Friday, September 28, 2012

Goodbye Week. Hello Weekend. Lessons Learned: Take 64.

Thursday's view for most of the day.
Goodbye pouring rain practically every single day this week.

Goodbye growing grass that begs to be mowed.

Goodbye last week of September; the month sure has flown by.

Goodbye hunting for sweaters, fleece, and thermals from the back of the closet.

Goodbye mom's operation and getting her on the road to recovery - hoping for the high-speed lane.
Hello first official meeting of the Sklyanders Club, chartered by my son and his friends.

Hello memorial luncheon for this man.

Hello cooking up a storm of meals for my parents so they eat well while Mom recovers from her surgery.

Hello visiting Camp Asbury where my son and his classmates will be spending 3 days and 2 nights in the spring - WHAT!?!?!?!?

Hello trying to cram it all in this weekend.

My lesson learned this week is humbling and embarrassing all at the same time. I forgot my son is only 10-years old. That happens sometimes. Does it happen to you? Do you go ballistic when you ask your child to do something that may be over their head but they can't do it or they fall short of your expectations? Well, I was a crazed mom yesterday. What I had asked my son to do was a bit too much to ask, he couldn't do it, and I ranted and raved for a good 15 minutes in the car at him. I'm sure my reaction had nothing to do with being in bumper-to-bumper traffic, having been at the hospital all day for my mom's surgery, and worrying about her recovery in the days ahead and how my dad will function without her. Nooooo, I'm sure my tirade had nothing to do with all that. Take a breather, Lilly. It's all going to be OK. And, another lesson: if you rant and rave to your child, they tune you out in a matter of 2 minutes. Anything you say after that is just hearing yourself talk and blowing hot air.

Have a wonderfully calm weekend, friends.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Time to Get Real, For Your Sake

I received this advertisement in the mailbox over the summer for LIFETIME Fitness. Yea, I know it's a "play on words" because the tag-line is saying you can do it all at their facility, Lifetime. I get it. Cute. But, I focused, not on the clever pun, but on the words I read: "I Can Do It All In My Lifetime". My mind went racing down the speedway of contradiction. I was thinking about how many of us were sold that ocean-front property in Arizona idealism when we were younger, how we could have it all: no compromises, no boundaries, no limitations. Did you fall for it? I know I did.

But, don't misunderstand me, it's not sour grapes. Actually, I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life, right now, present day. It's because I had to let go of this idealism that a person can "have it all" and "do it all", as long as you're willing to work at it. Here's the reality: I can shoot hoops on a basketball court 24/7 and, no matter what I do or how hard I work or how dedicated I am or how much I want it, I will never, ever be of the caliber of LeBron James (sorry, touchy subject for the locals). It's not my gift, it's not the talent God has given me. It's taken me 40 years to figure out what talents and gifts I  have to share with this world. It's in that realization where I can dedicate my time, grow, be better, and "do it all" in the area where I belong. Dreams are important but if you can't let go of the notion that you really can't be anything you want to be, then you may be just spinning your wheels, missing opportunities to "have it all" in the area where you were born to thrive, to make a difference, to be the best you deserve of yourself to be. Sometimes to see dreams fulfilled you have to let go of some others.

Do yourself a favor and take a good, hard reality check of what your dreams encompass. Yes, you'll sacrifice and compromise and work hard to make those dreams a reality. Just make sure it's the dream that was meant for you and isn't just that, a dream. You're always most comfortable in your own skin. The fulfillment your true calling will bring to you will be immeasurable.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What I Made Wednesday {Holy Guacamole!}

Who knew something so green could be so yummy? Avocados are amazing and contribute such a creamy texture to everyday dishes in many unusual ways. Have you ever added a sliced avocado to a BLT sandwich? Shut the front door!

The next time you're at your local grocery store, when you grab your favorite tortilla chips and salsa, grab a couple of avocados, too! Pick an avocado that is a dark, dark green color and is firm when you push on the skin, not mushy to the touch. If your store's avocados are rock hard, they're not yet ripe. Take them home, put them in a brown paper bag, and place them on top of your refrigerator for a few days. The warmth will ripen the avocados quite nicely.

