Tag Archives: wooster

Christmas Magic in Wooster


christmas past

It was like something from a Christmas card or a Hallmark movie. The streets were lit with Christmas lights as hundreds of neighbors and friends came out to celebrate the start of the Christmas season with Christmas cookies and holiday festivities in downtown Wooster.


A few weeks prior to the event my parents invited Grace and I to come to the Homestead for the weekend. As an adult I find myself managing many roles and wearing many hats so the invitation to come and simply be a daughter was a gift and a blessed reprieve from life.

We were invited to visit on the fourth Friday of the month so as to enjoy Wooster’s light up night. Grace and I were unprepared for the delight we would find as we joined Mimi and Pop Pop for a stroll down Main Street.


The first thing that we noticed upon our arrival downtown was the sheer number of residents that had come out for the event. The weather worked to the city’s advantage with comfortable temperatures and zero precipitation or wind marring the festivities, making it ideal for a nighttime stroll.


The roads downtown were closed off to traffic allowing pedestrians to roam freely through the streets, enjoying the various Christmas displays in the shop windows.


Many of the stores went all out, even creating live displays to draw visitors to their store fronts.


Each store beckoned visitors in with the promise of hot cocoa and cookies while they did a little Christmas shopping.


The entire event felt like a scene from The Christmas Story, and we felt as though we had stepped back in time to a decade when downtowns were vibrant and families strolled Main St. every December, soaking up the Christmas magic of holiday window displays.

Along the busy streets we also enjoyed the magic of live reindeer,


Roaming characters,


Live music, and horse drawn carriage rides.


It was a magical night with Grace and my parents…

A perfect kick-off for the Christmas season.


Thank you, Mom and Dad!

9 Decades of Life!



In my life I have been incredibly blessed to be surrounded by women of character and of influence. These women are responsible for a wonderful and magical childhood, but are also largely responsible for the woman I am today.

At their knees I learned the most important of life lessons.

I learned how to love, how to serve, and how to care for my family.

I learned the importance of creating memories and carving out time for fun.

I learned that laughter is one of the greatest antidotes to hard days and that hard work pays dividends.

I learned that life is a grand adventure, and when it comes to the twists and turns on the road of life, we can either fruitlessly resist or lean into the bends and enjoy the ride.

I learned that there is something to be learned from every experience and every person we encounter in our travels.

I learned that family is everything, and as long as you have that you will always feel wealthy.

One of the greatest influences in my life has been my father’s mother, whom I refer to often in the blog as G.G.

G.G. just recently moved closer when in October she sold her home in Florida to move closer to my parents in Wooster, Ohio. Although the craziness of life has kept us from visiting as often as we’d like, we are so grateful to have her close by and a regular fixture at all our family gatherings at the Homestead.

This month was a big one for G.G. as she celebrated her 90th trip around the sun. As vibrant and fun as ever, I can only hope to live my life as well as she has.

IMG_1986 (2)

In honor of her big day, plans were in the works months prior to plan a celebration worthy of the birthday girl. My parents, along with my Dad’s three siblings and their spouses, made plans to celebrate this milestone birthday in style.

IMG_1969 (2)

The plan was for everyone (Andy/Jane, Denise/Jack, Jill/Paul, Marty/Fran, and my sister Kelly) to come into town for a week of reunion fun with the planned activities coming to a peak on Thursday night with a celebratory birthday dinner at the Olde Jaol Restaurant.

IMG_2043 (2)

Prior to the birthday party I was recruited to take on the task of creating a scrapbook for the birthday girl. Months prior to the event I began the project by sending out letters to friends and family requesting birthday letters for grandma. The letters came rolling in and I had a blast reading the memories recorded by all those who love her and whose lives have been touched by hers.

My own sweet memories of her loving traditions that helped mold for me a magical childhood were echoed in the letters from others. I found as I compiled the scrapbook, my love, admiration, and appreciation for my grandmother grew even more, and it was a joyful project to undertake.

IMG_2011 (2)IMG_2020 (2)

Last Thursday was the big day.

Following a shortened day at work, Toby arrived home with enough time to change before we made the 2.5 hour drive to Wooster, Ohio. There we joined family for G.G.’s 90th birthday dinner at Olde Jaol Resturant.

IMG_2023 (2)

This historic gem, located in downtown Wooster, was a perfect place to have such a special birthday celebration. The restaurant, converted from the old city jail, offered a charming atmosphere to compliment a delicious meal…probably the best food I have ever eaten!

IMG_1972 (2)IMG_1975

IMG_2006 (2)

There we were joined by my parents, out-of-town family,

IMG_1989 (2)

And of course the birthday girl, who thanks to gifts from Jane and Andy’s puppies, was decked out for the occasion in “90th birthday” bling.

IMG_1985 (2)

IMG_2004 (2)

That evening we enjoyed an amazing meal and even more amazing company as we gathered together to celebrate the life of a woman whose life has touched so many for the better.

