Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's Heeeeerrrrrrre....

To all the Ghost and Goblins out there - HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Google image search found at

Here's to having your day filled with lots of treats (and maybe a few tricks!)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Love On A Sheetpan

We were at the grocery store yesterday and I was just minding my own business in the checkout line.  I waited patiently for the clerk to finish with the customer in front of us as CT viewed the gazillion types of chewing gums, contemplating on which pack he should buy (heck, that alone can take 10 minutes!)

Then I heard this whisper... "Yoo hoo... over here."  I quickly turned around to see who was behind me, but found no one.  Then I heard the whisper again... "Psssst... to your right."  I looked to my right, and saw it.  It was speaking to me, and this time I heard it loud and clear.  Here it is:

At lightening speed, I reached for this magazine fearing that someone else would grab it before I could (even though no one else was even around me.)  Without a second thought, and without a quick flip-through to look at some of the recipes, I declared to CT, "I have to get this!"  CT, as good as he usually is about my unauthorized purchases, just shrugged his shoulders and said, "Ok."

Did I really need to spend $6 on a magazine?  No.  Do I have many of these recipes already?  Maybe.  If not, can I find these recipes online?  Probably.  Was this really an unauthorized purchase?  Well, I DID tell CT I was going to buy it before I actually made the purchase, so technically, it was not an unauthorized purchase.   Anyway, the title "100 Best Cookies - Love On A Sheetpan" sold me.  That is why I bought this magazine.  That, and the fact that I love reading the recipes and looking at the photos.  Call me old-fashioned, but I like turning the pages of a magazine, appreciating the art of the beautifully photographed goodies (I'm not sure why my cookie pictures don't turn out as good.)  

Love on a sheetpan... that pretty much sums up my feelings of homemade holiday cookies.  Leanne, my mom and me are pretty good... no, wait... we are EXCELLENT cookie bakers, and our holiday cookies are the best you will find.   And I never met a homemade cookie I didn't like (well, there was that one recipe from last year that will remain nameless, because the baker might be reading this post!) 

At any rate, there truly is nothing better than a homemade holiday cookie - made with REAL butter, REAL vanilla, lots of love and maybe a little passion.  After all, love on a sheetpan is what it is all about!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Day In The Cellar

Yesterday I had the wonder opportunity to spend some quality time in The Cellar with The Scrapbook Cellar chicks:  Leanne, Peggy, and Cindi.  The Scrapbook Cellar is a portion of our unfinished basement where I've set up tables, shelves with supplies, a desk and a computer, all for the purpose of working on craft or scrapbook projects.  Here's me and the chicks: 
Photography by CT, our Scrapbook Beeeatch.

So, the projects of the day included Leanne's Disney Album (from our trip to Disney in September):

Followed by Peggy working on some school photos of her son:

 And then Cindi working on a couple of projects, one including an album about "Gratitude":

And what about CT?  We affectionately refer to CT as our Scrapbook Beeeatch.  As the SB, CT helps set up all the tables and lights (yes, I have special lights that provide a more natural light -- very important in order to match the right colors on the scrapbook pages!) and helps carry in the girls' bags when they arrive.  Then, he does a lunch run for us (yesterday it was Italian Beef sammiches.)

CT pretty much leaves us to ourselves to do our thing, but he will check in with us every couple of hours to see how we are doing.  During one of CT's Cellar checks yesterday, we put him to work.  Leanne needed help adding pages to her album, and tightening the screws on the album.  So, there was CT to the rescue.

Our day begins early -- usually around 7:30 or 8 a.m. -- and we end around 4 or 4:30 p.m.  We talk, we laugh, we complain and vent, we provide input to each others projects, we share, we sing to the music (oh yeah, and Leanne and Cindi were singing REALLY REALLY loud yesterday.  At one point I threatened to turn off the music and put on a movie!)  And with all our busy schedules and lives, we manage to pull off this one day a month in the Cellar.  Somedays it is hard - we may feel tired, we may feel guilty about not being with family or that we should be doing other things at home, we may not feel particularly creative, organized, or productive.  But none of that matters.  What matters is that we spend some quality time with good friends, doing something that we all really enjoy.     

