Sunday, December 28, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – December 14th-20th

Gearing up for the holidays has kept us so busy.  From a little gym fun to a beautiful holiday concert, we were on our toes this week.


On Monday, I took the kids to My Gym of Hilltop for the Homeschool Open House.  This was an introduction for folks new to the gym to try out the facility and activities to see if they might be interested in signing up for our upcoming string of 12 weekly classes that start after the first of the new year.

Above is a sampling of some of the fun, as the kids took turns enjoying the zipline!  Who doesn’t love ziplining?


On Monday afternoon when we picked Hayden up from school, he and his friend got in the van and told the tale of our Hayden got randomly punched in the eye in the hallway!  I was shocked that the school did not notify me that my son was assaulted in the middle of the school day.  If we hadn’t been on our way to gym class, I’d have marched right into the school office and demanded an explanation.  Look at how bloodshot his eye was that night!


After getting all the details, I calmed down and left a polite and professional message for the school’s guidance counselor.  Then that evening, I emailed the Head of School.  As it turns out, Hayden never notified his charter school office of the incident, but instead went to the main school’s office, so that’s why I wasn’t notified.  I knew the Head of School would see that it was investigated properly, and she assured me should would.  Hayden saw the school EMT the next morning, who checked him out and called to tell me his eye looked okay, but we should monitor the ongoing severe headache he was experiencing in case he suffered a mild concussion.  As it turned out, his headache lasted about 3 days before it dissipated.  I felt bad for him.  After the school reviewed the surveillance footage, they realized he was in a blind spot in the hallway when it occurred, so they were unable to see who did it, but they saw Hayden turning into another hallway holding his eye.  I guess we’ll never know what happened, but I feel confident that the staff will be looking out for him.


On Friday night, I took Haylee, my friend and neighbor Valentyna, and her daughter Ana, with me to see the Holiday POPS concert with the Virginia Symphony and Chorus.  We go together every year, and never fails to please!  Here is Haylee in her pretty dress.


On the way out to the parking garage, I had the girls stop in front of the giant Christmas tree at Town Center to get a quick photo on my phone.


We had such a lovely time and always look forward to the next year’s holiday concert.  They manage to change it up a bit every year so it’s always a little fresh and new.  They had ballet dancers, a chorus, and an amazing bell-ringing performance by the Raleigh Ringers.  Awesome!


We had a lovely week!  The month is flying by so quickly, and we’re ready to start out Christmas break!  On Saturday, Hayden started complaining of a sore throat, so I’m hoping he hasn’t brought something home from school, but that remains to be seen.  I hope you’re all busy with holiday celebrations, too!

It’s almost Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – December 7th-13th

The holidays happenings have begun!  It seems like the season snuck up on me this year, and I’m having trouble getting into the mood for the festivities.  I thought I’d get things started with some baking!  What says holidays more than yummy treats?


On Friday, I hosted my very first Holiday Cookie Exchange!  That was a lot of fun.  We each brought 2 dozen cookies to share, and then we each took home 24 cookies to enjoy.  Some people brought 24 of one kind, and some people brought 12 each of 2 different kinds.  We ended up with 7 different kinds of cookies to try, and we exchanged copies of all the recipes, too.


Each of us got to take home a large platter full of a variety of cookies for our weekend enjoyment, and all the kids played together while the adults chatted and swapped recipes in the kitchen.  I had a limited amount of time to visit since I had to pick Hayden up from school, but we all had a great time and would love to do it again.  It was a neat experience!  Thank you Melissa & Kevin Levert, Gina Nall, Micka Carden, and Valentyna Wheeler for joining in on the fun!


Then on Saturday, I got up early and hosted a huge yard sale.  While I was busy raking in $183.50 throughout the course of the weekend, I got Steve to take Haylee and Holden over to the Green Run Clubhouse for the annual kids’ Christmas party.


Here are the kids sitting with Santa.  Steve hates crowded events, and he said this one was just too disorganized and loud, so he only stayed for a few minutes.  I figured that’s how it would go!  But at least the kids got to see Santa and enjoy a few treats.  Thank you, Steve, for doing something I know you hated so I could hold my yard sale and unload our clutter from the house!  I know we’re all happier to have less stuff sitting around.  Steve said his heart rate was elevated when he got back from the stress of being in the chaos.  Too funny.


I hope you’re all having a good time with your holiday celebrations!  I know it’s a busy time of year with lots of commitments and lots of fun.  Share what your family is doing for the holidays!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – November 30th – December 6th

December has finally arrived!


With Thanksgiving and Black Friday behind us, we decided to start gearing up our holiday spirit with a trip to Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town! We headed out extra early, right from church, so that we could compensate for traffic troubles and delays on our trek out to Williamsburg.  Good thing, because traffic was terrible!  We got there at just the right time, though, to get in line for parking, close enough to see the ticket booth.  Yay!


