Saturday, June 30, 2012

Religious Celebrations Outside Your Own Faith

I have a wonderful and diverse set of friends and family that have introduced me to several different religions and celebrations within their religion. I will join in the celebration with my cousin, who is Jewish through their mother's family, to celebrate her Bat Mitzvah.

A Bat Mitzvah is the religious acceptance of a girl (at or close to age 13) into the faith. The Jewish faith recognizes their ability at this age to fully accept the religion as their own. After this ceremony, the church views the girl or boy as a man or woman of the temple. This celebration and religious ceremony is very comparable to the Christian confirmation ceremony.

I have only been to a Jewish temple once before, and that was also for a Bar Mitzvah (this is the masculine term when it is a boy). There were many aspects of the service that were really amazing to me in a great way. Of course, I was nervous about the unknown-standing at the wrong time, not looking in the right place, or any of 100 other things that would make my presence obvious.

I was relieved that there was nothing that made me stand out like a sore thumb, and luckily since my side of the  family was not Jewish, there were many guests invited that were in the same boat as I was!

I have always been curious about the world and about other people's beliefs and religions and have been fortunate enough to have very open friends and family who will answer my questions without me feeling uncomfortable, or making them uncomfortable.

In preparation of attending a Jewish ceremony, I asked questions about the yamaka the men wear in the temple. Some of the questions I had about it included at what age do men start wearing it within the temple (my step-son was 12 at the time and I wasn't sure if that was a close age to determining anything), do outside non-Jewish visitors wear them (is it disrespectful to wear it or not to wear it).

Just like Christianity, depending what church or temple you attend, there are many levels of how strictly the rules are followed. In my case, the temple the ceremony was in would allow any one who wanted to wear one to wear one, but opting not to wear one was equally acceptable even for those of the faith. One thing I learned that I hadn't seen in movies or read in books is that some women, including the female Rabi, will wear a yamaka too.

I asked the meaning of the yamaka, and I was given an answer that I absolutely love and think about often. The meaning of the yamaka, as told to me, was a story passed down through my aunt's family, so I don't know if  all Jewish people have heard this exact same story: The yamaka is symbolic of being a reminder that no one is above God. With the yamaka at the top of your head, you are reminded that God is above you and you are beneath him. There might well be other symbolic and religious meanings to this, but even as a Christian, I think this story's message is applicable!

Even though my path of religion has brought me fulfillment and satisfaction in being Christian, I remember that the difference between Christianity and Judaism is the belief in Jesus being the Messiah (or not). There would be no Christianity without Judaism, so I find it completely silly to hear Christians be so intolerant of the Jewish religion! After all, if you believe in Jesus, you know he was Jewish!!! We are much more alike than many realize.

I hope people take the time to experience another religion's religious ceremonies or services without prejudice. I found so much love, peace, and tradition within the Bar Mitzvah I attended last year that it was impossible not to feel moved.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Garage Sale-ing

A garage sale, also known as a yard sale, rummage sale, tag sale, patio sale, lawn sale, moving sale, garbage sale, or junk sale, is an informal, irregularly scheduled event for the sale of used goods by private individuals.

Summertime is a time for garage sales. The weather is nice and almost every weekend there are people selling their stuff right out of their garages. I have never had a garage sale myself, having only recently gotten a garage, but I have attended many and bought things from most of them. It is surprising what kind of cool stuff you can find that other people want to get rid of.

 In some areas garage sales have taken on a special meaning to a community and have become events of special local significance. In these situations large areas of a community hold a communal garage sale involving dozens or hundreds of families at the same time. In Columbus Shannon and I liked to go to the Village Valuables sale in German Village.

This phone was one of my favorite finds. For five bucks I got a cool retro looking phone that is wired for modern use.

We also got some really cool old kitchen stuff. This hand mixer and potato ricer were less than a dollar each.


How to Find a Garage Sale in your Area:

Advertising for the event of a garage sale is typically done by posting a seller-created sign, usually made from cardboard, in a public location. Signs are posted with the intent that people passing by will take note of the event, time, and location of the garage sale. In many cases signs may feature an arrow or some other means of expressing the direction of the event. Sometimes following these arrows can turn into a bit of an adventure if there isn't an address. I like to just drive around randomly in the summer until I spot someone with a table full of stuff!

