Let’s be Better Fixers

The Old Farmall Tractor, Mars, PA - September, 2017

The Old Farmall Tractor, Mars, PA – September, 2017

Let’s be Better Fixers.

Grandma was a fixer….
From very early on, when she was only 9 or 10 years old,
she was the cook, laundress, housekeeper, and “mother” to her younger siblings after her young mother died.

She learned to splice electric wires and plumb a bathroom,
she could make a hearty feast from a bone,
she mended and hemmed and soaked and bleached and waxed and scrubbed.

She did this throughout her entire life.
She washed out bread bags and hung them on the line to dry to re-use.
She repaired lawn mowers and glued broken concrete bird baths back together.

When I was young, I thought it silly.
Sometimes I was even embarrassed of her patched clothes
or meager belongings and “fixed” things.

But Grandma is gone.
And the longer she is gone, the more I admire the way she lived.
She didn’t throw things away – she fixed them.

Do we too quickly throw things away these days?
Marriages?  Friendships?  Aging parents and grandparents?
Kids with bad behavior or bad grades?

We need to cherish what and who we have while we have them.
Because some things we love won’t last or be with us forever.
We should love, care for, fix when broken, and heal when sick our “broken” things.

We keep them because they are worth it.
Because we are worth it.
Let’s try to throw less away, and let’s be better “fixers!”

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Pittsburgh’s Picklesburgh 2017 is a Big Dill

Pittsburgh's Picklesburgh is a Big Dill! #Picklesburgh2017

Pittsburgh's Picklesburgh is a Big Dill!

Though I reside in a little town called Mars, our "big city" is Pittsburgh.  Just 30 minutes from Mars (hard to believe eh?!), Pittsburgh is really where all the "action" is.

This past weekend (July 28-29, 2017), one of Pittsburgh's 446 bridges (the Roberto Clemente or 6th Street Bridge) was closed down to automobile traffic and opened up for a dill-lightfully dill-licious celebration of all things pickle!  Picklesburgh 2017.

So what to do at "life in between?"  Why visit Picklesburgh of course!

Why Pickles?

Pittsburgh has a particularly popular pickle-loving history beginning almost 150 years ago when the H. J. Heinz Factory was built.  I remember going on a Heinz factory tour as a grade school field trip and receiving one of the now iconic pickle pins.  (My granddaughter now has one in her Grandma Memory Jar from our visit to Picklesburgh this past weekend.)

Picklesburgh celebrates EVERYthing pickled!  You could find pickle-flavored sodas, pickle beer and moonshine, and pickle-flavored cocktails.

Dill-acacies included pierogies with pickles, pickled funnel cakes, pickle-flavored custard, and deep-fried, bacon-wrapped pickles on a stick.  There were pickles and dip and grilled cheese sandwiches with pickles.  There was pickle fudge and pickle peanut butter cookies.

There were pickle balloons – small and large – including a giant flying Heinz pickle balloon, custom built by a team that also crafts balloons for Disney and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

There were pickling food demonstrations

And pickle samples from local farm-to-table shop small vendors like Epic Pickles

and the Pittsburgh Pickle Company,

where I bought one of each flavor!

And if you don't have one yet, who could live without a dill pickle talk-to-text Linabag?

It sure was a dill-leriously dill-lectable way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

Thanks Picklesburgh!  Next year, I may just try that Pickle-flavored Italian Ice……

Maybe….

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

 

The Wedding Cookie Table: A Pittsburgh Tradition

The Wedding Cookie Table - It's a Burgh Thing

The Wedding Cookie Table – It’s a Burgh Thing

The Wedding Cookie Table:  A Pittsburgh Tradition.

As some of my faithful friends here at The Creative Life in Between know, I’ve been baking a few cookies for the past month for my son and new daughter-in-law’s wedding.

The wedding was this weekend, so I thought I would share a couple of quick shots we captured of the finished Wedding Cookie Table since many of you asked to see as you saw the various recipes being shared.