This year, I took Hayden and Haylee with me.  Holden hates the cold, and Steve hates crowds, so it was a perfect outing for just the three of us.  Here are the kids awaiting the first show when we entered at opening time.  It was Scrooged in the Globe Theater.


Escape from Pompeii was transformed into a Coca-Cola winter wonderland!  The kids loved sitting on the signature polar bear benches.  That night, the falls were lit up with thousands of lights, and it was so beautiful!


Next up, we actually got to ride some rides in Festa Italia!  We did the Battering Ram a couple of times and then headed off for the next show at the stage in Italy.  Here’s Haylee with our front row seat waiting for the show to begin!  The park had a new Android app that sent us on a bit of a scavenger hunt.  So while we waited for the show to start, Hayden took my phone to find a bunch of the “checkpoints” and earn rewards.  Before the night was out, he completed the entire hunt, and we earned a free fountain soda!  We never got to redeem it, though, because by the time we reached the required location to redeem it, the restaurant was closed!  Oh, well. 


Then we were off to Octoberfest.  We managed to get into the Festhaus in time to get our dinner and see the show in there, too.  Hayden and I split this wonderful roast beef sandwich that was sooooo good, a salad, and a giant slice of Black Forest Cake!  Haylee had a turkey kids’ meal.  Everything was so delicious, and we were totally stuffed.  Here’s the carnage of our dinner, LOL.


Haylee and I hoped to see the live penguins in the Penguin Palace, but the line was just too long.  Nevertheless, we loved the beautiful “12 Days of Christmas” themed Christmas trees throughout that section, and they were all so beautiful!


Next, we went to Ireland and saw the Gloria show.  Hayden and I saw it last year, but it was so good that we couldn’t miss it!  Again, we got in line early and waited about an hour, but we were able to get a front row seat right in front of the orchestra to see the show.  It was amazing!  I loved sitting to so close to the musicians, and they were friendly and gracious.  Lovely!

We had a wonderful evening.  We ended it with a skyride and a ride around the park on the train.  So much fun, all the lights were just beautiful!


You may remember that Steve and I never got to have a real 20th anniversary dinner…it was a total disaster!  But we decided to go back and try again.  So I had Steve meet me at the same restaurant, The Highlander, again on his way home from work.  Wow!  We had the whole place to ourselves, and we had the most amazing meal!  So delicious!  I could totally see us turning this into our new hangout.  Even if we just stopped in for dessert and tea, I’d love it!  We started off the meal with an appetizer of Scottish Eggs.  I’d never had them before, but they sounded delicious! 


Wow, they were so good!  Steve didn’t know the dipping mustard was spicy hot English Coleman’s mustard, so he dunked his egg right in and just about burned off his taste buds!  They were really good, though, and we gobbled them up.  Next up, Steve got the large cod and chips, and I got the small haddock and chips.  It was so yummy, and here’s just what was left from Steve’s portion, which I saved for lunch the next day!


And finally, I ordered the bread pudding and more tea for dessert.  Absolutely fabulous!  I am quite picky about my bread pudding, but this was awesome!  It wasn’t soggy, but firm, yet it had a generous amount of custard sauce on top.  Delicious!


Steve and I both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and we’ll definitely be back.  What’s more, because of the fiasco with our anniversary visit, the owner informed us that our dinner was on them!  Wow.  That was certainly generous.  We’ll definitely be back, and we’re really looking forward to it!


Worth mentioning, I was shopping at Kroger one night and came across this amazing cake that was about to be reduced for quick sale.  It was a chocolate raspberry torte! 


Seriously, just look at that delectable creation!  Who could pass that up?  It was a chocolate cake with raspberries between the layers and covered with chocolate ganache and chocolate curls with chocolate whipped frosting and Hershey’s raspberry chocolates on top!


At the end of the week, I took Haylee and Holden to the Orb Family Fun Center for some bouncy fun!  They had a great time.

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That looks like a great time, doesn’t it?  As cold as it was outside, they were burning up by the time we left!  They totally wore themselves out, bouncing for something like 3 hours straight!  LOL

Well, this was a great way to start off the month of December.  I’m ready for some holiday fun, aren’t you?  I sure hope this month has great things in store for us.

Until next week…

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – November 23rd-29th

It’s Thanksgiving Week!  That means lots of holiday preparations, lots of food, lots of shopping, and lots of fun with family and friends!


The weather was so mild at the beginning of the week that I took the kids out for slushies when I picked Hayden up from school


They always love that!


Normally, my first order of business on Monday morning during the week of Thanksgiving is to put up my tree.  However, the boys in my house failed to bring the tree and decorations down from the attic over the weekend as promised, so that foiled my normal order of business.  Instead, I wrapped presents on Monday and stacked them up in the middle of the recreation room until such time as someone got my tree down!  That was apparently the incentive needed for them to get my tree stuff out, so bright and early on Tuesday morning, I got my tree all put up and decorated!


Isn’t it pretty?  It’s all Victorian with strands of baby pink pearls, dried off-white and burgundy German statice (yes, real dried flowers!), pink and burgundy velvet and lace-trimmed bows, white lights, and hand-painted Christmas balls with Raphael angels on them.  Then there’s a beautiful lighted angel on top with a burgundy dress and golden wings.  Gorgeous!  The first year that I had my own Christmas tree in my very own house (I bought my townhouse when I was 21), these were the decorations I bought.  I have used them ever since and have carefully packed them away each year.  How I love the simple elegance of this tree!


Wednesday brought lots of cleaning and decorating my Thanksgiving table, plus a last-minute trip to the grocery store for the fresh fruit that would go in my fruit salad.

Thursday was the big day!  I made 2 turkey breasts…one in the oven in a steam bag and one in the rotisserie…a half boneless sliced ham, homemade mashed potatoes, turkey stuffing, turkey gravy, green beans with bacon in my pressure cooker, homemade fruit salad, homemade dinner rolls, fresh whole cranberry sauce, and pumpkin trifle for dessert.  Yum!  I also made a Crockpot of mulled wassail cider and served a ton of sparkling cider, as well.  It was a feast for a king!  Our guests were Bob and Bunny Mallard and Margaret Stroud from church, plus Margaret’s adult son, Ken.  It was a lovely group of people with whom to share a meal!  And they each brought some dishes to share, as well.  There was definitely plenty of food this year!  We were very fortunate and thankful for that.

This was a bittersweet day for me, though.  I had myself some tears that morning, as I couldn’t help but remember that this was also my mom’s favorite holiday of the year.  She always loved how it brought the whole family together.  This is sadly the first Thanksgiving of my life that I wouldn’t get to call her and hear her cheery voice.  So I declared to my guests that I was dedicating my dinner to my mom this year in her honor.  I took our her beautiful 24-karat gold-trimmed china from England and set a beautiful table with it.  I’m always afraid of breaking something, but I just asked everyone to let me collect their dishes rather than have people traipsing through my porcelain-tiled kitchen with the plates and risk someone accidentally chipping or breaking something.  All went well!  I think my mom was watching us from Heaven, and I think she was pleased.  I love her so much!  It breaks my heart to not be able to share special things with her any more.  It has certainly been a sad and difficult year for me and my siblings.


Anyway, we had a beautiful day together with friends and family, and we started at noon so that we could wrap things up by about 4:30 and then start preparing for our early Black Friday shopping!  Once we said our goodbyes and put all the food away, Hayden and I scoured the ads quickly, made shopping lists for each store, and headed out at about 5:30!  Stores began to open at 6 PM this year, so we wanted to be ready and waiting at Wal-mart when they opened the doors.

He and I had a blast shopping this year.  I was shocked and pleased by how pleasant shoppers and employees were this year.  There were no shoving matches, no one stealing things from each other’s carts, and no one getting tasered or arrested.  Those are some of the things we’ve seen in years’ past, unfortunately!  But this year was a whole different scenario, and we were thankful for that.  We were able to get everything on our list at every store we visited, and we were home by about 10:30!   That was awesome!  And we really got some great deals.  I think I spent more than I’ve ever spent on Black Friday before.  Ugh!


Hayden and I even did a bit more shopping on Friday night, and we still got in on some of the good Black Friday deals!  We were amazed that so many good deals were still around.  There seemed to be plenty of people out, and everyone seemed to buying a lot, so I was rather surprised that the stores didn’t run out of any of the special deals. 

So what kinds of special activities did you do with your family this week?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – November 16th-22nd

This was a busy week of events for Hayden.


I received the November Bark Box.  It was so cute!  There was a large squeaky turkey leg, an adorable stuffed porcupine chef with a hat and apron and crinkly plastic and a squeaker inside, and 2 bags of fall themed organic snacks.  The girls loved everything, and Lilly snuck right up and kept stealing the porcupine right out of the box in my lap every time I tried to take a picture!


It took her no time at all to get the seams open and pull out the stuffing, squeaker, and plastic bottle.  Lilly goes absolutely nuts when there’s a crinkly sound inside!


On Wednesday, we all went with Hayden up to his school for the fall sports banquet.  The first thing they did was call him up for an Academic Award for maintaining honor roll while playing a school sport.  That was pretty cool! 

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Then after the special awards were all given out by the coaches, each team broke out into separate classrooms to receive their letter, pin, and certificate from their coach. 

This was Hayden’s first time lettering, so it was a great experience for him.


On Friday, I made my weekly shopping trip to Trader Joe’s.  I was so surprised and excited to run into an old dear friend of mine, Audrey Aivalotis, and her son, Matthew.  She’s an old friend from my working days before I had children, and we kept in touch into Hayden’s early years.  I haven’t seen either of them in probably 12 years.  She looks just the same!


I was so happy to see her.  When I suffered my first miscarriage, I’ll never forget how she came over to pray with me, and she brought me a little white bear to honor my baby.  I loved her so much for that!  She was really there for me during a difficult time.  I felt such joy in seeing her again!


On Saturday, Steve gave out trophies to his team after their final makeup game since he and Hayden were away on the school field trip the Saturday before on Awards Day.  I got there just in time to see Hayden get his trophy!

And of course, Steve made a little speech about each recipient.  Those two are so funny!

And as soon as Hayden was finished at soccer, I had to whisk him off to his best friend’s birthday party.  He got to play laser tag with his friends and then go indoor go-carting.  What fun!


That’s a wrap!  We’re off from homeschooling this next week, and Hayden gets out of school early on Wednesday for the holiday weekend.  I plan to get my Christmas tree put up and all of our presents wrapped before Thanksgiving.  We’ll be having some guests from church, so I’ll be doing a lot of tidying up, too.  And I hear that Walmart will be starting their Black Friday sale at 6 PM on Thursday!  So I guess I know where Hayden and I will be!

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – November 9th-15th

Wow, has the weather ever turned cold this week!


I started off my week with another trip to Sandler Center for the Arts to enjoy the Virginia Symphony playing Beethoven and Mahler.


It was another stunning performance!  I do love the symphony so much, and it’s also my rare opportunity to get out without kids in tow for a little mommy time.  I usually go by myself, but this season, my neighbor friend had been going with me.  It’s nice to have some company!


On Tuesday, Hayden was home for school for Veteran’s Day, so I decided to take the kids out for breakfast at Chick-Fil-A.  For an added twist, I took along a game I was reviewing called Snake Oil – Party Potion.  Man, we had the best time playing that game in the restaurant!


The kids and I were laughing so hard while we played that folks around us were smiling.  That was an awesome game, and it was so easy to take along with us because it was the smaller portable version of the game Hayden asked for and received for Christmas last year.  I loved it, and this was my first time playing it with the kids!


On Wednesday, Haylee and I took advantage of having some free time without school this week and decided to have a little fun making her lapbook on Japan.  I got a great video from the library called Little Travelers: Japan, and we watched that while we made our Japan lapbook from Homeschool Share.  Most of the information for the lapbook came from the book “Look What Came From Japan,” which we were also able to reserve from the library.


Haylee absolutely loved the video and asked me if there were others we could get.  I did notice that several of them are available from Amazon Prime Instant Video, so we’ll probably watch the others that way.  It was wonderful, and we learned a whole bunch about the Japanese culture and customs.


On Thursday, I received this beautiful tea humidor that I had ordered from eBay.  It was a little treat for myself!  I’ve always wanted one, and I got this gorgeous wooden box for about $11 shipped, so that was pretty good.  The seller had purchased it in a bulk lot from an estate sale and didn’t know it’s condition.  It came in the original box and didn’t have any scratches or anything, but the wooden frame around the glass in the lid had come loose.


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It was a quick fix with some wood glue, and it was as good as new!  I love it!  I like to have one of my friends over now and then for tea, and it will be so elegant to serve them their choice of tea from this beautiful box!


I also set about making myself a craft spinner fashioned after the popular “Clip It Up” by Simply Renee.  I saw some videos and blogs about making one yourself using an old lamp and a few parts from the hardware store, so I hit some thrift stores until I found just the right lamp.  I found this one with the spider lampshade frame included for just $4.25. 


I simply added 2 short threaded rods, 2 couplings, a locknut, 2 washers, and a finishing cap from Lowe’s in the lamp accessory department, and I was all set!  It took just minutes to disassemble the lamp and add the new parts.  I think it turned out so pretty, too!  I used some jumbo paper clips from the Dollar Tree to hang up my sticker sheets.  It now houses all of my alphabet stickers for my scrapbooks, and it only cost me about $10 to make!  Now I’m working on making a much larger floor model to house all of my other stickers.  I have to order some specific parts for that to get it just the way I want it, but I’ll share it when I’m all through!


On Friday, I took the kids on a field trip I’d organized for my homeschool group to Bear Path Acres in Franklin, VA, right at the NC line.  I’d never been there before, and I was excited to have found someplace new to explore.  The facility houses rescued animals of all kinds, from domestic to exotic.  Here is a pacing lion that really seemed to want to eat Holden for breakfast!

Nobody could figure out why it took so much interest in Holden, and the female lioness was just as interested in him as we moved down the exhibit!  I suspect it may have had something to do with the bright red blanket that was covering him in the stroller.  Anyway, it was just a bit creepy!

We also got to see a really friendly grizzly bear that did some tricks.  Her name was Shug!

The trainer said she had gotten the bear about 4 years ago when it was severely neglected, abused, and malnourished.  She said Shug had never touched soil or been in the water before she came to Bear Path Acres, and Shug has become very trusting of the trainer because she provided so many new “first” opportunities to the bear.  She sure was big, but adorable at the same time!

And last but not least, the kids got to feed apple slices to some of the animals.


Because of a highway accident with fatalities caused by a drunk driver overnight, the ongoing accident investigation had some portions of the roadway shut down.  As a result, we had to detour on some back country roads, and it took us 2 hours to get there!  I thought we were never going to make it, but we finally did.  I felt bad for being half an hour late, because I had the money for the whole group, but just about everyone was late in varying degrees, so it was all good.  We had plenty of time to enjoy the animals, eat a picnic lunch with our neighbors who went with us, and still make it back just in time to pick Hayden up at school.  It was a very frigid but awesome day!


It turned out to be a pretty fun week off from school.  I’m looking forward to trying to plan more field trips in the near future.  I just want to find some new and different things to do, even if it means taking a bit of a road trip.  This is our 12th year of homeschooling in this area, and I’ve done so many of the attractions so many times over that I’m ready for some new adventures!

I hope you all have a great week!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – November 2nd-8th

This week marked a great milestone in our marriage…our 20th wedding anniversary!


Tuesday was election day, and Holden was off school that day.  Since the following day was our actual anniversary, but I had a season ticket to the opera with my neighbor, Steve and I decided to celebrate on Tuesday instead.  Hayden would be home with the kids, and Steve planned to get off early so we could go to dinner and then do the twilight climb at the local Adventure Park of Virginia Beach.  I bought him a lovely cardigan to keep in his office now that the weather has turned so much colder.  I also bought him 2 dozen premium roses in pastel colors and baby’s breath and arranged them myself in a vase at home.   Aren’t they gorgeous?  He brought me flowers, too, which he never does, so that was a nice surprise!


Steve came in from work early as planned, and we set off to use a voucher deal I’d purchased back in August at a fairly new little British restaurant called The Highlander.  We knew we wouldn’t have a lot of time to spare since we were fighting rush-hour traffic headed the opposite direction of where the Adventure Park was located, so we tried to make a quick exit from home as soon as possible.  After sitting in quite a backup along the way, we finally arrived at The Highlander. 

As we exited the van, we could see the cook coming outside on her cell phone.  She quickly informed us that the restaurant has just one cook (her) and one server, and the server had failed to report to work half an hour before.  After a discussion by phone with the owner, they decided to just close up the restaurant.  The lady explained that all she does is cook, and that while she could still do that, it would all have to be free because she didn’t know how to work the payment machine.  UGH!  I told her it was our 20th wedding anniversary, and I had even posted on their Facebook page earlier in the day that we were planning to come at 5:30 to celebrate with dinner there.  She apologized but said there was nothing she could do.  So Steve and I got back in the van and decided that since we were turning around in what was still rush-hour traffic, we’d better just head towards the Adventure Park and see how much time we had left once we got over there.  Traffic was even worse headed out that way, and by the time we arrived, we only had half an hour to go before the 7-10 PM climbing session.  There is really nothing out there by way of restaurants, so we pulled into a 7-11 parking lot nearby.  As we got out, Steve said we should walk over to the Holiday Mart next door instead.  Apparently, it was a hangout for the gang in his construction worker days of old.  Big mistake!  They were no longer cooking food that late, and it was a nasty looking little place where only one of the hot water dispensers even had water that was actually hot.  Steve suggested I get a cup of tea, so I did that, even though the tea leaves were leaking into my cup and the half and half wasn’t even cold but sitting at room temperature instead.  Then he grabbed two bags of chips and told me to grab some giant slim jims.  So we checked out and walked back out to the van.  Here was our dinner.


Is that the most pathetic 20th anniversary dinner you’ve ever seen, or what?!?  At least if we’d gone in the 7-11, I could have had a yogurt and a banana or something else remotely nutritious.  Ugh!  I don’t even want to know how many calories was in that crap.  I merely ate it out of necessity.  Blech!  We sat there laughing until we were crying!  I can’t remember the last time I laughed quite so hard…the whole thing was so absurd that it was hysterical!

After this feast fit for kings, we pulled into the Adventure Park parking lot.  When we checked in, we found out that the Twilight Climb wasn’t from 7-10 PM as we thought, but instead, it was from 6-9 PM!  So we were now actually an hour late.  ARGH!  This evening was not turning out as planned in any way, shape, or form.  We contemplated just going home and celebrating another night rather than pay $76 for 2 hours of climbing, but I said I’d probably cry myself to sleep if we didn’t do something fun on this night.  So we decided to take what we could get. 

I’m so glad we did!  Steve and I had a fabulous time.  I’d done 2 purple trails with Holden when we went for the Nickelodeon National Day of Play.  But I wasn’t able to do any more difficult than that since that’s all he was allowed to do.  So Steve and I did 2 yellow trails and a green trail.  Oh, my goodness!  As soon as we started the green trail, I knew we were in trouble!  The second element on the trail had me stuck right in the middle of it.  I was holding on for dear life and exclaiming to Steve that there was no way I was making it across!  I knew I couldn’t fall to the ground or anything with that big harness on, but I certainly could have gotten myself tangled up in that crazy walkway if I’d fallen.  It had slanted boards that went every which way.  But when you stepped on them, they teeter-tottered like a see-saw!  I just knew I was going to go sliding right off!  He talked me through it, and I figured out how I could get to the other side.  I wanted off that trail so badly!  I was terrified of what was coming next, but the rest of it wasn’t nearly as bad as that one element!  Next time, I’ll know what to do, but it was so scary the first time through!  Steve was proud of me for facing my fears and getting through it.  He’s actually afraid of heights a little bit, and he said he hated looking down at his feet and seeing the ground below.  That last trail we did was 25 ft. in the air!  I managed to strain my left quadricep the first time we propelled down to the ground because I didn’t bend my knee to absorb the impact.  Lesson learned the hard way! 

But overall, it was a great bonding experience and a neat adventure to share together, just as I thought it would be.  Here we are in the office after we took off our climbing gear.

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We’re not used to taking selfies, so you can see how our attempts at getting the right expression ended in laughter.  No doubt, it is an anniversary we won’t soon forget!  Our whole 20 years together has been a comedy of errors such as this, starting with our honeymoon, so this was nothing new in terms of disastrous evenings.  I’ll save that story for another time, though, LOL.


On our actual anniversary, I barely passed Steve in the doorway on my way out to the opera with my neighbor friend.  I figured that’s how our anniversary would go!  I’m so glad we got to do a little something the night before.  Val and I went to see H.M.S. Pinafore.

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It was an awesome show!  The story was so funny, and it had a wonderful happy ending, which is so rare for an opera!  They are usually tragedies. 


The rest of the week was just a blur with nothing much to remember.  We surely won’t forget our 20th anniversary, though!  Steve said if he had it to do over again, he wouldn’t change a thing.  And that’s because we got a good laugh out of it, and he said it’s hard to have spontaneous fun after 20 years!

Until next week…

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

REVIEW: Snake Oil-Party Potion by Out of the Box Games

My family was ecstatic when they found out we’d have the opportunity to review Snake Oil-Party Potion from Out of the Box Games!



Out of the Box Games has a new addition to the Snake Oil family of games…Snake Oil-Party Potion!  This is a smaller and more portable version of the original Snake Oil game.  It can be played as a stand-alone game, or it can be added to the original game to bring you a host of new card combinations to add to the fun!

Just like the original game, this game is designed for 3-6 players, and the premise of the game is that after drawing random cards from the decks, each player tries to pitch a product to the designated customer using a 2-card combination.  Then the customer selects the winning salesman!  This is hilarious fun, and the combinations are endless!  You just never know what you’re gonna get!

Snake Oil-Party Potion is designed for ages 8 and up, and it’s available for just $14.99!




My 15-year old son, Hayden, asked for only one thing last Christmas, and that was the original Snake Oil game!  After some research online and subsequently calling the company directly, they confirmed that there were no retailers closer than 2 hours from my residence that carried it.  I was so disappointed, since my son rarely asks for anything, and I really wanted to get it for him.  Then the vendor did something wonderful…they offered to let me buy it from them directly, even though they don’t sell the game directly from their website, and they even offered me free shipping, as well!  Well, I couldn’t pass that up, and Hayden was so excited and surprised when he opened it up on Christmas Day!  He has played it often with his siblings, and he absolutely loves it.  I mention this because as a customer, I was so impressed with the customer service I received from this company!  And because Hayden loved this game so much, I was pretty excited when I saw they had come out with the Snake Oil-Party Potion game! 

I should say that I had not actually played either game before this party version of the game arrived for my review, so my personal impression of the game was fresh and new!  I was not disappointed!


Since Snake Oil-Party Potion is so compact and portable, I decided to take it with us to a restaurant for breakfast one day when we were all off from school.  As soon as we finished our meal, I sent my 6-year old off to play in the restaurant’s playroom, and Hayden (15), Haylee (10), and I opened it up and briefly went over the rules.  Even though I’d never played it before, it just took a moment to understand. 

All we had to do was put the card decks on the table, choose one of us to be the customer, and then the rest of us had to draw out 6 cards each from the decks. The customer selected one of themes from the two sides of the card and laid it down on the table.  Then the other two people chose 2 of their cards to combine into a product and pitch it to the customer.  Then the customer voted on which product they’d prefer to buy, and the winning salesperson got to keep the customer card.  Play continued through all of us for each round.  Whoever had the most customer cards at the end of a round was the winner!  We played 2 complete rounds and then found we were still tied, so we had to play one more round to determine the winner, which was Hayden! 

Let me share with you some of the hilarious sales pitches that won over the customer during our game!

  1. For the Snowman:DSCF2271
    • Lake Mop – When your snowman melts, no matter how much water it produces, mop up even your lake-sized puddle with the Lake Mop!
  2. For the Grandma:
    • Dairy Cookie – Grandma probably has calcium deficient bones and doesn’t like drinking milk.  Have no fear…just enjoy some Dairy Cookies!
  3. For the Clown:
    • Tickle Putty - Worried that you won’t be able to make your audience laugh?  Worry no more!  Just pass out some tickle putty to get your audience laughing at everything you do!
  4. For the Fire Fighter:
    • Trumpet Rug – A special rug that alerts even off-duty fireman when there’s a fire anywhere in the city!
  5. For the Dad:
    • Nap Purse – When dad has to watch the kids and they’re driving him absolutely crazy, he can whip out his nap purse, which contains an ultra-comfortable nap mat, allowing him to take a luxurious nap anywhere he might be and escape the madness around him!
  6. DSCF2272For the Treasure Hunter:
      • Memory Coat – What would you do if you were out treasure hunting and realized you’d lost your treasure map?  Never fear!  You can just put on your Memory Coat!  It will help you access your memory banks so you can remember the content of the lost map.
  7. For the Camper:
    • Trampoline Chair – In case you’re out camping and get discovered by a wild animal, just use your Trampoline Chair to bounce your way to the safety of a tree!
  8. For the Chef:
    • Smoke Curtain – When you’re busy cooking and accidentally burn your gourmet dishes, just open your handy dandy Smoke Curtain!  It will whisk all the smoke away so your customers will never know!
  9. For the Fisherman:
    • Bubble Potty – No more bathroom emergencies while fishing!  When the fisherman needs to go, he just blows up this special bubble that he can sit on and go potty, and then he just tosses it in the lake when he’s done!
  10. For the President:
    • Victory Sled – WhenDSCF2273 you’ve been out on the campaign trail in a remote, frozen place like Alaska and those votes come in declaring you are the Presidential winner, just hop on the Victory Sled, and let it take you across the terrain announcing your victory with loud speakers and video screens on-board.  It’s a real celebration station!
  11. For the Mad Scientist:
    • Gorilla Sponge – When you have big chemical spills in your lab, just reach for the Gorilla Sponge…it can soak up the biggest messes quickly!
  12. For the Astronaut:
    • Video Wish – Missing the comfort foods of home?  Just fire up the Video Wish machine to view and select what you’re craving the most.  The machine will then teleport your favorite dish right to your spacecraft!

Oh my goodness!  We had so much fun playing this game!  I can honestly say that I think I had more fun playing this game than any other game I’ve ever played!  We laughed over and over again.  We were having such a good time that we were starting to attract the attention of people in the restaurant around us!  It was a great way for us to spend the morning together. 

My 6-year old wandered out of the playground a couple of times and made up his own funny combinations.  He’s not quite ready for following the rules and taking turns because he gets so excited when he comes up with an idea that he has to blurt it out, but he can have his own fun just making up products without playing by the rules of the game.  He’s a bit young yet, but he will be able to join us before we know it.  I got to thinking that this would be fun even to play without a scoring system…then there’d be no winner, and everyone could just focus on having fun.  My daughter can be a it of a sore loser, so that might actually work better for her!

Seriously, though, this was a box full of hilarious fun!  I would definitely recommend it for families, and I imagine it would be a great party game, as well, since you can have up to 6 players.  I can’t wait to toss it into my suitcase the next time we take a trip…it would be a great, portable game to take on vacation with us!

Take a look at what other Crew members had to say about both the original Snake Oil game and Snake Oil-Party Potion by clicking the link below.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – October 26th – November 1st

This week was a mix of emotions.


After all my preparations, we successfully hosted our church congregation at our house for bible study, worship service, and a potluck afterwards on Sunday.  It went well!  Of course it didn’t take long for the kids to start making a mess of the house again, but at least it has a good starting point from here on out.

It was a very emotional weekend for me.  I suppose having everyone from church over was probably a good distraction from the overwhelming feelings of sadness I was experiencing, but it came in waves anyway.  You see, Sunday, October 26th, was also my mom’s birthday…the first one without her.  :(

You may remember that my mom passed away on March 28th of this year from lung cancer, just 6 short weeks after the diagnosis.  It’s been a rough year.  I tried so hard to push her birthday out of my mind that I even forgot to mail my sister’s birthday card, as she shares the same birthday with my mom.  I can only imagine how hard it was for this year, too.  She spent their birthday together with my mom in Arkansas just last year.  I’m so glad she got to do that. 

After everyone left, I talked to my sister on the phone, and we had a good cry together.  I did a lot of crying on Saturday, too.  I’m thankful for many things…that my mom is no longer suffering, that it didn’t go on for a long time, that she can finally be with my dad and brother again…but at the same time, I have such a deep sense of loss of her and of a part of myself along with her that no one else will ever replace. 

Here are some photos.

Copy of Mom and Dad's Wedding Photo 

My parent’s wedding picture on May 21, 1955.

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My mom in her younger days.

IMG_0016 (2014_07_10 22_53_07 UTC)

Mom and I together in the early 80’s.

 IMG_0020 (2014_07_10 22_53_07 UTC)

Mom and I together in the late 80’s.

Mom Edit (2014_07_10 22_53_07 UTC)

This is the last photo of me and my mom, taken as we said goodbye on Sept. 3, 2013.  It was the last time I saw her.

I will love you forever, mom!  Rest in peace with Jesus. Image result for heart icon


By Tuesday, the weather briefly warmed up again, unseasonably so.  So I picked Hayden up from school and headed off with the kids to Sonic for an afternoon slushie during Happy Hour.


Always a fun break from the day!


On Halloween day, we set out to have some fun with friends.  First, we met up with Gina Nall and her 2 kids at IHOP for some FREE scary face pancakes for the kids and a big breakfast for us.  It was a good thing we ate plenty, because I never really got to eat again that day!

Then after a quick pit stop at my house, we all piled into my van to head over to the Hampton for some adventures.  We went to the Goodwill Outlet there and did a little shopping, and then we went over to the nearby Bluebird Gap Farm for a few minutes so the kids could play on the playground. 


They weren’t nearly ready to go when it was time to trek back to Virginia Beach to pick Hayden up from school.  Our timing was perfect, and we were able to breeze right into the parking lot as Hayden came out.  Then when we got back to our house, Gina and her kids left, and me and the kids grabbed our costumes and went off to Krispy Kreme for some free donuts!


Hayden grabbed the hats off the table on the way out, and being the crazy boy he is, he got in the van wearing 4 hats at once!  So silly…


Since Hayden has made some friends at school now, and he’s too old to trick or treat, I thought it might be fun for him to get out and doing something different instead of staying home and passing out candy by himself, especially since almost no kids ever come down the dead end street where we live.  So I suggested that he and his friends, Antonio and Ashley, meet up at the local bowling alley for Unlimited Pizza Bowl instead.  He thought it sounded like a fun idea, so he arranged to meet a couple of his friends there.


They ended up bowling for hours and hours and stuffing their faces on unlimited pizza, and Steve went and picked Hayden up late that night.  He had a blast!


Meanwhile, I met up with my neighbor, Val, and her girls, and we headed out at dusk to take the kids trick-or-treating.  Steve met up with us near the end when he finally made it home from work.  Here the kids are as we were starting out our night.


They posed for some pictures in front of the best Halloween displays along the way.


When we got home, the kids poured out their combined haul for a closer look.  They declared it a successful night!


I made a mental note to myself that now that I am working out again, I wasn’t even tired, much less sore, when we got home.  I felt great!  We sorted their candy into bags by category and put it all away after everybody picked out a few favorites.  Then we went up to get hot baths and head off to bed.  It dawned on me that Haylee’s only got 2 more years of this!  (sniff, sniff…they are growing up too fast!)


And that was our crazy week.  What did your family do this week? 

With one holiday down, now it’s time to think about getting ready for Thanksgiving and then Christmas.  To me, it always seems like Halloween begins a season of holidays that passes so very fast.  It’s like a blink, and it’s all over, and a new year has begun before you know it!