A Perfect Saturday

We had a quiet weekend at home.



Yes, it’s really true. A quiet weekend at home.

Such a rare and strange thing for us.

Saturday was pretty much a perfect day.

I almost forgot what we were suppose to do.

Luckily, I remembered…

  • Sleep in.
  • Not run errands.
  • Not drive anyone anywhere.
  • Make omelettes for lunch.
  • Have The Grunter join us at lunch after he worked an early shift
  • Bake chocolate chip cookies.
  • Make little bags of cookies for the college girls.
  • Watch Amazing Race with Scary Baby.
  • Wait for the soldier daughters to be released from their weekend drill.
  • Have dinner with darling daughters and a few of their college friends.

They actually planned this and invited us to dine with them.

Watch PhilBillPaul traumatize his darling Roger Leroy by playing a home movie for her friends.

It is a highlight tape of some of her best comedy from her middle school years that Scary Baby had enjoyed watching a few weeks ago.

Someday I’m sure she will let me post a portion of the video here on the blog.

I don’t think she’s ready for that yet.

This is the 2nd time he has done this.

The first time her brother had to hold her down.

The second time she and PhilBillPaul wrestled to the floor. Then her friend Ashleigh sat on her so everyone could watch the video.

I think everyone will agree she is very strong.

And funny.

Please come home again to visit – we really do love you, Rachel.

Dad says he is sorry.


Weekend Color

Here’s what PhilBillPaul and I did this weekend.

It’s one of the things I love about living in Georgia. We can drive to two other states in just a few hours and be back home in the same day.

Bonus: Just the two of us. All day in the car.

Thank you to The Grunter and Wizzy for taking care of Scary Baby while she did a few chores to help earn a few privileges back.

This was taken out the car window as we drove through the the North Georgia mountains.

Tennessee on the Cherohala Skyway

Absolutely our favorite time of year.

Imagine these photos if I didn’t have a point and shoot camera.

The colors were magnificent.

North Carolina on the Cherohala Skyway

I was shocked when we crossed over from Tennessee to North Carolina that there were no more leaves. It looked like a haunted forest.

There was even a tiny bit of snow.


Those poor people in the Northeast.

It’s a little nippy here in the south too. When temperatures get down in the 50’s and 60’s we start freezing.

We were heading up higher on the Skyway but when we discovered there were no leaves left on the North Carolina side, we raced back down as we watched the sunset.

Finally, we got to a lookout point and I got to capture the last glimpse of all the layers of color as the sun disappeared.

Simply glorious.

We also managed to have some of our favorite food.

I know you are shocked by this.

We were disappointed when we missed Hardee’s breakfast hours.

Did you know the bologna biscuit is back?

Yeah, me neither and I would have been fine never knowing. Really, do people order these?

We recovered by having our favorite cheeseburger from here and an apple fritter from here.

No food pictures but yum!

On Sunday we had delicious creamy chicken and wild rice soup and cornbread and watched football and Scary Baby carved her pumpkin.

She picked a pretty ambitious design found on the internet.

And thankfully, she finally decided sharpie marker eyes would suffice.

Happy Halloween!

How’s the weather where you live? Are the autumn colors all but gone?


College Care Packages

I’m a big believer in giving gifts that are memorable and that I can add a personal touch to whenever possible.

This leads to some gift procrastination because I’m sometimes a little slow coming up with an idea.

Way back in May, I was stuck on giving several high school graduation gifts that would be personal even though I know that most graduates love good old-fashioned cash or the more hip and cool gift cards.

Easy gifts that are very appreciated from my own experience of having 3 high school graduates who were very grateful!

Finally, I came up with what I thought was a great idea for gifts.

In August.

Not very timely for the May and June graduates.

Until I realized that the gift recipients were going to college and it would be way more fun to mail their graduation gifts as care packages.

So in September I ordered 3 copies of this favorite book.

And then I got busy and started baking. I made 3 different kinds of quick bread (no yeast).

I might have made more than 3 loaves. Good time to freeze bread. You know, I like to bake in batches. Great little gifts any time!

I did this baking over two weekends not all at once.

I made 3 different kinds of cookies. Chocolate Chip were the obvious first choice.

Next I wanted to try these Triple Threat Chocolate Fudge Peanut Butter Cookies and they did not disappoint.

Who wouldn’t love a box filled with 3 dozen cookies?