I have to thank my other sweet daughter-in-law for helping bake several kinds of cookies (snickerdoodles, peanut butter blossoms, s’mores cookies, and chocolate dipped oreos!) as well as my friend, Tracy, for her generosity in baking the lady locks.  A special thank you to Liz’s mom and her cousin Kathy for baking an amazing variety of sweet breads with flavored butters that added just that special touch to our brunch wedding menu.  My favorite was the earl grey tea lavender bread!  Absolutely amazing!

If you would like to see the recipes for the variety of cookies I made, here is a list with links to the recipes:

  1. Jodi’s Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies
  2. Hershey Kiss Brownie Bites
  3. Pecan Tassies
  4. Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
  5. Pecan Sandies
  6. Carrot Cake Thumbprints
  7. Raspberry Dark Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
  8. Apricot Kolaches
  9. Buckeye Balls
  10. Lemon Crinkle Cookies
  11. Red Velvet White Chocolate Cookies
  12. Oreo Cookies & Cream Cookies

A Pittsburgh Wedding Cookie Table

A Pittsburgh Wedding Cookie Table

It seems that the Wedding Cookie Table is a bit of a regional tradition to our area.  In Pittsburgh, it’s a “burgh thing” to do.  No wedding is complete without a massive buffet of favorite cookies for the guests to enjoy before, during, and after the reception.  Our wedding “favor” for the guests was an empty box to fill with their favorites from our cookie table.

We could not be happier to welcome our sweet new daughter-in-law to our family.

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

My First Post Revisited

My First Post Revisited…
A sweet blogging friend, Carolina Russo at YesterdayAfter, tagged me and threw out a challenge to revisit and repost our very first blog post.   I thought it would be fun to reread and repost.
I can’t believe I have been doing this for almost three years!  My first post was on May 18, 2014.It’s fun to read how some things have changed and how some things never change!
My sweet Mikey is gone.   And now we have Charlie.
Papercrafting is still something I enjoy, but I’ve gravitated to watercolor painting.  Hadn’t even touched a paintbrush back then when I started.
You can see I was wishing and hinting about being a grandma…. and now that dream has come true!
Still in our same home.
The daffodils are blooming again – unseasonably early.
Life is a joyful journey, and it is fun to look back and cherish the moments.
Hope you enjoy.

the first post – so how do I begin?

May 18, 2014

So I have a good idea what I want to write about… for the most part. My BFF’s oldest daughter told me I should start a “lifestyle” blog.  I guess she thinks my life is interesting….  or at least enough that one or two people might want to read about things I do….  (Hopefully I’ll have at least one subscriber – Jacyln Rae – hint hint!)

Or maybe she just thinks I would enjoy doing it, and that is enough.

Hmmm…. I think I like that…

You know…. that’s one of the perks of growing – err – older and wiser – you get to the point where you realize you can do things just because you want to. Yes – there are those things most of us HAVE to do – like paying bills, doing laundry, working – you get the gist – but what do you like to do in between all that?

That’s the real “living” part.

“Life in between” can mean so many things…

The main reason I titled this blog with it is because I want to share the things I choose to do in between the things I “have” to do.

It can also be a stage of life that is in between stages – and aren’t they all?!

Right now – I’m kind of in between the mom stage and the empty nester and grandma stage. And Oh I Can’t Wait to be a Grandma!  (No hint hint Jake and Colleen – whenever you are ready…  well – maybe a little hint hint)

I think I was born to “mother.”  And oh poor everyone around me that I “mother” – sorry! It’s just in my DNA – I want to nurture, I want to comfort, I want to make happy. Could be worst things -right?!  (clear throat)  But don’t ask my boys…

So anyway – the things I love to do “in between” the things I have to do – that’s what I want to share with you here.

