Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One Sleepy Nephew....

We think babies are pretty fun around here...I hope you do too.  Happy December, everyone!

Our Thanksgiving Weekend in Pictures

For the past year, my Grandpa Max has been planning a family trip to Branson with our extended family to celebrate this year's big events- his 80th birthday and he and Grandma Bobbie's 60th wedding anniversary.  So, on Thanksgiving morning, almost 60 of us (including 20 kids younger than 15) loaded on to a charter bus for an 8 hour drive.  We had such a great time with the whole family over the 4-day weekend.  There was plenty of time for relaxing, swimming at the hotel's water park and shopping.  We attended several shows- Dixie Stampede was my favorite.  They served dinner during the show, and we saw the Christmas portion of the show, plus they did their usual horseback riding "tricks".  Here's the whole group before the show:

And here's I-man and I on the way back to the hotel.

 We went to an outdoor mall called The Landing one afternoon.  The weather was beautiful and perfect for outdoor browsing.  The above picture could describe my usual look...I'm digging through my purse trying to find my phone.  Someday, I will learn to buy small purses!
 I'm not sure if this is a real tree or not, but I still found it impressive.
 I loved the unique architecture of the stores.
 Sporting my bargain of the day- a $9 scarf from BCBG...a store I would never buy from at full price!
 I was happy to see Nathan...he had gone to Bass Pro with the guys in the family that morning while us girls checked out an outlet mall.
 Thanksgiving 2011, our second one as a married couple.  It's funny to be that we're already doing holidays the second seems like we got married yesterday!
 Out for lunch at Joe's Crab Shack.  We enjoyed our lunch, but I could have passed on all the servers taking a 5-minute break to dance every 15 minutes.  
 9-month-old Elliana (and her mom) dropped in for a visit before we left for a show.  
 Here's her big sister Gracie.
 Just so you know, his eyes are closed on purpose!

 Sweet Benjamin sleeping on Therese's lap
 Madeline and Uncle Nathan
 We went to a show with these three hillbilly guys- they provided the silly part of the show, for sure.  The boys thought they were the best.

Mom, Dad and Isaac on the bus
This picture isn't from the trip, but it is too cute not to post.  It looks like they are making the same face at each other.

Tomorrow I head back to see my hand surgeon.  I'll get my stitches out and hopefully be released from wearing this splint.  And just as I was getting fast at typing with one hand....

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fall Party

I hosted my mom and two youngest siblings, sister Megan and her four little guys, and Krista with her two little girls for a Thanksgiving party.

 In the past year, I've learned that the happiest people make the best of what they have.  So, for this party, I used the super cool ideas I found online, and then altered them to fit my budget and my home.  Case in point: the 1980's-style light.  Definitely not the ultra-chic chandeliers hanging above most party-guide photos, but it isn't so bad with four fall-colored paper flowers (total cost: $2.50) hung from it.  A big round of applause goes to Nathan for folding paper flowers with me a few nights ago.  They're a little tedious with only one hand.
 The centerpiece is from sticks found in my back yard, a vase my mother-in-law found at a resale shop for a dollar, ribbon saved from a gift from a student and a little construction paper.  One of the projects I did with the kids was to have them write (or draw) what they were thankful for on leaf shapes cut from construction paper and then hang them from the branches.

The runner is something I bought with a wedding gift card (so free for me), and the pumpkins, candles, leaves on the plates, and wooden acorns were purchased at Hobby Lobby last week during an 80% off sale.  That made the pumpkins, according to big/medium/tiny $2/$0.80/$0.40.  I had everything set up but thought I needed a little something more, so I added the scrunched paper napkins to the glasses for one last pop of color.
 Here's the kiddos, pre-crafts.  Everyone except the two babies participated in crafts.
 My mom and her youngest grandchild, 9-month-old Elliana.  
 My college friend Evelyn was able to stop buy for a few hours and join in the happy chaos.  Here she is with sweet Benjamin.  They are in the basement where we were doing crafts.
 Pilgrim Evangeline.  We like to call her the family's "cherry on top".
 My oldest nephews, Samuel (6) and William (4).
 My brother Isaac.  He is such a good leader for all the kids.
 Evelyn and I after lunch.  
I didn't really get pictures of the food, but we had sloppy joes, tomatoes, carrots and broccoli with dip, chips, taffy apple salad, pumpkin muffins and chocolate pumpkin-shaped cake.

