Monday, July 31, 2017

Monthly Medley: July 2017

During the school year, I can find at least an hour or two almost every day to crank out a couple hundred words. But during the summer months and especially when we're on the road, I can barely find 20 minutes to sit down at my computer. Writing in June, July, and August feels cumbersome and strenuous, rather than fulfilling and rejuvenating.

That said, anything good in life requires a little work at times and a lot of work at others. I don't for a second take my dream job for granted, so during these challenging times I put my head down and try as hard as I can to "power through". I made my monthly Mama Bear Dares deadline and now have two weeks (not nearly as long as I'd like, but I know I can make it) to finish an interesting restaurant review for Texas Living magazine. The mama in me isn't ready for the school year to start, but the writer in me feels differently...

Does People magazine count? I knew I wouldn't have time on this trip to read, so I didn't even bother to bring a book with me. I did, however, bring a few People magazines (I start buying them four weeks prior to our annual summer trip so my SILs and I can read them while lounging on the lake) and I made it through all of them. I plan to delve into something a little deeper and more intellectually stimulating in August.

I caught quite a few movies in July, though I had seen many of them - Big Hero 6, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Step Brothers - once already. In the first-time viewing category, I enjoyed both Moana and Despicable Me 3, and I loved My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. I couldn't stand, however, The Batman Lego Movie. After being pleasantly surprised by the original Lego Movie I had high hopes for the Batman follow-up; it did not live up to my expectations.

On the small screen, I enjoyed the Amelia Earhart: Finding the Lost Evidence television special. I have a fascination with Amelia Earhart's (assumed) airplane crash and subsequent death, and therefore found this investigation into newly discovered evidence captivating and ultimately convincing. I believe the program is available On Demand if you missed it the first time around.
A photograph that appears to show Amelia Earhart and Fred
Noonan in the Marshall Islands after being captured by the Japanese.
Listening To
Tom and I listened to a l...o...n...g but engrossing book while driving from Texas to Wisconsin and back. Dean Koontz's Ashley Bell started off slowly, but as is often the case with Koontz's stories, eventually drew us in and kept us mentally jumping back and forth between perplexed, astonished, confused, and intrigued. If you find yourself with 17 hours and 26 minutes to listen to the 15 CDs, give Ashley Bell (or anything by Koontz for that matter - we've enjoyed quite a few of his stories) a try!

I generally don't purchase bracelets without trying them on - I have oddly small wrists - but after Facebook "recommended" Sashko bracelets to me four or five times, I decided to give them a try. I have no affiliation with the company, but have to give them a shout out; not only do the bracelets look lovely and fit well, they arrived quickly and the company emailed me multiple coupons toward future purchases.

Earlier this month my mom, my sister, and I made the rounds to the many stores found in Madison but not in College Station. First up on my list: Athleta and Lululemon. Lululemon had little that impressed me this season - sometimes colors and styles just don't align with tastes - but I did well at Athleta, walking away with the fabulous Studio Wrap in marl gray heather. Its price point forced me out of my spending comfort zone, but the material is "beyond soft" (the company's words, but I concur) and layers beautifully. The piece also has magnets in the corners of the collar so it can drape closed, comfortable thumb holes in the sleeves, and...POCKETS! All good clothing pieces have pockets, wouldn't you agree?

It may be 99 degrees in Texas today, when fall winter rolls around, I'll be ready.

While we ate and drank extremely well (perhaps a little too well - I feel a little fluffy right now) throughout July, our meals and desserts were primarily tried-and-true family favorites rather than new recipes. I look forward to returning to my own kitchen - and my 50 States of Cookies challenge - in August!

I spent quite a bit of time and money clearing the shelves at Trader Joe's and the coolers at The Chocolate Shoppe.

And last but not least, I discovered a drink working mentioning. My sister and brother-in-law buy their family's milk from a dairy. Like an actual dairy. One that employs milkmen who deliver glass bottles of fresh milk to the front porch. I grew up drinking milk and love it still today; I have a glass with a square of chocolate or a cup in a small bowl of cereal almost every evening. But I didn't realize how differently milk from the grocery store and milk from dairy taste until I tried a cup of fresh skim...HEAVEN in a glass. I don't know if dairy delivery is available in my area, but I plan to find out.

What's new, good, and/or interesting in your life this month? Please share!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Wisconsin's Finest "Vegetables"

While vacationing at the Lincoln Lodge near Minocqua, Wisconsin, my SILs and I went into town for lunch. We chose an Irish Pub - an establishment that had come through for us a few summers back when we needed a place to watch World Cup soccer games. Pleased with both how quickly we found a table and the drink prices, we decided to stick around for lunch and started perusing the menu.

One of my SILs follows a vegan diet, so she was excited to find that the pub offered two vegetarian/vegan entrees and a lengthy list of vegetables that could be piled onto any one of a number of breads to create a hearty veggie sandwich. Impressed, we all three began reading through the veggie list: romaine lettuce, onions, tomato, mushrooms, cucumber, green peppers, green olives, hot peppers, banana peppers, and pickles...and BACON.

Only in Northern Wisconsin (at least out of places I've lived and visited) is bacon considered a vegetable. I'm not complaining.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

'Tis The Gift to Be Simple

I mentioned in a previous post that my travel plans allowed me to celebrate my dad's birthday with him this year. We spent the afternoon wandering the Madison Art Fair, and then we returned home to enjoy drinks on the deck, a delicious dinner of grilled pork chops and corn on the cob, and a delectable homemade chocolate pie for dessert.

