Optimism Required

I’ve read that in order to be a farmer, one has to be an optimistic person.

It’s easy to understand why.

Any person who believes that these boxes of bare earth will bear oodles of vegetables by summer/fall needs to see the glass as half full.

Motivation doesn’t hurt either. There is much work to be done before I can plant the first seeds and take the first step in creating my dream veggie garden.

Fingers are crossed that Elly is old enough to help or at least willing enough to play nearby while I do all the work. Last year, gardening was a tag team effort. I invited my neighbor to sit with us whenever we were outside gardening. She would inevitably catch Elly trying to sneak off to the school playground a block away.

Musical Chairs with a Wood Stove

My best friend is gifting us her wood stove. It’s been sitting in her house for years and she’s never used (came with the house). She is only too happy to get rid of it.

We’ve been talking about getting a wood stove or an insert for our fireplace for years to make it more insulated and to give off better heat.

The gift sounds perfect until you remember that we live in a small house. A wood stove is going to take up precious real estate in the living room/entryway.

Dan wants to solve the problem by moving the TV to the entryway and turning the couch so the back of it faces the fireplace. This is why Dan is not allowed to make decorating decisions by himself.

My idea involves moving every piece of furniture we own in the living and dining rooms, removing the existing chair rail, installing a new chair rail and wainscoting in the living room, installing crown molding in the living room and buying more cube storage for all of Elly’s toys.

Dan’s idea could be completed in 5 minutes. Mine will take months to finish. Still, my idea is better.

This is what our current dining room looks like.

In my plan, the dining table, chairs and hutch would be moved out. The garish chandelier would be tossed in the trash and replaced with a fan and light combo. The ugly green carpet would be thrown in the trash. The chair rail would be removed. The walls would be painted all one color – maybe a deep brown to cozy the space up. On the wall where the hutch is now, I will put the TV and entertainment center. Where the table is now, I will place the couch. Then, finally, the very first thing that you see upon entering our house will NOT be the TV.

current view upon walking into our house

Oh, happy days! The image in my mind alone has me jumping for joy!

Then, the dining table, chairs and hutch will have to go in the living room.

the living room

I can’t just get rid of it. Our kitchen is small and has no eat-in nook. Thus, we use our dining table every day – sometimes twice a day.

I’m hoping that the addition of a chair rail, beadboard wainscoting and crown molding will help define part of the living room as a semi formal dining spot. An area rug will be used to anchor the table. Obviously, the ghastly green carpet will be thrown in the trash first.

The wing back chair that I am slowly sewing a slip cover for will be placed to the right of the fireplace. I would love to thrift a second wing back chair and place it to the left of the fireplace, but Dan wants room left for his computer desk. Oh, the compromises I make to keep a happy marriage.

So what do you think of my crazy and amazing plan? Would it be weird to walk into someone’s house and immediately see their dining table?

Of course, the real question is do we want a wood stove now. Dan is terrified that Elly would suffer burns. Having fallen asleep in the sun and gotten 3rd degree burn, I can attest that burns are not fun. I would feel like the world’s worst mother if she got burnt by my crazy redecorating plans.

Scrapbook made by a Lazy Person

I love scrapbooking but, I’m lazy. I don’t use fancy paper, pretty stickers or even photos. My scrapbooks are filled with little pieces of paper that would otherwise be stuffed in a drawer or thrown in the trash.

It’s the same way my Grandmother made a scrapbook when she was a young woman. Her simple scrapbook is a family treasure now. Maybe one day the scrapbooks I made will be treasured by the younger generation.

At least, they will get a kick out of how we pay for things. (My grandmother had movie tickets costing a quarter!).

The only drawback to making a scrapbook the lazy way is that it has become increasingly hard to find an old-fashioned scrapbook filled with heavy, white, blank paper.The craft stores only sell the kind that has a handful of top-loading sheet protectors.

More Yarn Needed

Perhaps I should be more specific because I am always in need of more yarn. I have yet to meet a knitter who has enough yarn.

My recent lack of yarn was in reference to the hexagon blanket I am knitting. I had neither enough Manos del Uruguay Wool Classica nor enough Crystal Yarns Taos wool to complete the blanket. Thus, when my LYS, the Yarn Gallery, sent me an email announcing their 10-year anniversary sale, I made plans to visit the store with Elly.

Elly was smitten with their two dogs.

I was smitten with their yarn selection.

I walked away with more Manos del Uruguay Wool Classica. To replace the Taos, my neighbor Janet, who just happens to work at my LYS, recommended Noro. It doesn’t match the Taos exactly, but I didn’t really want it to. The new colors will add more eye candy.

Revisiting Knee Warmers

4 years ago, I knit Dan a pair of knee warmers.

After wearing them for a winter, he provided me the following feedback:

1. They were was warm.
2. They were super soft.

1. They wouldn’t stay up around his knees. He was constantly pulling them back up.
2. They were thick. He was unable to wear them discreetly at work because they could be seen beneath his pants.

