Sunday, July 31, 2011

Week One

The week of June 20 - 24 Emery was signed up for C3 camp. It's a summer camp at a church near their house. The kids just go during the day, but it's all day. Savannah didn't want to go, so Jodi asked if I'd like to have her for a week by herself. That way, after she dropped Emery off each day she could (and did) get a WHOLE LOT done at home. That was fine with us.

We had a good week. She got into the daily routine of things around here and helped out when asked and then we did some "special" things. We ran errands one day and had lunch at Cici's pizza. A few days that week my friend, Gail, and her granddaughter, Laney, came over to swim. Savannah wanted to give Laney swimming lessons...and she was very sweet and encouraging to her. they got a little silly, too, but that's okay.

On Tuesday Savannah and I rode along with Grandpa when he went to get some mulch. The place where he gets it also has various rocks, gravel and stones for landscaping. We took sandwich bags and I asked the lady there if we could get a few small, smooth stones. She said yes. Savannah enjoyed climbing in the rock pile and picking out some "special" stones, even though she didn't know what we were going to do with them. But I knew. I had a plan. :) When we got home I explained to her that we were each going to make our own Fairy Garden and those stones could be used for paths between our plants. She really got into it and it turned out great. I had found some little things we could use. She chose a couple of fence pieces, a small watering can, a shovel and a tricycle. For some reason, she laid her tricycle on it's side in the "grass" (moss) and Jerry said that was his favorite part. I had gotten a little metal angel for each of us and she came in and rooted through her toys to find a dog to visit her garden. (You can see the stones of her path behind the angel's wings.)

On Wednesday I took her to the Covington library to see Barry Stewart Mann, a story teller. He was really good and we both enjoyed him. On Thursday afternoon we went to the movies to see Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer. It was cute.

So before we knew it, Friday was here. Aunt Jess picked her up after lunch and took her back home. It was a fun week and we each have our Fairy Gardens to remember it by.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New Twist on an Old Favorite

While in Rockford, I got to go to two new quilt shops! Cathe took me to one by her house and Melissa took us to one that her neighbor owns. Both were loaded with inspiration and, of course, I always have to take something home with me. The one Melissa took us to is called Quilter's General Store. One of the "souvenirs" I picked up there was a pattern that intrigued me.

Like many quilters, I am a fan of the classics. Like at least a couple of quilters I know, I have started a traditional Cathedral Window quilt. It's just another "work in progress", and probably will be for several years. That's just how much time goes into making that design. But the General Store had a pattern for a "mock" Cathedral Window. In this version, instead of all the sewing, flipping, inserting and hand just sew squares together. After you've gotten it the size that you want, you cut out and sew these little white football-shaped pieces over the seams. Just leave a little seam allowance and when you're finished -- in no time at all! -- you wash it and shake it out. The footballs fray a little and it gives it a soft, vintage look. You layer the backing and batting behind the squares so that as you sew the footballs on you are quilting it as you go. So when you're done -- you're done! Voila! A finished quilt in very little time.

I started mine not long ago and finished it yesterday. I'm very pleased with how sweet it looks and how easy it was. Whoever thought this technique up is a genius and I thank her. I'm donating mine to the Healing Hugs ministry for cancer patients. It's a nice, snuggly quilt and I hope someone will enjoy it and it will bring them comfort.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


When my cousin, Melissa, was telling me some of the things we could do and see when we were in Rockford and she mentioned the Anderson Gardens, I told her we love that kind of thing...but it might cause Jerry some concern. Because when I go to places like that, I get inspired. I think, "Why can't we do this in our yard?" I have a long history of coming up with these grand ideas and expecting Jerry to make it all look like it does in my head.

Well, before we even got to Rockford that had already happened. When we went to the plant nurseries in the Millington area while we were in Sheridan, the first idea hit me. The mailbox! The nursery that had everything laid out so temptingly had their mailbox surrounded by plants. (That's it in the first picture) I really never thought of it before, but our mail box sits on a bare patch of ground and has for all the years we've been here. I've never thought to landscape around that. And why couldn't ours look like that? The rest of the trip I kept imagining how great our mailbox was going to look once I got home and got going on that project. When we were in Rockford, I kept taking mental notes of how they had big rocks everywhere (ROCKford) and plants snuggled in around them. I thought I knew where we had a couple of large rocks in the back yard that we could add to the area. I was very excited. Look out, Jerry!