The cake also had a stem, but you can't see it in the picture.

 We tried really hard to get a group shot as everyone left.  But with 8 kids under 10, this was the best that we got.
Nathan stopped in during lunch and we were able to grab a quick photo...check out the swollen, sausage-like fingers I have here!

Happy Thanksgiving to each of you.  
I hope you have a wonderful holiday 
surrounded by the people you love.

Monday, November 21, 2011

7 Things He'll Never Tell You {but you need to know}

I really enjoy author Kevin Leman.  I've heard him interviewed on various radio shows and I laugh pretty much the whole time.  I've only read one of his books, but it turned out to be the most valuable pre-marriage reading I did.  And in the last year, it's been my go-to guide when I felt completely bewildered in my effort to understand this person I married.  He's a boy and sometimes (happily, not too often), I just don't get him.  

I hope that every one of you gets this book.  Whether you're married or not, it will help you in your relationships.  So, I'm going to review one chapter of this book each week for the next several weeks.  

Chapter 1:

The basic premise of this book is introduced, which is the difference between the top three things men and women need from their spouses.

A Man's Top 3 Needs:
     1. to be respected
     2. to be needed
     3. to be fulfilled

A Woman's Top 3 Needs:
     1. affection
     2. honest, open communication
     3. commitment to family

It's no surprise that these needs can conflict.  A girl wants to talk, a guy has run out of words.  A girl wants to do everything together, a guy wants some independence.
According to this book, the #1 thing he'll never tell you is this:

"It's Thursday, and I'm out of words already." ("But if you want to keep talking, honey, go ahead.")
Why men want the Cliff's Notes, and women want the whole novel.

Dr. Leman says, "One of the hardest things for a woman to realize is that sharing is not the key to your husband's heart, as it is for yours.  You love words, sentences, complete thoughts, paragraphs.  You are the Energizer Bunny of communicators who keeps going and going and going and going...Your husband often feels like the bunny who has the wrong kind of batteries, lying mute on his side."

Understanding this idea really freed me to talk all I need to, but not expect the same level of chitter-chatter to come back at me from Nathan.  (I had a lightbulb moment when I realized that Nathan is not my best girlfriend, and probably never will be.  If I want someone to go gaga over my new purse, I need a girlfriend.  Who would have thought?!)  This has been especially helpful because I'm a super-verbal woman and I have a husband that is out of words by Thursday, or earlier.  (He was just reading over my shoulder and told me that sometimes he's out of words by Sunday.)
The second part of the chapter is talking about "shooting it straight", or saying what we really mean.  Again, realizing this has given me so much freedom!  Guy-style communication is so much simpler.  Leman says,  "Save yourself the frustration.  Simply say what you mean!"  

He details an exchange with his wife:

"I said, "Do you like this sweater?  Should I think about wearing it to the speaking event?"
Sande shuffled her feet and didn't quite meet my eyes, "Well, you do need a Christmas sweater."
Now I know there's not a man in the universe who needs a Christmas sweater.  So I asked her, "Do you like the sweater?"  She still didn't meet my eyes.  "You go ahead and wear it." 
So now I've asked her twice.  She's told me I need a Christmas sweater and that I could wear it to the function, neither of which is what I want to hear.  
What I want to know simply is, does she like it or doesn't she?
If she said to me, "I don't like it," I'd take it back and be 70 bucks richer.  No big deal.  I just want to know.

I've applied this idea to my general communication style, not just with Nathan, and it is so much easier.  I don't think of myself as blunt now, I just have the freedom to be clear!

Okay, well, let's end with a humorous excerpt from the book:

Things you'll never hear from a man:
- I know this is a tough question, dear, but I want to ask anyway.  Can we just cuddle and watch a romantic comedy tonight?
-If I took Friday off, could we go shopping and make a weekend of it?
-Is there any way we can get your mother to stay a week longer?  She's only been here a month.
-Of course, I'll go with you to the ballet.  I love seeing those men in tights.

