February 28, 2023

Jerry Loses His Dad Bod: Some "before and after" photos

I think this was 2009 versus 2013

I'm going to do this a little differently today, at Jerry's request. He's had a rough morning! He had a doctor's appointment at 11:20; the doctor isn't there in the afternoons, which is rough when you work a night shift. So he came home from work, woke up after a few hours, went to his doctor's appointment, came home and slept for a few more. Doing his "Dad Bod" weigh-in wasn't exactly on his mind, which is totally understanding.

Still, though, he had a great week! It was funny a couple of days ago--I'd asked him to make his Beans & Greens, which is one of my favorite comfort foods. I was working on my blog post while he cooked, and it smelled amazing. When we sat down to eat, I took one bite and thought, "Holy salt!"--Jerry made a face and said "Woah, this is really salty."

We both tried to eat it and we managed one bowl, but we didn't even save the leftovers. Bummer! What does this have to do with weigh-in?

Even though I ate really well all day, my weight was up nearly two pounds yesterday morning. And Jerry? His weight was up THREE pounds. We both knew it wasn't from poor eating; it was clearly the amount of salt we'd eaten. (Jerry isn't sure where he went wrong with the salt.)

Instead of posting about Jerry's "dad bod" week, I figured I'd share a little of his past with his weight struggles.

In August 2009, Jerry's weight was 253 pounds. As funny as it, that was MY starting weight, too! Hahaha. It makes sense, considering we pretty much ate all the same things (and I matched or exceeded his portions). (I'm not at all kidding when I say that we would share: a large order of cheese breadsticks with garlic butter dipping sauce, a deep dish pizza with pepperoni and bacon, a six pack of beer, and each of us would have a pint of Ben & Jerry's. Seriously.)

This was how Noah played soccer--the whole game--hahaha.

Jerry didn't start losing weight until until January 1, 2010. I had already been losing weight since August 2009; Jerry saw how good I was doing with it, so he decided to give it a go, too. He likes to say (now) that he "lost weight by default" because he just ate whatever I cooked. He doesn't give himself enough credit, though! He is constantly tempted by food at work when people bring it in to share--and it's not exactly healthy food.

This is when we were both at our goal weights in 2013. My friend Stephanie, who is a great photographer, did an amazing photo session.

This all happened so long ago that it's hard to remember the details. Essentially, though, Jerry started eating the same sort of diet as I did, and the pounds started coming off. And naturally, they came off faster than mine! Don't they always when boys lose weight? So not fair! ;)  He joined Weight Watchers and eventually reached his goal weight there (I believe in 2003--I'll look for the link). He weighed in at 168, which was a total of 85 pounds lost!

An 85-pound difference

For exercise, he started running a little--nothing too serious--and then trained for the Indy Mini half-marathon, which he finished strongly.

Now, over the years, his weight as gone up and down just like mine, only his hasn't been quite as extreme. His lowest weight was 167 pounds (I believe this was in 2013) and his highest (since then) was earlier this year, when he was about 200 (he doesn't remember the exact number).

Considering that the odds are stacked against him, he's done an amazing job keeping off all the weight that he has! He'll get back to his usual post next week!

February 27, 2023

One Year Vegan, Part 2: Tidbits, Staple Ingredients, Positive Changes

This is continued from One Year Vegan, Part 1, where I wrote about things I wish I knew before becoming vegan as well as tips (that would have helped me in the beginning) for vegan-curious or new vegans. (You can find Part 1 here.)

Again, I didn't write this post to try to "covert" people, nor do I guilt trip or write about the ethical issues surrounding using animals for food or products. It's simply about my own experience over the last thirteen months of doing something I never thought I'd do!

Interesting tidbits I've learned:

Vegan and plant-based are not the same thing. When I first became vegan, I used the words "plant-based", because I assumed that was the new term for vegan (I see it everywhere now). A reader actually emailed me and helped me understand the difference. Vegan is to avoid all animal products and animal by-products mainly for ethical reasons, while plant-based is dietary (no meat, dairy, eggs, or honey--the typical things you imagine with a vegan diet). I chose to become vegan for ethical reasons regarding animals, factory farming, and the environmental impact of factory farms.

