Sunday, January 30, 2011

Themed Birthdays for Adults and Kids

In our large, extended family we often throw multi-purpose parties that combine the ever-growing cousin population with something relevant to the adults. The favorite, by far, has been the Themed Birthday Party. It all started with the Kentucky Derby Party or maybe it was the Dora the Explorer Mexican Fiesta. Abby was turning four and since we live quite a distance from 'town' we like to make a child's party fun for the adults as well. Note that these parties go on for hours!

Mexican fare was the obvious choice for the Dora party so the plans were made. Since we are frugal Germans we always have a pot luck type affair for all but the single couple dinners that I host for adult birthdays. In this case everyone was asked
to bring a dish matching our theme...Mexican layer dip, guacamole, refried beans, enchiladas and Dos Equis beer. Piñatas were hung as well as colorful banners and we were off to a great start. A sombrero or two and colorful striped dresses for the little girls completed the look. What a fun time!

Our latest excursion was into Germany -- just last
weekend! That is my homeland and our grandson, Lukas, was about to turn 1. We went with hot German potato salad, red cabbage, bratwurst, potato noodles (Badische Schupfnudeln) with caramelized onions, and a Reuben pizza (I know, my husband has a strange sense of propriety). Of course several German biers were in the mix as well.

Erika and I created a screen saver of German scenery and our background (displayed on our flat screen TV using a laptop in presentation mode) was of the German countryside. We also played a polka station using Pandora

Radio and the scene was set.

Being from Germany myself, I had two dirndl dresses (mine) and a pair of lederhosen (from my brother, Uwe) so Abby, Sarah and Simon were drafted to be costumed in the
traditional German style.

Now I'm not even sure that the Chicken Dance is German in origin (I certainly don't remember it) or not but it added a certain entertainment value for the little ones and that was great!

We partied for about 5 hours and then still had time to attend the Mass for Life at our local cathedral that night celebrated by Bishop Medley - and ALL of us attended! Fantastic!!!!

Another 'event' goes down into history and we are already planning the next one - Chinese anyone? ;-P

Friday, January 28, 2011

Child Play

Since I am a 53 year old who has already raised her family, some younger mothers might think that my input into those mothers’ bulletin boards and baby-centered Facebook groups is not really up-to-date, and therefore irrelevant.

To that I would have to respond with "not so fast!".

You see, though I am of an age where most of my peers are suffering from (or enjoying) an empty nest, mine has never been fuller. To understand this statement one must only observe the goings on at my house on any given weekday when any combinations of 5 grandchildren – all under the age of 5 - attend “Nana’s Day School”. This puts me very much into the ‘know’ on potty training, car seats, and toddler tantrums to name just a few issues. Although it can become quite a circus at times, this situation also affords me the luxury of a ‘do-over’ when it comes to raising a brood. The value of sticky hugs and kisses as well as tender ‘I love you’s’ cannot begin to be measured and since I am also the God-mother to each one of these precious babies, I can pass on my Faith, which has become more mature and rounded…at least I would hope.

There is also an endless supply of comedy, to which my Facebook friends can attest. For this posting I thought I might share a few tidbits that have just transpired in the past couple of days.

‘Nana, will you color with us?’, spoken by my 2 two-year-old kiddies, Simon and Sarah. ‘And can we lay on the floor with our crayons and coloring books?’

I was in a benevolent mood and decided to humor them so we lay down on our bellies and colored for a few minutes. Sarah soon became bored and decided to sit on my back. As she observed Simon’s coloring from her perch she went on to try something new…sliding down my back. I instantly became the Nana Bouncy Slide and the fun began.

‘Simon, Nana is a Bouncy Slide, do you wanna join me?’, said Sarah.

Of course the obvious answer was ‘yes’ and so the next 20 or so minutes involved me alternately receiving a very punishing workout and a massage from knees, elbows, and feet...I just continued to color. Gotta love those babies!

We have also set up our 3rd bedroom with a play kitchen complete with plastic appliances, table and stools and even a shopping cart full of wooden ‘food’ items and plastic cookware. Sarah and Simon have developed quite the ‘marriage’ and sound just like an old couple that has been together a bit too long.

‘Simon, you are my best boy. I love you!’, says Sarah. ‘What would you like for ‘dinnow’?’

