October 31, 2021

Happy Halloween!

Jerry and I will be in the "man cave" in the garage tonight watching a scary movie and handing out candy to trick-or-treaters (I love seeing kids in their costumes!) so I am going to skip a "real" post today. 

Let's hope I don't have a ton of leftover full-size candy bars tomorrow--I may have bought too many. We usually only get 5-10 trick-or-treaters (which is why I buy the full-size candy bars--I always loved getting those when I was a kid!) but last year we ran out of candy and had to "borrow" candy from our kids, haha. I bought a large pack from Gordon's for today to make sure we have enough.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

October 30, 2021

RECIPE: Cheesy Chicken Manicotti

I didn't make a heritage recipe this week, but yesterday I was stumped as to what to make for dinner. I had chicken to use but I wasn't in the mood to cook (am I ever?). I ended up making what turned out to be one of the easiest dinners I've ever made (not counting cereal and the like)--but so so good! The kids and Jerry loved it as well. I'm going to be adding this to a regular rotation of our favorites for days when I really don't want to use the stove.

There is very little prep work and no cooking other than placing it in the oven. Noah said it reminded him of lasagna, Eli said an Italian version of enchiladas, and I said it tastes like chicken parmesan. Whatever it is reminiscent of, it tastes really good ;)  (The lighting in my kitchen was terrible, so it looks like I used cheddar or some other orange cheese, but I didn't; I just like the cheese to be pretty brown on top, but the lighting makes it look orange)

Here is a printer-friendly version!

Cheesy Chicken Manicotti

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 box (8 oz) of manicotti shells (there were 14 shells in the box I had)
1 (25-30 oz) jar of good pasta sauce (I say "good" because it's the prominent flavor--so pick a sauce you really like)
8 oz. ricotta cheese
1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
12 oz. shredded Italian blend cheese (or mozzarella)*
1/4 cup parmesan cheese


Don't cook the chicken or manicotti shells. Pour 1/2 cup pasta sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Then add 1/2 cup water to the jar and shake it. Reserve while you prep the manicotti.

Cut the chicken into small bite-sized pieces and combine with the ricotta, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, 4 oz. Italian cheese blend (or mozzarella), and 3 Tbsp. parmesan. Stuff the mixture into the uncooked manicotti shells--you'll really have to pack it in there. After you stuff each one, just place it in the baking dish on top of the pasta sauce. If you have a small amount of leftover chicken mixture, just push it right up next to the opening of the shells as if it fell out. I didn't want to waste any filling! I only had a couple of tablespoons left, so I just put it in the dish.

Pour the pasta sauce+water mixture evenly over the shells. Cover with foil and bake at 350 F for about 55 minutes. Pull out of the oven and remove the foil. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese across the top and bake uncovered for another 5-10 minutes until the cheese is as melted/browned as you like it. Three manicotti each was very filling!

*(I used a full 8 oz bag of cheese to cover the top, but it may have been excessive--I just had to use it up so it didn't go bad. And we like cheese! ;) You could certainly get away with 8 oz. total in the recipe by using less on top.)

October 29, 2021

Friday Night Photos

Last week, I had a LOT of photos to post on Friday, but the opposite is true for today. I thought it would be fun to post Halloween memes, and after spending about an hour and a half looking through Pinterest for them, I discovered that I already did that post last year! Haha. I really need to start checking BEFORE I work on a post. With my blog being a decade old now, I can't remember most of the posts I've written.

My sister is working on a project and asked me to send her a bunch of pictures of the kids. I was going through pictures and some of their old Halloween costumes caught my eye. So, I decided it would be fun to post pictures of my kids' Halloween costumes through the years.

Even though they are 15 and 17, they are still planning to trick-or-treat this year. I don't mind, as long as they wear a costume! I think it's cool to see teens out trick-or-treating--harmless fun.

I have a photo of each of them every year except for 2020! I cannot find a picture of Noah and for the life of me, I cannot remember what he dressed as. But anyway, I'll start in the beginning: this was in 2004, when Noah was just three months old...

