Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How the Grinch Stole Snack Time

So much sugar...
 The new year approaches and we're getting ready to make some major dietary adjustments around here. My inspiration isn't the new year, it's the post-holiday food comas that have Linda, Matt, and me sitting on our duffs for days on end. It's time to get serious about eating well.
When aunt Linda moved in with us, one of our goals was to help her get healthy. In the past two years she's been able to eliminate one of her prescription meds (yea!), but not only has she not lost any weight, we've all gained it. Suggestions and will power don't work around here. I hate to have to do this, but for the sake of all of it, I'm locking up the food.

This hasn't been an easy decision to make. I'm an emotional eater. Matt's a late night snacker. Linda loves to munch while she watches the football/baseball/hockey game. That shouldn't be a problem, but it's the quantity of snacking that's showing up on our waistlines - three people splitting a bag of potato chips in one day. Yikes.

I've been trying to avoid this, but my attempts at portion control haven't worked. I bought single-serve salad dressings, but Linda put two on her salad. I pre-measured servings of peanuts, and she ate four throughout the day. I buy low-sugar cereal, but Matt eats 2-3 bowls at night. You don't want to know what I eat when my hormones are out of whack. We have serious impulse control issues.

We also have a late-night scavenger. I've been reduced to hiding Christmas cookies and Chex mix in my bedroom at night to make sure it doesn't disappear while I'm sleeping. Knowing that food disappears at night also prompts all of us to eat extra during the day because we never know if anything will be left in the morning.

Enough already.
We've even pulled our neighbor into our sphere of food.

I haven't broken the news to Linda yet, but I'm locking the pantry. My plan includes two 32 oz. water bottles for each of us (to make sure we're drinking enough plain water during the day), as well as snack bowls. Each day I'll set out a serving each of nuts or trail mix, crackers or chips, cereal, etc. When those are gone, the only other option will be the fridge, which we keep stocked with veggies and hard boiled eggs, and the fruit bowl. 

This may seem drastic, but when normal will power fails, sometimes you just need to lock up the chocolate chips. I'm anticipating some hostility and crankiness from all of is as we wean ourselves off large portions and too much sugar, but I also remember how much energy I had 30 lbs. ago, and I'd like to return to that lifestyle. 

Here's hoping the health benefits off-set the cravings quickly!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Music and Memories

Two weeks ago my friend BB called and suggested a fun new Christmas activity - the Music House Museum's Open House with a pre-tour tailgate. Armed with lawn chairs, hot coffee, and cookies, we arrived 30 minutes early for our inaugural event. With temps in the mid-30s, it was a beautiful day to tailgate.

Aunt Linda with her Rice Krispie treat.

I swear he's not really a Robertson, but he sure is cute.
You'll notice the tailgate only consisted of three people. BB showed up a little late, but he and his son did arrive early enough to enjoy a cookie before we went inside. If you've never been to the Music House Museum, I highly recommend it. There are some amazing instruments in there, and it's so fun to hear how people enjoyed music before the iPod.

Watching a silent clip of Laurel and Hardy with organ accompaniment. Linda wasn't all that impressed, "I saw this when I was a kid," but she did enjoy it.

My husband, Yooper Stewart, with BB and his son, Little D. Little D enjoyed his first silent movie.

The nickelodeon.
Our tour guide showed us so many things: a working nickelodeon, a reproduction of a portable organ that an organ grinder would have used (that is currently used for parades and festivals throughout the summer), and other German and American versions of self-playing pianos and organs. All but two of the instruments were cued up to play Christmas music, which was an extra treat.

Linda the organ grinder.
Check out the scroll at the top - it's an unending, never wrinkling, never creasing piano roll that lets this piano play itself nonstop!

This was the second largest organ we saw. The largest is below...
The crown jewel of the Music House is the Mortier Dance Organ. Not only is it majestic to look at, it's one of only 24 working Mortier organs in the world. It's also the only one played on a regular basis, as it gives daily demonstrations for museum guests.

