Saturday, March 31, 2012

Clam on the Half Shell Day

Did you know there was a day dedicated to clams? It always falls on March 31st so today is Clam on the Half Shell Day. Our research did not find the creator, or the origin of this day. But, isn’t it exciting that someone loved clams enough to designate this as a day for to enjoy and savor CLAMS!

And although this is referred to as a "National" day, our research didn’t come across any congressional records or presidential proclamations about it.

So what should you do on National Clam Day? Don’t use it as an excues to hid in your shell or clam up and give your family the silent treatment. Why not relax and celebrate!

Our family enjoys clam chowder. Our youngest son always likes to order clams at Red Lobster. And on the holidays Mother-in-love often fixed oyster dressing. Oops scratch that one.

Have you ever tried clams on the half-shell? As of this date I have not.

Image: taoty /

For those of you who don't like clams in any way, shape, or form, perhaps you’d like to know today is Bunsen Burner Day as well.

German chemist Robert Bunsen was born March 31, 1811, and is credited  as the inventor of Bunsen Burners.

While some historians deny von Bunsen was the creator but say rather that he was only a refiner of the equipment, nevertheless, all agree that chemistry labs and classrooms around the world today owe thanks for the device to von Bunsen.

Although not a major holiday in any country, on this day scientists will commemorate the birth of Robert Wilhelm Eberhard von Bunsen.

And if that doesn't excite you either, just remember: Tomorrow is a brand new day!
Until next time . . . Sharon A Lavy

Friday, March 30, 2012

New Life...for Old Stuff!

This week, I went to a decorating class with my friend Anna. I've been to decorating classes before and usually left depressed because I missed the Marth Stewart gene when they handed them out at birth.

I really enjoyed this class though because the decorators talked about how to decorate using the things you all ready have in your house. Love this concept! I have so much stuff all ready I hate to buy alot of stuff that I'm going to have to store.

With very little time and money, I was able to make 3 simple Easter decorations, and all of them can be recycled for other things.

1. I started out small, and just turned a cute dish I had into a jelly bean dish!

2. My sister had given me a glass Deviled Egg Serving platter, and it's been collecting dust in my kitchen for years. So, I added a bunny I all ready had, along with some decorating moss, fake eggs, and chocolate eggs to make a decoration for my coffee table.

3. I had some fake eggs and moss left over, so I repurposed a blue platter I had, and added a candle I all ready owned to the middle, and now I have a cute table centerpiece!

What things have you re-purposed in your house to save money on decor?
Happy Easter!
Michelle Strombeck

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hand in Hand

the sight
of couples
walking away
tugs the heart string connected to the finger
that snaps the camera shutter

the trust
that leads those who love
to grasp a hand and walk,
just walk,
anywhere, as long as
the one knows the other is alongside
by the warmth of that clasped hand–
maybe that trust inspires the
desire to memorialize those who love
and walk away together

maybe the desire
was born long ago,
when a tender
grandpa took the hands of two precious little boys

who trusted the man
who trusted God
to take his hand
and walk anywhere

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


It was nearly perfect - four deep drawers, solidly built, with a spacious top for brushes, combs, and pretty bracelets. So what if peeling paint and missing knobs were part of the bargain? This garage sale discovery was perfect for the room our three little girls shared.

I assured my skeptical husband that with a little effort and a small investment we could restore it to just like new.

Armed with an antiquing kit from True Value®, I attacked the dresser with determination. Stripping the old paint was harder than I thought. Preparing it for new paint was painfully time consuming. Spending hours in the garage was not my idea of fun - especially when swings needed pushing and hair needed braiding and a blue-eyed boy longed to play catch.

My patience wore thin. Together my husband and I hurried the process. With relief, we moved the finished product, complete with a green antique finish and new wooden knobs, into the girls' room.

Serving as hitching posts for imaginary horses tethered with jump ropes, the knobs soon loosened and rolled under the bed to join barrettes, Barbie shoes, and dust bunnies. When the paint began to peel, dark brown patches came through the green finish; the camouflage affect made it look like it belonged with my son's GI Joe collection. I concluded furniture restoration was not my thing.

I think God is calling me to play a small role in people restoration - significantly harder, slower and scarier than restoring furniture.

It helps me to know that my favorite book talks about people restoration. Galatians 6:1 tells us "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore that person gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."