Any day spent in the cellar with The Cellar Chicks is truly a perfect day to me. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Coin Habit

Today I found something that I did not know CT kept.  It was tucked behind some other things in a cabinet.

I found this really cute tin with coins (complete with a separate plastic baggie with coins.)  My first response when I saw this was, "WHAT THE HELL!",  but then I remembered the first time I found this tin, and it made me smile.  Ok, so now here is the story.

When I met CT, we were both established in our careers and we each owned our own home.  So, after a few months of dating, we got engaged and decided to sell his house before we got married.  The house sold quickly, and we were rushed to try to combine two complete households, which is EXTREMELY challenging.  (Boy, I've got to write a post on that topic!)

So, as we went from room to room packing CT's house, I discovered CT's little habit of stashing away loose coins.  You know the kind - just spare change.  Silver dollars and half dollars, quarters, dimes, nickels, pennies.   I found coins EVERYWHERE!  In drawers, closets, cabinets, in lunch bags, tool boxes, shoe boxes, plastic bags, and containers of every imaginable type and size. You name it, he stored coins in it.  As we packed, I continued to find more loose coin.  After a while, I strongly suggested to CT that he pick just one container and one place for his loose coin at his new home. 

But then something else happened.  I started finding loose dollar bills.  I found a stack of brand new $2 bills (remember those?)  Well, I stopped counting that stack at $200.  Oh, and then there were a couple of $50 bills that he received as gifts over the years, and just "forgot" he stashed away for safe keeping.   I finally said to CT, "Enough already.  You cannot continue to hide cash everywhere!  And these coins - what are you going to do with them?  Can you please take them to the bank?"  I think CT was even surprised to see the volume of loose coins he had accumulated, so he quickly agreed.  "Yeah, I'll take those to the bank," he said. 

Moving day came and went, and as promised, CT took his loose coins to the bank.  When he came home, I asked him, "Well, how much coin did you have?"  And he reluctantly mumbled something so inaudible, that I knew something was up.  "How much did you say?"  I repeated the question again, and this time, CT replied, "A little over $800."  What?!?  Yes, CT had over $800 in spare change. 

So until today, I thought CT only had one large glass container that he kept his loose pocket change.  Nope.  He's still hiding coins in this tin.  I guess old habits die hard.  After I took the picture, I returned the tin back to CT's hiding place in the cabinet, and just smiled to myself.  There are certainly worse habits a guy can have, so hiding some loose spare change isn't so bad.

CT still has his stack of $2 bills (this time tucked away in our fireproof safe).  Oh, and my reply to his $800 of coins he took to the bank:  "Hot dog, honey!  I'm upgrading the flowers for the wedding!"  And I did.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


We're having a perfect fall weekend here in the Chicago area.  Yesterday we spent the day at an apple orchard and today is football at Noon (Da Bears) and yard work after that (time to put away the patio furniture, and apply the final lawn fertilizer for the season.)  Anyway, here are just a few things I love about fall.  

Mums in my backyard.

Our tree changing colors.

More backyard mums.

Apples, freshly picked from the orchard.
Still more mums.
Other goodies from the orchard.

Oh yeah, this pie tastes as good as it looks, so I thought I'd give you a close-up photo.

Anyway, I hope you are enjoying your fall weekend, wherever it may be!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Another Village Story

Remember the post I wrote about "It Takes A Village"? (Feel free to click over to review).  I've decide that not only does it take a village to be my sister, Leanne, it takes 20 VILLAGES!  Here's the latest story (side note:  I already warned Leanne that I was going to blog about this AND I received her permission to use this photo from Mother's Day last year -- gotta love the crown Katie made for her mommy!): 

The other day, Leanne decided to make an anniverary gift for PG's Aunt and Uncle.  Leanne knew that she wanted to make a small scrapbook album.  So, she calls me up, and very long story short, she "borrows" all supplies from my scrapbook stash -- the album, the papers, a few ribbons, etc.  No problem, because I have the supplies anyway.  One visit to the Scrapbook Cellar was all it took.  I started to chuckle, however, when I got a last minute phone call from Leanne: 

"You know that package of embellishments you have sitting on the table downstairs?  Well, I have the same ones, but you know, I just can seem to find them here!  So, can I borrow those too?" 