A little history, if you can read it.

The organ sits on a platform in an old bar - you can tell how big it is by seeing it in relation to the barn beams.
Not only does the organ look amazing, it sounds pretty cool too.

We had so much fun tailgating and touring that we're thinking about doing it again next year. If you live nearby, you're welcome to join us!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Happy Birthday, Linda!!

 O.M.G. - guess who's 65 today?? We started the celebration Saturday with a party at the frozen yogurt shop and wrapped it up this evening with the season finale of Survivor. Overall, it's been a good birth-week. (I tried to put these pictures in order, but Blogger's being stupid again - sorry about that).

Shaina and Linda, post-froyo.

Beery, Beery, Beery.

Pretty sure she was the cutest party-goer.

Beautiful flowers from her brother and sister. If you look closely at that picture, you'll see a young Linda-lu and her siblings too!

That's right - it's Linda's birthday!

Ice cream cake and cookies from Hope and the kids.

Frozen-themed cookies and a candle - do they know Linda or what?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cookie Time!

When Aunt Linda moved in, one of my goals was to get her out of the house and active in as many ways as possible. Since she's been here I've taken her to a lot of events that I may not have attended on my own, and we've tried many new activities. Most recently we learned how to make fancy-pants Christmas cookies!

Our friend Rebecca is a cake and cookie decorator. She invited some ladies from church to her house where she showed us some amazing sugar cookie examples. Then she told us the most ridiculous thing - that we could make cookies just like those.
I was skeptical, but we had three dozen naked cookies. At the very least, we knew we could frost them and dump sprinkles on them, so we started.
It was the first time I've used a pastry bag, and I'm pretty sure it was Linda's first time too. We only had a few minor frosting explosions though, and Linda timed them perfectly to happen when she passed the bags to me, so she escaped relatively unscathed (I, however, ended up green).
Rebecca had us start with a base coat of royal frosting, which we let dry while we ate (of course - what would cookie decorating be without breakfast casseroles and muffins?). Here's a sampling of our cookies.
After brunch, we came back and started round two. Guess what? We made some pretty beautiful cookies! We also ate a lot of them, but we don't have to talk about that now.
Three hours later, we brought home the prettiest cookies I think either of us have ever made! I won't lie - it's inspired me. Next year I might forgo some of my Chex mixes and try my hand at more sugar cookies.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

All In The (Lego) Family

In case you hadn't heard, my husband is just a little bit crazy about Legos. He doesn't play with them, though. He researches, buys, cleans, sorts, organizes, and sells Legos. At any given point in time there are tens of thousands of Legos in my house, and none of them are available for playing (but feel free to stop by his online store and browse the merchandise).

Linda's first ever Lego build - a snowman!
His passion for the interlocking bricks has birthed a curiosity in me. I don't think I'd ever play with Legos or create my own buildings, but I can see the appeal of the puzzle.

With so many Legos around the house, we're all a bit curious. Today I decided to ask Linda if she
wanted to give 'em a whirl. She hesitated, but curiosity got the best of her and we sat down at the kitchen table with three new holiday sets - a snowman, a turkey, and a reindeer.

Ta-da! It turned out so well that she wanted to keep going.
We started with the snowman. I enjoy the small sets because their small (and therefore quick to put together), but many of the pieces are also small. I discovered lots of one-by-one bricks and plates, two-by-one slopes, one-by-one slopes - trust me, I'm talking about tiny pieces. Tiny pieces work for little fingers, but it's harder when your fingers are wider than a two-by-one brick.

Midgie stopped by to help.
Not only are my fingers wide, Linda's fingers are wide. She's also never put Legos together before. And she doesn't have a natural sense for how things match or fit together.

What should have taken 10-15 minutes took more than an hour, but I could see Linda's brain and fingers communicating, struggling to line up the bricks and snap them together. Many pieces frustrated her, but she kept going. She challenged herself, finishing what she started even when it was hard.

