Tag Archives: tradition

A New Sandwich Artist

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24 years ago I donned the green and yellow uniform of a Subway sandwich artist and loved it. We now have another sandwich artist in the family. The family legacy marches on with Grace now wearing green and yellow with pride and Molly soon to join her.

A few weeks ago Grace and Molly’s boss at the Pretzel Factory called a meeting, something that occurs quarterly. The girls showed up expecting the usual news and reminders but were blindsided with the unexpected announcement that the Chippewa Philly Pretzel Factory would be closing in seven days. Everyone was shocked. With only a week’s notice the girls began considering other employment options right away. Grace, who depends on her bi-monthly paycheck to cover her tuition costs was especially shook up by the lack of notice.

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Gracie’s pretzel creation on her last day of work.

The following day we visited our local Subway for a fun lunch treat. We were greeted by our favorite ladies, two gals from whom we have been buying subs from for the last decade. They have watched my kids grow up. As we moved through the line I spontaneously asked if they were hiring. I knew the close proximity and the employees who worked there would make for an awesome work environment. I explained that 24 hours prior Molly and Grace received news that their place of business was going out of business and they were looking for work. We were handed applications with our wrapped subs and headed out to the van. As we pulled from the parking lot we saw a flash of green running towards us as Teresa, one of our favorite Subway employees, came running across the parking lot with paper and pencil in hand. I rolled down the window and she explained that she had just talked to the manager on the phone and Laurie wanted to hire “both those sweet girls” and told Teresa to get their contact information. Evidently the years of conversations held over the glass display case with Molly and Grace left an impression.

A few hours later Grace received a call from the manager informing her that she was hired and could start training next week. She also let Grace know that Molly also had the job but would have to wait 6 weeks to begin working (after another employee left for school.)

It was a powerful lesson in trusting God’s plan for our lives. 24 hours earlier things were looking bleak and both girls were struggling with disappointment and anxiety over lost income, and then a simple stop at our local Subway turned bad news to great news.

It just goes to show that God always has a plan, even when we can’t make sense of it, and His plan is always far better than anything we could orchestrate ourselves.

When one door closes another one will open,

and sometimes that door opens to the smell of fresh baked bread…

“Welcome to Subway!”

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Easter Love from Texas

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A few days prior to Easter we received a package in the mail from my brother and sister-in-love from Texas. A peek inside the package clued me into the fact that it was a box of Easter surprises for the family and I tucked it away until Easter morning. After our morning activities we pulled it out and within the box was a bounty of love from down south including Molly’s birthday gift from Uncle Travis and Aunt Krista:

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Plastic eggs decorated with our names, bearing treats of chocolates and fluffy peep versions of each of us:

And a dozen cascarónes:

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Cascarónes are a Texas tradition we were introduced to with the addition of a Texan to our family. For those that are unfamiliar here is a little background on this tradition, compliments of Wikipedia:

“A cascarón is a hollowed-out chicken egg filled with confetti or small toys. Cascarónes are common throughout Mexico and are similar to the Easter eggs popular in many other countries. They are mostly used in Mexico during Carnival, but in US and Mexico border towns the cultures combined to make them a popular Easter tradition.

Decorated, confetti-filled cascarónes may be thrown or crushed over the recipient’s head to shower them with confetti. Like many popular traditions in Mexico, cascarónes are increasingly popular in the southwestern United States For example, they are especially prominent during the two-week, citywide festival of Fiesta in San Antonio, Texas. Cascarónes are usually made during Easter time.

Having a cascarón broken over one’s head is said to bring good luck.”

And who couldn’t use a little luck?!

So before heading to Aunt Beth’s house for Easter dinner we headed outside to partake in this Texas tradition, compliments of Aunt Krista and Uncle Travis:

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Feliz Pascua de nosotros a usted!

A Night off and a Dress

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Amen, Sister…AMEN!

Sometimes all a girl wants is to lay down her dusting cloth, slip into something pretty, and have a night out on the town.

Thanks to an aptly timed play I was granted “the wish my heart makes” and like Cinderella had a magical night filled with song, dance and a pair of glass slippers…

Not mine, of course. I am too old to be hobbling around in glass slippers. I wore some kickin’ Keds for the evening. 🙂

We have entered high school musical season in Western Pennsylvania, a season marked by yard signs sprinkled across the countryside advertising all the local shows. It is  fun to drive around the area and take note of what beloved musicals each school has chosen to tackle this musical season. With limited time and a short high school musical season the great debate is always… which shows to go see?!

There seems to inevitably always be more shows than free weekends which sometimes results in a “divide and conquer” approach with different family members catching various shows (staring friends from church and co-op) as school and work schedules allow.