When someone lets me down or falls flat on their face, my first inclination is to point out their flaws and demand change - not approach them with gentleness.

Have you noticed that sometimes we come at people with an electric sander when the gentle hand-rubbing of extra fine steel wool is required? We pound away with nails when a dab of strategically placed wood glue would do the job. Even worse, we come vigorously swinging a chain, as if we are trying to achieve the distressed and weathered look-great for some decors but much too brutal for flesh and blood and already dented souls.

Wouldn't gentleness be a better way to handle life's thorny issues and approach the precious people in our lives? Isn't gentleness what we would like when we have fallen or gone astray?

About ten years ago, as my mother was moving from her home to a small apartment she made many hard decisions about what to keep and what to discard. At that time, she offered me my grandfather's desk. I remember my white-haired, very round grandfather, hunched over that desk, working on "the books."

The first book I read from cover to cover, The Two Marys, sat on the little bookshelf above the desk. I loved that desk.

My grandfather's 75-year-old desk had some scratches and nicks. I remember thinking that I would want to return it to its original beauty. Having learned my lesson with the green dresser, I knew I would need to call an expert. Pa's desk was too precious for me to risk creating more damage.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Meals: The Foundation of the Family

Homemade Meals: Reconnecting Families in an Overly Wired Age By Cheryl Moeller

So, it's spring and you are planning to do a spring make-over on everything including your garage, your purse, and your family.

About my garage, I am considering opening the door one night and hoping someone walks off with some of the stuff.

About my purse, I have been working on it for three days and it looks like it's going to take me a fourth day to complete the debri cleanup and organization.

When it comes to your family, what is the most important one ticket item in your spring makeover plan that you should tackle first?  The best thing you can do is to add more family meals, even daily. And better yet, two or three daily meals.

The Big Question - How Often Do You Eat Dinner as a Family? Take This One Question Survey... A telling survey - How often do you eat dinner as a whole family? See how your answer ranks among other's. Click here to take it now

In our highly wired culture, with everyone in the family now owning their own MP3, smart phone or IPod, there is a serious disconnect developing. The crisis developing within families today is the disconnection of three vital elements of what it means to be a family:
1. Daily relational interaction
2. Shared life experiences
3. Growing spiritual community

 Consider this: • Many families now eat at different times from one another.
                                          MacKenzie sneaking a bite before dinner time

• Many families report eating only one meal together as a family during the week.
• The average amount of time a father has with each of his children in focused conversation is approximately 90 seconds.
• With the reality of a majority of mothers working outside the home during the day, the number of meals times has dropped dramatically.

This cultural and technological dissection of the family produces fewer meals together each week which causes troubling results:

1. Fewer Meals together causes Children to have less relational interaction.
Instead of sensing that they belong around the table to a loving, involved and available family interested in helping them develop and grow through life's daily difficulties and problems, they sense they are simply one person among many busy individuals all pursuing their own agendas and schedules but happen to be living under the same roof.

2. Fewer Meals together cause Children to have fewer shared life experiences. To love and be loved requires time and attention in a family. It requires spending enough face time with eye contact and hours together that allows deep relationships to develop through meals involving fun, love and unhurried conversation. Today children experience homes where people are more wired to their social network more than they are to their family unit. Meals times are more like a college cafeteria where people come and go as they wish, they pick which foods they prefer to eat (usually different from each other) and they either eat alone or just with one another person. We ourselves are struggling with this and have made a renewed commitment to be diligent every day in seeing that two meals happen every day – breakfast and dinner. We do good with having dinner every day, but want to add another "together" meal.

3. Children are lacking spiritual community. Make meals times linger and have spiritual discussion, prayer, and Bible reading and study.  