So in the first week that we were home, Jerry got busy and took out the old mail box post and got a new one and reset it in concrete. While he was doing that, I went out and bought plants and scouted out the back woods for large rocks. So on the following Monday, June 13, our 41st anniversary....I was "good to go" on the mailbox project! The plan for the day was to get busy before it got too hot. Get the mailbox looking wonderful. Take a little break and then go out for a nice dinner. Isn't it funny how plans can change?

We started by me -- the project coordinator -- showing Jerry -- the muscle -- where I'd found some rocks I thought would work. The first thing that happened that wasn't in "the plan" was that in transferring them to the work area he dropped one on his foot. Being the trooper that he is, he continued with the work and it was only later...when he was limping...that I realized how badly he had hurt it.

The second thing that didn't exactly go as planned was the preparing of the garden bed. In my enthusiasm I had forgotten a couple of things. 1...Illinois has black dirt. We do not. 2...Illinois gets rain. We do not. While I was standing by with my carefully selected plants and waiting to put them into the soil, Jerry was chopping, picking and tilling at the dirt. After sitting on a slant in the sun since the age of dinosaurs, that particular patch of clay was like concrete. I was reminded yet again of why they use clay to make bricks. The neighbor commented on how nice it was looking and I told him the ground was a little hard. He said he had to get his drill out the other day to put something in his back yard.

So after several hours of trying to get down deep enough to plant something, we had to just give up and settle for as good as we could get. It wasn't what we'd have liked to plant in, but it was as deep as we were going to able to go. We put a bunch of soil amendments, additives, etc. in and worked them in as best we could and then put the plants in. Jerry wasn't convinced at all that anything would grow in that hard dirt, that shallow of a "grave" or in all that full sun. Ever the optimist, I assured him that all those plants call for "full sun". After we got cleaned up and were sitting on the porch (and he had taken some pain pills), I told him what we SHOULD have done was to make a raised bed and level it back to the slope behind it. He just leveled a look at me and didn't have an opinion on that. I said, "Maybe in the fall if this doesn't work". Again...just a look from him.

But here we are a month later and the few little plants we put in seem to be very happy there. So are the rocks. And Jerry isn't limping hardly at all any more. Don't compare it to the first picture of the lush plants all filled in around the mailbox. Compare it to the second picture of what was there before. See? Improvement! He has spent 41 years trying to make all my dreams come true...even the goofy ones. Happy anniversary, Honey, and thanks for all your help.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Main Event

The main reason for the trip to Illinois at this time was to be there for my niece, Erin's, wedding. Remember the bachelorette party only a week before? Like many little girls, she's been dreaming of ... and practicing for ... this day for a long time. I was so glad I got to meet her fiance, Will, and his family the week before. He's a real sweetie and the whole family is very likable. So it was fun to celebrate with them all.

We left Rockford on Friday morning and took the direct route to Chicago. A little frustrating that almost that entire route is under construction! But we checked into the motel in plenty of time and started reuniting with other family. Jodi, Jess and the kids had come up and since we hadn't seen them in a week it was good to lay eyes on them again and know they'd made it safely. (You know how moms worry.) My sister, Karen, and her roommate, Diane, had come from Tucson and their room was just a few doors down. I was given the privilege of reading some scripture at the wedding, so Jerry and I went to the rehearsal. As has become the custom, all the out-of-town guests got to go to the rehearsal dinner and so we all started partying there. It was held at a really cool pub and the food, drinks and fun were great. Savannah found out that the flower girl was just about her age and so they became instant buddies.

The wedding was at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, so that gave us a morning to find something to do. It just so happened that Lego Land is at the Woodfield Mall which is about 5 minutes from the Double Tree in Arlington Heights where we were staying. It also happens that Emery is crazy about Legos! So guess where we went to kill a morning. My favorite display was the city of Chicago all done in Legos...from Navy Pier, Sears Tower and downtown to Buckingham Fountain. I loved it. After you walk through a good-sized area of displays, you can go upstairs to a big room where you can sit and build things with Legos. Jodi entered her cat in an animal contest...and she won (she was the only entry), so she got a paper hat. You can build cars and race them on tracks and ramps. While Emery was busy doing that, Savannah became very fond of a ride they had in that same room and she rode, and rode and rode.

Lots of fun, but then it was time to go to the wedding. We all went back and got dressed in our wedding finest. Emery likes to get dressed up and he loves wearing a tie. I bought him his first sport coat for Easter this year and he gets excited when he has a chance to wear that. He says he looks like a newsman in it. Savannah had gotten a very pretty new dress and she looked like a princess. (The newsman and the princess. What is this...a wedding or Halloween??)

