Monday, December 11, 2023

Gingerbread and Hot Cocoa

I had to reschedule to a later time slot due to sports, one still had back to back practices and the three oldest grandchildren had numerous conflicts, but we did get the houses made! 
I cheated and bought box kits. These came from Family Dollar and were only $5 each. They came with candy, icing and all the prebaked pieces for the house and roof. I was more than impressed. The pieces were thick enough that they did not break, they were cut with slots like giant puzzle pieces and the icing dried quickly enough that they did not collapse while being decorated. 

To kill some time while the walls set up, I prebaked some cut out cookies from GFS for the kids to decorate. 

The white foam trays for the cookies and houses helped keep other people's fingers out of your icing, frosting and candies. 

I was so excited at how seriously they undertook the tasting of the hot cocoa.  Everyone got three of the tiny Santa mugs I purchased at Big Lots. #1 was Salted Carmel, #2 was raspberry, #3 was original, plain old hot cocoa.  (I don't have an adventurous bunch). The tasters voted and it was very close between Salted Carmel and original. 

Even the little guys were proud of their creations.  

I baked a ham, put together a macaroni salad, a pasta salad and a crockpot of chili for the parents and children.  After all their hard work, they put about 5 ornaments on my tree (the decorating plan was a failure). They wrote a short play about leaving Santa milk and cookies; we were treated to a performance.  Then they just enjoyed being cousins.  I am going to try to upload a video which shows a brief minute in the chaos that ensued. 

It went very well!  I love getting as many of my grandchildren together as possible and creating memories.  I think they all really enjoyed the evening. 

I had some meetings today - I don't want to share a downer - and tomorrow I guess I will decorate the tree.  

Friday, December 8, 2023

Head Above Water

It's been a very busy December here at the Picket Fence, but the elves did move into the dollhouse 45 minutes before my youngest granddaughter arrived, so I am counting today as a win. 

First thing this morning we put a grandson on the bus and then took the two youngest grandsons three towns away to see a holiday model train exhibit.  

After my granddaughter inspected the dollhouse for any changes or improvements, her mother and baby brother joined us for our annual uptown walk to see the Christmas store windows. Somehow it was sixty degrees this evening which made this activity much more enjoyable than previous years. 

Tomorrow I am hosting 7 of the 10 grandchildren for gingerbread house making and hot cocoa taste testing.  I am hoping to bribe them into decorating my tree which has been barren since we set it up the day after Thanksgiving. 

I hope you all will enjoy some great December photos come January. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Thankful Tuesday

I have a feeling many of us will be otherwise occupied on Thursday, so I decided this week will be Thankful Tuesday. 

I am thankful that we had very prolific tomato plants this summer. I can't can on my glass stovetop but I did freeze gallon bags of whole, cored tomatoes that I am cooking into pasta sauce. 

I drizzle some olive oil in the bottom of my pot and add diced onion. You can add garlic, but we like just onion. 

I sprinkle with lots of salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, extra basil and oregano. 

I heat to boiling, then let simmer for an hour or two, occasionally mushing them with my potato masher. 

Here is tonight's offering with some ground beef over ravioli. 

Right now I am trying to cook down a bag a week since I need to clear space in the freezer. Today I was able to put my holiday supply of Christmas Tree ice cream bars in, but we are hoping to get a beef quarter in January and I need the space. 

Here is a comforter that I ordered a few months ago. I actually ordered a twin size and a full/queen. They are heavy comforters, but I didn't like the way they look in the room. I washed them, put them in a closet and forgot about them. Until I needed Christmas decorations.  

I am thankful we have enough warm blankets and when I found them, I decided they needed to go to someone else. My daughter contacted a social worker who is moving a homeless shelter family with two boys into an apartment and is passing them along. I am thankful for the social worker, a home for the comforters and so happy that these boys will have a home for Christmas. 

I am thankful for the time I can spend with my grandchildren.  Many of my friends think we are crazy to be full-time daycare providers for the grandchildren (and sometimes I do wonder about us, too), but the youngest had some solo days this past week and helped me bake. 

