A Message By the Late Great George Carlin...

A Message by George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete...

Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, 'I love you' to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.


Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

George Carlin


Stuffed Strawberries

Just in time for all the Labor Day festivities, I wanted to share my favorite summer party recipe. I bring it to almost every party I attend in the summer and as long as I can get good berries.

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

1 1/2 quarts fresh strawberries
8 oz block cream cheese (non-fat is okay, but I'm personally against low fat desserts)
1 cup marshmallow fluff
cinnamon graham crackers
vanilla or almond extract (optional)

Step 1
Cut the end from the strawberry, so it will stand on a plate, and remove the top. Angle your knife to create a hole for the filling.

Step 2
Mix together the filling, softened cream cheese and marshmallow fluff, a few drops of vanilla or almond extract will jazz it up, if you desire.

Step 3
Pipe the filling into your strawberries (I use my Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator)

Step 3
Crumble the graham crackers in a ziplock bag and sprinkle over the top of the filling and around the plate for garnish. Cut slivers from the ends of the strawberries to garnish the filling as well.

This filling can also be placed in a dish and used as fruit dip if you don't have time, just remember the half and half ratio of fluff to cream cheese and you're good to go.


Did I Mention I've Joined a Cult?

I did, and I'm not sure how it happened. I guess that's always the way it goes with these things...

It seemed perfectly innocent at first (isn't that what they always say?). Then I realized that this group (the F. M. Clan United) began to take over my life in many little ways... the way I dressed (we're all to wear specific colors with the clan logo), my behavior (shouting and waving my arms around on a daily basis), even when I ate (early dinners and late night snacks only).

They have begun to monopolize enormous amounts of each day and they welcomed me into the fold only to get something from me (money and volunteering are high on the list, especially jobs involving feeding other clan members). I think about them all the time, have little chants they taught me running through my head (I think those are called earworms), I even tolerate the abuse and torture tactics they instill to get me to conform (sitting in the hot sun for many hours at a time without going to the bathroom, eating out of coolers, screaming deliriously at random times, wearing strange badges announcing my clan).

I'm writing this to educate other moms that may find themselves faced with the same group, back away now! Be a stronger woman than I!

The cult I'm referring to is the Pittsburgh chapter of Football Moms, they are a mind sucking, obsessed group that is not to be toyed with! They will take away your time, your life, your will to live. Take this as a warning...


He's Gone...

Those were the words I kept repeating to myself this morning as I watched my Helper Munchkin walk away from me with the rest of his Kindergarten class this morning. I was left with a sense of loss, relief, emptiness, pride, and a blurry picture of my guy following in a line to his first classroom. My vision of him was blurry to me because my eyes were filled with tears, how appropriate that the photo I took came out the same way.

I go through this transition each fall as my full time kids become my part time kids, and teachers get more quality time that I. I struggle with embracing my new identity as "Jen" again, as motherhood is placed on the back burner for 8 hours per day. I feel lost for the first few weeks trying to remember what I like to do, eat, read... Wondering if my boys are missing me as much as I miss them and guilty that we didn't do everything we planned during the long summer.

I worry that the pressure will get to them, that they're not eating a good lunch, that they are getting bullied (or bully-ing). Who will tell them to put on a sweatshirt, notice if they're sick, give them a hug? How can I stop being a mother when that's what I DO? I even write "Mom" in the space that asks my occupation on forms I have to fill out!

I have shed a lot of tears this week in preparation, watching a tv show, listening to a song, just watching my kids play...I know I'm not alone and take comfort from the fact that they are strong individuals who are able to make their own way without me. In one respect, it's a job well done that is breaking my heart. I feel like this song (yes, it's ABBA, just deal!) says it all:

Slipping Through My Fingers

Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile
I watch her go with a surge of that well-known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while
The feeling that I’m losing her forever
And without really entering her world
I’m glad whenever I can share her laughter
That funny little girl

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see what’s in her mind
Each time I think I’m close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

Sleep in our eyes, her and me at the breakfast table
Barely awake, I let precious time go by
Then when she’s gone there’s that odd melancholy feeling
And a sense of guilt I can’t deny
What happened to the wonderful adventures
The places I had planned for us to go
(slipping through my fingers all the time)
Well, some of that we did but most we didn’t
And why I just don’t know

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see what’s in her mind
Each time I think I’m close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
And save it from the funny tricks of time
Slipping through my fingers...

Slipping through my fingers all the time

Schoolbag in hand she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile...


Ha, Ha, Very Funny

I just realized I never talked about the latest neighborhood prank that awaited me after my beach vacation! We pulled into the driveway to see our whole house decorated for Halloween, complete with spiderwebs on the bushes and a grim reaper on the front door and THIS:

Now, I don't have to tell you what a blow this was, being in the later half of my 30's. I've been clinging to my final 4 years and preparing for the inevitable...the big 4 - 0, and in one fell swoop my whole neighborhood thinks I'm now 40!!! Now, this sign is 4x8 feet and right on the side of the road so I had kids and neighbors coming up to me for the next week wishing me happy birthday and saying I don't look 40. It was brilliant and if I was a different person I might admit defeat, but it just fuels me to find something more evil!


