Thursday, May 29, 2014

Five Things I'm Loving on My Fitness Journey!

With spring finally in place and summer just around the corner, my husband and I are making a conscious effort to eat less, exercise more, and devote ourselves to healthy living more than ever.

The stunning flowering tree in my neighbor's back yard--a herald of springtime

Several products/items/practices have really helped us in our journey so far.  First of all, we've taken up bike riding--my husband with unbridled enthusiasm, myself more tentatively.


I love the used bicycle my husband bought me.  It's no-frills, although it does have doesn't make me have to lean way forward and put all my weight on the handlebars.

However, our first ride together was a near-disaster for me.  I hadn't been on a bike in years.  I felt awkward, un-confident, and at times, downright scared.  On top of that, he took me on a 50 minute trek that wore me out.

That was this past Saturday.  I'm happy to say I haven't given up.  In an effort to gain confidence and get better acquainted with my bike, I've taken it out around our neighborhood for 20 minute spins every day this week.

Each day I gain more confidence and less awkwardness.  I plan to build my endurance and sureness to the point where I can accompany him on lengthier treks...Rockford has great bike paths!  Baby steps, you know.

My Fitness Pal

I've tried the My Fitness Pal app with some success before.  This time, I got my husband hooked too. His health and weight were really starting to concern me.

The logic and basic math of the calorie-counting app really appeals to him.  I've developed a new appreciation for it too.  One of my favorite features? The bar code scanner.  Anything with a bar code can be instantly scanned into your My Fitness Pal database.

Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt Bars

Everyone needs ice cream, or at least something like it, in the summer time! At only 100 calories and 7 grams of protein (!), these delicious bars are definitely a guilt-free treat.  They're not as sweet as your average ice cream bar, but that doesn't bother me a bit.  

I pick these up at my local Walmart.  So far they only carry two flavors--chocolate fudge and sea salt caramel.  Both are yummy, but I see on their website that other flavors are available.

Popcorn Indiana

I stumbled on these delicious products at Walgreen's, but was happy to find them at Walmart too.  So far I've only tried the Kettlecorn, which has a lightly sweet flavor, and the Aged White Cheddar flavor.  Both taste great, and are a good calorie investment, at only about 130 calories for two cups.

These are just great when you crave a crunchier texture.

Add caption

Aunt Millie's English Muffins (Multi-grain or Sourdough)

I've put myself on a bit of a hiatus from breakfast cereal, because frankly, I tend to overeat it, and not just at breakfast.

I found Aunt Millie's Muffins at Walmart after I had been eating the Thomas brand for a while.  I found out that Aunt Millie's is much better, thicker and more satisfying, and costs less than half of the Thomas brand!

The varieties I eat are only 100 calories per muffin, so I can add some of my favorite all-fruit spread without guilt.  I try to have some protein as well, usually in the form of an egg or peanut butter.


There are lots of other things that are helping...abundant fresh fruit, cucumbers, squash, Skinny Cow products, and more.

Are there any health/fitness products you've been loving? Let me know in my comments section!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Our Gallery Wall of Family Pictures

The inspiration for our gallery wall

When I first saw this picture on Pinterest, I was struck with the similarity to the stairs leading down to the basement in our home.  I really wanted to create a gallery wall on our own similar wall.

When we finally repainted, I knew now was the time.  I wanted to use only black frames as in the picture, and family members had already given me a few.

However, although there was a light above the stairs, it wasn't enough.  The light at the bottom of the stairs wasn't working, and needed a fixture.

A trip to Ikea yielded a pretty but inexpensive fixture, and an electrical-savvy nephew installed it. Let there be light!

I had ordered a vinyl quotation about family online, and that was going to be the focal point.  However, as my husband was trying to apply it to the wall, there was a problem. It...would...NOT...stick.  No matter what we did!

Undeterred, we headed to Hobby Lobby and found a couple of half-price items that filled the bill admirably:

The "family" sign is metal, and I think it has a nice 3-d effect.

Now we hung our pictures.  Here we decided to not be rigid about placement, as we know we'll be adding pictures from time to time.  In fact, I've already added two picture collages since we did the wall.