Noah in 2005... (I was about six months pregnant with Eli then)

In 2006, Noah was super into Toy Story. I love this Woody costume! And my sister sent Eli this basset hound costume--she's obsessed with basset hounds, so when she saw it, she wanted him to wear it.

In 2007, I bought Noah's spider costume at a garage sale and I borrowed the monkey costume from a friend for Eli. It was super cold, so their costumes were great.

In 2008, I wanted to make their Halloween costumes. My mom used to make mine and the handmade ones are the best! Noah chose to be Batman, and Eli was a puppy dog.

In 2009, I got each of these at a garage sale for $2, and I LOVED them! They were super warm so the kids didn't have to pile on layers and the costumes were super cute. 

That was the last year that I had any influence on what they wanted to dress as, hahaha. The whole point of Halloween is dressing up and getting to be something you're not for a night, so I've never told them what they have to dress as or stopped them from wearing what they'd like. In 2010, they didn't want me to make costumes for them, even though I begged. This is what they chose: Noah was a transformer and Eli was a zombie pirate.

In 2011, again, I just let them choose. Noah was a ghoul (I don't even really know what that is!) and Eli was a ninja. I think Noah's also had a mask, but he didn't want to wear it.

I don't remember what Noah dressed as for 2012, because this is the only picture I have! He'd already changed out of his costume. But Eli dressed as a Detroit Tigers baseball player.

In 2013, you can tell it was a cold day--look at all their layers! Noah was a ghoul again and Eli was a regular zombie this time ;)

This is the only picture I have from 2014, and they'd both changed out of their costumes at this point. If I remember correctly, it was raining, so they were cold and wet and had changed into dry clothes. Eli said he thinks he was a zombie again and Noah doesn't remember what he dressed as.

In 2015, Noah dressed as a doctor and Eli as a fisherman. Noah ended up putting on more layers and a lab coat over it because--once again--it was cold!

In 2016, Noah was Indiana Jones. I loved this costume! I had to look up a picture of Indiana Jones and then I went to Goodwill and Salvation Army and put this together--even the leather jacket, bag, boots, and hat! It looked really close to the picture I had. And it was relatively cheap, considering the quality. As much as I hated Eli's choice, I didn't try to talk him out of it--he was the killer from the movie Happy Death Day. I had taken him to the movies to see it and that's what he wanted to be for Halloween. At least the costume was easy to put together! All black clothes with a hoodie and we just had to buy the mask.

In 2017, Noah wanted to be Michael Myers and Eli was a robber. The robber costume was fun! It reminded me of when I was a kid; a robber was a fairly common costume back then. I just sold the Michael Myers costume a couple of weeks ago on Facebook Marketplace.

In 2018, Eli just wore the same costume as the previous year. For a minute, I got really confused when looking at pictures--Eli looks the same! But then I looked at the details (his shoes, the shirt underneath, and braces on his teeth!). Noah and his girlfriend-at-the-time dressed as 90's aerobic instructors.

And this was last year. Eli dressed as Doc Brown from Back to the Future. He went trick-or-treating with his friend who dressed like Marty McFly. (Fun fact: I've never seen Back to the Future!). I just asked Noah what he dressed as and he said he doesn't have a picture, but he threw together a very-last-minute costume of someone from The Office (something else I've never seen). 

This year, Eli is dressing as a pirate and I'm not sure what Noah chose--he ordered a mask (hopefully it'll arrive tomorrow like it's supposed to!) and he said he has the clothes to go with it. I totally forgot about my Snow White costume that I made to wear this year (I don't have anywhere to wear it to, so it doesn't really matter!). I'm going to have to try it on; I remember there was one part I hadn't finished yet. I think it was the white collar that snaps on. Anyway, I may or may not wear it.

I hope there is good weather on Sunday. I love passing out candy and seeing kids in their costumes! Of course, I'll be missing Mark. He would have been 66 this year. That seems crazy! I always thought he was about 10-15 years younger than he actually was. It wasn't until he died that I learned his actual age (he was never sure when I asked him on his birthdays).

