I'm at my best in a puttering-kind-of-mood....and that's exactly what I did as I combed through the house and garage for stuff that could be transformed into outdoor decor! This time of year it's all about getting yard and garden ready. Old wooden cats tucked away in a closet, seldom used placemats and a table runner in a drawer and artificial flowers in a jumbled mess in the garage....you know how it is.

Yard toys & tools in a basket to keep on or near the sandbox.

This is the 3rd summer for our repainted deck and ancient furniture....but it's still pretty presentable. All I needed was a few cans of exterior spray paint and fresh pine straw in key places.


 These frogs were a gift from my Mom years ago when we all cracked up at this photo of her and I and my husband! I make a new print every year; the grandkids love this display!

My faded cardinal and a sculpted, painted kitty tucked into a $5.00 fern!
If you look closely, you can see unscented dryer sheets tucked everywhere. They really do work in keeping pesky bees and flies etc away!

Weeding, new pine straw and some green touch-up for Mr. Frog! This spot is perfect for a cozy little bench.....going to start scouting neighborhood sales and flea markets soon!

Yellow paint revised the rusted bicycle planter! But instead of a plant, it's holding my favorite frog statue....representing our fab five grandkids!  My photo frames are cheap, filled with plastic rather than glass in case of gusty winds. Weathering means they only last a season, so I'm always checking clearance sales for them.

I added the kiddos' Easter pinwheels to the mix of faux flowers! Last year's end-of-season-sale chair cushions are perfect for this oversized bench!

All in all....a pretty good start with the backyard! Next will be trimming the hedges and rose bushes along the sides, laying new pine straw and prettying up the front porch....another fun place to play decorator!  

UPDATE:  Look at my antique store/yard sale finds!

Found a wooden bench with gothic stencils; but luckily I had last year's cushion to tie on with pinestraw twine!
Little $3.00 ceramic carrots for the Rabbit Crossing! (We brought this sign back from Sydney years ago; the white faded bunny is a left over Easter Bunny....once brightly colored pink and blue!)

A clearance hanging frame I just tucked into the faux flowers. Love to have photos of the grandkids on the deck!

$6.00 wooden sign ready to hang......pointing straight to the flower garden/veggie & strawberry patch! Oh......and I pinestrawed everywhere.....fresh and ready for summer! Happy gardening!

Me? In the Kitchen?

You all know I have no shame admitting I don't cook; never learned, never cared.
My husband shops, cooks and cleans the kitchen.....I am truly blessed!

Mom never let me in the kitchen; and since I was......and still am....a fussy eater, I didn't have any inclination or interest in learning to make anything. Jim bought me monogrammed recipe cards after we were married; hoping to entice me to give cooking a try. I only used them to copy recipes from his mom and mine that were holiday favorites (ambrosia) or cookie dough from scratch (for creating and decorating fun shapes.) He did manage to teach me a few basics so our kids wouldn't starve if he was late or out of town. I could prepare tomato soup and grilled cheese, mac and cheese, and Mickey Mouse pancakes the few times it was necessary; but nothing about kitchen duty ever grabbed me.
Luckily, our son and daughter learned to love cooking from their dad.

I'm not much fun to invite to dinner or take to a restaurant. I dislike dips, sauces, condiments and salad dressings. Mom DID teach me to be polite, so I always take a little of everything and give it a taste or two at someone's home. Ordering a hamburger or hot dog plain with nothing on it............or Mexican dishes with no guacamole or sour cream always gets the server's attention. My family and friends just roll their eyes and shake their heads.

Which brings me to last night with my 5 yo twin grandkids. I'm bragging now....and I know you are either laughing or feeling sorry  for me or thinking I'm a complete idiot for even writing this. But it was pure joy working with them. After bath, I asked if they wanted to help make muffins for morning. Their excitement and enthusiasm really touched me. Each had a turn filling the measuring cup with water and then canola oil. I showed them how to break an egg on the side of the bowl....then let each of them do the other two eggs. Perfect.....no shells dropped at all! They took turns stirring.....even holding the spoon in tandem.....until they said "it's hard, my arms are tired."


It got a little messy spooning the batter into the muffin cups.....but I held my tongue and my instinct to reach out and help. I showed them how to clean up with a small piece of paper towel where the drips were so it wouldn't smoke in the oven. Grandma got them in and out of the oven; but as soon as they were placed on the plate, they both helped wrap them in a towel to ensure freshness till morning.