The chocolate chip cookies were made the weekend before so they were frozen in little dollar store foil containers. I decided the 3rd kind should be chocolate-free so I made Lemon Drops

And 3 adorable mini loaves of bread?

Pumpkin Bread, Banana Bread & Poppy Seed Bread

To share or hoard as I told the new college freshmen in the note I sent in each box.

I’ve heard via texting, phone and a lovely handwritten note that they enjoyed all the goodies.

Send a college kid a care package if you can. Any time of year, for no special occasion, just because you’re thinking of them. In fact, I think you can send anybody a care package and they’ll love it!

Next week I’ll share our new favorite cookies that are the best I’ve made in YEARS!


Midwest Eating Tour

Eating our way through each state is what we do best.

PhilBillPaul and I took a whirlwind trip for a wedding.

On the drive up in the middle of the night, we began our day with a less than stellar breakfast at Denny’s. The grand slam that wasn’t.

We did laugh (and feel a little sick) reading about this new twist on a grilled cheese.

Are you kidding me? Yes, that is four fried cheese sticks inside the grilled cheese. I LOVE cheese but seriously? Don’t even look at the nutritional info for this scary sandwich.

We did not order this. We did discuss that several of our children would have.

For lunch we used that not-handy GPS that took us to a non-existent Culver’s. We would not be deterred and drove around in circles until we found one. Thank goodness because while I’ve had Culver’s several times in the past few years, PhilBillPaul reminded me on the whole trip, he had not.

We made it to the Quad Cities in time for rehearsal dinner with a beautiful wedding the next day.

You know you are old when you attend the wedding of the baby that was about to be born the weekend you were getting married 24 years ago.

picture “lifted” from Dan’s facebook page

We celebrated our anniversary on Monday, 10-10 in the town we got married in after we watched that baby get married on 10-8-11.

It was an extra special wedding since that baby’s mom is a sorority sister and the baby also became a Pi Phi. That’s a story for another blog post.

Thanks Ann and Dan for being such lovely hosts and allowing us to celebrate with you on this important day.

We dined with that baby’s parents the day after the wedding. Village Inn breakfast with pumpkin pancakes with pecans. Oh my.

We do love visiting all the restaurants we don’t have in the South.

PhilBillPaul had just one night before he flew home for work and to hold down the fort so we were able to have Sunday dinner with my mother and siblings at our favorite italian restaurant in Rockford ~ Lino’s.

How can you beat an October dinner special of half lasagna and half pasta of your choice, salad, coffee and ice cream for $7.00? Yum!

On Monday before his flight, we crammed in an orchard visit.

Fond memories at the orchard where we have visited for so many years. Everett’s first visit was when he was about six weeks old.

They’ve all picked berries and had cider donuts in the cellar.

And pie.

It was nostalgic mixed with a little sadness that it has turned into a big orchard business machine.

I only bought one.

On our way to O’Hare, we got a perfect sausage and cheese pizza from Anna Marie’s.

That was his anniversary present. I’m pretty sure pizza is for 24 years. PhilBillPaul sweetly said he’s looking forward to the next 24 and we both agreed a trip without our 4 darlings was a very good present to ourselves.

Or maybe 24 years is honey? I could never keep track of that stuff. My sister kindly picked up 2 lbs. of Midwest honey for him because he doesn’t like most of the honey we’ve tried in the South.

We were both bummed we couldn’t squeeze in a meal at Gray Brothers but we just didn’t have time.

I continued the eating tour without him and had lunch with a high school friend. We hadn’t seen each other in over 20 years. We had lots to catch up on and lunch might have lasted until 5:30. Hi Melodi!

Movie night with sisters and mom meant one more Midwest pizza with Wisconsin cheese that embarrasses the cheese down South.

Dinner with two high school friends. {I really failed at food pictures on this trip and you know my point and shoot and cell phone photo skills are so awesome – guess I was too busy eating but trust me, the Wisconsin cheese curds on this night were delish.}

I squeezed in dinner with one of my aunts on my drive home.

After a good night’s sleep at an Indy hotel (thank you Toni!) and preparing my self mentally for the long drive home by myself, I did a quick search for a vintage drive-in with my kind of food.

I scored big.

It reminded me of the first drive-in I can ever remember going to called “The Teepee.” It was a giant treat when we were kids and our dad drove us to this cool place for the best cheeseburgers ever.

I was sure a cheeseburger wouldn’t be as good as the ones I remember fondly so I opted for a pork tenderloin sandwich.