Here's how it looked initially:

Here's how it looks now:

I love our gallery wall, and look forward to adding more pictures in the future!

I'm participating in the Wake-up Wednesday linky party, hosted by Sew Crafty Angel!

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Smalltown Texas Home Show

My son's family and I had some free time between soccer games last Saturday, so we decided to check out a home show in downtown Hutto, Texas.  The downtown area is charming, and the streets were filled with home-oriented businesses touting their services and offering their wares.  

Hutto's mascot is the Hippos...thus the pictures of my grandsons posed atop, alongside, or peeking into their open mouths!

The boys enjoyed posing with these handsome Hutto firefighters and checking out the fire engine display.

Spin the wheel for a prized! The boys both won nerf footballs.

I love how you can buy pretty much anything made in the shape of Texas!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

An Unexpected Legacy from My Mom

This lovely hand-painted piece is in the "Market Garden" pattern 

When my mom passed away unexpectedly last November, the last thing my siblings and I were thinking about was "What things of Mom's do I want?"  Trying to deal with being gobsmacked by grief was pretty much our main focus.

But the time came when we had to make some decisions.  Would someone want this piece of furniture? What about pictures? Knick-knacks? Either someone took it or it would wind up at Goodwill.

I set aside a few knick-knacks and one piece of furniture that I had always loved.  When I was recently in Texas for my niece's wedding, we brought the stuff home.

Among the things I chose were three pieces of porcelain.  I had seen these in my mom's home for many years--she had inherited them from her beloved Uncle Bill and Aunt Cynthia, who I've talked about before on this blog.

These pieces are in the Rothschild Bird pattern 

But I must confess, I don't think I've ever picked them up and looked at them. When I chose them as my sister and I were clearing out my mom's house, my sister remarked, "I think those were pretty expensive."


Well, last night I got curious.  I turned the larger piece over, and found this stamped on the underside:

Turing the piece around, above the "Hungary" stamp I saw the word "Herend."

A Google search turned up this information:

The Herend Porcelain Manufactory (Hungarian: Herendi Porcelánmanufaktúra Zrt.) is a Hungarian manufacturing company, specializing in luxury hand painted and gilded porcelain.
Founded in 1826, it is based in the town of Herend near the city of Veszprém.
In the mid-19th century it was purveyor to the Habsburg Dynasty and aristocratic customers throughout Europe. Many of its classic patterns are still in production. 
After the fall of Communism in Hungary the factory was privatised and is now 75% owned by its management and workers. As of 2006, the factory is profitable and exports to over 60 countries of the world. Its main markets are Italy, Japan, Russia and the US.

Some further investigating told me that the singular characteristics of the stamps on the bottom of all three pieces indicated they were made sometime between 1915 and 1939.  (The crown on the stamp was no longer used after the Communists took over the factory in 1948.)


So are they valuable?  I have no idea how much they would bring, moneywise.  I saw pieces on eBay that went for around 200 dollars. If they're truly rare, they might go for much higher.

But I'm not interested in selling them.  Their sentimental value is to me is, well, priceless.

They represent my Mom's beloved aunt and uncle, who adored and cherished her as if she was their own. They represent my beautiful mother...and every time I look at them, I'll have a warm feeling of closeness to her.

I value the beauty of the pieces...the fact that many years before I was born, an artisan lovingly hand-painted them.

I'll admit, though, that knowing they're truly valuable has caused me to appreciate them more, and I'm honored to have them in my home.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

A Lovely Spring Wedding in Texas

My niece Katie and her fiance Ryan were married in a beautiful outdoor wedding last Friday at the Taylor Mansion in Taylor, Texas.  The weather was perfect and it was simply a fairy-tale wedding.  
Here are some pictures I took...

This was actually taken at the rehearsal.  The beautiful Victorian house, built in 1878, was ideal for an outdoor wedding.

Bridesmaids wait for their moment inside the mansion, their lavender-tinted babies' breath bouquets waiting in vases of water. The mismatched mint green and beige dresses ended up harmonizing beautifully!

