30 June 2014

Making a Life Binder

 Awhile back, I attended a genealogy basics class. It was a fascinating afternoon, and I picked up a number of tips on how to start researching your family history. 

But one suggestion not specifically related to genealogy stuck with me: The instructor mentioned that as she researched her family history, she created a binder with the significant papers for each of her parents -- birth certificates, school records, employment information, etc. As soon as she suggested this idea, I knew that I wanted to make a binder for each of my parents -- even though I'm not doing genealogy yet. I'm calling it a "Life Binder", since it will tell the story of their lives.

The Life Binder will allow me to keep all of their important papers organized and accessible. When I'm ready to scrapbook their lives, I'll simply integrate the documents into my album.
In my basement there are tubs and tubs of papers from my parents' house. It has been very overwhelming to sift through all the boxes and know what to keep and where to put it all. Once I decided to make a Life Binder for each parent, my sorting process became easier.  

I made temporary "sorting" file folders for each of my parents -- primary school, secondary school, military, employment, volunteer activities, hobbies, etc. I moved items I want to keep into the appropriate folder.

Eventually I ended up with a tub of roughly sorted papers and folders for my dad. Since I have fewer papers for my dad than for my mom, I decided to start with his Life Binder.

I purchased large binders and a box of acid-free sheet protectors at the office supply store. I bought over-sized tabs which are wider than the sheet protectors and labeled them for each stage or activity in life, beginning with birth/infancy, and ending with death. I added a few baseball card sleeves for smaller items like work ID's. Then I got to work moving papers out of the tub and into the binder.

 In a short amount of time, I had consolidated all of the loose papers into a single, organized binder. And even though it seems simplistic, the binder helped me start to see the story of my dad's life, from birth through each stage in life until his final days on earth.

 While I was at it, I created a Life Binder for my own papers, too. Now as I'm sorting through those tubs, I have a place to stash all the important documents from my own childhood -- Girl Scout records, school certificates, piano recital programs, and the like. Everything will be organized for when I eventually start scrapbooking my own life. I think I may make a smaller binder for my grandparents, too.

I like the concept of Life Binders so much that I thought I would share it today! I'm all for ideas that help bring order to the chaos of life.

29 June 2014

I'm a Dealer!

A month ago, I shared that I had signed up to be a "dealer" at one of our local antique malls, The Brass Armadillo. Thirty days later I'm happy to report that I'M STILL THERE and have actually sold a few items...enough to cover my first rental fee, with a little left over (emphasis on LITTLE)!

I only wish things would sell faster! Each time I go over to check on the case, I hope to see big empty spaces. So far, that has not happened. Still, it's kind of exciting to give this a try and see how it goes! 

Throughout the month, I've been adding to my case and re-arranging the items here and there. I would like to add a couple of small shelving units so that I can use the space more efficiently. As it is, a lot of the space at the back of each shelf is empty, simply because it is hard for customers to see and reach. I'm still figuring this out, getting some good ideas from how other dealers display items.

I was told that the dealers who do best are the ones who tend to their spaces regularly, making sure everything is merchandised nicely. So I've been stopping to check on my case and add to it at least once a week.  

Of course, it takes time to research and determine a fair price for each item I'd like to sell. It seems that I have pile of ever-changing items to price. I just pick away at pricing as time permits. After all, my case won't hold a ton of stuff.

In addition to pricing, it's also important to keep an inventory of items in the case. Each merchandise tag has space for a SKU number, which is a number the dealer can use to keep track of inventory. Before leaving for the summer, Bailey set up a simple inventory system for me so I have a record of everything in my case. It ensures that I'm consistent in pricing and can make any necessary price adjustments. It will also help me keep track of my extremely high sales volume! haha

So one month into this new endeavor, I'd give it a thumbs up! Everyone at the mall has been very friendly and welcoming, and I've learned a lot in a short amount of time. I remain optimistic that this will ultimately be a good (albeit kind of SLOW) way for me to clear stuff out my house!

28 June 2014

Recipe of the Week: ZID

 There are some recipes that just make me think of my mom. This is one of them: Zesty Italian Crescent Casserole, although we've always called it ZID for "Zesty Italian Dish". In her later years, my mom became much more concerned with healthy cooking, reducing sodium and processed ingredients. But prior to that, she was all about recipes that tasted good, and this recipe came out of that time period. Probably not so good for you, but really yummy!