The wedding was beautiful. The bride was beautiful. The weather was warm and little muggy when we went in and just as the bride started coming down the aisle we heard a little thunder. My brother, Chuck, said as they were standing in the back waiting, it did get stormy outside. He said Erin looked a little apprehensive. So he said to her, "You look nervous. Let's take a walk." She grinned and he walked her down the aisle. But after the service the storm had passed and it turned out to be a beautiful evening. The reception was at the Metropolis Ballroom in Arlington Heights. It's a really nice facility and there is a balcony along side the ballroom, so it was very pleasant to take your drink and go out there and visit for a while. Again the food was great, the place was great and it was fun. And I was so glad to be there. I know I've been using the words "great" and "beautiful" a lot, but what else can you say? That's what it was. They had a room for the kids to go into and play and eat "kid friendly" food and watch movies while the adults had a cocktail hour, introduction of the wedding party, toasts, etc. But once the dancing started the kids joined us and they had a ball. Savannah and Emery both love to dance and took full advantage of the festivities. The evening didn't end well for Emery, though. He was cutting a rug on the dance floor and a lady was jumping and jiving near him but lost her balance and fell on him! He was mad, embarrassed, and hurt his leg a little (but he wouldn't talk about it) and by then he was exhausted. It was late by that time, so we all caught the shuttle back to the motel. But that was the least thing we will remember about the wedding. The rest was lots of fun.

In the morning, the grooms parents invited all the out-of-towners who were staying at the Double Tree to breakfast. So we got one more chance to be together before we all headed back home in various directions. This is me with my big sister and my "little" brother. We don't get to be together very often any more, so this was nice. Jodi and Jess were determined to drive back home in one day. That's 13 hours from Chicago. We almost always break that drive up into two days now, but we drove through as well. It didn't feel all that bad, but we got home at 2:00 a.m. to find out we had no air conditioning! The unit had gone out and it was 4 days (in the mid to upper 90s) before we got a new one. Oh, well. Great back to reality.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

On The Rocks

I was very lucky to grow up with lots of first cousins. Two of the ones I was closest to were Melissa and Cathe. Melissa is my age and Cathe is a year younger. I would ride my bike to Melissa's and play on her jungle gym and borrow her Nancy Drew books (she had them ALL). And I would ride over to Cathe's with the Sears, Penney, and Montgomery Ward catalogs in my bike basket and we'd cut out paper dolls all afternoon. Great memories. It's been a long, long time since we'd gotten a chance to spend time together until a few years ago when, thanks to modern technology such as e-mail, Face Book, etc. -- we reconnected. In a somewhat strange coincidence they both live in Rockford, Illinois, now. In 2009 they got on a plane and came down here for a visit. We had a wonderful reunion and it was decided that it was then my turn to visit Rockford to see them next. The plans to do that last year fell apart, but when we were going to Illinois again this year, the Rockford visit was a MUST!

So on Wednesday morning we bid adieu to the fine folks in Sheridan and headed up route 39. We went first to Cathe's house. Melissa and her husband, Duane, came over for lunch. We sat in Cathe and Rum's newly finished sun room and enjoyed lunch, beautiful weather and a great visit. After lunch we went to Anderson Gardens. It's a gorgeous Japanese garden and, again, with all the rain they've had it was lush and beautiful. Later on, Cathe's kids and grand kids, as well as her sister, Jean, and her brother-in-law came over for dinner. (We're all about the eating.) It was so nice to get a chance to see her 4 darling grand kids in person instead of just in the cute pictures she shares. After everyone left, Cathe and I looked at photo albums and scrapbooks and I taught her how to play Monopoly Deal.

Thursday morning, the girls took me to a store called Gordman's. I'd never heard of it till Shirley was singing it's praises. Ken had a neat bug zapper fly swatter that they got there and I thought Jerry needed to have one. Plus...I heard it was just a really neat store. It is. The guys went out and hit some golf balls and then we all met for lunch (eating again) at BeefaRoo...a local favorite where they have -- tenderloins! :) Then Jerry went home with Duane and the girls took me to a really nice quilt shop in a big, old house. Lots of inspiration! Then we swung by and picked Jerry up and Melissa took us on a driving tour of Rockford. It's a very nice city with a lot to offer. I can see why the Wisconsin senators chose that as a "hiding" place while they were avoiding doing their jobs a couple of months ago.

On Thursday night it was Melissa's turn to show off her two adorable grand daughters...Amelia and Sofi. It's so nice to put voices and personalities with these cute kids that I hear stories about and just see pictures of. We had a very good dinner out on the screened-in porch on a picture perfect evening enjoying the view of their back yard. After everyone else called it a night, Melissa and I looked at a cookbook and I taught her how to play Monopoly Deal.