Now look at this....I've written a cooking essay! I welcomed these munchkins into the kitchen to help! I gave them a new opportunity and (too bad I wasn't recorded).....a play-by-play of how to make muffins! LOL  Surprised myself with the great feeling of accomplishment on all our parts; giving myself a pat on the back for sharing my wisdom? experience?... NOT! I was sharing the fun and delight of baking something with our own hands!

When Mommy called and they said their good nights.....I heard one say "we made muffins with Grandma."  But you know it stops there. I'm not going anywhere with this, believe me. I'm just tickled they enjoyed it and will add it to their "fun times at Grandma & Grandpa's memory book"!

Education Celebration....School's Out!

Along the broad travels of our schooling
From nursery school to college degree;
Each year we complete another step
Until the final projects, tests and hugs.

Behind them now the twins leave pre-K
Next to come for Drew is 3rd
Away from 6th, KK and Marge to 7th rise
Beyond freshman year, 10th grade awaits!

As the year ends, we cheer accomplishments
Till next fall starts, we welcome anticipation.
Beyond the summer waits more adventures
Till then, this time is theirs! Congratulations...
On a job well done, my Fab Five!

Finding Myself in Dad

He couldn’t be there when I was born.  He was a B-17 ball turret gunner in WWII; shot down over Rouen, France and hidden by the French Underground for 70 days. He was eventually rescued and returned home for a brief stay when I was 8 months old.  Returning to duty for another year; I was 3 when he was finally discharged and settled in our first home. The bond was not there. . . .but I was happy to have a Daddy!

As the years went by, he kept a distant and strict relationship with me. There was no special connection. . . .be it our late start together, the society of the 50’s, or the busyness of his career and growing family. I never knew any different.

Ten years into my own marriage and children, Mom had a heart attack. As I walked into the hospital after a long ride across the state, he grabbed me in a bear hug and held on forever, breaking down in tears while telling me she’d be okay. THIS was our moment. . . this is when our connection burst forth. We never mentioned it, but as life went on, he became more and more demonstrative with me, more interested and talkative. We were growing closer than we’d ever been.  

Most women see their mothers reflected in themselves, but for me. . . it’s always been my dad. I am my Father’s daughter! I look like him. I’m the oldest of four; my sister and brothers all resemble our mom. I love being outside. Gardening and long walks were two of his passions…..mine too. I’m forever optimistic-but cautious. Clueless at the joke’s punch line-but fall into fits of giggles at not-always-funny things.  Just like my Dad. So many other traits I recall in my father, I can now see in myself.

The best of times were the laughing; totally losing it with gasps and giggles and glares from all around us. As close as my mom and I were, Daddy and I shared something special.   I was the first to get our Dad to open up about his WWII experiences. I worked alongside him in his yard each spring; rewarded with seedlings and plants for my own garden.

Over twenty winters spent on Myrtle Beach and along the Florida coast, Daddy discovered beach walking. For most of those winters, I made it a tradition to visit them for long weekends around Valentine’s Day.  He had me walking 4-6 miles in each direction! You know sand is not easy to walk in! And he was in better shape than me. The rest of the seasons, he’d do the same thing in his suburban Detroit neighborhood; paying no attention to rain, wind, chilly or humid. Had to have his morning walk! As I wind up my sixth decade. . . I do 5 and 10K’s and walk on sand at our rental beach house in CA.

He never slowed down because of aging. (Something my husband used to tell me if I whined about aches and pains.) Sure he had arthritis, surgeries and procedures that come with growing older. . . .but he bounced back quickly every time. He made his fourth trip to Australia when he was 75.  He wrote my mom a birthday poem for every one of their 60 years together. I  too love to travel, and although I don’t do poetry. . . .I’m a note writer; leaving love notes to my grandkids, thank you notes to the ladies at Cracker Barrel, the laundry lady and neighbors.

He was a workhorse well into his 80’s. He mowed his own lawn, cut down trees and cleaned the gutters  on an early Spring weekend. And then...he came inside to do the vacuuming.  No big deal for Daddy; this is how he lived. Mom called 911 when he couldn’t catch his breath. We all went home, sure it was a heart attack based on family history. I flew in late and volunteered to sit with him during the night so the others could rest.  “It’s my lungs” he said. “Doc says my heart’s in good shape. . . .I’ve been thrown a curve ball!” I held his hand and we laughed and reminisced and he told me his decision not to go on a ventilator.  I was still holding his hand when the beeping interrupted my dozing.  And he was gone. . . just like that.  Not only am I grateful that I had him so long, that we found our close bond; but that I could be there when he died. Mostly...I am proud and thankful to be who I am because of you, Daddy!


