Saturday, December 20, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

An odd little post ... but it may help you out!

Today I'm blogging about the magic of a piece of bread.
How much good can a piece of bread do, you may ask? LOTS.
Par exemple ... I've been doing a lot of holiday baking lately ... ginger snaps, frosted sugar cookies etc. I've always been frustrated that my cookies come out so nice, only to get rock hard within 15 hours of going into the cookie tin. So I went online, as so many of us do nowadays, to consult the Google gods.
Turns out, you can put a fresh piece of bread on top of your cookies, in the container, before you put the lid on. I tried it. And WOW! My cookies are staying soft until they're all gone! (Which admittedly, isn't long in our house). Seriously! My cookie problems are forever solved! I guess the cookies suck the moisture right out of the bread ... it's weird, because in just an hour or so, the bread becomes sort of rigid and crispy, like you toasted it! If it gets too hard, you just swap it out for another piece!
So while this may seem like an odd thing to blog about, I thought I'd throw it out there in case any of my cyber friends are doing any baking this week! In the meantime, my Christmas cards are in the mail folks....FINALLY ... and I'm resisting the urge to blog all the cute photos from this year's photo shoot of the kids, until the cards get to their destinations. I would hate to ruin the surprise! But check back soon, I will be blogging about them eventually.
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"The Stockings Were Hung..."

One of the moments in our new house that we were looking forward to the most this holiday season was decorating our fireplace mantle. Over the course of a week or so, we finally managed to secure the necessary decorations to make it happen! Tonight, Nate actually went outside and hacked off one branch off the evergreen out front and wove an evergreen swag for our mantle piece. How many men can do that!!! It looked phenomenal, especially once it was wrapped with some fun gold ivy I found at Michaels, as well as some white lights. The vintage wooden cross-country skis to the left of the fireplace are courtesy of the Harrmann attic. The wreath hanging above the fireplace is made out of blueberry bush branches -- we got it at the tree farm this year, and decorated it with bunches of live holly (with berries!) from our bush out front.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree!

We bought our Christmas tree this past weekend from possibly the quaintest little tree farm on the planet... complete with perfect farmhouse, barn, Bing Crosby music and snowflakes the size of quarters. What a blast! Nathan got some awesome pictures using his new camera, while we chopped down our Blue Spruce.

The Harrmanns at the tree farm!

Ash pushes the tree cart out to the field.

The boys play/wrestle by an outbuilding.

My boys by our tree!

Asher eats some snow.

My kiddos.

What can I say, Mr. Asher was being very photogenic ... which isn't always the case with him... so we have lots of Ash photos from this trip.

This shot was taken just today. Rhy LOVES our Christmas tree, and likes to sit on her heels and talk to it, using cute little gurgles and inquisitive noises. It's quite adorable.

FYI: I read in a magazine last year, that if you want to remember your tree every year, cut off a portion of the trunk, just about 1 inch thick. Then drill a hole through the top of it, loop a piece of yarn or twine through it and Wallah ... an ornament. I did this last year, and also used a sharpie marker to write on it, "Douglas Fir - 2007." When I pulled it out this year to hang on the tree, it really made me smile. A great idea! We plan to do it again this year before tossing the tree!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thanksgiving Highlights

Enjoy this video I made of our family Thanksgiving in St. Louis. Those of you who aren't family might find it a little dull ... but hang in there ... you get to hear me getting hit in the face with a football...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The pebble I thought was a boulder