I wrote a post last year that I will just link to here. I won't be writing a post about him this Halloween, because the post last year really says it all!

October 28, 2021

Return to Running Recap : Week 22

Well, like yesterday's weigh-in, this week's running didn't go as I'd hoped either!

It's been 22 weeks since I started running again (that sounds so much less than saying 5 months) and this week, I decided to start doing the MAF80 plan that I wrote. I was getting kind of bored with the 3 miles on the treadmill at 5.0 mph, so I wanted to change things up.

My first run was AWESOME. The schedule was 40 minutes of straight MAF heart rate (my range is 131-141 bpm). When I do the MAF runs, I like to do them outside rather than on the treadmill; it's easier to speed up or slow down as needed.

It was raining, and I love to run in the rain (as long as it's not a total downpour or super cold and windy). I ran as slowly as possible so I wouldn't have to keep checking my heart rate (every time I looked, it was in the mid-130's, which was surprising--it's never that low on the treadmill!). 

This is perfect fall running weather for me!

About two miles in, my knee started bothering me. (Yes, I know--I feel like my body is totally falling apart, and I hate writing about this stuff because it sounds like I'm just whiny and full of excuses.) It was a sharp pain just beneath my knee cap on the lateral side. (It's not the knee that I injured by kneeling on a screwdriver, so it's not related to that.)

I've had this pain a few times before--it's super sharp and it makes my knee get very stiff and hard to straighten my leg. I changed my gait a bit while I was running and I didn't feel the pain when I ran a certain way (fully extending my leg behind me with each step).

When I got home, I walked up the driveway and the pain came back right away. The last time this happened, I was in so much pain I thought for sure I'd torn something in my knee, but I sat down to write my blog post and then when I got up, the pain was totally gone and it didn't come back. I have no idea what happened, but it was there one minute and gone the next. I figured a nerve must have been pinched and then it was released or something.

Anyway, my knee was really stiff and painful. I thought it would be like last time--I would just not think about it for a little bit and then it would be fine. Well, it was still there the next morning. And the morning after that!

The knee pain is gone now, thankfully. However, when I was in the shower, I noticed that my left foot was totally numb on top. It didn't hurt at all, but I didn't have any sensation on the top of my foot. 

I started to feel a little panicky. Of course, I googled what the problem could be, and it never occurred to me that the knee pain could have caused the numb foot until I read about peroneal nerve entrapment. Interestingly, the peroneal nerve is in the exact spot I was feeling the pain in my knee; and it also causes the top of the foot to become numb. If that's what's wrong, it's super mild because I don't have the more severe symptoms.

Something that really interested me was that the peroneal nerve could become damaged by several different things, and one of them was a fracture to the fibula. I had a stress fracture in my fibula in 2014-2015; there is still a bump where the fracture was (probably scar tissue, I'm assuming). I remember feeling the numbness in my foot shortly before my 10K in 2016. I wasn't worried about it then, but I thought it was weird. It may not be related at all, but like I said, it stuck out to me. So I'm wondering if I somehow damaged that nerve (mildly) when I had the stress fracture and now it's just irritated.

I did a LOT of kneeling and squatting and stuff like that this past week while I was working on fixing the door, so that could have triggered the knee issue as well. 

Okay, enough of that! I'm tired of thinking of all the ways my body hurts, hahaha. Since the knee pain is gone, I'm going to try to do the full first week of the running plan this week. Hopefully my knee won't be an issue since I'm done working on the door.

I had such a great first run that I was actually really excited to do the second one. I realized just how much I miss my MAF easy runs. When I first started doing them, it was like I finally understood why people enjoy running!

My pace was slower than it is on the treadmill, but I was also making sure to keep my heart rate under 141 bpm. When I run on the treadmill, it's always higher than that, so it would make sense that I would have to run slower for the duration.

I just ran as slowly as possible from the very beginning because I knew that the longer I ran, the more likely my heart rate would go over my MAF rate. I was pleasantly surprised at the end of the run when I saw that my average heart rate was 138 bpm (my MAF range is 131-141 bpm) and my maximum heart rate was 142. So there were a couple of times that my heart rate hit 142, but I slowed down again. That's the lowest average and maximum heart rate I've had while running in a VERY long time.

