Category Archives: Blog Posts

I Need a Vacation! Helpful Planning Tips

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Someone is more than ready for a vacation!  Photo by Alexander Dummer on Pexels.com

As more and more of my colleagues talk about the plans they have made for vacations this year, or actually have already taken time away from work, I long to head out for some “time off” of my own.  Where to go?  What to see?  Decisions, decisions.  As I buckle down to make my own plans, I thought I’d share some tips that have helped guide me in the past

Consider your group.

Do you have young children that will be going on vacation with you?  Teenagers? Elderly parents?  Every aspect from your trip needs to keep your company in mind, from travel method to accommodations to planned activities.  Tailor your plans to find something everyone can enjoy, whether that be a trip to the beach or mountains, or a road trip with numerous stops along the way.  Remember that some members of your group will tire easily, or need snacks, or distractions along the way- you know who these are!

man holding white pennant beside girl raising two hands in front of lake surrounded by mountains
What is your ideal vacation?  Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Consider a “destination vacation.”

There are various places that offer all-inclusive packages, from theme parks that include transport to/from the airport, as well as meal plans and shuttle services; to cruises that offer a variety of on-board and site-seeing tours; to resorts that feature water parks, spas, and quality restaurants on the premises.  This type of vacation means you can book and pay for almost your entire trip in advance, and spend less time on the road and more time having fun!  Plus, there are trips of this type to meet almost every budget.  It’s easy to find good deals on vacation packages to destinations like Florida here

Staycations can work-really!

If you have no desire to spend your free time in an airport or on the road, or if you only have a short break from jobs and other commitments, a staycation could be your best bet.  The key to enjoying this type of holiday is that you absolutely must remember you’re on vacation, and actually taking a break.  No fair checking in with work or completing that household project you’ve been planning to get done!

Play tourist in your home town.  Do the fun and interesting things you’ve always meant to do, like trying a new restaurant, or visiting the aquarium or museum, that you keep postponing until “you have time.”  Take a day trip to a nearby attraction, something you can enjoy in one day, and still be home to sleep in your own bed.  Turn off social media, and pretend that you’re far off the grid.

Hopefully very soon my husband and I will settle on some plans for a vacation,; I think he is just as ready for one as I am!  Until then, I hope you all enjoy the warmer weather, and get to plan a trip of your own!

Amy

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What Being a Mother Means to Me

happy mothers day card beside pen macaroons flowers and box near coffee cup with saucer
Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

When I decided to write a post about Mother’s Day, which is this coming Sunday, May 12th, I had a lot of possible directions to take.  I could have made a list of gift ideas, or written about how time spent together is more valuable, or even quoted numerous authorities on motherhood, family, and love.  However, since I am blessed to be a mother of two myself, these choices seemed a little too self-serving.

Instead, I decided to share some of my feelings about being a mother.  I became a mother for the first time when I was only twenty.  I was not really prepared to take on such responsibility, but then again, who is at any age?  The learning curve was steep with my son, though I did my best, and I like to think I did not do a terrible job.  Four years later we welcomed my daughter to our home.  In some ways it was easier the second time round, as we already knew some of what to expect, but then again, no two children are alike.

As my children grew I began to see them more and more as distinct individuals, each with their own unique personalities, though they inherited plenty of traits from their father and me.  (Sorry about that, kids.)

I learned early on that it doesn’t make sense to dwell on ideals-what I’d like the children to do or be, but it’s far more important to see what and who they truly are, while still rooting for them to reach their farthest potential.  My kids have grown up to be independent, responsible adults, and I like to think I helped them best along the way by teaching them to make their own choices, and accepting the consequences.

I know that being a mother doesn’t stop at a certain age or point of development-I still worry about their safety, their happiness, their future.  I want the best for them, and would do anything I could to give them that.  Mothers love fiercely, completely, and protectively.  I think if my children were in danger I could perform heroic deeds to keep them safe, though I am hardly brave or strong as a person.

Being a mother is a lifetime conviction, and no other vocation is as devoted, as stressful, or as blessed.  It is a calling that it not for everyone, certainly, but it comes with endless rewards for those who accept the challenge.

To all those readers who are, or plan to be, mothers out there, I wish you a Very Happy Mother’s Day!

P.S.  My all-time favorite gifts from my children for Mother’s Day were the hand-written cards and poems I received when they were young, some of which are still hanging framed on my bedroom walls today, and the breakfasts that were lovingly cooked by teenaged hands years later.

Happy Earth Day!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter.  I spent my weekend catching up with family, relaxing, and eating far too much food!

Today is worldwide Earth Day.  While this is not a holiday from school or work it has a very important function; Earth Day is a day set aside each year to raise awareness about our most important resource-the planet we all call home.  This year, The Earth Day Network is focusing on the preservation of endangered species.

Deforestation, pollution, climate change, and unsustainable agriculture are all contributing to the destruction of native plant and wildlife populations.  For more information on what species are in danger see the link here:Fact Sheet: Global Species Decline

What can we do to help?  Simple things, such as recycling, planting trees, and supporting the efforts of global organizations such as The Earth Day Network can truly make a difference, and help to save our world.