It was a great choice and took me back to a time when we had pork fritters from the freezer at my Grandad’s farm. Definitely a Midwest thing!

Crinkle fries and coke with crushed ice. My personal little heaven.

Ketchup, salt and extra napkins in brown bag without even asking. Top notch service warranted a generous tip!

Loved every bite – it was a great meal to eat as I headed back to Georgia.

Late in the day, I found Culver’s (again) for one last treat before I crossed into Tennessee.

Don’t judge.

Thank you Bowling Green. Pumpkin pecan custard was flavor of the day and with caramel topping added, I was one happy driver!

Consider this your personal eating guide if you need to travel from Georgia to Illinois or back again.

I arrived home safely at almost midnight and was back in the car with PhilBillPaul and Scary Baby on Saturday so we could see the darling twins up at Gold Rush Days in Dahlonega.

That one in uniform was suppose to march in the parade but volunteered to take pictures instead because her little feet hurt in her tiny, shiny elf shoes.

I love everything about Fall – especially the food! Be sure to share any Midwest favorites in the comment section and I’ll add them to my list for next time.


One Movie and One Concert Not To Be Missed

Two things we did this summer that I forgot to tell you and you should put on your “to do” list…


See the movie “The Help”

I read the book last year and couldn’t put it down. I admit that I have low expectations whenever a book is turned into a movie. The people in my mind don’t match who they cast in the movie role. I also know you can’t cram all the depth of a book into 2 hours.

But in this case, I thought they did a stellar job and the casting was excellent.

Read the book before or after. Elizabeth bought the book after we saw the movie. Big endorsement as reading is not her favorite activity!

Either way, I believe the movie will entertain you, make you laugh, make you cry and most importantly make you think.

It’s worthy of discussion as a family.


See Keith Urban in concert.

Even if you don’t like country music. Even if you don’t score bargain last minute day of the concert tickets on craigslist like I did. Go ahead and splurge.

Photo courtesy of Joanna

One of the top three concerts we’ve ever been to.

This is from rocker PhilBillPaul who is not the biggest country music lover in the house.

I am.

The darling twins are.

They grabbed last minute tickets after they found out I did so it was fun to meet them in the lobby before the show.

They agreed and said best concert E.V.E.R.

Leave a comment and let me know if you’ve already seen the movie, read the book or fallen in love with Keith Urban in concert…


We Don’t Understand Rugby

Here’s a little “Where’s Waldo?” for your Monday.

Except it’s “Where’s Rachel?”

The game last weekend was against Georgia Tech.

She’s the scrawny one in blue to the left of #3.

They lift her up because it’s part of the game. We’re not sure what part but I think it’s when the ball goes out of bounds. Maybe.

And she’s scrawny. We think they need to lift her up higher. This is just our observation since they haven’t asked us for any coaching tips.

She’s #9.

We cheered when she scored. Even though they lost in the end. It was close like 3-2 but we don’t know how to keep score so maybe it was 21-17 or 100-87.

She has no fear. It worries me.

We cover our eyes a lot. Because just like in basketball she doesn’t care how big the girl is, she wants the ball.

I swear she is smiling while watching this pileup. I’m just glad she wasn’t at the bottom of the pile. For once.

We don’t understand this sport. We don’t understand why she loves it so much.

We are thankful only one darling twin is playing this year.

Who here enjoys watching rugby?

Who here enjoys watching one of their babies play rugby?



Reflections on a “Normal” Weekend

I’m writing this on Sunday evening after a weekend of what we consider to be “normal.”

I am still challenged to define normal because I don’t think it exists.

I know you have all been covered up with TV, magazine and internet stories about that fateful day in our country’s history. Frankly, I don’t think there are ever too many stories or too much coverage. I think we easily forget on a day-to-day basis as we go about our “normal” lives.

This year, more than others, probably because of the decade mark but also because of the age of my kids, we all talked out loud more.

It made me think of Alan Jackson’s powerful song, “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)” as discussions were based around remembering where you were the moment you heard the news of the planes hitting the towers.

This weekend we spent a lot of time talking about 9/11. Scary Baby had so many questions after they discussed it in school and she came home and looked back at our 2001 family photo album.

We prayed for those who lost so much. We spent some time reflecting on the last 10 years of our lives.

Ten years ago…

We had a two year-old whose biggest questions were about things like the caterpillar crawling up her arm at my Uncle Jack’s in Indiana.