Solutions to Reconnecting Families in a Wired Age:

1. Regardless of how late in the evening it may be, wait to eat supper until you all can be together. Or, at least wait and eat part of the meal together (even if some family members have to save tea, fruit, dessert or some portion of their meal until later.)
2. Resolve to cook at least one homemade meal a day.
3. Use something as simple as Cheryl’s cookbook which can solve your dinner dilemma to make a delicious and home-made meal.
4. Parents take 30 minutes each day to talk to each child one on one, or in the case of a larger family, at least one hour a week one on one with each child at a different location such as going out for a smoothie.
5. Use your technology to connect with one another (send Tweets, text messages, and g-chats to the family distribution list daily even bragging about what’s for dinner)
6. Take one weekend a month where you spend the entire time together nesting with just the family with long family meals (no guests, visitors, outside appointments).
7. Designate one day a week (the Sabbath) as a technology fast (no Internet, no iPhone, no cell phone, no cable – spend the time instead reading, talking, playing games, planning your two slow-cookers favorites.
8. Take 15 minutes each evening to read Scripture and pray for the needs of each family member at the end of the evening family dinner. Ask questions to get spiritual conversations started.
It takes a big lasso to get all these folks to the same dinner table. Some live out of state or out of the country, but we have wonderful memories of meal times and many more memories to make.

"Dear God, I pray that each one that reads this column will resolve anew to have regularly scheduled family meals together even this week, basking in the Bread of Life who loves each one of us so much. May the Grace of Jesus Christ always grace your meals. In Christ's Name, Amen"

What made the Midwest great? And, every other part of this great nation that we call the United States of America?
1. America's foundation is God.
2. Our family's foundation is family meals altogether where we can use the time to grow in God's love through Bible reading, prayer, and personal testimonies.

Please leave a comment about how often you eat dinner as a family and your thoughts.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Guest Blogger: Pam Meyers

When Michelle Griep invited me to post at the Barn Door, I jumped at the chance because I had such a great time visiting here last fall when I wrote about living in a mansion during my toddler years in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

I’m a Midwestern-raised gal who, during my twenties, left my Wisconsin roots for a while and hung out in New York City a bit before heading to the left coast and settling in LA for about seven years.

When I moved back from California, I landed in the northwest burbs of Chicago, just an hour away from Lake Geneva. That winter was the snowiest winter in Chicago history, and I did question my sanity a few times as I drove my VW home from work each night, scraping frost that formed on the windshield inside the car.

Years later, I’m still here in the Midwest, enjoying the seasons that I missed so much when I lived out west. I can always depend on hot summers, cool falls, cold snowy winters, and springs that arrive around May with tulips, daffodils and lilacs bursting out all over and filling the air with their sweet fragrances.

Until this year.

Instead of singing about a white Christmas, we enjoyed a brown Christmas. Then January teased us with a few days of frigid weather and snow, but before we could barely get the walks shoveled, the temps rose, and the white stuff disappeared. March started out like a lion, chilly and damp, but now as I write this, I’m sitting in air conditioning for the fifth consecutive day, and my computer tells me it’s 84 degrees.

Trees are budding, flowers are blooming and the pollen in the air is making those with allergies go crazy. I’m calling the picture “Winter Daffodils” because I took it on my morning walk earlier this week when, by the calendar , it was still winter.

The joke around here is if you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes and it will change.

Does this mean it’s going to snow in July?

Don't worry, because if it does, here's new book you can snuggle up with...THYME FOR LOVE.

April Love has always dreamed of being a chef.

But she didn't expect her former fiance or murder to be part of the recipe for her new job.

When April’s boss is murdered, Marc is accused of the crime. Unless April can find out who really killed Ramón Galvez, her chances for love will end up at the county jail. But someone else is just as determined she not solve the mystery…and will go to any length to stop her.

When April Love signs on to be an in-house chef at an old lakeshore mansion in Canoga Lake, Wisconsin, she comes face to face with her long-lost love, the drop-dead gorgeous Marc Thorne. It doesn’t take long for their old magnetism to recharge, but how can she trust the guy who left her nearly at the altar eight years earlier? Her gut tells her something happened to Marc in between—something he’s reluctant to reveal.

A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Pamela S. Meyers currently lives in Arlington Heights, Ill. She served on the Operating Board for ACFW 2005-2009, and is president of her local ACFW chapter.

Her debut novel Thyme for Love released in 2011, and her historical that is set in her hometown, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, will release in April 2013. She's published articles in Today’s Christian Woman, Christian Computing, Victory in Grace, and Ancestry. She's also a contributor in the compilation book, His Forever. Currently she's working on Love Will Find a Way, sequel to Thyme for Love, due out late 2012.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

March Hares

Last year about this time the local rabbits were doing what rabbits do – acting crazy as March hares. The term comes from the mating ritual which causes them to cavort. During one short walk around our block my husband and I counted nineteen rabbits. It looked like the set of the original Star Trek during the filming of The Trouble With Tribbles. I didn't video tape the performance, but I can show you what the results were thanks to our bird dog, Miles.