This year Molly was able to catch two productions staring friends from church that I couldn’t attend because of meetings.

A few weeks ago, she drove down to Center Township to see Hailey and Lauren Mitchell in “All Shook Up,” and Elvis inspired show that Molly raved about for days following the production.

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She also ventured out on her own, on a night Grace had school and I had a camp meeting, to watch one of her bestest friends as the lead in the musical, Cinderella.

received_2044220899193577Rochester’s high school musical is one we traditionally attend as our friends, the Tames, are key talents in the production year after year. It is always fun to watch their talent play out on stage.

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Once again Molly came home with nothing but praise for Heather and her talents as well as her younger sister, Melanie, who stepped into the role of step sister with only 3 hours notice after the young lady who was to play the role got hurt. Molly was super impressed by how well Melanie learned the lines for this new part in the hours before opening night and stepped into this new role seamlessly.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella was also Mohawk High School’s musical this year.

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Last Friday we attended their musical to watch Caleigh, one of Molly’s best buddies from co-op, who was playing the role of guard and singing girl.

 

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Cute Caleigh is on the left.

 

We joined up with the Hudak gals to watch Caleigh’s performance. It was fun to attend this particular show with Lana as Mohawk School is her Alma Mater. She had lots of fun stories to tell as we waited for the show to begin.

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The production was magnificent.

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The show was presented storybook style, meaning the sets and props were minimal and the show was carried mainly by the talented cast…

And there was a lot of talent on that stage!

After the show we met up with Caleigh to express our accolades for a job well done. She looked adorable in her costume.

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We also were able to say hello to two past co-op classmates that now attend Mohawk High School…

Sarah who was in the play as a townsperson and Jack who played in the orchestra.

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This particular musical was the only one I caught this musical season, but it was a great one to catch. I left the evening whistling the familiar melodies of childhood… songs of hope, garden wishes, and Prince Charming’s love.

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Then all to soon the clock was striking midnight and it was time to hurry home before we all turned into pumpkins.

Oh, how I love the magic of musicals.

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Yes, Yes…100 times, Yes.

The final Chili Cook-off

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The annual chili cook-off is a tradition our scouts have participated in for years. When we moved in 10 years ago it was already a long-standing tradition and something our congregation anticipated every March. This annual event served as the fundraiser for the year so that our scout troop could raise money for Boy Scout camp. After a long run this tradition has come to a close. Last Wednesday it was announced that this would be the final chili cook-off.

It was with a mix of emotions that we absorbed the news. While there was a part of me that felt relief at being freed from the huge task of helping multiple kids prepare dishes and baked goods for the auction, another part of me was saddened by the news as I reminisced on the many years we had been coming.

Despite the mix of emotions the night couldn’t have gone any better. Talk about going out with a bang!!

The turn out was incredible and as a result of many hands donating food items and many generous families supporting the troop, our scouts raised over $2000 that evening!

The night began with judging.

We arrived early, as Rusty had to help set up for the event. As crock pots of chili and pans of cornbread poured in, the missionaries were assigned the task of tasting and judging each dish, picking a first, second, and third place winner for chili and for cornbread.

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Once the judging was completed tabled were called to the front to help themselves to dinner.

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The hardest part of the night is always choosing which of the yummy looking chili’s to try. A few creative families came up with the awesome idea of bringing muffin pans to use for their dinner plate, allowing them to scoop a little of each flavor in each tin and try them all.

At the end of the meal the winners were announced. This year Rusty decided to enter the judging with his own pan of cornbread. The secret to his delicious bread was mixing yellow cake mix with corn bread mix to create a sweet fluffy corn bread that was amazing. His efforts earned him third place.

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Following dinner was the dessert auction. While the dinner part of the night is a free-for-all, if you want to end your meal with a sweet treat you have to battle for it.

The scouts and ward families all bake desserts to contribute to the auction.

This year Rusty made Mickey Mouse Rice Krispy treats dipped in chocolate:

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And Molly made cups of “Dirt”:

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The dessert table was filled to capacity…

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Families took their time perusing and whispering their top choices to each other, making a game plan of what desserts they wanted to battle for.

There were so many delicious looking treats it was hard to choose!

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The second half of the evening was the auction where friends went up against friends  for the sake of a sugar high and gloating rights.

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The auction was a smashing success with some cakes and desserts being sold for $50-75 dollars.

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Our scout troop was certainly blessed by the generosity of their ward family and the financial end of this event will allow a lot of young boys a week of learning, skill-building, and man-producing experiences that they will carry with them for life.

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It is the end of an era…

But what a way to go out!