French Macarons

I love to bake.  I love how it makes the house smell.  I love how it makes people feel when they bite into a buttery, chocolately, caramely yummy thing.  I love surprising someone with a special treat of something they love.  Here is a picture of my first attempt at French Macarons.  I was so excited these testy little buggers turned out.  Not sure I’ll ever make them again – so much work – so temperamental – and what if they don’t turn out the next time?  Was it beginner’s luck?  I’ll just believe I’ve MASTERED them….  and leave it at that….

I also love to decorate – my home that is.  And it’s not all about it being House and Garden perfect for those of you that know me and are thinking  “Jodi – you are NOT an interior decorator!”

My ultimate goal (in deocrating) is to create a place that is warm and welcoming.  A place where someone can just drop by (no formal invitations needed around here) and feel comfortable and welcomed and loved.  No shoes off in my house.  So what if the carpet has stains…  Those stains represent someone who I shared my home with or that spilled a drink or our dog who came in after a rainy spring day – so what…  I grew up in a house that was House and Garden perfect… that meant NO SHOES inside…  it meant that you could see sweeper marks in the carpet from the daily vacuum…. it meant that you could literally eat off the garage floor if you were so inclined because it was so clean….  and that’s all good…  Mom was an awesome “cleaner”…  but it’s not me.  I want comfort, warmth, welcoming.  I want my house to feel like your favorite worn slippers or most comfortable fleece hoodie or your “go to” black yoga pants.  That’s what trips my trigger.

Here’s a little peek at our home – and that’s my little buddy “Mikey” who is never far from my side.  After this LONG COLD winter, it was so nice to see the daffodils and grass recently.

signs of spring

And I also love to craft.  It’s been various things through the years…  I’ve tried knitting and crocheting and cross-stitching, tole painting, slate painting, wood crafts, and ceramics.  My most recent crafting obsession is papercrafting – stamping, coloring, cutting, punching, pasting, tying – anything with paper and ink.  I guess it feels comforting being that I (and so many of us) spend so much time on the computer.  It feels extra special to create and send a special handmade something to someone and hope they realize the time and love you put into it – just for them. Here’s a card I made for a very special cousin and friend – Oh Rob! (I’m sure you’ll hear more about him in coming posts). Oh how I love that guy – and his amazingly talented and loving wife and superhero to me, Joyce.  Rob’s “One Little Word” this year is “reflection,” so I wanted to create a birthday card acknowledging and celebrating “reflection.”

rob reflection birthday card 2014

And then – I love to photograph it all.  Dear hubby got me my first good camera for Christmas this year – and I think he might regret it….  I know my boys do…. but I just love taking photographs of crazy, silly, normal, everyday things.   Not a trained professional by any means – not even a class – haven’t even read the whole manual (sorry Patty – I will get there!) – just have fun with it and love seeing what it captures.  My BFF, Jill, honored me with the privilege of capturing  her daughter, Jackie’s bridal shower recently – oh what fun that was – and even allowed me to do a “photo shoot” with her in-laws (I think George and Alice are going to be more famous than all of us) for a work campaign.

Recently, while Marty (that’s the dear hubby’s name) was cutting grass, I was doing very important things like taking pictures of dandelions and bees on them….  and HE snapped this little gem with his phone while on the tractor…. Not flattering – but yep – that about sums it up.  The silly things I do in my life in between…..

Untitled

So we’ll see how this goes….  I now have my first post under my belt.

Cheers and hugs,

Jodi

#MyFirstPostRevisited

A Valentine Couples Camp Party

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This past weekend, a gang of our bestie couple friends got together to celebrate love and friendship.

My McHendy “sister,’ Jill, and I collaborated to plan what we called “Valentine’s Couple Camp.”

Those of you that have been hanging around here at TheCreativeLifeinBetween for a while might remember our first Couple Camp Weekend Retreat that I posted about here.

Unfortunately, we missed a year… I guess weddings, babies, life… got us too involved.  But when Jill called a couple weeks ago and said we should do another Couples Camp for Valentine’s Day, I was all in and offered to host at our home.

And so we did.

Bubby and Glenn were assigned appetizers, and boy did they rock the theme!  Check out all the ways you can make food into hearts!