Cashews are a wonder-nut. I had NO IDEA the magic that happens when you blend cashews and water in a high-powered blender. Depending on the ratio of cashews and water, you can get everything from cashew milk to a thick cashew cream. And it's tasteless! You can add your own flavors to make it sweet or savory, or you can use it to add creaminess to all sorts of things from pasta to soup to vegan cheese.

Cashews + Water + Blender

White sugar is not technically vegan. What?! I was shocked by this. There aren't any animal products IN it, but white sugar is stripped of its color by filtering with animal bone char--so it's more of an ethical issue, rather than a plant-based one. Brown sugar and powdered sugar are usually made from white sugar, so they aren't vegan either. Now I buy raw sugar so that it isn't processed with bone char; and I can make my own brown sugar (vegan sugar + molasses) and powdered sugar (vegan sugar in a high powered blender). 

Aquafaba is the liquid that is left over from a can of chickpeas. And this liquid can be used as an egg replacement! I had never heard of aquafaba, let alone cook/bake with it. You can even sweeten and whip it into a vegan whipped cream. I've only used it a few times (like in a pumpkin pie that turned out amazingly well), but the last time I opened chickpeas, I saved the liquid and poured it into an ice cube tray. Once frozen, I moved them to a freezer bag. Now, when I need an egg substitute, they are waiting in small portions in the freezer.

Vegan does not mean healthy. There are hundreds of vegan junk food products--french fries, non-dairy ice cream, Sour Patch Kids, Oreos, Skittles, and a lot more. It's even possible to be vegan without eating a single fruit or vegetable (not that I'm advocating that!). 

BROWNIES!! These were amazing. Not at all healthy, but very tasty.

Gelatin is in a LOT of items you wouldn't expect. (Gelatin is produced from boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones, usually from cows and pigs.) Even medicinal pill capsules are made with gelatin! There are several items that I guessed were probably vegan but when looking at the ingredients, I could see that there was gelatin in it.

Ingredients I NEVER would have imagined would become staples:

Nutritional Yeast- While the name of it makes it sound disgusting, nutritional yeast is called for in SO many vegan recipes. It doesn't look or taste like the yeast you put in bread or anything. You know the look and texture of fish food flakes? Well, nutritional yeast looks and feels like that, except it's a mustard-yellow color and it tastes nothing like fish food (or at least I don't think so).

I use nutritional yeast in almost all of the seasoning blends I make, pasta dishes, cashew cheese, pretty much anything that typically has cheese in it. When I read about it, people always mention sprinkling it on popcorn and basically using it as a condiment. I literally gagged when I tried eating popcorn this way--it was an ingredient I wasn't at all used to, an ingredient that tastes like nothing I've had before. Once I started adding it to things, I started to recognize the flavor and I'm not at all grossed out by it now. I buy this in bulk on Amazon--it's so much cheaper than the grocery store!

Turmeric- I don't think I'd ever used turmeric in my life until I became vegan. Then it seemed like I was using it all the time (for recipes). I've gone through 3-4 jars of it, so I recently bought a bulk-sized container that I refill my spice jar with. Turmeric is used for yellow color in a lot of vegan recipes.

Cashews- Like I wrote above, cashews are amazing. I buy these from Amazon as well.

Tofu- I can't even describe my obsession with tofu. I was missing out for 40 years! I keep silken tofu on hand in my pantry (I use this for tofu scrambles, desserts, and making seitan). I keep extra-firm tofu in my freezer and always have a couple of packages in my fridge. I use the extra-firm tofu for lots of dishes--but my favorite is to marinate it, then bake for about 45-50 minutes until it's crispy on the outside and kind of meaty on the inside. Then I heat a sauce (making an Asian-style sauce is SO fast and easy in a mason jar) until it thickens, stir in the tofu, and serve it over rice or another grain. I like to add vegetables when making the sauce--usually peppers or broccoli, but I just consider whatever I have to use before it goes bad.

This is so accurate for me. Before I started eating tofu, I saw it as the top picture!