My guacamole recipe doesn't hide the taste of the avocado so I don't add a lot of ingredients that may compete or hide the flavor of this healthy-fat dip. It's simple, it's easy, and it's fast. So, what are you waiting for? Arriba, arriba! Andele, arriba!!

What You'll Need

2- ripe avocados
Your favorite salsa
Chipotle Chile Pepper Powder
Salt & pepper, to taste
Lime juice, totally optional

What You'll Do
Take your knife and cut along the avocado length-wise. While still in tact, take each half of the avocado in each hand, TWIST and SEPARATE apart from each other.
To remove the half with the pit, hold the avocado in one hand, your knife in the other hand. Carefully take your knife and snap it into the pit, penetrating the pit slightly. Give your knife a twist, clockwise, and the pit should release from the flesh.

Scoop out the green flesh from the skin with a spoon and place in a medium-sized mixing bowl with a flat bottom.
Add Chipotle Chile Pepper to taste (spicy or mild).
Grab a good bunch of cilantro. To cut, I roll-up the cilantro into a ball, then I take my knife and "slice" the ball thinly. I slice through once more and pop it into the bowl.
Take your favorite salsa, which already has the onions, peppers, etc., and add about 3 - 5 tablespoons to your guacamole. Be careful to not go overboard - you don't want your guacamole to be runny.
Take your potato masher and mash-away until fairly smooth and combined.
What You'll Need to Know to Finish
Take a chip and sample your creation. It's probably missing a little salt and pepper so add that, to taste. If you happen to have it on-hand, add a little lime juice. It will give it a fresh taste and help the guacamole from turning brown if sitting out for awhile or if you're not going to eat it right away. If you do need to store it, place clear plastic wrap right on top of the guacamole surface so there is no air between the film and it, then cover with a lid and store in the fridge.

You may need to add some more salsa if you're not satisfied with the taste, but don't mask over the avocado. If you let the guacamole sit for about 15 minutes in the refrigerator, it will give time for the flavors to mingle nicely. Then, take another chip sample taste test, adjust appropriately to taste, and serve aside your favorite chips. Ours are blue corn. They are thin and so tasty!


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Winner of a LOVD {Giveaway}

Using, the winner of last week's LOVD giveaway for the Halloween Decor Pillow is...

Comment #5 from aunt K...
aunt K said,
I also look forward to this blog. Love the cool air that brings us into the Halloween season.
Congratulations!!!! Privately send me your home address using and I'll send you the pillow before the candy corn starts to turn stale! You have 48 hours or we'll have to pick another winner, so HURRY!!!!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Gratitude Journal Monday

Them leaves are gonna fall, and we're gonna rake.
Happy Monday, friends! We start the week together officially living in Autumn. I've got mantels to decorate, shelves to clutter with Halloween dust collectors, and fake webbing to stretch amongst the already-existing spider webs around my home (how convenient). But, before I get too out-of-control, I'll take the time to express my gratitude because a thankful heart is a happy soul and content spirit. Ahh, exactly who I want to be!

I hope you can join me. No declaration of gratitude is ever too small to be mentioned. Here's how I got started, click here.

306. I am grateful for the smell of baked chicken in the oven when I come into the house from the cool outside - so homey.

307. I am grateful for low-key weekends.

308. I am grateful for rainy and wet weekends because it gives you an excuse to stay home in fleece sweats and just hang-out together.

309. I am grateful my son still wants to play non-electronic games like the board game Pay Day (vintage, of course); it took us 3 days to get through an entire year and he beat me by $1,000!

310. I am grateful my mom holds a special place in God's heart and He will be watching over her during her operation later this week (everything will be OK, Mom).

If you haven't left an entry for last week's giveaway, click here RIGHT NOW and enter! It's such a cute Halloween Decor, I can't imagine you'd want to miss out!!!! You only have today to enter. Good luck!

