Remember When...

A friend and I were just talking about "heads up 7-up" and low and behold this email comes across the next day! I never get sick of reading these and traveling down memory lane. Sometimes, I feel like I'm still 12 years old - is that "young at heart" or "immaturity"??? Either way, read on and be transported to another place in time...it gives me that bittersweet feeling of fond reminiscence and sadness that it's long past and not even my kids will live that life.

Close your eyes...And go back...

....Before the Internet or PC or the MAC......

....Before semi-automatics and crack....

....Before Playstation, SEGA, Super Nintendo, even before Atari...

....Before cell phones, CD's, DVD's, voicemail and e-mail....

....way back....

....way.....way.....way back.....

I'm talkin' bout hide and seek at dusk

Red light, Green light

Red Rover....Red Rover.....

Playing kickball & dodgeball until the first...no...second...no...third Streetlight came on

Ring around the Rosie

London Bridge

Hot potato

Hop Scotch

Jump rope



Parents stood on the front porch and yelled (or whistled) for you to come home - no pagers or cell phones

Mother May I?

Hula Hoops

Seeing shapes in the clouds

Endless summer days and hot summer nights (no A/C) with the windows open

The sound of crickets

Running through the sprinkler

Happy Meals

Cereal boxes with that GREAT prize in the bottom

Cracker jacks with the same thing

Ice pops with 2 sticks you could break and share with a friend

...but wait.....there's more....

Watchin' Saturday Morning cartoons

Fat Albert, Road Runner, Smurfs, Picture Pages, G-Force & He-Man,

Schoolhouse Rock

Watchin' Sunday morning oldies (Abbott & Costello, Three Stooges)

Wonder Woman & Super Man Underoos


Playing Dukes of Hazard

Catchin' lightning bugs in a jar

Christmas morning

Your first day of school

Bedtime Prayers and Goodnight Kisses

Climbing trees

Swinging as high as you could to try and reach the sky

Getting an Ice Cream off the Good Humor Truck

A million mosquito bites and sticky fingers

Jumpin' down the steps

Jumpin' on the bed

Pillow fights


A 13" black and white TV in your room meant you were RICH

Runnin' till you were out of breath

Laughing so hard that your stomach hurt

Being tired from PLAYING

WORK: meant taking out the garbage or doing the dishes

Your first crush

Your first kiss (I mean the one that you kept your mouth CLOSED and your eyes OPEN)

Rainy days at school meant playing "Heads up 7UP" or hangman" in

The classroom, Remember that?

Oh, I'm not finished yet....

Kool-Aid was the drink of the summer

So was a swig from the hose

Giving your friends a ride on your handlebars

Wearing your new shoes on the first day of school

Class Field Trips with soggy sandwiches

When nearly everyone's mom was at home when the kids got there

When a quarter seemed like a fair allowance;

and another quarter a MIRACLE

When ANY parent could discipline ANY kid, or feed him, or use him

to carry groceries...And nobody, not even the kid, thought a thing of it.

When your parents took you to McDonalds and you were COOL

When being sent to the principal's office was nothing compared to

the fate that awaited you at home.

Basically, we were in fear for our lives but it wasn't because of

drive by shootings, drugs, gangs, etc.

Our parents and grandparents were a much bigger threat! And some of

us are still afraid of em!

Didn't that feel good? Just to go back and say, "Yeah, I remember


Well, let's keep going!!

Let's go back to the time when...

Decisions were made by going "eeny-meeny-miney-mo"

Mistakes were corrected by simply exclaiming, "do over!"

"Race issues" meant arguing about who ran the fastest.

Money issues were handled by whoever was the banker in "monopoly"

Catching fireflies could happily occupy an entire evening

It wasn't odd to have two or three "best" friends.

Being old, referred to anyone over 20. (CRAP! I'm officially old!)

The worst thing you could catch from the opposite sex was cooties.

Nobody was prettier than Mom

Scrapes and bruises were kissed by mom or grandma and made better

It was a big deal to finally be tall enough to ride the "big people" rides at the amusement park.

Getting a foot of snow was a dream come true.

Abilities were discovered because of a "double-dog-dare"

Spinning around, getting dizzy and falling down was cause for giggles.

The worst embarrassment was being picked last for a team.

Water balloons were the ultimate, ultimate weapon.

