The rehearsal was at the same park we camped at, since we didn’t need as large a pavilion.  It was chilly and windy, but everyone was pretty geeked up.  Almost there!

Unfortunately, the caterer (Qdoba) was late due to a flat tire, and we didn’t realize that they had forgotten half the rice and the tortillas.  However, Nick Weber made AWESOME cheesecake for our dessert!WedPics Image 103251652WedPics Image 103300552

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After the rehearsal, we had some time for a campfire, one of the best parts of camping!

WedPics Image 103300609 WedPics Image 103300603WedPics Image 103300627 WedPics Image 103300633 WedPics Image 103300636 WedPics Image 103300642 It was a great time, now on to the big day!


Wedding week, part 2

How could I forget to tell about all the baking I did!  Two things we often took camping was a half batch of monster cookies and morning glory muffins.  Ben wanted brunch at the campsite Sunday, omelets in a bag, so I usually make quick breads to go with that.  Two banana breads, one each with nuts and without, and raspberry bread.

Wedding Week

The week started with Ben and Jen arriving from Rochester (NY) around 2am Sunday morning.  They slept while we went to church and we met for breakfast.  I had a meeting and possible potluck for the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture-Blackbird Farm in Coopersville) I had joined, so I made a pasta salad, went to the meeting, and Tom, Ben, and Jen joined me there.  Jen had lots of vegetarian options, I only had to cook one dish, and very little cleanup.  A low key start to a hectic week.

Ben’s suit:  Ben ordered a suit online.  Good quality, but lots of alterations needed.  The pants weren’t hemmed, the vest was too tight to button, and the coat sleeves were too long.  I thought of buying lining and putting a gusset in the back, but that would be obvious.  Then I had the brilliant idea of taking the seven inches I cut off when I hemmed it, cutting it into 3 inch wide bias strips, and inserting a bias panel under the arms of the vest.  The fabric would match, and it would be less obvious.  It turned out well, but left little time for the coat.  Ben said just temporarily hem the sleeves, and do a “proper” job of it later.

Costco:  Our responsibilities were the rehearsal dinner and alcohol for the reception.  Two partial kegs would be ordered, Ben and Jen had bought a sangria in Rochester, and we got a variety of bottles and cans of different beers.  Also, ingredients for trail mix (a trail mix bar was the “favors”) and some candy to complement the s’mores bar, which was to replace the wedding cake.

Marshmallows:  Speaking of the s’mores bar, they also wanted some different marshmallows.  They had bought lime and lemon meringue online, but there is a local handmade marshmallow maker.  However, he was no longer selling at Fulton Street Market, but they were for sale at a store in Downtown Market.  I made a quick trip down and found they were only in 3 ounce bags!  So I made two batches of peanut butter marshmallows.  (Each batch, about 2 pounds!)  I didn’t make vegetarian, as that takes a variety of ingredients to replace the unflavored gelatin.

Camping:  We left on Thursday to camp.  Unfortunately, I had not packed the camper ahead of time, so I spent Thursday morning packing.  I have been writing lists and more lists for the last few months, so nothing (major) was forgotten.

I had told the family that came early to camp that I would provide supper, so I made a big batch of chili when we arrived.  Ben and Jen were with her family, who had also had a lot of arrivals that day.

Ben’s aunts and uncles and sister Anna all arrived Thursday, it gave us a chance to take a deep breath before the rehearsal morning.

Friday morning I made a trip to Meijer to get all the things that weren’t worth trying to transport to the campground.  A Meijer not set up in the usual layout made it a longer trip than it should have been!

Next post:  rehearsal, wedding day, and aftermath.

Wedding plans

A friend said to me last week, “You’re the mother of the groom this time, you don’t have much to do.”  Probably not for a traditional wedding: a rehearsal dinner and alcohol at the reception.  But of course Ben doesn’t do things quite traditionally.  First, it is a CAMPING WEEKEND.  Four days camping for some of us, two for everyone else.  In January I made 12 campsite reservations, in April two more.  I will be coordinating some of the meals that we eat together.  Jen’s family is taking care of everything else for the reception.  Of course, I still worry about everything.  I shouldn’t worry as it isn’t their first either, Jen’s sister got married a few years ago.