In addition to signs, many people advertise their garage sales in the newspaper (in the advertisement section) and on various websites such as: Craigslist, Garage Sale Tracker, Yard Sale Search, and Garage Sale Finder, these are great because they often list the kinds of things they have for sale such as clothing, kids' toys, books, etc. So that way you know what you are getting into before you get there :)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stephanie's Weekly Parent Book/Movie Review

I have a passion for knowing what my step-kids are watching and reading because there can be content that needs a discussion. Some topics are beyond their total grasp and can cause children to be under incorrect assumptions or they think they know something but it ends up being false altogether. My reviews aren't meant to tell you what the book and movie is about like traditional reviews, but rather point out the areas that you would want to be prepared for to talk about or to be able to choose skipping out on the book or movie.

One of the biggest hurdles for parents, step-parents, or other care givers is letting your child jump on the bandwagon because it is what "everyone" is doing. There are many times the newest "in thing" is harmless and given most parental approval, but every once in a while there can be one or two small things mixed in to a book or movie that adults turn a blind eye to because the rest of it was "so good" or so "moral" it made up for it. I want to be able to point out the one or two things because writers and Hollywood are pushing what is acceptable to greater and greater limits as time goes on.

For my first week of doing a book and movie review I am going to focus on the book Twilight (book 1) by Stephenie Meyer and the same titled movie.

First, as always the book is much more descriptive and engaging so if you haven't read this series or seen the movies read the book first! The book has far less scenes of physical contact between the main male and female characters, perhaps because seeing it played out versus imagining it has a totally different response.

The movie does have one scene when they kiss and for a moment I was worried that their embrace on her bed would become inappropriate. At the very last moment they stop and back away from each other. This scene might still be considered by some parents a little two far (if your child is still in young elementary perhaps). I have on occasion personally seen worse driving down the street around town.

One theme the book has is the female character showing almost exclusive independence from her parents. For an underage child, this theme can be considered to be setting a bad example that teens don't have to ask permission or share information of their whereabouts with their parents.

Considering all of the things the teens do and places they go, there is no consequence imposed by the parents. In my house, this type of behavior would be unacceptable!

To wrap up my book and movie review of Twilight, if you read and watch the movie with your child there are so many great conversations that can follow! Obviously the idea of vampires is completely fiction, but it is still important to point out the fantasy aspects and also the parts that are not fantasy that real people experience.

The key to age-appropriate material is first and foremost adults who are actively engaged in what their children do!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kid Food Items Parents Hate-But Are AWESOME!

There are some foods and food items that children are going to naturally be drawn to the instant they see them! Almost all of them are completely un-nutritious, messy, full of sugar, and serve no purpose other than for us to be amazed by the items.

Here is a list of all the food items I could think of that will make you the coolest parent (or <insert other relation to child here>) EVER!!

Campfire Marshmallows.
These bad boys are basically like three regular marshmallows. When you put this mammoth into an open fire and burn it as much as possible the middle will still be white and gooey and un-touched by fire. I happen to like my marshmallows burnt so much that they ash apart when you touch them. This marshmallow makes it possible to get that and have a hot white middle that will still melt chocolate with its heat!

Giant Pixy Stix by Wonka Candy.
This candy is nothing but pure sugar in a plastic tube that children dump directly into their mouths to consume. The makers if this have eliminated the need to "work" for your sugar and nailed a no-nonsense delivery method. If you are lucky, your child won't WANT the entire thing because it is so much sugar. Good luck with that!

Speedway Frozen Slushies.
It is hard to beat a bargain like this. Where I live you can get 44 oz. of frozen sugary soda for less than $2. The part my step-kids like the most is that they can be creative with what flavors they want and they mix several to suit their specific want that moment.

Soda Stream at-home Soda Machine.
Yes, I have one of these. I know, I can't believe it either. First, don't be fooled by the idea that you will save money with this because you won't be purchasing 2-liters. I think I figured the cost of making 2 liters at home to be around $1.70. There are many factors to consider: he initial price of the "machine" $80 if you are lucky, the CO2 canisters, the soda mix ($3.99-10 depending on size and flavor/variety). I don't consider the cost of water from my faucet nor the 'savings' from not using gas to transport the weight of a traditional 2-liter. The cool thing about this is you make 1 liter at a time and you know it is going to have carbonation because you put it in yourself. My step-kids also like to make this a "unique" flavor by mixing as many flavors as they can to create something new. I like one flavor at a time, and the grapefruit is probably my favorite soda flavor.

