Saturday, November 29, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree....

Today was our annual trek to the Christmas Tree Farm....I love this day! We started cutting down our own tree when our daughter was just a baby. She is now 34. After a few years of frequenting the same tree farm, we came upon one located in McHenry, about 10 miles from where we live. Pioneer Tree Farm is a wonder place owned by Bill and Alice Howenstine. They have the hay wagons that take you out to the field, and the tree shakers to get the fallen needles out of your tree, and the baler that bundles up your tree in netting for the trip home, and the warming shed with coffee and hot chocolate....but what I really love about this place is how wonderful the Howenstine's and their "helpers" are. They are always smiling and never fail to say hello. They want to be sure that everyone that comes to their farm has a positive experience. Pioneer Farm also grows their trees organically, and that is really important to me. They also donate part of their proceeds to a conservation group, and I think that is great. I love supporting them and their efforts.

In spite of losing thousands of trees in the summer droughts of 2004 and 2005, having to remain closed last year because of those losses...there they were...smiling and welcoming the many visitors that made their way to the farm today.

I remember the days when the five of us would jump off the hay wagon out in the middle of the trees...Irv, Michael and Matt would usually head one direction, and Tresa and I would head out another search of the "perfect" tree. If you cut your own tree, you know that rarely do you find the "perfect" tree, but man did we have fun trying! When you found one you liked you either sacrificed a mitten, or if it was too cold to do that, you grabbed a handful of weeds and placed it on the top of the tree to "mark" it. Then you would continue your search.

At some point we would all meet up and discuss our finds...always claiming that we had the "best". Then we would play show and tell, trying to sell the rest of the group on our tree. The girls usually won of course, but that's a story for a different day!

Now that the kids don't live at home, it's just me and Irv. We carefully eased ourselves off of the hay wagon today (we don't jump off these days especially since Irv is in need of a hip replacement and is nursing some really bad discs right now), and headed out to find the "perfect" tree.

As we were told when we got there, the fields are still pretty bare. We would need to do a lot of walking and searching for our tree this year. That was fine with me, it was a beautiful day and I was bundled up just right.

As we walked around and around and up and down the almost empty rows, we realized that it was going to be quite a challenge finding a tree at all this year. The trees were either way too tall, way too small, way too fat or just way too weird looking! After walking and walking and walking, we started heading back toward the truck empty handed unsure what we were going to do. I decided to check out one other field. I am walking much fasting than Irv right now, so I told him to take his time and I would go on ahead and see if there was anything good.

As I entered this other field...this feeling came over me. I felt as though I was in some other world. There were huge evergreen trees towering over me, and no one was around. There was a beautiful stillness and this feeling of peace. I just kept walking around through the trees ducking under branches, stopping occasionally to inspect a smaller tree. It was so wonderful I didn't want it to end.

On my little journey I did find a couple of "perfect" trees and went to find Irv. After searching around a bit, I finally located him. He had found a "perfect" tree too....but I looked at it and something else came over me and I informed him that mine were better!

He followed me into the wooded area where I started my sermon on why my trees were the best. I think out of sheer exhaustion he agreed on my selection. He took the hand saw and in a minute, our little tree was on the ground ready for it's trip back to our house.

The tree is very little...much smaller than we usually have....but there was just something about that area of the farm that touched my heart and my soul and I knew that our tree was there. Tomorrow we will put up our little guy and adorn him with beautiful lights and ornaments. He will bring us a tremendous amount of joy throughout the next few weeks as we celebrate this wonderful season. Our family will gather around that tree and make some precious memories that we will talk about for years to come.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Oh Happy Day!

It's a busy day here at my house. I am just heading to the kitchen to start on the pies. The kids will be here by noon for our Thanksgiving celebration. I can't wait. It was so hard in the forums and on Twitter yesterday listening to all of the yummy food talk, when I had not had any yummy food yet. I will today! All I can think about is sweet potatoes and pie!! So, I am off to play chef and if I have some time later, I will stop by with any update. Have a wonderful day everyone!