When I was done, I wasn't out of breath or red faced and sweaty. I felt SO good. I hope this upcoming week feels just like that!

October 27, 2021

Wednesday Weigh-In : Week 22

Holy cow, 22 weeks already?!

If you ever wonder why I pose so awkwardly in my mirror selfies, it's this: I am trying to maneuver my arm to hide the toilet paper holder on the wall behind me, hahaha. I just don't want toilet paper (or the toilet) in my photos, so I use my upper arm to hide it.

Anyway, this picture was before my first run this week. I actually wore running tights and long sleeves because it was pretty cold! 

This past week has been ridiculous. I was really excited last week when I thought I could see the 150's today (spoiler: I didn't). However, I wasn't at all surprised to see that the scale barely budged. There were two days where I didn't give a single thought about calories and I ate comfort food like I needed, well, comfort.

I was so frustrated with the exterior door I'd taken apart (in order to "fix" it) and everything was going wrong. I would spend hours working on it each day only to find out that something else was wrong. (I *should* have just done the whole new door jamb from scratch--but instead, I thought it would save time and headache if I bought a jamb kit. I was completely wrong!)

After each day that I wasn't able to fix it (I think it was four days in a row?), I had to rehang the old door jamb and try again the next day. But it left me feeling totally defeated. At first I was mad and wanted to throw the whole thing in the fire pit (before I was medicated, I probably would have! Hahaha); after that, I just felt exhausted.

Sometimes, my chronic insomnia comes in handy; it was thanks to not being able to sleep that I *finally* fixed the damn door! I was lying in bed, trying to fall asleep, and started going over the door jamb stuff in my head. I was thinking about the measurements and the pieces and how to alter them to work, etc, and it finally hit me what I could do. (I'll spare you the boring details.)

The next morning (yesterday) I went out to the garage and tried out my idea--and it worked! I was able to hang the new jamb, spray some insulation, install the strike plates, and FINALLY--hang the door and have it work well. Better than before! I still have to hang the interior and exterior trim, but I'm just really happy that our door is functional.

I thought for sure I would see a gain on the scale this week after eating a LOT of calories for two days in a row. I was pleasantly surprised, then, when I saw that I actually lost weight (barely anything, but it's better than a gain!).

I was at 160.6 today, which is down just 0.4 from last week's 161.0. I'm down 36.4 pounds since 22 weeks ago.

I joined a four-week DietBet three weeks ago, so having a bad week means I have to be extra diligent this week. I'm so close to the 150's--I was hoping to be there before Halloween, so it could still happen ;)

October 26, 2021

A Different Kind of Transformation : A Guest Post

It doesn't feel right calling this a "Transformation Tuesday" post, although the email I received from a reader named Amy started out that way. Amy is self-admittedly "obsessed with pumpkins" and she has shared Transformation Tuesday photos before of the pumpkins she and her husband, Phil, planted. I'm not talking about just a few pumpkins, either--they literally grew hundreds!

I couldn't view the photos on Amy's email, so I asked her to try sending them a different way. The response I got was like a punch in the stomach--it totally took my breath away. I told her I would hold off on posting until she wanted to share (if she still wanted to). She wrote this beautiful post to share here...

My Transformation Tuesday started out being about pumpkins; a pumpkin quilt I’d recently made, and the hundreds of pumpkins my husband Phil and I grew together this past summer.  When I first submitted it for Katie’s consideration on September 14th, I had no idea how much my life was about to transform in a shocking and tragic way.

On September 15th, Phil was on his way home from an overnight bike camping trip in the mountains with a friend. They were going downhill at about 25mph when he hit a patch of gravel or sand in the road and lost control of his bicycle. He struck a guard rail and was killed. Ambulance services were able to revive him and get a heartbeat for a time, but it didn’t last.