WTH?... Where's Our House?

Oh I miss the comfort of this house where we are, where we are,
where we are, where we are.
The floor under our feet whispers out 
Come on in, come on in where it all begins. Lakehouse by Monster and Men                 
The online message popped up  a few days ago from an old neighbor.... a take your breath away/bump your heart kind of message.  "Your old house on Crooked Lake was torn down."  It was gone...... our first home, where our kids were born, where we all spent summers swimming and boating; winters sledding down the hill and skating on the ice.

Actually, it was my husband's home since he was a child. His folks bought a tiny cottage back in the 50's where their four kids could spend fun, sunny summers. Suits on, out the door, down the steps and toes in the water! So simple back in those days.

As the older kids grew up and moved  away, improvements were made to enlarge and winterize it. Great place for Jim and his buddies to live during college years.  And then.......along came Joan!
We met while working on the campus newspaper; the big city girl taken with the rising journalist. Throw in a scenic lake community; our first kiss was on the back steps! The lake house became ours when we married two years later.

My kid brothers and sister spent summers with us. Our first child, a boy we called Sonshine, took to the water at 9 months. By his first winter....he was on teeny ice skates, trying to play 'hockey' with daddy on our shoveled spot of the frozen, snow covered lake!

Preparing for another child.....we made plans for a house addition too. An elongated ranch; with a 1/2 basement under a master bedroom and bath and a 20 foot deck overlooking the lake! Mother Nature had fun that January morning. The weather and work delays over, workmen arrived to begin the excavation project. Labor pains had me in hurry, scurry mode; we sent our son next door and headed to the car. The most enduring picture in my heart is of my 3 year old at the neighbor's window. His face pressed against the glass staring.....not at us....but at the steam shovels starting the big dig!

That evening, my husband went home to call our parents with the news of our precious baby girl. Coaching our son to tell his grandmas that he had a new baby sister, he put him on the phone.... only to hear "I got a new basement!"  True story.....we used it for her birth announcement!

We spent five more years there...before the first of several job opportunities had us living in 3 more states. Our daughter also learned to swim by age one; and both kids learned to skate when the lake turned to ice. The hill was the best for winter toboggan sliding or a running start off the dock in summer! 

Look how proudly it sits atop the hill overlooking one of Michigan's thousands of lakes.
Look at the green sided, yellow trimmed dream home we'd finally made truly ours.
This photo was taken about 20 years ago from a friend's boat.
 Instead of an annual drive-by, we'd sometimes get to see it from the water.
                            And this is how we remember our first home.
                               Bittersweet, the end of an era for sure.
                This old house was one of the last to undergo razing and rebuilding.
                                                It was time.

There is comfort in this: the old neighbor from Michigan, now living out of state as we are....was passing on the words of a long time Crooked Laker.....who referred to this news as the 'Stommen House being torn down'. We sold it and moved away 37 years ago! And people still called it ours...imagine that!

UPDATE A few months after Jim and I digested and accepted this news, he died in his sleep one August afternoon. We are grateful that he's now back at Crooked Lake forever.

Raising Compassionate Children

As a grandmother of five wonderful children, you know I worry and fret sometimes (actually..... lots of the time!) But, I am blessed with two kids who are excellent parents....and who believe the world is an awesome place. That's where the right attitude beginsWe never considered that the world was cruel. But sadly, people can be cruel and heartless.

 My grandkids  have learned to be bully proof and lock-down safe and how to dial 911 in emergencies. What is difficult to learn......and best taught by example.....is compassion. Standing up for the underdog, recognizing the difference between good natured teasing and bordering on meaness, how to read people, but not judge. 

I'm 100 percent behind the above statement in that we can make a diffference by teaching children how to handle difficult people, uncomfortable situations and unexpected changes or events. Just as we teach personal safety and responsibility, we need to teach kids How.To. Deal. Adults face things everyday; ever wonder if you could have handled it differently? Better? A bit too quick with a smart remark? Judgemental of the poorly dressed or of the Important Person cutting to the front of the line? When I was younger, my mom would say "oh, maybe they have an emergency or what if Daddy's defibrillator went off again?" We'd need to hurry, yes. "The poor people may be down and out ....but still deserve our respect" she'd often say.
My point is...we can teach them to handle difficulties and conflicts they will encounter, but in ways that don't add to the conflict. They can assert themselves firmly, strongly...and still remain pleasant. We've all encountered rude, careless, or clueless people. Ever order at the drive-thru....they repeat it back to you wrong; you correct it (sometimes repeatedly) and often end up driving away with the wrong order anyway. This is a prime spot for kids to observe how YOU deal. Same with traffic; "keep calm and......" fits just about every scenario, don't you think?
Easier said than done, I know. But as the eldest sibling, teacher, mom and grandma....child advocate if you will....I've learned first hand that it begins with US! My father-in-law often repeated the words of an old quote. The line I most recall; "it is still a beautiful world!"