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valentines-day-couples-camp-heart-shaped-vegetable-tray-appetizer

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I created a special “Love Potion” cocktail to toast the beginning of our time together.  I mixed 1/3 Grand Marnier Signature Collection No. 2 Raspberry Peach with 2/3 champagne and garnished with a fresh red raspberry.  Yum!

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Jill is our illustrious “camp” activities director.  After a silly group photo,

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Jill and I sent the rest of the gang to the bar, while we laid out the all the materials for everyone to create their own “Love Shack” out of chocolate graham crackers and candy (a Valentine gingerbread house of sorts).  Everyone was given a flag to name their Love Shack and 20 pennies to distribute into shot glasses after everyone finished and presented their masterpieces to vote on the best.

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We had some serious creativity going on.  Check it out!

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valentines-couple-camp-love-shack-building

Hubby made his into “Camp Happy Beginning” reminiscent of the early days of love and not having much but feeling like everything is a rainbow …. or something like that… if you can imagine…

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Mary made hers into “Mary’s Cozy Cottage” decorated with a comfy couch and chairs and a big colorful outdoor patio…

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I was much busier laughing and taking pictures under the guise of “hosting” to focus too much on mine, but came up with this pretty lame “McKinney Love Shack.”

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Bubby lovingly created the “McKinney B&B.”

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and her Glenn created “Glen’s Gang Bang Getaway.”  No explanation here.  You can use your own imagination.

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Jim cracked us up with his creation. Simple, but with a funny and politically-inspired statement.  His “American” themed love shack had three characters involved…  “I’m a Russian” on his way to the love shack, “Himalyan” in the love shack, and “He’s a Finnish” leaving the love shack…

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Jill’s was a fabulous “Jill’s Sweet Shack” with a candy paved lane.

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But Todd stole the show with his outhouse-themed love shack complete with cut out crescent moon doors.

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We assigned Mary the entree knowing she would make all of our tummies happy, and she did not disappoint!  In fact, we were so into her amazing stuffed shells, meatballs and spare ribs in homemade Italian sauce, I forgot to photograph it!  Thankfully, she left a few for us to enjoy for dinner the next day, so I took a quick photo of our leftovers.  Which, by the way, tasted just as magnificent!  Thanks Mar!

valentine-couples-camp-dinnerstuffed-shells-and-meatballs

I made a simple salad and sliced up some fresh bread to accompany Mary’s entree,

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and we gave another toast to friendship!

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I had fun preparing for our guests by tidying up the guest rooms,

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guest-room-1

including a quick convert of the nursery with an air mattress bed,

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and placing heart-shaped Dove Red Velvet Chocolates on pillows.

valentines-day-couples-camp-dove-red-velvet-chocolates-on-guest-pillows

I set the table with red plates and chocolate heart treats…

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dining-room-set-for-valentines-day-couples-camp-2017-2

and even little heart shaped spoons!

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Aren’t they adorable!

I was assigned dessert,  so a chocolating I went.  You already know about my chocolate-dipped wafer cookies and Ultimate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cookies which I had out, but I also made a bouquet of chocolate-dipped strawberries,

chocolate-dipped-strawberry-roses

and the most amazing and simple No Bake Chocolate Ganache Cookie Crust Tart I saw on another blog.

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chocolate-strawberry-tart-valentines-day-couples-camp-dessert-2

I’ll share this recipe soon.  It is seriously amazing and uses only a couple simple ingredients!

We talked the guys into playing Couples Scattegories and had fun staying up late drinking and talking until later than any of us ever stay up.

Hubby made omelets to order the next morning after we all awoke… later than we usually get up.

valentines-couples-camp-breakfast

What a joy to have such wonderful friends to share time and our home with!

And quoting Jill from last time, I once again share:

“I recommend that all of our friends coordinate a Couple’s Camp weekend. Great fun. Lots of laughter. Many life stories shared. And the realization that life long friends and connections are priceless! So go make some memories!”

