the trees with leaves, the bright and cheerful flowers in bloom, the birds sitting on their nests, and the plants sprouting up in the farm fields.  There is nothing like spring and summer in the Midwest still has a feeling of the good ol' days.  It gets hot, but usually it's not unbearable.  Corn, wheat, and soybean fields surround you.  In the middle of the summer, during the hot, muggy days, you can smell a storm coming--a fresh, wet smell that swirls around you and mixes with the smell of the corn fields, and then I long for a covered porch with a swing to sit and watch the storm rage.  I like to let my imagination take me back to days in which I did not live, and imagine what it was like in the summertime long ago.  I like to picture in my mind an old, weathered house with a big front porch, a family sitting around a table at dinnertime eating a delicious dinner cooked on an old wood stove, and maybe a radio broadcasting a baseball game in the background.  The house is surrounded by fields of tall corn, and the stalks rustle in the breeze while the family talks about the day they had.  Wouldn't that be great if we could still have such quaint gatherings?

But I digress, and return to the present time.  As I mentioned, we've been busy here!  Where to begin?  I'll begin last Thursday.  I came home from work and began preparing dinner, and my dear husband came in and told me that he had heard on the radio on the way home that the local Farmer's Market was having its grand opening night that night, and did I want to go?  OF COURSE!  I love going to the Farmer's Market here, but it's actually at a really odd time--Thursday nights from 4:30-6:30.  It's hard for me to remember.  So, we hopped in the car and headed over to the fairgrounds.  There were only a handful of vendors there, since it's a bit early for most produce, but I did leave with some great treasures: a parsley for my patio, a jar of raw honey (which, by the way, is the best honey I've ever tasted!  I had no idea that heating up honey for processing takes so much flavor out.  I'm now hooked!), and handmade soap.  As my interest in organic gardening and homesteading has grown, and I've read more about these things, it's becoming more and more obvious to me that a lot of things that we buy at the store are incredibly bad for us, despite their convenience.  Now, I'm not to the point of swearing off sugar and such, but I'm leaning farther and farther away from purchasing processed items and chemical detergents and hand soaps.  Unfortunately, I have little choice right now, but maybe some day I'll be able to make my own bread doughs and preserve my own garden produce, and eliminate the need for buying these things from the store.  I'd also love to find a local farm that raises and butchers their own meats, and would be willing to pay extra for fresh meat instead of purchasing it from the grocery.  All of these things in time, I suppose.  I still have student loans to pay off before I can consider quitting my day job and devoting my time to pursuing my passions. 

Friday, as I was getting my husband's lunch together for work, I noticed that my African violet had buds on it.  Now, to most people this is not a big deal.  To me, however, it was huuuuge.  You see, I've had this violet for at least 3 years now.  I bought it in the wintertime not long after we moved here, because I wanted a houseplant.  I know, deep reason.  Well, I brought it home, and it bloomed for a little while, then suddenly--no blooms.  Ever.  I replanted it in a bigger pot and set it in the sunniest spot in our house.  Still nothing.  It remained very healthy, with thick, healthy green leaves, and eventually got too big for the pot again.  So, I replanted it yet again, buying some African violet potting soil and feeding it with two different kinds of African violet plant food.  Still nothing.  So, I decided that I at least had a nice-looking houseplant.  So now you can see why I was so extremely excited when I looked at the plant on Friday and saw buds--and not just a few, like you see in the photo.  Three clusters of blooms, hidden in and around the leaves!!  I'll be sure to post pictures once they begin blooming.  For now, here's a picture of some of the buds.

Saturday, I went out to check my garden.  It had been over ten days since I planted the seeds.  Plus, I purchased  a tomato plant and needed to plant him in the bed.  I found to my pleasant surprise that several things had sprung up!  I have two pumpkin sprouts, several bean plants, four ears of corn, and I'm seeing growth on my peppers and cucumbers.  So exciting!  I love watching things grow!

(Hmmm.  Here is where I would normally insert photos of my garden for you to see the progress.  As I tried to upload the pictures, I got an error message saying that I've exceeded my storage limit for photos in my account, and that I'd have to buy storage space.  I'll have to look into this further, but I guess for now, you'll have to use your imagination, since I don't make money from this blog and don't really plan on buying space.)

Sunday, hubby and I started a project here in our front yard.  We took up a patch of grass and are in the process of changing the space into a garden bed.  We've received several plants from others and needed a place to put them, plus we decided to use the grass as sod along the front curb that the city replaced last summer and grass has never grown back.  We'll see how it grows.  I'd love to post pictures here, but...well, see the paragraph above.  We haven't finished yet, but we're close.  I thought I'd finish tonight but I'm so sore from the work yesterday that it hurts to move.  I'm walking around like a 90 year old woman!  Everything aches.  But it should look good when it's done; you'll just have to take my word for it!
Our future flower bed, about 14' x 7'.
Hubby dug this whole patch up--thanks for all of your hard work!
He encountered many roots.
Stage one: complete.  Stage two: after a trip to the store.
Hubby working on transplanting the dug-up grass patches.  We'll see if they take.
Update!  I have found the reason for my picture dilemma.  I'll be working on this over the next few posts, because I guess I have to shrink my photos quite a bit more than I have been.  Oh well, at least it means I don't have to buy storage!