He was very happy to help make brownies from scratch.  Who knew you didn't need a box!

The next day we made apple breakfast bread and he was very good at mixing. 

Next year the next to the youngest will enter all day kindergarten and the youngest will attend preschool from 8:30 to 2:30 four days a week. And the year after he will attend all day kindergarten in another town. Our daycare time has gone by so quickly. 

I am thankful for the bounty of food and family we will enjoy this year for Thanksgiving. And I am thankful we have the resources to provide this. 

One of my favorite Thanksgiving stories was when I went back to work when our five kids were in elementary school.  I could not afford Thanksgiving groceries until I got paid on Wednesday. I left work at 4:30 and went straight to the bank. Then I went and bought everything for the meal the next day, including a frozen turkey that I knew I would be thawing in the bathtub all night. The store was the normal madhouse you would expect and when I got back to my car, it turned out that customers had started a new row and I was trapped in a triple parked lane with a row ahead of me and a row behind me.  And there I sat with a frozen turkey to be thawed, 10 pound bag of potatoes to be peeled, 5 loaves of bread to be diced with a bag of onions and a bunch of celery, cans of green beans and mushroom soup and pumpkin pie filling.  Waiting for someone to move a car.  And waiting.  And waiting.

I am thankful I have the funds to shop ahead. 

I have mentioned before that I am on a board that assists clients with financial challenges. This really gives me an opportunity to appreciate all my blessings.  I had a particular client this week that needs a few prayers for her health and some doors to open for some assistance to put her and her family back on their feet.  Even with the improving economy, many families are struggling with working enough hours with health challenges and childcare challenges, retired families with a limited income and other circumstances that are unplanned and expensive. 

I am thankful our community and businesses work together to try to assist those in need. 

Wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone! 

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Thankful Thursday

I decided I needed to post more often, so here is a try from my phone while sitting in my office.  

I also decided I need to be more thankful!

I am thankful for my volunteer job and thankful for the businesses and individuals that make it possible.  One day a week I sit in my office, accept walk-in applications and interview clients who are facing financial difficulties with paying for housing and utilities.  

I am thankful that the street project in front of the office is nearing completion.  Today I had to walk 2 blocks, turn left and walk two blocks, cross the street and walk 6 blocks to the building because they are filling on lane in front of the building's driveway with 14" of asphalt.

I am thankful that my friend is handling her second round of breast cancer with such positivity, determination and spunk. She is a member of a literary guild and volunteered to host a vintage tea party this week. She is the Victorian woman on the left. The woman in the vest is her sister who is a breast cancer survivor.

Okay, adding a photo was a challenge. 

I am thankful that at this point in our lives we have too much food in our freezer. My grocery money went to the preschool can drive. 

I am thankful the health situation of a family member seems less critical than first thought. 

I'm thankful my grandchildren are happy and healthy.

 That's probably enough for now and I have convinced myself to return to posting from my laptop. Have a great weekend. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

My Charcuterie Cups

Well, we survived voting day. Our county had over 49% of registered voters cast a vote and at my precinct we averaged 1 voter every 1.5 minutes. I want to thank Mr. Merry who answered my 911 call when I was 12 hours in and brought me some ugly comfortable shoes to replace my cutie girl boots. 

We do a "pot-luck" which means try to grab some food when you can. I decided individual cups would work well. We set up extra tables near our stations to set our food and drink on so that we did not mix with anything official.  I found the cups on Amazon.

Here was the tray. I made 15 cups for our 12 workers. Three people raved about them. Two others grabbed one and I brought the rest home where my family fought over them. 

And here we are all sparkly to watch the Taylor Swift movie at the drive-in.  It was so much fun! 

My grandson stayed home with grampa.  And - the drive-in sold light up rings at the concession stand! 

A bonus picture.  Grampa and Mimi at the Nursery School Trunk or Treat. 

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Nothing Special

 Just another Saturday.  Mr Merry was busy all day with his rakes and leaf blowers loading up the truck for the compost pile. My dead flowers in the hanging baskets made the cut, as did the last of the tomato plants.  