While our chops cooked, I grabbed my DSLR camera and started tiptoeing through the tulips, so to speak, in my dad's garden. He soon appeared at my side, and for the next 20 minutes, he led me and my camera from one lovingly tended bed to the next. He affectionately named each flower, and explained what he thought I should know about its size, shape, color, and/or smell. When one existed, he shared a story about how the plant first began to grow, where it had been transplanted from, or who of our family members or friends claimed it as their favorite. I snapped pictures at every turn, thinking ahead to ways I could display or use the photos as a future birthday or Christmas gift for my dad.

The four Ferri went in on a larger gift for my dad with my mom, sister, and sister's family, and a back-ordered gift for him will arrive later this summer. But I realized, as my dad and I talked and walked together - just the two of us for the first time in ages - that maybe our time spent together was all the gift either of us needed.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Wisconsin Bucket List: Wisconsin's Finest...Lumberjacks

10 years ago Tom and I left baby Will with his grandparents and went on a much-needed date to the Fred Scheers Lumberjack Show in Woodruff, WI. Within a few years I forgot most of the specifics, but I remembered enjoying the show and knew that someday I would take Will and Hallie to experience this diamond in the north woods rough.

Someday turned out to be a full decade later.

Earlier this month and on an otherwise unscheduled afternoon, the kids and I - along with Tom's parents and sister - loaded up and drove into town for the show. We climbed the rickety wooden bleachers and chose seats far enough back for the awning to block the sun but not so far that if the kids fell through the openings between the benches they would seriously injure themselves (an actual and somewhat serious concern). As we settled in and I began to take in my surroundings, I vaguely recalled two details about the show. First, the skit-like narrator-led portions - carefully interspersed among the sport portions to provide the lumberjacks time to prepare their equipment and materials for the next segment - are cheesier than Wisconsin's finest cheddar. And second, embracing that corny, cliched, and well-worn (I recognized some of the jokes from 10 years prior) "cheese" makes the experience not only bearable, but amusing and at times, delightfully entertaining.

"Steeped in the logging history of Wisconsin's north woods, the Lumberjack Shows are a blend of sport, history, and comedy." The Fred Scheers show includes 10 events featured on ESPN's Great Outdoor Games and the Lumberjack World Championships (yep, that's a real thing): log rolling, power sawing, pole climbing, canoe joust, axe throw, boom run, springboard chop, cross cut sawing, underhand chopping, and speed carving.

My favorites included log rolling, pole climbing, and the axe throw. Will also loved the log rolling, not so much for the skill it required but because one of the lumberjacks fell - in a choreographed stunt - on his nether region. Boy humor baffles me...

During "intermission" (I don't quite know what to call a break in the middle of a lumberjack show), the host/narrator/master of ceremonies invited any interested children down to the "stage" (again, I don't know what to call the wooden platform on which the majority of the chopping, sawing, and throwing took place) to try their hands at cross cut sawing. Because only in Wisconsin do we sell beer and invite children to work with sharp objects at the same venue.

I waited 10 years to take my kids to see lumberjacks in action, and Northern Wisconsin's showcase did not disappoint; seeing the smiles on Will and Hallie's faces and listening to their belly laughs (not to mention their cheers and jeers, which were not only encouraged but expected of audience members) made my smiles bigger and my laughter louder. I doubt we'll attend the show every year, but I know we'll return again someday...when enough time has passed that the every ounce of cheese and every slightly inappropriate joke feels new again.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Flashback Friday: Catch of the Day

He's come a long way...

I've reached that particularly rewarding stage of parenting in which I can ask/instruct my son to "go outside and catch me some dinner".

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

That's a Wrap (Leg #2)

After leaving the kids with Grandma and Grandpa at the Lodge in Minocqua and dropping Tom off at the airport in Madison, I headed to my parents' house to celebrate my dad's birthday. Just the three of us - my mom, my dad, and me - made for the quietest family gathering I'd experienced in more than a decade, but we had a good time never-the-less.
G-Paul with his birthday chocolate pie.
Meanwhile, the kids continued to tube...
...and keep their grandparents on their toes.
And Tom moved Tux's Bey Blade stadium from
Will's room into our room so they could bunk together.
The following morning my mom and I hopped in the car and drove down to Washington, IL, where we spent the next three days helping my sister set up her classroom. (Her entire elementary school is in the process of relocating to a new building, and while a moving company took care of the heavy lifting, Sara still had 10 years worth of teaching materials to unpack and organize.) My organizing skills and OCD tendencies came in handy, and I discovered a talent for putting together (the backgrounds of/for) bulletin boards. I also reconfirmed just how hard teachers work in the "off season" and without pay to prepare for each school year. Hug a teacher, my friends. Or at least buy them an extra box of #2 pencils.
Two of my many fabric covered and bordered bulletin boards.
After three days of working in Sara's classroom, we changed gears and worked for three days on our annual garage sale. We cleared out lots of clothes, toys, and housewares; made a little money; and best of all, enjoyed our traditional garage sale donut breakfasts, sub sandwich lunches, kid-run lemonade stand, and hours of chatting in lawn chairs. I feel a little like I've been hit by a bus, but it's nothing a day or two of long walks and good nights sleep won't cure!
They made a total of $12 but drank approximately
$23 worth of lemonade while working their stand.
Washington experienced some crazy weather - strong, slow-moving thunderstorms accompanied by constant, uninterrupted lightening and a few funnel clouds in neighboring counties - during my visit. At home I don't bat an eye when a storm rolls through, but here in Illinois, where my sister's family lost nearly everything in a battle against a tornado, inclement weather translates to increased caution and even concern. It also translates to increased appreciation for the rainbow after the storm.

On Sunday we headed back to Madison (I should have kept track - starting when we left College Station - of the number of miles logged on this trip), ready to kick off Leg #3!