‘Pork chops’, replies Simon as he ‘repairs’ her rocking horse with his plastic tool set.

Only five minutes later, if that, I hear, ‘Simon, I don’t love you at all!”

Guess the honeymoon is over ;-)

It is such a blessing to have so much contact with my babies. You never quite realize, when you are raising your own, how fleeting that time in your life will be. As you are immersed in dirty diapers, cooking, cleaning, and the other endless tasks that take your children from infancy to the ‘meet yourself coming and going’ rush of sports and high school, most parents don’t have time to think that this isn’t forever. Once that last hoop has been shot, the last pitch thrown, diplomas handed out and boxes packed you suddenly realize that maybe you didn’t savor enough. Perhaps you were stressed and rushed, dreaming of ‘tomorrow’…

Now I find that I have been blessed once more. I have a second chance at playing the role of stay-at-home-mom. This is a role that I was blessed to experience the first time and the repeat is equally grand (albeit a bit different). Being a Nana, just like being a Momma, is something that no one can quite prepare you for but it is what I have always had a strong calling to do. Do I get tired? Absolutely! Do I crave days to myself and a less hectic lifestyle? You betcha! But when it’s all said and done, I wouldn't have it any other way! I LOVE my babies – both grown and young!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Snow contemplation

Today was a glorious day...all because snow makes the sadness of Winter totally disappear!

All that is wrong with Winter: brown, dead, soggy, and dark, is corrected when we are blessed with snow.

We received a pristine covering of 5'' of the wonderful white stuff and it was the wet, stick to the sides and branches of the tree, kind. This inspired a trip outside along with my trusty companions. It's amazing what a mental lift even a few moments outdoors can provide!

Charlie and his side-kick, Manny, love to engage in a spirited game of tag. Their antics make me smile and take away the winter blues. It's amazing how something as simple as this can touch your heart and lift your spirits!

Little Charlie is very energetic and gave a demonstration of his reining horse sliding stop here. Notice how the snow clings to his fur resulting in tiny snowballs. Unfortunately mud has the same effect making for bad rainy days.

Here is a shot of Charlie running with wild abandon. Notice how his little pink tongue is visible as he gives it his all.

No matter where you are you can always brighten your mood by enjoying the simple pleasures in life. Taking photos is one of those joys for me. I've entertained myself, off and on all day, working with these photos. Hope you enjoy them as well.

God bless...

゚+。☆*゜+。.。:.*.゚ ゚¨゚゚・*:..。o○☆゚+。゚+。☆*゜+。.。:.*.゚ ゚¨゚゚・*:..。o○☆゚+。

''The best remedy for those who are afraid,lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.''
-Anne Frank

Monday, January 17, 2011

Creative with Photos: Personalized Coloring

The best gifts are often simple, thoughtful, and handmade. This thought inspired me to give my God-children a personalized coloring book. I searched through my hard drive and the Facebook photo albums of their parents and came up with about 20 various photos involving one or more of these kiddies. After cropping and editing the photos I went here to turn them into coloring pages. To create your coloring pages follow these instructions*:

1. Upload each photo - one at a time- to be included into the online photo processor

2. Choose the view (1 -4) that you prefer

3. Use the Windows 'Snipping Tool' to copy the photo

4. Save each photo in a folder for future use.

*If you have photo editing software with the appropriate features (Photoshop for example) you may also go here for instructions for creating your photos/coloring pages.

Here's an actual before and after of one of my photos:

Materials List:
  • Computer/copier paper
  • 1 - foam sheet or other material for creating your front and back covers
  • Single hole punch
  • Hole reinforcements (I used clear)
  • Decorative stickers or other embellishments for the front of your coloring book
  • Sharpie permanent marker for the dedication on the back cover
  • 1 - 1" binder ring (I used nickel plated) to assemble coloring book yet allow the child to easily access individual pictures for coloring or painting.