I have a list of things to do today: take sleeping bags to the laundromat, pick up handmade marshmallows at Fulton Street Market,  add two nights to Anna’s campsite.  Wednesday I drove to Muskegon to get a beverage dispenser for the Sangria that looks like a Mason jar.  I ordered four shawls and will return three.  Once I pick the shawl, I’ll go to the fabric store to get material to make a band and bow for my hat.  The reception is in a shelter in a different Kalamazoo County park, but the wedding is outside, so sun protection is needed!  I need to shorten Tom’s pants, and when Ben gets here Sunday, hem his pants and shorten his coat sleeves.

In 10 days I’ll post how things went, including pictures.



Kitty rescue 2.0

The most recent family attempt at saving cats of the world, one kitty at a time, actually began about 3 years ago.  There was a cat outside, very friendly, that looked like a washed out version of our indoor cat.  A gray rather than black tortoise.


We noticed a fluffy gray and white kitten following her.  She would come up to the back door, he would sit 40 feet away in the weeds.  He was truly a feral cat.  Tom slowly coaxed him closer and closer, until you could reach down and pet him.

Ben was living at home, and had his own cat.  However, Ben and Tom decided they could bring him into the house, and he would be Ben’s cat.  After our past history with rescues, the first step was to take him to the vet to make sure he was healthy.  (Version 1.0 will be a later post, with that whole story.)  He was healthy, so we had him neutered (at C-Snip).  Unfortunately, just a few short weeks later my mother-in-law passed away, and the last time she got kittens my brother-in-law said someone had to promise to take them if anything happened to her.  We knew how much cats meant to her, and we expected her to live a long time, so of course we said we would take them.  Now we had 5 cats in the house!  Can you guess who named them by the names?  Mandu, F’lar, Zedd (named for Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander,)  Buffy, and Muffy.

We continued feeding Zedd’s mother, who we creatively named Mama.  We always meant to take her to C-snip, but never did. She had a litter just before we took Zedd in. She regularly had litters of kittens, which never survived.  One had from this group.  It was white and gray, and had what looked like a white cross on its back, so Tom called it Chrissy.


We wondered if Chrissy was a boy or girl, until the day I looked off the side of the deck and saw her with 4 kittens.

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One was very weak and didn’t live much longer, but there were still three.  We hadn’t seen Chrissy for several days, so we caught the kittens and put them in a cage with food and litter.  We were heading out of town for a few days, then would take them to be neutered and try to find homes for them.  Chrissy showed up after we left, and Ben caught her and put her in the cage with the kittens.


She had been gone because she was hurt, so when we took her to the vet, she needed surgery on her leg. Since anesthetic is the most expensive part, we had her spayed at the same time.

This meant 6 weeks in a cage to heal.


The kittens were pretty tame by then, but she didn’t really like us.  We found a home for one of the males,

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then took the other two to C-snip.  Anna decided to take the little girl.


We let them out of the cage, but continued to feed Mama, Chrissy, and Lucius.  We did this for over a year, even brought them in (in a cage) for the coldest couple weeks of the winter of 2014.  By then, Mama, Chrissy, and Lucius were all about the same size.


Then, last fall, right after Labor Day, we never saw them again.  A neighbors dog, and us being gone for a couple days, must have been too much.  I wished we had taken Lucius in, but we didn’t think Chrissy would survive without him.

So which one reappears a few weeks ago?:  Chrissy!


Afraid of the neighbors dog, but showing up every day for food and petting.  So we’re back to the old dilemma–do we bring her in?  Ben moved away with F’lar, and one of Grandma’s girls (F’lar and Zedd did not get along.)  Can we handle 4 cats in the house, with two (Chrissy and Mandu) afraid of everything?

Update:  Mama showed up Monday, don’t know if she’ll stay.


The perfect proposal

In less than three weeks, my baby boy is getting married.  Before I tell about the happy event, I need to describe the proposal.