Grandma Made Me Do It

My life today is all about family and memories. I share them from the past and make them for the future.
Growing up, I spent summers with my grandma....and she gave me the greatest gift of all.....undivided time and attention. I cherish her lessons in proper English, perfect posture, writing thank-you notes and getting to things I'd never be allowed to do at home. She let me walk to the corner market by myself and dig in the yard to plant seedlings wherever I wanted. She respected me as a person, she had faith that I could handle things. 

Our childhood becomes a part of who we are, what grows our hearts and souls. I love being with and doing things with my own grandchildren, just like grandma Carswell did with me.
Summertime has officially arrived and I’m right in the middle of five grandkids as we settle in to watch Madagascar 3 at the local theater.  My older granddaughters were visiting for ten days and Gramps and I had a blast…..including the cousins whenever possible! We watched the 7 year old play ball on his All Star baseball team and spent hours in the pool with the Fab Five. Early morning, all afternoon, nighttime swims…..good thing they all keep a handful of suits at G & G’s house!  All five kids have learned to love the water in “Grandpa’s pool!”

The three older kids tried our community pool where they dived off the high boards……..pretty cool experience! The twins loved having a turn to spend the night; the older girls sharing makeup tips with the younger one and her twin brother holding his own with laugh out loud jokes and comedy routines!

The best moments were unplanned.....for every photo opportunity I had……there were serendipity moments that I captured in my heart.  Gramps and I would nudge each other as two or more kids snuggled in front of TV, offered  to clean our pantry , played Scrabble with my Flower, petted horses in a nearby pasture,  went outside waaaaaaay past bedtime to swirl nightsticks in the dark, or when one came into our room at 2 AM to say they’d had a nightmare! The teenager and twins cracking up at the same jokes; the 7 year old explaining to his older cousins how something worked!

Two funny things…….I admonished the bunch not to fuss at or hit each other while swinging their nightsticks……then smacked one right in the forehead to kill a mosquito! Ooooops!  Sorry, Dolly. 
They were so excited to swim at the cousins’ pool….but then spent the whole time finding and saving trapped frogs and tadpoles……..the photo says it best!

The biggest memory maker was getting Burney! The girls have 3 cats and a dog back home in California……..and since we lost our cat two winters ago…..they have wanted us to have another. So off we went to the Animal Shelter and adopted a handsome, friendly little guy who had been there for six months. From the moment we brought him home, they held him, played with him and loved him! They helped the Littles become comfortable with him and get used to his darting here and there and everywhere ….full of energy and curiosity!  Imagine G & G’s home filled with a 14yo, 10yo, 7yo and two 4yo’s….all of us entranced by this new addition to our family.   Priceless!

 Having the girls here meant so much……our house is filled with memories for them from when they lived here and from past summer and holiday visits! They love to reminisce and hear family stories!  Sometimes they’d go from sisterly squabbles to mature savvy shoppers!  I loved the spur-of-the-moment visit to the Mall where I had a peak into the future as these two young ladies considered price, quality and whether they really needed it! But it also reminded me to enjoy them as they are RIGHT NOW!  They are both off to uncharted territory this fall as they enter High School and Middle School!  

We've ridden horses, toured the aquarium, ice and roller skated, jumped at the bouncy places and learned to paddleboard together. This summer, the younger ones can join us for outdoor adventures like hiking and kayaking. Another fun thing to try is zip-lining.....so if the big girls are willing, I'm going to be too!

I always say I learned to be a loving, attentive and involved grandma from my own grandmother! I loved going to her house for weeks at a time all the way through college…………..so I’m hoping these honey bunnies will want to keep coming back every summer no matter how old they get!

I’m sharing this post for the Grandmother Power Blogging Campaign, inspired by Tara Mohr and Paola Gianturco who are focusing on the collective power of grandmothers and older women all across the globe. Any blogger can contribute in the weeks ahead; tell us about women who have touched your life.