For more information about this organization and what its goals mean for each of us, visit their website here: Earth Day 2019

Let’s all do what we can to make a difference!

A Taste of Spring

Warmer temperatures and the arrival of early blooms leave me eager for the first trip of the season to our nearby Farmer’s Market, where the freshest produce, locally grown, is sold by the crate and pound, and with a little extra effort can be prepped to provide my family with delicious dishes all year round.

I’m planning to pull out the last of last season’s blueberries later today that I washed, froze and placed in freezer bags in two cup amounts, to add to a spring/summer dish that has become one of my family’s favorites.  I’ll want the space in my freezer for my next trip to the market, but really any day of the week and any reason is a good excuse to make this delicious dessert.

Why don’t you try it for yourself, with whatever fruit you have available, or can pick up at the grocery store if you don’t have a farmer’s market at hand?

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Hot and bubbly, fresh from the oven; an afternoon well spent in the making!

Berry Crisp

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

5 cups of fresh or frozen berries, any combination of blueberries, blackberries, and/or raspberries

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 ¼ cups packed brown sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup quick-cooking oats

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup cold butter or margarine

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

  • Heat oven to 375 degrees (Fahrenheit). Grease a 8-inch square or 2 quart glass dish with baking spray
  • In a 3-quart sauce pan, mix granulated sugar and cornstarch. Add berries and lemon juice; toss until evenly coated.  Heat to boiling over medium-low heat.  Boil 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened.  Spoon berry mixture into baking dish.
  • In large bowl, mix brown sugar, flour, oats, cinnamon and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly.  Sprinkle over berries.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Mixture will thicken if allowed to cool slightly.  Tastes best served warm, with ice cream as desired.

 

I hope you all enjoy this little recipe, and have a great week!

Amy

A Spring Ramble

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From humble beginnings, come auspicious beauties like these tulip buds.  Photo by flora.cyclam on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Dear Readers,

Spring is now officially a week old though you’d be hard pressed to tell from the temperature fluctuations we’ve had this past week-up to the forties and fifties(Fahrenheit) during the day and down into the twenties at night!

From where I sit to write, if I squint, I can just make out the azaleas and the Japanese maple in our front yard that are just beginning to bud, though it will be a bit longer before the walnut tree in the back shows any sign of life.  I’ve taken time this week to observe our yard and a few planters that weathered the winter where the little shoots of greenery are pushing through, heralding the imminent arrival of spring flowers.  As the temperatures creep up, I will need to clear the last of the dead leaves out of my flower beds so the new life will be able to spread and take hold.

It’s time to prepare for the robin that each year comes calling by pecking on our front window all hours of the day and night, and sometimes even nesting in the wreath I place on the front door.  A couple of years ago, we purchased a “scare-owl” just to discourage the persistent fowl from leaving droppings all over the sides of my husband’s car, where he (the robin) apparently frequently perches to talk to the birds he sees in the side mirrors.  A pity our birdie doesn’t just choose to visit the backyard instead, where I have a nice feeder set up next to the deck!

I need to move the larger planters to a new spot this year, one that’s less shady, so the neighbor’s pine tree doesn’t drown them in needles, and get some new chairs for our screened porch, and scrub the cushions for the deck furniture, and …There is so much to be done, but the joy that comes with the new season, and the warmth of the sun and the prospect of new life encourages me to keep going, knowing that the effort will be worthwhile when we can enjoy sitting outside to eat the dinner my husband cooks on the grill.

As I write this, I’ve already begun to plan out the menu for our Easter dinner, which we will share with family, even if we have to take our meal on the road to see some of them this year!  Easter is a time when we tend to indulge a bit, so the chocolates I’ve already purchased are carefully hidden to ensure they last until the actual event.

The warming temperatures and the promise of good weather, after a very wet and cold winter, fill me with joy, and I look forward to spending more time outside, taking walks, working in the garden, and just enjoying nature.  I hope you all get the chance to do the same.  Happy Spring!

Amy

 

In This House…We Do Geek

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Just a bit of wall decoration, but with a deeper meaning hidden in its passages.

I have a new piece of artwork hanging on the wall in my office.  This past Christmas my daughter gifted me with a poster that many of you may have seen before-a clever assembly of quotes from various science fiction and fantasy series that forms a statement about its fans.

This mass-produced copy of a somewhat popular poster, though, means more to me than just a cute quote or novelty art piece.  To me, this picture represents a statement that it’s okay to like the things I like, to be interested in the things that interest me, and that I’m not alone in my opinions.  This series of quotes contains memories of family time, of trips to movies and listening to books on tape, of nights spent in together in front of the TV and competitions to see who could finish the next book first.

But above all, this poster points out that it’s okay to be geek and nerdy, because we are people too.  In the not-so-distant past those who share our interests may have been teased and ridiculed, but as “geek” has moved firmly into the mainstream those same interests are now considered acceptable, to the point that many closet-trekkies and vamps and cosplayers have now come out of the figurative closet, and feel free to express themselves.