Just over a year ago, Ben was still living at home, working as a sat truck engineer and photojournalist at Fox17.  He was leaving for grad school in August, Jen was looking for a job in Rochester, and had even ordered a wedding dress.  But there had been no formal proposal.  Ben can never keep a secret from her.  But she didn’t know that he had gone to a jeweler months before to work on the design of a unique engagement ring.

The first Saturday in May, he told Jen that they were meeting a group of people from Fox for a local news only private screening of “Anchorman 2” at a local movie theater.  She had been doing volunteer work in the morning, and hurried home to shower and get ready.  Ben sat down the street from her apartment for 20 minutes so they would be running late at the theater.  Being a private showing, it wasn’t on the marquee and they didn’t have to stand in line for a ticket.  As they hurried to the correct theater to take their seats, the lights had already gone down, the “previews” were beginning.

For those who don’t know, Ben’s grad school is for an MFA in film.  He had made a short film on how they met, their relationship, and even casting the gold for the ring.  In the upper part of the theater, where she would see them,  were several people from Fox.  Down below was their friends, and much of her family, and his. This is what she saw, as well as her reaction as she watched it.

After this, the house lights went up, Ben got down on one knee, and proposed. Someone didn’t bring the mike, so it stayed a private moment, until he turned around and said, “She said yes.”  Although we did all pop up above our seats to watch, even though we couldn’t hear.



The house lights went back down, so Jen could see the best wishes sent by some friends and both of her grandmas, who couldn’t be there.  It was followed by cake and punch in the theater.  The theater people were great, by the way: Celebration! Cinema at Woodland.

Two things we found out afterwards:

1) Some of Ben’s friends wouldn’t come, they didn’t want their girlfriends to see the “perfect” proposal; and

2) Jen was getting a little ticked off at Ben for not canceling his membership at the dating site.  (He’d used their correspondence for the script!)

Next:  The wedding


There are pleasant surprises.  In my experience, it seems like most are not so pleasant.

We moved into our house in 1984, when I was 7 months pregnant for Anna.  Our house is called “the Blink house” in our little village, as it was built over 90 years ago by the family that owned the local lumber yard.  There is a lot of oak, most painted over.  Some not.  I have stripped down to the oak trim in the bedroom that was Sara’s and Anna’s, (it was just painted around the window), and in the upstairs bathroom.  I’m planning to strip the paint on the woodwork in the room that was Ben’s, getting ready to move our bedroom downstairs.  I painted the outside of the house in 1988, and have picked away at repainting for the last 9 years.  I’ve painted two bedrooms twice, ours once.  When my brother-in-law replaced the flooring, toilets, and vanity in the bathrooms, I painted those rooms.  We changed the sunroom/playroom to Tom’s office, and I painted that.  I’ve painted the kitchen walls, and am slowly working on the cupboards.  We’ve had the old fuse box changed to circuit breakers, and the furnace and water heater replaced with new that doesn’t need a chimney to vent to, and the roof replaced.  I’ve learned a lot about minor repairs, I can glaze windows, caulk, sand, and research what I don’t know how to do.  My brother-in-law has helped with the big projects that are beyond me.

When Junior redid the upstairs  bathroom flooring, he found a big, not so good surprise.  A former bathroom remodel had made a mess of the floor supports, and it was a big headache to repair.

When the sunroom was repainted, we also pulled up the ugly rainbow shag carpet and linoleum, and Junior sanded and refinished the floor.  My nephew said he didn’t think it was hardwood.  We could see the oak under the edge of the dining room carpet.  Since I always thought the sunroom was an afterthought (the sunroom, back half of the kitchen, and half bath don’t have a second story above them), I didn’t think that much of it at the time.

Well, the living room and dining room carpet are getting quite old, so this winter I finally started pulling up carpet, and then, yes, linoleum in the dining room, to refinish the floor.  Hardwood is much easier for Tom to go over in his wheelchair, and can be refinished rather than replaced like carpet.  Per Junior’s recommendation, I cut the carpet in strips, rolled it up, and taped it.  The rolls were much easier to put in the trash.  I pulled up the linoleum, and got out the Krud Kutter to clean off the paper backing and glue.  This is where the next not so good surprise came, and I can’t blame it on a bad remodel.  The oak boards are only in the 18″ perimeter of the room.  The center is the same wider boards as the sunroom, that “not hardwood” as Doug had said.  Why would the owner of the lumber yard be so cheap?  It was pre-depression, their own home, and they got the wood wholesale!