Determined to figure out how to knit the perfect pair of knee warmers since it appears that Dan is not the only one who suffers from cold knees (the post where I show off Dan’s knee warmers remains one of my most popular), I have rooted through my sewing notions as well as my yarn stash.

I have chosen mohair.

It’s a bit of a risk due to its tendency to make people itch when used in next-to-skin projects, but it will dramatically reduce the weight of the warmers without compromising any warmth. Heck, it might even make them warmer.

From my sewing notions, I pulled out elastic thread. This I plan to knit into the upper cuffs of ribbing. It should more than double the elasticity of the ribbing and with any luck it will keep them from falling down.

To increase my chance of finishing this project by next winter (no way I finish it by Spring), the body of the warmers will be knit in stockingnette stitch.

Dan has promised to be the guinea pig and provide unbiased feedback. I’ll report his findings to you.

Disney Cruise Review

Let me start by saying that for years, I had sworn that I would never take a cruise. Never. I didn’t want to be stuck on a ship in the middle of the ocean with no way to get off and with nothing to do. Yes, I know cruises supposedly have loads to do, but when people would list the activities onboard cruises, I wasn’t impressed. I don’t like to swim, to lay in the sun, to gamble, to go to a spa, to go clubbing and there is only so much time one can spend eating.

So when I announced to Dan that I wanted to go on a Disney cruise for our 12th anniversary, he asked “Who are you and what have you done with my wife?”

There were 2 main reasons I changed my mind: babysitting and trust.

Dan and I have been away from Elly for a total of 6 hours since her birth 2 years ago. 4 of those hours were used to attend a funeral. Clearly, we could use some time alone. Yet, I wasn’t willing to leave Elly for any length of time. The Disney cruise ships offered the best of both worlds; we could have adult time, Elly could play with other children her age in Disney’s nursery and we could reconnect as a family in a few short hours for fun together. It sounded perfect.

The other reason was based on our previous vacations to Walt Disney World. I have grown to trust Disney. Any company that can make standing in line fun should be able to make a memorable cruise.

The first day was spent checking in – a quick and easy process, napping, dropping Elly off at the nursery (after which I cried – so not ready for preschool) and enjoying a romantic dinner with Dan at Palo, an exclusive adult restaurant. In a word, wonderful.

The next day, the ship docked at Nassau in the Bahamas. We had booked seats on the semi-submarine tour months in advance.

Though Elly was excited to see so many fish, she did not love the loud noise that the engine made. She also wasn’t a fan of the “central air conditioning”, salt water air whipping into her face, or the cramped quarters. She spent a good portion of the excursion comfort nursing, fussing and looking for an escape route. Elly was happiest when we were off the boat and she could once again run free.

Exhausted and hungry, we headed back to the cruise ship for a quick lunch and a long nap. Shortly after waking up, it was time to head to dinner. We were seated with a lovely family from Virginia. The food was delicious. The environment was fun thanks to Crush, sea turtle in Finding Nemo. The problem was the duration of the meal. We had recently patted each others’ backs for training Elly to remain at the dining table until Dan and I had finished eating supper. We even thought she was ready to start taking to restaurants. We got a rude awakening on the cruise. Elly’s limit is about hour. The dinners on the cruise lasted upwards of 90 minutes. We bailed early on the first night. It took a smart phone equipped with toddler puzzles and a tablet playing Wall-E to get her to dessert on the final night.

By bedtime, doubts were swirling in my head. Had I made a mistake by choosing a cruise for our vacation? Would Elly be able to play with other children and have fun outside of the nursery? Would Dan and I find time to relax and just hang out?

Thankfully, the answer to those 3 questions were no, yes and yes.

Once we started paying attention to the activity list for each day, it was easy to keep Elly happily busy.
Nemo’s Reef, a splash park, was a big hit.

Andy’s room in the Oceaneer’s Club was also a big hit.

(Note that Elly was only allowed in the Oceaneer’s Club during Open House hours since she was under 3 and still not potty trained).

Surprisingly, Elly loved seeing all the characters. She would run right up to them and hug them.

Surprisingly because this is the same girl who screamed when I tried to get her to sit on Santa’s lap.

Thanks to music being played everywhere, Elly had lots of opportunities to show off her dancing skills.
She danced by herself.

She danced with Daisy Duck.

She even coerced other people to dance with her.

To ensure that we adults had a good time as well, I insisted that we not get off the ship again despite being docked at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island filled with fun activities, the very next day. I needed nice, quiet days with no comfort nursing, no fussing and no 2-year-old-tantrums. Nice and quiet. This cruise was booked as a romantic cruise for Dan and I. By going at our pace and just participating in the events and dinners that we wanted to do, it became just that.

On the 4th day, Elly headed back to the onboard nursery. This time, she cried and I (barely) held it together. Dan and I got our romantic time away from Elly.

In all, it was lovely. It really was.

Yet, we learned that we are not cruisers. We will probably never take another one. The strict schedule (when to eat, when to play, and when to depart the ship), the casual dress code and the constant service was a bit too claustrophobic. We are very lax laid back people. We don’t like being fussed over. Not so say that our servers weren’t amazing and fun, because they were.