Thanks for the memories dear friends!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Everyday Heroes

homeless-bags-from-everyday-heroes

Everyday Heroes
are everywhere.

I was talking with a friend/work colleague
on the phone just yesterday.

She was driving into town for a meeting,
and we were discussing the agenda.

All of the sudden, she interrupted our conversation,
“Hold on…. Hold on!”

And then I heard her shout in a friendly tone,
“Sir!  Sir! Here you go?”

“My hands are so cold!”
I heard a male voice say.

“There are gloves in here
and some food and a little bit of money.”

My friend – an everyday woman on her way to the office –
swerved to the side of the road to hand a homeless man a bag.

You see, she carries several with her in her car at all times
and hands them out when she sees someone in need.

Everyday hero –  that’s what you are!
My friend, you never cease to amaze me.

And we can all be heroes…
everyday heroes…

It only takes one small act of kindness
to spread a great amount of love!

What can you do today?
What WILL you do today?

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

 

Carolyn Comes to Mars: Blogger Friends Meet Up

brad-and-carolyn-spaceship-mars

Brad and Carolyn, Mars PA Town Square at the Spaceship

One of the joys of blogging is the friendships developed with other bloggers.

Carolyn (aka JoyRoses who writes at Nuggets of Gold) is a friend I “met” about two years ago via the blogging world on WordPress when we both enrolled in Writing101 – a month-long challenge that offered writing prompts and a community of blogging students to encourage each other.

Well… yesterday Carolyn came to Mars to meet in person.  What a joy it was to give her a real hug, take her (and chauffeur/hubby, Brad) to get their photo taken in Mars at the spaceship, and get them souvenir Mars T-shirts to wear on the unseasonably warm and sunny October Sunday.

Charlie was equally excited to meet Carolyn (and Brad)!  He could hardly contain himself and kept jumping up on their laps wanting to give them kisses.

charlie-and-carolyn-and-brad

Charlie welcoming Carolyn and Brad to Mars

Carolyn and Brad had never visited Pittsburgh either, so a brief tour was in order including a trip up the Monongahela Incline to get a bird’s eye view of our beautiful city.

monongahela-incline

Monongahela Incline, Pittsburgh, PA

While waiting in line, we met two friendly gents who came all the way from Germany to see a Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots football game.  For real!  What fun we had chatting with them.  And of course, we had to get a picture, so our kind hubbies took photos of us with Tom and Nils the day before Tom’s 32nd birthday as they celebrated a lifelong friendship, and we all celebrated life and new friendships.

tom-jodi-nils-carolyn

Tom, Jodi, Nils, Carolyn – Grandview Avenue Mt Washington overlooking Pittsburgh

Of course I made cookies for our guests, but I was a bit stumped to learn last minute that between the two of them – I had to consider gluten free and vegetarian.  Yikes!   Thank goodness I had one amazing gluten-free cookie recipe in my repertoire, and thankfully my Kicked Up Chewy Peanut Butter Cinnamon Chip Cookies were a hit.

While in town, Carolyn’s hubby mentioned a restaurant a friend recommended – The Church Brew Works.  It is a fun place where the owners actually converted an old Catholic Church into a restaurant/micro-brewery, so we decided to take them there.    The most breathtaking element of the amazing atmosphere and architecture of this restaurant/brewpub is the position of the brew house on the altar.  Because the altar was built as a centerpiece of the church, the steel and copper tanks gleaming in the celestial blue backdrop are nothing less than captivating.  We had an amazing meal that delighted  everyone’s dietary needs.

brad-and-carolyn-church-brew-works

Brad and Carolyn at the Altar at The Church Brew Works

It was a lovely day, and a lovely meet-up of blogging friends.  And of course I sent them home with some extra cookies for the ride.

Thanks for the visit Carolyn and Brad.  We will remember it fondly and cherish the moments!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

 

Krautfest 2016!

krautfest-2016

This past weekend was one of my favorites of the year!  Time for the annual Brugnoli Family and Friends Krautfest Party!