 

Packed with Fun

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This past week was filled to the brim with fun. Here is a peek into the festivities:

This year Molly and Tatum started a club at 21st Century Cyber Charter School. They decided they wanted to start an American Sign Language Club. They submitted the proposal to the school, found a teacher to sponsor them, and were given permission to move forward. Their club meets every other Monday at 2:00. The girls have had a blast with it and the club’s popularity continues to grow as more students join. Each meeting is a result of hours worth of effort and planning on the girls’ part as they find videos to use, plan games and lessons to teach the week’s ASL concepts, and create power points for the lessons. It has been fun to watch Molly take on this new challenge and see her passion for American Sign Language shine apart from Gracie. Both my girls have a heart for the language and both are using that passion to do awesome things.

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On Sunday night we joined the Mackays for our annual Super Bowl get-together. Each year the Mackays graciously invite us over to join them to watch the Super Bowl. This is a tradition that goes back a decade or more and is one of the highlights of our year. The Mackays are special friends that came into our lives 16 years ago through MOPS and have been a blessing ever since. We don’t see nearly enough of them so this annual tradition is a special treat as we are able to catch up on each other’s lives while enjoying  yummy food and an exciting game.

(I was so busy having fun that I forgot to snap any photos this year, so I’ll have to use this photo from 3 years ago.)

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This winter has been especially snowy…and I have loved it! This is so much better than the rainy, gray, muddy winter we endured last year. This winter weather has forced us inside and much time has been spent in the living room, enjoying the warmth of the wood burning fireplace. Oh, how I love the hibernation season!

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Tyler’s new glasses came in on Saturday. We received the call that his glasses could be picked up and we stopped by to get them. They look adorable on him and I couldn’t resist nabbing a photo of all my darling “four-eyes.”

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I’m sure I’ll eventually join their ranks as time takes a toll on my eyes, but for now I am proudly holding on to the bragging rights of 20/20 vision and the only McCleery left without glasses.

Ozzie came home this weekend for a visit. We are beginning to prepare for his transition home and as a result the frequency of home passes will increase. This month he will be home three weekends in a row. This past weekend he came down on the bus that the facility offers twice a month to transport kids down to Pittsburgh for weekend home passes. This was our first time taking advantage of this service. What a blessing it was to not have to drive two hours north to pick him up. It saved hours on the road as we only had to drive to Pittsburgh to pick him up. On Sunday we met the bus in the same location to drop Ozzie off.

The weekend was spent at home. Rusty, Toby and Tyler had a winter campout with the Boy Scouts that kept them away from Friday at 5:00 pm until Saturday at 4:00pm. This meant that for 24 hours it was just Ozzie and the girls at home with me. It was good. We spent our time engaged in normal life activities: meals, chores, and quiet play. I think Ozzie relished the peace and quiet of simply reading on his bed and rebuilding his Lego sets.

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On Sunday we went to church and then had a family Valentine’s Day dinner before Ozzie had to leave. It was a fun way to close out this visit.

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We enjoyed a yummy dinner,

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Homemade heart shaped sugar cookies thanks to Mary King (YUM!!)

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and a fun game I downloaded off the internet.

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It was, in essence, a Valentine version of CLUE, that required us to solve the case of the missing Valentine by using process of elimination to discover the who, what and where of the mystery.

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Before we left to drive Ozzie back down to Pittsburgh we took advantage of his visit home to partake in our annual Valentine’s Day tradition of measuring everyone on the wall. Every Valentine’s Day the kids stand against the hallway wall to have their height recorded for the year. This is an anticipated tradition as everyone looks forward to seeing visual proof of their growth over the past 365 days.

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Grace continues to hold firm at 5′ 2 1/2″ having zero growth this past year.

Molly hit 5’5″ this year after an increase of 5/16th of an inch.

Rusty continues to tower over the rest at 6’1″ but his rate of growth dropped significantly this past year with an increase of only 1/2″.

Tyler now stands tall at 5′ even having grown 2″ this past year.

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Ozzie won this year’s bragging rights of most growth over this 12 month period, having grown 4 1/2″ this past year. He now is 5 foot 3 1/2 inches tall.

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My chicks continue to grow, both in stature and in other areas. This past year has been a year of extreme growth for all of the kids as they have experience the best and worst this life has to offer and have embraced both facets with grace and maturity. While the measurements on the wall don’t always reflect their growth over the course of a year, their lives do, and I am so proud of each and every one of them!

Happy “mock” New Year!

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The original plan was to return Ozzie back to Erie on Saturday.

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The tradition in our family is to eat our gingerbread houses on New Year’s day and then feed the leftovers to Harley D. Hog, our pot belly pig. Since Ozzie was leaving on Saturday, he dug into his sugar house a few days early.

