Monday, August 30, 2010

Top Ten Vacation Memories

We spent nearly two weeks of our summer tasting life in the big Apple.

It had been nearly 20 years since my last visit. Back then, I was visiting on the company dime. In a previous life, I was a jewelry buyer for Macy's. Seeing New York City with my kids was an even better adventure!

We started with a plan, trying to organize our activities by interest level and location. We soon realized that we could pound through the list and see everything once...or maybe even twice. It helped that the kids are now big enough to keep up! In hindsight, it might have made more sense to visit the Empire State Building when it wasn't overcast and stormy. We thought we were pretty clever to have found the one attraction in the city that didn't have an hour wait. Come to find out that all there's to see 80 floors up is clouds and rain drops when it's raining.


My hubby found the perfect nesting spot, smack dab in the middle of Time Square. The window to our room opened up right on to the square. The kids loved the action so much we never closed our curtains. Our trip took place during the World Cup. (We happen to have an avid ...sometimes it's borderline rabid, soccer fan in the family.) He was in seventh heaven to be surrounded by other soccer enthusiasts. The party in Time Square celebrating Spain's win is something my son will never forget!

I always have the best intentions of putting together a family memory book of our adventures. I could easily fill a 200 page book with all of our memories of two weeks on the road... but that's not going to happen! I've found that if I want any hope of finishing a project, it has to be SHORT and SIMPLE. Pocket books are the perfect format!!

We decided to document our top ten favorite memories of our time in New York.

Before we even got home, we had a book. Let me rephrase that... we had a FINISHED book! I could have printed it from home, but I wanted a larger version for each family member, so I sent the file off to our printer for a professional print job.

Because we limited our pages to the TOP ten memories, we didn't document some of the more obscure experiences...like the two brothers ditching their youngest brother on a bike ride through Central Park. I'm sure he'll need counseling to get over the fact that his mother told him to wait for his brothers on a park bench since I was just walking into the Metropolitan Museum of Art when he called (and given that the Museum was closing in less than an hour, wasn't about to leave for a rescue). I know...no mother of year award for me.

Our sixth Top Reason for LOVING NEW YORK was the FOOD! The book pays homage to a dinner spent in Little Italy. We could have easily had a page dedicated to cheesecake, or pizza, but this dinner held a special memory as we lost our youngest moments after dining on the most amazing meal of creamy cheese and garlic! What was that? Lost our son...again? Yes, it was a reoccurring theme with this child. The next twenty minutes were a blur as we vacillated back and forth between reason and panic.

The child did end up coming home with us, although there were a few other moments during the two week jaunt that his father and I seriously thought about ditching him.

Our #2 reason for LOVING New York was being able to connect with neighbors thousands of miles from home!

The best thing about the Pocket Book format is that each page makes a pocket which is the perfect place for holding extra stories or memories. I now have a place for all of the tickets, maps and brochures that I hauled from place to place. You know the stuff that you typically sit on for a year before throwing it out because you don't know what to do with it.

Last night, we took some time to write down some of our personal memories of the trip (to be stored in the pockets...of course!) It was fun to get the different family members perspectives of each memory.

While our memories might differ slightly from activity to activity, we were ALL in agreement about the NUMBER ONE reason that we LOVE New York...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Melancholy Sort of Day

At 7:30 this morning I sat at our front room window waiting with my thirteen-year-old for his carpool ride. My view of the street is now somewhat restricted by a tree that we planted ten years ago. Back then it was little more than a six foot stick. The tree now stands 30 feet tall. Was it really ten years ago that my three little boys perched on a couch delighted with their front row seat as they watched the earth movers rearrange the mounds of dirt and rock in our yet-t0-be-finished front yard? The child at my side would have been three-years-old. My oldest, eight. It was a simple flashback. I have no photographs to preserve the moment. Only the memories captured in a mother's heart. OK, maybe that sounds a bit sappy. But the last couple of days, I've been wandering from room to room trying to figure out how time had slipped away from me.

Today we dropped off our eighteen-year-old at college. We always thought he'd end up out of state, but for whatever reason, he was drawn to a local college that is only 45 minutes from our house.

And the mother rejoiced!

An almost empty closet at home...just enough clothes for a quick change on those weekends he stops by.

Somethings will never change.. Here's his 'made' bed. The pillows accompanied him to college as he said they were perfectly 'broken in'.

Not a very organized move, but given the fact that he packed in about 15 minutes so his free time could be spent with friends, I think he did ok.

T's home for the next eight months. Notice how nice everything looks. I give it about 3 days...

Littlest brother had a hard time with the thought of his big brother (and protector) leaving home. Gave his brother a picture of himself to help him remember family.