Here's thanking God for the unexpected blessings in life that often seem like curses. I'm reminded of a cartoon I once saw with a man standing there, when a small rock hits him in the head. He curses, swears, goes bananas, shouting out "Why me! What the heck else can go wrong? All the bad stuff always happens to me!!" Fuming, he turns around to see God standing there, holding an avalanche from falling on him. Concerned, God turns his head as he strains against the massive pileup of boulders on his back and asks the man "You alright? I think one might have got through." The man, understandably, looks chagrined and ashamed of his behavior.
Okay, so that man was me about seven months or so ago now, when I got laid off at the newspaper I worked at in Wisconsin. I was, at least I think, a pretty darn good writer and copy editor. And out of the middle of nowhere, I got the "call". With three kids and a mortgage, I suddenly had no job. I was MAD as hell. I didn't really blame God too much, since Nate had gotten a job offer to Michigan only days earlier -- but it still seemed a bit unfair.
But our house sold fast and soon we were moving to Michigan and got a screamin' deal on a new home. We settled in nicely and have more time together now than ever before.
Today, I read the headlines ... that as of today, Gannett Corp. is now in full swing with perhaps the largest newspaper layoffs in the history of newspapers. WOW. Upwards of 600 to possibly over a thousand people will be losing their jobs in the coming days ... just before Christmas ... with the economy in the proverbial crapper.
So now I realize I'm pretty blessed. Very blessed actually. To have gotten out in the Spring, before things got REALLY bad. With good people losing their jobs right and left ... at least it happened for me at a time when we could handle it as a family.
So here's to blessings in disguise... and a patient God who often has to wait out our belated gratitude.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Asher is THREE!

We had a fantastic weekend. My little man Asher turned 3!! And Nate's sister and her family drove over from Wisconsin to share in the fun. Asher's favorite present is seen below ... he is still full-throttle in his Indiana Jones phase, so we bought him a sound-effects whip that makes noises and plays the Indy theme song. He was in heaven!

Asher with his new toy.

The cousins had a great couple of days together. Here they are all stuffed into our livingroom chair as they play video games.

Making their own pizza at Asher's little party.

Oh, and just a side note ... I thought we had snow last week when we got an inch?? Nope. Here was the real stuff. It dumped on us Thursday late at night ... 10 inches in about three hours ... and we didn't even know we were expecting snow! But on the bright side, Gabriel had a snow day from school and was able to be home with Asher on his birthday!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

First Snow

We got about an inch of snow last night, so as soon as we got home from dropping Gabriel off at school this morning, Asher insisted that we put on snow pants and boots and head out to play!

Asher holds Rhylah's hand to help her keep her balance.

Cutie pies!

My snow bunny ... she kept burrowing her head in my shoulder whenever I would try to take her picture, but I finally got her! Check out the pink nose!

Mr. Asher LOVES the snow...

...but he seemed a little concerned that the statue of the child in our garden was chilly -- he spent a lot of time talking to it and packing more snow around it ... to keep it warm???

Hot cocoa for everyone in their sippy cups after a short play outside!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Great taste in music...

Okay listen to the video in my last post and then listen to this video posted here and let me know if you recognize anything...
First, I must tell you that in my "younger days", I collected soundtracks, so nowadays, when I'm watching a movie, I'll frequently recognize a line or two of music from a new movie and be able to "name that composer." So about 20 minutes into creating my video of Rhylah this past weekend, I realized I had HEARD the music before, even though it was just a random song from the move "Emma" that I had pulled from my iTunes library. I went online and pulled up all the Pure Michigan ads I could find and it was nearly the same song! Yep, same composer ... Rachel Portman.
On a different tangent ... these Michigan ads have Michiganders everywhere puddling up. I literally stood in line for over an hour at the DMV when we first moved here (to get my new drivers license) and watched ad after ad after ad play on the big TV sets all around the waiting room. I swear it decreased the stress levels of the people in the room ... people in line were even getting all misty-eyed about their own state. They really are quite good, I must say ... makes me get all weepy! Gosh, I wish I lived in Michigan! OH wait!!! Lucky me!
Trivia time: Can you name the actor doing the voice-over on the ads?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

On Her Feet

While her "first official" steps probably took place on Oct. 20 (along with her last bottle...), Miss Rhylah keeps getting better and better at this walking business. She now frequently finds herself standing in the middle of a room with a baffled look on her face as to how in the world she got there ... check it out! The clips at the end of this one-minute video were taken just today.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Here's hoping the high continues...