Vital Wheat Gluten- I had never heard of this before, and the name of it makes it sound like it may cause cancer in the future or something, but it's used to make seitan--a faux meat that is actually pretty healthy! AND it's been around for centuries. Despite the "wheat" in its name, it's actually low in carbs (although we all know I don't avoid carbs) and has as much protein as meat. 

Miso Paste- I'd never heard of this before, either, but I use it SO frequently when cooking. It's described as adding a savory umami taste to things. I use it mostly in dishes where cheese is typically found.

Soy Milk- I used to buy almond milk when I was counting calories way back in the day because it was so low in calories compared to cow's milk. However, I decided to try soy milk for a few reasons that I won't get into, but I liked it so much more! It's thicker, like comparing whole cow's milk vs. skim, and possibly a little sweeter? I buy plain, unsweetened Silk brand soy milk and use it everywhere that I would have previously used cow's milk.

Pure Maple Syrup- This one was very surprising to me. Maple syrup is used to sweeten things and I use it everywhere from sauces to desserts. You can't taste the maple--it gets blended with more powerful ingredients--but it sweetens like sugar. I've also discovered that I get bloated when I eat regular sugar, but maple syrup doesn't bother my digestive system at all. Even when recipes call for brown or white sugar, I almost always replace it with maple syrup (since baking is so finicky, I don't substitute anything there; then again, I rarely bake).

Soy Curls- I'd never heard of these until I discovered Plant Power Couple, who raves about them. While a name like "soy curls" sounds like a very processed fake food, they are actually very minimally processed--they are even compliant with a Whole-Food Plant-Based diet. Soy curls are a meat substitute that are made of just whole soybeans that have been cooked, pressed, and dried--soybeans are the only ingredient. I use these anywhere that I would normally use chunks or strips of chicken. My favorite is in a stir-fry. When I get down to the really small bits at the bottom of the bag, I prepare them with barbecue sauce and it reminds me so much of pulled chicken or pork.

Black Salt- This is very common in vegan dishes that are meant to taste like eggs. I use this in tofu scrambles (the seasoning mixture that I make flavors the silken tofu). It absolutely reminds me of eggs--I would never try to fool someone, because it's not *that* similar, but I used to eat scrambled eggs frequently, and I don't miss them at all. A tofu scramble with veggies and toast with vegan butter makes a perfect meal when I'm on my own for dinner.

A few positives I've noticed from becoming vegan:

Lipid Profile: My LDL cholesterol dropped by 57 in eight month, and my HDL increased by 8! High cholesterol runs in my family, and by continuing to eat vegan, I'm hoping to prove that it can be lowered by diet alone.

My chronic fibromyalgia pain is gone. That happened within a few months of eating vegan--probably less than two months. I still keep waiting for it to come back, because it seems too good to be true, but so far, it hasn't flared back up.

When sweetening foods with maple syrup rather than sugar, I don't get bloated and gassy. It must have something to do with the unprocessed, natural maple syrup not being so hard on my body to digest.

I have an overall sense of wellbeing. It's hard to explain, but I just *feel* healthier. Even when I eat a relatively heavy meal, I don't feel gross and tired. I have more energy in general.

I've started really paying attention to the products I buy, and I learn new things all the time. I've switched brands of things like shampoo to a "cruelty free" brand (the product hasn't been tested on animals). I haven't gotten rid of my clothing and household items that have been made with animal products or by-products, because I feel that would be wasteful, but I will no longer buy them. I don't think I'll ever be a total extremist, but I do like to make positive changes wherever I can.

Going from omnivore to vegan made me love cooking again. There are SO many cooking techniques that I'd never heard of, ingredients that were totally unfamiliar, and flavor profiles that I enjoyed but couldn't quite place; I also started using my blender nearly every day, if not twice a day. And there is a vegan version of just about everything you can think of. I don't think I've ever come across a non-vegan food that there wasn't a vegan recipe for. I've used more spices and dried herbs than ever before! Each new recipe I make is an adventure--I haven't felt like that while cooking in at least a decade.