Older siblings were your worst tormentors, but also your fiercest protector

If you can remember most or all of these, then you have LIVED!!!

Pass this on to anyone who may need a break from their "grown up" life.....I TRIPLE DOG DARE YA!!!!!!


How to Make a Moss Terrarium

I started with a medium sized cookie jar that I found at Target, but any decorative glass container with a lid will work. I removed the rubber gasket so my little plants could get a bit of air. We used pint-sized wide mouth jars for the kids' projects.

Begin by layering gravel into the bottom of the container, we chose "pretty" gravel from the craft store. Layer the largest stones first and graduate to the finest gravel, this will keep the soil on top and not let it filter down into the stones.

Now, take a walk in the lovely forest nearest you and gather moss and small plants to use inside your jar. I chose a mixture of mosses, tiny ferns, and clusters of clovers.

Fill the jar 2/3's full of potting soil (don't use soil from the walk, it might have little buggies in it!) and arrange your plants. Take care to bury the roots into the soil.

Water with a spray bottle and replace lid. Keep your little terarrium in indirect light and spray with water once condensation disappears from the inside of the jar.


Randy Pausch 1960-2008

A great inspiration, Randy Pausch, has died this weekend leaving behind his 3 young children and his beloved wife. I've written about him before, and I was deeply touched by his story in the last year but I think the gist of Randy's life lessons can best be summed up in his own words:

"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand."

"You just have to decide if you're a Tigger or an Eeyore. I think I'm clear where I stand on the great Tigger/Eeyore debate. Never lose the childlike wonder. It's just too important. It's what drives us."

I don't know how to not have fun. I'm dying and I'm having fun. And I'm going to keep having fun every day I have left. Because there's no other way to play it."

"It's not about how to achieve your dreams, it's about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you."

"The talk's not for you, it's for my kids."

Because of Randy, I take time out to "smell the roses" or in my case, go to the skate park more often. I began photographing beautiful things around me, I hugged my kids more, I sat down and colored more, I splashed in the puddles more, I said "thank you" more and "I love you" more. I drove with the windows down more, and ate picnics outside more and really tried to soak up and appreciate this life and my family more.

Donations can be sent to the Carnegie Mellon's Randy Pausch Memorial Fund


Family as Friends

As I grow older I realize that the best friends have been here all along. The family members we've grown up with have become some of our best friends and we're passing on relationships to our children.

Hanging out with someone who knows all your secrets, accepts your family for all their quirks and eccentricities, and shares the same inside jokes seems to be the best of both worlds. A friend who saw you through braces and the awkward puberty years, drank a beer with you in college, and now comes to throw some horseshoes in the backyard is rare indeed.

More importantly, you're grown and you're hanging out because you want to - not because your moms are making you! When your relationship goes beyond the history and you begin making new memories together is when it really gets good. I hope our kids continue these friendships that are forged in family.


I've Been Afflicted with a Case of Jimmy Buffett-itis!

I come down with the flu like symptoms of Jimmy Buffett-itis once a year. The symptoms include headache, nausea, and general crankiness. The kids milk me for all they can on the days I'm afflicted and whine and beg for everything under the sun...which they get because I can't stand to hear it on these days! Lack of sleep and medicinal Margarita's the night before usually contribute to my condition, but you gotta live! My kids benefited this year by getting permission to eat candy all day, they got a new pogo stick (or "bobo" stick as it's know around here), and played at the skate park for a number of hours while mommy whimpered in the shade. You know what? IT WAS ALL WORTH IT!!!!! Pull up a cheeseburger and come along on my journey to Mararitaville!
We started out tailgating and getting busted 3 times by security for "scalping" which, in my inebriated state, I felt obligated to repeatedly argue the definition of the word.

We attended a "back stage" party (that title is a crock) where my husband and his friend proceeded to steal every inflatable tequila bottle and beach ball that wasn't nailed down.

We sat down in our FIFTH ROW SEATS and noticed the theme of this year's concert is "The Year of Still Here", hmmmmmm...panic sets in as my husband realizes this may be a predictor of his last show. Listen to him fret over this theory over and over until he decides to go get another margarita.

Pause for a photo op

Marvel at the huge crowd behind you from the comfort of your FIFTH ROW SEATS and mutter "suckers!" under your breath

Tell your husband not to get jealous because Jimmy Buffett is singing directly to you at this moment.

