The Youngest Reader in Our Family

This is our 17 month-old granddaughter, Madison.  As a matter of fact she just turned 17 months old this past week.  I think I usually stop counting the months once the grand-kids turn two, but before that two-year old marker each month seems to include some sort of wonderful milestone.  Most of Madison’s milestones these days involve words.  Words she hears that she immediately repeats.  Our little family myna bird.  These pictures speak for themselves, such sweetness and innocence.  The funny thing about Madison is sometimes she puts on such a serious face when she’s looking at the pages of a book you just have to sit back and smile.

Madison Reads

Madison is fast becoming a little book-worm.  She loves to look at her picture books, or have them read to her.  Sometimes she only listens to one or two pages, or I should say sentences and then wanders away.  But she always comes back a little bit later to have the book read to her in its entirety.

I cannot remember any of my kids being so attached to books at such a young age.  It was always more of a struggle to try to figure out what would keep the kids’ interests to keep them reading.  I did always tell my kids one of my famous Mom phrases (well famous to me), “Reading is knowledge, and knowledge is power.”  I’m not sure if it really stuck with any of them, but it sure felt good for having said something so inspiring to them.

Now that she’s a few months older, once in a while Maddy will pretend she is reading her book to you, and jibber-jabber along through the pictures while turning the pages.  Her Nana (my Mom) and I applaud her efforts each and every time, and hope that her interest in books and reading will continue to grow and blossom with her for a long, long time.

This post linked to the GRAND Social blogging event at Grandma’s Briefs.

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Birthday Raspberry Cheesecake

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We had THE best raspberry cheesecake last month. My daughter, Hilary requested a cheesecake for her birthday celebration. Yes, I still take special requests for cakes, etc. on the birthday persons special day. More importantly Hilary asked if the cheesecake could be swirled with a raspberry sauce.

So being the dutiful mother that I am I went on an internet quest to find a great recipe that included raspberry sauce. The recipe for the raspberry cheesecake that I chose is posted at Just a Pinch Recipes.

This was the first time that I had made cheesecake with a homemade sauce to go along with it. The results were fantastic and there were raves and compliments all around the room. The cheesecake disappeared in a flash. If you want to try this cheesecake on your own here’s what you need to do.



1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 1 package, finely ground in a food processor)

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

2 Tbsp. sugar

Raspberry Sauce:

2 Tbsp. sugar

6 oz. fresh raspberries


32 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1-1/2 cups sugar

pinch of salt

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

4 large eggs, room temperature


6 oz. fresh raspberries, for topping (optional)

powdered sugar, for dusting (optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Wrap exterior of a 9-inch springform pan (including base) in a double layer of foil; set aside.

2. Stir together cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom of pan.

3. Bake until set, about 10 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325 F.

4. While the crust is baking you can get started on your raspberry sauce. Process raspberries in a food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds. Pass puree through a fine sieve into a small bowl; discard solids. Whisk in 2 tablespoons sugar, and set aside.

5. Put the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

6. With mixer on low-speed, add remaining 1-1/2 cups sugar in a slow, steady stream. Add salt and vanilla; mix until well combined.

7. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing each until just combined (do not over mix). Pour cream cheese filling over crust.

8. Drop raspberry sauce by the teaspoon on top. With a wooden skewer or toothpick, swirl sauce into filling. Keep swirling until you get a pattern/design that you are pleased with.

9. Bake the cake until it is set but still slightly wobbly in center, 60 to 65 minutes. (The recipe on Just a Pinch calls for the cake pan to be set in water for baking. I did not do this.)

10. Transfer cake pan to rack; let cake cool completely. Refrigerate, uncovered, 6 hours or overnight. Before unmolding, run a knife around edge of cake.

This recipe makes (1)  9-inch round cheesecake. You can garnish with fresh raspberries around the top of the cake if you like.

IMG_0023-002If you’ve never made a homemade cheesecake this recipe can seem a little daunting at first.  But just get busy and have fun making a delicious dessert.  My birthday girl was extremely happy with the results, and I’m sure this cheesecake will make an appearance at one of our family parties again very soon.