Eating vegan eliminates a LOT of the junk food I used to eat. Namely ice cream! Yes, there is vegan/non-dairy ice cream (and some of them are delicious!) but where I live, good luck finding vegan desserts. If I want something sweet, I generally have to make it myself. Being vegan also eliminates a lot of junk from menus at restaurants. There are definitely unhealthy vegan foods--a lot of them!--but it's nice to have some boundaries now.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you can see that my diet has made HUGE changes over the last year. It's hard believe it myself sometimes! I don't always eat healthy, but my choices are much healthier than they used to be.

This past year (I started a vegan diet on January 30, 2022) has been a huge culinary adventure and learning experience for me--and I hope that I continue to learn and experience more in the upcoming year as well :)

February 26, 2023


When I became vegan a little over a year ago, I started pinning all sorts of vegan recipes to Pinterest. And when I saw this recipe for chocolate cake, it looked SO delicious that I just had to pin it and look for a reason to make it. I stuck it in my recipe binder (yes, I print recipes!) and forgot about it. Occasionally, I would think, "Oh yeah, I need to make that chocolate cake!"

I wanted to have Luke and Riley (my nephew and niece) over, and it was the day before Brian's birthday. I thought they might like to decorate a cake for their dad. Kids that age have a short attention span, so I didn't want to go through the whole process with them of baking a cake, letting it cool, frosting it, and then decorating--I figured I'd get it baked and frosted, then the kids could decorate (the fun part).

Well, this cake almost didn't happen. The first attempt was a (humorous) disaster.

But I'll get to that in a minute. This recipe for "The Best Vegan Chocolate Cake" is from Nora Cooks. (I'll link to it again at the end of the post.) The reviews on it were so good that my hopes were high.

Since I already posted a little about it on Friday Night Photos, I will go ahead and say that this was the BEST chocolate cake I've ever had--vegan or not!

First, the ingredients:

Apple cider vinegar, canola oil, vanilla extract, unsweetened original almond milk, vegan butter, flour, cocoa powder, vegan sugar, powdered sugar, applesauce, baking powder, baking soda, and boiling water (not pictured).

Notes about the ingredients: The vegan butter I used was Earth Balance brand and the sticks are shorter but fatter--they are still 1/2 cup, like other sticks of butter. Also, as you can see, I had to make more powdered sugar (I just put vegan sugar in the blender and blend until it's powdery). I usually use soy milk for everything, but I wanted to stick to the recipe as written, so I bought almond milk for it.

You start the recipe by making vegan buttermilk--combine the almond milk with vinegar and set it aside to curdle. This is what it ended up looking like:

Curdled anything always grosses me out--but I know it's actually common to use it in baking. I set that aside and moved on.

Next, you prep a couple of round cake pans by greasing and adding parchment paper underneath. I had to cut circles out of the parchment. My pans are VERY non-stick because they haven't been used much, so I didn't grease them.

Next, you combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. It doesn't say to use a mixer, but I put them in the mixing bowl for my stand mixer because stirring things by hand flares up my carpal tunnel. It also didn't say to sift anything, but my cocoa powder had lots of clumps so I sifted that into the bowl. I also sifted a little of the flour with the baking powder because the baking power tends to clump as well. 

It said to whisk until combined. I just grabbed a hand whisk rather than swapping out the attachments for the stand mixer--it only takes a few seconds to whisk that.

Then you add the oil, applesauce, vanilla, and the curdled almond milk. This is where my first problem occurred. I had JUST enough vanilla extract for the cake, so I was careful not to spill it when pouring it into the measuring spoon. As I moved the spoon toward the bowl, I dropped the goddamn thing and the vanilla--the last of the vanilla--went everywhere.

So, I had Noah pick up some vanilla on his way home from school. I wanted to make this following the recipe EXACTLY and I couldn't skip the vanilla! Once I had the vanilla, I mixed in the liquid ingredients (not the water yet). It was very thick:

Once that is mixed, you add the boiling water and continue mixing. I had put water in my electric kettle, so I just turned that on while I was mixing the other ingredients.

The recipe says that the batter will be thin, and it definitely was--it looked like I was on the right track.

Then you divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans and bake at 350℉ for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (I always add a tablespoon or so of batter to a cupcake mold, and bake it along with the cake. That way I can taste it without cutting into the cake.)

Here is where the big disaster came in...