No problem.

After Leanne finished the album, she invited me over to take a quick look at said album before she wrapped it.  (Side note, the album was BEAUTIFUL!).  But before CT and I could leave the house, the phone rang.  Here's the conversation:

Leanne:  Hi, ok good, you're still home.

Me:  Yup.  On our way out the door now.

Leanne:  Well, you know...  PG and I had a really hard day working on the garage and doing yard work... we are just exhausted... and I REALLY REALLY REALLY need a favor... would you mind stopping to Starbucks for coffee on your way over?

Me:  Well.... ok (even though it really isn't on our way.)  What do you guys want?

Leanne:  (in one quick breath)
Ok, onegrandepikeplacecoffeewithvanillaandacoldsoytopper andoneventeicedcoffeewithcreamnonsweetenedandmakesureitisnonsweetenedbecauseIcan'tdrinkitifit'ssweetened.

Me:  WHAT?

Leanne:  Got it?

Me:  Wait, I've got to write this down.  (Oh boy, and I was thinking I just needed to get two cups of coffee through the drive-thru.) 

So, I proceeded to write down the order, and repeated the order very slowly and carefully to the Starbucks Barista, who looked at me like I was COFFEE-STUPID.  Oh well, the good news is that Leanne and PG got their jolt exactly as they wanted it.

Another village story I just had to share.  And I still like being part of this village (or villageS).

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Here is a list of just a few of my favorite things:

- CT
- chocolate
- Katie & Ella
- a good romantic comedy (aka, a chick flick)
- scrapbooking
- pizza
- my "Favorites" list on my computer...

So, CT and I have two computers... one laptop, one desktop.  Makes sense, right? Two of us, two computers.   Unfortunately, our desktop computer died about a month ago.  At the time we bought it, it was a top-of-the-line Dell, complete with a larger monitor and a six-speaker, surround sound, subwoofer system.  (According to CT, we REALLY REALLY REALLY needed these six speakers when we first bought this computer.  Oh yeah, and I think we've used this surround sound system a total of about a five times in the last five years.  I digress.)

After a little research, we finally bought a new desktop computer (only the tower, because that is all we needed), and I am happy to say that it is up and working, along with Microsoft Office 2010.  This, in and of itself, is a miracle considering CT and I are pretty clueless when it comes to computers.  (And FYI - the big yellow "office" button at the top left on Office 2007 is now gone -- instead, there are now more tabs on Office 2010.)

I did not realize how much I missed having a desktop computer.  I love having a large monitor (my oh my, our blogs looks so much better on a large monitor!) and I love having my wireless, ergonomic keyboard back.  So as I happily clicked away, I automatically clicked on the "Favorites" tab, and low and behold, I saw - nothing.  NOTHING.  Oh no!  A moment of panic.  All my favorite websites and blogs that I visit on a daily basis are gone.  (Actually, not gone, they just don't exist on this new computer.)  All of Ella's favorite games that she plays from Nick Jr. and Barbie websites are gone too (and she knows exactly how to find them all on the "Favorites" tab.)  Heck, it took me a minute to figure out how to even find my own blog.

Having a "Favorites" list on the computer is the equivalent of using a calculator for math calculations.  Use a calculator for math, you forget how to do calculations manually (or become too lazy).  Use your "Favorites" list too often, you forget the actually website addresses to your favorite sites.

So after the Bears football game today, my computer project is to rebuild my "Favorites" list.  After all, why do things manually when the answer can be just one click away!

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Demon

I consider myself a relatively level-headed, well-grounded, stable individual.  Like most people, though, I have a demon or two that I struggle with every so often.  The demon of today is GUILT.   