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Flying Solo

photo (2)Yesterday  was a fun day. Travel Man arranged for me to  fly up to meet him in Oakland, California so we can spend some much needed time together this week. He’s a great guy.
You see normally when we are traveling together we’re most often taking a mini-vacation (I define this as 4 days or less).  When we do travel together I really don’t think about much except packing my clothes and following him to the airport.  Yesterday was a bit  different though.

For this trip I will be with Travel Man for a few days while he is working in Northern California.  So here’s how my morning went to get the travel day started.  I drove myself to the airport, parked in long term parking, checked my bag curbside (always better to check a bag than carry on!), got through security fairly quickly without using the preferred frequent flyer lane (because I’m not with Travel Man), and got my iced tea and a magazine. Phew!! I know I can do this on my own, it’s just a good reminder for me when I do.  We  most often fly on Southwest Airlines for the great reward perks.  If you are at all familiar with Southwest’s seating you know that there is no assigned seating, just assigned boarding designations.  So, my Travel Man was not with me to get on the plane ahead of me and save us our seats together.  I would be picking my own seat.  This part of my trip is a new experience for me.  I got a window seat of course as it’s always my favorite thing to look out the window when travelling.  I was the kid on family vacations that never slept in the car.  Always watching out the window and taking in the sights, and I’m still that way.

Travel Man was flying into Oakland from Buffalo, NY via Chicago.  My  flight was a short “up/down” (defined by me as less than two hours of fly time), Ontario to Oakland.  I am pleased to report that there were no glitches in the travel matrix yesterday, and our meeting in Oakland was pulled off successfully.  We were able to take the short drive to San Francisco and see both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge.  It was a bit of a stressful drive through the city, but a beautiful day for taking in the sights.

I’m a lucky, lucky girl that I am able to travel to where my husband will be working for the week.  His schedule’s a little crazy right now and any extra time we can glean together is a blessing.  I keep reminding myself that it’s definitely a bit of a different lifestyle.  My Travel Mans’ mode of commuting from city to city is an airplane (or as we jokingly say a “flying tube”).  It’s a different kind of life, but it’s our life.  It’s important for us to make the best of it, and our precious time together.  That’s my life lesson for the day.

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It’s a Baseball Kind of Thing

Happy, Happy Spring to one and all.  For all of our friends and family just chomping at the bit to see more green we’re sending you sunshine and warmth from sunny, Southern California.

Today is  the beginning of a great 10 day countdown.  It’s only 10 days until baseball’s opening day.  Yay!  I’m presently doing my happy dance.  I love the game of baseball.  Love to watch, love to cheer for our hometown team,(the Angels), love to gain some knowledge about the history of the game,  and love to go to a live game every now and then.

In my younger, growing up years, I did not really pay attention to baseball, or have the love for the sport that I have now.  I suppose that all changed when my kids started playing baseball and softball.  Every spring baseball or softball would start and we’d be at practices and games from February or March until July.  It’s one of those life thingy’s about a sport becoming part of your soul.  If you followed your kids through any sports, for any number of seasons you know what I’m talking about.

During our hectic spring schedules family members would join us as their schedules allowed to watch the kids play ball.  There were many, many years of supporting the love of baseball for my oldest son, Bryan.  Bryan started playing ball when he was 5 (the t-ball era) and played right through his senior year of high school.  He never stopped playing or learning about the game.  As a matter of fact that’s how we were able to get Bryan interested in reading.  Bryan learned how to read the team stats in the newspaper when he was 5 or 6. That lead to reading the articles about his favorite players or our beloved Angels.


My collection of baseball buttons through the years.


Bryan’s last time pitching senior year of high school

These days Bryan is the family’s baseball statistician.  He has a great knowledge of the game, and can recall stats and details of the history of baseball that never cease to amaze me.   Whenever we get a chance we watch a game together, and compare notes on our favorite players.  We (Bryan and I) have decided that on the 31st of March we’ll hang our Angels flag out on the front of the house to celebrate baseball’s opening day.

One last baseball thought for the day from the movie The Sandlot- The Babe said, “Remember kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered but legends never die, follow your heart kid, and you’ll never go wrong.”