I almost didn't blog about this. Number one ... because I don't care that much for politics ... and number two, I especially don't care for politics when it gets everyone all hot and bothered.
First let me say, I am not all hot and bothered! :) But I do feel the urge to blog.
I will now go out on a limb and risk public ridicule by saying that I'm a republican. Even with Obama fever everywhere, and republicans being the "uncool" thing to be, that is what I am. But I'm not an angry republican, so that must count for something!
The election last night was quite something! Like many people, I lasted up until about 11 p.m. and then got up early this morning to race to my television ... tripping on baby toys in the dark ... to find out what the world had been doing while I was sleeping. Quite a lot it seems!
I wish the very best for Obama, and will be praying for him as I would for any of our nation's leaders. I will admit, with no qualms, that McCain -- just another old white guy in a long line of old white guys dating back to the original George W. (that's Washington...) did NOT inspire me. But, conservative that I am, the very words "inspire" and "charisma" have made me a bit edgy lately.
I'm not saying it's not WONDERFUL to be inspired by our nation's leader ... who could wish for more? But as the past few months progressed, I came to realize that about 90% of the people I spoke to about Obama, (you 10% know who you are) were not able to articulate what it was they loved about the man, other than the warm fuzzy feeling he gave them. "He's just so inspiring!" (again, no argument there...) but when I would ask why or about what, it was never clearly explained to me. So in my mind, this massive unleashing of the warm fuzzies has me a bit skeptical.
I hope I'm dead wrong! I'm not really all that worked about it, since politics isn't high on my agenda of things to care about. I vote republican mostly because there are a few key issues I find I can't stray from even if I wanted to, but it is indeed amazing to see the massive high Obama seems to have induced on this country. I just hope the high can continue... Now yesterday in Michigan, we legalized marijuana, so we've got it covered here... but good luck to the rest of you states out there.... ;)

And now, some presidential fun facts!!
* John Quincy Adams was the first president to be photographed.
* The 9th U.S. president William Henry Harrison was inaugurated on a bitterly cold day and gave the longest inauguration speech ever. The new president promptly caught a cold that soon developed into pneumonia. Harrison died exactly one month into his presidential term, the shortest in U.S. history.
* Franklin Pierce ordered the first bathtub for the White House. Many people were upset. They thought taking baths was not healthy and would make you sick.
* Andrew Johnson did not learn to read until he was 17 years old. His parents had been too poor to send him to school.
* Rutherford B. Hayes had the first telephone installed in the White House. Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, gave Hayes personal instructions on how to use it.
* James A. Garfield could write with both hands. Sometimes he amused people by writing Greek with one hand and Latin with the other.
* Warren G. Harding was the first president to give a speech over the radio.
* Calvin Coolidge liked to sit outside at night to think and relax. But so many people stopped and pointed at him that he finally gave up and sat inside.
* In warm weather, 6th president of the United States John Quincy Adams customarily went skinny-dipping in the Potomac River before dawn.
* The letter "S" comprises the full middle name of the 33rd president, Harry S. Truman. It represents two of his grandfathers, whose names both had "S" in them.
* 32nd president of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt was related, either by blood or by marriage, to 11 former presidents.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Just a fall stroll...

We enjoyed an Indian Summer day recently out at Uncle Carl's farm, letting both the kids and the dog run free and burn off some energy. The kids are always eager to see what they can find to eat, but this time of year ... it's a challenge! But we did manage to find a few late season apples and leftover grapes!

Rhy takes turns riding on mommy and daddy's shoulders. I sure wish she would master walking! She takes a few steps on her own now, as of Oct. 20, but will not do much more than that.

Reaching for some grapes.

Some late season seedless grapes, surrounded by fall-colored leaves.

Walking in the vineyard.

Rhylah and I wait on the hill, relaxing while the boys have a sword fight in the blueberry patch.

