Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day

Sunday was the most beautiful day. Because of the Memorial Day weekend and the perfect weather, we took he kids to a small cemetery a few minutes from our home to explore. If there's one thing Illinois has a lot of, it's small cemeteries. They are everywhere. 

One thing we all noticed about this particular cemetery was the number of young children and babies buried there. One particular headstone marked the grave of a husband and wife. It also showed that each of their four children preceded them in death. Three of their children died before they were a year old. The fourth was only 8 or 9. That was in the early 1900's. It left me wanting to know their story. What was their life like? How did they continue on after so much loss? 

We saw several soldiers graves. One was lost at sea. Another died in battle during WWII. But most served their country and then went on to live long lives.    

It was a beautiful afternoon. We love this great country! 

Happy Memorial Day. 

*Note: The Music and the Spoken Word broadcast yesterday had a beautiful arrangement of God Bless the USA, with special guest Dallyn Vail Bayles. I loved it and wanted to post it here, but it won't be available until a year from now. So after May 29, 2017, you should be able to find it here. :) 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

21 Years and Counting

November 1988:

May 26, 1995:

May 26, 2016:

Our thinning hair is turning gray (I'm blaming the kids) and we've got our share of wrinkles, but I'd say after twenty-one years we're doing pretty well! 

Life is good. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Just Picked

Straight from the garden this morning:

Ready for lunch tomorrow:

Two Batches of Freezer Jam!

Homemade Strawberry Freezer Jam just seems to taste better when you grow the strawberries yourself! The first time I made freezer jam years ago, we decided we'd never be able to eat anything else. It's so much better than anything you can get from the store. 

Here's the recipe I use:

Strawberry* Freezer Jam
2 c. pureed strawberries
4 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Combine and stir very well. Let stand for 10 minutes.

In a small saucepan, combine:
3/4 c. water
1/3 c. pectin**
Stir constantly, over medium heat. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. 

Pour pectin mixture into strawberries and stir for 3 minutes. Pour into jars (I use old Skippy peanut butter jars). Let stand for 24 hours before storing in freezer. 

One batch makes about 3 jars

*I've substituted peaches or I've used half strawberries, half peaches with great results. Other berries can be used as well. It's pretty versatile. 
**I get my pectin in Amish country, but I used to use a boxed variety (where I originally found the recipe) from a local discount grocery store. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Pretty Things

I have a few pictures from the last several days that make me smile. I thought maybe they'd make you smile, too.

Spencer picked some beautiful peonies from one of our rental properties. The large flowers wilted fairly quickly, but this little bud is alive and well and so pretty! It makes me happy when I see it sitting on my dining room table. 

We've had a lot of rain lately. This upside-down leaf was on our deck the other day, wet from the morning rain, but beautiful in contrast to the rough deck paint. 

Jeff and Spencer went on a quick overnight campout last weekend. This is the property where they stayed. Isn't it pretty? Unfortunately, it was rainy and windy and muddy - so much so that the van got stuck and had to be pulled out by a tractor. It just adds to the adventure, right?

Our little birds are growing up! Momma and daddy bird are very attentive and spend all day feeding these hungry babies. Any movement around their nest and all three heads pop up with beaks open wide. So cute! 

Last, but certainly not least, here is our first ripe strawberry of the season. You wouldn't believe our strawberry patch this year! It's lush and full and LOADED with strawberries! There are hundreds of really small and very green berries, but every day or two we've found an unusually large and bright and sweet red berry. Yummy!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Spring Recital: Praeludium and Allegro by Kreisler

Fourteen-year-old Sterling has been working on this Kreisler piece for at least 9 months. Still, it was a little rough on him to have his Spring Recital right after a frantic week where recital prep took a backseat. Fortunately, he pulled it off and did a great job! I always love to hear Sterling play. He was the icing on the cake at last night's recital. Enjoy!

A big thanks to Sharilyn Spicknall who was his amazing accompanist! :) And a HUGE thanks to his violin teacher, Terry Coulton, who has a mother heart and is the kindest, most compassionate and inspiring teacher. We are so blessed to have been invited into her studio so many years ago.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

One Last Shrek Hoorah

Shrek is over and done. Weeks of rehearsal culminated in four amazing shows! All three evening performances sold out. Despite the consistent quality of CHS musicals, that is unheard of! I've heard different reports on whether or not the matinee sold out as well. If it didn't, it was close. There is so much talent in our little corner of the world!

Spencer enjoyed his participation in the show and was a big hit as Pinocchio. His voice was perfect and his growing prosthetic nose brought many laughs. It's always sad to see it end, but this show will be long remembered.

I took this photo closing night after the final curtain when the cast was out greeting the audience in the hallway. What a great group of friends!

Monday, May 9, 2016

In My Rosebush

Last year on Mother's Day, we had three little robin eggs in our rosebush. Just today, I was wondering if the nest was in use again and this is what I found...

These little puffballs are about as new as you can get. So ugly they're cute. :)

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to me! :) It was one of my best ever. We got to spend much of the day with Savannah and enjoy our last Skype with Sam. 

I've got the best kids and the greatest job in the world! No regrets.

Saturday, May 7, 2016


Look who appeared in my bedroom at 2:30 this morning...

Savannah completely surprised us with a quick trip home for the weekend! We had no idea she was coming! I looked into plane tickets earlier this week just wishing she could be here to see Spencer in Shrek. Unbeknownst to me, by then she already had her ticket and was planning the surprise. Her friend, Carly, picked her up from the airport 2 1/2 hours away and dropped her off at our house in the middle of the night. Savannah woke up Sadie first and then the two of them came in our room to surprise us. We stayed up talking for way too long and didn't get much sleep, but oh, what a fun surprise!!

It was so cute when I woke up the boys this morning. Soren sat up and said, "Do you want to know the bad news? I had a horrible dream last night." I asked him to tell me about it. He simply said, "Sam. And Savannah."
"What about them?"
"They were home."
"Aw, buddy, soon. They'll be home soon." And then he went downstairs and saw Savannah standing in the kitchen. No fanfare, no hype. He just quietly walked over and gave her a huge hug.

Spencer cried out, "You came!" and swallowed her up in a hug. (He's a lot taller than her now.)

Sterling cried. And then Savannah cried. It was very sweet.

Savannah's planning to attend both Shrek performances today. (The first two performances have SOLD OUT!!! It's SO good!!) So many people will be happy to see her. :)

It's going to be a great weekend!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Flash Mob Fun

Today's the day! It's opening night for our high school production of Shrek The Musical. Sadie and I got to see a little preview yesterday when the cast performed select scenes for an auditorium full of elementary school kids. The fourth and fifth graders loved it!

With the cast all made up and in costume, they decided to give their own classmates a sneak peak, Flash Mob style!

We've got our tickets for opening and closing night and are so excited for the show!

Spencer nails the part of Pinocchio, no pun intended. ;)

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Spring Rain

We had the prettiest rain today. The rain clouds were sitting above the horizon and the sun was low enough in the sky as to be below the line of clouds. Everything was lit up as the rain poured down. We searched for a rainbow but didn't see one anywhere. And then there it was. A huge double rainbow, one of the brightest we've ever seen. It didn't last long at all. It faded a lot by the time I could take a picture and the double bow was already gone, but still so pretty. Within 10 minutes, all these clouds had moved out and it was blue sky all around.