IMG_1991 (2)

Gifts were given with loving consideration and each gift was an expression of love.

IMG_2031 (2)IMG_2034 (2)

Then we presented G.G. with the gift from the entire family…the compilation of love letters from friends and family near and far. As she read through the memories that had been penned, it was a confirmation of the impact one soul can have on the world.

IMG_1997 (2)

So often we move through this life doing the best we can, wondering if our feeble attempts are making any difference at all. It is easy to become focused on our failures or the struggles that dot our existance, and we lose sight of the big picture and the trail of blessings we leave in our wake…

Blessings that make this world a brighter and better place because we are in it.

IMG_2028 (2)

The scrapbook of letters served as a testament to the impact one person can have.

What a life G.G. has led these last 90 years!

How blessed we all are to be a part of that life!


Christmas Cousins



IMG_3645 (2)

After a wonderful Thanksgiving with Toby’s side of the family, we headed to my parent’s house on Saturday. My sister and her kiddos had come into town to celebrate the holiday weekend with my parents, so we traveled west to join the cousins at the Homestead for an early Christmas celebration.

IMG_3660 (2)

Because my sister and her family call Northern Michigan home, they rarely travel after Thanksgiving, given the unpredictable weather of winter, so their annual trip south on Thanksgiving weekend is our last time to see the cousins until the Easter thaw.

IMG_3580 (2)

Unfortunately Tom, my brother-in-law, had to work, but we did get to spend the day with the rest of the Kirk clan, my parents, and G.G. (my grandma.)

IMG_3573 (2)

We arrived around lunch time. We headed for the big red barn where we were spending the day, and while my parents left to pick up lunch at a local pizza joint, we had the chance to catch-up with my Grandma while the cousins played.

IMG_3570 (2)

It was Brandon’s first time meeting some of these family members. He was a bit reserved in the beginning but soon warmed up to our crazy crew.

IMG_3657 (2)

When Mimi and Pop Pop got back with lunch, the food was spread out on the table and everyone dished up. We enjoyed a feast of pizza, wings, coleslaw and jojo potatoes. It was delicious and everyone ate until their stomach’s ached.

IMG_3584 (2)

After lunch we enjoyed the first game of many…

Everyone sat down in anticipation of our traditional White Elephant gift exchange. This silly game, put together with a $20.00 visit to Dollar Tree, always proves to be one of the highlights of the day. There is always much laughter as everyone battles for unknown tacky gifts wrapped in deceptively decorative packaging.

IMG_3593 (2)

After the drama of stealing and re-stealing the packages it is time for the big reveal when everyone finally  gets to see what it was that they were fighting so hard for. With the reveal came many more laughs, and that $20.00 investment proved to be the best money we spent. We laughed until our bellies hurt.

IMG_3615 (2)IMG_3611 (2)IMG_3616 (2)IMG_3618 (2)IMG_3605 (2)

The White Elephant gift exchange was followed by the real gift exchange between cousins.

IMG_3620 (2)

We used to handle the Christmas exchange with cousins differently…

Kelly would buy for and send gifts to all my kids each Christmas, and I would do the same for hers, but a few years ago we came up with the idea of letting the cousins draw names and buy for each other. They love it and it allows each of them to thoughtfully consider the personality, likes/dislikes, and preferences of one of their cousins, and then buy a gift that reflects that thoughtfulness.

We messed up the system a bit this year by adding  child #6 to the McCleery crew, making our numbers uneven to the “Kirk five.” Our solution was to have our four boys and Kelly’s four boys exchange names and then have my two girls work together to buy for Lydia and have Lydia shop for both my girls.

IMG_3639 (2)

The kids took turns exchanging gifts one at a time, then watching their cousins open the gifts given. The thought that was put into each gift was touching, with each gift perfect for the receiver.

IMG_3628 (2)IMG_3630 (2)

After the kids had opened their gifts, but before they all scattered, we gathered everyone for some group photos while all the cousins were together.

IMG_3648 (2)

The remainder of our day at the Homestead was spent visiting and playing games while the kids climbed hay bales, played touch football, had sword fights, played with the farm animals and enjoyed the blessing of family.

IMG_3659 (2)IMG_3652 (2)
IMG_3651 (2)

On November 24th Christmas came a little early to Wooster, Ohio…

How blessed we are!

Girls’ Day at the Homestead!


After a late night of fun and dancing at Spring Formal, the girls woke up early to join me on the road again for road trip #3. This time we were headed out to Ohio to my parent’s house. My sister and her two oldest kids were coming down for the weekend so that all of us girls could go out for the day to celebrate Gracie’s 19th birthday.

We arrived just after Kelly and her crew pulled in after a seven-hour drive from northern Michigan. After a week of many long-distance road trips I was glad we only had 2 ½ hours to travel.