The treatment team at the facility where he is staying to receive inpatient therapy approved him for an 8 day stay at home. This meant he would be returning on December 30th. Although thrilled at the prospect of 8 days at home, he was disappointed he would be missing our annual New Year’s Eve party at the Hudak’s house. We decided to address that disappointment with an awesome “Plan B” and decided to have a “mock” New Year’s Eve party on Friday night with just our little family. I’ll be honest, after a full day at the museum and 3 hours on the road, the last thing I really wanted to do when I got home on Friday evening was make a ton of food and stay up late, but I tapped deep knowing how important it was to Ozzie and knowing that once I got through the work of making all the hors d’oeuvres, we would have fun.

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Gracie’s fruit pizza was delicious!

 

So, with the help of the girls, we began baking, and mixing, and broiling until we had an impressive feast laid out on the table.

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The boys were given the task of pulling board games from the game closet that would be fun to play at our “mock” New Year’s Eve party. The kids had received a few new games for Christmas that they wanted to play so we started with those.

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One of the items on Ozzie’s Christmas wish list was the game “Chutes and Ladders.” It is Ozzie’s favorite game, due in large part (I think) to memories attached to the game, so it was one of the gifts Ozzie received Christmas morning. He asked if it could be the first game we played as a family.

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Next, we played “Speak Out,” a game Tyler received from the Kirks for Christmas. I don’t know when I have ever laughed so hard. The premise of the game is that players have to read tongue twisters off a card while wearing plastic mouth pieces.  It is supposed to be played parents vs kids, but minutes into the game Toby left us. He had been hit with a stomach flu and was not feeling well. Soon after that  Ozzie wandered off and fell asleep on the couch, leaving the rest of us to  “Speak Out” in the dining room.

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Tyler was particularly hilarious. The combination of talking through the mouth piece and being dyslexic just added to the absurdity of the words he was reading off the cards and the challenge of trying to figure out what he was saying. His solution to our incompetence was to simply speak more quickly and more loudly making it pretty much impossible to understand a word of what he was saying.

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Rusty was by far the best at enunciating around the mouth piece. Grace credits it to the fact that Rusty had braces most recently and is used to talking around a mouth full of gear,

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Matching smiles…Thanks, Dr. G!

while I believe it has more to do with the mouth size to plastic ratio…the bigger the mouth the easier it is to be understood.

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By the time we were done playing my cheeks ached and my stomach hurt from laughing so hard.

Ozzie didn’t even make it to 10:00. It turns out his new 8:00 bedtime at the facility has adjusted his internal clock and by 9:30 he was fast asleep on the couch, but it turns out our mock New Year’s Eve celebration was not even necessary…

Beginning Christmas day and continuing through the remainder of the week it snowed in Erie…

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The snow we received was nothing compared to Erie’s snow!

And I mean SNOWED!

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Over the course of a few days Erie had almost five feet of snow dumped on their doorstep thanks to lake effect weather. What this meant for us was a call on Saturday morning from the facility informing us that Ozzie’s stay had been extended until it was safe to travel on the roads up north. They suggested a new return date of January 1st, which meant our “mock” New Year’s Eve turned out to simply be a dress rehearsal for the real deal. It turned out that Ozzie would be home for New Year’s after all. When I stepped out of my room, following this unexpected call, and shared the news, Ozzie reacted with shouts of joy. He was over the moon excited, both by the news he wasn’t leaving that afternoon, but also by the news that he wouldn’t miss out on our traditional New Year’s Eve bash at the Hudak’s house.

(More on that in the next post!)

I’ll leave you with these photos taken during our trip north on January 1st, after dropping off Ozzie:

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Our drive up was sketchy, even two days later.

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It was beautiful.

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Look at those icicles!!

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We drove out on Presque Isle to check out the ice dunes. It was bitter cold!

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How deep will she sink?

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Yes, it was as cold as it looks! Brr…

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That’s a lot of snow!!!

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The snow in Erie was quite impressive!

Christmas in the Woods

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The first time we went we were pulling a wagon filled with toddlers.

Fast forward 15 years and Christmas in the Woods is a completely different experience!

Shakerwoods and Christmas in the Woods are two festivals that occur 40 minutes away from our home in August and October. They are, in essence, “craft fairs,” but labeling them as such is an unjust representation of all that they are.

Both these festivals take place in a patch of woods in eastern Ohio. The forest is filled with meandering paths and festive booths selling charming, unique, one-of-a-kind creations. There are hand carved ornaments, hand painted signs, homemade soaps and hand stitched pillows and towels. Each booth is run by a different artisan selling their own unique wares which makes Shakerwoods a thrilling treasure hunt, as you never know what special find you will stumble across next.