In those days, Mom worked at an insurance company with a bunch of ladies who were apparently very good cooks. They regularly shared their favorites via an exchange called "Recipe of the Week". Mom always tried them out on us, and many of them are favorites to this day.

ZID remains one of the best recipes from that era. I've found similar recipes on the internet but this one has a few differences that make it easy and very tasty. I use the reduced fat crescent rolls, sour cream, and cheese to make me feel less guilty in indulging in this somewhat decadent dish!


Zesty Italian Crescent Casserole
1 lb ground beef
1/4 C chopped onion or 1T dry onion
1 envelope spaghetti sauce mix
1.5 C (6 oz) shredded Mozzarella cheese
8 oz tomato sauce
1/2 C sour cream
8 oz can crescent dinner rolls
1/3 C grated Parmesan cheese
2 T butter

Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Brown hamburger and onion; drain.
Stir in tomato sauce and spaghetti sauce mix. Heat until bubbly.
Pour mixture into ungreased 12x8 or 9x13 baking dish.
Combine mozzarella cheese and sour cream. Pour (see picture below) over the meat mixture.
Separate rolls and place over the cheese mixture.
Melt the butter and stir in the Parmesan cheese.
Crumble the mixture over the top of the dough.
Bake at 375 for 18-25 minutes. Cut into squares. Serves 6.

To reheat: Cover with foil and heat at 375 for 12-15 minutes.


 Here are some pictures of this easy recipe!
Step #1 - meat mixture in casserole:

Step #2 - blobs of sour cream and cheese mixture. The original recipe indicates to POUR this mixture but trust me, it does not pour.  Blobs are fine, as they melt and spread out.

 Step #3 - ZID with the top "lid" and cheese:

Just out of the oven! It looks like makes a lot, but it's not very thick! Believe me, one dish does not last long!

Ready to eat -- paired with broccoli to lessen the guilt!

Note: Once I made the mistake of putting the crescent rolls in the bottom of the dish. I realized my error when I came to the end of the recipe...typical for me! Luckily, I had a second can in the fridge so I just added a top "lid" to the ZID and it turned out great! It just needed a little extra baking time. Now I occasionally make it that way, as it adds a little more thickness. Plus, you can't go wrong with more crescent rolls!

Hope you give this one a try!

27 June 2014

Feline Friday: Our Very Big Cousins

 I recently ran across these old photos on my phone.  The girls were fascinated by the movie, "African Cats"! 

"Wow, these guys look just like us, Mom!"

I wondered what was going through their minds! (Spouse would say NOTHING...) It was fun to see how captivated they were!

 I'll bet Lily was imagining herself looking out over her kingdom...from the back of the recliner! :)

Hope we can find it on Netflix so they can see their very big cousins again!

25 June 2014

Grief: Firefighters and Builders

It's been another busy week, and I continue to struggle with getting back into the rhythm of blogging regularly. It's something I obviously enjoy, but I many of the topics I want to write about are difficult. I don't always have the emotional "umph" to tackle them.

One subject that has been on my mind recently is the notion of "firefighters" and "builders", a concept I first read about in a very insightful article a friend shared with me awhile back. Most people you'll meet along your grief journey fall into one category or the other. Very few people can wear both hats.

A firefighter is a person who comes to you in the moment of crisis. This is the person who isn't afraid to hear your anguish. He or she helps you make decisions and think through what is happening to you with infinite patience and care. When the crisis has ended, the firefighter often moves on. And that's okay. Thankfully, you don't have fires to put out every single day.

A builder, on the other hand, arrives on the scene after the initial crisis and stays with you through the long, ugly process of piecing your life back together. A builder is just as brave as a firefighter and is not afraid to sit with you in your darkest moments. A builder helps you find your way around when you finally emerge from the tunnel of grief.

  I think there's a third category, too: The onlookers. These folks are curious, sometimes morbidly so, and hover around during your most difficult hours. Their presence can be a hindrance, as it takes your energy to respond to their endless barrage of questions and commentary. Thankfully, the onlookers only stick around for a little while, then they'll be out of your life for good as they seek out the next crisis.

In thinking back over the experiences of the past year, most of the people in my life fell into one of these categories. I'm fortunate to have had a handful of people who -- amazingly -- exchanged their firefighting suit for a tool belt. I count my blessings to have had them in my life at the time I needed it most.