These days I care far less about other people’s expectations or negative views than I did growing up, and mostly relish in being myself.  (Such comes with age and supposed maturity.)  Still, I am glad that I have family who share the same interests as me, and together we can debate over whether the next superhero or wizard movie will be worth the trek to the movie theater, or make recommendations to each other about books that we are sure will find an appreciative audience.

There are so many things about this world that need work and change, but it’s nice to know, that sometimes acceptance can still be found.  That there is hope for all those kids who had the oversized glasses and maybe weren’t very popular in school or were more interested in drama than playing sports.  It’s okay to be us.

I hope that those who read this post take comfort, and find comradery for your own inner geek, and I hope you feel free to express yourself, as only you can.  Let me hear from you how you make out.  Bonus points for those of you who can accurately name the source of all these quotes!

Amy

It’s a New Year!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Dear Readers,

Happy New Year!

Today I started my day by having a late breakfast with my family, and then started cleaning out some of the clutter acquired over the last year.  My thoughts automatically turned to all the things I would like to do this year: places I’ve never visited, goals I’ve never accomplished before, and though I don’t habitually make resolutions, I decided I do have some aspirations that will make this year the best yet.

It’s been a crazy few weeks at my house;  between holidays, visiting family, and starting a new job, I’ve had a pretty full plate, but today I can take my time to rest, and plan, and dream.

I want to treat 2019  like a clean slate.  I want to attempt to be the best version of myself that I can be, or at least a better version of myself.  I know I will falter along the way, and probably fail at some point, but right now I choose to look on this change of date with optimism, and embrace the possibilities.

I hope you choose to embrace this chance to start anew along with me, whether or not you set any resolutions for yourself.  Let’s make 2019 the year we accomplish our dreams, the time we become the people we have always wanted to be.

I wish you all joy, and peace, and love, and fulfillment for 2019!

Amy

My Christmas Wish for You

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Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

I just wanted to take a moment to express my heartfelt wishes for all of you out there this holiday season.

I wish you joy, and peace, and a special time spent surrounded by your loved ones.

I wish you health, and happiness, and that you have or find motivation to reach for the stars this next year.

I wish you all love, for yourself, and for those you call family and friends.

Most of all, I wish for you, dear readers, a Merry Christmas to you and yours and a very Happy New Year!

Amy

Have Yourself a Christmas from the Heart

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This holiday season holds the meaning we give it, so make it a good one! Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Pexels.com

There’s no denying this time of year can be hectic-between family plans, social obligations, baking, shopping, and necessary seasonal activities like shoveling the driveway-it can be hard to prioritize, much less breathe!  With so much hustle and bustle, it can be difficult to find a moment to contemplate what the season really means, or what we would like to share with our loved ones.

I don’t have a magic formula to tell you how to organize everything so that you have time left over for mundane things like sleep, but perhaps, we can manage to rearrange the busyness into something more meaningful this year.

Give of Yourself to Others.

Not everyone has the means, or the desire, to spend on elaborate gifts for family and friends, or donate large amounts to worthy charities at this time of year.  That does mean we cannot give gifts from our hearts, or assist those in need.  Enlist your family to help make homemade treats for friends and neighbors, pull out your knitting needles, or make a batch of homemade soaps to share.  Gifting someone with something special made by hand can be more meaningful than the fanciest of presents you could purchase.

There are plenty of organizations that need volunteers to help stock food pantries, collect warm clothing and toys for needy children, or spend time caring for abandoned pets.  If you aren’t sure where you (and your family) could volunteer, check with your local church, or go online to places like the Salvation Army website or the Kids in Need Foundation to find out what’s most needed that you can shop for or collect in donations.

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The time you can spend with your family is more important than any present they may recieve.  Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Create Holiday Traditions.

Long after the presents have all been opened and their excitement has faded away, your children will remember the special moments you’ve shared with them over this season.  Let the kids help decorate the tree, or give them one of their own and help them make paperchains and other homemade decorations.  Take the time to read them the classic “Twas Night Before Christmas,” or watch a classic Christmas movie together. Let them help you make a special platter of cookies and milk for Santa, and don’t forget the carrots for the reindeer.

I remember one year when I was a young child my parents arranged for a neighbor to stand by our back door and shake jingle bells while we were in the dining room on Christmas Eve.  My brother, sister and I were told that the tinkling came from Santa’s sleigh as he flew by.  Of course, when we were led back into the living room afterwards, we found that we had been visited by “Santa” while we were distracted.  I don’t remember any of the gifts we received that year, or if my younger brother and sister even remember the event, but the magic in that moment of possibilities, stayed with me long after I knew the “truth” about Santa Claus.

What holiday traditions do your family share?  I would love to hear from you!

Remember the Meaning of the Season.

While it can be very difficult at times to not let ourselves be caught up in the chaos that surrounds this time of year, I hope you find some time to breathe, and to enjoy the true meaning of this season. Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah, or whatever traditions you celebrate, all have deeper meanings than the gifts, the shopping, the traffic, and the music that started as early as the day after Halloween on some radio stations.  This is the season of light, of hope, of love, of joy, and sharing of ourselves with others.  I hope you are able to leave the rest behind, and take some time for your loved ones, and yourself, to spend together and truly celebrate.

From my family to all of yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Amy