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Remembering the Wintry Ways

photoA few weeks ago I had a chance to tag along with Travel Man to the icy cold weather in Indiana, while he was on assignment.  I grew up in northern Illinois and moved to California when I was 16.  Travel Man is a Southern California native, but has travelled all over the world.  Needless to say I had forgotten how much work it can be to live, and go and do and be in the harsh, cold winter weather.  It made me realize how lucky I am to be living in the Southwest.  And it also reminded me of a few things that I don’t have to worry about living in a warmer climate.  So, here’s my list of the top ten things that I recognize are so different for me not living in the winter sphere.

1) I must wear socks. Your feet can get blooming cold here in the snow and land of winter.  This is not a daily event for me at home in So Cal.  I love to go barefoot.

2) The cars are so salty and dirty from the snow.  It’s so strange to see all of the layers of dirt and salt on the cars.  Why get your car washed when you’ll just be left with icicles hanging off of the bumpers!!

3) And then there’s the hugeness of the icicles themselves.  They’re hanging off of the eaves on the houses everywhere.  And then we saw so many long, huge icicles on the sides of the buildings.  Aren’t those a safety hazard.  They look like huge daggers!

4) Finessing the scarf, hat and gloves.  Every time you go out in this subzero cold it’s hat gloves, scarf, hat,  gloves,  scarf.  I forgot how much static can build up in your hair from the hats constantly going on and off of your head!! Coats on, coats off; hats on, hats off; gloves on, gloves off; boots on, boots off.

5) The sound of the snow crunching under your shoes when your walking to and from the car or store.  Oh and watch out for patches of ice and black ice that is barely visible.

6) The enormous pothole population. Wow!  We were on Cicero Street near Midway Airport and the potholes looked like freckles on the roadway.  Quite a bumpy ride.  The potholes were not to be avoided.  This is not a sight we see in springtime here in California.

7) When you’re in the cold and snowy weather it’s a soulful comfort to wrap your chilly hands around a warm cup of coffee or tea.   And of course drinking it warms you right down to your toes.

8)  Isn’t is a wonder how much of a comfort soup can be in the cold weather?  Don’t get me wrong I love to make a good pot of homemade broccoli cheddar soup .  But nothing’s quite as satisfying as a warm bowl of soup on a cold winters night!

9) How do you see around the piles and piles of snow? Don’t you feel like a mouse in a maze?  The closest we come to this feeling in California might be looking for a parking spot at your favorite beach along the coast.

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10)  You forget how the snow is not always pristine and pretty and just white and sparkling.  Especially when explaining the sight of a new fallen snow to your California kids who have not experienced a Midwestern winter.  After the snow has been plowed and all of the cars have been driving by the snow gets a little gray and down right slushy and ugly.  This is the contrast that you forget about:

IMG_04082014-02-14 14.34.52

Most of all after spending just a week in the throes of the cold and snow I am endlessly amazed at the hardiness of the Midwestners’ spirit.   Everyone we talked to while travelling said they are ready for winter to be over with.   In my opinion if you can make it through a tough cold, snowy winter and coming out smiling at the beginning of March you can live anywhere.  Hat’s off to all of you  surviving the long, harsh winter.  Sending you all some sunshine and warmth from Southern California.

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One of the Happiest Places on Earth

photo (2)

As you may or may not know my husband is a Travel Man/Road Warrior/Lives out of his Suitcase kind of guy.  He travels frequently for his job, and his mode of commuting is usually an airplane and a rental car. My job is to make sure Travel Man gets to the airport on time, and I am usually the one picking him up when he returns home.

Some months we’re driving back and forth to the airport so often it feels like we can do it with our eyes closed.  I do have to admit that I have learned to time my drive to the airport to pick Travel Man up to perfection.  I’m always tracking his travel home on an app for the iPhone called FlightAware.  Once the flight tracker shows his flight at 23 minutes until arrival I head for the airport.  I have yet to get my pick up timed to the point where as I drive up the road to make that left turn into the airport, Travel Man’s plane is flying over my head to land.  That time will come soon enough.

Since Travel Man is on the road so much when he lands at the airport home from work, I want my face to be the first one he recognizes when he is riding down the escalator to baggage claim.  So, I always park the car and I always walk in to meet my hard-working husband.