Guilt - noun.  A feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime,
wrong, etc., whether real or imagined. 

Guilt comes in all forms and in all shapes and sizes - sometimes very recognizable, sometimes so hidden that it takes someone else to point it out to you.   Guilt can be very negative (like when it becomes all-consuming - I'll call this Bad Guilt.)  Guilt can also be very positive.  For me, Good Guilt is my reminder that I have a conscience.  When I start to have a guilty feeling, I know that it is an opportunity for my "second-look" or "double-check" about something, and it's like I am asking myself, "Self, did you do (or say) the right thing here?"   When I can answer, "Yes" to myself, then the guilty feeling passes.

So, my recent struggle with guilt is how I spend my days while my husband works.  I have been unemployed for longer than I ever thought imaginable (and the first time in my working life to experience unemployment).  While I diligently search for a job each and every day (which takes hours upon hours), I also do all the things that a Domestic Engineer (I hate that title) would do.  I cook, I clean, I run all the errands, I do the laundry, I handle all the paperwork/bills, I handle any and all service work that needs to be done for the house and cars, I help out family members when needed, etc., etc., etc.  Yes, I run our life and our household, and I truly do NOT have any complaints about this, because I am still really happy.  But what I do NOT do during the weekdays is my one enjoyable hobby - scrapbooking. 

I have a great set-up in my basement, which is affectionately known as The Scrapbook Cellar.

Me and the Cellar Chicks (Leanne, Peggy, and Cindi - all bloggers too, so click on their names to check out their blogs) gather here once a month and spend an entire day or evening to work on our various creative projects - talking, laughing, venting, singing to whatever music we have on the TV, and enjoying a little chocolate together.  In between these monthly gatherings, I try to spend a couple of hours a week in the Cellar.  Usually this time is spent in the very early morning hours on Saturdays or Sundays, before CT and I get our day started.

So while I have TIME during the week to spend in the Cellar, I never do.  There is something about being in the Cellar during the week and just doesn't feel right; it's like I have no business doing something FOR ME that I find so enjoyable and makes me happy, when I should be out in the working world, well, working.  

The first time I mentioned to the Cellar Chicks that I do not visit the Cellar during weekdays, I remember the confused look on their faces.  The general response was,  "Well, you're just feeling GUILTY about this, and you really should NOT feel guilty." 

Right now, I have no less than four different scrapbook projects in the works, and I'm battling the guilty feeling, because I have one project I really want to finish before October 23rd (which is our next Scrapbook Cellar gathering).  So, my goal next week is to NOT feel guilty, and just get downstairs and meet my goal of finishing this one project.  I'll let you know how I do.  In the meantime, I encourage you NOT to feel guilty about doing something that makes you happy, even though there are a gazillion other things you think you should be doing.  Because the most important thing of all, is that we are HAPPY.  Right?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cabinets & Closets

At least once a week, I have the good fortune to spend time with (aka, babysit) my nieces, Katie (age 7) & Ella (age 3).  Usually, I babysit the girls at my house, and what makes me really happy is that the girls seem to LOVE coming to my house.  They feel very comfortable here, and they know exactly where everything is at - from the TV remote controls, to their toys, to which cabinet I keep the snacks (including their own secret stash of chocolate), to The Scrapbook Cellar (aka, the basement), where we complete our own craft projects to give Mommy after she works.  The girls have never turned down an offer to come to my house.

Because the girls spend time here on a regular basis, I decided to designate a space where they could keep a few of their toys, etc.  It began with a drawer in the kitchen.  Mental note - I've got to clean this drawer out.

Well, that drawer did not last very long, as their supply of items began to grow and overflow the drawer.  So we moved on to a closet (yes, I am lucky enough to have an extra closet that was not being used!).  This closet now keeps all their prized possessions (along with a few of my office supplies).