Additionally, I didn’t walk off the ship feeling like I had missed anything, despite not seeing 1 show or setting foot in the spa or the gym.

Our best vacation to date remains the one we took to Clearwater, FL to watch the Phillies in Spring Training. We did absolutely nothing except eat, watch a baseball game everyday and check out neighborhood bars. We never set foot on the beach. It was relaxing, fun and amazing. When Elly is a bit older (and willing to sit through a baseball game), we’ll go back.

Full album of the Disney cruise can be viewed here.

Disney Cruise 2012

Vacation Notice

This blog will be idle for about a week while Dan and I celebrate our 10th anniversary (2 years late) onboard a Disney cruise.

Disney Dream, image by The Walt Disney Company








Our actual 10th anniversary gift, otherwise known as Elly, will be coming with us because I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her behind.

In Search of a Marriage Poem

For the past two years I have given calligraphy as a Christmas gift.

I started the practice because I couldn’t find a way to preserve the Home Blessing that Dan’s grandmother held so dear. She had saved the blessing for years, but the paper that it was written on had seen better days. Unable to find the blessing for sale anywhere, I took matters into my own hands. (Darn if I can find a picture of it though).

I had taught myself how to do calligraphy years ago so that I could address our wedding invitations. Surprisingly, my hand remembered how to make many lowercase letters in the Old English alphabet. The uppercase letters required more practice.

This past Christmas, I transcribed an excerpt of Billy Collin’s Question About Angels poem for my aunt who loves angels.

She told me recently how much she enjoys the poem and how much she appreciated all the work I put into it.

I didn’t need the praise. I truly enjoy doing calligraphy.

With 3 (yes 3) weddings coming up this year, I wanted to find a poem about marriage that I could transcribe for the happy couples. I searched through my favorite poetry books and came up empty.

Most of the poems about love that I found were from a man’s perspective written to a woman. I want the poem to be for both the bride and the groom.

There is the traditional “Love is kind and etc” but I was hoping for something a bit more modern, unique and fun. Any ideas?

Maybe I should look to a novel and pull an excerpt out. Unfortunately, I’m drawing a blank. I don’t often never read romance books.  Can you recommended any good books where marriage is a theme (and a good one)?

A Year in Pictures

Elly is 2 years old today.

Elly started this year off in babyhood and somewhere along the way she grew up and became a sweet little girl. I’m not sure when exactly it happened.

Thank goodness I took a few hundred pictures.

Shortly after her birthday, we took Elly to Mexico.

She learned to walk and to open sliding glass doors.

We learned to lock sliding glass doors.

A month later and Elly could be found outside in the yard with Mommy helping with the spring cleaning.

At 14 months, she started being able to reach things we didn’t think she would be able to reach for months (hopefully years).

Case in point, she was thrilled to be able to reach her favorite food, Cheerios, and pour them all around her.

Thanks to Jake, she loved to put sticks and rocks in her mouth. See this pretty picture of her?

She has a rock in her mouth.
I would love to report that she has grown out of this stage, but alas no. She still loves the feel of rocks in her mouth. At least she no longer tries to chew on sticks like Jake.

At 15 months old, Elly fell in love with the local playgrounds thanks in part to watching older kids.

The swing remains her favorite part about the playgrounds.

Summer had arrived by the time Elly was 16 months old. After seeing a water table at a friend’s birthday party, we knew we had to get Elly one.

It was great until she learned how to climb on top of it a short month later.

Parties dominated her 17th month.
Get-together at Granny’s house:

July 4th party at home:

When Elly was 1.5 years old, Dan went to Las Vegas with the boys. (No questions were asked upon his return. grin). Granny stayed with us for a few days and we had a great time.

We took Elly to the local Weavers Orchard where she got to feed the animals.

At 19 months old, I introduced Elly to play dough.

I don’t know why I waited so long. It’s still one of her favorite craft activities.

At 20 months old, we hosted our 2nd annual Apple Festival. (We hope to make this a tradition).

(Poor Elly had smacked her head on the marble floors at the local mall a day before).

Days before Halloween, it snowed!

Last year, she thought the snow was too cold. This year, she loved it.

And on Halloween, we dressed Elly up as Stitch though we did not take her trick-or-treating. She was sick.

At 21 months old, Elly was fascinated with Fall clean-up.

Oh, how she loved playing in the leaves!

But perhaps not as much as she loved playing with her Uncle Matt at Thanksgiving!

In December, Elly came with us as we attended a wedding of dear friends in Philadelphia and visited Dan’s sister and brother in New York City.

Mike and Arecia’s Wedding
Elly’s 1st trip to NYC

Then, of course, came Christmas. Elly was 22 months old. Though she wouldn’t sit on Santa’s lap at the mall, she shouted out everytime she saw him. (She still does. Any old man sporting a full white beard is Santa. Fair warning).

Christmas 2011

In January, Elly (23 months old) overcame her fear of bounce houses.


Happy Birthday, my Poppet. I love you.

To see all 255 pictures of Elly’s life as a 1-year-old, click on the album below.

Elizabeth, Age 1