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Goodbye Week. Hello Weekend. Lessons Learned: Take 63.

STS-72: The mission my crystallization growth experiment went up to be tested.
Goodbye space shuttle program that lured me into becoming an aerospace engineer; like Endeavour, I, too, have made my final flight and retired years ago.
Goodbye productive week, professionally and personally.
Goodbye Super Hubby's dental surgery, Part I, and being so proud of how well he's been taking the pain (no meds) and adjusting to it all.
Goodbye sleeping in the guest room for fear of hitting Super Hubby in the mouth while I sleep.
Goodbye What I Made Wednesday project that I'm pretty proud of because I saved a lampshade from filling a landfill.

Hello birthday celebration for my sainted father; happy birthday, Tata!
Hello catching up on the dreaded chore of ironing - the albatross of my life.
Hello iPhone 5; I'm not getting one but, man, it's exciting to watch all the hullabaloo!
Hello taking in the cool breeze of Autumn as it fills the lungs and gives sigh to summer memories.
Hello apple picking, hay rides, pumpkin carving, and bonfires all on the To-Do list for Fall.

The lesson I learned this week is how "at-the-ready" I am when somebody gets sick, is scheduled for an operation, or is in any way incapacitated. I love being the nurturer in that kind of situation. But, my caring is more along the lines of Ina Garten, not Clara Barton. I care by feeding the ill. It's the way I show my love and caring. I plan meals appropriately, make sure the "patient" is comfortable and well-fed. When Super Hubby was going in for dental surgery this week, I planned an entire soft foods menu and I started cooking! I was a mad woman in the kitchen, up to my elbows in soups, jello, and milkshakes. It felt good to keep busy, knowing my efforts would make him more comfortable during his healing process. When you're sick or on the mend, I'm your gal to come to your rescue and help make the healing better (at least that's what I tell myself) through your stomach. Anything beyond food, though, and I'm worthless. I even forgot to tell Super Hubby to take his antibiotic last night - oops. But, hey, he's not hungry!

Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A LOVD {Giveaway}: The Perfect Halloween Pillow

I'm celebrating the start of my favorite season with a giveaway that's just perfect for Halloween. The generous owners of Chagrin Valley Antiques, Tom and Diana Colucci, were so tickled with the "Going Local" post I wrote last year, they wanted to offer this fantastic, and hilarious, Folk Art pillow ($30 value) to a lovely LOVD reader! If you missed it, you can catch that post by clicking here.

Win this American Folk Art pillow! Rick rack trim, embroidered words, USA-made.

Rules are simple this time around. All you have to do is leave a comment to be entered to win. Also, for extra entry, Follow Me and leave a comment saying you already are a Follower or you've just become one! Each comment will be considered as an entry. If you don't leave an e-mail address, check back next Tuesday to see if you are the WINNER! You have until Monday, September 24, noon, to leave your comments for entry.

Not sure how to leave a comment if you don't blog? No prob.
a. Click "Comment" at the end of this post
b. Type your comment in the "Leave your comment" box
c. Choose "Name/URL" as your identity if you don't know what the other choices are
d. Just put your name (or what you want to go by) in the Name Field
e. Don't have to put anything in the URL field - when the winner is picked, you'll have to check back on Tuesday, September 25 if you didn't leave an e-mail
g. Then click "Publish your comment"

Not sure where the FOLLOWER button is? Click refresh and look to the right column where it says Join This Site.

Giveaway is for USA and Canadian residents for free shipping. You must check back on Tuesday, September 25 for the winner announcement. Winner must privately e-mail me their home address within a 48-hour period from time of announcement to claim their prize or another entry will be chosen.

Thanks for participating and good luck!

And in case you missed yesterday's W.I.M. Wednesday, click here!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What I Made Wednesday {Rag-Tied Lampshade}

What a charming little project! I had so much fun working on this lampshade re-do and I hope you try it, too!