Summertime, Cotton Candy, Potato Patch Fries, Lemonade...Kennywood!!!

Kennywood Park is a summertime Pittsburgh staple. The quintessential old fashioned amusement park figures into the summer routine of nearly every Pittsburgher. Lifetime residents love Kennywood fervently and follow their own routine religiously! Ours always begins and ends with the Kangaroo, followed by the Jack Rabbit (twice), measure up for the Racers (hmmm, too short), wait in the loooong line for Noah's Ark, jump on the Pirate Ship (twice) and circle around ending with Lost Kennywood to get splashed by the Pittsburgh Plunge.Make stop to the Potato Patch in the middle and finish with a square ice cream cone covered in nuts and topped with a cherry and get out of dodge with a ride on the ski chair lift to the upper parking lot. Ideally, this routine takes place between the hours of 11 am to 11 pm (no lie, a trip to Kennywood is a 10-12 hour affair!)

My husband walks through the park telling stories of school and family trips in his childhood (he was always allowed to wear his new school shoes for the first time on Kennywood day) and is always filled with reminiscence. Folks newer to town, like me, grow to love it just as much in their own way and are eager to create their own family memories. Come on along to Kennywood...

If your trip ends in your driveway like this, you've done it right!


On The Flip Side...

If, however, you aren't involved in the for mentioned wedding crush...or been there done that...Then this one's for you. A bedtime story with a real happy ending to lull you to sleep at night, thanks to thetreatgirl


Once upon a time, a guy asked a girl 'Will you marry me?' The girl said: 'NO!' And the girl lived happily ever after and went shopping, dancing, camping, drank martinis, ate chocolate, always had a clean house, never had to cook, did whatever the hell she wanted, never argued, didn't get fat, traveled more, had many lovers, didn't save money, and had all the hot water to herself. She went to the theater, never watched sports, never wore friggin' lacy lingerie that went up her ass, had high self esteem, never cried or yelled, felt and looked fabulous in sweat pants and was pleasant all the time.

I do...

The wedding season continues hot and heavy here at Hope Studios. My Heartsongs Memory Frames are experiencing a crush that hasn't let up all summer. Whoever coined the phrase "June bride" was soooo out of it.

I'm currently running about 4 weeks to turnaround, but if you have a fall wedding coming up, consider one of these handmade frames with custom quotes hand painted just for you, like the ones you see here:

When you give it, you will see a smile like this:

(thanks for the photo from my good friend and customer, M!!)
Check out my online shop here for more details.


Kickboxers Unite!

I had to sneak a photo through the kitchen window, but here was my back yard this week! Our YMCA closed for yearly maintenance and all the classes were canceled. The instructors generously agreed to continue classes outside for the week, and I volunteered my yard.

The girls showed up for 9 o'clock class, kids in tow, and we stomped around on the grass a bit and threw some punches and kicks. We kept the painters entertained to the point that they stopped complaining about the girly pop music they had to listen to for an hour. One of the moms even brought along slave labor babysitters (her teens) and we were able to be "workin' on my fitness" (in the words of Fergie) all week without interruption.

I'm sure my neighbors have ceased to be amazed by the antics in my back yard by now. I can hear it now... "What in the world is going on???" "Oh, it's just Jen."


I recently made a Memory Plaque for an online company (called CCC Gifts)to add to their Gotcha Day line of gift items. Ever heard of it???

"Gotcha Day" is the day that adoptive families bring home their new child! I'd never heard of that terminology, but imagine the celebration every year as your Gotcha Day rolls around and you get the opportunity to celebrate yourselves as a family. I think it's a beautiful concept, and I'm so happy the owner contacted me for a contribution.

Pictured here is my personalized addition to her shop:

Bamboo Shoot, cont...

After a week of my house being torn apart and random painters wandering around, we finally have the finished product!!! We chose Anjou Pear for the kitchen, Lanyard for the entryway, and Bamboo Shoot for the family room (my favorite). Sherwin Williams paint color names are the best!!!


Bamboo Shoot

I'm saying goodbye to the Tawny Mushroom paint we've lived with for the past 6 years. We used it in our old house and in this new house but it's time to move on and liven the joint up a bit with some Bamboo Shoot. I think my black entertainment unit will really pop against this color! Photos soon!


Summer Read

Do you like a nice light read to pick up now and then in the summer? Um...maybe you should skip reading today...
As corny as it sounds, I watched an Oprah special in the spring about Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth and, as usual, she made it irresistible to me. When I listen to someone talking about a book I become obsessed and must have it. I think about it until I read it and then do so voraciously. I actually try not to read because I'm too obsessive and nothing else gets done around here (I'm talking, no lunch, no laundry, no cleaning, just read, read, read!) It's my drug of choice.