Turkey concentration...
I won't lie - it wasn't easy for me either. I hadn't planned on spending an hour with Legos today. I have a story to write and dishes to clean, but I could also see the interest in Linda's eyes when I asked her if she wanted to play with Legos.

After successfully completing the snowman, we moved on to the turkey and reindeer. We had a few set backs, but we kept going. At the 30-minute mark I realized I was going to have to adjust my afternoon schedule, but I decided not to worry about it. One of the reasons we wanted Linda to move in with us was to give her new experiences - Lego building certainly counts!

...and reindeer magic.

So now Linda has her first official Lego family. We've already decided that these guys are staying with us - you won't find them for sale anytime soon. We may even take them apart this spring so we can put them back together again next year.

Linda's Legos! The whole fam is ready for the holidays.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Aunt Linda - Editing Assistant

My husband's work schedule alternates with the seasons - early mornings in the summer, afternoons/evenings in the winter, and the occasional weekend. We love it for many reasons, but it sometimes puts us in a situation when Matt's working and I have a writing event. If you're a writer, these workshops are informational, inspiring, even entertaining. If you're not a writer...not so much.

Many of these events take me away from home for many hours at a time, so that means Aunt Linda has to tag along. The first time I encouraged her to bring her video games or knitting, but she insisted that she would be fine. If I could handle it, she could handle it.

That was two years ago. Since then, Linda's attended 4-5 writing functions. She doesn't take notes, but she attends and pays attention, sometimes even participating. She's even starting to recognize some faces of people she's met at multiple events.

ACFW-GLC meeting in Grandville, MI - August 2014
We're regular attendees at meetings of the Great Lakes Chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Those meetings take us all over the state. I'm not a fan of driving, but Linda loves seeing the sights and getting out of the house. I don't think it hurts that, as writers, we always have chocolate on hand, so she gets to partake too.

Just part of the gang, hanging out in Gaylord.
Linda's getting so comfortable with these meetings that she's figured out the routine. We regularly start by introducing ourselves and telling everyone what we write. I've often introduced Linda and explained that she travels with me. At this past meeting, however, she took the wheel. After the AA style intro ("Hi, I'm Karin, and I'm a romance writer) I started to introduce her, but she stopped me. "I'm Linda. I like Amish fiction."

This past week I invited Linda to become more involved in the writing process. I gave her my manuscript and a pen and asked her help out.

Paper, pen, and coffee - she's ready.
No, she's destroying my story. She marked up the already-edited pages so we can reuse them and print on the back sides. It may not seem like a big deal, but when you want to reuse 250 pages, it saves a few precious minutes to have someone else help out.

I don't think she's ready for an overnight writing conference yet, but Linda's become an unofficial member of northern Michigan writing community. 

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Women, Wine, and Watercolors

Last week the Elk Rapids Women group started their 2014-15 season, celebrating 70 years of encouraging and supporting women in the community. This season they've decided to focus on hosting events that give women a chance to have a fun night out. Realizing that we are, in fact, women, Aunt Linda and I decided to join them.

The September meeting was a Paint and Pour - a night of wine and watercolors. None of us had any watercolor painting experience (no, I don't consider my middle school watercolor Super Saturday class as "experience"), but we were willing to try.

My friend Steph joined us, and she and Linda bonded over their appreciation for white wine. Everyone chatted and snacked for a while before getting down to business. Then it was all work.

We started with sample strokes (those little white squares with lines on them), then set out to paint flowers (it was supposed to be a rose...mine is a little more mum-like). Linda got right to work, painting drier, dark lines, then bleeding out the colors with some water.

Okay, it wasn't all work. We had to let our flowers dry for a bit, so we refilled our snack plates. (Notice all of the cups on the table - surprisingly only one person accidentally rinsed out her brush in her drink.)

With the flower done and the stem added, Linda went rogue and added a tulip to her paper. 