The lampshade in the basement needed some work but I wasn't sure if my idea was going to work. I didn't want to ruin the already-existing lampshade and I didn't want to buy a new one for this project. Then, lo and behold, sitting there on the curb, ready to go to the landfill was a neighbor's standing lamp. It called to me so I didn't ignore the plea of "take me home". I can't believe what people throw out. Yes, there was a tear in the lampshade, but oh! the possibilities. I've got future plans for the rest of the lamp, but this lampshade was destined for today's project so enjoy!

Before shot: the lamp is nice but boring. After shot: full of character and a little bit of pride from salvaging somebody else's trash and making it live another day in another way (what's with me and my rhymes today?).

It was so much fun picking out the fabric at Hobby Lobby!
What You'll Need
Cotton fabric in complimentary colors and styles
Pinking shears
An old lampshade, of course
Note: my lampshade measures 10 inches in diameter at the top and about 15 inches at the bottom of the lampshade. Each patterned fabric, I purchased only 1/4 of a yard. The solid fabric, I purchased 1/2 of a yard. I had some fabric leftover, but not much. I had a total of 7 different fabrics.

What You'll Do
First things first: tear off the fabric from the lampshade down to the wire.
This next part is going to look a little weird because the setting is in my car. I had to wait for Super Hubby to get done with a client and took this project with me to work on in the car.  Great use of my time!
Take pinking shears and even up the bottom of the fabric. Be sure you cut the correct direction to ensure you're strip of fabric will be long enough. Then, I cut on the fold of the fabric at the top. You should have two identical panels of the fabric.
Using regular scissors, cut a slit two-finger widths across the fabric.
Starting at the slit, tear down the fabric into long strips. This should be easy.
Take the strip and knot it to the top and the bottom of the lampshade.
Just like this.
Then, keep going, and going, and going with all your fabric!
What You'll Need to Know to Finish
This was such a fun and relaxing project to do on a rainy day while stuck in a car, waiting for Super Hubby. The whole project took less than 3 hours from start to finish.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Take a Breath

There are days when all of life's nuances and goings-on just plow head to a single point. Life's happenings are no longer conveniently separated by time, days and hours. It's that point when it's all about to come together at once and we do what we can to prevent a merging that results into a pile-up. When you're going top-speed on the Autobahn of life, sometimes a crash can't be avoided. But just make sure you can walk away from the scene. Nice, long, cruising weekend-drives in the country atop rolling hills with the sun's warmth gently kissing your crown are coming soon enough.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Gratitude Journal Monday

Even brokenness still finds purpose - it's nature's way.

Lean close, friend, I want to warn you. Gratitude has a tendency to change you. It will change your perspective, it will change your heart, and it will penetrate your soul. Just like the cut stump in the picture above, you too will have unusual growth where, logically, there should be none. We're stumps ourselves at various times in our lives. We've been standing tall and proud, then, one day, we find ourselves cut down, feeling we have nothing to offer the world at that point, nothing to tower over, nothing to contribute. But, just like that stump, we can become a place for growth, no matter how unusual or nonsensical it may seem. No matter how broken you may feel, you are still full of offerings to give to the world. Create your own growth in unusual places and you will thrive in the most impossible of circumstances. A gracious heart will help get you there. Simple thank you's start the seed.

301. I am grateful for today's day-off, so we can finish up some to-do's at a more leisurely pace.
302. I am grateful to have a husband that has become our family's entertainment director - somehow we switched roles on that one and he's doing a great job!
303. I am grateful we are blessed to be able to dream about our wants because we know we truly already have all we need.
304. I am grateful for my beautiful, little family of 3 - we keep it tight.
305. I am grateful for a wonderful, long-time family-friend that took the time to make us an awesome meal and delicious dessert while sharing his spectacular 3-D TV with us - we've never seen Harry Potter so real!

If you'd like to see the seedlings of my gracious heart, please click here.

I hope you are blessed with some leisure, a little entertainment,  and time with friends this week!
Happy Monday.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Goodbye Week. Hello Weekend. Lessons Learned: Take 62.