I started Pillars the week we left for our camping trip and had it in my hand at all times. I carried it in my backpack during all those hikes I talked about, I packed it in a big ziplock during the canoe trip. I even set it next to the stove while I cooked. It's like crack to me.

Well, I finished all 973 pages in 7 days and was entranced the entire time. It has everything I look for in a book, murder, intrigue, unrequited love...I found it fascinating to read about everyday life in 12th century England and the process of building a wonderful cathedral. I was amazed at the corruption of the church and the lack of separation of church and state. The lives of nobility was as interesting as the lives of the peasants. I didn't want it to end, but alas, too soon it was over. I thought about it and mentioned it in conversation often and really, really cherished that book.

While visiting my mom this summer, I talked about it with my step-father and he told me it sounded like a book he'd loaned my husband to read over Christmas. Could it be?!? I went home and searched and lo and behold, I found World Without End part II set 200 years later!!! I couldn't believe my luck...Hubby, not so thrilled...

Same thing, only this time I obsessed at the beach and read everyday until my butt went numb. I turned page after page (1014 of them to be exact) and was just as drawn in as the first time. I can't say enough about these books, I love them more than any other 2000 pages I've ever read before. I wonder if there is part III hiding out there someplace?


My Favorite Beach Photos

Continuing on the theme of my beach vacation, I wanted to show you my favorite shots from this trip. Most of them are accidental treasures I stumbled upon, the shots I try to set up and compose never work out. It's better to be a fly on the wall, camera in hand...
I asked my boys to climb up to the top of this sandy dune for a photo, but the trip up appealed to me more than the portrait.

This photo was to be of a huge, old, limping seagull on the beach way south of our beach. As I approached it and snapped, it took off and my son walked into the frame. Quite by accident, I got a photo with balance and heart.

As always, I love to photograph from behind and capture the real moments of family interaction.

Walking off the beach one afternoon I spotted these two bikes together like this. I thought the way they were leaning and the blue and pink suggested a couple on a beach vacation together...a little beach bike love...


Vacation, continued...

Top 10 reasons Avalon/Stone Harbor New Jersey is my favorite summer vacations spot:

1. The waves are mild enough for my 5 year old yet still fun for my 9 year old. There are no drop-offs so even toddlers can play in the surf!

2. The sand bar that magically appears at low tide every day. The kids venture out much further than seems possible and stand ankle deep. It's an adventure every day!

3. The nice, clean beach that is groomed daily by a giant man (he's got to be 350 lbs) in a tractor who eats and waves to the kids each morning.

4. The great selection of fresh seafood shops that sell everything from black bass to blue crabs for you to enjoy at home.

5. Beautiful bay views from our windows, yet a short walk to the beach.

6. Shopping on 96th street - it's a nightly adventure to gather on the street and poke into all the shops. The teens ride their bikes or skateboards and go to movies or play guitar on a bench.

7. Mini-golf on the roof tops. My kids will never tire of climbing those skinny stairs to the top of the roof to play a game of golf. They won 3 free games this year!

8. Springer's homemade ice cream is an annual tradition, though you couldn't pay me to stand in that long line on a friday night. We like to go in the afternoons or switch it up for Kohr Bros. custard when there is a line.

9. The new bike lanes they painted on the street. Now, the whole family can ride from the tip of Stone Harbor to the end of Avalon in their own lane!

10. The short drive to Wildwood Crest for the boardwalk

and Cape May for the Lighthouse.

We have photos of our kids in both places for the last 8 years and compare how they've grown as we stand at the top viewing platform of the lighthouse for photos.

In addition to great weather, warm water, great friends, and cold beer these top ten reasons will have me coming back year after year.


Home From My Beach Vacation

I'm home from my sunning, swimming, sand castle building, ice cream eating, Corona drinking, boogie boarding, floating, people watching, sand eating, sea gull chasing, board walking, late sleeping, book reading, picture taking, walk taking, sun burning, playing, funning super-duper Avalon, New Jersey Beach vacation. There's no place like home...but it's easy to forget when you've had the perfect week at the beach. More to follow this week.


Something new

Look at my newest custom Heartsongs Frame! I just love the quote and my customer asked me to come up with a cohesive font for her color choice of teal and brown. I imagined the magic and mystery the world holds for a child and came up with this. I really love it.

Your own custom frame can be ordered by emailing me at jsneill@zoominternet.net or by visiting my Etsy shop

How Did This Happen?!?!?!

Somehow, my gentle, sensitive, peace-maker, soccer playing middle son is playing football with his brother...sigh...it's really over isn't it?

After seeing the cool pads and helmet my "Boo" decided football was the sport for him and waged an all out war to get his way. He's usually so amiable, I was caught totally off guard and did the unthinkable - I let him! Look how tiny he is!!! The only consolation in this is that he's playing with (almost) equally tiny boys his age.

Help...I feel myself being sucked in...can't...resist...

Your Skin Fix, December Edition