I don't know if I shared the story of the truck, but when he retired he used his work truck for his twice a month, May-Nov, trips to the compost pile. 

One memorable weekend, the truck conked out at the compost pile and had to come home on a flatbed trailer. When unloading it, I took a look UNDER the truck and it looked like rusty lace!  I forbid him to get it fixed again (if that was even possible). Somehow this morphed into a brand new truck, complete with everything his work truck never had, with air conditioning, upholstered seats (do they even make vinyl seats anymore?), automatic transmission, back up camera, dual temperature controls. . .  On a truck that goes to the compost pile twice a month.  I've told myself he worked very hard, mostly outdoors, on the railroad for almost 40 years and he deserves it.  Sometimes I tell myself that. 

So - ignore that paragraph because I just wanted to share the power of a smile. 

I was out foolishly wasting money today and stopped at a store. I was smiling because I was reminding myself how lucky I am that I have the money to foolishly waste on trivial items that make me happy.  A woman older than me was unloading her car and I offered to take her cart back.  She smiled back and we talked for a while and she gave me a big wave and said "Have a Happy Thanksgiving, too". 

This made me smile bigger just as I was passing a tired looking young mom with a baby and toddler in her cart.  She saw my big smile and gave me a big smile back. I swear she walked taller, too.  I let someone pass in front of me and they smiled and waved.  

It really does brighten your own day when you smile at others.  

What trivial items was I buying? I hope they are cute enough to show you, but my plan is to make charcuterie cups for my fellow election workers on Tuesday. I think they will be easy to snack on and other people won't be fingering all the food. Of course I had to have special cups and cute skewers and individual food bags to package each one in addition to special foods and garnishes. The hardest item to find without leaving our small town was individually packaged plain crackers.  Dollar Tree had one package of 6, but I need at least a dozen.  So much more expensive elsewhere, but I guess I am set.  

I also picked up gingerbread houses for the youngest seven grandkids so everyone can have their own at a decorating party. 

Have a good weekend.  I need to dress up in my sequins because I am going to the drive in to see the Taylor Swift concert! And - we are going to drive THE truck because three of us can sit on the front seat. So I guess it was a wise purchase after all. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Spooky Supper

I have no idea when I started serving Spooky Supper.  My Facebook memories tell me that it was before Facebook.  My goddaughter used the idea when her family moved to a remote farm twelve years ago and had no where to take her young daughters to trick or treat. So, it has been a while.  It takes a lot of planning and a lot of work (especially yesterday when we had three young children underfoot all day) but my grandkids all look forward to it! 

I will share some dishes from last night: 

This severed chicken hand doesn't look too bad, but I used to make them from the marinated chicken breasts from our local butcher. Now the breasts he sells are trimmed into a filet type shape (instead of the large raggedy natural ones) and they were out of marinated when I was there so I threw some bbq sauce on them.   I think this is our last year of chicken hands. 

First year for this Kraft Mac & Cheese dish I saw on Facebook. It was a hit, but I am not sure why it looks so dry in the photo. The kids loved it.

There were two meatloaf feet complete with toe nails.  The kids were leery but this was a hit with the dads. Behind are cobweb stuffed eggs. 

Ham and Cheese mummy calzones and hot dog fingers.  No one really ate either at the supper, but the calzone was popular at lunch today, as were the hot dogs cut up for preschoolers. 

Moldy potatoes. This was just cheesy (funeral) potatoes made with Potato's O'Brien instead of shredded potatoes and topped with frozen purple cauliflower.  Again, a big hit with adults, children not so much. 

Jack-o-lantern mini pizzas. I ended up adding more cheese and pepperoni shapes after baking since they blended in the oven. 

All those entrees and the kids preferred peanut butter and jelly cut with my pasty cutter with pretzel legs. 

The crew looking scary. 

This was going to be a spider web dip except I ran out of time.  I was also going to do a monster fruit tray and a Hocus Pocus vegetable tray and those did not happen either. 

For Muffin Tin Monday with my preschoolers we had the favorite Spider Sandwich, with an orange pumpkin and ghost banana. 

Happy Halloween! 

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Still Here

 Just letting you know I'm still here. 