Goodbye juggling many balls and not letting a single one drop.
Goodbye starting a new opportunity and loving every minute of it.
Goodbye finding my groove after all these years of preparation.
Goodbye fighting off the devil when he sneaks into my head saying I can't do it, because I can, so "Get behind me, devil".
Goodbye Grape Week, it was fun and I hope you enjoyed this week's posts.

Hello s'mores and bonfires and Friday Night Lights, Take 2.
Hello going wherever the wind takes us this long weekend - oh the possibilities.
Hello twin babies and a double Christening - double the blessings.
Hello no-carb weekend because Super Hubby and I are on a roll and want to continue to see weight-loss results - woo-hoo!
Hello realizing that at 40-years old, this isn't a diet but rather a new eating lifestyle that I have to adopt for weight-control and not weight-gain as I grow older.

As "Grape Week" comes to a close, the lesson I learned this week is we all have to be patient and diligent when working to bear our own fruit of success. Usually success comes from a place where we've planted perseverance, hard work, and lots and lots of time. If we don't stick with it, we will never see the fruit of our labors. But when it does happen, it's unpredictable. You'll just be going along your path, working to make sure your planted seed is safe from harm down there in the dirt. You'll put your hopes and dreams into that seed in the dirt you can't even see. But, there's a lot happening to that seed in the ground, whether you can see it or not. And, you'll never know when it's finally going to sprout. But, when it does, it motivates you to continue on and see it bear all your hopes, dreams, and wishes. Plant your seed of dreams and tend to it everyday. Even if you can't see all that's happening to it while it begins to take root deep underground, know that much is going on so be ready when it breaks through, and carry it forth, tend to it, nourish it, so you may bear your own fruit.

Happy weekend, friends. It's a long one for us!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How to Eat Concord Grapes

It never occurred to me that there might be some of you folks out there that have no idea how to eat Concord grapes! The approach is quite different from the red seedless grapes you purchase at the grocery store. I assure you, it's simple, but takes some practice.

My son has his own method and I think it's the best to try for all you newbies. Here are his instructions to enjoying this delicious fruit.

1. Select a grape from your cluster.
2. Squeeze the grape from the skin to pop open and squeeze into your mouth. 3. Suck the grape behind your teeth to separate the grape from the seeds. 4. Chew the grape without the seeds and swallow.
5. Keep the seeds in your teeth while chewing the grape, then spit them out.
 You're not done, yet. There's a lot of yumminess still in the skin.

6. Take the grape skin and suck out the juice.
7. Spit out the skin.
8. Repeat steps 1 - 7.

Now you try!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What I Made Wednesday {Concord Grape Jam}

Continuing our Grape Week, yes, believe it or not, making homemade jam is easy-peasy, no kidding. And the results? Can I get an A.MAAAZE.INGG!!?!? Watch out Smuckers, you got some competition under this roof. And, believe me, you can do this, too!!!

You can say farming is in our blood. I know those of you who know us are laughing right now so let me re-phrase: Super Hubby and I come from a long line of farming ancestors, to which the gene had long since left our parents' DNA composition. My side concentrated mainly on livestock in the old country, but Super Hubby's line concentrated in fruit, primarily apples and Concord grapes. Super Hubby's great-grandfather starting growing grapes way back in 1919 near the Eastern Lake Erie shores in Pennsylvania. He even helped found the National Grape Cooperative Association in 1945. Super Hubby's family supplied their tasty Concord grapes to Welch's for juicing and other products. And all that clean-air living and grape eating contributed, I'm sure, to Super Hubby's Great-Grandma Flossie living to be just days shy of 107 years old. Now, if that isn't incentive enough to try today's recipe, then I don't know what is?

The following recipe was inspired by Epicurious.