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Shakerwoods Festival tends to have a more distinctly autumn atmosphere, whereas Christmas in the Woods is themed for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Both are a lot of fun and in the past they have restricted vendors to one festival or the other, which allows visitors two completely different shopping experiences if they choose to attend both festivals.

I am not much of a shopper, although I do appreciate the unique, creative, artisan style crafts for sale there more than I would enjoy going to the mall, but the real reason I love Shakerwoods and Christmas in the Woods and the reason we keep returning is for the experience. It truly is a feast for the senses. Walking through the woods, soaking in the visual beauty of many creative hands, all while enjoying the folk music of local musicians, the smells of peach cobbler and roasted nuts is what brings us back year after year.

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It is now a long standing tradition…a tradition that hold many sweet memories as I look back on the years of Shakerwoods with babies in tow, shopping with my parents and sister, finding treasures with Toby, and enjoying the company of out of state relatives that have flown in over the years for the festival.

This year was different. Rather than attending with the whole family, I just had my three big kids with me. Toby offered to take Tyler to his riding lessons so we could attend.

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My girls LOVE Christmas in the Woods! Grace, my lover of all things Christmas, goes for the ambiance. Molly enjoys the shopping.

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Even Rusty enjoys it. He claims he goes for all the free samples!

He was a huge help this year as he took on the role of “pack mule” for us girls. I was able to get some Christmas shopping done and Rusty graciously carried our packages as we walked from booth to booth. He said he learned everything he knows from Pop Pop Real. 🙂

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And he works cheap!

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I just had to buy him some roasted nuts and he was content. We stayed until our feet were screaming for relief. The crowds were crazy. In all our years off attending we had never seen it so busy…

Just look at the parking!!

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But despite the crowds we managed to do a little shopping, make some special memories, and have A LOT of fun…just my big kids and me.

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Easter at the Homestead

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Last weekend we headed to Ohio.
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Since we had spent Easter day with Toby’s family, this was our second Easter celebration…this time with my parents.
We could not have asked for more beautiful weather. It was a perfect spring day. Between the bright blue sky, kelly green grass, and purple violets, the Homestead was alive with color.
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Much of the day was spent outside enjoying this ideal spring day.
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For lunch we enjoyed a picnic lunch of subs, potato salad, deviled eggs, and pickled watermelon rinds.
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The animals gathered at the fence to watch us eat. Perhaps they were hoping someone might toss them a roll. 🙂
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It is funny to see how alive and engaged the critters become when they see the kids arrive.
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After lunch we participated in a new Easter tradition, something we had never heard of before. This Easter tradition was introduced to us by my soon-to-be sister from Texas. Upon hearing that my poor, Pennsylvania children had never experienced cascarones before (a Easter tradition in Texas) she sent a package as a gift. “What are cascarones,” you ask:
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“A cascarón is a hollowed-out chicken egg filled with confetti. Cascarones are common through Mexico and are similar to the Easter eggs popular in many other countries. They are mostly used in Mexico during Carnival, but in US and Mexico border towns the cultures combined making them a popular Easter tradition.

Popular for generations as an Easter tradition in the Southwest, they are now making a splash elsewhere in the United States.”

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She explained to my mom how they work and that getting hit with a cascarone is supposed to bring good luck.

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So we tapped into our very shallow, pretty much non-existent Latin roots and grabbed an egg.

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What fun they were!!

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I think we have established a new Easter tradition, although Tyler suggested that next year we just use regular eggs.

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It could be fun. Messy, but fun. 😉

After our cascarones battle it was time to switch gears from Easter to birthdays, as we planned to take advantage of having everyone gathered, so as to celebrate Ozzie’s and Molly’s birthdays.

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Life has gotten busier in recent years and the added distance between our homes (2 1/2 hours as opposed to 1) makes getting together a bit tougher, so we have begun clumping birthdays and celebrating 3 months of birthdays in one sitting.

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Both kids were tickled pink to receive such perfect, thoughtful, creative gifts from my parents.

Ozzie received two new puzzles and a deck of John Deere playing cards. They couldn’t have picked a better gift for my puzzle loving boy!

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Molly received a Ukulele…an adorable Ukulele! She has been talking about wanting to learn to play the Ukulele and Mimi and Pop Pop heard her wish and granted it.

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Mom even had special Easter treats for Toby and I.

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It was very thoughtful!

The remainder of the day was spent soaking up the sunshine, enjoying birthday root beer floats, and playing Frisbee as a family.

How blessed we are!