Check back next week for a quick overview of Chapter 2!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Giveaway.

This giveaway will be open until November 30th.

I've had trouble with my skin since I was about 12.  I was taking prescription skin medication up until I got married and discovered how un-fun it is to pay for that stuff yourself.  I was driving this summer and heard an ad for Proactiv.  I had heard of it before, but never tried it.  They had some kind of super-sale if you called in the next five minutes or something.  I NEVER fall for those things, but a few minutes later, I was on the phone with one of their sales agents.  It's worked wonderfully for me, so I'm going to have a giveaway here on the blog of the three products pictured.

Here's how it works.  To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this blog briefly stating why you want to win.

To be entered additional times, increasing your chance of winning do any or all of the following:

1) Share this giveaway on Facebook.

2) Subscribe to this blog.

3) For 3 bonus entries, blog about this giveaway (and leave the link to your post in the comments).

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's Finished.

It's taken me a couple of months to get it all together, but I finally finished my teaching website this morning.  My intention is to use it as an advertising tool for now.  I could also see adding an online payment option to the site so that parents could pay there if it was more convenient.  I might add a page where I play some of the standard pieces my students learn so they could have an example to watch during the week.  I've even seen videos where teachers record various ways to practice tricky spots in a piece.  It will probably be 2012 before I get to that...

Want to see my favorite part of the website?  Click on Videos, then Hindemith Solo Cello Sonata, then move the video ahead to the last movement, or 7:55.  I like this because people usually think of cello as being an instrument that plays slow, lyrical movie themes.  It is.  But, we can also play fun stuff like the Hindemith on it.  Or, if you really want to see cellos branch out, watch this video:  It's not really my style, but it's pretty cool.

So, take a look around and then leave me your comments and suggestions on here!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thankful for....Days 9-18

I had surgery on my wrist yesterday afternoon.  It was a minor thing, but I've been reminded over the past 12 hours of all the little things that are usual and routine, but are blessings just the same.

Day 9

I'm thankful for Nathan who wins the husband of the year award for taking such good care of me yesterday.  He was so patient and sweet.  I made a poor choice of shoes yesterday...I'm usually wearing some sort of slip-ons: flip-flops, ballet flats or boots.  For some reason, I choose my very comfy Converse yesterday and poor Nathan had to tie and untie those three times.  Before this gets too sappy, let me show you his ornery side.  He was videotaping me when I was experiencing some sort of post-surgical amnesia.  (To quote from the video: Leah, do you really want to tell the nurse for the 5th time that the iodine they put on your hand is the same stuff that you used as a kid to dip the navel of baby cows in on your farm?)  Now that is blackmail material for sure!

Day 10

My mom, amid her busy day homeschooling Isaac and Eva, running them to their various activities, and taking care of their household, had us over for a delicious dinner.  It was such comfort food- meatloaf, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, fresh spinach and fruit salad.  The potatoes and green beans were from their garden.  On top of that, she sent us home with a second meal for tonight.  

Day 11

It's easy to take two hands for granted.  I'm typing right now (and for the next few days) with one hand.  I'm definitely not going 90 words-per-minute over here.

Day 12

I'm glad that I don't usually have to wear this, and that after tomorrow, I don't have to hold my hand above my heart.  We were renting a movie at Family Video last night (The King's Speech- I highly recommend it) and there I was, standing at the check-out with Nathan, hand held high and to the side, ready to give my Boy Scout's oath at any moment.

Day 13

That I'm typically healthy is such a blessing.  The pain medicine I took last night is still making me feel nauseous and I have a new sympathy for the morning sick.

Day 14

I'm thankful for being able to usually wash my hair with both hands, rather than one hand and a garbage bag.

Day 15

...and for living in a country with the best medical facilities in the world.

Day 16

Some of you may be able to crack an egg with one hand, but judging by the mess in my kitchen, it is safe to say that this is an art I will not soon perfect.  I'm glad I usually get to do it with two hands.

Day 17

I'm thankful for having such a close-knit family.  Just yesterday I talked to every one of my six siblings and both of my parents.