Out of ALL the halls they could have assigned to our son, they chose to have him live in the hall named after our ancestor. Quite comforting, really.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Family version of Guess Who

Had to share this family friendly idea from The Madesen Times.

Do you remember the board game Guess Who by Hasbro? Maybe you're lucky enough to have a copy sitting around your house. My little guys (who aren't so little anymore) would play this game for hours. Our copy has been long gone, but you can be sure I'll be getting my hands on a replacement set in the near future!

Becki traded the game's cartoon drawings for family photos for a fun, EASY way of spending quality time with her kids while connecting with extended family members.

LOVE the idea Becki!

See exactly how she did it HERE.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Table Refinishing 101

I've had a few requests for an update on our OTHER summertime home-refinishing project. If you've been following our stories, you've already heard The Almost Perfect Door story. If not, you can catch it here.

As a quick recap, three boys, two dogs and one cat make for plenty of items that could use some TLC at our house.

Finding a project around here isn't a problem. My hangup is finishing the project once I've started. I usually find that I can live with 'it' about 1/2 way through the mess and never quite 'bring it on home.' I figured the best way to guarantee finishing the project was to PAY my kids to do the work. They got paid when we got finished!

My youngest helped me refinish our front door. We stuck it out (kinda had to, considering the door was off the hinges and laying flat in the garage). I didn't have the energy needed to redo the smudge that my 'helper' produced when he decided to test the wet paint theory. Door went back on the hinges, kid got paid, and I have an almost perfect project. The best part was being FINISHED!

Around the same time (back in mid-June) I thought we should take on the kitchen table. My darling hubby bought me this farm table the year we moved into our new house. It was love at first sight the moment I saw the sale sign proclaiming that it was the perfect size and PRICE. That was 11 years ago, Over the years, the table has taken a beating. I no longer felt anything even remotely warm and fuzzy when I looked at it.

I was aware of the name that had been carved into the tabletop long ago (gee, I wonder who ?) I knew that the table was no longer the beautiful honey color that I remembered falling in love with in the store; years of trying to scrub away school projects, family dinners and split milk had taken its toll. The legs wobble a bit now. All this I knew, but I had no idea that an entire college rivalry had been bantered back and forth over the years between two brothers. The very brothers that I was paying to repair the damages!

You have to live in Utah to grasp how very deep this college rivalry goes. Children involved are very lucky that my Alma mater shows up more times than the rival school!

This project wasn't hard. It was just hard to finish. The project manager (my sixteen-year-old) lasted 2 days on the job. On day three, he went over his bike's handle bars and convinced our local orthopedic surgeon that he had fractured a very hard to pin-point bone in his thumb. It was just bad enough that he couldn't help finish the project (or play his violin). HOW CONVENIENT!

I moved a small 3 1/2-person bistro table into the spot belonging to our 8-person farm table. I figured that my oldest was moving out soon enough. We could make this work...right? It took a couple of dinner gatherings to convince me that I needed to pony up and get the job done. (We have a truly beautiful dining table, but right now it's more of a conference / craft / storage table. Sadly, finishing the farm table was easier than clearing the dining table.

That was June. Now it's August (almost September).

Table is not quite finished. Instead of the buttery cream color to match the paint of my kitchen counters, I ended up with a bright white paint that we applied to the table legs and apron. Some day I'll fix that. Don't even get me started on all of the mismatched chairs. My buddy (and shopping guru) Erica found me 4 fantastic, and might I add matching chairs. And even better, they were a screaming deal.

Only problem is that I'd have to paint them to match the new table and we all know that's not going to happen!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Stories of a Rotary Phone

Today my 13-year-old was hanging out with me in my office. He is counting down the last few days of summer and boredom had set in. Absent-minded, he sat playing with an old rotary phone that I saved from the junk pile years ago. All of a sudden, his eyes lit up and he excitedly proclaimed, "I know how to use this phone."

Oh boy, did I feel old!

He tried to dial (in the real sense of the word) my cell number, which of course didn't work because the phone hasn't been hooked up since the early 80's. I don't even know if the phone works, but my son thought it would be cool to get it back in service. Yeah, until he was dialing the third 9 in a ten-digit number. Don't even think about misdialing... if you do, your only option is to start over.