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I did some research, and found that as hardwood flooring became popular, a softer, cheaper wood was used for the center of the room.  This was covered with a fiber or linoleum rug, and only the hardwood border was seen.  I’m glad plywood wasn’t invented until 1928, or it would probably be in the center of the room.

I’ve decided to make the most of this.  We’ll either refinish it all the same, and this will be part of the character of the house; finish the softer wood center by painting a pattern on it; or refinish it all but put a rug over the odd center.



Are you the one who makes the t-shirts?

Sitting and waiting with Ollie outside Evie’s ballet class, this was asked of me by a parent of a friend of Ollie’s.  Well, yes, that would be me.

It started innocently enough.  I made Evie a sundress from a dark purple fabric with owls printed on it.  I could just see a t-shirt for Ollie, with a large cut-out of an owl from that fabric, and two big white buttons for eyes.


So the next Christmas, I made a few more very simple designs.  I was especially proud of The rick-rack for the shark teeth!



By the next Christmas, my well read grandson had some specific requests:  Sara had found some Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus fabric, and Ollie loved the Elephant & Gerald books, both by Mo Willems. I don’t have a picture of this Elephant and Gerald shirt, but both were very popular in Ollie’s preschool class.


Next birthday, the popular book was Charlotte’s Web.  The web glows in the dark.

charlotte & wilbursome pig

I had a green shirt left, and asked Ollie what I should do with it.  He simply said, “Turtle.”


This last Christmas, Sara suggested another Elephant & Gerald.  Ollie loves dragons and knights, so I had been looking for the right stripe fabric to do My Father’s Dragon, the most ambitious project yet.

elephant & piggy raindragon

Again, they met with Ollie’s approval.

ollie in dragon



A link to the past

I have been seriously working on genealogy for Tom’s family and mine for over 15 years.  My great-great grandmother is the inspiration for the book I am writing.  Rachel Mendenhall Leap died when her youngest son, Absolom, was an infant.

Just over 2 years ago I got an e-mail from a total stranger.  She lives in Oregon, and had seen an old framed photograph for sale on Craigslist.  It was in a storage unit in Oregon, and the renter had stopped paying the monthly rent.  After whatever was the appropriate length of time, the storage owner emptied it out, and listed some of the items for sale.  On the back of the frame was a hand-written note saying “My mothers father Absalum Reeves Leap died June 1885 William B. Snyder.”  The e-mail sender  linked family’s with heirlooms in the past and, because I had posted my family tree online, she sent me the link.


Tom bought it for my birthday.  He told the seller to have it professionally packed to ship.  Packaging and shipping cost more than the picture, but it was worth every penny.  To make it even better, my Aunt Sara remembers it on her grandmother’s, Absalom wife’s, wall.  My grandmother was 18 months old, her sister was not yet born, when Absalom died.  In 1885.  My great-aunt’s husband and son were both named William Snyder.  I offered to let Aunt Sara hang it on her wall, she was just happy that I had it.  For her 91st birthday, my son Ben took a picture of it, which I framed a small oval frame. My sister hung the copy on her wall. After130 years, it has come full circle.

Another new appliance, another new recipe

I have an ancient food processor.  Tom’s aunt gave it to me about 30 years ago, so it is probably 40 years old.  It works fine, but due to either arthritis or carpal tunnel, I often can’t get the bowl and lid on and off.  I started looking for a new one, and based on ratings bought the Cuisinart 9 cup food processor.  If I couldn’t get the bowl on and off, I’d return it and try again.

I wanted to try it out with a new recipe.  Trying to avoid processed (no pun intended) foods, I decided on a cheese cracker recipe.  These are one of Tom’s favorite snacks/lunches.  I found this recipe on Yahoo, and saved on Pinterest so I could find it again.  The instructions were easy to follow, and they turned out well.  Things I would do different:  roll thinner, try different cheeses, use a little less salt.

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