Those of you who have been hanging around here awhile, might remember Krautfest 2015 or even Krautfest 2014.

The festivities kicked off this past Saturday in the beautiful Autumn weather at  Conneaut Lake, PA with our dear “Oh Rob” welcoming guests and instructing newcomers on the sauerkraut-making process.

krautfest-2016-instructions

It starts with cutting….  800 lbs of cabbage cutting!

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The cut cabbage goes to the shredders, where experienced cutters teach newbies on equipment passed down through generations from grandparents…

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and taught to new generations – where Moms teach sons…

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and sisters show brothers….

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and families do together.

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It then gets measured,

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and salted,

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and pounded…

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while friends and family chat,

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and laugh,

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and hug.

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Old friends meet up after decades.

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and new relationships bloom.

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There is plenty of fun for kids of all ages!

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From Jumbo Jenga…

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to pick up sticks…

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to lawn bowling,

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and searching for bones and candy and money in hay.

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There was pumpkin painting…

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and t-shirt painting.

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There was apple picking…

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and apple pressing.

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The kids loved learning how to turn apples into fresh apple juice!

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and so did some of the parents and grandparents!

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krautfest-2016-apple-pressing

There was lots of food.

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I made Grandma’s halupki – another Krautfest tradition served up next to hot dogs and kraut and homemade pierogies and cheesy polenta and fresh smoked ham and lots of other yummies.

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There was an entire dining room table filled with desserts.

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and of course plenty of wine.

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There was tire swinging,

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and bonfire-building.

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There was Marty (hubby – on the left) and Martin.

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There were quiet moments from afar,

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and lots of singing and music after the sun went down and drew us indoors.

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Even dogs of all sizes made friends!

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Can you imagine a better time?

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Thank you Joyce and Oh Rob!  We love you!   We ALL do!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

A Hot Air Balloon Themed Baby Shower

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Oh what fun we had this past weekend celebrating the anticipation of the sweet baby girl we are awaiting with a Hot Air Balloon Baby Shower!

I made these miniature hot air balloons using super inexpensive 12″ white paper Chinese lanterns that I attached to quart-sized cardboard pulp berry baskets with wooden skewers and embellished with all the pink ribbon, yarn, sequins, buttons, lace, or pearls I had in my craft stash.  I added a tiny battery operated tea light to each basket and hung and placed them all over the house.

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It was such a collaborative effort of all the girls involved.   Check out this amazing Aunt Squad surrounding the beautiful momma to be!

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We had a hot air balloon cupcake cake,

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Hot Air Balloon Cake Pops in a puffy white cloud,

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and Hot Air Balloons, clouds and cherubic baby faced sugar cookies.

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The favors were made using Eos Lip Balms to thank our guests for sharing their time and love with us.

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A Hot Air Balloon banner with baby pictures of the mom and dad to be as babies themselves was a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

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An Extra Large Basket Lady Pole Handle Wicker Storage Basket with pink and white balloons tied to it was filled to overflowing with children’s books guests brought in place of cards to start a wonderful library for baby.

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The books were requested by a special insert in the invitation, and the overflowing abundance of new and extra special, well-loved books from people we love will be so cherished.

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The time and love put into gifts blew us away.  A very special Gram blessed Mom and Dad to be with this amazing handmade Hot Air Balloon quilt.

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We also had a Hair Bow Boutique…

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where guests were invited to create a hair bow (or two or three – like sweet Ella did) for baby.

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And they surely blew us away with their talent and love.

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Instead of a guest “book,” we had guests add their fingerprint and name to a hot air balloon watercolor painting that can hang in baby’s nursery as a sweet reminder of all who shared in her special party.

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A simple game of “Guess the Baby Item  in the Bag” had guests brainstorming

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on what the heck starts with an “O” or “W” or “H”

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while munching on fruit from a hot air balloon fruit tray (which we forgot to get a picture of – 😦 – sorry Jen!) – but looked a lot like this inspiration from Pinterest, as well as Hawaiian Ham and Cheese Sliders and Chicken Salad with dried cranberries and walnuts in miniature croissants, veggie pizza, and Strawberry Spinach Salad.