Now you are ready to create the pages and assemble your coloring book:
  1. Using MS Word or another word processing program, place two photos on each page using portrait orientation. NOTE: one photo (the bottom) will be upside-down at this stage
  2. Print out all of your pages
  3. Fold each page in half
  4. Using a hole punch, punch one hole at the top left corner of each page making sure all holes line up from page to page.
  5. Stick hole reinforcer around holes - this keeps pages from being pulled out of your album by the paper tearing
  6. Cut 8 1/2 x 11 foam sheet (or other cover material) in half and punch holes in both pieces at the top left, making sure they line up with your pages
  7. Using your binder ring assemble the photo coloring book in the preferred order
  8. Decorate both the front and the back to further personalize your gift.
The finished product can be seen below (l-front view, r-back view with personalized message), as well as one of my God-children after coloring a page showing him in his school basketball photo (center). Enjoy!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

On Gardening and Hope...

As a nature lover and fervent Catholic I have always found a correlation
between gardening and Hope. Hope is what allows our Faith to look forward to better things whether we can see the 'proofs' of better times/things or not. Gardening is like that for me: I believe in what I cannot see because I have Hope for better times.

Winter is difficult for this gardener. I dream of sunny, late Spring days and the many surprises that surface on a daily basis. Summer brings the full-blown culmination of that Hope and reveals the beauty we have
co-created by our labors and God's beautiful world. As Fall approaches, I am stirred by its beauty and the cooler weather but also feel a sense of foreboding because of what I know will follow. I am trying to learn to live in the 'now' but am troubled by the coming desolation - the only reprieve is a blanket of pure, white snow and the beauty it brings...and for me this doesn't happen nearly enough so what we are left with is the obvious 'death' of the landscape.

In both our faith-life and our gardening there are ways (tools if you will) to circumvent these 'dark' times. As we pour over our seed catalogs we are encouraged to plan ahead for a bright, colorful future ahead. We work 'now' for what will happen 'then'. In the same way we can approach our soul's destiny. The 'seed catalogs' are the Bible and other religious reading material, the 'groundwork' is our associations with our Christian brethren and the work we put in toward our ultimate goal. Both in gardening and in Faith we will reap what we sow...let us sow wisely so that we may reap beauty - both in our garden and Eternally.

"There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it." ~ Brother Lawrence

Friday, January 14, 2011

Creative Money

Creative money? Well,'s more fun if you're creative in saving a few buck$. Since I'm going for a blog that isn't only interesting to me I thought I'd try something new. Sometimes it's nice to be able to share tips and therefore be helpful to others. Much as my sister, Jac(queline), and I call each other quite often to share bargains and ideas, I'd like to extend this assistance to those who may profit from what I've learned.

These are random things that I have done within the past year in an effort to economize:

Get rid of Dish Network: Am I the only one who has noticed how their package prices keep going up even as they provide us with FREE upgrades (channels we don't want, DVR, HD, etc.)? I woke up one day and realized that we just don't need it. Did we use it? You betcha! But I've found, as they say, a workaround...and it's truly FREE.
  1. Ease into this while you still have Dish and before long you be viewing most/all of your regular programs as well as some you didn't even know existed.
  2. Go to and sign up for a FREE account.
  3. Browse around for the shows you watch now and for classics you have forgotten.
  4. Set up a queue of these programs and subscribe to the ones you want to added automatically...they even email when they've added programs to your queue.
  5. Hook your laptop up to your regular television (I use an HDMI cable which provides HD video and sound). Set your Windows mobility settings (Control Panel) to share (mirror) your display and to 'presentation'.
  6. Viola! You now have HD television at no charge. My surround system works fine too!
Just to give you an idea of what programs I keep up with, here is a partial list:
  • Lie to Me
  • Mentalist
  • CSI
  • Medium (Hulu actually sends you to the official CBS site for this one)
  • House (although I stopped watching this when they dissed Catholics more and more often).
  • Burn Notice
  • Dog Whisperer
  • The Practice
  • Lifetime Movies
I don't actually watch every episode (who has that much time) but you get the idea. There are
also many wildly popular shows that I personally don't care for but they are available as well:
  • Glee
  • Gray's Anatomy
  • Family Guy
  • Dancing with the Stars
  • and many more
One of the bigger bonuses for me was that you can find all sorts of 'retro' shows for your family to watch. Some of our favorites include:

  • Mr. Ed - yes, the talking horse ;-)
  • Madeline - what little girl wouldn't love this one?
  • Woody the Woodpecker and Chili Willie
  • Casper the Friendly Ghost
If you're tired of the overly animated 'tweens who 'grace' the shows on Disney, Nickelodian and such, or the overly hyper 'cartoons' of today these are welcome options. This is especially true when you have young children. You can also set your little ones down, wherever you are, and let them watch on the laptop - since it's portable. This keeps them in sight but content and not as disruptive.