There are many things about that day I’ll never forget. I was brushing my teeth when I got the call and had to spit to answer the phone. At that point they had a heartbeat and told me to head to the hospital, but I had no idea what I was walking into. In the car on the way there, the worst place my mind went was to a head injury or even paralysis. I was contemplating whether it would be possible to renovate our home to accommodate a wheelchair ramp.

At the hospital they led me into a room near the ER, but no one was rushing around and I found it eerily quiet. This is when I began to get a very bad feeling. The doctor came in and started explaining a whole timeline of things – first this happened and we tried that, but got no response. Then they transported him from there to here in the air ambulance, and there was no response. Then he got here and we tried this other thing, and there was still no response.

The more he talked, the more heavy my breathing became. I was wearing a mask – one I’d sewn, with pumpkins on it of course – and I could see it puffing in and out, faster and faster with every breath. Finally I cut him off and just blurted, “Is he gone?!”

“Yes, he’s gone”, the doctor said.

In the days and weeks since, a lot has happened. First I had to call his parents, the two worst phone calls of my life. Later that day I had to make decisions and answer questions about organ and tissue donation. I had to decide about cremation services and first refuse and then embrace the idea of some kind of memorial service.

I buried myself in plans for a celebration of life that I held at our home in Colorado, which took place on October 10th. There were pumpkins everywhere, hundreds of the ones we’d grown together spread all over the tables, tent, deck, porch, and even inside the house. Seventy-five people came from across the country to honor and remember Phil.

The day was a blur for me, made all the more strange by how closely it resembled our wedding. A tent, outdoors, on a golden Fall day. Speeches by beloved friends and family. A craft cocktail bar. Music. I sent pumpkins home with everyone.

There is a tradition in the cycling community that when a cyclist dies or is killed on the road, friends and family often place a “ghost bike” in their memory. A ghost bike is a stripped-down bicycle painted white, often left near the scene of an accident as a remembrance of the person who is gone.

Phil’s Dad and friends placed in ghost bike a in late September, but I couldn’t go. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to handle seeing it. However, I did send a pumpkin there with a dear friend on the day of the memorial, a small white one that was Phil’s favorite.

It is difficult to contemplate the scope of just how much Phil’s death has and will continue to transform my life; not just my daily life now, but the ideas and plans I had about what the rest of my life would look like. No marriage is perfect but we were really damn lucky; we were best friends and partners and I truly feel like half of me is gone. It is all I can do to get through one day at a time.

I do not know much about what the future will hold, but I know a few things. I will stay here in Colorado, in this home we chose and were happy in. I will eventually spread his ashes somewhere in the mountains, in a beautiful and peaceful spot with a nice view. And next Spring, I will plant pumpkins.

October 24, 2021


With Halloween approaching, I saw this recipe for popcorn balls in the heritage cookbook and immediately knew I had to make it.

Maybe popcorn balls aren't a common Halloween thing, but every year when my dad took my younger brother and I trick-or-treating, my mom would remind us before we left to ask at a particular house a couple of streets over if they had any popcorn balls. My mom loved the popcorn balls and it was something she only got to have once a year.

Nathan and me, Halloween 1988

As a young kid, I didn't understand what the big deal was--after all, there were pounds of candy to be eaten!--but the couple of times I had a homemade popcorn ball as an adult, I got it. They are SO good!

I had no idea that they have just as much (if not more) sugar than candy. You all know how much I love sweets, but even I was shocked at the sugar content in this recipe. But hey, maybe make them once a year for Halloween...? I would actually choose these over candy any day.

They are nothing like store-bought popcorn balls--those ones are very dry and crunchy. These are softer and a little gooey. It reminds me of the difference between homemade Rice Krispies Treats and store-bought ones--the store-bought ones don't hold a candle to homemade!

This particular recipe is not the recipe of the woman who made the popcorn balls every Halloween, but instead comes from Virginia DeRoest. Virginia is actually the one behind the compilation of the three Rockwood, Michigan Area Historical Society heritage cookbooks that I have. There were five members on the cookbook committee, but from 1990 to 2002, Virginia collected, compiled, and copied recipes for the books.