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and yep – we had that yummy Salted Caramel Apple Sangria too!

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My heart is surely overflowing!

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Balloons are now popped, and the house is back in order.  Grandma is still glowing, though, as we await the arrival of this already abundantly loved baby girl.

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

PS  Thanks to BFF Jill for being event photographer for Grandma-to-be who was simply too overjoyed and excited to even think about snapping pics!  What would I do without you!?  ❤ 

What a difference a day makes

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Last week Hubby and I went on a little week-long vacation to paradise.   (And it’s not a vacation to the beach unless I take a toe picture)

Away from a week of rain and unseasonably cold weather in Mars to a week of sunshine and warmth and sand and sea at a lovely resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.  (And yep – this is what my hair looked like the entire week- curly and blowing in the sea breeze …  I gave up trying to do anything with it after about two days.)

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Riu Palace Bavaro was a lovely treat.  (The pool basically flowed toward the beach and into the ocean like magical liquid.)

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The colors of turquoise and teal and blue and green against the white sand might be the most beautiful I have ever seen.  (I can’t wait to find time to try to paint them!)

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We found the most perfect spot on the beach that was on a bit of a perch under a few palm trees where the breeze made even 84 degrees feel cool and comfy.  (And our little flamingo clips from our daughter-in-law before we left held our towels on the chaise lounges and made it easy for us to find our “saved” seats.)

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My view looking UP…

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It was fun to come back to the room each day to see what the staff had created out of bath towels (and fresh flowers ever day!)

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And the food was so magnificent!  (some healthy…)

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(and some just delicious!)

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If we walked far enough down the beach, we found some fun little shops (that seemed to just continue right into the ocean.)

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We ventured away from the resort for a couple of excursions.

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We loved the Outback Safari Adventure with Angel as our funny, informative, and engaging tour guide and Leo as our amazing driver who took us through tiny villages (this was an elementary school)

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and up into the hills of the “real” Dominican Republic to experience the culture.

We toured a home.  (the natives love colorful homes)

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The main part of the house had a living room (shown below), two bedrooms – one for the parents and the other for the five children, and a storage room.  (bathrooms are outside of the house)

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Of course I was interested in the kitchen.  (It was a separate building in this home)

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This family grew coffee and cacao and made their own coffee and cocoa butter (which I bought some of).  This is how chocolate begins…

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We also got to see a gentleman who hand rolled cigars as his profession for the past 30+ years (bought some of these for my boss).

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We saw beautiful flora  (bird of paradise plant below)

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and fauna (I think this Peacock is the REAL bird of paradise!)

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and experienced some of the natives and other creatures… (Hubby is a brave one – eh?!  Brave or CRAZY…. or possibly full of rum! wink!)

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As if the snakes weren’t enough…. Yes – that is a TARANTULA on this man’s FACE!

We ended this tour with a visit to a beach that was NOT occupied by resorts and where the natives hung out.  (It reminded us a bit of Hawaii)

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Another excursion took us out on a party catamaran boat which began with snorkeling in a small spot off shore with sting rays and nurse sharks!  (this time I was even brave!)

and ended with (more) rum and music and laughing (and extremely bad hair – thank goodness for this hat!).

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There are more stories…   but some things that happen in Punta Cana – need to stay in Punta Cana!  (or only be told in person… 🙂 )

It was an amazing week and wonderful vacation, but there really is no place like home.  (even though we left at noon in 84 degrees F sunshine and arrived late afternoon to 44 degrees F and SNOW showers in Mars!)

It was especially wonderful to come home to celebrate a belated Mother’s Day with Jake and Nick and Colleen who made a lovely Sunday brunch for us, brought plants and flowers (in real life AND in a surprise Debi Riley painting!)

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What a difference a day makes (or seven!)

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi