A quick trip to Branson, MO

The period from March 19 until now is the longest I have stayed home in a while (that’s right, Covid-19 – I’m looking at you!). I have gotten pretty used to hitting the road regularly with my husband’s band and photographing the concerts while I’m there. As of now, we have missed a good handful of gigs and more are getting canceled by the day. For the people in the music industry, this is a rough time. Those who depend on this income as their sole livelihood have had to scramble to enact Plan B.

My husband and I were going to celebrate our 1-year anniversary on the last weekend in June by going to Branson, MO, where we married, but my son’s graduation stopped that plan when it was rescheduled for that weekend. No biggie. We just pushed the vacation back a week. We needed to get out of the state of Iowa so badly! We were tired of this house, tired of this town, and – to be honest – tired of the endless cornfields and flat land of Iowa. It was time to travel.

We wanted to return to Branson for many reasons: first, it was where we married, so it was only appropriate to go back there; second, it is a beautiful area, and we were anxious to explore the landscape more than we had time for last year; and third, we have several friends there who are in the music industry and we wanted to see them. When the Elvis fests are in full swing, we are used to seeing these people pretty regularly. It’s been four months and we started to feel the void.

We again stayed at Branson King Resorts, home of the famous Presley Penthouse (a perfect place to stay if you are an Elvis fan!). This time, however, we did not stay in the Penthouse; we were given the Loretta Lynn/Conway Twitty room. There are a few theme rooms scattered throughout the property, including John Wayne and Ronald Reagan. Great care has been taken to find pieces authentic to the time period.

We did some touristy things while in Branson, including visiting the freaking awesome Titanic museum, the toy museum (which is a wonderful nostalgic trip), and Ripley’s Believe It or Not. All three are great fun and also perfect for children. I mean, where else can you see a pic of Elvis composed completely of barcodes – all of them barcodes for Elvis products?

One thing we learned on this trip – Elvis is EVERYWHERE. Literally.

We were able to see some of our music friends and spend some time with them, which provided a great sense of something we’ve been lacking lately – NORMALCY. It was much needed! We saw the man who married us last year perform as Elvis at Legends in Concert, and I cannot even begin to describe how refreshing it was to see live performances again.

The highlight of the weekend was when one of our friends took us up to Top of the Rock – a park nestled in the wilderness outside of Branson. There we rented golf carts and went on the trails, going through waterfalls and stopping inside the “bat cave” for a cocktail.

My phone didn’t really know how to take a picture of this combo of bright and dark. How would you like to be a bartender in a cave? This was a totally unexpected but very cool part of this trail ride.

I wish I would have known this place existed before because we definitely would have made time for it last year. Needless to say, my hubby and I are talking about the next time we can go up there again. Picturesque and peaceful – two more things that have helped feed our souls.

Ignore my finger. I was so scared I was going to drop my phone in the abyss that I made sure I had a FIRM hold on it.

Our timing on the trails was perfect. It started to sprinkle as we returned to the golf cart parking area, and by the time we disembarked, it was a total downpour. The golf cart canopy was NOT rainproof, so I felt bad for those who were stuck on the trail without shelter. They would have been soaked coming back!

I wish we could have stayed longer, but hubby’s job demanded that we be back on Monday so he could sit in front of the computer working his graphic design magic. On the 8 hour ride back home, we stopped at as many antique places as we could manage until they closed. Here are some of my finds:

The lady ringing up my purchases took one look at this and said, “Do you teach?” Ha ha! She must understand the fixation that people like me have on old classroom supplies. I love the font used on this box. And the crayons (blackboard crayons) are GUARANTEED. Guaranteed to do what? Work?
I was on an enamelware rampage this weekend, I guess. Here is an enamelware icebox in great condition. I just had to have it.
These enamelware bowls might be reproductions instead of true vintage, but I don’t care. They were cute and the perfect size for big salads or cooking/baking prep.
I stumbled across a set of Pyrex dinner plates and knew I had to have them. Sure, I have some Correlle plates that are nearly identical to this, but the Correlle plates were purchased for one reason only: they don’t break when little kids accidentally drop them while unloading the dishwasher. I’m ready to graduate to good plates, and these Pyrex beauties fit my red vintage kitchen perfectly.

We are now home from Branson rather reluctantly, but we cannot wait to go back and spend more time exploring the area around it. Have you ever been to Branson? What was your favorite part of it?

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The calm AFTER the storm

I survived graduation weekend. I survived making 20# of taco meat at 6 a.m., hauling that and 3 gallons of queso along with all the other fixins’ for a meal over to the venue with the help of family. I realized too late that my folding picture board wasn’t as well designed as I thought it would, as the pictures would fall out of their corner pockets as soon as the board was folded up for transport. All were small little problems, however. The party was not very well attended due to people’s concerns about COVID (I’m guessing), so I have taco meat, queso, and Doritos sitting around my house for daaaaaayyyyyyyys.

Sunday was the actual graduation day, and it looked a bit different this year. In years past, graduation took place in the gym, which was usually crammed to capacity. The gym was always hot and stuffy from the time of year and the number of warm bodies in the room, and I would sit with the rest of the faculty and sweat as the ceremony droned on. This year, the ceremony was held in the nicely air conditioned performing arts center, and the students were seated in the commons (6 feet apart) until it was their turn to come into the venue and walk across the stage in a presentation of the class; then they sat in the back of the performing arts center as they waited their turn to grab that diploma. Parents were the only ones who could attend and we were all spaced apart. It was weird. And kind of nice – getting out of there was super easy compared to previous years. But I missed not being able to see former students milling around the commons after the ceremony and just being able to have a place to say hi to everyone. It felt sort of like no one had a place to gather after the ceremony, and people scattered pretty quickly.

On Monday, I celebrated my one-year anniversary with my husband. I know that may make people roll their eyes and say, “Whoa – one year,” but I will be one of the first to defend my right to proclaim my happiness over that milestone. The last ten years have pretty much sucked, relationship-wise, and I honestly had come to the conclusion about 4 years ago that I was destined to be single forever, and for the first time ever, I was actually feeling OK with it. I was finally comfortable being by myself for the first time in a long time, and so I started thinking about a life where I just enjoyed the Elvis world, took my photographs, and had the freedom to go wherever I wanted.

Then I met my husband, and my world changed dramatically. It is so freakin’ cliche to talk about how you know “the one” when you meet him, but now that I have experienced it, I realize that all the other times I thought I had met “the one” and was sure of that feeling, that wasn’t it. My husband and I just clicked. We had great, deep conversations. He understood me. He was hilarious, intelligent, and madly talented as a musician and a graphic designer. I fell hard for that man.

Now it’s been a year, and it is actually hard to believe that much time has passed. Our first year has not been without challenges, but there is no one I have ever enjoyed waking up next to more. I look forward to our little routines, and I take comfort in the fact that he is indeed my best friend. I’ve told him things that I have never told another soul. (Bottom line: if you can’t do that with your spouse, then you probably don’t belong together.)

Anyway, enough of my preachy relationship advice. I can give it only because I have been through a variety of relationships that presented different challenges and forced me to recognize who I really was. As for the last ten years, I have been on a crazy rollercoaster ride that began with me fearing being alone to being OK with being alone and then ending up with someone I truly consider my soul mate. There were times in between where I would cry myself to sleep because I had no idea where life was leading me and I was frustrated as hell. Just like any journey – completing high school, going through breakups, meeting your soul mate – there will be peaks and valleys, and it’s those valleys that will present the most challenge, but those are the times that will mold you into the person you were meant to be. As Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Someday the chaos and turmoil will die down and you will find yourself at peace. I promise you that.

Here’s to new chapters of new eras! <clink>

This was my honey’s anniversary gift to me: a most-wished-for fire table.
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It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to!

I’m not usually one to host events, mainly because I have not had the life experiences which require them. However, this weekend is FINALLY going to be my son’s graduation, and we are partyin’ in style tomorrow.

This year is so weird. Nothing has been normal. My son lost out on his last year of trap shooting (something he excelled in), and graduation got pushed back over a month later to this Sunday. His original open house was supposed to be on May 10. Now here we are, over a month later, getting ready to finally celebrate the end of this chapter.

I wish I had the gift of being able party plan. However, all of the responsibilities and stresses seem to end up in a jumbled ball in my mind. I have all the food purchased – I think. I have a venue rented that will provide far more room than my little ol’ house will provide. I have to pick up $120 worth of queso today (3 gallons) to serve as the focal point of the nacho/taco bar (totally worth it). I prepared two photo boards to show my son through the years. I made a slide show to play during the open house. However, after all of this preparation, I have this nagging feeling like I’m forgetting something.

I know that in the end it won’t really matter. My son will have his party, he will graduate on Sunday, and then that chapter of his life will be over.

I am still trying to grapple with the strangeness of having him move into his own apartment. He pops in almost every day (mostly to eat food, it seems), but it’s not the same. He is excited about venturing off into his own life and I am sitting here looking at pictures while making his display boards totally dumbfounded that life has raced by the way it has.

When I was a young mom and overwhelmed with everything regarding working full time and the stress of parenting a strong-willed child, I remember thinking that the years would stretch out endlessly – that this day I’m looking at would never come. I wish I could go back to that stressed-out mom and tell her that those days, no matter how stressful they were, are the good days. Things I thought were SO IMPORTANT actually weren’t. I stressed out over so much regarding parenting (usually involving other people’s opinions on how to parent) that I would be miserable, berating myself daily for not parenting like other moms.

The best advice I can give to new moms today is this: Do what feels right to you. You are the mom, you know your child, and you are free to parent how you think is best. It is exhausting trying to live up to other people’s expectations.

Ok, now that I’ve wandered down that side road, it is time for me to grab the bottle of cleaner and go back to cleaning the house like a madwoman.

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A boom in the tablecloth market

I apologize for writing about tablecloths AGAIN. By now you’re probably thinking I have a bit of an issue. Well, perhaps I do. Back when I was selling tablecloths pretty regularly from my Etsy store, I so enjoyed the process of finding cloths, cleaning them to look like new, and then either keeping them or selling them.

For awhile, I had no luck finding them in antique stores, so I really didn’t buy any.

When I met my husband, we had a mutual love of all things retro, although our retro eras were a little bit apart; I loved stuff from the 40-60s and he loved things from the 80s – mainly 80s vinyl. But we do enjoy browsing through antique stores and seeing what treasures we can find.

Suddenly, I am finding great tablecloths left and right and I can feel that excitement that I used to feel whenever I ran across one with a great label or one with the original tags still attached. I went from not being able to find it anywhere to having to be selective about which tablecloths I do get because I’m finding them everywhere. Here are a few that I picked up on our last trip:

This cloth had a few yellow stains, but after soaking it and spot treating it and laying it in the sun, it looks brand new.
This cloth really isn’t in colors that I would normally use, but it reminded me of one of the cloths that I wish now that I never sold. I called it my “orange juice cloth” and it was so bright and vibrant and unique. Seller’s regret for sure! Anyway, this one is similar, so I picked it up for a few bucks.
This is the cloth that I regretted selling. If I find another like it, it’s mine!
This pattern is one that was used by Wilendur, although this one is a homemade version, I believe. No tag and the stitching looks more homemade than machine-created. I’ve wanted this pattern for a long time. So bright and cheerful! This one I had a little bit of buyer’s regret because I didn’t realize until I was stain treating it how many small yellow stains there were on it. As I sat there with my Spray ‘n’ Wash and a toothbrush, rubbing Oxyclean and stain spray into each spot, I was wondering why in the world I bought the thing. I think it came out rather nicely!
This looks like something to be used on Easter Sunday, doesn’t it?
This one is not new, but it is the first time I have dug it out of the collection and used it on my table. I picked this one up a couple years ago in an antique store and absolutely loved the dainty flowers and spring colors on this one. Even better, it has a finished edge.
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Little things

My husband and I decided to get out of town again and visit Spencer, Iowa, home of Carey’s Electronics, which is in turn the home of a wicked vinyl collection in their upstairs store. My husband found some great treasures, and I made off with a couple of albums as well. The vinyl collection is fun and easy to look through because of the clear rating and labeling on each album. I found a near mint condition Dina Washington to add to my collection:

And another Neil Diamond album with one of the creepiest pictures of him I’ve ever seen. Who takes these pics and says “That’s it!” I definitely would not have put this one on the cover, but whatev.

Speaking of album covers, I couldn’t help but giggle at one by a group I’ve never heard of. (I’ve since looked them up on YouTube. Not bad, just not my style, I guess.) I cannot fathom the photographer who thought THIS was the winning shot:

I’ve decided that from now on when my husband is all engrossed in finding his mint condition vinyl that I am going to go hunting for really bad album covers to take pictures of. This pic makes me laugh every time I see it.

I picked up some more tablecloths, but they are all soaking right now for stain removal, so I will take pics of the finished product.

Two other little trinkets:

I’ve never heard of Bokar Coffee. Wikipedia has a short chronicle of its existence – as bumpy as it sounds. In reality, I just liked the font on this can. I’m a font dork. My husband, a graphic designer, is also a font dork. We buy things just because we like the fonts on them. You may now do the wide-eyed “Wow – weird” expression that you’re probably tempted to make.

This last treasure is one that I feel like I should have run across before but never have:

Having grown up in South Dakota, I have spent lots of time in the Black Hills and especially Deadwood. I was a huge fan of the HBO show Deadwood as well. How did I never know that Calamity Jane kept a diary? I haven’t read it in full yet; it’s just a small little pamphlet-type book. However, a brief glance at it tells me that Calamity Jane was indeed a complex woman who had zero tolerance for morons and/or nosey people.

I can relate.

The last treasure was truly just that – a treasure. Every time I go into a vinyl store, I head right for the “Big Band” section, searching for a couple particular albums. I nearly squealed with delight when I ran across this one:

This album is special for one reason: my beloved grandfather is in this picture. See the woman in white? He is two from the right. He was a small-statured man with a booming singing voice and a huge heart. The Lee Williams band played all over the Midwest from the 1930s up to the 50s. My grandpa was only part of the band before he had children, but I think he was proud of the time he spent in that group. He also served as the actual band leader for a time during WWII when Lee Williams himself was drafted. This album is particularly special because my grandpa sings Mack the Knife in one track and also provides a closing prayer (he was a minister). Hearing his voice is like chicken soup for the soul. Finding this album felt like him saying “Hi.”

I’ve uploaded the song for you to listen to if you so desire. 🙂

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Well, that just about killed me.

Install laminate flooring, they said. It’ll be easy, they said. Just click it together, they said.

Good god.

Perhaps for Stan the Handyman, installing laminate flooring would be a breeze. For me the English teacher and my hubby the graphic designer/drummer, well, that was a different story.

The morning after the bulk of the flooring was put in, I arose at 4 a.m. because my entire body was so sore (especially my back) that it felt that I had malaria. Ok, I will admit that I do not know what it feels like to have malaria . . . but I think it probably feels like that. The constant bending over, measuring, placing, crawling around on my knees and pounding in the boards got to my aging body. Plus, I only had a vague notion of what in the hell I was doing, so there’s that too.

It took a day and a half (which for a seasoned pro, it probably would have taken a few hours), but the room is done and we are proud of our new space.

I actually hate using that word – “space” – because it is SO OVERUSED on every home renovating/real estate show out there. Have you ever noticed that? Next time you watch one of them, count the number of times someone enters a room and says, “Oh, this is a nice spaaaaaaace.” They always seem to say it with just smidge of valleygirl accent, too. OMG, I love this spaaaaaaace. That is what I am now saying when I enter the breezeway.

If you look closely, you will notice the quarter round along the right side of the room looks like it is not nailed down yet. That’s because it isn’t. Here’s a little story about why I abhor doing home improvement projects – something ALWAYS goes wrong.

I borrowed a pneumatic tack gun and air compressor from a work friend. We used it for about 15 minutes and the air compressor (pretty new) suddenly stops pressurizing, rendering the gun useless. So not only could I not finish the trim, but now I have to tell my friend that I am returning her air compressor in a non-working condition. THAT is my worst nightmare! I always worry about being “that person” who breaks borrowed items. Now I’m that person. My husband and I just looked at each other in exasperation. What should have been a pretty easy project turned into one where we both wanted to pull our hair out.

Next steps: get a rug to absorb some of the sound, for right now that room is a regular echo chamber with the vaulted ceilings and hard floor.

Next steps after that: GET RID OF THE UGLY FAKE FIREPLACE.

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An adventure in home improvement

I think I have a curse when it comes to tackling home improvement projects.

It never seems to fail: I get a great idea, I get the gumption to tackle the project, and then something goes horribly, horribly wrong. I don’t have the right tools, sometimes. Or, more often, I do not have the brain needed to know what in the hell I am doing.

My husband and I decided to refloor my breezeway area – which for the entire time I’ve lived here has been an ugly brown indoor/outdoor carpet. However, it was durable and stood up to the muck and grime that inevitably got dragged into that area day after day, so I kept it.

We had recently made an effort to turn that area into more usable space. We purchased a small square table from a local furniture store and put it in there. However, the area was also inhabited by my husband’s numerous drum cases. He’s a drummer, hence the cases. And when he plays gigs as often as he does, it is preferable to have the cases in a location where you can just grab and go. Some of that stuff is darn heavy. The breezeway seemed like a great place to put that stuff.

But now we have tired of the brown “turf” carpeting and we wanted something that made the breezeway a place to hang out, if one desired. We went to Menards and picked out some Mohawk laminate plank flooring (Lexington Pine) and loaded up our cart with everything we needed, and we picked a day to get the project started.

The day the project was to commence, we cleared out the breezeway, carried all the drum cases to the basement, and temporarily relocated the case called “the coffin” to the back patio. (The coffin contains all the hefty chrome drum stands, and it requires two people to move or lift it – it is so freaking heavy. Even rolling it on its wheels involves grunting, back pain, and general agony. So that damn thing sat outside while it thought about why it makes our backs hurt.)

Yeah, look at this Hershey chocolate brown goodness, will you? While you’re at it, please note a couple of highlights regarding this picture: that giant stain in the middle of the floor is from a leaky oil container that my car-loving son left there, which is also the same spot that the same kid, then 3, dumped almost an entire bottle of car wash soap out. That was SO much fun to clean up. I accidentally made a bubble machine out of the wet/dry vacuum. This floor has seen some stuff, man. Note Molly’s tennis ball lying there, dejected. Oh, and the next project that we will be tackling is GETTING RID OF THAT GOD-AWFUL FIREPLACE. No one is fooled by orange-glowing logs. NO ONE.

We hauled in all the flooring, read the directions, and then got hung up on one little detail of the directions. We had to saw off the “tongue” that went against the wall. No problem, right? Just whip out the old band saw and go to town.

I don’t have a band saw.

I have manual saws.

They did not work worth a darn.

After doing some Googling, I discovered the solution: a utility knife. So I went out and bought a sturdy utility knife (the one I had was old and rusty) and cut that tongue right off.

We also decided to paint the baseboard a darker color to match the dark tones in the wood. Yes, I know we should probably replace it, but there are some funky holes/contraptions in the baseboard along the house side and I would have no idea how to install new baseboard while taking those thingies into consideration. I have limited tools and even more limited knowledge. The baseboard is now a mid-toned chocolate brown. Eventually, once we are able to get that gawd-awful fake fireplace off the wall (it is hooked up to a gas line, so I need professional help there), the walls will be repainted a more gentle color. I’m not sure what sort of mood I was in when I bought that turquoise paint. Obviously, I was in the mood for change!

My hubby and I hope to get a start on the flooring sometime today. Wish us luck!

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Antique store scores!

Yesterday my husband and I ventured out to Okoboji, Iowa, which is about 1.5 hours away from where we live. We had visited an antique store there a couple weeks ago, but because we had gotten there so late in the day, we did not get to visit all the antique stores that we saw. There is one store in particular that my husband fell in love with because of one simple reason: vinyl. Lots of vinyl. Even better, there was lots of mint-condition vinyl.

Actually, we both discovered stores that fed our little addictions because I discovered a honeypot of tablecloths in one of the stores. Even better, they were fairly priced. I had about 30 of them to look through, and I made off with 5 of them, including a Wilendur. It is has some faint yellow stains, but I am determined to get this baby looking like new by soaking and scrubbing until it gleams again. Once I saw the tag on this beauty (plus it was 50% off), I knew I had to have it.

Fun fact: This company changed the spelling of its name after 1958, adding an “e” to the name. So if you find a tag like this one, without the “e,” you know it is from 1958 or earlier.

Here are some of the other ones I absconded with. (I just like that word. Please know that I did pay for them.)

I like the colors in this one. Simple white, black and red. It is in perfect condition, too.
This is a tiny square tablecloth, but I thought the animal patterns were cute. Not sure what I will use it for, but it was a cheaply priced cloth in great condition.
The lighting in my kitchen is making this look a more salmon color than it really is. This cloth is a very pretty carnation pink. No fading, although the pics make it look that way. There is one flaw: Aunt Madge put a small burn hole in it with her cigarette after Thanksgiving dinner. I’m assuming her name was Madge. It just fits.
Look what you did, Aunt Madge! JUST LOOK!
Sunflowers always catch my eye. This linen cloth is in perfect condition and is wonderfully cheery.

After I was able to pull myself away from the tablecloths and my husband was about 6 hours older and dehydrated, I walked on with my stack of cloths and found some other treasures. Anyone who has read the blog for a while has probably noticed that I have a weakness for polkadots. Therefore, these had to be mine. They aren’t technically “antique,” but they are cute. And mine. Did I mention that? Mine. Mine, mine, mine.

This clock face was interesting to me for whatever reason. Even though someone separated it from its original housing, I like the vintage look of it. Someone also added a battery box on the back – and it keeps perfect time.
I have always wanted one of these, and I had looked at several in stores lately. However, the price tag usually scared me off. This one was in great shape and the price was right. (What do I win, Bob?)
This Montgomery Ward pan holder is adorable and matches my kitchen perfectly.
Still had the original price tag on it too. It was blank, but it is still cool.

There are three antique stores in Okoboji that are absolutely killer for finding good stuff. Some stores are overprice because Okoboji is a ritzy lake town and there are people who want to pay ritzy lake town prices for crap. I, however, like “found it in grandma’s basement and want to get rid of it ASAP” prices. Those stores have tons of those sort of good buys.

Until next time . . . happy hunting!

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Let him fly . . .

I am in the inexplicable position of having to watch my oldest child go off and be an adult. I say “inexplicable” because there is no possible way that 18 years has flown by so quickly. I know it’s a cliche to sit here in stupified silence, reminiscing that an oldest child is “of age,” but here I am.

My oldest is a “textbook” oldest. He is the most stubborn person on the planet. He likes to control the show, not be a spectator. From the time he was a toddler, I knew I was in trouble. Looking back on home videos from his toddler days, there were many times when I would be telling him “NO” when he’d reach for something and he would just turn and look at me with that sparkle in his eye, seemingly saying, “Oh, yeah? Try me.” My bookshelf began to get overtaken with self-help books about parenting a strong-willed child.

This trend continued throughout elementary, although it also meant that he would get to know the principal’s office quite well. Keep in mind that I am a teacher; therefore, my son has that “teacher’s kid” label on him . I was horrified every time I got a call from the principal, telling me that my oldest got sent to the office for talking, messing around during class, whatever. I would beg and plead with him to pay attention. I took away privileges. Soon, school became a freaking nightmare as it seemed to be a place of negativity rather than a place of positivity. Others around me urged me to put him on medication for ADD/ ADHD. My gut instincts, however, told me that was not a good solution. He didn’t have a problem learning. He just had a problem learning the same stuff everyone else was and at their pace. He tended to want to teach himself how to learn before that information was presented in a classroom, and the kid retained information like a sponge.

He loved learning, in fact. He could rattle off all the states and capitols by age 4. I remember him declaring in 1st grade that he was bored with math, so he was going to teach himself multiplication. And he did. Then when his class actually DID learn multiplication, he was bored. So he fidgeted . . . and got sent to the principal’s office for disrupting class.

Truthfully, I wanted to cry. “You are a teacher’s kid!” I would say to him. “You cannot be doing this at school!”

Then, halfway through elementary school, a miracle happened: my son was assigned to a male teacher. It sounds insignificant, right? However, it really wasn’t, and here’s why. That male teacher had kids of his own. He understood how some boys learned – and it certainly wasn’t by being passive and quiet in a desk. To hear my son tell the story, he says it was the first time he didn’t feel like something was wrong with him. (If that doesn’t break a mama’s heart, I don’t know what will. ) Rather than getting sent to the office for being fidgety, my son had the best school year of his life.

To see my son today, you’d never guess that he was a fixture in the principal’s office. He is calm and focused. He is goal-driven. He went on in school to grauduate in the top 1/5 of his class. I truly believe that teacher came into his life at the right time. Rather than thinking of school as a place of torture, my son started looking at school as a place of opportunity.

That teacher retired this year. I wrote a letter nominating him for Teacher of the Year, and he won. What that teacher did for my son is what all of us teachers hope to do in our careers: make a difference – even if it is just to one kid.

Among my son’s many goals were to get an apartment as soon as he graduated high school. He has always been a forward thinker, and he knew what he wanted to achieve after he graduated. He is on his way to getting a criminal justice degree, then off to the police academy he will go. If that part isn’t anxiety-producing in today’s political climate, I don’t know what is.

My son found an apartment near the town where he would be attending school, and last weekend he got the keys to that apartment. A week later, he is gone. I am still adjusting to that extra quiet that exists in this house – including the lack of peanut-butter-covered spoons in the sink. (Protein for his carefully planned diet, y’know.)

I still see that fierce toddler in his eyes – that gleam mischief as he reached for something he knew he shouldn’t touch. Life stretches out before him like a desert highway. Like all mamas have done since the beginning of time, I just have to take a deep breath and pray that he has a good life and makes good choices.

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Yum! Tastes like Summer!

I suppose I am not unlike most people that I find myself making certain foods during a particular season, and it doesn’t feel like that season until I make that food item. For example, when I make apple pie in the fall, then it truly FEELS like fall. I have found that summer isn’t truly summer until I decide to make a couple of different food items. Last summer I was traveling a lot, and I was really too busy to cook a whole lot, so I never made my traditional “summer” items. So, really guys, I am still waiting for LAST summer to happen. Does that mean I can opt out of this 2020 one? Because if I’m being honest, it kind of sucks so far. Anyway, let’s talk about food that will herald that arrival of summah. (Not a typo – just introducing a different accent into my written words, which is totally normal. Right? RIGHT?)

The first “taste of summer” necessity is homemade ice cream. However, I will admit to being kind of picky about what I like in homemade ice cream. I am not a fan of anything with eggs in it, or anything that needs to be cooked before freezing it. I like simple. Many years ago I ran across this recipe on AllRecipes.com and it quickly became my favorite for several reasons. For one, it tastes like the base of a Dairy Queen blizzard – rich and creamy. Second, it is totally customizable. I’ve added Oreos or fruit halfway through the freezing process and it always comes out great. If you do not want to add anything to the actual ice cream, it is amazing served with fruit or with cookies crumbled over it. The one downfall, and it’s really not much of one, is that it freezes pretty hard, so any leftovers will need a few minutes to thaw a bit in the container before dishing it up. It is just going to challenge the instant gratification monkey in you. (What? You’ve never heard of the instant gratification monkey? Then you MUST read this and watch this Ted Talk. Hilarious!) Anyway, when this ice cream is fresh made, though, it is like soft-serve ice cream. You will have a hard time not going in for multiple “taste tests.” Not that I know anything about that . . .

I was initially going to take a pic of some ice cream on a spoon, but then I thought it would look better in a cup. And THEN, guys, I was tasked with the difficult job of having to EAT the ice cream after I took the picture. I cannot express to you enough my frustration that I get all the hard jobs.

The second “taste of summer” is homemade ranch dressing. I know what you’re thinking — how could anyone top the Hidden Valley brand? Well, I once thought that stuff in the green bottle was the nectar of the gods . . . that is, until I tried it homemade. I started with using Pioneer Woman’s recipe but I pretty much add all the ingredients to taste now, not worrying about measurements. I usually use fresh herbs (parsley, dill, and chives), but if you cannot get fresh herbs, I like to have some of the Lighthouse freeze dried herbs handy. (Go ahead, click on the link – I get nothing for it. LOL) Although I use fresh garlic cloves, I also like to add a little garlic salt. For whatever reason, garlic salt has become my “must have” addition to pretty much everything I make. Even ice cream! Kidding.

One taste of this stuff, and you will wonder how you ever ate boring ol’ salad with that substance in the green and white bottle.

Do you have a favorite taste of summer? Leave me a comment letting me know your favorite ones!

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