Fire Starter: This next tip works if you use a shredder - either
for privacy or a home office. I line our shredder with plastic grocery bags to collect the shredded paper. When a bag is full I pull it out, tie a knot with the 'handles' and then use this as a fireplace starter. The little tied 'handles' make the perfect starter and the blaze just goes up from there. For less seasoned wood use a little bit of Wesson oil either on the bag or on the wood to keep it going until the wood is burning well (thanks, Alton Brown). Simply stack
under your logs and you're all set for a toasty fire blazing on those cold winter days/nights. Your privacy is preserved and you've reused paper all at the same time.

Rocks: And on to the exotic - my husband has been known to consume a little bit of whiskey 'on the rocks' occasionally and recently found actual granite rocks for sale at an upscale website. Being the country boy that he is, he immediately went outside to our pea gravel walkway and
chose some pretty granite rocks. After popping them into the freezer for a while he placed them in his highball glass and topped it off with a bit of Four Roses. Since rocks are great at retaining both heat or cold (remember how snakes always sun themselves on rocks) this was a novel win-win situation! PLUS no water to dilute that whiskey ;-)

That's all for now but I'll probably revisit this theme from time to time. I'm always learning from other bloggers and have recently come across several that give up-to-date freebie and coupon news. I'll probably share their links with you soon. God bless!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sound bites - Sight bites?

We all know what a sound-bite is...a snippet of information that grabs your attention. So what do you call a visual snippet...a sight-bite? Whatever the answer to this query is, that's what I have for you today - in the form of random photos that make me proud. They inspired a feeling in me when the shutter clicked and they evoke emotion every time I view them again.

Some photos call to mind the simple, innocent exuberance of the very young. That was what I
set out to capture on the summer day that I snapped this photo. I love the movement and the pure joy that these kiddos are exhibiting.

This one is pretty obvious as well. There is nothing quite like the bond between mother and child. The vulnerability of the infant and the power to protect and nurture of the mother gives a powerful statement. We were once this small and this dependent but as life goes on, if we chose parenthood, we 'pay it forward' to the next generation whose well-being we hold in our action or inaction. This naked need to be cared for is present for many years but born or unborn, it behooves us to take this responsibility as a solemn commandment from God himself. of the most awesome inspirations of poet and artist alike. In His world, God gives
this sign of His desire to care for and nurture us, His children. Some say that one is never closer to God than when one is in the garden or in the midst of nature. It's difficult to argue with that considering how vast and complex our natural world really is. This is a photo of one of my water lilies that resurfaces every year after a long winter's sleep. When I see these beautiful friends again there is a song in my heart and praise on my lips and the desire to share the beauty!

I'll sign off today by quoting my hero, Benedict XVI, with words by which we can all live!

"If you follow the will of God, you know that in spite of all the terrible things that happen to you, you will never lose a final refuge. You know that the foundation of the world is love, so that even when no human being can or will help you, you may go on, trusting in the One who loves you.'' -Pope Benedict XVI

Musings: Creativity in Word

I suppose I'm a bit defensive about how I am using my artistic gifts these days. After all I spent four years of college earning an art degree and sometimes wonder if I am employing it effectively. While at Brescia I envisioned how I would someday have a creative outlet - not necessarily as a recognized painter but in advertising. You see, way back in 1978, you actually 'drew' the 'clip art' that was found in newspapers. As an inside advertising rep for the Messenger-Inquirer I drew bikinis on scantily-clad 'ladies' in the X-rated movie ads for the drive-in and created little cartoon characters for newspaper ads for the Daviess County Hospital, as it was then called. I even worked for Neel Advertising for a brief while, coming up with ad campaigns for clients.