My daughters and nieces stood still for a quick photo at our annual Kivett family reunion just a week and 2 days before September 11, 2001.

Just 3 days before on September 9, 2001, our oldest pumpkin turned 12. They all attended a private Christian school and wore mom-loved school uniforms.

All the students wrote letters to President Bush in their classes.

His darling twin sisters were ten.

They donated teddy bears with a pink heart attached with their own handwritten note to give to children who had lost someone on that dreadful day.

How could I know that ten years later…

That our now 12-year old precocious 7th grader would be our most challenging 12 year-old we have yet to raise but we are hoping it will come full circle when she takes care of us in the nursing home.

She always has to test out the college sister’s bunk beds when we visit.

How could I know that ten years later…

Our then 12 year-old pumpkin would become a 22 year-old man-child semi-adult…

Who would still let me take a picture of him with his new book bag in his senior year at college at Georgia State?

How could I know that ten years later…

Those darling twins would choose to serve our country.

No one could have told me my teeny tiny baby daughters would become Soldiers.

But this is our new “normal” and in between the dirty pig rooms and me being a “mean mom” and PhilBillPaul being a “nice dad”, I go to bed every single night and count my blessings.

We spent the weekend doing “normal” things and tried to explain to Scary Baby that this is what we all do to prove they didn’t take our “normal” away.

While Elizabeth was at a Military Ball for her unit…

Side note: Fellow married Soldier in her unit, not a date. Only picture I could get from her.

We went up to the North Georgia mountains and met Rachel and friends for lunch.

Jordan and Jenna loved the pancakes.

We admired the girls’ view out their dorm room window.

Someday we know they will appreciate it as much as we do.

The view makes up for (at least a little) the spartan dorm rooms that they live in as cadets.

The cadet military dorms are a far cry from the typical college student who gets to buy new comforters, build lofts, hang wall art and decorate their new home away from home with brightly colored lamps and fun desk accessories.

The choices they have made will serve them well long after they have to sleep on a scratchy green army blanket.

We are proud parents and we need to sing their praises directly to them more than we do.

We spent a beautiful afternoon watching a not so beautiful sport.

Circus baby is the one with the ball as they played Georgia Tech.

We explained to Scary Baby that we would continue to gather and laugh and love and keep on living in our wonderful country. That we would celebrate our freedom and thank those who continue to fight for it every day.

We promised we would never forget.

We haven’t.

I’m never too busy to stop and watch one more poignant short video and hope you aren’t either.

It seems like such a small gesture to sit in a quiet place and reflect.

If you need anymore good reading to help you remember the richness of our lives that we sometimes take for granted, please take the time to read an excerpt from a book worth buying called The Legacy Letters by TuesdaysChildren.org.

I believe that part of remembering and honoring people is to take some time to feel the pain of what others have lost…

Questions for a father lost on 9/11 from Motherlode, a NY Times blog.

I know it makes me more grateful.

Thanks for reading to the end and helping me remember.

Did you and your family do anything special to honor the heroes of 9/11 over the weekend?


DIY Kitchen Renovations ~ Cabinets

What do you do with 20 year-old honey oak cabinets that your husband loves but you know need to be updated?

He gets cranky when you talk about painting wood.

He likes the real wood grain to show.

After several long meetings with my friend Google, I had enough ammunition to show him some options that we would both like.

I started out this whole kitchen renovation thing with making everything light. I thought we would do light counters and even lighter cabinets. I was thinking of a soft cream with a dark brown antique glaze.

Once the counters were done, I changed my mind completely. I wish I had made the countertops darker when I was using the Giani Granite paint kit. When the tile backsplash went up, I knew we needed to make the cabinets chocolate brown to pull colors from both the counter and the backsplash.

I read dozens of blogs about painting, glazing and stripping cabinets. I was searching for the least labor intensive way to give the cabinets a new look.

Here are some great tutorials that really helped us:

How to Paint & Glaze Cabinets

This was the look I originally thought we would go with.

How To: Reglaze Honey Oak
When I changed my mind about going darker, this was great to read except she sanded and I refused!

How to Paint Cabinets::For Imperfectionists
She’s speaking directly to me!

Deciding on a cross between several methods we read about and eliminating as many steps as we could, we finally agreed to create our own glaze with color kit.