Done! As you can tell, she was really proud of her picture, and I was really proud of her. I wasn't sure if she would get frustrated or enjoy herself; I think being with a bunch of other women who didn't know what they were doing helped her feel comfortable trying something new. I'm sure it didn't hurt either that some of the ladies took advantage of the wine portion of the night, so Linda's flower looked like a Monet compared to their final projects. Definitely a good time. We're already planning on and looking forward to attending more ERW events this season.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Grand Tour

Today I told Linda it was time for another blog post. When I asked her what we should write about, she wasn't sure. I threw out a few possible topics: cats, Detroit Tigers, church. She agreed to them all, but wasn't really sure what she had to say about them, so I suggested a video. She couldn't wait!

Without further ado, here's Aunt Linda in her vlogging debut with "the Grand Tour."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Linda and I made it to our second Traverse City Beach Bums game last weekend. This is one of our favorite summertime activities. A great stadium, cheap tickets, good team, and the BEST mascots around.

Wuerful Park

Here you have Suntan and Sunburn, everyone's favorite giant bears. They dance, they cause trouble, and they're more entertaining than a one year-old boy with his first birthday cake. My husband appreciates their antics (as he's not really a sports fan).

Suntan and Sunburn!

My dad drove up for the game, and he brought his new camera with him. I could resist capturing the moment, as one of his new favorite pass times is capturing all kinds of moments (also a favorite pass time of Linda's, but she forgot her camera).

Photographing the photographer

By far the most exciting part of the game was a foul ball in the second inning. It went up about three stories, during which Linda and my dad lost sight of it. They spotted it again as it whacked Linda on the hand. She hated everyone fussing over her, but while they tended to her, she grabbed that ball and stuffed it into my purse to make sure no one else ran off with it. (The next day she admitted that it was nice to have so many people care).

Post-hit ice pack

Suntan making mischief.

One of my favorite parts of Beach Bums games is their recognition of veterans and servicemen and women. At every game they ask past and present military to stand while they play "Proud to Be An American." Suntan, Sunburn, and stadium workers walk around handing out American flags to every veteran...

A handshake and an American flag

..And the teams come out of the dugouts to give our servicemen and women the standing ovation they deserve.

Honoring our military men and women.

And to make sure no one gets too emotional, my husband wears his camo hoodie with plaid shorts...

My husband...www.yooperstewart.com

We love attending Beach Bums games and are already planning our next outing. I don't know how it could top this last game though. Not only did a foul ball nail Linda, she also won a squishy ball during a between-inning giveaway! She has quite the trophy shelf now!

In a place of honor, beside her Detroit Tigers beer can.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Cherryland Humane Society - Sharing the Love

Linda loves animals. When we visit our family in Vegas, the first question she asks is, "How's Izzy?" (my sister's dog). I'm pretty sure she goes to Vegas to see the dogs, cats, nieces, and her sister (in that order of importance).

Kitty love! Linda picked this cat because he reminds her of Sebastian, her cat from Jackson.
We have two cats at my house, and I've done very little to take care of them since Linda moved in. She feeds them, pets them, gives them treats, cleans the litter box, gives them snacks. Is it any surprise that they love her so much?

Our friend was a little shy. We spent the first 20 minutes petting him (and petting him and petting him).
Even with three dogs and six cats in her extended family, Linda isn't quite satisfied. She has lots of pent up petting energy and it needs a release! That's why we signed her up to volunteer at the Cherryland Humane Society. We went through orientation together, and now Linda is a registered, certified cat volunteer. Today was our first day of feline playtime.
Starting to warm up...
It was a long day of errands and appointments, but none of it mattered. Linda played with an adorable (adoptable!) kitty, which she has assured me was the best part of the day.

Because it was Linda's first day, I sat with her in the play room, to make sure she knows the ins and outs of the humane society. Our little kitty friend made sure I had something to remember him by...