Miles loves to startle rabbits and make them bolt, so his nose is always working. One day he developed a persistent interest in the fire pit. Inside the eight-inch high metal fire ring, a crater was lined with tufts of fur and inside were hairless mousey nubs knotted so tightly together they were difficult to count.

Newborn rabbits have no scent and only stay in the nest three weeks, so the mother must have recently left the kits. A doe only spends five minutes a night feeding the kits because her milk is so rich. The rest of the time she's defending them or eating. After that first time, Miles paid them no attention. The next week I was amazed how quickly they had changed.

I photographed them for three straight days before the first one ventured out. By the next morning the nest was empty.

In the last two days I've starting seeing rabbits and you can bank on it that I'll be keeping an eye on the fire pit.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Harry Houdini, Wisconsin Native

I'm going to start a VISIT WISCONSIN series this summer.

Let's start with Appleton, Harry Houdini.

The mystique of Appleton's favorite son, Harry Houdini, can be explored through the Houdini Historical Center's unique collection of his memorabilia and personal effects, including handcuffs, leg irons and lock picks actually owned and used by Houdini. Demonstrations and hands-on exhibits offer more opportunities to learn about Houdini's escapes, life and times. A Houdini historic walking tour covers sites from his childhood.
In Houdini's boyhood hometown, secrets of the great magician and escape artist revealed! Well, some secrets. Demonstrations and hands-on exhibits, along with displays of his straight jacket, leg irons and lock picks.


330 East College Ave., Appleton, WI


Downtown, History Museum at the Castle. US 41 to the west side of town. College Ave. exit (B 41/Hwy 125) east about three miles. Between Durkee and Drew Streets


Tuesday-Saturday 10 am - 4 pm, Su 12-4 pm. Closed Mondays

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Visiting Arizona

Last week I was in Arizona, visiting my parents, and we went to St. Anthony's Monastery. Talk about beautiful!! It's Greek Orthodox and was like stepping into another world. Except for the jack hammer at the front gates. LoL.

Before we could enter  the gardens, we had to dress appropriately, which meant skirts over our pants, long sleeves, and head coverings. They provided outfits for us. They were...

and hot under that Arizona sun.

It was beautiful even from a distance.

The pathways wound through the monastery gardens.

At the back of the garden was a small orange grove. If I could have, I would've rolled in the scent and brought it home with me. Heavenly.

There were chapels scattered throughout the garden, tucked away amongst the flowers and foliage.

Mom was fun to watch. She'd ease a door open and peek inside. Door after door.

Small chapels were larger, others were teeny-tiny. There were places to sit and pray--a chapel for individual saints.

The Bougainvillea was incredible, as were all the other flowers. Pristine and peaceful, with a surprise around every bend.

After the monastery, we went up on the hill to another chapel. The architecture was stunning against the sky.

From there we could see for miles across the bareness that surrounded the monastery. There were bells up there and I would have loved to hear them peal across the desert.

As much of a treat it was to visit St. Anthony's Monastery, going with my mom and two sisters was the best part.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Crazy, Lazy, Hazy Days of March?!

Here in the Great Lakes Bay Region of Michigan we've hit the crazy, lazy, hazy days of March.  With temps in the high seventies and low eighties, it feels like summer.  What happened to winter?  And spring?

Friends north and west of here were buried in snow a couple weeks ago.
 But here on our side of the state we've had very little snow.  What we've had wasn't worth starting the snow-blower to move.  I simply grabbed my shovel and made quick work of it.  Two weeks ago we had nearly no accumulation.

Our community has a large St. Patrick's Day Parade.  Our daughters have marched in it several times.  Most of the time it's been cold.  It often snows.  This year the sun was shining and we were hot.

These weird temps have my neighbors talking.  Everyone agrees that this is a strange year.  Most people are happy to be hot in March.  But we're all wondering what July, August and September will be like.  Those are the months we are traditionally hot.  Will it be July be as much hotter than normal as March has been?  Or will the summer months be cooler?  I have friends hoping for a hot summer.  I think the average temperature for the year demands that summer be cooler.  What do you think?

Pastor Mark Haines
MY BLOG ON KINDLE: Q & A with Pastor Mark Haines
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