Cheer, clap, say "do you smell pot?" 15 times, drink "just one more" margarita, float home in a haze, stop for breakfast on the drive home, lay down in your spinning bed and dream about the affliction you are bound to feel in the morning. Ahhhh, summer and Jimmy Buffett...


Leather Beaded Bracelet / Necklace Tutorial

The beaded bracelet we made yesterday is so fun and beachy to wear everyday.

We started with a 24 inch length of leather cord. The diameter of the strap or cord is determined by the size of the bead holes. I used the thinner one, but you can see here a thicker suede strap with wooden beads has a whole different look! The kids even joined in with hemp cord and plastic letter beads.

Begin by tying a knot about 3 inches from the end of your cord then slide on a bead.

Lock the bead in place with a knot on the other side.

Tie knots and beads at varying intervals down the cord. I placed beads every 1 1/2 - 3 inches of different sizes, shapes, and colors. I was going for a beach glass look.

Gather up both ends together and tie in a knot to finish. The bracelet can be wound around your wrist to for a stacked look or doubled and worn as a necklace.

These things we girls plan together are all inexpensive and fun. They are getting me through the long summer with three kids and giving me much needed adult interaction. The shot of estrogen doesn't hurt! Who said play dates are just for kids?

See the ring in the last photo? It's an Interchangeable Bead Ring that can coordinate with every outfit! Just change out the hand made bead to suit your mood! It's ingenious! Get one at Joy Beadworks!


Quality Time with My Girls

Our "girl's club" (as yet unnamed, any suggestions?) had our monthly get-together today for a day trip to McConnel's Mill for a hike and some craftiness, organized this time by our own treatgirl.

We all gathered lunches, kids, craft supplies, toys, 5 friends and 13 kids (pictured above), and headed out. We started out with lunch and I marvelled at some of the amazing picnics these girls brought. Now, keep in mind that I showed up with an insulated cooler bag filled with Smucker's Uncrustables, a 1/2 bag of Sun chips and some random grapes. Well, my friends showed up with lovely, colorful picnic baskets filled with delicacies such as fresh fruit salad, rhubarb pie, "Caramel, Caramel Popcorn", and home made sandwiches, just to name a few. I scarfed down my lunch and tried to wink at my other friend with a similarly packed lunch. Really, we can't all be so perfect all the time. It just isn't natural.

Treatgirl then taught us how to make a leather beaded bracelet (hemp twine for the kids) she saw on vacation out west. Tutorial tomorrow!

Then we set off on a hike

to gather plants for our second activity, terrariums! We scavenged four different types of moss, tiny ferns, a cute patch of clover and some other miscellaneous plants while hiking along a stream. We took tons of photos, climbed rocks, and scouted out waterfalls. At least one person got pinched by a crayfish and another fell down repeatedly, (no names to protect the guilty). Then it was time to turn around and do the whole thing all over again on the hike back.

After we got back to our original spot we all showed off our bounty and began construction of our terrariums (tutorial later this week!)

Some pie, more "Caramel, Caramel Popcorn" and some water then time to count heads and pack it up for another time. Another perfectly executed girl's day out. I sucked up enough estrogen to get me through another month.


Are You Ready for Some Football???

I feel like my 9 year old is getting so big these days...until I see him swallowed up in his new football equipment! After 3 years of standing firm on our rule of no tackle football before 4th grade, we finally made the leap.

Now, this football thing is not for the feint of heart, our journey began with a camp out at the sign ups beginning at 4:30 am followed by 8 am drills. There have been camps and volunteer sign ups throughout the summer and practices 5 nights a week beginning in the last week of July. This commitment is more involved than any activity I'm currently involved in these days. It's going to be a loooong season.

I guess this is my life for the next few months, just please tell me if I become like those "other" football moms who can talk of nothing else throughout the season...I really hate that.


Nothing Gold Can Stay

I got up early to take a walk in the woods behind my house this week. I'd seen this field of ferns I wanted to take a picture of in the morning light. I'm not sure I captured how magical it looked with mist in the air and the sun shining through the trees but I tried.