October has been a whirlwind of grandchild activities ranging from the 10 days I spent out of town with teen grandkids to pediatrician visits with grandchildren with strep throat which ended with a two-hour ER visit for a child with a brand new penicillin allergy. Oh, and a bunch of kids went to state in various sports and contests. 

Our town had a Halloween decoration contest so we have been shuttling overnight guests in car seats to see the sights (with the windows rolled up for safety). 

Tomorrow night is our youngest grandchild's trunk or treat and we are decorating my SUV in a Grinch theme because I already have Grinch decorations. A pleasant surprise today when I looked in the box and found a Grinch costume I bought last spring on clearance for $10.  It's my husband's size and I am not sure he is as thrilled as the four year old. 

Tomorrow I attend my second election worker training for the election in November, our third election this year. I feel very well trained at this point and hope the people in state offices could keep the same procedures for a while so we don't have to keep being trained. 

The city is in a mad race to complete some major street projects on most of the streets that lead to my house before the asphalt plants close for the year. The main route on the way to my house has HUGE road closed signs and what I call a moat in the middle of the lanes. This has not stopped people from racing up my street and dragging their vehicles over it to cross the intersection. 

I had lunch today with my friend who is battling breast cancer for the second time. She is so positive and determined and I am so proud of her. She really is an inspiration.  

I'll leave you with this funny. So true, especially since I am trying to clear out closets holding years and years of craft supplies. 

Thursday, October 5, 2023

It's My Cabinet of Curiosities!

Many moons ago I was the girl scout leader, the 4H advisor and the Sunday School Teacher. And the mom of five and the party planner of the neighborhood. Halloween was always a fun time.  I used to have fun houses in my garage before trick or treat, and after I was promoted from first grade to the confirmation class, my middle schoolers and I would do a "barely scary" haunted house for our church little ones following a costume contest. 

Thanks to the inspiration from my friend decorator extraordinaire Debbie-Dabble who blogs at  (I'm sorry, it won't link so I guess you will have to cut and paste.) I created my own curiosity cabinet.  

Even though it was a last minute project, the grands love it and I already have some better ideas for next year!  I had disposed of most of my barely scary items, but Dollar Tree and Dollar General had some perfect supplies for less than $3! 

I will share some close up of the shelves. 

Dollar Tree still had one of the inspiration signs for the top remaining in stock!

Next year I will start by clearing the shelves instead of shoving to the back, LOL. 

I have been finding more Halloween items as I go through boxes so some of these shelves are scarier already. This hand used to move on it's on in the olden days, now it is just "curious" to see. And the skull is resting on it's "microphone" and the kids used to be able to have him "talk". 

I bought the beaker at Hallmark at least 10 years ago, the cat is a bank filled with dimes that used to sit on my Great Aunt Betty's vanity. We use the plastic goblets for juice in the morning. 

I created the scary jar by adding cooking oil to water but did not get the effect I wanted after making it "too purple" with food coloring in a pickle jar.  I was not disappointed enough to waste more cooking oil. 

Thank you again Debbie for the fantastic idea! The kids all spotted it the minute they entered the room and it is just enough that the four years olds are not afraid.  I will take some more of her advice and see what might be available after Halloween at sale prices. 

Now I am off to supervise my three oldest grandchildren - TEENAGERS - for 10 days while their parents travel to an island.  I am a little intimidated as I know they are smarter than I am, but mostly because they live in a big city and I am terrified to drive there. Wish me luck! 

Saturday, September 23, 2023

It's the First Day of Fall

It is the First Day of Fall and I am ready for summer to be over. We had a humid and hot few months which waivered between draught and flooding.  Now we are under attack from legions of mosquitos, day and night. Some communities have added extra spraying. Our town doesn't believe in spraying at all so it is hard to make it from my house to my car without being bitten. I'm one of those who swells up like I have been afflicted with tumors. 

(My favorite artist and author, Susan Branch.)