Sometimes the person who shows up in the firefighting suit is not someone you expect. In fact, sometimes the people who are closest to you before the crisis are in the worst position to help you during it. It makes sense if you think about it. An acquaintance has just enough emotional "distance" to help you when your grief is raw. Someone closer to you may not be able to separate herself enough from your angst (and hers) to fully support you.

My grief counselor also pointed out to me that sometimes people just can't be there for you during the grieving process in the way that you expected them to be. Perhaps they are dealing with their own grief. Perhaps they're afraid to see yours. Whatever the reason, it's important to accept this and move on. The last thing you need when you're trying to heal yourself is to harbor anger and disappointment toward someone else.

You may ask why I'm spending time thinking about this sort of thing, a year after I lost my dad. I guess it's all part of trying to make sense of everything that has happened to me. It's part of packing up the boxes, so to speak, and putting them away. I'm thankful for everyone who helped me through the past year -- the firefighters who extinguished the flames and the builders who arrived to see what was left. 

So now begins the slow work of putting together the broken pieces of my life. Our stay on this earth is unbearably short. I see that all too clearly now. What can I make of the time I have left?

24 June 2014

Fitness: Back on Track


 Awhile back, I wrote that I would share some of my experiences with treadmill running. I recently realized that I completely forgot to do that! I have continued to run, but I've had to stop and start over on my C25K program more than once.
Since last fall, I've been struggling with a pesky (and painful) side stitch which sometimes derails my running efforts. I get about 10 minutes into the run and I have to stop and walk. After talking to the trainer and doing quite a bit of research on this, I traced the problem to hydration. On days I plan to run (or even better, EVERY DAY), I need to drink several glasses of water. When I do this, I don't have any side stitches. Go figure!

 At any rate, it took awhile before I figured out the hydration issue so in the meantime, I curtailed my running. Now I've started the C25K interval training program all over again. It's a little discouraging to have to do that, but I was successful once before with it so I decided I might as well do it again. Assuming all goes well, I should be able to move through the nine weeks faster by skipping a few days here and there. Still, it's important to build your stamina before moving on to the next week's regimen so you don't want to skip too many days. Truly, there is no rush!
When I first started running, I had visions of running in an outdoor 5K. But I've had difficulty transitioning to outdoor running and have finally concluded that it's not for me, for several reasons. First, I like the climate controlled environment of the gym. I hate the hot and humid weather and BUGS that come with outdoor running. I'm also not all that coordinated (understatement of the year!), so running on uneven surfaces is a bit worrisome to me. And finally, I really like watching HGTV or a craft video on my phone while I run. These things keep my brain occupied and my feet moving. These perks are not available on an outdoor run. :)

 At the gym, I spend 30 minutes on the treadmill and the remainder of the time working on other machines. Recently our gym added rowing machine, and decided to give it a try. I love it! This is the closest I will ever come to being in a row boat, since I am deathly afraid of falling in the water. It's perfect for me! I get the full body workout without any danger of capsizing!

 So that's my fitness update for this week. Or this month. If you're struggling at the gym, just KEEP AT IT. It's OK to have to start over. Just get out there and do SOMETHING. Trust me: If I can do this, anyone can!

23 June 2014

Another Big Project: Slides

 The purpose of today's post is this: If you have childhood photos captured on slides, find them and look at them NOW. I've just discovered that slide image quality deteriorates RAPIDLY and MARKEDLY over time, so now is the time to rescue them before you lose those images forever.

I grew up in an era when people used slide film. Our vacations were often documented with slides, and I have vivid memories of setting up the slide screen at one end of the basement in eager anticipation of seeing the almost life-size images we had captured. We traveled each summer and collected carousels full of slides. Many of the earliest pictures of me were taken with slide film.

 As a child, I meticulously cataloged many of the carousels, carefully listing each slide on the space provided on the back of each box. I'm very thankful that I've always had the "organizer" gene...otherwise the details would be lost on me today.

When preparing for our auction last summer, my husband helped me remove all the slides from the carousels so we could sell them. We cut the index from each box and kept them organized with the slides. I recently took all of these slides (400+, I think) to a local company to have them scanned and converted to .jpeg files. Once I get them back I can determine if I want to print and scrapbook them.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the entirety of my parents' slide collection. I unearthed lots and lots of additional slides which had somehow escaped my cataloging efforts. Some were in boxes, some were loose in drawers, and none were marked. So I boxed them all up and brought them home.