Day 18

For a rental house that not only meets our basic need of shelter from the elements, but is beautiful and big enough to accommodate large numbers of guests.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

30 By 30

In a few days, it will be exactly six and a half years until I turn 30.  That doesn't sound too far away.  So many milestones are passed in the age 10 to age 20 decade.  Even though 20 to 30 won't have as many of them (going from elementary school to half-way through college is a pretty big change), I hope it will be far from a boring decade.  Here's a list I came up with.  Most of them are fun things that I've wanted to do but have just not had time for.  Only a couple are serious, but it will be a fun challenge to get through them all by 30.
  1. Host our families for a major holiday.
  2. Drive to California.
  3. Learn to make bread.
  4. Memorize a book of the Bible (A substantial one...not Jude).
  5. Vote for the first time (Yes, I know, it is sad that I'm 23 and have not done that yet).
  6. Go to Asia.
  7. Play the Dvorak Concerto really well.
  8. Spend a week camping.  (This would be a very pioneer-ish stretch for me).
  9. Be on time for stuff (Nathan tells me that on-time is 5-10 minutes early...hmmm....).
  10. Make my blog profitable.
  11. Create a reading list of 10-12 books on New Years and actually get through them that year.
  12. Sew something, or at least learn how to turn a sewing machine on.  Or, at least learn how to sew a button on.
  13. Keep up with our family photo albums.
  14. Take a cooking class.
  15. Finish a half marathon (I didn't say run, just finish.)
  16. Buy my new car with cash (I'm pretty sure the car I've had for 7 years isn't going to make the next 6.5 years to age 30).
  17. Plan someone else's wedding.  (Therese, this is for you!  Aren't you excited??)
  18. Create our own Christmas traditions.
  19. Complete the 40-Day Maker's Diet.
  20. Spend lots of time with Isaac and Eva since they'll be 16 and 14 when I turn 30.
  21. Skydive.
  22. Complete Suzuki teacher training.
  23. Buy a Yamaha grand piano.
  24. Create an exercise routine.
  25. Play Vivaldi Double Cello Concerto with Isaac. 
  26. Take a vacation at a tropical resort.
  27. Visit my last 13 states. 
  28. Double the size of my music studio.
  29. Own our first home.
  30. Learn how to ballroom dance (or at least take a class).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fun Mid-Week Date Nights

Even though we don't have kids, it can take some effort to spend the evening focused on each other.  Chores and projects happen mostly after dinner, and that's okay, but it's nice to have a date night every now-and-then.  Going out is great, but sometimes it's just nice to stay at home all evening after a long day out and about.  And sometimes we've spent all of our allotted date-night money.  Solution?  An at-home date night.  For us, these mostly happen spontaneously, but here are some of our favorite ways to spend an evening together.

1) Play Monopoly Cards.  This is the best game ever.  You can find it at Walmart, Target, Toys-R-Us or anywhere for about five bucks.  It's one of the few games that is actually fun with two people, plus it's fast and super competitive.  (For those of you that have a viscous edge, there are cards called Sly Deal, Forced Deal, and Deal Breaker).  If competition just for the sake of competition is not good enough for you, raise the stakes with a "prize" for the looser.  Be like us and make it a run through the snow and a snow angel in your swimsuit.

2) Turn off the TV.  Sit together and read books.  We don't read the same thing usually, but it's really cozy and relaxing.

3) Cook your best meal.  Set the table and light the candles.

4) Grill out and sit on your patio to eat your meal.  We don't have outdoor furniture, so we just drag out a portable table and throw a tablecloth over it.

5) Dress up.  Don't look like you've been working all day, or cleaning all day, or whatever you've been doing.  It doesn't have to be crazy- but just swapping sweats for jeans will make everyone feel better.  We try not to let Captain Sweatpants live in our house.

6) My love language is words of affirmation.  If you know me, you have probably figured that out.  If this is your spouse's love language, and even if it's not, grab any old notebook and make it your love note book.  Nathan started this when we were dating, and instead of having a bunch of little notes floating around, it's all here.  It's so fun to flip through, and there are a lot of pages left for our future years together.

7) Bake cookies together.  It's fun, and who doesn't like warm cookies?  We ALWAYS make chocolate chip, so I'm thinking I need to branch out and try this recipe.