In honor of Fall, I went to Big Lots and bought mini Santa mugs. Billed as "expresso" cups, the miniature Santa mugs were on sale for 20% off and I thought they would be perfect for a Hot Cocoa Tasting Party with different flavors to try.  I have 10 grandchildren and my local store had six four-packs of the mugs. I think that comes out to 2 1/2 mugs per child, but I don't think they will all be here at the same time.

I was looking around for little ceramic trays for the cups, but have thought the better of it and will keep my eye out for a little rectangular appetizer plates, hopefully in paper.  I could write the flavors on the plates while they are tasting. I might need to invest in a third carafe to make sure the hot cocoas stay warm. Can you tell I am a little excited about this? I believe I will pair the tasting with some cookie decorating too.   

Nothing like rushing the season! 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

September This and That

We are keeping busy at the House with the Picket Fence.

As you have had to hear about over and over, I broke my humerus in 2020.  Last Friday one of my co-grammas tripped at work and broker her humerus. She is waiting to see the surgeon, hopefully this week. And on Saturday morning one of my eight grandsons fell off the monkey bars. He was pacified by a frozen treat, but couldn't move his arm the next morning. You guessed it. Broken humerus. He is in a temporary cast from shoulder to fingertips and will see a pediatric orthopedist in 10 days unless there is a cancellation. 

Last January my husband was just nodding and not listening and gave his agreement to purchase concert tickets to a show in Shipshewana, Indiana last weekend. We left on Saturday morning, arrived for lunch, visited several shops and didn't buy anything. Put an Amish dinner in the motel frig, went to the concert and ate dinner at 11 pm.  Left after breakfast and were home before lunch time on Sunday.  We sure do know how to celebrate an anniversary.  

My best friend who beat breast cancer five years ago, is battling again. Our friend group took her to lunch today as she starts 12 weeks of once a week chemo tomorrow, then another 12 weeks with once every 3 weeks chemo and then surgery. I really don't think it is fair that she has to do this again and am pretty mad about it. And I admit it is helping me be less sad to be mad. 

Our youngest grandchildren (the four year olds) are back in preschool and loving every minute of it. And we have 2 hours to ourselves in the morning now after feeding the elementary kids and putting them on the bus and then driving to preschool.  

I am not allowed to talk about details, but I was asked to serve on a "fake jury" like in the movie "Runaway Jury" and the tv show "Bull". It was a very interesting experience and they even paid me for it.  Today they reached out about working with them further.  I wish I could tell you all about it! 

I am calling them "side gigs", but now I have two checks waiting to be cashed, the fake jury and my poll worker stipends and I have decided to start a fund to renovate my dollhouse.  By renovate, I mean travel to cute dollhouse stores and purchase materials and have my sweet husband serve as contractor.  

My fall decorations are officially out of the closets and laying all over the guest room.  I am hoping fairies arrive some evening and decorate the house while we are sleeping. 

And that is it for Mid-September! 

Sunday, August 27, 2023

My Dream Laundry Room

How do you know you are really old? When you have a dream laundry room!  I dreamed up my new laundry room many, many years ago. It took many steps to get here. Remember I have lived in my house for 44 years and I have been planning changes since the day we moved in. Creating a laundry room started with my husband constructing our 500 sq ft addition which moved the living room and created a dining room. Then cutting my kitchen by one third (and my husband completely remodeling the kitchen) to create the space for the new laundry room.

I created this idea board for the new laundry room about eleven years ago. We don't move quickly around here. My parents passed away and the empty, drywalled space worked well as a storage space for the many boxes I took way too long to go through. Then, you know, covid and I filled it with shelves and created a pandemic pantry/small grocery store. To finish the laundry room, I have had to move those shelves all over my house and it is hide and seek to find groceries and supplies.

As you will see, there were a lot of changes along the way. The appliances remained the same. But I soon realized there is no way a short person can reach a cupboard over a very deep front loading washing machine.  I was also concerned that the tall cupboard would block the doorway and make the room feel smaller. My husband constructed shelves along the top of my enclosed porch for my blue canning jar collection and I needed more grocery space. 

When I got home from Michigan, this was happening. 

I was already trying out paint colors. 

Grampa and assistant finished the soffit. 