My beautiful daughter-in-law Daylyn is a talented harpist.  Here she's playing the harp before the ceremony.

Katie's father, my brother-in-law David, is a pastor and officiated the vows.

Officially Mr & Mrs!

I snuck this photo while professional shots were being taken.  Don't worry, I stayed well out of the professional photographer's way! 

Since my parents, Katie's beloved grandparents, have passed away, they were honored by their photo placed by the cake.

All in all, it was a beautiful celebration at a gorgeous venue.  I'm so happy for my beautiful niece and her new husband!

I'm participating today in Wake-up Wednesday, hosted by Sew Crafty Angel! Join the fun!

Monday, March 03, 2014

Ten Bible Baby Names You May Have Overlooked

My newest grandson, Landon

The Bible has always contained a wealth of inspiration for baby names, and people have been taking advantage of it for hundreds of years.  

Take Michael, which has been on the list of top baby names for decades, and was still at number 14 in 2013.  

Bible names in the top 20 for boys in 2013 included Noah, Ethan, Jacob, Benjamin, Michael, Caleb, Lucasand for girls, Abigail.

If you're a Bible-loving Christian,you may turn to God's Word for inspiration in naming your baby, or you may just love the sound and meaning of Bible names.

Here are 10 Bible names you may have overlooked in your search, but they're definitely worthy of consideration:

In the 2010 Iranian movie "The Kingdom of Solomon," Adonijah is the character on the left


Adonijah was a son of King David.   The name Adonijah means "The Lord is my master."

My reason for including it on this list? I just think it sounds cool, especially if you're not afraid of long names. :)


Asher was one of the twelve sons of Jacob in the Bible.

I first became aware of it as a modern given name back in the 70's, when Chaim Potok's book My Name is Asher Lev was published.

From Wikipedia:

The book's protagonist is Asher Lev, a Hasidic Jewish boy in New York City. Asher is a loner with artistic inclinations. His art, however, causes conflicts with his family and other members of his community. The book follows Asher's maturity as both an artist and a Jew.

More recently, My Name is Asher Lev has been staged as an off-Broadway play.

I've heard it mentioned more lately as a potential baby name, perhaps partly because of the popularity of names like Ashton.


Benaiah was a pretty awesome person in the Bible.  The meaning of his name is "Yahweh builds up."

This from Wikipedia:

(Benaiah) was the son of the priest Jehoiada and David's general for the army of the Kingdom of Israel and his chief bodyguard (2 Samuel 23:20). The stories of him follow that he once killed an Egyptian with the Egyptian's own spear and a club. He was also said to have killed a lion in a snowy pit.
He was one of David's "mighty men" (1 Chronicles 27:6) who commanded the Cherethites and Pelethites. He was renowned for his heroism.
Interestingly, Benaiah was responsible for executing Adonijah after Adonijah was involved in a revolt.

The Biblical character of Benaiah  is the protagonist in Cliff Graham's book, Day of War, pictured above. I haven't read it, but several reviewers on give it high praise and say it's faithful to the Biblical story.


From Ohbabynames:

A lot of people are unaware of the fact that Damaris is a Biblical name. She appears briefly in the New Testament (Acts of the Apostles 17:34) as a woman who listened to the Apostle Paul give a thundering speech in Athens to the pagan Athenians, preaching Jesus and the Resurrection.

While many of the Athenians mocked the resurrection of the dead; others were eager to hear more. Damaris is specifically mentioned as a woman who “joined [Paul] and believed”.

What’s noteworthy about the recording of Damaris’s name in the New Testament is that it provides evidence of her high-standing and education (not many women were invited to speeches given at the Areopagus in Athens circa 50 A.D.).
You can choose how you want to pronounce it.  The name has turned up as DAM-aris, Da-MARE-is, and Da-MAHR-is.

Suspense writer Victoria Holt, who also wrote as Phillippa Carr, included characters named Damaris in Kirkland Revels and The Song of the Siren.  

Damaris Carbaugh, pictured above, is a Christian singer who sometimes sings with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.  She was named after Damaris in the Bible.