Want more yield? Use smaller jars.
What You'll Need
5 pounds of stemmed Concord grapes (taken off the stem)
5 cups sugar
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

12 ounce jelly jars with bands and sealing lids (will yield 3-1/2 jars)
Deep pot fitted with a rack that fits inside
Instant-read thermometer
Food processor
Food mill with coarse and find discs (more on purchasing a food mill later)
Chill 2 small plates in a freezer to start

On Purchasing a Food Mill
Eons ago I purchased a food mill from, now defunct, Linens & Things. I needed it for some apple squash soup recipe. In getting ready to make the Concord Grape Jam, I looked high and low for that food mill and came up empty. Where it is, I just don't know? I do know I bought the cheapest one I could find (some run as high as $500 but this was only $30) and I have a faint memory of getting frustrated enough with it that I may have thrown it away - not sure? So, I did some online research and found one by OXO. Not the cheapest but great reviews and so I purchased my second food mill from Bed, Bath, and Beyond for only $40, after using the 20% off coupon. C'est la vie (food mills are very French)!

Do You Really Need One?
Yes, yes, and yes! If you want this jam recipe to be easy, yes!, purchase a food mill. A food processor and blender cannot separate out the skins and seeds from the grapes the way a food mill can. Save yourself a lot of headache and just go out and buy one. Heck, remember I already bought two in a lifetime. 'Nuf said.

My Purchase
Don't buy the cheapest one they have. I bought this OXO Food Mill and was impressed with all the little details OXO is known for in their designs and actually enjoyed the process. It wasn't messy at all and did the job with ease.
What You'll Do
Wash those Concord Grapes well. Lay them out on a table outside and just hose them down. Separate the grape from the stem until the grapes weigh 5 pounds.
Slip the skins from the grapes into two separate bowls.
Set aside.
1. Place a rack at the bottom of your large pot and place glass jars on top. Fill with water to cover at least 2 inches above the jars. 2. Once water boils, cover and boil for 10 minutes more. 3. Remove from heat and keep covered. 4. Place lids in a small saucepan with water and heat to 180 degrees F. Do not exceed. Remove from heat and keep covered. 5. Wash and dry band rings and set aside.
In food processor, blend 1 cup sugar, grape skins and lemon juice until smooth.
Add remaining 4 cups of sugar and skinned grapes to mixture and bring to a boil over moderate heat until pulp breaks down, about 20 minutes. Skim the foam that collects at the top.
Attach the coarse disc to your food mill first, then run the mixture a second time using the fine disc. This will make for very smooth jam.
Place a large bowl underneath the food mill to catch the soon-to-be jam.
Discard the solids or put in composter.

Place smooth mixture back in the pot and on the stove and bring to a slow boil. Be sure to scoop up all the foam that tends to form at the top. Mixture will thicken so stir often to prevent scorching. Slow boil for 35 minutes then test for doneness.

What You Need to Know to Finish
Not done.
You'll have to test your jam for doneness, ensuring it isn't too runny. To do this take out one plate from your freezer that you chilled at the beginning of this adventure. Spoon on a teaspoonful of jam onto the plate and wait one minute. Tip the plate. If the jam runs, it is not done and boil for another 10 minutes. Afterwards, take the other chilled plate and test again. The mound of jam should not run when the plate is tipped after solidifying for 1 minute. If still not ready, boil for another 5 - 10 minutes, but do not exceed 25 minutes total of extra boil time.

Now, you are ready for canning. Drain hot jars by inverting them onto a clean kitchen towel for 1 minute. Using a funnel, ladle jam into each jar, leaving a 1/4 inch gap at the top. Wipe down the rim with a damp cloth and top with lids. Screw on the band tightly. When all jars are filled, place them onto the rack in the pot with clean water, with water 2 inches above top of jar, and bring to a boil. Cover, then boil covered for 10 minutes. Using tongs and oven mitts, remove from water and set aside on a kitchen towel to cool.
Jars need to cool and seal for at least 12 to 24 hours. If sealed properly, the lid should be concave (you won't always hear the "ping" sound when the jar seals). Once done, press lid of jar down to ensure proper seal. Put any jars not sealed properly into the refrigerator and use those first.

Those sealed properly can keep up to 5 months in a dark, cool place.


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