The painting assistant did a great job on the wall behind the appliances. I decided to do just one wall "cupcake pink" and my husband painted the other two wall and ceiling a bright white. 

I think the arm on the right is putting his two cents in on how it is going to look. Since I am not privy to the contractor's time table, I was glad I was caught up on laundry when he disconnected the appliances and moved them. 

I went with open shelving so the room wouldn't seem so small. We measured shelf height by my elaborate drawings of what would go on what shelf and how high a short person can reach. I can reach the clothes baskets because they stick out far enough on the 20 inch shelf for me to grab. My roasters and other rarely used items will be on the top shelf. 

It's hard to believe from the short photographer perspective, but the top shelf on the right can hold rolls of paper towels. There is a hanging rack on the edge of the bottom shelf. 

Proving I can put paper towels on the top shelf on the right. It is a little high for me, but hubby is the one who replaces paper towel rolls so it works just fine. I also have cute baskets marked "beach towels" "sun screen" "bug spray" and room for other miscellaneous items. 

I think the color is closer here. It is more of a pink than an orange.  I took lots of pictures like this as I will soon be cluttering it up with small appliances, grocery and paper items and all kinds of treasures of a kitchen nature that I have scattered all over my house. Oh, and laundry items, too.

I thought we bought at least triple the brackets needed for supporting the shelves, but it turned out we used them all to make sure the shelves are supported since I tend to overload. We also placed extra of the vertical (things) that are screwed into every stud. 

I am absolutely over the moon.  I have dreamed about this laundry room for a long time and it matches what was in my mind perfectly. I am so happy!  

Next up is the total remodel of our ONE bathroom and changing the tub/shower to a walk in shower. We are also putting in a higher, old person commode, replacing the basin and cabinet and another project I am still working on. When we remodeled the bathroom in the 70's, we eyeballed a built in shelving unit with a built in cabinet and it is not standard size. We would like to purchase a standard size cabinet to replace it but I'm not sure that can happen. I'm still measuring, but the project can start without it.  

THEN the former washer/dryer space is going to become our new half bath.  Whew. 

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Mimi Camp Finale 2023

I am finally getting to the final Mimi Camp post.  This day was inspired by two new-to-me favorite reality shows of mine that I found on the Tubi tv app. It is called "Portrait Artist of the Year" and "Landscape Artist of the Year".  I came up with the concept at the last minute, made one shopping trip before camp and - the kids enjoyed it as much or more than I did. 

Grampa graciously agreed to be our model for Portrait Artist of the Year. Our easels were tv tray tables with Dollar Tree plate holders. Artists could chose flat canvas boards or stretched canvas in various sizes. Everyone had a plastic palette and could request acrylic paint colors. 

My youngest granddaughter in progress. 

Finished portrait "Grampa in a Red Chair"

Sebastian aged 8. 

Leo aged 4

Drew aged 10

Oliver in progress

Oliver ended with a scenic background

Louis, aged four, paid great attention to detail. You can see the red chair, blue shirt and jeans and the fact that grampa was wearing white socks. He later painted over them with brown for grampa's boots. 

My oldest granddaughter truly is the Portrait Artist of the Year. 

And my other eight year old veered into Michael Jordan. 

We had a special lunch and then headed out to a local park for "Landscape Artist of the Year". 

The littles were over art competition which is why I selected a park with a playground. 

My bigs were on top of the hill overlooking the lake. I will share their art work with no commentary, except to explain what looked like a dinosaur to me. It is the water tower. There is also a boat with fishermen in one picture. 

My middles were down by the playground. 

The painting above includes the colorful playground equipment. 

This is one of my most favorite Mimi Camp activities ever. All of the children enjoyed it as much as I did. I have taken down all the art work in my house and replaced it with these precious artworks.  And some of the kids have requested another painting day in the future.  

Despite covering my carpet with plastic tablecloths, a few palettes were flipped and the paint splattered in gaps of the tablecloths. And stained the carpet in one large blotch and two smaller ones. And it doesn't bother me at all. Every time I walk in the room (because they are in the middle of the carpet and I can't cover them) I smile. 

Miss Merry