Usually while I’m in waiting mode between the escalator and baggage claim there are many, many happy moments to be noticed. This is one of those places where the happiness is happening for a multitude of reasons.  The grandparents meeting their grand-baby for the first time.  The military dad coming home for the holidays greeted by his 4-year-old daughter. (This one was a tear-jerker.)  The crowd actually parted to make a path for this sweet little girl to run up and meet her Dad.  The missionaries greeted by their families and friends after two years away in Chili.  Two big groups of family and friends.  That was an amazing sight.  The dad and his kids greeting mom after a trip away for whatever the reason.  Smiles all around.  The college kids coming home for the holidays or for summer break.   Dad coming home from a business trip greeted by his young sons, and his wife.  The sons just leapt into his arms for a big hug.

Hugs are all around, and the happiness is infectious. You cannot help but smile, and feel just a little bit cheerier when there is all of this happiness going on around you.  I’m  getting a little carried away with my happy words, but it’s the best way to describe the situation to you.

1-IMG_0112Then the happiness turns to me, and it’s my turn. There’s my Travel Man riding down the escalator.   When we see each other for the first time we give a little wave, maybe I blow him a kiss, and then it’s our turn to hug.  The airport baggage claim.  One of the happiest places on earth, in my opinion of course.

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Have you Met The Super Six?

This is the Super Six.


They have been together for a lifetime.  Let me introduce you to my four kids, and their cousins ( my brother’s son and daughter).  Starting from the left,  Naomi is the oldest, and I’m pretty sure at this point in her life she’ll remain the shortest of the bunch.  Next is Jim, my brother’s son, he’s the tallest one in the crowd these days,  and then Hilary, Mary (my brother’s daughter), Bryan and Zachary.

The layout style of this picture became a tradition with this bunch many, many moons ago. We would shoot this group shot from oldest to youngest, and then from tallest to shortest.  My grandma (great-grandma to the Super Six) lives out-of-state, and would always ask to see a picture of the kids together.  She wanted  to see how tall each of them were in relation to one another.  So that started the tradition of the Super Six photos. And I’m fairly certain my Grandma coined the phrase “Super Six” for this gang.

Over the years we have taken quite a few Super Six pictures. I just love, love, love a walk down memory lane like this.  When Tom’s son, Ryan, was living with us the group expanded to the Super Seven.


Super Six_Montana 001Scan


As you can see in the pictures below, when Evan got old enough he honed in on the photo line, and made sure he got himself included.  These pictures should be called “The Super Six” plus one, since Evan is the next generation!


This bunch has been fortunate enough to live near each other growing up, pretty much until everyone started working full-time or took off for college.  There were lots of Friday night sleepovers, chances to do fun things together, family beach parties, cheering each other on at school events, or at a sports game.  Just all round having cousin fun as often as they could.  I think my brother and I subconsciously made a point to get the kids together as often as  we could.

Now that they are all a little older it’s not easy to get this picture, but we are still doing it. These shots were taken at Zach’s wedding this past August.   I may be partial, but I can feel a lot of love and happiness coming from these pictures.



This group of amazing young adults have been through a lot of life stuff together. Graduations, milestone birthdays, 4th of July celebrations, Halloween’s,  family reunions, weddings, divorces, cancer in the family, and the loss of their Grandpa.  They have experienced all of the ups and downs of life.  They are positively surviving the roller-coaster ride together, and have come through it all with smiles on their faces.

My one hope for this great group is that they stay in touch and support one another for eternity.  (That’s my Mom voice shining through.)  My quest with this bunch is to continue capturing the Super Six line up for many years to come.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

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It’s Valentine’s Day- Love is in the Air

1-IMG_0087-002Happy Valentine’s Day to all of my family and friends.  I spent a little time gathering a few quotes on love that appealed to me this week and thought I would share them with you today.

  1. “A life without love is like a year without summer.” -Swedish Proverb

2. “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They         must be felt with the heart.”  - Hellen Keller

3.  “Kisses are a better fate than wisdom.” -e.e. cummings

4. “All you need is love.  But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” – Charles M.             Schulz

5. “What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies          within us.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

6. “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” –Martin                  Luther King, Jr.