Be sure to stop by our etsy shop. I have over 60 items marked down in my SALE SECTION just for this weekend. Lots of great cards, bookmarks, jewelry and more....all at about 25% OFF! It's a great time to stock up on beautiful cards for the upcoming year and find those special gifts you've been searching for. HAPPY SHOPPING!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

To everyone that celebrates Thanksgiving...Happy Holiday. No matter what your current situation is, find something, even one little thing to be grateful for today. It will make your day brighter. If you have abundance, find a way to share what you have with others who have little. For those who have lost jobs and homes, my heart goes out to you. Stay strong and know that people are thinking of you with love and caring thoughts. Things will get better. I have little money, but yet I live an abundant life. I have so much to be thankful for. Have a wonderful day everyone!

On a separate note....Be sure to stop by our etsy card and gift shop, Four Dog Day, now through Sunday and enjoy savings of 25% on dozens of beautiful photo greeting cards, bookmarks, photographic prints, jewelry and more! We look forward to seeing you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Shop and Save this Weekend!
Holiday Sale

Friday, November 28-Sunday, November 30
Please join us for our first Holiday Sale at

(Click to go directly to our shop)

Stop by our etsy card and gift shop and enjoy
BIG savings on dozens of items,
including beautiful photo greeting cards,
unique photographic prints,
great jewelry, fun gift tags and more!

Great Gifts at Fantastic Prices!

Looking forward to seeing you this weekend!


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Can You Hear The Music?

Do you listen to music when you work? At work I am often the only person in my particular office, and I love that kind of quiet...but I don't like "silence" when I am working. I always have music playing. I use to bring CD's and pop one into my little portable CD player, but that got to be a pain after a while. I don't own an iPod.

Sometimes I listen to the radio online, but there are some strange DJs out there, and at times there is more talking and fun and games than there is music. I do have one oldies station that I really like and that is WLS-FM out of Chicago. Lots of great old music and not too much talking.

My son, Matt introduced me to Pandora a while ago and I really like it a lot. I am a little behind when it comes to things like this, so you have probably already heard of it. If you haven't though, Pandora is a website where you can enter your favorite musical groups or solo artists and they will play their music for you. Then they also play similar music by other artists that you may or may not have heard of.

If you like the song they play, you can click that you like it and they will continue to play that kind of music. If you don't like it, you can click that you don't like it and it stops immediately and moves to the next song. You can see the name of the artist and the album the song comes from. It's great.

Once Pandora learns your likes and dislikes, it's wonderful because you can just listen to a great variety of music by many different artists. My "mix" right now includes Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, Bob Marley and Elton John. I know...strange combination, but I like different kinds of music and don't like to listen to one thing all day long. Pandora has introduced me to a number of other artists that I had never heard of like Jason Mraz, Brett Dennen and Ben Harper.

So, if you are tired of the same old music...head on over to Pandora and create your very own radio station and let the music begin!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Special Teachers

I have a soft spot in my heart for teachers. When my kids were in school, I spent 14 years volunteering in the schools and I loved every minute of it. I have a deep respect for teachers. I think they have one of the toughest jobs out there, especially today. All three of my children have degrees in education, although my daughter isn't teaching, my sons, Michael and Matthew are and so is my daughter-in-law, Bernadette. From the stories they tell me, I know that all three of them are wonderful teachers. They care so deeply about their students. Michael and Bernadette are Special Education teachers here in Illinois. Matthew teaches third grade in Telluride, Colorado.

Having teachers in the family made me wonder what makes teachers I asked some adults about their favorite teacher. Here are some of the responses I received.

"My favorite teacher taught 3rd grade. Shortly after the school year started, I was in a car accident with my uncle and cousin. I broke my neck, my arm and had stitches inside of my mouth from molar to molar. I was hospitalized for 2 months. My teacher came to visit me at the hospital and would bring my work and help me. I couldn't do much as I was flat on my back in a brace. Upon returning to school, he was so caring and helpful. I had to wear a neck brace and he would let me stay in from recess."

"My 5th grade teacher encouraged me to draw. On the blackboard we drew an airplane to was up for weeks. I think it was her support that lead to my interest in scale models which in turn lead to my interest in taking things apart and how they worked which in turn lead to my facilities."

"My 4th grade math teacher. She made what seemed was impossible for me to learn at times "do-able". She would see my puzzled look on my face (when I didn't understand a concept), never single me out, but notice I was confused and say...I am noticing some confused faces and then explain the concept differently!!! She would look at me directly and wink to make sure I got it! I will never forget her!!!"