Products we knew we needed:

  • Deglosser (to avoid any sanding – hate it)
  • Glaze
  • Paint (to mix with glaze)
  • Polycrylic (topcoat for glossy finish)

I saw the Valspar paint samples and got the nice Lowe’s man to mix up two chocolate samples for me which turned out to be exactly the right amount of paint we needed for $6 bucks.

We stuck with 4 parts glaze to 1 part paint and tested this on the smallest doors.

We also found that the cheap foam brushes worked much better than regular paint brushes. The brushes left brush marks and I hated that look.

Ready to Work

First, PhilBillPaul removed all the door fronts and labeled them so we could put them back in the right place.

Next, cleaning with Dollar Store degreaser.

Doing all this outside or in the garage would be great but since it’s 110 degrees in the shade here in Georgia right now, I set up the cabinet work in the family room.

Next step was wiping deglosser on with a scrubber pad so we didn’t have to sand. This was the strongest smell so PhilBillPaul did this part because smells are a real migraine trigger for me.

I came back downstairs to do the glaze painting. Only three thin glaze coats later…

And three polycrylic topcoats…

We both love the results.

Thank goodness!

He also spray painted all the old hardware with a brushed nickel finish. We can both live with them for now and may get wild and add new cabinet handles later. I’ve marked some on ebay.

Perhaps we ran out of steam and didn’t get the bottom cabinets done yet…

It’s really so you could see the dramatic difference changing the honey oak. 😉

Did I mention that I also thought it was a good time to add beadboard to the island and several end cabinet surfaces?

Again, we went the budget route and used the mdf sheets from Home Depot and I’m fine with it. PhilBillPaul said it was a pain to work with.

He knocked that out last weekend but saved the painting for me. Hopefully when we paint it and he adds the trim to the edges and bottom, we’ll like it.

Cripes, we still have to paint the walls. And eight honey oak stools and one chair.

I haven’t even mentioned the rotting kitchen window. The house may collapse before we get the inside updated.

I promise to post pictures of the complete renovation. If it is ever complete. Check back in 2012 to see if we ever get this dang project done.

Meanwhile, if you missed our other kitchen projects:

The Craigslist appliances
The countertops resurfaced
The glass tile backsplash


DIY Nursing Care

It’s not enough that we now have to be our own cashier, banker, waiter and candlestick maker with all the customer service friendly businesses where you now provide your own customer service.

We now announce Do-It-Yourself Nursing.

A week and a half before his surgery and because we didn’t have enough stress at the house, The Grunter arrived home early from his new job and announced he had injured himself.

This is when I check myself out of parenting responsibilities.

Because I don’t do blood or vomit.

Believe me, I do enough other stuff so don’t start thinking PhilBillPaul has to do everything. And don’t say in your head or out loud “Poor PhilBillPaul” in that voice my mother Junebug uses.


I suggested that PhilBillPaul take a look at his injury because he is an expert on personal injury. This is when his voice actually got higher as he squealed, “OH BOY, OH GEEZ, OH EVERETT YOU HAVE TO GET TO A DOCTOR…” I knew it must be bad.

They headed to an urgent care facility assigned by his new employer that was open 24 hours. Arriving back home at 2:30 a.m. they reported that it was not broken but the doctor said he was lucky because he almost blew the tip of his finger off.

This from pinching it between two big metal doors that reportedly weighed 1,000 pounds each.


Everett did not shed a tear or dance around screaming like I would have been. He did embrace the Tylenol #3.

When we went back for the followup appointment, he came out to the lobby carrying this bag.

He had to ask the receptionist/nurse?/person in scrubs for scissors so he could wrap his own injury.


I’m sure this is part of the new plan to make healthcare more affordable.

Can’t wait to do my own mammogram this year and PhilBillPaul finally goes in for his overdue colonoscopy.


North Carolina Mountains

Continuing with our nature theme from last week, here are a few pictures of our day trip to North Carolina during Scary Baby’s spring break.

This is what life looks like as an only child. She has to travel with her grandparents and stop at every scenic overlook and take pictures.

Luckily, she actually enjoys it.

Or pretends to.

PhilBillPaul wanted to show us some areas he had seen on a motorcycle ride.

The waterfalls were gorgeous.

We loved this one that they cut the road into so you can drive under the waterfall.

Scary Baby wanted me to take some “jumping” pictures of her.

Obviously my photography skills are shining here.

We stopped in downtown Highlands for ice cream and Scary Baby grabbed the camera to show me what she wanted for Easter.

She’s so funny.

We told her she ruined her surprise and we were going to cancel the order we had already placed.



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