My parents had two different gadgets for looking at slides without a projector. You would poke the slide in a slot and the light bulb would come on, enabling you to see the slide in miniature format. Somehow, inexplicably, I sold both of them at the auction, not thinking very clearly at that time. Luckily my mother in law had a similar device, although with a much smaller screen, which I recently borrowed. It does the trick, although I'm kicking myself for letting go of the larger one.

I set to work on the box of slides with a goal of identifying each batch. As I worked, my sense of alarm grew. Many of the oldest slides were faded to the point that I could barely make out the images. I recognized some of the images because I'd seen them before, but I was completely appalled to see how much they had deteriorated since the last time I viewed them. I set aside the most significant slides to convert to .jpeg files, with hopes that some of the color can be restored. That remains to be seen. Sadly, some slides were completely blank. I do not know if they were blank to begin with or the images have completely faded. 

I also borrowed a device which hooks to your computer and scans slides one by one, converting them to .jpegs. Because I have so many slides, I may use this for some of them to save money. But it's a slow and tedious process, so I doubt I'll use it much. I'd rather pay to have it done professionally, with color restoration included.

 By the end of one long evening, I had sorted and labeled each set of slides. My next pass through the slides will be to determine which ones to keep. For now, they are labeled and prioritized so I can try to salvage the most significant ones. If you have slides, I'd suggest you do the same!

20 June 2014

Feline Friday: Where's Lily?

 You never know where you'll find Lily! In the past week, she's been in several new places around the house.

 She became OBSESSED with smelling one of the trays in my craft room. I have no idea what smelled so intriguing, but I found her there time and again!

She is also very intrigued by the new spinner I have for my ink blending tools. It's just a matter of time before she figures out how to spin it!

One evening I decided to organize my vast collection of embroidered dishtowels. (I know...I live such an exciting life!) Lily decided that she should get organized, too, so she fit herself into one of my cubbies. :)

Since we brought this dresser home from my parents' house, the kitties have been jumping up on it. I'd rather they NOT do that, since it's a little too high for them and I don't want it to get scratched. So I put a towel on it temporarily for protection. Unintended consequence: Now Lily thinks it makes for a comfortable napping spot.

We'll see where I find Lily next week!

17 June 2014

Wrapping Up Year Four

I'm diligent about doing some things, but uploading the photos from my phone is not one of them. Mercy, I finally got that done with hopes that my phone will now function a little better since it's not so heavily laden with my stellar photos -- 90% of which are of the cats. :)

The other 10% are Bailey pictures. Now that sounds like I'm a neglectful mama! Trust me: If I saw her more frequently, there would be a lot more photos! So now that I've rounded up all of those phone pictures, here's a sampling from our visit to IU last month to pack up Bailey's apartment and take her home for a few short weeks.

Before we left town, I managed to grab a couple of photos in front of the iconic Sample Gates. These limestone gates make a beautiful entrance to the campus. We had to work quickly as it was graduation weekend and many families were taking pics at the gates. Next year, it will be our turn!

Here we are making one last stop at the music building, with both vehicles loaded up and ready for the trip home. I was so excited to steal her away for a few weeks!

 I managed to grab a couple of photos in the nearly empty apartment.

She was not thrilled!

Awww, these bears have been everywhere with Bailey! They are now college educated!

Of course I had to get an end of the school year picture with The Boy. Too bad we had to do this in a dark parking lot! It was just that kind of weekend!

We also grabbed a parking lot photo of the three of us. Maybe we look better in dim light. :)

While Bailey took care of some last minute stuff, Spouse and I did some things around campus. We stopped at Nick's for a quick lunch one day. This is water. One usually drinks something other than water at Nick's. :)

Here's the view of Kirkwood Avenue from the other side of the Sample Gates. For once, the weather was perfect during our visit, making for very pleasant walks through the campus.

We wandered around Dunn Woods which runs through campus and saw a number of trees planted in the early 1900's. It made me think about how quickly Bailey's time at IU has passed, in the grand scheme of things.

Such a lovely campus...

 Incoming students traditionally shake the hand of the Herman B. Wells statue (above) for good luck. We saw a number of graduating students doing the same thing.

 We had never looked inside the Rose Well House, another iconic spot for photos.

I'm sure going to miss this place!

We are so proud of the work Bailey has done at IU. Just one more semester on campus followed by her student teaching assignment in a nearby town, then she's off to do big things in the world of music education! We're very excited to see what the future holds for our girl!