I was cleaning up the mess in the kitchen and, naturally, tasted the batter from the mixing bowl. It tasted really bad. I couldn't understand why! I'd followed everything right down to the letter, but it didn't taste sweet at all; so, I looked at the recipe to double check the measurements and everything. It called for 1-3/4 cups of sugar--and I couldn't remember measuring that out. One and 3/4 cups is a measurement I would remember because it's not very common. I looked through my photos and I went over the steps again in my head.

I realized I had forgotten the sugar. Of all things!

I was curious how it would turn out, though, so I finished baking it. When I pulled the cupcake out, it looked really good!

I tasted it and nearly spit it out. It was SO BAD. So, of course, I said to Jerry, "Hey, try a bite of this cake and tell me what you think." I left out the part about no sugar. His face when he took a bite was so funny--and he DID spit it out haha. The cake itself looked kind of odd when it came out--the top was perfectly smooth and the cake was very flat. It's what I always hoped my cakes would look like when pulling from the oven, haha.

I still really wanted to try this cake, so I started from scratch. I won't go through all the pictures again, so just pretend that the batter above had sugar in it.

I really like cake that has been just barely underbaked, so I took it out after 30 minutes. It looked a lot different from the sugarless one!

Next: The frosting!! My favorite. I was glad that the recipe said there is a lot of frosting--enough for a thick layer in the middle and on the top and sides.

To make the frosting, you just add the (softened) vegan butter and the cocoa powder to a mixer.

Mix well. This is what it looked like before adding the powdered sugar:

Then you add half the powdered sugar and half the almond milk--mix well. Add the vanilla, the rest of the sugar, and milk and beat until light and fluffy.

It looked so good! (And of course I tasted it at this point--YUM.)

The hardest part here was waiting for the cake to cool so that I could frost it. Finally, it was time to frost! (I don't have a cake plate, so I just turned a CorningWare tart dish upside down.) The recipe was right--there was a LOT of frosting! I put a thick later on the bottom half before topping it with the second round.

I spread the frosting all over, very thickly, but I still had frosting left over! Noah and Eli were happy to take care of that.

I'm not a baker, so my frosting skills are, well, non-existent. But I figured the kids would be decorating it, so it would be hidden anyway.

After I made the cake, Becky said that Luke was sick. So, the kids didn't end up coming over and I had a whole chocolate cake in my house. I decided to eat one piece, then send the rest with Noah over to my parents' house. It would have beckoned me constantly until it was gone.

Well, one bite and I fell in love. It was PERFECT--slightly underbaked so it was very moist, very chocolatey, and the cake to frosting ratio couldn't have been better. (Well, unless you don't like frosting. In that case, you could easily cut the frosting recipe in half and still have enough for a thin layer all around.)

Jerry and the kids tried it, too. All three of them were in love with this cake as well--even ELI. This is a recipe that I am 99% sure people wouldn't know was vegan unless you tell them. It tastes just like a very moist, chocolatey piece of cake with thick chocolate buttercream frosting. Literally the best chocolate cake I've ever tasted! (I still managed to only eat one piece--a challenge for sure.)

You can find the recipe for "The Best Vegan Chocolate Cake" at Nora Cooks.

February 25, 2023

The Last Time

What a day. I started something this morning that turned into another thing and then another thing, and now it's evening!

It all started when I noticed how dirty the shower was in the boys' bathroom. Noah gave Joey a bath a few days ago and didn't do the greatest job cleaning up afterward--there was dog hair all over the place. That, combined with soap scum in the tub, made me want to clean it.

First, though, I did the grossest (yet most satisfying) house chore there is. Hopefully those of you with long hair will understand this? Pulling hair out of the drain. Hahaha! Does anyone else get satisfaction out of it? I did it once I was able to use my own shower instead of the kids' shower, but I guess I just pulled out what I could easily see. Today, I grabbed a wire with bristles on the end (it's meant for pulling hair out of a drain), stuck it way down there, and a minute later, I couldn't believe what I pulled out.

I would post a picture, but nobody wants to see that. And it's kind of embarrassing how much came out! Hahaha. That was totally satisfying, though.

Instead, I'll post some cute pictures of the kids in the tub when they were little. The water color is weird on a couple of them--it was from these bath tablets that changed the color of the water. The kids loved them!