Honey is so sweet.  I've never liked it until I tasted the raw honey that we just bought.  It's no wonder that it's spoken of so highly in the Bible.  So, in honor of honey as they ate it in Biblical times, and our upcoming anniversary, here is a verse from the slightly racy Song of Solomon: “ How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride!  How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than all kinds of spices! Your lips, my bride, drip honey; honey and milk are under your tongue, and the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon."  Happy anniversary to my love and my best friend, and may we have many more decades of milk and honey together!

Tuesday, May 8

A Little of This, A Little of That

Garden Planted
Last week, I was alone, as my husband was away on a business trip.  I took the opportunity to get some things done around the house that I'd been meaning to do for a while, and on that list was my garden.  We had a hot stretch of weather, so I tried to pick the cooler dry day of the week to get out there, but it was still in the 80s when I went out last Wednesday evening to work my garden and plant some veggies.  As you can see, though, I was able to get almost everything in!  I purchased my peppers and cucumbers from the store, but I planted a patch of beans, four ears of corn, and a row of pumpkins.  I am waiting to plant my second patch of green beans until after the first patch sprouts, and I'm hoping to get a prolonged bean crop this way.  One interesting note: as I was digging holes for my cucumber plants, I began to notice some fine roots around the bases of the limbs we used for trellising.  Apparently, the branches are still alive and trying to take root!  Did not expect that.  Hopefully, it won't last and they will eventually dry out and give up.  We'll see!

Can't wait for everything to grow!
Little red pepper plants
Cucumber plant!

Saturday Fun 
When hubby did return Friday night, we made plans for Saturday!  We spent the morning at rummage sales, and it was a beautiful day for it.  I found a lady who was selling parts of her plants from her garden, and purchased an iris and a shoot of bee balm, which I hope to plant near my garden to attract butterflies and such.  We also found a neat little camping lantern at another sale, and were happy with our finds.  After that, we got some lunch, went to the grocery store, and came home to work on our neglected yard.  We are thinking about replacing our brick patio with a poured concrete one, because we seem to get a lot of weeds and have ants tunneling underneath.  It would be considerably less maintenance to have a concrete patio area.  After the yard work, we ate dinner and had a nice fire in our outdoor fire pit.  That was the night of the mega moon, and it did look bigger than normal.  Over all, we had a great day together.  I'm just not the same when my husband is gone--he is my best friend and favorite companion, and I miss him terribly when he's away.
Garage Sale Plants

Roaring Fire
Burning Embers
Mega Moon
Vacation Plans
I mentioned in my last post that we'd made plans for our anniversary trip.  We've decided to go to Cincinnati for several days, and we'll be staying at a beautiful B&B in Kentucky called the Willis Graves House.  We'll be staying in the log cabin, and I'm so excited!  It looks so rustic and perfect.  I'm especially interested in finding out just how a steam shower works.  We were referred to this B&B by the innkeeper of the Ivy House B&B, who said that if we were ever in the Cincinnati area, this was the place to stay.  I looked it up after we got home and fell in love.  I knew eventually that we'd end up in Cincy for something, so I kept it in mind, and it worked out to go down there for our anniversary.  We'll be seeing two Reds games, and we plan to visit the zoo and The Creation Museum.  Hopefully, we'll also have a day to do some antiques shopping and just take it easy.  I'm very excited for our trip.  I enjoy it when we can get away together and see new things.  I'll take lots of photos, of course!

Mother's Day 
This Sunday is Mother's Day.  To the mothers in my life, and all of the mothers out there, I hope you have a great day!  Thanks for all that you do for your children, even though it might take them years or decades to realize all that you sacrificed for them.  So take the day off and go shopping.  You deserve a day of pampering!
Have a virtual rose plant!

Since we will be traveling in a few weeks, I know that we'll run into all sorts of people--some nice, some strange, and some just mean.  Many will not be Christian.  Most likely, 80% of those you interact with (outside of church) are not Christians, and/or have no Christan background.  I have a hard time connecting with those who don't share my beliefs, and therefore have a hard time creating meaningful conversation with many people.  It's really something I've never been great at--I would not call myself a people-person at all!  I can work on it, but it's a character trait, and likely will never change.  I would just end up being like one of those people who make awkward, strange conversation at parties with other guests--you know who they are.  As a result, I am the kind of person who has a small but loyal group of friends.  So when I saw this passage today, it caught my attention: "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." (Col. 4:5-6).  This is something I should be striving for, not shying away from: for while actions are necessary to share Christ with others, sometimes it is our words that can carry the most weight.  Words have so much power!