The day of fun began with Grace getting to open her gift from Mimi and Pop Pop. They gifted Grace with a perfect present for my artistic girl: a beautifully wrapped box filled with paints and canvases.


Grace and Molly also were given their matching birthday gifts from Kelly and their cousins. From Aunt Kelly they received adorable water bottles and adult coloring books.


The girls also had a gift to hand out. Last week when they had the opportunity to meet Kiera Cass they purchased the newest Siren book and had it signed for Lydia. Lydia was beyond thrilled!

We then headed out to spend the day in downtown Wooster. Mimi had a day of shopping and dining planned.


Our first stop was Friendtique, the world’s best consignment shop, and our favorite store in Wooster. The girls were thrilled to find out that it was dollar days at Friendtique which meant all clothes, shoes, and belts were $1.00.

Let the shopping spree begin!

The girls found some great $1.00 deals,

And Lydia found a jacket and shoes for her next Halloween costume. Can you guess which Harry Potter villain she will be dressing up as?


After a few hours of shopping we walked over to our favorite restaurant, Broken Rocks, for lunch. It was as delicious as always!


We had one more stop before we headed back to the Homestead. Mimi treated us all to a gourmet cupcake at The Faithful Little Cupcake shop.


The rest of our evening at the Homestead was spent playing board games, going through old photos (which was so much fun) and celebrating Gracie.


10:00 pm rolled around much too soon but alas, we had to head back home because the following morning was church and the girls’ New Beginnings program, where Grace would be recognized as one of the graduating seniors.

Oh, what a crazy full week it has been!

Let the fun continue. Next up: New Beginnings!

A birthday weekend at the Homestead


This past weekend I ran away.

That’s right…packed my bags, grabbed my girls, and ran home to my Mommy…

for a girls’ weekend.

Monday was Gracie’s birthday. In a few weeks it will be Molly’s birthday,

so my parents invited them to come, without brothers, for a GIRLS’ WEEKEND! (And I tagged along.)

We left Friday afternoon as soon as Toby came home from work. He took off in one vehicle to drive Rusty to a Boy Scout maple sugar festival where he was going to spend the weekend, and the girls and I headed off toward Ohio. We were very excited at the prospect of a fun weekend without responsibility. It had been a tough couple days at Patchwork Farm and the thought of just being a daughter again sounded wonderful. My mom had all sorts of fun planned for our weekend.


We arrived at dinner time. After carrying our bags to our bedrooms we joined Mimi and Pop pop in the barn to care for the animals and meet their newest addition, Bobby T. (Their new baby goat) Ever since Molly heard that they have a bottle baby goat she has been so excited. (Molly is my goat lover) He was adorable and the girls loved feeding him and playing with him all weekend.

The new addition!

The new addition!

Feeding the baby...

Feeding the baby…

Caring for the other goats

Caring for the other goats

Kisses for Pop pop.

Kisses for Pop pop.

and baby kisses for Grace

and baby kisses for Grace



Molly being eaten by an attack goat!

Molly being eaten by an attack goat!

When we returned back home from the barn my parents gave the girls their birthday gifts. Molly got to open her gift early. They both received cute coin purses with birthday spending money for them to use the next day.


After dinner we celebrated with birthday cake and a movie.


On Saturday, after a yummy farm breakfast, the girls headed out for a fun day of shopping while Pop pop stayed home to hold down the fort. We drove to downtown Wooster, a charming main street filled with local stores and restaurants. The girls were in heaven…spending money in their pocket and a whole day of shopping ahead of them with no little brothers rushing the process.


P1000320 (2)

Our first stop was a local artisan shop that sells locally made products. The girls found a hand-crafted leather headband that they both liked. They decided to split the cost and share the headband.


Other stops included a charming thrift store where Gracie purchased a pair of red heels and a belt and I found some old game boards to use as decoration in my home. They were a steal for $1.00 each. We also visited a clothing store, an art store, the big Rubbermaid store and a bookstore, where Molly spent the bulk of her birthday money.

My favorite store of the day!

My favorite store of the day!

Some of Gracie's purchases...

Some of Gracie’s purchases…

After a morning of shopping my mom took us to lunch at Broken Rocks.

Lunch was delicious!

Lunch was delicious!

After lunch we walked to a cupcake store where we each picked a cupcake for dessert.


In addition to our shopping fun we also spent the weekend doing crafts with my Mom and going to see the new Cinderella movie all together.

Miss Molly

Miss Molly

It was such a wonderful weekend…so relaxing. Everyone caught up on their sleep and on Sunday we left feeling renewed and strengthen by our retreat at the Homestead. It was so nice having that special time with my girls and I am so grateful to be married to a man who is willing to hold down the fort at home so that we could get away. We came home to find everyone alive and well and happy…

Thank you Mom and Dad, for a wonderful memory making weekend!