Rice Krispy Treat Sheet.
It was only a matter of time before the crafty people over at Kelloggs made a Rice Krispy that wasn't individually wrapped. This sheet I have seen retail at $20. Obviously, you could make this at home cheaper, but the novelty of it will have your kids begging you to buy it. "I'll never ask for anything else ever again....". Don't count on it.
Giant Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.

Wow. I am not surprised that this is the new food item that kids dare other kids to try to eat all of in one sitting. I can't imagine the ratio of the traditional peanut butter cup being repeated in this giant. Again, it's a product purely of bragging rights. And yup, that little one is the regular sized cup! I think they make Snickers in this gigantic form as well.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Laundry Products and Real Tips

If you are going to do laundry you might as well use the best products out there! There are so many variables to laundry including the quality of your washer and dryer, the quality of your detergent and other laundry consumables, to your knowledge about how to clean all of these things.

I have some favorite consumable products, and some tips that are quite useful for the chore I despise the most!

First, hands down, my favorite washing machines and dryers are all Maytag. I come from a three generation old tradition of using only Maytag and the machines have certainly stood the test of time. Both my paternal and maternal grandmothers have Maytag and did not hesitate after using their original washer/dryer for 25+ years to replace it with yet another Maytag!

My favorite laundry products are as follows:

Pre-treater for stains: Shout! The faster this product sees your stain the better it will work. Let it sit as long as possible for best results.

 Laundry Detergent: for HE machines -Tide top load-Tide powder natural or fragrance free-Seventh Generation

Fabric Softener: Downy (you must use the ball and put it in the wash with the clothes!)
Fabric Softener Sheets: Bounce

Clothing Refresher: Febreze

 Best Laundry Tips:

Never use fabric softener with towels, they loose their fluff and ability to absorb water

Bras, a woman's necessity, are not supposed to be put in the washing machine, but we all do. Just make sure it never sees its way to the dryer...ever! It needs to be pushed back into shape and left on top of the dryer to air dry. If you don't have anything else on top of the dryer it will get warm when it is running and help speed up the air-dry process. 

When folding bed sheets, store the fitted and flat sheet as well as additional pillow cases within one pillow case from the set. This helps keep the set together and look better folded. We ALL know it's impossible to fold a fitted sheet well no matter how hard we try!!!

"Shake" out items like jeans, towels, and balled up socks before putting in the drier to help them dry faster, cause less wrinkles, and be fluffier

Clean out the lint trap every time you use the drier. This helps eliminate as much lint as possible from becoming a fire hazard and helps your drier more efficiently dry your clothes.

Purchase laundry consumables in bulk, on sale, or with coupons because there is almost no reason to ever pay full retail price for these items. Stores draw in consumers to get items just like these at a bargain prices hoping people will purchase other items that aren't on sale.

Monday, June 25, 2012

How Can I Keep Up with All that Laundry?!

Laundry! This is the house cleaning chore I absolutely hate the most. No matter what approach I try and take it is a household task that multiplies and gets out of control every time. Eventually the laundry ends up all out of dressers and closets (how this happens I can't quite figure out).

At some point, it can be difficult to distinguish between what laundry is already clean and what is waiting its turn. I have a few theories about why my laundering abilities have come to such a desperate state.

Old-Fashioned Laundry Tip #1- Sort Out Your Colors

I think this tip is the biggest culprit to my inability to do laundry. I wear such a large variety of colors I would have 8 different loads of laundry a week if I sorted my laundry loads by color. I used to not do my laundry all in one week because I would wait until I had more dirty laundry of a certain color to make up a full load. Well, after a while I would have many piles "waiting" to be big enough to do the load. This is where the abundance of laundry starts, and that problem is right off the bat!

For the exception of drastic reds, blues, and whites, I do all of my laundry together unless I have a new garment that I'm sure will leech colors. I wear a majority of clothing that won't.

Old-Fashioned Laundry Tip #2- Put your Laundry into the Dryer Quickly to Avoid Wrinkles and Mildew

This tip certainly does carry some weight! If you don't put your wet clothes in the dryer quick enough they can smell or severely wrinkle. With my OCD tendencies to do it "all right or not at all" I put off even doing the wash for a time when I "know" I will be home to put my things in the dryer. I have a very limited time frame to accomplish this task so the opportunities I have at doing laundry aren't great.

Old-Fashioned Laundry Tip #3- After the Laundry is Dry Fold or Hang Immediately

Again, this tip does have some merit to it, but who has the time to be home to start the wash, be there to immediately put it into the dryer, THEN wait for the dryer to finish so that you can immediately put away the laundry. I suppose if you were doing your other house hold chores in this time it wouldn't be so difficult! But house-hold chores are a completely separate post that will come soon enough!