I miss giving them baths! It reminds me of a poem I read, called "The Last Time" you do things with your kids. You never know when it will be the last time you hold their hand when you cross the street, or the last time you tuck them into bed, or--in this case--give them a bath. There was a last time, but I didn't know it would be the last time. Does that make sense? One day I bathed them and then the next day they started bathing themselves. And you don't realize it until years later when you read a poem like this.

The poem makes me cry every time. Then again, I cry over everything--good and bad. I wasn't planning to post the it, but it's so good. If you're a parent, it's hard to read without getting choked up!

I googled the best way to get rid of soap scum (I think that's what it is... it's SUPER hard to scrub off). A lot of sites suggested vinegar and baking soda, so I mixed some into a paste (a large bowl of it) and then spread it all over the tub and walls. I remember how well the baking soda paste worked on my oven (seriously... remember that?!) so I hoped I'd get good results with it in the tub.

While I was letting that sit, I noticed that the molding on the floor by the corner of the tub looked kind of puffy, like it had been soaking up water. I nearly had a heart attack, considering all of what I just went through with my bathroom. I decided to pull the molding off, hope that the wall and floor were undamaged by water, and then replace the molding with some I had in the garage (leftover from my bedroom/bathroom).

When I pulled the molding off and poked around that corner, I could see that there was no water damage to the floor or wall. THANK GOD.

I went out to the garage and cut the pieces of molding (for the whole bathroom). I also made a piece of molding for the floor in front of the bathtub (I figured I might as well replace that while I was at it). After installing the molding, I caulked along the tub really well. And while I was at it, I replaced the caulk around the toilet.

Finally, I decided to see if the baking soda/vinegar worked. I grabbed a few different things I could try using to scrub--a brush, a scouring pad, a washcloth, and a Magic Eraser. I started with the washcloth, hoping the scum would come off fairly easily, like with my oven door. It came off, but it took a LOT of pressure while scrubbing. And I only manage to do a small spot before my muscles were burning.

The scouring pad didn't work. The Magic Eraser actually worked really well--until it started falling apart. It was the only one that I had, so I moved on to the brush. The brush worked really well on the bottom of the tub, but not so much on the sides. I'll have to buy some more Magic Erasers and hope that I can clean the side of the tub fairly easily.

While I was working on it, I heard Jerry's alarm go off--which I knew he set for 2:00. I couldn't believe it was already 2:00! I had started working on everything at around 9:00. (I was only going to clean the tub, so I definitely didn't expect it to take half the day. By the time I got everything done and cleaned up, it was time for me to make dinner.

Well, that was a very long and boring story! Hahaha. I started this post with the intention of writing that I am not going to write a post today--and then I just started going into the whole story. Anyway, I'd been wanting to replace the caulk around the toilet for a while--it was one of those little things that nagged at me every time I looked at it--so I'm happy to have gotten that done. And the shower looks a million times cleaner! 

Anyone have tips on cleaning a fiberglass tub? The older it gets, the harder it is to clean. We're going to have to replace it in the next few years, probably, but I don't even want to THINK about that for a long time. It's one of the only things in the house that hasn't been replaced, now that I think of it. Anyway, if you know the magic to getting rid of soap scum, please share! :)

February 24, 2023

Friday Night Photos #105

It's finally Friday! I have been thinking, probably every day this week, that it's Friday. The week has felt very screwy because Eli was off for winter break on Monday and Tuesday, then school was canceled on Wednesday and Thursday due to an ice storm. The ice storm was terrible--there are still people without electricity! Thankfully, ours never went out.

This morning, I got some news in my email that totally made my day. I've been super stressed out about our health insurance--I don't like this new medication that was meant to replace the super expensive one, but I just didn't want to spend $300-400 a month on a single medication. As a last ditch effort, I applied for an assistance program to hopefully make it more affordable. I figured our income was probably too much for me to qualify, but there was no hurt in trying.

Today, I got an email saying I was approved--and my medication is FREE for a year! (I'll have to reapply yearly.) I wish I'd have known about this six years ago when I started the medication. I feel such a huge relief to have it taken care of.