"My first grade teacher because she taught us another language before it was popular. She taught us Spanish and also taught us the culture. Then we all dressed up in costumes from the culture and had food. Our parents were invited to the party and we all did dances from the culture."

"My first grade teacher, because she always believed I could do what I set my mind to."

"My favorite teacher was my first grade teacher. I thought I was so special because we had the same name. She was so kind and always had a smile on her face. She use to make us birthday crowns with glitter and sequins."

"My high school Child Development teacher because she was so nice."

"My 4th grade teacher. She was really tough on me. Made me write 6 X 8=48 a hundred times on the board. I missed it on every test I had. Never forgot it again, even today when I use a calculator for everything. I saw her many times as I was growing up, she was still hard on me, but I knew she really loved me."

"My favorite was 8th grade. He was so fun!! He just made everything so much fun! Even when a kid was in trouble they had to pay the consequences but he still made a joke of it. He was always teasing-in a good way. Just a very sharp, nice, creative teacher."

"One of my high school teachers, because he was so funny and he could pronounce my last name."

"My high school English teacher, because he treated everyone with respect at a time when a lot of teachers didn't do that. I respected him and I wanted to do well in his class. He made me realize that I could do well if I was willing to make the effort."

"My 2nd grade teacher because she was caring, made things fun and made me want to go to school. She challenged me and had a gentle heart."

Did you have a favorite teacher? I hope so. I also hope that many years from now the teachers in my family are the ones that people remember.

I am a Teacher
By Matt Kroll

I am a child, a learner, a beginner, a parent.
I am a secretary,
I am an accountant,
I am an author, an illustrator, an editor,
I am a publisher,
I am a poet,
I am a mathematician, a computer technician,
I am an actor, sometimes an actress,
I am a director, a choreographer, a producer,
I am an inventor,
I am a borrower,
I am a slacker,
I am a politician, a historian,
I am a Native American,
I am a scientist, a botanist, a zoologist, and a physicist,
I am a tour guide,
I am an astronomer, a meteorologist,
I am an athlete,
I am a doctor,
I am a psychologist, a counselor, and a coach,
I am a photographer,
I am a musician and a librarian,
I am a judge,
I am a DJ, a dancer, an artist,
I am a thousand friends,
I am a genius,

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Apartment for Rent....Cheep!!

It's supposed to snow and that means it is time to take down the tarp that we put over our deck. We have a slatted roof over the deck, but to keep the rain off of Irv, my husband during the summer, and the sun off of me....every year he puts an inexpensive tarp over the slats. It doesn't look the greatest, but it serves a useful purpose.

One year we got got a lot of snow. It was heavy and it was wet and it actually brought the roof of the deck crashing down! Since then, before it starts to snow, Irv goes out and takes the tarp off. Today, our son, Michael was here and got to help. Now the tarp isn't just stuck up's put up very nicely with washers and screws so it doesn't tear when the wind blows.
It wouldn't be a very big deal unscrewing the screws and taking the tarp off, however when little birds decide to move becomes a big deal. Since we started putting the tarp up years and years ago, a little family of sparrows has lived in the tarp. They made themselves at home inside the rolled up corner, and they live there all year long. Like I said a couple of days ago, I love all kinds of animals and I definitely love my little birds.

Besides having to hose off all of the bird poopies that our little feathered friends leave around our deck, we have had some wonderful moments with them. Each year we watch in the spring as they busily rebuild their nest. We also get to hear the little chirping when the babies hatch. We also get dive bombed every time we walk out the door, but it's I said...I love animals. We even put a little birdhouse up there for them, but of course they prefer the tarp!

Well, this spring our little family of sparrows must have put an announcement in the "Bird Nest News" and invited everyone they knew, to come and move into their great apartment complex! We had so many little birds swooping in and out of the tarp every time we walked out the door, that you never knew which way they were coming from!

Irv was not really pleased with the new apartment dwellers, especially when the little bird poopies became lots of bird poopies.

Well, today was take down the tarp day, but when Irv takes down the tarp, he always leaves the little corner apartment where in place, and to be sure that our little feathered friends are warm and cozy during the long, cold winter....he screws a piece of 2 by 4 on top of the slats! No wonder they invited all of their friends to move in this year.

So, I went out this afternoon to see how the project was coming and noticed that we had two lovely corner apartments with new roofs. Pretty soon we'll be heating the apartments for them!

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