Old-Fashioned Laundry Tip #4- Keep Your Socks Folded together even when taken off and dirty so you keep them together and avoid losing one

This tip sounds great in theory, but is rotten in execution. I am always losing mates to my socks so I have certainly tried this in effort to have usable socks. The first problem with it is that it is difficult to tell if the socks are actually clean and folded. The second problem is that if they aren't unfolded as they go into the wash they will remain folded together and can't get as clean or dry.

I'm at the point of purchasing "community" socks that are all white and that fit several of us and this would eliminate the need for so closely monitoring the whereabouts of socks.

Another option for laundry-throw away all the clothes in your house and then start from scratch. Somehow, I don't think this option will be feasible...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Smore Dark Chocolate Brownies

 I love chocolate (who doesn't?), so Shannon and I often bake brownies together. I adapted this recipe from one I found on the Craving Chronicles called Sinfully Dark Chocolate Brownies. Craving Chronicles adapted the recipe from King Arthur's Flour, which I had just bought a bag of for Shannon to make bread with, so I think it must have been serendipity. Plus her pictures were mouth watering.


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 and 1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
scant (a little less than) 3/4 cups 100% dark cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark or milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup marshmallow bits


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 8″ x 8″ pan.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat (or in the microwave) then remove from heat. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Return the butter mixture to the heat briefly, just until it’s hot, but not bubbling. It will get shiny as you stir it. (According to King Arthur’s Flour, this step will dissolve more of the sugar, creating the crackly shiny crust on top of your brownies.)

Next, in a bowl, crack 2 eggs and beat them with the cocoa, salt, baking powder, and vanilla till smooth.

Stir the hot butter mixture into the egg mixture until smooth.
Stir in the flour, chocolate chips, and mini marshmallow bits until just combined. (Note: If you want the chips and marshmallow bits to remain intact in the baked brownies, rather than melting in, let the batter cool in the bowl for about 20 minutes before stirring in
 - I did not do this, I have trouble being patient during a chocolate craving.)

Pour the batter into a lightly greased 8″ x 8″ pan and bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean. Cool on a rack before serving.
Note: You must let the brownies cool before removing them from the pan. They are very moist and tender, and will hold together better once cooled. 

I think next time I will wait for the batter to cool and maybe add some chocolate frosting with a few teddy grahams on top for decoration....I will post pictures when I make them next!

Saturday, June 23, 2012


One thing you can do to keep your lungs healthy this season is vacuum. Studies have shown that households with carpeting have higher levels of certain chemicals, ranging from hormone-disrupting phthalates to flame retardants that interfere with your thyroid hormones. The best fix is to replace all that carpeting with hardwood flooring, but if that's not in your budget, you can do the next best thing: Get yourself a really good vacuum cleaner—or at least learn how to be a really good vacuum-er.

Researchers say you must vacuum a spot 5-7 times weekly to consider it "clean" and twice as often for the high traffic areas. I try to follow that rule, especially with a cat in the house (who doesn't get brushed as often as she should) fur dander can build up....not to mention what Shannon and Ethan track in.

Which brings me to another point I would like to make: dirt and debris need to be removed often to keep the carpet looking its best longer. Walking on dirty carpet allows the soil particles to work their way down into the carpet fibers, making it more difficult to remove and leading to possible damage. By vacuuming regularly, you will remove these particles from the surface before they can get to the fibers and create a problem. Experts say to get the best possible results, be sure to vacuum the area slowly and go from side to side. Occasionally change your vacuuming direction to help stand the pile upright and reduce matting.

And don't forget to change your bag regularly. It is best to check the dirt level in the bag before each use. For best cleaning performance, it is recommended that you change your bag when it is 1/2 to 2/3 full. When accumulated, small dust particles can keep the air from circulating, which can reduce the suction in your vacuum. You may need to change your bag more frequently when vacuuming drywall dust, pet hair, other fine particles or new carpet. Some bagged units also offer a check bag indicator to make it easier for you to know when to change the bag.

We recently had our vacuum belt break. I could tell because the hose still had suction, but the main part wasn't spinning or picking up anything. Luckily it was a super-easy fix! You just unscrew the plate covering the bottom of the vacuum, take off the old belt and put on the new one. You can buy vacuum belts at almost any grocery store or home improvement store. We just happened to already have a few in a bag because Shannon is a pack rat of useful items.You kind of have to stretch the belt a little before you put it on, it goes on pretty tight. Then you just screw the plate back on and you are good to go. We used the opportunity to clean out all the hair and string that gets caught up in there and around the brush roller....something we should do more often.