This simple event got me thinking about how much has changed in the years since I've had kids. What will my grand kids world look like?
  • How about power windows and doors in our automobiles? I remember the day when I used to lean across the front seat to crank the passenger window for cross ventilation. Now I don't even need a key to get into my car. Still waiting for the day that the car drives itself!
  • Way before sleek, geek mobile phones that do everything except cook dinner, we had 'wireless' phones. Do you remember the brick (with an antennae sticking from it) that you got to carry around? Don't even think about stepping into the yard. Half the time, I'd drop the call or get static if I walked into another room.
  • The internet... Can't live without it, but it is really starting to rule our world. With the internet, I can go anywhere. I can run my small business from any laptop. Staying in touch with friends is as easy as posting a message on Facebook or tweeting on Twitter. There was a time (not that long ago) when you'd go to the library to research a project. Now we just hop on to the world wide web.
  • TIVO. Now here's a great invention! I can watch an hour of TV in 1/2 the time just by zipping through the commercials. Same thing goes for DVD's and Video on Demand. We don't even have to drive to the video store to pick out our movies. Order your favorite show online, or better yet, pull up your Red Box app and have the movie waiting when you pick it up. I will say that I miss going through the Sunday TV Guide and marking all the movies for the coming week. There would be a real dilemma if Frosty the Snowman conflicted with the school's Christmas program.
  • Before every family vacation, we'd load up on various maps of our destination and plan the best route. We had boxes (and boxes) of well-used maps documenting the many places that we had visited. Now we just plug an address into our GPS and listen to a serene woman's voice announce our arrival. "YOU have arrived." Makes me like I'm really going somewhere in this world.

We're not talking dinosaur-aged inventions here. All of these conveniences became mainstays in our lives in the past couple of decades.

In our household, everyone is connected to a cellphone. It makes me almost crazy if I'm trying to reach a child and he doesn't answer ...or at least text me back. I can't imagine having to manually dial each number in an effort to track someone down. Thank goodness for speed dial!

We'll hang on to our old, useless rotary phone, but only for the stories it still has to tell.

Friday, August 13, 2010


We are excited to announce that two of our Stories by Me products are now being offered through Main Street Revolution, a partnership between Overstock.com and small businesses throughout the USA.

Overstock.com is known for their good deals and they made sure that their Main Street pricing is as good as you'll see anywhere. What really makes this deal sweet is that shipping only adds a couple bucks to the order. Our products are quite hefty, making them expensive to ship. Right now Overstock is having a special deal and shipping is only $1.00. PER ORDER!

We're still trying to figure out how to be 'seen' at overstock.com. We spent nearly 30 minutes before we found our products tucked away under the category Scrapbooking Kits. We tried to get them to create a new category...something like Heirloom Products or Memory Preservation, but they're still chewing on that request.

For the time being, we'll provide a direct link here:
Memory Calendars Kits
Memory Tree Kits

We'd be oh, so grateful if you'd check them out. If you've tried our products, give them a review. Share what you're doing to tell your family stories. We'll continue to try to get our products more visible and easier to purchase!

Monday, August 9, 2010


Sometimes, stories come along in your life that you'd really like to forget. I have a dear friend who really wishes that she could erase yesterday from the calendar.

{a bigger picture would show the damage inflicted to both sides of the car. Dent x2!}

As much as we'd all like do-overs, the reality is that we only get to take forward steps as we march along life's journey.

However, we can preserve the memories for that future someday (maybe years from now) when the pain of the moment is gone and life can again be laughed at. (For my friend this day will come when the repairs are made, the bills are paid and the child is MUCH older!)

Aah, what a story. But it's not my story to tell.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Vacation Ramblings and Treasures

We have Newton's laws of motion to explain gravity. So why hasn't anyone named the very real law that if you take a week's vacation, you know you're going to have a week of extra work to get ready for that holiday... and two weeks of catch up when you return!

Do you know what I'm talking about?

I have finally unburied from the mountain of laundry, remove the science projects left growing in the fridge, scrubbed the puppy presents left in the dining room (and hallway...) and recycled all of the junk mail that accumulated in our absence.

It took two solid weeks of weeding to get the yard looking less junglish and more yard like. The deer did a GREAT job of keeping the garden clear of any ripe fruit, but the weeds were starting to look like small trees. On top of this my husband returned to school to start a master's program and three kids all needed to finalize their school's registrations. (Since when did public school start costing $500 to attend?)

I'm really not complaining. Honest, I'm not. Gratefully, I have fond memories of our blissful holiday (although it now seems a distant memory). We put together a book of our favorite activities and I'll be sharing the pages in a few days. Today, I was clearing up some files on my computer and I came across some pictures that I snapped on our vacation. The photos prove what great sports my family is towards my obsession with history. As we drove through the small towns of upstate New York, I had a fleeting glimpse of a historic looking brick wall. We were already headed towards another site, but my hubby faithfully promised to return to the spot...if we could find it later. It took a bit of searching, but check out what we discovered:
There was a historic sign at the site. It said that this wall advertisement dated back to around 1896 and is one of the few treasures still standing. It had been hidden for nearly 100 years and discovered in 2007 when an overhanging add-on was demolished.

It was about 95 degrees outside with a heat humidity index that felt around 120 degrees. My poor desert rats were drowning in their sweat, but dutifully each family member posed in front of the wall so I could snap a few hundred shots.