In 2002, while working on the final book, Virginia suffered a stroke. Sadly, she passed away in late December that year at age 77. I'm so grateful for her hard work on these books--this recipe series has launched a big interest in my own heritage as well as learning about the various citizens of Rockwood, the quaint two-square-mile town where I spent the first 15 years of my life.

As always, my rule for making these heritage recipes is that I can't change anything. Here, I write out the recipe exactly as written in the cookbook and when preparing/cooking/baking, I don't make any substitutions or modifications. If the recipe was special enough for the person to submit it, I want to taste it exactly how they made it. Make sure to read my notes after the recipe for clarifications/interpretations. (The printer-friendly version is rewritten by me with my notes included.)

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe!

Popcorn Balls

2 cups sugar
2 cups syrup
1 T. vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. soda
1 T. hot water
3/4 c. popcorn, popped

Boil sugar, syrup, and vinegar until it spins a thread. Then add soda, vanilla and hot water. Pour mixture over popcorn and shape into balls.

My Notes:

For the syrup, I used light corn syrup. I looked at a few other recipes online and that's what they used, so I'm assuming that's what Virginia was referring to.

I'm sure people know this, but the popcorn measures 3/4 cup BEFORE being popped.

To avoid adding anything to the kernels while popping, I used an air popper. If you don't have an air popper, here is a post from Amy's Healthy Baking that describes how to air pop the kernels in a non-stick pot on the stove. (Basically, you heat the--non-stick!--pot, covered with the lid, over med-high for two minutes. Then you know it's ready. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the kernels, and replace the lid. Shake the pot almost constantly until there are at least three seconds between pops. Remove from heat and immediately pour into a large bowl.)

Tip: This didn't occur to me until I was cooking the syrup, but I realized that the unpopped kernels in the bowl would end up getting mixed in--and I definitely didn't want them in there, causing me to break a tooth while eating a popcorn ball! So, I shook the bowl of popcorn, allowing the unpopped kernels to fall to the bottom. Then I gently scooped all the popcorn out by hand and put it into a different bowl, making sure to leave the unpopped kernels. Then I dumped those in the trash before putting all the popcorn back in the big mixing bowl.

I had to do some research into the "spins a thread" part. I knew this was a term in candy-making, but making candy has always intimidated me because of this part. Here is what I learned:

The "spins a thread" stage (called the "thread stage") occurs when the syrup has reached 223 F-235 F. It is highly recommended to use a candy thermometer, but if you don't have one, you can test it by  dropping a spoonful of the syrup into very cold water. If it forms thin threads like a spiderweb, it is at the thread stage. If it remains liquid, it needs to cook longer. If it forms a ball, it's been cooked too long. 

The thread stage is the lowest temperature stage of candy-making. It needs to be a thick syrup for this recipe. I didn't have a candy thermometer, but I used a laser thermometer that I've found to be pretty accurate for other recipes (like making jam or even just boiling water).

This is what the syrup looked like while it was cooking:

Once it reaches the correct temperature, you add the baking soda mixture and it will immediately get fizzy (the vinegar and baking soda reacting). This is how it looked before pouring it into the popcorn:

After pouring the syrup into the popcorn, it will be WAY too hot to form the popcorn balls (ask me how I know). Just keep stirring it until it cools enough to handle.

Tip: The popcorn will be super sticky when trying to form balls, so I sprayed my hands with cooking spray after forming every two balls.

I lined a baking sheet with wax paper and then after forming the popcorn balls, I just put them on the wax paper to finish cooling. If they don't stick together well, they need to cool more.

A couple of changes I would make for next time:

1) Add salt. When I saw that there was no salt in this recipe, I was surprised--the salty popcorn and sweet candy go so well together! Next time, I'd probably add 1/4-1/2 tsp. salt.

2) I would pop at least 1 full cup of kernels rather than 3/4 cup. There was still quite a bit of syrup left in the bowl after forming the popcorn balls, and a few of the balls toward the end were a little too gooey--I love the gooey ones, but if they are TOO gooey, they don't hold together well.