As I walked quietly down the path toward the spot I had in mind, it was a bit chilly and I could see my breath in spots, I noticed our neighbor, Howard already there. He was gliding along the path, silent and stealthy like a ghost. He didn't make a sound and never stopped to catch his breath, though he was walking the steep path to the top of the hill with his old cat and dog trailing behind. I guess his age to be between 70-75 and he was so in his element and so sure footed there in the misty morning. I paused to let him get ahead of me so as not startle him, then continued on to visit the small pond where he'd just come from. I wondered, after watching him, is this the fountain of youth?

The second photo, entitled Nothing Gold Can Stay, reminds me of my favorite poem by the great Robert Frost.
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

This photo is available for purchase.


My Favorite Grilled Chicken Recipe

Where I come from, there is only one kind of BBQ Chicken. Every family has their own "secret recipe" but they are all variations of the same. Every firehall chicken BBQ fundraiser on the side of the road uses it, I'm sure you've stopped at least once, drawn in by the aroma. Mmmmmm, I'm hungry just thinking of it.

My dad calls it Cornell Chicken, my mom calls it Grampy Cleveland's Chicken, some people call it Firehouse Chicken...I'll give you my dad's recipe which is my favorite. So, here is Cornell Chicken:

1 1/3 c. oil
2/3 c. white vinegar
1/3 c. salt
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
2 eggs

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend about 20 seconds...not too long or it will turn into mayonnaise! It will look white and foamy like this

Next, is also your own preference, you can marinate it for a few hours

or baste it while it cooks.

Normally, if you do both it will end up too salty. We usually marinate it then baste it once halfway through. It develops a lovely, salty crust on the skin that is heavenly.

The ultimate menu would be this chicken, potato salad (I have a good recipe for that, too) and some baked beans. Enjoy!


H, I, J, K, Elemenoepeeeee....

I had a moment of inspiration this weekend as we began to make plans to paint our house next month. I wanted to create something colorful, whimsical, and meaningful for my kitchen wall. I got to work in my shop and came up with this...

I think my gift for "random" design my friend always talks about has come into play here. I'm not allowed to hang it until the new paint is on the wall.
I liked the concept so much I've decided to offer the Custom Wooden Alphabet Tiles for sale so you can create your own work of art. You can put your family initial on the mantle

or decorate your nursery.

You can spell out an inspirational word for your bookshelf or your child's name in her room. You may even opt to display your house number beside your front door, the options are endless and custom made for you!
Email me at jsneill@zoominternet.net or check out my shop to the right to order your own tiles.


Hershey Park, Here We Come!

We made our yearly pilgrimage to "the land of all things chocolate" last week and funny enough, I ate no chocolate while I was there. That just occurred to me while typing this...something seems wrong about that.

Anyhoo, maybe it's my advancing age but the last thing I'm thinking of is chocolate on an amusement park trip. Though I love the rides, I've been known to puke at some point in the day after too many spinney rides. I never remember that happening before about 5 years ago.

We rode The Claw and I saw my life flash before my eyes (imagine a huge hand plucking you up then spinning and swinging you to your death), we rode the Rodeo and I got a bit queasy (very rooooollllyyyy and ttuuuurrrrnnnnyyy), then we rode The Falcon and I almost crapped my pants (my children were dangling 1000 feet above the ground and spinning, I'm a terrible mother). Then we broke for lunch.

After lunch, we changed into our bathing suits and entered the water park where I got squirted in the eye about 10 times and had 4 buckets of water dumped on my head while trying to scale the side of a water-tower-ish type of structure to reach the slides (evil, evil children). At which point I decided to wait at the bottom for the kids and promptly lost them for the next 45 minutes while I scurried around the tower squinting into the bright sun in the hopes of catching one glimpse of just one of them. Nothin'. Go to recruit my mom for help and find all 4 of them eating ice cream in the food court. Nice.

Okay, get changed and get on the Pirate Ship, where I scream at my 5 year old to hold onto the safety bar, get turned away from the bumper cars because no one is tall enough (?), and con my 9 year old into riding the Great Bear with me even though it's currently closed due to a passenger puking (it wasn't me, yay!) One more trip to the Pirate Ship, sneak my little one onto the Swings by teaching him how to raise up his heels while being measured, break for french fries and get the hell out of Dodge.

There's more...but I haven't the energy or the stomach to discuss it further.