Before leaving town on Friday morning, we all went to breakfast at a Rockford institution...The Stockholm Inn. The (large) place is really neat and the food was wonderful. They like to go for the Sweedish pancakes with linginberries but everything that everyone had was really good. They've recently remodeled the bathrooms and the ladies' room was so cute we took pictures! Rockford is home to the original sock monkey and the Stockholm Inn proudly displays a large array of monkeys.

So after a couple of days of eating, visiting, sharing, eating, laughing and...did I mention eating?...we had to head on to the next stop. So glad Rockford was on my "bucket list".

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Home for the Holiday

On Monday morning -- Memorial Day -- we left Streator and headed up the road to Sheridan. As much as I love visiting friends and family in Streator, it's when we roll into Sheridan that I feel I'm coming "home". We always stay with our BFFs Ken and Shirley. They had a cookout and we got to see their kids and grandkids and several old friends came over, too. The food was great, the people were great and the weather was great. In the evening we decided to go for a walk and burn off some of the brats, sides and adult beverages. There were 8 of us (4 couples) and we walked around town. Gotta love a small town where you can walk 8 abreast down the streets and only have to get out of the way of traffic (one car) once. :)

On Tuesday morning Shirley and I were visiting and Ken and Jerry had disappeared. Not surprising since neither one of them can sit still for very long. When they came back, I asked where they had been and they said "visiting". I found out they'd been visiting the lady that lives in the house we used to live in! Ken saw the look on my face and said, "Don't worry. I asked her if we could come back. I knew you'd want to go see the house, too." The people who have lived in the "home of my heart" where we raised our girls have made a great many changes to the place. A number of years ago I saw from the bottom of the driveway that they had taken our plain little brown house and painted it yellow with white trim and put a nice porch on the front. I loved it! This year we'd heard they put a landscape wall along the bottom of the sloped front yard that followed the curve of the driveway -- another great improvement! They have also added a sun room on the back and changed what was our living room to their dining room! The lady was so nice to take her time (twice) that day and let us come and see. My childhood home is a wreck and Jerry's is gone, so I love that someone is doing such nice things to the house I have so many fond memories of.

After visiting the old home place we went south to the little country town of Leonore. Again continuing my quest for tenderloins. Shirley assured me these were the best. I have to admit the girl knows her tenderloins. It was awesome! Since we plan much of our visits and travels around food, we had plans to go to a small country town north of Sheridan for "cheap chicken" for dinner. So we worked our way back up there by way of Ottawa first. We stopped and did some antique shopping. Jerry bought a neat old rake and we spent the rest of the trip packing and unpacking the trunk and back seat around it.

Then we went to a couple of plant nurseries. Illinois has had an extremely wet spring and early summer and although it's sad to see the water standing in the farmers' fields, everything is lush and green and beautiful. One of the nurseries is where we used to go for plants and it was great to see that it's still a thriving business. It may even have grown in the time we've been gone. I just had to buy a few things to bring home. So, along with the rake, we packed, unpacked, and tended the plants for the rest of the trip, too. The second nursery we went to is new to us. I don't remember the name of it, but it is laid out beautifully. Potted plants for sale are nestled among those same types of items planted in the soil and blooming and looking so inviting. By then it was time to go to the tavern and get the "cheap chicken". I don't understand how fried chicken is associated with the south when they have no taverns down here. Taverns have the best fried chicken and, again, Shirley knew what she was talking about. When I went to the restroom, there was a sign on the wall that advertised some upcoming events. Some time in July is the "Testicle Festival". Sure hate that we're going to miss that!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Family Ties

When I returned to Streator on Sunday, we went to visit with Jerry's side of the family. Whenever we're in town his ex-sister-in-law, Marie, gets the nieces, nephews, spouses, kids, etc. together and we get to visit them all at once. Always a lot of fun. This year his brother, Curt, and his wife, Sharon, were there, too, so it was a nice get together.

After lunch and a nice visit with them, we went back to Bob and Joan's. They took us on a "tur" of south Streator to see where the tornado had gone through last June. The apartment building where they lived when they were first married is now gone. We walked around Oakland Park school grounds where they lost many of their big, old trees. Then we went for pizza and went back to their house and watched a movie. Spent one more night enjoying their hospitality (Joan puts a big Cunningham's chocolate whip on your pillow instead of a mint!!) before moving on northward.

Thanks for a great visit, friends and family!