7. “Trip over love, you can get up. Fall in love and you fall forever.” -Author Unknown

8. “Anyone can catch your eye, but it takes someone special to catch your heart.”-                    Author Unknown

9. “Love is something eternal; the aspect may change, but not the essence.”-Vincent van          Gogh

10. “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus a day so I don’t have        to live a day without you.” – Winnie the Pooh

As you go through your day today,  find a way to tell the people who are most important to you that you love them and care about them.    Life is too short to let words of love go unspoken.  And in the words of John Lennon, “All You Need is Love.”

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Take Just One Day and Unplug

ID-10011760Last month and in the month of December I tried a little experiment on a few random Sundays.  I did not use the computer or do any surfing on my other electronic devices at all.  I did use my iPhone for phone calls only (I have to talk to my peeps).  My unofficial conclusion to this experiment is that this is a nice way to start a new week.  You see since I am a Domestic Goddess now, I am discovering that I need to unplug from the internet-sphere one day a week.  This is especially true if Travel Man is away on a job assignment.   It seems that I can become entirely too dependent on the interaction with my “social” media.  The second Sunday of  unplugging myself, Travel Man was home with me to experience my “unplugged status”.  He was reading something on Facebook or an online news story and he said, “Did you see???”. And then he remembered, “Oh that’s right you’re off of the computers, etc. today”.

For myself,  I find that it is far too easy to spend far too much time browsing and perusing the internet for information.  And it’s most likely information that I may or may not need, and may or may not use in my everyday world.  I just felt like I was becoming too dependent on the Google factor, and not spending enough time on my other interests. It also made me realize I need to just pick up the phone and call and have a conversation more frequently than I have been.

Now I did make phone calls to a couple of my kids, you know a Momster check-in.  How’s life? Are you taking care of yourself?  Are your finances doing ok?  Will I be seeing you anytime soon?   Just a few minor questions that every Momster must ask to get the conversation ball rolling.

On that particular Sunday when Travel Man was home he and I got to watch some football together and had a chance to visit with my brother.  All in all a nice relaxing Sunday. With Travel Man’s schedule, this type of weekend day doesn’t roll around too often.  Staying unplugged when Travel Man is home on a Sunday is essential to my sanity.

So I ask each of you, do you unplug yourselves from the computer, smart phone, gadget world at any point during the week?  If you haven’t tried this I highly recommend it. Your brain will feel so much less cluttered, particularly at the end of the day when you need to be falling asleep.  Free your minds.

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/

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Isn’t it About Time I Wished You All a Happy New Year?

Happy New Year, dear friends.  2014 is already in full swing, and I am just now getting back to my writing.  I’m hoping you all had a wonderful holiday season filled with family and love.  January got off to a bit of a wonky start because of…The Flu.  Ugh.  I’m actually the one who got sick first, on New Year’s Eve of all days.  I was battling the flu beast for a good week or so.  Luckily for me Travel Man was home to take care of me. January 3rd was probably one of the hardest goodbyes that Travel Man and I have had in a long, long time.  He did not want to go, and I didn’t want him to go either.  But, boo-hooing aside I got over the flu, and then almost everyone else in my family had a visit from the flu beast in the past two weeks. That brings us to the point we are at now.  It’s the last week of January, and nearly Superbowl Sunday.

My how time flies.   And this time is was not necessarily while we were having fun.  You would think here in sunny, Southern California we could avoid the dreaded winter cold and flu.  But the reality is we don’t.  The flu that just rocketed through the family (I have coined it the “lightning flu”) is probably the worst we’ve had in over five years.

As of this writing everyone who has gotten the flu, is over it.  Hopefully I haven’t jinxed those of you in the family who haven’t had “it” yet!  The past few days the weather’s been great, doors and windows have been opened, and all the germs have been ordered to leave the building!!

We had such a great holiday season with all of the kids and grandkids here at the Party House.  It’s always so enjoyable when we can get  everyone gathered together  for a little while to celebrate.

family xmas 2013

Christmas Day 2013
Photo courtesy of J.Weise.

Look at all of those smiles, what a great looking bunch.  Hopefully your 2014 has gotten off to an amazing start.  We’re looking forward to lots of birthday celebrations together, an engagement, some mini vacations, and baseball.

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