Me and my kids ... notice that Asher is STILL wearing his Halloween costume!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pumpkin Time

This past weekend, we made our annual trek to the pumpkin farm. To Gabriel's intense delight, we found a farm with far more than just pumpkins -- it also had a corn maze, animals, a train ride and a haunted house. (As you can imagine, Gabriel was practically vibrating with delight!) Gabe's favorite part, surprisingly, was the haunted house -- which really consisted of a semi trailer with a pitch black tunnel, strobe lights and freaky looking spiders and alien dolls propped in odd places.
Tonight we carved the pumpkins. Again, Gabriel was super excited. We bought a book of patterns, but he wanted a Batman design, so we had to go online to find ideas. Nate carved a modified crystal skull, since he will be trick-or-treating in full Indian Jones gear ... Ash wanted a skull and crossbones, since he's going as a pirate. I didn't pick out a pumpkin, but I did carve the cat for Rhylah. It was great fun!

Here we all are at the pumpkin farm.

Rhylah makes friends with a goat.

My boys enjoy cider and popcorn in the barn.

Rhylah stands by the pumpkins.

Asher poses with a pumpkin hat while watching dad carve.

Gabe freaks out about the goo while gutting his pumpkin. Strangely, Asher had absolutely no problems with reaching into his pumpkin to clean it out. Gabriel, however, must have stopped three times to wash his hands...

Asher imitates dads carving skills as he works on a small chunk-o-pumpkin.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Three Little Spooks

Here are my three cuties, all dressed up in their Halloween gear; Ash is Jack Sparrow, Gabe is Batman, and Rhylah is Little Red Riding Hood.
We heard there was a parade downtown today, so we showed up ... only to find that we were IN the parade! They gathered about 50 or so kids and families at one end of Main Street and then marched them down the road for a Halloween parade. It was a perfect, chilly, overcast fall day.
After the parade, we went trick-or-treating at the area businesses. It was quite cold, so we only lasted a little while, but the kids had a great time! Main Street was packed, and nearly every business was involved, handing out candy -- with their employees standing in the windows watching the parade and waving and smiling. It was one of the first times that I've felt truly a part of this community since we moved here. St. Joe is definitely starting to feel more and more like home. We'll post more photos on Thursday, when we do the "real" trick-or-treating.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Day in Saugatuck

My sister came for a visit last weekend to see our new house and spend some time relaxing! We spent one afternoon in Saugatuck, a cozy, quaint little town with little shops and plenty to see and do. While we were there, we took advantage of the fall colors to plop the girls down into the leaves and snap some photos. Sydney and Rhylah are only three months apart, and we can hardly wait until they're old enough to chase each other around and have tea parties. For now, however, they will have to make do with making baby noises at each other and occasionally pulling on each other's faces. Ah the joys of babyhood!

Me and my girl on a beautiful Fall afternoon.

Rhylah and Sydney, enjoying the park, and trying to decide whether or not to eat the leaves...

"I don't know, it looks kinda crunchy ... should we try it?"

Fun smiles from Miss Sydney.

Rhylah shows off her new trick of standing. Don't worry Syd, in three months, you'll be chasing her all over the park!

Beautiful girl!

Okay, I know I'm biased, but isn't my niece a cutie pie???

"Here mom! A leaf, just for you!! Now tell my Uncle to get out of my face with the camera already!!"

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fun with Foliage

It was quite brisk today, but the kids decided to brave the chill and play in some leaves out front this afternoon after school. Even Rhylah got in on the action. Check it out!

Super Asher takes a leap at his brother...

... and the two end up in a laughing heap on the ground.

My cutie pies! You might notice that both boys, especially Asher, got drastic haircuts lately. Nathan gave them haircuts the other night. I still can't get used to Asher's short hair! But I'm sure it will be long again in no time at all! And at least I can finally see his eyes! (It was getting REALLY long!)

Check out her new sparkly pink sneakers!

Mr. Cool

Finally, Ash gives me a REAL smile to photograph -- he's been tricky with this lately...