Friday, June 22, 2012

More Funny Youtube Videos

My Stepford Sister Stephanie's (say that five times fast) post inspired me to do one of my own!

I am a big fan of Flight of the Choncords, and even though this song is in the first episode, it is still my favorite!

Kitten Bowling, it's a thing. As a cat lover myself, I find this very entertaining.

Not the most politically correct show, but definitely one of the funniest.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bonding with Tweens

I have two 'tweens in the home, a soon to be 4th and 6th grader (as well as a teen in 8th). This is such a difficult time for me to figure out what I think is appropriate for them. They know far more than I wish they did about life and whatnot. The question is, since they have already been exposed to certain topics and words does that make it o.k. to knowingly allow such words and topics continue to be exposed to them through song/t.v./movies?

There are so many things that a very protective parent would have to monitor to shelter their children from to keep foul language and adult themes in t.v. and movies from them... Radio, Cd's, iPods, the computer, video game systems, television, and other people!  I am often surprised when the kids are singing songs from the radio with themes of drinking, sex, violence, partying, and drug use, yet I know they don't even realize what they are singing about half the time.

I learned long ago in my early childhood training that many times children can see a scene or hear a phrase or words and be able to repeat it but they don't comprehend what it really meant. Adults do have a way of overreacting in certain circumstances. There are just some things that at a young age a child has no concept of and can't understand it for its full meaning. Some day it will dawn on them what it really meant but hopefully that day is far down the road.

At this age, it can be a challenge to find something not too childish for an adult but not too adult-oriented for a child. Because of my well-known love for reading, I thought I could kill two birds with one stone!

I was young enough to enjoy the Harry Potter books by J.K Rowling  before the first movie came out. Unfortunately I was at a "breaking point" age that as the movies continued to come out years later I was past the craze and haven't bothered to even see the latest movies. My step-kids aren't all that into it from a reading perspective or watching the movies. So I had to come up with another plan to give us something I could get excited about sharing with them.

I have never seen any of the Twilight movies or read the books...until this week! I know, I'm a little behind the times. It works out really great though. The library has many copies of the books so the wait list is much shorter and the first movies have been out a while so they are easily found to rent for $1.

 I read the first Twilight book by Stephenie Meyer, making it VERY known to my step-daughters. Once I finished the book I asked them if they would like to have a girls night in without the boys and watch the first twilight movie with me. They were enthusiastic, so I rented it. I was slightly concerned since the book had a sticker indicating it was a teen book... Since I read the book first, I knew what to expect.

 I make it a point to let my step-kids know my joy in reading a book then treating myself to seeing it as a movie. I am hoping this will encourage them to read books for pure pleasure. After I finish all of the Twilight books and movies I am going to move on to the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Luckily, my step-son already read all the books so he has some appreciation of the story and he will also be interested about his along with his younger sisters-that's a rarity!

So the cycle of yet another series of books with movies begins!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Refurbished Dining Room Chairs

...a work in progress.

When Shannon and I finally moved out of our loft apartment we inherited a free dining set from my aunt. The wood was good quality, but it had seen a long life, there were some dings and scratches and the fabric on the chairs was faded and needed new padding. My aunt wasn't even sure I would want it, but I know she buys good wood and I loved the excuse to make my dining set really my own, so I jumped at the chance to refurbish it.

Step one was removing the old fabric and padding. It was kind of cool seeing all the different fabrics that had been used over the years and I am kicking myself for not taking a picture of it. Unfortunately, I was in full work mode then and just threw them out.

Step two was buying the new fabric, batting, and padding. We didn't measure how much we needed because I was already planning on buying a lot of it to have left over for other projects.

Step three was cleaning the chairs. We used Murphy's Oil for that.

Step four was the measuring, cutting, and ultimately stapeling of the new padding and fabric to back of the chair board.

We were going for a Vera Bradley look with the fabric!

 Then Ta -Da! The chair is much prettier. I still want to paint it. Shannon thinks it is sacrilegious to paint wood, but I think it is old enough and not going to be an antique so why not? I would probably go with the dark green in the fabric and then do some kind of flourish design using the yellow or orange. Any suggestions anyone? I would love some feedback on this one! (Especially if you are on my side about the whole painting wood thing!)

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