3) I would make smaller balls--probably golfball size. The ones I made were about as big as my fist (I got 16 of them total) but they were super rich and I think a smaller one would have been just as satisfying!

October 23, 2021

One of Those Days

I am in a REALLY bad mood today. It feels like one of those "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" days. I've been trying to fix our side exterior door and it has turned into the biggest nightmare ever. I've taken the door off and removed the entire jamb at least four times now, trying to install a new jamb. I've run into problem after problem after problem and nothing is going my way. Then, because we can't go without a door, I have to remove the new jamb I'm trying to install and put the old one back together... only to try again the next day.

I'm ready to quit. I learned how to do SO much handy work when I was remodeling the house, and I thought the exterior door jamb would be a piece of cake. I couldn't have been more mistaken. I really don't want to have to buy a pre-hung door (they're crazy expensive) but I feel like I have no choice at this point. 

I'm not even going to bother writing anything else today because it will just be super whiny. I just feel really frustrated and defeated. Now I've got to spend the evening watching more YouTube videos to figure this out!

October 22, 2021

Friday Night Photos

I almost always write my blog posts in the evenings, but I'd really like to start writing them earlier. Yesterday, I finished it in the afternoon and then in the evening, I was free to go out to the garage and work on the door jamb nightmare and another project. I used to love spending time out there in the evenings, when it was dark outside.

My blog posts take more time than you might expect; I typically spend anywhere from 2-6 hours (an average of 3-4, I would guess). Some of my big posts (that require a lot of linking and/or research) have taken roughly 40 hours! (Obviously done in smaller portions.) So I usually start writing at around 6:00 PM and then I'm finished at around the time I *should* be going to bed. I like to read, play Best Fiends, or watch a show though before going to bed.

Anyway, it's actually 7:00 AM right now and I'm getting my Friday Night Photos done early. Jerry is off work tonight, and if I can talk the kids into it, I'd like to have a family game night (or possibly go to the pumpkin patch/apple orchard!).

Once in a while, Jerry surprises me with a little gift from my Amazon Wish List. I was excited when I opened these a few days ago! They are super comfy slippers--and you know I love anything with squirrels.

Speaking of squirrels, this is so random but funny. My parents came over a few days ago and said they had something for us and to come out to the truck to get it. I was sure it was going to be a truckload of landscaping bricks that they were getting rid of (and planned to give to us). My dad was acting kind of funny, so I figured he was trying to make it sound like a fun surprise gift only for us to see the literal TON of bricks to transfer.

Well, it wasn't bricks, but it was close--a rock. A huge rock. And check this out--it has a squirrel carving in it!! I love it. I didn't get a straight answer of where it came from (I'm sure it was probably a garage sale or something like that). My dad said he spent back-breaking hours carving it out by hand, hahaha. But it inspired me to want to get our stupid landscaping done.

I (clearly) also need to stain our front stoop. I had to wait until the wood dried, but it should be good now. I looked at stain yesterday at Lowe's and I was overwhelmed. I've only stained a couple of things before--but nothing like a stoop/deck!

Ugh, which brings me to our landscaping. It's horribly embarrassing to even post this photo. We did end up getting the bricks from my parents' house--they each weigh 50 pounds and we moved a LOT of them. It took two trips with my dad's truck. Now, they are just waiting to be placed along the little sidewalk.

First, though, I need to get rid of the weeds (this will have to be done by pulling them out--we've killed them chemically several times, but they just come back). Then we have to dig a shallow trench, put some gravel down to set the bricks on and stack them (two high) along the sidewalk. Then we need to finally plant some landscaping.

Question: What is the easiest upkeep for landscaping? Should we do mulch or gravel or something else? Should we put down that black felt-like stuff that keeps weeds from growing through? What should I plant that is SUPER easy to take care of? (Basically, zero upkeep--I hate gardening of any sort.) Any tips would be appreciated!