Anyway, I actually have quite a few photos today. I took a lot when we had Luke and Riley for the day! On my camera roll...

I picked them up at 9:30 on Monday (Luke had winter break at school) and on the way home, we stopped at a playground. We had so much fun! We were there for at least an hour and a half, maybe even two hours. Rather than sitting on a bench and watching them play, I played on the playground equipment, too. That is one thing that I kept in mind when I first started losing weight--I wanted to be a mom that could be active with her kids. 

We walked from the playground over to a creek to see if we could spot any fish. I was exclaiming how clear the water was and how you could see right down to the bottom. The kids looked totally confused, and then I realized I was wearing my polarized sunglasses, haha. I took them off, and sure enough, you couldn't see past the surface of the water. So I let the kids try them out. Riley was SO impressed that I have "magic glasses" to see underwater. (I just ordered them each a pair of their own.)

Years ago, my sister bought these bouncy chairs for Noah and Eli. When Luke and Riley came over, we got them out and the kids loved them.

And so did Chick. He couldn't get enough! He was playing on it for a while and then he took a nap on it, haha.

Riley said she was cold and I asked if she wanted to warm up with a heating pad on the couch. I turned it on a low setting and she got comfy with it draped over he shoulders. She pulled up a blanket and settled in, then let out a big sigh and said, "This is soooo cozy. I wish I could stay here forever."

Luke brought some sort of clay with him, so we played with that as well. Riley made this penguin all on her own by looking at a book--I was super impressed!--and Luke made one of the characters on a game that he plays.

Before taking the kids home, we went for a walk across the street on the path through the marsh. We almost had a "Baby Jessica" moment while we were walking there. There was a VERY deep hole that Riley stepped into and she went in up to her waist! It looked like an animal had dug it; it curved at the bottom so that we couldn't see beyond that. 

Riley was SO WORRIED that Joey was going to get lost, haha. Joey doesn't need to be on a leash back there--he's a really good dog, especially about staying near us. But every time he he wandered off the path, Riley would frantically call him back because she didn't want him to get lost. She didn't want to let him out of her sight--it was so sweet.

Meanwhile, Luke found some shell casings on the ground, so he and Jerry went on a hunt for more. I'm not sure what it is that attracts boys to those shells, but Eli used to collect them from the marsh, too.

Oh, man, this was hilarious. Riley said her legs were tired, so I put her on my shoulders. Jerry said, "Okay, now do some lunges." Why? I have no idea. But of course, I did some lunges. Why? Still, I have no idea. On the last one, I started to lose my balance. It took everything I had not to fall over! I have no idea how I managed to stay upright. But I love this picture of the looks on our faces when I started to tip over--Riley looks amused while I'm thinking, "Oh shit oh shit oh shit!"

I was on the couch with my knees pulled up to my chest because I didn't want any cats sitting on my lap. I was getting up and down every few minutes and I always feel bad moving the cats when I want to get up. Duck just wasn't having it. He decided he would just stand on my knees instead.

And then, why bother with two knees when you can stand on one?

My brother Brian has been super into 3D printing lately and made this puzzle. You have to assemble it into a 3x3x3 cube. It's really difficult! It took me two hours to solve it; Jerry gave up entirely. Brian told me he printed some more, including one very complicated one, so I'm excited to try it. I love puzzles and things like this! (I'm not posting a picture of the assembled cube because I passed it on to someone else and I don't want them to have any clues.)

Yesterday, I was playing fetch with Duck and his crumbled up paper balls when I decided to collect the ones under the furniture. I knew I had made a lot of them recently but they were nowhere to be found. Well, after pulling out the refrigerator, stove, and couch, this is what I found. Hahaha!

This is a picture of Jerry and the boys when they went to see a movie last weekend. It was either a Star Wars movie or a Marvel movie... they have a standing date to go to all of them, and I never know which. But I love that I have a collection of these pictures from the last several years. The kids have grown so much.

No matter how many times I see Duck in a sploot position, I will laugh and take a picture. Every single time. I can't help it! He looks so sweet.

Jerry and I may go play Keno tonight at a local dive bar. I think we've only played once since before the pandemic! Have a great weekend :) xo

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