Then we had a predicament:  what to do with the pictures and notes the girls draw and give to me.  So, instead of hanging these things on the refrigerator (magnets don't work on my stainless steel refrigerator anyway), we decided to start hanging things inside kitchen cabinets.  It all began with Katie's things, and this cabinet is now referred to as "Katie's Cabinet".

When Katie comes over, she always looks to see what we've got hanging in the cabinet.  (This also happens to be where I keep their secret stash of chocolate!)

Then Ella said, "I want a cabinet too!"  So, I've started a separate cabinet for Ella.  Here it is:

There isn't much hanging in Ella's cabinet yet, but I know it will fill up fast, and then we will move on to another cabinet.  Katie's even told me that by the time she is 10 years old, she hopes to have filled up ALL the cabinets in my kitchen.  We shall see.

I hope that Katie and Ella always feel comfortable here, and I hope that they never stop wanting to come here.  But who am I kidding - they will eventually turn in to teenagers, and I'm sure someday they will say, "We don't want to go to Auntie's."  But for now, they love coming to my house, and I'm just going to enjoy it for as long as I can.

Friday, October 1, 2010

"Dear _________ :"

Flying home from Orlando last week, CT and I sat next to an older woman.  I'm guessing this woman was probably in her mid-70's, and looked like she would have been a school teacher in her younger years.  I don't know why I thought that - she just looked like a school teacher; silver-gray hair pulled up, no make-up, sensible shoes, a cardigan sweater, and glasses.  She was traveling by herself, and mentioned to CT that she had recently moved to Orlando, and was heading back to the Chicago area for a visit. 

After take-off, our seat-mate took out a large envelop that contained a stack of what appeared to be a variety of letters that she received (envelopes and all).  Probably 20 or more in total.  She carefully took out one letter at a time, and re-read the note that was sent to her.  Then, she proceeded to take out a stack of copies that appears to be her pre-typed reply letters.  I was impressed to see that she even printed her typed letters back-to-back, so as to save paper.  Quite the environmentally friendly thing to do.  I tried not to read her letters (for fear of getting caught "cheating" - like when you were in school) and I did not want to be reprimanded by our seat-mate/school teacher. 

So, as I quickly glanced over, I saw that she began each letter with, "Dear ________ :", and then she filled in the blank with the recipient's name.  What was even more interesting was that she then continued to handwrite the remaining part of the letter, and not just one-line endings.  She proceeded to write paragraphs and paragraphs for each letter.  Then she carefully and meticulously folded the letters, addressed and stuffed the envelop, and very carefully sealed the envelop with a quick lick.  Her movements were very gentle yet with purpose -- very efficient. 

I thought how peculiar this was -- this elderly school teacher with half typed and half handwritten letters.  (I know some elderly folks who do not even own a computer, and those that do own one, well, let's just say that powering up the computer can be a challenge.  I am sure, too, that there are some elderly folks who can run circles around me and my computer skills.)  Anyway, I wondered why she choose to send her replies in a combination format, and then via Snail Mail.  And then I got to thinking about the handwriting on those letters.  

A handwritten letter is truly a thing of the past.  I honestly don't remember the last time I wrote or received a handwritten letter (birthday cards sent in the mail don't count!)  Today, messages I receive are in email, instant message, or text format, and I easily discard them with a quick click of the "delete" key.  Yet when I think about notes or recipes in my grandmother's handwriting, it just makes me smile.  And I can still visualize my dad's handwriting -- his signature, notes that he might leave on the counter top for my mom or us kids, or even notes of phone numbers that he would write on the wall in the laundry room (right next to the phone).  How I wish I would have kept more things with their handwriting, now that they are both gone.    

I wonder how our seat-mate/school teacher felt about the handwritten letters.  And I wonder if the recipients of her letters would keep them and treasure them long after she is gone.  Maybe she would just shrug and say that her combination typed/written letters were strictly for convenience sake.  Or maybe our seat-mate/school teacher was somewhere in the middle - holding on the something of the past, recognizing the importance of handwritten notes, yet incorporating today's ways and conveniences.  In this case, I think holding on to the past is a good thing.