How awesome are these socks?! I saw them on Instagram and wanted them immediately. They have a whole pack of Sesame Street characters (I've always loved the Sesame Street characters--particularly Cookie Monster (of course--very appropriate), Oscar the Grouch, Grover, and Elmo.) The whole collection is insanely expensive, but I *might* end up buying this pair. They're still a lot more than I would like to spend on a pair of novelty socks ($16 + shipping).

For those of you that have tried Bombas socks, are they worth it? Do they last a long time? Comfy? I have huge calves, so will the design look ridiculous? As you know, I'm partial to Balega socks (which I think are expensive enough, but they are only half as much as these). Just curious if you think they're worth it.

On Transformation Tuesday, I posted a reader's picture of her "before and after" cord clean-up/organization and I mentioned that I'm pretty sure every adult has a mess of cords that they keep around "just in case". I saw this meme and it's perfect! (Except my cords wouldn't fit in that drawer--I'd need like three more.)

As a thank you for helping my mom out with hanging the decal on her wall, she bought me these dishes from a consignment shop--aren't they PERFECT for my kitchen? The orange and blue matches so well! The shop had a huge set of all different kinds and my mom sent me a picture to see if I wanted to buy any, but they were pretty expensive (well, VERY expensive) so I declined. But they were marked down a few days later, so my mom bought me these pieces. I love them! I just need to figure out what to do with them so that they are on display.

(By the way, my mom contacted the Etsy seller about the misspelling of one of the words on the decal, and the seller sent her the word with the correct spelling; so I went back over there and changed it out for her. The misspelling would have bothered her every time she looked at it, so I'm glad we were able to fix it.)

When I went to Emily's on Monday, I got to meet her nine-month old son, Dexter (Dex)! He was SO STINKIN' CUTE. I usually make babies cry (not on purpose, obviously--I don't know what it is about me, but they cry when I hold them). Dex just smiled and smiled at me (and of course he stopped smiling for the photo--I was hoping to get him to make a Jerry-face). I love the way they chose Dexter's name: his dad is from Dexter, Michigan, and Emily is from St. Joseph, Michigan, so they named him Dexter Joseph. Cute, right?!

This thing drove me CRAZY until I finally just said forget it and took it apart. I was making an extension for my table saw so I could cut wider cross cuts on it. I had to route a slot (where the arrow is pointing) but it had to be the PERFECT width and depth--down to 0.002 of an inch (or probably even less).

If it's even the tiniest bit too wide, it will produce sloppy cuts. If it's too narrow, I won't be able to fit the miter sled in there (there are runners on the bottom that have to fit in the slots without any wiggle room). I spent SO much time working on this and making a jig to get the perfect slots, but I ended up missing it by the smallest fraction and it was too big. So frustrating! Maybe I'll try again someday.

This made me laugh because I get SO annoyed trying to come up with new passwords that: 1) I can remember; 2) that fit all of the requirements; and 3) I've never used before. 

Jerry sent me this and I nearly died. It was so funny and so sad at the same time! Hahaha.

I swept up the garage after working on a couple of projects and holy cow--this was all of the saw dust. That's a larger-than-average wheelbarrow, too. I really need a good dust collection system, but for now, I just let it go wherever and then I sweep it up. It makes great kindling for a fire, but we don't have fires nearly as often as we'd need to in order to burn all this!

This is my new favorite evening snack. Toast with butter and peanut butter. It sounded so gross to me, the combination of butter and peanut butter, but Jerry kept insisting that it was really good. Well, he was right! It's a lot of calories (about 500) but because I don't eat much until dinner, it works out well. 

I got all four cats in one photo. Top to bottom: Chick, Duck, Estelle, and Phoebe.

This photo is as rare as a real, live unicorn: Estelle and Phoebe both sleeping on my lap at the same time. They are both "loner" cats and choose not to be near each other. But when they both want the prime real estate (a.k.a. my warm lap with a cozy blanket) they will swallow their pride and put up with each other. ;)

And that's all I have! That was kind of a lot for a Friday Night (morning). Now, I'm off to work on the side door and hope that I can get it done today. I'll explain it when I get it finished.

Have a great weekend! xo

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