Of course, since I was blessed with our first son almost a year before I graduated, as soon as I walked across the stage to accept my diploma I entered the world of stay-at-home-moms. Subsequent children saw me as the 'farm wife' who stayed home with kids, cooked, cleaned, delivered meals to my man, and eventually drove tractors to cut, rake and bale small feat for a 'town/city' gal. I also stripped tobacco with a playpen in the corner by the pot-bellied stove and kept swine records in Minnesota. None of this, of course, even remotely resembled creative work. Back then I would still take up my pencils (my favorite medium) and draw. My kids also had home-sewn clothing and life-sized murals of jungle animals on their walls.

But somehow I lost myself when the kids began to become active in sports, 4-H, and church trips. There were the occasional projects for 4-H that were so very tempting for me to take over - I resisted - but nothing for ME. One summer my sister and I painted a 14' x 25' white horse on our black barn and it felt REALLY good - it even made the paper (twice) - but still there was no 'art' in my life. At this point in time my mother and I decided to dabble in flower gardening and a new creative passion was born! My canvas was the earth and my 'palette' was the flowers I planted but I was once again doing something that made my creative juices flow. When I look back at my modest results I find it somewhat humbling but it was a start and it was something to share with my best friend, Mom.

In 1994 Mom died after a five year struggle with breast cancer and my gardening came to a screeching halt. Flower gardening (daylilies in particular) was something I shared with 'her'. I sunk into a deep chasm of grief and just couldn't bear to do 'our' activity solo. Instead, I threw myself into autopilot and cruised through several years of simply being mother and wife.

As happens in life, the raw edge of grief eventually subsided and I once again took up my spade. By this time we had moved into a newly constructed house - I designed it myself from memories of Chalets in the Alps and in honor of my German heritage and Mom's homeland. The daylilies that had been so rudely transplanted and 'stored' in a holding bed (read horse pasture) found a new home, front and center, in flower beds that Rick and I designed together. He's the muscle and I'm the instigator. I also took up my camera and began to document our efforts.

It's now been 17 years (in May) since Mom has gone to her Eternal Rest and 12 years since we
came to call St. Joseph, KY 'home'. I dabble in taking photos of gardens and kids (our 7 grandchildren). My other passion has become writing. Not the book author kind, not the magazine article kind, but the ramblings and musings of a 50-something Nana who keeps her kiddies on weekdays, is a staunch pro-life advocate, and a saint-in-the-making-work-in-progress who is striving to share and learn with others. In my book, THAT's creative too! God bless!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


OK, so I cheated...this photo is from last year but I did take it. Today's snow just isn't as pretty as that one was and besides, I didn't want to go out in the cold! This is my effort at becoming a bit more comfortable with blogging in general. I've kept journals in the past (like during chemotherapy for breast cancer) but these musings have always been a private way for me to vent.

Now I'm going to work on being more open and sharing what I am thinking. Know, though, that no one wants to know what I'm thinking all of the time because I can become quite passionate about the things that matter to me the most: my Catholic Faith, abortion, family, and interaction in my family circle. I would also like to resolve not to waste the gifts God has given me. My artistic side (BA in Art from Brescia University), my ability to communicate (English became a passion when, as a child, I spoke only German), and my organizational, analytical mind (which I try to use only for good).

Because I didn't start this effort early enough I may need to dig into the recent past for the things I share (like Christmas projects for the kids) but as it becomes second nature to communicate in this way, I hope to be more timely in my posts. God bless!

Monday, January 10, 2011


I'm stuck in auto-pilot right now. There are all of these projects I'd like to get done but I either can't muster the time or the resolve to make them happen. Some are creative - I'd like to begin sewing again and the 16 place-mats I made before Christmas don't count. Some are spiritual - I'm feeling the stirrings of my soul and its thirst for more knowledge but I'm procrastinating about which Bible to pick up and read. Should I go for the Douay-Rheims, the NAB or the RSV (Catholic Edition). Of course, according to Fr. Corapi the best Bible is the one you will open and read ;-) I'd also like to dig deeper into photography and graphic design but am suffering from a creativity block. My life is so full and sometimes I feel like I'm just being swept away with all of the action. Health scares, financial woes, and family drama. All in all, though, I'm very aware of how blessed I am. Today is the beginning of going out and recovering who I am...not simply someone's wife, mother, Nana, or friend but just me...creative, full of life and love, and always striving to serve God.