My Little World of Moss

I came home from Hershey Park today (more about that tomorrow) to a little gift from my sister. It was from another Etsyian who makes these sweet little terrariums for your home. MadeByMavis creates a tiny world to lose yourself in, whether at your desk or in your kitchen. So easy to care for - got a spray bottle? You're set! Mine is a "little world of moss" with a tiny clover peaking through in the center. Imagine gazing into this lush, green, mossy land in the dead of winter??? I'm sold!


Zucchini Noodles with Veggies

I'm back on the health kick with my hubby and back to inventing new ways to increase veggies and decrease carbs. So, after some research online I decided to make "spaghetti" from zucchini to decrease the pasta. I located some ingredients in my pantry and fridge and went to work.


1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise with the julienne blade on my mandolin
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 roasted red pepper, chopped
1 cup diced, cooked chicken
6 oz or so of spaghetti, cooked
2 Tbsp. grated Romano cheese
1 tsp. dill weed

Saute the onion in 1 Tbsp. oil until golden then add mushrooms and zucchini. Saute until softened and browned but not mushy.
Add the red pepper and cooked chicken and heat through. Add the pasta and dill and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

The veggies create some liquid so a sauce isn't necessary, but you could always add a bit of chicken stock or some diced tomatoes if you prefer a saucier pasta. Bon appetite!


Super Giveaway for You!

Check out this bag you can enter to win by Sew Gracious! I've tried my hand at this bag thing, and it's no joke. They require lots of love and attention to detail. You can click HERE to read about the details of entering this contest. I'm pretty sure the saying goes: "You can never be too rich, too skinny, or own too many bags" Good luck to all!


Love Letters

A few Valentine's Days ago my husband bought me an exquisite little book called 50 Greatest Love Letters of All Time that I poured over for days after I received it. I couldn't believe the passion poured out on paper by lovers throughout time. I think the love letter is a lost art form, and the closest many of us get is a well chosen Hallmark card with certain sentences underlined for emphasis.

There is nothing like a well-worn page, soft with age, filled with words from the heart in your own love's hand. It's so rare and cherished. I remember my dad sitting in the kitchen one Christmas reading a poem he'd written for his wife that just got published. We were all so proud of him and asked for a reading. He read the lines, so beautifully written, and all the women were dissolved in tears by the end of the passage. My dad was shocked and asked why we were crying, after all, it wasn't even written for us. All us responded the same: "We cry because we know we will never have something so beautiful written for us!" I will have to devote a day to my dad's writing and publish some of it here. I'm trying to get him started on his own blog to share his talent and passion with all of us.

I realize I've become the conduit for love letters for couples who struggle for the words or try to make them concrete in their lives. I read the stories sent to me about love and those looking for the right way to celebrate a relationship. Take a look at the modern day love letter...

Would you like to write a love letter of your own? Email me at jsneill@zoominternet.net and we can plan it together.


Happy 4th of July!

Do something uniquely American this weekend, visit the county fair!!! The Big Butler Fair, in this case, and experience things that you have to see to believe. For a mere $7 dollars admission you have some incredible opportunities ahead, like viewing the Amazing Snake Girl, touring a motor home carved inside a fallen California Redwood, watching the Porky Review (pigs dressed up like pin-up girls), or learning to appreciate your God-given body shape after seeing yourself in a funhouse mirror...

Watch the totally unsafe display of a tiny truck atop unnaturally huge tires driving over cars...

See the beauty of cow butts all in a row, and learn to dodge poop covered tails - Bonus!

Introduce your kids to the "birds and the bees" and the "wonder of life" as they watch tiny chicks hatch from eggs...

...and introduce them to the unparalleled softness of a horse's nose...

Learn that pigs like to cuddle just like the rest of us...

And experience the "wonder and awe" as strange "carnies" make a living rollerskating on 6 foot round, elevated platforms...blindfolded!

Voluntarily strap yourself and your children into strange, spinning contraptions that make you all rethink your choice of the fried veggie, funnel cake, ice cream dinner you just ate...

and win a family pet on a $1 game of toss the ping pong ball (my husband tried to refuse the prize, but the game operator and the kids wouldn't hear of it)

Ahhhh, fried dough and french fries never look so beautiful as they do at a county fair at night...

Your Skin Fix, December Edition