Hadassah is the Hebrew form of the name Esther.  The name can be interepreted to mean either "compassion" or "myrtle tree."

I had heard of the name, but it really came into focus for me when I read Francine Rivers' incredible Mark of the Lion series.  Hadassah is a main character.  She's pictured above on the cover of the first book in the series, A Voice in the Wind.  I highly recommend it.

Actor Jude Law

Judah or Jude

In the book of Genesis, Judah was the fourth son of Jacob and Leah, and founder of the tribe of Judah.  The name literally means "thankgiving" or "praise."

From Wikipedia:

Although Judah is only the fourth son of Leah, he is expressly depicted in Genesis as assuming a leadership role among the 10 eldest brothers, including speaking up against killing Joseph, negotiating with his father regarding Joseph's demand that Benjamin be brought down to Egypt, and pleading with Joseph after the latter secretes the silver cup into Benjamin's bag.
Jude was one of the twelve apostles, and also the name of one of Jesus' brothers.   The name has the same meaning as Judah.


Jamin is the name of three minor Bible characters.  The first is a son of Simeon, one of Jacob and Leah's sons.

The meaning of the name is "right hand of favor."

According to Wikipedia, the name belongs to American football player  Jamin Elliott (born 1979), American wrestler Jamin Olivencia (born 1985), and American filmmaker, writer, editor and composer Jamin Winans.  


If you've read the Psalms in the King James Version, you'll have seen this word many times inserted in a psalm.

The word is believed to be either a musical mark, a musical interlude or an instruction to pause and think about what's being said.

The Christian singing group Selah pronounces it "SAY-la."  However, actress Sela Ward was named after the Bible word, and her name is pronounced "SEE-la," so it would be a matter of your preference.


Recently in my Bible reading, this woman's name popped up seemingly out of nowhere in a long genealogy (I Chronicles 7:24). Women aren't often mentioned in Bible geneologies, but the text mentions that she built two towns.

The name means "a song" or "poetry."
From this website:
Sheerah was obviously an influential woman, and probably wealthy. She built and established the towns of Upper and Lower Horon.  These towns were built in a strategic location and went on to have a long history.  Sheerah even built a town that bears her name: Uzzen Sheerah.  She was probably a leader of the towns she established.
Sheerah is just one example of a Bible woman who had a prominent position of authority and influence.  And, as with other Bible women with authority, there is no hint that this was inappropriate or improper, or that anyone had a problem with it.
More about Sheerah here.

 The female names Sherah and Serah are also found in the Bible.


Shiloh is actually a place name in the Bible, but the name Shiloh has been given to both boys and girls.  

In the United States the name has associations with the Southern United States due to the Battle of Shiloh, a battle during the United States Civil War, and to many towns named Shiloh in southern states, which were usually named after the town in the Bible. 
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie named their first biological daughter Shiloh Nouvel.  Men with the name include American actor Shiloh Fernandez and football player Shiloh Keo.

Have you come across, or named your baby, a cool or unique Bible name?  Or do you know of anyone who has these names?  Let me know in my comments!

I'm linking up today with Wake Up Wednesday at Sew Crafty Angel--join the fun!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Getting in touch with my inner watercolorist with Waterlogue

A picture I took of Fourth Presbyterian Church in downtown Chicago, transformed by Waterlogue

I love watercolor paintings. So when I discovered this handy phone app, Waterlogue, it was a match made in heaven.  

The app transforms simple photos into lovely watercolor paintings.  

I have found that it works best with scenery, and not necessarily people.  It especially doesn't know what to do with lipstick on people, and it comes across as a blob of color on a person's face.

But it's so much fun!  Here are a few more of my creations.

This was my late mother's house.  She passed away in November, and the house has already been sold, but it was the scene of many happy memories.  I think I'd even like to find a way to print and frame this one.

This was a picture of me and my newborn grandson Landon, back in October 2013

This is a picture I took of a pretty house in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, last summer

A floral arrangement in a Longaberger basket on my kitchen table a while back

More about Waterlogue here
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