8) Watch each other's favorite movies, even if his is really scary.

9) Order a pizza and watch your favorite sports game together.

10) Ignore your email, phone, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, blog, blogs you like to look at, iPod, iPad, Google +, chat and Skype.  It will be there when your date night is over.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


  • Isaac and Eva stayed with us from Thursday night until this afternoon while my parents were in Maine.  It is lonely here without them tonight- they are at such a fun age.  Old enough to take care of their basic needs, and young enough to still be innocent, imaginative and full of childish delight.

  • We put up our Christmas tree on Friday night.  I am normally not advocate of putting decorations up early.  My family's tradition was to decorate the house the day after Thanksgiving, and I liked that.  I feel like Thanksgiving gets skipped, or at least the retail stores ignore it.  I was so annoyed last week when I went to Target for paper goods and could only find Christmas-themed things.  All the fall and Thanksgiving decor was long gone.  Anyway, we were running out of things to do with the little kids, and the house we are renting came with a 12-foot fake, I mean artificial, tree.  (Allow me a brief moment on my soap box: it's hardly Christmas without an afternoon at the tree farm and a tree that makes your whole house smell pine-ish for a few weeks.)  But, this tree was free, and it's 12 feet tall, and we don't have to water it, and we don't have to pick up pine needles... 
  • I had a studio recital this afternoon with most of my students.  I was so proud of how well each one performed.  Here I am with the kids who played.  Some of those boys are about to pass me up in height!
      • Next Wednesday, I'm having a Thanksgiving party for Isaac, Eva, my nieces and nephews.  There's going to be 8 kids here under the age of 10 (and 6 of those are under the age of 6).  I'm trying to come up with fun crafts and activities to do that are, in order of importance: fun, age appropriate, and not super-duper messy.  So far, I've come up with a thankful tree, pilgrim hats and Indian headdresses, paper cup turkeys, and spoon pilgrims.  I think I'm going to set up the crafts in our basement where there is tile floor.  Then upstairs, I'm going to set the kitchen table in the Thanksgiving theme and have snacks.  I'm having surgery on my left wrist this Thursday, so I'm counting on a slow weekend to get all this ready.  
      • I really need to work towards getting a new camera.  The one we have is a cheap Kodak point-and-shoot.  It works great for outdoor pictures but doesn't focus for anything inside.

      Tuesday, November 8, 2011

      Staircase Inspiration

      Maybe you are like me and are looking for some good Christmas decor ideas for your home.  It's hard to believe that in just about two weeks, it will be time to decorate.  We have a great staircase in our rental house, but I have nothing to decorate with.  A quick Google search gave me lots of ideas- here's pictures of my favorites.  

      I like the simplicity of this one.  I also like the idea of hanging the garland on the side of the stairs.  For some reason, I had it in my mind that I was going to have to wrap it around all those rails.
      I like this one because it looks like a cheap-o pine garland was used.  They dressed it up with a strand of red beads bought on sale from Walmart.  The bows look plastic to me, so not my favorite, but this looks like something I could do.  With the size of my staircase and the size of my decorating budget, we're probably going with the cheap-o garland this year.

      This one's all natural and beautiful- I love it.
      I love the wreaths, and how the garland is entirely on the side of the railing- keeping it open for its original purpose.  The only thing is, I'm trying to figure out how that garland is hanging on!
      Okay, this is not a staircase, but I like the look (I probably wouldn't do purple).  The photos and ribbons above the mantle are a good idea for year-round.
      This is definitely me.  I like the loose greenery and the snowflake ornaments tucked in.  I think I have something similar in my ornament box upstairs.  As for the stuff actually sitting on the stairs- nice for looking, but I'd trip over them every time.
      You don't see lime green a lot, but it actually works.  I like the long ribbons hanging down.  The boxes gave me a good, inexpensive decorating idea too.  
      This looks like an inexpensive project too.  A lot of the supplies could be taken from odds and ends and naturals, plus it wouldn't take as much garland.
      Very cute, but it would look pretty silly with our whole two stockings.
      Very simple- I like it.
      Totally different look, but seems like it would be easy.